It is rare to encounter a book amongst the many being published today which truly looks at a subject from a new perspective, with eyes wide open and with a passion which goes all the way to the core.  Stellar Magic by Payam Nabarz is one such book and I was honoured to be able to attend the launch party for this book at the Atlantis Bookshop in Museum Street, London and to have my copy signed by the author.  A copy which will be much treasured in years to come. The event was very well attended and I was greeted by the friendly staff and made to feel welcome with a glass of wine to boot!  Payam spoke about the book, giving little insights into each of the chapters and it was really good to be able to get a feel for his passion on the subject, something which is so evident in the book too.

Stellar Magic is a Liber Astrum, a book of the stars.  For those who have not been fortunate enough to encounter this new book by Payam Nabarz, who is well known for his work on Mithras, as yet details can be found at the Avalonia website.   I include it below for convenience and will be writing a review very soon!

The stars have influenced mankind with their magic from time immemorial, as evidenced by Archeoastronomy; instructing astrologers and priests, guiding sailors and inspiring poets. For millennia, cultures all around the world have told their myths and legends through the canvas of the night sky. Yet despite the immense significance of the constellations and stars in the ancient world, stellar magic has been largely ignored in recent centuries.

In this inspirational and practical Liber Astrum, the author draws together material from ancient, classical and medieval sources; spanning East and West, fusing modern poetry with ancient magic, mysticism with myth and ritual with recital to lift our gazes back to the heavens.

The author’s breadth of scholarship is seen in the spectrum of material he weaves together, from sources as diverse as the Hymns of Orpheus and Plato’s Timaeus to the Zoroastrian Yasht hymns and Persian Pahlavi Texts, the Sufi works of the Ibn Arabi and Rumi; from the Chaldean Oracles and the Greek Magical Papyri to the Books of Ezekiel and Enoch, from the Picatrix and the Sefer Yetzirah to the works of John Dee, Rudolf Steiner, Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley. The poetic inspiration of the stars is also expressed through material and ideas by such luminaries as John Milton, Gerald Manly Hopkins, Sylvia Plath, Robert Graves and W.B. Yeats.

Through the enchanting words and ceremonies provided to lead the way, timeless journeys to the stars are woven around the participants. Included amongst the rites are ceremonies with the constellations of Perseus & Andromeda, Cygnus, Orion, the Pleiades, the Great Bear, Draco, the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the star Sirius, the Moon, the seven classical Planets, and the Stellar World Cave: the Mithraeum.

This is a highly accessible, succinct and practical book on a complex subject, which will benefit anyone interested in the magic of the stars, from the casual observer of the night skies to the dedicated magician or mystic.

Available from The Atlantis Bookshop, other esoteric and occult shops and directly from Avalonia.

ps. There are some photographs of the event available at the Avalonia WordPress Blog.

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Mithras Reader Volumes I and II

An Academic and Religious Journal of Greek, Roman and Persian Studies

edited by Payam Nabarz

published by Twin Serpents Press

Vol I, PB, £24.95, 100pp

Vol II, PB, £15.55, 104pp

reviewed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review

As I received these two volumes together I decided to cover them both in the same review, though I shall consider the contents of each volume in turn to give them the attention they deserve.  Both follow the same style, being divided into three sections, followed by reviews at the end.  The sections are Academic Papers, Arts and Religious Articles, a template which works well to provide a wide range of material with something for most people.

Volume I begins with Continuity and Change in the Cult of Mithra by Dr Israel Campos Mendez, a study of the links and contuinty between the Persian (Iranian) god Mithra and Mithras as worshipped by the Romans in their mysteries.  Exploring in detail both the similarities and differences, Dr Mendez presents a step-by-step argument for continuity that avoids leaps of faith and relies on solid facts and logical deductions to present a substantial and enjoyable argument.  The second paper is an Introduction to Classes of Manichean. Mithraism and Sufiyeh by Dr Saloome Rostampoor.  This piece compares and contrasts the similarities and differences between the different religions, whilst providing background information on the religions, such as the appropriate commandments, and makes for a fascinating comparison.

The essay Entheos ho syros, polymathes ho phoinix: Neoplatonist approaches to religious practice in Iamblichus and Porphyry by Sergio Knipe is for me the highlight of Volume I.  This overview of the religious approaches of these two key magickal philosophers is fascinating and extremely lucid and enjoyable.  Particular emphasis is given to Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Killing Animals and On the Mysteries of Egypt by Iamblichus to illustrate their diverging approaches, whilst indicating their significance to future schools of thought.  If you are unfamiliar with these two giants of the past, this article provides an ideal introduction to some of their most significant ideas.

The final essay in this first section Mithraism and Alchemy by David Livingstone looks at the alchemical connections in the Mithraic ladder of initiation, drawing on the writings of figures such as Zosimus of Panopolis to explore the connections of these two diverse areas through the planetary symbolism inherent in both.  The second section contains a number of pictures showing exhibits from the For example Mithras exhibition by Farangis Yegane, which explore the symbolism of the myths contained within Mithraism through her paintings and installations.

Section 3 begins with an article by Guya Vichi on his relationship with Mithra, which resulted from a meditation, and includes an Ode.  This is followed by a Hymn to the Sun by Katherine Sutherland and a piece by Payam Nabarz on the Mithras Liturgy with the Orphic Hymns.  This latter piece is a practical rite of planetary magick, which combines the original source material with inspiration to fill in the gaps and ensure a flow which makes sense and provides a suitable catharsis for the dedicant.

Volume II follows the same format, and Section 1 starts with the essay Factors determining the outside projection of the Mithraic Mysteries by Dr Israel Campos Mendes.  This paper focuses on the social factors within the Mithraic mysteries, including their relevance within the Roman legion structure.  By concentrating on the social dynamic we are reminded of the function of the mystery cult beyond the mystery, and this is a thought-provoking paper.  The next essay is The Mithras Liturgy: cult liturgy, religious ritual, or magical theurgy? by Kim Huggens.  By studying the evidence Kim Huggens argues convincingly and precisely that the ritual may well be a rite for use by magicians who had ascended through the seven grades.

Section 2 includes more images from the For example Mithras exhibition by Farangis Yegane, as well as a striking Mithras-Phanes image by James Rodriguez, photographs of the Temple of Mithra in Garni (Armenia) by Jalil Nozariand a depiction of Mithras by Robert Kavjian.  Section 3 contains a range of invocations and poetry to entrance and delight the reader.  These include a Mithras Sol Invictus invocation by M. Hajduk, a translation of Sappho’s Ode to Aphrodite by Harita Meenee, and the poems Norooz Phiroze by Farida Bamji, Disappearing Shrines and Moving Shrines by S. David, and The Sleeping Lord by Katherine Sutherland.  This section reaches a climax with Payam Nabarz’s article The right handed handshake of the Gods, emphasising the significance of this act through the ages, as well as Mithra’s role as god of contracts and agreements.

These readers represent the top end of the publications being produced today, exploring as they do the latest academic thought, artistic impressions and personal experiences, presented in three streams which each offer their own flavour and pleasures.  In a field where rehashing third hand and lack of originality is all too common, these works are a refreshing change and well worth purchasing for your bookshelf, to be stored on the shelves for books that actually get read!

The Persian ‘Mar Nameh’: The Zoroastrian Book of the Snake Omens and Calendar and The Old Iranian Calendar

by Payam Nabarz and S H Taqizadeh

published by Twin Serpents Limited

PB, 130pp, £12.95

reviewed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review

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I wasn’t sure what I would make of ths book with such a long title when it was offered to me.  However omens and calendars are two areas of great interest to me, so I was intrigued to see what the authors had to say.  In fact this is more like two works in one, the first part being the contemporary work of Payam Nabarz on the Mar Nameh and the second part being a reprint of the 1917 essay on The Old Iranian Calendar by S H Taqizadeh.  Both have their fascinations, though for me the life really flows through Nabarz’s work in the first half of the book.

So what can you expect and why should you buy this book?  Well anyone interested in divination, magick, religion or calendars will find valuable material in this book, which is a pretty big range of people!  Nabarz provides the original Persian text, along with both literal and poetic translations of the text.  The text itself gives the divinatory meaning for seeing a snake on each day of the month.  As the author lucidly demonstrates in his introduction, the serpent has a long connection with time, and so this combination is a logical one, as he convincingly argues.  He also discusses the Zoroastrian spirits associated with the days, an area worthy of study by itself, especially in light of their planetary nature and possible role as antecedents to much of the later spiritual hierarchies found in magickal systems.

The essay on The Old Iranian Calendar is somewhat dry in comparison to the passionate flow of Nabarz’s style, but interesting nevertheless.  In tracing the development of the Iranian calendar, from ancient Egypt through reforms and intercalations, the importance of time and its measurement is impressed in the mind of the reader.  The juxtaposition of this essay with the Book of the Snake makes for a unique and interesting sourcework that I thoroughly encourage you to buy and read.

The Mysteries of Mithras
The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World

By Payam Nabarz

Inner Traditions, PB, 230pp

Review by David Rankine for Avalonia

The historical importance of Mithraism in ancient Rome is well documented in such excellent works as Manfred Clauss’s “The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries” and Esme Wynne-Tyson’s “Mithras: The Fellow in the Cap”. From the second century BCE to the fifth century CE, the Roman army took Mithraism to every corner of the Roman Empire, spreading the worship of Mithras far and wide.

This work, however, whilst drawing on the most accurate and detailed information available, also moves into the realm of modern practice and the relevance of Mithraism today. After detailing the origins, history and context of ancient Mithraism, Nabarz goes on to demonstrate the many parallels between Mithraism and its usurper, Christianity. If I mention that Mithras was born of a virgin in a cave on 25th December, and was celibate and “saved” the world, then these few examples give a clear indicator of the heavy influence Mithraism had on Christianity. Not only Christianity, but other religions like Islam and Gnosticism have also been influenced by Mithraism, which also features in the Greek Magical Papyri.

Uniquely, this work breathes life into the practices of Mithraism, demonstrating its vital and dynamic nature, and the ongoing importance of the spiritual truths it was founded upon, and which are still as relevant today as they ever were. The Zoroastrian Hymns to Mithra and the goddess Anahita included as appendices are beautiful examples of the deep and incisive spirituality which informed Mithraism.

The seven (planetary) grades of Mithraism formed the ladder of development through hits mysteries. Nabarz has brought these to life with modern reconstructions drawing on the ancient sources and more contemporary magickal traditions to provide the reader with the opportunity to experience the spiritual practices and their transformational qualities for themselves.

Mankind has changed far less than people often think, and the author is to be congratulated for offering this lucid and poetic guide to the spiritual strength of Mithraism in a clear and concise practical volume. An illuminating read!