Friday, August 2, 2013

Goetia [EDITED]

Recently, Jake Stratton-Kent got downright punk rock on the topic of secrecy, Masonry-styled “Secret Societies” and bogus history. He followed it up with an “Open Letter to the Golden Dawn”. Aaron Leitch has covered both topics and responsed on his blog (see here and here), and Fr. Barrabbas has also responded (see here and here).

I'll be honest: at first, I felt like that girl that Sid Vicious approaches in The Great Rock'N'Roll Swindle while carrying a pierce of cake.

What, what?” He asks her, “you want some of this?”

And then he shoves the cake in her face. And so I responded rather heatedly to the first piece that Jake wrote, particularly since I felt like he was targeting something I rather liked. But I've realized that such wasn't the case, and thought a lot about what he's saying. I agree with most of his points.* But what I agree with the most are his comments on Goetia and the “immense collective disservice” performed by the “standard bearers of the Occult Revival.”

As someone who practices both witchcraft and also happens to be a Chaos Magician, I get to constantly see a bizarre notions about the Grimoires, their spirits, and the word “Goetia” occur. I have actually seen “witches” claim that “evocation is evil” (while knowing absolutely nothing about the subject; ignorance is apparently a divine gift in some circles and on plenty of online forums); and I get to see a never ending list of Chaos Magicians talk about “the Goetia” quite regularly.

I am not sure what this “the Goetia” is... I imagine that they are referring to the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, and the list of spirits found therein. Alas! If my fellow Chaos Magicians had done their homework, they would realize just how much overlap there are between the spirits in the Grimoires. In fact, a few key texts predate the Lemegeton as we know it. You would only need to visit the Esoteric Archives and look at the book on file there, and Peterson's comments, to discover that. (The more interested reader is encouraged to read Mr. Stratton-Kent's True Grimoire, which includes a rather lengthy commentary on the interrelation between different Grimoires and the Grimorium Verum.)

But even the above obscures the roots of Goetia, which I've discussed on this blog... Like, a lot. No, really. It's a slight obsession of mine, and one that just won't go away. But let's get to brass tacks:

The word “Goetia” (howling, or more appropriately lamenting) is the method of action of a group magicians or shamans known in antiquity as Goetes (singular form: Goes). They may or may not have included the group of  “mystery initiators” that Plato calls the “Children of the Moon.”*** They offered services to their respective communities regarding purification practices. The word Goes is, according to Sarah Iles Johnstone,** etymologically related to the Greek word Goös (verbal cognate goao) which she defines as “a highly emotional funeral lament” originally performed mourning Greek women. She writes:
“Goös , in contrast,**** was spontaneous and emotionally powerful— sometimes excessively so. It is connected primarily with women, especially women who were related to the deceased. The songs these women sang emphasized their pain as survivors, and sometimes reproached the deceased for having left his family unprotected. In the Iliad , for example, Andromache describes to the dead Hector how Astyanax will have to beg for food at the tables of other men. Somewhat later, gooi began to carry the additional purpose of rousing the listeners to revenge; the singers did this by focusing not only on their own pain but also on the injustice of the death suffered by the deceased. Thus, the Chorus of lamenting women in the Choephoroi urges the listening Orestes to avenge his father's death. Goös , in other words, became a means of eliciting help from the living, as well as a medium for complaining to the dead.”
(P. 101)

She goes on to add something that is essential to this discussion, too:
“Rousing the living to action by complaining to the dead is but a step away from asking the dead themselves to bring help as well. Once the idea that the dead could be made to return had been introduced to Greek culture, it would have been natural to include such a request as part of a goös.”
(P. 101)
In Jesus the Magician, Morton Smith writes:
The common Greek word for 'magician' in Jesus' time was goes (plural goetes). [...] Here goetia (what goetes do) is one special technique like others named, a recognized and legitimate function. It seems to have been a sort of Greek shamanism, a form of mourning for the dead in which the goetes became ecstatic and were thought to accompany the dead on their journey to the underworld.” (p. 70)
Despite Smith's later comments on the term Goes being used in an abusive context – and there is certainly more than a few places wherein we can see that such was the case – Ms. Johnston makes a very good case that the Goes were also initiates of the Greek Mystery Schools. There is also, as I have quoted her on the matter before, a relation between the Goes and Orphism – not to mention the mythic figure of Orpheus himself.

As quoted above, the Goetes appear to have primarily concerned themselves with allaying problems involving the Restless Dead. Mr. Stratton-Kent writes:
Such ‘restless spirits’ were troublesome, even hostile and dangerous. Their existence was a major reason for the practice of funeral rites in the first place.

Another aspect of goetia’s involvement with the dead was necromancy. This, the art of divination by the dead, correlates naturally with the ability to guide the dead to the Underworld. Those who could guide souls to the Underworld could bring them back, at least temporarily. In its original religious context necromancy was not perceived as anti-social, and some major necromantic oracular centres existed throughout the Greek world.

The most sinister aspect of this involvement with the dead was the ability to summon such spirits for purposes other than divination. Like necromantic divination this is a natural consequence of the role of guide of souls. However it also relates very closely to the ability to deal with hostile ghosts of various kinds. The arts of exorcism and evocation are intimately related. It is from this aspect of its past that goetia is associated with demonic evocation. Distinctions between underworld demons and the angry dead have always been vague.**** Additionally, expertise in rites concerning the dead necessarily involves the gods and guardians of the Underworld. Consequently, in various guises, raising spirits has been associated with goetia for much of its history...”
It is precisely this interrelation between the 'calling up' of spirits, the ability to put them at rest, and the possible inimical nature of the spirits that survived into the era of the Grimoires. There is also a rather fascinating over-arching set of associations between Cthonic Daimons (and daimones) worked with in antiquity (such as Hekate and Hermes Kthonios) and some of the spirits that rule the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum in the Grimoires. Granted, by the 17th century, a Judeo-Christian overlay revolving around the spirits had already taken place.

Being honest: it is that last point that has taken me a while to wrap my head around... But at this point, I have more or less accepted many of the suggestions Mr. Stratton-Kent makes in his work as essential to an understanding of what one is looking at.

There is one more place that I agree with Mr. Stratton-Kent, and that involves the overlapping treatment of the spirits involved in Goetia and the “anti-cosmic” treatment:
“The role of the Qliphoth in neo-occultism is also a greater disaster to understanding and reclaiming Goetia as a major formative ancestral current within Western Magic.”
Unlike Mr. Stratton-Kent, I do not consider myself a 'Goetic Magician'. However, I have long performed rituals and attempted to do work with Hekate, a Goddess who is heavily associated with the Restless Dead and generally associated with both Goetia and witchcraft in her (“its”) own way. When I first began trying to make attempts to contact Hekate, I found myself rebuffed (for a variety of reasons). At the time I was aware that many people treat Lilitu (who is considered by some “the Queen of the Qliphot”) as being essentially the same as Dread Triformis. A couple years ago, I was rebuffed again, this time by... a something. Call it a ghost if you want. I don't know if that word even works. But, whatever.

Do not use that name to call on her,” was the message. “You have another name, with a better understanding of it.”

Hekate doesn't fit, in any way, into the “anti-cosmic” philosophy representative of the treatment of the Qliphot in the current Western Magical Tradition. Whether we are discussing the treatment of Hekate in the Chaldean Oracles, the lunar daimons that are associated with Hekate in the PGM, or even how she appears in Hesiod's Theogony, the Daimon known as Hekate is not “anti-cosmic” in any sense of the word.

Now, I'm not saying that anyone that treats her as being similar to Lilitu is “wrong” or “should be shunned,” merely that my own approach (filtered through what I'd picked up from the LHP crowd) was utterly wrong, and that I was slapped verbally until I fixed the problem.

To date, I still become uncomfortable – considerably uncomfortable – around people that seek to link the two around me, and may actually simply duck out of discussions to avoid discussing my own experiences.

Over the years, I've done a ton of toxic magick and burned my fingers a whole fucking lot. Attempting to meet Triformis and learn witchery was, honestly, not one of those.

That said: we all have our own particular “psychic poisons,” and my own may not coincide with anyone else's. So take the above with a grain of salt. Seriously.

Be seeing you,

* I still think secrecy is essential in certain respects. But. That'd take too long to discuss, anyway.
** In Restless Dead. See p. xviii
*** See the comments for the problematic aspects of that statement.
**** In contrast to the Threnos, an emotionally controlled form of lamenting.
***** Italix mine.


Jake said...

if you get slapped for this by someone it won't be me. Hopefully some of the 'anti-cosmic' types will eventually grow up and embrace a bit of history. Not simply to justify a pre-formulated position (which is how many occultists approach historical 'evidence')but to inform and to expand their practice by reference to earlier traditions in their real form.

Nice job



Harold Roth said...

Interesting. I can see the connections people make between Lilith and Hekate, but for myself, I see them as representing separate entities or spirits. Lilith is always going to be a Hebrew spirit who might go back to Babylon in some way but who is also, according to mythology, much more connected up with human beings than Hekate. For me, Hekate is a much older and more powerful force, one who has IMO a lot in common with Hermes--both were able to travel between this world and the Underworld, they have some similar attributes (their connection to saffron, for instance). To a great extent, I don't see how Lilith and Hekate compare, but again, I know that many people conflate them. That said, I have seen Lilith associated with the klippot but not Hekate. I haven't read any Kenneth Grant, though, nor some of the other stuff that draws on his writings. I did read Karlsson's book on the klippot, which I thought was fabulous (I just miswrote "famulus," thinking of something I am working on in this connection and in relationship to belladonna, klippot, etc.):) But it seems like I remember he associates the first of the klippot with Lilith. I don't see why the klippot should come in for a drubbing as a negative force in magic now. Yes, there is some darker-than-thou stuff swirling around it, but is that so powerful that it can misdirect magic? I think it is a fad--which has much to do with economic conditions at present. My two cents.

aediculaantinoi said...

Question for you: do you have a reference to Plato's "Children of the Moon"? A notion occurs in relation to that, and if I can track down that reference (with your help, perhaps!) I shall write something on it on my own blog in the near future...

Jack Faust said...

Jake: I am mostly troubled by the 'anti-cosmic' mentality being transferred to Goetia. I'd also prefer that if they talked about the Qliphot, they actually look into a few genuine sources. Some have. Plenty haven't.

My goal is to 'expand my practice' by deepening my understanding of historical practices, rather than approaching those sources as the end-all-be-all. But it's hard to break out of that dichotomy some times. And then there's always cognitive bias. LOL.

Harold: I sort've see the connection between the "Mother of Demons" and the nocturnal wandering leader of a horde of restless ghosts and monsters. Certainly, we could compare those notions. (Although Hekate doesn't necessarily generate the spirits herself; I would rather think they were drawn in to her wake.)

I've never seen a direct conflation between the two by Kenneth Grant or someone like Karlsson. It's primarily solo practitioners that I've come across, and witches who grab over-arching themes and run with them.

As for the Qliphot and the 'anti-cosmic' trend... It is mostly LHP; Michael Ford seems to endorse it (and I have hated on his books before), Kenneth Grant certainly draws on it. Darker 'Chaos Oriented' groups like the ONA's writings don't necessarily draw on the Shells themselves, but often have a Satanic 'anti-cosmos' ideology sitting at the root of their ideas. It's been around for 20 years at least, but building more as economic conditions have worsened.

Phil: S.I. Johnston discusses it a bit:
"Epimenides, who, as we shall see in chapter 7, had certain traits of the goes , was also credited with introducing mysteries to Athens. Epimenides may have been among those mystery initiators to whom Plato refers as "children of the Moon," in fact, for he called himself this in a fragment of his poetry quoted by Aelian."

She follows it up with a footnote citing the Epimenides fragment. As for Plato's direct reference, it appears to be from Aristophanes speech in the Symposium:
"Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round because they resembled their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, attempted to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods."

I think Orphism may be a link between the two, as Musaeus was mythically supposed to be the 'Child of the Moon' (Selene, I think?). It wouldn't be surprised if some of the Orphic cultists saw themselves standing in his shadow. Anyway, there may be another place where Plato brings up the 'Children of the Moon,' but if I've read it... it's been forgotten. LOL.

Jake said...

Lots of points, and I could spend all day answering them all. One will have to do for now.
Lilith's close relation to humans (and her 'physicality') underline the original form is unrelated to the qlipoth. I don't relate her to Hecate at all.
Hecate does relate however to the 're-invented' Astaroth as known from the 'Late Pagan' syncretic period and the grimoires. Astaroth was borrowed from the Old Testament to represent Late Pagan goddesses with magical connections IMO; she doesn't really relate to Asherah and earlier goddesses, regardless of the earlier context of the OT references.
More later if the call of the wild doesn't sweep me up again!

aediculaantinoi said...

That was my thought...but, in the Aristophanes' speech in The Symposium, nothing indicates that the children of the moon were anything other than androgynes...and so, why mystery initiators or magicians? It's a connection that "could be" there, but doesn't necessarily follow (any more than all gay or gender-variant people are "automatically" shamans/etc., as some very simple and often misguided forms of "queer theology" [which actually aren't that queer!] assert)...I'll have to look more deeply into this...

Jack Faust said...

Phil: I actually considered that point while re-reading it yesterday. So let me apologize: 'initiating wizards' was a poor choice of words on my part; I thought I was being clever. But I was not.

That being said: I have read, and this may be wrong, that the over-arching themes of the Symposium deal with initiation. Aristophanes theme is 'being split,' or 'not being whole'. In Diotima's responses, she begins to agree but believes that Love one makes one whole. The supposition that this isn't similar to the themes depicted in Phaedrus, which have a decidedly Orphic tone, isn't too far for my tastes. That being said: it is supposition if the reference point is simply Aristophanes speech.

And I'm not exactly an Mystery School initiate, so it's not like I can be sure.

I phrased that section poorly, and appear to have possibly misrepresented the material. That is totally my bad.

Jack Faust said...

Ahem. The over-arching themes deal with elements of The Mysteries, is what I have read. Not initiation precisely.

Jack Faust said...

Okay, I've edited the entry and added a note as a means of owning my mistake. Done and done.