Cyprian and Faust – New Books

I’ve been working a great deal on my next project, so most of my energy has gone into that rather than blogging.  We have two new books – one released, one upcoming – which should be of interest to Papers readers.

The first is a new release from Rubedo Press, Cypriana: Old World, which is devoted to the magician-turned-saint whose devotion has seen a revival among many magical practitioners recently.  We have articles by Al Cummins, Jesse Hathaway, José Leitão, and others dealing with Cyprian, stretching from Antioch to Iberia to Scandinavia.  (Full disclosure: I was invited to contribute, but I couldn’t get something ready in time.  I’m very much enjoying what I’ve read so far, though.)

The second is an Indiegogo campaign for A Compendium of Unnatural Black Magic, new translations of six books from the Faustian tradition from Enodia Press, released in hardback.  The project has already funded, so you should be good to go if you’d like to order it.

That’s all for now!

Published in: on October 14, 2016 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

My English/Cornish Adventure, Part 4

So last time, I came to the end of my first of two days with a car.   On my second day, I decided to roam about a bit more.

My first stop was the ruined chapel at Roche Rock.  It’s an interesting trip.  You’re driving around in a small town, going into small subdivisions and passing through a tiny town center.  You drive down a side road and suddenly see this:


Roche Rock bears a ruined chapel to St. Michael the Archangel, built in the fifteenth century.  It is said that Tregeagle, the reputed ghost, wizard, and giant, once cheated the hounds of Hell by sticking his head through the small window you can see in the wall of the chapel, so he had holy sanctuary.

The next site was the spectacular hilltop of Carn Brea, just outside Redruth.  It does have some Neolithic and Iron Age sites, but most of those are well overgrown.  Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile for two reasons.  The first is the impressive rock formations that loom over the landscape, such as the Giant’s Head.


The second are two follies, monuments erected by the rich for their amusement or to keep the local people occupied.  The first of these is the Bassett Monument at the top of the hill, erected in 1836 by public subscription in honor of Baron Francis Basset.


The second is Carn Brea Castle, also erected by the Basset family on the former site of a chapel.  There’s supposed to be a great Jordanian restaurant there, but apparently it’s only open by appointment and for at least four guests.  (Something to arrange in advance for my next trip, perhaps?)



I spent some time hiking around on the top of the hill, taking in the gorgeous views, before I decided to head to other sites later that day.

Published in: on September 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: The Infernal Dictionary

Having looked at the False Hierarchy of Demons from Abracax House, we turn to their publication of the Infernal Dictionary (link via Amazon).  I believe this is now out of print, but I managed to get a copy of it at Treadwell’s before leaving England.  I think it’s fair to note that I did pay a good price for it – though well below that listed on Amazon – and hauled it back in my suitcase for England, which might affect my review.

The Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy, with different editions released from 1818 to 1863, is perhaps one of the most famous reference works of the occult.  I discussed it in my Spirits in the Library posts, and I’ve wanted to see a full – not partial – translation from the French for some time now.  Thus, I was happy to see the Abracax edition, especially since I missed the initial print run.

The publication is an attractive two-volume work, slipcased and bound in imitation leather.  We have not only translations of de Plancy’s original articles, but also reproductions of the original woodcuts, footnotes – both those of de Plancy and the editors – the texts of the various introductions to the book over its history, the approval of the bishop of Paris, a biography of de Plancy, an index, and other items.  Many of the demons are illustrated in full color by modern artists.  This does make for a magnificent book.

Nonetheless, this comes with a few caveats.  We are not given the French text, although this is readily available online.  I have a greater concern:  the editors’ decision to update and correct the text along with the rest of the process.

I can understand the impulse that compelled them to make the decision, Nonetheless – and I speak here as an author of an encyclopedia – simply updating the entries in a reference book, without also considering the shape of the work, what entries should be added and deleted, etc., is not really a sufficient way to update a work.  Further, the places where changes have been made do not seem to have been noted consistently.

To me, there are two options with a work such as this.  One of these is to build upon the previous one, revising the whole, adding and subtracting and rethinking until it becomes a fully modernized work.  The other is to preserve the original as closely as possible, with some modernizations in terms of spelling and arrangements, to bring a work that provides us with insights into a particular time and place to today’s readers.  To be clear, this would be my preference.

For me, the Infernal Dictionary ends up being a book that fulfills neither of these potential purposes.  I’m reluctant to say so, because the editors did a great deal of work to make the book the way it was.  I’m also aware of how sometimes you make an editorial  decision with a book that is nigh-on irrevocable, simply because it’s so much work to go back and change, and I wonder if that was ever the case here.

Nonetheless, this book has many admirable qualities that should not be overlooked.  Is it worth $180?  Those interested in an artisanal book to grace their shelves will likely find it so.  If you can read French, there are many cheap untranslated copies available in print or online that you can consult.  As a reference work, I wish it could have been less expensive – although you could say the same for many of the expensive reference works for sale by much larger publishers.  What works for your collection?

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 3:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

My English/Cornish Adventure, Part 3

Last entry, I was driving around to Tintagel and the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall.  How was the rest of the day?

I had considered visiting St. Nectan’s Glen, a famous Cornish holy spring, but I couldn’t locate it on my GPS.  I had, however, seen a sign for it between Tintagel and Boscastle, so I backtracked to the spot.

St. Nectan’s Glen is not on the road – in fact, it turns out it’s about a mile off, down a country lane, between tall hedges overgrown with wildflowers, and onto a path that winds through the bottom of a wooded valley, alongside a whispering stream.  After about a mile, you come to a charming tea room with a deck where you can relax.  Then, after paying admission, you make your way down into the glen itself, coming out at a water fountain behind a quiet pool.


Those who have come before have left offerings of clouties, small pieces of cloth tied around trees that represent wishes or desires for healing.   Originally, they were only features at the healing well at Madron, but they have been adopted as devotional elements at many other Cornish sites.


It was a lovely experience, even though a little rain and more mud were less than ideal.

Having walked back, I decided to head to my last site of the day.  On the way, however, I came across the town of Camelford.  Just as Tintagel is believed to be the site of King Arthur’s conception, Camelford is, according to local legend, the site of the king’s final battle against Mordred.  I ran into the visitor center at the last minute before it closed, and they allowed me to walk along the trail to see the site.


The site, known as Slaughterbridge, has a stone dating back to the sixth century, which is said to mark the fall of Arthur.  Later scholars have read it differently, but it’s there for anyone who wishes to see it:


I drove for quite some distance afterward until I arrived at Minions – not the movie, the town on Bodmin Moor.  One notable feature of Cornwall is that sites that US parks would surround with guardrails and carefully-cropped lawns are filled with animals, like this sheep wandering across the parking lot.


I was there to see the Hurlers, three small stone circles set north to south with a prominent causeway between them.  I like finding small megalithic sites, away from tourists, that I can explore.


I also managed to find Rillaton Barrow, a nearby Bronze Age tomb, just by happening to wander across the moors.


Here’s a view of the horizon, with the odd stone formation called the Cheesewring peeking out of that ridge.


So, that was the first of two days with a car.  How could I get myself in trouble next?

Published in: on August 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Review: The False Hierarchy of Demons

Today’s offering is a relatively new offering from Abracax House – a translation of Johann Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, a list of demons taken from his work De praestigiis daemonum.  So, how does The False Hierarchy of Demons measure up?

For those who aren’t familiar with this, Weyer (1515-88) was a former pupil of Agrippa who set out to write against beliefs in the witch-hunts and false magicians.  This particular work is a compilation of spirits taken from a manuscript that he read.  His goal in publishing it was to reveal the falsity and fraud of the magicians of the time.  The list has a great deal of similarities to others in manuscript form, especially that which was eventually published as the magical manual the Goetia.

The book itself is quite beautiful, slipcased and bound in red and black, with plentiful color illustrations included.  Each entry for a spirit consists of the name of the entry, the Pseudomonarchia‘s text in the original Latin and English translation, any relevant illustration from the Dictionnaire infernale, and the seals from the Goetia (and possibly other works, although I haven’t looked at all of them).  All of this is quite attractive in presentation.

In my other reviews, I often say that I don’t feel confident enough in my grasp of other languages to critique a translation.  My Latin could always be better, but having taken a brief look at some entries, I can make specific comments on some usages.

The spirit Marbas answers questions “plene,” which is translated as “truly” when “fully” would be better.  Buer provides “optimos” familiars, translated as “good” instead of “the best.”  The term “praeses” is translated in one entry as “president” and another as “master.”  The entry for Gusion says he appears “in forma zenophali,” which the translator follows other readings in rendering “cynocephali.”  Nonetheless, she states that the literal translation is “wild man” or “baboon with a dog-face,” when it should actually be “dog-headed [one].”

I won’t have time to check through the book comprehensively.  Many readers won’t care about this sort of problem, but I’d suggest that any translated herein be double-checked before being quoted or used.

The English is also problematic at some points.  For example, the English sentences are sometimes missing a subject, when the Latin clearly contains one.  Sometimes articles are missing in the sentences as well.  None of these obscures the meaning, I should hasten to add.

Also, it should be noted that the spirit seals are not present in the Pseudomonarchia, which might not be entirely clear from the introdcution.

If you’re looking for an impressive looking book for your bookshelf, this work certainly fits the bill.  The text itself is not bad, but it might have benefited from the same meticulous attention that was put into the rest of the project.


Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 1:51 pm  Comments (2)  

My English/Cornish Adventure, Part 2

On the second day of my trip, I went to the railroad station in Truro and picked up a nice little blue Audi and drove off.

US people often wonder whether driving on the left in the UK is difficult.  I didn’t think so.  Of course, if you’re tooling around country roads between Cornish hedges, there’s often little or no difference between the left and right sides of the road.  It turns out that my chief problem was believing all the speed limit signs were in kilometers and not miles.  I think this was highly annoying to people on the highway, but once I got off the main roads, it wasn’t bad.  There seems to be a reluctance to tool about in Cornwall, some of which is cultural and some the price of gas, so no one was following me for long enough to be bothered.

I decided to do a northeast coast run on my first day, so my first stop was Tintagel, the medieval fortress and supposed location where King Arthur was conceived.  It’s an impressive site, especially if you’re up for a scramble or two up and down the sides of hills.  There’s not much left of the castle at all, but the views more than make up for it:


Here’s a shot after climbing the cliff into the castle proper:


You can’t see Merlin’s Cave, the tunnel that runs through the head of the peninsula, save at low tide.  I hadn’t checked the tides beforehand, but I managed to luck out.


I didn’t cover the whole site, because I had a more important goal:  the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic at Boscastle, where I wanted to view a few books in their small but excellent library.  In particular, I wanted to view their photocopy of Lenciewicz’s manuscript that we published in Oberon, to see if the earlier reproduction was in better shape.  (It wasn’t, but I did get a reading or two out of it.)  The staff was quite helpful in getting me set up and helping to guide me around the collection (Dewey system, for any curious librarians), as was Tom the Dalmatian.  After that, I partook of the museum collection, of which I’d heard a great deal over the years.


A shelf of magical ingredients!

IMG_3312 update

A reconstructed cunning woman’s hut.


Is this Austin Osman Spare’s scrying crystal?


Here I am, massive-humidity hair and all, with the museum’s famous goat mask.

At the museum’s small gift shop, I stopped to pick up a few books, most notably Mark Norman’s Black Dog Folklore and Cassandra Latham-Jones’ Village Witch.

…and now I’ve realized this post is far too long without getting into the rest of the day, so I’ll cut it off here.


Published in: on August 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm  Comments (2)  

My English / Cornish Adventure, Part 1

I’ve been silent for a while, last post aside, because I’ve been over in the UK for a glorious two-and-a-half weeks.  I’ll give you some of the highlights.

The trip out was grueling.  I was stuck at the Newark airport due to a spectacular lightning storm, and I ended up missing my connecting flight through Toronto to London.  So, after a long wait in Newark and some excellent work by Air Canada and United staff, I eventually got on a direct flight and ended up in London… twenty minutes later than I’d planned.

I spent the rest of the day getting acclimated and wandering around London, making quick visits to Treadwell’s and Atlantis Books.  I picked up a few little pamphlets on earth mysteries at Atlantis, while Treadwell’s brought me a copy of Abracax’s translation of the Dictionnaire Infernale, in two massive volumes that I was not certain would make it back through in a suitcase.  (It did, as it turned out.)

The next day, I headed out to Cornwall, staying at a bed and breakfast in St. Austell.  I’ve been to West Penwith twice, but I wanted to rent a car this time and see more sites in the east of Cornwall. I didn’t have the car until the following day, so I resolved to see a couple of local sites.  The most prominent of these was the Eden Project.


The Project is a large botanical garden featuring plants from all over the world.  We have two major biomes here, one featuring rain forest plants, and the other a Mediterranean setting.  Between them and the visitor center, filling a large valley, are a wide variety of plants, arranged into particular gardens by geography or purpose.  And then you have a zipline so that people can fly past the whole thing while screaming.

I did not take the zipline.  Instead, I wandered through the biomes and the gardens, taking in the sights.  The Project likes to also bring in various aspects of human interaction with the environment, whether from today’s or past societies.  For example, there’s a nice attempt to tie Mediterranean culture into the myths regarding Bacchus and his troupe:


This was accompanied by, um, fake rabbit heads on stakes, which was certainly different.

IMG_3100If you’re particularly brave, you can even climb up on a rickety metal platform over the rain forest and gaze down on everything.

I picked up a good number of small, cheap folklore books (my present collecting impulse) at the gift shop and headed back to St. Austell.

I decided to see the sights of the town itself.  As my bed and breakfast hostess pointed out, the chief tourist attraction is Charlestown, which has replicas of sailing ships where many movies are shot.  But who would want to see that when they could visit the Mengue Stone instead?  That’s excitement!

IMG_3194For all of its unprepossessing appearance, the Stone was once the center of St. Austell life.  It stood at the center of town as a site for proclamations and sales. Legend has it that witches were even burnt here!  (That’s probably not true, as is much of the Cornish lore about witch hunts, unfortunately.)

I managed to find a nice Gurkha restaurant nestled away on a back street, and I filled my belly, went back to the B&B, and prepared for the drive the next day.  Yes, I would be driving through Cornwall!


Published in: on August 1, 2016 at 2:33 pm  Comments (3)  

Review: Doctor Johannes Faust’s Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis

You might recall an article from a month ago in which I discussed the appearance of the first translation of the classic Faust-attributed grimoire  Magia naturalis et innaturalis, translated by Nicolás Álvarez Ortiz and published by Enodia Press.  I had some trepidation about ordering from them – apparently the Mexican post office is not as diligent about updating its tracking notices as it could be – but I now have both a print and electronic copy of the book.  So, what do we have?

What we have here is an English translation of the German book, along with a brief introduction, some notes, and numerous full-color illustrations collected at the end.

For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it serves primarily as a collection of incantations and pacts for spirits of various orders and elements to fulfill the will of the magician.  They range from grand princes of hell such as Marbuel and Aciel, to sets of seven spirits corresponding to all manner of social statuses, from counts to peasants to fools, to pygmies. A large number of full color illustrations portray these beings, along with the seals necessary to compel them.  These are conducted for various purposes, ranging from fast travel via flying coat to bringing birds and flowers to the magician, but the foremost would seem to be the discovery of buried treasure.  There’s a great deal in here that should be of interest to many readers of ritual magic.

Álvarez’s translation seems well done to me, being coherent and legible.  Even though I quibble at some points with his word choices, I’ve been able to see where he was coming from.  Perhaps those more conversant with German will have different views, however.

In terms of a scholarly apparatus,  Álvarez does provide some notes to define particular concepts, Biblical passages, and notable figures, as well as transcriptions of the wording in the color plates.  We do not have the German text, although that is readily available online.  Key elements missing are any table of contents, beyond the most rudimentary, or an index.  This makes finding any particular section of the book an unnecessary exercise in paging through over 150 pages.

The introduction is notable, although it does sometimes combine very old sources and up-to-date ones in ways that make it unclear why some topics merited more work than others.  (One innocent mistake seems to be the usage of a nineteenth-century German scholar to discuss Jewish culture, when there are more recent studies of the origin of the demonic pact.)

I should also make some notes about the presentation.  The layout is cramped, with little space between lines and sections.  The font in my copy was considerably faded in some places, not enough to be illegible, but certainly enough to make for difficult reading.

If you’re a grimoire completist, I’d say this is definitely for you.  It’s in a limited edition of 100 copies, if that helps you make a choice about whether you want to deal with the Mexican post office.  Frankly, what I’d really like to see is the next edition of this book, which – I hope – will include a more detailed table of contents, index, and reformatted layout.  The book as it stands is both fine and important, but I think those changes would make it into a top priority for many interested in ritual magic.


Published in: on July 27, 2016 at 2:05 pm  Comments (1)  

The Offerings from Editions du Monolithe

One of my friends posted some pics of books from Editions du Monolithe on Facebook, and it intrigued me enough to check them out.  I ordered three books from them.  They had some trouble with PayPal ordering, but they managed to work that out and even sent me a fourth book for my troubles.


So, what do we have here?  We have four slim paperbacks in French that serve as translations or transcriptions of various grimoires.  They’re largely no-frills productions with not a lot of explanatory text, although those based on manuscripts tend to reprint facsimiles of these documents in context.

First, we have the Verus Jesuitarum Libellus, or the “True Little Book of the Jesuits,” as transcribed by the nineteenth-century occultist Frederick G. Irwin, whose Book of Magic was recently released by Caduceus.  This work is mentioned in Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic, and the original can be found at the Cleveland Public Library.

We also have another two works formerly at the Arsenal Library, and now at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.  The first includes the text of Arsenal MS. 2345, a work on talismans of planetary magic, which shows parallels between the diagrams and other manuscripts.  The second was Arsenal MS. 2494, which was released by Caduceus Books as The Grimoire to Conjure the Spirit of the Place.

My favorite, however, is their edition of the Magia Ordinis.  This is a magical work that appears attributed to various authors – Michael Scot, Kornreuther, Herpentil – back to the sixteenth century.  This one gives us not only the text, but a stunning full-color reproduction of an illustrated manuscript of the work, apparently from a private collection.  It’s a nice addition to my library.

This might seem to be a source of limited usefulness to my readers who aren’t able to read French, but it might help to fill in some gaps in the collections of more avid grimoire readers.



Published in: on July 19, 2016 at 12:55 pm  Comments (2)  

Faust’s Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis – In Translation

The news is that a new English translation of Faust’s Magia naturalis et innaturalis has just been released.  I have spoken before of the desire for such a release, so I’m quite happy about this.

The publisher is Enodia Press, a new outfit operating out of Mexico, and they are offering a copy of a softcover book with numerous full-color illustrations.

I do have some qualms here, one of which is that my order has been apparently sitting at a Mexican post office for almost a week if my tracking information is correct, but I offer it for your consideration.

UPDATE:  AncientHistory has told me that about a week may be a typical amount of time for a package to wait for inspection, so we’ll see if that’s the case.

Published in: on June 21, 2016 at 8:51 pm  Comments (3)