Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Follow-up to Last Year's Esoteric Book of the Year

I recently received a very nice and fascinating letter from Mr. Steve Patterson, author of last year's Esoteric Book of the Year, Cecil Williamson's Book of Witchcraft: A Grimoire of the Museum of Witchcraft. Mr. Patterson graciously gave me his permission to share the letter on this blog. I hope my readers find it equally fascinating. In the letter Mr. Patterson offers a glimpse into his creative process and comments on how he made the Presentation boxes for the Special Fine Edition, and how they are "energetically" linked to the Museum of Witchcraft. He also discusses making six Blackthorn boxes for Andrew Chumbley at the author's request. Mr. Chumbley intended to place some esoteric tracts in them and distribute them privately. The Blackthorn boxes and their contents have since achieved a near-legendary status.

Museum of Witchcraft

Dear Mr Balkan

I would like to thank you for your prestigious Golden Talisman award, and what a fine accolade that is to be sure! Of course thanks really need to be given for the Troy ladies and their fine production and those all too often anonymous and unsung craftspeople that did such a spectacular job of its binding.

It has been a long journey bringing the book in to the world, and looking back over time, it’s strange how that during the time of its creation, attitudes and perceptions have changed so much. When it began there was little regard for the old (non-Wiccan) craft, it was seen as at best a romantic fancy but most often as an irrelevance or an outright fabrication, and likewise there was little regard for Cecil Williamson. His work was indeed seen in the same manner. This was quite simply why I had access to all his unpublished material; literally no one seemed to see it for what it was or have any interest in it. Now however both seem to be taking their proper place in history. If there is a message in this book it is to persevere and stick to your guns!

Apart from using my battered old laptop for writing I generally avoid computers like the plague (I often speculate that The Cecil Williamson book is probably one of the last books ever to be written that employed no use of the internet!), so consequently I am somewhat out the loop regarding new publications. Reading your review (which was kindly printed and shown to me by my publishers) I was amazed to see how many wonderfully produced deluxe Occult publications there are around nowadays. Their certainly is some intriguing stuff out there. I must say I can’t imagine why one would want to use a pentacle for disrupting the cosmic order and drawing in the dragon forces from the other side. If any one does I do rather hope that its effect is localised!

The Presentation box for the “Cecil Williamson book of witchcraft” is crafted from Devonshire Oak. The Timber is previously unused. I always use rough sawn boards straight from the tree. I like to think that this keeps some of the original elemental force intact. I take a sculptural approach to box making (rather than that of pure cabinetmaking), I start with a rough shape and through many different processes of cutting, and scraping and abrasion bring it to its final form. It is a process of creation/dissolution/creation. The finished results are consequently all original and the subtle variation of dimensions and angles has a peculiar effect on the perceptions - in much the same way that the irregularities in gothic architecture give it its effect.

The hinges, nails and rivets are also all handmade and beaten from copper. There is indeed a Venusian resonance there (Venus/copper and Jupiter/oak are indeed very apt materials for such a book …it didn’t occur to me before!), but the main significance, apart from the fact that copper is such a wonderfully aesthetic material and seems to work so well with oak (Copper fixings are traditionally used with oak as iron can cause staining and discoloration), is that it is a nod to the old ‘Tinkers’ or itinerant copper workers …who of course were a venerable tribe of sorcerers who bought many of the Pellar mysteries to this land.

Point taken about the potential over use of boxes with deluxe occult tomes. I would like to think however that this was not just a novelty with the Cecil Williamson book; it is expressing a kind of continuity which is embodied in the publication.

Firstly, I am a woodcarver by trade and I have provided much of the woodcarving around the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, which is of course built upon Cecil Williamson’s Collection. There is consequently a very real connection between these boxes and the work of Mr Williamson. In fact in a recent commission for the Museum some of the same batch of timber was used. These boxes could be said to be energetically linked to the very fabric of the Museum and Cecil Williamsons collection in a very direct way.

Secondly, although I cannot lay clamed to originating the idea of wooden boxes for Deluxe occult books (I believe Manly Palmer Hall did it some time ago) I feel I was unwittingly involved in there resurgence. Some years ago Andrew Chumbley (Then magister of the Essex based Cultus Sabbatti) asked me to make him half a dozen blackthorn boxes in which he wished to place some esoteric tracts and distribute them to certain initiates of the arte. As we all well know that due to the vagaries of the publishing industry, that even though books may change hands for a large price, this rairly filters back to the author. Even though Andrews books were starting to sell for a considerable price he was still an impoverished writer, mainly living off of selling his artwork at the time and I was an impoverished woodcarver, mainly living off casual farm work. (Once whilst musing on the fact that occultists never seem to have any money, with his characteristic dry humour he replied “There is something I believe in the small print.”) …anyway, I digress. I still have a letter from him asking me if I would be willing to exchange the boxes for two copies of the new edition of the “Azoetia” when it came out. With my usual complete lack of business acumen I said to him – Why on earth would I want two …just give me one.

I still have the Azoetia, and the blackthorn boxes have gone out in to the world and I believe have attained an almost mythical status. In short, I would like to think that these oak boxes for the “Cecil Williamsons book of witchcraft” draw a direct line of decent from those old Cultus Sabbati Reliquaries. For me personally it also is a way of honouring Mr Chumbley, for it was he who first planted the idea that I should write a book …He even gave me the title. It wasn’t this one, it’s still hovering there in the astral waiting to be written, but that is another story.

Anyway … once again thank you for your award and I am glad you derived so much pleasure from the book. Maybe someday I will claim that drink from you!



CORNWALL , March 2015

Coming very soon....  My next review will be the Deluxe Edition of Angel Millar’s Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition published by Salamander and Sons.


  1. Mr. Patterson clearly states that the boxes he made for Andrew Chumbley were "half a dozen blackthorn boxes in which he wished to place some esoteric tracts and distribute them to certain initiates of the arte". Nowhere does he state that they were for very special copies of the Azoetia, and, indeed, they were not.

    My thanks to Mr. Patterson for such an exquisite book and such a wonderful presentation of the text. I have a copy of this Special Boxed Edition, and it was indeed a wonderous thing to behold when I opened the package from Troy Books. Well done, all around!

  2. Right you are, TRB. I misread his statement and misconstrued his comment on "some esoteric tracts" with his later comments on Azoetia. Thank you for pointing our my error. I have corrected it above. Many have heard about Chumbley's Blackthorn boxes, but their details of their contents remain less well known.

  3. Perhaps you could include Black Moon Publishing amongst the publishers? :)

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