Thursday, January 31, 2013

PGM XII. 153-60

Spell for a Divine Revelation: Invoke the great name in a time of great stress, in major and pressing crises. If not, you will blame yourself. In addition say three times the “IAŌ,” then the great name of God.


The serpent-faced god* will come in and answer you. When you dismiss him, make an offering of the skin of a serpent.”
- PGM XII. 153-60, TR: W.C. Grese. (From Betz, Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, p. 159.)

* Betz adds in the footnotes: “When depth, length, and brightness are summoned, this may indicate the re-enactment of creation. In such a context, a serpent-face deity... would be appropriate, because the serpent is the primordial form of the Gods...”

I found it interesting for, y'know, reasons.

NOTE: The VM phrase for the Great Name of God is INOUTHŌ in PGM I: 42-195 (line 150, to Selene: INOUTHŌ PTOUAUMI... etc.). Even is this isn't the name explicitly referenced in the above spell, it should work, as it's used in invocation rituals. If you want to experiment, play with IAŌ, INOUTHŌ, IAŌ, etc. Or reverse the sequence. Unless angry Caco-Daimons show up to mock you, you should totally be fine. Particularly if you Call the Sevenths and blast out space, or clean out space around you before.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Dishonest and Dishonorable

“Power isn’t just an abstraction: It has possessors, supplicants, and hand servants. It can bought and sold with money, integrity, favors and sacrificial blood — usually not one’s own...

For those who chose to be on the other side of activism — or for those who didn’t have a choice because of birth or circumstance — watch out, because Power has “prosecutorial discretion.”

You can file all the petitions you like with the powers that be. You can try to make Power –whether in the form of wiretapping without warrants or violating international conventions against torture — follow its own laws. But Power is, as you might suspect, on the side of Power. Which is to say, Power never pleads guilty.”

You do not change Empire by cozying up to it and becoming bedfellows. That just makes you an extension of Empire, and its vehicle by proxy.

Occasionally, I run across folks who want to regenerate neo-Paganism that is, in fact, an extension of Empire and the State religions that ended up fucking over polytheism. By being complicit with the Empire, they were subject to the flows of Empire. And when the decline arrived?

They drowned, as they were warned, in a flood of barbarism that culminated in the destruction of the Sibylline Oracles, the gradual (though initially factitious – see Arian Christianity versus early Catholic Christianity) enshrinement of Christianity as the new State Religion, and the collapse of the mystery cults.

In the end, the “Foederati Barbarians” that destroyed the Sibylline Oracles and sacked Rome ended up seeming more heroic than the violently racist, completely broken Roman Empire.

Because, in a very real way, they always had been. Juvenal comes to mind:
“Though I’m disturbed by an old friend’s departure, still
I approve his decision to set up home in vacant Cumae
And devote at least one more citizen to the Sibyl.
It’s the gateway to Baiae, a beautiful coast, sweetly
Secluded. I prefer Prochyta’s isle to the noisy Subura.
After all, is there anywhere that’s so wretched and lonely
You wouldn’t rather be there than in constant danger of fire,
Of collapsing buildings, and all of the thousand perils
Of barbarous Rome, with poets reciting all during August!
Now, while his whole house was being loaded onto a cart,
He lingered there by the ancient arch of sodden Capena.
We walked down to Egeria’s vale with its synthetic grottos.
How much more effective the fountain’s power would be,
If its waters were enclosed by a margin of verdant grass,
And if marble had never desecrated the native tufa.
Here, where Numa established his night-time girlfriend,
The grove and shrine of the sacred fount are rented out
To the Jews, who’re equipped with straw-lined baskets;
Since the grove has been ordered to pay the nation rent,
The Muses have been ejected, and the trees go begging.”
On that note, The Dishonest and Dishonourable (which immediately follows) also comes to mind.

Note: Stilicho, the Foederati warleader that initially stopped Alaric I, was accused of ordering the destruction of the Sibylline Books. However, there is no proof that he was the one that did it. In Romans and Barbarians (whose author's name escapes me at the moment, and isn't near by to take a look at), the author supposes he was motivated by the rabid Anti-Barbarian sentiments of the Roman Senate. She added that the Sibylline Books warned that the decline of Rome would culminate with Barbarians becoming King-Makers, and by this time in history they more or less were. The Foederati were both created to maintain order in the fractitious Empire, but the Senate pretty consistently fucked them over and drove them to defection. Following Stilicho's death around 407 CE, I think, Alaric finally succeeded in sacking Rome itself. Although Alaric's ambitions were finally thwarted by another Visigoth Warlord, and tribal enemy, Sarus.

The anti-barbarian sentiment is preciously what I mean by 'violently racist.' (Hell, even Juvenal shows more than a bit of it.) But getting back to brass tacks: Empire has been the number one failure of the last 5000 years, with the desire to establish order across vast tracts of land regardless of who lives there, and the establishment of laws that favor the powerful over the people.

Protection Against Evil People by Austin Spare [NSFW]

Encountered on the Book of Faces and, again, here.
Strange images of myself did I create,
As I gazed into the seeming pit of others,
Losing myself in the thoughtfulness
Of my unreal self, as humanity saw me.
But alas ! on entering to the consciousness
Of my real being to find fostering
“The all-prevailing woman,”
And I strayed with her, into the path direct.*
“Hail! the Jewel in the Lotus!”
- Austin Spare, Earth: Inferno (1905).

* Italix mine.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Disposable Mediums

I've been holding off on sampling Dioscorides entry on Enchanter's Nightshade until I can find a few more interesting annotations to append to it. I should have done it with the Mandragora entry, but I was feeling lazy and about to house-sit.

In the meantime (and while I work on a couple more book reviews), I wanted to answer some private questions I had directed my way about this blog. One reader complained that while I was diligent about trying to compile some primary sources on subjects, I sometimes used archaic phrasing or alluded to somewhat obscure subjects without fully explaining them. In fact, I'm always keenly aware of this problem and at odds with how to deal with it. My general decision is to make appropriate links where possible, or at the very least provide sources so that people can check them out if they feel so inclined.

However, some subjects just aren't designed for discussion in exceedingly simplistic terms, either. It would be impossible to talk about certain plants in flying ointments, for example, without also discussion the active alkaloids in them.* Furthermore, failing to discuss those alkaloids also creates room for error by potentially disguising the similar use of them in parts of the world which don't correspond to the west. Eventually, I'm going to have to bring up the use of tropane alkaloids in South America and the Caribbean, because they have a more-than-passing resemblance to the way that flying ointments are designed. Even though the plants that are used are different (Brugmansia versus Enchanter's Nightshade or the Mandrake root), the use of scopolamine by criminals in Columbia follows precisely the same utility as the Evil Sleep (Sophorific) spells in the PDM. It also is massively similar to the way the Hand of Glory was used in folktales, folk magic, and so on.**

Additionally, we also find these chemical agents being used – throughout their history – for oracular purposes, for Theurgia, and on and on. Nick Ferrell may think that people only discuss “scientific” topics when it comes to magick because they are noobs, but that's his problem.*** My problem is putting my cards on the table. Thus if The History of Psychopharmacology has relevant information on the subject and has a reliable source (which I consider it to), then I'm going to quote it. To not do so would be a silly as failing to provide Dioscorides entries in his De Materia Medica, which almost every secondary source on the subject is going to bring up. And you know what? It hard as hell to find a decent copy of the fourth book of De Materia Medica, so I'm going to put that up, too.

Sometimes, however, I do not feel the need to explain myself at all. If I've already introduced an idea previously, I try to link back to the entry. But sometimes I get lazy, again, because this blog is intended to look more like field notes than to look like someone's Book O' Magick or something. I also don't sell my services, so maintaining (what would be for myself) a false mask of “professionalism” is bullshit. I don't blame those that do it, I simply don't feel compelled to be one of them. And I enjoy the freedom from that compulsion, and the leeway it provides.

If you don't like what I put up? It's totally cool to stop reading the blog. I really don't mind. I won't, like, mock you forever because you rejected something I typically imagine only myself and some others are interested in. After all. It's a disposable medium.

That's what I like about the prospect of blogging. It doesn't have to be perfect, and for an insufficiency one blog has, another can help fill in for. If we all wrote the same thing, wouldn't that make for a very boring set of semi-literary prospects?


* The word Alkaloid is derrived from the Latin root Alkali, which comes from the Arabic al-qaliy: “the ashes, burnt ashes.” It is one the basic chemical components of the plant kingdom. These components are some of the ones that interact with our own unique (as the response from person to person can be very different) biology in a variety of ways.
** Seriously, I could write about this stuff, or hero cults, not to mention read about it, for the rest of my life and still not be satiated. That I can also put it to use is a massively enjoyable bonus. As for Sophorific Spells, if you hunt through the witch-hunting texts, that's precisely where that material shows up. So failing to give you the technical term is also a crap idea.
*** I am simplifying his statements, of course. He'd probably be on board with someone discussing alchemy and bringing up Chemistry. Maybe. I dunno. Ask him, I guess. I also knew plenty of Chaotes with the tendency, and never really faulted them for it. Chaos Magick was kind've designed to be a hybrid pursuit, which is one of it's strong points. Even if a given person abuses the subjects they're using, that doesn't mean it doesn't work for them or that they'll be forever stuck doing so.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mandragoras: From Dioscorides' De Materia Medica (Book Four)

Mandagoras has a root that seems to be a maker of love medicines. There is one sort that is female, black, called thridacias, with narrower, longer leaves than lettuce, with a poisonous, heavy scent, scattered on the ground. Among them are apples similar to service berries — pale, with a sweet scent — in which is seed like a pear. The two or three roots are a good size, wrapped within one another, black according to outward appearance, white within, and with a thick bark; but it has no stalk.

The male is white, and some have called it norion. The leaves are bigger, white, broad, smooth like beet but the apples are twice as big — almost saffron in colour, sweetsmelling, with a certain strength — which the shepherds eat to fall asleep. The root is similar to that above, yet bigger and paler, and it is also without a stalk. The bark of the root is pounded and juiced while it is fresh, and placed under a press. After it is stirred the beaters should bottle it in a ceramic jar. The apples are also juiced in a similar way, but the juice from them becomes weakened.

The bark from the root is peeled off, pierced with a thread, and hanged up in storage. Some boil the roots in wine until a third remains, strain it, and put it in jars. They use a wine cupful of it for those who cannot sleep, or are seriously injured, and whom they wish to anaesthetise to cut or cauterize. Twenty grains of the juice (taken as a drink with honey and water) expel phlegm and black bile upward like hellebore, but when too much is taken as a drink it kills. It is mixed with eye medicines, medications to ease pain, and softening suppositories. As much as five grains (applied alone) expels the menstrual flow and is an abortifacient, and put up into the perineum as a suppository it causes sleep. The root is said to soften ivory, boiled together with it for six hours, and to make it ready to be formed into whatever shape a man wants. Applied with polenta, the new leaves are good both for inflammations of the eyes and ulcers.

They dissolve all hardnesses, abscesses, glandular tumours [possibly goitre], and tumours. Rubbed on gently for five or six days it defaces scars without ulcerating. The leaves (preserved in brine) are stored for the same uses. The root (pounded into small pieces with vinegar) heals erysipela [streptococcal skin infection], and is used with honey or oil for the strikes of snakes. With water it disperses scrofulous tumours [glandular swelling], goitres and tumours; and with polenta it soothes the pains of the joints. Wine from the bark of the root is prepared without boiling. You must put three pounds (of the bark of the root) into thirteen gallons of sweet wine, and three cupfuls of it is given to those who shall be cut or cauterized (as previously mentioned). For they do not notice the pain because they are overcome with dead sleep; and the apples (inhaled or eaten) are sleep inducing, as is the apple juice. Used too much they make men speechless. A decoction of the seed of the apples (taken as a drink) purges the womb, and given as a pessary with sulphur that never felt the fire it stops the red excessive discharge [menstrual flow]. It is juiced — the root first incised or cut around various ways — and that which runs out is then gathered into a bowl; and the juice is more effective than the liquid. The roots do not bear liquid in every place; experience shows as much. They give out also that there is another sort called morion growing in shady places and around hollows, having leaves similar to the white mandrake but smaller (as it were), twenty centimetres long, white, lying round around the root. This is tender and white, a little longer than twenty centimetres, the thickness of the great finger. They say as much as a teaspoon of a decoction of this (taken as a drink or eaten with polenta in placetum, or food that is eaten with bread), will infatuate [cause unconsciousness]. For a man sleeps in the same fashion as when he ate it (sensible of nothing for three or four hours) from the time that it is brought him. And physicians also use this when they are about to cut or cauterize [anaesthetic]. They say also that a decoction of the root (taken as a drink with strychnos manicum) is an antidote.

It is also called antimelon, dircaea, circea, circaeum, xeranthe, antimnion, bombochylon, or minon; the Egyptians call it apemum, Pythagoras, anthropomorphon, some, aloitin, thridacian, or cammaron; Zoroastres calls it diamonon, or archinen, the Magi, hemionous, some, gonogeonas, the Romans, mala canina, and some, mala terrestria.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Henbane: From Dioscorides' De Materia Medica

Hyoscyamus is a shrub that sends out thick stalks. The leaves are broad, somewhat long, jagged, black, and rough. At the stalk flowers come out in sequence, like the flowers of the pomegranate, hedged in with little shields full of seed. There are three important different types, however. For one bears almost purple flowers, leaves similar to smilax, a black seed, and little hard, prickly shields. But the other has yellowish flowers, with the leaves and pods more tender, and the seed a faint yellow like that of iris. These both cause delirium and sleep, and are scarcely usable. The fittest for cures is the third kind, which is the gentlest — fat, tender, and downy, with white flowers and white seed. It grows near the sea and among the rubbish of buildings.

You must therefore use the white, but if this is not present then you must use the yellow, but refuse the black, which is the worst.* The seed is juiced while tender, and the leaves and the stalks are pounded and pressed, the mass then dried in the sun. It is useful for a year because it is soon spoiled. The seed of it (in particular) is juiced, pounded until dry with hot water poured on it, and so pressed out. The juice is better than the liquid, and better for pain. The green seed is pounded and mixed with 'three months' wheat meal, made into tablets, and stored. First of all the juice and that liquid made from the dry seed is made for suppositories to take away pain, for sharp hot mucus, ear pains, and the disorders of the womb. With meal or polenta it is used for inflammation of the eyes and feet, and other inflammation. Ten grains of the seeds (taken in a drink with the seed of poppy, honey and water) do the same things, and are also good for coughs, mucus, fluid discharges of the eyes and their other disorders, and for women's excessive discharges [menstrual flow] and other discharges of blood. Pounded into small pieces with wine and applied, it is good for gout, inflated genitals, and breasts swollen in childbirth.

It is effective mixed with other poultices made to stop pain. The leaves (made into little balls) are good to use in all medications — mixed with polenta or else applied by themselves. The fresh leaves (smeared on) are the most soothing of pain for all difficulties. A decoction of three or four (taken as a drink with wine) cures fevers called epialae [sudden]. Boiled like vegetables and a tryblium [plateful] eaten, they cause a mean disturbance of the senses. They say if anyone gives a suppository with it to someone that has an ulcer in the perineum that it has the same effect. The root (boiled with vinegar) is a mouth rinse for toothache.

It is also called dioscyamos, pythonion**, adamas, adamenon, hypnoticum, emmanes, atomon, or dithiambrion; Pythagoras and Osthenes call it xeleon, Zoroastres, tephonion, the Romans, inanaoentaria, some, Apollinaris, the Magi, rhaponticum, the Egyptians, saptho, the Thuscans, phoebulonga, the Gauls, bilinuntiam, and the Dacians, dieliam.

* “In his works Dioscorides described three species – black, white and yellow. Of these he particularly commended the “white” as being least dangerous. (As a matter of fact, it closely parallels black Henbane medicinally, although rather weaker in action.)” – Henbane: Healing Herb of Hercules and of Apollo. George M. Hocking. (Economic Botany. Vol. 1, No. 3, July – Steptember 1947.)

** “According to Pliny, henbane was known in Greece as “Herba Appolinaris” and taken by the Priestesses of Appollon for producing their oracles. The oracle was named “Pytho” and the Priestess “Pythia.” The term “Pythonion” for henbane reflects these connections. The Priestesses of the Delphic oracle were said to have inhaled smoke from smoldering henbane (Mann, 1992). In this context it is remarkable that scopolamine (which is abundant in henbane) was used in modern times for “brain washing.” Because of the higher scopolamine content in Henbane, its hallucinogenic properties are more pronounced than those of Atropa. In antiquity, extracts were taken with wine and visions of transformations into pigs and wolves were frequently reported.” – Alkaloids: Biochemistry, Ecology, and Medicinal Applications. Edited by Margaret F. Roberts. Plenum Press, 1998.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Year, New Goals.

The greenhouse is almost completed. The Black Nightshade is doing so well that I'm prepared to grow some Atropa Belladonna, or Enchanter's Nightshade... Without some of the plaguing fears I once had. The first batch of a conservative, but slightly toxic (read: most likely intoxicating) Flying Potion batch is ready for field tests.

It has been a strange couple of years for me here in Sac. I've alternated between low and been propelled into feats of ecstasy that would've scared the crap out of me when I was younger. I've tried to normalize my approach to certain things, and found boons in places I never thought to look. I've found old alliances still intact, and new prospects for the future.

And I've mostly had a blast, despite the bitterness that a Saturn Return can bring.

Despite the many times that I've slacked off – and I am perpetually hyper-aware of them – I've found myself altering both my life and outlook in ways that even a few years ago seemed outlandish.

And yet... I'm just not done. Sometimes a weariness creeps in, and I just want to rest. But often I find that these stages are transitory, and there's always something new or a different take on something old to consider. The closer I get to some of the goals I set years ago, the more I feel prepared to voyage into different vistas and experience things again.

Three things come to mind:
  1. I need to avoid mocking certain... people, uh, more. It's a waste of time, and they never really get it anyway.
  2. Nothing is ever easy, or safe. And who would want that anyway? Not I, said the Faust.
  3. Nothing is new under the sun. Striving for the 'next big thing' is the biggest stumbling block of both myself and my generation. At least in my opinion. It's always the next book, or the next magical technique, or... Whatever. Meanwhile, we possess the tools to both live and act in accordance with our own unique path, and to find the answers to the questions which vex us as well as the possibilities that elude us.

I don't know. That last one sounds a bit, uh, saccharine to me. But whatever.

The ride has been worth it. Each boon, each possibility, each change has been worth it.

Fuck the rest. I'll hunt down monsters on another day, when I'm less intoxicated and less joyful over what I get to see and do at the present moment. This is too nice to waste.

In the meantime, I have a few things to share on the blog in the weeks to come.

Be seeing you,