If I had stuck to my original plan and followed Penczak’s Temple of High Witchcraft precisely, I would even now be completing an illustrated map of the cosmos to replace the Qabalistic Tree of Life in my own theology. I’ll get to that eventually, but I would like to explore the Planetary Realms and the pathways between them a little more thoroughly before I try to map the Labyrinth of the Obsidian Dream.
In the meantime, however, my studies of ceremonialism, Hermetics, and astrological magic have culminated in enough understanding to produce this much:
My Circle of the Art
I suppose it is a cosmogram of sorts: god-names in the outer ring, then the Planets followed by the signs of the zodiac—celestial powers and the lenses through which they are focused—and, finally, the Triangle of Conjuration in the center representing the material world. The names in the outer ring were chosen carefully, of course. Dionysus and Rhea, long-standing allies and friends. Hermes, patron of this art. And Hekate, patron of (among other things) witches. All powers of somehow ambiguous status in regards to the earth, the underworld, and the upper realms. Iao and Agathos Daimon: two visions of Mystery and all-consuming power. Drawn large enough to be used as a base for other work, I may place stones or candles at the appropriate planetary or astrological glyphs, and/or place talismans of relevant powers within the circle and the triangle. It’s nowhere nearly as cool as RO’s Box or Skyllaros’ Conjuration Station … but it’s a start.
Although I will be redirecting the bulk of my efforts toward the study of Chaos Magick—I have already begun reading Liber Null and finally acquired a copy of Condensed Chaos to re-read—I will not actually be abandoning what I have learned over the last year. There will be astrological elections too good to resist. There will be moments when planetary magic or more formal rites will be more appropriate to the task at hand. There will be things I need to deal with that I might not be willing to engage using the “bare handed” techniques of Chaos. This, and the altar I inscribe it on, will be there for me when those times come.
I almost didn’t perform the conjuration yesterday: a series of coincidences and a side of bad planning ended with me not having the apartment to myself at any Hour of the Sun. So once I’d worked on my scholarship application until my brain was running out my ears, I decided to have a number and work on other projects in front of the boob tube.
With the Fifth Hour of Night, though, the urge to Work fell over me like a weight: I reached for my sketchbook and finished inking the Circle of Art I had designed for the conjuration of my Natal Demon, whose name I had calculated according to Agrippa (using Frater Acher’s lovely spreadsheet) and whose sigil I had drawn using that name and the Rosy Cross. I was already high, but it was the magic that really clouded my mind: despite the presence of Aradia’s atheist room mate, which barred me from employing more formal ritual, I could feel the daimon coming on even before I completed the Circle.
The names on the Circle (for those who can’t read Greek) are Helios, Phoibos, and Agathos Daimon. The glyphs are the planetary symbol and Grand Seal of the Sun, and the Seal of Och. I first conjured my Natal Genius under the auspices of the Moon, so it seemed appropriate to conjure my Natal Demon under the auspices of the Sun. My Demon’s sigil and name have, of course, been edited out, but they were drawn in the innermost circle.
When the circle was done and empowered to the best of my ability under the circumstances, I pulled the page from my sketchbook and laid it on my lapdesk. Almost immediately, the sigil appeared to me to become an eye. Grabbing my sketchbook, I drew that eye on the page and from there the image of my Natal Demon began to flow. Perhaps it was the amount of time I spent contemplating this ritual; perhaps the stars were just in better alignment; maybe I’ve actually learned something since my first conjuration experiment. Whatever: the connection was much stronger than it was when I made my first attempt to contact my Natal Genius, ZG.
During that Hour of the Sun, my Natal Demon was able to instruct me somewhat in its nature and image. It appeared to me as a narrow-faced humanoid, with an attentive expression. Its body was slender and tall, and from its back sprung two pairs of wings. Something rose from its head: I thought it a third pair of wings, but it may also have been horns or a helmet. It informed me that its nature was that of Jupiter, and of the Sun in Scorpio, and the Moon in Virgo. Perhaps most interestingly, the name of my Natal Genius was echoing through my head for most of the time I was performing the automatic drawing, leaving me uncertain whether the Genius and Demon are, in fact, separate entities or different faces of the same spirit.
When the vision began to fade, I put the Circle on the altar and made an offering of incense and a votive candle, thanking it and bidding it license to depart. In all, I would call the experiment a qualified success. I wish I had been able to stick with my original plan, but at the same time: sometimes the magic arranges to be performed the way it wants to be.
I failed to do a reading for the last month. I’m irritated at myself for that, of course. At the same time I’m not sure how the cards could have prepared me for the past month’s main challenge: sheer exhaustion brought on by twelve-hour days in that psychic cesspool known as a shopping mall.
The forecast for the coming lunar month is largely positive, but there are a few points of interest both high and low. There are also a lot of oddities. Apparent disharmonies between the cards and their placements have driven me, at last, to consult the Book of Thoth, itself. To my delight, I have apparently acquired a sufficient grasp of Qabalah (if not I Ching) to follow the text, if not to master it.
As is my custom, I framed my question as “Dark Moon to Dark Moon, what awaits me in the coming month?”
Even if my time with ceremonial magic were up now instead of a month from now, there are still some projects that I would need to see through. One of those is my latest experiment with the Stele of Jeu: talismans inscribed with the beneficial sign.
The first one I made at Heartland Pagan Festival.
The second I inscribed at the jewelry store I’ve been working at over the summer.
For this one, I used the variation on the Beneficial Sign favored by the Order of the Hollow Ones, as I thought it would make a more attractive piece of jewelry The inscription, which is difficult to read because I’m still learning to use the engraving machine, are the first and last lines from the final passage of the Stele in the original Greek:
I am the headless spirit with sight in my feet … my name is a heart encircled by a serpent. Come forth and follow.
During my lunar rites last night, I dedicated the second talisman by laying it across the first as I performed most of the rite, donning it as I incanted the final passage.
Boy, howdy, does it tingle. I look forward to carrying it as a talisman of power and protection, and as the most obscure way for fellow magicians to identify me EVAR.
1 – As I’m sure you all know, the Greek noun “daimon”, which it currently seems fashionable to leave untranslated, can be understood as spirit, demon, god, or even soul. Interestingly, my studies thus far seem to indicate that it overlaps pretty thoroughly with the Latin “genius”. More experienced students of Greek and Latin may win my undying love by sharing their thoughts on this matter.
2 – The verb here is “echo”, which conveys an interesting sense of “I am the headless spirit who holds his sight in his feet”.
3 – This is kinda like if you see me at the bar on toga night and say, “Hey! That’s a peplos not a toga!”
It’s been a wild ride. What started as a vague (almost childish) intention to study “ceremonial magic” has wandered across Chaos Magick, the grimoire traditions, traditional astrology, the qabalah, the Golden Dawn, and quite a few things I don’t even know the proper names of. I’ve experimented with the Qabalistic Cross and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I’ve conjured my Natal Genius, and am planning to conjure my Natal Demon, as well. Although I have struggled with my maintaining my visionary practice, I’ve gone on visionary quests to the Temples of Malkuth and Yesod, striven and failed to reach Hod, and visited the Elemental Realms of Earth, Fire, and Water. I have made Planetary talismans of Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and Mercury. I have discovered the Greek Magical Papyri and incorporated the Stele of Jeu into my Lunar devotions at both the Dark and Full moons. I have discovered the magical value of the Orphic Hymns. I As my studies progressed, they focused increasingly on Hermeticism and astrological magic, with a bit of grimoire magic on the side.
Shit has been intense. The rituals have been elaborate, effective, and exhausting. Although I’ve been fighting it, I’ve been falling into the trap of armchair magicianhood because, as much as I’ve enjoyed a lot of it, there are parts of my nature that I have to fight to do this sort of Work. And because I’ve been having so much fun getting caught up in the theory that I’ve been loosing track of the practice. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not done with the Western Ceremonial Tradition by any stretch of the imagination. But I think that, when my year is up, I’m going to switch streams.
This coming year is going to be dedicated to Chaos Magick. Stephen Mace and AO Spare. Phil Hine and Peter Carrol. Gordon White and Jason Miller. And probably lots of authors and bloggers that I haven’t even heard of yet. Hopefully some of them ladies.
Lots of things have been pointing me toward Chaos Magick over the last year, anyway. I mean: y’all have noticed that Gordon White is just too damn cool to ignore, right? There’s been this whole post-Chaos thing that Jason Miller’s been talking about, though I think Gordon and Skyllaros have the right of that in a lot of ways. And, even if Chaos Magic really isn’t what he seems to be doing anymore, I’ve picked up a serious torch for Phil Hine. So … I’ll come back to Agrippa, the Picatrix, and the Corpus Hermeticum sooner rather than later. Hell, I’m probably going to keep working on planetary talismans and my illustrations of the Picatrix images of the planets even as I change trajectories, because they’re pretty and they make me happy.
Before getting to anything else: it has come to my attention that the gentleman I have referred to as House Arcanum is not, in fact, the sole individual to whom that title belongs. My apologies to my readers, and to the rest of that House: the misunderstanding is entirely my fault. I will henceforth refer to that gentleman as Bousiris, and edit previous posts to reflect that reality in the coming days. Again: my apologies to all involved for that misrepresentation.
From beginning to end, the process of dealing with the ritual and the Sacred Experience Committee was terrifying, emotional and exhausting. Still, I’m glad that I went through with it. If nothing else, the festival which has been so central to my social and spiritual life over the last fourteen years remains a safe (if now slightly stained) place. Several in my encampment would not even consider returning had I not secured an apology—though there are still no guarantees that they will choose to attend the festival again. Above and beyond that, I have been encouraged to follow through with my intention to join the Heartland Spiritual Alliance and get involved with the Sacred Experience Committee, once I have the money to do so. The apology itself … well, having spoken with Bousiris personally, please allow me to say that I believe it to be more sincere that it may appear.
Thank you, Bousiris. Thank you, Mr. Crane, Alexandros, and Aradia for working with us toward closure and progress on this issue. I look forward to working with you all in the future.
The festival, the email exchanges, the meeting, and the composition of the apology all took place under the influence of Venus retrograde through Gemini. I cannot believe that this fact did not greatly shape both the ritual itself and the fallout afterwards. One wonders if the astrological “weather” of the moment at which the ritual was destined to be performed could shape to process of writing that ritual over the course of the preceding year.
The old hurts which were dredged up by the ritual seem well within the character of the Venus retrograde. The old ways of responding to hurt—particularly on the part of Bousiris , who would later admit that such behaviors were not only counterproductive but something he wished to excise, and on my own part—are even more perfectly aligned with the way Austin Coppock characterized the retrograde through Gemini. None of this excuses anything, of course, but it does shed light in some interesting places.
With all that said, there remain a few points which I was either unable to bring up in the meeting, and/or which wish to address to the public at large. I do this not to try to “score a second victory” but because I think these issues are important to the community as a whole.
Apparently, as someone clever once said, “it’s that time of year again.” People are arguing about the nature and merits of the Holy Guardian Angel. Beyond what I’ve learned by following the conversation and from Frater Acher’s study, however, it’s a subject I know next to nothing about. Which makes it fascinating to me.
The whole thing, as I said, is fascinating to me. Although I’ve done some very interesting Solar
work, none of it yet qualifies as an initiation. I have, using rites derived (vaguely) from Agrippa, recently contacted my Natal Genius. Over the last several years, I have acquired a small cadre of spirit-helpers by other means, as well. The first is clearly not an HGA, and one of the the others laughed in my face when I asked her if she was. I’m familiar with existence of the Abramelin rite, of course. but I honestly know just enough about the details to I know that I’m never going to do it. Not my bag, as they say. I have read the Bornless Ritual. I’ve never performed it, or the Samekh variant, but I’ve been doing the ritual from which both are derived regularly for some months now. The association between Bornless and Abramelin, however, is purely the invention of Crowley. Whatever its effect has been, though, it has not been the vaulted Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. It’s distinctly possible that, even if I have a Holy Guardian Angel in the original sense, I may never achieve “Knowledge and Conversation”.
Honestly, I’m not sure that I want or need K&CHGA. As RO points out, the explosive immolation which many have reported
undergoing with the Abramelin, Bornless, Samekh, and other such rites, is not universal:
For others, it’s not that bad at all. A couple students, a few fellow wise old magicians didn’t go through a ton of shit, just some minor shit, because they got the point quicker than I did. I bet Jow, with his appreciation of the important things in life, his honest gratitude, his humility, his kindness… I bet for people like him, it’s a walk down the beach, and the heat of the Sun is a pleasure, not a pain at all.
At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing: I have been putting myself through a transformative slow-cooker for as long as I can remember. I think I was eleven or twelve years old when I first realized that the world was fucked, that all the rules I’d been taught served to put the needs of bullies before my own, and that authority could not be trusted. When I discovered magic at the age of thirteen, I was obsessed with gaining power, but when I started practicing magic for real between sixteen and eighteen, it didn’t take long for my magical practice to become a way of managing my moods and getting my shit sorted out. I came out publically as a Pagan about that same time, and figured out I was bisexual (with the accompanying coming out process) about the same time I moved out of my parents’ house at twenty. Between the move to St. Louis (what was explicitly to make me a better writer by taking me away from my home base), my experiments in visionary and shamanic work, the shift of my career path from I have been jamming the Shiny Red Reset Button on my life pretty constantly since 2006. Or, as RO put it:
[P]eople go through worse shit without ever conjuring their HGA. You know anyone over thirty who hasn’t had some shit to deal with, something traumatic, something huge that you think about and wonder if you’d be able to handle it? I’ve got magician friends with more experience and empowerment than me who I respect and love who are facing or have faced more terrible things than I can imagine being able to deal with. Shit that doesn’t just go away in a year or two.
Shit. Happens. Regardless.
And and then there’s the whole thing with the spirits who have sought me out since beginning of this process. So really, while I would welcome another supernal assistant, between the life and magic I’ve already got more on my plate than I can handle. Like Jow, I would rather continue to simmer off the excess and the unnecessary, rather than risk an unplanned series of detonations in a life which is already on the edge, with too few resources to be spread between the various people who love and depend on me.
There’s a part of me that wishes that I had even known about this kind of magic back in the day: high school and the early years of my apprenticeship would have been much more interesting. I might not have taken quite so long to pull my head out of my ass. Or, you know, I might be in a padded room wearing a straight jacket.
As things stand, though, I’ll have to content myself with listening to the stories that others tell about their explosive pursuits of the HGA and other Solar initiations. With reading the theory performing my own, smaller, experiments. And maybe in another twenty years, when I’m more magician than satyr, when my tenure is secure and my ambitions achieved, I’ll say “fuck it”, and go looking for the “Nuke” setting on my Shiny Red Reset Button.
1 – You see what I did there?
2 – See Hymanaeus Beta in his foreword and footnotes to the Illustrated Second Edition of The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon theKing. Weiser: York Beach Main (1995). See also: The Bornless Ritual by Alex Sumner.
3 – Something I am not convinced of, as I reject the sort of top-down cosmology which is necessary in order to assume that everyone has the same arrangement of supernatural allies.
On the Spiritus Mundi mailing list, Christopher Warnock often complains of the way in which Mercury retrograde seems to have been chosen as a New Age scapegoat: along with Luna Void-of-Course, it seems to have absorbed all the “negativity” and malific influence that was (traditionally) ascribed to numerous planetary aspects and interactions. Although I have only a little more interaction with the New Age community than I have with traditional astrologers, I can definitely see this dynamic at work. Rufus Opus has talked about the magical “storms” associated with bad astrological “weather” like Mercury retrograde in the context of his Hermetic practice.
For myself, I have an interesting relationship with Mercury in general and the retrograde period in particular. You see, while I’ve seen everyone else scrambling around me trying to deal with unanticipated communication, computer, and travel related disasters, I’ve never personally experienced any difference. I’ve never noticed periods of my magic backfiring, only to later discover that Mercury was running backwards. I kind of thought it might just be that New Age hooey. Specifically, I thought that people were just more self-conscious about the sorts of disasters they were already living with every day—you know, just like I was.
Then I discovered that I was born under Mercury retrograde.
Although I don’t have hard data to compare to, and I’m still dealing with the fallout in a lot of ways, I do feel that the Venus talisman and tincture I made in preparation for that retrograde period helped me get through relatively unscathed. So, in anticipation of the upcoming Mercury retrograde, Aradia and I decided to put together some talismans along similar lines.
Now, in a magical fantasy world where we’re planning further than two weeks ahead, we’d have done that a week or so ago, before the “pre-retrograde period” I keep reading about. In that same magical fantasy world, though, sticking to one’s daily practice would be fun and easy, not real effort, and I would already have fixed everything that’s wrong with my brain years ago.
I like to work during the Hours of Night. Unfortunately, this is the wrong time of year for that. We printed out the templates and started casting our circle just as the Hour of Mercury came this past Tuesday—taking advantage of the waxing, near-full Moon, rather than waiting on the Day of Mercury—and were barely able to suffumigate the charms, incant the Orphic Hymn to Hermes, and light the offering candles before the Hour had ended. As with the Venus retrograde, we made a planetary incense blend to suffumigate, and then used the excess to make a tincture as a backup/battery for the talismans. We also recharged the safe-travel talisman I made with Sannafrid shortly before making the road trip from Sunrise to KC.
I look forward to seeing how well they help. We should probably have made a separate talisman for Aradia’s workplace; we should definitely do so before the retrograde gets much closer.