BY TRISTA EDWARDS
1. Mandrake of Oxford is an independent publisher located in Oxford, England. The press is primarily known for the publication of "hands-on" books for occult practitioners. Mogg Morgan founded the small publishing house over thirty years ago (originally named Golden Dawn Publications) with the name as a homage to Thelema founder, Aleister Crowley. Over the years they have published such titles as Celestial Arcana, Sexual Magick, Consciousness and Near Death Experience, Pan’s Daughter: The Magical World of Roseleen Norton, and so many other dark and delightful reads.
The press was generous enough to send me a copy of Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life Of Marjorie Cameron by Spencer Kansa to pore over and I could not have been more seduced by a book cover in my life than as I ripped open the package in frenzied anticipation. Marjorie Cameron’s hypnotic eyes stared back at me with such pull that I immediately dug into the pages.
If you run a preliminary search of Cameron on the Internet if she is, in fact, an individual you may not be familiar with then you will learn that she an American artist, poet, actress, occultist (particularly a follower of Crowley’s Thelema tradition), and wife of fellow occultist, rocket pioneer, and one time chum of L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons.
(Fun fact-there is a television show in the works about Parsons called Strange Angel, by Ghost Story director David Lowery, in which a portrayal of Cameron would surely have to make an appearance.)
In this first time biography of Cameron, Kansa not only tantalizes the reader with her mesmerizing life (working in 1940s Washington with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to a wardrobe mistress and makeup artist constructing Navy propaganda films to her eventual marriage to Parsons to her career in art, film, poetry, and ritual magick), but he also fills the novel with over 20 new images of the occultist and her beguiling life.
Parsons believed that Cameron had been sent to him as what he called his "Elemental." Essentially he believed his wife was a scared witch he evoked through a series of magickal ceremonies, conducted by both himself and Hubbard, who was meant to be the head of his new religion.
Wormwood Star is an intoxicating tale of art, magick, sex, cult, conspiracy, and science fiction all set in the California desert. It is dark and enthralling cocktail of art and spirituality as I have never seen before.
Read it. Go read it now. In the desert if you can.
2. Three Hands Press, as touted on their gorgeous website, is "the premier publisher of contemporary occultism and metaphysica, representing the new generation of esoteric scholars, artists and practitioners."
The artwork that graces the covers of their tomes will make you salivate. Witch Ikon: Witchcraft in Art and Artifact (which doesn’t come out until October 28, 2017) "gathers a vast selection of images of witches and their diabolical magic, emphasizing the range of artistic depictions that have helped coalesce this most powerful of modern supernatural icons."
Wyrd is a bi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the archaic esoteric that expresses both scholarly and heuristic viewpoints on the concerns of sorcery, folk magic, witchcraft, myth, folklore, paganism, and ancient mystery religions.
Penumbrae: An Occult Fiction Anthology holds thirteen works of thirteen different authors. The heart of this anthology "lies in tales that embody a metaphysical position, as opposed to fiction that merely employs metaphysical trappings to enforce a materialist worldview."
Three Hands sent me a copy of Corinne Boyer’s Plants of the Devil, which explores both plant and folk magic as it particularly aligned with the figure of the devil. As an amateur herbalist, this book wooed me deep into, as Boyer writes, "the shadow-darkened plots of Wild Nature known as the Devil’s Garden." The book covers the shadowy entanglements between witchcraft, plants, disease, nature’s poisons, and medicines.
The chapter titled "To Summon the Old One for Aid" and its investigation into the plant lore involved in summoning the Devil by the magical practitioner for direct assistance in various rituals particularly intrigued me. This idea to call upon “evil” in the aid of removing an evil power, such as disease, is an intriguing metaphor of calling upon the dark for light.
Here’s a bit from the chapter that piqued my curiosities—
Disease was an evil power, therefor, who better to remove it than the Master of Evil Himself. An example presented here was to be done by a woman who had a sore throat, thought to be sent and caused by a witch They woman was to take her own apron and measure and fold it into a cross for three mornings in a row. Then before eating breakfast each morning, she was to cross three pins overhead with a sharp knife, then stick the knife into the table speaking these words:
Devil I conjure thee alone! In flesh and bone!
If I should bewitched be,
The witch at once shall set me free.
Till I am freed from all my pain,
The knife in the table shall remain.
And the witch shall feel the knife,
in her soul and in her life.
Go get this book. Play with the earth. Hold dirt in your hands. Smell the roots of some unruly flora. Visit the Devil’s Garden.
3. Scarlet Imprint is another wicked dreamy press from across the pond. Founded in 2007 in Brighton, England by Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech, Scarlet Imprint began with "the talismanic publication of 156 copies of The Red Goddess." They print traditional paperbacks and ditigal copies in addition to limited runs of finely designed books. The True Grimoire, for example, comes in three different printings—
- Fine Edition—Limited to 54 copies. Quarter bound in veiny vellum, Cockerell marbled boards.
- Standard Hardback Edition—Limited to 1000 copies. Bound in green cloth, blocked with a red skull, red endpapers.
- Biblothèque Rogue Edition—Unlimited paperback.
Sad for us, but great for Scarlet Imprint, the Fine and Standard Editions are both sold out.
(***For a divine treat, check out editor Alkistis Dimech’s site Sabbatic Dance for her art, creative, and scholarly work involving the "occulted body" and "the correlation between dance, magic/witchcraft and sexual, erotic and generative power." Her performance of The Decollation of Flowers is below.)
The editors of Scarlet Imprint were kind enough to send me several digital copies of their beautiful publications (The press's pioneering text, The Red Goddess, Datura: Explorations in Esoteric Poesis, Mandragora: Further Explorations in Esoteric Poesis, and Apocalyptic Witchcraft) and a stunning, STUNNING, Biblothèque Rogue edition of the forthcoming The Game of Saturn: Decoding the Sola-Busca tarocchi by Peter Mark Adams.
Scarlet Imprint is in the process of crafting the first faithful reproduction of the Sola-Busca tarocchi since the Italian deck’s creation over 500 years ago. The Game of Saturn is the very first scholarly study of this Renaissance era deck. This beautiful manuscript "fully explores the historical context for the deck’s creation against the background of tense Ferrarese-Venetian diplomatic intrigue and espionage. The recovery of the deck’s encoded narratives constitutes a significant contribution to Renaissance scholarship, art history, tarot studies and the history of Western esotericism."
Chapter Four, "Planetary Powers," explores the deck in relation to cosmic powers—
We have predicted that the deck will include encoded references to the planetary powers necessary to empower a system of ritual magic. The seven classical planetary spheres or intelligences are: Mercury, Mars, Saturn, Venus, the Sun, the Moon and Jupiter. If this supposition is valid, by identifying the astral bodies encoded within the deck, we can confirm the nature of the worldview and purpose that sought to harness them.
Adams seeks to tie to the imagery and symbolic language of the deck to Alexander the Great, Plutarch, Dante, and more. The exploration into much of the allusive esoteric deliciousness is something you can (and will) turn back to again and again with this hearty tome.
I highly, highly, suggest pre-ordering your copy now.
The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to The Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More by Arin Murphy-Hiscock comes from Adams Media, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster. While not from a small occult press, this book will make any green witch swoon with the tactile and aesthetic experience of holding this lovely artifact in their hands. This natural witch did!
This guide includes advice on how to build altars and shrines, how to make a sacred outdoor space, how to craft a dream pillow, how to make restorative elixirs, and more.
I particularly enjoyed the autumnal equinox mediation that grounds you to the elements of the surrounding harvest and provides a moment for reflection on the themes of season—"sacrifice, loss, and gentle regret."
Get thee to the woods with this book in hand and sense the fullness that flows through the steam and roots and leaves.
Trista Edwards is a contributing editor at Luna Luna Magazine. She is also the curator and editor of the anthology, Till The Tide: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2015). She is currently working on her first full-length poetry collection but until then you can read her poems at 32 Poems, Quail Bell Magazine, Moonchild Magazine, The Adroit Journal, The Boiler, Queen Mob's Tea House, Bad Pony, and more. She creates magickal candles at her company, Marvel + Moon.