Thanks Giving “Prayers” for the Rest of Us

It is, conceptually, a beautiful holiday. The commercialization of American Thanksgiving, however, has compromised its meaning somewhat.  These days, Thanksgiving is a time for overindulgence, family drama, Football, and camping outside big-box stores for Black Friday sales. Not exactly what the forefathers had in mind.  It is also, even when traditionally observed, rather Christian in its focus. Nothing wrong with that. The Pilgrims were Christian. But what about the rest of us? How should we offer our thanks?  Here are a few suggestions, and our sincere wishes for a safe and happy holiday:

from A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book by Ceisiwr Serith


Here we are, gathered on this wonderful holiday, among family and friends.

and all we can think is “thank you.”

Thank you to all those whose presence made this celebration possible,

and gratitude most of all to the Shining Ones,

whom we continually praise.


From A Book of Pagan Pray by Ceisiwr Serith


The gifts the gods give me are many and wonderful

and I am grateful to the gods for their generosity.

Knowing that it would be wrong to forget them,

I lift my voice in thankfulness.

Holy Ones, thank you, for all that you have done.


Standing in the presence of the mighty gods,

my mind is turned toward all I’ve been given.

I thank them, as is only their due,

for they pour out blessings on all their children.


Thanks to my patron for my continued prospertity,

for my continued health, for my continued life.

Continually I will pray to you,

always remembering you.


From A Grateful Heart, ed. M.J. Ryan


O  Great Spirit

Whose voice I hear in the winds,

And whose breath gives life to all the world,

hear me! I am small and weak, I need your

strength and wisdom.

Let Me Walk In Beauty, and make my eyes

ever behold the red and purple sunset.

Make My Hands respect the things you have

made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make Me Wise so that I may understand the

things you have taught my people.

Let Me Learn the lessons you have hidden

in every leaf and rock.

I Seek Strength, not to be greater than my

brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.

Make Me Always Ready to come to you with

clean hands and straight eyes.

So When Life Fades, as the fading sunset,

my spirit may come to you without shame.

– Native American Prayer


May the suffering ones be suffering free

And the fear struck fearless be.

May the grieving shed all grief –

And the sick find health relief.

-Zen Chant


The food is brahma (creative energy)

Its essence is vishnu (preservative energy)

The eater is shiva (destructive energy)

No sickness due to food can come

To one who eats with this knowledge.

Sanskrit Blessings, tranl. Baba Hari Dass


The sun brings forth the beginning

The moon holds it in darkness

As above, so below

For there is no greater magic in all the world

than that of people joined together in love.

– Wiccan Blessing


May we walk with grace

and may the light of the universe

shine upon our path.

– Anonymous


All Life Is One

And Everything that Lived is Holy

Plants, Animals and People.

All must eat to live and nourish one another

We bless the lives that have died to give us this food.

Let us eat together

Resolving by our work to pay the debt of our existence.

– John Bennett


Now may every living thing, young or old, weak or

strong, living near or far, known or unknown, living or

departed or yet unborn, may every living thing be full

of bliss.

– The Buddha


Blessings All!

– Ankhie

Cold from the Crypt & Hot Off the (Virtual) Press – The Weiser Digital Library

Those of you who are familiar with Varla Ventura (she of The Book of the Bizarre and Beyond Bizarre, as well as The Huffington Post) know that she rejoices in all things odd and unseemly. So when Weiser Books needed a curator for a new digital library of lost occult classics, the choice was obvious. Varla’s selections for the first ten titles in this series were not. In keeping with her fabulous freakitude, Varla chose tomes as obscure and unsettling as The House and the Brain (which may be the creepiest title ever) and The Occult Power of Goats. God I love that woman!

The result is a group of digital books that will inform, enlighten, surprise, and scare the pants off you. Perfect. They are inexpensive  (starting at $2.99)  and are currently available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and soon (very soon) most other e-reader platforms.

Intrigued? Of course you are. So, because Ankhie loves you, here’s a taste of some serious weirdness from A Haunting in Paris:

Utter night: the last flicker of the lantern was gone. I sat and waited; my mind was still keen, but how long would it last? There was a limit even to the endurance of the utter panic of fear.

Then the end began. In the velvet blackness came two white eyes, milky, opalescent, small, far away,—awful eyes, like a dead dream. More beautiful than I can describe, the flakes of white flame moving from the perimeter inward, disappearing ending flow of opal water into a circular tunnel. I could not have moved my eyes had I possessed the power: they devoured the fearful, beautiful things that grew slowly, slowly larger, fixed on me, advancing, growing more beautiful, the white flakes of light sweeping more swiftly into the blazing vortices, the awful fascination deepening in its insane intensity as the white, vibrating eyes grew nearer, larger.

Like a hideous and implacable engine of death the eyes of the unknown Horror swelled and expanded until they were close before me, enormous, terrible, and I felt a slow, cold, wet breath propelled with mechanical regularity against my face, enveloping me in its fetid mist, in its charnel-house deadliness.

With ordinary fear goes always a physical terror, but with me in the presence of this unspeakable Thing was only the utter and awful terror of the mind, the mad fear of of a prolonged and ghostly nightmare. Again and again I tried to shriek, to make some noise, but physically I was utterly dead. I could only feel myself go mad with the terror of hideous death. The eyes were close on me,—their movement so swift that they seemed to be but palpitating flames, the dead breath was around me like the depths of the deepest sea.

Suddenly a wet, icy mouth, like that of a dead cuttle-fish, shapeless, jelly-like,fell over mine. The horror began slowly to draw my life from me, but, as enormous and shuddering folds of palpitating jelly swept sinuously around me, my will came back, my body awoke with the reaction of final fear, and I closed with the nameless death that enfolded me.

Cram, Ralph Adams; Ventura, Varla (2011-10-03). A Haunting in Paris, A Truly Terrifying Tale: Paranormal Parlor, A Weiser Books Collection 

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

View the whole collection (so far) here.

And in the meantime, if you know of any great, forgotten, out-of-print spooky books, let us know! Varla is hungry for more!

Coming soon – an interview with the woman herself!

“O coffee! By the Mighty Name of Power do I invoke thee…” – Crowley’s Magical Diary & an Ankhie Ramble

Image source -


6.55  Now the day has been gloriously broken, I awoke with some weariness, not feeling clean and happy, not burning with love unto my Lord Adonai, though ashamed indeed for that thrice or four times in the night I had been awakened by this loyal body, urging me to rise and meditate – and my weak will bade it be at ease and take its rest -oh, wretched man! slave of the hour and of the worm!

7.0-7.16  Fifteen cycles of Prana Yama put me right mentally and physically; otherwise they had little apparent success.

7.30  Have breakfasted – a pear and two Garibaldis. (These by the way are the small size, half the big squares.)

7.50  Have smoked a pipe to show that I’m not in a hurry.

8.5  Hanged Man with mantra in Visuddhi. Thought I had been much longer. At one point the Spirit began to move – how the devil else can I express it? The consciousness seemed to flow, instead of pattering. Is that clear?

One should note here that there may perhaps be some essential difference in the operation of the Moslem and Hindu mantrams. The latter boom; the former ripple. I have never tried the former at all seriously until now.

8.10 -8.32  Meme jeu – no good at all. I think I’ll get up and have a Turker.

9.0  Am up, having read my letters. Continuing mantra all the time in a more or less conscious way.

9.25  Wrote my letters and started out.

10.38  Have reached the Cafe de la Paix, walking slowly with my mantra. I am beginning to forget it occassionally, mispronouncing some of the words. A good sign! Now and then I tried sending it up and down my spine, with good effect.

10.40  I will drink a cup of coffee and then proceed to the Hammam. This may ease my limbs, and afford an opportunity for a real go-for-the-gloves effort to concentrate.

It cannot be too clearly understood that nearly all the work hitherto has been preliminary; the intention is to get the Chittam (thought-stuff) flowing evenly in one direction. Also one practices detaching it from the Vrittis (impressions). One looks at everything without seeing it.

O coffee! By the mighty Name of Power do I invoke thee, consecrating thee to the Service of the Magic of Light. Let the pulsations of my heart be strong and regular and slow! Let my brain be wakeful and active in its supreme task of self-control! That my desired end may be effected through Thy strength, Adonai, unto Whom be the Glory for ever! Amen without lie, and Amen, and Amen of Amen.

Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary, ed. by James Wasserman – excerpt from John St. John

Aside from the glorious invocation of coffee, what I like best about Aleister Crowley’s Magical Diaries is how ordinary they seem. Let me rephrase.  I like that they make this extraordinary process of spiritual discipline seem almost ordinary by placing it in the context of daily life. Crowley’s spiritual quest was completely integrated, which is probably why he had the success  he did. But if you only read his better known works, the treatices, instructions, meditations, and fictions – you would have a very different impression of who he was and how he got there. In the guise of the Great Beast he is fully formed – enlightened, erudite, and arrogant. The diaries reveal the man behind the process – not in the least bit lessened, but enriched by the struggle, the doubt, the surprising bursts of boyish enthusiasm.

So here comes the Ankhie ramble…

What do we lose by committing all of our thoughts to electronic media? It is assumed that the internet generation is guilty of over-sharing, posting  every mood and misguided deed for all to see. That is somewhat true, of course (Ankhie has a teenaged daughter – she knows of what she speaks), but most folks have some sense of decorum – they think about what they are posting, edit it with readers in mind. If you are putting it online, you expect that someone will be reading. What do you suppose Crowley’s diaries would have looked like had they been in blog format? or tweets? Would anyone have seen the very human, and humorous side of Uncle Al if he had been aware, with each entry, that he was writing for the world not just himself? Of course, Crowley must have imagined a future audience for these journals – but even so, there was the buffer of considerable time and distance between the experience & writing (nearly simultaneous) and the publication. That buffer made all the difference.

Just curious. Who out there keeps a real, pen and ink magical diary these days? How does that differ from your online musings?

PS If you know what a ‘Turker” is, let me know.  Unless it’s something totally filthy… oh, hell, let me know anyway!

Sit a Spell – A Little Labor Day Money Magic

Ankhie knows hard hard you work, how much you need the coin,  and how much you are looking forward to this long, labor-day weekend. So in the spirit of reward and ease I offer you these money spells from Judika Illes’s Pure Magic:


Oshun Prosperity Incense

  • Brown sugar
  • 5 dried orange leaves
  • Orange zest
  1. Pound the ingredients in a mortar and pestle until roughly pulverized.
  2. Place in a cast-iron pan and set aflame.
  3. Let it burn for a minute or so, then smother the flames. It should smoke fairly heavily, allow the aroma to fill the room.
  4. Offer some pure springwater and honey to *Oshun and tell her what you need.


A Money Dream Pillow

The stuffing encourages creative financial dreams and inspiration.

  • 2 ounces dried basil
  • 4 ounces dried chamomile blossoms
  • 2 ounces dried fenugreek


Money Magnet Oil

To attract money, rub two drops of essential oil of bergamot on the palms of your hands, in your wallet, inside your pocket or wherever you carry your cash.


Milk and Honey Prosperity Bath

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup cow’s milk
  • 1 cup goat’s milk
  • 1 cup sheep’s milk
  • 1 cup holy or springwater
  • 1 cup honey

This bath is reputed to draw money towards you. It is guaranteed to make your skin feel wonderful. Add the ingredients to the bath water. You can increase the quantity of the ingredients, if you wish, as long as all proportions remain equal.


Creole Antipoverty Spell

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 safety pin

Combine the first three ingredients together in an open bowl. Stick an open safety pin in the center and keep the bowl on the counter in full view.


High John’s Money Roll

  • Essential oil of basil
  • 1 cash bill (Any kind of cash can be used, however a two-dollar bill is considered most especially effective because it is rare and because the number 2 embodies the concept of doubling. Alternatively, any foreign currency lying around that you don’t know what to do with is perfect for this charm)
  • 1 High John the Conqueror**  root
  • Red or green thread
  1. Rub a cash bill with basil oil and roll it tightly around the High John root.
  2. It’s important that when you wrap the root, you roll the money toward you, not away from you.
  3. Bind the little money roll with red or green thread. Carry it with you as a charm or place it discreetly near the entrance to your business. (Inside the cash register is good, too!) If things slow down, reinforce the root with extra basil oil as needed.


Money Spell Box

  • A box
  • Cinquefoil
  • Dried patchouli or the essential oil
  • Powdered basil leaves
  • Dried veviter or the essential oil
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • High John the Conqueror root
  • Any other financially lucky roots you are able to collect: Beth Root (Low John) or Lucky Hand
  • 1 lodestone and/or citrine
  • Lucky charms: small silver horseshoe, silver shamrock, miniature rabbit, rat or mouse

A spell box is a work in progress: start with whatever you have accumulated and continue to build. If you should find a four-leaf clover, it is a powerful addition. Place one bill from any windfall inside to grow.

  1. Line the box with botanicals. (If you’re using essential oils, rather than dried veviter and patchouli, use them to anoint the roots and crystals.)
  2. Add the roots, crystals and charms.
  3. Keep the box closed except during rituals, visualizations and spells
  4. Periodically anoint crystals and roots with essential oils or another money-drawing oil formula.
  5. Keep the box in a safe spot so that no one can play with your finances.
  6. When your goal is accomplished, either save this box for future use or bury it in Earth, but mark the spot so you can dig it up again if you need it.


Hermes (Greece), Lakshmi (India), Oshun (Yoruba)

Oshun, Orisha of Sweet Waters provides material comforts (and cash!) for her devotees. Like the most powerful spirits, she offers assistance in all departments: romance, health, beauty and prosperity.

Oshun’s traditional offering, whenever you wish to invoke, petition or thank her, is a glass of springwater and a dish of honey. You must always taste any honey offered to Oshun, every time. An attempt was once made to poison her with honey. She will not accept any untasted offerings and may, in fact, look upon you with suspicion rather than love. Her colors are yellow and orange. Her metal is brass. Her sacred birds are peacocks, parrots and vultures. Her number is 5.


The king of American root magic goes by the name High John the Conqueror. Named for a legendary African-American slave hero, this root provides good fortune of all kinds. It is potent left whole, whether carried alone or added as a prize ingredient to a charm bag. The powdered root brings fortune and removes a curse. (Buy a whole one so that you can see what you’re getting: powder it yourself.) High John is a member of the morning glory family. An elusive plant, it answers to a series of Latin names: Ipomoea jalapa, Ipomoea purga and Convolvulus jalapa. Reserve High John for purposes of enchantment only. It should never be eaten as it is an extremely powerful laxative and purgative.

Occult Under the Radar – Dion Fortune and An Ankhie Ramble

One of the things I love about J.K Rowling is that she really did her homework. Most of the magical material in her books is based on fact – or a least, legitimate occult and mythological sources. Perhaps that is why the boy-wizard books resonated so far beyond their targeted demographic. Something in them rang true – a sound that (for most folks) had long lain silent in the dark corners of their collective unconscious.

Fiction is many things for many people – a fantasy, an escape, a thrill, a terror, an insight into the human condition, and a way to investigate ideas and feelings that might be too scary or too risky to explore in real life.

Ankhie has a friend whose mother told her (on the eve of her wedding) that Anna Karenina would tell her everything she needed to know about marriage. Dark? Certainly. True? Well, it ain’t a classic for nothin’. Adultery and suicide are extremes, well beyond consideration for most people – but that doesn’t make them less real, or less probable under the right set of circumstances. We need this sort of heady fiction – not to know what is true (that territory is claimed, with varying degrees of veracity, by non-fiction)  but to know what is possible.

A fiction writer creates a world out of nothing – sounds conveyed by words empowered by ideas fueled by observation imagination and experience. Fiction that lasts makes those transitions seamlessly, and honestly. Most humans are born with excellent bullshit detectors – we know when someone (or something) is full of it. Beautiful words and lyrical phrasing will only get you so far. There must be something at stake for us to care. If the work is, at its core, dishonest, it won’t continue matter to us beyond the last page. Although it might have been entertaining, it is forgotten as soon as it is finished, mentally shredded with other passing distractions.

Next week, the Weiser Book Club on Twitter will be discussing The Secrets of Doctor Taverner by Dion Fortune. The author famously writes in her Introduction:

I do not wish to imply … that these stories all happened exactly as set down, for such is not the case; they are, however, all founded on fact, and there is not a single incident herein contained which is pure imagination. That is to say, while no picture is an actual photograph, no one is an imaginary sketch: they are rather composite photographs, obtained by cutting out and piecing together innumerable snapshots of actual happenings, and the whole, far from being an arbitrary product of the imagination, is a serious study in the psychology of ultra-consciousness.

Fortune was criticized by some of her peers for divulging occult secrets in her novels and stories – because those who knew the facts easily saw past the fictional mask. Those who did not know the truth sensed it, and responded accordingly. Popular in their time, these stories still entertain and inform, many decades later.

Diana L. Paxson – herself a writer of fantasy fiction and a practicing occultist, writes a beautiful foreword to the latest edition of The Secrets of Doctor Taverner in which she reflects upon it as “A Study in Secrets”:

When I consider Fortune’s approach to presenting real magic under the guise of fiction, I am reminded of the meeting at which my editor commented that there were “a lot of rituals in The Sea Star, but they work.” I did not tell him that they ought to, since I had actually done most of them. Fiction, which allows the author to express  subjective experience and atmosphere, can often be a more effective means of describing magical operations than a detached description.

I don’t think anyone could have stated it better or with more authority.

Truth doesn’t need to roar, or perform aerial acrobatics to be noticed. Even when flying under the radar, you’ll know it’s there.

“a line of creeping shade” – Signs of Psychic Assault: Part 1

Ankhie knows a wonderful (alarmingly accurate) psychic who insists that all of her clients purchase a copy of Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense. It is, she claims, the single most important book for anyone who is involved with the occult – and perhaps, even more important for those who are not.

You see, she gets a lot of clients who come to her out of desperation. Referred by friends or acquaintances, they seek her out after having exhausted modern methods of  problem solving. Something in their lives has gone terribly wrong and no one seems to be able to tell them why it has happened or how to fix it. They are confused and frightened. They don’t understand why the world has turned against them, or why they can’t find answers from sources they have always relied upon – doctors, psychiatrists, pharmaceutical companies, lawyers. They need help desperately, and in desperation turn to the person who has always been there, throughout history, to answer the unanswerable – the medium, the witch, the oracle, the sage. For some, this encounter opens up a new way of looking at the world, and they leave both aided and enriched. And for those who take my friend’s advice and pick up a copy of Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense, they leave armed.

The following is the first half of an excerpt from Chapter One of Fortune’s Occult Self-Help classic. Knowledge is power, my friends!

If we look at the universe around us we cannot fail to realise that there must be some overruling plan coordinating its infinite complexity. If we take into our hands and examine minutely any living thing, however simple, equally we must realise that the order of its parts is built up on a determining framework. Science has sought in vain for this organising principle; it will never find it on the physical plane, for it is not physical. It is not the inherent nature of atoms which causes them to arrange themselves in the patterns of living tissues. The driving forces of the universe, the framework upon which it is built up in all its parts, belong to another phase of manifestation than our physical plane, having other dimensions than the three to which we are habituated, and perceived by other modes of consciousness than those to which we are accustomed.

We live in the midst of invisible forces whose effects alone we perceive. We move among invisible forms whose actions we very often do not perceive at all, although we may be profoundly affected by them.

In this mind-side of nature, invisible to our senses, intangible to our instruments of precision, many things can happen that are not without their echo on the physical plane. There are beings that live in this invisible world as fish live in the sea. There are men and women with trained minds, or special aptitudes, who can enter into this invisible world as a diver descends to the ocean-bed. There are also times when, as happens to a land when the sea-dykes break, the invisible forces flow in upon us and swamp our lives.

Normally this does not occur. We are protected by our very own incapacity to perceive these invisible forces.  There are four conditions, however, in which the veil may be rent and we may meet the Unseen. We may find ourselves in a place where these forces are concentrated. We may meet people who are handling these forces. We may ourselves go out to meet the Unseen, led by our interest in it, and get out of our depth before we know where we are; or we may fall victim to certain pathological conditions which rend the veil.

The Threshold of the Unseen is a treacherous coast on which to bathe. There are potholes and currents and quicksands. The strong swimmer, who knows the coast, may venture in comparative safety. The non-swimmer, who takes counsel of nothing but his own impulses, may pay for his temerity with his life. But we must not make the mistake of thinking that these invisible forces are necessarily evil and inimical to humanity. They are no more inimical in themselves than are water or fire, but they are potent. If we run counter to them, the result is disastrous for us, for we have broken a natural law; but they are not out to attack us, any more than we are out to attack them. We must face the fact, however, that men and women with knowledge of these things, have, both in the past and in the present, used that knowledge unscrupulously, and that we may find ourselves involved in the results of their actions. It may safely be said that the Unseen is only evil and inimical to humanity when it has been corrupted by the activities of these unscrupulous men and women, whom initiates call adepts of the Left-hand Path.

We must consider the outward and visible signs of psychic attack before we are in a position to analyse the nature of such attacks and indicate their source of origin. It is a fundamental rule that diagnosis must precede treatment. There are many different kinds of psychic attacks, and the methods that will dispose of one will be ineffectual against another.

The commonest form of psychic attack is that which proceeds from the ignorant or malignant mind of our fellow human beings. We say ignorant as well as malignant, for all attacks are not deliberately motivated; the injury mat be as accidental as that inflicted by a skidding car. This must always be borne in mind, and we should not impute malice or wickedness as a matter of course when we feel we are being victimised. Our persecutor may himself be a victim. We should not accuse a man of malice if we had linked hands with him and he had stepped on a live rail. Nevertheless, we should receive at his hands a severe shock. So it may be with many an occult attack. The person from whom it emanates may not have originated it. Therefor, we should never respond to attack by attack, thus bringing ourselves down to the moral level of our attackers, but rely on more humane methods, which are, in reality, equally effectual and far less dangerous to handle.

People also come into touch with the Unseen through the influence of places. Someone who is not actually psychic, but who is sufficiently sensitive to perceive invisible forces subconsciously, may go to a place where they are concentrated at a high tension. Normally, although we move in the midst of these forces (for they sustain our universe), we are oblivious of them. Where they are concentrated, however, unless we are very dense-minded, we begin to be dimly conscious of something that is affecting us and stirring our subliminal self.

It may happen that the barrier between conscious and subconsciousness is dense in some people, and they are never able clearly to realise what is going on. They merely have the sense of oppression and general malaise, which lifts when they go away to another place. Consequently, the condition may never be detected, and lead to years of ill-health and misery.

More commonly, however, if there is a definite psychic attack of sufficient force to make itself noticeable at all, there will soon begin to appear characteristic dreams. These may include a sense of weight upon the chest, as if someone were kneeling on the sleeper. If the sense of weight is present, it is certain that the attack emanates locally, for the weight is due to the concentration of etheric substance or ectoplasm, and is sufficiently tangible to press down the scale of a balance when it is possible to capture it for measurement. A great deal of research has been done with materialising mediums upon the nature of this tangible subtle substance, and the reader is referred to books on the experiments conducted by Crawford with the Golilgher Circle at Belfast, and in Paris with Eva C. by other experimenters, for further information and evidence on this subject. It may be noted that Crawford eventually committed suicide for no known reason.

A sense of fear and oppression is very characteristic of occult attack, and one of the surest signs that herald it. It is extremely rare for an attack to make itself manifest out of the blue, as it were. We are not in our normal state of mind, body and circumstance, and then find ourselves suddenly in the midst of an invisible battle. An approaching occult influence casts its shadow on consciousness before it makes itself apparent to the non-psychic. The reason for this is that we perceive subconsciously before we realize consciously, and a line of creeping shade indicates the penetrating of the subconscious censor from below upwards.

As the attack progresses, nervous exhaustion becomes increasingly marked, and there may, under certain conditions, which we will consider later, be such wasting of the tissues that the victim is reduced to a mere bloodless shell of skin and bones, lying on the bed, too weak to move. And yet no definite disease can be demonstrated.

Such a case is an extreme example, proceeding unchecked to its logical conclusion. Other issues are possible, however. The resistance may be good, in which case the attack is unable to gain a foothold on the physical plane, and is limited to that borderland between matter and mind which we perceive on the threshold of sleep. This is a very terrible experience, for the victim is afraid to sleep and cannot keep awake indefinitely. Worn out by fear and lack of sleep, mental breakdown soon supervenes.

Nervous exhaustion and mental breakdown are the commoner results of astral attack…it is not often that an attacker is able to bring the attack to a conclusion in the death of the victim. There are, however, records of cases where the victim has died of pure fright. Kipling’s terrible story, The End of the Passage, gives an account of such an occurance…

… to be continued tomorrow

Essential Esoteric Tomes for the Home Library

I must confess. I love Twitter. Say all you want about the average user’s attention span and what the 140 character limit is doing to the language – as the official Twit for Weiser Books I have found it to be a rewarding and (dare I say it) inspiring tool for connecting with a vibrant and intelligent community. I can count on our Tweeps for snappy conversation, honest opinions, and excellent advice. Case in point -Ankhie recently asked what kinds of posts followers  would like to see here on the blog. Outstanding suggestions immediately ensued, among them:

  • The effects of moon phases on magical practice – @crisbrown
  • Alchemy and hermeticism – @kimcascone
  • Female magicians in the golden age – @temperatelogic
  • Core books for an esoteric home library – @gnostalgia

Great ideas all, but that last one really got my attention – because if there is one question that I am asked more than any other (aside from “How do I get published by Weiser Books?”) it is “What books should I be reading?” Now, as an art and literature freak, I am most likely to respond with suggestions in keeping with those interests. Yeats! say I, Robert Graves! Ted Hughes!  Yes, the savvy reader might respond, but what books did they read? Aha..!

Whether your interest in the occult is professional, personal, alchemical or artistic, there are certain books that form the basis for all that we currently know about things that go bump in the night (or in our heads).

Here is where I need your help. Over the next several weeks I will be asking various occult professionals and experts on what they consider to be essential books. But even the most well-read are likely to miss a title or two, so if you have a book  that you consider absolutely indispensable, tell me about it here and I will add it to the list – which I plan on posting at the end of summer.

So readers… have at it! What books are essential to your Esoteric Home Library?

Esoteric Tuesday – The Alchemy of Words

It has been a wonderful, crazy few days here at Red Wheel Weiser Conari. The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo – published 10 years ago – is enjoying late, spectacular, and well-deserved success thanks to everyone’s favorite daytime talk show host. So you will have to forgive us if we seem a little distracted. This kind of good fortune smiles rarely, and we are all dizzy from its brilliance.

Words, my friends,  have power.

The immediate success or failure of a book depends on many factors – timing and circumstance not least among them. But ultimately, an individual book lives or dies by the power of its content – words, ideas, the beauty of language. What makes the sudden fame and flourish of Mark Nepo’s book so sweet is its longevity. It was well received from the beginning, but never a bestseller – still it lasted, and quietly held its course until it landed in the hands of the one person who could bring it the attention it deserves.

What does this have to do with “Esoteric Tuesday?”  Well may you ask. Browsing through the books on my desk this afternoon I came across this quote, from The Key of the Mysteries by Eliphas Levi:

To speak well is to live well.

How true. The context is a passage on The Mysteries of Nature, specifically Alchemy and Qabalah:

To say a word is to evoke a thought and make it present.

To name God is to manifest God.

The Word acts upon souls, and souls react upon bodies; consequently one can frighten, console, cause to fall ill, cure, even kill, and raise the dead by means of words.

To utter a name is to create or evoke a being.

In the name is contained the verbal or spiritual doctrine of being itself.

When the soul evokes a thought, the sign of that thought is written automatically in the light. To invoke is to adjure, that is to say, to swear by a name; it is to perform an act of faith in that name, and to communicate in the virtue which it represents.

Words in themselves are, then, good or evil, poisonous or wholesome.

The most dangerous words are vain and lightly uttered words, because they are the voluntary abortions of thought.

A useless word is a crime against the spirit of intelligence; it is an intellectual infanticide.

Things are for every one what he makes of them by naming them. The word of every one is an impression or an habitual prayer.

To speak well is to live well.

from The Key of the Mysteries, by Eliphas Levi (translated by Aleister Crowley)

Now, to be fair, Levi takes issue with some of these assertions, but for us, today, the message is apt and timely. The power of words is not to be underestimated.

Weiser published another book a few years ago – Magic Words; a Dictionary, by Craig Conley. My favorite entry?


“Just say the magic word: Oprah” – Vince Vittore, America’s Network (Jan. 1, 1995)


  • Dust
  • Fawn
  • “She who turns her back” – Adrian Room, Cassel’s Dictionary of First Names (2002)

Origins: This is the given name of the successful talk-show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. The word is of Hebrew origin.

“Overheard on a Salt Marsh”* – Magic Words

I’ve forgotten about it completely. Yet the moment I see the words on the page I remember it – all of it. I am eight years old, alone in my room bent over a yellowing book. Like many children that age I read a lot of verse, nonsense mostly, some of it beautiful – but this poem is different. It is strange in a way that the other rhymes are not, and it lodges in my brain like a fly in amber.

Decades later it is strange to me still, and despite a powerful, academic urge toward deconstruction, I leave it alone. Real magic is rare – and these words work on me like an incantation.

I have a friend who is a poetry editor.  We spend one rainy afternoon discussing a much-lauded and famously unstable contemporary poet, whose work we both find arid. The poet in question is very popular, and I wonder aloud if his style is dictated by public taste. “No,” my editor friend says, “he writes that way because he is terrified of lyricism. He thinks it’s the devil’s tongue.” I laugh, until I realized that he is serious.

The relationship between poetry and the occult goes deep – deeper than symbolism, deeper than myth. It is a foundational relationship between thought and thing. The world is spoken into being. Language structures our thought and defines our environment even in the absence of  traditional experience. If you doubt this, read The Autobiography of Helen Keller (really you should – it’s astonishing). When minds are open to suggestion, either because of youth, fear, or faith – a word can take root and define the indefinable. Like magic, something that didn’t exist (or was not recognized) finds expression and form. Wonderful and dangerous.

So I am curious, readers. What words have worked magic on you?

*In case youl were wondering about the poem that haunted Ankhie’s childhood – here it is “Overheard on a Salt Marsh” by Harold Monro

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me. Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man’s fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in the deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.

Give them me. Give them.