The Occult Detective’s Last Writes with… David J. West

Posted in Last Writes with... on November 20, 2020 by Occult Detective

TODAY’S DEPARTING:

Another friend discovered through Howard Fandom, David J. West, who also writes under the name James Alderdice, pens savage tales of sword & sorcery, wonderfully weird westerns, grim and dark fantasy, and the like.

West and I share similar values, being family men and patriots, but we also have a common affinity, not just for Robert E. Howard’s philosophies and writings, but for ancient ruins, swords, and spending time in the back country.

As such, being able to share his Last Writes with you now is an honor.

Last Meal

Vanilla milkshakes take me back to hanging out with my grandfather and Dad. A cappuccino with way too much sugar. A medium rare sirloin cut of elk steak. A slice of pepperoni pizza from Marias Italian Kitchen in LA. And finally a salted caramel gelato. All of these take me back to incredibly fond memories.

Last Book

This is really hard as a serious bibliophile. I thin as a spiritual guide I would reread The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi which is already something I refer to as one of my gospels.

Last Movie

I’m a person who enjoys rereading and rewatching my favorites. I think I would go with Conan the Barbarian for old times sake.

Last Song

This Corrosion by the Sisters of Mercy

First person you’d like to meet on the other side

I expect to meet my deceased brother, but for someone that the rest of you would know, I would say I would really like to spend some time chatting with my favorite author Robert E. Howard.

#Norsevember …Hammer in the Morning

Posted in Current Events on November 18, 2020 by Occult Detective

In 1985, my best friend, Brent Smith, and I went to Indianapolis for a Gun & Knife Show. A dealer there, a local Silversmith, had an impressive display of handcrafted jewelry, a couple of Norse Hammers among them. I talked to him about commissioning a Mjolnir necklace. He agreed and I took his card. A week later I mailed off a photocopy of a Hammer found near Romersdal, on the island of Bornholm.

bob

In 1986, Brent and I returned to the Gun & Knife Show and the dealer had my necklace. He charged me less than $200 for the silver work and even incorporated an ouroboros Jormundgandr  as the ring.

I’ve been wearing this necklace for just over thirty-five years now. If the gods are willing I will wear it for 35 more.

It is a symbol of my faith, of my reverence for my cultural heritage. It represents protection, strength, and power.

It is NOT a symbol of white supremacy, racism, or hate, as so many SJWs would have you believe. I have no room in my heart for intolerance of any stripe.

The Thunder God wields Mjolnir as a protector of all the people of Midgard.

While I revere my Northern European ancestors, particularly the Norse, Celts, Anglo Saxons, and Germanic tribes, it is not at the exclusion of other cultures.

We all share the same rock.

I will raise a horn to you and yours and ask that you do the same for me and mine.

Skál!

.:.

What I’m writing:  Rules for a Sword & Sorcery RPG.

What I’m reading: The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature by Hilda Roderick Ellis M.A., Ph.D.

What I’m studying: game design via various online sources

What I’m drawing: interior art for RPGPundit’s Invisible College.

What I’m watching: The Mandalorian, The Last Kingdom, Designated Survivor, Seinfeld, Rules of Engagement, Curse of Oak Island, The Holzer Files, lots of YouTube

Music I’m listening to: Listening to Wardruna via Youtube; Led Zeppelin and Concrete Blonde during my commute.

Podcasts I’m listening to: Gordon White’s Rune Soup

What I’m playing: Dungeons & Dragons 5E on roll20, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

What I’m anticipating: Pandemic Thanksgiving

Thorsson’s Big Book of Runes & Rune Magic for #Norsevember

Posted in Book Review on November 12, 2020 by Occult Detective
rune-cover

I’ve been reading Edred Thorsson for something akin to thirty-five years. My first introduction to his writing came by way of Weiser’s 1984 publication of Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic.

With The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic, we find what is essentially an amalgamation of the author’s previous works under one roof, so to speak.

I have found Thorsson (Stephen Flowers) to be a competent writer, knowledgeable and persistent in his worldview.

I have not always agreed with him and his interpretations. The simple truth of the matter is, so very little is known about Norse culture, so little has survived. While Gods remain, the ways in which they were worshiped, how their magic was practiced, is lost to the mysteries of time.

As such, when investigating the runes and Norse culture it is always wise to do so with the foreknowledge that there is no true “authority”.

viking-runes

Thorsson approaches the subject with an almost split personality. On one hand he’s an academic forthright in his pursuit of the truth, plumbing historical records with an anthropologist’s thirst. On the other, Thorsson is an erstwhile explorer, experimenting with the bits we’ve collected and trying to make practical sense of it, not as a reenactment but as a way to move it forward while honoring what has gone before.

It’s a tricky business, and I’m not always onboard, but his scholarship is such that I am compelled to take notice, to take from it that which rings true.

I find this edition from Red Wheel/Weiser to be comprehensive, which is its crowning feature. They were able to collect a broad selection of Thorsson’s scholarship and put it all in one place, which is both handy and makes for a more complete journey.

You can pick up Edred Thorsson’s The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic wherever books are sold, or you might pick it up directly from Red Wheel/Weiser to help ensure books like these keep coming our way.

Thoughts on Lost Teachings of the Runes by Ingrid Kincaid / #Norsevember

Posted in Book Review on November 7, 2020 by Occult Detective

Lost Teachings of the Runes is an unexpected adventure into the hidden meanings and profound lessons held in these simple markings that are the signatures of ancient beings.

kincaid runes

Lost Teachings of the Runes invites the reader to journey to the realms of past and future that exist hidden beyond the horizon and beneath our feet. Using an engaging blend of stories, meditations, and ancestral knowing, author Ingrid Kincaid explores Northern Mysteries from the center of the Wheel of Life. Kincaid demonstrates ways the Wheel can be used to connect ancient wisdom with modern life, and offers tools and teachings that may be used on a daily basis to enable readers to reclaim their personal power. Lost Teachings of the Runes presents a life-affirming, death-honoring approach that returns the runes to a place of balance, to light and dark, to order and chaos, and to the roots and branches of the world tree.

break

I was quite surprised by Lost Teachings. I was expecting this to be another modern examination of the runes with that New Age slant you so often get these days, but instead a discovered a very vibrant and thoughtful poetic journey that mirrored for me how the runes are alive and a visceral part of religious experience.

I felt very connected to the author’s word, in a way that’s difficult to explain, and I think it’s because they speak on many levels, the most important being to that deeper, primordial essence that connects us to our Northern European forebearers.

There is true magic of the north within these pages. You will feel them echo in your bones. She writes, as the book closes, “Sometimes all that needs to change are the meanings we attach to the stories we tell.” Very insightful and true.

Lost Teachings of the Runes is a journey. I am reminded of the guided meditations I used to take part in back in the late 80s, when the world was still fresh to me and I had so many questions (and yet thought I had all the answers). Lost Teachings led me to that long ago place and connected it with an even greater expanse, back to my ancestors, and made me feel at peace.

These words came to me just as I needed them.

I obviously recommend this book to all seekers of knowledge and understanding. One need not be a practitioner of a northern faith to gain insight and benefit from the lessons here.

You can find Lost Teachings of the Runes: Northern Mysteries and the Wheel of Life by Ingrid Kincaid wherever books are sold, though I recommend one purchase directly from Weiser Books. The more money that finds its way into the publisher’s pocket ensures many more books from them in the future.

#Norsevember Comics!

Posted in Book Review on November 5, 2020 by Occult Detective

Yesterday was comic book day and I picked up a slew of new books, including, apropos of #Norsevember, the second issue of the P. Craig Russell (and friends) adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and issue 9 (Legacy # 735) of the latest take on Marvel’s Thor.

Both were solid entertainment, with compelling art and good storytelling.

Donny Cates’ run on Thor has breathed new life into the character, and while I’ve been quite critical of Marvel’s mishandling of their properties these past couple of decades, Cates has taken what Marvel has offered and made something special so far. Not an easy task considering the mess the studio has allowed to fester, largely due to editorial mismanagement from the top down.

Or maybe I’m just growing long of tooth…

I quite enjoyed Gaiman’s retelling of Norse Mythology, and Russell and Company are doing a beautiful adaptation that is representative of Russell’s long history of magically illustrated works, such as his adaptation of the Ring Cycle.

All of this got me to thinking of comics that I have enjoyed over the years that have addressed Norse Myth & Culture. There have been plenty in recent years, such as Brian Wood’s Northlanders and Sword Daughter, or Cullen Bunn’s Helheim. Walt Simonson’s Ragnarok has been a lot of fun (and an interesting take, to be sure).

There have been terrific European series, like the classic Thorgal, or Hammerfall, which I absolutely adored.

But then you have The Ring of the Nibelungs, adapted by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane for DC, and by P. Craig Russell for Dark Horse. Both are simply amazing.

Of course, The Mighty Thor deserves accolades beyond measure. Easily in my Top 10 favorite mainstream comics, with illustrations by the likes of Kirby, Buscema, and Simonson, Thor was a huge part of my childhood. Yes, it’s nowhere near historically accurate, but is was a catalyst in my youth, to be sure.

Though, probably the very first comic that made me aware of Norse Culture was Prince Valiant, which I read in the Sunday Comics religiously beginning in the early seventies. Again, what it lacked in historical accuracy was tempered by Hal Foster’s unbridled imagination. It certainly fueled mine.

These a just a few of the titles that spring to mind, there are many more to be sure. That’s the thing about Norse heritage — it is rich, noble, imaginative, and colorful… and tailor-made for adaptation in comics.

Revisiting Beyond the North Wind: The Fall and Rise of the Mystic North by Christopher McIntosh / #Norsevember

Posted in Book Review on November 4, 2020 by Occult Detective
north wind

I first heard the Call of the North when I was 8 years old.

I was raised in a Church of Christ, a faith born of the American Restoration Movement given life in the frontier during the late 1770s, but it never spoke to me. I never considered myself “Christian” though I did enjoy bible classes and singing. Ours was an a cappella / total immersive baptism / right-leaning congregation.

As a child, I came across a reference to the conversion of the Celts and Norse, often by the sword, and I came to realize that my ancestors had their faith taken from them. I knew my family was predominately English, Scots, and Irish so I looked into their histories as best I could, using encyclopedias and other reference books available in both my school and public library. I read of the Celts and Anglo-Saxons, of the Germanic tribes, and of the raiders from the North.

ChildrenofOdin001

All of that led me to The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum, with illustrations by Willy Pogany. These were the tales of my ancestors’ gods. It was to these mythical beings that my forefathers prayed to. I was, in a word, captivated, and I pledged myself to Odin, then and there, placing Thor and Sif in the role of God and Goddess akin to the books on witchcraft I had been studying as well.

So, when I read Christopher McIntosh’s introduction in Beyond the North Wind: The Fall and Rise of the Mystic North and his recounting of C.S. Lewis’ “Come to Balder” moment, I knew that I had been blessed with a similar calling. It was that same ‘Call of the North‘ that I answered as a small child. I had a feeling this book that I was now reading, with its call backs to my own childhood, was to be something special.

I was not wrong on that accord.

While it does have its faults, Christopher McIntosh has delivered a wonderful treatise on the stirring of the Northern Spirit, delving into the ancient mysteries and showing their influence on modern culture.

It is not lost on me that in the midst of a very vocal minority seeking to redefine itself through identity politics, shame culture, and newthink activism, and an equally bankrupt minority obsessing on the false tenants of white supremacy, you have a resurgence of the Norse Current that sings of a deeper truth and meaning to those with ears to hear it.

christopher mcintosh_web

McIntosh is a talented author, able to succinctly get his point across with both a dramatic flair and an erudite cadence. He speaks of the past with reverence, but in such a way that pulls it from that distant memory to make it seem present and alive.

There’s a bit of Graham Hancock in his musings, which I enjoy, though without the thoroughness and alternate-archaeological whimsy Hancock is known for.

The greatest weakness of Beyond the North Wind is that it seems to only just scratch the surface. I wanted more meat, but as an appetizer, it was a nourishing dish. The references to current pop culture trends was interesting, though unfulfilling. Where McIntosh really makes an impact is in his contemplations on Hyperborea and the Runes.

Beyond the North Wind is a book equally valid for learned scholars and those just embarking on their journey. It is a book I highly recommend.

Available now in a bookstore near you, Beyond the North Wind: The Fall and Rise of the Mystic North by Christopher R. McIntosh is a worthy read that will be well at home in your personal library.

My thoughts on Odin by Diana L. Paxson / #Norsevember

Posted in Book Review on November 3, 2020 by Occult Detective

odin

“I told you I would tell you my names. This is what they call me. I’m called Glad-of-War, Grim, Raider, and Third. I am One-Eyed. I am called Highest, and True-Guesser. I am Grimnir, and I am the Hooded One. I am All-Father, and I am Gondlir Wand-Bearer. I have as many names as there are winds, as many titles as there are ways to die. My ravens are Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory; my wolves are Freki and Geri; my horse is the gallows.”

— Neil Gaiman, American Gods

…I really like the faux-parchment cover with the rich chocolate coloured lettering. The iconic cover image itself is bold and traditional, though the ravens seem out-of-synch with the classic depiction of Odin astride Sleipnir.

The interior is clean and neat, with solid font choices throughout. A little too varied for my tastes, but nothing overtly inappropriate (which is something you find far too often these days with the advancements in desktop printing).

I like the interior illustrations, which evoke an old world, woodcut feel, lending an air of authenticity to the overall work.

The layout and design are not perfect*, but neither is it distracting. It’s an attractive enough book, but it’s the content that matters most, especially considering the subject matter.

As stated previously, I have a tremendous respect for Diana Paxson. She has such a lyrical quality to her writing and she is as knowledgeable and honest as one can hope to discover. Her words mean a lot to me and she does not disappoint here.

You can feel her forthright devotion on every page, and let’s face it, the Allfather is a complex character, not easy to dissect and codify. Paxson’s examination of Odin in all his guises is as comprehensive as you’re apt to find. Her scholarship is sound and she blends her erudition with an intuitive insight that further unlocks the mystery that surrounds Old One-Eye.

For those new to Odin and the gods of Northern Europe, this is a tremendous introduction. It straddles the fine line between what is known from historical sources with the modern evolution of Odinic worship.

In that regard, there will be points of contention with many within the greater Odinist community. I foresee many of my more folkish leaning peers to find some of her thoughts contrary to their own.

That’s okay. If it opens a meaningful and respectful dialogue, more’s the better. Odin wears many and contradictory hats. This book is an opportunity to bring Odin into the hearts and minds of the masses, and Diana Paxson is an honorable spokesperson for those who walk the northern path. She is a natural storyteller, through and through, and she writes with a clear sense of purpose and conviction.

This is an important work and one I am proud to recommend to those new to the Old Ways of our Northern European ancestors, but I also think there is plenty to be learned by those of us with many years on this path already.

Diana Paxson presents a dazzling and uncompromising portrait of the Hooded One. She brings Geirölnir to life on the page, not as a religious icon, but as a living, vibrant deity that is actively among us.

Odin: Ecstasy, Runes, & Norse Magic by Diana L. Paxson is available wherever books are sold, but I recommend without hesitation that one should buy directly from Red Wheel/Weiser. Why fill the coffers of middle men, when you can show your appreciation at the source, thus allowing them greater profit.

*There is one unfortunate typo that I must address. On page 275, the name of the band is Garmarna, not Gramarna.

My thoughts on The Wanderer’s Hávamál #Norsevember

Posted in Book Review on November 2, 2020 by Occult Detective

From the good folks at Spells & SpaceshipsNorsevember is a reading event in which we talk about, recommend, read and review Norse inspired books! Use the hashtag #Norsevember so others taking part can find your posts easier and we can include and retweet your stuff for the event!

How could I not take part in this? I’ve been assigned a longship, which I’ve entitled Alba Gu Brath, and I’m ready to set sail. Now… let’s get to raiding.

My first stop is The Wanderer’s Havamal, newly translated by Old Norse Specialist and youtube phenom, Dr. Jackson Crawford.

From the Amazon description: The Wanderer’s Hávamál features Jackson Crawford’s complete, carefully revised English translation of the Old Norse poem Hávamál, newly annotated for this volume, together with facing original Old Norse text sourced directly from the Codex Regius manuscript.

Rounding out the volume are Crawford’s classic Cowboy Hávamál and translations of other related texts central to understanding the character, wisdom, and mysteries of Óðinn (Odin). Portable and reader-friendly, it makes an ideal companion for both lovers of Old Norse mythology and those new to the wisdom of this central Eddic poem wherever they may find themselves.

Hávamál, or ‘Words of the High One’, is certainly the most important work contained in the Poetic Edda. It represents a glimpse into the cultural mores of an ancient people whose way of life is largely lost to the annals of time.

Jackson Crawford has delivered a fresh translation that breathes new life into these matters of Norse ethics and ettiquette.

Let’s take a look. Here is the first stanza of Gestaþáttr:

Gattir allar,
aþr gangi fram,
vm scoðaz scyli,
vm scygnaz scyli;
þviat ouist er at vita,
hvar ovinir sitia
a fleti fyr

The Bellows translation of the first stanza reads:

Within the gates before a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

Now, let’s compare that to Crawford:

At every doorway
before you enter,
you should look around,
you should take a good look around —
for you never know
where your enemies
might be seated within.

I believe that Crawford has delivered the definitive translation of the Hávamál, not only because of his linguistic skillset, but because of his understanding of poetry. The Norse were talented wordsmiths and Crawford admirably maintains the integrity of the verse throughout.

I am no linguist, but I do appreciate the rhythm of words and I find that The Wanderer’s Hávamál, which is marked with erudite commentary, is infused with the purest essence of the Northmens’ intent.

As for the book itself, Hackett has done the work proud. I purchased the hardcover edition, and the craftsmanship and design is flawless. It immediately became one of my most treasured books and I recommend it without question.

The Occult Detective’s Last Writes with… Matt Cowan

Posted in Last Writes with... on October 30, 2020 by Occult Detective

TODAY’S DEPARTING:

It’s Devil’s Night, Hallowe’en Eve, and who better to turn to when mischief, mayhem, and the macabre are in full bloom than the founder of Horror Delve, author Matt Cowan.

Matt is a skilled writer of the sort of fictions we crave all too much around here, and he is a connoisseur of classic horror stories and of the men and women who create them.

As soon as I decided to resurrect Last Writes, I had Matt in mind for our Hallowe’en Chapter. It is an honor to call him a friend and even more so to have him now share with us his Last Writes…

Last Meal

It would have to be a works pizza with extra cheese and mushrooms, an order of bread sticks with double cheese sauces (I really love cheese!) and a sangria to drink.

Last Book

This is extremely hard because because I love reading so much, but as I’m addicted to buying horror anthologies it would probably have to be one of those. I’m partial to haunted house stories, so it would need to have plenty of those in the mix, and considering Ramsey Campbell is my all-time favorite author, it would need to include a story or three by him as well.

Last Movie

This one is tough as well. The first Best of the Best movie is the one I’ve seen the most over my lifetime but that was largely when I was heavily into Tae Kwon Do back in the 90’s. If I were picking a horror film it would likely be either Insidious, The Legend of Hell House or The Mothman Prophecies. I also have a huge love for the Marvel Super-Hero films but for sheer mindless fun I’m going to go with Hawk the Slayer. I know it has many flaws and lots of haters, but I’ve loved it since I first saw it on television as a kid. It’s my favorite fantasy film and just manages to make me smile each time I watch it.

Last Song

I’m not a huge music person in general. I do tend to listen to Tori Amos, Seal and Sarah McLaughlin while writing as their music is often infused with a mournful eeriness I seek to convey in my stories. I guess I’ll go with Sarah’s haunting melody, Out of the Shadows. It has a haunting, life-slipping-away quality to it which seems appropriate for such an occasion.

First person I’d like to meet on the other side

I’ve been blessed in that I haven’t lost any members of my immediate family thus far. There’s my grandfather who I was close to as a child, or someone like Mark Justice who I never got to meet in person but whom I became friends with online. Ultimately, I think I’d go with someone I only ever spoke with once – my wife’s father. He died of Lymphoma back in her home state of Mississippi early on when she and I’d begun dating so I never got the chance to meet him. I talked to him once briefly when she handed me her phone to say hi. He joked with me a little before I gave the phone back. Our interaction was brief but his sense of humor came through and knowing how important he was to my wife makes me wish I’d better had the chance to know him.

Occult Detective Countdown Finale 20/20: John Constantine / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 29, 2020 by Occult Detective

We’ve reached the end of our journey through our Occult Detective Countdown. There was no order, rhyme, or reason to the list. It was never a “best of” sort of thing, but I did save the best for last.

I came to the world of John Constantine a bit later than most, I suppose. I knew of him, of course, but it wasn’t until Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic that I got my first real dose of the character. I was immediately smitten. Constantine was a real  nasty piece of work. He’s been called a “working-class magician” and “con-man”. Yep, that sums it up rather nicely. He’s bitter, road-worn, and a chain smoking ne’er-do-well and I love him for it.

I read the Constantine monthly, Hellblazer, pretty consistently starting in the late 90s. I’ve read all the specials and crossovers and gone back and tracked the character’s progress from his first appearance in Moore’s Swamp Thing.

I watched the Keanu Reeves movie, the Matt Ryan series, and I’ve seen sporadic episodes of Legends of Tomorrow. I sat through the animated films and yes, I still pick up the comics…

I guess you’d call me a fan.

Hellblazer’s barking right up my proverbial tree, John being an occult detective through and through. Constantine and my own occult detective, Landon Connors (originally named Solomon Killingbeck), were born about the same time in the late 80s and I guess Moore and I were tapping into similar influences. Constantine is far more bitter than my guy, mind you. He’s far more jaded and had a tougher go of it. But they’re cut from a not dissimilar mold.

Where they’re different, I think, is that John’s real, or was made so. Chaos magick’s like that, you know. He’s has a rough go of it. DC’s not always been overly kind to him, saddling him with too many capes of late.

Constantine works best in his own little corner of the multiverse. Oh sure, Zatanna or Madame Xandadu are fine on occasion, even some of the other mystical blokes. But I cringe whenever I see the front and center DC proper about.

John doesn’t need to be rubbing shoulders with Batman. It makes him less… real.

Of course, as I type this, DC has cancelled John once again. His latest run, from Simon Spurrier and Aaron Campbell has been nothing short of brilliant, so of course it’s been axed. Comics are a dying medium. We can’t keep anything nice…

But that’s okay. John’s still out there, doing what we occult detectives do — stirring up trouble and getting by on a wing and a prayer, and through it all, giving the devil his due.

We’ll see you around, Constantine, in one form or another.

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