Revelore Press on the Magi and Scandinavian Magic, with a Note on Hutton

Some quick updates:

  • Revelore Press is a new publisher that has taken up the mantle – and some of the back catalog – of Rubedo Press, especially their Cyprian-related publications.
  • Revelore also just released the enjoyable new book by the wonderful Al Cummins, A Book of the Magi, dealing with their appearances in folklore, festival, and magic. The only downside to this is that reading it prompted me to start finding  Magi references in all sorts of magical works, which I send to Al, which means he’s probably going to get stuck with writing a sequel. If you’re interested in Christian-themed folk magic or popular religious practices, it’s worth looking at.
  • Revelore has also announced an upcoming book called Svartkönstbocker, a compilation of extracts from the black books of Sweden taken from the work of the late Thomas K. Johnson. The publisher has the rights to his thesis, which is this tremendous translation of many black books that I’ve reviewed previously. I’ll keep an eye on this one, to see how much of those thirty-five grimoires covering five hundred pages they’re going to reprint.
  • Speaking of Swedish magic and folklore… someone here was asking for information on the year walk, or årsgång. I found this article on the topic, for those interested.
  • I’m still working on the Hunter Clavis review, which is delayed due to time constraints. I’m comparing its contents to Sibley – those who want to compare it to Mathers or Skinner and Rankine can do so themselves, because otherwise I won’t have time to work on anything else.
  • Due to an unexpected work-related book review assignment, I have now read all of Hutton’s book The Witch twice, which means that I now have more extensive opinions on it.  I’d stand by my assessment as “pretty good,” but I can see some more of the seams. For example, the subtitle, “A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present,” is bound to throw people off, as the period of the witch trials and afterward is given only a short chapter, along with examinations of particular issues during the trials that relate largely to the British Isles. The chapters on elves and familiars are both must-reads if you’re interested in those topics – but finding them in a book on witches isn’t exactly where one might expect to encounter them. There’s certainly nothing more than a brief allusion to modern witchcraft, and certainly no mention of particular figures or critique of doctrines.
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Published in: on April 12, 2018 at 6:52 pm  Comments (3)  

Review – Dr. Faust’s Mightiest Sea-Spirit

The German occult scene has seen many books of ritual magic attributed to the infamous Doctor Faust appear over the years. Most of these have remained untranslated into other languages, but recently they have begun to appear in English, most notably through the Mexican publisher Enodia. Following their releases of the Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis and the Compendium of Unnatural Black Magic, they now present one of the books that I’ve been most keen to read ever since I read about it in Butler’s Ritual Magic: Grosser und Gewaltiger Meergeist. Now Nicolás Álvarez’ latest translation, Doctor Johannes Faust’s Mightiest Sea-Spirit, finally scratches that itch.

Before going forward, I should add that I’m in talks with another publisher to work on an edition of Meergeist. Please read the following in light of this potential conflict of interest. Plus, this is a book I purchased, rather than a review copy.

We begin with an introduction from Álvarez , providing insight into the background and cultural significance of the book and its contents. It particularly notes the more imaginative aspects of the ritual, and Álvarez also provides us with insights on the early modern attitudes toward the imagination and its usage in magic. The only small addition I wanted were a few notes, especially for the mythological and folkloric significance of underwater beings. The book also includes a bibliography, but lacks an index.

The bulk of the book consists of four treatises on magic, beginning with the Sea-Spirit itself. In this experiment, a magician creates a massive metal circle, using chains from a gallows and nails from a breaking wheel.  He places it by a body of water, and then brings three companions and a black hen. We then see a curious interlude in which Lucifer and his subservient spirits appear before the magician and discuss the great riches that they hold. Then Lucifer and Amaymon take on the form of Persian merchants and greet the magician, asking him whether they have the seven souls necessary to complete the operation. The magician cites himself, his three companions, the two demons, and a black hen, and demands the treasure.

Álvarez provides us with three additional rites, two of which are connected with the water. The first, taken from Darmstadt MS 831, is a waterside rite to call up the spirit Quirumndai, who can bring treasure and teach the magician secrets in the guise of an old, grey-cloaked man. The second, the Veritable Jesuit Coercion of Hell, is not actually linked to the Jesuits, as you’ve probably guessed, but a magical operation to call the spirit Tarafael to bring up treasure from the depths. The third, Arcanum Experientia Praetiosum, is geared toward a dream incubation rite, such as those for the spirit Balancus in Oberon. A key part of this is creating a spirit sigil which is placed under the window and then beaten with a rod while calling upon the archangel Michael until the spirit performs one’s bidding. All four total about seventy pages of text.

I haven’t had time to check the translation at any length, but if you want to compare, Álvarez places the German text in an appendix.  Overall, the book is attractive and thorough in presentation, although the text might have benefited from another once-over – and my copy could have used a little more packing material.

I don’t want to leave this on a negative note, however. You’ve got four texts here that have never been translated into English before, one of which has not been published before now, to my knowledge. This constitutes a great new resource for anyone who collects grimoires, especially those who are fascinated in Faustian magic in particular. If either of those describes you, you should definitely send some money to Mexico for this one.

Published in: on March 15, 2018 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

More Lecouteux Followups, Gaming in Averoigne and the Borderlands, and an Unwise Experiment

It’s a snow day here, so it’s an opportunity to catch up on some miscellaneous news.

…I’ve noticed a pattern in his books on Lapidaries and Talismans that aren’t quiet right, he doesn’t seem to understand how to construct these things nor attempted to ever do so, just translates random snippets and unfortunately some of his works get hyped as “complete”…

This is NOT to say that the works of Claude LeCouteux are worthless, but I find myself telling people over and over that his books on grimoires, talismans and amulets, and lapidaries should only be used as supplements for the fully translated materials that are already available, neo-grimoires, academic books & publications, as well as the occasional online lecture or course, and NEVER as newbie how-to books.

My only comment is that I hope RGF will take this knowledge and give it to us in some way. The world needs more quality works on magic.

  • You might notice that Lecouteux’s book A Lapidary of Sacred Stones, which is mentioned above, hasn’t rated a mention here. I got it in December and found it frustrating. It’s arranged alphabetically by the original, non-English names of the stones (and as we don’t know the translation, that’s fine) – and it lacks an index. Thus, no recommendation.
  • The D&D group has spent two sessions journeying through Clark Ashton Smith’s  Averoigne. I decided not to add too much new content, aside from a few random encounters, such as the one with the inquisitor who was told that a winged party member was the “spirit made flesh.” Now that they’ve achieved all of their goals, they’ve decided that they need to take out Bishop Azedarac. This should go well.
  • I also ran a group at a staff retreat through the Keep in the Borderlands. I had many newbies and a few players of Pathfinder and later editions. Somehow they managed to pick the Shrine of Evil Chaos as their random destination, killed all the evil priests, and outran a horde of undead with only two or three deaths in the group. Nicely done!
  • A journal has accepted one of my articles. Upon signing the agreement for publication, I realized that they retain the copyright – but I have the right to put up the final pre-publication edited version online after publication. I think it will be an interesting and accessible piece.
  •  I’ve been baffled by a reference in e Mus. 173 to a horrible substance called “assacasinus.” Based upon the name, I was wondering if this might be cassia fistula, a plant known in medieval times as “cassia” and used today to cleanse sinuses and as an insecticide.

So, I ordered some the supplement online, and I put a small amount – about an eighth of a teaspoon – on a piece of charcoal. After vacating the room, I can say with confidence that it would be an appropriate substance for an early modern magician to put on a fire to torment a spirit – and, as is usual with such suffumigation, anyone else who is unfortunate enough to be nearby. I’m not sure that this is anywhere near rigorous enough to be definitive. I’m still open to other suggestions.

That’s all for now.  I’ve got some reviews coming up of the latest Enodia Press release, some samples of dojinshi, and the Hunter Clavis, so you can look forward to those.

 

Published in: on March 7, 2018 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Followup on Lecouteux’s Traditional Magic Spells

I had a nice discussion in the comments with Frater A. P. regarding my review of Lecouteux’s Traditional Magic Spells.  He’s been looking over Lecouteux’s translations in the book taken from Dr. Heinrich von Wlislocki’s Volksglaube und Volksbrauch der Siebenbürger Sachsen. What he’s found – and I’ve checked on some of his conclusions – is that there are some problems with the translations given in the book.  The seriousness of these discrepancies varies, but sometimes it extends to leaving out instructions – or even charm passages – from what’s presented in the book.  You can read his analysis here.

To be clear, my sympathies in cases of error are often on the side of the author. Mistakes creep into books quite easily.  After extensive work on Oberon, and level upon level of transcription, corrections, and proofing by multiple people, I once witnessed someone bring me their new copy, ask for a signature, open the book, and immediately catch an error. It happens.

That being said, I can share my impressions of the error. For me, it would be the sort of thing that would occur the first time copying a text.  Even if you’re confident that you’ve got it all, it’s still possible to make some major omissions from time to time when you miss a line or section.  I’m wondering if it’s what happened here, and it falls over the line of what I consider an acceptable error.

None of this is to diminish what Frater A. P. has discovered, which is an important and useful reminder that it’s important to vet sources, to double-check what we’re writing, and call out errors when we find them.  I’d suggest that anyone who wants to use Traditional Magic Spells to do their best to check the original sources if it matters for whatever work they are doing.

I’m interested on hearing others weigh in about what they think is appropriate.

Published in: on February 20, 2018 at 7:39 pm  Comments (7)  

Forthcoming – Powwowing in Pennsylvania

Readers who are interested in folk magic, will definitely be keen on seeing the new book by Patrick Donmoyer, Powwowing in Pennsylvania: Braucherei and the Ritual of Everyday Life.

I’m not saying this because Patrick and I are friends who have discussed writing, raided libraries, climbed mountains, haunted graveyards, and often cite each other. (Rarely has full disclosure of an author’s interests been so much fun to write.) It’s because it’s a lengthy, thorough, lavishly illustrated in color, well-researched, thoroughly footnoted yet accessible book detailing the folk magic beliefs, practices, lore, and texts of the Pennsylvania German people. I have read substantial parts of this book, and everything I have seen is absolutely wonderful.

On top of all that, it includes a translation of a classic powwowing book, Doctor Helfenstein’s Secrets of Sympathy, featuring all manner of folk remedies and charms. I have a serious problem with this, as clearly Patrick could have sold people this translation as a separate volume and nobody would have batted an eye. You’re just lucky to get it with everything else.

To sum up, Powwowing in Pennsylvania is a great work whether you’re just curious, or if you’re a full-fledged scholar of braucherei in Pennsylvania.

If you click on the link above, you can find the mail-in order form at the lower right. (Yes, I know it’s not electronic, but it’s definitely worth it.) The book was a little delayed on account of Patrick wanting to make it even better, If you’re still not convinced, or if you’re concerned as to when it will appear, Google Books already has a preview up.

Published in: on February 14, 2018 at 7:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Monsters from the Folger: Another Paper Available Online, and Reader Comments

A paper by James Clark, Joseph Peterson, and I, “He Appeareth Like a Monster,” that originally appeared in the journal Monsters and the Monstrous, is now posted to Academia.edu.

Yesterday I got a message from Tony, who asks regarding my review of Lecouteux’s Traditional Magic Spells:

I was wondering if you could expand upon your review here with a few additional comments. I’m trying to find out if this book presents any never-before-seen grimoiric content. Things such as alternate versions of talismans or seals from Solomonic material or similar… I’m trying to see more of the positive notes from your review but it seems like the book simply a pick n’ mix of folk magic- more of an ‘encyclopedia’ of his favorite mentions of healing from disparate sources. What, if anything makes this book uniquely valuable?

Tony is the sort of reader I like: he mostly answers his own question. The book does not contain many talismans or seals, so I wouldn’t necessarily seek it out for those.

I would add that many grimoires do contain operations that we might define to the popular idea of “folk magic,” and that Lecouteux’s book of “favorite mentions” on just about any topic will be broad-ranging and of great interest to a lot of people. Nonetheless, Tony, I can’t talk you into liking a book. (You might try Lecouteux’s The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets instead, though.)

Sarah asked a question earlier about Enodia Press’s shipping times.  I responded:

I’ve ordered three books from Enodia, and each one has taken a while but arrived on time and in good shape. The tracking numbers provided by the Mexican post office are… aspirational, shall we say. The one for my first order claimed that it had not departed the local post office outside Mexico City up until the time that the book showed up in upstate New York.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask Enodia. I’ve been happy with their responsiveness and their product.

Please post any more comments you’d like to have answered!

 

 

Published in: on February 1, 2018 at 7:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Upcoming Releases on Faustian Magic, the Three Magi

Two brief notices on books worth watching for, and that are highly unlikely to show up in your local bookstore.

Enodia Press has announced the imminent release of its latest collection of ritual magic texts attributed to the infamous Faust.   Dr. Faust’s Greatest and Most Powerful Sea-Spirit is a compilation of three infamous works of magic that have been previously unpublished, along with a work from an unpublished manuscript. It takes a little more effort to order books from Enodia, but it has been consistently worth it for both their presentation and their unmatched contents.

Revelore is releasing a new book by Dr. Al Cummins: an exploration of the folklore, prayers, and spells that elaborate on the story of the Three Magi. A Book of the Magi promises to be excellent, and I’m looking forward to it.

Published in: on January 12, 2018 at 7:34 pm  Comments (5)  

Review: Traditional Magic Spells for Protection and Healing

Oddly enough, despite his extensive catalog of works published through Inner Traditions, Professor Claude Lecouteux’s new releases get little attention. His latest work, Traditional Magic Spells for Protection and Healing, didn’t show up in their catalog, and I only learned of it while exploring the shelves of the Union Square Barnes and Noble.  It’s likely many readers won’t hear of it, which is a shame. Lecouteux provides us with a marvelous excavation of the intellectual strata of magic, providing a wealth of spells and charms for these purposes. Yet the book is also a frustrating one in terms of organization.

traditional-magic-spells-for-protection-and-healing-9781620556214_hrIf you are interested in reading a collection of spells to protect and heal derived from magical traditions from across Europe, this certainly fits the bill. The format is very similar to that in The Book of Grimoires, although the coverage is much more broad. Frankly, I wish that Lecouteux had downplayed Pliny, given his availability in translation, but the bulk of material consists of remedies from medieval and early modern manuscripts and non-English works and journals dealing with folklore. The short commentaries vary in their usefulness for me and seem spotty in nature, but I think less specialized readers will find them welcome.

In terms of its content, this book is wonderful. As for its organization, it leaves me completely baffled as to why it was arranged as it was.  We begin with magical methods of diagnosis, followed by a lengthy section giving the cures for various ailments in alphabetical order.  Initially each section appears to be arranged chronologically from the earliest charms to the latest, but this breaks down in some of the longer sections. We even have a section for dealing with spells that heal multiple ailments – although not all the spells that do so are included in this section.

The next chapter deals with protections against evil spells, the Evil Eye, and witchcraft. Next come compilations of charms against demons, and then against fairies, trolls, and other such spirits – although remedies for demons are mixed in with them. Then we return to healing, this time for animals – although I’ve found charms to cure animals in previous sections – and finally to ways of warding off natural disasters, ghosts (who are distinguished from other spirits), witchcraft, and other dangers.

All of this is followed with a curious series of appendices: a brief work on healing by Saint Bernardine of Siena; descriptions of the deeds of sorcerers by Bernard Gui and Cyrano de Bergerac (a passage I read as satiric); a brief section on encrypted and enciphered spells; an untranslated page on healing from the works of Jean Fernel; procedures for making a man impotent; a list of French and Belgian saints and the afflictions they cure, and a few pages of talismans attributed to Apollonius of Tyana.  I won’t say that these are unconnected with the text, but why exactly this particular selection of topics was chosen as appendices is not always clear. Overall, it’s hard to come up with reasons why this book would have taken the form it did.

If you’ve got a book as I’ve just described, what will really pull it together is a good, comprehensive index that can make the contents available howsoever they are organized. This one… is not so great.  In many cases it simply covers the categories already present, without detailing other appearances of the same topic elsewhere.

This is not to say that this is an unwelcome book.  The material collected within is great, the bibliography is an amazing resources, and a casual reader will be very happy with it. If you’re working on any projects on spells like this, you’ll probably also want it – but you’ll likely find problematic if you want to find anything in particular, or if you start asking yourself why “Anthrax” and “Charbon (Anthrax)” are two different headings, for instance. Nonetheless, unless you’ve spent a great deal of time building a magical library and are a master of several languages, you probably don’t have a collection like this.

Published in: on December 21, 2017 at 5:41 pm  Comments (9)  

Review – Kurlander’s Hitler’s Monsters

We’ve seen a great number of books written about the influence of the occult upon the Third Reich.  Of particular interest are such works as Goodwin-Clarke’s The Occult Roots of Nazism and Staudenmeier’s Between Occultism and Nazism, which deal with the roles Ariosophy and Anthroposophy, respectively, played in Nazi Germany.  The latest offering, Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich, is written by Eric Kurlander of Stetson University and published by Yale University Press.

The word “supernatural” is key to understanding Kurlander’s objective.  Althoughprevious authors have attempted to deal with different aspects of Nazi occultism, Kurlander seeks to survey the influence of the “supernatural” on the Third Reich, with that term remaining largely undefined save to map it in some respects to the German idea of “border science,” which in itself seems rather vague.  This allows him to cover racial pseudo-science, astrology, dowsing, folklore, mythology, runes, werewolves, vampires, the Grail, the Tibet Expedition, Wewelsburg Castle, World Ice Theory, anti-gravity, and all sorts of other topics about which you, having read this far, probably want to learn more.  On the other hand, the specificity of his definition makes his insistence that Nazi Germany was considerably different from other countries at the time, with regard to similar beliefs, difficult to prove.

Nonetheless, this book is a fascinating work.  Kurlander is rarely able to delve into any topic at length, but what he provides is a useful survey of the scholarship on many different matters coupled with illuminating archival research.  Previous works have often emphasized the eccentric and sometimes horrible intellects who proposed many of the unusual beliefs that became part of Weimar German culture.  Kurlander does acknowledge them, but he sets out to describe specifically what Hitler, Himmler, Hess, and other prominent members of the Nazi party believed and were willing to support with the Reich’s resources.  The goal here is to establish what was of import to the leadership and what has been romanticized, although the latter is usually dealt with by omission than discussion.

Considerable debate has surrounded the Nazi leadership’s interest in the occult.  Was it the heart of their dark designs? Or were German occultists victims of an ideology that eventually turned their countrymen against them, especially after Rudolf Hess fled for Great Britain?  This is not a simple answer, Kurlander tells us.  Some beliefs were largely outside the Nazis’ ingenuity to assimilate into their system; little is said of ritual magic in this book, for instance.  Nonetheless, proponents of many of these beliefs who followed party orthodoxy – or gained the sponsorship of high-ranking members – survived and even throve in Nazi Germany, even if some elements of the government were keen on silencing them.

I feel that this review has come across as more negative than I desired.  I had hoped for a more comprehensive perspective on these issues – but if nothing else, it has convinced me that a work would have to be colossal to accomplish that task.  Hitler’s Monsters is a necessity for anyone who wishes to know the role of the supernatural in the Third Reich, and who wishes to put aside much of the dross that has accumulated on that subject.

 

 

Published in: on August 6, 2017 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

John Harries’ Book of Incantations

I’m trying something to see if it works out: embedding a manuscript from the Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, or National Library of Wales.  The work is the notebook of John Harries (c. 1785-1839), a cunning man of Cwrty-Cadno, Carmarthenshire.

Most of the book consists of materials taken from elsewhere, but the first treatise is a handwritten version of the Goetia which seems to include some seals not present elsewhere.  I offer it for your appreciation – just don’t ask me to pronounce any of the Welsh words above.

https://viewer.library.wales/build/lib/embed.js/* wordpress fix */

Update: No luck with the embed, so just try this link.

Published in: on January 9, 2017 at 1:07 pm  Comments (2)