Required Reading for an Apprentice

Although I’ve made light of people who have asked for suggested reading for an introduction to the occult, I’ve had the idea to compile a basic library and resource set for anyone interested in the stuff I do.  While your path is probably going to veer from or cross through mine any number of times, there are some resources I wouldn’t be caught dead without for reference, assistance, and general help, especially in the traditions of magic I practice.  Besides, if I one day take on an apprentice, I may as well have a list of books ready for them to have for themselves.  That is, if I don’t already have my own personal collection and reference ready for them, but more information will always be nice.

Books for reference:

  • Agrippa’s Three Books and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy.  This is the mother of all reference books on magic, spirituality, religion, and the occult, and is pretty much the basis of all Western magic today, Hermetic or otherwise.  A lot of stuff is pulled or morphed from his collection of information, which itself is pulled from older sources.
  • Betz’s translation of the Greek Magical Papyri.  It’s helpful to see how magic was done in the source and origin of the Hermetic tradition, as well as to take a hint about how different traditions of magic can be syncretized and folded into each other.
  • Stephen Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables.  Correspondence tables are awesome and help link different aspects of the occult and open worlds together.  Agrippa covers some of this, but these books (I prefer Skinner’s book over Crowley’s 777) are invaluable.
  • Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols.  This is one of the best books on astrological symbolism I’ve found, and despite the modernity of it, Hand is an expert I trust and who I know knows his shit.
  • John Michael Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy.  I think geomancy is extraordinarily useful to the occult, despite its relative disappearance from occulture, and any apprentice of mine is going to learn the technique, art, and skill of geomancy and how to apply it in magic and spirituality.
  • Eileen Connolly’s Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice.  I’m not big into tarot, but I do use it every so often, especially for scrying and meditation.  This is one of the better books I’d recommend for someone as a reference of the cards.
  • Wheelock’s Latin, because face it, a lot of this stuff is still in Latin and a working knowledge of it is going to help.  Greek and Hebrew will as well, but Latin especially so.  A good Latin dictionary helps loads, too.
  • Carl Liungman’s Symbols: Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms.  This is a massive and awesome reference for all kinds of written symbols, ideograms, and other characters that have been used across the Western world from prehistoric times to the modern era.  It’s a good reference for alchemical, planetary, and a variety of other magical signs as well.
  • Melody’s Love is In the Earth: A Kaleidoscope of Crystals.  Even though this is fluffy and light-hearted as hell, it’s also one of the best and most complete references on the different types of crystals, metals, and stones in magical use.
  • Picatrix.  This is the classical grimoire, the archetypal spellbook from old medieval European types and based on Arabic star magic.  The spells and works are still as powerful as ever, and it helps to know where a lot of modern magic is derived or based from.
  • Draja Mickaharic’s Spiritual Cleansing.  Even considering that Draja is one of the most underrated and undermentioned occult authors out there, the dude’s ancient and has the wisdom and experience to match.  His magic works, and this is one of the classic books on spiritual cleansing, protection, and safekeeping.
  • Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle.  A rock-solid knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology cannot be underestimated in its help for understanding and working with the gods and spirits and forces of the world.
  • The Bible (New American Version or similar modern critical edition, King James Version for art and style) and Jack Mile’s God: A Biography and Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God.  As above, but for Judaic and Christian mythos is wonderful for the Western magician.  Plus, this is one of the most well-used, well-known, and well-loved spellbooks of all time.
  • Brian Copenhaver’s version of the Hermetica.  As above, but for Hermetic and Gnostic mythos.
  • Benson Bobrick’s The Fated Sky: Astrology in History for a good overview of the path of astrology in science, mysticism, and human life from ancient times to modern.
  • Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos.  This is the foundational text on Western astrology, written by the man Ptolemy himself.  May as well get the most solid background we have.
  • Richard Garfinkle’s Celestial Matters.  A modern alt-reality fiction showing what the world might be like if it were ruled by Aristotelian geocentric physics, different geopolitical and socioreligious sets of problem than we have, and how one really has to start from scratch to learn new systems of thought.  The depiction of how gods actually interact with mortals in a world where people still work with them is priceless alone; this is a book for any Hermetic or Neoplatonist to read and enjoy.
  • Rex Bills’ The Rulership Book, containing a huge list of what planets and signs in astrology rule over which objects, places, professions, foods, people, and the like.  Uses a lot of modern associations with the outer planets, but still invaluable in figuring out what force goes with what thing.
  • The Clavicula Solomonis, or the Greater Key of Solomon the King.  I like the Mathers’ version due to the pretty and redrawn seals, but the text as a whole is a fantastic resource to prayer, ritual setup, and tool consecration.
  • Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.  Normally I’d stay away from Llewellyn and this author due to his fluff content, but credit where it’s due, he knows his stuff, and this is one of the best manuals on herbs and plants commonly available.  I may not agree with all the associations, but it’s certainly helpful.

Links and resources on the Internet (many of these are on the sidebar to the right, but it’s not like you ever click on them):

I think the above would cover all the bases for me to start teaching someone, with plenty of other supplementary or secondary material, including other grimoires, modern texts on magic, blogs and essays, and various references and stories.  I like to use a lot of reference material from a Renaissance Solomonic or classical Hermetic background, but that’s not to discount the value of other styles, traditions, or sources of magic.  What books, texts, and sources might you suggest, if you were to take on an apprentice?  Do you think there’s anything else I should consider to tack onto the list?

Apprenticeship Interview Questions

I was hanging out with a very well-experienced friend a while back, and we were talking about how damn lazy those young’ns are out there, not willing to put in even five minutes a day into their Work yet expecting everything to happen like it does in the movies.  After hearing similar talk from the Unlikely Mage (especially regarding GCBS mages, who only know how to ground, center, banish, and shield) and other folk, and from having my own brushes with them in my oh-so-limited past, I can totally agree.  I mean, I’m not the most dedicated person ever (even though I try, at least half-assedly), but I spend at least an hour a day in prayer and meditation, and I think that that’s nowhere near enough for adequate progress without being used in conjunction with conjuration and the like.

However, she said something that gave me a shiver.  She mentioned that, from what she knows of me and from a strong hunch she has (which I’m inclined to trust generally) I’m eventually going to have an apprentice or several of my own some day.  Honestly, that freaks me out, y’all.  It won’t be soon, but the fact that someone someday might want to directly learn from me instead of with me, the idea that I’ll eventually have enough experience and knowledge (no such thing) under my belt to impart it with some measure of authority to another, it’s almost like being faced with becoming a father.  And, given my temperament towards children, that is among the worst possible things to happen to me.

Okay, not that bad.

But, like, if I were to take on an apprentice, what would I need to look out for?  I’d want to do a divination reading on the person, of course, as well as consult with my HGA (with whom I’ll have contact by then).  But an interview of some kind is also probably suggested, to figure out what they can do in terms of capability and capacity.

  1. What’s their daily schedule like?  I’d want to see what they do in their day-to-day life and suggest times to practice, things to cut out or emphasize, or rearrangements to their schedule.
  2. What’s their religious and/or occult background?  An understandably important question to get a feel for where they might be coming from, what strengths or biases they may already have, and what preconceptions might help or hinder the process of learning.  This’d also include any supernatural/paranormal experiences they’ve had that they can recall.
  3. Although not a question per se, I’d want to see their living arrangements to get a gauge of what’s going on with the place spiritually, what space can be used for altars or storage or rituals, what interference from housemates or family might happen, etc.
  4. What artistic or creative abilities do they have?  Magic and art have very close affinities with each other; half of this stuff is making it up as you go, and the other half is figuring out new combinations to put old data, techniques, and tools into.  Whether it’s poetry, drawing, sculpture, welding, programming, or some other creative act, having some spark of creation is only a good thing.  Having the experience in woodworking or metalworking is good, too, especially for tool creation.
  5. What educational background do they have?  Magic, though like an art, has a lot of learning to go with it.  What someone studies in college usually points out how someone is likely to learn, whether through numbers or colors or sounds, and also helps provide a set of metaphors and symbols that can help them wrap their minds around complicated concepts.  Plus, if they’ve got degrees in chemistry or something, that’s definitely a pointer for rootworking, spagyrics, or other forms of alchemy.
  6. What big issues are going on in their life?  Drama, fights, inability to hold a job, deaths of loved ones, whatever gets them worked up or angry is important in their life.  This would also include any past experiences with long-reaching repurcussions.  Figuring out ways to fix those problems and move onto bigger ones is important, but they can’t be things that overwhelm the person so much that they can’t focus on magic.
  7. How much time would they be willing to dedicate to the Work each day?  From what I’ve heard, this number will almost always be either 0 or thrice what it actually is.
  8. Any psychological conditions or issues?  I’m not saying that all crazy people are right out (you have to be at least a little crazy to be into this stuff to begin with), but some people aren’t capable due to psychological issues to handle some of this stuff.  Plus, for even the most stalwartly sane people, some areas of the occult make you crazy if you’re not already; how much easier it is for someone who has all the ammo but just needs the slightest of triggers!
  9. Any physical conditions or issues?  This follows from the same vein as the previous question.  Do I want to put people through extreme breathing exercises if they’ve got bad asthma half the time?  Probably not.  Based on this, I could suggest an extra physical regimen like jogging or yoga to help out with the mental and spiritual aspects of the Work.

Are there any other queries, questions, or comments you might pose to a would-be apprentice?  Anything you’d be especially keen on knowing about before taking them under your wing?