Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Boundary of Limitations - Times of Transition

This is another autobiographical piece, so you have been warned!

I can easily divide the history of my magickal and spiritual life into almost separate and distinct epochs. Each of these epochs begins with a major breakthrough, followed by a  subsequent period of rapid development and growth, and then there’s a period, sometimes long or short, where I reach a plateau. The plateau period is where nothing much new is discovered and my development tapers off to a kind of stasis. It represents a time where I have gone as far as I can with the knowledge that I have acquired, and that to go any further will require yet another breakthrough. Those times where not much is happening have been sources of frustration and even deep and personal angst for me, since I can sense that there are changing times just around the corner, I just don’t know when or how. I call these points of change “nexus points,” and often, divination will not help me to see around that corner. Instead, what I see are multiple choices and branching pathways, where each choice will have a powerful impact on what happens next and the direction that I would go.

Liminal events are painful and difficult for me because I have always been a person who has anticipated the future too much, and I have not appreciated those times where there was too little action. They were those mysterious points in life where one should engage in reflection and introspection, and until I matured, I had little time for them. I guess you could say that I have been in too much of a damn hurry to get to the next chapter in my life without fully appreciating and understanding the current chapter. Of course, passing the point in life of middle age has profoundly changed that bad habit, but when I was young, it was a powerful dynamic constantly operating in my life. Since physical decline and death are very much the next major events in my future life, I am not in any hurry to encounter and experience them. In fact, I find myself wanting to slow down the process of time so I can fully taste and realize the goodness and preciousness of life. I am not in a hurry to die just yet!

One of the must difficult and excruciating liminal periods that I had to undergo was the time just before I joined and became an initiated member of the Coven from Hell. We are talking about the year 1975, and the liminal period lasted almost the whole year. I had just completed some pretty amazing adventures, having traveled to Colorado, lived briefly in the Rockies, and then ended up in southern California. From there, I traveled to Oregon, living in the Mt. Hood National Forest Reserve until I was forced to return home in the autumn. I had left my parent’s home in the early summer, full of hope and promise, and returned in the autumn, fairly defeated by circumstances. You can find that entire time encapsulated in a previously written article here, which contains many tales of wisdom and folly, with an emphasis on folly.

My life as a great magician, witch and occultist, destined for truly amazing things fell completely flat. My super-sized ego imploded, and I was left to pick up the pieces - it took me an entire year to recover. So 1975 was a time of attempting to determine my life’s path and figure out what I should do with myself, since fortune and fate had not granted me the great legacy and masterful role in the world that I had imagined was going to be bestowed upon me. I had come back down to earth, and it wasn’t a soft landing, either. Having lost the faith of my father by getting kicked out of the Navy, I felt myself set adrift. As a twenty year old man without any prospects, I needed to figure out what to do with myself very quickly, because I was soon approaching the age where I would have to fend for myself. So I had started to go back to school, and found that I was actually smart enough to get some decent grades. This was a fairly encouraging sign to me.

That year, my father got a major promotion from his company, which required that he move to the Milwaukee area from his home in Racine. My brother and sister had both moved out of the house a couple of years previously, so I was the only adult child left. Since I was available and without prospects, I helped my parents move from the house that I had grown up in to a house newly built in Hartland, Wisconsin. This new house was located in a recently built subdivision, all pristine and newly constructed, and located in what was becoming a bedroom community for the Milwaukee metro area. Even so, I was far from my friends in Racine and living in the countryside of Waukeshau county. The town of Hartland was quite small, and the local youth had no interest in my occult proclivities. I was ripped away from whatever few friends and community that I had left, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I had been given my grandparent’s old ‘62 Chevy Impala, I think that I would have fared very poorly. As it was, I had to look for another school, and decided to try my luck at the local university in Milwaukee. All of these changes were happening to me, but little was really changing inside of me.

My two good and close friends, Cathy and Mark, who had become so important in my life when I had ended my friendship with Bob, decided to live together. They rented a large flat that had been converted from an old farm house in the countryside just outside of Racine, and it was there that we all decided to dedicate one of their rooms for the purpose of working magick. We decorated the room with a lot of the equipment and materials that I had acquired from my years of working ritual magick and witchcraft, and in that wonderful place far from the eyes of any parental figures, we were able to work magick undisturbed. At that time, I had assembled everything that I had discovered or invented in regards to working forms of simple magick, and wrote it up in a blank book, full of illustrations and even a few photographs. I believe that Cathy and Mark got their own copies as well. Oddly enough, I still have that book, which at the time, I had called my Book of Shadows, although it was really the prototype of a simple grimoire for ritual magick. This book represented everything that I knew at the time about magick and the occult, which was not very much. I realized that I had achieved everything that I could with what I had in terms of books and life experience, and that additional books didn’t seem to add anything further. I was, in a word, stagnating.

We practiced magick together that summer and our friendship seemed to really forge strong bonds between us, at least for a short time. I was the odd man out, since I had not been able to find any young woman who wanted to engage with me in these workings, try as I did to find such a one. I discovered that my close friendship to Cathy was becoming more than just a platonic interest, and I guess you could say that I was starting to fancy her. That shouldn’t be too surprising, since she was attractive, and my brain at the time was rather testosterone soaked. Mark seemed oblivious, or at least too faithful of a friend, to notice. It got more uncomfortable for me after short time, and I began to see them less, especially after I moved away. I didn’t want to betray my friendship with Mark over my carnal interests in Cathy, and besides, I thought that it had more to do with my inability to find a girlfriend for myself. So I would occasionally come to visit, and then we would work magick together. I might stay a couple of days, then get restless and perturbed, and leave. Traveling seemed to sooth my inner beast, and I engaged in a lot of traveling around. I had found a job as a security guard, and it paid enough to keep me in pocket money and gas for my car, so I was pretty much free to come and go, and I did just that. As the summer progressed, I became more and more restless - things weren’t happening or changing fast enough for me. I was a tough person to be around, so I didn’t hang around very long with anyone. 

As the year progressed, I could sense that events were coming to an important threshold. In the autumn, I started school as a college freshman, was working nights as a security guard on weekends, so there was less time for me to travel to Racine. I lost touch with Mark and Cathy for a while, since they had moved further away to nicer house in the countryside between Kenosha and Racine. I was too busy and too self-absorbed to care about my receding friendship with them, and I was meeting a lot of new people to occupy my time. Even though I experiencing a lot of new things, still, my knowledge and ability to work magick remained grounded in what I knew.

Even the level of energy that I had previously experienced in my magick seemed to drop to levels where I was hardly stimulated any more. I often meditated and prayed to the Goddess to help me find a way out of this terrible slump, but it seemed that my prayers were unheard. I felt no contact with the Goddess at that time, or any kind of contact with any spiritual entity. It was as if the well of occult possibilities and inspiration had dried up, and nothing I did was either satisfactory or inspiring. What made this period of stasis bearable was the fact that I was in a completely new environment meeting new people and learning new things in college. Yet I remained very restless and disconnected from everything, much to the annoyance of those who had to deal with me.

Mark and Cathy were moving on with their lives as well. They had some new friends, who at least were more mature and sane than I was at the time. I can remember accompanying them to see a couple of their new friends, a slightly older married couple. That evening I recalled smoking some really powerful weed and then being turned on to the music of Aphrodite’s Child. I listened to the second track of their album, “666” and I was completely blown away by it. It was the tune, “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” and even though I was not a Christian, I was able to immediately relate to the music, sensing that it was an omen that something revelatory was going to happen to me very soon. I can imagine that my self-absorbed fascination with that tune, and my obvious and unusual occult discussions about it were not well received by my hosts.

Later, I got an earful from Cathy and Mark about how inappropriately I was behaving. I paid them no attention, as the tune from that album was echoing inside my head for days. I soon had to go and immediately buy a copy of that album! It was one of those comical and desperate scenes, where I jumped out of my car at a stop light in the middle of traffic, turned over the driving to a girl friend (named Mary-Jo) who was sitting in the passenger seat, and ran into the store to make the purchase just before it closed. Poor Mary-Jo had to quickly take over driving the car when the light turned green and go around the block a couple of times before I got out of the store with my acquisition. That was the kind of frenetic maniac that I could be if obsessed with something or someone. I was kind of scary in a chaotic and mostly harmless, stupid fashion. 

My dreams at this time were very vivid, and I could sense that something momentous was coming, but still, all during the autumn months, nothing happened. I was also discovering that my choice of being an engineering major was quite unsatisfactory. I had an insatiable hunger for knowledge like I had never had before, so I ended up spending hours in the vast university library, reading over books and materials that had nothing to do with my actual assignments and studies. I must have read over a hundred books at that time, and re-read books I already had read. Some of my reading passions were books written by Joseph Campbell, especially the book “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” From it I began to deduce that the cycle of initiation was analogous to the 22 Tarot Trumps. At this time, my magick was strongly influenced by pop psychology, anthropology and paranormal studies, basic Qabbalah, basic witchcraft, the writings of Carlos Casteneda, and a book written by John Allegro, entitled “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.” I also had my own personal and supposed Atlantean system of magick, which I had created completely out of my own febrile imagination. It was quite an interesting mixture of bits and pieces.

As an ardent seeker for any occult possibility, I found myself attracted to a poster advertising that someone was putting together a local “nest” for the Church of All Worlds. I went to meet the couple who were putting this group together, and I ended up hanging out with them on occasions for a month or two. It was through them that I managed to find and track down an Alexandrian coven. The leader of that proto-nest (whose name was Larry) sought to modify my behavior and even change my image, taking me to task for habitually wearing a white t-shirt under my sports shirt, and basically dressing up in an overly nerdy fashion. After purchasing some new clothes, I started to look more interesting, hip and cool. Still, I soon got tired of the Church of All Worlds nest, since it seemed that the leader had formed this group just so he could smoke a lot of dope and have sex with young college girls. His wife was obviously into it for the same reason. I quickly realized that what they were doing just wasn’t what I was looking for, so I continued my search. I am sure that my sudden departure was quite annoying to them both, but then I was looking for people who really wanted to work magick and witchcraft, and had little time for anything or anyone else.

Near the end of my first term, I finally made contact with the only Alexandrian coven in the town of Milwaukee. I had met the high priest and high priestess previously in around November, and began a brief period of getting to know them. When I met them at an open Solstice party, I asked if I could seek initiation and training from them, and perhaps join their coven. I was told that the elder coven was closed, but they had recently opened a training coven which might suit my interests. I felt really connected to them, and got to visit them on my birthday in early January. I brought some of my magickal equipment and ritual papers and sought to convince them (if they had any doubts) that I already knew a lot about magick and witchcraft, and that I would be a good student and member of their group.

By this time I had begun to derive the ritual construct of the vortex (as the companion structure to the cone of power) and a few other formulations that mirrored some of what Christopher and Alexandria were already doing. I told them about my ideas, and they immediately understood what I was talking about. I think that they needed little convincing, since they had already felt quite good about me and saw a great deal of merit in what I had already accomplished. They invited me to attend a full moon Esbat in January (likely the 17th or 18th). I had a truly fantastic time at that gathering, and experienced a truly awesome emotional impact from the magickal power raised and the presence of deity. The intensity of what I experienced was greater than what I had ever felt before.

Afterwards, the coven voted unanimously to let me be initiated into the group, and my initiation was quickly scheduled for the next Sabbat, which was Imbolc or Candlemas (a traditional time for initiations). My initiation was beyond anything that I had ever experienced before, and I had finally found a group of people who would be my peers as well as mentors and teachers. In a very short period of time, many of the pieces of my own occult puzzle seemed to just slip into place. At long last, I realized that I had crossed the threshold into the next phase of occult ascendency. I thought that I would be able to realize all of the mysteries and become a true master myself in the not so distant future. I also wasn’t too selfish about what I had discovered either, since I readily recruited my two old friends, Cathy and Mark, to join this group.

Little did I know that I had just unwittingly joined what would become for me, the Coven from Hell. My High Priest was Bill Schnoebelen, who called himself Christopher Syn, and his wife Sharon, who called herself Alexandria Pendragon, was my High Priestess. It turned out to be the greatest occult adventure that I ever had, at least for a year or two, and during that time I had achieved all three of the degrees in my tradition. Yet after that golden time, things started to become really strange and unpleasant, and then later, I was exposed to true evil. I did manage to escape that group with my integrity and creativity intact, but I was tainted with a guilty conscience and the knowledge that I had behaved badly with those who had trusted and believed in me.

All of this is another story, and one that I have already told in great detail. However, I will always remember that summer when I worked magick with my two good friends and pined for better days. What a fool I was, but at least I was only burdened with the foolishness of youth.

Since those times, I have never experienced a prolonged period of stasis or a stagnant plateau in my development. At some point after I left the Coven from Hell, I managed to make some important inner plane connections, and these have served me very well ever since. I feel lucky that my spiritual and magickal life during all of the intervening years has not been either staid, boring or unchallenging. But when I do feel restless or too eager for results, I just remember that other time many years ago, when my desires for power and spiritual glory led me to a four year stint in the underworld of lost initiatory souls - the Coven from Hell. Such a trip down memory lane is very sobering and a good object lesson to ponder.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. You should think about turning these autobiographical posts into a book. One of Lon Milo DuQuette's best sellers for many years has been My Life With The Spirits and like him you certainly have done a lot of interesting stuff over the course of your life. You also could adapt a lot of what you've already published here on the blog.

  2. What a fascinating story ! It's true that a new Odyssey can be written out of every man's (woman's) deeds. As to Aphrodite's child, I'm not sure if it's becuse of nationality bias, I do love them, especially their '666' album. I always wonder if their single 'Infinity' has ever been performed in pagan/witch circles.

  3. Thanks for the comments - I am actually accumulating these stories into a biography of myself, but I am hoping that the best parts are yet to come.