Tag Archives: Bkwyrm

The Spiral Dance

Bkwyrm reviews The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess: 20th Anniversary Edition [Amazon, Bookshop, Abebooks, Local Library] by Starhawk in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Starhawk The Spiral Dance

A classic. The original is hard to find, most new Wiccans have the updated version. People say that this book is responsible for more covens forming than any other work to date, and I believe it. Starhawk explains the why, where, how, and everything else of Wicca from the perspective of her Reclaiming tradition. Of course, the tradition is not much of a tradition, but unlike a lot of other Wiccan authors, she accepts that Wicca is a relatively new religion. Her research is also pretty shaky at certain points, and some of her comments are not exactly male-friendly. Contains guidelines for rituals, including some very elaborate poetry for casting a circle. This is one of those books that you should probably read, even if it’s just to get a perspective on modern Wicca.

The Sun At Night

Bkwyrm reviews The Sun At Night [Amazon, Bookshop] by Roger Williamson in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Williamson The Sun at Night

Neat book. I tend to be very critical of occult fiction, since most of it is rewarmed crap. This work is definitely original. It does tend to remind the reader at times of Dion Fortune’s The Sea Priestess, but in a good way. This is an “occult morality tale”, about a young man, magickal orders, self-deception, love, and books. It’s not long, about 100 pages, and is the perfect length to read on a train or plane trip. Highly recommended.

The Sorcerer and His Apprentice

The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Unknown Hermetic Writings of S.L. MacGregor Mathers and J.W. Brodie-Innes [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by S L MacGregor Mathers and J W Brodie-Innes, edited and introduced by R A Gilbert, reviewed by Bkwyrm in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Mathers Brodie-Innes Gilbert The Sorcerer and his Apprentice

Mr. Gilbert has taken a collection of short papers on various occult subjects by Mathers, and by Brodie-Innes, and has presented them as “An anthology of writings….on Tarot, Kabalah, Astrology, and Hermetism.” The introduction provided by Gilbert is all of three or four pages and imparts no information that anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with G.D. history wouldn’t know. Some of the essays are fascinating, and I’ve never seen them anywhere else. Of course, I don’t spend a lot of time tracking down Brodie-Innes books. Essays by Mathers include The Kabbalah, The Qliphoth of the Qabalah, The Azoth Lecture, and Twelve Signs and Twelve Tribes. Papers by Brodie-Innes include Some Psychic Memories, The Tarot Cards, Witchcraft, and The Hermetic System.

If you’re a Mathers fan, or a Brodie-Innes devotee, you’ll want to pick up this book. Serious students of the Golden Dawn system will probably also find many of these essays worthwhile. The Tarot essays, read together, make for a (I thought) rather nice, short tutorial on the Tarot in the Golden Dawn worldview.

This book is part of the “Roots of the Golden Dawn” series – and its inclusion in a series is probably why a book this uneven was published. None of the essays hung together into any kind of a cohesive structure, even taking into account that both authors were members of the Golden Dawn, and that Brodie-Innes was Mathers’ chosen successor. They bounce from topic to topic, belief system to belief system, with very little in common. As far as I can tell, the only reason they were put in a book together is because they are little-known essays by a set of famous and semi-famous magicians. There are other collections of essays that are much more rewarding reading. This is a collection that is probably only of interest only to someone actively studying material covered in the essays. It’s not something you can sit down and read through, like an “anthology.” These are bits and pieces of published and unpublished writings by two men, written at different times and for widely varying purposes, that have been collected into one place for no apparent reason.

The Rune Oracle

Bkwyrm reviews The Rune Oracle by Nigel Jackson and Silver RavenWolf in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Jackson RavenWolf The Rune Oracle

At first sight, I was impressed by the rune cards that came with this book; the graphics were colorful, well-drawn, and consistent with Germanic imagery and belief. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the book itself. The author does provide some layout methods that I found useful, but her religious background shows in the meaning she gives for each rune. (Norse Wiccans may find them acceptable; Asatruar probably won’t.) She also uses mixed rune names, upright/reversed interpretations, and the blank rune–not a good sign, on the whole. Since there are a few useful tidbits here, though (and GREAT-looking cards!), I’d put this on the “may be useful” list.

The Occult Experience

Bkwyrm reviews The Occult Experience: Magic in the New Age by Nevill Drury in the archive of Bkwyrm Occult Book Reviews.

Drury The Occult Experience

Subtitled “Magic in the New Age”. This is a neat book. Sort of a mini-Drawing Down the Moon, only with a variety of occult practitioners, not just Pagans. Brief biographies of the important or influential, including Gardner, Sanders, Aquino, and LaVey. Nicely written, well-organized. Contains a short bibliography.

The New Satanists

The New Satanists by Linda Blood, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Reviews.

Blood The New Satanists

This load of utter drivel was penned by a former member of the Temple of Set (and allegedly a “lover” of its founder, Michael Aquino). Basically, it is a propaganda piece full of the typical sour grapes backlash one would normally expect from someone who leaves their group on bad terms. It dredges up all sorts of inane conspiracy theories regarding modern Satanism, and also tries to drag Michael Aquino through the mud with a considerably sizable chunk of the book devoted to accusations leveled against him over an alleged paedophilia case in the eighties. Aquino apparently responded by suing the author for slander. But regardless if you like or hate Aquino- the rest of the book is a load of hysterical, cliched nonsense, and, as one might quite reasonably wonder: if Satanism is so utterly evil and repulsive as Blood claims, then why was she so immersed in it in the first place? As anyone in genuine Satanism knows – no-one is ever forced to join. This book isn’t even worth using as a doorstop.

The New Satanists

The New Satanists by Linda Blood, reviewed by Julianus, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Reviews.

Blood The New Satanists

A sort of memoir by a woman who claims she was seduced into the Temple of Set and had an affair with Michael Aquino. Aside from the insiders details of ToS, it is mostly a re-hash of the usual legends with an emphasis on the neo-Nazi connection and Satanic child abuse.

Unfortunately, the few details of Setian life and ritual that Ms. Blood (her real name apparently) shares with us seem far too shallow to give her narrative the required air of verisimilitude.

The Necronomicon Files

The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind The Legend by Daniel Harms and John Wisdom Gonce, reviewed by Bkwyrm, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Harms Gonce The Necronomicon Files

Hooray! A book about the Necronomicon that actually explores the myth and legend behind this “terrible text” with accuracy, scholarship, and a sense of humor. Before those of you clutching a copy of the Simon paperback in your sweaty hands have a chance to gasp (I’m kidding), they come to the conclusion that there is no such thing – and was no such thing – as the “real” Necronomicon. Rather than just saying “well OBVIOUSLY” the way the rest of us do, Harms and Gonce give footnotes, quotes, and interesting essays about things like H.P.’s father’s possible magical background (unlikely) and so forth. Rather than an actual narrative by two authors, this is a collection of highly relevant and interesting essays by them.

The introduction does what it’s actually supposed to do – introduces the reader to the subject. Interesting reading even if you hang out on alt.necronomicon and know how to say Goat-With-A-Thousand-Young ten times fast. The Necronomicon In Literature is the first section, which covers H.P. Lovecraft, the rumors surrounding the existence of the book, and the connection with the Voynich Manuscript. Three essays cover a wide array of literary topics – with (be still, my heart) footnotes, quotes, end notes, and proper bibliographic notation. Those good things continue throughout the book. Speaking as a staunch defender of the English language and someone who named her cat after a bibliographic citation system, it is such a nice thing to find a book on an occult or mythologic subject that is not only well written, but nicely edited and complete with such academic geegaws as citations to other literature that is not necessarily written by the authors, by friends of the authors, lodge brothers of the authors, or even people who agree with the authors. Ahem. I’m done applauding madly now. Back to the actual book.

The second section of the work is titled The Necronomicon In Magick, and covers just what it says it does. Four essays review the various “hoax” Necronomicons, the Cthulhu mythos in magic, and begins with one of the best “Brief History of Modern Magick” sections I’ve ever seen. This section covers most of the important topics – is there a Cthulhu, if there isn’t how come people are able to work with the mythos as a magical system, why it is that occultists have such a fascination with a book that ought to summon something that will destroy the world, etc. There’s an essay on something here I’d never even heard of – apparently, there’s a myth that along with the Necronomicon, there’s also a powerfully magic sword. The title of that essay had me laughing in the aisle on the plane to South Carolina – “Nameless Cutlery – The Sword of The Necronomicon”.

The next collection does not consist of essays. The Necronomicon in Film and Television consists of “Unspeakable Cuts: The Necronomicon on Film” and “Call of the Cathode Ray Tube: The Necronomicon on Television.” In these, the authors give an overview/review of every film that has some homage to pay to Lovecraft or the Necronomicon. They give the title of the film, the year it was released, the director, and the main actors involved. I disagree with some of the authors’ opinions with some of these films (I hated In The Mouth Of Madness) – but agree with what appears to be their conclusion that the vast majority of Lovecraft-derived or Necronomicon-related films have been really awful. “Call of the Cathode Ray Tube” was a section that I found fascinating. Even as a mythos fan, I didn’t realize how many television shows or TV movies have a debt to pay either to Lovecraft or the Necronomicon/Cthulhu mythos. Again, the authors go in and provide the reader with the name of the show/TV movie, the director, the year it was released, the major actors, and a brief synopsis of the plot. The synopsis gives you an idea of how bad (or good) the television show was, and how closely it was related to the Necronomicon or the mythos.

Probably the most valuable essay in the book is Evaluating Necronomicon Rumours. Well-written common sense with footnotes. The provable history of the Necronomicon has already been established, in the first section. One might see this section as a wrap-up reminder to readers that however seductive the legend might be, people need to keep a tight rein on their common sense and not get tied up in rational and logistical knots in to in order to justify a belief that the real Necronomicon is in someone’s attic because a guy on a newsgroup who seemed really reliable said that it was. Harms and Gonce are not condescending, or snide. They’re earnest and sensible. Triple points to the authors for not falling into the easy trend of ridiculing people who do believe in the Necronomicon. Hopefully, by the time a reader gets to this section, they’ve read enough about the actual history and legend to know that the chances of the Necronomicon existing are virtually nil. In case they haven’t, though, the authors have provided “Six Guidelines for the Evaluation of Necronomicon Hoaxes.” This guide could (with a bit of alteration) very well serve as a guide to evaluating whatever rumors that crop up occasionally about various books/items in the occult community. They refer to various web-FAQs and “new editions” of the Necronomicon that haven’t been discussed earlier in the book, as well as novels that mention the book. Harms and Gonce wrap up their work with a separate and distinct conclusion – that the Necronomicon, as Lovecraft and the various other authors of Cthulhu mythos works described it, does not exist.

The Appendix, consisting of H.P. Lovecraft’s own text (with annotations by Harms), is interesting in and of itself. The end notes show clearly the painstaking research that went into the creation of this book. A short chronology of the supposed book, using events described by Lovecraft and other authors, shows how little was actually written about the book, in comparison to the size of the legend around it. And, if you buy the book, make sure to read the final page. It’s not about the typeface, the binding, or the authors’ mothers.

So. All in all, well worth reading. More than that, well worth buying and having on hand. Not only to combat the eternal silliness of people who email you asking for information on where they can get the “real” Necronomicon (could be just me who gets these emails), but also as an example of a book on an “occult” subject that is scholarly, well-written, and with excellent documentation to secondary sources. Would-be authors of texts on magic could do much worse than to look to Harms and Gonce for an example of intelligent prose about a much-debated subject.

The Myth of the Eternal Return

The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History by Mircea Eliade, reviewed by Bkwyrm, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Eliade The Myth of the Eternal Return

One of my favorite authors. Eliade once said that if someone was only going to read one of his books, they ought to read this one. From the back cover: “This is an essay on mankind’s experience of history and its interpretation, beginning with a study of the traditional or mythological view, and concluding with a comparative estimate of modern historiological approaches. At a moment when modern man has brought his race almost to the point of annihilation, the historical attitude has been all but discredited. The author seeks an answer to the question: What can protect us from the terror of history?”

This isn’t witchcraft, or magic, or ritual. It’s philosophy. I find this work absolutely fascinating. Eliade was the chairman of the department of history of religions at the University of Chicago, as well as the Sewell L. Avery Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and professor in the Committee on Social Thought. He was the author of novels, short stories, and plays as well as works in the history of religions. After you’ve read this work, you ought to read “Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions,” as well as “Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy.”

The Mystery of the Grail

The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit by Julius Evola, reviewed by Julianus, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Evola The Mystery of the Grail

This book originally formed an appendix to the author’s Revolt Against the Modern World, which he later expanded into a book in its own right. Evola’s thesis is that the Grail Cycle forms a Pagan “northern” mystery distinct from the “southern” Christian religion, and that this represented an Imperial “resistance” to the Church in the Middle Ages. I am not entirely convinced of this, but there is much interesting analysis of the Grail legends in here.