Magus: The Invisible Life of Elias
Ashmole, published by Signal
Publishing, £17.99. Distributed
by Lewis Masonic 01986 895433.
Elias Ashmole is the first known Mason
to have written down the occasion of his
initiation – in 1646. That has made him a
famous figure in Freemasonry, but who
actually was he?
A royalist during the Civil War, he was
undoubtedly a great figure – founder of the
Royal Society, Windsor Herald, astrologer
to Charles II and the man who gave his name
to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the
world’s first purpose-built public museum.
From Ashmole’s birth in Lichfield in
Staffordshire, Tobias Churton has managed
a well-researched and intriguing insight to
a man who rose from yeoman stock to
walk the corridors of power by sheer ability.
Here is a fascinating insight into the
academic world of 17th century society as
science was beginning to feel its way into the
hearts and minds of men. Ashmole, in this
sense, was a torchbearer, and Toby Churton
has done Ashmole proud.
MICHAEL WOOD –|
AUTHOR OF THE QUARTER
What prompted you to write the
Myths & Heroes?|
I have always loved myths and legends.
But, in the last few years, I have made
several great journeys, for example in
the footsteps of Alexander the Great in
the late nineties, on which I was
fascinated to see how often completely
mythic tales have survived such a well
documented historical character. That
got me thinking about how stories are
changed and reworked over time, how
history can become myth, and how
myths are retold to suit different needs
and political cultures. I thought it would
be fun to explore these ideas on the
ground with four famous myths. It’s a
departure from the tyranny of straight
The book involved extensive travelling.
Do you have a highlight?
No question – Tibet. To go on foot into
Western Tibet, and to visit Mount
Kailash, the most sacred place in the
world to Hindus and many Buddhists,
was a moving and exhilarating
experience. To reach the ruins of
Tsaparang with its surviving temples
(subject of Lama Govinda's wonderful
1947–1949 journey The Way of the White
Clouds) capped it all.
What is your next project?
I am working on a long-term literary
project on the creation of England in the
tenth century in the time of King
Athelstan (a king who by the way as
some of your readers may know, has a
strange Masonic connection – he is
credited in a late medieval manuscript
with having brought the text of Euclid
into Britain!). With my partners and
colleagues at Mayavision we are
developing a television series on
the culture and history of India.
When writing a book, do you have a
preferred place of work and a favoured
No routine, I’m afraid! Because I am
busy making films – shooting and
editing – I have to snatch writing
moments where and when I can.
I have a little room in our office attic
in New Oxford Street, looking over
the rooftops, where I like to write.
How do you relax between projects?
These days as a small, independent
company, we hardly get any time
between projects. But a half-term trip
to Venice or Paris is a real treat; the
Picasso Museum or a cup of coffee in
one of the old cafes around St Germain
is my idea of heaven. If possible, we
like to spend summer holidays on our
favourite Greek island, with plenty
of walking over goat paths, with
drink stops in rural chapels and
a little seaside taverna at the end
of the trek at sunset!
Do you have a favourite author?
Shakespeare, of course: he is
inexhaustibly wonderful (Age shall
not wither his infinite variety!!).
I also love reading John Donne.
Which book are you reading at present?
Due to the recent series, I have been
heavily into non-fiction, scholarly
commentaries, such as Geoffrey of
Monmouth, Malory and Apollonius of
Rhodes etc. For relaxation, I recently
reread W G Sebald’s Austerlitz, which
is a marvellous book. I love Sebald’s
distinctive voice and felt like I had
lost a friend when he died in a car
crash a year or two ago, still not 60.
Web site created by Mark Griffin