Book Review: Raymond Buckland’s “The Magick of Chant-O-Matics”

The obligatory cover shot.  My, there's no way anyone is going to miss that yellow cover on your bookshelf.

The obligatory cover shot. My, there’s no way anyone is going to miss that yellow cover on your bookshelf.

This post is not a review.  This is more akin to your mom gleefully sharing embarrassing baby pictures with your new girlfriend or boyfriend.

As the Gard community is well aware, we have Raymond Buckland and his first wife, Rosemary, to thank for bringing Gardnerian witchcraft to the United States.  They left the Long Island Coven in 1973 following their separation.  Later that year Raymond went on develop his own version of the Craft, Seax-Wica, and has spent the remainder of his life publishing books pertaining to witchcraft, the occult, and gypsy practice.  (For what it is worth, I have yet to meet any Romani, Banjaras, or Doms who have a favorable opinion of Buckland’s gypsy books.)  Today, Buckland is best known amongst the general Pagan community for two publications, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (1986) and Practical Candleburning Rituals (1970).

I recently came across this original 1978 copy of one of Buckland’s most forgettable books, The Magic of Chant-O-Matics, at a little hole-in-the-wall occult bookstore in Portland, propped up on a piano.  And I bought it because it is straight-up hilarious.  This is 1970s pulp publication at its finest, people.  From the insane title on the cover to the hyperbolic ‘real life examples’ to the generous amount of exclamation points within, the book is the best of grocery-line gimmicks and attention grabbing.  Now, I suppose Buckland had a good reason for the title.  As he puts it, when you use these chants “attainment is automatic!  For that reason I label it CHANT-O-MATICS.”  But it certainly is not a reason that stands the test of time.

A sample of the contents within

A sample of the contents within.

Neither, sadly, is the content.  It is true that Buckland–to his credit–gives some decent magical background for how one might prepare and carry out a petition chant, and he does coach to hold strong, concrete visuals in mind while performing the chants.  But, as the book goes on, the chants become increasingly odd.  The chants in the first couple chapters are basically English rhymes with a steady, galloping meter.  But by the time you get to the end of the book…lord only knows what the linguistic origins of the chants are.  That alone is not bad–but with chants, you need to know what every word is so that you can use it to focus your intent.  If you can’t even create a translation for something strange, how will you know it will be effective?  For all you know, your chant to help you get a paying job might actually mean something along the lines of “keep your dog of my lawn, stupid neighbor!”  Of course, Buckland gives no translations or even nods at to what language the various chants come from.  Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some were pure gobbledegook.

Still, I love the book.  I’ll never use it seriously, but it puts a dopey grin on my face whenever I catch sight of the spine…and it stands as an amazing testimony to just how far the Craft has come in such a comparatively short amount of time.


4 thoughts on “Book Review: Raymond Buckland’s “The Magick of Chant-O-Matics”

  1. I don’t understand all the doubt and negativity concerning this book . I used it successfully in the early 1990’s and found it to be highly effective. I suppose if some one doesn’t know the basics of with craft and energy work then their ignorant ass would consider it to be a joke. Theirs more that goes into an effective spell then just the chant it self.

    • I am glad you found the book useful in the 1990s, and I have noted that it does have useful material, notably its gloss over core magical techniques such as petition magic and visualization. However, this “ignorant ass” is a language scholar, and I find the tendency to nonsense chants to be little more than page filler at best, magically dangerous at worst. I don’t think the book is a joke; I think it a ploy to make bill-paying page count…which is entirely understandable when book churning is your career. Buckland is certainly not without his merits–I recently worked through “Big Blue” again and enjoyed and learned from it–but this certainly wouldn’t be a work of his that stands the test of time.

  2. Well Melissa, I no longer have the book and at times I wished that I did. I doubt very seriously that Mister Buckland intended this book to be a ploy to make money to pay his bills if that is what you are implying. Although I do think that he should have made it perfectly clear that it is not a book for those with little faith or a beginner without formal spiritual training in the occult. I would agree that he made it seem so easy that any one with out formal knowledge In spell work and energy harnessing could master the chants effectively. I personally feel that he should have added a chapter explaining the important fundamentals of a successful spell.
    I did not have any problems implementing the chants into my spell work effectively because of prior knowledge I gathered from esoteric studies relating to my religion. I apologize if I come off like a pompous jack ass expecting or assuming every one should be at my level of awareness in occult matters. What I really want to impress is that it is not the chant per se but the amount of power and energy that is put behind it coupled with unwavering faith that brings forth results. I’m just saying that they worked for me.

    • I wasn’t implying Buckland wrote the book to pay his bills: I was stating it. Writing about the Craft is his job; this is not any secret. Take a look at even his Wikipedia page. There’s almost 50 books listed there. He’s 81 now, and started publishing when he was 35. He’s averaged about a book a year; that’s full-time, career writing. I don’t believe he has had any other ‘job’ since he started publishing. He even started his own publishing company a few years back to have greater financial control over his newer books. Publishing is how he got paid, and when bills got tight, he’d rush another book to whoever would publish it. This isn’t a bad thing. Loads of pulp writers do it. But everyone knows that quantity does not equal quality. Therefore, some of his stuff is excellent; others, not.

      Obviously any old nonsense chanted with intent can have an effect. But it is very important that you know what it is you are saying. The words and sounds have meanings even if you don’t know what they are, and that has resonance. So unless it’s gobbledegook you’ve created yourself, I don’t think it is a smart idea to go chanting words you don’t know. That is the biggest issue I have with this book, and I do think it a minor ethical failing of Buckland’s that he gave no translations or indications of where he got his non-English chants.

      That being said, I am considering this conversation closed. We will have to agree to disagree. I’m glad this book worked for you. I think it beyond silly.

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