Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Magic Machine--The Golden Dawn Vault in Colour by Nick Farrell

One of the things that amuses me is the occasional outpouring of "secrets must be kept" when someone dares to publish something that is already well past its "keep secret until" date. Today, the source of my amusement was the debate on whether or not, Nick Farrell should have published pictures of the walls of the Vault of the Adepts.

My own position...well let's see...

Venus Vault Wall Study.
...I first published a set of Vault wall studies on my occult blog starting in June 2009, shortly after the Book of the Tomb was open-sourced by Nick Farrell. And I have kicked around actually doing some Vault wall merchandise...something that I may still do. After all, a quick image search on Google will yield dozens of hits, and there are some crass people already doing Rose Cross lamen merchandise (all seem to be using the same picture to boot). So I really think that secrecy on this particular subject has flown the coop. It is now time to start making sure that people are getting it right. Now that my position on secrecy and much of it still apllies to the Vault walls is out of the way, let's move on to reviewing the book in question.

As I have already said, secrecy has flown the coop on this one--it is time to make sure that people are getting it right. And this is what The Magic Machine--The Golden Dawn Vault in Colour by Nick Farrell is about, helping people get the vault colors right.

The most valuable piece of this book is the eight colored plates showing the general key to the background color of the Vault walls, and the individual planetary Vault walls. And while I prefer mixed pigments over pixels, I wish I would had this book earlier in my occult career when I was preparing to build a Vault of the Adepts.

(Before you ask, the project never got past the study stage, due to the sudden vacating of anyone who might have needed to be vaulted by the current lodge that I belong to...it was a strange summer that year.)

Comparing my first study and later ones (I have done several over the years) to the plates in The Magic Machine, I am comforted to see that I am in the general ballpark, not exactly the same colors as Farrell is using, but close enough when one accounts for the difference in methods used. It was also comforting to read that someone else stumbled upon the problem with the Vault's ceiling--something that drives me a little batty.

Now I imagine that some people in the Golden Dawn tradition will claim that he is wrong about how the colors are created. Of course, if he is wrong, then so am I--and I was initially working from the texts published by Regardie and some misc. unpublished notes from a modern Order, and not directly from the Book of the Tomb. Then again, I just shake my head about how the critics have done their own Vaults--it is like they are working from a completely different set of instructions that have nothing to do with any actual Golden Dawn material.

Besides the meat of the book, Farrell does give hints on how to use the pictures, general information about the Vault of the Adepts, and a nice set of planetary deity calls to key your work with the Vault walls to.

I recommend getting this book if you ever think that you might need to build a Vault or work with one.

Five out of five stars.

The Magic Machine--The Golden Dawn Vault in Colour is a limited edition hard-cover book available from Lulu. 

[Required FTC disclosure: This review was based on a low res electronic copy of the book given to the reviewer to ensure a timely review of the book.]

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Shem Grimoire by Nick Farrell

Table of contents page from the Shem Grimoire.
The first thing that a reader needs to know about this book is that this book is not for beginners. This is not a history of the Shem ha-Mephorash and the evolution of its associated angels, nor is it heavy on theory and philosophy. No, this is a grimoire with just enough history and theory to orient a Zelator Adept Minor (Z.A.M.) before turning them loose on actual working with the Shem Angels.

The second thing that a reader needs to know about this book is that it is meant to be used. One of its center pieces is a ritual to actually get in contact with a Shem angel (one of the 72 angels created from the so-called 72 lettered name of God...which actually has 216 letters in it, but who is counting?). There is also an interesting Middle Pillar ritual, complete with head movements inspired by Abraham Abulafia (a mystic of the Kabbalah bent).

(I might write a blog entry about the rituals contained in this book after I work with them for awhile. Or maybe not...it is always hard to tell with me.)

Having worked with some of the Shem angels previously (using a combination of techniques grabbed from Golden Dawn, the Franz Bardon school, and ancient paganism), I mainly focused on the listings for the angels--the place I start with most books that list the uses and powers of spirits that I have previously worked with...because if they get that section wrong, then I have to wonder about the accurancy of the rest of the material.

Based on Nick Farrell's descriptions of the Shem angels, I am confident that he has actually worked with them. While there are minor differences in the functions of the angels as Farrell describes them compared to my own experiences, the differences are so insignificant that one can see that they are based on differences in perception of the operators involved, and not ignorance.

But one does not have to have extended working experience to double-check the general function of the angels. One of the things that I learned while working with the Bardon system was that the angels ruling the important positions of one's birth chart has a certain amount of influence over the individual. If one sits down with their birth chart and look at the position of their rising sign and their planets, one can often see how those planets and sensitive points of one's birth chart is colored by the influence of the angels that rule those astrological degrees. (This is a point that Farrell also mentions in his book--he suggests what order one might want to work with the angesl ruling one's birth chart.)

(Important note--remember to round up when doing this. For instance, Leo 20 degrees, 33 minutes is actually the 21st degree of Leo, not the 20th.)

Take for instance, the position of Mercury in my own birth chart, Leo 20 degrees, 33 minutes. This places my Mercury, the planet of communication and writing, in the section of the zodiac ruled by the Shem angel Meheshiiah (Mem-Heh-Shin-Yod-Heh). Given that I am one of the less evolved types, the influence of this angel tends to be more dubious and negative than positive. One of the things that Farrell says about Meheshiiah is, "There is little in the way of conciliation about him and Meheshiiah is unhappy to make a peace which does not involve total capitulation." Many people who have dealt with me will nod knowingly at this point, because I will not accept partial peace offerings, preferring to remain at war with people instead--a trait that often shows up in my writing.

I am giving this book five out of five stars.

The Shem Grimoire is limited to two hundred hard-cover copies, and is available from Lulu. 

[Disclosure: This review is based on a pre-proof stage file copy given to me by the author for review purposes.]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What My Hierophant Should Have Taught Me (Nick Farrell)

One of my favorite sayings is "If you want to understand the behavior of Secret Chiefs and their human representatives, think of the Secret Chiefs as being cats." Many people think that I am merely making a joke--I am not. It is a statement that I make in all seriousness. I don't think that a lot of people get my point. But if anyone gets my point (and the real useful advice that goes along with my statement), I suspect that Nick Farrell is one of them.

Recently Nick Farrell wrote a limited edition book called "What My Hierophant Should Have Taught Me." It consists of a series of aphorisms applicable to the occult path, along with a commentary for each one. Some of the aphorisms are:

*Magic is not a religion
*You crave power
*Understanding symbols is a key to understanding the universe

and my personal favorite:

*When things go wrong, do not panic

(which I tend to lump in with my own personal aphorism--When working with Sister Amy, have a fire extinguisher ready...honestly, do not let her near any open flames.)

This book is filled with useful advice, some of which I wish I would have learned sooner than I actually did. For the most part, I agree with the advice given in this book. There are a couple of things that I am going to have to experiment with (or pay more attention to) before I make a judgment on--mainly technical advice on working magic.

I imagine that a lot of people are going to judge this book harshly. Some of the advice is about the warning signs that a group (or a group leader) is not on the up and up. It has been my experience that such dubious people turn nasty when they believe that someone is talking about them in a negative light; after all, someone might actually listen and not pay them the dues or accolades that they so richly deserve.

Farrell also mentions advice about how groups react when someone leaves a group (either willingly or not)--this advice falls under the category of "Gee, I wish someone would have warned me about that sooner."

Overall, this is a very useful book--one that I wish I had much earlier in my occult and esoteric career. I give it five out of five stars.

What My Hierophant Should Have Taught Me (limited to just a hundred copies) is still available on Lulu.

[Disclosure: This review is based on an electronic file version provided by the author for review purposes.]

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Paganism 101--An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans

When I first heard of this book, I muttered, "Do we really need another Paganism 101 book?"

After reading it, I have to say, "Hell, yes, we needed another one."

The concept behind the book is to have a 101 different pagans get together and write about paganism. Think of it as a big circle where various voices of the paganism came together to give a newcomer a broad overview of how varied the community really is. You may not agree with all the voices, but you have to remember that they are out there in the community.

The book is divided into three sections with multiple topics in each one. Twenty topics all together. Each topic has five writers committing on it. Plus there is an introduction...which is how the 101st pagan comes into the picture.

The first section is Who we are--Druid, Heathen, Witch, Wiccan, Shaman, Christo-Pagan, Goddess Follower, Eclectic Witch.

The second section is What we believe--Deities, Nature, Ethics, Afterlife, Ancestors, Past & Present.

The third section is What we do--Ritual, Magic, Prayer & Meditation, Healing, Herbalism, Celebrant Work.

No, I do not agree with everything said, but I do find it marvelous that we have such diverse set of voices in the community.

I highly recommend this book to both newcomers and to those who have been around the pagan block countless times. This is a wonderful book that I am going to end up re-reading several times, if only to remind myself how interesting our community actually is.

Five stars out of five.

[Disclosure: I received a pre-publication electronic copy of this book for review purposes.]