The Book of Black Magic

A.E. Waite

Since the initial publication of this work, many more books on ceremonial magick have been published, including such historical grimoires as The Key of Solomon the King. Despite Waite’s pedantic, pretentious and weighty prose style, this book is noteworthy as part of the 19th-century occult revival. Many people are first introduced to the occult by determinedly plodding through Waite’s books. This was one of the first books Aleister Crowley read, and it inspired him to further his studies in that arena. Although there are some sections outlining black-magick rituals, Waite covers all sorts of other material too, giving a sort of patchwork-quilt look at the influence of heterodox mystic traditions in the West. There are circles, sigils and lots of silly information galore—just the type of stuff an adolescent might want to draw on the cover of his notebook. The only really enduring magick in this book is the power to frighten suburban moms when their teenage sons start reading it while listening to heavy-metal music. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 326 pages

The Complete Enochian Dictionary

Donald C. Laycock

This reference work about Enochian magic is not a place for novices to start but rather a reference best used by those already interested in the works of John Dee, the court astrologer and adviser to Elizabeth I, and Edward Kelly, seer and mountebank. The book is a thorough dictionary on the Enochian language which was allegedly received by Dee. The preface by Stephen Skinner and introductory essays by the author provide a brief background for those previously unacquainted with the unique and quite elaborate system of magic in which the Enochian alphabet plays a major part, and the bibliography provides better sources that cover the history and techniques in depth. This reprinted lexicon is a must for anyone who wishes to devote serious study to the abstruse occult anomaly that is Enochian magic. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 272 pages

The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic

Israel Regardie

In the mid-1980s, Regardie sought to revise and expand his classic encyclopedic tome on the Golden Dawn. His result was an even more massive tome (worthy of being a good doorstop) packed with even more detailed information and a larger section on Enochian magic. No other magical order has had such a pervasive influence in contemporary occultism as the Golden Dawn. Many people pattern their magical practices after the rites of this Order, founded by Wynn Westcott and MacGregor Mathers when they reputedly found a set of papers containing rituals and instructions. These mysterious documents were supposedly from a Miss Sprengler in Germany, although it is thought by many that Westcott wrote them himself. Many interesting people were associated with the Golden Dawn, such as William Butler Yeats, Maud Gonne, Bram Stoker, Florence Farr and Arthur Machen. The Golden Dawn borrows liberally from the traditions of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Alchemy, Astrology, the Tarot, Kabbalah, the Egyptian pantheon and the Enochian magical system of Dr. John Dee. This is one of the ultimate how-to books available, with instructions on the making of appropriate banners, the ideal space plan of a temple, initiation rites, pentagram rites, Enochian chess and various magical minutiae. MM

Publisher: New Falcon
Hardback: 1 pages

The Golden Bough

Sir James George Frazer

One of the lasting contributions of Frazer’s Golden Bough is that it confers on the reader the ability to decipher John Boorman films. With the complete text running over 8,000 pages (go to the library for all 22 volumes) and the average abridgement running at least 1,000, it is clearly one of the weightiest tomes around. Frazer’s encyclopedic display of fertility religions, taboo, and primitive folk magic and customs is an unparalleled record of a vanished past. One example that particularly stands out is the rites described surrounding Attis and Cybele regarding autocastration (you’ll never look at a pine cone in quite the same way again). Frazer’s study isn’t all serious and dour. He relates a story of the acquisition of sacred kingship, the practice by which the most virile man kills his predecessor in hand-to-hand combat, thereby ensuring the fecundity of crops. Frazer then digresses to tell how the emperor Caligula (the secular Roman ruler) sent the best gladiator from the arena to kill Diana’s King of Nemi (the religious Roman ruler) so that he could further extend his power. Contemporary portrayals of indigenous peoples being noble à la Rousseau are nowhere to be found in The Golden Bough. Frazer is clearly Victorian in both his attitudes of superiority toward them and his desire to catalog the minutest aspects of their lives. MM

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Paperback: 864 pages

The History of Magic

Eliphas Levi

This remains one of the most entertaining books on magic. The lively prose is not marred by Waite’s usually heavy-handed approach. There is more lore of magic than material on magic itself. Levi’s stories are historical but one sometimes wonders about the veracity of certain facts. His storytelling is so engrossing that one hardly minds a confabulation or two. This densely packed text covers Levi’s definition of magic, biblical sources, Zoroaster, Greek, Indian and Hermetic magic, the Kabbalah, mysticism, ancient cults, paganism, Satanism, sorcerers, magicians, persecutions, popes and alchemists. His accounts of Saint Germain, Cagliostro and other 18th-century notables are particularly entertaining. Although illustrated with many Hermetic images, Levi keeps this book free of long digressions about this philosophy of magic. That he saves for Transcendental Magic (Dogme et Ritual de la Haute Magie). This book is a fast read and a quick way to pick up occult lore and learn fascinating tidbits about those in the past who were associated with magical practices. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 384 pages

The Key of Solomon The King

Edited by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers

Mathers, founding member of the late 19th-century magical Order of the Golden Dawn, assembled this key work of Western Hermetic knowledge from several manuscripts available at the British Museum. The Key of Solomon remains one of the best-known historical grimoires. Although the work is reputed to be ancient, the oldest manuscript Mathers works with is from the end of the 16th century. Although it is tempting to cast The Key of Solomon into some antique mold like the Masonic Hiramic legend, this volume tells us far more about the Renaissance occult revival than it does about so-called ancient works attributed to the biblical King Solomon. After the 1492 ejection of the Jews from Spain, many settled in Florence—then the hotbed of neo-Platonic and neo-Gnostic thought. Scholars like Pico Della Mirandola were all too eager to graft the Kabbalah onto syncretic Christian and neo-pagan frameworks, thus begetting all the correspondences cobbled by Mathers and later published by Crowley in 777. The book is lavishly illustrated with charts of “magical” alphabets, angelic tables and Hebrew-inscribed pentacles. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 128 pages

Liber Null and Psychonaut

Peter Carroll

Appealing to the lowest common denominator of occult fanciers—those wire-rim- spectacled creatures who haunt bookstores in their khaki vests and disheveled hair, who dream of “power” and “magick” but lack the requisite discipline to wade through volumes of complex arcana—this book provides a disappointingly simplistic portrait of contemporary ritual magic. Inspired by the works of Austin Osman Spare and written in a format pioneered by Crowley’s Equinox, this book lacks the complexity, depth or humor of either Spare’s or Crowley’s works. Carroll covers an array of so-called white and black magick rituals which appear to be for those already well entrenched in the “magickal” lifestyle, with the accompanying warning that one must be in good health before attempting any of these rituals—a sure invitation for some overweight tubercular fellow to snap it right off the shelf. MM

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 222 pages

Magical Alphabets

Nigel Pennick

Pennick provides a detailed overview of alphabets that have been associated with magical practices in the West, particularly Hebrew, Greek, runes and Celtic oghams. He outlines the symbolic significance of each of the letters, their numeric attributions and ways they were employed in various gematria or numerology. For example, each Hebrew letter, being also a number, allows scripture to be appreciated from a mathematically symbolic point of view, sort of like a biblical Brandenburg Concerto. Along with Hebrew and Greek, Pennick might have also chosen to examine Arabicas well. Its absence lends a notable gap in this otherwise lucidly written and well-researched book. Also examined in the book are magical, alchemical and invented alphabets. The lack of material on Dr. John Dee’s Enochian language is a notable omission in this section. Although the book is narrower in its scope than it could be, it provides an intriguing look at the uses of alphabets in numerology and other symbolic systems. It is illustrated with tables of alphabets, magic squares and historical applications. MM

Publisher: Weiser
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

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