Clavis Arcana Magica, Frederick Hockley, with an Introduction by Alan Thorogood. Teitan Press, 2012. 78 pages. $50.00
A Book of the Offices of Spirits: The Occult Virtue of Plants and Some Rare Magical Charms & Spells Transcribed by Frederick Hockley from a Sixteenth Century Manuscript on Magic and Necromancy, John Porter, with an Introduction by Colin D. Campbell. Teitan Press, 2011. 102 pages. $50.00
Addendato two other works in the same Frederick Hockley series: Abraham the Jew on Magic Talismans: (To be engraven on the Seals of Rings made of various metals, under the influence of the Fixed Stars and the Twenty-eight Mansions of the Moon) by Frederick Hockley, after a work by Frances Barrett, with an Introduction by Silens Manus (York Beach, ME: Teitan Press, 2011) and Occult Spells, compiled by Frederick Hockley with an introduction by Silens Manus, (York Beach, ME: Teitan Press, 2009)
reviews by Teresa Burns
Since custodianship of the Teitan Press imprint was taken over by Weiser Antiquarian Books in 2006, they’ve released several works that are transcriptions (some also including facsimile reproductions) of manuscripts once owned by “Rosicrucian Seer” Fred Hockley that were until recently held in private collections. The two most recent—Clavis Arcana Magica and A Book of the Offices of Spirits-- caught this reviewer’s eye, as did recently posted Internet addenda for two previous publications in the same series.
Taken together, these manuscripts and the context surrounding them as described in the introductions and recent addenda from the two previous works open a plethora of questions about Frederick Hockley’s occult interests, particularly as they connect to crystal-gazing, necromancy, and alchemy.
The addenda to A Book of the Offices of Spirits and to the 2009 Occult Spells also reveal thought-provoking connections between Hockley’s manuscript collecting and an enigmatic grimoire owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library, [catalogued and viewable as Book of magic, with instructions for invoking spirits, etc., ca. 1577-158, aka Folger Shakespeare Library MS. V.b.26 (1) with a list of owners which includes Frederick Hockley.]
As the reader may already know, many of Hockley’s manuscripts once held in private collections have been made public in the past few years (both by Teitan Press and others), and quite a few more seem slated for publication. The contexts of these manuscripts and the questions they raise make existing biographies of Frederick Hockley obsolete.
One of the works reviewed here, A Book of the Offices of Spirits… also shows some rather dramatic cutting and rearranging of a sixteenth century grimoire, perhaps by the nineteenth century copyist John Palmer, whose work Hockley transcribed. Both are what might be considered, by Hockley’s own definition, works of “black magic.”
Clavis Arcana Magica, the most recent Teitan publication, is an unfinished manuscript which, according Alan Thorogood’s introduction, appears to have been copied into this form in 1856. It gives instructions for a series of magical workings obtained by Hockley via his teen-aged scryer, Emma Louisa Leigh, who would live only until 1858 and was eulogized by none other than Kenneth Mackenzie. Thorogood notes that “in contrast to his habits of copying older texts, the surviving manuscripts compiled by Hockley after 1854 are largely concerned with the fruits of his collaboration with Emma.” The few third-party accounts we have suggest that Emma Leigh both hated scrying and was very good at it.
The first operation provides an “unusual” method of calling the spirits of five material substances (Water, Earth, Plant, Animal, and Vegetation); the second concerns restoring flowers and “revivifying” plants and animals; the third concerns the construction of a talisman which, when used with a particular opium-laced drink (other ingredients are cinnamon oil, wine, and aniseed) will allegedly “allow the operator to enter the ‘spirit state’ while awake.”
The final working Hockley calls a “Necromantic Spell of marvelous power and force,” and Thorogood observes that it “hints at the Crowned Angels’ doctrine concerning the posthumous ascent through the spheres.” The operator is instructed to exhume a corpse, though this time in a “non-narcotic” state. After noting that Hockley himself had advised Revd. C. M. Davies never to use “black magic” spells of this sort, Thorogood observes that the whole operation seems of “suspect virtue,” and quotes the manuscript’s own statement regarding the quid pro quo exacted by lower spiritual intelligences: “They fulfill your wishes—and when the time of payment comes you have to fulfill theirs.”
That rather dry observation in the introduction’s close is perhaps the closest Thorogood comes to editorial commentary. Given that the intent of the individual workings is unclear and Hockley himself considered them dangerous, it is quite delightful to note that this book, like other recent works in this series but markedly unlike a few other recent small-press publications, does not purport to give magical instruction about a ritual whose significance is unclear.
Thorogood’s introduction is certainly one of the most well-researched and clearly written of Teitan’s Frederick Hockley series. Just as a point of comparison, I’ve considered R.A. Gilbert’s introduction to the 2010 transcription/facsimile reproduction of Hockley’s Invocating by Magic Crystals and Mirrors the scholarly high point of this excellent series until this work came out; now I’d say the two together are the high points. Both works are also arranged in a format likely to be much appreciated by readers, in that they contain:
- an introduction that sets a clear context for the manuscript while simultaneously establishing that the writer of the introduction is fluent enough with the material and context surrounding it that we might trust his analysis;
- a type-set transcription of the manuscript; and
- a facsimile reproduction of the same manuscript.
As one who has spent an inordinate amount of time reading, mis-reading, re-reading and correcting mis-transcriptions of old manuscripts, I can declare unequivocally that this is the form in which I’d prefer to read reprints of old texts, at least when no facsimile has yet been made available. Even the best copyists make mistakes, so it is helpful to see the facsimile; yet having the facsimile alone (even one handwritten in script as comparably modern and legible as Hockley’s) generally just encourages anyone really interested in the subject to make his/her own modern transcription. The difficulty most of us have in accurately reading the imperfectly preserved handwriting of someone from another time is what has delayed the printing of many, many occult records, from the Folger MS. V.b.26 mentioned above to the remaining writing of John Dee, even though (thanks to the Magickal Review in the latter case) we’ve all been able to “view,” if not quite “read,” the facsimiles for many years now.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the price of a small press facsimile reproduction and transcription like Clavis Arcana Magica is more than worth the cost in terms of the time loss and eye strain prevented. But more to the point, having such works readily available and cross-referencing them with each other and with on-line facsimiles has rapidly sped the time it takes to connect the contexts for different works; that observation brings me rather circuitously to the second work reviewed, whose entire title and by-lines read thus:
A Book of the Offices of Spirits:
The Occult Virtue of Plants and Some Rare Magical Charms & Spells
Transcribed by Frederick Hockley
from a folio manuscript on Magic and Necromancy by John Porter. A.D. 1583
with an Introduction by Colin D. Campbell
This work, no doubt in part due to its length, does not include a facsimile reproduction, and I dearly hope a future edition includes one, as it might help answer the many questions I have about Hockley’s copy of Palmer’s copy.
In the interest of full disclosure, the reader should know that I purchased this work for a now-delayed article on a related manuscript, the one mentioned above currently held by the Folger Shakespeare library and once also owned by none other than Fred Hockley. As I read Campbell’s introduction and watched him trace the provenance of this manuscript backwards using the “Introduction” to it written by Hockley in 1864, it became clear that Campbell was not actually writing about the entire 1583 (?) manuscript attributed to some by “John Porter,” but to a tiny rearranged fragment of the whole. Yet the title is Hockley’s, not Campbell’s. (Thorogood, in the “Addendum” which follows Campbell’s and Hockley’s introductions observes that while Hockley did own the longer manuscript—MS. V.b.26 (1)—he may have purchased it after this copy was made, since his marginalia references the longer work.)
In any case, I soon realized that Colin Campbell seemed as unaware of the manuscript I was researching as I was unaware of the particular history surrounding this work, which after all was touted by its publisher as the first-ever publication of this “grimoire… as well as a variety of magical rituals for their conjuration and other purposes.” The manuscript I was interested in seems to have spent some time on the European continent and was somehow connected to an untraceable “John Weston” as well as John Porter (and also contains names like “Friar [Roger] Bacon” familiar in much alchemical pseudepigrapha.). In his brief introduction, Hockley tells us his manuscript is actually a copy of a copy. A more accurate but less compelling attribution might be: “transcribed by Frederick Hockley from an 1832 copy made by John Palmer of some rearranged sections from a folio manuscript which contains in cipher form the name of John Porter and several dates the latest of which is 1583.”
Now Campbell is no slouch (for instance, his work The Magic Seal of Dr. John Dee had a reasonably helpful introduction), so I read through this book’s opening with no small amount of confusion, assuming that he was a decent enough researcher that he hadn’t simply made a huge mistake. That turned out to be true. However, his introduction makes it clear that he did not himself know what context to put this manuscript in until his book was almost finished, and the result is that we as readers are simply invited to share in the not-knowing.
Apparently, sometime after the book was completed, he (as had Silas Manus, author of the 2009 Occult Spells and 2011 Abraham the Jew on Magic Talismans) learned some rather important material about the context of this manuscript. Campbell does the best he can to incorporate new material into his introduction at the 11th hour, rather than pretending that material doesn’t exist, and even thanks the other researchers (Thorogood and Joseph Peterson) who pointed out his omissions and, as mentioned, adds in a printed addendum to his introduction. Kudos to Campbell and Teitan Press for allowing added scholarship even at the last minute. Yet it is strange indeed that, with such added information, Campbell wasn’t simply asked to revise his introduction or recheck his footnotes to see what the new information might show him about the document he was working with.
Much of the added material came from Alan Thorogood (author of the introduction for the previous work reviewed), as did the material which Teitan Press has posted on-line as downloadable addenda in .pdf form for the two Hockley books by Silens Manus. Seeing a press strive for accuracy rather than scurrying to save face is much appreciated by this reader … though I do wish they’d taken the desire a bit further. To be fair, though, this work, like many in the Hockley series before it, suffers from a problem that no modern writer or editor of old occult manuscripts can currently overcome without help. That is: how do you set a context if you aren’t sure what the context is, when so much new material is coming to light so fast?
It isn’t as though we know exactly why Hockley collected the manuscripts he did, or why he performed the rituals he did—especially when he advised others not to. What we do know is that he exerted an enormous influence on societies whose main works were…hidden. For example, many people suspect that much of the Enochian material used by the original Golden Dawn came in via MacKenzie via Hockley. We know Hockley owned a John Dee-and-Edward Kelley style scrying apparatus. We “see” him in the first work reviewed using a "magic mirror" for operations that seem like black magic and with a young girl whose parents presumably approve of the whole thing. Forthcoming publications are likely to expand what we know about Hockley’s work with angelic magic as practiced by Dr. John Dee andlater by a “Dr. Rudd”; recently published work has also shown his fascination with alchemical works attributer to Edward Kelley. He was in contact with every major British or continental occultist of his day, including Eliphas Levi. It’s disingenuous, any more, to say we don’t know much about Fred Hockley… now, the “what we don’t know” is what to make of the many occult texts he copied or produced himself with scryers like Emma, and what context Hockley himself put them in.
That said, it might behoove all of us to be aware of what research has already been done.
A few of the earlier Teitan Press Hockley titles, for instance, show little awareness of books that are not easily available for net-searching, even such well-known books as Jocelyn Godwin’s Theosophical Enlightenment (SUNY Press, 1994). Perhaps one might claim information oversight/overload even among books from the same publisher: for instance, the addendum to Teitan’s 2011 Abraham the Jew sets up a broader context by including references to Teitan’s 2009 reprint of John Hamill’s 1986 Rosicrucian Seer, a collection of Hockley’s writings previously printed as part of the Roots of the Golden Dawn series and easily downloadable and searchable from multiple sites on the Internet. Yet that this new on-line addenda to Abraham the Jew alone (in its footnoting of the same press’ reprint of what is still one of the most authoritative collections of Hockley’s writing) shows either 1) how rapidly the context for Hockley’s work is changing … but wait, weren’t these letters from 25+ years ago ?… so might it instead show 2) how unaware that book’s editor was of other readily available material? (Actually one suspects it’s a combination of the two.) The visually striking and fascinating Occult Spells, also by Manus, has a wonderful introduction discussing the relation of this collection of Hockley’s to earlier work in the Agrippan magical tradition…the writer again simply neglected to check out some of the more immediate contexts and found Alan Thorogood had already done so for him. Perhaps Thorogood’s name might serve as an instructive pun on the whole matter.
Now, to return not-so-briefly to A Book of the Offices of Spirits…
Campbell points out that he first became aware of The Offices of Spirits (the title, not this particular manuscript) while researching “the ubiquitous Solomonic magic text Goetia,” and notes a winding path back to the German abbot Trithemius. After a year of searching in vain for connections, he is given access to two private manuscripts both of which contain the Offices of Spirits—this one, and another which is “most unusual in that it appears to have been transcribed by a female copyist.” I can’t help but wonder whether or not there is any possibility this female copyist could be Emma Louisa Leigh.
Following this, Campbell takes us through his research--and it is substantial--in trying to connect this catalog of spirits and spells to others. He details some of the similarities of names between this and other works, and fortunately avoids drawing too many conclusions. He even includes two appendices: the first, from Sloane MS 3824, has a number of “experiments related to spirit conjuration” which parallel those in the text of Porter’s as copied by Palmer and then copied by Hockley. The next, from Sloane MS 3853 gives “an initial listing of ten spirits whose attributes closely match those of the first ten of the Porter text.”
It’s not totally clear from either of the appendices, nor from the main manuscript itself, what the larger framework is that holds the rites and the lists and offices of spirits together beyond each being part of someone’s (John Palmer’s?) Goetic practice, though the discussion of the Four Kings of the Air in the main manuscript and the particular spells they’re spliced together with provide some fairly large clues. However, and again to his credit, Campbell avoids speculating, so I shall do the same at least for now. After all, as he’s shown in his introduction, this is not exactly a typical catalog of the offices of the spirits, and the list of animals dispensed with during various spells don’t exactly compel this reader to seek magical instruction. The curious amalgam of names and practices clearly comes from a synthesis of a variety of Goetic traditions. For instance, one might wonder why the Queen of the Fairies and her seven sisters are ordered, seemingly oddly placed, after the three necromantic devils and four Kings of Air and various other spirits, and just before the Offices of the Four Kings. It’s an unusual placement, but far from the most unusual of the text.
Having had a similar experience in tracing, or attempting to trace, some of the spirits cataloged in the Folger MS. V.b. 26 —the one Campbell learns about just as his book is going to press—I can sympathize. Not only that, after doing all of this work, he reports that he’s learned about this other, longer, and likely original version of the same manuscript preserved at the Folger Shakespeare library. How does he learn this? Not surprisingly, through “the scholarship of Alan Thorogood.”
Now, while it’s true that Thorogood is an excellent scholar with a long and exemplary history of generously helping out other occult researchers, including yours truly, one suspects he may have been simply too polite to point out that the Folger manuscript has been online and easily available for several years now, hidden in plain sight; the non-digital version of the first section, the section Hockley definitely owned, actually went on “tour” as part of a traveling exhibition concerning “Shakespeare: the Globe and the World” back in 1979-1981. Its just hard to find unless you already know its there, at least until recently.
In non-digital form, Folger MS. V.b. 26 has been fairly well known among Shakespearean scholars, historians studying the history of magic and wanna-bes in either category for about a decade. In her article on it back in 2001, Barbara Mowat noted the connection between “Oberion/Oberyon” King of the Fairies and Shakespeare’s Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream, and traces him back through the French romance Huon of Bordeaux and before; she too mentions the Queen of the Fairies and their seven sisters. Certainly the many references to and drawings of Oberon/Oberyon/Oberion in the original manuscript are likely a major reason the Folger purchased this “magic book” in the first place! The final portions of the first manuscript in V.b.26 (not included in the transcription of the work reviewed perhaps because they were not in Palmer’s copy) include a rather long conjuration of Oberion. One might even speculate that that this is the climax, puns intended, that much of the entire strange work leads up to.
Another recently released work shows it is very likely that Hockley performed some part of the whole operation or his own modified version of it, including conjuring Oberion; still other works
offer much more context, comparative manuscripts, and commentary on the Fairy Queen and her
The downloadable “Addenda et Corrigenda” to another work in this series, Occult Spells (introduction by Silens Manus, 2009), posted September 2012, shows another Hockley manuscript based heavily on the Book of magic, with instructions for invoking spirits, etc aka Folger MS. V.b.26. That longer manuscript, divided several centuries ago into at least two and perhaps three sections, has been reassembled by the Folger Shakespeare library with the exception of the first fourteen pages. Perhaps copies of those first pages will show up some day in someone else’s private collection of unpublished manuscripts.
For the past several years I’ve been hoping someone would transcribe the whole thing, all 200-plus pages of it, and apparently a couple of attempts are currently underway. As a researcher, I’m grateful that parts of that manuscript, or Hockley’s copy of rearranged sections of parts of it and his own redaction of the main invocation, have been transcribed.
Knowing that the older manuscript is out there and on-line, most researchers will still want this transcription… this one, the ones in Occult Spells, and any other fragments which make it into print. (Just try to read the original yourself!). Even if it were easily decipherable, the older manuscript is one of the most enigmatic texts in the western occult tradition, written mainly in very old and seemingly forced English mixed with occasional Latin and less Hebrew, perhaps second only to the Voynich Manuscript (which is “occulted” even in its unidentifiable cipher) in terms of the mystery surrounding it.
No one has yet identified who “John Porter” even was, if he was a real person at all. Of note (if you recall English religious politics during the years mentioned in the original text, 1577-1583), “John Porter” or whomever the writer of the original manuscript is presents himself as a dedicated Catholic even as he instructs the reader in his necromantic treasure-hunt for the philosopher’s stone. In that original, another name—“John Weston” —is written into the margins as well, by a more modern hand. Hockley’s? Who knows. Where were any sections of the manuscript between 1583 and 1822, when astrologer R.C. Smith aka “Raphael” wrote his name on page 15? No one knows, so far. (Smith’s name in page 15, incidentally, suggests that even by 1822 the first 14 pages were missing.
As you read Hockley’s copy of Palmer’s copy, note that you will already be working with more information than Colin Campbell had when he began the transcription. In particular, since he didn’t know about MS. V.b.26 (1), he’s not able to notice how parts of that text have been omitted or rearranged, and so the footnotes of Hockley’s that he includes will be more helpful to you than they were to Campbell at least until he finished. For instance, when he transcribes Hockley’s copy of Palmer/Porter instructing us that “Myeob” is Queen of the Faeries, he notes that Hockley has written in the margin “Theurgia MSS fo. 81,” but states he has been unable to locate that manuscript. In fact, this is the very manuscript Thorogood points out in the addendum to the introduction, a manuscript now on-line, and if one looks at page 81 on-line courtesy of the Folger there is indeed a reference to Mycob, later spelled Micob, and presumably copied by Palmer as “Myeob.” Quite a few Hockley footnotes cross reference this copy to “Theurgia MSS,” which is the same as Folger MS. V.b.26 (1) once owned by Hockley, and Hockley’s footnotes are all correct (as Thorogood points out in his addendum).
While the fragment Campbell transcribes seems mainly a list of offices of spirits and listing of spells, Folger MS. V.b.26 (1) places all of these things within the overarching context of achieving the philosopher’s stone (a quest one would not ordinarily assume would be supported by necromancy.) It’s a rite to, among other things, attract and create treasure via the conjuring into a crystal of a variety of interesting albeit dangerous spirits.
This fragment was not simply copied by “John Palmer” in 1832, but totally rearranged and many sections cut (if this transcription is that entire copy, and that’s never clearly stated), particularly those involving angel magic, prayers, and lengthy invocations.
The first part of Palmer’s copy as copied by Hockley is actually page 44/73 of the older document, and the both are loosely the same for several pages, through 49/84. The next section of MS. V.b.26 (1), which appears to be an angelic working involving a magic mirror, is omitted, and we jump in again on page 93, which after the first six lines loosely matches the “Of suffumigations” section.
The footnotes from here on show both how Palmer is skipping around and how Hockley is trying to check his copy against the older manuscript. The very next section, on the magical properties of herbs, includes Hockley’s marginalia “Theurgia manuscipt 56”-- page 33/56 of V.b.26 (1)--which comes before the “Offices of Spirits” in V.b.26 (1). Following this, we skip back over those “Offices of Spirits” and assorted other material and jump ahead almost 90 pages to page 143, landing mid-ritual: skipping that rite’s invocation and conjuring of angels on the preceding pages, we’re now reading how and why to slay a lapwing on Wednesday. I can’t identify where the next section on swallows comes from, but soon Palmer’s copy has jumped back to page 61/138 and has loosely copied the section telling us how to make precious oils to aid in seeing spirits of the air, by sacrificing a variety of animals on various days and mixing the ingredients, and calling upon the seven fairy sisters (the same seven named earlier), writing their names on four hazel rods, taking a vessel with this particular elixir and placing it upon the fairy throne, etc. Let’s say this is not exactly neo-pagan fairy magic but pretty straight-up necromancy. I’ll leave it to you to either order this book or try to read the older version on-line if you seek greater detail.
The redaction, skipping as it does much of the main manuscript, seems to be Palmer’s personal guide for a rather unpleasant ritual. One suspects, given his stated beliefs, that Hockley did not actually perform these spells. Yet one also suspects he did perform some sort of invocation to Oberion, and in the larger manuscript [V.b.26 (1)] these offerings to and bindings of the spirits of air all precede the main invocations. They also appear to require a scryer.
To return to the introduction of the first work reviewed, Clavis Arcana Magica, and Thorogood’s observation that the manuscripts compiled by Hockley after 1854 largely concern his collaboration with scryer Emma Leigh (who died in 1858), one wonders – and can perhaps speculate, given the entire text of V.b.26 (1) – what role his scryer played in the use of this text.
How did this fit in, if it does, with the other manuscripts Hockley collected, some of which are just being published for the first time? Frederick Hockley’s fascination with the grimoire now held by the Folger Shakespeare library becomes even more intriguing and problematic.