BOOK REVIEW: Low Magick: It’s All In Your Head, You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is by Lon Milo Duquette

Lon Milo Duquette’s best work yet can be found in his new memoir and magical primer, Low Magick: It’s All In Your Head, You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is.

In person, Duquette seems more like an amiable high school music teacher than someone trained in “the dark arts.” He oozes harmlessness and friendly humor, two crucial qualities when a major part of one’s work is educating the public about the so-called “black magician” Aleister Crowley. Duquette has a gift for introducing thorny and intimidating occult material to the average reader, revealing the powerful spiritual intention hidden within. In Low Magick, he does this marvelously for the reviled demonic grimoire called the Goetia.

But, wait. We have five hundred years of sedimented superstition warning us away from making pacts with devils. Crowley may be okay, but meddling with demons is bad by definition, isn’t it? Duquette would disagree. He suggests that, when it comes to facing certain shadowy problems, a demon might be exactly who you need to talk to. In Duquette’s view, the essence of Solomonic magic is a tool for (as Carl Jung put it) “making the darkness conscious.” Solomonic magicians do not recognize limited medieval ideas about good and evil, focusing instead on the transcendent goodness of the Supreme Deity, which Duquette calls “the Great G.”

Low Magick opens with the Zuni saying, “There is no truth, only stories.” And indeed, over the course of fourteen books, Duquette has developed into a master storyteller. Low Magick recalls the great memoir Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, each anecdote polished to perfection through raucous re-telling.

More than any of Duquette’s previous work, Low Magick showcases the importance of magical creativity. Ceremonial magicians have a well-earned reputation for being stodgy rule-followers, but Duquette’s most successful spells are half-improvised and cooked up from scratch.  The careful reader will notice that several chapters are not only stories, but also artful lessons in banishing and exorcism and in the creation of one’s own spells.

Duquette’s magical teaching is elegant, subtle, and ever-present throughout Low Magick. One charming chapter called “Family Secrets” details Duquette’s own magical bloodline. Like most of us, Duquette was not raised in an explicitly magical family; in fact, his mother was a fundamentalist Christian. But Duquette writes, “I believe that we can discover more about the magical ‘blood’ of our ancestors by simply examining their lives and characters than we can by analyzing their professed spiritual interests.” Who, after all, may not be a Master in hiding? For example, Duquette’s father, a Freemason, taught him useful and undoubtedly magical techniques for stopping nightmares, imparting the lesson that it is “very important to be able to resolve a problem in its own dimension rather than trying to run away from it by escaping into another.” Duquette ends the chapter with the deceptively conversational question: “How are things in your family?” In the most informal way possible, he has assigned the reader homework that will inevitably result in essential magical and genealogical soul-searching.

With Low Magick, Duquette has written another diminutive book that will quickly become a classic in the field. Every budding magician dreams of meeting the perfect teacher — a wizened, more experienced magician who can impart the secrets with perfect subtlety and humor. Few are lucky enough to find such a relationship in real life, but reading Duquette’s book feels like the next best thing.

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