Author Archives: John Griogair Bell

About John Griogair Bell

My name is John. I'm the enigmatic supervillain known only, to some, as the Librarian of Hermetic Library. These are my posts on the Hermetic Library Blog.

Hermetic Library Newsletter #150

very entertaining and getting better every day

Howdy everyone! Here’s a public summary of my activity this week ending December 8, 2023 and reminders about some things upcoming!

The big news, of course, is that I’ve released Magick, Music and Ritual 18, the Anthology Album for 2023! I hope you check it out, and consider following along with all the other work by the artists who participated. I’m now, suddenly, also getting ready now for the last three anthology releases leading up to the library’s 30th birthday anniversary in 2026 …

Like Satan Claws, I’ve made a list, and I’m checking it twice; for an upcoming postal exchange! I’m getting things sorted, but I will be sending things to ongoing supporters with a Merch perk, anyone that’s sent me things, and I’m also going to be mailing out the four books to the winners from November’s Weiser Books giveaway. It’s going to be a lot, and I should be getting it all out in the next week, I hope.

With all the stuff around a new anthology release, I didn’t have as much time to do work on the library site, but I did get some things done; also, the usual Sisyphean work on blog and socials continues …

Other than that, the Library Cats and I continue to check in on Gävlebocken every morning, and, for added spice this year, the expanding labor resistance across Scandanavia against Melon Tusk, which is very entertaining and getting better every day.

Thank you for visiting and being a guest of Hermetic Library. You help me be of service and make the work of the library meaningful. Especial thanks to each and every ongoing Patron on Patreon, Subscriber at Bandcamp, and Member on Ko-Fi for making the work of the library possible!

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Space Dreamtime

Space Dreamtime by Kevlar Nuckler from Magick, Music and Ritual 18

Space Dreamtime

A synth bathed spacey ambient guitar instrumental with a beat.

Hermetic Library Anthology Artist Kevlar Nuckler

Kevlar Nuckler is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer known mostly for his guitar work and vocals in Mars Cantina and Ophwurld and bass and vocals with George Orwell Experience. This is his solo recording project.

Follow Kevlar Nuckler via Anthology profile.

Magick Music and Ritual 18 1111px

Death Metal Music

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Death Metal Music: The Passion and Politics of a Subculture [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Natalie J Purcell, part of the Studies in Heavy Metal Music & Culture series.

Purcell Death Metal Music

It is not clear to me why I received this 2003 book as a reviewer copy in 2012, other than that I requested it when it was offered (May 2012). Is it possible that the author’s 2012 book from Routledge (Violence and the Pornographic Imaginary) occasioned some sort of rerelease or even reprint by McFarland? In any case, this book’s quite evident effort to be up-to-date is now nearly a decade stale, and the political conflicts that it seeks to address — centered on the PMRC and Congressional culture scolds of the turn-of-the-millennium — have receded well into the background today. 

Author Purcell was apparently quite young when she wrote this book, which collects and reflects on research that she undertook as a political science student at Seton Hall University. Unfortunately, one effect of her immaturity as a writer appears to have been an overextension of her vocabulary. This book badly needed a proofreader to set Purcell straight when she used devious for deviant, propound for propose, attained for obtained, reactionary for reactive, reputed for reputable, ascribe for subscribe, emasculated for masculinized, evasive for invasive, etc. She also has some dismaying errors of incidental fact, such as characterizing H.P. Lovecraft as a “nineteenth-century author” (40).

Despite some self-criticism regarding her survey methods and the limitations of her study population sample, there’s little methodological reflection here. The methods used are predominantly sociological, but Purcell prudently cautions the reader that the small sample size and ad hoc collection methods limit the generalizations that can be drawn from her own conclusions. Some awareness of latter-day anthropological observation techniques would have been useful to her in this project. What she is most concerned to establish, and for which her method is adequate, is valid doubt of existing generalizations offered by politicians and critics whose own study of the subculture was unquestionably less thorough. 

I appreciated the assortment of pictures in the book, showing musicians and fans. The extensive comparison of death metal with horror cinema in the final chapter was a useful and effective choice. But I would also have been interested in more substantial comparisons with other musical subcultures; Purcell offers only the briefest nods to rap and country music as possible comparanda. She claims believably to have exhausted existing literature on death metal only in the political science field. There were certainly relevant works of music criticism and cultural studies that she overlooked, such as Robert Walser’s Running with the Devil (1993).

Still, I found the read fairly enjoyable. In an epilogue “Personal Reflections on Death Metal,” Purcell opens herself to the charge of being an apologist for the subculture, by confessing her sympathy for it, developed during the course of her study, but germinally having inspired the research in the first place. I find such “reflexivity” in scholarship to be praiseworthy. And, quibbles aside, I tend to agree with her conclusions, from my own anecdotally-formed perspective.

Circles of Stone

Circles of Stone: Weird Tales of Pagan Sites and Ancient Rites [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library], ed Katy Soar, part of the extensive British Library’s Tales of the Weird series, which is available as a subscription.

Soar Circles of Stone

“In the wood the grey stone rose from the grass, and she cried out and ran back in panicked terror. ‘What a silly little girl,’ the nurse had said. ‘It’s only the… stone.’

Standing stones, stone circles, tumps, barrows and ancient clearings still remain across the British Isles, and though their specific significance may be obscured by the passing of time, their strange allure and mysterious energy persist in our collective consciousness.

Assembled here in tribute to these relics of a lost age are accounts of terrifying spirits haunting Stonehenge itself, stories of awful fates for those who impose modernity on the sacred sites and grim tales in which unwitting trespassers into the eternal rites of pagan worship find themselves part of an enduring legacy of blood. To represent the breadth of the sub-genre, authors include Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood and Rosalie Muspratt alongside lesser-known writers from the periodicals and journals of the British Library collections.”

Amy Denio’s Raven Waltz is musical sigilization

Check out Raven Waltz by Amy Denio, a website soundtrack, commissioned by Raven Chronicles Press, which was composed from a kind of musical sigilization technique.

“This composition is based on my musical alphabet, in which each letter is assigned a specific tone. First I come up with a title, then write down what tones those letters spell. The tones can be bass notes, represent chords, or whatever might work to make the tone row musical.

RAVEN spells these notes/chords:
C# / A F# / E / G.
The accordion melody came to me while folding laundry.”

Denio Raven Waltz

Magical and Activist Ancestors

Magical and Activist Ancestors: Exploring Tangled Roots [Amazon, PDF, Online] by Luke Hauser.

Hauser Magical and Activist Ancestors

“Who are these people who call themselves pagans, witches, and workers of magic?

Are they heirs of ancient witchy feminist pagans who survived underground until their rediscovery by Gerald Gardner?Descendants of Goddess-worshiping, Stonehenge-building Druidic Celts? Disciples of Renaissance Hermetical Cabalistic alchemists whose transmutational formulae have eluded interpretation until our very day?

Or is the truth a bit more humble? Are we sometimes more like magpies looking for shiny objects to decorate our spiritual nests?

Does It Really Matter?

Connecting with and honoring the divine and the Earth is a present-day, living relation. It isn’t based on rediscovering or accurately re-creating the past. Today’s practices are grounded in the here and now.

Yet these practices have a past – a past often obscured by layers of colorful legend and wishful thinking. This book is one person’s search for some of the reality behind the myths.

Join Luke Hauser for a fast-paced, illustrated journey through dozens of aspects of our past, from Mesopotamia to British Wicca, from alchemy to divination to herbology. Learn the latest research about the witch trials, Renaissance magic, and the modern pagan revival. There’s even a section on the hippies!

No ancestors were irremediably harmed in the writing of this book.”

America’s White Evangelicals are an Heretical Extremist Death Cult spewing Garbage In, Garbage Out

“Now, members of his father’s congregation wanted to know if Alberta remained a Christian, whether he was ‘still’ on ‘the right side.’ In his eulogy the next day, Alberta urged the Christians before him to seek out ‘discipleship and spiritual formation.’ They could listen to his father’s old sermons, perhaps, or the pastors of the church could help them. ‘Why are you listening to Rush Limbaugh?’ he asked them. ‘Garbage in, garbage out.’ Hours later, a woman handed him a note from a church elder. In it, the elder expressed his disappointment. ‘I was part of an evil plot,’ Alberta recalls, ‘to undermine God’s ordained leader of the United States.’ He was guilty of something ‘tantamount to treason’ against both God and country. If he investigated ‘the deep state’ instead, he ‘would be restored.’ How did his father’s congregation get to this point?”—”America’s White Evangelical Problem

About The Kingdom, The Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Tim Alberta.

Alberta the Kingdom the Power and the Glory
“The award-winning journalist and staff writer for The Atlantic follows up his New York Times bestseller American Carnage with this timely, rigorously reported, and deeply personal examination of the divisions that threaten to destroy the American evangelical movement.

Evangelical Christians are perhaps the most polarizing—and least understood—people living in America today. In his seminal new book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, journalist Tim Alberta, himself a practicing Christian and the son of an evangelical pastor, paints an expansive and profoundly troubling portrait of the American evangelical movement. Through the eyes of televangelists and small-town preachers, celebrity revivalists and everyday churchgoers, Alberta tells the story of a faith cheapened by ephemeral fear, a promise corrupted by partisan subterfuge, and a reputation stained by perpetual scandal.

For millions of conservative Christians, America is their kingdom—a land set apart, a nation uniquely blessed, a people in special covenant with God. This love of country, however, has given way to right-wing nationalist fervor, a reckless blood-and-soil idolatry that trivializes the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Alberta retraces the arc of the modern evangelical movement, placing political and cultural inflection points in the context of church teachings and traditions, explaining how Donald Trump’s presidency and the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated historical trends that long pointed toward disaster. Reporting from half-empty sanctuaries and standing-room-only convention halls across the country, the author documents a growing fracture inside American Christianity and journeys with readers through this strange new environment in which loving your enemies is “woke” and owning the libs is the answer to WWJD.

Accessing the highest echelons of the American evangelical movement, Alberta investigates the ways in which conservative Christians have pursued, exercised, and often abused power in the name of securing this earthly kingdom. He highlights the battles evangelicals are fighting—and the weapons of their warfare—to demonstrate the disconnect from scripture: Contra the dictates of the New Testament, today’s believers are struggling mightily against flesh and blood, eyes fixed on the here and now, desperate for a power that is frivolous and fleeting. Lingering at the intersection of real cultural displacement and perceived religious persecution, Alberta portrays a rapidly secularizing America that has come to distrust the evangelical church, and weaves together present-day narratives of individual pastors and their churches as they confront the twin challenges of lost status and diminished standing.

Sifting through the wreckage—pastors broken, congregations battered, believers losing their religion because of sex scandals and political schemes—Alberta asks: If the American evangelical movement has ceased to glorify God, what is its purpose?”

“She fought GOP board on censorship, then took oath on stack of banned books as new president”

From the Not All Heroes Wear Capes dept.

Hermetic Library Omnium She Fought Gop Board on Censorship Then Took Oath on Stack of Banned Books as New President 7dec2023

“While most of the newly sworn in members to the Central Bucks school board chose to swear their oaths on a bible, incumbent Karen Smith brought a stack of books to Monday’s meeting. Smith stood out at the Dec. 4 reorganization meeting as she took her oath of office with her hand placed on top of six frequently banned and challenged books. Smith, who would be named president of the board, and the other Democrats on the board have long cried foul as the former GOP-majority forged ahead with controversial library policy that critics said was a defacto book ban.”—”She fought GOP board on censorship, then took oath on stack of banned books as new president.”

Hermetic Library Omnium She Fought Gop Board on Censorship Then Took Oath on Stack of Banned Books as New President 7dec2023 Books

Night, Elie Weisel
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
Donna Gephart, Lily and Dunkin
Curato, Flamer
Johnson, All Boys Aren’t Blue
Kuklin, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

Freud’s Last Session

Freud’s Last Session, dir Matthew Brown, with Matthew Goode, Anthony Hopkins, and Jodi Balfour, due January 2024; based on the play Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain; suggested by The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Armand Nicholi Jr.

Watch FREUD’S LAST SESSION | Official Trailer (2023)

“London, September 3rd, 1939. The world is on the brink of war.

In his final days, Sigmund Freud, a recent escapee with his daughter from the Nazi regime, receives a visit from the formidable Oxford Don C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia). On this day, two of the greatest minds of the twentieth century intimately engage in a monumental session over the belief in the future of mankind and the existence of God.”

Brown Freuds Last Session Poster

Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain.

St Germain Freuds Last Session

The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Armand Nicholi Jr.

Nicholi the Question of God