Witchcraft, UFOs and Rock'n Roll
Posted on Wednesday, 13 November, 2019 | 0 comments
Columnist: Sean Casteel
"Looking back, as far as I am concerned, it was one of the most exciting periods in modern history. It was the mid-1960s and society was becoming more liberal minded. And I was growing up in suburbia, eager to leave my childhood nest in New Jersey and head down the highway, even if the highway was a bus route that led to Manhattan's Times Square."
So says the eclectic Timothy Green Beckley, who once confessed he has had so many professions that even his own girlfriend doesn't know what he does for a living.
"I was always more into the night life than a daylight routine, probably because I would spend midnight to dawn listening to the chatter of my transistor radio and the panel discussions hosted by the six-foot-seven Long John Nebel, who pioneered the concept of a radio talk show heavily influenced by the latest developments in the UFO and occult fields. Long John was on New York radio station WOR long before Art Bell made it big with Coast to Coast AM. Eventually I became a guest on Nebel's show myself."
It was while hanging out "after hours" in the bohemian hotspot known as Greenwich Village that Tim cut his teeth on rock music, listening to up-and-coming artists like Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter and, later, the likes of the New York Dolls with their glam dress and six inch platform shoes.
But this isn't so much about Tim as it is another rogue personality, a charming young lady who was an important figure in that same time period and who had an impact on many that has lasted to this very day, though she passed from the scene almost four decades ago.
Can a woman who calls herself a witch also be a righteous, even saintly, person? Does she harness powers that are intended to lead to harmless, positive and beneficial results? If one were to look for evidence that such things are possible, then the life of White Witch Walli Elmlark would be a good place to start one's search.
One of Walli's most dedicated friends was the aforementioned Timothy Green Beckley, the CEO of the publishing company Inner Light/Global Communications. Tim has penned a memoir of his time spent with Walli called "David Bowie - UFOs - Witchcraft - Cocaine - and Paranoia, The Occult Saga of Wall Elmlark, The 'Rock n' Roll' Witch of New York." Obviously one can get the gist of what the book is about from the keywords of the title. But how Walli created a loving and compassionate life from that strange recipe is the real subject of Tim's heartfelt tribute to her.
The book is available as a special, full color collector's edition featuring photos by Helen Hovey and original art by Carol Ann Rodriguez. It's almost as beautiful to look at as Walli was herself. It also includes Original Spells (the white magic kind) and a great deal of Wiccan Lore for the student and uneducated both.
Tim begins the book by sketching in some of Walli's more sensational credits, such as the fact that she did spiritual work for David Bowie, who admitted that he owed his life to her. But more about that later.
Tim recounts his own rock and roll upbringing, starting as a fan of Little Richard and Chuck Berry. As the rock music era progressed, Tim became a fixture backstage at places like The Academy of Music, where he met many major stars of the 60s and 70s. He also began to promote rock concerts himself, particularly with some early glam acts that never quite made it big.
At this same time, Tim founded one of the first, if not the very first, metaphysical centers in the country, called The New York School of Occult Arts and Sciences. It was located in a 2200 square foot loft on the second floor of an apartment building on 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, about six blocks from The Academy.
"We had lectures and workshops on UFOs, Tarot cards, Witchcraft, Prophecy, Astral Projection," Tim explained, "as well as lessons in how to use the Ouija Board (safely!) And we held midnight seances every Saturday with the medium Kitty Steele, a former model from Michigan."
There were several rock stars with an interest in the occult, including Doctor John the Night Tripper, who visited Tim's school in full voodoo regalia to be photographed by budding shutterbug Helen Hovey, a friend of Beckley's from their teenage years. Around that same time, Tim and Helen managed to wrangle a place on the guest list at The Academy of Music through a woman named Lila Schuman, who answered the phone and did typing for the venue.
"Somehow the conversation got around to the occult," Tim writes, "and I remember helping Lila find a ring that she had lost somewhere in her apartment through 'remote viewing.' It had fallen behind a bureau, if I recall, and that is where I had psychically visualized it. She was most impressed, having dug it out from behind a rather heavy chest of drawers, pretty much where I said she would find it."
Lila next wrote Tim a letter in which she said that Tim and his friend Helen should meet a particular female rock columnist who was making herself known backstage by giving spiritual advice to some of the more open-minded musicians who did not sneer at the super-normal matters that so fascinated Tim and his crowd of fellow believers.
ENTER WALLI ELMLARK
The columnist was, of course, the titular rock and roll witch, Walli Elmlark. Tim begins immediately to defend her honor.
"Walli had been raised in a Jewish family but had found the tenets of witchcraft more to her liking," Beckley writes. "She had become a member of the Wiccan faith, a form of paganism going far back into antiquity and predating Christianity by God knows how long. Walli was quick to point out that she was NOT a Satanist, nor did she wish harm onto others. She was a good witch, or 'white witch,' casting beneficial spells and using candles and gemstones for 'self-empowerment.'
"In folklore," Tim continues, "witches are often portrayed in negative ways, being malicious or sinister by nature. Many are depicted as archetypal 'old crones,' well past their prime, who are frequently scary and 'rough around the edges,' appearance-wise."
By contrast, Walli was beautiful to look at.
Helen, Tim's photographer friend, said that Walli "stood out in the crowd, even among the long-haired hipsters and mod, English-style dressers. She was a very imposing individual, with a very striking figure. Dressed in black, with dark makeup and silver jewelry and a green streak in her hair, Walli's fashion sense was trailblazing; not really goth, but certainly cutting edge. You knew she was someone special, not just the average journalist with pen and paper out to get a good quote."
Walli had already gained a reputation as a journalist by writing for the English publication "Melody Maker," a music newspaper that provided the Beatles with some of their early media attention. In the U.S., Walli was a columnist for "Circus Magazine," a glossy, full color newsstand periodical that appealed to a younger audience and concentrated on hard rock bands without straying over into politics, like "Rolling Stone."
When Helen asked Walli to pose for some photos, Walli was at first rather shy. But when Helen set up her camera equipment, Walli seemed to be more at ease.
"It almost seemed after a while that we had known each other for a lifetime," Helen told Tim. "She was by no means a diva, though she could have been with her famous friends. She was wise beyond her years and seemed to have a window into the future of rock and roll. She certainly had a keen ear for an up-and-coming performer."
Helen said that Walli always had a lot of rockers going to and from her apartment, and not just to be interviewed. A lot of the musicians were eager to hear what she had to say as word of her witchcraft activities began to spread. Some of the stars wanted a psychic reading from her or advice about a good luck candle.
DAVID BOWIE AND WALLI'S MUTUAL INTEREST
"Walli Elmlark knew David Bowie," Tim writes. "He had been to her apartment. They were striking up a friendship, getting some sort of bond going. True, she wrote a very prestigious column for 'Circus Magazine,' but beyond the attention she could give the newly-arrived pop singer from Britain, whose career was just blossoming in the U.S., they seemed to have a lot in common on a personal level. Bowie was really interested in the same things Walli was. Witchcraft! Magick! UFOs!"
And Bowie was not an idle curiosity seeker. He had experiences of his own, had seen UFOs, believed in time travel and sought out other dimensions, all within a spiritual framework.
Walli introduced Tim to Bowie and the two gentlemen shook hands. But there was a large gathering of reporters there to question Bowie, so Tim wasn't able to converse much with the rising superstar. Bowie later called Tim once while trying to track down Walli, who had the type of knowledge Bowie was looking to tap into.
Within a few years, Bowie had developed a cocaine habit that began to cause him serious psychological problems. He was living in Los Angeles (only a few houses from where the Charles Manson family had murdered Sharon Tate and her companions) and planning the follow-up to his "Young Americans" album, according to Marc Spitz, the author of "Bowie: A Biography."
"Bowie would sit in the house with a pile of the drug atop the glass table," Spitz writes, "a sketch pad and a stack of books. 'Psychic Self Defense,' by Dion Fortune, was his favorite. Its author describes the book as a 'safeguard for protecting yourself against paranormal malevolence.' Using this and more arcane books on witchcraft, white magic and its malevolent counterpart, black magic, as rough guides to his own rapidly fragmenting psyche, Bowie began drawing protective pentagrams on every surface."
Bowie would later say that he stayed up for weeks and was hallucinating 24 hours a day. An acquaintance of Bowie's, the poet and songwriter Cherry Vanilla, hooked Bowie up with Walli in an effort to help the struggling pop star. Spitz describes Walli as a "Manhattan-based intellectual who taught classes at the New York School of Occult Arts and Sciences, then located on Fourteenth Street just north of Greenwich Village," which, as we know, Tim owned and operated.
Meanwhile, Bowie and his then-wife Angie were living in their house in Los Angeles, which happened to have an indoor pool. In his drug-induced paranoia, Bowie felt Satan lived in the pool.
"With his own eyes," Angie would later write, "David said he'd seen HIM rising up out of the water one night."
Feeling demonic forces moving in, Bowie strongly believed that he needed an exorcism, and asked that his newfound friend, white witch Walli Elmlark, be called upon to lend her assistance to remove the evil from his home. A Greek Orthodox Church in Los Angeles said they would do the exorcism, and even had a priest available for such a service, but Bowie wanted no strangers involved.
"So there we stood," Angie writes, "with just Walli's instructions and a few hundred dollars' worth of books, talismans and assorted items from Hollywood's comprehensive selection of fine occult emporiums."
Bowie began to recite an incantation surrounded by the items Walli had advised him to obtain.
"There's no easy or elegant way to say this," Angela writes, "so I'll just say it straight. At a certain point in the ritual, the pool began to bubble. It bubbled vigorously (perhaps 'thrashed' is a better term) in a manner inconsistent with any explanation involving air filters or the like."
The couple watched in amazement. Angie tried to joke about it, saying to Bowie, "Well, dear, aren't you clever! It seems to be working. Something's making a move, don't you think?" But she couldn't keep up the humorous brave front for long.
"I was having trouble accepting what my eyes were seeing," she writes. "On the bottom of the pool was a large shadow, or stain, which had not been there before the ritual began. It was in the shape of a beast of the underworld; it reminded me of those twisted, tormented gargoyles screaming silently from the spires of medieval cathedrals. It was ugly, shocking, and malevolent; it frightened me."
Bowie insisted that he and Angie relocate as soon as possible. Subsequent tenants, according to the real estate agent in charge of the property, haven't been able to remove the stain. Even though the pool has been painted over a number of times, the shadow always comes back.
Along with the spiritual help given by Walli to Bowie in his battle against the evil forces in his swimming pool, her spellcasting and positive affirmations made it easier for Bowie to beat his cocaine addiction.
WALLI'S WICCA DOCTRINE
A close confidant of Tim's is the artist Carol Ann Rodriguez. She was in her 20s during the heyday of Tim's New York School of Occult Arts and Sciences. Carol had been into the occult for some time and decided to attend a class at the school after seeing an ad in The Village Voice. Carol was in attendance for a lecture by Walli.
"I liked Walli's wonderful way of explaining witchcraft and paganism as a positive way of life," Carol says, "and decided to sign up for one of Walli's classes which she held at her apartment uptown."
In her classes, Walli lectured on the basics of her faith, called Wicca.
"Wicca is about love and worshipping," she would say. "The only 'don't' we practice is don't harm others. Whatever deed you do could backfire on you and come back two or even three-fold."
Walli emphasized that witches do not believe in heaven or hell.
"There is no god seated on a throne in the clouds," according to Walli, "and no hell to descend to. There are low-level spirits, known as elementals or demons, which can attach themselves to humans who might have low self-esteem or who indulge in harmful activities. There is, however, a Great Mother, or the goddess Diana, as she has been named. She was formed out of an infinite void, creating an energy source which no religion can tell you how or when it originated.
"There is a reason for everything," she went on. "The reason why may not always be apparent. Sometimes it takes years to see the reason something had to happen as it did, but there is always a reason."
Tim's book also offers Walli's Wiccan views on a variety of other matters, such as her warnings against playing mind games, against feeling hatred and seeking vengeance, along with admonitions about our becoming givers and healers and understanding the importance of love.
"The world does a lot of talking about love and truth," Walli said, "but in fact knows little about it. Love to us means thinking beyond ourselves to the other person. What might be best for me might not be best for him. His interests come first."
Walli's preaching a gospel of unselfish love is a far cry from the archetypal devil-worshipping witches gathered around a cauldron of evil magic. The artist Carol, for one, feels that Walli truly wanted to use her powers - and she did have them - in a positive way and to help others when she possibly could.
THE DIVINE MISSION OF THE "CHOSEN" ROCK STARS
Walli was particularly drawn to Marc Bolan, the front man for the British rock band T. Rex. She believed he was Merlin the Wizard reincarnated as a rock star in order to spread a message of enlightenment alongside other music greats like Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie. The powers-that-be wanted to create positive change in the world via rock music, and Walli was part of that mission.
She even recorded a spoken word album in which she explained this belief system, produced by Robert Fripp of the band King Crimson. The album was never released and it is not known whether the original tapes still exist.
In this just-released book, Walli describes her association with numerous rock and rollers and counterculture celebrity types. She also befriended artist Vaughn Bode, an underground cartoonist who accidentally hung himself while performing what was claimed to be a spiritual form of autoerotic asphyxiation. And Freddy Prinze, who was possessed by the rebellious and often foul-mouthed comic Lenny Bruce. Bruce was repeatedly arrested in the 1960s for public obscenity when heavy-handed censorship made it impossible to say certain things while on stage.
Tim says that one of the things that intrigues him is that, even though Walli is no longer with us on this side of the veil, many of those she came in contact with still think highly of her.
"And when I tracked them down," he says, "they were more than willing to relate spellbinding incidents that happened to them during their association with New York's White Witch."
"David Bowie - UFOs - Witchcraft - Cocaine - and Paranoia" also includes some simple spells from Walli's Wiccan practices, like a spell to court a new love or rekindle an old one, a spell to protect an object and another to obtain money. It is by such spells that Walli qualifies as a genuine witch of the harmless - but very powerful - persuasion.
On a more personal level, Walli's parents had never approved of her lifestyle or her belief in witchcraft. Whenever she visited home, she would return depressed. Walli had been married twice and had given birth to a son. Her parents would tell her she was an embarrassment to them and that her son would be better off without her.
Walli took her own life around 1980 with an overdose of barbiturates. Her friend Carol said the news reached Walli's friends through a member of the family.
"I always thought it was suspicious," Carol said, "that we hadn't gotten word of this in any other way, nor did we see any notice in the papers. I wonder if perhaps they had her whisked away and maybe committed. My spirit guides would not confirm what we had been told."
If you are of a certain age, the counterculture history recounted in "David Bowie - UFOs - Witchcraft - Cocaine - and Paranoia" will take you to a nostalgic wonderland while also rewriting what you think you know of that history with true stories of Walli, various rock stars and their shared occult mission. For younger students of white magic or the occult in general, here is an opportunity to learn from a master of positive energy who sought beneficial outcomes for the people she tried to help.
DAVID BOWIE, UFOS, WITCHCRAFT, COCAINE AND PARANOIA: FULL COLOR EDITION by Tim Beckley
UFOS AMONG THE STARS, by Timothy Green Beckley
JIMI HENDRIX STARCHILD by Curtis Knight
JOHN LENNON UP FRONT AND PERSONAL (Rare Paperback) by Tim Beckley
ROCK RAPS OF THE SEVENTIES (Rare) by Walli Elmlark and Tim Beckley
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Article Copyright© Sean Casteel - reproduced with permission.