We are fast approaching the Vernal Equinox, and once again, I will be giving a lecture at the Minneapolis Paganicon convention. This time I will be giving a presentation entitled “Egyptian Mysteries: Am Duat and the Cycle of Life and Death.” I have put together a PowerPoint presentation deck and will be doing both a lecture and presentation about how the Egyptian Book of the Amduat was the unwitting precursor to the Tarot Trump based Hero’s Journey, not be confused with the Fool’s Journey.
I have long stated that the Hero’s Monomyth, based on Joseph Campbell’s book “Hero with a Thousand Faces” is the pattern for all transformative initiations, and that it aligns with the Cosmogonic cycle. The Monomyth has 17 stages, and the Cosmogonic has five, and that when jointed together it becomes the consummate transformative cycle that can profoundly change an individual as well as an entire society. The merging of the Hero’s individual cycle and the Cosmogonic cycle (17 + 5) is also represented by the 22 Trumps of the Tarot. The Egyptians proposed this joining of the individual and cosmogonic cycles in the Book of the Amduat, which they graphically illustrated in New Kingdom sarcophagus chambers of the Pharaohs, starting with Thutmose III, the first of the great empire building pharaohs.
While it is probably unlikely that this book, in its various renditions and versions, found its way into the occultism of Europe, it is intriguing to speculate whether or not the idea of the merging the individual cycle of transformation and the cosmogonic cycle may have had an Egyptian source. These underworld books continued to be a part of the mortuary literature even up to the Ptolemaic period, and could have been incorporated into the Isian Greco-Roman cult. There is no evidence for this claim, so we can’t make it. However, it is interesting to see this as a possibility, thereby making true Aleister Crowley’s claim that the Tarot was actually the mythic “Book of Thoth” whose magic and revelations of the mysteries of life and death would given immortality to whoever possessed it and knew how to employ its magical powers.
I will be giving this presentation on Sunday, at 2:45 pm at Paganicon. The actual room is to be determined, but if you are in town you might want to attend this presentation. I think that it is a good and thought provoking lecture. We will also take a tour through the 12 hours of the Book of Amduat as it is depicted in Thutmose’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. I was also lucky enough to see a mock up of this section of the tomb at a traveling museum show at the Milwaukee County Museum back in 2004. I have been deeply fascinated and intrigued with this graphic presentation of the Amduat ever since I saw it in that traveling show.
Additionally, I have recently written up a ritual that uses the transformative theme of the 12 hours of the Amduat to enact a powerful and decisive uncrossing ritual. The idea is that to undergo the transformation of the sun god Ra and his regeneration through the power of Osiris, the magician can break through any blockages or resistance to achieving a specific goal in one’s life path.
Here is the preamble to the ritual text.
“This ritual is powerful enough to overcome all obstructions (intimate and external) and thereby performs a kind of grand uncrossing spell that helps the practitioner to break free and to see his or her way to a final resolution of any matter. Therefore, this rite should be performed only after much soul-searching and internal investigation, and then the celebrant would be advised to put as much preparation and effort into the rite as possible.
However, it would also be wise to thoroughly understand the nature of the blockage and then to encapsulate it with a consecrated and charged sigil, which would be taken with the seeker through the ritual passage. This rite uses the Egyptian underworld passage of the 12 hours of the Amduat, which is a simultaneous merging of the cosmogonic and individual transformative cycle. It is the mythic theme used to break through any and all obstructions to achieve its goal, just as the Sun God Ra does every evening when he seeks to be reborn and regenerated to bring forth a new day. This theme was the basic pattern of the underworld passage whereby an individual could become one of the divine ancestors by following the pattern of the Sun God himself.
The Egyptian Underworld Ascension rite is divided into three basic sections. The first section is a simple Western oriented gateway consisting of three points that opens the celebrant to the underworld. The second section consists of an inverted pyramid representing the five trials of the underworld that must be overcome so that a successful regeneration and rebirth might occur. The inverted pyramid is a vortex structure, since all four nodes of the four watchtowers are joined together at the nadir/infrapoint, and the structure is built using a widdershins transit.
The third and final section is the Eastern Gate, which represents the hours leading up to the ascendancy of the Sun and the ‘coming forth by day.’ The Eastern gateway has four points instead of three, with the zenith/ultrapoint functioning as a tetrahedral gate where the sunrise appears at the apex. There are 3 points in the first section, 5 in the second and 4 in the last, representing a total of 12 points, which allots one point for each hour of the Amduat.
Each of the Amduat hours is characterized by the hours of the thematic passage along with 16 of the 32 decan gods. Since a decan hour lasts approximately 40 minutes according to ancient Egyptian night-time stellar plotting, each Amduat hour has at least one decan, and every other hour has two. Thus, three decans together equal two hours exactly (40 * 3 = 60 * 2 = 120). This also means that the even numbered hours have two decan godheads, and the odd numbered hours have just one, making for 16 overall. Double decans use a pylon structure to unite them, thus producing a very interesting and elegant ritual structure.
The western gateway has one pylon in the West, the inverted pyramid has three pylons - the East, West and center. And the tetrahedral Eastern gateway has two pylons in the Southwest and Northwest angles, respectively. The pylons add a certain elegance to the overall ritual structure, allowing for the unequal proportion of decan hours to actual hours.”
I haven’t had a chance to work this ritual, but it is on my list to perform in the very near future. Things have been so very busy for me since the Solstice holiday that I haven’t had a lot of time to engage in my magical work. While that might be so, I have been involved with some very heavy and intense training classes on Zen Buddhism given at the local Zendo by two individuals who I have come to see as quite brilliant and accomplished in their own path. They have between them around 90 years of experience, and had studied and worked closely with the Zen master Dainin Katagiri Roshi while he was alive. I am, to say the least, quite impressed with both of these teachers, but I will write more about them and my studies in a future article.
Anyway, if you can get to Paganicon and attend, then I hope to see you there. I will have copies of my newest book, and you can purchase an autographed copy from me there.
Now that I have more or less recovered from my eye surgery, I can finally get back to the business of writing articles in my blog. I have been absent since late December, and quite a lot has been going on since then, both from the standpoint of the occult, politics and my life situation. Hopefully, I will have time to write up on these and many other topics in the weeks to come. Not being able to read for more than a week, and not being able to perform much in the way of extracurricular writing (outside of work) has been quite difficult for me to manage and quietly accommodate. I love to read and write, but for nearly a month I had to keep my writing to a minimum to give my eyes a chance to fully recover, and not subject them overly to eye strain. Now that I have passed that period of recovery, I can fully pursue my writing tasks.
After the holidays, and in the middle January, my book project, “Spirit Conjuring for Witches: Magical Evocation Simplified” was at long last published. I got my printed copies around that time, and the book was released a week or so later, well before the February 8 launch date. I have been quite pleased with the book so far, and so have others who have read it and posted reviews. You can find this book on Amazon here.
The user named Jeannot left a very helpful and good review on Amazon, and it was the very first review. Here is what she had to say:
“Let's start off with a basic preliminary statement: this book is not for beginning magical practitioners in the way of providing magical tech; in that sense, it is geared more for intermediate practitioners. That said, this book is excellent at giving beginners goals to aspire to.
Frater Barrabbas does a fascinating and excellent job of reintegrating the concept of the witch's familiar into modern practice, putting it in a modern context with roots going back beyond Medieval and Early Modern European incarnations of the spirit helper. He relates it to the "head gods" of African Traditional Religions (ATRs) and the various spirit helpers of the PGM, or Greek Magical Papyri. For those who are willing to put in the work, I'm sure this book will provide much fruit.
This book stands with the work of Gordon White, Jake Stratton-Kent, and Peter Grey. Frater Barrabbas provides a witchcraft that is vital, active, and local, capable of functioning in the witch's immediate environment.”
Being compared to Gordon White, Jake Stratton-Kent or Peter Grey is quite complimentary, although I consider them to be authors who have written books quite beyond what I set out to do with this book. I guess the most important question that one might have about this book has less to do with the material within than for the motivation for me to write it. Why did I write this book? Is it yet another book proposing that Witches adopt the practices and methodologies of the Ceremonial Magician? Well, the answer to that is no, it was not my intention to sell the techniques and methodologies in use by either ceremonial magicians or traditional practitioners of magic as found in the old grimoires. This book was written by a Witch, practicing ritual magic, for other Witches who would wish to also practice this kind of magic. It was not written for either ceremonial magicians nor was it written for the traditional magicians who utilize the old grimoires.
What I am proposing in this book is a system of magic that is distinctly Witchcraft based and not outside of what might be considered the magical practices of that modern tradition. I wrote this book for modern Witches and Wiccans, and my purpose was to introduce to them the practices and techniques already inherent in their traditions to formally summon and manifest spirits. My aim was to help Witches adopt the spirit model of magic and fully develop it as a mainstay of their tradition. It is my hope that this book will start a new wave of Witchcraft magic that will stay abreast of other cutting edge magical traditions. I wanted Witches to expand beyond thaumaturgy and using the simple constructs of the energy model of magic to reach their true potential as magical practitioners, emulating the capabilities and legendary deeds of the mythic Witches of folklore and antiquity. However, I wanted them to use the features and components of their existing traditional modern lore to accomplish this end.
As an observer of modern Witchcraft and Wicca magic, I have noted that these traditions relied too much on one or two models of magic, and that the spirit model was only partially active in these magical practices. One of the reasons that I gave for this lack of a formal system of performing an invocation or an evocation is that such rites and techniques are not to be found in the traditional Book of Shadows, as witnessed by my own Gardnerian third generation BoS. While it is true that old Gerald, to a lesser extent, and Alex Sanders, to a greater extent, practiced grimoire based magic, none of that lore was ever formalized to become part of the tradition of Witchcraft. The closest thing that I have found so far that approached a grimoire based magical type of working was the Vassago goetic demon evocation and scrying session found in the book “Mastering Witchcraft,” and no where else it is so plainly promoted. I had once thought that Paul Huson’s book would have become the basis or the foundation for a deeper form of magical workings, but if it did, that fact was not absorbed into the tradition and passed on. It remained, like the grimoire workings of old Gerald and Alex, an outlier to the practice of modern Witchcraft.
Needless to say, the book “Mastering Witchcraft” and others like it didn’t propose a comprehensive and formal system of invocation and evocation, so the spirit model of magic was never really a part of traditional modern Witchcraft. It never really caught on, probably because in order to be adopted, it would have required some rather major changes to the practice and celebration of Witchcraft. As a system of magic, the spirit model doesn’t lend itself easily to coven based magic. For instance, if a coven were to perform a goetic evocation then only one individual would actually do the work and the others would function as helpers or just witnesses. Since everyone who practices magic has different capabilities, it is possible that while the leader performing the rite would be in full possession of her skills and abilities as a Witch, others might not get as much out of the rite. Being able to translate and assimilate spirit contact is something that has to be learned and mastered over time with lots of experiences. Certainly, it wouldn’t be a good idea to expose newly initiated or uninitiated members of the coven to this kind of working, so it would be something to which only a more experienced or mature group should be exposed. That is because the key to controlling and mastering the encounter with spirits is the active godhead assumption, and without this mechanism to guide and protect the practitioner, spirit conjuring could be considered a hazardous operation.
Perhaps one of the most important contributions that my book makes is to equate the familiar spirit of antiquity with the modern day godhead assumption of practical magic. That this practice found its way into the BTW and Wiccan traditions as a major liturgical rite from a basic exercise in the Golden Dawn system of magic shouldn’t be too surprising. What is surprising is that such a liturgical rite in Witchcraft has an ancient pedigree going back into antiquity, as the Greek Magical Papyri has amply shown. It was an important and pivotal rite in antiquity, where a magician sought and achieved a spirit mediator to assist in his magical workings. Those who practiced magic in antiquity, and even more recently as the 16th and 17th centuries believed that human nature, without the aid of a spirit helper or some other supernatural assistance, was quite helpless, defenseless against spirits and deities and incapable of producing magical or miraculous effects. It was only in the 19th century that the belief in the power of untapped human potential became an important theme in magic and occultism. That theme went on to produce the energy model of magic, and it supplanted many of the other systems of magic until the last twenty years or so. We who practice magic now realize that a greater capability lies in the use of all of the models of magic simultaneously, but in the traditions of Witchcraft, formal adoption of the spirit model still lags the other techniques.
Making the godhead assumption, called the "Draw" in Wiccan-speak, into a personal ritual of self-empowerment seems like a profanation of the liturgical nature of this rite. However, it isn’t a profanation, it is an obvious magical expansion of a mechanism that is used to facilitate communion with the covenstead godhead to one that elevates the individual, temporarily, to the level of an earth-bound and incarnated deity. Performing this rite continually over time will dramatically impact and affect the consciousness of the practitioner, transforming and empowering them over the long course of a magical practice. Additionally, such a rite is more suited to working alone or with only the most intimate group, since the celebrant is sharing something that is extremely personal and private, so that it remains detached from any kind of egoic corruption. There is nothing quite like the ego trip of someone who forces his or her group to engage in worshiping them as they assume the simulacrum of some godhead. Godhead assumption must be balanced with a great deal of humility and service to the deity so that it doesn’t regress into a form of unearned ego-based self glorification.
Another mechanism that has to be altered is the covenstead magical circle and the invested dual deities and dread lords of the four quarters that ward and protect what transpires within it. Certainly, in order to take full advantage of working within a magic circle that represents the boundary of all that is sacred and spiritual, a Witch has to deliberately thwart the inherent protective measures that such a mechanism provides. Opening up the magic circle to the whole of the spirit world (instead of the covenstead protected simulacrum) is an important first step, since by crossing the circle watchtowers, making therein a cross-roads, will open that sacred space to everything that is within the spirit world. Someone who deliberately performs this act must first adopt a personal godhead assumption in order to protect themselves from negative, hostile or callous neutral spiritual encounters.
Anyway, these topics and many others are discussed in detail in my book. These are not new ideas, because I have written about them previously, but now I have collected them altogether into a single, concise book. I think that you will find this book to be useful and hopefully, it will have an impact on the greater world of Modern Witchcraft.
Some minor errors found in the current edition.
After carefully reading over my copy of the book, I have found a few errors in the book, particularly Appendix 2, p. 234. The actual date of the Grimoirum Verum is likely to be the early 1600's, and not the 1500's as I had written. According to Joseph Peterson, the direct precursor to the Grimiorum Verum was a book entitled "Clavicula Solomonis De Secretis" and the extent copy of this book is a Polish Leipzig version dated around 1620's. It is likely that the Grimoirum Verum was produced not long after that time, but it still predated the Goetia, probably by a couple of decades. While I had submitted edits that would have corrected these dates, for some reason that didn't get installed, perhaps because they might have been confusing to the editor who had recourse to my emails but not to me directly. Anyway, this is minor point, but I felt the need to clarify in this article. I am sure that there are probably other inaccuracies, but overall, I feel that the editing and writing for this book is one of the best that I, in combination with the Llewellyn team, have produced so far.