A sort of modernised Cthulhu Mythos novel featuring a Black Magician named “J. Cornelius Wasserman” who is fond of saying, “Let thine own Will become the Law of Laws.” Like many such books, it starts out interesting and then succumbs to deus ex machina as the author lets the good guys win. File it under “fictional use of Crowley”, cross-index it with “Lovecraft pastiche”, then go reread the real things.
Bkwyrm reviews The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts … Complete In One Volume by Zsuzanna Budapest in the Occult Book Reviews archive.
Subtitled “Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting, & Other Womanly Arts”. This subtitle gives Z. Budapest’s bias away – she’s a Dianic Witch and a feminist.
There’s a ton of information on her own tradition of Dianic Wicca in this book, including holidays, beliefs, tools, and just about everything else. All of it, however, subject to Budapest’s personal views and opinions. Contains thought-provoking essays, including a whole section on “The Politics of Food”. Budapest includes rituals, meditations, and group-working activities in this book. A useful reference if you’re a Dianic, or interested in Dianic trad. Still a useful reference if you’re a Witch of a different tradition – Z. Budapest is a well-known author, and this book is a good example of why so many people read her work.
Randall Bowyer reviews The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism by Joscelyn Godwin, & al. in the Occult Book Reviews archive.
This book certainly provides more information about the H.B.L. than did the previously available sources: the first half of the book gives historical information about the colorful personalities involved in the order, and the second half offers a heap of primary-source material by and about the order.
The H.B.L. secret documents are pretty disappointing, and consist mostly of the sort of metaphysical gup that was popular in the nineteenth century–you know, vague pseudo scientific theories about magnetism and verbose yammering about Great Cosmic Cycles that guide the course of history. There’s some stuff lifted from Levi which will be familiar to students of Crowley or the G∴D∴, and there’s some occasional stuff about sex to revive the reader’s interest. More interesting and more entertaining, though more frustrating, is the historical section. Unfortunately, the material is not organized chronologically; instead it is grouped anecdotally around the major figures in the order’s history, which makes it a little difficult for the reader to keep in mind what was going on when. I suspect the authors chose to present their research in this odd fashion to give the impression of a connected story, since it seems that they really don’t know much about the chronology of the order. Even a century ago the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was pretty obscure, and modern researchers just don’t have much to go on. For example, O.T.O. initiates would be very eager to learn more about the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, which was somehow involved in the early history of O.T.O. The entire discussion of this H.B.L. offshoot is one sentence on p. 67, which informs us that the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light was either founded or reorganized in 1895, at either Chicago or Boston, and that it “fed the streams of sexual practice flowing into the Ordo Templi Orientis….” While that is more than I knew previously, it is not quite as much as I had hoped to learn from this book.
Yet another book in the same vein as his previous two; he produced it with the help of a Christian minister, which should give you some idea of how seriously he takes Germanic pagan beliefs. The only good thing about it is the cheap rune set that comes packaged with the book. If you’re a rune reader who desperately needs to replace a lost set, buy this book–then throw it away and keep the runes.
Julianus reviews The H.P. Lovecraft Dream Book in the Occult Book Reviews archive.
Despite all the rumours amongst the Junior Satanist League types, HPL was certainly not a practicing occultist, at least not conciously. He was a great dreamer who could hardly nod off for a second without entering some elaborate fantasy, many of which formed the basis for his best-known stories. This chapbook collects some 23 letters describing various important episodes in Lovecraft’s dream-life, sometimes giving varying accounts of the same dream to different correspondents. Some of these would certainly be classed as significant visions or past-life memories if the writer were a Magician, and a Qabalistic analysis of these would be interesting. Of special note is an extended dream of ancient Rome where HPL experienced something like a week of detailed coherent life (not the least bit “dream-like”) in the period. This was used almost verbatim as an episode in Frank Belknapp Long’s “The Horror from the Hills.”
This is a seriously boring book, and I am at a loss to see why Mathers thought that this was important to translate. It’s not a bad magickal system at all, but it doesn’t add any information. On the other hand this book is excellent for the squeamish or the beginner, precisely because it is a self-contained magickal system with useful workings, none of which could result in serious harm to the user if done improperly.
All the evokations are of beneficent angels and archangels. Each chapter contains the sigil of a particular angel and a description of the services that they perform; there are also lists of prayers appropriate to the evokation of these angels. It is not magickally interesting in this regard, because there are about a hundred or so other magickal works that do the same thing. However, it is interesting from an historical point of view. The chapter names refer to events and characters in Christian mythology, almost none of which have anything to do with the evokation at hand. It makes a very solid effort at looking like and being a thouroughly pious work, which fits the period of this book. Ultimately, I think that “The Book of the Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage” is a better book, in addition to being cheaper.
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.