Saturday, 24 September 2016

Idol Moments...

A colleague of mine (who works at a different bookshop from me) brought this to my attention. It’s the “Cthulhu – The Ancient One Tribute Box”, containing a hand-painted idol of Cthulhu, patterned on the one found aboard the SS. Alert in the story “Call of Cthulhu” and based on Lovecraft’s own sketch of that item. I assume it’s the “Ancient One Tribute Box” and not the “Old One Tribute Box” for reasons of copyright. Along with the idol (which is surprisingly hefty), the box includes a display stand and a 48-page booklet outlining the origins of Cthulhu and the impact that the Mythos has had on popular culture.

It’s produced by the innovative folk at Chronicle Books in San Francisco CA (, ISBN 978-1-4521-4477-1, and retails locally for about $38.

It’s a nice bit of fun, which allows you to get all Propnomicon with your camera work...

Library Generation Tables - Angelological


Angelologists are single-minded and concerned only with the messengers of God - Fallen or otherwise. Anything else is of no, or minor, interest. Mollifying their one-eyedness, is the fact that they will read anything from any culture – as long as it pertains to angels, angel-like beings, or their antithesis. Thus, the Christian Bible, the Koran and the Talmud should all figure prominently on their bookshelves.

Angelologists who walk in the footsteps of that other ‘angel whisperer’ John Dee, may feel inclined to mix their lists of divine messengers with books on divination and astrology. The Dee link is also a good one for adding some Mythos elements, as he was known to have translated the Necronomicon in his day.

Note that some of the texts in this table appeared in a previous post and their particulars are not presented below; details about those works can be found in that earlier document.

The Apocrypha
Beatus Methodivo (1st Century AD)
Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin (1458)
Collin de Plancy’s “Dictionnaire Infernale” (1818)
De Mirabili Potestate, Artis et Naturae
The Gnostic Gospels (2nd-4th Century AD)
The Golden Dawn (1936)
The Key of Solomon (G)
The Sixth & Seventh Books of Moses (G)
Wonders of the Invisible World (1693)
The Zohar (1200s)

The Apocrypha

The Biblical Apocrypha (from the Greek meaning “hidden”) are a number of books written by Biblical figures, or about Biblical matters, but which are not considered as part of the Biblical canon. For various reasons – mainly due to heterodoxy or the statement of non-orthodox Christian matters of faith – they were excluded from the main text and were occasionally forbidden to be presented to the faithful. The various strands of Christianity have differing approaches to the dissemination of this material: some Bibles have the Apocrypha presented between the Old and the New Testaments, or added as a supplementary index in the back; other faiths prefer the Apocrypha to be printed as a separate volume, distinct from the Bible itself.

Some branches of Christianity feel that the Apocrypha is instructional about life matters and manners, although not to be used for the establishment of doctrine. Some books – 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh – are considered canon by the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, but are considered non-canonical by the Catholic Church and are therefore not presented in Catholic compilations of the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is of great interest to angelologists because within its pages are recorded many more encounters with angels than in the canon text of the Bible, particularly in the Book of Tobit.

Beatus Methodivo

This work is more generally known as the Bea Methodius, which is a contraction of its full name, Beatus Methodivo. It was also misprinted as “Bermechobus” at one point, and that name appears occasionally too. The authorship is unclear and is usually attributed to either St. Methodius of Olympus (martyred in 311 AD), or the St. Methodius who was patriarch of Constantinople and who died in 846 AD. There is, however, nothing specific in the work to link it to either of these figures. In essence, this work is a vision of the Apocalypse, not unlike the Revelation of St. John and outlines the fate of the world.

The book details how Seth journeyed to the east to find a new country in which to settle and tells of how the children of Cain went to India and established a culture dominated by black magic. It goes on to reveal how the Ishmaelites were the real tribes who overthrew the Roman Empire. It speaks of a powerful Northern people who will one day be conquered by the Antichrist, or his machinations, and how afterwards, a worldwide kingdom under a ruler of French descent will institute a reign of peace and justice.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin

The Book of Abramelin (to give it its more succinct title) reveals how Abraham of Worms – a German Jew who is presumed to have lived from around 1362 to 1458 – encountered the Egyptian mage Abra-Melin and was indoctrinated into his system of magic. The work is written as a series of letters from Abraham to his son Lamech, revealing how he travelled to the town of Arachi in Egypt and the things he encountered along the way before meeting Abra-Melin and becoming his pupil.

The work is largely kabbalistic and much of the information contained within it is an extended ritual for contacting one’s “guardian angel” an element of which involves summoning and binding several malevolent entities including Satan and Lucifer. The process is supposed to take eighteen months, however Crowley – who tried to undertake the procedure several times before dropping it – claims to have accomplished the task in only six (of course!). Other rituals involve the creating of magical wands and other ritual objects, recipes for “Abramelin Oil” and “Abramelin Incense” – both of which are mentioned (but not by those names) in the Book of Exodus – and a great many talismanic squares, similar to the well-known Sator Square, which produce a wide range of effects, from turning the user invisible to allowing them to walk underwater without the need to breathe.

The book purports to have been written in 1458 but the earliest versions of the book, all in German, are much more recent than this: two manuscript copies dating from around 1608 are in Wolfenbüttel and two other manuscript copies reside in Dresden and are dated 1700 and 1750 respectively. The first printed copy, also in German, was produced by Peter Hammer in Cologne in 1725. A partial copy in Hebrew is kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and a manuscript version in French was once housed in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris: this copy has been stolen but it still exists on microfiche.

All the German copies are composed of four books: the autobiographical account of Abraham’s journey to Egypt; a book of kabbalistic teaching; and two books containing the magical procedures outlined by Abra-Melin. The French and Hebrew versions have been shown to have been translated from the German originals: the Hebrew version only covers the first book of the work, without reference to any of the other books, while the French version – likely translated in the 18th Century - only covers the first three books. The English version – translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918) of the Golden Dawn, used the French version and it is riddled with errors and incomplete sections, notably the duration of the “guardian angel” procedure which is given as eighteen months in all other versions but only six months in the English. Can we see the meddling hand of Crowley here?

German esoteric scholar George Dehn produced a new version of the work, published by Editions Araki in 2001. It combines all the information across all sources, correcting Mathers’s errors along the way. It was translated and re-published in English by American publisher Nicholas Hays in 2006.

Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal

"To deny that there are sorrows and rewards after death is to deny the existence of God; since God exists, it must be necessarily so. But only God could know the punishments meted out to the guilty, or the place that holds them. All the catalogues made herebefore are only the fruit of a more or less disordered imagination. Theologians should leave to the poets the depiction of Hell, and not themselves seek to frighten minds with hideous paintings and appalling books"
-Collin de Plancy, Dictionnaire Infernal

Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy (1793-1887) was a writer, printer and publisher who lived and worked in Plancy-l'Abbaye and Paris. He was also an occultist and demonologist and compiled his best-known work – the “Infernal Dictionary” – over the course of his life, publishing several editions. He was greatly inspired by Voltaire, an avowed free-thinker and scornful of both religion and superstition. Initially, the Dictionnaire Infernal was a means of poking fun at the ludicrous extremes of Catholic belief; however, as de Plancy aged, he converted to Catholicism himself and became ever more confirmed in this belief, something which confounded his initial fans.

First published in 1818, the Dictionnaire as a listing of the various demonic rulers of Hell, spoofing other such catalogues like the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and the Lesser Key of Solomon. The 1863 re-print was decorated with its famous engravings of the demons and became an instant success; many esoteric books published later in England ‘borrowed’ these images without consent. After this, de Plancy began to invert the intent of his work and it became a testament of his faith – which now incorporated a belief in demons – rather than an exercise in intellectual criticism. Towards the end of his days he collaborated with a French priest to write a Church-sanctioned encyclopaedia of occult sciences.

The Dictionnaire Infernal was first released in 1818 under de Plancy’s imprint and went through six editions before 1863, becoming a two-volume book along the way (partnered with de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Sciences Occultes et des Idée'es Superstitieuses along the way). While the first edition is much sought-after, the illustrated 1863 edition is the most valued by collectors.

Gnostic Gospels

In 1945, two Egyptian farmers unearthed a cache of documents buried inside an earthenware jar in the Nag Hammadi district. They were centuries old and, upon inspection, turned out to be codices on the teachings of Jesus, written between the 2nd and 4th Centuries AD. These documents – the Nag Hammadi Library – were added to over time by subsequent finds, or earlier finds of a similar nature, and became the core of what are now known as the Gnostic Gospels.

The works vary widely in content and theme and scholarship is divided as to exact dates and attributions. The umbrella term “Gnostic” represents a common theme in the various books which ascribes the understanding of God and one’s self with an inner search, without the intervention of a guiding church structure. As such, the Gnostic Gospels are listed as part of the Christian Apocrypha. Many scholar believe that the Gospels represent an intermediate state of Christian thought, blending Western and Eastern philosophies.

Some of the gospels – such as the Gospel of Thomas – reflect elements of Gnosticism, while others – such as the Gospel of Judas or the Gospel of the Lord are borderline, or outright, heretical. Others reveal a wide sampling of the current philosophies of the period, such as the Gospel of Truth or the Trimorphic Protennoia. Other finds have revealed newer or more complete versions of the various texts but some of the gospels – like the Gospel of Mary, discovered in 1896 – remain extant in only one copy.

Modern day fictional authors – notably Dan Brown – have generated a renewal of interest in these works.

The Key of Solomon

Like Enoch and Moses before him, Solomon became the focus for a unique tradition of grimoire-writing, stemming from the fact that, when given the option by God to have anything that he desired, he asked for all the wisdom of the world. To many philosophically-minded commentators in later ages, this naturally meant all the dark and mystical wisdom of the world as well. Legend goes on to say that Solomon was tempted by the Queen of Sheba into the idolatrous worship of Moloch and Baal in later years, so the magical traditions of these beliefs were generally supposed to be part of his magical arsenal as well.

According to Biblical, apocryphal and legendary sources, Solomon was capable of great feats of magic, including the trapping of demonic spirits in order that they do his bidding. He was said to have been able to ensnare all of the demons of creation inside a bottle which was stoppered with a magical Seal of Solomon. These demons were then able to build, at Solomon’s command, the Temple in Jerusalem – a massive stone edifice – in only nine days. Naturally, many necromancers in later times eagerly sought this powerful sigil.

As the sources of magic were later believed to stem from Hebraic roots, largely influenced by commentaries on the Kabbalah arising in southern Spain, books of magic attributed to Solomon began to have greater currency on the mystical market. Most notably in Europe, the Clavicule of Solomon was a prime source for grimoire manufacture. The Clavicula Salomonis, or Key of Solomon, circulated widely, attributed to Solomon but was most likely written in Italy during the 14th or 15th Centuries. It is a typical magic text of those times and inspired many other European compilations of magic, the best known of which was the 17th Century Clavicula Salomonis Regis, better known as the Lesser Key of Solomon, or the Lemegeton.

The Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses

“...I admitted privately to some curiosity about the object of my host’s preoccupation, insofar as he had been given to reading the Seventh Book of Moses, which is a kind of Bible for the supposed hexes, since it purported to offer all manner of spells, incantations, and charms to those readers who were gullible enough to believe in them.”
-August Derleth, “Wentworth’s Day”

What a mess. This is what happens when three different religions with (at least) three different languages and styles of writing use the same material across several different cultures to tell the same story and impart spiritual meaning to an identical series of events. The essence of the Moses legend is that he was the abandoned scion of an oppressed people who, having grown up amongst the oppressors, was able to lead them to freedom and into a covenanted lifestyle in a new land with a beneficent deity. In order to do this, he had to draw upon a magical repertoire which gave him the ability to defeat those in opposition to him. Historically, there is little evidence to support the notion that Moses existed at all; theologically, there is a wealth of writing - contributions from Jewish, Islamic and Christian writers - which delves into the source and nature of the mystical powers of Moses and those of his brother Aaron.

The predominant way of thinking regarding Moses was that he must have been given access to magical powers in order to call down the plagues upon Egypt, thus convincing Pharaoh to let his people go. In fact, most of the plagues are actually called down by Aaron, who is instructed by Moses accordingly. This suggested that whatever lore to which Moses was privy, he could share it with others. A theory emerged that Moses had inherited mystical knowledge from the patriarch Enoch, who had written down his magical procedures and passed them along to Moses via Noah; this lore, the Books of Enoch  possibly allowed for the summoning of plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the succouring of those lost in the Wilderness and the curing of the faithful.

Later in the narrative, Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God upon Mount Sinai. There are various interpretations as to what this incident actually entails, suffice it to say that, according to Jewish tradition, it is believed that God gave Moses a work called The Book of the Covenant – what would later become the Talmud - or what Christians refer to as the Pentateuch, comprising the first five books of the Bible. Jews believe that the stone tablets accompanying this gift are simply a kind of elaborate ‘receipt’ of the transaction between God and Moses; Christians and Islamics place much greater emphasis on the tablets than on the books. These five books were thought to contain the secrets of the magic that Moses and Aaron used to escape Egypt; however, patently, as every Jewish male over a certain age can tell you, they do not. A belief arose that there were more books than were generally known about, circulating amongst a select group of cognoscenti and possibly kept hidden in the magical Ark of the Covenant.

The writers of Moses’ exploits in the earliest days were keen to emphasise that Moses’ magical powers were different from those of the Egyptians, who were seen at the time to be great and powerful sorcerers. Moses’ power came from God; in other words, a purer, cleaner source than the magic of the Egyptians which – speculation suggested – was based on murky, necromantic thinking. Later writers in the mediaeval period inverted this thinking, emphasising the fact that Moses had been raised as an Egyptian and therefore would have had access to their magical arsenal. Medieval thinkers re-invented Moses as a magical wunderkind and books of magic attributed to him swiftly appeared: a scroll, dating from the Second Century AD, was discovered in the Nineteenth Century discussing Moses’ puissance as a magician and notes the following texts attributed to him:

The Archangelical Teaching of Moses;
The Eighth Book of Moses;
The Key of Moses;
The Secret Moon Book of Moses; and
The Tenth & Hidden Book of Moses.

By the time of the later Roman Empire, the roots of magical power had removed from the Egyptian to the Jewish peoples and many Roman emperors had Jewish slaves in their households for the purposes of casting divinatory spells or countering evil influences. In the Dark Ages, Islamic and Jewish mystical lore filtered into Europe via Spain taking this notion of Mosaic writings with them: by the Eleventh Century, copies of a grubby little grimoire called the Harba de-Mosha (“The Sword of Moses”) were circulating there, with spells allowing the caster to walk on water rubbing along with the usual hexes and wards for avoiding the Evil Eye. In 1725 in Germany, a work entitled The Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses appeared and, despite the fact that the author is unlikely to have known about the posited Eighth Book, it became the most influential magical work to appear in modern times.

Probably written in the 18th or 19th Century, the Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses contains a wide array of incantations and other spells designed to duplicate the miracles outlined in Exodus. It contains lists of Talmudic magical names and a wide selection of seals useful in controlling the weather, contacting the dead or Biblical figures among other things. The book was circulated through Germany in the 18th Century and an 1849 printing made its way to America via German settlers in that country. From there it passed into the magical traditions of Black America.

Moses’ African roots appealed strongly to the black communities in America’s southern states and to residents of the large cities such as New York and Philadelphia. Small presses churned out cheap mail order copies of the Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses and distributed them all along the Eastern seaboard of the US and as far away as Haiti and West Africa. The influence of the work is strongly felt among the folk traditions of Hoodoo and Voodoo, the Rastafari religion, and it even influenced the workings of the modern Spiritualist movement.

Wonders of the Invisible World

“The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.”
-Cotton Mathers, Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702.

Cotton Mather lived at the time of the Salem Witch Trials and had a huge impact on those deplorable events. He was pastor at Boston’s North Church and had some very strong and very peculiar ideas about America and the things which lived there: specifically, he felt it was a land infested with “devils”, all of which were trying to tear the Puritan bulkhead that he and his folk were trying to establish. Although he was not a witness to the events that happened in Salem, he was instrumental in causing the hallucinations and visions of those involved to be taken on board by the court as “evidence”. An earlier book which he had written - Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions – revealed his views that America had been the undisturbed realm of Satan prior to the puritan’s landing and fanned the flames of the witch-hunting frenzy that culminated in the Salem debacle.

Wonders of the Invisible World – written in 1693 - discusses the Salem trials and many other cases of witchcraft and possession which Mathers took a direct hand in prosecuting. It discusses the means of freeing one’s self from the powers of the Devil (mainly through prayer and fasting) and the means of determining if an ecstatic vision derives from God or from Hell. It sifts through the evidence presented at the Salem trials and vigorously defends the verdicts reached at those hearings. Ironically, in the aftermath of the trials, those involved deeply regretted their actions, and felt that Mathers’ interference was a direct catalyst in the matter getting out of hand. In fact, a later book was published – More Wonders of the Invisible World – which critically discusses the hysterical meddling of Mathers and other notable figures of the colony during the events.

Mathers survived the backlash and went on to further his career as a religious leader in Massachusetts. He died and in 1728 and was buried in Copps Hill Burial Ground in Boston. Given the ghoulish activity Lovecraft identified as taking place in that locale, it’s probably not worth anyone’s time going to visit him there...

Next: Astrological

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Everything Old Is New Again...

One thing that I’ve learned over a lifetime of roleplaying is that the rules are far less important than the story being told. Gamers tend to fall into two heaps: those who feel comfortable within a completely mapped-out mathematically-modelled reality, and those who prefer a looser, story-based narrative wherein the choices of the players and the referee drive the action along. I much prefer the latter style, although it has issues of trust and mutual understanding to overcome, as opposed to the “rules-lawyering” of the first model which, to me, smacks of insecurity and competitiveness. Some people want everything on a level playing field, all the buttons and switches equally available to all participants, while others are there for the colour and the mood.

Over time I have tried games that support both styles of play. Most superhero roleplaying is of the number-crunching variety – “Champions” and the like – as is anything to do with Mecha, or systems derived from the Palladium games company (“Rifts” – the bestselling roleplaying game that no-one ever plays). The “Dungeons & Dragons” re-boot – 3rd Ed. – was championed by rules lawyers who tried to kill the storytelling aspect of the old standard by pinning everything down to dice rolls and complex charts. The effort underscored to me that it doesn’t matter what the rules are, it’s what you do with the genre and the story you’re trying to tell. Rules are props; you use them or toss them as the situation demands. I’ve introduced many people to “Dungeons & Dragons” and I’ve always used AD&D – it’s what I learned how to roleplay using and it’s easy, light and fun.

I’ve found that the best games are ones where the rules – either implicitly or explicitly – support their genre. Top of the heap for me (you may be surprised to learn) is “Pendragon”. The rules for this classic game are simple, elegant, and inextricably tied to what it means to be a knight in King Arthur’s court. The most rule-intensive part of the process is character-generation, which often puts new players off; after that, players and referee conduct themselves as questing knights and their character choices directly influence the way the rules produce outcomes. It’s a game where the story moves along on the strength of dice rolls and those rolls are influenced directly by the players’ tactics and decisions. The experience, at the end of the day, is that you’re telling the story of a knight, not rolling dice around the table.

The key element here is mood. If the game can be played such that the mechanics don’t affect the atmosphere of the story, then it’s a success. “Deadlands” was a game that completely missed this point. There was so much to enjoy about the genre of this game – its environment and the possibilities of story-telling – but when you got down to it, all the cards and dice and coloured paper clips pushed the story to one side in favour of the number-crunching. I wrote several scenarios for this system for roleplaying conventions and the first thing I chucked was the rule system: it was just too clunky.

A little-known classic that crossed my radar was “Feng Shui”, a game about 80s action movies. Again, the simple rule system sits nicely in the background waiting only for moments of resolution to discreetly raise its head; otherwise, playing this game is like running through some weird blend of chop-socky, steroidal, gun-toting B-grade flicks with a synth-pop soundtrack (watch “Kung Fury” and you’ll know what I mean!). It’s not a game to run a campaign with; rather, it’s beer and skittles roleplaying, and it’s heaps of fun.

The final game on my list is “Toon”, or rather, the sitcom version it generated entitled “Teenagers From Outer Space”. In this game you play alien teenagers newly arrived on Earth and trying to integrate at a typical American TV high school. All of the standard tropes come into play here – cheerleaders and quarterbacks, nerds and slackers – with the extra silliness of alien superpowers thrown in. Once more the rules are light and don’t detract from the story – this is a game intended to make you laugh, so not breaking the mood was high on the designers’ ‘to do’ list. I like this game so much in fact, that I wrote a convention module using it, about the high-school-aged offspring of the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos. Here’s what I came up with:

All this kind of leads me back to my main point: if you let the rules get in the way, you stifle your creativity and you lose the point of what you’re trying to do. Of course, my favourite game of all is “Call of Cthulhu” (goes without saying) because the BRP system is light enough and flexible enough to cover everything without ruining the storytelling. I’m hearing a lot of quibbling about the 7th Edition of the game and I’m wondering if the new rules are simply re-creating the debacle that was D&D 3rd Ed.? If there’s no mood, there’s no Mythos; if you need to drop everything to roll dice in order to orchestrate a car chase, then there’s something very wrong going on here. I’m not against taking out the old vehicle and slapping on a new coat of paint, but if it’s not broken, why try to fix it? I’m sure many people will be asking themselves this question before shelling out their cash for a possibly inferior product...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Library Generation Tables - Alchemical

The following is a selection of books which focus upon esoteric and occult subjects. Many of them are academic, attempting to explain or describe various anthropological systems of belief, especially the ‘hands-on’ kind of belief which is commonly referred to as ‘magic’. Some of these texts are deliberately abstruse and difficult to understand; for some authors there was an over-arching necessity to be obscure in order to avoid criminal or political repercussions. Other works are ironic, spoofs intended to poke fun at various social issues, but still sufficiently cloaked in mystery to pass muster. Others are deliberate frauds meant to fool the gullible and unwary. Finally, some of these works are religious in nature, expounding an exoteric approach to religious dogma which is often felt to be at odds with accepted material, or even schismatic, compared to the orthodox pronouncements of canon religious lore.

It is wholly appropriate for adventurers to stumble across any of these works in investigating the actions of the Mythos and their minions in the course of an adventure. Many individuals interested in the occult will obtain and prowl through an endless stream of published material before finding the essential kernels of truth that they seek. Having a handful of these texts cluttering up a suspect’s bookshelf can deflect an investigation, give hints as to the true nature of the mystery surrounding various events (due to the presence of harmless books which warn against or describe other, more abominable, works for instance), or reveal the potential suspect to be a mere dabbler rather than a ‘hardcore’ Mythos villain. The tables accompanying each style of magical theory allows any Keeper to randomly generate a mystical library to suit any occasion.

Many of the books in the following section, however bizarre they may seem, are real and obtainable through local libraries, bookstores, or from online publishers, booksellers and websites; others are fictional, only appearing in the fanciful tales of various writers...and not only those penning Mythos stories. Where a work is fictional, I have noted the source after the description in order to avoid confusion.


The grimoire is a workbook of occult lore and practises. It represents the accumulated knowledge of an occult worker over their mystical career and can include recipes, ritual instructions, tables of lore pertaining to magical creatures, herbal lore, or astronomical knowledge (to name only a few areas). Some authors’ works gain notoriety for their potency and are passed on, mainly in hand-copied, manuscript form, before ever seeing print. These authors amass a ‘grimoire tradition’ wherein their works are added to by later commentators, or spliced together with other material to form a long, ongoing line of literary attribution, more often spurious than not. Some of the earliest magical writings have, in this way, survived and remain in circulation to this day, often in very surprising places. In the tables, grimoires are indicated with a letter ‘G’, indicating that this volume can be a properly printed text, a manuscript copy, or a cheap mass-market knock-off. These books are also added to by their owners and some actual Mythos material may have crept in, as the Keeper wishes.


The following tables reflect works of particular esoteric interests or fields of research. The Keeper should roll percentile dice to select as many titles as they feel will build a significant flavour to the library which they are trying to assemble. It’s possible that the NPCs involved will have interests in more than one field so rolling on several of the tables will reflect that diversity of study. Keep in mind that these books – even the spoofs and fake titles – indicate a serious dedication to the craft, so the more that Investigators find on a particular bookshelf, the more heavily-involved the owner of those books will be.


Anything here will be highly scientific and grounded in the coded procedures of the alchemical tradition. Hermeticism is pre-eminent, as is anything overtly contained within the chemists’ apparatus. Herbals and bestiaries, works of a transformative nature, or to do with codes, are also of a peripheral interest. The Surrealist Art movement of the early Twentieth Century latched on to the coded and symbolic references in Alchemy and many new studies of the language of Alchemy were written from the 1920s onwards.

Book of Ostanes (1st Century AD) (G)
De Mirabili Potestate, Artis et Naturae
De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum...
De Situ Orbis (1471)
The Golden Dawn (1936)
A List of Works Relating to Lycanthropy (1920)
The Occult Sciences (1891)
Steganographia (1500s) (G)
The Zohar (1200s)

Book of Ostanes

The Greeks and Romans both ascribed the creation of magic to Persian magi. Foremost among these was “Zoroaster” (no real connexion to the creator of the religion and hence referred to as “pseudo Zoroaster”) and his master, “pseudo Hystapes”. A third figure – Ostanes – was first mentioned by Hermodorus in the 4th Century BC, whom he calls an intellectual descendant of Zoroaster. While this Zoroaster and his master Hystapes were based on actual historical figures, no such foundation exists for Ostanes – he is entirely fictional.

Regardless, Greek teaching laid the phenomenon of “dark magic” at his door, as an antithesis to the good magic of Zoroaster. Many books of magic were compiled and ascribed to him and discussed by authorities such as Pliny. Ostanes is said to have had the power of divination, by means of basins and pools of water, glass globes, air, the stars, lamps and axes, among other props. He was said to be able to speak with the dead, with ghosts, and to contact the Underworld. By the end of the 1st Century, he was regarded as an authority on alchemy and necromancy, divination and on the magical properties of stones and plants. Not bad for an imaginary guy!

Obviously, others were codifying these texts and attributing them to Ostanes. Copies have appeared in Greek and Latin, and an Arabic version exists also – the Kitab al-Fusul al-ithnay ‘ashar fi 'ilm al-hajar al-mukarram (“The Book of the Twelve Chapters on the Honourable Stone”).

De Mirabili Potestate, Artis et Naturae

Francis Bacon (c.1219/20-c.1292) was an English monk of the Franciscan Order who was famous for his advocacy of empirical research in learning the mysteries of nature. He was an unstoppable polymath who dabbled in almost every type of learning from physics to linguistics, even alchemy. His “Letter on the Secret Workings of Art and Nature and on the Vanity of Magic” (more commonly called “On the Wonderful Powers of Art and Nature”“De Mirabili Potestate, Artis et Naturae”) contains many alchemical procedures including a formula for the Philosopher’s Stone and a possible recipe for gunpowder. It also contains theoretical instructions for building flying machines and submarines. Along the way he roundly debunks necromancy and explores many so-called supernatural events of  his day, demonstrating how they could be explained by natural phenomena.

“De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum, Chaldaeorum, Assyriorum. Proclus In Platonicum Alcibiadem De Anima, Atque Daemone: Idem De Sacrificio & Magia. Porphyrius De Divinis Atque; Daemonibus Psellus De Daemonibus. Mercurii Trismegisti Pimander: Ejusdem Asclepius.”

Also known as the Theurgia, “De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum...” (“On the Mysteries of the Egyptians...”) is attributed to the Neoplatonic scholar Iamblichus Chalcidensis, who studied under Porphyry. The two disagreed over the practice of theurgy, that is, the importance of rituals in order to ensure the operation of higher beings – or gods – in human affairs. The two parted over their respective views and many of Iamblichus’s responses to his master’s criticisms are contained with the Mysteries.

However, stylistic differences between this work and Iamblichus’ other writings have shed the light of suspicion over the authorship of the Mysteries. Despite this question, whoever wrote it must have studied under Iamblichus and attended his school. The work traces the emergence of cult ritual practice in a polytheistic world, noting parallels in worship and rationalising them in a Neoplatonic framework.

De Situ Orbis

Pomponius Mela was a Roman geographer of Spanish birth, writing around the year 43 AD. His summation of the known world is largely inferior to Pliny’s work on a similar subject, which cited Mela as a source, but it is notable for its use of Latin which has a pleasing and poetical cast. The work takes the form of an extended travel monologue travelling the coastlines from Roman occupied Spain around the Mediterranean, along the coasts of Africa and Asia and northwards around the coasts of Europe and Britain. Mela’s language during this extended itinerary is playful and engaging: he focuses not upon the famous structures and accomplishments of various countries but rather, concentrates on subjects anthropological, cultural and supernatural.

The book is of interest as an occult text due to the many apocryphal references said to be contained within its pages. Mela begins his narrative by describing the world as a ‘puzzle’ to be solved and invites the reader to embark upon a tour to ‘solve’ it with him. This, along with an extended passage describing a massive labyrinth in Egypt, seems to imply that the book is a key in and of itself to the discovery of some great revelation. It is said that this text makes reference to the Ixaxar Stone, mentioning its sacred meaning to degenerate races in the Libyan heartland; it is said also to locate the lost city of Niya in Western China: in actual fact the earliest publication of Mela dates from Milan in 1471 and makes no reference to either subject. Unless some other, earlier and unexpurgated text appears, these legends will no doubt pervade.

The Golden Dawn: An Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Order of the Golden Dawn

" is essential that the whole system should be publicly exhibited so that it may not be lost to mankind. For it is the heritage of every man and woman – their spiritual birthright."
-Israel Regardie, 1936
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a fractious group of mystically-inclined individuals who dominated the spiritual world in the early years of the Twentieth Century. Under the auspices of S.L. McGregor Mathers and others, it codified a system of magic that still resonates to this day. Other members of the Golden Dawn included A.E. Waite, W.B. Yeats, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, to name but a few. However there was trouble in paradise: once that mystical pest Aleister Crowley joined, he caused massive divisions within the group as he tried to wrest control of the Order from its originators and pervert its rites to his own way of magickal thinking. The group rapidly fell apart due to his meddling.
Nevertheless, as Crowley muddied the waters, Golden Dawn adherent Israel Regardie penned this definitive account of all the theories, rites and procedures of the Order so that its spirit would survive the catastrophe to come.

A List of Works Relating to Lycanthropy

“An interesting allusion to the werewolf in Scottish folklore is preserved in the records of the Presbytery of Kelso. Under the date of November 6, 1660, it is stated that ‘Michell Usher, or Wishart, at Sproustoun, and Mausie Ker, his wife, complean of John Brown, weaver ther, for calling him a warwoof, and her a witch.’ I believe this is the only reference to the werewolf in Scottish folklore.”
-George F. Black
A slight, although powerful, reference work, this catalogue lists every book in the New York Public Library system to mention werewolves, their evolution, expression and eradication. George Black combed through endless card systems to compile this eight-page pamphlet and one can only wonder what his motivations were. For those who would obtain and use this source as a useful guide, there can surely be no doubt...

The Occult Sciences: A Compendium Of Transcendental Doctrine And Experiment, Embracing An Account Of Magical Practices; Of Secret Sciences In Connection With Magic; Of The Professors Of Magical Arts; And Of Modern Spiritualism, Mesmerism, And Theosophy.

"The subject of occultism has been very fully dealt with during recent years by various students of eminence. It has remained for the results of their studies to be condensed into a portable volume, which shall conduct the inquirer into the vestibule of each branch of 'the occult sciences,' and place within his reach the proper means of prosecuting his researches further in any desired direction."
-A.E. Waite

A.E. Waite was serious magician and a serious academic, working at the end of the Nineteenth Century and into the Twentieth. He was instrumental in codifying a lot of the ritual magic that various practitioners nowadays take for granted. A major undertaking of his (along with McGregor Mathers) was the translation of the works of Eliphas Levi, thus bringing the French magical systems to light in London. Most people these days know Waite’s famous tarot deck – the Rider-Waite Deck – or may even be familiar with his grand grimoire, The Book of Ceremonial Magic.

As a means of organising his research, Waite wrote this work – The Occult Sciences – as an attempt to pin down all aspects of magical theory and as an aid to others for the furtherance of their own studies. It pretty much covers everything from summoning angels and demons, necromancy, divination of all kinds, alchemy, the creation of talismans, and kabbalism, before expounding on various organisations and their characters, including the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons, Mesmerists, Spiritualists and Theosophists. It was published in London by Kegan Paul, Tench, Trubner & Company Ltd., first in 1891 and then again in 1923. Since then it has been reproduced in various formats and excerpted as any number of smaller volumes.


Johannes Trithemius was the occult teacher of both Agrippa and Paracelsus and he wrote this work at the end of the Fifteenth Century. It was to become one of the most notorious tomes of the next two centuries. On the one hand, it appears to be simply a grimoire, a magician’s work-book containing spells to conjure spirits, a species of Kabbalistic angel magic and lists of spiritual messengers associated with various divisions of space and time. On the other hand, it is a code book, and discusses ways of concealing information within outwardly innocent texts. John Dee noted that a copy was up for sale in his day for “one thousand crowns” and his own copy heavily influenced his process of angelic magic, the Enochian system. The book is known to have circulated widely between magical circles in manuscript form during the 16th Century but was not committed to print until later.

The Zohar

“...from the fourteenth century [the Zohar] held almost unbroken sway over the minds of the majority of the Jews. In it the Talmudic legends concerning the existence and activity of the shedhim (demons) are repeated and amplified, and a hierarchy of demons was established corresponding to the heavenly hierarchy...Even the scholarly and learned Rabbis of the seventeenth century clung to the belief.”
-M. Gaster, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics

Devised as a mystical interpretation of the Torah, known in Christianity as the Pentateuch or the five Books of Moses from the Bible, The Zohar is the foundation work of the Jewish mystical system called the Kabbalah. Like the Rabbinic commentary on the Torah called the Midrash, it offers scriptural interpretations as well as material on theosophic theology, mystical cosmogony and mystical psychology. It outlines the nature of God, the origin and formation of the universe, the substance of the soul, the path to redemption and the complex relationship between the “universal energy” and humanity.

The Zohar (lit. “Splendour”, or “Radiance”) first appeared in Spain in the 13th Century. It was published by a Jewish writer named Moses de Leon, who ascribed its authorship to one Shimon bar Yochai, a rabbi of the 2nd Century AD who hid from Roman persecution in a cave for 13 years and who was inspired to write the work by the Prophet Elijah. According to Jewish legend, the Kabbalah was an oral tradition revealed by God to Biblical figures such as Abraham and Moses and which was then passed on by word of mouth until Shimon bar Yochai chose to write it down. However, textual analysis has demonstrated that Moses de Leon is the most likely author of this work: The Zohar is mostly written in an exalted and eccentric style of Aramaic which, while not impossible, would be an unusual format for a writer of the 1st Century AD. Today, non-Orthodox Judaism holds The Zohar to be apocryphal and outside mainstream Judaism; Orthodox Jews hold the work to be canonical.

Next: Angelology