Archive for Weiser Books

My review of Old Style Conjure by Starr Casas

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error with tags , , , on August 17, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Though I was born and raised in the wilds of northern Indiana, my roots run deep into the soil of the South. My parents were both born in Arkansas and my family traces our lineage, on both sides, throughout the “Land of Opportunity”.

My maternal and paternal grandparents migrated to the rural Hoosier community I call home in the 1950s, an area where dozens upon dozens of other Arkansas expatriate families decided to hang their hats.

I was surrounded by family and friends who all hailed from those southern climes and they brought with them rich and colorful folk stories and traditions handed down for generations. Coupled with that, my nearest neighbors as a child were Mexican migrants, who had their own flavor of folklore from the southwest. It was a heady influence of cultures that fueled my own interests in the paranormal and the occult.

Immersing myself in Mama Starr’s Old Style Conjure: Hoodoo, Rootwork, & Folk Magic felt very much like a homecoming of sorts.

The author, well-versed in the tradition, has a distinctive writing style the evokes the spirit of the South, comfortable and relaxed, but not without a bit of spit and fire.

The historical context of the craft is well-represented and woven throughout giving the work that sense of it being passed down from an elder rootworker to a novice conjurer, which is just the case.

With minor exceptions, the spellwork here is fully developed and practical, hammering again and again the connections between ones ancestors, the Bible as source, purity of intent, and justification for taking action.

In many ways, I am reminded of the pow-wow magic of the Pennsylvania Dutch (of which I’m more intimately familiar), but while the roots of pow-wow run back to Europe, conjure is firmly grounded in African-American slave culture.

The magic presented here is powerful stuff. It’s not the sort of mojo I keep in my bag of tricks, but I am fascinated by its deep, colorful history and its continued presence in the modern world.

Conjure is the magic of the people and it works. If you’ve an interest in pursuing these works, I can recommend no better place to begin.

Old Style Conjure: Hoodoo, Rootwork, & Folk Magic by Mama Starr Casas is available wherever books are sold or you can weave your own brand of magic and purchase it directly from the publisher by the simple manipulation of the keyboard at your fingertips. Just click HERE to begin your adventure into the magic of the folk.

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The Weiser Book of #OccultDetectives, edited by @JudikaIlles

Posted in All Hallows Read, Horror, Occult Detectives with tags , , on May 2, 2017 by Occult Detective

wbodI proudly parade my near lifelong obsession for the occult detective genre in all its forms and guises on this blog. That obsession led me to not only pursue a writing career entrenched in the conceits of the genre, but to explore the preternatural outside the realm of fiction as a paranormal investigator.

It is also no secret that October is my favorite month, that I have an unnatural attraction to Hallowe’en, Samhain, and all the trappings the Witching Season has to offer.

Well, when the Season of the Witch rolls around this year, readers are in for a real treat as my two favorite preoccupations collide with the October 1st release of The Weiser Book of Occult Detectives: 13 Stories of Supernatural Sleuthing, edited and introduced by none other than one of the premiere occult authors and scholars of the modern age — Judika Illes.

Judika Illes has compiled an amazing collection of occult detective stories, mining some of the best paranormal mysteries the early twentieth century had to offer, written by such legendary authors as Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, Sax Rohmer, Dion Fortune, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

As one devoted to the genre, both as a fan and an author, I understand the awesome task Illes has undertaken. To pore over the sheer volume of early occult detective tales and select the very best and defining tales for a collection such as this would be a maddening endeavor for any scholar, but Judika Illes has done an admirable job of putting together a brilliant and impressive table of contents here.

As well read in the genre as I am, Judika Illes has managed to unearth no less than four spectacular tales that had escaped my attention: The Dead Hand by L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace, The Vampire by Alice and Claude Askew, The Witness in the Wood by Rose Champion de Crespigny, and The Eyes of Doom by Ella M. Scrymsour.

Whether you are new to the genre or a lifelong fan, The Weiser Book of Occult Detectives: 13 Stories of Supernatural Sleuthing is a collection you absolutely cannot do without. Why, I am already pining for the coming of October when I can once more crack the spine of this assemblage of paranormal thrillers and read them when the moon is high and unseen spirits roam unfettered.

The Weiser Book of Occult Detectives, edited and introduced by Judika Illes is available for preorder from amazon.com.

 

My review of Varla Ventura’s Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires & Other Creatures of the Night

Posted in Archive with tags , , on October 24, 2013 by Occult Detective

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If you’re looking for the perfect book to spend the Witching Season with, one to sink your teeth into as you burrow under the covers to escape the cold and dread of October’s grim, then I have just the book for you.

Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Creatures of the Night: Facts, Fictions, and First-Hand Accounts by Varla Ventura is a delightful little tome, filled with delicious illustrations and wondrous tales, both real and imagined.

What a gorgeous book this is. The real stars of Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Creatures of the Night are cover designer Jim Warner and Dutton & Sherman Design’s magnificent interiors. First, they used one of my all time favorite fonts (Caslon), with additional text printed in Felltype, and they printed it in this rich, chocolate brown on off-white paper. It’s simply beautiful to behold.

One of my best friends has a Letterpress print shop and he’s been plying his trade for more than sixty years. When I showed him this book he drooled all over it. We spent the better part of two hours poring over the cover and interior pages as we marveled over the attention given to every little detail.

As for the content itself, Ms. Ventura has compiled an impressive array of monstrous tales from all manner of beasties that haunt the night. If you love monsters, then this book will certainly become an instant favorite. I’ve already read it twice and have placed it on my most honored reference shelf for quick and easy access.

As you can tell, I loved this book. I think you will too.

Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Creatures of the Night: Facts, Fictions, and First-Hand Accounts by Varla Ventura is available both online and in your local brick & mortar. As usual, I recommend ordering where it does the author and publisher the most good — direct from the proverbial horse’s mouth.

My Review of Anita Kraft’s Qabalah Workbook for Magicians

Posted in Archive with tags , , on June 6, 2013 by Occult Detective

qabalah workbookI don’t know Anita Kraft personally, even though she spent a fair amount of time in my backyard, so to speak. I am, as most of you know, a proud Hoosier, and Ms. Kraft attended Indiana University and, according to the Introduction in her magnificent work, The Qabalah Workbook for Magicians, attended her first Gnostic Mass in Indianapolis. About this same time I was spending a fair amount of mine in Indy as well, consuming hallucinogens while kicking back metaphysically in a sensory-deprivation tank. Small world.

Now, if you were paying attention, you’d have noticed that I described Ms. Kraft’s recent Weiser Books release as magnificent. That is not hyperbole. As a near lifelong student of esoterica, I know a thing or two about Hermetic Qabalah. It was never a passionate focus of mine, but I cut my teeth there and did the work. While I appreciated the song and I learned all the notes, it just wasn’t one that I wanted to add to my set list. But a working understanding of Hermetic Qabalah is vital to the development of any practical magician and that’s why I loved Anita Kraft’s approach in The Qabalah Workbook.

This work is a must-have for any beginning student, in my opinion, but even more so, the ideas found within its pages are fresh and compelling for those of us a little longer in the tooth.

Thelemites will find the material quite comfortable, as the works of Aleister Crowley are quite dominant throughout. Not a Crowley fan? Don’t let that scare you off, there is plenty here to sink your teeth into. But be aware, this book is most likely the first in a series. Kraft covers the Sephiroth more than adequately, but the paths, where most modern magicians hang their proverbial wizard’s cap, are not. Don’t fret it. Plenty of work to be done here.

And that’s what I like best about The Qabalah Workbook. It is what it says it is — a workbook. I have little doubt that if you do the work as presented, you’ll be a better magician once you get to the other side, and that’s why I am more than happy to recommend this book to you, whether you ‘re a seasoned esotericist or someone eager to take their first steps into this magical world.

As to the physical book itself, I simply love the cover featuring Kircher’s Tree of Life. The interior fonts and illustrations are easy on the eyes and the off-white pages mean no unsightly glare. That goes a long way with me.

The Qabalah Workbook for Magicians: A Guide to the Sephiroth is available wherever books are sold, but here’s a link to Weiser Books’ online store. Feed the bear and maybe it won’t eat you.

Now, why don’t you join me over at Freeman Presson’s blog so we can read his review of  this very same book. I’m curious to see if he found it as enlightening as I did.

My 3 Word Review of The Best of the Equinox Vol. 2: Dramatic Ritual by Aleister Crowley

Posted in Archive with tags , , , on March 25, 2013 by Occult Detective

dracMy three word review: BUY THIS BOOK.

There — that was short, sweet, and to the point, no?

Look, chances are you already own Crowley’s Equinox, right? If not, this four volume series is tailor made just for you. Weiser’s doing the heavy lifting for you, having the honorable Baba Lon assemble the very best that the Equinox has to offer. The first volume covered Enochian Magick. Volume two tackles Dramatic Ritual and nobody, and I do mean nobody does dramatic ritual like Uncle Al.

Now how about those of you who already have the Equinox steadfastly weighing your overwrought bookshelves down? Why, oh why, if you’re a devoted Crowley aficionado, would you dare to drop your hard earned coin on a second helping of these delectable treats? Because of the aforementioned Lon Milo DuQuette, whose introductions are worth their weight in gold — that’s why.

I could go on and on about the intricacies of the rituals within, about the poetic and sublime poetics, and the mind-shatteringly beautiful and rapturous words, lovingly crafted and fulfilling the title’s promise… but I won’t. Because you know it already. Why would you even hesitate?

Here there be magick.

Buy the ticket. Take the ride. Thank me later.

The Best of the Equinox Volume 2: Dramatic Ritual by Aleister Crowley is available wherever books are sold. Let you fingers do their little dance on the keyboard and order your copy today.

Review: The Candle and the Crossroads & The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , on November 19, 2012 by Occult Detective

Orion Foxwood’s The Candle and the Crossroads: A Book of Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root Work surprised me. What I had assumed was a treatise outside of my wheelhouse instead struck very much close to home for me, at least in part. Those parts that spoke to me, did so in a very profound way. I should draw attention to the fact that quite a bit of The Candle and the Crossroads is influenced by the Christian faith. Yeah, I know, not exactly the Kool-Aid I drink from, but there are some real insights to be found within these pages that followers of any esoteric path can draw from as long as you keep your mind wide open.

This was a great read, for starters. Foxwood’s writing is crisp and heartfelt, presenting the material with a reverent tone while bringing these oral traditions to light. I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite authors, Manly Wade Wellman, as I dissected Foxwood’s work. I was thrust right back to my childhood when I was captivated by Wellman’s tales of John the Balladeer.

It’s all here — conjuring, faith healing, spirit sight, and more. For those not familiar with Appalachian folk magic, this is an ideal primer.

Of particular interest were chapter 8: Ancestral Spirits and Graveyard Magic, and chapter 9: Gates into the Spirit World and Encountering the Dark Rider. In a word, spectacular. Talk about feeding my muse? As a writer of occult fiction, I was entranced and not only ready to work this into my own stories, but also to put some of this to use in my private arsenal of magical operation.

I have no doubt at all that you will find something that speaks to you in this book for it is filled with magic, mystery, and the promise of esoteric adventure. This is soulful stuff and will stir your imagination and fuel your own pursuits by taking something from the heartland of this Traditional American Folkway and bringing it out of the shadows, reminding us that it is a living, breathing, and evolving belief system that still has purpose and importance.

I also was blessed to spend some quality time with another book, this one from one of my favorite esotericists, William Walker Atkinson. Writing as  Magus Incognito, Atkinson’s The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians is weighty stuff. Bringing a veritable cornucopia of occult beliefs — such as alchemy, astral projection, auras, mysticism, reincarnation, and more — under one esoteric umbrella, Atkinson was nothing if not ambitious.

In Clint Marsh’s well written and reasonable introduction the novice reader is let in on “the secret” that much of what was to be found within the Secret Doctrine’s pages was pure invention. This comes as no news to students of Atkinson’s writings, nor to anyone who has studied any of the so-called “secret societies” that flourished at the close of the nineteenth century and the birth of the twentieth.

That they all developed fanciful provenances and elaborate histories to give themselves a bit of caché via theatrical flair was a sign of the times, but it does not lessen the impact of the mysteries unveiled. In fact, it enhances and enriches them.

As  a storyteller, I understand the importance of set dressing and Atkinson was a master storyteller and a genius and innovative occultist.

A pioneer of the New Thought movement, Atkinson is largely forgotten now, primarily due to his perchance for writing under various and sundry aliases. That his works have remained in print all of these years is a testament to a masterful style and his flair for the dramatic.

Reading The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians is a captivating experience, presenting an enlightened world-view and a thirst to become one with something larger than ourselves.

I cannot recommend either work highly enough and both Orion Foxwood’s The Candle and the Crossroads and William Walker Atkinson’s The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians would make excellent additions to your personal occult library or as gifts for those loved ones with a thirst for esoteric knowledge.

 

My Review of Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery by Kris Bradley

Posted in Archive with tags , , on October 18, 2012 by Occult Detective

You can file this one under “not my usual cup of tea”, but to say I was pleasantly surprised by this book by everyone’s favorite pagan soccer mom is an understatement.

Penned by Kris Bradley, best known for her confessional blog, Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery: Everyday Magic, Spells, and Recipes is a treasure trove of useful information, not only for the practicing witch, but for anyone with a bent toward the esoteric and a belief in the home as being its own unique and sacred space.

I traditionally frown at entry level books of an occult nature, but this one is so full and forthright that I couldn’t help be be enamored with it. There’s a real sense of joy in Bradley’s words as they embody her beliefs and there’s no doubt that she knows of what she speaks.

I found many of her offerings immediately useful. A rare thing, I assure you.

The book is laid out rather nicely and I liked the format overall. There’s a sense of style brought to it, production wise. I was particularly fond of the font choices throughout, and while the illustrations are fitting, a bit more thought into them wouldn’t have hurt. Still, it’s a well wrapped present to be sure.

Of note is the paper. A cheaper stock, but a glossier page produces glare, and this is a working book, meant to be opened and sitting on the counter while you prepare. Quick and easy at a glance. See, that’s smart thinking.

Count me as a huge fan of the appendices and the Simple Sabbats for the Busy Witch. If there was any doubt that these were put together by someone actively making magic are quickly dispelled. Thoughtful and resonating with a spartan approach to weaving magic in a very day in and day out sort of way.

This book is about making magic a part of your life, not as some sort of costume one puts on, but as everyday dress, integrating it into every facet of your life.

It’s a book that Mrs. Bradley should be quite proud of and one that should be on every Kitchen Witch’s shelf, right next to Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes.

Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery is published by Weiser Books and available wherever books are sold.

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