Friday, January 21, 2011

Pantheacon 2011 - Preparations and Research

I have completed my class notes and handouts for the upcoming Pantheacon 2011, which is scheduled to occur next month, from Feb 18 through Feb 21. I have been slated to present two workshops at this gathering. This event is now less than a month away, and I have to say that I am really looking forward to it, particularly since the wintry weather here is getting a bit bleak and difficult to deal with. Sunny San Jose will be a welcome distraction to the cold tundra-like climate of the Twin Cities in the midst of deep winter.

Anyway, these two presentations are new to my slowly building collection of workshops and lectures. What I usually do for Pantheacon is to propose up to four workshops or lectures, all of them untried but based on previous articles and research. When one or more gets approved, then I will assemble my research and writings to build up the workshop or lecture. The two workshops that the Pantheacon staff selected were “Astrological Decans - Key to Evocation” and “Lunar Magick.” The first one is based on three or four articles that I have already written and researched, and despite that assembled information, I still found that I had some holes in my presentation that had to be researched and filled. The second one was based on a rather lengthy article that I have written but never published entitled “Lunar Mysteries and Moon Magick.” This article will be part of the book that I am assembling on Elemental and Talismanic Magick, using the lore of the Order of the Gnostic Star for that work.

If you have been faithfully reading my blog articles, you will note a recent article that I penned which dealt with the issues of the Goetic daemons and whether or not there were 72 daemons, 69 or perhaps even 73. You can find that article here, just in case you missed it. That was a bit of a hair pulling conundrum that I had to resolve before writing my presentation on the Astrological Decans. As I resolved that issue, I also wrote up an article to support that research, adding to the total articles needed to back up the presentation.

One issue was still outstanding, and I ran smack into it when I attempted to start pulling and assembling all of the writings and data that I had collected or written together. I discovered that there appears to be two schools of thought when it comes to assigning the spirits (both angels of the ha-Shem and the Goetic daemons) to the specific decans and their associated quinarians. This issue was discovered when I was working on retrieving the seals for the 72 angels of the ha-Shem and attempting to show how the decan could be more aptly used to define the qualities of the spirits. I wanted to see if other authors had given the decans that much power in defining the qualities of the associated spirits.

What I discovered is that the two schools seem to be the Golden Dawn and other European occultists, with Carroll “Poke” Runyan and his system giving weight to the European methodology. The whole issue revolves around where to start the decan and spirit association, in other words, which decan would be considered the first decan in this set, and this might also determine when in the season one could access that decan. The Golden Dawn system starts their decan list with first decan face of Leo, the other methodology starts in the most obvious place, in the first decan face of Aries. Starting in Aries would make sense if one were using Tropical Astrology, which is what I use in all my occult works. This is because it's considered the starting point for that system of astrology, which naturally starts at the Vernal Equinox (zero degrees Aries). The Golden Dawn preference for starting in Leo was both unexpected and also poorly documented. Very few authors have given any explanation as to why this choice was made, but many, including Thelemites like Lon Milo DuQuette (and Aleister Crowley) used this system, seemingly without question.

As you recall, we stated previously that each decan appears at the ascendent at dusk (or some say dawn) for approximately 10 days, which would leave five intercalated days. So if one has a methodology that determines the first decan and the start of the astrological wheel, it could also impact not only the spirits associated with quinarians, but also their qualities and astrologically based definitions. I decided that this issue warranted a massive search that would include the internet as well as any and all books in my library. I also consulted with a friend of mine (Ananael Qaa) who is probably a lot more knowledgeable about these obscure issues than me. What I uncovered was that other occultists had different opinions on how this should be resolved.

“Poke” Runyan decided that the traditional tropical astrological paradigm required that the first decan face in the set should be the first decan of Aries. Another individual, French occulitst Robert Ambelain, who wrote the book “La Kabbale Pratique,” also favored the Aries first solution. I found a translation of chapter five of his book on the Shemhamphorash in a PDF file associated with a certain Golden Dawn group. Still, despite all of that weighty evidence pointing to the starting point at the first decan of Aries, I was unfortunately wedded to the Golden Dawn version that proposed Leo as it’s starting point. The rational for this choice is explained in Book T with a rather terse and unhelpful explanation. I was vaguely informed by this brief explanation that the reason for this odd starting place has to do with determining that point using the star Cor Leonis (Heart of the Lion, also Regulus), which represents the beginning of the zodiacal sign of Leo. No reason for this choice is discussed or why it was used. This lack of explanation could be considered a small mystery, or just something that was assumed everyone would know.

Other authors have done little to illuminate this choice. Aleister Crowley accepted it without any comment, which was odd. If it were an arbitrary choice, then I am sure that Crowley would have researched it and replaced it with something more “Thelemic.” Even Lon Milo Duquette, in his book “Angels, Demons & Gods of the New Millennium” accepts this starting point. Lon explains it as having something to do with Chaldean astrology, but doesn’t go any deeper into the issue than that. He did produce a beautiful color table that shows how the spirits of the ha-Shem and the Goetic daemons fit together into a tight system, all associated with the decans and their associated Tarot cards, and all starting in the first decan face of Leo.

A comprehensive search of the internet turned up the interesting revelation that this issue has been discussed and pondered over by a number of individuals, and the various explanations for it were all very weak. No one seemed to know why this difference existed. And it got even more interesting when I attempted to compare either of these associations with what Dr. Rudd had done in his version of the Goetia. Dr. Rudd’s system was unique and appeared to use the sequence of spirits associated with the Goetia, where the first daemon in that work would be coupled with the first angel of the ha-Shem, needless to say, that made yet a third methodology that one could follow. I found Dr. Rudd’s version to be awkward and not very meaningful, but that could be easily explained by the fact that he lived in the first half of the 17th century when such a comprehensive system didn't yet exist.

Consulting the other experts in the Golden Dawn tradition didn’t yield any additional information. Pat Zelewski discusses the fact that there are other methodologies in his book “Kabbalah of the Golden Dawn.”  He doesn't explain why this is so, or why the Golden Dawn uses Leo first. He does refer the reader to Franz Bardon and his system. So I consulted  the material written by Franz Bardon, examining his book “Practice of Magical Evocation,” but Franz uses the Aries first sequence, so it was surprising that Pat Zelewski recommended that book to his readers.

Perhaps the only one who has actually managed to explain this issue in a manner that actually makes sense is David Griffin in his book “Ritual Magick Manual.” David talks about how the Golden Dawn, from Mather’s time, sought to use a system of astrology that was more based on Sidereal astrology than Tropical astrology. That would make a lot of sense, because the Golden Dawn Book T says that the choice for the decan starting point was to place it in the first decan of Leo, so as to be aligned with the star Regulus. This might seem to be still rather vague and inexplicable, and indeed it was, until I examined the mythology and background of the fixed stars, particularly Regulus.

I consulted a favorite book of mine, entitled “The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology” written by Vivian E. Robson, which is a veritable goldmine of interesting occult facts for the fixed stars, lunar mansions, nebulae, clusters and even how they are used in magick. I decided just for the sake of thoroughness, I would examine this book to see what it said about Regulus. Low and behold, I believe that I found the answer to the enigma, but it was not in any of the books about the Golden Dawn. Here’s what that book had to say about Regulus.

“A triple star, flushed white and ultramarine, situated on the body of the Lion. From Regulus, a Little King, and often called Cor Leonis, the Lion’s Heart, and symbolically the crushing Foot. It was one of the four Royal Stars of the Persians in 3,000 B.C., when, as Watcher of the North, it marked the summer solstice.”

We can throw away the reference to 3,000 BC (this book was first published in 1923 and has a decided Theosophical bias), but the rest is quite interesting.

If also consider that the helical rising of Sirius also occurred during the early part of Leo, and coincided with the ancient Egyptian new year, when the calendar changed over to the first month, then the choice for this starting point begins to make a lot of sense. It would seem that Mathers had some very good reasons for choosing the first decan of Leo as his starting point, based on a desire to determine it through a sidereal approach, and to begin this set with the annual cycle as the ancient Egyptians would have understood it. The argument for this approach is that the Egyptians used the decan system exclusively as their variation of astrology, calendric determination and even the means of telling the hour at night. How they used the decans would be an appropriate consideration for a magickal tradition and organization that saw the ancient Egyptians as their predecessors.

So I believe that the mystery is pretty well solved, although the devil is in the details, of course. Still, because I have invested so much already in the Golden Dawn variant, I think that I will keep using that version, not the least because I would then be able to continue to use Lon’s beautiful color table. Anyway, this bit of detective work ate up nearly four or five days of my spare time, but I think that it’s worth it. At least if anyone asks me why I have adopted this system I won’t just say because its part of the Golden Dawn tradition and not to be questioned. I now can give at least a sensible explanation as to why it’s different, and feel confident in using it. This is not to say that the Golden Dawn method is in any way superior; in fact, intuitively I would have chosen the Aries first method instead, and there seems to be little need to explain that approach.

One other little item I found out is that the proper spelling for the word Shemhamphorash is actually Shem ha-Mephorash. That little point was made known to me in my research, and I have adjusted my notes and handouts accordingly. 

The assembling of the Lunar Magick workshop was actually quite straightforward. In fact I had more material than I could conceivably present in a 90 minute maximum class time period. I will have to zip through the material I did include since there is so much of it, but I think that when I have gotten through it all, that the attendees will know the value of tying their magickal and liturgical work to the cycles of the moon. This is particularly important for important ro strategic magickal workings that seek to dramatically change one’s material situation. I will be posting some additional articles on that topic in this blog on or after the workshop has been presented - so stay tuned.

If you are thinking about attending Pantheacon 2011 this year, I would like to let you know that I will be there, too, and also to give you the times and locations of my two presentations. The program book has not yet been made available to the public, so the schedule at this point is tentative but fairly certain. Here’s some information about the two classes that you can use - but don’t forget to examine the program book to make certain nothing has been changed. I hope to see you there. I will be bringing my laptop with me, so I might even make a remark or two in my blog while I am attending. There are some very interesting programs and presentations being given during that period, so I am hoping to get to attend some of them. I will also get to see some really good friends that I haven't seen since the last time I was there. Hopefully, I will get to make some new ones, too, so if you are there, drop into my class or say hello if you happen to bump into me. I will have autographed copies of my books for sale, just in case you might be interested.

Here are the workshop classes and the times and locations where they will meet. You will notice that both of them are scheduled for Friday. Interestingly enough, the workshop on Lunar Magick will be held during the Full Moon for February. How cool is that occurrence?!   

Title: Astrological Decans - Key to Evocation

When & Where: Friday - 01:30 PM - Santa Clara

Description: This workshop will examine all of the elements, including correspondences and materials from other authors that will show how the astrological decans, also known as the Faces, are the key to categorizing and mastering the invocation of the Ha-Shem Angels, Goetic Demons and the Angelic Rulers.

Title: Lunar Magick

When & Where: Friday - 07:00 PM - Santa Clara

Description: This workshop examines how the cycle of the moon can be used to powerfully effect practical magick. We will examine the seasonal full moons, the eight phases of the lunation cycle and the 28 mansions of the moon.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. I discussed the question of Mathers' attribution of of the decans beginning at 0 degrees Leo with my alchemical teacher last night (Frater Lux e Tenebris), trying to get additional information for you.

    LeT does not really buy my theory, based on Cyril Fagan's argument that the ancients based the sidereal zodiac based on a grand cross of luminous stars, of which Regulus was one. The ancients could not see this cross.

    Instead, apparently the answer is alchemical rather than purely astrological. Since nearly all information on Internal alchemy remains oath bound, I can discuss this only in general terms. There exist a great wealth of classical texts that make reference to "the work beginning in the green," "when the word is green," etc.

    This makes reference to a particular lineage of Egyptian alchemy using a type of processing that begins with the Vernal equinox.

    Mathers was aware, however, of a second and yet more recondite Egyptian alchemical lineage with a second type of processing that began instead with the beginning of Leo.

    Now consider this:

    Draw an astrological chart with Leo and Cancer at the midheaven. Add the ancient attribution of the planets of rulership of each sign.

    You then have the Zodiac beginning with the Sun (Leo) and ending with the Moon (Cancer). All of the other planets of rulership lining up in perfect balance on both sides.

    In this arrangement you see two things; the first of which is clear trace of the alchemical lineage I referred to earlier. You also see why the "Cor Leonis is called "Regulus", as in this arrangement the Cor Leonis "regulates" the entire zodiac.

    - David Griffin

  2. Thank you to both of you for sharing your wisdom. The logic behind starting in Leo was frustrating me immensely for a few months now and I'm thankful for finding stumbling upon some solid answers.