As with many of Llewellyn's authors, I frequently travel to give workshops and lectures. Over the past few years I have been to New York and California, Florida and Washington State, and to many places between. I've given workshops in Hawaii and Switzerland. As I write this I have most recently given workshops in Connecticut and northern California.
One of the most common questions I receive when I'm on the road concerns what books I recommend for people to have in their personal collections. There are actually many books I recommend, ranging from books of English literature to theology and philosophy. In my opinion, a broad education is valuable to all magicians. But the truth is, many people aren't looking for that answer, they want to know which magickal books they should have. Here, then, is a selection of books I recommend as well as why I think they're important. I don't think these are the only books for a personal magickal library, but they are a good start.
One of the most important concepts of magick to understand is the flow of magickal energy and how to use it. In virtually all magickal systems, it is understood that this energy is of two types: male and female, yin and yang, magnetic and electric, etc. The interplay of these two types of energy is one of the things that powers magick, and understanding how to bring them into balance and direct them is vital. A book that describes the historical and practical aspects of working with these energies is Polarity Magic. It includes numerous rituals and examples of working with this polarity, too.
Another book to include here is Color Magic for Beginners. It's a delightful introduction to the concept of correspondences, an important part of ceremonial magick practice. When you understand how different colors correspond to different gems, chakras, flowers, numerology, etc., you'll have a good start at understanding magick. By the same token, it is also important to understand the use of symbols. Magical Symbols of Love & Romance gives information on historical and modern symbology. I like both of these books because they cover both theoretical and practical use of these concepts.
I also think it is important to understand the history of magickal practice. Unfortunately, there are many books that describe magickal history but are not very practical. For those of you who are interested in a practical look at the ancient magick of northern Europe, I suggest Northern Magick. If you want to learn about our African magickal heritage, The Way of the Elders is a great (and at times, rather shocking) resource. The Lost Books of Merlyn shares ancient Druidic wisdom and magickal techniques from the British Isles. All three books have information you can use.
Once you understand a bit of the background, there are a few magickal books that I highly recommend. There are many strictly beginning books, but I'm going to focus on books that go beyond the ABCs and cover the entire alphabet of magick.
The first, of course, is my own Modern Magick. It is literally a step-by-step training manual of ceremonial magick, covering most topics you need to know. Everything from astral projection and meditation to evocation and sex magick is covered. Other topics include instruction in the Kabalah, the Tarot, magickal tools, visualization, talismans, banishings, and much more.
A great complement to this would be True Magick. It covers some of the same topics, but from a different point of view. It also adds information on topics such as forming or joining a magickal group, how to plan rituals, etc. It started out as a wonderful small book. Now it has been greatly expanded and revised, making it better than ever.
One of the common questions I get asked is, "Where are the advanced books on magick?" People are disappointed when I tell them that there aren't any. Well, that's not exactly true. Books such as Modern Magick and True Magick cover a wide variety of topics that are important to know. In fact, once you know them (and can use them) you are really capable of doing magick for just about any purpose. But there are many books that go into detail on specific subjects. They are not any more advanced than the books already mentioned, but they go into greater detail on more specific subjects. I think an individual should study any of these that they find of interest after they have reached a beginning or preferably intermediate level of study and practice.
One of the important aspects of magick is the use of visualization, often to a far greater degree than you find in books on the subject. One book that goes into extreme detail on the subject is Magical Use of Thought Forms. It gives intense training in how to build correct astral images.
A similar book is Familiar Spirits. It reveals a modern form of working with visualization to create spirits that can be in your service to achieve your goals. The technique is very powerful and is a version of techniques used by some very powerful contemporary magicians.
One of the things I like to tell people is that once you've really learned magick, you don't need robes, wands, candles, incense, tools, etc. So why do I use them? Because I like them! They add to what I do and what I feel. But I don't want to become addicted to them or feel powerless without them. That's why I like the following two books. The first is Portable Magic. It shows you how you can use a simple Tarot deck for your altar, tools, and more. This is ideal for traveling, as it is easy to carry a deck in a bag or purse.
The second is Instant Magick. It shows how once you have learned magick you can do it anywhere without any altars, tools, or other paraphernalia. All you need is the power of your own mind.
An important aspect of magick is the discovery of the importance of the astral plane. It is simply this: whatever is created on the astral plane must eventually manifest on the physical plane. Therefore, learning to work with the astral plane, and even consciously visit it, can be of tremendous value. In Dancing with Dragons you'll learn about some entities you may encounter on the astral plane and how to work with them.
Spellcaster is focused on how to increase the power of all your magickal practices. Seven occultists wrote it so you'll get different approaches and find a wide variety of concepts and techniques you can use.
There are many paradigms—worldviews or patterns—that explain how magick works. Some of the most famous are the Thelemic and Golden Dawn paradigms. But there are two others I'd like to mention. The first is that of the Ogdoadic tradition as represented by the magickal order known as the Aurum Solis. This is a powerful system of magick, and you'll find it fully explained, including all of the tools, rituals, techniques and training in Mysteria Magica. This book was out of print for a long time, and if you could even find a copy it would cost you hundreds of dollars. It's now available again and a valuable asset to any magician's library.
The second presents a system that is based on the past but looks toward the future. In the past, people have looked at magick from a spiritualist paradigm or a psychological paradigm. In Postmodern Magic, you'll see what may be the first modern understanding of magick based on an information transfer paradigm, a view that is closely related to the way computers work in our civilization. It will give you many new ways to look at and approach magick.
The few books mentioned above are only a starting place to begin your personal magickal library. But I have a caveat, a warning. Many years ago, on the back of a magazine, I saw a quote of a Sufi saying, "Beware my son of too much study or you may become a scholar." When I first read this it made little sense to me. What was wrong with becoming a scholar?
The answer, of course, is nothing. Being a scholar is wonderful. But there is an enormous difference between being a scholar and being a practicing magician. In my opinion, several books have been published that have been written by scholars who base their ideas on theories and beliefs rather than practical work.
If you wish to be a scholar, then may all the gods and goddesses bless you! But to my mind, information is useless unless it is put into action. If you get some or all of the books above—and I think you should—I deeply suggest that rather than just reading them, you should start practicing what is in them. After all, there is no difference between not practicing what you know of magick and not knowing magick at all. Yes, it is great to have scholars. But it is my hope that many of you will be magicians, too.