Categotry Archives: satanism

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Plants of the Devil – Corinne Boyer

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Categories: folk, sabbatic craft, satanism, witchcraft

With Daniel Schulke’s recent Thirteen Pathways of Occult Herbalism and his forthcoming Arcana Viridia: the Green Mysteries, Three Hands Press seems to have something of a botanical focus of late, and Corinne Boyer adds to that with her Plants of the Devil. Having previously released Under the Witching Tree: A Folk Grimoire of Tree Lore and Practicum through Troy Books, it’s pretty clear where Boyer’s interests lie, and this makes a good fit with the current emphasis of Three Hands Press.

Rather than treading a familiar path through a witch’s garden with all its usual botanical suspects, Boyer’s focus is specifically on the garden of the devil, that is, plants that in folklore have an association with the devil, whether they be connected directly with witchcraft and maleficia, or not. This can sometimes be a minor connection, with one, perhaps little known, folk name having a diabolical variant, amongst many others. Inevitably, this can feel a little circumstantial, but Boyer sees a profundity in these names, assuring us that even if this connection seems trivial, it isn’t for students of the deeper mystery.

As a trade paperback of some 160 pages, Plants of the Devil is a relatively slim volume. It is divided into chapters that categorise the devil’s plants into broad areas of focus: painful or poisonous plants that bear his name, plants that were ill-omened or unlucky, plants that were used against him, and plants that were used to invoke him. Boyer writes effortlessly, with a capable tone that is free of too much in the way of convoluted occult writing; albeit occasionally a little too generous with the commas – rich, indeed, for me to say, yes.

Artwork by Marzena AblewskaThe content of Plants of the Devil is quite encyclopaedic in nature, in that the consideration of each plant provides something of an info dump, harvested from a variety of sources. These sources, all correctly and meticulously cited, are often encyclopaedias and guides in themselves, and what this means is that the gems of information they provide are often without much in the way of context; a context which may well have been lacking in their original entry too. It is a minor quibble, but what this means is that there is no way to tell the value of a particular belief about a plant, or a quality attributed to it. One poorly remembered and potentially misrecorded anecdote, or all out lie, from a singular source long dead, could be sitting alongside a genuine and widely held belief. There’s probably no way to remedy this unintended equivalency, and it is just something that one finds oneself noticing as one goes through the book.

Illustrations in Plants of the Devil are provided by Marzena Ablewska, whose work can be simply described as voluptuous. These, for the most part, take the form of full page, pen and ink illustrations that are densely populated with a surfeit of both plant, human and reptilian forms; all delightfully sensuous and corporeal in their intertwining tableaus. Her work, so redolent of Hans Baldung, makes for a power evocation of the spirit of witchcraft and the transgressive feminine; and a fitting compliment to Boyer’s words.

Artwork by Marzena Ablewska

Due to its unique focus, Plants of the Devil, makes for a satisfying meditation on diabolus est hortus, with both the relative brevity of the work, and Ablewska’s illustrations, helping to tighten the lens still further. It is beautifully presented, with a competent layout style that has a hint of the archaic about it without telegraphing it too much or being overbearing.

Plants of the Devil is available in a variety of formats, the most humble of which is a trade paperback version with colour cover, as humbly reviewed here, and available from sellers such as Amazon. More exciting are the limited standard hardcover with colour dust jacket of 1000 copies, a deluxe edition in quarter red pigskin and slipcase, limited to 41 hand-numbered copies, and a super special edition in full red pigskin and slipcase, limited to 17 hand-numbered copies.

Published by Three Hands Press

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Diabolic Gnosticism – Frater Kafyrfos

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Categories: anticosmic, satanism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by Fall of Man

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The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity – Edited by Per Faxneld and Jesper Aa. Petersen

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Categories: luciferian, sabbatic craft, satanism, witchcraft

Satanism in ModernityThis collection of writing about modern Satanism features some of the familiar names from Scandinavian esoteric academia (Kennet Granholm and editors Faxneld and Petersen), along with other contributors: Asbjørn Dyrendal, Eugene V. Gallagher, Fredrik Gregorius, Mikael Häll, Amina Lap, James R. Lewis, Ruben van Luijk, Jacob Senholt and Rafal Smoczynski. The brief sits rather comfortably with the nature of Faxneld and Granholm’s other writing, casting an academic gaze on a subject one assumes they have quite the personal interest in.

This is a four-part party of devils, divided broadly into segments that are pre-LaVey, LaVey, post-LaVey and, I guess, post-post-LaVey. That isn’t to say that entirely everything revolves around the bad doctor, just that in a discussion of modern Satanism, it’s impossible not to frame it without reference to his rather high profile ventures. It is, though, the areas with little or no connection to Anton LaVey that provide the most interest, particularly the three entries that make up the first section of precursors and currents. In these, three distinctive examples of early modern diabolism are considered: Mikael Häll explores ideas around Satanism and devilish sympathies in early modern Sweden, particularly at the verdant intersection between Christianity, folk belief and witchcraft. He highlights confessions in which a rather idiosyncratic belief system had developed in which God was believed to be caught in Hell, making the Devil a better object of devotion. Ruben van Luijk’s attention focuses all too briefly on the retroactively named Romantic Satanists of the nineteenth century, those writers and artists who, taking their cue from Milton, identified Satan as a sympathetic adversarial anti-hero who epitomised the character of the modern age: sex, science and liberty. Also in a literary vein is Per Faxneld’s thorough assessment of Stanislaw Przybyszewski, the Polish Symbolist writer who, Faxneld argues, can be considered the first person to ever formulate a coherent system of Satanic thought.

In the second section of The Devil’s Party, the attention turns to Anton LaVey and several authors take a microscopic approach to the so-called Black Pope, casting a magnifying glass over various sections on his writing and philosophy. Amina Lap’s Categorizing Modern Satanism places LaVey’s brand of Satanism within the milieu of the emerging New Age and positions it as an example of the self-spirituality so in vogue at the time and comparable to the Human Potential Movement. With LaVey’s more misanthropic tendencies predicating Ayn Rand and Ragnar Redbeard over Abraham Maslow, it’s hard not to think of LaVeyan Satanism with all its self-serving human potential given flight as The Secret, With Horns. In Sources, Sects, and Scripture, Eugene Gallagher analyses The Book of Satan from LaVey’s Satanic Bible, in particular the elements one could charitably say were ‘borrowed’ from Ragnar Redbeard’s social Darwinist rant Might is Right. Gallagher diverges in opinion from people such as Michael Aquino and Chris Matthews who have seen LaVey’s borrowing as mere plagiarism, and instead tries to present it as an act of savvy editing, casting LaVey as more remixing trickster than content-starved huckster. Suffice to say, this assessment doesn’t convince and the meticulously documented changes that LaVey made do not come across as the significant acts of redaction criticism the author would have us believe they are. Asbjørn Dyrendal’s concludes this purgatory in the mind of LaVey with Hidden Persuaders and Invisible Wars, a consideration of the strange intersections LaVey had with conspiracy thinking: on the one hand mocking the mindset that abandoned control to the machinations of an imagined Kennedy-killing invisible hand, but at the same time, railing against forces of conformity whether they be church, state or television commercials.

The book’s third section, The Legacy of Dr. LaVey: The Satanic Mileu Today, brings together three disparate pieces, connected only through their rather dry survey/data analysis approach. James R. Lewis turns to statistics from his own Satanism Surveys to look at how Satanists identify themselves in terms of conversion narratives, assessing the ‘coming home’ claim common to both Satanism and Paganism in which practitioners are born, not made. Jesper Petersen takes a different anthropological approach, considering the spirit of transgression (and in turn, sanitisation) in modern Satanism, while Rafal Smoxzynski summarises the discursive strategies of Polish rationalist Satanists associated with the satan.pl website.

Finally, in the fourth section, matters move out of the gravitationally heavy orbit of LaVey with a consideration of Satanism in a post-LaVeyan world. Kennet Granholm initiates this with a discussion of the problematic and limited nature of the term ‘Satanism,’ especially when it comes to dealing with paths that aren’t nominally Satanic, but share a similar ethos or even occupy the same subcultural space. Granholm uses the Temple of Set as a perfect example of this quandary, being similar to the Church of Satan in so many ways, and often referred to as a Satanic organisation, even though their very name is used to differentiate themselves from Aquino’s previous affiliation. This is not a new area of thought for Granholm who expressed his dissatisfaction with the analytical usefulness of the term ‘Satanism’ as early as 2001, and in its place he proffers Left-Hand Path as a more appropriate category; one that is able to embrace various darkly-orientated paths rather than just those who have Satan at their thematic core. While Granholm’s semantic concerns are certainly interesting, his piece is more enjoyable for the condensed history and summary of the Temple of Set. It is by no means exhaustive, but as a potted history of the temple, it is quite delightful. The same can also be said for some of the other essays in this final section, all of which focus on groups or traditions at the periphery of the Church of Satan. Fredrik Gregorius’ Luciferian Witchcraft summarises this particular brand of witchcraft, prefacing it with Charles Leland’s Aradia material before moving on to brief considerations of the usual suspects: Paul Huson, Robert Cochrane and the Clan of Tubal-Cain (including its various descendants in the United Kingdom and the United States), Andrew Chumbley and the Sabbatic Craft, Michael Howard, and less usual, Michael Ford (but not the comparable Robin Artisson). For anyone familiar with the subject of Traditional Witchcraft, there won’t be anything new here, but as a brief primer, it’s fine. Jacob Senholt concludes this section, and the whole book, with Secret Identities in the Sinister Tradition, an overview of the Order of Nine Angles with a particular focus on the identification of the order’s leader Anton Long as David Myatt. Senholt suggests that Myatt’s forays into various fringe areas of politics and activism, in particular his conversion to Islam for several years, are examples of what the ONA call insight roles, with everything he has done being part of an ongoing Satanic imperative (rather than simply vacillations between various extreme causes).

In total, The Devil’s Party succeeds with its variety of voices casting a fairly broad thematic net. Although to continue this slightly mixed metaphor, there are areas where the netting does become tangled and the considerations of LaVey’s thoughts can be a slog to get through; not because of the quality of the writing but because of the way his dated, rationalist approach took all the fun out of Satanism. There are gaps that one would have liked to have seen filled in a look at Satanism in modernity. For example, it would have been interesting to have seen a consideration of Satanism and black metal (particularly because of the way the often theistic Satanism of black metal was positioned in opposition to LaVeyan Satanism). Similarly, a survey of LaVeyan Satanism since the death of LaVey would have been interesting, with total references to Peter Gilmour being, to put it mildly, slight. The quality of writing is high, formatting is clean, clear and functional.

Published by Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0-19-977924-6

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