A recommended, wide-ranging reading list culled from our own personal library – fiction and nonfiction.
READ BOOKS! Read challenging books! Read books with pages made of paper. Take notes in the margins and highlight inspirational passages. Consider what you have read afterward. We dare you to think for yourself! It is imperative for true seekers, and seekers of Truth, to dare to embrace the darkness – within and without – in order to behold the light.
“I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”
– William Blake
Let our first inspiration be:
Paradise Lost by: John Milton
“Evil be thou my good” Book 4. 110
The first version, published in 1667. It is considered by critics to be Milton’s major work, and it helped solidify his reputation as one of the greatest English poets of his time. This book is directly referenced in the horror movie The Sentinel (1977) and many other films.
The poem, which opens with the fall of the rebel angels from Heaven, concerns the Biblical story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s purpose, stated in Book I, is to “justify the ways of God to men”. However, there is a detectable sympathy for the Fallen angel Lucifer, the Devil Satan, in this work which has lead to some speculation regarding Milton’s true spiritual allegiances. It is a magnificent epic poem worthy of study and contemplation.
Là-bas by: Joris-Karl Huysmans
“From lofty Mysticism to base Satanism there is but one step. In the Beyond all things touch.”
“Who did you think you’d meet here, saints?” p.247
Là-Bas, translated as Down There or The Damned, is a novel by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, first published in 1891. It is Huysmans’ most famous work after À rebours. Là-Bas deals with the subject of Satanism in contemporary France, and the novel stirred a certain amount of controversy on its first appearance.
The plot of Là-Bas concerns the novelist Durtal, who is disgusted by the emptiness and vulgarity of the modern world. He seeks relief by turning to the study of the Middle Ages and begins to research the life of the notorious 15th-century child-murderer Gilles de Rais. Through his contacts in Paris (notably Dr. Johannes, modeled after Joseph-Antoine Boullan), Durtal finds out that Satanism is not simply a thing of the past but alive in turn of the century France. He embarks on an investigation of the occult underworld with the help of his lover Madame Chantelouve. The novel culminates with a description of a Black Mass.
Unless you can read it in the original French, do yourself a favor and read the 2001 translation by Brendan King published by Dedalus Books. It is a much better translation than the 1928 Keene Wallace translation commonly available in English.
The Satanic Mass; A Sociological and Criminal Study by: H.T.F. Rhodes
Rather a rare book with loads of general information on the Black Mass. Rhodes starts by showing how the “rite and idea of Satan” has its origin in primitive myth; he traces its evolution through the Manichaeans, Cathars, the witch cult and the Templars down to the 17th century, where it was caught up in a vicious crime wave, and then to the 18th century when it became in England the monstrous plaything of rakes and dandies. The affair of the Guiborg Mass and La Voisin is covered, as well as the contributions of Eugène Vintras and J.K. Huysmans, and up to Crowley’s Gnostic Mass.
Another book along the same idea is:
The Satanic Cult by: Gerhard Zacharias
Translated by Christine Trollope (seriously?!, Christian trollop?! Some editor must have snickered up his sleeve at that one!). First published in English in 1980. German edition first published in 1964. An important work on the subject but also rather rare. Part One: The Origins, deals with the religious and cultural basis of Satan Worship, the sociological aspects of Satanic movements, and the psychopathological features of Satan worship. Part Two covers documents relating to the Satanic Cult and the Black Mass: from fringe manifestations of the Satan Cult in the first centuries of the Christian Era to the Romantics and Satanic phenomena in Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Romance-speaking countries.
The Poetry of Baudelaire
“O you, the wisest and fairest of the Angels,
God betrayed by destiny and deprived of praise, O Satan, have mercy on my long distress”
“Les Litanies de Satan” (“The Litanies of Satan”) is a poem by Charles Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867), published as part of Les Fleurs du mal. The poem is a renunciation of religion, and Catholicism in particular. It includes a blasphemous inversion of the Kyrie Eleison and the Glory Be, parts of the Catholic Mass, or it substitutes Satan for Mary and liturgy directed towards her. The poet empathises with Satan, who has also experienced injustice and can have pity for those who are outcasts. But for political reasons, Baudelaire had to preface the poem with a note explaining he had no personal allegiance with Satan. Even so, Les Fleurs du mal led to him and his publishers being fined for “insult to public decency”.
Baudelaire’s poetry is potent and spellbinding and carries a strong flavor of romantic rebellion and spiritual melancholy. This is a link to the original French poem of ‘The Litanies’ with several English versions: The Litanies of Satan.
It can be an experience of sublime horripilation to listen to the version by avant-garde performer Diamanda Galás (with the lights dimmed low and the volume turned up, of course). Link below:
by: Ira Levin
(1967) Perhaps the finest occult thriller ever written. Author and playwright Ira Levin has been called “the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel” by famed horror writer Stephen King, and deservedly so. Levin is also known for The Stepford Wives, A Kiss Before Dying, The Boys From Brazil, Deathtrap and Sliver. A child of it’s time, Rosemary’s Baby perfectly captures a growing sense of unease and paranoia that reflects that of America itself in the late 1960’s. It is also so realistic that the absurdly blasphemous premise is made perfectly believable. The horror is so subtle and understated – as though dreaming of a pleasant, warm massage which becomes stronger and more intense until one is, at last, gasping awake in the coils of an anaconda.
The Powers of Evil; In Western Religion, Magic and Folk Belief by: Richard Cavendish
“The heart of man is the place the Devil dwells in : I feel sometimes a hell within myself.”
Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
First published 1975. Chapter titles: 1. In the Beginning, 2. Death and the Dead, 3. Fate 4. Darkness and Night, 5. The Powers Below, 6. Hell, 7. Evil and the Gods, 8. The Devil, 9. The Side of the Left. A comprehensive study of beliefs – from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and throughout pre-Christian Europe – in devils and demons, the Furies, vampires, the Black Mass, Lilith, Lucifer and Satan. A nice introduction to the many facets of the dark jewel of “Spiritual Evil.” As Richard Cavendish reminds us, a study of these powers “may or may not reveal the world outside us, but is does illuminate many unexpected facets of ourselves.”
The Trial of Gilles de Rais by Georges Bataille
(And other works on the subject)
“For the mass of men it is necessary to work so the privileged class can play, even if they also sometimes play at devouring themselves to their ruin.”
The accounts of the trial of the infamous child murderer Gilles de Rais, aka “Bluebeard” – a baron, knight and lord of XVth century France who fought the English alongside Joan of Arc – are so removed from us by the passage of centuries that it is almost impossible to discern the absolute truth, or horror, of them objectively. But from our reading of the books here presented, based upon trial manuscripts, it appears undeniable that there were indeed many of these horrific crimes perpetrated by the Lord Baron de Rais and his accomplices. He earned his notoriety as history’s first convicted serial killer. This is about as close to true evil as anybody will want to get.
Gilles de Rais was, at one point or another, not only Joan of Arc’s personal protector, but his fortune was even greater than the king of France! His fall from heroic lord into the most depraved levels of the 7 Deadly Sins, demonolatry and satanism is a study in wicked decadence. He himself publicly confessed and remorsefully pleaded for forgiveness for his tremendous sins at the end of his trial. Although during the brutal Middle Ages there were often tremendous abuses of power and unspeakable torments put upon many all across Europe, the accounts of the details of de Rais’ torture, rape and murder (among other things) of (allegedly hundreds) of children (mostly boys) are among the most terribly awful things we have read. Extremely disturbing content due to the involvement of children as victims.
Also of interest are: Bluebeard: The Life and Crimes of Gilles de Rais by Leonard Wolf, and Alias Bluebeard: The Life and Death of Gilles de Raiz by Emilie Gabory translated into English by Alvah C. Bessie. If you can only read one of these books, then choose Bataille’s Trial.
AGHORA; At the Left Hand of God By: Robert Svoboda
(1986) This is an extremely important work for pilgrims on the Left Hand Path who wish to step outside of the Judeo-Xtian paradigm and discover the ancient practices of the taboo-breaking Vamamarga Tantra of the Eastern Tradition.The author tells of shocking occult rituals held in cremation grounds by the fearless Aghoris who dare to utilize corpses, taste human flesh, use necromancy, and invoke the dreaded Goddess in Her most fierce and terrible aspects in order to gain magical powers and finally to rend the veil of Maya (material illusion) and attain divinity. The 2nd book in this series ‘Kundalini’ is also recommended for those who wish to study these yogic practices in more detail.
The Typhonian Trilogies by: Kenneth Grant
A challenging but fulfilling, and very thought provoking, series of 9 books to bend your mind into some very strange realms of occult knowledge. Grant analyzes the work of Aleister Crowley, recounts occult workings of his own occult group, reveals strange transmissions from extraterrestrial beings, and spins strands of Gematria connecting the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, sex magick, and ancient occult traditions guaranteed to make you insane (take notes as you read). As a young man Kenneth Grant (1924 – 2011) served an aging Aleister Crowley as a kind of secretary and personal assistant. Crowley was basically living in poverty at this time and paid Grant in magical instruction. Crowley described Grant as “a school boy gone berserk on brimstone aftershave.” Grant was also friends with the occult artist Austin Osman Spare – considered the grandfather of Chaos magick – and, through his (Grant’s) writings, single-handedly saved this magnificent artist’s work from oblivion. There are numerous other titles of Grant worth studying: At the Feet of the Guru and Images & Oracles of Austin Osman Spare come to mind, plus some weird fiction and a book of poetry.
Qabalah, Qlipoth and Goetic Magic
by: Thomas Karlsson
One of the best, readable and concise introductions to the Left Hand Path. Some general foreknowledge of magic, Qabalah and The Tree of Life is recommended before attempting this book or it’s suggested practices. An intellectual and philosophical examination of the Nature of Evil and the spiritual darkness represented by The Tree of Knowledge as a dark shadow reflection of The Tree of Life. The book describes each qlipha and covers the basics of LHP mythology, demonic evocations and invocations, and the Goetia. Illustrated with many demonic sigils. Much information to be used… but not by the weak or for the dabbler.
Kali: The Feminine Force by: Ajit Mookerjee
Why would anybody wish to serve a deity who is naked, terrifying and black as night ?Who wears a garland of skulls, wields a sacrificial sword and has a blood-dripping tongue lolling from between her fangs? Because She is Our Mother. This book may serve as a good introduction to the reverence for the necessary powers of destruction and sacrifice which have been a part of religious traditions since time out of mind. The ancient devotional traditions of India have preserved the seeds of a profound Left Hand Path philosophy. Lavishly illustrated and inspiring.
A Treasury of Witchcraft, A Source Book of the Magic Arts by: Harry E. Wedeck
And a source book it certainly is! It’s a collection of brief excerpts from mostly antique sources that give a concise and inspirational view into the world of witchery and magick. A very readable compendium of magic spells, conjurations, rites, magic charms and circles, spirits, divination, demonology, necromantic rites, the Black Mass, significant personages, possession, historical information, and more. Any experienced witch or wizard will find it a delightful and inspiring collection of ideas to peruse and muse over.
The Black Art by: Rollo Ahmed
First published in 1936 and including an introduction by Dennis Wheatley, this work is an interesting artifact from a time gone by. Much is made of the whole topic as being of an utterly evil nature and against God’s goodness. With information culled from many cultures and stories of necromancy, magical mishaps and the repercussions of the evil deeds done by malefic witches and wizards and the dangers of falling into their clutches. Written by a known modern practitioner of magick, “It is of interest to any reader who has ever considered the interdependence of the sacred and profane, the play of light on dark.”
INFERNO by: Dante
A classic. Often referenced. A tour through the nine circles of Hell and the graphic torments met by the inmates there. Unfortunately, many of the Damned we meet on the journey are persons totally unknown to us – being denizens of XIIIth century Florence, Italy (notes are included to aid the reader for better context on many of the tormented). But there are also many famous mythic characters encountered on the way.
The Penguin paperback edition pictured above has raised textured images on the front and back covers so one may delight in feeling the writhing Damned beneath their fingers whilst reading of their torments.
Satanism, Magic and Mysticism in Fin-de-siècle France
By Robert Ziegler
An academic study of the occult and mystic revival at the close of the 19th century as it manifested itself in France. This book goes into some detail about Huysmans, the Leo Taxil hoax, Peladan, Levi, Stanilas de Guaita, and the shifting notions of Satanism. Especially interesting is the section on the work of Eugène Vintras and the Cult of Dolorism. Not light reading, but an interesting look into a crucial time and place of human spiritual development.
Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath
This is an academic work from the field of microhistory focusing on the phenomena of the benandanti, a visionary folk tradition found in the north-eastern Italian province of Friuli during the 16th century. The benandanti were persecuted for heresy in the period of 1575 to 1675. While a lot seems to be extrapolated from Ginzburg’s thorough research, it offers a historical view of surviving shamanistic and visionary (if not pagan) traditions which, like the Witch-cult hypothesis, is too often easily dismissed. It has some relation with the theme of The Wild Hunt.
Ronald Hutton has noted that Ginzburg’s work in Ecstasies represented “an extensive and fruitful development” of the idea that “underlying the early modern stereotype of satanic witchcraft lay not merely intellectual constructs but a network of ancient popular beliefs regarding night-flying spirits and goddesses, with their retinues.” He asserted that in this manner, Ecstasies built on the work of the historian Norman Cohn (1915–2007) in his book Europe’s Inner Demons (1975).
The Rotting Goddess
By Jacob Rabinowitz
(1998) Subtitled: The Origin of the Witch in Classical Antiquity’s Demonization of Fertility Religion “lifts the skirts of Witchcraft, revealing the mysteries from which all scholarship to date has averted its eyes with a shudder.” A readable work exploring the goddess Hekate and the constellations of her attributes and powers and the formation of the archetypal witch.
“…joyous scholarship digs through the classic corpus of texts and, presto, digs up the long-buried body of an ancient healing-and-love Goddess whom our civilization fearfully knows as ‘The Witch.'”
– James Hillman