Meditative Acts — Research #2: Candles

Aradia and I have been talking about making our own candles for a while now.  In particular, though not necessarily relevant to his conversation, we have some interesting ideas regarding Imbolc and Valentine’s Day and recycling candles to light new fires for the coming year.  So, when I started thinking about devotional meditations, in part inspired by folk saint rituals, it wasn’t much of a leap to DIYing the candles.

Candle making, at its basic, is simple.  You need wax, wicks, and a couple vessels.  A weight for the bottom of the wick is handy.  So’s a clip to hold the wick still while you pour the wax.  You need one vessel to melt the wax in, and another to pour the wax into.  You can add dies, scents, glitter, and a variety of other things to make end result prettier, the process more involved.  And I may do that as I get down the “don’t make a mess” part.

The wax and wicks arrived a couple weeks ago.  In my first test pour I discovered that while the vessels I have to pour the wax into – reused novena candle containers – work just fine, the vessel I have to melt the wax in and pour the wax from – a Pyrex measuring cup – is not quite as large as I need.  The larger wax melting vessel should arrive in the mail today, along with some wick clips just to make life a little easier.

When the wax has cooled, I’ll stick each candle with an image of the divinity to whom it’s being dedicated.  It should surprise y’all none that between my own art and what I’ve found on the internet, I have a lot of devotional to bring to the occasion.

I’m still trying to decide, from a ritual standpoint, whether it’s better to make the candles in advance and come into each week prepared, or to make making the candles the core of the ritual for the first night of each week.  From a logistics standpoint, obviously, it’s easier to make them in advance.  And the candle making doesn’t fit really well into the “meditative acts” frame of this months’ challenge.  I suddenly remember, though, that 4 weeks =/= 30 days.  There’s room for a prologue and an epilogue.  That day at the beginning gives me time to make a lot of candles and keep to framework I’ve already established.

Meditative Acts – Research #1: Contemplation

I have known since September that I wanted to participate in the December Do Magick Challenge.  I know that meditation is one of my greatest weaknesses.  When the full details of the challenge were dropped at the beginning of November, it did not take long for me to settle on the nature of the meditation that I wanted to do.

As I discussed in my previous post, I don’t have much in the way of personal history with prayer.  So it took me a while to figure out what that aspect of it might look like.  In discussing the matter with Aradia, she pointed out that I had been doing weekly-plus offering rituals to the land spirits at the Sunrise Temple and, “What do you think that was?”

Oh.  Yeah.  Duh.

Over the  course of November I also had the opportunity to listen to a couple people talk about their rituals involving folk saints — inevitably, Santa Muerte in particular.  Those rituals tend to revolve around seven day / novena candles.  Now, I’ve spent some time looking for prayer candles with images of my gods.  They’re available, but … wow$er.  I can do that shit myself.  As an added bonus, doing it myself adds significance to the candle.  Plus Aradia and I have been talking about making our own candles for quite some time, anyway.

So, yeah.  That.

Inevitably, given two of the gods I have chosen – Dionysos, Rhea – there will be some pouring of wine.  I can’t decide if Lucifer or Baphomet would prefer coffee … or whiskey.  Whichever way that lands, there will be libations across the board.

Between these three points — Jason Miller’s Rite of General Offering; hand-made novena candles; libations — I think I have the basis of a solid ritual.  I just need to work out the details.

Do Magick Challenge: Meditative Acts – Declaration of Intent

Sitting still is a challenge.  I’m a pacer, a fidgeter.  I tap.  I draw.  I stim.  Stillness makes my skin itch.  My mind whirls in spirals of rage and anxiety.  When I sit down to write, I have to have music or movies going in the background to occupy my monkey brain.  For September’s challenge, I set myself to meditating 30 minutes a day by the end … I didn’t make it.  I capped out at 15, though my previous practice had made it as high as 20.

Prayer is alien.  I was raised with a television sort of Christianity, where prayer was like a desperate bargain, or the sort of thing that puts the “psycho” in psychodrama.  It was an identity marker with no action – as a child, no one I knew personally went to church; as I grew older, the churchgoers I met did not obey they teachings.  My pursuit of magic began in rebellion against that vision of Christianity, of any conception of god or gods which was compatible with such hypocrisy and inaction.  When I eventually began to hear the call of the gods, I had no framework from which to begin that exploration, no context with which to process the experiences I had in seeking them.

For the December challenge, I will be confronting those issues together.  I will be spending the 30 minutes of daily meditation in devotional prayer. I will light a candle, burn incense, pour libations, and say a prayer (or three).  Then I will sit quietly and listen.

As I approach December, I am going back to the Classical Studies section of my research library.  I am beginning by re-reading Dionysos at Large, by Marcel Detienne and Dionysus: Myth and Cult by Walter F Otto.  (Note that both these books have translators.  What is it the Anglophone world has against good Dionysiac research?)  Burkert’s Greek Religion will also feature prominently.  I will post some results from that research in the coming days.

Week 1 – Dionysos, Bakchos, Zagreus, Iachos, Eleutherion

My first love among gods, I literally wrote my undergraduate thesis on Dionysos.  He was there for me at my initiation, and has blessed my drinking and my brewing in abundance.  I have found solace in him when madness took me, his presence grounding me when I was adrift.

And yet, for all that, I have too often felt that he was … aloof from me.  I have never felt the ecstasy that so many feel in his worship.  And this saddens me.  So I will begin my month of devotional meditation with the god who convinced me that gods were cool.  I will devote the week to Dionysos.

I will read ancient hymns.  I will read modern hymns.  I will drink wine.  I will breathe frankincense and myrrh.  And I will sit.  And I will listen.

Week 2 – Baphomet Thanateros

I have been drawn to the image of Baphomet since very early in my magical practice.  The first magical book I ever bought was Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic, with his iconic image of Baphomet on the cover and frontspiece.  I found him in occult-themed art on the internet, was drawn to the implicit bisexuality of his hermaphroditism.  I met him again, more formally, when I began studying Chaos Magick and performed the Rite of Chaos B.  He calls to me.  Sometimes I know how to answer.

It’s worth noting that I say “he” as a matter of grammatical convenience.  I see myself in Baphomet: a combination of genders and a rejection of them.  He.  She.  Xie.  All of the above and none of the above.

As far as research for this section goes, I don’t know what there is to be done in that direction, really.  Baphomet is … sort of a new god.  Half-formed.  Or perhaps re-emerging with a new face and name.  I will be digging up modern prayers to him, of course, including my own.  And art.

I will begin my devotions by returning to the Mass of Chaos B, re-dedicating the mask that has served as his idol on my alter, and awakening the statue I have just purchased.  Then I will continue with devotional candles and libations and fumigations.  And listening.  So much listening.

Week 3 – Whoever is calling me from that Luciferian current

Like most of us who got our start in eclectic Wicca, I swallowed a double dose of respectability politics and was always leery of anything that smacked of Satanism.  And yet … sometimes I hear that call.  One year, while I was away at college and keeping the Sunrise Temple, I got a song stuck in my head.  That doesn’t happen to me.  Except there it was, for a fucking month.

The day I acknowledged that it was Someone calling to me, the song went away.

The call began again when I returned to Kansas City.  In particular, it returned when I heard Peter Grey speak of Lucifer Princeps on the Rune Soup podcast.  It was slow building, at first, but peaked in July.  I’ve wanted to answer the call, I’ve promised myself and the world that I would … but I haven’t really known how.

In all honesty, I don’t know who, exactly, it is that’s calling me.  I’m hoping that if I sit still and listen, they’ll let me know.  Is it that Lucifer, arch nemesis of That One God?  Is it Malek Taus, as suggested by a particular divination earlier this year?  Is it some underlying emanation of the Promethean current that runs between them?  Some other figure I cannot even name?

This section will be the hardest to research.  How do you even start?  I will be acquiring Lucifer Princeps.  A friend has offered me her copy of Evolutionary Witchcraft, though we have not managed to connect since then.

Week 4 – She Below

The first deity I made contact with was not one I went looking for.  That encounter, and those that have followed, have haunted me at times.  Rhea, along with Dionysus, made her presence known at my initiation.  I have kept her on my altar for years, I have attempted to recruit for her.  But I have never … followed through the way I should have.

Above and beyond the simple need to continue the work, there is also the lingering damage done to me by the ceremonial experiment.  My Gnostic experiments are fruitful, and valuable, but they remain tied to the same reified astrotheology that burned me out.  I can’t just live in my head and in the Void.

Witchcraft is on the earth, of the earth, and below the earth.  I need the earth.  I need to stay grounded, and visceral, and alive.  I need that first goddess who reached out to me from Below.

The research for this oddly both among the most and least difficult.  Little is known about her cult, save for the incarnation favored by the Roman Imperial elite.  Much of what is known is contaminated by 19th century archaeology.  At the same time, though, there are through lines between the cult practices of the Theoi, and Dionysus is her initiate … I cannot imagine that she will refuse the rites he accepts.

I will light candles.  I will pour libations.  I will burn offerings.  I will read hymns both ancient and modern.  And I will sit.  And I will listen.

 

Do Magick Challenge: Beginner’s Mind Master Post

In the Beginning

I have intended to participate in Andrieh Vittimus’ Do Magick Challenge for some time.  My tendency to lose months at a time has resulted in me checking the web page days into each challenge and having missed the research period several times, now.  Including this month, actually, but Jason and Andrieh made it clear on the podcast that one could join at any time this month.  And so I did, posting my Statement of Intent on the second day of September and diving in head first.  I set myself a number of goals: daily meditation; magickal art three days a week; conjuring the Spirit Bune; and, finally and most importantly, the rediscovery of my sense of magical play.

Week One

On the first week, I opened strong.  On Day One, I sat down to meditate for the first time in weeks — it had been perhaps months, actually, since I last mediated outside the Esbat circle.  On Day Two I performed Andrieh’s Baphomet ritual, and then confronted the reality that the mundane world changes at its own pace.  On Day Three I made my first serious efforts at my goal to do more magical art, devoting hours to my Mask of Venus, then spent the evening in Esbat rituals attempting to rid myself of baleful influences.  On Day Four I did more magical art — working on both the Venus Mask and a number of apotropaic jewelry designs — and made myself a charm against the evil eye.  On Day Five I continued my mask-making and escalated my mediation practice.  On Days Six and Seven I coasted, only meditating, but I began to notice changes in my dreaming.  Additionally, on Day Seven Aradia began joining me for meditation.

Despite resting on my laurels the last two days, I feel like the first week was a success.  I did a lot of magic and a lot of art.  Coming from practically no meditation to meditating daily is an intense lifestyle change.  The depression and anxiety that plagued me before beginning the project did not, of course, vanish immediately.  In fact — an upside to journaling, I guess — they initially got worse.

Week Two

In the second week, Aradia and I added planetary invocations to our daily work, immediately before nightly meditations.  Days Eight, Nine, and Ten were slow days for most of my goals, but I continued to escalate my meditation times slowly and escalated the planetary magic from previous versions of our ritual by reading both the Thomas Tayor and Apostolos Athanassakis translations.  On Day Eleven I returned to my masks, and did some divination to help me decide how I wished to approach the spirit Bune, and on Day Twelve I went through with that conjuration.  Day Thirteen was meditation only and on Day Fourteen I strung myself a necklace for my Baphomet pendant but missed my daily meditation.

In this second week I continued to increase my daily meditation time and, in doing so, I began discerning changes in my energetic body.  I also particularly struggled to balance my mundane and magical lives.  I made my three days of magical arts and crafts, and achieved my goal of conjuring the Goetic spirit Bune, but failed at my goal of daily meditation.

 

Week Three

In the third week, my physical health failed me.  Day Fifteen was exhausting, and I barely managed my daily routine.  On Day Sixteen I turned a museum trip with my mother into a magical experiment, examining mummies with a magical eye, then collapsed onto the couch for the next two days (17, 18), though I was able to resume meditation and planetary rituals on Day Eighteen.  On Day Nineteen, I was feeling mostly better and went through with teaching a class on using the Classical Planets as a source of power for freeform energywork.  On Day Twenty I collapsed again, sicker than I had been yet; I went into work then needed someone else to drive me home.  On Day Twenty One I called in sick and spent the day on my couch, working on magical jewelry designs.

I managed only one day of magical art and missed a second day of meditation.

 

Week Four

I did my best to come back strong in week four, but my total collapse in week three left both me and my house in serious disarray.  It was struggle to resume even daily planetary rituals and meditation, let alone my loftier goals.  In retrospect, I pushed myself too hard, because I wasn’t really fully myself again until Day 28.

On Day Twenty Two I managed 22 minutes of meditation.  This would prove to be the peak.  It was also the second day in a row when I experienced intense sensory non-sequiturs.  See the daily records for details.  On Day Twenty Three I experimented with adding the Qabalistic cross and pentagram banishing to my daily rituals.  On Day Twenty Four I began designing and constructing a new set of house wards.  That night I gave up on my goal of escalating to 30 minutes of meditation by the end of the month and began setting my timer for 15 minutes.  On Day Twenty Five I decided to fumigate the house to clear out any lingering bad vibes.  On Day Twenty Six I meditated only, and on Day Twenty Seven I managed only my planetary ritual and meditation.  On Day Twenty Eight I succeeded in tracing an amulet gifted to me to a particular grimoire,

Overall, in that week I succeeded only at meditating daily.

Denouement

On Days Twenty Nine and Thirty, I concluded my Beginner’s Mind experiment by erecting the first two layers of my new household protective wards, invoking the Sun and Moon by Taylor’s Orphic Hymns and empowering the talismans with Picatrix invocations.  I meditated fifteen minutes each night.

In theory, I wanted to end the month of magic with a bang.  In the moment, though, I was just glad to have made it through.

In Conclusion

At the beginning of September, I chose a particular (broad) interperetation of the Beginner’s Mind challenge.  Where others cracked open grimoires,  or sought to master various forms of divination, I sought to reclaim a portion of my own mind.  Over the course of several previous magical experiments and programs, I have painted myself into various corners.  I miss the enthusiasm with which I once pursued and practiced the magical arts.  To that end, as detailed above, I set myself a number of smaller challenges.

I challenged myself to meditate daily, starting at five minutes and escalating to thirty.  I … mostly succeeded.  I meditated 28/30 days.  One day I missed in favor of a hot date.  One day I missed because I was sick as fuck.  I ultimately capped out at 22 minutes of meditation, then settled for a more achievable goal of 15 minutes.

I challenged myself to work on magical art three days a week.  I succeeded at that for the first two weeks, but failed abominably in the second two.

I challenged myself to conjure the spirit Bune.  I did so.  That conjuration has yet to receive results, but so far the spirit contact has proved positive and potentially fruitful.

I challenged myself to follow my magical whims.  They proved less, well, whimsical than I had imagined they might, but overwhelmingly succeeded in this.  I can recall only one whim I did not follow through on, and that was because the particular school of thought I wished to apply to a situation proved inapplicable in that moment, and then I forgot about it before the opportune moment arose.

All this with the ultimate goal of reclaiming my magical practice.  Of finding the fun back.  In that, I think, I succeeded.  I no longer feel so constrained by the schools of thought I have studied.  I feel like my magic is my own again.  And I’m excited to move forward with my art and experiments.

I am also reminded very viscerally of the value of daily meditation.  At the beginning of September, I was a depressed and anxious mess, despite how objectively awesome my life is.  During the first week, perhaps slowing down to confront those feelings, I actually fell down a little further.  In the weeks since, however, despite the physical illness I suffered in week three, I’m feeling incredibly better emotionally.  We can see some evidence of this, in fact, in this and my previous blog post.  I’m actually writing again, something I hadn’t done in a while.

The Do Magick Challenge came with its own requirements, chief among them daily public journaling.  The value of that has been demonstrated what I should have already known, which is the value of such journaling.   I don’t wish to spam my followers (or continue the particular self-censorship public journaling requires), so I must now challenge myself to do one of the important sorcerer’s tasks I have never quite managed before.

And with all this written up, I now look forward to the next Do Magick Challenge.  I’ll try not to be a stranger here in the interim.