Athenæum Azostos Reviews: The Clovenstone Workings by Robin Artisson

It started like a fever dream. A visceral, vivid, and evocative experience. The Athenæum had voted, and The Clovenstone Workings: A Manual of Early Modern Witchcraft was up. Hekate, the Witch Mother, the Queen of Elphame – some form of the Dark Mother had brought us together as a book group. But upon starting Clovenstone, a subtle metamorphosis began; whether this was due to the “emotional meaning” carried by the very real and very ungirt Folkloric Devil, the convergence of fear into that of a Covine, or the bonding that is birthed from unreality or surreality, the simple nature of this refinement, this rebirth is (and was): the Athenæum would never be the same again (Artisson 20).

We sat in our rooms, bathrooms, and closets – individually yet as a collective – scrying in the dark, watching as our faces melted and morphed in the dimly-lit mirrors. The flashes of the faces – human, nonhuman, superhuman, transhuman – created a surreal and sublime, albeit controversial and frightening, experience in the Athenæum. As Poquis stated in the Athenæum’s private group:

“It didn’t take long for the shapes in the darkness to morph into something other than the familiar image of myself. In that amount of darkness, this was a scrying process in every sense. It wasn’t just a visual experience, there were physical sensations received from my mind’s eye and a deep sense of knowing of what was looking back at me.”

Seeing the Death by Poquis

But it was not just Poquis who undertook “See the Death” (the first exercise in Clovenstone) and experienced and encountered exactly what Artisson outlined. We all did.

Every member set out to practice this “profane scrying” on three separate nights; every member had the same experiences and events with “the Other” (Artisson 50-53). The “Witching” had commenced.

Then, as if in that trance-like dream of feverish primality, this state of being “Witched” deepened. With Seeing the Death. With the Breaching Talisman. With the Pact. The pull was undeniable.

Our conversations increased, with a sole focus on Clovenstone, on pacts-that-shall-not-be-named, on serendipitous parallels and primordial and instinctual urges. We had been magnetized. The allure of our Patron of Dreams was all-encompassing. Demanding. Because Witched Witching is terribly lonely, solitary with our pacts and dreams and demands… unless, perhaps, it is not. In some ways, we of the Athenæum were fortunate to have our threads woven together – separate, but together – for some (or all) of the book. Artisson would be entirely remiss if he had not mentioned the loneliness of pursuing life-long commitments with Other and other Spirit-Others – yet, Artisson defines in detail not only the haunting isolation, but the balance between this, the magick, with the drudge of monotonous mundane drear after seeing the world in techni-faery-color:

No degree of spectral attainment nor any spirit-relationships are worth much if one cannot also relate somewhat functionally in the human world… Nothing else is possible without this.

The Clovenstone Workings, p. 47

Of course, this balance is not quite as essential without the smothering pull of Witched-ness, that is being “touched by Otherwordly forces and given special benefits, powers, knowledge, insights, abilities, or extraordinary help of some kind, to accomplish something in the human world that they would not otherwise have been able to accomplish” (Artisson 12). Sounds simple enough, but this straightforward definition is and has been a paradigm of polemic controversy, for not only had the Athenæum researched Robin Artisson himself, but others who had reviewed The Clovenstone Workings. What being “Witched” meant for the Athenæum: a sometimes-mutual always-communal subversive and transgressive series of inexplicable equivalences that could not have happened (nor been described or defined) without the help of these “Otherworldly forces,” Artisson himself, and the growing closeness of the collective (some would even say Covine). But other reviewers or anti-Artissons read the above and immediately threw up defenses, for then being Witched meant an exclusive club in which they were not a part – or had not done the work for, made the pact, received the dreams or invitation, buried whiskey and cream and butter conscientiously – or maybe just not ready for. And maybe never would be. The Black Phillip caricatural concept of the Witch Father, the Folkloric Devil of Olde, may be stereotypical, but there must be a reason Artisson seeks patronage in He-who-can-present-as-a-goat, for Artisson so often becomes the scapegoat in magic circles where the past is never forgotten and UPG is relentlessly crucified. Modern Traditional Witchcraft – it just really is not for everyone, and that is not an assassination attempt on one’s adeptness as a Witch, or Sorcerer, or Magician, and so on. Not everyone likes cilantro, and not everyone has the gene that makes cilantro delicious. Sometimes it is preference, sometimes genetic, sometimes fate. And that is okay.

If you doubt the reality of the occult arts
Put this book aside;
It is not here to convince you.
If you fear damnation,
Or dismiss what you cannot see,
Abandon this book. Walk away swiftly…

 The Devil is “Aye gude to his ain’,
And his ain know themselves without fear or shame.
They may not know how they know,
But they know (Artisson, The Clovenstone Workings).

Yet, here the Athenæum was, almost over our heads with the multi-months long commitment of not only reading Clovenstone, but doing Clovenstone. Experiential reviews. That is a big part of our purpose – providing deeply experiential reviews of occult literature in the most honest and ungirt ways. Which leads us to discussing the true nature of our subjectivity: we are experiencing this literature, practicing this literature; we are taking months truly becoming the words and rites and exercises. That is the epitome of a subjective review.

Artisson’s book, as mentioned above, was a bit misleading in that it was incredibly inexpensive. We assumed (incorrectly) that we would get roughly $22 US worth of content (the book, published by Black Malkin Press, can be purchased on Amazon). What we really received was an unforeseen gift; the number of exercises and the amount of information and supplementals (the appendix, for one, or the in-depth article on Artisson’s website concerning “The Gateway Ring”) was staggeringly unexpected. This book is loaded. And it is not just a “A Manual of Early Modern Witchcraft” – it is an enigmatical arcane backdoor to the realms of not only dreams and connections, but hypnagogic mastery.

Clovenstone is an unknown black book shrouded in protective layers, inviting in only those who dare, those who know, those who will, and those who are silent (Eliphas Levi: “to dare, to know, to will, and to be silent,” as quoted by Artisson, p. 55). The artwork was generous and intimate; Molly McHenry perfectly captured every aspect of Clovenstone in black and white, so much so that the art of McHenry and the words of Artisson became an inception of a subliminal intersection, an intuitive overlap of knowing. Quite frankly, McHenry’s art persistently evoked further contact between self and Spirits. Brava.

But how did we practice this silence, particularly amongst ourselves? We knew. We knew that, even though we began with Hekate (much like the conflation the Hekate of the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) and the Queen of Elphame in many ways by Artisson), we were all being led to a different Patron of Dreams during the experiential dive into Clovenstone. And it was not the Queen. That is when it all began to change. That was the point that those – we – who became the “Devil’s Own” through climactic depths… and cataclysmic destruction.

This Patron of Dreams came to us almost immediately, before we even attempted the profane scrying of “Seeing the Death.” I dreamt of Him after beginning the book in earnest, and the others found the pull as unassailable as I. As the exercises continued, and unfolded into “The Workings,” the Athenæum was not only Witched, but bewitched and enchanted with the potency of these “Great Powers.” Artisson writes:

And [the Devil’s] very name still has the power to provoke some kind of emotional response deep inside us, whether it is a secret shudder, or a sudden alarm bell of danger, or a mocking laugh at what we hope is the unreality of such a monster.

The Clovenstone Workings, p. 20

So, which is it? For surely, “[w]e become considerably more powerful and considerably more free the day we recognize the Devil is real” (Artisson 20). This may not be the Theological Devil preached about from pulpits, but there is a Folkloric approach, or an “Ecology of Powers” as Artisson calls it. The Athenæum, from the point we were all pulled to and by this King, described this ecology as “The Current.”

This Current was in full chthonic primordial swing by this point. It was not a fever dream anymore. We were lucid. During the practicing of “The Gateway Ring,” I became covered in ladybugs and butterflies. Not just a few. Hundreds. Poquis was submerged into a realm of Fae nostalgia remembering the countless times she had created “fairy rings” as a child– a memory that could have been subconsciously sequestered or disguised indefinitely without this work – with not only spiritual affirmation from auditory confirmation. Other members were also reminded that they had created magickal rings from childhood – a ritual that had become so natural that re-living and re-performing based on Artisson’s book re-established the point that we as humans are born magickal… We simply dull and distract ourselves with the mundane as the years progress.

Clovenstone allowed us to inoffensively return to our childlike wonder, raw with reverence and humbled by the limitless powers of Other. We could simply create a circle, stripped of artifice and ceremony, and connect with these Unseen Forces. And not only were we becoming better practitioners, but we were also becoming more closely attuned to the Spirits around and the genus loci of our homes.

Gateway Ring photo by Lucera
Butterfly greeting Lucera during Gateway Ring.

The Gateway Ring introduced the Athenæum to Artisson’s words of power. These words of power, or Artisson’s interpretations therein, were not only at times reminiscent of the barbarous words contained within the PGM, but they created a delightful segue from the magick of Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period to the Witchcraft of today.

These words are also broken down phonetically, granted to the reader as a gift with pronunciations. Not many books gift knowledge so freely; not many arrange it so that the work becomes accessible, doable, semi-rudimentary yet deliberate. The work feels simple, yet it is anything but. In fact, how Artisson broke down the content is essential to how “The Workings” flow. Without guise, layers of pretense have been stripped away…until all that remains is instinctual work in its most austere and archaic form… until just the essence of the untainted magick dances through the pages (And just how does one delicately assume a role of being unsullied whilst making pacts with the Devil? How? Artisson knows), becoming as complicated or as straightforward as one chooses… humbly, prudently, modestly, yet commanding and powerful, formidable. This work is and was essential. It is a force, so much so, the Athenæum has been reconsidering how we have viewed/processed/reviewed works we have read (either publicly or not) in the past.

One of the most time-consuming of The Workings was “Yielding the Green Oyl.” This ritual takes a minimum of three months to complete; yet, the Athenæum found it one of the most enjoyable. There are various ways in which to approach this working, and Clovenstone truly gives the reader the liberty to explore and, dare I say, play? Furthermore, Artisson goes in lengthy detail in not just Clovenstone but most of his work about the importance of forging relationships with our Spirit-allies (this includes asking permission of the plants used in the Green Oyl!) through a form of what I would call meta-animism: an animism that is so aware and interconnected that it supersedes that in which we have grown habituated. It is beyond. It is crucial to the Witch and those who seek to be Witched.

Green Oyl photo by Lucera
Thrifted Avon bottle. Fitting for some Green Oyl. Photo by Poquis

The Green Oyl itself though was more than collecting plants. It was also about scalding this Oyl over the course of several months, with an accompanying word of power. As Poquis so eloquently defined after her first scalding experience:

“ABANHOU…this word is alive. I can’t quite put into words why I feel that way, it was a physical reaction to say the least. I suppose for the purposes of the Green Oyl, you would need an utterance as powerful as this.”

Scalding Green Oyl on a full moon. Photo by Poquis

As our relationships with Other continuously changed and morphed – closer, deeper – our relationships with Patrons, with each other, and with ourselves continued to evolve. Moreover, the ways in which we viewed, considered, and honored (or learned how we had not been honoring) sleep and sleep-states advanced. Or maybe it was not advancing at all, but rather an un-advancing – back to the ways in which sleep was considered serious, critical, and vital for a rich spiritual life. This became fundamental; sleep was now an elemental and pure operative for our success and our connections. No one really talks about sleep and dreams and humanity’s (lack of) relationship(s) with this essential part of our lives. The Clovenstone Workings outlines this with rigor. Artisson is adamant about how we should perceive and embrace these “sacred realities”:

[T]ry to arrange a more gentle and aware manner of understanding and approaching the sacred realities of sleep and dream. Every descent into sleep and every dream should be thought of as a possible revelation or sacred vision from the Great Powers. They should all be thought of as potential times of visitation, or empowerment. They should be revered.

The Clovenstone Workings, p. 158

The importance of sleep and dream work climaxes in “Transvection or Soul Flight”; for, after all, Clovenstone is a detailed exploration of the Witch’s relationship with Other through hypnagogic and dream realms. Part of this relationship with Other (“between Seen and Unseen”) in being Witched, is the ability to maneuver how “[t]he doorway to the world of dreams is the doorway to the World of Spirits” (Artisson 141). The Athenæum found the essence of this in the use of “Sauwendei,” another word of power that elucidates and strengthens our connections to dreams – and more. 

Riding pole photo by Lucera
Photo by Lucera featuring her Breaching Talisman

Alas, the fires from scalding the Green Oyl burned brighter than some of the flames from the Athenæum. For just as this work united as a Covine, it also illuminated the ways in which some of us differ.

Just as some flames burn brightly and quickly, so too will the ending of this review. It may have been exceptionally long, and still does not fully embody the depths of the Athenæum’s collective and experiential subjective submersion into Clovenstone. Much like Marie Kondo’s ability to teach us to discern when things spark joy, so too must we distinguish which experiences sparked joy – and when and how to include those in something so truly personal, visceral, intimate. Teasing apart the denseness of our experiences proved thusly challenging as so much felt purposeful, essential… and therefore “sparked joy.” Marie Kondo’s work may too appear simple at first – falsely that is. Misleading. We have been altered permanently; these experiences and workings are nothing short of life changing. And if you find yourself immersed yet hindered, remember the these words from Poquis:

“The dream aspect of this work, particularly Sauwendei, was a struggle and it actually made me question if this was for me. I have yet to experience it in the way Artisson describes in Clovenstone, and if it wasn’t for my familiarity with the Unseen, I might have abandoned this work entirely. What good is an Empowerer of Dreams to the one who can’t dream? I have come to learn, He is plenty good. To anyone who might feel a struggle here, know this Current is still for you.”

So, may your reading be Witched and your Sabbats be transvesctive, always. Fall into the Current. Be on the lookout for written interviews with Robin Artisson regarding The Clovenstone Workings and with Molly McHenry about her art as featured in this work – coming very soon. Until then, readers… happy dreaming.

Written by: Lucera     •     Illustrations by: Poquis

This review, as with all reviews, was developed by all members of Athenæum Azostos through multiple weeks of practical workings, research, and discussion as a submersive collective experience.

Learn how Athenæum Azostos weighs material for each experiential review via the Planetary Rubric. Our final score for this Review was 20.25 out of 21.

Reference: Artisson, Robin. The Clovenstone Workings. Black Malkin Press, 2020.

For examples of how The Clovenstone Workings inspired and ignited a primordial creativity for us all, check out some of our personal Instagram posts:

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