Saturday, July 30, 2011

Egyptian Secrets or White and Black Art For Man and Beast, attributed to Albertus Magnus

Egyptian Publishing Company.  208 pages.  Octavo.  1930  (Press and year not stated)

(Revisiting an old classic)

Hardcover with dust jacket.  Translated from the original German.

Egyptian Secrets is a classic among folk magick practitioners, especially among those who practice Hoodoo and Pennsylvania German Pow-wow, a.k.a. Braucherei.  Its charms and herbal remedies have been used for generations to stop blood, charm firearms, heal animals, break hexes and many other practical uses.  The majority of spells and charms included tend to focus on treating domesticated animals and curing minor personal ailments such as wart removal, ointments for burns, and treatments for gaut and jaundice.  Thus, the charms and remedies therein are interesting indicators, as they represent the needs and concerns of a mostly rural society at a time when doctors were very scarce, leaving many to fend for themselves.  In many ways it is comparable to the American folk magick grimiore, The Long Lost Friend, by John George Hohman.

The book itself consists of three parts.  No reason is given why the book is divided thus.  Each part contains seemingly random charms and remedies without following a pattern or theme.  Additionally, each section contains its own separate index.  Thus, if one needs to look up a particular charm one would need to check all three indexes.  This makes the book somewhat difficult to use efficiently, especially considering that, as in the case of blood-stopping, speedy retrieval of a charm would be essential.  One wonders at the logic of this.  At least the indexes list the charms alphabetically.  I suspect copies of Egyptian Secrets often contained many inserted bookmarks or dogeared pages to assist in locating particular charms.  Seventeen blank pages are included at the rear, presumably for notations.

Occult scholar, Joseph H. Peterson, has traced the history of Egyptian Secrets back to the early 18th century.  The book has no connection to the famous Dominican bishop Albertus Magnus (1193 - 1280).  His name was likely added for name recognition to boost sales, an early form of spurious celebrity endorsement or 'star power'.  The title is somewhat of a misnomer.  In this case 'Egyptian' refers to Gypsies (or the Roma).  This is due to the erroneous belief that Gypsies had an Egyptian origin.  Further, there is also little evidence that these charms are of Roma origin.

Physically the book is not terribly impressive and is printed rather cheaply, as is common of the era. The dust jacket sports a Faustian figure summoning or commanding imps (black & white).  The same image is printed on tan canvas boards.  Pages are medium weight pulp paper and have darkened significantly over time due to acid content, though they remain in fairly good condition.  I have treated each page with a de-acidification spray called Archival Mist from Preservation Technologies.  With a bit of luck, this will stop (or at least slow down) the book's deterioration.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Book of Paramazda

Hadean Press  46 pages, includes tables.  Small octoavo.  2010.

Bound in full, dark green, speckled calfskin.  Limited to 28 copies, 26 of which were offered for sale.

Recently available in paperback.

The publisher claims that The Book of Paramazda is a received book akin to Crowley's much celebrated Liber AL.  The author remains anonymous, though it appears to be a contemporary text.  The publisher also claims the book is a "enciphered magical system and an apocalyptic vision of the Aeons".  For now I'll have to take Hadean Press' word for it, as I've only just begun to peel away the layers of this mysterious book.  For starters, who is the mysterious figure, Paramazda, who claims to be "beyond the Light and the Dark"?  Looking closer at the name might give us a clue. 
From the Greek 'Para' we get, beside, above, or beyond. 'Mazda' can be traced back to a proto-Iranian Zoroastrian deity representing the 'uncreated god'. The name means 'intelligence' or 'wisdom'. So one could interpret 'Paramazda' as 'above/beyond uncreated wisdom', meaning 'wisdom manifest', much like the Theosophical concept of 'Sophia'.  Thus, the title could be interpreted as, 'The Book of Manifest Wisdom'. The phrase "beyond the Light and the Dark" could indicate one who has risen above the darkness of ignorance and who has also moved beyond the initial lightning flash of understanding and into pure awareness.  Only the anonymous author can say for sure.

The text itself is somewhat of an enigma.  It contains various diminishing words of power, such as the Lord of the Aeon:


It contains a few planetary and elemental examples of the above as well, along with magic squares, invocations, and alphanumeric tables. The litany of specific gods and goddesses and frequent mention of Aeons puts this book firmly within the Thelemic tradition.

The majority of the book contains a series of paeans and symbolic vignettes divided up into groups of 'aeons', each corresponding to specific elements and days of the week. Also included is an unusual version of English gematria. Using the book's own system, the name PARAMAZDA equates to 26-1-12-1-21-1-8-6-1 = 77  Interestingly, in Jewish gematira, PARAMAZDA equates to 678, meaning: holy bloodline; the rising sun; Pandora's Box.  In standard English Gematria PARAMAZDA equals 486.  Other words that equate to 486 are: hermetic; Horus; source; God's child -- to name a few.

I can see already that this book will take years to tease out its mysteries.  I have only begun to scratch the surface.  The application of its own gematraic system to decipher possible hidden meanings within the text is quite a daunting task, to say the least.  Thus, I will revisit this book in a future update when further secrets have been gleaned.

The calfskin binding is a smooth, matte, hunter green with dark speckles.  Marbled endpapers create a kaleidoscope of black, russet, green & gold.  Black head and tail bands.  The text is printed on beautiful cream colored Fabriano paper (from one of the oldest paper mills in Europe) which has a soft, natural grain.  The title is stamped in silver foil on the cover.  Spine is blank.  Each copy contains a tipped in bookplate with the title stamped in silver, a sigil hand-drawn by the anonymous author.  It also states the book's limitation (limitation also hand written on the title page).  Each copy comes in a green, padded, box.  It's obvious that each copy was given individual attention by the binder.  I sincerely hope Hadean Press continues to produce more riddle-filled gems such as this.