The Astral Geographic
The Watkins Guide to the Occult World
by Andy Sharp
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Pub Date 10 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 03 Oct 2023
This ground-breaking new approach to the history of magic explores the occult through geography, inviting you to embark on ten astral travel journeys that span centuries and continents. Each itinerary comes complete with a route map, postcards of the sites, artworks of magical artefacts and an essay exploring a key occult theme, from necromancy and alchemy to standing stones and drowned cities.
Follow in the hoof steps of the Devil from ancient Egypt to London’s Hellfire Club to the black magic venues of 1960s San Francisco; invoke angels and demons in the Algerian desert; meet witches in the Mediterranean temples of Hekate and Circe and the ancient cemeteries of Scandinavia; practise cloud divination in druidic Ireland then travel to the English countryside in search of hidden hexes … and much more!
Finally, try practising magic for yourself using the Grimorium Terra, a manual that teaches how to use geography as a magical tool. Discover how to perform rituals in different terrains, use your surroundings to catalyze altered states of consciousness, explore astral travel and seed your own lucid dreams!
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 10 members
When I saw this book I was really excited because I thought it was a good idea. The book is divided into different topics for esoteric travel like necromancy, satan, witches, etc... giving you different geographical locations of places to visit that fall/include the history of such topics. I liked the ideas and places mentioned, the only reason I removed one star is because I would have loved to see more pictures of the different places mentioned.
Thank you NetGalley and Watkins Publishing for providing me with a copy to review.
The Astral Geographic is like a travel guide for the occult. I really enjoyed this book and thought the idea of a "travel guide" to these locations was original and unique. I loved learning about the different locations, their history/myths and how it relate to the occult.
I'm hoping one day this author does a similar guide specifically for the US since I likely won't be traveling abroad anytime soon.
The only negative I had was that I wished there were more location photos. The written descriptions were so intriguing that I couldn't help but google photos of every location to get a visual.
Thank you to Netgalley and Watkins Publishing for an e-arc of this book!
A fascinating non-fictional travel guide into the world of the occult
Most lifelong horror readers or viewer of films will undoubtedly have a passing interest of the occult or witchcraft, if only from the screen or literature. However, upon reading The Astral Geographic, the majority of us will quickly realise how little we genuinely know (and I am not too proud to lump myself into that group of novices). Whilst I found this a fascinating read, particularly in regard to places I had happened to visit, much went straight over my befuddled head. I am not implying author Andy Sharp does a shoddy job here, far from it, there is an incredible amount of detailed information to unpack and the author comes across as a genuine authority on the interconnected subjects of the occult, witchcraft, magic, astral projection and others.
It is worth being absolutely clear on what this book is not: you will not find the Amityville Horror house, Count Dracula connections with the town of Whitby, other famous haunted locations, the iconic stairwell from The Exorcist film or stuff related to the pop culture of 20th Century horror. It is much more focussed in locations which have strong connections to the history of the occult and places which have a deeper meaning to some of the personalities featured. Although the book includes some very whacky subjects, a few bordering on parapsychology or pseudoscience, it is presented in a very readable, informative and non-sensationalist manner. Andy Sharp brings a lot of authority to subjects which some might have a good laugh about, sex magic for example, but if you are interested in broadening your knowledge of occult history this is an outstanding place to start.
Astral Geographic is partially presented in the same way as a genuine travel guidebook, I found this rather funny as if you were to make a genuine attempt to follow some of the ten magical tours (brought together as geographically as possible) through the history of the occult it might cost you an absolute fortune! For example, I was particularly interested in the numerous references to Fulcanelli (one of many occasions I found myself reaching for Wikipedia) and if you were to follow the path of this shadowy French alchemist you would be travelling to several locations in France, then both Scotland and England. However, the book does not need to be read cover-to-cover and you can dip in and out at any point which was a major plus-point. I loved how the author gives his unique perspective on often very well-known locations, such as Holyrood Palace Gardens (Edinburgh, Scotland) and I would be intrigued to know whether what is in Astral Geographic features in official tourist blurbs!
Here and there a few hotel recommendations, bars, restaurants and other locations to check out are provided. These came across as slightly half-hearted as there were just not enough of them to genuinely nudge the book into official guidebook territory. However, if I ever find myself in Biskra (Algeria) I will be sure to look up the Hotel Royal which is close to the location where Aleister Crowley travelled in the Algerian desert and performed magick and if folklore from the time is to believed was inhabited by a demon. This was a fascinating chapter as Crowley is a unique titan when it comes to 20th Century magic and Andy Sharp skilfully recreates, in a very non-sensationalist manner, what Crowley was trying to achieve in the desert all those years ago.
It is no surprise that ‘The Great Beast’ as Crowley was sometimes known pops up in numerous other places and I first came across him well over thirty years ago via Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who collected Crowley memorabilia. At one stage Page owned Boleskine House (near Loch Ness in the north of Scotland) which was much earlier owned by Crowley, where he supposedly performed a ritual called the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, where he raised a demon which he was later unable to banish. According to myth this was the cause of weird and unexplained goings on in the house down the years and in the early nineties me and a group of friends drove past the house for a closer look. We briefly spoke to a guy who might have been the owner, who said; “yes, we do get a fair few wallies passing by….” Although not mentioned in this book, the myth of Crowley most certainly lives on at Boleskine!
The majority of the locations featured are in Europe, parts of north Africa, Asia and a section on India, with relatively few references in the USA, although I did enjoy the brief appearances of both Charles Manson and Kenneth Anger at William Westerfeld House, San Francisco. The current owner of this house has preserved this building’s strange history, however, with many locations at first (or second) glance you would have no obvious way of connecting them to the occult. Chiswick House and Gardens is such an example, situated in central London and with strong connections to Freemasonry and masonic practices and rituals.
Along the way, Astral Geographic also has other standalone essays not related to specific travel and are labelled ‘Journey Deeper’ with these articles being the most complex. Stone Henge is amongst the best-known location covered, along with other stone circles connected to the ancient druids and a deeper dive into the rise and fall of witchcraft. I also enjoyed the Sinister Stones section, which took in the cult film The Wicker Man, as it was filmed around Castle Kennedy Gardens Stranraer and the nearby town of Kirkcubright in the south of Scotland, a place I lived as a small boy, so had considerable personal interest in.
The book would have benefited from having more photographs, otherwise the ground it covered was remarkably thorough and meticulously researched, encompassing witch trials, paintings with occult connections, novelists such as Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, the Vikings, the Gnostics and grimores. Astral Geographic closes with a section on rituals and how to achieve mastery of astral travel (don’t think I’ll be giving it a go!) and has both an excellent further reading list and index.
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Watkins Publishing for an advance copy of this unique travel guide to the world for both armchair travellers and those who like to take spiritual and adventures journeys.
One of the the most frequent questions I get in the bookstore are from people looking for travel guides that are different. Rick Stern and Lonely Planet are just too common, they want the different to travel to places that are seldom discussed, not so touristy, but real, and off the beaten path. Though few have ever asked me for a Satan tour. And where many have asked for guides to The Camino de Santiago, no one has ever asked me for a Crossing the Desert with Crowley itinerary. Hopefully this will soon change, as I have the perfect book to recommend. The Astral Geographic: The Watkins Guide to the Occult World by Andy Sharp is a travel guide, planner, and illustrated look to many places of power, and repute all over the world, with lodging and dining suggestions in the area.
Based on the classic Shell travel guides that were once popular in Britain, with a similar layout the The Astral Geographic offers 10 tours of the world based on a variety of occult ideas, and locations either of power, or of historic note. Some tours stay in country, while others cross the globe, such as the previously mentioned Satan tour, which starts in Egypt, travels through Africa, Ireland, France and the United States, ending in London, England. Places in this tour include the Black House of Anton LeVey, Montpellier Hill in Dublin and others. Others like the again previously mentioned Aleister Crowley Crossing the Desert stay in Africa, with mentions of spots Crowley stopped at to rest or to practice rituals. There are tours for witchcraft, Atlantis and more with suggestions for lodging, dining, and other places of interest to a traveller who grows weary of seeing the same old things.
The book is the perfect armchair guide for a reader of occult literature, offering a complete history, along with photos for certain places. For the brave explorer with an interest in the occult arts, and no fear of the problems that travel can cause, this is a fine book to begin a grand tour. The book offers a very good overview of places, history, the meaning, and what it looks like today, along with suggestions of where to stay and where to eat. This information should be checked as things change fast in our modern age, but that is true of most travel books. There is not much about America, but considering the shortness of their history it makes sense. Also not all the places are illustrated, but that is what the Internet is for. What one gets is information on place that have been mentioned in many books, and movies, with a better understanding of what they are and there importance. This is not some horror guide or murder pilgrimage book, but a reference to those places that meant so much in the past, and continue to do so.
Recommended for occult readers, brave travellers, and those who just like to read about interesting places that make the world that much more exciting. I can't wait to recommend this book to people who are looking for something different in their travel books.
Thank you to Netgalley and Watkins Publishing for the digital galley in exchange for my honest review.
I really enjoyed the travel guide, and the stories it had to tell. While I’m certain I will never use it to guide myself all over the world to observe the occult, I did enjoy learning about these places.