I read a lot of news and opinion, and reading for leisure hasn’t been a big priority in the past couple of years. I have had a strange week though, and it afforded me some offline downtime. So I read two books, one a recent Kindle purchase, and the other a book that I’d had in my “to read” pile for months. Both are by Thelemites who happen to be active leaders in the Ordo Templi Orientis.
Lon Milo DuQuette
I am a big fan of DuQuette’s writing. Some of you who are longtime readers might recall he was my first interview at Patheos. I wanted to set the tone for the Pagan section with something big and flashy, and back in those early days it made the other faith sections take notice when it became the most read article on the site, and stayed there for about a week. It’s still one of my favorite interviews.
I thoroughly enjoyed his My Life With The Spirits: The Adventures of a Modern Magician, I still maintain that every tarot reader needs a copy of The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford: Dilettante’s Guide to What You Do and Do Not Need to Know to Become a Qabalist, and I knew I was going to like Low Magick if I ever found the time to read it.
Like My Life With The Spirits, this book is made up of stories from DuQuette’s life. However that book was about DuQuette’s life. The stories in Low Magick each illustrate magickal lessons, from scary exorcisms to the funniest invocation gone wrong I have ever read. The book gently reminds readers over and over again that they will mess up, make mistakes and do stupid things, yet for all that they shouldn’t be afraid. Not afraid of magick or life.
With the glut of (mostly useless) how-to books on the market, it’s refreshing to have a book of stories about real life practice. I find that as I get older all the manuals, primers and 101 books on my shelves sit gathering dust, but the collections of stories I pull out and glean wisdom from time and time again.
Two notes on this book if you’re considering purchasing it:
- The Low Magick the title refers to is practiced magick as opposed to theoretical magick, but the stories feature a lot of Solomonic magick, or the invocation and binding of demons. The high/low dichotomy expressed as light/dark or theoretical/practical was new to me as I had always heard it used to represent ceremonial/folk magick. So if you’re looking for HooDoo and rootworking you will not find it here. And if the idea of demons gives you the heebie-jeebies, then this book will give you a new perspective on them.
- This book is funny. Pretty much every time I tell someone to read an occult or Pagan book and mention it’s funny, their interest wanes. I do not understand why this is. You can be deep and profound while giving people a good belly laugh. Much truth is hidden in jest. I wish more of our literature was (intentionally) funny.
Beyond song lyrics, the only thing I had read by Rodney Orpheus before this was his marvelous intro to the Chicken Qabalah. I am ambivalent to Crowley, and I literally would never have bought this book if I hadn’t become engrossed in a conversation about Babalon on G+. In the course of that rambling discussion Orpheus mentioned he’d written a Mass for Babalon. The Kindle edition was only $6.66, I had a few bucks of mad money available at the moment, and at that price I couldn’t resist. (Had he priced it at $5.99 I’d likely not have bought it, so I applaud his marketing savvy.)
This book is rather ingenious. To my knowledge no other ritual book has ever been created in quite the same way. Not only is the book full of rituals that have been completed and reconstructed from Crowley’s papers, but they have all been beta tested multiple times by OTO groups around the world. This book has been constructed to be an easy to use guide to rituals that have been proven technically and spiritually effective. After learning about the process used to craft them, I almost expect to see a UL stamp on the book.
I know, you’re reading this thinking that you’re not into Thelema or Crowley and such a book has no value to you. Well, you’re wrong, because alongside these group rituals is some of the best advice on crafting and performing ritual I have ever read. From group dynamics to safety to how to craft a ritual that works.
Orpheus is also funny, but not in the same way as DuQuette. While DuQuette sets out to be humorous, Orpheus says what we are all thinking but don’t quite think it’s kosher to say. Some of his advice is fantastic, but goes against what many of us have been taught about ritual. He’s frank about why so many Pagan and occult rituals suck, and gives frank advice on how to prevent sucky ritual. Reading his advice regarding poetry and ritual cracked me up, because he so blatantly didn’t care whether or not I would be offended by it. I can guarantee there will be places in this book where you will recognize in his advice things that you have often thought about ritual but haven’t said out loud.
This book is refreshing and useful even if you never use a single ritual in it. But if you do let me know what you think. I’d imagine that following Orpheus’ own ritual crafting advice that some of these rituals could be effectively adapted for Wiccan or Druid rites.
Also it’s my understanding that all the proceeds of this book go to the OTO, which is nice. If you like your books on dead trees, you can order the hardback edition directly from Abrahadabra Press. I like this book enough to consider it a Pagan/occult essential, and plan to order a hard copy for my own collection despite already owning an e-copy. What can I say? I’m part Luddite. Besides, I hear the hardcopy has amazing artwork by Cathryn Orchard.