Heralded by no less an authority that Aleister Crowley as “a noble and most notable prophesy of Life’s fair future,” this novel recounts the return of the Old Gods to an English village sometime in the late 19th century. Told from the point of view of the local Church of England Vicar, it begins humbly enough. A not-terribly-bright boy makes panpipes from some reeds and plays them in the forests of an evening and from there the entire valley is slowly brought to the worship of Pan. Dunsany’s eye for the significance of small actions- or omissions- and his prose, less lofty that his earlier works but still marvelous to read, make this the perfect literary counterpart to “The Wicker Man.” One strongly suspects that Gerald Gardner had a copy on his bookshelf and all good Pagans should hope that this comes back into print.
A feminist Jungian interpretation of Lilith, this book is a fun and interesting read and can serve to spark an interest in Lilith for those with no background on her. It is, however, not of much use to those wanting to do scholarly research into Lilith or even just for those seeking a general overview of Lilith. Koltuv falls into the trap that many Jungians do of not clearly distinguishing archetypal connections and historical connections between things which leads her to make claims that are simply not sustainable historically, such as claiming that Lilith appears in Teutonic mythology. (The closest thing to this claim would be her appearing in Ashkenazic myth, which is hardly the same thing as Teutonic.) Also, she engages in the same baseless gender essentialism as do most Jungians, only this time it’s from a feminist perspective instead of the more standard one. The book is not entirely useless, however–it collects many interesting images, as well as fascinating excerpts of various works. Not all of these images and excerpts are directly connected to Lilith, however, and the reader should not assume that they are merely by their being included in this book.
Ingeborg Svea Norden reviews The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle: The Viking Runes with Stones: 10th Anniversary Edition by Ralph H Blum in the Bkwyrm archive.
To people seriously interested in the runes, this one has become infamous. The research is way out in left field, depending heavily on non-Germanic religious texts and Blum’s personal experience with divination. Most other authors I’ve read would disagree violently with his interpretations of the runes: his notes on Thurisaz, for instance, say the exact opposite of Gundarsson’s or Aswynn’s. Maybe one of my current rune students had the best idea: “When I get home, I’m throwing that book in the trash!” Blum is also the author of “Rune Play,” which is just as bad as his first book.
Maxomenos reviews The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, from the Bkwyrm archive.
If you only use one book of magick in your entire study, this is the one to use. If you are Wiccan, and you only buy one book on the magick of “old dead white men” in your entire life, this is the book to get. If you are a Thelemite, this book should be required reading, since this is where Crowley got his most important ritual, the Great Work.
Abramelin, like Gaul, is divided into three parts. The first part is the story of how Abraham, the ostensible author, came upon a man named Abramelin and this, his system of magick. Abraham spends plenty of time describing all of his endeavors, including having done magickal favors for a number of Emperors. He admonishes his son Lamech not to use this system for vain purposes. In the third part, he gives a number of talismans, in the form of magic squares, which are used for various purposes, from scrying to changing the weather. The real meat of this book, however, is in the second part. Here, Abraham gives details of a ritual for invoking and communing with one’s Holy Guardian Angel. (This parallels the Shamanic practise of the totem quest. In Wicca, this is practised in lesser version by means of the Sabbats and Esbats.) This is the Great Work which Crowley mentions, and which he used as the basis for his Liber Seketh.
This ritual has many significant restrictions, the least of which is the age requirement: one should be no younger than 25 and no older than 50 years of age. According to my sources, these numbers originate from an astrological mistake: the actual age range should be between the first and second Saturn returns, that is, between 30 and 60. I have my doubts about this since the Operation is supposed to be independent of Astrological influences; more likely it is a matter having a magician who is old enough to have acquired some wisdom and young enough to have the physical stamina to perform the operation. If this is true, then I doubt that 25 enough of a lower bound for most people.
A brief note on the magic squares in the third part: the squares all consist of arrangements of letters in grids, such as the example below:
M I L O N
I R A G O
L A M A L
O G A R I
N O L I M
The form of these tables carries many advantages which most talismans, such as those found in The Key of Solomon, in that they are simple to produce, easy to display as ASCII (note to persons wishing to research magick via computer), and for the most part innocuous. A layman would probably recognize a Goetic talisman immediately but not an Abramelin one. However, I believe that many of the talismans are incomplete. I am not precisely sure how one should complete them.
Bkwyrm reviews The Cauldron of Change: Myths, Mysteries and Magick of the Goddess by De-Anna Alba in the Bkwyrm archive.
Dianic Wicca. “Thealogy”, ethics, magic, tools, groups, ritual construction, and actual rituals. Systematic explanation of what Dianic Wicca is and how it works, with information about why people join Dianic Wicca. An interesting introduction to the Dianic trad, and it contains enough rituals to give the reader a feel for what Dianics actually do. However, these rituals are really elaborate and should be read with the understanding that this is pretty formal stuff for Dianics, not necessarily what they do in a weekly circle. Short bibliography contains some pretty interesting works.
This is possibly the most unique novel I’ve read in years. Our hero (if we may call him that,) is a sort of hard-boiled European private detective with a remarkable specialty: he works for an exclusive handful of antiquarian book dealers and collectors, usually to “acquire” rare books and manuscripts “by whatever means necessary.” He is hired by one dealer to authenticate a manuscript chapter of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, then a rich collector hires him for what should be a more difficult job concerning The Book of the Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Darkness, which is said to contain the secret of summoning the Devil. The author of this work swore just before the Inquisition burned him at the stake that only one copy existed, so why are no less than three listed in the bibliographies? Our hero’s task is to determine which, if any, of the three is genuine and finding it, to get it however he can.
During the course of the narrative it turns out that these two jobs are not as unrelated as they may appear. We encounter the strange world of rapacious collector, unscrupulous dealers, impoverished noblemen desperately trying to retain their ancestral libraries, famous occultists, restorers who are not above a little forgery on the side, a mysterious young woman who may be an Angel or the Devil or a character out of Sherlock Holmes, several people who take Dumas’ novel VERY seriously, and a disconcerting number of characters who turn up inconveniently dead. This is a first-rate mystery with many twists and an ending as satisfying as it is unexpected.
Julianus reviews The Complete Pegāna: All the Tales Pertaining to the Fabulous Realm of Pegāna by Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Baron Dunsany, edited by S T Joshi, in the Bkwyrm archive.
In the year 1904 e.v. an English Gentleman, big-game hunter and chess enthusiast created a new mythology; and no, I don’t mean Crowley. The gentleman in question was Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, eighteenth Baron Dunsany (1878 – 1957) and the book was The Gods of Pegāna. Dunsany created the first original mythology in English literature since William Blake and his work had tremendous influence on H.P. Lovecraft. Crowley was also passionately devoted to Dunsany’s work and got him to contribute a short story to the Equinox.
Dunsany generally wrote everything in a single draft with a quill pen and his prose style is unique. Brilliant and musical, it truly seems more like a newly-discovered scripture than a literary production. Fate and Chance, Gods large and small, heroes and prophets, Time and Death are all unveiled in glory and tragedy. Only Clark Ashton Smith, one of Lovecraft’s literary comrades, can approach Dunsany’s mastery of the short fantasy.
The present volume contains all the stories from The Gods of Pegāna as well as its sequel, Time and the Gods (1906,) along with three later stories on the theme. These books have not been reprinted in their entirety in eighty years and one may hope that more of Dunsany’s massive corpus, which includes over fifty volumes of fiction, drama (he once had four plays on Broadway at once,) poetry and autobiography, will follow.