A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: The Book of Saint Cyprian The Sorcerer's Treasure

Over the years interest in the mysterious Saint Cyprian of Antioch has grown in the English-speaking world, slowly simmering at the edges until being proclaimed as the Saint of Sorcerers and Necormancers. Many have taken him as a patron and accepted him into their lives. But while he may be growing in the English-speaking world, people forget that Saint Cyprian has been a long-time fixture and force in the magical world of Iberian Bruxaria and Latin American folk magic. In particular Saint Cyprian has been associated with a set of magical tomes often found in Spanish and Portuguese. Over the years there have been some attempt to translate bits and pieces, but it has always remained just out of reach for the English-speaking audience--until now. José Leitão has taken the famed Book of Saint Cyprian from the shadows and put it within our grasp, setting ablaze the magical world. 

The Book of Saint Cyprian: The Sorcerer's Treasure is indeed a treasure for anyone interested in the magic of Saint Cyprian. The book is more than a mere translation, but a significant intervention into the interest and study of Saint Cyprian. José Leitão has translated the book with an attention to scholarship and with a devotion only possible from someone who truly loves what is before him. His personal connection to Saint Cyprian and his intimate understanding of the Book of Saint Cyprian is evident throughout the text. He reminds us of the mystery surrounding the book, the dread it evokes, and the promises of its mysteries. With this in mind the reader dives into the sorcerous tome as you read various stories, legends, learn feitiçaria for love, destruction, finding treasure, discover Cyprianic cartomancy and much more. 

But in addition to being the most complete translation of the Book of Saint Cyprian, what sets José Leitão's book apart is his attention to scholarship. As a historian I appreciated his effort to provide cultural and historical background to the text. What you get is not merely a translation, but an introduction into the culture and history that gave birth to the Book of Saint Cyprian. This is a significant contribution for it ties the book directly to the culture(s) and history that gave birth to the text, but also provides us all with a glimpse into the long and beautiful magical traditions of the Iberian sorcerer. With his attention to history, José Leitão gives voice to stories and peoples that have been silenced by the passing of time. There is a particular section discussing the presence of Africans in Iberia which will shake most modern magicians interested in the connection between the European grimoires and the African Traditional Religions as it complicates and challenges the common Euro-centric view of the grimoires influencing the African Traditional Religions.

What the historical and cultural background reminds us is that unlike other so-called grimoires and tomes of magic, the Book of Saint Cyprian is a living book tied to a people with a living culture. People have continuously read and worked from the Book of Saint Cyprian and it has remained a fixture in their cultural practices. This is not a dusty, long-dead tome that is being reconstructed, but a living text of the sorcery of a people. For people just learning about Saint Cyprian it reminds them of his roots and where this saint and sorcerer's legend found its home. Remembering that history should be humbling and hopefully instill some respect for the cultural and historical roots of the saint.  

The translation and history are enough to set this book apart, but José Leitão goes above and beyond that. If you are like me and can read some Portuguese and Spanish, this book still has much to offer. In addition to providing an English translation and an outstanding history, there is even more to be found in the commentary. José Leitão follows up his stellar translation with commentary that puts each spell, rite, story, and Cyprianic work into context. He explains the meanings of certain words, clarifies instructions, and provides insight that truly unlocks the treasures of the work. For the practical sorcerer, this section takes the book from being an intellectual curiosity to a practical tome filled with a treasure trove of knowledge the sorcerer can add to his arsenal. I personally found myself absolutely absorbed in the discussion of the mouros and mouras, so much so that I was caught up as if in an enchantment. This speaks to the writing skill of the author whose humor and passion come through clearly. 

He concludes the book with couple annex that follow various Cyprianic strains and a personal conclusion that explores what the Book of Saint Cyprian has meant to people throughout time. For José Leitão the Book of Cyprian is the keys to the crossroads of life and I could not agree more. 

I could not recommend this book enough and can confidently say it is probably my favorite book of the year so far. Other than a few minor editing details this book is flawless. José Leitão has done a great service to anyone interested in Saint Cyprian and Iberian sorcery and all of its connections to the past and the cultures of Africa and the New World. Within the pages of this book you will find Saint Cyprian himself, a saint and sorcerer who stands at the margins as the Other in all its manifestation and who through his book gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven and hell, to Jesus and the Devil. 

For those interested seek out the wonderful publishers of this tome, Hadean Press. You can purchase the book here: 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Product Review: Oils from Wolf and Goat

Readers of my blog know that I frequently review books; as a bibliophile, I enjoy reading books and writing reviews on them. However, it isn't often that I write a review of products, because I am very careful about who I endorse and also because I rarely buy products from other people. But once in a while you come across something that you cannot help but rave about. That is exactly how I feel about the pair of oils I've received from Wolf and Goat.

Wolf and Goat is an online store producing high quality oils, powders, statuary, and various magica materia. Owned and operated by Jesse and Troy, skilled magicians and Quimbandeiros. Now in full disclosure, I should say that Jesse and Troy are my brothers in Quimbanda and while I am certainly biased, their work truly speaks for itself. 

During the Hoodoo Heritage Festival, they kindly gifted me with a pair of oils. One was a Venus oil made under an election by an astrologer I trust and the other was Clarity Oil. The first thing I noticed about both is the packaging. Beautifully packaged in individual little boxes and cushioned with a little nest. Each box is sealed with a small strip of leather and is labeled beautifully by hand. 

The oils themselves come in small glass bottles sealed professionally and labelled once more. With the oil is a small piece of fabric with details about the oil and some suggested uses. Visually, everything is beautiful. There is an attention to detail to each aspect of the packaging and appearance. It is the kind of next-level work you expect from a pair of artists. The entire appearance has an old-time-purveyor-of-sorcerous-items feel. 

While the aesthetic in me is pleased by the visuals of it all, I am a pragmatic person who is looking for magical products that actually work. To say I was not disappointed is an understatement. As I opened the bottle of Clarity Oil, I smell a perfect blend of oils and herbs that speak worlds to the perfumery skills of Wolf and Goat. But it is more than just the smell. Each oil is chock-full of real magica materia; herbs, roots, animal curios, and minerals are fused together into top notch oils. As anyone who makes oils can tell you, how you know if you've made a successful oil is when the smell, feel, and even look of the oil all capture the spirit of the oil's intent. Wolf and Goat's oils are exactly like that. One whiff of Clarity Oil and you are smelling Clarity. A dab of Venus oil on my hands and I could feel the luxuriant Venusian essence.

Suffice to say, I was ready to put them to use. This practical old earthy wizard was ready to get to work. I enjoyed the visuals, I sensed the high quality of the oil and the skill of the makers, but the final and ultimate test was whether the oils would work or not. 

I have currently been working at gaining the favor of a colleague in academia. I have been gaining allies ensuring that I remain in the center of a net of influential individuals so that I could extend my own influence beyond my department which I firmly have under control. In addition to traditional hoodoo work, I had been doing some astrological magic with Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus. Perfect opportunity to put my newly acquired Venus oil to the test. So I started including the oil in my offerings to Venus and dabbed a bit on my hands when I was meeting my colleague so I could touch him with the oil. After a week, success! Not only have I been able to extend my influence, but now I have the favor of several seniors colleagues in other departments who I am actively working with on new projects. 

The Venus oil is top-notch. It makes a great offering to the spirits of Venus, can be used on Venusian talismans, as scent to wear, or added to baths, for anointing candles, and much more. It perfectly captures powerful Venus from the Picatrix.  

Next up was the Clarity oil. The recipe is a unique blend that comes from direct spirit communing. It is true bottled sorcery. Now, one of my favorite ways of divining is scrying, especially with either water, smoke, or my mirror and crystal ball. In particular, I enjoy remote scrying where rather than seek divinatory signs, I using scrying to look in on specific people and situations. Magical spying if you will. So I added Clarity Oil to my work to see if I would notice a difference. 

Up first was water scrying. I got my scrying bowl and added a few drops of the oil into water. The effect was stellar. The image was clear and my focus was sharp. My scrying revealed a situation that needed my direct intervention so I reached for my sihr ink, a special type of magical ink we use in North African sorcery  to write out magical spells. We use it with a special stylus to write our will on the fabric of reality. I wrote out my spell on a special plate, added a few drops of Clarity oil, then washed the ink off the plate right into my scrying bowl, using it as a portal to carry the spell directly to my target. The result was instantaneous, the individual got the spiritual help they needed, none the wiser. 

Inspired by the results, I went on to smoke scrying. I lit my coal and added a drop of the oil which smoked beautifully. I called my spirit of divination to help send my sight far and the smoke responded. My spirit coiled around the smoke and within moments, I could see right into what I wanted with a clarity I had not been able to before. It was an amazing result. I added a few drops more oil to set it on fire with the coal and gave it as an offering to the spirits. 

I loved the results I got with the Clarity oil. I use it now to anoint my magic mirrors, my crystal ball, and in other scrying tools.

I am extremely pleased with my oils and would highly recommend Wolf and Goat. I have statues by them and have come to trust their work. Now with their oils, they've made a customer for life. If their other products are as good as their oils, they've got a powerhouse store. What sets Wolf and Goat apart is their ability to take their products to a whole new level of quality. From start to finish their products are works of art filled with spirit, life, and potency.