Thursday, October 31, 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Bram Stoker never intended for his famous vampire to become an industry, but he has, and there’s no end in sight. Dracula is here to stay. Dracula in Love was John Shirley’s first book, published in 1979 by Kensington Publishing. As usual there is no resemblance to Bram Stoker’s original vision of Dracula, and that’s the way it should be. Most fictional reincarnations of the famous Count probably owe more to the Bela Lugosi film version than anything else. Shirley’s Dracula is one wacky dude; this is an over-the-top nutcase Dracula. When Vladimir Horescu receive a letter signed by Vladislav Draco II, Son of the Dragon, AKA Dracula, he knows his life is about to change dramatically. After all, Dracula states: “My Son! Know me: I am your father.” Uncertain how to proceed, Vladimir does some soul searching, but eventually decides to meet the man that he does indeed believe is his father. This takes 100 pages, but when Dracula finally makes his appearance the book gets even weirder. This is a Dracula who resembles a good looking talk show host. Dracula can blow figure eight smoke rings and chastises Vladimir for speaking with Lucifer who now goes by the name of Bill. Yeah, really. He also tells his son “We’re going to fish for mermaids and keep the beast of Loch Ness as our pet.” As you might expect, this is no traditional father-son bonding story. You see Dracula is in love with Margaret Holland, Vladimir’s friend. Not to forget, Dracula is one ruthless bastard. He is merciless and willing to kill at a moment’s notice. His extraordinary powers make him seem god-like. The ensuing conflict is weird, violent and disturbing. Spoiler alert! - The conclusion, wherein Dracula is consumed by a vagina, is the number one wackiest horror story ending in history, and perhaps one of several reasons why this book has a cult following. John Shirley is an excellent writer, and still produces great stories like this one. I think his latest story can be found in Paula Guran’s anthology, Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre. Check it out.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
This 1970 publication by Zolar is probably the best of its kind; a complete and logical survey of occult topics, theorems and philosophies. Zolar is a rather mysterious figure himself, author of over a dozen occult histories, but I know little else. He is prolific, and he handles his topics with expertise. No matter who he is, that’s all that counts. This book covers much of the same ground as Richard Cavendish’s The Black Arts, but there is also a great deal more. Zolar takes a refreshing, personal tone and thus avoids the staid academic syntax that slows readers down. The first of two sections covers the Kabbalah, the realm of spirit, physical life, mysteries of sex, the soul, immortality, the dark satellite, the astral world, mind power, and mediums. Each narrative offers a concise overview of its topic. The remaining section covers an equally wide-range of topics: prophets, psychic power, the stars, numerology, the tarot, and more. Certain topics get more attention than others, and the general feeling here is that Zolar knows his material. There is no bibliography but comparison to other reference works is easy enough. Whatever research Zolar conducted appears to have been handled efficiently. This book remains in print but with a different cover. Zolar is quite popular among occultists and this easy to comprehend and useful book is among his best-sellers. I recommend Zolar’s Encyclopedia of Ancient and Forbidden Knowledge for anyone taking the next step in their own philosophical quest.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Witchcraft and its association with Halloween is perhaps more of a modern contrivance to sell products and has little connection to ancient pagan practices. What is now known as the Wiccan religion today was fundamentally a secret society of few devotees until the English parliament declared witchcraft laws obsolete in 1951. Gerald Gardner published Witchcraft Today in 1954, an authoritative text on Wiccan practices. Gardner supported the belief that Wiccan practices, were the historical systems of an ancient religion that pre-dates Christianity. That has been the basis for most Wiccan groups and practices since. When Gardner died in 1964 There was little systematic effort to organize covens and create a legitimate foundation for Wiccan practices as a unified group. This would change with the efforts of Gavin and Yvonne Frost in the late 60s and early 70s who are credited with founding the modern Wiccan movement. When Gavin and Yvonne Frost published The Magic Power of Witchcraft in 1976 they were immensely popular and this book went far in cementing their reputation as leaders of the new movement. The book is easy to read and offers numerous practical exercises for those interested in both understanding modern Wiccan practices and improving their lives. The authors make it clear that Witches today are “practicing neither black nor white witchcraft but using these powers as their own consciences guide them.” Each section contains story examples and analogies that illuminate certain approaches to self-fulfillment. The core of the book explains basic ritual practice combined with an individual’s self-motivation to overcome life’s obstacles. In this context, Wiccan practices are similar to Buddhist principals. Topics include improving rapport and visualization, handling friendships, romance, financial success and achieving life’s goals and numerous others. I understand this book remains in print. Mark it down as a must-have for your personal occult library.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Perhaps one of the best known images associated with Halloween was painted by the legendary pin-up artist Gil Elvgren (1914-1980). His iconic witch on a broomstick was titled “Riding High” which was a title he had used before, and would in fact use again. Those other pin-ups titled “Riding High” bear no resemblance to this 1958 painting. “Riding High” was a 30 x 24 oil on canvas commissioned advertising piece. His model was Marilyn Hanold (also known as Marilyn Neilson) best known as the June 1959 Playboy Playmate of the Month. Marilyn is still alive last I heard and bless her heart. She had a brief career in films such as Space Ship Sappy (1957) a Three Stooges short, The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (1962), and Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965) among others. This is one gal I would love to interview. Shown here are two of Elvgren’s photographic studies that eventually became the classic we know as “Riding High.”
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Here’s a flashback some of you have been waiting for a long, long time. 1967, the Summer of Love, as they called it, when the counter-culture movement was in full swing; when Bobby and Martin were still alive; when we listened to the Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones; when we turned on, tripped out, and broke on through to the other side. This was the era of experimentation, for better or worse; when it was un-cool to make fun of people that practiced a religion other than the one your grandparents knew. Hari Krisha, Dali Lama, Alan Watts were all the rage. Although Gerald Gardner is credited with writing the first Wiccan history, Witchcraft Today (1954) it was really Gavin and Yvonne Frost who popularized the movement in the late 60s and early 70s. More about Gavin and Yvonne in a separate post. The cultural rebellion of the 60s opened the floodgates and thus made The Black Arts by Richard Cavendish a legitimate purchase at your local bookstore. Gone were the days when such literature could only be purchased in specialty shops. Isaac Bashevis Singer reviewed The Black Arts for Book Week and stated in his praise: “Works such as Cavendish’s are a reminder that we are living in an era of amnesia. We have forgotten those vital truths that man once knew and by whose strength he lived.” The Black Arts is among the best concise and readable histories of the occult sciences that I have encountered. The sections include overviews on Numerology, Alchemy, the Cabala and the Names of Power, Astrology, rituals, Satanic worship, the origins of witchcraft, grimoires, and the Black Mass. Here you’ll learn about the Lords of Darkness, Tarot divination and much more. The Black Arts was a bestseller for years and went through at least ten printings. I don’t know if it’s still in print, and it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that it is. Recommended for the non-judgmental reader, The Black Arts by Richard Cavendish is a treasure chest of ancient history.