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 (1)  

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 (2)  

Baron’s Back

A while ago, in my discussion of various dictionairies of spirits, I used one particular entity – Baron – as one of my entities.  Due to him showing up at the trial of Gilles de Rais, in The Book of Oberon, and at a number of other sources outside the usual Waite-inspired list of grimoires, I thought he’d be a good example.

As it turns out, this was more fortuitous than I thought.  Baron has been showing up more in different sources that I’m consulting.  One of the most recent is the account of the interrogation of Pierre, a teacher of the Waldensian sect of heretics, conducted at Oulx, near Turin, in 1492.  Within his account of the synagogues, or the secret meetings, of the sect, he had the following to say:

Asked why the said synagogue is held, he replies that it derives from the fact that they as a custom were in the habit of adoring a certain idol called Bacchus and Baron and also the Sibyl and the fairies and that Baron and the fairies were accustomed to holding congregations during which there was no respect between daughter and father, nor with the godmother, as there is, however, outside the said synagogue.

Now, this bears some comments.  First, the last part regarding the congregations is a fairly common set of accusations against heretics.  Second, what is described does not seem to be a standard part of Waldensian belief, and the piece above it doesn’t seem to be noted anywhere else.  Third, it’s fairly safe to say that the Waldensians hanging out with the pagan Sibyl, a bunch of fairies, and an idol known either as Baron or Bacchus was not the sort of words that inquisitors would seek to put in the mouth of a captive.

Then, what is its significance?  There are a number of possible explanations.  I think it could attest to a certain collection of lore that might have been available orally,  speaking of spiritual entities that might be found in local beliefs but that avoided the official record.  There’s no means to be sure based simply upon one account, but it might be something worth seeking for future scholars.

Audisio, Gabriel. Preachers by Night : The Waldensian Barbes (15th-16th Centuries). 118. Leiden: Brill, 2007.
Tourn, Giorgio. Il barba : una figura valdese del Quattrocento. Torino: Claudiana, 2001.
Published in: on June 3, 2016 at 2:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Recent (Or Not So Much) Releases

I’m happy to announce that we’ve had a couple of important grimoire releases that – in what may come as a shock to Papers readers – I have not actually found the time to read.

First, there’s Joe Peterson’s edition of the Liber Iuratus, or the Sworn Book of Honorius , the high medieval book of magic which features as its centerpiece a mystical procedure to gain a vision of god.  For those who were wondering if it expands upon the version on Peterson’s website – yes, it certainly does, with much material going beyond what’s on the website.  For those who wonder if the Latin is translated, the work has parallel Latin and English texts, which is definitely more than I expected.  I’m making a slow go of it – long segments of voces magicae have that effect – but any review I write would be simply, “This is wonderful,” so I don’t really feel compelled to expand upon that.

Another item that’s been out for longer is Claire Fanger and Nicholas Watson’s critical edition of John of Morigny’s Liber florum celestis doctrine:  The Flowers of Heavenly Teaching.  This is the fourteenth-century monk’s reinterpretation of the Ars Notoria, which in turn is the most complex version of the “God, please get me through this test!” prayer ever  created.  Although the price tag and the Latin text might scare off potential purchasers, it is a comprehensive and scholarly work and another step on the path to make critical editions of many key magical texts available.

That also reminds me that Claire Fanger’s book-length commentary, Rewriting Magic:  An Exegesis of the Visionary Autobiography of a Fourteenth-Century French Monk, was released well before that last book.  It deals with her own encounters and explorations with the book, as well as with the figure of John of Morigny.  It also makes it clear that we have much to learn about the Liber florum – especially with regard to the diagrams omitted from all the known copies.  As with other PSU books, there’s a cheaper e-book option that curious but cost-conscious consumers could consider.

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: The Magical Adventures of Mary Parish

I was asked to review the new book from Frances Timbers, The Magical Adventures of Mary Parish: The Occult World of Seventeenth-Century London for another publication.   Given the space provided, I couldn’t cover the book to the extent that I’d wish, so I want to continue that discussion here.

To bring everyone up to speed, Mary Parish was a seventeenth-century cunning woman engaged in the usual activities of that profession – detecting thieves, healing maladies, and hunting treasure.  Despite her talent at her vocation, Parish would have sunk into obscurity save for her meeting a former (and future) member of Parliament and the disreputable scion of a noble line – Goodwin Wharton.  Wharton became her patron, then her friend, and then her lover.  According to Mary, this was a fruitful union, yielding over a hundred pregnancies, although Goodwin would only meet one of his children.

Their partnership, both professional and personal, was based upon a series of spiritual encounters with ghosts, fairies, demons, and angels.  Parish served as a medium, and Wharton rarely witnessed anything without her present, save for a series of divine visions that happened later in his career.   He was a careful chronicler nonetheless, writing over half a million words on his spiritual encounters that he could pass on to his first-born – and likely imaginary – son, Peregrine.

As you can tell, this situation poses some problems for anyone who wants to write about Mary Parish’s life.  Almost everything we know about her is filtered through the writings of Goodwin Wharton.  Given that Mary seems to have been fabricating and exaggerating to some extent, and that Wharton might not have been the most objective observer of the situation, we have serious problems for any biographer.  The first attempt was made by J. Kent Clark in his biography Goodwin Wharton, and next, over thirty years later, is Timbers’ book.

It’s difficult to be able for me to talk about this book, for a few different reasons.  First, I feel it’s unfair because I have not read Wharton’s length treatises on the topic.  Second, there’s a great deal that I agree with in the presentation of this book.  The troubling aspects of her approach are the nuanced ones, and part of that might come from my perspectives on dealing with people who are not entirely on the up-and-up.  Mary Parish certainly wasn’t.  Even an account written by the man who loved her  couldn’t make her appear that way.

Timbers and I both agree that Mary Parish’s story, which is questionable not just for its supernatural arguments but also for its frequent oscillations between great fortune and misfortune, may be treated as narrative.  The bulk of the book, however, does not take this approach, instead concentrating upon the historical basis and context for the incidents she discusses.  This approach can be insightful, but if not combined with reminders that it is based on a second-hand narrative or extensive footnotes, it can lead the reader to conclude that much of it is validated, when in fact we have no one’s word but Mary’s that much of it occurred.

This is particularly a shame because I feel there’s a great book lurking here that does deal with the narrative of Mary Parish – an intelligent, independent, and resourceful woman living at a time when such women had to find creative ways to work within a patriarchal system.  Mary’s tale of her life, with its powerful men, mysterious magic, and numerous phantasmal pregnancies, seems to take many concerns of Elizabethan women, especially those of the lower classes, and exaggerates them to what would be a parody if not for the pathos lurking behind them.  That’s a book that I am unequipped to write, but I would love to read.

I would also argue against Timbers’ key assertion – which is also partially held by Clark – that this arrangement was a beneficial one because it gave Wharton a positive worldview and led to his reconciliation with his father.  I think it is quite likely that genuine affection did spring up between Mary and Goodwin.  Nonetheless, I find it hard to argue that a belief system that kept Goodwin impoverished and isolated from society, spending weeks waiting in the middle of nowhere for the Queen of Fairies, or commissioning a ship to sail out based on technologies promised by angels who failed to deliver in the middle of the ocean, was not a serious detriment to his physical, financial, and emotional health.  I do think it did have its good aspects, but these should be noted along with the problematic ones.

Overall, I think Timbers’ book does provide some interesting and thoughtful insights into Parish’s life and times.  One key piece of information, for example, is that multiple simultaneous pregnancies were not beyond the bounds of seventeenth-century medical thought.  Nonetheless, I would encourage anyone who wishes to read it to start with Clark’s book, which concentrates more on the substance of the diary, before beginning The Magical Adventures.




Published in: on May 12, 2016 at 2:36 pm  Comments (1)  

A Pennsylvania Adventure, or How a Cursed Mountain Took My Pants

This weekend, I spent some pleasant time visiting Patrick Donmoyer of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center.  I had suggested that we visit the Hexenkopf, that infamous hill associated with tales of witches and powwowing.

We headed out early, hoping to beat the promised three to five inches of snow, and followed winding roads through hilly landscape, past old stone churches and barns with hex signs.  We eventually met with the land’s owner – I didn’t agree to give his name here – and we headed back toward the Hexenkopf.

A massive windstorm came through years ago, toppling many of the trees in the forest.  The area is overgrown with grave vines and thorns,  and we were hard pressed to find a path through the undergrowth.  We soon realized that the Hexenkopf is not a single rock, but three different ridges that follow each other in succession.  We took some pictures and decided to ascend the center one.

Patrick is much more of a climber than I am, so he went out in front as I trailed behind, stepping more gingerly between the rocks.  Still, one of them proved to be too much of a stretch, and I heard a ripping sound.   Apparently I had managed to tear out the crotch of my jeans.  I was wearing a long coat, fortunately, so the tear was not immediately visible.  I decided to continue.

We eventually found a way up, winding around the side of the hill, and stood on the top.  I can say that any stories about people driving wagons up or having huge revels of witches are unlikely, based upon the limited space available on top.  All we found was a small space, with three Yankee Candle Company “Strawberry” and “Mint” candles  that someone had left behind.  I would discourage people from doing that.

We came back down, and I prevailed upon the property owners to let me put on a spare set of pants.  We spent a few hours speaking with the owners about powwowing, charms, and other topics.  Afterward, we headed over to the Kutztown Area Historical Society, where I filled in more pieces in my knowledge of The Long-Lost Friend‘s publication history.

It was late, and Patrick and I went out for dinner with some of his friends, and afterward we stayed up late going through his massive collection of Pennsylvania German magical imprints.

In the morning, I found that the Hexenkopf’s curse continued.  The gap in my pants had admitted a bloodsucking guest onto my thigh.  I got some tweezers and removed the little guy.  (I’ve seen no lingering effects.)

We had a quick bagel sandwich and a discussion of “hex signs” in the morning, leading to the conclusion that the case for them being magical devices is even more tenuous than had been previously considered.  We finished up the next day with a trip to the Cultural Heritage Center to view more books and charms from the period.  Having done so, I said goodbye to Patrick and headed home, head filled with all manner of magical recipes and charms.




Published in: on May 3, 2016 at 2:01 pm  Comments (1)  

PSU Press Sale

Penn State Press is offering a discount for the remainder of this month (so, today and tomorrow) for people purchasing books off their website.  Typing in “APR30” will get you 30% off all books on the site, including their Magic in History series.

These books are not discounted on Amazon, so there’s a potential here for some savings.  I ordered a paperback just now, and while they do charge for shipping, the overall rates are less than what you find elsewhere.  It should be cheaper if you’re ordering hardbacks or multiple items.


Published in: on April 29, 2016 at 1:39 pm  Comments (3)  

Review: The Pauline Art of Solomon (Transcribed by Frederick Hockley)

Teitan Press was kind enough to send me a copy of their latest publication of a Hockley manuscript, The Pauline Art of Solomon.

In its most modern form, the Pauline Art is usually bundled with the other sections of the seventeenth-century compilation known as the Lemegeton, of which the most famous chapter is the Goetia.  The Pauline Art is, as with the Goetia, a list of spirits of various capacities and their seals.  These spirits relate to the hours of the day and night and the signs of the zodiac, and may be called upon to perform various tasks, as with other lists of spirits.

Hockley, the 19th century accountant, magician, and bibliophile, seems to have made this copy from an eighteenth-century source.  His copy preserves the original text, although he puts less effort into the actual seals.  The planetary seals in the first part are lightly drawn in pencil, and the talismans in the second part have not been filled into the circles at all.  It’s unlikely that this was a manuscript describing a practice in which Hockley actively engaged.

What really sets this edition above and beyond is the introduction by Alan Thorogood.  In his edition of the Lemegeton, Joseph Peterson did discuss the history behind the document briefly, but he doesn’t go into it at any length.  (Of course, he also had four other sections of the Lemegeton to cover, so that’s all right.)   Thorogood is always excellent, and he does an excellent job of putting the book into its historical context, describing its origins and how it came to be included in this broader collection of magical works.

I learned two fascinating items from this book.  First, the “Ars Paulina” was originally a title used for a book in Latin along the lines of the Ars Notoria, a set of prayers and exercises used to provide the user with eloquence.  I had not heard of this before, and it brings home the important point that a historical document that gives the title of a book might not refer to the book of the same title known in our era.

Second, many of the angel names in the Ars Paulina are derived from a seventeenth-century work by a parish priest named Jean Belot.  Due to confusion about the Hebrew characters to be published in Belot’s work, many of the angelic names provided in the Pauline Art are not correct according to what they should be.  Thorogood provides not only the names in Hockley’s manuscript, but the corrected versions that have not been published up until now.

Given that Joe Peterson has put an earlier manuscript version of the Ars Paulina online, this might not appeal to those trying to build a cheap grimoire collection.  It would appeal to those interested in Hockley and his magical knowledge, the background of the Lemegeton, or the history of the grimoire tradition.  Teitan’s releases also seem to increase in value after they sold out, so they are an attractive and valuable addition to a library.

Published in: on April 29, 2016 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book of Magic from Frances G. Irwin

A while ago, Caduceus Books advertised a new work with the title Book of Magic from the library of the magician and soldier Major Francis G. Irwin.  I ordered the book when the subscriptions were open, and as they’re now closed, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to find a copy of it save on the second-hand market.  That’s a shame, because it is quite an interesting book that documents some of the aspects of 19th century magic in the time between Francis Barrett and MacGregor Mathers.

(Full disclosure: I’ve published one book through Caduceus, and we’re also working on some other projects.)

The book seems to have been in the library of Henry Irwin, the son of the Major, a promising student who died of a drug overdose in 1879.  His father added the book to his library and included a bookplate that commemorated his son’s passing.  It later passed through the library of Frederick L. Gardner.  The whereabouts of the manuscript are unknown, largely because I haven’t asked Ben about them.

There are some beautiful pictures of the book at the title link above, so all I can say is that it definitely lives up to them.  What I’d like to talk about is the significance of the work, for those who might not have access to it.

The Book of Magic is a document describing the rites and lore relating to the group called the “Fratres Lucis” or the (appropriate for the time) “Order of the Swastika.”  The group, which included such individuals as the Irwins, Kenneth Mackenzie, and Frederick Hockley as members, is discussed in depth in Ellic Howe’s classic article “Fringe Freemasonry in England 1870-85“.  It does appear that there are other documents relating to the FL at Freemason’s Hall, but none of them correspond to the details of this one.

And what are those details?  This does not seem to be a systematic manual for the rituals, instead interspersing admonitions to the aspiring magician, notes on the theory of magic, and techniques of talismanic magic, mirror scrying, and mesmerism.  It includes references to the occultism from the period – a quick reference to the discovery of Uranus, the techniques of Mesmer becoming part of the magical repertoire, and Éliphas Lévi’s interpretation of the one-point-up versus two-point-up pentagram.  Some of the material, such as the forms of the spirits of the sun, is derived from the Fourth Book of Agrippa.  We also have references to a supposed late eighteenth-century French order, supposedly including Pasqually, St Germain, and Caglistro, who seemed intend in calling up the spirit of Templar head Jacques de Molay.  (It should be noted that the “ghost” explanation given for the charges of spitting on the cross and other blasphemies here is different from the one we now know to have occurred.)

If anyone has any other questions about the book, feel free to put them in the comments.

Published in: on April 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm  Comments (2)  

Just Released – The Pauline Art of Solomon

The Teitan Press has just released the latest in its series of manuscript facsimiles from the nineteenth-century occultist Frederick Hockley.  This one, The Pauline Art of Solomon, features one of the key segments of the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, along with an introduction from Alan Thorogood on the book’s history and origins.  I always appreciate Alan’s take on these things, so I’m looking forward to this one.

If you order the book this week, you’ll get it at a discounted price, plus the first 100 purchasers, you’ll receive a bookplate with the author’s signature.

Published in: on April 11, 2016 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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