Update on the Newberry Book of Magical Charms

Do you recall the news that the Newberry Library in Chicago was transcribing a seventeenth-century British book of spells? I certainly do, because everyone in the world told me about it.

The Chicago Tribune brings us an update, with the usual fake scares and cheesiness, emphasizing just how successful this project was. The entire work has now been transcribed and translated, with a JSON file version available of the entire text.

We can hope that other libraries with similar books might see the success and good publicity from this project and provide us with similar opportunities very soon.

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Published in: on November 3, 2017 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy All Saints Day!

I haven’t had a lot of updates lately, but not due to lack of interest in blogging topics. I’ve got two major projects coming down to the wire right now that require my attention.  Thus, a quick rundown:

  • Yesterday Cornell University opened a great new witchcraft exhibit, displaying the cream of their wonderful collection. The story doesn’t mention the reception, at which they served white chocolate mice with raspberry filling, little eyeballs made out of mozzarella, and miniature cauldrons of chocolate pudding.  If you’re passing through central New York, the exhibit will be open until August of next year.

 

 

  • I can’t recall too many recent releases not noted already that have really gotten me excited.  One good candidate has been José Leitão’s The Immaterial Book of St. Cyprian, a collection of treasure-hunting legends that have involved the works of the famous saint with parallel Portuguese-English text.  If you’re keen on learning more about the Iberian Cyprian beliefs, José has created a Patreon to help with his further Cyprianic researches.

 

  • Another work of interest that appeared recently and completely under the radar was Vedrai Mirabilia: Un Libro di Magia del Quattrocento. This is a fifteenth-century Italian book of magic, edited by Jean-Patrice Boudet, Laurence Moulinier-Brogi, and the late Florence Gal.  I probably won’t run a review of this, as I feel that would require an examination too detailed for me to conduct at the moment.  It does have long sections on astrological talismans and love magic, especially involving wax images, but it also has occasional spots of weirdness, such as naming Hercules as a king of the four directions.

 

  • Gaming update! My Basic D&D Rules Cyclopedia game is now over a year old.  The characters have looted the Caves of Chaos, overcome the Veiled Society, and staved off Night’s Black Terror. They now move to Expert-level play – and if you know the X series of modules and me, you know which one I chose.

 

  • My other group is running through a short campaign of Iron Heroes, the old D&D 3E variant with no magic and lots of – well, some – tokens.   I don’t feel the system does what it sets out to do, perhaps because cinematic action in 3E is often countered by the desire for balance.

That’s all for now.

 

 

Published in: on November 1, 2017 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Brief Notes

I’ve been spending a good amount of time researching Elizabethan and Jacobean England for the next book.  This means I’ve been finding other areas to keep my mind active.  Here’s a few:

  • One recent item on my reading list has been An Introduction to Yokai Culture.  It’s got some great chapters on kappa, tengu, and other phenomena and beings at the edge of Japanese culture.  It does focus on the folklore studies of these beings, so there’s a good deal of discussion of theory as put forth in books that likely will never be translated into English, but it’s quite fascinating.
  • I’ve appreciated the offerings in Clavis Journal Volume 4, particularly the article by Eytzinger, “Curse the Eyes of the Thief.” I don’t think anyone’s put it together, but the operations he’s describing are Scandanavian versions of the “Eye of Abraham” ritual for uncovering a thief that is mentioned elsewhere (sorry, no online PDF).
  • I’ve been enjoying reading some classic Runequest works, thanks to Chaosium. I’ve particularly enjoyed Pavis and Big Rubble, a campaign setting filled with history, weird cults, and danger.  I don’t know if I’d run the system – I enjoy old-school games, but it’s even more deadly than Cthulhu, with many more dismemberments.
  • And, just to make matters even more bizarre, I’ve also been listening to the Bulgarian History Podcast.  Treachery, religion, war, and Byzantine (in both senses of the word) intrigue, pulled from historical literature to which most people will never have access.  I recommend it highly.
Published in: on June 25, 2017 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The Price of Occult Books, Part 4 – The Collector’s Perspective

In our past three segments, we’ve dealt with causes of high book prices, some examples of particularly high prices, and the impact of the library market.  At this point, I’d like to turn to the impact of these prices on collectors – including myself.  This part will be more free-form, as I’m still working through my thoughts on the matter.

I purchase a good number of books in this field, as anyone who reads this blog is aware.  These are from a wide variety of different publishers – small and large presses, popular and academic ones, creators of artisanal works and mass-market paperbacks, and even reproductions of manuscripts from various libraries. I also make good use of the libraries at my workplace and those in the area, as well as the growing collection of digitized works in Google Books, the Internet Archive, and Gallica.

The focus of my collection is primary source texts of ritual magic, in various formats, along with historical works putting them into their context in one way or another. The number of such texts have certainly increased in recent years.  Previously, I could expand my purchases into other areas, but I’ve cut down on these considerably – especially for roleplaying games. Yet even now, there are more great books to read, and as we discussed last time, many of them are not making it into libraries.

Further, this is a market in which you can often see unexpected and quick price increases.  It’s true that some of these are due to vendors and bots who inflate prices unduly, but there are often spectacular rises in the amounts for particular books once they go out of print.  Since many of these come from small presses with limited print runs, this means that it’s hard to delay purchases for later.

This is, of course, compounded by the issues regarding libraries that we already identified.  It is likely that any particular academic work will be picked up, perhaps after a few months, by some library in the country from which it might be obtained. The same cannot be said for many of the small – or even medium – press books. For example, The Book of Oberon has done well in terms of sales, but only seventeen WorldCat libraries in the US hold it. That often means that the only way to access a book is to purchase it.

The effect of all this has been to create a market in which books, expensive or not, must often be purchased quickly and through specialized channels if one wishes to obtain them. When there is not an opportunity to do so, the desired book might not be available anywhere in an affordable format.

A fair question is how much any of this literature is necessary for a particular reader.  Given the large amount of material that is available online, it is hard to say that there is a great “need” for materials on the topic in general.  Depending upon one’s particular area of research or spiritual practice, though, certain works may not be available.  I think it is fair to say that the advancement of knowledge makes it important that such works be available to people within reason.  I’m not sure what should be considered “reasonable,” and it’s likely readers will differ greatly on this front, but I think it’s a good principle.

Of course, I’m not just a purchaser of books.  I also write and edit them – and my next entry will deal with that.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 8:41 am  Comments (2)  

Apologies and New Releases

So, I found the question of high prices for occult works so interesting that I wrote up a few long pieces on them.  Which I then lost in an iPhone deletion.  So, that’s what I’ve been working on.

In the meantime, a few new exciting releases!

First, from Nephilim Press, we have Humberto Maggi’s The Book of St. Cyprian.  I haven’t had much of a chance to examine it, but it appears to take material from many different works – mainly the early (pseudo-)autobiographical texts attributed to the saint, as well as the translations of sections from the Spanish and Portuguese grimoire traditions – and assembles it into a composite edition.  Given that it’s 600+ pages, I might not get to a full review any time soon, but I wanted to make sure you knew about it.

Enodia is re-issuing the Magia naturalis et innaturalis as a hardback, with additional notes and corrections.  I believe the 20% discount for the first orders is gone, but signed copies will still be available if you order quickly.

Published in: on March 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm  Comments (3)  

Mailbag, February 2017

We’ve got mail from a few past months to answer, and I do apologize for the delay in getting back to people.  That is, unless you’re with the Order of the Hidden Masters, in which case, no apology – but just keep being you.

Lordzick Appenteng Aboagye says:

Please I need your to help, step by step on how to use this book. The Ars Notoria of King Solomon. Kindly help me, I need to use this book.

Here’s the problem, Lordzick.  First, that’s not what this blog is for.  Second, most editions of the text don’t include the all-important illustrations for meditation and prayer.  You might check the Palatino edition for those, and I hope you’ll get this in time for your quadrivium test.

dumbpost13 says:

“Before I discuss my concerns, which are relatively minor, I should extend considerable kudos to Jake for all of this work. This is the sort of in-depth examination that desperately needed to be done, in order to start charting out more of the history of magic, and that requires considerable patience and access to texts to carry out. ” Rather sad when you think about it.

That it is, indeed.

I should give one mitigating piece of information.  According to his CV, Jean-Patrice Boudet is working on a book entitled Les catalogues de démons attribués à Salomon et à saint Cyprien, to be released by the SISMEL publishers of Florence.  (SISMEL has also released scholarly editions of the Almadel and Ars Notoria, so it deserves the  It hasn’t appeared yet, as far as I can tell.)  It’s not clear when it will appear, as it’s not listed on the publisher’s site as of yet.

Allan Grohe says:

I’m not previously-familiar with PSU’s Magic in History series; what books in the series have you found most useful for gaming inspirational research?

PSU’s series is mostly pitched for academics, so I’m cautious about recommending much of the line for gaming research, without having a particular topic in mind.  Two of the more accessible ones are Butler’s Ritual Magic and Ryan’s The Bathhouse at Midnight.  The latter focuses on Russia, but it’s still great enough to receive a general recommendation.  I’m also re-reading Kieckhefer’s Forbidden Rites; the bulk of it is Latin, but the introduction has several translations and much information about medieval ritual magic that makes it worthwhile.

Mattster comments:

Congrats on the inclusion in the MIH series. Hammer’s book sounds really interesting, but $98 for a paperback? I will have to call upon many spirits of prosperity….

I am sorry to hear it.  The high price of books dealing with ritual magic, I think, is a good topic for its own post.

Keep those comments coming!

 

Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm  Comments (2)  

Recent and Upcoming Releases

Looking for something to purchase with your holiday cash?  Already own all of my books?  Here are some other options.

Hell Fire Club Books offers a large number of limited edition works on magic, mostly just outside the usual topic of Papers.  They’ve just released a new facsimile manuscript of a Key of Solomon published by an Edward Hunter, possibly a merchant of Bristol, around 1830.  I’m a sucker for nineteenth-century magical works of an obscure nature, so this is right up my alley.

Troy Books has released a new edition of their Long-Hidden Friend, this one in pocket-sized format, perfect for defending you from violent death.  If you’re interested in such a talismanic work, give this one a shot.

Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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 (2)  

My English/Cornish Adventure, Part 5

We’re halfway through Day 3 of my excursion.

Leaving Carn Brea, I still had a packed day of travel.  My next stop was St. Mawnan near Falmouth, the site of the infamous Owlman sightings.  U. S. readers might connect this cryptid with Mothman.  This is inaccurate, as the Owlman story has magical ceremonies and sea monsters and naked witches, and is almost certainly a hoax concocted by one person.  Anyway, here’s the church itself:

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The Owlman – and the associated sea monster, Morgawr – had been supposedly sighted past the church, down the steep hillside that led to the rocky cliffs above the bay.  I decided to take a quick walk and take a look.  In case anyone is curious, here’s the terrain in question.

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I did not take a picture of the church organist, who was quite insistent that I leave his unmarked parking spot so he could take part in an upcoming wedding rehearsal.

I love fogous, the underground stone passages dating back thousands of years.  Only a few survive in Cornwall.  I tried to find the Piskie’s Fogou, with its links to fairy lore, but I had no luck in finding any parking nearby.  I had better luck trying to track down Halligye, which is on a National Trust estate.  It’s closed in the off season for bat hibernation, but in the summer it’s easily accessed – once you find it.

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This is an interior shot.  The passage is really quite long  and muddy – I recommend both shoes and pants you don’t care about, if you want to get the full experience.

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My final scheduled stop for the day was Pengersick Castle in Praa Sands.  I’d go into the legend about this place, but it’s way too long.  Suffice to say, it’s got a wizard and a magic sword and pirates and mermaids and phantom hares and a woman who turns into a snake.  It’s a private residence, so I contented myself with a photo from the road.

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Where to now?  I had sworn to avoid West Penwith – the very tip of Cornwall – this trip, as I always go to West Penwith, but I still had daylight left.  I chose two sites.  The first was the holy well at Madron, where people traditionally tied clouties to nearby trees to cure them of their ills.

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Finally, I tracked down back roads, risking life and limb to uncover the stones at Mên-an-Tol.  I finally found the site and hiked down an overgrown farmer’s track to find it, only to find the monolithic site to be hosting a father-and-son Nerf gun battle.  They departed soon, and I had a few minutes alone with the stones.

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It was getting late, so I drove quickly through the witch-haunted hills, past mermaid-sheltering Zennor and the cottage where Crowley supposedly drove someone mad but probably didn’t, and made it back to Truro in time to drop off the car and catch the train back to St. Austell.

I had a small excursion to a holy well the following morning – but I think I’m going to leave this right here.  Cornwall is a fun place to visit, and I’m already thinking about where I want to go  the next time.

 

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Interview on The Thinker’s Garden

I recently did an email interview for the site The Thinker’s Garden, which has recently been posted.

In case you needed another incentive, I also dropped some news there about my next contractual project…

Published in: on November 19, 2016 at 6:26 pm  Comments (1)