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review 2020-05-16 13:44
Occulture
Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward - Carl Abrahamsson,Gary Valentine Lachman

by Carl Abrahamsson

 

Non-fiction

 

One of the first things I noticed with this book is that the chapter headings have notes below the titles that say each of them was first given at a lecture or printed as an article someplace, so it soon became clear that this is a collection of several years' writings collected by the author into book form for presentation to a new audience. The subject matter is sufficiently different in each to create a nicely balanced volume on occult influence in society and particularly in art.

 

This is not a book for learning to do magic(k), but is more about modern cultural influences and symbols that enter mainstream consciousness through various mediums of artistic expression. In the Forword written by Gary Lachman, he explains the term 'occulture', occult + culture, coined by Genesis-P-Orridge, a cult figure in certain circles of modern day magicians, then goes on to point out connections between art and the occult and the significance of interpreting one through the other.

 

The lectures and articles cover a fascinating variety of loosely related topics. They include commentaries on alternative lifestyles and the rise of occult culture through significant periods like the 1960s and 1980s and the British and German groups and personalities who shaped much of modern occult culture.

 

The reader gets the benefit of a perspective by someone who 'was there' and understands the significance of a variety of cultural influences that still affect the culture today. He speaks of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth as well as about Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey and what he feels were the relevant contributions by controversial groups and personalities.

 

The perspective is very much about the intellectual side of the occult. No new age or airy-fairy crystal hugging comes into it. As occult history goes, this is an excellent reflection of the later twentieth century developments that built on the legacy of earlier magical Orders and traditions and the effects of an expanding cultural awareness that would shake the foundations of pre-twentieth century European occult study.

 

The significance of art and creativity is emphasised as is the freedom of social mores from the staid, limiting celibacy of groups like the early Golden Dawn and the cautions required by Medieval magicians to avoid any sniff of scandal that might lead to charges of heresy.

 

The history of Nazi involvement in the occult is detailed in one of the lectures and makes for interesting reading from a historical perspective as well. That lecture somehow moves from this to beatniks in California, which gives the reader an idea of the broad scope of some of the topics discussed.

 

This book would be of interest to anyone interested in occult history or in cultural development and the influence of art. It fills in the recent gaps in documented history for those of us who are too young to have been there for the changes in the 1980s and before as these periods are often not addressed in earlier books on the subject.

 

It also goes into everything from philosophy to conspiracy theories in recent decades and even Pokemon Go! I found all of the articles interesting for different reasons. A real treasure for anyone with interest in magick or the occult.

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review 2020-05-14 15:26
Numerology
Numerology: Dancing the Spiral of Time - Elen Sentier

by Elen Sentier

 

This was very different from what I expected. Rather than being specifically about numerology, the book is effectively a guidebook for a certain set of new age and Pagan beliefs that might or might not be associated with numerology. People interested in the title subject will have to wade through reincarnation, dowsing to establish your time of conception and some 'out there' concepts to find relevant information.

 

The graphs and charts make no sense to me at all. The author suggests meditating over them until it sinks in, but I'd rather have had the system explained in some manner than just thrown out there to absorb. Eventually she does write about number meanings and later gets into how to establish birth and name numbers in the same ways that other numerology books do, but there is only references to [number] people like 5 people, eight people, etc and no extrapolation of the relevance of birth number as opposed to name number apart from one is flexible and the other not, and nothing whatsoever about combining the two.

 

Overall I found the writing disjointed and digressive with very little clear information offered. I get the impression that the author does have some deep understandings, but just hasn't worked out how to express them. I had hoped for more, I admit. More commercial books on the subject seem cold and limited, but they actually offer more information than I found here. Very disappointing.

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review 2020-05-10 14:38
Llewellyn's Complete Book of Ceremonial Magick
Llewellyn's Complete Book of Ceremonial Magick: A Comprehensive Guide to the Western Mystery Tradition - Lon Milo DuQuette

by Lon Milo DuQuette; David Shoemaker; Stephen Skinner; Dennis William Hauck; David Rankine; John Michael Greer; Brandy Williams; David Shoemaker; Sam Webster; Anita Kraft; David Allen Hulse; Randall Lee Bowyer; Aaron Leitch; Chic Cicero; Sandra Tabatha Cicero; Marcus Katz

 

There are some very familiar names among the authors of this work, though I don't recognise all of them. The work consists of several smaller 'books' written by people knowledgeable about the various subjects covered. It starts out with introductions by Lon Milo DuQuette (a well-known and respected occultist) and David Shoemaker (whom I haven't come across before). This is followed by a section on the history of magic by Sam Webster (a name I've seen before but don't know well) which touches on some key events but makes no attempt to be comprehensive in the short space allotted.

 

Next is a section on Kabbalah by Anita Kraft and Randall Lee Bowyer. It has an extensive history, but I felt it failed to get the real depth of the subject. Why would an occultist want to learn about this? I know the answer to that, but I didn't feel it was provided for the newbie reader.

 

This is followed by Planetary Magick by David Rankine. I've been wanting to read something by David Rankine for a while as he's someone I keep hearing about! Planetary Magick is basically astrology re-branded and this gave a history of it, rather than a how-to, which seems to be the theme of the book.

 

Then we have a chapter on Alchemy, written by Dennis William Hauck. Again, we got a good overview of history. I was pleased to see mention of the Greek occupation of Egypt, though I've yet to find a book that goes into Alchemy among the Ancient Egyptians compared to the Greek interpretation that is known as Hermeticism.

 

Demonology & Spirit Evocation by Dr Stephen Skinner comes next. This is one of those very familiar names. He explains the history of demonology and how the name 'Demon' got applied to a variety of pre-Christian spirits, both good and malevolent. Apparently he believes all magic comes from spirits, which many magicians might argue.

 

The Magick of Abra-Melin by Marcus Katz follows. I read the Book of Abra-Melin the Mage when I was in High School and fairly new to occult literature so I was a little surprised to see how steeped in Judeo-Christian religion this book actually is. The ritual to contact your Guardian Angel plays an important role and for that reason would be of interest to Thelemites. As with the other sections, this one gives a history and a general idea of what it's all about.

 

Enochian Magick and Mystercism by Aaron Leitch is about Angel Magick and provides some interesting history about the Elizabethan era and especially about John Dee. The Golden Dawn by Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabitha Cicero, authors I've heard of for years, follows. This one started out sounding like a recruitment advert for the Golden Dawn, but settled into history after the initial burst. I think this one crammed too much history of Western esotericism into one chapter. If I hadn't already been familiar with half of the history, which covers far more than the role of the Golden Dawn, I would have been lost. Ironically all that history fits into a fifteen year time frame in the Victorian era and emphasises that much of what we know as Western magic(k) is based in 19th century Christian mysticism. They didn't mention that the original GD members believed in celibacy, even between married couples, but it did point out that women were included and even influential in the Order.

 

Thelema & Aleister Crowley by David Shoemaker was no surprise as Crowley would have to turn up in a book of this nature. He was mentioned briefly in the previous chapter, but there was more focused attention on his magical influence in this one. The only thing that niggled is lack of information about the actual origins of the concept of Thelema, which is written about in Plato and the Bible.

 

Polytheistic Ceremonial Magic by John Michael Greer I found a little confusing. It started out with a welcome overview of magic(k) preceding the Christianisation of various systems, then suddenly I was reading passages from a couple of other authors. Perhaps some extracts needed introduction. It then goes into the authors own amalgamation of Druidry and Golden Dawn format ritual instruction as well as a couple of well-known rituals like the LBRP.

 

We wrap up with Magician's Tables by David Allen Hulse, something important to any book about Ceremonial magick, then The Future of Ceremonial Magick by Brandy Williams, which was, shall we say, abstract and more about the future of our world than specifically about where magick is going.

 

The author information, placing them both in the Caliphate OTO, explains the lack of mention of Kenneth Grant or of Austin Spare and the rise of Chaos Magick from the 1970s. Despite that, for someone completely new to magic(k) of any kind, the book does provide a lot of interesting history and context for a lot of practices still prevalent today. It would make a good companion book to go with the old texts mentioned throughout the book.

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review 2020-05-07 15:43
Kitchen Witchcraft: Spells and Charms
Kitchen Witchcraft - Rachel Patterson

by Rachel Patterson

 

It's refreshing to see a book of this nature start with warnings about allergies and toxicity when working with herbs or essential oils. This is so often missed out! It's the first book of a series that looks very interesting for beginners.

 

The tone is like one of those teenage witchcraft books, but there is some good information and from more modern paths included that you don't often see in Wicca/Witchcraft books, like a very basic explanation of sigil magic.

 

There were a few things I would disagree with, like being very specific when doing a spell to get a job. If you target just one application, you don't leave room for other opportunities to pop up out of nowhere! And some of the correspondences didn't sit quite right, though these will always bring disagreement. The lists looked more like examples and weren't extensive.

 

Overall I found it light on instruction. Someone wanting to construct a formal spell will have to look elsewhere for details, but there are a lot of books on the market for that. The one worrying thing is that although how to banish something from your life was mentioned, there was nothing about banishing residual energies after doing a spell.

 

What it was strong on was folk magic spells. There were a lot of examples for how to apply these to various purposes and a lot of definitions for forms of magic, if only partial information on how to do them. There was also a lot of "use your intuition" and plugs for the author's other books, as well as a story told about a candle flame gone wrong that could have been avoided by using a proper candle holder. This surprised me after the good advice at the beginning about toxicity safety.

 

Overall I think it would make a good first book for someone who wants to dip their toe into magic and see how it sits without getting into too much trouble. I'd still like to have seen more detailed information about how to clear unwanted energies, just in case.

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review 2020-05-03 23:59
The Righteous One
The Righteous One - Neil Perry Gordon
Moshe is a cobbler in 1960's Manhattan.  He runs the same cobbler shop that his father began as a immigrant and where Moshe discovered that he was a tzaddik. In Judaism a tzaddik is a righteous person who is given powers by the Almighty.  Moshe had the ability to comfort people in times of great pain, but hasn't felt the connection for awhile.  Moshe's skills as a tzaddik are called upon one day by a man named Gray who works for city councilman Arnold Lieberman.  Arnold has come upon a rasha, the enemy of the tzaddik who uses their powers for evil.  The rasha is Solomon Blass who uses his prophetic dreams for his own benefit and has become part of New York City's crime ring.  As Solomon ages he seeks to put his son Myron in control by making him mayor.  In order to stop the rasha, Moshe begins training in the dream world in order to destroy the rasha's soul.  
 
The Righteous One is a follow up to A Cobbler's Tale. While it is not necessary to read A Cobbler's Tale first,  it does help to understand how Moshe's gift originated.  The Righteous One creates an intersection between the organized crime of New York City in the 1960's and Jewish magical realism or the tzaddik, rasha and the dream world.  It did take me a little while to get into the story as the points of view bounced between Solomon and Myron and Moshe and Arnold.  I felt more grounded in the story as Moshe learned more about the dream world with Noa and Gray.  I would have loved to learn more about these two, especially Noa's lineage.  I also enjoyed the character development of Myron's character.  Through Myron, the effect of organized crime on New York City's infrastructure becomes apparent.  His character was also one who went through a lot of transformation and I wish his story wasn't cut short.  Moshe's revelations as a tzaddik and his abilities in the dream world were intriguing and I would have loved to spend some more time there.  
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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