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The Visions of the Pylons – J. Daniel Gunther

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Categories: egyptian, thelema

The Visions of the Pylons coverGloriously subtitled A Magical Record of Exploration in the Starry Abode, J. Daniel Gunther’s Visions of the Pylons is a record of magical workings undertaken in the mid-1970s by the author and his scribe, Richard Gernon. The pylons in questions are twelve underworld gates, delineated in The Book of Pylons (or Book of Gates), an Ancient Egyptian funerary text that describes the nocturnal journey of a soul into the next world. This passage through the Duant mirrors the nightly underworld journey of the sun, with each gate marking an hour in this long night of the soul. Each of these gates is associated with a different goddess (whose characteristics the deceased must recognise), thus making the text and its journey a fitting initiatory narrative.

For Gunther, the pylons are not simply an Egyptian system, but relate to other psychocosms and magickal worldviews employed in Western occultism, in particular the Qabbalah. During his initial exploration of the system Gunther tentatively identified the first four pylons as the final four sephiroth of the Qabbalistic Tree of Life, but following a suggestion by his then A.:.A.:. instructor, Marcelo Ramos Motta, he reimagined them as the quarternal elemental gates of the single sephira of Malkuth. In a continuation of this correspondence, Gunther would subsequently identify the next three pylons as the sephira of Yesod, Hod and Netzach. It is worth noting that this is not simply a case of like-for-like sympathies between the two systems, and instead, Gunther integrates the two, arguing that the pylons contain internal gateways that provide ingress to the higher planes of the Tree of Life (as well as the thirty aethyrs of Enochian magick) without the use of the traditional pathways between spheres.

Visions of the Pylons colour plates

The record here is an incomplete journey through the pylons, as only seven of the twelve are explored (though two are scryed twice), with Gunther at the time not being permitted to enter the final five; save, he says, for a “fleeting glimpse of the Hold Bridal Chamber (Tiphereth).” He does, though, provide the means to enter all of them and this, the practical side of things, forms a substantial series of appendices, the contents of which are otherwise barely touched on in the preceding recounting of the pylon visions. Each of the guardians is given a sigil, derived from a 5×5 grid composed of phonetic renderings of the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet, with the design emerging from connecting the consonants of the name; as one would when using planetary magic squares for a similar purpose. This can lead to some pleasing sigils but also, given vagaries of name length and the placement of the letters in the grid, some rather less than pleasing ones; yes, I’m looking at you, Yethy-ma-eiri-fa, go home, you’re drunk. Each sigil, along with the hieroglyphic version of the guardian’s name, is to be inscribed on a wax pantacle, much as one would in following Crowley’s instructions in Liber A, and this object becomes the focus for exploration of that pylon. This exploration follows a fairly standard Thelema-tinged Western magic approach: corners are invoked, signs of the crux asanta, adoration and silence are made, a sacrament of saffron cakes and honey milk is partaken off (recipe included), and visions ensue; with seer and scribe breaking the respective pantacle in half at the conclusion.

Visions of the Pylons sigil construction

The incongruity in the ritual elements is carried over to Gunther’s record of the visions themselves, where the imagery and the language itself feels more European than Egyptian, save for the occasional appearance of familiar Egyptian entities and iconography. Due to the appeal of the archaic tones of the King James translation of the Bible, the language used here is closer to a facsimile of seventeenth century English than anything one can imagine being spoken by an Egyptian deity; something which Gunther does acknowledge. Similarly, in matters of imagery, angels abound as well as a veritable cornucopia of Western esotericism worthy of Uncle Al’s own magpie-like tendencies: Greek mythology, tarot symbolism, bits of Enochian here, a little I Ching there, Hebrew Hebrew everywhere. Despite giving their names in the creation of the sigils used to enter these gates, the traditional guardians of these pylons don’t seem to play a significant or overwhelmingly identifiable role in these visions, giving way to a more general melange of Thelemic motifs.

Like peeking into someone’s dream journal, it often feels slightly intrusive to read the accounts of other people’s magical visions, especially if you subscribe to the psychological model and see it all as the workings of the unconscious and subconscious; and less graciously, perhaps even the conscious. There is an element of that here, but in general, the visions for each pylon are so suffused with portentous statements, complex imagery and the occasional flourish of gematria that if one was to unsympathetically dismiss this as all someone’s active imagination, you’d still have to give them top marks for effort. All of this imagery is fully footnoted, with Gunther providing a constant and thorough commentary on the meaning and symbolism of everything encountered.

Visions of the Pylons chapter title page

The seventeenth century-style English permeating these visions does become tiresome, with both seer and entities constantly employing its forms, and verily, there doth be a multitude of thous all up in this domicile. This reaches its sublimely ridiculous zenith in the vision of the third pylon where an angel sends your mind reeling by asking the tortuous “knowest thou not that thou art verily the word itself.” Um, sure, whatever you say, guy. This is something which highlights another tendency here, where these astral entities often ask rhetorical questions and unanswered hypophora, as if they themselves are not sure about their own esoteric soup, and are constantly looking for affirmation; yet never pause long enough for an answer. “Hath not the Fire of our Father licked up the offerings upon the stone?” Um, yes, I guess so. “Who hath decreed that the waters should be wormwood to poison the bowels of the sea?” Don’t look at me, it was like that when I got here. “Hath not the head of the Bull been taken to appease the thirst of the Lady of the Sea?” Um *looks sideways*, yeah, absolutely it has. “Hath not the 81 been expanded to the Hawk-headed Lord of Strength and Silence?” Hang on, *checks notes* oh yes, that was mentioned at the last stakeholder’s meeting by Tina from Sales.

Visions of the Pylons page with footnotes and tarot image

As a record of a very particular kind of magickal journey and its attendant cosmology, Visions of the Pylons, irrespective of the snark, makes for an interesting read. Those expecting a straightforward Egyptian experience reflecting the journey through the underworld as recorded in the original Book of Gates will be disappointed, as that iconography and narrative is largely absent. There’s no solar barque, no explicit sequences of the traveller assuming the various neter god forms, and no direct encounters with the guardian goddesses of each hour.

Visions of the Pylons page with Hermanubis image

Visions of the Pylons has been released as a hardback bound in blue cloth with the sigil of the A.:.A.:. debossed on the cover. This is wrapped in a dust jacket with cover art by Nancy Wasserman, featuring a depiction of the solar barque in the underworld, based on a scene from the Book of Gates in the tomb of Ramses I, with the sun god standing at the centre of the boat, bull-headed like Khnum, and the serpent Apep in the waters below.

Book design and layout is by James Wasserman’s Studio 31 with body set in a standard roman serif face but with all dialogue rendered in a different, ever-so-slightly condensed, humanist serif. Other than sigils and the like, Visions of the Pylons is peppered with images, used to illustrate the interpretation of vision elements, including a selection of atu from the Thoth deck, and various photos or drawings of god forms. These vary in quality from perfect line drawings of the Egyptian gods, to rather less satisfying illustrations or photographs whose lo-res origins are betrayed by artefacts and jagged or blurry lines. There are also a series of glossy colour plates showing the relationship between the various pylons and the sephiroth, as well as a black and white plate opening the book with a depiction of Gunther as The Magician, created in pen and ink by Australian artist Robert Buratti (secretly commissioned by Giuseppe Zappia).

Published by Ibis Press

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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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The Fraternitas Saturni – Stephen E. Flowers

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Categories: germanic, luciferian, magick, runes, thelema, Tags:

Fraternitas Saturni coverVerbosely subtitled History, Doctrine, and Rituals of the Magical Order of the Brotherhood of Saturn, Stephen E. Flowers’ The Fraternitas Saturni is the fourth edition of a work originally released by Llewellyn in 1990 as Fire and Ice, with the equally prolix subtitle of The History, Structure, and Rituals of Germany’s Most Influential Modern Magical Order – The Brotherhood of Saturn. Since that initial version, the work has been published again by Llewellyn in 1994, and then in a revised edition by Runa Raven Press in 2006. This 2018 incarnation is both revised and expanded, as evidenced by the already lengthy appendices lettered from ‘a’ to ‘i’ now extending to ‘l.’

At its release, as Flowers notes in his introduction, Fire and Ice was the first book to discuss the Fraternitas Saturni at length, and it would be hard to think of any title that has done much more since. In the English speaking world, it is Flowers who still seems to have the monopoly on this particular field of German occultism, with all the risks that having a single interlocutor entails. As Flower also acknowledges, the material contained in The Fraternitas Saturni dates from before 1969, so doesn’t necessarily reflect the beliefs and practices of the order after that date, or today.

One of the first additions to this new edition is found in the initial consideration of the occult milieu from which the Fraternitas Saturni emerged. Here, in addition to his previous discussion of quasi-Masonic lodges such as the Freemasonic Order of the Golden Centurium (FOGC) and obviously the Ordo Templi Orientis, Flowers now discusses the neglected but influential role of Adonism. He devotes several illustrated pages to this school of magical thought and its foremost proponents, Franz Sättler’s Adonistische Gesellschaft, as well as giving still further information as an appendix.

Other changes are largely subtle, with the one thing of obvious note being the amount of new images added to the text; something very much in evidence in the Adonism section. The pictorial elements in the original Fire and Ice were limited to a few diagrams, already well-worn photographs of Gregorius and the bust of GOTOS, and two hand drawn illustrations by James Allen Chisholm. All of these recur here, but in better quality (save for Chisholm’s pictures which look a little 8bit), and they’re joined by a swathe of supporting images, including examples of publications and portraits of key figures.

Fraternitas Saturni sigil

The Fraternitas Saturni begins with the aforementioned discussion of the occult subculture that birthed the order, with Flowers providing a thorough overview of German occultism of the period, noting in particular the way in which Thelema infused some of the major variants. While the OTO absorbed Thelema to become Crowley’s principle magickal order, the Fraternitas Saturni embraced the philosophy, but neither its cosmology, nor Uncle Al’s suzerainty. Instead, as Flowers details, the order promulgated a mythos that merged Gnosticism with Luciferianism, in which Saturnus is a demiurgic figure associated, not just with the typical saturnian characteristics of melancholic introspection and initiation, but with Lucifer (as the sphere’s highest octave) and Satan (as its lowest). For those with aphotic inclinations, there’s a certain appeal to this cosmology, with its combination of metaphysical speculation, plutonian-hued deity forms, and the handy appeal to authority that arises from its use by an order now almost a century old.

The other particularly striking aspect of the order’s belief system, and one which is fairly unique in its application, is the use of the egregor GOTOS, whose name was an acronym based on the name of the order’s 33° grade, Gradus Ordinis Templi Orientis Templi. Considered an embodiment of the order, but also as a pre-existing entity attached to Saturn, the GOTOS egregore took the place of the ascended masters and secret chiefs so typical of other occult organisations of the time, guiding initiates through their journey. The difference being that GOTOS was understood to be a thought-form manifested by the order’s members, rather than some dubious dudes in robes kicking it on a mountain somewhere in far off lands.

Subsequent chapters in The Fraternitas Saturni explore more of the order’s beliefs (but more from a philosophical rather than cosmological perspective), and the structure of the order (including a detailed listing of grades). An outline of their actual magical work and rituals follows and these, as one would expect, have a strong focus on masonic-style lodge work, but there is also a sacerdotal element, with an extensive list of liturgy-rich sacraments that includes the use of various type of elemental eucharist. Two other areas of ritual in which the Fraternitas Saturni are known are electrical magic (which Flowers touches on all-too briefly) and sexual magic (for which two rites are outlined).

Including index and bibliography, The Fraternitas Saturni runs to 207 pages, but just over half of that comprises the book proper, with the rest consisting of extensive appendices. These include several long Fraternitas Saturni rituals (three masses and the Gradus Pentalphae), various letters between Crowley and order founder Gregor A. Gregorius, and instead of his pragmatic suggestions regarding sex magic from 1990, Flowers includes an initiation rite from the Freemasonic Order of the Golden Centurium. The other appendices new to this edition include more details about Rosicrucianism and the Bavarian Illuminati, and the welcomed consideration of Adonism. There are also some lessons for neophytes from order member Master Pacitius (artist, architect and the producer and production designer for F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Albin Grau), which are provided as one of the rare example of his written occult work.

The cover of the original Fire and Ice in 1990 featured an evocative painting by N. Taylor Blanchard, a darkly hued view of the sigil of Saturn suspended against a range of mountains, all lit from behind by an effulgent light. It was a mysterious image that, other than the Saturn sigil, didn’t seem to reflect too much that was specific to the Fraternitas Saturni, and was very much of its time; with many of the books by Flowers (as well as other Llewellyn authors) employing painted cover art, some better than others. The cover of this 2018 version is also of its time, with the oils of the 1980s and 1990s giving way to a strong graphic look that sets the title and sigils (highlighted with a subtle spot varnish) over a low opacity image of the bust of the GOTOS egregore. It’s nice, a simple but classy treatment, as is true of the covers of many books from Inner Traditions.

The Fraternitis Saturni spread

Inside, the copy is treated with an equally adept hand by the good folks at Inner Tradition. Whereas the original Fire and Ice had Llewellyn’s typical-for-the-time solid and functional layout with a slightly too large, almost slab serif face, and not a lot of space around it, The Fraternitas Saturni uses a classic serif at a respectable size for the body, with subtitles in a san serif, housed in roomy, but not too roomy, margins. The hierarchy makes it eminently more readable than its predecessor, and the reduced page count and larger page size, makes it more pleasant to hold.

This new edition of The Fraternitas Saturni makes for a worthwhile acquisition, whether you don’t have its previous incarnations, or simply want an excuse to reread it, now some 28 years after you may have read it the first time. As testified, the redesign from Inner Traditions will assist in this, making it feel not just eminently more readable, but just a little bit fresh and new. Throughout the book, Flowers writes with an unadorned, thoroughly competent style, with everything presented in a somewhat matter of fact manner.

Published by Inner Traditions


Review Soundtrack: Various Artists – Saturn Gnosis

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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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Women of Babalon: A Howling of Women’s Voices – Edited by Mishlen Linden

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Categories: luciferian, magick, thelema, typhonian, Tags:

womenofbabalon-coverIt would be fair to say that over the years, more has been written about Babalon by men, than by women, with her most obvious devotees being two very prominent men within magick, Aleister Crowley and Jack Parsons. One could argue that this has led to a very particular view of Babalon, and Scarlet Women in general, whether they are envisioned as the heterosexual lover of the male supplicant, or a muse or Shakti-type figure whose identity is only understood or activated via a relationship with a male figure. This volume seeks to address this, bringing together seventeen women to speak with the voice of Babalon. That isn’t to say that Babalon is the sole choice of subject here, and whilst she certainly plays a central part, other areas of magick and occultism get their chance to shine. Rather, this is about giving matters of magick, specifically where they relate directly or tangentially to Babalon’s ambit, a specifically female voice.

With thirteen written contributions, and eleven illustrations, there is a range of styles and subject matters presented here, with sex and art featuring heavily. Linda Falorio provides a couple of tantric techniques, including a Tree of Night Tantra via Eroto-Comatose Orgasmica, no less, while both Charlotte Rodgers and Emma Doeve briefly explore different and intersecting aspects of sex magick; and in the case of Doeve, power relationships. Doeve also contributes another piece in which she gives a brief biography of the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and surveys her works. In matters of a more, shall we say, theographical nature, Diane Narraway has an extensive devotional essay on Lucifer, giving the Lightbringer a relatively brief but satisfying biography, flavoured with personal reflections. Maegdlyn Morris writes of the Warrior Babalon, addressing her as the Babalon of Severity, of Geburah, in a piece which, with its slightly polemical celebration of the Red Goddess as spirit of rebellion and heresy, reminds of Peter Grey’s similar approach.

The longest contribution in Women of Babalon is provided by editor, Mishlen Linden, who allows the reader access to her magickal record with an extended excerpt, all forty pages of it. Subtitled Building the Body of Babalon, it tracks a yearlong tantric exploration between Linden and her priest with an engaging narrative, highlighting the importance of keeping a magickal record, in which a discernible evolution of practice and results is laid bare. Despite it being a personal record, the level of exposition and instruction within the text means that the sense of voyeurism is minimal, as if it was always, on some level, intended for publication.

Babalon and the Beast by Lorraine Sherwin

Of these Women of Babalon, it is Lou Hotchkiss Knives who provides the most enjoyable piece with “Watch Her Wrap Her Legs Arounds This World,” which bears the exhaustive subtitle Babalon, Sex, Death, Conception, Punk Rock and the Mysteries. As said subtitle suggests, this is a wide-ranging, five-part piece, and one that is expertly written in an informed, knowledgeable manner that never loses its audience despite its length. Perhaps my bias and expectation is showing, but the piece succeeds because its focus is explicitly on Babalon, providing me with everything I hoped to find in this volume. Hotchkiss Knives begins with an account of a dream of Babalon manifesting as her daughter, lost to miscarriage and now existing as a moonchild whose face is only seen in the no-man’s land of oneiric journeys. In many ways, this is a highly personal and affecting reflectiont, but Hotchkiss Knives ably contextualises and transmutes it within a magickal and thoroughly Babalonian framework. She follows this with an exploration of Babalon within a Qabalistic context, tracing her influence through the sephira and linking this to suitably Babalonian imagery in the tarot. These personal and Qabalistic preambles then give way to Hotchkiss Knives’ primary discussion concerning the spirit of Babalon within music and identifying punk and riot grrrl as particular expressions of her energy. Nina Hagen, the Slits, all the way up to Courtney Love and the appositely named Hole are name-checked as examples of this musical-magickal Babalonian nexus. With experience in her own punk band, Husband N Knives, Hotchkiss Knives is able to speak from an experiential perspective about the magickal power of music, shooting it through with a passion that makes you almost forgive the mention of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers; almost.

Women of Babalon follows what seems to be the Black Moon Publishing style du jour, using a large ornamental border on every page. This has the effect of enlarging the overall dimensions of the book itself but still shrinking the column widths to below average. Coupled with a rather large body typeface, this can lead to a feeling of there being less than a typical amount of content per page. Personally, I could do without the rococo border. It’s one of those things that may have initially seemed like a good idea, but ultimately, there are reasons that convention prevails and you don’t see a lot of books formatted like that. The resulting over-sized format also makes the entire book cumbersome to hold, limiting the environments in which it can be conveniently and comfortably read. As someone who takes great pride in having her read books look like they’re unread, the wear and tear that came as a result of this was knife-in-the-stomach-noticeable. The large border also precludes the use of standard page furniture, other than page numbers, so a constant return to the contents page is required to find your way to a particular contribution without the ability to give a quick glance at a header or footer.

Madeleine Ledespencer - And you shall see the shades which she becomes

There are a range of illustrations doted throughout the book, though they are by no means a focus here. Their impact is lessened by the aforementioned rococo border which both reduces the potential size of the images and tends to overwhelm them. The most successful of these is Madeleine Ledespencer’s And you shall see the shades which she becomes, in which her polished 3D render contrasts with the more brush and acrylics stylings that accompany it.

Despite its wealth of contributors, there is a certain similitude that emerges from these voices, with the many women of Babalon forming an almost audible choir. There are things that act almost as refrains, to continue the laboured analogy, with sex, tantra, chakras and kundalini being common touchstones. There is diversity amongst the voices, and while there is by no means a sense of an enforced perspective, there is a palpable sense of shared experiences and similar world views.

Published by Black Moon Publishing

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Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies, Issue Five

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Categories: magick, paganism, thelema, Tags:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by Fulgur.

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Arbor de Magistro – Nikolai Saunders

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Categories: enochian, magick, thelema, Tags:

Arbor de MagistroI first came across the work of Nikolai Saunders in Anathema Publishing’s Pillars journal in which he presented an invocation of Tiamat, penned, I found somewhat incongruously, in Enochian. That approach, and indeed that invocation, reoccurs in this book, where Enochian, aided and abetted by Latin, is the lingua rituale of choice.

As the subtitle The Grimoire of Aethyric Evocation indicates, Arbor de Magistro combines Goetic style invocations and evocations with Enochian cosmology, using the aethyrs and calls of the latter as the context within which the former are employed. Saunders argues that what this means is that a spirit from Goetia can be summoned whilst the practitioner is within an Enochian aethyr, and said spirit can then provide an alternate viewpoint to this realm. This combination of Solomonic and Enochian magick exemplifies occultism’s predilection for complexity, as Saunders says 91 Enochian governors and 30 aethyrs already provides about 2700 different combinations of spirits and aethyrs. With the addition of the 72 spirits from the Goetia to the 30 aethyrs, a grand total of around 5000 spirit-aethyr combinations emerge. Quite what you would do with so many ethereal beings in so many aethyrs I don’t know, but I bet they have a powerful union.

Saunders’ book is presented within a cosmology that doesn’t feel too distant from many of the nightside and anticosmic systems that are prominent at the moment. It is by no means qliphothic, but it does employ a mythos that recalls that of the Dragon Rouge in which the core principles of the universe are Chaos, identified with Tiamat and Babalon, within which resides the second principle, Therion, the Beast, who as Leviathan is seen as the Serpent Father of the Abyss. With the way in which Crowley monopolised the use of the term Therion, this can lead to a few disconcerting moments when you momentarily think evocations are referring to good old Uncle Al.

While there is a little theory at the beginning, much of the book consists of rituals which can be summarised as aethyric evocations, group initiations, and sex magick workings. Your mileage will vary as to how effective or evocative the rituals seem to be. There’s a lot of Enochian text, a fair bit of Latin and a few geometric sigils; these are presented as scans of the pencil-on-paper originals, rather than rendered anew digitally. The group initiation rituals feel rather reminiscent of masonic-styled Victorian occultism, all blindfolded supplicants being led into the temple and the great mysteries and secrets being revealed to them after an “initiation hard-won.”

arbor_logo

One of the strange quirks of Arbor de Magistro is the decision to present almost all ritual text in triplicate, creating a magickal Rosetta Stone in which the text first appears in the Enochian script, followed by a transliteration of the Enochian into Latin characters, and finally, an English translation. While I can understand this if the letters were required for transcribing, I can’t imagine many people, no matter how proficient they are in Enochian, are going to choose to read the words in their Enochian characters when the transliterated version is sitting right beneath it. This quirk does, inadvertently, make Arbor de Magistro quite the page turner, but that’s more to do with how quickly you can flick through when almost entire pages are taken up with monolithic blocks of Enochian characters.

Arbor de Magistro is designed to the usual high standards of Fall of Man and published as a regular edition of 300 copies with a special Magister edition of 60 copies. The regular edition is octavo size, bound in black Senzo, with the Tree of the Master in matte gold on the cover, finished with black end-papers and a hand-sewn spine. The rather flasher Magister Edition is bound in dark grey leather, and comes in a handmade hinged and locked oak box, hand crafted and marked with the sigil of one of six different spirits: Pacasna, Thotanf, Valgars, Lucifer, Beezlebuth and Ashtaroth.

Published by Fall of Man.

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Tankhem: Seth & Egyptian Magick – Mogg Morgan

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Categories: egyptian, magick, thelema, typhonian, Tags:

Tankhem coverMogg Morgan’s Tankhem is subtitled Seth & Egyptian Magick, and this, and the promotional blurb, gives the prospective reader the impression that they will be getting an exploration of Set, informed by the life of the Nineteenth dynasty pharaoh Seti I; and the use of Seti’s temple complex at Abydos as an astral temple in magick. Morgan begins with a prolegomena to Egyptian magick that sets forth the case for Set(h) as a much neglected but important figure in Egyptian mythology. This is followed by a Kenneth Grant-inspired consideration of the role of Set in Thelema, embracing the slightly darker side of Crowley that sees Aiwass as Set/Shaitan. After this, though, things begin to lose focus and each subsequent chapter seems to be a separate essay unrelated to the last, and sometimes with little connection to the titular subject of the book.

Chapter 3 is a consideration of the temple of Seti I at Abydos, which Morgan believes is crucial to an understanding of Set. This is an interesting premise, but instead of writing about it himself (or giving any evidence that he’s actually been there), Morgan ends up quoting extensively (by which I mean page after page) from the writings of Omn Sety. Known to her parents as Dorothy Louise Eady, Omn Sety was a London-born Egyptologist who also believed that in a past life she had been a priestess in Ancient Egypt called Bentreshyt. As interesting as Omn Sety and her two lives are, it seems odd to quote so extensively from her, especially when any good writer should know how to paraphrase.

While Omn Sety’s chapter (and let’s be fair, most of it is by her) is on topic, Chapter 4’s discussion of sex magick comes out of left field and, if I’m reading the endnotes correctly, is indeed a previously published article. Following that, Chapter 5 turns, quite unexpectedly, to an exploration of the life and magickal system of William Butler Yeats. This is a rather interesting chapter and one comes away feeling that Yeat’s contribution to occultism has been sadly underrepresented, but it certainly seems to have been written for something else, with very little relevance to Seth & Egyptian Magick. While chapter 6 moves back on topic with a consideration of Ursa Major in Egyptian stellar mythology, the way in which themes previously discussed are introduced anew makes you wonder if yet again, this is a previously written piece that has been slotted in.

Morgan has an informal conversational style of writing which could be charming if he stayed focused. But the casual tone gets particularly infuriating in Chapter 2, Setinism, where he gives an overview of the various contemporary strands of Satanism, particularly La Vey’s approach. Sounding like a conversation on an internet forum or email list, this chapter is littered with “it seems to be,” “from what I’m told,” “it is said” and “apparently,” with the most egregious example coming when he says “as far as I can remember – the Satanic Bible works with lots of god forms from the medieval grimoire tradition.” Either it does or it doesn’t; sure, we may not be expecting APA referencing here, but was there really no time to dig out a copy and check?

The layout and design of Tankhem can only be described as appalling. The cover image is pixelated and adorned unsympathetically with de rigueur Egyptian-font-choice Papyrus in all its un-kerned glory. Inside, Papyrus is used extensively for subheadings and the running header (but with a faux bold applied so that the trademark organic distressing of the font disappears anyway), while the endnotes of each chapter are rendered in the same none-too-small serif font used for the body text. Faring even worse are the pages and pages of extracts from Omn Sety, which are jarringly presented in a huge 14 point san serif font which leads to a meagre 27 lines a page.

Like any guilt-tripping parent, I’m not angry, just disappointed. The prospect of a book considering Set, the temple at Abydos and Egyptian magick in general held so much promise. But it is let down by the lack of focus, cruelly enabled by the bad formatting.

Published by Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 1869928-865.

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The History of British Magick After Crowley – Dave Evans

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Categories: chaos, magick, thelema

magickaftercrowleyI was really looking forward to reading this book. If i recall correctly, it was one of those “spoil myself with one expensive item” items in an Amazon order of more modestly priced books and CDs. I mean, 435 pages of post-Crowley magickal history, what wonders it must explore, what depth it must go to in what must surely be the definitive work on modern occultism. Sadly, this turned out to be wishful thinking that led to my hopes being dashed more thoroughly than they perhaps should have been. Perhaps my biggest mistake was not paying close enough attention to the publishers, who i now see are the print-on-demand Lightning Source. I had assumed that the higher than average price was because it had been released via some academic publishing house, rather than being the result of the over-pricing that occurs in some POD; and must surely make a mockery of that supposedly frugal financial model. This lack of a real publisher now makes sense of some of the annoying elements in the content that surely any proof-reader would have pointed out; more about those in scurulous detail later.

Dave Evans is apparently a practising magician as well as a “professional academic researcher,” whose supervisor at Bristol University is Ronald Hutton. I can’t imagine that Hutton supervised much of the final work, though, at least not with a red pen in hand, ready to make suggestions. This is Evans’ PhD thesis turned into a book, and it suffers many of the problems associated with publishing an academic paper as a book; though Hutton has shown that you can write about magick academically without it being tiresome or losing any of the thrill of the subject. The biggest of the academic problems this book has is its attempts at providing wider context and marking out process. In his Triumph of the Moon, Hutton does this in the early chapters, extensively setting the birth of Wicca in the colonial and post-colonial milieu in which ideas central to Wicca, such as Pan as a catch-all god of a personified spirit of Nature, had their origins. But where Hutton is effective in authoritatively setting the context upon which his later chapters will be based, Evans seems to have cribbed stuff he may have written for other papers and inserted it to give the appearance of ponderous academic digression or scene setting. There’s a particularly tedious and lengthy section on blasphemy and morality which really has very little relevance to the subject of modern magick of any stripe; with even Satanism, one of the paths mentioned in the book, tending to stray away from it once the thrill of a Black Mass has worn off. I mean, what’s the point of this extensive survey of blasphemy when Evans himself mentions that despite his litigious nature, it was never a charge of blasphemy that saw Crowley in court. Genesis P-Orridge is also mentioned in this section, but is ridiculously prefaced with the self-defeating caveat “Although not prosecuted for actual blasphemy,” before going on to talk about the bottom-feeding Channel 4 documentary that saw hir exiled from the UK. So, no modern magickian has been charged with blasphemy, probably because one, prosecutors don’t really care what some loonies get up to own their own (unless it’s safe, sane and consensual sex, amirite?) and two, because blasphemy plays such a minuscule role in magickal practise.

Along with this useless digression about blasphemy and morality, there’s 50 pages of scene-setting twaddle that concludes with some equally pointless blather about the meaning of “the left hand path.” I mean, who really cares anymore? Does anyone really define themselves like that still, other than self-publishing demonalatry etc authors on Amazon.com? There’s an extensive survey of magickal practitioner’s definition of the left hand path, but the only thing that the thoroughness of it does is highlight the failing this book has in wasting time on useless information. But you ain’t seen nothing yet, folks, no siree.

Although the previous 200 pages have occassionally mentioned aspects of post-Crowley magick, they are but a preamble to what occurs now which is a concentrated study of particular magickal practitioners and movements. Who could be the first choice? What shining dark light from modern occultism could be going under the microscope? Yes, you guessed it, come on down Armado fucking Crowley. Yes, the man who claims to be Uncle Al’s biological son and sole magickal heir (sorry Caliphate, and apparently he wasn’t actually all that into Thelema anyway), but who no one takes seriously. You just have to read one of Armado’s books to know it’s all a rather pointless charade and that the Crowley in them bears little relationship to all other records of him (including his own). And it’s not as if Evans doesn’t know this. In fact, he spends page after page showing how Armado has lied about this, or falsified that. Again, it’s pointless. While it’s somewhat fun to see each of Armado’s falsehoods scandalously documented, why bother? We know he’s a liar, so should we really be surprised to find that, omg, he’s not a novelist or playright anymore than he’s a magician! Evans seems to have spent far too much time playing detective, trying to track Armado down from various leads about his legal name, before finally scoring the jackpot himself from the Properties window of a Microsoft Word doc that Armado himself had sent. Score! But a score of 0, because nobody cares. Armado gets 50 pages and then as he has done before, Evans shoots himself in his irony-oblivious foot by quoting Armado himself as a final jab: “there is not the least value in trying to use writers of ‘fiction’ as witnesses.” Well, 50 pages worth of value say differently, Mr Evans.

Evans then turns to Kenneth Grant (finally) and uses him to also talk about Austin Spare and the use of Lovecraft’s mythos in contemporary magick. There’s not much in the way of revelations about Grant here, and nothing that familiarity with Typhonian documents online won’t have already introduced someone to. But it’s good to have it all in one place and Evans seems quite proud of having the most pages in print about Grant; though he’s probably equally proud of the Armado word count too. From there, it’s a brief discussion about Chaos magick which made me realise just how old hat and ridiculously last century it now seems. Somehow i had imagined that the history of British Magick after Crowley was a much richer field than what Evans covers. Obviously he’s looking at magick in a ceremonial-Crowleyesque vein, so there’s little in the way of Druidism or Wicca/Witchcraft here, and equally obviously, Ronald Hutton has covered that area so well already. But even so, what about rune/Norse based magick, such as the Rune Gild UK, with both Freya Aswynn and Ian Read (as well as the whole neo/apocalyptic folk scene) having elements of Crowleyan influence in addition to the runic stuff. For that matter, why not look at Current 93, or a proper, rather than cursory, look at Gen and TOPY, or a consideration of Coil that goes deeper than referring to them as, i kid you not, a “magically-inspired rock band.” Yeah, i totally remember that time Jhonn Balance like totally shredded this mind-blowing guitar solo. Dude. I would think the fact that Caliphate OTO head William Breeze/Hymenaeus Beta has worked and performed with both Coil and Current 93 would suggest they deserve more than passing mentions as rock bands. Also totally absent is Shri Gurudev Mahendranath’s International Nath Order, which is a bit ridiculous considering Mahendranath (or Lawrence Miles, as his parents knew him) met Crowley, and the Nath system could be said to be informed by elements of Thelema. And despite having a brief section on Satanism, in which he’s far too kind on Anton La Vey, Evans doesn’t look at specifically British Satanism at all. No mention of Magda Graham, or the presence that the Temple of Set had in the UK. There’s one mention of the Order of Nine Angles, but only in a caveat stating that they and the TOS are “worthy of an entire PhD thesis rather than this tiny overview”. Well, maybe if there wasn’t 50 pages of Armado fucking Crowley and the same amount about blasphemy, then he could have done some proper research for at least a page or two instead of that cop out. In total, there’s a feeling of Evans not being quite as involved in British occulture as he tries to appear, with the focus strictly on the Typhonian OTO, Chaos, and out of left left left field, Armado Crowley.  

But in all fairness, it’s not the content (or lack thereof) that bothers me the most about this book. It’s the writing. The lack of a proofreader is really obvious, and we’re not talking spelling or gramatical mistakes, but more the kind of things where another set of eyes would have said “maybe you don’t want to keep on doing that on every fucking page, you knob.” The real kicker is a Dan Brown-like(1)  need to introduce everyone as if they were appearing in an obituary: “Acclaimed wank artist, Freddy McFingers,” “Annoyingly pseudonym-happy bullshit merchant, Ramsey Dukes” (not real quotes, but the last one is the opinion the reader will eventually develop thanks to Evans’ constant references to him). But it’s not the sentence phrasing itself that’s all that annoying, it’s that Evans seems to think his readers have poor short term memories and reintroduces the same people again and again. Phil Hine seems to suffer worst of all and i began to dread references to him, as they would each time be prefaced by “Magician and author Phil Hine” or variations thereupon. I mean, i think the reader should be quite capable of remembering who Phil Hine is, and not needing a little job description in case they think Evans actually means international film star and surrealist painter Phil Hine, or the 35th president of the United States Phil Hine. I don’t know why magician and author Phil Hine seems to suffer this repeated prefacing more than anyone else, but it’s so bad that in one instance it actually happens on the same page to magician and author Phil Hine. Mercifully Crowley and Kenneth Grant are, apparently, big enough fish in this book that the reader doesn’t need to be reminded who they are. Poor Andrew Chumbley, though. Despite being mentioned several times already, by page 222, Evans feels we’ve forgotten who he might be, so he is introduced anew as “The late academic, author and modern magical practitioner of the ‘Sabbatic Craft’ Andrew Chumbley (1967-2004).” Thank goodness he didn’t collect stamps or own a cat or we’d be here all night.

And then there’s Lionel Snell, aka Ramsey Dukes and a bunch of other tedious pseudonyms, who is apparently Evans’ magickal guru. These are guru feet that Evans must spend a particularly long time sitting at because Snell is quoted extensively throughout the book to the point of annoyance. Even when it’s not something that really needed to be quoted to prove a self-evident principle, there he is; and often with the usual job description variations, sprinkled with various adjectives of praise.

So yes, not the successful exploration of post-Crowley magick that i had hoped for. Maybe Ronald Hutton will read his student’s work and realise he needs to do the subject justice.

 
* * *    

1. I have never read a Dan Brown “novel” but gained this understanding of his inimical style from some lovely entries on Language Log, where his hamfisted writing is deliciously dissected. 
The Dan Brown code and
Renowned author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence

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