The Library of Esoterica: Taschen’s Visual History of Tarot, Astrology & Witchcraft

Gen­er­a­tions and gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans dis­sat­is­fied with life in their home­towns have act­ed on the same migra­to­ry impulse: to go west. Many have done so in order to make their for­tunes, but a fair few have been seek­ing vari­eties of sat­is­fac­tion alto­geth­er less tan­gi­ble. In the human spirt in gen­er­al and the Amer­i­can spir­it in par­tic­u­lar, there is a yearn­ing for “secret knowl­edge” of real­i­ty’s hid­den work­ings. Those whose spir­its most yearn for that knowl­edge tend to end up in Cal­i­for­nia, the log­i­cal end of Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion. There they’ve found vibrant com­mu­ni­ties of yogis, spir­i­tu­al­ists, Aene­r­i­ans, theosophists, heal­ers, Unar­i­ans, alchemists, Rosi­cru­cians, witch­es, tarot read­ers, astrologers… the list goes on.

More recent­ly, Cal­i­for­nia has also been home to Taschen’s Amer­i­can head­quar­ters, the acclaimed pub­lish­ers of lav­ish­ly pro­duced books on art and cul­ture with no com­punc­tion about explor­ing the fringes of human expe­ri­ence. A cou­ple of years ago we fea­tured their visu­al his­to­ry of tarot Divine Decks here on Open Cul­ture; now they’ve put out a three-vol­ume cof­fee-table Library of Eso­ter­i­ca that includes books on not just tarot but astrol­o­gy and witch­craft as well.

Assem­bled and designed to Taschen’s usu­al aes­thet­i­cal­ly painstak­ing stan­dard, the set comes edit­ed by writer and film­mak­er Jes­si­ca Hund­ley, who used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to open the most “inclu­sive and seduc­tive way into these prac­tices, which is through the art” they’ve inspired.

That’s what she told Los Ange­les Times’ Steffie Nel­son, who writes that “Hund­ley has been fas­ci­nat­ed by alter­na­tive spir­i­tu­al­i­ties and the occult since she was a goth-punk teenag­er on the East Coast.” Lat­er she moved to Los Ange­les, “drawn to the city’s lega­cy of eso­teric explo­ration and its renown as a place where dreams are made man­i­fest and iden­ti­ty is muta­ble.” This  pro­jec­t’s world­wide search for art and oth­er mate­ri­als relat­ed to these fields of eso­ter­i­ca began at Los Ange­les’ own Philo­soph­i­cal Research Soci­ety, found­ed in the nine­teen-thir­ties by mys­tic Man­ly P. Hall. With its rich­ly repro­duced imagery and accom­pa­ny­ing explana­to­ry essays, the Library of Eso­ter­i­ca offers a read­ing expe­ri­ence liable to open any­one’s doors of per­cep­tion. The age of Aquar­ius may be over, but there’s a seek­er born every minute.

The Library of Eso­ter­i­ca can be pur­chased as a com­plete col­lec­tion. Or you can pur­chase sep­a­rate install­ments on Astrol­o­gy, Tarot and Witch­craft.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Divine Decks: A Visu­al His­to­ry of Tarot: The First Com­pre­hen­sive Sur­vey of Tarot Gets Pub­lished by Taschen

The Artis­tic & Mys­ti­cal World of Tarot: See Decks by Sal­vador Dalí, Aleis­ter Crow­ley, H.R. Giger & More

Exquis­ite Water­col­ors of Demons, Mag­ic & Signs: Behold the Com­pendi­um Of Demonolo­gy and Mag­ic from 1775

Aleis­ter Crow­ley: The Wickedest Man in the World Doc­u­ments the Life of the Bizarre Occultist, Poet & Moun­taineer

Watch Häx­an, the Clas­sic Cin­e­mat­ic Study of Witch­craft Nar­rat­ed by William S. Bur­roughs (1922)

Athe­ists & Agnos­tics Also Fre­quent­ly Believe in the Super­nat­ur­al, a New Study Shows

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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