Archive for the Magick by Trial & Error Category

Demon est Deus inversus

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on December 13, 2017 by Occult Detective



The Demon is the reverse of God.

If only things were that simple, but the truth of the matter is that we live in a world awash in shades of grey. Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Light and Darkness — they’re just flip sides of the same bloody coin, and it is where the two meet that the real story begins.

Yeats famously said, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

I think their patience is wearing thin.

We are in the midst of a cultural and spiritual transformation. a proverbial sea change, a war unlike anything we’ve experienced in several decades.

The ditty does remember my drowned father.
This is no mortal business, nor no sound
That the earth owes. I hear it now above me.

— W. Shakespeare, The Tempest

I am awash in a sea of grey, surrounded by spirits, black and white, all about me. Steadfast, I remain resolute, my senses growing ever sharper, waiting for the roots of magic to flower and flourish once more.

Sacrifices must be made. Pyres must be lit. The cards fall where they may…

Death Tarot


Easily Led

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, Writing in Theory & Practice on November 6, 2017 by Occult Detective

“Easily Led” by Bob Freeman
Originally published by “The Black Glove”
November 4, 2009

signWhen invited to write an article for The Black Glove’s Horror Playlist I played over and over in my mind all the different approaches I could take. Geared toward a Top Ten format, I struggled over whether to take the easy route and list my favorite songs or albums, but such lists with me are fluid things, ever changing. and more representative of my current state of mind rather than being a concrete and immutable thing.

As The Black Glove caters to the horror genre, I began to think in terms of my writing and how music is a part of my overall creative process. When chained to my desk and in the actual throes of wordsmithing I tend to listen to movie soundtracks, classical music, or, most often, traditional Celtic Folk music. I find lyrics and vocals distracting to my writing process, as the words have a tendency to pull me out of the moment.


Instrumentals wash over me and focus my energies, allowing my consciousness to become untethered to the surrounding world and I become lost in the sea of my imagination… however, I’m all about setting a mood and if I have a bit of forethought into what I’m sitting down to write, I will select certain songs to enhance that atmosphere before the actual writing begins. So what follows is a list of those songs that I commonly turn to for inspiration, seeking to invoke an emotional response as I prepare myself to wield the power cosmic.

If any musical genre has reached into my soul and made itself a home it would be the Blues and if we’re going to look to the Blues then it begins and ends with Robert Johnson.

Robert_JohnsonGrowing up in a house filled with Country & Western and early Rock-n-Roll, it was only a matter of time before I found the heart of the matter. A growing obsession as a young man with Zeppelin led me to seek out their influences and Johnson, oft mentioned by both Page and Plant — as well as every other Blues-influenced British invader — helped me to rediscover this homespun legend. Black magic and the Blues was a marriage made in Heaven, and Johnson was the Black Pope, singing with a poignant, angst-ridden darkness and playing that beat up six string with an infernal urgency. His catalogue is perfection, but “Cross Road Blues” is the benchmark for excellence, invoking sympathy, longing, and remorse.

A host of artists have covered Johnson’s repertoire, but few have been able to make his music their own. One band who did so was the Cowboy Junkies with their cover of Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues”. A track off of the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, if you’re looking for something atmospheric this certainly fits the bill with its unique blend of Country, Blues, and Jazz, all filtered through an alternative rock sensibility.

ddStepping away from the Blues for a moment, this is the part of my essay where I make enemies I suspect. Could there be a more divisive addition to my list than the inclusion of Duran Duran? The darlings of the New Wave invasion and poster boys for the Video Age, Duran Duran’s assault was a confusing blend of science fiction and occult imagery fused with a synth-pop dynamic. Their sound was unique and, as evidenced by the track “The Chauffeur”, evocative of whimsical poetic expression coupled with a sonic fusion of funk, jazz, and electronica.

My admission to a fondness for Duran Duran compels me to “man up” a bit, so perhaps this is a good time to explore another aspect of musical inspiration to which I turn. I often write from a very visceral and violent place, conjuring up epic battles in my stories that I like to think are tied to the spirited prose of Robert E. Howard. I can think of two songs in particular that never fail to get those respective juices flowing: “I am a Viking” by Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and “Gimme the Prize”, a track culled from the Highlander soundtrack, performed by the gods of epic rock, Queen.

malmsteen“I am a Viking” is Malmsteen at his frenzied best, with blistering guitar work married expertly to Jeff Scott Soto’s thunderous voice. Brutal and honest, “Viking” is a celebration of violence and mayhem… something also found in Queen’s “Kugan theme” which incorporates this same bloodthirsty revelry, complete with movie sound-bytes and Brian May’s simply majestic invocation of bagpipes on his electric guitar. And Freddy Mercury is simply fierce on this track. Raw masculinity raging unfettered in a near mythological explosion of feral energy.

The common theme here is the invocation and evocation, if you will, of atmosphere and mood. We shall now take a glimpse into the underground to discover Current 93. One of the tracks that finds its way coming from my speakers often is the simply exquisite “Lucifer Over London”. David Tibet’s sublime lyric over the droning and diabolical cadence of a musical mantra pours out as if it’s been painted on a canvas of pure and decadent magic.

cbjohnetteSurreal and engrossing, I have found myself obsessing over Concrete Blonde and the truly masterful vocals of Johnette Napolitano. As a DJ in the mid-nineties I would open each night with “Why Don’t You See Me?” which set the tone for the evening as I sought to bring the crowd to a level of awareness of their own place in the universe. Needless to say, I was not a very successful spinner of vinyl, but the song has remained a staple of my magical and artistic development and it puts me in a special place from which to write from, as the preternatural is unfurled behind the cascading rhythm and dark melody.

dioBut now it seems we’re getting to the meat of it, aren’t we? I write supernatural thrillers and a world populated by fantastical creatures and otherworldly sorceries controlled by forces both good and evil, light and dark. If ever there was a musician who exemplified this conflict, it was Ronnie James Dio. The diminutive vocalist’s work with Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow exemplified this exploration of light and dark, particularly in the song “Self Portrait”. It is a depressing foray into the dark night of the soul and the track envelops you in its passionate outpouring.

iangillanIf we are to look at passion however, there is but one vocalist who can in turn slay me with every sublime note uttered from his throat. Ian Gillan is as a god who strides the earth, slaying all in his path with an awesome display of raw, fiery emotion. His work with Black Sabbath, especially on the title track to “Born Again”, is a virtuoso performance, with a lyrical content that crawls into your very soul and takes hold of that part of you that longs for something more. The band skillfully plods a course of slow, mind bending destruction as you float in an astral sea surrounded by Perdition’s flame, but it is that voice that spurs you on, uplifting you toward the promise of the ultimate release.

We have now come to the end of our journey. There is but one song left unsung… one tune that seeks to once more carry you off into creative serenity. For this, I’ve got but two words for you: Led Zeppelin.

When I first began mulling over this article, it was to the Thunder Gods of Rock that I invariably looked. I am an unabashed disciple who bows before the altar of Jimmy Page. Hell, I considered comprising a list of my favorite Zeppelin tracks, or even an examination of each studio album for this little essay.

Such is the power of Zeppelin and their hold over me, but now I’m faced with a dilemma. What song do I turn to in their awesome catalogue? Is there one song that encompasses the power, mystery, and hammer of the gods, as Page so succinctly put it?

The answer is “No”.


In the end, for my final song selection I say line then all up, each and every track that Led Zeppelin ever produced, and let them roll. From the bombastic metal onslaught of “The Immigrant Song” to the delicate and alternately tuned “Black Mountain Side”, from the sublimely layered majesty of “Kashmir” to the ballsy, bluesy, and poignant “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, from the epic splendour of “Houses of the Holy” to the haunting beauty of my favorite song of all time, “The Rain Song”.


When I need to find inspiration… when all else fails me… Led Zeppelin is there, tight but loose, bringing the thunder and the lightning of what is and what should never be.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to “In the Evening” then put on the Braveheart soundtrack and write about a growing darkness rising up out of the moors, hungry for the souls of men.

Hallowe’en is over, but Samhain remains.

Posted in Horror, Liber et Audax, Magick by Trial & Error, Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice on November 1, 2017 by Occult Detective


Another Hallowe’en has passed. We had a great night. We visited my parents at the Woodcarvers Building and watched some of the kids parade through in their costumes, then headed back home for a bonfire and camp supper.

We ended the evening with some para-entertainment, courtesy of Rob Lowe, and an episode of Lucifer.

All in all, a fine Hallowe’en that came and went too fast. Luckily, we’re still in the throes of Samhain, which will culminate this coming weekend with November’s Frost Moon.



It being November 1st, I can’t let the day pass without acknowledging the birthday of Landon Connors.

Yes, I know, he’s a fictional character, but in truth he’s much more than that. Giving him a birthdate grounded him for me. Knowing how old he was in, say, 1986, helps me make him a living and breathing person.

He was ten, by the way.

Happy 41st Birthday, Landon Connors. I hope there are many more to come…



If you were one of those who purchased the latest issue of Occult Detective Quarterly and found my Walter Davies tale, “Birds of a Feather”, truncated, fear not. The good folks at ODQ have uploaded the missing words in an Erratum, with future editions having the corrected prose.


That’s all for now… I’ve writing to attend to.

In hoc signo vinces

Posted in Liber et Audax, Magick by Trial & Error on October 13, 2017 by Occult Detective


Ah, yes, my second favorite ‘holiday’ is upon us, and in October no less.

This Friday the 13th is made even more special by signaling the 710th anniversary of King Philip IV’s royal decree that the Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici, or Knights Templar, be arrested en masse and charged with a whole host of crimes, such as heresy and sodomy.


The Templars have long been a fascination of mine. The sheer volume of material written about the Order is staggering and while the majority is conspiracy drivel, there are truths to be found scattered amongst the literary refuse.

The enigmatic nature of these “Poor-Soldiers of Christ” is captivating, from their humble origins to the esoteric and occult narrative that has been irrevocably woven into their mythology.

Of course, it’s the mysterious treasure horde they were said to possess that lures most down the rabbit hole of Templar obsession. Rumoured to have collected everything from the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the True Cross, and an unbelievable profusion of other divine relics, in addition to more worldly riches, the Templar Treasure, lost to the ages is the stuff of legend.

It’s fueled an entire industry unto itself. Mention the Templars and they will come.


Usually, Friday the 13th is reserved for Camp Crystal Lake related revelry. But not today. Today is for the Templars and to them I raise a horn in their honour. While our faiths do not coincide, the wonder of it all still sparks my imagination.

The end for them began with the words Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume. As the Knights of the Temple came to a close, their legend began and grew in the telling.


Words Writ with Moonlight

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, Writing in Theory & Practice on October 6, 2017 by Occult Detective

harvest moon

We are in the heart of it now, this autumnal rite of transformation. The rains have come. The colours of fall are upon us. The harvest moon watches from its celestial perch. The veil is thinning… Magic is in the air.

Magic is very much on my mind, both with the k and without, though to be honest, since every act is an act of magick, well, it’s all part and parcel…

My point is, I’m writing. Not as much as I’d like, but words are being writ just the same.

I have an insane amount of responsibilities at the moment, and a more than usual number of frets and worries, but magick is all about will and I can only do what I can do.

Magick, or no, there is nothing subtle about reality.

But, this was about writing, so back to it. I am in the midst of two projects:

One is a collaborative fiction of the occult detective variety. It is smoking good, I should warn you. My partner in crime on this is continually raising the bar and it’s an exciting turn. I think, once it has a home, that you’ll enjoy the ride we’ve crafted for you.

The other also has a bit of an occult detective bent, but from a non-fiction vein. Oh, this one has been in the making for decades. It is coming together slowly, to be sure, but deliberately. There is potential here for something special, and may in turn be expanded to include future volumes.

All this is to say, the witching season always brings with it creative energies waiting to be tapped. I am in throes of conjury. Unfettered and perhaps unhinged, I have entered the sanctum of the ancients and willfully succumbed to the inception of a magical reality, where all are bind-runes in a stream of ever-flowing majesty and the words are writ with moonlight on a parchment made of stars….

October Eve

Posted in Liber et Audax, Magick by Trial & Error on September 30, 2017 by Occult Detective


At long last, the dark, ominous presence of October is felt. It’s Last Day for September, harbinger of winter’s advance. Autumn may be born in what the Anglo-Saxons called Gerstmonath, but its roots run deepest within October’s embrace.


As I’ve said so many times before, in September we collect the components, but in October we cast the spell.

And what a spell it is — Winterfylleth, they called it in ancient times. With most of the harvest in, it was time to prepare for the long, cold dark ahead. The veil between this world and the next thins throughout the season, culminating in Samhain, Calan Gaeaf, Kalan Gwav, and Kalan Goañv, when the spirits are unfettered and those bumps in the night becoming a thundering cacophony.


I’ve loved October since I was but a wee lad, growing up on the banks of Turkey Creek in rural Indiana. Nature is never more beautiful than in these October months, when the earthy greens, russets, golds, and vermilions of autumn’s palette are painted upon the leaves of the Hoosier woodlands.

October brings with it Connor’s birthday (14 this year); our annual visits to our favorite abandoned house, Fishers’ Renaissance Faire, and Mississinewa 1812; All Hallow’s Read; paranormal investigations; cemetery strolls; and heaps of horror and fantasy roleplaying and playtesting.

There are frightening tales to be read and spinetingling movies to be watched; and writing, so much writing to be done.

Oh, October, how I love thee…

I bid September a fond farewell. You have set the stage, but now it’s time for the dark star to ascend, to bask beneath the arcane spotlight and for the play to begin.

My review of Understanding #AleisterCrowley’s Thoth Tarot by @Lonmiloduquette

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on September 29, 2017 by Occult Detective


I purchased Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris’ Thoth Tarot, and Crowley’s Book of Thoth, in 1986 from a small occult bookstore in Muncie, Indiana. I was just a hair past 20 years old at the time.

I had lived with Pixie’s Rider-Waite deck since junior high school. Embracing the Thoth deck felt like a graduation of sorts, and it was in many ways.

Our small off-campus house on Martin Street was something of a meeting place for esoteric-leaning and like-minded acquaintances.

We abused various illicit substances indiscriminately and pulled at the threads of the very fabric of the universe. Crowley was a hot topic, of course. He was and is a rite of passage for most occultists.

Admittedly, Crowley’s writing, while genius, can be somewhat labyrinthine, especially when chemical dependency is a point of fact. But devour it we did, and I was particularly devoted to the Thoth deck. While Pixie’s cards still held court in my readings for clients, in private, it was the Thoth to which I turned in those years.

By the gods, it was a challenge, and many aspects were debated, sometimes quite fervently, among our little clique of would-be magi. It was (and is) a difficult and intoxicatingly complex work, true of both the cards and Crowley’s guidebook.

crowleyThe struggle was so very satisfying, however, and I cherish those long nights poring over the deck, multiple references on hand, as I worked my way through it all.

That being said, I would have killed to have had access to Lon Milo DuQuette’s seminal work on the subject — Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.

Lon has a unique voice, writing in an effortless and often humorous and self-depreciating manner. His style is very relaxed and conversational without losing any of its authoritative stature. That goes a long way, believe me.

I stumbled upon this book in early 2004, I think, and at the time, worried that it gave away too much, that it removed much of the challenge implicit in the study of the deck and magick in general. But as I’ve grown older, I have softened on this view. Granted, I don’t think esoteric knowledge should be spoon-fed to the masses, but Lon is an erudite instructor, and an invaluable resource.

If you already own the book, as I did, this volume is well worth picking up. It seems cleaner than my original copy, far fewer typographical errors and such, plus the new introduction is worth the price of admission alone.

This really is a perfect companion to Crowley. Lon pulls back the veil, shedding light on the intricate symbolism Crowley and Harris infused within the artwork of this Tarot. It was true when I read the book thirteen years ago. It’s even more true today.

I will state it categorically — There has been no better resource written regarding the Thoth, to be sure. It really doesn’t get more definitive than this. If you are new to the Thoth deck, this book is the perfect compliment to Crowley’s own words on the subject.

Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot by Lon Milo DuQuette is hot off the presses and available directly from the publisher with but the click of a few buttons. You might also track it down in your local brick and mortar, assuming there’s one in your zip code, or through various and sundry online retail outlets.

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