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The Black Arts : A Concise History of Witchcraft, Demonology, Astrology, and Other Mystical Practices Throughout the Ages
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The Black Arts : A Concise History of Witchcraft, Demonology, Astrology, and Other Mystical Practices Throughout the Ages

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  784 ratings  ·  68 reviews
This text describes the practice, theory, and underlying rationale of black magic in all its branches - the summoning and control of evil spirits, necromancy, psychic attack, devil worship, witchcraft, evil charms and spells - as well as other branches of occult theory.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 17th 1968 by Perigee/Tarcher (first published January 1st 1967)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  784 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Start your review of The Black Arts : A Concise History of Witchcraft, Demonology, Astrology, and Other Mystical Practices Throughout the Ages
Rebecca McNutt
Whether real or fictional (it can be read from either perspective, I suppose), The Black Arts is not only well-researched and broad across times, places and traditions, but it's also a deeply intriguing history of dark magic. It's worth noting that the book itself doesn't necessarily advocate that what's contained in itself is good (or bad), and there is no real agenda here. I found a lot of its info, especially on ritual magic, to be very interesting, if not at times a bit morbid and eerie. ...more
Ashley Catt
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Since this book was written back in 1967, I wasn't too sure about whether to judge it by the standards of the modern day, however it has been re-released in recent years and Richard Cavendish, the author, is still alive, so that's what I'm going to do. Plus, it's not as if the people from the 1960's are going to be reading this review anyway.

To start with a positive, the book is very widely researched, and it is clear that Cavendish is highly well-versed on the subject. He accesses and engages
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: occult-magick
As I understand Black Magick, it is the act of performing a ritual in order to change something using your will, for selfish reasons. It is not about the spilling of blood (innocent or consenting), it is not about brewing potions that will cause sickness and/or death, it is not about invoking demons/devils (for they do not really exist, at least as they are often understood), it is not about performing every perversion known and not known and it is not about bringing down plagues, blasphemy ...more
Kate M. Colby
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
While definitely dated and a bit Christocentric, The Black Arts provides a thorough overview of several magic practices. As an author planning to write a dark fantasy series in which magic plays a strong role, I found this book useful for learning about the foundations of various magic practices and the themes/logic applied by practitioners. I especially enjoyed the chapters about numerology, tarot, and astrology. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in researching the history of ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
I hated this book. This book is all about Christianity and what Christianity would want you to think. Waste of money.
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: james
Halloween read 2019. Also some research for book #2 in my writing queue. Lots of interesting material here - even if each piece is a little brief. But that's the nature of a summary of the occult and esoterica!
Aug 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book is by definition PURE fiction as this guy does not have any idea what he is talking about. If ya like a good read but don't take any of this to heart the book...but if you for any reason take any of this seriously then do a lot more research because this book is FAR from the truth. Most of the Occult talked about within this book have very normal Origins and have nothing to do with the Devil or Satanic cults which ALL originate within the Christian Religion. With that said ...more
Trevor Woodhouse
Sep 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
Thinking this would be about Witchcraft and the Occult through the ages like it says I was excited to read it. More like Religious/Spiritual mumbo jumbo. ONE chapter on Witchcraft and even that was bland. I gave up reading this book. Its all about God and being spiritual. Very disappointed.
Marcelle Warren
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Black Arts is precisely what it claims to be: a concise history of dark mystical practices throughout history, if not exactly factual all the time. This is fine as most of what it's talking about is fictitious anyway, so it can be forgiven the handful of times that it affirms magic's successes in reality, and a few cases of factual historical misrepresentation. I didn't really buy it for that. I bought it for its descriptions of black magic practices, among some other fairly neutral mystical ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: occultism, history
If you want a whole book on "The Black Arts", I wouldn't really recommend starting here. While Cavendish does cover necromancy, demonology and devil worship, which is less than half of the book; the rest covers numerology, the Kabbalah, astrology, tarot reading, alchemy as well as a some other topics that aren't exactly "black". The title of the book is a misnomer to grab a reader's attention. Also, there are ridiculous paragraphs such as this: "The magician's central preoccupation is with the ...more
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book a long time ago, but I put it down when there was a throwaway line about witches in the Ozarks reading gospel backwards to be "initiated." I was like, uhh, doubt that.

I picked it back up and eventually got to a segment where Cavendish plainly states that Crowley turned a dude into a camel. He does not write that Crowley believed he did, or claimed he did. It is written as a statement of fact. WTF? But I'm like lol ok whatev, I'll just accept that pretty much none of
Aaron Meyer
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: occult
I believe this was one of the first truly occult type book I read some 20-25 years ago. You will not get alot of depth but you will get a broad brush treatment of information to give you a fairly decent overview of the magickal arts. No this is not the fluffy llewyllen stuff but the grimoire type magick with insights into astrology and numerology, cabala and ritual magick. Like I said it is enough to get a taste but not enough to do anything with it. A good starter book.
Brittany Salvatore
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and for anyone looking to begin learning about these topics, I’d suggest looking into it. A couple things to note:

This isn’t about pagan witchcraft or practices. This is purely through a Christian lens, both the beliefs discussed as well as, what I assume, a way to make some of the subject matter more palpable to a generation so closely tied to Christianity and Catholicism. I found this was much more interesting that way as it really gives you an idea as to the
Jess Zaikova
May 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Clearly, this book was written by a catholic man because everything in the black arts according to Cavendish is a diversion from or change to catholicism. His single source seems to be Crowley and even though the first proclamation of the subtitle is "history of witchcraft", it's about 20 pages at the end of the 322 page book that are dedicated to such and it's all about devil worship. Because if you aren't down with Jesus, the only other option is the devil.

If you are interested in a Christian
V.M. Watson
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an incredibly impressive overview of many historical origins, events and practices in black magic from its earliest roots through to the time of the book's writing, the late 1960's. The author maintains an engaging, often fascinating approach with a wonderfully vivid manner of presenting information that would otherwise threaten to fall into textbook-dull territory. He makes history come to life in the process of helping the reader to understand the philosophy and motivation behind the ...more
Micha McCartney
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've had my copy of this book since I was 18, so that's 1993.

The book covers the basics of a wide range of topics dealing with occult philosophy, history, and the practices and practitioners of such up until the time it was published in 1967. In places it ventures deeper into the lore, while at other times it glosses over details. This book is meant for light reading of a weighty topic, and I found it captivating when I first read it. It's still enjoyable today.

Modern day issues do not feature
Alex Tamburro
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was a little hard to get through sometimes. While it was full of interesting content there was also a lot of misogynistic or racist content. This isn't the author's fault, as history *is* quite misogynistic and racist, but it did make the read less enjoyable in those parts and I found myself skipping over them to go back to astrology, tarot cards, numerology, and so on. I haven't read many other books like this so I don't know how much information is common, but if you'd like something ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
An easy, fun overview that is hampered by the fact that it shows its age. In the 60's I can see how this was a breakthrough and important book. However, like much of its subject matter - it's no longer relevant. 3 stars for excellent writing. But for serious students of the occult...go ahead and skip this one. It'll offend you.
Ryan Davis
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always wanted to learn about the history of magic, and I got more than I bargained for. Some truly disturbing practices and beliefs in this work. I'm not an occultist myself, and I won't be engaging in any of these rituals and practices, but the book did give me a great overview of occultism; many aspects of which are likely to give me nightmares.
M.A. Stern
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides an excellent, detailed account of occult beliefs and practices throughout the ages. It feels a bit dated and the author’s belief or disbelief in some practices is hard to discern but overall it was a fascinating read
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book disappointed me so much but part of it is my fault for not seeing when it was originally published. I think some of the info is outdated now. But parts of it were dry and it was a chore to slog through. Definitely not keeping this on my shelf.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
The book is very boring. The beginning is interesting, and more interesting parts are scattered throughout, but the parts that would seem to be most interesting, the parts about Devil worshipping and black magic and witchcraft, are not nearly as exciting as one would think.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
IMAO, this has long been superseded but its importance will always be felt
McCrary Drake
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Keeping in mind that it over 50 years old and some examples and terms need to be updated The Black Arts provides a very detailed scholarly history of magic.
A.  J.
A decent introduction to many different types of magic practice. Was rambly and hard to follow in some chapters, but then other chapters were really clear and interesting. Ignites curiousity to read more books about the subjects within.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting reference for a story I may or may not be crafting...
Nancy McQueen
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: occult
a book that every person who studies occultism should have on their shelf.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology, occult
An excellent introduction to the occult. Cavendish does a remarkably objective scan of major branches of occult belief and practice. Well written and well researched.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting history of witchcraft but the book's age shows in a bad way. Bit of a slog to get through but a neat read.
Samantha Gramer
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Informative and entertaining
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