Monday, August 25, 2008

Howlings / Scarlet Imprint (review)

210 pages hardback journal, nicely bound in gold blocked turquoise wibaline. £33 plus postage from

This particular number focused on grimoires of various ages, with essays on The Picatrix, The Goetia, or Lesser Key of Solomon, Four Books of Occult Philosophy;
The Voudon Gnostic Workbook; Liber 231, Qutub, And the Grimoire itself by David Rankine, Donald Tyson, Peter Grey, David Beth, Stafford Stone, Paul Hughes-Barlow
Krzysztof Azarewicz, Jack Macbeth, Thea Faye, Aleq Grai, and Zaheer Gulamhusein. So a nice range of material, written by practitioner experts. The whole well illustrates the notion that Pagans are very much into their books. I was particularly interested in the twenty-five pages on "Liber 231", of which information is scarce, apart from Kenneth Grant's celebrated, if at times impenetrable (not to mention out of print) "Nightside of Eden". "Liber 231" is one of the more obscure of Aleister Crowley's "Holy Books". Basically it's a table showing two sets of 22 sigils corresponding to the twenty-two tarot trumps and paths on the Kabalistic "Tree of Life". Given that the spheres and paths on the tree are clearly derived from the Ancient Egyptian "Book of Gates" - the array suggest two tunnels through the underworld, one under the patronage of Horus; the other of Seth. It is the Sethian tunnel that has received most attention, I guess because the "Journey of Horus" is well covered by the conventional Tarot sequence.

There is a colour section of four full colour realisations of the "Nightside Tarot" cards, based I would guess on the prototypes in Kenneth Grant's "Nightside of Eden". "Liber 231" itself has no images apart from the very enigmatic sigils, drawn, so it is said, by Crowley's devoted disciple, Major J F C Fuller. Those in "Howlings" were created by Stafford Stone, who has been exploring and painting the cards and the related "Tunnels of Seth" for several years, during which time "his parents, a close aunt and uncle, a best friend and two pet cats all died." He lost his wife and young son, his home and most of his possessions,"close friendships imploded, relationships crumbled, jobs were lost, debts incurred, stupid actions undertaken and grave errors of judgment made." But hey, "Je ne regrette rien". All of which explains, in some perverse way the attraction of this and indeed other grimoires, although for others it might be a good reason to leave well alone. Although some sort of precaution in terms of banishing might be in order, of the kind recommended in the lead article by Krysztof Azarewicz of the Mihrab Camp OTO. He also suggests yogic exercises to calm the ego, before starting. There was much other useful information in this essay, including advice on how to colour the sigils if you decide to dispense with other people's full blown versions and just use the basic sigils and corresponding couplets. The later seems to be the original intention of "Liber 231", as a basic test or "mind gym" for the initiates astral skills.

Well, if the other sections are as meaty as the above, which my friend the cunning man Jack Daw assures me they are, then this is a nifty little volume and well worth the asking price of £33+ My suggestion for the next number would be to maybe make better use of the gold blocking for a more eye catching cover. But on the whole - highly recommended [Mogg]