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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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Shades in Mauve: A History of the Typhonian Tradition – Edward Gauntlett

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Categories: magick, typhonian

shades_in_mauve_coverMichael Staley of the Typhonian Order provides the introduction to this slim volume from the improbably-named Edward Gauntlett and describes it as a valuable contribution to the understanding of Kenneth Grant’s work. What this book is not, however, is a critique, or even a summary or survey, of Grant’s written work; something that would have been most welcome, given the somewhat hard to navigate nature, and the breadth, of his output. Instead, this is a consideration of Grants themes, with, more often than not, little in the way of direct references to his books. References are instead made to some of the same sources used by Grant, with Gerald Massey and E. A. Wallis Budge naturally figuring heavily in matters Egyptian. As such, this is a book that considers the Typhonian Tradition, and a few magickal tangents, almost independent of Grant, with little need to appeal to Uncle Kenneth’s authority.

Shades in Mauve is divided into four obliquely-named chapters: Vanishing Point, Found Objects, Bricolage, Negative Space, and a preamble, Anamorphosis. It is Vanishing Point that contains the largest consideration of the Typhonian Tradition, defining it as an ancient spirituality that is now emerging from the depths of the collective unconscious. Gauntlett briefly traces the Typhonian Tradition from the initial flowering of Stellar Gnosis in sub-Saharan Africa and then to its full application in dynastic Egypt. This material will offer nothing new for readers already familiar with Grant’s own writing (save for, perhaps, the occasional reference to the likes of Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock), but there’s a coherent quality to Gauntlett’s copy, in contrast to the glorious but often dizzying style of the master.

In Found Objects, the journey of the Typhonian Tradition moves ever onward into the classical world where elements of this primordial Stellar Gnosis were subsumed due to the emphasis given to the cults of Isis and Osiris (and subsequently, the solar worship of Ra). This is attributed to the undeniable influence of Plutarch and the image he created of Egyptian mythology and cosmology. Typhonian traces still remained, and Gauntlett finds these in the liturgy of Mithraism, as well as the strains of Hermetic and Gnostic thought and practice that were birthed in Egypt and ultimately resonated down the centuries into the formulae of the Golden Dawn.

The Typhonian Tradition is then traced into the Enlightenment in Bricolage, in what amounts to a general history of the occult, rather than anything undeniably and characteristically Typhonian. With fingers splayed in a rather large grasp, this touches some familiar characters, everything from the Rosicrucian manifestos, to Freemasonry and Eliphas Levi, before emerging into the modern era and, inevitably, Thelema, Crowley, Spare and Grant’s Nu-Isis Lodge. With the exception of Crowley and Nu-Isis, there’s little in this chapter that can be easily identified as Typhonian, unless Typhonian is redefined as a general search for occult knowledge. But, given Gauntlett’s engaging, slightly arch style of writing, this is forgiven as you amble along for the ride.

Finally, in Negative Space, Gauntlett’s attention is less concerned with the Typhonian Tradition and instead provides a broad critique of modern occultism and its recent antecedents. Up for wry discussion are some of the bug bearing or just intriguing tropes that will be familiar to frequent readers of these reviews: the stagnancy in magickal ritual with variations of the same old formulae trumping any attempts at innovation; the strange twilight world between myth and reality, made up things and creatively imagined things, within which modern occultism exists. The latter discussion provides much grist to Gauntlett’s mill, allowing him to thoroughly explore the idea of created reality and placing it in relation to fantastic literature of Lovecraft and Machen, and the surrealism of Dalí.

shadesofmauve-sigil

With its small size, Shades in Mauve makes for a satisfying quick read. It is by no means revelatory and it is, one assumes, not intended to be, as almost anyone interested enough to buy this would presumably have more than a passing familiarity with its subject. Shades in Mauve comes in a standard edition of 400, with another 40 comprising the deluxe edition, signed, slipcased and accompanied by a specially developed sigil. The hundred or so pages are bound in green cloth (not in mauve, as one might have hoped), with gold coloured end pages, gold gilt-stamping to front board and a colour frontispiece.

Published by Von Zos.

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Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet – Edgar Kerval

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Categories: nightside, typhonian

astmaioncoverSubtitled a Practical Grimoire of Qliphothic Sorcery, this book is a succinct journey through the qlipha by Edgar Kerval, aided and abetted by contributions from familiar faces like Asenath Mason, Hagen von Tulien, and Sean Woodward. Mason provides an extensive introduction to the concept of the Qliphoth, while von Tulien and Woodward lend their illustrative talents. S. Ben Qayin is also on hand to add his skills as the editor of the text.

Kerval writes that the journey he presents here is the culmination of four years of magickal work with the Qliphoth. As part of this experience, he encountered various phenomena that give their names to the title of this book. Ast Ma Ion was a vast region full of labyrinths that appear to act as zones of power and gateways through which access can be granted to qliphothic vibrations. Eos Tar Nixet, on the other hand, is the name of a toad-shaped seal, which, when broken, creates a connection between the practitioner’s subconscious and the hole of the Void, creating a secret pathway to the Qliphoth that is different to accessing them through the non-sphere of Daath. What that means in terms of the techniques presented in this book is unclear, as the procedures don’t seem to make many references to Ast Ma Ion and Eos Tar Nixet in their instructions for each qlipha.

The rest of the book is devoted to the qlipha themselves, with each one prefaced with paintings by Sean Woodward and a seal by Hagen von Tulien. Within the book itself, Woodward’s paintings are rendered in black and white, but they are repeated in full colour in an accompanying series of separate cards, making them a good option for those wishing to use his images as points of focus. Following an explanation of each qlipha and ritual instructions, each section then concludes with a sigil for the respective qlipha, this time created by Kerval himself in his trademark spindly and mirrored style that carries with it echoes of the vévés found in vodou.

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For anyone familiar with the Qliphoth, the descriptions of each qlipha won’t present anything too new or unfamiliar. Each has its characteristics described, a little exegesis on its nature and correspondences, before leading on to a practical exercise for working with that sphere. These exercises differ for each of the qlipha, without too much of a formulaic template of “cast this sigil, says these words, hope stuff happens, rinse and repeat nine more times.” Instead, for example, the exercise for A’rab Zaraq employs two black mirrors that create a nexus within which the spirit of the qlipha manifests; Golachab’s ritual incorporates autoerotic techniques, while the ritual for Ghagiel involves walking a spiral pattern.

The section for the final qlipha, Thaumiel, adds an additional layer of complexity, introducing the idea of seven vibrational shadows known as the masks of Thaumiel. Each of these masks is represented by a vévé-style sigil and a short poem summarising their attributes. As with elsewhere throughout this book, going through these poems feels a little like you’re reading song titles from Kerval’s ritual ambient project Emme Ya. There’s a profusion of words from his idiosyncratic lexicon, with much talk of primigenia, primal atavisms, and quintessences.

Despite coming in at 114 pages, Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet is a quick read due to the rather large point size of the body type and the healthy population of sigils and other full page illustrations. Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet has been bound by Kerval himself, an intimidating task to be sure, and it comes in faux leather, with cover sigil and spine text in silver, and black end papers. It holds together well, almost too well, as the tight binding and the conservative size of the gutters (with no allowance given for creep) means that the pages never open as fully as one would like; and holding a spread open long enough to read both pages can lead to finger fatigue.

Accompanying this release is a CD of music by Emme Ya called Qliphothic Emanations, a suite of six tracks intended to be an accompaniment to the nightside journey outlined in the book. These pieces are to the usual high standard of Emme Ya, with a track called Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet being particularly evocative; and with its lovely Andean pan pipes coming across as a remarkably fresh sound in the world of ritual ambient.

astmaion02

Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar has been released in two editions, the standard Sinister Flame edition of 100 copies, and the deluxe Primal Shadow edition of just 11 long-sold-out copies, which comes in a cloth and calfskin traycase.

Published by Ophiolatreia Press.

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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.

totblsigil

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.

twindragonssitraachra

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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Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic Magic – Thomas Karlsson

Categories: nightside, typhonian

karlssonOriginally released in Swedish and then in English as a hardback edition, Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic Magic has now been reissued as a rather sumptuous paperback with French flaps, featuring new colour art plates and extra material. As the title suggests, Thomas Karlsson’s book is divided into three sections, beginning by considering both the day and night sides of the tree of life, before addressing the slightly tangential subject of Goetic demons.

In his initial consideration of Qabalah, Karlsson plays it pretty straight, especially considering the left turn that the rest of the book takes. He writes clearly and with some authority, giving an outline of Qabalah that references primary texts as well as considering its role in considerably more recent Western Occultism. One of the problems with this section, and it is common to a lot of qabalistic literature, is that the whole point, purpose or practical application of the system is never addressed. Yes, Binah may mean this, and Geburah may mean that, and we could spend pages looking at the complex gematrical meanings behind this and that, but what do you do with it? Is it all a metaphor, or are there really giant balls of mercy and severity floating somewhere out there in space? Are we meant to think of the sephira as planes that the adept can travel too with their active imagination, and if that’s the case, then why does no one say this? It’s almost as if so much has been written about qabalah over the years that no one dares address the elephant in the room that is trumpeting “but what do you actually do with it?”

Karlsson then turns to the nightside of the tree and his discussion of the Qliphoth is probably the most definitive and cogent consideration in print. There’s little of Kenneth Grant-styled purple prose here with all of its wallowing in the grotesque, despite the dark subject matter. Although, in saying that, that word dark does seem to spring up a lot. Adepts aren’t just adepts, they’re dark adepts, shadows are dark shadows (the best kind of shadows, right kids?), both illumination and alchemical processes are dark, and quite quite quite surprisingly, the Abyss is dark; all this on one page… whoops, I mean, all this on one dark page.

The ten qliphoth are each presented with in-depth descriptions, running from Lilith (instead of Nehemoth) to Thaumiel. Karlsson follows this with the book’s practical content in the form of some qliphothic invocations, a consideration of magic squares and a visualisation of a journey through one of the tunnels of Set that join the qliphoth together. The four qliphothic invocations are directed towards the first four qliphoth (Lilith, Gamliel, Samael and A’arb Zaraq) and are prefaced by a fairly standard ceremonial ritual with cast circles, knives, wands and incense. The invocations address the spirits of each of these qliphoth: Naamah for the qliphoth of Lilith, and confusingly, Lilith (the entity) for the qliphoth of Gamaliel, with Andramelech kicking it old school style for Samael and Baal for A’arb Zaraq. The one tunnel visualisation presented here is for Thantifaxath (with a promise that visualisations for the other twenty-one tunnels are available to Dragon Rouge initiates), in which the participants is led into a mountain within which they encounter a naked female figure carrying two bloody crescents.

Karlsson gives sigils for the 22 spirits of the qliphothic tunnels of Set that are different from those originally printed by Crowley in Liber CCXXXI. And it’s probably a good thing too, given how dorky some of them were. Yes, I’m talking about you, Tzuflifu. Don’t look so surprised, Hemethterith! And is it just me, Thantifaxath, or do you look like a tortoise wired up to a couple of batteries? In contrast to Crowley’s idiosyncratic originals, Karlsson’s updated sigils have a pleasing and consistent aesthetic that is very much indicative of image-conscious modern magick, all lovely rings, crescents and tapered swirlies. The sigils for the qliphoth themselves are also rather nice and follow a similar style.

In his final section, Karlsson turns to goetic magic with an overview of ritual procedure for invocation before listing the sigils and characteristics of the 72 demons of the Goetia. There’s nothing particularly new here and by the time you get to Andromalus and his ability to return stolen property, the only thing you might want returned is all your time spent reading about his 71 predecessors.

All in all, this is a valuable addition to nightside literature, if only because of its thoroughness and its coherence that contrasts sharply with Kenneth Grant’s wonderful, but ultimately infuriating, incoherence. It is clearly written from the perspective of Karlsson’s Dragon Rouge order and as such gives an interesting insight into their system; and for that matter, into the themes of the metal band Therion, for whom Karlsson is lyricist. The book’s goetic section feels unnecessary, and the time and space spent on the 72 familiar faces of demonology could perhaps have gone into a similar but inherently more interesting summary of the tunnels of Set and their denizens.

Published by Ajna Bound: www.ajnabound.com
ISBN 978-0-9721820-6-5

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Nightshades: A Tourist Guide to the Nightside – Jan Fries

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Categories: magick, nightside, typhonian

nightshadesMy first encounter with Jan Fries was his Helrunar, which I first saw sitting tantalisingly in Wellington’s Pathfinder bookshop (now long departed home of all matters occult, but mainly self-help books and cassettes of whale song). The text in Helrunar was accompanied by black and white illustrations (including a lovely one of a piebald Hela and Níðhöggr) and it is similarly styled images that are the focus of this book.

Before getting to his pictorial guide to the Nightside, Fries gives a fifty or so page introduction to the themes therein. As ever, Fries takes a conversational style in his writing, not being one for occult obfuscation, and he positively bubbles with enthusiasm for his subject. Covering everything from the neurochemical components of love to the use of the Sephirothic tree and the nature of the Nightside in general, Fries comes across as a polymathical guru (or Joseph Campbell), sparking little realisations of truth as he leaps from one subject to the other. There is something a little mid-90s chaos magick in his approach, where magick is seen as being grounded in psychological and physiological experiences and frameworks, and your mileage may vary when it comes to your enjoyment of that method.

Wrapping up his introductory essay, Fries gives a biographical note explaining the origin of the images that follow, revolving around an intense series of encounters with his Holy Guardian Angel and journeys into the Nightside that began in 1982. Created between 1981 and 1983, the images were usually sketched directly upon exiting trance and then inked later, and Fries describes them as expression of “an experience and a state of intense emotionality.” Some of these images have been published before as a picture book, Visions of Medusa, others are part of an unnamed book of journeys to the Ancient Ones, while the third section, Nightshades proper, concludes the book with images of the 22 Qliphothic entities.

The images that Fries presents here are indicative of his style which is unique amongst occult art. While his closest comparison would be Austin Spare, it is only due to both artists having the same atavistic quality in their work, and Fries mines a more cosmic, ever so slightly science fiction oeuvre that feels indebted to the wide and vaguely organic vistas of Moebius. Never one for shading or thick lines, Fries renders the tone and mass of his figures as unfilled spaces, giving them an otherworldly quality of translucent bubbles. With 71 pictures in total, not all of them can be stunning, but those that are, truly are. In some ways, the most successful images are the Qliphothic Nightshades, which for the most part, have a consistent look and feel. For anyone familiar with these entities from direct experience or from the works of Kenneth Grant and others, there’s a definite moment of recognition that occurs when turning these pages.

In the introduction to this book, Mogg Morgan describes how, in 2008, he and other Oxford occultists worked with some of these images, making copies that they then coloured as an act of focus. Unfortunately, that feeling of photocopied transmission pervades the book, with some images looking a little worse for wear: greys, on those rare occasions they occur, losing any subtlety and becoming splotchy; and blacks that can be speckled and inconsistent. This is compounded by the choice of paper. Given Fries’ use of fine line, his art requires a weighty paper that can sympathetically ground his ethereal images, however, Mandrake have gone with a cheap, thin, and clinically white stock that has all the personality (and quality) of a ream of photocopy paper. It is actually physically unpleasant to touch (possibly from all the bleach used to whiten the paper) and leaves the images often looking scratchy and poorly reproduced. To its credit, the book is large format and hard bound, but even here, the cover image is blurry and pixelated in places, suggesting that it is a low resolution picture that has been recklessly enlarged for print. While it may not have been necessary to go to the extent of the straight-to-eBay section of occult publishing, a little more quality control and attention to materials would have made this an essential volume.

Published by Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 978-1-906958-45-9

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Tankhem: Seth & Egyptian Magick – Mogg Morgan

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Categories: magick, thelema, typhonian

tankhemMogg Morgan’s Tankhem is subtitled Seth & Egyptian Magick, and this, and the promotional blurb, gives the prospective reader the impression that they will be getting an exploration of Set, informed by the life of the Nineteenth dynasty pharaoh Seti I; and the use of Seti’s temple complex at Abydos as an astral temple in magick. Morgan begins with a prolegomena to Egyptian magick that sets forth the case for Set(h) as a much neglected but important figure in Egyptian mythology. This is followed by a Kenneth Grant-inspired consideration of the role of Set in Thelema, embracing the slightly darker side of Crowley that sees Aiwass as Set/Shaitan. After this, though, things begin to lose focus and each subsequent chapter seems to be a separate essay unrelated to the last, and sometimes with little connection to the titular subject of the book.

Chapter 3 is a consideration of the temple of Seti I at Abydos, which Morgan believes is crucial to an understanding of Set. This is an interesting premise, but instead of writing about it himself (or giving any evidence that he’s actually been there), Morgan ends up quoting extensively (by which I mean page after page) from the writings of Omn Sety. Known to her parents as Dorothy Louise Eady, Omn Sety was a London-born Egyptologist who also believed that in a past life she had been a priestess in Ancient Egypt called Bentreshyt. As interesting as Omn Sety and her two lives are, it seems odd to quote so extensively from her, especially when any good writer should know how to paraphrase.

While Omn Sety’s chapter (and let’s be fair, most of it is by her) is on topic, Chapter 4’s discussion of sex magick comes out of left field and, if I’m reading the endnotes correctly, is indeed a previously published article. Following that, Chapter 5 turns, quite unexpectedly, to an exploration of the life and magickal system of William Butler Yeats. This is a rather interesting chapter and one comes away feeling that Yeat’s contribution to occultism has been sadly underrepresented, but it certainly seems to have been written for something else, with very little relevance to Seth & Egyptian Magick. While chapter 6 moves back on topic with a consideration of Ursa Major in Egyptian stellar mythology, the way in which themes previously discussed are introduced anew makes you wonder if yet again, this is a previously written piece that has been slotted in.                

Morgan has an informal conversational style of writing which could be charming if he stayed focused. But the casual tone gets particularly infuriating in Chapter 2, Setinism, where he gives an overview of the various contemporary strands of Satanism, particularly La Vey’s approach. Sounding like a conversation on an internet forum or email list, this chapter is littered with “it seems to be,” “from what I’m told,” “it is said” and “apparently,” with the most egregious example coming when he says “as far as I can remember – the Satanic Bible works with lots of god forms from the medieval grimoire tradition.” Either it does or it doesn’t; sure, we may not be expecting APA referencing here, but was there really no time to dig out a copy and check?

The layout and design of Tankhem can only be described as appalling. The cover image is pixelated and adorned unsympathetically with de rigueur Egyptian-font-choice Papyrus in all its un-kerned glory. Inside, Papyrus is used extensively for subheadings and the running header (but with a faux bold applied so that the trademark organic distressing of the font disappears anyway), while the endnotes of each chapter are rendered in the same none-too-small serif font used for the body text. Faring even worse are the pages and pages of extracts from Omn Sety, which are jarringly presented in a huge 14 point san serif font which leads to a meagre 27 lines a page.

Like any guilt-tripping parent, I’m not angry, just disappointed. The prospect of a book considering Set, the temple at Abydos and Egyptian magick in general held so much promise. But it is let down by the lack of focus, cruelly enabled by the bad formatting.

Published by Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 1869928-865.

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