Publishing Update

Hey, everyone. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it?

My local campus has had a high positivity rate. Although I generally feel safe, working under those conditions can be quite draining – I’m sure many of you are aware of this.

The Book of Four Wizards (provisional title) has been submitted to Llewellyn. S. Aldarnay was nice enough to mock up the circle above, based on the illustrations and instructions in the book. It’s not something shown in the manuscript, as it exceeded the copyist’s ability to draw it – but modern technology and a good artist made it happen.

I’ve also sent in comments on the witch bottle book.

I’ve wrapped my DCC game, with one player betraying the rest to the Court of Chaos and escaping. Given that they all privately agreed with various individuals to betray the others, we shouldn’t feel too sorry for them.

My Pendragon and Slavic games are still ongoing.

I’ve got a post or two in the hopper, so I’ll get to them next. One is a review of the second volume of Dr. Stephen Skinner’s Ars Notoria. So come back soon!

Published in: on September 17, 2021 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Review – The Sworn and Secret Grimoire by the Master Arbatel

The next step on working my way through my massive grimoire backlog is a hardback review copy The Sworn and Secret Grimoire, the first volume in the Night School series, as brought to us by “Count Abaka.” Given that the author is identified as Jake Stratton-Kent on the book blurb on the publisher’s website, this pseudonym likely qualifies as one of the worst-kept secrets in modern occultism. Yet the choice seems to be deliberate, displaying how this and other grimoires are given lengthy questionable pedigrees while simultaneously undercutting any pretensions that we should take those pedigrees too seriously. I like that.

This book is a re-working of The Secret Grimoire of Turiel, which is a grimoire first appearing in the twentieth century, in turn derived from Hockley’s compiled Complete Book of Magic Science from the nineteenth century (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of my review of the latter). Stratton-Kent states in the introduction at the start that he wishes to publish a new edition of Turiel, but found it to be inadequate for his needs, leading to a revised edition. In the spirit of ritual magic traditions, he utilizes the Arbatel, the Grand Albert, the Heptameron, and other sources to compose a relatively straightforward method of invoking planetary spirits assembled from traditional materials.

The procedure is very much a creature of its source materials – Christian elements and prayers, a little Latin lengthy preparations and consecrations of lamens, swords, and other tools -but Stratton-Kent emphasizes the Olympic spirits of the Arbatel and downplays the hierarchical aspects of other ritual magic procedures. The sections and the illustrations of lamens, tools, and circle by my Four Wizards partner S. Aldarnay and Dis Albion fuse together the disparate traditions in a pleasing manner.

Our second section of the book is a discussion of the history and usage of planetary hours, in which each day and night is divided into twelve sections, each assigned to one of the seven traditional planets. Next we have some procedures, sigils, and prayers for planetary magic drawn from the Picatrix, the PGM, and other sources, in order to provide a wider range of tools for this particular topic.

The first appendix describes two different schools of approach to the parts of ritual evocation, one a more traditional one articulated by Stephen Skinner and the other more modern, as presented by Crowley. I think I’m obligated here to say that this does appear in some sources, but the miscellanies sometimes depart widely from this, at least on the page. We then get a discussion of various types of “wandering bishops” and other unorthodox ecclesiastical authorities, with suggestions on how such credentials might be valuable to a ritual magician who – unlike many in the past – has not received holy orders. I’m curious how this relates philosophically to the passage Stratton-Kent repeats earlier from the Arbatel suggesting that magicians are born and not made.

Deciding for whom this book is intended is tricky. Despite Stratton-Kent’s desire to create a simplified procedure, his book presumes the reader is already conversant with the techniques of ritual magic and seeks to pursue planetary magic or refine their own ritual knowledge on the other matters discussed. It won’t please those who want to adhere strictly to an ancient text, but it also may not reflect some modern styles of evocation. I feel that a reader who falls into that box, or who enjoys Jake Stratton-Kent’s writing, should definitely pick it up. I also look forward to further releases in the “Night School” series.

Published in: on August 23, 2021 at 4:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Hell and Fairy Article Online, Quoted in Vice, Grimoire Fakery, The Sun of Knowledge Forthcoming, Medieval Rituals, Etc.

We’re past the Palgrave moratorium, so I’ve put up my chapter “Hell and Fairy: The Differentiation of Fairies and Demons Within British Bitual Magic of the Early Modern Period” on Academia. Please feel free to read and quote from it.

I was quoted in a recent article on the Internet Book of Shadows on Vice.

The latest issue of Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft has two articles of note: one on witch bottles by Ann Thwaite, and a survey by Don Skemer of those lengthy magical roll amulets that no one has tried to publish yet (hint). Check out the Societas Magica site for more information on getting it.

The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle has posted on FB about forged grimoire pages turning up on eBay and auction houses. These are usually single sheets with a demonic figure drawn with mystical symbols of various sorts seeming to fill in the space around them willy-nilly. The closest analogy in actual manuscripts are the images of Oberion with the seals of his counselors about him, as shown in Oberon, but these are usually clearly labeled or noted in the context. Most “demon” figures I’ve seen in manuscripts are freestanding or surrounding by text, when they appear at all. I hope that helps readers to make sensible purchases.

I was going to review Agostino Taumaturgo’s Medieval Rituals of Catholic Exorcism, but I’m going to have to give up on it due to typos. Typos are an unfortunate byproduct of writing, and some will stubbornly persist throughout the editing and proofing process even under careful scrutiny. Yet this work includes many errors, approximately one per page, and many that a simple spellcheck would catch. I gave up after finding a section that had some untranslated passages of Latin left in the middle of the English. I think it would be worth reviewing in a revised edition, but I’m not certain I could recommend it now.

Revelore Press, publishers of Svartkönstbocker, are now releasing a book of selections from the Shams al Ma’arif, a famous grimoire with which I’ve had some interesting encounters (here, here, and here) but never read.

The Sun of Knowledge (Shams al-Ma‘arif) is one of the most revered historical grimoires of the Arabic corpus. Feared by some, hallowed by others, it is one of the most famous – or infamous – books in the Arabic-speaking and Islamicate world. Written in Egypt in the thirteenth century by a Sufi mystic and mage of Algerian origin, the Shams presents the fundamentals of Arabic-Islamic occult work – from spiritual cosmology and astrology (including various particularly lunar magics) to working with spirits and jinn, magical employment of letters and numbers, and the occult applications of the Qur’an – thereby comprising a veritable encyclopedia of Islamicate magical wisdom and formulae. Images and descriptions of amulets and talismans adorn it. Numerous beautiful manuscripts of the Sun of Knowledge have survived, various of which have been used as a basis for this present work.

Never before published in English, this selected translation includes sections of the Sun of Knowledge on the mysteries of the letters, astrological timings, lunar mansions, the ancient Arab beliefs surrounding the stars, planetary matters, astronomy, the angels for and workings pertaining to the four seasons, summoning the jinn, the employment of the names of God for many and varied purposes, the construction of the famed ring of Solomon, and a miscellany of tried-and-true talismans. This selected translation takes a general approach to a much vaster text, and features illustrations, original artwork, and commentary to assist those unfamiliar with Islamic magic and culture. This edition is also ideal for any student of magic or the occult, classical Arabic astrology and astronomy, Islamic esotericism, or Sufism.

I’m somewhat disappointed that it isn’t the entire book – but the entire book is over a thousand pages, so who am I kidding?

Mihai Vârtejaru presents an exploration of the sources of the Hebrew Key of Solomon, which I encourage you to check out.

Pendragon and my Slavic game continue, and I might talk more about them in the future. Stay safe, everyone.

Published in: on August 14, 2021 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Review – Trollrun: A Discourse on Trolldom and Runes in the Northern Tradition

trolls.jpg

Today we’ll look at Trollrún by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, issued by Hadean Press, who were kind enough to send me a review copy.

I should disclose up front that I’m not the most knowledgeable people on Norse mythology and religious practice. I’ve read some epics, but not the Eddas, and I dip occasionally into some magical literature, folklore, or Jackson Crawford videos., but it’s not a major focus of my interest. This makes me less than ideal as a reviewer for this work, but I’ll do my best.

What Frisvold presents is a grand synthesis of a number of different genres – poetry, literature, archaeology, folklore, and magical works – to constitute a “Northern Tradition,” defined as “the spirituality and magic of the people in the northern parts of Europe, and in particular Scandinavia” (p. 17). This raises the question as to how useful such a category, covering almost a thousand years and ranging over a considerable geographic range, can be as an explanatory framework. To assist, Frisvold employs sociologist Max Weber’s theory of disenchantment, in which the world has become increasingly secular and belief in magic diminished over time. Many historians and anthropologists have more recently asked how comprehensive this “disenchantment” has been, especially given that magic is still popular enough to have publishing houses and blogs dedicated to it. Given that some of the source material dates as recently as the late nineteenth century, some more consideration of the category might be useful.

Frisvold then moves into a discussion of Scandinavian mythology and folklore, attempting to weave together disparate sources to create a unified picture of a cosmology and a spiritual practice. He devotes particular chapters to dealing with trolls, trolldom, and seidr. What becomes rapidly clear is that any attempt at a comprehensive vision on Norse religion will be hampered by the fragmentary and contested nature of much of the source material. When confronted with such a gap, Frisvold often uses materials from other mythologies – most notably Greek and Roman – to fill it. In most cases, he makes it clear when he is doing so.

The section on the Scandinavian “Black Books” of magic is welcome, and we do get some interesting translations of incantations – but all of this is barely ten pages of the book’s length. Given the amount of material published on the charms, incantations, and folklore surrounding these works, I have to ask: would it have been better to dive into this more thoroughly to see whether it has further resonance with the older material? This approach would have been open to critiques of its own, but I think it’s easier for authors to get into the mindset of an early modern Christian practicing magic than an ancient Greek.

The next lengthy section of the book covers runes, covering the various types, the scholarship surrounding them, and their uses in magic. Frisvold details what is said in various texts about the runes, advocating the usage of techniques derived from Austin Osman Spare’s “death posture” for operations. There’s also a list of magical purposes and association with each rune. Frisvold’s includes materia magica such as coconut palms and mangos in his associations with the runes, and your reaction to that might signify how you might react to the text as a whole.

Trollrún concludes with two appendices, one on a Sámi ritual drum’s iconograpy and another on Nordic werewolf myths. All sections are supplemented with brief footnotes, and an extensive bibliography and index make the book much easier to navigate.

One area where I think the book might have been improved is the inclusion of more recent works by the authors Frisvold is already using. For example, he includes a chapter on Ármann Jakobsson’s take on trolls, but not his later book on the same topic. Likewise, the book references Thomas K. Johnson’s Graveyard Wanderers, while not including the much more comprehensive coverage of Swedish black books in the same author’s Svartkonstböcker. Frisvold suggests that little has been written about the Swedish linguist Johannes Bureus, but there’s a good amount of literature beyond what is cited here.

Would you appreciate this book? First, I should reiterate that an examination by someone who is more knowledgeable about the material within would be welcome. Beyond that, I think reconstructionists and strict interpreters will have difficulties with this book, while those more interested in integrating Norse belief and practice into other systems of magic will likely be pleased.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 5, 2021 at 7:57 pm  Comments (1)  

A Few Short Travels, Writing Project Update, Reviews, A New Jake Stratton-Kent Book, Bulgarian-Slavic and Arthurian Gaming

I’ve made a few small trips lately. Last month, I made an excursion to Michigan, where I spent some time with my family watching muskrats swim lazily across a pond. I was able to visit the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magic for the first time in about two years on my way back.

Today I made a quick excursion to Kingston and Woodstock, where I prowled bookstores and metaphysical shops. It’s good to get out of the house and around people, especially when the fall is still a question mark. I do miss going to the UK, but the situation there would need to change considerably before I do. Maybe next year?

The witch bottle revisions are almost done, and I’m re-reading the whole book to try to smooth out how the prose flows. There are some sections of the Book of Four Wizards that need to be examined more closely, especially on some Latin where the author seems to have been copying without understanding what was written. If all goes according to plan, these will be off to the publishers on schedule – and you’ll see them soon.

In the review queue, I’ve just finished Trollrún, and I’ve begun work on Agostino Taumaturgo’s Medieval Rituals of Catholic Exorcism. I have many, many books in the queue right now, and I hope to have some time to get to them in the fall. Review copies usually jump to near the front.

Hadean has released another book by Jake Stratton-Kent, The Sworn and Secret Grimoire:

A ‘Guide to Grimoiring’ is well overdue, with unqualified persons claiming to fill the gap only to muddy the waters further. Simplifying the processes involved is unhelpful, what is required is to render them comprehensible and ‘user friendly’ in a time where they are regaining their deserved prestige as monuments of a tradition preceding the Christian era while nonetheless rooted in it. These processes are demanding and require both work and study in order to succeed. So too the ‘by rote’ attitude exhibited by some writers on the subject requires a counterblast. Forging and reforging grimoires has always been a part of their real nature; in a metallurgical as well as a literary sense. Ritual composition from scratch is a neglected but necessary skill, requiring a qualified and informed approach, which the current work addresses. So too this handbook departs from the homogenised ‘Solomonic’ form, drawing instead on the great iconoclast and revitaliser of tradition, Paracelsus. While avoiding Christophobia, the implications for a more pagan (or pagan friendly) approach to the grimoires, compatible with the Greek Magical Papyri and other predecessor forms, are greatly increased by this shift of emphasis.

My DCC game has wrapped up, and we’re moving to a biweekly game in a Bulgarian-Slavic setting of my own design, using Moldvay B/X as a chassis and a dash of Mörk Borg (which Phil has asked me to review). The goal is to be more gritty and grounded in folklore of a particular area. I’ve wanted to run it for a while, and the group is responding well to it so far – so well I need to do worldbuilding on the fly. (If you’re a player reading this, this is a lie.)

Pendragon… is continuing. I think some of the players are finding interesting ways to disrupt the world.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

Published in: on July 25, 2021 at 7:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – Buddhist Magic

My review schedule of historical texts of European magic is overfull – which means it’s time to review Buddhist Magic, by Sam Van Schaik of the British Library. This is a book I purchased myself, and it was certainly worth it.

I’m probably not the best person to review this work. I haven’t dipped too far into Buddhism of any variety, with most of my familiarity coming from the Tibetan side, including The Tibetan Book of the Dead and David-Neel’s Magic and Mystery in Tibet. Thus, someone better read in Buddhism might have a different series of critiques they can draw from the book.

Van Schaik’s overall argument is that Buddhism has been portrayed in the West as a rationalist practice in line with secular thinking and devoid of so-called “superstition.” This is not necessarily reflected in the textual tradition, in which ritual techniques aimed at practical everyday goals intermingle with techniques used purely for spiritual goals. Van Schaik sets out to reveal this other side of Buddhist practice.

But how should we define magic? After a brief discussion of Frazer, Durkheim, and other theorists, Buddhist Magic delves into what is referred to as magic in other times and places, including the Atharvaveda, the library of Ashurbanipal, the magical papyri, the Cairo Geniza, and the grimoires. Van Schaik provides a few pages for each, and I felt the brief coverage was largely fine for each, albeit more focused on similiarities than contrasts among them. Based upon this, he identifies a few traits that point to magic: rituals that point to practical, this-worldly goals that should be accomplished quickly and assembled with other such brief rites in written works. One could debate the particulars, but I think it’s a good place to start.

The next sections cover the various ways in which this “magic” interacts with the moral and medical texts in Buddhist history. Some of this requires some background information on the histories of various Buddhist traditions, which I did not have available to me at the time. It does establish how magic, theology, and medicine all intertwined in texts, stories, and practice reaching far back into the religion’s history.

This leads up to a set of examples: a short treatise of Tibetan magic found near Dunhuang, on the Silk Road, and believed to date to the tenth century. It includes a series of scrying rituals involving a child and dedicated to Garuda, King of the Birds; rituals to control demons called requiring one hundred thousand repetitions of the mantra of the Tibetan queen Bhrikuti, and ceremonies to cure illness among people and animals. Then, there’s one in particular that caught my attention:

Defeather the head of a crow and fill it with seeds, then grow them in dark soil. Then standing in front of it, pour in the milk of a dun cow and rainwater. Once the fruits have opened, cut the flowers and fruits and tie them carefully. Mash them with the milk of a dun cow and anoint your eyes. You will become invisible.

Yes – there’s some interesting parallels to the skull-bean invisibility rite with which most modern grimoire readers will be most familiar from the Grimorium Verum. I’m not going to say that one inspired the other, but it might deserve further research.

If you’re interested in the history of Buddhism or books of magic beyond the European context, it’s definitely worth looking into. Those hoping for a collection of new spells may be disappointed to find that certain mantras and yantras are not given within, but there’s still a great deal to think about here.

Published in: on July 17, 2021 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Announcement: Witch Bottle Book

A few days after the last review, I got the go-ahead to announce this.

Avalonia will be releasing a revised and expanded version of my short book on witch bottles later this year. I’ve collected more contemporary accounts, and several important scholarly works have been published since then, which will be incorporated into the book.

It should be available in both print and electronic formats, for those who appreciate one or the other. I’ll announce it when it’s ready to go.

Is there anything you’d like to make sure is covered in the new book? Let me know in the comments.

Published in: on June 26, 2021 at 1:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Review – Precious Apothecary

More recent literature on the grimoires has often overlooked its connection to devotional and exorcistic literature. Over its history, European ritual magic has transformed from being the province of learned clergy and aspirants thereto, to a much broader audience in terms of geography, gender, language mastery, and faith. With that expansion came a growing lack of familiarity for many readers of the liturgical basis for many of the rituals they were encountering. Thus, a work that brings that connection to the fore is particularly welcome.

Today I’ll be looking at Precious Apothecary: A Catholic Grimoire, a compilation of material from the works of the eighteenth-century Brazilian missionary Ângelo de Sequeira Ribeiro do Prado assembled and edited by José Leitão and published by Avalonia. I will add that I’m a friend of Sorita D’Este, who runs Avalonia, and I have an ongoing publishing relationship with Avalonia. (UPDATE: See here for more details.)

Leitão’s introduction is wonderful at not only discussing Ângelo Sequeira and his work, but also dealing with the thorny issues surrounding liturgical traditionalism, the relevance of definitions of religion and magic, and the various categories of saints. I don’t know if I’ve given Leitão full props for his wonderful commentaries on his books, which are always well-informed and reflective, sharing his own thoughtful impressions of the text in such a way that invites dialogue.

The main text of Precious Apothecary is originally taken from Sequeira’s Botica Preciosa, with additional material from his other books and Erhassison’s Compendio de Devoções Utilissimas, on which Sequeira modeled his practice. Little indication is given within the text as to where the original text for each section might be found, or more than general comments on what was excised. I don’t think this is a major problem myself, but other readers who want to consult the original sources might find it problematic.

Most of the text is Portuguese translated into English, and untranslated passages of Latin. I will not comment on the translation from the Portuguese, as that text is not provided. My only comment on the Latin is that some of the material seems to include misspellings, but I’m cautious about where this comes from without viewing the original source.

The contents display how much Sequeira’s vision encompassed what we would typically think of as both religion and magic. The work includes lengthy sections dealing with Catholic doctrine and practices ranging from confession to the Stations of the Cross to extreme unction. In another part of the book, we are granted a large number of blessings for all manner of items – vestments, incense, roses, tools, and others, and elsewhere is a collection of exorcisms. The work also includes a lengthy alphabetical lists of prayers to various saints. Some of these are aimed at stirring the heart toward devotion or indulgences, but others are intended to ward off enemies or hostile animals, stopping storms, or exorcising spirits. It’s hard to express the sheer amount of such material that appears within this work.

Is this for you? I think it is require reading for anyone trying to grapple with the lines between religion and magic. I think that those practitioners using Catholic imagery will find a great deal of interest here, while those operating within other paradigms might find its mileage varies according to their personal focuses. It’s certainly worthy of consideration.

Published in: on June 23, 2021 at 8:18 am  Comments (1)  

Stealth NYC Trip, Fairies under the Elders, Online Manuscripts, Anti-Semitism in Magical Works

I made a quick trip to NYC to drop off a copy of the Bellhouse book at the NYPL. I didn’t schedule time to see others – just stopped at a couple of shops, grabbed some Middle Eastern food, and headed back upstate. I hope to visit again soon.

My article, “The Herb and the Lady under the Elder at Noon: Analysis of an Early Modern Magical Ritual,” has appeared in the fifth issue of The Enquiring Eye, the journal of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

I’ve found a few works of interest in the Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland. This short copy of a book purporting to be Faust’s Höllenzwang might be the sort of thing Papers readers should like.

Phil Legard notes that the Lecouteux book I showed in the last post has some problematic content. Having looked at it, I can confirm one of the passages chosen has one anti-Semitic account which I’m not sure adds much to the work. Admittedly, even my own books do include statements from our early modern authors blaming the Jewish people unfairly, as many authors of the time did. I’m going to be doing my best to note such passages and their significances as I go forward.

The Precious Apothecary review will appear next week.

Published in: on June 13, 2021 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: Clavis Goetica

I’m going to leap in the review queue slightly to handle a book sent to me for review: Clavis Goêtica: Keys to Chthonic Sorcery, by Frater Acher and José Gabriel Alegría Sabogal and published by Hadean. This is a review of the hardback, which is currently unavailable but will be re-released this summer. The softcover is currently available.

Frater Acher begins with a discussion of the significance and history of the concept of goetia, or “goeteia,” dealing with its roots in the Greek practice of the itinerant magicians and the goetes. He follows this with a mythic narrative of the interactions between the Idaean Dactyls, spirits and magicians responsible for teaching the civilized arts, the profundity and uncontrolled immensity of the Earth Mother. He then relates this to the appropriation of this energy by ritual magic practitioners, with the goetes serving as a bridge between the boundary-setting magicians and the primordial forces.

I respect the desire to innovate in magical practice, yet it should be said that some historians, including some whom Frater Acher quotes, would disagree with some of his points, including his characterization of “goeteia” as something of a floating term which did not necessarily point to a particular practice. Likewise, one might accept that the core of the practice described here is in personal spiritual gnosis, not in books – but we should also note Plato’s report of itinerant practitioners dealing with souls of the dead utilizing books attributed to Orpheus and Musaeus. None of this stands in the way of a basis of practice, but I’d suggest reading the works Frater Acher cites in this section if you want to get a better handle of the history.

Frater Acher touches on his modern practice of spirit contact within a cave in the Alps – although the spirits have not granted permission to share more than one early operation. He then turns to a discussion of those seeking interactions with spirits in medieval history, including one account from Cesarius of Heisterbach circa 1200, another attributed to the sixteenth-century Christian mystic Johannes Beer, and the Norse tradition of “sitting out” to contact spirits.

The centerpiece of the book, at least from my perspective, is the translation of the brief “Ars Phythonica” text from the Leipzig magical library, which provides two . Frater Acher postulates convincingly that the title is a corruption of “Ars Pythonica,” linking the text back to earlier traditions of female mediumship. He then proceeds to discuss various traditions of the use of skulls for the purposes of divination, ranging from the PGM to the Hygromanteia.

I think much of the material here is intriguing, and it might be worth pursing an expansion on both the seeking out of chthonic spirits and the use of skulls in magic. For example, Scurlock’s Magical Means of Dealing with Ghosts in Ancient Mesopotamia provides rituals for pitting the spirit of a skull against another for protective purposes. Another source not mentioned here is the Picatrix, which includes procedures similar to the folktale of the Maharil he describes.

Frater Acher concludes his analysis by highlighting one particular aspect of the Ars Phythonica:

…the first version further breaks down traditional magical patterns by actively calling upon the help of both celestial and chthonic hierarchies in a single conjuration… Such a deeply pragmatic approach – transcending the traditional polarity between theurgy and goêteia – highlights the essentially shamanic nature of this ritual… Such striking boldness and independence of spirit was just as rare during late medieval times as unfortunately remains today. (p. 125)

So, I was able to come up with three examples of mingled “celestial-chthonic” incantations from The Book of Oberon alone within ten minutes. It’s not necessarily common in rituals, but it’s not unheard of, and I don’t think Oberon is outstanding in this regard.

Overall, I’d be cautious about Frater Acher’s statements about what is “traditional” – traditional for whom? – or what is “shamanic,” or why we should necessarily put those two things in opposition. These labels say a great deal more about how contemporary authors and practitioners view medieval and early modern ritual magic, not to mention other spiritual tradtions, than its source material, which is weird and wonderful stuff filled with patterns that can be broken in exciting ways. Although I wouldn’t rule out that there are norms that some texts might transgress, I think that a broader look at the corpus would be necessary to make any sort of definitive statement along those lines. 

The book ends with an afterward from Sabogal, whose art graces much of this book. Sabogal discusses the magical significance of the head throughout history and in the context of his own art and experience, which ties the work together nicely. The book ends with a bibliiography but no index.

Overall, my reaction to the book is positive. I always welcome an edition of a hitherto-unpublished magical text, and the historical material is intriguing and worthy of further exploration. My concerns arise from the work’s engagement with mythmaking in ways that may be important for creation of magical mindsets but present debatable interpretations of the evidence. Even if that last sentence bothers you, however, I think it’s a worth seeking out and reading.

Published in: on June 5, 2021 at 10:50 am  Comments (2)