Coming On-Line Radio Appearance

Lots of writing going on, just not here.

I’ll be appearing from 3-5 AM EDT (have fun, West Coast people!) this Saturday morning on Richard C. Hoagland’s “The Other Side of Midnight” program, on the Dark Matter Digital Network.  I could talk about Lovecraft, or grimoires, or something else entirely.  I don’t know if there’ll be call ins, but it should be fun.

Published in: on August 31, 2015 at 4:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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Spirits in the Library – Mephistopheles

For our fourth installment in our series (for the first three, see here), we’ll be looking at Mephistopheles.

Mephistopheles FaustMephistopheles is an unusual demon, insofar as his first appearance was in works of fiction based upon the life of the magician Georgius Sabellicus Faustus.  When grimoires began to be attributed to Faust, Mephistopheles followed along as one of the spirits with which magicians could make conduct and work.   At the same time, he’s accumulated an impressive list of appearances in the various incarnations of the Faust legend across many types of media.

Most of the books we discussed had entries on Mephistopheles, with the only exception being Mack.

Bane – Notes the fictional origins of the prince of demons, as well as his later inclusion into grimoires.  Oddly enough, then claims that certain aspects turn up in “medieval literature” (which would have predated its appearance).  A nice bibliography, as it mentions Butler’s Ritual Magic.

Belanger – This draws upon both the fictional and grimoire traditions, and is likely the most lucid of the entries.  It would have been nice to see it branch out into the figure’s uses in more than simply the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, however.

Davidson – A nice paragraph, listing both fictional and grimoire appearances, though not quite systematically.

de Plancy – Nothing more than a brief and purple description of the horrible effects he has on humans, followed with a reference to the Faust entry.

Gettings – One paragraph referring entirely to the fictional sources, with no mention of the grimoires.

Guiley – This entry covers both Mephistopheles in Faust and in the grimoires, moving back and forth between the two for reasons I have yet to determine.  Nonetheless, it does touch on both the fiction and the magic.

Lurker – A short paragraph, with a misleading statement that it was “the name of the devil in the literature of necromancy and magic in the late Middle Ages.”

On this one, I felt Bane did the best, followed by Belanger and Guiley.

Who’ll be next?  We’ll find out in a week!

 

Published in: on July 21, 2015 at 4:23 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 (2)  

A New Book of Oberon Discovery

I’ve got a few different posts I’d like to put up, but I’m at a conference and I think people are ordering takeout.  So, allow me to present a new discovery by my friend Clay.

From Flave Végèce René, Du fait de guerre, 1536:

vegece1 vegece2

From Folger MS. V.b.26:

orobas Annabath

I’ll be looking into this more later, but I wanted to make sure credit was received where it was due.

Published in: on June 3, 2015 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I Have a Problem

So, with the new year, it’s time to admit I have a problem.

I might be addicted to Cornish folklore.

Part of my mother’s side of the family comes from Cornwall, and I’ve made two trips there over the years tooling about West Penwith and seeing the sights.  Over the past month, though, I’ve been compelled to look into it further, starting with the standard works on the area’s folklore and moving on to more obscure journal articles and local publications.

At this point, I’ve got a growing library of small-press publications, and a map with over four hundred separate locations with detailed notes on the legends connected with each.  So I have to figure out what to do with it.

The idea is not to publish scholarly articles, or even Mythos fiction or gaming material.  I do feel myself in need of a creative outlet, alongside the factual publications on magic.  Most likely it would fall into the present market for folk horror (see the original Wicker Man for the most obvious model, but I’d add such movies as Kill List, Wake Wood, and Curse of the Blair Witch, as well as some of the psychogeographic work of Phil Legard and others).  I’m not quite sure as to the format or the venues yet, but I’ll see if I can’t figure out something to do with it.

I suppose the other option is that I’ll get tired of it and never mention it again.  We’ll see.  Suggestions are welcome.

Published in: on January 1, 2015 at 8:29 pm  Comments (4)  
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2014 in Review

This year has been somewhat quiet on the blog front, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle, by any means.  James, Joe, and I have been wrapping up our notes on the proofs of The Book of Oberon.  It can be a slog at times, but then I think about how our readers will react when they see the immense work for themselves, and it makes it worth it.

Ben Fernee is hard at work on his latest release, so I’ve been making a few minor tweaks to my articles on witch bottles and wax images that should accompany the Bellhouse book.  I have to say, in a marketplace that has so many derivative books churned out, it’s great to be working on material that’s ground-breaking and has a good potential to stand the test of time.

I tooled around for a while seeking my next big project, and I think I’ve found one.  One aspect (and one of many, I should add) is digging back into the Mesopotamian corpus and dealing with aspects of its beliefs and ritual practices not touched upon much in my previous works.  That’s a long-term project, however, so I might not discuss it here for a while.

I’ve got a couple of publications to announce.  First, my chapter on the Book of Dzyan maybe read in the new anthology The Starry Wisdom Library, along with pieces by Ramsey Campbell, F. Paul Wilson, Don Webb, Wilum Pugmire, Donald Tyson, and many, many others.  Second, the third issue of the Arkham Gazette has been successfully Kickstarted, which will bring my brief folkloric article on Goody Fowler into print.

If anyone was anticipating meeting me at NecronomiCon this coming year, another obligation has taken precedence.  Nonetheless, I hope everyone has a great time, and I hope to see all of you at future conventions.

That’s all for now.  Yiggie and I (or rather, I) wish all of you happy holidays and a great new year!

Published in: on December 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm  Comments (1)  

On the Book of Oberon and Bellhouse

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past months working on getting two books off to publishers.

The first was The Book of Oberon, which was a slog on the part of Joe Peterson and I.  We read through the entire manuscript again – I cannot count the number of times this has occurred – looking for more errors, footnotes that needed to be corrected, and bibliographic entries that needed to be added.  I think those who are interested in grimoires will be very happy with this project.  In fact, they’d better be, lest they risk the wrath of “Hekate, goddess of charmery and invocance.”

One teaser for fans of Jake Stratton-Kent’s works:  the book does contain more operations that call upon the four spirit kings associated with the directions.  They’re not along the lines of the material covered in Jake’s books, but they’re in the incantations multiple times nonetheless.

After handing in our changes to Llewellyn, I turned to looking over the bound page proofs for Liverpool cunning man and galvanist William Dawson Bellhouse’s book of magic.  They look something like this (Atlantis Bookshop bookmark not included):

018

For Caduceus, the best way to indicate changes is to mark up the proofs with red ink and send it back.  Readers will be happy to know that my short articles on witch bottles and wax images, to be included, have undergone a metamorphosis into what might be the most comprehensive and thorough works on those topics.  I’m hoping this will attract a much wider scale of readers to the project.

Also, by popular demand, a snake picture:

021Yiggie is over four years old and three feet long.  Having spent a great deal of time learning about her through both books and personal experience, I have realized that this snake is largely dependent upon me and could not survive in the wild.  I had her  on my shoulders just a few minutes ago, and she nearly fell off onto the floor due to poor planning.  I think she is under the mistaken impression that she still has venom, and legs, and other attributes not granted to her by nature.

Confession:  I also tried her on live food a few months ago, due to a change in eating patterns.  I found that the situation led to deep dissatisfaction, as its mildest expression, from participants of three different species.  The outside party has been given to a good home, and we shall close a curtain on the sordid affair.

That’s all for tonight.

 

Published in: on September 18, 2014 at 10:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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A New England Sojourn

I spent part of last week in New England, with Donovan K. Loucks, keeper of the H. P. Lovecraft Website, and his lovely wife Pam.  I arrived on Tuesday, driving up to Providence after work and ending up quite exhausted.

I wasn’t too exhausted, however, to head into Cambridge to visit the Harvard University Archives, trying to obtain some background that might be useful for future projects dealing with the Widener Library.  My carefully-copied archive number turned out to be illusory, but the staff were very helpful in figuring out what documents might be most relevant for my search – although they’d have to be called the next day.  That was fine with me, and I filled out the rest of the afternoon visiting the Boston Public Library to consult old directories to fill out my knowledge of the place in the Twenties.  After that, I returned to Providence to attend Donovan’s birthday party for H. P. Lovecraft, complete with a one-man retelling of “The Call of Cthulhu” by dramatist David Neilsen and Donovan’s own walking-while-sitting tour through Lovecraft’s Providence.  Also, there was cake.

Lovecraft Birthday Cake

The next day, I was back at the Archives, which I finished rather early.  Having learned the previous day of the outrageous parking rates in Cambridge, I realized it was in my best interest to hang out some more, visiting various bookstores and the Peabody Museum.  On my way out of town, I stopped out of curiosity at the Seven Stars bookstore, only to find perhaps the best store for books on the Western mystery traditions in this country.  I walked out with a few items to fill out my collection, including Kenneth Grant’s Outside the Circles of Time, which will give readers some idea of the place’s comprehensiveness.  I then returned to Providence, and my memory fails me as to what occurred that night.

Friday, we all headed out for the North Shore, in order to investigate the places that might have inspired Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”  We headed north and then worked our way south, beginning with a lengthy stopover in Newburyport, and then heading south through Ipswich, Rowley, Essex, Rockport, and Gloucester, with a lengthy detour at the latter to visit the rock formation, Mother Ann, which served as the inspiration for “The Strange High House in the Mist,” despite the lack of mist and the fact that it was neither high nor house-bearing:

242

We made our way back, stopping in Manchester for groceries and a bookstore, and in Salem for Italian food and a nighttime ramble through the Charter Street Burial Ground and past the house that inspired “The Unnameable.”

Saturday, we had had enough of jetting about, so we played games for most of the day.  We couldn’t sort out A Study in Emerald in time, but we did play Elder Signs and quite a bit of Rock Band.  That evening, we headed downtown to visit the Providence Public Library’s Lovecraft Readathon, after which we headed over for Indian food at Waterfire, which was spectacular as always.

WaterFire Providence

After that, we came back to receive a crushing defeat in the game Witch of Salem, in which you must fight back the forces of darkness while assisting Bob, the Witch of Salem.  The game is much like Arkham Horror in that you’re trying to close gates, save that you are unable to communicate to the other players whether a gate exists at a location.  I speculated that the Witch of Salem was a drama queen who enforced our silence to enhance his own self-importance.

The next day, we played some Rock Band and I drove home.  It’s always great to see the Louckses, and this trip raised my number of “stories inspired by sites in Providence” by two, so it was all for the best.

Published in: on August 24, 2014 at 10:59 pm  Comments (2)  

Book of Oberon Available for Pre-Orders, and a Contradiction, and an Unanticipated Amazon Rant

Amazon has The Book of Oberon available for pre-order for $58.50, with the book being scheduled for April of next year.

Also, I’d appreciate suggestions as to companies other than Amazon to whom I can link for books.  The whole affair with Hachette has left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

For the most part, I’ve been appreciative of Amazon over the years.  Having a single distributor that can consistently stock small and mid-level press titles is a great boon for publishers and authors on specialized topics.   There’s certainly negotiation that goes on behind the scenes on the price of particular points, as there is with any other distributor.  Nonetheless, if that distributor decides to make some books harder to obtain than others, all other factors being considered, then that distributor has really failed.  If your job is to sell people books, and you decide to make it harder to do that, then you’re not doing what you’re supposed to.

There’s a lot from Amazon about how much this benefits authors.  Don’t believe them.  If Amazon wants to sell books for well below retail, that’s making less money for the authors.  Hell, when I wanted an e-book copy of my edition of The Long-Lost Friend to read on Kindle, I had to buy it myself.   I’d say that, taking into account the book trade’s standard contracts, the cuts from distributors, the culture of making scanned copies of books free on the Internet, and the various content aggregators that re-market people’s work for their own profit, this may be the period where authors and other content creators are respected less than any other.

Then again, no one’s planning to burn me at the stake, which means I’m ahead of the game.

So, anyone who wants to send me some independent booksellers with excellent shipping to whom I can link when new books come out, I’d appreciate it.  Otherwise, I’ll be sending people to publishers’ websites more.

ADDENDUM:  I’ve had some objections relating to my Amazon position that I’d like to address.  The most common one is that this is simply a negotiation between a distributor and a publisher.  This is true.  Nonetheless, such negotiations can occur without the largest distributor in the world simply deciding to make vast swaths of information mostly unavailable to the public.  That certainly does not serve its customers, and those customers are free to make their decision to shop elsewhere.

Published in: on August 9, 2014 at 9:57 pm  Comments (9)  

Upcoming Radio Appearance

I’ll be appearing on the show “Where Did the Road Go?” this coming Saturday the 9th from 11-12 on WVBR, 93.5 out of Ithaca, New York.    I’ll be talking about Lovecraft, and likely whatever else people might ask.  You can listen online if you’re not local to Ithaca, so check it out.

Published in: on August 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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