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Panparadox – Vexior

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Categories: anticosmic, paganism, Tags:

panparadox-coverThis book published by Ixaxaar represents some of the oldest written material from Vexior whose more recent work includes Thursakyngi and before that, the Gullveigarbók released by Fall of Man. Panparadox was originally published in July 2009 and as such, it stands as a documentation of Vexior’s intellectual and metaphysical development, revealing a focus on the god Pan that within the very pages ventures into the darker Germanic territory the author is now better known for.

Given his other writing, it should come as no surprise that Vexior approaches Pan from an anti-cosmic perspective. Pan is seen through a prism that splinters him into various aspects. He is a spirit of Chaos, an infernal and manifold Luciferian force, and an adversarial spirit of pestilence. Vexior also identifies Pan with the folkloric figure of Grimalkin, seeing in this witchcat an image of Pan as unbound nature spirit. This section also contains a somewhat diverting section on Baphomet combining what seems to be the traditional depiction of this godform along with the idiosyncratic interpretation of the Order of Nine Angles (the Agios O Baphomet refrain is used here in an invocatory poem, for example). This appears as a diversion because it is only used as a relatively long preface to the final explanation that Pan and Baphomet share no relationship, other than a generic connection with knowledge; and, one presumes, their mutual corneolus appendages.

Arguably the core theme of this book is what Vexior sees as a relationship between Pan and Loki. Although he does not identify them as the same being, he does write of a vague connection between the two, with the idea of one cloaked within the other. It is this writing that seems to mark Vexior’s turn to the Lokean side as it were, because with it he provides some of most concentrated sections of this book, with the references to Pan left momentarily behind as he focuses almost entirely on Loki. This motif is resumed at the end of Panparadox with a concluding and previously unpublished chapter called The Flaming Nexus, in which Vexior provides an updated summary of some of the book’s content, specifically the intersection he sees between Pan and Loki. This initially takes the form of invocatory prose which then, unexpectedly, changes tone and voice and becomes more discursive.

Nopis sigil

The practical side of this book is presented in a section called Irissimum, which contains some basic ritual instructions with all the familiar magickal accoutrements along with invocations and the ceremonial calling of elemental quarters. Other than the addition of a pan flute as a ritual tool, there’s not too much here that differs from the usual Western magickal repertoire. Given the repeated use of the word ‘panic,’ it’s a shame more wasn’t given over to potential methods of using that sensation as a magickal technique. As one would expect with this kind of book, there’s a wealth of sigils, most notably the Nopis sigil of Pan that graces the cover, but also a variety of others representing Pan’s various attributes. There’s also a brief grimoire-like section listing the names of Pan’s various sons, each with their attendant sigil.

The credit for the formatting of Panparadox is attributed to both Vexior and Ixaxaar, and as a result, it has a distinctive look that differs from some of the more refined layout expected from this publisher. There is a certain heaviness to the typesetting, with the serif face of the body set with generous leading at a relatively large point size, and then with occasional words highlighted in a thick blackletter face. Adding to this dense typographic colour, is a lack of paragraph formatting on the larger sequences of text, with neither indents or returns used to provide any space. Panparadox is illustrated throughout with a range of images that add to the density on the page. The most successful of these are the full page, densely rendered, pen and ink illustrations of the various aspects of Pan by Chadwick Saint John. His distinctive style (and, indeed some of these images) will be familiar as album artwork to listeners of Vexior’s black metal band Arckanum.

Luciferian Pan in vex and scorn by Chadwick St. John

Given the dimensions of both the book and its typeface, as well as the wealth of images, Panparadox makes for a quick read. The writing is for the most part broken into brief sub chapters that are never very long and never dwell too long on the subject. As evidenced by the strange little Baphomet chapter, there’s a lack of focus in some of this writing, with the book flitting briefly from one topic to another. When compared to his more recent works, it is clear that Vexior’s writing has improved since this first foray, with some of the familiar pitfalls encountered by speakers of English as a second language raising their clumsy head from time to time.

The regular edition of Panparadox comes in run of 430 hand-numbered copies, with a page count of 208 pages. It is a clothbound, small octavo sized hardcover, with the Nopis sigil foiled in silver on the cover, and silver text on the spine. For an Ixaxaar publication, this is a modest presentation but one perhaps befitting the slightness and more archival nature of this work. A leatherbound edition was also available, but as one would expect, that sold out in advance.

Published by Ixaxaar.

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The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher – Matthew Wightman

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Categories: anticosmic, Tags:

serpentsiddur-coverI always find the title of this book from Aeon Sophia Press a little confusing. Is it The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher, as it appears on the cover, or is it Lyrics of Lilith, Songs of Samael, as it appears on the spine and the internal title pages? If it is both, then which comes first, which is the main title and which is the sub? Either way, this book is a siddur, in that it is largely a collection of prayers and devotional formulas directed to Nachash El Acher, the serpentine god of the Other Side, otherwise known by the portmanteau of Samaelilith.

Matthew Wightman writes very much from an anti-cosmic perspective and if you’ve read some of the other reviews on this site before, you’ll know that I have something of a disconnect with that most metal and misanthropic of metaphysical mind-sets. My misgivings are by no means assuaged when the opening line of the first chapter bleakly informs us that: “Existence is trauma.” A cheery start, to be sure.

Although Wightman is clearly and admittedly indebted to the Temple of the Black Light and their 218 current, he marks a divergence with their philosophy, talking of a realisation that he had which effectively means that the Temple just aren’t anti-cosmic enough. The crux of the issue is that in the qliphothic sorcery of the Temple of the Black Light, the Qliphoth is seen to be in anti-cosmic opposition to the Sephiroth and everything else on the dayside. Wightman, on the other hand, now sees the Qliphoth as part of a ruse, an agency of disinformation if you will, with the denizens of the Sitra Achra merely reinforcing, by their actions and their nature, a narrative that has been dictated by the Demiurge. Both the dayside and the nightside, these two opposing forces, are therefore, in actuality what makes up the Cosmos, so for Wightman, a true anti-cosmic force needs to be found elsewhere. Instead, Wightman turns his affections to the concept of Ain or Impossibility, seeking a return to the Ayin or Void, and attributing this same desire as the fundamental modus operandi of the Serpent. Wightman describes these ideas as being part of a Current 61, the Current of Ain and the Nachash El Acher, which he describes as even more “anti-cosmic than those that have come before it.” It does comes across a little like misanthropic hipsterism, evoking an image of duelling denizens of some qliphothic Shoreditch questioning each other’s commitment to an obscure band: “I believe in more dissolution into more nothingness than you do.” “Oh yeah, well my rejection of existence is so rejecty that I reject the rejection of existence.” And so forth.

As a disinterested party, these qabbalistic metaphysics can get a bit overwhelming and it’s hard to quiet the inner sceptic who sees it all as pointless speculation about concepts that are just made up anyway. Of course, that’s the nature of any belief system for which there is barely, if any, empirical evidence, but it seems particularly obvious here where so much time is given over to elaborate concepts and conclusions based ultimately on a matter of opinion and a little too much pondering.

This anti-cosmic worldview permeates much of The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher but the lion share of the book is given over to prayers and rituals, rather than theory. These prayers are recited using several ritual props borrowed from Judaism and Christianity and reoriented to a serpentine focus: a Serpentine Prayer Shawl (made from both linen and wool just to get the Demiurge really miffed that his instructions in Deuteronomy are being flouted; talk about sticking it to the man), Serpentine Phylacteries (with the original Judaic scrolls burnt and the ashes placed back in the tefillin) and a Serpentine Rosary. The prayers themselves are very long with the evening meditation running to sixteen pages, while the Serpent Sermon is comparatively short at only nine pages. On the blessedly shorter side of things are a Hymn to Qayin and songs for each day of the week, as well as a listing of thirteen principles, and prayers for prosperity and for the close of service. There are also meditations for before bed, for morning, and for afternoon, as well as prayers for before and after meals, and a series of prayers and invocations for the spirits of the twelve Qliphoth; although, given the earlier dismissal of the nightside of the Tree of Life as part of the Demiurgic problem, it’s not really explained what they’re doing there.

There’s a certain repetition of themes across this liturgy with much cursing of the Demiurge, praising of the Serpent and a total dissing of the Clayborn; boo, really hate those guys. The negativity of it all gets a bit much for my tender sensibilities and the constant blasphemy against the Demiurge and remarks about what a big meanie he is wears thin very early on. Similarly, the repeated mutterings about the Clayborn ends up making you feel like you’re on an Alex Jones website with people complaining about the Sheeple that just won’t wake up.

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The second half of The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher is, at least in the regular version that I have, bound as a separate book and acts as expanded appendix to the hymnal of the first half. This is a collection of essays, some previously published, as well as an interview with Wightman conducted by Aeon Sophia Press, in which he is able to elaborate more fully on some of the cosmological and metaphysical concepts that are considered only briefly in the first volume. The essays are presented, as far I can tell, as they were originally printed and have not been updated and edited for this collection; something they may have benefited from. For example, in the first two essays, written in 2012 and 2013, Wightman refers to what he calls the Ain Sof Choshek by the name of Tiamat, which stands out somewhat incongruously within a sea of qabbalistic Hebrew, but in a later essay (and in the first volume of the siddur) he adopts the appropriately Hebrew name Tanninim as the result of a discussion with the Temple of the Black Light. What this lack of retroactive editing means is that Wightman allows you to effectively track his changes, revealing the evolution of his thought process. Jesus, for example, goes from being someone to be completely despised in an earlier essay to being seen within a more sanguine worldview in which he is a time bomb double agent whose sacrifice is used to disrupt the Demiurge and their plans.

Across both volumes, Wightman writes very well, presumably benefiting from his theological studies at Yale. Having edited a previous Ixaxaar title, he obviously has a thorough grasp of his subject. The content is largely proofed well and the only time things really go awry is when biblical turns of phrase get the better of Wightman and yoke is, one assumes, mistakenly rendered as yolk, with the phrase “the yolk of the Demiurge was around my neck” bringing to mind some rather sticky cosmological culinary accident.

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Both volumes of The Serpent Siddur of the Nachash El Acher feature occasional full page images by Patrick Larabee in his trademark, slightly naïve style. The type is set cleanly throughout, with chapters beginning with dropcaps in the blackletter Killigrew font that is something of an Aeon Sophia Press trademark. Chapter titles, meanwhile, are rendered as small caps in de rigueur Trajan Pro. The two volumes are bound in cloth, black for the first volume and red for the second, with the title rendered in gold foil lettering on the front of the first volume, and a sigil based on a Penrose triangle on the covers of both. Part one has the Lyrics of Lilith, Songs of Samael title running along its spine, but part two doesn’t have anything, making it infuriatingly anonymous when sitting in a bookshelf. It seems a missed opportunity that an attempt wasn’t made to connect the two volumes together, maybe with some treatment that could spread across both spines whilst still working when viewed in isolation. This regular version is sold-out from the publisher but a deluxe leather bound edition, limited to 50 copies, is, at the time of writing, still available.

For anyone who resonates with this kind of blasphemous, transgressive anti-cosmic Satanism, this book will be a valuable addition to their library. For others, it may mine those veins too frequently, and the negative anti-existence talk could begin to grate. While it lacks the ritual rigour and internal complexity/consistency of N.A.A. 218’s similar writings published by Ixaxaar, it does have an enthusiasm that may appeal to some.

Published by Aeon Sophia Press.

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The Leaper Between – Andrew D. Chumbley

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Categories: folk, sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

leaper_coverSubtitled with the suitably archaic and verbose legend “An Historical Study of the Toad-Bone Amulet; its Forms, Functions and Praxis in Popular Magic,” this small volume is an unabridged version of a study by Andrew Chumbley that first appeared in Michael Howard’s The Cauldron magazine in 2001 and has otherwise been long available online. As the subtitle indicates, this study looks at a ritual procedure in which a toad was flensed within an ant nest and then its bones set to float in a stream. When one of the bones separated itself from its companions and floated upstream, this could be caught and then used variously to control animals or as a love charm. The Leaper Between acts as something of a companion to One – The Grimoire of the Golden Toad, Chumbley’s harder to find and considerably more poetic consideration of the same theme. While that grimoire presents poetry, ritual texts and Chumbley’s personal experiences with the toad ritual, this book has a more purely historical grounding, providing an exhaustive survey of its use down through the centuries.

The toad ritual is first reported by the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder in his encyclopaedic Naturalis Historia, although it presumably represents a folk practice that had been extant for some time. Chumbley documents the spread of this ritual within magickal literature, dependant first on Pliny’s pivotal and well regarded work, and then, in turn, influenced by its appearance in the much later but equally pivotal Books of Occult Philosophy by the German occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. As with the account in Pliny’s work, the presence of the toad ritual in the books of Agrippa may have compounded an existing and extant folk practice, rather than introducing it whole cloth to local workers of magick.

In chapter three, Chumbley notes a marked change in the use of the toad ritual some time during the late 18th or early 19th century, where the procedure was increasingly used specifically as a method of magickal initiation. This change is particularly seen in East Anglian cunning-craft, but as Chumbley documents, is found in other accounts of solitary initiation into witchcraft.  In this iteration of the ritual, the finding of the toadbone can cause the Devil to appear, in some cases competing for possession of the charm, and in the process, he confers on the potential witch their powers. The use of the ritual appears to have given rise to a sub-categorisation within the roles of witchcraft, with practitioners being known as Toad Witches or Toad Men. Chumbley concludes with a consideration of the intersection between the toad ritual and equine themed secret societies such as the Horseman’s Word.

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The Leaper Between has been released as a trade paperback version and in two sold out hardcover editions: deluxe hardcover in full Japanese bookcloth with a gilt toad device and art paper endsheets, limited to 231 copies, and the special hardcover in full black goat with gilt toad device and deluxe hand marbled endpapers, limited to 77 copies. In its trade paperback form, The Leaper Between works out as perhaps the cheapest book ever published by Three Hands Press, although even then it’s a little expensive given the slight nature of the content and its mere 66 chapbook size pages. It’s still lovely to have the contents in the formal settings of a proper book, instead of old copies of The Cauldron or a PDF set in Times New Roman. Chumbley’s writing is, of course, very able and devoid of the flowery and esoteric verbiage found in his more mystically-orientated writing.

Published by Three Hands Press.

 

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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.

glastonbury_zodiac

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.

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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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