calling all occultists

I need references for books on the history of spiritualism, theosophy, the Golden Dawn, etc. Not modern New Age books on their ideas, but scholarly works on what those movements were doing in Great Britain in the nineteenth century, up to (you guessed it) 1884. Overview-type references would be a good place to start, though I’d also be interested in books that really delve into the nitty-gritty, so if I decide to make use of particular people or events I’ll be able to do it properly.

Any other occult movements of the period that I haven’t mentioned here are also welcome. This is a topic that especially needs sorting of wheat from chaff, so if this is a subject you know, please do point me at the reliable books.

0 Responses to “calling all occultists”

  1. dsgood

    This might concentrate too much on things later than the period you want:

    The Triumph of the Moon
    A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft
    Ronald Hutton
    ISBN13: 9780192854490ISBN10: 0192854496 Paperback, 512 pages
    Also available:
    [Oxford University Press]

    “Here is a book that brings witchcraft out of the shadows. The Triumph of the Moon is the first full-scale study of the only religion England has ever given the world–modern pagan witchcraft, otherwise known as wicca….”

    • Marie Brennan

      I was looking at that one online — I think I’d want to actually browse a copy to see how it’s weighted before I put down money for it. Might be ideal, might skip too quickly on to the later periods; I can’t tell for sure.

  2. moonandserpent

    Get thee to Alex Owens’ The Place of Enchantment. Or at least the first few chapters – it moves on into the 20th century, but starts off with a fantastic overview of fin de sicile occultism in Great Britian.

    If you’re up for some dense period text, Waite’s Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross is a meticulously detailed history of the Rosicurians up through… I want to say the mid 1800’s. For your Theosophical needs, the non-overview starting point is Blavatsky’s The Key to Theosophy – published in *peeks* 1889, it’s pretty much the state of the art for the time you’re talking about. Rene Guenon’s Theosophy: History of a Pseudo Religion is also a pretty good history of the rise and fall of the Theosophic movement.

    As far as other occult movements of the period, I’d suggest you take a look at the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor which didn’t go public till the mid-1880’s. (According to wikipedia, 1884, actually.) Some people consider it the sort of “missing link” of ceremonial magick between Theosophy or Freemasonry and the Golden Dawn.

    I’m sure I’ll have better suggestions after I accumulate 6 hours of sleep in a single 48 hour period 🙂

    • moonandserpent

      And, you know, as always, you have my phone number. 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      I was pretty much waiting for your comment. 🙂 Thanks for these, and I may indeed give you a call once I know my way around the topic better; for now, it’s easiest to have the titles noted down in one findable location.

  3. la_marquise_de_

    Alex Owen, The Darkened Room (on mediumship), and The Place of Enchantment, (on occultism).

  4. desperance

    Try “The Other World: spiritualism and psychical research in England, 1850-1914” by Janet Oppenheim (Cambridge University Press, 1985). Thoroughly respectable.

    Also, if you’re interested in contemporary writings on the subject, the Lit & Phil (predictably) has a few. Worth checking their online catalogue – – for titles, maybe?

  5. kizmet_42

    Are you also interested in books about the fraudulent spiritualist practices of that time?

    • Marie Brennan

      I’m interested in anything that might be useful for Onyx Court purposes! So if you have a title, then please do pass it along.

  6. toddalcott

    When I was writing my plays about psychics, this was a key reference for me: The Spiritualists: the Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Ruth Brandon.

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