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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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The Grimoire of Tiamat – Asenath Mason

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Categories: chaos, mesopotamian, nightside, typhonian, underworld, Tags:

Grimoire of Tiamat coverAsenath Mason’s Grimoire of Tiamat presents a complete system of magick based around the Mesopotamian primordial goddess Tiamat and the eleven monsters she created to aid her in her fight against the new order of gods lead by Marduk. While the wider focus of the book is, obviously, Tiamat, much of the practical part of this grimoire deals with these eleven demon-gods: Bašmu (Venomous Snake), Ušumgallu (Great Dragon), Mušmahhu (Exalted Serpent), Mušhuššu (Furious Snake), Lahamu (the Hairy One), Ugallu (the Big Weather-Beast), Uridimmu (Mad Lion), Girtablullû (Scorpion-Man), Umu Dabrutu (Violent Storms), Kulullû (Fish-Man) and Kusarikku (Bull-Man).

Mason is at pains to point out that what she is presenting here is not an authentic reconstruction of any Mesopotamian magickal tradition, acknowledging that there is no archaeological evidence of the direct worship of Tiamat and her creations; and the only ritual sources relating to them are exorcisms and banishing formulae. Instead, she defines the work as a book for occult practitioners of the present century and to this end, testifies that all the rituals within the book have been tested by magickal associates and verified as to their efficacy. Not exactly a double blind, peer-reviewed trial, but certainly more testimony than most books provide for their rituals which, for all intents and purposes, may have never moved off the page into actual practice.

The Grimoire of Tiamat is divided into three sections: first, a lengthy introduction of the theme and cosmology, followed by individual workings for each of the eleven demon-gods, and then a concluding appendix of thematically related workings focussing directly on Tiamat and Kingu. The first section, Primal Draconian Gods, is rather well written, especially for someone with, one assumes, English as a second language. Mason outlines the legend of Tiamat as contained in the Enuma Elish and while her approach is not purely academic, there’s a rigorous quality to her writing, with references cited as footnotes. Refreshingly, there’s very little, if any, of the kind of boy’s own anthropology that usually attaches itself to Mesopotamian mythology in modern occultism, where writers since Simon in his Necronomicon have treated Sumerian, Babylonian and Akkadian culture as interchangeable blank canvases onto which they can paint their own usually derivative Lovecraftian cosmology. Mason gives a survey of how Tiamat has been interpreted and viewed throughout Mesopotamia, and expands on this to include other motifs from the region in which a primordial dragon is killed. Tiamat is identified as the first mother, the creator of all life, as well as the embodiment of watery Chaos similar to the Hebrew concept of Tehom, the deep mentioned in the first lines of Genesis.

Sigil of Tiamat

The second section, The Children of Tiamat, presents ways of working with each of the eleven demon-gods, prefaced with an explanation of the techniques that follow and the use of the Key of Night, a master sigil that is employed throughout the workings as a way to access the nightside. Each entry for the eleven deities uses a standard format, with an introductory discussion followed by an evocation, an invocation, a brief guided meditation (sometimes two), and instructions on doing dreamwork with that entity. Each section begins with a sigil for the respective deity and concludes with what is referred to as their draconian sigil (usually a more elaborate, more illustrative and pictorial design). The discussions that introduce each entity combine information from primary Mesopotamian and academic sources with impressions gathered from magickal experiences. Because there can be rather slight information about some of the eleven in original sources, other than their rather descriptive names, some of these discussions can stretch the available information a little thin, or weigh more heavily on the received knowledge than on others. What is presented shows the eleven as not the most pleasant of creatures, all of them being spirits of transformation that often involve spitting venom and ripping out hearts. The eleven are presented as spirits capable of both transforming the initiate and being employed for malefica against a practitioner’s enemies. Perhaps it’s my lack of familiarity with Mesopotamian languages, but the eleven demon-gods with their sometimes similar names seem somewhat interchangeable and are not entirely memorable. Serpentine, draconian and generally bestial imagery abounds, and the vicious initiatory techniques they use seem to be shared across some of the eleven; with being bitten in the third eye by a venomous demon-god being the motif du jour.

Given Mason’s past involvement with the Dragon Rouge’s Polish Magan Lodge, it’s inevitable that this work has something of a Dragon Rouge vibe about it. It’s not just the draconian themes, but some of the general tone, philosophy and ritual structure; with, for example, the very un-Mesopotamian, but very Dragon Rouge, ritual refrain of Ho Drakon Ho Megas cropping up here and there. Also indicative of this lineage, Mason occasionally draws comparisons between the eleven demon-gods and the nightside of the qabbalistic tree of life, noting characteristics shared between a particular being and one of the qliphothic spheres. But this is only done in passing, as if the possibility of setting them out in precise correspondences would be too much of a stretch.

The final section of The Grimoire of Tiamat is an appendix that returns the focus to Tiamat. This takes the form of a guided meditation within the waters of Tiamat, a ritual for two participants invoking Tiamat and Kingu, a rite of malefica, and a discussion of the underworld in Mesopotamian belief, followed by a chthonic guided pathworking.

At just under 200 pages, the Grimoire of Tiamat provides a concise, internally coherent system for someone who finds themselves resonating with that cosmology; and is better equipped than I to tell their Mušmahhus from their Mušhuššus. It is limited to 500 hand numbered copies, with another 15 in a hand-numbered leather bound deluxe edition. Bound in red faux leather, with black end papers, it is smyth-sewn and has a red ribbon bookmark. The title is rendered in gilt on the spine and there is a gilt eleven-pointed star sigil on the cover; although it bugs me that the depth of the spine wasn’t taken into account when aligning the sigil, so it appears a little to the right and not fully centred (occult world problems, I know).

Published by Nephilim Press.

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Wholly: A Devotional for Hela – Dagian Madir

Categories: germanic, rökkr, Tags:

It’s full disclosure time once again: I created the cover art for this Hela devotional, and also contributed a few pieces of writing and some internal illustrations. So, proceed with due caution. With that out of the way, Wholly: A Devotional for Hela is, perhaps not surprisingly, a devotional for Hela, published by Asphodel Press and edited by Dagian Madir. It presents a combination of essays, poetry, prayers, rituals and artwork, compiling contributions from around the world.

Madir’s opening essay, The Day I Became Hel’s, sets the experiential tone for much of the content of Wholly. They describe how they first encountered Hela, in an experience that amounts to shamanic dismemberment, and then proceed to give a synopsis of Hela’s attributes, highlighting Her role as She who, in Her divided state, makes whole. Madir contributes several other essays throughout this volume, considering the role of death in the everyday, and of loving Hela as a form of devotional practice.

Other articles are provided by Fuensanta Plaza, who writes about euthanasia in The Good Death, and Gudrun Mimirsbrunnr, who rather wonderfully describes Hela as being found “in silence, in dust, in the workings of insects.”  Galina Krasskova, as someone who belongs to Odin, provides an interesting angle in describing her encounters with Hela, while Silence Maestas does likewise and writes of their sometimes turbulent relationship with Hela from the perspective of someone who primarily works with Loki. Raven Kaldera contributes two pieces, one a summary of Hela’s characteristics, and another, Mercy and Unmercy, a consideration of Hela in relation to the passage between life and death, particularly in cases of difficult transitions. The relationship between Hela and the dead is, naturally, an important one and other writers consider it too, with Lydia Helasdottir writing of ministering to the dying in a piece considering various ways of Working with Hela, while Silence Maestas discusses offerings of food to the dead.

Many of these articles are written from a personal perspective and come across as testimonials, almost as if they’re customer reviews on an auction website, describing the services Hela offers and whether they’d trade with Her again. Most say A++ seller, would trade again. Despite this rather pragmatic interpretation of this content, taken as whole, these articles do act as viable meditations on Hela. While these contributions contain little of the poetic or flowery language typical of devotional literature, a focused reading of them does prove to be an effective way of meditating on Hela’s nature.

The poetic language is largely reserved for the section of poetry that follows. This content is more obviously devotional in its intent, with some directly addressing Hela as invocations and others poetically exploring a narrative. Highlights include Talas Valravyn’s A Ritual For Hela, in which instructions for an impossible, unless metaphorical, ritual are rendered poetic, while one of the strongest pure invocations is Kaldera’s For Hela, In All Extremity. Here, Hela is called by successive verse in the names of darkness, decay, cold, silence, bones, loss, death and ultimately, regeneration.

Young Hela by Abby Helasdottir

While some of entries in the poetry section could be considered prayers, Wholly follows those with a separate section of prayers, all penned by Madir. These are probably the most intensely devotional of all the contents of this book, calling to mind Ramprasad Sen’s Shyama Sangeet hymns to Kali. These nine prayers have a rhapsodic, almost giddy and all-consuming quality, providing a profound address to Hela for everything from gratitude for daily bread to the need to let go of things.

The concluding section of Wholly provides a few rituals and meditations, with the slight contributor list consisting of Kaldera and Madir. There’s nothing wrong with that though, as it’s better to have a few solid rituals, rather than a lot of pointless fluff. Kaldera’s contribution is a reprint of his Hela ritual outline from the Pagan Book of Hours, while Madir gives a cemetery meditation and a corpse pose ritual. Both are good, solid guides that provide more than the usual unimaginative rigmarole from modern grimoires: cast this circle, visualise this sigil, hope stuff goes down.

One minor problem with Wholly is that it was a work long in the making and as a result, some of the material has a familiarity from being featured elsewhere. Kaldera’s Hela appeared in his Jotunbok, as did the pieces from Gudrun Mimirsbrunnr and Lydia Helasdottir, amongst others. I’m guilty of this too, as one of my contributions, the suite of planetary poems for Hela, has appeared previously in the Jotunbok and before that, on the Shadowlight website. In saying that, though, over half of the material is new and having both the old and new together in a single volume makes this an indispensable book for those with an interest in Hela specifically or the Rökkr in general. The range of contributors is wide and what is interesting is how, despite the geographical gulfs between them, there is a consistency in language and spirit, with Hela described and summarised in the same way despite so many different voices.

Published by Asphodel Press. ISBN 978-1-938197-00-0

Mortal Fear by Abby Helasdottir

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Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic & Modern Occulture – Egil Asprem

Categories: enochian, magick, Tags:

arguing-with-angels-cover1 Egil Asprem is part of what seems like a veritable renaissance of matters esoteric from Scandinavian academia; one that is often sympathetic and enthusiastic about their subject matter and its practitioners. Alongside Kennet Granholm, Jesper Aagaard Petersen and Per Faxneld, Asprem is one of several often long-haired, occasionally-bearded Scandinavian academics who you can’t help feeling might have a few black metal albums in their collection and have gone in to academia to legitimately pursue their once youthful interests. As its subtitle indicates, Arguing with Angels is an exploration of the role of Enochian magic in modern and not so modern occulture. As a result, this is not a book that considers the original workings by Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley in any exhaustive detail, but rather looks at how those foundations have been interpreted, reinterpreted, tweaked and expanded by occultists down through the centuries.

Approaches to Enochian magic are defined by Asprem as either purist, perennial, or pragmatic, with purist being a form that sticks strictly to the material from Dee’s diary. The latter two categories could be further defined as eclectic, and it is this description that could be applied to most versions of Enochian magic, whether it’s the Golden Dawn’s presentation of elements of the system as an expression of perennial wisdom with nary a mention of Dee, Crowley’s apparently unique interpretation of the aethyrs as magickal realms, or Gerald and Betty Schueler’s cosmopolitan approach that throws pop physics, yoga, tarot and sex magick into the mix. Asprem shows how the Golden Dawn’s overarching philosophy of personal knowledge and growth downplayed some of the more medieval grimoire stylings of Dee’s original system, with its inclusion of traditional, but somewhat vulgar, techniques, such as finding treasure or transporting a magician to far off lands. This also had an influence on Crowley, for whom the Enochian system was purely employed for self-development, as well as much contemporary magick that has followed on from him.

How the various strands of occultism have dealt with Enochian magic is often indicative of their approach to magick in general, so what is presented here can act as a summary of Western Esotericism shot through an Enochian lens; or shew stone, if you will. Following the Golden Dawn and Crowley, Asprem argues that the next sea change in occultism was sparked by the Satanism of Anton La Vey. This is exemplified by his treatment of the Enochian calls in the Satanic Bible, where they are presented in a disenchanted, secularised way and employed not because they use the language of the angels, but because as a barbarous tongue they, according to La Vey, just work. This pragmatic, relativistic approach, in which something is used because it appeals, rather than because it belongs to any authentic tradition, was subsequently carried through into Chaos Magic and other recent eclectic forms of occultism. While the materialist La Vey may have used the Enochian Calls in the Satanic Bible simply to pad out the page count and meet a publishing deadline, former Church of Satan priest Michael Aquino returned to a more esoteric, though no less eclectic, approach. Enochian played a central role in the communications with the Egyptian god Set that provided the foundation for Aquino’s Temple of Set, with his Greater Black Magic working resuming the type of occult narrative employed by Crowley: received texts, magickal aeons, and magick as fundamentally a form of self-development.

The final chapter of Arguing with Angels, Enochiana Without Borders, is one of the most interesting, simply because it addresses something that is so recent and paradigm-shifting that it remains largely undocumented, namely the growth of Enochian studies online. Asprem details the heady first days of the internet where bulletin board and news-group occultists were some of the earliest of early adapters, before that method of communication gave way to email groups such as the Hollyfield-based Enochian-L and ultimately, the Yahoo! Group Enochian. Having been involved in email groups at their peak, although not Enochian ones, there is a familiarity with Asprem’s description of the method of communication they provided and the ability for disparate voices to come together from across the globe. The digital nature of these communities means that Asprem has a rich archive with which to analyse the state of modern Enochiana, in which figures such a Benjamin Rowe and others were able to write exhaustively and influentially about the subject without worrying about the publishing house gatekeepers of yesteryear. Several theoretical approaches figure largely in Asprem’s work. The division between the purist and pragmatic expressions of Enochian magic allows for a thorough consideration of the problem of authenticity with occultism. This, in turn, informs discussion of both the disenchantment of magick and the often resulting replacement with a psychologised model. Similarly, the concluding chapter provides a discussion on how occultists see the nature of the angels they are arguing with, whether as literal entities, aspects of the mind, or something else.

Following a summary from Asprem, Arguing with Angels concludes with an appendix of Dor Os Zol Ma Thil (The 12 Black Hands and the falling seats), an Enochian text received by Norwegian occultist Runar Karlsen in 1991. This is a lengthy transmission with an awkward and stilted English translation that I was, at first, looking forward to reading. But now, my bookmark sits resolutely in the middle of it, abandoned due to the torturous nonsensical gibberish of the content. While I’m certainly open to seeing new Enochian material indicative of any living system, I would have hoped it made more sense than sentences like: Visit the holiness within the not-made olive of mine. The Fire enters the whole weeping creation. Visit the man of mine become that man, go forth and feel born. You heard the angel, umm, go forth and feel born; but don’t forget to visit the man of mine first.

As both a survey of Enochiana and occultism in general, this is a valuable, unique work. Asprem clearly has some empathy for, if not a direct connection with, his subject matter, but this does not prevent him from approaching it pragmatically; something that is important when considering a magickal system that involves chatting with angels.

Published by State University of New York Press. ISBN: 978-1-4384-4190-0

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The Ophidic Essence: Seeking a Return to the Origin – Ophis Christos

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Categories: anticosmic, nightside, Tags:

The Ophidic EssenceIn this slim volume published by Fall of Man, Ophis Christos presents the philosophy of their Ordo Volucer Serpentis. Very much in the misanthropic vein of the Temple of the Black Light, the philosophy of the OVS is a version of Gnosticism in which the Gnostic hatred of matter, whether it be the incarnation of the spirit within a human body, or the creation of existence in general, is given full reign. The creator of this world is seen as a demiurge (paralleled across cultures in figures such as Ahura Mazda, Brahma, as well as the Judaeo-Christian god), who, in their misguided attempts at creation, acted as a force of limitation, imposing stagnant order upon limitless chaos.

The return to the origin of the book’s subtitle is, then, the idea of undoing creation to return to a primordial state of chaos. This can make for rather bleak reading, such as when Christos writes: “As we look at this world, we comprehend that it would be better if it had not existed, therefore our essence and our will in truth is of the uncreated light.” Indeed. Quite what you do with such a worldview on a practical level is hard to grasp. I mean, unless you’re getting a job at CERN and tinkering with the Large Hadron Collider during out-of-office hours, there’s probably no real chance of destroying all creation. It is intriguing how the life-denying beliefs of the Gnostics have found resonance with the misanthropy of this rather metal-spirited form of Satanism and I remain as baffled about what modern adherents do after arriving at this worldview as I do trying to work out what Gnostics of 2000 years ago would have done on a practical level having reached the same conclusions.

Instead of giving a guide to gainful employment with CERN, The Ophidic Essence provides a summary of various strands of their anticosmic philosophy, seeing traces of similar ideas not just in Gnosticism but in mythological and metaphysical systems from around the world. Shiva and Kali represent the Hindu version of these unravellers of cosmic order, and their equivalent forms in ancient Mesopotamian mythology and Zoroastrian cosmology are considered as well. Christos moves on to explore the mythology of the Etruscans, who he categorises as a likeminded culture focussed on death, who saw value in the transition beyond this life, and distained the addiction to the limitations of this physical world. As examples of this focus, Christos considers two Etruscan psychopomp figures, the goddess Vanth and the daemon Charun, and then also briefly looks at the enigmatic figure of Tuchulcha.

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Following this cross-cultural survey of anticosmic thought, The Ophidic Essence provides a practical element with magickal trope du jour, African diasporic religions, which in this case, is the Brazilian system of Quimbanda. Quimbanda is strongly defined within this text as a system separate from the related form Umbanda, with the latter cast as a scion of Christianity, whilst Quimbanda is seen as independent and drawing on energies from Sitra Ahra, the other side. As N.A.A.218 did in the first volume of Liber Falxifer, Christos presents a series of folk magick spells to give a sense of praxis associated with the Exus of Quimbanda, all very candles, tobacco smoke, votives and sigils.

The consideration of Quimbanda takes up half of this book and represents the largest focus on a single topic. In itself, it is divided into two sections, the aforementioned first half, and then a larger consideration of how this system and its exus and pombas can be related to Sitra Ahra. Here, various paths of Pomba Gira are likened to Lilith, while Lucifer finds his obvious place in Exu Maioral Lucifer. The odds of these rituals bringing about anticosmic dissolution seem fairly remote, but what is presented is a nice internally-consistent system of magick that is at least, thematically apposite to the attitudes conveyed throughout the book.

The Ophidic Essence is bound in black faux crushed leather card with 85 perfect bound pages and is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies. Although slight in size and length, it provides a good summary of the misanthropic philosophies of the OVS and similar orders. For those who resonate with such ideas, this will be recommended reading. Available from Fall of Man 

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Pillars: The Golden Eitr [Vol.1 – Issue.2 – Autumnal Equinox 2013]

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Categories: magick, nightside, qayin, Tags:

pillars-coverThis, the second volume in Anathema Publishing’s Pillars series, comes presented in a gold embossed and spot varnished cover of matte black stock and runs to almost 150 perfect bound pages. Its contributions come from a host of names, both familiar and new, and cover a range of magickal endeavours; although it would be fair to say that most could be said to come from the dark end of the street.

The first significant contribution comes from Ash Nostro Morg, prelate of the Brotherhood of Midnight’s Garden, who provides several Qayin-themed poems, followed by a longer related essay on the symbolism of the scythe. The poetry uses a richly and suitably obscure language, but unfortunately, this continues into the essay. While writers like Andrew Chumbley and Daniel Schulke have successfully walked a fine line between archaic language and readability, Morg steps over that line. Sentences are torturous and convoluted, going beyond any need for antique flavouring, and because the reader has to concentrate on deciphering the text, when the odd spelling mistake trips out of the mélange of words as if suffering from the same grammatical delirium as the reader, they are jarringly obvious. In saying that, though, spelling mistakes are a problem throughout this volume. Although there is nothing egregious, there is a smattering of confused homonyms and both missing and redundant words that suggests that either the contributors or the editor should proof a little harder.

Qayin seems to be very much a deity of choice at the moment and in addition to Ash Nostro Morg’s contribution, Patrick J. Larabee focuses on him, presenting eleven invocations collectively titled The Luminous Masquerade of Qayin. These evocatively written prayers follow what becomes a familiar rhyming structure and each is concluded by a sigil that can be used as a gateway in a ritual given at the end of this contribution. Another of occultism’s current favourites, African diasporic religions, is covered by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, who looks, rather dryly, at Yoruba cosmology. Other themes covered in this volume are Santa Muerte, Choronzon (for whom an elaborate ritual is given by Andrieh Vitimus) and Tiamat (for whom Nikolai Saunders gives an Enochian invocation).

In addition to those mining the more familiar strains of occultism are contributions from people presenting their own magickal systems. In The 20 Demons of Fear, Lukasz Grochocki describes a hierarchy of spirits, each with a complex system of correspondences, sigils and a name rendered in Grochocki’s own magickal language. Drawing on elements of Native American praxis, these demons are believed to be the spirits of people who were ritualistically sacrificed and whose fear turned them into demons. Similarly, in Of Serpents and Flames, Matthew Venus outlines his own magickal system whose creation was inaugurated with the reception of a magickal alphabet of “familiarly alien glyphs” called the Azabashian script. Venus’s system has its own grand mythology and it is on this that the article primarily focuses, rather than providing a working grimoire to his twenty five spirits as Grochocki does for his system. Edgar Kerval explores a personal cosmology as well, presenting Zukut-Ma, one of the members of his red gods pantheon, through a series of automatic drawings and writings.

Pilllars cover symbol

There is an impressive collection of artwork in this issue of Pillars, both as accompaniments to written pieces and as standalone works. The balance between writing and illustrations is a perfect one and helps make Pillars feel a sumptuous reading experience. Highlights include the evocative, Limbo-esque Nine Spirits of the Haunted Wood by Valin Mattheis (which could have benefited from having more of the nine images formatted at full page size), Hagen von Tulien’s always refined black and white icons, and the double page Albrecht Dürer-styled Devil’s Arch by Antithesis.

In all, Pillars makes for an interesting survey of contemporary occultism of a particularly darker inclination. The highlights are the personal magickal systems of Lukasz Grochocki, Matthew Venus and Edgar Kerval, in which the dedication required to create an internally consistent and workable paradigm makes for both interesting and intriguing reading; as well as, somewhat inevitably, providing personal insight into the minds of their creators.

At the time of writing, there were only a handful of copies of this issue of Pillars available from Anathema Publishing, with work beginning on the third edition in what forms the trilogy of Pillars Volume 1.

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Gullveigarbók – Vexior, 218

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Categories: anticosmic, germanic, rökkr, Tags:

Gullveigarbok coverPublished by Spanish press Fall of Man, Gullveigarbók is a seemingly little-known consideration of the Rökkr witch goddess Angrboda with, as the title implies, a preference for her name of Gullveig. Given the subject matter, one would expect that the author has come across my writings or those of Raven Kaldera (and other writers published by Asphodel Press), but other than one small passing reference to Kaldera, there is no indication of this. Instead, and as the author’s own name suggests, Gullveig is considered from something of a Temple of the Black Light perspective, with the writing sharing a language and tone similar to publications from that organisation. As a result, there is much talk of anti-cosmic Chaos-powers, with Odin identified as a demiurge of false light analogous to figures from Gnosticism and mythology, who is opposed by the Thursian forces that seek to return creation to the primal state of the void of Ginnungagap. For Vexior, Gullveig and Loki are seen as analogues of Lilith and Lucifer, with Lilith’s exile to the Red Sea being mirrored by Gullveig taking up residence in the liminal Iron Wood and with both goddesses sharing attributes of sexual and procreative independence. The relationship between Gullveig and Loki, as two shape (and gender) shifting male and female halves of a single being, is compared to that of Lilith and Samael, who appear in the Zohar as androgynous twins emerging from an emanation beneath the Throne of Glory.

Taking the theme of Gullveig’s three-fold burning as a pivotal moment, Vexior divides her into three aspects: the queen of the Iron Wood as Gullveig proper, as the witchcraft-working Heidr, and as Aurboða, the mother of Gerda. As this latter identification highlights, this book is heavily indebted to the work of Victor Rydberg, and anyone familiar with his oft-times torturous (but frequently intriguing) thematic and linguistics leaps will recognise much here. Following Rydberg’s lead, Gullveig is identified with Hyrrokin, and with Hljóð, the giant-born maiden of Frigga who was sent with an apple to Rerir, the father of the hero Volsung.

Gullveig, Heid and Aurboda

In addition to his consideration of Gullveig in all her guises, Vexior briefly explores Loki as well as the couple’s children, Hela, Fenrir and Jormungandr. Indeed, Vexior sees the three-fold burning of Gullveig as a process that not only divided her into three aspects but sequentially gave birth to this trio.

Following the more theoretical segments that make up the majority of the book, Gullveigarbók concludes with two sections, Fjølkyngi and Ljóð, containing practical exercises for interacting with Gullveig and poetry. Fjølkyngi includes an invocation to Gullveig, a discussion on utiseta as ritual praxis, and a series of sigils (both bind runes and designs more akin to medieval grimoires). Ljóð features poetry and rungaldr, with the poetry effectively illustrating many of the themes of the book in evocative, if frequently bleak, language.

This grim language is something that occurs throughout Gullveigarbók and is a style shared with other anti-Cosmic writings. This is perhaps inevitable given both the Temple of the Black Light and Vexior’s association with metal music, and any chance to use words like black, icy, destruction, wrathful, bestial and of course, anti-cosmic, is gleefully embraced. While many of these properties are, of course, central to this theme, and it would be disingenuous to downplay them, the enthusiastically misanthropic language does come across as, how you say, very metal. In addition to this stylistic quirk, Vexior writes in the first person, frequently giving his personal interpretation rather than employing a distant academic voice, but he quotes primary sources throughout and employs footnotes extensively. The footnotes are styled rather attractively on the side of the page, rather than as actual feet, although in one case, this means that a rather extensive foot, erm, sidenote takes up more space than the main body text as it vertically splits the page in half.

One of the most striking elements of Gullveigarbók are the full page, full-bleed illustrations by Helgorth of Babalon Graphics. Because Helgorth is primarily a designer of covers and logos for metal bands, his work has a quality that is refreshingly different from the post-Spare/Chumbley icon/stele style of artwork so prevalent in occult publications; of which I myself am guilty. Instead, the detailed pen and ink illustrations have a depth and power that captures the essence of Angrboda and certainly acts as a visual underlining of the tone and language that Vexior employs throughout. Particularly impressive is the foldout depiction of Heldrasil that ends the book, in which the three-fold roots of the World Tree are stylised as heads of Níðhöggr, upon whom Gullveig rides in a silhouetted form.

Gullveigarbók comes hardbound in maroon cloth, printed on 242 pages of high quality heavy paper, with red spot colour titles and headings throughout. A deluxe edition of 62 copies was also available. Both editions are now sold out from the publisher Fall of Man.

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