Why Was There an Explosion of in Interest in Magick in 1984?

Google’s new NGram viewer gives a fascinating look at how memes ebb and flow throughout the years by sharting the appearance of certain words within all the books indexed by Google Books. So far, you can search between 1800 and 2008.

For example, here’s science and religion:
Science and religion Ngram

Here’s one that’s really interesting. Looking at the history of the word “magick,” there’s an explosion of interest beginning in the 1980s:
Magick NGram 1800-2008

A closer look reveals that the bump that starts an upward trend occurs between 1984 and 1985:
Magick NGram, starting with 1980

Occurances of the word “occult” have always been much higher, but seems to follow a similar but less exaggerated increase in the 80s and 90s:
occult vs. magick NGram

“Occult” seems to start rising a little earlier than “magick.” It also declined more sharply in recent years and went through a pronounced trough in the late 90s.

It’s also interesting how popular the word “magick” was in the early 1800s, long before Aleister Crowley started using it. But it’s never been as popular as magic with a c:
magic and magick Ngram

Note the cute little devil horns! (This could be due to scanning issues – see Danny Sullivan’s commentary here).

A few notes:

Michelle Remembers (the book that helped start the Satanic Panic) was released in 1980 and Falcon Publishing started around that year.

Some of Llewellyn‘s biggest hits like Wicca and Modern Magick didn’t come out in the late 80s, but the publishing house has been around since the 1901 (founded in Portland, incidentally). According to Wikipedia, the company started publishing authors like Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley in the 60s. The other big publisher of occult and new age books, Weiser, was founded in 1956 – also well before the 80s explosion.

McMartin preschool trial started in 1983 and through the 1987. This probably contributed significantly to number of books published on magick and the occult during this period.


  1. My guess would be the US military. When the MKNAOMI/Bluebird work got extended, post Church Committee, it was usually carried on through cults and UFO groups. They’re culturally marginalized and ideal cover for covert operations — this is nothing new and dates back at least as far as Napoleon’s chief of secret police, Joseph Fouche.

    There have been two excellent books covering the UFO aspect, “Project Beta” and more recently (and comprehensively) the book “Mirage Men.” The cult aspect clearly has a “Third Rail” to it because nobody’s touched it but idiots so far, which is a pity, because the glimpses we do have, like The Finders material, is fascinating and disturbing stuff.

    There’s no need for direct collusion: it’s not like some obscure psyops (or LIC) division needed to have a case officer feeding people information and cutting checks. The Satanic Panic could just as easily have been an organic phenomenon — and most likely was.

    I am grateful that enough information about military (especially Air Force) disinformation has come to light in order to make books like “Mirage Men” possible, but I think the MK work being done in cults was a whole separate order of magnitude away from forging documents and UFO photos. Pranking UFOlogists is one thing, deliberate physical and mental child abuse is quite another – BLUEBIRD was not a disinformation campaign but hands-on testing upon human subjects.

    OR…it’s entirely because Kee MacFarlane’s testimony before congress that year about the McMartin episode in 1983 gave everyone some easy sensational copy. Then again that wasn’t until September…so perhaps the McMartin headlines were more than enough.

    In closing, I’d like to point out to curious researchers that the bio of Lawrence Pazder, author and ringleader of the original “Michelle Remembers” book, reads like a guided tour of ongoing MK programs. Writing an absurd book about Satanic Ritual Abuse is arguably the least interesting thing about him in this light.

  2. Had an e-buddy point out that Chaos Magick was coming into bloom during that timeframe, too: Liber Null & Psychonaut had already been in circulation for 3 years by 1984.

    Anyways, further brainfood + granular detail:

    Google Books Results for “Magick” | January 1983 – December 1985

  3. Executives making publishing decisions in their 30s and older in 1984 grew up after the creation of the Church of Satan 30 years earlier in 1966. The book ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ credits Kerry Thornley with spreading interest in paganism outside of academia and that also happened in the 1960s. The publishers grew up ready to sell what people wanted to buy, and by 1984 the 60s occult explosion was a steady market.

    Less pleasantly, the satanic panic of the 1980s sold many books.

  4. Astrologically in 1984 Transiting Neptune moved into the sign of Capricorn and Pluto moved into the sign of Scorpio.

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