Fiction & Literature

Occult fiction, poetry, and literary criticism.

Review: Divine Comedy of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan, by Payam Nabarz

By Mike Gleason | January 11, 2009 | Leave a comment

Divine Comedy of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan, by Payam Nabarz
Web of Wyrd, 9780955685804, 64 pp., 2008

This is a strange little play, or series of plays, with a unique view of the Wheel of the Year. In a truly ecumenical spirit the protagonist is a Mithraic neophyte, the Goddess is Celtic, and the supporting cast is drawn from the animal world and the worlds of mythology in all its varied aspects.

I have attended a number of mystery plays (in the religious sense) over the years. I have read others. This comedic offering, by a Persian-born member of the OBOD and the Pagan Federation is, without doubt, the most entertaining. It does not skimp on symbolism, nor on knowledge revealed. Continue reading


Review: Fallen Nation, by James Curcio

By Psyche | April 5, 2008 | Leave a comment

Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning, by James Curcio
Mythos Media, 9781419672651, 271 pp., 2007

Fallen Nation, James Curcio’s second book, takes up where Join My Cult! left off. Agent 139 and Jesus are in a maximum security mental institution held as suspected terrorists after a restaurant was blown up in the previous novel. Agent 139 wryly comments:

“Bottom line: ideas don’t count for a whole lot in this world, but on their own, they’re mostly benign. Ideals on the other hand can get you a special jacket with one sleeve. Ideals can get you shot.”

Continue reading


Review: I, Crowley, by Snoo Wilson

By Psyche | December 10, 2006 | Leave a comment

I Crowley: Almost the Last Confession of the Beast 666, by Snoo Wilson
Mandrake of Oxford, 252 pp., 1997, 1999

A novel written as an autobiography of Aleister Crowley, I, Crowley depicts the years he spent in America, where he first met Leah, and the occurrences of the Abbey at Cefalu, concluding with Raoul’s death there.

It has been nearly sixty years since Aleister Crowley’s death, fifty at the time of the first publication of this book. A controversial figure in his time, he remains so today. In Crowley’s voice, Wilson writes: “The comic contradictions degenerators’ various ‘takes’ on my character are simply the price paid for individuality, and can be safely ignored by seekers after truth”.

One can sympathize with this view, though in fact the presentation of his character, life and writings are often heavily filtered by both his detractors and advocates alike; and depending on the final image desired, details are carefully selected to support these views. Fortunately, Wilson spares us such vulgarities, and attempts to capture Crowley’s spirit and style, and he is almost successful – a high compliment.

Wilson demonstrates his extensive knowledge of Crowley’s life, works, attitudes and mannerisms, as well as the contradictory nature of the Beast himself in exploring his inner workings.

The chapter headings follow the trumps of Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck, and numerous footnotes and illustrations serve to further inform the text.

Irreverent and often funny, I, Crowley is a wonderful read; recommended.


Review: The Oestara Anthology of Pagan Poetry, edited by Cynthia Joyce Clay, et al.

By Psyche | June 12, 2006 | Leave a comment

The Oestara Anthology of Pagan Poetry, edited by Cynthia Joyce Clay, Delight Clay and Raymond T. Anderson
Oestara Publishing LLC, 127 pp. (incl. index)

According to their website, Oestara Publishing is a co-operative publishing group made up of Pagans who read, edit, and work with one another’s writing to produce Pagan books, from poetry to fiction.

A Pagan poetry contest was held, consisting of two categories, free verse and traditional form verse. Each category had cash prizes for the top three winners, though I could not find the exact dates it ran, the results were published in 2005 in this little book, The Oestara Anthology of Poetry. Other contestants, who did not win the prize money, but whose poetry was felt to be of sufficient quality, also had their work included in this anthology, winning, in effect, a chance to be published.

The introduction details each of the traditional forms used, explains the judges’ weighting system, and establishes who each of the three judges were, Cynthia Joyce Clay, Delight Clay, and Raymond T. Anderson, who also served as the anthology’s editors.

The winners of each category are given in sequence with judges’ commentary directly following each finalist’s winning entry, though the formatting of their observations could have used some adjusting.

I found with no separation between poem and judges’ remarks it broke the flow and did not allow for sufficient time to settle the reader’s own impressions, to really feel each poems worth. As a result, each of the winning poems were immediately coloured by three opinions before one’s own could be formed. I would have preferred to see the poems stand on their own merit, with judges’ commentary being an added bonus tucked away in an appendix, where a deeper look at their judging process could have been more fully formed. As it stands, it seems jagged and jarring.

Following the two sections for winners, several other contestants’ poems are showcased, with numerous poems by the same author, and lone poems, flowing into one another, arranged alphabetically by author’s surname, and also broken into two sections, Free Verse and Traditional Poetic Forms. Several of these are also quite good, and others are imperfect, but beautiful in their vibrant imagery and earnestness.

There are some truly beautiful poems here, Last Ferry, by Cis Staubach, and Banishing, by Julia Swiggum particularly, from the winning contestants.

There are others that were equally beautiful from other entrants, such as Bog Oak, by Stephen Mead, and Recognizing Kali in a Young Girl, by Adam Byrn Tritt, both found in Free Verse, which are two of my favourites.

The poems all follow Pagan themes, some invocations and charges (Charge of the God, by Julia Swiggum, who placed third in the Free Verse category, is a beautiful example of this), others on different festivals, with Samhain being a particular favourite, it seems. Others are more thoughtful, such as The Trouble with God, by Robin Renee, the last lines which run: Krishna, was it really you who said / that each man must do his duty, thus the warrior / must make war? / What did you mean by that? / And isn’t it time you found the warrior / a better job?

Afterwards, two of the judges give examples of their poems, and then each of the three follow up with brief essays of advice, further evaluations and detail their thoughts on Pagan poetry and poetry in general.

The technical aspects of the book are lacking, with inconsistent formatting, odd breaks and errors with punctuation floating throughout the text, but that aside, this is a neat little anthology, and I hope to see more on this theme.

First published on Suite101.com on 12 June 2006. (Unfortunately.)


Review: Join My Cult!, by James Curcio (2)

By Chris Arkenberg | May 15, 2005 | Leave a comment

Join My Cult!, by James Curcio
New Falcon Publications, 1561841730, 256 pp., 2004

When confronted with disorder the brain will attempt to overlay some form or pattern to make sense of the chaos. The meticulous geometries often accompanying psychedelic hallucination are one example of this phenomena. The brain, it seems, is an organizing device that recoils at disorder and attempts to subdue it with it’s own imposed sensibilities. Such is the experience of reading James Curcio’s mindwarping novel, Join My Cult!

Alexi and Ken are two teenagers in suburbia trying to cut through all the normalcy and order of their lives by investigating the arcane and occult. Their deepening investigations into the nature of reality and the hive mind begins to reveal the seeming existence of an enigmatic cult: The Mother Hive Brain Syndicate. Johny, another teen trying to sort his way through a world increasingly inconsistent with what he’s been raised to believe, also discovers the fiendish machinations of MHBS. Meanwhile, Agent 139 and Jesus (and later, Agent 506) are clearly agents of MHBS hell-bent on completely eradicating the status quo consensual reality through an increasingly severe rash of pranks and thoughtcrimes, culminating in the destruction of a Lenny’s diner. Behind them all looms the mysterious mystic Aleonus de Gabrael – sort of a younger, more vital Alan Moore, or a more overtly revolutionary Aleister Crowley – guiding and educating the whole lot, possibly as the head of MHBS and it’s affiliates.

What are the aims of this counter cultural eso-terror organization? Cuciro never makes it quite clear and it’s uncertain whether or not they even exist, but that’s all part of the game. The narrative is fractured and hallucinogenic, veering from coherent tales of Alexi and Ken’s experiences guiding their group into uncharted waters, then diving into unhinged dreams, alien/entity encounters, psychedelic journeys, schizophrenic agitprop confrontations by Jesus and Agent 139, and then swinging back into deeply revealing and compelling thoughts on magick and reality. Indeed, the most astounding current within Curcio’s work is the depth and practicality of his understanding of those technologies commonly referred to as The Occult. Within the more sober dialogues Curcio presents an ontology that reaches into the soul and reveals to the reader the error of history and the path to its redemption. These insights are the unshakable foundation of a house that’s quickly falling into the ground.

The work above all is Abyssal. It’s fractured like the mirror of Self that recurs throughout the novel, plunging into the depths of madness. The sober voice of Aleonis is the only light through the dark night, impelling us to break the mirror but also telling us how to put it back together again. Solve et coagula. The characters are at once illusory and amorphous, difficult to pin down and understand, then suddenly and surprisingly rich with inner turmoil and suffering, deeply human and alive against the howling wind. Amidst the chaos, the heartfelt moments of confession and intimacy anchor the characters and remind us that they’re human too, in spite of the extremity of their divorce from the consensus. And it’s this intimacy, this thirst for community and a sense of one’s tribe, that Curcio is begging us to acknowledge within ourselves and to make manifest in an increasingly lonely and fragmented world.

At times the story hints at science fiction or some alien technology wielded with possibly sinister motives by the Mother Hive Brain. As all visions do, the narrative continuously fades from dreamscape to hallucination to schizophrenia, so any real attempt to follow some of these literary devices ultimately fails. In other words, don’t expect Join My Cult! to answer as many questions as it raises. Seemingly important elements of the story that are introduced early on are completely abandoned in the later half. Diverse characters begin to overlap and appear to be the same, possibly all of them only a single being reflected through multiple selves. Maybe it all happened, or maybe it was all a hallucination of Alexi’s. Like Wilson & Shea’s epic Illuminatus! (to which Curcio’s work has already been compared by Peter Carroll) the journey is more important than the destination.

Join My Cult! will surely baffle many readers and annoy others, but it should nevertheless be standard reading for anyone questioning the world they’ve been told is real when their experiences plainly contradict it. Consume it like a drug or a hypersigil. Just take it in, don’t get too caught up in finding patterns, and let it seep into your blood and work it’s magick. Join the cult, but know that, as Gabrael says, “the real order that doles out initiation, that creates the kind of synchronicities that brought you here and will carry you on to the next step of your mission, is the Universe itself.”


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