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British Voodoo: the Black art of Rollo Ahmed

Citation: Josiffe, Christopher (2014) British Voodoo: the Black art of Rollo Ahmed. Fortean Times (316-7).

Rollo Ahmed was a Guyanan national, born Abdul Said Ahmed c.1898. He emigrated to England in the inter-war period, initially to work as a theatrical performer and latterly as a herbalist, Yoga teacher, author, lecturer and occultist. Like other Black immigrants, Ahmed’s attempts to gain conventional employment were thwarted due to the widespread racism of the period. As a result, he played on his ‘exoticism’ in England as a self-promotional tool – for example, claiming to have been born in Egypt so as to enhance his reputation as a purveyor of esoteric wisdom. He was a familiar face on the 1930s Bohemian literary scene, counting Dennis Wheatley and Aleister Crowley amongst his friends, but struggled to provide a comfortable living for himself and his family, compelling him, on occasion, to seek dubious forms of income. Ahmed was the author of two books - The Black Art (1936), a history of occultism and magic, and I Rise: The Life Story of a Negro (1937), an eloquent semi-autobiographical novel that moves from Guyana to Liverpool to London, vividly portraying the struggles of a Black man in the 'mother country.'

Creators: Josiffe, Christopher and
Subjects: History
Sociology & Anthropology
Keywords: Rollo Ahmed, Guyana, Commonwealth, migration, racism, colonial studies, post-colonial studies, 20th century social history, occultism, Vodou, Voodoo, witchcraft, Dennis Wheatley, Aleister Crowley, Brighton, Hastings
Divisions: Senate House Library
  • July 2014 (published)


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