The Black Arts – Richard Cavendish

Picador – 1972


This book is a tricky one. Half of it’s great, half of it’s horrible. The sections on ritual magic, witchcraft and satanism are really interesting, but the book also contains comprehensive sections on numerology, cabala, tarot, astrology and alchemy. Personally speaking, when I buy a book on ‘the Black Arts’, I’m not really interested in reading about people playing with cards or counting the numbers in their names. I want blood rituals, human sacrifice and horrible acts of depravity. (Reading this book could be compared to going to a Slayer concert and then finding out that Tool are the opening band.) I’m going to largely ignore the parts that I didn’t like for this review; if you want to learn about tarot, fuck off and prance over to your nearest renaissance fair.

There’s some really interesting stuff  in here about demons from Biblical Pseudepigrapha. I’m still only about halfway through the Christian Bible right now, but I’m really looking forward to finishing that and then reading the Books of Enoch, the Testaments of Solomon and the Life of Adam and Eve. There’s something particularly exciting about the idea of Jehovah being good mates with the demons back in the day – Yeeeeeeoweh and de lads!

One of my favourite things about the book is the fact that it reads more like a history book  than a grimoire or set of instructions. A large amount of the information is utterly unbelievable, but Cavendish manages to reference his sources in such a way as to avoid any accusations of credulity that might be thrown at him. He politely leaves it up to the reader to decide what they think is bullshit and what’s legitimate, and this approach makes this kind of book far more interesting to read.

There’s a great bibliography and a ‘suggestions for further reading’ section at the back. I’ve already ordered quite a few of its sources, and I’ll hopefully get around to reviewing them here sometime soon. I’m going to pretend that I didn’t begrudgingly wade through 5 chapters of new-age shite and give this book a glorious 7.5/10.

7 thoughts on “The Black Arts – Richard Cavendish

  1. “(Reading this book could be compared to going to a Slayer concert and then finding out that Tool are the opening band.)”

    HA HA HA HA. Aw dude that’s hilarious. Seriously tho’ I read this many many years ago (in a different edition) and seem to recall enjoying the bible stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Will E. Checked out your blog! It’s awesome! So cool to see somebody else who has Peter Robson’s The Devil’s Own! Have you read that one yet? Hey, where are you based bud? I see you recently visited Powells. Portland?


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