Best-Loved Books

Review copyright 2013() Freeman Presson, all rights reserved

While I’m waiting to finish something else from my to-be-reviewed pile, I thought I would emulate Polyphanes and write about the contents of my “well-thumbed pile,” my books of frequent resort. Actually, most of these books are not in a pile any more: they are in a snake-print tote bag ready to be moved from room to room or off to my home-away at Books, Beans, and Candles (yes, that’s a plug; if you visit Birmingham, you mustn’t miss it). In no particular order:

  • NEW: Christopher Warnock and Nigel Jackson, The Mansions of the Moon: A Lunar Zodiac for Astrology and Magic is outstanding. It is about the only one-stop shop for the traditional lore of the Mansions. I had been complaining about how thin the surviving lore is, and I’m still technically right to do that, but there are sources in here that I didn’t previously have that help a lot.
  • Warnock’s Secrets of Planetary Magic is a valuable reference on planetary talismans. I’m enrolled in his Astrological Magic course now, finally, and I can’t recommend that enough.
  • Nigel Jackson, Celestial Magic: Principles And Practices of the Talismanic Art (Cappall Bann, 2003). This little book is full of inspiration and information. There are practical chapters on the Lunar Mansions and the Behenian stars, philosophical chapters like “Hermetic Daimonology,” and ritual and devotional material of great maturity and appeal. Nigel Jackson is best known as a fine talismanic artist, but after working with this book, I also see he is one of the few people alive who really, deeply understand this most elegant and profound magical art.
  • Stephen Skinner, The Complete Magician’s Tables. I have all of the major books on correspondences; I have not opened any of the others since I started working with Skinner. The endnotes are worth the price of the book. You might find specifics to question, but you won’t find a better encyclopedia of correspondences overall.
  • Carroll “Poke” Runyon (Fr. Thabion, OTA), The Book of Solomon’s Magick. Not surprising, since this is the system I’m working in, primarily; but there’s a lot in here that should interest non-OTA magi as well. You definitely want to look at this if you are preparing to work the Goetia: it might save you some false starts, or even your sanity. Even though the Goetia is how Frater Thabion made his bones, magically, this book is a lot more than just a Goetic how-to.
  • John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock (trans. & ed.s) The Complete Picatrix. This grandmother of all grimoires, likely one of the most-frequently banned books in history, was not available in anything like a competent and complete edition in English until these two published their translation, based on the Pingree Latin critical edition. It’s still hard to follow in places; it contains a significant number of seriously nasty workings; but it is also the source of a lot of what we know about the root tradition of celestial magic. See also the new hardcover Picatrix!
  • Eric Purdue’s Three Books Of Occult Philosophy Book One: A Modern Translation. The first competent English translation of Agrippa, with notes based on the new Latin critical edition, identifying Agrippa’s sources practically to the letter. Books 2 and 3 are expected out this summer [Delayed, alas]! The astrological references will finally be sorted out correctly.
  • Patricia Costello, The Weiser Concise Guide to Practical Astrology. Still the best one-stop small astrology reference, but getting a bit less useful as my study ripens. I also agree with Polyphanes’s recommendation of Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols for background on the planets, signs, houses, and aspects (I see it has been two years since I bought the Hand book; honestly, I thought it was three — if not seven).
  • Godwin’s Cabalistic Encyclopedia. I only have the first paperback edition of this classic. From what I have heard, I really need to get the most recent one (which is what I have linked to). In the meantime, this has enough about gematria to be getting on with, including the full text of Sepher Sephiroth as an appendix so I don’t have to carry that around.
  • Fra. Thabion recommended LMD‘s The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford
    . It’s introductory, yes, but very good.
  • I recently had recommended to me Gareth Knight’s A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism. That’s an outstanding book. You might be able to avoid reading Fortune with that one …
  • A tarot deck. Of course. Currently, it’s my old Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck, the lingua franca of Tarot. Not in case of a sudden need for divination, generally, but more for reference and contemplation. Update: I managed to lose that deck a couple of weeks ago, and after trying to get by with one of the other 741 decks in the house, I decided to indulge in the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set. I am seriously loving it. The more subtle coloring draws the eye … and it made me realize what this deck is. It’s not an esoteric deck (although it could be with different coloring), nor a purely exoteric one; it’s a Neophyte deck. It shows the initiatory journey as seen from Malkuth.
  • Two decks of index cards, plus a supply of blanks: these are my quick reference flash cards for astrology and the Phoenician/Hebrew alphabet correspondences.
  • A new acquisition, Adam McLean‘s Study Course on Alchemical Symbolism. I divined a while ago that I was feeding myself too wordy a diet, and needed to add some visual training. This is a start on that. A little pricey, but will likely prove a good investment (a tip of the hood to Frater Osiris for recommending it).
  • A GD pamphlet with the Westcott Sepher Yetzirah. Duh.
  • Speaking of William Wynn Westcott (the other WWW), I like his Numbers: Their Occult Power and Mystic Virtues a lot, too. It’s been in the bag before.
  • The Way of Hermes: New Translations of The Corpus Hermeticum and The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius because I’m supposed to like that sort of thing and the complete works of Plato don’t fit in the bag. No, really, it’s an awesome piece of wisdom literature, and this is the actually-readable translation.

This is not everything I’m reading (or dipping into) by a long shot. Plus, I keep getting more recommendations from well-meaning people who care more about my spiritual journey than about my finances; thanks to all such lovely people.

Bonus tidbit: are Mages1 born or made? It takes years of hard work to become a Mage, which only those born to it will complete. If they don’t die of eyestrain from all the reading…


  1. Use whatever word you like. Don’t worry about it! You’re a chicken Qabalist!
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About freemanpresson

Celto-Cherokee Pagan, Priest, Frater of the Church of the Hermetic Sciences, sometime writer, astrologer.
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11 Responses to Best-Loved Books

  1. Pingback: Well Worn Esoterica | occultdetective.com

  2. elnigma says:

    Was thinking about it – and instead picking out some 10 authors – Katherine Briggs, Regardie, Crowley, Denning & Phillips (esp. Planetary Magick) RJ Stewart, Cat Yronwood, Jason Miller, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, L.O. Foxwood,
    I think that would keep people going awhile.

    • That’s interesting, too. My ten would be Iamblichus, Hermes, al-Majitri (Picatrix), Thabit ibn Qurra, Agrippa, P. B. Randolph, Lévi, Bardon, Regardie, Runyon, and Nigel Jackson. But it would be frustrating, since many of them point to other major authors.

      • elnigma says:

        Yep, almost everybody refers to somebody. A lot is thankfully in Sacred Texts archive, etc. for sure, alchemical, Celtic revival stuff, etc. :)

        • Very true. I wish my old tired eyes would last longer reading on a screen. Oh, and it was most kind of you to let me get away with listing eleven authors for my top ten :-)

          All of our lists reflect where we’re coming from and how we think about magic, so they are different. Polyphanes made his a little more objective by aiming it at a hypothetical apprentice.

  3. Xero Corp says:

    Hoping you might review my recent alchemical work:

    Many thanks, x.

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