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


Serpent-Handling Believers

Thomas Burton

A history of the snake-handling churches of Tennessee which is both academic and insightful, containing 178 photos of people handling snakes and drinking poison. There is a general tendency to view the Southern snake-handlers as simple-minded or insane. Such a condescending attitude is, thankfully, absent from this book. Author Thomas Burton seems to have a liking for the subjects of his study, and reports that one of the reasons he stays in contact with them is that “they are good friends. They are strong, courageous, ethical people… I am proud of their friendship.”
Whenever a snake-handler dies of a snake bite, it makes the papers. This helps create the impression that snake-handlers are crazy people who drop dead whenever they perform their insane ritual. This book makes clear that although a practitioner will drop dead now and then, snake-handlers generally are bitten again and again with little or no effect. Even more amazing is their ability to consume poison. It is tempting to dismiss snake-handlers by speculating that they milk the snakes of their venom and switch the jars of strychnine with plain water. Every investigation that I am aware of shows that this is not so.
The snake-handlers take Mark 16:17-18 (and some other Bible verses) literally. They believe that the best way to show their faith is to handle deadly snakes and drink poisons. Also described are their fire-handling abilities, which are completely different from New Age-style firewalks. They have an obsession for filling Coke bottles with kerosene, stuffing a rag in the end and lighting it on fire. This potential Molotov cocktail is then held under the chin and other parts of the body. Removing hot coals from a furnace with the bare hands is not an unknown occurrence.
Particularly interesting is the section of biographical essays of various snake-handlers. These accounts could be dismissed as the product of someone’s imagination if it weren’t for the fact that the author has done such a thorough job of documenting everything in the book. Snake-handlers are as close as the United States gets to a home-grown mystic order (excluding Native Americans, of course). Although only briefly mentioned in the book, parallels to certain Sufi dervish groups are noticeable. There is an emphasis on good behavior (adab in Sufi terms), a disconnection from a “main” or central church body, a transference of powers of immunity (what the snake-handlers call “anointment”), dancing and rhythmic moments that turn into a trancelike state while accompanied by music played on the instruments of the common folk. The appendixes include an electroencephalograph test on an “anointed” person and a technical report on the music used during snake-handling services. The list of references is extensive and complete. TC

Publisher: University of Tennessee
Paperback: 208 pages

Sex Mythology: Including an Account of the Masculine Cross

Sha Rocco

Illustrated with a number of Yoni-Lingam line drawings, this booklet purports to be a scholarly study of ancient sex worship in which phalli and cunni played a prominent role. Included is a section explaining the sexual vocabulary of the Bible, religious prostitution, and sun worship. JB

Publisher: American Atheist
Pamphlet: 55 pages

Skoob Esoterica Anthology: Issue 1

Edited by Christopher R. Johnson

From the ashes of the Skoob Occult Review rises this new anthology series, from the London esoteric book shop and now publisher Skoob, proclaiming itself “a forum for a diversity of viewpoints.” Highlights of this inaugural edition include the novella “The Stellar Lode” by Kenneth Grant from the mid-1950s, which gives rare insight into his formative philosophy, here structured within a fictional medium; a reprint of the January 1905 edition of The Occult Review; and two reviews of Kenneth Grant’s Hecates Fountain (Skoob), one by Colin Wilson, which is interesting given each’s Lovecraftian connections, and another by Gerald Suster which unceremoniously tears apart each foundation of the book’s assumptions. It’s very refreshing to see a publisher print such a scathing review of one of its own publications, and for that alone this anthology is worthy of support. BW

Publisher: Skoob
Paperback: 240 pages

Spellcraft, Hexcraft, and Witchcraft

Anna Riva

Anna Riva, the first name in modern witchcraft! Here the reader will find: a voodoo doll pattern; uses for grave dirt and coffin nails; an explanation of witches’ covens; an abbreviated list of gemstones and their magickal properties; and the best and most unusual feature, the “Secrets” A-Z list, which once and for all reveals the mysteries of damnation water, abracadabra, magic mirrors, how to get rid of warts, and a list of the tools to use when spell-casting. Useful! Hip! Fun! Easy! For the on-the-go witch of today! SK

Publisher: Indio
Paperback: 64 pages

Stairway to Hell: The Well-Planned Destruction of Teens

Rick Jones

“Follow a typical teen as he stumbles, step by step down the stairway to hell. Each chapter reveals another tool of destruction. Teens will see where their lifestyle is leading them and discover the only escape from the stairway to hell… Jesus!” Chapters include “Peer Pressure,” “I Can’t ‘Just Say No’ to Drugs,” “Inside a Human Sacrifice,” “What’s Wrong With Sex?” and “Satan Worship: Ultimate Deception.”

Publisher: Chick
Paperback: 206 pages

Supremely Abominable Crimes: The Trial of the Knights Templar

Edward Burman

“Who were the Knights of Templar? How was it that these powerful and wealthy warriors found themselves vilified and accused of the most depraved crimes? Through contemporary sources, including transcripts made by papal notaries, Burman provides a detailed account of the sensational three-month trial in Paris in 1310, which stunned observers, and reflects on the background to the myths surrounding the Order which led to their arrest.”

Publisher: Allison & Busby
Hardback: 304 pages

Symbolism of the Celtic Cross

Derek Bryce

Bryce traces the history of the Celtic cross from pre-Christian stone monuments to the 19th century. First he covers ancient pillar stones in Wales that served as a symbolic Axis Mundi, a link between heaven and Earth. Then he discusses market crosses that are seen in small villages or at crossroads. These market crosses resemble not so much crosses as they do the ancient pillars, designating a separate intermediary space. Bryce then goes into great detail about the design components of the Celtic Cross, such as early Christian iconography, plait and knot-work ornamentation, key patterns, swastikas, spirals and Pictish symbols. He sums up his work with a look at standing crosses, clearly connecting them as serving the same purpose of being an Axis Mundi as did the standing pillars in pre-Christian Britain. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 128 pages

Tarot Dictionary and Compendium

Jana Riley

This is more of a Tarot reference book than an introduction to the Tarot. As a reference work it is sure to be of use to both beginners and experienced users of the Tarot. Riley outlines the major and minor arcana. She provides thumbnail interpretations of each card from various commentators on the Tarot such as Waite, Crowley, Stewart and Wirth. Plus correspondences for each of the 22 major arcana, various interpretation of numbers, and some basic card layouts. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 320 pages

Thee Psychick Bible: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis P-Orridge and thee Third Mind ov Psychic TV

Genesis P-Orridge

Compiles for the first time dozens of out-of-print manifestoes, essays, quotes and other miscellaneous writings, as well as never-before-published material from the Transmediator Genesis P-Orridge: “In an age of collapse and transition we must find a language. A way out of thee corner donated to us by history. Thee human brain must develop, becoum thee next step in evolution. It is simply: develop our latent neurological powers or truly die as a race. It is a war for survival. Through experiment, through exploration of these latent powers, by visionary use of science and technology, and by thee integration of experience, observation and expression we must revere ourselves… Thee Temple is committed to developing a modern functional and inspiring magickal structure… We are thee first truly non-aligned and non-mystical philosophy.”—Genesis P-Orridge and Simon Dwyer

Publisher: Alecto
Paperback: 175 pages

Transcendental Magic

Eliphas Levi

Levi was to the 19th-century occult revival what Aleister Crowley was to the revival which persisted into the 20th century. This work is the summit of his literary achievement as a writer and popularizer of the Western Hermetic tradition. It is divided into two sections, one on the doctrine, the other on ritual. The end of the book is appended with a firsthand account of Levi’s evocation of Apollonius of Tyana. Each of the two sections has 22 chapters relating to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the 22 paths of the Tree of Life, and the 22 cards of the Tarot’s major arcana. The first section outlines such concepts as the microcosm in relation to the macrocosm; number symbolism; the Kabbalah; the Great Work; and so on. He methodically covers much of what most people associate with the occult. The second section is more practical in nature with instructions on the use and consecration of pentagrams and talismans, initiations, thaumaturgy—all with the requisite warnings to the imprudent. Those used to the step-by-step instruction available so easily these days might think that Levi’s examples are not as concrete as they might be. His writing style is rich and descriptive, making this one of the classics in the genre of occult literature. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 438 pages