“I Saw Water: An Occult Novel and Other Selected Writings” by Ithell Colquhoun


A previously unpublished occult novel by surrealist painter Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) has just been published by Pennsylvania State University. I Saw Water makes her second novel available for the first time, along with a selection of her other writings and images plus an introductory essay and explanatory notes by the editors.

Colquhoun studied at the Slade School of Art (1927-1931) and soon rose to prominence in surrealist circles. After relocating to Cornwall in the late 1940s, she combined her interests in art in occultism, including the kabbalah and the works of Aleister Crowley. Although her applications for initiation into the Golden Dawn and the Society of Inner Light were declined, she reportedly became involved in Kenneth Grant’s New Isis Lodge. Around 1977 she painted the 78 cards of her own surrealist tarot. Her published writings include the occult novel The Goose of Hermogenes (Peter Owen, 1961) and The Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn (Neville Spearman, 1975), along with books on Cornwall and Ireland. A posthumous collection of The Magical Writings of Ithell Colquhoun appeared in 2007. She was also the subject of Eric Ratcliffe’s Ithell Colquhoun: Pioneer Surrealist Artist, Occultist, Writer and Poet (Mandrake, 2007) and Richard Shilltoe’s Ithell Colquhoun: Magician Born of Nature (Lulu, 2010).  Shillitoe is co-editor of I Saw Water.

According to the publisher’s website,

Composed almost entirely of material assembled from the author’s dreams, I Saw Water challenges such fundamental distinctions as those between sleeping and waking, the two separated genders, and life and death. It is set in a convent on the Island of the Dead, but its spiritual context derives from sources as varied as Roman Catholicism, the teachings of the Theosophical Society, Goddess spirituality, Druidism, the mystical Qabalah, and Neoplatonism.

Richard Kaczynski

Richard Kaczynski is the author of the biography Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley (2002; rev exp ed 2010), the history Forgotten Templars: The Untold Origins of Ordo Templi Orientis (2012), the novel The Billionth Monkey (2015), Panic in Detroit: The Magician and the Motor City (2019), along with a bunch of other books, articles, and chapters that you can read about at his website, www.richard-kaczynski.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *