Interview with Steve Savedow: Magic, the Western Mystery Tradition and Goetic Evocation

Today we have an interview with Steve Savedow. I learned about Steve by seeing some of the beautiful internal images of his book Goetic Evocation. Hadean Publishing were releasing a 25th anniversary edition after it first being published in 1996 by Eschaton Productions. After reading through the information and looking at his other publications I knew he would be a really interesting guest for the blog.

I would like to thank Steve for taking part in this interview and for spending the time in answering my many questions. If you enjoy this interview, then be sure to follow his work over at Hadean Publishing.

PAA: Can you tell us about your journey into the study of magic and the Western Mystery Tradition?

Steve Savedow: My interest in magic and the occult sciences began at a very young age. At the age of 5 years old, I was diagnosed with a somewhat rare bone disease called Perthes. It resulted in having deterioration of the ball & socket joint of my hips. This occurred in the 1960s when there were not so many options to treat such a disorder. I was placed into a full body cast for about one year, and after that was made to wear leg braces (like Forrest Gump) for about two years. Anyone who has had children will realize what a highly stressful experience it would be for a child of this age to remain completely immobile for this length of time. 

I was medicated and had an extremely active dream-life as a child, in fact I could always recognize that I was in a dream at the time, and actually ended up going to school in my dreams. It resembled my pre-school at first, and it changed as I got older. The other students there and I were taught about mythology, nature, old Gods such as the Greek and Roman, and Hebrew deities and angels, (as I was born in a Jewish family, in fact am full blooded Jewish going all the way back through the generations), also the stars and basic astrology which one might tell children about. This education went on for many years and decades, as I graduated to study more complex “subjects”, and on occasion still I “wake up in my dreams” to find myself in class, even now at age 62.   

On a side note, the treatment and therapy that I received for Perthes resulted in nearly 100% recovery and in time, my bone damage was minimal, and the usual long-term effects of the disease were virtually undetectable, which was unusual for those children afflicted in the 1960s. 

I was always quite a voracious reader, especially of true crime, crime mysteries, horror, science fiction and fantasy texts. As a teenager, I began reading more non-fictional texts, many of which I ordered through Book Clubs. In the 1970s, there were flyers in newspapers and TV guide, which offered one to order (for example) four books for a dollar, and then had to purchase a few books at cost over the course of the year. They never asked questions such as the age of the customer, just name and address, etc. When you completed purchasing the additional books over the year, one could rejoin and order another 4 books for a dollar. Usually, I would just mail them a dollar bill, which was accepted as payment.  They had fiction and non-fictional books, designated by subjects and the occult listing became fairly popular. It included witchcraft books by authors Sybil Leek, Doreen Valiente, Gerald Gardner, etc. Also, various astrology books, and on the Tarot by Eden Gray, etc.  

My first experience in “organized occultism”, occurred when I was a young teenager about 14 – 15 years old. I only had one real friend in high school, we were both considered to be “weirdos” by the other students. It turned out that her sister was a member of a wiccan coven in a town called Cassadega, FL which was only about a 30-minute drive from our home in Daytona Beach. Our parents expected her to watch us one Saturday afternoon, right on the summer solstice. She was supposed to be watching us, and decided to take us with her to the coven where they were having a solstice celebration ritual. We were not allowed to observe unless they performed a “junior initiation”, which was my first “waking” step into the occult group life, I can still recall the experiences of that initiation as if it happened yesterday.   

After a few years had passed, was formally initiated into the coven and became a “card-carrying” member, although that lasted only a few years. I certainly did learn much about the wiccan religion and natural magic during my time there. I had read every book on the subject that I could lay my hands on, including the “Lady Sheba Book of Shadows” and the few books she had published, Sybil Leek’s “Complete Art of Witchcraft”, as well as Anne Grammary’s classic “Witch’s Workbook”, etc.

I drifted away from the coven, as I became more interested in serious ritual magic texts, especially on the qabalah, which is when was I introduced to the works of Aleister Crowley, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Dion Fortune, etc.  After some time, I noticed a flyer for the (caliphate) OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) in a local bookstore, and I decided to acquaint myself with a few local members here in Daytona Beach. I had traveled to Jacksonville to receive the Minerval and 1st degree initiations (they combined the two ceremonies, and I received both at the same time). After some time, I was initiated to the 2nd degree, but… a few years later, was unceremoniously expelled from the order due to a mundane personal beef with another local member, which had nothing to do with the magic or the order. Over the following decades, from the 1970’s until present day, I had developed my own system, utilizing primarily Solomonic and Enochian systems, also from Barrett’s Magus and Agrippa’s Occult Philosophy, utilizing that which worked for me, and discarding the rest. I was able to locate grimoire related and ritual magic texts as they were many published during this time period, notably by Samuel Weiser Inc, Aquarian Press, Llewelyn Publications, and lesser known titles by Daniel Driscoll of Heptangle Books, etc. 

PAA: What inspired you to write your book Goetic Evocation?

Steve Savedow: In the mid 1980s, I opened Serpents Occult Books, which was basically a mail order business. I did have a very small brick & mortar office, but it was rare to get walk-in customers. Of course, this was prior to the internet becoming available to the general public, and I printed monthly catalogs to mail to my customers. It was fairly quickly that Serpents Books became one of the top 4 occult specialist book dealers in the country. After the internet became popular in the early 1990s, my business grew considerably. I was quite fortunate to be able to work with occult books, which was a primary interest in my life, and I was quite successful until the year 2004 when three hurricanes in a short period came through Daytona Beach (being Charlie, Francis and Jeanne), resulting in serious leaks in the roof of my storehouse causing damage to about 2/3 of my inventory, which effectively put me out of business.

At the time in the 1980s, I had been approached by various less advanced practitioners requesting that I take them on as students. I accepted a few but it soon became clear that I was unable to make time for them, so I decided to write a series of texts (later named “Magician’s Workbook: A Modern Grimoire”) and the first volume was published by Weiser Books Inc.  At the time, I was still a full time bookseller specializing in hard to find, rare antiquarian titles on the occult, especially grimoire texts, witchcraft, demonology and ritual magic books. 

Consequently, in the early 1990s, I decided to write a “beginners manual” that I could just refer to those who requested I take them on as students, then I could just direct them to buy the book and following the instructions therein. So being a published author actually became my fourth job, being a bookseller, the drummer in a local southern rock bar band, and also a full-time parent with my wife and three stepdaughters. I can tell you that I was really pushing my limit at that time.  

So, my first book was “Magican’s Workbook” (1995), and the second volume “Goetic Evocation“, which was published in 1996 by a small press being Eschaton Productions. My first three books were written in the early to mid 1990s, much done prior to the existence of the internet. So, my second book of a  planned 4 volume series, the third would have a practical manual on Enochian Magic, and the fourth on Sex Magic, however this never happened. I had finished writing GE and submitted the manuscript to my publisher at the time, being Samuel Weiser Inc or Weiser Books, who had accepted and published MW right away. I submitted GE to Weiser, and then was sidetracked from my plans with another project, being the translation of Sepher Rezial. I did not realize that it would take so long (four years), and I was well into working Sepher Rezial, then Weiser contacted me a full year after my submission of GE. They said that they were interested but they had a long list of changes and re-writes. I was so far into Rezial that I just could not put it on hold in order to re-write GE, therefore I decided to go with a small press operated by a friend/customer of my book business. Later Weiser did accept my translation of Sepher Rezial (which is still in print today, nearly 25 years later).  After the four-year period, I decided to take a break from writing, and then a few years later (as previously mentioned), was affected by three hurricanes that struck Daytona Beach in 2004 being Charlie, Francis and Jeane, causing major damage to my warehouse roof and subsequently the inventory, effectively putting me out of business.

PAA: Can you share with us any personal experiences or insights you gained while writing Goetic Evocation?

Steve Savedow: Well, in order to engage in a bit of shameless self-promotion, I have to suggest that the reader acquires a copy of Goetic Evocation, as it does include many examples of my personal experiences and insights regarding the practice, as well as some text derived from my personal magical records on the matter. Actually, while writing this book, and prior to doing so, there were an endless number of personal experiences, much too many to discuss in this format, but I would offer a partial paragraph from the introduction to the new edition (Hadean Press, 2022):

Over the years, I had developed my own practical system of magick, as any good practitioner should do. The evolution of my system started as I first began studying and practicing magick as a teenager in the 1970s; it was at first based on natural or folk magic, and the study of witchcraft or Wicca. After a time, my interest included that of qabalistic magick, which I considered the art of combination, due to it being based on combining various seemingly unrelated items, such as letters, words, names, incantations, colors, smells, herbs and incense, gemstones, diagrams or talismans, planets, starts and constellations, etc. That led me to the writings of Aleister Crowley and the teachings of the quasi-Masonic order O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis), which is when I first became aware of the text “Goetia”. I became quite obsessed with the work and it’s history even though other members of the order “warned” me against attempting to perform the rituals. Of course, that only encouraged me to work with the system in depth. Although both natural magick and the Hebrew Qabalah/Qliphoth had become an intricate influence on my practices, as I drifted away from Thelemic magick and began the study of classic medieval grimoire texts I developed my own original rituals and practiced them constantly, incorporating them into my everyday life. 

Some personal experiences:  

Our temple for Goetic working was actually a room attached to the house that I lived in, actually a “band room” where my band would practice. On a few occasions the neighbors had called the police due to noise.  After an especially active Goetic ritual experience, it turns out that the neighbors called the police due to the noise. The police had been called to my house due to noise on several occasions, but this time it was due to the noises of the evocation. At the time, they arrived a couple of hours after the conclusion of the ritual, while we were cleaning up. The police knocked on the door and they assumed the noises were from the band, as they had been called to my house in the past. I actually told them it was due to a new “Moog” synthesizer we had recently acquired, so we pulled it out and made some “scary noises” for the officers, to which they laughed it off. I told them to come back next week, and we would play a few songs for them, as we had done occasionally when they were called. 

In the mid to late 1980s, I had gained a bit of a reputation as a Goetic practitioner. At the time there were very few books on the subject, especially of the traditional style of Goetia. This was prior to the existence of the internet (as available to the general public). At the time, I was a bookseller specializing in the occult, ritual magic and grimoire titles, and was well aware of those few books published. I was vaguely aware of Carroll “Poke” Runyon’s texts and videos on his dark mirror technique of the O.T.A. (Order of the Temple of Astarte), which was a completely different method then what we practiced. Additionally, they were quite far away from my home in Florida, in fact they were on the other side of the country in California.  The cover blurb on the back of the 1996 original printing of GE noted the dark mirror evocation was “ineffectual and diluted”. After the release, the Maestro Runyon was quoted in various places that I had “taken a swipe” at him and his ritual style, however afterward we had since spoken with each other and become friends, after I admitted that there was some value in his technique.

PAA: What do you hope readers will take away from your book Goetic Evocation?

Steve Savedow: As mentioned above, I wrote these books to provide those who wish to practice ritual magic, and hopefully to make it clear that they follow the instructions of particular systems in thorough detail. Also, this book has been generally accessible to readers/students for over 25 years now, therefore I hope and expect that readers have already taken away some positive results from my book.  Also, as I frequently state, how beneficial it is for the practitioner to develop their own system based on material that they would have an affinity. 

From the original edition introduction: 

It is not altogether the author’s intention to encourage the practice of magickal evocation, especially “Goetic”, as much as to document a bit of his own knowledge on the subject, to aid those with the fortitude to endeavor such a feat. In this day and age, it is not recommended to subject the world and its inhabitants to experience this sort of inferniality. However, for those chosen few who consider themselves worthy, you might first ask yourself, “What if I should happen to succeed?”.

PAA: How has your personal practice evolved over the years?

Steve Savedow: Well, in more than 50 years of practice, there has been quite a lot of evolution of my experience and personal practice. As previously mentioned, as a young boy began serious dream-work and astral projection, both of which still continued throughout the years to the present time. Also was initiated and involved in a wiccan coven throughout my teenage years, and still practice natural magic to this day. In my early 20s, became involved in the Caliphate OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis), and was initiated to the 3rd degree, but was later expelled from the order. Again, there are some aspects of Thelemic magic that I continue to utilize to this day. I actually developed my own system of magic based on my personal practice, including astral, folk magic and ritual magic, talismanic and Solomonic invocational magic as well as grimoire evocational ritual, utilizing the John Dee Enochian system, Jewish and Christian systems based on various grimoire texts, etc. Also, I believe that this question was addressed in previous section(s).

PAA: Can you share with us any particularly memorable experiences from your personal practice?

Steve Savedow: I hesitate to discuss experiences from my personal practice other than those based on my published works, of course. I’ll leave it to say that there has been an infinite number of memorable experiences from my personal practice over the past half century.  I consider myself as a student of the old school, and knowing full well that it is appropriate only to “stay silent” on various matters, specifically the most personal experiences of my magical life. Obviously being a writer and author of various texts, there has already been various experiences published from my personal practice in specific sources.

PAA: How do you see the Western Mystery Tradition evolving in the future?

Steve Savedow: I am hopeful to think its possible that more and more people are  becoming involved in the Western Mystery Tradition, and therefore that it becomes of interest, being more acceptable to the rest of society. I would expect that with more people becoming interested and involved in occultism and the Western Mystery Tradition, that there would be an interesting evolution of more detail, theory and technique established. There has been so many new titles released over the past 20 years, much of which I haven’t been able to make time to even read, that I often feel like a dinosaur in comparison to the new generation of magical practitioners, and the works that are being written and published by them. 

PAA: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the study of magic and the Western Mystery Tradition?

Steve Savedow: Do not let failure discourage you, if anything it should encourage and drive the student forward. It is most of all importatnt to keep trying and keep working at it.  Be persistant, even stubbornly so, and accept failure as steps along the path.

PAA: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your work or personal practice?

Steve Savedow: I feel like I’ve shared quite a bit about my work and practice above. Also I hesitate to discuss my work in more detail, other than matters from my published texts, as mentioned above.

PAA: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your new book “Pneumatologia Occulta et Vera”? 

Steve Savedow: I accidentally came across this text in the first of six large volumes published in German 1821 (my copy is a recent facsimile edition). While flipping through the pages of the first volume, I recognized the talismanic diagrams from the “Heptameron”, first published in Agrippa’s “Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy”. The set was compiled by Georg Conrad Horst, and titled “Zauber-Bibliothek” or “Magic Library”. It is an interesting compilation of grimoire and theurgia texts, as well as witchraft and paranormal titles. The Zauber-Bibliothek compiles subjects “… of Magic, Theurgy & Mantic, Sorcerers, Sorcerers, Witches & Witch Trials, Demons, Ghosts & Spirits”, (Zauber-Bibliothek in six volumes, published in Mainz, Verlag Florian Kupferberg, 1821 – 1826),  I decide to translate the text for my own purposes, and after discussing the work with a few associates, decided to clean it up to provide a possible publication submission, adding numerous footnotes, introduction and a few appendixes. 

I had been in retirement from my previous occupation as an antiquarian bookseller specializing in rare occult texts, as well as being the author of a few well-received books published in the 1990s by Samuel Weiser, Inc.  I’m very proud to have been encouraged to come out of retirement last year by a few associates,  in order to work on several new grimoire translations and the reprint edition of “Goetic Evocation” published last year by Hadean Press.

The full title is “Pneumatologia Occulta Et Vera : The Hidden and True Pneumatology:  An Obscure 17th Century Grimoire Text For Conjuring Spirits To Reveal Hidden Treasure, Derived From A Manuscript of The Mystical Spanish City of Salamanca” (Translated from the German into English, edited, with footnotes and introduction by Steve Savedow)

PAA: How does “Pneumatologia Occulta et Vera” explore the spiritual practice of conjuring spirits to reveal hidden treasure?

Steve Savedow: In depth and detail, based on a complex system of various levels of spirits, conjurations and talismans, including a “divining rod”, an “earth mirror”, and a “caroli staff”, and also drawing from books such as “Heptameron”, “Book of Abramelin”, and Christian Grimoires such as Sworn Book of Honorius”, etc.

To quote a bit on “Pneumatologia Occulta et Vera” from the newly released and exceptional grimoire reference text “The Grimoire Encyclopedia” by David Rankine (Hadean Press 2023), one of the leading specialists on grimoire material, the text contains: 

light to find buried treasure; mirror; divining rod with conjurations for use; days when to use rod and when spirits should be conjured; instructions for the exorcist when dealing with spirits; lists of spirits (planetary intelligences and spirits, archangels, zodiacal angels, the nine demonic orders and their rulers); description of reams of hell and torments; how Saturn is over hidden treasures; the forms taken by treasure spirits; elemental rulers, the elements; more spirit names, planetary angels and spirits (Heptameron); warning about familiar spirits and use of Aratron to control them; procedure for dealing with treasure spirits including incense; description of practices including preparation of practitioners, words spoken before creating the circle; the magic circle, prayers and practices in the circle; how to deal with troublesome spirits; Psalm 91.

PAA: Can you share with us any spiritual insights or experiences you gained while working on “Pneumatologia Occulta et Vera”?

Steve Savedow: I had worked on the translation for a few months, and when I was finished, then I immediately moved on to my next project, therefore in all honesty, I did not spend much time at all working with the text, and consequently have not experienced any challenges or insights in regards to this particular text. 

PAA: What can readers expect to learn from “Pneumatologia Occulta et Vera”?

Steve Savedow: There is quite a bit of traditional lore based on classic medieval grimoire texts drawing from various systems of ritual magic. 

PAA: Can you share with us any challenges or insights you gained while working on the translation of “Pneumatologia Occulta et Vera”?

Steve Savedow: As stated above, I had worked on the translation for a few months, and when I was finished, then I immediately moved on to my next project, therefore in all honesty, I did not spend much time at all working with the text, and consequently have not experienced any challenges or insights in regards to this particular text. 

PAA: What do you hope readers will take away from “Pneumatologia Occulta et Vera”?

Steve Savedow: I hope readers, grimoire enthusiasts, and magical practitioners will find some value and interest in this work, as an unfamiliar, highly obscure and virtually unheard of medieval true grimoire text. 

PAA: Is there anything else you would like to say in regard to your work, Magic and the Occult?  

Steve Savedow: I’m very pleased to have come out of retirement in order to carry forth with new works, and to add another chapter to my legacy of work. I’ve had been in retirement for more than 15 years from my previous occupation as an antiquarian bookseller specializing in rare occult texts, as well as being the author of a few well-received books published in the 1990s by Samuel Weiser, Inc.  I’m very proud to have been encouraged to come out of retirement last year in order to work on several new grimoire translations, with much thanks to Stephen Skinner, & also David Rankine, who most kindly introduced me to Hadean Press, and the wonderful Erzebet & Dis Albion.  In comparison to the newer scholars and writers of the 21st century who are nowadays putting out so many excellent new works on various forms of magic, I am basically a dinosaur however am still hopeful and confident that the new translations I have been working on will be found to be of some value to the serious practitioner.  

PAA: Thank you Steve for your time in taking part in this interview and for sharing so much of your journey with us.

Goetic Evocation on Hadean Press

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