So…

April 8, 2011

Talk about dropping the ball… It’s been what, over 2 years since I checked in on this poor problem child? No matter. I gots me some high speed now, so I’m going to try and get this up and running again. My last vacation (read: book-buying trip) in London netted some interesting finds, such as Shani Oates’ Tubelo’s Green Fire, Dave Lee’s Chaotopia, and all sorts of neat crap that’s difficult to find in Canada. Oh, and Robin Artisson’s new one, too. I hope to have some reading material posted shortly. Thanks for dropping by.

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.

Generation Hex

February 11, 2008

Generation Hex edited by Jason Louv
The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2006  

This is the business we have chosen.”
— Godfather II
 

Before reading this book, I’d often find myself running in the opposite direction when I saw anything labeled Pop Culture/Occult, and I’d been wary of disinformation guides since the time they let Fiona Horne edit a book on witchcraft. I figured this book would be aimed at bored urban youth wanting to freak their parents out with something that involved less effort than Wicca. And I was absolutely wrong.  

The theme of this book is summed up in Jason Louv’s essay “Spooky Tricks” as “Create positive change on this planet or shut your mouth.” All too often occultism becomes a stagnant cycle of ego-gratification, with practitioners oblivious to their surroundings and their fellow human beings. These essays encourage engagement with the world (even if that means destroying every belief you’ve ever held about it), and using magic to make it a better place. (And as love-n-light as that sounds, these essays will convince you that it’s possible, and you won’t even have to gag down any fluff.)

My favourite essay in this book is Christian Sedman’s tale of young magicians (himself and friends?) attempting to create a meaningful existence, “They Only Want You When You’re Seventeen, When You’re Twenty-One, You’re No Fun.” It actually moved me to tears. It is a wake-up call, a ragged voice screaming from the top of a building, ‘What are we doing? Where are we going? Pay attention or you’re as good as dead already!’ Sadly, this was Sedman’s only contribution to the book. I haven’t been able to find anything else by him.  

Stephen Grasso gave three excellent essays: “Beneath the Pavement, The Beast,” “Learning to Open the Haunted Kaleidoscope,” and “Dreams of a Midwich Planet.” The first details the concept of drifting (an extended ramble in an altered state) and is one of the few essay topics that I’ve managed to use in my own practice. The second discusses the practicality of magic, and the last is a short (moral?!) tale about bringing magicians back into the service of their communities, rather than just working for their own gain.

Elijah’s essays hurt my brain with jargon overload. I think copious amounts of drugs taken beforehand would’ve eased the reading process, provided I could still focus my eyes. Despite this, I am quite fond of his Grendel’s Had an Accident script, and have already destroyed it beyond all recognition.

The rest of the essays ran from Rachel Haywire’s somewhat pointless though highly entertaining ego-boosting ramble “Eris is My Biatch” and Chris Arkenberg’s mind numbing “LoveWar with Fox News” to better ones by the editor Jason Louv about a shamanic yoga-type training experience and “Spooky Tricks,” about the indescribable essence of magic. There were essays on group magical consciousness, and plenty of ideas and tips to help a novice magician on the way or inspire jaded fools to resume their foolishness.

Two issues: One) Of fourteen contributors and nineteen essays, only two are from women. (This makes it better than Rebels and Devils by Christopher S. Hyatt, in which there was one article by a woman out of a seeming gazillion by men.) Maybe this has something to do with the Chaos community in general? Or perhaps I’m just used to being in the female-dominated witchcraft community.  

Two) I’m okay with the subtle (haha) anti-pagan digs, (hey, I make fun of the pagan community myself) but there were a few which were funny in the sense that the writers were really making comments on behaviour that also applied to themselves, and didn’t realize it. It doesn’t look good for your supposed enlightenment when you miss something like that. I mean, I’ve met just as many sad fucks dancing at raves as I have dancing in the woods.  

That said, being a neopagan is not an excuse to shy away from this book. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in Chaos magic, the essays included transcend beyond our labels of occult practices. It will encourage you to think, if nothing else, and that’s worth far more than the cover price.