From the Twentieth Century
Okay, thirteen books… plus… but…
I'm sure I'll have left out something obvious - feel free to comment. Also, this list applies to classical 'western magic', including Witchcraft and Wiccan forms, but doesn't apply to afro-carribean magic in the new world or other non-Euro cultural stuff. There may have been remarkable publishing going on there about which I know nothing...
First, three books from the beginning of the century, when post-Masonic, still-pretty-monotheist systems were still influential. While the ritual system understood by these writers has waned, the symbolic constructs have been quite persistent. These books contain the flower of esoteric Tarot as well.
1: Magick (Book IV) - Aleister Crowley (1912): the big one.
2: The Golden Dawn – Israel Regardie (1936)
3: The Mystical Qabalah – Dion Fortune (1935): reliable one-volume summary of post-Golden Dawn Hermetic Qabalah.
Four books from the middle of the century that reflect the swing away from the ‘lodge-work’ model of ritual and toward the circle-work’ model.
4: The Gardnerian Book of Shadows (c.1952) (by extension, I’d recommend the Farrar’s Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches Way as the best expansion of the original.)
5: Initiation Into Hermetics – Franz Bardon (1962): the most influential book on occult mental training and ‘energy work’ in the 20th century (I leave New Thought out of ‘occult’ here).
6: Magical Ritual Methods - William Gray (1969): Excellent mid-20th c. restatement of magical art, down-to-earth and unburdened by specific traditions.
7: Mastering Witchcraft – Paul Huson (1970): perhaps the best single grimoire of ‘operative witchcraft’ ever written.
The end of Masonic-style work and the rise of new systems are seen in the last three books, which represent three distinct schools of late twentieth century magic. Grant inherits from Crowley, but abandons western ritual style in favor of Indic forms. Starhawk cuts the circle-work style completely free of the Masonic tradition and redefines it on its own terms. Carroll goes back to first principles, while enjoying the mystique of ‘sorcery’ and ‘black magic’.
8: Aleister Crowley & the Hidden God – Kenneth Grant (1973): really the whole original Typhonian Trilogy, but it was this one that RAW quoted…
9: The Spiral Dance – Starhawk (1979): like her theology or not, SD taught a generation of witches how to raise power, invoke deity, and use the Wiccan spell-casting model.
10: Liber Null & Psychonaut – Peter J. Carroll (1987): Still core to the Chaos Magic models.
Limiting this list to ten is not really doable, of course. I just threw that number out as rhetoric. As runners-up, I’d mention:
11: Way of the Shaman – Michael Harner (1980) the book that taught magicians to do shamanic-style trance. Representing the Shamanic Magic movement.
12: Futhark; A Handbook of Rune Magic – Edred Thorsson (1984) The book that began introducing the Elder Futhark to western magic. Representing the Northern Reconstructionist movements.
13: The Underworld Initiation - R.J. Stewart (1990) British and Euro-folk symbolism applied with western magical technique. Representing the evolution of the Western Mysteries movement.
And just because I can’t stop, I’d runnerup-up the small list of practical grimoires published by ‘self-help’ publishers that have survived the century – such things as New Avatar Power and the Mystic Grimoire and Helping Yourself With White Witchcraft.
For a sense of history, Yronwode is 2002, Leitch on grimoires is 2005, Stratton-Kent is 2009. There’s been a whole lot o’ shakin’ in magic-land since the turn of the century…