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19 May 2011

Review: Opuscula Magica Volume I (Andrew Chumbley)

Opuscula Magica Volume I: Essays on Witchcraft and Sabbatic Tradition by Andrew D. Chumbley

2010, Three Hands Press, 152 pages

Review by ND

The late Andrew Chumbley, whose arcane yet wizened style caused a stir when his Azoetia was published in 1992, wrote with the distinct desire to instruct and inspire new perspectives within the evolution of consciousness. He has certainly achieved that goal, and despite an early grave, he has left with us a trove of works that reflect a great deal of experience and knowledge, as well as a charismatic style appealing to those of the more shadowed, pagan, and magical paths.

With the roots of his aspirations deep in Spare and Sabbatic Witchcraft, as well as drawing on the likes of Kenneth Grant, Chumbley erstwhile employs rather flowery and esoteric language (which is not to the taste of some). This is a chronological collection of essays published within British magical journals (such as The Cauldron and famed Chaos International) between 1990 and 2003, and the works are extremely erudite.

So excellent are these works, that the nine essays presented may hold their ground as long as Little Essays towards Truth did for Crowley. Three Hands Press did well to collect these works and republish, diving in with some short critiques upon the nature of magic, as well as with early gems such as the use of various formulae and methods of sorcery. Indeed, Chumbley’s sagacity is of the type to advise that the seeker must immerse himself entirely within the current of magic, and in turn, magic will merge entirely with him.

A discussion on the ethics and morals of sacrifice in magical practice is slightly provocative without overstepping the mark. In The Hermit, Chumbley highlights the advantages of the discipline and path of the solitary practitioner with convincing argument, while also giving eloquent advice and instruction on the endeavour.

Hekas is the title of the fifth essay of somewhat complex structure; Chumbley returns to a previous point regarding the evolution of the consciousness as crucial in the work. He then ploughs into some detail on the origins of Sabbatic tradition through the derivation of Sabbatic practices such as the history of casting a circle, and of the deity, Baphomet, as well as others.

In The Secret Nature of Ritual, Chumbley begins with an intelligent yet slightly arduous discussion regarding the employment of ‘otherness’ as a means to magical evolution. His description of this path may be overwhelming to some at first, as it involves the magickal mediation of spatial awareness; Chumbley’s work is definitely not for the intellectually faint of heart. This essay is one of the most profound within the collection, and it is a quintessential addition.

In the penultimate essay, Chumbley discourses upon the subject of Traditional Craft, describing in detail its essence and history. Closing on a fond topic, Chumbley examines in detail the initiatic mysteries with depth and sophistication. These final essays are an apropos ending to this volume, which is rounded of with an interview Chumbley made with Michael Howard and Robert Fitzgerald just prior to his death in 2002.

Overall, the volume displays excellent choice in selection of work, and clearly shows the insight and experience of an effective and superior magician dramatically, and sadly to the magical community and chaos current, cut short. It will be much perused, and I highly recommend it to all, whether a magical solitary or group practitioner, as well as to those on the Sabbatic path.

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