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The Brentford Mercury

An Interview with Robert Rankin

Robert Rankin nabbed at an art exhibition

by Michael Carroll


Where does he get his ideas from?

The question was burning inside me, but I just had to ask. Where DOES he get his ideas from?

"Well, I read books on the occult. I studied the occult for twenty-five years, I'm fascinated by that - it's my major interest. I couldn't write strict books, though, because there's so much of the whole occult thing that just deserves to be sent up. There's nothing more pathetic than a Wiccan. Half-way through this century, there were two books written: Witch Cults in Western Europe, by Margaret Murray and Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner. On the basis of these two books, all these new-age religions like Wiccanism, Paganism and all this, grew in the sixties. Each one claiming that their bloodline stretched back to the pre-Roman days of the Druids. Pure, utter bullshit.

"There were no Wiccans and Pagans for the last half a dozen centuries because they simply never existed. But because these two people said all this stuff about present-day witchcraft being the true religion of this country all these cults have sprung up. Drawing down the moon, claiming the Mother Goddess, they're pure invention. And they all have these ceremonies in the back yard of a council house and the call up the Mother Goddess, with a formica-topped table as an altar, and those little candles shaped like witches! It's the naffest religion in the whole world, everything about it is pure kitsch."

Suburban witchcraft!

"Yeah! And they're very, very intense. If you tripped over on the way in it's because they're sending out some bad stuff and they want to teach you a lesson! And after an evening talking with these people you come away thinking `where is reality?' These are real space cadets, you know! But I love them, and I love that whole thing about magic. Magic can never work. It just can't work, it can't function, it can't scientifically function. But there's millions of people obsessively dedicating their lives to it. Because if you could make magic work, the world is your oyster. And for centuries magicians have desperately striven to become alchemists, turn lead into gold, to have power over people. And then you have all these major figures, like Pol Pots, Hitlers, who are really dark, satanic kind of guys, people who are into the thousand-year Reich, the pure Arian race. This was pure occultism.

"My books are really to do with good and evil. And my major obsession is I hate to see people getting stitched up, I hate seeing people getting conned. Whether it's fashion, art, music, whatever the latest con trick is. Whether it's Bros this month, Kylie Minogue next month, to watch the young going along like zombies: `Give me the Kylie Minogue album. I'm hip.' I always think `Bastards!' Why doesn't somebody just go smack-smack-smack [he mimes slapping a teenager] and shout `Wake up! WAKE UP! Is there anybody in there?'"

Robert Elliott suggested that it's going to take an awful lot of smack-smack-smacks.

"It would. But you see, it extends to religion. I'm so opposed to religion in any form. The ultimate con-trick on humanity has been religion. The ultimate destruction of any kind of reasoning power has been `We do it for God'. You can't do it for the latest politician, but if he says `we're doing it for God', well, you've gotta do it! He's always on every sodding side!

"So that worries me. My books tend towards the religious, because I was brought up by a religious lunatic mother, who used to do the laying on of hands, and speaking in tongues. Completely out to lunch, my mum. Absolutely bonkers. My father was this kind of quiet, tall-story-teller sitting in the corner of the room going `when I was in Tierra del Fuego we used to...' and `when I sailed alone around Cape Horn without a boat...'.

"When I was in infant's school, one Open Evening, the teacher came up to my dad and said `Would you like to give a talk to the children?' And my dad, who was a carpenter, said `Yeah. What, they want to know about carpentry?' And she said `No no no! About when you were a whaler.'

"He'd given me a whale's tooth, that he was given when he was working out here in Ireland, one of the Guinness people gave him this beautiful whale's tooth which I've still got. Huge bugger. And dad of course told me the story about how he'd pulled it out of the whale's mouth. And I'd told this to the teacher, you know - `Anybody want to talk about what their father does for a living?' `He used to be a whaler, miss.'

"And so my dad went to the school, gave the talk, and the kids thought he was bliss."

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