Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday

We have opened the pre-order for our latest title Crossed Keys today, being a chimeric binding of both The Black Dragon and the Enchiridion of Pope Leo III in a fresh translation by grimoire magician Michael Cecchetelli who was compelled to undertake this work in unorthodox circumstances.

They are complementary grimoires, spanning one of the very earliest examples of the genre to the late bibliotheque bleue period.

Together they comprise a wealth of spells, spirits, lore, talismans and psalm magic, with their head in the highest heavens and their feet in the deepest hells.

This is the first time they have been bound into one volume.
Extensively footnoted, the seals corrected re-drawn and restored, with excerpts and workings from the translator's magical record, this is a well armed and practical text which throws light on the Grimorium Verum, Red Dragon and Grand Grimoire. It is a vigorous text, designed to be put to use.
Those on our subscriber list will have received the links to pre-order both the standard and fine edition of this title. Please check your spam folder, as email filters can devour our messages.

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Happy Easter

Peter and Alkistis x

Monday, 18 April 2011

Myrrh, Frankincense and Pirate Gold

A review of the Day of the Magi.

Something has changed. A tangible sense of community is being felt with every new event, and Day of the Magi continued that momentum. Rather than a magickal scene riven and divided into cliques and petty politics, everything is entering into a molten state where we are united by what we share. The false tribal divisions of the past are being put aside as a new magic is articulated. As Jake Stratton-Kent points out, we are in the process of a magical revival in the West. So when we talk of a new magic here, and of the magical revolution, we are not entering into another post-modern collage, neither whimsy nor sci-fi, rather we are honestly acknowledging both what we have, and what we have lost.

We were fortunate to have Stephen Skinner lecture, as there is no doubt that Stephen is the most important magician that we have in our community, whose unstinting work in manuscript research and publication is of the utmost importance to all of us. We acknowledge our very public debt of gratitude to him and the work that he has gifted us with. The work being produced through Golden Hoard is essential if we are to understand where our magic has come from, and the personal commitment Stephen has made to unearthing this is staggering. We do not envy him the task of deciphering Dee’s handwriting and restoring order to the drenched, misbound, shuffled folios, of arguing with Russian officials to let him see Solomonic books, of keeping his pledges.

Stephen spoke on the grimoire roots of Enochian magic, and the apocalyptic context of Dee and the Angelic transmissions. This is an important counterpoint to the idea that Dee’s work sprung from nowhere. This echoed many of the ideas I put forward in my essay Seeing Through Apocalypse in XVI. Stephen traced the entire history of magic through European history and, like Jake Stratton-Kent, emphaised the importance of Greek magic rather than the modern over emphasis of Cabbalah. He spoke of the steps of conjuration, of the shyness of spirits, of lost fay gates, of chinese sorcery and more.  It was a tour de force.

There is certainly a difference of style between Jake, piratical and punkish, and Stephen’s measured confidence. But both these eminent magicians are telling the same story: There is gold in them thar grimoires...
photo credit: Mrs Midian

However, they emphasise different points; Jake as a necromancer is furious on behalf of the dead. That the dead have been excised from our tradition must be rectified, and Jake speaks here for the people of the cemetery as few people do. Jake stands at the crossroads of both ancient Greece and the modern African diaspora religions. Stephen has plunged into the library stacks of Europe and the operative magical cultures of the Far East. Both give us much to consider as we stand at our own crossroads, understand what paths we are on and which we must take.  

We are not starting with a blank slate to scrawl on, we are not engaged in self-help psychology or NLP. We are the inheritors of a long-standing spirit tradition, but one of broken transmissions. The excitement of our time is that we have the available material to ressurect Western magic, and with the connections being made at these gatherings, this is exactly what is happening. We spoke with witches, wiccans, pagans, druids, members of the Golden Dawn, IOT, OTO, ceremonial magicians and cunning folk not in the language of cult speak, but as individuals learning from each other.

We must also mention Mike Slater who spoke on Bristolian legends of exorcism, poltergeists, demonologists and cunning folk. Charlotte Rodgers explored some of the sanguine themes of her latest Mandrake book, The Bloody Sacrifice. David Cypher on Franz Bardon’s spagyrics and what sounded a lot like proto-chaos magic. Most of all our thanks to the organisers (special mention for Michelle Newitt and Phil Cunningham) and all who attended both locally and from across England and Wales who made the event what it was and what our magic is becoming.
We will further be hosting a Scarlet Imprint happening on Saturday August 20 in Brighton, more details to follow and we hope to see many of you there to continue this fertile dialogue.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Argo of Magic

A new and extensive review posted for Geosophia at the Eyeless Owl blog:

“The word ‘goes’ relates to terms describing the act of lamenting at funeral rites; the mournful howling considered as a magical voice. These magical tones can guide the deceased to the underworld, and raise the dead. This is the root of the long connection of goetia with necromancy, which as come to be termed black magic.” - from the Introduction to Geosophia, by Jake Stratton-Kent
There was a time when laws were given through Divine inspiration, and those who spoke them were raised to the level of the gods they served.  Perhaps the most familiar example of this in the Western culture is the reception of the tables of law given to Moses on Mount Sinai (or Horeb depending on the tradition), but this tradition exists in nearly every culture across the world. According to the scholar Peter Kingsley it was a common practice in the ancient world that such receptions were required to be heard in times of trouble. Whether it was disease, famine, or war, if someone came forward with a Divinely inspired revelation, irregardless of their social standing, that revelation was to be respected and given a fair hearing lest the society suffer further due to its neglect.

Such a practice has obvious problems for Imperial rule, or corporate oligarchy, and throughout history the role of the Prophet has never been without it’s attendant risks. When the ruling elite decides to ignore Divine decree those speaking with the voice of Divinity are quickly rounded up and sentenced to death, and the instruments and practices of cultivating Divine contact are fought with laws, taboos and mockery seeking to silence them. In the Western Tradition these practices have, since before the onset of the Roman Catholic Empire, faced this process of denigration. Starting with arguments against the folly of metaphysics by Greek and Roman rationalists, and continuing into laws against witchcraft and divination, these taboos have remained in place  in one form or another for millennium.
While there are many downsides to the cultural confusion of our time, there are also benefits to the disintegration of boundaries and cultural unity. Jake Stratton-Kent’s study of the grimoire tradition presents one of the most cohesive examples of these benefits in it’s exploration of the ancient goetic practice and its roots in pre-Greco-Roman traditions and the Mystery cults of the ancient world. His latest work, Geosophia – The Argo of Magic, is a 628 page survey of the history, practice and continuation of the Goetic tradition. It forms the second part of his Encyclopedia Goetia, which began with the publication of The Encyclopedia Goetica Volume One: The True Grimoire, both available in multiple editions from Scarlet Imprint.
Stratton-Kent shares the drive to reinvigorate and actualize the Western tradition that Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech, the proprietors of Scarlet Imprint, express in a previous interview hosted on The Eyeless Owl. He has spent nearly four decades studying the grimoire tradition first hand, both as a practitioner and scholar, and his expertise shines throughout the pages of Geosophia. While the book’s depth as a scholarly work is undeniable it contains no dry academic pretensions, it presents a vivid and living tradition.
“…the goal should be the acquisition of mastery of symbolic languages, in order to compose rites and texts for oneself. Misguided imitation of our predecessors, and purely retrospective approaches fall short of an attainment that, while devoutly wished for by many, is lost if this is not well understood.”
- from Geosophia, Jake Stratton-Kent

Despite it’s notoriety, the goetic tradition has  roots in practices that were once central to the health and cohesion of society.  Students of Philosophy inundated with the drudgery of the current academic interpretation of ancient thinkers will be surprised to find the names of Pythagoras and Empedocles along side John Dee and Edward Kelly as practitioners of the Art.
The role of the goes in ancient society was to be the mediator between worlds, similar to the shamanic practices found in Siberia, South America and Eurasia. What has fallen into disrepute when labeled as necromancy was once the auspicious role of ‘guide of souls’ in past cultures.
Given the ability to contact, and speak, with the recent and ancestral dead the goes was responsible for maintaining the integrity of the society through mediating the connections of past, present and future.  Moving further along the horizontal axis of existence they were also responsible for maintaining relationships with the elemental and natural spirits. On the vertical axis the goes was given the task of maintaining a relationship with the cthonic and celestial entities that came to be defined as demons or angels in the Christianized tradition of the classic grimoires.
“In short, what I advocate is forming a similar relationship to the spirits of our magical traditions to that of our counterparts in other cultures. This is quite simply the most substantial means of revitalizing western magic available; infinitely preferable to the despicable procedures of the Goetia of Solomon, which simply reflect the spirit-negative attitudes of an outdated theology.”
- from Geosophia, by Jake Stratton-Kent
While most of Geosophia covers the development of the Greco-Roman traditions and their influence on European grimoires, Stratton-Kent’s cross cultural conversations imbue the work with a deeper connective value.  The living Western tradition is in a state of flux, the majority of initiatic Orders are hesitant to acknowledge or embrace direct contact with the roots of practice, or have relegated much of it to rote routine or psychologized archetypal therapies.  As he points out this is not a viable option for those who truly want to connect with the goetic tradition.  In order to rediscover what lies at the root Stratton-Kent utilizes, but does not co-opt, the experiences of those who still follow traditions similar in nature to goetia, such as the African Traditional Religions and magical traditions such as Palo, Candoble, Voudon, and Hoodoo.
This cross cultural communication mirrors similar developments in the ancient goetic tradition. Greek religion went through many transitions as it moved into the Classical period that lead to the familiar state cults and Olympian pantheon that are the most familiar representations we hear about.  Stratton-Kent details the emergence of the Mystery cults focusing on Dionysus, Orpheus and Attis that coalesced during the decline of the state religion. Through the influence of Thracian, Etruscan and Phrygian rites and Mysteries, these sects served to reinvigorate traditions predating the classic period.
Rene Guenon indicates that in folk traditions one can find active strains of past practices, and Stratton-Kent uses this to successfully uncover the active beliefs of goetic practice by comparing the textual evidence of standard western sources, such as Agrippa, Dee and the various Renaissance grimoires, with living traditions such as Hoodoo.
Although this may seem odd at first, Hoodoo classics such as the 6th and 7th Books of Moses are nothing less than goetic miscellanies. Through observing, conversing and understanding how contemporary traditions utilize these texts, Stratton-Kent opens the true nature of the grimoire work.
“Magic is not a no-risk vocation…Madness or other disasters may threaten; even destroy the unprepared magician who loses the golden thread. However, as a notorious magician once said, an initiatory ordeal that has no risk of failure is not an ordeal.”
- from Geosophia, by Jake Stratton-Kent
Drawing from these traditions brings goetia out of the standard taboos of diabolical practice, but it also brings to the forefront misunderstandings and racist fears plaguing African Traditional Religions in the West. While Western magic has had it’s teeth pulled by the psychologizing effects of Carl Jung, and the pacification of New Age corruptions, blood still runs hot in the veins that Stratton-Kent taps in finding the roots of goetia. It is in balancing this fact with an equally powerful wisdom tradition that Geosophia truly emerges as a profound work.
Through focusing on the deeper connotations of the traditions he explores, Stratton-Kent is able to bring out the gnostic elements inherent in the grimoires. Pointing to the initiatory nature of the texts and rituals, he successfully demonstrates that beyond the surface exists profound examples of techniques and meditations for fostering a fluid and unified consciousness.
Stratton-Kent provides a thorough study of the mytho-poetic elements of the goetic tradition which, as he states in the introduction to Geosophia, provides the basis for a true relationship with the spirits and entities encountered in the work. There is no sword waving coercion here, the focus in on an interpersonal dialogue with existence, and follows the more reverent practices found in grimoires such as the Sworn Book of Honorius, where we find goetic rituals attuned to Divine Union and participation rather than the demon baiting and uncritically malefic atmosphere that attends many of the later grimoires.
Another interesting exploration that moves throughout the work is the relationship of the goetic tradition to the ancient metal working sects. For those interested in the current resurgence of alchemical exploration Geosophia provides a valuable overview of the ritual, cultural and mythological settings of ancient metal working and gives strong hints towards the true nature of the Great Work.

Just as the Argo carried Jason and his companions on their quest to find the Golden Fleece, Geosophia – The Argo of Magic recovers the hidden tradition of goetia. This is a goetia that lives and breathes with the spirits it connects to.

This review has been reproduced with permission from the original on the exellent Eyeless Owl blog here:

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Palo Mayombe five star book review

There are very few books in English dealing with the subject of the Congo-derived necromantic sorcery of Palo Mayombe, and the ones that are... are dreadful. The Montenegro money-waster is an odd mixture of Macbeth and folk magic, and the Baba Raul piece is evasive and bumbling. This new book by Nicholaj Frisvold however, is an absolute GIFT to anyone wishing to really learn about Palo that is unable to read any of the spanish texts.

The material is presented in a respectful manner that I have yet to see on Palo, and expressed through an obvious passion for the religion/cult. There is honesty and integrity in Frisvold's words, and shows quite clearly throughout the book.

While the book does present a lot (a brilliant and absorbing history tracing Palo Mayombe's roots, conversations on necromancy ranging from Greece to the Congo, Spirit Firmas, songs, chants, herbs, etc), don't expect this to be a book that you can purchase, read, and use to start practicing Palo in your shed. Throughout, the author stresses the importance of initiation- and will probably be able to convince most people (even those who usually forgo initiation-type rituals) that Palo Mayombe is not an overnight practice, and it would behoove you to seek out someone already practicing the religion. So, while oath bound from revealing some information, the information that IS presented is accurate and fuller than any previous treatment of Palo. The aware and watchful reader will also be able to see a lot more than what is presented forwardly if he reads between the lines carefully...

All in all this is a book that demands to purchased. From people interested in African/African Diaspora cultures to Voodooists, Necromancers, the eager Palo enthusiast, and actual initiated members, there is something important to be found here. Get it.

Also I feel like noting- if the hardcover edition is a bit too pricey for you (or happens to be sold out by the time you decide to buy this book), the publisher Scarlet Imprint has an unlimited (and much cheaper) paperback edition available at their website.The Garden of Blood and Bones is a well written, scholarly treatise on the Congo Spiritual practices. The author, an initiated Tata Nkisi gives a first had account of the religion and has a straight-forward, no nonsense style. The Firmas (Spirit Signatures) are fantastic, the 4 color plates of the author's Prendas and Palo de Muerto are a great addition, and the information is invaluable to anyone interested in the subject.

And another one...

The Garden of Blood and Bones is a well written, scholarly treatise on the Congo Spiritual practices. The author, an initiated Tata Nkisi gives a first had account of the religion and has a straight-forward, no nonsense style. The Firmas (Spirit Signatures) are fantastic, the 4 color plates of the author's Prendas and Palo de Muerto are a great addition, and the information is invaluable to anyone interested in the subject.

We were delighted to find these five star rated online reviews of Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's work.  
This is an important work, and it deserves the recognition that it is garnering.

The hardback edition is available here
The paperback edition is available here

(As a small publisher we very much appreciate people buying direct from us rather than the corporate bookselling industry.)

Monday, 4 April 2011

Cognitive Sovereignty: Breaking Convention

A response to Breaking Convention: A multidisciplinary meeting on psychedelic consciousness at the University of Kent.

There is a revolution occuring in the field of psychedelics. This weekend brought together a global gathering of academics, clinicians, psychonauts, artists and visionaries. With over six hundred switched on attendees the sheer verve, enthusiasm and energy of the resurgent movement is impossible to deny. There is no place for the tired cliches of the war on drugs, these people are not rambling burn outs, they mean business, are highly educated, and have the hard science behind them as well as embodying the messages of the plant teachers. This marks the beginning of a rennaissance in the psychedelic movement, one which by its sheer scale surprised the conference organisers and attendees alike. We are back with a vengeance.

The psychedelic movement can see this event as a coming out party, a moment when we can all be honest enough to admit the transformative and positive impact of the psychedelics on our lives, and refuse to shut up. The revolutionary changes sweeping the globe are not confined to the Arab states, the fire is spreading. We were greatly impressed by the energy, diversity and intelligence of the conference and can confidently state that we are witnessing the long overdue rebirth of a movement.

We have been working to achieve this in our own sphere and will continue to state our position that Witchcraft is not witchcraft without the visionary plants, and that magick requires that we are in communication with extra-human entities. Our position on Witchcraft is clearly laid out here.

Our work consistently illuminates a continuous tradition of use of the magical plants in Europe. In particular we note that the use of psychoactive plants in the grimoires has not been realised by the wider psychedelic community. This is our sacred heritage. We go further and champion the use of all sacraments in our devotional work with Babalon. Everything is permitted.

We challenge the hypocrisy of those who deny the role of drugs in the magic and witchcraft traditions whether for tax status, societal acceptance, or to keep control over the aspirants and initiates in out-dated pyramid structures that drip feed gnosis rather than going direct to the source. The rhizomatic approach is the way forward.

From the conference we carry the fire back to our own community, just as we are sure that all the attendees will do so in theirs.

The conference showed that human history is the history of our interaction with drugs, from the entoptic grids and theriomorphs of cave art to the blue throated psilocybin peacocks of Shiva, to the DMT research of Strassman and his observation that over a certain dose of DMT ‘there are no atheists’. This is precisely the realm of magic, which demands experience as the only viable proof and renders faith absurd.

The overwhelming evidence is in. Global drug policy is not based on the scientific evidence of benefits vs harm. This was demonstrated by the firing of Dr David Nutt who had the temerity to present the scientific proof to the UK government that the issue is not LSD and Ecstasy, but rather is alcohol and tobacco. This is an issue that Dr Julian Vayne confronts in XVI. For those unfamiliar with the issue, the benefit and harm graph is provided below for a clear visual representation of the real impact of drugs. The research of Dr Nutt was backed up by all of the papers presented. It is essential that we propogate this knowledge.

We are not blowing holes in our brains, we are blowing holes in the body of propaganda, lies, fake science and scaremongering that has characterised the prohibitionist agenda. Not only does prohibition not work, it is the result of utterly unscientific moralism. By knowing the facts and presenting them openly we can challenge and change the position held by wider society and counter the propaganda of the state with aim of fatally undermining it. We will not be silent any more, we must speak up and speak out.
But let us not celebrate the victory of science without being aware of the vicious history of the repression of altered states. As Andy Roberts, the author of Albion Dreaming, pointed out, there is trouble ahead and trouble behind. The state seems utterly opposed to legalisation of the psychedelic state. This leads to sheer levels of insanity, such as attempts to ban DMT containing plants, when DMT is the most widely present psychedelic in the plant kingdom. Such a ban would tear up the most common ornamental plants and taken to its logical conclusion would mean the destruction of vast tracts of the environment. As the wags point out, we naturally produce DMT in our brains, so in theory we can all be busted for possession.

The approach of Andy Roberts was encapsulated in his blunt opinion that we need more chemists. Disobedience is the only option we have when we are faced with an ideological monolith. It is not incumbent upon us to insist that ‘nice people take drugs’ and politely remove our fangs and claws. That is not the argument.

The state is against us, and all of the scientific research in the world, and all the incremental wheedling and calls for patience by organisations such as MAPS or the Beckley Foundation will not lead to legalisation. At best, this will give the military industrial complex some more tools for dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the broken soldiers back from the wars for oil.
Or worse still, instigate some state sanctioned control of supply to recognised therapists and respectable religions. This is anathema to us. Though there is undoubtably valuable work being done by MAPS and the Beckley Foundation, we do not accept that these groups speak for us. Nor will we let them usurp that role.

A vital piece of the puzzle came from Graham Hancock who, still lit up with his road to Damascus encounter with the other world(s), pointed out: the State is in the process of catastrophic failure. Peak oil, the failure of capitalism, economically, socially and environmentally, means that our civilisation is in freefall. Our vision of this is also clear, for those unfamiliar with our work on this, the free pdf introduction to XVI sets it out. We need to be building and living an alternative to the failing systems of command and control.

Of all the speakers over the course of the weekend it was Graham Hancock who galvanised the audience, an unlikely Dionysos and heir to the puckish McKenna. We recommend his Supernatural without reservation as an honest account of the psychedelic experience and human adventure, even to those who may have reservations about his previous works on alternative history. This is already a classic, mercifully free of dogma and daring in scope.
Whilst recognising the diversity of the psychedelic movement, we can suggest crowning the new movement with one unifying concept:

Cognitive Sovereignty

The universal right to do and experience what we will with our minds.

This is a fundamental and irreducible principle, and one that should be at the top of any true declaration of human rights.

This is an issue Charlotte Walsh raised in reference to the monstrous sentence inflicted on Casey Hardison. and one which demands further legal challenges.

This is not even a ‘drug issue’ this is an issue of individual freedom.

We are not children to be ruled by external authority, we must be free to make our own choices, have direct contact with the numinous, and make our own mistakes.

We must not be divided into arguing about the merits of this drug or that drug, dispensed by this professional body or that church.
This is an issue of freedom, and we will continue to exercise it as our birth right.

We are out of the closet, just as the gay liberation movement has shown, it is the only way to gain acceptance.

We take drugs and will continue to do so as a core element of our spiritual and ritual practice.
We also recognise the right of others to choose to take drugs or not, for any reason they wish.

Furthermore we will continue to write, publish, speak and promote cognitive sovereignty as our core human right.
We congratulate the organisers and attendees of the conference. Now we must take it further, the time has come, as one speaker from the floor put it to rapturous applause, to take bigger doses.
To this declaration we sign our names.
In Nomine Babalon
Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech x