Indo-European Mythology And Religion – Alexander Jacob (2019)

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A while ago I got myself three recent Manticore books. When I had just started reading the present title, the publisher contacted me to tell me about yet another new title. Manticore is hard to keep up with.

I know Jacob from another Manticore title. In my review I noted Jacob has a different approach from my own and that he can be quite pedantic. Now I may add that his conclusions sometimes seem extremely easy.

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The Hermetic Journal 1978

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As I said in my earlier review of a course by Adam McLean, the author has been active with the subject for a long time. He has published a journal since 1978!

These journals are apparently scanned and made available as printing-on-demand books. The journal has run from 1978 to 1992 and are avaible for Kindle via Amazon, but also in print from Adam’s own website.

The first issues (the first two are printed in this little book) contain quite some occultism and esotericism and of course alchemy. Explanations of alchemical “mandalas”, ceremonial magick, Satanism even, can be found within these pages. Also lists of “other occult journals”, references to all kinds of groups that are active (or were, probably). Also published are translations of texts that in the time were hard to get.

All in all a varried journal with (to me) content of varying interest. It is a great idea to make such old material available again. The books are not too cheap, $ 20,- to $ 30,- per book, depending on your choice for softcover or hardcover. An advice. Go to the Amazon kindle versions of the journals were you can see the tables of content, so you can better choose which issues you are going to purchase.

Heidense Heiligdommen – Judith Schuyf (2019)

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In 1995 Schuyf published the little book Heidens Nederland (‘heathen Netherlands’) with as subtitle Zichtbare overblijfselen van een niet-christelijk verleden (‘Visible remains of a non-christian past’). I do not remember with certainty how I found that book. Did I hear from it and look it up or did I just run into it? My memory claims option two.

Schuyf writes about a variety of subjects, but history, prehistory and Medieval archeology are what she studied in her days. That she did not loose her interest in this particular subject proved about a decade ago when she was invited to speak for a Dutch heathen group and she accepted. She would return and mentioned that she was working on a reworked version of the book.

The new title is Heidense Heiligdommen (‘Heathen sanctuaries’) and the subtitle Zichtbare sporen van een verloren verleden (‘Visible remains of a lost past’). The new book was made available last May.

As in the first book, there is a long introduction to the subject. What do we know about the prechristian religion of these parts, what happened when Christianity came, what remains do we have? Concerning the latter, Schuyf mostly focusses on scenic remains, but often connected to cultural remains.

In the Netherlands not too much was created in buildings or writings, before the Romans came and around the same time, Christianity started to spread to the region too. Much of what is described are actually things that remained in (early) Christian times. Fertility usuages became processions, a sacred well was dedicated to a saint, thanks for a healing moved inside chapels and churches. Many of these heathen remains were only wiped out during the Reformation.

So here we have a book with places that are (either or not correctly) seen as ancient places of offering, such as well, (artificial) hills, deepenings, etc. Strange Christian habbits are explained in a prechristian context such as scrapings of church-walls to provide powder to heal.

Schuyf mostly tries to asses the validity of the claims to antiquity for which she uses a variety of sources. These include very recent investigations and publications, so the reader will be quite up-to-date with the state of investigations after reading this book.

The book mentions dozens and dozens of places that are worth a visit, but just as in the previous book, the directions are seldom specific enough to just use this book as ‘heathen tourist guide’. There are many (colour) photos that help.

To close off, Schuyf mentions several cases of ‘invented traditions’ showing that just one mention of some author about a supposed history of a place does not automatically mean that this is so. Judging the impressive bibliography the author did her best to prove or debunk claims as best as possible.

The book could have used an index of places and findings and as you can see above, many of the subjects in the book are ‘folk-Christian’ rather than ‘purely heathen’. This is mostly likely is the largest collection of such traces of a lost past and it includes things that I had not yet heard of, so the interested reader can find out that there are many places of interest in the Netherlands too.

2019 Omniboek, isbn 9789401914338 

How To Read Alchemical Texts – Adam McLean (2011)

Alchemywebsite.com

During my early days on the internet I had an interest in all kinds of things esoteric. I soon found Adam McLean’s Alchemy website which he started in 1995. McLean was mostly known for coloring alchemical drawings that most knew only in black and white. This was but on small part of the alchemical investigations that McLean has undertaken since the 1970’ies (!).

The website still looks pretty much like it used to. An html website with images for navigation. Now I see that the author gives urls on his website in his many books, I get an idea why that never changed.

For many years I forgot about McLean and his website even though I do buy an occasional book about Alchemy. Recently I thought to see what books are available and I noticed that there are several study courses. Some somewhat expensive, but this particular one is well-priced.

It is a 219 page book with 23 lessons that McLean suggests you take about a year to work through. Each lesson is introduced and most contain excercises. During the lessons you are introduced to different kinds of alchemical texts, practical, philosopical, Paracelsian, spiritual, cosmological, allegorical and poetic. Also McLean explains different styles and approaches. You will learn to recognise the different types of texts and will see that often one text contains different types.

The reason for the above is, and McLean keeps stressing this, to make you able to read the text as it was supposed to be. He renderings, rewritings and explanations stay as close to the original texts as possible. McLean sees no use in throwing in wild esoteric explanations to a practical text and no modern systems in allegorical. Do not read a meaning into the texts is the basis for the whole course.

The book contains no images, no tables with symbols and their explanation, even hardly a glossary. These are not the texts that the author presents. It is all about reading Alchemical texts.

As you saw, you will get a wide variety of Alchemical texts, old, less old and from practical to cosmological (but never esoteric!). Personally I did not enjoy all these different texts, but it is nice to be able to read such a variety of sources, particularly because there are also texts that are not all available in English.

2011 Alchemy Website

Acta Macionica volume 28 (6018)

Ars Macionica

The latest edition of Acta Macionica saw the light a couple of months ago, but I do not think I saw any announcements anywhere and it is not listed on the Ars Macionica website yet. When time comes I guess. If you are interested, just send them an email.

For quite a couple of volumes, the Acta is an impressive book. As we got used to, it contains a variety of essays in three languages. Most are in French, several are in Dutch and two in English. Since most are in French and that is not really my language, I fairly rapidly went through the 600+ pages.

There are a couple of very interesting texts, but also texts that are less of my interest. Most notable are the texts of Koenraad Logghe, Jan Snoek and Roger Degol.

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Mushrooms, Myth & Mithras – Ruck, Hoffman, Celdrán (2011)

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This book is frequently referred to in “Alchemically Stoned” which is about the entheogenic origins of the symbolism of Freemasonry and which also looks at Mithraic symbols in Freemasonry. The current title is the other way around.

The authors of the present title are of the opinion that experiences with mushrooms and other mind-altering substances form the basis of the mysteries of Mithras. Mithras with his Phrygian hat (red and spotted) is actually a mushroom. The torchbearers stand on one leg for the same reason. Other symbols are looked at from the same perspective. The results are amusing, but seldom really convincing.

The also has large parts which have little to do with entheogens. Some theories about Mithraism are dealt with and, for example, the -to me- fairly credible ideas of Ulansey are debunked quite convincingly.

And then the authors point their arrows towards contemporary remains of Mithraic mysteries which they think to find in Freemasonry. Their chapters about Freemasonry are quite weak which really takes the book down. Information from exposés seems to be taken for granted, the history is sloppy and the references to the rituals bring mostly question marks.

It is nice to find an uncommon take on a subject that many have written about, but I had hoped for some more ‘quality’, especially from a book written by three people.

2011 City Lights, isbn 9780872864702

The Trickster And The Thundergod – Maria Kvilhaug (2018)

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Without knowing I bought the companion to, or second part of, The Poetic Edda. In both books Kvilhaug made her own translations of the famous texts. In the previous book “Six Cosmology Poems”, the current title is (obviously) about Loki and Thor.

The texts are from the Gylfaginning, Skaldskaparmál, Haustlöng, Harbarðsljód, Þrimskviða and Þhórsdrápa.

As in the previous book, Kvilhaug translates most names, sometimes her translations in general are different from what you are used to, but what I really appreciate is that in the notes you can often see the reason of the particular translation and often Kvilhaug notes the subtleties of the original words. I would have preferred to keep the Original names and give translations in the notes, but that is just a choice the translator

The Trickster and the Thundergod makes a nice read. Of course you will probably know all the texts, but a critical translation could very well raise some thoughts.

2018 CreateSpace, isbn 1983994650

Nightside Of The Runes – Thomas Karlsson (2019)

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Karlsson’s books have the habit of going out of print and becoming very expensive. His first book from 2002 Uthark, Nightside Of The Runes is one such work. The German translation Uthark, Schattenreich der Runen from 2004 is more affordable, but it appears that the author wanted to make the English text available again. This makes the first part of this book.

The second part is Karlsson’s book about Johannes Bureus which has been published in Swedish (2005), German (2007) and Italian (2007). Now finally, this book has been made available for people who do not master these languages. That also means that this is the most extensive information available about Bureus in English.

“Uthark” refers to the theories of Sigurd Agrell (1881-1937) who theorized that there was an exoteric and an esoteric rune row. The first stats with the F-rune, in the second, this F-rune is placed at the end. To this he connected numerological and esoteric explanations that Karlsson finds convincing enough to create a magical handbook based on the system. This has a bit too much of a ‘Flowers-feeling’ to me.

Then we continue to the part about Bureus, his “Adulruna” and “Gothicism” before and after Bureus. I have spoken about that in my review of the German translation of the book.

Karlsson’s latest makes a nice read. There is a bit too much of Runegild / Dragon Rouge contemporary magic in it for my liking, but it is great that there is finally descent information in English on the esoteric rune systems of two little-known Swedes. Also Karlsson shows Bureus’ path as an individual path of progress and describes the initiatory system of the Manhemsförbundet, so you get ‘old an new’ practical Runosophy.

2019 Inner Traditions, isbn 1620557746

Doors Of Valhalla – Vincent Ongkowidjojo (2017)

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I found this book because it has an introduction by Maria Kvilhaug (a title of herself I have yet to read). The author does not have a very Norse-sounding name and yet it did not ring a bell. This is even more strange, because the author seems to live not too far from where I live, just across the Belgian border.

The book is subtitled “an esoteric interpretation of Norse myth” and it is soon clear that this ‘esoteric leaning’ is a Theosophical one. This brings the book in line with The Masks of Odin and Between Wodan and Widar the latter being a more Anthroposophical (and better!) interpretation.

Initially Ongkowidjojo’s book appears to have the flaws of Titchenell’s, being too easy with his sources. He names Frigg a Vane for example and drops names that do not ring a bell and cannot even be found in Simek, even though this is one of the sources.
It is also obvious that the author knows his sources and has an eye for detail. Perhaps for forgets to double check sometimes.
Besides Theosophy there is also a thick layer of psychology in the book and the author uses magical sources such as the books of Aleister Crowley.

As expected, Ongkowidjojo’s approach is not mine. This does not matter though, because, as with Between Wodan and Widar the sometimes radically different interpretation forces me to look at things another way. What is more, the author makes his own translations (having an appendix with both the old texts and his translations) which are sometimes so different that I found myself checking other books, which is a positive thing.

On to the book. Maria Kvilhaug opens with an interesting text about the worlds (“Heimr”). As in her own book that I reviewed earlier, I do not always agree (but more often than with Ongkowidjojo I do), but also here this does not really matter. This introduction certainly worth reading.
As with Thorsson’s Nine Doors of Midgard, Ongkowidjojo names his chapters “doors”. There are parts about a range of worlds, going over in texts about seven “rays”, an apparently Theosophical concept that he does not really explain.
Then follows a more psychological part, different ages, different functions of Gods, “an exegesis of Voluspa” (a similar approach to Taunton) and the Lokasenna, a comparison between myths about Thor and those about Hercules and more.

Yes, this is quite a book. Almost 530 pages, densely packed with information, theories and thoughts. The author refers to many other authors, ranging from Theosophical, to more scholarly authors and even Farwerck (extra points!). This brings a potpourri different approaches, but Ongkowidjojo seems to have found his own red thread.

Unfortunately he is very loose with his sources. There are no notes or clear references, in spite of the impressive (but chaotic) bibliography. “The Bailey texts” is an example of the way the author refers to his sources. This is pretty annoying, especially when I am unsure if his reference is actually correct.

Theories and ideas that are sometime thought-provoking, but which sometimes elude me, alternated with meditation or magical exercises and a wide range of subjects more or less having to do with Northern mythology. Indeed, this is not my ‘usual literature’. The book was a sometimes tiring read, sometimes very enjoyable. It certainly gave me a few things to ponder about.

2017 Mandrake, isbn 1906958726

Occultism and Traditionalism – Christian Giudice (2016)

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A thesis delivered at the department of humanitarian studies at the university of Göteborg. That bound to be one of these preposterously expensive academic publications, right? Well, not this time. The book is available for free as a PDF from the university’s website. Click on the cover.

The book caught my attention because of the subtitle: “Arturo Reghini and the Antimodern Reaction in Early Twentieth-Century Italy”. Reghini (1878-1946) was a Freemason, Traditionalist and is probably best known in the English speaking world for having been acquainted with Julius Evola. In spite of the relative popularity of Evola and the tremendous influence that Reghini supposedly had on the man, it is strange that close to nothing of or about Reghini has been translated to English. Giudice made a firm first step to change that.

Being a thesis, the book has a lot fairly annoying academic style-forms. Pages filled with text for people who probably will not read the entire work. The first quarter of the book is filled with introductions to the subject, about the methodology, etc. Then every chapter is again summarized before it starts and ends with a conclusion (usually another summery). Of course there is a load of notes, references and a lengthy bibliography.

In his book the author makes a lot of effort to portray Reghini in his day and age. He describes social sentiments and esoteric currents in the period leading up to Mussolini’s fascism. Giudice gives a history of Italian Freemasonry and how Reghini fitted into that history. The same with political developments.

All this lays partly outside my interests, but context is usually interesting or at least useful and it, of course, explains how Reghini came to be himself. From early Theosophical involvements to “fringe” Freemasonry, as Reghini clearly saw the weak side of ‘regular’ Italian Freemasonry which he found too political. What is a bit weird is that the author uses the word “fringe” to refer to ‘irregular’ Freemasonry, while usually the word “fringe” means that an organisation is akin to Freemasonry, but not Freemasonry in itself.

Of course Giudice says a lot about the Traditionalist milieu that Reghini moved in, a Traditionalism that Giudice calls “Roman Traditionalism” and sets against the “Guénonian Traditionalism” of René Guénon et al. Also Evola enters and leaves the picture. With his writings Reghini predated Guénon’s anti-Theosophical writings and Evola’s “Imperialismo Pagano”, so you can say that Reghini influenced both better known Traditionalists.

The book shows an interesting investigation of an interesting man in an interesting period in time. Like I said, this is almost the first information about Reghini available in English, so hopefully this very good introduction will lead to attention to the Italian author and the translation of his works. It would be nice of Giudice’s book would be made available in an affordable printed edition too.

A nice bonus. The author translated “Imperialismo Pagano” at the end of the book, so there we have the first of Reghini’s writings in English.

2016 Göteborg University, isbn 9789188348753
You can find a few quotes here.