That Old Black Magic

By Isaac H.

No, this isn’t about the Billy Eckstine song, though I’m sure it fits in here somewhere. Documenting magic, it’s not just card tricks, horcruxes and invisibility rings. I’ve always had a passing interest in the paranormal. Not necessarily the general concept of magic, more like the history of human beliefs in the unexplained. Now I can’t say I believe in the arcane arts, but I do find the history of  magic and the paranormal to be fascinating. Just as interesting are belief systems that have emerged from cultural merging of metaphysical traditions and mythologies.  Here are a few selections that provide examples of what’s so interesting about magic.

Grimorium Verum

Fun fact: There is a type of magic called Goetia, which specifically involves the invoking of demons or spirits to do your bidding. Like Aladdin and the genie (the cartoon, not the middle eastern legend), but in a less cheery and more ghastly way.  The Grimorium Verum is a 18th century “how-to” instruction booklet for calling forth ethereal beings to follow your command. What bidding, you ask? Cleaning out your garage? Building your furniture? Crushing your enemies? Who knows?! There is some evidence that this was written to inflame the sensibilities of the strict religious adherents of the time. Reading it, it is a bit difficult to believe it was written to be taken wholly seriously, even being translated from 18th century French. Either way, heed caution if you insist on practicing: results may vary.

The Demonologist

Storm hunters, tornado chasers, cave spelunkers, parkourists. Hobbies that the particularly risk averse, such as myself, enjoy reading about and watching but can’t imagine experiencing in person. Add demon hunting to that list, seeking threats to your soul in addition to your well being. Real life Ghostbusting (or Demonbusting?). Ed and Lorraine Warren were professional exorcists and hunters of demons, or so they claimed. The Demonologist catalogs the couple’s travels and experiences in this odd profession. Much of it can be read with a strong eye for scrutiny, but even if you don’t buy into a word of it, some of their stories will definitely give you the creeps.

The Golden Dawn

When thinking of late 19th, early 20th century esoteric cults, one might think of haunting incantations, dense incenses, bright colorful garbs and attention grabbing head gear. You probably aren’t thinking of a complex social hierarchy or a bureaucratic organizational system. You also aren’t likely thinking of a compounded set of placement instructions that depend upon the hour, day and month for a given magical ritual to function. Israel Regardie’s recollection of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is not a short read in any way, but it is great food for lovers of the elaborately detailed and peculiar. It’s best consumed by those with a fancy for readings of dry, somewhat technical materials. Parliamentarians, legal jurists, history professors, Lore fans, mathematicians and the like.

Babalawo, Santeria’s High Priests

Divulging from the darker side of magic to something a bit lighter, we have Babalawo, Santeria’s High Priests. While more a revelation of doctrine and practices than a documentation of magic, Babalawo also reveals the rich history of the rare but widely popularized religion known as “Santeria.” A blend of of African, Native and European traditional beliefs, the lore of Santeria is amazingly deep. This title explains the history, deities and rituals of the Santeria practitioners from the perspective of it’s priests, the Babalawo-Aye. There is an amazing depth to this belief, and you definitely get the feeling this title only scratches the surface of it. The spiritual (but not necessarily religious) belief of Ifa, the multiple names, genders and tales of various deities, even the history of the new world religion tracing back to Yoruban and Native mythologies are all presented in this fairly compact read.


Are there any books that put you in a spell (See, I told you we would come back to it)? Recommend them below. In the mean time, here’s a list of a few additional magical items in our collection.

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2 responses to “That Old Black Magic”

  1. Kim says:

    I’m loving the Supernatural nod, Isaac! Th Demonologist is one of my favorite reads!

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