Friday, October 31, 2008

Cultivating Madness: 02

“The single supreme ritual is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. It is the raising of the complete man in a vertical straight line. Any deviation from this line tends to become black magic. Any other operation is black magick.”

- Aleister Crowley, Book Four, Part III, Chapter 21.

Magick is a street thing. Magicians must be seen and heard. Crowley’s trickster persona exemplified this, following in the zig-zag path of Cagliostro, Simon Magus and innumerable Shamans and Witches world-wide. A good magician plays to his audience, be it a tribal shaman doing Ifa or a street-corner sorceror [sic] making anti-cop talismans out of tin can lids... If you’re really going to become a jumped-up little megalomaniac you might as well get a few laughs while you’re about it.

- LOON, Apikorsus

The Criminal Roots

The traditional distinction in magick is between thaumaturgy (Greek for “miracle work”) and theurgy (Greek for “Divine work”). While theurgy is seen as more traditionally spiritual, thaumaturgy in it's various forms has been more or less been considered illegal due to the ends the practitioners sought to create.

Between 529 CE and 534 CE, Emperor Justinian I had the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) written down, which lists amongst it's lengthy sins witchcraft. The passage in question lists “witchcraft,” and notes that it's similar in prior Greek (not Roman) law. This is one of the first formal annotations against magick in the books of law and is especially important because the Greek term for “witch” also could be translated as poisoner. Prior to Justinian's Digests, only malificia and nigromancy were listed as explicitly illegal. Greek law held to proceedings for any magical working against an Emperor or member of the elite and aristocratic community. Included in charges against this form of magick was poisoning.

This was because, in myth and folk lore, poisoning was amongst the arsenal of practical skills of both the witch and street-scum sorcerer. Greek law holds no formal forbidding of the witch in it's right namesake; that's because to the Greeks the witch (not to be conflated, as has been recently, with a simple Priestess) was a mostly mythological being. That's why most witches in Greek literature are of divine descent in some manner. Taking the threat of witchcraft seriously was a bit like saying dogs could talk.

As I've discussed before, the earliest Church recording of stipulations against witchcraft include condemnation for those who believed in it. The Canon Episcopi makes that quite clear:

It is therefore to be publically proclaimed to all that whoever believes in such things, or similar things, loses the Faith, and he who has not the right faith of God is not of God, but of him in whom he believes, that is the devil. For of our Lord it is written, “All things were made by Him.” Whoever therefore believes that anything can be made, or that any creature can be changed to better or worse, or transformed into another species or likeness, except by God Himself who made everything and through whom all things were made, is beyond a doubt an infidel.

Forms of magick, however, that were used by the lower classes in Greece were often strictly outlawed due to their very nature—malificia being chief amongst them. Even simple divination used to discover the date of an Emperor's death could lead to criminal proceedings—as it did in 184 CE when a diviner was caught and charged with treason for just that reason.i

In 850 CE, when the Inquisition first turned it's burning eyes towards the magickal world, they were seeking: “magic mirrors, rings, and phials” which were made to be used in Necromantic or Nigromantic rituals.ii These aren't things that folk practitioners in the hills generally used; they were the markings of the magick of the Grimoires, and the Inquisition knew full well they weren't after hill-billy sorcerers. They were seeking other Clerics, who had formed what at least one author has called a Necromantic Underground.iii

iMorton Smirth, Jesus the Magician

iiMichael D. Baily, From Sorcery to Witchcraft

iiiRichard Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer's Manual of the 15th Century

(*sigh* And then I got lost trying to discuss the Daemon in relation to the sorcerer. I'll finish this when I get home. Here's the weekend's tease. I'm off with the girlfriend for the weekend.)

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