Your KS #74 Diana of the Inlet of Equinox
By Nathan Hobby
KSP Heritage items #2: Encounter with an Occultist.
One of the heritage items we hold at KSP Writers’ Centre is Katharine Susannah Prichard’s copy of the journal Equinox. It comes out of her unlikely association with the occultist and mountaineer Aleister Crowley, notorious for his practice of ‘sex magick’ and other arcane activities and called the ‘Great Beast’ by his devoutly Christian mother. During Katharine’s first trip to London, she had submitted her story “Diana of the Inlet” to the editor of the Idler. It was too long for him to use, but he liked it and sent it on to Crowley to consider for his ‘exotic bi-annual’ Equinox. Crowley wrote to Katharine in Australia in August 1909, saying that in spite of its length he would like to publish it: ‘I’m exceedingly taken with its beauty, alike of theme and setting’. As it turned out, “Diana of the Inlet” did not appear until issue seven, in March 1912, alongside such pieces as an “Account of the Revelation made in Egypt… at the Equinox of the Gods”.
Katharine hadn’t received payment for her story and she decided to visit Crowley. The floor of his office was painted with signs of the zodiac; hanging on the wall were bats’ wings and a stuffed crocodile. Crowley still didn’t pay her, offering instead a deluxe edition of the Equinox, a volume of his poems, and an invitation to attend his ‘mass’. That deluxe edition of the Equinox is, we think, the copy we now own. Katharine wanted nothing to do with the ceremony, but her friend Robbie, a theosophist drawn to the occult, begged her and they went along.
The ‘mass of the phoenix’ was held in a circular room ‘decked with gaudy and demonic paintings’. After Crowley and an acolyte appeared in the garments of Egyptian priests and cut themselves, dropping blood on the altar, ‘a small dark head with a red cap rose from the brazier. It grew bigger and bigger, drifted up in a gust of smoke from the brazier and disappeared through the roof’. Katharine assumed it was an optical illusion, but afterwards she learned Robbie had seen nothing. Robbie told one of the disciples what Katharine had seen, and Crowley sent a messenger begging her to return; she had been chosen by the god to communicate with them. Katharine wrote:
But I had made up my mind to have nothing more to do with Crowley and his practices, sensing an atmosphere about them of an unhealthy sexuality and decadent hysteria.
‘Tell Mr Crowley,’ I said to his messenger, ‘that I have been interested to learn what incense and suggestion can do to the imagination, but I’m a materialist. I don’t believe in the supernatural in any shape or form. I must be guided by reason and logic in what I believe.’ (Child of the Hurricane, pp179-181)
- This ‘Your KS’ column #74 is taken from Nathan’s PhD thesis on Katharine.
Nathan Hobby’s biography of KSP is out on 3 May - https://www.mup.com.au/books/the-red-witch-hardback.
More on KSP at https://nathanhobby.com