Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Liber Nigri Solis edited by Victor Voronov

Octavia & Co. Press     Illustrated.  Octavo.  2009

Standard Edition: Trade paperback, unlimited.

Deluxe Edition: Quarter-leather, limited to 39 copies.

Liber Nigri Solis (Book of the Black Sun) is a collection of the combined writings of two esoteric orders, Arcanum Ordo Nigri Solis and Ordo Hermeticum Sinistrum.  It is touted as "An Aeonic Astrochymical Grimore of the Black Sun".  The unknown writers claim the book contains "self initiatory workings, rites, and operations of sinister alchemy, initiating the practitioner into the gnosis of Sol Niger."

One of the main problems I've encountered when reading books written by closed orders/sects/clans is that said groups often engage in insulated group-think.   As a consequence, they become echo-chambers for their particular point of view or belief system.  This is all fine until they try to express their message to the outside world.  Many tend to use obscure or needlessly archaic terminology, colloquialisms unique to their area, or even completely invented terms that mean absolutely nothing outside their limited cadre of initiates.  As a result, the message or teachings become garbled or untranslatable.  Books become too heavy with temple jargon while shunning effective, recognizable, and everyday terms.  What may seem clear and defined to the author winds up as impenetrable nonsense to most readers who are not familiar with a group's slang.  Worse still when authors muddy the waters further with outlandish purple prose and horror fiction tropes and allusions.

One can find similar problems in the pedantic writings of many academics.  One can only stomach words like, 'eschatological' or 'epistemological' so many times on a single page before one wants to fling the book across the room (see Christopher Lehrich's The Occult Mind: Magic in Theory and Practice for an example of egregious overuse of the latter term).  However, there are a few very skilled writers who can pull it off effectively.   By using surreal prose, peppered with a little arcane terminology, they lull the reader into an altered state.  From this trance-like state their words work subconsciously and are understood intuitively.  In some cases, words and phrases are meant to be felt, not rationalized.  Examples include the often bizarre, yet fascinating, works by Kenneth Grant and Michael Bertiaux.  Liber Nigri Solis falls far short of this.  Instead, sentences like the one below come off  as needlessly verbose Lovecraftian mumbo-jumbo.
 "Incarnate their would-be avatars nevertheless infest all worlds as the profligate and prodigious children of the Parasite-God, an anti-race the verminous forms of which are the microcosmic shells cast off excrementally in the blind, unreflective placental spasms of the nameless Arch-Parent of the Gods of Sleep, the noisome ancestor of the half-remembered anthropoid First One and its parasitic twin."

At this point the reader may begin to doubt whether or not there is even anything of value within the text.  It appears to be a collection of poorly articulated ramblings, a manifesto or sorts that falls vaguely within the 'Chaos magic' tradition.  It even inverts the Chaote motto by stating, "Everything is false, but Nothing is Forbidden".  Unfortunately for this book, it never amounts to more than a turgid diatribe of speculation and convoluted language.  I suspect this book is where unwanted adjectives go to die.

There are some texts (particularly in the grimoire tradition) known to be intentionally opaque or include misdirecting 'blinds' to hide their true meaning from unworthy eyes, but I don't think Liber Nigri Solis is one of these.  The author(s) clearly have a wide background of occult knowledge.  It's a pity they couldn't pull it together into something more coherent.  I stopped taking the book seriously when I encountered the word 'dark' for the thirteenth time on a single page.  Everything in Liber Nigri Solis is "dark", "shadowy", "black", or 'anti-(fill in the blank) '-- and don't forget "sinister"!-- to the point of absurdity.  Perhaps it should have also come with a limited edition bottle of black nail-polish.  If my readers, or the authors of Liber Nigri Solis, really want to read something 'dark', I suggest they pick up Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, but make sure you remove all firearms from your home first.  You'll thank me later.

Though I must admit, the book did trigger a bit of nostalgia for me.  It reminded me of the time (many years ago) when as a young man I purchased the leather edition of the 'Simon' Necronomicon (1977 -- limited to 666 copies, of course).  Like the Necronomicon, Liber Nigri Solis discusses astral 'gates' and 'keys'.  I don't think it's an intentional hoax, like the Simon Necronomicon, but it does try very hard to be the darkest book on your shelf.

It should be mentioned that there are some people who swear by the magical efficacy of the Necronomicon, sometimes referring to themselves as 'Gate-walkers'.  I have no reason to dispute their claims, as I know of others who have successfully used Huckleberry Finn and The Little Prince for magical purposes too.  Therefore, it's possible that someone with a highly creative mind might be able to convert Liber Nigri Solis into something miraculous, like an intelligible book.  Good luck with that.

Questionable text aside, the book itself is fairly attractive.  It is bound in black quarter leather with gold and maroon hand-marbled boards.  The book is bound using an uncommon method called Bradel-binding, also known as German box binding.  Leather head/tail bands are a nice touch and lend some character.  The title page is sigilized in ink by the editor, Victor Voronov.   End-papers are a deep terracotta color.  The paper stock is a poor choice.  It's far too thin for this style of binding, as the stitching puts uneven pressure on the paper, creating a rippling effect on some pages.  The book lacks a title on both the spine and cover, not even a device of any sort.  This is unfortunate, as it would have given the book a bit more character and made it recognizable on one's shelf.  When viewed from the spine the book is black, unremarkable, and empty, a rather ironic reflection of the content therein.


  1. What a wonderful review - it made me smile so many times! Great to see that not all books are judged by their covers.... Thank you!

  2. You must have one hell of a collection there.
    I'm pretty pleased with mine but you make mine look like a pile of old news papers! Great review BTW.

  3. I agree with the comments above: a well-written and informative review, I specially liked 'this book is where unwanted adjectives go to die'...

  4. I must agree with all the comments here as I too found this Review to be both amusing yet strict to the point and very informative, which in it self is Ironic as in a unfortunate way it also gives an idea of the books contents save that it would be more accurate in the books case I suppose to supliment amusing for frustration as you no doubt pointed your self. And it is redundant for me to praise you for this great review as I all ready agree with all the praisings above which are very befitting.

  5. Thank you all for for taking the time to read this blog. Your positive feedback is very much appreciated.

  6. Hey man! I know this book and everything you have said in this review is true. The book is convoluted beyond belief. I guess you know by now this book has been re-released as an "expanded version" Yikes!!! Anyone having read it and wanting to be cleansed from its purple prose should check out http://www.orderoftheblacksun.com/ and have fun laughing at someone who at least does not take their own anti-Shadow Darkness too seriously.

    1. Thank God I found that Black Sun website! I've been looking for such a great range of handbags and shoes for ages.