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Time, Fate and Spider Magic – Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

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Categories: chaos, magick, nightside, witchcraft

Palindromically subtitled A Brief HIRStory of TimEmiT fo yrotSRTH feirB A, this book from Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule is a 2014 expanded and revised edition of a work originally released in 2006 through hir own iNSPiRALink imprint.

Time, Fate and Spider Magic contains many traits that will be familiar to people who have encountered Orryelle’s work before: a mythologically eclectic frame of reference, word play that wouldn’t hold up in etymological court but is fine for the firing of magickal connexions, and idiosyncratic spellINK and 4Maating; see what I did there? …I’m particularly proud of the second one. The closest analogy would be Kenneth Grant, with Orryelle’s use of far flung comparisons and mythological broadness recalling that of Uncle Ken, but with a lot less wallowing in the sewage of the qliphothic realms; such fun.

Like Orryelle’s own practise, Time, Fate and Spider Magic is indeed eclectic and just a little bit manic. It jumps polymathically from one subject to another, from this mythologeme to that. This is not a failing by any means, as it would perhaps be in the hands of a lesser writer and practitioner, and instead perfectly encapsulates Orryelle’s approach to magick.

The book is one half travelogue, one half exegesis, and just to be difficult, one half grimoire. It begins in the exegetical mode with Gate One, outlying a discussion of fate and time at the heart of which is the story of Oedipus. This reads less like a magickal treatise and more a philosophical reflection on fate and questions about its immutability. Over its significant length, 95 pages in all, it branches from the Oedipal basis into a broader discussion of fate and time, encompassing Greek and Egyptian mythology, Mayan time keeping, and ultimately, Thelema. This is interspersed occasionally with images of apropos atu from Orryelle’s Book of KAOS tarot, accompanied by their original explanatory text.

The second gate of Time, Fate and Spider Magic takes an arguably more magickal approach with what is largely an exploration of the concept of an arachnid goddess of fate, one part Greek Moirae and Hekate, one part Kali, and a little bit the Egyptian scorpion goddess Serket. Orryelle envisions this composite goddess as a grand creature of space and time, bridging dimensions and being associated with the twenty ninth qliphothic tunnel of Qulielfi, the Nightside reflex of the dayside path of the Moon connecting Netzach and Malkuth. This is borne out by a received text, The Book of the Spider, not to be confused, Orryelle is at pains to point out, with a similarly named tome mentioned by Grant otherwise known as Liber Okbish or Liber 29. Orryelle’s Book of the Spider has the spider goddess describe herself as dwelling in the spaces in-between, in the tunnels behind, in a lair that is the very tome she speaks from, “spiralling Qulielfi copper mindfire.”

Orryelle shows how these themes of the spider goddess and fate and time travel were given physical application through hir use of ritual theatre. Most notable of these are the labyrinthine structures created at festivals in the latter half of the nineties by hir Metamorphic Ritual Theatre Company; the imagery of which will be familiar to anyone that has followed Orryelle’s work over the last three decades. These were large, immersive structures in which visitors mingled with performers in an intersection of performance and praxis.

While gates one and two of Time, Fate and Spider Magic provide hints of ways in which the themes of the book could be ritually applied, this is made explicit in the third gate, with Orryelle providing several techniques. The first of these uses a web structure to effectively time travel between incarnations, both past and future; a concept based around the idea of the Guardian Angel being one’s future self. Orryelle also briefly touches on a system of pathworkings called the 8 Gates (consisting of mineral, plant, fungal, animal, human, inbetween, the black void and the white light), as well as techniques for using tarot for conjuration, rather than just divination. These procedures aren’t necessarily presented in a ritual and recipes format, and Orryelle weaves instruction together with anecdote and elaboration, describing situations in hir own experience where they were used.

The third gate is the briefest section of Time, Fate and Spider Magic and the remaining 90 pages are devoted to appendices of supporting information, diaries and texts. There’s a valuable exposition on mantra and mudra used in the preceding sections; a reproduction of the multi-page, densely-illustrated programme for a Metamorphic Ritual Theatre Company performance of Arachne Ascendant; and a full transcript of Orryelle’s Liber Qoph vel Hekate, a daily Lunar prayer that compliments Crowley’s solar Liber Resh vel Helios. The largest of these appendices is a documentation, photographs and all, of the 2003 incarnation of the Global Chakra Workings led around the world by Orryelle’s HermAphroditic ChAOrder of the Silver Dusk since 1999. If this account makes one aware of anything it’s the passage of time, as my recall of reading about these events soon after they happened seems so recent, not over a decade old.

As with most Avalonia titles, Time, Fate and Spider Magic has been manufactured by print-on-demand service Lightning Source, although unlike many of Avalonia’s books, this one comes in both a paperback and a limited hardback version. The hardback edition is bound in blue cloth with a full colour dustjacket, and the internal pages are printed on a not entirely sympathetic stock that is fairly light and brittle. Orryelle’s formatting and writing quirks, with words double-spaced for numinous effect, idiosyncratic spelling and use of more fonts than is usual, can make it hard to tell when something has been edited with intent, or whether it’s a genuine error, in the case, for example, a line in a paragraph being indented halfway through it.  

In all, Time, Fate and Spider Magic is an enjoyable, significant work. There has always been an enthusiasm and honesty to Orryelle’s writing and perspective, devoid of any occult obfuscation, and this is true here, particularly in the way so much is presented in biographical form. The extent of this winning way may be determined by how easily one forgives the lack of rigorous referencing, and the occasional unverifiable statement is allowed to float by with nary a neuronic niggle.

Perhaps ironically, Time, Fate and Spider Magic does seem to be a victim of its very theme, enduring the ravages and vicissitudes of time. Inevitably, any printed work begins to date as soon as pen is put to paper, or pixel to screen, and with the sense of superiority that comes in living in times future relative to when this was originally written, it’s hard not to look down on the naïve optimism of ye olde 2006; something that any 2014 revisions have not assuaged. As the anti-Grant, Orryelle is the kind of optimist who sees good times a’coming, and human advancement on the horizon, with grand shifts in consciousness and magickal magickness. Here, in the miserable dystopian world of 2018, it’s hard not to feel that optimism may have been misplaced.

Included in the hardback version is a DVD that includes the Loom of Lila ritual dance theatre, the Chaos Clock film, the 8 Gates pathworking and an audio adaption of The Book of the Spider. How much these elements are viewed compared to how often the book is read remains to be seen, being largely rough and ready piece, typical of both the time, the technology and Orryelle’s aesthetics.

Published by Avalonia.

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Naga Magick: The Wisdom of the Serpent Lords – Denny Sargent

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Categories: magick, tantra

Naga Magick: The Wisdom of the Serpent Lords by Denny Sargent gets points right out of the gate for being a first as far as the theme goes. Rather than dealing with roads more travelled and their familiar pantheons, Sargent has focused on the nagas, the serpentine race of beings found in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. For contrarians and eternal rebels such as this reviewer, there’s a certain charm to this, highlighting, as it does, the cool and unknown, the adversarial and misunderstood, the allure of the darkly glamorous.

The naga are largely defined by Sargent in this manner. They are beings who seem to predate the more familiar pantheons of the Indian subcontinent, sitting in a twilight world between asuras and suras, comparable to the fey folk of Western Europe or the Orishas of Santeria. As serpent beings, the naga have associations with water and the underworld, with wisdom, healing and fertility, making them a perfect fit for those with ophidian predilections.

Naga Magick is divided into two sections: theory and praxis. In the first, and briefer, of the two Sargent gives an overview of what little is known about the naga. In a manner he himself describes as rambling, Sargent presents the naga as figures who are more familiar from folk tradition and legend, rather than grand myth. They are not necessarily the dark serpentine creatures one might expect to find within some of the more kvlt and grim areas of the occult milieu, having more of those folk characteristics that means they are to be warily respected and petitioned like the fickle fey folk of Europe.

Sargent uses the nagas to create a model of a magickal universe in which there are four Naga Dikpala, guardians of the four directions (Utarmansa Naga, Bindusara Naga, Madaka Naga, Elapatra Naga, Mahanaga), along with eight further naga lords (Anata Naga, Takshaka Naga, Vasuki Naga, Padmaka Naga, Kulika Naga, Karkotaka Naga, Sankapala Naga and Mahapadma Naga). In addition, this system’s grounding in tantra enables naga cosmology to be integrated with the concept of the Red Goddess, Shri Kundalini, and she provides the centre, the point where the eight lords converge in the naga’s underworld realm of Bhogavati. This is the union of Naga and Nagi, of Shakti and Shiva, and her veiled appearances ensures that the Red Goddess, Lalita, Tvarita Devi, Tripurasundhari, has a pivotal role in the system presented by Sargent.

When it comes to matters magickal, the central approach of the book is not a true reconstructionist one, as there doesn’t seem much to reconstruct. Sargent candidly acknowledges that there is not much that can be gleamed from historical sources in the way of naga traditions and rituals. Instead, his technique is to incorporate what little information there is into a framework that draws on established, often folk-based, traditions, with a modern Hermetic-Tantric flourish that is grounded in his experience with the Nath system of Shri Gurudev Mahendranath. Consequently, although this is by no means a Nath book, it feels as if that system inevitably informs much of what is presented here, with specific terminology, such as the euphonious ‘zonule,’ dropping in, sometimes a little incongruously here and there.

Due to this use of familiar techniques, there is a certain, well, familiarity to the magickal methods presented here. From a recognisably western perspective, the four guardian nagas each have images and seals associated with them, as well as corresponding invocations to be used in concert. A more easterly approach is found with the use of mudra, pranayama, yoga and other tools of the Naga Sadhana. All techniques converge to varying degrees in the assortment of workings and spells, culminating in a grand Naga puja. This major ritual is intended for use during the great naga festival, or for any other significant work, and is based on a Nepalese rite recorded in Jean Philippe Vogel’s 1926 Indian Serpent-lore Or The N?gas in Hindu Legend and Art (something of a fortuitous source for Sergent).  This is a length rite, taking 35 pages to effectively close the book in a procedure that invokes all twelve naga, Dikpala and lords, and ultimately Shri Kundalini, with some beautifully written liturgy.

On the whole, what Sargent has presented here is a convincing, self-contained magickal system. It has a cosmology that, while not as fully fleshed out as something with a grand mythology available to it, makes the most of what information is available, and interprets it into a logical magickal paradigm. Sargent writes in something of a conversational tone, often pre-empting imagined questions from the reader, and speaking in a personal, informal manner. This helps assuage any quibbles one might have about the less than thorough or historically rigorous information in the book, with the evident caveats provided by his methods and motivations laid bare.

While Sargent, one assumes, knows his stuff when it comes to matters naga and Hindu, there’s at least one moment where the information about other cultures is a little off. He refers to the World Serpent of Germanic mythology as Surtr, which, if one was to be charitable, could be a little known, but rather appealing, esoteric interpretation, but is more likely to be just a flub. This isn’t necessarily an errant naming not picked up in proofing, as the reference is made twice. As is always the unfortunate case in situations like these, it can somewhat undermine one’s overall confidence in the book.

Published by The Original Falcon Press

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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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Black Mirror 0: territory

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Categories: art, magick

black_mirror_0This new series is the product, in collaboration with Fulgur, of Black Mirror, a new research network based at the Arts University Bournemouth, which explores the influence and role of enchantment, the occult, magic and esotericism in modernist and contemporary arts in an international context. Its contributions are peer-reviewed by an editorial board comprised of Judith Noble and Dominic Shepherd of Arts University Bournemouth, Daniel Zamani of Trinity College, Cambridge, Amy Hale of Golden Gate University, Robert Ansell of Fulgur Esoterica, Gavin Parkinson of the Courtauld Institute, Jesse Bransford of the State University of New York and Ulli Seegers of Heinrich Heine University of Dusseldorf.

In their introduction, Judith Noble, Dominic Shepherd and Robert Ansell set out the intent of this new venture, touching in particular on the intersection of Surrealism and the occult and using this as a methodological blueprint for the now. As its subtitle suggests, this first volume of Black Mirror is concerned, fittingly, with the mapping of contested territories in art and occultism, places occupied not just by artists and occultists, but by academics too.

Jesse Bransford’s Lifting the Veil: Esoteric Interpretations of Seven Contemporary Artists does as the title says and gives two pages, one for text, the other for an image, to seven contemporary artists: Alex Jovanovich, Karsten Krejcarek, Rebecca Forgac, Afruz Amighi, Juliet Jacobson, Matt Greene, and the duo of Ryan Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz. Like many of the artists featured in Black Mirror, these seven do not always have explicit or obvious connections with esoterica, no sigils, steles or Spare-style phantasms here, but Bransford does an expert job of teasing out the various metaphysical themes encoded in their work.

From Mondrian to Charmion von Wiegand: Neoplasticism, Theosophy and Buddhism by Massimo Introvigne is a more traditional artist study, dealing first with Mondrian whose esoteric affiliations should be familiar to most occultists, before turning to his friend and fellow Theosophist, Charmion von Viegand. This is an enjoyable but all too brief account of both artists, with the colour images, particularly those by Mondrian, highlighting the profoundly magickal effect that apparently simply blocks of colour can have.

Piet Mondrian - Evolution, 1911

Quite possibly the highlight of this edition is The Fool and the Mirror: Concerning the Relations between Art, Magic and the Academy, in which Julian Vayne addresses the idiosyncratic numbering of this first volume by considering the Fool, designated 0 in the tarot. In many ways, this is a sequel to Judith Noble, Dominic Shepherd and Robert Ansell’s earlier introduction to Black Mirror as it reiterates the philosophy of the publication and the metaphysics that underlie its symbolism. Vayne uses the symbolism of the Fool to broadly approach a number of issues, the most interesting of which is the peculiar place that practicing occultists might find themselves in a world where occultism has become an acceptable and increasingly popular subject for academia. Vayne naturally sees Black Mirror as part of this dialogue between magick and the academy and hopes that it can be a place where occultism and the art it produces can be rigorously and respectfully analysed by practitioners and non-practitioners alike.

Elsewhere, in The Secret Life of Objects, Marie von Heyl is interviewed by Daniel Zamani, accompanied by several full page plates of the repurposed found objects from her Occasional Table Series. Surrealism is a touchstone in this interview and also come in to focus in Gavin Parkinson’s Surrealism’s Popular Occultism: From H. P. Lovecraft to H. Rider Haggard. Here, Parkinson’s lengthy consideration is more concerned with matters literary than visual arts, looking at Lovecraft and other pulp writers and how their personal mythology of cosmic devolution appealed to the Surrealists.

With its 124 octavo-sized pages, the content in Black Mirror is by no means exhaustive. Essays run to ten pages on average, including full page illustrations and references. As with many of the works that come via Fulgur, there is a certain dryness to the content here, with a drive for respectability that means some of the classless less sophisticated glamour of occultism doesn’t get a look in.

Black Mirror is presented in a cloth-bound octavo format of 124 pages, with a dust jacket featuring a wraparound image of Jeremy Deller’s installation project Sacrilege. The internal stock is a weighty matte, and the end papers are a high-gloss black that create the black mirror of the title. The standard edition runs to 600 copies, with a special AV issue of 300 coming with a DVD of Marie von Heyl’s work, WYSIWYG.

Published by Fulgur.

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Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies, Issue Five

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Categories: magick, paganism, thelema

Abraxas FivePublished by the incomparable Fulgur, Abraxas is perhaps the glossiest and grandest of all the current esoteric journals. It has a super large format, 180 glossy pages, many full colour and full page plates and a sturdy binding. It’s a weighty, slightly cumbersome read that requires retiring to a good reading nook; no in-transit snatching of moments with this one. Abraxas also has a noticeably quick turnaround as far as occult journals go: after writing the above start to what I thought was the review of the latest issue, another issue has since been released, as well as a simultaneously issued volume in their special issue series.

Maybe it suggests that I spend too much time reading the kind of publications that delight in the glamorous dark but there is something of a dry quality to the Abraxas style. The white space, the glossy stock, and the overall tone gives a sense of art gallery austerity. You can see why Abraxas bears the grand subtitle of the international journal of esoteric studies, rather than, say, something less restrained. This is by no means a value judgement, just an interesting point of differentiation.

The content of Abraxas runs the gamut of matters esoteric, but there is a noticeable emphasis on artistic endeavours. Even an interview with Michael Bertiaux is framed within the context of his art, rather than as just an author and occultist. There is often a balance throughout this issue between historical and modern artists, with the symbolist and surrealist art movements of the first part of the twentieth century acting as obvious touchstones for both the contributors to Abraxas and the contemporary artists that are profiled. The surrealist Victor Brauner is considered by Jon Graham, while Randall Morris interviews Bea Kwan Lim, whose delicate combination of ephemeral washes and lines occasionally recalls Marjorie Cameron’s occult artwork. Ken Henson presents a survey of the life and work of John Augustus Knapp, perhaps best known for his illustrations to Manly P. Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages, while Pam Grossman interviews contemporary Greek-born, New York-based esoteric artist Panos Tsagaris. This emphasis on art is underlined by the many full page and full colour plates that feature throughout, some as accompaniments to interviews and articles, and some as standalone pieces. The largest of these are a twelve page suite of full colour images, La Villa dei Misteri, by Arrington de Dionyso in a naïve style reminiscent of Matisse or the wide-eyed stares of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Perhaps the most intriguing feature on art is Sasha Chaitow’s essay on the life and work of Joséphin Péladan, founder of the Salon de la Rose + Croix, a subject for which it seems precious little information is available. Chaitow is well equipped to write this piece, having considered Péladan in her PhD thesis and written extensively about him elsewhere, and she presents the sâr and his work with a certain pronounced affection. Chaitow concludes her essay with her own artwork, Bené-Satan, a pencil on paper illustration of Lucifer as he is described in Péladan’s 1888 novel Istar.

Elsewhere, further away from the fields of art, Olivia Robertson is memorialised by Caroline Wise in a rather touching tribute to the founder of the Fellowship of Isis, accompanied by some lovely photographs by both Wise and Celia Thomas. In The (Not Entirely) Lost ‘Art of the Apothecary,’ Ioannis Marathakis exhaustively explores the process and constituents of Abramelin Oil, tracing it back to similar anointing oils detailed in biblical texts, while Stephanie Spoto gives a brief history of the use of spirits in European occultism, from Neoplatonism through to John Dee.

To go with its high production values, Abraxas features a consistently high standard of writing, with most pieces featuring extensive and comprehensive citing of references. The reader’s interest in the various subjects may vary and it’s certainly not a cover to cover or a single-sitting read. Rather, one feels inclined to jump from the more appealing contributions, making a promise to return to the others later. Abraxas comes as a regular edition sewn paperback of 180 full colour 290 x 232mm pages for £15.00. There is also a hardback edition of 300 copies for £50.00, with a gold-stamped design by Panos Tsagaris and a custom-fitted dust jacket; not to mention, an original, signed and hand-numbered print by Bea Kwan Lim.

Published by Fulgur.

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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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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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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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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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