History and Occulture

Biographies, history, and cultural criticism.

Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition, by Marjorie G Jones

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Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition, by Marjorie G. Jones
Ibis Press, 9780892541331, 262 pp. (incl. end notes, bibliography and index), 2008

Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition is the first full-length biography of Frances Yates, who was among the first wave of late Victorian female historians. Notes were compiled for an autobiography, but it remained incomplete at her death, though she did leave instructions for future biographers.

The account of Yates’ early years are taken in part from the unfinished autobiography, and the journal her father kept about her growth and progress from birth to a young child, with notes on her character and conduct.

Jones traces her personal and scholastic interests through Continue reading


Aleister Crowley, by John Moore

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Aleister Crowley: A Modern Master, by John Moore
Mandrake of Oxford, 97801906958002, 215 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2009

A Modern Master aims to present itself as a cultural examination of Crowley, yet Moore does not seem quite up to the task.

Moore wries that one of his goals in writing this book was “to make excuses for him, defending what has been criticised as a more contemptible side of his character”. This is severely misguided. Crowley was who he was, excuses are rather moot at this point. (Do we excuse Baudelaire? Rimbaud? Berber?) Rather than attempt to shine up the unsavoury bits Moore would have done better to explore them in context and describe how they influenced his work.

Continuing, he writes: Continue reading


Fire Child, by Maxine Sanders

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Fire Child: The Life & Magic of Maxine Sanders ‘Witch Queen’, by Maxine Sanders
Mandrake, 9781869928780, 309 pp., 2008

I have been waiting for this book to be written for years, if not decades. As I have said in previous reviews, we need more autobiographies (as well as biographies) concerning those people who helped to bring our religion out of the broom closet. We already had Gerald Gardner: Witch and King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders as well as several books relating the life and works of George Pickingill, Doreen Valiente, Sybil Leek, and more modern practitioners such as Fiona Horne. The Internet has made it easy to find out about individuals’ actions. Their motivations, however, may not be so easily determined.

One of the things I enjoyed Continue reading


The Morning of the Magicians, by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier

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The Morning of the Magicians: Secret Societies, Conspiracies, and Vanished Civilizations, by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier
Destiny Books, 9781594772313, 414 pp, 1960, 2009

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to get out of this book when I picked it up, and must say the introduction already had me very concerned when the authors said “so as not to weigh down the book too much, we have avoided a multiplicity of references, footnotes, and bibliographies.” It should be pointed out that a “multiplicity” of bibliographies means not including any bibliography, multiplicity of references and footnotes refers to a sparse inclusion that information was taken from somewhere, but rarely stated where.

In general a lack of sources has me a bit worried about a book, but this book really supported that worry, for it wasn’t common knowledge, or acceptable stories, but it was wildly “out there” stories as fact, with no backing. Pauwels and Bergier felt that science was too constraining, and that people should open themselves up to the reality of other possibilities. A notion I can agree with, but a quick look at Continue reading


The Last Pagan, by Adrian Murdoch

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The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World, by Adrian Murdoch
Inner Traditions, 9781594772269456, 260 pp., 2008

Who was the last pagan emperor of Rome? When did he die? What did his contemporaries, and those who lived after him, think of him? These are all very basic questions. And they are ones that Mr. Murdoch (a fellow of the Royal Historical Society) answers in this enlightening and, more importantly, easily readable book. This is history told as biography, and relies less on dates and places and more on perceptions and actions – both those of the subject and those who wrote about him. Continue reading


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