Required reading.

Half way through August I find myself in an unreasonable panic. I haven’t finished my summer reading yet! Now, I’ve been out of school for…well, let’s just say a long, long time… but still I begin each summer with a list of books that I must read. Working where I do, I have access to an amazing library of occult and esoteric titles – books that I’ve been wanting to read for years, books that I’ve never heard of, and books that unnerve me just a little.  Really – I wish you all could see these shelves! But one problem that arises with this kind of access is where to begin. What are the essentials – the “required reading” that anyone interested in an occult education must tackle? If you were offering an introductory course on the occult – what would you call it (Western Esoteric Classicism 101? Mystic Studies? Terrible Tomes?) and what would you put on your syllabus?

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4 thoughts on “Required reading.

  1. cairnwood

    Beginning Magick 101 for me would consist of:

    Magick Without Tears / Magick in Theory and Practice – Aleister Crowley

    The New Magus – Donald Tyson

    Cosmic Trigger / Prometheus Rising – Robert Anton Wilson

    Unseen Spirits – Manly Palmer Hall

    Enochian Physics – Gerald J. Schueler

    Transcendental Magic – Eliphas Levi

    Techniques of High Magic – Francis King and Stephen Skinner

    The Masks of God – Joseph Campbell

    Food of the Gods / The Archaic Revival – Terence McKenna

  2. Elissa Rich

    My required reading list trends more toward Wicca and Celtic Studies than general occult, but it is definitely in there; if anyone on our path wishes to practice magic, I honestly believe it’s a good idea to understand how many believe it works (laws, relationships, dos & don’ts, etc), so some occult study is required.

    First, as an homage to Isaac Bonewits and a true recommendation, I’d advise reading “Real Magic.” Of the texts that explore the ‘laws of magic’, his is the most clear to understand. It’s not a how-to, or why-to, but the very fundamentals of the occult and magic itself so that reading and applying the hows and whys are much more easily understood and done.

    For the ethical side, or the “why-to”, I recommend Carl McColman’s “Before You Cast a Spell” and Robin Wood’s “When, Why…If.”

    I also highly recommend Kerr Cuhulain’s “The Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca,” as it not talks about what Wicca is, but what it isn’t, dispelling a lot of the silly law enforcement notions and myths like “the great god Samhain” or so-called black masses and whether or not Wicca is a cult as defined by law enforcement. If you have police officer friends, or folks having difficulty seperating urban legends from truth, this is a book you really need to have on hand. (It could also help if you yourself ever get into difficulties with the law over public rituals.)

    There are also many arguments beyond that into what individual practitioners believe Wicca is or isn’t, and frequently it boils down to individual paths, or those still trying to figure it out for themselves and getting confused in the process. And so: from a spiritual angle, and one that makes a lot of sense to me, is Ellen Cannon Reed’s “The Heart of Wicca.” I also still have great fondness for the book I began with, Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance.”

    For detangling the individual paths, and helping people figure out which one they’re on: Margot Adler’s classic “Drawing Down the Moon” and Patricia Telesco (editrix) “Which Witch Is Witch?” Margot Adler’s goes much farther afield than just Wicca, which can be helpful to someone who feels kinship with Wicca but for whom it doesn’t quite click; one of the other paths in there may be just right.

    There are also the Wiccan classics, such as the works of Gerald Gardner, Charles Leland, Raymond Buckland, Scott Cunningham, Doreen Valiente, and (my favorite) the Farrars (especially “A Witch’s Bible”).

    For Celtic studies…I could ramble a lot on this. But in the interests of conciseness and whetting appetites, this is my list:

    “Magic of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses” by Carl McColman and Kathryn Hinds
    “The Mabinogion”
    “Celtic Heritage” by Alwyn and Brinley Rees
    “The Apple Branch” by Alexei Kondratiev (R.I.P.!)

  3. Although I think the question may refer more to an occult education for practitioners, we are strong believers in the complementary nature of the academic approach and its value to practitioners, scholars, as well as the educated layperson with an interest in the “forgotten” aspects of Western culture. From Western Esotericism 101 to Studies in Divination and explorations of Occultism in popular culture, readers may be interested in the reading lists for our courses covering a wide range of esoteric and occult topics… Despite our emphasis on the academic approach, we do not consider that the experiential nature of our subject areas should be sacrificed in the name of reductionism.

  4. Apologies for the double comment – mistyped the website. Please note this is not intended as gratuitous advertising – this dialogue is one on which we have a strong position with regard to esoteric and occult education.

    Although I think the question may refer more to an occult education for practitioners, we are strong believers in the complementary nature of the academic approach and its value to practitioners, scholars, as well as the educated layperson with an interest in the “forgotten” aspects of Western culture. From Western Esotericism 101 to Studies in Divination and explorations of Occultism in popular culture, readers may be interested in the reading lists for our courses covering a wide range of esoteric and occult topics… Despite our emphasis on the academic approach, we do not consider that the experiential nature of our subject areas should be sacrificed in the name of reductionism.

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