The Magic Door – David Pantano (2019)

“A Study on the Italic Hermetic Tradition: Myth, Magic, and Metamorphosis in the Western Inner Traditions”. That is a title.

The author starts this little book (small size, about 200 pages) with an introduction that suggests a Traditionalist approach. The “Hermetic Tradition” from the title gets the Evola explanation of alchemy, but first we start with Roman myths, Pythagoras, Ovid, Apuleius, Dante, Ficino, Pico, Bruno, etc. You get it, the history of esotericism that has been told a few times in recent decades. What does add to the book is that the author also cites Italian sources that I have not yet seen translated.

Halfway things get more interesting. The Magic Door from the title proves to be an actual alchemical / Rosicrucian door that can still be found in Rome. This is the start of a part with more contemporary Italian esotericists. Some I knew or at least heard of (Cagliostro, Kremmerz, Evola), others were new to me (Vico, Daffi, Giammatria). What is more, Pantano writes about groups that I never heard of (Neapolitan Mysterio, Fraternity of Myriam, Circle of Kronos). It is interesting how such groups sprouted from one another during quite a period.
Also here Pantano uses sources that I do not think were available in English before. It also sheds some (to me) new light on Evola.

“The Magic Door” is (as you can gather) mostly interesting for dealing with the period from the 18th century to the present concerning Italian esoteric circles. From (semi-)Masonic to downright magical, also Italy proves to have had it’s share of alchemists.
What surprises me a bit is that Reghini is hardly spoken about. He seems to have been a spider in a web as well.

2019 Manticore Press, isbn 0648499642

Lovers Of Sophia – Jason Reza Jorjani (2017)

This was a bit of a hard book to read. It starts with mostly philosophical essays. Philosophy, not really my kind of literature.

After a while the texts in this massive book (530 pages) start to varry in subject. Aliens in the philosophy of Kant, filmreviews, Kafka, the Tao of Bruce Lee, Nazi technology. Some texts are fun reads, others less so.

One text is called Against Perennial Philosophy which is more about the term “philosophy” that is used, than about ‘Guénonian current’.

There are 19 essays in this book. As you can see with wildly different subjects. Especially in the first part the author has a ‘there are not many real philosophers, but I am one of them’ air, but it is amusing to see how he goes from conservative to progressive subjects, ‘high’ to ‘low’ culture, heavy and lighter subjects, enough variety. Some texts I mostly skipped through, others were good reads.

It seems that there are already three editions of this book, the last one from another publisher (Arktos).

2017 Manticore Press, isbn 0994595883

The Odin Brotherhood – Mark Mirabello (2014)

When I ordered the book I knew it was controversial. I was curious! The Odin Brotherhood is a secret society of highly developed people naturally adhering the ancient religion of Northern Europe.

The book was originally published in 1992.

Mirabello keeps stressing that he is not a member, let alone a representative, but that I got acquainted with the brotherhood during his scholarly investigations into secret societies. He keeps stressing his objective / scholarly approach. Mirabello supposedly interviewed members of the brotherhood. The interviews are worked into a Q&A which fill the first part of the book.

I find the Q&A quite annoying. Mirabello asks questions to a know-it-all who uses interesting-sounding words and names and keeps referring to “legend”. The Poetic Edda is called Edaic verses. A rite which “in the legends” is called “sojourn-of-the-brave” begins with “the-meeting-of-dreams”. The latter, by-the-way, is a vision in which somebody know (s)he is called to join the brotherhood after which a self-initiation takes place.

The brotherhood, quite like the “unknown superiors” of some esoteric societies, are just men and women with normal lives, but whom also work for the benefit of mankind.

The book has some unusual takes on elements of heathen ‘lore’. Sometimes an interesting light on some text or God(dess), but also ideas that appeal to me less.

After the interview the book continues with a completely unnecessary part about secret societies, mostly violent ones. I fail to see how this helps to put the Odin Brotherhood in good light. At the end the author added some sort of essay which in style and wording reminds a lot of the interview.

A strange little book that is even less interesting than I expected.

2014 Mandrake, isbn 1906958637

Brahman – Alexander Jacob (2012)

I recently reviewed a book of Jacob published by Manticore Press. In it, he frequently refers to two of his older works. I got myself a copy of Brahman, a study of the solar rituals of the Indo-Europeans.

Even though the book is published in a German row of scholarly works, it is in English.

The book that I previously reviewed is published on a ‘niche’ publishing house. In my review I say that Jacob sometimes seems to cut corners. Curious if he would make his points better in a scholarly publication I started reading Brahman. It was immediately clear that Jacob’s writing style is the same here.

In a book with short chapters, Jacob constantly bombards his reader with loads of information. He also seems to assume that his readership is as knowledgeable as himself. Just as in the other book he seems to say that God-names in different cultures are just that: different names for the same entity (for example: “Ymir is sacrificed by Wotan (Enlil/Ganesha) and his brothers” p. 139). In his lists he mentions Gods from different cultures asuming that you know them all. The same with books. In this-and-this book you can read… I know quite some holy and mythological works, but I do not always immediately know to what culture the author refers every time.

I will give you a (relatively easy) quote to give you an idea of Jacob’s writing style:

In the Germanic Edda, the First Man, or “giant”, Ymir is killed by his great-grandson Wotan, who is the counterpart of the Iranian Wata/Vayu. The macroanthropomorphic Ymir who develops in the Mid-region, Ginnunga-gap, is the counterpart of Prajapati/Brahman, while his female partner Shatarupa is represented in the form of the cow Audhumla, who feeds Ymir with her milk. Ymir and Audhumla are thus the Germanic form of the First Man, Gayomaretan, and the Bull of Heaven, of the Iranian Bundahishn. This cow also produces, by licking the “ice-blocks”, a man called Buri, whose grandson is said to be Odin (Wotan), the wind-god. We have seen that the Kassites called Vayu Burias (Boreas). So we may assume that the Germanic Buri is the name of the first form of the wind-god, Vayu, whereas Wotan/Wata is that of the same force that, much like Shu, later sustains our universe within the Mid-region between heaven and earth. (p.135)

The chapters are somewhat thematic, but almost the entire book the red thread (from the subtitle) completely eluded me. The book mostly reads as a display of information. Towards the end there either appeared, or I started to recognise it, some structure. Not that I can now summerize the book easily, but the thesis seems to be that once there were two main cultures. The Indo-European was the solar, fire worshipping culture that spread over the globe. Jacob describes a primal man from whom the universe was created. Also he interweaves a phallic basis for the myths (the World Tree is actually a phallus that connects heaven and earth, etc.)

The book is interesting, yet again Jacob’s approach is not my own, but as there is quite some stress on Mesopotamian and other mythologies from that region and time, it expands my ‘usual information’. An index would have been a welcome addition though.

2012 Georg Olms Verlag, isbn 3487147408

Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, volume 123 – John S. Wade (editor) (2011)

Lewis Masonic

A while ago I ordered a book from the Masonic publisher Lewis Masonic. In order to relatively lower the shipping costs, I looked around what other titles the publisher had and got myself two volumes of “The transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge no. 2076”.

The said lodge is the oldest and most famous of Masonic research lodges based, of course, in London. They have their annual lectures and these have been published in books for well over a century.

At the time I checked, only a few volumes were available from the website of Lewis Masonic and all were extremely cheap. Fortunately for me, one of these volumes contained the contribution of Fabio Venzi. Venzi’s talk was based on his thesis about Freemasonry and Fascism in Italy. This is not the most interesting subject to me, but Venzi gives a good idea of the 1920’ies Italy and how Freemasonry tried to navigate in the changing regimes.

AQC lectures are mostly historical. This does lead to some interesting investigations here. There is a text about the years before the “Antients” and the “Moderns” merged into the United Grand Lodge Of England. I also enjoyed the text about the elusive “Harodim” grade, or was it a Rite? Jean Murat seems to find traces in metalworkers lodges and incidentally seems to suggest that some esotericism of Freemasonry actually did come from Andersson. What other texts are available you can see by clicking on the cover.

Especially for the price that this volume costs (5 UK Pounds!) this is a good buy. Other volumes are less cheap.

2011 Ian Allan, isbn 1905318858

The Man-God – Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (2017)

Willermoz (1730-1824) was an interesting man living in an interesting time. As a Freemason he was involved in several systems. He also fathered a form of Martinism together with his master Claude de Saint Martin. He joined the Elus-Cohens of Martinez de Pasqually.

My main interest lays in ‘his’ Masonic system of the Strict Observance which he developed together with Baron von Hund. A system that is still worked today here and there, but about which not much information can be found.

Willermoz being a Frenchman and apparently not enough in the limelight for the non-French-speaking to know much of him (probably mostly because many of the organisations and systems that he was active in, no longer exist), close to nothing about or from Willermoz can be found in another language than French.

So I was somewhat surprised to run into this book. It comes from the ‘Martinist corner’. It is only 54 pages, printed on A4 and is some sort of mystical vision about Jesus Christ and his mission. It reads a bit like Jacob Böhme or a similar author. This is not entirely my kind of literature. Towards the end things become a bit more interesting.

The translator did make an introduction and he added a short text of Martinez de Pasqually.

According to Amazon, the translator, Felix Mupidia Lonji, translated other texts of French esotericists whose texts are not yet available in English. Let us hope he will translate more texts of Willermoz!

2017, isbn 1549869957

The Path Of Shadows – Gwendolyn Taunton (2018)

5 Essays in a little over 170 pages. The subject seems to be one of Taunton’s favourite (but less so mine): Greek mythology. With Taunton writing Nietzsche is never far away either.

The subjects span “chthonic Gods, oneiromancy & necromancy in ancient Greece”. Starting with Hades we continue with Nietzsche’s take on Greek myth. After Persephone there is a chapter about “divination, omens and prophecies [which] can be referred to as belonging to the Mantic Tradition.” The last subjects are a bit darker, dream magic (“oneimancy”) and magic concerning the dead (“necromancy”).

The author mostly collects information from different authors. This time quite some scholarly publications and journals are quoted. The subject not being entirely of my liking, I found the book an alright read. For people who have an interest in the darker side of ancient Greece, this book might be a summery of some not-too-recent, but neither ancient investigations into the subject.

2018 Manticore Press, isbn 0648299643

The Art and Science of Initiation – Jedediah French & Angel Millar (editors) (2019)

It is good to see that more and more serious books about Freemasonry and esotericism see the light of day. Here we even have a book with partly a Traditionalistic approach. Very much so in the first essays even. Angel Millar opens with a text about René Guénon and Traditionalism. The most interesting article is Richard Smoley’s text about the Traditionalistic view on initiation. This text may raise a few eyebrows I think. As we go along, the essays become ‘lighter’ in one way, but ‘darker’ in another. From the personal story of Joscelyn Godwin to the ceremonial magic of Donald Tyson. Other authors are Mark Booth, Herbi Brennan, Richard Kaczynski, Chuck Dunning, Greg Kaminsky, Jeffey Kupperman, Adam Kendall, Timothy Scott and my biggest surprise, Susanna Åkerman whom I know for her work on Rosicrucian history, but who here presents an interesting text about women in early Scandinavian Freemasonry.

Not every text is as interesting as the next (to me), but this not too expensive book touches upon a few subjects that deserve more notoriety in Freemasonry, so it is good that this book was actually published by the famed Masonic publishing house Lewis Masonic from the UK, so it will probably be mostly Freemasons buying the book. The book is available from the publisher or Amazon UK (click cover). It would be nice if the other Amazon stores would list it too.

2019 Lewis Masonic, isbn 0853185638

Heidens Jaarboek 13 (2019)

“Yearbook” became a relative term, since the previous edition was published in 2015, but better quality than speed, right?

As we got used to, the Heathen Yearbook is a well printed book of a descent size (134 pages) for a low price (below € 10,-) with a variety of texts.

The book opens with a text about the wolf that has returned to the Netherlands. The history of sightings and settling.

Gerard wrote about the ancient symbol of the zigzag line which can be found on the oldest of archaeological findings, in many cultures and is still in use. Being a symbol for water it became a symbol for the sky (where the rain / water comes from) and lightning (accompanying the rain). The line with variations is followed through time.

By and far the longest text is by Boppo Grimmsma who wrote about the Frisian God Thuner and in extenso Thor / Donar. There are Frisian sceattas (very small, silver coins) with a face on it that most investigators call “Wodan”. Grimmsma argues that this is actually Thuner. He has several arguments for his assumption. First he shows that the coins are made in Frisia and not in Denmark and shows how the time in which the coins are made, make it likely that a ‘defence against Christianity’ statement would be made. Then we get lengthy investigations of Thor / Donar to prove that the head is indeed not that of Odin / Wodan. Grimmsma uses recent publications and findings which makes that his text brings you up-to-date with Thor investigations with, of course, stress on his Frisian counterpart.

After this follows a book review, translated parts of De Vries’ Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, which are about the sacred (“hailag”) and related topics, three of the stories from the Midwinter story contest and there are three poems by Hella.

Cheap, varied, with limited availability and (of course) in Dutch. Do not wait too long to get your copy. Click on the cover for more information.

2019 Nederlands Heidendom

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

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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