Monday, February 2, 2009
Necronomicon 31st Anniversary Edition Review
The following review will appear in the Spring Issue of Behutet. Readers of this Blog get to see it first.
Necronomicon 31st Anniversary Edition Review
In 2003 I made it a project to track down Simon, the famous Priest/Occultist behind the Necronomicon, and score an interview for Behutet Magazine. Finding him in Malaysia, he agreed to grant an interview, the first the occult world had heard from him in almost 20 years. Little did I know that just three years later he would again explode onto book shelves with “Dead Names, The Dark History of the Necronomicon”, soon to be followed by “The Gates of the Necronomicon”. Together with “The Necronomicon Spellbook” and of course “The Necronomicon” itself, Avon press now provides a detailed and workable system of magick complete with history and commentary. The only problem was that all the books are mass-market paperbacks.
It sounds silly but this has been one of the biggest criticisms of the Necronomicon ever since Avon took it over; that the “the most feared, reviled, and desired occult book” on the planet was a cheap paperback just seemed to cause cognitive dissonance in many people. Other than the few of us lucky enough to possess one of the first editions or second editions, both impressive leather bound volumes, people were forced to work from small cheap editions. Critics have used this as fodder against the magick in the book itself, as if the price actually affected the magick. Fans of the tome have gone so far as to have their mass market copy re-bound as a hard cover, or written the whole thing out by hand in a blank hardcover book. It just seemed to critics and fans alike that the infamous Necronomicon of legend should look the part.
Well ladies and gentlemen, problem solved!
Ibis Press, who has been putting out some amazing texts lately, has worked with Simon and the designer of the original 1977 edition to once again offer a respectable medium for the dreaded black tome. And none too soon! My old leather bound 2nd edition is falling apart from use!
As with the first edition, there are two options for purchase. The first is a deluxe leatherbound edition,with three-sided silver-gilding, ribbon marker, deluxe endpapers & special binding boards. Each of the 220 copies of this edition is signed by Simon and sells for $275. Expensive, but no where near what you would pay for even a beat up first or second edition hard cover.
The less expensive option is a quality hardcover, printed on acid-free paper and bound in high quality cloth, with a ribbon marker. It sells for $125. It is this edition that Weiser sent me a copy of for review.
Even at the lower price point, this is a quality tome. The black cloth looks like it will hold up well over time the silver lettering, boundary, and famous sigil shimmer brightly against the black. For as nice as the cover is, especially for those getting by with the Avon paperback, the place where this new edition really shines is the paper. The Gates and Seals look even better on this pure white slick stock than they did on the original leatherbound editions. Having walked the gates myself, I can tell you that just looking at the Nergal Gate on this bright white background was enough to draw me psychically in to the mars-space that that gate links to.
Other than a short two page preface to the new edition where Simon muses on the Gematria of 555, and reminisces about some of the lives that have been touched by the Necronomicon, the text is exactly the same as it was in older editions.
Though only released a few months ago, it has already made quite splash with a whopping 218 reviews on Amazon as of this writing. Most of these reviews are focused on the pedigree of the text either dismissing it as a bad fraud and hoax, or defending it as a good fraud and hoax whose magick is still valid. A very few defend it as THE Necronomicon – the ancient text of the Mad Arab who Lovecraft borrowed for his stories.
Let me end this review with a few of my own thoughts on this subject.
I have written back and forth with Simon privately and he has never wavered from the history that he relates in Dead Names. That’s his story and he is sticking to it. Without a manuscript however, it is a hard story for people to swallow, and I think he knows and accepts that as well. This however is all beside the point.
Whether ancient or modern, the magick works as well as any other magick. It is based on Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian religion, and much of it correlates nicely with the Ennuma Elish, Hymn to Gilgamesh and other source materials. If it is modern, which I am inclined to believe until a manuscript surfaces, than it is not much of a different case than the Key of Solomon which was in its time a “modern” magickal take on ancient tradition attributed to a famous figure that did not actually write it.
Unlike the keys of Solomon however, the Necronomicon is not Christian, and thus makes it perfect for Pagans, Thelemites, and others that do not jive with Jesus to use. Those like me, who have set aside academic critique and actually walked the gates and called the names can attest that the magick in the book taps into the oldest mythos that we have record of, and channels it effectively into the modern world.
Harry Smith famously commented on the Necronomicon that it is “the type of thing that you would love if you loved that kind of thing”. It definitely is. Is the book real? Don’t be daft! Of course it’s real; you can buy it right now and hold it in your hands. In fact I recommend you do just that.