Starting an Occult Library, Part 3

Following up my previous posts, here are some more suggestions for enlarging your collection that came about as I’ve been packing my library.

First, one common question with regard to occultism is why anyone would believe magic works.  (Yes, I know the response from some readers will be, “But it does!”, but it’s a very common question nonetheless for rationalists.)  An old chestnut in this area is E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande.  I’d follow this up with two more recent works – Tanya Luhrmann’s Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft and Susan Greenwood’s Magic, Witchcraft, and the Underworld.

For general scientific theories of magic, I’d start with two works.  One is Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, which is horribly dated but is where most people start their discussions of magic.  The other is Stanley J. Tambiahs’ Magic, Science, and Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, a work that has come under some critical fire since but which provides you with a good starting point as to the lay of the land. Also, if you ever see a copy of Favret-Saada’s Deadly Words, snap it up immediately.

What about getting a handle on the current occult scene?  I’d highly recommend Tony Kail’s Cop’s Guide to Occult Investigation.  This book isn’t accurate on every point, but from what I’ve seen, it does an admirable job of annoying both those who see a Hideous Occult Conspiracy (TM) everywhere and those who insist that nobody in their particular faith would ever commit any sort of crime.  Also from the same author is Magico-Religious Groups and Ritualistic Activities, which I’ve yet to see.

Learning more about a particular movement should include familiarity with the important texts thereof.  Thus, LaVey’s Satanic Bible (for Satanism), Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon and Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (for Wicca), Crowley’s Magic in Theory and Practice (for modern ceremonial magic), Gonzalez-Wippler’s Santeria: The Religion (for Afro-Caribbean faiths), or Peter Carroll’s Liber Null and Psychonaut (for chaos magic) might also be added to your shelf, depending upon your particular interests.

Also, you will need a Bible.  Even if you’re not Christian, much of the context of the occult is bound up in that faith’s teachings and doctrine.  I especially like the New Oxford Annotated Bible.

Some historical works worth picking up if you see them are Flint’s The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, Trachtenberg’s Jewish Magic and Superstition, Davies’ Popular Magic, and Budge’s Amulets and Talismans.

Finally, to round the list out with more primary sources, try Gager’s Curse Tablets and Binding Spells, Meyer and Smith’s Ancient Christian Magic, and Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic (Peterson’s CD is generally better than this last one, but sometimes this includes some useful information).

Feel free to add to or critique this list in the comments.

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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