Remember those wonderful kids books of old such as The Golden Book of Chemistry, since deemed too dangerous for our over-protective times? In recent times, our yearning for those daring days has seen success for the rather non-risky 'Dangerous Book for Boys' series.
The occult equivalent of the Golden Book of Chemistry might just be How to Make Magic, a 1974 book that showed kids how to perform a little stage magic, and oh SUMMON THE DEVIL HIMSELF. Thankfully, this classic tome has been rescued from obscurity by @Cavalorn, who has posted scans of the book to his blog, with commentary.
The book seems to begin innocuously enough, with some neat little 'stage magic' tricks to mystify your friends and family with. Although, like the Golden Book of Chemistry, the book is happy enough to recommend a child go and purchase some volatile chemicals. As Cavalorn reminisces: "Oh for the lost days of our youth when a small boy could come skipping out of a chemist's shop with a manual of witchcraft in one hand and a bag of bomb ingredients in the other."
But really, what could go wrong with some of the juvenile stage magic tricks in the book, as long as there are clear directions to ensure the safety of the child? I mean, really?*
(* Full disclosure: I once did the 'pencil up the nose, out the mouth' magic trick in front of a 12-year-old. Minutes later they staggered out of their room screaming with blood pouring from their nose)
But of course, these were different times, when we didn't fixate on little details that might be harmful, given the unlikely scenario of a bunch of unfortunate circumstances combining. So let's not castigate the authors for well-meaning passages that....wait, what's this?
Witches used to make wax or wooden dolls of their enemies and stick pins in as a spell to hurt them. Has your teacher, or a friend, made you a little angry lately? Here's what a witch with a sense of humour might do.
That's right, a magic book for kids recommended making a voodoo doll if friends or teachers had "made you a little angry". We've obviously left the stage magic section well behind now, although I shudder to think what the recommendation is for anyone that's made you really angry...
Head on over to Cavalorn's blog for plenty more occult tuition for juniors, including such gems as:
- "Ask your parents if you can bewitch a corner of your garden at home. The centre piece should really be a tree around which you should plant a circle of white flowers - snowdrops or daisies, perhaps - in honour of the moon goddess"
- "Of course, this is no ordinary cat but a 'familiar' sent by the Devil himself to lend a helping hand"
- "Be careful not to put the pentagrams upside down because they look a bit like the Devil with his horns and you don't want him turning up"
That last pearl of wisdom comes from the spread in which young children are taught to construct a circle to conduct ritual magick in. I would totally have made this book my personal bible if I had ever come across it in my own youth.
I mean, seriously...DIY Ouija craft!
August the 1st is Lammastide, a traditional Summer Harvest Festival dating back to pre-Anglo Saxon times. Lammas, also known by its Celtic name Lughnasadh, is one of the key dates (along with Walpurgis Night, All Hallow’s Eve, and the Feast of Corpus Christi) closely associated with the Renaissance idea of the Witches’ Sabbath. On these dates, it was believed that witches would gather together in secret locations and perform dark forbidden rites. The Compendium Maleficarum, 1608, by Italian priest Francesco Maria Guazzo gives a typical account of what was supposed to occur at such gatherings:
The attendants go riding flying goats, trample the cross, are made to be re-baptised in the name of the Devil, give their clothes to him, kiss the Devil's behind, and dance back to back forming a round.
I'm writing this post sitting at my desk in my hot, book-stuffed workroom/study here in leafy Liverpool, in the UK. If you Google the words "Witchcraft" and "Liverpool" together you can all too easily find yourself descending into an quagmire of Beatles conspiracy theory. The group's profound fascination with Aleister Crowley (as evidenced by that one picture of him included on the cover of Sergeant Pepper's...), Paul's untimely death (by some occult means, probably) and replacement by a fake Paul ("Faul"), Lennon selling his soul to the Devil for fame and fortune then being assassinated (possibly at the hands of the Illuminati utilising an MKUltra brainwashed gunman) when his contractually agreed time in the spotlight expired, and of course Yoko Ono's status as a sorceress and master manipulator (the track "Yes, I'm a Witch", and the 2007 re-mix album of the same name almost certainly being cited).
The Fiendish Four aside however, Liverpool and Merseyside may not, at first glance, appear to have much of a history of witchery. Indeed, Dr Margaret Alice Murray’s notorious 1921 work The Witch-Cult in Western Europe mentions Liverpool witches only once in Chapter VIII - Familiars and Transformations:
In 1667 at Liverpool, 'Margaret Loy, being arraigned for a witch, confessed she was one; and when she was asked how long she had so been, replied, Since the death of her mother, who died thirty years ago; and at her decease she had nothing to leave her, and this widow Bridge, that were sisters, but her two spirits; and named them, the eldest spirit to this widow, and the other spirit to her the said Margaret Loy. 'This inheritance of a familiar may be compared with the Lapp custom: 'The Laplanders bequeath their Demons as part of their inheritance, which is the reason that one family excels another in this magical art.
Liverpool, and in particular the district of Toxteth (where I now feel duty bound to point put that Richard Starkey AKA Ringo Starr grew up), does however have a very strong connection with one of the most well remembered and often dramatised of all witch trials. A Puritan community once thrived in the Toxteth/Dingle area and in 1618 they erected the Toxteth Unitarian Chapel which still stands on the corner of today’s Park Road and Dingle Lane. The chapel’s first minister was a man by the name of Richard Mather who, along with most of that Puritan community, eventually emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in North America. Mather’s son Increase Mather and grandson Cotton Mather (author of Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, 1689 and The Wonders of the Invisible World - Observations as Well Historical as Theological, upon the Nature, the Number, and the Operations of the Devils, 1693), both became Puritan ministers themselves. Today Increase and Cotton are best known for their involvement in the infamous Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s, in which more than two-hundred people were accused of practising witchcraft and twenty were executed.
In the 1920s and 30s, the Egyptologist Dr Margaret Alice Murray published several books (Witch-Cult... cited above being the most famous today) detailing her theories that those persecuted as witches during the Early Modern period in Europe were not, as the persecutors had claimed, followers of Satanism, but adherents of a surviving pre-Christian pagan religion - the Witch-Cult. In the decades following the publication of Dr Murray’s works the Witch-Cult grew with new covens springing up in places such as Norfolk, Cheshire and the New Forest. These new witches drew their inspiration not only from Murray’s writings but from a broad sphere of influences including classical mythology, Aleister Crowley’s writings, folk magic, and Freemasonry. The New Forest Coven, for example, was formed as a Neopagan off-shoot of The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry - a non-Christian Scouting-like movement founded in 1916 by Ernest Westlake. One, perhaps rather unlikely, initiate of the New Forest Coven was a white-haired, retired Civil Servant named Gerald Gardner. Gerald Brosseau Gardner was born in Blundellsands, Merseyside in 1884 but lived in places as diverse as Portugal and British Malaya before returning to England in 1936. Following his involvement in the New Forest Coven, Gardner formed his own group known as the Bricket Wood Coven.
Gerald Gardener wrote several books on the subject of modern witchcraft – High Magic's Aid (1949), Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959) – all of which attracted much media attention at the time. Today he is known as the Father of Wicca – the neo-pagan religion which grew out of his writings and Bricket Wood’s practices (although Gardner seems to have preferred Murray’s term Witch-Cult himself).
So, next time your mind turns to moptops and the Ferry 'Cross the Mersey, maybe you'll remember that one of the most infamous incidents in American history, and a global religion with as many as eight-hundred thousand adherents (according to www.adherents.com) were also birthed upon the banks of that river. So much of our modern concept of witchcraft has its roots buried deep here in the Mersey mud.
Today the 1st of August is one of the sabbats in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year - eight festivals, spaced at even intervals throughout the calendar. No doubt Guazzo and the Mathers would be glad (or perhaps disappointed?) to learn that there is no flying-goat riding, or Devil-arse kissing involved in the modern Witch-Cult’s Lammas celebrations. www.Wicca.com gives the following as suggested activities/practices for Lughnasadh:
As summer passes, many Pagans celebrate this time to remember its warmth and bounty in a celebrated feast shared with family or Coven members. Save and plant the seeds from the fruits consumed during the feast or ritual. If they sprout, grow the plant or tree with love and as a symbol of your connection with the Lord and Lady. Walk through the fields and orchards or spend time along springs, creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes reflecting on the bounty and love of the Lord and Lady.
When Grammy Award-winning vocalist Ciara appeared in a 2013 video wearing a jacket emblazoned with "Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn," the legions of Illuminati-obsessed fundamentalist bloggers salivated with yet more proof of the ongoing Hollywood occult conspiracy to lead us all into worship of the Dark Lord.
Readers of this site would know better than most, however, that those foaming-at-the-mouth critics of the Hollywood/MKULTRA/mind control plot to enslave young minds through popular music have a very limited understanding of the rich and complex history of Western occultism.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which originated in late 19th century London among a small group of Masonic Rosicrucians, remains the most influential and well-known occult society in Western history. Its story has been told in a number of popular books, and its prominent members—Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, William Butler Yeats, A. E. Waite, Dion Fortune, and Israel Regardie—are icons of esoteric lore. Yet countless Neopagans and New Agers, along with those who dabble in esoteric practices like Kabbalah, Tarot, astral travel, and visualization, have no idea that their spiritual beliefs and practices are pulled directly from the pioneering work of this magical secret society.
Pick up any book on practical magic and you’re likely to find rituals, often without attribution, plagiarized from the Golden Dawn. One ritual in particular, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, is found in nearly every modern occult tradition, from ceremonial magic to Wicca and the latest flavor of Neopaganism. It is the Swiss Army Knife of occultism, intended to clear ceremonial space of malign or obtrusive energies and entities, but its origination in the Golden Dawn frequently goes unmentioned. Before Golden Dawn members started tracing glowing pentagrams in the air while intoning Hebrew names of God, the idea of summoning and banishing demons and spirits was wrapped in the archaic, complex (and often perplexing) rituals gleaned from old medieval grimoires and the obscure books of 19th century occultist Eliphas Levi.
Levi also built upon the writings of French Freemason (and friend of Benjamin Franklin) Antoine Court de Gébelin, who originated the idea of the Tarot cards as a book of ancient wisdom and a tool of divination. Before Gébelin, the cards were seen as nothing more than a game, albeit with simple moral lessons illustrated by the Trump cards. Mathers and his associates drew upon the writings of Levi and grafted the Tarot to the Jewish Kabbalah by matching the 22 Trump cards with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 22 paths on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The Rider-Waite deck, the most popular and influential of all time (recognizable from its ubiquity in pop culture), was created by Arthur Edward Waite and artist Pamela Colman Smith, both members of the Golden Dawn, and published in 1910. Although Waite changed some of the imagery on the cards to avoid breaking his vow of secrecy, their symbolism and meanings are clearly based, at least in part, on the order's teachings, and any Tarot reader using the Waite-Smith cards or the many decks based on them is—often unknowingly—drawing from the deep well of the Golden Dawn.
The Kabbalah (or Cabala or Qabalah) was an obscure Jewish mystical tradition and virtually unknown outside of Judaic and occult circles until its popularization by the Golden Dawn. Mathers and company drew upon the syncretic fusion of this Jewish mystical tradition with Hermetic Christianity, most notably in the works of occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Eliphas Levi, and Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher (who also threw pagan and Egyptian elements into the mix). It’s hard to imagine the Kabbalah would have ever emerged from its religious niche into global pop culture had it not been for the Golden Dawn building a practical system of occultism on top of it. Even as the order disintegrated from the usual mix of battling egos and magical infighting in the early twentieth century, many of its practitioners—Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley being among the most prominent—took the Kabbalistic teachings and practices and formed their own schools of magic and mysticism (several of which are still in existence).
Other magical practices revitalized, reinvented, and popularized by the Golden Dawn included astral travel, scrying, alchemy, guided visualization, and astrology—all foundations of what later came under the broader umbrella of New Age philosophy. Although a number of Golden Dawn lodges still exist (and still sometimes engage in feuding and bickering about who holds the “true” lineage), the influence of the order now is much more pervasive where it is least known and acknowledged. Indeed, it’s hard to pick up a book off a shelf in a New Age bookstore that isn’t in some manner linked to the Victorian magicians of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn—from the simplistic pop magic of The Secret to popular books on the Kabbalah and nearly every book of practical magical techniques. In many respects, the goals of the original society have succeeded beyond the wildest clairvoyant visions of its early members, and the Golden Dawn magical “current” is flowing more powerfully and more widely now than when its first fraters and sorores gathered to make magic in their secret lodges over a hundred years ago.
It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt: the modern mythological monster 'Slender Man', a meme born on the Something Awful forum just short of five years ago (June 10, 2009), is today being blamed as being the inspiration for an attempted murder. Prosecutors say two 12-year-old(!) girls from southeastern Wisconsin took another girl into the woods, stabbed her 19 times, and left her for dead. The victim managed to crawl to a sidewalk, where a cyclist found her:
One of the girls told a detective they were trying to become "proxies" of Slender Man, a mythological demon-like character they learned about on creepypasta.wikia.com, a website about horror stories and legends. They planned to run away to the demon's forest mansion after the slaying, the complaint said.
"I recognize their young ages but it's still unbelievable," Court Commissioner Thomas Pieper said during one of the girls' initial court appearances Monday.
...Both girls were charged as adults with first-degree attempted homicide Monday in Waukesha County Circuit Court; they each face up to 60 years in prison if convicted.
Readers of our Fortean anthology series Darklore will be well-acquainted with the Slenderman, as in Volumes 6 and 7 writer Cat Vincent explored the mythology at length. His introduction to the topic, written some three years ago, seems eerily prescient now:
We don’t often get to see the birth of a monster.Just over two years ago, a new monster was born. Because it was born on the internet, we can see the exact moment of its conception. We can follow its growth from a pair of photographs into a full-fledged mythology. We can see the point where it crossed over from a merely imaginal creature into something that haunts the minds of many. And we can see exactly when it became a creature of true occult significance. Its path is clear and distinct. Its legacy is undeniable.
The monster’s name is Slenderman. And its influence continues
Cat finished that essay by saying "On the internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog. Or a tulpa. And if enough people describe something as a thought-form...could this collective imagining actually make that form manifest?" If this horrible event is indeed some sort of 'manifestation' of the thought-form, let's hope that it's the end of it as well.
For those interested in learning more about the topic, both of Cat's articles are available on-line: "The Slenderman" in PDF format on the Darklore website, and "Killing Slenderman" here on The Daily Grail.
I've always wanted to write a post title like that. We appreciate and want to acknowledge the support of Tarcher/Penguin, who this month are advertising (see the banner at the top right of the page) the latest book from the wonderful Gary Lachman, Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World (available from Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle eBook):
Twenty years after his death, in the middle of the Swinging Sixties, Crowley was more popular than he ever was in his lifetime. In 1967, the Beatles put him on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Rolling Stones became, for a time, serious devotees, their music and image being groomed by one of Crowley’s most influential disciples, the avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Today, his face is practically as well known as that of Elvis, Marilyn, or Che. His libertarian philosophies informed generations of notable heavy metal groups like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Metallica, and others, while these same beliefs form the subject of scholarly theses. His image hangs in goth rock bars, occult temples, and college dorm rooms alike, and he’s turned up as a character in pop cultural environments from Batman comic books to Playstation video games.
But ALEISTER CROWLEY is more than just a biography of this continually compelling and divisive figure–it’s also a portrait of his influence on modern pop culture and rock music, from one who knows firsthand. Before he was the acclaimed religious historian behind books like MADAME BLAVATSKY and JUNG THE MYSTIC, Gary Lachman was Gary Valentine, a young New York City punk rocker who immersed himself in occult study when he wasn’t busy playing bass with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Blondie. Lachman experimented with Crowley’s life philosophies as a young man, coming to understand their allure and power–as well as how they were, ultimately, spiritual dead ends.
Decades later, as a religious scholar, Lachman returned to Crowley, fusing his own personal experiences with meticulous research and sharp-eyed cultural observation, to paint the first truly thorough portrait of one of the most famous occult figures of all time. ALEISTER CROWLEY show readers not only who “The Great Beast” was and where he came from, but also why he’s still on our minds nearly one hundred years later.
If the book interests you, pleaes do support sponsors who are supporting this site. More information about the book can be found at the Tarcher/Penguin website.
Strange Attractor have announced the very sad news that Steve Moore, a 'hidden' giant in the fields of the occult, Forteana and comics, has passed away:
We’re deeply sad to announce that Steve Moore, author of Somnium and a regular contributor to Strange Attractor Journal, passed away over the weekend, under a beautiful Spring full Moon.
Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more.
Steve was amongst the earliest members of the Gang of Fort, who launched Fortean Times magazine in the early 1970s, and the author of a great many influential comics and short stories for publications including 2000AD, Warrior, Dr Who magazine and, most recently, the Hercules series for Radical Publishing. At the time of his death he was working on a number of new projects, including his ongoing, privately published Tales of Telguuth and The Bumper Book of Magic, with his lifelong friend Alan Moore.
In 2011 Steve gave a rare interview to Aug Stone of The Quietus, while Alan Moore’s book and album project, Unearthing, explored Steve’s life, their friendship and their magical relationship in great detail.
I'm lucky enough to own one of the signed limited edition hardcovers of Steve Moore's Somnium, and in a nice/tragic little synchronicity had pulled the book out of its safe storage a few days ago after reading through a couple of Alan Moore biographies (which yielded its own little synchronicity last weekend).
Those familiar with Steve Moore's work will appreciate the beauty of the Strange Attractor comment that he passed away "under a beautiful Spring full Moon". Safe travels sir.
Link: Steve Moore 1949 – 2014
Donald Michael Kraig, author of the popular introductory occult text Modern Magick and former editor of Fate magazine, has sadly passed away at age 62. Kraig had been fighting Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. His wife Holly posted this note to her Facebook account:
It is with great sadness that I announce that Donald Michael Kraig took his last breaths last night (3/17/2014) and died. He has crossed over to Summerland and is finally no longer suffering. The type of cancer he had was just too aggressive for us to do any more treatments and his body finally gave way. He did not suffer. He simply slipped away in his sleep.
Publishers Llewellyn have also posted a short obituary on their site.
The Kraigs had been running a fundraising campaign to help cover Donald's health expenses - his wife Holly has asked that rather than cards or flowers, anybody that wants to help are welcome to contribute to that campaign to help cover funeral expenses.
In 1920 the voice of the famous/infamous occultist Aleister Crowley was recorded for posterity onto wax cylinders, with the 'Master Therion' chanting magical incantations claimed by some to be in the language of the angels (as part of the 'Enochian' strand of magic). In the intervening years, the recording has been reissued by a number of sources, most recently on Original Wax Recordings from the Mr Suit label. But many of the tracks have also found their way online over the years, and for those that haven't heard them, you can listen to Aleister Crowley chanting "The Call Of The First Aethyr" in the YouTube video below:
I had previously heard this online at the 'Occult Voices – Paranormal Music, Recordings of unseen Intelligences 1905-2007 ' webpage - at which you'll also find other fascinating recordings, such as a number made of famous trance medium Gladys Osborne Leonard, and her 'control' personality Feda, as well as other prominent mediums of the day. Not to mention, recordings of possessed children made in the 1970s. Sleep well!
This amazing carved skull is alleged to be 300 years old, and come from a Buddhist monastery in Tibet. The owner posted images of the skull on a forum back in 2011 asking for more information about it:
I got this skull in March 2011 from an antiques shop in Vienna, Austria. Showed it to several experts and organizations, such as the Institute for Tibetan and Buddhistic Studies in Vienna, the Museum of Natural History Vienna and the Völkerkunde Museum. The Tibetan letters and most of the symbols got deciphered, but no one ever heard of a skull like that. Except one Tibetan Khenpo (Monk-Professor), who said such skulls where carved a long time ago to take a curse off a family or to guide the soul of a mislead human being on the right path. The guy who sold it to the auction house where the antiques shop got it from said that one of his ancestors used to be a medical doctor in Vienna. He travelled around Tibet and also gave medical treatment to an abbot of a Buddhist monastery. That abbot gave the skull amongst other relics to that doctor as a reward for his services. Allegedly around 300 years old.
The owner of the skull also pointed out the depiction, on the forehead area, of the Cittipati - the 'Lords of the Graveyard - apparently in a Tantric posture (the "bow and arrow"):
Anybody able to shed more light on this skull? Is it an historical occult artifact, or just a modern tourist trophy?
Happy birthday to Alan Moore - writer of Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta, Promethea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and much more - who turns 60 today! Why not celebrate by watching the documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore, in which Alan himself walks you through his early life and influences, his own works, and also his thoughts on storytelling, and other fascinating topics such as art, magick and imagination. It's a film worth having on hand at all times, so grab your own copy of it from Amazon.
If you're looking to learn even more about the man and his work, I'd recommend grabbing a copy of the excellent Storyteller (Amazon US/Amazon UK), or the brand new Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore (Amazon US/Amazon UK).
Happy birthday good sir, and thanks for sharing your stories!