When I set myself to the study of the Western Ceremonial tradition it was largely an intellectual exercise. Yes, I expected to be a more competent and powerful witch/magician by the end of it, but I’d already learned the rudiments of sigils from Chaos magic (which I had largely understood as a subset of the ceremonial tradition, though I now know better) and I didn’t imagine that there would be much that would actually stick with me after the experiments were done. After five months of study, I have come to understand just how little of what I thought I knew about the ceremonial tradition has any basis in reality. Conversely, I have found that my chief concern was fairly well founded: I am fundamentally incompatible with some of the powers it deals with, though not in the ways I had imagined. I have also come to recognize what the ceremonial tradition has to offer me personally: access to planetary Powers.
Various manuals of witchcraft that I have read in the course of my life have come with huge tables of plants, rocks, scents, colors, and their planetary correspondences. But the rationale of those correspondences has never really been explained, nor why the attributions and uses of those correspondences varies so radically from the mythologies and portfolios of the divinities for which the planets have been named. My explorations of ceremonial magic have helped me to understand (for example) why it is that Mars, the planet, has so little to do with Mars, the Roman god of war and the citizen-soldier.
More interestingly, particularly from my perspective as a visionary/shamanic witch looking to delve into that most forbidden of arts known as the evocation of spirits, I have learned of the multitudinous hosts and legions of spirits who make up those planetary Powers. Even if, having acquired some skill at conjuration, I decide that it’s not for me, the names and sigils—phone numbers, as Frater Acher describes them (and I need that book)—will still be useful in seeking out contacts by other means.
Despite my best intentions, I am still having difficulty translating my theoretical studies into actual praxis. This is partly a matter of trying to convert certain patterns into ones I understand, partly a matter of struggling to overcome inertia after having fallen off the horse (so to speak) of daily practice.
I want to begin seeking that thing known as “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” (or, you know, something along those lines, since I don’t quite buy the “guardian angel” part), but I have not yet settled on a particular ritual to that end. The Stele of Jeu? The Bornless Rite? Liber Samekh? (Sure, they’re all variations on the same tune, but I still need to choose one.) Or some other ritual I haven’t found yet, aimed at the same goal? Right now I’m leaning heavily toward the Stele of Jeu. Very heavily.
When I resume pursing the planetary forces themselves, do I continue with the quasi-Golden Dawn route of Penczak’s High Temple? Do I buy RO’s Gate Rites (I’ve been tempted for a while)? Do I go whole-hog and dig into Abremelin? Frustratingly, a lot of these questions would be a lot easier if I were Christian, or at very least if I weren’t energetically incompatible with the Archangels. I really need to get my hands on a copy of the PGM—both translated and not.
I’ll say this much, though: by the time I’m done, there will be a neo-Pagan grimoire for sale somewhere. I can’t be the only one struggling with some of these issues. And maybe, as I continue, I’ll find that someone else has already done this. Maybe I can use their work, maybe I can build on it, and maybe I’ll blow them out of the water. There’s only one way to find out.
A research paper is no stronger than its thesis. Until now, I had been doing no more and no less than preliminary exploration. Now I have more specific aims—my theses, to continue the metaphor: to get in touch with the Planetary forces, Powers, “elementals” (for lack of a better word) and spirits; to craft rites which fit within a neo-Pagan conceptual framework; and to make those experiments available to the public.