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  

Review – Black Letter Press Petit Albert

Today I’ll be reviewing the Petit Albert as issued by Black Letter Press and translated by Paul Summers Young. For a caveat on Young, see this post. The two other editions above are the Ouroboros Press edition (purchase link, review), and the Spellbook of Marie Laveau from Hadean (now OOP, review here).

I’m not going to spend too much time on the significance of the Petit Albert – you can check out my writeup at the last link. Also, what follows is not a systematic read of each recipe in each book. Rather, I covered the magical sections of the Black Letter Press edition – I assume you didn’t want the soap recipes – and also dipped into the material from the Hadean and Ouroboros editions, the French edition dated 1752, and some entries from the Trésor de la langue française informatisé from time to time as I went. Much of what I have to say would be superseded by a fluent bilingual reviewer.

The book itself- visible at the upper left above – is quite an attractive book, with its bright blue binding, gold foil pentacle, and cloth bookmark. I’m not sure if I’m fond of the black on dark blue color scheme myself, especially with regard to the spine. Perhaps making more use of brighter cloth colors or gold or silver lettering might be considered for future releases?

Young’s translation covers essentially the same material as in the other two translations. I did notice more problems with the omission of certain passages, and I wanted to quickly address what I think is going on here. It doesn’t happen often, so I don’t see it as a deliberate effort to cut material for space. Rather, it seems that Mr. Young’s translation technique occasionally overlooks a passage and doesn’t catch it later on. I think it would be an easy fix.

I left my last review of the Ouroboros / Hadean editions without any strong feelings one way or another – and I’m in the same place right now. I think the Hadean’s footnotes on the word choices put it slightly ahead, and the Black Letter edition’s occasional omissions slightly behind, but neither are major factors. There’s still an opportunity here for an English translation that takes quality up another notch, and I look forward to it appearing someday.

Published in: on March 30, 2021 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Prepping Le Petit Albert Review, Trolls Galore, Magical Exorcism, The Book of Four Wizards

As you can see above, I’m working on that review of the Black Letter edition of Le Petit Albert, with some examination of other translations. It might not be a full-text review – reading them same text three times is exhausting – but I think it will give people a good idea as to whether they want this book.

Ármann Jakobsson has posted an e-text of his book The Troll Inside You: Paranormal Activity in the Medieval North to his Academia account. If you like what you see, please think about purchasing a print copy.

Agostino Taumaturgo has recently posted on his blog about the curious magical/exorcistic (I use this term with some caution, as the line is not always clear) rite from Bayerische Staatsbibliothek CLM 10085. If you’d like a printed edition with French commentary from the publisher SISMEL, you can find one here.

(I actually did visit the SISMEL offices while I was in Florence – if stopping by on a weekend when they were closed can be considered “visiting.”)

The post’s author has also released a book on Medieval Rituals of Catholic Exorcism, which I have received but not yet read as of yet.

I’m going back to work on the introduction to The Book of Four Wizards. Part of it is turning into an assertion of the importance of manuscript research, which I’m not entirely certain is necessary in the present clime. I’ll give some thought about whether to cut it.

Take care, everyone.

Published in: on March 22, 2021 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – The Magic of Rogues

Penn State University Press has recently supplemented its excellent Magic in History series with a Magic in History Sourcebooks series, dedicated to publishing primary texts on magic in relatively cheap editions. (This is somewhat confusing, as texts published in the long-standing main series might also fall under that format.) The first work in the series that provides ritual magic texts is Frank Klaassen and Sharon Hubbs Wright’s The Magic of Rogues. It won’t be released in print until April 15, but the electronic version has been out for at least a month. I wish I’d known about it when finishing up my last article.

This relatively short work provides two early sixteenth-century case studies of magicians who ran afoul of legal troubles. The first deals with the Worcestershire nobleman William Neville, who consulted numerous cunning folk in order to gain influence over powerful people and determine whether he would gain his father’s lands. The second concerns a conspiracy of local clergy and secular individuals to treasure hunt near Mixindale. As can be expected, neither of these went well – although those new to the material might be surprised at how light the penalties were and how little interest the authorities had in pursuing their investigations beyond the immediate situation.

For both such cases, Klaassen and Wright provide both legal and magical documentation. The legal documents include the indictments and the testimony of multiple individuals for each of the cases. Following these are segments from magical texts that cover operations with similar purposes. It would be better to magical texts used by the participants, but it’s rare to find anything like this in Britain, in my experience. Both include translations from the Latin (although the Latin itself is not provided), with modernized spelling and some changes to wording for modern sensibilities. The latter can be questionable sometimes, but in this case, each instance is footnoted, and I completely agree with each one of these editorial insertions.

I’m not the best person to comment on the magical texts, as much of the material for the second part comes from Bodleian e Mus. 173, which I published as Of Angels, Demons, and Spirits. What appears here are not so much entire manuscripts as illustrative examples of particular aspects of magical practice. Your tastes may vary, but what I found of interest are instructions for the creation of talismans of Jupiter, with a list of several usages for different purposes, and a fifteenth-century procedure for calling up the four demonic kings. Another reader might find some answers here. The presentation is excellent and thorough – I can see the solution to at least one unresolved question from my own text – and the editors have even made sure to include the illustrations, which other editors might pass over.

I do have a few small quibbles with the text. For starters, Folger V.b.26 is repeatedly referred to as V.b.28. Also, at one point Oberion is referred to as a “demon.” This is not always the case; I have instances in which Oberion is referred to as a spirit, a fairy, or an angel, but not as a demon, save in the legal articles of accusations against Sir James Richardson presented here. (In fact, the term “demon” is little used in the material I’m examining at all, with the more neutral term “spirit” being preferred.) This is largely a question of interpretation rather than fact, however.

This text admirably succeeds in its task of providing a window for non-specialists into primary texts detailing the lives of early sixteenth-century necromancers and their practice. As for those who want magical texts, this does not include a large number, but the texts chosen are of interest and probably worth it for the price.

Published in: on March 13, 2021 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – A Modern User’s Guide to the Black Pullet

Newcomb Black Pullet

You all probably thought I’d never get around to this, did you? Indeed, Papers is a blog of its word, even if that word is spoken many months away from the deed.

I’ve dealt with the Poule Noire, or the Black Pullet in previous posts, including recently posting a review of the Black Letter Press edition. (If you aren’t familiar with the original, I’d suggest reading the background there first.) Now we have A Modern User’s Guide to The Black Pullet from Jason Augustus Newcomb, who has written several books dealing with magic which I cannot say I have read. The book was originally funded through an Indiegogo page, where it did not fund completely but seems to have been delivered nonetheless. The work is not available on his website, although one can find many of the talismans and a circle intended for use with it.

This paperback volume – apparently the Indiegogo featured a limited-edition color hardcover – includes a lengthy section on the Black Pullet‘s history and methods for magicians to work with it, followed by a new translation of the work from the French. The whole is rounded out with five appendices providing various ancillary materials. It does not include an original French text, a bibliography, an index, or (oddly) pages that are numbered on both sides, but it does include a good number of footnotes.

The first section of the book is over seventy pages, which might have been better served broken up into short chapters. Most of this part is dedicated to considerations regarding performing ceremonial or ritual magic in general and the Black Pullet’s operations in particular. It’s likely most of this will be familiar to the book’s intended audience, but I’m not always the best judge of such things. To his credit, Newcomb does observe that it’s difficult for a modern magician to enter into the mental mindset of a person from centuries ago, which is an important point when approaching such books.

Within Newcomb’s system, ritual magic consists of ten fundamental steps, starting with preliminary procedures and ending with the license to depart. Newcomb is aware that the Black Pullet does not include all of these, and indeed many magical texts do not, which he says is “either because they wish to veil the information from the reader or more often, because they assume the reader is already well versed in the correct procedures” (p. 16) He passed over the other possibility: that some of these are not included because they were not followed. For example, Step 8, “Testing the Spirit,” is present in Dee and Gilbert’s diaries, but it’s largely lacking from most grimoires – and it would be the sort of process that would impel magicians to write down various tactics and tricks if it was a common concern. I’m not going to tell practitioners not to take such steps if they think they’re vital to the practice, of course.

Newcomb also deals with the history of the various versions of the Black Pullet that have appeared, including the Poule Noire, Trésor du Vieillard des Pyramides, Le Génie et le Vieillard des Pyramides, and another short text entitled Poule Noire that usually accompanies the Veritable Dragon Rouge. His case, that the Poule Noire is the original text from which the others are derived, is a plausible one. I would be more cautious than Newcomb in insisting on the importance of original publication dates, in a genre for which manuscripts and ephemeral publications have been so important. Newcomb observes that many of the talismans from the Trésor are taken freely from a published 1750 Clavis, and I’d have liked to see an analysis of the possible origins of the Poule Noire talismans as well. Nonetheless, it’s a starting point for future explorations.

After this lengthy section comes the translation itself. It seems fine and unremarkable to me – save for a curious decision about translation regarding the spirits our magician commands, translating them as “jinni.” Why?

I translate the French word génie almost exclusively as “jinni” in these pages simply because I believe it is the word least likely to cause confusion, and it fits with the Middle-Eastern tone of this work… (p. 17)

…throughout this work I am generally going to use the word “jinni” instead of “genius” or “genie.” I am doing so despite of the popularity of the word “jinni” in “haunted ring” circles or its mixed associations within the Islamic world. If we are to take any part of the “young soldier’s” story seriously, then “jinni” is the most likely term that the “old man” of the Pyramids was using, and we will leave it at that. (p. 28)

I will definitely not leave it at that. The narrative surrounding the Black Pullet is, as Newcomb admits, a fabrication likely deriving from popular interest in Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in order to lend an air of exoticism to a French magical text. One cannot use the questionable Orientalism from a two-century old document to justify a contemporary choice to use questionable Orientalist terminology that, by the translator’s own admission, doesn’t reflect how the word is used as part of living cultures or how the reader or practitioner’s associations might shift due to this particular translation.

I’m not going to perform a detailed look at the various editions, but I did page through this book, the Weiser edition, Young’s Black Letter Press edition, and this French edition of the Poule Noire to get some idea. Having looked at one or two talismans and the procedure for creating the black pullet, I feel that the Weiser and Newcomb editions were comparable. Young omits some of the framing material, and there are a couple of puzzling decisions made in his text, none of which really affect the procedure much. If someone fluent in both French and English would perform a detailed read of all of these, however, that would be a much better judge of quality.

As for the five appendices, two are various rituals and methods for a practitioner to approach the material in the book. The third is a translation of the shorter Poule Noire text accompanying the Dragon Rouge, as mentioned above, followed with a short section on the occult significance of haggling and chicken eggs. The final one includes some sections from the occult novel Comte de Gabalis, which Newcomb points out as being similar to passages from the Poule Noire. The case would be more compelling if he included the original French texts; otherwise, it’s unclear how much of the similarity derives from the translator’s decisions.

Overall, I think practitioners and those interested in the book’s history will prefer this edition., The Black Letter Press edition is far ahead in presentation (I haven’t seen the Indiegogo color hardcover, so I won’t pass judgment on how that fits in). Finally, the Weiser edition is best for those who want a cheap available copy.

What do you want to see next? Go to my Twitter poll and let me know!

Published in: on February 20, 2021 at 7:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Hadean Press Production Schedule, Enodia Releases, Hellfire Ads, Book Theft, Book of Four Wizards, Upcoming Reviews

Precious Apothecary, Cecil Williamson’s Book of Spells, Black Letter edition of the Petit Albert

Now, for the ongoing disappointment of everyone who showed up for Pendragon content – I start talking about books of magic again!

Hadean Press has dropped a neat publication schedule for 2021, including hardcover books on runes, Yoruba religion (EDIT: Al reminds me this one is on Vodou), the Arbatel, and narratives in charms. I’d suggest looking at their pamphlet lines as well if you order from them.

Enodia Press is accepting pre-orders for the first volume of the Key of Necromancy, for those of you who didn’t get the first printing.

Hellfire Books is running ads on Facebook for titles and a “lifetime membership” of some sort. I find the large number of likes and small number of entirely positive comments to be interesting. My present policy is to buy Hellfire products only if I encounter copies physically, which I don’t anticipate doing any time soon.

Clifford Low pointed me to a Patheos article on the theft of occult and pagan books from public libraries. Its prevalence is largely based on anecdotal data, so I think there’s an interesting project there for some enterprising librarian seeking publication. I think it’s unlikely that any of my readers are tempted to engage in such behavior, but acquiring, cataloging, and preparing books for the shelf is an intensive task with expenses well beyond a book’s retail price.

I’m back to the Book of Four Wizards. This week’s project was examining a magical inscription around the edge of a circle and realizing it was taken from a ninth-century prayer of protection in battle. Sort of. I’m getting close to the end… Aside from some points that need to be re-examined. And writing an introduction. And working with S. Aldarnay on the illustrations. So there’s still a good bit to do.

I am actually reading Newcomb’s book on the Black Pullet, and I’ve put the next three possible titles I might want to read afterward in the picture above. (The bookmarks do indicate that I’ve already made forays into that.) Any one you’d particularly like to see?

Published in: on February 13, 2021 at 4:55 pm  Comments (2)  

“Wokeness” and Pendragon

Knight from Pendragon Rulebook

I was asked about the desire of some players of Pendragon to play characters who are not necessarily white, male, Christian, heterosexual, upper class people in the comments to my last post. I think it’s an interesting question, so I’m going to write another post about it. 

Let’s begin with an issue of my own making, because of an aspect of the game I omitted: Pendragon’s setting draws on history, legend, folklore, and literature from many different periods to differing degrees, and encourages GMs to do the same. Greg Stafford did draw heavily from Mallory, but he wasn’t afraid to dip into some unpublished French manuscript or steal a scene from Excalibur if it was what worked. 

Among all of that, there are certainly opportunities to play all sorts of knights of different genders, backgrounds, faiths, and sexual orientations. These are not anomalies – most were built into the official game at one point or another. Early on, Greg allowed pagan knights out of player concerns as to playing Christian warriors, and the rulebook started discussing the possibility of women as knights way back in 1990. This is not to say this inclusion is always done thoroughly or particularly well. Still, bringing in players who might not want to play what they see as the “default” in an Arthurian literature game has been key to the system from the beginning.

And sometimes they just need to be brought in. For example, my Pendragon groups have begun with most characters being pagan, because they feel more comfortable with that. As time goes on, however, some of them create Christian characters, because they feel comfortable with trying them out. I don’t know how to analyze this, but I think that being open to accommodating other people may lead them to reach out similarly. 

One other note about wokeness. I’ve always found that whatever dangers may arise from attempts to be inclusive are a distant second to those that arise from its absence. I have a recent example from Pendragon that establishes this.

A few months ago, Chaosium released a quick start that also reflected the changes in the upcoming sixth edition rules. It sparked off considerable controversy in the fan community, with some people very angry about what they were seeing. Why? Because the quick start adventure mentioned the possibility that female knights might be characters, and a statement that the art of Pendragon books from this point forward would include more women in armor.

Yes, the rulebook suggested how to include women as knights back in 1990. That artwork at the top of this page? From the current rulebook. Will the rules be changing anything about their inclusion? Not really – it remains at the group’s discretion.

Yet we have had some people furious because an upcoming book might have slightly different art that harms no one and has no impact on their lives or leisure time activities, but that might encourage other people to buy the book and play the game. Those are the people who worry me, frankly.

It might be best to end with a dimly-remembered anecdote from a lost message board about Greg Stafford. Someone once told him, “I won’t play Pendragon until I can play a lesbian Jewish knight.” Greg said, “Come over next Tuesday!”

Published in: on February 8, 2021 at 8:34 pm  Comments (6)  

Review – The Pendragon RPG

The Great Pendragon Campaign and 5.2 edition Pendragon rulebook

I had a request on Facebook to talk a bit about Pendragon, so I’ll give it a shot. Those who showed up for something else will have to wait until next time.

The Pendragon role-playing game was first published by Chaosium in 1985, as one of the grand works by Greg Stafford, perhaps better known for creating the world of Glorantha. It has appeared in multiple editions over the years, with the “sixth” (Chaosium editions often have questionable numbering) being slated for release soon.

We cannot discuss Pendragon without also bringing up the Great Pendragon Campaign. A shorter version was published along with the first edition of the game, but 2006 saw the release of the GPC, a massive campaign taking your players over eight decades, from the midpoint of King Uther’s reign to the Battle of Camlann. The book was so huge that some supplemental material, even the index, had to be omitted. The current thought is to re-release it as multiple volumes, to which I’m looking forward. It’s the killer app to Pendragon, so it’s hard to discuss one without the other.

I can say that I’m very happy with the system behind this game. Pendragon take the BRP skill-based percentile system and chops it down into a d20 system, using only the d6 and d20 as its dice. Within this system, most people will have a 1 in 20 chance of rolling a critical, and an equal chance of rolling a fumble, on each roll, reflecting the swings of fortune from the literature.

On top of skills, Pendragon adds Traits, which can guide or compel characters in their actions while still allowing for player autonomy, and Passions, which cause characters to be swept up in their emotions and gain bonuses to their skills for a short time. Given that all the characters are knights, this means the main differences between them are based on their heritage and personalities, driving the roleplaying. Amazing successes, terrible failures, and making the character’s emotional states matter in terms of mechanics – all of this makes Pendragon a good choice for system for modern, Critical Role-inspired gaming styles.

(Also, just to be clear, your characters can play those really high-and-mighty chivalric knights, but the game acknowledges that’s a high standard that most players can’t reach. Thus, players are more likely to play ordinary schlubs with odd personality quirks and hang-ups, who get in their own adventures while Lancelot and Tristram and Gawaine are off on their quests. And the GPC still provides opportunities for those characters to be significant in the larger stories of the game.)

Pendragon also encourages a structure of “one session equals one year.” Have you ever had the experience in D&D in which your characters go on multiple adventures and ascend to the heights of their power, all within about a month and a half? Pendragon slows down everything. Magical healing is rare, and healing is slow, so a knight will often be out for weeks after a combat. This is not a disadvantage – it means that everything slows down, allowing for relationships to build, world-shaping events to occur (through the GPC), and marriage and children take on great importance. A long-running campaign will often move to playing the children and grandchildren of the original knights, who may bring in the Traits and Passions of their parents.

The strengths of Pendragon are largely due to the amazing job that Greg Stafford did on the book. Some of its downsides come from that singular vision as well. Some key rules – especially dealing with marriage and child survival – are relegated to supplements, thus leading to that sheaf of papers visible in the rulebook above. We also get some odd situations, like Greg deciding to rename most of the locations with non-Anglo-Saxon names in some supplements for a while, causing a lot of paging back and forth. I’m not bitter.

The other major downside comes from the source material. That’s not because you need to be an Arthurian scholar to play or run the game; that might give you some additional insights, but it’s hardly necessary. It’s that much of the Arthurian literature was written about characters who were European in origin, Christian, male, heteronormative, and products of a hereditary nobility. Today many players are not one or more of those categories, and might have understandable objections to having to play someone of one of them. How can a GM decide if this game would be right for their group?

It depends upon the objections. Pendragon does a good job of providing a setting that shows toleration to both Christian and pagan faiths in Britain, although the rules tend to favor Christians due to the overlap of Christian and chivalric traits. If you want to be another faith, you might check out The Book of Knights and Ladies. The rules try to deal with women as knights – not that well, I think – but some handwaving can make them work. In a game in which heredity is important, it’s good to look at options for LGBTQ characters to be able to perpetuate their households, whether by adoption or magic (especially as the latter amounts to handwavium in this edition). The game system is set up to mechanically favor Cymric/”Celtic” characters, but Knights and Ladies allows characters to come from a wider geographical range. Class – well, you can just forget about removing class without tossing out a lot of the game and most of the GPC, so I wish you the best if you want to try.

One aspect of the rules is the usage of the Hate (group of people) passion. For the most part, this is aimed at Saxons, who I think we can agree did all right overall in the world later. It can apply to the Picts as well, but I don’t know how many people identify as Pictish these days. Then we bring in the Irish and the Welsh… and it might generate problems. It’s worth thinking about your group and whether using these passions is worth the risk.

In terms of RPG logistics, while the game is probably best with about four players – in line with the default party size of most recent D&D rules – it requires probably about four hours to run a single year successfully, assuming that the year is uneventful. Gaming sessions seem to have gotten shorter over time on average, so that’s another factor to consider.

At any rate, it’s a game I love and enjoy. If you decide to play it, I recommend picking up the Book of Feasts and the cards that go with it. It’s not necessary – just a lot of fun.

If you’ve had your own experiences with Pendragon, or have more questions, please let me know.

Published in: on February 7, 2021 at 3:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Precious Apothecary Release, Shipping, Brexit, Golden Hoard, and Witch Bottles

Gardback’s Trolldom, Great Pendragon Campaign, Sibly Clavis, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Cecil Williamson’s Book of Witchcraft

The temperature outside is freezing in upstate, so I hope you’re warmer where you are.

Avalonia, with whom I’ve published in the past, has released the latest book by Cyprianic specialist José Leitão, Precious Apothecary. A quick note:

Precious Apothecary is a translation of Botica Preciosa, a Catholic Grimoire compiled by Ângelo de Sequeira Ribeiro do Prado (1707-1776) who was perhaps the most important Brazilian missionary in history. The Botica Preciosa (1754) was his first book and is a collection of prayers, devotions and exercises to the Lady of the Rock and 120 other Saints. Suffused with the author’s missionary purpose the book also contains the consecrations and blessings for oils, flowers, statues and food, as well as exorcisms and prayers for many ailments intended for situations where no priests were available.

A few notes for collectors and book lovers: The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has led to some difficulties that you should be aware of. International shipping rates have gone up substantially in many cases, making it problematic to make small-scale orders – such as used books – without paying major markups. Most specifically for grimoire collectors, Stephen Skinner announced that Golden Hoard books – including the upcoming Volume 2 of the Ars Notoria – cannot be shipped from them directly and will need to be ordered from Llewellyn and Amazon instead. I hope this situation is only temporary for them.

And then, there’s Brexit. (Yay, more politics!) As part of the New Year’s Brexit decision-making, the UK government decided to require overseas businesses shipping to UK customers to collect Value Added Tax up front, requiring a business to create an account with their government to do so. (Full disclosure: apparently the EU is going to do the same thing in a year and a half, but they’re planning to exempt orders under a certain amount.) Thus, unless a small press or bookseller does a great deal of UK business, they will likely choose simply not to ship to customers there instead of navigating the logistical headaches of it.

(Note: Friend of the blog Steve points out that most printed materials are exempted from VAT, so we shouldn’t have a problem here for most book sales. I would still question how this might affect other products that might be offered alongside these. My message below still stands.)

My overall message: this is a time when both customers and booksellers should keep an eye on shipping rates and regulations, and – gasp! – advocate to their government for what works best for them. Unlike other goods, it is often hard to simply replace one book with another, so such restrictions can have long-term negative impacts on scholarship and the exchange of ideas.

I’m setting aside the Book of Four Wizards for a week or so to revise the witch bottle book released in Caduceus’ Bellhouse set. I’ve had people ask me about it, so I think it might be time to see if I can’t prep it for a wider audience. We’ll see how it goes.

Published in: on January 31, 2021 at 3:52 pm  Comments (3)  

This Week’s Books, the Elucidarium Elucidated, Book of Four Wizards, Gaming Update

Books I’m Working With Lately

I hope you’ve had happy and restful holidays, and that the new year will be kinder to you than the last one.

The above books are among some with which I’m working at the moment. I’d like to highlight two. The first is the Belanger’s 10th Anniversary edition of the Dictionary of Demons (issued by one of my publishers). A few years ago I wrote a series looking at different articles from different demonic dictionaries. I thought I’d posted my closing recommendations, but apparently I never did. That makes it easier for me to say, “this one,” as it’s been expanded with material from many grimoires that have gained more recent prominence.

The one that has been taking much of my energy is Alexandra Walsham’s The Reformation of the Landscape, a study of views, attitudes, and practices connected with one’s surroundings across the British isles, stretching from the earliest recorded history to about 1750. I’m reading it for a paper I’m working on, but it also checks off a lot of different boxes for me – folklore, psychogeography, matters Cornish, Arthurian legends, and so much more.

Apparently there’s been quite a bit of work ongoing regarding the Elucidarium Necromantiae attributed to Pietro d’Abano, a precursor to the Heptameron. You can catch up on it in this Glitch Bottle podcast, and maybe follow the links within to join a group of people trying to learn more.

(Edited to add Book of Four Wizards content) Right now, I’m working on a spirit compulsion that mentoins Rhadamanthus, one of the Greek judges of the underworld. I had seen something similar before in Additional MS. 36,674, so I tracked it down and I’m transcribing it for comparative purposes, working back and forth from my photos (often more clear) and the PDF (shows more of the gutter between the pages).

I’m on a holiday break from RPGs, which gives me some time to catch up on my planning. I’m encountering some of the interesting unstated tensions that these games bring to the table that I don’t see in D&D. For example, Pendragon provides incentives for characters to become chivalric and idealistic, but it also has a set of procedures in Book of the Warlord for officers that encourage them to sell out for wealth. Dungeon Crawl Classics seems like mostly a straight D&D neo-clone on the surface, but the charts for wizards and clerics require or encourage them to build in their own particular goals which the group as a whole must choose to pursue, work in, or ignore, building in extrinsic motivations that GMs would need to build into the plot in other games. It’s been interesting to see how these have played out differently than how I’d thought they would have.

Take care out there, everyone.

Published in: on December 26, 2020 at 7:04 pm  Comments (2)