Friday, January 6, 2012

The Occult Reliquary: Images & Artefacts of the Richel-Eldermans Collection edited by Daniel A. Schulke

Three Hands Press  2010  224 pages.  Illustrated: many full-color. Quarto.

Standard Edition: Scarlet cloth with dust jacket, limited to 700 copies.

Deluxe Edition: Quarter burgundy morocco over cloth boards with slipcase, limited to 250 copies.

Special Edition: Full scarlet morocco with slipcase, limited to 100 copies.

The Occult Reliquary was created in association with The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall.  It collects for the first time previously unpublished works of occult artwork relevant to the traditions of witchcraft, ceremonial magic, and Freemasonry.  Included works are part of the Richel-Edlermans collection, a significant collection donated to the Museum of Witchcraft by the late Bob Richel of Amsterdam.  Much of this collection (over 2000 pieces) could have been lost or divided up and scattered around the world if not for Richel's decision to contact The Museum of Witchcraft for preservation.

Within this large folio one will find diagrams and illustrations of charms, magic circles, fetishes, magical implements, talismans, herbs, and full-color photos of actual handcrafted pieces.  The age of the pieces ranges from antiquity to the mid 20th century.  They were originally collected by Richel's father-in-law, J.H.W Elderman (b. 1904), who Richel described as a "heks" (witch).  He was also a Magister in a lodge of the A:.A:. in The Hague.  It is not know if this refers to the 'Argentum Astrum' or the 'Ars Amatoria', as both magical orders are represented within the collection.

The editor made the wise decision to make The Occult Reliquary a mutus liber (silent book), or a book without commentary.  Limited footnotes, titles, and index numbers are given, but by and large viewers are forced to contemplate the images and arrive at their own meaning or surmise an object's intent.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words -- even more so when dealing with the esoteric.  The images are revelatory for those with eyes to see.

Many images have been executed using the detail of a draftsman, with some talismans shown from multiple perspectives to clarify their meaning, design, and method of use -- in some cases almost instructing the viewer.  The book is filled with illustrations of hag stones, witches knots, protective seals, divination tools, poppets, stangs,  mandrakes, alchemical apparatuses, and fertility charms.  It is a veritable cornucopia of occult symbolism and witch-lore.

Foreword is provided by Daniel A. Schulke.   Introduction is written by Graham King, curator of The Museum of Witchcraft.  The book concludes with an index providing description and medium of each image, of which there are over 275, and 130 in full color on glossy paper.  Back and white images (scanned from the originals) are sharp and printed on smooth & high-quality paper.

The Special Edition is bound in full morocco.  The leather has a gorgeous raspberry hue and is highly textured.  It is an absolute delight to hold and exudes the usual aroma of fine leather but with additional spicy notes of tonka bean.  The cover contains a gilt-stamped lunar enneagram device, and opens to black, leather-textured, end-papers.  The spine has four raised bands and is gilt-stamped with title and magic seals.  The book is finished with red & gold head/tail bands and a black, satin, ribbon bookmark, and comes housed in a sturdy slipcase covered in black linen.

Whether you're an Alchemist, Goetic magician, Freemason, Thelemite, Cunning Man, Rootworker, or Pennsylvania German Hexenmeister, you're likely to find something of great interest among these images.  Three Hands Press has done an amazing job and has treated the subject matter with the respect it deserves.    Please also remember that these precious and important images would have been lost if not for the efforts of The Museum of Witchcraft.  So, if you're looking for an important cause in which to donate to in this new year, please consider donating to The Museum of Witchcraft here, so that more irreplaceable works may be saved to further enrich our magical heritage.


  1. Wow, that is an amazing book, looking forward to get a copy.

  2. If you liked this book, you might also want to read my new book on J.H.W. Eldermans: "The Silent Listener. The Life and Works of J.H.W. Eldermans". More info on