The Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult, edited by Richard Metzger
Disinformation, 9781938875106, 352 pp., 2004, 2014
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “grimoire,” I think of dusty old tomes full of alchemical esoterica and glyphs in some cobwebbed book shoppe that smells of sandalwood, possibly helmed by a bearded man in a fez.
The Book of Lies, from the legendary Disinformation imprint, is a grimoire for the 21st century. It breaks the carbonite stasis of this kind of outmoded thinking, and zooms into the present. It’s a wonderful primer on postmodern magick, broken up into sections, from Magick in Theory and Practice, to Occult Icons to Scarlet Women, Secret Societies, as well as a section dedicated solely to the 20th century’s most infamous mage, Aleister Crowley. The Book of Lies is comprised of 40 essays from some of the occult underground’s leading lights, including Invisibles‘ author Grant Morrison; tryptamine consciousness from Terence McKenna; Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV alien Genesis P-Orridge; to leading chaote Phil Hine; biblical apocrypha from Boyd Rice; and anarchist activist Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson). Continue reading
Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing, by Renna Shesso
Weiser Books, 9781578635733, 261 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2014
One of my strongest childhood memories is of a night in Mahopac, in upstate New York, lying on a chaise lounge on a family friend’s deck, mesmerized by a sky filled with stars! Where did they come from? To a city kid who saw a mostly dark sky every night, who was enamoured of astronomy at the time, the brightness and number of stars was incredible. This was proof that they really were there for me, too, and not only for some astronomer sitting behind a telescope in a desert or on a mountaintop.
One of the first things Renna Shesso writes – in fact, insists on – is going outside and looking at the sky, even if all you can see are a few of the brightest stars and planets. There is no substitute for direct witnessing, she tells us, and she’s so right. She explains how to identify the constellations and the space between their constituent stars using our hands – no fancy instruments required. This is the way our ancestors did it – who saw quite a bit more in the night sky than we do — and it still works. Continue reading
We’ve had a fantastic year so far, and it’s all to you — our supporters and readers.
In the spirit of the holidays, I decided to put together a list of our seven most popular reviews from 2014. As you’ve no doubt noticed, while we focus on alternative spirituality and practical magick, we review books from a range of beliefs and practices, and this list is no different.
Click on the title link to take you to the full reviews. Maybe you’ll find your next gift idea, or something to spend that gift card on.
Avalon, by Heather Dale
Reviewed by Brendan Myers
Dale’s voice is gentle and inviting, yet deliberate and strong, like a warm fire in a comfortable home while a storm blows outside.
The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets, by Claude Lecouteux
Reviewed by Freeman Presson
The summary of the talismanic art is broad, drawing on more sources than just Agrippa and The Picatrix.
William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard
Reviewed by Gesigewigu’s
If you’re a William Blake fan, or even just curious about the subtle mystical sexual undercurrents in Christian Europe at the time, this is a great book for you. Continue reading
The Weiser Book of Horror and the Occult, edited and introduced by Lon Milo DuQuette
Weiser Books, 9781578635726, 352 pp., 2014
Unless you are fortunate enough to have been raised in a coven or born to a jackal, the odds are good that your first introduction into the worlds of magick and the occult probably came from the realms of fantasy and horror.
This was the case for esteemed occultist Lon Milo DuQuette, an Enochian expert, demonologist, and member of the Ordo Templi Orientis. In the introduction to The Weiser Book of Horror and the Occult, DuQuette discusses a typical rebellious childhood in the American Heartland of Nebraska in the 1950s: a world of Aurora Monster kits, paranoid sci-fi thrillers radiating from black and white cathode rays, and the subconscious darkness that has always haunted the American psyche. Continue reading
The Wicca Deck, by Sally Morningstar, illustrated by Danuta Mayer
Connections Book Publishing, 978-1-85906-380-4, 42 cards plus instruction booklet, 2014
When The Wicca Deck came up for review I was excited to put in my bid for it. I’ve worked with tarot and oracle decks for about a decade, but never one based on my own spiritual path. The Wicca Deck is a 42-card oracle deck originally published by Godsfield Press in Great Britain in 2001 and republished this year by Connections, also from Great Britain. Some key elements account for its staying power.
First, the illustrations are simple, cleanly drawn and easily relate to their titles and keywords, reminiscent of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot. There is some abstract art in the cards, but card themes are always easy to detect; this is perhaps because the artist, Danuta Mayer, illustrates children’s books, which usually depict real, basic objects. The clarity works well in this deck. The nature of the Wiccan path is diverse; every practitioner has a slightly different vision, and by keeping visuals straightforward one is invited to see the cards in her own way.
As you’d expect, the artistic interpretations are clearly Wiccan: The Green Man is depicted as the classic face on a tree, Spiral is depicted as the spiral goddess, Black Cat (my favourite) depicts a cat in an Egyptian temple, taking her rightful place as the goddess Bast. Continue reading
Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth: An Introduction to Spiritual Ecology, by John Michael Greer
Weiser Books, 9781578634897, 140 pp., 2012
Reading Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth was a curious experience. I felt like I was reading two books at once: the first describing spiritual teachings we can derive from ecological laws; the second, how the mystery teachings are being misinterpreted and distorted by more modern spiritual movements.
Greer devotes much time to discussing why the belief that one can create one’s own reality is a partial truth and how popular spiritual movements promulgate that belief. He points out that this has been a corruption of the mystery school teaching that we are created by the reality that was here before us and that we always co-create with that reality. He nails it when he says: Continue reading