This epic cultural and historical odyssey unearths the full influence of occult traditions on rock and roll—from the Beatles to Black Sabbath—and shows how the marriage between mysticism and music changed our world.
From the hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley to the Eastern odysseys of George Harrison, from the dark dalliances of Led Zeppelin to the Masonic imagery of today’s hip-hop scene, the occult has long breathed life into rock and hip-hop—and, indeed, esoteric and supernatural traditions are a key ingredient behind the emergence and development of rock and roll.
With vivid storytelling and laser-sharp analysis, writer and critic Peter Bebergal illuminates this web of influences to produce the definitive work on how the occult shaped—and saved—popular music.
As Bebergal explains, occult and mystical ideals gave rock and roll its heart and purpose, making rock into more than just backbeat music, but into a cultural revolution of political, spiritual, sexual, and social liberation.
About the Author
Peter Bebergal is the author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood and The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God (with Scott Korb). He writes widely on the speculative and slightly fringe, and his recent essays and reviews have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, Boing Boing, The Believer, and The Quietus. Bebergal studied religion and culture at Harvard Divinity School, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“A fascinating thesis reflecting the time when everyone seemed to give rock and roll the status of, if not a religion, then certainly that of a spiritual belief system. Peter Bebergal’s Season of the Witch brought it all back. It's an absorbing read deserving an important place in rock literature.”
"Rather than turning in either a fanboyish rhapsody or a scholarly dissertation, he treads the line between those approaches. The result is passionate, informed, gripping and at times wonderfully lyrical."
--Library Journal (starred review)
"A thoroughly researched, absorbing, entertaining ride for anyone who’s ever played the Beatles’ ‘White Album’ backwards.”
--Andrea Shea, WBUR/ NPR
“Kudos to Bebergal for taming the wily spirits of rock long enough to capture their essence in this fascinating book. Perhaps more impressive is the book’s comprehensiveness—from Delta blues to beatnik bluster to acid evangelists to metal overlords, Season of the Witch puts the hellfire in highbrow.”
"Skillfully woven...will delight any music fan and music historian in equal measure.”
--Spirituality Today (5/5 stars)
“This book is a glorious headlong rush into the dark, full of the electricity of the arcane. I loved it.”
--Warren Ellis, author of Gun Machine and Transmetropolitan
“From grimoires to topographic oceans, from heavy metal to hip-hop, Peter Bebergal tracks the Mysteries through half a century of popular music (and some underground noise as well). At once an overview of rock's mystic rebellions and a handy primer on modern esoterica, Season of the Witch suggests that we may need to round out the trinity of sex, drugs, and rock' n' roll with an additional deity: the occult, another primal portal to a re-enchanted world.”
--Erik Davis, author of Led Zeppelin IV and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica
“Told with clear-eyed scholarship and delectable anecdotes, Peter Bebergal's mind-expanding occult history opened my third eye to Rock & Roll's awesome power over human behavior. Rock & Roll will never sound the same to me again, and I'm glad about it.”
--Mark Frauenfelder, founder of Boing Boing
"Bebergal displays an intelligent understanding of the interaction between religion and culture when he argues that the '"occult imagination is the vital force of rock-and-roll culture.' "
“Peter Bebergal has written of his own searching, reconciling spiritual aspirations and personal background, in The Faith Between Us and Too Much To Dream. Both are on my bookshelves. Here, in Season Of The Witch, Peter presents an overview of one “alternative influence” at work on some of those intending to change the world.
The world they hoped to change was a dangerous mess.
Now, half a century later…”
“Unfussy but thoroughly documented…establishes the occult as a phenomenon above and beyond its debatable status of mere fad in the history of contemporary music.”--Ralph Elawani, Exclaim!
“Anyone seeking shocking tales of demonic rock’n’roll would be best served looking elsewhere, but for someone interested in the interplay between music, culture and spirituality, Season Of The Witch is a revelatory and fascinating grimoire.” --Record Collector
“A must-read for anyone who prefers their music loud, riff-driven, and loaded with lyrics about Satan, wizards, and mystical quests.” --Cheryl Eddy, io9.com
“Bebergal, a Dungeons & Dragons playing rock fanboy and graduate of Harvard Divinity School has exactly the right pedigree for this line of work, infusing what could be a dry litany of rumors, hearsay, and matter-of-facts with a genuine love for the source material.” --Cooper Berkmoyer, Flavorpill