Fiction for Sorcerers

(My local spirits postings will continue after this post)

Normally I’d be posting a book review here according to my schedule (did you even notice I have a schedule of when I post what?) but I decided this week to finally get around to doing the book meme. When I started this blog the “What 5 Books do you recommend as an occultist” posts were popular, but I never made one, it’s come and gone a few times, and I never bothered with it. What I always wants to talk about, and I will now is such a list with a twist.

What 5 fiction books do you recommend as a sorcerer?

This is pretty straight forward, we’re talking fiction here, not magick books, not mythology, not reference titles, but stories, novels, fantasy and fiction. What makes them required reading for a sorcerer?

Also, after my list, I’d love to hear your own, or if you agree/disagree with any of mine. Really I’m curious about other lists, cause I know a lot of awesome sorcerers read this blog (oh, and you read it too 😉 ) and I want to see what you’d recommend, if only to add to my never ending to-read list.

1. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

To those who know me this shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve blogged about it before, specifically the scene with Grograman, my blog’s subheading “Going the way of your wishes” is taken from the novel, I’ve tweaked a tarot spread to more closely fit the book, and I read it once a year. Every year I reread The Neverending Story, while I might reread favourite books every few years, this is the only one I reread with such enthusiasm. Also, I tell people that it is one of the books they must read if they expect to be in a relationship with me. You want to understand me, read the book. (Books 2 and 4 are also on that list, but this list is about what I recommend for sorcerers, not for potential lovers, though it shouldn’t be surprising there is overlap)

Why The Neverending Story? I think if you’ve ever read the book (after becoming a sorcerer), you don’t need to ask. Also, let me make this perfectly clear…READ THE BOOK. The movie is a horrible adaptation and removes everything that makes the book relevant to sorcerers.

The Neverending Story is the novelization of The Great Work. I honestly think the book serves as an illustration of what the true sorcerer goes through. Atreyu goes through the dark night of the soul, confronts Chronzon at the Abyss, only to cross and encounter his Holy Guardian Luck Dragon. That’s just in the first section, the movie cuts out the entire second half of a novel, which is more important to us. Bastian learns the price of power, that wishes have consequences, he learns to create and destroy, and loses himself in the process becoming No One. Only when he has lost his identity is he able to find his true desire, his purpose, his Will, and reclaim his identity and place in the world.

This is really simplified, and there is so much more, every section has some hidden gem in it for the sorcerous folk to glean from it. I have pages, literally, of quotes from the book in the word file I type this blog in, because one day I want to write a full explanation of the magickal themes, but don’t expect it soon as it’s been on my to-do list for years.

2. wraeththuThe Wraeththu series by Storm Constantine.

While I suggest the entire series, I recommend people at least read the first three books (which are now published as one book, as the novels were slightly short individually, and it is this first trilogy I linked to above).

Brief synopsis: Wraeththu are a new species of humanity: stronger, intersexed, and more psychically/magickally aware. The novels follow their growth from random mutations, hunted as freaks, to finding their place in the world and understanding who/what they are.

Now, I admit, this suggestion might be a bit of a cheat, as Storm is an occultist, and has published a few books on magick. When you read Wraeththu there is a sense of realism behind it, even though the magick is over the top fantasy in most cases, there is something that is resonant with real magick. It’s as if the books show how fantasy novel magick would work, if it followed our rules in our world. When the characters do magick, sense things, talk about energy, as an occultist you can’t help think that it’s on the right track. When a character does magick, you almost feel like you could follow their steps.

The over-arching mythology of the books, explained in more detail outside of the original trilogy, is also something that is familiar. It has shades of the Bene h’Elohim of Enoch, of Faerie, and the otherworlds.

In fact, there is such a sense of resonance with the magick in the Wraeththu novels that people began working with the deities from the novels, and the techniques within. Eventually this developed into The Grimoire Dehara, the first of three planned books* that are real magickal texts using the language and mythology of Wraeththu.

*Admittedly I’m not sure if the last two books will come to fruition, as they’ve been put off repeatedly. But if you work diligently with the system, as I have, the spirits themselves will take you beyond what is published.

A bonus beyond just the magick and mythology, because the Wraeththu species are intersexed, neither male nor female but both and beyond them, the magick system isn’t as divided along a gender binary. As a genderqueer person that was part of the appeal of the system, there wasn’t anything about males do this, females do this, only X can deal with Gods while Y can deal with Goddesses. You’re something that is both and neither within that system.

3. vellumVellum, and inkInk by Hal Duncan.

Vellum and Ink are two novels. The storyline of Vellum and Ink is really really difficult to explain, even having just finished rereading Vellum a week or so ago and currently half way through Ink, I can’t give a clear synopsis. Basically it is a tale about the War in Heaven, but the “Angels” and “Demons” aren’t warring in some astral realm, but here on Earth, in mostly human bodies. It isn’t that straight forward though. The story is being told in multiple timelines and realities all at once. So the same character/soul/archetype may appear as a tribal priestess, tomboy daughter of hippies, cyber-hacker in the near future, a British girl during WWI, a princess in a post-apocalyptic hellscape, and a Sumerian Goddess. The story shifts back and forth between all of these perspectives (and a lot more) all following the same thread of action, but being played out in a variety of ways. Be warned, it is not an easy read, but so very worth it.

Much like Wraeththu there is a resonance, a reality to it. Not in so much what happens or how it is done, but how it is presented. Vellum and Ink take place in a multifaceted reality, where the same person is expressed in every potential variation, sinner, martyr, saint, human, god, satyr, but always the same person. There is something to this, that my explanation can’t touch on, and can only be read…in the same way as what it describes is only something that can be understood by the sorcerers who have pushed Beyond. The idea of our reality being a scratch on an infinitely large page, that what we experience is one simplistic model of an infinitely complex reality that rests below it, these are the elements in Vellum and Ink that really appeal to the sorcerer. It presents a multifaceted reality where more than one truth can exist, where paradoxes are part of nature, and time, space, and reality are interwoven and more complex than we can imagine. This is something I think a lot of magickal folk can read in the series and nod their head at. Even the most scientific and rational occultists can’t deny the paradoxes of reality and multiple realities/truths, and Duncan really hits on that idea and runs with it.

Another aspect, and perhaps this is more based on my experiences, but an important part of the series is the Cant, the language of the Angels. The universal language of power than underlies all things. The speech that does not describe reality, but circumscribes it, shapes it. The way Hal Duncan describes the language, and the written of it, just really hits me as something right. The descriptions of the letters being eerily close to the xenoglossic magickal tongue used by myself and several people I know.

4. siaslStranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.

Mama, don’t let your baby grow up to read Heinlein, and this book is one of the reasons why.

Basically the story is that there was a lone survivor of an expedition to Mars, a child who was born there. Everyone died, and he was raised to near adulthood by the Martians. Mentally he is not human, but Martian, and eventually comes to live on Earth and learn how to be human.

The thing that makes this a book for sorcerers, is the philosophy behind it. The Martian named Smith sees the world in a totally different way than the humans around him, and struggles to grok it. And yes, this is where the word grok originates from. He has totally different morals, and a different understanding of life, death, and religion. It’s refreshing to see an outsider look at our culture. This is why it is important, as sorcerers we should be critical of what everyone just accepts. We should challenge the reality we see, and experience, question it, test it. Don’t just assume it is right because it has always been shown as right to us. Sorcerers should push every boundary in their life, question everything, and seeing Michael Smith do that to our culture is a great example and reminder. Eventually the book gets into some spiritual stuff too, and becomes more interesting there. Also, I find the idea of grokking something being part of controlling it an important lesson for a sorcerer.

If you’re familiar with the neopagan group “The Church of All Worlds” that name, and basic ideology was taken right from this book by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

5. 51w-Wyp-wgL._SL250_[1]American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I feel this one is a bit cliché to add to the list, but necessary.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the book, essentially it tells the story of a man trapped between a war of the gods. The war is between the “old” gods, the gods of Egypt, Babylon, Greece, India, the Nordic lands, and so one, versus the new gods of our culture, Internet, Data-based finances, Electrical systems, roads, and so one.

It has a bit of post-modern chaos flair to it, the idea that new gods are developing, that gods are sustained by belief and energy and attention, and shape our world as much as they are shaped by it. There isn’t much in the book I’d say is a must-learn for a sorcerer, but it’s more the cosmology and world it weaves that I find compelling for a sorcerer.

So what about you? What five fiction books would you recommend that sorcerers read?


10 Responses to Fiction for Sorcerers

  1. Sara M says:

    1) The Earthsea Trilogy, by Ursula K. LeGuin. I learned a different kind of amazing magic from each one. I genuinely believe Ursula LeGuin to be a Daoist immortal.

    2) Promethea, by Alan Moore. Possibly cheating, since this is written by a magician, and explicitly intended to be a primer on ceremonial magic.

    3) One Thousand Nights and One. I’m particularly fond of the Lane translation, which contains copious (kind of imperialist/orientalist) footnotes, including pages and pages about djinn.

  2. catvincent says:

    Grant Morrison: The Invisibles (combined with Promethea mentioned above, a full magic manual in comic form. Also, huge synchronicity trigger).

    Kate Griffin: The Matthew Swift/Sharon Li sequence (start with A Madness of Angels: the finest London-set urban fantasy I’ve ever read, to the point I’ve taken working techniques from it.)

    Robert Anton Wilson: The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles (of all RAW’s fiction, the one which is most explicit as to mind-changing techniques. Sadly unfinished.)

    INK: a film by Jamin Winans (low-budget, flavour of ‘If Gaiman Did The Matrix’: has a short sequence which is a perfect illustration of how small magical effects can have a huge domino effect.)

  3. rosej says:

    I love your list, except for the Heinlein. Yes it was very influential on my ideas about magical practice when I was a teenager, but the horrendous sexism in that book (and Time Enough For Love…omg…) really does not stand the test of time.

    • Kalagni says:

      Alas that part I can’t argue. Every time I read it and Jill says her rape speech it just hurts. Not to mention as many times as I’ve read I still can’t remember the name of the three secretaries cause they’re all so flat in character. It’s one of those problematic things, and in person when I get people to read it, I remind them when it was written, and that it was in some ways oddly progressive, but just to try not to let those issues get in the way, but it’s hard.

  4. Frater IAE says:

    I’m actually interested to read the Wraeththu books now! The only place I’d heard about it before was the (apparently horrible) tabletop RPG, but now I have an inkling to take a look at the source material.

    As for fiction I’d recommend, Pär Lagerkvist’s The Sibyl is pretty good, although its philosophical speculation and symbolism tends to apply more to exoteric religion than esoteric spiritual practices.

    (Though not fictional, Michael Crichton’s Travels is an interesting look at paranormal experiences from a skeptic’s perspective; it’s a shame he never got a chance to incorporate his perspectives – particularly his argument for acceptance of the possibility of the paranormal – into a fictional framework.)

    • Kalagni says:

      I don’t actually know anyone who liked the Wraeththu game, though I’ve never played it. The only reason I’d get it is because it has more background material on the tribes and species, which I’d like to know.

      I’ll add that to my list. Thanks.

  5. Ivy says:

    Found my way here from Strategic Sorcery. I’m surprised that no one’s mention Paulo Coelho’s work, particularly The Alchemist.

    • Kalagni says:

      In the discussion with Jason’s students it came up. I haven’t read any of it yet, though my lama recommends it to me frequently.

  6. Psyche says:

    I no longer know what my five books would be, except that Demian, by Hermann Hesse would definitely be on the list. I’m also not a fan of Heinlein, and The Neverending Story was a better film than book for me, but I guess it’s your Alice in Wonderland.

    • Kalagni says:

      I enjoy Heinlein, with the horrible caveat of “If you just overlook the underlying racism/sexism/homophobia, it’s pretty good.”

      But the movie guts everything, it takes out more than half of the story, and more or less makes Atreyu’s quest this meaningless trip. When I tried rewatching it a few years ago, I actually got really annoyed with it, it felt so simplistic and dumbed down.

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