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Tubelo’s Green Fire – Shani Oates

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Categories: luciferian, robert cochrane, witchcraft, Tags:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qayin by Liza Miskievicz

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

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

Published by Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 978-1906958077

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Lilith: Goddess of Sitra Ahra

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Categories: anticosmic, devotional, mesopotamian, nightside

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

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

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

SmashanLilith by Kazim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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, Tags:

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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Liber Nox: A Traditional Witch’s Gramarye – Michael Howard

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Categories: sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

Liber Nox coverFirst, a eulogy: recently departed Michael Howard (1948–2015) was quite possibly my gateway drug to occultism. His Wisdom of the Runes was the first book I read on runic magic and his magazine, The Cauldron, provided my first tantalising insights into Robert Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain (way back in the pre-internet days when there was a lot less info about and precious little mentions of him and the Clan in books). A survey of Scriptus Recensera entries show that a significant amount of his work has been reviewed here: The Book of Fallen Angels, an issue of The Cauldron, his important tome Children of Cain, and most recently, Hands of Apostasy, which he co-edited with Daniel Schulke. This, needless to say, was not by design but a mark of how prolific he was and how well his oeuvre matched my interests. I always found Michael so thoroughly genuine, something frustratingly rare in these circles where smoke and mirrors dominate and where people spend so much time shoring up their claims to some amazing lineage, or trying desperately to appear privy to some amazing knowledge or in possession of equally amazing skills and power. He had such an obvious passion for the magickal milieu within which he lived. As I remarked in my review of Children of Cain, Michael’s approach to things magickal could be said to have a Mulder-like willingness to believe that was tempered with a Scullyesque critical approach that cautioned him against totally subscribing to anyone’s claim; at least in print. He always seemed willing to entertain someone’s claims, not in a blindly, uncritical manner, but rather in an “it’d be nice if it’s true” kind of way. Witness his patronage of Bill Liddell and the claim that Essex cunning man George Pickingill was actually a grand master of nine covens who had direct influence on everyone from Gerald Gardner to the Golden Dawn. As I noted in my review, it is an appealing theory, and one can’t help feeling that Michael gave it as much space over the years as he did (in both The Cauldron first and later in Children of Cain) because of just how glorious its grand vision is. By no means did he ever state, to my knowledge, his acceptance of Liddell’s claims, but there’s a feeling that he wished they were true. And why not?

Until Xoanon and Three Hands Press publish any of the unpublished texts they have in their archives, Liber Nox is the last major writing from Michael Howard and, in many ways, stands as a fitting testament to him. It consolidates much of what Howard has considered over the years in matters of traditional witchcraft, providing it in a format that prefaces everything with a lot of broad anthropological examples and explanations, and then concludes with a breakdown of the wheel of the year and a series of corresponding rituals. As such, it contains more factual information than your average grimoire, or your bog-standard rituals-and-recipes book for that matter, and is all the more satisfying for it.

In the first section, Preparing for the Rites, Howard explains the symbolism of various ritual tools, elements and procedures. Rather than the usual cursory explanation one would expect in other books, this digression is a significant one that facilitates a wider exploration of the themes of witchcraft. As was sometimes the case in his writing, Howard’s approach here can sometimes be a little info-dumpish, with a wealth of information being presented but relatively little discursive dialogue to provide pacing or highlight, admittedly self-evident, connections or motifs. There is also no referencing, except for the very occasional in-text citing of sources for specific quotes, so while you never doubt the accuracy of Howard’s facts, there is the occasional niggling feeling of needing to fire up the old Google machine to see what his source might have been for a particular nugget of gnosis.

Image by Gemma Gary

A similar approach follows in the second section, The Wheel of the Year, where said wheel and its associated festivals provide an opportunity to consider in depth various folklore and witchcraft themes. A discussion of Candlemass, for example, is able to embrace the goddess Brigid and her saintly incarnation as St. Bridget, as well as the Cailleach, goddesses of Sovereignty, and loathly ladies. Similarly, a discussion of May Day gives insight not just into figures such as the May Queen but unicorn symbolism, the underworld journey to the Castle of Roses and Sir Gawain’s encounter with the Green Knight. Often the matters discussed for each festival seem almost tangential to the extent that you lose track of where it all began and which celebration is up for discussion. This is, by no means a bad approach, and in fact I’m rather partial to it. It means that rather than the kind of brief cursory description of a festival you can find in any book on witchcraft, Howard’s style paints a wider, more holistic picture, which places these events within a greater magickal world of interrelating symbolism and themes.

Thus, this second section of folklore and festivals, which is easily half of the book, provides what is effectively a thorough consideration of traditional witchcraft, shot through this anthropological lens. It is only in the book’s third section, the Liber Nox proper (gloriously subtitled The Rites of the Black Book of Shades), that the reader encounters the kind of ritual material one would perhaps expect of the gramarye promised in the subtitle. Howard prefaces his rituals with a consideration of the year which consolidates the mass of material from the previous section into a narrative of changing seasons, rising and falling deities, and elements waxing and waning. He makes it clear that the rituals presented here are not from any particular tradition but have been written entirely for this book, incorporating aspects from various traditional witchcraft sources and obviously the folklore of the wheel of the year. There are certainly elements you can spot, with the imagery of the Clan of Tubal Cain, for example, coming through clearly in the use of dancing mills and castles.

The first of the rituals is an all-purpose casting of the circle of arte, followed by instructions for a concluding houzel and a closing of the circle. Then follows rites for all the previously considered stations of the year: Yule, Twelfth Night, Candlemas, Lady Day, May Day, Midsummer Day, Lammas, Michaelmas and Hallow. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a pleasant, expert style to these rituals, indicative of the experience and expertise that Howard had. The liturgy is beautiful but simple and refined with no ornate archaisms and nothing you’d feel too silly saying out loud; a constant ritual concern of mine. There is also a variety of activities, and despite the use of very specific structure, there’s less of the usual rote feeling of intone *variable,* do *variable,* banish, and goodnight everybody! Many of the rites feature variations of circular dancing, often incorporating intertwining ribbons, while in the ritual for Midsummer Day, two additional stang are used to form a gateway to the realm of Fey through which celebrants visualise themselves passing.

Image by Gemma Gary

With its carefully considered structure of anthropology followed by, erm, ritualology, Liber Nox, makes for a satisfying read. It incorporates so much of what Howard considered in his life as a writer, but distils it in a finely crafted manner, refined and shorn of the distracting spelling errors and generic formatting that marred his similar material in books published by the reckless Capall Bann. There’s no sense of re-treading areas already well-travelled, even though the referencing of folklore was something he often did. Instead, like the rituals written specifically for this volume, there’s a feeling of Howard setting out to write something self-contained and true to itself.

Liber Nox is available as a paperback of 218 perfect bound pages, printed by Lightning Source. The formatting has a confident, effortless style, with the body set in Adobe Caslon at a nice point size with sensible leading; albeit fully justified. Titles (along with the chapter-leading drop caps) are set in the rather lovely Newcomen face, while the subtitles are rendered in the scratchy scripty 1491 Cancelleresca. Liber Nox is illustrated throughout by the black and white illustrations of Gemma Gary, who also provides the stunning image of the horned god on the cover. Her illustrations are often of familiar folkloric images, masks and masques, rendered anew in her stippled style.

Published by Skylight Press. ISBN 978-1-908011-85-5

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Into the Great Below: A Devotional to Inanna and Ereshkigal – Compiled by Galina Krasskova

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Categories: devotional, mesopotamian, underworld, Tags:

into_the_great_belowIt’s full disclosure time yet again: I created the cover art for this devotional from Asphodel Press, and also contributed some internal illustrations. So, as ever, proceed with due caution as we venture into the world of potential bias and nepotism. With its eyes turned towards Mesopotamia, Into the Great Below is a change of theme for Asphodel Press and its usual, albeit by no means exclusive, focus on the Northern Tradition; although the names of many of the contributors, including that of editor Galina Krasskova, will be familiar from other Asphodel works. This is addressed in Krasskova’s foreword in which she identifies herself as Heathen but details her early magical history in the Fellowship of Isis where a mentor’s devotion to Inanna had a lasting influence on her ritual and devotional practice. This book, then, is considered by Krasskova to be the beginning of a repayment to Inanna, and to her sister, Ereshkigal.

Into the Great Below is divided into three sections: devotions to Inanna and Ereshkigal, a collection of rituals for both goddesses, and prayers to other Sumerian deities. Rebecca Buchanan provides the lion share of the prayers to Inanna and Ereshkigal, with short little vignettes addressing various aspects of both goddesses. Her work is joined by contributions from Elizabeth Vongvisith, Raven Kaldera, and others. Perhaps the strongest piece from this section is provided by the enigmatically anonymous J.D. with Katabasis, in which they detail an initiatory journey into the underworld, mirroring Inanna’s descent through seven dismembering tiers, before being remade and reborn by Ereshkigal. These themes of initiation and dismemberment naturally feature strongly in much of the material here, with devotees addressing Ereshkigal in particular as an initiatrix and spirit of transformation. Janet Munin, for example, takes the phrase “naked and bowed low” from The Descent of Inanna and slightly tweaks the interpretation of it, making it indicative of an act of humility and grace, rather than the result of being tortured and broken by the process of the underworld descent.   inannaposed

The second selection of prayers addresses deities from across the Sumerian pantheon, with the chance for the attention to shift in several cases to the male of the species. Lee Harrington has a poem to each of Ereshkigal’s husbands: first with a call to Gugulanna, the bull of heaven, and then with a song addressed to Ereshkigal but sung by her second husband, Nergal. A similar approach is taken by Raven Kaldera in Neti, where the poem is directed towards Ereshkigal in the voice of her titular servant and gatekeeper. Amongst the goddesses, Kaldera celebrates the warrior Ninshubur, while Elizabeth Vongvisith and Anya Kless both explore the intersection of Sumerian and Judaism with paeans to Lilith. Tiamat also receives some attention with poems from Dee Bellwether, Kira R. and an anonymous invocation previously published in Asphodel’s Pagan Book of Hours. Bellwether’s For Tiamatu is particular striking with its stark iteration of occasionally alliterative words celebrating Tiamat as an almost anti-cosmic Queen of Unmaking.

The final section of Into the Great Below features a relatively weighty five rituals for Inanna and Ereshkigal. Krasskova’s Dark Moon Rite of Ereshkigal is a lengthy, invocatory-heavy ritual that begins with quaternary calls, a call to the centre, and then an invocation to Ereshkigal herself. This is followed by an oracular portion and sequences involving a construction of a ritual box. Krasskova’s liturgy is well written, picturesque and evocative in its use of language; a quality that occurs in another of her rituals included here, The Sharing of the Me – a Ritual to the Goddess Inanna. Another lengthy rite is Kaldera’s The Descent of Inanna, which is exactly that, a ritual staging of the descent from the Enuma Elish in a mystery play read by two narrators.inannaring

Unlike some devotionals from Asphodel, in which essays are combined with rituals and poetry, the content of Into the Great Below has a focus on the poetic, with nothing in the way of lengthy articles. This is, perhaps, to be expected given the dearth of existing written material on these subjects without wandering into territories of unverified personal gnosis or academic minutiae. Despite the range of contributors, there is a certain similarity of tone and themes, with a feeling that everyone is coming from a similar place in the interpretation of Inanna and Ereshkigal, and the descent narrative in particular. Into the Great Below runs to 125 perfect bound paperback pages, with type set in the usual clean and functional standard of Asphodel publications. Space seems to be the enemy as all empty areas are filled with my illustrations, or an assortment of various, inconsistently rendered, archaeological images.

Published by Asphodel. ISBN 978-0-9825798-3-1

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Hands of Apostasy – Edited by Michael Howard and Daniel A. Schulke

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Categories: folk, luciferian, sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

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

With eighteen authors contributing to this collection, there’s a wealth of viewpoints and writing styles, with both sides of the Atlantic getting some coverage, and styles both academic and anecdotal being featured. By accident or design, North America gets the early focus with Douglas McIlwain talking briefly about his stateside family tradition, while Cory Thomas Hutcheson’s Killing the Moon is a thorough investigation of witchcraft lore from the mid-to-southern Appalachians. The lunacide of the title (and its solar analogue) is an initiatory ritual element found throughout the south, ranging from the Appalachians to the Ozarks. A focus on folk practices is found elsewhere in this volume, with David Rankine considering the influence of witchcraft and natural magic on the grimoire tradition (a reversal of the common narrative of low witchcraft borrowing from high magic), while Gary St. Michael Nottingham covers similar  territory with a survey of conjure-charms from the Welsh Marches. As with Rankine’s essay, Nottingham shows an interaction between the grimoire tradition and folk magic, documenting the source texts from which various charms would have been sourced.

There are several essays that take a more conceptual, rather than practical or documentary, approach, using themes from traditional witchcraft as lenses through which a greater philosophical picture can be explored. Most notable of these is the longest essay here at 45 pages, Martin Duffy’s The Cauldron of Pure Descent, which considers that magical accoutrement most firmly associated with witches, the cauldron. Given the length of his essay, Duffy is able to, if you’ll pardon the obvious, throw many things into the pot, creating a thorough exploration that embraces not just witchcraft but Palo Mayombe, alchemy, and various strands of mythology. In The Man in Black, Gemma Gary considers the devil in witchcraft, although less as the horned master of Sabbaths and more as the enigmatic stranger encountered by witches in times of need and moments of isolation and reflection. Michael Howard’s Waking the Dead almost rivals Duffy’s length with its investigation of necromancy which begins somewhat encyclopaedically, rather than discursively, before finding its feet towards the end when Howard assimilates the assiduously assembled information into a sabbatic craft context.

Andrew Chumbley does rather well contribution-wise for someone who passed on in 2004, providing two pieces, The Magic of History: Some Considerations and Origins and Rationales of Modern Witch Cults. As their titles suggest, both are broad in their concerns, rather than specific, briefly surveying the history of modern witchcraft and the intersection with Chumbley’s own sabbatic craft brand of traditional witchcraft. Also participating from beyond this mortal veil is Cecil Williamson, founder of the Museum of Witchcraft, whose rather short article looks at two little known magical techniques, moon-raking and the ritual of the shroud. This slight essay previously appeared in The Cauldron, and is prefaced with a preamble by that magazine’s editor, Michael Howard, which is only one page shorter than Williamson’s actual words.

As one would expect, the sabbatic craft makes a significant contribution to this volume, with Chumbley’s two pieces being joined by The Blasphemy of Things Unseen by Daniel Schulke. Schulke writes in his usual florid style, embellishing his words with archaic flourishes in a meditation on the role of night, darkness, secrecy and the void in witchcraft and specifically the sabbatic cultus. But the most interesting exploration of Chumbley’s oeuvre comes from Jimmy Elwing with Where the Three Roads Meet. Subtitled Sabbatic Witchcraft and Oneiric Praxis in the Writings of Andrew Chumbley, this is an admirably sanguine and removed biography of Chumbley, providing a meticulous analysis of the themes in his writing; and one of the highlights of this compendium.

Timo_Ketola_sabat

Elsewhere, Radomir Ristic’s Unchain the Devil considers Serbian witchcraft and seems to act as a teaser for their full book Witchcraft and Sorcery of the Balkans now available from Three Hands Press. Levannah Morgan’s Mirror, Moon and Tides is the only purely experiential piece here, clearly and authoritatively explaining their personally grounded techniques of mirror magic with little need to recourse to the authority of either tradition or the academy.

There is a certain rigour to most of the material here, whether it’s deference to academia with a thorough embracing of citing and referencing, or less thoroughly, an explicit identification of experiential knowledge or tradition. The same cannot be said for the rather anomalous contribution from Raven Grimassi, who plays to type and writes with the broad and speculative strokes one would expect of a Llewellyn author. His piece, Pharmakeute, is typical of Llewellyn woolly thinking, full of unreferenced references to unspecified ancient times and unspecified ancient ancestors; a precedent set in the first sentence which boldly and broadly states “ancient writings depict the witch as living among the herb-clad hills” – which writings, which witch, which herb-clad hills? In an amateur attempt at anthropological psychology, Grimassi speculates that a magical worldview may have been influenced by the ancestral experiences of living in forests – these ancestors and their wooded location remain unidentified, adrift in some imagined olden days, distant from all the other unspecified ancients who can’t have had a magical worldview because they lived on hills, plains, mountains, in caves, by river and lakeside and, I don’t know, maybe anywhere that wasn’t a potentially lethal forest. While discussing mandrakes, Grimassi wonders if the idea that mandrake had to be harvested using a dog pulling on the plant (lest the harvester be killed in the process) was created by witches in order to discourage laypeople from effectively raiding their stash. Yeah, cool story bro, except that the technique has a significant pedigree dating back to at least the first century CE where the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus made the first written mention of a presumably well extant belief. I guess some ancient witch from the olden days must have been playing a long game and dropped the skinny to Titus Flavius so he could spread the word on their behalf.

With its diverse collection of writers and subject matter, there’s something in Hands of Apostasy for everyone; well, everyone interested in traditional witchcraft that is – if you’re after something on fly fishing this may be less useful. The highlights are definitely Martin Duffy’s exhaustive consideration of the cauldron and Jimmy Elwing’s analysis of Andrew Chumbley. The low lights go without saying.

Hands of Apostasy comes in standard hardcover edition of 1000 copies, in full pewter book cloth, with a glossy fully colour dust jacket. The internal pages are made of a stark, not entirely attractive white stock and the text is formatted in a capable, functional style. Almost all of the nineteen articles are prefaced with illustrations by Finnish engraver Timo Ketola, whose finely rendered volumetric style provides the book with a cohesive, slightly timeless style that is, given his background, just a tiny bit evocative of metal aesthetics. A limited special edition of 63 copies in quarter goat with corners, hand marbled endpaper, and slipcase, is now, of course, sold out.

Published by Three Hands Press.

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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 comparable to the Human Potential Movement and thus an example of the self-spirituality so in vogue at the time. 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 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, paranoically 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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Panparadox – Vexior

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Categories: anticosmic, paganism, Tags:

panparadox-coverThis book published by Ixaxaar represents some of the oldest written material from Vexior whose more recent work includes Thursakyngi and before that, the Gullveigarbók released by Fall of Man. Panparadox was originally published in July 2009 and as such, it stands as a documentation of Vexior’s intellectual and metaphysical development, revealing a focus on the god Pan that within the very pages ventures into the darker Germanic territory the author is now better known for.

Given his other writing, it should come as no surprise that Vexior approaches Pan from an anti-cosmic perspective. Pan is seen through a prism that splinters him into various aspects. He is a spirit of Chaos, an infernal and manifold Luciferian force, and an adversarial spirit of pestilence. Vexior also identifies Pan with the folkloric figure of Grimalkin, seeing in this witchcat an image of Pan as unbound nature spirit. This section also contains a somewhat diverting section on Baphomet combining what seems to be the traditional depiction of this godform along with the idiosyncratic interpretation of the Order of Nine Angles (the Agios O Baphomet refrain is used here in an invocatory poem, for example). This appears as a diversion because it is only used as a relatively long preface to the final explanation that Pan and Baphomet share no relationship, other than a generic connection with knowledge; and, one presumes, their mutual corneolus appendages.

Arguably the core theme of this book is what Vexior sees as a relationship between Pan and Loki. Although he does not identify them as the same being, he does write of a vague connection between the two, with the idea of one cloaked within the other. It is this writing that seems to mark Vexior’s turn to the Lokean side as it were, because with it he provides some of most concentrated sections of this book, with the references to Pan left momentarily behind as he focuses almost entirely on Loki. This motif is resumed at the end of Panparadox with a concluding and previously unpublished chapter called The Flaming Nexus, in which Vexior provides an updated summary of some of the book’s content, specifically the intersection he sees between Pan and Loki. This initially takes the form of invocatory prose which then, unexpectedly, changes tone and voice and becomes more discursive.

Nopis sigil

The practical side of this book is presented in a section called Irissimum, which contains some basic ritual instructions with all the familiar magickal accoutrements along with invocations and the ceremonial calling of elemental quarters. Other than the addition of a pan flute as a ritual tool, there’s not too much here that differs from the usual Western magickal repertoire. Given the repeated use of the word ‘panic,’ it’s a shame more wasn’t given over to potential methods of using that sensation as a magickal technique. As one would expect with this kind of book, there’s a wealth of sigils, most notably the Nopis sigil of Pan that graces the cover, but also a variety of others representing Pan’s various attributes. There’s also a brief grimoire-like section listing the names of Pan’s various sons, each with their attendant sigil.

The credit for the formatting of Panparadox is attributed to both Vexior and Ixaxaar, and as a result, it has a distinctive look that differs from some of the more refined layout expected from this publisher. There is a certain heaviness to the typesetting, with the serif face of the body set with generous leading at a relatively large point size, and then with occasional words highlighted in a thick blackletter face. Adding to this dense typographic colour, is a lack of paragraph formatting on the larger sequences of text, with neither indents or returns used to provide any space. Panparadox is illustrated throughout with a range of images that add to the density on the page. The most successful of these are the full page, densely rendered, pen and ink illustrations of the various aspects of Pan by Chadwick Saint John. His distinctive style (and, indeed some of these images) will be familiar as album artwork to listeners of Vexior’s black metal band Arckanum.

Luciferian Pan in vex and scorn by Chadwick St. John

Given the dimensions of both the book and its typeface, as well as the wealth of images, Panparadox makes for a quick read. The writing is for the most part broken into brief sub chapters that are never very long and never dwell too long on the subject. As evidenced by the strange little Baphomet chapter, there’s a lack of focus in some of this writing, with the book flitting briefly from one topic to another. When compared to his more recent works, it is clear that Vexior’s writing has improved since this first foray, with some of the familiar pitfalls encountered by speakers of English as a second language raising their clumsy head from time to time.

The regular edition of Panparadox comes in run of 430 hand-numbered copies, with a page count of 208 pages. It is a clothbound, small octavo sized hardcover, with the Nopis sigil foiled in silver on the cover, and silver text on the spine. For an Ixaxaar publication, this is a modest presentation but one perhaps befitting the slightness and more archival nature of this work. A leatherbound edition was also available, but as one would expect, that sold out in advance.

Published by Ixaxaar.

Omega

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The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher – Matthew Wightman

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Categories: anticosmic, Tags:

serpentsiddur-coverI always find the title of this book from Aeon Sophia Press a little confusing. Is it The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher, as it appears on the cover, or is it Lyrics of Lilith, Songs of Samael, as it appears on the spine and the internal title pages? If it is both, then which comes first, which is the main title and which is the sub? Either way, this book is a siddur, in that it is largely a collection of prayers and devotional formulas directed to Nachash El Acher, the serpentine god of the Other Side, otherwise known by the portmanteau of Samaelilith.

Matthew Wightman writes very much from an anti-cosmic perspective and if you’ve read some of the other reviews on this site before, you’ll know that I have something of a disconnect with that most metal and misanthropic of metaphysical mind-sets. My misgivings are by no means assuaged when the opening line of the first chapter bleakly informs us that: “Existence is trauma.” A cheery start, to be sure.

Although Wightman is clearly and admittedly indebted to the Temple of the Black Light and their 218 current, he marks a divergence with their philosophy, talking of a realisation that he had which effectively means that the Temple just aren’t anti-cosmic enough. The crux of the issue is that in the qliphothic sorcery of the Temple of the Black Light, the Qliphoth is seen to be in anti-cosmic opposition to the Sephiroth and everything else on the dayside. Wightman, on the other hand, now sees the Qliphoth as part of a ruse, an agency of disinformation if you will, with the denizens of the Sitra Achra merely reinforcing, by their actions and their nature, a narrative that has been dictated by the Demiurge. Both the dayside and the nightside, these two opposing forces, are therefore, in actuality what makes up the Cosmos, so for Wightman, a true anti-cosmic force needs to be found elsewhere. Instead, Wightman turns his affections to the concept of Ain or Impossibility, seeking a return to the Ayin or Void, and attributing this same desire as the fundamental modus operandi of the Serpent. Wightman describes these ideas as being part of a Current 61, the Current of Ain and the Nachash El Acher, which he describes as even more “anti-cosmic than those that have come before it.” It does comes across a little like misanthropic hipsterism, evoking an image of duelling denizens of some qliphothic Shoreditch questioning each other’s commitment to an obscure band: “I believe in more dissolution into more nothingness than you do.” “Oh yeah, well my rejection of existence is so rejecty that I reject the rejection of existence.” And so forth.

As a disinterested party, these qabbalistic metaphysics can get a bit overwhelming and it’s hard to quiet the inner sceptic who sees it all as pointless speculation about concepts that are just made up anyway. Of course, that’s the nature of any belief system for which there is barely, if any, empirical evidence, but it seems particularly obvious here where so much time is given over to elaborate concepts and conclusions based ultimately on a matter of opinion and a little too much pondering.

This anti-cosmic worldview permeates much of The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher but the lion share of the book is given over to prayers and rituals, rather than theory. These prayers are recited using several ritual props borrowed from Judaism and Christianity and reoriented to a serpentine focus: a Serpentine Prayer Shawl (made from both linen and wool just to get the Demiurge really miffed that his instructions in Deuteronomy are being flouted; talk about sticking it to the man), Serpentine Phylacteries (with the original Judaic scrolls burnt and the ashes placed back in the tefillin) and a Serpentine Rosary. The prayers themselves are very long with the evening meditation running to sixteen pages, while the Serpent Sermon is comparatively short at only nine pages. On the blessedly shorter side of things are a Hymn to Qayin and songs for each day of the week, as well as a listing of thirteen principles, and prayers for prosperity and for the close of service. There are also meditations for before bed, for morning, and for afternoon, as well as prayers for before and after meals, and a series of prayers and invocations for the spirits of the twelve Qliphoth; although, given the earlier dismissal of the nightside of the Tree of Life as part of the Demiurgic problem, it’s not really explained what they’re doing there.

There’s a certain repetition of themes across this liturgy with much cursing of the Demiurge, praising of the Serpent and a total dissing of the Clayborn; boo, really hate those guys. The negativity of it all gets a bit much for my tender sensibilities and the constant blasphemy against the Demiurge and remarks about what a big meanie he is wears thin very early on. Similarly, the repeated mutterings about the Clayborn ends up making you feel like you’re on an Alex Jones website with people complaining about the Sheeple that just won’t wake up.

serpentsiddur-sigil

The second half of The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher is, at least in the regular version that I have, bound as a separate book and acts as expanded appendix to the hymnal of the first half. This is a collection of essays, some previously published, as well as an interview with Wightman conducted by Aeon Sophia Press, in which he is able to elaborate more fully on some of the cosmological and metaphysical concepts that are considered only briefly in the first volume. The essays are presented, as far I can tell, as they were originally printed and have not been updated and edited for this collection; something they may have benefited from. For example, in the first two essays, written in 2012 and 2013, Wightman refers to what he calls the Ain Sof Choshek by the name of Tiamat, which stands out somewhat incongruously within a sea of qabbalistic Hebrew, but in a later essay (and in the first volume of the siddur) he adopts the appropriately Hebrew name Tanninim as the result of a discussion with the Temple of the Black Light. What this lack of retroactive editing means is that Wightman allows you to effectively track his changes, revealing the evolution of his thought process. Jesus, for example, goes from being someone to be completely despised in an earlier essay to being seen within a more sanguine worldview in which he is a time bomb double agent whose sacrifice is used to disrupt the Demiurge and their plans.

Across both volumes, Wightman writes very well, presumably benefiting from his theological studies at Yale. Having edited a previous Ixaxaar title, he obviously has a thorough grasp of his subject. The content is largely proofed well and the only time things really go awry is when biblical turns of phrase get the better of Wightman and yoke is, one assumes, mistakenly rendered as yolk, with the phrase “the yolk of the Demiurge was around my neck” bringing to mind some rather sticky cosmological culinary accident.

serpentsiddur-gate

Both volumes of The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher feature occasional full page images by Patrick Larabee in his trademark, slightly naïve style. The type is set cleanly throughout, with chapters beginning with dropcaps in the blackletter Killigrew font that is something of an Aeon Sophia Press trademark. Chapter titles, meanwhile, are rendered as small caps in de rigueur Trajan Pro. The two volumes are bound in cloth, black for the first volume and red for the second, with the title rendered in gold foil lettering on the front of the first volume, and a sigil based on a Penrose triangle on the covers of both. Part one has the Lyrics of Lilith, Songs of Samael title running along its spine, but part two doesn’t have anything, making it infuriatingly anonymous when sitting in a bookshelf. It seems a missed opportunity that an attempt wasn’t made to connect the two volumes together, maybe with some treatment that could spread across both spines whilst still working when viewed in isolation. This regular version is sold-out from the publisher but a deluxe leather bound edition, limited to 50 copies, is, at the time of writing, still available.

For anyone who resonates with this kind of blasphemous, transgressive anti-cosmic Satanism, this book will be a valuable addition to their library. For others, it may mine those veins too frequently, and the negative anti-existence talk could begin to grate. While it lacks the ritual rigour and internal complexity/consistency of N.A.A. 218’s similar writings published by Ixaxaar, it does have an enthusiasm that may appeal to some.

Published by Aeon Sophia Press.

serpentsiddur-triangle

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