The Devil’s Library

(alternate text)As the sun rises on this frightening day of 6-6-06, I’m reflecting upon yet another sign of the impending apocalypse. There are so many omens in our culture that the end of time is near, but last night might have been the final harbinger.

VH1’s The Fabulous Life typically features rappers you’ve never heard of but who want you to believe they wear $3 million necklaces and teen stars that spend thousands on bikinis. However, demonstrating a new low in our celebrity-obsessed culture, last evening’s episode of the show focused on the fabulous life of newborn Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. That’s right. Less than ten days old and already there’s a major cable network show. What’s next? A reality show about Shiloh’s diaper rash? How about Nanny 911 teaching the Jolie-Pitt clan how to put the baby to sleep at night? How soon until the tabloids break out rumors of the new star feud: Shiloh versus Suri Cruise? First they’ll bond over Kabbalah strings or something and then they’ll fight over some boy at day care. It’s inevitable, I suppose.

But back to more bookish matters on this devil’s day. The calendar’s number of the beast sent me to the bookshelf in search of my favorite evil esoterica. If your name is Beelzebub, then you certainly already know about these and many more books. But if you’re a novice, some of these books may interest you.

The works of Aleister Crowley are always challenging, but don’t think you’re going to wave your hands in the air and cast a spell over that jerk at work who keeps stealing your frozen lunches. These aren’t how-to books that you’re going to crack open and start turning people into frogs. Crowley’s work is heavy-duty and a chore, but for those interested in such macabre matters, it can be quite intriguing. More for the Crowley novice, there is Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, a biography by Lawrence Sutin that is a revealing look at the man who gave himself the “Great Beast” moniker.

Another engaging biography relevant to today’s date is Bill Landis’ Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger. Best known for his Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood’s Darkest and Best Kept Secrets series of books, Anger was also an underground filmmaker who studied the occult. Anger’s occult knowledge was so great that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page went to great lengths to soak up information from the man. As the biography details, Page agreed to provide the soundtrack to an Anger film entitled Lucifer Rising. “The world’s biggest superstar guitar hero was working for Anger, gratis. Anger was indeed a musician.”

There are many more, but I’ll leave you with one somewhat obscure book that might appeal on such a day. Gavin Baddeley’s Lucifer Rising: A Book of Sin, Devil Worship and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a fascinating examination of how elements of Satanism (whether sincere or just attempts by attention-hungry musicians to shock a middle-class audience) have influenced rock music. Certainly the book focuses on metal, but also looks at some surprising musical choices. Many of the sixties era bands, as innocuous as The Beach Boys and The Beatles had some occult-inspired elements. And of course, no such study would be complete without looking at the classical chanting that introduced Ozzy Osbourne concerts for decades. “Arguably the most significant composition in terms of modern Satanic culture is Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana,” Baddeley writes. “At the root of Jerry Goldsmith’s excellent ‘Ave Satani’ refrain for his Oscar-winning soundtrack for The Omen, Carmen Burana is a celebration of barbaric power and brazen sensuality.”

Which finally brings me, now that we’ve finished our dark discussion, to this admonition: everyone say your prayers, cross yourselves, play with a puppy, or do whatever it is to cleanse the evil spirits from your hearts. And under no circumstances go see this piece of shit remake of The Omen that is being released today. Shouldn’t we at least pretend that we want Hollywood to put forth the tiniest bit of effort? Shouldn’t they at least humor us with the smallest effort to do something original? Rent the original version, enjoy Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, and be scared shitless.

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