Categotry Archives: devotional

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Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess – Idlu Lili Regulus

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Categories: devotional, goddesses, hellenic, Tags:

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess coverHekate is a goddess with no shortage of books about her, and the shelves here at Scriptus Recensera do not want for her tomes, whether it’s Robert von Rudloff’s Hekate in Ancient Greek Religion, Sarah Iles Johnston’s Hekate Soteira or a veritable hoard of titles from Sorita d’Este and Avalonia Press. This isn’t even Ixaxaar’s first foray into Hekate’s world, stretching back to at least 2010 and Mark Alan Smith’s Queen of Hell. This surfeit of material is understandable given the wealth of classical source texts available concerning Hekate (clearly the deepest repository of data for any of the darker-hued goddesses), and also her aesthetics which have an almost innate appeal for those with, how you say, more cimmerian proclivities.

Now, after their recent release of Jack Grayle’s The Hekatæon, described by Ixaxaar as the first turning of a key to the kingdom of Hekate, a second key is turned with this book by the enigmatically named Idlu Lili Regulus. Originally released in Swedish in 2017 by Avgrund Förlag, Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess is a smaller volume than The Hekatæon, but has certain similarities due to its combination of theory and ritual.

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess begins with little ceremony or preamble, diving straight into a discussion of Hekate’s ancestry and status as monogen?s, before expanding into a consideration of various mythical beings associated with her via birth or proximity. What one notices immediately is the surfeit of footnotes and citations, with primary sources and academic texts diligently cited at every utterance. Footnotes, meanwhile, are extensive, running to a paragraph normally, but occasionally stretching to half a page and in a few instances, almost an entire page.

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess spread

This rigour makes for a satisfyingly academic feel, though it is one that provides moments of incongruity. While Regulus writes, for the most part, with a formal style befitting the citations and footnotes, they occasionally break into the more informal voice of a devotee. Thus, amid quotes from authorities ancient and modern, they will suddenly address you “the dear accursed reader” or wax effusively over a quote from Hesiod that causes their heart and being to “reverberate with its ancient, sacred and literally awe-inspiring tone.”

As this fervent tone suggests, Regulus does identify this book as a devotional, rather than an exhaustive or definitive treatment of Hekate, despite the thoroughness of the writing, citing and footnoting. What they choose to focus on, then, following the first chapter, are her associations with the moon and the underworld, and then things relevant to practical work with her: the plants associated with her, her many titles and names (predominantly drawn from the Greek Magical Papyri), and various documented classical examples of working with her.

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess inner page with Hekate image by David Herrerias

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess concludes with an appendix of rituals that build upon the historical evidence that precedes them. These begin with a basic crossroads initiation (part meditation, part visualisation) and a heavily footnoted invocation of several pages, drawing on text from PGM IV. The rest includes brief instructions for circle casting (in which, interestingly enough, Cayn/Cain as the witch father is invoked alongside Hekate), a love spell of attraction, a graveyard communion and a crossroads supper, as well as a devotional Hymn to Hekate. In keeping with the tone of the rest of the book, these aren’t simply instructions with a ritual recipe to follow, but include pages of supplementary information documenting historical precedents, and even more within the footnotes.

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess spread with Magdalena Karlsson's Hekate Portal Icon

As one might expect given the publisher, there’s an element of anti-cosmic philosophy that occasionally rears its serpentine head, with Regulus, for example, regarding the famous Gigantomachy frieze from the Pergamon altar as a depiction of a factual attack by the anti-cosmic Titans against balanced cosmic order’s temporary reign. This is by no means pervasive, and Hekate herself isn’t gratuitously presented in anti-cosmic terms, but it is something that subtly informs what is presented here.

Regulus writes in a confident, sometimes strident, manner, weaving together the slightly academic with the demonstrably devotional, and using turns of phrase that belie the text’s non-English origins. There is no credit for the translation from the original Swedish but it is satisfactory in its execution. There are the occasional awkward sentences where, for example, the tense can slip, but not to a detrimental degree, and by no means as bad as some occult works from native English speakers.

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess spread

Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess is laid out capably, with body in a clear and classic serif, sitting within generous but not excessive margins. Headers, both main and sub, are rendered in the all caps of a different, slightly irregular, serif face, while chapters begin with a fetching drop cap from the same blackletter face used for the cover and title page. There are, though, a few too many widows and orphans, and shorter quotes are too often separated into their own paragraphs, looking bitsy when buttressed above and below by paragraph spaces, even when they’re only a single or even partial sentence; whereas convention would have them incorporated into their preceding paragraph.

Illustrations in Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess are sparse with no in-body images of any kind and only a few full page illustrations, including glossy plates with an image of Hekate by the always reliable David Herrerias at the start, and a painting by Magdalena Karlsson, Hekate Portal Icon, leading the ritual appendix.

The regular edition of Hekate: The Crossroads’ Dark Goddess runs to 480 copies and is bound in green cloth with title and an image of Hekate (a familiar Hekataia with her depicted three-headed and multi-armed, holding a variety of implements) debossed in a hard-to-read-in-low-light purple. The book was also made available in a special edition of 70, housed in an amethyst-coloured slipcase with an image of Hekate-Zônodrakontis foiled in silver on the front and back. Also included in this edition is a medium-size art card with the image of Hekate by David Herrerias, measuring 26.6 by 20.7 cm and printed on high quality glossy cardboard.

Published by Ixaxaar

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A Rose Veiled in Black – Edited by Robert Fitzgerald and Daniel Schulke

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Categories: devotional, goddesses, thelema, Tags:

A Rose Veiled in Black coverFocusing its attention on the figure of Babalon, A Rose Veiled in Black is the second volume in Western Esotericism in Context, a series from Three Hands Press which began with the previously reviewed Hands of Apostasy and continued with the also reviewed Luminous Stone. It features essays from ten writers: Amodali, Robert Stein, Erik Davis, Caroline Wise, Daniel A. Schulke, Frater A.I., Gordan Djurdjevic, Grant Potts, Manon Hedenborg-White, Richard Kaczynski and Robert Fitzgerald. Along with these written pieces are visual contributions from names both familiar and unfamiliar: Barry William Hale, Hana Lee, Linda MacFarlane, Liv Rainey-Smith, Mitchell Nolte, Nicole DiMucci Potts, Sarah Lindsay and Timo Ketola.

Aleister Crowley naturally looms large within these pages, and co-editor Robert Fitzgerald kicks things off with a discussion of the various appearances of, and allusions to, Babalon in the Master Therion’s The Vision and the Voice, his record of travelling through the Enochian aethyrs. This is a text that is cited time and time again throughout A Rose Veiled in Black and Gordan Djurdjevic covers similar ground to Fitzgerald, but also surveys the glimpses of Babalon that can be gleaned in The Book of the Law, and briefly touches on Leah Hirsig’s relationship with Crowley and Babalon herself. Hirsig gets more of her own focus in “I am Babalon,” a piece by Richard Kaczynski, who fastidiously documents the life, before and after Crowley, of the woman who identified herself as Babalon and as the mother of several magical children, including Crowley’s subsequent Scarlet Woman, Dorothy Olsen.

A more experiential approach comes from Amodali of Mother Destruction/Sixth Comm fame, whose wonderfully-verbose-titled Introductory Theoria on Progressive Formulas of the Babalon Priestesshood addresses what she sees as fundamental misinterpretations and distortions of the archetypes and formulas of the sexual gnosis key to Babalon’s magic. To this end, Amodali draws on her over 25 years of magical experience to present a ritual formula, informed by Dr John Dee’s De Heptarchia Mystica, in which practitioners forge the Body of Babalon, in a tasty taster of her long-forthcoming title The Marks of Teth from Three Hands Press.

A Rose Veiled in Black spread for Introductory Theoria by Amodali

Other contributors offer practical options too, either as instruction or documentation, with Robert C. Stein detailing a Liber Nu-based working he performed in Australia in 1985, within an asteroid or comet-formed crater under a sky occupied, as above, so below, by Halley’s Comet. Meanwhile, in Seven Chalices of the Lady, Grant Potts presents a group rite, originally performed at the Bubastis Oasis OTO, Texas, in 2013. Drawing on a Red Tara practice from the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, the rite associates the chakras with the seven Babalonian chalices of the title, seeking to attune the body of light to the Thelemic current and the mysteries of Babalon.

Towards the end of A Rose Veiled in Black, co-editor Fitzgerald returns to make his own practical septenary contribution with a Rite of the Seven Keys of the Kingdom, a ritual for achieving communion and congressus with Babalon, with liturgy drawn from the Enochian keys, The Vision and the Voice, Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni and Dee and Edward Kelley’s original 1587 transmission from the Daughter of Fortitude. Fiztgerald’s partner in editing, Daniel Schulke, meanwhile, provides a lengthy meditation on Babalon’s theme of abomination, which he relates to the quintessentially Cultus Sabbati taboo-breaking Formulae of Opposition and abjection; though that latter post-structuralist terminology is not used here. Schulke effectively makes an unstated case for the release of this book by a publishing house more often associated with witchcraft, contemplating the relationship betwixt Babalon, Abomination and witchcraft. He draws intersections between Babalon’s cup of fornications and the witches’ cauldron, and highlights other ways in which her imagery has analogues in the systems of the Cultus Sabbati. Then, of course, there’s John Whiteside Parsons, who definitively referred to his Babalon-focused system as The Witchcraft.

A Rose Veiled in Black spread for Waiting for the Scarlet Apocalypse by Manon Hedenborg-White

Next to Uncle Al, Parsons is the Babalon devotee who gets the most mileage in A Rose Veiled in Black, with Manon Hedenborg-White giving over a substantial 33 pages to Uncle Jack and his place in the mythos of Babalon. Hedenborg-White begins with a solid history of Parsons and his various interactions with Babalon (citing extensively from George Pendle’s Strange Angel) before devoting a significant amount of space to highlighting the difference between his conception of Babalon and that of Crowley. While the Babalon of Crowley’s The Vision and the Voice is removed, residing in the astral, and largely passive, Parsons’ Babalon is a goddess with agency and the ability, and will, to move into the material realm, giving orders and fomenting revolution.

This view is something also explored by Erik Davis in Babalon Rising: Jacks Parsons’ Witchcraft Prophecy, in which he describes it as emblematic of Parsons’ “magickal feminism.” Both Davis and Hedenborg-White portray Parsons and his vision of Babalon as being ahead of its time, with the contrast between Californian Uncle Jack and the Victorian Crowley being particularly notable; though Davis does not shy away from calling Parson’s earnest views somewhat essentialist and slightly cheesy. The fulfilment of Parsons’ witchcraft prophecy, which had predated even Gerald Gardner’s publication of Witchcraft Today in 1954, saw the growth of witchcraft as a counterculture, often feminist, movement, in the latter half of the 20th century; with Davis suggesting it was no accident that the particularly militant and vociferous strands began in Los Angeles.

A Rose Veiled in Black spread for Emblematic Arcana of Babalon by Frater AI

Perhaps the most outlier of contributions here comes from Caroline Wise who almost admits as much in the narrative of her Dreaming of Babalon and the Bride of the Land. This begins abruptly, placing the reader in an unexpected narrative in which Wise is flying, quite reflectively and with great clarity, over the landscape of Glastonbury in what one eventually realises is a dream experience. It ends with flashes of the number 156 and a message from Babalon instructing Wise to ‘find me in this land.’ Wise’s work has always had a sense of the geographical about it, in particular her many pages spent on the road goddess Elen, and this is what occurs here, with her following Babalon’s directive and seeking to find her within the magical landscape of Glastonbury. This draws heavily on Katherine Maltwood’s idea of the Glastonbury Zodiac, great (theoretical) landforms within the region’s hills, streams and roads that appear to represent the twelve signs of the zodiac, with Wise’s journey predominantly focusing on themes of the grail cup, the constellation of Virgo and echoes of Mary Magdalene.

Mitchell Nolte: Our Lady Babalon

A Rose Veiled in Black concludes with another distinct approach, with Frater A.I.’s Emblematic Arcana of Babalon, in which he provides a meditation on certain themes and symbolism associated with Babalon, represented as a series of sigils and emblems. Reminiscent in some places of Hagen von Tulien’s stark black and white designs, these images draw on commentary from The Vision and the Voice along with tarot and qabbalistic symbolism to illustrate concepts such as Babalon as the disposing intelligence of Cain, her seven-headed mount and the City of Pyramids, and the Egg of the Babe of the Abyss.

In all, there is a wide variety of work in A Rose Veiled in Black, ranging from good to great, and with no obvious missteps or huge dips in quality. The work is proofed fairly well, with only a few howlers slipping by: in his piece on Leah Hirsig, Kaczynski quotes from the Gnostic Mass and has Chaos as the sole “Viecregent” of the Sun, rather than, surely, ‘viceregent,’ while Hedenborg-White’s piece has one instance in which the names of Babalon and Parsons are transposed, leading to the head scratching genderfuck of “the goddess asks Babalon to give his mortal life in exchange for her incarnation… Parson responds: ‘I am willing.’”

Liv Rainey-Smith: Babalon

A smattering of black and white images are scattered throughout A Rose Veiled in Black (with some Babalon henna designs by Nicole DiMucci Potts providing a consistent but atypical interstitial style), but the bulk of visual contributions are found as full colour plates in the centre of the book. These are all, suitably, quite luxurious, with the most notable examples being ones in which oils, acrylics and their digital approximates, render Babalon in swathes of fleshy brushstrokes. Mitchell Nolte’s digital Our Lady Babalon has her bare-breasted and enthroned within a dense tableaux that has something of Gustave Moreau’s regal, decadent splendour about it. Timo Ketola’s pastels on paper Babalon carries a similar feeling of opulence with libidinous folds of cloth cascading from a chalice-wielding Babalon. The chalice reappears in Linda Macfarlane’s Babalon, where she stands strong before an acrylic-rendered septagram, her hair a Kate Pierson-like mane of red and her left arm snake-entwined. Finally of note is Liv Rainey-Smith’s 2014 woodcut with hand-applied garnet, purpurite, tigers eye, bloodstone and jade in which Babalon most closely resembles her apocalyptic description, riding upon the seven-headed beast and carrying the cup of her fornications in her hand.

Layout is expertly handled by Joseph Uccello in a functional serif for body and subheadings. The only flash of glamour comes from the titles, which are rendered in Moyenage 32, a blackletter face with a hint of the modern, which feels strangely fitting here without falling into the trap of being obviously Babalonesque (neither overly ‘occult’ or stereotypically ‘feminine’).

Spread with Devotion by Hana Lee and Babalon by Timo Ketola

A Rose Veiled in Black was made available in two editions: a standard hardcover edition with a dust jacket, limited to 1,092 copies, and a deluxe edition of 77 copies, quarter-bound in scarlet goat with marbled papers. The standard edition is bound in red cloth with text foiled in gold on the spine, while the dust jacket bears the image of Babalon by painter Linda Macfarlane, who has previously explored a number of other Babalonian themes.

Published by Three Hands Press

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Trickster, My Beloved: Poems for Laufey’s Son – Elizabeth Vongvisith

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Categories: devotional, germanic, rökkr, Tags:

Trickster, My Beloved coverAs its matronymic subtitle suggests, Trickster, My Beloved is a collection of devotional poems for Loki, written by Elizabeth Vongvisith and published by Asphodel Press. In her introduction, Vongvisith describes the book as the fulfilment of an oath, identifying works of heart, mind and hands as some of the best offerings that can be made to the gods. It is a physically slim offering at only 60 pages, but a profound one nonetheless.

Published in 2006, a lot has since changed for the public view of Loki, with his profile rising dramatically, as any Marvel-tainted search results on Google, Tumblr or DeviantArt will testify. More pertinently, the Troth this month rescinded their ban on the hailing of Loki at Troth-sponsored events, suggesting a certain degree of rehabilitation for the troublesome god. The Loki in these pages doesn’t necessarily seek the kind of respectability offered by the Troth, or the fame, fanfiction and silly helmet that comes courtesy of Tom Hiddleston (had to Google to check the correct name, naturally), being instead more mercurial and capricious.

As a godwife of Loki, there’s a certain degree of intimacy in Vongvisith’s writing, which helps that air of devotional fervour. Loki is presented as a lover and constant companion, a presence whose spirit can sometimes seem almost all consuming, creating words that are redolent of the fervid depths evident in some Hindu religious devotional material. Vongvisith doesn’t shy away from Loki’s other wives, though, and has poems for both Angrboda and Sigyn. In Victory, she addresses Sigyn as her Lady of Endurance, an underappreciated figure with hidden strength and significance. Meanwhile, in Angrboda’s Lament, Vongvisith has Angrboda relate key moments of her and Loki’s interactions with the Æsir, ending each verse with a plaintive folksong-like refrain of They will take away my love, and bury him, until it concludes with the bittersweet variation They have taken my love, and buried me with him.

The sense of personal loss in Angrboda’s Lament and Victory is something of a trademark of the poems included in Trickster, My Beloved, and occurs again, in its most striking and effective manner, in The Price. Here, Vongvisith addresses Loki, describing as a seer how his children were taken from him and how the intestines of his own son were used to bind him, all drawn in heart wrenching detail that disintegrates into paroxysms of apoplectic rage.

Trickster, My Beloved spread

The ties familial that are hinted at in the poems for Angrboda and Sigyn are also found elsewhere, with Vongvisith addressing other members of Loki’s family. In For the Lady of the Leafy Isle, she speaks to Loki’s mother Laufey as any daughter-in-law might, testifying to her strength and thanking her for the welcome into her house and family. Similarly, For Surt is a paean to the fire giant who here, and in other books from Asphodel Press, is identified as the foster-father of Loki. And finally, In the Dark, one of the longest poems here, describes an underworld encounter with Loki’s daughter, Hela, in language so vivid that it practically acts as a guided visualisation.

Although they are not necessarily intended as such, the clear imagery of In the Dark, or the invocatory tone of For Surt and some of the poems addressed directly to Loki, all reveal a potential for ritual or liturgical use. Words written in devotion, rather than supplication or as a wand-wielding threat, seem so much more numinous and valuable to personal practice.

Trickster, My Beloved is presented purely as text with not a single accompanying illustration, which is a slight shame, as the evocative imagery could easily have sparked a few images from any talented illustrator. One such illustrator, Milwaukee-based Grace D. Palmer, does provide the cover image, a painted image of a naked Loki, single lit match in hand, presumably about to be, in the words of the song, burning down the house. The layout follows Asphodel’s familiar style, with nothing exceptional but a still solid and functional look.

Published by Asphodel Press

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Songs for the Witch Woman – John W. Parsons & Marjorie Cameron

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Categories: art, devotional, goddesses, magick, thelema, witchcraft, Tags:

If you didn’t already know, your humble reviewer is quite the fan of Marjorie Cameron, with the Apsinthion collaboration between Gydja and Emme Ya giving aural form to much of her work and magickal cosmology. Songs for the Witch Woman is a collection of poetry by Jack Parsons, dedicated to Cameron, and illustrated throughout with her evocative imagery. Previously, as far as I’m aware, only publically and partially available in the September 1974 issue of the English Thelemic journal Sothis: A Magazine of the New Aeon, the thought of a release like this was very much a fevered Babalonian dream.

This version of Songs for the Witch Woman represents a typically exhaustive edition by Fulgur, with the poems, drawings and diary entries published together for the first time, along with a complete facsimile of the original 1950s notebooks, and contextual commentaries from William Breeze, George Pendle and Margaret Haines.

Parsons and Cameron’s currency has risen a lot of late, no doubt partially due to the two biographies on Parsons and Spencer Kansa’s one on Cameron. No longer quite that heretical fool that Crowleyan orthodoxy consciously or unconsciously attempted to paint him as, the father of American rocketry has now even had his life recently immortalised in the golden age of on-demand video; you can rest assured we won’t be watching that, of course.

The poems that comprise Songs for the Witch Woman were written by Parsons between 1946 and his death in 1952, and act as both a paean to Cameron, and an explication of the magickal cosmology they developed, the Witchcraft. Babalonian and sabbatic imagery abounds, with goats, horned moons, and voluptuousness up the wazoo. Parsons writes with a clear, evocative poetic style, with little baroque ornamentation and a pace and structure that means many of these poems could act as effective ritual accompaniments.

Marjorie Cameron: Danse

Against some of the poems, are twenty pen and ink images by Cameron, exhibiting a staggering control over line and form. Her style is entirely her own, all evocative economy of line and space, though there are obvious touchstones including Aubrey Beardsley’s stately royal figures, Egon Schiele’s jagged bodies, and somewhat prochronistically, Peter Chung’s aberrantly sensuous elongated flesh. Austin Spare could also be mentioned as a de rigueur comparison, with both artists sharing an interest in magickal bodies, though there’s a more angular and visceral quality to Cameron’s hand, rather than Spare’s ephemeral phantasmagorical forms.

Cameron’s minimalist skill is particularly evident in the images accompanying Aradia and Aztec where the amount of strokes needed to construct them can be counted on two hands. In others, Cameron, plays with the space on the page, in Autumn placing an obvious simulacrum of herself in the lower half of the page, with her hair rising up like flames into the space above her head. Something similar occurs in Passion Flowers, where the hair of a supine figure flows down and across the page, cascading from upper right to lower left.

Amongst the elongated female forms, of which there is an abundance, are images of Parsons, rendered unmistakable with Cameron’s economy and her evident ability as a caricaturist, able to distill someone’s essence into a few lines. Handsome and heavy-browed, he appears regal in the finely and confidently crafted images accompanying The Fool and Merlin, while his shock of dark hair is rendered matted in ink spatter amongst leaves and spider web in the qliphothic Neurosis. He can also be glimpsed in the ithyphallic eponym that accompanies Pan, or as the Sorcerer whose body seems to disintegrate amongst the stars he wields.

Marjorie Cameron: Pan

The digitised pages of the notebook are reproduced at 90% of their original size and include full page illustrations against some of the entries. In the case of some poems, such as Pan, this provides an additional image to illustrate the text, while others are the companions to previously unaccompanied poems. The style of these is less refined than Cameron’s black ink images, replacing the stark contrast of line and space with thicker strokes and washes of colour against the ecru background of the paper.

Watercolour version of Pan

The images and words of Songs for the Witch Woman are bookended with excerpts from Cameron’s diary, presented as both transcribed text and as the original handbook scans. Written a few months after the death of Parsons, the words were received as part of magickal workings, so for those inclined to adherancy and devotion, they have the status of holy writ (guilty). This is especially so when the digitised originals allow one to see Cameron’s hand, her script becoming larger and more emotive as pages past.

Pages from Cameron's diary

Songs for the Witch Woman is an invaluable resource, whether it be as simply a documentation of the work of Cameron and Parsons, or as a record useful for further research. Both the songs themselves and the entries from Cameron’s diary are rich in information and imagery ready for analysis, extraction or elaboration. Fulgur are to be commended for the thoroughness of their approach, with the large format and extensive scans of the original pages doing the work immense justice.

Songs for the Witch Woman is available in a limited edition hardback with 176 30.5cm x 24cm pages on 135gsm Italian paper, bound in blue cloth bearing the image used for Danse on the cover in black and a debossed silver moon on the back. It is completed with a dust-jacket bearing the first image from the original release on the front, and a reproduction of the words to Witch Woman on the reverse. The edition is limited to a fitting run of 1560 copies, 1390 of which are the regular edition, 156 of which are bound in quarter morocco leather, and fourteen of which are bound in full morocco.

Published by Fulgur


Review Soundtrack: Gydja & Emme Ya – Apsinthion 

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Lucifer: The Light of the Aeon – Written by Rebels. Edited by Diane Narraway

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Categories: devotional, luciferian, witchcraft, Tags:

The popularity of Lucifer seems to be surging of late with the recent compendium The Luminous Stone: Lucifer in Western Esotericism from Three Hand Press, a similar anthological work on its way from Anathema Publishing, and, of course, Peter Grey’s significant 2015 opus Lucifer: Princeps; not to mention the surfeit of Lulu and Createspace generated tomes that fill your Amazon recommendations with their appalling cover art, clunky sigils and poor typeface choices. Black Moon Publishing’s foray into this tumescent Luciferian field brings together a vast array of contributors, sixteen in all, variously presenting essays, poems and a smattering of images.

The first section, Awakenings, compiles a multitude of contributions within a relatively slight space, mostly short, personal anecdotes outlining people’s occult journey’s within which Lucifer, in some form, has played a role. There are nine of these in all, and at the beginning they are largely interchangeable, with similar writing styles depicting similar journeys. There’s often an estrangement from organised religion, which is followed by an encounter with an, at first, ambiguous supernatural figure whose identity is later confirmed to be Lucifer.

Speaking, erm, personally, the personal anecdote has never done much for me as a contribution to devotionals like this. While I realise that this approach is, in some ways, the very definition of a devotional, it seems to lack something when that experience isn’t expanded upon, and given context within a greater anthropological or mythological framework. Otherwise, it remains just a personal testimony, the equivalent of a fireside ghost story, which the reader has to either accept or dismiss; and as a somewhat pragmatic reviewer of books about magickal shenanigans, my default setting is the latter.

The contributions in Awakenings are often short and it isn’t until the second section, Love, Light and Laughter, that one realises why this is, with many of the stories now picking up from where they left off. Proof, mayhaps, that I didn’t read the introduction too carefully. This is not an entirely satisfactory device, given that the somewhat interchangeable nature of the contributions makes it hard to keep track of where the narrative is up to. And then there’s the additional wrinkle of perhaps not really wanting to hear anything further from a particular contributor after the introduction they’ve made in Awakenings. Because of how integral this multiple section structure is, it is worth mentioning the names of the nine contributors who reappear in this capacity: Dianne Narraway, Geraldine Lambert, Laurie Pneumatikos, Sean Witt, Eirwen Morgan, Richard K. Page, Jaclyn Cherie, Rachel Summers and Teach Carter.

This format ultimately makes Lucifer: The Light of the Aeon something of a struggle to get through. Personal reflections of people’s experience with organised religion, and their all too similar awakening to their inner rebel, are just not engaging. On top of that, the rebellion feels rather entry level and earnest, with nothing truly transgressive or adversarial, and just an all too obvious kicking against the pricks of an equally dull brand of Christianity.

It is only when this personal formula is abandoned that things begin to pick up and there’s more of a sense of focus. In Angels and Daemons, the cast of authors take a more exegetical approach with various, less-anecdotal explanations of Lucifer. These do largely cover the same ground because there’s only so much ground to cover when it comes to exploring Lucifer’s source material. These contributions still suffer, though, from the book’s structural device, feeling piecemeal in some instances, while in others they’re cast adrift from the anecdotal context of the previous two sections.

The other issue that arises here is that the less than stellar quality of some of the writing, which may have been protected by the personal nature of the previous entries, is laid bare when broader ideas have to be presented. In one piece, non sequiturs abound, conclusions are questionable, and facts are fuzzy: there’s a nonsensical reference to “biblical gnostics,” whoever they’re supposed to be, and a lazy, or at least poorly articulated, claim that ‘gnostic’ means ‘knowledge,’ when obviously it’s ‘gnosis’ that means ‘knowledge,’ not the adjective form.

The remaining four sections continue this same formula of slices from various contributors, focusing successively on blood and fire (identified as two of Lucifer’s more famous associations), magick (with a variety of broad accounts of people’s personal approach to ritual praxis, followed in some instances with specific exercises), questions concerning Lucifer’s consort (straw poll suggesting most contributors don’t see him as having one), and what could be described as concluding thoughts and miscellany. Naturally, these various shards range in quality, with some of the writing coming across as if they were written as an obligatory assignment simply predicated by the theme of that section. This is particularly noticeable in the discussion over whether Lucifer has a consort, with many of the authors writing as if it’s the first time they’ve pondered the question, and therefore spending the length of their contribution thinking out loud in print, as they try to work it out.

In all, the writing in Lucifer: The Light of the Aeon appears to come from a very personal place. There are no half-hearted adherents here, with a sense of a great deal of affection and devotion being paid to Lucifer. Your mileage may vary as to what weight such sincerity carries for you, but based on the effusive reviews on Amazon, it certainly works for some people.

As with the previously reviewed Women of Babalon: A Howling of Women’s Voices, I have reservations about the trademark Black Moon Publishing style with its 8×10 dimensions and use of wide decorative borders on every page. The dimensions make the book unwieldy, cumbersome to hold, and not conducive to being read, especially with the additional weight that comes from being over 300 pages long. This length is, no doubt, exacerbated by said border, which, whilst appealing in an over-the-top gothic aesthetic sense, does limit the amount of words that can appear on the page. It also overwhelms the occasional graphic contributions, which could all benefit from being reproduced larger and free of the competing rococo.

Lucifer: The Light of the Aeon has a companion volume, Songs of the Black Flame, also published by Black Moon Publishing, with many of the authors featured here returning for what is largely a compilation of Lucifer-themed poetry and artwork.

Published by Black Moon Publishing

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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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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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