Writing in Four Colors

Posted in Writing on March 22, 2022 by Occult Detective

As I’m sure many of you know, I began my writing “career” penning comics for a small press I co-founded back in 1987. We shuttered Lion’s Den Studios in 2006 and I pretty much thought I was done with comics then.

I dabbled a few times since, releasing some Landon Connors stories here and there, doing some illustration work for Scott Story and Cullen Bunn, and I even toyed with the idea of launching a new comic book small press called Occult Detective dot Comics.

Of course, comics have always been near and dear. For a time I penned reviews and articles for Paint Monk’s Library, but truth be told, few modern comics appeal to me. For a long time I have not felt like the target audience for most comic creators, with some very notable exceptions. I still read a lot of comics, and continue to follow certain writers and artists who keep that childhood obsession alive for me.

All this to say, I am currently co-writing a comic script. While we’re still negotiating the reality of it, I couldn’t resist putting words on proverbial paper. It’s becoming a thing, even while it might not officially happen. Still, it’s fun and exciting and I just love massaging those old comic writing muscles.

Stay tuned for some occult action in four colors? Maybe. It feels right… like it just might be the right kind of real, and will be so, so long as the gods are willing and the nukes don’t fly.

Do you dare take the #FacesOfHorror Challenge?

Posted in Horror on March 14, 2022 by Occult Detective

Here’s a list of questions I’m seeing answered on youtube (first via Michael K. Vaughan). Up for the challenge?

1. A horror story that scared or disturbed you.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

I read this in 1976, a few years after I had seen the film. Yeah, I think disturbed would be the right word here. Watching the movie as an eight year old gave me nightmares. When I read the book at ten, those nightmares returned, but dialed up to eleven. Needless to say, I was far too young to have seen the film or read the book.

2. A horror story that depressed you or made you cry.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Masterfully written, I received this book from my wife for Christmas not long after its release. I tore right into it and subsequently sank into a funk for the next month after.

3. A horror story that made you laugh.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Pratchett is the master of comedic prose and Good Omens is littered with great characters and complex plot, all with a diabolic backdrop that makes this the very best of both worlds.

4. A horror story that made you angry.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Based on a true story, this could have easily been the answer to either of the first two prompts, but having read this in my early twenties, I think anger fits the bill. Being a Hoosier, I knew the story of Sylvia Likens all too well, but the graphic nature of Dallas’ prose brought all that to life. I felt tremendous sadness for the victim, but the rage I felt toward her tormentors eclipsed that and then some.

5. A horror story that is important to you.

Pigeons from Hell by Robert E. Howard

I had been a Conan fan for years, but it was my classmate Laurie Klein, whom you probably know better as Laurell K. Hamilton, who turned me on to Howard’s horror fiction. The first of those I read, Pigeons from Hell, opened up a whole,new world to me.

6. A non-horror story that you consider horror.

This a hard category, mainly because labels are often disingenuous. I thought of Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, but I think it IS horror. So I’m trying to think of something that is more obviously one genre, but clearly steeped in another. I think under those terms, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series fits the bill. It is most certainly a fantasy series, first and foremost, but the White Walkers chapters are clearly horror and chillingly written.

My thoughts on Blackthorn’s Protection Magic & Brigid’s Light, available now from @WeiserBooks

Posted in Book Review, Magick on March 1, 2022 by Occult Detective

The world is on fire. It is times like these when we need the comfort of magic the most. Let’s face it, social upheaval, pandemic, and war are clear and present signs of transition, and magic is always at the fore as we realign ourselves for the age to come. For me, I find solace in well crafted esoterica, and I am thrilled to share with you today two books celebrating birthdays, both from the good folks at Red Wheel/Weiser.

A hands-on guide to protection magic using essential oils, incense, spells, and tarot from a beloved and trusted authority.

Blackthorn’s Protection Magic
guides readers through the realm of the green witch to a glade filled with options for your protection. Amy Blackthorn discusses spiritual, emotional, and physical security in an easy-to-understand way. The book provides an overview of what protection means to witches and then explores practices in more depth, including:

  • Essential oils for protection magic
  • The role plant allies play in both protecting and healing
  • What tarot can teach us about our strengths and weaknesses
  • Oracle spell work as a potent source of protection

As a witch who has worked in executive security for nearly fifteen years, Amy possesses the botanical spirit of an animist witch, able to see the inherent spirit in plants, as well as a keen eye on ways to make a home feel safer and more secure, on the magical and the mundane levels. For example, holly trees provide magical protection from lightning, but also make a prickly barrier outside the home to keep burglars from lurking in the shadows.

I love me some Amy Blackthorn. I spoke of comfort earlier, and Amy epitomizes comfort in all the best ways. Her books, while erudite and insightful, are also the literary equivalent of comfort food. Her latest, Protection Magic, is a timely read.

Divided into four parts, Blackthorn covers magical protection for the Mind (Psychic), Body (Physical), and Spirit (Emotional), with the final section delving into an info dump of miscellany and correspondences.

This is a lovely little primer that I feel is ideal for new practitioners, especially for women. Not that there aren’t new tricks to be found for us old dogs and of the male variety. The thrust, however, is practicality in every sense of the word. There are so many little tidbits that stand out as the author attempts to cover every situation, from identifying magical components (and weeding out fakes) to real world protection and defense in the physical sense.

This is a holistic approach that transcends mere occult protection, but impresses upon you the need to make magic a part of your being, utilizing it in all facets of your life.

Brilliant stuff, and the book cover is lovely to boot. The interior is spartan, with newsprint-like pages. At times the font-size runs a tad small in some of the subsets, but nothing to overly concern yourself with. It’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend, especially for those in the early stages of their craft.

Blackthorn’s Protection Magic: A Witch’s Guide to Mental and Physical Self-Defense by Amy Blackthorn is available today, the 1st of March, wherever books are sold. Here’s a link to Amazon.

Stories, spells, rituals, and recipes celebrating the worldwide influence of this beloved Celtic goddess, with contributions from Amy Blackthorn, Laura Tempest Zakroff, Courtney Weber, and many others

This anthology celebrates Brigid, an ancient and mysterious Celtic spirit who ranks among today’s most popular modern goddesses. Venerated in many forms including as a saint and a goddess, Brigid has traveled the globe alongside the Celtic diaspora. Once a goddess with a narrow territory, she is now an internationally beloved presence. While acknowledging her origins, this book also explores Brigid from the perspective of those outside her original Celtic homeland.

Editors Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella have gathered art, poetry, stories, spells, rituals, recipes, and traditions as an homage to the worldwide influence of Brigid’s magic and lore, especially among the descendants of immigrants to the Americas. In compiling these individual works, Cairelle and Laura have given voice to those traveling ancestors by showcasing a rich and beautiful heritage manifested through embodiments of devotion by their descendants, as well as others touched by Brigid.

Are you looking for inner healing, something to help take the weight of these past few years off your shoulders, even if it’s just for a brief respite? Brigid’s Light is what you’ve been waiting for. This book is a celebration and I assure you, it will lift your spirits and fill you with light and hope.

Past the powerful cover art by the talented Stuart Littlejohn you are treated to wonderful examinations of the Brigid Spirit. It begins with an insightful foreword by one of my favorite people to chat with, Judika Illes, then the anthology becomes a spiritual journey through the many facets of the character of Brigid, through ritual practice, poetry and essays, recipes and spellwork, and more.

I was thrilled by all of the contributions, but especially Courtney Weber’s A Ritual with Brigid — “I crave. You crave. We crave.” — and Lucia Moreno-Velo’s Brigid’s Place, which really caught me off guard.

Even without a personal connection to Brigid, you will find the warmth of the words inside a sublime comfort, which seems to be the theme for today.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I think you will love it. It’s light and passionate, and we can all use a little bit of that in our lives right now.

Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess, edited by Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella is available wherever books are sold. Here’s a convenient link to its Amazon listing.

Mythologically Speaking

Posted in Magick, Wyrd on February 16, 2022 by Occult Detective

“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” 

― John Lennon

I had a peculiar moment when I was a small boy. Growing up in the Midwest, there’s a staple to that upbringing that is prevalent for most — church services on Sunday. While I must assume the vast majority of children buy into whatever religion the adults in their lives is selling, it never clicked with me in any meaningful way.

I enjoyed Sunday School well enough. Was never much more than story-time, really. During sermons I was armed with tiny tablets of paper from my grandma’s pocketbook, drawing Universal Monsters, alien spaceships, and super-heroes while some old man rattled away about original sin and the passion play.

The kicker was some innocuous reference to the Christianization of Heathens, usually by the sword, that triggered a thought in me that this desert religion being fostered upon me was not the faith of my ancestors, but one saddled upon them by conquering forces. My ancestors, those who called Northern Europe their home, believed in an altogether different pantheon of deities, deities I read about in books by Hamilton and Bulfinch and the like, that I found in picture books and comics, and in movies on Saturday afternoons.

I went into the school library and checked out a book by Padraic Colum called The Children of Odin and devoured it, realizing as I immersed myself in this tales of the ancient Norse, that these were the stories my forefathers told around the campfire — stories of Odin and Thor, Loki and Frigga, Sif and Freya, Balder, and more.

It occurred to me, as a boy not yet even ten, that these stories should mean more to me than those found in the Old and New Testament.

The myths of a culture are defining references that speak to a greater truth, that showcase virtues that a people held in high estimation. This was cemented even more once I had discovered the Havamal and began adding Celtic tales to my growing obsession.

Myths were the attempt of our ancestors to answer difficult questions about te world around them. They were teaching tools, disguised as colorful stories, that spoke of mighty beings and devious creatures that were as important to their daily lives as their flesh and blood.

These ancient gods were a real and vibrant force. Before philosophy and science, mythology defined the universe for those who came before us.

As these mythological entities were stripped away from us, so too was the magic that held us together as tribes and communities. The common bong was severed, as we lost our ties to the gods that breathed life into us and to the very land from which we sprang, then slowly over the centuries we became unmoored and lost.

Recapturing those tales that spoke so eloquently to our ancestors, reminds of of those ties that bind us. They call out from beyond the pale, life breathed anew into their lungs.

Why do I study mythology? Because they are my roots and without roots, a tree cannot stand.

Bob Freeman
writing from the banks of
Little Pipe Creek

incendium – a poem

Posted in Writing on February 16, 2022 by Occult Detective

a soulless regress
i’ve been laid to waste
alone in solace
your sins erased
i picture a reel
bloodless repose
melting frames
the moon is a lie
the sun does the same
the stars are aligned
but don’t remember
your name

i’m not right again
left behind again
as you melt around me

one more chance
one last time
a fatal mistake
the doorbell chimes
blood on my hands
the stain’s on your soul
a mound of remorse
in god’s cereal bowl
i needed you then
you needed me now
a soulless regress
and a murder
most foul

i’m not right again
left behind again
as you softly whisper


and you melt
around me

—BF 2/16/22

I recommend Backwoods Survival Guide, edited by @SurvivalWeekly

Posted in Bushcraft on February 11, 2022 by Occult Detective

I grew up in the country, on the corner of my grandparents’ 60 acre horse farm. I prowled the nearby woods and creek beds as soon as I could walk. Truth is, I feel most at peace, more myself, when I’m in those environs, the woodlands of my youth.

I’ve had a lifelong obsession with bushcraft and backwoods survival, considering it an extension of my spirituality. When my good friend, Jim Cobb, invited me to review the latest issue of his Backwoods Survival Guide magazine, I jumped at the chance.

I do not read these sorts of magazines regularly, but I’m no stranger to them either. What I found in BSG was a breath of fresh air. Insightful and diverse in subject matter. There is something for everyone here, with subjects covering Outdoors, Homesteading, Do-It-Yourself Projects, and Equipment.

That’s a genius setup, with all aspects of survivalist interests covered. This is definitely a magazine I’ll be tracking down the back issues of and be following from now on. I was surprised that, even though I’ve been at this for well more than forty years, there were several moments when I picked up something new.

My favorite section was the DIY Projects, chiefly because I’ve been hungry to take up smithing and I found the article there on Disaster Blacksmithing very informative. I’ll definitely be setting a makeshift forge come spring and utilizing a lot of what I learned here.

The article that most caught my eye though was Mushroom Madness. My interest in mycology does not come anywhere near the levels of my old friend Dr. Mushroom (Dr. Trent Austin), so I was quite taken by Alice Jones Webb’s insights as she examined the practicality of something I’ve been hungry to explore for years.

As I said, in the past I would pick up random survival magazines to read at the airport or doctor’s office, more as time fillers as anything else. Jim Cobb’s shown me that there’s a magazine out there for more than the casual reader. He’s put something really special together here.

Highly recommended, for sure. I’ll be subscribing. I think you should too.

What I’m Reading in 2022

Posted in The Library on February 11, 2022 by Occult Detective

2021 ended with my family contracting Covid. It was rough, I’m not going to kid you. That I still feel off is unsettling. But, onward and upward. 2021 was a good year for reading, though I’m still struggling to get my hands on good new release occult detective fiction. If something catches your eye, please share it with me. As for 2022? Let’s get this party started —

  1. Johnny Constantine: The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher by North & Charm
  2. Constantine: The Hellblazer vol 1 “Going Down” by Doyle & Tynion IV
  3. Trudvang Adventures: Settings Companion
  4. Constantine vol 1 “The Spark & the Flame” by Fawkes, Lemire, & Guiedes
  5. Constantine vol 2 “Blight: by Fawkes & Aco
  6. Trudvang Adventures: Hero Companion
  7. John Constantine: Hellblazer: Death & Cigarettes by Milligan & Camuncoli
  8. Two Sagas of Mythical Heroes: Hervor and Heidrek and Hrólf Kraki and His Champions by Crawford
  9. Promethia: Book 1 by Moore and Williams III
  10. Trudvang Adventures: Wurmtongue
  11. Elemental Powers for Witches: Energy Magic Simplified by Frater Barrabbas
  12. The Witches’ Sabbath by Kelden
  13. Norse Divination by Teague
  14. Trudvang Adventures: Wildheart
  15. Trudvang Adventures: Oathbreaker by Saville
  16. The Hermeneutics of_Aleister Crowley by Ashe
  17. The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Gran
  18. Protection Magic by Blackthorn
  19. Brigid’s Light, edited by Crow & Louella
  20. The Two-Bear Mambo (Hap & Leonard) by Lansdale
  21. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Gran
  22. Love Spells & Erotic Sorcery in Norwegian Folk Magic, edited by Storesund
  23. Consorting with Spirits by Miller

My Thoughts on @LlewellynBooks’ Norse Divination: Illuminating Your Path with the Wisdom of the Gods by Gypsey Elaine Teague

Posted in Book Review, Magick, Wyrd on February 10, 2022 by Occult Detective

Journey into the Norse Pantheon to Uncover the Secrets of Your Past, Present, and Future

Reveal your life’s path in a brand-new way with Norse Divination, the only book designed around the Nordic gods themselves rather than the Futhark. Through concise yet enlightening analyses of these deities and their relationships to each other, you’ll unlock answers to your deepest questions and find more happiness and success.

An excellent primer on Norse mythology, this book teaches you how to easily create your own thirty-six-piece divination set and use it to explore the gods and goddesses’ beliefs, customs, loves, and deaths. Each deity, along with important mythological items, has a dedicated chapter outlining who they are, what their role is, and how they can help you divine the best course of action in any scenario. Featuring clear and thorough instruction on how to read all thirty-six pieces in their past, present, and future positions, Norse Divination helps you harness hidden knowledge and forge a unique practice.

Let me be honest right out of the gate: this is not the book I was expecting. Now let me explain why that’s not a bad thing.

I suppose I should first interject my obligatory apology for being late to review this. By now, you’re well aware of my bout with the plague. But that’s behind me now and we’ve one last book review to make good on, in this case, something that enters into the magical realm I am most connected to and enamored by — Northern European Heathenry — via Gypsey Elaine Teague’s aforementioned book, Norse Divination.

As stated above, I expected something quite different from this one, something more akin to an exploration of the runes. This is not that. I have read Gypsey’s work before, having read, reviewed, and enjoyed her work on The Witch’s Guide to Wands. I should have known by that work that I would be getting something fresh, unique, and wonderful.

That’s how I found Norse Divination. Teague knows her heathenry and has a special connection to the gods. As a scholar, she acknowledges the scant information we have on the people and faith that sprang out of those ancient climes, but through this connection that has blossomed over time and space, with so many being reunited with these godforms, Gypsey is able to bring the past in line with the present to deliver a remarkable system of divination that honors the roots from which it springs.

Utilizing 42 symbols, Gypsey has developed from her rune work a system that brings the gods into the mix. It is very intuitive, and I created for myself makeshift disks, burning the symbols into the wood. What I found was a very natural and insightful set of divination tools that fulfill their promise.

As always, I find Gypsey’s words meaningful and comfortable and believe you will find them the same. As for the book itself, well, it’s a thing of beauty. The interior design and layout is wonderful, but the star of the show is that magnificent cover. I could stare at that one all day.

If you’ve a love of divination, this book is for you and demands a place on your library shelf. For many heathens, well, this might be too outside the box for them, but I do hope they would be open-minded enough to not dismiss it out of hand. I lean toward more traditionalism as well, but found this to be inspired and worthwhile.

Norse Divination: Illuminating Your Path with the Wisdom of the Gods by Gypsey Elaine Teague is available wherever books are sold. I encourage you to bring this one home.

My thoughts on Kelden’s Witches’ Sabbath

Posted in Book Review, Magick on February 2, 2022 by Occult Detective

As I write this, the morning after Imbolc, I await Winter Storm Landon’s arrival. Rain is pelting the canopy over the back door, evolving ever so slowly into sleet, before the increasing eventuality of voluminous snowfall that threatens a visit to these haunted climes.

It seems a good time to share with you my thoughts on The Witches’ Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore, and Modern Practice by Kelden, especially in light of recent events.

I was riding a high after watching the latest episode of Kindred Spirits featuring paranormal investigators Amy Bruni and Adam Berry, which presented a ritual, The Shroud of the Revenant, from Greg Newkirk of Hellier fame. I love that kind of innovation. But that high was soon soured by Travel Channel’s latest paranormal entertainment series, Vampires In America, which is the very worst sort of sensationalist garbage that damages the entire paranormal community. Couple that with the gods awful documentary, The Book of Secrets: Aliens, Ghosts, and Ancient Mysteries, and, well, my resolve was all but shattered.

So, writing this review is, in many ways, cathartic —a way to rekindle my faith in the magical community, and a reminder that there is a wealth good to be found there. It just requires a bit of digging sometimes.

First, allow me to share Llewellyn’s introduction:

Discover the Hidden Depths of the Sabbath

Take flight for a mesmerizing exploration of an event long shrouded in fear and mystery―the Witches’ Sabbath. Kelden presents an in-depth examination of the Sabbath’s historical and folkloric development as well as its re-emergence within the modern practice of Witchcraft. From discussions on the folklore of flight and the events of nocturnal gatherings to enchanting rituals and recipes, you’ll find everything you need to not only understand the nature of the legendary Sabbath, but also journey there yourself. Offering impressive research and compelling stories from across Europe and the early American colonies, this book is the ultimate resource for discovering an oft misunderstood and overlooked aspect of Witchcraft.

Includes a foreword by Jason Mankey, author of The Horned God of the Witches

I received an advanced copy of The Witches’ Sabbath in mid-December just as my bout with the dreaded plague was sinking its tendrils into me. This book was a gift from the gods as it was a welcome distraction from my discomfort. While the book was released in the US in January, its February release in Canada and the UK helps alleviate some of the guilt I feel for not reviewing this book sooner.

Beyond addressing the book’s content, can I first gush over Tim Foley’s gorgeous woodcut that graces the cover? I love the colors, the stark blacks, and the otherworldly imagery that takes me back to my childhood, when I first took those fateful baby-steps into the world of witchcraft. Delicious by all accounts.

As for Kelden’s work, it is a wonderful read. A bit disjointed, perhaps, with an odd narrative, but I sort of like it. Kelden’s writing style matches the theme and tone of the book, which is both a concise and comprehensive exploration of the Witches’ Sabbath, in folklore and in practice today.

This is the place of wild magic, beyond myth and fantasy, where the shadow realm thrives outside this earthly realm and awaits for initiates to discover its location. Kelden does a masterful job of invoking the essence of its true nature, of presenting it through solid academic research to give it substance, but also through fanciful examination of legend and lore to expand upon its majestic presence beyond the veil.

The Witches’ Sabbath is whimsical and fantastic and wholly enchanting. It is a promise, an affirmation, if you will, of all that is wonderful and magical and dangerous about the world of witchcraft. So much of this has been lost in the past few decades. It’s nice to see the satanic majesty of it all reaffirmed.

Beyond the academia, you will find a wealth of practical exercises and spellwork to align yourself for visiting the Sabbath, should you fain to do so. While I found some of the exercises somewhat lackluster, overall it’s an ambitious undertaking, and I recommend it on many levels.

I see this work as imagination fuel. While the path may not be exactly the one you wish to travel, the very idea of it can lead you toward the proper trail where fancy becomes reality.

A delightful read that I recommend without hesitation, Kelden’s The Witches’ Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore, and Modern Practice is available wherever books are sold. You’ll certainly want this one in your home library.

My thoughts on Elemental Powers for Witches by Frater Barrabbas (spoiler alert — it’s terrific)

Posted in Book Review, Magick on January 28, 2022 by Occult Detective

I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things after my bout with the plague. I found it hard to concentrate on reading for any real length of time during the height of it, but I did find that in those moments when I could wrap myself up inside a book, it was an important part of the healing process.

One of the books I found solace in was the latest release from Frater Barrabbas, an author I have been keen on approaching, particularly his book Spirit Conjuring for Witches. So, when offered a chance to read Elemental Powers for Witches, I was more than eager to do so.

Before I give you my brief thoughts on the book, let’s hear what Llewellyn has to say about it:

Bring Element-Based Ceremonial Magic into your Modern Witchcraft

What was once only available to ceremonial magicians can now be yours with this guide to advanced elemental energy work. Frater Barrabbas presents a ritual system that uses the forty qualified powers as well as the sixteen elementals―paired elements, such as earth of water, that create a more articulated expression of magical power. A companion to Spirit Conjuring for Witches, this book covers working with your own energy, uncrossing mechanisms that remove internal blocks, and a variety of magical tools, including sigils, pentacles, and crystals.

Featuring numerous illustrations and diagrams, Elemental Powers for Witches teaches you how to use specialized ritual energy patterns that are more effective than the regular witch’s circle. Frater Barrabbas walks you through exciting new rituals he has developed over the years, including the eight-node magic circle, invoking and banishing spirals, Western and Eastern gateways, the Rose Cross Vortex Rite, and more. From using the tarot as a Book of Shadows to calling upon elemental spirits, this book helps you enhance your practice while staying true to your primary tradition of the Craft.

First, I really appreciate what Frater Barrabbas is looking to accomplish here — to offer up alternative practices through a systematic, yet simplified exploration of ceremonial magick. It is ambitious and well plotted. If ceremonial practices are not your thing, this book may very well be for you. Afterward, I suspect you’ll change your tune.

While I found some of the text a bit rambling in parts, Barrabbas has ultimately created a terrific system of magick, synthesizing a veritable smorgasbord of occult practices all under one umbrella, from yoga to tarot to sigil magic and more.

For someone new to magick, or with little experience, this is a superb primer and initiatory starting point. It is elegant at times and insightful, with a lot of knowledge and background all in its core, creating a firm foundation from which to build on. It puts me in mind of some of Donald Tyson’s work in the late 1980s.

All in all, a book I highly recommend, for those new to ways of magick and those more seasoned. I certainly found some very useful practices within. As a magical system, steeped as is in the western tradition, it’s solid, inspiring, and most important, it’s useful.

You want to do more than learn about magick? Do you want to practice the art? Well, you really need look no further. This book will set you on a path from which you can grow and prosper from.

Elemental Powers for Witches: Energy Magic Simplified by Frater Barrabbas is available wherever books are sold. I give this one my highest recommendation.

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