Re-blogging this from my friend and teachers site Nick Farrell. This is a very important technique to gain clarity and perspective.
Icelandic Magic, Aims, Tools and Techniques of The Icelandic Sorcerers by Christopher Alan Smith. Avalonia 2015
First, this is not a book on practical magic. The author examines six manuscripts and discusses the workings and history of magic in Iceland.
Despite my disappointment of not learning some new ancient and arcane magic the book itself was an extremely enjoyable read. The first book in over 20 years I’ve completed in one day.
To preserve the symbols the author has taken the unusual step of providing facsimiles of the staves and runic script’s used. There is however some staves that could be used today, such as *ÍB 383 4to* from the **Huld** manuscript, where the two staves are to be written down and worn over the left breast as an aid to focusing the mind. Or the ‘terror’ stave from the same manuscript.
Clearly, most of the magic in the book relates to the time (approx 1500 AD to 1900 AD) when the manuscripts were written and the the circumstances of the people. Prior to the 16th century Iceland had been a Catholic nation after the forced conversion imposed in 1000 AD. The Catholic church seems to have taken a liberal view of the ‘folk’ practices as long as it did not harm the church. With the change to Lutheranism in the 16th century ‘witchcraft’ and practitioners of the old ways were persecuted.
Unlike magic in the Western Tradition that has very specific guidelines for workings, timings and implements this is rarely present in Icelandic magic. If anything, it seems almost too simple. Carve a couple of staves and your done! However, Christopher makes no attempt to make this a practical book on Icelandic. However, in Chapter 9 he does gives some examples, not that many of them are very practicable in todays world.
What was obvious in this book is that the magical practice of Iceland is very different from Europe. No circles or other devices for protection were used. No demons or angels called upon. Very few special implements were required, with most workings requiring no special tools. It appears that purely the magical stave, an incantation (most of the magicians own making) and his will power were all that is required.
It’s an area that has had little research done but the author is working on a further book where he hopes to catalogue the magical staves and possibly discern a common thread amongst them so that new workings may be devised.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. A nice way to enjoy a quiet Sunday and learn something new.
This book needs no introduction, there is already numerous reviews on the Internet and I can only agree that this is an amazing piece of work.
Immediately I drew similarities between Gordon’s writing style and Peter Grey’s in Lucifer: princeps, in fact Gordon references Lucifer: princeps near the end of the book.
Initially I wasn’t going to buy this book, maybe I’d pick up the paperback sometime down the road but the pre-release blurb on the book just didn’t spark my interest. However, when the initial reviews started to come it really got my interest in the subject “A pre-history of the spirits” just docent do it justice. If anything it seems a bit New Age, airy fairy, for a book that is as far removed from the New Age thinking as possible.
The initial chapters are interesting enough but it was when he started to describe the possible “Sundaland” that I really started to see his narrative. I have sailed many time through the South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, Java Sea area to have not noticed on the charts the possibility that some time in the distant past that this area may have been above sea level. The fact that Gordon picked this up and then went on with a hypothesis that humanity thrived in this area, was technological advanced and communicated with, traveled to distant parts of the planet was an eye opener.
How does Gordon come to this startling conclusion? By the obvious examination of genetic data. A dangerous subject which as he points out in the book has been used in the past by cultures to exert their racial superiority over others, but also by the legends, folk tales, traces of ancient history which is left engraved on the wall of temples and the ancient people’s observation of the stars and the similarity in the myths built around them. The fact is we may find Asian shaped skull’s in ancient middle eastern burials. There maybe traces of Asian DNA in Egypt, but the most striking this is how similar their star lore was. The names may change and be adapted for a different culture but the underlying mythos is the same.
The typical scientific explanation is of a single point evolution and spreading outwards from this point. What Gordon is offering in Star.Ships is that human evolution did not occur in one single place, that in fact it evolved simultaneously at many locations, that these locations traded, communicated, with one another and that technologically they were far more advanced that modern science will give them credit for. For example Gobekle Tepi at around 12,000 years old displays knowledge of the stars well before what science previously attributed to primitive civilisations.
One of the most interesting parts in the book is where he presents Davidovits theory on the construction of the pyramids which if it can be proven would also explain the construction of the Rapa Nui’s moai on Easter Island. Thousands of miles apart but a possibility of a shared technological link. As he points out in the book we know the Romans used wet setting cements to lay bridge foundations, but where did the Romans get the technology from?
This book, like Lucifer: princeps, requires more than one reading, presents many co-existing narratives for the evolution of humans and does not solely present the physical evidence but also examines the metaphysical. It presents a unique way of examining evolution and one that requires the integration of archeology and mysticism. Just like when Schliemann when looking for Troy, he didn’t discount the ancient myths are pure fiction but actually used them as factual evidence. Similarly Gordon in this brilliant work Gordon describes how we should look at the bigger picture, the beliefs, the cosmology of our ancestors along with the archaeology to fully understand them. Our history is written in the stars.
I managed all that with out mentioning Typography once!
P.S. Its Scarlet Imprint, the typography is impeccable.
This book could be reviewed with a simple sentence… “Effect real change with real magic”, and that wouldn’t be a lie.
I prefer to buy hardback books but thats not always possible and sometimes not very practicable either. I’m thinking of the 800+ page Foundations of Practical Sorcery. A great book but not easy to read in bed, let alone lug around on my travel’s. I wish I’d bought the 7 paperback volumes instead.
The Sorcerers Secrets is a slim paperback that has accompanied me on several trips (224 pages). It fall’s at the other end of the spectrum to the limited edition books I buy. Whereas I try to keep those in good condition this is a volume that is full of post it notes, highlighter marks and notes scribbled in the margin. Its a loved but not abused book. An affordable working class paperback to the more stuffy (and sometimes pretentious) upper class hardbacks.
Jason has a knack for distilling complex systems down to the bare essentials. To give the reader a simple, straightforward and understandable approach to effecting change around them. The results though are far from simple. He has managed to include in the book some very powerful workings that won’t scare away the timid magician who is unsure of themselves nor is this a book just for beginners. The lessons build upon one another to produce a powerful system.
When asked by people where to start in magic, which is surprisingly often considering I’m quite new to the serious study of magic, Jason is the first person I recommend, often the only person I recommend. Recently a devoutly religious co-worker in Egypt asked me about magic and Jason was the only person I recommended. He was worried about getting involved with something counter to his Coptic faith but at the same time still very interested to learn more. As I said before, this is not just a beginners book, it would be perfect for ‘armchair magicians’ who have no regular practice and even experienced Mage’s can learn something new from this book.
The bottom line, simple practicable solutions that work.