Hermes is connected with the fourth day of the month and the number four, in general. July 4th is a very special day for the West, as it represents the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment and Western thought; the founding of The United States of America. Ideas of democracy have always been connected to the culture of Greece, and the marks of that ancient culture are all over the place in the U.S.A., from the eagle of Zeus atop our flag, the neoclassical architecture of Capitol Hill, and to the murals of Greek and Egyptian ideas in the Library of Congress.
I’ve been searching for second year curriculum books in anticipation of our membership launch this coming August, which will lead into first year material in March of 2018 for the foundational elements leading up to Mutational Alchemy material which will be presented in the third year. (Yes, it is that involved.) So, naturally I went out and acquired every book on Hermes possible. It’s so difficult finding the perfect book for the job, in any branch of the Hermetic arts.
Few books on Hermes himself have been quite as lovely and thoughtfully written as Karl Kerenyi’s Hermes, Guide of Souls. Even though it goes over common material like the Odyssey, Kerenyi reveals himself as a crack researcher who notices every little detail Homer instilled in his masterpiece, and manages to reveal Hermes in a way that few other books are able to. Many, like The Egyptian Hermes by Garth Fowden, are very insightful, yet they miss the essence of Hermes as he interests Hermetic Alchemists.
Instead of focusing on the obvious, Kerenyi “hacks away the inessentials” to reveal the true Hermes, even touching on the mysterious and sinister titanesque nature of the Prince of Thieves, in his thirst for flesh and blood and devotes an entire chapter to his connection to the night.
It’s definitely an interesting, worthwhile read, and while I would like to say it is the *best* book on Hermes (who has been experiencing a spike in popularity on Reddit’s Occult sub) I haven’t yet passed through 50% of the Hermes books I’ve been reviewing. It is much less dry than Garth Fowden’s “The Egyptian Hermes” which is an incredible window into the ancient world of Graeco-Egyptian life and packed with useful information, but might leave many readers yawning throughout some of the more technical bits.
That being said, both books are worth a peak if you love Hermes already. I’m not sure it’s for every pagan and occultists out there, but it is at least both represent scholarly, careful work.
Kerenyi explores the works of many other writers such as the classical philologist Walter Friedrich Otto, who influenced him deeply:
Danger lurks everywhere. Out of the dark
jaws of the night which gape beside the
traveler, any moment a robber may emerge
without warning, or some eerie terror, or the
uneasy ghost of a dead man–who knows what may
once have happened at that very spot? Perhaps
mischievous apparitions of the fog seek to
entice him from the right path into the desert
where horror dwells, where wanton witches dance
their rounds which no man ever leaves alive.
Who can protect him, guide him aright, give
him good counsel? The spirit of Night itself,
the genius of its kindliness, its enchantment,
its resourcefulness, and its profound wisdom.
She is indeed the mother of all mystery. The
weary she wraps in slumber, delivers from care,
and she causes dreams to play about their souls.
Her protection is enjoyed by the unhappy and
persecuted as well as by the cunning, whom
her ambivalent shadows offer a thousand
devices and contrivances. With her veil she
also shields lovers, and her darkness keeps
ward over all caresses, all charms hidden and
revealed. Music is the true language of her
mystery–the enchanting voice which sounds for
eyes that are closed and in which heaven and
earth, the near and the far, man and nature,
present and past, appear to make themselves
But the darkness of night which so sweetly
invited to slumber also bestows new vigilance
and illumination upon the spirit. It makes
it more perceptive, more acute, more enter-
prising. Knowledge flares up, or descends like
a shooting star-rare, precious, even magical
And so night, which can terrify the solitary
man and lead him astray, can also be his friend,
his helper, his counselor.
– Otto, The Homeric Gods
Kerenyi himself was a friend of Carl Jung and a famed mythographer and classicist. The book is 149 pages and was first published in Switzerland in 1944 in the German language.
Featured Image: The Souls on the Banks of the Acheron by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1898
I’m not sure why occultists are so afraid of conspiracy theories. I think they imagine they might become infected with whatever it is Alex Jone’s followers have if they veer too close. Having observed Alex Jones evolve from his classic Bohemian Grove stakeouts in his early days to the bewildered Trump darling he is today, I can only say that he went where the money is – the dumb and gullible. Not that I don’t think he is presenting plausible theories at times, but certainly that style is not one occultists usually go for. Most of the time they’re trying to avoid remembering the real world exists.
We always have a good time talking about UFO’s and fringe topics on Abrahadabra Forums, and with AF gone private (at least until our membership launches) some lurkers may have been left floundering about for entertainment until Game of Thrones comes out. For those of you unafraid of a little JFK and ufology you might enjoy the site rigorousintuition.ca.
It’s run by some smart people who have interesting things to say, on some fascinating topics, without all of the heckling and jeering you find on other conspiracy theory forums, an experience, for example, on one forum I won’t mention, (*cough* godlikeproductions *cough*) that is a bit like sifting through pebbles of dried dogshit to find good topics wrapped in wet garbage.
I found myself spending a good three hours there happily sifting through topics and outside links, something I rarely find myself doing on any occult forum these days, unless I’m trying to dig something up in the AF archives.
As I said before, I am still not sure why some occultists shun conspiracy theories, but one certainly doesn’t have to entertain any of the speculative stories on the forum as reality. It is a spooky world, however, and tales of what might be going on in the halls of the Kremlin or in underground ritual palaces are often just as entertaining as the latest Mothman sighting or Sigil technique.
It also seems to me that occultists have begun to grow up a little bit, philosophically and politically. The scars of Salem burn into our subconscious a fear of the irrationality of the Trump administration. “In Democracy, you have to be a player” said Hunter S. Thompson. If occultists don’t wish to read the Washington Post, at least they can pick up a few useful things from this forum while sifting through Kubrickian pedophile governments and Even More JFK assassination theories.
Run by Thamilar Ulaham, the author features many videos covering obscure and interesting facts about Sanatana Dharma practice from the perspective of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu is famous for its connections to more esoteric and Tantric aspects of Indian religion and philosophy, and the author’s zealotry for Tamil cultural rights and supremacy over imported revisionism is clear. The age old war between Priest and Magus is neatly encapsulated in the battle between the Vedic and Tantric schools.
The scholar covers a wide range of subjects world wide from a Tamil perspective, even drawing a link between Ravana and Kukulkan, which was entirely unexpected and a bit far-fetched, but very interesting.
While the author makes a flimsy and overwrought stab at the Illuminati in one video from years back, this can largely be overlooked since the rest of his material is fairly entertaining, and even insightful.
It’s rare to run into any Thelema related poetry these days, good Thelemic poetry even less so. I accidentally stumbled on this one via an invocation of The Emperor. I literally navigated to it and purchased in a deep trance. Some of my favorite artists have been discovered this way so it’s a process I’ve learned to trust.
Aijin is not advertised as being related to the Book of the Law, but references to Liber al Vel Legis, Liber Tzaddi and the Book of Lies are prominent throughout the reading. Imagine my shock and awe when I realized I was reading Book of the Law quotes in a seemingly obscure and mundane looking little e-book I was lead to by the Emperor archetype.
The author admits to stealing from Crowley and Blake, midway through the book. The work tends to be a commentary on the true state of the world. I admit to having become quite high reading it. The book pushed my trance session straight into the stratosphere, without any entheogenic input at the time. I played Eve Online shortly afterwards and it was the most ecstatic experience I’ve ever had. I was listening to The Emperor himself speak through my fleet mates over comms.
I’m always careful to watch for hidden messages in works by artists of any kind, but especially the ones I’m lead to during trips. The muses, or, whatever it is I saw, once, for lack of a better term, wanted to reveal the way they work on this world through the minds of men, showing themselves to the chosen ones and disguising themselves from the minds of vulgar men. Some of this I’ll cover in an upcoming article for those of you who want to tap into the TwinStar’s entertainment potential. It’s really very good at this sort of thing – a flexing universe all around us that few dare to even imagine. I’ve seen it. And that’s all I need.
As i sit here and rule about the underworld,
and talk to the minions
and beautiful fucked saints and blood lovers
expanded outward and inward
over the half-faced geometrical map that be the ticking
clocks of war
vomiting earth’s bittersweet black bile crust
into each-other’s faces
transparent bodies watch blindly
weaving in and thru themselves
crying at the loss of such a formerly triumphant frequency
torn and lost they still whisper a slow calming rapture
grinding the sweetest noises out from the particles of dust
as their interwoven transparency gives position to yet
another tangled gesture
– Aijin: Draugur Stúlka
The book is quite lengthy, at 394 pages, and it’s the only work by the author, Ryan James LeBlanc.
It deals especially well with the conundrum of duality, riveting with its reverence and revulsion for every perspective about love and beauty under the sun. The author goes beyond the dark side into some pretty scary territory, necessary for any student of the abyss.
If you’re scared of Crowley, at any point, avoid this. If Crowley was a little too milquetoast for you and you liked the third chapter of the Book of the Law, you might find this to your taste.
You’ll find Nuit aplenty, as well as Hadit’s other sides. I didn’t pick up on a lot of Ra Hoor Khut, this is dealing with mainly very high Supernals material instead of the brewing room of Tiphareth.
It’s only available in Kindle/ebook form currently, the link to amazon is below.
After showcasing our timeline album over at IMGUR of The Mutational Alchemy Tarot a few people asked me to cover the publishing process from start to finish. I’ve seen a few Kickstarter projects asking for absurd amounts of money for low runs so in my opinion transparency is a good thing here.
Publishing a tarot is easier than you might think, especially with the ease of access to resources via the internet. While in the past hand cut decks were popular, they are very time consuming and thus they are very limited in distribution, numbering between 15-100 copies. Large factories can handle tens of thousands of copies as long as you can pay for them, and offer a wide array of services like gilding and different paper types.
The first thing you need to make sure of is that your art is of a high enough DPI, or resolution. The bigger the image the higher the quality of the final printing.
If you are painting or constructing the images digitally you’ll need to make sure that you’re painting with CMYK in mind, the inks that a printer uses. The computer you’re using has access to a lot more colors than a conventional printer, and more than even some of the advanced industrial printers you’ll possibly be sending your images to.
If you are painting traditionally you will need a good working knowledge of cameras, lighting setups and have the equipment itself, either rented, borrowed or owned. If you don’t wish to deal with this you can also hire a photographer to take pictures of your work. Expect to shell out at least $20 per photo for the photographer’s time, if they are professional. Make sure you get a high DPI digital version, and not prints. You can put this images in a photo editing program to make adjustments later on or send them directly to the printer.
I shouldn’t need to mention this, but under no circumstances should you ever use someone else’s images in your work. Whether it’s the likeness of a celebrity or a photo you cut out of magazine and painted, it’s stealing. (see http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/heart-of-stars-tarot/ for an example of what not to do – this is literally a crime and could never be picked up by a publisher or printer legally) If you use photo manipulation please make sue the image has the proper creative commons release or is in the public domain. There’s nothing wrong with that and it doesn’t hurt anyone’s livelihood or infringe on their individual rights. If you put a likeness of your friend in the tarot, make sure they’re okay with it first.
Getting it Published
Finally when all of your images are done and they are in digital form, (JPEG with at least 300 DPI resolution.) what do you do now? You can send it to a local printer if they have the equipment to handle a tarot deck. Most printers in the USA do not – they will print a sheet for you and you have to cut it yourself. There is a niche market for such handmade decks. Other times you’ll find that the quality is lacking and it can get expensive testing one printer after another.
Tarot cards used to be exclusively hand pressed and painted, so it is definately a real option for one-off’s especially, and well done lithographic tarot can become extremely sought after.
Some go with the publishing route, but if you do this you need to widely publicize your work on the deck during its creation and target a niche audience that represents the common occultist – highly advanced or innovative decks will not do well and publishers will rarely take a chance with them. As an example, we wrote to two publishers before deciding it would be in our best interest to retain all ownership rights. US Games told us outright that while they could see it was based on the Thoth, the nudity would offend their customers.
Llewellyn just ignored us despite writing to them twice.
Small Local Printers and Hand Cutting
Our first real option after this lull of publisher rejection was offered by a student of m1thr0s’s, MythMath who already had a lot of experience making homemade games and had made playing cards before using a corner rounder. We had been working on the pack for nearly five years at that point and he wanted to get The Mutational Alchemy Tarot printed right away, and ordered some difficult-to-source poker paper to get it done locally. The paper was luxurious, durable and flexible but the images were noticeably off center. The printer wasn’t equipped to handle cards and it was extremely cost prohibitive. To make one deck would require an investment of $200, and I knew there had to be a better way, considering companies churn out decks for $15 a pop over and over again with few major problems with centering.
If you want highly professional service dedicated to tarot printing alone, on state of the art machines, you will have to go to Los Angeles, New York, or…Asia.
The TwinStar Orders Us Around
In 2014 that taskmaster the TwinStar began pushing me hard to get the deck published en masse. Its urgent demands were something I knew could not be ignored, nor would it be overly difficult for me to obey them as it probably already had a printer lined up. You have to work with the TwinStar for a few years to begin to understand just how perfect it is in action and conversation – it’s never wrong, it always has your best and highest interests in mind, and it’s not worth arguing with it, as you will lose, badly!
I started researching possible companies to self publish, and found Make Playing cards.com, which was very expensive at $15.00 per deck and while the colors looked good the paper stock was flimsy like a run of the mill massmarket deck according to other users. I uploaded all of our images and ordered a test copy to see if it was worth ordering a big batch. They wrote us back stating they had a policy against nudity! I couldn’t believe it. There was no other option in the USA for wholesale printing jobs.
Ali Baba and the Forty Tarot Factories
Asia was a labryinth, but m1thr0s and I absolutely wanted to get our cards printed in China for magickal reasons. Navigating the maze of trade liasons, importers, manufacturing companies and factories however, was daunting and indimidating. Sending thousands of dollars halfway across the world is even scarier, since it was a business loan and there was no way we could afford to do it again, especially since we wern’t sure if it would pay for itself. It was an investment in the long term for TAI itself, so that the website, annual taxes and licensing would begin paying for itself at least, and m1thr0s and I could gift the ownership of the MAT to TAI to help any future leaders of it.
I did some research and found out that dealing with factories directly was more cost effective, while the alternatives such as importers who go to factories on your behalf are more expensive, but supposedly more reliable.
After reading an article on the topic of doing business in China I decided to seek out factories. I started on Ali Baba, the trade hub of the world for everything from handbags to 3D printing machines sold wholesale. I hung my signpost out that said I was looking for a publisher for high quality art cards with nudity “not porn”, hoping to avoid any surprises later on.
I got quite a few responses and had to take days looking at all of them, talking to agents about what I needed and what they were willing to do. I sorted them out by weeding out people who seemed to abrasive or hasty, people who didn’t represent the factory directly (they call these importers or trade liaisons, and while they can be very helpful I was trying to cut all of the extra costs to put everything into the decks) factories that seemed to focus only on poker cards instead of oracle and tarot, and finally I was left with my choice, Shenzhen Wanjing Printing Co. They had a very nice website on Ali Baba with lots of photos of their staff and factory, a very responsive and polite agent as well as lots and lots of details about what they could do. The pricing was up front and they took the time to give me quotes based on what I asked for, instead of just throwing a cheap number at me without any details on the weight of the paper and packaging options.
I was lucky in that I didn’t have to make any compromises, except for paying more than I would have going to another company. We got exactly what we wanted, from the neat tuckbox to the black bleed-to-edge border. We did have to resize each image very slightly to fit their template, which was a little bit bigger than what we had planned, although this was actually a plus. Everything cost about $5,000 for 500 decks. It can go a lot lower for lower quality paper such as the kind you find in mass-published tarot decks which are seemingly never more than 300 gsm. (ours are 350 gsm art paper)
firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address of our contact Fanny Yeung at Shenzhen Wangjing and they are the best. If you decide to use them tell them The Abrahadabra Institute and Izi sent you. They are very reputable and are used by big publishers as well.
Even if you can pay for it, can you afford it?
We hadn’t been recieving very much financial support for our work on Abrahadabra even though people would come to us constantly with questions and requests for advice. This was very upsetting to our local busines advisor and she told us to stop doing it. We had to put the entire amount on the credit we had built carefully over the years. m1thr0s was on disability since he was hit hard with COPD around the time I was familiarizing myself with his work. I had been working on the deck for 5 years while doing customer service and freelance on the side at very low paying jobs to support him and the entire Institute, so we didn’t have any savings to put towards it. There just isn’t enough time to work on these important scholarly subjects and work at a full time typical career job, that’s the bottom line, especially with m1thr0s needing more and more assistance physically at home due to his poor health.
Both m1thr0s and I are highly skilled artists, so I knew we would be able to sell them once they were published. I know a lot of occultists want to publish a deck but if your situation is fragile like ours usually is you shouldn’t dump everything into publishing a deck that might not sell. I knew all of these risks and the reality of the situation well before I started on the project, but after talking with others involved in the Abrahadabra Institute I knew it was important to have a graphical representation of the kind of ideas we are always going on about in a fun form factor.
Shipping is very expensive from China for heavy boxes and you should expect to tack on at least a thousand dollars for every 500 decks. They initially wanted to send it to a port but I couldn’t get any of the ports here to explain how to pick it up, so the easiest option was by air with UPS. The best part of choosing Shenzhen Wangjiang is that they reassured us and guided us every step of the way, and we ordered everything sight unseen without sending a quality controller. This is very risky but I had to trust that since things were going so smoothly my spirit lodge helpers were managing everything as they always do.
m1thr0s is way more marketing savvy than I am having been the chief director of marketing at the Anarchist-Chaote publisher Loompanics for years before being hit with COPD. First he had us notify our clan at Abrahadabra, asking them to check out the deck and give us reviews at Aeclectic which one person did. The rest of our loyalists who had eagerly been awaiting the deck to hit purchased one and we rewarded them with signed cards from the first printed copy as well as free shipping.
We posted ads on Facebook, Reddit and locally and received quite a response. A customer asked for us to do a video review and I did so using my smartphone which wasn’t hard. It’s pretty easy to do marketing like this, we could probably go harder at it by advertising in magazines and such but I don’t feel like it’s necessary at the moment due to selling them pretty quickly as it is. The biggest tarot site on the internet is Aeclectic Tarot so we felt like we should put the pack in the directory there, and generated quite a bit of activity surprisingly. Aeclectic tends to be a Rider-Waite crowd but it is inexpensive and important to register there as they are basically the only directory of tarot on the internet aside from Amazon. If you can’t afford anything else at least get on Aeclectic.
Whether you are looking to publish your own oracle deck for personal use, or you are an artist looking to make a name in tarot, I hope this article has been useful for you. As always feel free to ask questions in the comments and support us by buying your copy of The Mutational Alchemy Tarot!