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The Cauldron, No 149 August 2013

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Categories: folk, magick, paganism, sabbatic craft, witchcraft

The Cauldron Issue 149Reading the latest issue of Michael Howard’s magazine The Cauldron is a peculiar personal experience. The last time I read The Cauldron was 1996 and it seems that not a lot has changed. While fancy occult journals like Abraxas and Clavis have emerged in recent times with all their art papers and full colour pages, things have stayed humble at The Cauldron: simply reproduced and stapled, with exactly the same full-page, single-column formatting and font as it was almost twenty years ago. And that’s not such a bad thing. While the glitz and glamour of some occult journals is nice, there’s always the risk of all the polish masking the quality, or lack thereof, of the content. But in the case of The Cauldron, content is queen. There are no full page illustrations, no occult poetry, and no torturous attempts at esoteric obscuration.

Back in 1996, The Cauldron felt rather informed by Robert Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain. It was where I first encountered the writings of Evan John Jones, then magister of the Clan, and read about things like the Rose Beyond the Grave, which was very much analogous to my own practice at the time. In 2013, though, the underlying theme seems to be directed by another strain of traditional witchcraft, that of the Cultus Sabbati; although with a sample pool of one issue, that may be a hasty conclusion. Artwork by Daniel Schulke graces the cover and he also provides the lead article, Anatomies of Shadow, a consideration of atavism within magick in general and traditional witchcraft specifically.

There are, though, a wide range of contributors to The Cauldron, with a variety of topics discussed in several different styles. Highlights include Greg Hill’s consideration of Robin Hood as a devotee of the Virgin Mary in the earliest iterations of the legend (which he argues was a pagan precedent given a Christian gloss) while a wonderfully academic approach is taken by Bob Trubshaw in a piece whose subtitle predicts just how rigorous it is going to be: The Metaphysical Relocation of the Self in Ritual Narrative. In contrast, some ever so slightly entry level articles are provided by Heidi Martinsson and Frances Billinghurst who consider Loki and Rhiannon respectively. These are character studies and myth summaries which won’t provide anything new for people already familiar with those deities. Martinsson’s piece has a glaring error describing Skadi kidnapping and binding Loki, when all she did was place the serpent above his face once he was caught by the Aesir.

In Witchcraft in the West Country, William Wallworth contributes a summary of 19th and early 20th century witchcraft culled from local and national newspapers. This is an interesting collection that shows how witchcraft was viewed, one by the general populous, and two, by the judiciary. Most are court reports of prosecutions brought against people, not for acts of witchcraft, but for assaulting alleged witches (often featuring attempts to draw a witch’s blood, which appears to have been a popular cure against bewitchment). Suffice to say, the zealous witch-accuser did not find much sympathy within the rational court. This form of, how you say, witchcraft anthropology is also the approach of Georgi Mishev and Michael Howard, who both address different forms of apotropaic witchcraft. Mishev considers the underlying symbolism of a Balkan ritual for determining the source of a magickal attack, while Howard summarises a series of Berber procedures for warding against the Evil Eye and djinn.

A change of pace is provided by Voices from the West, an on-going series of interviews by Josephine McCarthy and Stuart Littlejohn with various practitioners of the Western magical tradition. In this issue, they talk with geomancer David Cypher, whose position as a non-publishing magickal practitioner is an interesting one.

In addition to full-length articles, The Cauldron has the occasional short pieces, sometimes credited to Howard and other times left uncredited, addressing various current topics, including in this issue a tribute to Patricia Monaghan. There are also several pages of single paragraph reviews of various magickal books, featuring the output of everyone from Scarlet Imprint to Llewellyn.

The Cauldron is available for a four issue subscription and comes thoroughly recommended. UK annual subscription: UK £15.00, Europe €30, USA US$50, Canada Can$50, Australia Aus$50, New Zealand: NZ$60.

www.the-cauldron.org.uk

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Wicca Magickal Beginnings – Sorita d’Este & David Rankine

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Categories: grimoire, witchcraft, Tags:

wiccamagickalbeginningsAs they so often do, Sorita d’Este and David Rankine start things off with a title that seems to be lacking punctuation: maybe a colon or hyphen after the Wicca, or a possessive apostrophe and an S, even, mayhaps, a comma after the Wicca; anything to stop that strange running on feeling. We probably shouldn’t dwell on it, but every time I look at the bookcase, there it is, staring at me, along with its similarly punctuation-deficient twin sister Hekate Liminal Rites.

Despite its lack of titular punctuation, this book could be described as the geekiest book about witchcraft ever. If geek is defined as an obsessive interest in a subject and its minutiae, well, then, none so geek as this. d’Este and David Rankine subtitle this book “a study of the possible origins of the rituals and practice found in this modern tradition of pagan witchcraft and magick,” and this rather archaic and academic sounding description sums up their modus operandi of taking a microscopic look at the elements of Gardnerian witchcraft and seeing where old man Gardner got them from.

Gardner’s use of existing material to construct his form of witchcraft is hardly a revelation but this book shows how thoroughly he borrowed, magpie-like, from grimoire tradition in particular for many of the props and procedures of Wicca’s ritual system. The casting of the magick circle in Wicca shares many similarities with the procedure in the Key of Solomon, while the design of the circle itself is broken down by d’Este and Rankine and its parts traced to other grimoires (often with elements transposed or mistranscribed). The same is true of the ritual athame whose roots can be found in the Grimoire of Honorious and the Key of Solomon, with Gardener’s sourcing being revealed by the copying of changes made in specific editions (in this case, the 1989 Mathers edition). This is where d’Este and Rankine’s thoroughness is at its most evident, because they provide a survey of the sigils on the athame in both grimoire and Wiccan sources, including a chart that lists the somewhat dubious Wiccan interpretation of these alchemical and astrological symbols.

d’Este and Rankine also show the debt that Gardner owed to Aleister Crowley, particularly in the creation of Wiccan liturgy. The Lift up the Veil charge draws a little material from the Book of the Law but an even larger amount comes from Crowley’s Law of Liberty. The later Charge of the Goddess is similarly indebted to Crowley, but is shown to also been a potpourri of literary influences, with elements cribbed from classical texts as well as the work of Charles Leland.

In their summing up, d’Este and Rankine present five possible conclusions: that Wicca is a continuation of the grimoire tradition; that it is a continuation of a Victorian ceremonial magick system; that the system was simply created by Gardner and his associates; that it is a genuine survival of a British folk magick system; or that it is the final form of a witchcraft tradition that has its roots in classical Greece and Rome. Given the preceding evidence in the book, it seems overly generous to proffer some of these conclusions, and of course, not all of them are necessarily mutually exclusive, with the answer seeming to be a combination of the first three: bits of grimoire and ceremonial magick cobbled together by Gardner and Co. d’Este and Rankine came down in favour of the first theory, and let Gardner off the hook a little by not playing up any malice or obvious deceit in inventing the system.

d’Este and Rankine’s book is geekily thorough: texts are analysed line by line, and sources are meticulously sourced and compared. This makes for a book that is indispensable for an understanding of the minutiae of Wicca, especially given the influence that it has had on contemporary witchcraft and paganism. In some ways, this book makes you grateful; grateful that d’Este and Rankine have gone into all this depth so you don’t have to.

ISBN 978-1-905297-15-3. Published by Avalonia.

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Diabolical – Edited by Peter Grey & Alkistis Dimech

Categories: goetia, grimoire, magick, nightside, Tags:

Diabolical coverDiabolical continues on from where Scarlet Imprint’s previous compilation of grimoire-related writings, Howlings, left off, but with the subject matter taking, as the title indicates, a decidedly darker twist. Twice the size of Howlings, this volume features contributions from, amongst others, Jake Stratton-Kent, Stafford Stone, Thomas Karlsson, Donald Tyson, Kyle Fite, and Johnny Jakobsson, and as with most compendiums, there’s a combination here of the good, the bad and the ugly.

In many ways, the study of grimoires is a celebration of books themselves and John J Coughlin’s The Binding of Black Venus is a delightful, albeit regrettably short, read that gives an insight into the process of book binding as a talismanic process. Coughlin’s paean to the printed word, of that thrill that arises when coming across a new arcane volume, will resonate with any bibliophile and a similar theme is mined in greater depth by Kyle Fite. In Orisons of the Oblique, Fite surveys and celebrates the modern creation of grimoires, highlighting the problem that is inherent in the genre, where pretenders to the throne of Philosopher Kings, as he calls them, create less than satisfying tomes, while others will actually grasp something numinous. With occult publications, the reader needs to differentiate between authentic works that reflect a genuine inspired praxis and those that with all their sigils, obfuscation for the sake of obfuscation, and purple prose are the result of self-deception at best. The pull of having some sigil-embossed tome with your name on it, shot through with breathless claims of ancient traditions and veiled mysteries, seems a strong one. Despite the quality of Scarlet Imprint, this same distinction can be made with the contributors to this volume. There are academic considerations that are well written and thoroughly referenced, and then there are laughable ones that seem one step removed from the scrawlings of teenage diabolists. Maybe it’s just me, but an elaborate procedure for making a pact with “The Devil” and one for a ritual of self-sacrifice comes across as silly, all the more so when you realise that despite all the authoritative and turgid tenebrous talk, it’s ultimately theoretical because you know the author has never done it.

Lengthy essays dominate Diabolical, with varying degrees of success. In Hidden Treasure: Taufer Books of Old Europe, Erik de Pauw looks at the various magickal books that straddle the line between grimoire and folk magic, but he lacks focus in his writing and infuriates with his casual turns of phrase. It’s quite jarring to be told “yes, you read that right” or asked “you’re not a witch, are you?” The longest piece in Diabolical is provided by Johnny Jakobsson with Le Grand Grimoire: Pacta Conventa Daemoniorum, in which he thoroughly analyses the Grand Grimoire/ Le Veritable Dragon Rogue and its invokations and spirits, including notes on textual variants between different editions. Unlike his contribution to Clavis One, Jakobsson hasn’t borrowed Kenneth Grant’s dictionary and instead writes clearly and eruditely, although at 44 pages, the obsessive attention to detail begins to tire. Donald Tyson’s lengthy Dimensional Gateways is a far reaching discussion of otherworlds (everything from the sephira to the realms of faery) and more specifically to the gateways between them. Tyson’s writing is a joy to read and he brings together various cultural and literary threads with a deft, knowledgeable hand.

Several of Diabolical’s contributions consider encounters with specific demons. Jake Stratton-Kent gives a personal account of dealing with the Grimorium Verum spirit Nebiros, giving enough detail to provide fairly thorough Thelema-infused ritual instructions. Mark Smith’s demon of choice is Belial, Humberto Maggi’s is Phenex, while Krzystof Azarewicz considers Bartzabel from a personal as well as historical context (famously invoked by Crowley in 1910 and then later by Jack Parsons, who sent him off in pursuit of Ron Hubbard). While these pieces deal with the potentially ludicrous invoking of supernatural entities, the material is refreshingly presented in a rather matter-of-fact way, with none of the fanciful boasting or hyperbole that lesser writers might succumb to. For whatever reason, this contrasts strongly, to the ultimate benefit of this volume, with the previously mentioned guide to chatting with The Devil.

Most of the grimoires that are referenced in Diabolical are the classics of goetic magick, but one contemporary volume is Andrew Chumbley’s Qutub. Already considered by Jack Macbeth in Howlings, this time it’s the turn of Mark Smith. As with Macbeth’s review, this is very much a personal reflection, describing the power that Chumbley’s slight work has and detailing how Smith uses the text in an annual ritual. Another parallel with Howlings is provided by Stafford Stone who once again contributes some full colour plates of his Nightside Tarot (Shalicu and Characith, for those keeping count, as well as Ace of Serpents and Two of Stones). Other art plates come from Johnny Jakobsson, Thomas Karlsson, and Kyle Fite; all acting as visual accompaniment to their written contributions.

Lucifuge

Diabolical is not short on practical advice, and in addition to the procedures that can be gleaned from some of the previously discussed accounts, there is Aaron Leitch’s quite invaluable consideration of Abramelin magic and in particular the use of magic squares from that system. Thomas Karlsson’s contribution is a brief guide to creating a Saturnian ritual, with a comprehensive list of correspondences.

In all, Diabolical is a valuable work. There are some less than successful pieces but these are overshadowed by a stable of competent and in some cases, dazzling, writers. Bound in red cloth, and beautifully formatted with wide margins and a lovely serif typeface, this edition is limited to 999 exemplars. A fine bound edition of quarter black goat, marbled boards, consecrated host, gilded edges, and slipcase is, of course, long sold out.

Published by Scarlet Imprint.

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Children of Cain – Michael Howard

Categories: folk, luciferian, paganism, qayin, robert cochrane, sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

childrenofcain-coverWay back in the mists of time, the first book I ever read about “witchcraft” was Laurie Cabot’s Power of the Witch. Even at such a formative stage, there were things about it that didn’t sit right with me; not least the diagram of chakras, laid out on an Egyptian style figure, in a book sprinkled with the dreaded C word (Celtic). Funnily enough, around the same time, I read my first book about runes, Michael Howard’s Wisdom of the Runes, so this consideration of traditional witchcraft makes for an interesting journey full circle.1

Subtitled A Study of Modern Traditional Witches, in many ways, this book resumes where Ronald Hutton left off in Triumph of the Moon, considering in depth some of the figures that he briefly covered, but with the focus here being on those who claim independence from the system of Wicca promoted by Gerald Gardner. With almost fifty years studying and researching witchcraft, Howard is in the unique position of having known or corresponded with most of the key figures of modern witchcraft; many of who are now gone.

There are three main areas of historical modern traditional witchcraft2 that Howard considers before exploring some tangents and more recent expressions: Robert Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain, the related group The Regency and the Pickingill Craft claims of Bill Liddell. Howard’s account of the Clan of Tubal Cain covers familiar ground for anyone that has devoured his previous writings on the subject as well as those of Evan John Jones, Doreen Valiente and more recently, Shani Oates. Howard does not shy away from looking as the personal side of Cochrane’s life, which is perhaps inevitable given how so much of the story of the Clan is tied up with Cochrane’s own personal mythology. Howard tends to highlight his erratic behaviour, which could be seen as a personal attack by those overly invested in Cochrane as a guru figure, but is perhaps better viewed as illustrative of his qualities as a trickster and atavistic archetype who has become as much a figure of myth as Tubal Cain and Goda themselves.

The consideration of George Pickingill is quite exhaustive, which is perhaps to be expected since Howard with his magazine The Cauldron was one of the original publishers of some of the claims by Bill Liddell. Liddell’s theory that Essex cunning man George Pickingill was actually a grand master of nine covens who had direct influence on everyone from Gerald Gardner to the Golden Dawn is an appealing one, and one can’t help feeling that Howard gives it as much space as he does just because of how glorious its grand vision is. By no means does he state his acceptance of Liddell’s claims, but there’s a feeling he wishes they were true. And who wouldn’t? One crazy old village wizard weaves together almost every strand of nineteenth century English occultism. Who needs the Illuminati when you’ve got Old George.

Following these three histories, Howard takes a step back chronologically and looks at the 18-19th century quasi-magickal guilds such as the Horseman’s Word and the Toadsmen. This consideration is perfectly placed as it shows how many of these rural secret society had themes that were synchronous with, or directly informed, the strands of Traditional Witchcraft that would publically emerge in subsequent years. For the Horseman’s Word, Cain was revered as the first horseman and the presiding chief horseman was identified as the Devil, while the rites of the Toadsmen have been thoroughly explored by Cultus Sabbati magister Andrew Chumbley.

Where Children of Cain is at its most potentially invaluable is in the chapter on the Sabbatic Craft. As an empowered initiate of the Cultus Sabbati, Howard is well placed to present what is perhaps the largest consideration of the group in print so far. Ever so slightly hagiographic in tone, Howard’s admiration for Andrew Chumbley is quite evident and he is nowhere as critical of his friend and their claims as he is of the arguably similar figure of Robert Cochrane. Most of the chapter, though, deals not directly with the Cultus Sabbati but takes the praxis of the group as an opportunity to explore various Cultus-relevant aspects of traditional witchcraft: the witches’ sabbat, the wild hunt and witches’ flying ointments.

Casting his net wider to cover areas of occultism that share the same atmosphere of traditional witchcraft, if not a direct link to those already covered, Howard also looks at the work of Austin Spare and New Zealand-born artist Rosaleen Norton, along with various American traditions (Victor Anderson’s Feri tradition, Douglas McIlwain’s Order of the Skull and Bones as well as American folk magick in general).

Title plate design by Liv Rainey-Smith

While not as rampant as Capall Bann titles, Children of Cain has some careless spelling mistakes and misplaced letters; although for some reason, this lessens as the book progresses. This is such a shame given the lengths that Three Hands Press have gone to in the presentation of this book, and it makes it all the more jarring to find them in such a well presented volume; with Capall Bann titles, the reckless spelling almost goes hand in hand with the cheap printing, generic formatting and cumbersome binding. Although it is not as exhaustively referenced as it could have been, many sources, including personal correspondences, are cited within the text, making for a feeling of a satisfying authoritative read.

In all, Howard’s book is an important consideration of the strands of witchcraft history that diverge from the usual Gardner and Alexandrian “mainstream.” It consolidates, arguably for the first time, a wealth of information about groups for which precious little has been written before. Although some may object to how their respective traditions have been represented here (where Howard’s knowledge is perhaps familiar but not intimate), each strand is fairly and, on the whole, dispassionately represented. Given the nature of this subject, where claims of authenticity for one’s tradition are so often a concern, the tone of an author is an important consideration. Howard’s approach could be said to have a (to use a now rather dated reference) Mulder-like willingness to believe that is tempered with a Scullyesque critical approach that cautions him against totally subscribing to anyone’s claim; at least in print.

Published by Three Hands Press

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1. Although, to be fair, Howard’s book did feature a Ralph Blum-style blank Wyrd rune, so time makes fools of us all.

2. Yes, I’m aware that categorisation makes almost no sense.

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Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic Magic – Thomas Karlsson

Categories: nightside, typhonian

karlssonOriginally released in Swedish and then in English as a hardback edition, Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic Magic has now been reissued as a rather sumptuous paperback with French flaps, featuring new colour art plates and extra material. As the title suggests, Thomas Karlsson’s book is divided into three sections, beginning by considering both the day and night sides of the tree of life, before addressing the slightly tangential subject of Goetic demons.

In his initial consideration of Qabalah, Karlsson plays it pretty straight, especially considering the left turn that the rest of the book takes. He writes clearly and with some authority, giving an outline of Qabalah that references primary texts as well as considering its role in considerably more recent Western Occultism. One of the problems with this section, and it is common to a lot of qabalistic literature, is that the whole point, purpose or practical application of the system is never addressed. Yes, Binah may mean this, and Geburah may mean that, and we could spend pages looking at the complex gematrical meanings behind this and that, but what do you do with it? Is it all a metaphor, or are there really giant balls of mercy and severity floating somewhere out there in space? Are we meant to think of the sephira as planes that the adept can travel too with their active imagination, and if that’s the case, then why does no one say this? It’s almost as if so much has been written about qabalah over the years that no one dares address the elephant in the room that is trumpeting “but what do you actually do with it?”

Karlsson then turns to the nightside of the tree and his discussion of the Qliphoth is probably the most definitive and cogent consideration in print. There’s little of Kenneth Grant-styled purple prose here with all of its wallowing in the grotesque, despite the dark subject matter. Although, in saying that, that word dark does seem to spring up a lot. Adepts aren’t just adepts, they’re dark adepts, shadows are dark shadows (the best kind of shadows, right kids?), both illumination and alchemical processes are dark, and quite quite quite surprisingly, the Abyss is dark; all this on one page… whoops, I mean, all this on one dark page.

The ten qliphoth are each presented with in-depth descriptions, running from Lilith (instead of Nehemoth) to Thaumiel. Karlsson follows this with the book’s practical content in the form of some qliphothic invocations, a consideration of magic squares and a visualisation of a journey through one of the tunnels of Set that join the qliphoth together. The four qliphothic invocations are directed towards the first four qliphoth (Lilith, Gamliel, Samael and A’arb Zaraq) and are prefaced by a fairly standard ceremonial ritual with cast circles, knives, wands and incense. The invocations address the spirits of each of these qliphoth: Naamah for the qliphoth of Lilith, and confusingly, Lilith (the entity) for the qliphoth of Gamaliel, with Andramelech kicking it old school style for Samael and Baal for A’arb Zaraq. The one tunnel visualisation presented here is for Thantifaxath (with a promise that visualisations for the other twenty-one tunnels are available to Dragon Rouge initiates), in which the participants is led into a mountain within which they encounter a naked female figure carrying two bloody crescents.

Karlsson gives sigils for the 22 spirits of the qliphothic tunnels of Set that are different from those originally printed by Crowley in Liber CCXXXI. And it’s probably a good thing too, given how dorky some of them were. Yes, I’m talking about you, Tzuflifu. Don’t look so surprised, Hemethterith! And is it just me, Thantifaxath, or do you look like a tortoise wired up to a couple of batteries? In contrast to Crowley’s idiosyncratic originals, Karlsson’s updated sigils have a pleasing and consistent aesthetic that is very much indicative of image-conscious modern magick, all lovely rings, crescents and tapered swirlies. The sigils for the qliphoth themselves are also rather nice and follow a similar style.

In his final section, Karlsson turns to goetic magic with an overview of ritual procedure for invocation before listing the sigils and characteristics of the 72 demons of the Goetia. There’s nothing particularly new here and by the time you get to Andromalus and his ability to return stolen property, the only thing you might want returned is all your time spent reading about his 71 predecessors.

All in all, this is a valuable addition to nightside literature, if only because of its thoroughness and its coherence that contrasts sharply with Kenneth Grant’s wonderful, but ultimately infuriating, incoherence. It is clearly written from the perspective of Karlsson’s Dragon Rouge order and as such gives an interesting insight into their system; and for that matter, into the themes of the metal band Therion, for whom Karlsson is lyricist. The book’s goetic section feels unnecessary, and the time and space spent on the 72 familiar faces of demonology could perhaps have gone into a similar but inherently more interesting summary of the tunnels of Set and their denizens.

Published by Ajna Bound: www.ajnabound.com
ISBN 978-0-9721820-6-5

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Clavis: Journal of the Art Magical, Issue 1

Categories: luciferian, magick, nightside, sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

Clavis 1There seems to be a veritable explosion in the publishing of occult journals and magazine at the moment, something that is heart-warming in this digital world we live in. Clavis 1 marks the entry of Ouroboros Press and Three Hands Press into this field, and as you would expect, especially from Three Hands Press, this first issue features high production values: perfect bound with a full colour matte cover, heavy stock for the 80 internal pages and several full colour illustrations. And if that’s not enough, there also a deluxe edition, bound in full antiqued olive kidskin with handmade endpapers and limited to 125 copies.

Despite a wide ranging thematic ambit that welcomes almost every credible stream of contemporary magick, there is a strong emphasis throughout this first issue on matters relating to Sabbatic Witchcraft. This is perfectly illustrated by arguably the two strongest contributions to this issue, those from co-editor Daniel Schulke and from Sussex-based writer Martin Duffy. In Diablo Stigmata, Schulke explores the role of the Devil’s Mark in the lore of the Witches’ Sabbath, said to have been placed by the Devil on the bodies of his followers. Schulke uses his exploration of the Devil’s Mark to touch on other tangentially related elements of Sabbatic lore (such as fairy sabbaths) and other esoteric marks and identifiers, like the similar Mark of Cain.

Martin Duffy’s One Beyond Twelve: The Thirteenth Spirit, Judas and the Opposer is an exhaustive consideration of the figure of Judas Iscariot in folklore and sabbatic witchcraft. Judas emerges as a New Testament version of the Opposer, a latter day Cain to the Abel that is Jesus, or a Set in conflict with his brother Osiris. In many ways, this piece felt like a revelation, moving Judas away from the stereotypical, one-dimensional figure of evil Christ-killer and showing the esoteric relevance of almost every element of his story. As the scapegoat to Divine Will that saw him hung from a tree, just as his twin had been from atop Golgotha, Judas echoes both the fallen angel Azazel, bound in the desert by hand and foot as an expiator of sins, and another fallen angel, Shemyaza, who was hung inverted in the constellation of Orion.

Both Duffy and Schulke’s piece are a joy to read, being able to discuss matters that reflect, we hope, an authentic magickal praxis, but one which is authoritatively and, most importantly, lucidly written. The same cannot be said for Johnny Jakobsson’s Nebiros et Ars Necromantica. Presenting a lengthy exploration of, um, something, Jakobsson’s approach is clearly informed by the Kenneth Grant school of dense and unfathomable occult writing. Words upon words are piled into sentences like a far too rich chocolate gateau, with some of the ingredients so obscure I was given pause to wonder if they even existed; and spellcheck seems to share my concern. While it may not sound as cool, there must be an easier way to say: In the guise of tsel mavet, the multitarian twain-headed serpent is the definite sovereign of this alchemic arte of chrysopoetics in the Qliphothic initiation at the graveyard, where its multifarious domains are regally divided into regions. Despite being only 23 pages long, it took several sittings to get through this piece purely because of the giddy hallucination-inducing quality of sentences like: As the hypostatic tripod of the solar shell, the three genii, Mortifaxiac, Horgosat and Miratan, are each magistral mystagogies of the chrysopoetic praxes of the tunnel’s vital emanations into the aureate heart of the ethereal body.

In addition to the longer articles, Clavis features reprints of a number of primary sources that express many of the same themes. Two of these are alchemical texts, one by fifteenth century alchemist George Ripley and the other by Edward Kelley, while another text is the remarkable witches’ invocation to Cain collected by Charles Godfrey Leland in his Legends of Florence. In a similar vein is The Commonplace Book of Francis Grosvenor, an article by Ben Fernee that looks at the notebook of an otherwise unknown 17th century gentleman. The manuscript is a collection of notes on witchcraft, geography and cosmology, with personal reflections that seem to come as a result of the writer’s experience of ecstatic and transcendent states of mind. The point of Fernee’s piece is to highlight the similarity of Grosvenor’ language with that of Andrew Chumbley, drawing comparisons with Grosvenor’s references to the mystique language of the eye & hand  to the Hand and Eye sabbatic formula that Chumbley presents in the first chapter of his Azoëtia.

As well as the historical content, there are also some more practical pieces featured in this issue: Shaddai’s Gate by Frater A.I (a practical exercise for working with the lunar sphere of Yesod) and Beyond the Paths of Frustration: Daath Gnosis by Craig Williams (in which a way of exploring the Nightside using a tantric framework is given). There are also visual contributions from Tomasz Allen Kopera, Rima Staines, Ben Tolman, Joseph Uccello, Tom Allen, Sasan Saidi, and Hagen Von Tulien.

In all, this is a very satisfying debut from Clavis, with a combination of scholarly, visionary and practical content. The quality of the publication is one of the strongest selling points, with an attention to craft that makes the $49 asking price seem, almost, forgivable.

Available from www.clavisjournal.com

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Both Sides of Heaven – Edited by Sorita d’Este

Categories: faery, luciferian, Tags:

bothsidesofheavenAvalonia’s Both Sides of Heaven is a collection of essays on angels, fallen angels and demons that suggests that, were the contributors made to choose, it would be the darker side of heaven on which they would sit. There is a preponderance of pieces exploring the fallen angels, whereas their heavenly counterparts are only occasionally present, but such is the dark glamour of the fallen ones that this is, perhaps, inevitable.

With eighteen contributions, there is a wide range of material here, and as one would expect, it is of varying quality and worth. Some of the highlights include Kim Huggens’ Between Gods and Men, a survey of the idea of daimons from a cross section of classical source, while a similar mytho-anthropological approach is taken by Payam Nabarz in a consideration of the angels and demons of Zoroastrian cosmology. Both pieces are well written and thoroughly referenced, making them a joy to read.

There are also strong contributions from Michael Howard and David Rankine. Howard’s The Myth of the Fallen Ones is effectively a summary of the material from his books The Pillars of Tubal Cain and The Book of Fallen Angels, while Rankine gives an overview of the goetic spirits that appear to be fallen angels. In Madeline Montalban, Elemental and Fallen Angels, Julia Philips covers similar material to Howard, although there is substantially less about Montalban than you would have expected based on the title, being limited to a few paragraphs.

On the weak side are pieces like Diana Allam’s Azazel & Shemyaza: Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is a measly two page reflection on how they see Azazel (apparently as “every female’s fantasy in one package;” how wonderfully essentialist) and to a lesser extent, Shemyaza, who they see as a father figure; providing psychological insights I wasn’t really looking for. Adele Nozedar’s Thirteen Unicycles in the Woods is also unsatisfying, using five pages to give a personal account of seeing an angel and a demon in the wild; an anecdote that may be fine as something to tell like a ghost story around a campfire but one that feels lacking in any relevance or insight for a greater audience. Some of the other pieces are distinctly amateurish and entry level, such as Demons and Devils from the peculiarly-named Maestro Nestor. This is a rambling summary of demonology that is punctuated with personal recollections about how they once contemplated summoning a demon to do housework (they thought better of it because it would have been “just too disrespectful”), and how they made a pact with Satan, which they managed to break thanks to a ritual from Arthur Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic; phew, that was lucky. Equally rambling is Fallen Angels and the Legends of the Fall, subtitled a rather human perspective, in which author Rufus Harrington’s day job as a Consultant Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist appears to have given him the skill to write for several pages without actually saying much.

Less egregious but still irritating is Aaron Leitch’s The “Enochians,” which promises to show you the true identity of the angels of Dr. John Dee. Unfortunately, Leitch bases his piece on a false dilemma, arguing that occultists favour the exotic Enochian angels that Dee and Kelley encountered as they delved deeper into their system and that they have wilfully ignored the more familiar angels with which Dee worked. For Leitch, the true identity of the angels is just the archangels that Dee, as a student of western occultism, summoned and encountered at the beginning of his experiments: Gabriel, Uriel, Michael and Raphael. So that’s no great revelation and the fact that another piece in this volume, On the Wings of Rebirth by Katherine Sutherland, specifically discusses Dee’s work with these angels suggests that Leitch’s idea of some occult cover-up to hide Dee’s conversations with conventional angels  is vastly overstated.

As is obvious, the problem with this volume is the disparity in the quality of  contributions and contributors. Pieces that have an even mildly academic approach outshine the more personal anecdotes that offer nothing but unwelcome insight into the none-too-flattering mindset of some magickal practitioners.  With some quality control, the eighteen contributions could have been whittled down to make a slimmer but more satisfying volume. As with all Avalonia releases, this book is competently formatted and printed, and the reasonable pricing means that despite the chaff, there’s no reason not to buy this for what wheat there is.

Published by Avalonia. ISBN 978-1-905297-26-9

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Nightshades: A Tourist Guide to the Nightside – Jan Fries

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Categories: magick, nightside, typhonian, Tags:

nightshadesMy first encounter with Jan Fries was his Helrunar, which I first saw sitting tantalisingly in Wellington’s Pathfinder bookshop (now long departed home of all matters occult, but mainly self-help books and cassettes of whale song). The text in Helrunar was accompanied by black and white illustrations (including a lovely one of a piebald Hela and Níðhöggr) and it is similarly styled images that are the focus of this book.

Before getting to his pictorial guide to the Nightside, Fries gives a fifty or so page introduction to the themes therein. As ever, Fries takes a conversational style in his writing, not being one for occult obfuscation, and he positively bubbles with enthusiasm for his subject. Covering everything from the neurochemical components of love to the use of the Sephirothic tree and the nature of the Nightside in general, Fries comes across as a polymathical guru (or Joseph Campbell), sparking little realisations of truth as he leaps from one subject to the other. There is something a little mid-90s chaos magick in his approach, where magick is seen as being grounded in psychological and physiological experiences and frameworks, and your mileage may vary when it comes to your enjoyment of that method.

Wrapping up his introductory essay, Fries gives a biographical note explaining the origin of the images that follow, revolving around an intense series of encounters with his Holy Guardian Angel and journeys into the Nightside that began in 1982. Created between 1981 and 1983, the images were usually sketched directly upon exiting trance and then inked later, and Fries describes them as expression of “an experience and a state of intense emotionality.” Some of these images have been published before as a picture book, Visions of Medusa, others are part of an unnamed book of journeys to the Ancient Ones, while the third section, Nightshades proper, concludes the book with images of the 22 Qliphothic entities.

The images that Fries presents here are indicative of his style which is unique amongst occult art. While his closest comparison would be Austin Spare, it is only due to both artists having the same atavistic quality in their work, and Fries mines a more cosmic, ever so slightly science fiction oeuvre that feels indebted to the wide and vaguely organic vistas of Moebius. Never one for shading or thick lines, Fries renders the tone and mass of his figures as unfilled spaces, giving them an otherworldly quality of translucent bubbles. With 71 pictures in total, not all of them can be stunning, but those that are, truly are. In some ways, the most successful images are the Qliphothic Nightshades, which for the most part, have a consistent look and feel. For anyone familiar with these entities from direct experience or from the works of Kenneth Grant and others, there’s a definite moment of recognition that occurs when turning these pages.

In the introduction to this book, Mogg Morgan describes how, in 2008, he and other Oxford occultists worked with some of these images, making copies that they then coloured as an act of focus. Unfortunately, that feeling of photocopied transmission pervades the book, with some images looking a little worse for wear: greys, on those rare occasions they occur, losing any subtlety and becoming splotchy; and blacks that can be speckled and inconsistent. This is compounded by the choice of paper. Given Fries’ use of fine line, his art requires a weighty paper that can sympathetically ground his ethereal images, however, Mandrake have gone with a cheap, thin, and clinically white stock that has all the personality (and quality) of a ream of photocopy paper. It is actually physically unpleasant to touch (possibly from all the bleach used to whiten the paper) and leaves the images often looking scratchy and poorly reproduced. To its credit, the book is large format and hard bound, but even here, the cover image is blurry and pixelated in places, suggesting that it is a low resolution picture that has been recklessly enlarged for print. While it may not have been necessary to go to the extent of the straight-to-eBay section of occult publishing, a little more quality control and attention to materials would have made this an essential volume.

Published by Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 978-1-906958-45-9

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The Book of Fallen Angels – Michael Howard

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Categories: luciferian, witchcraft, Tags:

bookoffallenangelsMichael Howard describes this book as both a sequel and a prequel to The Pillars of Tubal Cain, which he wrote with Nigel Jackson. While that book was a broad consideration of Luciferian themes that ranged from Gnosticism to Freemasonry, from Arthurian lore to traditional witchcraft, amongst others, this volume takes a more concise and specific look at the fallen angels of that tradition. In the 1960s, Howard was the student of Madeline Montalban, whose idiosyncratic and Luciferian magickal system differed from that offered at the time by both ceremonial magic and Gardnerian witchcraft. While this book is by no means a strict guide to Montalban’s system, it is clearly informed by her work, and by the course material of her Order of the Morning Star. Howard is also at pains to point out that although he is an empowered initiate of the Cultus Sabbati, and despite some of the similar themes, the material in this book does not necessarily reflect the teachings of that group.

Montalban saw Lucifer as a benevolent being who, like the other fallen angels, had aided the development of humanity, and she referred to him with the inspired alternative name of Lumiel (Latin-Hebrew) or Lumial (Latin-Arabic), meaning ‘Light of God’. Interestingly, Andrew Chumbley received this same name independent of Montalban or Howard, and his Lovers Call to the Angel of Witchblood, addressed to Az’ra Lumial, is included in this book as an appendix.

Howard says that the key to Montalban’s success as a magician was her ability to synthesise Chaldean stellar lore, Egyptian mythology, medieval sorcery, Renaissance magic and Luciferian gnosis. And that is essentially Howard’s approach here too, covering the Fallen Angel and Cainanite mythos from a biblical and apocryphal perspective and then widening the scope by considering these sources in relation to Mesopotamian and other mythological systems, as well as European and Arabic folklore. Howard rarely reaches conclusions or states anything as definitive fact, simply presenting various bits of lore to create an overall picture. This includes the alternative archaeology of Graham Hancock and Andrew Collins, which again, is presented as contributing to the theme but is never entirely embraced; and probably a good thing too given the lack of scholarly rigour to be found in that field.

While not as bad as some of their other releases, this book features Capall Bann’s usual aversion to spell checking and proof reading. On page 47, Samael is, mayhaps, the victim of an unchecked autocorrect when the Cupertino effect turns him into a time-travelling Samuel, making a quote from the Zohar describe how “when Samuel mounted Eve he injected his filth into her.” Later, the angel Metatron is rendered as the somewhat weightier Metraton, and a reference is made to St Jreome. With mistakes like these, and others, being so glaring, it’s baffling that they were never picked up during even a cursory glance. And as is common with other Capall Bann titles, the book has gutters that are too shallow and a tight perfect binding, making it necessary to hold pages wide open to comfortably read them, forever at the risk of having the pages slam shut like some cheaply bound tome from the Unseen University.

Howard’s writing style is amiable and occasionally conversational, as he pulls together the threads of the fallen angel tapestry with a largely credible tone of voice. While these threads are far reaching and wide-ranging, there’s none of that Grantian-style of Boy’s Own anthropology, and his statements are usually reasonably sourced (though by no means exhaustively referenced); there are only a few moments that you go “hang on, that’s news to me, where does that come from?” (and because of that aforementioned tight binding, it’s hard to thumb back through and find the most egregious example). Thoroughly recommended for an overview of matters Luciferian and fallen angelical.

Published by Capall Bann. ISBN 186163236-3

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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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