Archive for the Magick by Trial & Error Category

My Thoughts on Tarot and the Archetypal Journey & Living Runes

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on June 13, 2019 by Occult Detective

Two quick “reviews” for the price of one? As both are reprints, the internet is overflowing with reviews of both, so rather than dissect them it feels more appropriate to give my overall impressions instead. Let’s start with the better of the two.

Tarot and the Archetypal Journey: The Jungian Path from Darkness to Light by Sallie Nichols was originally published by Weiser Books in 1980. I still have the copy I bought as a teen from Waldenbooks. This new edition is largely unchanged from the original, though Mary K. Greer’s foreword is a wonderful addition and a compliment to the introduction by Laurens van der Postis.

I remember liking the book quite a lot, though its overtly Christian bias was a bit of a turn-off. Now, all these years later, the book reads far differently. I am, after all, considerably older and less impressionable.

Nichols tends to ramble, drifting off on tangents, and it’s clear that she is a bit of a novice when it comes to the occult world. The book is very much of its time, hearkening largely to the seventies in its sensibilities. It comes across rather charming and nostalgic. All that being said, I stand by my twitter review — “It’s a meaty book. Nearly 400 pages with small print. It’s a classic for a reason. Insightful, Nichols leaves no stone unturned. Certainly a “must-read” for tarot enthusiasts.”

Of course, my biggest complaint regarding the book is the print size. Strange that 6pt type wasn’t an issue 39 years ago.

If you’re into tarot, this book needs to be on your shelf, without a doubt.

It is available wherever books are sold. Support the publisher by buying directly from the source. Click HERE.

Living Runes: Theory and Practice of Norse Divination by Galina Krasskova was originally published by New Page Books in 2009 as Runes: Theory and Practice. And yes, that’s another book I have on my shelf. This edition has a much more attractive cover, though the text within is seemingly unchanged, at least from memory. I did not do a side by side analysis.

I have a long history of problems with Krasskova because she has a tendency to state things matter-of-factly, like she is an undisputed authority on Norse Culture and Religion when the majority of her writings are merely redressed Wicca, conjecture, and/or wishful thinking. Calling one’s self a priest of Odin or Northern Tradition shaman is easy enough, backing it up is another matter altogether.

I have reviewed her works in the past. Here are my reviews of Exploring the Northern Tradition and Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner. My thoughts have not changed in the slightest.

There is a wealth of books on the runes on the market. I recently reviewed Edred Thorsson’s The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic, for instance, and gave it high marks. I also would recommend checking out my review of Diana Paxson’s Odin: Ecstacy, Runes, & Norse Magic.

I did not care for this book the first time around. My second reading of it did not change my opinion.

Still, that being said, there are insights to be found. Things that spur thoughts in different directions. And sometimes it’s good to read differing opinions. If you’re one of those, like me, you can pick up an inexpensive copy of Living Runes from Amazon HERE.

My thoughts on ‘Beyond the North Wind’ by Christopher McIntosh

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on May 2, 2019 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.

ChildrenofOdin001All 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_webMcIntosh 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 One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on April 9, 2019 by Occult Detective

onetruthonespiritI’ve read this book, One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy, three times and I am of an equal number of minds about it, hence my waiting till now to publish my thoughts (and concerns) regarding what is, frankly, a fascinating, if not controversial, exploration of the History of Thelema, at least since the passing of the Great Beast.

Here’s what the dust jacket has to say about it:

Based upon academic research at the University of Amsterdam’s Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, One Truth and One Spirit is a much-needed work that covers a previously unexplored history of the modern religious movement known as Thelema. This work details the theoretical framework of Aleister Crowley’s spiritual legacy in the O.T.O. and the A:.A:. and covers the years of Thelema since Crowley’s death in 1947.

One Truth and One Spirit approaches a complex topic with a complex history, with exhaustive citations and sources, but it is written for anyone interested in the subject of Thelema. The author utilizes published source material as well as previously unavailable information, which makes this a unique contribution to the available literature.

One Truth and One Spirit is expected to be of interest to the novice, the scholar, and the seasoned practitioner of Thelema. The work provides a general historical overview of Thelema from a theoretical vantage point, explores the historical development of the movement from the 1960s to the 1990s, and applies the author’s own critical discussions on the topic itself.

I promised myself some time ago that I would not publish unfavorable reviews of material sent to me by publishers. Better to remain silent, I think. Not that I am not critical in the reviews I do publish. If I publish a review, then I am recommending it to the public, warts and all. I just see no reason to review a book that I feel is unworthy of purchase. I would rather shine a light on books I feel have some value to readers like myself. As always, these are just my opinions. Take that as you will.

Which leads me to One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy ( Foreword by Vere Chappell).

Fitting, in many respects, that I am writing this on the Second Day of the Feast of the Three Days of the Writing of the Book of the Law.

I came to Crowley, in 1977, by way of Lovecraft, oddly enough, for it was Lovecraft that led me to the Simon Necronomicon, which led me to Cavendish’s fourth volume of Man, Myth, and Magic, which then led me to The Book of Lies in my public library. Coupled with an article on Jimmy Page in, I believe, Circus magazine, in which his Crowley fascination was addressed, and, well, I was hooked.

The histories of the Golden Dawn, O.T.O., A:.A:., and countless other magical orders and esoteric faiths, as well as all the principle players involved, has long been a passion of mine. The very finest of the lot would be Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley.

That being said, I enjoy a history written with an agenda as much as a more literal and factual bent. I find One Truth and One Spirit to lend itself more to the former than the later.

One Truth and One Spirit is a beautiful book. Ibis Press is really one of the premiere publishing houses and they never cease to amaze me with the level of precision they exude, from graphic design to editorial perfection. I noticed not a single typographical error throughout which is to be commended. The attention to detail is what sets Ibis Press apart and any book they cast out into the world is one worth adding to your library.

As to the content itself, while the history of Thelema as presented by Readdy might be stilted, it is no less fascinating. The author paints a vivid and thorough picture, despite the labyrinthine nature of the occult world after Crowley’s demise.

Readdy seems a bit harsh in terms of some of the players involved, most notably of Soror Meral, the late Phyllis Seckler.

That being said, you will be hard pressed to set this work down, the author’s bias toward the legitimacy of one particular lineage of authority over others notwithstanding.

Therein lies the rub, despite protestations to the contrary, One Truth and One Spirit is intent on steering the narrative, but as I don’t have a proverbial dog in the hunt, I’m fine with it.

And I think most of you will too.

One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy, with a Foreword by Vere Chappell, is published by Ibis Press, distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser, and available wherever books are sold.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

93/93

 

 

My review of In the Cards by Marjorie G. Jones

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, Occult Detectives on April 3, 2019 by Occult Detective

inthecardsI love a good occult detective story (obviously) and In the Cards by Marjorie G. Jones delivers. This being her first novel, Jones is to be be forgiven for some overtly purple prose.

She paints an elegant and sophisticated picture, and she is well-versed in the protagonist of this thriller — Frances Yates.

Yates was a note worthy historian whose studies centered around Giordano Bruno and the influence of the Hermetic Tradition on the Renaissance.

Jones’ impeccable scholarship helps construct a vibrant and alluring murder mystery that, in its very best moments, reminds one of Umberto Eco’s works.

While the writing does not quite achieve those lofty resemblances on a consistent basis, it is an entertaining yarn that shows the author has tremendous promise in the realm of occult detective fiction.

I can only hope there is more to come.

The book is described as follows —

In collaboration with a Scotland Yard detective, who is also a Freemason, Frances Yates, eminent historian of Renaissance spirituality and proponent of martyred priest Giordano Bruno, employs her unique scholarship to solve a murder and the theft of a rare volume in the renowned musty library of ancient philosophical traditions, where she has long been a resident scholar.

While immersed in an article regarding the significance of mysterious tarot cards, Yates comes to realize that the recurring images of the cards illustrate universal life stages and character traits that may provide clues to the identity of the murderer. Along the way, she encounters more recent scholarship regarding feminist theology that, together with the tarot, prompts her to reconsider her own patriarchal spiritual worldview.

In the Cards by Marjorie G. Jones is published by Ibis Press and distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser. I recommend it to all lovers of a good mystery.

In the Cards is available on Amazon for only slightly more than $10 for the trade paperback. A tremendous bargain that one should not pass up.

Paranormal Retroactivity

Posted in Liber et Audax, Magick by Trial & Error on March 5, 2019 by Occult Detective

Magick, in all its forms and practices, is our attempt to kindle that spark of divinity that is our birthright. We are the children of the gods and we are meant to stride amongst the infinite…

merc retro

Each of us has a number, special to us. Mine is 8, though I generally write it ∞. It seems like this year should be my year. It’s my 53rd, after all. 5 and 3 make 8.

Astrologically speaking, Mercury retrogrades in Pisces today. It’s a time to look inward, to reflect, to consider my path forward, and the legacy I hope to leave behind. Jupiter factors into this accord as well. Everything’s lining up.

Tomorrow, Uranus moves into Taurus for the next seven years which should inspire an insane amount of creativity. And with the New Moon, well, this synchronicity of events couldn’t be more timely.

It is a time to become wild and free, to plunge myself into the wilderness, to stalk my muse and harvest it.

In seven years I’ll be sixty. Now’s the time to plot my course.

I have several projects I would like to see completed by year’s end:

  1. Occult Detective RPG for Bordermen Games
  2. No Quarter, a 5th Edition Campaign Setting for Bordermen Games
  3. An anthology of Occult Fiction by Practicing Occultists
  4. Widow-maker’s Apprentice,  a collaboration with Steven Shrewsbury
  5. The sequel to Hallowe’en House, a collaboration with Greg Mitchell
  6. Born Again, the final book in the Liber Monstrorum and Cairnwood Manor series

I also have a couple of other projects I’d like to get off the ground, including an occult detective/sword and sorcery series and what could very well be my final horror novel.

The biggest thing itching at me though is a non-fiction handbook — sort of an occult detective’s grimoire, a grim-noir, if you will.

Time will tell. I’ve a lot of things that need to find their proper alignment, but my goal is to see all these projects, and others unnamed, through by 2026.

I’m not really a planner. I like to spread the seed and let things grow organically, wildly even.

Fingers (and swords) crossed.

My thoughts on Edred Thorsson’s The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on February 12, 2019 by Occult Detective

rune-coverI’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.

My thoughts on Water Witchcraft by Annwyn Avalon

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on February 8, 2019 by Occult Detective

waterwitchcraftI was rather pleasantly surprised by Annwyn Avalon’s Water Witchcraft: Magic and Lore from the Celtic Tradition. Maybe the book caught me in a good mood, or maybe it just appealed to my Piscean nature, but for a someone new to the craft, it’s pretty thorough and has a voice that will appeal to most readers, especially those hungry for a fresh start into water-based magic.

It is literally packed with useful tools, meditations, and spellwork. Just the sort of thing a beginner is looking for.

If it has a shortcoming, it’s that it is rather plain. I would have fancied some artwork sprinkled about or some clever trappings, but that’s probably the graphic designer in me talking.

It’s ultimately the content that matters and Avalon has delivered in that regard. The work is very intuitive and feels natural, as it should, and some things I found to be variations of things I’ve been doing for more than thirty years, so good on her.

With Spring approaching, this is a stellar book to shake off the last gasp of Winter, to head out into the wilds and find yourself by a secluded stream or pond, and have a go at it.

I suspect it will speak to you as readily as it spoke to me.

Water Witchcraft: Magic and Lore from the Celtic Tradition by Annwyn Avalon will be available the first of March, my birthday no less. Preorder yours from Amazon today if you’re of a mind to. I think you’ll fancy it.

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