Categotry Archives: tantra


Occult Roots of Religious Studies – Edited by Yves Mühlematter and Helmut Zander

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Categories: esotericism, tantra, Tags:

Occult Roots of Religious Studies coverGrandly subtitled On the Influence of Non-Hegemonic Currents on Academia Around 1900, this anthology focuses on the interconnections between religious studies and occultism, advancing the thesis that the academic discipline of religious studies has hitherto unexplored, and literally and purposefully occulted, roots in esoteric traditions and the occult. As such, occultism and esotericism provided a fertile ground for the development of academic interests in comparative religion, with several scholars of the occult being directly and indirectly involved in the emerging field. The exploration of this scholarly evolution takes the form of case studies of figures such as Paul Masson-Oursel, John Woodroffe, Nees von Esenbeck, Walter Y. Evans-Wentz, Walter Andrae and others. In addition, this volume concludes with what are described as ‘short biographies’ of various contributors to religious studies whose interest in both occultism and science have been little explored, revealing how esotericism, despite its othered status, can be an intrinsic part of the hegemonic culture to which it otherwise appears to be a contrary counterpart.

The case studies in Occult Roots of Religious Studies compile papers presented at the 2018 conference The Birth of the Science of Religion: Out of the Spirit of Occultism, hosted by the Université de Fribourg, and featuring Marco Frenschkowski, Daniel Cyranka, Boaz Huss, Julian Strube, Jens Schlieter, Léo Bernard, Sabine Böhme, and Dilek Sarmis. Editors Yves Mühlematter and Helmut Zander open the proceedings here with a joint introduction that presents the central thesis. Zander follows this with a contribution of his own, less of a case study and rather a setting out of terms in answer to the titular trinity of questions: what is esotericism? Does it exist? How can it be understood? As an academic setting of terms and definitions, this is all fine and de rigueur, but one finds oneself itching to skip the grounding and get to the case studies. Also offering something of an overview is Marco Frenschkowski’s The Science of Religion, Folklore Studies, and the Occult Field in Great Britain (1870–1914), in which he documents how the emerging field of religious studies in late 19th century Britain both influenced and competed with occult and esoteric groups who were pursuing similar but one might say, more invested, avenues of investigations. Despite being an abridged version of a longer study, Frenschkowski’s contribution feels relatively exhaustive, providing a context that extends beyond the geographical boundaries of the Great Britain of the title.

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The first case study of an individual is Daniel Cyranka’s Magnetism, Spiritualism, and the Academy in which he considers perhaps the oldest figure to be profiled here: the German botanist Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck, president of the famed German Academy of the Natural Sciences Leopoldina from 1818 to 1858. As the title suggests, Cyranka is not concerned here with just Nees’ involvement in matters of the academy but with his interest in the then emergent trends of magnetism/vitalism and spiritualism, two fringe belief systems that, to varying degrees, embraced a scientific veneer. Cyranka’s archly disagrees with Johanna Bohley’s 2003 biography of Nees, in which she interprets his involvement with spiritualism as ’senile mysticism,’ painting him as someone for whom ‘infirmity’ and decrepitude made him descend into the comforting murk of pseudo-science. Cyranka contradicts this image, showing how there was a continuum between his academic works and later interests, and that his attempts to align the otherworldly with the scientific were hardly unique, being indicative of similar conversations occurring at the time.

In Academic Study of Kabbalah and Occultist Kabbalah, Boaz Huss profiles several 19th and 20th century scholars of Kabbalah including Gershom Scholem, Adolphe Franck, Moses Gaster, Joshua Abelson, and Ernst Müller. Although such scholars of Kabbalah, and Scholem in particular, were dismissive of occult Kabbalah because of its practitioners’ lack of academic expertise, and its independence from a specifically Jewish framework, Huss argues that the relationship betwixt the two fields was more nuanced than one might expect. He notes that Kabbalah scholarship and experiential Kabbalah have common genealogies, with significant connections, shared ideas, and nomenclature, and with the scholarly side of the aisle going so far as to identify Kabbalah as a form of theosophy (with the lowercase ‘t’). Scholem was even appreciative of Arthur E. Waite and Joseph Franz Molitor (both Christian kabbalists rather than occult ones) and the insights they provided, commending Waite for his appreciation of kabbalah’s sexual symbolism.

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This volume’s sole illustrated essay is Sabine Böhme’s The Ancient Processional Street of Babylon at the Pergamonmuseum Berlin, with its focus on the Anthroposophical background to Walter Andrae’s reconstruction in Berlin’s Pergamon Musuem of the Ishtar Gate and other archaeological objects from the same region, creating what is known as the museum’s Processional Way of Babylon exhibition. Böhme emphasises Andrae’s membership of Die Christengemeinschaft (The Christian Community), an esoteric denomination influenced by the works of Rudolf Steiner, though not directly affiliated with him, arguing that the community provided Andrae with an understanding of Steiner’s system of Anthroposophy and that this influenced the design of his museal concept. Assigning ancient intent to an apparently theoretical master architect called Zaratos or Nazarthos, Andrae conceived of the processional way as a device to purify those who walked down it as they headed into the Holy City of Bab-ilu, with the various stelae of lions, bulls and the chimerical mushhushshu dragons that lined the way creating a metaphysical experience for them. In such animal figures, and in the sphinxes he imagined standing guard at the beginning of the journey (going so far as to include two sphinxes from a different area and time period at the start of the museum’s processional way, one a restoration and the other a replica of it), Andrae saw a depiction of Steiner’s idea of humans being comprised of four parts: a physical body, a life body or etheric body, an astral body bearing sentience or consciousness, and the ego. Böhme’s illustration of how Anthroposophical ideas informed Andrae’s thinking is convincing, drawing principally from his own writings, while said thinking is rather less so, coming across as supremely speculative and prejudicial, with preconceptions colouring the archaeological interpretations.

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Three of the entries here concern themselves with the intersection of the West with Indian and Buddhist ideas, beginning with Julian Strube’s Tantra as Experimental Science in the Works of John Woodroffe. This provides a welcomed profile on the English author, perhaps better known by his pseudonym Arthur Avalon, whose comprehensive works on Tantra and Yoga first introduced those ideas to many in the West. Strube shows how Woodroffe’s advocacy for Tantra as an empirical, rational and ultimately scientific form of mysticism had an enduring and substantial influence on figures such as Mircea Eliade and Carl Gustav Jung, amongst others, with the system being considered analogous to the emerging Western fields of spiritualism and occultism.

A broadly similar vein is mined in Jen Schlieter’s A Common Core of Theosophy in Celtic Myth, Yoga, and Tibetan Buddhism, but with the focus on the American Theosophist Walter Y. Evans-Wentz, who, like Woodroffe with whom he communicated, was a Westerner who directly engaged with indigenous experts and intellectuals; including the Indo-Tibetan scholar and translator, Lama Kazi-Dawa Samdup with whom he collaborated on three titles, the most famous of which is the first English translation of the Bardo Thodol. Schlieter does not solely focus on Evans-Wentz’s relationship with Tibetan Buddhism, rather contextualising it within a Theosophy-inspired embrace of all religions and spiritualties that saw him study Celtic mythology, search for Egyptian wisdom, and only later explore Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. Highlighting the book’s concern with comparative religion, Evans-Wentz saw themes of animism and reincarnation in all of these religions, as well as in the beliefs of certain Alexandrian Christians and Gnostic sects, arguing that they were fundamental principles of a perennial spirituality.

As the final part of this similarly-themed trio, Léo Bernard’s profile of the orientalist and philosopher, Paul Masson-Oursel, subtitled Inside and Outside the Academy, charts his oscillation between hegemonic and non-hegemonic poles, as exemplified by René Guénon’s scathing assessment of him as exhibiting a tendency towards appeasing everyone, “a result, no doubt, of his quite indecisive character.” Understandably, Bernard is nowhere near as a vituperative in his consideration of Masson-Oursel, highlighting his role in developing an academic approach to comparative religion in which the idea of philosophia perrenis played a central role, as well as showing his links to the growth of Neo-Vedanta/Neo-Hinduism in which Hindu thinkers and reformers such as Vivek?nanda and G?ndh? redefined Hindu dharma as an essentially universal, ethical religion.

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The short biographies with which this volume concludes makes for a significant contribution of twenty-seven pages despite their individual brevity. Each on average runs to a page and a third with usually a biographical paragraph as a contextual grounding, followed by one or two on their scholastic endeavours as they pertain to this title’s central thesis. Profiled here are Mehmet Ali Ayni, Hermann Beckh, Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, Baron Omar Rolf von Ehrenfels, Antoine Faivre, Charles Johnston, Anna Kamensky, George Robert Stow Mead, Georges Méautis, Erwin Rousselle, Friedrich Otto Schrader, Karl Bernhard Seidenstücker, Daisetsu Teitar? Suzuki, and Mari Albert Johan van Manen.

Occult Roots of Religious Studies runs to 283 pages of main content, bound as a sturdy hardback. The text in is presented in the De Gruyter house style, with the body set in a mild slab serif that almost scans as a sans serif, giving a distinctly modern look that, as has been mentioned in other reviews, is ever-so-slightly unconducive to reading. Images in Böhme’s consideration of Walter Andrae are reproduced at a small size and with their captions are somewhat awkwardly formatted.

Published by De Gruyter


Samlag: The Path of Þursian Sexual Sorcery – Ljóssál Loðursson

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Categories: anticosmic, germanic, tantra

Samlag coverPublished by Spiritual Outlaw, Samlag: The Path of Þursian Sexual Sorcery is one of two Þursian titles by Ljóssál Loðursson released in close proximity, with the other being his Ginnrúnbók, which was published through Spain’s Fall of Man press. Significantly shorter than that work, Samlag is a more focussed companion volume, considering, as its title tells it, the use of Þursian sex magic, with a particular focus on the erotic relationship between Loki and Angrboða. The brevity of Samlag is a feature of its chapters too, with almost all twelve being relatively succinct, abetted by the body type’s large point, with there being little fat on these bones as Loðursson introduces topics broadly and deftly moves forward.

Samlag appears to start slowly at first, with somewhat disparate considerations of the Smisstenen or Ormhäxan stone from Gotland, and a thorough survey of examples of cardiophagy and other forms of flesh-eating from the eddas and sagas. But these are all individual strands that are then woven into the greater whole as the book progresses. The snake-wielding female figure on the Ormhäxan stone is interpreted as Angrboða or Hyrrokkin, with the three-headed triskelion above as her three children (Hela, Fenrir and the World Serpent), while the theme of cardiophagy relates to Loki’s eating of Angrboða-Gullveig’s heart, an act similarly associated with the birth of the couple’s three children. Indeed, Gullveig’s hugsteinn heart and other giant’s hearts, such as the hrungnishjarta, play a significant role within these pages, encapsulating many of the ideas of samlag like a sanguine arcanum.

Samlag spread

Loðursson defines samlag as ‘communion’ and it is this exchange that is at the heart, if you will, of the three forms of sexual sorcery he presents here: Snýst Miðgarðsormr i Jötunmóð (a kundalini-like raising of serpentine energy), Náttúru Samlag (autoerotic summoning of spirits) and Loptr kvidugr af konu illri (a couple’s working described by Loðursson as a powerful antinomic and counter-cosmic sexual High Magic connected with the giants). Naturally, it is the Loptr kvidugr af konu illri working that is given the most attention here, with its procedure built around the words of its title: Loptr was impregnated by that evil woman. For those that hope that all this talk of impregnating Loki might involve some backdoor shenanigans, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, what is presented here is a relatively straightforward Tantra-style configuration of Shiva and Shakti in which a male practitioner embodies Loki while their female counterpart does the same for Angrboða. It’s not quite such an absolute binary, though, as Loðursson defines both participants as effectively hermaphroditic, being simultaneously male and female in order to break illusionary laws of unity and dualism “through emptiness and polar holism.” The impregnation of Loptr, then, is an oral one in which menstrual blood is consumed in a version of Tantra’s yoni puja, with the blood of the female participant being analogous to the blood of Angrboða’s hugsteinn heart. This act is one that mirrors the creation of Hela, Fenrir and the World Serpent, and so has a similar effect, leading to the creation of a totem-housed egregore that incorporates elements of all three beings.

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There are two other samlag workings either included or mentioned in this book. The first is an autoerotic one focusing solely on the woman embodying Angrboða, who in an act of “contra-cosmic autogenesis” creates two totems representing Hati and Sköll thereby re-enacting the line from Völuspá in which Angrboða as in aldna (‘the old one’) bears the brood of her son, Fenrir. The second working, with which Samlag concludes in a brief chapter, is only hinted at, and refers to the matrix of Loki, Sinmara and by extension, the mara or nightmare. Loðursson suggests that Loki is the grandchild of Surtr and Sinmara, and thereby posits an equine connection between grandson and grandmother via Loki’s transformation into the horse that lured away Svaðilfari and Sinmara’s association with the mara.

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One of the pure highlights of Samlag is an aesthetic one, with the text ably accompanied by works from three different artists, Santiago David Gutiérrez, Diego Sanchez and Chris Undirheimar. It is Gutiérrez who makes the most immediate impact with a woodcut (or woodcut-style) image on the dustjacket depicting Loki and Angrboða around a burning heart, accompanied by Hela, Fenrir and the World Serpent, with the three siblings combined into one phantasmagorical chimera. With its stark shapes and restricted palette of red, black and white, Gutiérrez’s style is both distinctive and evocative, with a look that points to historical antecedents but has an atmosphere and consistency all of its own.Samlag spread with illustration by Diego Sanchez The family portrait on the dustjacket also hides an entirely separate image by Gutiérrez on the hardcover itself, which makes for a lovely surprise with its intertwining rune border festooned with hearts, set in white and red against a black background. Elsewhere, Gutiérrez’s approach is contrasted strongly with that of Sanchez who has a more, how you say, metal hand, with densely rendered, full-page pencil images, principally of a horned and hirsute Loki.

Samlag hardcover

Samlag runs to just over a hundred pages and although it has been printed by print-on-demand company Lightning Source, it is bound as a rather fetching matte black hardback that is illustrated front and back, nicely wrapped in the aforementioned dustjacket. Body text is set in a large serif face, subtitles in a distressed antique serif, while titles are in a striking blackletter that is combined with a header illustration of twin wolves.

Published by Spiritual Outlaw


The Moribund Portal – Richard Gavin

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Categories: folk, germanic, tantra, witchcraft, Tags:

The Moribund Portal coverBearing the impressively arcane subtitle “Spectral Resonance and the Numen of the Gallows,” Richard Gavin’s The Moribund Portal is a meditation on the symbolism of the gallows, and its place in folklore, spiritism and occult philosophy. From the opening paragraph, The Moribund Portal reads like what you would expect from a Three Hands Press title, and certainly moreso than another recent release. This involves, if we dare coin the phrase, a Schulkian type of sentence structure, gloriously beginning the proceedings with “Sites of archaic tragedy, iniquity, or turmoil can server the living as stations of unique spirit function.” Yes, indeed.

Running to just 90 or so pages and undivided by chapters, save for a clearly defined epilogue, or even subheadings, The Moribund Portal feels more like an extended essay than a true book. It is, indeed, what the title says, a portal that is formed by the image of the gallows, but which uses this morbid focus as a means of moribund egress to explore a variety of related themes. Untethered by the structure and clear signposts provided by subheadings, there’s a feeling of the thematic focus swinging, like a gibbet hanging from a gallows tree, as topics move from one to the other. Thus, the occupant of the gallows proves an apt leaping off point, if you’ll pardon the allusion, leading to discussions of the hand of glory, mandrake, dreams, while touching variously on Cain, Germanic mysticism, tantra, and perhaps most intriguingly, given its uniqueness, Canadian folklore. Gavin uses two examples from the latter as rather significant talking points: a tale of an enigmatic hanging from York (now Toronto) and the Québécois folk legend of la Corriveau.

Despite its length, The Moribund Portal is not necessarily a brisk read, due to Gavin’s style of writing. He writes with a considered, grandiloquent and formal delivery, but does so expertly, without falling into the traps that lesser authors do when ambition outstrips ability. Instead, Gavin’s presents a masterclass in how to write 21st century occult style, combining academic phrasing, sophisticated occult terminology (your ‘numens’ and ‘sodalities’ but alas, no ‘praxis’) and just the right sprinklings of archaism. Never overdoing any of these elements, and thereby disappearing into black holes of meaningless, it’s all tied together with perfect punctuation. Writing in such a deliberate way is often, I find, its own form of proofing, as the careful concatenation of words requires constant revision. For this reason, or not, there’s little to complain about here with spelling and punctuation, especially compared to other recently reviewed titles; with only one noticeable spelling mistake really jumping out. The result is a read that feels sophisticated and knowledgeable, rather than someone trying their damnedest to sound erudite or attempting to use a lexicon not naturally their own (you know, most occult authors).

The Moribund Portal spread

The Moribund Portal features a stunning image by Benjamin A. Vierling as the cover, while the typesetting is by Joseph Uccello, both Three Hands Press stalwarts. Like the portal of the title which is reflected in the framing design on the cover, The Moribund Portal is an atypical 9.5 x 6 x 1.5 inches, with its narrow dimensions making it fit easily in one hand when closed. This smaller width does make the binding a little tight, especially given its sub-100 page length, so it’s one of those volume where a little more effort than usual is needed to turn the pages and hold them open, leading to fatigue and the occasional shaking of hands to dissipate the ache.

Three Hands Press have released The Moribund Portal in three editions: as a softcover trade paperback limited to 1,700 copies; a limited hardcover bound in gilt tyrian purple, of 500 hand-numbered copies; and as a deluxe hardcover edition of 22 hand-numbered copies in full purple Nigerian goat with marbled endpapers and slipcase

Published by Three Hands Press.


Distillatio – Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

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Categories: alchemy, art, classical, esotericism, hermeticism, magick, tantra, Tags:

Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule has already had one review this year here at Scriptus Recensera with Time, Fate and Spider Magic from Avalonia. While that work was largely a written one with elements of Orryelle’s art featured throughout, Distillatio is very much a complete showcase of their visual output in various mediums. As its name suggests, Distillatio represents said alchemical stage, and acts as a companion to the other parts of the process documented in Orryelle’s Tela Quadrivum series: Cojunctio, Coagula and Solve. The status of Distillatio as the final volume in this series and the culmination of the alchemical process is reflected in the design, with the book bound in a pure white cloth and wrapped in a weighty white dust jacket with the Cauda Pavonis or Peacock’s Tail in iridescent foil on the front and a similarly rendered fingerprint design on the back.

While the previous entries in the Tela Quadrivum series worked predominantly in black and white, with flecks of gold and silver, Distillatio takes the opportunity provided by the iridescence associated with its alchemical stage and runs with it. Colours, and in particular striking Melek Tausian-blues and a rich ruddy brown, dominate, with the book showcasing Orryelle’s ability as a painter in oils. Orryelle’s characteristic fleshy forms are given an added layer of depth and voluptuousness with the addition of oils, bringing with it a different sense of energy.

Like many of the line-drawn figures in occult art, Orryelle’s phantasmagorical forms usually have an ephemeral and chimerical feel, adrift in a timeless netherworld, but with the addition of oils, they become a lot more present, the line made flesh as it were. With this physicality comes two things, energy and permanence. In The Wild Hunt, participants in the Heljagd pour forth from the centre of the image, reaching across a tumultuous heaven in a furious motion that is mirrored below by the reaching branches of the World Tree. Their source at the centre, which in this case is the gutter of the two page spread, is a zoomorphic figure of Odin and Sleipnir interfused, disappearing into the liminal space created by the formatting of the book. Naturally evocative of Peter Nicolai Arbo’s Asgårdsreien painting from 1872, The Wild Hunt replaces Arbo’s classical forms with more tangible yet still fleetingly elven figures, whose ferocious, otherworldly speed is implicit within the flurry of brush strokes.

Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule: The Wild Hunt

The World Tree of the The Wild Hunt is a frequent motif within Distillatio, often assuming the same compositionally-central role, with its branches and roots emanating outwards, bringing with it various forms of life. In one, alchemical birds appear in its branches and surrounds: a bloody-breasted pelican feeding its young, a resplendent white eagle that forms the tree’s crown and is mirrored by the shadow of a black eagle in its root, while a peacock claims a branch as its own. Similarly in Cycle of Life, the tree sits at the centre of the only partially coloured and inked image, some of its limb anthropomorphised into grasping hands, while various animals and humanoid creatures emanate from it and circle around the frame as embodiments of Nature, red in tooth and claw.

Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule: Alchymic Birds on the World Tree

In more static images, Orryelle’s oil paint gives gravity and a luminous power to its subjects, such as the looming figure of Isis in Osiris Embalmed, or the apple-clasping Melek Taus adrift in a sea of peacock feathers and interstellar clouds in Melek Taus and the Path of Venus. Meanwhile, in With the Milk of a Gazelle, Hathor heals Hoor’s Eyes, an asomatous Egyptian landscape hosts Hathor, crowned effulgent, who heals the eyes of a contorted Horus that lies before her, his arms and legs twisted into uncomfortable reversal.

Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule: With the Milk of a Gazelle, Hathor heals Hoor’s Eyes

As evidenced by the variety of deities featured throughout the works, Distillatio is indicative of Orryelle’s eclectic mythological tastes, with the various divine stars being familiar to anyone who has encountered hir work before. This syncretic quality draws principally on Egyptian, Hindu and Germanic myth, with bits of Greek and Celtic thrown in, sometimes in the same image.

It isn’t only oil paintings that feature in Distillatio and Orryelle also includes a selection of his digital montages. Some of these incorporate elements of his paintings, such as St Michael And/As The Beast which blends the background of a painting with repeating photographic images of Orryelle as the titular and winged saint. There is something a little incongruous about the presence of these montages, and the incredible skill evident in the paintings is not necessarily always matched in their digital siblings. It feels like the book would have been no poorer had they been left out, allowing for the paintings alone to be a more solid and consistent body of work.

Explanations for the images are spread periodically throughout the book, appearing in explanatory blocks before or after several blocks of spreads. It’s not the most satisfactory way of presenting this information, requiring a lot of flicking backwards or forwards, but there’s not many other ways to do it. These legends to the legends are fairly pithy and provide an invaluable aid to understanding Orryelle’s multi-layered images. It is a shame the typography used here does not mirror the beauty of the images, with it all feeling very defaulty due to the body being set in generic Times, save for Orryelle’s typographically-inadvisable tendency to use a goody bag of other typefaces to highlight certain words. Subheadings are also subject to this, centered atop each section and appearing variously in Harrington, Stonehenge and the face that shall not be named; well, OK, suffice to say, I was not best pleased to see the Egyptian-related subtitles being in dreaded, stroke-bolded Papyrus.

Distillatio was made available in standard and deluxe editions, with the standard being 640 hand-numbered copies in white cloth with a white dust-jacket. The deluxe edition of 64 hand-numbered copies signed by the artist came in crushed white quarter morocco, stamped in black with top edge silver in a dust-jacket and slipcase.

Published by Fulgur


Naga Magick: The Wisdom of the Serpent Lords – Denny Sargent


Categories: magick, tantra

Naga Magick: The Wisdom of the Serpent Lords by Denny Sargent gets points right out of the gate for being a first as far as the theme goes. Rather than dealing with roads more travelled and their familiar pantheons, Sargent has focused on the nagas, the serpentine race of beings found in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. For contrarians and eternal rebels such as this reviewer, there’s a certain charm to this, highlighting, as it does, the cool and unknown, the adversarial and misunderstood, the allure of the darkly glamorous.

The naga are largely defined by Sargent in this manner. They are beings who seem to predate the more familiar pantheons of the Indian subcontinent, sitting in a twilight world between asuras and suras, comparable to the fey folk of Western Europe or the Orishas of Santeria. As serpent beings, the naga have associations with water and the underworld, with wisdom, healing and fertility, making them a perfect fit for those with ophidian predilections.

Naga Magick is divided into two sections: theory and praxis. In the first, and briefer, of the two Sargent gives an overview of what little is known about the naga. In a manner he himself describes as rambling, Sargent presents the naga as figures who are more familiar from folk tradition and legend, rather than grand myth. They are not necessarily the dark serpentine creatures one might expect to find within some of the more kvlt and grim areas of the occult milieu, having more of those folk characteristics that means they are to be warily respected and petitioned like the fickle fey folk of Europe.

Sargent uses the nagas to create a model of a magickal universe in which there are four Naga Dikpala, guardians of the four directions (Utarmansa Naga, Bindusara Naga, Madaka Naga, Elapatra Naga, Mahanaga), along with eight further naga lords (Anata Naga, Takshaka Naga, Vasuki Naga, Padmaka Naga, Kulika Naga, Karkotaka Naga, Sankapala Naga and Mahapadma Naga). In addition, this system’s grounding in tantra enables naga cosmology to be integrated with the concept of the Red Goddess, Shri Kundalini, and she provides the centre, the point where the eight lords converge in the naga’s underworld realm of Bhogavati. This is the union of Naga and Nagi, of Shakti and Shiva, and her veiled appearances ensures that the Red Goddess, Lalita, Tvarita Devi, Tripurasundhari, has a pivotal role in the system presented by Sargent.

When it comes to matters magickal, the central approach of the book is not a true reconstructionist one, as there doesn’t seem much to reconstruct. Sargent candidly acknowledges that there is not much that can be gleamed from historical sources in the way of naga traditions and rituals. Instead, his technique is to incorporate what little information there is into a framework that draws on established, often folk-based, traditions, with a modern Hermetic-Tantric flourish that is grounded in his experience with the Nath system of Shri Gurudev Mahendranath. Consequently, although this is by no means a Nath book, it feels as if that system inevitably informs much of what is presented here, with specific terminology, such as the euphonious ‘zonule,’ dropping in, sometimes a little incongruously here and there.

Due to this use of familiar techniques, there is a certain, well, familiarity to the magickal methods presented here. From a recognisably western perspective, the four guardian nagas each have images and seals associated with them, as well as corresponding invocations to be used in concert. A more easterly approach is found with the use of mudra, pranayama, yoga and other tools of the Naga Sadhana. All techniques converge to varying degrees in the assortment of workings and spells, culminating in a grand Naga puja. This major ritual is intended for use during the great naga festival, or for any other significant work, and is based on a Nepalese rite recorded in Jean Philippe Vogel’s 1926 Indian Serpent-lore Or The Nagas in Hindu Legend and Art (something of a fortuitous source for Sergent).  This is a length rite, taking 35 pages to effectively close the book in a procedure that invokes all twelve naga, Dikpala and lords, and ultimately Shri Kundalini, with some beautifully written liturgy.

On the whole, what Sargent has presented here is a convincing, self-contained magickal system. It has a cosmology that, while not as fully fleshed out as something with a grand mythology available to it, makes the most of what information is available, and interprets it into a logical magickal paradigm. Sargent writes in something of a conversational tone, often pre-empting imagined questions from the reader, and speaking in a personal, informal manner. This helps assuage any quibbles one might have about the less than thorough or historically rigorous information in the book, with the evident caveats provided by his methods and motivations laid bare.

While Sargent, one assumes, knows his stuff when it comes to matters naga and Hindu, there’s at least one moment where the information about other cultures is a little off. He refers to the World Serpent of Germanic mythology as Surtr, which, if one was to be charitable, could be a little known, but rather appealing, esoteric interpretation, but is more likely to be just a flub. This isn’t necessarily an errant naming not picked up in proofing, as the reference is made twice. As is always the unfortunate case in situations like these, it can somewhat undermine one’s overall confidence in the book.

Published by The Original Falcon Press