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Arbor de Magistro – Nikolai Saunders

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Categories: enochian, magick, thelema

Arbor de MagistroI first came across the work of Nikolai Saunders in Anathema Publishing’s Pillars journal in which he presented an invocation of Tiamat, penned, I found somewhat incongruously, in Enochian. That approach, and indeed that invocation, reoccurs in this book, where Enochian, aided and abetted by Latin, is the lingua rituale of choice.

As the subtitle The Grimoire of Aethyric Evocation indicates, Arbor de Magistro combines Goetic style invocations and evocations with Enochian cosmology, using the aethyrs and calls of the latter as the context within which the former are employed. Saunders argues that what this means is that a spirit from Goetia can be summoned whilst the practitioner is within an Enochian aethyr, and said spirit can then provide an alternate viewpoint to this realm. This combination of Solomonic and Enochian magick exemplifies occultism’s predilection for complexity, as Saunders says 91 Enochian governors and 30 aethyrs already provides about 2700 different combinations of spirits and aethyrs. With the addition of the 72 spirits from the Goetia to the 30 aethyrs, a grand total of around 5000 spirit-aethyr combinations emerge. Quite what you would do with so many ethereal beings in so many aethyrs I don’t know, but I bet they have a powerful union.

Saunders’ book is presented within a cosmology that doesn’t feel too distant from many of the nightside and anticosmic systems that are prominent at the moment. It is by no means qliphothic, but it does employ a mythos that recalls that of the Dragon Rouge in which the core principles of the universe are Chaos, identified with Tiamat and Babalon, within which resides the second principle, Therion, the Beast, who as Leviathan is seen as the Serpent Father of the Abyss. With the way in which Crowley monopolised the use of the term Therion, this can lead to a few disconcerting moments when you momentarily think evocations are referring to good old Uncle Al.

While there is a little theory at the beginning, much of the book consists of rituals which can be summarised as aethyric evocations, group initiations, and sex magick workings. Your mileage will vary as to how effective or evocative the rituals seem to be. There’s a lot of Enochian text, a fair bit of Latin and a few geometric sigils; these are presented as scans of the pencil-on-paper originals, rather than rendered anew digitally. The group initiation rituals feel rather reminiscent of masonic-styled Victorian occultism, all blindfolded supplicants being led into the temple and the great mysteries and secrets being revealed to them after an “initiation hard-won.”

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One of the strange quirks of Arbor de Magistro is the decision to present almost all ritual text in triplicate, creating a magickal Rosetta Stone in which the text first appears in the Enochian script, followed by a transliteration of the Enochian into Latin characters, and finally, an English translation. While I can understand this if the letters were required for transcribing, I can’t imagine many people, no matter how proficient they are in Enochian, are going to choose to read the words in their Enochian characters when the transliterated version is sitting right beneath it. This quirk does, inadvertently, make Arbor de Magistro quite the page turner, but that’s more to do with how quickly you can flick through when almost entire pages are taken up with monolithic blocks of Enochian characters.

Arbor de Magistro is designed to the usual high standards of Fall of Man and published as a regular edition of 300 copies with a special Magister edition of 60 copies. The regular edition is octavo size, bound in black Senzo, with the Tree of the Master in matte gold on the cover, finished with black end-papers and a hand-sewn spine. The rather flasher Magister Edition is bound in dark grey leather, and comes in a handmade hinged and locked oak box, hand crafted and marked with the sigil of one of six different spirits: Pacasna, Thotanf, Valgars, Lucifer, Beezlebuth and Ashtaroth.

Published by Fall of Man.

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The Book of Sitra Achra: A Grimoire of the Dragons of the Other Side – N.A-A 218

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Categories: anticosmic, nightside, typhonian

This beautifully presented book is the latest full length work from publisher Ixaxaar and from author N.A-A.218, magister of the Templum Falcis Cruentis. While N.A-A.218’s recent output in the two volumes of Liber Falxifer has focussed on the Qayinite mysticism of the Templum Falcis Cruentis, The Book of Sitra Achra feels very much like a return to the roots of the affiliated Temple of the Black Light and its previous incarnation as the Misanthropic Luciferian Order. Although I have not read Liber Azerate, the MLO’s earlier and much sought after work on these themes, this book does feel like an update to that grimoire. The eleven-headed dragon Azerate forms the backbone of much of this book and the narrative describes how that particular name was received and identified as the true name of the God of Sitra Achra (the Other Side) in what one assumes was the formative days of the order. The same workings also provided a sign, the Eleven-Angled Seal, which is used as a gateway to the Sitra Achra.

Azerate as the true name of God of the Other Side is said to be the embodiment of the Anti-Cosmic Impulse, with the eleven heads of eleven different spirits (whose names will be familiar from Old Testament accounts and goetia) combining into something amounting to a qliphothic Voltron. Thus, the initial focus of The Book of Sitra Achra is on the ten qliphoth, followed by a consideration of Azerate’s eleven heads: Satan, Molok, Beelzebub, Lucifuge Rofocale, Astaroth, Asmoday, Belfegor, Baaltzemoth, Adramalik, Lilith and Nahemah. Each head is given a full page explanation, and then a second page featuring a qliphothic formula and two sigils: the ring bound Throne Seal and the standalone Angle Key Seal.

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If there’s one word to describe the content of The Book of Sitra Achra it would be exhaustive. There’s an almost bureaucratic love of order and delegation, with various and extensive hierarchies of qliphothic entities and secondary demons, all painstakingly detailed and accompanied by their sigils. This is indicative of a fundamental principle in which the world of the Qliphoth is defined as the Realm of Multiplicity, in contrast to Sephirothic Realm of Static Singularity. And if you like multiplicity, have we got some multiplicity for you. The 60 Emissaries of Black Light, for example, are archdaemons who take their names from the letters that make up the names of each qliphoth. Thus, for example, the emissaries of Thaumiel are Thaninel, Akzarel, Uazarel, Mibdalahel, Ianahel, Abadel and Labbahel. Each of these archdaemons has a sigil and a page worth of attributes; although inhuman resources in this department of infernal affairs seem to have overstaffed, since most of them seem to have specialised in destroying the restrictions imposed by the Thoughtful Light. If that wasn’t enough, these 60 emissaries have harbingers created by the letters of their own names, and their names, in turn, create another tier of heralds.

It has to been mentioned that, unfortunately, the sigils for each of these emissaries follow a consistent design that, although beautifully rendered, places two plus signs at their apex, giving the impression of two eyes rendered drunk by cartoon shorthand. This means that given a preponderance of upturned arcs directly beneath the plus signs, almost all of the sigils become anthropomorphised into little figures with slightly beatific and blissed out faces. Given the destructive qualities of most of these beings, that’s probably not what they were going for, but as the saying goes, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

More hierarchies and correspondences follow the 60 Emissaries of Black Light. The 22 Silencing Letters of the Other Side explores the assigning of Hebrew letters to the paths between qliphoths, just as they are between the dayside sephiroths, with each letter-path associated with a daemon (each of which, naturally, have a beautifully crafted sigil; but no little faces this time). The 12 Princes of the Qliphothic Zodiac are yet another hierarchy of spirits, this time having dominion over fate, while the Seven Hells and Seven Earths are kingdoms within the Sitra Achra that hold the ten qliphoth; and naturally, each of them, both princes and hells, has a sigil.

I must admit that on a purely personal level, I prefer the Qayinite side of N.A-A.218’s oeuvre rather than this qliphothic exploration. There’s something tangible and visceral about the Qayin mythology, a real getting your hands dirty in the field of Akeldama type of feeling, whereas spheres of qlipha and hierarchies of spirits spiralling off into ever smaller eddies of complexity can create a sense of abstraction that ultimately leads to disengagement. With that said, though, there’s no denying that when N.A-A.218 does something, they do it well. While considerations of the nightside of the Tree of Life can often be nothing more than a regurgitation of previous writings (usually those of Kenneth Grant), there is a depth and a rigour to the system presented here and N.A-A.218 writes with a unique and distinctive voice. As such, it convinces. While you may not feel like, say, invoking Iatsathel, the fourth emissary of Gamaliel (to burn away all illusory restraints, naturally) each and every day (or ever), it’s hard not to be impressed with the breadth and internal consistency of the system. Adding to this impression is the quality of the writing which never feels like it’s the work of someone with, presumably, English as their second language. Similarly, this and other Ixaxaar works do not suffer from that perennial curse of small press occult publishing: insufficient proofing; with nary a misspelled word or confused homonym in the entire 310 pages.

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Unlike Liber Falxifer II, there are not a huge amount of practical exercises within The Book of Sitra Achra, with an unspoken assumption being that you will know what to do with the vast systems of daemons, sigils and their attendant correspondences that fill the book. Practical content is left to the end of the book where there’s a ritual for opening the aforementioned gates and a lengthy guide to working with the eleven-pointed hendecagram. The book concludes with a long guide to creating a Qliphothic temple, providing a thorough consideration of each of the ritual tools and including recipes for creating incenses for the gates of Hell and for the various qliphoth.

The design of the Book of Sitra Achra can only be described as stunning, and this is just the regular edition of 777 copies. It is bound in black serpent-scaled leather, embossed with gold sigils and text, while the 310 internal pages are a thick, textured stock that I’ve never seen used for an entire book before. As with all releases from Ixaxaar, the content of the Book of Sitra Achra is typeset beautifully: headings are presented in a classy Blackletter face and the body is a nice clear serif. Similarly, the book’s extensive collection of sigils has been rendered cleanly and consistently throughout. The book is ever so slightly smaller than your standard clothbound occult hardback and is instead closer to 6×9 inches, which, aided by the width of the spine and the feel of the black serpent-scaled leather, makes it lovely to hold. I can well imagine that in the hands of those who fully embrace the system contained within, the book would frequently find itself being similarly embraced. In addition to the now sold out regular edition, there were even more luxurious options: the Black Python Deluxe Limited edition (61 copies), the gilded and slipcased edition (110 copies), and the Serpent’s Sacrifice Talisman edition (11 copies). Good luck acquiring any of those without needing to refinance your home.

Published by Ixaxaar.

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The Grimoire of Tiamat – Asenath Mason

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Categories: chaos, mesopotamian, nightside, typhonian, underworld

Grimoire of Tiamat coverAsenath Mason’s Grimoire of Tiamat presents a complete system of magick based around the Mesopotamian primordial goddess Tiamat and the eleven monsters she created to aid her in her fight against the new order of gods lead by Marduk. While the wider focus of the book is, obviously, Tiamat, much of the practical part of this grimoire deals with these eleven demon-gods: Bašmu (Venomous Snake), Ušumgallu (Great Dragon), Mušmahhu (Exalted Serpent), Mušhuššu (Furious Snake), Lahamu (the Hairy One), Ugallu (the Big Weather-Beast), Uridimmu (Mad Lion), Girtablullû (Scorpion-Man), Umu Dabrutu (Violent Storms), Kulullû (Fish-Man) and Kusarikku (Bull-Man).

Mason is at pains to point out that what she is presenting here is not an authentic reconstruction of any Mesopotamian magickal tradition, acknowledging that there is no archaeological evidence of the direct worship of Tiamat and her creations; and the only ritual sources relating to them are exorcisms and banishing formulae. Instead, she defines the work as a book for occult practitioners of the present century and to this end, testifies that all the rituals within the book have been tested by magickal associates and verified as to their efficacy. Not exactly a double blind, peer-reviewed trial, but certainly more testimony than most books provide for their rituals which, for all intents and purposes, may have never moved off the page into actual practice.

The Grimoire of Tiamat is divided into three sections: first, a lengthy introduction of the theme and cosmology, followed by individual workings for each of the eleven demon-gods, and then a concluding appendix of thematically related workings focussing directly on Tiamat and Kingu. The first section, Primal Draconian Gods, is rather well written, especially for someone with, one assumes, English as a second language. Mason outlines the legend of Tiamat as contained in the Enuma Elish and while her approach is not purely academic, there’s a rigorous quality to her writing, with references cited as footnotes. Refreshingly, there’s very little, if any, of the kind of boy’s own anthropology that usually attaches itself to Mesopotamian mythology in modern occultism, where writers since Simon in his Necronomicon have treated Sumerian, Babylonian and Akkadian culture as interchangeable blank canvases onto which they can paint their own usually derivative Lovecraftian cosmology. Mason gives a survey of how Tiamat has been interpreted and viewed throughout Mesopotamia, and expands on this to include other motifs from the region in which a primordial dragon is killed. Tiamat is identified as the first mother, the creator of all life, as well as the embodiment of watery Chaos similar to the Hebrew concept of Tehom, the deep mentioned in the first lines of Genesis.

Sigil of Tiamat

The second section, The Children of Tiamat, presents ways of working with each of the eleven demon-gods, prefaced with an explanation of the techniques that follow and the use of the Key of Night, a master sigil that is employed throughout the workings as a way to access the nightside. Each entry for the eleven deities uses a standard format, with an introductory discussion followed by an evocation, an invocation, a brief guided meditation (sometimes two), and instructions on doing dreamwork with that entity. Each section begins with a sigil for the respective deity and concludes with what is referred to as their draconian sigil (usually a more elaborate, more illustrative and pictorial design). The discussions that introduce each entity combine information from primary Mesopotamian and academic sources with impressions gathered from magickal experiences. Because there can be rather slight information about some of the eleven in original sources, other than their rather descriptive names, some of these discussions can stretch the available information a little thin, or weigh more heavily on the received knowledge than on others. What is presented shows the eleven as not the most pleasant of creatures, all of them being spirits of transformation that often involve spitting venom and ripping out hearts. The eleven are presented as spirits capable of both transforming the initiate and being employed for malefica against a practitioner’s enemies. Perhaps it’s my lack of familiarity with Mesopotamian languages, but the eleven demon-gods with their sometimes similar names seem somewhat interchangeable and are not entirely memorable. Serpentine, draconian and generally bestial imagery abounds, and the vicious initiatory techniques they use seem to be shared across some of the eleven; with being bitten in the third eye by a venomous demon-god being the motif du jour.

Given Mason’s past involvement with the Dragon Rouge’s Polish Magan Lodge, it’s inevitable that this work has something of a Dragon Rouge vibe about it. It’s not just the draconian themes, but some of the general tone, philosophy and ritual structure; with, for example, the very un-Mesopotamian, but very Dragon Rouge, ritual refrain of Ho Drakon Ho Megas cropping up here and there. Also indicative of this lineage, Mason occasionally draws comparisons between the eleven demon-gods and the nightside of the qabbalistic tree of life, noting characteristics shared between a particular being and one of the qliphothic spheres. But this is only done in passing, as if the possibility of setting them out in precise correspondences would be too much of a stretch.

The final section of The Grimoire of Tiamat is an appendix that returns the focus to Tiamat. This takes the form of a guided meditation within the waters of Tiamat, a ritual for two participants invoking Tiamat and Kingu, a rite of malefica, and a discussion of the underworld in Mesopotamian belief, followed by a chthonic guided pathworking.

At just under 200 pages, the Grimoire of Tiamat provides a concise, internally coherent system for someone who finds themselves resonating with that cosmology; and is better equipped than I to tell their Mušmahhus from their Mušhuššus. It is limited to 500 hand numbered copies, with another 15 in a hand-numbered leather bound deluxe edition. Bound in red faux leather, with black end papers, it is smyth-sewn and has a red ribbon bookmark. The title is rendered in gilt on the spine and there is a gilt eleven-pointed star sigil on the cover; although it bugs me that the depth of the spine wasn’t taken into account when aligning the sigil, so it appears a little to the right and not fully centred (occult world problems, I know).

Published by Nephilim Press.

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Wholly: A Devotional for Hela – Dagian Madir

Categories: northern trad, rökkr

It’s full disclosure time once again: I created the cover art for this Hela devotional, and also contributed a few pieces of writing and some internal illustrations. So, proceed with due caution. With that out of the way, Wholly: A Devotional for Hela is, perhaps not surprisingly, a devotional for Hela, published by Asphodel Press and edited by Dagian Madir. It presents a combination of essays, poetry, prayers, rituals and artwork, compiling contributions from around the world.

Madir’s opening essay, The Day I Became Hel’s, sets the experiential tone for much of the content of Wholly. They describe how they first encountered Hela, in an experience that amounts to shamanic dismemberment, and then proceed to give a synopsis of Hela’s attributes, highlighting Her role as She who, in Her divided state, makes whole. Madir contributes several other essays throughout this volume, considering the role of death in the everyday, and of loving Hela as a form of devotional practice.

Other articles are provided by Fuensanta Plaza, who writes about euthanasia in The Good Death, and Gudrun Mimirsbrunnr, who rather wonderfully describes Hela as being found “in silence, in dust, in the workings of insects.”  Galina Krasskova, as someone who belongs to Odin, provides an interesting angle in describing her encounters with Hela, while Silence Maestas does likewise and writes of their sometimes turbulent relationship with Hela from the perspective of someone who primarily works with Loki. Raven Kaldera contributes two pieces, one a summary of Hela’s characteristics, and another, Mercy and Unmercy, a consideration of Hela in relation to the passage between life and death, particularly in cases of difficult transitions. The relationship between Hela and the dead is, naturally, an important one and other writers consider it too, with Lydia Helasdottir writing of ministering to the dying in a piece considering various ways of Working with Hela, while Silence Maestas discusses offerings of food to the dead.

Many of these articles are written from a personal perspective and come across as testimonials, almost as if they’re customer reviews on an auction website, describing the services Hela offers and whether they’d trade with Her again. Most say A++ seller, would trade again. Despite this rather pragmatic interpretation of this content, taken as whole, these articles do act as viable meditations on Hela. While these contributions contain little of the poetic or flowery language typical of devotional literature, a focused reading of them does prove to be an effective way of meditating on Hela’s nature.

The poetic language is largely reserved for the section of poetry that follows. This content is more obviously devotional in its intent, with some directly addressing Hela as invocations and others poetically exploring a narrative. Highlights include Talas Valravyn’s A Ritual For Hela, in which instructions for an impossible, unless metaphorical, ritual are rendered poetic, while one of the strongest pure invocations is Kaldera’s For Hela, In All Extremity. Here, Hela is called by successive verse in the names of darkness, decay, cold, silence, bones, loss, death and ultimately, regeneration.

Young Hela by Abby Helasdottir

While some of entries in the poetry section could be considered prayers, Wholly follows those with a separate section of prayers, all penned by Madir. These are probably the most intensely devotional of all the contents of this book, calling to mind Ramprasad Sen’s Shyama Sangeet hymns to Kali. These nine prayers have a rhapsodic, almost giddy and all-consuming quality, providing a profound address to Hela for everything from gratitude for daily bread to the need to let go of things.

The concluding section of Wholly provides a few rituals and meditations, with the slight contributor list consisting of Kaldera and Madir. There’s nothing wrong with that though, as it’s better to have a few solid rituals, rather than a lot of pointless fluff. Kaldera’s contribution is a reprint of his Hela ritual outline from the Pagan Book of Hours, while Madir gives a cemetery meditation and a corpse pose ritual. Both are good, solid guides that provide more than the usual unimaginative rigmarole from modern grimoires: cast this circle, visualise this sigil, hope stuff goes down.

One minor problem with Wholly is that it was a work long in the making and as a result, some of the material has a familiarity from being featured elsewhere. Kaldera’s Hela appeared in his Jotunbok, as did the pieces from Gudrun Mimirsbrunnr and Lydia Helasdottir, amongst others. I’m guilty of this too, as one of my contributions, the suite of planetary poems for Hela, has appeared previously in the Jotunbok and before that, on the Shadowlight website. In saying that, though, over half of the material is new and having both the old and new together in a single volume makes this an indispensable book for those with an interest in Hela specifically or the Rökkr in general. The range of contributors is wide and what is interesting is how, despite the geographical gulfs between them, there is a consistency in language and spirit, with Hela described and summarised in the same way despite so many different voices.

Published by Asphodel Press. ISBN 978-1-938197-00-0

Mortal Fear by Abby Helasdottir

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Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic & Modern Occulture – Egil Asprem

Categories: enochian, magick

arguing-with-angels-cover1 Egil Asprem is part of what seems like a veritable renaissance of matters esoteric from Scandinavian academia; one that is often sympathetic and enthusiastic about their subject matter and its practitioners. Alongside Kennet Granholm, Jesper Aagaard Petersen and Per Faxneld, Asprem is one of several often long-haired, occasionally-bearded Scandinavian academics who you can’t help feeling might have a few black metal albums in their collection and have gone in to academia to legitimately pursue their once youthful interests. As its subtitle indicates, Arguing with Angels is an exploration of the role of Enochian magic in modern and not so modern occulture. As a result, this is not a book that considers the original workings by Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley in any exhaustive detail, but rather looks at how those foundations have been interpreted, reinterpreted, tweaked and expanded by occultists down through the centuries.

Approaches to Enochian magic are defined by Asprem as either purist, perennial, or pragmatic, with purist being a form that sticks strictly to the material from Dee’s diary. The latter two categories could be further defined as eclectic, and it is this description that could be applied to most versions of Enochian magic, whether it’s the Golden Dawn’s presentation of elements of the system as an expression of perennial wisdom with nary a mention of Dee, Crowley’s apparently unique interpretation of the aethyrs as magickal realms, or Gerald and Betty Schueler’s cosmopolitan approach that throws pop physics, yoga, tarot and sex magick into the mix. Asprem shows how the Golden Dawn’s overarching philosophy of personal knowledge and growth downplayed some of the more medieval grimoire stylings of Dee’s original system, with its inclusion of traditional, but somewhat vulgar, techniques, such as finding treasure or transporting a magician to far off lands. This also had an influence on Crowley, for whom the Enochian system was purely employed for self-development, as well as much contemporary magick that has followed on from him.

How the various strands of occultism have dealt with Enochian magic is often indicative of their approach to magick in general, so what is presented here can act as a summary of Western Esotericism shot through an Enochian lens; or shew stone, if you will. Following the Golden Dawn and Crowley, Asprem argues that the next sea change in occultism was sparked by the Satanism of Anton La Vey. This is exemplified by his treatment of the Enochian calls in the Satanic Bible, where they are presented in a disenchanted, secularised way and employed not because they use the language of the angels, but because as a barbarous tongue they, according to La Vey, just work. This pragmatic, relativistic approach, in which something is used because it appeals, rather than because it belongs to any authentic tradition, was subsequently carried through into Chaos Magic and other recent eclectic forms of occultism. While the materialist La Vey may have used the Enochian Calls in the Satanic Bible simply to pad out the page count and meet a publishing deadline, former Church of Satan priest Michael Aquino returned to a more esoteric, though no less eclectic, approach. Enochian played a central role in the communications with the Egyptian god Set that provided the foundation for Aquino’s Temple of Set, with his Greater Black Magic working resuming the type of occult narrative employed by Crowley: received texts, magickal aeons, and magick as fundamentally a form of self-development.

The final chapter of Arguing with Angels, Enochiana Without Borders, is one of the most interesting, simply because it addresses something that is so recent and paradigm-shifting that it remains largely undocumented, namely the growth of Enochian studies online. Asprem details the heady first days of the internet where bulletin board and news-group occultists were some of the earliest of early adapters, before that method of communication gave way to email groups such as the Hollyfield-based Enochian-L and ultimately, the Yahoo! Group Enochian. Having been involved in email groups at their peak, although not Enochian ones, there is a familiarity with Asprem’s description of the method of communication they provided and the ability for disparate voices to come together from across the globe. The digital nature of these communities means that Asprem has a rich archive with which to analyse the state of modern Enochiana, in which figures such a Benjamin Rowe and others were able to write exhaustively and influentially about the subject without worrying about the publishing house gatekeepers of yesteryear.

Several theoretical approaches figure largely in Asprem’s work. The division between the purist and pragmatic expressions of Enochian magic allows for a thorough consideration of the problem of authenticity with occultism. This, in turn, informs discussion of both the disenchantment of magick and the often resulting replacement with a psychologised model. Similarly, the concluding chapter provides a discussion on how occultists see the nature of the angels they are arguing with, whether as literal entities, aspects of the mind, or something else.

Following a summary from Asprem, Arguing with Angels concludes with an appendix of Dor Os Zol Ma Thil (The 12 Black Hands and the falling seats), an Enochian text received by Norwegian occultist Runar Karlsen in 1991. This is a lengthy transmission with an awkward and stilted English translation that I was, at first, looking forward to reading. But now, my bookmark sits resolutely in the middle of it, abandoned due to the torturous nonsensical gibberish of the content. While I’m certainly open to seeing new Enochian material indicative of any living system, I would have hoped it made more sense than sentences like: Visit the holiness within the not-made olive of mine. The Fire enters the whole weeping creation. Visit the man of mine become that man, go forth and feel born. You heard the angel, umm, go forth and feel born; but don’t forget to visit the man of mine first.

As both a survey of Enochiana and occultism in general, this is a valuable, unique work. Asprem clearly has some empathy for, if not a direct connection with, his subject matter, but this does not prevent him from approaching it pragmatically; something that is important when considering a magickal system that involves chatting with angels.

Published by State University of New York Press. ISBN: 978-1-4384-4190-0

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The Ophidic Essence: Seeking a Return to the Origin – Ophis Christos

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Categories: anticosmic, nightside

The Ophidic EssenceIn this slim volume published by Fall of Man, Ophis Christos presents the philosophy of their Ordo Volucer Serpentis. Very much in the misanthropic vein of the Temple of the Black Light, the philosophy of the OVS is a version of Gnosticism in which the Gnostic hatred of matter, whether it be the incarnation of the spirit within a human body, or the creation of existence in general, is given full reign. The creator of this world is seen as a demiurge (paralleled across cultures in figures such as Ahura Mazda, Brahma, as well as the Judaeo-Christian god), who, in their misguided attempts at creation, acted as a force of limitation, imposing stagnant order upon limitless chaos.

The return to the origin of the book’s subtitle is, then, the idea of undoing creation to return to a primordial state of chaos. This can make for rather bleak reading, such as when Christos writes: “As we look at this world, we comprehend that it would be better if it had not existed, therefore our essence and our will in truth is of the uncreated light.” Indeed. Quite what you do with such a worldview on a practical level is hard to grasp. I mean, unless you’re getting a job at CERN and tinkering with the Large Hadron Collider during out-of-office hours, there’s probably no real chance of destroying all creation. It is intriguing how the life-denying beliefs of the Gnostics have found resonance with the misanthropy of this rather metal-spirited form of Satanism and I remain as baffled about what modern adherents do after arriving at this worldview as I do trying to work out what Gnostics of 2000 years ago would have done on a practical level having reached the same conclusions.

Instead of giving a guide to gainful employment with CERN, The Ophidic Essence provides a summary of various strands of their anticosmic philosophy, seeing traces of similar ideas not just in Gnosticism but in mythological and metaphysical systems from around the world. Shiva and Kali represent the Hindu version of these unravellers of cosmic order, and their equivalent forms in ancient Mesopotamian mythology and Zoroastrian cosmology are considered as well. Christos moves on to explore the mythology of the Etruscans, who he categorises as a likeminded culture focussed on death, who saw value in the transition beyond this life, and distained the addiction to the limitations of this physical world. As examples of this focus, Christos considers two Etruscan psychopomp figures, the goddess Vanth and the daemon Charun, and then also briefly looks at the enigmatic figure of Tuchulcha.

OVS Eye

Following this cross-cultural survey of anticosmic thought, The Ophidic Essence provides a practical element with magickal trope du jour, African diasporic religions, which in this case, is the Brazilian system of Quimbanda. Quimbanda is strongly defined within this text as a system separate from the related form Umbanda, with the latter cast as a scion of Christianity, whilst Quimbanda is seen as independent and drawing on energies from Sitra Ahra, the other side. As N.A.A.218 did in the first volume of Liber Falxifer, Christos presents a series of folk magick spells to give a sense of praxis associated with the Exus of Quimbanda, all very candles, tobacco smoke, votives and sigils.

The consideration of Quimbanda takes up half of this book and represents the largest focus on a single topic. In itself, it is divided into two sections, the aforementioned first half, and then a larger consideration of how this system and its exus and pombas can be related to Sitra Ahra. Here, various paths of Pomba Gira are likened to Lilith, while Lucifer finds his obvious place in Exu Maioral Lucifer. The odds of these rituals bringing about anticosmic dissolution seem fairly remote, but what is presented is a nice internally-consistent system of magick that is at least, thematically apposite to the attitudes conveyed throughout the book.

The Ophidic Essence is bound in black faux crushed leather card with 85 perfect bound pages and is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies. Although slight in size and length, it provides a good summary of the misanthropic philosophies of the OVS and similar orders. For those who resonate with such ideas, this will be recommended reading. Available from Fall of Man 

OVS Sigil

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Pillars: The Golden Eitr [Vol.1 – Issue.2 – Autumnal Equinox 2013]

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Categories: magick, nightside, qayin

pillars-coverThis, the second volume in Anathema Publishing’s Pillars series, comes presented in a gold embossed and spot varnished cover of matte black stock and runs to almost 150 perfect bound pages. Its contributions come from a host of names, both familiar and new, and cover a range of magickal endeavours; although it would be fair to say that most could be said to come from the dark end of the street.

The first significant contribution comes from Ash Nostro Morg, prelate of the Brotherhood of Midnight’s Garden, who provides several Qayin-themed poems, followed by a longer related essay on the symbolism of the scythe. The poetry uses a richly and suitably obscure language, but unfortunately, this continues into the essay. While writers like Andrew Chumbley and Daniel Schulke have successfully walked a fine line between archaic language and readability, Morg steps over that line. Sentences are torturous and convoluted, going beyond any need for antique flavouring, and because the reader has to concentrate on deciphering the text, when the odd spelling mistake trips out of the mélange of words as if suffering from the same grammatical delirium as the reader, they are jarringly obvious. In saying that, though, spelling mistakes are a problem throughout this volume. Although there is nothing egregious, there is a smattering of confused homonyms and both missing and redundant words that suggests that either the contributors or the editor should proof a little harder.

Qayin seems to be very much a deity of choice at the moment and in addition to Ash Nostro Morg’s contribution, Patrick J. Larabee focuses on him, presenting eleven invocations collectively titled The Luminous Masquerade of Qayin. These evocatively written prayers follow what becomes a familiar rhyming structure and each is concluded by a sigil that can be used as a gateway in a ritual given at the end of this contribution. Another of occultism’s current favourites, African diasporic religions, is covered by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, who looks, rather dryly, at Yoruba cosmology. Other themes covered in this volume are Santa Muerte, Choronzon (for whom an elaborate ritual is given by Andrieh Vitimus) and Tiamat (for whom Nikolai Saunders gives an Enochian invocation).

In addition to those mining the more familiar strains of occultism are contributions from people presenting their own magickal systems. In The 20 Demons of Fear, Lukasz Grochocki describes a hierarchy of spirits, each with a complex system of correspondences, sigils and a name rendered in Grochocki’s own magickal language. Drawing on elements of Native American praxis, these demons are believed to be the spirits of people who were ritualistically sacrificed and whose fear turned them into demons. Similarly, in Of Serpents and Flames, Matthew Venus outlines his own magickal system whose creation was inaugurated with the reception of a magickal alphabet of “familiarly alien glyphs” called the Azabashian script. Venus’s system has its own grand mythology and it is on this that the article primarily focuses, rather than providing a working grimoire to his twenty five spirits as Grochocki does for his system. Edgar Kerval explores a personal cosmology as well, presenting Zukut-Ma, one of the members of his red gods pantheon, through a series of automatic drawings and writings.

Pilllars cover symbol

There is an impressive collection of artwork in this issue of Pillars, both as accompaniments to written pieces and as standalone works. The balance between writing and illustrations is a perfect one and helps make Pillars feel a sumptuous reading experience. Highlights include the evocative, Limbo-esque Nine Spirits of the Haunted Wood by Valin Mattheis (which could have benefited from having more of the nine images formatted at full page size), Hagen von Tulien’s always refined black and white icons, and the double page Albrecht Dürer-styled Devil’s Arch by Antithesis.

In all, Pillars makes for an interesting survey of contemporary occultism of a particularly darker inclination. The highlights are the personal magickal systems of Lukasz Grochocki, Matthew Venus and Edgar Kerval, in which the dedication required to create an internally consistent and workable paradigm makes for both interesting and intriguing reading; as well as, somewhat inevitably, providing personal insight into the minds of their creators.

At the time of writing, there were only a handful of copies of this issue of Pillars available from Anathema Publishing, with work beginning on the third edition in what forms the trilogy of Pillars Volume 1.

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Gullveigarbók – Vexior, 218

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Categories: anticosmic, northern trad, rökkr

Gullveigarbok coverPublished by Spanish press Fall of Man, Gullveigarbók is a seemingly little-known consideration of the Rökkr witch goddess Angrboda with, as the title implies, a preference for her name of Gullveig. Given the subject matter, one would expect that the author has come across my writings or those of Raven Kaldera (and other writers published by Asphodel Press), but other than one small passing reference to Kaldera, there is no indication of this. Instead, and as the author’s own name suggests, Gullveig is considered from something of a Temple of the Black Light perspective, with the writing sharing a language and tone similar to publications from that organisation. As a result, there is much talk of anti-cosmic Chaos-powers, with Odin identified as a demiurge of false light analogous to figures from Gnosticism and mythology, who is opposed by the Thursian forces that seek to return creation to the primal state of the void of Ginnungagap. For Vexior, Gullveig and Loki are seen as analogues of Lilith and Lucifer, with Lilith’s exile to the Red Sea being mirrored by Gullveig taking up residence in the liminal Iron Wood and with both goddesses sharing attributes of sexual and procreative independence. The relationship between Gullveig and Loki, as two shape (and gender) shifting male and female halves of a single being, is compared to that of Lilith and Samael, who appear in the Zohar as androgynous twins emerging from an emanation beneath the Throne of Glory.

Taking the theme of Gullveig’s three-fold burning as a pivotal moment, Vexior divides her into three aspects: the queen of the Iron Wood as Gullveig proper, as the witchcraft-working Heidr, and as Aurboða, the mother of Gerda. As this latter identification highlights, this book is heavily indebted to the work of Victor Rydberg, and anyone familiar with his oft-times torturous (but frequently intriguing) thematic and linguistics leaps will recognise much here. Following Rydberg’s lead, Gullveig is identified with Hyrrokin, and with Hljóð, the giant-born maiden of Frigga who was sent with an apple to Rerir, the father of the hero Volsung.

Gullveig, Heid and Aurboda

In addition to his consideration of Gullveig in all her guises, Vexior briefly explores Loki as well as the couple’s children, Hela, Fenrir and Jormungandr. Indeed, Vexior sees the three-fold burning of Gullveig as a process that not only divided her into three aspects but sequentially gave birth to this trio.

Following the more theoretical segments that make up the majority of the book, Gullveigarbók concludes with two sections, Fjølkyngi and Ljóð, containing practical exercises for interacting with Gullveig and poetry. Fjølkyngi includes an invocation to Gullveig, a discussion on utiseta as ritual praxis, and a series of sigils (both bind runes and designs more akin to medieval grimoires). Ljóð features poetry and rungaldr, with the poetry effectively illustrating many of the themes of the book in evocative, if frequently bleak, language.

This grim language is something that occurs throughout Gullveigarbók and is a style shared with other anti-Cosmic writings. This is perhaps inevitable given both the Temple of the Black Light and Vexior’s association with metal music, and any chance to use words like black, icy, destruction, wrathful, bestial and of course, anti-cosmic, is gleefully embraced. While many of these properties are, of course, central to this theme, and it would be disingenuous to downplay them, the enthusiastically misanthropic language does come across as, how you say, very metal. In addition to this stylistic quirk, Vexior writes in the first person, frequently giving his personal interpretation rather than employing a distant academic voice, but he quotes primary sources throughout and employs footnotes extensively. The footnotes are styled rather attractively on the side of the page, rather than as actual feet, although in one case, this means that a rather extensive foot, erm, sidenote takes up more space than the main body text as it vertically splits the page in half.

One of the most striking elements of Gullveigarbók are the full page, full-bleed illustrations by Helgorth of Babalon Graphics. Because Helgorth is primarily a designer of covers and logos for metal bands, his work has a quality that is refreshingly different from the post-Spare/Chumbley icon/stele style of artwork so prevalent in occult publications; of which I myself am guilty. Instead, the detailed pen and ink illustrations have a depth and power that captures the essence of Angrboda and certainly acts as a visual underlining of the tone and language that Vexior employs throughout. Particularly impressive is the foldout depiction of Heldrasil that ends the book, in which the three-fold roots of the World Tree are stylised as heads of Níðhöggr, upon whom Gullveig rides in a silhouetted form.

Gullveigarbók comes hardbound in maroon cloth, printed on 242 pages of high quality heavy paper, with red spot colour titles and headings throughout. A deluxe edition of 62 copies was also available. Both editions are now sold out from the publisher Fall of Man.

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Liber Falxifer II: The Book of Anamlaqayin – N.A-A.218

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Categories: luciferian, qayin, sabbatic craft

liberfalxiferIIIn the first Liber Falxifer, author N.A-A.218 presented a unique view of Qayin, seen through the lens of the Argentinian cult of Señor De La Muerte, in which the saint of death was revealed as an esoteric guise of Qayin (Cain). This theme is less prominent in this second volume; and that’s probably a good thing as the correlation between the two seemed to be an interpretation unique to the author’s Temple of the Black Light and one that was not entirely persuasive. While Liber Falxifer was divided into two somewhat contrasting halves discussing the exoteric and esoteric interpretations of Señor De La Muerte (and, as a result, felt a little disjointed), its sequel has greater focus, and employs a three part structure that includes a lengthy prose text, a herbal that explores the spirits of 72 different plants, and a series of necrosophic spells, prayers and rituals.

The prose that begins the book is called Apocryphal Revelations of the Qayinite Genesis and provides a retelling of the Genesis narrative from a Qayinite perspective. It opens with a gnostic style discussion of metaphysical principles of creation, all “fullness of emptiness” divided manifestations and other Qabbalistic-style vagaries. At first, this comes across as a little grandiose and wilfully obtuse, but once the narrative moves from the cosmic perspective to a more, how you say, human one in the Garden of Eden, things become more engaging. The centre piece of this narrative, and indeed of the whole book, is the relationship between Qayin and his twin sister Qalmana, who are set in opposition to Abel and his twin Kelimat. Although not in the biblical record, this is an idea not without precedent, specifically in midrashic literature. The Genesis Rabbah, for example, refers to Cain being born with a female twin, and Abel with two twin sisters, while the Chronicles of Jerahmeel explicitly names Cain’s sister as Qalmana but calls Abel’s wife Deborah.

No claims are made as to whether these apocryphal revelations are meant to be an inspired modern transmission, or an ancient text handed down through the temple; or if they were made up on the spot from whole cloth just the other day. It is, however, an effective and engaging narrative. Whilst the Qabbalistic-style abstractions of the first part are a little bewildering and tedious, by the end, the retelling of Qayin and Qalmana’s story becomes a coherent mythology that rings true, on some level, as genuine gnosis. Qalmana herself is an intriguing god form and this is the first time that any consideration of her has been presented by the Temple of the Black Light. She has parts of Lilith, Babalon and Hela about her, being presented as a sickle-wielding decapitated-head-holding dark goddess, who in one appellation is rather gloriously called the Queen of the Rose Gardens of Nightside Venus.

The second and largest section of this book, The Branches of Sin, the Black in Green and Their Sorceries, is analogous to the work of Daniel Schulke as Verdelet for the Cultus Sabbati and explores the role of Qayin as patron of the green art. Qayin is identified as the First Tiller and the Thorned-Crowned Harvester, giving him dominion over herbalism and wortcunning, while Qalmana’s association with roses and gardens likewise makes her a natural matron of plant magick. 72 plants are discussed, each  with a page detailing their characteristics and usage, prefaced by their common and botanical names and a sigil for the daemon of the respective plant. Naturally, this can make for a lot of reading as you make your way from the Alder tree through to Wormwood. Each plant is very much framed within the mythology of Qayin and Qalmana, and they are seen as hosts for the Black Guised in Green, emanations from Sitra Ahra, the Other Side, that were drawn into this world at the crucial moment of the deaths of Abel and Kelimat. These Black in Green give their host plants a dual nature, one mundane and indicative of their creation at the hands of an unimaginative demiurge, and the other that makes them “shards of that holy crystallized Black Azoth from and/or aligned to that Other Side.”

Following this guide to the 72 Black in Green is a lengthy section of ritual and magickal applications for these and related spirits, presenting what amounts to a green grimoire. These include a procedure for bonding with a dryadic famulus, another for making a tincture of Qayin, and for making sorcerous inks empowered by the Black in Green. There are also a selection of prayers and techniques for working with talismans, effigies, and even a homunculus useful for deflecting magical attacks.

liberfalxiferII-sigil

The final section of the book, The Zenith and the Nadir of the Black Cross and the Secrets of Gulgaltha, deals with the spirits of the Mighty Dead, those beings who have passed over to the Other Side and attained immortality in their release from hylic rebirth. The first of these Mighty Dead are Qayin and Qalmana and their eleven direct descendants, whose names come from the biblical record and apocryphal sources. These are only briefly considered and it would seem that a richer understanding of these figures is a work in progress; although, this being the book it is, they all have sigils already assigned to them. Another of the Mighty Dead, and one of particular interest, is Abel, who is seen here as someone who, in passing over to the Other Side and into the world of the dead, has undergone post-mortem Stockholm syndrome and become aligned with Qayin. In death, Abel the Black is seen as the keeper of cemetery gates and, as an analogue of the canine folkloric figure of the Kyrkogrim (believed to protect church yards in Scandinavia), is sometimes said to appear as a three-headed dog, restrained with three leashes of thorns, gold and fire. Liber Falxifer II concludes with an egressus that discusses the dual and combined natures of Qayin and Qalmana; the Anamlaqayin of the title.

Throughout Liber Falxifer II, N.A-A.218 writes with the surety of tradition, presenting the workings and philosophy of his order with an authoritative tone that only occasionally makes recourse to other sources. Liber Falxifer II is beautifully presented with a full colour dust jacket over a gold embossed black cloth exterior (with cloth bookmark!). At over 470 pages, it is a weighty tome and is immaculately formatted and typeset with an occasional full page pencil and ink illustrations by Soror Sagax.218.

Published by Ixaxaar

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The Cauldron, No 149 August 2013

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Categories: folk, magick, paganism, sabbatic craft, witchcraft

The Cauldron Issue 149Reading the latest issue of Michael Howard’s magazine The Cauldron is a peculiar personal experience. The last time I read The Cauldron was 1996 and it seems that not a lot has changed. While fancy occult journals like Abraxas and Clavis have emerged in recent times with all their art papers and full colour pages, things have stayed humble at The Cauldron: simply reproduced and stapled, with exactly the same full-page, single-column formatting and font as it was almost twenty years ago. And that’s not such a bad thing. While the glitz and glamour of some occult journals is nice, there’s always the risk of all the polish masking the quality, or lack thereof, of the content. But in the case of The Cauldron, content is queen. There are no full page illustrations, no occult poetry, and no torturous attempts at esoteric obscuration.

Back in 1996, The Cauldron felt rather informed by Robert Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain. It was where I first encountered the writings of Evan John Jones, then magister of the Clan, and read about things like the Rose Beyond the Grave, which was very much analogous to my own practice at the time. In 2013, though, the underlying theme seems to be directed by another strain of traditional witchcraft, that of the Cultus Sabbati; although with a sample pool of one issue, that may be a hasty conclusion. Artwork by Daniel Schulke graces the cover and he also provides the lead article, Anatomies of Shadow, a consideration of atavism within magick in general and traditional witchcraft specifically.

There are, though, a wide range of contributors to The Cauldron, with a variety of topics discussed in several different styles. Highlights include Greg Hill’s consideration of Robin Hood as a devotee of the Virgin Mary in the earliest iterations of the legend (which he argues was a pagan precedent given a Christian gloss) while a wonderfully academic approach is taken by Bob Trubshaw in a piece whose subtitle predicts just how rigorous it is going to be: The Metaphysical Relocation of the Self in Ritual Narrative. In contrast, some ever so slightly entry level articles are provided by Heidi Martinsson and Frances Billinghurst who consider Loki and Rhiannon respectively. These are character studies and myth summaries which won’t provide anything new for people already familiar with those deities. Martinsson’s piece has a glaring error describing Skadi kidnapping and binding Loki, when all she did was place the serpent above his face once he was caught by the Aesir.

In Witchcraft in the West Country, William Wallworth contributes a summary of 19th and early 20th century witchcraft culled from local and national newspapers. This is an interesting collection that shows how witchcraft was viewed, one by the general populous, and two, by the judiciary. Most are court reports of prosecutions brought against people, not for acts of witchcraft, but for assaulting alleged witches (often featuring attempts to draw a witch’s blood, which appears to have been a popular cure against bewitchment). Suffice to say, the zealous witch-accuser did not find much sympathy within the rational court. This form of, how you say, witchcraft anthropology is also the approach of Georgi Mishev and Michael Howard, who both address different forms of apotropaic witchcraft. Mishev considers the underlying symbolism of a Balkan ritual for determining the source of a magickal attack, while Howard summarises a series of Berber procedures for warding against the Evil Eye and djinn.

A change of pace is provided by Voices from the West, an on-going series of interviews by Josephine McCarthy and Stuart Littlejohn with various practitioners of the Western magical tradition. In this issue, they talk with geomancer David Cypher, whose position as a non-publishing magickal practitioner is an interesting one.

In addition to full-length articles, The Cauldron has the occasional short pieces, sometimes credited to Howard and other times left uncredited, addressing various current topics, including in this issue a tribute to Patricia Monaghan. There are also several pages of single paragraph reviews of various magickal books, featuring the output of everyone from Scarlet Imprint to Llewellyn.

The Cauldron is available for a four issue subscription and comes thoroughly recommended. UK annual subscription: UK £15.00, Europe €30, USA US$50, Canada Can$50, Australia Aus$50, New Zealand: NZ$60.

www.the-cauldron.org.uk

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