bITS 'N CHUNKS
I read Malleus Maleficarum in junior high. I was obsessed with its lurid sexual details, feeding into my perverse desire for historical scandals and understanding European witchcraft trials. I read a lot of Kenneth Anger, too.
It also happened to line up with my school reading curriculum which also included The Crucible and Tituba of Salem Village and some other YA and historical pieces I don't really remember. I saw tantalizing excerpts referenced everywhere and I wasn't getting the information I craved so I just read the source.
In those days before the popularity of Google searching and ease of access, I would go get a book from a library. If it was a historical text, I tried to find one with lots of scholarly notation and contextual notes. Then I checked the year. So I got the biggest, thickest, most recent tome I could find and varied up my reading with checking out the notes.
Well, it was certainly lurid and frighteningly thorough. My fascination with the material turned to curiosity about witch trials themselves when it became obvious to me that a lot of these men in power had some wild imaginations and severe issues with women. Learning about patriarchy later on helped put this in context as I hadn't been quite exposed to feminist thought yet. But just from reading it became clear that in the age of enlightenment this ran deeper than just superstitious rural folk. I was able to learn about charlatans like Matthew Hopkins as well.
So, as it turned out Heinrich Kramer and quite possibly Jacob Sprenger were eyeball deep in misogyny and possibly out of their damn minds, but Malleus Maleficarum is still a good read for historical context and will probably set the stage to understand modern Wicca and paganism within feminist movements. If you don't care about that kind of thing, it's a good peek inside the very real, very lethal madness of the witch hunts in Europe and America. The content explains how to identify a witch, how to prosecute a witch, then tries to get fake deep and hashtag woke about why you should set about finding innocent women and killing them.
As for the sexual details my depraved mind was after, it was certainly no Mare or The Monk but it was about right for the level of scandal in that time. And hey, it caused moral panic for about two hundred years so there's that.
Not everyone back in The Day bought into this witch nonsense and quite a few people thought it was rigoddamneddiculous even then. Unfortunately, controversy has always sold in large amounts so no matter how much skeptical literature Malleus was lined with, there were (and probably still are, be honest) just enough people willing to be led along enough to go headlong flying off a damn slope.
I love grimoires!
The first grimoire I ever read was The Lesser Key of Solomon, probably the most famous and most easily available. This and the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum are usually what is referenced when you see some deep knowledge of obscure demons. These also present a hierarchy of demons, descriptions of their facilities and legions they command, and usually some nice old timey engravings. More importantly, the Lesser Key presents how to summon demons and get them to do your bidding without dying horribly.
Look, if demons exist I really have to ask why they are so damn subservient to humans for petty shit. Wasn't that the whole point? Man, whatever. The Lesser Key sparked my fascination with sigils though, and to this day I like incorporating them into my work and personal life. I like specifically demonic sigils and ones to call upon angels as well.
So, let's say The Lesser Key is your introduction to Satanism and you get caught reading it. What do you do? Well, first I usually say it's a historical text. The odds of summoning real demons or angels are real low. If it helps, The Lesser Key is explicitly for ritual magic purposes and actually suggests regular uninitiated people shouldn't fuck around with the material too much. I think it's also important to mention that as an occult text, The Lesser Key is notorious for listing out demons and how to employ them but it engages with heavenly powers as well for a balance. There's a prayer book within it that coordinates hosts of angels with the zodiac and hours of the day for calling upon them. That doesn't get a lot of press because it's not as cool but I find it fascinating. It totally changes how one deals with the idea of good and evil and angel versus devil, and the perception of good and evil forces.
At the end of the day, it's just a book. A good one to read, but just a book nonetheless. But if you're interested in religious philosophy and ritual magic this is the place to start.
Some other cool ones to read. The Testament of Solomon shows King Solomon as a bad ass taking out demons left and right, and will show you how to likewise be a bad ass demon slayer if you so choose. But it's more of a thematic text than an instruction guide or manual.
Other grimoires I like are the books focusing on exorcism, especially if you'd ever like to see how exorcism really works. If Satanic ceremonial magic is not your thing, there are lot of useful grimoires on natural magic and prosperity. There are modern grimoires still being produced but I don't find them as vital as the ancient texts, and it seems to me most of them are in the Wiccan tradition of creating personal spell books so I skip 'em.
I love reading yuri or girls' love (I don’t really make the distinction between yuri & "softcore" shoujo-ai) manga, but I think it's fair to say a lot of it is very same-y. Yuri still trails behind yaoi/boys' love in popularity and profitability, so a lot of mangaka understandably keep whipping out the same tropes over and over to increase their profile and of course make money. The more experimental manga tend to be one-shots and often reserved for anthologies. And the experimental ones are free to get as…weird as weird can.
That's how I stumbled onto Mare a few years ago by one of my favorite yuri mangaka Morinaga Milk. Morinaga-san is really cool because her art is so feminine and delicate and she's largely unfettered by stereotypical yuri tropes, but she's not afraid of a little hentai. Even her works that kind of push that direction -- school girl lesbians for example -- usually have some subversive element to keep it from being the same ol' same ol'.
Morinaga-san is probably best known for Girl Friends, which is one of the best damn school girl romance dramas out there in the English speaking world, dare I say ever because I'm going there. Mare is an earlier work that looks to have been published in a highly specialized hentai magazine because it's pretty hardcore and there's demons.
Wait, what? Demons in my lesbian manga?
Well, yeah. And I say highly specialized because Morinaga-san incorporates some of the more obscure demons from Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and The Lesser Key of Solomon. The main character, Mea, is a powerful and amoral witch who hides out in a girls' school while feeding her pet beasties and summoning demons. While she's there, Mea inadvertently exposes some of the dark secrets of the school like co-ed affairs, abortions, even murder. Later on, there's a plot where another witch at the school challenges Mea but it ends too abruptly to even be satisfying.
So, Mare barely counts as a yuri manga because it really just involves Mea being rather loose with her sexuality and her attachment to her roommate/classmate, but it's definitely one of my favorite occult-themed manga. Themes of the occult in manga usually skew more towards the shounen or seinen demographic and, yeah, there's Judeo-Christian demons and long three volume fights but it never feels like substance. The works of Go Nagai (Devilman & Devilman Lady) keep my interest as well. And then there's the truly esoteric and nigh incomprehensible side, which would be something like Neon Genesis Evangelion. But despite the second half being a let-down, Mare just felt so substantive in the way that it accurately incorporated witchcraft, minor demons, sigils and invocations, and a smidge of social commentary. Then it, you know, goes to hell. But if you have the time, like ambiguous lesbian relationships, and cute evil little girls, check it out.
For the remainder of fall, I wanted to do a short series on occult literature largely because it's one of my major interests in life. It crops up a lot in my writing but usually in the form of demons because I don't need a reason to include demons.
Now, for those of you who don't know, I'm a staunch atheist. End of. I believe in no magic, demons, angels, deities, or even fortune and you will not make me in a box, with a fox, Courtney Cox and so on. That being said, I also have tips for my fellow non-believers on dealing with people who like to force religion on you, which I'll get into.
My atheism aside, I've always maintained an open mind and at least a vague interest in religions and belief systems. I like Christian Bible stories, I have read translations of the Qu'ran, I try to learn about Eastern religions and philosophies in more than a "pick 'n choose" way, and of course paganism. I have a lot of Wiccan friends and a few Christians in there; I'm so far gone that listening to them talk about ceremony and rituals is a lot like trying to follow a Magic: The Gathering game without first knowing what the hell trading cards are.
But yeah, my interest in those things are mostly attempts to be sensitive and understanding and not look ignorant as hell. My interest in the occult I feel like is a lot more broad and profound. My introduction to anything occult or esoteric was through alchemy and Hermeticism. To this day I still relate to themes involving those systems.
So, I'm gonna be showing y'all some texts that were influential on my thinking. I hope it helps. I'm going to include some skeptical texts as well as a sort of coffee bean. Most of everything that I draw out with the exception of like three things is available on Sacred-Texts.org, which is a great resource for ALL manner of spirituality and philosophy.
In the fall of 2015 (I'm convinced this was the last true Autumn that Nashville has had), I went to The End for a show. I like The End, it has that air of mystery, grime, and mild danger that I like on the weekends. I like small shows, I like small bands, I like local groups. Sadly, I don't really like taking photos. That night, I was there to see Coliseum with Child Bite and I believe Sheep Shifter? And the tickets were a little higher than The End's normal fair so I felt like this was pretty big.
To be fair, I was largely there to see Child Bite as they were on my radar for being brash and in your face, harsh, metal-punk-yikes. I did a little research on Coliseum as the headliners and figured I'd like them
So, we're here today because I left that fog- and crystal-lodged show a swift fan of Coliseum and in dire need of a copy of Anxiety's Kiss.
As I pined away in Tennessee for another chance to see Coliseum's heady, imposing, pink-shifted black magic stage show so I can appreciate it better, as my luck would have it I found out through pure fluke that not too long after the tour for Anxiety's Kiss, Coliseum had very quietly broken up.
Well, goddamnit! But all was not lost as singer/guitarist Ryan Patterson (for this project,
now R/Pattern) had quickly gotten another project started, Fotocrime.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...