The Black Toad – Gemma Gary

black toad gemma garyThe Black Toad – Gemma Gary
Troy Books – 2012

I can’t remember what sparked my interest, but I have been meaning to read this book for a few years. The Black Toad is a collection of folk magic from South West England. There’s three sections in the book – a bit about general spells, a bit about spells that use plant materials and then a bit about black (bad) magic. I started off impatient to get to the naughty part, but in light of what I’ve read recently, I found some of the first parts quite interesting too.
gemma gary cup of toad tea.jpgThe book has some really cool pictures and photographs. I love a nice cup of tea myself.

It was only last week that I reviewed Dark Rites & Encounters with the Devil by Marcus T. Bottomley. I was rather critical of that book because I thought that the author had just made up a bunch of crap. Unlike the Solomonic grimoires I’ve read, very little prepatory work was discussed, and the author would instruct the magician to do certain things without any explanation as to why they were doing them. I didn’t think I’d be writing about that book so soon after reviewing it, but some of the stuff it contained was rather similar to the spells in Gary’s book.

The difference between these books is that Gemma Gary makes it very clear that she is writing about a specific type of magic. I’m not sure of the nomenclature, but I’ll just call this strain “folk magic”. Folk magic then, as far as I understand, is a mix of pagan, Christian and grimoire magic. Gary’s spells use parts of the Bible, the Sacred Book of Abramelin and loads of traditional British witchcraft. Gary also provides explanations of the spells she is describing. One thing that struck me as peculiar when I was reading Bottomley’s book was the inclusion of worn shoes in several of his spells. This seemed rather silly to me – what use is a smelly old boot going to be? Gemma Gary explains that shoes are potent in sympathetic magic because shoes literally lead us down the paths of our lives. I get it now. If you attack the thing that leads a person down their path, you can obstruct them. That makes perfect magical sense. There were a few other noticeable similarities between some of the spells in these books, and my general takeaway was that Marcus T. Bottomley’s book, although poorly written, was probably a far more sincere collection of folk magic spells than I gave it credit for. I want to take this opportunity to apologize for calling Mr. Bottomley an “awful wizard”.

I’ve probably written more about another book than the book I set out to review. Don’t worry; you can find more focused reviews of The Black Toad elsewhere online. I’m not a witch, but I found this book to be quite interesting. I have The Devil’s Dozen, another of Gemma Gary’s books, lined up to be reviewed real soon.

Spawn of the Devil (Inpenetrable) – A Quaint and Curious Volume of Forgotten Porn

The most exciting part of Francis King’s Sexuality, Magic and Perversion was doubtlessly a passage towards the end of the book where King is discussing how magic has been portrayed in works of pornography. He points out that most of the occult-themed porn that had appeared at the time that he was writing his book had been written by people who had no real knowledge of occultism. He mentions one exception to the rule, referring to a book titled Inpenetrable (the spelling mistake is neither mine nor King’s), a pornographic novel that features the Order of the Golden Dawn invoking demons, worshipping Satan, and indulging in buggery, rape and psychic murder. According to King, the author of this intriguing text actually seemed to have had a decent amount of occult insight.

francis king on inpenetrable
After reading this passage, I had to find the book it’s describing.

In a footnote, King claims to have traced 3 separate printings of this intriguing book. One printing credits a Joel Harris as the author, one credits an Aristotle Levi, and the last seems to have completely withheld the author’s name. King points out that the text in all three editions was produced by photo-lithography, suggesting that all three derived from a previous edition that he has never seen. He also believes that the texts he had seen were published in 1970 or 1971.

I spent a few days trying track down a copy of Inpenetrable, but I could only find one other reference to it. Ellic Howe briefly alludes to it in the penultimate paragraph of his 1972 book The Magicians of the Golden Dawn. He claims that this peculiar work of pornography had recently been brought to his attention by a friend. Judging by the details Howe gives (or lack thereof) and the year that his book was published (the year after Sexuality, Magic and Perversion), I’d be surprised if Howe’s friend hadn’t been Francis King. Howe provides no extra clues about the origin of this peculiar text.

ellic howe inpenetrable
The title of the book, Inpenetrable, didn’t yield any other results, so I decided to search up the name/s of the author. “Joel Harris” led to a dead end, but there are a few, scant mentions of Aristotle Levi online. It seemed as if this guy wrote two other books, Spawn of the Devil and In the Devil’s Power, but there was no other mention of Inpenetrable anywhere. It turns out though, that Spawn of the Devil was translated into Danish and published as I Djævlens Magt, which translates as “In the Devil’s Power” – the two titles were a result of my browser’s automatic translator. There was only one book. Spawn of the Devil (and its translation) came out as part of the Svea Book series, a pornographic series that was published in Denmark in the late 60s and early 70s by a porn company called Nordisk Bladcentral. Some sources credit the work of this Aristotle Levi to a woman named Erica Schoeb, but Erica holds the copyright for all of the books in the Svea series, so it seems likely that she was the series editor or publisher rather than the actual author of any of its texts.

After several hours of searching with these clues, I found an index of science-fiction pornography that gives the following summary of Spawn of the Devil; “Maureen Graille, a seventeenth century witch, is reincarnated in the present.” Bingo! King had mentioned “Maureen Graille, the heroine of the book” in his brief discussion of Inpenetrable. I realised that Spawn of the Devil and Inpenetrable could potentially be two entries in the same series, but judging by the genre I was dealing with, I assumed it more likely that they were just different titles for the same work.

Ok, so I hadn’t been able to find a copy of Inpenetrable, would Spawn of the Devil prove any easier to track down? Like I said, there were very few (maybe 5) mentions of Aristotle Levi or his work online. I don’t want to give away my book-finding techniques to my competitors, but I’ll say that after quite a bit of searching, wrangling, infiltrating strange facebook groups and google-translating, I managed to obtain a single copy of Spawn of the Devil from a dusty, second-hand bookshop somewhere in the Middle-East.

spawn of the devil - aristotle levi
Spawn of the Devil – Aristotle Levi

Svea Book – 1969

Let’s start off with the physical book itself. There’s a few scratches on the cover, but nothing you wouldn’t expect on a book published in 1969. There’s no cover image or blurb on the back. There’s nothing inside other than the story itself – no details on the author or advertisements for other books.

The text is peppered with typos, but the standard of the writing is pretty good. I imagine that the writer probably wrote other, less smutty, books under a different name. In fact, some of the sex scenes in this book seem so sudden and unnecessary that I would be surprised if the author hadn’t originally had loftier aims for this work. This might well have been intended as an occult thriller that was a little too sexy for respectable publishing houses. Maybe after a few refusals, the author took his manuscript to a smut house and was told that instead of being too sexy, the text wasn’t sexy enough. Perhaps he cried into his typewriter as he reedited his manuscript and filled it with “hot cock-sticks”, “quivering quims” and “tight little shitholes” as a last resort to get it published. I’ve read other occult based porn in which the standard procedure was one sex scene per chapter, but this isn’t quite the same. Spawn of the Devil frontloads the smut – once the story gets going, the sex takes a backseat. There’s a few chapters towards the end with barely any riding at all.

And some of the sex scenes are absolutely ludicrous. I’m by no means an expert on literary pornography, and I know that different people get off on different things, but many of the sex acts described in here come across as vulgar and hilarious rather than titillating and sexy. I can’t deny the fact that I greatly enjoy vulgarity though, and I will admit that the following two page description of a disgusting incestuous liaison made me laugh so hard that I cried.

spawn of devil erotica
Please read both pages (higher res image here). It gets better and better. LOL.

Looking back, one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book was Francis King’s assessment of the author as a knowledgeable student of the occult. The occultism herein is largely of the Dennis Wheatley variety, but, like Mr. Wheatley, Mr. Levi clearly has a basic understanding of what he’s greatly exaggerating.

spawn devil inside coverI presume the pseudonym is a mix of the Greek fella and Eliphas Levi.

This book is super rare. If you plan on hunting down a copy, good luck to you. If you’re not pushed, here’s a summary of the story:

The story starts off with Maureen, a witch, observing an orgy in the forest. She isn’t partaking, just watching. When she leaves, she is apprehended by an angry mob of villagers who presume she had just finished up early and was heading home. The mob go on to capture all of the revelers.

All of the revelers are burned at the stake along with Maureen and her husband, Tom. Just before they are set alight, Maureen promises Tom that they will live again.

300 years later, a pair of twins that regularly have been having sex with each other since they were children both feel a sudden urge to go and dig a hole in a certain part of their village. They discover a strange ring. The sister, who is named Maureen, puts it on.

Soon thereafter, Maureen is having lunch in a fancy restaurant. By chance, she meets a lady called Celia Aston. It turns out that Celia is one of the leading members of a magical secret society called the Golden Dawn. She invites Maureen and her brother Tom to her house where she shows them her magical book collection and introduces them to her husband.

Maureen gets it into her head that she wants to be in Celia’s position. To put a curse on Celia, Maureen and Tom perform a gruesome black-magic sex ritual:

sex ritual curse
Yuck, but also Hahahaha.

The ritual is successful and Celia dies soon thereafter. Using mind control, Maureen convinces Celia’s grieving husband to marry her within a matter of months.

Later on, during a Golden Dawn orgy, Maureen manages to summon a spirit. It’s either Pan or Satan, or maybe both. Only Maureen and a crucified prostitute that Maureen had hired for the occasion actually see the spirit. The prostitute goes insane afterwards. While this is all happening, one of the other members of the Golden Dawn, a lady named Nona, simultaneously gets raped and senses that Maureen is a bad apple.

After this night of black magic and debauchery, Nona and her boyfriend visit a very powerful old witch named Kyleen to see if anything can be done about Maureen. They don’t know it, but Maureen was actually watching them do this by means of black magic.

Maureen summons the spirit of Pan to kill all three of them. She is successful in doing so, but unfortunately for her, Kyleen had been able to do some summoning of her own. Shortly afterwards, Maureen and Tom are killed when their ship sinks during a cruise. Just before they die, Maureen reassures Tom that they will meet again.

The book ends in the future. In the year 2236, a set of twins are born, a boy and a girl.

Spawn of the Devil isn’t the greatest occult-thriller in my collection, but it’s nowhere near the worst. Its combination of black magic and silly synonyms for genitalia pleased me immensely, and I can’t imagine a book more appropriate for this blog. Moreover, the process of reading about it in King’s book, researching it, tracking it down, waiting to see if it would ever actually arrive, and then reading and reviewing it a few months later has been rather exciting. When I started this blog and began reading books by people like Montague Summers, Timothy D’Arch Smith and even Francis King himself, I was jealous of the depths of their research and of the discoveries they had made in the realms of occult literature. It may not seem like a big deal to most people, but I found it immensely satisfying to solve part of a mystery posed by one of these individuals 47 years ago.

francis king inpenetrable footnote

Inpenetrable was first published by Nordisk Bladcentral as as Spawn of the Devil, a novel by Aristotle Levi. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to know who Aristotle Levi (or Joel Harris) was. My reading suggests that he probably wrote other books (under a different name) in the late 60s/early 70s. He clearly had an interest in the occult. His repeated use of the word bollocks means that he was almost definitely British. This book was published in Copenhagen and translated into Danish, so it is possible that he had some other link to Denmark. Does this description sound familiar to anyone? I wonder if there’s anybody alive today who knows his true identity. If anyone has any further information on Aristotle Levi, Joel Harris, Inpenetrable or Spawn of the Devil, please, please, please, leave a comment or email me to let me know.

 

Grimoires: A History of Magic Books – Owen Davies

grimoires owen daviesGrimoires: A History of Magic Books – Owen Davies
Oxford University Press – 2009

Normally, when I review an occult book or a book on occult books, I spend most of the review criticizing the book’s claims and/or the author. Grimoires by Owen Davies is a no bullshit history of magical books, and thankfully, I don’t have much to criticize. This book was clearly very well researched, and it never gets bogged down in speculations on the efficacy of the books its discussing. This is an academic work, but don’t let that scare you. The actual history of grimoires is almost as interesting as the ridiculous back stories that these books so often include.

I’ve read and researched a few of the books discussed in here (The Lesser Key of Solomon, The Grand Grimoire, the Abramelin text, the Faustian Grimoires, the Necronomicon, the Satanic Bible) so some of this was revision for me, but there’s also a tonne of stuff that I had never heard of. I added a few books to my to-read list while reading this.

I thought I’d have way more to say about this one, but I don’t. It’s pretty good though. I’m quite sure I’ll be referencing my copy again in the future. If you want to read a book about the history of books of magic, this is yer only man.

How now, you secret, black and midnight hags? The Demonology of King James I

macbeth demonology jamesThe Demonology of King James I – Edited by Donald Tyson
Llewellyn Worldwide – 2011 (Originally published 1597)

King James (yes, the Bible lad) was a dirty cunt. Not only was he the British monarch responsible for the plantation of Ulster, he was also an insane person who thought that the devil was on a personal vendetta against him. His ludicrous beliefs led to changes in the anti-witchcraft laws of his day, and these changes were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people.

It all started when the boat that was carrying his fifteen year old Danish bride to England was caught in a storm and forced to stop off in Norway. He decided to head over there himself to escort her home, but along the way he also encountered shitty weather. After meeting his child wife in Norway, the couple headed back to Denmark, where James heard tell that two witches had confessed to causing the storms that had hindered him so.

When he got back to Scotland, he heard stories about local witches that had originated in the confessions of a woman named Gillis Duncan. Gillis was a maid who had been spotted leaving her master’s house during the middle of the night. The master of the house was upset by this and he took it upon himself to torture poor Gillis until she admitted that she was a witch. Her confessions implicated dozens of others, and this led to the North Berwick Witch Trials that were recounted in the 1591 pamphlet titled Newes from Scotland.

6 years later, James wrote his Daemonologie (or Demonology). It’s a treatise in the form of a Socratic dialogue on the existence of witchcraft, and, in truth, it’s very boring. James firmly believed in the existence and absolute guilt of witches, and while he was certainly well read, his reasoning is tedious, flawed and often ridiculous. The text is filled with all of the Biblical references and victim shaming that you’d expect from a witch hunting manual. James believed that God would not allow innocent people to be punished for witchcraft, so it was better to accuse too many than too few. Take a moment there to think about how horrible and dangerous that idea is… All together, Jimmy comes across as an arrogant, know-it-all, dickhead, and reading this text was a pain in the neck.

daemonologie

That being said, this edition of the work, translated, compiled, edited and introduced by Donald Tyson is really nice. It includes both the original and modernized versions of Demonology and Newes from Scotland, and the annotations are very comprehensive. I’ve seen other, fancy hardback editions of Daemonologie, but this is definitely the one I would recommend for anyone who actually intends to read and comprehend the text. I’m planning on reading more of Tyson’s work in the near future.

 

I’d like to think that this won’t have been the first story of witches fucking over the king of Scotland that my readers have encountered. James had been King of Scotland since 1567, but he was coronated King of England in 1603. It was three years after this that Macbeth was first performed. James was supposedly a patron of Shakespeare, and some people believe that Shakespeare actually wrote Macbeth for King James. James apparently believed that he was a descendant of Banquo, and although Banquo meets with a grisly end, you’ll remember that his descendants ascended the throne and ruled for generations.

When it comes to the history of horror fiction, I don’t think too much attention can be paid to Macbeth. It’s filled with decrepit castles, frightening visions, witches, ghosts, demonic apparitions, murder and evil. Also, it’s difficult for the modern reader to imagine just how scary this play would have been to an audience of people who were completely convinced in the existence and power of witches. It’s literally my job to babble on about Shakespeare, and because I don’t yet get paid for writing this blog, I’ll hold off from saying much more about him for now.

osculum anus holeKiss the Ring

I expected my life to calm down a bit after Christmas, but I feel like I’m busier than ever now. Hopefully I’ll get a few more posts out soon.

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.

 

Wicca vs. Trump and Voodoo vs. Hitler

I don’t normally write about politics, but here we go. There has been a bunch of recent articles (BBC, FoxNews, DailyMail…) about groups of witches casting spells to get rid of Donald Trump. Personally, I think that Trump is a piece of shit and that his administration is a pack of horrible cunts, but I don’t have a very high opinion of  unkempt, dreadlocked wiccans either.  And imagine the chaos that would ensue if their spell actually worked. Congress would round up every goth with a triangle tattoo and burn them at the stake. I think that American witches would do well to draw as little attention to themselves as possible for the next four years.

Anyways, putting hexes on fascist dictators is really nothing new. In 1941, Willie Seabrook and friends attempted to kill Adolf Hitler with voodoo. I found the full Life Magazine article about the ritual online, and I’ve uploaded it here for you.

hitler-voodoo-1

hitler-voodoo-2

hitler-voodoo-3

hitler-voodoo-4

hitler-voodoo-5

hitler-voodoo-6Pretty cool, huh?

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.

 

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.

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8. Seabrook’s Witchcraft

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

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7. Matthew Hopkins’ Discovery of Witches

The coolest physical book in my collection

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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.

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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.

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

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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.)

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.

Books of Black Magic

20160803_210246 The Book of Ceremonial Magic – Arthur Edward Waite
Bell – 1969 (First published in 1898 as The Book of Black Magic and Pacts)
Imagine, if you will, a man who takes it upon himself to read a bunch of cooky books on black magic and then proceeds to write about how utterly silly they are and how stupid the people who believe in them must be…  Sounds like a real cool guy, right? I’m referring, of course, to Mr. Arthur Edward Waite. Waite, famous for creating the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, is the author of this rather interesting book on grimoires, spirits, ceremonial magic and infernal necromancy.

Waite’s writing style can be painfully long-winded and academic, and nowhere is this as apparent as the headache-inducing introduction to this work. I don’t have a fucking clue what it’s about, and I would recommend that you skip it. Aleister Crowley, who is going to pop up a few times in this post, had a personal dislike for Waite and modeled Arthwait, one of the characters in Moonchild, on him. In chapter 12 of that novel, Crowley says; “Arthwait was naturally slow of thought and speech; it took him some time to warm up to real eloquence; and then he became so long-winded, and lost himself so completely in his words and phrases, that he would speak for many hours without conveying a single idea of any kind to his hearers, or even having one to convey.” Keep in mind too that Crowley himself was pretty bad for talking absolute shite.

 

Some of the minor illustrations within.

That being said, if you manage to slog through the intro, there’s lots of juicy stuff in here. The first half of the book gives the backstories to the most infamous grimoires. Waite breaks them down into three categories: books of transcendental magic – the least bad kind of magic, composite rituals – slightly sketchy magic, and black magic rituals – the purely diabolical. He goes into a satisfying amount of detail on the supposed origins of each text while also supplying his own opinions about their likely dates and places of origin.

The second part of Waite’s book, the Complete Grimoire, is basically all the good bits of the different texts that are discussed in the first half. It lists all the necessary precautions and steps you’ll need to take if you plan on summoning a demon to do your bidding.

20160803_210738Is this image over used? Waite and I agree that it’s not.

Waite’s overall stance is that Black Magic is really dumb and that these books are all forgeries for idiots. You’d wonder why he bothered writing a book about something that he had such disdain for. (If you’re a long term reader of my blog, you’ll remember that I said almost the exact same thing about his translation of Eliphas Levi’s book, Transcendental Magic.) He seems to have enjoyed making fun of gobshite occultists.  Good lad, Waite.

I simultaneously read this along with some of the grimoires that it’s about, and hence the second half seemed quite repetitive to me. The scope of this book is broad enough that it could serve as an introduction to the topic, but the writing is probably a bit too dense for casual readers. You can always check it out online to see if it’s what you want before buying a copy. Personally, I really enjoyed reading it.

 

20160803_210305The Goetia – Translated by Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers, edited by Aleister Crowley, and supposedly written by King Solomon.
Weiser – 1995
This edition was first published in 1904.
Original edition of the Lemegeton compiled mid 17th century.
Text purports to be from 10th century BC.

The Key of Solomon, perhaps the most famous grimoire, is supposedly a set of magic spells left by King Solomon. The Lesser Key of Solomon, or the Lemegeton, is its dirty sequel. (Although sequel might not be the correct word here. It’s more like when a band releases a collection of crap songs and covers that weren’t good enough to make it onto their last album; the Lemegeton is the Reload of Solomonic grimoires.) The Goetia is the first of four (or five, depending on who you ask) sections of the Lesser Key. It was translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Matthews, head of the Golden Dawn, and published by his protégé, Aleister Crowley, although by the time this was published, Mathers and Crowley were no longer friends. It has the usual crap about drawing fancy triangles on the floor and all of that nonsense, but most interestingly, it contains the names and details of 72 demons (most of which come from Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum). This edition also includes several of Louis Le Breton’s drawings that originally appeared in the second edition of Collin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal.

20160803_211006One of Louis Le Breton’s drawings of a demon, accompanied by Crowley’s version.

This is mildly entertaining to flick through, but the most interesting parts are included in Waite’s book. If you have Waite’s book, this book will only be interesting if you’re a big Crowley fan. The physical book is quite nice, as Weiser editions usually are, and it contains some introductory essays by and about Mr. Crowley. In my opinion, the best parts of this text are the pictures that Crowley drew of the demons:

 

Notice any patterns?


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The Grand Grimoire: Being a Sourcebook of Magical Incidents and Diabolical Pacts
Compiled by Darcy Kuntz
Supposedly written by Antonio Venitiana del Rabina and King Solomon.
Holmes Publishing – 2008
Source material exists from 1521, 1522, and 1421.
Text purports to be from 10th century BC.

Now, this is it; the boldest and most infamous of all grimoires. Like the Goetia, the Grand Grimoire has its roots in Solomonic ceremonial magic. The first half gives instructions on how to summon Lucifuge Rofocale, Satan’s right-hand man, and the second half is about how to summon other demons.

20160803_210901 Lucifer and his entourage don’t really come across as super scary in this one.

I bought this book a long time ago, but the first few times I picked it up to read through it, I became confused by the introduction. The title of the edition I bought is “The Grand Grimoire. Being a Source Book of Magical Incidents and Diabolical Pacts“. There’s no blurb on the back, and there is very little information about this edition online. All of these factors led me to think that it might actually be a book about the book that I wanted to read.  I sent a message to Darcy Kuntz, the editor, on Goodreads, but he never responded to me. However, after looking through it and doing a bit of research, I have figured out that this is a version of the Grand Grimoire and not just a book about that text.

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The bulk of this edition is a word for word transcription of the edition of the Grand Grimoire that our friend, A.E. Waite, published in the June 15, 1895 edition of his magazine, the Unknown World. (How fucking awesome is it that those scans are online?!? The Grand Grimoire starts on the 35th page of the pdf.) Kuntz’s book also includes some passages taken from Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic. The confusing introduction of this edition of the Grand Grimoire is a mash-up of the introduction in Waite’s magazine and some other sources. Entire phrases are lifted from the entry on the Grand Grimoire in Lewis Spence’s Encylopedia of Occultism, to which no references are given. Tut-tut, Mr Kuntz. Your name says it all! Plagiarism aside, I just wish the introduction had been a little clearer about how the book had been compiled. Then again, maybe the organisation was deliberately awkward to give off a more genuine grimoire experience. Summoning Belzebuth just wouldn’t be the same if the instructions you were following  were organized in a coherent order!

There are other parts in Latin or Italian that Kuntz claims were taken from a source titled “Le Grand Grimoire“, but he doesn’t elaborate on what this source was or how it differs from Waite’s translation. I have found a pdf of a more complete translation than Waite’s. This version includes an English translation of the Sanctum Regnum section, although the Citatio Praedictorum Spiritum section remains in Latin in both the pdf and Kuntz’s edition. The pdf version also includes a third section which is made up of other “magic secrets”, including the method of raising the dead that Eliphas Levi alluded to in the chapter on Necromancy in his Rituals of Transcendental Magic. (LET THE DEAD RISE FROM THEIR TOMBS!) What’s interesting about the inclusion of this ritual is the fact that Waite actually claims that Levi made it up. In chapter IX of the Complete Grimoire, he claims that this ritual “must be given on the authority of Lévi; for no available editions of the work which is in question, nor yet of the Red Dragon, nor indeed any ritual of my acquaintance, contains it. There is reasonable probability that he invented it to make out his case at the moment.” I know that the pdf version is definitely worded differently to Kuntz’s version, so either it is a different translation or it was based on another manuscript of the grimoire. If it was based on another text, maybe that text is the one that Levi had read. Then again, maybe somebody read Levi and decided to add his bit onto the end because they thought it was cool; I certainly did. This is the problem with pdf versions; you don’t really know how genuine they are. (It’s bit sad when you contemplate that you’ve spent hours of your life researching the authenticity of an online edition of a translation of a forgery.)

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This is the lad who shows up if you perform the ritual of the Black Hen correctly.

Other things to note regarding the compilation of the pdf version:
One of the spells, “The Secret of the Black Hen”, was mentioned in Waite’s book, wherein he suggests that it was a late addition to the Red Dragon (another name for the Grand Grimoire).  The pdf also includes several spells from the Grimorium Verum, including instructions on “HOW TO CAUSE THE APPEARANCE OF THREE LADIES OR THREE GENTLEMEN IN ONE’S ROOM AFTER SUPPER”. There’s also another short section on commonly held superstitions that ends with the statement, “I have related these beliefs to amuse our readers but not to obligate the readers to believe all of them because they are mostly nonsense”. This pdf edition seems to be a compilation of different bits and pieces from a variety of grimoires and books about grimoires. It’s still pretty cool though; some of the spells at the end are grizzlier (and often far sillier/funnier) than the first two parts of the “authentic” text.

If you know anything about the compilation of the different versions of the Grand Grimoire, please leave a comment below or email me.

* * * *

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I have other grimoires in my collection, both books and pdfs, and I’ll doubtlessly get around to them at some stage. I suppose I’ve talked more about the actual books and what they’re composed of than the efficacy of what’s actually written within. It’s hard to imagine somebody reading through these texts and trying to carry out the rituals, but I’m sure that attempts have been made. I think that the tasks described in these books, although ludicrously tedious and difficult, are less likely to prevent somebody from attempting the rituals than is the fundamental problem of Black Ceremonial Magic addressed by Waite: these rituals require the sorcerer to supplicate God to give them control over evil demons in order that they may perform evil deeds. Why would an all-knowing, fundamentally good, God grant such a request? Also, in the grander rituals in which one of the rulers of Hell is evoked, the instructions given allow the sorcerer to essentially trick the demon into doing his/her bidding. These are not instructions on how to make a Faustian pact; it is expected that the sorcerer will get away without paying for the demon’s services. How many times would the demons fall for this kind of trickery before they cop on? Personally, I wouldn’t fuck about with a demon. It’s only polite to pay for what you’re given.