Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sannion, Galina, and I...

... Will be discussing ghosts, necromancy, the cult(s) of the dead, and probably Goetia (we'll see how deep we get into that subject) on September 18th on Wyrd Ways Radio (Ms. Krasskova's podcast).

I hear there's some sort've drama about the subject(?), but I have no idea about the specifics. I also probably don't care about the specifics, so there's that.

As folks were asking on Sannion's comment thread about book recommendations, I thought I'd point out that I have an entire entry of links to sources I consider 'worth reading' here. Typically I would recommend reading Melitta's blog over anything in my own, but she recently departed from our circles for green pastures and pursuit of her own destiny. (And, I would add, I wish her luck on her path and still adore her - even if I am now lacking folks to have lengthy discussions regarding ghosts'n'stuff.)

If we have time, we may even discuss Spiritism. We'll see how that works out!

As a reminder: I am not an expert, scholar, or authority on any of these matters.


Friday, August 30, 2013

A few links.

 I consider all of the links to follow inspiring for different reasons. A couple of them are making me itch to write about the concept of the Black Dog in European witchcraft and ghost stories.

I'm resisting because I really ought to be finishing other projects. The curse of Greyface is upon me! Verily, it is wretched!

Regardless, here are a few quotes and links:

A mayombero may learn to “tame” these etheric energies in two ways. A mystical-magical relationship with the “entity” that arises between them once the rite of the “pact” (covenant) which took place during the “Yimbi ceremony “. By “Yimbi ceremony” I allude to the spirit-servant that mayomberos capture for their witchcraft. Today this ceremony has been diluted into other sacro-magical rites as the initiation ceremony or “receiving a fundamento (Nkisi\Nganga).” But this once was a ritual that was done separately and did not necessarily imply the possession of an Nganga (prenda, fundamento or mayombero cauldron), nor was the person that underwent the ceremony considered a hierarchical level (Ngueyo, Tata, etc..). It was simply the “power” that the mayombero or mayombera was given to “see” (divine) and “work” (casting spells) with Congo witchcraft, possessing a “treaty”(covenant). The second is through an affinity “… some people bring theirs from birth and just need someone with knowledge to settle it and nothing more …” – a mayombero told me. He meant that there are people who “bring” from birth a relationship with one or more of these “spirits” and that rapport supersedes any ritual or authority and the godfather or godmother is limited to “bringing the two together” in the person so you can “work it” without preamble or ritual formality.”
- Ralph Alpizar,
The “Powers” of the Tata Nganga ad Yaya-Nganga.

“In 1989 a Tata that knew this story well told me,
“…at times Viento Malo presents himself as a black dog, others as a dark and dense shadow and others however he wishes because he has the ability to do whatever he wants. He was never “fundamentado” (there was never a cauldron, prenda or physical fundamento of the entity), it was only part of the spirituality of Saturnino, which was consecrated on the nape of his neck and was something inherited by family. In the past this is how these “things” worked, people would only work with “covenants,” nature and spirits. The nganga came about bit by bit and made things easier for mayomberos like myself that were traveling around looking for work like crazy in order to maintain the family…”
Alas, Palo Monte is a religion dominated by the search for the domain in the forces of Nature (mpungu) which the mayombero or mayombera manipulates via rites which result in “weapons” that are loaded with “power” that can have malefic or beneficial purposes.”

[...In Palo Monte, Mayombe, nganguleros consider time and space as single temporary spacial unit, not as two independant things; this way, all of the beings of space ("kuna") and of time ("malanda") are found in one classified category called "kuna malanda"...]
An example of this category is:
[..."Kuna mbanza" Havana. "Nsulu mongo" the mountain. "Kuilo" or "lukala" the river. "Kalunga" the ocean/ "Muna nso" the house. "Pambia nsila" the crossroads. "Tango" the sun. "Ngunda" the moon. :"Buete" the stars. "Yilo" or "mukiama" thunderbolt. "Lumbo wuaki" today. "Mbari" or "masimene mene" tomorrow. "Mvu lueka" next year. "Lango lango masimene" a long time ago...]
[..."matui" the category which all the beings that belong to the animal, vegetable or mineral world belong to; all of those which do not have "ntu", those which do not have their own will and can only be activated by a being in the first category...][..."...Inside the "nganga", these forces "matui", that is, beings from "Matui" (animals, plants and "minerals) are "dormant", they lack activity. Yet the "Mbua Nganga "("Dog of the nganga"), being deceased, has the power of "ntu" or "intelligence", free will, and therefore, can use them to do what his master or his mistress send him to do (the "tata nganga" or "mama nganga") "...]
- Ralph Alpizar, Swirl, Tailwind, Tornado and Bad Wind.
“On the basis of their name, the Hirpi Sorani were “wolves of Soranus,” hirpus being the Faliscan (or Sabellic, as G. Bakkum suggests) equivalent for Latin lupus and Soranus the name of the god worshipped in the area. […]

Two inscriptions have been found in the region of Mt. Soracte which contain the name of the god, one at the northern foot of the mountain, near the city of Falerii (now
Civita Castellana), the other on the peak. In both cases the dedication is made to Apollo Soranus. In the literary texts the god is usually called Apollo without any epithet. On the other hand, Servius identifies Soranus with Dis, the Roman god of the Underworld and death; this is the only literary reference to a god called Soranus in Italy. […]

As to the priests living like wolves, E. Marbach suggests that “living by plundering” (
id est rapto viverent) is an explanation added by Servius, not an element of the original cult. The priests were most probably considered to be wolves spiritually or symbolically, because there is no evidence of any masks or articles of clothing that would have made them look like wolves.”
- Mika Rissanen,
The Hirpi Sorani and the Wolf Cults of Central Italy.

. If that doesn't inspire you, what the Hell will? Also, I need to read more about the Hirpi Sorani. Anyone know where I might do so?

See you around,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reflections on the Daimons of Space

I've been writing something else, which may appear elsewhere, on the subject of the Genius Loci or “spirits of [the] place.” I think I first tried to write an essay on the subject four years ago, but I was still in the process with experimenting with different techniques and meeting spirits.

Very quickly the earliest attempts to write that essay became failed and botched pieces focusing more on taxonomy than they should have; attempts to parse the incomprehensible, indescribable elements of
Daimons (or, in plenty of cases involving this topic, daimones) into something others could possibly understand.

Subsequently the attempts failed, and the more I discovered, the more I felt that I had no right even addressing the subject.

At the same time, this is a very old obsession of mine. Many of my earliest rituals were performed in the dead of night in Fresno, Ca. Those who have never visited that shithole during the winter probably don't realize that somewhere around 30% of all winter nights in Fresno are cloaked with fog. The fog rolls in, blanketing most of the city and the surrounding foothills in a dense layer of white. It almost never snows in Fresno; instead the town has a very different iteration of the idea of a “White Christmas” – and I don't mean
that, you goddamn perverts and deviants.

Very quickly I became used to taking long walks in the middle of the night, with almost no “tools of the trade” to speak of except what was absolutely necessary. I drifted between the cities of Fresno and Clovis, performing rituals in grape vineyards, at far-flung
trivium crossroads, and occasionally in or next to half-forgotten cemeteries dating back at least a hundred years.

The more I wandered, the more I performed, the more I became convinced that the pleasant distinctions between the world we inhabit and the world we imagine the spirits to inhabit were more “attached at the hip” than is typically realized. For months, during rituals, a single phrase was drilled into my head, whispered in my ear as I dreamed and meditated, and haunted me:

We don't own the Land. The Land Owns Us.

I noticed two folk Saints that seemed to be everywhere across back roads, but couldn't understand why they were there. It was only later that I learned that they'd been brought into California by “mopes,” a term cops use to refer the poor souls who are forced to aid in the drug trade, often under threat of violence to their family, and who work in “meth super-labs,” largely due to this coercion. The two folk Saints I'm referring to are Santa Muerte and Jesus Malverde, and they were brought into California initially by those very same poor souls that I referred to. Both are considered to answer the prayers of
anyone who petitions them, regardless of their social class or whether they are “holy” or not. Both are fascinating in their own right, and seeing their presence spread throughout the region is even more fascinating to me.

After I came to Sacramento, I found myself repeating these tactics. These days I move through the downtown and midtown areas more often than along the edge of the city, but I began wandering through the “city of trees” and casting my eyes about. It began to dawn on me that one of the problems with discussions on spirits, and
spirits of nature, is that we like to cast them out of our cities.

Nature is something supposedly alien to us; it is “wild,” and “free,” and not at all alive in our cities. I know other magicians and witches that travel great distances to “reach nature.” They return with tales of how having returned to “nature,” they are revitalized! I can understand how such a thing may occur. I simply disagree with the walls we've built between ourselves and this so-called “nature.” True: different spirits, and even more active elemental spirits can be found outside our cities. But I am not convinced that this is for the reasons presumed by many.

I think we influence nature in the same way that we are influenced by it. That the presence of the numinous can be found within the city and outside it. Wandering aimlessly through the city, you are suddenly exposed to all the details that you've missed in your typical routines. The expected way we move through the city is from Point A to Point B. From home to work, work to restaurant for lunch, from restaurant back to work, and then back home from work (perhaps, one imagines, stopping to buy gas on the way home).

The city is lost in a blur of movement. The revelations of the spirits of the place within it are equally lost. It is forgotten that you can turn down a street you've never wandered through before, and you'll see before you the crumbling ruins of a Victorian home that's been overcome by weeds and who-knows-what-else. Hell, there might even be some henbane growing near such a home. You'd never know. You didn't bother to look.

The same goes for “city-slicker elementals,” of which my experience has taught me can be found in most cities. Wandering through the city in a state of light trance, sensing the subtle changes in the atmospheres, you suddenly realize that there is no place without a sense of “spirit.” That there is no place that has no gathering of men and spirits in equal repast.

At 1123 W. St. is one of the most haunted houses I've ever stumbled upon. I have no idea what,
precisely, lives at the place. Only that it is:
1. Sinister.
2. Most likely
pissed off.
3. Being barely contained by a few Angel statues, and a Virgin Mary, not to mention a fence decorated by more wrought-iron crosses than you can possibly imagine.

Sometimes, I stop and gaze at the place and consider trying to chat up the owners. Sometimes I consider trying to use automatic drawing to procure a sigil for the location. But mostly I wonder who lives there, and why the house is so cut off from the rest of the street. Is is because whatever is bound within cannot get free, is constrained under the weight of the beautiful statues of Angels with the swords pointed toward the earth?

Or was that someone's last ditch attempt to hold back a brewing storm?

When I wander by and stop, I wonder what would happen if I attempted to make contact. I'm fairly sure it would involve my getting my ass kicked again, though, and so I never both to. Eventually I turn on my heel, and continue wandering.


I'd just finished procuring a sigil for one of the older sections of town, along with a name that had been scribbled automatically beneath it – almost illegible – when I looked up to try and figure out why a shadow had fallen over me.

“Have you ever heard about the Last Duel in California?” He asked, in an extremely jittery manner.

“No,” I said quietly, used to this sort've encounter, “would you like to tell me about it?”

“Well, man, it's the reason that this state ended up being
Slave Free during the civil war!”

“That's interesting.”

“Yeah. Hey, man. Can I bum three bucks off you?”

I gave the man his money.

And then I went home and cracked open a few books and smiled slightly. It's very probable that near the area where I'd been sitting, near the second Capital (well, courthouse) to be built, had been the site where a man named David S. Terry had given a speech which instigated the so-called “last duel in California.”

In the aftermath of that duel, Californian Senators turned against the pro-slave stance of Terry and made California one of the Free States.


Before this was a city of European immigrants, Native American tribes already lived in the area. The Miwok and Maidu tribes are the two that are the easiest to point to. When John Sutter, one of the individuals at the heart of the Gold Rush that brought the area to national recognition, arrived he began a long-standing policy of enslaving or driving off the natives.

At 951 I. St. sits Sa' Cumn'e Plaza (“Big House” in the Miwok language), where a small monument emphasizes that before European settlers arrived, the Miwok had already had a village in the area. While procuring a sigil for the plaza and its attendant Genius Loci, I distinctly heard the words “Ghost Dance” whispered in my ear.

Later I began to look into the “Ghost Dance” phenomena and was shocked to discover that the phenomena had swept through California in the 1870s, almost twenty years before it arrived elsewhere in the United States. It evolved in several different “cults,” differentiated by interpretations of the tribes who encountered it. The Earth Lodge Cult, Big Head Cult, and Bole-Maru cults all evolved out of what had begun as the visions of one particular native American, and spread with increasing strength.

By the time that Sacramento was established, the Miwok and the Maidu had already been driven out of the area and were most likely being kept around Fort Bragg. Nonetheless the Ghost Dance – a form of ecstatic dances in which the native American cults often saw visions of the future and their ancestral dead gathering – was already in California and Oregon before it spread elsewhere.

Some of these visionary instances were characterized by apocalyptic dread. Others were not. In still others, a messianic Supreme Deity was thought to be forth-coming which would render all races equal and usher in a new era.

Then in 1874, a Methodist minister reported a rather fascinating turn of events at the area that the Native Americans he was watching over were confined to: they had ceased dancing ecstatically for the future, and converted to Christianity. The individual in question, Buchard, writes:
Four Hundred and Ninety have joined the Church, one Hundred of them having been baptized in the Christian faith. Very many of them give bright evidence of genuine conversion praying, and talking with an intelligence that astonishes and confounds us all, beyond measure.”

Somehow, the Ghost Dance – in its myriad forms – had paved the way for a microscale conversion. But this form of “Christian” revivalism continued beyond that.

Virginia P. Miller writes: “Dancing, gambling, quarreling, prostitution, and general “debauchery” among the Indians all stopped; with the consequent improved sanitary conditions, general health among the Indians also improved so that the number of live births began to show an increase...”

As fascinating as this is, I still won't pretend to even remotely understand what precisely took place, or how ecstatic dancing had lead to this situation. What I do know, both from the strange experience and my reading, is that it
appears to have worked. At least to a certain degree. Granted, Native Americans were still largely treated like crap, and you can still – today – visit Native American Reservations and occasionally see some of the most appalling conditions imaginable. But something, some whisper of something, shifted through California between 1870 and 1875, and changed conditions enough that at least one group wasn't forced into complete and utter cultural desolation.

Of course: we might just as well wish that conditions could have changed
without conversion.

I've had a number – perhaps a dozen or more – of such strange instances when wandering and working with the spirits of this city. I'll probably continue doing this work for as long as I live here. But what I've become convinced of is the notion that the past is not dead; it sits around us, whispering to us all the time. The spirits of
place, the daimons of space, are representative not only of the land itself but the events that have transpired in and around the space.

You don't need to visit some far-flung region of the globe, or the wilds outside the city, to encounter them. They are all around you, all the time. There are the
people of the street, and the wights, and the many ghosts. And there are the elementals.

And somewhere between all of them is the presence of that which inhabits place. It is all around you: you just need to know where to look.

And one last thing: we don't own the land. It owns us.


Friday, August 16, 2013

A Brief Response to Freeman Presson

I caught that I'd been relinked on a blog, where Mr. Presson appears and mentions his blog post the traditional definition of Sigils.

Now, Mr. Presson, I have no idea who you are... Except that we share some common friends and I've seen you around.

Yes, my sigil posts used the modern parlance. That does not mean I'm unaware of the “traditional” nature of the topic being discussed. However, I like to reach the most baseline practitioner without constantly bowling them over with discussion points on linguistic drift. Particularly when I make sleep-deprived posts. That being said, you write:
“I’m not sure why we got the words “sigil” and “talisman” confused in the modern literature, but here are the traditional meanings: a sigil is a sign or seal, the signature of a spirit. A spirit can have more than one: in the same way, I have two that are derived from my magical name, which have great power in staking a claim or making a connection. A talisman is a particular instance of connecting a spirit with an object (which is often, but need not be, a drawing). So, really, in modern sigil magic, we’re using the simplest possible design for a talisman, one that just has the appropriate sigil on it. We encoded the intent into the sigil itself, and we found that, often enough, nothing more is needed for results magic.”
Well, if we want to be technical: we're discussing “image magick,” which is incredibly flexible as a broad category and includes: talismans, sigils, poppets, and a whole lot more. In fact, you infer this a bit later on:
“I see people doing similar things in Atlantis 15,000 years ago, and on cave and cliff walls all over the world 50,000 years before that.”
This link has been made with recurrence by such individuals as Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and plenty of others. We should pause here in what we're describing because it could mean several things:
The images painted on caves could represent the “spirit” of animals being hunted, or they could represent the animal itself, or simply the desire itself. This is immensely similar to talismanic magick, and I agree completely there. But there isn't much we can say for certainty on the matter, except that image magick is probably going on. The manipulation of magical images exists in multiple formats, and they tend to shift, is what I'm saying.

As for the confusion and blurring of terms? It is probably Spare's fault. He makes references to spirits being “psychic automata,” and often chooses to discuss them in such a fashion. Despite this, he seems to have taken them “seriously enough,” but the terminology throws many – as does his particular use. He is clearly using them in multiple contexts, though, such as to give directives to his familiar spirits. To a certain extent, this is certainly talismanic. And the “Alphabet of Desire” certain represents sequences that can be produced akin to Talismans.

However there is another aspect to consider, which is dealt with by Mr. Stratton-Kent in his True Grimoire:
“All the various actions and intentions involved in Verum style sorcery are directly related to a series of sigils. Or, to put it another way, everything the operator desires and the operations necessary to achieve it can be reduced to a set of magical characters that can subsequently be employed in attaining those ends.”*
This understanding is certainly helpful, as it clarifies immensely what the magician working with either modern or traditional sigil work may come to. Have I ever directly stated this fact? No. And there's a very simple reason: anyone who uses the modern sigil technique – and builds “thoughtforms” (i.e. created familiar spirits) with them – is going to eventually come to this understanding. It is, in fact, a feature of the work.

And it is one that encompasses all spirit, materia, and talismanic work. This isn't something we “forgot” or “don't know” because we haven't read the books. This is certainly the case sometimes, but sometimes it's fun to sit back and watch someone else
come to that conclusion on their own.

While I greatly salute your clarification on these matters, I rather think that you came to the
wrong conclusion about why you had not seen it explicitly stated before. It is something that doesn't need to be stated. Anyone who works with the technique long enough should, in my less than humble opinion, shift toward your perspective.

Whether the characters are inscribed as per making talismans, or simply scrawled across a napkin by some kid in the street, it is the same operational technique overall. And most simply understand it as “sigils” these days. However, I've noticed that when those I know well choose to make a talisman rather than simply bring about an event, they spend much more time working out a string of characters and choosing material for it... Rather than simply scrawling it down on a notebook, dancing around it (or wanking, etc.), and then letting the event take place.

So I think there is a
slight difference between the basic technique and talisman creation.

But, dude. C'mon. Next time you want to refer to my “confusion,” show up on my blog and challenge me directly. It'll be much more fun than my having to respond this way to you. I promise, I will happily respond and even admit if I'm flat out wrong.


*  I'm really annoyed I never could come up with a simple explanation along these lines myself. GODDAMN, MAN. WHY DO I KEEP HAVING TO QUOTE YOU?

The Balancing Act

 Some of the discussions about certain practices over the last year have raised alarm bells for my fellow compatriots and occultists. In particular, I have seen – again and again – complaints that reading “traditional” (i.e. long held in esteem – which is how I see the pattern, but others may feel otherwise) material and focusing on it will lead to an over-abundance of “occult archivists.”

I have always found this idea somewhat amusing. It is certainly a danger, but not one I really foresee happening. While there are certainly individuals who isolate themselves to “traditional only” materials, the fact of the matter is that this isolation often to be along the lines of a thin selection of texts and ideas. To a certain degree, my thoughts on time and practice are simple explanations for this factor. Most occultists, neo-pagans, and witches have real-world obligations that keep them from having the resources (time, and money especially) from exploring a wide variety of subjects. Not only is this understandable: it is also a rather pragmatic state of affairs.

At the same time, there are others of us in different situations. And some of us not only have the capacity to continue research, but the desire to do so. Of course all of this research is somewhat meaningless if it isn't balanced against actual action in some form or fashion. From where I sit the end result doesn't matter whether it revolves around rituals (which may or may not work), or the creation of art. Both of these more or less fulfill the necessity of activity.

At the same time, the reservations still amuse me in light of my experiences. So, I will briefly say something I've held back on for a long time:

A few years ago, while reading Wagner's Tannhauser opera, I had the rather “funny” or “quaint” inspiration to re-enact elements of what were going on in the story (which I already knew was built out of older tales) “on the astral,” and then seeing what happened.

I found myself “taking the form” of the Minnesinger,
and traveling through the depths of the caverns at the Sibyl's Mount – I also already knew, from Earnest Newman's The Tannhauser Operas, that it was located in Italy – as torchlight allowed progress. Fossilized bones (of “dinosaurs,” or as I considered during the experience “dragons”) lined the walls as wetter areas became increasingly filled with stalagmites and stalactites jutted from the ceiling and floor. And finally, I entered an immense room filled with roseate light... At the center of which were individuals and groups similar to those that Carlo Ginzburg describes in The Night Battles and Ecstacies.

And of course, there was the Goddess. We chatted, and I asked what I could do to show homage for both the inspiration of the visit and the moment of meeting. It was indicated that I could “rewrite” scenes from the Opera that had (along with the other works mentioned above, all of the sources of which were either in my hands or fell into them as I made my plans) with a slightly less puritanical Romantic tone.

I did so, and it appeared on another, now defunct blog. It wasn't perfect, but I honestly tried very hard to produce something worthwhile.

The feedback I got, mostly in private discussions, was largely negative. I was partially to blame, as I'd encased the narrative that I'd worked out in a longer piece bitching about Pauline doctrines about women, which detracted from the overall message. Nonetheless, one of the recurrent points made to me was that:
1. There was no proof this had been done “traditionally” (and being fair, I had not yet begun sharing my sources).
2. There was no 'classical' basis for a “Chthonic Venus.”
3. “Fucking Chaos Magicians masquerading as witches.”

The last my was favorite comment, and has been particularly inspirational in the days since.

As such, I had some moments where I honestly greatly doubted the validity of the experience. I assumed that I was simply crazy, and that it didn't really matter. Sometimes
experience, in and of itself, is valid enough. You may not be able to explain it to someone else, but you did something with it, and gained a positive experience.

Nonetheless I got quite a shock when I was reading Mr. Stratton-Kent's
Geosophia, and he began exploring Norcean (“folk”?) traditions regarding the Sibyl and necromancy. In fact in a single sentence he links those traditions to the Venusberg.* He even mentions the trial – I believe – of Diel Breull, where Breull admitted that he'd been to the Venusberg and met “Frau Holte,” who is was becoming synonymous with Venus (and the Sibyl, of course, of Norcea). There are numerous other groups, however, who seem to have matched these claims and put on Trial. Ginzburg notes:
“At any rate, groups of clerici vagantes who claimed to have been on the Venusberg appeared at Lucerne in 1576... and again in 1599 and 1600. A similar group, belonging to an association called Johannesbruderschaft, was tried at L'vov in 1694: like their Swabian fellows of a century and a half before, these clerici vagantes searched for treasures, claimed to have seen the souls of the dead on the Venusberg and tried to call them forth.” (p.55-56)

As it turns out, there may be even more information lurking in the depths of German witch trials, as Philip Stephen Bardo notes multiple sources of information in his
Tannhauser and the Venusberg:
“The most frequent methods by which it is reached are shown in Sachsenheim 1453, Sachs 1517, 1545, 1559, Zimmerische Chronik 1565, Rotenburg 1608, Hessische Hexenprocessacten 1628. By means of a potion, by flying through the air upon some sort of steed - nightmare, goat, or calf - by lying down to sleep, by falling into a trance, and usually at night, these are the ways by which the Venusberg has been reached and all point to the fact the place is not of this earth.”
Despite my attempts to track down these texts, translated or not, I haven't made much headway. Nonetheless, as it turns out, there is plenty of “tradition” in the act. And some of the complaints are navigated by balancing them against the reality of the situation, which is that entrenched mythological figures were being shifted all over the European landscape, and even incorporated into each other. I believe Mr. Stratton-Kent's rather excellent term for the matter is “mythic fluidity,” which is exactly what my digging has shown. The traditional walls between cultures were breaking down; new elements were seeping in, and entirely new structures of myth were being “born.” Not long before the Venusburg tales appear, as Mr. Bardo's book comments on, King Arthur appears in Germany. But in these tales and stories he is not connected as much to Avalon, as he is the hollow-hills of Germanic fairy-lore. Thus while Venus is not necessarily “classically involved with Chthonic mysteries,” by the 14th – 16th centuries she is taking on elements of Frau Holte, the Sibyl of Norcea, and whatnot.

And it turns out, at least from my experience, that despite all this... attempting to visit still works. Although we can certainly argue that certain rituals in Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft are... probably safer than my madcap joyride into the Otherworld with nothing more than a collection of books and old maps behind me.

Despite all this... I wouldn't be able to point to these things if I didn't both read a lot and act.

The occult world, particularly what we call the “astral” or “otherworld” is a weird place. Sometimes it helps to just stretch out your hand. And sometimes it helps to read “old books” and spend some time as an “archivist.”

And I do take offense feel mild annoyance with the idea that people are going to emulate any of this, as they really haven't bothered in most cases so far. If anything, I've learned to take certain thoughts with a grain of salt. Because you never know what kind've wankery is or isn't propelling such statements.

Be seeing you,

Geosophia, Volume One. P. 58.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I made a Tumblr.

Given that I read a lot and don't want to spam people elsewhere with all those links: I have made a Tumblr blog.

You can expect a ton of links relating to different things on it.

You can expect me to mostly ignore drama.

And I'm still debating a few other things.


A Few Items

1. VI recently pointed out to me that the The Obeah Bible appears to have been republished and is up on Amazon.

If you don't know much about the the book I just referenced, or the rather shady book-seller that helped spread occultism across the Caribbean, David Metcalfe has an excellent piece on the influence of De Laurence. I first read about some of de Laurence's shenanigans in Owen Davies Grimoires: A History of Magical Books, which has perhaps more snark than necessary. Mr. Metcalfe does not make that same mistake and approaches the subject with a good deal of love.

2. Sannion has written on Dionysian Purity and miasma. See here, here, and here.

Goooood stuff.

3. I do not train people in magick or witchcraft.

Do not ask me to teach you how to practice magick. I mean that in complete seriousness. I truly fucking loathe those requests, and while I try to be kind... People that try to push me after I politely say 'no' really piss me off. I'm 29 goddamn years old. I shouldn't be allowed to teach you fucking anything, and since I was mostly self-taught before joining groups? I won't take an excuses you give me seriously about why you can't start on your own.

4. I will be on a certain podcast, with another Dionysian, in September. I'll update this blog with the date and topics when all of that is settled.

5. Woke up to the smell of copal incense and the drumbeats of Mexica dancers today. That never gets old, man. I love where I live.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

GinandJack is Correct!

“Anyway, what I was going to type before so rudely interrupted, was, for those of you interested in flying ointments: it’s not all Anglo-Saxon or Scots stuff! There’s sources for such things in various cultures! Even in ancient Greece. Really! Apuleius gives us this passage about Pamphile:
“When she had taken off all her clothes, she opened a coffer from which she took several boxes. She removed the lid of one of them and took out a perfumed ointment with which she anointed her whole body from the tips of her nails to her head, rubbing it in for a long time. Then, after sitting in the lamplight for a long time, she moved her limbs rhythmically. While they were gently beating the air, a soft down could gradually be seen to wave, strong feathers to grow, a beaked nose to harden, and curved nails to thicken. Pamphile took the form of an owl. Then, with a plaintive cry she practised leaving the ground with increasingly high leaps and soon she soared into the sky and her wings bore
her strongly away...”
- Anyway What I Was Going to Type Before So Rudely... (Via G&J.)
Yeah, he's totally correct. We have to be extremely careful with this subject because it is complex and deals with nearly universal elements that many people don't always recognize. First, intoxicants used for spiritual purposes have an extremely long history in Europe and the Middle East, and coincide to a certain degree with uses we see in the New World, etc.

The question arises: “what, specifically, has to be involved before we can call something a Flying Ointment?”

Do we also include similar practices, like the PDM “spells” (potions) for Evil Sleep? They include many, if not most, of the same plants. I have two examples of them in my second Dead Man's Hand entry.

Insofar as I'm concerned, a plant or series of plants that produce intoxication must be involved. Additionally, the recipe has to be 'coherent' in a sense. But we'll find this idea dispersed across Europe and it does no good to be simplistic or narrow down the range of where the items were used to a single European country.

Anyone that does that should probably be challenged.

Anyway, here is another, more recent flying potion/ointment (well, powder) recipe in an entry of mine:

I especially like it because it includes Hashish. And I won't make any bones about that.

Thanks for the Apuleius reference, dude! I'm saving that to my stuff to make your face melt and help you see Dead People files.

[PS. Mandrake is one of the coolest plant Daimons I know. So much fun to work with!]

“Agrippa Was a Chaos Magician!” Redux

There is yet another fashion of Characters, common to almost all letters, and tongues, and very easie, which is by the gathering together of letters; as if the name of the Angel Michael be given, the Characters thereof shall be framed thus:...
In Hebrew
In Greek

In Latin

And this fashion amongst the Arabians is most received; Neither is there any writing which is so readily, and elegantly joyned [joined] to it self, as the Arabick. Now you must know that Angelicall spirits, seeing they are of a pure intellect, and altogether incorporeall, are not marked with any marks or Characters, and pingible figures, or any other humane signs; but we not knowing their essence, or quality, do from their names, or works, or otherwise, according to our fancies devote and consecrate to them figures, and marks, by which we cannot any way compel them to us, but by which we rise up to them; as not to be known by such Characters, and figures, and first of all we do set our senses both inward and outward, upon them; then by a certain admiration of our reason we are induced to a Religious veneration of them, and then are wrapt with our whole minde into an extaticall [ecstatic] adoration, and then with a wonderfull belief, an undoubted hope, quickening love we calling upon them in spirit, and truth, by true names and Characters do obtain from them that vertue, or power which we desire.”
- Agrippa, The Three Books of Occult Philosophy (Book 3; Chapter xxx: “Another manner of making Characters, delivered by Cabalists.”)

Years ago, it was R.O. who made the comment to me that is the title of this entry. Prior to that, hoary Chaote DeusExMachina commented to me that Sigils did not, in fact, truly derive from Spare and that they could be found in Agrippa's works. Meanwhile, and slightly off topic, a close inspection of the recently linked
Monas Hieroglyphica by John Dee reveals that (at least seen in a certain light) the core astrological symbols we use for the planets can be treated as sigils. All of this leads us to conclude that Spare – despite his loathing for many magicians* – was practicing, at times, highly traditional tactics of magical utility.

That he stood it on its head for matters akin to thaumaturgy is still fun, though.


* “Others praise ceremonial Magic, and are supposed to suffer much Ecstasy! Our asylums are crowded, the stage is over-run! Is it by symbolizing we become the symbolized? Were I to crown myself King, should I be King? Rather should I be an object of disgust or pity. These Magicians, whose insincerity is their safety, are but the unemployed dandies of the Brothels. Magic is but one's natural ability to attract without asking; ceremony what is unaffected, its doctrine the negation of theirs.”
The Book of Pleasure.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Moar Sigils & Experimental Procedures

Gordon's comment on my last post got me thinking... And I decided I'd follow up the last post with another describing other ways I've used the technique, and encouraging folks to be more experimental with it. Don't get me wrong: plenty are. It happens to be precisely the Chaotes that are not that I want to mess with and encourage to try some new shit.

But let us hash out a few warnings:
1. If a Chaos Magician tells you something should work “in theory,” you should either do divination before proceeding or run into a ritual guns blazing and without a care in the world as to whether it blows up in your face or not.
2. Some of what I'm going to suggest involves being sneaky. You'll see it in a short bit. If you dislike that? Don't do it. No one's going to say you're “not a real magician” or witch or whatever for deciding to play the straight and narrow card.
3. If you're going to put sigils online, divination beforehand is the key. Questions to ask involve: “will putting this sigil online bring harm to someone else?” “Will putting this online leave an open 'astral gate' which can be traced back to me and cause problems?” Etc.
4. Remember that all experiments come with them the chance for whatever theory you have to backfire. Be prepared to make mistakes, cause problems for yourself, and be forced into learning what it is that you lack.
5. Seek joy over power. Sigils allow for you to tap into a certain amount of occult power – the range depending on the experience and capacity of the practitioner – but don't let that cloud your judgment. The best results, in my experience, involve the cultivation of joy and love for the work.
Now, let's get started: “Consensus Reality will crumble before us!” 

Sigils and Mantras.

In response to the last entry, Gordon writes:
“[...] But what appears to work for me if the 'centre of meaning' in a statement is located more in the vowels than in the consonants (does that make sense?)... then I try it out as a mantra.

You'd think that you could mantra the vowels and use the mantra to charge the sigil... but this is a dog I just can't get to hunt.”
I think I do follow you, and we can add some substitution formulas to allow for more frequent vowels in our sigils versus consonants. In this case, we can reduce as the repeating consonants while leaving the vowel strings as they are in the core statement of intent. An example could be:
(Note: in this substitution “X” will not represent a letter, but that I've removed one.)
 Now we reduce the string, giving us:
There isn't a big deal with re-arranging the consonants and the vowels at this point, because the core statement is still hidden within it; we still have the first of each of the consonants, and the vowel string to work with. So we could reformulate the string to look like something like this:
Now we can also arrange sigils to match the mantra, and chant the “barbarous words” we've created (and it is similar to the way the Voces Mageia look, although not the same at all as far as I can tell) while we charge up our sigil. This is a different means of producing similar arrangements for our Sigils, but it still works. It also offers up more vowels to be used and allows us to do a bit more with what we've got. Hell, we can even vibrate the formulas we produce if we prefer than to chanting.

Cryptography and Sigils.

I was hinting at this last night, but I shall now be blunt about the matter: crytography lends itself very well to the production of sigils and magical characters. To explain what I mean, we'll use the most basic form of encryption: the substitution code.

In such a code each letter of the alphabet is substituted for something else. Whether it be a number or a cryptographic letter that is replaced by the original letter, either is very much worthwhile. As the best example, we'll use the Runes of Honorius (also occasionally called the Alphabet of Honorius or the Theban Alphabet depending on who references it):

We can thus take each of our statements of intent – or divine names or whatever we're rendering into sigils – and then translate them into the Runes. We can then begin to blend the lines together in a manner similar to what we'd do with the normal characters of the English alphabet. The end result is something you are unlikely to produce – unless you happen to be the reincarnation of Austin Spare – with the typical technique. It lends itself very, very well and even more fully cloaks our SOI. Quite often beginners with the technique complain that they can't form sigils which do not actually look like English letters, and that this saps some of the fun of the process out of their experience. This problem can be ducked using simple substitution codes like Theban and then applying the normal sigilization process to what the result is. In the future I may provide a simple demonstration of the technique, but at present I am feeling a bit lazy. Last night was a late night, after all.

You're some kind of... sneaky... witch-thief!”
- Alastair,
Dragon Age: Origins.
If need to quickly influence a group of individuals, but find yourself unable to flash a sigil at them without giving yourself away? We have you covered, dude or dudette. Using a variant technique like the mantraic sigils referenced above, you can produce a sigil string.

Then look at the capacity for dispersing it in front of you: are you sending the individuals something written? Cloaking will definitely work if that is the case. Take your sigil string, and then using the consonants and vowels found within the string begin placing them within your text at specific intervals: For example, perhaps the third paragraph of what you've written will lend itself well. Use one of the vowels or consonants in your string to begin each sentence found within it. Or disperse the consonants and vowels across the text:

They can easily be placed in the first or last letter in the first or last sentence of each part of the text. The result is that you've encoded the mantra you've produced within the text. Now, render a sigil for the Mantra. The sum total of this combination lies in the fact that you have three pieces of magical material to energize and focus; the text has your encoded string, you have a mantra to chant, and a sigil to bind the three together and focus your power on. It will then be flexed out across all three items as you charge them. You can even hide the sigil in white crayon on the back of one of the text's printed pages, if it is a printed piece.

This allows for quite a bit of utility. An adept poet, for example, can create charged poetry that “links readers in” to the visionary space that they inhabited when they were possessed by the drive to put down their poetry. Or they could use it for deity work, creating a system of magical items that tie in to a hymn and possibly help “provide a straight-jack” for folks into the deity and its presence. The potentials are simply limitless.

Using Sigils with Traditional Material, Like the PGM.

“Change not the barbarous words,” shout the Adepts of the past! Worry not. We won't have to.

We can take some of the core strings of the Voces Mageia in the PGM and render sigils out of them. This may sound unhelpful, but bear with me. Take for example one of the primary VM strings in the Stele of Jeu:
I am fairly sure that this string represents the six named formula that you write on the papyrus. I say that because on occasions when I've performed the ritual with a copy of it in hand, I've occasionally glanced at the page and seen the formula glowing blue. Definitely a weird result, but kind've cool.

Anyway: we now use each of the six names to create a single sigil. We could, of course, turn them into one over-arching sigil... But I prefer to use six names and six sigils in sequence. This means that you haven't “warped the barbarous words” as previous generations of magicians warned one not to do, but rather created a set of symbols that can coincide with what is within the ritual.

This is particularly useful when combined with a tactic that Daniel Ogden calls “encircling” in Greek and Roman Necromancy:
Circular Movements. Sometimes one could move in a circle around the focal point of the necromancy, whatever this was to be. Deliodorus twice speaks of Egyptian necromancers circling around dead bodies. When he tells us that his old woman of Bessa leaped repeatedly between the pit and the fire, between which she had laid out her son's corpse, we are presumably to imagine she did so in a circle... Ps.-Quintilian's sorcerer binds a restless ghost into its tomb by “surrounding” it (circumdantur) with a harmful spell. After the Suda's psuchagogoi have located the spot in which the corpse of a restless ghost lies, they mark it off and walk around it, conversing with the ghosts and asking them the reasons for their disquiet. An obscure clause of the sacred law from Selinus (ca. 460 BCE) prescribing mechanisms for ridding oneself of an attacking ghost (see chapter 8) seems to suggest one should move in a circle after offering the ghost a meal and sacrificing a piglet to Zeus. This accords with the use of circular libations around the pit, discussed above. As with these libations, the purpose of circular movements was clearly to purify the area marked off by them. The circle can concomitantly be thought of as constituting some sort of protective barrier between the living and the ghosts, as appears from the complementary process in Lucian's Menippus. Here it is not a matter of an individual ghost being summoned into the realm of the living, but of an individual living person descending into the realm of the dead. As part of the purifications Mithrobarzanes performs for Menippus prior to his necromantic descent, he walks around him in order to protect him from the ghosts. The Greeks often carried sacrificed victims around areas or individuals to be purified...”
- (P. 178 - 179)
While this tactic is explicitly used in Necromancy, it also avails itself to PGM work quite readily... Although, this is certainly not traditonal. We're using it not for protection, but as a focal point. This is especially useful for a ritual like the Headless One's rite. The magician, sorcerer, or witch can inscribe the six sigils at the center of the area they plan to encircle. Then, while practicing the Stele, they can begin to encircle the area moving Deosil. As they recite the ritual, they can point at the six sigils. Finally, at the last part of the ritual – while they are identifying with the Headless Daimon – they can step in to the area upon the six sigils they've been encircling.

This allows one to perform the praises and recite the primary areas of the ritual while empowering representative symbols for the six names, and then stepping directly into the sphere of the Daimon. It has worked very well for me, but remains a tactic that “
can work in theory” and is only recommended to those who have experience with the ritual and wish test it out.

I specify Deosil movement because, due to its associations with the sun and the movement of a clock's hands, it works very well with High Gods. Cthonic spirits may prefer you move Widdershins, and it is recommended that you consider trying both movements to see what movements work best for you and what you do. Remember that you can always stop the ritual if the empowerment process starts to feel toxic.

Anyway. Here you go. Even moar sigil thoughts. Hope you enjoyed them.

Be seeing you,

Because I Can't Sleep: Thoughts on Sigils

Created by me; re-drawn by the amazing VVF because my art skillz = suck.
“There is a self-revelation by a simple cryptic symbol: the meaning of all meanings. Think well before you drain this Cup of intoxicating possibilities.”
- Austin Spare, The Logomachy of Zos.
I've been playing with sigils tonight, although not the ones I mentioned in a recent post.

I say “playing” because making sigils is a task I consider extremely fun and absorbing. I get to sit down and look at the string I've procured and then watch the lines and forms shape and re-shape themselves in my mind's eye. Spare appears to be right about the intoxication produced. Sometimes I will be reflecting on other potential sets of symbols beyond letters and shapes will re-arrange themselves and form a worth-while construct.

Over the years I've taught the technique – and the means of using it – very quickly to a wide variety of people. Sigils, and forming thoughtforms out of them, are the only subject I've ever presented a class on. Just once, mind you. The astonishing thing is that though it is a staple of Chaos Magick, outside our rioting fold the technique isn't always used.

In the event that you don't know how to form sigils, Fr. U.'.D.'. has an excellent paper on it that is up on which covers Spare's method quite well. (If you can ever get your hands on a copy of U.'.D.'.'s Practical Sigil Magick, for less than a hundred dollars, I certainly recommend doing so.) In the event that you already know how to make them, I won't bore you with yet another tired re-hash of things you already know.

Instead I would make the following points:

While the dominant method of making sigils these days omits vowels, instead focusing on a string of consonants, this is not necessary. In fact, if one wishes to include a sense of “flow” or movement to the sigil, the vowels offer abundant curvatures from which to produce this potential. Having made thousands of sigils involving both including repeating letters and vowels, I feel fairly safe in saying that it doesn't really matter. The core structure, arranged in capitals, is sufficient in most cases. That said: in plenty – if not most cases – the lines of repeating letters I see internally tend to merge into a single structure, anyway. Perhaps the most astonishing use of the technique I've ever seen was when I taught the method, very quickly, to a Persian friend. He immediately began making them using Farsi, and the result was the most breath-taking sequence I have ever seen. I really, really wish I could have saved some of the sigils he created to put up on this blog. But even without something to show you indicating what it looks like, I feel it is worth mentioning.

While sigils can be used for thaumaturgy, that is not the full extent of their utility. One can very easily make sigils to help interact with spirits. In fact, on a number of occasions I have had spirits give me specific sigils to use with them. This is not always the case, however. I have also messed around with using them as directives for my familiar spirits. A sigil string, for example, indicating a series of tasks I would like help with can be then given to the familiar, which will help speed along the event. This can range for tasks like doing 'cleansing work' in my home, to requesting that the spirit help me find information. This is a very effective means of communication between myself and those spirits I work most closely with.

Sigils need not simply be left in strings: incorporating them into larger piece art, or incorporating other symbolic elements is perfectly normal and consistent with the method we see displayed by Spare, in examples like this:
Protection Against Evil People. Stolen from Facebook forever ago.

Note that there are places where we can see the alphabet-based structure of an “A,” indicating that Spare himself may not have removed the vowels from his own statements of intent.

And this:
Part of the Alphabet of Desire; stolen from Wikipedia.

The ultimate question when making sigils boils down to this: do you want the form to be simple, or do you want it to be complex? How does either presentation affect your feelings about what the sigil represents? How many different variable forms can you imagine given the letters you wish to render into the sigils?

To paraphrase Gordon, there is no such thing as “doing it wrong” as long as you understand the basics of the technique. Any sigil that produces a sense of working for you can be used. All this really requires of you is consistently using it, playing with different means of expressing your desires, or applying the technique where it best fits.

Sigils may be used: to designate specific actions one wishes to have take place while others are watching; simply working on the sigil and then finding a means of empowering it (a fixed gaze for a constant amount of time is often sufficient to mildly empower one) allows you to duck out of intoning “barbarous words” or drawing attention to yourself. Previously constructed sigils representing the spirits one works most closely with can be scratched into the earth if you're working at the crossroads, particularly around magical circles, and if you don't wish to use a traditional circle. These can be either used alongside the relevant names, or the names could be omitted altogether. This is particularly useful if one is practicing witchcraft outside the home and suspects that someone may stumble onto what they are doing. In that case, you need only rub out the sigils and circle with your foot, and it is less likely to be noticed in comparison to using chalk or salt.

The versatility to the technique lies with you. There's nothing wrong with using it to find $20 in your back pocket, or to make sure you catch the train on time. In fact, the only thing you can get wrong with regards to the subject is viewing it as simply a means to achieve thaumaturgical events through the sheer force of your feverish wanking. That perspective is limited... And I think, about the only thing I can possibly object to regarding the topic. The fact that its easy to do overshadows how people use the technique.

But then: at least they're using their masturbation experiences... positively? Maybe? Could be?

Anyway, if there are two pieces in addition to
U.'.D.'.'s that I can think of recommending – and which have not been written by Gordon regarding Shoaling – they would be:

John Dee's Monas Hieroglyphica, a treatise on symbolic language and conveying esoteric ideas using coherent symbol structures. I don't even remotely understand all of it. But I stare at it quite often and and reflect on the fact that I am not half as smart as Dee was. I'm also not half as Christian, but that's another topic altogether.

Add all of that together and you are bound to either drive yourself insane, or produce some awesome shit that I totally want to see.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Few Words of Caution.

I apparently have to say this every five posts, but the best place to begin is with this:
I am not a “scholar,” “expert,” or “teacher.” I do not claim to be an all-powerful “Adept,” nor shall I do so. Plenty other magicians are happy to foist bullshit titles on me, but I'll gleefully continue to reject them for as long as I have to. This blog does not represent my authority on any matters; indeed, I have more questions than I often have answers.

I don't see this as problematic. I actually see it as emblematic of the situation that most magicians will find themselves in after more than a few years of practice. To briefly quote the long dead Samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo:
“In one’s life there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others. In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This man has worth. In the highest level a man has the look of knowing nothing.”
Perhaps the most glaring insufficiency in the occult community is focused around charismatic leaders and authors. To a certain degree, we all encourage this. When we discover someone doing work we haven't tried, or find worthwhile, we plug them and their works. We praise them for stepping beyond the boundaries we've set up for ourselves, and for helping us to see more clearly the matters that we have left out. Perhaps this statement is merely projection on my part, because I certainly do it.

At the same time, we also have a great number of fellow practitioners who have been exposed to a lamentably limited set of occult ideas and works and confuse those works with the vast, sprawling, nigh-limitless field of information available to all. When these individuals see what we're doing, they extend those same praises to others or may adopt wholesale a rather limited set of ideologically loaded suppositions and wall themselves off from the rest of that information.

One does not need to look far, for example, to find “Grimoire Traditionalists” who have adopted a total of seven books and a few essays as representing the sum-total of European magick to date. There are similar problems in the witchcraft community, where particular systems of thoughts are seen as embodying the sum total of potential “witchcraft” related materials. This is somewhat understandable: when presented with the far-ranging scope of potential actions, rituals, ideas and beliefs, it can be helpful to narrow down the spectrum of information until it becomes a coherent and worthwhile working product.

The unfortunate byproduct of the problem, however, is that plenty of these individuals – whether driven by their passion for their experiences, or their need to be seen as authoritative representations of their chosen means of working – can beguile newcomers and beginners. Additionally, once a given set of ideas is seen as being “traditional” or “working and worthwhile” there is a game of telephone that occurs within the publishing industry. Ideas are pilfered from favored sources, reiterated, and then re-published to such an extent that today one can hardly even discuss witchcraft on plenty of forums without having to address the validity of the so-called “Three-Fold Law,” for example. Additionally, these ideas, beliefs, and tactics are extended even into areas of occult philosophy and magical practice where they are foreign or perhaps even alien. The framework of QBL, for example, is used to analyze rituals of the PGM that significantly predate it. This is not to say that someone primarily schooled in Western QBL, or even the Golden Dawn system of magick cannot or should not use those rituals. However, occasionally such an analysis is treated as being “correct” and then the information – some of which may be wrong – gets repeated. I have been guilty of this myself, and so any finger-pointing the reader may detect is applicable to myself as much as anyone else.*

Finally, there is the matter of our own internal bias or potential for lapsing into cognitive bias. This is, again, something that is not limited to a select crowd individuals. It is a universal issue, and one we all have to contend with. A number of individuals are convinced that adopting a “peer review” style process, akin to what happens in the Academic community, will solve this issue. I am rather suspicious of this idea, especially given the sheer authority worship that exists in a number of occult, neo-pagan, and witch circles. Even when criticism of certain authors deemed authoritative is leveled, there are a number of zealots that gather around such individuals and will turn on those who are critical and hound them.

Finally there is the issue of the subjectivity of magical experiences. All of the experiences we have are filtered through our personal psyche, and how we process the experience is also filtered through our understanding of both what we've performed and our internal associations and previous experiences. It is very easy, for example, to try and evoke a spirit and have the ritual fail to meet one's expectations (and when does that happen, really?) and then conclude that “the angels” don't “like” you. The flaw may in fact be something else entirely: perhaps the environment was not hospitable for a conductive evocation; or perhaps one accidentally made what appears on the surface to be a minor mistake, or perhaps one's confidence and Will faltered. Each of these potentials may affect the ritual and the experience. This is a major reason why so many of us keep magical journals with as accounts and results of the ritual detailed as precisely as possible,** and invariable return to see what our thoughts, experiences, and perhaps even ritual errors were later in an attempt to perform rituals that work out better at a later date. But even keeping a journal and analyzing it will not keep one from falling into deep-seated internal habits and belief formations.

Having said the above, there are two responses that fall on the extremes of an apparent false dichotomy that often occur:
1. “If we open up the subjective can of worms, people will start performing rituals to gain the power of Lord Voldamort,*** and acting like there is no difference between that and Gods!”

First of all: people have been practicing pop-magick or magickal practices that coincide with popular culture for a very long time, and in plenty of cases it has lead to absolutely amazing experiences and rituals that are unfortunately often ignored today on the basis of their popular origins. If one prefers to practice something else, that is a personal purview and one which has almost no bearing on the discussion. What you've basically brought up is your own personal bias, and you need to acknowledge your bias and passion and then ask the question of the individual you're looking at will even be attracted to the work that you are deeply passionate about. Expecting someone practicing thoroughly modern – or even postmodern – to conform to your bias, or insisting that they have no place is not much different from when magical practitioners previously snubbed their noses at lower class magical practices. Hence we can see almost a hundred years of commentary from middle-to-upper class practitioners of Theurgy discussing how they've been “trained” by their contemporary practitioners and simultaneously snubbing their noses at everything from folk magick to consider folklore and how it ties in to magickal practices. They represent the “Zealots:” those whose passion for their systems, experiences, and outlooks have over-ruled their capacity to understand what they are looking at. Even today we can find plenty of examples of such “Elite” leanings and postures... Sometimes from the most bright in their particular fields.

2. “Your Gods are just thoughtforms anyway, and so I don't have to give a shit about what you say!”

My personal favorite comment from the Chaos Crowd, who can now condescendingly describe all practices of magick that they personally aren't interested in as “bullshit.” Again, just like the above, this sort of commentary reflects the bias of the individual. You aren't interested in other practices, and can use art or other elements to get results that you find inspiring? That's awesome. Now remember that not everyone feels the same way, and stop putting up walls between different strands of practice and acting like you're superior to everyone. You aren't, and you're just as capable of being full of crap as the nose-snubbing elitists. In fact, what you're doing is reinforcing their position by adopting your own variant on it. Again: it is easy to lapse into. Plenty of the debates in the last year in various sections of the occult and neo-pagan community have fallen into it.

The most distressing aspect of the above is that it keeps people from actually practicing magick. They feel pressured to join various sides and factions and then adopt whole-sale their style of discourse and their intellectual and spiritual leanings. In part, this is due to group dynamics. But in part, this is also due to the way we treat authorities. Additionally, those witnessing our in-fighting may decide that they should practice nothing at all - because we're all full of crap. I can't necessarily fault the latter, but it certainly is part of what distresses me.

So why have I said all of this, and perhaps even re-opened a can of worms that should be left shut for a bit longer, if not forever?

In part is due to the fact that a few of those I've been discussing practices with of late have confused my approach to different subjects as being “actually ancient magick.” It isn't. Some of the ideas and places I take a lot of joy from are taken from archaic source material, scholarly texts, and the like. But plenty of other places I've poached my approach from are modern, and there is no dissecting the time period I live in from my personal outlook. I prefer a “history-friendly” approach, but I don't feel compelled to limit myself to historical sources. At the same time: I want to understand those sources better, and that requires a great deal more reading and research than many people feel inclined to do.

I don't have children; in fact, I don't really consider having children a goal. Additionally, I'm not terribly interested in buying a house or making the extreme material gains that would normally lead one to procure a professional job and focus themselves solely on it until those goals are achieve. This leaves me with an enormous amount of time that would otherwise be occupied to test out rituals, read dozens of books (sometimes simultaneously), and otherwise focus on my personal passions. For plenty of individuals this lack of time constraints does not even exist. I understand that, and I sympathize with them: when I was a full time student and working part time at Taco Bell, I had to make a great many choices that limited my social interactions with people, and instead focused on finding time to go out and practice. Often this was done in the middle of the night, on the edge of town, and (during the winter) plagued by pervasive fog. Later, after I quit that shit job and got a better one,**** I did most of my practical work while roommates were away at work and I had the apartment or house to myself. These days I have so much free time that I waste plenty of it. It happens.

The last two paragraphs may sound like they don't coincide with my above commentary, but they absolutely do. Consistent practice and the capacity to analyze what you've done and plan to do takes time, and it is precisely time that keeps a lot of folks from practicing or experiencing as much as they would prefer. Plenty of individuals find ways to make time, but plenty of others are forced to admit that they simply can't do that. If you have four kids and a mortgage to pay, you are far less likely to have the time to make a magic mirror, learn a system of mirror magick, and then call up anything than if you are young and willing to make a few decisions that may limit your social interactions, or cut down on the amount of time you spend at work. That being said: you can still take 15 to 30 minutes to meditate every day, or reach three pages of a book. You may not end up being an “Adept with Superpowers,” but you may also learn the skills to be able re-orient your schedule to be more appealing to consistent practice.

I often feel that it is combination of individuals with realistic time constraints
and the general love of celebrities in various neo-Pagan and occult circles that creates the superficial atmosphere that occasionally permeates discussions on matters relating to magickal or spiritual practices.

It is much easier to prop up a given celebrity and their views of magick, practice out of one to ten books, and then pretend that you have learned everything you will ever need... Than it is to practice consistently, experiment with a variety of sources, and try to learn as much about the underpinning of those sources as possible. When the celebrity issue intrudes in the picture, a further issue of distortion occurs because those with limited time and energy – having gained cherished experience and being passionate about it – feel compelled to defend whatever assertion is made by given individuals, even if they may be wrong. It is, from my perspective, completely understandable. It is also unfortunate.

The only thing I can say is this: the field of practice is immense, and the potential for utility is unending. We can find magick practiced all over the world, in a variety of ways, and from a variety of outlooks. If we in the west are ever going to be able to appreciate this fact then the first thing we need to do is acknowledge the fact, and then do our best to learn what we can in the allotted time that we have. But the first thing we need to do is to stop limiting the scope of our outlook. Any time one finds themselves saying: “_____ group of practitioners is ______,” and then demeaning them based on a profoundly limited perspective there are bound to be aspects that they have misunderstood. I think disagreeing about standpoint is okay, and even possibly helpful if the discussions aren't oriented around flimsy suppositions and continued insistence on the “one true path” of practice. The only thing that does is create stagnation, and doom us to a single monolithic outlook. It is antithetical to the continued development of our capacity to learn what came before us, what exists around us, and how we can better interact with similar individuals with different practices.

Two blog entries helped inspire this one: Sannion's Sarah Iles Johnston turns her scholarly eye toward the contemporary Hellenic polytheist community and Mr. Harold Roth's On Not Knowing Everything. I enjoyed both, not to mention Ms. Johnston's paper greatly.

Be seeing you,

[EDIT]: Lots of typos. Too lazy to correct them all.. Feel free to ask if something is confusing, or just rant about how I'm evil. I'm getting pretty used to the later, at this point. LOL.

* These are general examples, and not meant to be taken as things I see routinely. Except the Three-Fold Law discussion. I hate that discussion so fucking much, man.
** Memory is also an issue.
*** Or insert any fictional character you would personally complain about seeing in a ritual.
**** Was thaumaturgy involved? Absolutely. You try paying for your classes working at Taco Bell and let me know how that works out before pulling some “choose to be poor” or “you're evil” bullshit with me. Because otherwise, I will verbally berate you into avoiding me.