Le Livre des échecs amoureux moralisés. Commissioned by Louise of Savoy. Transferred between 1515-1518 to the royal library of Blois. “The games of Love”, masterfully composed and filled with moral stories against foolish love, whose end (the book claims) is to show the error and deception that is fatuous love and its innumerable dangers.
Currently located at La Bibliothèque nationale de France. See it in full detail here.
Italian traditional witchcraft, la stregheria, is an amalgamation of centuries of influence from all corners of the Mediterranean. By the Middle Ages, it had been re-planted in the Christian tradition. But its roots are massively ancient–built upon the remnants of the old religio romana, and infused during the days of the empire with elements from Grecian and Egyptian magical systems. I recently came across this clandestine rite intended to transport the magical practitioner to the Italian city of Benevento, known since the 13th century as an infamous gathering place for witches sabbats.
As in other traditions, the crossroads is a typical place where the magician may encounter spirits with whom to do their working. Here he would place offerings to the dead and to the goddess Hecate. Mulled wine and grain, and the meat of a pig respectively. Once offered, the magician summons the goddess and asks that a portal be opened allowing passage between the worlds.
On the ground, he marks out a five-pointed star facing Westward. At each point placing a lit candle, and a skeleton key at the center. Gazing at the key unto the point of trance, gently he blows across each flame three times saying:
Sotto aero e sopra vento
Sotto acqua e sotto vento
Menami la noce Benevento
Then he immediately picks up the key in his left hand, closing his eyes and slowly exhaling. While exhaling, he imagines the star opening as a doorway, allowing himself to enter into and move through the portal. The magician finds himself surrounded by the stars of the night sky, moving through them and flying over the land, the sea and the mountains. He finds a clearing lit by torches, and, exhaling, descends himself to rest near the walnut tree at Benevento. This is the gathering place of the witches who have come to feast and revel with the gods.
The magician, visualizing, sees a banquet table filled with food. Others come to join him. He continues feasting, making merry and observing all the goings-on around him. As torches process away, he sees in the distance an ornate throne sitting at the base of the walnut tree. Upon the throne is seated the Great Sabbatic Goat, the Horned One. The crown of his head is lit with a torch, and this is flanked by two great horns. This is the Lord of Nature, Pan himself. The banqueters gather around the one enthroned to dance, their vigor inflamed by the wine and food. The magician moves himself about, all the while dancing and watching around him as the dancing turns into a Bacchic frenzy.
Suddenly the magician sees a person standing behind the Black Goat, offering a fig to eat. This fig is the symbol of these hidden mysteries. He takes it and eats it, the culmination of this strange communion.
When he has decided the time has come to leave, the magician summons his five-pointed star portal again, and pronounces his enchantment to return:
Sotto aero e sopra vento Sotto acqua e sotto vento Portami via da Benevento
Again he perceives the opening of the stellar portal, and, slowly inhaling and lifting his arms aloft, is surrounded by the stars of night, his soul flying swiftly through the air and over the world below. Finally exhaling, his arms slowly lowered to the ground, he opens his eyes to his return back the crossroads from whence he first departed.
“To journey to the walnut tree is to awaken the Primal Conscious, through which the ancient forms reconnect. It is a return to the Old Ones known to our ancestors before the world was reshaped by human minds. In ancient times, the serpent was venerated at the site of the tree. The serpent has always been the revealer of truth, the enlightener, and the guardian of the seed of light. The seed that lies under the protection of the serpent gives way to the grand harvest. Thus are the cakes and wine featured at the Sabbat banquet. For it is here that one comes to know that within, which is of the eternal Gods.” – From To Fly By Night, The Craft of the Hedgewitch
If you are a witch, like me, of a non-Wiccan, non-Pagan persuasion, this newly released book may be present the path for you. Orapello and Maguire have put together their own tradition of witchcraft that makes sense for modern times. This book serves as a reminder that we are people of the land, and we are each tied to the land where we live. There may be little need for gods from an ancient bygone country which we have never seen or heard. Instead we should favor indigenous plants and animals, local customs, the spirits and ancestors of our own land, and the seasons not only of our own region, but seasons that make sense to modern living (that is, a non-agrarian society that has little fear of food scarcity or timing rituals around harvest or famine). This is especially poignant as Americans with a shorter breadth of history and folklore native to our home country.
As the title would suggest, the tools of this craft are traditional as well, but adaptable to our own needs. The authors lay out a sixfold path of traditional witchcraft which includes: History and lore, magick, divination, herbalism, necromancy and hedgewitchery. Their system flips the established yet contrived order of the elemental corners upside down, in favor of one that makes more locative sense to the user’s common sense. There is no shortage of animism or ancestors here, along with their two primary deities who are the masculine and feminine deifications of Nature itself.
I myself will be adopting many of their ideas into my regular magical work. This kind of magic ties the blood of Man to the soil of the Earth in a deep and meaningful way. What’s more is it raises our awareness of the world immediately around us and our relationship with it. Rather than adopting a witchcraft tradition which is a confused occultic hodgepodge amalgamation of other peoples’ ideas (or worse, a confused “New Age” practice that has no coherency or basis in reality whatsoever), Besom Stang & Sword inspire the reader to make their own path, and more importantly, forge a living tradition that is woven into their own world.
To Hoodoo a Man’s Nature:
If a man you love is running around and won’t be faithful, take the MEASURE of his penis while he is hard, transferring the MEASURE to a STRING. Wipe the STRING with his SEMEN, then tie nine knots in it. To tie the knots, make the start of a knot at the center of the STRING, then call his name. When he replies, pull the knot tight. Do this for each knot, on nine separate days. The order in which the knots are tied is this:
Keep this knotted MEASURE-STRING in a red flannel bag dressed with Stay With Me Oil. If you hate the man and want to destroy his sex life, roll his MEASURE in RED PEPPER powder and CROSSING OIL, then use it as a wick and hand-form a black penis-shaped candle around it. Dress the candle with Crossing Oil, light the wick and let it burn all the way out.
The Limbourg brothers (who likely died of plague) were famous for their inventive use of bold colors, including the blue featured in this folio, which was actually made from dust of lapis lazuli in gum arabic.
“Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.” – John Milton, Paradise Lost
This 18th century grimoire on black magic is attributed to St. Cyprian, the north African Berber bishop of late antiquity who was definitely no magician (or the Grecian mage who was stolen by Christianity?). The text is presented in macaronic Latin, Hebrew and trans. fluvii hijacked from Agrippa (XVI CE). It is also said to belong to the famed Black School of Wittenburg, but who has said that remains unclear. Taking a brief look at the drawings and texts, and given the unknown origin and author, my best guess is that his book is a total fraud—a showpiece for some eccentric collector to flash at parties to create an allure. The text does contain pretty straightforward content, but none of it is really original. If this is a genuine grimoire, it is useless! There are no contemporary references to the document at all, which gives me pause. There is a promising book about this grimoire and Cyprian’s magic I might try to pick up.
An interesting and poetic take on the relationship between humans and plants that can harm as well as heal. More interesting however is the way in which folklore has associated many of these plants with the powers of evil—not only poisons but helpful plants have been maligned because of traditional uses by the cunning folk. The author, Corinne Boyer, invites you to explore your own relationship with these plants, learning from them not only through praxis but also meditative contemplation of their lives and spirits.
The gallant, haughty style of writing that made Dr. Anton LaVey infamous is very much present in his disciple and successor Magus Peter H. Gilmore. The Church of Satan’s penchant for showmanship and dramatics (part of what made the Church and LaVey so well known) makes itself visible in this collection of assorted writings that have brought the Church into the 21st century. When you get past all the pompous vocabulary, you reach the heart of the message of the Church of Satan: Do It Yourself, Asshole. A good read that will enlighten you on many of the misconceptions and misgivings many have about Satanism.