Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Brief Overview of Today's Esoteric Journals

After devoting so much attention to fine bindings I thought I would change things up this month and dedicate an article to another noteworthy and dynamic segment of esoteric publishing; namely, Esoteric Journals.  Recently there has been a surge of new publications devoted to a wide array of occult topics ranging from: spiritual paths (both traditional and modern), exploration of  esoteric themes through art, and serious academic study of Western magic and its impact on culture.  While journals devoted to Witchcraft or Hermeticism are certainly nothing new, what sets many new journals apart from their predecessors is their high quality (VERY deluxe in some cases) and elevated academic standards.  The latter stems from new-found interest within academia that has raised the bar for today's esoteric journals.  Cheaply produced 'zines' and spiral-bound booklets of past decades have matured into sturdy textbooks filled with insightful peer-reviewed studies and often include beautiful and magically charged artwork.  For these reasons current esoteric journals deserve significant attention.

Just like their predecessors of past decades, many current journals still contain raw and powerful essays describing personal experiences and individual practices; however, they also typically contain a healthy amount of academic research.  Most of this has been made possible because of the internet.  This is not to say that earlier journals (say, from the 70s to mid 90s) didn't attempt scholarly articles, rather, most authors simply didn't have access to crucial materials.  As a result, gaps in knowledge were frequently filled with educated speculation at best, or biased and fanciful fabrications at worst.  Thankfully things have changed.  Today one can research remote archives from the comfort of one's own living room.  Libraries of rare and previously unknown documents detailing forgotten practices are now available in digital format, and only a click away for the curious.  This has allowed researchers to make incredible discoveries and has allowed them to separate fact from fiction.

There is no doubt that personal observations, subjective interpretations, and relative experiences can often be instructive and inspirational to readers, but only to a point.  The same is true with scholarly research; one can know the facts behind a certain tradition or practice, but frequently the meaning behind it is lost, or is purely speculative. This is why editors of many current esoteric journals have chosen to go with a balanced approach utilizing both subjective experiences and a fair amount academic rigor: not too fanciful, nor too dry.  In short, a middle-ground that most of us can comprehend and one in which we can all relate.

So what are the titles of these publications?  I have included a list (below) of current esoteric journals along with a brief description of each.  This list is by no means complete, and I apologize to those I have inevitably overlooked.  Some of the following titles are venerable publications that should be well known within the occult community; some have only recently printed their debut issue; others are still forthcoming.

  • Journal for the Academic Study of Magic (JSM)   This is an excellent journal, and one of my personal favorites due to its wide range to topics.  Publication has been sporadic, but is worth the wait.  JSM's 'journals' are more like books.  Most issues are over 300 pages.  
         From a publisher:
"A multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed print publication, covering all areas of magic, witchcraft, paganism etc; all geographical regions and all historical periods."  

  • SiLKMiLK MagiZain      SiLKMiLK is a highly creative journal/magazine covering topics ranging from alchemy, chaos magic, witchcraft, art, and beyond.  Issues have become increasingly deluxe, including audio/video CD/DVDs.  SiLKMiLK is a surreal treat for artists and futurist magicians.

  • QLIPHOTH Esoteric Publication   QLIPHOTH is an impressive newcomer.  The premiere (and most current) issue has already sold out.  It includes a 50 min audio CD of ritual music (wonderful stuff).  The journal includes essays, poetry, and artwork from notables: Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule, Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold, S. Ben Qayin, and Kyle Fite, among others.  As the title implies, QLIPHOTH deals with the darker side of magic, therefore some may want to proceed with caution. 

  • Hermetic Virtues    Hermtic Virtues is an online-only publication with issues available in .pdf format and has been published quarterly since 2007.  The journal's primary focus is Hermeticism with particular emphasis on the exploration and study of magic within the Golden Dawn tradition.  Frequent and notable authors include Chic and Tabatha Cicero, Aaron Leitch, Nick Farrell, and Darcy Kuntz.  
         From the publisher:
"We hope that, over time, it will become a repository for hermetic knowledge and research. It is designed to be a place where people of good will from all orders, groups, places and backgrounds can communicate to freely share what they have discovered in the course of their exploration for the greater good of all and the expansion of our intellectual and spiritual horizons."

  • ESOTERICA     ESOTERICA is published by the University of Michigan Press and is,
 "A peer-reviewed academic journal devoted to the transdisciplinary study of Western esotericism: Western esoteric traditions including alchemy, astrology, Gnosticism, gnosis, magic, mysticism, Rosicrucianism, and secret societies, and their ramifications in art history, history, literature, and politics."  
ESOTERICA has been published on an annual basis since 1999 in an online-only format.  Past articles are archived on their website and can be viewed for free, though you may want to consider a donation.  More recently, instead of their usual online format, they have chosen to publish essays in book form (generally over 300 pages).  Esotericism, Art, and Imagination was published in 2008. The most recent book, Esotericism, Religion, and Nature was published in 2010. These books offer remarkable insight into oft-overlooked areas of Western magic. I eagerly await their next release. 

  • The Cauldron     This is an indisputable classic. Where would the Witchcraft/Pagan community be today without The Cauldron?  In far poorer shape I'd wager. Their newly revamped website states, 
"The Cauldron, edited by Michael Howard, is a non-profit-making, independent, privately published magazine featuring serious and in-depth articles on Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, Ancient and Modern Paganism, Magic and Folklore. It has been published quarterly in February, May, August and November since 1976."   
The Cauldron  has been a prime resource for witchcraft studies for over a generation and continues to provide brilliant articles written by the tradition's leading voices.

  • CLAVIS: Journal of the Art Magical    I'm extremely excited about this new collaborative effort between Three Hands Press and Ouroboros Press.  The debut issue is due any day now.  This highly anticipated journal promises to be an exquisite publication.  It will be available in softcover and hardback.  
        From the publisher:
 "CLAVIS is a journal of the advanced occult disciplines, produced by esoteric publishers Ouroboros Press and Three Hands Press. Born of the desire to serve an increasingly sophisticated esoteric community, its pages wed the dual arenas of scholar and practitioner, our aim to serve as a magical resource for years to come. In accord with the Emblem of our work, the journal provides unique access to magical strata and currents of esoteric thought not found elsewhere. Our pages feature Magical Theory and Practice, Hermetic Studies, Comparative and Esoteric Religion, History of Magic, Folklore and newly-emergent fields of syncretic occult praxis."      

  • Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies     Abraxas is published on a roughly annual basis with issued #3 due this autumn.  After only two issues Abraxas has proven to be one of the most deluxe esoteric journals in print (particularly the limited hardcover edition).  It is printed in an extremely large format (large quarto) with over 200 glossy and full-color pages.  Abraxas is more expensive than most journals; but let me assure you, its scholarly articles and breathtaking artwork are worth every penny.  
From the publisher:  
"Abraxas aims to represent the best of the international esoteric scene in a high quality printed format. As a bi-annual journal, it seeks to offer relevant and thought-provoking features: ranging from essays that are scholarly and engaging, to images and sounds that challenge and inspire. Our print run is limited, and every issue employs lavish colour and exotic papers – providing for the reader a rare sensory sorcery. Indeed, it is our intent that Abraxas should embody that magical, creative nexus which feeds both mind and soul. And in a world fraught with troubles, our approach is refreshingly non-partisan and inclusive… join us!"    
Yes, join them.

  • Starfire: Journal of the New Aeon     Starfire dates back to 1986.  This large and high-quality journal is published every few years, and is available in both softcover and hardback.  In 2011 Starfire published ECPYROSIS: The Best of Starfire Vol. 1, making long out-of-print articles and essays (1986-1994) available once again.  Starfire is primarily geared towards those working in the Thelemic/Typhonian currents.

  • The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism, and Spirituality    I was happy to hear that The Gnostic has plans to continue.  The Gnostic #5 has recently been published.  Each issue is unique.  I thoroughly enjoyed Lance Owen's essay about Jung's Red Book in issue #3.  In my opinion, The Red Book could be one of the most illuminating grimiores in modern history.  Issue 5 includes,
"Interviews with Gary Lachman on Hermes Trismegistus, Patrick Harpur on the soul, and Nicholas Baker-Brian on the Manichaeans. Sean Martin on David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus, Jeffrey Kupperman on the Neoplatonic roots of Hermeticism, Dean Wilson on the links between Enochian magic and Gnosticism, and a brilliant article by Stevan Davies on the Odes of Solomon and the origins of Christianity. Sorita D'Este on the Great Rite. The theology of Nick Cave. The bright side of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Scott Finch's Gnostic comic, short fiction, a Cathar travelogue, reviews and more!"
 I am particularly looking forward to the interview with one of my favorite writers/philosophers, Patrick Harpur, author of Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld.  As for "The Bright Side of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian".  Is such a thing possible?

  • Hoodoo & Conjure Quarterly   Southern Conjure or 'Hoodoo' has been generally ignored by most contemporary occultists until fairly recently. It is for this reason that was thrilled to see a journal devoted exclusively to Southern Conjure arrive last year.  It is finally getting the recognition it deserves, as it is an extremely practical, down-to-earth, and most importantly, effective system of magic.  Interest is on the rise, and extending far beyond the American south.  It is a full color and large format journal.  Regardless of its 'Quarterly' title it has so far proven to be biannual   
        From the publisher:
"Hoodoo & Conjure Quarterly (HCQ) journal is the first publication of its kind that focuses on New Orleans Voodoo and hoodoo and related African-derived traditions. It shares historical and contemporary information about aspects of the conjure arts, including magico-religious practices, spiritual traditions, folk magic, southern Hoodoo, and religions with their roots in the African Diaspora. Each issue of Hoodoo & Conjure Quarterly brings you original and traditional formulas, spells, tutorials, conjure artist profiles, information about New Orleans Voodoo, Hoodoo, Louisiana folklore and more!

         From the publisher:
"The Pomegranate is the first International, peer-reviewed journal of Pagan studies. It provides a forum for papers, essays and symposia on both ancient and contemporary Pagan religious practices. The Pomegranate also publishes timely reviews of scholarly books in this growing field. The editors seek both new interpretations and re-examinations of those traditions marked both by an emphasis on nature as a source of sacred value (e.g., Wicca, modern Goddess religions) as well as those emphasizing continuity with a polytheistic past (e.g., Ásatrú and other forms of 'reconstructionist' Paganism). The editors also seek papers on the interplay between Pagan religious traditions, popular culture, literature, psychology and the arts."

         From the publisher:
"A rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft draws from a broad spectrum of perspectives, methods, and disciplines, offering the widest possible geographical scope and chronological range, from prehistory to the modern era and from the Old World to the New. In addition to original research, the journal features book reviews, editorials, and lists of newly published work."

  • Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition    JWMT is a non-profit, online-only, biannual journal that began in 2001.  Its primary focused on the Hermetic tradition with a balanced approach for both student and scholar.
         From the publisher:
"Within the virtual pages of this Journal you will find the writings of students and scholars of the Western Mysteries. The goal of the Journal is to not only provide information on the many different traditions which make up the Western Mystery Tradition, but to also further the Western Mystery Tradition as a living tradition or group of traditions. The Journal will promote this goal by providing new rituals, poems and artwork as well as by sharing the experiences of those writers who are active in the Mysteries with its reader.
This Journal is dedicated to beginner and adept, student and scholar alike. Each issue will contain scholarly articles on the Mysteries, but the reader will also find anecdotal accounts, poetry, new rituals, book reviews and more."

**Edit** 10/6/2012     Here's a significant journal I had previously overlooked.

  • Alchemy Journal    Alchemy Journal is started in 2000 and continues to publish quarterly.  The publishers have graciously provided all the issues between from 2000-2007 on their website as free .pdfs., though you may want to consider a donation.
          From the publisher:

"The Alchemy Journal is devoted to the Divine Art, Celestial Agriculture, the Mother of all Science and Wisdom, the ancient Art of Transformation: the Great Work as known by many names.
Since 2000 the Alchemy Journal has published an eclectic array of material, both scholarly and personal, logical and emotional, practical and spiritual, everyday and occult, including essays, articles, poetry, visual art, interviews, and summaries of operative alchemical processes, along with book and website reviews, sources and resources, and the latest conference, lecture and workshop announcements."

**Edited 10/20/12**

Thanks to Scarlet Imprint for reminding me of this one. It had completely slipped my mind and certainly deserves to be added to the list.

THE FENRIS WOLF.    The Fenris Wolf has been published on a roughly annual basis recently, the most current volume being #5. The first three issues are now available together in a single volume.  Volumes are generally around 300 pages and contain essays from very well known and forward-thinking authors in the esoteric field.  Essays run the full gamut of occult topics, from psychedelics to geomancy, though they tend to favor a somewhat Thelemic and post-modern approach.  If one desires to know what the future holds for magic and esotericism one need only pick up copy of The Fenris Wolf.

From the publisher:

"The Fenris Wolf is a research journal focused on the human mind, developments in comparative magico-anthropology, and on the occultural implications and applications of these fields of study."

Forthcoming journals:

         From the publisher:
"Hagstone aims to provide the opportunity for witches and magical practitioners of varying backgrounds, ideologies, and subject positions to promote and engage in intelligent, critical discussion and sharing. When witchcraft and magic are concerned, misinformation and misrepresentation rule, and Hagstone boldly puts one step forward in an effort to change that. Many people (practitioners and scholars alike) do not understand, on a fundamental level, the unending variety and innovation that exists today, pioneered by those who call magic and witchcraft their home – and thus Hagstone is born. Hagstone is not witchcraft 101."

         From the publisher:
"PILLARS will be the periodical journal of Anathema Publishing which we hope to be able to release first on a twice a year basis starting from the Autumnal Equinox of 2012. PILLARS aims to be a body of essays consisting of adversarial articles based on mystical researches and experiences, artworks and poems aptly woven and rich in symbolical meaning. Nourishment for the mind and the essence of the True-Self, as flesh is torn and blood is poured on paper in order to elevate mortal souls beyond the cosmic stretch of the Demiurge."

Lastly, I encourage everyone to subscribe to a journal.  It is the best way to stay as current as possible regarding esoteric topics.  One is guaranteed to find educated discussions, critical analyses, inspiring personal accounts, stunning artwork, and interesting recent discoveries.  No matter what your path, there is likely a journal that is applicable to you whether you're a practitioner, student, or scholar.  Or perhaps you may discover a whole new path of which you were previously unaware, as journals are a great way to be exposed to a broad range of diverse topics.  If you've allowed your subscription to lapse, maybe it's time to give your favorite journal another shot.  And if you're feeling really adventurous, try submitting an essay of your own.  Your work may see print and inspire others to embark upon new paths of their own.


  1. Fenris Wolf!

    Wanted to mention our favourite independent occultural journal under the editorship of Carl Abrahamsson:

    1. Thank you for pointing out this oversight, SI. Fenris Wolf is a wonderful publication. I will update the post to include FW soon.

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  3. Many of these journals are indeed beautiful in their production and content. One thing that does disturb me however is that some of these journals (not all) do not even give a hard copy for free to the contributors let alone pay them (they get an electronic copy) and yet they are sold at crazy prices. I think it is something to think about, that the writers and artists who are so happy to see their work in print, are not taken advantage of. I've been involved in publishing for 30 years and I know exactly how much these journals cost to produce.

  4. Don't forget The Red Flame by Jerry Cornelius in Berkeley. It's a thelemic research journal.

  5. I don't understand why Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism (Brill) is missing. It has been in print since 2001 and is considered the foremost peer-review academic journal on esotericism.