JRB

 

AN OCCULT HISTORY

Some tend to find my claim to have 30 years of history with the Tarot rather preposterous (or perhaps conveniently fashionable). Either that or they assume there was a family interest in such matters - this was not the case. I first came across the Tarot at the age of five, thanks to friends of the family who owned a book on the subject - Brian Innes' "The Tarot". I was entranced by the images and for the next two years I pestered my parents for a deck of my own. Initially reluctant to encourage such an outlandish interest, they eventually relented and at Christmas 1982 I was given a deck of my own, the 22 Trump set published by US Games Systems as 'Tarot Starter'. I soon found that they did indeed speak with a remarkable relevancy and accuracy. Over three decades on, I still find them to be an invaluable divinatory tool which is rarely surpassed in terms of relevance.

 

Tarot-Starter-1982

 

It was around this time that I experienced the first of a series of experiences one might describe as 'spiritual' in nature - seeing a tall dark figure standing under the full glare of a lightbulb which remained for some time before apparently disintegrating. Experiences like this, combined with my tastes in literature, family visits to Cornwall and to the famous Museum Of Witchcraft - then in the posession of the late Cecil Williamson - all served to cement a firm interest in the 'Occult' (or 'Hidden') which has persisted to-date. Over the years I have continued to study the Tarot endlessly and balance my practise with a disciplined, historically-informed and rational - if sometimes lateral - approach to the subject. It has long been my belief that, contrary to popular opinion, one can indeed approach the Occult with a scientific mind - as Crowley put it: "The aim of religion, the method of science".

 

1980 Boscastle

 

In 1994, while studying English Literature at the University of York, I co-founded the Occult Society with an American member of the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) and read the Tarot at University Events. I had my first taste of reading at Psychic Fairs thanks to an aquaintanceship with Ben Fernee (the well-respected proprietor of Caduceus Books and Director of the Society for Esoteric Endeavour) though I soon realised such events were not my natural home as I refuse to be a showman. I quickly gained a reputation for accuracy and often blunt honesty - it wasn't unusual for students to knock on my door at all hours in search of a reading.

At the same time I studied with a group of Witches based in Sheffield and was lucky enough to spend some time with Patricia Crowther, a wonderful woman regarded by many as one of Gerald Gardner's spiritual heirs. She has one of my Occult artworks hanging in her home and was one of the first to encourage me to complete my own Tarot deck. Though I do not consider myself a Wiccan, I remain impressed by the breadth of her knowledge and her eclectic approach to the Craft.

In the last decade I have been extremely excited and influenced by the works of the late Andrew Chumbley and of Daniel Schulke, both of whom have contributed greatly to the preservation of Traditional European Occult practise. I would recommend that anyone seriously interested in the field of the Occult pay great attention to their works, particularly Chumbley's seminal and unapologetic essay, "Magic Is Not For All".

This history of magical and esoteric study has immensely influenced and expanded my use of the Tarot, an entity which I consider to be much more than a mere system of Divination. Its language transcends race, age, religion and philosophy. It has intrigued and obsessed great writers, artists, philosophers, Occultists, historians. It is an entity in its own right so when people ask me if I speak to spirits, my response will always be, "The Tarot *is* a spirit".


MUSIC JOURNALISM

It comes as a surprise to some to learn that I also have a history in the field of music journalism - after graduating from York, I fell into a job as an Editorial Assistant at Record Collector magazine where I remained for three years. This career path was more chance than choice, and while I have always loved Music and the Arts, I eventually wearied of writing about Artists when I felt I should be pursuing my own Artistic Endeavours. That being said, I continue to have a foot in the door of this world but these days only write about Artists I admire and only when I feel the urge or desire to do so. It is a lucky and priveliged position to be in.

Over the years, this work has given me the chance to meet and interview some wonderful and well-known creators, including Tori Amos, Alison Goldfrapp, Marilyn Manson, Boy George, Keith Flint and Placebo to name a few. I have contributed to books including Blondie - From Punk To Present and Madonnastyle, had features published in magazines including Attitude, Mojo, Rockstar and Bizarre, and have penned two books of my own (more of which below). I have appeared on radio and TV in connection with this work and many of my articles and interviews may be found and read online.

My own books include a children's biography of Britney Spears, written at the request of a publisher I had approached with a proposal for a biography of PJ Harvey. While the thought of writing such a book initially repulsed me (!), it was clear to me that sometimes one must make sacrifices in order to get what one wants. So, I steeled myself for a few months of exposure to the world of Britney Spears and the book was published in America and Europe in 2002.

 

books

 

This paved the way for publication of the book I had long wanted to write, the first ever biograpy of PJ Harvey, Siren Rising, published by Omnibus Press in 2004. This title went through two hardback editions before the publication of a revised and expanded paperback edition in 2006.

Published in France as Le Chant De La Sirene, the book received great reviews from the mainstream British music press, all of whom awarded it three out of five stars - Tom Doyle writing for Q magazine described it as "well researched, insightful . . . Blandford's book confidently charts Harvey's growth", Uncut called it an "assiduous" and "superior" piece of work and Mark Paytress writing for Mojo noted it was "informed, essentially loyal . . . at times reads like an autobiography".

The natural conclusion of these two careers will manifest in the book I am currently working on to accompany my own Tarot deck, The Arcane Tarot, which brings together my history in Tarot, Art, Occultism and writing.