Hymn to Pan

 

David Farrant and John Pope raising Pan in December 1973.
David Robert Donovan Farrant was born on 23 January 1946 at 34 Shepherds Hill in London. He claims 1964 as the year of his wiccan initiation, but in interviews given throughout the 1970s and 1980s he told reporters he had been initiated into witchcraft by his mother at a much younger age. The age thirteen was sometimes offered which is the age he would have been in 1959, the year of his mother’s death.Farrant tells us he attended Preparatory School in 1955 where he did not make friends:“After only a few days, I realised that I’d entered an altogether hostile environment; within weeks, I’d come to hate everything about the place – including most of the teachers. Most of these were ‘mindless buffoons’ trying desperately (if not largely successfully) to impound worthless drivel otherwise viewed as ‘needed intellectualism’; but the headmaster was particularly bent on applying these principles, and before long we clashed ferociously. He seemed to take exception to the fact that I couldn’t get on with the other boys, as well as my persistent inability to take any serious interest in the lessons. … he eventually wrote an outraged letter to my father (I cannot recall the exact point of contention) demanding the removal of my ‘bad influence’ from his school. I’d finally manoeuvred myself from his clutches.”No reason is provided as to why Farrant hated everything, including teachers and pupils, about this school which was in Hendon, something he omits, apart from his obvious contempt for everything and everyone he encountered. The boarding school in Sussex was Hawkhurst Court, which he also fails to identify. Here he fared no better than before, having to “study meaningless rubbish” and “mix with brain-washed children.” He readily admits: “I ran away twice from my ‘prison’ in Sussex and was expelled again from another school.” This last school, too, remains unidentified by him. It was Thornlow in Weymouth, Dorset. One is obliged to turn to a book by Seán Manchester to discover these facts where it is revealed that “his school career ended two years after entering a private school in Weymouth at the age of thirteen. Attempts to belong to a theatre club in Hornsey ended again with his expulsion.”[1] Farrant makes no mention of the Mountview Theatre Club he joined at the age of fifteen whose director, Peter Coxhead, expelled him within no time for throwing potatoes and dustbin lids at other students.

The telling piece of information in Dark Secrets on that “bleak March day in 1959” in mid-term – while he was still at boarding school – was news of his mother’s illness. Farrant reveals how his “emotions [were] lost in a sea of indifference.” What he fails to properly explain is how he had learned witchcraft from his mother and possibly been initiated by her. After reading only ten pages, starting with chapter one, the reader is already into chapter three which begins in 1963 where in “a large secluded house in Barnet” he tries to convince the reader of his initiation “in the Old Religion of Wicca” by a silver-haired lady who was in her late forties. This was Helen who owned the Barnet house. There is no doubt that Helen existed. John Pope knew her long before he knew Farrant. Whether Helen initiated Farrant after months of instruction in her home where he professes to have “become possessed of potent occult Knowledge” is quite another matter. He claims to have entered the first degree in 1964 where he “later learned that for some reason (which I have never been able to fully understand) that I’d been regarded as some new-found ‘Avatar’ of Wicca).”

He says that “several” were present, but he does not identify anyone besides Helen. Nor does he indicate who exactly regarded him as a new avatar and why they should so regard him? An avatar, after all, is deemed to be a deity in its earthly manifestation. Farrant seriously appears to be suggesting that Helen and the group who were allegedly present at his initiation viewed him as the incarnation of some sort of “god.”

No mention is made by Farrant of him taking the second degree of initiation. We go straight from the first to the third degree in 1966, as he had “advanced considerably in my knowledge and understanding of the secret mysteries of Wicca and Magic” when he “moved into unfurnished accommodation near Highgate, north London, and soon succeeded in forming my own Wiccan Circle, or Coven. I still kept in touch with Helen (indeed, still attended most of the major gatherings at Barnet), but was fast concluding that I had learnt all Helen could teach me and that further Knowledge could only be obtained through ‘experimentation’ with the ‘forbidden’ rituals.” He had only just ceased being a teenager when he decided silvery-haired Helen could teach him no more, and then proceeds to explain “one aspect of magical practice into which I wanted to delve more thoroughly (and one to which Helen had been particularly opposed) was the highly secretive method of using sex during magical ceremonies to ‘summon up’ and communicate with powerful outside entities by using, or directing, sexual energy. … I set about these rituals with fervent determination.”

If he did it was certainly not for another seven years. Nobody knew Farrant especially well in the 1960s. He was something of a loner. Seán Manchester spoke to the majority of those who did know him, including Anthony Hill, and none of them ever heard Farrant make any mention of witchcraft or the occult. In 1966 he was already with Mary Olden whom he met in Bordeaux from where they went to Spain. Here they remained until their wedding at St Joseph’s, Highgate, where Mary gave birth three months later to the first of two sons. Mary denied under oath in court that Farrant and his friends had any occult involvement; something her husband claimed he and his associates had been immersed in since the mid-1960s and earlier:

“Mrs Farrant added that her husband’s friends who joined in the late night jaunts were not involved in witchcraft or the occult.”[2]

Dark Secrets is no more than a fantasy where few truthful statements can be found. Farrant’s first job as an assistant storeman for Woolworths at the age of fifteen (he was dismissed after a fortnight) and other brief occupations he held – a hospital porter, underground train guard and labourer – are completely overlooked. Needless to say, Seán Manchester receives the customary libellous attributions from Farrant who surpasses himself at the opening to a chapter titled “Hymn to Pan” by alleging that Seán Manchester “incurred a criminal conviction for making black magic threats” when, in fact, Seán Manchester has not received a single criminal conviction (or any other kind of conviction) in his life. Indeed, it was Farrant who made the black magic threats to which he alludes. His history of doing so could fill volumes. Furthermore, Seán Manchester has alreadly chronicled this matter in at least two of his published works.[3]

It is nevertheless in “Hymn to Pan” where Farrant reveals: “As luck would have it, around this time, a Society member [John Pope] discovered a large disused mansion that proved ideal … for further ceremonies.”

Farrant had previously explained why Highgate Wood was suddenly out of bounds. John Pope felt inspired to call upon and meet Farrant after reading an article by Sue Kentish in the News of the World, 23 September 1973:

By day, 29-year-old David Farrant is a hospital porter. But at night, he takes on a far less valuable role. … But for the results of his actions, this scruffy little witch could be laughed at. But no one can laugh at a man who admits slitting the throat of a live cat before launching a blood-smeared orgy. Or a man who has helped reduce at least two young women to frightened misery. … I found him totally besotted by witchcraft and the occult and ready to do anything in pursuit of both. Time and time again, he told me he only did what was ‘necessary,’ or ‘demanded.’ Throughout, he maintained he was a genuine witch who did not worship the devil, indulge in sexual orgies or relinquish all standards of good. But his own story, corroborated by others, proves otherwise. … With a shrug of the shoulders he admitted mercilessly pursuing grievances.”

Farrant is then quoted as boasting: “My curses have never failed, as far as I know. Situations have always righted themselves after I’ve put the curse on. Others will tell you how I reduced one man to a mental breakdown and in the end he begged me to remove the curse.”

Seán Manchester challenged Farrant to curse him and do his worst as Farrant left Barnet Magistrate’s Court in November 1972 after he had been convicted and fined for indecent behaviour in the churchyard of St Mary-the-Virgin where he had recently conducted a supposed necromantic Hallowe’en ritual with a female who just happened to be related to the local newspaper reporter who covered the story from the churchyard to the court room. The prosecution justifiably accused Farrant of informing the press and police of what he was doing as a sordid attempt to obtain publicity. Farrant did not accept Seán Manchester’s challenge at first, but later changed his mind and issued threats in the national press to the effect that he intended to “raise a demon” to destroy Manchester by “killing a cat,” adding that “blood must be spilled but the animal would be anaesthetised.”[4] It did not happen. Farrant failed to deliver the curse and refused to confront Manchester in person. Seán Manchester nevertheless tried to persuade him to be exorcised, the first of many such attempts, at Easter 1973. But he was having none of it. Seán Manchester felt even back then that exorcism was the only answer in Farrant’s case and issued many further invitations reaching into the next century.

 
The arrest of David Farrant and Victoria Jervis in November 1972.
Farrant refers to his churchyard antics in his autobiographical account:“I decided to conduct a ritual in the churchyard at Hallowe’en, the purpose being to see if I could ‘communicate’ with the spectre … I chose an assistant called Victoria Jervis [who] was not personally involved in ‘ghost hunting’ … her lack of experience didn’t really matter. By coincidence, her cousin was a reporter on the Barnet Press.”Also by coincidence, she was Farrant’s girlfriend – something he did not feel worth mentioning.“Midnight was soon marked by the chiming of the church clock, but before the chimes had died away, black-clad figures came charging out of the darkness.” These turned out to be policemen who promptly arrested the couple. “Miss Jervis was visibly shaken by the incident,” Farrant explains. It might have been just another night’s work in pursuit of self-publicity for him, but it was obviously something Victoria Jervis did not bargain for when she allowed herself to be duped into participating in this scandal. Despite her “lack of experience,” naked photographs of her supposedly engaged in occult ceremonies would later appear in New Witchcraft magazine[5] – courtesy of Farrant – by which time she had long since ditched him after recovering from a nervous breakdown. They never met again after the 1972 case.

The next major publicity stunt involved John Pope who was attracted to a derelict house where there had been talk of satanic ceremonies in previous years. It was also now confirmed to be the most significant place of demonic contagion in the Highgate case. Nobody, save those at opposite ends of the struggle between light and darkness, would enter this neo-gothic mansion which locals clamoured to have razed to the ground. It had a sinister history of dark and disturbing forces; so much so that it was eventually abandoned when it was mysteriously gutted by fire in 1971. Strange and terrible things happened in this place which was believed by many to be demonically possessed by a predatory wraith.

Just how Pope came to hear about the house is uncertain. The local press had already featured stories about the house:

“Neighbours talk of strange goings-on at night and mysterious flickering lights in upper windows. … Investigating the reports, Journal reporter Roger Simpson and photographer Ted Stormer came across unmistakable signs in a top floor room of a witchcraft ceremony. … Residents refuse to walk past the house, which looms behind overgrown trees.”[6]

Seán Manchester, too, found those symbols when he investigated. They represented a brand of diabolism originating with Crowlianity. Just as Highgate Cemetery had attracted every type of depraved dabbler in the black arts, so, too, had this new location. Even Farrant and Pope visited the old house after reading about it in the press. Evocations to sinister forces took place in the week following publication in a local newspaper. The ceremony also caused a fire. Police arrested both participants on December 13th and they were each charged with arson, but later acquitted. In that week of sheer lunacy where demons were evoked, they attempted to follow in the footsteps of earlier diabolists who had brought something from Highgate Cemetery to the basement of the house; something predatory and demonic. Farrant’s account three decades later stretches the time scale considerably and embellishes the ceremony. Fortunately, Pope was interviewed closer to the time. What Pope reveals in his recorded interview [available on a CD titled The Black Witch Project] bears no comparison to the description offered by Farrant. “David brought along these newspaper reporters with him,” Pope explained. We also learn that “David cast a circle in a manner [that Pope was] not familiar with.”

What we discover, newspaper journalists notwithstanding, is Farrant and Pope making some sort of attempt to raise a demon using a black magic ritual. Pope, albeit already demonically oppressed, was well versed in the dark arts and occult ceremonial. Farrant might have been participating for publicity, but Pope was in deadly earnest.

Farrant (centre) with Deborah Davis and Pope at the demon-raising ritual.
Farrant’s version of events states:“The ritual was attempted three times; twice without success and the third time with unexpected consequences. To assist, I enlisted the help of a young magician called John Pope and a girl called Debbie – an American singer on vacation who was greatly interested in magic. … Nudity was essential as Pan was a Nature Deity and clothes hampered natural inherent forces within the body; forces that were needed unimpaired to build up psychic energy within the Circle. It was only then, shielded by protective force, that it was safe to intone the evocation, or Hymn to Pan, whereby the Deity could be summoned to appearance. If successful, He would appear in a blaze of greenish light in the form of a golden-haired wraith whose eyes radiated tremendous power and knowledge, at the same time betraying the bestial side of His nature. … On no account must any mortal meet his gaze or look upon His face. … Some of these words were so dangerous to utter that they even had to be written in code form, but under magical Law they had to be answered once spoken.”Farrant insisted: “Nudity was essential.” Yet Pope confirms that throughout these rituals Farrant failed to disrobe. Pope was not so coy and stood completely naked throughout the ceremony.Farrant insists Deborah Davis – a Californian blues singer who was high on cocaine – did not participate in the third ritual because she was “so petrified by the past attempt that she refused to enter the house again.” The place had an evil atmosphere which emanated from the basement – somewhere neither Pope nor Farrant ventured.

Not unlike the Hallowe’en incident at a Barnet churchyard in the previous year, “loud footsteps echoed throughout the house; as if a hoard of demons had run amok and were searching for the two intruders who had dared to defile their sanctuary. The next moment the door was flung open and half a dozen policemen surrounded the Circle. Two of them rushed to the fire and proceeded to stamp it out while another who introduced himself as Inspector John Townsend uttered the greeting ‘Good Evening, Mr Farrant’!”

How many times could Farrant keep getting away with this ploy? It would not be long before the police tired of being used to guarantee him press coverage and a raid on his cluttered flat which housed a black magic altar beneath a vampire image was only weeks away. Farrant – who had no idea what he was doing in terms of ritual magic at the derelict house – nonetheless invited a demon to take possession of him on his last attempt at the ceremony. Seán Manchester reveals in his book The Highgate Vampire that the place was contaminated with a predatory supernatural presence in its cellar and Pope understood how to raise demons. So was this the point when Farrant became possessed? Or was it earlier in 1971? The problem with the earlier incident is that we only have Farrant’s word and the word of his collaborating girlfriend; whereas the December rituals were in the presence of John Pope, Deborah Davis and newspaper reporters.

Farrant skirts around the alleged “invoking” ceremony of September 1971 at Highgate Cemetery in the account about his life which he self-published in 2001. In fact, he makes no mention of it. Closer to the time it was of prime importance; so much so, he reflected on those events from his prison cell in 1975 and wrote a rambling article which he then mailed to Brian Netscher, the editor of New Witchcraft.

It is not difficult to understand why Farrant today might find this article hugely embarrassing. At the time, he felt he had nothing to lose, having been recently sentenced to almost five years’ imprisonment. Like the derelict house ritual in mid-December 1973, this ceremony occurred at an eerie and sinister location where the Highgate phenomenon was also active. Moreover, the ritual Farrant claims to have performed is supposed to have invoked the predatory demonic entity, ie vampire, which existence in 1971 he did not question. This is what he revealed in his article:

“This ceremony performed in Highgate Cemetery finally proved beyond doubt – at least as far as most psychic investigators are concerned – that the majority of sightings and stories relating to the phenomena were true. Unfortunately, however, such proof will rarely be acceptable to the hardened sceptic; but we had at least succeeded in establishing to our satisfaction not only that the Highgate Vampire did exist, but the very nature of the phenomenon and those factors which had primarily caused its existence. Of course, while it could not be irrefutably stated that this demonic entity was the direct result of Satanic activity, it can reasonably be said that such activity was certainly the cause activating some age-old supernatural enigma.”[7]

His New Witchcraft article was accompanied by seven photographs, including Farrant in Highgate Cemetery, Farrant with a naked female before the image of a horned “deity” in his bed-sitting room and more naked females. Two photographs of Victoria Jervis appear which were used without her knowledge or consent. Similar pictures in a national newspaper – accompaning one of Farrant’s concocted witchcraft stories – badly shocked her. One of the photographs in New Witchcraft were of Farrant and Martine de Sacy naked together, apparently kissing in bed. Why this was included is difficult to comprehend, but it is the first and last time an image ever appeared of Farrant without any clothes.

Farrant’s article is so at odds with what he has subsequently stated publicly on the matter of the Highgate Vampire and his pseudo-occult activities at the graveyard in question that it deserves closer inspection. In his article he says that “Bram Stoker was influenced by the Highgate Vampire when he wrote ‘Dracula’ … written with typical Victorian authority.”[8] In the series of pamphlets that began appearing in 1991 he disclaims all belief in vampires in general and the Highgate Vampire in particular. His patronising style adopts some very familiar terms which crop up whenever he writes anything about the subject he knows so little about. For example: “For the sake of the uninitiated” and “I still remain bound by the Oaths of my Grade as High Priest not to disclose certain incantations, the names and sigils used for conjuration and banishment, and the secret form of Ritual” etc. There is a reason for non-disclosure. Farrant is clueless about the occult. There is also a reason why he makes no mention today about his New Witchcraft article.

 _______________________________________________

[1] Reference to Thornlow and Hawkhurst Court in The Highgate Vampire by Seán Manchester (British Occult Society, 1985, p78). Repeated without naming schools in The Highgate Vampire by Seán Manchester (Gothic Press, 1991, p109).
[2] The Sun, 21 June 1974.
[3] From Satan To Christ by Seán Manchester (Holy Grail, 1985) & The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook by Seán Manchester (Gothic Press, 1997).
[4] Sunday Mirror, 8 April 1973.
[5] Full page photograph of a naked Victoria Jervis in New Witchcraft magazine (issue 4, 1975, p35).
[6] Hornsey Journal, 7 December 1973.
[7] “Invoking the Vampire” by David Farrant (New Witchcraft, issue 4, 1975, p38).
[8] “Invoking the Vampire” by David Farrant (New Witchcraft, issue 4, 1975, p34).

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