Dictionary of Occult, Hermetic and Alchemical Sigils by Fred Gettings
Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1981 

 

 “When the wise men of old (whom we call in the Greek tongue ‘Philosophers’) found any arcana, any hidden things, either of a natural kind, or resulting from the activities of man, they were accustomed to hide these in various ways and with the aid of figures.”
— Crollius

 

As I was perusing my university’s library the other day, I was thinking, “My, for a Catholic school, this place sure does have a lot of occult books” which seconds later was followed by, “Oh, right…” Regardless of any preconceived notions I might have had about what books can be found in which locations, I’m quite happy to have found this one. At least now, despite the odd looks I received while signing it out, I can read it for free, as opposed to spending $500 to $1000 and buying it used off Amazon.

 

For a dictionary, it’s fairly readable, in part because each entry is so brief. The first paragraph of the author’s introduction describes the book as a “reference, guide and source-book for those involved in general occult studies” (7). I must disagree. It’s for obsessive geeks working through old texts on alchemy. And maybe a demonologist or two. Beyond that, it’s simply far too extensive to be more than a curiosity in a collector’s library. (I desperately want a copy of my own.)

 

As for what it contains, the author gives “the meaning of over 9,000 sigils which appear in European alchemical, astrological, geomantic and related hermetic sources, along with a unique graphic index by means of which the majority of such sigils may be identified” (7). This index is especially useful if you’ve found a sigil but have no idea what it might mean. It’s organized by how many pen strokes it would take to draw the sigil, and whether the drawn lines are straight, curved, enclosed, or contain circles or other shapes. The appendices contain lists of sigils drawn from specific texts, which is helpful if you want to compare sources and dates.

 

Besides drooling over the bibliography, I was also interested in the collection of ‘secret scripts’ (read: magical alphabets) presented. Having been a victim of Bad Neo-Pagan Referencing (or would that be The Bad Referencing of Neo-Pagans?) for a number of years, it was nice to see the sources of some of the alphabets that I’d found randomly tossed into New Age books. I enjoyed just picking the book up and reading random pages, though I haven’t found much practical use for the information. Unless you belong to one of the categories in paragraph two, I’d recommend looking for a copy in a library rather than hunting down and buying the book.

 

Oh, and for a more intellectual review, click here.

The Horn of Evenwood

March 23, 2008

The Horn of Evenwood by Robin Artisson
Pendraig Publishing, 2007

  The moment you’ve pinned him down, you find yourself staring at the bare ground, the empty sky, a dim forest, or just handfuls of dust. What you thought was a fleshy body is just bare white bone, and when you grasp for the bones, they turn out to be slivers of light on the ground.”
— Artisson

 Having dithered over the introduction to this review off and on for several days now, I’ve decided just to state that although at times I have found Artisson’s writing to be long-winded, I have never been disappointed by it. His most recent effort is a tidy grimoire and sourcebook for those interested in pursuing a more traditional witchcraft path. It engages the spirit of the writings of Nigel Jackson and Robert Cochrane and is a fascinating elaboration on the themes of their work. 

Artisson describes his book as a tool kit, rather than a recipe book. He gives techniques designed to help you forge relationships with the spirit world, and although his “exemplary sorcerous workings” can be used as written, they are meant to show one possible method of doing things. This is a teaching grimoire, and to make the most of it, you have to apply what has been written to your own practice, rather than just following along.  

The book begins with Artisson’s absolutely chilling invocations. Simply reading the poetry gave me shivers. These are given without explanation; Artisson states that as you read on in the book, you can figure out what to do with them and how to create your own. The reader’s engagement with the text is required; this is not a 101 book where everything is laid out in front of you. You have to think about it, and sometimes, to not think about it.    

Next is a section called the Ten Pillars, which consists of some basic points to ground your practice of witchcraft. These include brief instructions on preparing materials for talismans, old-school (seven planets) astrology, the power of spoken words, familiar spirits, and a few other concepts that should be taken into consideration. The section ends with a few practical notes about tools and what Artisson calls the “Power that Binds,” meaning the weaving that holds the worlds together. He asks the reader to really think about how our words and actions affect ourselves and everything else.  

I think this is one of the reasons why I keep returning to Artisson’s writing. There is a deeper level to it, an underlying philosophy that holds true throughout his works. All of his further ideas for rites or spells are built up from this foundation of relationships with the spirits, the quest for true knowledge, and the recognition of Old Fate Herself.  

Continuing on in the book, Artisson offers a method of casting a Witch-Ring and several sigils for invoking the Huntsman, the Witch-Queen, and the Master. I wasn’t as impressed with Artisson’s chapter on the Mandrake plant, mostly because I didn’t see anything new, although there is a lot of good information gathered there for someone unfamiliar with the plant. I especially liked that he gave a way of using the Mandrake that encourages people to grow it, rather than going to a New Age shop and buying root chips in a plastic bag. 

Some of the most interesting pieces of information in the book are Artisson’s thoughts on the Horned Master of witches. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it in the Luciferian current, the ideas are certainly leaning that way. Several meditations on the subject are included, and they (along with the section on arcane flight) are worth the price of the book by themselves. (Also, the appendices of various sorcerous currents, such as Lunar or Mercurial, are more useful than any correspondence table could ever be.)

In Part Six, Artisson takes a charm from the Long Lost Friend, deconstructs it, and puts it back together again in various usable forms. He throws enough ideas at the reader for them to re-write the charm a thousand different ways for hundreds of purposes and still not be done with it.  

To end the book, the author explores the pagan themes in the folktale, The Nixie of the Millpond, and also gives several rather dark rituals for springtime: “I feel real fear now. I am a blasphemous creature of winter evenings long dead, stalking about in fields of gold and white…” The writing is, as always, evocative of the Unseen landscapes. A fascinating book; it’s definitely recommended reading.  

Grimoire for the Green Witch: A Complete Book of Shadows by Ann Moura
Llewellyn Publications, 2006 (2003)

Be careful what you do.
Be careful who you trust.”
– Aoumiel

Despite having read several other books in the Green Witch collection (namely, Green Witchcraft and Green Witchcraft II: Balancing Light and Shadow), I’m not sure how this book is a grimoire for a green witch as opposed to a Book of Shadows for an eclectic Wiccan. Although the author distinguishes three types of green craft (dare I say Catholic folk magic, pseudo-monotheistic non-religious folk magic, and Wiccan folk magic?), she then proceeds to offer a mostly Wiccan viewpoint. That’s fine; I just don’t why this series is the one recommended to people looking for non-Wiccan material. Comparing the information within to that of many Wicca 101 books, there isn’t much difference, except that this book is better.  

This is a massive workbook, tastefully laid out, which collects all of the practical information of the Green Witch series. There aren’t many explanations or reasons given for anything, the author assumes for the most part that you will know how to use the information presented. At times, the brief explanations or personal notes serve only to raise other questions, such as when Moura gives her family deities as Bendidia (Mediterranean) and Shiva (Hindu).

The book is divided into two parts: rituals and spells. Included in the rituals section is a brief introduction to green craft, and an elaboration on the various ways and contexts in which it can be practiced (see my confusion in the first paragraph). Some of the most interesting information in the book is the lore handed down from Moura’s Catholic mother and grandmother, though there isn’t much of this. 

The author gives rituals for all the Wiccan Sabbats, six versions of the circle casting, and four different Esbats (full, new, dark, and sidhe). She includes the usual recitations that are easily found in almost any other book, or on the internet (Charge of the Goddess et al.). The chants and songs, however, are mostly original. After these, the author adds more rituals (which might have been better placed nearer to the Sabbats), including rites for Wiccanings, funerals, dedications, initiations, consecrations, namings, and handfastings.  

Other useful info includes a calendar of observances, a short note on grounding and centering, an extensive glossary, common symbols used in green craft, notes on the tools, basic materials needed in formal ritual, altar arrangements, general magical tips, and magical alphabets (runic, ogham, and Theban). Space is given at the end of each section to add a few of your own notes. 

The second part of the book is devoted to spells and spellcraft. There are more correspondences here than anyone would know what to do with, and they are organized in a myriad of different ways, depending on whether you’re looking for a certain herb, planetary hour, rune, stone, or element. Sigils and seals of planetary spirits and geomantic characters are given with a very brief explanation, and a few demonic names with no explanation at all. (It’s probably the only material in the book that a Wiccan would look askance at.)

The herbal associations are quite extensive, and in the standard Wiccan format (meaning a mix of folklore and 777 and nonsense, which you have to sort through). The book ends with spells, oil mixes, and extensive information on making and using various divinatory tools. There is a lot in this book, but you have to know what you’re looking for, and what to do with it when you do find it.  

In my case, this book sits on my shelf and looks pretty. I think the only time I’ve actually used it was to look up a few symbolic meanings of feathers. I’m sure it would be a great reference for a Wiccan who has read a few 101 books and is looking to put together their own Book of Shadows. While I wouldn’t use any of the rituals myself, they make great (if long and complicated) examples both of format and the range of activities for which they can be adapted. The herbal tea recipes aren’t bad either.