Tag Archives: magic

The Magic Order

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Magic Order, Book One [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Hoopla, Local Library] by Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel, & al., volume 1 of The Magic Order series.

Millar Coipel The Magic Order Book One

I borrowed this comics collection from the public library, having heard nothing of it previously. Apparently, the second volume has appeared in individual floppies, and the once-cancelled (during pandemic gyrations) Netflix series is back in active development. It’s ultra-violent and and not especially clever about supernatural magic or stage magic, both of which are central to the story. Thaumaturgy is hereditary, and the “Order” is a family concern.

I liked Olivier Coipel’s art very much. His compositions are dynamic, and the characters are expressive. The art benefits from the masterful colors by Dave Stewart, of course.

The book was just barely good enough that I’ll read Volume Two if I can borrow it from the library, and I’ll give the tv series a shot if it ever manifests.

Even those dreadful periods of “dryness” and of despair seem but the necessary lying fallow of the Earth. All those “false paths” of Magic and Meditation and of Reason were not false paths, but steps upon the true Path; even as a tree must shoot downwards its roots into the Earth in order that it may flower, and bring forth fruit in its season.

Aleister Crowley, John St. John, Prologue

Crowley John St John Liber DCCCLX 860 even dreadful periods dryness despair seem necessary fallow earth paths magic meditation reason not false steps true

More personal than any article of clothing. More private than any diary. Every page stained with a sorcerer’s hidden character, their private demons, their wildest ambitions. Some magicians produce collections, others produce only a single book, but nearly all of them produce something before they die.

Scott Lynch, In the Stacks [Amazon, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Lynch In the Stacks more personal more private sorcerers hidden character demons wildest ambitions magicians produce collections single book something before they die

The Keys to the Gateway of Magic

J S Kupperman reviews The Keys to the Gateway of Magic: Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and Demon Princes [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Stephen Skinner and David Rankine in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive.

Skinner Rankine The Keys to the Gateway of Magic Summoning the Solomonic Archangels and Demon Princes

Keys to the Gateway of Magic is the second of Skinner and Rankine’s “Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic” series, following their first book on the angel magic of John Dee. The goal of this series is to provide transcriptions of important manuscripts on Renaissance ceremonial magic. This makes the “Sourceworks” series an important source for primary source material for those studying Renaissance magic.

Keys consists of transcriptions from Harley MS 6482 and Sloane MSS 3628, 3821, 3824 and 3825 from the British Museum and Rawlinson MS D.1363 from the Bodleian Library. In simpler terms it is a collection of three texts on angelic and demonic evocation; Janua Magica Reserta (Keys to the Gateway of Magic), Dr. Thomas Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels with their Invocations to Visible Appearance and The Demon Princes. Each of these texts appears to have been extremely influential not only during the period when they were written but also in centuries to come; those familiar with the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn will find many of the correspondences presented in these texts to be quite familiar.

Janua Magica Reserta, the first of the texts transcribed by the editors, consists of several different sections. These sections deal with diverse subjects ranging from magical aphorisms to the nature of the human soul and its relation to the Earth to the nature of angels, demons and other spirits such as fairies and Robin Goodfellows, not necessarily subjects one would expect to find in a manuscript on ceremonial magic.

The second book, Dr. Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels with their Invocations to Visible Appearance is a practical answer to the theoretical information provided in Janua. Hierarchies begins with “The Directory”, which consists of numerous evocations for the summoning of spirits; good, bad or in between, it is interesting to note that there are no differences between the evocations used to call angels and those used to call demons. The text also instructs the magician in ways to test the spirits that have been evoked to see if they are what they say they are. The final section presents nine celestial keys or calls used to evoke the archangels of the Kabbalistic sefirot, along with their seals or signs. As with the previous section the nine calls, each of which being about four pages long and consisting of a single sentence, are identical, with only the specifics of the angels being changed. There is also a tenth key that appears to be a later addition that differs from the previous keys in tone and does not include a seal. The information on the sefirotic angles will be quite familiar with modern ceremonial magicians and appears to be a source for much of the Golden Dawn’s understanding of those great angels.

The Demon Princes is the final, as well as shortest, part of Keys. Princes arms the magician with information about not only the three primary fallen spirits; Lucifer, Beelzebub and Sathan, two of which can actually be evoked, but also the divers spirits that serve beneath Sathan, the four kings of the air; Oriens, Paymon, Egyn and Amaymon. Following these four kings are the numerous spirits who act as their ministers and messengers. Thus Princes is similar in nature to the Goetia, though there are some notable differences such as a complete lack of seals or magic circles. It does however provide lengthy evocations similar in nature to both those found in the Goetia as well as those found in Hierarchies.

The editors do a fine job in their transcriptions; notes are provided to tell the reader where differences between manuscripts occur and they even go so far as to use red ink in places were the original manuscripts used red ink, usually for heading titles or the names of spirits. While I was disappointed to see only facsimiles of the angelic seals, which were often unreadable in places, and no cleaned up versions for ease of reading, this was not a major concern. The readability of the overall text, combined with the numerous notes, more than make up for this.

However the introduction, as well as a few notes and comments on some of the bibliographical material were of concern. The editors present a great deal of historical information, some correct, some not, that while interesting is not always useful. Richard Keickhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages does in fact provide a much more comprehensive view of medieval magic. While some of the background information on the personae dramatis of the period is interesting they fail to support a number of the theories they present with actual evidence, many of their conclusions come through inference instead. Finally, in a multi-page dissertation on how demons are true entities and not simply psychological constructs, along with attacks on modern psychology appear to be more of a rant than a scholarly discourse; while these assertions may in fact be true the editors are far from able to prove it and simply attacking those who feel otherwise is less than persuasive. Their views also fail to take into account the records of pre-Christian philosophers who were of the opinion that such entities were figments of the mind.

For the most part Keys to the Gateway of Magic will only be of interest to those who want to study primary source material, with its Christian theology and moralizing, long invocations and complete lack of modern banishing techniques. Keys to the Gateway of Magic presents a type of occultism that will be foreign to many practicing occultists today, however it will also show where much of modern occultism comes from. Even with the issues surrounding the editors’ introduction, the transcription makes the purchase of the book worthwhile, though the price makes such a purchase somewhat daunting. For anyone interested in the history of ceremonial magic Keys to the Gateway of Magic is a must have that I greatly recommend.

Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires

Samuel Scarborough reviews Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires: The Classical Tests of Magick Deciphered [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Aaron Leitch in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive.

Leitch Secrets of the Magical Grimoires

The lure of that secret, hidden knowledge buried in a old musty tome just waiting for someone to come along and read the words thus releasing some great power, has lured many new magician with the hopes that they can do just that from picking up those slightly scary and to some degree, awe-inspiring books known as Grimoires. Unfortunately, most of the magical community has done just that, but once we had these books with names like Clavicula Salomonis (The Key of Solomon the King), the Lemegeton, the Goetia, Grimoirum Verum, or even that seemingly holy (unholy) book, The Grand Grimoire, what do we do with them? We read them and quickly learn that we are not sure what we are supposed to do with this great secret wisdom and power that we hold in our hands, so these books go back on the shelf to collect dust for most of us.

Now a new light shines on these often discussed, but long neglected books on our shelves. Aaron Leitch, a scholar and spiritual seeker with over a decade of practical experience has written a book that will be helpful to every magician that has the call to work with those classic books on magic. Where books like Modern Magick by Donald Michael Kraig and Summoning Spirits by Konstantinos give the hopeful magician snippets of information or information that is not that helpful to many, Leitch lays out a detailed method of working with these classics.

When I first got the book I was impressed for a product from Llewellyn. In many cases Llewellyn’s books do not have any sort of reference of where the writer is getting his information, but in Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, there are detailed endnotes at the end of each chapter showing the research that has gone into the material presented. The next thing that caught my eye was the use of relevant images throughout the book to illustrate a point made by Leitch in the text or to help explain passages from those musty old books. Being something of a scholar myself, I just had to check out what the bibliography looked like…I was again surprised to find one of the most comprehensive bibliographies that I have seen in sometime outside of most academic circles. Finally, I got the best surprise of all…I sat down to read the book, and in the text was clear knowledge of those sirens known as the grimoires. Aaron Leitch clearly expressed his points and explained those difficult passages from such esoteric volumes as the Heptameron and the Sworn Book of Honorius in a clear manner that shed the light of understanding suddenly on just what those magicians of 400 – 500 years ago were talking about.

The book is impressive in its size. At four hundred and thirty-two pages with additional xxi pages of Table of Content, Acknowledgements Preface, and Introduction it makes for a large book. Do not let the size fool or scare you away, it is well worth reading. The Preface is full of praise for Leitch and his work on the subject is written by Chic and Tabatha Cicero. The rest of the book covers such topics as medieval magick with a short history of the classic grimoires from the Picatrix to The Grand Grimoire and every other classic grimoire or important text relating to them such as Barrett’s The Magus and Casaubon’s A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. And King James their Reignes) and Some Spirits to chapters on what tools are described in the texts of the old grimoires with modern-day methods of creating them as well as many places to find the required materials for them. The meat of the book though covers the operations listed in the classic grimoires and just what is meant for a person to follow the often misunderstood instructions that were written in them so that a person can perform them in the 21st Century.

If the glowing words above do not inspire you to get this book, then I will say it in very plain English. Go out and buy this book, come home and read it, and then look at those dusty volumes on your shelf that long ago promised you the lure of sudden power and knowledge of our Holy Guardian Angel in a new light.

Quantum of Nightmares

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Quantum of Nightmares [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Charles Stross, book 11 of the Laundry Files series.

Stross Quantum of Nightmares

“Eve wasn’t the big sis he’d grown up with, back when they were a perfectly normal family with a dad who was an oneiromancer and a mum who wrote code that tore holes in reality.” (60)

Quantum of Nightmares is the second of the Tales of the New Management set in the superpowers-and-sorcery 21st-century dystopia built in the Cthulhvian espionage series The Laundry Files. It picks up very directly from the conclusion of Dead Lies Dreaming. Where the first New Management book used Peter Pan as a key point of reference for both the Lost Boys supervillain crew and thief-taker Wendy Deere, this sequel similarly exploits Mary Poppins. I think the title’s metrical mirroring of “Spoonful of Sugar” is no coincidence.

The satirical elements of the book are as searing as those of any of its predecessors, and they center on “innovative” human resources and supply chain techniques at a FlavrsMart supermarket branch. Within the plot of the story, the commercial dehumanization is unsurprisingly not unrelated to an eldritch cult. (The motivation for parallel, if less extreme, phenomena in the “real” world remains a frustrating enigma. Probably an eldritch cult.)

These books have many and diverse dramatis personae, and the third-person narration shifts among them as viewpoint characters often and rapidly. After two volumes, though, and accounting for the foreshadowing in the latter, the larger plot hangs on Eve Starkey, corporate climber and hereditary sorceress.

The return to the characters and situations of the previous book helped both of them for me as a reader. While they don’t (yet?) have the heft of the old Laundry story arcs, the Starkey antics under the regime of the Black Pharaoh have now acquired some real coherence.