A few weeks before the Summer Solstice of 2014, I contacted Mark Alan Smith while looking to acquire a good, second-hand copy of The Altar of Sacrifice, which I learned had been published by the Primal Craft Press a few months prior. At the same time, I sent a couple of e-mails to a local bookseller in England, in an effort to locate a copy. The response back from Mark was generous and forthcoming. Mark offered a signed copy of The Altar of Sacrifice, with all the accompanying sigils, beautifully and personally inscribed to me by the author himself in exchange for a critical review of the same.
All Things Excellent
Much has changed in Mark’s life and in my own since our first public debates, now over two years old, on Richard Derks’ personal website. These debates, once featured on the old website Blood & Bone led me to acquire, Queen of Hell, the first volume in the original Trident of Witchcraft. Many of us, including the present reviewer, had been introduced to Mark in the anthology Her Sacred Fires.
It is true that in less than six months, that is, from the time of my purchase of Her Sacred Fires on a very cold night in February, 2012, until the publication of my review of Queen of Hell on June 6th, 2012, I had gone from contending Mark Alan Smith, who had come from no verifiable lineage as defined by tradition, coven, or initiation, to vigorously asserting that he was the heir apparent to the Akashic records in which Edgar Allan Poe and his children, namely, H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, had certainly tapped. What’s more, I said this was true despite the fact (or rather more because of it) that Mark doesn’t come with what has become a sine qua non in the Sabbatic or traditional witchcraft scene: namely, he does not come with an Old Crone Story, the reputed source of the secrets. Although some might call these fictions the ever-present Grandmother Story in the tradition of Alex Sanders, Andrew Chumbley, Evelyn Paglini, and others too numerous to mention, I would eventually find out that most of this moonshine might be realistically termed, The Elusive Babooshka Story, in relation to anyone who tries to sell you on its authenticity. In sum, Mark’s Unverified Personal Gnosis was just that: Unverified. The sole question presented in my review of Queen of Hell was if it rendered his work Authentic.
Against the Christians
I have described below my belief, after reading the Fourteenth chapter, concerning the Elemental Bodies, in a work spanning some four-hundred pages, that it appears that the thesis of this author, as presented previously in the whole of his three-volume Trident of Witchcraft, is indeed coming true. To wit, the once-elusive classical guardians of the Four Gates have begun indeed to reassert themselves, stridently and at times with very much aplomb, in real appearances throughout nature and the seasons, for those who truly have the eyes to see and the ears to listen, under the watchful eyes of whom my own tradition has called the Old Man (Belial) and the Mother. Of course, this monumental and voluminous work, comprising sixteen lengthy chapters, will certainly require an ongoing critical effort to demonstrate how each chapter, piecemeal and specifically, may integrate (if at all) within one’s own personal practice of the traditional or Sabbatic craft. Perhaps this lengthy review of merely one chapter therein might well demonstrate the demands of this latter effort. In sum, it is the Fourteenth chapter, in my view, which shows the virtue and uniqueness of the work. I will examine it, rather impressionistically at best, by offering my perspective in regards the overall importance of The Altar of Sacrifice, in toto, to the Pagan community, writ large.
Much of what follows is very personal, therefore I hope the reader will suffer me a few philosophical diversions which I view as necessary to lay the foundation for my introduction to The Altar of Sacrifice. I believe it is an important work that requires no apology from the author. I would hope further that the reader does take a few minutes, prior to commencing these romantic wanderings into that mystical Black Woode soon to follow, to read the original philosophical exegesis which lies at the heart of the movement to break with the disgusting evil of that organized Christianity in the early sixteenth, or for that matter in any, century.
Openness to the Mysteries has never been defeated by the Christians and, like the Truth Herself, is that thing which most scares them. Like the Truth Herself, the Mysteries cannot be silenced: whether by the gallows, by the auto-da-fé, or, in our present age, by censorship. On this the Mother has already has given some guidance, speaking directly to Porphyry in the Third Century, sometime after Titus and Vespasian, but contemporaneous with Diocletian, when it was by no means certain that the great proselytizers out of Palestine, that is, all the anchorites and self-proclaimed messiahs, would soon take over the hearts and minds of countless generations of noble Europeans, and lead them, as Regia Arcana Puella had warned indeed that seer at Tyre (much as She would warn the Briton, Mark Alan Smith, some 1,750 years later), onto the very roads that lead to the existential dark ages, and into intellectual and scientific perdition. Surely it will be a happy day for us all, as it was under the enlightened reign of the Merry Monarch, Carolingus II, Lord Protector of the Artes & Sciences, perhaps in the not too far-off and not-so-distant future, when that whole deranged Christian canon is exhumed, much like the remains of Cromwell, burned at Tyndale, & scattered to the Four English Winds.
What is Authentic?
For those who have travelled down this philosophical path and have stayed with me so far, a few remarks as to Martin Heidegger’s use – or purposeful misuse – of the word Authentic might be in order. It might be noted that the word does not appear once in der Gelassenheit, although it is truly a philosophical keystone around which the whole essay is built. Instead, Heidegger purposefully coined a word which has been mistranslated repeatedly by scores of academics who assumedly refuse to believe that the author possibly could mean anything Occultic or magickal, or remotely derived from the Fama Fraternitatis. It would serve these individuals well, most of whom are American liberal academics, to recall that in the last days of the old man’s life he prayed to Norse heroes in the Black Forest. But then, the author could have simply used the word, “Authentic,” if indeed he wished for a generic reference to “authentic experience” which is virtually the entire stuff of German existentialism. Rather, Martin Heidegger chose to join the prefix, Auto, with the suffix, Cthonic, to refer to a very specific form of experience which he describes as rooted to nature. So, what then is Auto-Cthonic experience and more importantly, how does it differ from (or rather re-emphasize) that which is “authentic experience” generally?
Of course there is a saying among the Christians and, if memories long-gone-by still serve me well, it goes something like this: “Before you were ever born, I knew you.” Apparently the platitude still serves simultaneously as something like a thrust and a parry, since that old collector of kindling wood, Passionist cleric Gabriele Amorth, recounts hearing approximately the same during several of his ministrations. So, perhaps this is a dangerous way to finalize my thoughts on those things Auto-Cthonic (namely, by making reference to the Catholic exorcist) and thereby depart from protection of the Kingdom and the Old Man, who is victorious in the finale, The Scorpion God, but then, The Altar of Sacrifice is, if I may put it bluntly, a rather dangerous book. It seems to clearly distinguish the truly most valuable peak experiences as those dealing with one’s own death – valuable inasmuch as they prove the existential fact of Death, Herself, and Her play in nature. Those prater catalysts for peak experiences likely will seek us out first, not vice versa. Surely, as they whispered in the ear of the greatest European who ever crossed the Hindu Kush, they would do so likewise in our present time. No mortal effort at evocation is ever going to change the matter. Those who are called to this path are called to it.
A Preparation for the Elemental Bodies
At the introduction of Tobias Churton’s wonderful documentary, Fama Fraternitas: The True Story of the Rosicrucians, there is a brief sequence which I believe should be viewed by anyone undertaking a work as breath-taking in its scope, and as monumental in its purpose, as The Trident of Witchcraft. The scenes begin with a bearded man, clearly an intellectual or aesthete of some sort, bound in the medieval prisoner’s anvil and chains, right out of the Lady Frieda Harris deck, No. 15. He ascends a staircase, the vantage point representing, of course, Enlightenment or, should one prefer to continue the hermeneutical references, representing Judgment. In all of this, our bearded antiquarian is assisted by some woman in her early thirties with a very old perm. While reaping, she uncovers the Fama, buried below a haystack; clasping her husband’s hands, the rain of the Elder Gods pour down upon them in the form of Truth, the High Priestess, staining their priestly garments with the blood grapes of Helios.
Recently, there have been several subtle, but quite vicious, efforts at the critique of Mark’s writing and teaching style from the likes of far-less accomplished writers of the Occult. The notion seems to go like this: Do not render into complex language that which can be done simply. So, to this end, some of these erstwhile authors of pulp paperback fiction and Sado-Masochist erotica have released works idiosyncratically described as “chapbooks”, or what amount to 15-25 page paperback throwaways which typically include 3-5 blank pages labeled as “Notes.” One of these authors has defended these industrially-produced, self-publishing efforts by the following: “I have no need to baffle the reader with bullshit.” However, underlying the real intent here seems to be more an application of Fordism to the magickal assembly line than the Law of Parsimony. The latter, one might recall, is the scientific maxim that one should not render the language of an experiment into complex language if the same may be done simplistically or in fewer words, so to speak. The Law of Parsimony underlies much of the scientific method in general; it is cited by the great American pragmatists William James and John Dewey and, it would be as good as way as any, I guess, to attack the works of sociopaths or for that matter anyone else with a lot on their mind.
To wit: Mark Alan Smith's efforts are grandiose, grandiloquent, monumental affairs – the stuff that one would expect to find at the peak of the highest mountaintop summit at the end of a psilocybin-induced head trip. Indeed, some of Mark’s students have literally turned the pages of the Trident into magickal objets d’art in their own right, as the Guardians of the Gates at the four Elemental directions in their personal ritual practice. Now, try that with a “chapbook.”
The critical analogy to be made here, I think, between the Philosophy of Art, which is called Aesthetics, and a philosophy of the Artes, so to speak, is, in a word, Practice. Those who are writing from a higher perspective – that is, a Higher Magick perspective – do so from an improvisational vantage point acquired after many years of practice. To assimilate even half of what they are saying is a lifetime effort. And, inevitably, they have a lot on their minds: their works are voluminous, passionate affairs, smitten with their deep love for their Art, or Artes as the case may be. So perhaps there is figuratively speaking no difference among the ponderous tomes of Mark Alan Smith and, say, the psychedelic trajectory, Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, the endless raga-drenched solos of John and Alice Coltrane, and the repeat, hallucinatory Himalayan cave paintings of a Snake Goddess named Tara. In a way, my unabashed defence of this very brave man and loyal subject who defended Her Majesty at Ulster would be as strident as that for my fellow Conservative Yankee crank, the old gentleman from Providence, would I have had the privilege to defend him at the time of the publication of his Weird Tales. And, in a way, such efforts have come to be rather Cervantes-esque, it would seem, as soon our noble Luciferian experiment in the freedom of thought, that of Voltaire, La Fayette, and that of the King of the Yankees himself, the revolutionary scientist Franklin, will be no more, in a corporate state run by American multinationals, global banks, and Christian serfs.
For now, let us attempt to define, syllogistically if possible, the scientific process which emerges from The Altar of Sacrifice:
If one successfully opens up the Gates (1) and then if one passes through the Gates(2) Then one may expect to undergo [in Variable (x) Time] Transformative Experience (3).
After now having spent, as of this writing, over four months examining The Altar of Sacrifice, I would say the whole of the work may be described as an attempt to elucidate, in as clear as manner as possible in relation to the esoteric nature of its subject, precisely how one might arrive at (3) above. The first problem relates to Steps 1-2.
Inner Gateways of the Princes
A very careful read of Mark’s discussion of the Elemental Bodies would seem to betray the above tri-part in the first place, without any need to attempt to render it in BASIC or Structured Query Language (SQL). To wit:
“The Trident Gods (Author’s Note, viz,, Lucifer, the Old Man & the Mother) are called into the Four Outer Pillars of Fire, alongside the Demon Princes. . .The power of the Lord of the Void, as He who walks the Pathways of Gods beyond the worlds of man, is undertaken in Godform assumption. The Power of Darkness fills the soul, allowing to open these sacred gateways across dimension and place. The act of filling your soul with this blackness is undertaken in complete devotion to Hecate. It is a sensation akin to suffocation; the soul is engulfed as the weight of the limitless void bears down on it.
This empowering is a state of transition. If performed successfully you will walk at soul level beyond all realms. The blackness of the void is absorbed in the same manner as the energy of the Gods during the assumption of their forms. Though it fills the soul, it also engulfs the outer being, smothering the physical form. It should be worn as a cloak of limitless power. This is the key to many inter-dimensional gates through which the Atlantean Current is drawn.”
It is not the purpose of this brief review to describe, in even a roundabout way, the processes which Mark endeavours to elucidate as the means by which to open the aforesaid Gates. Rather, it is my purpose to vigorously contend – indeed, perhaps advocate in Mark’s behalf – that there are indeed processes, routines, and subroutines, in The Altar of Sacrifice which definitely evince an experimental notion to open the Gates in the first place. For this reason alone, it may be similarly argued that the author’s method is scientific in nature. Bluntly phrased, he is not a loony, nor does he write in any stream-of-consciousness, Borderline rambling befitting of various Christian moral entrepreneurs. Moreover, there is also some evidence of that which has been termed experimental consistency in the philosophy of science. To this end, one might carefully review the sigils (always expertly drawn in the tradition of the Trident’s relentless pursuit of first-class quality) which occur in the Four Outer Vortices of the Fire of the Gods.
If these sigils are used in conjunction with the Elemental points at the quadrants of the ceremonial circle, there is no need for the magus to abandon the tradition or the lineage which bore her. Of these sigils, no less than two come from Crowleyian or Ceremonial Magick (namely, Lucifer and the Mother); two come from the Goetia (Asmodeus and the Old Man); and five are derived from the Aryan migrations into Tibet, and call up, once again, the ancient symbols of our Kingdom. In short, there is no need to abandon one’s tradition. Quite to the contrary, Mark Alan Smith has laid the groundwork whereby one’s tradition may indeed be integrated within the Trident of Witchcraft. In the process, he renders one’s own tradition more potent and volatile. For some, the many years of practice in their own tradition will be quite literally like a quiver of kindling now set on fire by a new method for recomposing or “transforming” them.
The Transformative Experience
It has been my privilege to have worked with several of the wise women of Lancaster County who have integrated Queen of Hell into their practice of the traditional path described above. These women have attempted to produce a kind of preliminary Auto-Cthonic experience, something of an initiatory rite which, by no means serving as their initiation sui generis, speaks of the kind of stuff for which one would assumedly hold some appreciation prior to undertaking Mark’s Trident of Witchcraft. I believe that the best introduction to this path would be to attempt to experience it in some small way on one’s own, long before the Rite of the Phoenix is ever attempted.
Let us dispense first with human sexuality for that, most certainly, is not in it for the student of the Trident. On this, a very clear explanation is required for the evidence prima facie from the original three volumes, as well as the various admissions by the author himself, can be quite misleading. Sexuality comes up very frequently in the Queen of Hell, even more so in The Red King, wanes somewhat in The Scorpion God, and then resurfaces again in The Altar of Sacrifice. But, indeed, it is a very different human sexuality altogether – one might call it a form of prater-human sexuality. The first admissions of this supernatural form of coitus appear in the original revelation of The Rite of the Phoenix which, as discussed appeared in Her Sacred Fires.
The young witches of die Lange verbogene Freundinnen have brought Lee Morgan’s A Deed without a Name to my attention and, during my four month read of The Altar of Sacrifice, it served as a kind of refresher course in the Sabbatic craft – in which I would place Mark Smith, Andrew Chumbley, and several others. There are numerous introductory explanations as to the opening of the Gates in Ms. Morgan’s book which demonstrates clear overlaps to Mark Alan Smith. Mark tends to assume a very comprehensive background for the student attempting to open the Gates in his section on the Ancient Widdershins (since, of course, The Altar of Sacrifice is not intended as a “primer” in any sense of the word).
It is perhaps useful to recall that those undertaking the above Gate opening ritual are doing so in the hoary tradition of the blindfolded, brave men who had sacrificed their youth, enduring real penance, before entering the caves at Eleusius. As one descends into those caves described above, it is also useful to recall their frightened words for, as Mark reminds us, there is no Courage without Fear.
“I have been Initiated, and I went down into, the Underground Chamber of the Daktelee. And I saw the Other Things, Down Below: Virgin-Bitch and All the Rest.”
Similarly, the summum bonum of the successful conclusion of the above experiment is when the magician is transformed. And, for this, I have turned again to the young women who have attempted to integrate the Trident into their own traditional Sabbatic practice. The empirical evidence from these young witches, as well as that from Mr. Smith himself, is that something indeed is happening here: not only in their psyche, but also in their physical form. Lee Morgan reminds us that this physical transformation is not something to be feared but embraced in fact:
“The Devil and demons are a mystery to Christians, part of a dark netherworld that they have no access to. The witches’ interaction with spirits is different.”
In fact, one might argue that if you don’t see some changes to your appearance, “you probably aren’t doing it right” – at least as far as Step 2 of the above process would seem to go. In this regard, Mark Alan Smith has been quite candid: in a recent 2013 interview with Mona Magick, Mark readily admitted to having absorbed attributes of the Old Man into his appearance following several descents through the Gateways of the Princes. Evoking images of very frightened and erstwhile Moroccans who served as Crowley’s minions in the early part of the last Century, Mark spoke to Ms. Magick regarding a kindly woman of Southern Spanish or Majorcan descent who, upon seeing his new visage, remarked, “Me don’t like this very much.” Indeed, I have witnessed with my own eyes what seems to be the transformation of Mark Alan Smith on Karagan’s Witchtalk television show. To put it simply, the author seems “normal” enough (if one might use such a term) during the first interview concerning The Red King. By the time Karagan introduced The Scorpion God, however, Mark Alan Smith was a completely different person. Barring a sex change, cosmetic surgery, or some newly-inspired androgyny, I would argue a transformation has occurred. And, for this position, I have one whole autumn’s equinox cycle of participant observation evidence in support of it.
The Mystery of the Sabbath
When I was invited to observe the Autumnal Equinox and Samhuin rituals of die Lange verbogene Freundinnen in the outlying areas of East Strasburg, Lancaster County, I did so with one main intention: To mine the integration, if any, of the Trident of Witchcraft into the traditional Sabbatic witchcraft of the same. I was informed by one of the leaders of this local coven that Mark’s work was being utilized by several of these young women “to hasten the process of Transformation.” In sum, I was told that the path of the long-lost friends/ancestors would, itself, eventually lead to “integrating many of the natural spirits of the forest and the wood,” into the physical being of their practitioners. However, I was also told that Mark’s work was a lot like putting the process into “warp speed” – which I take to mean that Variable (x) Time in the experimental subroutine above would prove to be much shorter.
The Path of Sacrifice
In field notes from the observance of the above-described coven in the fall of 2014, I make no bones as to my rather blunt perspective. As to their participation in so-called “hedge crossings,” Sabbaths, and what appeared to me to look like rather random fornication or masturbatory acts with unseen beings, I described them in my notes as “looking like a bunch of naked women on drugs.” Their description of these various sexual or psychotropic acts were placed in Lee Morgan’s terms, namely as “wailings”, or preliminary transformative rituals meant to prepare for human coitus with Demons. I will make no speculation, one way or another, as to the validity of these experiences. What I will say, as I have often said in deference to the Trilogy of Mark Alan Smith and, now this, his most recent work, The Altar of Sacrifice, is that it does indeed seem that it is authentic enough experience unto them.
For those who have sought out my most recent review of Mark’s work as many have done in the past, I will say this to those who have come looking for my appraisal of the practical merits of this work: I do not know. From any personal undertaking of the above experiment, I do not have the time, or the perseverance, to undertake an Elemental or Gate-opening ritual as demanding in the sacrifice as that described by the author. But apparently some indeed have. As to these young women, who have invited me into their coven as nothing more than a field observer, as one who they let in quite knowingly with a well-planned and thought-through intention that I would disseminate this information, I will conclude with their two words, the most important words which flow from any experimental undertaking: It works. The Altar of Sacrifice, I am informed, is nothing less than the missing link from years of the tradition of the above-described Society and, for that matter, the crest jewel of Mark’s Trident of Witchcraft, which he has heretofore left unrevealed. If the Elemental workings in his new work are let in, I am similarly told, the two to four year apprentice process described in the pathwork of the above coven (which likely took several decades in the ancient world) is hastened and reduced to a bare minimum. The physical transformation wrought by the real descent into the realm of the Underworld’s legions – which might have otherwise taken one’s whole lifetime – can now occur forthwith due to one reason alone. Call it Unverified Personal Gnosis, call it past life regression, access to Akashic records or whatever mystical mumbo-jumbo you choose, Mark Alan Smith somehow has gained entry to:
The Primal Craft Grimoires covered in this review may be acquired by following the links below:
The Witchblood Grail can be purchased here:
The Altar of Sacrifice can be purchased here: