The Devil Rides Out

[This is an informal item I wrote for my Livejournal in 2008. I went looking for it recently and discovered it was still out there. ]

Marie Eaton: [moves to the altar with Peggy lying on it] Peggy, get up. Repeat after me, the words of the Susamma Ritual. Oriel Seraphim.
Peggy Eaton: Oriel Seraphim
Marie Eaton: Eo Potesta
Peggy Eaton: Eo Potesta
Marie Eaton: Zati, Zata
Peggy Eaton: Zati, Zata
Marie Eaton: Galatim, Galatah
Peggy Eaton: Galatim, Galatah!

I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night, and during the hours of not sleeping I tried to recall the novels of Dennis Wheatley. I think it was in 1966 when my scout group had a jumble sale, and I was out collecting – bringing in box after box of books and bric-a-brac. I succeeded in purloining most of Dennis Wheatley’s occult novels, and kept The Satanist, The Devil Rides Out, and To The Devil a Daughter in a secret place in the garage, reading them when my parents weren’t around. I also made off with a complete multi-volume set of Gibbon’s Decline & Fall (which shows the kind of 15 year old I was). It was cut-leaf, and I can still recall the musty smell.

I saw The Devil Rides Out on release in 1968 when I was 17, but it was released as The Devil’s Bride in Australia (same as the US), so I experienced  a huge delight when I parked my bum on the seat and realised what I was watching. It was the first time I’d seen “proper” ceremonial magic in a film (which is still a rara avis)

The principal protagonist is the Duc de Richlieu (Christopher Lee), who appears in several of Wheatley’s novels as a member of a group of four adventurers loosely based on the Musketeers of Dumas. Most of the stories are ripping yarns, but at some point in his life (in between saving European princesses from Johnny Foreigner) the Duc has found the time to become an adept in the occult arts.

The book and film feature three pieces of authentic ritual. The first comes when the Duc creates a classic Solomonic circle  to protect the friends from Mocata’s demonic sendings. It is a long time since I read the book, and I lost my copy many years ago, but I have a memory of the Duc telling his friends to wear clean underpants because shit attracts evil entities. This piece of anal claptrap amused me even at 15 years old. I would have suggested brown trousers – a lot more sensible when being menaced by giant tarantulas and a ride-on cameo role by Azriel, the angel of death.

The second piece of ritual is the piece from an invented Susamma ritual that alters the fabric of time and space. I didn’t know it at the time, but the words are not made up, and come from an obscure grimoiric ritual used to trap a spirit in a bottle of water:

Uriel Seraphim, potesta, Io, Zati, Zata, Abbati, Abbata, Agla, Cailo, Caila, I pray thee and conjure thee in the name of the Living God and by him, thy Master and mine; by all the might of the Holy Trinity; by the virginity of the Holy Virgin; by the four sacred words which the great Agla said with his own mouth to Moses, Io, Zati, Zata, Abbata, by the nine heavens in which thou dwellest; and by virtue of the characters said before, that thou appear to me visibly and without delay in a fair human form, not terrifying, within or without this phial, which holds water prepared to receive thee, in order that thou mayest answer what I desire to ask thee, and fetch and bring the book of Moses, open it, put they hand upon it, and swear truth while making me see and know clearly all that I desire to know; appear then, I conjure you in the name of the Great God, Almighty Alpha, and be thou welcome in galatim, galata, cailo,caila.

This conjuration, it can be found in the Grimoire of Armadel. I didn’t find it in the Mathers translation, but it can be found in the original French Ms.

The third piece of ritual in the film occurs when the Duc attempts to draw the spirit of the dead Tanith back into her body. He uses a very condensed version of the Golden Dawn Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which in turn owes a great deal to a traditional Jewish bedtime prayer that protects the sleeper from bumps in the night. An original is preserved in cuniform on Mesopotamian clay tablets and is probably about 3000-4000 years old (see The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia by Campbell-Thompson). Memory of this ritual is preserved in the nursery rhyme

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, 
Bless the bed that I lie on. 
Four corners to my bed, 
Four angels round my head. 
One to watch and one to pray, 
And two to bear my fears away.

In the Jewish night-time prayer the four angels at the four corners are Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael.

Although most people assume Mocata was modelled after Crowley, he is a dastardly foreigner in the book (Wheatley was an imperialist, a xenophobe and a tremendous snob). However, the fiendish Canon Copely-Syle (To the Devil a Daughter) was definitely drawn from Montague Summers, a man Wheatley found genuinely frightening.