William G. Gray (1913-1992) was a true original whose books on Qabalah and ritual magic set a fresh pathway across which most others have followed. He was not always an easy man to get on with, but it says a lot about his character and calibre that many of the people who were blasted and cursed by him still remember him with affection and respect.
Bill Gray devoted his entire life to his “esoteric interests”, and by questioning every detail of the established assumptions, found out what worked and what didn’t – culminating in his founding of the Sangreal Sodality which still thrives today. He was very open-minded in his exploration of occultism, and although he wrote books primarily about hermetic subjects, he took part in many workings with witchcraft and druid groups and made his own contribution to the British Mysteries through his work with the Rollright stones. His writing career only began when he was in his late fifties, when he was discovered by the tiny occult publisher Helios Book Service, based near his home town of Cheltenham. This is where a connection with Skylight Press comes in, because Helios was run by my father, who published some of Bill’s most important books. Skylight is in many ways the offspring of Helios, still based in Cheltenham, and we’re very happy to be able to make our own contribution to the legacy of William G. Gray.
We have just launched The Old Sod: The Odd Life and Inner Work of William G. Gray, a biography written by Gray’s godson Marcus Claridge in collaboration with well-known occult biographer Alan Richardson. This is a fascinating read, based closely around Bill’s own autobiography (which was, unfortunately, too libellous to publish in its original form!) It tells the story of Bill’s life and psychic development through the influence of his astrologer mother and the enigmatic Austrian adept known as ENH, his survival of the Dunkirk massacre in WW2, and his involvement with just about every important figure in 20th century magic: Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, R J Stewart, Gareth Knight, Doreen Valiente and Robert Cochrane. The book includes a vivid and exciting account of a Samhain rite he took part in on Newtimber Hill, near Brighton, with the Clan of Tubal Cain. You can read this passage in full, with beautifully evocative photographs, on the Clan’s website.
The Old Sod is available now on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and most other online retailers. You can also order it direct from our website.
We’re also very excited to be offering a re-issue of The Rollright Ritual, Bill’s fascinating book about his work with the Rollright stone circle in Oxfordshire, first published by Helios in 1975 and out of print for many years. This will be available towards the end of February, and includes the original wonderful photographs which we have inherited from the archives of Helios Books. This book represents one of Bill’s only forays into pagan literature, and describes his visionary contacts with the communities of stone-circle builders of ancient Britain. The Rollright Ritual itself, which is given in full with a detailed explanation of its text and purpose, is a kind of initiatory rite – an opener of the ways to the spirit of the land and to progression through the cycle of death and rebirth.
Also due out in the next few months is a new and previously unpublished work by William G. Gray entitled Working With Inner Light. This gem has emerged from the archive of Alan Richardson who was given the manuscript by Bill with an instruction to do whatever he could with it. Written in the form of a magical journal, it is actually a concise and detailed manual on the fundamentals of ritual magic, which predates – but makes a good companion piece to – his well known book Magical Ritual Methods. Although it’s not aimed at beginners, it is very readable and very practical, and will make a valuable addition to Bill’s published legacy.
Thanks for this post, Rebsie.
It seems ‘The Old Sod’ is winging its way to me as a gift already (sadly not purchased direct through Skylight though). I am very much looking forward to reading it, as I missed out on a copy first time round.
WG Gray has actually been on my mind a lot lately – and I saw Debbie Chapnick put an image of the title and contents of an issue of the Sangreal Journal from the 70s on her Facebook page.
Gray’s influence is very large, and we have most of his books. Younger magicians though seem not to know who he is, even though they are more than likely reaping the benefits of his work and ground breaking approach (similar to your father). I hope your reissuing of his books prompts some form of renaissance.
I will be watching out for ‘Working With Inner Light’! This sounds very interesting.
Thanks publishing this biography – do wish I could get my hands on the autobiography though! 🙂
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I’m glad to see that bills works will continue to be in print.I met and visited Bill many times in the 80s and was able to find my magical feet through the contact. Bill wrote his books in order for individuals to self train in western esoterism. Again thanks skylight press.