CAMERON: THE WORMWOOD STAR
by BRIAN BUTLER
© 2003 BRIAN BUTLER
FIRST PUBLISHED IN: Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult : (Being an Alchemical Formula to Rip a Hole in the Fabric of Reality).Metzger, Richard. New York: Disinformation, 2003. (P
We are Stars and herald alien laws outside the Solar Wheel invading natural systems of the earth.
The late 1940’s was an interesting time to be in Southern California. World War II had just ended and for the first time atomic weapons had been detonated in warfare. Science and technology were advancing at an alarming pace. Science fiction had become popular, and space travel seemed a possibility. There were UFO sightings; tales of Black Magick and strange new religious cults were formed. For some reason, Los Angeles became the hub for such activity. There, through a chance encounter with an old navy acquaintance, 23-year-old Marjorie Cameron was led to the home of the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory rocket scientist and master occultist Jack Parsons in Pasadena. This house, also known as the Parsonage, had become a meeting place and boarding house for cutting edge scientists, occultists, cult leaders and science fiction authors. At the time Cameron arrived, Parsons and then science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard were well into one of the most important occult operations of the 20th century -- “The Babalon Working.” Through their invocations, they had set the stage for the arrival of Cameron to assist them as an elemental spirit incarnated in the form of a redhead with green eyes. This meeting was to forever alter the destiny of Marjorie Cameron and set her on a lifelong quest to manifest the Babalon current upon Earth. While much has been documented from her years with Jack Parsons, until now very little has been known publicly about Cameron’s life before or after this five-year period.
Mockery is the punishment of the Gods. What fiendish laughter…
Marjorie Elizabeth Cameron –later known as Cameron - was born on April 23, 1922 in Belle Plain, Iowa, the eldest of four children. Her father, Hill Leslie Cameron, was a Scot from Illinois who worked with the railroad. Her mother, Carrie V. Ridenour, of German and Dutch decent, was a native of Iowa. The night of Cameron’s birth was surrounded by chaos; there was a terrible thunderstorm and her father got drunk and attempted suicide because he thought his wife was dying. Her grandmother, a staunch churchwoman, believed Cameron to be a child of the devil because of her fiery red hair.
As a child, Cameron began to have strange and powerful visions that were so vivid, she could not be sure if they were real or imaginary. One night from her bedroom, she saw a ghostly procession of four white horses float by her window. Later she could recall these dreams in detail and was able to capture this in her artwork and poetry. In a letter to magician and Aleister Crowley associate Jane Wolfe, she mentions finding “a hole to hell” in her grandfather’s backyard:
“I remember always a tree on my grandfather’s property from which hung an old, old swing where my mother had played as a little girl. Near this spot I recall a well which I always believed was the hole to hell. – also the blue Bachelor Button flower grew near this spot. Herein I find again a new concept of the 4 elements and the name of god – the tree, the well, the swing (water’s life) and the flower –which is seed.”
Never quite accepted in her small hometown, Cameron spent most of her childhood alone. In kindergarten, she was placed in a special school for children with above-average abilities and it became apparent that she was very different from other children. In a town dominated by the railroad, Cameron would often venture to the proverbial “wrong side of the tracks.” She was always attracted to the darker side of things and found a kinship with other individualists and loners.
As a teenager, Cameron made a hideout in the attic of her parents’ home and there she began to develop her psychic abilities. She soon established contact with spirits that would tell her detailed accounts of what had occurred at the house in the past. Like a true witch, she collected black cats and would go for late night prowls alone dressed only in a nightgown.
When she was seventeen, the Great Depression was underway and Cameron moved with her family to Davenport, Iowa, a considerably larger town than Belle Plain. Again she had trouble adjusting. After the suicide of a close friend, Cameron attempted to take her own life several times, each time through an overdose of sleeping pills. Though unsuccessful, she found that these near brushes with death had further enhanced her psychic abilities, giving her a glimpse into the realm of the dead.
Mine eyes are terrible and strange but thou knowest me
In 1943, in the midst of World War II, the 21-year-old Cameron joined the Navy -turningdown several collegescholarships.She was sent along with 3,000 other women to boot camp in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Soon she was soon selected for a high-level job in Washington, DC, where she applied her artistic skills by drawing maps for the war efforts. She was then sent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff were she once met Churchill. She had a drafting table at the head of their conference room. Later, according to the principles of talismanic magic she felt that many men died in the South Pacific as a result of her drawings. She always felt a karmic connection to these men and believed that the later tragic events in her life were the result of her participation in their deaths.
Later, she worked at the photo science lab on the Potomac, also called “The Hollywood Navy.” There she met many Hollywood celebrities such as Gene Kelly. After learning that her brother, a tail gunner in the Air Force, had been shot down and injured, Cameron walked out on her job and returned to Belle Plain to see him. Eventually, Cameron was declared AWOL and was court martialed. She spent the final six months of the war confined to the base.
THE BIRTH OF BABALON
After her release from the Navy, Cameron moved in with her family, which had moved to Pasadena, California. In January of 1946, while waiting at the unemployment office, she saw an old acquaintance from the photo science lab in the Navy. This man, whose identity remains unknown, was living at the Parsonage and told her of a “mad scientist” that she had to meet. Inviting her to breakfast, he took her to a house at 1003 South Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, and there she met Jack Parsons for the first time. As she walked in, Parsons was standing in the hallway speaking on the phone dressed only in a black silk robe. They met only briefly but immediately felt a deep connection. Also living there was Jack’s magical scribe, L. Ron Hubbard. After this encounter, Hubbard and Parsons commanded the man to “go find her or we’ll kill you!” On January 19, 1946, at the climax of a magical operation that was begun by Jack and L. Ron Hubbard two weeks previously “to obtain the assistance of an elemental mate,” Cameron returned and in that moment her destiny was changed.
Cameron immediately became romantically involved with Jack and moved into the house with him. Unknowingly, she had become Parsons’ sex magick partner in a ritual designed to incarnate the force of Babalon. Although Cameron was initially uninterested in Aleister Crowley or magick, Jack proceeded to instruct Cameron in the occult arts and told her of her destiny in the world. According to Jack, she was to become the vehicle for the Goddess or force called Babalon to manifest on earth. Years later, Cameron came to believe that she was in fact Babalon incarnate.
In March of 1946, Cameron witnessed a flying saucer over the Orange Grove house. She claimed that it was the “war engine” that was predicted in Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law and the “sign” that Jack was waiting for.
“ The flying saucers – the miracle! – our war machine! I saw the first one in the spring of 1946 at 1003. – Oh – my god. This is the sign (drawing of an inverted triangle within a circle) Flying Saucers – imagine!”
Had she reported it publicly, this would have been known as one of the first UFO sightings in America and would have preceded, by one year, Kenneth Arnold’s infamous sighting on June 24, 1947 – the sighting which propelled the “modern UFO era.”
As the magical current become more intense at the Parsonage, things began to disintegrate. Hubbard had absconded with Jack’s former girlfriend and most of his fortune. In August, Jack resigned from Crowley’s occult order in favor of his own system - “The Witchcraft.” As a result, the occult lodge at the Parsonage was disbanded and guests became fewer and less frequent. Cameron soon found herself spending a lot of time alone painting in the downstairs drawing room. She convinced Jack to get her a German Shepard to keep her company. As yet unfamiliar with the nature of the magical operations going on, Cameron felt that the house was haunted, and Jack would often return to find her and the dogs freezing outside of the house, terrified to return. It is interesting to note that later, in a letter to Cameron, Jack stated that the performance of Aleister Crowley’s “Bornless One” ritual was known to cause “permanent haunting” wherever it was recited:
“I will send you the ritual of the Bornless One…It is a very ancient, potent & dangerous ritual, often used by bold magicians in the Guardian Angel Working. It is useful as a preliminary in almost any sort of work, causing a tremendous concentration of force. It is, however, liable to produce dangerous side phenomena and sometimes permanent haunting in an area where it is repeated, & is for this reason often avoided.”
Finally, after numerous adverse psychic phenomena at the Parsonage, Cameron and Jack consulted the Ouji board and got the message “To Marjorie--Clean Ron’s room and get out!” They immediately did so and moved to Manhattan Beach, California.
THE RED WITCH
In late 1947, Jack sent Cameron to England to meet Aleister Crowley. Although Crowley was skeptical about Jack’s recent experiences with Hubbard and Cameron, Jack believed that if Crowley met Cameron in person his opinion would change. Using her Navy connections, Cameron first sailed to Paris and decided to stay there for a while. She became a regular at a local pub in Paris, and there she was known as the “Red Witch” because of her unusual appearance. On the day she walked into the pub to announce that she was off to London for the weekend to meet Aleister Crowley, the locals informed her that he had just died.
Cameron was heartbroken that she missed the opportunity to meet the Master Therion, and following the advice of a friend in Paris, joined a convent in Lugano, Switzerland. After three weeks at the convent, she had a life changing experience – she bathed, let her hair down on her face, got on her haunches and howled into the mirror like a wild animal. It was in this moment that she realized she was in fact the Scarlet Woman and had no place in a convent. She contacted Jack, who sent her funds to return to America. Cameron remained with Jack for the next year. Jack by this time was experiencing the darker effects of the Babalon Working. From Parsons’ The Book of Antichrist:
“Now it came to pass even as BABALON told me, for after receiving Her Book I fell away from Magick, and put away Her Book and all pertaining thereto. And I was stripped of my fortune (the sum of about $50,000) and my house, and all I Possessed.
Then for a period of two years I worked in the world, recouping my fortune somewhat. But that was also taken from me, and my reputation, and my good name in my worldly work, that was in science.”
In 1948, Cameron separated from Jack and went to study art in Mexico on the GI Bill. She did not see Jack for almost two years, and they corresponded solely by mail. However, it was during this period that she received the most serious instruction in practical magick from him. These letters still exist and are available on the Internet.
While in Mexico, Cameron quickly fell in with the famous artist colony in San Miguel—a group that included the painter David Siqueiros and the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. Cameron felt a deep connection to Mexico and later said that San Miguel replaced in her heart her childhood home. She had met a kindred spirit in Carrington. She also met Renate Druks and Paul Matheson who would later co-star with her in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.” She had a brief romance with a bullfighter named Armando, but when he fell ill and died, Cameron was accused of witchcraft and run out of town.
We dance a geometry of wizardry and wind the threads about our prey…
Cameron returned to America around 1950 and lived with Jack once again as his wife in Manhattan Beach. Jack was then working for Hughes Aircraft and negotiating a deal with Israel to create an explosives plant as well as providing research for “rockets and other armaments.”In September 1950, plainclothes men raided the Parsons’ home and confiscated Jack’s papers. Jack was accused of removing confidential documents from Hughes and was fired. An FBI investigation began, one that would last for over a year. An informant assessed the Parsons as follows:
“…the PARSONS are an odd and unusual pair in that they do not live by the commonly accepted code of married life and are both very fascinated by anything unusual or morbid such as voodooism, cults, homosexuality, and religious practices that are “different.” Subject seems very much in love with his wife but she is not at all affectionate and does not appear to return his affection, [deleted] She is the dominating personality of the two and controls the activities and thinking of subject to very considerable degree. It is the opinion [name withheld] if subject were to have been in any way willfully involved in any activities of an espionage nature, it would probably have been on the instigation of his wife.”
Although Parsons was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, on January 17, 1952, he lost his security clearance. This seriously reduced his chances for employment, so Cameron and Jack began to make plans to leave the country. They were first headed for Mexico and from there to either Spain or Israel. Jack ultimately wanted to form a magical school in Israel. Jack and Cameron moved to a carriage house on Orange Grove -a few houses down from the Parsonage.
On June 17, 1952, the evening before they planned to leave for Mexico, Jack was killed in an explosion when he dropped a vial of mercury fulmate in his private laboratory. Cameron was down the street fueling the car when she heard the blast. Jack’s death was ruled an accident by authorities but Cameron always believed that Howard Hughes was somehow behind it.
We traveled Stellar webs to darker Worlds within the Lunar mirrors of Suicide.
After Jack’s death, Cameron moved into friend Renate Druks’s Malibu home for six months. Druks could not withstand the heavy vibe that was Cameron and relates strange tales of Black Magic and astral attacks. Shortly after ejecting Cameron from her household, Druks claims to have been woken by a strange astral figure floating over her bed. Described as a sort of alien creature that appeared as a bright neon-colored brain with a tail that resembled a spinal column, it increased in size as it came at her and then suddenly disappeared. Overcome with terror, she consulted with their mutual friend, Jane Wolfe. Wolfe stated ‘That was Cameron -–how naughty of her!” and instructed Druks in the banishing ritual of the pentagram to protect herself.
Exiled from Druks’s home and still deeply affected by Jack’s death, Cameron withdrew into complete isolation in the desert of Beaumont, California. There she lived in a house in an abandoned canyon that had no water or power.
During this period Cameron found a new magical teacher in Jane Wolfe and their correspondence remains as a sort of magical diary. Cameron began to see her life increasingly from a magical point of view, analyzing her experiences in terms of a life-long magical ritual or initiation. This was also her darkest period, she writes to Jane:
“I am approaching the darkest hour of the abysmal night furthest from the sun. This is the fateful hour in which I drink the cup of poison to its dregs –- eat the tainted apple -– feel the sting of the terrible dart in the core of me. Know the fang of the deadly serpent in my heart. And thereafter I shall plunge down into the abysmal horror of madness and death –- or I shall walk upon the dawn -– golden with the golden kiss upon me. This hour is far beyond the return. The turning back point was Sunset of year. My farewells were made long ago. No –- this is the hour when I approach the terrible rendezvous when all my gods shall declare themselves – when I shall call upon the secret name – open the final door.”
Cameron realized that she must face this ordeal alone:
“If you have tried to contact me you have no doubt found the going hazardous – I seem to be pyramiding a mountain of fear that is closing all doors to me -- now Renee’s--.
It amounts to this – in the case of each they reach a barrier of fear over which they cannot pass to follow me. And since I can show no pity – since to do so is to pity myself – I am rapidly eliminating my companions on the journey to completion. I had not expected this – as you know-- the only comfort left me-- is the knowledge that I have the courage to do that which no one else seems to have. This is indeed the luxury of Kings – but I had tried to bring joy and not fear into the hearts of others. What happens from now on – I do not know. I can only remind myself constantly in this period of aloneness and dryness that which I have known from the beginning.”
It is in these letters to Jane that Cameron fully divulges her feelings and candidly describes her own rituals. Most interesting is a magical working which she began shortly after Jack’s death in 1952. This ritual included some of the same people who later appeared in Kenneth Anger’s film of an occult ritual Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. According to Cameron, this working was to bear fruit in the summer of 1953. By this operation, some say that Cameron intended to create a “magical child” or “wormwood star” sired by Jack from beyond the grave.
“This is the star which was calculated for me to give it birth. Jane-- Jane-- This is the star by which I shall behold him and in that union shall he be born-- he whose name shall be wonder. His magnificence cannot be foretold and this is my star the Wormwood Star which will be born this summer Solstice of the year 1953."
Cameron goes on to explain the technical details of the operation based on the seven pointed star of BABALON:
“The points of the star are seven but it produces eight. It consists of the quadrupled union of four pairs of opposites. The eighth of this is not apparent until the four unions are completed. Now when each union is made the word of god must be uttered. Do you know this word? I asked for this word of Jack in March of 1949. It was given to me with no account of the cost. I carried it with me in great secrecy, not ever daring to dream of the miracle it concealed. This word I will only give to you in great secrecy. With the right combination – which is my star [Star of Babalon drawn here] this great word creates --- and since there is death in all birth there are four opposites destroyed – but their destruction is absorption and here again another face of the four square miracle!”
She further elaborates on the formula of the operation:
“This opposite must always be the sublime whole of the opposite of the invoked. Such as in this invocation the opposites all destroyed will be pure aspects. Here is the meaning of debauchery as sacrament – the sublime follows between the six and eight of the Tarot.This is the sacrament. The exquisite edge of growth and decay and this is absorbed like the fruit, the wine of the season on the dying cycle of the year. This destruction or absorption will be done each time to the union of the 8 opposites occur.”
She then describes the function of the unknowing participants or “elementals” in this strange working:
“Each male in this invocation is an Elemental god and these five gods will be the five fathers of the god. Each is a perfect revelation of the four represented in the Universe card of the Tarot- the Dance of the Star and the Snake. The holy 22. The kether, the Crown, the god. These four are represented as the Bull, the Lion, the Hawk and man sublime angelic – man revealed as god. I plan to write these into four commentaries – or songs - for each of the Elemental gods in a miraculous revelation. When the star is completed and the god born, these elemental gods will be known to their voices and the whole damned union will be complete and magnificent.”
Cameron states that she is pregnant but not with a human child:
“The pregnancy, as you understand -- was not the actual growth of a human child -- but the spiritual child of a psychic union - and in the case of Cupid and Psyche - this child -- was a female -- called Pleasure -- or the birth of Babylon -- which is a symbolical -- but most real birth of the age of the Goddess of Pleasure -- being the union of the mind and body.”
After her extraordinary experiences in the desert, Cameron moved back in with her parents in Pasadena and was considered catatonic for a time. Still in isolation and confusion, she painted a series of works that she called “the parchments.” These pieces received a lot of attention, including an offer from a psychiatrist to publish them with a commentary (which she refused). She believed that through these works of art, she literally “painted herself out” of her situation. Renewed, she emerged as a “real force” in the artistic and occult communities.
Death has been thy lover. Is there else to fear?
In December of 1953, Cameron walked into another situation that was to alter both her destiny and that of those around her. This time it was the home of the eccentric and warlock, Samson Debreir, on Barton Avenue in Hollywood, California. Underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger had begun casting for his occult film, “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” and the stage was once again set for the Scarlet Woman. The famous erotic writer Anais Nin was to the star until Cameron appeared, upstaging her by the mere power of her presence. The rivalry between the two became a driving force behind the film.
When Anger met Cameron, she introduced herself as “the Scarlet Woman.” And Anger replied “That’s obvious… I have been waiting to meet you for a thousand years.” By this time, she had developed a very powerful countenance, and it was this that struck Anger. He vividly recalls, “[She had] Flaming Scot red hair…real emerald green eyes that could also turn into sea mist grey according to her mood…and suddenly Anais Nin shrunk…in front of the majesty that is Cameron because Cameron wiped her out.” Cameron had a profound effect on Kenneth Anger and was a sort of mentor to him. Soon, they were living together. Anger relates many strange stories of UFOs, levitation and astral visions, and he still considers Cameron one of the most important women of his life.
The film, in which Cameron plays herself “The Scarlet Woman,” was well received among both magical initiates and the art world. Cameron believed that this film was proof to the world that she had manifested the force of Babalon on earth.
Up the swirling scarf of smoke rise our invocations.
By the late 1950’s, Cameron was living in Malibu and hanging out with a crowd of Beat artists that included the likes of Dennis Hopper, Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner and assemblage artist George Herms. In 1957, Wallace Berman’s show at the Ferus Gallery was closed by the vice squad for pornography after he displayed one of Cameron’s drawings. This drawing depicted a woman, possibly Cameron, being taken from behind by an alien creature.
That same year, experimental filmmaker and her Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome co-star Curtis Harrington directed a film that featured Cameron and her artwork called The Wormwood Star. The film opens with titles drawn by Paul Matheson over an extreme close-up of the Seal of Solomon. “Concerning the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel as revealed to: Cameron.” Introduced through a series of composed still frames, rather surreal in juxtaposition and symbolic props, Cameron is then shown seated, looking into a mirror as if in a trance. After a few minutes of this rather abstract portraiture, the film then shifts to a study of Cameron’s paintings that illustrate a desert procession of angels. In the background Cameron recites a solemn invocation to her Holy Guardian Angel:
“Dark Star, I seek you in all the endless rooms of the universe
I have entered the maze of chaos and searched the promise of no end and no fulfillment
But I have seen your helmeted head flashing gold from the bloody triumphs and sunsets of the world
I have heard your voice singing lovely songs of desire in the world womb
I remember the artistry of fingers that held the rose in wonder
Your musical flute sounding the hymn of love seeking since the birth in the crashing star nebulae
Singing limbs of muscle and star-foam pursued and pursuing
Radiant Warrior, how long?
Beloved God, how long?
How long, how long?”