1976: The Witches Speak illustrations

by Alden Cole on September 17, 2015 · 0 comments

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash.” – Louis Aragon, born Louis Andrieux (3 Oct 1897 – 24 Dec 1982)

Diana&ApolloWPThe Goddess and The God • pen & ink on paper 14″ x 9″ • collection of Banna Rubinow

In the spring of 1976 Jim Wasserman, Weiser’s manager in charge of just about everything office related, including overseeing book production and commissioning me to design book covers, asked if I’d be interested in drawing some black & white illustrations for a new book. Actually it was an older title, already released in England, which Weiser had recently purchased American rights to publish. The volume was The Witches Speak by Patricia and Arnold Crowther, two practicing Wiccans – a priestess and her priest consort – who had written an apologia explaining the rational behind the timely resurgence of the religion commonly known as Witchcraft, but more usually known to its devotees as the Old Nature Religion. Scuttling the old superstitions surrounding students of the craft as being practitioners of the black arts who kidnapped babies to use in their rituals and other even more bizarre practices, the Crowthers presented the Craft in modern guise; as a spiritual discipline suitable for developing a sense of sanctity and respect for the Creator/Creatrix in ones daily life, the goal of all organized religious practices; to make us more human and less animal.

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi (11 Jun 1913 – 3 Sep 1970)

MaidenCrone-GodGoddessWPDualities: Maiden & Crone • The God, Taker of Life, & The Goddess, Giver of Life

Jim gave the job of creating the color cover illustration to my mischtechnik painting teacher Linda Gardner. Although I was disappointed not to get that part of the job, I was nevertheless glad for her. My illustrations, destined for the interior of the book, were limited to black & white due to printing costs. For me that meant pen & ink line work, combined with stippling and pointillism; my forte, much of it learned from and encouraged by La Gardner. Jim proposed six illustrations dealing with a relatively loose program of ideas: The Goddess and The God; the duality of youth and age; the duality of taking life and giving life; initiation and the initiator; the Moon Child. We probably got stoned one evening after work and tossed ideas around for a while about what might work as illustrations; then I was off and running on my own. Jim being a fan of my work since we met in 1974, gave me total freedom to create, without his having to play ‘art director’ which has ruined many a job, or the enjoyment of it, for many a commercial artist. When I delivered the six finished drawings a couple weeks later, he was delighted, which helped to soften the blow that I wasn’t going to be paid the $100 per drawing that I was hoping for, and felt they were worth. Don Weiser, who was often critical of my figure work, wasn’t thrilled with the lot, but didn’t insist on any changes, so I only received $300 for the suite of six.

Initiator&MoonChildWPThe Initiator/Initiatrix & Lilith the Moon Child

The God and the Goddess, the interplay of opposites, yin and yang, light and dark, themes of duality provide the basis of the black and white imagery I explored in response to Jim’s challenge. Having already done a number of line illustrations for other Weiser books prior to this – charts, graphs, diagrams used frequently in volumes about astrology or kabbalah – this job was delightfully freeing, allowing me the chance to fly. And the work shows that. I’m guessing that these six illustrations, interspersed throughout the volumes 145 pages, are what has grown the value of this book over time from its original price of $3.50. Yesterday, curious to know if the book was still available, I googled the title to discover that Amazon.com has copies available: 16 used, ranging in price from $21.87 to $56; 4 new, ranging in price from $92.48 to $172.36. WOW! Very interesting. I’m tempted to think my work is almost famous! Although I have to admit that perhaps there was more wisdom revealed in the text than I knew, which was missed when I read the book years ago, preparing to do the illustrations, which would make the book worth its weight in gold? Or perhaps it’s the cover by Linda Gardner?? Or a combination of all those elements??? Anything is possible!

“When you realize the difference between the container and the content, you will have knowledge.” – Idries Shah (16 Jun 1924 – 23 Nov 1996)

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