Archive for the Magick by Trial & Error Category

Embrace the N.I.G.H.T.

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, N.I.G.H.T., Occult Detectives on December 17, 2018 by Occult Detective


We’ll be launching a new venture come spring. We hope you’ll join us on this journey of discovery… More details to come.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on December 4, 2018 by Occult Detective


This makes for a pretty good summation of what makes me tick. I could decipher the lot of it, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, it’s not really all that deep… just accurate.

In Defense of ‘Fakelore’

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on November 19, 2018 by Occult Detective

“And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But that’s just me”

— Dr. Bennett (Robert Guillaume), Big Fish

Let me preface the following by stating categorically that there is no place for physical, emotional, or sexual abuse within any community, let alone the greater, so-called, ‘pagan’ collective. We should strive to be better, to one another and to those outside our circle. The age old adage that ‘we are all in this together’ is more than just a platitude or affirmation — it is grounded in the reality of our place in the universe. While I believe you will discover that I am no great friend to ‘reality’ as perceived by the masses, some truths are irrefutable, regardless of the cut of your jib.


If you’ve not already been treated to their words, I direct you first to a lengthy essay by Sarah Anne Lawless titled For Sale: Neopaganism “As Is”, and a response from anthropologist Amy Hale found under the heading On Paganism, Fakelore, and Tired Conversations about Authenticity.

Both are erudite and thought-provoking. Do I need to add my proverbial two-cents? Absolutely not, but then, that’s never stopped me before.

I watched the movie Big Fish this past weekend. Are you familiar? Based on the book by Daniel Wallace (which I’ve not read, but need to), the film was packed full of star power — Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Ewan MacGregor, Helena Bonham Carter, and on and on.

Of the film, director Tim Burton said, “Big Fish is about what’s real and what’s fantastic, what’s true and what’s not true, what’s partially true and how, in the end, it’s all true.

My own faith, which stems from my interpretation of heathenry, is founded on the tall tale in many respects. Anyone who has taken even a cursory stroll through the Sagas can readily see this to be true.

Boasting around the campfire is a time-honored tradition. Tales often grow in the telling, but if they’re well told, then more’s the better.

The truth can be overrated, and more often than not, elusive.

Sometimes building a mythology, a legend, around one’s beliefs heightens the narrative. It becomes a part of the ritual, entering that headspace where reality is warped and blended with the supernatural to create a magical truth that transcends the reality of the mundane.

Looking at Thelema, for instance, does it really matter if Aleister Crowley fictionalized his account regarding the transmission of the Book of the Law?

What of Gerald Gardner or Alex Sanders? Do their backstories make their traditions any less potent if they are fabrications?

The Golden Dawn was founded on so-called fakelore as is nearly every ‘secret society’ born under the sun, moon, and stars. I’m looking at you, Freemasons and Odd-Fellows, and all the rest.

Entire nations are founded on twisted versions of the honest to goodness truth.

And why not?

In a sense, all of reality is false, memory is unreliable, and we all build mythologies around ourselves, altering the past to suit our chosen narratives.

Everything is fictive.

When looking for the truth, well, which version of it do you want, because we all see things from different perspectives. There’s a reason why eyewitness testimony is largely unreliable.

Psychologically, we reinterpret events so that they make sense to us all based on numerous cultural and biological factors.

Truth is what you make it.


Now, if you’re creating fakelore to manipulate and control people to feed your ‘cult of personality’, to use and abuse members of your ‘tribe’, well then, we have a problem…

But, if you’re building a mythological narrative to elevate and uplift, to pass down a fable that fosters a sense of wonder and importance, well then where is the harm in that?

We’re on a spiritual journey, each and every one of us. What matters is our evolution going forward. If your reimagined backstory propels you up out of the mire into the heavens, then so be it.

In the end, it’s all about intent.

At least, that’s how I see it.

My thoughts on Dee’s ‘Fortune Telling with Playing Cards’ & Marin’s ‘Monsters and Creatures’

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on October 31, 2018 by Occult Detective

A lot happening today. It’s Hallowe’en, after all. A cold rain is falling on my haunted heartland and Jimmy Page’s Lucifer Rising is droning away on the turntable. Magic is, as they say, in the air.

playingcardsI thought I’d share with you some quick thoughts on a couple of new releases, the first being a re-release of Jonathan Dee’s Fortune Telling with Playing Cards.

I was quite fond of books such as this as a child. My parents were not the most tolerant when it came to the occult, so learning to read playing cards as opposed to the Tarot was an important stepping stone in my early development.

Therein lies the beauty of it. Most any household has a deck of cards handy, so you have a readily accessible divination tool within easy grasp.

You’ll find some rather generic card interpretations and a wealth of various card spreads to choose from and experiment with. It’s a solid enough introductory lesson in cartomancy, more than useful enough, especially for those just dipping their toes in preternatural waters.

You can snatch it up here, if you’ve a mind to.


The second book I’d like to shake a stick at is Gabiann Marin’s Monsters and Creatures, part of Rockpool Publishing’s ‘Supernatural Series’. Now, I reviewed one other installment in this run, Lucy Cavendish’s Witches and Wizards, and found it wanting. Monsters and Creatures is less offensive, but still feels a bit light.

monstersLike its predecessor, Monsters and Creatures is a lovely book. The graphic design folks at Rockpool are rock solid. These little hardcovers are crammed full of pictures, wingdings, and all the little bells and whistles and tricks-of-the-trade that make for a top-of-the-line reference book.

And I simply adored these ‘occult encyclopedias’ as a kid. This would have been 8 year old me’s favorite book, I’m sure. I would have carried it and the Witches volume around like the Old and New Testament.

53 year old me, however, is a little more jaded, and a little more learned. Is it a fun book? Certainly, and it’s a far cry better researched than Witches and Wizards turned out to be. My qualms about this is there’s nothing really new to be discovered between its covers.

I suppose that says more about me than it does about Monsters and Creatures.

Still, it’s a pretty package, and if you’re new to this sort of thing, or have young ones about, it’s well worth the price of admission, which you can easily do right here.

My thoughts on ‘A Book of Pagan Prayer’ by Ceisiwr Serith

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on October 30, 2018 by Occult Detective

Weiser Books was kind enough to send me a review copy of A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith. Originally published in 2002, I was very familiar with that earlier work, and its companion, A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book, published in 2011.

aboppA few years back I reviewed A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book stating, “Lyrical and inspirational, I cannot imagine a pagan who would not be enchanted by this book.”

The same could be said for the re-release of the book that started it all.

While this edition maintains the pocket-size format of its predecessor, it is now bound in trade paperback fashion. An unfortunate but cost saving move, I’m sure. But it’s the content we’re after, no? Well, Pagan Prayer does not disappoint.

If I were to sum up this book it a single word, that word would be ‘uplifting‘.

While some of you might be finding this work for the first time, for those of you who might already have it, why would you want to pick this edition up? Quite simply there is a wealth of new prayers added. Prayers for Midsummer that were not present in the original edition, as well as Lammas prayers that didn’t find their way into the work.

They alone make it well worth making a place for it on your shelf.

For first time purchasers, you will discover deep, meaningful words that seek to make a causal connection between the material and the spiritual; words that are meant to create a relationship with the gods of our forebearers.

No matter the path you’re on, A Book of Pagan Prayer will move you and inspire you. Ceisiwr Serith delivers a beautiful collection of devotions and invocations that honour the gods.

I cannot recommend this work highly enough. If you are inclined to speak with the higher powers, A Book of Pagan Prayer is for you.

A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith is available November 1 via Amazon, or in your favorite brick & mortar.

My thoughts on the latest Witches’ Almanac and Demarco’s 2019 Lunar & Seasonal Diary

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on October 26, 2018 by Occult Detective

WA 1978One of the books I look forward to every year is The Witches’ Almanac. I’ve been a follower for, goodness, something like 40 years, though I found them only sporadically back in the late seventies into the mid-nineties. But since then, they have become an annual obsession. I will admit to a fondness for the look and feel of the books when I was first picking them up, but I fully understand that the modern trade bound editions make far more sense.

The latest edition’s theme is Animals: Friends & Familiars.

In it, you’ll find the same attention to detail that made this such a vital part of the magical community since Elizabeth Peppers gave birth to it back in 1971. The Almanac is both timeless and timely.

I always appreciate the artwork throughout as it invokes early offset & letterpress printing.

You’ll find, as always, a wealth of information between its covers, with articles thoughtfully presented on a wealth of diverse topics. Of particular interest was a piece by Lon Milo DuQuette on the Holy Guardian Angel and The Black Dog by Morven Westfield.

If I were limited to a single book each year, I would unquestionably always call upon this trusted friend. I still pull old editions out to revisit articles that inspired me as a young man.

The Witches’ Almanac is available wherever books are sold, and priced at less than $10 on Amazon. More than worth a sawbuck for such a treasure.


I used to make prolific entries in a magical/dream record I kept from the mid-eighties until they all suspiciously disappeared in the early nineties. Since then, I have only sporadically made entries of any kind, save for those to be found on the internet.

Those ‘diaries’, written from my late teens to mid-twenties, were a vital part of my spiritual journey and I lament their absence. I would love to go back and relive some of those intense experiences, but alas, that is not to be.

I have given a lot of thought to revisiting the process, because I still think there is something to be gained from keeping an ongoing record and I was thrilled to receive a review copy of Stacey Demarco’s 2019 Lunar & Seasonal Diary from Rockpool Publishing.

I imagine most of you are aware of the author. Stacey Demarco is an Australian ‘spiritual pagan practitioner’, teacher, and witch who strikes me as being cut from that New Age pedagogue mold so prevalent in the late 20th Century with one clear distinction — she is infinitely more likeable. Maybe it’s the accent.

Demarco’s diaries are beautifully constructed spiral-bound workbooks filled with affirmations, spells, and informative articles on the seasons, all just dripping with positivity. It both screams Modern Witchery and last century New Agery at the same time.

Unfortunately, the Diary seems to be steeped in too much nuspeak idealistic liberal activism for my taste. That’s just not really my scene. I mean, I dig where they’re coming from, it just doesn’t seem very grounded to me personally. Your mileage may vary.

As I settle firmly into my greying years, my tolerance is not what it once was. I’m trying to work on that, to maintain that open-mindedness that was part and parcel to my more youthful dalliances with the preternatural. The thing is, I got burnt by a lot of New Age hokum back in the day, so my spidey-sense is pretty sensitive to such things.

That being said, I think their heart is in the right place and I’m going to put the diary to work over the coming year. I think it will prove to be a valuable tool and priced at less than $20 on Amazon, I think you might find it equally useful.

My thoughts on Lon Milo DuQuette’s Son of Chicken Qabalah

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on October 23, 2018 by Occult Detective

sonofchickenqabalahNot exactly seasonal, but I took a stroll through Lon Milo DuQuette’s Son of Chicken Qabalah just the same.

This time of year, I generally prefer to read more fiction than non-. Hallowe’en is a time for ghosts and gremlins, ghouls and grumkins, of witches and vampires and werewolves and all manner of things that go bump in the night.

But when Lon’s latest showed up on my doorstep, I just couldn’t resist. A fan of the original recipe, 2001’s Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford, I had long thought a follow-up was in order.

Here’s the rub. This is a funny book, as was its predecessor. With tongue firmly in cheek, DuQuette delivers a very stripped down and accessible treatise of the Jewish Qabalah. Over-simplified? Perhaps, but as an introduction, easily consumed by the masses, it is a terrific primer.

There’s a very Robert Anton Wilson-esque feel to Lon’s approach, a sort of George Carlin by way of the Golden Dawn reverence for the material.

If you are a stranger to the Qabalah, then you will feel quite comfortable with this book, though, I do believe you should begin with the earlier volume.

As far as self-initiations go, this is a hoot and a half.

Son of Chicken Qabalah by Lon Milo DuQuette is available wherever books are sold. You can snatch one up from Amazon for less than 4 Grande Caffe Lattes.

%d bloggers like this: