Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll
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This epic cultural and historical odyssey unearths the full influence of occult traditions on rock and roll -- from the Beatles to Black Sabbath -- and shows how the marriage between mysticism and music changed our world.
From the hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley to the Eastern odysseys of George Harrison, from the dark dalliances of Led Zeppelin to the Masonic imagery of today’s hip-hop scene, the occult has long breathed life into rock and hip-hop—and, indeed, esoteric and supernatural traditions are a key ingredient behind the emergence and development of rock and roll.
With vivid storytelling and laser-sharp analysis, writer and critic Peter Bebergal illuminates this web of influences to produce the definitive work on how the occult shaped -- and saved -- popular music.
As Bebergal explains, occult and mystical ideals gave rock and roll its heart and purpose, making rock into more than just backbeat music, but into a cultural revolution of political, spiritual, sexual, and social liberation.
elements into the work. The aquiline illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, whose work belied his own shy and internal moral tension, was most well-known for his drawings of Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé and for publishing an edition of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the latter of which is replete with grotesquely large phalluses. Other drawings referred to pagan and mythological themes, many that were at the heart of occult ideas at the time. Beardsley’s drawing The Mysterious Rose Garden, found in the literary
moon.” Madness and the visionary experience are difficult to parse. What were once believed to be religious visions were later understood to be chemical imbalances. For the occult imagination, this distinction is meaningless. But for the psychedelic sixties, it wasn’t going to suffice to simply be seized by visions over and over again. There would always be the danger, as the historian of religion and early psychedelic advocate Huston Smith said, of creating a religion of little more than
spirit of Led Zeppelin. “[Those are] the lyrics I’m proud of,” he told a reporter for New Musical Express in 1973. “Somebody pushed my pen for me, I think.” Plant grew up in West Bromwich, an area of England rich with folklore and legends. Pre-Christian mythology was at his doorstep. And Page’s magick guitar work was the perfect vehicle to hitch to folk fantasy lyrics. “Immigrant Song” offers a powerful example. The song is a dragon’s fiery breath unsealing the new decade of the 1970s, a period
the band, however. Even their sympathetic fans began to wonder what was true when tragedy and calamity were on Zeppelin’s heels like a hound from hell. Bad things started happening. In 1975, Robert Plant was almost killed in a car accident, and two years later his young son died from a virus. Three years later, their beloved but out-of-control drummer, John Bonham, died of a drug overdose. Rumor, public persona, and private life became a kaleidoscopic blend, hypnotizing both fans and detractors:
capable of representing whatever imagined nefarious, occult, or anti-Christian intrigue that needed a label to give it substance. More often, the Illuminati are believed to be the group that controls everything, using smaller organizations like the Freemasons, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Catholic Church, Scientology, and the entertainment industry—especially music—as tentacles of control, touching on every aspect of society. In 2013, the rapper Professor Griff (best known for his stint