A Guide to Finding Occult Books

The best place to find occult material is, naturally, in an occult bookstore. In addition to finding many useful books and other materials, you're also supporting your local community by shopping at these stores. If you don't know what stores you have in your area, check out Metaphysical Stores in North America. There is also a wonderful resource provided by Evelyn C. Leeper, the Bookshop List. You may not be able to find an occult bookstore near enough to visit on a regular basis. In that case, read on and find places you can go to get the information and materials you need.

New Books:

The local mall bookstore will probably not stock overtly occult material. For various reasons, most of the smaller chain bookstores carry a very limited selection of occult books, and shelve only some of them in the New Age section. Other sections to check for material include Women's Literature, Psychology, Religion, and (for some weird reason known only to the booksellers) Self-Help. If you're looking for information on herbalism, try the Cookbook section. Many of these smaller stores don't have an occult section, which means the material that would go in such a section is shelved all over the store. Take some time and look in all the sections.

The stand-alone chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, carry more occult selections than their mall counterparts. Sections to peruse include Theology, Women's Studies, New Age, Spirituality, and General Non-Fiction.

Another option that many people in smaller towns use is online book shopping. If you have a credit card and a mailing address, this may be the best way to buy new books. I used to have a listing of online bookstores that carry occult material. However, the listing of Metaphysical/Pagan/Occult Stores On The Net is much more complete and regularly updated and generally very spiffy. So go there instead.

Used Books:

Used bookstores will often have a spirituality section with occult materials. Then again, the books you're looking for may be shelved in Esoterica, Religion, Conspiricy Theories, Weird Stuff…..look around. I once found a book by Aleister Crowley in the household repairs section. Buying used books is also a good option if you don't have a lot of extra money. Bring in a bunch of those Danielle Steel novels cluttering up your bookshelf and trade them in for store credit. Stock changes quickly in used bookstores, and you can usually ask the owner or manager to look for certain books or authors. Sometimes a small deposit is necessary, especially if the book is esoteric and of little interest to the regular browsers. This is a good way to find out-of-print and small press materials, too.

Libraries:

Probably one of the best ways to learn about the occult is to get a library card and use it frequently. Believe it or not, many libraries have material on occult subjects. Talk to your friendly librarian about what you need. She or he will not faint, turn white, or call your grandmother - reference librarians get requests for stranger information every day. Trust me on this. If your local library is small, it may not have some of the more in-depth texts. However, those materials may be available through inter-library loan. Ask. If your library doesn't have a book on a topic you're interested in, ask if the library can get it for you. Some libraries will even buy the book if they can't find it at another library. Always ask.

So you don't want to ask. Fine. You don't have to have help, necessarily. You can still find the material you're looking for in the library. If the catalog is computerized, you can search using the following keywords: occult, witchcraft, wicca, satanism, new age, and magic. Try anything you can think of. One of the best ways to find books, if you're not sure how they're classified, is to find the record for something you know they have on the subject. Say, Starhawk's Spiral Dance. Check to see how the book is indexed, and then search the subject headings from that record. If that doesn't make any sense to you, you're probably going to have to consult a librarian.

You can always just wander around in the paranormal, occult, or religion section of the library and see what you find. You'd be surprised at how much occult material many libraries have. The biggest occult section I've ever seen was on the top floor of a Catholic college library. Go figure. As I mentioned, you can always request books through inter-library loan if your library doesn't have what you're looking for.

Many libraries are still organized by the Dewey Decimal System. Some sections that might get you started:

110 Metaphysics
130 Paranormal phenomena
190 Modern western philosophy
200 Religion
210 Philosophy & theory of religion
290 Comparative religion The end of this section is where you can find most of the books about minority religions.
360 Social problems & services Around 366 is information on various secret societies.
390 Customs, etiquette, folklore There's lots of fascinating material in this section.
800 Literature & rhetoric Not necessarily occult, but useful.
810 American literature in English
820 English & Old English literatures

Other libraries are organized by the Library of Congress Classification System, which I think is a lot easier to understand. Of course, I'm a librarian, so that may not mean much. Here are some sections to visit in an LC organized library:

BD 10-701 Speculative Philosophy
BD 10-41 General Philosophical Works
BD 95-131 Metaphysics
BD 143-236 Epistemology, Theory of Knowledge
BD 240-260 Methodology
BD 300-450 Ontology (including the soul, life, death)
BD 493-701 Cosmology (including teleology, space and time, structure of matter, plurality of worlds)
BF 1-1999 Psychology, Parapsychology, Occult Sciences
BF 1001-1389 Parapsychology
BF 1048-1108 Hallucinations, Sleep, Dreaming, Visions
BF 1111-1156 Hypnotism, Suggestion, Mesmerism, Subliminal Projection
BF 1161-1171 Telepathy, Mind Reading, Thought Transference
BF 1228-1389 Spiritualism (including mediumship, spirit messages, clairvoyance)
BF 1404-1999 Occult Sciences
BF 1445-1486 Ghosts, Apparitions, Hauntings
BF 1501-1562 Demonology, Satanism, Possession
BF 1562.5-1584 Witchcraft
BF 1585-1623 Magic, Hermetics, Necromancy
BF 1651-1729 Astrology
BF 1745-1779 Oracles, Divinations
BF 1783-1815 Seers, Prophets, Prophecies
BF 1845-1891 Fortune-Telling
BJ 1-2195 Ethics. Social Usages. Etiquette.
BL 1-2790 Religions, Mythology, Rationalism
BL 175-290 Natural Theology
BL 425-490 Religious Doctrines (General)
BL 660-2670 History and Principles of Religions
BL 690-980 European, Occidental
BL 1000-2370 Asian, Oriental
BL 1100-1295 Hinduism
BL 1111-1143.2 Sacred Books, Sources
BL 1271.2-1295 Modifications, Sects
BL 1600-1695 Semitic
BL 1750-2350 By Region or Country
BM 1-990 Judaism
BP 1-610 Islam, Bahaism, Theosophy
BQ 1-9800 Buddhism
BR 1-1725 Christianity
BS 1-2970 The Bible
BT 10-1480 Doctrinal Theology
BV 1-5099 Practical Theology
BX 1-9999 Christian Denominations

In case you're worried that your parents, your pastor, or someone else is going to come along and look at what books you've taken out, and then haul you off for an exorcism, let me assure you that it's not going to happen. The librarians are the only ones with access to your circulation records, and they don't circulate those records. They're private. If you don't believe me, check out the Library Bill of Rights at the American Library Association. It used to be that someone had to get a court order to look at your borrowing history. Thanks to the lovely Patriot Act, this is no longer true. The FBI now has the right to come in and look at your circulation records. The odds, however, are greatly against the government being interested in why you're looking into books on the Western Mystery Tradition.

Periodicals:

Magazines and journals often have information on occult and Pagan topics. For example, right now the topic of Feminist Theology is very popular in some of the more academic sociology journals. If you're interested in finding periodical articles, there are a few indexes you can check. The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature indexes the more popular magazines, like Time and Newsweek. The Humanities Index indexes all the articles from about 1500 academic periodicals in the humanities (English, Art, Music, Theology, and sometimes History). The Social Science Index does the same for about the same number of social science (Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Business, and History) periodicals. There are lots of other indexes, of course, some of them devoted to Theology and Philosophy, which is where you're most likely to find material regarding Paganism and occult subjects.

Let's say you find something really interesting, and you can't wait to get your hands on it. Then you find out that your library doesn't subscribe to that particular magazine or journal. Fear not. Most libraries will get you a copy of the article for no charge. It's called an “Inter-Library Loan Photocopy Request”, and the form will be available at the circulation desk or from the periodicals librarian.

Unfortunately, there is no indexing service for Pagan or occult periodicals at the moment. That means that articles in magazines such as Gnosis, Enchante, Connections, and Circle Network News are not going to be indexed anywhere. The indexes that I've suggested should give you a place to start, however. Make sure, when you're looking at the articles you've discovered, to take a peek at their references list. You may very well find other articles on the same topic that aren't in the indexes.

Hope this helps. If you've got any questions, please let me know at bkwyrm@bkwyrm.net.

Last updated 2/22/2004 6:13:42 PM