Jake Stratton-Kent at the release of The Testament of Cyprian the Mage.
[Picture taken at The Atlantis Bookshop in London — courtesy of Scarlet Imprint.]
When I used to rock climb, there was always that moment when you had to commit. It’s the term climbers use when you need to do ‘a move’ that’s a bit risky. It’s usually risky because there is an immense sense of danger. Sometimes that danger is physical, sometimes psychological, but it’s always 100% real. You have to commit regardless.
You have to forget about failure and focus on achieving with your body, what you conceive of in your mind. The last three years of my life have been an initiation into another world. I started the journey with a vision that bled from the darkness of a dream into the stark daylight of my waking life. I just knew I had to work out what was going on. It was the calling. I’d been ignoring it for years and I had become sick because of it. So I decided to lean in. I committed.
The mage that died this morning has been my guide on this strange climb. My tutor and my inspiration for nearly all of it. I’ve just checked my Amazon account and I ordered his Grimorium Verum and the first volume of his Argo of Magic in January 2021. It’s never left my side since. I’ve read it cover to cover and again several times. It’s annotated and marked, my copy of The True Grimoire has incense fingerprints and tatty ends from being in the circle. I have met the chiefs and their subordinates. I know that goetia is a verb not a noun. Thank you Jake. I suspect Frimost will be busy with your mail.
Some have complained (I’ve heard them and rebuked them) that his style is too dry, too academic, too scholarly. I say, grow the fuck up. JSK was the rare all-rounder. Not only an incredible scholar of his subject, recognised by academia, but the supreme practical magician.
I will wax lyrical about his magnum opus, Geosophia, for most of this piece, but first I want to recognise the pamphlets he authored for Hadean Press. His tracts on Frimost (The Strong Spirit) and Elelogaap are essential, and his Goetica Pharmakea should be read by anyone with an interest in the materials of magic.
It would be fair to say that I had no idea what I was buying when I got hold of the Argo of Magic. I thought I knew the story of Jason and the all-star mythology team up that are collectively known as the argonauts. I’d seen the film. Little did I know that in that story is such a rich arcana of ancient (prehistoric) magic, and serves as a perfect survey of the magical and spiritual practices of the eastern mediterranean and past the Black Sea. Jake uses this framework and the characters involved to describe and explain innumerable elements of lore, tradition and practice.
Not only this, but in regular sections of the book he draws together the conclusions for the modern practitioner. In the first of these he uses an account from Scott’s famous Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). In a description of how magicians create a magic circle, Jake shows clear links with modern rites like the LBRP. In fact, the very essence of his books is that whilst the Western tradition is not a living tradition in the sense of an unbroken line of “verbal” learning (see Ronald Hutton), it does have an unbroken literary tradition of magic, stretching back to at least (although likely much further back than) the Orphic Books like the Derveni Papyrus (c. 340 BC), Europe’s oldest book.
The Orphic Hymns that we have today, the manuscript that escaped the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and whose translation became part of the resurgence of magic during Renaissance Europe, were probably composed around 1 AD but are of the same tradition described by Plato and originating in Thrace (modern day Bulgaria). This ‘golden thread’ was possibly JSK’s greatest contribution to the community.
However the real joy and excitement of JSK isn’t his forensic scholarship of myths, magic and goetia. It’s in the practice itself. He made no secret that his bias was towards the Grimorium Verum also known as the True Grimoire. It’s a text that comes with the strongest of health warnings. This is the blackest of the black magics. If AE Waite is to be believed, saying its name three times in the mirror… well you get the idea.
It was JSK who showed that this text, and not the better-known Lesser Key of Solomon, was the real hidden gem of the grimoire era. And his writings are not only fascinating, but full of nuggets of insight that I know from my own practice can only have been gleaned from years of personal magical experimentation.
Considerations for the Contemporary Practitioner
As anyone who knows me will say, I’m pretty obsessed with the idea of magical muscle. I’ve even released music under this name. It’s a lyric from a Captain Beefheart song, or at least that’s where I first heard it. One day whilst listening to Glitch Bottle I heard Jake Stratton-Kent talking about doing the work and building some magical muscle. It just seemed to spark something me. He was talking about sticking to a system, committing to a discipline, to a course of action, regardless of the nagging doubts, despite the embarrassment, or the fear of not getting it ‘exactly right’.
– It’s magical muscle that gets you out of bed before dawn to catch the hour of Mercury.
– It’s magical muscle that gets you to keep on reading that lengthy academic book which contains exactly what you needed in the final chapter
– It’s magical muscle that gets you to actually sit down and meditate.
– It’s magical muscle that allows you to go with that daft feeling of realisation that something is talking to you.
JSK championed getting your fingers burnt and it’s something I tell wannabe practitioners all the time. We all start somewhere, and mistakes are life’s best learner. Just try it. Lean in, commit, like a climber, like JSK. Thank you, Jake. Your commitment to magic will inspire us all. It’s how you made the best moves.
For exceptionally well written and beautifully bound occult books covering a variety of topics, please check out Scarlet Imprint and Hadean Press. You’ll find Jake Stratton-Kent’s work among other top tier esoteric authors.
If you found this interesting you may also like Victor Trevor’s article on the purpose of banishing: