Video Nasty and Year in Review (2017)

2017 was a pretty good year for me. I got a much better job, became a dad and went back to university (again). These changes, while mostly enjoyable, meant that I didn’t get to review or read as many books as I have in the last few years. However, I feel that the quality of this year’s posts has been of a decent standard. Here’s the best of 2017.

liber falxifer10. Liber Falxifer 
A heavy metal grimoire of dark black magic.

halloween and satanism9. Halloween and Satanism
Anti-Semitic Christian bullshit propaganda for assholes.

tarry thou till i come croly8. Tarry Thou Till I Come 
Including it here because, as far as I know, this is the only review of this book online. The tale of the Wandering Jew.

arktos joscelyn godwin7. Arktos
Some bullshit about Donald Trump. A very cool book.

holy-blood-holy-grail6. Holy Blood, Holy Grail
Jesus had a kid, and Hitler was a descendant of Dracula.

crowley book 45. Aleister Crowey’s Law and Lies
Getting to grip’s with Aleister Crowley’s bullshit.

faust demon 144. The Books of Faust
This one took a lot of work.

red book of appin scarabaeus3. The Red Books of Appin
Myth busted.

the aleister crowley scrapbook2. The Aleister Crowley Scrapbook
An interview with a Crowley expert.

robert anton wilson the sex magicians1. The Sex Magicians
My contribution to the conspiracy theories about the conspiracy theorist.

Well, there you go: Nocturnal Revelries’ best of 2017. (Just to remind you, as with last year, the links in this post are to the best posts of the year, not the best books that I read.) This blog has been going for nearly 3 years now, and I’ve reviewed about 170 books so far. I recently added an index page to the site in case anybody is looking to see if I’ve looked at a specific book or author.

Thanks for all of the support and interest. Remember, this blog has twitter and facebook pages to help keep you up to date with my ramblings. I’ve a few posts planned for the near future, but who knows what’s going to end up featured here in 2018. I’m going home for Christmas for the first time in years too, so I doubt I’ll post again until January. As always, you can email me with recommendations, questions, comments or threats. If you currently work in retail, know that my heart bleeds for you. For everyone else, enjoy the time off work, and don’t forget to go to mass on the 25th.

The Peculiar Legends of the Red Book of Appin

A few weeks ago, I wrote a review in which I claimed that all of the grimoires that I have thus read have been a little disappointing. The book in question, Liber Falxifer, had a good atmosphere to it, but while the ritual procedures were generally spooky enough, the end goals of the rituals themselves were just a little too similar to what I’ve seen before. In response to this complaint, V.K. Jehannum, infamous demonolater and black magician, kindly suggested that I check out a mysterious little book called The Red Book of Appin.

This “book” is, as far as I know, exclusively available in pdf form. I did a bit of research on it before reading, and the earliest mention I found of this specific text comes from 2003. However, a mysterious book titled ‘The Red Book of Appin‘ has been referenced in many works over the last 150+ years.

I decided to do a little research.

popular tales west highlands J.FPopular Tales of the West Highlands Volume II [1860] by J. F. Campbell
The first written mention of the Red Book of Appin can be found in what is basically a footnote to a story in J.F. Campell’s collection of Scottish folktales. The stories in this book were orally collected from Scottish peasants and the likes by the author and his accomplices during the mid-nineteenth century. Part XXX, The Two Shepherds, is the story of a lad getting assaulted by a very suspicious individual when making his way home one night. It is followed by another, very similar story, and it is in this tale, as told by “an old carter named John in Ardkinglas to Hector Urquhart, a friend of Campbell’s, in 1860, that the Red Book of Appin is first mentioned. The story goes a little something like this:

A man in Appin, a village in Scotland, adopted an orphan boy, and when this kid was old enough, he became a shepherd. One day, when he was out herding sheep, a mysterious stranger approached the boy and offered him a better job. The stranger told the kid that he’d make lots of money in his service; all he had to do was sign his name in the stranger’s little red book. The kid was interested, but he said that he’d have to talk it over with his adoptive father first. The stranger didn’t like this idea and tried to convince him to agree there and then. The kid was having none of it, so they arranged to meet up the next day after he had talked things through at home.

That night, the kid tells his dad what had happened, and this dad congratulates him for acting sensibly. He tells the kid to meet up with the stranger on the following evening, and he gives him instructions on how to make a protective circle around himself with the point of a sword so the stranger can’t touch him. (Note that this guy already seems to have some knowledge of folk magic.) He instructs the kid to accept and steal the book from the stranger only when he’s safely within the circle and to avoid signing it at all costs.

The kid manages to pull it off, much to the dismay of the stranger, who, at this stage, by transforming himself into many likenesses and blowing fire and brimstone, has cast off any doubts over his true identity. The kid waits till morning when the Devil disappears and then takes the book home to his dad.

(I’m by no means an expert on Gaelic mythology, but I have encountered similar stories of Scottish and Irish folk tricking the Devil (Divil). He seems to be a bit of an idiot when he’s in those parts.)

Urquhart notes that he had heard many tales of the Book of Appin from old people but that this particular story was the best. I’m sure that he chose the word “best” to suggest that this story was the most entertaining rather than the most accurate.

Apparently, Campell provided other origin tales for the Red Book of Appin (and other red books), but I haven’t been able to find their sources online. There’s an article by Hugh Cheape that gives these different stories and other information on the book. From both the quantity of accounts and their banality, it seems quite likely that there was an actual man in Appin who had a red book. Most of the stories are about villagers asking this man for advice when their cattle were sick. The actual Red Book was almost definitely just a collection of folk medicine recipes. These stories are too boring to presume that somebody made them up.

Ok, there you have it. The actual Red Book of Appin was a book of cow medicine.

red book of appin - ethan allen hitchcock

What’s this then? It looks fancy. This, my friends, is an 1863 book called The Red book of Appin : a story of the Middle Ages, with Other Hermetic Stories and Allegorical Tales by Ethan Allen Hitchcock. It’s a book in which the author takes folk tales and completely over-analyzes them.

It gives the account from Campell’s book, word for word, and then it goes into a bizarre analysis in which the author compares elements of the story with elements of the Bible. I gave up reading it after he says that the orphan in the story represents Melchisideck. Nothing of note here other than the fact that by 1863, the legend of the Red Book of Appin was already attracting lunatics.

Ok, so we have a quaint Scottish folktale and some historical traces of a curious little book about healing cows. Didn’t I start this post off discussing ultra-violent black magic?

Enter Montague Summers.

montague summers history witchcraft.jpg

Montague Summers, a man infamous for his anachronistic fear of black magic, includes the exact same paragraph on the book of Appin in both his History of Witchcraft and Demonology, 1926 (Chapter 3, p.86) and his Popular History of Witchcraft, 1937 (Chapter 2, p.76). It reads:

Such a volume was the Red Book of Appin known to have actually been in existence a hundred years ago. Tradition said it was stolen from the Devil by a trick. It was in manuscript, and contained a large number of magic runes and incantations for the cure of cattle diseases, the increase of flocks, the fertility of fields. This document, which must be of immense importance and interest, when last heard of was (I believe) in the possession of the now-extinct Stewarts of Invernahyle. This strange volume, so the story ran, conferred dark powers on the owner, who knew what inquiry would be made ere the question was poised ; and the tome was so confected with occult arts that he who read it must wear a circlet of iron around his brow as he turned those mystic pages.

The only part of what Monty wrote that didn’t come directly from the account in Campbell’s book is the line about the iron circlet, but the chapter in Campbell’s book that mentions the Red Book does specifically discuss the notion that “supernatural beings cannot withstand the power of iron”. I think it safe to assume that Campbell was Summers’ direct source for this paragraph.

Ok, so Summer’s paragraph doesn’t really add anything to what we already knew. However, I have little doubt that it was its mention in the works of Montague Summers that brought The Red Book of Appin to the attention of modern occultists.

Somewhere along the way, around 2003 it seems, somebody decided to write (or maybe just translate) a grimoire, but they knew that nobody would pay attention to it unless it had a cool name. On reading about the long-lost, mysterious Red Book of Appin in the works of Summers (or maybe one of Summers’ fans), the author/translator realized that his work would be a whole lot more mysterious (and hence popular with occultists) if it purported to be a resurfacing of that long lost work.

red book of appin scarabaeusThe Red Book of Appin – Translated by Scarabaeus
Year of composition and publication unknown

So here we go, the dodgiest book of black magic available for free download.

This grimoire supposedly contains the teachings of Vlad Tepes. That’s right; Vlad the Impaler is supposed to have dictated this malarky to a monk named Kirill. The text claims that “the devil-worshipping of the great romanian general is an unquestionable fact, which no serious black adept can deny.” This is a bit odd considering that we’re speaking of a (V)lad who once attacked the Ottoman Empire “for the preservation of Christianity and the strengthening of the Catholic faith”.

Authorship aside, what the Hell does a grimoire supposedly written by Count Dracula have to do with the Scottish Red Book of Appin that we’ve been talking about? Well, as it turns out, nothing at all; this grimoire is named after “Joseph Appin”, the English merchant who supposedly once owned the manuscript. The fact that the book was red is just another coincidence. Indeed, the only part of the pdf that’s actually red is the Times New Roman heading on the first page.

ritual red book appin scarabaeusOne of the book’s high quality illustrations.

This is definitely not the actual Red Book of Appin, but I suppose it could be a translation of a genuine grimoire to which the translator attached a name for which he knew there would be a market. Indeed there are signs that this is a translation. It reads a lot like the homework of a foreign student who has used Google Translate to change their writing into English. The grammar, spelling and punctuation are all absolutely horrible. I’ll be honest here, even if this is a translation, it’s a translation of absolute garbage. I find it very fitting that translator’s pseudonym literally means dung beetle.

There’s two main sections to the text. The first is a fairly standard list of demons, the same kind of thing that you find in the Goetia and the Grand Grimoire. The next section is on different rituals. These are absurd. The most entertaining was the one in which the wizard constructs a bell with a human corpse as the dingy bit in the middle. I can’t remember what this was supposed to achieve, but it was pretty funny. Most, if not all, of these rituals involve murderous sacrifices, including the killing of babies. I know that I complained that other grimoires weren’t nasty enough, but I found this pretty tasteless. There’s no atmosphere or cleverness here; it’s the kind of thing a teenage death metal fan would write. A load of shit.

sigil red book appinDoodles from a boring math class or the demonic seals of “Superior Creatures”?

There is another book, The True Red Book of Appin, written by Tarl Warwick, but this is an admitted fiction. This lad noticed the hullaballoo that this text was causing online and decided that he could write a much better version. Fair play to him. I haven’t read his book, but I am quite sure it’s more entertaining than the heap of trash by Scarabaeus.

So there you go, the legends of the Red Book of Appin. I somehow doubt that the original text, if it were ever to be found, would be as entertaining as the tales that have told about it.

 

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

To give the Devil his due

amelia wilson the devilThe Devil – Amelia Wilson
Barrons – 2002
I bought this book for 2 dollars from a thrift store years ago. I finally picked it off the shelf recently because it’s short and I needed a break from a very long, dry Gothic novel that I have been reading. It met my expectations but did not exceed them. The paper it’s printed on is nice, and there are lots of cool pictures, but it contains very little information that I haven’t come across before.

The first half of the book goes into the origin of Satan as a devil. It discusses Biblical pseudepigrapha, folklore and Zoroastrianism. I liked this part, and was pleased at the level of detail it went into. Wilson clearly does not like how Christians have turned Lucifer into the bad guy.

ride to the sabbathRide to the Sabbath!

Next up, there is a section on the witch trials. Nothing special. This is followed by a short and very disappointing chapter on Satan’s place in modern society. There’s a page or two on films featuring the Devil, and very cursory glance at how he has influenced modern music. The Church of Satan is mentioned, but the author doesn’t attempt to explain its philosophy. There is one reference that quite irritated me. It reads; “One figure who has stirred a lot of controversy, is Aleister Crowley, a renowned ceremonial magician and expert in the occult who wrote extensively on the subject. There is no hard evidence that Crowley was in fact a Satanist, although many people who do consider themselves Satanists have read his books.” That’s all the book has to say about Crowley. There is absolutely no explanation as to why Wilson thought it important to mention him, and the wording of her reference suggests that Crowley was a Satanist because many Satanists have read his books. By the same logic, drinking water and breathing air are also Satanic. If you want to read a decent book on Satan’s place in modern culture, check out Gavin Baddeley’s Lucifer Rising.

hell
Wow, this is the most boring post I’ve written in quite a while. In fairness to myself though, I wasn’t give much to work with. This book wasn’t absolutely awful, but there are plenty of far more insightful texts on the same topic. I’ll keep it only because I enjoy filling my bookshelves with books that mention the devil in their titles.
devil books

Die Faustbücher

faust demon 17It was long ago that I first noticed the big can of worms labelled ‘Faust’ on the shelf of literature,  and despite an occasional peek inside, I was never certain of the precise nature of its gooey contents. Recently, I felt compelled to make a more thorough investigation, but after determining to take down the curious container in order to examine its contents, it slipped off the shelf, smashed on my head, and covered me with its slime.

faust demon 13The (very cool) illustrations throughout this post are taken from Doktor Johannes Faust’s Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis (Dreifacher Höllenzwang, letztes Testament and Siegelkunst), the Faustian Grimoire.

The Faustian legend, the story of a man selling his soul to the devil for a few years of power and wisdom, has so many potential sources that it is quite impossible to say precisely where it came from. The character of Faust draws on several real individuals including Simon Magus, Agrippa of Nettesheim, Paracelsus and the actual Johann Georg Faust, a travelling German magician who lived in the 16th century. However, as fascinating a topic as this is, I don’t want to pretend that I have any novel ideas on the origin of the legend. My goal for this post is more to outline and examine some of the major strains of the rather complicated textual history of Faust. The Faustian legend has long been considered an appropriate topic for serious academic study, but despite, if not because of, the quantity of writing about this legend, it can be quite tricky to distinguish between the different types of books about Faust. I’m going to look specifically at Faustian chapbooks, the plays that immortalized the legend, and some Faustian grimoires.

faust demon 16

The first printed versions of the Faust story appeared in German chapbooks in the late 16th century. The very first and seemingly most popular of these Faustbuchs was titled Historia von D. Johann Fausten, dem weitbeschreyten Zauberer und Schartzkünstler or The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus. The first widely read edition of this text was published in 1587 in Frankfurt by Johann Spies, but a slightly different, shorter version exists in manuscript form. New editions of this Faustbuch almost always contained additions to the tale (usually appropriations of other folk tales), and as the Wolfenbüttel Manuscript dates from the same time as the Spies edition yet contains a more concise version of the tale, it is assumed to be closer to the original text. (We do not know the origin or author of the original text.) The Spies version was translated into English in 1592, and it was almost definitely this translation that introduced the story of Faust to Christopher Marlowe. (I got my info on the Wolfenbüttel Manuscript here.)

I read the online translation of the Wolfenbüttel Manuscript and the 1592, English translation of the Spies edition of the Faustbuch.  Both tell the standard story of Dr. Faustus. (I’m going to assume that my readers have some familiarity with the legend, but for those who need a reminder, it’s basically the tale of a smart lad who gets bored, sells his soul to the Devil for 24 years of servitude, spends the rest of his life either causing mischief or having theological debates with his Hellservant, and eventually comes to regret his decision just before he has his body torn apart and strewn in shite.) The Faustbuch gives more detail on some of the events that are only briefly alluded to in other more popular versions of the tale, including Faust’s trips to Hell and Outer-Space, but the sections in here that Goethe and Marlowe chose to omit completely are chapters in which Faust plays the role of a folk hero, uniting lovers or stealing wine from the wealthy to give to poor students. There was one part where he comes across four other magicians who are performing a party trick that involves them cutting off their heads and reattaching them. Faust gets jealous and interferes with their trick so that one of their heads becomes unattachable. It really reminded me that episode of the X-Files where the magician’s head fell off. The other memorable Faustian rarity included in here is an episode in which Faust temporarily curses a man’s penis with flaccidity to prevent him from making love to another fellow’s wife.

The manuscript version has only 44 chapters, while the Spies version has 63. These extra chapters tell of Faust seeking paradise from a mountaintop, explaining the nature of thunder, casting a spell on some drunks to keep their mouths open forever, showing the Duke of Anholt a big magical castle, getting Mephistopheles to summon him 7 beautiful women so that he can ride them, digging a tunnel to treasure guarded by a Hellish serpent, and a few other bits and pieces. Later editions of the Faustbuch doubtlessly contain more such additions, but I’m in no rush to seek them out.

And indeed many other chapbooks were printed about Faust, but they all seem to have been published in German and I haven’t been able to track down translations. Wikipedia mentions Das Wagnerbuch (1593), Das Widmann’sche Faustbuch (1599), Das Pfitzer’sche Faustbuch (1674), and Faustbuch des Christlich Meynenden (1725). I haven’t read any of these, but I presume that they are just slightly different tellings of the same story. Several of these texts, along with a bunch of Faustian grimoires, were assembled in a collection called Das Kloster by a guy called Johann Scheible between 1845 and 1849, but again, I don’t think this has ever been translated in its entirety.

marlowe faustThe Tragedy of Doctor Faustus: Norton Critical Edition – 2005
Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe’s play played a huge role in popularizing the legend amoungst English speaking audiences, and may still be the most popular version of the story. It was written between 1588 and 1593, but the earliest surviving text version of the play dates from 1604 (the so called A text). There’s also a longer version of the play, dating from 1616 (the B text). The B text spends more time making the Pope look like a dickhead, features slightly more on-stage devilry, goes into more detail on the Horny Knight subplot (not as interesting as you might think), and depicts a more gruesome end to Faustus. There’s also lots of small differences between the wording of the two texts. Both versions are considered canonical at this stage, and many printings of the play include the two of them.

Personally, I reckon the A text is probably the best place to start if you haven’t read anything else about Faust. (The additions in the B version are frivolous, and they upset the tone of the play in my opinion.) In the A text, Marlowe trims the folkish-fat from the Faustbuch, and while presenting an issue that demands contemplation, he doesn’t get bogged down in existentialism; as George Henry Lewis wrote, “The reader who opens ‘Faustus’ under the impression that he is about to see a philosophical problem treated philosophically, will have mistaken both the character of Marlowe’s genius and of Marlowe’s epoch.” This is the reduced nonsense version of the tale and genuinely one of my favourite pieces of literature. I beseech you to take the time to read it if you have not already done so.

Marlowe 2nd edition.jpgTitle page of 2nd edition of the B version of the text.

 I first encountered Marlowe’s Faust in a class on Renaissance literature when I was 20. I had a part-time job in a carpark at the time and I managed to read the two versions of the play over the course of my Sunday shift. It felt mighty good to get paid for reading a book (although the essay that I wrote about the play afterwards was absolutely rubbish). 10 years have passed, and as it so happens, I managed to reread the B text while in work today.  It still felt good.

The popularity of Marlowe’s Faust led to several other dramatic treatments of the play including William Mountfort’s The Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, made into a farce (1697) and John Rich’s The Necromancer, or Harlequin Dr. Faustus (1723), but these were mere pantomimes. The texts are online, but I have spent the last month reading nothing but different versions of the story of Faust, so I’m not going to bother with them right now. The next important development in the story of the story of Faust comes in the 19th century when Goethe completes his version of the tale after working on it for almost 60 years.

faust demon 4It is quite certain that Goethe was familiar with at least some of the Faustian Grimoires that were kicking about Germany at the time. (Although this image almost definitely dates from after his death.)

While there are two versions of Marlowe’s rendition of the story of Faust, there are two parts to Goethe’s. (There are several early versions and drafts kicking about too, but unlike Marlowe’s, there is some certainty about which is the definitive version of Goethe’s play.) The first versions of Goethe’s Faust appeared in the early 1770s, but the first version of a distinct Part One was published in 1808. It was revised 2 decades later. The second part was published in 1832, a few months after Goethe’s death. He had only just finished it when he died.

faust part oneFaust: Part One – Penguin Classics Edition – Translated by Philip Wayne (1971)
Faust: First Part – Bantam World Drama – Translated by Peter Salm (1967)

Part One is a relatively straightforward version of the first part of the tale of Faust. The biggest difference here, and this doesn’t really come into play until Part Two, is that Goethe’s Faust doesn’t make a deal with the Devil; he makes a bet with him. Faust bets Mephistopheles that nothing the Devil can offer him will be able to provide him with any real sense of satisfaction. Goethe also introduces Gretchen, a corporeal love interest for the Doctor, and it is Faust’s betrayal of Gretchen that makes this play a tragedy.

Goethe’s Faust is considered by many to be the single finest accomplishment of German literature. The entire work is full of allusions to mythology, philosophy and 19th century German politics, and although Part One seems very straightforward in comparison to Part Two, it still contains some rather weird bits that are hard to make sense of. Believe me, I’ve had to read Midsummer Night’s Dream more times than I can count, so when I saw the section titled “Walpurgis Night’s Dream” I thought I’d breeze through it. Let’s just say that I was very wrong… Also, Goethe’s Faust is considered a Closet Drama (a play that is not actually meant to be performed), and while it looks like a play, it reads more like an epic poem. Because of its complicated poetic nature, any translation is bound to be infinitely inferior to the original. Thankfully, one of the versions of Part One that I own is a straightforward prose translation. I read this in conjunction with chapter summaries online to make sure that I was getting the most out of the work.

faust demon 5

I first read Part One a few years ago, but I went over it again for this post. Directly afterwards, I picked up the copy of Part Two that I had nabbed from a free books table at school last year. To my great disgust, the translator had attempted to put the whole thing in rhyming verse. I went to the library the next day and took out a few different translations. They all rhymed. It turns out that the rhyming scheme and meters used in Part Two are actually relevant to its plot; hence the lack of prose translations. I judged the 2009 Penguin translation by David Constantine to be the best one. It contains brief chapter summaries and decent notes. I also found these online chapter summaries and notes by Bruce McLennan to be extremely helpful in making sense of what was happening.

faust part twoFaust: Part Two – Penguin Classics Edition – Translated by Philip Wayne (1971)
Faust: Part II – Penguin Classics Edition – Translated by David Constantine (2005)
Faust I & II – Princeton – Translated by Stuart Atkins (1994)

Part Two of Goethe’s Faust steers well away from the traditional Faust story. Here, Faust falls so madly in love with the conjured phantom of Helen of Troy that he travels to the underworld of Ancient Greece so that he can be with her. He is accompanied by Mephistopheles and a Homunculus created by his friend Wagner. (I wondered if Goethe, a German Freemason might have encountered the mysterious Die Sphinx, but it was actually published 41 years after his death!) Things get a bit awkward because Mephistopheles is a Christian devil (I mean a Devil according to Christianity, not a Devil that goes to mass), and devils don’t have any jurisdiction in the Greek underworld. The three lads embark on separate journeys of self discovery and each encounter a bunch of different, often rather esoteric, characters from Greek mythology. This is fairly heavy going; I’m decently familiar with Greek mythology, but I would have been completely lost without the footnotes.

goethe and defoeI noticed that this shitty version of Faust Part Two has the exact same cover as another shitty book in my collection. (Image is Eugène Delacroix’s Mephistopheles Over Wittenberg, 1839)

mephistophiel
Goethe’s Mephistopheles (and his Homunculus) seem to be extensions of Faust’s personality rather than separate characters. (I’m sure there have been essays written comparing these three characters to Plato’s tripartite soul, Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego and probably even the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) Goethe’s Faust isn’t a warning to the curious; it’s a deeply symbolic and philosophic exploration of virtue, evil and human nature. I’m sure the original German text is far more enjoyable, but Constantine’s translation is still a rewarding (if very challenging) read.

“These metaphysics of magicians,
And necromantic books are heavenly;
Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters;
Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.”
Marlowe’s Faustus – Act I, Scene I

Magical books play a role in all of the different versions of the Faust story that I have thus mentioned, and it was only a matter of time before followers of the legend began seeking/counterfeiting these diabolical grimoires. There are many grimoires attributed to Faust, but like everything else relating to this legend, they’re mostly in German. The most well known is probably Magia naturalis et innaturalis, oder dreifacher Höllenzwang, letztes Testament und Siegelkunst. Like the other Faustian grimoires, this work was supposedly written in the early 16th century, but the earliest edition dates from a few hundred years later. (This one was supposedly from 1505, but it was published in 1849.)

black raven
Magia naturalis et innaturalis features the above image of a black bird right at its beginning, and you might read online that this image has supposedly led to the book becoming known as The Black Raven. However, looking for a translation Faust’s Black Raven will almost certainly lead you to a pdf version of very short Faustian grimoire titled ‘Doctor Johannes Faust’s Magical Art and Miracle Book or The Black Raven or also called The Threefold Coercion of Hell’. I’ve seen a few other bloggers complain that this translation isn’t accurate and that it’s far too short. While I can’t comment on the accuracy of the translation, I can say for certain that this is not supposed to be a translation of Magia naturalis et innaturalis. This short document is actually a translation of a grimoire called Dr. Johann Faustens Miracul-Kunst- und Wunder-Buch oder der schwarze Rabe auch der Dreifache Höllenzwang genannt that was included in Scheible’s Das Kloster (original text here).

original black raven.jpgThe Black Raven of Dr. Faust’s Wonderbook

Owen Davies, in his Grimoires: A History of Magical Texts, refers to what sounds like yet another text featuring the curious bird, and so it seems that that the Black Raven is actually a subgenre of Faustian grimoire rather than a specific text.

Magia naturalis et innaturalis has been translated, but these translations have been put out in small runs, and I haven’t found a copy online. I really doubt that the text lives up to the standard of its accompanying images anyway; it looks like a Kabbalistic nightmare. I did read through the translation of the shorter Black Raven, but reading it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as trying to figure out where it came from. People distinguish between Faustian grimoires and Solomonic grimoires, but this read like a shit version of the Grand Grimoire: Draw a circle on the floor, say a few spells, howiye Mephisto.

An assortment of Faustian Demons from Magia naturalis et innaturalis

Well that about covers what I wanted to say. Hopefully this post will help clear things up for anyone doing preliminary research on the texts of Faust legend. There are of course many more books on, about and supposedly by Faust, but I have limited this post to the Faustian Chapbooks or Faustbooks, the major dramatic representations, and the grimoires attributed to the learnéd doctor. Although the legend of Faust is distinctly satanic and deals with the occult, allusions to the legend and the Faustian theme are to be encountered infrequently by anyone with an interest in literature. I hope it will be a long time before I write another dedicated Faustpost, but you are quite sure to come across references to this legend in many of my future posts. To conclude then, I want to warn you that if you’re seriously considering making an infernal pact with the Prince of Hell but are worried about the consequences… don’t hesitate. Remember that Goethe’s Faust got away with it. Open a vein and sign up immediately. You’ll be fine.

Oh, and happy Easter!

Satan’s Disciples – Robert Goldston

satans disciples goldston.jpg
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.