History and Occulture

Biographies, history, and cultural criticism.

Thoth, by Lesley Jackson

By Mike Gleason | December 11, 2012 | Leave a comment

Thoth, by Lesley JacksonThoth: The History of the Ancient Egyptian God of Wisdom, by Lesley Jackson
Avalonia Books, 9781905297474, 225 pp., 2012

This is a rather unique book in that it does not attempt to be anything other than an attempt to show how Egyptians through the millennia related to Thoth. It isn’t designed to detail the hymns and rituals associated with Thoth, although they do figure into the account. It isn’t about his priesthood or his temples, although they also enter into the account

There are numerous books which relate how the dynastic families of ancient Egypt related to Thoth, but very few which give any indication how commoners saw their interaction with the God of Wisdom in his various functions of scribe, messenger of the gods, protector, and psychopomp . While the average Egyptian might expect that they would never encounter the majority of their gods, Thoth was their guide in the afterlife, and everyone – no matter how high or low their status – would meet him during their transition between life and afterlife. Continue reading


Sun at Midnight, by Geoffrey Ahern

By Mike Gleason | September 21, 2011 | Leave a comment

Sun at Midnight, by Geoffrey AhernSun at Midnight: The Rudolf Steiner Movement and Gnosis in the West, by Geoffrey Ahern
James Clarke and Co., 9780227172933, 279 pp., 2009

Anthroposophy, and its founder Rudolf Steiner, are topics which, like many others I am sure, I have bumped into during my tears of study. This book, a reworking of Dr. Ahern’s PhD work, is one of those areas I wanted to re-examine. Anthroposophy (and Theosophy, from which it split off in the early 2oth century) underlie much of Western esoteric thought and are, if for no other reason, worthy of study.

Anthroposophy – at least in its “pure” form – is extremely Christo-centric, which may present a stumbling block for some. This is not, however, unexpected as its origins date to a time and place (late 19th century Austria/Germany), which was not particularly, with tolerant of non-Christian religious express, with few exceptions. Continue reading


Confessions of a Black Magician, by Nathan Neuharth

By Psyche | July 27, 2011 | 1 comment

Confessions of a Black Magician, by Nathan NeuharthConfessions of a Black Magician, by Nathan Neuharth
Original Falcon Press, 9781935150794, 191 pp., 2010

Our hero in this tale is the author himself, and as no occultist anywhere ever had but one name, he’s known variously as Nathan Neuharth, Frater Parsifal, and Natas, or Saint Natas.

The book opens with his initiation into the Golden Dawn, introducing a colourful cast of characters in his new fraters and sorors. Neuharth allies himself with Fater Azazel, a brother in the order who shares his affinity for Aleister Crowley and Thelemic magick. His experiments lead him to encounters with angels, and devils too, not to mention aliens and Atlanteans who offer him questionable messages.

Inspired by Jack Parson’s Babalon Working, Neuharth seeks to undertake a similar project he called the Babalon Isis Working. Various incarnations of Babalon appear as she is won, lost, regained and eventually walks out of his life. In the process Neuharth loses his wife, his kids, his job and very possibly his mind. Continue reading


The Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal, by Judith Joyce

By Lili Saintcrow | July 11, 2011 | Leave a comment

The Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal, by Judith JoyceThe Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal: Abductions, Apparitions, ESP, Synchronicity, and More Unexplained Phenomena from Other Realms, by Judith Joyce
Weiser Books, 9781578634880, 210 pp. (incl. resource guide and index), 2011

Setting out to write a field guide to the paranormal is perhaps the definition of thankless task. There are bound to be quibbles with what one includes or doesn’t, and even terminology is certain to be contentious. Judith Joyce’s bravery is only matched by her handling of competing interpretations within the entries of this field guide, though the overwhelming impression in this particular book is one of editorial bias.

The “field guide” focuses very heavily on Victorian-era Spiritualism and UFOs instead of taking a broader view. With the American study of the paranormal so heavily influenced (and indeed, in the 19th century pretty much exclusively funded by) by Spiritualists, it was perhaps a legitimate choice, though not to my personal taste. In some cases (like the entry on Lily Dale) said emphasis threatens to choke the guide as a whole. A better title might have been “A Field Guide to Spiritualism and UFOs, with Some Other Cool Stuff Slid in Around the Edges.” Continue reading


Man-Made Monsters, by Dr Bob Curran

By Psyche | April 29, 2011 | 1 comment

Man-Made Monsters, by Dr Bob CurranMan-Made Monsters: A Field Guide to Golems, Patchwork Solders, Homunculi, and Other Created Creatures, by Dr Bob Curran, illustrated by Ian Daniels
New Page Books, 9781601631367, 184 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2011

Dr Bob Curran is a history teacher with several books to his name, all dealing with fantastic creatures: Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, and Dark Fairies, among others. His latest is Man-Made Monsters, which explores possible origins for created creatures.

Curran begins with the quintessential man-made monster of modern times, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He looks at possible sources which may have inspired Shelley’s story, such as the experiments of Giovanni Aldini, Mr Pass, George Foster, Johann Konrad Dippel, and other stories of reanimation which she may have encountered. Continue reading


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