An Interview with Michael Bertiaux
by Nevill DruryFirst published in
The Occult Experience
, 1985High up, on the thirty-third floor of a residential apartment block on South MichiganAvenue, Chicago, lives a Voodoo priest. He is a gently spoken man with intense eyes,heavy-rimmed glasses and a dark, full-bodied beard. By day he works as a government-counsellor, hearing welfare grievances mainly from the Haitian community in the city. Inhis private time, however, he celebrates the mysteries of Guede and Legbha, the Voodoocounterpart of the dead and risen Christ. Michael Bertiaux is by no means a typicaloccultist. Indeed it is difficult to say whether – in the traditional sense – he is a black orwhite magician. He’s not really sure himself. Most occultists, he says, resort totechniques at both ends of the spectrum. However he does admit that “life is so complexthat we sometimes have to do things to survive that would have been considered, at onetime, forms of black magic.”Bertiaux, like many occultists, is a Capricorn, and also has a Neptune ascendant. Born inSeattle on 18 January 1935, he grew up in a family that was primarily Theosophical. Hisfather tended towards Zen Buddhism, while his mother was interested in spiritualism andthe development of psychic powers. The Bertiaux ancestry was a combination of English,French and Irish.Like a number of ceremonial magicians, Bertiaux’s career began within the ranks of orthodox religion and then departed for the fringe. Educated initially by Jesuit fathers, helater attended an Anglican seminary in order to train for a career in the Church. Hegraduated with honours, was ordained, and became curate of an Anglican parish in WestSeattle. It was shortly after this that his career took an oblique turn towards the occult.An opportunity arose for Michael Bertiaux to teach philosophy in the Anglican ChurchCollege in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He decided to go, and as part of his training in ‘cultureshock’ transitions, studied with the distinguished anthropologist Margaret Mead.