[This issue, we sit down for an interview with witch and author, Logan Albright. Here, he discusses his personal spiritual practice; his forthcoming book, Conform Or Be Cast Out; and his other projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your spiritual practice? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Logan Albright: My journey towards spirituality has taken place slowly over a long period of time. I started exploring ideas around ceremonial magic about fifteen years ago, and since then I’ve gradually drifted from agnosticism towards a fairly eclectic form of paganism. I suppose I would describe myself as a pantheist, but I draw from the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (which are themselves quite eclectic), Wicca, and Druidry. Lately I’ve been exploring Hinduism, which is rather fascinating and which has a surprising amount of overlap with the Western Mystery Tradition.
ev0ke: You state at one point that you are “always happy to put [your] faith in faerie tales, which contain more truth than most people realize.” What truths do you find in faerie tales? And what are some of your favorite stories?
LA: I’m using the term “faerie stories” here as it was used in a famous essay by Tolkien, speaking more broadly about imaginative literature in general. And in fact, Tolkien’s work, especially The Lord of the Rings, remains one of my favorite sources of inspiration from which I keep discovering new lessons all the time. My favorite lately is the metaphor of the One Ring, and how the desire to wield power for good is seldom better than the desire to wield it for evil. I’m also a huge fan of Paradise Lost, as I mention in the book, and its perhaps unintentional messages about individuality and independence. But a more literal reading of faerie tales works as well. You can learn a lot from the Brothers Grimm about honor, duty, honesty, integrity, sacrifice, and not judging a book by its cover. Just about any story that is written honestly and not as a propaganda piece is going to have life lessons that the author didn’t necessarily intend.
ev0ke: Conform Or Be Cast Out will be published by Moon Books in November 2021. Congratulations! First, how did this book come about? What inspired its creation?
LA: I’ve always been attracted to free thinkers and contrarians, people who refuse to accept the established orthodoxy and who try to find a different way to do things. It doesn’t take long to realize that such people, though they may achieve great things, are seldom popular. Over time I began to notice a recurring pattern in which nonconformists were not only criticized, but compared to literal demons and devil worshippers. The topic of general resistance to nonconformity was too broad (at least for me to tackle!), but I thought this more narrow exploration of literal demonization would be interesting, as well as something I have not seen anyone else address much before.
ev0ke: Conform Or Be Cast Out covers a wide range of topics, from witchcraft to medicine to zombie movies. What sort of research went into the book? Long trips to the library? Lengthy discussions with psychologists and sociologists?
LA: I have to admit that my research methods are fairly passive. I’m always reading from a wide variety of different disciplines that interest me. Every once in a while, I start to notice parallels between subjects you wouldn’t necessarily expect to go together. For example, the history of psychiatry, witchcraft, and 19th century political movements all contain instances of people who went against the grain and were demonized for it. As I discover these connections, I note them down and it’s only when I have enough for a book that I start writing. Of course, then I have to supplement these initial findings with more targeted research to fill in the gaps, but generally the research leads to the idea for a book rather than the other way around.
ev0ke: What interesting or unusual discovery (historical, literary, psychological, et cetera) did you make that you absolutely had to include in the book?
LA: I’m fascinated by the history of psychiatry and how poorly we have historically treated the mentally ill, so there’s a lot of that in the book, but that research led me to some theories about strange illnesses in general and how they may account for some of our more outlandish myths and legends. For example, there’s a disease called porphyria whose symptoms include sensitivity to light, jaundiced skin, reddish teeth, hairiness, and other deformities. If you think about how medieval villagers would have reacted to a hirsute, odd-looking person who only came out at night and had what appeared to be blood on his teeth, you can see how stories about vampires or werewolves might have come about.
ev0ke: You have published two collections of magical, seasonal stories: Yuletide Tales and Summer Tales. These optimistic and uplifting stories feature everything from an escalator that learns how to whistle to Queen Mab herself. What was your favorite part about writing these stories? And will there be more seasonal collections?
LA: Those two collections were written as birthday presents for my two nieces, Echo and Clover. I love faerie tales and whimsical stories of all types, playing on classic (some might say outdated) themes like the man in the moon, trolls, and talking animals. I also feel like there’s a special magic about certain times of the year, particularly winter when the air is so crisp and the smell of wood fires is never far away. I wanted to capture that childlike wonder that I’m lucky enough to still be able to feel in spite of my advancing years. I also miss the tradition of spooky Christmas, which was very big in the Victorian period, so I wanted to tap into that. My sister has no plans for any more kids, so I wouldn’t expect any further collections anytime soon, although the prospect of Autumn Tales remains appealing to me.
ev0ke: You also wrote the occult adventure, On Lethean Shore. Novels that feature real, authentic occult lore (as opposed to sensationalized plot gimmicks) can be hard to find. In addition to your own work, what other occult fiction and authors would you recommend?
LA: There’s not a lot of genuine occult lore in H.P. Lovecraft’s work, but he had a core group of associates whose work he championed that were all deeply steeped in the Western Mystery Tradition. I’m particularly a fan of Arthur Machen, but Algernon Blackwood and Robert W. Chambers are also great. The novels of Dion Fortune, while lacking a bit in literary merit, also contain many lessons in practical occultism. Nowadays, I think people are more familiar with things like Wicca and Qabalah generally, but few writers take the time to really explore it in depth, so you get the odd reference to the Enochian language or the historical wizards and alchemists mentioned in Harry Potter. These are fun when you see them, but not very useful except as prods for people who want to learn more. It’s amusing to see how much they get wrong. I’m reading The Illuminatus Trilogy right now, which is packed with occult references, but it’s written in a highly abstract and difficult style so I don’t know that I’d recommend it.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
LA: All my books are available through Amazon.com or other web retailers, and my latest one, Conform or Be Cast Out, will be in bookstores as well starting in December. You can also go to www.loganalbright.com to see more of my work, including some of the music I make, or to get in contact with me.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
LA: I’m currently working on a book called Libertarian Paganism, which explores two different philosophies that interest me and the ways in which I think they complement each other. I’m also always writing a steady stream of novels, but I haven’t found a publisher for most of them yet. I hope they get to see the light of day eventually. The one I’m about to start next is a horror story called Forest Logic.