Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Half-mad field report, from 2013 - 2014.

"I had been randomly wandering around, and found myself thinking on Crowley (in particular, John St. John) and looked down… To see what you see here. It was so shocking I stopped, took a photo, and then came back home.
I just happened to have some stones carved to look like scarabs, and with hieroglyphs on them, over which some Golden Dawn practitioners had performed a modern version of The Opening of the Mouth. So I left one there with three cigarettes. It had been pretty delightful.”
- April 18th, 2013.

"They’re everywhere now. Almost every street corner has them in the immediate vicinity. You can find one on the edge of Hooker Hollow, along chunks of S St. On W. St.
Welcome to California. In addition to Mexican folk saints, we have this… I love this place.”
- July 8th, 2014.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

These dialogues are riddled with hostility, and generally divisive overall. [EDITED]

"What happens if Dionysus’ ecstasy is not balanced by the tempering influence of Apollo’s cool rationality?"
- John Halstead.

What happens when we ignore the purificatory functions of ecstasy? What happens when we forget that Dionysos is not merely a god of ecstasy, but also of liberation - both temporally during life* - and after death? What happens when we pre-suppose a God associated with the arts, the Muses, and an ecstatic oracular center (the Delphic Oracle) is composed of 'cool rationality'? What happens when we forget that Apollo had ecstatic cults associated with him, such as the Hirpi Sorani? What happens when you ask inapt questions rather than read, say, the Orphic Hymns or translations of Orphic tablets and gold-leaf inscriptions and try to formulate an idea about the over-arching cosmology in which the cultists themselves felt they lived, and the literary bricollage which inherently aided them in their spiritual tasks?

What happens is that we end up with an easily reductive, simplistic view of the devotees to those Gods, and forget that even when one was devoted to a particular deity, that deity still existed within a rich tapestry that does, indeed, balance out quite nicely. It demonstrates the very Pantheon that Mr. Halstead reveres, but never bothered to look into. He need only have visited the Thiasos of the Starry Bull blog and hovered his mouse over "prayers" to have seen prayers to both Dionysos and Apollon, thereby invalidating his comparisons entirely.**

Even in the Orphic tablets and gold-leaf instructions for the Netherworld, we are presented with a vast array of Principalities and Powers, of which Bacchus plays a special role... But he is hardly alone:
You have just died and have just been born, thrice happy, on this day.
Tell Persephone that Bacchus himself has liberated you.
A bull, you leapt into the milk.
Swift, you leapt into the milk.
A ram, you fell into the milk.
You have wine, a happy privilege
and you will go under the earth, once you have accomplished the same
rites as the other happy ones.

—  L 7a-b Two tablets from Pelinna, 4th cent. B.C., 1st edition Tsantsanoglou and Parassoglou (1987) 3 ff. (From Bernabe & Christophe, Instructions for the Netherworld. P. 62)
 Or we could look here:
This is the work of Mnemosyne. When he is on the point of dying
Toward the well-build abode of Hades, on the Right there is a Fountain,
And near it, erect, a white cypress tree.
There the souls, when they go down, refresh themselves.
Don't come near this fountain!
But further on you will find, from the lake of Mnemosyne,
Water freshly flowing. On its banks there are guardians.
The will ask you, with sagacious discernment,
Why you are investigating the darkness of gloomy Hades.
Say: “I am a son of Earth and Starry Heaven;
I am dry with thirst and dying. Give me, then, right away,
Fresh water to drink from the lake of Mnemosyne.”
And to be sure, they will consult the Subterranean Queen,
And they will give you water to drink from the lake of Mnemosyne,
So that once you have drunk, you too will go along the Sacred Way,
By which the other mystai and bacchoi advance, glorious.”
- Tablet from Hipponion (c. 400 BCE). Museo Archeologico Statale di Vibo. First edition, Pugliese Carratelli (1974) 108 f. (ibid, P.8)
Halstead writes:
"Fortunately, not all Pagan priests identify so completely with the object of their devotion, and not all deities are as destructive as Dionysus.  But, as a Jungian Neo-Pagan*, I think the danger is always there in focusing exclusively on one god or goddess."
And yet he remains in the dark, apparently incapable of using either Google, or academic texts, to see if any of his assumptions are even remotely correct. Which, ultimately, is why these dialogues are riddled with hostility, and generally divisive overall. But even then, I can forgive Mr. Halstead for the flaws inherent in his comments, because he is neither involved with Bacchic Orphism, nor has he probably been exposed to the idea that we worship more than one god. The problem remains that he could have bothered to make sure he was on the mark before he wrote his column, rather than instead cherry-picking troublesome elements from a dispersion of blog entries that he imagined sufficed for his task.

I, for one, invite Mr. Halstead to become a Child of Earth and Starry Heaven, or at least take the time to contemplate the ramifications of such a statement. For within that statement of being is something I think a Jungian Neo-Pagan could agree with.

* Dionysos is the cause of release, whence the god is also called Lusios. And Orpheus says: “Men performing rituals will send hekatombs in every season throughout the year and celebrate festivals, seeking release from lawless ancestors. You, having power over them, whomever you wish you will release from harsh toil and the unending goad.”
- Damascius, Commentary on the Phaedo 1.11 
** I was incorrect in assuming a prayer to Apollo Soranus had already been written, and made the same mistake that I criticize Mr. Halstead for. This was a major failboat on my part. So I suggest anyone who balks at my tone - which could have been better (I was intensely irritated to see Dionysos characterized as a 'destructive god' in an overly simplistic fashion) - take my hyperbolic annoyance with a grain of salt. We all make mistakes, and I should just let Mr. Halstead be. Which, henceforth, I shall. But seriously, we do venerate Apollo.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Orpheus, I Choose You!

“Moreover, so much of music as is adapted to the sound of the voice and to the sense of hearing is granted to us for the sake of harmony; and harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of our souls, is not regarded by the intelligent votary of the Muses as given by them with a view to irrational pleasure, which is deemed to be the purpose of it in our day, but as meant to correct any discord which may have arisen in the courses of the soul, and to be our ally in bringing her into harmony and agreement with herself; and rhythm too was given by them for the same reason, on account of the irregular and graceless ways which prevail among mankind generally, and to help us against them.”
- Plato, Timaeus.
Nothing is Lost.
Robert Cochrane once posited that “nothing is ever lost,” and that ideas return again, wearing new guises. At the heart of the Enlightenment project, while the Renaissance was getting underway, this is precisely what occurred amongst some of the philosophers, magicians and mystics that made up part of the motley crew who would inspire the later magical revival of the Victorian period.
And at the heart of it all, at the moment between the pulse of that brilliant heart-beat, sits the ghost of Orpheus, wearing a new outfit and continuing to inspire those individuals long after the collapse of the Greek and Roman empires of antiquity.

Many thanks to Sannion for letting me write whatever the hell I wanted (within reason). I'll do my best to restrict my desire to write 'Gonzo Orphism' as best I possibly can.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Light in the Underworld

Venus and Tannhauser by Laurence Koe.
Opening Remarks
I began working on this entry a while ago and paused. But I just witnessed a discussion on the entire “Right Hand Path” versus “Left Hand Path” dynamic that beguiles discussions between magicians. Frankly, I've abandoned the entire dynamic conceptually, as it is alien to the work I find myself doing. There is no reason to take outlooks from the Victorian period and apply them retroactively to the sum total of magical work that I do; therefore, I refuse to do it or to place any future stock within such outlooks.

This ties in to the topic of this blog entry, which is working planetary magick with Chthonic divinities. A few months ago, a member of an email list that I at least read regularly (although my interactions remain distant to a certain degree, because I can be an ass and do not wish to inflict that upon members) brought up the topic of plugging Chthonic deities into the planetary spheres and treating them along the traditional lines of rulership.

I want to make this clear right away: I have not taken the set I've put together from an archaic text, but rather attempted to find syncretizations or proper Chthonic deities that fit well enough with the spheres to be worked with. In other words: what you'll eventually see is completely the byproduct of my own research and ideas and I made it all up. It is not a bonafide source of ancient magic, and it is quite possible that working with my setup may cause individuals problems. If such is the case, I recommend research and coming up with your own lineup. You are, of course, free to use my own. Finally, at least one reference is largely a medieval concept, and may not jive with those predisposed to seeing the deities within an explicit timeframe limited to antiquity. On this matter, I apologize. I happen to enjoy representations of deities from multiple points in time – including after the rise of Christianity in the West – and don't feel the need to limit myself. This is in part due to being a magician: individuals such as myself have existed across the span of time, in different places and times. Being a practitioner of witchcraft also extends to this view, as many aspects of witchcraft do not exist prior to a certain period of time (around 1200 C.E., and thereafter, there is a conceptual shift that occurred in Europe that had long-term ramifications; but that would take far, far too long to discuss and elements existed before that point, too).

My work in this regard has been slightly hampered, because shortly after I came up with my set for daily work, Sannion went and released the daily lineup for the Thiasos of the Starry Bull's devotions*. As such I've found myself in the strange place of trying to work with Sannion's devotional lineup during the day, while also working with the Chthonic planetary work at night (and often at midnight)! Sometimes, I feel “off” after combining both sets of work – possibly because going from trying to dance alongside Satyrs on a Saturday and then switching to revering the fearsome form of Brimo-Hekate and her horde of terrifying specters at midnight doesn't always conceptually mesh together. Sometimes, it seems as if both practices counter-balance each other, one providing a purely underworld framework, and the other an all-encompassing Orphic framework. Long-time blog readers will probably realize that I'm very, very keen on the different cults involved in the subject of “Orphism,” and that I'm also open to entirely modern takes on the matter.

But before we get to my lineup, I want to address something: Chthonic work does not imply unending darkness, depravity, or worshiping a deity who plans to destroy the earth – although, Dionysos as a symbol of rebellion and liberation may well be keen on smashing oppressive social orders. That's part of what he does, and part of why I revere the deity so much.

The concepts of the underworld being a place of nothing but evil are anathema to my outlook. It is true that there are plenty of problematic daimons, dangerous daimons, and things you just plain shouldn't trust. The act of traveling to the crossroads at midnight to perform your devotions can be terrifying; particularly if you emulate my stance and do so on foot. You will be leaving behind many of your magical tools, your fancy altar, and instead learning an approach based on simplicity and necessity. But you certainly don't have to do that, particularly if you have a life that doesn't allow for acting in this capacity. If you do so I recommend brushing up on charms and talismans that ward off hostile visitants and dangerous daimons; learning invisibility spells, and considering using a lot of cleansing techniques involve plant materia.

Problems and Devotions.

In the long run, these things can help eliminate issues triggered by encountering hostile spirits. In some cases, hostile spirits can be won to your side with offerings of libations of sweet wine, meals (such as the Deipna Hekatates), honey, sweet fruits, and flowers. In other cases, you will have to either ensure that they cannot notice you (invisibility spells), or utter a command in the name of an appropriate deity who is willing to aid you, and perhaps even perform an exorcism. That said: nine times out of ten, I get by just fine by offering the fruits of the earth and cool water to said spirits; it is perfectly traditional (see Burkert's The Orientalizing Revolution, part two “A Seer or Healer” Magic and Medicine from East to West, specifically the lengthy discussion on Spirits of the Dead and Black Magic. Also see Ogden's Greek and Roman Necromancy, which has recurrent discussions on the matter).

The idea that even the most fearsome specters of the dead can become less-than-hostile with such simple offerings is probably baffling to some; however, both my experience is very much of that sort, and the consulting historical sources seems to bear it out, too.

The deities themselves are not problematic. They are deities; even if they are fearsome in and of themselves, they are still open to worship and devotion, and benevolent in their own ways. Some I would go so far as to call “the light in the underworld,” and surrounding them are vast swathes of other spirits that they send to and fro to do their work, some of whom radiate the same presence that is not unlike torchlight on a very dark night.

Perhaps the most stunning thing to note is that there is significant overlap between what may be given as offerings to deities of the underworld, the spirits therein (particularly the dead), and even in a few cases what might be given to the gods. Again we see a lot of offering sweet fruits, honey (which was given to the heroic dead, the restless dead, and the gods!), flowers and so forth. In some cases, offerings can also be made that were traditional to the deity in their own right, considerations of the underworld and Chthonic magic and devotion aside. It is also a very good idea to consider keeping frankincense and myrrh on hand to fumigate as part of the ritual, and make offerings thereof. Both are recurrent across the Orphic Hymns along with storax, and easily obtained today.

The Lineup**:

Sol = Apollo Soranus (potentially displaced with Asklepios; more on this another time)

The Hirpi Sorani (“wolves of Soranus”) are referenced in Virgil's Aeneid, where Arrun is considered a member of the cult, a fact particularly evident when he executes an ambush and cries the following prayer:
Apollo, most high of gods, guardian of holy Soracte, whose chief worshippers are we, for whom is fed the blaze of the pine-wood heap, while we, thy votaries, passing in strength of faith amid the fire, plant our steps on the deep embers – grant that this shame be effaced by our arms, O Father Almighty! I seek no plunder, no trophy of the maid's defeat, nor any spoils; other feats shall bring me fame; so but this dread scourge fall stricken beneath my blow, inglorious I will return to the city of my sires.”
It was also mentioned by Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Silius Italicus, Solinus, and Servius.

Once a year the cult gathered for what we would rightly call Chthonic rituals: a pile of wood would be heaped together, and lit until its embers gleamed. The Priests then walked or danced – most likely
three times – across the burning embers while barefoot. Solinus describes the priests movements as “leaping,” which is suggestive of fire-dancing, and the word used (exultant) includes a connotation of rejoicing according to Mika Rissanen. The author adds: 
The atmosphere of the ritual seems to have in fact to have been joyful rather than frightening. Silius Italicus describes Apollo being happy about the blazing piles of wood and their offerings.
All these authors point out that the priests were able to perform the ritual without burning their feet. The explanation gien by Varro, transmitted by Servius, is that the priests used medicated ointment to moisturize their soles,while Silius Italicus refers to some kind of trance that protected the priests.”
The cult seems to have centered around the region of Mt. Soracte, already appearing in the prayer delivered by Arruns in the Aeneid. Rissanen the primary inscription found at the mountain are to Apollo Soranus.

Rissanen also notes:
Ultimately, the name of the god (and thus the name of the mountain) is probably connectioned with Śuri, the Etruscan god of purification and prophecies, as suggested by G. Colonna.”
 We are also provided with a fascinating potential account in the paper linking the practices there to Dis Pater, the Roman lord of the underworld and potentially expressing an explanation for the fire dances via Servius:
It was on this mountain that a sacrifice to Dis Pater was once performed – because it is devoted to the chthonic deities – as wolves suddenly appeared and plundered entrails from the fire. The shepherds chased the wolves for a long time, until they arrived at a cave emanating pestilential gases that killed people standing near by. The reason for the emergence of this plague was that they had chased the wolves. They received a message that they could calm it down by imitating the wolves...”***
Servius goes on to suggest that imitation of wolves meant plunder, but Rissanen seems to be against this outlook; and it hardly makes sense when considering the fire-walking or fire-dancing celebration performed by members of the cult. In Greece wolves were strongly associated with Apollo (versus Rome's Mars and his association with wolves), which probably let to the two deities (Apollo and Soranus) becoming syncretized, and the inscriptions found to the divinity at Mt. Soracte.
It is recommended that burning wood is offered during work with Apollo Soranus; possibly pine, given that Virgil explicitly connects the wood burned at the celebrations of the Hirpi Sorani to it. Additionally, given the solar aspects of white frankincense, it makes a fine offering, as well as fumigation for purification, during the work.

Luna = Persephone/Proserpina/Kore:

“The Pure Queen of Down Below,” as some of the Orphic lamellae describe her. I would hope that folks are fairly well aware of the Goddess of the Underworld, who shares her power with Hades and therefore will only recommend fumigation potentials: mugwort (being lunar), poppies (I must pause here to note that opium is linked to both Persephone and Demeter; however, that is probably out of the question and I would recommend using poppies that are not an issue to use in terms of legality). Asphodel, a plant I have never encountered outside the references to the divinity, has also been mentioned as sacred. I should probably look into the potential of growing it...

Note: in some discussions on Orphic cosmology, Persephone is treated as the mother of Dionysos (as Zagreus), due to being raped by Zeus. But... a lot of what I've seen has been based on older scholarship, which is all kinds of problematic and I'm not sure how often the two deities are linked together as mother and son, and such. I intend to find out, though.

Mars = Dionysos as Render of Men (ὰνθρωπορραίστης):

While not typically viewed as a deity involved with matters of war, Dionysos was seen as a warrior, and given several titles – like “Render of Men” – which apply to the above quite well. Granted, Dionysian War is probably quite different that the open combat of Ares. In Nonnus' Dionysiaca, it is complained that he cannot be overcome because the God of Many Forms is constantly shape-shifting – taking the form of fire, a lion, a dragon. (And who wants to fight a dragon? I mean, really?) At least one of his titles is translated as “he who delights in the sword and bloodshed” by Otto in Dionysus: Myth and Cult. This idea also appears in Taylor's translation of the Orphic Hymn to Dionysus Bassareus Triennalis (“Bassarian God, of universal might, whom swords, and blood, and sacred rage delight”). The Dionysian 'frenzy,' and capability of the Maenads to rip apart those who have angered the god – or them, in the case of Orpheus! – also ties in to my placement of Dionysos to the sphere of war, rather than to redemption. This is not to say that he is not a redeemer – the Orphic lamellae certainly make that clear (“Bacchus has released you”) – or a mediator. He is. But he is also the liberator, and patron of several slave revolts. To my mind, it is massively important to emphasize both aspects – of the mediator of Orphic redemption – and as the literal liberator of slaves, and the oppressed.

Recommended fumigations: Storax, Frankincense, Myrrh. He's the son of Zeus after all and is as worthy of being offered that which one offers a king. Additionally, grape leaves are also excellent to add to one's altar, to to slather with honey at the crossroads.

Mercurius = Hermes Chthonios

At some point, I'll talk about Hermes Chthonios with a bit more length than here. But – he's the guide of the dead. And he's fucking awesome. He's totally got an Orphic Hymn to his name. Use it.

Fumigation: Storax.

Jupiter = Zeus-Typhon/Hades.

The King of the Underworld. Do I need to expand on this? Well, maybe on the unusual looking Zeus-Typhon: Ogden links it to Hades fairly explicitly in Greek and Roman Necromancy. Unfortunately, I am completely unaware of whether cults existed that utilized the name or not. Should I ever become aware of such matters, you can rest assured that I will expand on it in a blog – or somewhere, at least.

Fumigation: Storax, Frankincense, Myrrh.

Venus = Chthonic Venus. (i.e. Venus of the medieval Venusberg)

Between late antiquity and the late medieval period, Goddesses and spirits (and even fairies) tend to start overlapping heavily. Venus as an Underworld figure becomes prominently expressed in stories such as those involving Tannhauser. The Venusberg was a mountain within which she was believed to live, in a paradise of all delights hidden beneath the surface where she was served by nymphs, and even the occasional ghost (at least in the testimony of Diel Bruell, who was executed for witchcraft). These tales go back to the Sibyllenberg, a mountain in Italy not far from Narn, Italy today. The Sibyl's mount was apparently a place where necromancers traveled to learn their arts, watched over the Sibyl (similar to one of the Sibyls training Aeneas in the Aeneid in necromancy). Far from simply being stories, we can find these overlapping ideas in Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft (in relation to the “Fairy Sibyllia”), in accounts given by shady sorcerers that may or may not have been charlatans, and at least one aforementioned witch trial. I've honestly blogged about the subject more than a bit, and shall leave it alone except to mention that the figure is very similar – if not the same – as one of the major spirits discussed in Jake Stratton-Kent's True Grimoire. Should this figure not work for you, I recommend defaulting to Venus Libitina who is heavily associated with death.

Fumigation: Myrrh. (Rose petals if you're feeling experimental, although they may smell badly. Thanks VVF!)

Saturn = Hekate-Brimo, or Demeter-Brimo.

I talk about Hekate-Brimo, the “vengeful” aspect of Hekate, more than a bit, so I'll limit myself to complete this entry. She is suggested to have been called upon when one was in immense danger, or under attack by a spirit – as her mere name may have been sufficient to frighten them off. I make offerings to her regularly, and even consecrate some of the tropane-bearing plants I grow (nightshades, particularly Mandrake) to that name, as she is even more terrifying than their potential poisons. Furthermore, Jason calls upon her in the Argonautica, after performing Chthonic rites (immolation of an animal in a ritual pit) and prior to take the potion Medea has furnished for him to provide for his task.

Fumigation: Storax.

Be seeing you,

* Note: there are two links in that sentence; one to the Thiasos masterlist and one to the hymns for use with it. I looooooove the Dionysos hymn for so, so many reasons and really enjoy the others.

** You will notice links at the names of the deities, to provide helpful information on them above and beyond anything I have to say.

*** I can't help but think of Ogden's discussion on necromancy performed at “birdless caves” (mephitic caves) in
Greek and Roman Necromancy. Such places were considered especially linked to the underworld, hence triggering their becoming major locations for the practice.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Divine Intoxication, Inspiration, and Offerings. [EDITED]

Come, blessed Dionysius [Dionysos], various nam'd, bull-fac'd,
begot from Thunder, Bacchus [Bakkhos] fam'd.
Bassarian God, of universal might, whom swords, and blood, and sacred rage delight:
In heav'n rejoicing, mad, loud-sounding God, furious inspirer, bearer of the rod:
By Gods rever'd, who dwell'st with human kind, propitious come, with much-rejoicing mind.
- Orphic Hymn to
Dionysus Bassareus Triennalis. (Taylor translation.)
I should be working on something else, but I'm still blissed out from doing work earlier. Being that it was Memorial Day, I wanted to offer some alcohol to the dead. Not just to the soldiers that have fallen in foreign lands, far from their place of birth, but to the heroes and protectors of my city, and of myself as well.

I spend a lot of time talking about the potential dangers of the restless dead. And I don't spend nearly enough time talking about the bliss of existing beside them after an orgiastic ritual, where I have partaken of the divine sacraments (read: alcohol, and other intoxicants, perhaps), danced beside them, and offered them 'the good stuff.'

Flowers. Cool water. Sweet fruits. Honey. Chocolates. Alcohol (of various assortments, no less!). Tobacco. Cannabis. Coffee.

I sing praises to them, and thank them for their blessings. I enter into trance and sometimes catch the glimmers of light, and radiance of the Other World that shines around them.

And, as a Dionysian, every time I drink, I salute them. I understand that I am actively in their presence. That the intoxication that floods through my life, my brain, my body, stretches back into my thundering blood and to my ancestors which came before me.

The friends that passed before me, and the initiates of my tradition of witchcraft which are now amongst the Mighty Dead are saluted.

The very essence of the alcohol can, at times, be a trigger for this. Whenever I have mead, I can feel my ancestors and even divinities above them shifting a bit closer, subtly. I am in the presence of the divine, and amongst it are even the former human beings that are a part of the great chains binding together the universe.

And when it hits, I am exposed to the experience of those who came before. To little subtle bits of he universe that I've failed to notice. To the little beautiful elements that I've somehow missed. It might be a smell, or a feeling, or it might be information (historical, magical, or just plain in and of itself) that I've somehow missed.

It is true: the songs I sing may well be foreign; the things I offer may be different. The steps in my dances, and circular movements, and my dedications may be strange to the spirits around me. If it is a problem, they'll make it clear to me. If it isn't, then they don't give a shit and I haven't messed up. This is an on-going learning process for me. Each subtle essence, each thing encountered, is different from others. You can't approach work with individual or groups of spirits – whatever the kind – as a type of monolithic practice from which there is only one acceptable way, and any deviation from that is a terrible abomination.

So more and more, I find myself breaking out the divination techniques. Trying to trust my intuition, but also not over-think it. Thankfully, eventually the intoxication – ranging from purely mental to physical – will intervene and it won't matter anymore, anyway.

Then there's just the work, the presence, and the joy.

Even if I were to appear to be alone, I am amongst a vast and great company. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Beans & the Dead: Part II

“Whether the souls of men after death are or are not in the world below, is a question which may be argued in this manner: The ancient doctrine of which I have been speaking affirms that they go from this into the other world, and return hither, and are born from the dead. Now if this be true, and the living come from the dead, then our souls must be in the other world, for if not, how could they be born again?”
- Plato, Phaedo.

“Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands from beans!”
- Empedocles.
While I just wrapped up the last entry on beans and the dead, it seemed insufficient compared to the rather extensive list of associations found with the beans. As such, I felt that a second entry should be prepared with a range of sources – from academic to magical – involving the item.

One of these is the – though dated – excellent article by Alfred C. Andrews entitled The Bean in Indo-European Totemism (1949). The article itself is too long to quote in its entirety, but can be found for download by way of the provided link. There is no reason not to quote chunks of the article, however:
“The sacrifices made to the old Italic deity Carna on the first of June consisted of bean-meal and lard, and this day was known as the Kalendae fabariae. Beans were also used to lay ghosts at the Lemuria and figured in the sacrifices performed at the Parentalia. Beans also played a role in magic rites conducted in connection with Tacita or Muta, a goddess of the dead, and must have been used at a festival of the dead in honor of the bean goddess Fabola or Fabula. The Priest of Jupiter was forbidden to touch a bean or even to mention its name. The name of Fufetia, an early Vestal, as well as that of Mettius Fufetius, is derived from faba by Pfund, who also identifies with it that of Modius Fabidius, reputed founder of the Cures, and even ventures to conclude that a period once existed among the early Romans when agriculture was devoted almost exclusively to beans. His argument entails ingenious analysis of Roman and Sabine land measures and is plausible in so far as it applies to beans; but there is no question that the cultivation of spelt in Italy is at least as old as that of the bean, and that puls made from spelt was probably the first staple food derived from field crops. This much at least is certain, that beans were under cultivation in Italy as early as the Neolithic age and were an important food crop for the early Romans. It is indeed by no means improbable that the bean was their first cultivated vegetable.”


“One significant and provocative factor, with respect to this abstention, is that the ancients felt toward beans a mingled respect and dread, a complex of emotions suggested by the Greek term ίερός, which apparently was generally applied to an object believed to be charged with some supernatural force, contact with which might be either beneficial or harmful. Today we generally call this mysterious power mana in its helpful aspect and taboo in its harmful aspect, Beans belonged in the category of objects possessing both mana and taboo.

The ancients advanced most divergent explanations for the taboo on beans some religious or spiritual, some dietetic or hygienic. Aristotle (or his source) proposes no fewer than five different explanations, without settling on any one of them. The heart of the problem is to determine whether this ambivalent attitude toward beans is an echo of earlier totemism or whether it is of different origin.

With the concept of totemism in mind, one sees a glimmer of sense in Horace’s allusion to the faba Pythagorae cognata and in the perplexing Pythagorean maxim, “It is an equal crime to eat beans and the heads of one’s parents.” It now seems clearer, too, why Pythagoras forbade his followers to eat beans as being human flesh, on the ground that beans were occupied by the souls of the dead and thereby took on the qualities of human flesh. As Pliny says, “The souls of the dead are in them.”

If we accept this notion of beans being the residence of the souls of the dead as the original, primitive concept, diverse and apparently conflicting beliefs and practices current in the historic period take on sense and consistency. The simplest and most direct development was the notion that beans assumed the character of human flesh, as the result of the presence of souls in them. By this presence beans were rendered dynamic receptacles of generative power, and we accordingly find peeled green beans compared to human testicles and even said to be the generative principle itself, the abstinence of the Pythagoreans explained as due to the resemblance of beans to testicles, the beans of Empedocles interpreted as an esoteric or symbolic allusion to testicles, and beans alleged to resemble eggs in embodying the generative principle...”


“The basic concept of beans as the abode of the souls of the dead created an intimate association of beans with death and gave rise to strict rules for priests concerned with the life principle. Thus the Priest of Jupiter, whose functions required scrupulous avoidance of contact with the dead and everything associated with them, was forbidden, as we have seen, to touch a bean or even to speak its name. It is therefore puzzling to read that beans were regularly eaten at funerary banquets, funerary sacrifices, and invocations to the deceased, for few things are more intimately associated with death than such ceremonies as these.”


“Beans were conceived to be the abodes of the souls of the dead, but we must be careful not to think of these souls in terms of Christian theology as eternal entities possessing the attributes of the physical beings in which they once lodged. We must rather visualize them as modicums of the life principle, vague and intangible, released from the body at the moment of death. This packet of force, if we may so term it, was both beneficent and maleficent. If it entered an alien organism, it could produce malign effects; but it could be absorbed with benefit by a related organism.

At the moment of death the soul or life principle of a Roman escaped from his body by way of his mouth, and the next of kin caught and inhaled this last exhalation, absorbing the life principle. This could be done not only without danger, but with actual benefit, for the two organisms were closely related. But death is dangerous, inimical to life, and a person needed all the extra vitality he could obtain from any source, not only on occasions directly associated with death, such as mortuary banquets, but even when making funerary sacrifices and conducting invocations to the deceased. Therefore he ate beans, as containing the life principle. In this connection, we may well stress again the statement of Pliny that the animae mortuorum, i.e., the breath-souls of the dead, were in beans. And since beans contained a life force, it was natural for them to be eaten on Carna’s day to insure good digestion and health for the coming year.”
And so forth. Honestly, despite objections might have to the recurrent themes of Indo-European totemism in the article, it still remains one of the more fascinating places to look for information on beans and their associations with the dead.

Given wide-spread associations with beans as being both a generative force and a container for the soul, it is rather surprising that beans don't factor in any of the PGM spells and rituals involving the dead. Rather one finds them in the PGM spells for contraception:

PGM LXIII. 24-25:
A contraceptive: Pick up a bean that has a small bug in it, and attach it as an amulet.

PGM LXIII. 26-28
A contraceptive: Take a pierced bean and attach it as an amulet after tying it up in a piece of mule hide.
(Betz, P. 295).
Dioscorides, meanwhile, merely notes that beans may cause “bad dreams.”

Be that as it may, the bean does feature in spells and rituals in later magical literature, such as the Grimorium Verum:

To make yourself invisible:
Begin this operation on a Wednesday before sunrise, then take seven black beans and a human skull. Put one bean in the mouth of the skull, two in the nostrils, two in the eyes, and two in the ears. Next make on the head the characters show. (Note: characters omitted. See text for reference.) Then bury the skull so it faces the sky.

For nine days before sunrise, sprinkle it with excellent brandy. On the eighth day, you will find there the spirit of the deceased who will awake, and will ask you: “What are you doing here?” You will answer: “I am watering my plant,” and it will take the bottle, saying, “Given me this bottle so I may water it.” You should refuse this demand, and it will ask you again, but you must continue to refuse until he stretches out his hand, and there you will see figures similar to the ones you made on the head hanging from the tips of his fingers. In this case, you may be assured that this is the true spirit of the head.

This is done because some other spirit could surprise you, causing you harm and causing the operation to be in vain.

When you give him the bottle of liquor, he will water it himself, and you can retire. On the following day, which is the ninth day, return and you will find that the bean crop has matured. Harvest them and put them in your mouth, watching yourself in a mirror, and when you find one that makes you not see yourself, this bean will be a good one to save. You can also try them in the mouth of a child. A note that all those which don't work should be buried with the head.”
(Joseph H. Peterson translation, p. 49. Also see Jake Stratton-Kent's discussion on altering the spell for other purposes in the True Grimoire.)
A certain Mr. Smith notes:
Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, Appendix, states that beans should not be eaten during the weihnachten (12 nights of Yule).”

This particularly stood out to me due to something in the earlier cited text by Alfred C. Andrews:
“It is interesting to note in this connection that the custom of electing by lot a King and often also a Queen of the Bean on Twelfth Night or the eve thereof used to prevail in France, Belgium, Germany, and England. It can be traced back to the first half of the sixteenth century and probably dates from much more remote antiquity.”
Later he adds:
“Their use in Athenian elections by lots is probably of too recent origin to be attributed to any such notion and was probably motivated merely by convenience; but the use of beans in taking the auspices among the Romans is a relic of earlier times and may embody some such belief. One may note also the custom of ancient diviners of placing salt and beans before their clients. This practice has persisted into modern times, so that we find beans used for divination on Midsummer Eve in the Azores and for the same purpose on Twelfth Night in many other places.”

Meanwhile, for a bit of syncretism with magical practices in the Americas, Mr. Stratton-Kent notes:
“In comparative approaches its interesting that beans are also employed in offerings to Omolu, a god of the cemetery in Kimbanda. Pretty sure that's only one New World example, just happens to be the most immediate for me.

Roles for a single type of black beans and of diverse beans varying in colour might be differentiated; black beans are often used directly in magic, while multi-coloured beans appear as offerings.”

While I cannot claim this entry answers questions about all the different associations between beans, generative forces, and the dead, it will hopefully give others a few places to look. It is also worth noting that Macrobius's Saturnalia details a number of Roman festivals and rites involving beans, which may also be worth looking into.


Beans & The Dead.

A recent discussion with the Thiasos of the Starry Bull briefly involved prohibitions regarding beans by certain cults (some Orphic sects, and more importantly, the Pythagoreans). I seemed to recall that the bean was discussed by Jake Stratton-Kent in the Geosophia, but couldn't find the relevant section.

EDIT: I found the relevant section. Geosophia, volume 2, p. 204:
 “Ovid tells us in his Fasti that at midnight the head of the family rose and made a sign with the thumb inside closed fingers (the Sign of the Fig) to be free of fear of meeting a ghost and after washing his hands in spring water he took nine black beans and either threw them over his shoulder or more likely held them in his mouth and spat them out, being careful not to look behind him,  as is usual with many chthonic rituals. After this he spoke the incantation nine times: haec ego emitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis (with these beans I redeem me and mine). Washing his hands again he and probably others of the holsehold beat metal pots together like cymbals, walking through the house saying nine times: Manes exite paterni! (Family ghosts, depart!)

The same type of beans were also cast onto graves of the deceased or burned as an incense of exoricsm, the smell being disagreeable to the spirits; incantations were muttered and drums and metal pots beaten.”

Over the weekend, however, I recalled that Pliny the Elder had discussed the bean (albeit in brief) in The Natural History (Book XVIII, chapter 30):
“In our ancient ceremonials, too, bean pottage occupies its place in the religious services of the gods. Beans are mostly eaten together with other food, but it is generally thought that they dull the senses, and cause sleepless nights attended with dreams. Hence it is that the bean has been condemned by Pythagoras; though, according to some, the reason for this denunciation was the belief which he entertained that the souls of the dead are enclosed in the bean: it is for this reason, too, that beans are used in the funereal banquets of the Parentalia. According to Varro, it is for a similar cause that the Flamen abstains from eating beans: in addition to which, on the blossom of the bean, there are certain letters of ill omen to be found.”
 Simoons, in Plants of Life, Plants of Death has this to say of the bean:
“The association of beans and other legumes with death and the dead has survived in modern times in Europe. A prime example of this is their use as funeral foods in various places. In the past in certain parts of Berry as well as in the neighboring Marche in central France, for example, people always included a dish of beans or dried peas among the items served at a funeral dinner. In the Marches of central Italy, a family coming back from the burial joined in eating a large plate of kidney beans. Beans were also a major element of funeral dishes in Sardinia. In parts of the Friuli in northeastern Italy, it was customary for people to eat bean soup on the day the dead are commemorated. Elsewhere a special bread or cake that includes rye and vetch (likely Vicia sativa, a relative of the fava beans) has been served to persons who come to pray for the dead person. After a funeral in the Fimini region of northern Italy, the mourners returned to the home of the deceased for a funerary dinner which consisted of chick-pea soup. The serving provided for the deceased was later consumed by a member of the family. As for eastern Europe, I have uncovered a fragmentary report of beans having had ties with the dead among the Slavic people, too. I refer to an account of the former Polish-Russian province of Pintschov, where beans and honey were considered foods of the dead, and at memorial dinners, food consisted of beans and peas boiled in honey-water.

Beans and other legumes have also been used in Europe on All Souls' Day...” (P. 251 – 252.)
He goes on at length, eventually discussing funerary honey-cakes and the like. I have a few other sources to dig up, which if found, will require a second entry. But that's no bother. I'll add more later if/when I come across it.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Memo from the Black Brotherhood #4

“The unjustly injured are not benefited if the same injury is inflicted on the aggressor: punishment should not only be corrective but compensatory to the victim. This does not preclude other kinds of deterrents if necessary.
If you must murder, seek the murderers; meet evil with evil, even unto yourself.”
- Austin Osman Spare, The Logomachy of Zos.
And what should we do about predators loping about about in our midst?

Here are the Basalt Tower of Chorazin, we've always been of the mind that it is your personal responsibility to ensure the safety of your family, and fellow practitioners as well.

Rapists, pedophiles, and other such predators should not be tolerated. And should it be discovered that they have harmed those you love, they should be put to the (perhaps proverbial) sword.

Cursed until the Law catches up: forced into an infinite spotlight which refuses to allow them to hide or cloak their actions in any way. Bound into silence and forced apart from the community they have taken advantage of until their dues have paid, and perhaps still viewed askance long after.

We are, after all, perfectly comfortable with the malefic aspects of magic. Are not such times the very reason we have such terrible tools in our toolbox?

We strongly suspect that the answer is obvious, and that attempting to blame the victims or pretend that some celebrity is a “good guy” after inflicting harm on another (often while insisting that “no one would ever do that!” – we have heard that argument many, many times before) is far worse than the most abominable black magic one might ever decide to practice... Unless, of course, said “black magic” involves inflicting such harm simply because one can. Many of us will never understand the latter standpoint, aside from when it is spouted by those who have confused “mastery of the self” with “mastery of the world.”

Isn't this all about power, and aren't you arguing a point based on taking power?”

We have always held the outlook that the profoundly disempowered should first work on their own mind (“your mind is a Fortress of Solitude, and you are totally Superman/Woman/Other”), and then they should take power back for themselves. And that to deny that right to take power back for themselves, even if it is only within the mind of the practitioner, is a rather horrible assertion... And one which benefits those who harm far more than those who have been harmed.

We have often asserted that those who can gain the most from our practices are those who have been disempowered at some point in their lives and refuse to allow this situation to return. No spirit, no other person, can give this to you. You must feel secure in yourself to take the step, and then you must take that step. And you must always remain aware that there is something you can do.

Again and again the question arises:
Aren't you arguing that we should 'control' situations?”

We do not assert that any such ability to control exists in any situation. Rather, you are always capable of influencing that situation for better or worse. The problem remains that once you have influenced a situation, you are responsible for that influence and what comes about. But that does not change our outlook on this matter.

Power is both a personal and collective matter, and influence is transient. It can be used for corrupt reasons, or to bring about a swift resolution in relatively terrible matters that we would not wish upon our worst enemies.

As in all things, balance does matter.

Nonetheless, what lies at the core is the resolve to act... or not act. As in all things, such decisions are situational and lie with the individual or the community.

There remain a great many who, incapable of looking into the eye of the storm and seeing what is happening around them, will attempt to insist on reasons not to act. Occasionally, they are wise in this regard... But typically they are simply giving power to those who have clearly chosen to use it for harmful reasons. That is a matter of the blind leading the blind.

We see no reason to join them in sailing on their Ship o' Fools. We rather suspect that it will sink, shortly, drowning all those who have failed to apply empathy to survivors... And have instead chosen to give it to their favorite celebrities. We name them “Abomination” and wash our hands of them.

Finally, we would also add that an appropriate influence that one can always choose to unleash is to aid those who have survived the harmful events they find themselves mired in so that they might find the solace of friends, and the conditions necessary to heal terrible wounds. Even if one chooses not to put predators to the sword, there is always an action to take on behalf of those who have been harmed.

We see no reason as to why so many have failed in this regard. And we, the loathed Brotherhood of Darkness, cannot possibly comprehend the “side” some have chosen to take.

In Mars and Saturn we place our trust,
Jack Faust.
Chief of Public Relations for the Black Brotherhood.
The Basalt Tower of Chorazin, upon the edge of the Sea of Galilee.

[EDIT: Due to backchatter, I will clarify this post. I'm honestly not a member of the "Black Brotherhood," but many years ago was accused of it... A lot, actually. As such I began writing tongue-in-cheek posts under the "memos" moniker while arguing that one meditate, practice theurgy, etc. This time, I decided to be a lot more serious... Because certain topics and individuals have made me literally feel ill on this matter. I felt that given my rather malefic stance on the matter, it was deserving of a "memo" post. But it's still a struggle to write this crap without flipping my shit and screaming "DESTROY THE INFIDELS!!!" ... so the post is admittedly choppy.]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Furious Host

Herakleitos, Fragments 76-77 (535-475 BCE)
… they roam together – the night-walkers, the magicians, the Bakchai, the Lenai, the participants in mysteries full of unholy rites. Their processions and phallic hymns would be disgraceful exhibitions if it wasn’t for the fact that they are done in honor of Dionysos – that Dionysos who is the same as Haides; it is in his honor that they rave madly and hold their revels.

Proklos’ Commentary on Timaios 3.262f (412-485 CE)
For about the god there are more partial gods; daimones proceeding together with or being the guards and attendants of the god; and the elevated and magnificent army of heroes, repressing in advance all the disorder arising from matter.
Luís Vaz de Camões, Os Lusíadas Book Eight (1524-1580 CE)
So, lower’d the night, the sullen howl the same,
And, ’mid the black-wing’d gloom, stern Bacchus came;
The form, and garb of Hagar’s son he took,
The ghost-like aspect, and the threat’ning look.

Via Sannion's new project.

Fuck, man. You have no idea how much I began cheering at that page.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Astrological Magic & Chaotes

 Recently, Gordon over at Rune Soup interviewed Jake Stratton-Kent. During the interview, you can hear Jake discuss Pete Carroll's dismissal of astrological magic and how silly he thought this was.

What was relatively unamusing is that not long after that, I came across someone playing their "I'm a superior magician" card by bringing up Carroll's dismissal of astrological magic. That's not entirely unexpected; I've spent more than enough time hanging out with American Chaos Magicians to know that Carroll's ideas are fetishized and occasionally taken gospel.

That said, Carroll's outlook is hardly the only one to emerge from Chaos Magic circles. Another Chaote worthy of note - and who has been involved in forms of astrological magic for quite some time - is Fr. U.D.

U.D.'s High Magic series certainly has astrological magic as part of the work presented. This is relatively unsurprising, since by his own admission he was at one time a member of the Fraternitas Saturnai. Indeed, Saturn cycles are even discussed in the aforementioned works by U.D.

More recently, Jason Miller put out Advanced Planetary Magic. (You can see my review here), complete with 'sorcerous' planetary seals, and a number of other items which are well worth messing around with.

The short version of what I'm saying is this: just because one of the Chaote founders was prototypically dismissive of certain practices does not mean that the rest of us have to be, nor does his viewpoint encompass the totality of thought on such matters in Chaote circles.

At present, my Saturni-Lunar Gossip Trap remains one of the most well-liked and re-linked entries. Which I certainly would not expect if everyone simply mindlessly agreed with Carroll on everything he wrote.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Noobsauce Unlimited

“Χαῖρε Διόνυσος θυρεπανοίκτης.”
(“[...] which means 'Joyous greetings, Dionysos, Opener of the Door!'” - Sannion.)

Cleanup by the wonderful VVF.

Monday, January 13, 2014

1874: Black Rosicrucians, Officiating Ladies, & Magic Mirrors*

 “When he talks of initiations, ‘officiating girls’ and ‘strange oaths,’ we may infer that he held meetings of some kind, but I have failed to obtain particulars.”
- Arthur Edward Waite, On Paschal Beverly Randolph's Rosicrucian Rooms.

“I studied Rosicrucianism, and found it suggestive, and loved its mysticism. So I called myself The Rosicrucian, and gave my thought to the world as Rosicrucian thought…

Nearly all that I have given as Rosicrucianism originated in my soul; and scarce a single thought, only suggestions, have I borrowed from those who, in ages past, called themselves by that name – one which served me well as a vehicle wherein to take my mental treasures to a market, which gladly opened its doors to that name, but would, and did, slam its portals in the face of the tawny student of Esoterics.”
– Paschal Beverly Randolph, Eulis! The History of Love. (1896 Edition; P. 47.)
“One night – it was in far-off Jerusalem or Bethlehem, I really forget which – I made love to, and was loved by, a dusky maiden of Arabic blood. I of her, and that experienced, learned – not directly, but by suggestion – the fundamental principle of the White Magic of Love; subsequently I became affiliated with some dervishes and fakirs of whom, but suggestion still, I found the road to other knowledges; and of these devout practitioners of a simple, but sublime and holy magic, I obtained additional clues – little threads of suggestion, which, being persistently followed, led my soul into labyrinths of knowledge themselves did even suspect the existence of. I became practically, what I was naturally – a mystic, and in the time chief of the lofty brethren; taking clues left by the masters, and pursuing them farther than they had even been before; actually discovering the ELIXIR OF LIFE; the universal solvent or Alkahest; the water of beauty and perpetual youth, and the philosopher’s stone…”
- Paschal Beverly Randolph, Eulis! The History of Love. (1896 Edition; P. 48.)
A couple of years ago, I compiled a short list of Paschal Beverly Randolph's works together in an entry titled similarly to this one. It also, however, contained a long-winded and largely unnecessary rant about Blavatsky and the notions regarding “black magicians” she and the Theosophists (as well as a few other Victorian occult authors) have contributed to. When I decided to recompile links to Randolph's works, I felt it was necessary to also dissect my complaints from the materials themselves. Even if my opinion regarding such matters is correct, no justice is done to the man's work by including links to it beside an easily misunderstood rant. As such, that entry has been booted back into a 'draft' format, and this one exists to replace it as well as rectify my previous failings.

My interest in Randolph and his work was first sparked by John Michael Greer, who corrected my misguided notions regarding Aleister Crowley being the innovator of sexual techniques in western magick. He quite correctly pointed out that P.B. Randolph's work predated Crowley, and went on to extol the many virtues of America's “Rosicrucian.” The information sat in the back of my mind until – while creating my own Fluid Condenser recipes and attempting to figure out what the Hell I was doing – I was finally forced to look into Randolph's work. Subsequently, I found that I quite enjoyed what I was seeing and a few years later, my intent to study Randolph and his work remains as firm as ever.

It also helps that most of his work is available as public domain works, which also negates most concerns regarding piracy when it comes to the books. At the same time, it can also be quite dated, and some of his language is archaic. There are still a few volumes I'm looking to get my hands on, but this compilation of documents should give those interested plenty to experiment with or simply take a look at.**

Not included is: Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician by John Patrick Deveney – but is probably the best documentation of Paschal Beverly Randolph's life and thoughts available to the public. My copy is through Google books, and was purchased as a digital edition for around $15 – $20.

In the event I come across those books that have escaped my Sigilized “nets,” I will be sure to include them in updates to this entry in the future. Initially, I planned to upload some of the harder to find works to Mega to avoid the ephemeral nature of the 'net – however, it looks like most of them are now available on Archive.org, thus making that action unnecessary. Should that change, let me know and I'll upload them to my cloud storage and add links.

Paschal's Magical Literature:

Seership! The Magnetic Mirror: Archive.orgGoogle Books.
Contains some of Randolph's thoughts on magic mirrors, clairvoyance, & etc.

Eulis! The History of Love: Archive.orgGoogle Books.
Contains Randolph's thoughts on sexual theurgy, as well as some of the key autobiographical details that Deveney fleshes out his wonderful book. It also includes his disclaimers regarding his own brand of Rosicrucianism.

Sexual Magic (Robert North translation): Archive.org.

Contains Randolph's core techniques (Volantia, Decretism, & Posism), as well as his instructions on Fluid Condensers, the creation of “magical mirrors” for scrying and evocation, and his thoughts on sexual magic. My understanding is that North's translation of the text has been surpassed by the recent re-translation by Donald Traxler – which expands on which areas of the text are contributions by of Maria de Naglowska, who had the French manuscript in her possession. I debated linking this work, but it is among the most useful available to those seeking to understand Randolph at this time. Given that Mr. North passed away several years ago, I don't think linking it is hugely problematic. However, if I discover that this is not the case, I will remove the link. If you want to make sure someone gets due credit and $$$ for their work, buy a copy of Mr. Traxler's translation. 

The Rosicrucian Dream Book: Archive.org.

Contains Randolph's thoughts on dream interpretation, and a rather lengthy list of interpretations regarding symbols in dreams. I laughed
hysterically when I looked up what hashish signified...

The Unveiling: Or, What I Think of Spiritualism: Archive.orgGoogle Books.

Probably the least useful and least “magical” of those linked so far. However, it details Randolph's break with certain factions of the spiritualists, and includes references to the thoughts of certain German Mesmerists that he was influenced by.

The New Mola: Archive.org.

Another of Randolph's works on clairvoyance. Admittedly, I haven't spent as much time with this book as I probably should have. I intend to finish reading it in the next few months.

Other works by Randolph: 

The Wonderful Story of Ravalette: Archive.orgProject Gutenberg.

Tom Clark and His Wife: Archive.orgProject Gutenberg.

Dealings with the Dead: Archive.org.

After Death: Or Disembodiment of Man: Archive.orgGoogle Books.

Some of the above are narrative stories, and fictional, but contain elements of Randolph's magical thought. Dealings with the Dead and After Death both include his descriptions of what the “world's beyond our own” are like, in which he applied his experiences as a trance medium to help aid the fiction. Tom Clark and His Wife has some of my favorite prose that Randolph ever penned, and... I haven't read Ravalette yet.

In addition to the above, he had several “pamphlet” style works that I've yet to discover, but don't feel too terrible about failing to have on hand. In any event, hopefully the blog readers that have put up with me rambling about Randolph over the years will find these works useful.

* In 1874, Randolph re-established his Rosicrucian Order in San Fransisco. It doesn't look like it had a ton of members, but it certainly existed.
** I am still looking for The Book of the Triplicate Order, and The Guide to Clairvoyance. The Guide to Clairvoyance was re-worked by Randolph into Seership!, which is included, but had appended to it a “special paper on the uses of hashish” that I hope to hunt down in the next year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Death & Supper

Sannion has recently returned to unleashing (barbed) mockery and raising the question of whether one should be concerned about giving Hekate's Deipnon to the poor; there is a trend of bypassing the offering given at the crossroads, and instead directly donating to the meal to the poverty stricken in the name of Hekate.

The question of whether or not this is wise... is actually a rather good one. Dver over at the Forest Door blog is of the opinion that this tendency is wrong:
For years in the modern Hellenic polytheist communities, a misconception has been floating around about the idea of the deipnon having been a roundabout way to feed the poor. This has become so prevalent that many people are now donating to homeless shelters and food banks in lieu of making proper deipna, and that’s something I’d like to see changed. There is only a single passage responsible for this issue, and it comes from a comic play (that should tell you something) by Aristophanes called Plutus. His character says:
“Why you may ask this of Hecate, whether to be rich or hungry be better. For she herself says that those who have and to spare, set out for her a supper once a month, while the poor people plunder it before ’tis well set down: but go hang thyself, and mutter not another syllable; for thou shalt not persuade me, even though thou dost persuade me.”
If you understand the context of this conversation, you will see that Aristophanes is not referencing an acceptable religious practice of helping the unfortunate, but rather mocking the fact that the hungry poor are so desperate that they will even steal food from an ominous goddess like Hekate. (I’ll note that even in more traditional sacrifices where the resulting meal is “shared” between gods and worshippers, there are still parts that are expressly reserved for the gods alone – one would never set those out for Them and then eat the same items without fear of serious consequences.)”
As I also give regular offerings at the crossroads of precisely this sort, I must admit that I agree with Dver generally. However, my outlook is a bit different than the one Sannion is sarcastically presenting. Over the years I've gotten to know individuals who give to the needy in precisely the manner being criticized. I've never felt the need to correct them because – while I am of the opinion that we are not performing the same act – I do not think their actions are necessarily offensive to either the spirits of the dead, nor the Goddess Hekate.

In Restless Dead, Sarah Iles Johnston establishes the context of the Deipnon beyond rites involving Hekate (Chapter 2, “To Honor and Avert: Rituals Addressed to the Dead”). She first addresses the Deipnon in the context of Funerary Rites (p. 40 – 43):
“Offerings were made at the grave at the time of the funeral. These always included choai, libations made of honey, milk, water, wine, or oil mixed in varying amounts. There was also a “supper” (deipnon or dais) of various foods; the dead who partook of these sometimes were described as eudeipnoi, which we best can translate, perhaps, as “those who are content with their meal.” The word, a euphemism, seems to reflect the hope that, once nourished, the dead would realize that they had nothing to complain about. There is some evidence that water was also given to the dead person so that he could wash, just a host would give a living guest water in which to wash before a meal. Offerings to the dead might also include jewelry, flowers, and small objects used in everyday life such as swords, strigils, toys, and mirrors (although gifts, like lamentation, were sometimes restricted by funerary laws). It is hard to avoid the conclusion that these gifts were expected to be useful in the afterlife, particularly when ghost stories tell of the dead demanding objects that were forgotten or omitted at the time of burial.” (P. 42)
But then again, individuals who had been given proper funeral rites were not as likely to become 'Restless' and act upon the living. The deipnon given at the crossroads during the dark moon phase in honor of Hekate was a means of averting the attention of the Restless Dead. One of the ways by which one could end up in this situation was to not have proper funerary rites. Other ways involved failing to be finished with one's life: violently dying – leading to one entering existence as a Biaiothanatos Daimon (“Violent Death Spirit”), or dying during childbirth (generating what S.I. Johnston refers to as an “Aorai”), or dying as a child, or dying before one married. While distinct, all of these spirits were seen as restless and a plague amongst the living. Daniel Ogden, in Greek and Roman Necromancy, notes that some suicides were noted as such on their grave markers. These were warnings so that one would not end up acting cheerfully next to them, thus angering the spirit and bringing their wrath upon one's person.

Hekate can be seen as ruling all these spirits. The
Aorai have a rather natural sympathy with other spirits she travels with, such as the Lamia and the Mormo. There are PGM spells which explicitly utilize the Holy Names of Hekate to compel Biaiothanatos daimons (typically for “compulsive love-curses” – in this regard the Mistress of the Netherworld was also considered the Demon of Love-Madness by late antiquity). And she is referred to as surrounded by these ghosts in her Orphic hymn.

In Dver's entry, there is the apt reference to Aristophanes' Plutus. The mockery of the hungry and destitute, and their willingness to risk Hekate's wrath for a meal is... Well, I cannot help but contemplate that those enduring starvation will pretty much eat anything. I also found it interesting that the character declares one should go hang thyself in response to the matter discussed. Given that this is a rather precise way to end up amongst the dead who are Unquiet, I wonder if there isn't a double-joke going on.

For example:
- The poor – particularly the homeless – were less likely than those of other classes to have proper funerary arrangements made for them. In fact, one might argue that the homeless are amongst those most predisposed to ending up in the ghastly condition of restlessness after death.
- The homeless already live amongst the restless dead, side-by-side. While I won't argue that California is even remotely similar to areas of Greece in antiquity, I have personally observed the homeless in my city sleeping just outside – and if it is raining, occasionally inside – local cemeteries.

As I noted in my comment on one of Sannion's entries, I see the sympathy of the street reflected in both. And given that some of those being given meals by well meaning pagans may very well end up amongst the tides of spirits Governed by Hekate after death, I have a hard time feeling inclined to indicate that they stop.

For me, the question of whether the practice is questionable or not comes down to how the meal is consecrated, and how it is given. It becomes questionable when you a preparing one of
Hekate's Suppers to deal with and attract a spirit of the restless dead and explicitly pay homage to Dread Triformis so that she takes that spirit into her Horde after the delivery of the meal to the crossroads. On the other hand, if that is not the what the individual is doing, then they are giving a meal in the name of Hekate. They may be inaccurately describing their offering as something else, but that doesn't make it less meaningful, or more dangerous. It may be ahistorical, but there's still plenty of good reasons to do it. One of them means that sinister Goetes have fewer spirits to deal with (or compel to ruin your life).

The question of whether or not the meal can be used to honor only Hekate is another matter; the historians I've consulted on this matter seem to indicate that wasn't the point of the
Supper, but I again don't feel the need to tell people to stop. My personal divination on the matter has indicated that it is a good practice. (I try to give to both, along with cleansing routines.) 

I must admit to being somewhat disappointed by those who work with Hekate and ignore the way the dead play into one's work with her. After all, if we were to start acknowledging the ghosts that can become part of her Horde, we might have to honor them properly and seek to give them an end to their suffering.

 Which, funny enough, is also the goal of providing offerings to the needy in the name of a Goddess they might come to know. I don't know. I guess I'm just never comfortable with any side of the conversation. I see the merits in multiple viewpoints, as well as (what I perceive as) downsides in multiple aspects of such a discourse.