Mr. Crowley, what went on in your head?

I’ve written about Aleister Crowley’s books before, but of the texts I reviewed, one was a novel and the other a translation. I thought it high time to look at some of Crowley’s mystical texts, the ones in which he propounds his deepest insights into magick, humanity and existence. To start, I decided to look at what is perhaps his best known work, the Book of the Law.

Just to get this out in the open right away: I’m not an expert on Crowley, and this is mostly an opinion piece. If you are a dedicated Thelemite and you feel frustrated/offended by anything in this post, please leave a comment and explain to me where I have erred. I would genuinely be interested in your insight.
liber al
The text of the Book of the Law or Liber AL vel Legis (hereafter to be referred to as AL) was supposedly revealed to Aleister Crowley by a guardian angel styled spirit named Aiwass in 1904. The work is rather short (about 20 pages), but it provides the foundation for the religion of Thelema. Much of Aleister Crowley’s subsequent literary output either references this text or serves as a commentary on it. While not an expert by any means, I’ve been mildly interested in Aleister Crowley for a few years, and I’ve had an idea of the importance of this book to his followers ever since I read about it after buying my first Fields of the Nephilim cd. I decided to buy a copy of AL a few years ago, but then I found out that the text was included in its entirety in Crowley’s Liber ABA, Book 4, Magick, a much larger and more expensive book that, for some reason I have since forgotten, I was determined to own. I thus decided that I would wait until I owned a copy of Book 4 before reading the Book of the Law. In the meantime, I found myself in possession of a book called Portable Darkness. This is a collection of assorted writings by Crowley that also includes the text of the Book of Law, but it doesn’t contain the infamous Comment section. I hate abridgments and so decided not to read AL until I owned the complete text. Eventually I found an affordable copy of Book 4, but when I opened it up and realized that it was largely about yoga, I felt desperately ashamed of myself and put it on the shelf to collect dust for few years.

 

 

I decided to read AL a few months ago, but I wanted to do a bit of research on it beforehand to ensure a decent level of understanding. I read essays about it in Portable Darkness and DisInformation’s Book of Lies and on countless websites. I listened to youtube clips of Robert Anton Wilson’s ramblings on Crowley, and I even read the wikipedia pages of the Egyptian deities that I knew were going to be alluded to in the Book of the Law. I felt fairly prepared by the time I opened the book.

Jesus Christ lads, what a pile of muck.

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with this garbage. I’ve long understood that Aleister Crowley was both full of shit and had his head up his arse, and I wasn’t really surprised that he had the audacity to present this hogwash as divine revelation, but I was a little taken aback by extent to which he has gotten away with it. I could break the text down and analyze it piece by piece, but it doesn’t merit doing that. With the amount of time and effort it would take to squeeze any form of meaningful interpretation out of this barrel of masturbatory vomit, a person could doubtlessly resolve several of their real life problems. Thelemites, I have deduced, are just religious hipsters. Their religion is far more obscure than yours; I mean, you’ve probably never even heard of it, and you almost definitely wouldn’t get it if you did. Other tortuous religious texts have the excuse that they were written thousands of years ago by individuals living in societies that were vastly different our own. The Book of the Law, on the other hand, was written by a smackhead British toff that wanted to make himself sound mysterious and smart so that he could get girls (and a few fellas) to sleep with him. If you’ve been thinking about reading this piece of trash, take my advice: spend that time updating your CV and applying for a new job instead.

do what thou wiltNow, if you are ever lucky enough to be in my apartment, you might notice the above sign. Why would a person who has such disdain for Crowley’s masterpiece place its credo above his front door? Well, the phrase ‘Do what thou wilt’ and the word ‘Thelema’ actually come from one of my favourite books, the novel Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais. In this long and lurid tale, the Abbey of Thélème is basically a monastery, led by the licentious Friar John (pictured above), where the only rule that the brothers must follow is ‘Do what thou wilt’. This phrase was later adopted as a motto for the Hellfire Clubs. Interestingly enough, it’s also word-for-word the advice given by Mephistopheles to Faustus after he has turned the good Doctor invisible inside the chambers of the pope in the 7th scene of Marlowe’s tragedy (A-text).

crowley book of lies
I also read The Book of Lies. This book is probably slightly more self indulgent than the Book of the Law, but it’s made a little more palatable by the fact that it comes across as being more aware of its own absurdity. (I’m not saying that Crowley wasn’t aware of how obnoxious the Book of the Law seems; he might well have written it just to wind people up.) The Book of Lies, or to give it its full title, The Book of Lies,Which is also Falsely Called BREAKS. The Wanderings or Falsifications of the One Thought of Frater Perdurabo, which Thought is itself Untrue. Liber CCCXXXIII [Book 333], is broken up into 91 little passages that can be read as poems, jokes, philosophical aphorisms, nuggets of advice, magickal instructions and/or riddles. Each passage comes with a commentary from Aleister that’s supposed to explain it. Most of this book is absolute rubbish, but there were a few bits that made me think.

The 80th passage starts off:

“The price of existence is eternal warfare.
Speaking as an Irishman, I prefer to say: The price
of eternal warfare is existence.
And melancholy as existence is, the price is well
worth paying.
Is there is a Government? then I’m agin it! To Hell
with the bloody English!”

A self-professed Irishman? Wasn’t he born and raised in England? Crowley’s attitude towards Ireland was a little strange. He once wrote a rather curious poem to Saint Patrick, requesting that the saint come back to again rid the country of snakes (an apt metaphor for the brits). Within the O.T.O. Crowley obtained the title of Supreme and Holy King of Ireland, Iona and all the Britains within the Sanctuary of the Gnosis, and two years later, in 1914, he went to New York and tried to convince people that he  was there to raise support for Irish independence. His attempts to do so included writing a declaration of independence for the Irish Republic. As with much of what he did, it is very hard to tell how sincere he was being, but he definitely seems to have been on the right side of the argument. The above chapter is a little cringey, but I like the idea of existence being the downside of chaos.
aleister crowley IRA
There’s another interesting bit in the commentary for chapter 46 where Aleister says,

“The lesson of the chapter is thus always to rise
hungry from a meal, always to violate one’s own nature.
Keep on acquiring a taste for what is naturally
repugnant; this is an unfailing source of pleasure”

There’s something wonderfully Sadean about this notion, and although seemingly paradoxical, it’s remarkably accurate. Humans get bored very easily, and we love doing what we shouldn’t. Hardcore pornography, death metal, super spicy food and ultraviolent films might seem rather unpleasant the first time they are encountered, but they all have the potential to become ‘unfailing sources of pleasure’. However, while I think that Crowley’s observation on the insatiability of human nature is interesting, I’m not sure that I agree with his advice. While our tendency may be to intensify our pleasures, I think it might be dangerous to make the intensification the goal. I’m not preaching humility here; I just reckon that there comes a point in most human endeavors where enough is enough.

There were a few other bits and pieces in here that made me think, but it probably wasn’t really worth reading the whole thing to find them. The most rewarding part of the book was probably when I finally got the Psalm 69 joke that Ministry used on their ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ album. I’ve listened to that record a thousand times, and I have often wondered what the ‘the way to succeed and the way to suck eggs’ line meant. After reading the commentary here, I felt a bit silly for not getting it sooner. I guess I just never thought that Al Jourgensen would be smart enough to use puns. Chapter 88 (Gold Bricks) is pretty funny too. I’ll leave you to find it for yourself.

There you have it. Aleister Crowley led a very interesting life, but his books are shit. His magical writings serve as little more than ‘how to be Harry Potter’ instruction manuals for grown-ups who want to play make-believe (or is it believe-make?) In fairness to Crowley, I don’t think either the Book of the Law or the Book of Lies are aimed at beginners, but if understanding these works is what reading his other books will allow me to do, I’ll probably not be bothering.

Satan’s Disciples – Robert Goldston

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Ballantine Books – 1962
I added this book to my to-buy list immediately after stumbling across a picture of the cover somewhere online. I was worried that the book itself might not live up to the cover image, but it delivered.

This is a trashy and rather sensational history of satanism and witchcraft. Robert Goldston skips the boring parts (numerology, kaballah, astrology, palmistry…) and goes straight for the sadistic orgies, blood sacrifices, and hag torture. Needless to say, I enjoyed every page.

The introductory chapter to this magnificent work claims that “It can be safely asserted that from the year 1200 until the middle of the seventeenth century, the overwhelming majority of the people in Europe worshipped Satan and regularly attended his festivals.” While I have come to expect this kind of exaggeration from Christian writers writing about Satanism, nearly all of Goldston’s condemnations are actually directed at the church. He doesn’t quite espouse Satanism, but the book, as a whole, almost seems like an attempt to justify it.

While claiming to be a “a full account of witchcraft for modern readers”, this is really more a mish-mash of descriptions of some of the grislier characters, legends and phenomena from the history of witchcraft, each description doing its utmost to err on the side of ridiculous. Included are tales of the ‘blood cows’ of Elizabeth Bathory, how Oliver Cromwell sold his soul to the devil (I believe it, the cunt!), a woman who gives birth to a pair of goblins and feeds them to her dog, and Doctor Fian, a Scottish wizard who specialized in pube magic. There’s a wonderful account of a priest who stupidly banished a demon to a toilet and thus ended up with a burnt, shit-besplattered arsehole, and there’s the heartwarming tale of the Chatelaine De Beauvoir, a lady that I can’t find mention of anywhere else who managed to convince a troop of young men to be her sex slaves. She divided these men into different groups of animals (some were dogs, some were birds) and had them do her perverted bidding. When a police officer inquired how she maintained control over these fine fellows, he was told that she did so by feeding them her shit. What a cool lady! There’s also plenty of other stories about rape, incest and cannibalism. This book definitely doesn’t shy away from the nasty stuff. There’s one particularly brutal account of a young nun who is accused of witchcraft and jailed. Confined to her cell, she is routinely raped by her three guards. At first this treatment leads her to attempt suicide, but she later grows to like it and eventually ends up spending the non-getting-raped parts of her days worshipping Satan.

Towards the end of the book, Goldston temporarily abandons his objective of chronicling the history of witchcraft and devotes a single chapter to the actual practice of Black Magic. Chapter 11, Spells, Curse and Demons, is basically a grimoire in and of itself. It includes useful spells to cure gout, guard against vicious animals, summon Satan, get rid of a headache and kill your enemy. Crucial stuff.

In ways, this book was quite similar to Peter Robson’s The Devil’s Own, but while equally as trashy, this one contains a bibliography and actually makes frequent reference to real historical texts. I wasn’t surprised to see William Seabrook’s book on witchcraft in its bibliography either. All three of these books have a delightful bullshit/reality ratio, and if you have enjoyed one of them, you will definitely like the others. I would really love to know if anyone has recommendations for similar books.

 

Disinformation’s Book of Lies

img_20170119_170708 Book of Lies – Richard Metzger (Editor)
Disinformation – 2003
I can’t quite remember what put this book on my radar, but it was on my goodreads to-read list for a few years before I picked up a copy. Unabashedly taking its name from one of Aleister Crowley‘s books, this is a collection essays on Magick and the Occult, all written by modern authors. (Actually, I recently found a copy of Crowley’s Book of Lies at a library booksale for a cool 75 cents, so you can expect a review of that at some stage in the future.) The format (and choice of contributors) of this book reminded me a bit of the super edgy Apocalypse Culture series (although, in fairness, this book contains less paedophilia). I’ve been making my way through it since December, and although I have not read every single essay herein, I doubt I will get much further.

The book is divided into 8 sections, each dealing with a different aspect of occultism:

Section 1 is about the actual practice of Magick. Even though I had heard it during his infamous speech at DisinfoCon, I enjoyed Grant Morrison’s explanation of sigil charging through masturbation, I struggled through Mark Pesce’s piece, and I gave up about two paragraphs into Genesis P Orridge’s pile of rubbishy nonsense. Joe Coleman, the artist who did the covers for the Apocalypse Culture books, wrote a fairly cringeworthy prose poem on the magickalness of his own art. I barely even looked at the other essays in this section. All together, this part really sucked. The kind of magick being discussed here isn’t completely loopy stuff; it’s really just other forms of self motivation. If this kind of thing works for you, and I totally understand that it could, that’s awesome, but it isn’t for me.

Section 2 is about “Chemognosis”. I’m not a drug user, and I have no interest in ‘getting high’, so I skipped this section completely.

Section 3 is about magickal icons. There are several essays on Austin Osman Spare, Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs. I once heard a poem by Brion Gysin that was so irritating that I decided to skip the essays about him. I don’t really care for Spare either, but I may come back to the essays on him if he ever catches my interest. I read Burroughs’ first 3 novels in my early twenties, and I used to think he was really cool because he had collaborated with Kurt Cobain, U2 and Ministry. (Coincidentally, I only recently realized that Ministry’s Psalm 69 song and album were allusions to Aleister Crowley’s Book of Lies.) That being said, William Burroughs was definitely full of shit, and I don’t really care about his forays into magick. There was another essay in here on Lovecraft’s influence on occultism, but it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already. This section ends with excerpts from two books. I don’t like excerpts, so I skipped them.

Section 4 is mostly about Aleister Crowley. The essays focusing on him were extremely boring. Donald Tyson’s essay on John Dee and the Enochian apocalypse was entertaining enough, but I can’t really remember what it was about and I’m only after reading it last week. Richard Metzger’s essay on Jack Parsons wasn’t horrible, but Jack’s wikipedia page is currently more informative.

Section 5 is titled Scarlet Women. There are three essays here, one on Marjorie Cameron, one on Ida Craddock, and one on Rosaleen Norton. They were ok. In a book that is 350 pages long, only 22 pages are about women. Out of the 40 essays in this book, one was written by a woman and three were written by Genesis P Orridge. I have seen this book being criticized for its very white guy perspective on occultism and magick, and while I certainly don’t want to read about sacred femininity and that kind of nonsense, I’d have to say this is a fair criticism.

Section 6, the section on secret societies, was probably my favourite. Twyman’s article on Hitler and the occult put me on the trail of a few interesting books, and P.R. Koenig’s accusations that the Ordo Templis Orientalis are a gang on spermchuggers was rather amusing. It pains me to admit it, but Boyd Rice’s very silly essay connecting Enoch’s Watchers, the Holy Grail, Dagon, Jesus Christ and Ea, Lord of the Depths is probably the best part of the entire book. The last essay in this section is rather long and it explains why wicca might not be as legitimate as some people think. I have never taken wicca seriously, so I didn’t care to finish that one.

Section 7 is quite short and not particularly interesting. It includes an interview with an aged Anton LaVey and an introductory essay about rock music’s links to the occult.

The final section is awful. There’s a big, boring, section on Julius Evola, the esoteric fascist. There are also 3 essays by Peter Lamborn Wilson/Hakim Bey. Wilson/Bey, for those of you who don’t know, is a rotten paedophile. He freely admits to and writes about wanting to have sex with children. I didn’t read what he had to say, and I really wish that he hadn’t been included in here. I am very glad that I bought a second hand copy of this book and thus avoided giving the publishers any money. Fuck that. Put that paedo in the oven. This section ends with a super cringy essay on “The Secret of the Gothic God of Darkness“. We’re dealing with seriously edgy stuff here.

Overall, Book of Lies was a bit disappointing. Some of the essays are on very interesting ideas, but in most cases, they barely scratch the surface. Then again, I bought my copy cheap, and it gave me the names of a few books that I will be checking out in the future. If you see a copy for less than a tenner and you want a nice book to leave beside the toilet, you could do worse than this.

The Trials and Tribulations of (reading about) Paracelsus

paracelsusParacelsus Magic into Science – Henry M. Pachter
Collier Books – 1951

I was looking for a new book to start at the end of November when I picked up a most peculiar volume off my shelf. 100,000 Years of Man’s Unknown History had come as part of a set of cooky ancient-alien books that I bought years ago, and as I skimmed through it, I saw mention of the mysterious Count Von Küffstein and his homunculi. (If you’re not familiar with the Count Von K, you might want to check out my post about Aleister Crowley’s strange creations.) I was intrigued, but I was about to spend half the day on a bus and I wanted a smaller book that would fit in my pocket. I was buzzing off the idea of homunculis though, and so I picked up the biography of Paracelsus that I had found on a ‘free books’ table when I was in university.

Paracelsus was a travelling doctor/healer in the 16th century. He disdained the traditional academic approach to medicine and tried to figure out better ways to heal people. Most of his methods would sound very silly to us today, but his approach, which was based on reasoning and experiment, has contributed to the development of the modern scientific method. He was a pretty cool guy too. He traveled around Europe, healing people, writing books, getting drunk and starting arguments with local professors and doctors.

theophrastus
The man’s life was interesting, but in truth, this book is actually quite boring. However, when it comes to books on Paracelsus, I reckon the boring ones are probably the most trustworthy. Pachter’s focus is on how Paracelsus influenced science, and while he never denies Paracelsus’s fascination with the occult, he doesn’t give it as quite as much attention as I maybe would have liked. There’s only a few very brief mentions of Homunculi in here. (Paracelsus claimed it was possible to create miniature human life by placing glass bottles of sperm into steaming piles of horseshit.)

Pachter acknowledges that other writers have gone completely overboard with their interpretations of the more mystical aspects of Paracelsus’s writings, and even though I was fairly bored with Paracelsus when I finished this one, I went straight on to a silly book on Paracelsus that I had been meaning to read for the past year.

paracelsus-by-hartmannThe Life and Doctrines of Paracelsus – Franz Hartmann
1886?

The only attraction of this book is the fact that it seems to have been the text that brought the story of Count Von Küffstein to the attention of the occult community towards the end of the 19th century. In the 8th chapter there’s a chapter on Homunculi that contains an extremely lengthy footnote telling the story of Count Von K. As far as I can tell, this book was originally written in German and later translated into English. If it was originally published in German, we can presume that the footnote on the Count was a paraphrase of the account given in Die Sphinx. (Again, read my post on Crowley if you’re not following this.) This would mean that nobody has ever actually translated Die Sphinx directly. I have been toying with the idea of translating and publishing it myself, but I don’t want to waste my time if it was already been done. If anyone has any information on this, please let me know.

Aside from a single footnote, this book was un-fucking-bearable. The first chapter gives an account of Paracelsus’s life, and the rest explores his beliefs. This is basically the exact opposite of Pachter’s book. While Pachter gives perfunctory mention to the more nonsensical ideas of Paracelsus, Hartmann wallows in them. I read the first two chapters and then skimmed till I got to the homunculus bit. I simply wasn’t prepared to give these dated and stupid concepts the attention that would be required to make sense of them. This book was utter shit.

paracelsusthegreatFrom The Book of Alchemy

Paracelsus was actually cooler than I expected, but these books were a real chore to read. I’m reading two other dry ones at the moment, and I don’t think I’ll move straight on to 100,000 Years of Man’s Unknown History as I reckon I ought to treat myself to something a bit more enjoyable first. The story of Paracelsus played a part in shaping the Faustian Legend, and I am now considering a reread of Marlowe and Goethe’s versions of that tale for a future post on the same.

paracelsus-ulyssesParacelsus was Swiss born, but James Joyce thought so highly of him that he included him in a list of Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity in Ulysses.

Year in Review: 2016

2016 is very nearly over, and although it was a tremendously shit year in a lot of ways, it was a pretty good year for this blog. Not only did the site’s traffic increase to 4 times what it was in 2015, I also believe that my content has improved in quality. For much of the first year of the blog, I was reviewing books that I had read a long time ago. At this stage, I’m reviewing books right after reading them, and the more I read on these topics, the more links I have been able to draw. Not every post on here is groundbreaking, but there have been a few this year that I am quite proud of. Here’s my top-10 list for 2016:

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10. The Haunters and the Haunted

A look at the different versions of Bulwer Lytton’s classic ghost story. This post features Colin Wilson getting pwned.

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9. The Books of Whitley Strieber
(Communion, Transformation)
I want to bully this guy so much.

witchcraft


8. Seabrook’s Witchcraft

Willie Seabrook: explorer, sceptic, sorceror and sex-pervert. My hero.

buk


7. Matthew Hopkins’ Discovery of Witches

The coolest physical book in my collection

dictionaries-of-witchcraft-and-demonology

6. Dictionary of Demonology/Dictionary of Witchcraft
The biggest disappointment of 2016

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5. The Fiery Angel
A curious, Russian occult novel that turned out to be based on a true story.

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4. Black Magic Grimoires
An in-depth look at some of the most infamous works of black magic.

demoniality-liseux-version

3. Ludovico Maria Sinistrari (Part 1, Part 2)
A weird Friar who believed in randy fairies and gander-neck appendages that grew from between the legs of horny women.

frontispiece

2. Varney the Vampire
You won’t find many reviews of this book that are as thorough as this one.

bookwith angel

and finally… 1. Michelle Remembers
My post of the year without doubt. An on-site investigation into the diabolic, incestuous rape fantasies of a masochistic idiot and sex fiend.

I want to stress that this is a list of the best posts from this blog in 2016. (It most certainly does not reflect the 10 best books that I read in 2016!) I hope that Nocturnal Revelries has been insightful and entertaining to the people who have found themselves reading through it over the last year. I have really enjoyed reading and writing for this blog, and I intend to keep the content coming during 2017. That being said, my wife and I are expecting our first baby in March, and I imagine that she’s going to leave me with significantly less time to spend reading.

Thanks for all of the support. Read books, drink tea, skip mass and have a good new year!

(Oh, and just in case you didn’t know, I have facebook, twitter and tumblr pages set up so that you can keep track of what’s happening on the blog even if you don’t have a wordpress account.)

LUDOVICO MARIA SINISTRARI: PART TWO (Demoniality)

demoniality-liseux-version
To quickly summarize what I’ve already written about Ludovico Maria Sinistrari: he was a Franciscan Friar who wrote a book that was basically a list of all of the sins that he could imagine. I wrote a lengthy blog post explaining Sinistrari’s beliefs about sodomy, and while I believe it was an informative and insightful post, it may have seemed slightly out of place in this blog. I mean, isn’t this supposed to be a blog about Satan and the paranormal and spooky stuff? Surely sodomy isn’t very spooky? Well, no, but the chapter on Sodomy from Sinistrari’s De Delictis is one of the two sections from that book that is widely available in translation, and I don’t like half-assing things. The other, more infamous section, which we are going to look at today, fits far more comfortably within the context of this blog; it is a chapter on Demoniality. Demoniality, for those of you who don’t know, is the act of having sex with demons. Oh yeah, now we’re getting back on track.

The story of the manuscript of Demoniality is as interesting as its contents. In 1872, a French bookseller named Isidore Liseax spent a short holiday in England rummaging about in some antique booksellers. In one of these stores, he found a short manuscript titled “Dæmonialitas” and bought it for sixpence. He took it back to France, translated it, and published it 3 years later. It wasn’t until I read an essay on Sinistrari by Alexandra Nagel that I realised why this story sounded so familiar. Remember what I wrote about the opening to Bulwer Lytton’s Zanoni?

Liseux had never heard of Sinistrari, and he spent a long time trying to figure out who had written the text he’d purchased. Its author was listed as Ludovicus Maria of Ameno, but Liseux wasn’t able to find out any reliable information about such a man, and it wasn’t until he serendipitously opened a copy of the list of writers banned by the Vatican to just the right page that he discovered that this Friar of Ameno was the same person as the author of De Delictis. De Delictis had been unbanned for more than a century at this stage, and while it wasn’t widely available, Liseux managed tracked down a copy with a little persistence. Once he understood the nature of that work, he was certain that his manuscript on demoniality belonged to it. It followed the same structure as the other entries, and indeed De Delictis contained a chapter on demoniality. Liseux’s copy, however, while it started and ended the same way as the chapter in De Delictis, was largely expanded. The chapter in De Delictis is a mere 5-6 pages long, while Liseux’s manuscript was more than 80 pages. Liseux, by a stroke of extreme good luck, had found and paid next to nothing for the uncut edition of a paper on sexual intercourse with devils and spirits, the cut version of which was included in a book that was banned by the Vatican, the text of which had been written by a perverted, 17th century, Franciscan Friar. Holy quaint and curious volumes of forbidden lore!

There has been some discussion about the authenticity of the text. Why wasn’t the full text of Demoniality included in De Delictis? (Remember that De Delictis had actually only been banned for what it said about the qualifications of Judges, not for its details on sexual depravities. The lurid details in the apocryphal Demoniality pale in comparison to ‘the Doctrine of the Clitoris’ as laid out in the canonical chapter on sodomy.) Also, if you read Liseux’s introduction to his English translation of the text, several discrepancies arise. Alexandra Nagel has done an impressive job of listing and accounting for these discrepancies in her essay “Tracing the mysterious facts in Isidore Liseux’ publication of De Daemonialitate by Ludovico M. Sinistrari”, and if you’re interested in the details, her paper is better researched and more informative than what you’re going to read here. Suffice to say, the expanded version of Demoniality was probably intended to be included in a later edition of De Delictis that was never published. While I believe Nagel’s conclusion that Sinistrari was in fact the author, I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if he wasn’t. This is a book about fucking monsters (and I use ‘fucking’ here as a verb, not an adjective). Does it really matter who wrote it?

Liseux found the manuscript in 1872, published the first French edition in 1875 and followed with an English Translation in 1879. This translation was popular enough to convince him to publish another section of De Delictis, that on sodomy, a decade later. One of the readers of Liseux’s translation of Demoniality was our old friend, Montague Summers. Summers was thoroughly impressed with the contents of the work but not the translation. In 1927, he re-translated Demoniality from the original Latin and wrote an introduction and set of notes to go with the text. I own a copy of Summer’s translation, but Liseux’s is available online. Summers spells Sinistrari’s first name ‘Lodovico’ (here and in his other works), but I haven’t seen that spelling anywhere else.

demoniality-summers-versionDemoniality (The Montague Summers Edition) – Lodovico Maria Sinistrari
Dover Occult – 1989 (This translation first published in 1927)

The book starts off explaining that demoniality is a separate offence to bestiality. Bestiality is having sex with an animal, but while demons are alive, they are not entirely corporeal and therefore don’t really count as animals. Sinistrari knows what demons are not, but it’s trickier to say what exactly they are. He distinguishes between evil demons who only fuck people to bring them into the power of Satan and a far less dangerous class of spirits who only fuck because they’re horny. These other spirits are composed of incubi and succubi. (Incubi are male spirits who fuck females, and succubi are female spirits who fuck men.) Surprisingly, most of what Sinistrari has to say is on the less malevolent, horny spirits, and the result is that this text feels more like a book on cryptozoology than a book on traditional demonology.

succubusThis succubus is a bit little. That man is a nonce.

In fact, if like me, you have an interest in books about cryptozoology/the paranormal/the Fortean, you’re very likely come across references to this text. Sinistrari’s descriptions of fuckable spirits are broad enough that they seem to fit many of my favourite monsters. Sinistrari argues, with evidence from Saint Anthony, that the gods, centaurs, fauns and nymphs of Paganism were all real entities and that the stories of them seducing humans were actually true. Montague Summers, in the introduction to his translation of Demoniality, argues that both the Jinns of Islam and the fairies and leprechauns from W.B. Yeats’ Celtic Twilight (an awesome book) fit Sinistrari’s decription perfectly. Hmmmmm, what other group of unproven creatures have been compared to fairies? I believe that our old pal, Whitley Strieber argued that his visitors had a lot in common with the fairy abductors of celtic lore. If that’s not enough for you, Strieber actually presents Sinistrari’s ideas as evidence for his visitors in Communion; in fairness, the similarities between stories of alien abductions and visits from incubbi/succubi are striking. Dmitri Bayanov presents ideas from Sinistrari’s Demoniality in his essay Historical Evidence for the Existence of Relict Hominoids. A relict hominoid is basically a Bigfoot. Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge then that Demoniality is actually a book about sexual intercourse with Satanic demons, the Great God Pan, leprechauns, genies, fairies, aliens and sasquatches. I can’t say for certain that Sinistrari specifically intended for his text to be interpreted this way, but given his reasoning and willingness to accept the authority of other writers, I really don’t think he would have had a problem with this interpretation.

priest-having-sex-with-bigfoot-an-alien-and-a-demonIt’s all good, baby!

According to Sinistrari, Incubi and Succubi are surprisingly like people. They have physical needs and desires; they eat smells (solid food would be too much for them), and they fuck each other, people and animals. These spirits are endowed with both free-will and morality, and Sinistrari even suggests that they might have their own form of organized religion and worship. They are more spirity than humans and hence also more spiritual and closer to God. The fact that they are closer to God means that it’s as bad for them to have sex with us as it is for us to have sex with animals.

This weird logic means that for a human to have sex with an incubus or succubus is actually a dignifying rather than a shameful experience. Sinistrari never openly condones sex with this class of spirits, but it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t consider it to be all that bad. In terms of sin, he puts demoniality in the category of pollution. This means its comparable to getting or giving oral sex or a single finger up the bum. You might get an extra Hail Mary as penance after confessing it, but that probably wouldn’t stop you from doing it again.

Shagging one of Lucifer’s Henchmen is a different story; doing so is only ever done to improve your relationship with the Dark Lord. Satan’s malevolent spirit-servants are incorporeal and must either create a body out of filth or possess a corpse in order to be able to fuck. Also, they feel no joy when they’re getting rode. If you shag one of these, you are going to Hell. The sexual act itself would only count as pollution, but as it also serves as a contract with Satan, it becomes a damnable offence. The problem is that most people don’t know the difference between a friendly neighbourhood succubi and a cacodaemon, and just as attempted murder is as bad as murder, attempted sex with an evil demon is just as bad as sex with an evil demon. This means that a minor fling with an amorous Incubus could potentially land a person in as much trouble as bending over for the cock of Asmodeus. Now you know the difference, I hope you’ll think to look before you leap!

Another thing to be careful of is the way that spirits can alter their form. Regardless of their true appearance, demons seem to be able to appear in whatever form is most pleasing to their lover. This shapeshifting can get their lovers even deeper into sin. If a demon was to have sex with a man whilst appearing as that man’s sister, the man would be guilty of incest as well as demoniality. If the demon was to appear as that man’s dog, the man would be guilty of bestiality. Even if you knew full well that your lover was a demon and ask you asked it to look like a corpse for 10 minutes, you’d soon be guilty of necrophilia. Basically, roleplaying counts. You’re already in trouble for fucking a spirit; don’t make it worse by getting kinky.

But wait; wasn’t Sinistrari’s main problem with sodomy that it was sexual activity that didn’t lead to procreation? How is having sex with airy spirits any worse? Surely that doesn’ lead to procreation either! Well, actually…

Haven’t you read the Bible? Remember the Nephilim from Genesis? The Nephilim were a race of giants that were created when the Sons of God (fallen angels) mated with the daughters of men. Remember Jesus Christ. Who was his Da again? Now if he Bible contains stories of Spirits mating with humans, you’d better believe it’s possible. So how do they do it? Babies come when a penis sperms into a vagina; how can a spirit be expected to do this? Well, it used to be assumed that the spirits would turn into a succubus, fuck a man, save his cum, turn back into an incubus, fuck a woman and then fill her with the cum that they had taken, but there are a few problems with this theory. The first being that the resultant baby wouldn’t actually be demonspawn; it would be a perfectly normal human baby whose parents had never met. Another problem that Sinistrari notes is the fact that sperm rapidly loses its potency once its outside the body. Semi-corporeal demons would have no way of keeping the gip warm during the interlude between extracting it and injecting it. There’s other problems here too that I’m sure you can work out, and Sinistrari concludes that demons must cum their own cum and that this cum is capable of impregnating humans.

incubusAn Incubus works his magic. Why is he standing in a circle of eggs?

Sinistrari claims that Romulus and Remus, Plato, Caesar Augustus, Merlin, and “that damnable Heresiarch yclept Martin Luther” were all the offspring of spirits. You’ll notice that with the exception of Martin ‘the Proddy’ Luther’, these were all great men. That’s because spirits are closer to God than humans. The only problem is that human/spirit offspring are the same as horse/donkey offspring; they may get the beneficial aspects of both their parents, but mules can’t reproduce. Augustus had a daughter (who died very young), and Romulus may have had a son named Aollios and a daughter named Prima (such claims have been contradicted), but as far as I know all the other lads mentioned were either infertile, gay or just didn’t fuck. As mad as Sinistrari’s claims might seem to us, there was research and twisted, but apparent, logic behind them.

What about the Nephilim though? Why is it that demonspawn used to be giants, but modern day demonspawn are regular sized? Well there are four elements, right? So there must also be four kinds of spirits: air spirits, fire spirits, water spirits and earth spirits. (As silly as this might sound, it probably made decent sense to people living in the 17th century.) The spirits that fucked the daughters of men were air and fire spirits (again this is logical; angels came from the sky), and because fire and air are the more expansive elements, their offspring, the Nephilim were giant. After the flood, the fire and air spirits didn’t want to come down to Earth anymore because it was too wet for them, and so the only spirits left to fuck humans were the smaller, more condensed, water and Earth spirits. When you follow Sinistrari’s reasoning, it becomes apparent that he was actually a very smart guy living in a very dumb age.

demoniality-title-pageThe subtitle of the work, “A treatise wherein is shown that there are in existence on earth rational creatures besides man, endowed like him with a body and soul, that are born and die like him, redeemed by our Lord Jesus-Christ, and capable of receiving salvation or damnation”, has a nice ring to it; don’t you think? It just slides off the tongue.

I have plenty more to say about Sinistrari, but I’ve already written more than 5000 words about him, and I doubt anyone is that interested. (If you ever want to chat about him, e-mail me or leave a comment!) Demoniality is genuinely one of the most interesting texts that I have come across, both for its history and content, and I’ve no doubt that I’ll be referring to it again. If you have an interest in demonology or cryptozoology, this is is a must-read. Both Demoniality and Peccatum Mutum are available online too, so you have no excuse other than being boring.

A Big Mistake… Dictionary of Demonology vs. Dictionary of Witchcraft

dictionaries-of-witchcraft-and-demonologyDictionary of Demonology and Dictionary of Witchcraft – Collin De Plancy
(Edited, abridged and completely banjaxed by Wade Baskin)

Philosophical Library – 1965

My main reason for starting this blog was to share my thoughts and queries on the books I was reading. I had seen tumblr blogs that consisted of pictures of the kinds of books that I review here, but there was rarely any discussion on them. Goodreads usually has the books listed, but a lot of them are reviewless. There’s facebook groups that discuss books, but I generally find that their scope is either too broad or too specific for my tastes, and most of the users are insufferable imbeciles. I thought a blog to be the perfect medium to present my musings. The first book I reviewed was Wade Baskin’s translation of Collin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal.

Reading that review, you’ll notice that the focus wasn’t really on the content of the book; it was more a post about my confusion over its publication and edition. Well, yesterday, 3 years after buying my copy of the Dictionary of Witchcraft, my confusion over its publication was finally alleviated.

In my initial post, I discussed my suspicion that Baskin had split De Plancy’s text into two separate volumes; the Dictionary of Witchcraft and the Dictionary of Demonology. I noted that the likelihood of me ever reading the Dictionary of Demonology was minimal due to its high price and the low quality of its counterpart. I requested information concerning this issue in my blog post, but nobody responded. I tried to pretend that I didn’t care. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter. For two years, I lay awake every night, wondering why Baskin had chosen to do such a thing. Why had he split the one text into two books? Had he really done so? Why was one more expensive than the other? Was it a much better book? Would the super-exciting entries in the Dictionary of Demonology make up for the dull entries in the Dictionary of Witchcraft? Had Baskin saved all the best bits for the half of the collection that I didn’t own? Eventually I decided that I was going to have to get my hands on a copy of the Dictionary of Demonology, regardless of the cost. I wasn’t going to be paying for the book; I was paying for peace of mind.

Can you imagine my excitement when I arrived home on Tuesday to find the book in my postbox?

Eagerly I dashed inside. I forced myself to get changed and pour a cup of tea before I opened the package. I wanted the moment to be perfect. I put on my fez and a crisp shirt, and took the Dictionary of Witchcraft off the shelf and placed it on the coffee table so that it could get a good view of the unboxing of its sister text. After carefully pulling the order slip from the packaging to make sure that this was the text I was expecting, I gingerly took the book from the envelope, and lo and behold!

It’s a slightly larger version of the other book. I don’t mean larger as in expanded; I mean the pages are a little bit bigger. Apart from the title, the Dictionary of Demonology is word-for-word the same book as the Dictionary of Witchcraft. It’s just an earlier edition.

Oh, I am fortune’s fool! I am a stupid dunce. I wear a nappy and pick my bum.

wtfOne of the very few differences between the books, this mysterious, apple-holding princess appears only on the cover of DoD.

Looking back, it seems pretty obvious that this would have been the case. There is a note in the Dictionary of Witchcraft that reads,’Originally published under the title Dictionary of Demonology’. I’m not sure how I overlooked this, although it might have something to do with the fact that this claim is erroneous. This book was actually ‘originally published’ under the title Dictionnaire Infernal!

Both books claim to have been published in 1965. Maybe the Dictionary of Demonology saw a limited run and turned out more popular than expected. Then the publishers could have decided to put out a second edition (using smaller paper to save on printing costs). This would account for the fact that Dictionary of Demonology is much harder to find than Dictionary of Witchcraft. (Also, the listed price on the book cover is $10 for DoD, but only 6 for DoW.)

suckyfontThe comic-sans title really screws with the tone of my bookshelf.

I know this post doesn’t really say anything about the content of either book (the earlier post speaks on that a little), but it has been immensely gratifying to write. I have wasted far more time and money on these books than is reasonable, but at least now I have answers. Maybe someday a person who is wondering about the difference between these two books will end up on this page, and my folly will be their deliverance. I can rest easy tonight, knowing that I might so aid the community.

Vampires and Vampirism – Montague Summers

Image2
Dover – 2005 (Originally published as The Vampire: His Kith and Kin in 1929)
This is Montague Summers‘ first book on Vampires, and as much as I love the author, I have to admit that this was a rather dry read. I actually started this book to make sure that I would understand references that I might have encountered in another book I’ve been reading; Varney the Vampyre. As it turns out, that book is referenced in this book, but it contains very few references to vampire lore. (Varney is fucking DEADLY though. Expect to see it reviewed here in a few weeks.) Anyway, there’s 5 chapters in Summers’ book, and I’m going to go through each one.

1.The Origins of the Vampire
Here Summers explains several of the different elements that may have created and/or fed into the vampire legend. It includes copious stories of the reanimated dead, ghosts, premature burials and a huge section on incorruptible corpses. Apparently, there’s two ways that a corpse can remain incorrupt; the person has to have been either really good or really bad.

This chapter also includes a frustratingly multilingual section on necrophilia and necrosadism. Unfortunately the more lurid details are only given in French or Ancient Greek. I’m not joking; whenever Monty wants to give some really grisly details, he’ll switch languages. My French is poor, but it was good enough know that I was missing out on the best bits, particularly the story about the Garcon who said. “Que voulez-vous, chacun a ses passions. Moi le cadavre, c’est la mienne!”

(I have found an online version of the text, and I’ve just spent 10 minutes pasting those bits into google translate. It was worth it; my necrosadistic desires have now been satiated.)

2. Generation of the Vampire
This is all about how vampires become vampires. It mostly deals with excommunication from the church. Montague Summers knew a lot about the history of the church, and he wants to make sure that his readers are aware of this. Pretty boring stuff to be honest.

3. Traits and Practice of Vampirism
There’s a lot about suicide in this chapter, including some fascinating stuff on Russian suicide cults. Apparently one group of these fucking lunatics built a huge building with no doors or windows that was only accessible from a trap door in the roof. They’d jump in through the trap door and then they’d starve to death. Imagine the stench, the anxiety, the shame and the regret that these people had to endure until their dying moments.

4. The Vampire in Ancient Countries
I was expecting this section to be a bit boring, but it was actually quite interesting. It’s about the different types of vampiric ghouls that have cropped up around the world through history. I think that the sequel to this book, The Vampire in Lore and Legend (1929), takes up where this chapter leaves off.

5.The Vampire in Literature
This section was definitely the most disappointing, disappointing because I expected it to be the most interesting. This is just a bunch of summaries of different plays based on John Polidori’s story, The Vampyre. The summaries given are so detailed that I skipped through most of them; I didn’t want to ruin the stories in case I ever come across the original texts. Not only does this chapter contain the summaries of these plays; it also contains extensive lists of their cast members. This chapter is full of boring information, but it says very little.

Image1The pictures in this book are bizarre. I don’t remember why this mad woman is in there.

Overall, this is a decently interesting read even if it does get dry as fuck at times. There’s 5 chapters, and the way they’re structured seems a bit arbitrary, particularly the first 3. However, the worst thing about this book is that it’s full of quotes in different languages but contains no translations. If you really wanted to get the most out of this, you’d need to speak Ancient Greek, Latin, French and German. This is a bit different to the author’s books on witchcraft too. It serves more as an explanation as to how the Vampire legend developed than it does as proof of the Vampire’s existence. Monty never denies that vampires exist, but he doesn’t spend much time trying to convince you that they do.  As mentioned above, he wrote another book on vampires, but I reckon it’ll be a while before I get around to that one.

Image3Clearly a case of Lycanthropy rather than Vampirism, but a cool picture nonetheless. Could this be the instance spoken of by the great one?

The Books of the Beast – Timothy D’Arch Smith

beastCrucible – 1987
This book popped up in my suggestions from Goodreads a few years ago, but it wasn’t until I came across a quote from it that claimed that Montague Summers had attended Black Masses that I decided to buy it.

It’s a rather interesting collection of essays about different books, their authors and their publishers. The first and longest essay is about Aleister Crowley and his predilections for certain colour combinations and kinds of paper. That might sound a little boring, but I assure you it’s a very entertaining read. Not only is it quite funny at times, it is also astoundingly well researched and documented.

Timothy D’Arch Smith didn’t know Aleister Crowley or Montague Summers personally, but he did know people that knew them. He was also a dealer of rare books for a very long time, and it is rather apparent that he’s an expert in the field. (He’s still alive; I don’t know if he’s still working.) The level of detail in here is genuinely exciting, not only because the subject matter is interesting but also because the author has apparently been able to devote his life to tracking down and examining and reading rare books about magic and sex. DEADLY.

Yes, that’s right; not all of the essays in here are about magic. One is about the collection of dirty books in the British Library and another is about Ralph Chubb, a gay paedophile. It turns out that T.D.S. is also an expert on the Uranian (bent ref) poets. Apparently there was a bunch of poets in the early 1900s who had had enough of keeping their desire to bum youngfellas to themselves. Ralph Chubb was really into it. Smith’s essay is very interesting, and I wanted to read some of Chubb’s poems to see what he was talking about, but I felt a bit wary looking them up on Google.

It is suggested herein (and elsewhere) that Montague Summers, a name my readers should be familiar with at this stage, might well have indulged in a few Uranian fantasies himself. This book also suggests that he attended Black Masses. Monty you scoundrel! In his own books, Summers violently condemns such activities, but it is here suggested that he was a practicing occultist in his youth. Smith believes that Summers was sincere in his admonitions against the Black Arts, but I’m halfway through Vampires and Vampirism at the moment, and I’m really finding it tough to believe that Summers was as credulous as he makes himself out to be. Then again, maybe he witnessed something genuinely diabolical at a Black Mass and set out to warn the world of the dangers of the powers of Hell. (Smith also wrote an entire book on Summers that I hope some day to obtain.)

There’s some other bits and pieces in here too. There’s an essay on Florence Farr (a member of the Golden Dawn who shagged both Yeats and Shaw) and an autobiographical piece. Both are interesting and worth the read. There is also a short essay on Francis Barrett, author of The Magus, an influential book of magic; however, from what I have seen online, modern editions of Smith’s book have replaced this essay with another chapter on Crowley. This seems a pity as I really enjoyed the piece on Barrett. (If anyone reading this review has a copy of the newer edition, I would be happy to scan the section on Barrett in return for a scan on the newer part on Crowley. Leave a comment or email me.)

The cover of my edition is super lame, and the page numbers on the contents page are wrong (I don’t know if it’s a numerological joke or a mistake), but all in all, this book was great; it’s short, funny and insightful. I read it in a day, but I feel that I’ll probably consult it again. Timothy D’Arch Smith seems like a real cool guy.

Unseen Beings, Unseen Worlds – Tom Dongo

1Hummingbird Publishing – 1994

This is a real piece of work. Somewhere in the introduction or the first chapter, Tom Dongo claims to be an extremely skeptical individual who is unwilling to accept anything that he hasn’t been able to prove to himself. He then goes on to write a book about his personal experiences with remote-viewing, aliens, the astral plane, demons, telepathy, reptilians, ghosts, channeling, and banshees. One has to wonder what counts as proof in his mind.

I’ve read lots of books about stupid topics that were written by what seemed to be relatively intelligent authors. (I would have imagined that the sillier the topic, the smarter the author would have to be to convince a publisher to put out their work.) Take Preparing for Contact as an example. It is utterly stupid, but the author managed to sculpt all of that stupid into an impressively cohesive whole. Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain is a truly moronic nightmare, but the authors had clearly done a huge amount of scholarly research. Unseen Beings, Unseen Worlds lacks any traces of cohesion or intelligence. The author is an ignorant, arrogant fool of a man who has absolutely no ability to make sense. This is proof that anyone can write a book; it’s just a bunch of ridiculous ideas that popped into the head of a stupid weirdo.

2Ned Flanders… Wait, sorry, I mean Tom Dongo

Mr. Diddleyongo is of the opinion that many cases of mental illness are actually just cases of possession. He believes wholeheartedly in leprechauns. He claims that he can leave his body and travel around the universe. He often talks to spirits from different planets and dimensions. The man is a fucking imbecile.

Imbecile he may be, but stupidity isn’t a crime; the really irritating thing about Tom is the way that he talks about himself. He’s a know-it-all plonker. But, this isn’t really a book about the paranormal; it’s a book about Tom Dongo’s imagination. The ironic, and perhaps most infuriating, thing about this piece of rubbish is that the second chapter begins with the sentence; “I think I have read or am aware of just about every paranormal, esoteric, spiritual, and metaphysical book in print and many that are out of print.” The arrogance of that statement really put me in a foul mood when I read it. I would imagine that Tom’s reading was probably limited to whatever books were on the paranormal shelf in his local library.

I was going to go on and talk more trash about Tom Dongo, but after some consideration, I have concluded that he probably has some kind of mental impairment, and so it’s not really fair to make fun of him. I don’t think that a healthy, normal person would be willing to publish anything this cringe-worthy and idiotic.

3My copy is signed by the author too! Aren’t you jealous?