The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery

Apr 13th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Book Reviews

The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery – The definitive guide to the mysterious, the magical and the supernatural

Compiled by Mélusine Draco

I’m often asked which of all my books has given me the most satisfaction and I can say without hesitation it would be The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery which I’d compiled over the years for my own private use. It went to press at 3,333 entries, which made it the biggest dictionary available at the time but I’m still adding to my own private version. Dictionaries are notoriously difficult things to compile for the simple reason that even before its release date, the text is out of date.  There must be another 500 entries in my private version and these, more often than not, are the more esoteric terms that only come to the surface when you’re engaged on some really serious research, i.e. for the Temple House Archive novels.

Also, not only signs and sigils change with each generation, different words creep into the vocabulary which is why I commented in the introduction to the first edition, that every good reference book is both a product and a reflection of its time.  My Dictionary reflects the magical and mysterious world of my time – but it can also act as an ‘ideas book’ for every pagan writer.  I also took a leaf out of Aleister Crowley’s book when it comes to reading material – particularly esoteric books – and have saved myself hours wasted on lesser works in the process:

My plan of going from each author to those whom he quoted had a great advantage. It established a rational consecution in my research; and as soon as I reached a certain point the circles became re-entrant, so that my knowledge acquired a comprehensiveness which could never have been so satisfactorily attained by any arbitrary curriculum. I began to understand the real relation of one subject to another. AC.

It was one of the most basic, but important magical lessons I’ve ever learned and I often find myself following a thread from one book to another when researching a subject. Research is like a labyrinth, or more often a maze, in that we follow the trail – sometimes down a blind alley – until we locate that nugget of pure information we’ve been seeking. In The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery I have also added my sources that more often than not do not show up on the internet or Amazon listings! And obscure information is what makes a book readable

Introduction from The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery

Every good reference book is both a product and a reflection of its time. The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery is not just another compendium or dictionary of occultism: it is a jumping-off point

for further research. Here, the reader will find the ancient and modern interpretation for magical and mystical terms, together with explanations for the differences between the varied (and often conflicting) approaches to magic. You will also find both the common, the regional, and the obscure, because even popular usage can often distill the true essence from original meaning. There are historical and archeological references that are essential in helping to put the past into perspective, whether we are talking about witchcraft, ritual magic, or the different paths and traditions from the East. Added to all this information are some of the sacred sites that are associated with our pagan past; together with thumbnail sketches of the well-known (and sometimes dubious) personalities who have been associated with the pursuit of magical knowledge throughout the centuries.

To thoroughly understand what magic is all about, whether from the perspective of the village wise-woman or the high-powered ceremonial magician, we have to know the true history of the path we wish to follow. These are paths that have been beset with persecution and ridicule; both physical and mental anguish; hardship and deprivation. To understand where we now stand, we need to walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before and learn from their experiences, their failures and their triumphs. We also need a basic grounding in Classical subjects because we cannot hope to plug in to the here-and-now and expect instant enlightenment, or become a witch or magician in twelve easy lessons! Paradoxically, although there are now more books on occultism (in its widest sense) in publication than ever before, the contents are by no means guaranteed to be accurate, or even penned by someone with a knowledgeable, working background in the subject on which they write. Sadly, even mainstream editors have little practical experience in the subjects they are commissioning and, as a result, the genre of ‘mind, body and spirit’ publishing is awash with books and magazine articles by those who are merely regurgitating information, often taken from questionable sources, blended with hefty dollops of contemporary Orientalism.

As that invaluable encyclopedia, Man, Myth & Magic, pointed out back in the 1970s, at the roots of mythology and magic is a kind of thinking which is certainly not random, and which has its own curious logic. Where metaphor, sigla and ceremony convey the intangible and bring the supernatural into the natural world, by making connections between things that outwardly and rationally are not connected at all. And magic is all about understanding these analogies, allegories and symbols. The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery attempts to put this way of thinking into some kind of perspective for the serious student.

For example: The 16th century ritual magician would have had a firm grounding in the Classics in their original language, i.e. Hebrew, Latin and Greek, not to mention a working knowledge of European history, mathematics, astronomy and alchemy. By the 19th century, Adepts of the occult sciences were adding the Eastern influences of Tantra, yoga, meditation techniques and the karmic philosophy of reincarnation. Traditional ritual magic texts are governed by this broad spectrum of learning under the guise of Magical Correspondences and, unless this method of working is fully understood, then the results will be a long time in coming for the striving magus adeptus. By contrast, the natural witch or cunning-man would have developed an instinctive knowledge of ancestral and natural history, weather lore and folk medicine. And by studying the popular versions of our native folklore and superstitions, we can glimpse behind the Victorian obsession with the ‘Devil and all his works’ when it came to compiling their collections, and grasp the fact that most of these protective charms were originally witches’ spells culled for popular use.

Modern witches need to develop the discipline of cultivating the powers of seeing and interacting with Nature, or we will not be able to read the ‘signs’ when they appear. Like the Universe itself, magic is a living, expanding thing and to become a successful magical practitioner, we must learn to grow magically and intellectually in tandem with these developments. Modern paganism is now permeated with Oriental influences (reiki, feng shui, I Ching, etc) and it also helps to have a nodding acquaintance with modern astronomy, astrophysics, archeology and anthropology to help us to understand where everything fits within the Laws of Correspondence. 

Remember: Fact has nothing to do with belief; that the ancients believed, is all we need to know. And even if we think we are no longer susceptible to the powers of the Old Gods, we only have to look through ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic or Viking eyes to see them.

So, some may ask, why can’t we just abandon the use of these ancient symbols? The experienced magical practitioner understands that contact with these ‘old energies’ can be attained more completely through symbols that are so ancient that they are buried deep within the storehouse of our collective unconsciousness. The alternatives – intellectual formulae and symbols of mathematics and science – have been evolved too recently to serve as direct conduits. The magician or mystic uses the more direct paths, which long ago were mapped out in the shadowlands of what Carl Jung referred to as the racial or universal subconscious.

Many of the books referred to in this text are now out of print, but the tracking down and acquisition of such rare volumes should be viewed as part of the magical learning process. These are included simply because they remain the best explanation of the subject (or the most controversial), even though there may be dozens of other more recent titles in print. Others reflect the publishing viewpoint of their time and, as such, offer an insight into the limited availability of good source material during the early 1960s and 1970s; remembering that the last Witchcraft Act wasn’t repealed until 1951.

Some titles offer a basic introduction to a subject, while others may need to stay on the shelf until the moment of enlightenment, when the scales fall from the seeker’s eyes and they are ready to receive the wisdom from the printed page. Surprisingly, perhaps, there are also a handful of fictional titles here, since many of these contain more than just a grain of magical truth. The search for such treasures should be looked upon as part of the magical quest, for seeking out such ‘truths’ should never be as simple as taking down a book from a shelf.

Mélusine Draco

The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery

Paperback £12.99 || $22.95Apr 27, 2012

e-book £3.99 || $5.99Apr 26, 2012

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