Category Archives: occultism

The Golden Dawn * Israel Regardi (isbn 0875426638)

The main reason for me buying this book was to complete my ‘magical library’. I have magical texts from different times, so I thought I could not leave out Golden Dawn. Regardi compiled official papers to a massive book as a guide of Golden Dawn magic. After endless introductions, but book continues with theory (an extremely high level of information) and rituals. You can do a step-by-step course through the different grades of the order. My personal interest was mostly to see how much of the older magic I could trace back in the system of the Golden Dawn. I found less medieval magic than I expected and John Dee is only treated at the end of the book, in much detail again I might add. I didn’t study the rituals, let alone try them out, I am at best an ‘armchair magician’ interest in the subject of magic. The theoretical parts thrive mostly on Kabbalah and sometimes more Eastern/Theosophical theories. I didn’t find much obvious mistakes. All in all the early teachers of the Golden Dawn managed to build a very structured, original and rather organised magical system out of older systems and in this book you will find all/most information about it and your complete ‘how to guide’. The book comes with a gigantic index, because it is also intended to be used as encyclopedia for both users and investigators.
A book that belongs in every library of people interested in magic, also when you are not into the Golden Dawn.

John Dee’s Five Books Of Mystery * Joseph H. Peterson (ed.) (1578631785)

The second half of the magical diaries of John Dee. Peterson gave them in the original old-style English, which does not read very well. The very detailed discriptions of skrying-sessions aren’t even that interesting. What is interesting is that things become a lot clearer with Tyson’s book Enochian Magic For Beginners and you of course get all the details. Anyway, 475 pages of magic, too much to mention. More about the system in my article about angel magic.

Arbatel of Magick (fbn press)

This booklet caused me to find the FBN Ebay page. There are very luxery editions of this text, but here we have one of only $ 5,-. The “Arbathel” (in the Hebrew letters on the cover) “of the magic of the ancients”, “the greatest studie of wisdom” is of course a well-known late Medieval magical text. Here we have the 1655 Robert Turner translation who also wrote an introduction. In 7×7 aphorisms you get a theoretical lesson in Medieval magic with a thick Christian sauce.

The Book Of Ceremonial Magic * Arthur Edward Waite (isbn 1853263559)

I don’t understand why someone would republish a book as famous as Waite’s Ceremonial Magic under a different title. I bought this book as The Wordsworth Book Of Spells in which Wordsworth is of course the publisher. This is Waite’s 1911 famous book about magic and is definately a much better history of magic than Levi’s book under this title. Already early in the book it becomes obvious that Waite is working towards black magic. He distincts white and black, but keeps emphasizing that black magic is mostly a myth and that there is too much overlap to tell them apart. He treats a couple of famous texts at length, some even translation in its entirety. Very nice elaborations of texts such as the Arbatel Of Magic, the larger and smallers keys of Solomon and blacker works such as the Grimorium Verum and the Grimoire Of Honorius can be found. Waite compares the texts, says where are crossbreeds in information, rituals, names, etc. The last part is ‘the complete grimoire’ with detailed information about rituals and translations of texts. Here Waite really works towards the blackest of black magic.

Some people say that Waite proves himself as a black magician working with sacrifices involving human sacrifice, others says that Waite wrote this work as an anti-magic book. Things can be said for both theories. The rituals and explanations are detailed enough to bring people the idea to do their own experiments, but also Waite is often very sceptical and ironical.

All in all an interesting work speaking about the best-known magical texts from the Middle Ages, also showing sides that other writers prefer to avoid. Detailed enough to continue your investigations or compare Waite to other writers, but not always too clearly written.

Three Books Of Occult Philosophy * Donald Tyson (transl.) (isbn 0875428320 * 1994)

De Occulta Philosophia * Henry Cornelius Agrippa * 1533

I had read quite a lot about this book and its writer and I have paged through this translation more than once, but it wasn’t until recently that I finally got a copy. To review!

H.C. Agrippa from Nettesheim can be regarded as the summum of the Renaissance occult tradition. Like most of his colleagues he saw himself as a good Christian being involved in good magic. This last he pushed to the limits which is the reason why he had such a bad name. Like many of his predecessors Agrippa combined the Christian Cabala of Giovani Pico (from Mirandola) and especially that of his master Johann Reuchlin with the angelic magic of Trithemius and the hermetic tradition that followed after Marsilio Ficino’s translations of the major hermetic scriptures.
Also in Agrippa’s vision creation can be divided in three worlds and this division is reflected in the three parts that the english title refers to. First there is the elemental world and the first book is about the natural magic in the Ficino-tradition. It involves the cooperation with natural forces to reach a certain goal by using talismans and musical incantations. This is in contradiction to the more “strong” magic concerning the using of these forces. The second world is the celestial world and the second book is about celestial magic. Here you can think of mathematics, music, optics, astromony, numerology and the summoning of angels. The last world is the supercelestial or intellectual world and the third book deals with ceremonial magic. read more

The Magus – A Complete System Of Occult Philosophy * Francis Barrett (isbn 0877289425)

I found this photographic reprint of the 1801 first pressing of this book at Amazon. What you can get there, eh?
Anyway, I hoped for a summery of occult philosophy from say 1600 to 1800 including thinkers such as Agrippa, Reuchlin, Dee, Paracelcus, &c., but reading the book it proves to be more of a magical book than a philosophical one.
This work actually consisted of two books, one book about natural magic and one about ceremonial magic. Book one for example deals with amulets, charms, alchemy and numerology. Book two with subjects like magnetism, witchcraft, cabalistical magic, magic circles and seals, &c.
Later book three was added with biographies of the great occultists of history, such as Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, Apollonius of Tyana, Aristotle, Bacon, Lully, Paracelcus, Dee, &c.

However this book is relatively thin -about 375 pages- it contains a massive amount of information and when you want to get ‘valuable’ information from it, this will definately require attentive reading and study.
In the beginning I had the idea that Barrett didn’t want to publish a book from which anyone could destill his / her personal favourite spells and magic. Just to randomly quote a few lines from book I, part I: “Rhubarb, on account of its violent antipathy to choler, wonderfully purges the same. Music is well-known specific for curing the bite of a tarantula, or any venomous spider; likewise, water cures the hydrophobia. Warts are cured by paring off the same; or by burying as many pebbles, secretly, as the party has warts. The king’s-evil may be cured by the heart of a toad worn about the neck, first being dried.– Hippomanes excites lust by the bare touch, or being suspended on the party. If one shall spit in the hand with which he struck, or hurt, another so shall the wound be cured; –likewise, if any one shall draw the halter wherewith a malefactor was slain across the throat of one who hath the quinsey, it certainly cures him in three days; –also, the herb cinque-foil being gathered before sun-rise, one leaf thereof cures the argue of one day; three leaves, cures the tertian; and four, the quartan ague.” (book I p. 29). Barrett continues like this for pages and pages.

The part about alchymy isn’t too eye-opening either and is mostly in the same style as above. read more

The Lesser Key Of Solomon * Joseph H. Peterson (isbn 157863220X)

The Lesser Key Of Solomon

Here we probably have the best possible version of the Lemegeton put together by Joe Peterson of esotericarchives.com and avesta.org. Peterson compared various manuscripts of the texts that can be found in the British Library. He opens with detailed information and then has the four books with all their images. In notes he marks when names are spelled differently in other manuscripts. Peterson sticked to the old English with the many typos and strange abreviations of the handwriters. Not too readable, but ‘authentic’ so to say. However Peterson has an index, he didn’t include the names of the spirits, which is a bit of a pity. All in all a very nice book, also visually, and as I opened, probably the best publishing available.
2001 weiser books, isbn 157863220X
-24/2/04-

The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation * Hans Dieter Betz (isbn 0226044475)

A while ago I started to write an article about the ‘Papyri Graecae Magica’. This article could not be finished without this complete English translation with its marvelous introduction. A minor point is that there is only the translation, while my German Merkelbach/Totti has both the Greek text and the German translation, but then not of all texts. The Betz translation does have all texts that were known in his 1996 (second edition). Betz (of course) draws upon the complete German version of Preisendanz, but not only the Greek texts, but also the Demotic. Earlier translations left out the Demotic texts, even thought the Greek and the Demotic texts are sometimes on the same papyri. Roughly said the Greek texts are more magical, the Demotic more practical (often medical). All in all there are almost 100 papyri, some longer, some only a few lines or even only a (letter)figure.

The texts themselves are a hard read. They are texts with a lot of strange incantations (so called “voces magicae”), which seem to be Egyptian written in Greek letters, but half of the words are names of gods, demons, sometimes recognisable, sometimes strangely combined. The incantations are sometimes written in letter-figures (like the Kabbalistic tetragrammaton-triangle Y-YH-YHV-YHVH), sometimes within drawings, but Betz does not often give them in such a form.

Still the PGM are extremely interesting. I suppose that they are written in Alexandria. They mix Egyptian, Greek, Jewish, Gnostic and Babylonian magic, so you get a good idea of what was known in the multicultural city of Alexandria. Many names of gods are used right through eachother. Egyptian gods such as Thoth, Isis, Horus, Anubis; Jewish gods like the very popular Iao (YHVH), Sabaoth or the archangels Michael, Raphael and the like; the Gnostic god Abraxas is one the the most popular in the papyri, but also Sophia is sometimes mentioned; then we have of course Greek gods like Zeus or Hekate and Olympus is mentioned more than once; even Babylonian gods like Ereshigal are not forgotten. Besides all this we have typical PGM gods like Ablanathanalba (there is a preference for palingdromes) and the mysterious headless god. My personal interest further has Mithra(s), who is mentioned here and there and one text is called ‘the Mithras liturgy’ by investigators (PGM IV 475-829) of who some think it really was what the title says (the text is very kindred to the other PGM though).

Also interesting is the fact that the texts are obviously a collection made by one of more persons who has been looking for and tested the spells. Remarks such as “another” (spell of this kind), “I know”, “tested” nicely prove this. The texts have been discovered in our own time in two large sections that have been bought by different museums and later many separate texts have come to light and still do, so it is hard to say how many ancient collectors there have been.

The magic itself is also worth studying. It is obvious where Medieval magic has its sources when the PGM speak of amulets, spells, gods of the hours of the day and night, preparations, equipment, the use of (parts of) animals, incense, herbs, etc. The magic in the PGM is of a very practical nature. They contain many love-spells and spells for the benefit of the magician, diseases or business. Further there are nonsense spells like “to make man who have [been] drinking at a sympion appear to have donkey snouts to outsiders, from afar” (PGM XIb 1-5).
What is also interesting is that PGM XIII 1-343 is called “eight key of Moses” where we know Medieval grimoires under the titles “sixth” and “seventh book of Moses”. Further there are references to the unknown “key of Moses” and an Hermetic book called “Wing”. Also there are symbols that remind a bit of Enochian.

What I don’t know much about myself is that it is said that authentic Greek and Egyptian folkbeliefs can be found in the texts, so also for anthropologists these texts are interesting.

For more information see my article.

The Magic Shield: A Manual of Defense Against the Dark Arts * Francis Melvile (isbn 0764157272)

This is most strange. A while ago a luxery printed “The Secrets Of High Magic” was made available in Dutch through the cheap bookshops in the witchy witches and new age section. I didn’t think this was a very good idea, because this book is a simple, but detailed manual of the more serious kinds of magic. Now that everyone has gotten into problems by trying everything out, a translation of “The Magic Shield” is published in Dutch in a similar book: fake leather and cut to look old. This book is to protect you against the people who learned themselves the possibilties of the previous book. Yet, again it is well written, highly informative, understandable and it comes with an index. Well, better this book in the regular bookshop than the other one.

The Secrets Of High Magic * Francis Melvile (isbn 0764155350)

Where the original version of this book seems to presented as a serious one, I found my Dutch version (“Hoge Magie”) in a cheap-books-shop among the witchy magic and new-age books. It is bound in fake leather and the paper is cut to make it look old. It reminds of these expensive repressings of medieval grimoires or Adam MacLeans titles in his ‘Hermetic Sourceworks’ series.

In contradiction to being a happy and easy new-age magical book, this is a manual for ritual magic. It heavily draws upon medieval Solomonic magic (see my article about Angel Magic) and indeed Mathers “Abramelin” translation is listed in the short biography. Further Kabbalistic magic is dealt with separately, tarot, alchemy (with recipies), angel magic (speaking about magic squares!), talismans and at the end Eastern magic (“tattwa”). Practises and rituals in detail. Some background information is given, but not too much. The book aims at beginners (but serious ones I hope) however here and there some background knowledge is very helpfull. Also for people more into the subjects, this book can be handy. Not only the large amount of uncredited images in this lively and two-colour printed book makes it a feast of recognition, but there is even some info that I didn’t have in my ‘serious’ (?) books.

I suppose I can recommand this book to people who can’t find or afford classical practical magic works or who wants something in a more understandable language.
Melville has written more books about angels, alchemy and the like. This was my first encounter with the man.