I was conceived during a Black Mass in the garrison town of Colchester, Essex, in the year of 1970. It was an accident. The precise details are not something I want to think too hard about.
At least, this is according to my mother. It is the version of events she told to Jasmine, my wife, when she was still with the father of her child, and was presumably not intended for my ears.
It is not the only bizarre story I have been told about my own conception. There might be some element of truth or my parents might simply be narcissistic liars. Perhaps the real blame lies with Rosemary’s Baby and the paperback publication of The Satanic Bible. It does not sound so glamorous when you put it like that. I will never know for sure because I was not there and you cannot trust anything my parents say. We have disowned each other now.
There is another story Ann told me when I was a child, and then later denied ever saying. In this one I was conceived at a party on a boat travelling along the river Colne. In the evening, with everybody below deck as the boat was moored among the trees, they heard barking and growling, then an almighty thud on the roof. Claws scraping at the hatch. Thinking it was the police they swallowed down all the hash and the rest of the acid. The bravest among them, probably not my father, opened the hatch to see who or what was there. Whatever it was seemed to vanish, as if it had been some kind of group hallucination.
The next day they travelled on down the river and came across a wattle and daub public house with a garden that met with the bank. Mooring up they went inside to order food. The landlord was friendly, with an air of the old wisdom about him. Someone brought up their strange encounter the night before.
The innkeeper lost all his colour, “That was Black Shuck, the devil’s dog. He haunts that stretch of river..”
And then there is the story my father told, many years later when I was in my early thirties. I was being interviewed by some film makers commissioned by the National Geographic to make a documentary about witchcraft and had taken the PR girl to his Covent Garden flat. In this version Ann was holding a séance – as Gma was known for doing – everybody round a table with one finger gently on the glass. It was a stormy night outside with thunder and lightning. The glass moving across the table, nudging at the letters on tacked down pieces of paper. Spelling out words of anger, spite and promises of death. Everyone runs outside screaming, totally freaked. Turned out the house had previously been owned by some Satanic magician, or something.
Whatever the circumstances really were my father denied paternity, having been told by doctors he would never father children. He had been kicked in the balls by a horse. He genuinely did not believe I was his responsibility. He accused my mother of infidelity and they split up. Spread that she was a slag all around town.
Ann was so distressed she cried herself to sleep every night. One night, during some horrific nightmare, she shoved her blanket in her mouth and swallowed it down, nearly choking herself to death. It might have been best for the both of us.
After that they got married, so at least nobody could say I was a bastard. At least not legitimately.
According to what my father told me when I turned 16 and sought him out, my mother tried to abort me. A hot bath, a full bottle of whiskey. It was how it was done, back in those days.
My mother always told me she had meningitis during her pregnancy and cannot remember my birth. She said she was out of her head and hallucinating. That this was also why I was so premature. My birth certificate says I was born in Colchester Hospital Maternity Ward, so if what my father said is true there must have been a rush to get her there. I am still trying to piece all this together myself. If they are all lying it is a remarkably coordinated narrative they weave between them all.
According to what Jasper, the oldest of my half brothers, told me that our mother told him, I was born in the amniotic sack. Apparently she had boasted of it, the caul being a sign of natural witchcraft power.
It is also referred to as the Veil of Tears.
I was so small I could fit in a sock draw, which is where my mother put me in the absence of a crib. Padded out with a pillow and crochet blankets, of course. She’s not a monster, after all..
According to my mother she chose my name herself, interpreting Nathaniel to mean gift of the El, and equating El with Aelves.
According to my father it was insisted upon by my crazy aunts. They might have chosen it because of the archangel. I could imagine that, especially if there is any truth to Ann’s Black Mass story. But the trouble with joining dots is you can draw all kinds of things if there simply is not enough information.
The archangel Nathaniel specialises in overcoming trauma, and in the law of returns, like karma. So it says in the old books of magic, anyway. In some Gnostic text or other he is the very instrument of the wrath of God. The finger pointing from the Heavens in judgement. He is utterly relentless in the administering of punishment. When Michael vanquished Lucifer he did so at the bequest of Nathaniel. Who would have thought?
Personally, I’m an atheist.