What I’m Reading

I always have at least one book on the go, regardless of the time of year or how busy I am with work.  But with more time on my hands these past few weeks, I get the opportunity to read even more than usual.  Here are the books that are stacked at my favourite place to read, right next to the fire.

Descendant by Bob Freeman (I’m giving this one a second read)

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Descendant by Bob Freeman

Descendant is a supernatural thriller filled with daring action, adventure, and artifice set against the backdrop of a very familiar world – but it is a world in which preternatural entities, clandestine magical orders, ancient bloodlines, and unholy alliances converge within the shadowed recesses of our darkest imaginings.

Federal Agents Selina Wolfe and Martin Crowe are called in to investigate a series of bizarre deaths in a small rural community.  What first seems to be a misadventure involving black magic and satanic ritual soon takes on even more deleterious overtones, as the agents become embroiled in a plot by a sinister cabal intent on unleashing Hell on Earth.

Help the Witch by Tom Cox (Just finished this one and I’ll do a proper book review on it)

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Help the Witch by Tom Cox

Riddled with talismans and portents, saturated by shadows beneath trees and whispers behind doors, these ten short stories broaden the scope of folk tales as we know them.  Inspired by our native landscapes and traversing boundaries of the past and the future, this collection is Tom Cox’s first foray into fiction.  Funny, strange and poignant, he elicits the unexpected and unseen to raise our hackles and set imaginations whirring.

Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary

This important collection includes Aleister Crowley’s two most important instructional writings on the design and purpose of the magical diary, John St. John and A Master of the Temple. These were the only two works regarding the magical diary published in Crowley’s lifetime. Both were first published in Crowley’s immense collection of magical instruction, The Equinox. John St. John chronicles Crowley’s moment by moment progress during a 13 day magical working. Crowley referred to it as “a perfect model of what a magical record should be.” A Master of the Temple is taken from the magical diary of Frater Achad at a time when he was Crowley’s most valued and successful student. It provides an invaluable example of a student’s record, plus direct commentary and instruction added by Crowley.  With commentary and introductory material by editor James Wasserman, Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary is the most important and accessible instruction available to students of the occult regarding the practice of keeping a magical diary.  This revised edition includes a new introduction by Wasserman, a foreword by noted occult scholar J. Daniel Gunther, revisions throughout the text, a revised reading list for further study, plus Crowley’s instructions on banishing from Liber O.

Grimoire of Aleister Crowley

Group ritual has been a cornerstone of spiritual practice since time immemorial, yet its history and importance have often been overlooked by occultists of the modern age. This book is the first comprehensive presentation of group-oriented rites for modern magicians inspired by the works of Aleister Crowley. It contains rituals written by Crowley for his own magic circles, many of them unpublished during his lifetime, plus rare ancient texts that were Crowley’s own inspiration.

The rituals are newly edited and explained by Rodney Orpheus, who brings to this volume decades of experience in performing and teaching Aleister Crowley’s rituals within Crowley’s magical order Ordo Templi Orientis. He introduces each ritual with a clear overview, setting each in its historical context and explaining its function and mode of operation, and includes detailed notes on the setting and performance of each one.

Whether absolute beginner or seasoned expert, magicians of all paths will find this volume to be an eminently workable and extremely powerful grimoire spanning centuries from ancient Mithraic and Bacchanalian rites, Goetia, and Gnosticism, right up to present day Crowleyan invocations and sexual magick.

Hitler’s Monsters by Eric Kurlander

Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition by William J. Kiesel

Magic Circles have been depicted in popular expressions of magic and witchcraft as well as detailed with full rubrics in traditional manuals of magic such as the Clavicula Solomonis or Liber Juratus.  Using narrative, visual and textual material available from European grimoires and manuscripts, the author discusses the various forms and functions of this important piece of apparatus employed by magicians in the Western Esoteric Tradition, including their role in providing authority and protection to the operator, as well as examples of their use in divination and treasure finding.  Additionally, contemporary examples of the magic circle at work in modern esoteric praxis are provided and discussed in light of the traditional approaches they exhibit. This monograph serves to explicate this important tool of ceremonial magic and is valuable to practitioners of the art magical with its technical data, while also providing context in historical settings for the merely curious reader of occult subjects. Illustrated throughout.

As an aside, don’t expect a ‘What I’m Watching’ post.  I don’t watch enough TV to make that an interesting post.

 

Book Review : Descendant – A Novel of the Liber Monstrorum

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  • Author:  Bob Freeman
  • Publisher:  Seventh Star Press (October 2019)
  • Paperback, 294 pages
  • ISBN-10:  1948042878
  • ISBN-13:  978-1948042871

Descendant is a supernatural thriller filled with daring action, adventure, and artifice set against the backdrop of a very familiar world – but it is a world in which preternatural entities, clandestine magical orders, ancient bloodlines, and unholy alliances converge within the shadowed recesses of our darkest imaginings.

Federal Agents Selina Wolfe and Martin Crowe are called in to investigate a series of bizarre deaths in a small rural community. What first seems to be a misadventure involving black magic and satanic ritual soon takes on even more deleterious overtones, as the agents become embroiled in a plot by a sinister cabal intent on unleashing Hell on Earth.

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Right from the first page, I was drawn into this book, completely hooked by page six.  As usual, Bob Freeman throws us head first into the world of the occult with his compelling, faced-paced storytelling, hardly giving his readers time to breathe.

At first, I was a bit thrown with how the book is separated into three parts, but knowing Bob’s work, I knew by the end of the book we would come full-circle in a pleasantly unexpected way.  The result was a sense of urgency and expectation that stayed with me throughout the book, and made the ending all the more satisfying.

I love how Bob paints a scene.  He gives just the right amount of descriptives to fire the imagination and make his world come alive, without affecting the pacing of the story with overly long descriptions of every scene.

I decided to reread First Born, the first book of the Liber Monstrorum series, while I was awaiting the arrival of Descendant, so refamiliarise myself with Bob’s world and his characters.  I had forgotten that I was only introduced to the characters Selina Wolfe and Martin Crowe in that book, and not in Bob’s first series, The Cairnwood Manor series.  A testament to Bob’s ability to bring his characters to life in a way that makes them familiar and loved.  I didn’t get a chance to finish First Born before Descandant arrived, so after finishing the book, I went back to First Born, and that’s when the stories within really came alive for me moreso than the did on my first reading.  It was such a satisfying sense of completion.

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I think it’s obvious that I’m recommending Descendant.  I also recommend reading First Born, as well as the two books in the Cairnwood Manor series.  All four books have some tie-ins with each other with the characters you’ll meet, but with Bob Freeman’s excellent storytelling, the books can be read independently without feeling like your missing out on vital information needed to truly immerse yourself in whichever book you have in your hands.

Happy Reading!

Blessings, Lailoken /|\

Book Review : Mist Over Pendle

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  • Author:  Robert Neill
  • Publisher:  Arrow (Apr 4 2011)
  • Paperback, 416 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0099557037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099557036

The classic tale of witchcraft. Reissued for the first time in 14 years. Seventeenth century England is a place of superstition and fear. Deep in the Forest of Pendle, people have been dying in mysterious circumstances. The locals whisper of witchcraft, but Squire Roger Nowell, in charge of investigating the deaths, dismisses the claims as ridiculous. Until a series of hideous desecrations forces Roger and his cousin Margery to look further into the rumours. And what they discover brings them face to face with the horrifying possibility that a coven of witches is assembling, preparing to unleash a campaign of evil and destruction.

Robert Neill’s novel is a classic tale of witchcraft set in a wild inaccessible corner of Lancashire and in a time when the ancient fear of demons and witches was still a part of life… and death.

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Since I recently started doing book reviews, I thought it would be great to review my absolute favourite work of fiction.  Mist Over Pendle was first published in 1951, and is the first published work of author Robert Neill.  He went on to write a total of 16 books between 1951 and 1979, with Mist Over Pendle arguably being his greatest work.  It was an immediate world-wide success, enabling Neill to become a full-time writer.

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Neill had always had an interest in historical fiction, which he described as arising from his liking for historical buildings and for Lancashire history and legend. He was a critical reader, alive to errors in detail and accuracy, and began, with his aunt’s encouragement, to consider that he could do better himself.

His work was based upon extensive research into original sources, such as Parish Registers, and contemporary documents, using textbooks only as a means of identifying such sources. He would visit the scenes of intended novels, going over the ground personally, to ensure that his books would be completely authentic. Neill told a tale of one Lancashire bookseller who, before putting Mist over Pendle on display, checked all places and distances in the book, stating that if there were any inaccuracies, his customers would bring the books back.

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Mist Over Pendle is based upon events in 1611-1612, leading up to the real-life witch trial of a group of supposed witches in the Pendle Hill area of Lancashire, England.  From Wikipedia:

The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century. The twelve accused lived in the area surrounding Pendle Hill in Lancashire, and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. All but two were tried at Lancaster Assizes on 18–19 August 1612, along with the Salmesbury witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire witch trials. One was tried at York Assizes on 27 July 1612, and another died in prison. Of the eleven who went to trial – nine women and two men – ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found not guilty.

The official publication of the proceedings by the clerk to the court, Thomas Potts, in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, and the number of witches hanged together – nine at Lancaster and one at York – make the trials unusual for England at that time. It has been estimated that all the English witch trials between the early 15th and early 18th centuries resulted in fewer than 500 executions; this series of trials accounts for more than two per cent of that total.

Six of the Pendle witches came from one of two families, each at the time headed by a woman in her eighties: Elizabeth Southerns (a.k.a. Demdike), her daughter Elizabeth Device, and her grandchildren James and Alizon Device; Anne Whittle (a.k.a. Chattox), and her daughter Anne Redferne. The others accused were Jane Bulcock and her son John Bulcock, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Alice Grey, and Jennet Preston. The outbreaks of witchcraft in and around Pendle may demonstrate the extent to which people could make a living by posing as witches. Many of the allegations resulted from accusations that members of the Demdike and Chattox families made against each other, perhaps because they were in competition, both trying to make a living from healing, begging, and extortion.

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The fiction in Mist Over Pendle comes in the form of Margery, the 16 year old protagonist of this story and cousin to Squire Roger Nowell, newly arrived in Pendle from London.  Her quick wits and curiosity in the people and area of Pendle makes her an invaluable asset to Roger Nowell and his seemingly hopeless quest in bringing the two witch families to justice.  It is through her investigations and ability to piece things together that by the end of the book, the Pendle witches are rounded up and the proof of their guilt established.  All seemingly live happily ever after (except for the witches, of course).

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Why do I love this book?  It all comes down to Robert Neill’s attention to detail.  Neill is a great storyteller, but this book is made all the more greater because of the detail he adds to the story, as well as historical and geographic accuracy.

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I have an active imagination and can easily visualize what I’m reading in a book.  Neill takes it to a whole new level with the detail he gives on everything.  Nothing is neglected in this book.  The clothing people are wearing, the description of houses, the geographic details, even how it feels in each building/house (cold, warm, light, etc.).  Neill take such great pains to make you feel like you’re there, almost letting you believe you’re a character in the story instead of the usual invisible observer.

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Because he traveled to Pendle District for research while writing this book, he is able to describe the locations in such great detail, that you can go on Google Maps while reading this book, and very easily locate not only the major landmarks of the area, but the locations given in the book, as well as the old tracks Margery travels throughout Pendle Wood, now paved roads.

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The pacing of the book is excellent.  There are no parts that feel draggy and irrelevant to the story.  Some readers may find Roger and Margery’s trip north during Christmas irrelevant and a bit boring because it doesn’t directly relate to the main story, but I don’t.  Again, because Robert Neill put so much detail into every page, I find reading about these old Christmas traditions fascinating.  Plus, I see it as a turning point for Margery, the point when she truly comes into her own as a woman, which I think is reflected in her actions throughout the rest of the book.

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Mist Over Pendle was released as The Elegant Witch in the US

I’ve owned this book for five or six years now.  I’ve read it maybe 10 times or so, and have never been bored with it yet.  As a matter of fact, during my third or fourth reading of it, once I got to the last page, I immediately turned to page one and began to read it over again.  This book has put a spell on me, and I urge anyone interested in stories of witches, real or fictional, to pick this book up and give it a read.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Book Review : The Murder of Moses – How An Egyptian Magician Assassinated Moses, Stole His Identity, And Hijacked The Exodus

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  • Authors:  Rand and Rose Flem-Ath
  • Publisher:  Bear & Co. (a division of Inner Traditions International) 2nd Edition, Revised Edition of Killing Moses (June 4, 2019)
  • Paperback, 256 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1591433363
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591433361

The life of Moses, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, has always been shrouded in mystery. The Bible mentions no witnesses to Moses’ death, no funeral, and no indication of his burial place, and the story of Exodus paints a very contradictory picture of this man so important to both Judaism and Christianity. At times, he is depicted as a meek, stuttering figure and at others his tyrannical commands and fits of rage terrorize the children of Israel. And, for the last years of his life, he chose to hide behind a veil. What is the explanation for these extreme shifts in character? Was Moses mentally ill? As Rand and Rose Flem-Ath reveal, the evidence points to something much more sinister: Moses was murdered and replaced by an impostor.

The result of a decade-long investigation, this book continues and builds upon the research of Goethe, Christopher Marlowe, and Sigmund Freud–who spent the last 40 years of his life obsessed with solving Moses’ murder–and reaches a startling but well-evidenced conclusion that Moses was deceived and murdered by his father-in-law, Reuel. The authors show how Reuel was a skilled magician trained at Egypt’s prestigious House of Life and they reveal his motive: He was the son of Esau, from whom Jacob stole his birthright, the leadership of the Hebrew people, a role that Moses was now assuming.

The authors explain how the magician Reuel used his sophisticated skills of manipulation and illusion to fake the Burning Bush that spoke to Moses as well as conceal his assumption of Moses’ identity after the murder. They reveal how the early scribes of the Old Testament inserted lags of time into the Exodus story to cover Moses’ assassination and replacement, fabricated Moses’ origin story, and changed the location of the “Mountain of God” from Edom, where Reuel was a prince, to Sinai.

Unveiling the enigma of Moses’ real story–and his murder and replacement–the Flem-Aths dramatically challenge the time line and details of biblical history, exposing a cover-up at the very origins of Western religion.

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Another excellent offering from Bear & Co. (a division of Inner Traditions International), I can’t recommend this book enough!  I think this ‘review’ is going to be less of a review, and more gushing praise.

This book contains years of research, and gives convincing evidence of one of the greatest murder conspiracies and cover ups the world has ever seen.  I’m not going to go into detail, because it’s so well written, and the pacing is excellent, almost giving this book the feel of a great murder mystery you’d pick up in the fiction section of your local bookstore.  And like a good book of fiction, I can see myself reading this again for its entertainment value.  So I’m not going to spoil it by giving anything away.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that this is a book of fiction, born from the wild imaginations of the authors.  I’m comparing the enjoyment I got from the unraveling of this mystery to the enjoyment I get from a fictional tale.  That in itself makes this book worth buying.

I can see how some people would think this conspiracy too complex to pull off without an understanding of Egyptian ‘magic’ and how adept they were at what we today would call stage illusion, and that these events take place over decades.  That fact can be easy to forget when such a long timeline is condensed into one book.

The only criticism I have with this book is that I find the ending (the time between when the Israelites leave the area around Petra, and when they find the promised land) to be a bit rushed.  But perhaps this is only because I don’t have enough familiarity with the Bible.  I would have liked a better understanding of the route the Israelites took, and related events, even though at this point of the exodus story, the main events the book set out to explain (I don’t want to say prove) have played themselves out, and everything that comes after really doesn’t have an impact on the murder of Moses theory.  It just would have wrapped things up nicely for me.

If you’ve come across this book and have wondered if it’s worth reading, I highly highly suggest you do so.  I don’t think you’d regret it.

Book Review : Egregores – The Occult Entities That Watch Over Human Destiny

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Author:  Mark Stavish                                                                                                                            Publisher: Inner Traditions, July 2018                                                                                                Paperback, 160 pages                                                                                                                   ISBN-10: 1620555778                                                                                                               ISBN-13: 978-1620555774

One of most important but little known concepts of Western occultism is that of the egregore, an autonomous psychic entity created by a collective group mind. An egregore is sustained by belief, ritual, and sacrifice and relies upon the devotion of a group of people, from a small coven to an entire nation, for its existence. An egregore that receives enough sustenance can take on a life of its own, becoming an independent deity with powers its believers can use to further their own spiritual advancement and material desires.

Presenting the first book devoted to the study of egregores, Mark Stavish examines the history of egregores from ancient times to present day, with detailed and documented examples, and explores how they are created, sustained, directed, and destroyed. He explains how egregores were well known in the classical period of ancient Greece and Rome, when they were consciously called into being to watch over city states. He explores the egregore concept as it was understood in various Western Mystery traditions, including the Corpus Hermeticum, and offers further examples from Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, modern esoteric orders such as the Order of the Golden Dawn and Rosicrucianism, the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Grant, and the followers of Julius Evola and Aleister Crowley. The author discusses how, even as the fundamental principles of the egregore were forgotten, egregores continue to be formed, sometimes by accident.

Stavish provides instructions on how to identify egregores, free yourself from a parasitic and destructive collective entity, and destroy an egregore, should the need arise. Revealing how egregores form the foundation of nearly all human interactions, the author shows how egregores have moved into popular culture and media–underscoring the importance of intense selectivity in the information we accept and the ways we perceive the world and our place in it.

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I loved this well-written book by Mark Stavish, and can’t recommend it enough.  My library is quickly filling up with titles by Inner Traditions and Bear & Co. (a division of Inner Traditions International), and will probably soon overtake the amount of Weiser titles I own.  The high calibre of their offerings is irresisteble.

While I’ve always preferred to keep the word egregore for the intentional act of building up a psychic entity through ritual, Mark gives a detailed explanation of the building up of egregores through group consciousness in the mundane world.  Think of the fan base of a sports team, or the fan base of a movie franchise.  Anyone who has been in a sports stadium has experienced that egregore, and even contributed to it.  The Harry Potter franchise is another good example of group consciousness at work.  Go on social media nowadays, and it’s not uncommon to see people with their Hogwarts House listed in their profiles.

What I especially appreciate about this book is Mark’s example of the Golden Dawn egregore, which can give some people a better understanding of why so many of us go to such great lengths to take care of our words, actions, and magical associations in our ritual work, instead of just ‘going with our gut’ and ‘winging it’.

Who do I think this book is for?  Anyone who practices magic, really, but I think that it has particular value to beginners for two reasons.  Firstly, the subject of group consciousness is something that beginners need to understand to assistant them in avoiding personality cults within the magical community (and believe me, they are in abundance).  Secondly, understanding the forces one can tap into is invaluable in any magical working.

One quick note about the foreward by James Wasserman.  If you really find Tumpian talking points distasteful and sets you to raging, I suggest you skip the foreward.  As a foreward, it expertly sets up the book for the reader, but it’s one-sided viewpoint may not be for everyone.  I find non-pundit parroting talking points from politicians of any stripe laughable at best, so if you’re like me, you’ll just roll your eyes and continue reading.  It doesn’t detract from the book, because like I said, you can just skip it.  This book is worth it.