Archive for the Magick by Trial & Error Category


Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on June 21, 2017 by Occult Detective


My thoughts on A Dark Song

Posted in Horror, Magick by Trial & Error, Media Macabre on May 19, 2017 by Occult Detective

a dark song

Liam Gavin has delivered an intense and atmospheric occult thriller that is, in a word, absolutely brilliant. Moody and claustrophobic, the tension escalates throughout, and with but two principle players, the stark tapestry woven between them is mesmerizing.

Catherine Walker and Steve Oram are wonderful in this. Walker’s vulnerability and pain are the linchpin to the story, while Oram’s performance perfectly captures so many occultists I’ve had run ins with.


Evoking the Abramelin ritual, carefully constructed and acted, this is a movie about so much more than sorcery as the real magic lies in human emotion, raw and visceral. But magic abounds and is captivating and painful to watch as the drama unfolds.

It’s a beautiful and frightening picture, with a resolution that feels transcendent and important.

This is the second vibrant and exuberant esoteric film I’ve seen this year, the first being The Love Witch, a lustful and decadent camp, that was an utter delight. Now, with A Dark Song, we have a more tenebrous exploration of magical enterprise.

A really cannot recommend this picture highly enough.

Available via Vudu, Amazon, or iTunes

New Reviews for the Magically Curious

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on May 11, 2017 by Occult Detective

A couple of years back I reviewed Varla Ventura’s Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires & Other Creatures of the Night and described it as “a delightful little tome, filled with delicious illustrations and wondrous tales, both real and imagined.” Well, I’m delighted to say that Varla is back with a new book, as equally engaging.

varla2Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm is the perfect companion to Banshees.

Utilizing Jim Warner and Deborah Dutton again, Weiser Books has pulled out all the stops, crafting a beautifully designed book, accentuating Varla Ventura’s thoughtful and whimsical exploration of these creatures of the fey.

Varla is one of my favorites, and her books are never far from my reach when I’m in the throes of writing another paranormal thriller. The author is a gifted storyteller and she captures the essence of these folk tales and legends and breathes fresh life into them.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

I wish I could say the same for Leanna Greenaway’s Wicca, part of Hampton Roads’ Plain & Simple series. Billed as “The Only Book You’ll Ever Need”, I’m here to tell you that’s about as wrong as wrong gets.

wiccaWicca starts out well enough. Judika Illes delivers an erudite introduction that is personal and heartfelt, but from there Leanna Greenaway delivers a very Wicca-lite and very modern approach to the Craft.

I understand that Wicca and Witchcraft has evolved much over the years, that the 70s and 80s are long past, but I am a child of that era and it’s still a fresh and vivid memory for me.

My childhood was filled with the writings of Gerald Gardner, Stewart Farrar, Sybil Leek, Patricia Crowther, Doreen Valiente, and others. My teeth were cut in an Alexandrian Coven in the mid-80s. Leanna Greenaway’s Wicca just doesn’t speak to me.

As a beginner’s primer, it’s harmless, and it has its uses, but to anyone with a few strands of grey in their hair, this book is best passed over. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t care for the design of the book. The illustrations and diagrams were lifeless and uninspired, matching, I fear, the intensity of the book.

So, there you have it — two reviews, one thumb up and the other one down. Your mileage might vary. Both are readily available online. I recommend you give Varla Ventura’s Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings a look. As for Leanna Greenaway’s Wicca, well, you’ve been warned.

My thoughts on @PsypressUK’s Getting Higher by Julian Vayne

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on May 9, 2017 by Occult Detective


In many ways, this is the book I’d always planned to write. Unlike most of my peers, drugs were never a recreational pastime for me. They were a tool for self-discovery, of religious and spiritual awakening. I was on a shaman’s journey, tapping into the multiverse through psychedelics and ritual magick.

In my late teens through mid-twenties, I experimented, predominately,  with LSD, various strains of marijuana, and Psilocybin, but also periodically with morning glory seeds, damiana, kava, woodrose, and the like. My experiences with DMT, MDMA, mescaline, and salvia were far rarer.

With a select group of friends, I would embark on vision quests, guided regressions, astral projections, and various ritualistic exercises all in an attempt to achieve a higher state of being, to expand my consciousness and become one with the universe.

We enhanced our explorations of self by utilizing trance, mediation, sensory deprivation tanks, hermetic rites, drum circles and more in direct synthesis with entheogens, but always with a singular intent: a union between ourselves and the divine.

I had quite a number of successes and more than a few failures. The price was high, but on a spiritual level, I felt that I had touched the sky and that feeling has never faded. It’s not a path for everyone, to be sure, but it’s an honest journey.

Exploring oneself through altered states of perception is not for the faint of heart. Truth uncovered through such a journey can be a double-edged sword.

In Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony, Julian Vayne takes us on just such a journey, blazing a trail whose roots are intertwined with the counter culture and shamanistic practices. While I wish Vayne embraced more European influences, Getting Higher is a really solid production, full of wit, wisdom, and whimsy.

Getting Higher is really about maximizing your experiences, giving the reader a multitude of ways to express themselves via enhanced mental states. I consider this essential reading for those new to the way of the psychonaut.

Beyond the outstanding explorations, the book is also a beautiful work of art. The cover is straight out Haight-Ashbury-esque and the interior is decorated with illustrations that put me in mind of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

I loved this book, from stem to stern, and it really took me back to a time when I was preoccupied with who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I was connected to something bigger, something cosmic. It was an important journey and I wish I would have had Getting Higher to help guide me through it.

Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony by Julian Vayne is available online via the publisher, Psychedelic Press, or wherever books are sold. Do yourself a favor. Expand your consciousness. Buy this book.

May the Fourth Be With You

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, Media Macabre on May 4, 2017 by Occult Detective


It’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks we’ll be celebrating Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary. I was a few months past my 11th birthday, the perfect age for what this little movie was offering. Star Wars, an homage to the serials of George Lucas’ youth, was everything to me then. I was Luke, a kid living on a small farm, dreaming of adventures in far off lands, believing fervently in an ancient, mystical power that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. Forty years later, I still do.

Star Wars was a near perfect movie. All these years later, I see each subsequent film attempt to strip just a little bit of magic from the original, the one whose opening scrawl did not begin with the words “Episode Four: A New Hope”.

But try as they might, they can never rob from me that feeling that washed over me, sitting on the aisle seat, far right of the theatre in the front row, planted next to some old woman whom I didn’t know.

It was my coming of age in a lot of ways. It was the first movie I saw by myself. No parents. No friends. I was dropped off at the theatre to stand in an impossibly long line, and by the gods, I was by shear luck (or providence) the last person admitted into the theatre. I was scared, to be honest, being alone in a strange city and unaccompanied by any sort of supervision, but once the movie started and John Williams’ score carried me away… I wasn’t alone, or frightened… I was transfixed and amazed and reborn.

For many people in my generation, Star Wars was a defining moment, and though for most of us that magical experience is a distant memory, I can’t help but think its transformative effect is still with us now.

Ignoring everything that came after, clinging to the memory of that first glimpse into that universe, I can still let go of my conscious self and act on instinct. I can still feel the Force flowing through me.

Happy Star Wars Day. May the Force be with you… always.

Beltane Blues (Cheap Day Return)

Posted in Dice Upon A Time, Magick by Trial & Error, Occult Detective: The Roleplaying Game, Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice on May 1, 2017 by Occult Detective

“At Bealltainn, or May Day, every effort was made to scare away the fairies, who were particularly dreaded at this season. In the West Highlands charms were used to avert their influence. In the Isle of Man the gorse was set alight to keep them at a distance. In some parts of Ireland the house was sprinkled with holy water to ward off fairy influence. These are only a mere handful out of the large number of references available, but they seem to me to reveal an effort to avoid the attentions of discredited deities on occasions of festival once sacred to them. The gods duly return at the appointed season, but instead of being received with adoration, they are rebuffed by the descendants of their former worshippers, who have embraced a faith which regards them as demons.

In like manner the fairies in Ireland were chased away from the midsummer bonfires by casting fire at them. At the first approach of summer, the fairy folk of Scotland were wont to hold a “Rade,” or ceremonial ride on horseback, when they were liable to tread down the growing grain.”

― Lewis Spence, British Fairy Origins

The tide has turned, it seems, as Beltane Fire Festivals and the like light the way to a new dawn of pagan revitalization. Oh, sure, there are some naysayers, calling the pagan movement, reborn in the 50s by many estimations, a passing fancy, but from my vantage point, being somewhat older than most of those writing of such things, that paganism, which has never been a unified thing to begin with, is merely undergoing a change, much like it has been doing for the better part of the past century and most likely has done so since we were painting bulls on cave walls.

You will find a litany of articles declaring paganism’s demise, of it falling out of favor. They couldn’t be more wrong. Welcome to the revolution, the evolution, of faith in the 21st century.

Beltane, being a welcoming of summer’s return, of renewal and rekindling, is alive and well here and I feel a continuation of what I wrote of last year at this time — that the old ways have steadily been seeping back into my weary bones, that the call of the spirits still beckon from beyond the pale.

I have many fires lit and I tend to them as best I can.

First Born, my occult detective collection due soon from Seventh Star Press, has passed through the proof stage. I will be looking forward to announcing a blog tour and book promotion in the coming weeks.

I’ll have a Landon Connors tale published in an upcoming issue of Skelos Magazine. Details once I can share them. One of my bucket List accomplishments I craved was being published in Weird Tales. As they are no more, I view Skelos as a worthy successor, so landing a story with them is a real honour.

I’ve been editing my son’s second novel, Word Hollow, and it’s really been such a tremendous joy to pore over this thing. Connor is a marvel and I thank the gods each and every day that he is a part of Kim’s and my world. We are blessed. I may be biased, but he’s one helluva storyteller.

I finally completed the Occult Detective Tarot and the writing on the rulebooks for Occult Detective: The Roleplaying Game continues. It is coming together nicely and I look forward to shopping it around to game publishers soon. I have some in mind, of course, but am prepared to take the beast to crowdfunding if necessary. There is an audience hungry for it, I think.

tarot sample

Speaking of Occult Detectives, I have read the wondrously talented Judika Illes’s October release titled The Weiser Book of Occult Detectives and I will be publishing a review this week, giving the book my most heartfelt recommendation and endorsement.

You can also expect forthcoming reviews of several other books, including Getting Higher by Julian Vayne.

I have some other projects in the works, some more secret than others, but I’m in a bit of a rush, so that’s all for now. I love this time of the year, this Second Hallowe’en if you will. There is magic afoot and the ancient powers abound. I am thankful for my time here, for my friends and family, and for all of you. Be well and true, and may the gods bless you all of your days.

World Poetry Day 2017

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on March 21, 2017 by Occult Detective



in quiet desperation
a looming shadow grows
spreading like a cancer
from the mouth of
dead man’s road

it climbs across the pavement
consumes a dying sun
and whispers in the ear
of the girl who
should’ve won

but the secret was pervasive
and the mystery was sincere
clinging to the answer
to the question
she had feared

she rides the silent thunder
alight upon the wind
and with a gentle hand
she bathes once more
in sin

she sings of ancient wonders
another story spins
the beast has tipped its hand
she bathes once more
in sin

—BF 3/21/17

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