Death Worship and Current 218

liber falxiferLiber Falxifer: The Book of the Left Handed Reaper – N.A-A. 218
Ixaxaar – 2008
While maybe not quite as old as they claim to be, grimoires such the Grand Grimoire, The Goetia, the Book of AbraMelin and Die Faustbücher have all established their places within the canon of Western Occultism. These texts are referenced in many of the other books that I read, and I read them in turn to help me understand those other books. Liber Falxifer, however, was first printed in 2008, and it has yet to be republished as a Dover Occult paperback. With the internet, anyone can create and publish their own grimoire, so why did I choose to read this one?

The cover is really fucking cool, and the title has a nice ring to it. However, what really drew me to this book were the prices that I saw people paying for it online. You’ll be lucky if you can find a copy of this thing for less than $500. I would never spend that much on a book, but I was intrigued as why others would. When a friend offered to lend me their copy of Liber Falxifer, I jumped at the chance to see what all the fuss was about. (I’m actually working on a separate post about collecting occult books in which I’ll further elaborate on the potentially ludicrous cost of this hobby.)
falxifer skeleton.jpgThe Illustrations, sigils and front cover of this book were designed by Soror Sagax. 218.

Liber Falxifer is about the Cult of the Dead and the worship of the Left-handed Skeleton Lord of Death. The first part of the book describes the origins cult of this Señor La Muerte. I presumed this was all bullshit, but I looked it up and it’s a real thing in parts of South America; people there do actually pray to a Saint of death. The book claims that there is an esoteric side to the worship of this Saint that is not publicly discussed or recognized, and it’s this side of things that it focuses on: how to kill your neighbour, how to control people, all of that good stuff…

Links are then drawn between this Saint of Death and Qayin (Cain) of Bible fame. It gets into apocryphal interpretations of the Genesis story and ends up with a really juicy Satanic form of Gnosticism. I absolutely loved this part of the book.

The last few chapters are on the actual practice of Black Magic. These parts, though occasionally rather sinister, were not different enough to what I’ve seen before to hold my interest. I wasn’t reading this as a practicing magician, so this bit was bound to be wasted on me.

falxifer sigilSigil from the cover of the book.

There’s a poem at the very beginning of the book that struck me as very familiar, and some of the phrases in the different summonings and the way in which they were ordered made me think of the lyrics on Dissection’s Reinkaos album. While ruminating on that record, I recalled that the first song is called Nexion 218.  Was it a coincadence that  the author of this book is given as N.A-A. 218? Ixaxaar.com, the publisher’s website states that this book was written by the Magister of the Temple of the Black Light, the same order that Jon Nödtveidt, singer of Dissection, belonged to. This Magister of the Temple of the Black Light (formerly the Misanthropic Luciferian Order) also went by the name of Frater Nemidial, and what do you know, Frater Nemidial gets a writing credit on Dissection’s Reinkaos album. dissection reinkaos

For those of you who don’t know,  Jon Nödtveidt, the singer and guitarist in Dissection ended up shooting himself in the head during a Satanic ritual. He had previously spent 8 years in prison for murder. Reinkaos, his final album, is maligned by many fans of the band because it sounds so different from their earlier releases,  but I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

Anyways, back to Liber Falxifer. It’s definitely a more enjoyable read than other grimoires I’ve slogged through. I really liked the way that it tied Gnosticism, Satanism and the cult of Death together; I love that occulty synthesis stuff. Also, this one is pretty dark. It doesn’t shy away from blood rituals and graveyard desecration. I mean, I’m not going to go out and do that stuff myself, but I like the idea that books like this exist. My interest in Satanism and Black Magic is largely fueled by my love of heavy metal, and while I was surprised that I was able to recognise the author by his turn of phrase, I was not surprised that the individual who wrote this was somehow involved in heavy metal.

skull falxifer

As mentioned before, I am not a practicing magician, so I have nothing to say on the book’s efficacy. I can really only discuss whether or not I enjoyed reading it. When I read grimoires, I like imagining that I’m a character in a tale by Clark Ashton Smith or Lovecraft who has come across some long forgotten book of heinous magic, and as far as grimoires go, this one was quite entertaining. The only way I would have enjoyed Liber Falxifer more would have been if it was more violent. I liked how it touched on blood sacrifices, but I would have enjoyed some brutal torture or some mass killings thrown into the mix. Again, I stress that I read these things as if they were fiction; I really don’t want that kind of thing to happen in the real world. I suppose there’s only so much you can get away with if you’re putting out a book that is going to be taken seriously.

So overall, this book was enjoyable enough, but it fell just short of what I want from a Satanic Grimoire. I feel a bit like Bono. Does my ideal Grimoire exist? I’ve thought of writing one myself, one that was completely over the top in terms of sinister violence and evil, but as much fun as that would be, I’d be terrified that some loon might get their hands on it and take it seriously. There’s two more books in the Falxifer series, and while I sure as Hell won’t be buying them, I’ll consider reading them if they ever come my way.

Halloween and Satanism

halloween and satanismHalloween and Satanism – Joan Hake Robie and Phil Phillips
Starburst Publishers – 1990 (First published 1987)

It’s been a while since I reviewed any Evangelical christian bullshit. While books of this ilk are always terrible and often palpably irritating, they are a necessary evil. The frustration that they cause serves to replenish my patience for awful, left-hand-path books about Black Magic and Satanism. The ol’ devil worship seems violently appealing when compared with this kind of idiotic christian foolishness.

Holy Jesus, this one is particularly bad too. I actually ordered it online last October, but it arrived 2 days into November, so I postponed reading it for the year. It was not worth the wait. I’m going to briefly go through the chapters, just so you can get a taste of how truly moronic this pile of shitty-shitey-farty-bummy-pooey-poo this is.

Chapter 1. The argument here is that fear is not of God; therefore, anything that causes fear intentionally (horror movies, scary costumes, etc…) is not appropriate for a christian. In fact, watching horror movies or dressing up in a costume will probably lead you into practicing witchcraft. I thought that this idea of fear being completely removed from god was fairly interesting.

Say, all my Bible nerds, can you remember what Genesis 20:11, 2 Samuel 23:3, 2 Chronicles 20:29, Nehemiah 5:15, Psalms 36:1, Romans 3:18, 2 Corinthians 7:1, and Ephesians 5:21 all have in common?
Yeah, that’s right; all of these Bible verses specifically address the necessity for “fear of God”.

Christians should not entertain themselves with scary things; the more time you spend being afraid of movies, the less time you’ll spend being afraid of god. That’s how this works, right? Makes perfect sense to me.

Chapter 2 describes the origins and traditions of Halloween. This section was a bit confusing. The text is describing ancient Celtic practices, but the accompanying images are from Disney and Hammer Horror films. There’s no distinction made between historical fact and legend. I’m sure some of what’s written in here is true, but the information is so poorly presented that it would be futile to attempt to distinguish the fact from the fiction. This issue is apparent throughout the book, and it serves to clarify that the only people who could read this book and take it seriously would be individuals completely incapable of critical thought.

man myth and magic
Many of the images in this seriously shitty book were simply lifted from Richard Cavendish’s Man, Myth and Magic magazine series. I have a few copies of the magazine on my shelf, but I recently found that a nearby college library has the entire collection. I think I might have to spend a few days in there soon doing so some copying.

Chapter 3 talks about some animals and supernatural entities that have been linked with Halloween. It doesn’t really pass much judgement on them though. Again, the information here is a weird mix of general knowledge, opinion and fiction. This chapter, like many of the following, doesn’t really support the author’s idea that Halloween is Satanic at all. One of the images here is the cover page of a reprint of Varney the Vampire.

varney halloweenVarney the Vampire is a serialized novel originally published from 1845-1847. It’s a fairly well known piece of literature, and will definitely have come to the attention of anyone who has done any research on vampires. The authors of Halloween and Satanism have taken the cover page of this famous work and given it the heading “Vampire Show Advertisement”. But a book is not the same thing as show, and a title page is not the same thing as an advertisement. This is not a case of me disagreeing with the authors; this is a case of the authors publishing false information. But wait… this isn’t the worst of this variety of mistake to appear in this book. This doesn’t even come close to what pops up in chapter 7…

At the end of chapter 3, the authors suggest that their readers should celebrate “Holy-ween” instead of Halloween. This would entail prayer and dressing up as one’s favourite Bible character. Whoever made this suggestion would doubtlessly go as THE VIRGIN.

Chapter 4 is comprised of descriptions of different occult phenomena, from palmistry to necromancy. The descriptions themselves are basic and generally not condemnatory, but each one is followed by the phrase;
“You can be set free from [insert occult phenomenon here]!”
(You can be set free from Good Luck Charms!, You can be set free from Edgar Cayce!, You can be set free from Tea Leaf Reading!) The effect is generally fairly humorous. I had a hard time picturing the person whose life was being ruined by their commitment to tea-leaf reading. There’s a few irritating grammar mistakes in here too. This book was printed in September, and I imagine it had been rushed to the press to get it out in time for Halloween. I doubt it was ever proofread.

Chapter 5 is just a bunch of Biblical references chosen to support the notion that witchcraft is bad.

Chapter 6 is an awful summary of the history of witchcraft. The complete disregard for separating truth from speculation and opinion renders this fairly difficult to bother analyzing. Anyone with the patience to read a serious critique of this book would never have been capable of taking this rubbish seriously. It’s genuinely appallingly written. There’s a great bit in here about witches’ familiars, the demon-animals that witches use as servants. The authors claim that witches familiars never take the form of fish because fish are linked with christ. I would have thought that this had more to do with the fact that a fish is going to be far less useful as a servant to a human due to the fact that it lives in water. There’s very little mention of Halloween in this chapter.

Chapter 7 discusses the history of black magic and the black Mass. Again, this is awful rubbish and doesn’t really add any weight to the authors’ argument that Halloween is satanic. There’s a fairly lengthy description of a witch being tortured in this chapter that doesn’t serve any function other than sensationalizing the topic. This is objectively terrible writing.

Also included in this chapter is perhaps the most offensive part of the book.

de eewige joodEvangelical christian propaganda vs Nazi propaganda.

This image of an evil looking man, titled “Satanic Symbol” is thrown in the middle of a section about the Black Mass. This “Satanic Symbol” is actually the movie poster for Der ewige Jude, a repulsively anti-Semitic 1940 film produced for Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister for Propaganda. The title is still on the poster too. How the fuck did nobody notice this? Either Joan Hake Robie and Phil Phillips didn’t give a fuck about what they put in their book, or they deliberately used an image that the Nazis used in their attempts to dehumanize Jews. Either way, this is a shameful mistake to have made. I’m not easily offended, but when you sit down and think about what’s happened here, it is actually disgusting. They have literally used one of the vilest and sadly, most effective pieces of Nazi propaganda to push their moronic agenda. What a fucking disgrace. They really should be ashamed of themselves.

At this stage, I was getting a bit fed up with this book. The next chapter discusses modern day witchcraft and magic. Nothing of note here.

Chapter 9 gives some satanic terminology and rituals. It actually contains large chunks of text from LaVey’s Satanic Rituals. I wonder if they were given by permission by the Church of Satan… Also included here is a warning to parents to look out for Motley Crue or “Ozzie” Osbourne records in their children’s rooms.

Chapter 10 is weird. It gives accounts of people who played with the occult and suffered because of it. One of them ends up getting attacked by a werewolf Jesus. Utterly stupid.

Chapter 11 is comprised of different news stories. There is mention of the cancellation of a Mercyful Fate concert in Norfolk, Virginia. That must have sucked for Norfolk. I checked it out, and that show was indeed cancelled (although King Diamond played a set in the same venue 4 years later). The rest of these news stories are about kids turning satanic after playing with Ouija boards.

The last 3 chapters wage war on Satan without being very clear on how to achieve victory. There’s some cringey sections in which the authors quote their favourite get-rich-quick, motivational speakers. Unsurprisingly. there’s no brilliant conclusion to tie up all the loose ends into a coherent argument against Halloween.

phil phillips joan hake robieThis is a “picture” of the “authors”.

I think that an intelligent person could very easily write a book about why Christians should reconsider how they celebrate Halloween, but I also doubt that any intelligent person would waste their time doing so.  Halloween and Satanism was clearly not written for intelligent people. This is sensational, incoherent garbage that only the most dangerously stupid idiot could take seriously. It’s misleading, it’s untrue and it’s legitimately offensive. Fuck this shitty book.

My life is extremely busy at the moment, and I actually wrote this review in September to make sure it would be ready for Halloween. In the meantime, I did a little internet sleuthing to see if I could track down either of the authors. I found Phil Phillips’ twitter account, and to my surprise, he seems to have dedicated a lot of his time to helping people, especially kids, in parts of Africa and Asia. He is a Trump supporter (no surprises there), but the guy is definitely not an out-and-out racist. I’d be willing to bet that the Nazi imagery included his book wasn’t included with the intent to sow the seeds of the fourth reich. With this in mind, I reached out to Phil and asked him for an interview.

tweets to phil phillips
These are the only messages I sent. Friendly and polite, no?

Now look, I know that I’ve written some nasty things about books and authors, but I’m not a complete piece of shit. If a person is willing to take the time to talk to me, I’ll be respectful, friendly and polite, regardless of our differences. The reason I wanted to interview Phil Phillips was the fact that I hated his book but thought I saw goodness in him. I hoped to use that goodness as a bridge between our differences so that we could better come to understand each other’s point of view. It was not to be.

blocked
I thought this was a bit of an over-reaction to be honest. I wanted to give the guy a chance to respond to my criticism of his work. As things stand, I can only presume that he’s aware of the shortcomings of his terrible book and doesn’t want to embarrass himself further by talking about it. Fair enough Phil, but you didn’t have to block me. I wasn’t remotely unpleasant to you.

Ok, all that being said, the big day is almost here. I’ve already carved my pumpkin and filled my phone with Misfits and Type O Negative albums. This is going to be my first Halloween as a dad too, and I’m going to initiate my baby girl into the cult of Satan by dressing her up as a cute little witch and taking her to the trick-or-treat party in our apartment building.

witch hat baby

I encourage you all to watch scary movies, listen to heavy metal and worship at the altar of Satan this Halloween. Keep it spooky and have a good one!
pumpkins

The Unknown Origins of the Nine Unknown Men

talbot mundy nine unknownThe Nine Unknown – Talbot Mundy
1923

This is a 1923 adventure novel by Talbot Mundy. It’s a moderately entertaining read, but the writing is surprisingly heavy for a work that was originally serialized in Adventure Magazine. It has the kind of plot that makes you want to read quickly, but the writing is so dense that you can’t really skim through it. The frustratingly large cast of characters is made up of protagonists from Mundy’s other works, and as I haven’t read anything else by Mundy, I repeatedly found myself having to consult the first chapter in order to figure out who was who. By the end of the novel I had figured out that the team of good guys consists of a Sikh, a Muslim (with several interchangeable sons), a Christian priest, a strange Indian man and four white guys. The white guys are the heroes from other books by Mundy. I’m sure his fans would have loved this crossover, but I could barely tell these lads apart.

This dream team was assembled by the priest to help attain a mysterious set of books that contain some terrible knowledge. These books are kept by a very secretive and mysterious secret society known as the Nine Unknown or the Nine Unknown Men. The priest intends to burn the books as soon as he gets his hands on them in order to keep the public from ever reading their secrets. Naturally enough, the Nine Unknown don’t want to let this happen. (I found the priest’s name, Father Cyprian, quite intriguing; Saint Cyprian of Antioch was an alleged sorcerer and author of several grimoires. Can we be sure that he really wants to burn these books?).

Also thrown into the mix are a fake Nine. These impostors share the protagonists’ goal of attaining the books, but they want to do so for their own benefit. These lads are trained killers and hypnotists and cause some serious problems for the good guys (and the original Nine, who actually seem pretty chill once you get to know them). Fires, jailbreaks, trips to a brothel, talking corpses, unruly mobs and vicious battles ensue.

Ok, so an adventure novel about a secret society and a set of mysterious books that features hypnotism and chatty corpses sounds like the kind of thing that you’d expect to find reviewed on this blog. However, the really interesting thing about this novel is not the text itself but the conspiracy theory that grew out of it. You see, there are people out there who have come to believe in the literal existence of the Nine Unknown.

The internet is full of confused references to this book and the conspiracy theories it inspired. Most depict that the Nine as guardians of society, withholding dangerous information about nuclear physics to protect humanity from itself. This much is revealed or at least suggested by the end of the novel. But you’ll find many websites that claim that Mundy’s novel mentions the specific topics of the forbidden books being sought by Father Cyprian. The topics of the nine forbidden tomes are supposedly propaganda, physiology, microbiology, the transmutation of metals, communication (both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial), gravitation, cosmogony, light and sociology.
9 unknown ancient origins
(From Ancient-Origins.net)
You see, the problem here is that the topics of the books are never given in Mundy’s novel. Like many of the best conspiracy theories, this idea has its origin in Pauwels and Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians. While the two Frenchmen don’t actually claim that the list comes from Mundy’s novel, the passage in question (or at least the translation of this passage) certainly makes it seem like Mundy had given the list. The supposed topics of the Nine books are almost definitely of P+B’s invention. Also, in the passage in question, they quote Mundy, and although I am working with a translation (presumably of a translation), the quote is not to be found in The Nine Unknown. Looking up the quote online only brings up links to Pauwels and Bergier’s text. I’m not entirely convinced that Pauwels and Bergier made up the quote, but given the rest of their body of work, it really wouldn’t surprise me if they had.

Aside from Mundy, Pauwels and Bergier’s only other source on this topic is Louis Jacolliot, a man whose ideas of Agartha, a city in the centre of the world, I have previously come across in Arktos. (Arktos is a wonderful book, but it’s basically a compilation of some of the worlds craziest conspiracy theories. Unsurprisingly, it contains many references to the work of Pauwels and Bergier. It also contains several references to Om, another novel by Mundy.) P+B say of him; “Jacolliot states categorically that the society of Nine did actually exist. And, to make it all the more intriguing, he refers in this connection to certain techniques, unimaginable in 1860, such as, for example, the liberation of energy, sterilization by radiation and psychological warfare.” Note that Jacolliot died more than 30 years before the novel was written, so his knowledge of the Nine would be very interesting if it was real. However, while Pauwels and Bergier claim to have found information on the Nine Unknown in Jacolliot’s work, they fail to mention the specific text in which they found this information. I have not read anything by Jacolliot, but other people have, and as far as I know, nobody has found the section alluded to by P + B. Mundy’s novel is then, as far as any sane person has been able to tell, the earliest mention of the Nine Unknown.

A big chunk of Pauwels and Bergier’s section on the Nine Unknown has to do with the Nine’s origins. Apparently they were founded by Emperor Asoka (Ashoka). You will notice however, that all respectable sources (examples 1, 2, 3) on the Emperor completely fail to mention the Nine. Is that because the Nine have suppressed this information or because it’s a load of bollocks? I’ll let you decide.

Since Pauwels and Bergier’s book came out, the Nine Unknown have become key players in the world of occultism and conspiracy theories. They pop up everywhere. Anton LaVey thanked them in the dedication that was included in the first editions of the Satanic Bible. According to Frank Lauria’s Doctor Orient Series (expect a post on same soon), the Nine are a benevolent group of mystics including the immortal Count De Saint Germain. They even appear as rockstars in the Illuminatus! Trilogy.
nine unknown illuminatus

Mundy’s text has been widely available for almost a century, and you’d think that anybody writing about the Nine Unknown would have started with reading this book. Unfortunately, judging by the articles I’ve seen online, this has not been case. If you want to read it yourself, it’s available online. However, nearly all of the copies of the text I found online were incomplete, missing several pages at the very end of the novel. Here is a link to the complete text.

The Paddling of the Swollen Ass

secret rituals of the oto francis kingThe Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. – Francis King
1973
I’m a member of a few different book related groups on Facebook. A few weeks ago, I saw a man post a link to the ebay auction for his copy of Francis King’s The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. Within moments, other users of that group had warned him to take the ebay listing down and to try to sell it privately instead. They claimed that the O.T.O. would file a copyright claim to have the ebay auction cancelled. Sure enough, the ebay listing was cancelled less than 6 hours later.

I knew the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) was originally a German secret society that Aleister Crowley had commandeered at some stage, but I had no personal interest until I saw that they didn’t want people to read a particular book. Nothing is quite as appealing as that which is forbidden, and I immediately determined to read said book.. Unfortunately, copies of this curious text sell for anything between $250 and $1300.

francis king sex satan swasticaThese are the only books I own by Francis King. It can’t be denied that he had a real talent for choosing appealing titles.

Luckily for me, it took about 5 seconds to find the text of Secret Rituals online. It seems rather silly that the O.T.O. would bother filling out the copyright claim against an ebay auction for a single, very expensive copy of the book that’s going to end up wrapped in plastic on some nerdy collector’s shelf when the same exact text is freely available to anyone with access to the internet. Let it go lads. The more you fuss over it, the more people are going to want to read it. I can honestly say that I would never have bothered reading this garbage if not for your hullabaloo.

And this is the thing; the content of this book is actually rather boring. There’s a small biography of the O.T.O. at the beginning, and the rest of the book is taken up with the different initiation rituals. I’m not going to discuss what they entail because I don’t want the O.T.O. to file copyright claims against me, but I will say that there’s nothing all that interesting. You know all the silly ceremonies the Mason’s go through? This is the same crap, only a bit more Templary.
secret rituals of the oto

Members of the O.T.O. have claimed that the documents herein are imperfect draft versions of their rituals. King supposedly got them off some collector and stuck them together in a book without really asking permission. Others have pointed out that these rituals don’t make any sense without another document, De Arte Magica. The best part about this omission is that De Arte Magica was later printed in full in Scott Michaelsen’s Portable Darkness with the O.T.O.’s permission. (It’s also available online.)

oto lamen.jpgAll in all, the controversy surrounding this book is far more alluring than its contents. I wouldn’t recommend reading it, but can’t deny that doing so was moderately satisfying.
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crowley liber cdxv paris workingLiber CDXV – Opus Lutetianum or The Paris Working – Aleister Crowley
1913

It’s no secret that the O.T.O. teaches sex magic. I was doing a bit of research on the ol’ sex magic after reading their secrets, and I came across Liber CDXV – Opus Lutetianum or The Paris Working. This is basically a magickal diary kept by Aleister Crowley during a lengthy sex magick ritual that he was practicing with his mate Victor Neuburg. This ritual is the basis for the story of Crowley told by the Canon Copely Syle in Dennis Wheatley’s To the Devil a Daughter and again by Wheatley in his The Devil and all his Works. The story tells of Crowley going mad and his son (who never existed) dying in an attempt to evoke Pan. What actually happened was that Crowley and Neuburg took a bunch of drugs and bummed the arses off each other. Fair play.
Read the cryptic account of their drugged-out bumming frenzy here.

This has been my third post in a row relating to Aleister Crowley. Kenneth Grant led his own branch of the O.T.O., and The Magical Revival discusses sex magic at length, even briefly mentioning Crowley and Neuburg’s tango in Paris. The Aleister Crowley Scrapbook shys away from elaborating on any of the truly lurid details of Crowley’s practices, but it does suggest that his poetry might be a good place to look if one was interested in that kind of thing. My own suggestion would be to read Crowley’s poem, Leah Sublime. It’s a love poem to one of his girlfriends, and it contains the lines;

“Shit on me, slut!
Creamy the curds
That drip from your gut!
Greasy the turds!
Dribble your dung
On the tip of my tongue!”

He did actually eat her poos in real life too, and that’s not even nearly the worst of it. Leah Hirsig was the woman that had tried to have sex with a goat for one of Crowley’s rituals. When the goat wouldn’t fuck her, Crowley slit its throat and let it bleed all over her.

Hopefully it will be a while before I post about this Crowley scumbag again. I feel like it’s time to read some fiction. My life is a bit hectic at the moment too, so posts here might be a bit more sporadic for a while.

A Chat with Sandy Robertson, Author of the Aleister Crowley Scrapbook

the aleister crowley scrapbookThe Aleister Crowley Scrapbook – Sandy Robertson
Foulsham – 1988 + 2002

Although I don’t practice Magick or believe in most of his bullshit, I have written about Aleister Crowley several times. As full of shit as he clearly was, he led a peculiarly interesting life, and while there are countless books about his magickal philosophy, there are also many books that discuss his life and legacy. The Aleister Crowley Scrapbook is one such work. It’s a collection of articles, photographs, poems, and various other bits and pieces, all relating to Mr. Crowley. For somebody who hasn’t heard To Mega Therion, this could serve as a nice introduction; it uses cool pictures and first hand sources to form a biography and discuss Crowley’s influence on pop culture. It does not get bogged down in his magickal theory. (Thank heavens.) For the more seasoned Crowleyite, this book contains several, very interesting, items that were previously unpublished. So whether you’re a Crowley neophyte or a high ranking member of the O.T.O., this is a cool book to have in your collection.

My only real complaint about this book is that it’s too short. The material that’s here is great, but you can find lots of other Crowleyana online. Given the wealth of information about the Great Beast that is currently available on the internet, it would be physically impossible to compile a Crowley scrapbook that would come close to being comprehensive. One must also remember that this book was published in 1988, before the days of google image search. Its author, Sandy Robertson, didn’t merely copy and paste this stuff from wikipedia. He actually went out and acquired physical copies of the documents herein.

sandy b&w_resized_6 (1)
Photo of Sandy by Ann Pearce

Sandy is the former features editor of Sounds magazine, he has appeared in a BBC documentary on Aleister Crowley, and he is one of the individuals responsible for giving Montague Summers‘ grave a headstone. On top of that, he is a really nice guy.  We have recently been chatting about the Scrapbook, Crowley and a few other bits and pieces.

crowley magick robe

Duke: The range of material in the Scrapbook is really impressive. How long did it take to acquire all of that stuff? Any interesting stories about how you got your hands on it?

Sandy: I’d been fascinated by AC since childhood, despite, as I say in the Scrapbook,  being warned off by my father. Of course, that only made the subject more attractive! My parents were quite lenient really – I remember my mother getting me into the x- film Dr Blood’s Coffin when I was about ten by pleading with the ticket lady! “He LOVES this stuff, he won’t be scared!”

As there was no Internet back then I had to go to places like photo libraries for images. In one I found an original dust- jacket for Crowley’s Moonchild novel – apart from a crease from folding it was gleaming like new, with a label on the back indicating it had been sent out at the time of publication to promote it. It had obviously been laying in that file since the 1920s.

People like my friend Timothy d’Arch Smith, the eminent bibliographer who’s forgotten more about AC than I will ever know, were a great help. He helped me get the rights to the memoir by AC’s landlord, and put me on to the two feuding ex mistresses of Beresford Egan whom I had to negotiate to reprint his fabulous caricature of AC. (My favourite part of the book, Ed.) They hated each other and his estate had been split between them. The AC memoir had been published by Tim and his pal Victor Hall as a limited edition booklet under the “Victim Press” imprint – geddit?! Victor asked a very reasonable £25 which he claimed was “legally necessary”! Tim told me that Victor was once found at Heathrow trying to fly to Paris in his nightgown, having escaped from some mental facility or other. Police asked the cabbie who’d taken him there why he hadn’t been alerted by his attire, to which he responded, “I thort ‘e was an A-rab, guvnor!”

David Tibet found me, if memory serves, an original booklet from AC’s funeral – he found two at a fiver each! It’s been reprinted since then, of course, but at the time it was very rare. Tibbles used to be my flatmate when I was in Primrose Hill. The landlady was alarmed by his bald head and leather attire. (Tibet has become a legendary cult figure  –  the landlady would surely approve of his Paul Smith suits which long ago replaced the boots and leather coat.)

thoughtful aleister crowleyDuke: Funny you should mention Timothy d’Arch Smith. I’ve reviewed a few of his books already, and I have a copy of his novel, Alembic, lying on my shelf just waiting to be read. I looked at your thank-you list at the back of the Scrapbook and saw a few other names that have popped up on this blog before, Francis King being one of them. I’m actually halfway through writing a post about his controversial book on the O.T.O., and I’m wondering if you perhaps have any insider information on that scandal or any advice to a person writing about it. (I’m a bit scared the O.T.O. will try to shut down my site if I mention it!)

Sandy: Francis King was a lovely guy but I can’t shed any light on what you ask about. I was very chuffed when he did a fortune telling set for WHSmith, and in the numerology bit he used an imaginary fellow called Sandy Robertson. Actually the personality details were spookily accurate.

Duke: Were you careful about not stepping on toes when you were compiling the Scrapbook? I can’t imagine the members of the Stiff Kittens being delighted with what you said about their record art!

Sandy: I never avoid stepping on anyone’s toes which gets me into scrapes. I always review things honestly rather than backslap, which seems to be what lots of folk in all genres of art do. Backscratching.

Duke: You mentioned before that the American edition of the Scrapbook is slightly shorter due to a complaint from Kenneth Anger. Can you give us the details of this scandal, Hollywood Babylon style, or would doing so put you at a risk of being cursed by Anger?

Sandy: I love Anger’s work but he does seem to make a career of being a professional asshole. Basically, my publisher told me he objected to my printing letters from him to a guy in the OTO who had bootlegged Jimmy Page’s soundtrack to his film Lucifer Rising. The letters show them to be on good terms, but when the guy was expelled from the OTO he said Anger turned on him and acted shocked about his behaviour. Hmmm. Well I never. Say no more for fear of little men, eh, Duc! These are cold, hard facts I’m giving you…heh heh. He also objected to my saying he claimed Sympathy for the Devil by the Stones was about him. If anyone can find a quote anywhere where he claims that I’d be grateful as I’m sure I didn’t conjure it out of nowhere. Grrrr.

aleister crowley scrapbooksI somehow ended up with two copies of this book, a hardback from 1988 and a paper back from 2002. The 2002 edition has an extra paragraph in the introduction. Otherwise identical.

Duke: In “The Fictional Crowley” section of your book, you mention several books/stories containing characters based on Crowley. I’ve already read the books by Maugham and Wheatley and the story by M.R. James. (Loved them all!) Which of the other books featuring fictional Crowleys are worth reading?

Sandy: I’ve been compiling a list for years now of every instance I can find where AC appears as a fictional character or where a character appears to be based on him, and I think I’m up to about 60 now.

The James Blish novel Black Easter is marvellous, also a sequel called The Day After Judgement. The magickian Theron Ware has no physical resemblance to AC but my gut tells me he’s the inspiration for a demonologist who brings about the end of the world!

Colin Wilson’s Man Without A Shadow has been reissued under a few different names and remains an amusing read.  A great man, very kind and sadly missed. My father used to make his walking sticks!

AC is still going strong in fiction – in recent years I have loved The Monster’s Lament by Robert Edric, in which he tries to swap souls with a man about to be hanged, and Jake Arnott’s two books The Devil’s Paintbrush and The House of Rumour, both loosely based on fact. I wrote an article on AC in fiction for Fenris Wolf on this stuff recently.

My AC fiction list is for a projected handlist – not sure I could dignify it with the title of ‘bibliography’ and I’m notoriously lazy so who knows when it’ll see the light of day, especially as new titles keep appearing.

crowley with his magic wandDuke: It’s now 70 years since Crowley died. Since your book came out, the fickle public has had an extra 30 years to forget about him. On the other hand, your book (along with the internet) has made Crowley and his writings a lot more accessible. Do you reckon that the general public is more or less aware of Crowley than they were when the Scrapbook came out? Are you still as interested in AC as you were when your book came out?

Sandy: Obviously the internet has made it easier to locate materials and people, and I guess younger folk are more aware of AC than they were in the 80s when the Scrapbook came out. I was in HMV buying this fabulous new film A Dark Song, about a woman hiring a guy to do the Abremalin Ritual (which AC famously never completed) and without knowing that I was buying an occult-y item the sales lad looked at my Houdini t-shirt and said “That looks like Aleister Crowley!”

Yes I am still fascinated by him. I don’t do magick in any practical way, except that everything is magick. I cannot debate details of this or that translation of whatever ritual or manuscript. I’m more obsessed by the man and his life.

Duke: That film, A Dark Song, looks right up my alley. I reviewed S.L. MacGregor Mathers’ translation of the Abramelin text a few months ago! Not only that, but this is an Irish horror film? I don’t know how I hadn’t heard of it until now! Did I ever tell you that I was born and raised in Dublin? Hey, speaking of Ireland, I was doing a bit of online sleuthing, and I found an interview you did with the Boomtown Rats in 1977. It starts off with the sentence “I’ve never been hot to trot for Irish people”…

Sandy: I think the Dark Song film is from an Irish director and was filmed in Wales. Sorry about the jibes re Ireland. Growing up I felt, to steal a quote I read, that my homeland was hot in summer, freezing in winter, and unbearable at all times. And Ireland seemed little better, the same prejudices magnified. Only when I’d been away for decades did I appreciate the marvellous wealth of literature and folklore of the two countries. I’m a great Wilde fan and love reading about Scottish witches. There were executions in Paisley, next to my hometown Renfrew, “cradle of the Stuarts” as the first was born there when Robert de Bruce’s daughter, wed to the Royal steward, gave premature birth as she died falling off her horse. I still can’t stand that cunt Geldof, though.

I’ve never paid much attention to Sir Bob, so I don’t know if he’s really a cunt or not, but strangely enough, it turns out that his late daughter, Peaches, was a huge fan of Crowley. She even had an O.T.O. tattoo.
peaches geldof instagram crowley

Although published almost 30 years ago, Sandy’s book is well known by Thelemites and still in print. I reckon it’s a nice addition to any Crowley collection (although I don’t see a copy of it on Peaches’ shelf!), but Sandy has had his detractors:

Sandy: I was only lately shown a review that came out at the time of publication, penned by a guy I’m assured is one of the biggest prats in Thelemic circles. He opined that it was unlikely AC had gay sex with Pollitt (the man he’d called his first wife!) and that the author pic of me made him realise that this is wishful thinking on my part!?! First, I’m not gay and have no prejudice either way. Second, I don’t know how he could intuit my sexuality from a head and shoulders b&w shot. Third, poetry AC wrote to drag artiste Pollitt is explicitly homosexual.

Another guy who turned up at a signing asked if I practice magick. I said no, if I was going to do it it’d be a serious undertaking – I probably don’t have enough discipline and one wouldn’t do, say, nuclear physics on the weekend for a lark. He went away and wrote that I admitted I was just another bandwagon jumper who latched onto Crowley. I should have known better than talk to a hack – I mean, I was one!

I’ll just point out that although Sandy had the decency not to name names, the review by the man who (perhaps wishfully) believed that Sandy was wishfully believing that Crowley was gay is fairly easy to find online. Let’s just say his last name rhymes with jelly.

I like books about Aleister Crowley and the occult and all of that good stuff, but my first love is, and always will be, rock’n’roll. When having a discussion with the man who introduced Genesis P-Orridge to Frank Zappa, I couldn’t resist asking a couple of off-topic questions:

Duke: Did you really cut an interview with Roky Erickson short because he was brandishing a huge knife?

Sandy: A fan gave Roky a knife, which he waved around during the photo session alarming lenswoman Jill Furmanovsky. The reason I walked out of the interview early was that questions I posed were met by minutes long silences before he’d finally say something rivetting like ‘Ah doan’t know”. I played the tape to some people and they understood. I left the tape running and the whole time I was away he sat there with his wife and not a single syllable passed between them. You could feel the waves of mental illness coming off him. Brian Wilson was a happy bunny compared to Roky.

Duke: Are there any recordings of your old band, the Nobodies?

Sandy: Luckily, I’m sure any bedroom tapes of the Nobodies have been erased. Missing episodes of Mystery & Imagination are a tragedy for posterity, missing tapes of me caterwauling are a blessing. I did record a synth type album and sent it to Eno’s Obscure Records. He had the sense not to release it. My old Nobodies pal Alex Fergusson was in Alternative TV and Psychic TV before moving to Germany and begetting twin sons. If anyone’s in touch with him I’d love to hear from him.

I want to thank Sandy for being so patient, accommodating and pleasant. For more of his stuff, check out Rock’s Back Pages and go out and buy his book.

Kenneth Grant’s Magical Revival

kenneth grant magical revival crowley lovecraft
The Magical Revival – Kenneth Grant
Skoob – 1991 (Originally published in 1972)

Fuck. Here we go again.

Kenneth Grant, Aleister Crowley‘s protégé, wrote a set of 9 books called the Typhonian Trilogies. This is the first in the collection, and it serves to lay out the key players, ideas and history of modern magic. It’s infamous for its attempts to link the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft with the magickal ideas of Aleister Crowley. The introduction to the Simon Necronomicon, published 5 years later, attempts to do something similar, but we all know how ridiculous that book is. I wanted to read this one to see if it was more convincing. (Incidentally, Simon, in his Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon, claims that Grant was to use the Necronomicon as a source for some of the later works in the Typhonian series.)

I first tried to purchase this book several years ago, but it’s hard to find an affordable copy. Plus, a quick google search for it will lead you to a .pdf of the text. At one point I had decided to just read it online, but on seeing it show up in Alan Moore’s Neonomicon, I became convinced that I needed a physical copy for my library.

magical revival in alan moore's neonomiconIf a comic book character has read it, I have to read it too.

Most of this book is spent expounding the magickal theories of Aleister Crowley. There’s other chapters on Austin Ozman Spare and Dion Fortune. The part on Lovecraft is only a few pages, and it doesn’t delve very deeply into Lovecraftian lore at all.

I reckon Grant had a decent understanding of all the different occulty things he is talking about, but he doesn’t always make that easy to believe. Don’t get me wrong, there are entire pages of the book that are lucid and interesting, but the writing frequently spins out of control and becomes terribly muddled. It becomes impossible to distinguish between when Grant is making brilliant connections, when he is making less convincing connections, and when he is talking absolute bollocks. My job, believe it or not, involves teaching people how to write. I am a fairly lenient marker, but I am strict with my students on a few things: clarity, cohesion and referencing. If little Kenny handed this in to me, I would tell him it’s rubbish and make him rewrite it. I get that occult writers all like to fill their books with tricks, traps and only a little truth, but this is just taking the piss.

magical revival kenneth grant student commentsThe Magical Revival vs. My Grade 11 marking scheme.

There are some cool things about this book. Kenneth Grant did actually know several of the people that he is writing about, he shit-talks L. Ron Hubbard, and the system of magic he is propounding is unabashedly left hand path. That being said, the whole book is a load of bollocks, and I walked away from it having learned very little. Apparently, this is the most straightforward entry in the Typhonian series too, but hopefully I won’t be reading the rest. I don’t think I’ll have the stomach for any more of this kind of nonsense for a while anyways; I guess I’m just not cut out for the Hogwarts lifestyle.

My hero, Montague Summers

montague summersToday, the 10th of August 2017, is the 69th anniversary of the death of Reverend Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers. Monty was the early 20th century’s foremost expert on witchcraft, and if you’ve read through this blog before, you’ll probably know that he has long been one of my heroes. He seemed to have spent most of his life reading, writing, editing, and translating books on witches, vampires and restoration drama. I sometimes wish that I could spend as much time in the library as he, but alas, life is cruel and I am burdened with a thousandfold responsibilities that hinder my erudition.

I’ve read two books about Monty recently, the first of which, The Galanty Show, is an autobiography that was posthumously published in 1980.  While I had read elsewhere that this book does not go into much detail on Summers’ experiences with the occult, I thought that it might at least throw some light on how he adopted his rather peculiar attitudes toward the paranormal. I had my eye out for a copy for a while, and I got a good deal on one last year. It smells a bit moldy, but otherwise it’s in absolutely perfect condition.

montague summers galanty showThe Galanty Show; the Autobiography of Montague Summers
1980 – Cecil Woolf Publishing

Montague Summers was born into a wealthy, conservative family, and was raised to be one of those people who like to look back at the past and pretend to themselves that it was better than the present. Modern beliefs are crass and stupid; old ones are better: ‘People used to believe that witches existed, but they don’t now. Hmmm, witches must exist! Damn this modern incredulity!’ He felt the same way about literature too; he once claimed that Varney the Vampire (1847), a serialized Penny Dreadful, was as good as Dracula (1897), the single most influential vampire story ever told. In fairness to Summers though, he comes across as relatively self aware and willing to laugh at himself in this autobiography. If he was a snobby old plonker, he was at least a charming, snobby old plonker.

I had already surmised about as much about Montague Summers after reading a few of his other books, and by the time I got around to reading the Galanty Show, I was not so much interested in how he acquired his beliefs as I was in how sincere these beliefs were. Unfortunately, he is fairly elusive on this point. He seems more intent on characterizing himself as an old-fashioned man of letters than he does on telling his life story or discussing his metaphysical beliefs. In truth, this book is mostly just him talking about the books and plays that he was and wasn’t allowed to read when he was a child.

Now, it should be remembered that this autobiography was unpublished during Summers’ life, and the bibliography discussed below states that he had intended to write a second autobiographical work. This unwritten volume would have presumably covered his experiences studying theology, his supposed ordination as a Catholic priest, more information on his fascination with the occult, and perhaps even some brief discussion of his alleged sexual misdemeanors. In other words, it would have covered the really interesting parts of his life. The 8 page essay on Summers in Timothy d’Arch Smith’s Books of the Beast was more elucidating than his own autobiography. (In said essay, the author refers to the Galanty Show as “rather dull”.)

But The Galanty Show is not an absolutely horrible read. It’s boring, snobbish and full of references to works that few, if any, alive today have read, but this very pomposity is moderately entertaining. There was one part in which Summers is describing an old man who used to run a book shop, and he says; “A bath might have been of signal benefit, for I imagine he had washed neither face nor hands for many a twelvemonth.” I laughed heartily after reading that and hence determined to incorporate the word ‘twelvemonth’ into my lexicon. There are also two short chapters on witchcraft and ghosts, but Monty makes these more about books he has read and stories he has heard than about deep personal reflections. If your interest in Montague Summers is due to his expertise on Witchcraft, this is not essential reading.

montague summers witchcraftThese are the books that Montague Summers wrote about witches.

A few weeks ago, I acquired a copy of the Montague Summers edition of Henry Boguet’s Examen of Witches. I thought that I had completed the collection of works on Witchcraft translated, edited and written by Summers, and I was going to make a facebook post with a picture of the collection. Luckily, I decided to check myself before I wrecked myself. There’s no complete Montague Summers bibliography online though, and so I purchased a copy of Timothy d’Arch Smith’s Montague Summers;  A Bibliography.

montague summers bibliographyMontague Summers; a Bibliography – Timothy d’Arch Smith
The Aquarian Press – 1983 (First Published 1964)

Apart from a brief introduction, this is just a bibliography. There are two editions (as far as I know), and my copy is the revised and slightly expanded 1983 version.

witchcraft montague summersThe books about witches that Montague Summers edited, translated or introduced.

I was dismayed to discover that my Montague Summers Witchcraft collection is 3 books short of complete:

  1. He provided the introduction and notes for The Confessions of Madeleine Bavant in 1933. I am presuming he was also the translator, but I’m not sure. This one was banned as obscene shortly after publication, and all unsold copies were destroyed. It’s fairly rare.
  2. He also wrote an introduction and notes for an edition of Richard Bovet’s Pandaemonium, a 1684 work on demonology. This has been reprinted since, and there are copies available, but they’re fairly pricey. I’ll be keeping an eye out for this one.
  3. Finally, he wrote a foreword for Frederick Kaigh’s Witchcraft and Magic of Africa. This book is fairly widely available, but it’s the least appealing of the three by far.

Will I ever complete the Montague Summers Witchcraft collection? Probably not. The Confessions looks impossible to track down, and he didn’t have enough involvement with the other two to warrant me spending much money on them. Besides, I should probably read a few more of his books before I buy anymore. I’m sure it won’t be long until Monty’s next appearance on this blog.

montague summers vampires and werewolves
These are just some of the other cool books by Montague Summers.