You probably heard the story before, but in case you do not, once upon a time there was a magazine called Primordial Traditions. The best articles were published in a book with the same name and later Primordial Traditions became a series of journals, intially all with the word “tradition” in the title. The publisher changed names to Numen Books and now publishes both journals and ‘normal’ books. Besides Northern, occult, etc. traditions there was initially the plan to make a really Traditionalistic issue. This idea was later taken into a larger subject so now we have “Aristokratia”. Also it is presented as a journal of its own, not published by Numen books and not under the name of Gwendolyn Toynton/Taunton, however her hand in the project is clear. Aristokratia, that rings Nietzsche does it not? Indeed, the German philosopher is present in virtually every essay in this journal. Taunton opens the journal with ‘the real Nietzsche’ and his “aristocratic radicalism”. The article also clearly shows how aristocracy is looked at in this journal. There is a variety of essays to be found. Articles about philosophers such as Emil Cioran and Azsacra Zarathurstra (of the Shunya revolution), (of course) a text about Evola and some about Guénon, anti-modernists and writing not about someone, but of someone such as the amusing aphorism-style (and therefor very ‘quotable’) “Confrontation with nothingness” by Brett Stevens. Especially towards the end the texts are more Traditionalistic than philosophical or political, like my own “Traditionalism vs Traditionalism”.
All in all the journal became twice the size of earlier journal in these series and it again became a nice collection of texts, some of which are more interesting than others, but like its predecessors, “Aristokratia” is a good buy if you like not too academic, but also not too loose a book about subjects that matter to only a few of us.
2013 Manticore Press, isbn 9780987158185, Aristokratia website
Only a year and a half ago I reviewed “Northern Traditions“. The series of journals edited by Gwendolyn Toynton/Taunton has since seen two other volumes. For the second issue dedicated to the Traditions of Northern Europe, Taunton came up with a better-fitting name. “Mímir” is 230 pages thick and comes as the well-printed A5 booklet that we grew used to. The essays are nicely varried. The editor contributes a nice introduction and two articles, one about “the Nornir and the concept of Fate” and one about “the berserker and the Vratya”. Two articles of myself are also included (I had to come up with a penname quickly and it became “Roy Orlogstru”). The first is an 18 page version of “Traditionalistic Asatru“, a text of a few years back. The other I named “The Primal Law” and I write about Örlogr, Heilagr, fate and a few other concepts and I put this in a Traditionalistic framework. Then I need to mention Maria Kvildhaug’s “Ritual And Initiation In The Poetic Edda” because this text completes an interesting set of articles that complement eachother (I did not know this beforehand, this is either good editing or luck of the editor). All three authors refer to Germanic initiations, Männerbünde, there are references to fate, Örlogr and all the things interesting in Northern mythology. I feel to be closer in content to Taunton than to Kvildhaug, but we all three break a lance for Northern mysteries. Other articles include an investigation of Viking presence in Northern Europe, a new translation of the sage of Gunnlaug the Worm-Tongue, an interesting investigation of the texts of Saxo Grammaticus and its sources and another article about Grammaticus by the same author. There are two articles about runes. A short text saying what runes are not, but more interesting is Juleigh Howard-Hobson’s defence of the Uthark theory. The journal closes with a lengthy review of the first five Heidnische Jahrbücher by myself.
Indeed, “Mímir” became a very nice collection of contemporary heathenry including different views in comparison to what you see more often. It sure makes a welcome addition to similar efforts such as the earlier mentioned Heidnisches Jahrbuch, the Journal For Contemporary Heathen Thought and Tyr, particularly because I found someone who likes what I write and is willing to publish it!
2012 Numen Books, isbn 978098158147
Once upon a time there was a magazine called “Primordial Traditions”. The best articles were bundled in a book with the same title and then Primordial Traditions became a publisher starting a series with titles such as “Northern Traditions” and “Radical Traditions”. Whereas the initiative started with a (somewhat) Traditionalistic approach, this is less so nowadays and maybe this is one of the reasons that the publisher is now called Numen Books. (Another reason could of course be that Numen Books publishes more than just the “traditions” series.) The latest publication available is “Occult Traditions”. The book has the size and the look of previous book in the series, which is nice. The cover is strangely ‘rubbery’ and the number of pages (over 300 pages) makes a nice addition to the series. With this title you might not be surprised that there is not much Traditionalism to be found here, just a reference to Evola. What is presented is more an interesting collection of scholarly writings about occultism and magic, old and new and writings of or about contemporary occultists, both investigations of rituals and rituals themselves. I do not have a large interest in contemporary occultism, but a publication like this does show the state of magic of our day. The editor has a liking for the very interesting Papyri Graecae Magicae and we go from ancient rituals from that sort of texts to a day in the lives of contemporary Wiccas. Indeed, the variety is large. A prejudice against contemporary heathens is confirmed too by the way, since the pagan scholar Christopher -Heathen Journal- Plaisance contributed two essays. Pagans do practice occultism and not just an old religion. Now Plaisance’ texts are of course scholarly and philosophical and there is nothing to suggest that he practices the ritual magic that he describes, but the link between even the serious heathens of our time and the occultists is proven once more (and me reviewing this book of course doubles that). The large number of texts in “Occult Traditions” include Icelandic magic, much medieval magic, one author claiming that medieval and Renaissance magic are linked, inspite of what the Renaissance man wanted us to believe, Wicca, sex magic, the dark side of Buddhism (main woman Gwendolyn Toynton’s article is certainly the most interesting in this volume), necromancy and much more. Not my favourite literature, but a nice alternation between my usual books. Next up is Northern Traditions II, that will be more in my line.
2012 Numen Books, isbn 0987158139
Here we have the next in the series of publications of Primordial Traditions, the first not edited by Gwendolyn Toynton herself. Where the first publication “Primordial Traditions Compendium 2009” was supposedly a Traditionalistic publication, the second (“Northern Traditions” (2011)) was already less so, this third publication is almost not at all. The subtitle goes: “Philosophy, metapolitics & the conservative revolution”. The title, subtitle and editor make it clear, this is a publication about radical politics. There are a range of those to be found here completely blowing away the ‘left-right’ scale that is still in the minds of many people. Anarchistic nationalism, Intertraditionale, anarcho-gnosticism, the new right, Christian anarchism, third position, nationalistic communism, it is all here. Articles about cultural pessimism, Heidegger, Nietzsche (twice) and Schopenhauer, critical essays about “cosmopolitanism”, human rights, democracy and of course “the coming crisis of Western civilization”; just 185 pages, but a wealth of political thoughts and theories. There are actually only two essays that are Traditionalistic in some way, Toynton’s own “Tradition & Politics”, but more particularly Sean Jobst’s “The role of Islamic mysticism against modern decay”. Jobst is a Muslim convert in order to become Sufi (like René Guénon himself) arguing that the Islam is a flexible and universal religion well-fitting for the West too and that Sufism is a remedy against the rampaging decline of Western culture. A daring statement and a daring article in a publication like this perhaps. Also this article is perhaps the only ‘spiritual’ one in this publication even though most authors opt for more religion or spirituality in politics. Other authors include mostly new names to me, Tomislav Suric, Jonathan Bowden, Wayne John Sturgeon, Ben Craven, the only two that I do know are Toynton and Southgate. And for those wondering about the latter, Southgate wrote an overview of his political carreer and how things went from the National Front to International Third Position, English Nationalist Movement, National Revolutionary Fraction to the National-Anarchist Movement each time giving an inside look of the ideology and thus making thing much clearer than the news usually does.
I am not all that much interested in politics and I cannot say that I ran into something here that makes me change my mind, but it is always nice to read something about what makes peoples’ clocks tic and how varried the world of radical politics is. Not very Traditionalistic like I said, so I am curious about the announced future publications including Alchemical, Occult and Tantric Traditions, a second Northern Traditions and a second Radical Traditions. Plans enough!
2011 Primordial Traditions ltd., isbn 9780473174972
Toynton earlier edited the “Primordial Traditions Compendium”, a similar book consisting of essays, comparible to the Tyr Journal, The Journal For Contemporary Heathen Thought or the Heidnisches Jahrbuch. The Primordial Traditions Compendium is a Traditionalistic work with information about different traditions. When I heard of a new volume with the focus on the Northern Traditions and thought to have a look at the website, I noticed that there are plans for upcoming volumes about Alchemical Traditions, Occult Traditions and Tantric Traditions. Northern Traditions is an expensive buy. I paid 30 euros to get the 175 page booklet in my mailbox. I have cheaper books with more luxery paper (and better covers!), but of course it is the content that matters, right? Toynton opens with her pessimistic ideas based on the Traditionalistic hypothesis of cycles and wonders how one can build a faith for the modern age, built on an old one. This is actually the idea behind the entire publication which is divided in a historical and a contemporary part. The opening article (after a Tyr song) is also by Toynton and in it she speaks about The twilight of the Gods. In her lengthy article Toynton digs deeply into the information we have about Ragnarok and similar events in other mythologies. She manages to see current events, thus glimpsing at the neigh end of a cycle, and in doing so there are some nice thoughts and some too short corners, something that we will see more often in this publication. Matt Hajduk, whom we know from the previous publication, has some things to say about Forseti. His article brings memories of my own short text about honour and feud. Juleigh Howard-Hubson’s writes about sleeping kings who are supposed to reawaken when they are most needed. She compares Celtic versions with that of (Indo-)European folklore. Next up is a short text about honour, followed by a lengthy botanical essay that I lost track in. Hajduk also contributed an article about Tyr and he argues that when people see Tyr as just a myth without any contemporary practical meaning, modern heathenry will never be more than theoretical exercise. Then we have another essay which reminds a lot of something. Alexander Shephard investigates the theme of the Grail, mostly based on Evola’s The Mystery Of The Grail and a few titles of Guénon. Eliade is shortly mentioned. I do not know Evola’s book, but Shephard’s article cuts corners, jumps conclusions and is in many regards unconvincing. If only could he have read Dutch and found the book De Graal by Koenraad Logghe who also uses a Traditionalistic approach for the subject. Shephard and Logghe walk similar paths, but Shephard comes to his theories of solar deities and the cosmic cycles a bit too easily. He bases himself on (the famous) British Arthur legends, while the older are more interesting (and would have fitted his goal better too I think), names are misspelt which might have given him some ideas when they were not and even his history of the Grail legends misses the most important texts. A short text of Vijay Prozak supposedly gives The philosophical essence of the Northern Traditions but besides summing up some ways of looking at things (monism, dualism, etc.) and stating that a mix between them all would be “idealism”, Prozac does not get. There are a few nice thoughts and quotes though. S.R. Hardy made a new and very readable translation of the Thrymskvida. Stephen M. Borthwick also contributed his Hermann Awakened, folkishness v. racism to The Journal Of Contemporary Heathen Thought, the title says enough. Hardy again comes with a contemporary old work, he created a runesong of 3×3 verses for each rune. A very Traditionalistic article is Myth of the golden age by Wulf Ingessunu which is a bit of a mishmash of Northern and other mythologies to argue that Ragnarok is the end of the golden age. Ingessunu manages to place the Fimbul winter immediately after the war between the Aesir and the Vanir; places “Baldaeg” in “Odainsacre” after he gets shot by his brother, supposedly from an Anglo-Saxon version of the Balder myth. Atlantis is derived from “At-al-Ase” and “The hooded man” from some old television series is the “avatar” for the new era. Not the most convincing article… Christopher A. Smith, a modern magician, contribituted a few pages about contemporary Northern magic, making clear that we no longer live in the Middle Ages. The closing article is for Troy Southgate who gives “a Wodenist perspective” on The symbolic & practical significence of the centre. He of course quotes Eliade who extensively investigated the symbolism of the centre of the world, world trees, etc. but Southgate goes on with giving a ritual to make your own centre. I am not really fond of such outwritten rituals and fail to see Southgate’s purpose of the ritual.
Indeed, I am quite critical about the essays in this publication, but that does not mean that I do not applaud yet another serious (“semi-academic”) modern heathen publication. Without different opinions and approaches nothing new will ever surface and the publication surely raises some things worthy to think over and to discuss. Therefor I advice to try to keep up with this kind of publications if you are interested in contemporary heathenry.
Link: Primordial Traditions 2011, isbn 9780473162832
Primordial Traditions is a periodical that I did not know. They have collected their best articles from 2005 to 2009, most of which are by the hand of editor Gwendolyn Toynton. As the title suggests, this publication takes a Traditionalistic starting point and since “the term Primordial Tradition is utilized to describe a system of spiritual thought and metaphysical truths that overarches all the other religions and esoteric traditions of humanity” this book covers a wide variety of subjects, going from Hinduism and Buddhism, to Mithraism and Islam to “paganism” and of course Traditionalism. The editor does not seem to have exactly my idea of this “primordial tradition” when she says that: “Both the idea of the Primordial Tradition and the philosophia perennis attempt to establish common factors amongst different traditions, with the goal of producing a superior gnosis or level of wisdom than that which would have been obtained by the study of a single religion.” This sounds like that the primordial tradition can be created/obtained by cross-studying myth and religion while in my idea it stems from the Divine Source and is thus, per se, not ‘obtainable’. Some articles do not really seem Traditionalistic to me, Toynton seems to have a preference for far Eastern religion about which she writes articles about uncommon subjects. This is interesting in itself, but these peculiarities are, in my opinion, not seen in other cultures, so where is the Traditionalism? Also none of the articles is really good, most of them are interesting in subject and sometimes in angle of approach, but besides a few nice hints to think over or look for, I find this book more entertaining than studious. Several articles, moreover, contain ideas and statements that I disagree with and also there is an Evolian (stress on the second function) approach that I do not share. Inspite of all my critique, the Primordial Traditions Compendium is a nice read for people with an interest in comparitive myth and religion and people with an interest in far Eastern (especialy Tantric) traditions.
2009 Twin Serpents ltd. isbn 1905524323