Category Archives: Hermetic Library Reading Room

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism in a broad sense, and Aleister Crowley’s Thelema. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Elements of Ritual

Catherine Noble reviews The Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water & Earth in the Wiccan Circle by Deborah Lipp in the Bkwyrm archive.

In a market of spellbooks, Wicca 101 guides, and witchy-coolness, the appearance of Lipp’s book is a startling breath of fresh air. From start to finish, Elements of Ritual walks the reader through every step of a Wiccan ritual. It is not, however, telling us what words we have to recite or what gestures are required. Instead, it is an in- depth guide to the meaning of each step. Lipp reminds us that whether we are writing our own rituals or repeating something taught, the gestures mean very little on their own, becoming truly energized only once we understand them.

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Not a clichéd horned jinn, you understand, but a daunting, invisible entity that defied the laws of physics: it could slip in and out of time, could swap its senses, hear out of its nostrils, smell with its eyes. It could even fly like the tales of yore said.

Usman T Malik, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn


Ben Trafford reviews Ecstasies: Deciphering The Witches’ Sabbath by Carlo Ginzburg in the Bkwyrm archive.

The debate has raged in the occult community for the last forty years or so, and longer in the anthropological community: were the witches in Europe merely the victims of Christian hysteria, or were they the secret keepers of preChristian beliefs? Margaret Murray’s work on this topic has been largely debunked, as has Robert Graves. The Gardnerian history is still a hot topic, and of course, anyone who claims to have maintained some hereditary tradition is usually scoffed at, rightly. But Ginzburg’s work lets us look at the whole question in a new light. Like most good scholars, he’s meticulously unearthed evidence to show that the polarized views are, as usual, wrong.

Ginzburg maintains, and provides powerful evidence, to say that there were remnants of preChristian practices. He does agree that many of those who suffered under the witch trials were wrongly accused Christian folk, and he doesn’t support the idea of a knowing, secret priesthood who maintained unaltered preChristian belief systems. What he posits is far more interesting, and viable. He puts forth that the remnants of the pagan faiths were maintained in an evolving form by the peasantry, and grew to suit their needs. Like the Irish Catholic who still leaves milk out for the wee folk, these people believed themselves to be Christian, but practiced some rituals that certainly wouldn’t have been condoned in a church!

A brilliant piece of work, and well worth reading. The translation from the original Italian is quite good, too. I’ve read both, and heartily recommend either.

A final note: Ginzburg’s focus is almost exclusively continental Europe. He doesn’t touch on the British Isles at all.

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“Look up there,” he said, pointing an unsteady finger at a gap in the clouds exposing the universe, a lone far frosty star. “Infinity. There must be something in all that to fill us.”

Ramsey Campbell, Demons by Daylight

Some things could go to pot, but not his health, he thought. Then why don’t you stop pouring alcohol into yourself? he thought. Why don’t you shut the hell up? he thought.

Richard Matheson, I Am Legend

Dune: House Atreides

Julianus reviews Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson in the Bkwyrm archive.

This is, of course, a prequel to Frank Herbert’s classic saga, written by his son. You really have to feel for Brian here, since he really can’t win as he sets himself to add on to one of the most complex and beloved novels of the century. As far as I’m concerned Frank Herbert himself never really did a proper job on his own sequels, so what hope do we have here?

Set about forty years before the events of Dune, this is basically a collection of interconnected narratives about the characters it that book and how they got where they were. Leto Atreides is a teenager being sent to an allied world for his education, Vladimir Harkonnen is thin (!) but still his familiar decadent self, Shaddam is an impatient Crown Prince, and the Bene Gesserit are just beginning to arrange the conception of Jessica. There is no real plot holding all this together, just threads leading to the start of the original novel.

The real problem here is that despite all the best efforts the whole book just feels wrong. Many of the events seem quite outlandish, the characters are way too familiar with secrets that were/will be hidden from them in Dune, and worst of all they talk wrong. In Frank’s novel we were transported to a milieu that was far removed from our own where people had very different attitudes and manners. Brian and Kevin make them talk like Americans and they even use catch-phrases like “think outside the box!”

If you’re a Dune fanatic you will probably want to read this, but I’d suggest you borrow a copy and save your money for something better.

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