Categotry Archives: hellenic

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Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism – Algis Uždavinys

Categories: classical, esotericism, hellenic, hermeticism

Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism coverIn the preface to Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism, Juan Acevedo, director of the publisher Matheson Trust, provides an initial outline of the work, being one in which, he says, Dr. Uždavinys’ intoxicated enthusiasm for his topic is tempered with a need to carry out exposition in a discursive and academic manner. It is a work which, would you believe, moves uneasily between the apophatic and the cataphatic, and we all know what kind of shenanigans that leads to. No? Alrighty then.

Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism runs as a single, 99-page monograph, divided into 24 chapters or sections that are given titles in the contents page, but infuriatingly, not in the actual body. Without these appearing within the body, the journey that Uždavinys takes the reader on can feel a little unstructured, as he jumps from one topic to the other without preamble. Laborious though it is, it becomes helpful to flip back to the contents page when encountering a new chapter, just to give you a sense of what is coming; and even then, that sometimes helps little.

Its sub-100 pages belie this volume’s density, with Uždavinys employing a multi-layered, polymathical style of writing that crams the pages with as much information as possible and often seems to divert into detail. Conversely, though, Uždavinys avoids using any theoretical framework or providing definitions of terms, so his highly specialised lexicon can be intimidating for those not familiar with it. Contrary to the title, there’s not always a lot of Orpheus involved, and this is no clearer than in the first chapter which begins, sans Orpheus, with a discussion of madness as a melancholy-like gift of the gods that can be poetic, telestic or prophetic (poietike mania, telestike mania and mantike mania).

Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism contents

Indeed, the roots that Uždavinys speaks of are more likely to be found in Egypt and more broadly, Mesopotamian, most notably Babylonia and Assyria. Even here, though, Platonism itself begins to lose its status as the focus of the text with Uždavinys spending an inordinate, though enjoyable, time considering the nature of prophecy and divine utterances in ancient Mesopotamia. These mantic experiences are explored exhaustively and range from the kind of channelled material generated by priests and priestesses standing within temples and embodying the gods, to local prophets who received messages from the gods involuntarily. This thorough exploration is divorced from what one would assume, given the title, is the focus of the book, and when Uždavinys does make reference to parallels in Greece he uses the rather less than satisfying, and possibly euphemistic, example of Pythagoras teaching from behind a curtain.

Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism spread

That isn’t to say there isn’t any mention of Orpheus or Orphism here, and the following four sections explicitly bear his name in their titles. Given the scarcity of extant information about a mythic figure like Orpheus though, and the lack of definition Uždavinys gives in turn to Orphism, these sections are brief, considerably more so than those that precede and proceed them, before yet another tangent is enthusiastically and abruptly pursued.

To return to the introductory words of Juan Acevedo, whether Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism does indeed move uneasily between the apophatic and the cataphatic this reviewer cannot say for sure, but it does succeed in its inability to sit still, ensuring that little gems spark interest amongst the turmoil of Uždavinys’ generously-described “discursive manner.”

Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism spread

With the expectation generated by the title ignored, what Uždavinys provides is an interesting consideration of a variety of matters of interest to the esotericist, whether it be prophecy, initiation, divine inspiration, cosmology and eschatological conceptions of the soul. That these are hidden away within Uždavinys’ somewhat desultory text may make the journey all the more satisfying.

Published by the Matheson Trust

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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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Chthonic Revelations – Alexander Corvus

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Categories: classical, hellenic, underworld, Tags:

Chthonic RevelationsThis slim volume is part of Fall of Man’s Nox Sine Occasu series, in which considerations are given to works too short to be considered full books, but too long to sit as essays in a journal. The focus in this instance is on the Greek oracular demigod Tropohonios, a relatively obscure entity that author Alexander Corvus should be pretty confident in being the sole devotee for, at least for now. Trophonios is presented within this work as an oracular deity of the underworld, a being that when encountered could produce a terrifying but ultimately cathartic and transformative experience.

This is the first published work by Corvus who otherwise runs the occult blog De Occulta Philosophia, and who, his biography informs us, has been actively practicing magic for over two decades. Other than that, there’s precious little available about the author, though one assumes that he is not a native English speaker as the writing suffers from many of those characteristic pitfalls. Though Corvus’ writing remains legible throughout, never losing his intentions in a mess of misapplied words, a little proofing to iron out some of the problematic phrasing would have been beneficial. The same is also true of proofing for spelling which has been rather lax, if not non-existent. This, at least, gifts us with a few wonderfully evocative howlers, such as the one that refers to “those wanting to descend to the groove of Trophonios,” bringing to mind some rather funky underworld endeavours.

Chthonic Revelations is principally divided into twin sections of mythos and the all-important praxis. In Mythos, Corvus surveys Greek literature to provide a comprehensive image of Trophonios that is thoroughly grounded in extant material. There are three authors who contribute to this corpus: the Greek geographer Pausanias, the 2nd to 3rd century sophist Philostratus, and Plutarch with his De genio Socratis. This information is ably compiled by Corvus who paraphrases where necessary and effectively bridges the direct quotes so that they are not left doing all the work. In the chapter that follows, Corvus then takes this surfeit of information and analyses it to isolate the various ritual elements associated with Trophonios.

trophonios-staff

The first-hand account given by Pausanias in his Description of Greece gifts Corvus with a ready-made ritual structure; providing him with the kind of explicit ancient antecedent that many an occult writer would kill for. Pausanias’ structure is fleshed out to create the main ritual operation here, but this is preceded with a less historically dependent and fairly typical draconian themed visualisation, the Ophidic Meditation, which is all very black snakes and surging powers. The Initiation Ritual proper is a five-step, seven-day working of both initiation and visions that mirrors its historical antecedent’s journey from purification, to katabasis, to revelation, to anabasis and ultimately to the interpretation and analysis of the entire process. This is followed by instructions for minor rituals that build upon the initiation: the setting up of a pholeos as a ritual space, and brief instructions for petitioning Trophonios with offerings, spells and curses.

Alen Grijakovic at Opposition Artworks provides the scattering of full page, full bleed illustrations that divide this book into its constituent parts. As one comes to expect with titles from publishers such as Fall of Man, where an intersection between occultism and metal is palpable, these images employ a style of pen and ink drawing that is otherwise almost the exclusive reserve of metal album covers, particularly its most blackest of varieties. Cross-hatching abounds in these densely rendered pictures, with one image being a fairly traditional image of Trophonios bee-hive in hand, while another is considerably more metal, all hooded figures, demonic gateways and a snaked-wreathed being with glowing eyes.

Trophonios

Chthonic Revelations is presented in the same style as other entries in Fall of Man’s Nox Sine Occasu series, such as the previously reviewed Ophidic Essence: Seeking A Return to the Origin. Its 85 pages on 135gsm coated paper are soft cover bound in a faux crushed leather that is hot-stamped in grey with the Chthonic Revelations logo. The hand-sewn spine is a little tight, with noticeable instances in which, at least on my copy, the thread is visible and threatens to tear a hole in the gutter of the pages. Of the 300 hand-numbered copies, the first 70 copies are presented in a black rugged folder bearing the staff of Trophonios sigilised in silver and the Nox Sine Occasu logo as a wax seal. These 70 copies also have a digital version of the book included in the price.

Published by Fall of Man.

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