The Manual of Harmonics of Nicomachus the Pythagorean

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews The Manual of Harmonics of Nicomachus the Pythagorean by Nicomachus of Gerasa, translation and commentary by Flora R Levin in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Nicomachus Levin The Manual of Harmonics

The Manual of Harmonics, an introduction to musical theory by the Pythagorean philosopher Nicomachus of Gerasa, forms part of Phanes Press’ continuing project of publishing important texts in the Pythagorean and Neoplatonic traditions. Music held a central place in Pythagorean thought, as a bridge between the apparent abstractions of mathematics and proportion, on the one hand, and the realm of sensory experience on the other, and an ancient handbook of musical theory from one of the major figures in the Pythagorean tradition is thus a useful contribution.

Nicomachus’ manual itself is a fairly brief document, a summary of basic concepts in ancient musical theory. Lewin’s extensive and able commentary on each chapter, however, goes considerably beyond this, relating the manual to its contexts in musical theory and science, in Pythagorean thought, and in the life and culture of the ancient world. Manual and commentary together form what is quite probably the best introduction available to this subject. The book as a whole is scholarly but accessible to the nonspecialist, and deserves the attention of anyone interested in the Pythagorean tradition or the philosophical and esoteric aspects of music.

Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Cicero Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition

For more than half a century, the system of magic presented in Israel Regardie’s epochal collection of Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn documents, The Golden Dawn, has been essentially the standard method of magical work in the English-speaking world. Most other books on magical subjects borrow from it liberally, to the extent that it’s possible to find works purporting to be about Norse neopaganism (to give only one of many possible examples) which use slightly rewritten versions of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, the Middle Pillar exercise, and similar Golden Dawn technical methods. Some of this borrowing is simple plagiarism, and more is a somewhat less discreditable effort to rework Golden Dawn technique to fit different symbolic, religious and political stances.

Some, on the other hand, derives from the extreme unwieldiness and the sometimes fragmentary nature of the Golden Dawn material as Regardie presented it. The Golden Dawn is more of an archive than a textbook; it’s possible to extract the meat of the Order’s system of training from the husk of knowledge lectures, ritual texts and often rambling documents in the collection, but there’s a good deal of work involved. As a result, there have been a number of attempts to produce an introduction to the Golden Dawn system designed specifically for the beginning student.

Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition is the most substantial of these to appear so far. Intended as a complete curriculum of study for the Outer Order work of the Golden Dawn system, it contains solo versions of the grade rituals from Neophyte through Portal, greatly expanded versions of the Order’s knowledge lectures, and additional instruction on topics such as alchemy and astrology. The material for each grade also includes practical exercises and meditations, a reading list, and an examination on the grade teachings.

To describe this book as comprehensive may be an understatement. The Ciceros earned a reputation for thoroughness with their last book, Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, which explored the working tools and equipment of the Golden Dawn system in exhaustive detail, and this new release will do nothing to detract from it. Despite the sheer volume, however, the lessons are well paced and well organized, and should be well within the power of beginners to assimilate; the authors’ experience as chiefs of a working temple shows here.

It should be noted, however, that this book is indeed intended for beginners, and readers who have already worked their way through Regardie’s Golden Dawn and other works on the Order’s system are unlikely to find much new in it. A work of instruction rather than, say, history, it smooths over some of the discontinuities between the original Golden Dawn system and its current form; for example, although a great deal of basic astrological information is given, the fact that the Order had its own distinct system of astrology — a system differing sharply in some respects from the common form which the Ciceros give here — is nowhere mentioned.

Still, these are ultimately issues of genre, not of the work itself. Within the limits of what this book attempts to do, it succeeds well.

Summary for two weeks ending June 2nd, 2019

Here’s a summary of activity for two weeks ending June 2, 2019.

New servers continue to hum along. I’ve seen much increased performance across the site since the migration, and that’s fantastic. It really was getting bad there in a number of ways, and this new server is so much better! The stress and pain of moving seems to have been completely worth it.

A stack of The Essadi Emissary newsletter from the Mahmoud Memorial Itinerant Temple, currently in Thailand, arrived at the library, and I’ve got those ready to head out to Patrons with the Postal Exchange perk, as of the end of May, and will be sent via post this week.

The Essadi Emissary Postal Exchange May 2019

This last week I also announced the call for submissions to Magick, Music and Ritual 15, the Hermetic Library Anthology Album for 2019. Every year, to be honest, feels special, and these are one of the highlights of my year; but, this year, is the 50th anniversary of my birth and the 10th year I’ve been Librarian of Hermetic Library. I feel like this issue of the anthology is really a celebration for me of all that’s happened to get to this point, all the hard work, all the setbacks, all the successes. It’s been, as they say, a long strange trip. I hope the journey with the library continues another 10 years!

Hermetic Library Anthology 2019 Magick Music and Ritual 15 Call for Submissions

I already had one submission, which arrived before the call posted, so I hope that bodes well for participation this year!

Another small milestone is the 5 year anniversary of Hrmtc Underground BBS. I talk about that and a little bit of shuffling of categories in a post to Meta. BBS still doesn’t have a critical mass necessary for a thriving community, but it does serve several purposes, not the least of which is as a discussion area for posts on the Hermetic Library blog.

The fact that the BBS has an ongoing purpose has had me thinking a bit more about the Chat server I’ve been running for a while. I’m thinking of closing that down. It isn’t really being used much and just doesn’t serve a purpose. I had fun ideas for the voice chat space that would have been self-sufficient reasons to exist but those never panned out. But, to be fair, there’s more activity there now, comparatively, than there has been. So, I’ve struggled over whether to give it more time.

Ultimately, I suppose it could continue as a space for chit chat, but pretty much anything that the chat server is doing right now can be done on the BBS. The only truly unique thing is the ability to do voice chat, which I’d always hoped would become a space for live conferences, presentations, interviews, classes, and soever. But, I’m coming to realise that just isn’t going to happen, as I tried in the past to facilitate and encourage in the past but haven’t tried to do again. I think I should focus on the BBS.

To be clear, I’m not concerned about popularity, but the purpose of the place to the overall mission of the library. I mean, let’s be honest: if popularity were my goal, then I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

So, I think, unless I’m convinced otherwise, I will be closing the chat server at the end of June and encouraging everyone there to head over to the BBS instead! The BBS is where it’s at! Long live the BBS!

Hermetic Library Hrmtc Underground BBS

Still looking for help and others to join me in a working community around the library, of course.

Lots of new pages and work on old pages on the site, which is pretty much every week, really. You can always check the front page of the site which shows the most recent changes and new pages, or check out the Recent Changes special page for a full list.

Want to join me on this blog and create new art or writing for Hermetic Library? Pitch your Idea.

Help get some conversations started over on the BBS and in Chat.

Be sure to check out the actual Hermetic Library, and subscribe on Bandcamp or become a Patron.

Here’s a summary of posts on the blog from these last few weeks

A Natural History of Hell

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford.

Ford A Natural History of Hell

This book is an excellent collection of thirteen short stories by Jeffrey Ford. There is a lot of variety among the stories, with a few actually having to do with “hell” or “the devil.” A couple are science fiction. There are two in which Ford represents himself as a narrating character, so that they recount stories supposedly told to him. Most could be classed as supernatural horror, although none are exactly typical of the genre. All are memorable and worth reading.

Out of the thirteen, “The Angel Seems” was the one that most reminded me of Ford’s Well-Built City trilogy, and it almost seemed as if it could have been placed in that unusual fantasy world. “Blood Drive” is a story about high school, set in the near future when first published in 2013, and now looking disturbingly prescient. There is a tale of fairies (“The Fairy Enterprise”), a ghost story (“The Thyme Fiend”), and a piece of sword and sorcery (“Spirits of Salt”). The longest story in the collection features Emily Dickinson as its protagonist.

The cover of the paperback edition boasts a blurb from Joyce Carol Oates in which she praises Ford as “beautifully disorienting.” His fantasy constantly raises epistemological questions, but in the most matter-of-fact ways. Although I had read a number of his short stories before (including one of these), this was the first time I’ve read a full volume of them, and the experience was very satisfying.

Hermetic Library album call for 2019 submissions

Today I am announcing the 2019 call for submissions for Magick, Music and Ritual 15, the next anthology album of tracks by artists inspired by or who incorporate ritual and magick in their work. These anthology albums help promote artists to the audience of the Hermetic Library and beyond. These albums raise awareness about the connection between ritual, music and magick. And, they are a mass of awesome fun.

Magick, Music and Ritual 15 will be the 2019 release from the Anthology Project. The deadline for submissions to the 2019 anthology album is September 30th, 2019. Be sure to stay tuned to the blog, social media, and the pages for the Hermetic Library anthology project for reminders and updates along the way.

Hermetic Library Anthology 2019 Magick Music Ritual Call for Submissions


Deadline for submissions is September 30th, 2019. Release is planned around the anniversary of the Hermetic Library’s birth on Dec 3rd, 1996.

Be sure to read through the terms and conditions for artist submissions to an anthology album (which includes some new and more specific information about acceptable file formats), and after that if you have any questions, comments or wish to contribute to this project; contact the librarian.

Please consider joining Hermetic Library in promoting your work by contributing to this benefit anthology album project. All proceeds from album sales will support the library to help cover hosting costs, materials acquisitions, and other expenses.


Check out all the previously released anthology albums, help spread the word about the Hermetic Library anthology project, and let those you think may be interested know about this new opportunity to participate.


Cover Artwork and Design

If you would like to make a proposal for the artwork and design of this anthology, please get in touch! Take a gander at all the other covers and consider joining the illustrious artists who have participated with their work on those anthologies.

Subscriber-Only EP

This year I’d like to create a subscriber-only EP as a special additional perk for those people who have subscribed to Hermetic Library on Bandcamp. This will be a few tracks on an exclusive release just for subscribers that will be released in addition to the 2019 anthology.

Bonus Download Submissions

If you are creating something else, and would like to be included in the anthology download as a bonus, let me know. I’m open to bonus artwork, essay, articles and … well, anything that can be included in a digital download!

Become a Patron or Subscriber

The best ways to add anthology releases and this upcoming Hermetic Library album to your personal music collection is to become an ongoing Patron at Patreon or Subscriber at Bandcamp. Patrons and Subscribers will each be offered a gratis download code for each new release while they are active in addition to other patronage rewards they may receive, and that ends up being the most cost effective way to get these albums. New Patrons and Subscribers get immediate access to a back catalog release, which means a full album when they sign up, and another when the new anthology is released. Consider becoming a Patron today!

The Last Days of Magic

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic by Jason Aaron, Chris Bachelo, & al.

Aaron Bachelo Doctor Strange The Last Days of Magic

This volume collects issues 6 through 10 of the recent Doctor Strange comic book, detailing the culmination of Strange’s battle against the Imperator and his Empirikul army, along with the standalone Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic which belongs between issues 6 and 7. The latter in particular features a range of minor magic-powered superheroes. Jason Aaron’s writing plays up the pathos of the destruction of magic, but is sometimes quite funny. Chris Bachalo’s art is solid.

Zelda Stanton, the librarian whom Strange has taken on as an assistant, has several important roles to play in this plot arc. The flavor of the thing as a whole reminded me of the David Tennant Doctor Who episode “The Last of the Time Lords,” with Zelda in the Martha Jones role.

Finding the right expression is always a fight: The writer in him wages battle against the editor; one is bold, the other—doubtful. They struggle inside him for control of his pen; one—to write, the other—to cross out.

Uvi Poznansky and Zeev Kachel, Home

Hermetic quote Poznansky Zeev Home fight

Omnium Gatherum: May 30, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for May 30, 2019

If you’d like to participate, head over to Omnium Gatherum on the BBS, or suggest something.

  • The Light Extended: A Journal of the Golden Dawn. Volume 1. Chic Cicero, Sandra Tabitha Cicero, & al., due June, from Kerubim Press

    Cicero Kerubim Press The Light Extended volume 1

    “Taking its name from the rituals of the Order of the Golden Dawn, this journal aims to extend the light through information, offering a combination of unpublished original order documents and new material from prominent voices in the esoteric world today. With a unique mix of scholarly articles and practical advice, this book provides an essential resource for those interested in the Golden Dawn system of magic.

    Topics include the Qlippoth, Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, the Lord of the Universe, a Stella Matutina Ritual for Influencing a Person for Good, the Body of Light, the 42 Assessors, Hekas Hekas Este Bebeloi, Skrying, Thelema’s relationship with the Golden Dawn, the Assumption of Godforms, a Fire Tablet Ritual, and the Enochian letters.

    With contributions from: Chic Cicero and S. Tabatha Cicero, Samuel Scarborough, Frater YShY, Tony Fuller, Jayne Gibson, Adam P. Forrest, Soror DPF, Alex Sumner, Frater D, M. Isidora Forrest, Darcy Küntz, and Frater Yechidah.”

  • Tweet by Ally Maynard

  • The Yazidis’ Secret Children” — BBC News

    “It is estimated that 80% of the Yazidi women rescued from the dying days of the so-called Islamic State have had children with their jihadi captors.

    They were kidnapped from the the Yazidi community five years ago, but are not allowed to return until they abandon their children born during IS-captivity.

    Over the last year, BBC Persian correspondent Nafiseh Kohnavard has been following the story of one of these Yazidi women, forced to choose between her child and her community.”

  • Yazidi women struggle to return to daily life after enduring Islamic State brutality” — PBS NewsHour

    “Yazidi women, who were sold as sex slaves by Islamic State militants, are now returning to their families from formerly ISIS-controlled territories. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson visits the Yazidi religious community in Iraq to hear the stories of these survivors and what they are doing to move on with their lives.”

  • Creating the magical womb” — Brandy Williams, Star & Snake; about Williams’ own Star Garnet ritual

    “The ritual of the Star Garnet creates an energy container. It uses the Greek term ‘delphus’ to describe this. The Greek city of Delphi contained the omphalos or pivot of the world. In this context the delphus or magical womb is the pivot in the human energy body.

    This operation does not require the magician to be any physical gender or have a physical womb, anyone can engage in the operation. There are numerous benefits to an operation which provides a delphus to bodies of every gender. It places the power to direct the operation in the hands of the operator. Sex magick binaries often include the idea of an active and a passive partner; this operation assumes each magician as active. Some sex magick directs the benefit of an operation with a partner to just one of the partners, usually but not always the male partner, while the Star Garnet directly benefits the operator.

    I have been performing this operation for twenty years. About five years ago I started talking about it and have taught it around the U.S. The Star Garnet is rooted in the Western Magical Tradition and is fairly new, but it is a member of a magical family of operations that women and men have performed around the world for thousands of years. It is a nurturing and effective operation for physical and spiritual renewal. It explicitly acknowledges that the power to renew ourselves lies within all of us in every physical and subtle body.”

  • “America Lodge No. 55 Freemasonry for Women” Making History on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery” — Lou P Elias, PR release [HT Gregory B Stewart]

    “On Memorial Day at 4:00 PM at the Women’s Memorial in Arlington national Cemetery, America Lodge No. 57 of Women Freemasons made its first public appearance in honor of the women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States and Freedom.”

  • Tweet by sententiae antiquae

  • Book review: Kabbalah: Secrecy, Scandal And The Soul, by Harry Freedman — Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman; a review of Kabbalah: Secrecy, Scandal and the Soul by Harry Freedman

    Freedman Kabbalah

    “There is something indisputably glorious about the kind of book that can take in Paracelsus, Moses Maimonides, Ramon Llull, author of the The Great Art and mystical engineer, Count Pico della Mirandola, Isaac Newton, the angel Metatron, the strange and tragic uprising of Shabbetai Tzvi, who thought he was the Messiah and yet converted to Islam, the golem of Prague, Aleister Crowley, Madonna (the singer, rather than the Blessed Virgin) and Princess Eugenie.”

Tarot Tales

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Tarot Tales edited by Rachel Pollack and Caitlin Matthews.

Pollack Matthews Tarot Tales

I was excited to discover this old mass-market paperback fantasy anthology in a secondhand bookshop, where it had been mistakenly (?) shelved with the occult books. It includes some of my very favorite English fantasy authors, including Michael Moorcock, M. John Harrison, and Robert Irwin. The third of these usually isn’t even classed as a genre fantasist, and an even more surprising author to see in the mix was Irwin’s fellow Orientalist scholar Peter Lamborn Wilson! Editors Caitlin Matthews and Rachel Pollack have solid credentials as Tarot savants and authors of fiction both, and each contributes a worthwhile story to the book.

All of the individual stories were commissioned for this volume, and I have not seen any of them published elsewhere. The editors’ stipulation was that Tarot should be used in the process of composing each tale. Despite the odd “Chapter One, “Chapter Two” in the story headings (but not the table of contents), there is no continuity of narrative, no shared characters, and no significantly overlapping settings among any of the stories. A few are science fiction, several are overt extensions or reinterpretations of ancient myth, and one or two are firmly in the horror genre. Moorcock’s contribution “Hanging the Fool” is a 20th-century installment of his Von Bek metatext with no supernatural elements at all, and with a nod to H. Rider Haggard. Two of the stories, “Rembrandts of Things Past” by Sheila Finch and “The Devil’s Picturebook” by R.J. Stewart, operate in a theological (as opposed to mythic) register, and I found them weaker for it.

On the whole, the tales in this volume are sophisticated and engaging. More than a few of the stories have Tarot diviners or experimenters as characters, and a handful have subsections named after trumps or other Tarot cards. In her introduction, Pollack cites Calvino’s Castle of Crossed Destinies as precedent for the sort of work included here, but the presence of Tarot in these stories is more varied and often more subtle than in Calvino’s book. The collection was first published in England in 1989, and my copy is the subsequent US release. I don’t think it’s seen a printing in the 21st century, but it’s a solid collection that I will easily recommend to those who share my tastes in fiction.