Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Leaper Between by Andrew D. Chumbley

Three Hands Press  2012.  66 pages.  Duodecimo (Twelvemo).  Black and white toad device on title page, otherwise no illustrations.

Available in three editions:

Trade paperbound: unlimited
Deluxe hardcover: limited to 231 copies.  Sold out at publisher.
Special hardcover: full goat skin, limited to 77 copies.  Sold out at publisher.

Three Hands Press has printed yet another clever chapter from the corpus of Andrew D. Chumbley.  Recent publications of Chumbley's work always leave me with mixed feelings of exhilaration and melancholy.  On the one hand I find his keen observations and oftentimes oneiric prose utterly enchanting; however, the experience is always bittersweet, as I'm continually reminded of the great loss Chumbley's untimely passing has been for the occult world, particularly those interested in witchcraft.  We are all very fortunate that he was remarkably prolific during his brief time on this plane, with still a few more unpublished works planned for the future.

The Leaper Between: An Historical Study of the Toad-Bone Amulet; Its Forms, Functions, and Praxis in Popular Magic is Chumbley's treatise on the age-old 'toad-bone' rite.  It first appeared in an abridged form in The Cauldron back in 2001.  It is presented here in its unabridged form.

This is the second book to be released concerning the toad-bone rite in less than a year; the other being Nigel Pennick's The Toadman.  See my review here of Pennick's work for more details on the toad-bone rite itself.  Fortunately each book approaches the subject in a different way.  There is a small overlap of information, but readers can still greatly benefit by reading both studies.  Pennick's The Toadman is far more focused on history and the alchemical symbolism of the toad, especially as portrayed through artwork.  In contrast, Chumbley's research is far more localized, often drawing upon the lore of specific rural regions of southern England.  Like The Toadman, The Leaper Between provides a wealth of historical background information and cites many examples of how the toad-bone rite was used throughout history.  Chumbley does an impressive job illuminating the tradition, especially considering brevity of the work (only 66 pages).

The Leaper Between goes beyond ritualistic methods and procedures of the toad-bone rite itself by also providing a thoughtful and intuitive meditation of the nature, symbolism, and mystical function of toads within a larger magical context.  In essence, Chumbley is asking, What can they teach us?  I find it fascinating, and more than a little ironic, that toads (and frogs) are used by scientists today as prognosticators or 'early warning' devices for environmental damage.  Amphibians are the proverbial 'canary in a coalmine', as their permeable skin makes them highly susceptible to toxins within the environment.  Just as our cunning-folk ancestors divined animal signs for clues and answers concerning their world, modern scientists conduct their own batrachian auguries for much the same purpose.

The Leaper Between is a slim book, opening to reveal sage-colored endpapers.  The endpapers appear to be made of what could be hand-made paper -- they certainly have that look and texture -- lending it a pleasantly simple and rustic feel.  Three Hands Press always uses quality paper, and this volume is no exception.  Pages are bone-white; a nice tone, not to stark, not too cream.  Red ribbon bookmark.  The Special edition is bound in full black goat with a very fine pebbled texture.  Cover is stamped in silver with an amazingly creative toad-shaped device designed by James Dunk titled, 'Waters of the Moon' (also on title page).  The design is cleverly constructed out of a mixture of what appears to be Arabic and Chumbley's own magical alphabet.  Note Chumbley's 'Ninth Holy Letter' (according to Azoëtia) hidden within each shoulder of the toad, looking somewhat like the Hebrew letter 'shin' (click the cover photo above to enlarge and see detail).  Shin is also the symbol for Three Hands Press.  It's an interesting little cipher for readers to figure out.  The book concludes with an impressive bibliography.  A handsome little book befitting one of the most talented witches of our age.

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