Trying Something New

Based on what I said last time, I’m going to try out something new. Check out my posts at Medium – one test you can ignore, one discussion of why I chose that forum, and one on the pizza of invisibility.

Published in: on March 9, 2022 at 5:31 pm  Comments (6)  

Goodbye, Maybe? Seeking New Venues

Random depiction of cream tea to boost social media engagement. Isn’t modern tech wonderful?

I do have a great deal of work to do on my book, but I should not dance around another problem here: the horrible WordPress interface. I do write posts, albeit more slowly than what I did before, but often I end up with a great deal of my draft being deleted, or I struggle with the quotation feature, or I spend a great deal of time trying to get WordPress to accept that I want all – not just some – of the text I’ve selected to be a link, or italicized, or whatever. Frankly, this isn’t fun.

(And before you say anything, I spent a considerable amount of time last month with an education CMS that was clunky and difficult, yet I didn’t have any of the above problems with it.)

At any rate, I’m starting to think about stopping posting or moving to another platform. I’d probably leave all this up, as I tend to run Google searches and find something useful that I’ve forgotten on here. But the question is – where?

  • I don’t want to turn this into a paying gig, whether on Patreon or anywhere else.
  • In an age of sound bites and multimedia, I do want to have the format as longer written works.
  • I don’t want to publish for anyone who expects this to be on a schedule, because we all know how that turns out.
  • Facebook and Twitter are horrible places to make any sort of meaningful argument. These days, I mainly just promote there.

I am genuinely open for suggestions. What do you think?

Published in: on February 23, 2022 at 10:50 pm  Comments (9)  

Relaxation, Upcoming Reviews, Thabit ibn Qurra’s Book on Talismans, Slavic Monsters

I tried to finish two books at once – following two collaborative book chapters at work – so I’m taking it easy for now.

It has allowed me to catch up on my reading. The next review will be The Green Book of the Élus Coëns. I’ve also dipped into the amulets, magical bowls, and Genizah magical texts in the reprint of Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked’s Magic Spells and Formulae: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity.

I’ve also been dipping into the Post-Vulgate Story of Merlin and a few of the minor Arthurian epics, slightly similar to what Greg Stafford did when writing Pendragon. I mainly underline examples of interesting behavior and values, while writing snarky commentary in the margins.

SISMEL in Italy has released a scholarly edition of a famous text on astrological image magic. From their website:

This book contains a reconstruction of Thabit ibn Qurra’s On Talismans, based on a recently-discovered Judaeo-Arabic text in the Cairo Genizah and the Latin versions. On Talismans, probably written in Baghdad in the late ninth century, was the most authoritative medieval text on the procedure for making talismans that depended for their efficacy on the natural influences of the stars. The Genizah manuscripts also include the first nine talismans of the On the Images on the Decans of the Signs attributed to Ptolemy, a work which forms a natural complement to Thabit’s text and is therefore included in this edition. Editions of the major excerpts of, and quotations from, these two texts in Hebrew, Arabic and Greek, have been added, and the Latin translation of another (lost) Arabic version of Thabit’s text – the Liber prestigiorum Thebidis – made by Adelard of Bath, completes the volume. Adelard’s version adds elements of ceremonial magic (including prayers to spiritual forces) to the effects of the stars. The texts edited here are essential sources for our knowledge of the theory and practice of astrological talismans in the Middle Ages and early modern period.

I’m looking forward to this, although I should note that they do not mention an English version of the text. You can find a non-scholarly edition by John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock here. (UPDATE: I’ve received it, but I haven’t had time to figure out what they’re doing with the text.) is running some of my Slavic monsters I wrote up for my Slavic game. At this point, they’ve published the bayechnik and the preglavica, with four more to come. Check out some of the other submissions while you’re there.

The Viktor Wynd Museum has been holding online lectures on a variety of topics of interest to Papers readers. I’ve been enjoying the Cornish folklore series and the talks by Ronald Hutton. At the end of his talk on fairies, Hutton recommended Jeremy Harte’s Explore Fairy Tradition, which is proving to be even better than I had hoped. American readers should be aware that the Amazon price is well above what the publisher offers. Heart of Albion does ship to the US with Paypal, but you might want to indicate in your email that you’re a real person.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

Published in: on October 24, 2021 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Publishing Update

Hey, everyone. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it?

My local campus has had a high positivity rate. Although I generally feel safe, working under those conditions can be quite draining – I’m sure many of you are aware of this.

The Book of Four Wizards (provisional title) has been submitted to Llewellyn. S. Aldarnay was nice enough to mock up the circle above, based on the illustrations and instructions in the book. It’s not something shown in the manuscript, as it exceeded the copyist’s ability to draw it – but modern technology and a good artist made it happen.

I’ve also sent in comments on the witch bottle book.

I’ve wrapped my DCC game, with one player betraying the rest to the Court of Chaos and escaping. Given that they all privately agreed with various individuals to betray the others, we shouldn’t feel too sorry for them.

My Pendragon and Slavic games are still ongoing.

I’ve got a post or two in the hopper, so I’ll get to them next. One is a review of the second volume of Dr. Stephen Skinner’s Ars Notoria. So come back soon!

Published in: on September 17, 2021 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Announcement: Witch Bottle Book

A few days after the last review, I got the go-ahead to announce this.

Avalonia will be releasing a revised and expanded version of my short book on witch bottles later this year. I’ve collected more contemporary accounts, and several important scholarly works have been published since then, which will be incorporated into the book.

It should be available in both print and electronic formats, for those who appreciate one or the other. I’ll announce it when it’s ready to go.

Is there anything you’d like to make sure is covered in the new book? Let me know in the comments.

Published in: on June 26, 2021 at 1:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Stealth NYC Trip, Fairies under the Elders, Online Manuscripts, Anti-Semitism in Magical Works

I made a quick trip to NYC to drop off a copy of the Bellhouse book at the NYPL. I didn’t schedule time to see others – just stopped at a couple of shops, grabbed some Middle Eastern food, and headed back upstate. I hope to visit again soon.

My article, “The Herb and the Lady under the Elder at Noon: Analysis of an Early Modern Magical Ritual,” has appeared in the fifth issue of The Enquiring Eye, the journal of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

I’ve found a few works of interest in the Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland. This short copy of a book purporting to be Faust’s Höllenzwang might be the sort of thing Papers readers should like.

Phil Legard notes that the Lecouteux book I showed in the last post has some problematic content. Having looked at it, I can confirm one of the passages chosen has one anti-Semitic account which I’m not sure adds much to the work. Admittedly, even my own books do include statements from our early modern authors blaming the Jewish people unfairly, as many authors of the time did. I’m going to be doing my best to note such passages and their significances as I go forward.

The Precious Apothecary review will appear next week.

Published in: on June 13, 2021 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Shopping at Long Last, Upcoming Reviews, Open Access Books on Magic, Slavic Folklore, Cultural Appropriation

Lecouteux, Travels to the Otherworld; Reed, Recared’s Unclean Pamphlet; Pennick, Ancestral Power of Amulets, Talismans, and Mascots

I went out of town this weekend to see my family for the first time since December 2019. Along the way I got to re-visit some of my favorite bookshops, as you can see above. Please feel free to ask me about any of these items.

I finished Precious Apothecary on the plane, but I need to write it up and get a couple things in order before I do. I also received a reviewer’s copy of Acher and Sabogal’s Clavis Goêtica, which will probably be the next item on my list.

If you’re interested in scholarly books on magic, Owen Davies has been posting links to some excellent open access works, including Beyond the Witch Trials, Witchcraft Continued, and The Materiality of Magic.

A small group of friends was hoping to learn something about Slavic folklore, so I invited Katarina Pejovic, author of Balkan Folk Magic: Zmaj, to speak to them. It was wonderful – it takes talent and a considerable depth of knowledge to talk about Serbian dragon lore for an hour and a half, while making it clear that a dozen other topics could be addressed with equal depth and fervor. I recommend her highly to anyone seeking a speaker on this topic.

Some of my FB friends have been circulating links to a Patheos article “Cancelled for Renovations: More Thoughts on Closed Practices” by Thumper Marjorie Forge, dealing with the usage of spiritual practices from other cultures. I think the author is moving in a good direction, yet there are points with which I disagree intensely. I’ll summarize briefly:

  • Cultural appropriation is not itself bad; instead, it is a neutral concept that become problematic when people from historically advantaged backgrounds appropriate practices from people who are historically disadvantaged. In those circumstances, the people, the history, and the practices appropriated may yield different answers for different people.
  • If one is practicing using elements of the cultures of historically disadvantaged groups, consideration of those groups should not be absent from practice or life. Forge offers an example of five individuals working with “Sokovian” culture. I do think that seeking out transactions with indigenous artisans is a good step, but none of these hypothetical practitioners discuss, learn about, or find ways to address the conditions that led to or maintain the Sokovians’ marginalized status, such as a robot army destroying their capital. This could include talking to people from the culture in an open-minded way, seeking out local media, supporting relevant legislation, or any number of other practices.
  • Many of the approaches I see here and elsewhere adopt a “checklist” mentality to cultural appropriation. All someone needs to do is avoid X, Y, and Z, and they will be Good People Not Doing Anything Wrong. I think it is more useful to periodically engage in self-reflection: Has my understanding of this practice changed? Do I know more about those who historically practiced this spirituality? How does that affect my life and my approach? The answers will be different based on the person, the culture, and the practice, of course.

Take care of yourselves, and I’ll talk to you more later.

Published in: on May 26, 2021 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Vaccinated, Kickstarter Non-Starter, Paper Given, Medieval Exorcism, Book Received, Dungeon Crawl Classic Thoughts, More

Above illustration from Paul Huson’s Liber Spirituum, now available here.

I’m now fully vaccinated, having spent two days after the second Moderna shot squirreled away watching a Rocky marathon. It did turn out to be more inspirational and interesting than I had thought it would be.

A little while ago, we had an interesting Kickstarter for a “Hastur Tarot Deck.” The project was fully-funded and featured full colour art for a Tarot deck based on the one that John Tynes and I wrote up for Delta Green: Countdown two decades ago. Trouble was, the publisher hadn’t checked with John or I or Arc Dream, who own the rights. Shortly after someone contacted the Kickstarter to point this out, the whole affair was shut down due to “personal issues.” I believe an official release will be Kickstarted later this year, so Mythos fans should have something to which to look forward.

I’ve been holed up at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, where I gave a talk on saints being conjured – mostly Saint Helen and Saint George, with a side note on the St. Christopher prayer. My thanks to the organizers, and I hope to present again in subsequent years.

In preparation for the paper, the introduction to Florence Chave-Mahir and Julien Véronèse’s Ritual d’exorcisme ou manuel de magie?, a publication of one of the first known exorcistic manuals, dating to the early fifteenth century, that includes sections that are very much in the model of what most readers would typically call “incantations.”

Volume 2 of Golden Hoard’s Ars Notoria seems to be in shipping limbo of some sort, with Amazon asking me to approve the order. I’ve heard that this is only temporary, so there’s no need to worry.

I’ve also received John R. King IV’s new book The Faculty of Abrac, which I believe is a review copy that I will not have time to review. If I were to tell the author something helpful, it would be that an index or more detailed table of contents would probably inspire people, including me, to find the text more accessible.

My quarantine Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign is moving toward its conclusion. It is a fun game, although I feel that around level 5 (which might map roughly to 9-10 in other editions) the whole thing starts to break down, as the truly insane combat-ending spell results become commonplace. I’d suggest that anyone running it also insert a “save on a natural 20” roll, to balance out magicians rolling save difficulties that no one can ever beat.

Our Pendragon game continues well into the Anarchy era. Apparently there are plans afoot for an expanded three-volume version of the Great Pendragon Campaign, but that might be some time away.

Published in: on May 13, 2021 at 1:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Four Wizards Jump to the Fore, Upcoming Magical Events

Today’s image, poor as it is, represents two pages from the Éditions du Monolithe Liber Thozgraeci, another lineage of the Key of Solomon, displaying the seals of of the seventy-two names of God.

Projects have called me away from writing here. I’ve had to prioritize jumping back into the research on eighteenth and nineteenth-century astrology and alchemy, as well as the complex and contentious saga of Olivia Serres. Next, witch bottles, and then back into the text written by the Four Wizards themselves for final / lengthy tightening up.

Stephen Skinner and Daniel Clark are preparing to release Volume 2 of their Ars Notoria. Note that the product description on Amazon seems to be that of Volume 1; I believe the new work will be on more of the operative end of matters.

During my hiatus, I’ve missed a great deal of events that I wished to tell you about. There’s an event with PSU Press this Friday with four authors of recent books in their History of Magic series, which should be worth seeking out. The Warburg Institute has also had some interesting magical talks, such as this one.

Friend of the blog Al Cummins had a talk on necromancy given in recognition of the latest Magic: The Gathering Release. Watch it here.

The Arkham Gazette 3, including my article on Goody Fowler, is now available in print on demand here.

I’ll try to keep up.

Published in: on April 27, 2021 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Incoming Agrippa, More Incoming Agrippa, Black Pullet Revisited, E(xcellent)-Book, The Next Review, Book of Four Wizards

Great British Folklore and Superstition Map

What appears above is the Marvellous Map Company’s Craftily Conjured Great British Folklore and Superstition Map, which is quite a bit of fun. I’ve shown only part of it and blurred it up to respect their work, but it is wonderfully detailed.

Eric Purdue’s new translation of Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia is scheduled for a November release. Most of the English editions we have today, including Tyson’s, derive from the translation of one “J. F.” from the seventeenth century, so a new one is definitely welcome. I will warn anyone who clicks on that link to prepare for sticker shock – this is a slipcased three-volume hardcover set.

Black Letter Press is taking pre-orders for its edition of the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, newly translated by Paul Summers Young:

The first is the 1565 Liber Quartus de Occulta Philosophia, which is a Pseudo-Agrippan gloss on some of Agrippa’s themes, which was published with a version of Pietro D’Abano’s Heptameron, which served as a gloss upon the gloss. This apocryphal work went on to lead an interesting and influential afterlife, accompanying the Three Books like an ugly rumor.

The second is an expanded selection from De Incertitudine et Vanitate Scientiarum of c.1530. The 1533 first edition of the Three Books concludes with extracts from The Uncertainty and Vanity of the Sciences touching upon the books’ themes; we have expanded upon that to encompass a more complete sample of Agrippa’s commentary on magic in that book. Rather than being at odds with the Three Books, The Uncertainty and Vanity of the Sciences is the context within which Agrippa published his famous magical textbook.

Here’s a passage I ran across in Morgan’s translation of the Sepher Raziel, which might be of interest to Black Pullet aficionados:

If you wish to give your enemy trouble in sleeping, take the head of a black dog that never saw light during its days and take a lamella from a strip of (lead) pipe from an aqueduct, and write upon (the names of) these angels and say thus… (p. 49)

Coincidence? There’s a good chance – but maybe one of my readers will eventually find an answer that ties the dog to the pullet.

Cummins and Legard’s Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke, the magical diary of two sixteenth-century magicians and explorers, is now available as an e-book in a quite-affordable edition. It’s also available in paperback, with the e-book included free.

We had a Twitter poll to determine my next review. It ended in a tie, which would have allowed me the difficult position of reading whatever book I wanted. We did get one Facebook vote, meaning I will be reading the Black Letter edition of the Petit Albert next.

I’m coming up on the end of my close examination of the Book of Four Wizards. Near the end, there’s a number of passages assembled by our eighteenth-century (?) author, mainly taking sections from a “Key of Rabbi Solomon” outside the Sibly-Denley-Hockley tradition and the Goetia to assemble something new. There are some passages I cannot place at this time, but maybe I’ll stumble across the answer before I submit it.

It is frustrating that I may be able to return to the UK to poke around in libraries before the book is submitted, but many people have worse problems.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

Published in: on February 28, 2021 at 12:07 am  Comments (2)