Len Deighton was not an author of spy thrillers but of horror, because all Cold War–era spy thrillers rely on the existential horror of nuclear annihilation to supply a frisson of terror that raises the stakes of the games their otherwise mundane characters play. And in contrast, H. P. Lovecraft was not an author of horror stories—or not entirely—for many of his preoccupations, from the obsessive collection of secret information to the infiltration and mapping of territories controlled by the alien, are at heart the obsessions of the thriller writer.
This volume contains a brief novel (Stross’s first to be published) and its longish short story sequel. Of the two, I preferred the first with its more leisurely pacing. Also, there was a major plot-twist in the short story that I was able to spot about thirty pages in advance. The meat of both is a very artful hybrid of exo-horror and spy-thriller, with a sardonic take on postmodern bureaucracy and a generous helping of hacker culture. The characters are well-drawn and their context is a UK occult intelligence organization called the Laundry. I found myself often resorting to the appendix which decoded the alphabet soup of (mostly non-fictional) abbreviations, acronyms, and organizations; and I laughed out loud when I had to look up TLA and find it explicated as “Three Letter Acronym.” Other features I appreciated: misfiring demonic evocations, inside references to weird literature, a romantic dinner in Amsterdam, and cow jokes.
As it turns out, the book is far from unique, not even counting Stross’ own sequels. In his afterword, he points to Tim Powers’s Declare and the gaming supplement Delta Green as evidence that the early 21st century was steam engine time for this sort of story. (The Torchwood television series was late to the party, and thus quite possibly inspired by Stross’s own work–a thought that would probably be unwelcome to him, since he has repeatedly expressed in his blog his contempt for recent SF television generally, and Russell T. Davies’ work in particular.)
There’s no need to discuss Stross’s sources or literary influences here, because he does so himself with verve and candor in the aforementioned afterword. He also shares some interesting thoughts about the construction of spies and hackers as fictional protagonists. At all events, this book was a lot of fun, and I expect to read more of Stross’s stories about the Laundry.
This is perhaps one of the most acclaimed books on the history of the infamous “Black Mass”. The author provides an insightful and unbiased account of the origins of this ceremony from ancient pagan times through to it’s more corrupt modern incarnations. Perhaps one of the most interesting theories put forward by Rhodes is that the “Black Mass” was actually pagan in origin, rather than an invention of Christian fantasies – he suggests that the early pagans performed rites which denied the Christian god in favour of their own ancient cultural deities – rites that were later to be considered “Black Masses” by the Christian missionaries who were shocked at such “blasphemy”. Other topics also covered include the “heresy” of the Knights Templar and Cathars, the Guiborg Masses, and “diabolism” in Freemasonry. Essential reading.
Salomanic Magical Arts translated and introduced by Fredrik Eytzinger, is available from Three Hands Press. The special leather-bound and deluxe hardcover editions are both sold out, but a standard hardcover edition are still available.
“Amid the great genres of European magical books are the Scandinavian Svartkonstböcker or ‘Books of Black Arts’, the privately-kept practical manuals of magic used by rural charmers and practitioners of folk magic. Incorporating charms, prayers, and curses, as well as medicine, alchemy and physical experiments, many of these books survive today in universities and private collections. While bearing some relationship to the corpus of European grimoires which feature angelic and demonic magic, the Svartkonstböcker as texts of magic are in a class all their own.
Salomonic Magical Arts consists of two such volumes, originally handwritten in the early eighteenth century. Named The Red Book and The Black Book by one of their owners, they passed through the hands of priests and cunning men before coming to rest in academic institutions. Invoking a variety of spirtual powers ranging from Christ to Beelzebub, its magical formulae, numbering in excess of 450 individual receipts, serve as a testament to the endurance of sorcery in the early modern era. First published in Swedish in 1918, Salomonic Magic Arts is here published in English for the first time.
Introducing the work is a substantive introduction by the translator, which places the book in its cultural and magico-historical context, including Swedish cunning-folk traditions (trolldom) the European grimoire tradition, traditional magical healing, pagan belief, and the relationship between folk magic and the church.” [via]
“Doctor Faustus made a pact with the demon, Mephistopheles, to have power over all demons and so become the most powerful magician of all time. You, too, have entered into such a pact, but can you really control what you have unleashed or will they take control of you?
Secrets are power and temptation! Battle with other magicians to ensure that you, and only you, escape the price for such power: Damnation!
Faustus is a game of secrets and temptation. In this game for 3 to 6 players, you take on the role of a magician summoning demons onto yourself and casting them at other magicians whilst tempting them with your hidden secrets. But only one can escape damnation. Only one! One goes free else all are damned!
This card game, designed by Nimrod Jones with stunningly atmospheric art by George C. Cotronis, is the flagship game for Talking Skull, due for release in October via our print partners, Chronicle City.
With two versions of the game and optional rules, this game can be played by both novice and experienced gamers. In the Basic version of the game all that matters on the demons are the numbers; keep your numbers low and doom the rest. In the Advanced game you experience the full power of the demons under your command with each of the 40 Demons offering a unique power that is yours to command while they are in bound to your Pact.
Hermetic Library fellow Colin Campbell has posted “Doktor Faust” over on his blog about his engagement with a volume called Magia Maturalis et Innaturalis by Dr Johann Georg Faust, the inspiration for Doctor Faust tales, which has been made available online by the Bavarian State Library.
“Firstly, there is a great amount of detail around demonology, which should not be surprising given the popular conception of Faust as having sold his soul. Page 26 of the first book contains a listing of the four demon kings of the cardinal directions (or “winds”), given as Urieus [sic: typo or mistranscription of Uriens], Paymon, Egyn, and Amaymon. These of course match those given in The Offices of Spirits (whose source is ultimately Folger MS V.b.26), as well as in Livre de Espirits (Trinity MS O.8.29), and other manuscripts. They are given differently in Goetia, save for Amaymon. Page 28 also makes note of the three great infernals, Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Satan, in the same order as Offices and many other manuscripts, as well as Astaroth and Beherit (Berith).
Quite interesting was the discovery of a version of the hexagonal Seal of Solomon in the fifth book (page 18), which is dedicated to sigils., as well as a variant of the Sigillum Dei (page 100). I have not yet begun to dig much deeper, but thought I would at least share, so if you are interested, you can begin your own foraging…” [via]
Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold from Scarlet Imprint is available for pre-order in standard and fine editions. Paperback and digital editions are planned as well for the future.
“Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold’s Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire, is the strong companion to Pomba Gira and together with her gives the most complete account of this sorcerous cult. This is an encyclopaedic study of the devilish opposer.
Many will be drawn to this book by the prospect of possession work and necromantic practice, they will not be disappointed. It is a veritable Devil’s Bible.
Exu is the fusion of Umbanda, Angolan sorcery, European demonology and Kardec’s spiritism, erupting in a uniquely Brazilian cult of practical magical action. Spells, workings, hierarchies and origins are all given in detail. This is an essential text for students of the grimoires, Satanism and Traditional Witchcraft, as well as those drawn to, or working within, the cults of Quimbanda, Candomble, Santeria, Palo Mayombe and the ATRs. Quimbanda is a living tradition that gets results. It is a massive storehouse of magical lore, heresies and history which has absorbed aspects of Goetia, Grimorium Verum, Red Dragon and even Huysman’s La Bas.
Frisvold is an intiate and gives an insider’s view, drawing upon his years of experience in the cult. With access to texts, manuscripts and personal testimony, this is the most definitive work on Exu available in English. His previous works have gained acclaim amongst the most demanding of critics, those within the cult itself.
The origin of Exu is explored from the iconic Baphomet of Eliphas Levi and the influence of St Cyprian the patron saint of necromancers, back to Umbanda and the traditional African religions. Exu revels in a unique heritage that encompasses a Gnostic account of the crucifixion mystery, the concealed nature of St Michael Archangel and the native Shamanism of the Caboclos. A forceful spirit, Exu presides over the kingdom of the world, and offers a fierce path for those that would have him as companion. He asks, what does it mean to be a man?
The Seven Legions of Exus are ‘hot’ spirits, and their work is considered black magic. The perils of this work are given, with the dangers of obsession by the Qlippoth and vampirism described. Guidance is offered and the path to ascension shown. This is a mature understanding forged in night and fire.
An octavo book of 336 pp illustrated with ten portraits of Exu in pen and ink by Enoque Zedro, and over 120 pontos riscados/seals.
Explicit workings for good and ill, a herbarium and details of offerings, powders and baths and songs make this an essential resource.
Frisvold also discusses the fearsome Exu Mor for the first time, a subject not treated in his previous works.” [via email]
“Right to the point: I want to design and print a deck of 69 large (3.5″x5.75”), full-color cards, each featuring an illustration from the Dictionnaire Infernal. I’d also like to create a supplementary PDF for the deck, with all 69 card images and extended information about each. If you’re already familiar with the images I’m talking about, you can scroll down to the “accountability” section to see what this project would entail.”
“It’s my hope that people will want this deck and PDF for all sorts of reasons. I mean, sure, there’s the beautiful art — but I’m aiming to create something that’s useful for more than just looking at, too. I’m building a resource of art and information, for people that want inspiration for creating, or divination, or planning a gaming campaign. They might even be useful flash cards for Demonology 101. The beauty of it is that I get to restore something old, create something new, and then hear about all the wonderful things you can think of to do with it once it’s released into the world.”
The Astrological Magic issue of the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, is now available online. The next issue has been announced as Demonology, and you can read about the submission process on the journal’s site.
You may also be interested in an updated survey about a possible JWMT conference.