Cazotte: The Fantastique Writer Who Saw Death

Jacques Cazotte (1719-1792) note: some sources put his birth at 1720

” A brief but sparkling bon-bon from the French writer Jacques Cazotte, who was guillotined in 1792. A young captain, stationed in Naples, is tempted into summoning up Beelzebub, who appears first in the guise of a hideous camel, then as a cute spaniel, and lastly – and most dangerously – as a gorgeous, pouting nymphette who declares herself enamoured of the young man and follows him everywhere. This is an amusing study of temptation, with sinister undertones.” Anne Billson in Time Out “In Biondetta there remains no trace of the monstrous apparition conjured up by Alvaro in the ruins of Portico. The satanic seductress is hidden behind the face of the tormented and plaintive beauty until the end of the fable.” Jorges Luis Borges “The Devil in Love is famous on various counts: for its charm and the perfection of its scenes, but above all for the originality of its conception. ” Gerard de Nerval- from the blurb for the Dedalus European Classics edition of The Devil in Love.
 
Written in 1772, (original French title: Le Diable Amoureux), The Devil in Love was Jacques Cazotte’s crowning achievement  of the fantastique which paralleled the English Gothics of the day.
 
Educated by Jesuits, Jacques worked for public office in Martinique, and returned to Paris with the rank of commissioner-general.   In his forties, he began his foray into writing.  Having little interest in the rationalism of the day, he penned a series of fantastical stories as well as translating several Arabian tales into French.
 
Cazotte’s belief in his ability as a seer led him to the Martinist mysticism of Martinez de Pasqually.  The esoteric form of Christianity concerned itself with the fall of man, and his return to the divine source.
 
Declaring himself a “mystical monarchist”, Cazotte warned several men and women at a dinner party in 1788 that they would all soon die by guillotine or noose.  To the theater critic Sebastian Chamfort,  he declared, “You will slash your own wrists 22 times before dying a long and miserable death.” 
 
When the French Revolution began, Chamfort supported it for humanistic reasons.  However, as it became more and more bloody, he condemned the murders and was imprisoned.  Wishing to escape a public execution, he slashed his wrists twenty-two times with a dull razor before dying.
 
Cazotte’s prediction to  The Marquis de Condorcet that he would one day take poison to escape the guillotine came true in 1794.
 
Jacques Cazotte could not escape his own fate, either.  On September 25, 1792 he was beheaded for treason.
 

William Butler Yeats and the Golden Dawn

“A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, our stitching and unstinting has been naught. “-  Yeats

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! “- Yeats

Born with both his Ascendant and Moon in  Aquarius, it is little wonder that William Butler Yeats grew up with both a love for words and a desire to transform  Irish theater and poetry.

As a child he’d been attracted to ghost tales and  fairy myths which led him into the esoteric works of Swedenborg, Blake, and Jacob Boehme.  At the age of twenty-two, while living in London, he became acquainted with Madame Blavatsky, author of The Secret Doctrine, and founder off the Theosophical Society.  While enchanted with the ideas she brought forth, he was disillusioned by the society’s resistance to attempting magic, and quickly withdrew his membership.

In 1889, he met Maud Gonne, a fiery Irish revolutionary worker and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.   While disturbed by her belief that the means justified the end, he was so otherwise taken by her  that  he declared, “If she she said the world was flat…I would be proud to be of her party.”

Soon thereafter, she introduced him to Moina Bergson Mathers and MacGregor Mathers, the celibate husband and wife who worked together as Priest and Priestess of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  Yeats not only valued their intellectual pursuits, but their willingness to put what they learned to practical use.  He said that after attending their rituals, he “formed plans for deeds of all kinds”.  Whereas after attending Theosophical meetings, he “had no desire but for more thought, more discussion.”   Furthermore, he discovered that the concentration needed for lengthy rituals and prayers influenced his writings, “making it more sensuous and more vivid.”

On March 7, 1890 he became an initiate of the Golden Dawn, assuming the magical name, Demon Est Deus Inversus.  Which, although literally meaning, “The Devil is in the inverse of God”, might have been in reference to his personal daimon.

I DREAMED that one had died in a strange place
Near no accustomed hand,
And they had nailed the boards above her face,
The peasants of that land,
Wondering to lay her in that solitude,
And raised above her mound
A cross they had made out of two bits of wood,
And planted cypress round;
And left her to the indifferent stars above
Until I carved these words:
i{She was more beautiful than thy first love,}
i{But now lies under boards.}

-poem written by Yeats for Maud after dreaming of her death

A CRAZED GIRL

THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea.’

-poem by Yeats

*article source and for further reading:  Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses by Mary K. Greer

Dion Fortune’s, “The Sea Priestess”

 

“I am the soundless, boundless, bitter sea;

All things in the end shall come to me.”

 

Violet Mary Firth Evans was born on December 6, 1890 in Llandadno, Wales.  At four years -old, she reported experiencing visions of the lost city of Atlantis. These visions, and the blossoming of psychic abilities, drew her to the occult studies when she was in her twenties. After becoming a member of both The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Theosophical Society, she formed her own esoteric group: Society of the Inner Light.

 

 Born to a family of Christian Scientists whose motto was, “Deo, non Fortuna” (God not chance), Miss Evans chose the pseudonym, Dion Fortune, and set out to transcribe her spiritual beliefs down on paper. Since witchcraft was still illegal in Great Britain, Ms. Fortune hid her magical teachings in the guise of novels. Her most famous, The Sea Priestess, was self-published in 1938.

 

Covering the themes of Hermeticism, reincarnation, and Atlantis, – it concerns Wilfred Maxwell, a bachelor, who is bored of his life tending to the family business and to his interfering mother and sister. Upon becoming afflicted with asthma, Wilfred takes to long bouts in bed. “As I lay there, doped and exhausted and half hypnotized by the moon, I let my mind range beyond time to the beginning. I saw the vast sea of infinite space, indigo-dark in the Night of the Gods; and it seemed to me that in the darkness and silence must be the seed of all being.”  Wilfred spends his nights staring down at the moon and discerning,  “I found that the more I dwelt on her, the more I became conscious of her tides, and all my life began to move with them.”

Soon after, Wilfred meets the cold and mysterious Vivien Le Fay Morgan, who claims to be a Priestess of Isis.  “Little by little, she learnt and built, always handicapped by the fact that the moon-magic requires a partner, and partners were hard to find.“ With the warning that she can never give herself to one man, Vivien enlists Wilfred to help her develop her magical image as a sea-priestess.

Months are spent at an isolated seaside retreat, communing with the sea and the moon. Discovering the hidden works of nature. Isis Veiled and Isis Unveiled.

At one point, Vivien stands looking out over the moonlit sea. Raising her arms, she sings:

“Oh Isis, veiled on earth, but shining clear

In the high heaven now the full moon draws near,

Hear the invoking words, hear and appear-

Shaddai el Chai, and Ea, Binah, Ge.”

 

Just when Wilfred is coming out of his shell, Vivien disappears, leaving him shattered. Time passes and Wilfred begins a tentative romantic relationship with the reserved Molly. He teaches her the rituals, and she blooms, finding her personal power, not as a sea-priestess, but as one of the earth. “There was awakening in her something of the primordial woman, and it was beginning to answer to the need in me.”

 Molly discovers that “All Women are Isis”;Wilfred begins his own relationship with the Priest of the Moon.   As a couple, Wilfred and Molly play out the themes of Hermeticism, and help bring  forth each other’s magical abilities.

Through destruction and sacrifice they are reborn.