The Testament of Cyprian the Mage
The Testament of Cyprian the Mage
Encyclopædia Goetica Volume III
Limited to 72 copies: quarter bound in veiny vellum and custom marbled boards, all edges gilt, ribboned and presented in a slipcase
– Sold out
Standard hardback edition
Limited to 800 sets of 2 vols.; bound in a lapis night sky cloth spangled with stars, with dust jackets. Printed in black and red throughout
Bibliothèque Rouge edition
Unlimited paperback, sold as a 2 vol. set;
isbn 978-0-9574492-5-1 (vol.1) + 978-0-9574492-6-8 (vol.2)
8vo (234 × 156 mm)
320 pp and 280 pp
4 pen and ink illustrations by Oliver Liebeskind; numerous tables, seals etc.
The Testament of Cyprian the Mage is the third work in the Encyclopædia Goetica series by Jake Stratton-Kent, comprehending The Book of Saint Cyprian and his Magical Elements and an elucidation of The Testament of Solomon. The Testament of Cyprian the Mage is a two volume work of approximately 600 pages endowed with charts, tables, seals etc. and punctuated by specially commissioned pen and ink illustrations by Oliver Liebeskind. Lavishly bound and printed in red and black ink throughout, this is a work of enduring importance and a resource to accompany your ongoing study. This is the final work in Stratton-Kent’s acclaimed Encyclopædia Goetica series which began with The True Grimoire, a working reconstruction of the Grimorium Verum, and was followed by the monumental two volume Geosophia: The Argo of Magic which explored the necromantic Greek origins of Goetia. The Testament of Cyprian the Mage is a fitting climax to this endeavour which has placed the author at the forefront of modern magic with a body of work that is both scholarly and aimed at practical application. All are standalone texts though benefit from being read as aspects of a single thesis: the importance of Goetia as the oldest continuous tradition of Western magic.
'Goetic Magic … if properly understood would regenerate Western magic and underline its immense cultural significance, on a level equal to any spiritual tradition in the world.' -JSK
This understanding is clearly given in two volumes of lucid and fascinating exegesis with clear extracts from all the necessary works.
The Testament of Cyprian the Mage is an ambitious and far-seeing work, addressing two ends of the magical spectrum: the Testament of Solomon and one version of the Iberian Book of Saint Cyprian. In doing so, key aspects of magical practice are revealed. This work draws upon these texts to create a clear understanding of the practice of grimoire magic, not as a discrete or degenerate subset of ceremonial magic, but one which is integrated with folk magic and witchcraft. In particular we discover a shared dramatis personæ, the infernal pact and a common terrain of Wild Hunt and Sabbat.
Within the text we encounter the Chiefs, Kings and Queens of the grimoire tradition; the magical role of the Decans and their stones and plants; lunar magic and magical animals; the gods of Time; the Sibyl and the Hygromanteia; Asmodeus and Oriens; Angelology, Theurgy, Conjunction and the Pact, the Angelic Vice-regent and thwarting Angels; Asclepius, Iamblichus and Neo-Platonism; Paracelsus and the Elemental Spirits; Necromancy, and the principles of spell work.
'A primary purpose of this book is to explore the implicit mythology of grimoire spirits and the contexts from which it derives.' - JSK
It does far more. This is a fundamental revisioning of magic with profound implications for the magical revival which we are all engaged in.
Exhortatio; Grimoire Timeline; References & Abbreviations; Defining and Redefining Magic
Book 1 · St Cyprian
Blue Grimoires; Saint Cyprian of the Grimoires; The Great Book of Saint Cyprian: Introduction; The Life and Legend of Saint Cyprian; Iamblichus; The Confession of Saint Cyprian; Conjunction; Theoretical Implications: A Theurgic Interlude
Book 2 · The Testament of Solomon
In Search of the Four Kings; The Testament of Solomon; The Spirits of the Testament of Solomon; The Spirits of the Testament of Solomon: Decans; The End of the Testament; The Sibyl and the Hygromanteia; The Sibyl of Thyatira; Asmodeus; A Word on Angelology
Book 3 · The Decans
Gods of Time; Egyptian & Hermetic Decans; Solar Theology; The Definitions of Asclepius; The Asclepius; Concerning Angels: The Vice-Regent; Oriens; Introducing the Sacred Book; The Sacred Book of Hermes to Asclepius; The Decans & Magical Characters; The Correspondences; Stones of the Decans; Plants of the Decans; Magical Animals
Book 4 · The Book of St Cyprian: 1
The Book of Saint Cyprian; Working with the Four Kings; Manuscript Sources; The Solomon Clavicle; The Gorgon, the Dragon and the Goat; The Mirror of Azrael; The Gnomes; Practical Implications: Liturgical; Transplants and Magic
Book 5 · The Book of St Cyprian: 2
The Book of Saint Cyprian; The Superiors and Spell Work; Sanctum Regnum; Magic as Practical Eschatology; Restitutionism; Spiritist Eschatology; The Role of the Dead in a Living Tradition; Paracelsus
Book 6 · Heptameron
Heptameron; The Kings and the Wild Hunt; Cyprian's Elemental Kings and Queens; Chiromancia Astrologica; Of Kings and Queens; Rusalka and the Queens; Conclusion
Appendix: Testament of Solomon
A primary purpose of this book is to explore the implicit mythology of grimoire spirits and the contexts from which it derives. It is hard to see how any modern magician can deem themselves traditional without approaching this head on, yet from 1875 to the present this has hardly been attempted at all. A post Mathers/Crowley stereotype has prevailed, of goetic magic as the conjuring of obscurely named entities by a stereotyped process, where the identities and origins of the spirits are less important than rampant bibliophilia and an unexamined adoption of 19th century fallacies. The importance of understanding the spirits and their origins has been overlooked, even substituted for by jokey adoption of fictional gobbledy gook. Simultaneously, a mock medieval methodology – shaped by unreconstructed colonialism and ‘middle class revulsion’ in the early Revival period – has blighted our appreciation of the most legitimate and continuous strand in all of Western magic. Which is exactly what goetic magic is; a primal inheritance retaining millennia of experience and tradition; which if properly understood would regenerate Western magic and underline its immense cultural significance, on a level equal to any spiritual tradition in the world.
Talking of myth, in the inception of this rather curious book there was more than one incident of a principle arising in Geosophia, namely ‘elastic geography.’ This principle or characteristic of mythic thinking takes various forms. In particular, regarding Saint Cyprian, there is the case of the two cities of Antioch. One in Syria built by the Seleucids, at times the most important city of the Roman Empire. The other in Asia Minor, Pisidia to be precise, famed for its precinct of Hecate and Mēn. Both were important, and in mythic geography possibly not as distinct as in materialistic space. After all, Saint Cyprian of Carthage was and is prone to sharing iconography and other assets with our Cyprian. If this inter-changeability is to be accepted amongst folk saints, why should two cities not coincide in the popular imagination, or indeed in mine? The reader will therefore hopefully excuse me if despite commenting on Saint Cyprian I focus rather more on Syria in this volume, after serving Asia Minor well in the previous two.
Saints and Syria have rather a history after all. Notably there was Saint Paul, who, under the name Saul was a persecutor of the early Christians. He was famously struck temporarily blind on his way to Damascus, capital of modern Syria, and transformed into the Apostle Paul. The circumstances of this transformation are noteworthy; he exchanged a Jewish name for a Roman when travelling out of Judea into Syria. There is a variety of opinion regarding Paul; some speak disparagingly of Paulianity when describing the politicised Church. On the other hand at least one grimoire bears his name, and many Gnostic sects were favourably disposed to his teachings. Certain ‘de-Hellenising’ elements of modern Protestantism – inimical to Platonising theology – might be described as wishing to transform their names in the other direction, and hurry back from Damascus forthwith.
My invitation to the reader is to travel at first in the opposite direction, to proceed as it were from Damascus to Antioch. Not in order to espouse any early, Middle or neo form of Platonism; only to gaze briefly upon what may be called low Platonism.
This phrase represents the continuum between Orphics, from whom Plato borrowed many images and mythic concepts, and the later magicians of the papyri who were familiar with Platonic concepts, but more practically oriented. That he borrowed from them before they did so from him excuses the fact that magicians are not necessarily philosophers. However, in reviewing the heritage of magic it is often useful to examine the philosophical species and their notions without necessarily converting to their camp. This can be achieved, as outlined in earlier volumes; by bearing in mind that eschatology precedes philosophy and theology as the defining principle of magic and popular religion.
It is only necessarily to gaze briefly upon it, since though its name is unfamiliar, low Platonism is easy to recognise. It has been covertly foisted upon us in disguise for some time. The ingrained habit of going through the motions with generic Qabalah (partly inherited from Renaissance Neoplatonists) has substituted for a reappraisal of Platonic concepts in back of our magical tradition; while retaining much that originates in them.
We have become oblivious to the fact that many of us are low Platonists, in a great variety of ways both practical and theoretical. The point is, as begun in Geosophia, to delve beneath the ‘host traditions’ & reclaim archaic goetia. To not be, so to speak, low Platonic but to get sub-Platonic.
Credere cum cura
In this book one endeavour is to confront various issues arising from the role of Christianity in magic, redressing certain perceptions and imbalances. This will be controversial, and hopefully enlightening, for believers and non-believers alike.
Among the issues involved, indeed perhaps the most important, are omissions formerly introduced into Western spirituality. Prohibitions relating to animistic beliefs and practices, concerning trees, streams, stones &c. were introduced in the post pagan period. So too, as discussed in previous works, many former ways of relating to the dead were largely eradicated. These omissions, as perhaps most will concede, do not serve magical practice well.
Where Western magic reflects these theological amputations, it contrasts strongly with other traditions worldwide; the result is not a unique and superior form, but a greatly reduced one. What is perhaps not fully appreciated is that these omissions do not characterise all forms of Christian magic currently extant. In the ‘Africanised’ forms of Christianity, many of which involve rich magical traditions, such elements are not omitted but remain central. In effect this means that such omissions are not necessarily characteristic of Christian magic. Although historically European culture underwent this particular socio-political purging, the process may be reversed within a Christian magical paradigm.
In addition, we must ask ourselves what exactly this paradigm is. For example, the role of eschatological matters in the development of magic leads to the question, what is Christian eschatology? It may surprise many of my readers to learn that there is no simple answer to this. In fact two radically contrasting eschatological conceptions can be detected throughout the history of Christianity.
One of these is thoroughly Platonist, with or without incorporating additional elements from Neoplatonism. The impression that these elements only entered Christian magic during the Renaissance is a false one; many of the Church Fathers were sympathetic to Platonism, or even committed to it. Platonic eschatology melds readily with approaches as seemingly disparate as the Greek magical papyri and New World traditions influenced by Kardecian Spiritism, as well as the grimoires and Renaissance Cabalism. Any attempt to depict these as inherently non-Christian is bound to fail. While non-Christian forms may exist, the underlying elements of Platonism still make for compatibility and potential synthesis. At the same time of course this model was not originally Christian, so such an orientation is not essential to it either.
The relationship of magic with Christianity is a thorny subject in some circles and the source of some disconcerting attitudes. On the one hand I have personally witnessed Wiccans sneering at images of Saints in a Hoodoo Botanica. These were oblivious to possible charges of racism, not to mention ignorance of vibrant magical traditions; which smacks also of complacency. One – with no sense of irony – charged the shop-holders with bigotry, presumably for not subscribing to his beliefs. This is by no means true of all witches however. On the other hand there are many grimoire magicians who, while reverential of Renaissance magic, are impervious to the respect the Renaissance magicians had for Classical lore. Not to mention the origins of grimoire practice in the Magical Papyri and ancient Neoplatonism, and magical astrology in Sabeanism and the Chaldean astrological magic of the Seleucid Empire.
To return to witches however, although there are obvious similarities with some of the modern magical practices carried out by Wiccans, most of the methods and techniques used by the old-time witches bear little resemblance to those used by today’s neo-pagan witches. Often the cunning folk practised dual faith observance and the charms, amulets, prayers and incantations they used invoked Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Trinity and the company of saints. Psalms were used for magical purposes as spells and they still are in some modern traditional witchcraft circles. With the coming of the new faith of Christianity and the suppression of the ancient pagan religions, objects such as crucifixes, saints’ medallions, the host and holy water were widely used by folk magicians because they were believed to possess ‘virtue’ or magical energy and inherent healing power.
Christian symbolism was used in folk magic rituals involving psychic protection, counter-magic and healing. Many of the old pagan charms were Christianised and some of the saints took on the earlier attributes of pagan gods and goddesses. Sacred springs previously dedicated to goddesses for instance were re-dedicated either to the Virgin Mary or to female saints such as Winefrede or Bride. Healing charms replaced the names of pagan deities such as Woden, Loki and Thor with those of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Many of the grimoires used by witches and the practitioners of folk magic also contained Judeo-Christian symbolism of course.
Some modern traditional witches still follow dual faith observance using the psalms for magical purposes, working with the company of saints and employing Christian imagery, symbolism and liturgy, often in a heretical and subversive way. The neo-pagan witch speaks of ways that harm none, while the modern traditional witch – in common with the witches and cunning folk of the past – can also both cure and curse as the need arises. Here the magic, while Christian is undoubtedly authentic rather than a romantic revival. Similar practices can be found in vodou, hoodoo, Santeria, Macumba, ju-ju and obeah in the Americas and in Africa. A Catholic model of the Universe, including Heaven, Purgatory and the Underworld, influenced Congolese acceptance and use of Catholicism in their magical practices, such as Palo Mayombe. It is just as useful in Western necromancy.
Qui est summus dei?
One problem in envisioning Western magical tradition coherently is the decisive formative role of an occult synthesis in the ancient world is either not properly understood, or not considered in various artificial reconstructions. So too the major role of ‘late pagan monotheism’ in this period is often unsuspected; leading to unnecessary disconnections of neo-paganism with ritual magic, where its influence is more integral via literary sources. I stress unnecessary, as the needs of neo-paganism and of ritual magic, Christian or otherwise, are served equally by the historical models here employed.
Let us take neo-paganism based on Babylonian tradition. A ‘Jovist’ model often applies here, centred on Marduk as King of the gods. Marduk’s pre-eminence however was in an earlier period than the synthesis, starting well bc while the great synthesis underlying occultism is more 2nd to 4th ad. The highest Chaldean god of this late period is Zervan. Marduk – chief god in an earlier Babylonian phase – is in this period a planetary deity, while the time god – Zervan – embodied the entire astrological system.
Interaction between Chaldeans and Persians lent some forms of Zervan the attributes of Ahura Mazda (Eternity being above dualism). He is thus a ‘pagan’ supreme god, one of several; among them – from a contemporary gentile perspective – was a god known as Jehovah. The fact that we recognise this name should not confuse us; there were several competing ideas about the Supreme God, and any one of them might be intended by the use of any single given name. The varying ideas held by contemporary Jews and Gentiles about a ‘Supreme God’ are embedded in magical rituals of the synthesis period, and leave strong traces in the rites descended from them. On occasion as will be discussed further on, Sabaoth is the name of the supreme deity, a conception concerned with Eternal Time. Elsewhere, as in pgm vii.1012–13, Sabaoth is portrayed differently, as first of four archangels, the others being Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.
Such instances represent different conceptions at work, implying more varied ideas than contemporary readers of the grimoires might consider. Among other things this throws doubt on ‘straight Christian Neoplatonism’ as the default structural hierarchy in every grimoire. Having questioned that supposed certainty our ‘Sub-Platonic’ method must: assist investigation of traditions prior to the synthesis; maintain modular coherence in the process of reclamation. This, as will be seen, will involve the Chaldeans.
De momento Chaldæorum
Understanding the world of Chaldean ideas – who they were influenced by, Persia for instance; who they influenced, virtually everyone in Roman times but especially the Stoics – is important for traditional Western magicians. For one thing the most important participant in the ancient synthesis behind the Western Magical Tradition, recognised as the single biggest influence on the grimoires (FR p. 155), was the Neoplatonist teacher Iamblichus. He was a hereditary Syrian priest and heavily influenced by the Chaldean Oracles.
Trouble is that Chaldean and Babylonian keep changing their meaning. Babylon (as a very ancient city) involves a range of periods and revivals &c. its religion of course was highly astrological, and its priesthood long lived and influential. The ideas of this priesthood evolved over time, and they formed intellectual alliances; with first the Stoics and later the Neoplatonists. So naturally ideas about the gods and the occult basis of the universe changed over time, although earlier phases continued to feed in and be reinterpreted to suit later conceptions.
Chaldean is also a complex term; among other things for our purposes it can refer to the doctrines of said priesthood, to ancient astrologers confused with them, as well as to tribes and sects in Asia Minor thought to have similar doctrines or beliefs (the Phrygian Magi or Magusseans, at least some of the Chalybes etc. etc).
Additionally, Chaldean can refer to the authors of the Chaldean Oracles: two historical persons, Julian the Chaldean and Julian the Theurgist. When Neoplatonist writers used the term Chaldean they meant these two, not the priesthood or the religion of Chaldea as such.
Back to Babylon, it was of course conquered by Persia, whose religion was Zoroastrianism – the prophet of which was associated with magic in the Greek mind. A Persian (more correctly Median) sect known as the Magi – which probably predated Zoroaster – formed another powerful priesthood. Once Persian and Babylonian priesthoods and ideas collided with each other all sorts of complexities and confusion came into play. The god of Chaldean astrological thought at its peak was Zervan, a god of time higher than the old planetary gods. In this role he was a candidate for 'Supreme God' in the cultural ferment of the time. In addition the interplay of Persian and Chaldean thought inspired a Zoroastrian 'heresy' wherein Zervan rather than Ahura Mazda was supreme.
So there are at least two versions of Zervan, one of whom has attributes of Ahura Mazda. In this guise – like Ahura Mazda – Zervan is beyond the material universe. These models join the One of the Platonists and all can feed into Jehovah from late antiquity onwards.
The ‘regular’ Zervan – a god of eternity but within the created universe rather than without – is still a much higher conception of god than is Marduk. At this point in history Marduk is one of the planetary gods below these higher ideas in whatever guise. These planetary gods obviously feed into our angels and demons, but also into a solar or ‘solunar’ theology feeding into the synthesis that was distinct from the more common fatalistic astrological theology. Both tendencies can be detected within Hermeticism, but the existence of the latter is often under played. The more positive theology may relate to the earlier competition between Jupiter and the Sun in regional cults, as well as ‘Egyptian positivism.’ Naturally the old top god from these more primitive planetary and solar theologies also fed into ideas about God and his Son/Demiurge/Logos etc. Hence then pagans might assert, and Christians deny, that Zeus was another name of the Supreme deity; while Jesus, Michael and Apollo all performed similar roles in various cosmologies.
Thus ideas of a Supreme God can draw on a variety of models as they enter Western thought. This obviously includes the grimoires which draw on the synthesis of religions and magic occurring in late antiquity. By the time of the grimoires we may call them all Jehovah, but how he is understood – and how the magic operates – might resemble Neoplatonist, Zoroastrian or Chaldean forms, or a combination.
As you may have gathered I’m of the Cumont/Lewy persuasion that Zervanism is centred on Babylonian interpretation of Persian thought. It is certainly the most conducive in my own field, but it also makes most sense of things overall. Also relevant is that Kronos preceding Chronos etymologically, a Chaldean Zervan is more likely to have influenced a Greek god than Greek language influencing a Persian one.
This may be a suitable point to mention Zervan’s equivalence with another figure, more familiar perhaps, the so-called gnostic deity Aion. As the high god in Mithraism, we can interpret their model as Zervanist, having no superior transcendental deity on Platonist or Zoroastrian lines.
Zervanism can be seen entering Western magic as early as Pythagoras, via his mentor Pherecydes. This was gently indicated in Geosophia, which is by no means Occidentalist in outlook. The emphasis was simply elsewhere; especially Thracian and Phrygian ecstatic cults and shamanism as influences on Western magic too often overlooked. The Oriental aspects of Western magic are here explored in greater detail. The Syrian and Egyptian elements of Theurgy and Hermeticism form a major part of the present study; in particular their relation to the models employed in ritual magic of the grimoire type. The origins of the spirit hierarchy are a central aspect of this; especially the Chiefs, Kings and Queens of the spirits. While the main emphasis is upon demons and spirits, a substantial new appraisal of angels is involved, embracing in particular: the Angelic Vice-regent; Thwarting Angels; the third order angels, with links to the Powers and the thwarting angels; plus Charakteres, particularly as associated with the decans. A product of numerous factors, and itself possessed of several variants, this theme is explored in stages as these are clarified and discussed.
Carving keys from radical skeletons: A review by Dr. Alexander Cummins
The Testament of Cyprian the Mage is the final part in the Encyclopædia Goetica series by Jake Stratton-Kent. It is at once a remarkable conclusion to this series, and an outstanding work in its own right. It is a two-volume set that analyses grimoires, acting as both a reader and commentary on such texts. Yet it also appears, in a comely form of course, as somewhat grimoiric itself. It is also a book that cites peer-reviewed research, eruditely synthesising and contributing to academic discourse, and bequeaths a veritable trove of a bibliography. It stresses the importance of personal eschatology, totems, spellwork and agreements when interacting with spirits in serious magical praxis. It spins from gods of time to the spirits of the decans to demonic kings and queens to sylphs and gnomes through geographically diverse and ideologically distinguished occult philosophies and practices. Such an exploration is remarkably nimble-footed, and leads us treasure-seeking to magical lore concerning plants, animals, and folk.
The author reveals that the Testament of Cyprian can be read as the treasure search between the grimoire study of The True Grimoire and the argo-ride through ancient Greece (and a modern necromancy) of the Geosophia. It starts with an ancient spirit catalogue, tracing roots down to the powers and myths of time, the dead, stars, and markings. Petitioning its namesake, Cyprian of Antioch, brings to light these ancestral rhizomatics of Old and New World traditions, in a manner that itself seems both time-honoured and innovative. Those who see those two approaches – of the 'rooted' and the 'branching' – as mutually exclusive will almost certainly struggle with this text and the sanguine approach that enlivens it.
The book stars several lesser known grimoires, including Liber Sacer, Liber Hermetis and the Comte de Gabalis as well as the Testament of Solomon and the Confessions of Cyprian. Throughout, Stratton-Kent widens and refines his exploratory practice of forging links and parallels in the mythopœia of grimoires, folk magic, and spirits. He emphasises the place of healing, warding, and disease in historical magic. He does this alongside highlighting the centrality of astrology to both the theory and practice of magic: pursued especially through considerations of timing, talismanic materials, and animistic approaches.
Attentive deliberation on spirit hierarchies and families forms a central thread. The Three Chiefs of the Grimorium Verum and elsewhere are further located in historical practice. In his insightful consideration of the Demonic Kings (not to mention the Queens!) – who have lain surprisingly understudied in occult discourse – Stratton-Kent has wrought an especially useful resource and inspiration for those looking to work more spirit-centred grimoire magic. This is especially true for those called to spiritwork which does not primarily involve antagonistically threatening and extorting with monotheistic names, but instead seeks to work with elementary, celestial and chthonic spirits within their own family-lines and hierarchies, and by their own customs and traditions. This is TCM’s vision of the majesty of the Demonic Regents, offering approaches to respectfully working with the figures of authority that the spirits themselves respect, not the belligerent bindings and inimical exorcisms of medieval approaches. Indeed, in its study of the grimoires, The Testament of Cyprian offers particular assistance by deepening understanding of earlier ancient pantheistic contexts. It is a book perhaps especially for (as the author addresses, when extolling the Comte de Gabalis): those researching and practicing grimoire magic; still more so to all seeking less negative and polarised views of spirits within general Western magical practice. (Testament, II, p. 169).
Practice is enriched by research, and all serious study of history is necromantic. This book stands at the crossroads of responsible scholarship and committed practice. A brief tour of some of the book’s ideas and insights elucidates the midnight work done at this crossroads. The Testament of Cyprian contends that the decan images or faces of Agrippa et al were originally stellar deities and/or their subordinate daimones. Thus study of the decans – another sadly understudied area of Western magic history – is not only appropriate, but perhaps critical, in considering the spirits of the catalogues of the grimoires themselves. The emphasis on astrology is not simply a tangential or auxiliary focus for this book in its apprehension of working with spirits: it palpably demonstrates their further interrelations.
TCM also contains dedicated efforts to respond – with the solemnity and awareness it deserves – to the implications of the rather commonplace notions that the demons of early modern ‘Solomonic Goetia’ were once pagan gods. Such notions are often exemplified by following the historicity of the demon Astaroth to lead us back, in some form or another, to a divinity – usually Astarte. In the course of reconciling stars, goddesses, and devils, Stratton-Kent also militates against continuing to draw rigid differences between low and high magic, between sorcery and eschatology, between goetia and theurgy – locating and musing on particular similarity between theurgic conjunction and goetic pacting. The pact as text is also illuminated in a context of the more calligraphic dimensions of image magic (especially for astrological spiritwork) in the study of stoicheia: marks, characteres, not merely symbolising or sympathetically corresponding with a spirit, but actually considered the presence of the spirit. Again, an appreciation of New World traditions (particularly of the pontos of Quimbanda) proves fruitful for this inquiry and for more practicable options for the enterprising modern goetic magician.
Each of these ideas deserved to be expanded upon and examined in their own right, and even at two sturdy and beautifully bound constellated volumes, The Testament of Cyprian has only so much room. Stratton-Kent has certainly developed his craft of carving keys from radical skeletons, offering the bare powerful bones in this ossuary box of a necromantic treatise. Like the grimoires themselves, this is a charting of and rubric for spirit-work, and it won’t do your conjuring for you. It is a book that ultimately can best be utilised in practical application: yet, as a good instructor should, it both shares garnered knowledge and conversation, and rewards the practitioner’s initiative. While certainly not a beginner’s manual, this work can clearly serve practitioners of many different traditions and experiences as a reference, a guide, and an inspiration.
The Testament of Cyprian is for doing Western magical spiritwork, while challenging what Western magical traditions might think they are with a fistful of the graveyard dirt in which their ancestry actually lies rooted. In concluding the Encyclopædia Goetica, it renews the series’ explicit vow to help to: lift our occult revival to the status of a living tradition; serving and being served by our own gods and spirits. (Geosophia, I, p. 118)
As the conclusion of this three-part encyclopaedia, it is (I hope) useful to speak apropos of and to the place of TCM in this infernal trinity. Chatting with a shaman and spiritworker friend generally about Stratton-Kent’s work on goetia, they quipped: It’s like Jurassic Park, right? With the frog DNA of hoodoo filling in the missing sections to revive Greek necromancy? This analogy appeals somewhat – and not only because, hopefully, life does indeed find a way – especially when we acknowledge that there is no appropriating or homogenising Traditional American Hoodoo, but rather tracing and utilising a common ancestral hydra body of spiritual and practical root-working from various historical necks of folk magic manifestation. One might even ponder, given the exchanges between Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Hellenes after all, how Greek is Ancient Greek anyway.
But this dinosaur analogy belies an important distinction. Stratton-Kent’s goetic magick is not a reconstructionist endeavour: he is not breeding Hellenistic raptors. Rather, it is more of a daimonic cartography – dealing in the spirit catalogues of beastfolk and stargods, hellions and familiars, and charting the jungles through which things both new and atavistic have been breeding and stalking. In drawing and invoking these places – especially the cemetery, the crossroads, the wilderness – it can be thought of as a re-animating of mythic space, unearthing the crossings and convergences of legendary journeys and destinations, the precious silt of forgotten river nymphs, the processional paths up to the cave-mouths of half-remembered sibyls. These are the walking temples of powerful spirits across human time, and a modern necromancy such as this goetia is, in every sense, vital to connecting and reconnecting these song-lines and crossroads.
Stratton-Kent’s encyclopaedia is an interlocutor of the works of Typhon, S/He who mothers zoomorphic chimeras. And this, after all, is the breathwork of history, the inhale and exhale of the fateful scissors of Atropos: traditions marrying and dismembering one another, kissing cousin cultures and long silences around the dinner table. The attention to the spirits over formal systems with which to engage with them is notable, and Cyprian’s testament of this necromancy adumbrates this utility of the grimoires: as a means to the multiplicities of the spirits themselves, to their varieties and strengths of interrelations, their wisdoms and mysteries, left to us in the palimpsest bleedthrough and chimeric cut-up of goetic heraldry. This heraldry draws from the astrological, the chthonic, the living, the totemic. It speaketh in a hoarse voice.
This is also to say Stratton-Kent is not attempting to take solo credit for such synthesising of a freshly ensanguinated tradition of goetic sorcery. He is one of many mages pointing out conjunctions of a starry sky, and we would be quite frankly daft to merely stare dumbly at their fingers. A new Great Synthesis is already occurring, one not seen since (funnily enough) the very periods the Encyclopædia Goetica is examining. This is not a po-mo mashup, no Frankenstein’s hipster. It is the dead speaking out and over one another in tangents, in-jokes, and expletives.
And you know people, they talk – atop characters, across borders, outside of time and bookshops. Occultists are far from an exception. Their magpie eyes dart for what works wonders: from Chaldean adoptions to boosted sacred words to sharing the commonalities of offerings of light and libations. The Old and the New Worlds too are talking, and their conversation is spoken with a grammar of myth and ritual and in a tongue of skulls and blood, flowers and springs. The Encyclopædia Goetica, now standing complete, can be seen to flense the flesh of garbled historiography from the cool strong bones of a necromantic tradition and to dress and set new lights to illuminate them. To bring something better and truer of our dead to a one world cauldronwealth. This is JSK’s contribution: not a syllabus, but the tools and the means to make and consecrate our own tools, with tales and techniques backed by legions of spirits and millennia of efficacy.
Stratton-Kent has watered a mandrake with roots that cradle the bones of the dead – roots that snake from the depths of soils lived and loved, ancient and modern. From the cast hydra’s teeth of his goetic triptych, a harvest is finally upon us. From above the timely firmament, beneath the volcanic earth, and across the wine-dark seas, a shriek has gone out. And when the dead rise, which side do you expect to be on?