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Serpent Songs – Curated by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold

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Categories: folk, robert cochrane, sabbatic craft, witchcraft

Serpent Songs coverIn my mind, I always find this book from Scarlet Imprint occupying the same mental space as Hands of Apostasy from Three Hands Press. Both are compendiums of essays on various witchcraft topics, with a focus on what is referred to as traditional witchcraft. And both take themselves pretty seriously.

One comes to expect much of a muchness when encountering collections such as these, with the usual range of suspects and the usual familiar topics. Like Hands of Apostasy, though, Serpent Songs delivers in regard to both the diversity of matters considered, and the breadth of contributors. While there are some familiar, and by no means unwelcome, faces, there are also writers that may not have had much published before, if at all. That doesn’t mean that the writing is sub-par, in fact, the very opposite. Edited by Peter Grey and sub-edited by Troy Chambers, Serpent Songs hangs together cohesively, despite the disparate contributors. There’s a rigour to the text, evidence of the dedication that Scarlet Imprint pour into their publications, with no sign of those common occult writing pitfalls: poor spelling, poor grammar and poor sentence construction; all of which have been, one assumes, expunged by the very welcomed red pens of Grey and Chambers.

This exploration of witchy paths less travelled results in a broad itinerary that, in addition to sojourns in the usual locales, includes stops in Sweden, the Balkans, and the Basque region. There are actually two contributions that deal with Basque witchcraft, and welcomed contributions they are too, as it remains an area for which precious little of worth has been written. In Lezekoak, Arkaitz Urbeltz provides what is effectively a primer on Basque witchcraft, introducing the goddess Mari, her lover and son, Akerbeltz the Black Goat of the Sabbath, and the adversarial figure of Etsai.  The second contributions, But the House of my Father will Stand, comes from Xabier Bakaikoa Urbeltz, who, like Arkaitz Urbeltz, is described as “a sorgin from one of the few remaining houses of Traditional Craft in Euskalerria;” it’s a small world. Urbeltz the Second’s piece, as its subtitles informs us, explores the concept of exte or house in Basque witchcraft, both as a metaphorical concept and a tangible symbol of Basque culture. The exte becomes a living entity, something of an alchemical egregore, comprised of the physical house (exte, salt), the property (etxeondo, sulphur) and the inhabitants (etxekoak, mercury).  Diablo Basquo by Childerico

Elsewhere on this trotting of witchy globes, Johannes Gårdbäck of Sweden gives a hands-on, introduction to Trolldom. He uses an anecdote of a consultation with a couple troubled by a spirit as a device with which to explain his techniques, and give a solid understanding of the paradigm and terminology with which he works. Gårdbäck’s approach is refreshingly pragmatic, with little sense of pretence or occult smoke and mirrors; unless lack of pretence is one of those smoky mirrors… we’re through the looking glass here, people.

Some of the more familiar names here deliver to their usual high standard, with the trifecta of Gema Gary, Shani Oates and Sarah Anne Lawless doing what they do best. Gema Gary’s essay and brief ritual, The Witch’s Cross, doesn’t necessarily cover much new ground, being a meditation on some familiar tropes of witchcraft and the lure of sites of liminality, but it’s done with such a beautifully rendered, poetic narrative that you don’t mind. The same is somewhat true for Lawless who in Mysteries of Beast, Blood and Bone, covers exactly that. It’s something of a familiar area for the ever sanguineous Lawless but her writing is always a joy to read and fair reeks of her subject matter, such is the unpretentious delight she obviously takes in it. And Oates writes, true to form, in her part stream of consciousness, part exegesis, part what the hel is this about manner, where you just buckle yourself in and see where it goes. It is, if nothing else, an intelligible journey, so you forgive a little disorientation here and there.Astride the Hedge by Gemma Gary

Elsewhere, Stuart Inman and Janes Sparkes take the reader across the Atlantic for a look at the 1734 Tradition, an always interesting diversion in what is quite an exhaustive piece, documenting influences and confluences, mythos and ways of working. Steve Patterson goes matters Cornish with an exhaustive consideration of the Bucca, while Richard Parkinson considers the intersection between exorcism and the cunning arts in post-reformation England, where the lack of Catholic clergy left a hole in the market and job opportunity for versatile former exorcists. For once in matters of witchcraft traditional, the Andrew Chumbley vault has nothing to directly offer posthumously, but he does make an appearance via Anne Morris’ But to Assist the Soul’s Interior Revolution, an analysis of Chumbley’s art as representative of the idea that art born of magical practice expresses secret iconography. As with Jimmy Elwing’s piece in Hands of Apostasy, it’s always interesting to read takes on Chumbley, sometimes more so than reading Chumbley’s arcane prose itself, and this is the case here, with Morris taking a rather academic approach to frame and understand his artwork.

With sixteen contributions, one could reasonably wager there’s something for everyone here. Not all of it is gold, some a tarnished silver or shameful bronze, but this is largely a matter of personal taste, rather than anything inherently wrong with the quality of the writing or the ideas put forward. The cultural diversity provides interest, preventing that feeling of wallowing forever in issues of Folklore, and listening to the Incredible String Band, in Bocastle; fun though that may be.

Serpent Songs comes in two editions: a Sylvan edition of 750 exemplars, bound in olive cloth, and a Serpentine edition of 64, hand-bound in verdant goatskin. Title, publisher and a dual snake motif are rendered on the spine and cover in gold, but as with most Scarlet Imprint books in my possession, this has started to flake and fade, being perhaps not entirely enamoured with the cloth binding into which it has been imprinted. End papers are black with a serpentine wave pattern rendered in copper or a muted gold, while the internal pages are a creamy, and gloriously heavy, stock; so heavy in fact that you find yourself checking the page numbers each time you turn the page as it feels like you’ve grabbed two. The type is set with initials in Paris Verand and the body fully justified in a small Satyr face that might be too tiny for some readers but which is just right for me. This is all formatted with the generous margins that give that trademark Scarlet Imprint refined and archaic look. Splendid.

Published by Scarlet Imprint.

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The Tomb of Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 – Carolyn Morrow Long

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Categories: folk

tombofmarielaveaucoverIt’s hard to imagine that a book about a single tomb would be a very long one, and that is certainly the case here, with this work stretching to just 120 pages, half of which consists of endnotes and an appendix. The tomb in question, known as the Widow Paris Tomb, is that of Marie Catherine Laveau, famed as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. As the introduction notes, earlier versions of this text have previously appeared in an online incarnation at knowlouisiana.org, and in print through New Orleans Genesis, the quarterly journal of the Genealogical Research Society of New Orleans.

Carolyn Morrow Long has written about Marie Laveau before, but this smaller volume doesn’t provide much about her specifically, instead using the device of her tomb to look at her various family members and descendants. There is a brief introduction to Laveau early on, with an attendant and equally brief summary of New Orleans Voudou. Both of these set the scene and provide context for the devotional use of the tomb, which in the past has been festooned with X marks from supplicants.

The Widow Paris Tomb does not just contain the body of Laveau and has been the place of rest for 84 people in total. This is possible due to the nature of New Orleans tombs, in which the structures can house the bodies of multiple internees, with the bones of earlier occupants being pushed to the back or into a lower vault after a period of decomposition when more room is needed. If one believes in the power of the blessed dead, this makes for a powerful magickal image, with the idea of all these bones and their attendant spirits, housed within these compact, battery-like domiciles.

This image, appealing as it is, doesn’t quite hold up with what is presented here, though, due to the way in which the book studiously documents each of the internees, meaning that these blessed dead quickly becoming the mundane dead. Long exhaustively explores records to give a history for each person said to be interned within the Widow Paris Tomb, and given the funereal capacity in question, one promptly begins to lose track of the many names.

As a small book about such a specific subject, there’s not much more that can be said about The Tomb of Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It very much is what it is: a book detailing a grave and its occupants. It is well written, with a geeky embracing of cemetery and other public records, but this minutiae is more digestible when summarised, rather than painstakingly documented. From these summaries, one is reminded of the high mortality rate of yesteryear, with so many children dying of ailments that are longer fatal, or in some cases, heard of today. Number one take away fun fact: some internees were renters, whose bodies were only meant to stay in the tomb for a year but invariably ended up becoming permanent residents.

Published by LeftHandPress, a division of Black Moon Publishing, LLC, and printed by Lightning Source, The Tomb of Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery No.  is competently laid out with black and white photos scattered throughout.

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Verdant Gnosis: Cultivating the Green Path Volume 2 – Edited by Catamara Rosarium, Marcus McCoy & Jenn Zhart, PhD

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Categories: folk

verdantgnosisvol2_coverSub-subtitled “Selections from the Viridis Genii Symposium,” this work from Rubedo Press does exactly that, compiling written contributions from various speakers at the 2016 Viridis Genii symposium. As a sequel to a similar compilation from the inaugural event in 2015, Volume 2 builds upon a successful formula: specialised considerations of various plants or their application, which presupposes a certain level of expertise or familiarity; although this volume is sadly absent the spectacular illustrations by Maxine Miller that graced its predecessor.

Dan Riegler of Apothecary’s Garden provides an introduction that acts as an opening address. It gives a sense of where things might head in this volume, with something of a new age, blossoming consciousness, righting the wrongs against the earth type of vibe, rather than anything slightly grimmer and more path of poisons that the more darker inclined amongst us might prefer. Mr Veneficium himself, Daniel Schulke, puts things back on track, though, with the opening piece, Transmission of Esoteric Plant Knowledge in the Twenty-First Century, an excerpt from his recent Thirteen Pathways of Occult Herbalism. As the characteristically verbose title suggests, it is by no means entirely concerned with poisonous plants, instead providing an overview of various methods of receiving plant-related knowledge. Schulke surveys historical examples of this communication and proposes several future models.

Whilst Schulke’s consideration is a broad one, most of the contributions here are focused on a particular plant, or a rather specific category. Corinne Boyer considers funerary trees with a consideration of trees associated with death from across a range of cultures, followed by some suggestions for practical application. Jesse Hathaway Diaz’s Man-Dragon, Man-Root and the Witch looks at mandrake and its analogue ginseng, with an emphasis more on the latter than the former.

A strong experiential focus is found in John Keyes’ Devil’s Club: Sacred Cascadian Medicine, in which he discusses the Oplopanax horridus of the title, a large understory shrub endemic to North America’s Pacific Northwest. Despite its use by indigenous peoples including the Tlingit and Haida, Keye forgoes much reference to them to avoid any suggestions of cultural appropriation, and instead refers to his own practice. This results in a largely anecdotal piece, but one which reads well and is without too much in the way of hyperbole and claims of cure-alls; more about such things imminently.

Elsewhere, Karl Feret presents a general discussion about the mystical properties of trees, emphasising the importance of choosing the symbolically appropriate species for particular magical working or intent; something he feels is lacking emphasis in much ritual work. A similar area is considered by Jenn Zahrt whose sympathetic correspondences are of the astrological variety, discussing how particular planets rule particular plants. Perhaps the most intriguing title in this collection is Urtica Dioica’s On the Importance of Keeping a Poison Garden, although he tempers the excitement in the first sentence, removing my vision of a cottage immersed in belladonna, hemlock and foxglove. Instead, the poisons are entheogens, poisonous in the sense that they will kill the ego, but mercifully, other than san pedro, the few plants considered here are none of the usual suspects, preferring instead reed canary grass and prairie mimosa.

viridisgenii

Given the theme with which this book concerns itself, sitting at that intersection between mysticism and science, there are inevitably areas where scientific rigour loses out to either unverified personal gnosis (which is fine in matters mystical), or the rather less forgivable unverified statements of unsubstantiated fact. One piece on Baltic amber begins to grate with its woolly thinking, gratuitous claims and references to scientific studies that aren’t actually referenced (if you’re going to call on the authority of the scientific model, then at least cite in an academic manner). History is treated in a broad, cavalier attitude with the ancient Chinese included in a list of peoples who prized and used Baltic Amber before the Common Era, suggesting that the Amber Road that transported amber from North Baltic seas to the Mediterranean must have had a couple of lesser known and really, really, really, long scenic routes. The most egregious thing, though, is a bald statement that, whilst studying at Kraków University, the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus wrote a graduate thesis “on Baltic amber’s potent healing properties.” This is a staggering claim, given that Copernicus, one of the fathers of the Scientific Revolution, was studying astronomy at Kraków, not new age woo, and it is a claim for which no reference is given and no corroboration can be found. The only online instances of the claim are the author’s own version of this article and a similar one by another author who has either copied substantially from this piece, or is the victim of this author’s cribbing. Naturally, by the time the miraculous health benefits of amber are up for discussion, the ship of credibility has well and truly sailed and the bovine excrement detector starts flashing at claims that “Baltic amber has been verified scientifically as an adaptogen.” Of course, there’s no citing of when this verification occurred, let alone any explanation as to how something can be scientifically verified as a thing that itself is hardly an accepted scientific principle. What next? Something scientifically verified as a potent homeopathic remedy?

This might seem a bit harsh, especially given that this is a book that also includes discussions of astrology and talking to plants. But there’s a difference between that kind of magickal paradigm-building (where it’s all wibbly wobbly, wistical mystical stuff) and matters that are slightly more tangible, like life-threatening diseases. It is deeply problematic, irresponsible and intellectually dishonest to present amber as a miraculous panacea capable of seemingly treating everything, including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Got a baby with epilepsy or colic? Sling some powered amber under their tongue. Oh, and amber can also apparently act as a “protective shield from radiation” which is pretty awesome; so much nicer and more natural than those cumbersome suits. And then, following a snide, and thoroughly predictable, aside about pharmaceutical companies not creating new antibiotics because they’re too busy with their cool and profitable Viagras and Zolofts, Baltic amber tincture is confidentially predicted to play a role in the future, fighting antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Extraordinary claims one and all, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, of which there is none here; not even of the next to useless anecdotal variety.

This excursion into uncritical amber woo highlights the problem inherent in this field, and, one supposes, in occultism in general. When it comes to matters quantifiable, one is better to err on the side of credible data, lest one looks like a fool. This is particularly true when we are dealing with constituent materials that are, shall we say, made from Teh Science. Of all areas of mysticism, this is one in which the tools and materials can be defined, understood and measured in a scientific manner, as can their effects; or not, as in the case of geriatric tree resin. To throw that model aside in preference of wishful thinking and recycled website claims is to leave oneself, and one’s associates, open to ridicule. This is the case here, where this less than stellar contribution ultimately tarnishes the whole book, reflecting poorly on the editorial decision to include it in all its irresponsible glory.

Verdant Gnosis: Cultivating the Green Path Volume 2 comes as a functional, perfect-bound paperback of 165 pages.

Published by Rubedo Press

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The Devil’s Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of The Old One – Gemma Gary

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Categories: folk, luciferian, sabbatic craft, witchcraft

Devil's Dozen coverThis beautifully presented and compact little book brings together, as the title suggests, thirteen rites for the Old One. And, as also indicated by this title, the cover image and the abundance of horns throughout the book, this Old One is most unashamedly the Devil of folklore, viewed through the lens of Traditional Witchcraft. Distinct from the church’s concept of Satan, this Devil still presides over evil, but these are the perceived evils of personal freedom, indulgence and ecstasy. He is, as Gemma Gary explains in her introduction, the bearer of forbidden gifts, the opener of the Way Betwixt, and the old spirit of the land.

Gary is at pains to point out that these rituals make no claim to any great antiquity or hereditary descent, but rather draw on extant themes that are well documented in the folk record. There is, naturally, a focus on matters Cornish, with several dealing with the Bucca, and these rites act as a concise adjunct to much of the material found in Gary’s more explicative Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways. This book is not without its own explications, though, and each ritual is preceded by a brief explanation providing its context and attendant folklore. Gary defines these thirteen as rites of vision, dedication, initiation, consecration, empowerment, protection, illumination, union, transformation, devotion and sacred compact.

It is a sacred compact to the Devil as the Man in Black or Dark Man that acts as the first rite in this collection, establishing a relationship and setting the scene for that which is to come later. This is a simple procedure, effectively an elaborated statement of intent that is preceded by a little ritual structure (thrice utterance of the Lord’s Prayer backwards in a remote location), and followed by a period of reflection during which the Man in Black may manifest in some manner. This compact is indicative of Gary’s ritual style: fairly succinct with some nicely written liturgy. There’s not much in the way of obscure ingredients, elaborate correspondences, complicated formula or extended periods of time, with the rites having more of a feel of hedgewitch pragmatism. The only temporal imperatives are fairly standard things like midnight and during a full moon, while the ingredients and tools list tends to speak to things that anyone embracing the aesthetics of Traditional Witchcraft will end up acquiring (if only too look cool in their altar photos on Facebook): iron nails, an iron knife, a scourge, horned skulls, dragon’s blood incense and a stang. Circles abound in these rituals, as does the use of mill treading as a way to generate power and there is a general feeling of getting out amongst it, with hands dirty from soil and the soot of flaming torches.

gemmagary_thelightbetwixt

It is the written word in which Gary excels, with her incantations having an archaic quality that doesn’t wrap itself up in arcane complexity (or misapplication), and instead flows with a degree of authenticity. This is aided by the occasional use of rhymed couplets and alternate rhymes, which gives some of the words a folky familiarity, as if they’ve been overheard in playgrounds for centuries; obviously those would be rather spooky playgrounds.

At 187 x 114mm, The Devil’s Dozen is a small volume that has a diary-like quality to it, fitting comfortably in a single hand or handbag for easy transportation to ritual locales. Its slight width does lead to rather snug gutters that do require the book to be splayed wide in order to catch everything and having the, one supposes unintentional, side effect of a sense of bibliographic intimacy as one spreads and peers in.

gemma_goat

As with most if not all of Gary’s books, The Devil’s Dozen is illustrated by the author herself in her trademark stippled style of pen and ink. These are usually found as full-page preludes to the various rites, while a veritable study of horned skulls is dotted throughout the work as fillers. In addition to these in-body illustrations, there is a selection of black and white plates by Jane Cox, providing a photographic record of some of the procedures contained herein, along with various apposite images of witchcraft-related accoutrements.

gemma_circleofskulls

The Devil’s Dozen is published in four editions, each consisting of 160 pages, along with eight black and white photo plates. In addition to a regular paperback version, there is a hardback incarnation which attains a pretty nice level of quality for what is the affordable standard edition with its 80gsm cream paper stock, black case binding, copper foil blocking on the front image and the spine, hunter green endpapers, and green and black head and tail bands. There are two special editions, the 300 hand-numbered Special Edition bound in dark, grained green recycled leather fibres, with the cover and spine elements in blocked in gold foil, green end papers and green and black head and tail bands. The even more luxurious Special Fine Edition is suitably limited to 13 sold out hand-numbered copies in full black goat leather binding with a gold border and a blind embossed thicket of branches on the bevelled front board, inset with a high quality glass goat’s eye cabochon. This is further housed in a full goat leather solander box, blocked in gold and lined.

Published by Troy Books.

devils-dozen-superfine

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Craft of the Untamed: An Inspired Vision of Traditional Witchcraft – Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold

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Categories: faery, folk, sabbatic craft, witchcraft

craftoftheuntamedThere is no shortage of books about Traditional Witchcraft upon the shelves in the Scriptus Recensera library, filled as it is with worthy contributions from Michael Howard, Gemma Gary, Shani Oates, Andrew Chumbley, Nigel Jackson and others. And that’s not to mention the works of the pretenders and imitators that haven’t been granted access to these hallowed halls. The question that arises, then, is whether Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is able to bring anything new to the table. Frisvold certainly seems to think so, cutting my musings off at the pass and making his case early on for one major point of difference: a focus not just on the British and Scandinavian sources for witches, but on the parallels that are to be found in Italy and even further afield in South American expressions of magic, especially those connected with African diasporic religions. Thus, a consideration of the crossroad in witchcraft inevitably makes a brief detour into the comparable symbolism in Yoruba belief and Vodou, facilitating a full circle of motifs when ‘the kingdom’ from the Cult of Exu finds an analogue in the Witches’ Sabbath.

Frisvold makes another distinction at the outset, noting that similar books are often highly eclectic in their approach, uncritically embracing myths and legends, with an attendant use of etymology and epistemology. However, there is often little to differentiate what is presented in this book with the style of, say, Michael Howard, Nigel Jackson and Shani Oates, three authors who, to my mind, have often written with an encyclopaedic, info-dump approach that embraces folklore, legend, myth and etymology in a rather broad manner. Frisvold’s sources are a little different from those of Howard, Jackson and Oates, though there are certainly some common ones; and titles from Cappall Bann do make a significant contribution to the bibliography. Instead, Frisvold draws heavily on material from Hermeticism and the Western Tradition, with an obvious and fairly frequently fondled touchstone being found in Cornelius Agrippa.

There is a utilitarian approach to the writing here with a conversational tone that precludes much in the way of scene setting or background exposition when information is presented. Frisvold obviously knows his stuff (except perhaps for the bit about Robert Johnson dying at the crossroads, wahhh?), so there’s no feeling of him skimping on the details out of ignorance, and while you don’t need to over explain things to an occult audience (where a certain familiarity with the material is expected), it still feels like more context could be provided before the nuggets of knowledge are dropped. The brevity of Frisvold’s writing is also evident in a lack of transitional phrases tying paragraphs together, with ideas often being abruptly introduced as if they have no immediate relation, to the subjects that have gone before. This leads to a jarring effect when blocks of information appear, if only briefly, as if they are non sequiturs, barren of any relation to the wider discussion.

This slight lack of focus bleeds into the chapters, which, although given clear titles and themes, don’t necessarily reflect an obvious flow throughout the book; suggesting, although I have no evidence to corroborate it, that they started as individual essays. These chapters cover off various areas of witchcraft, with the first one being the aforementioned consideration of the symbolism of the crossroads. Chapter two, Solomonic Magic, is a wide-ranging slightly unfocused discussion that covers more than what its title would suggest, lurching from grimoire magic, to folk concepts of the Devil, to liminal Roman and Etruscan deities and ultimately to inverted crosses. The focus is tightened a little more in a discussion of blood and ancestry in systems of witchcraft and, inevitably, beyond. Arguably the most successful chapter is one in which the gaze lingers on a central theme for longer with a consideration of the Witches’ Sabbath and the traditions surrounding the Mount of Venus. I am rather partial to the emphasis Frisvold gives to Hela, focusing on Her role as an initiatory goddess of witchcraft and the underworld, addressing Her as “Ninefold Mother, Hel, Herodias, Holda. Queen of Elphame, Queen of Venus’ mount.”

Many of the chapters conclude with a practical activity that put into action what has just been discussed. Thus, a chapter that could be broadly said to be concerned with sympathetic magick concludes with a series of brief malefic spells, such as a poppet charm for harm and healing, and a procedure for creating a mojo bag for protection. In the chapter on the Witches’ Sabbath, instructions are given for a rite of transvection using flying ointments, while the consideration of blood ties is concluded with a procedure for feeding the ancestors

audreymelobeardsley

Each chapter in Craft of the Untamed is prefaced with a black and white illustration by Audrey Melo, who also provides the painting that features on the cover. The reproduction of these internal illustration varies widely in quality, with everything from acceptable to quite pixelated, to goodness me, they’ve put pixels in their pixels so they can pixel when they pixel. These images are also wildly inconsistent in style, with Melo having no discernible look of her own and instead riffing on the aesthetics of various familiar esoteric artists. There’s a few atavistic Austin Osman Spare motifs, a fairly convincing Aubrey Beardsley pastiche, and a couple of images that are an obvious tribute to the unknown artists of a thousand wishful metal album covers scrawled across a thousand school exercise books. One image takes Brian Froud as its inspiration and by inspiration I mean that at its centre is one of his rather distinctive characters, economically traced, without credit.

Craft of the Untamed is better formatted than many Mandrake of Oxford titles, with none of the cramped styling that is usually found amongst their books. In place of it, though, and proving I’m never satisfied, is an overly generous leading that almost approaches double line spacing in depth and which, although allowing things to breathe, does result in just 30 lines of text on a page. This count is reduced even more when the style is applied to what ends up being rather spaced out invokations that can’t help but be read in a stilted, broken tone worthy of William Shatner. There’s an unfortunately typical lack of attention to detail in the formatting and proofing: chapter headings can’t decide if they’re meant to be bolded or not, the first page of each chapter flaunts convention and includes the header with the book’s author and title in it (as do all other pages, regardless of the content), and there’s a reckless disregard for punctuation, with a surfeit of missing, redundant or misplaced commas.

With its overgenerous leading, Craft of the Untamed makes for what feels like a slimmer volume than its tally of 180 pages would suggest. When this is twinned with Frisvold’s brisk style of writing, the reader can find themselves skipping quickly through the pages. As an overview of some of witchcraft’s themes, Craft of the Untamed meets its brief, and the point of difference, largely unpromised at the start, is a tendency to relate these to Western Occultism and Hermeticism, with Frisvold’s affiliation as a Traditionalist occasionally coming through via this approach.

Published by Mandrake of Oxford

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Chthonic Revelations – Alexander Corvus

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Categories: classical, underworld

Chthonic RevelationsThis slim volume is part of Fall of Man’s Nox Sine Occasu series, in which considerations are given to works too short to be considered full books, but too long to sit as essays in a journal. The focus in this instance is on the Greek oracular demigod Tropohonios, a relatively obscure entity that author Alexander Corvus should be pretty confident in being the sole devotee for, at least for now. Trophonios is presented within this work as an oracular deity of the underworld, a being that when encountered could produce a terrifying but ultimately cathartic and transformative experience.

This is the first published work by Corvus who otherwise runs the occult blog De Occulta Philosophia, and who, his biography informs us, has been actively practicing magic for over two decades. Other than that, there’s precious little available about the author, though one assumes that he is not a native English speaker as the writing suffers from many of those characteristic pitfalls. Though Corvus’ writing remains legible throughout, never losing his intentions in a mess of misapplied words, a little proofing to iron out some of the problematic phrasing would have been beneficial. The same is also true of proofing for spelling which has been rather lax, if not non-existent. This, at least, gifts us with a few wonderfully evocative howlers, such as the one that refers to “those wanting to descend to the groove of Trophonios,” bringing to mind some rather funky underworld endeavours.

Chthonic Revelations is principally divided into twin sections of mythos and the all-important praxis. In Mythos, Corvus surveys Greek literature to provide a comprehensive image of Trophonios that is thoroughly grounded in extant material. There are three authors who contribute to this corpus: the Greek geographer Pausanias, the 2nd to 3rd century sophist Philostratus, and Plutarch with his De genio Socratis. This information is ably compiled by Corvus who paraphrases where necessary and effectively bridges the direct quotes so that they are not left doing all the work. In the chapter that follows, Corvus then takes this surfeit of information and analyses it to isolate the various ritual elements associated with Trophonios.

trophonios-staff

The first-hand account given by Pausanias in his Description of Greece gifts Corvus with a readymade ritual structure; providing him with the kind of explicit ancient antecedent that many an occult writer would kill for. Pausanias’ structure is fleshed out to create the main ritual operation here, but this is preceded with a less historically dependent and fairly typical draconian themed visualisation, the Ophidic Meditation, which is all very black snakes and surging powers. The Initiation Ritual proper is a five-step, seven-day working of both initiation and visions that mirrors its historical antecedent’s journey from purification, to katabasis, to revelation, to anabasis and ultimately to the interpretation and analysis of the entire process. This is followed by instructions for minor rituals that build upon the initiation: the setting up of a pholeos as a ritual space, and brief instructions for petitioning Trophonios with offerings, spells and curses.

Alen Grijakovic at Opposition Artworks provides the scattering of full page, full bleed illustrations that divide this book into its constituent parts. As one comes to expect with titles from publishers such as Fall of Man, where an intersection between occultism and metal is palpable, these images employ a style of pen and ink drawing that is otherwise almost the exclusive reserve of metal album covers, particularly its most blackest of varieties. Cross-hatching abounds in these densely rendered pictures, with one image being a fairly traditional image of Trophonios bee-hive in hand, while another is considerably more metal, all hooded figures, demonic gateways and a snaked-wreathed being with glowing eyes.

Trophonios

Chthonic Revelations is presented in the same style as other entries in Fall of Man’s Nox Sine Occasu series, such as the previously reviewed Ophidic Essence: Seeking A Return to the Origin. Its 85 pages on 135gsm coated paper are soft cover bound in a faux crushed leather that is hot-stamped in grey with the Chthonic Revelations logo. The hand-sewn spine is a little tight, with noticeable instances in which, at least on my copy, the thread is visible and threatens to tear a hole in the gutter of the pages. Of the 300 hand-numbered copies, the first 70 copies are presented in a black rugged folder bearing the staff of Trophonios sigilised in silver and the Nox Sine Occasu logo as a wax seal. These 70 copies also have a digital version of the book included in the price.

Published by Fall of Man.

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Women of Babalon: A Howling of Women’s Voices – Edited by Mishlen Linden

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Categories: luciferian, magick, thelema, typhonian

womenofbabalon-coverIt would be fair to say that over the years, more has been written about Babalon by men, than by women, with her most obvious devotees being two very prominent men within magick, Aleister Crowley and Jack Parsons. One could argue that this has led to a very particular view of Babalon, and Scarlet Women in general, whether they are envisioned as the heterosexual lover of the male supplicant, or a muse or Shakti-type figure whose identity is only understood or activated via a relationship with a male figure. This volume seeks to address this, bringing together seventeen women to speak with the voice of Babalon. That isn’t to say that Babalon is the sole choice of subject here, and whilst she certainly plays a central part, other areas of magick and occultism get their chance to shine. Rather, this is about giving matters of magick, specifically where they relate directly or tangentially to Babalon’s ambit, a specifically female voice.

With thirteen written contributions, and eleven illustrations, there is a range of styles and subject matters presented here, with sex and art featuring heavily. Linda Falorio provides a couple of tantric techniques, including a Tree of Night Tantra via Eroto-Comatose Orgasmica, no less, while both Charlotte Rodgers and Emma Doeve briefly explore different and intersecting aspects of sex magick; and in the case of Doeve, power relationships. Doeve also contributes another piece in which she gives a brief biography of the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and surveys her works. In matters of a more, shall we say, theographical nature, Diane Narraway has an extensive devotional essay on Lucifer, giving the Lightbringer a relatively brief but satisfying biography, flavoured with personal reflections. Maegdlyn Morris writes of the Warrior Babalon, addressing her as the Babalon of Severity, of Geburah, in a piece which, with its slightly polemical celebration of the Red Goddess as spirit of rebellion and heresy, reminds of Peter Grey’s similar approach.

The longest contribution in Women of Babalon is provided by editor, Mishlen Linden, who allows the reader access to her magickal record with an extended excerpt, all forty pages of it. Subtitled Building the Body of Babalon, it tracks a yearlong tantric exploration between Linden and her priest with an engaging narrative, highlighting the importance of keeping a magickal record, in which a discernible evolution of practice and results is laid bare. Despite it being a personal record, the level of exposition and instruction within the text means that the sense of voyeurism is minimal, as if it was always, on some level, intended for publication.

Babalon and the Beast by Lorraine Sherwin

Of these Women of Babalon, it is Lou Hotchkiss Knives who provides the most enjoyable piece with “Watch Her Wrap Her Legs Arounds This World,” which bears the exhaustive subtitle Babalon, Sex, Death, Conception, Punk Rock and the Mysteries. As said subtitle suggests, this is a wide-ranging, five-part piece, and one that is expertly written in an informed, knowledgeable manner that never loses its audience despite its length. Perhaps my bias and expectation is showing, but the piece succeeds because its focus is explicitly on Babalon, providing me with everything I hoped to find in this volume. Hotchkiss Knives begins with an account of a dream of Babalon manifesting as her daughter, lost to miscarriage and now existing as a moonchild whose face is only seen in the no-man’s land of oneiric journeys. In many ways, this is a highly personal and affecting reflectiont, but Hotchkiss Knives ably contextualises and transmutes it within a magickal and thoroughly Babalonian framework. She follows this with an exploration of Babalon within a Qabalistic context, tracing her influence through the sephira and linking this to suitably Babalonian imagery in the tarot. These personal and Qabalistic preambles then give way to Hotchkiss Knives’ primary discussion concerning the spirit of Babalon within music and identifying punk and riot grrrl as particular expressions of her energy. Nina Hagen, the Slits, all the way up to Courtney Love and the appositely named Hole are name-checked as examples of this musical-magickal Babalonian nexus. With experience in her own punk band, Husband N Knives, Hotchkiss Knives is able to speak from an experiential perspective about the magickal power of music, shooting it through with a passion that makes you almost forgive the mention of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers; almost.

Women of Babalon follows what seems to be the Black Moon Publishing style du jour, using a large ornamental border on every page. This has the effect of enlarging the overall dimensions of the book itself but still shrinking the column widths to below average. Coupled with a rather large body typeface, this can lead to a feeling of there being less than a typical amount of content per page. Personally, I could do without the rococo border. It’s one of those things that may have initially seemed like a good idea, but ultimately, there are reasons that convention prevails and you don’t see a lot of books formatted like that. The resulting over-sized format also makes the entire book cumbersome to hold, limiting the environments in which it can be conveniently and comfortably read. As someone who takes great pride in having her read books look like they’re unread, the wear and tear that came as a result of this was knife-in-the-stomach-noticeable. The large border also precludes the use of standard page furniture, other than page numbers, so a constant return to the contents page is required to find your way to a particular contribution without the ability to give a quick glance at a header or footer.

Madeleine Ledespencer - And you shall see the shades which she becomes

There are a range of illustrations doted throughout the book, though they are by no means a focus here. Their impact is lessened by the aforementioned rococo border which both reduces the potential size of the images and tends to overwhelm them. The most successful of these is Madeleine Ledespencer’s And you shall see the shades which she becomes, in which her polished 3D render contrasts with the more brush and acrylics stylings that accompany it.

Despite its wealth of contributors, there is a certain similitude that emerges from these voices, with the many women of Babalon forming an almost audible choir. There are things that act almost as refrains, to continue the laboured analogy, with sex, tantra, chakras and kundalini being common touchstones. There is diversity amongst the voices, and while there is by no means a sense of an enforced perspective, there is a palpable sense of shared experiences and similar world views.

Published by Black Moon Publishing

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Diabolic Gnosticism – Frater Kafyrfos

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Categories: anticosmic, satanism

diabolicgnosticism-coverOver the last couple of years, Fall of Man have established their own little niche as a publishing house with an ambit that, more often than not, represents some form of Satanism or anti-cosmic mysticism. A work bearing the title Diabolic Gnosticism should, then, not be an unexpected release from these Spanish publishers, ticking, as it does, both of those boxes.

This work puts forth the philosophy of the Australia-based Ecclesia Diabolica Gnostica, an organisation that very much wears its influences on its sleeves; and they aren’t shy about waving those sleeves around either. There’s the anti-cosmic misanthropy of the Temple of the Black Light, the Traditional Satanism of the Order of Nine Angles, and for the trifecta, the Order of Nine Angles Version 2.0 of the Temple of THEM. These influences predicate a certain attitude and mind set and this is evident from the start. The language is resolutely bleak in the style of anti-cosmic misanthropy, while there’s a tone that attempts to dial up the transgressive elements of the ONA.

Naturally that most peculiar modern brand of Gnosticism, the anti-cosmic variety, figures largely here and Kafyrfos presents some innovations of his own, with an antigod, Havayoth, whose name reverses and thereby undoes the Tetragrammaton, and a prophet called ZA. Besides that, much of the material will have a familiar ring to it, with a lot of post-TOTBL metaphysical speculation about demiurges, chaos, and blood blood blood. Perhaps the most distinctive element here is the use of the swastika, which almost makes the ONA’s infamous Mass of Heresy seem mild in comparison. The swastika is identified as “a writhing icon of life and death,” a fitting symbol of Satan, destruction and death because of its associations with the Holocaust. Like a metal band professing a misanthropic hatred of everyone equally when confronted on playing with fascist imagery, the destruction associated with the swastika is extended to all followers of the “slave god and theology of the sub/humans,” and not just Jews. Of course, if you find any of this unsavoury, then this just means you have an “unconscious submission to the bloody Will of subhumanity,” apparently. This is part of an all pervading theme of actively purging those deemed subhumanity from the Blood of Life and casting them into “into the fires of holocaust.” Given that there hasn’t been much in the way of news reports about vast (or even small) Satanic culls in Australia, you can’t help wondering what this actually means on a practical level.

dgsigils

The way in which some of the information is organised in Diabolic Gnosticism is a little confusing, almost baffling. There is often no obvious order to the information presented, and this is compounded by the lack of clear headings or preambles. In one particular instance, it almost seems like administrative notes for the Ecclesia Diabolica Gnostica slipped into ritual rigmarole, as one of the opening rituals, titled a Diabolical Gnostic Elemental Pentagram Banishing Ritual no less, concludes and then abruptly talks for two paragraphs about the structure of Militant Satanic Orders, presumably because the ritual has some administrative-compulsion generating power, before continuing into another, seemingly unrelated, ritual formulae, the Voor-Crux Cut.

This disruptive read is continued in other ways, with the content presented in a plethora of styles and odd formatting. In the book’s largest section, Apocalypse of Phosphorosophia – Fyrphosphorosophia, the information is formatted, without preamble or explanation, in numbered lists of short statements. While the intent may have been to mirror the scriptural use of numbered verses, these short eruptions have nothing of the bible’s lyrical style, and instead they have an abrasive, staccato quality that simply makes them feel like bullet points that were never fleshed out and turned into functioning paragraphs. It’s almost like that old LaVeyan love of lists (think the Nine Satanic Statements, the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, and the Nine Satanic Sins) has been picked up and run with to its most ridiculous conclusion where every sentence over several pages becomes part of an immense numbered list. This is not helped by the unsympathetic formatting, with the numbers rendered no different to the body copy and everything sitting flush against the margin, with no hanging indent on the sentences that run to multiple lines.

diabolicalgnosticism01

Interspersed through these pages of numbered lists are what one assumes to be poems (or invocations, or channelled material, or anything, there’s no way to know), but which come across as a transcription of bestial black metal lyrics. The easiest way to read these, since as poetry they don’t exactly work, is to imagine them being screeched out in a black metal scream or growled in a pacey deathgrunt. This effect is heightened by the lyrical content, which is, how you say, very metal, and a touch repetitive: the demiurgic god is weak and deceitful, heaven will burn, blood fire death. The tendency to repeat is something of an issue here, and a real failing of the book in general, with the rather limited subject matter being strung out into word salads that regurgitate the same motifs over and over again. The dizzying swirl of demiurge bad/chaos good, blood flows/fire is hot, hey baby, wanna kill all humans, is rinsed and bleakly repeated throughout the book and can make for hard reading. Despite the relative brevity engendered by the ‘numbered list ‘n poems’ format, this reader had to take frequent breaks, usually interspersed with sighs from an internal voice “oh, another piece about killing all humans… oh great, more fire and blood and thee, thous and thines” The unhelpful formatting and the repetition of themes means there’s nothing that provides much in the way of navigation or a contextualising anchor when you’re adrift in this chaotic sea. As a book so enamoured with chaos, perhaps this means mission accomplished, but it doesn’t make for a very satisfying or sustainable read.

Each chapter of Diabolic Gnosticism is prefaced by an illustration by Nestor Avalos and these prove to be a highlight of the book. Rendered in grayscale pencil and ink with red highlights in an ox blood wash, they have an ever-so-metal quality, a little bit blasphemous and a lot bit satanic. Demonic, horned heads abound, with skin rendered in detailed rolls and wrinkles and the work perfectly encapsulates the rather specific aesthetics of this book.

diabolicalgnosticism02

Diabolical Gnosticism comes in two versions, the paperback Phosphorosophia edition and the limited Black Sun edition. The Phosphorosophia version is octavo size on 120 gsm paper, with black end papers. The cover is bound in faux crushed black leather with the Diabolic Gnosticism logo hot-stamped in a scarlet red; the title is similarly treated on the spine, but as with some other Fall of Man books, frustratingly reads from bottom to top. The Black Sun edition is limited to 55 hand-numbered copies on a heavier creamy stock. Bound in soft leather with a hand sewn spine, the cover is branded with a Wewelsburg Black Sun pattern on both sides.

Published by Fall of Man

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Tubelo’s Green Fire – Shani Oates

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Categories: luciferian, robert cochrane, witchcraft

tubelosgreenfireSubtitled Mythos, Ethos, Female & Priestly Mysteries of the Clan of Tubal Cain, this is a collection of articles by Shani Oates, current Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain. Anthologies can often be a less than satisfying reading experience, with the piecemeal nature of the presentation never engendering the focus that a singular work can provide. This is certainly the case here and there was just something a little disappointing about discovering that what I thought was a going to be a focussed book on the mysteries of the Clan of Tubal Cain is, by its very nature, broader and not nearly as specific as its retrospectively applied title promises. In saying that, the essays have been grouped into sections, so there is a semblance of order, with divisions devoted, as the subtitle denotes, to female mysteries, male mysteries, priestly mysteries, and Clan ethos.

The essays that form this collection are taken from various pagan magazines, principally Hedgewytch and Michael Howard’s The Cauldron, but also White Dragon, Pendragon and the New Wiccan. The subject matter falls into the broad remit of the Clan of Tubal Cain, having the same polymathic qualities possessed by Robert Cochrane, drawing on folklore, mythology and general witchlore to create a vision of a coherent and very particular form of witchcraft.

Oates writes in a style not too dissimilar to that of her mentor, Evan John Jones, and fellow travellers Nigel Jackson and Michael Howard, in that it is anthropologically broad and encyclopaedic but not overly critical, casting wide thematic nets that are not always necessarily tethered with specific citations. This net sometimes embraces the works of so-called alternative history, a field that could be said to have something of the magical in itself, since its logical leaps and less than rigorous familiarity with the facts is suggestive of metaphysical paradigm building, where peer-review is less important than an internally consistent worldview. Thus, in Mythopoesis, Laurence Gardner’s Genesis of the Grail Kings is referenced, extensively and uncritically, in a discussion of Mesopotamian cosmology, where perhaps recall to more reliable, or even primary, sources would have been advisable; and would have inspired more confidence.

Mythopoesis introduces the opening section of writings on the mythos of the Clan of Tubal Cain, and, despite my misgivings about Gardner as a source, it is an interesting, well written overview of matters witchcraft and Qayinian, beginning in the broad, speculative world of alternative history before ending with a discussion of ritual tools and praxis. This is followed by a welcome discussion about Goda, the pale goddess of fate in the cosmology of the Clan of Tubal Cain, in which Oates brings together various linguistic traces of the name, as well as summarising Cochrane’s thoughts on the goddess, collected from his various correspondences. The third chapter in this section, is missing, suggesting some great esoteric mystery… or mayhaps just a clerical error.

The book’s abruptly promoted fourth chapter is a dissertation on Hekate and opens the section on female mysteries. Each of these pieces is a broad consideration, and its seems to very much be Oates’ modus operandi to take a core subject as an opportunity to explores related tangents, often bringing them ultimately to bare within a witchcraft frame of reference. Thus the female mysteries are explored from the root themes of courtly love, Salome’s seven veils, the hand of Fatima, Sheela na gigs, and the Day of the Dead (which marks a stylistic diversion from most of the other essays with its more travelogue structure and voice).

Under the rubric of male mysteries Oates is able to consider the Wild Hunt (covered in two essays), the Green Knight (of Sir Gawain fame), and solstice traditions, all presenting a fairly consistent theme of the king of the greenwood. There’s a certain continuity of these themes into the section on priestly mysteries, with arboreal kings figuring in the essay The Divine Duellists, but otherwise the topics at hand are new, with considerations of the Fisher King, the symbolism of cranes, and the mythic analogies of entheogens (which provides summaries of all the usual suspects: Wasson, McKenna, Allegro).

Finally, the section on Clan Ethos could be said to follow the lead of its first essay’s title, Musings on the Sacred, with these contributions being considerably less encyclopaedic than their predecessors, with more of a discursive quality. The most interesting of these are ones that deal more specifically with Robert Cochrane and the Clan of Tubal Cain, fulfilling the original promise of the book’s title. The Mystery Tradition considers the difference between paganism and witchcraft, reflecting on Cochrane’s differentiation betwixt the two, while A Man for all Seasons considers magickal inheritance and Cochrane’s ideas of the witchblood. The remaining essays explore various clan-related ritual procedures, including initiation and the division of ritual forms into three rings of divination, spell-casting and communion.

Qayin by Liza Miskievicz

For a Mandrake publication, Tubelo’s Green Fire doesn’t do too badly in the old formatting stakes, with an overall consistent and perfunctory layout that doesn’t overly interfere with reading. That said, the point size of the body is a smidgen too large, and the margins on all four edges are too tight; as is, naturally, the gutter. This leads to a slightly claustrophobic feeling whilst reading, with even the endnote references rendered in the uniform size of the main body, and the titles in nothing more than a functional larger version of the same typeface. A lack of attention to detail means that each essay retains its original referencing style, and these come in all shapes and sizes, appearing as in-text citations in some cases, and as end notes in others (with even the formatting of these differing between usages). There’s also a few idiosyncratic, but inconsistently applied, punctuation quirks, such as randomly presenting some names, and in some cases, words, within single quote marks; a peculiarity that is then inexplicably compounded still further by occasionally presenting some of these quoted words in italics with no rhyme or reason.

The pages of monolithic typographic colour within the book are occasionally (and I mean very occasionally) interspersed with simply rendered illustrations by Liza Miskievicz. The cover bears an image, The Fortunate Isle, by the always wonderful Nigel A. Jackson, made significantly less interesting by being unimaginatively inverted; and the less said about the accompanying title in an unnecessarily distressed typeface, coloured zombie-movie-green, the better.

Published by Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 978-1906958077

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Lilith: Goddess of Sitra Ahra

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Categories: anticosmic, devotional, mesopotamian, nightside

Serving as the inaugural publication from Black Tower Publishing, Lilith: Goddess of Sitra Ahra is, as one would expect, an anthology of material about Lilith. Its content is principally sourced from unknown authors, with only Edgar Kerval and Matthew Wightman generating any sparks of recognition. It is this roster that presents the most immediate problem with this volume. Yes, the nature of occult literature may mean that content is often provided by authors who are not professional writers, but to paraphrase Groundskeeper Willie: I love amateur occult writing, and your occult writing is the most amateur occult writing I ever saw.

This is not helped by the fact that many of the contributors come from South America and clearly do not have English as their first language. While there is something to be said for giving non-English speaking writers a place to have their works published, if the final product is going to be in English, and only in English, then I would expect the publisher to do a little tidying up to save face for their authors. As it stands, the reader spends half of the book wondering if they’re being spoken to by a Nigerian crown prince ready to transfer a lot of money from a dead relative, such is the jarring, disconcerting quality of the bad English. In one ritual, a sigil that is created as part of the process is said to be able to be ‘used in posterior work with the Goddess,’ leaving me genuinely unsure what they mean, and a little worried as a result.

Unfortunately, the untidiness is not limited to the worse-than-Google-Translate English and extends to all areas of this book. Proofing appears to be non-existent, with the spelling and punctuation errors starting off early in the Foreword and getting worse the further you go. The formatting is inept, with page margins set at an inconceivably tiny half a centimetre, the paragraphs are both separated by a space and indented (with an inadvisably huge indent of course), and the type for pathworkings is inexplicably bolded and centred. A lack of care means that notes to the editor marking where an illustration should go are left in text, while in at least one example, a whole paragraph is repeated immediately after its first appearance. Illustrations range from the mediocre to the risible, with the single exception coming from Kazim with their Shamshan Lilith, an image that has already been published in the second volume of the Qliphoth journal.

SmashanLilith by Kazim

The lack of rigour extends to many of the contributors, and it’s pretty early on that the reader will give up any hope of seeing many academic sources mentioned, let alone cited and referenced. To the various authors of this book, Lilith often seems to exist in a haze of vaguely understood history that intersects with half-remembered mythology and recycled, usually unattributed, teachings of other magickal orders. In one essay, Inanna receives two hits from a wildly flailing Hammer of Inaccuracy within just one sentence, first by being described as a goddess of the moon, and then being located in “ancient Babylon.” In another, it is claimed that you won’t find many mentions of “the Goddess” in the Old Testament and that the word ‘goddess’ doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, something easily disproved by the use of ‘asherah’ as both a specific and generic goddess name in the biblical record; as thoroughly and magnificently documented by Raphael Patai in his The Hebrew Goddess.

Given the number of contributions, their relative brevity, and the focus on one deity, there’s an inevitable duplication in some of the entries here. Both Salomelihecatel and Daemon Barzai address the idea of Lilith as a spider goddess, drawing extensively on material by the Temple of the Black Light, but not offering much more. Both pieces feature rather similar invokations that close, somewhat jarringly, with the familiar Dragon Rouge refrain Ho Drakon Ho Megas. Similarly, too many of the contributions descend into word salad, breathlessly listing Lilith’s attributes in a whirl of glamourously dark language, which, aided and abetted by the poor English and the poor editing, can make it quite an aggravating slog to get through.

There are a variety of contributions here with 25 written pieces in total, divided into the brief salads of words, slightly better longer pieces (still let down by a lack of rigour and poor formatting), poems, rituals and invokations. James L. George has a couple of invokatory poems scattered throughout the book, and these, by their very nature, prove to  be a highlight as they are better composed and show more attention to detail than many of their companions. In the way of rituals, Matthew Wightman’s Rite of the Seduction of the Virgin (also found in his book The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher) is the most elaborate, and well written, here, with many of others making one wonder whether the instructions were worth writing down. Elsewhere in these reviews I have lamented the tendency for ritual, when lazily formulated, to be basically “cast this sigil, says these words, hope stuff happens” and that’s unfortunately the case here, with several rituals being nothing more than that: an interchangeable sigil is focussed on, an interchangeable invokation is uttered (hopefully without giggling), and the presumably not interchangeable person sits in the dark feeling the dark energies flow through them, and/or just a bit foolish.

Ultimately, Lilith: Goddess of Sitra Ahra feels like a missed opportunity. With some extensive editing, of both contributors and contributions, the content could have been tightened up and the errors wouldn’t feel so glaring. The same is true of the formatting, with the entry level mistakes helping to draw attention to the failings in this volume. It would seem that the perfect devotional for Lilith, containing well-structured and well-written academic essays, alongside equally well-written poetry, well-executed artwork, and interesting rituals, remains to be published.

Lilith: Goddess of Sitra Ahra has been released in two editions. The first was limited to 200 copies and came as a hand-bound and hand-numbered volume with a dust jacket. The second, reviewed here, is a paperback edition capably printed by Amazon’s print-on-demand service.

Published by Black Tower Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-1511792356

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