Review: Jake Stratton-Kent’s Pandemonium

Many readers will be familiar with the list of seventy-two spirits that constitutes the Goetia section of the Lesser Key of Solomon.  Some may know of other such lists – published in Johann Weyer’s De praestigiis daemonum, Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, the Grimorium Verum, and even in The Book of Oberon itself.  Until now, however, no comprehensive examination of these spirits and how they might relate to each other.  Jake Stratton-Kent’s new book from Hadean Press, Pandemonium: A Discordant Concordance of Diverse Spirit Catalogues, is the first attempt to do so.

The book begins with a new English translation of “Le Livre des Esperitz,” a French treatise held at Cambridge’s Trinity College O.8.29, by Mallorie Vaudoise.  The inclusion of this document, which describes forty-six spirits in a manner similar to the Goetia, makes the book an important resource for anyone interested in these spirit hierarchies.

Jake then moves to an examination of various parts of the spirit hierarchy, first dealing with the trinity of spirits that oversee the rest, the spirits of the seven days of the week, the kings of the four directions, and the multitude of other spirits that follow them.  At the minimum, each of these spirits receives a chart showing their appearances in a number of different sources, their Goetic seal (if any), their illustration in de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal (if any), their description in Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, and notes regarding their appearance.  Many of these spirits merit a greater amount of treatment, however, and the author does not disappoint.

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.  He makes a number of discoveries and raises hypotheses that can be checked as new texts are discovered and compared to this work.  So this is a major step forward when it comes to charting the spirit world of late medieval and early Renaissance magic.

It does bear noting, however, that this book is aimed at practitioners and not scholars, which leads to some choices that favor one group over another. I can’t necessarily fault the book for doing so, but it does bear mentioning.

For instance, the spirit listings, after the initial trinity of rulers, weekly spirits, and four kings, follow the order in Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia daemonum. Nonetheless, the charts list the spirits based upon their appearance in Weyer’s work, but the text quoted in the entries is from Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft.  Then we often have the seal from the Goetia.

From a practitioner’s point of view, it makes sense to put everything together in this way, so all the information about a spirit is in one place.  From a scholarly perspective, it conflates these sources in ways that are not always helpful.  For example, Scot’s text is quite similar to Weyer’s, but there are certainly differences between the two.  (Given how conscientious Jake is, I’m guessing that swapping Scot for Weyer’s work was only done in extremis.)  Further, the inclusion of Goetic seals may give the impression that these are common elements of such spirit lists, when we have examples both with the seals and many without.  If you want to understand what’s in the original manuscripts, this approach elides the differences between them and – ironically – pushes the Goetia into a prominence that the book as a whole seeks to take away from it.

It should also be noted that the spirit lists are not necessarily the only material in ritual magic texts that discusses the names and offices of spirits.  Some are full-fledged rites to summon particular ones, while others are brief notes, sometimes only of names, but at other times giving additional information about purposes or planetary or elemental attributes.  Indeed, a short list of the queen of fairies and the seven fairy sisters occupies a point in The Book of Oberon between two items discussed in the book.  This does not diminish the importance of Jake’s work, but noting it is important in terms of understanding these books in their entirety.

Readers should note that Jake does assume a certain amount of familiarity with a good number of ritual magic texts, most of which have been previously printed.  If you’ve regularly purchased the books I recommend here, for instance, you’ll be well on your way.  I wonder if a few pages devoted to discussing the history and significance of the main texts with which he deals might have made for a book that was accessible to more people.  For example, I had to find the collection and manuscript number for the translated work myself.  Then again, this is not a mass market book by any means, nor should it be expected to be one.

Still, the specialized nature of this work narrows the market of potential buyers.  I can see it of particular interest to those who want to see how various published grimoires fit together in terms of their shared spiritual universe, or practitioners who want to understand the context of their operations.  Both groups should be quite happy with what Pandemonium offers.

 

 

Published in: on January 27, 2017 at 2:49 pm  Comments (2)  

John Harries’ Book of Incantations

I’m trying something to see if it works out: embedding a manuscript from the Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, or National Library of Wales.  The work is the notebook of John Harries (c. 1785-1839), a cunning man of Cwrty-Cadno, Carmarthenshire.

Most of the book consists of materials taken from elsewhere, but the first treatise is a handwritten version of the Goetia which seems to include some seals not present elsewhere.  I offer it for your appreciation – just don’t ask me to pronounce any of the Welsh words above.

https://viewer.library.wales/build/lib/embed.js/* wordpress fix */

Update: No luck with the embed, so just try this link.

Published in: on January 9, 2017 at 1:07 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 Next Project

Given that I’ve announced it elsewhere, I might as well divulge it here.

I’m working on an edition of Bodleian Library’s manuscript e Musaeo 173.  e Mus. 173 is a short collection of magical operations, shorter than, but very much in line with, the magical miscellany published in The Book of Oberon.  It passed through the hands of Thomas Allen, a mathematician, astrologer, Catholic sympathizer, and purported magician of Oxford’s Gloucester Hall before being donated to the library.

The contracts are signed with Llewellyn, and James Clark is on board as our illustrator.

Right now, I’ve transcribed the document, modernized the English text, and inserted the red text.  I’m about halfway through an initial rough translation of the Latin text, which makes up a quarter of the manuscript.

The manuscript is due in a year, and I intend to put it to good use.

Please leave any questions or comments below.

Published in: on December 16, 2016 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Upcoming Release: Pandemonium, by Jake Stratton-Kent

Pre-orders are now open at Hadean Press for Jake Stratton-Kent’s latest book, Pandemonium: A Discordant Concordance of Diverse Spirit Catalogues.  A summary:

PANDEMONIUM by Jake Stratton-Kent is truly a first of its kind, and a necessity for the further development of traditional magic in a modern context. While not intended to be the last word, it opens up territory that demands further examination. It starts with the first English translation of a major spirit catalogue and ends with an appendix redefining ‘traditional’ grimoirists. Sandwiched between these is a comparative survey of several important spirit catalogues, which is much more than ‘a dictionary of demons’. Totally geared to emergent practice, leading us away from the prevalent focus on ‘tools and rules’, authors and manuscripts, towards a developing relationship with the dramatis personæ essential to the whole tradition.

In PANDEMONIUM Jake Stratton-Kent offers a comparative study of the spirits of Le Livre des Esperitz, the Grand Grimoire, the Book of Offices, the German Honorius, Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, the Goetia of Solomon, Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, and more. In doing so he explores the Trinitas, the spirits of the seven days, the spirit council, the four Kings, eighteen-ness, the Long Text Group, and ghosts in the machine.

Published in: on December 5, 2016 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  

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)  

Cyprian and Faust – New Books

I’ve been working a great deal on my next project, so most of my energy has gone into that rather than blogging.  We have two new books – one released, one upcoming – which should be of interest to Papers readers.

The first is a new release from Rubedo Press, Cypriana: Old World, which is devoted to the magician-turned-saint whose devotion has seen a revival among many magical practitioners recently.  We have articles by Al Cummins, Jesse Hathaway, José Leitão, and others dealing with Cyprian, stretching from Antioch to Iberia to Scandinavia.  (Full disclosure: I was invited to contribute, but I couldn’t get something ready in time.  I’m very much enjoying what I’ve read so far, though.)

The second is an Indiegogo campaign for A Compendium of Unnatural Black Magic, new translations of six books from the Faustian tradition from Enodia Press, released in hardback.  The project has already funded, so you should be good to go if you’d like to order it.

That’s all for now!

Published in: on October 14, 2016 at 1:35 pm  Comments (5)  

My English/Cornish Adventure, Part 4

So last time, I came to the end of my first of two days with a car.   On my second day, I decided to roam about a bit more.

My first stop was the ruined chapel at Roche Rock.  It’s an interesting trip.  You’re driving around in a small town, going into small subdivisions and passing through a tiny town center.  You drive down a side road and suddenly see this:

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Roche Rock bears a ruined chapel to St. Michael the Archangel, built in the fifteenth century.  It is said that Tregeagle, the reputed ghost, wizard, and giant, once cheated the hounds of Hell by sticking his head through the small window you can see in the wall of the chapel, so he had holy sanctuary.

The next site was the spectacular hilltop of Carn Brea, just outside Redruth.  It does have some Neolithic and Iron Age sites, but most of those are well overgrown.  Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile for two reasons.  The first is the impressive rock formations that loom over the landscape, such as the Giant’s Head.

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The second are two follies, monuments erected by the rich for their amusement or to keep the local people occupied.  The first of these is the Bassett Monument at the top of the hill, erected in 1836 by public subscription in honor of Baron Francis Basset.

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The second is Carn Brea Castle, also erected by the Basset family on the former site of a chapel.  There’s supposed to be a great Jordanian restaurant there, but apparently it’s only open by appointment and for at least four guests.  (Something to arrange in advance for my next trip, perhaps?)

 

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I spent some time hiking around on the top of the hill, taking in the gorgeous views, before I decided to head to other sites later that day.

Published in: on September 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm  Comments (1)