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Secrets of a Faery Landscape – Coleston Brown

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Categories: faery

Secrets of a Faery Landscape coverSubtitled New Light on the Glastonbury Zodiac, this book has as its focus the series of natural and constructed earthworks surrounding Glastonbury, Somerset, discovered in 1925 by Katherine Maltwood. The first figure she found was a leonine form, which emerged out of the hills and hollows outlined on a surveyor’s map of the area, and other less impressive shapes soon followed. These she identified as representations of different constellations, although some might say that a few of the designs resemble not so much constellations as they do amorphous splats; I, for example, might say that.

In this work, Coleston Brown is less concerned with recapitulating Maltwood’s discovery and instead attempts to use the forms with more of a metaphysical focus. In this investigation, Brown is aided and abetted by Jessie Skillen who provides the cover image and a smattering of internal illustrations rendered in pencil. Her style is very much what you would expect to find in a new age shop in Glastonbury, all wisp and whimsy and it does act as an able companion to Brown’s themes.

While obviously indebted to Maltwood and her discovery of the figures at Glastonbury, Brown stresses early on where the two of them diverge. Maltwood’s identification of the figures with the conventional classical zodiac (something continued by almost everyone that has subsequently considered them) is seen as a somewhat limiting action and the result, Brown says, of her attempts to seek validation from academic authorities of the day. Brown does see the designs at Glastonbury as having a stellar component, but one that reaches beyond the confines of the ecliptic, with the figures having much more of the faery about them than the zodiac. For Brown, then, the figures represent Thirteen Dreamers, great faery figures that lie across the land and are simultaneously represented in the stars. It is within these earthy forms that the stars sleep when night turns to day and the sky’s nocturnal inhabitants pass into the underworld; or UnderRealm as Brown insists on calling it. This theme is something hinted at in Maltwood’s early works when she variously refers to the Glastonbury figures as Nature Gods, Star Giants and Giant Cosmic Deities.

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So instead of identifying the shapes by their classical zodiac names, Brown list these Thirteen Dreamers as the Quest, the Queen, the King, the Radiant Child, the Faery Boat, the Havens, the Sisterhood, the Faery Cat, the Stone/Sigils, the Horned One, the Swan, the Faery Fish and the Well of Stars. Various patterns of interaction between these Dreamers can be identified, with them being divided into triunes of animals, artefacts, guardians and a royal family comprised of queen, king and child. These Dreamers can be related to various elements of Celtic mythology, the Faery Fish is the Salmon of Knowledge, for example, while the Sisterhood are the nine women whose breath keeps the fire beneath the Cauldron of Inspiration lit.

Brown uses the Glastonbury figures to cast a wider thematic net within which a number of motifs can also be considered. The wild hunt led by Gwynn ap Nudd, for example, is discussed in the way it partakes of the same matrix of liminal imagery as the star enclosure with its themes of seasonal interactions between this world and the other. Similarly, Brown touches on the persistent references to the star enclosure as a cauldron, creating an interesting image in which the historical flooding of the Somerset Levels suggests a filling cauldron with the water rising to different levels around the various Dreamer earthworks. Brown identifies this tidal flooding as a powerful illustration of an interaction between the underworld and the land, with the water rising up through streams and wells, bringing with it the chthonic energy from below the ground.

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Brown has a final chapter talking about stellar alignments and the concept of the birth of a Radiant Faery Child, whatever that is (and linking it with the somewhat overstated galactic alignment of 2012), and then it’s all over a little too quickly. At 132 pages, including glossary and index, and with text rendered in a rather large point size, Secrets of a Faery Landscape is a brisk read and one that practically ends at page 86 when it gives way to annotated illustrations and diagrams to make or reiterate previous points. This abrupt end is a little disappointing, as most of the preceding writing feels like a preamble to a practical application that never comes. There is an appendix, written several years earlier, on working with sacred places that can be applied to the locations of the Thirteen Dreamers, but it feels strange that this content wasn’t more fully integrated into the main body.

Published by Green Fire Publishing. ISBN 9780986591228

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Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet – Edgar Kerval

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Categories: nightside, typhonian

astmaioncoverSubtitled a Practical Grimoire of Qliphothic Sorcery, this book is a succinct journey through the qlipha by Edgar Kerval, aided and abetted by contributions from familiar faces like Asenath Mason, Hagen von Tulien, and Sean Woodward. Mason provides an extensive introduction to the concept of the Qliphoth, while von Tulien and Woodward lend their illustrative talents. S. Ben Qayin is also on hand to add his skills as the editor of the text.

Kerval writes that the journey he presents here is the culmination of four years of magickal work with the Qliphoth. As part of this experience, he encountered various phenomena that give their names to the title of this book. Ast Ma Ion was a vast region full of labyrinths that appear to act as zones of power and gateways through which access can be granted to qliphothic vibrations. Eos Tar Nixet, on the other hand, is the name of a toad-shaped seal, which, when broken, creates a connection between the practitioner’s subconscious and the hole of the Void, creating a secret pathway to the Qliphoth that is different to accessing them through the non-sphere of Daath. What that means in terms of the techniques presented in this book is unclear, as the procedures don’t seem to make many references to Ast Ma Ion and Eos Tar Nixet in their instructions for each qlipha.

The rest of the book is devoted to the qlipha themselves, with each one prefaced with paintings by Sean Woodward and a seal by Hagen von Tulien. Within the book itself, Woodward’s paintings are rendered in black and white, but they are repeated in full colour in an accompanying series of separate cards, making them a good option for those wishing to use his images as points of focus. Following an explanation of each qlipha and ritual instructions, each section then concludes with a sigil for the respective qlipha, this time created by Kerval himself in his trademark spindly and mirrored style that carries with it echoes of the vévés found in vodou.

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For anyone familiar with the Qliphoth, the descriptions of each qlipha won’t present anything too new or unfamiliar. Each has its characteristics described, a little exegesis on its nature and correspondences, before leading on to a practical exercise for working with that sphere. These exercises differ for each of the qlipha, without too much of a formulaic template of “cast this sigil, says these words, hope stuff happens, rinse and repeat nine more times.” Instead, for example, the exercise for A’rab Zaraq employs two black mirrors that create a nexus within which the spirit of the qlipha manifests; Golachab’s ritual incorporates autoerotic techniques, while the ritual for Ghagiel involves walking a spiral pattern.

The section for the final qlipha, Thaumiel, adds an additional layer of complexity, introducing the idea of seven vibrational shadows known as the masks of Thaumiel. Each of these masks is represented by a vévé-style sigil and a short poem summarising their attributes. As with elsewhere throughout this book, going through these poems feels a little like you’re reading song titles from Kerval’s ritual ambient project Emme Ya. There’s a profusion of words from his idiosyncratic lexicon, with much talk of primigenia, primal atavisms, and quintessences.

Despite coming in at 114 pages, Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet is a quick read due to the rather large point size of the body type and the healthy population of sigils and other full page illustrations. Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet has been bound by Kerval himself, an intimidating task to be sure, and it comes in faux leather, with cover sigil and spine text in silver, and black end papers. It holds together well, almost too well, as the tight binding and the conservative size of the gutters (with no allowance given for creep) means that the pages never open as fully as one would like; and holding a spread open long enough to read both pages can lead to finger fatigue.

Accompanying this release is a CD of music by Emme Ya called Qliphothic Emanations, a suite of six tracks intended to be an accompaniment to the nightside journey outlined in the book. These pieces are to the usual high standard of Emme Ya, with a track called Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar Nixet being particularly evocative; and with its lovely Andean pan pipes coming across as a remarkably fresh sound in the world of ritual ambient.

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Ast Ma Ion – Eos Tar has been released in two editions, the standard Sinister Flame edition of 100 copies, and the deluxe Primal Shadow edition of just 11 long-sold-out copies, which comes in a cloth and calfskin traycase.

Published by Ophiolatreia Press.

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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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Apocalyptic Witchcraft – Peter Grey

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Categories: witchcraft, Tags:

Apocalyptic Witchcraft - Bibliotheque Rouge edition coverScarlet Imprint describes Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft as “neither a how-to book, nor a history, rather it is a magical vision of the Art in its entirety.” While it may not be a history in the Edward Gibbon sense, there are certainly historical threads the run throughout this work, woven together with others of equal parts philosophy, polemic and prose. Early in the piece, Grey notes that while he is informed by academia, he is not intending to write an academic text; and as a result, references are not cited in text but listed as a general reading list for each chapter. Instead, he takes a cue from Robert Graves in seeing poetry and fiction as a profound expression of the mysteries of the goddess, with the work of various writers providing a lens through which she can be revealed. And so, the names Ted Hughes, Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle, and indeed, Graves himself, appear as frequent touchstones throughout this work. For Grey, Redgrove and Shuttle managed to tap into the essence of witchcraft: in particular a focus on menstruation and the use of dreams for magickal exploration. Hughes, in turn, celebrated the devil in the devi, the visceral qualities of the goddess of witchcraft who is nature personified in all its forms; something that Graves with his gentle, romantic sensibilities could not do.

Grey claims that his own voice in Apocalyptic Witchcraft is one that eschews archaic, ermine-trimmed language. Commendable sentiments, indeed, as my distain in these reviews for occultic jibba jabba will attest. Grey does do himself a disservice with this statement, though, because throughout the book he speaks with an engaging and mellifluous tone that if not ermine-trimmed is trimmed with, well, something. He archly flings words around rather beautifully and due to his enthusiasm, the writing is, fast-paced and almost, dare I say it, poetic.

Although most of the Apocalyptic Witchcraft’s content is comprised of chapters of prose that are broken up with excerpts from a poem for Inanna, the book initially takes a while to settle down, adopting numerous formats in its opening pages. It begins with an initial preamble laying out many of the core themes that are later revisited in depth, followed by a 33 point Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft, and then somewhat jarringly, a poetic travelogue called She is Without. This telling of a visit to a Mediterranean island reveals itself to be, not Shirley Valentine on Mykanos as one almost begins to expect, but rather an anti-tourist exploration of the island of Patmos, the site associated with John’s reception of the Book of Revelations. It is here, in the cave of the apocalypse, that Grey frames his own vision, a new song of an apocalyptic witchcraft that is inimically set against the 2000 year old revelation of John.

As one would perhaps expect from something that is essentially a polemic or manifesto, Apocalyptic Witchcraft is high on rhetoric but low on details. Throughout, for example, Grey makes a distinction between conventional modern pagan witchcraft (a rubric under which he includes both Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft) and his vision for an apocalyptic witchcraft. He sees elements of the former as assimilationist, whereas the latter is eternally rebellious and outside the mainstream; with witchcraft as a belief system that, he argues, has always been adversarial, standing against the clergy and the inquisitor, both medieval and modern. Quite what that means on a practical level is not explained. While there is talk of a philosophical alignment with direct action groups such as the Earth Liberation Front and the amorphous Anonymous, there is no explanation of how this could be pragmatically incorporated into witchcraft beyond unexplained metaphors of Grand Sabbats and tooth and claw.

But maybe that’s not the point, and it’s certainly not the intention, as Grey and Scarlet Imprint makes clear with their initial insistent definitions of what the book is and what it is not. Instead, Apocalyptic Witchcraft is to be read as an inspirational text. Ideas are introduced, celebrated with Grey’s often ecstatic prose, but frequently viewed from a grand distance, leaving the reader to take up the elements and run with them. This parallels Grey poetic inspirators, whose words, by their very nature, provide a vision but one that is by no means spelt out.   Apocalyptic Witchcraft - Of the Doves edition

Apocalyptic Witchcraft is available in multiple versions: the Bibliothèque Rouge paperback edition, reviewed by scrooge here, with its black card binding and white ink on the cover; a now sold out Of the Crows fine edition bound in full hammered gold hand-grained morocco; and a standard hardbound Of the Doves edition bound in black linen cloth stamped with white dove devices to front and rear, embossed grey endpapers, and a dust jacket. The formatting of Apocalyptic Witchcraft is attractive and rarefied. The columns are given large 3cm margins on all sides and the type is set in a smaller than usual point size with generous, but not excessive, leading. The result, given the tall and thin columns, is an archaic quality that suits the content of the book but without any sense of it being overly telegraphed.

Published by Scarlet Imprint. ISBN 978-0-9574492-9-9

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Clavicula Nox 5: Magic & Mayhem / Maleficarum Nigra

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Categories: qayin, sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

Clavicula Nox coverClavicula Nox is Ixaxaar’s occasional magazine which they have been releasing since 2004. Beginning as an A5 booklet, Clavicula Nox has grown in size and quality to the point that this issue comes in four different editions, and some of them are pretty swish. The regular edition is professionally printed, with thick brown covers and perfect binding; a limited version comes in an edition of 300 copies; while the super deluxe box editions comes with samples of flying ointments from Sarah Lawless, handmade magickal diaries, and various herbs, seeds, and animal parts, all packaged, in the case of the most limited set, in an antique wooden box. Being pretty sure that customs wouldn’t be too happy about assorted animal and plant parts coming into the country, I forwent the deluxe options and ordered just the collector’s edition. This edition still feels pretty special though, with its cover only half-bound, leaving the cardboard raw for a lovely and unique archaic effect.

Previous issues of Clavicula Nox have always had a general theme (Lilith being the focus of the last one) and this one is no exception, with sabbatic witchcraft taking the spotlight this time. The proceedings kick off with a suite of poems exploring the wheel of the year and its festivals before Asenath Mason provides a survey of general sabbatic themes. Mason brushes with broad strokes, over the seven pages, covering various tropes associated with the Via Nocturna: the witches sabbath, the wild hunt, and initiatory encounters along the way of the night.

As the subtitle Maleficarum Nigra suggests, one of the focuses of this volume is on malicious witchcraft, and so we have contributions from Gemma Gary and Frater Ben Nachash that both explore this theme. Gary’s West Country Curse-Magic gives a survey of various folk methods of cursing from the West Country in which the sympathetic principle in magic comes to the fore. These are relatively simple curses, and the ritual procedures are sketched roughly without much in the way of fastidious requirements and formulas. The same cannot be said for Frater Ben Nachash’s piece, which presents a Qayin-focussed ritual of cursing that is indebted to the work of N.A-A 218 in the Liber Falxifer books. The ritual requires nearly forty ingredients and is spread across various locations over three nights: the night of the tiller and the night of the killer, before culminating in the night of the gravedigger. To quote the infinite wisdom of the sage Dulce Brunneis: ain’t nobody got time for that. I can’t imagine disliking someone so much that I’d want to somewhat counter-intuitively invest that amount of time and effort, not to mention energy (in both the esoteric and psychological sense), in them. I think if it came to this, I’d just keep it West Country styles and stick a nail in their footprint, ooh arr, ooh arr.

Another Qayinite ritual is provided by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold with The Commemoration of Lord Qayin, although this has less of a Templum Falcis Cruentis vibe than Ben Nachash’s contribution. The ritual dates from ten or more years ago and emphasises the transgressive aspects of the Qayin mystery, with the use of a skull (wood or bone options available) as a focus of meditation and adoration.

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A change of tack is provided by Sarah Lawless with a consideration of the poison path of intoxication; beautifully aided and abetted by a distinctly Helish illustration of datura by Kristiina Lehto. Lawless details her encounters with various plant spirits, first initiated through the alchemical art of mead brewing, in a journey that then encountered mandrake, henbane, and ultimately the yew tree; a suite of plants that I can understand the passion for. As with her skull-focused contribution to Scarlet Imprint’s anthology, Serpent Songs, Lawless writes with a poetic and enthusiastic style that guides the reader through her own very hands-on practice; a sharp and refreshing contrast with the obfuscatory smoke and mirrors that are thrown up by so many occult writers.

At sixty pages and with contributions provided generous space, Clavicula Nox can feel a little slight and can definitely be a one-sitting read. It is illustrated throughout with a range of full-page, full-bleed images that are truly esoteric in the sense of not giving much in the way of explanation within their dark vistas. These images come from a variety of contributors, but most share a similar painterly aesthetic that, with the matt printing, adds to the whole archaic quality of the journal.

Published by Ixaxxar.

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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.”

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

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

Published by Fall of Man.

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The Book of Sitra Achra: A Grimoire of the Dragons of the Other Side – N.A-A 218

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Categories: anticosmic, nightside, typhonian, Tags:

This beautifully presented book is the latest full length work from publisher Ixaxaar and from author N.A-A.218, magister of the Templum Falcis Cruentis. While N.A-A.218’s recent output in the two volumes of Liber Falxifer has focussed on the Qayinite mysticism of the Templum Falcis Cruentis, The Book of Sitra Achra feels very much like a return to the roots of the affiliated Temple of the Black Light and its previous incarnation as the Misanthropic Luciferian Order. Although I have not read Liber Azerate, the MLO’s earlier and much sought after work on these themes, this book does feel like an update to that grimoire. The eleven-headed dragon Azerate forms the backbone of much of this book and the narrative describes how that particular name was received and identified as the true name of the God of Sitra Achra (the Other Side) in what one assumes was the formative days of the order. The same workings also provided a sign, the Eleven-Angled Seal, which is used as a gateway to the Sitra Achra.

Azerate as the true name of God of the Other Side is said to be the embodiment of the Anti-Cosmic Impulse, with the eleven heads of eleven different spirits (whose names will be familiar from Old Testament accounts and goetia) combining into something amounting to a qliphothic Voltron. Thus, the initial focus of The Book of Sitra Achra is on the ten qliphoth, followed by a consideration of Azerate’s eleven heads: Satan, Molok, Beelzebub, Lucifuge Rofocale, Astaroth, Asmoday, Belfegor, Baaltzemoth, Adramalik, Lilith and Nahemah. Each head is given a full page explanation, and then a second page featuring a qliphothic formula and two sigils: the ring bound Throne Seal and the standalone Angle Key Seal.

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If there’s one word to describe the content of The Book of Sitra Achra it would be exhaustive. There’s an almost bureaucratic love of order and delegation, with various and extensive hierarchies of qliphothic entities and secondary demons, all painstakingly detailed and accompanied by their sigils. This is indicative of a fundamental principle in which the world of the Qliphoth is defined as the Realm of Multiplicity, in contrast to Sephirothic Realm of Static Singularity. And if you like multiplicity, have we got some multiplicity for you. The 60 Emissaries of Black Light, for example, are archdaemons who take their names from the letters that make up the names of each qliphoth. Thus, for example, the emissaries of Thaumiel are Thaninel, Akzarel, Uazarel, Mibdalahel, Ianahel, Abadel and Labbahel. Each of these archdaemons has a sigil and a page worth of attributes; although inhuman resources in this department of infernal affairs seem to have overstaffed, since most of them seem to have specialised in destroying the restrictions imposed by the Thoughtful Light. If that wasn’t enough, these 60 emissaries have harbingers created by the letters of their own names, and their names, in turn, create another tier of heralds.

It has to been mentioned that, unfortunately, the sigils for each of these emissaries follow a consistent design that, although beautifully rendered, places two plus signs at their apex, giving the impression of two eyes rendered drunk by cartoon shorthand. This means that given a preponderance of upturned arcs directly beneath the plus signs, almost all of the sigils become anthropomorphised into little figures with slightly beatific and blissed out faces. Given the destructive qualities of most of these beings, that’s probably not what they were going for, but as the saying goes, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

More hierarchies and correspondences follow the 60 Emissaries of Black Light. The 22 Silencing Letters of the Other Side explores the assigning of Hebrew letters to the paths between qliphoths, just as they are between the dayside sephiroths, with each letter-path associated with a daemon (each of which, naturally, have a beautifully crafted sigil; but no little faces this time). The 12 Princes of the Qliphothic Zodiac are yet another hierarchy of spirits, this time having dominion over fate, while the Seven Hells and Seven Earths are kingdoms within the Sitra Achra that hold the ten qliphoth; and naturally, each of them, both princes and hells, has a sigil.

I must admit that on a purely personal level, I prefer the Qayinite side of N.A-A.218’s oeuvre rather than this qliphothic exploration. There’s something tangible and visceral about the Qayin mythology, a real getting your hands dirty in the field of Akeldama type of feeling, whereas spheres of qlipha and hierarchies of spirits spiralling off into ever smaller eddies of complexity can create a sense of abstraction that ultimately leads to disengagement. With that said, though, there’s no denying that when N.A-A.218 does something, they do it well. While considerations of the nightside of the Tree of Life can often be nothing more than a regurgitation of previous writings (usually those of Kenneth Grant), there is a depth and a rigour to the system presented here and N.A-A.218 writes with a unique and distinctive voice. As such, it convinces. While you may not feel like, say, invoking Iatsathel, the fourth emissary of Gamaliel (to burn away all illusory restraints, naturally) each and every day (or ever), it’s hard not to be impressed with the breadth and internal consistency of the system. Adding to this impression is the quality of the writing which never feels like it’s the work of someone with, presumably, English as their second language. Similarly, this and other Ixaxaar works do not suffer from that perennial curse of small press occult publishing: insufficient proofing; with nary a misspelled word or confused homonym in the entire 310 pages.

twindragonssitraachra

Unlike Liber Falxifer II, there are not a huge amount of practical exercises within The Book of Sitra Achra, with an unspoken assumption being that you will know what to do with the vast systems of daemons, sigils and their attendant correspondences that fill the book. Practical content is left to the end of the book where there’s a ritual for opening the aforementioned gates and a lengthy guide to working with the eleven-pointed hendecagram. The book concludes with a long guide to creating a Qliphothic temple, providing a thorough consideration of each of the ritual tools and including recipes for creating incenses for the gates of Hell and for the various qliphoth.

The design of the Book of Sitra Achra can only be described as stunning, and this is just the regular edition of 777 copies. It is bound in black serpent-scaled leather, embossed with gold sigils and text, while the 310 internal pages are a thick, textured stock that I’ve never seen used for an entire book before. As with all releases from Ixaxaar, the content of the Book of Sitra Achra is typeset beautifully: headings are presented in a classy Blackletter face and the body is a nice clear serif. Similarly, the book’s extensive collection of sigils has been rendered cleanly and consistently throughout. The book is ever so slightly smaller than your standard clothbound occult hardback and is instead closer to 6×9 inches, which, aided by the width of the spine and the feel of the black serpent-scaled leather, makes it lovely to hold. I can well imagine that in the hands of those who fully embrace the system contained within, the book would frequently find itself being similarly embraced. In addition to the now sold out regular edition, there were even more luxurious options: the Black Python Deluxe Limited edition (61 copies), the gilded and slipcased edition (110 copies), and the Serpent’s Sacrifice Talisman edition (11 copies). Good luck acquiring any of those without needing to refinance your home.

Published by Ixaxaar.

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The Grimoire of Tiamat – Asenath Mason

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Categories: chaos, mesopotamian, nightside, typhonian, underworld, Tags:

Grimoire of Tiamat coverAsenath Mason’s Grimoire of Tiamat presents a complete system of magick based around the Mesopotamian primordial goddess Tiamat and the eleven monsters she created to aid her in her fight against the new order of gods lead by Marduk. While the wider focus of the book is, obviously, Tiamat, much of the practical part of this grimoire deals with these eleven demon-gods: Bašmu (Venomous Snake), Ušumgallu (Great Dragon), Mušmahhu (Exalted Serpent), Mušhuššu (Furious Snake), Lahamu (the Hairy One), Ugallu (the Big Weather-Beast), Uridimmu (Mad Lion), Girtablullû (Scorpion-Man), Umu Dabrutu (Violent Storms), Kulullû (Fish-Man) and Kusarikku (Bull-Man).

Mason is at pains to point out that what she is presenting here is not an authentic reconstruction of any Mesopotamian magickal tradition, acknowledging that there is no archaeological evidence of the direct worship of Tiamat and her creations; and the only ritual sources relating to them are exorcisms and banishing formulae. Instead, she defines the work as a book for occult practitioners of the present century and to this end, testifies that all the rituals within the book have been tested by magickal associates and verified as to their efficacy. Not exactly a double blind, peer-reviewed trial, but certainly more testimony than most books provide for their rituals which, for all intents and purposes, may have never moved off the page into actual practice.

The Grimoire of Tiamat is divided into three sections: first, a lengthy introduction of the theme and cosmology, followed by individual workings for each of the eleven demon-gods, and then a concluding appendix of thematically related workings focussing directly on Tiamat and Kingu. The first section, Primal Draconian Gods, is rather well written, especially for someone with, one assumes, English as a second language. Mason outlines the legend of Tiamat as contained in the Enuma Elish and while her approach is not purely academic, there’s a rigorous quality to her writing, with references cited as footnotes. Refreshingly, there’s very little, if any, of the kind of boy’s own anthropology that usually attaches itself to Mesopotamian mythology in modern occultism, where writers since Simon in his Necronomicon have treated Sumerian, Babylonian and Akkadian culture as interchangeable blank canvases onto which they can paint their own usually derivative Lovecraftian cosmology. Mason gives a survey of how Tiamat has been interpreted and viewed throughout Mesopotamia, and expands on this to include other motifs from the region in which a primordial dragon is killed. Tiamat is identified as the first mother, the creator of all life, as well as the embodiment of watery Chaos similar to the Hebrew concept of Tehom, the deep mentioned in the first lines of Genesis.

Sigil of Tiamat

The second section, The Children of Tiamat, presents ways of working with each of the eleven demon-gods, prefaced with an explanation of the techniques that follow and the use of the Key of Night, a master sigil that is employed throughout the workings as a way to access the nightside. Each entry for the eleven deities uses a standard format, with an introductory discussion followed by an evocation, an invocation, a brief guided meditation (sometimes two), and instructions on doing dreamwork with that entity. Each section begins with a sigil for the respective deity and concludes with what is referred to as their draconian sigil (usually a more elaborate, more illustrative and pictorial design). The discussions that introduce each entity combine information from primary Mesopotamian and academic sources with impressions gathered from magickal experiences. Because there can be rather slight information about some of the eleven in original sources, other than their rather descriptive names, some of these discussions can stretch the available information a little thin, or weigh more heavily on the received knowledge than on others. What is presented shows the eleven as not the most pleasant of creatures, all of them being spirits of transformation that often involve spitting venom and ripping out hearts. The eleven are presented as spirits capable of both transforming the initiate and being employed for malefica against a practitioner’s enemies. Perhaps it’s my lack of familiarity with Mesopotamian languages, but the eleven demon-gods with their sometimes similar names seem somewhat interchangeable and are not entirely memorable. Serpentine, draconian and generally bestial imagery abounds, and the vicious initiatory techniques they use seem to be shared across some of the eleven; with being bitten in the third eye by a venomous demon-god being the motif du jour.

Given Mason’s past involvement with the Dragon Rouge’s Polish Magan Lodge, it’s inevitable that this work has something of a Dragon Rouge vibe about it. It’s not just the draconian themes, but some of the general tone, philosophy and ritual structure; with, for example, the very un-Mesopotamian, but very Dragon Rouge, ritual refrain of Ho Drakon Ho Megas cropping up here and there. Also indicative of this lineage, Mason occasionally draws comparisons between the eleven demon-gods and the nightside of the qabbalistic tree of life, noting characteristics shared between a particular being and one of the qliphothic spheres. But this is only done in passing, as if the possibility of setting them out in precise correspondences would be too much of a stretch.

The final section of The Grimoire of Tiamat is an appendix that returns the focus to Tiamat. This takes the form of a guided meditation within the waters of Tiamat, a ritual for two participants invoking Tiamat and Kingu, a rite of malefica, and a discussion of the underworld in Mesopotamian belief, followed by a chthonic guided pathworking.

At just under 200 pages, the Grimoire of Tiamat provides a concise, internally coherent system for someone who finds themselves resonating with that cosmology; and is better equipped than I to tell their Mušmahhus from their Mušhuššus. It is limited to 500 hand numbered copies, with another 15 in a hand-numbered leather bound deluxe edition. Bound in red faux leather, with black end papers, it is smyth-sewn and has a red ribbon bookmark. The title is rendered in gilt on the spine and there is a gilt eleven-pointed star sigil on the cover; although it bugs me that the depth of the spine wasn’t taken into account when aligning the sigil, so it appears a little to the right and not fully centred (occult world problems, I know).

Published by Nephilim Press.

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Wholly: A Devotional for Hela – Dagian Madir

Categories: germanic, rökkr, Tags:

It’s full disclosure time once again: I created the cover art for this Hela devotional, and also contributed a few pieces of writing and some internal illustrations. So, proceed with due caution. With that out of the way, Wholly: A Devotional for Hela is, perhaps not surprisingly, a devotional for Hela, published by Asphodel Press and edited by Dagian Madir. It presents a combination of essays, poetry, prayers, rituals and artwork, compiling contributions from around the world.

Madir’s opening essay, The Day I Became Hel’s, sets the experiential tone for much of the content of Wholly. They describe how they first encountered Hela, in an experience that amounts to shamanic dismemberment, and then proceed to give a synopsis of Hela’s attributes, highlighting Her role as She who, in Her divided state, makes whole. Madir contributes several other essays throughout this volume, considering the role of death in the everyday, and of loving Hela as a form of devotional practice.

Other articles are provided by Fuensanta Plaza, who writes about euthanasia in The Good Death, and Gudrun Mimirsbrunnr, who rather wonderfully describes Hela as being found “in silence, in dust, in the workings of insects.”  Galina Krasskova, as someone who belongs to Odin, provides an interesting angle in describing her encounters with Hela, while Silence Maestas does likewise and writes of their sometimes turbulent relationship with Hela from the perspective of someone who primarily works with Loki. Raven Kaldera contributes two pieces, one a summary of Hela’s characteristics, and another, Mercy and Unmercy, a consideration of Hela in relation to the passage between life and death, particularly in cases of difficult transitions. The relationship between Hela and the dead is, naturally, an important one and other writers consider it too, with Lydia Helasdottir writing of ministering to the dying in a piece considering various ways of Working with Hela, while Silence Maestas discusses offerings of food to the dead.

Many of these articles are written from a personal perspective and come across as testimonials, almost as if they’re customer reviews on an auction website, describing the services Hela offers and whether they’d trade with Her again. Most say A++ seller, would trade again. Despite this rather pragmatic interpretation of this content, taken as whole, these articles do act as viable meditations on Hela. While these contributions contain little of the poetic or flowery language typical of devotional literature, a focused reading of them does prove to be an effective way of meditating on Hela’s nature.

The poetic language is largely reserved for the section of poetry that follows. This content is more obviously devotional in its intent, with some directly addressing Hela as invocations and others poetically exploring a narrative. Highlights include Talas Valravyn’s A Ritual For Hela, in which instructions for an impossible, unless metaphorical, ritual are rendered poetic, while one of the strongest pure invocations is Kaldera’s For Hela, In All Extremity. Here, Hela is called by successive verse in the names of darkness, decay, cold, silence, bones, loss, death and ultimately, regeneration.

Young Hela by Abby Helasdottir

While some of entries in the poetry section could be considered prayers, Wholly follows those with a separate section of prayers, all penned by Madir. These are probably the most intensely devotional of all the contents of this book, calling to mind Ramprasad Sen’s Shyama Sangeet hymns to Kali. These nine prayers have a rhapsodic, almost giddy and all-consuming quality, providing a profound address to Hela for everything from gratitude for daily bread to the need to let go of things.

The concluding section of Wholly provides a few rituals and meditations, with the slight contributor list consisting of Kaldera and Madir. There’s nothing wrong with that though, as it’s better to have a few solid rituals, rather than a lot of pointless fluff. Kaldera’s contribution is a reprint of his Hela ritual outline from the Pagan Book of Hours, while Madir gives a cemetery meditation and a corpse pose ritual. Both are good, solid guides that provide more than the usual unimaginative rigmarole from modern grimoires: cast this circle, visualise this sigil, hope stuff goes down.

One minor problem with Wholly is that it was a work long in the making and as a result, some of the material has a familiarity from being featured elsewhere. Kaldera’s Hela appeared in his Jotunbok, as did the pieces from Gudrun Mimirsbrunnr and Lydia Helasdottir, amongst others. I’m guilty of this too, as one of my contributions, the suite of planetary poems for Hela, has appeared previously in the Jotunbok and before that, on the Shadowlight website. In saying that, though, over half of the material is new and having both the old and new together in a single volume makes this an indispensable book for those with an interest in Hela specifically or the Rökkr in general. The range of contributors is wide and what is interesting is how, despite the geographical gulfs between them, there is a consistency in language and spirit, with Hela described and summarised in the same way despite so many different voices.

Published by Asphodel Press. ISBN 978-1-938197-00-0

Mortal Fear by Abby Helasdottir

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Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic & Modern Occulture – Egil Asprem

Categories: enochian, magick

arguing-with-angels-cover1 Egil Asprem is part of what seems like a veritable renaissance of matters esoteric from Scandinavian academia; one that is often sympathetic and enthusiastic about their subject matter and its practitioners. Alongside Kennet Granholm, Jesper Aagaard Petersen and Per Faxneld, Asprem is one of several often long-haired, occasionally-bearded Scandinavian academics who you can’t help feeling might have a few black metal albums in their collection and have gone in to academia to legitimately pursue their once youthful interests. As its subtitle indicates, Arguing with Angels is an exploration of the role of Enochian magic in modern and not so modern occulture. As a result, this is not a book that considers the original workings by Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley in any exhaustive detail, but rather looks at how those foundations have been interpreted, reinterpreted, tweaked and expanded by occultists down through the centuries.

Approaches to Enochian magic are defined by Asprem as either purist, perennial, or pragmatic, with purist being a form that sticks strictly to the material from Dee’s diary. The latter two categories could be further defined as eclectic, and it is this description that could be applied to most versions of Enochian magic, whether it’s the Golden Dawn’s presentation of elements of the system as an expression of perennial wisdom with nary a mention of Dee, Crowley’s apparently unique interpretation of the aethyrs as magickal realms, or Gerald and Betty Schueler’s cosmopolitan approach that throws pop physics, yoga, tarot and sex magick into the mix. Asprem shows how the Golden Dawn’s overarching philosophy of personal knowledge and growth downplayed some of the more medieval grimoire stylings of Dee’s original system, with its inclusion of traditional, but somewhat vulgar, techniques, such as finding treasure or transporting a magician to far off lands. This also had an influence on Crowley, for whom the Enochian system was purely employed for self-development, as well as much contemporary magick that has followed on from him.

How the various strands of occultism have dealt with Enochian magic is often indicative of their approach to magick in general, so what is presented here can act as a summary of Western Esotericism shot through an Enochian lens; or shew stone, if you will. Following the Golden Dawn and Crowley, Asprem argues that the next sea change in occultism was sparked by the Satanism of Anton La Vey. This is exemplified by his treatment of the Enochian calls in the Satanic Bible, where they are presented in a disenchanted, secularised way and employed not because they use the language of the angels, but because as a barbarous tongue they, according to La Vey, just work. This pragmatic, relativistic approach, in which something is used because it appeals, rather than because it belongs to any authentic tradition, was subsequently carried through into Chaos Magic and other recent eclectic forms of occultism. While the materialist La Vey may have used the Enochian Calls in the Satanic Bible simply to pad out the page count and meet a publishing deadline, former Church of Satan priest Michael Aquino returned to a more esoteric, though no less eclectic, approach. Enochian played a central role in the communications with the Egyptian god Set that provided the foundation for Aquino’s Temple of Set, with his Greater Black Magic working resuming the type of occult narrative employed by Crowley: received texts, magickal aeons, and magick as fundamentally a form of self-development.

The final chapter of Arguing with Angels, Enochiana Without Borders, is one of the most interesting, simply because it addresses something that is so recent and paradigm-shifting that it remains largely undocumented, namely the growth of Enochian studies online. Asprem details the heady first days of the internet where bulletin board and news-group occultists were some of the earliest of early adapters, before that method of communication gave way to email groups such as the Hollyfield-based Enochian-L and ultimately, the Yahoo! Group Enochian. Having been involved in email groups at their peak, although not Enochian ones, there is a familiarity with Asprem’s description of the method of communication they provided and the ability for disparate voices to come together from across the globe. The digital nature of these communities means that Asprem has a rich archive with which to analyse the state of modern Enochiana, in which figures such a Benjamin Rowe and others were able to write exhaustively and influentially about the subject without worrying about the publishing house gatekeepers of yesteryear.

Several theoretical approaches figure largely in Asprem’s work. The division between the purist and pragmatic expressions of Enochian magic allows for a thorough consideration of the problem of authenticity with occultism. This, in turn, informs discussion of both the disenchantment of magick and the often resulting replacement with a psychologised model. Similarly, the concluding chapter provides a discussion on how occultists see the nature of the angels they are arguing with, whether as literal entities, aspects of the mind, or something else.

Following a summary from Asprem, Arguing with Angels concludes with an appendix of Dor Os Zol Ma Thil (The 12 Black Hands and the falling seats), an Enochian text received by Norwegian occultist Runar Karlsen in 1991. This is a lengthy transmission with an awkward and stilted English translation that I was, at first, looking forward to reading. But now, my bookmark sits resolutely in the middle of it, abandoned due to the torturous nonsensical gibberish of the content. While I’m certainly open to seeing new Enochian material indicative of any living system, I would have hoped it made more sense than sentences like: Visit the holiness within the not-made olive of mine. The Fire enters the whole weeping creation. Visit the man of mine become that man, go forth and feel born. You heard the angel, umm, go forth and feel born; but don’t forget to visit the man of mine first.

As both a survey of Enochiana and occultism in general, this is a valuable, unique work. Asprem clearly has some empathy for, if not a direct connection with, his subject matter, but this does not prevent him from approaching it pragmatically; something that is important when considering a magickal system that involves chatting with angels.

Published by State University of New York Press. ISBN: 978-1-4384-4190-0

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