What is the difference between a ghost and a ghoul? Which spirits roam the natural world? Did psychedelics play a part in human evolution? This Halloween, we have all the answers.
Delve deeper into areas of the supernatural world which you never knew existed with our beautiful and comprehensive collection of occult books. Spellbinding stories exploring key areas of astrology and cosmology; witchcraft and mysticism; satanism and demonology; science and alchemy.
Beautiful covers, ghosts and spectres, the eerie and the mystical....available online or in store at Rough Trade.
Words by Locks Geary-Giffin, Rough Trade East
Photo from Haunted Air by Ossian Brown
Looking for more spooky stuff?
Don't miss our guide to albums with a gruelling gothic vein running through them in Goth Before Goth.
Wooden Books is a beautiful series of recycled and pocket-sized books based on a wide variety of supernatural and natural curiosities throughout worlds of music, occult, nature and more. We have a simply gorgeous collection on a wide variety of subjects from Stonehenge and Avebury, to Divination and sacred springs to crop circles and the elements of music.
A handful of titles delve into the mystical side of the Occult: Divination: Elements of Wisdom sees Jewels Rocka explain and outline the theory of Divination (tea leaves, objects, cards etc) in a condensed pocket sized book using examples from all over the world. In Altered States, Ben Sessa looks at the fascinating world of mushrooms, LSD, alcohol, weed and even chocolate and coffee! What effects do all of these substances have on us? Why do we need our coffee fix? What do psychedelics really do to us? Mythological Animals: From Basilisks To Unicorns looks at our undeniable obsession with creatures and our belief in their existence. Vampires and werewolves are so engrained in our culture that we have become fixated on them and romanticise them, but where did they come from? Griffins to banshees, The Loch Ness Monster, centaurs and more, who discovered them, why do they continuously appear throughout our history? Mythozoologist Tom O’Malley takes into this intriguing world.
by Ossian Brown
All the clocks had stopped. A void out of time.
And here they are - looking out and holding themselves still -
holding still at that point where two worlds join -
the familiar - and the other.
Not for the faint of heart, may we present the world’s most creepy book...
With a fitting introduction by David Lynch and afterword by Geoff Cox, Ossian Brown's Haunted Air is hands down the most unsettling and nightmare-inducing book in our Occult range. It is a collection of anonymous Halloween photos from 1875-1955 with a vast range of families; rich to poor, city-folk to rural famers. Masks were often made by the children and worn throughout the day by the entire family, with the intention of scaring off the ghouls or ghosts of the year (one of the origins of dressing up or wearing masks during the Halloween period was to protect the individual from malevolent sprits). The vale between the realms was thin and this was a time where the spirits could cross back into our world. Costumes were worn in order to trick these spirits into thinking that the wearers were ghouls, fairies or witches too. The masks in Haunted Air are unsettling to say the least i.e don't come within an inch of me if you are donning one, thank you!
Rough Trade Books
In association with the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (the world’s oldest and largest collection of items relating to witchcraft, magic and the occult) our friends at the excellent Rough Trade Books have published a series celebrating the fascinating and alternative history of the museum.
In this collection, David Keenan and Sophy Hollington have combined forces once again to give us a re-working of the classic tarot deck, Autonomic Tarot, alongside novella To Run Wild In It, a tarot workbook with deeply personal mediations on the cards’ archetypal energies. They also present Empty Aphrodite: An Encyclopedia of Fate, an alphabetic poetic source book that combines magic and inspiration in a series of channeled surrealist portraits of the 'powers of now'. Also - choose your own fate with five cool stickers that accompany the book!
Botanical Curses and Poisons
by Fez Inkwright
There is a fine line between healing and poisoning! Only the dosage matters! In this beautifully illustrated book by Fez Inkwright we are taken on a journey back through to the medieval era and beyond, exploring some of the most memorable deaths in history via poisoning. Each page is packed with illustrated folklore and insight in the mystical world of witching herbs, fungi, poisonous plants, fruits and more, exploring everyday flora and fauna to religious uses and witchcraft. We have plenty more books on poisons, plants, flora, trees, fungi and mushrooms if you want to continue your trip down the rabbit hole!
by Sara Hannant
In this beautiful book we are presented with 100 artefacts of witchcraft from the much loved museum in Cornwall of Witchcraft and Magic. Artist and photographer Sara Hannant has captured the very essence of these carefully-selected artefacts. A collection to whet your appetite and encourage you to make the pilgrimage south in order to see them in the flesh. There are pieces from daggers to pendants, mummified cats and dried frogs, porcelain witches to wax dolls. Some look familiar (such as a model of the witch from Snow White), others may need an explanation. I’m definitely popping the museum on my 2022 bucket list especially as it is littered with skulls, Ouija boards, robes and a huge statue of Behemoth.
The Penguin Book of Exorcisms
by Joseph P Laycock
A collection of some of the most incredible accounts of exorcisms throughout history. For example the 'Loudon possesions' where Urbain Grandier, a local priest accused of summoning evil spirits to possess nuns from a local convent, was tried for witchcraft. Or maybe you want to learn more about the daily levitation of a Zulu woman in 1928 which inspired The Exorcist. There’s even an example of a letter to the Bishop requesting permission to perform an exorcism after witnessing a boy walk backwards up a wall. Whatever takes your fancy, Joseph P Laycock dives head first into the well documented accounts throughout history of possession and the differences across belief systems and cultures. We love the rolling eyes, the speaking in tongues, the spinning heads (maybe that’s just in the films) and the levitating. We’re obsessed with this idea of demons and spirits slipping into our bodies and taking control, pushing our souls down into darkness and wreaking havoc on our friends and family in order to do their own bidding. There is no logical explanation for it and the fact that it still happens today continues to baffle and intrigue even the most level-headed of folk. I’m literally obsessed... weird possessions right this way please.
Other honourable mentions include...
Browse through pages of beautiful skull collections in Skulls: Portraits of the Dead by Paul Gambino. Add to your library the essential handbook to get you started on your Wiccan journey: The Wiccan Handbook: A Modern Guide To The Symbols, Spells and Rituals of Witchcraft by Susan Bowes. Interested in cursed folk and folk who curse? Pick up Thomas Waters' Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times which chronicles the evolution of magic, traditional healers, rouges and deceivers. Explore areas of the natural world as well as the supernatural with Merlin Sheldrake's Entangled Life, an exploration of mushrooms and fungi and how these little dudes open up doors into understanding the planet we live on. And last but by no means least, a look back through history at our infatuation with haunted literature in the wonderful Hauntology by Merlin Coverly; a Victorian ghost story brought to present day.