Rollo Ahmed Black Occultist
by James Goodridge
Born in 1899 to an Egyptian father and Guyanese mother, Abdul Said Ahmed aka Rollo Ahmed had a considerable presence in the occult community of London during the 1930’s. He is not well known in the United States, but I came across the enigma of a man, while researching lesser known black historical figures for my book, The Father Gill Affair, which is an occult detective story set in New York during the roaring twenties featuring characters Madison Cavendish and Seneca Sue—vampire and lycanthrope investigators of the strange and mundane. In the story, I took the liberty of portraying Ahmed as less of a dark occult person and rascal than he was in reality and in a more sympathetic light.
Dennis Wheatly’s The Devil Rides Out ignited the public thirst for witchcraft and the occult, like the roaring twenties an escape from the residue of WWI’s bloodletting and the global financial and political uncertainties yet short-lived for WWII would be just down the road. Following the books success, Wheatly’s publishers wanted a follow-up but this time a non-fiction book on the subject. The author felt it wasn’t his place to write the book, so he introduced his publishers to Rollo Ahmed who Wheatly used as a consultant. Ahmed’s knowledge of the black arts from around the world and its history made him an expert with first-hand personal experience. He’d had encounters with Voodun, Obeah, werewolves in the Caribbean, and other tales. He was also a teacher of Raja Yoga which he counted Wheatly and the author’s wife as students.
Published in 1936 The Black Arts (reprinted later with the title The Complete Book of Witchcaft 1968/1970) was then and is today a definitive text on the occult world. Sectioned off into twenty one chapters, the topics covered are, early black magic, ancient magic of the East, Egyptian magic, Jewish necromancy, magic in Greece and Rome, sorcery and magic in the dark ages, the church and the practice of black magic behind its doors, witchcraft , vampirism and werewolves in Europe, alchemist and sorcerers from the 13th to 18th centuries, symbols of magic, Sex-rites ,Primitive races and magic, sorcery in North and South America, Yogis and Fakirs of India, black magic in the British Isles, Necromancy, Black mass, Elementals, modern black magic and methods to counter act sorcery. The subject matter is still strong for this day and age.
Some people felt Ahmed was a man with strange powers as one of Wheaty’s friends swore one night that they encountered a dark “imp” standing beside Ahmed while they had a conversation with him. Others were of the opinion that he was a sly con artist. An alleged member of The Left Hand Path, Ahmed was a fixture in London’s bohemian scene during the 30’s in his fez and white burnus could count “The worlds most wicked man” Allister Crowley as a friend. It’s during this time that Ahmed had to be fitted with a set of false teeth, the result of trying to capture a demon. Ahmed also published his auto biography I Rise: The life story of a Negro. It’s a rare book that’s out of print which he dedicated to actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson. Ahmed relays his life of negative racial encounters in 1930’s London. Situations such as, landlords refusing to rent him rooms and apartment, even just a room for shelter on a cold night, harassed by the police Ahmed was jailed several times for fraud. By the 1950’s Ahmed seems to have been reduced to in stature to hiring out his services to elderly women to tell their fortunes while living with his wife Theodora (who had her own Lycanthorpe encounter as a child in Germany) in Harpsichord house in Hastings. After that, he fades from the occult scene.
Charlatan or not, a man of his occult world knowledge should be more acknowledged. There is hope that horror writers will see Rollo Ahmed as a genre character in the same light as classical pianist and down low occultist Philippa Schuyler or Harlem magician Black Herman. Ahmed’s time has come.
British Voodoo: Black Art of Rollo Ahmed http:// sas.space.sas.ac.uk15976/ was used along with other sources as reference.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.