I Saw Water

An Occult Novel and Other Selected Writings

Hardback or cased
Ithell Colquhoun, Richard Shillitoe, Mark S. Morrisson
Published 27 Oct 2014
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“As this excellent edition clearly demonstrates, not only are Colquhoun's works valuable and important in and of themselves, but they are also vital in achieving as full a picture as possible of the complex history of experimentation in writing in English throughout the twentieth century.”

—Leigh Wilson, University of Westminster

“It is difficult to understand how Ithell Colquhoun’s I Saw Water, an exemplary work of surrealist fiction, failed to be published upon completion in the 1960s. . . . Those interested in the historical context provided by Shillitoe and Morrisson will encounter high-grade research performed by experienced scholars, who clearly have an excellent grasp of the complexity of the traditions Colquhoun draws upon. . . . This quality editorial contextualization and analysis, combined with the valuable supplemental materials, enrich an already impressive novel—a surrealist enchanting viewed through jagged dream fractals.”

—Aren Roukema, Correspondences

Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988) is remembered today as a surrealist artist, writer, and occultist. Although her paintings hang in a number of public collections and her gothic novel Goose of Hermogenes (1961) remains in print, critical responses to her work have been severely constrained by the limited availability of her art and writings. The publication of her second novel, I Saw Water—presented here for the first time, together with a selection of her other writings and images, many also previously unpublished—marks a significant step in expanding our knowledge of Colquhoun’s work.

Composed almost entirely of material assembled from the author’s dreams, I Saw Water challenges such fundamental distinctions as those between sleeping and waking, the two separated genders, and life and death. It is set in a convent on the Island of the Dead, but its spiritual context derives from sources as varied as Roman Catholicism, the teachings of the Theosophical Society, Goddess spirituality, Druidism, the mystical Qabalah, and Neoplatonism.

The editors have provided both an introduction and explanatory notes. The introductory essay places the novel in the context of Colquhoun’s other works and the cultural and spiritual environment in which she lived. The extensive notes will help the reader with any concepts that may be unfamiliar.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


I Saw Water

I Saw Water explanatory and interpretive notes

Supplementary texts


“The Tree-alphabet and the Tree of Life”

“Dance of the Nine Opals”


“The Night Side of Nature”

“Wedding of Shades”

“Divination Up-to-date”

“Les Grandes Transparentes”

“Love-charm II”

“Red Stone”

“The Zodiac and the Flashing Colours”

“The Openings of the Body”

“Sanctifying Intelligence”

“The Taro as Colour”

Bibliography of the Published Writings of Ithell Colquhoun


Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988) is remembered today as a surrealist artist, writer, and occultist.

Richard Shillitoe is an independent researcher who maintains a website on Ithell Colquhoun and has published a comprehensive catalogue of her artworks. Before his retirement, he served as a consultant psychologist with the National Health Service in England.

Mark S. Morrisson is Professor of English at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory (2007).

The first publication of I Saw Water, the second novel by the surrealist artist, writer, and occultist Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988). Also included is a selection of her writings and images.