sábado, 1 de mayo de 2010

The Devil's Prayer Book

Elizabeth Ann St. George, author or editor of The Necronomicon or the Book of Shades (see previous entry), also authored The Devil’s Prayer Book (Rigel, 1974, recently re-issued by Corvus –the same imprint as St. George’s Necronomicon- as The Rites of Shadow and this time, it seems, credited to St. George), which is apparently a non-entirely-accurate version of one of the several existing versions of the Gardnerian Liber Umbrarum or Book of Shadows, published by somebody who merely signed as “a Witch”; I suppose this is how parts of said book originally became known by the general public. I find it curious that St. George published the Book of Shadows anonymously and (I’m told, since I didn’t check that part when I briefly had the book in my hands) filled with overdramatic statements about how her life was endangered because the coven she stole it from would seek revenge (which is hilarious and insulting at once when we realize that she means a Wica coven, since, on one hand, they’d very likely have hexed her good and proper, but on the other hand would not have sent evil assassins on her trail as the book seems to suggest), when in later years she was a Wiccan teacher and high priestess, much loved by her students. The book, which I must admit I haven’t read in full but only skimmed through at one oportunity, appears to cast a few sinister overtones upon the entire Gardnerian trappings, but I can’t shake off the feeling that she wrote tongue-in-cheek.

It’s worth mentioning that St. George’s version of the Gardnerian BOS, including her adapted versions of the inner-circle names of the Lord and Lady, became the foundation of a lot of Wiccan recensions in Spain, something owed largely, I suspect, to Spanish best-selling occult writer, astrologer, and occult pop star Felix Llauge, known as “el Mago Felix” (Magus Felix, or perhaps Magician Felix, both thanslations apply). His books, which reflect his habits of using any magical system or method that crosses his path and jumbling it all together, actually contain some good stuff in the middle of the weird mix, and the Wiccan material usually comes from St. George’s book. I might be wrong in my assessment of Felix’s influence, but given his status as a loud mediatic celebrity, and prolific author,it seems quite likely that it was he that caused materials from The Devil’s Prayer Book to spread so much among Spanish magicians and New Age enthusiasts.

In regards to the names of the deities of the Wica, I noticed that MacMorrighan posted at Chas S. Clifton’s blog:

“the so-called ‘secret’ Gardnerian names for the God and the Goddess, which have been previously published, but almost NO ONE knows this-- they merely accept it at face-value, I think, that it's still an alledged Gardnerian ‘secret’. Anyway, according to my informants, who were both initially trained in Traditional Gardnerian Covens, Their so-called ‘true names’ were published in a few articles from the *very* early 70s in British Pagan magazines, as well as one book, which offers a very early look at Wiccan ritual: ‘The Devil's Prayer Book,’ recently re-published as ‘Rites of Shadow’. This is an absolutely lovely book!”

I found this curious since said names, widely published by Felix Llauge in Spanish-speaking countries, were said by a Wiccan initiate to be actually inaccurate, with the order of the syllables altered if I remember right. This occurred at the community Sendero Pagano back when it was hosted in MSN (I believe it still holds archived copies of old debates). While the reader would probably recognize the name of the person who told us this, I’ve seen some of his flamers at work so I’ll omit his identity to keep things cooler. What I find intriguing is that while he considered the names as modified, MacMorrighan’s informants appear to acknowledge them as accurate. Not such a big deal, of course; I suppose that, if the names are truly accurate, some branches of Gardnerianism changed them in order to mantain secrecy of their inner workings, or maybe the names were changed by some outbranching groups in order to have a distinct praxis from their colleagues.

St. George’s ominous presentation of the Wiccan BOS is doubly strange when we consider that she presents her Necronomicon light-heartedly and mocking its sinister fame, even saying that Al Rashid’s ghost might accuse Lovecraft of character defamation!

I am intrigued by this. Maybe she merely needed an encore after revealing “the secret rites of witches” and finding “the” Necronomicon was just the right thing? Why and how did she publish this? Her autobiographical book, from what Daniel Harms describes of it in The Necronomicon Files, presents her as a ceremonial magician, yet in later years whe was widely known as a Wiccan; how does this fit the publication of the BOS? Also, did she confide anything to anybody concerning the origins of The Book of Shades? So many questions...

I find myself hoping that somebody who knew the late Elizabeth Ann St. George (she died in April 2008) will read this at some point and shed light on the matter?

lunes, 26 de abril de 2010

E. A. St. George's Necronomicon

I’m sure I read somewhere that somebody commented on how Neo-Pagans had largely remained outside the entire phenomenon of Necronomicon editions, magick, and falsifications, until fairly late in the game. This is hardly so, of course; even the most widespread version of the Necronomicon, the Simon edition, was born at that beehive of Neo-Pagan activity, the Warlock Shoppe/Magickal Childe bookstore in New York, run by the Wiccan writer Herman Slater, who was of course directly involved in the book’s publication. However, that particular instance has been discussed to death and then some by Daniel Harms & John W. Gonce (The Necronomicon Files) on the debunking end, by Simon (Dead Names) himself as the foremost defender of the book’s authenticity, and endless articles, individuals, groups, online forums, etc., over the last decade.

Right now I’m thinking about the other versions of the Necronomicon presented by prominent Neo-Pagans. Now there’s an unexplored field of pointless bickeri- er, I mean, of enlightening debate!

Let’s take one such book; The Necronomicon or The Book of Shades, edited by E. A. St. George. This is a fairly intriguing book in several ways.

Harms’ and Gonce’s The Necronomicon Files have precious little to say abouth this edition (just like they do about any non-Simon version of the Necronomicon, of course). Daniel briefly speaks of Elizabeth Ann Saint George’s loosely-autobiographical Casebook of a Working Occultist, mentioning how she grew up in the West Indies, traveled much, and later started a psychic investigation firm, Spook Enterprises, beyond which “this book ranges from a serious account of her initiation into a Western mystery school to tales of chasing KGB agents with her family and friends, their dogs, and an archangel.” Daniel adds, cautiously: “Though I am hesitant to make such judgments, I believe that much of it was written in fun.” Very likely, I'd say, since she apparently has a lot of fun with her publications, as we'll soon see. Apparently, since daniel refers to her as a ceremonial magician of some sort, this autobiography does not mention that Saint George was also a Wiccan high priestess and teacher; I'd heard about her several times before I realized this was the same "St. George" of Necronomicon fame.

Daniel does commit a small mistake in quoting St. George’s brief introduction; he says, “the author comments that the work is also known as ‘The Book of Shades’” but St. George actually states that the book is titled The Book of Shades, and it is her who assumes that this book is the actual Necronomicon, a title St. George evidently attributed to it. An easy misreading, I guess, unless the text of the introductory note differs somehow between the original edition (by St. George’s Spook Enterprises, 1983) consulted by Daniel and the currently-available Corvus Books edition (2006) currently in my possession.

According to St. George, she fount the book in 1964 at the library of the deceased husband of a peruvian lady, Madam Ruzo, who translated it for her (it’s tantalizing to wonder whether there is any connection to the Peruvian occult writer and politician Daniel Ruzo; could this book come from his library?).

The Book of Shades is “the Book of Power of al Rashid of Sothis, whose sorceries have brought him renown in the eyes of men”, a devout muslim as well as a magician. No other biographical information is available in the brief work (actually a slim 26-page chapbook) but that doesn’t stop St. George from speculating freely about his life, education, and experiences.

Daniel points out that The Book of Shades “is unusual among Necronomicons in that it attempts to portray Alhazred as someone who knows of Islam” –very true! We do not find, for example, a single display of actual Arabic culture, folklore, or language in the writings of the Mad Arab in Simon’s Necronomicon. Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred does display a lot of hard work documenting the book, but I did find it somewhat annoying that Tyson’s Alhazred was very learned in Qabbalah and Hebrew traditions but there was next to none mention of actual Arabic concepts other than ghouls (which were presented in Lovecraftian rather than Arabic fashion anyways). Still, St. George’s book doesn’t exactly try to portray Alhazred in any way whatsoever – St. George actually says that Alhazred was a misrepresentation of Al-Rashid! She further states that in its original Arabic form, the book was a long poem. Which it should if Alhazred/Al-Rashid was a sah’ir or poet!

Daniel further comments that “the book is too short to truly fulfill its intention.” Actually, that’s only true if we assume that its intention was to present a book that stands in as what we all expect when our mind conjures up the name “Necronomicon” –but I wonder whether that was the case.

I actually find it likely that this little book is no hoax perpetrated by St. George, but that she genuinely found it at Mrs. Ruzo’s home and was eager to publish it. The only reason to tag the book with the title Necronomicon is that at some point this little spellbook quotes a line that sounds suspiciously like Alhazred’s couplet “That is not dead which can eternal lie/And with the strange Aeons even death may die.” The Book of Shades actually says, “Thou shalt conjure the dead, using the names of their evil gods. They shall come forth, for they are not dead, but lie eternal, unto the time when death is vanquished. And they will come forth when thou callest them by their gods.”

Now, the book is translated from an Arabic manuscript; however, I wonder whether it was an ancient manuscript or actually a modern manuscript purporting to be a trannscription of an older work. What if it was the late Mr. Ruzo who authored the whole thing, and St. George merely trusted his widow’s word on the matter? It might also be an actual ancient grimoire in which Mr. Ruzo found a phrase that sounded a bit like the famous couplet and he conveniently tweaked it around (although the unlikely name Al Rashid of Sothis seems like a red flag; why would any Arab magician use Sothis, the Egyptian/Coptic name for the star Sirius, as his name or as the name of his homeland? Robert Temple’s book The Sirius Mystery had popularized the name “Sothis” in 1975. Just sayin’.

At any rate, how did St. George even know this was “the Necronomicon” if the book was in Arabic, and the only clue was a brief paragraph in the middle of the text? Presumably. Madam Ruzo said as much, maybe remembering what her husband used to say, or perhaps there were notes written in Spanish that mentioned either that the book was the Necronomicon, or quoting the text similar to the couplet and remarking on the similarity. St. George is all too brief on the matter. Of course, it could also be a piece made by her in good fun.

However, this was not Elizabeth Ann St. George's first forage into the troublesome activity of publishing "forbidden" books. But concerning her publication of a large portion of a Gardnerian Liber Umbrarum or Book of Shadows I'll speak at length in another post...

lunes, 8 de febrero de 2010

Sadowsky's Couplet Re-Translated

Many of us have been fascinated by William Hamblin’s famous article Further Notes on the Necronomicon about Phileus P. Sadowsky’s etymological research on the Al Azif; Hamblin’s notes concerning the possible roots of various eldritch names, such as Cthulhu being compared to the Arabic Kadhulu, have even proven a source of inspiration for authors such as Simon (in Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon) , Parker Ryan (in his famous The Necronomicon Info Source), and Warlock Asylum.

Well, far be it from me to cast a shade of doubt upon the late, illustrious professor Sadowsky, whose very existence was conceived in order to uphold the noblest interests of devout Chaosium Call of Cthulhu RPG rulebook users, but I confess, I recently submitted Sadowsky’s Arab rendering

La mayyitan ma qadirun yatabaqa sarmadhi
Fa itha yaji ash-shuthath qad yantahi

to Zizo, a native Arab who happens to be an online acquaintance of my ex-wife (well, OK, I pestered her about it for a couple of weeks), and here are the results.

I hoped Zizo would be open minded enough, since he is an artist himself; still, he was quite appalled by these weird verses, and when we showed him the equivalent translation,

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange Aeons even death may die.

Well, his reaction made it obvious that he was not acquainted hith Lovecraft, to say the least!

At any rate, ignoring the English version, he rendered the Arabic text, as it was, in Spanish for us, and it was my turn to be astonished when he wrote:

ما ميتا ما قارد يتبقي
سر مدي فانا يجي الشذاذ الموت
What is dead Gard remains the secret
of how I am the death of Luigi

This was very strange, to say the least. Mi first impression was, “Luigi? Italian for “Luis”? Is he doing a wordplay on my name? But he never even knew my name!” Then I noticed the word Gard and was even more confused. I know there are lots of eclectic neo-Wiccans who want my hide, but how come Alhazred predicted my death at the hands of a dead Gardnerian???

Zizo assured us that this was a correct rendering. When questioned concerning the word “Gard”, he explained what was clearly a word he didn’t find a Spanish cognate for:

“It’s like saying, ‘I love life and adore people,’ ‘don’t worry, except for life’”

That would mean, an approximate rendering of the couplet of the Mad arab would be something like

ما ميتا ما قارد يتبقي
سر مدي فانا يجي الشذاذ الموت
What is dead with a careless love for life remains the secret
of how I am the death of Luigi

Zizo refused to translate anything else; that was when he pressed my ex-wife until she explained that this translation was for me and why I wanted it, and he kindly directed me to Google Translator for any further queries.

Evidently, professor Sadowsky transcribed the wrong couplet from the fragment of Al Azif he worked from. Your guess is as good as mine as to just who would this “Luigi” be, but finding an Italian name in the Arabic text kind of makes me wonder if Pietro Pizzari wasn’t so far off-base when he postulated that the Mad Arab was actually an Italian seaman who was captured by Arabs and then sold as a slave to an Arab necromancer! On the other hand, this strange word, “Gard,” is clearly an Arabic cognate of the well-known mantram, “Hakuna Matata” – which of course means that singing merkaats and warthogs must be a sure sign that the stars are coming right for Cthulhu’s awakening.

Just in case, I’ll make a point of saying “Klaatu Barada Nikto” if I'm ever approached by a dead Gardnerian.

sábado, 6 de febrero de 2010

Starting off

I always knew that I’d return to my old role as chronicler of the Necronomicon, something I did nonstop for several years. From 1992 to 1999, I compiled a lengthy bibliography and history of the forbidden book; a history which encompassed fictions, facts, legends... I wrote a couple of pieces with information for Daniel Harms and he posted them at his old website The Necronomicon Files... -damn, I was going to add the link but it seems the domain is gone. Maybe Xastur ate it or something. Check Daniel's and John's book The Necronomicon Files instead-. I compiled my findings until that point in my chapbook El Necronomicon: Un Comentario (La otra Orilla, 2000, Mexico), which crammed (and I mean crammed) in 54 small pages, constituted an exhaustive expansion upon H.P. Lovecraft’s brief essay History of the Necronomicon, which left nothing out, with three appendices: one dedicated to Dr. John Dee and the various versions of the Necronomicon attributed to him –most notoriously, Liber Loagaeth, Grimorium Imperium and Lin Carter’s Dee Necronomicon– , another for the Simon recension, or Simonomicon, and finally one for a purported copy of Alhazred’s work rumored to have been found here in Guadalajara, Mexico (much as some people refuse to believe it, I did not author the quaint article I reproduced in said third appendix -which somebody reproduced here).

My work on the subject did not end there; it continued for several years, albeit growing sparse. A difficult situation which I had been facing for years came to a head, and with it came what I can only describe as a stroke of Fate, and I underwent profound changes, both in circumstances and as a human being. I left my ever-expanding chronicle aside (I kept compiling information but rarely worked on it), I left an important translation unfinished (another great regret), I stopped mantaining valuable contact with several people... but in the middle of it all, well, how shall I put it? Let us say that I was led to encounter Umr at-Tawil; that I went down seven steps and came back up; it wasn't really in a Necronomicon context, but what I mean is, what I experienced amounts to a rough equivalent. So, I almost fell to pieces, but I managed to rise and break through that which had been weighing on me for so many years.

Yes, I’m changed; people change a lot sometimes. I even stopped writing horror fiction for the most part, something that lasted several years. Don’t get me wrong; I still loved horror fiction and films, it was just that it wasn’t so easy to conjure horror up from within when writing. I learned something about myself; it was so easy to write about Lovecraftian cosmic horror because it resonated within me, it echoed my own deeply-buried worldview. But now, ever since the first, intense experiences I had, I learned one thing above all: there is a sense, a purpose, to everything. And where there is a purpose to life, there is no place left for true, Lovecraftian cosmic fear; not any longer.

The first time I managed to write a new Lovecraftian piece, last year, it was so exhilarating; it’s so very different, but it’s also like visiting old, dear friends. Yes, I will continue devising Yog-Sothotheries from time to time; I love them too much not to. And I am taking up my various Necronomicon projects, slowly, steadily. It is time; I am better prepared for it all.

I have several webs and journals, dedicated to Traditional Witchcraft (in Spanish), to literature (also in Spanish), my books, even my LiveJournal which is mostly dedicated to debunk esoteric frauds and, of late, my new series LOL-Cat-Astrophe 2012, which concerns a feline roasting of 2012 New-Ageish beliefs.

But here I will post whatever I have to say concerning Lovecraft, Cthulhu, grimoires and especeally whatever concerns the Necronomicon, Al Azif, in its various versions. As a writer of horror fiction, of Mythos fiction, contributing to this haunting world is always a pleasure; as a fascinated student of the pseudobiblia, I never cease to be amazed; as a witch, I am very interested in the magical (or magickal if it suits you better) undercurrents of Cthulhuvian grimoires and the various brands of Necronomicon gnosis.

Stick around; I intend to rock the boat.