Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 25, Vol. 3. Autumnal Equinox 2013

Occult Traditions. Damon Zacharias Lycourinos, editor. Numen Books, 2012. 307 pages. $29.95.
review by J.S. Kupperman

Occult Traditions, edited by Damon Zacharias Lycourinos, offers a variety of mostly academic papers on a wide variety of occult subjects. Given the range of topics, it is best here to list the table of contents rather than mention only a few subjects:

  1. Conjuring Magical Assistants in the Greek Magical Papyri - Damon Zacharias Lycourinos

  2. The Spell of Pnouthis as a Mystery Rite in the Greek Magical Papyri - Damon Zacharias Lycourinos

  3. Waters Animating and Annihilating Apotheosis by Drowning in the Greek Magical Papyri - Aaron Cheak

  4. The Hierarchical Cosmos: Occult Theology as a Direct Continuation of Neoplatonism - Christopher A. Plaisance

  5. From Roots to Fruits: A History of the Grimoire Tradition - David Rankine

  6. A Source of the Key of Solomon: The Magic Treatise or Hygromancy, or Epistle to Rehoboam - Ioannis Marathakis

  7. The Icelandic Tradition of Magic: Analysis of a Late-Eighteenth Century Icelandic Galdrabók - Christopher A. Smith

  8. From Conjuror to Philosopher: A Comparative Analysis of Medieval and Renaissance Angel Magic - Christopher A. Plaisance

  9. Dining with the Dead: A Canaanite View of Death and Necromancy - Tess Dawson

  10. Composite Incenses and Incense Attributions: A Historical Survey - Ioannis Marathakis

  11. The Science of Omens: Divining the Will of the Gods - Gwendolyn Toynton

  12. Seth, the Red One of Chaos and Equilibrium - Damon Zacharias Lycourinos

  13. Evolian Sex, Magic, and Power - Damon Zacharias Lycourinos

  14. Wizards at War: Buddhism and the Occult in Thailand - Gwendolyn Toynton

  15. Woman was the Altar: The Wiccan Great Rite: Sex, Tea, and Religion - Sorita d’Este

  16. Treading the Spiral Maze: Changing Consciousness in Wiccan Ritual - Melissa Harrington

  17. Akephalos: Being an Attempted Restoration of the Rite of the Headless One, according to the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist - Matthew Levi Stevens

  18. The Holy Guardian Angel: A Golden Thread in the Tapestry of Being and Becoming - Companion Abraxas

  19. The Eucharistic Feast of Agathodaimon - Companion Abraxas 

  20. Beyond the academia, Occult Traditions offers a few practitioner-oriented papers as well, focusing mainly on Greek-based ritual traditions. Occult Traditions’ contributors read like a who’s who of established and up-and-coming occult scholars and/or practitioners.

    In some ways this is a difficult books to review. The papers range in subject and quality, and while none of them are bad, some are better than others. Generally, all of the papers are accessible and do not require an academic background for understanding, although having one certainly helps. While there is no discernible pattern or overall theme to the book this does not particularly detract from it, either. Some of the papers are overwritten; being given to grandiloquence beyond the use of what is required of academic writing. This is a minor distraction, but a distraction all the same.

    The overall quality of content of the papers chosen by Lycourinos for Occult Traditions is quite high. Whether or not you agree with all the conclusions made in the various papers or not, they are both informative and well-researched, though not always a in depth as one might like. This may have more to do with the restrictions of the format than anything else; the papers average a span from about 10-20 pages.

    It is hard to say that Occult Traditions is a “must read” book. The subjects vary enough that many paper may not be of interest to some readers. That said, the book itself is very good. The papers successfully maintain academic standards without compromising its readability by non-academics. The papers should be of interest to both scholars of the presented subjects as well as religious and/or occult practitioners in the same areas. If more than one or two of the papers are of interest to you, it is more than worth the cost of the book to have Occult Traditions on your shelf.