Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Series Introduction

In this occasional series, I will be discussing books that a teenage girl (now a fourteen-year-old), Jonelle, invited me to read. And when I say "invited me to read," of course I mean "commanded me to read." For those of you who don't know her, she is a highly intelligent, sweet, precocious and fairly bossy young lady.

A large part of the reason why I read this book, and the other works that will be discussed in this blog series, is that I want to understand how teenagers think. These posts will not be a review of the book per se as much as an exploration of my random thoughts on the book.

How did I get myself into this?

Addendum – I have to say that between the Ladies J (Jonelle & Jessica), I am reading more young adult novels than actual nineteenth-century supernatural horror! Unbelievable! The things I do for these ladies!


But Hermione gave a sudden gasp, pointing down the corridor.


Something was shining on the wall ahead. They approached slowly, squinting through the darkness. Foot-high words had been daubed on the wall between two windows, shimmering in the light cast by the flaming torches.



“What’s that thing — hanging underneath?” said Ron, a slight quiver in his voice.

As they edged nearer, Harry almost slipped — there was a large puddle of water on the floor; Ron and Hermione grabbed him, and they inched toward the message, eyes fixed on a dark shadow beneath it. All three of them realized what it was at once, and leapt backward with a splash.

Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’s cat, was hanging by her tail from the torch bracket. She was stiff as a board, her eyes wide and staring.

–The above was excerpted from pages 139-140 of

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

“Why did they have to come to the match?” said Harry bitterly.

“They’re getting hungry,” said Lupin coolly, shutting his briefcase with a snap. “Dumbledore won’t let them into the school, so their supply of human prey has dried up. . . . I don’t think they could resist the large crowd around the Quidditch field. All that excitement . . . emotions running high . . . it was their idea of a feast.”

“Azkaban must be terrible,” Harry muttered. Lupin nodded grimly.

“The fortress is set on a tiny island, way out to sea, but they don’t need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they’re all trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most of them go mad within weeks.”

“But Sirius Black escaped from them,” Harry said slowly. “He got away. . . .”

–The above was excerpted from page 188 of

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.



Books Jonelle Made Me Read **Special Edition**

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999) by J. K. Rowling.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) by J. K. Rowling.



Old Sins Cast Long Shadows is pleased to present this second in a six-part miniseries within "this occasional series." The second and third volumes in the Harry Potter septology are examined, continuing the discussion from my previous essay on the Potter-verse. A link to that first part is here.


I have a few initial observations before I begin a brief discussion of each book. Please keep in mind that these observations will apply to the future novels as well.

First, I had no idea of the effect, the impact, these novels would have upon me. The quality of The Sorcerer's Stone, while high, did not prepare me for the emotional resonance I felt; especially after The Prisoner of Azkaban. This feeling would only intensify as I progressed though the remaining volumes.

Second, Harry's muggle family, the Dursleys, are becoming less and less important. They are more an inconvenience to be endured rather than any real threat. The Dursleys perform the role of providing a break in the narrative. Their return marks the start of summer, the end of the school year, and the end of the tale. There is an interesting aside to this. As the Dursleys become more a comedic foil, concerns regarding muggles and muggle-ness move to the fore.

Third, as a counter-point to the above, the character of Severus Snape is becoming less a simple mean and petty man into a more nuanced figure with a mysterious and dark past.

Fourth, and finally, I find it reassuring that even in the world of Hogwarts, with all its wonders and magic, dark things dwell.


The second volume of this septology opens with Harry's twelfth birthday, prior to beginning his second year at Hogwarts. This novel confronts the issue of racial prejudice and how it can lead to the corruption of the soul. This topic will return to haunt the characters in future volumes. As Harry starts his second year at the magic school, so too do Ron and Hermione. Hermione is maturing, developing emotionally and having crushes. Ron's younger sister, Ginny, is introduced as a first year student along with the awkward hero-worship she feels for Harry. Of course, Harry and Ron are utterly clueless.

The novel explores the nature of evil and how it was that Harry, while still only a baby, could have defeated a mighty Dark Lord. The theme (the insidiousness of evil) is advanced; that evil never dies and is always looking for a way in. Also, the prison-fortress of Azkaban and its terrifying reputation are introduced. Azkaban will feature prominently in future volumes.

In the third volume, Harry, Ron, and Hermione attend their third year at Hogwarts. The story here revolves around the escape of an ominously named Sirius Black from the dreaded prison-fortress of Azkaban. To make matters even more interesting, he is said to want to kill Harry Potter. And, there is even a magic map! Themes principally revolve around base treachery and the betrayal of faith. for Harry, Ron and Hermione, while the adults must struggle with controlling their own monsters, both figurative and literal. The prison-fortress is further explored and even more so in the next novel.

On a lighter note, the stress of youth and the setting of excessive expectations are also addressed. But Hogwarts is a magical place so even these challenges result in a happy ending.

In a fine bit of foreshadowing, an argument between Hermione, Ron, and Harry (though primarily Hermione and Ron), drives a wedge between Hermione and the boys (though again primarily Hermione and Ron). Later, at their reconciliation, she is so overjoyed, sobbing in relief, she hugs Ron (not Harry). Here again, Ron is clueless.

I find it a comforting relief to see that foreshadowing can be used to portent good things, not only bad.


In the initial post I wrote concerning the Harry Potter series (link), I posed several questions that I intended to revisit in subsequent posts. The first of these involved how Harry Potter fits into Joseph Campbell's hero myth as detailed in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In reading the second and third volumes in the septology, I believe this is true now more than ever.

While doing follow-on research on this topic, I came across, much to my surprise, numerous articles in print and on the internet as well as several texts that touch upon this subject and agree with my supposition. One of the more considered sources I discovered was a graduate thesis in English by Katie Baker. Entitled "Harry Potter: A Hero of Mythic Proportions," it seeks to show, in Baker's own words:[i]

Using Campbell’s seminal work as a critical perspective, I read the protagonist of the Harry Potter novels as a mythic hero. Starting life with nothing, he overcomes his circumstances while remaining virtuous and strong. His strength and virtue allow him to rid the wizarding world of evil, thus solidifying his status of a mythic hero.

Baker's thesis is too comprehensive for me to go into detail here. It is sufficient to say that for anyone who has an interest in this particular subject, this resource is a must.

Another one of the many sources and one that I found very interesting was the short essay "Harry Potter and the Hero With a Thousand Faces" authored by John Algeo, published in the Winter 2009 issue of Quest Magazine.[ii] According to Mr. Algeo, a central point of his essay was to explore why it was that:

Beyond the appeal of plot, character, and setting, the chief and abiding attraction of the Harry Potter books is that they are archetypal. The books resonate with something deep inside us. They evoke a response from the collective unconscious. Harry Potter is a contemporary version of the Hero with a Thousand Faces. Harry Potter is us.

I think he did an excellent job. I am also quite sure that I will return to this article in my final post on the Harry Potter series.

Another question I posed regarded the progression of the writing. As I wrote in my earlier post, " . . . will the writing progress as well? . . . will the writing evolve from appealing to a child, to a teenager and, later still, from a teenager to an adult, as Harry himself grows?" As it pertains to Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, I can say that as Harry ages a year per book, the writing appears to mature as well; though the differences between a 12 year old and a 13 year old may be minimal.

Not only do the main characters age but the writing also is geared for audiences older as the volumes progress. Furthermore, the subject-matters are more mature and the plotlines are more complex and involved. Future volumes will better highlight this, I am certain.


Do I look forward to continuing my exploration of the Potter-verse?

I have already finished reading Goblet of Fire and will start Order of the Phoenix soon.

Can't wait!



Print Resources

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999. Print

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999. Print

Digital Resources

Algeo, John. “Harry Potter and the Hero With a Thousand Faces.” Quest  97. 1 (Winter 2009): 25-29. Pdf.

Baker, Katie L., "Harry Potter: A Hero of Mythic Proportions" (2011). English Theses. Paper 1. Pdf.

Online Resources

Garvin, Patrick. "Harry Potter, Star Wars, Joseph Campbell and the hero myth." 17 July 2011. Accessed 18 July 2017.

Sims, Andrew. "J.K. Rowling and Emma Watson discuss Ron, Hermione, and Harry: The full interview." 07 February 2014. Accessed 09 July 2017.

Stewart, Kaley. "Reread: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." Books Etc. 02 March 2014. Accessed 15 July 2017.

Stewart, Kaley. "Reread: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Books Etc. 30 March 2014. Accessed 20 July 2017.

[i] From the thesis' abstract.

[ii] Quest Magazine is a publication of the Theosophical Society of America. Mr. Algeo is the former President of the Theosophical Society of America.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Some Thoughts on THE DRUG & OTHER STORIES by Aleister Crowley

In furtherance of my quest to understand nineteenth-century supernatural horror literature, I find myself returning to the early twentieth-century and to "The Beast" – Aleister Crowley – and his The Drug & Other Stories.


Bugg saw his mistake, his masses of mistakes. There being but one more to make, he made it; and, finding himself in the frying-pan of discovery, leapt into the fire of things irrevocable and not to be forgotten. His fat, heavy-jowled, coarse face all twitching, he fell on his knees and clasped his hands together. "So you found me out? Don't, don't give away your poor old father, Gertie! My little Gertie!"

An excerpt from "His Secret Sin"

At the door, as carefully stacked as the rest, they found the severed limbs of the Honourable Diana. And in the forest the cheery, ringing thud of his axe led them to Placide Gervez, quietly, manfully chopping.

An excerpt from "The Woodcutter"

She ran gleefully into the laboratory. On the bench stood the basin she had used so often, with the soap and towels neatly at its side. She seized the soap, and plunged both hands into the nearly boiling hydrochloric acid. Then she turned her head to him, her mouth a tragic square, incapable even of uttering even a shriek.

An excerpt from "Professor Zircon"


The Drug & Other Stories collects Crowley's non-Simon Iff short stories into one volume. This edition, published in 2010 by Wordsworth Editions, is part of the Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural series.[i] The General Editor of this series is David Stuart Davies, a noted expert on Sherlock Holmes. Unlike most other works in this series, the Introduction of this volume is written by William Breeze, an expert in Crowley's works.


Unlike my previous post on Crowley's writing, which only concerned the Simon Iff tales (link), the tales in this volume are each, a stand-alone tale. Many of these were written throughout the first decades of the twentieth century appear in publication here for the first time.

A significant number of these tales were a challenge to read and at times I found it difficult to follow what was going on. This was due, in large part, to the frequent necessity of needing a background in eastern and western esotericism to fully realize the themes being presented. Not having such a background myself, this collection was a mixed bag for me.

This volume revealed that, as an author, Crowley was a touch melodramatic and rather self-righteous. Especially when trying to make a point against his adversaries. Also, when making a philosophical point via his tales, the situations he created seem a little contrived. In contrast (in this collection), the comedic tales, or the comedic elements in his tales, read like a Monty Python skit – combining physical comedy with sexual innuendo (a telling indicator of the breadth of Crowley's writing skills).

Though written in the early twentieth century, Crowley's tales reflect circumstances from the nineteenth century. For example, in a historical sense, many of Crowley's tales are rooted in the "Victorian Occult Revival" which culminated in 1887 with the formation of the esoteric "Order of the Golden Dawn." In turn, this organization itself was structured on, and created by members of, the Masonic Order – a powerful and secretive body in the age of Queen Victoria.

These tales are mostly set in locales that Crowley had some personal experience: Belle Époque Paris, Edwardian London, pre-revolutionary Russia and America during the years of the First World War.


In Jo Woolfardis' worthwhile review of this collection, each story is commented upon as I do below.[ii] I wonder if our comments agree or clash?[iii]

List of tales in this collection:

"The Three Characteristics" – A Buddhist-Hindu allegorical tale. Of course, Crowley set himself as the central, heroic figure. Eastern mysticism blended with Crowley's Thelemic philosophy to make this tale entertaining and informative.

I think. . .

"The Wake World" – A strange, allegorical tale explaining the journey through the Tree of Life and the alchemical marriage of C.R.C.

"T’ien Tao" – A farcical and allegorical tale using a faux Far Eastern milieu to impart the teaching that to learn the Tao is to seek equilibrium or balance in all things.

"The Stone of the Philosophers" – A tiresome tale told in poetry and prose. A group of men share their concepts of existence and various other philosophies by the recitation of bad verse.

"The Drug" – This tale fathoms the nature of life and death. The true nature of life being only revealed in death – and vice versa.

"Cancer?" – Fear of cancer caused Bernard to draw a razor across this own throat to spare himself tortuous suffering. One problem though, he has tonsillitis, not throat cancer.

"At the Fork of the Roads" – A short tale describing a magickal attack on a neophyte. Evil to those who do evil.

"The Dream Circean" – Yet another tale told in allegory. An old man tells a tale of when he rescued a beautiful, innocent girl from the cruelty of her mother. Unfortunately, circumstances compel the man to leave her and he never sees her again. He spends the remainder of his life searching. Much later, a great magician teaches him that the girl was not a mere girl, but the Eternal Virgin – an archetypal image.

"Illusion d’Amoureux" – A metaphysical tale of a love between a mortal and a god. At least, I think that's what this quick story is about. . .

"The Soul-Hunter" – An account, taken from his own diary, of a deranged doctor's experiment to search for the human soul.

"The Daughter of the Horseleech" – A quick and humorous metaphysical tale of a dream presenting the quandary formed by giving women the vote.

"The Violinist" – Aside from a creative method of committing murder, I'm not sure what to make of this very short tale.

"The Vixen" – A truly strange, quick tale, about a f0x and a hound. I think, a were-fox and a were-hound. Also, a bit of S & M and blood-play.

Mr. Crowley, I am shocked!

"The Ordeal of Ida Pendragon" – The weird courtship of a frater and soror. They verbally spar over metaphysical points. Through the rituals described and arguments made, Crowley's magickal philosophy is laid bare.

"Apollo Bestows the Violin" – A possible origin to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi.

"Across the Gulf" – A contemporary adept records his memories of a previous life as an Ancient Egyptian priest – how this young boy is trained to assume the role and titles of priestess. Later, rising to the position of High Priest Osiris.

The tale is rich in metaphysical imagery. However, not being a Thelemite (a follower of Crowley's magickal tradition), the meaning behind much of this tale was lost on me.

"His Secret Sin" – Farcical exploration of the usefulness (or lack thereof) of living by a moral code.

"The Woodcutter" – This quick tale packs a punch at the end. The simple life in nature is confounded and indeed perverted when modern philosophy is introduced.

"Professor Zircon" – Jealousy and innocence rarely mix well.

"The Vitriol-Thrower" – Beauty, passion, love, and vengeance. All are part of life. Indeed, necessary for life and necessary to truly live.

"The Testament of Magdalen Blair" – A short story, rich in content. Magdalen is the colleague/wife of a professor. She is a psychic and together, they conduct experiments on her abilities. The husband is dying of illness.

Fully one-third of this story is the prologue, setting the stage. The reader doesn't know it is the prologue, until it ends. In Part 2, the story proper begins. Magdalen reads/interprets his thoughts as he dies. Considering the putrefaction of her husband's body, she realizes the futile meaning of existence, leading her to attempt suicide. She ends up confined in an asylum.

I found this tale to be highly reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" – Crowley's Thelemic magical philosophy contrasted against Poe's mesmeric science. And like that tale, more than half of Poe's story is a prologue, catching the reader up to present.

Finally, this tale is described by one commentator as one of "the most terrifying tale ever written."

"Ercildoune" – A novella regarding the history of the Marquisate of Ercildoune. The tale concerns a family, accursed. A muddled and convoluted inheritance. Murder, conspiracy, decapitation, dismemberment and the Rosicrucian brotherhood!

This wild tale bears twists, turns, shocking revelations, new characters, and a final act of contrition.

"The Stratagem" – Two gentlemen, (an Englishman and another), await a train in an isolated station. The "other" shares a cock-and-bull story to put the stuffy Englishman in his place. A witty and sassy tale.

"Lieutenant Finn’s Promotion" – A farcical exposition on the ludicrous nature of the imperial and colonial powers up to World War I. This tale highlights the gross incompetence, graft and corruption that are these powers' military and diplomatic services.

"The Chute" – A strange one. I think this tale is about a success that fails, but in doing so helps a failure to succeed, which in turn aids the previous failing to succeed again.

"A Death Bed Repentance" – Yet another allegorical tale wherein the long debate between the religious and the rational is played out.

"Felo de Se" – A young man contemplating suicide is come upon by an older man, an adept (Crowley himself, perhaps?). The adept supports the decision for suicide through logical arguments and the Thelemite philosophy of "Love Under Will."

As a result, in a surprising turnabout, the young man decides to become a disciple of the adept instead.

A good one, Mr. Crowley.

"The Argument that Took the Wrong Turning" – This tale starts as a polemic against the sin of alcohol abuse and drunkenness. It ends as a condemnation of prohibition!

"Robbing Miss Horniman" – Another befuddling tale. An account of a swindler taking advantage of an elderly woman's wealth. But as it turns out, it is the swindler who is swindled. All's well that ends well.

"Face" – Another strange tale. Status, class racism and eastern mysteries; all are secondary. When love is thwarted, evil may be the result.

"Which Things are an Allegory" – Ummm. . . What? I get the devil in a city of man theme, but. . . what? This tale is made more befuddling by the anachronistic verbiage and indistinct pronouns.

"The Crime of the Impasse de l’Enfant Jésus" – *previously unpublished* – A government informant's bluff is called. He attempts to swindle the government and is successful. Unfortunately, he gets himself murdered in the process.

"Atlantis" – Reminiscent of my commentary on Star (Psi Cassiopeia) (link) in that this novella is very much like a cultural study of Atlantis. Just as most cultural studies, and Star (Psi Cassiopeia), with no plot to speak of, this is a hard read; uncomfortable and tedious.

"The Mysterious Malady" – *previously unpublished* – A young doctor, against all odds, finds love with an heiress. As time passes, he fears she is having a mental breakdown. As it turns out, it is he who suffers from insanity. In the end, he poisons his loving wife and many others. Well-written. Builds suspense very well.

"The Bald Man" – *previously unpublished* – During WWI, a man overcomes his terror and willingly acts to save his army at the cost of his life.

"Black and Silver" – *previously unpublished* – The lesson here is "don't try to swindle a swindler." A wonderful little tale.

"The Humour of Pauline Pepper" – *previously unpublished* – Set in WWI, this comedy of errors calls to my mind the 1969 movie Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies.

"A Nativity" – *previously unpublished* – A short, sharp shock. Wow! I did not see this one coming.

"Every Precaution" – *previously unpublished* – Just because you are warned of the evil of absinthe, doesn't mean some other evil won't get you.

"God’s Journey" – *previously unpublished* – Even when one is given a second chance, karma can still strike you down; no matter how long it takes.

"The Colour of My Eyes" – *previously unpublished* – A very short tale on how love can "colour" how we see the world around us.

"Dedit!" – *previously unpublished* – Another great one with a zinger. No, a double zinger at the end. The plot is too complicated to comment on. It must be read! One of the best in this collection!

"Colonel Pacton’s Brother" – *previously unpublished* – For a novella, this one has quite the twists and turns. Another example of the swindlers themselves being the ones swindled. All is well that ends well and all is forgiven.

(Except for the one poor, honest man in the story who is killed by a falling elm-tree bough.)

"The Vampire of Vespuccia" – *previously unpublished* – Once again, the conclusion upends the entire tale. Strongly reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Nightmare Room."

"As You Were!" – *previously unpublished* – Another tale in the vein of "don't try to swindle a swindler." However, this time with a twist. Especially when those swindling the swindler are themselves being swindled.

"Only a Dog" – *previously unpublished* – Sometimes what is a small thing to one, can be the tipping point to another.

"The Virgin" – *previously unpublished* – What just happened? What did I just read?

"A Masque" – *previously unpublished* – Another tale that mystified me. The happenings are clear but the meaning behind them elude me.

"The Escape" – *previously unpublished* – A rather pointed comment on the supposed death-defying adventures of mountain climbers and those who listen to those accounts.


My comments in this post are based on the 2010 edition of The Drug & Other Stories exclusively. In 2015, Wordsworth Editions published a revised and expanded second edition.


This new edition includes five additional tales and, consequently, is about fifty pages longer. These tales are, in order of appearance and initial publication information:

"Ambrosii Magi Hortus Rosarum." Collected Works, Volume 2, 1906.

"The Murder in X Street." February 15, 22, 29 and March 7, 1908 editions of What's On.

"The Electric Silence." The Equinox, Volume 1, No. VI. September 1911.

"The Professor and the Plutocrat." The International, October 1917. Written under pseudonym.

"The Ideal Idol." The International, April 1918. Written under pseudonym.


On completion of my reading of The Drug & Other Stories, I had a real sense of accomplishment. Even though many of the stories were enjoyable and witty, I was relieved when turning the last page. A reviewer of Crowley's Simon Iff collection from Wordsworth referred to The Drug & Other Stories as "...exhaustion-inducing..."

A most apt description.



Print Resources

Crowley, Aleister. The Drug & Other Stories. Wordsworth Editions: Hertfordshire, 2010.

Digital Resources

Online Resources

Andresen, Mark. "The Drug and Other Stories by Aleister Crowley, Wordsworth Editions." The Pan Review. 26 February 2011. Accessed 24 April 2017.

Dem Bones. "Aleister Crowley - The Drug & Others." Vault Of Evil: Brit Horror Pulp Plus! 22 August 2010. Accessed 24 April 2017.

Dem Bones. " Aleister Crowley - The Simon Iff Stories." Vault Of Evil: Brit Horror Pulp Plus! 27 April 2012. Accessed 02 May 2017.

Flood, Alison. "Unseen Aleister Crowley writings reveal 'short-story writer of the highest order'." The Guardian. 15 October 2015. Accessed 07 May 2017.

Monaco, Mike. "The drug and other stories (part of 1 of maybe 2)." Swords & Dorkery. 7 December 2012. Accessed 24 April 2017.

"The Aleister Crowley Bibliography Project." The 100th Monkey Press. Accessed 01 May 2017.

Woolfardis, Jo. "The Drug and Other Stories." Goodreads.

14 January 2016. Accessed 13 May 2017.

[i] A fine series of reprints and collections which, as I have stated in previous posts, I wholeheartedly endorse.

[ii] Woolfardis, Jo. "The Drug and Other Stories." Goodreads.

[iii] Together with a few comments and observations I thought pertinent.