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Hekate Her Sacred Fires – Compiled and edited by Sorita d’Este

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Categories: classical, devotional, goddesses, hekate, hellenic, Tags:

Hekate Her Sacred Fires coverApparently some unwritten goal here at Scriptus Recensera is to review all recently published titles related to Hekate, so much so that she’s the only deity here with her own subject tag. This might be a somewhat insurmountable task, given her popularity at Avalonia alone, with this being but one of two anthologies released by that press in honour of her; the other being the equally colon-deficient Hekate Key to the Crossroads from 2006. Published in 2010, this massive work takes a more global view than its predecessor and brings together contributions from more than fifty people, with some familiar names but considerably more who just appear to be practitioners who are not otherwise writers. This vast cast is somewhat intimated in the cover which has not a single image but many, featuring the work of Emily Carding, Brian Andrews, Shay Skepevski, Georgi Mishev, and in the centre, Magin Rose.

Hekate Her Sacred Fires is presented as a large format A4 book, which doesn’t make for the most pleasant reading experience. Reading on-the-go is pretty much out of the question, and reading not-on-the-go isn’t all that easy either, with the ungainly format requiring a solid reading surface lest hand fatigue and RSI kick in. In addition to the physical aspects, the large dimensions don’t allow for the most sympathetic of layouts. Text is formatted in a single, page-wide column, meaning that the enervation of hands and limbs is joined by a similar weariness of eyes and concentration, with the excessive line-length being detrimental to sustained comprehension. The formatting of the text doesn’t help in this manner either, providing little in the way of visual interest. Paragraphs are fully-justified, and separated with a line-space between, but they also have redundant and far-too-large first line idents, including the first paragraph and in one infuriating instance, subtitles; meaning that the body text can appear insubstantial and untethered. Titles and subtitles are presented as larger and bolded versions of the body typeface, set in the almost-a-slab-serif face that Avalonia have stuck with over the years. There are images preceding almost every contribution on the verso side of the page spreads but these, like the various other illustrations and photographs that fill spaces throughout the book, are of varying quality and are not treated that well by Lightning Source’s print-on-demand press.

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This all means that it can be hard to get into Hekate Her Sacred Fires, and it is a testament to this difficulty that this review has sat here half-written for some time. Once one does make it past the monstrously large pages and the walls of long-line-length text, a sense of the variety in contributions begins to emerge, though the majority are first-hand accounts of working with Hekate. But first off, in her own introductory section, is d’Este, who gives an overview of Hekate, providing a thorough historical grounding that allows for the more speculative or specialised considerations that come later. This is then followed by an exhaustive illustrated timeline that is spread across nineteen pages, and stretches from 6000 BCE, with the beginning of the Neolithic period, right up to 2000 CE where it concludes with the publication of d’Este’s book Hekate Key to the Crossroads.

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With over fifty contributors there is a demonstrable diversity in what is presented here, all of varying approaches, styles and quality, in both matters magical and literary. It is the personal that dominates throughout, beginning with Georgi Mishev who gives a personal biography and testimonial of his Bulgarian approach to goddess spirituality in general and Hekate in particular, as does compatriot Ekaterina Ilieva in the following piece. Similarly, Shani Oates provides a record of a ritual for Hekate from several years prior with results of great profundity; prefaced with an introduction of equally great and characteristic verbosity. Some of these contributions include a practical element with the personal, such as John Canard who talks about using meteor showers for spell work, or Amelia Ounsted who maps out the whole Wiccan year of festivities with ways in which they can be related back to Hekate.

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Some of the more interesting contributions here move beyond the respectable and reputable classical world of Hekate, as necessary and worthy as that grounding may be, and into the more darkly glamorous realms of sabbatic and Luciferian witchcraft. This comes most notably from the pen of Mark Alan Smith whose appearance amongst these other authors seems a little incongruous, but it is a theme also discussed first by Trystn M. Branwynn in the gloriously-titled The Hekatine Strain. Here, Branwynn discusses Hekate as but one of the names of the pale Queen of the Castle of Roses in Cochrane-style Traditional Witchcraft, drawing together a tapestry of threads from myth and folklore to unpack the symbols of Hekate, in particular the crossroads, and linking it ultimately back to this particular vision of witchcraft. Smith, in turn, writes, as one would expect, from the perspective of his Primal Craft tradition, telling of how Hekate introduced him to Lucifer who appears here as her consort. This is a thorough ritual account, documenting the long, distressing after effects of The Rite of the Phoenix, culminating in a crossing of the Abyss and a journey through the City of Pyramids.

The type of personal turmoil mentioned by Smith is not something unique to his contribution here, with several authors describing trauma and dark nights of the soul that either came through interacting with Hekate or were eventually soothed by her cathartic arrival. As always, there’s a variety of feelings and impressions that can be stirred up when reading such accounts, especially when it concerns mystical goings on and messages from the divine world; incredulity being one of them. But that is the nature of the brief here, so the reader needs to buckle in and enjoy the ride on this train of personal testimonies or get off at the next dour stop. For devotees of Hekate, though, one can imagine that a collection of so many allied voices would be well received and a valuable addition to one’s library.

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In the end, it’s hard to get past the large formatting of Hekate Her Sacred Fires and it can be genuinely exhausting just to read a page, with your head and eyes having to travel right across each A4 width just to get one sentence in. It is obvious why this has been done, as with an existing page count of over 300, a volume with more conventional dimensions would have doubled the amount of pages to make for one hefty tome. One option might have been to reduce the number of submissions or to have at least pared down some of them in the edit, but there would probably have been some reluctance to do this, given that in her introduction, d’Este talks of how necessary it was to preserve the voice of so many writers; meaning that editing for proofing alone has been minimal, limited to what are designated essential changes.

Published by Avalonia

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Hekate Liminal Rites – Sorita d’Este & David Rankine

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Categories: classical, goddesses, hekate, paganism, underworld, witchcraft, Tags:

Hekate Liminal Rites coverThe goddess Hekate looms large over at Avalonia, and in addition to this colon-deficient title, the Glastonbury-based publishers have released The Temple of Hekate by Tara Sanchez, two anthologies both edited by Avalonia owner Sorita d’Este (the equally colon-wanting Hekate Her Sacred Fires and Hekate Key to the Crossroads), as well as d’Este’s own more recent work Circle for Hekate – Volume I: History & Mythology, yay, colons. If that wasn’t enough, d’Este also founded the Covenant of Hekate and runs the semi-regular Hekate Symposium. Suffice to say, if indeed faith without works is dead, d’Este should be pretty assured of some eschatological rewards from her matron when the time comes.

d’Este and collaborator David Rankine give a hint of their intent with the book’s verbose subtitle: A study of the rituals, magic and symbols of the torch-bearing Triple Goddess of the Crossroads. This is expanded upon in the introduction where they talk of coming across various items relating to Hekate whilst researching other projects, describing this book as part of a long term project that brings together such nuggets as they relate to ritual practices. As such, the book details information on historic charms, blessings, herb and root magic, dreams and divination, effectively providing a toolkit of authentic, referenced magickal items and procedures that can be incorporated into one’s own Hekate-themed modalities; and not just some handheld modern rituals to slavishly follow, as some disappointed reviewers on Amazon were obviously looking for.

Because of this, Hekate Liminal Rites can be a little dry. In places it sometimes feels like an info dump, where research notes have been entered into chapters, without much from d’Este and Rankine to glue them together. That contextual glue can also be absent between chapters, simply because a chapter’s focus on a particular area in which Hekate is documented can be brief and standalone, sharing little with the chapters that precede or proceed it. This is, obviously, inevitable given the style of the book, and as a criticism has little solution, but is mentioned to provide a sense of the content’s style and its resulting reading experience.

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One of the most interesting things that d’Este and Rankine draw attention to is the syncretic nature of Hekate, where her associations in the ancient world weren’t monolithically Greek, but instead often placed her in concert with deities from Egypt, Mesopotamia and later even Christianity. In spells for love and protection from the Greek Magical Papyri, Hekate appears alongside Ereshkigal, the Sumerian goddess of the underworld and an obvious cross-cultural equivalent. The same association is found in defixiones, simple binding spells made on lead tablets, with Hekate being joined by Ereshkigal and other names in a string of voces magicae. In other instances, Hekate appears in the company of angels, with a spell from the Greek Magical Papyri addressing her alongside the archangel Michael (as well as Hermes, Mene, Osiris and Persephone), while in others, angels are identified as the minions of Hekate, who is entreated to send them forth to aid the supplicant.

Given their theurgic emphasis, the Greek Magical Papyri plays a large role within Hekate Liminal Rites as a source, as do the Chaldean Oracles. But d’Este and Rankine also draw from the entire classical canon, beginning with Homer, the Greek dramatists, and up to Roman historians and the Early Church Fathers, as well as extending well beyond this to a smattering of occult sources like Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. As such, there’s a wealth of material to draw from and Hekate’s ritual correspondences, types of ceremonies and procedures, are all covered off magnificently. This ritual framework also allows other areas of Hekate to be touched on, with spells from various sources providing opportunities to consider her animal forms, herbs and potions, associations with the underworld, and even her relevance to Solomonic magic. These are all presented in a brief, utilitarian manner, making for a brisk but pleasant read; with extensive and blessed citing of sources throughout.

Hekate Liminal Rites is available as a 193 page paperback, printed like most, if not all, Avalonia titles by print-on-demand company Lightning Source. There’s not much of the way of internal illustration, with only a handful of statue photographs and reproduced prints. With that said, the cover image of a triform Hekate from Joanna Barnum is pretty great and more of that on the inside would have been neat.

Published by Avalonia

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Time, Fate and Spider Magic – Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

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Categories: chaos, magick, nightside, witchcraft, Tags:

Palindromically subtitled A Brief HIRStory of TimEmiT fo yrotSRTH feirB A, this book from Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule is a 2014 expanded and revised edition of a work originally released in 2006 through hir own iNSPiRALink imprint.

Time, Fate and Spider Magic contains many traits that will be familiar to people who have encountered Orryelle’s work before: a mythologically eclectic frame of reference, word play that wouldn’t hold up in etymological court but is fine for the firing of magickal connexions, and idiosyncratic spellINK and 4Maating; see what I did there? …I’m particularly proud of the second one. The closest analogy would be Kenneth Grant, with Orryelle’s use of far flung comparisons and mythological broadness recalling that of Uncle Ken, but with a lot less wallowing in the sewage of the qliphothic realms; such fun.

Like Orryelle’s own practise, Time, Fate and Spider Magic is indeed eclectic and just a little bit manic. It jumps polymathically from one subject to another, from this mythologeme to that. This is not a failing by any means, as it would perhaps be in the hands of a lesser writer and practitioner, and instead perfectly encapsulates Orryelle’s approach to magick.

The book is one half travelogue, one half exegesis, and just to be difficult, one half grimoire. It begins in the exegetical mode with Gate One, outlying a discussion of fate and time at the heart of which is the story of Oedipus. This reads less like a magickal treatise and more a philosophical reflection on fate and questions about its immutability. Over its significant length, 95 pages in all, it branches from the Oedipal basis into a broader discussion of fate and time, encompassing Greek and Egyptian mythology, Mayan time keeping, and ultimately, Thelema. This is interspersed occasionally with images of apropos atu from Orryelle’s Book of KAOS tarot, accompanied by their original explanatory text.

The second gate of Time, Fate and Spider Magic takes an arguably more magickal approach with what is largely an exploration of the concept of an arachnid goddess of fate, one part Greek Moirae and Hekate, one part Kali, and a little bit the Egyptian scorpion goddess Serket. Orryelle envisions this composite goddess as a grand creature of space and time, bridging dimensions and being associated with the twenty ninth qliphothic tunnel of Qulielfi, the Nightside reflex of the dayside path of the Moon connecting Netzach and Malkuth. This is borne out by a received text, The Book of the Spider, not to be confused, Orryelle is at pains to point out, with a similarly named tome mentioned by Grant otherwise known as Liber Okbish or Liber 29. Orryelle’s Book of the Spider has the spider goddess describe herself as dwelling in the spaces in-between, in the tunnels behind, in a lair that is the very tome she speaks from, “spiralling Qulielfi copper mindfire.”

Orryelle shows how these themes of the spider goddess and fate and time travel were given physical application through hir use of ritual theatre. Most notable of these are the labyrinthine structures created at festivals in the latter half of the nineties by hir Metamorphic Ritual Theatre Company; the imagery of which will be familiar to anyone that has followed Orryelle’s work over the last three decades. These were large, immersive structures in which visitors mingled with performers in an intersection of performance and praxis.

While gates one and two of Time, Fate and Spider Magic provide hints of ways in which the themes of the book could be ritually applied, this is made explicit in the third gate, with Orryelle providing several techniques. The first of these uses a web structure to effectively time travel between incarnations, both past and future; a concept based around the idea of the Guardian Angel being one’s future self. Orryelle also briefly touches on a system of pathworkings called the 8 Gates (consisting of mineral, plant, fungal, animal, human, inbetween, the black void and the white light), as well as techniques for using tarot for conjuration, rather than just divination. These procedures aren’t necessarily presented in a ritual and recipes format, and Orryelle weaves instruction together with anecdote and elaboration, describing situations in hir own experience where they were used.

The third gate is the briefest section of Time, Fate and Spider Magic and the remaining 90 pages are devoted to appendices of supporting information, diaries and texts. There’s a valuable exposition on mantra and mudra used in the preceding sections; a reproduction of the multi-page, densely-illustrated programme for a Metamorphic Ritual Theatre Company performance of Arachne Ascendant; and a full transcript of Orryelle’s Liber Qoph vel Hekate, a daily Lunar prayer that compliments Crowley’s solar Liber Resh vel Helios. The largest of these appendices is a documentation, photographs and all, of the 2003 incarnation of the Global Chakra Workings led around the world by Orryelle’s HermAphroditic ChAOrder of the Silver Dusk since 1999. If this account makes one aware of anything it’s the passage of time, as my recall of reading about these events soon after they happened seems so recent, not over a decade old.

As with most Avalonia titles, Time, Fate and Spider Magic has been manufactured by print-on-demand service Lightning Source, although unlike many of Avalonia’s books, this one comes in both a paperback and a limited hardback version. The hardback edition is bound in blue cloth with a full colour dustjacket, and the internal pages are printed on a not entirely sympathetic stock that is fairly light and brittle. Orryelle’s formatting and writing quirks, with words double-spaced for numinous effect, idiosyncratic spelling and use of more fonts than is usual, can make it hard to tell when something has been edited with intent, or whether it’s a genuine error, in the case, for example, a line in a paragraph being indented halfway through it.  

In all, Time, Fate and Spider Magic is an enjoyable, significant work. There has always been an enthusiasm and honesty to Orryelle’s writing and perspective, devoid of any occult obfuscation, and this is true here, particularly in the way so much is presented in biographical form. The extent of this winning way may be determined by how easily one forgives the lack of rigorous referencing, and the occasional unverifiable statement is allowed to float by with nary a neuronic niggle.

Perhaps ironically, Time, Fate and Spider Magic does seem to be a victim of its very theme, enduring the ravages and vicissitudes of time. Inevitably, any printed work begins to date as soon as pen is put to paper, or pixel to screen, and with the sense of superiority that comes in living in times future relative to when this was originally written, it’s hard not to look down on the naïve optimism of ye olde 2006; something that any 2014 revisions have not assuaged. As the anti-Grant, Orryelle is the kind of optimist who sees good times a’coming, and human advancement on the horizon, with grand shifts in consciousness and magickal magickness. Here, in the miserable dystopian world of 2018, it’s hard not to feel that optimism may have been misplaced.

Included in the hardback version is a DVD that includes the Loom of Lila ritual dance theatre, the Chaos Clock film, the 8 Gates pathworking and an audio adaption of The Book of the Spider. How much these elements are viewed compared to how often the book is read remains to be seen, being largely rough and ready piece, typical of both the time, the technology and Orryelle’s aesthetics.

Published by Avalonia.

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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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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