Midnight in the Desert Tonight

Join me tonight LIVE on Midnight in the Desert with Dave Schrader, 9pm – 12am Pacific Time (12am – 3am EST)!

I’ll be talking about Of Angels, Demons, and Spirits, and probably anything else that comes up.

You can call in from the US at 520-600-MITD, and listen at this link.


Published in: on December 17, 2019 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Early September Wrap-Up

So, I’d like to get to a more regular blogging schedule. We’ll see if that holds.

  • NecronomiCon was great, as always. I had two enjoyable panels, one on Delta Green, and the other on horror in games, featuring Sandy Peterson (creator of Call of Cthulhu), Ken Hite (creator of Trail of Cthulhu), Shane Ivey (author of the Delta Green RPG), and a couple of other up and coming creators.



  • My work continues on The Book of Three Wizards. I’m double-checking the text and creating transcripts of the various diagrams for James. We hit a slow portion, due to the first author’s decision to incorporate some incredibly complex astrological charts, the import of which we’re still debating. There were over nine thousand separate elements I had to check for accuracy, but that’s past.


  • Did you know that Golden Hoard is releasing Daniel Clark and Stephen Skinner’s Ars Notoria soon?



  • Pam Grossman and William Kiesel of Ouroboros Press are presenting a seminar on “Collecting Grimoires, Spell Books, and Witchcraft Tomes” at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair this Saturday at 2 PM.


More to come soon, I hope!

Published in: on September 3, 2019 at 3:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Swedish Black Books and NecronomiCon Appearances

This announcement from Revelore Press appeared this morning:

Svartkonstböker: A Compendium of the Swedish Black Art Book Tradition

by Dr Tom K Johnson
Folk Necromancy in Transmission Volume 4

ISBN: 978-1-947544-22-2; Sept 2019; ~650pp.

Svartkonstböker is a fully revised edition of Dr Johnson’s 2010 PhD Thesis Tidebast och Vändelrot: Magical Representations in the Swedish Black Art Book Tradition, featuring a thorough, path-breaking study of the black arts book tradition in Sweden, as well as English translations of 35 Swedish black art books ranging from the 1690s to the 1940s, including over 1900 spells and a robust index.

The late Dr Johnson always wished that his work would see print publication in its entirety. Other publishers have offered to produce this work in two volumes, prioritizing the spells in the black art books over the scholarly apparatus that contextualizes them. Here Revelore presents the work in full, comprising over 650 pages of material. Minor errors from the PhD manuscript have been rectified, and archival images of the characters, sigils, and illustrations have been restored in high fidelity. This is the definitive source work for the Swedish magical corpus of black art books.

If this fulfills this mandate – and it should – it will be amazing. Both paperback and collector’s editions will be available. The paperback is priced at $50, but 650 pages makes it well worth it.

I will also be returning to NecronomiCon this year, and I’ll be on two panels. One is Delta Green based, Sunday at 9 AM. The other is a panel I’m moderating “On Gaming the Weird,” with Sandy Petersen, Kenneth Hite, Fiona Maeve Geist, Shane Ivey, and Badger McInnes. You can see the full schedule here.

Published in: on August 5, 2019 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Brief Notes for January

A few things to enjoy and/or look forward to:

  • I’ve uploaded my article from the Journal for the Academic Study of Magic, “The Role of Grimoires in the Conjure Tradition,” to my Academia.edu account. It’s almost ten years old, but it might be of interest.
  • Scarlet Imprint has opened pre-orders for its latest book, Jinn Sorcery by Rain al-Alim, which includes translations of rituals to summon these creatures from a private collection.
  • I’ll be taping Roejen Razorwire’s Project Archivist podcast on Sunday.  Topics will be grimoires, including the Simon Necronomicon.
  • The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall is hosting a conference on ritual magic in May.  If you can get there, it might be worth checking out.
  • My classic D&D group has just arrived in Clark Ashton Smith’s Averoigne, one of the settings in a classic module not to be named here.  It’s funny to go to D&D forums and hear people lament the fact that they can’t get the articles on Averoigne that Richard Becker and I wrote for Worlds of Cthulhu.
  • Finishing up our Iron Heroes campaign. I like what the system was aiming to do, but I’m not fond of the execution.
  • My other group has been playing Shadow of the Demon Lord, which I’d describe as an apocalyptic fantasy game like a simplified 5th D&D, but adding complexity by assigning each character three roles as they progress through their careers. Some elements of it seem rough around the edges, but we’re already planning another campaign.
  • The snake is handling the snow and ice well, by simply avoiding them.


Published in: on January 19, 2018 at 7:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Necronomicon Files Banned in Texas Prisons

The Dallas Morning News just published a story on a lengthy list of permitted and banned books maintained by penal system in Texas. It features a searchable index of all the books that inmates are not allowed to own.

Being curious as to whether our friend Simon’s books are on it, I ran a quick search – only to find that The Necronomicon Files is on the list!  I’m guessing this is because of one particular piece of art in the book that includes nudity.  As it happens, so is my edition of The Long-Lost Friend

As for Simon? Texas really likes his works. You can check the downloadable list of permitted books in the spreadsheet just above the search box. The Necronomicon Spellbook is listed twice, and, depending upon how you interpret some of the vague entries, Simon’s Necronomicon has been approved between three and five different times.  Even though I don’t particularly care for Simon and his works, I think that he has a perfect right to have them appear.

Other approved works include those of friends of the blog Joshua Free and Kenneth Hite, as are the Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green RPGs. Oh, yes, and the Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia is free to own.

The list possesses some strange elements. First, some purely academic works on magic, such as Ankarloo and Clark’s Witchcraft and Magic in Europe series, and Seligmann’s Magic, Supernaturalism and Religion, aren’t on the list. Second, there are plenty of works on magic on the approved list – run a search for “magic” or “charm” in that spreadsheet – that are probably similar in content to the Friend.

Oh yes – and Neo-Nazi and white supremacist works are perfectly fine.

The takeaway? Censorship is wrong, and its implementation leads people to make bizarre decisions, especially when it comes to works on the occult.


Published in: on December 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Return to the Necronomicon

After eight years, my article on the Simon Necronomicon, “Reviving Dead Names,” will appear in Penn State University Press’s anthology Magic in the Modern World. I have practically a full set of the Magic in History books, so it’s particularly nice to be a part of the series.

In a sense, this is a continuation of the work that went into The Necronomicon Files, describing the context of the Necronomicon‘s appearance in the NYC occult scene of the Seventies.  At the same time, it is not a debunking work – my sharp-eyed reviewers kept an eye out for that, so as not to blunt its impact – but a description of the numerous strategies used to legitimize the book’s original appearance, and a discussion of their efficacy, or lack thereof.  Olav Hammer’s Claiming Knowledge was invaluable in developing my arguments.

The curious part about the Necronomicon is its combination of high and consistent sales, with its relative lack of impact on the modern occult scene.  We have many works on witchcraft, magic, and similar topics that sold much less than Simon’s book, but which are more quoted and have had more of an impact on the spiritual marketplace. My article explores some potential reasons for the change.

Also, I got to keep the South Park endnote, which was key to the piece.







































































































































Published in: on December 21, 2016 at 5:15 pm  Comments (3)  

Spirits in the Library – Pazuzu

For the third part of our series (see parts 1 and 2) examining various works covering demonic entities, I’ll be looking at Pazuzu.

Louvre PazuzuA creation of the first millennium BC Assyrians, Pazuzu is the spirit of plague, cold, and evil winds.  He was generally shunned, but could also be called upon to scare off the female demon Lamashtu from small children.  (The tablet from the left, from the Louvre, shows Pazuzu overlooking Lamashtu in what is likely a protective manner.)  Recognition of Pazuzu seems to have died out in the Christian era – at least until The Exorcist made his curious locust-winged, scorpion-tailed, beaked, clawed appearance a cultural icon.

Part of my choice of Pazuzu was prompted by his position outside of traditional monotheism, save for his appearances in media.  So, what’s the verdict?

We do have some omissions.  de Plancy leaves him out, which is not surprising given how recently knowledge of Pazuzu came to us.  Gettings omits him as well.  Neither Belanger nor Davidson includes them in their works, although the introductions indicate that he doesn’t fall under the criteria set by either author.

Bane – A brief description of the demon, with notes as to his appearance and the rivalry with Lamashtu.  Some sources listed, none from Mesopotamian mythology.

Guiley – Information on his appearance, his rivalry with Lamashtu, and his role in The Exorcist.  Uses Black and Green’s Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia as a source.  Excellent.

Lurker – A very short section that covers the basics of the spirit’s appearance and portfolio, but no mention of Lamashtu.  Short and factually accurate.

Mack – Three pages on Pazuzu initially make this look good, but upon reading much of this is just filler text about other spirits.

This particular choice did fulfill the purpose I set out, which was to flush out the philosophies behind the books.  Mack was particularly disappointing, I have to say.  Other books I didn’t expect did an excellent job with him, while others left him on the wayside, disappointingly.

Who will be our next candidate?  We’ll find out soon…

Published in: on July 10, 2015 at 8:48 am  Comments (3)  

The Maqlu Text: An Update on its Publication

For some time, I’ve been waiting for a new published English translation of the Maqlu Text, the first millennium BCE exorcistic rite in Akkadian that gets so much attention in the Simon Necronomicon.  I have greatly appreciated Marie-Hélène Hoffmann and Ross Caldwell’s online translation of the book, but what I have been waiting for is the edition by Tzvi Abusch, the foremost scholar on the incantation series.  So, I feel quite odd relating this announcement from Dr. Abusch, from the American Schools for Oriental Research blog:

During my stay at the AIAR, I completed and submitted: 1) A volume for the SBL Writings from the Ancient World series: The Witchcraft Series Maqlû: Transcription and Translation. This volume contains a transcription of the full text of Maqlû with notes, a translation, and detailed introduction. 2) A volume for students in the State Archives of Assyria, Cuneiform Texts series, Maqlû: A Student Edition and Selected Commentary containing an edition of the Maqlû standard text in transliteration together with the cuneiform text. This volume will also provide both historical/critical and exegetical commentaries on selected incantations. These commentaries will draw upon and synthesize the many individual studies that I previously published.

I continued to work on The Magical Ceremony Maqlû: A Critical Edition (Ancient Magic and Divination; Leiden: Brill), which will contain the main edition of Maqlû. I reviewed and made some last minute corrections to the synoptic edition (“score”), revised the bibliography of sources, and drafted the preface.I hope that this volume will be submitted to the publisher by the end of June, 2014.

Really?  I’ve waited so long for this book, and now we’ll be seeing three different versions?

I’m eagerly awaiting more information, so I can figure out which one I want.

Published in: on December 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Books Forthcoming and Just Arrived

I’ve been working slowly on my review of Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic by Stephen Skinner, a book dealing in some detail with the Greek and Demotic magical papyri.  I’m over half done, and I’m quite positively impressed with it, and I should have a review up soon.

Hippocampus Press is advertising The Variorum Lovecraft, a three-volume set of Lovecraft’s stories with all of the variant texts noted therein.  I’m on the fence about purchasing it myself; after all, I own all of Lovecraft’s fiction at least three times over scattered about my shelves.  Nonetheless, others might be interested therein, or in commenter Bobby Derie’s Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.

Also, I just saw that Rankine and Barron’s edition of The Complete Grimoire of Pope Honorius is now available on Kindle for the price of a Simon Necronomicon.  (Yes, I’m linking to Amazon.  I’m trying not to link to them when I don’t have to, but they’re far too convenient for many readers, not to mention me.)

Avalonia, which was responsible for that book, has placed the following announcement on their “forthcoming” page:

THE BOOK OF SPIRITS (Le Livre des Esperitz) by David Rankine & Paul Harry Barron. This 16th century French work introduces many demons for the first known time and is seen to be an earlier root to the spirits of the Goetia. More information soon

If you’d like to read the original medieval French text, it’s appended to the end of this article discussing the list.  Nonetheless, this work should have additional commentary on the topic which will make it a welcome addition.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 7:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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Sort-of Review: The Bull of Heaven

It’s been nearly a year, and I recalled I hadn’t given props to a fellow Starwood author to whom I had the privilege of meeting last year.  As such, I’d like to enthusiastically recommend Michael Lloyd’s book Bull of Heaven:  The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan, available from Lulu.

I am not ashamed to say I have not read this entire book.  It’s huge – over 600 pages long – and as such I use it more as a reference for particular details of the New York City occult scene.  Because, when you get down to it, this book is much more than a biography of the founder of the Minoan Brotherhood, the pioneering gay pagan group based on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern mythology and practice.  It is perhaps the first book to go beyond biography, or the history of an order, to describe an entire milieu, in this case that of occultism in New York City from the mid-Sixties to the late Eighties.  Lloyd has done painstaking research into many different aspects of the scene, based on contemporary documents and interviews with many of the participants, rigorously documenting as he goes.  Some aspects are covered more thoroughly than others, of course, but that’s the nature of the beast.

There’s an additional twist here, as you can guess.  Ed Buczynski’s long-time partner was Herman Slater, the owner of the Magickal Childe Bookshop.  As such, we get a good amount of material on Simon and the Necronomicon.  There’s even a section on The Necronomicon Files where he calls us out on an error, which I intend to blog about soon.  All of this is quite illuminating, and it takes our examination of the topic out of the realm of “Harms and Gonce vs. Simon” and sheds new light on the old debate.

As such, I can enthusiastically recommend The Bull of Heaven for those who are interested in a wide variety of topics:  the history of witchcraft, the LGBT movement, Necronomicon practitioners and skeptics, and just about anyoneelse who could come near any of those categories.   It’s really that good.

Published in: on July 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm  Comments (4)