Hell and Fairy Article Online, Quoted in Vice, Grimoire Fakery, The Sun of Knowledge Forthcoming, Medieval Rituals, Etc.

We’re past the Palgrave moratorium, so I’ve put up my chapter “Hell and Fairy: The Differentiation of Fairies and Demons Within British Bitual Magic of the Early Modern Period” on Academia. Please feel free to read and quote from it.

I was quoted in a recent article on the Internet Book of Shadows on Vice.

The latest issue of Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft has two articles of note: one on witch bottles by Ann Thwaite, and a survey by Don Skemer of those lengthy magical roll amulets that no one has tried to publish yet (hint). Check out the Societas Magica site for more information on getting it.

The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle has posted on FB about forged grimoire pages turning up on eBay and auction houses. These are usually single sheets with a demonic figure drawn with mystical symbols of various sorts seeming to fill in the space around them willy-nilly. The closest analogy in actual manuscripts are the images of Oberion with the seals of his counselors about him, as shown in Oberon, but these are usually clearly labeled or noted in the context. Most “demon” figures I’ve seen in manuscripts are freestanding or surrounding by text, when they appear at all. I hope that helps readers to make sensible purchases.

I was going to review Agostino Taumaturgo’s Medieval Rituals of Catholic Exorcism, but I’m going to have to give up on it due to typos. Typos are an unfortunate byproduct of writing, and some will stubbornly persist throughout the editing and proofing process even under careful scrutiny. Yet this work includes many errors, approximately one per page, and many that a simple spellcheck would catch. I gave up after finding a section that had some untranslated passages of Latin left in the middle of the English. I think it would be worth reviewing in a revised edition, but I’m not certain I could recommend it now.

Revelore Press, publishers of Svartkönstbocker, are now releasing a book of selections from the Shams al Ma’arif, a famous grimoire with which I’ve had some interesting encounters (here, here, and here) but never read.

The Sun of Knowledge (Shams al-Ma‘arif) is one of the most revered historical grimoires of the Arabic corpus. Feared by some, hallowed by others, it is one of the most famous – or infamous – books in the Arabic-speaking and Islamicate world. Written in Egypt in the thirteenth century by a Sufi mystic and mage of Algerian origin, the Shams presents the fundamentals of Arabic-Islamic occult work – from spiritual cosmology and astrology (including various particularly lunar magics) to working with spirits and jinn, magical employment of letters and numbers, and the occult applications of the Qur’an – thereby comprising a veritable encyclopedia of Islamicate magical wisdom and formulae. Images and descriptions of amulets and talismans adorn it. Numerous beautiful manuscripts of the Sun of Knowledge have survived, various of which have been used as a basis for this present work.

Never before published in English, this selected translation includes sections of the Sun of Knowledge on the mysteries of the letters, astrological timings, lunar mansions, the ancient Arab beliefs surrounding the stars, planetary matters, astronomy, the angels for and workings pertaining to the four seasons, summoning the jinn, the employment of the names of God for many and varied purposes, the construction of the famed ring of Solomon, and a miscellany of tried-and-true talismans. This selected translation takes a general approach to a much vaster text, and features illustrations, original artwork, and commentary to assist those unfamiliar with Islamic magic and culture. This edition is also ideal for any student of magic or the occult, classical Arabic astrology and astronomy, Islamic esotericism, or Sufism.

I’m somewhat disappointed that it isn’t the entire book – but the entire book is over a thousand pages, so who am I kidding?

Mihai Vârtejaru presents an exploration of the sources of the Hebrew Key of Solomon, which I encourage you to check out.

Pendragon and my Slavic game continue, and I might talk more about them in the future. Stay safe, everyone.

Published in: on August 14, 2021 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Palgrave Sale, Treadwell’s Lecture, Faustian Grimoire in Paperback, A Discussion on Magic in French, and the Obligatory Author Holiday Sales Pitch

We’re coming up on the end of 2020, and it can’t come soon enough (though let’s not forget the potential impact of Brexit in January). Still, it hasn’t been a horrible year for grimoire collectors – I was surprised when I looked at the output – and I hope that these publishers and booksellers are surviving and thriving in the uncertain time we face.

Palgrave Macmillan has put its paperbacks and e-books on sale, in a less impressive version of the sale last year, until December 1. Here’s my list of the best selections from last year – it does appear that more of their works have been published in paperback in the interim.

Treadwell’s has posted a fourth talk of mine – on Pennsylvania folk magic – in its subscriber lectures. Obtain a subscription, and you can view those and much more.

Enodia’s Faustian work A Compendium of Unnatural Black Magic (review here) is now available in paperback on Amazon.

Medieval magic scholar Jean-Patrice Boudet has a talk with Agostino Bagliani about their latest book from SISMEL here, for those lucky enough to speak French.

If you’d like to help me out or a publisher, think about buying one of my books for someone you care about. I’d particularly point to Of Angels, Demons, and Spirits as one that someone who enjoyed The Book of Oberon might also appreciate.

Published in: on November 29, 2020 at 4:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Black Lives Matter, Gaming, Various Book Releases

Generally, I don’t post about politics on Papers, as I assume most of you are here for other purposes. Yet even in this time of uncertainty, we are seeing a growing movement to reconsider histories and interpretations thereof, especially regarding the role of and mostly negative impact on people of color. Justice for all people is something we should all strive for, yet many of us have become adept at finding reasons not to do so.

Nonetheless, we live in a world that is indeed the product of long-term systemic inequities that impact every aspect of our life. For example, it was the vast sugar plantations of Jamaica that financed Sir Hans Sloane’s immense collecting which led to the creation of the British Museum and Library, which have become key resources for the study of the history of magic and the creation of modern ceremonial magic, with later effects on the religious and cultural movements that have arisen from this. Further, as I’ve reviewed my thought on the Simon Necronomicon recently, I’ve realized that I didn’t emphasize that one of the best-selling occult books of all time repeatedly treats the “Aryan race” as if it’s a legitimate concept.

I know some readers engage with magic, folklore, spirituality, science fiction and horror fandom, or roleplaying games as escapes from the everyday world, and that they don’t want to turn what they love into a culture wars battlefield. But it is already. In each one of these communities, I’ve encountered people with genuinely toxic beliefs – racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Nazism – who are intent on not just participating as fans, but expressing their ideology and perpetrating their symbolism within them. And many of these people are writers, artists, editors, and publishers, and thus people who have considerable ability to influence the field and disseminate their message. This drives away people who might be of historically disadvantaged groups that may also want to become fans and creators, thereby driving down the richness and creativity of these communities for reasons that have nothing to do with the passions leading most members to participate.

Some people have become increasingly concerned about “cancel culture,” and we should acknowledge that people can be mistaken in good faith and have the capacity to learn and change. Yet, at appropriate times, we should make it clear about where we ourselves stand on these issues, not for the sake of congratulating ourselves or seeking the approval of others, but to let people know that people of principle are present, are mindful of the community’s health, and will speak out if they see behavior that makes others unwelcome.

We have a couple of catchphrases that people use to dismiss such claims in a superficial manner, and I’ll probably get a couple in the comments. Yet if one stands for principles and equality, and it doesn’t affect what they say or do when it can help others – what good is it?

Now that you’ve sat through that – how about some book recommendations?

My strategy of waiting so long to review books that they go out of print has succeeded, at least once! By which I mean, Enodia Press has released Praxis Magica Faustiana (review here) as a paperback on Amazon.

One of the neat extras included in the Caduceus Bellhouse edition was a series of columns from the Liverpool Mercury from 1857 that dealt with detailed accounts of the spiritualists, crystal-gazers, and cunning folk of that time and place. S. R. Young has put these out as a short book, forming a rich collection of nineteenth-century magical practices and the public attitudes toward them.

Hadean has also released Issue 4 of the Conjure Codex, featuring articles on Michael Scot, the Books of Cyprian, and art projects inspired by the Picatrix decans, among others.

I’ve got two other posts in the works – probably some thoughts on The Gnome Manuscript from Troy Books, and a new edition of the Grand Grimoire. Both of them need some work before completion.

Published in: on July 11, 2020 at 10:53 am  Comments (4)  

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)