Professor Myal Djumboh Cassecanarie, Obeah Simplified, The True Wanga,
Afterword by Christopher Josiffre, Society of Esoteric Endeavour, 2018. Hardback 139pp. Numbered limited edition of 193 copies.
Preface. To the reader
Chapter I. Definitions
Chapter II. Initiation, Kanji Stones, Protection of Fields etc.
Chapter III. Excitement to love, Dirty Clothes Oracle, "Setting On" Jumbies, Causing Disease etc.
Chapter IV. Use of Spells and Incantations on Men and Animals
Chapter V.† The Use of Glamour and Wanga Power, Rain Making and Controlling Elements
Chapter VI. Hagging, Vampires, Drawing the Shadow, Lycanthropy, Silk Cotton Tree
Chapter VII.† Fair Maids, Nature-Spirits, Virtuas.
Chapter VIII.† Theopea: Modus Operandi of certain Ancient Feats
Chapter IX Ancient Sorcery, Superstition, Mamans Dijou, Livre Rouge, Conclusion
Christopher Josiffre - Afterword
Influence upon Aleister Crowley
Sympathetic Portrayal of Obeah
Identity of Cassecanarie
Shamanism and Witchcraft Amongst the Kolararian Tribes by Miad Koyora Koria Hon,
African Magic by Tau-Triadelta
Varieties of African Magic Parts I and II by Miad Hoyora Korahon
The True Wanga - Marginalia, Underlinings and Other Markings in the Warburg Copy
This work was first published in 1895 in Trinidad and achieved instant obscurity, However, it seems that a bell was rung somewhere as 9 years later, on 8th April 1904 Aiwass instructed Crowley that, as well as the mantras and spells and the work of the wand and the sword, he should learn and teach "the obeah and the wanga"† (Liber Al vel Legis / The Book of the Law, Chapter 1 verse 37)
At that time, and for a very long time afterwards, the only sympathetic text by a self identified practitioner of Obeah was this work. It was the only book with the more obscure term "Wanga" in the title. It almost as if Aiwass was referring Crowley to this publication!
There is good reason to believe that Crowley was aware of the publication. There is an annotated copy of Obeah Simplified in the Yorke Collection at the Warburg Institute. The annotations, appear to emphasise parts of the text which particularly resonates with Crowley's writings. The Afterword and appendices reproduce or describe all the annotations and underlining, and presents expert judgement as to whether they are in Crowley's hand. The matter remains an enigma. Readers are given all the information so that they can judge the issue for themselves.
So what do we know of the author. The title page tells us a great deal, and very little. He is described as:-
Prof. Dr. Myal Djumboh Cassecanarie, Sc. U. D. etc.
It goes on to note that his academic position is Professor of Pneumatics at the Tíchanga Wanga University. His doctorate is vaguer, but he described as "Quimboiseur to His Excellency the Ex-President of Haiti", an obscure office that can be translated from the French as "Voodoo Sorcerer" with an emphasis upon herbcraft (or poisons). The title page also identifies him "Chevalier de l'Ordre du Vodun Saint des Egbas". or Knight of the Order of the Holy Voodoo of† the Egbas, an ethnic group found in modern Nigeria, many of whom were taken as slaves to the Caribbean. It is noted that he is a member of the principal West African and West Indian Scientific Societies.
The author is here expressing a tremendous enthusiasm and affinity for African Diaspora magic, perhaps enriched with some imagination, that was unknown in print at the time, or - indeed - for many decades afterwards. It should be emphasised that Obeah was usually "resistance magic", a response by people who, denied political, economic or military power, utilise magical glamours to obtain influence. Hence it was closely associated with rebellion and was made illegal and vociferously persecuted by the imperial powers. Whenever Obeah was mentioned in books, it was described in extremely negative terms. Except in this work.
The legal situation regarding the practice of obeah in 19th Century Trinidad may be a factor in the author's use of a pseudonym. Christopher Josiffe, in Aleister Crowley, Marie de Miramar and the True Wanga, Abrasax No.4 established that the author also penned a series of works in Theosophical journals as Miad Hoyora. It seemed then that he was an Indian Theosophist who had moved to the Caribbean. The present work carries a substantial Afterword by Christopher which permits him to develop his research to reveal that the author was, in fact, a Scot called Ewen! He was a Theosophist who had worked as a chemist in India and then in Caribbean. It seems that wherever he went he showed great empathy for the darker skinned people around him. Whilst in India he wrote about the religious beliefs of the Koi people, hunter gatherers lived in the forests in the south and east. They were not Hindus and were believed by many to be the remnants of the original inhabitants of India. This article is reproduced in the Appendices of the book.
When describing Obeah, Ewen draws upon own experience, personal informants as well as previously published accounts of Obeah but he attacks the Christian bias of those authors, sometimes vociferously. He passionately advocates Obeah, urging that it be taught in schools though he does recognise that there can be malpractice. Some traditions he describes, including a whole order of noble spirits that are, it seems, described nowhere else.
Aside from Obeah, Ewen also wrote about African magic and this two part article is also reproduced. Amongst Theosophical circles his interest in the magic of the peoples of Africa was almost unique, but not quite. There was one other contributor who also wrote about the subject and with whom Ewen crossed pens. He wrote under the pseudonym Tau-Triadelta and his article too is reproduced in the Appendices as Ewen refers to it in his own writings. We learn from Mr. Josiffre's Afterword that Crowley knew of this gentleman. In fact the Beast suggested he was Jack the Ripper! Some modern ripperologists also now consider him the to† be the most likely candidate.
The Book's Appearance.
Care has been taken to follow the visual context in which the original texts appeared. Obeah Simplified had a striking cover illustration. Expert book designers have cast doubt on the surmised 1895 publication date as the illustration looks more like 1930s pulp fiction with its electric flashes and populist occult imagery than a Victorian booklet. However the 1895 date is indeed correct, it is just that the design is surprisingly prescient.
The white on black design is visually impressive. There are traditions in Scandinavia and France that this juxtaposition of colours, the most basic of flashing colours, is the preferred format for magical books. If one stares at it long enough and closes ones eyes an after image can be glimpsed. This effect is emulated in the black on black printing of the endpapers.
The back endpaper shows the Society of Esoteric Endeavour symbol. likewise reproduced:-
In copies numbered 1 - 129n as well as the printed endpapers shown above, there are also† additional embossed endpapers chosen to harmonise with the lush text decorations and illuminated capitals used in the original (and reproduced here).
Whilst, for the sake of clarity, the text has been entirely reset, all the format, decorations, and typesetting quirks of the original have been retained. This includes continental style layout with the contents page at the back, and artefact of the cosmopolitan nature of Caribbean culture.
†The original booklet carried adverts that are a surprising accompaniment for a book on obeah as they feature some very expensive items. These are reproduced here because they are so unexpected. A reminder that there was a lot of wealth in the Caribbean colonies which were also technically advanced with electronic communications and motor vehicles (mentioned in the adverts), more so than many regions of the British Isles. No doubt this contrasted acutely with the lives of Obeah practitioners. This juxtaposition of great wealth and immense poverty is, very much, the context for the development of obeah. So better to reproduce these original adverts, than contrive some modern book design.
The supporting texts in the appendices are also reproduced with the original visual context of the journals that carried them - the art nouveau masthead of the Theosophist and the striking blue illustrated cover of Lucifer.
Numbers 1 - 55 have a full leather binding, embossed endpapers and printed endpapers. These are priced at £75
Numbers 56 - 129 look quite similar but feel very different having a cloth binding, embossed endpapers and printed endpapers. These are priced at £55
Numbers 130 to 193 have a cloth binding and printed endpapers. The are priced at £45
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