Review of The History of British Magick After Crowley by Dave Evans

The History of British Magick After Crowley by Dave Evans.
Hidden Publishing 2007 ISBN 9780955523700.

This erudite analysis of the night-side of magickal practice in this country since 1947, when Aleister Crowley died, is a re-working of Dave Evans’ History PhD thesis, a piece which was originally supervised by prof. Ronald Hutton at Bristol University. I came across the book at the London Occulture Festival earlier this year (2009), where the author was giving a talk on twentieth century magical fraudsters / tricksters. As if this pedigree were not enough, Dave Evans co-edits The Journal for The Academic Study of Magic (published by Mogg Morgan’s seminal Mandrake Press) which prints intelligent articles by thinking authors on occult themes within an academic paradigm.

The History of British Magick After Crowley is intended for a non-academic readership and in many ways it is an excellent rendition and examination of the milieu and period, set in tight precise language and at a fair trot. The subject matter is exemplified in the book’s subtitle –“Kenneth Grant, Amado Crowley, Chaos Magic, Satanism, Lovecraft, The Left-Hand Path, Blasphemy & Magical Morality”, which are all of course always utterly fascinating. Dave Evans’ material is more occult than pagan, black rather than white, left not right-hand-path & although it’s not everybody’s cuppa tea it is none the worse for its dark slant. It is an informative & compelling read, added to which it is often very funny. A personal episode which Evans relates as a brush with Chthulu Mythos entities hilariously concludes “when I returned from a brief shopping trip the squid had gone”, as it so often does!

On the down side, the text sometimes comes across as overly formal, and it retains many distracting academic conventions (such as re-iterating contents, concepts and methodologies at the beginning of sections). These stodginesses sometimes interrupt and wrong-foot the flow of the narrative. Thou wilt that the PhD text had been edited much harsher, pruning out the academic dead-wood, setting Evans’ lively prose free into the more spacey non-academic presentation it deserves.

On the upside, the academic legacy ensures that the book is scrupulously researched & infallibly honest, it is equipped as standard with an excellent fully-functioning index, academic-quality bibliography and an ample windfall of delightful footnotes on almost every page. All of which will ensure the longevity of this book, as a useful and valid reference work, not to mention as an amusing & unusual guided tour among the cultural ancestors of this particular magical current.

Jean Dark
June 2009

First printed in Pentacle Magazine issue 32

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