The Ashta Matrikas

Ashta Matrikas.png

The Eight Matrikas have complete control over every aspect of life-force and their associations with negative manifestations of the ego such as wrath and jealousy represent their abilities of mastering such urges. Their victorious battle against the demons represents the war between the inmost Divine Self and the ego. Victory over ego and destruction of ignorance is the great battle of every sincere soul in their journey to enlightenment. On a macrocosmic level it heralds the ultimate victory of the collective divinity in achieving full awareness of the one limitless and undifferentiated consciousness.

Matrika Bhairava Aspect of the Ego Shakti of
Brahmi Asitanga Desire Brahman
Mahesvari Ruru Degeneration, dissipation Shiva
Kaumari Chanda Urge for enjoyment Murugan
Vaishnavi Krodha Delusion Vishnu
Varahi Unmattha Pride, Arrogance. Varaha
Indrani Kapala Jealousy, Envy. Indra
Chamunda Bheeshana Depravity. Desire to sin or hurt. Identifiable with Kali
Chandi Samhara Wrath Brahman (wrathful aspect)

 

Ashta Bhairava and the Nakshatras

Ashta Bhairava
Starting with the next Full Moon and continuing daily until the celebration of Bhairava Ashtami, I’ll be posting a nine-part series on the connections between Shiva in his form as Mahakala Bhairava and the Vedic Lunar Mansions or Nakshatras. This series will reveal the forms of the Ashta Bhairavas (the eight major manifestations of Bhairava), the Nakshatras they are associated with, their consorts, their mantras and the seven other Bhairavas that each of the Ashta Bhairavas in turn manifests.

Before that, here’s some details about the Nakshatras themselves that will assist with aligning each of the Ashta Bhairavas to their corresponding Asterisms and Mansions. As most of us westerners tend towards using the Tropical Zodiac, the equivalent Tropical degrees have been included. Note also that the Vedic Mansions are twenty-seven in number and divided into segments of 13º 20′ rather than the twenty-eight mansions of 12º 51′ our own system inherited from the Arabic Manzils. With the Moon’s transit averaging about 13º 12′ each day, each Nakshatra lasts about a day give or take up to around five hours either way depending on the ‘speed’ of the Moon.

Nakshatra Meaning Asterism Sidereal º Tropical º
Ashwini The Heavenly Twins β and γ Arietis (Sheratan) 0º Aries 26º Aries
Bharani The Bearer 35, 39 and 41 Arietis 13º 20′ Aries 9º 20′ Taurus
Krittika Pleiades Alcyone 26º 40′ Aries 22º 40′ Taurus
Rohini The Red One Aldebaran 10º Taurus 6º Gemini
Mrigshirsha The Deer’s Head λ and φ Orionis (Meissa) 23º 20′ Taurus 19º 20′ Gemini
Ardra The Moist One Betelgeuse 6º 40′ Gemini 2º 40′ Cancer
Punarvasu Two Restorers of Goods Castor & Pollux 20º Gemini 16º Cancer
Pushya The Nourisher Asellus Borealis & Asellus Australis 3º 20′ Cancer 29º 20′ Cancer
Ashlesha The Embrace Alphard & Minchur 16º 40′ Cancer 12º 40′ Leo
Magha The Bountiful Regulus 0º Leo 26º Leo
Purvaphalguni First Reddish One Zosma 13º 20′ Leo 9º 20′ Virgo
Uttaraphalguni Second Reddish One Denebola 26º 40′ Leo 22º 40′ Virgo
Hasta The Hand Alchiba, Kraz, Algorab & Minkar 10º Virgo 6º Libra
Chitra The Bright One Spica 23º 20′ Virgo 19º 20′ Libra
Swati Very Good Arcturus 6º 40′ Libra 2º 40′ Scorpio
Vishaka Forked (Radha) Zub’genubi & Zub’schemali 20º Libra 16º Scorpio
Anuradha Following Radha Akrab & Dschubba 3º 20′ Scorpio 29º 20′ Scorpio
Jyeshta The Eldest/Most Excellent Antares & Palhaukale 16º 40′ Scorpio 12º 40′ Sagittarius
Mula The Root Shaula 0º Sagittarius 26º Sagittarius
Purvashadha First of the Invincible Ones Kaus Media & Kaus Australis 13º 20′ Sagittarius 9º 20′ Capricorn
Uttarashadha Second of the Invincible Ones Nunki 26º 40′ Sagittarius 22º 40′ Capricorn
Shravana Hearing Altair 10º Capricorn 6º Aquarius
Dhanishtha Most Benevolent δ Delphinum 23º 20′ Capricorn 19º 20′ Aquarius
Sathabhistha A Hundred Healers γ – λ Aquarii 6º 40′ Aquarius 29º 40′ Aquarius
Poorva Bhadrapada The First with Lucky Feet Markab & Scheat 20º Aquarius 16º Pisces
Uttara Bhadrapada The Second with Lucky Feet Algenib 3º 20′ Pisces 29º 20′ Pisces
Revati Prosperous ζ Piscium 16º 40′ Pisces 12º 40′ Aries

The Ashta Bhairavas each rule over three Nakshatras, with the exception of Bheeshana Bhairava, who rules over six. As well as being necessary for eight Bhairavas to have rulership over twenty-seven Nakshatras, this also occurs due to Bheeshana’s planetary association with both the South (Ketu) and North (Rahu) Lunar Nodes. Details of their Consorts and the directions of their Guardianships are also given below.

Nakshatra Bhairava Planet Consort Direction
Ashwini Bheeshana Ketu Chamundi North
Bharani Kapala Venus Indrani Northwest
Krittika Ruru Sun Mahesvari Southeast
Rohini Krodha Moon Vaishnavi Southwest
Mrigshirsha Chanda Mars Koumari South
Ardra Bheeshana Rahu Chamundi North
Punarvasu Asitanga Jupiter Brahmani East
Pushya Unmattha Saturn Varahi West
Ashlesha Samhara Mercury Chandika Northeast
Magha Bheeshana Ketu Chamundi North
Purvaphalguni Kapala Venus Indrani Northwest
Uttaraphalguni Ruru Sun Mahesvari Southeast
Hasta Krodha Moon Vaishnavi Southwest
Chitra Chanda Mars Koumari South
Swati Bheeshana Rahu Chamundi North
Vishaka Asitanga Jupiter Brahmani East
Anuradha Unmattha Saturn Varahi West
Jyeshta Samhara Mercury Chandika Northeast
Mula Bheeshana Ketu Chamundi North
Purvashadha Kapala Venus Indrani Northwest
Uttarashadha Ruru Sun Mahesvari Southeast
Shravana Krodha Moon Vaishnavi Southwest
Dhanishtha Chanda Mars Koumari South
Sathabhistha Bheeshana Rahu Chamundi North
Poorva Bhadrapada Asitanga Jupiter Brahmani East
Uttara Bhadrapada Unmattha Saturn Varahi West

Here, the Bhairavas are also restored to the order of their directional guardianship, which starts in the East and revolves clockwise.

Bhairava Meaning of Name Direction Colour
Asitanga Black-limbed East Gold
Ruru A Dog or Deer South East Pure White
Chanda Fierce South Blue
Krodha Wrathful South West Smoke
Unmattha Mad, intoxicated West White
Kapala Skull North West Yellow
Bheeshana Dreadful, Horrible North Red
Samhara Annihilation North East Lightning

From what’s been presented above, it’s clear that each Bhairava aligns with a specific celestial body and portion of the Moon’s transit around the Zodiacal signs. With each Bhairava forming a part of the greater whole of Mahakala Bhairava,  all twenty-seven mansions and nine planets (each of which is represented three-times) can be seen as aspects of the greater whole of that great and terrifying form of Shiva that is Lord over Time, Death and the Universe. The rest of this series will look into each of the Ashta Bhairavas in more detail and will conclude, on Bhairava Ashtami, with a summary of That which they constitute a part of.

Yoga and the Great Work

Bhairava Bharavi

Since incorporating regular yogic practices into my routine, I’ve come to learn a lot more of the depth and value of Vedic religion. What I came to realise with great joy is that it is vastly similar in its goals to Gnosticism. In both expressions of spirituality, the purest part of the Self, the Atman, is the permanent, unsullied and unchangeable essence at the core of our being that is in complete harmony with the Divine. Understanding this, the aspirant proceeds to commit themselves to direct knowledge of that innate divinity through works of union such as devotional practices, ritual, meditation, selflessness and intellectual contemplation. With repetition and consistency, such practices lead to a gradual revelation of this internal divinity which reflects that of the outer or cosmic divinity with perfection. In Vedic practices this is termed Samadhi, while in Western Esotericism it is termed many things, but the word Gnosis is the most pervasive and universally understood.

But, being incarnated into matter, our awareness of this divine core becomes lost and forgotten in a mire of bewilderment. In the West, most of us are raised by parents who toe the line of societal expectations regarding work, wealth, leisure, advancement and respectability. Likewise, our media and educational systems advance similar ideas, which, in themselves, are not evil or unreasonable. Yet, when we are conditioned into believing such materialism is the sole purpose of our short lives, we become diverted from the experience of Gnosis by our attachments to our material and emotional desires and fears and seek solace in our what is momentarily distractive or pleasurable.

By understanding that we are all—without exception—innately divine at our core no matter our station of birth, race, gender, sexuality, religion, intellect or physical capacity, the first stage of Gnosis is attained. Once this is realised, the hollowness of a purely materialistic existence begins to make sense and we come to understand why no matter how much money we make, how many lovers we take, how much property we own or how many children we have, there is always a deep sense within us that there is something missing. That ‘something’ is our awareness of what we really are.

With the understanding that the pleasures of the world will never truly satisfy us, we may, through the practice of the works of union described above, come closer to understanding our true identities, or ‘True Wills’ as they are called in Thelema. This process of understanding is universal throughout the religious and esoteric systems of humanity, being called Self-Remembering in the Gurdjieffan system, Individuation in Jungian psychology and both Yoga (pertaining to ‘Union’) and Moksha (pertaining to liberation) in the Vedic religions to name just a few.

What stands in the way of Union, and must therefore be constantly worked through, is the pull of the ego and its attachments. To these our souls are incorrigibly bound by thick chains of ignorance. These binds must be realised and hacked through with persistence, which means that the dark forces of ignorance and delusion generated by the ego and its attachments must be constantly destroyed by the fires of illumination that deities such as Shiva and Parvati—especially in their wrathful aspects like Mahakala, Kali, Bhairava and Bhairavi—can assist us with most auspiciously.

Furthermore, in accordance with the words of the Gnostic Mass—“there is no part of me that is not of the gods”—and the understanding that man and God are One, the deities we may invoke to do this reside within us, physically in our nervous systems and energetically in our subtle bodies in the form of the Kundalini serpent. To activate this serpent and to receive the knowledge it conveys, is the very essence of both the Yogas of the East and the Summum Bonum or Great Work of the West.

Whatever language we use and however we choose to practice the realisation of such things is unique to every individual and has many differing cultural expressions. But the ultimate purpose, no matter how we understand it, is identical and is innately programmed into the heart of every human being who walks the Earth. This being so, realisation of our innate divinity is something we all owe ourselves to aspire towards if we are ever to become what we are truly meant to become.

How Rational is Divination?

The_Tower_Ordo_Templi_Orienti_636

“Science describes the least of things. The least of what something is. Religion, magic—Bows to the endless.” – Joseph Solomon, A Dark Song.

According to the below TED Talk, divination primarily acts as a method to unlock the unconscious mind by prompting it with symbols and non-linear connections, so that it lends solutions to problems through the language of symbolism.

On the surface of things there is no falsehood in such statements. I would concur that when a divinatory system such as Tarot, Geomancy or Astrology is learned thoroughly the answers one can provide oneself with are based on what has been learned but can be expressed intuitively, like when you can ride a bike or drive a car so well that many of your actions, which you once struggled to learn, come as second nature.

The video therefore provides an accurate depiction of divination at the most rudimentary and basic level. But those of us deeply entrenched in matters of religion, magic and spirituality desire to understand far more that the mere surface of things. That which is ‘occult’ stands for that which is ‘hidden’ and to understand what is hidden one must delve into depths that lie beyond exoteric or materialist understanding.

It is true that divination, like all magical processes, can assist the conscious mind to channel unconscious forces. But the next question a magician would ask in response to such a statement is ‘what is the unconscious?’ To begin to answer this, one might explore the depth psychology of Carl Jung, in which the unconscious is portrayed as a realm of archetypes that transcends the personal space and touches on an objective reality known as the Collective Unconscious, which in mystical parlance can be understood as the realm of the gods.

Despite the fact that such language can be interpreted either mystically or materially according to one’s beliefs, the most fascinating aspect of Jungian psychology (which overlaps with, but cannot be wholly equated with Magic) is found in the concept of synchronicity as ‘an acausal connecting principle’ through which the events of the inner world are acutely mirrored in the outer world in a striking, meaningful and timely way that is beyond everyday coincidence. Unlike other aspects of the notion of the collective unconsciousness (which some proponents assert can be expressed as a purely biological phenomenon) synchronicity is difficult to quantify materially. The best efforts to do such a thing came from some of the extra-curricular work of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who Jung worked with sporadically over the course of multiple decades in order to prove a quantum connection between the interior and exterior worlds. Ultimately though, to the frustration of both, their efforts failed.

With the application of a magical understanding of synchronicity however, the unveiled Self can be understood as a pure reflection of the One described by Hermeticism and Advaitism, as a spark of the Divine in Gnosticism, as God itself in Thelema, as the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you in Christianity, as The Superior Man in Taoism, and so on. What all have in common is the notion that the utmost Self, like the unconscious, can be found within oneself and beyond oneself simultaneously and the realisation of this fact in the form of non-dual awareness enlightens ones views on the fullness of reality in a way that is significantly beyond ‘the least of things.’

“What the superior man seeks, is in himself; what the ordinary man seeks, is in others.” – The Ethics of Confucius.

Then there is the I Ching. This is a form of divination that, having cast used many times, I find difficult to connect to any of the aforementioned ideas that could explain divination as a process that connects the rational mind to the intuitive mind.  Such is the frequency of depth, profundity and synchronicity revealed when consulting this oracle that even with no real understanding of the physical form of the hexagrams whatsoever one can obtain answers to one’s questions that are too solid in their clarity to come from any rational or symbolic prompt impressed upon the intuitive mind.

An excellent summary of the I Ching that I find highly satisfactory comes from Chapter XVIII of Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice, which states:

The Yi King is mathematical and philosophical in form… It is in some ways the most perfect hieroglyph ever constructed. It is austere and sublime, yet withal so adaptable to every possible emergency that its figures may be interpreted to suit all classes of questions. One may resolve the most obscure spiritual difficulties no less than the most mundane dilemmas; and the symbol which opens the gates of the most exalted palaces of initiation is equally effective when employed to advise one in the ordinary business of life. The Master Therion has found the Yi King entirely satisfactory in every respect. The intelligences which direct it show no inclination to evade the question or to mislead the querent. A further advantage is that the actual apparatus is simple. Also the system is easy to manipulate, and five minutes is sufficient to obtain a fairly detailed answer to any but the most obscure questions… There is, on the surface, no difficulty at all in getting replies. In fact, the process is mechanical; success is therefore assured, bar a stroke of apoplexy.

The passage continues with an elucidation of divination as a system through which one can obtain clarity in the same way as that postulated in the above TED video. Yet, as one may expect from a Magus as venerable as Crowley, it also provides an explanation of the difference between the use of divination as a means of understanding the divine aspect of oneself rather and the mundane method of obtaining intuitive solutions to one’s problems in the way the speaker in the TED talk suggested.

But, even suppose we are safe from deceit, how can we know that the question has really been put to another mind, understood rightly, and answered from knowledge? It is obviously possible to check one’s operations by clairvoyance, but this is rather like buying a safe to keep a brick in. Experience is the only teacher. One acquires what one may almost call a new sense. One feels in one’s self whether one is right or not. The diviner must develop this sense. It resembles the exquisite sensibility of touch which is found in the great billiard player whose fingers can estimate infinitesimal degrees of force, or the similar phenomenon in the professional taster of tea or wine who can distinguish fantastically subtle differences of flavour. Divination affords excellent practice for those who aspire to that exalted eminence, for the faintest breath of personal preference will deflect the needle from the pole of truth in the answer. Unless the diviner have banished utterly from his mind the minutest atom of interest in the answer to his question, he is almost certain to influence that answer in favour of his personal inclinations.

The psycho-analyst will recall the fact that dreams are phantasmal representations of the unconscious Will of the sleeper, and that not only are they images of that Will instead of representations of objective truth, but the image itself is confused by a thousand cross-currents set in motion by the various complexes and inhibitions of his character. If therefore one consults the oracle, one must take sure that one is not consciously or unconsciously bringing pressure to bear upon it…

To summarise, the importance of rational self-knowledge is a necessary factor in divination, and in accordance with some of the more materialist explanations, divination is an excellent took of self-analysis. Yet, as one becomes accurately exposed to the deepest parts of oneself, one unlocks and illuminates aspects of one’s true nature. As things stand, there are aspects to the Self and to the mind that go beyond what can be summarised materially, and until such time that our scientific knowledge of these things becomes more advanced, tools such as magic, religion, divination and depth-psychology provide some of the best techniques we have to better understand such things.

Mars Conjunct Aldebaran

Notre Dame

The tragic news of a fire destroying parts of a wonder of art and architecture like Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday, as well as the simultaneous fire that destroyed part of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, saw a tight conjunction between Mars and the Fixed Star Aldebaran at 10º Gemini. Traditionally, Aldebaran’s conjunction with Mars is wont to bring destruction and accidents, and with both celestial bodies sitting in House IX, the House of Religion and Philosophy, at the place and time of the French fire’s outbreak (approximately 18:30, Paris time) the auspicious activation of a major destructive event instigated by fiery Mars and Marsian Aldebaran is credible. Furthermore, in the Sidereal Zodiac—which is that deemed most relevant to Mundane Astrology—the Lunar Mansion Al Dabaran, named after its leading star, is particularly associated with the destruction of buildings. That there were two such fires simultaneously could be seen as a manifestation of the twin or dual aspect of Gemini.

Jupiter, the planet which represents religion, gods and worship, stationed retrograde at 24º 21′ Sagittarius on 10th April, just 30′ shy of the face of the fixed star Shaula, and was positioned at 24º 19′, a small orb of 0º 32′ away from this star (which the Arabs named ‘the tail of the Scorpion’ and is known for its  Marsian and Mercurial properties) at the time the fire was detected. In Paris, Jupiter’s position in House III where it formed a loose departing square with Shaula’s other resonant planet, Mercury—the ruler of both Gemini and House III, which was in its detriment and fall in the twenty-ninth degree of Pisces, in that sign’s Marsian decan—may have assisted with the quickness with which the fire spread.

In Jerusalem, the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque—the third most revered place of worship  for Muslims—Mars and Aldebaran were located in House VIII, which is strongly influenced by Mars and Scorpio.

The fate of Notre Dame (which has some personal significance to me as I proposed to my wife while sailing past it on the Seine back in September 2016), brought to mind the lightning strike that destroyed the roof of York Minster on July 9th, 1984. Mars sat conjunct with the star Zubenelgenubi, the Southern Claw of the Scorpion—a star of the nature of Mars and Jupiter—at 14º Scorpio at that time, though more fitting to that event was the conjunction of the shocking sky god Uranus with Antares, then at 9º Sagittarius, which sits almost exactly opposite Aldebaran and is also destructive and Marsian in nature. Aldebaran was conjunct the Ascendant at the time that the fire brigade arrived on the scene at York Minister (approx 02:15, meaning the fire probably broke out around 02:00), while Antares was approaching the Descendant and Aquarius, the sign of Uranus’s domecile, was on the cusp of the Midheaven. Jupiter was also retrograde at the time of the York Minster fire, as it was at the time of yesterday’s twin fires.

I hope both of these mighty examples of human culture and endeavour will recover from the unpleasant setbacks that have befallen them, and I express sympathy and goodwill to all  those impacted by the fires. York Minster was eventually repaired and thrives today and hopefully Notre Dame and Al-Aqsa will recover too.

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.