Author Archives: John Griogair Bell

About John Griogair Bell

My name is John. I'm the enigmatic super villain, known only, to some, as the Librarian.

This Is Not An Anthology Album -2

This Is Not An Hermetic Library Anthology Album -2 is a special alternative issue in 2020 released today exclusively for Patrons on Patreon and Subscribers on Bandcamp, ongoing supporters of Hermetic Library.

This Is Not An Hermetic Library Anthology Album -2 subscriber and patron exclusive by Hermetic Library in 2020

Please join the Hermetic Library in promoting these artists who have contributed their work to this benefit anthology album project. Please also spread the word about these anthology albums to people you think may be interested in the work of artists who combine magick, music and ritual.

Be sure to also check out the entire Hermetic Library Anthology project, all the previous releases; and consider becoming a Patron or Subscriber to pick up the digital download of this album and help support the work of the library!

The full tracklist for this exclusive consists of 5 tracks by 4 artists:

  1. Jericho Button – Wode 07:41
  2. King Venus – Inhumite 06:07
  3. Mishorka – Eventide 03:19
  4. Mishorka – Hekate 02:56
  5. The Arcanauts – Moonflower Waltz 06:03

This Is Not An Hermetic Library Anthology Album -2 is a special alternative release in 2020 just for Patrons and Subscribers of Hermetic Library. This playlist, presented in no particular order, has 5 tracks by 4 artists, all new voices to the project this year.

An essay about Moonflower Waltz by David Moore / The Arcanauts is also included as a bonus download along with this issue.

For 2020, I decided to ask for two submissions as part of the call for participation in another attempt this year, after a hiatus, at releasing Magick, Music and Ritual 15. One submission each for the regular anthology issue along with another specifically for this additional release in 2020. So with extra gratitude their way, those who were kind enough to submit additional material, here is this special new issue exclusive to Subscribers on Bandcamp and Patrons on Patreon. This, then, is a thank you gift just for those who offer their ongoing support for the library and my work as the librarian, from both myself and these artists.

To both participants and supporters, I say happy and hearty Thanksgiving day, and, moreover, thank you, thank you, thank you!

The Hermetic Library at Hermetic.com has an overall vision of Archiving, Engaging and Encouraging the living Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism, and Aleister Crowley’s Thelema for over 20 years. I started the benefit anthology project to help promote newer works in the Esoteric Tradition to the audience of the Hermetic Library and beyond. The anthology project also further raises awareness about the corpus and culture of magick and ritual.

I encourage you to check out the Hermetic Library at Hermetic.com, if you aren’t already familiar with it, as that’s the reason this project exists and may also offer inspiration to you. The site was started in 1996 and has ever since consistently been an extremely popular resource for students and researchers interested in the Esoteric Tradition.

Hermetic Library
Anthology Project
Become a Patron
Become a Subscriber

Production and Design by John Griogair Bell

All songs used with permission. All rights reserved.

The Dragonslayer

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Bone: The Dragonslayer [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Jeff Smith, book 4 of the Bone series.

Smith Bone The Dragonslayer

Phoney Bone is the primary actor in this segment of the Bone story, although for all his scheming, he is out of his depth, as usual. It is unclear until the end of the volume, whether he is accidentally helping the heroes, or unwittingly harming them. Thorn advances toward maturity and purposefulness, and not a minute too soon. On the whole, this stretch is somewhat tense and plot-heavy.

War in Heaven

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews War in Heaven [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Charles Williams.

Williams War in Heaven

I lucked into a cache of Charles Williams volumes at a public library book sale recently: in addition to War in Heaven, I picked up The Greater TrumpsDescent into Hell, and All Hallows’ Eve, each for fifty cents. I’d been meaning to read Williams for quite a while–besides knowing of his Inklings fame and esoteric affiliations, he came recommended by a professor I’d studied with, whose taste in literature I had reason to approve. Aside from the discovery of a murder on page one, War in Heaven starts out rather slow and very English, reminding me almost of the class-conscious domesticity of Ada Leverson. But once the story finds its legs, it is a very lively read. 

The general premise of the novel is that the holy grail has passed into long anonymity in a small village church in England, but that a ruthless Satanist has identified it and seeks to appropriate it to his own ends. A series of “coincidences” (obviously not) rally a set of defenders to the grail, even as the antagonist’s plans become more elaborate and extensive. Williams’ participation in A.E. Waite’s schismatic Golden Dawn group seems to have provided him with sufficient education to write with sound verisimilitude regarding both malign sorcery and beneficent magick. The only technical clinker occurs when he once writes “pentagon” for “pentagram.” (73)

I’m especially impressed by the depth which Williams gives to his villains–quite unusual in explicitly Christian fiction in my experience. He’s managed to identify quite a variety of ways to be evil, and to set these types into fascinating interaction with one another. And I’m somewhat charmed by his beatific archdeacon. When writing dialogue, Williams has an ear for etiquette (kept and violated), as well as a talent for the ominous and the numinous. That talent is shown to great effect at the end of Chapter 5 “The Chemist’s Shop” and in the various encounters with the Young Man in Grey. 

First published at least a couple of years before the earliest of Dennis Wheatley’s “occult thrillers,” this book was doubtless an influence on the latter. The similarities between War in Heaven and The Devil Rides Out are quite extensive. A later line of books that also seems to have drawn inspiration from War In Heaven is Susan Cooper’s terrific juvenile fantasy series “The Dark Is Rising.” I don’t know if Williams was a great reader of the fantasies of fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis’ “master” George MacDonald, but I think War in Heaven deserves comparison with MacDonald’s work better than any of Lewis’ novels do. There is also certainly a whiff of Arthur Machen here, unsurprising in light of their common occult interests.

To be sure, some will find the plot of this novel somewhat unsatisfying. The ending provides a considerable dose of deus ex machina, and it also involves a liturgical rapture which will not resonate with all readers. As Williams has one of his own characters say of churchgoing, “It is a means…. If you do not use it, it is a pity to bother about it; if you do, it is a pity not to use it.” (249)

The Last Ritual

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Last Ritual [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by S A Sidor, cover by John Coulthart, part of the Arkham Horror series.

Sidor Coulthart The Last Ritual

The Last Ritual is the second of a series of novels set in the Arkham Horror game milieu and published by Aconyte Books. Like the first, it features a protagonist who is not one of the stable of player character investigators from the games, along with important cameo appearances from established investigators–in this case, Preston Fairmont, Calvin Wright, and Norman Withers. The principal character of The Last Ritual is artist painter Alden Oakes, a scion of the French Hill Arkham elite.

This tale is set in the 1920s, and the prose offers no howling anachronisms, but the telling shows influences of more recent horror fiction. At the same time, the imposition of a frame story in which Oakes narrates his horrific experiences to a cub journalist put me in mind of 19th-century horror greats Poe and Bierce. Although Oakes starts his tale in France, the bulk of it revolves around a modest number of locations in Arkham, Massachusetts. The charismatic Surrealist Juan Hugo Balthazarr serves as a focus for enigmatic menace.

The mood and pacing of this novel is very different from its predecessor The Wrath of N’Kai. Where the earlier book had a real pulp adventure feel, despite its supernatural elements and shady settings, The Last Ritual is definitely weird horror through and through. Oakes is no hardened he-man, and his epistemological inadequacies lead to vacillating personal loyalties as well as profound fear and confusion. Author Sidor resists clarifying for the reader any number of the painter’s strange experiences, and the outcome of the story is not at all like the one in the other book.

Incidentally, you might think from seeing online images of the excellent cover art by John Coulthart that the cover is a shiny foil affair, but it is in fact a flat matte cover with clever art deco styling in suggestive hues. The building that dominates the cover is the Silver Gate Hotel, around which much of the story revolves.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, and found it to be one of the best in the various Arkham Horror fiction series.