When I started doing magic, I relied heavily on what other people were telling me. Once I encountered a truly experienced wizard, though, I was directed toward some books, and books have remained a vital source for magical practice, technique, and theory ever since.
I have a lot of magical and occult books. But some of them have been more influential and foundational than others. There are plenty of good book lists for aspiring magicians out there, but I figured an excuse to throw my two cents in has presented itself. So here are the books that have helped guide me along my path.
LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible (1969)
I first perused this book while still in high school, before I began any serious or half-hearted study of the occult. Friends and I peered over the stolen copy and giggled at its instructions to indulge lust and desire freely. It was the first book I read that seriously treated the hypocrisy I saw in Christianity, and also the first that fully acknowledged and affirm man’s animal nature and instincts. I’ve never indulged in the magical keys contained within, but the philosophical underpinnings of this book pointed me in an interesting and skeptical direction. I still hold a great affinity for LaVey’s rules of conduct and his concept of “lair.” I recommend that it be followed up with his book The Satanic Witch.
Crowley, Aleister. 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley (1973)
This book, containing the texts of Gematria, Liber 777, and Sepher Sephiroth, was my first introduction to the Qabalah. Crowley is dense reading, and this book is not a simple one to make sense of. But it is foundational to virtually all ceremonial magic to follow (even those who refute or seek to “correct” it must still answer to it. The correspondence tables contained in Liber 777 elaborate and codify upon the interconnectedness of all things that underlies all Qabalistic theory. If magic is an English Literature course, Crowley is Shakespeare.
This book was the first magical book I ever purchased. I bought it at the same time as my first copy of the Dragon Tarot.
Crowley, Book 4 (1980)
Of all of Crowley’s books that I have read, this is the one that is simplest and plainest to decipher. It contains a treatise on no-mind meditation and how it relates to ceremonial magic, as well as a basic description of the magical tools, their uses, and what they symbolize. This is also the book wherein Crowley attempts to equate the experience and attainment of enlightenment of the great masters as following the same process.
Regardie, Israel. The Middle Pillar.
Regardie was able to take Crowley’s work and present it in an easier to understand format. He also was responsible for significant developments in ceremonial magic in his own right, and this book is one of them. At its simplest, this book presents the Tree of Life and the correspondences of the Qabaliah and correlates them to Jungian psychology. For someone like myself who was somewhat grounded in Jung, who used Jungian theory to interpret dreams, and who was looking for an easier way to connect with the concepts within the Tree of Life, this book was it.
Regardie, The Golden Dawn. (6th Ed, 1989)
This text is compilation of the rituals and teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It includes basic theory, basic and intermediate rituals, evocation, astrology, tarot, Enochian magic, consecration and initiation rituals, and more. It elaborated on much of what Crowley alluded to or discussed and provided a good background in Qabalistic theory. I still refer to it as a refresher or to double check ritual precis.
Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magical Arts. (1st ed. 1997)
I had read plenty of theory, but this book is the one that pushed me into actually practicing ritual magic. Kraig’s lesson plans are ideal to learn and develop the actual performance of ritual magic. While there are several versions of the rituals he covers available from other sources, and some of his historical information is not entirely accurate, the program that he established for learning the ritual practice and the theory that supports it is a really good one.
Please not that this book has been revised into a second edition that includes new material. I do not have that book yet, but understand that the new material is very helpful.
Moura, Ann. Green Witchcraft.
This book, which marks the beginning of what is now a four or five book series, is an informative delving into basic, salt-of-the-earth witchcraft. It is not entirely free of the influence of Wicca, but includes information from a wide variety of eclectic sources, and presents perspective that might be considered a bit, er, heavier, than many of the “lighter” sources out there.
The big value that I got from this book (which alas I have not owned for several years_ is that it demonstrated the usefulness of various applications of herbalism, stone work, and other lore that my education in High Magic was missing out on. This facilitated a (re)inclusion of more “practical” and unrestricted sources of magic to my practice.
DuQuette, Lon Milo. The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lammed ben Clifford.
I’ve read, studied, and re-read many book by Crowley, Regardie, Griffin, Cicero, Kraig, and others. This book, however, is the one that I regard as making the Qabalah truly understandable. DuQuette explains and illustrates Qabalistic concepts in a very plain and straight-forward manner, using colorful imagery and humorous anecdotes that stay with you. His chapter on the tarot established the connection between tarot, astrology, and numerology in a way I have never encountered before, and which blew open tarot and astrology for me like never before.
Familiarity with Crowley is helpful but not necessary. If you only read one book on Qabalah, make it this one.
Carroll, Peter J. Liber Kaos
This is one of the groundbreaking works on Chaos Magic. It covers a lot of the basic theories and principles of Chaos Magic and its emergence. This book took magical work to a whole new level for me, allowing me to employ belief as a tool and reconsider the connection between magic and physics. One of the most profound moments for me was Carroll’s introduction of mathematical equations that describe magical operations. Magic is something that can be quantified, and that has some profound implications for the nature of the Universe around us.
Hine, Phil. Condense Chaos: An Introduction to Chaos Magic
If Pete Carroll is the Crowley of the Chaoist stream, Hine is the Regardie. He presents some of the complex (and often mathematical) theories of Carroll in a more easily accessibly form, refined by his own unique twist. Carroll’s humor is a bit dry, and Hine comes across as much more playful. And whereas Carroll spends a lot of time focusing on theory, Hine discusses a lot of techniques which are very useful. Much of how I develop sigil, servitors, and algorithms for both are derived from or influenced by Hine’s work. His chapter on ego magic alone is worth twice than what I paid for this book.
Hewitt, William W. Astrology for Beginners.
This book taught me astrology. It doesn’t get plainer than that. It taught me planets, signs, houses, and aspects. And most importantly, it taught me how to cast a chart, on my own, by hand, and why each step means what it means. (It takes me about two hours to cast a chart by hand. I now rely on Astrolog fairly exclusively. But I understand the how behind casting a chat, and that is important in understanding the why.) If you are interested in study astrology to any serious degree, I recommend this book as a starting point.
Herbert, Frank. Dune (1965)
Of all the books on this list, this is the first one that I read, and the one I re-read the most often. (Yes, I have the illustrated version shown at left. The artistry is superb.)
This is my favorite book. Ever.
The complexity and weight of the story is immense. The metaphysics are intricate and insightful. The story is compelling.
The Bene Gesserit and the Mentats are fascinating to me. They represent a common ground between magic and natural human ability: the refinement of unusual skills to the point of supernatural appearing effect. (This book is the reason I learned speed reading.)
I’ve told the story of how I became involved in metaphysics to impress a girl. This is true, but I was susceptible to it because of this book.
Read this book. Love it. Learn from it. Be inspired by it. (And quote from it.)
Happy reading, all.