Richard Tennant Cooper, 1910. Image © source

Pseudomonarchia Daemonum

Johann Weyer

Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, also known as the False Hierarchy of Demons , is a great compendium from the 16 th century dictating the names of sixty-nine demons.  The title itself indicates that the demonic monarchy depicted in the text is false, in many ways an insult to those who determinedly believe in the demons of hell.  The list initially appeared as an appendix to Johann Weyer's first book about demonology and witchcraft, De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Venificiisi, and was said by the author himself to have been inspired by an earlier text discussing spirits and demons.  Yet, it is Weyer's work—not his predecessor's—that came to be known by renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud as "one of the ten most significant books of all time." – Ryan Stone


Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe

John Boswell

“Historian John Boswell, one of our most respected authorities on the Middle Ages, produces extensive evidence that at one time the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches not only sanctioned unions between partners of the same sex but sanctified them—in ceremonies that bear striking resemblance to heterosexual marriage ceremonies. Drawing on sources in a wide range of languages—and on examples that extend from the 4th-century legends of Saints Serge and Bacchus to the ceremonial union of the Byzantine emperors Basil I and Michael III—Boswell boldly reveals how the same tradition that looked askance at all sexuality could also encompass—and at times idealize—loving partnerships between two men or women. Most impressively, he produces actual examples of ceremonies in which such love was formally consecrated until modern times.”

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 464 pages

Satan: The Early Christian Tradition

Jeffrey Burton Russell

God has one book [the Bible), and the devil has five in this colorful series on the philosophy, theology, art, literature and popular culture of Christian demonology. “This series constitutes the most complete historical study ever made of the figure called the second most famous personage in Christianity.” GR

Publisher: Cornell University
Paperback: 258 pages

Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch-Hunt

Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedecker

Answers the question “How could little children invent such horrible stories?” by breaking down the inherent flaws in medical, criminological and interviewing theories used to construct proof of ritual-abuse accusations. Reexamining some individual cases points to a pattern of abuse, not from the accused but from child-protection agencies. The abuse of children is there, but it is in the bullying interview tactics and humiliating medical examinations used to validate the fears of parents that Satanic ritual abuse exists. Homophobic doctors, hysterical career-minded social workers and “cult cops” provide a framework for a “mass sociogenic illness” in the 1980s. Why believe the children? Because the adults have gone nuts? Includes a doctor sweetly referring to incest as a family romance, a social worker who coos “we can have a good time with the dolls,” and a sheriff’s warning of Satanically poisoned watermelons. JEN

Publisher: Basic
Paperback: 317 pages

Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend

Jeffrey S. Victor

A sociologist turns his trained eye on the Satan Scare of the ‘80s, which began quietly enough with rumors of cattle mutilations and the book Michelle Remembers and then seemingly peaked in the media consciousness in 1988 with those astounding Geraldo specials like “Satanic Breeders: Babies for Sacrifice.” Actually “rumor-panics” about secret Satanic cults are still sweeping through small towns across the Rustbelt as America’s economic decline fuels mass hysteria, and innocent people are being convicted of “ritual abuse” (a vaguely scientific buzzword used by those who believe in the existence of secret Satanic cabals) and locked away for their entire lives. Explore the legend of how Dr. Green, as a Hasidic death-camp teen, invented Satanic ritual abuse while collaborating with the Nazis by combining his knowledge of the Kabbalah with scientific Gestapo brainwashing techniques. Learn about an Ohio child who was proclaimed kidnapped and sacrificed by a Satanist cult only to be discovered six years later by the FBI living in Huntington Beach, Calif. with her grandfather, who had actually abducted her; backward masking teen suicide cases; and the uproar over Proctor and Gamble’s Satanic corporate logo and its “profit-sharing deal with the Devil.”
Author Jeffrey Victor sees the unconscious appeal of Satan-hunting as a metaphor for parents’ fears about the future and their children, but he also delves into groupthink among psychology professionals, giving firsthand accounts of occult psychological seminars which he attended. He provides examples of similar “rumor-panics” in other cultures, like the legend of American baby-parts importers which spread like wildfire across Latin America in the ‘80s, and the French rumor-panic in the late ‘60s about Jewish mod boutique owners abducting teenybopper babes for the White Slave Trade by employing secret trap doors in their changing rooms. He shows how belief in “Satanists” confirms in a convoluted way the existence of God for those wavering in their convictions, and reconfirms once again humanity’s propensity for justifying its evil in the name of Good. SS

Publisher: Open Court
Paperback: 408 pages

Satanism and Witchcraft: The Classic Study of Medieval Superstition

Jules Michelet

“Michelet brilliantly re-creates the Europe of the Middle Ages, the centuries of fierce religious intolerance, the Inquisition and the auto-da-fé… draws flaming word pictures of the witch hunts, the Black Masses, the reign of Satan, and the weird rites of the damned. Here is the age of unbridled pleasure and sensuality, of luxury beyond imagination and squalor beyond endurance. Here is the time when a girl might be accused of witchcraft merely if she were young and pretty and did not survive the test of immersion in water or boiling oil.”

Publisher: Citadel
Paperback: 332 pages

Satanism: A Guide to the Awesome Power of Satan

Wade Baskin

Encyclopedia of the world’s deviltry, from AAHLA (Egyptian lower region) to ZWIMBGANANA (African voodoo creature). Sample entry: “TOADS: Witches were especially fond of toads, pampering them as if they were children and dressing them in scarlet silk and green velvet capes for the celebration of the Sabbat. They wore bells around their necks and were baptized at the Sabbat. They were supposed to have in their heads stones which changed color in the presence of poison and could be used as an antidote against it. Pierre Delancre says that a witch ordinarily was attended by several demons. These demons sat on her left shoulder. Having assumed the shape of a two-horned toad, they were visible only to those familiar to witchcraft.” GR

Publisher: Lyle Stuart
Paperback: 349 pages

Sati, the Blessing and the Curse: The Burning of Wives in India

Edited by John Stratton Hawley

The author of this book examines the history and practice of sati (the custom of a Hindu woman willingly being cremated on the funeral pyre of her husband), and presents arguments for and against this bizarre ultimate sacrifice. Needless to add, most rationales in favor are by males, and most opposed are by females—feminists, as the author calls them.
An Italian voyager, Ludovico di Varthema, related his impressions of a widowed Indian woman consigning herself to the flames in an act of self-immolation. He wrote that the women were often drugged into submission by priests clothed like devils, who then coerced them to kill themselves: “If the sati does not die quickly, she is recognized by her family to be a whore.” JB

Publisher: Oxford University
Paperback: 256 pages

Secret Games of the Gods: Ancient Ritual Systems in Board Games

Nigel Pennick

Pennick is convincing in his theory that the development of arcane board games (most of which are neither extant nor recognizable) was influenced by different systems of divination. But there is so much information crammed into this work that it can sometimes be difficult to wade through. After awhile all the game-board patterns begin to look like a procession of Parcheesi boards. He starts with shamanism, then moves swiftly through a pretty thorough description of the practice of geomancy, then on to the I Ching, astrology, alphabets, runes, sacred space and grids. The most interesting part of the book is his explanation of early, nearly extinct, European board games, and alternate methods of playing both chess and checkers. Despite the densely packed material in this book, it still makes for very illuminating reading. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 256 pages

The Secret of the Sanngraal

Arthur Machen

A collection of short nonfiction works by turn-of-the-century horror master Arthur Machen. He was the author of the bone-chilling The Great God Pan and other masterpieces of Celtic-twilight-terror fiction. These essays appeared in newspapers like The London Graphic, which are ultra-rare, making this book a must for the Machen collector. The general reader will also be charmed by the Welshman’s particular, bittersweet sense of all things bookishly antiquarian and his haunting nostalgia for a lost, pantheistic childhood. Somewhat less present are what we adore in Machen’s fiction—his talent for wringing preternatural chills from pre-Roman ruins and the not-so-dormant deities nearby. The new Machen reader seeking goose-bumps might do better to seek them in his stories “The Three Impostors,” “The Great God Pan” and others. Still, there is much in this treasure trove of arcana to delight any bibliophile. CS

Publisher: Tartarus
Hardback: 287 pages

Secrets of Rennes-Le-Château

Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe

In their acute analysis of scholarly data, the Fanthorpes decry some documents as as “historically reliable as a confession of broomstick flying extracted from a senile geriatric on the rack.” Unfortunately the same could be said for the Fanthorpes and their fanciful and specious theories which appear to be derived from a cursory reading of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. For the uninitiated, this theory holds that King Dagobert II of France (an obscure king of an obscure dynasty, the Merovingians), are descended from a hitherto unknown child of Jesus Christ. Allegedly, a pregnant Mary Magdalene managed to flee Judea and have her descendants settle on the Côte d’Azur and marry into the Merovingian clan. Despite the fact that the Merovingians were essentially bloodthirsty barbarians, the Catholic Church had a “secret” alliance with them to eventually make a holy Christian world under the aegis of Jesus’ progeny.
This conspiracy theory stretches across the centuries with cabals of powerful men controlling destiny behind the scenes. The Fanthorpes eagerly pile on many irrelevant factual points in an attempt to cajole the reader into accepting their short but utterly ridiculous “proof.” For example, in commenting on Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien’s connection to the Merovingian conspiracy, the proof is that The Return of The King is just a metaphor for the restoration of Dagobert’s descendants! Illustrated with photographs, maps, magic squares and quadratic equations attesting to the veracity of their theory, the bulk of this book has been presented elsewhere but seldom more amusingly. MM/ES

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 256 pages