“Lammas Night” by Katherine Kurtz

[amtap book:isbn=0345295161]

His­to­ry: I’ve known about Kather­ine Kurtz as an author since my col­lege days: not only was I attract­ed to her writ­ing for her “Deryni” nov­els, but also to her own back­sto­ry. Before she turned to pro­fes­sion­al writ­ing, she was a mem­ber of the ear­ly Soci­ety for Cre­ative Anachro­nism, even­tu­al­ly becom­ing its first Seneschal (the equiv­a­lent of being the nation­al chair­man of the orga­ni­za­tion) as well as being award­ed the title of Duchess (mean­ing that she had been Queen of the King­dom of the West twice.) She also pub­lished a fanzine called “Deryni Archives: The Mag­a­zine” which con­tained a wealth of sup­ple­men­tary infor­ma­tion and sto­ries that helped affirm my fas­ci­na­tion for the Deryni.

Since then, she has devel­oped into a pop­u­lar and pro­lif­ic fan­ta­sy writer, known pri­mar­i­ly for her “Deryni” nov­els and her con­tem­po­rary fan­ta­sy “Adept” series in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Deb­o­rah Turn­er Har­ris. She edit­ed a col­lec­tion of Deryni sto­ries and oth­er short sto­ry col­lec­tions, also wrote numer­ous short sto­ries and stand-alone nov­els, one of which is “Lam­mas Night”.

Descrip­tion: “Lam­mas Night” is a sto­ry about the occult bat­tles that went on behind the scenes of the phys­i­cal bat­tles of World War II. It it s sto­ry about the Mat­ter of Britain and the con­cept of the divine nature of kings. It it a sto­ry about rein­car­na­tion and a friend­ship and bond of duty that stretched across the cen­turies. It is a sto­ry about the inter­twined des­tiny of two men and how it and they changed the direc­tion of the war.

It is the sto­ry of Colonel Sir John Gra­ham, offi­cial­ly an offi­cer in a sec­tion of MI.6 of British Intel­li­gence involv­ing occult mat­ters as relat­ed to psy­cho­log­i­cal oper­a­tions (“ ‘psy-ops”); unof­fi­cial­ly, he is a mem­ber of a coven of the Old Faith who bat­tle the black mag­ic of Nazi occultism. It is the sto­ry of Prince William, Duke of Clarence, the (fic­tion­al) “fifth-wheel” of the British monar­chy in real­i­ty as well as in nature: the fifth son, his roy­al sta­tus now offers him lit­tle to do for the war effort except sup­port the troops and ral­ly the cit­i­zens. It is the sto­ry of how both men share a pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ship that went beyond that to the per­son­al: now, with the War mak­ing their pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ship impos­si­ble, their per­son­al rela­tion­ship strength­ens in response.

Through­out the War, occultists such as Dion For­tune (who wrote about it after the war) and many oth­ers all per­formed rit­u­als to defend the nation and the land. With the Prince’s assis­tance, a num­ber of occultists and lead­ers of occult orga­ni­za­tions are con­vinced to coor­di­nate a mass work­ing on the upcom­ing Lam­mas night. On that night, occult groups and indi­vid­u­als across the nation, in their own respec­tive ways, gath­er to per­form their var­i­ous rit­u­als accord­ing to their cho­sen paths, all with the same intent: place a bar­ri­er about the British Isles such that Hitler and his forces can­not invade. But Sir John and his coven have a more dif­fi­cult role: at the same time, a black mag­ic rit­u­al will be per­formed, deep in the heart of Nazi Ger­many. At its cen­ter, the man known as the Red Eagle, the mas­ter of all black mag­ic orga­ni­za­tions sup­port­ing the Nazi regime. A strike against him, anchored by a dou­ble-agent deep with­in the orga­ni­za­tion, would be a severe blow to the Nazis, if they can pull it off.

[spoil­er show=“Spoiler”]And even after all that, after all the rit­u­als and effort, there is only a sense of antic­i­pa­tion, not ful­fill­ment: one last thing, one last sac­ri­fice must be made to com­plete the process. Through a vari­ety of occult prac­tices includ­ing hyp­not­ic past-life regres­sion, John dis­cov­ers a lega­cy of aid­ing the roy­al sac­ri­fice, whether it be the king him­self or a sac­ri­fi­cial sub­sti­tute, as well as being the sac­ri­fice. Now that time has come again, the time when roy­al blood must be spilled in defense of the land: in order to divert Hitler’s assault on and expect­ed inva­sion of Britain, Prince William is the one called to be the sac­ri­fice and Sir John’s hand is called to make the sac­ri­fice. Prince William accepts his duty, and with a cer­e­mo­ni­al guard of mem­bers of the Old Faith, he meets his death indi­rect­ly by Sir John’s hand. But the sac­ri­fice has not been in vain: the very next day, Hitler sud­den­ly aban­dons his plan to invade Eng­land and turns his atten­tion to the East and Russia.[/spoiler]

Com­men­tary:: Trance­work and hyp­no­sis is a val­ued tool here, not only for its mun­dane uses but for its occult uses, as well. Sir John uses self-hyp­no­sis to get some much-need­ed sleep when his wor­ries might oth­er­wise deny him that escape: like­wise, he uses it to help one of his agents sleep though wound­ed, albeit in Prince William’s full view. (The ensu­ing con­ver­sa­tion about hyp­no­sis and oth­er ‘mag­i­cal’ top­ics led too close to Sir John’s true activ­i­ties for his com­fort, at the same time remind­ing him of just how shrewd Prince William was.) How­ev­er, such trance­work is also not with­out its sur­pris­es. At one point, in order that Prince William does not psy­chi­cal­ly inter­fere with a mag­ick­al work­ing, Sir John gives him a sleep­ing pill. Though he uses a drug for the process, he also casu­al­ly uses the same touch trig­ger that mem­bers of the coven have learned for induc­tions. Hav­ing seen (as described above) the trig­ger in oper­a­tion, Prince William oblig­ing­ly goes into a deep hyp­not­ic trance. So deep, in fact, as Sir John dis­cov­ers, that the lev­el of trust he bestows upon Sir John frankly embar­rass­es his friend.

This nov­el is part­ly ded­i­cat­ed to Mar­garet Mur­ray who pub­lished the book “The Divine King in Britain” (1954) and whose ear­li­er writ­ings about the sac­ri­fi­cial role of pre­vi­ous indi­vid­u­als in such books as “The Witch-Cult in West­ern Europe” (1921) and “The God of Witch­es” (1933) is a great part of the back­ground of this nov­el. It was her con­tention that fig­ures like Thomas Beck­et were expi­a­tion­al sac­ri­fices in place of the reign­ing monarch, some even at the direct com­mand of the monarch. Her claims were pop­u­lar­ized but any aca­d­e­m­ic crit­i­cism was large­ly ignored.

This nov­el is also part­ly ded­i­cat­ed to Dion For­tune (neé Vio­let Mary Firth.) Accord­ing to sources, includ­ing her own writ­ings, Dion For­tune par­tic­i­pat­ed and even orga­nized ele­ments of what was called “The Mag­i­cal Bat­tle of Britain” that is the fac­tu­al back­ground for this fic­tion­al nov­el. She is also one of the few occult fig­ures of that time peri­od explic­it­ly iden­ti­fied in the book  One of the peo­ple cred­it­ed in the acknowl­edg­ments page is Dolores Ashcroft-Now­ic­ki, the head of the Ser­vants of Light orga­ni­za­tion, itself an off-shoot of the Soci­ety of Inner Light found­ed by Dion For­tune. Dolores loaned Kather­ine her moth­er’s diary and papers from the WW II era, as Dolores’ moth­er was also a mem­ber of an occult group at that time.

Rec­om­men­da­tion: High­ly rec­om­mend­ed. the char­ac­ters are com­plex and inter­est­ing, even the minor char­ac­ters, and the sto­ry in involv­ing. The sto­ry fits in with real his­to­ry, to the point that it is hard to tell what was real and what was fic­tion­al. Plus, as I explain below, she knows her stuff when it comes to hypnosis.


  • Kather­ine is an Erick­on­ian-trained hyp­no­tist. The scenes involv­ing hyp­no­sis, espe­cial­ly the induc­tions, are very accurate.
  • “Lam­mas Night” was orig­i­nal­ly a stand-alone nov­el, but the “Adept” series revealed that the moth­er of the lead char­ac­ter Sir Adam Sin­clair, Philli­pa Sin­clair, knew the leader of Sir John’s coven and worked with him dur­ing the War on occult mat­ters. (It has been rumored that the next “Adept” nov­el would involve this rela­tion­ship.) Adam him­self would also encounter a much old­er Sir John on more than one occasion.
  • Accord­ing to a talk Kather­ine gave at Con­fu­sion in 1987, some parts of the nov­el were based on actu­al events dur­ing WWII. Accord­ing to her, she was able to inter­view a num­ber of indi­vid­u­als who were involved with the events described: many of these peo­ple had nev­er spo­ken of their actions and only through a great deal of effort and a num­ber of ref­er­ences and refer­rals was she able even to con­tact them. In fact, she was led around the Eng­lish coun­try­side, going from one per­son to the next with­out real­ly know­ing exact­ly her entire sched­ule, under a promise of secre­cy and dis­cre­tion she has main­tained to this day. (Although they have been repealed by this time, the repres­sive 18th Cen­tu­ry anti-witch­craft laws were still in effect dur­ing that era.) Know­ing the rep­u­ta­tion for Eng­lish weath­er, she also made one request of the peo­ple she was vis­it­ing: clear skies and good weath­er, and for the 14 days she trav­eled, that was what she found. Of course, she had to stay an addi­tion­al day past her sched­ule and, of course, it poured.


  • Kather­ine is the first per­son ever to hyp­no­tize me: I attend­ed Earth­Con in Cleve­land in 1984, where she was a guest. On Sun­day she pre­sent­ed a pan­el on hyp­no­sis and did a brief induc­tion demon­stra­tion with the audi­ence. Of course, I participated.


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