Tag Archives: Three Hands Press,

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The Leaper Between – Andrew D. Chumbley

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Categories: folk, sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

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

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

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

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

Published by Three Hands Press.

 

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Children of Cain – Michael Howard

Categories: folk, luciferian, paganism, qayin, robert cochrane, sabbatic craft, witchcraft, Tags:

childrenofcain-coverWay back in the mists of time, the first book I ever read about “witchcraft” was Laurie Cabot’s Power of the Witch. Even at such a formative stage, there were things about it that didn’t sit right with me; not least the diagram of chakras, laid out on an Egyptian style figure, in a book sprinkled with the dreaded C word (Celtic). Funnily enough, around the same time, I read my first book about runes, Michael Howard’s Wisdom of the Runes, so this consideration of traditional witchcraft makes for an interesting journey full circle.1

Subtitled A Study of Modern Traditional Witches, in many ways, this book resumes where Ronald Hutton left off in Triumph of the Moon, considering in depth some of the figures that he briefly covered, but with the focus here being on those who claim independence from the system of Wicca promoted by Gerald Gardner. With almost fifty years studying and researching witchcraft, Howard is in the unique position of having known or corresponded with most of the key figures of modern witchcraft; many of who are now gone.

There are three main areas of historical modern traditional witchcraft2 that Howard considers before exploring some tangents and more recent expressions: Robert Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain, the related group The Regency and the Pickingill Craft claims of Bill Liddell. Howard’s account of the Clan of Tubal Cain covers familiar ground for anyone that has devoured his previous writings on the subject as well as those of Evan John Jones, Doreen Valiente and more recently, Shani Oates. Howard does not shy away from looking as the personal side of Cochrane’s life, which is perhaps inevitable given how so much of the story of the Clan is tied up with Cochrane’s own personal mythology. Howard tends to highlight his erratic behaviour, which could be seen as a personal attack by those overly invested in Cochrane as a guru figure, but is perhaps better viewed as illustrative of his qualities as a trickster and atavistic archetype who has become as much a figure of myth as Tubal Cain and Goda themselves.

The consideration of George Pickingill is quite exhaustive, which is perhaps to be expected since Howard with his magazine The Cauldron was one of the original publishers of some of the claims by Bill Liddell. Liddell’s theory that Essex cunning man George Pickingill was actually a grand master of nine covens who had direct influence on everyone from Gerald Gardner to the Golden Dawn is an appealing one, and one can’t help feeling that Howard gives it as much space as he does just because of how glorious its grand vision is. By no means does he state his acceptance of Liddell’s claims, but there’s a feeling he wishes they were true. And who wouldn’t? One crazy old village wizard weaves together almost every strand of nineteenth century English occultism. Who needs the Illuminati when you’ve got Old George.

Following these three histories, Howard takes a step back chronologically and looks at the 18-19th century quasi-magickal guilds such as the Horseman’s Word and the Toadsmen. This consideration is perfectly placed as it shows how many of these rural secret society had themes that were synchronous with, or directly informed, the strands of Traditional Witchcraft that would publically emerge in subsequent years. For the Horseman’s Word, Cain was revered as the first horseman and the presiding chief horseman was identified as the Devil, while the rites of the Toadsmen have been thoroughly explored by Cultus Sabbati magister Andrew Chumbley.

Where Children of Cain is at its most potentially invaluable is in the chapter on the Sabbatic Craft. As an empowered initiate of the Cultus Sabbati, Howard is well placed to present what is perhaps the largest consideration of the group in print so far. Ever so slightly hagiographic in tone, Howard’s admiration for Andrew Chumbley is quite evident and he is nowhere as critical of his friend and their claims as he is of the arguably similar figure of Robert Cochrane. Most of the chapter, though, deals not directly with the Cultus Sabbati but takes the praxis of the group as an opportunity to explore various Cultus-relevant aspects of traditional witchcraft: the witches’ sabbat, the wild hunt and witches’ flying ointments.

Casting his net wider to cover areas of occultism that share the same atmosphere of traditional witchcraft, if not a direct link to those already covered, Howard also looks at the work of Austin Spare and New Zealand-born artist Rosaleen Norton, along with various American traditions (Victor Anderson’s Feri tradition, Douglas McIlwain’s Order of the Skull and Bones as well as American folk magick in general).

Title plate design by Liv Rainey-Smith

While not as rampant as Capall Bann titles, Children of Cain has some careless spelling mistakes and misplaced letters; although for some reason, this lessens as the book progresses. This is such a shame given the lengths that Three Hands Press have gone to in the presentation of this book, and it makes it all the more jarring to find them in such a well presented volume; with Capall Bann titles, the reckless spelling almost goes hand in hand with the cheap printing, generic formatting and cumbersome binding. Although it is not as exhaustively referenced as it could have been, many sources, including personal correspondences, are cited within the text, making for a feeling of a satisfying authoritative read.

In all, Howard’s book is an important consideration of the strands of witchcraft history that diverge from the usual Gardner and Alexandrian “mainstream.” It consolidates, arguably for the first time, a wealth of information about groups for which precious little has been written before. Although some may object to how their respective traditions have been represented here (where Howard’s knowledge is perhaps familiar but not intimate), each strand is fairly and, on the whole, dispassionately represented. Given the nature of this subject, where claims of authenticity for one’s tradition are so often a concern, the tone of an author is an important consideration. Howard’s approach could be said to have a (to use a now rather dated reference) Mulder-like willingness to believe that is tempered with a Scullyesque critical approach that cautions him against totally subscribing to anyone’s claim; at least in print.

Published by Three Hands Press

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1. Although, to be fair, Howard’s book did feature a Ralph Blum-style blank Wyrd rune, so time makes fools of us all.

2. Yes, I’m aware that categorisation makes almost no sense.

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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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