Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Sorcerers Apprentice, Leeds


It seems that Frater Marabas/Chris Bray has had some subtle but important effects on my life, despite my initial doubts about his authenticity. I had been fascinated by the burnt studded doors of the Sorcerers Apprentice shop since my arrival in Leeds some ten years ago. I chanced upon it on a midnight walk and didn't notice the faint lettering on the now defunct signage.


Four years or so on, my best friend at the time who I had just met, lived on Burley Lodge Road in Leeds just a few hundred yards away Marabas's residence. Googling the street name one day revealed to us that the sinister exterior was far more interesting than we imagined.

We pondered his existence, whether he lived there with tattered cardboard blacking out the windows, light occasionally gleaming from cracks in the upstairs window, and a padlock on the heavy doors. We debated the ethics of selling rocks collected on Ilkley moor. We eventually ordered some small items from him by mail order, and marveled at the doors whenever we passed by.

Some research revealed his previous shop had existed at Hyde Park corner, but had been firebombed by Christian extremists during the Satanic ritual abuse craze of the 80's. Chris Bray spoke openly about his beliefs and opposition to the unfounded prejudice directed towards magical beliefs at the time, which I felt was a brave and unselfish thing to do regardless of whatever stance you took on his rock-peddling. Further research revealed that he published the Lamp of Thoth magazine in the 80's, a delightfully anachronistic revival of a magazine published by the Society of Dew and Light, who operated in Keighley at the turn of the last century. One of the members of this group was Daniel Murgatroyd, whose grimoire and magical equipment were recently up for sale.

Two years ago I was introduced to the love of my life when a mutual friend was sick of listening to me talk nonsense about magic and thought it would be better directed at him. The first thing we spoke about was Chris Bray and the Leeds chaos magic scene.

Much has happened in between then and now, but we often speak of the shop and its owner. I wish it wasn't mail order only so we could visit and pay homage to the true magic of Frater Marabas, whose thread has been weaving a beautiful pattern through our now interconnected lives.

10 comments:

  1. Myself and some friends made the pilgrimage to this location back in 1975 and chatted with Chris for a very pleasant hour or it might have been two! I also visited the Hyde Park shop a few times in the 80's. Thanks for posting this blog item.

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  2. Funnily enough I just took a pic of those very same doors. I had a lovely email exchange with Chris a few years ago when I was piloting a research project on magic. I live in Leeds, practice as a psychiatrist and have a personal interest in magic (I am at present finishing off said research) If you fancy getting in touch my email is turloughmills@gmail.com Warm regards, Turlough

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  3. I have not spoken to Chris for well over 20 years now.
    he is a really good and kind hearted person who was savagely set upon by the likes of Roger Cook and other media clowns who were trying to take a cheap shot at Chris and his beliefs.
    While they have drowned in obscurity, Chris is still shining brightly.
    I really must make contact with him again soon.

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    1. Send him our regards if you do! I'd love to see the cook report in question, as I imagine time has done it no favors.

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    2. "He is on Facebook, I visited the Shop on the Eighties , and on a friday the thirteenth it was Bombed , the staff were all covered in soot, i am now retired aged 66 this week , but have fond Memories of the Smell, and atmosphere of the Shop, before the Bombing , Re Cook report , and Father Kevin Logan , who moved to Blackburn in the 90s , " he has Suddenly Dissapeared up his own Casock since all the christian Church abuse came to light , "

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  4. I have fond memories and a deep respect for Chris Bray from the SAFF years. May his shadow never grow less. Suzanne Ruthven

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  5. Its back open as a shop is it not? I went to the sa in the late 80s and it was a friends interest that took me there. When it went underground it was a sad day.

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    1. It never really closed - it became just an online/mail order shop though which is definitely still open. http://www.sorcerers-apprentice.co.uk/

      The shop is still there, but not open as a physical shop to the public unfortunately. It's a real shame, Leeds is definitely lacking an occult bookshop. Or bookshops in general :/

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  6. I ended up in the family courts accused of being a satanist (my wife found out the female judge was a staunch xtian). In the family courts you do not need evidence. Police investigated but as my wife had mental health issues and they dropped it as it was ridiculous. I approached SAFF for support... It was all the help I could get. Chris Bray is a hero.

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    1. That's awful, sorry you had t go through that. Yes, I had read Chris's work his S.A.F.F website and thought it was a valuable effort to make the world safer for occultists and pagans, it's just sad that the wheel seems to be turning in that particular direction again, with the Hampstead abuse case recently, and Nathaniel Harris trying to blacken the name of all his ex-associates with the same nonsense. Worrying stuff.

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