ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
© All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe 2015-16  All artworks copyright the estate of the artist.

the thirteen streams of

magnificent oil                          c. 1940

Watercolour and pencil. 12¾ x 8in. (32.7 x 20.7cm.) On thin tracing paper, foxed. Inscribed with the title top right. Inscribed on the reverse on the mount: ‘Ithell Colquhoun’ together with the title and ‘ca. 1940’. Provenance NT then TGA. Exhibited St. Ives, Tate Gallery, 2009. Literature Shillitoe & Morrisson, 2014, fig. 12. In 1887 MacGregor Mathers published “The Kabbalah Unveiled” which contains translations by him of a number of books in the Zohar, key works of Jewish mysticism. It deals at length with the nature and attributes of the Supreme Being, also known by many other names, including Macroprosopus; the Ancient One; the Vast Countenance and Kether. Of particular significance is the beard, divided into thirteen parts, from which there is a continuous stream of divine light (represented by oil) which illuminates the manifest world below. The Supreme Being is androgynous but the recipient of the divine light, Microprosopus, is separated into male and female components. Although “The Kabbalah Unveiled” does not specify how the Divine Light enters Microprosopus,, simply stating that it ‘pours forth’ or ‘flows down’ via ‘gateways’, Colquhoun imagines it as entering a female body, a visualisation of the female component of Microprosopus. She shows the ‘precious balm of splendour’ entering the body through apertures which include the eyes, nostrils, mouth, nipples, navel, anus and genitals. These orifices are Colquhoun’s under-standing of the gateways alluded to by Mathers and which, according to Helena Blavatsky, correspond to the thirteen openings in the female body. The numbers 1-10 pencilled against certain body parts indicate their association with the appropriate sephiroth of the Tree of Life. These correspondences also govern the colouring of the figure. Each part of the body is coloured in accordance with the traditional scheme, as used by the Golden Dawn. So, for example, Chokmah, numbered 2, is the second of the sephirah. It corresponds to the left side of the head and face. In the King Scale of colour, it is blue. Binah, the third sephiroth, is associated with the right side of the face, and is painted crimson as required. A pencil sketch is with the NT.