Book Review: Testament of Solomon: Recension C

Recension C

TESTAMENT OF SOLOMON: RECENSION C
Brian Johnson
Hadean Press

Alongside the works of researchers and writers such as Joseph Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent, Daniel Harms, Clare Fanger and Richard Kieckheffer, this release provides us with another vital key in the understanding of the true scope of a magical tradition that, until recent decades, has seemed disparate and fractured. With the release of Recension C, which Johnson’s masterly translation enables us to peruse in English for the first time, the lines of descent between current modes of practice and their ancient origins in texts such as the Greek Magical Papyri become less obscure. While the effect of this ever-broadening synopsis allows for greater academic understanding of the subject matter, the importance of this broadening scope to practitioners comes with the increasing likelihood that the overwhelming reliance on a text as flawed in its redacted presentation of goeteia as the Lemegeton might soon seem like a thing of the past as truer ‘keys’ to such methods of working are revealed.

The true value of this work can be found in its drawing together of the textual traditions and spirit names found in the older versions of the Testament of Solomon (such as Onoskelis and Asmodeo) with names recognisable from other medieval texts (Belet, Oriens, Boul, Astaroth, Latzepher and Magot) in order to reveal a snapshot of the evolution of an ‘independent demonological tradition’ that formed somewhere between Byzantium and Renaissance Italy. With this done, the link between the original versions of the text, the traditions expressed in the Hygromanteia, Liber Juratus, Folger v.b.26 and Les Livre des Esperitz and the Italian textual conglomerate known as Recension C. presents us with another important glimpse into the historical evolution of this field of magical study.

Johnson’s opening Introduction and essay opens this short but essential book in an accessible manner that reveals an excellent academic standard which transcends the boundaries of most modern occult texts. As well as reinforcing the older texts’ presentation of the entities summoned as essentially astrological in their origins, the assignment of various spirits to the four elemental quarters in the manner that finds its best expression in Folger v.b.26, reveals another possible progression from the works that initially assigned each elemental quarter to the four kings, Oriens, Amaymon, Paymon and Egin first mentioned by William of Auvergne (though certainly older in its origins) to reveal another connection to the astrological principles that are generally incomplete or obfuscated in later texts such as the Lemegeton. While operative instructions are only alluded to in the opening and closing sections of the Recension, the descriptions of the spirits’ legions, their powers and the depictions of their seals also provide another important link between the medieval and Renaissance texts and their more ancient forebears. While, ultimately, it is not a ‘true’ derivation of the Testament, what this publication of Recension C reveals in terms of tradition is the drawing together of older Hellenistic magical methods into a single text that proves a vital addition to our current understanding of the development of Solomonic magic.

Book Review: Gods of Thrones: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Religions of Ice and Fire: Vol. 1.

Gods of Thrones

GODS OF THRONES: A PILGRIM’S GUIDE TO THE RELIGIONS OF ICE AND FIRE: VOL. 1.
A. Ron Hubbard & Anthony LeDonne
Bald Move Books

While I’ve only really skirted around the peripherals of geekdom, I’ve often felt the gravitational pull into fanboy nerdishness that beautifully constructed fantasy worlds like Middle Earth, Osten Ard, Hyboria, Krynn and Allansia emanate from their cores. Teenage-me lapped up tales from such perilous realms with devotion, while Tolkien’s words on man’s role as the ‘sub-creator’ of the divine mysteries through his creative output has remained an inspiration to me right through to middle-age, a time of life in which the yearning for days of high adventure seem to have as much chance of happening as Arnold dusting off his codpiece to play King Conan.

With the emergence of A Song of Ice and Fire, which I discovered around 2010, and the ridiculously excellent HBO series Game of Thrones that came a year later, the spotty, sinewy teen who wandered the woods and hills of south Wales fruitlessly hoping for glimpses of elves, re-emerged like the sapling of the White Tree of Gondor. I found my lifelong interests in magic, myth and religion—which, in the early days, were doubtlessly nurtured by the re-sacralisation of the magical imagination by the likes of Tolkien, Terry Brooks and Tad Williams—were once again complimented by a modern creation worthy of unleashing my inner geek upon. I read the entire series up to A Feast for Crows in less than a month before I had to briefly join the frustrated hordes waiting for the release of A Dance with Dragons in 2011. Since then, with several more years having lapsed between Dance and the long-anticipated Winds of Winter, the frustration of waiting a year, and more recently two years, between seasons of Game of Thrones completed the total long-term absorption of Martin’s world into the fabric of my psyche. He is an author whose works require patience and devotion, having now strung his devotees along for twenty-three years since A Game of Thrones was released; but like all exceptional works, the forthcoming culmination of the HBO series will undoubtedly prove worth the wait, as will the presently theoretical release of A Dream of Spring.

Re-watching the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones recently, I noticed—in ways both subtle and gross—just how much the movement of many plot devices could be construed as the movements of the gods moving our beloved and despised characters around as their pawns over the chequered landscapes of Westeros and Essos. Noting this, I wondered if anyone had thought to look into the patterns of behaviour and motivations of the gods in Martin’s world in order to decipher more about what their ultimate game was. Further, I wondered if anyone had tried to piece together what religious and magical inspirations from our own terribly fucked world Martin and the show runners looked towards in order to shape their own unique visions of divine action in Game of Thrones. The answer, I discovered, was that someone—two someones, in fact— had recently done that very thing.

The resulting book, Gods of Thrones, comes courtesy of Bald Move’s A.Ron Hubbard and religious scholar Anthony LeDonne, whose combined knowledge of Martin’s world and the philosophical, historical, mythical and religious landscapes of our own shines effortlessly in this volume, which covers topics such as animism, Zoroastrianism, patriarchal cults, tribalism, scepticism and Messianic figures in the context of Martin’s own background as a meticulous ‘sub-creator’ and lapsed Catholic. With the forthcoming Volume 2 of this work looking to cover the mythology of the Ironborn, the culture of the Dothraki and the ‘dragon cult’ of the Targaryens, the combined efforts of the authors will prove a welcome addition to the ever-broadening world that Martin has shaped.

While Gods of Thrones holds an expert stock of well-presented and researched information, my only sticking point came with its jocular and over-familiar tone which featured a few too many cross-references to other vessels of geekdom that the authors obviously revere. While reading, I noted that if I were listening to or watching what I was reading on a podcast (which, in fairness, is Hubbard’s primary medium) or on YouTube, I would probably have enjoyed its style and laughed along. In book-form, however, the less formal approach suitable for online media doesn’t translate as well. It wasn’t that the attempts at humour were terrible, but rather that they sat awkwardly in what was otherwise an excellent and informative book. Still, this personal gripe wouldn’t put me off purchasing, and most-likely enjoying, Volume 2, though I expect I may occasionally grit my teeth and scrunch up my face at times as I did with this Volume.

In response to my own criticisms of the book I think it would only be right for me to check out Bald Move’s Game of Thrones podcast before reading Volume 2 to see if it’s a case of needing a degree of familiarity with Hubbard’s style to better appreciate the book. If not, nothing lost, Volume 2 will be worth getting hold of anyway, as is this.

Book Review: Holy Daimon

Holy Daimon

HOLY DAIMON, Frater Acher.
Scarlet Imprint.

With Frater Acher’s Theomagica website (theomagica.com) being a consistently interesting presence in my magical web-browsing over the past few years, the announcement of the release of Holy Daimon by Scarlet Imprint last year instantly caught my attention. Working pretty solidly on a magical book of my own for some time when it was finally released, however, I found myself lagging behind in my reading responsibilities, but now that my project is sitting with the publishers, I’m finally getting the chance to catch up with some great books I’ve been meaning to read for a while.

The essence of Holy Daimon is grounded in the foundations of a historical presentation of the concept of the daimon, beginning with overviews of the Chaldean and Zoroastrian concepts before a more succinct body of evidence is presented in Acher’s succinct analysis of the Greek concept of the daimon. Following this, the book firstly bases itself in the praxis of the author’s fascinating account of the extended Saturn retreat he partook in to strengthen his relationship with his daimon. Being a practitioner who keeps a regular magical record, Acher’s braveness in publishing this part of his magical history provided me with an additional level of respect and empathy for him, as his account revealed the depth, yearning and humanity one would expect to find in a sincere and devoted initiate. Ultimately, it was this and Acher’s unique advice (with a hint to Ficino) on singing to the planets to draw down their energies which stand out as some of the most memorable aspects of this work, though that judgment is in no way intended to detraction from the quality of the rest of the book.

The book concluded with a section including recommended practices which, alongside the Holy Daimon Online Project and some other useful tools found on Acher’s website, provide sound advice to those who wish to come to know their personal daimon. Of these, the inclusion of a ritual from the PGM designed to grant communication with one’s daimon was of particular interest as works with genuine and ancient roots such as the Greek Magical Papyri are often those that are the most satisfying to explore.

Alongside Rain al-Alim’s Jinn Sorcery, Holy Daimon stands out amongst Scarlet Imprint’s already stellar catalogue of recent releases and, as always, I look forward to seeing what they produce in the future.

– David Crowhurst