There are probably better translations, and certainly better commentary, but I’m rather attached to old Budge. The Book of the Dead is without a doubt one of the most influential books in all history. Chapters of it were carved on the pyramids of the ancient 5th dynasty, texts were written in papyrus, and selections were painted on mummy cases well into the Christian Era. The work embodies a ritual to be performed for the dead, with detailed instructions for the behavior of the spirit in the Land of the Dead, and served as the most important repository of religious authority for some three thousand years. This work is the Papyrus of Ani, a full version of the Theban recension. The work contains a copy of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, an inter-linear transliteration of their sounds (as reconstructed), a word-for-word translation, and separately a complete smooth translation. All this is preceeded by an introduction that is 150 pages long. Budge was a Victorian, this shows in his translation. Many people have taken issue with some of the meanings he infers in the Book of the Dead, and other translations made since 1895 have gained more respect than Budge’s version. Still, as I said, I’m attached to Budge. Even if you don’t think you’d want to read a Victorian translation of this work, read some translation of it. It’s an important work to be familiar with.
Maxomenos reviews The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order by Israel Regardie in the Bkwyrm archive.
Every time I read this book I’m amazed by how much stuff is actually in here. Essentially it’s everything you need to know go get started on the path towards Adeptus Minor. (In layman’s terms, being an Adeptus Minor means you know everything you need to know if you want to get onto alt.magick and not get flamed to hell and back by Joshua Geller.) The first part contains several chapters called The Knowledge Lectures. These lectures contain a lot of bare bones basic material that a beginning magician needs to know. In particular, it includes the Lesser Rituals of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar Ritual. These rituals, in my experience, are incredibly useful for all occasions, including ridding your mind of obsessive thoughts and dealing with unpleasant people. If you’re just getting started, you should practise these rituals daily. In addition, beginner would do well to practise the rituals in Volume III, Book Four, and should master all of the rituals in Volume III before attempting the Solomonic magick. In Volume IV, there is a comprehensive introduction to various Magickal tools, including talismans, scrying procedures and a comprehensive introduction to Enochian magick. The sheer wealth of information in this volume is incomprehensible. This comes as no surprise, considering that the Golden Dawn believed in synthesizing a very large number of magickal traditions into one huge mass. The Golden Dawn was heavily Christianized and this may make some pagan readers uncomfortable; nonetheless, at $30US, this book gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
Majere, Pr.ODF reviews Raising Hell: An A-Z of the Occult/Satanic Underworld by Michael Newton in the Bkwyrm archive.
Yet another by-the-numbers effort (or lack of such) that attempts to provide an all-round view of Satanism and alleged crimes committed in the name thereof. The content of this book is sadly lacking – much of the data long outdated, and it seems that the author has just thrown in any old thing into it that bears even the most tenuous link to “Satanism” or the “Occult” (eg. the Ku Klux Klan were neither!). This 400+ page volume has no practical value for anyone wishing to learn anything of significance about either Satanism or the occult – rather it is a collection of jumbled entries evidently trying to focus mainly on the more “shocking” elements of juvenile devil-worship and neo-pagan or esoteric societies (much of it inaccurate). Serious readers should avoid this turkey like the plague.
Baron Julius Evola (1898 – 1974) is the leading Italian representative of the “Traditionalist” school, whose better-known members include Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon. Evola seems to be a “difficult” member of this group, as much because of his popularity among the European far-right as for his championing of the Warrior nature over that of the Priest. As this is one of his more “political” works I was rather surprised to see it translated, although English versions of his books on Tantra and Alchemy are available from the same publisher.
Revolt is divided into two parts. Part one, where he describes the characteristic features of an ideal Traditional society is by far the better. His concept of Royalty as the centering force of a civilisation, combining the Warrior and Religious functions, and the distinction he makes between Empire and mere imperialism, are significant and fundamental. Part two, which is a “meta-history” of the progressive degeneration of Tradition over the past millennia, is rather weaker. Evola presents history as the conflict between the Tradition of the Northern Races of Hyperborea (a masculine, ascetic, individualistic, transcendental, solar, warrior culture) and the anti-Traditional Southern Races (who are feminine, sensual, collectivist, lunar, and dominated by priests.) As the above makes clear, Evola’s thought has a strong dualist tone with (ironically) a reliance on some rather un-Traditional turn of the century anthropology. He also displays a glaring misogyny that any psychologically-inclined critic would have a field day with. Still, there is much in part one to interest any Thelemite, and for anyone this is a good book for rattling your modernist paradigm.
Renee Rosen-Wakeford reviews Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siècle Culture by Bram Dijkstra in the Bkwyrm archive.
Although technically this book has nothing to do with the occult per se–it’s a discussion of feminine imagery and misogyny in the art of the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century–it is illuminating for those interested in the cultural milieu from which the concept of the Great Goddess emerged. Whether or not you believe that the ancients actually worshipped one Great Mother Goddess, it’s clear that much of the Wiccan (and general Neopagan) concept the Goddess has been heavily influenced by turn of the century ideas of the Feminine, and a knowledge of these ideas is essential in order to comprehend modern beliefs about the Goddess and why these beliefs often differ from ancient beliefs about individual goddesses. In a few places, the author’s reasoning becomes a bit strained as he tries to discover the connections between various images and ideas, but overall, this is a fascinating survey of the idea of the Feminine in the turn of the century.