Categotry Archives: nightside

nightside

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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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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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Nightshades: A Tourist Guide to the Nightside – Jan Fries

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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