My Liberalia

English: Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus...
English: Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus and Liber (also Liber Pater). Liber (“the free one”) was a god of fertility, wine, and growth, married to Libera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Calendars are a problem.  The more of them you have, the harder they are to match up.  At this stage in my life, I’m struggling to reconcile four: the Gregorian, the academic, the lunar, and the Wheel of the Year.  Sometimes, it can be a fucking mess, especially as I try to splice in ancient festivals AND keep everything relevant to the life I actually live.

So, it was very much to my delight last year when I learned of an interesting coincidence: namely that Saint Patrick’s Day (an “Irish” American drinking festival, for those who don’t live in the USA) and the Liberalia fall at about the same time.  Even more fortuitous, both coincide with the beginning of Spring Break (an academic American drinking festival) at my particular institution of higher education.  My celebrations last year were impromptu and (mostly) solitary.  But I did start a batch of mead with this year in mind.

Now the date approaches and  I watch with some curiosity as Sanion anticipates Anthesteria. I am trying to find time to do research into what “traditional” festivities would have included, and then decide / beg for divine inspiration as to which elements to maintain, which to adopt from other festivals, and what to make up whole cloth.

There will be wine, of course, and mead: both drinking the mead I started last year and will bottle in about a week, and the starting of a new batch for next year.  And feasting: I never open the Sunrise Temple without providing food.  Offerings aplenty to the God, and a special altar erected to him for the occasion.

But what else?  I don’t really have the resources to put on a play of any kind, and playing movies in the background seems … a weak

Statue of Dionysus of the "Madrid-Varese ...
Statue of Dionysus of the “Madrid-Varese type”. Roman artwork based on a late Hellenistic original (ca. 125–100 BC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

substitute at best.  (Besides which, all the appropriate movies that I own will be played for the same people three weeks prior at my Midsem party.)  Perhaps I can encourage participants to declaim from the various hymns to Dionysus; a lot of them are thespians, they’ll probably get a kick out of it.  And should I bring in elements of the Urban Dionysia, which falls about the same time of year (depending on the vagaries of the lunar calendar) but much less fortuitously in terms of free time to devote to worship?

I’m thinking that there may be some ritual (and playful) flogging, both to purify and to excite (though, contrary to Pausanius’ Skiereia, it will be everyone getting lashed).  Possibly arts-and-crafts, especially the making and donning of masks and thyrsoi.  I may encourage cross-dressing, in honor of the god’s youth spent hiding from Hera, and in memory of Tieresias and Cadmus, who donned women’s clothing that they might participate in the rites when the other men of Thebes followed Pentheus’ lead in denying Dionysus.

Hopefully everyone will have enough fun to get naked, because … Maenads and Satyrs, duh.  Should that happen, face and body paint are great games.

I have numerous Tarot decks, and it might be an interesting occasion on which to employ the oracular powers of Dionysus.  Also, the ouija board.  (Of course I have a ouija board.  Don’t look at me that way.  You have one, too.)

All this would be just a little easier, of course, if I had a more concrete relationship with the god.  When I do my thrice-weekly offering rites, I hail him as I pour the libations: “Dionysus, Liber Pater, Lord of the Vine, source and surcease of madness.”  But if those things were all that he is to me, then I would not need to have a festival: I would simply meditate on what passes for my sanity whilst drinking until I cry.  But Dionysus is more than that.  So much more.

I struggle in my search for how best to honor him.

Hyperbolic Masculinity as an Expression of Queerness and a Source of Magical Power

In the ancient world, the power of magic was sometimes understood to be fueled by twistedness and inversion[1]: twisted, spiraled, and backwards writing; calling upon the restless dead for aid; binding.  In a sense, I have been drawing on that for years: flaunting my difference, my Otherness, and making it into a source of distinction and recognition.  I have, at times, less-than-half-jokingly referred to my gender identity as “witch” rather than as masculine, feminine, or even genderqueer in the sense that word is usually understood.  I wear skirts instead of pants whenever possible, and make elaborate ritual robes for myself which double as “costumes” and festival garb, and I wear my peplos in effeminate fashion.

I am queer and I am a witch and people fucking know it.  I am that I am.  Certainly there are disadvantages to this, but there is power in it, as well.

And yet …. Gayatri Gopinath would argue that my “cross-dressing”[2] is, itself, an expression of another form of hegemony, which conflates same-sex desire with gender deviance.[3]  Thus, disdaining the Euro-American emphasis on androgyny and inverted gender expression, she argues that what she describes as “hyperbolic femininity” can be and is a clear expression of queerness and queer desire among some women.[4]  Because she is largely discussing this phenomenon in the context of popular South Asian culture and the tension between nationalist and diaspora populations, she cites a number of films for exempla of this phenomenon: Fire (1996), Ustav (1984), and Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994), in particular.[5]  This idea is particularly moving to me at this stage in my life, when, given my career choices, publically “cross dressing” as I currently do may well be barred to me. 

I am not willing or able to live without being visibly queer. Interestingly, though, I have already been engaging in behaviors which could well be described as “hyperbolic masculinity”: adopting and adapting exceptionally butch tropes to serve my queer sorcery.  For much of my life I have shaved with a particular brand of razor; to my annoyance, they have phased out my preferred model, and even if they had not, my environmentalist and feminist ethics, as well as my poverty, all agree that I should cease to patronize the company.  So I have acquired an old fashioned straight razor from an estate sale, and am simultaneously learning the art of shaving with a deadly blade and the skill of keeping it adequately sharp.  When not in use, the razor lives in the box on my altar with my Venusian seals and talismans.[6]  Having recently given in to social pressure and conceded to the wearing of a neck tie—at thirty-two years of age, a (hypothetically) cisgendered-presenting male can’t get away with disdaining them in a “professional” or formal environment—I have committed myself to learning complicated and uncommon knots.  My favorite, so far, is the Eldredge knot, which I find works particularly well with my Jupiterian tie.  The Trinity knot is also fun, though I haven’t quite mastered it.  My taste in the ties, themselves, is just as eccentric.  I wear a vests and jackets at times and in places where they are entirely over-the-top: my co-ed campus where pajamas are as common as cargo pants and my favorite dive bars, for example.  My chivalry knows no restraints of class or virtue:  I hold the door open for everyone;  I will come to the aid of anyone who asks nicely, male or female, “purest” virgin or even sluttier than myself; and I do the damnedest to keep my nose out of other people’s business unless that business is actually hurting someone else.

The thing of it is, I take a great deal of pleasure in my male body.  It’s the constraints and strictures of masculinity which I despise:  The presumption that I must dominate or be dominated.  The presumed (and violently enforced) limits on my capacity for emotion and its expression: that being hurt by someone, or sympathetic to the pain of others, is proof of weakness and failure.  The constant “threat” of loosing my Man Card—I burned that piece of shit long before I began identifying as a queer or a feminist—and all the Guy Rules I’m supposed to follow in order to keep it, and the way in which my refusal to play those games threatens the masculinity of others, and thereby exposes me to the risk of physical and sexual assault.

But my my body?  The flesh which thousands of years worth of mystics and puritans have said that I must despise if I’m ever to touch the divine?  I love it!  The mass and strength of it: the wide shoulders and large hands, and the long, square lines.The warmth and shelter and pleasure I can offer by virtue of my size and above-average core temperature.  All my hair; both that on my head and all the rest. The nipples which serve no purpose save for my pleasure, and being pierced.  The push and pull of penetrating and of being penetrated

It helps that I’m pretty, of course.  But I think I’d like my body even if I weren’t.

And it infuriates me that the value of my flesh—the likelihood that I will be aided by the police, or assaulted by them; the quality of the medical treatment I will receive; my chances of promotion or even employment; and so many other things—depends on the degree to which I conform to the hegemonic expectations of others.  I hate that my ability to survive in the world is dependent on playing into a rigged game that literally kills the losers.[7]  I hate even more that, when I play, the game is stacked in my favor.

All of which is why I have, traditionally, drawn my power from my identity as an outsider, the monstrous Other.  Sadly, though, that game may be played out for me.

My best hope, now, is to discover if I can draw power from from the other game, too.  There is magic in the authority that flows from being perceived as a butch (cis-het) man. I just have to hope that if I’m very clever, maybe I can figure out ways of making certain that my share of that hegemonic current always undercuts the banks of its headwater. And I have to hope that if I’m very lucky and careful, as well, maybe I can do it without being poisoned when I drink from that most bitter well.


1 – Ogden, Daniel. “Binding Spells, Curse Tablets, and Voodoo Dolls in the Greek and Roman Worlds.” Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome. Edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. p.29

2 – A problematic frame that implies there is some validity to the distinctions between gendered clothing, that the “line” I am “crossing” in my dress is in some way real.

3 – Gopinath, Gayatri. Impossible Desires.  Durham: Duke University Press (2005).  You should read it.  It will make you smarter.  It also digs into the way heteronomativity and nationalism are intertwined.  Good stuff.

4 – Ibid. 104

5 – Ibid. 24, 103-13.  Actually, it’s pretty much her core methodology, but these passages are particularly relevant.

6 – In an unrelated note, even if you don’t use a straight razor, I really recommend making the switch to an old school shaving brush and mug with a good organic soap: it’s actually cheaper than chemical shaving cream, works much better, and feels really, really good.

7 – Through race- and class-based differences in health outcomes, a racialized and classist prison industrial system, and institutionalized racial violence in the forms of police brutality and murder, and the unequal enforcement of the death penalty.  There are months of research to be done on this subject, though, so, no: I’m not just going to cherry-pick you some links.  The science is in; do your homework.

Liber Lux: Kia: Addendum

Kia: The absolute freedom which being free is mighty enough to be “reality” and free at any time: therefore is not potential or manifest (except as it’s instant possibility) by ideas of freedom or “means,” but by the Ego being free to receive it, by being free of ideas about it and by not believing. The less said of it (Kia) the less obscure is it. Remember evolution teaches by terrible punishments-that conception is ultimate reality but not
ultimate freedom from evolution.

Spare, Austin Osman.  The Book of Pleasure.

For Mr. Jack Faust.  Very belated, with apologies.

Because Kia did not begin with Peter Carroll.

Failed Enchantment: No Scholarship for Satyr Magos

I don’t often enchant for concrete outcomes.  The fact is that I have most of what I want and need.  My web of influence (and social privilege) and mundane efforts keep things flowing pretty well.  Most of my enchantments are aimed at bolstering that web: my planetary talismans, my safe-travel spells, and my circles of protection.  Every once in a while, though, I do need something specific badly enough that I enchant for it: generally it works; this time it didn’t.

At the end of July I was invited to apply for a “scholarship” (actually a service-based work-study) program offered by my school.  I cut things pretty close last year, and part of the problem was that I couldn’t get all my work-study hours, which the program would guarantee me.  In addition to about a thousand extra dollars to live on each semester, it also offered a stipend for summer work.  I wanted it badly.

As one is supposed to, I did a Tarot spread about the application.  On the one hand the message was clear: yes, I should apply.  On the other hand, the actual outcome was more ambiguous.

IMG_5520

I put in the work on both ends. I was given two weeks from the time I received the invitation to the due date. I busted ass on application, itself, and turned it in on time.   It was a damn good application essay, if I do say so myself.

Aradia and I charged a sigil and fired it off with a seven-day candle.  I then sent that sigil to a few, select, close friends so that they could help charge it, too.

2012-07-29_22-43-09_677

Then I waited.  I was supposed to hear back about my application by the 6th of August.  No word came.  I got caught up in the process of packing, and basically let it go.

I got to Sunrise on the 14th of August.  Still no word had come.  So I walked up to the office and asked.  The email had been sent, they told me.  But, no: I had not been selected for the program.  The application and the spell had failed.

There are a lot of variables here.  Perhaps my application was invalidated for some technical reason I can’t know.  Perhaps the sigils I designed were flawed in some way.  Aradia and I raised energy for the sigils by laughter; perhaps that was not the way to go.  Perhaps passing them off for a boost was a bad idea.  Perhaps they somehow conflicted with other enchantments I have in place to assure my financial solvency.  Perhaps my mistake was as simple as failing to encode a time frame: perhaps I will be selected for the program next year, on the basis of the same application.

A brief consultation with the Tarot—“Why did my spell to receive the scholarship fail?”—produced what you see below….

IMG_5558

…. which basically comes across as pure static.  Obviously, one could interpret this as “you didn’t put the work in”, but …. to the best of my ability to determine, I did.  And the optimist in me wants to try to spit in as, “because something better is in the pipeline.” 

Thoughts or suggestions would be very welcome.

Project Null

Closing one project makes way to begin another.  The next major project in my cue is a study of Chaos Magick.  At Aradia’s suggestion, I have decided to call these experiments Project Null, and tag related blog posts accordingly.  (The Squirrel has pointed out to me that this is somewhat grandios and rediculous, to which I could only respond, “Yes.  And?”

One of the things I learned during the last experiment was that I needed to set more concrete goals.  Here, then, are lists of the sources and resources I am planning to make use of so far.  The reading list will grow longer, and I can only ask for your help with this dear readers: who/what else should I be reading?  Is Frater U.D. worth my time?  Who else was/is iconic and revolutionary in the Chaos Magick movement that I clearly haven’t heard of and simply shouldn’t ignore?

(RE)SOURCES

Carroll, Peter.  Liber Null & Psychonaut.

–. Liber Chaos.

Hine, Phil.  Condensed Chaos.

Mace, Stephen.  Stealing the Fire From Heaven.

Miller, Jason.  Strategic Sorcery.  Blog.

–.  Sorcerer’s Secrets.

Moore, Alan.  Promethea.

Morrison, Grant.  The Invisibles.

–. The Disinformation Speech.

White, Gordon.  Rune Soup.  Blog.

ROADMAP AND GOALS

1) Liber Null.  I’ve gotta start somewhere, and given the contents of my library and Aradia’s, this seems like the best place.  With a little bit of dedication, I should qualify for initiation into the IOT by the time I’m done.

1.1) Liber MMM.  Particularly the meditation and the sigils.  These experiments will continue throughout the project and hopefully beyond.  The first weeks of Project Null will be devoted exclusively to developing a meditation practice—something I’ve never done—and reestablishing my daily banishing practice.

1.1.1) Mind Control.  I will begin by setting aside 5 minutes a day for these mindfulness exercises.  By the end of the year, I want to be capable of minutes of visualization and/or object concentration for 15 or 20 at a stretch three times a week.  This may seem like a low bar.  If it turns out to be, I’ll raise it.

1.1.2) Magic: Banishing and Sigils.  In terms of banishing, I will continue experimenting with daily banishing rituals until I perfect one for my own purposes.  As for sigils, I will begin by firing off at least one shoal of 3-5 sigils every week.  I’m a greedy bastard: there’s at least that much I want in the world. (And if I run out of things I want, I can always start working for others.)

1.1.3) Dreaming.  This art has eluded me for years.  As such I will simply set pursuing it as a goal.  In addition to Carroll, I intend to make use of Frater Acher’s recommendations on the subject.

1.2) Liber Lux, Liber Nox.  Oh, yeah: y’all know I go both ways.  The second and third books of Liber Null are as much theory as practice, and not all of the practice is relevant to me, but I will commit to studying each section and writing about them, and explaining my decisions for those exercises which I choose not to work through.  I intend to have completed my first run through Liber Lux and Liber Nox by the end of October.

1.3) Liber AOM.  This shit is just whak, and much of it irrelevant as someone working reasonably hard to not die any time in the near future.  Still, I’ll spend some time in October and November (assuming I’m on track) exploring these concepts.

2) Psychonaut.  As I work my way through Liber Null, it is my intention to simultaneously work through Psychonaut.  I have already performed the Mass of Chaos, adapting it to dedicate my Chaos altar.  I hope to incorporate the suggestions and contexts provided by Psychonaut to the work of Liber Null.  As such, I intend to post musings on the subjects contained therein, as well as develop my own experiments based on them.  I aim to complete this stage of the work by the end of November.  As with Libri Lux, Nox, and AOM, I will discuss each section, weather it offers me a particular exercise or not.

3. Servitor Creation. The creation and maintenance of servitors is one of the most visible and iconic portions of Chaos Magick. I cannot claim to study the field without at least one experiment in that area. I intend to start with creating a protector-spirit to accompany my house-wards, and to have it “up and running” by the end of November.

4. Analysis and Check-In.  By the end of November, I hope to have made it at least halfway through the above reading list, and added at least as many more to the cue.  From that position of (relatively) greater knowledge, I intend to have a better idea of how to progress specifically.

5. Lovecraftian Magic.  I’ve told you all before about how the first occult book I ever purchased was the “Simon” Necronomicon.  For years I’ve been hearing about Chaos magicians performing invocations of Lovecraftian horrors … hell, once upon a time, it was one of the things that kept me from away from Chaos Magick.  So … now I want to try it.  I don’t know if I’m going to use the Simon or the Donald Tyson version, or play with some weird shit I dig up on the internet.  But there will be Eldrich Horrors.  And I plan to sick them on some senators.

6. Feminism as Chaos Magick.  I first mentioned this project over on G+ and Tumblr.  I want the initiatory essay completed by the end of the semester, and have the project in motion by the beginning of the next semester.

CAVEAT

I’m excited about this project.  I’ve been looking forward to it since the idea first occurred to me.  But I try to be vigilant, and to be wary of my own motivations.  And after a certain amount of soul-searching, I have come to the conclusion that while the ceremonial magic project was good for me, it also gave me a rock-solid excuse to let my personal spiritual practice slide.

When was the last time I encountered Dionysus or his messengers in my journeys?  I have seen Rhea once in the last year.  Even Tsu and ZG don’t show up as often as I’d like.  I’ve thought a lot about the potential implications of conjuring my Natal Genius and Demon, but I haven’t done any magic or divination to explore it.

Project Null has the potential to be the same.  So to help keep myself honest, I’m going to try to post at least once about my personal practice for every two posts about Project Null, not including posts serving double duty.

INVITATION

Aradia and I intend to work through this project together, scheduling our reports to post simultaneously so as to avoid cross-contamination of our experiments.  We cordially invite any interested parties to join in with the Project Null experiment.  If any such parties have blogs of your own, we would love to share the #ProjectNull tag with you.

I can be reached through the comments section of this blog, the ask box at my Tumblr, or even my G+ account.  Aradia can be reached through her blog.

Although I have already begun working with Liber MMM—banishings, motionlessness, and breathing concentration–the official kickoff for the project is Sunday.

Obviously, there must be some uniformity in order for it to really count as a group project: for this first section, that’s working through Liber Null and Psychonaut.  Your own personal goals and interests within that sphere, however, will vary.  Maybe you want to shoot for an hour a day of motionless, thoughtless meditation.  Aradia has no personal interest in Lovecraftian magic.  Some of you (though it breaks my heart to know this) will not care about the Feminism as Chaos Magick project.  As we approach the end of November, we can plot our course for the second “half” of the project together.

This is short notice.  Whatever.  Anyone can joint the project at any time.  If you can’t keep up with the pace we set, or if you think everyone else is moving too slow: go at your own speed.

The Ceremonial Experiment In Summation

I know that my year of studying ceremonial magic (particularly of the Golden Dawn and grimoire traditions) has been a whirlwind tour at best.  How can one cover, in a year, the variations and culminations of two thousand (or more, depending on where you start counting) years of magical tradition and experimentation?  At times I have felt like a child playing with forces I can barely comprehend.

Fuck: the fact of the matter is that I am such a child.  We all are.  I think that the best many of us—particularly those of us with families, jobs, and other “worldly” obligations—can ever dream of achieving is adolescence.  Still, though, if I sit down and enumerate (as I did a bit in my previous posts on the subject) the things I’ve accomplished, it turns out that I’ve made respectable inroads.

In this final post on the subject I want to talk about the resources I accessed in order to make those inroads.  It would have been impossible for me if I weren’t in college, for one: my access to top-notch internet; the moments of down time between classes that were too long to waste but too short to do any real homework; the intellectual ambiance (so radically different from the outside world) that treats spending weeks at a stretch with your nose in obscure data as healthy behavior rather than as dysfunctional.  There’s also the thing about my relative economic privilege which has allowed me to amass (and hoard) my library over the last decade and a half.

Over the course of this project, in approximate chronological order (with some considerations for ease of citation [and comments]) I have read:

Du Quette, Lon Milo.  Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford: Dilettante’s Guie to What You Do and Do Not Need to Know to Become a Qabalist.  San Francisco: Weiser, 2001.  [Gave me the courage to really dig into this project.]

–.  Low Magick.    Woodburry, MN:  Llwellen, 2011.

Penczak, Christopher. Temple of High Witchcraft. Woodburry, MN: Llwellen, 2007. [Solid at first glance, but structurally unsound: lessons begin and end but don’t middle.]

Crowley, Aleister.  Moonchild.

–.  Book of Thoth.  (*)

–.  Book Four.  (*)

Fortune, Dion.  Sea Priestess.

–.  Moon Magick.  York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1978.

Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Magick.  St. Paul, MN: Llwellyn, 1997. (*)  [I see that there’s a new edition out, but it looks hardcore Llwellenized.  Does anyone know if it’s been nerfed as bad as it appears, or if it’s actually still solid?)]

Turner, Robert.  Trans.  Arbatel of Magic

Frater Barrabbas. Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick Volume One: Foundation.  Stafford England: Megalithica Books,2008 (*)  [Explain to me again why people take this guy seriously?]

Agrippa, Cornelius.  Three Books of Occult Philosophy. (*)

Trithemius, Johannes. The  Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  (*)  [So … is he a cryptographer or a magician?  Can someone more expert in these fields help me with this?]

Betz, Hans Deiter (ed.).  The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells.  (*) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.  [I wish I had the brazen gonads needed to do half the magic in this book.]

Warnock, Christopher (trans.). Picatrix. (*) [Working with excerpts provided on his web page and via the Spiritus Mundi group.]

Greer, Mary K. Women of the Golden Dawn: Priestesses and Rebels. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1995.  [Brilliant.  You should read it.]

Books I didn’t make it all the way through are marked with an asterisk(*).  Yes, there’s some novels on there.  I apologize for those citations which are incomplete, especially to the owners of those works, I do not have the print volumes on hand for all the relevant publication data.

And, last but not least, I have been hip-deep in the blogosphere.  Rufus Opus at Head for the Red and Polyphanes the Digital Ambler have provided me with a great deal of information on Hermeticism.  The former operates in a decidedly Christian tradition, while the latter is somewhat more eclectic, and between the two I’ve really been able to get a better view of the mechanics behind the symbolism and ideologies.  Also Aaron Leitch of Annael, who provided me a view of the (sane quarters of the) modern Golden Dawn, a recipe for Abramelin oil (and a process for extracting essential oils in general, which has been great fun), and a few other things.  I should also point to Skyllaros of the Crossroads Companion, because he’s awesome and his work is more accessible to me than that of many other hermetic magicians, but I only discovered him late in the game.

Deserving of special attention and thanks is one mister Jack Faust, of Dionysian Atavism, who has helped me contextualize a lot of these ideas with his very post-modern thoughts on the subject, backed by wonderfully hard archaic sources.  He also gave me a number of personal pointers over email and on G+, for which I am extremely grateful.

Thank you, all of you, for sharing your knowledge and experiences with me.

My “Year” of Ceremonial Study: The View From Month 11 of 12

It occurred to me this evening that the year I set aside to study the Western Ceremonial Tradition will come to an end in fewer than thirty days.  I wrote the first post on my experiments a year ago yesterday.

Holy fuck.

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.

Any recommendations?

 

The Holy Guardian Angel?

The Guardian Angel
The Guardian Angel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

This conversation seems to have been sparked by a post of Jason Miller’s.   If I understand correctly, Rufus Opus sees the entire operation as a Solar initiation.  Jow thinks it’s an awesome act of will, but will move at his own pace thank-you-very-much.  Meanwhile, Skyllaros  gets into some related issues which become relevant as the conversation continues, and the illustrious Frater Acher has shared his thoughts on the topic as well.  Jason weighs in further, addressing his understanding of celestial powers and shiny-red-reset-button-style-initiation.  The conversation (that I have seen so far, anyway), currently concludes with more thoughts by Rufus Opus.

The whole thing, as I said, is fascinating to me.  Although I’ve done some very interesting Solar

19 The Sun
19 The Sun (Photo credit: n0cturbulous)

work, none of it yet qualifies as an initiation[1].  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[2]. 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[3], 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.

Reset
Reset (Photo credit: kokeshi)

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 the King. 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.

Research Survey: Loki and Sexuality/Gender Identity

A dear friend of mine is working on a research project with Norse Pagans—particularly Troth—and the interaction between their relationship with the Trickster and their own sexual and gender identities.  In their own words:

This is a survey to try to determine if there is any correlation between queer identity and the worship/reverence/fulltrui relationship of/with Loki Laufeyjarson.

The link, again, is here.  Please pass this on to anyone to whom you feel it is relevant.

Thoughts on the Stele of Jeu

As I mentioned in my previous post, the more I perform the Stele of Jeu rite, the more subtle the effects seem to be.  Given some of the more extravagant warnings I’ve heard regarding this ritual, this interests me a great deal, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last couple days.

Image May Be Unrelated -- Stone carving of Nike and a warrior offering an egg to a snake.
Image May Be Unrelated (From Wikimedia Commons)

One of the first sources to warn me about the Stele of Jeu was, of all things, Crowley’s Goetia[1], which refers to the rite as the London Papyrus.  According to the editor, the rite (before Crowley made his changes that ultimately produced Liber Semekh) was passed around in Golden Dawn circles as a last-ditch banishing/exorcism rite, to be performed with utmost caution and formality lest one permanently haunt the place where it was performed.  The next was from the gentleman who was kind enough to work me up to my first experiment with the ritual.  His warning, in addition to the above should one go through with a clearly botched performance, related the possibility of one’s life getting broken apart in order to be put back together in a better shape.

My own experience with the ritual, while powerful and transformative, has never quite lived up to the earth-shattering hype.  A commenter on my early experiments reported even less dramatic results.

After some rumination, I’ve come up with a theory.  You see, I’ve actually heard very similar stories about other rituals: the Abramelin Operation, for example; most other methods of contacting one’s HGA/Supernal Assistant; the use of moldavite for the first time.  The common theme in many (though not all) of these stories is that when people whose lives are already fucked do major-fix-magic, their lives get more fucked before they get better.

The GD source who provided the initial warning—with no disrespect intended to modern initiates of those orders—was clearly terrified of dealing with the spirit world in any situation where they did not have absolute control of the circumstances and proceedings.  The source of the second warning tells stories about the Stele of Jeu in ways that sound a lot like it was a part of his formative experiences with magic—which is to say, probably before he got his life in order.

Meanwhile, my commenter complaining of insignificant results has (to the best of my ability to determine from the stories he tells; he may feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken) had his shit together for quite a while.  College done, good job, college loans in order, sophisticated magical practice, already talks with his HGA so often that he complains about not having much to talk about.  There’s nothing there for the Stele of Jeu to fix, let alone break.

When I first performed the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist, my life was already largely in order.  I’ve already been through my Saturn Return.  I’ve already left the job I’d come to hate for higher education in order to pursue a new calling.  I have a regular magical practice that was pretty much at the top if its game.  My biggest problem is the psychic scars left over from all the shit I fucked up when I was a wee faun of a mage.  And, boy howdy, has it ever fixed that shit—but that deserves a post all on its own.

Now, all this evidence is anecdotal.  I’ve only been performing this ritual regularly for about four months now.  I’ve also been having a really hard time doing more than a preliminary study of its history, interpretations, and various effects.  I know that the Order of the Hollow Ones, Jason Miller, and probably countless other groups each have their own variations on the rite (to say nothing of Crowley’s, obviously).  But Jack Faust is one of the very few people I’ve seen talk about the ritual and its effects publically at all; one of the few others can be found at practicaltheurgy.com, but s/he appears to be defunct[2].  The silence of the scholastic community is even more deafening: I’ve only found one or two books which even refer to the rite, outside the PGM itself, and I have not had the opportunity to read them.

Thoughts?


1 – As described by Hymanaeus Beta in his foreword and footnotes to the Illustrated Second Edition of The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King. Weiser: York Beach Main (1995).

2 – Discounting, for my purposes, allusions to the ritual solely as it relates to the Bornless Rite and attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which is clearly not what the PGM ritual is about.