Occult Author Spotlight – Bill Whitcomb

Occult Author Spotlight - Bill Whitcomb

Note: This is my last column for the Occult Author Spotlight. While there are many other authors to discuss and I hope someone will take over and write about those authors, the demands of several of my own ventures as well as some changes in my spiritual life prohibit me from continuing.

I was first introduced to Bill Whitcomb’s work when a friend bought me The Magician’s Companion for my birthday one year. I immediately saw the usefulness of this book as a compendium of information about various magical systems, symbols, archetypes and other information that could prove useful if you needed to quickly get information on a particular subject within occultism. I’ve used it on a few different occasions to improve the efficacy of my works, and it remains a book I consult on a regular basis. The book looks at both western and eastern systems of magic and discusses succinctly the elements of those systems, while also providing reading lists for people who would like to go more in depth with the materials. Another added benefit is that Whitcomb lists the systems by their use of numbers, so you’ll see a few systems with the number seven. Reading through the entire book can be quite novel and useful.

I met Bill shortly after I moved to Portland and became good friends with him. During that process, I learned about his second book The Magician’s Reflection, which had gone out of print some time ago and didn’t look like it would come back into print from the original publisher. With some wheedling on my part, he eventually got the rights back and decided to republish that book with Megalithica books.

The Magician’s Reflection is an instruction book in how to create your symbol system for magic, with an encyclopedia of possible choices you could make for that. Naturally you shouldn’t limit yourself to what is presented in the book, but the various examples that Whitcomb provides can provide useful inspiration as you develop your own system of magic. Whitcomb also includes the alphabet of dreams, a magical language with its own cipher, and an appendix about a system of time magic called Nar, written by a friend of his, which utilizes different patterns and colors to help a person manipulate possibilities in time. Both the alphabet of dreams and Nar provide some intriguing ideas about where a unique system of magic can be created and developed. The Magician’s Reflection provides you your own key for doing that as well.

Bill is currently working on the Dream Manual, which is a book with art and some phrases to be used for meditational purposes. If you go to his website you can learn more about this project. He and I are working on another book together, which is a best practices of magic book. It’s still very much in the rough draft phase, but will be available at some point in the near future.

Recommended Reading

  • Whitcomb, Bill. (1993). The Magician’s Companion: A Practical and Encyclopedic Guide to Magical and Religious Symbolism. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Whitcomb, Bill. (2008). The Magician’s Reflection. Stafford: Megalithica Books.

©2009 by Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight – Isaac Bonewits

Occult Author Spotlight - Isaac Bonewits

I first met Isaac Bonewits a few years ago at the Fall Gathering of the Tribes in West Virginia. It was quite interesting to talk with him and it was at that time that I was introduced to his work. Bonewits has been involved in the occult since the 1960s. He’s the only person to have graduated from a university with a degree in magic. Bonewits has founded and belonged to various pagan magical organizations, as well as having written a number of books on paganism and magic.

My familiarity with Bonewits’ work has focused on four books by him: Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic, Authentic Thaumaturgy, Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca, and Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, And Substances to Heal, Change, And Grow, which was co-written by his wife Phaedra Bonewits. Bonewits has written other books as well (see below). What I’ve most enjoyed about his work, beyond the sense of humor, is the attention to detail Bonewits provides in his works, as well as his ability to explain different tangents and concepts. Real Magic, in particular, is one of the first attempts I’ve seen to provide a coherent set of laws which explains how magic works.

I recommend Bonewits’ books for the detail and variety, but also because he maintains a rigorous academic approach to his works. Consequently, it is very easy to trace where he got his sources from, which can provide additional places of research and reading for people who are interested.

His website is http://www.neopagan.net.

Bibliography

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight: Jan Fries

Occult Author Spotlight: Jan Fries

I picked up all of Fries works a few years ago at Edge of the Circle, an occult bookstore in Seattle, which happens to stock these otherwise hard to find books. The main reason these books are hard to find is they are published by a U.K. publisher and have to be special ordered. However, it’s well worth your while to special order these books, as there is a wealth of information in them about diverse topics including Norse Runes, Seith shamanic practices, freestyle shamanic practices, in sights on the Tao, and practical magic experiments and exercises.

Fries is from and resides in Germany, and is apparently a musician, as well as a writer. For his books, he draws on Taoism, Celtic magic, Thelema, Maat Magic, and Austin Osman Spare’s techniques for automatic drawing as inspirations and sources which inform his own approaches to magic.

I have only read two of Fries works at this time: Visual Magick, and Living Midnight: Three Movements of the Tao. I found both works to be informative and filled with exercises that could easily be incorporated into a magician’s practice. At the same time, Fries definitely shows that he is able to provide his own perspective to the material. While he draws on Taoist and Buddhist material, he also makes it clear that he has his own approach to using the material, which is informed by a desire to make it as practical as possible. This is a very useful approach for any magician to utilize and Fries models it admirably.

I haven’t read his other three works, though I do have them. However, having spoken to some other magicians who have read his works, I’ve been told that they are of a similar quality as the other two works I mentioned, and I definitely believe it. What also impresses me about this author’s works is the bibliography and level of research that clearly has gone into each work. While I’d like to see more overt in-text citations, Fries does make an active effort to quote the works of others, which adds to the overall efficacy of the writing.

I highly recommend getting copies of Fries work. It’s a worthy investment for any magician’s library and will provide you a unique perspective on magical practices.

Below is a list of Fries’s works. It’s definitely in the interest of any magician to pick up Fries’s writing and incorporate it in your personal practice.

  • Visual Magick: A Handbook of Freestyle Shamanism (Mandrake, 1992, 2001)
  • Helrunar: Manual of Rune Magick (Mandrake, 1993 & 2002)
  • Seidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent Mysteries (Mandrake, 1996)
  • Living Midnight: Three Movements of the Tao (Mandrake, 1998)
  • The Cauldron of the Gods: Manual of Celtic Magick (Mandrake, 2003)

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight: William G. Gray

April 14, 2009 by  
Filed under columns, occult author spotlight, qabalah

Occult Author Spotlight: William G. Gray

William G. Gray’s books on magic have been one of the foundations of my own practice since 1998, when I was first given his book Ladder of Lights by a mentor of mine. What I’ve found so fascinating with his work is its concise and thorough focus on the process of magic. Gray doesn’t embellish his writing or tell convoluted stories or leave information out to test his readers. Gray founded a magical order called Sangreal Sodality, which is focused on his interpretation of ceremonial magic and Hermetic Quabalah. In particular Gray developed the Rite of Light, which is a practice focused on accessing the innermost mysteries of esoteric orders without drawing on any particular religious affiliation.

My own familiarity with Gray’s work has primarily occurred through his books which discuss the process of magic and how it works, as well as through the book The Ladder Of Lights, which goes into great detail and depth about the Sephiroth in the Quabalah and the meanings, angels, godforms, and related concepts that are associated with each Sephirah. Gray’s books on the quabalah are very detailed. In Talking Tree he discusses the tarot on the tree of life and what the meaning of each trump is with the different paths on the tree of life.

However, my favorite books of his are Magical Ritual Methods and Inner Traditions of Magic. In Inner Traditions of Magic Gray discusses the basics of ceremonial magic, but also introduces readers to the power concept of Telesmatic images and questions the relevance of magic in the nuclear age, which can also be applied to some degree to the technology age we live in. In Magical Ritual Methods, Gray discusses zero, space/time concepts, invocation and other techniques which can be used to enhance the magic one is doing. Both books are essentials that will get any reader to think carefully about how s/he is approaching magic.

Recently, Weiser books started republishing Gray’s work, which had previously been out of print. I highly recommend picking the re-prints up while they are in stock, as his books can otherwise be hard to find. I was fortunate enough to get most of my copies right before they want out of print and to this day I still refer to them a fair amount, and find his books, along with Bardon’s, to be the most relevant to building a strong foundation for western ceremonial practices of magic.

Books by William G. Gray

There are more books written by him. The ones above are the ones I was able to find and have in my library.

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight: Franz Bardon

December 30, 2008 by  
Filed under columns, occult author spotlight

Occult Author Spotlight: Franz Bardon

I first encountered Franz Bardon’s works approximately five years ago, and was amazed I hadn’t read or explored his concepts earlier. It likely didn’t help that until recently his works were out of print or printed only in German. In 2001, Merkur Publishing translated all of Bardon’s works and re-published them in the U.S.

Franz Bardon lived approximately forty years and was a stage magician as well as a hermeticist. He died in 1958 from pancreatitis, which may have been purposely induced when he was put in prison by communists. Bardon wrote three books on Hermeticism, and was working on a fourth when he died. There is also a biographical book about him called Frabato the Magician. [Ed’s note: This book is by Bardon, so if it’s a bio, it is an autobiography.] Bardon’s work tends to focus on practical applications of magic. While he discusses theory, the books are clearly written to instruct the reader in how to practice magic. Exercises are provided throughout each of the texts. It’s fair to say that the potential of his books isn’t fully realized unless the magician does the exercises.

The quality of Bardon’s work is high. I wasn’t exposed to his work until recently, and while most of the exercises he proposes in Initiation into Hermetics are ones I’ve done variants of, trying out his exercises has proven to be helpful in honing my skills and focus. In fact, it’s fair to compare the quality of his work to William G. Gray. Both tend toward an exactness of description, as well as a thorough explanation of how a practical technique should work, that is sorely lacking in a lot of the other occult literature of the time. The exercises in his first book are useful challenges to aspiring magicians, and I’d also recommend them to experienced magicians who want a different perspective on ceremonial magic than is found through the more traditional work of Crowley and Regardie. It’s interesting to note that Bardon clearly had some background in Far Eastern breathing techniques, as his concepts of pore breathing and energy accumulation are decidedly not Western practices. The energy work exercises are very helpful in improving one’s health.

Bardon’s second work, The Practice of Magical Evocation, provides an excellent explanation of how evocation works in a manner that is unique to Bardon, but nonetheless could easily have influenced the chaos magic movement in terms of how entities are created. Bardon provides readers an opportunity to summon a large number of entities based on planetary attributes, as well as explaining to readers how to develop relationships with said entities. I’d have to say that this book should be considered one of the cornerstones of evocation, as Bardon’s work provides readers an opportunity to really develop their skills in evocation, while also understanding how it works.

I have to confess I haven’t yet read The Key to the True Kabbalah. From what I understand, this work isn’t considered to be as good as the previous two works, though it should be noted that Bardon intentionally wrote his books to build upon each other. So prior experience with the practices in his two prior works may be necessary to unlock the key of the third book. It is interesting to note that Bardon uses the German alphabet in his kabbalistic workings, similar in fact to the work done with the English language and Kabbalah.

Below is a list of Bardon’s works. It’s definitely in the interest of any magician to pick up Bardon’s writing and run with it in your personal practice.

Recommended Reading

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2008 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

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