“Here we find magic, an exquisite corpse that awaits our attention.” – Stephen Grasso
I am proud to bring you my long-time-coming review of Scarlet Imprint’s At the Crossroads book. I have been interested in this particular book since the very first time I was aware of its existence. I’ve been intrigued with crossroads and crossroads work for some time and was eagerly awaiting a book dealing with this particular subject. What I actually got was so much more than expected or anticipated.
The title At the Crossroads is actually a very apt description of the subject matter that the 17 essays contained within address. Rather than specific crossroads workings, the book goes a step more cerebral and takes the title at its most metaphorical; we, the magical community as a whole, are standing at a crossroads (a very important crossroads at that) and are facing the possible directions that our actions can bring about. I was expecting (unabashedly naïve of me, as this is my first book from the illustrious publishers) a beginner/intermediate book regarding the usual directions on particular works. What I ended up devouring was an enlightened, global discussion regarding the state of affairs for a large portion of the magical community.
After being disappointed by so many books dealing with occult/metaphysical/craftwork/magic(k) in the past, I am very pleased that my experience with At the Crossroads has me quite easily giving the book my highest of recommendations. The intelligence contained within this book as a whole (within each and every essay) more than makes up for past disappointments perpetrated by other book publishers. It also went a long way to soothe the wounds of the droves of internet frauds, phonies, and disingenuous individuals lazily co-opting anything that makes them quick cash form unsuspecting folks. It proved that there are open-minded, thoughtful, traditional, and extremely intelligent practitioners who are dealing with the subject matter in the most respectable way possible…a way in which it deserves.
I can not recall any other book that has dealt this extensively with the mixing of magical practices and different cultural beliefs that are co-mingling in our world. The origins of all we hold to be magical, the grimoires we decipher and dedicate our time, intersecting with the conjuring arts of old and crossing all boundaries. The book directly addresses the concerns of the melting pot of alchemy as related to the new global (and connected) magical world we have all become a part of. Writers and researchers from multiple countries address the current interest in ATRs, “low magic,” and the bigger view of our magical future as a whole. Can we work together and find common ground respectfully?
The introduction/preamble/opening Standing Still, penned by Peter Grey, was so unexpected and full of joy and urgency that I wanted to put the book down then and there and go get to work immediately. It is nothing short of an intelligent manifesto regarding our magical future. It made me want to do something, anything, to contribute. This proved to be a much higher-value intro than the usual throw-aways that start lesser tomes. Truly a case of a high-spirited/high-impact beginning that moves you…and ushers you to move with it. I was impressed and eager to continue reading.
Folk Traditions and the Solomonic Revival by Aaron Leitch is a State of the Union address. I was tickled to finally get to read a well researched essay/article on a subject I had been craving for some time; the grimoires in relationship to ATRs. I read this twice before moving on to the next essay. When something my mind has been thirsty for presents itself in such a timely manner there is no “done,” no “finished.” I will be returning to this essay (and book) many times in the future, which is another rarity for the majority of books I have purchased in the last few years. I was struck with just how respectful of each different “magical house” Leitch was, as well as his tone and caveat/plea for us all to thoughtfully apply what our brothers and sisters are doing in a way that is respectful and beneficial to both parties. Respect, intelligence, and integrity are reoccurring threads throughout all pages of At the Crossroads.
Though the main subject matter is the intersection of African Traditional and Diaspora Religions with Western Magic, I would be surprised if there is even one path/group/system that goes unmentioned in some way. General pagan, Wicca, Solomonic, Conjure, Christian Mysticism, Santeria, Alchemy, hoodoo, Wiccan Qabalah, cunning folk, Palo Mayombe, Chaos Magicians, Candomble, Satanist, Voodoo/Voudon, Ifa, Quimbanda, juju, veves, angels, etc, etc, etc (and etc) make appearances in the book. Which is one reason I recommend this book so highly. Read on…
I have a two-fold agenda for recommending (straight-up pushing) this book to everyone out there even remotely interested in the subject matter. The first is to get this in the hands of practiced and experienced workers, students, and magickal philosophizers as a group. This is a rare read that offers up actual meat-and-potatoes ideas instead of rehashing the tired (the norm) in a new way so as to sell more books. This book is a challenge, a change of heart, a conversation on a large scale started in paper form.
The second reason I have for recommending At the Crossroads so highly is specifically for the beginner, the person contemplating becoming a student, the individual hungry for knowledge but tired of being disappointed and left wanting after the turning of final page after final page. To further explain; the vast majority of the essays contained within At the Crossroads have bibliographies and endnotes. At first this made me very happy as it allowed me to see sources cited and understand the path taken to arrive at the final composition of ideas via printed words. Then, as I got further and further into the book, and continued taking even the most cursory of notes, I realized that I had, perhaps, taken down enough information to research and investigate that I could easily fill an entire year doing so. This book is a valuable starting point for anyone who wants to jump into the world of magical practice, theory, and study. Not only can each author’s works be followed up on and searched after, but the endnotes, bibliographies, and discussions themselves will spin you off in as many directions as you choose. The truest form of a crossroads that I can think of…a wanderer’s map of directions.
I had started this review a few weeks ago, carefully reading each entry the book offers and writing notes, quotes, and thoughts for each of them. It got to be a massive missive of scrawled ink and would prove much too scattered to print as an actual review. Though I will take the time to say that I was especially impressed by (no surprise here) Jake Stratton-Kent’s Necromancy: The Role of the Dead in a Living Tradition, as well as the fantastic Goetic Initiation by Conjureman Ali. The artwork contributions by Hagen von Tulien in Soul Dream, magical veves of Richard Ward’s In the Shadow of the Cross, and Queen of Fire and Flesh: Invocations of Pomba Gira by Angela Edwards, only help to enhance the beauty of the book.
The book’s beauty is not something that should (or could, for that matter) be overlooked. I have quite a few books in my collection (nowhere near as many as I used to, nor anywhere close to other’s collections I have witnessed) however, from a purely aesthetic point of few, very few of the outsides match the information contained on the insides. Scarlet Imprint has the cure for this and is dedicated to keeping good looking books on your shelves…possibly just to make your other books jealous and contemplate their worth. This book is bound with what is described by the publishers simply as “black and white cloth.” I would compare it to the look and feeling of an Edward Gorey ink-sketch. The cover looks wet and alive and exotic. It has been stamped with a crossroads symbol in the center of the front and back covers and the title on the spine is done in the same style. The book is almost a perfect square, measuring 8 ½ x 9 ½ inches. It is as much a treat to hold (and turn the high quality archival pages) as it is to behold.
The hardcover “Crossed Edition” of At the Crossroads described above is limited to 800 copies and has a cost of roughly 68 US dollars. There is no paperback of the book available, however there is a digital edition of the entire book that can be purchased for about 16 US dollars. I urge anyone reading this who is looking for a high-quality gift for a friend, relative, loved one, or fellow practitioner to go ahead and secure a copy. You will be far from disappointed and your gift (or purchase for yourself) will stay highly praised and greatly admired, for years to come.
At the Crossroads may be ordered directly from Scarlet Imprint here.
At the Crossroads: Table of Contents
Peter Grey – Preamble: Standing Still
Jake Stratton-Kent – Necromancy: the Role of the Dead in a Living Tradition
Aaron Leitch – Folk Traditions and the Solomonic Revival
Eric K Lerner – Eleggua; Eleggua’s Worlds (art)
Stephen Grasso – Open up the Gate
Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold – The Invisible City in the Realm of Mystery
Richard Ward – In the Shadow of the Cross
Drac Uber & Ivy Kerrigan – Libations for the Lwa
Michael Cecchetelli – Countermeasures
Humberto Maggi – Crossing Worlds
Ryan Valentine – A brief history of the Juju
Hagen Von Tulien – Soul Dream (art)
Kyle Fite – The Syncretic Soul at the Cross of Cosmic Union
ConjureMan Ali – Goetic Initiation
Christopher D Bradford – Nigromantic Putrefaction
Chad Balthazar – A Garden Amidst the Flames
Angela Edwards – Queen of Fire & Flesh (art)
Jake Stratton-Kent – Magic at the Crossroads