There are some books that are required reading for the serious tarot enthusiast, and this list represents my top five foundational books on tarot – books that will provide a solid historical, symbolic and esoteric foundation for any student.
1. Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (available in English as Transcendental Magic), by Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse-Louis Constant)
First published in 1855 as Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, it became a foundational text for the French occult revival. It was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite in 1896 as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual and gained wider recognition among English-speaking occultists on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dogma et rituel became the first occult text to weave elemental, alchemical, astrological and planetary theory with kabbalah, the tarot and ceremonial magick, synthesizing the first wholly integrated system of magick. It served and continues to serve as the basis for much symbolism found in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and various contemporary mystery schools. While lacking in historical accuracy, and allowing for many liberties taken with its symbolic integrity, Dogma et rituel remains an important historical work for this reason. Continue reading
I was putting together a time-line for another essay when something occurred to me. Various religions that started as fringe have grown and expanded over the years, many becoming legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream (or at least, approaching legitimacy), but somewhere along the line we seem to have run out of steam.
Early into the twentieth century Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis or The Book of the Law, the central text of Thelema, a new religion or spiritual technology (I’ll leave it to those more invested to argue which description suits it best). Crowley joined the OTO and shortly afterwards assumed the role of the OHO, subsequently reworking its rites and rituals to integrate the principles of Thelema, effectively setting it up as a Thelemic organization, which it remains today.
In the late 1950s Malaclypse the Younger and Omar K. Ravenhurst received a divine revelation from a chimpanzee in a bowling alley. There they learned of Our Lady of Chaos, Eris. The Goddess of Discord was alive and well and continues to merrily wreak havoc on mortals, who don’t always seem to get the joke. Indeed, Kerry Thornley (Omar K. Ravenhurst) described it as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion… Even so, Discordianism’s still around and stronger than ever, even if it’s not always taken as seriously as some of its more greyfaced adherents would like. Continue reading
I’m just back from the late-night regional premiere of the new Crowley-based film, Chemical Wedding, here in England. Much anticipated, this film is the brainchild (or should that be Moonchild?) of Bruce Dickinson. He is apparently a long-time Crowley fan, and will be better known as the screaming front man of perennial stadium heavy-metallers Iron Maiden. Apart from a few peripheral references in recent mainstream film (one of the Hellraisers, Razorblade Smile, etc.), Crowley hasn’t really been touched on for decades – you have to go back to the often appalling sixties’ Hammer Horror stuff, based on Dennis Wheatley’s books, or the 1950s classic Night of the Demon.
The prospects here looked good, with a prominent Shakespearian/Dickensian actor (Simon Callow) in the lead role instead of some unknown no-hoper. The plot encompassed some science fiction angles (the film Weird Science from the 80s immediately sprang to mind) and it is set in a modern-day Cambridge University, with a chaos-mathematics/quantum physics slant on to proceedings. Crowley is essentially called back to life via virtual reality technology, and possesses the body of an elderly and befuddled professor, who suddenly becomes the Beast renewed (in a rather natty purple velvet suit). Sounded like a great premise, and the online trailer, released ages ago, was simply fabulous.
Well, now I’ve seen the film… Continue reading
This slight annoyance of being regularly asked by ‘fluffy Pagans’ if we are Satanists probably goes with the territory of being chaos magicians – at the very least we are supposed to eat a baby a week, it seems. The founder of Satanism, the late Anton LaVey, made the very pragmatic point that “stories of unbaptized babies being stolen by Satanists… were not only effective propaganda measures, but also provided a constant source of revenue for the Church, in the form of baptism fees. No Christian mother would, upon hearing of these diabolical kidnappings, refrain from getting her child properly baptized, post haste.” It’s all about the money, honey.
We have also had dealings with several people who would fall under the stereotypical definition of ‘real nutjobs about Satan.’ These include one especially memorable person at an academic conference on alternative religion that we attended a while back. Continue reading
Confessions 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