Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paganicon 2011 - First Time A Great Success

Hexagram Controversy

I wanted to post a short article about my weekend experience with Paganicon, which was the very first pagan convention in the Twin Cities. Overall, I would rate it quite successful, and it is my hope that it will become an annual institution. While it was not anyway near as large as Pantheacon, it was well attended and easily exceeded everyone’s modest expectation. Where Pantheacon is a venue that serves nearly 2,400 people every year, Paganicon didn’t even have 10% of that volume, but it was a more intimate and engaging gathering.

There weren’t crowds of folks and the venues were much more modest, but overall, I was impressed by how well it was organized and staffed. The staff of Paganicon deserve a lot of credit for having put on an excellent convention, and got nearly everything right for the very first time. My hope is that the community and staff will be encouraged to do it again next year, and perhaps for many following years beyond that. It was a great way for pagans and wiccans in the tundra capital of Paganistan to meet and greet, share ideas and knowledge in the middle of what is ostensibly the period of late winter. There may have been snow on the ground and it was quite cold outside, but inside the Double Tree Hotel, it was warm and friendly - almost as if summer had come early. I suppose that having an indoor pool nearby in the atrium helped to give this impression.

Because I had to miss Friday, I didn’t get to hear the keynote lecture given by John Michael Greer, nor was I able to attend the opening ritual and the concert, all of which I was told had turned out quite excellent. A one way trip from my house to the hotel was over 31 miles, so I could only justify going on Saturday and Sunday. I had workshops to present on both days, so that would also allow me to attend some lectures and also socialize with attendees.

I arrived at around 10 am and got registered and found out where everything was located. Then I made it to the panel that I was to take part in. The panel was called “So You Want to be a Pagan Author,” and I was joined with Veronica Cummer, Dr. Murphy Pizza, Corrine Kenner, Barbara Moore and Scot Stenwick. We spent an hour and a half sharing stories about what it’s like to be an occult author. I think that I said it all by declaring that if you want to be a pagan author, don’t quit your day job - it doesn’t pay very much. There was some interesting stories shared, as well as quite a bit of good humor. I enjoyed being on the panel and helped to liven things up a bit by making certain that there were plenty of jokes and laughs to share. The panel lasted until the lunch hour, when everyone broke up to find something to eat.

Lunch was a very idyllic experience, since I ran into two of my dearest friends, and with them, I invited John Michael Greer and Scott Stenwick to share a table at the in-house eatery. I spent my lunch talking, eating and drinking (although not at the same time) with these friends and luminaries, and it was a most excellent time. I found John to be a highly intelligent occultist, worthy of all of the compliments and accolades that he has received.

After lunch, I went to Scot Stenwick’s workshop on Planetary Magick, which I thought was quite excellent, even though sparsely attended. It would seem that Scott had the bad luck of presenting a workshop at the same time that John Michael Greer and Steve Posch were giving their presentations. However, I thought that Scott did a good job presenting his information in an efficient and succinct manner. I also learned some interesting things while attending this workshop. For one thing, I realized how Scott refers to the sphere of planetary magick using a metaphysical perspective, referring to it as the macrocosm, whereas I see it as a psychological operation using classical archetypes. I think that both of these perspectives are not only valid, but describe this phenomenon in a different but complimentary manner. What I distilled from Scott’s discussion was that planetary magick works with the macrocosm, and that the lesser invoking hexagram ritual is the key to opening the magician to that domain. You can find a copy of the transcript for the workshop here.

One of Scott’s most important declarations about planetary magick is encapsulated in the following quote: “The correct method for most macrocosmic work is in fact to combine the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram with the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram.” This clears the magician’s personal field of consciousness and then calls the macrocosmic forces into that field. I found this statement to make a lot of sense, although since I don’t use these rituals, I couldn’t verify that statement off of the top of my head. According to Scott, in the typical Golden Dawn planetary working, both the LBRP and the LBRH are used together. One would assume that the magician’s “operant field” would be wiped clean of any macrocosmic influences if these two rituals were used without a corresponding lesser invoking ritual of the hexagram. Scott had a particular issue with the way that these rituals are presented in Donald Michael Kraig’s book “Modern Magick.”

Much later, I looked over David Griffin’s “Ritual Magick Manual” and found that the typical Golden Dawn Planetary working did indeed perform the LBRP and the LBRH together, but only as part of the purification stage of the working. The lesser invoking ritual of the hexagram and the superior form of the hexagram are used once the lotus wand is unwrapped and the Qabbalistic Cross is performed. This, in my opinion, wouldn’t necessarily weaken the working, since the intention is to clear the magician’s operant field of all influences, microcosmic and macrocosmic. I also looked over Regardie’s book “The Golden Dawn” and found that it was kind of vague and ambiguous as to how exactly to apply the lesser hexagram invoking and banishing rites (volume 6), but perhaps there is another ritual where the methodology is completely encapsulated. When I examined Donald Michael Kraig’s book “Modern Magick,” I did indeed find the LBRP and the LBRH tightly coupled together for a basic regimen of work, and that would certainly be problematical, since the same working has meditations and a Tarot reading. Closing one completely off from the macrocosmic influences would certainly hamper any kind of clairvoyant operation. However, Kraig’s book doesn’t have any planetary or zodiacal magickal workings or techniques in it, so one could assume that it is a more basic work than David Griffin’s work.

After doing this research, I can see where Scott would have a problem with Kraig’s book, but it would seem that a proper working of the Golden Dawn tradition for planetary magick would follow a formulation that seems both logical and practical. I suppose that one could omit the LBRH in a planetary working, but it would seem that the intention is to completely clear one’s field of all influences just prior to performing a specific invocation. This is a moot point for me, of course, because I don’t even use the lesser pentagram or hexagram rituals in my elemental or planetary workings. Instead, I work with a consecrated magick circle, which appears to clear the environment of any and all unwanted influences prior to performing a working.

Since my class was the next venue for the same classroom as Scot’s class on planetary magick, attending his class gave me an opportunity to quickly set things up for my class. My class for that period was on Elemental Magick, and it’s one that I have taught previously. I had nearly a full classroom of attendees, and the presentation went pretty much without any glaring mistakes or omissions. I had to spend a bit of time explaining some of the ritual structures in greater detail, and on a few occasions I briefly got a bit tongue-tied, but overall, the class went very well and the attendees seemed to comprehend what I was talking about.

After my class was completed, I got together with my two friends and we made plans for our afternoon. I had been invited to dinner with some other friends that I hadn’t seen in many months, so that seemed like a good thing to do. I had to leave the convention to attend this soiree, and since it would last most of the evening, I wouldn’t be returning. This meant that I would miss the panel on Hedgewitch Craft, organized by Veronica and her fellow authors, who had helped to write the anthology by the same name. Regretfully, I could not do both things at the same time, so off I went for dinner and some socializing.

The next day, I arrived a lot earlier to present my class on the Twenty-two Steps of the Cycle of Initiation. I was wondering if anyone would make it to this early class, but I was pleasantly surprised when around a dozen people showed up for the class. I was able to present it without any problems or issues, and I believe that the attendees got a lot out of the material that I presented. So I was pleased with it and felt that I had comported myself in a thoughtful and knowledgeable manner.

As a side note, I won’t ever again be presenting these two workshops in their current format. Instead, I will be converting them to Powerpoint presentations. I think that this will be more helpful, both for the attendees and myself, since I can dispense with drawing things on a white board or having to look at one of the handouts while I am teaching. I will also be able to leave my outsized Rider Tarot deck at home, and I can also show other Tarot Trump cards as examples for my class on the Tarot. I think that this is a winning scenario, so all I have to do is to find a nice background theme template to complete this transition.

I also attended Steve Posch’s class “Amber Road,” which I thought was a truly excellent and compelling class. Steve has been examining samples of a massive collection of prose poems found in Latvia, called “dainas” [songs]. These songs are from the 19th to the early 20th centuries and encapsulate a very pagan way of looking at the world. For those who might not be knowledgeable about that area of Europe, the Baltic states (of which Latvia is a member) were the last to convert to Christianity, and even then, pagan sentiments and beliefs persisted until the early 20th century. These songs represent the old pagan way of looking at the world and life in general, and therefore, can act as important pointers and lore generating speculation about our own paganism, telling us what we might have gotten right, and what is still missing. I found the translated poems to be beautifully inspiring and seemed to open a window on world that time and progress had all but forgotten. I thoroughly enjoyed this class, conducted as it were by Steve, who is himself an accomplished poet, pagan ritualist and a natural sage. Everyone who attended was captivated by Steve’s rendition of the poetic songs and his analysis of the same. It was a very good presentation, and a perfect way to end my Paganicon experience.

What I came away from both attending workshops and being a presenter is the notion of just how diverse, deep and really evolved is our local community. Even though it was far smaller than Pantheacon, it was never-the-less just as deep, significant and enjoyable. It’s my hope that there will be more venues like this in the future.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Planetary and Astrological Magick

One of the most essential and potent forms of magick, aside from theurgy and evocation, is planetary and astrological magick. Where elemental magick could be seen as working mostly with attributes of energy, planetary and astrological magick functions with a combination of energy, psychology and spirit formulations. Planetary and astrological magick tap into the basic archetypes of consciousness and culture, so they can be experienced as a form of power that effects the individual and the group mind simultaneously. In addition, these forms of magick also engage directly with attributes of spirit. Planetary and astrological intelligences, which are also considered to be a type of psychological archetype, are highly qualified and evolved spiritual entities in their own right, whether they are perceived as principals of the pagan godhead or as ruling angels. Still, in order to fully grasp the topic of planetary and astrological magick, I will need to define the nature of the planetary and astrological archetypes, which is key to the whole process.

What is the nature of planetary and astrological archetypes? Are they related in some fashion to the actual celestial planets and zodiacal signs that they represent? The answer to this question pivots on how these attributes are defined, and how one defines the active principles of astrology. Do we take a literal approach to our understanding of astrology and the effect that the planets have on us? Some have written that the gravitational impact of the planets, even though subtle and minute, can affect individuals, but science has shown that to be highly unlikely.

If we consider the fact that the gravitation impact of the Moon on an individual human is one ten-millionth of the Earth’s gravitational force, and the sun’s is 40% of that, then the gravitational effect of the planets would be infinitesimally smaller still. Distances from planets to the earth are so vast that they would far outweigh even the size and gravitational impact of the greatest of the planets. While the combination of the moon and sun appear to have a significant effect on large bodies of water and tectonic plates on the surface of the Earth, individual human beings are much too small to be directly impacted by them.

The Earth is too far away to be influenced by even it’s closest celestial neighbors, Mars and Venus. Thus, we would have to assume that the gravitational pull of all eight planets is completely negligible for individual human beings. So it must be true that the effect of the planets on our minds, individually and collectively, has nothing to do with any known physical phenomenon. Therefore, planetary effects must be psychological, both on an individual as well as a collective level. This is why I refer to the planetary attributes as archetypes, since they suffuse our minds and saturate our culture. Even the division of the seven days of the solar week are named after the seven planets of antiquity, as are many qualitative adjectives describing personality traits or types.

Astronomy has determined that the solar system is heliocentric, and that approximately nine planets orbit around the Sun in elliptical orbits, depending on whether you consider Pluto to be a planet or merely a planetoid. Astrology has borrowed eight of the nine planets, but still uses the Sun and Moon in it’s considerations, but not the Earth, which is only used as a method of determining the position of the houses and establishing the point of view. The older astrological system, as determined by Ptolemy, used only the five planets as seen by the naked eye. Adding the Sun and Moon to this list gave a total of seven planetary attributes, and these were and still are used in planetary magick.  

The word archetypes has many meanings, but in occultism, which has taken on the combined perspectives of Neoplatonism and Jungian Psychology, archetypes are perceived as transcendent first principles that affect the human psyche and human behavior. They are said to have both an objective existence and also function as the building blocks of human consciousness. They are represented by internal impulses within the psyche as well as modeling and shaping external events. Archetypes are said to have a transcendent and mythic quality, perhaps due to the fact that they are associated with specific celestial pagan godheads who still have a powerful currency both within the minds of individuals and across cultures. The seven planetary archetypes are found in all human cultures and seem to embody the motivations and the characteristics of the psyche and group mind. It is likely for this reason that astrology and planetary magick continue to be relevant in the post modern age.

In the most sophisticated circles, people still talk about martial activities, venereal proclivities, individuals who are jovial, saturnine, mercurial, sunny or lunatic. It would seem that even though we exist in a world dominated by science and technology, our sentiments are steeped in a kind of mythological exposition. Even the seven days of the week, which make up an artificial measurement of time, are named after the seven planetary archetypes.

Magicians who deliberately engage with these archetypal qualities, whether in magick or divination, enter into the very foundation of the psychological “chemistry” of human personality. Through the occult manipulation of planetary archetypes, a magician can augment, empower and even illuminate himself, as well as curse his enemies. This type of psychic control has the ability to affect the self as well as the local social environment, so it should be considered a very potent and even hazardous kind of magick. This is true because through planeatary magick an accomplished magician can change or reprogram a person’s internal psychological structure at will. Needless to say, this type of magick must be deliberative and performed with a great deal of internal sensitivity and expert knowledge, since any egregious mistake might, if it’s successful, incur a high price for the unwitting magician.

The internal and external archetypal nature of the planets and the signs of the zodiac could also be considered analogous to the power and nature of spirits and gods, since these entities exist in a paradoxical domain where they are experienced both within the mind and also external to the self. Planetary archetypes have the dual quality of being both the elemental constituents of consciousness and complex spiritual entities, the most obvious of these are several of the Roman gods and goddesses, whose names are given to these planets. Thus we have Sol, Luna, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.

Conscious sentience seems to be made up of symbolic expressions that are analogous to the planetary archetypes, and they function as the basis for the formulation of the individual personality. If an astrological model is applied to the symbolic diagram or structure of the psyche, then each planetary archetype becomes qualified by a zodiacal sign and house, and thereby delineated so as to determine their impact, interrelationships and combined power within that deconstructed personality. Where each planetary archetype is a facet of one’s inner characteristics, their dynamic union can determine the nature of one’s identity, personality and motivation. Some of these attributes will dominate a given personality, and others will be submissive or sublimated into the background. Yet the unified elements of the psyche orchestrate the nature of individual human beings, and they can also be found active in the overall culture, determining sentiments, values, tradition and the ever changing goals and motivations.

These archetypal facets exist in a kind of dynamic and harmonious balance with each other, and when they become imbalanced, they can erupt into forms of neurosis, delusions, paranoia, violent or chaotic behavior and even complete psychosis. Therefore, maintaining an equilibrium is very important - both for the individual and the culture. As you can see, having a knowledge of the planetary archetypes and their associated zodiacal qualifiers can give the occult student an ability to understand and manipulate the very stuff of consciousness itself, as well as the fabric of cultural reality.

Planetary archetypes have a myriad of symbolic correspondences to compare against their base-line meanings. Each planet has a simplistic set of descriptions and characteristics, but then those meanings may be extended by a comparison with various pagan deities, colors, incense, magickal seals or characters, symbolic attributes, magickal weapons, angelic rulers and specific Qabbalistic Sephiroth, which allow for an ever greater set of correspondences.

When engaging with any form of planetary magick, the magician should, at the very least, seek to use pagan deity characteristics, magickal seals or sigils, colors and incenses to assist in capturing the essential quality of the planetary archetype. Astrological based timing (elective astrology) as well as using the planetary hour and day become important factors in working planetary magick. A magician should schedule a working to coincide with the specific planetary day and hour, as well as determining the astrological auspiciousness of the magickal event. This becomes quite critical for planetary magick, forcing a more stringent regimen on the magician than working with earth based energies, such as Elementals, which focus more on the phases of the moon than on any other planet.

The simple qualities for each of the seven planetary archetypal intelligences can be summarized by the following list. This list is neither definitive nor complete, but it gives the student a starting point for a more comprehensive set of definitions. In building a more extended list of qualities, I would recommend that the student seek out any good book on astrology (such as “Horoscope Symbols” by Robert Hand). It would seem that the authors of astrology books have produced a more extensive analysis of the meanings of the planets than any other occult discipline. Keep in mind that the planets can also be qualified by being associated with a specific zodiacal sign, which would be used in any kind of astrological analysis of one’s natal chart, progressed chart, transits or forms of elective astrology.

Sun - Identity (ego), pride, dignity, self-expression, individuality.

Moon - Emotions, feelings, sensitivities, moods, internal or psychic perceptions.

Mercury - Communicative, intellectually active, verbal, curious, commercial activities.

Venus - Desire, love, friendship, creativity, sentiment, sensuality.

Mars - Aggressive pursuits, courage, disciplined action, self-motivation, impulsive.

Jupiter - Compassion, idealism, sympathy, grandeur, pomp, ostentatious.

Saturn - Judgment, rules, restrictions, fate, responsibilities, determination.   
In addition, the following planets can be used for certain types of magick.

  • Healing - Sun, Mercury, Jupiter
  • Wealth - Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, Venus
  • Love/Romance - Venus
  • Success in conflict - Mars
  • Divination - Moon, Mercury
  • Charity, Aid from Rulers, Compassion - Jupiter
  • Resolving Legal Disputes - Saturn
  • Obtaining Justice - Saturn, Jupiter
  • Protection from Evil - Sun
  • Friendship, Artistic pursuits - Venus, Sun
  • Cursing, retribution, harm, causing ill health and disharmony - Saturn, Mars

As you can see, the planetary archetypes can be useful in a number of different types of magickal operations. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it also shows that planetary archetypes are also somewhat limited, often requiring more than one to achieve a specific objective.

Perhaps the most practical tool used in the deployment of the planetary archetypes is the talisman. A talisman is usually a metallic piece of jewelry that is worn on the person of the recipient who wishes to use the influences of a selected planetary archetype to ensure a specific outcome. A sigil can be developed to symbolize that specific outcome, and it can be etched on the metallic talisman, along with any other characters or seals associated with the planet. The quality and type of metal used for the talisman can be chosen based on the specific metal associated with the planetary archetype, or it can be any base metal that is enameled so that it has the proper associated planetary color. A talisman can also have a mounted and faceted gemstone attached to it, often substituting for the planetary metal, which can therefore be either silver or gold, depending on the assumed gender of the planet.

A talisman is often created or fashioned on the planetary day or even the planetary hour to give it a greater association with the planetary archetype. Then it is consecrated with a specific perfumed oil and charged with the energies of the invoked planetary archetype. Magicians believe that the energies associated with a planetary archetype can be projected into a metallic or crystalline object and therein kept energized in perpetuity. A talisman supposedly never loses its charge, especially if the subject who is deploying it periodically remembers the purpose and reason for its creation. A talisman can be used for a very specific purpose, or it can be made more general and used for a multitude of purposes. Either approach is determined by the spectrum of qualities of the associated planetary archetype. Talismans are worn and kept in contact with the body of the subject for several days or a few weeks, by then the power and impact of the talisman has penetrated the subject’s personality and being, becoming a semi-permanent quality. As previously stated, a renewed contact with the talisman is required periodically, but that contact need only be brief in order to ensure that the talisman remains active.

Metals, colors, incense, gemstones and days of the week associated with the planetary archetypes can vary considerably depending on the authority cited. I have taken the following list from classical and Qabbalistic authorities. Still, as long as the list that one is employing is consistently used, then there is no variation that is the one true version.

  • Sun - Yellow - Gold - Frankincense - Yellow Topaz (Yellow Diamond) - Sunday
  • Moon - Indigo - Silver - Myrrh - Moon Stone (Pearl) - Monday
  • Mars - Scarlet - Iron - Costus (Tobacco) - Ruby (Garnet) - Tuesday
  • Mercury - Orange - Cinnabar (Mercury) - Cassia - Amber (Turquoise) - Wednesday
  • Jupiter - Blue (Purple) - Bay leaf (Cedar) - Amethyst (Sapphire) - Thursday
  • Venus - Green - Copper - Spikenard (Rose) - Lapis Lazuli (Emerald) - Friday
  • Saturn - Black (Violet) - Lead - Storax - Obsidian (Black Onyx) - Saturday

To invoke one of the planetary archetypes, the operator should acquire an appropriate talisman (made from the appropriate materials), candles, robes, incense and a colored sigil or seal drawn on parchment. An invocation of the associated pagan deity, angelic ruler or Olympian spirit should also be constructed, to be used to assist the actual invocation of the planetary archetype. Invocations to lesser planetary godheads can be found in the Greek Magical Papyrus in Translation or in classical writings, such as the Homeric or Orphic Hymns. The operation should be performed during the proper planetary day and planetary hour (as determined by the hour and minute of the rising sun). In addition, the operator should have a large painted trigon with the image of a septagram depicted on it.

I have chosen to use the septagram instead of the hexagram for drawing the lines associated with invoking the specific planetary archetype, but that is a distinction of my own personal magickal system. Still, since it is quite difficult to draw an invoking septagram for a specific planet in the air, I have chosen to use a painted trigon instead. The trigon is a rectangular shaped piece of plywood, usually 18 inches by 14 ½ inches, and is 1/4 inch thick. I typically paint the trigon with flat black paint, then I paint the design associated with the trigon over that background. The final painted design is then covered with a glossy transparent medium to protect it.

Planetary magick uses a very simple ritual structure that consists of a Rose Ankh Vortex with a central internal circle, where the trigon is placed. The Rose Ankh vortex is used as a kind of magnetic containment field that will powerfully attract any spirit or entity summoned. It is generated when the operator draws a Rose Ankh to each of the four Angles and the Infra-point (nadir), and then draws the four Angles together through the center of the circle. The operator completes the structure with a counter clockwise circumambulation around the circle, beginning in the center of the circle and proceeding outwardly, walking a spiral that transcribes the circle three times.

The operator then draws an inner circle in the center of the magick circle, makes the sign of the parting of the veil, and places the septagram trigon in the center. The talisman and sigil are placed in the center of the trigon, and the appropriate planetary incense is burned. Then the operator draws the invoking septagram for the specific planet with a wand, tracing the lines over the septagram trigon and completes the operation with an invoking spiral. At this point, the operator will intone the invocation of the planetary intelligence and summon it to manifest into the center of the circle.

Once the planetary intelligence has appeared and made itself known to the operator in some manner, she will then take the talisman, hold it in the air and draw the power of the planetary intelligence into it. The talisman is then consecrated with a special perfumed oil and wrapped in a colored cloth for a period of three days. If the talisman is to be given (or sold) to another person, then the sigil, which was used to summon the spirit, should be burned immediately following the three day waiting period, so as to ensure that the talisman will no longer be associated with the operator. (This can be done even if the talisman is to be used by the operator.) Often the planetary intelligence will communicate to the operator in the form of visions, or even after the working is completed, through dreams and impressions. In fact, the magician can use the invocation of a planetary archetype for the purpose of divination or crystal skrying. Anything that occurs to the mind or senses of the operator during or after the rite should be noted down in a magickal journal.

Planetary archetypes may be construed as being somewhat limited or too general in their practical use and employment. Often, the operator has to include some kind of specific sigil to focus the impact of the magick. However, there are a number of other magickal qualities that can use the planetary attributes. Thus, the magician deploy the planetary archetypes in combination with the four elements, or with the astrological quality of the zodiacal triplicities, or by combining them with other planets to produce a kind of binary planetary archetype. In the system that the Order of the Gnostic Star uses to perform theurgy, all seven of the planetary archetypes are invoked and qualified with a zodiacal sign, to produce a type of simplistic zodiacal natal chart that determines the personality of the spirit. This activated and empowered septagram, erected for a given spirit, acts as its dynamic intelligence, which is then joined with a four-fold elemental energy envelope that generates the body and mind of a spirit, as opposed to summoning it.

The following forces, intelligences and entities can be invoked using one of the above constructs. These different attributes are much more useful, since they are more varied (i.e., they have more elements) than if one were to just use the seven planetary archetypes.

Planetary Ruling Angel or Archangel of the Sephirah - the planetary ruling angel or the qabbalistic archangel represents a more ambitious theurgic methodology. Thus the planetary working becomes an angelic invocation rite instead.

Talismanic Elementals - Planetary archetype plus element: 28 elements - can be used analogously with the 28 Lunar Mansions.

Astrological Archangels/Spirits - Element plus astrological triplicity: 12 elements - useful for astrological magick. I use three of the lesser invoking hexagrams to represent the astrological triplicities.

Astrological Decans/Angelic Ruler - Element plus astrological triplicity plus ruling planet: 36 elements. This structure is the foundation for invoking the 72 angels of the ha-Shem and the goetic demons.

Bonarum (Good Spirits) - Binary Planetary Intelligences - Planetary archetype combined with another planetary archetype: 49 elements. These spirits are unique to the Enochian system of magick, but could be replicated elsewhere.

As you can see, there is quite a lot of variation based on the planetary archetypes in western occultism and the practice of magick. Talismanic magick is very useful in magickal workings, but the same methodology can be used to develop a generative system of theurgy and evocation.

If you are interested in engaging in a more in-depth research of planetary and astrological magick, then I can recommend the following books:

  • “Graeco-Egyptian Magick - Everyday Empowerment” by Tony Mierzwicki
  • “Ritual Magick Manual” by David Griffin
  • “Secrets of Planetary Magic 3rd Edition” by Christopher Warnock
  • “Planetary Magick” by Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips
  • “Practical Planetary Magick” by Sorita d'Este and David Rankine

One of the old grimoires associated specifically with planetary magick is the Arbatel, which was assembled in the early 17th century from writings associated with Paracelsus. Joseph Peterson has a wonderful new translation of this book that you can purchase it if want to work with it.

Finally, if you happen to live in the Twin Cities, there is a presentation on Planetary Magick at the forthcoming Paganicon, this weekend. My friend, Ananael, along with his associate (Michele), will be conducting a class on Planetary Magick on Saturday, March 26th at 1:00 pm in Courtyard 3. There will also be a demonstration of a Planetary Magick ritual that evening, at 8:00 pm, in the same room. As an aside, I will also be at Paganicon teaching classes on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. You can find a copy of the schedule here.

Frater Barrabbas

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Exorcism - A Model for Classical Evocation?

I have read a few books and some blog articles that have stated the possibility that the classical model for evocation was derived from the ritual of exorcism. I have typically accepted this statement as a likely fact, but I decided to verify it by comparing the two from the perspective of their ritual patterns and the specific qualities of their ritual actions. Could the classic ritual for exorcism posed as a model for classical evocation?

In order to answer this question, one must do what apparently others have been unwilling to do, and that is actually examining the Roman Rite of Exorcism. The most accessible version of this rite is from the 1952 pre-Vatican II version, which has been only marginally changed (translated and somewhat modernized) from the ancient version used in the middle ages. I will assume that little has substantively changed in this ritual in the intervening centuries. What I discovered after comparing them is that there are some compelling similarities between the rites of exorcism and evocation, but there are some very strategic differences between them as well.

First of all, let’s quickly go over the five stages of a classical evocation. These five stages have been examined in a previous article, but I will copy what I wrote there, and you can find the full article here.

“Classical theurgy and evocation has five basic steps that the magician performs in order to successfully complete the magical working. These steps were considered critical to the work, and had to be performed fully and completely. These steps were called in their Latin terminology, consecratio, invocatio, constrictio, ligatio and licentia. (See The Goetia of Dr. Rudd, p. 91 - 94)

Consecratio, or consecratio dei, represented all of the activities that the magician performed to prepare for the work, including sacred baths, aspurging the temple and tools with holy water, burning incense, and performing psalms, prayers and orisens to achieve the favor and benediction of the Godhead, a required state prior to performing the work. These activities would be performed even after the magician had sealed himself up in the magic circle, and might include the preparation and sanctification of the circle, vestments, tools and temple area, as well as burning incense, reciting psalms, and engaging in a final bout of contemplative prayer.

Invocatio was the invocations and incantations that the magician declared once he was safely ensconced in the magic circle, fully vested and prepared for the work. All preparations were minutely addressed and successfully accomplished, and all that was required at this point was to perform the invocation of the spirit, angel or demon. The magician might begin with a general invocation, such as of the angels of the four parts of the world that rule over the air. To invoke a demon, the magician might first invoke one of the corresponding angels of the Ha-Shem, since they were believed to be the rulers of the Goetic demons. Often there were anywhere from one to several invocations, and if the spirit did not appear, then there were even more severe conjurations. However, it was assumed that if the preparations were correct, the timing auspicious, and the integrity and faith of the magician impeccable, then the spirit invoked would materialize in some form or another. The magician could use his talismans and protective lamen to assist in adding greater force to the invocation, but if after a time, the spirit failed to appear, then the magician had to perform either a single or several exorcisms, burn obnoxious herbs and generally banish anything that might have been summoned before breaking the magic circle and leaving the work place.

Constrictio was where the magician constrained the manifesting spirit. He also had to ensure that the spirit was what it claimed to be, or what the magician had summoned in the first place. If a demon was summoned, then the magician had to force it to assume a favorable aspect and to desist in acting in a threatening and evil manner. Constraining the spirit was usually required of a demon, but often the magician had to verify an angelic entity as well, at least to ensure that he was not being deceived by some lesser spirit or demonic influence. The magician used his special ring, talismans, pentacles, and various words of power to constrain the spirit. Once this was accomplished, the invocation process was considered to be stable, and the magician could move on to the objective of his work.

Ligatio was the act of binding the spirit, usually with an oath, words of power, threats (if it were a demon), to perform a task suited to its nature, and for it to be accomplished in a specific duration. Binding a spirit could be considered a kind of pact, except that there was no quid pro quo - the spirit obeyed the magician because of his acquired (although temporary) holiness and because of his assumed authority granted by God and his angels. The constraint was performed in a less severe manner with an angel (or not at all), and was extremely important and quite severe with any other spirit, especially a demon. To harness the spirit, the magician also required it to reveal its secret name and mark (usually as a sigil), which the magician noted down in his magical book. The sigil that the magician used to summon the spirit may also be marked or charged in some special manner, and collected later to be kept in the magician’s book. The charged sigil or special name and mark could be used in the future to summon the spirit without all of the required protections and the ordeal of invocation, at any time that the magician desired it. The spirit is constrained to obey the magician, and over time, the magician collects other such names and marks, and his workbook becomes a treasure trove of obedient spiritual servants, ready to do the will of the magician whenever required - at least for the duration of the period stated in the binding. In some situations, a magician may permanently bind a spirit to his will, making his eventual death into an event of instant unbinding of all of the spirits kept in the book. A truly legendary and catastrophic event! The magician might also constrain the spirit to reside in a receptacle, such as a sealed lamp or brass jug, to be available whenever commanded to appear.

Licentia was the license to depart that the magician gave to the spirit once it had been properly bound. It was important for the magician to understand that the spirit was to be treated with some respect, and that he would not therefore perform any kind of banishing if the binding of that spirit was successful. The idea was to conditionally allow the spirit to return to its natural abode, there to await future summons and willed appearances. The license to depart was therefore quite different than performing a banishment or an exorcism, which would only be performed if the magician either failed to manifest the spirit or failed to constrain it. Once the spirit was properly and completely departed via the license, the magician might perform banishments and exorcisms to ensure that nothing else was lurking outside of the magic circle.”

So now that we have gone over the above five steps, we can look at the basic pattern for the Roman Rite of Exorcism. The rite of exorcism has eight basic steps to it, but these could be condensed into five steps to compare directly with the five steps of evocation, Still, we will look at the eight steps and show where some of the steps can be joined.

If you want to examine the source document that I used to make this analysis, you can examine a rather lengthy web page here. There is a lot of extraneous material on that page, but if look down far enough you will find the Roman Rite of Exorcism.

The Roman Rite of Exorcism begins when the specially sanctioned priest, who is performing the rite, draws a great sign of the cross before him and then sprinkles the area with holy water. The priest and assistants (family members or close friends of the victim) have performed the proper penance, with fasting, prayers, and having received the sacraments of the Eucharist and made a full confession of their sins. Thus fortified, the rite is enjoined. The assistants range around the victim and seek to keep him or her still and silent during the exorcism. If the victim is female, then the assistants should be female family members or friends of high moral repute. The following eight steps are performed in the following sequence.

1. Litany of the Saints is read with a special antiphon and the Lord’s Prayer. (As is typical, the prayer is spoken inaudibly from after the “Our Father” to the “And lead us not to temptation..,” which is spoken out loud. Attendants and the priest also read the responses to the Litany together.

2. Priest reads Psalm 53 and other special prayers. He makes the sign of the cross and then orders the demon to be cast out of the victim’s body. At this point, the priest commands the demon to obedience, and seeks to get it to speak its name, including the place, day and hour that it first inhabited the victim. The priest then lays hands on the victim as if to heal him/her of some disease and asks the hierarchy of the trinity to heal the victim.

3. Priest reads sections from the Gospels - John 1.1-14, Mark 16.15-18, Luke 10.17-20, Luke 11.14-22. The priest then crosses himself and takes the end of the stole that he is wearing and touches the victim with it, thus creating a bridge between himself and the victim. This final act is the prelude to the actual three exorcism prayers.

Then comes the three part exorcism commands followed by pious prayers. These exorcisms are performed in increasing intensity, and one would suppose that a successful completion of the exorcism at any point would cause the priest to skip over the rest of the exorcism prayers to the conclusion of the rite. 

4. Exorcism Prayer 1: This prayer is begun with the declamation “I cast you out..,” which is where the priest seeks to command the demon to leave the body of the victim. This exorcism is followed by a prayer. During this first exorcism prayer, the priest will make six signs of the cross, with three traces on the brow of the victim, and four additional signs of the cross, with one on the brow, and three on the victim’s chest.

5. Exorcism Prayer 2: This second prayer is begun with the declamation “I adjure you..,” which is where the priest more forcefully commands the spirit to depart. The second exorcism is broken into three parts, the second part begins with the declamation “Depart..,” and the third begins again with “I adjure you..,” and all three are followed by a brief prayer. The exorcism command followed a pious declaration seems to be a kind of attempt to coerce the demon backed by pious invocations of the spiritual hierarchy. The three part exorcism has numerous points where the sign of the cross is made, with passes made to the brow and breast of the victim, as well as general crosses, and one made for the sake of the bystanders. The number of the signs of the cross are 14 in the first part, none in the second and 9 in the third part.

6. Exorcism Prayer 3: This exorcism is even more powerful and intense than the previous two, and begins with the declamation of “I adjure every unclean spirit..,” which would seem to be focusing on the demon hierarchy as well as the specific spirit inhabiting the victim. This exorcism is broken into two parts, with five signs of the cross being made in the first part, and seven in the second. The declamation of the second part begins with “Depart then..,” and the intensity of the commands become ever more powerful, with a cross being made at the two utterances of “Begone Now!” There is no prayer for either the two parts of the third exorcism, but if the demon is still resident in the victim, then the priest begins with the first exorcism and starts the whole cycle anew.

7. Additional prayers are said over the afflicted, although these would be said only once the demon had departed. I would assume that the purpose of these prayers is to fortify the victim and ensure that the demon was gone and could not, therefore, immediately return. Such prayers used are the Our Father, Hail Mary, the Creed (from the Mass), Canticle of Our Lady with the doxology, Canticle of Zachary with the doxology, the Athanasian Creed and a number of Psalms, such as the following: 90, 67, 69, 53, 117, 34, 30, 21, 3, 10 and 12.

8. Finally, the priest says prayers for the deliverance of the victim. Obviously after this ordeal, the victim, now restored, would be expected to perform a lengthy confession, receive a penance for those sins, and then receive the sacraments, which would have been kept inviolate during the exorcism rite.

In addition to the specific exorcism rite for a possessed victim, there is also a general exorcism of Satan and his fallen angels to purify a church or a congregation. However, this rite is obviously too general for our interest in regards to making a comparison between exorcism and evocation.

Now that we have looked at both the classical evocation rite and the exorcism rite, we can make some observations and comparisons. I might add that the three exorcisms can be combined together, and the additional prayers and the prayer for deliverance can also be combined to produce five total steps. However, the five steps are not identical to the five steps of evocation. Suffice it so say that the five steps of exorcism would only be analogous to the first two steps of evocation, and the last step of exorcism would be dropped altogether.

Similarities: There are three exorcism prayers in the rite of exorcism, and there are usually three distinct invocations that are used in classical evocation. Exorcism seeks to coerce the demon to depart the victim, evocation seeks to coerce the demon or spirit to appear. Part of the coercion ordeal requires the magician to use consecrated and purified vestments, holy devices (pentagrams, characters and seals) and the invocation of the spiritual hierarchy of God. The exorcist does the same thing to cast out a demon. The magician puts a lot of effort into preparing for the rite (consecratio deae), including reading from the Gospel, Psalms, and undergoing a rigorous period of fasting, purification and atonement - the exorcist does this as well. The exorcist needs to get the demon to identify itself, and offer the time and day that it inhabited the victim - the magician also requires the demon or spirit to identify itself.

Disimilarities: There are some rather striking dissimilarities between exorcism and evocation. Evocation employs a magick circle for protection, and a triangle of evocation outside of that circle to focus the manifestation of that spirit. The exorcist maintains contact with the victim through the stole - the only barrier is the moral authority and power of the priest. In evocation, the spirit is constrained (constrictio) and bound (ligatio). The only overlap is where both the exorcist and the magician demand that the spirit identify itself, otherwise the actions of constraining and binding the spirit or demon are solely those of the magician. Also, the license to depart (and return whenever needed) is also the sole provenance of the magician, since the exorcist is only interested in freeing his victim from possession, and guarding against any possible return.

Other Points: Perhaps the most striking similarity between the two rites is the language that is used to command and coerce the demon. If someone just replaced the “adjurations,” “departs” and the “casting outs” with the opposite commands of summoning, calling forth and conjuring, then they would have a powerful set of invocations that could be used to invoke a spirit or demon. The other striking similarity is the preparation, prayers, atonement, purification, sprinkling of holy water for both the magician and the exorcist. So the first two steps of an evocation would have matched the first six steps of the exorcism.

Constraining and binding the spirit would have been steps that could have been taken from ancient sources, but they could also have been implied by two actions that occurred in the exorcism. For instance, assistants were used to hold down the victim and to ensure that he or she obeyed the commands of the exorcist priest, which would have required that the victim be relatively silent and still during the prayers. One could consider this a form of binding, and the coercing of the demon to say its name, identify itself and reveal when and where it entered into the victim could also be considered a kind of constraint. So there isn’t any real definite distinction between the process of exorcism or evocation. For the Christian magician, they would have been easily seen as analogous.

My conclusion is that the rite of exorcism very likely functioned as a model for Christian evocation, but other elements were added to make it quite different in function and purpose. The other elements that were added to evocation may have come from other cultural sources. They could also have been taken from the techniques and practices of an existing methodology, such as either Jewish evocation, or even an underground goetic tradition, which left traces and hints, but no evidential proof of its existence.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Thoughts On A Tale of Three Perspectives

Reconstructing a Golden Dawn Tradition?

My previous article on traditionalism, reconstructionalism and revisionism got a lot of mileage in the blogosphere lately, and seemed to answer some important questions about legitimacy and authenticity as well. I would like to use this article to briefly discuss some of the recent and relevant issues that my article seemed to encapsulate.

First off, there seems to be yet another dust up between Nick Farrell and his Golden Dawn tradition, and David Griffin and his Golden Dawn tradition. Noting the distinctions between the traditionalist and reconstructionist perspectives, it would seem that both Nick and David are talking at cross purposes with each other, and neither will ever find themselves in agreement. It has to do with whether the Golden Dawn is a fully revived living tradition, or whether it is a dead tradition that has been reconstructed from various sources to become a kind of living tradition. We will ignore some of Nick’s claims about the history of the order that have been shown to be quite erroneous, and instead focus on these two perspectives. You can see Nick’s article here, and David’s response, there.

If we are to accept what Nick Farrell is saying, then the Golden Dawn is truly a dead order, whose demise occurred when the mother temple collapsed and the Stella Matutina became moribund. Since Israel Regardie was supposedly only 5th degree, and never designated as a chief of that body (as far as I can tell), then the current branches of the Golden Dawn are based on what documents and materials that either Regardie published, or other sources of information that have subsequently come to light. Nick appears to say that all branches and factions of the Golden Dawn, since they no longer have any connection to the living tradition or the secret chiefs, are reconstructions of what that tradition might have been like if it have survived intact into the 21st century. Nick is clearly pushing a reconstructionist line, since he has stated that the Golden Dawn is discontinuous and headless, because it is bereft of its higher leadership (secret chiefs) and the third order lore.

Nick goes on to declare that the third order is a myth (one of many that he is seeking to completely debunk), and that secret chiefs and their ilk are completely irrelevant to the work. All lineages are suspect or false in the Golden Dawn, and that the warrants for the founding of the order were forged - it is, in this sense, a fake order. According to Nick, all we have left is the body of reconstructed lore, so the only relevant practice is the magickal rites and initiations encapsulated within that material. Of course, Nick will argue and negate anything that anyone might say that would contradict his belief that the current Golden Dawn is nothing more than a reconstruction. However, Nick is forgetting one very important feature about how one gives life to a reconstructed tradition.

In order to give life to a reconstructed tradition, you must believe in it as a thing unto itself, thus generating a kind of egregore. In many ways, a reconstructionist and a traditionalist meet at the point where the reconstructionist has assembled a spiritual system, then dubs it a viable and living tradition, and treats it with the same respect that one would accord a real tradition. A reconstructionist never says that his or her tradition is fake, but that it exists in a kind of metaphysical sense, “as if” it had never disappeared. There is a kind of passion in taking this perspective, but if reconstructionists don’t believe in the tradition that they have built, then it is still a dead tradition consisting of various assembled parts (with some missing), like some half finished Frankenstein monster laying on the operating table. Nick may have made the mistake of retaining the mind-set of the overly skeptical researcher who has rejected all of the myths of his adopted tradition, but others are probably not as foolish. I have no doubt that there are some Golden Dawn reconstructionists who have made the passage from critical researcher to true believer, where the myths have become real, the egregore has stirred to life, and the assembled system begins to function as a living one - although still headless. As Ben Whitmore has so eloquently said in his book “Trials of the Moon” about traditions (such as modern witchcraft and paganism) that they must “have not just myths, but history as well.” (Whitmore, p. 4) In other words, they must consist of both.

Nick’s role of nay-sayer and myth-busting iconoclast doesn’t help his cause of reconstructing a Golden Dawn tradition, since in order to give life to a reconstruction, one must emphatically believe in it. There is quite a lot of disagreement about what really happened during the founding of the Golden Dawn and about the source of its rituals and lore. Certainly, there isn’t an authentic history of the order that hasn’t been declared overly biased or poorly researched. Some would doubtlessly agree with what Nick is saying, and would believe that his claims of forgery, deceit and human folly are true. Yet suppose for a moment that the Golden Dawn rediscovered its roots and re-established the third order through the intercession of the secret chiefs. Would that not cause the Golden Dawn vehicle to be fully resuscitated into a viable and complete tradition?

This is precisely what David Griffin is claiming. Since I have met him and some of his associates, and privately talked with them about these subjects, I am inclined to believe that his claims are true. I may not agree with everything that David says or does, but in this matter, I believe that he is being completely honest and truthful. In the last twelve years, David Griffin has inexplicably found the source root of the Golden Dawn tradition and re-attached the “head” to the order so that it could fully function as a living and dynamic tradition. He has offered substantive proof and has declared that the entire second order of his faction has been modified so as to be in alignment with that current living tradition. What has been published by other branches of the Golden Dawn are mostly just a rehashing of the old documents and materials associated with the “dead” tradition, and supposedly, these documents and materials are not the same as what is used in the HOGD. Unfortunately, David can’t give any definitive proof, since that would violate his oaths, but enough has been shown to satisfy a reasonable inquiry - there’s obviously something there.

If we step back for a moment and admit to ourselves that even if what David is claiming is half true, than what he has presented to the Golden Dawn community is nothing less than a profoundly living, breathing tradition. That claim should have been embraced by the whole GD community, and the proof carefully examined and shared by all. It could have united the factions into a single organization, although retaining the various faction heads, but alas, individual egos prevailed and the flame-war of words and vicious litigation ensued. The opportunity for a Golden Dawn resurgence passed into oblivion, and now there are two perspectives amongst the Golden Dawn factions, one that’s a poor reconstruction (that only some believe in), and the other is a completely living tradition.

According to what Nick has declared in his recent blog, and what other leaders and members of the other reconstructionist factions have said, it would appear that what they are offering to the occult community is a sad testimonial to the Golden Dawn tradition - a headless corpse being passed off as a living thing.

Even a body must have a head or it’s just a decapitated corpse. To remedy that problem, some of the various faction chiefs have attempted to pass themselves off as the heads of their order, but they’re a poor substitute for the real thing. Three of those chiefs (I won’t name any names) never received any kind of third order initiation, and in fact, may have not received any kind of valid initiation in their respective traditions. So now we have a corpse, which has been barely resuscitated, modeling a kind of diminutive head, sort of like the comic characters Zippy the Pinhead or Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto.

Still, I have a problem with someone who is the supposed head of his order and who claims that the tradition he represents is fake and based on lies and deceit. It would be like the Pope declaring that he was really an agnostic, or the European Counsel of Religious Leaders announcing that organized religion was a farce. Unfortunately, pretending to have a living tradition that you don’t really believe in is the true farce. It boils down to the fact that you can’t occupy both sides of that argument - either you believe in your tradition (reconstructed or not) despite historical irregularities, or you don’t. Thus, I find Nick Farrell’s campaign self destructive and highly disingenuous. 

I think that we can easily see that choosing a living tradition over one that is a headless corpse is a wise decision. One thing that is equally clear is that if there is no third order and no secret chiefs, then the leaders of each reconstructed faction of the Golden Dawn are accountable to nobody, and oaths are easily set aside for the sake of self promotion and expediency. Conversely, if one is promoting an order that has a direct line to the secret chiefs and a body of third order adepts, then the outer head of that order is accountable for his actions and how he governs that organization. It also means that oaths are to be taken very seriously. I think that I would rather trust someone who is accountable to higher authorities than someone who is answerable to none. There’s a lot less chance of corruption and tyranny if the leaders are accountable for their actions.

What we have here is an never ending argument between traditionalists and reconstructionists in the Golden Dawn. It also centers on whether legitimacy or authenticity is important - but a living tradition has both. None of what I have said here about the different factions of the Golden Dawn indicates that any of the various parties in the squabble are somehow incapable of doing the work or acting like competent magicians. Still, it does allow those of us who are outsiders to judge the organizations that they are promoting, whether they realize it or not. 

The next point that I would like to discuss has to do with the article recently written by Ananael in his blog “Augoeides” about my article - you can find it here. I consider him to be a good friend, so I can comment on what he wrote and add my own two cents with a certain impunity. Ananael and I are both blatant revisionists, and we both consider that to be an optimal position in which to operate. Still, I wonder if he has ever met any bonafide reconstructionists, since I have found their work to be as sound and satisfying as my own. I must also give a certain high degree of respect to traditionalists, since like them, I also honor and respect a system of practice and belief that was given to me through initiation years ago.

Two points where I find that I differ with what Ananael said has to do with some minor adjustments to my declarations about traditionalists and reconstructionalists. Ananael has said that traditionalists are blinded by dogma because they are unable to change or amend their tradition. Also, he has said that reconstructionalists are required to carry archaic practices in their derived tradition, even if they would be considered illegal or socially reprehensible. I think that both of his opinions about the inherent flaws in the role of traditionalists and reconstructionists are over simplifications and need some further clarification.

Most traditions are reformed over time, and that is a fact of human existence; either they are reformed or they eventually fail. Nothing ever remains the same, so there are situations where a practice or belief is modified in a tradition. However, the process of modification is done in a careful and completely acceptable manner, with precedents cited and other evidential information given as a compelling reason for the change. The change doesn’t just happen, but it evolves and is given the stamp of orthodoxy by the elders of that tradition. A clear case of this kind of change is the reforms proposed and implemented by the Catholic Church in accordance with Vatican II. This kind of authorized ecumenical change has occurred in other traditions as well, including witchcraft and paganism. Change does happen in a tradition, although it isn’t immediate or arbitrary, as it might be in a revisionist methodology. Revisionists make changes to things that can be changed, which are those things that have been added to a tradition, but they rely on the authorities of their own tradition to modify or change anything in that tradition.

A case in point is that I am certain that Ananael would never deem to change any of the wording of the sacred writings of Liber Al in accordance with his opinions or sentiments, or because he found something there that he thought was revealed in error. If he really believed that something was amiss with Liber Al, he would present it to the authorities of the O.T.O. for their consideration. A revisionist and a traditionalist are closely related, except that a revisionist will add and accumulate other lore, while a traditionalist will work with what they have until that tradition has been properly amended or changed.

Reconstructionism, as I defined it in my previous article, builds a modern tradition using properly vetted historical information. The basic premise is to build an antique system as if it had survived into the modern times. Obviously, a Celtic reconstruction wouldn’t include human sacrifice, nor would it likely include animal sacrifice or any of the other culturally archaic and inappropriate practices and beliefs. It would represent what that Celtic pagan religion would have been like if it had survived to the present time, not as it existed in the early Iron age.

There are certain built-in limitations associated with reconstructionism, such as being able to gather together a complete set of data to reconstruct an antique system or being able to reconstruct the mind-set and culture of that period. Gaps and holes in the data are typical, particularly if that targeted system of belief is old and far in the past. Often, reconstructionists have to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. However, this is not a form of revisionism, since even the creative endeavors of a reconstructionist must be feasible and defensible based on current historical evidence. A revisionist will use whatever works, but a reconstructionist can’t behave in such a cavalier manner, since he or she is attempting to build something that has the aesthetic quality of being historically feasible and legitimate.

Curiously enough, a reconstructionist must also fashion a “head” for his or her tradition, and this is aptly done by working intimately with the chosen principal Godhead or pantheon of that tradition. A personal cult for that Godhead is created and it is imbued with power and authority through constant offerings, devotions and selfless spiritual love, often making use of a shrine with an altar and statues. After a time, the Godhead becomes a potent spiritual embodiment that the adherents of the reconstructed faith can easily relate to, having become a living and breathing Deity within the core of their tradition. It is far better for the “head” of a resuscitated and reconstructed faith to be a Godhead than some self appointed and flawed human being. Even the masters have a powerful spiritual alignment to a Deity that is beyond them.

I also wanted to remark on the issue of the importance of historical precedence to a pagan or a witch. As a traditionalist witch in the Alexandrian Tradition, I am not at all concerned about the accuracy or relevancy of the historical claims made by my past teachers. I don’t buy that witchcraft is the Old Religion, and it has no bearing on what I do as a witch. However, if an academic claims that there are no verifiable vestiges of pagan beliefs or practices in the modern world, then any amount of research into the historical precedents for pagan beliefs and practices would be groundless, particularly since pre-Christian European pagan folk beliefs were not adequately documented. Since the witchcraft tradition consists of a certain amount of reconstruction and creative invention, it is important for many who honor and guard those traditions to know that there were some precedents in the past upon which to base their beliefs. It signifies to them that their beliefs and practices weren’t recently made up out of nothing. What Hutton and some other academics have done is to judge modern paganism and witchcraft as being completely invented modern traditions without any historical precedence, which I feel is incorrect.

While this may not be important to a Thelemite, whose principal founder lived during the late 19th and early 20th century and whose life was well documented, it is important and not at all foolish for modern pagans to gather together some historical practices and beliefs to bolster their tradition. Otherwise, why even bother to call it a tradition, or for that matter, to passionately believe in it? Paganism and witchcraft may be magickal religions, but they are still religious, and such sentiment requires a history, as well as myths, mysticism and magick.

Finally, I think that a fourth perspective can be added to my list of philosophical perspectives in the occult arena. That fourth perspective is where people just cobble together all the various parts that work for them, and then from that collection generate for themselves a kind of ad hoc tradition. I would call this fourth perspective “eclectic pragmatism.” An eclectic pragmatist is someone who never acquires a tradition or assiduously avoids taking any vows, but who doesn’t have the discipline or sense of aesthetics to be a reconstructionist. Often, such people are dilettantes, but their desire to perform magick or engage in mystical practices causes them to adopt whatever is at hand. Potential sources are found in books, on the internet, copying what others do or by word of mouth. Some chaos magicians have used this approach to great effect, and the plethora of book reading solitaire pagan and wiccan practitioners could also be included in this category.  

So these are my thoughts and opinions about the recent controversies, but I am certain that there will be more opinions and discussions on this matter in the future. If some other interesting factors come out of the discussion, you can bet that I will present them here for you to read.

Frater Barrabbas

Monday, March 14, 2011

Initiates, Adepts and High Adepts

Recently, Phoenix Angel wrote up a blog article about how she defines an adept, calling the article, “What I Expect from an Adept.” I found the article interesting, but I felt inspired to add my own two cents to the discussion. As a witch and a pagan, these terms mean something different to me than they might to one who is either a classically trained Golden Dawn initiate or a Theosophist. Phoenix Angel appears to be a something of a practicing heterodox like myself, but still, let me opine a bit on this subject. You can find Phoenix Angel’s article here.

First off, I tend to differentiate between someone who is initiated into a tradition and someone who has experienced a life-changing transformative experience. Not everyone who undergoes an initiation into a specific tradition has also undergone a corresponding transformation. One would hope that they would be synonymous, but that is not always the case. For instance, one can receive an initiation into an exoteric social organization and not experience any kind of internal transformation. Also, one can undergo a harrowing transformation and not be a member of any esoteric organization.

It’s my perspective that someone who receives an initiation into an esoteric spiritual or magickal organization should experience some kind of deep psychological transformation. That transformation may be contiguous with an initiation, or it may occur either before or immediately following it. If it doesn’t happen at all, then it’s possible that the initiation may have either failed in its purpose, or represented a level of consciousness or grade of spiritual achievement well below that which the candidate already possessed.

So, it’s my opinion that every initiation which a person might receive from a spiritual or magickal organization must cause some kind of dramatic or profound change in the candidate in order for that initiation to be considered authentic. I have actually known or witnessed some individuals who underwent initiation rituals that were incompetently performed by the members of a coven or temple, and still, they appeared to achieve some kind of internal change. I can only assume that if the intention of the candidate is true and deep, then the resulting initiation, no matter how poorly contrived, will produce the desired effect. Correspondingly, I have witnessed beautiful initiation pageants perfectly executed that had little no long term effect on the candidates. The desires, intentions and expectations of the candidate appear to be quite important to a successful initiation rite. A candidate must know why an initiation is occurring, its purpose, and he or she must have done some internal preparation for it.

What this means is that the dual process of transformation and initiation, as experienced in authentic occult groups, belongs wholly to the individual who undergoes it, not to those who perform the rite. The performers of a rite of initiation are merely taking upon themselves a temporary role to assist the candidate in achieving the purpose of the rite.

As an initiator, you can feel responsible for someone’s development, training and behavior while they are making the first steps at self-knowledge, but you are not implicitly responsible for the occurrence of their transformation or their initiatory process. A candidate can receive an initiation by those who have taken the role of facilitator or ritual guide, but refuse, for various reasons, to receive any further training, guidance or any kind of benign interference. An initiate actually has no further obligations of any kind to anyone regardless of promises or oaths made to the contrary, but he or she may choose to play the role of neophyte and continue with the roles that were temporarily assumed during the initiation rite. Oaths and obligations are assumed for the sake of the mentor relationship and also for any lore that might be given. Yet the initiation itself is the business of the candidate, and its confidentiality is for his or her sake alone.

This unacknowledged truth might be quite surprising to some, and others might disagree quite passionately with what I have said. The initiators do not own the initiation rite that they perform for a candidate, and they don’t own the initiatory process that the candidate undergoes. It doesn’t happen because of the rite that they have performed, nor does it occur because of the supposed power that they have dispensed or given to the candidate. It happens solely because it is within the provenance of the candidate and his or her own internal mystery. That provenance is the exclusive personal property of the one undergoing the initiatory process.

Oaths and obligation are given for the information imparted and the confidentiality of the individuals within the group, but they can’t and don’t apply to the initiation mystery itself. One could undergo an initiation mystery in a coven or temple, and then decide to follow their own inner prompting, and that would be completely lawful, regardless of the shock and outrage of those who performed the initiation rite. This almost never happens, but it should demonstrate that the initiation and transformation process belongs exclusively to the one who undergoes it, not to the group, the teachers or the overall organization.

Another important point is that a transformative initiation should not be a single event, never to be repeated. While there are some pagan and witchcraft traditions that espouse only one initiation, an occurrence of internal, cyclic transformations, expressed or realized through some kind of exterior ritual should be a natural part of anyone’s spiritual and magickal process. The exterior rite should not, in most cases, be one that is performed alone, but shared with others, who act as witnesses and perhaps even facilitators. They assist the candidate in objectifying the internal transformation.

This continuous and periodic transformation and it’s outer expression as an initiation rite characterizes an incremental expansion of consciousness and the evolution of spiritual awareness. For the progressive pagan, witch or occultist, spiritual evolution in this life is a very important virtue, denoting that one is on the “path” to ultimately achieving union with the Godhead. Not every pagan, witch or magickal practitioner has this as their goal, but for the progressive practitioner, growth and personal development is a critical part of one’s spiritual and magickal practice. It is also a natural by-product produced through the search for meaning, greater insight, and the exalted conscious realization of Spirit within the material world.

This is why many magickal lodges and other occult organizations have multiple degrees or grades, but the transformative process doesn’t adhere to fixed degree structures or orchestrated, time-in-grade measurements. Transformative initiations are, if anything, guided by the internal mechanism and the mysteries of the individual initiate, based as they are on his or her soul revelations. Some transformations are greater and far more profound than others, and they may occur at greater or lesser frequencies during the lifetime of the initiate. They can also happen during different time frames, some taking much longer to complete than others. What we can say about transformative initiations is that they are cyclic oscillations of an initiate’s internal spiritual process. That cycle can be compared to the mythic Cycle of the Hero or the twenty-two Trumps of the Tarot. An examination of the symbolic images of the Tarot Trumps, or the occurrence of one in a strategic Tarot reading, can indicate to the initiate their specific point in the ongoing and ever continuous initiation process.

As I have already indicated, cyclic transformations occur at various intervals, and have greater or lesser impact on the one experiencing them. The greater cycles can be symbolically compared to the ten Sephiroth on the Tree of Life (that is, if the Qabbalah is an important tool), but other meta-patterns or symbolic structures can be used. Because, for me, the Tree of Life is a very useful tool, I also find it useful to determine the larger transformative patterns.

In the Order of the Gnostic Star, the Qabbalah is used to build the required ordeals that an initiate must perform in order to attain to a specific degree, since by performing them, he or she triggers the associated transformation. Using the Tree of Life can also help us to define the differences between an initiate, an adept, and a high adept; a structure that is represented by the three triadic groupings of the nine Sephiroth. It’s assumed that Malkuth, the lowest of the ten Sephiroth, would represent the state of the non-initiate or the one who stands at the threshold of the process of spiritual transformation, but it is also the very first initiation ordeal that one undergoes.

What I am presenting here is something that is very simplified. One would have to incorporate the twenty-two paths as well as the ten sephiroth to produce a comprehensive examination. I will just use the sephiroth to aid this discussion, leaving the more complex analysis for one of my future books.

Initiates who are following a magickal path that uses the Tree of Life as a guide, would begin their process at the point of the element of Earth. This is the place where the initiate crosses the first threshold,  revealing the truth that the material world is imbued and suffused with Spirit. This often causes the initiate to see the world as a sacralized phenomenon of nature, where there is no division between matter and spirit because all is one and unified. One can take this experience as indicative of the veritable truth of pagan spiritual perspectives (such as Neoplatonism), but it can also cause one to realize that the product of creation is just as sacred and holy as that which created it (such as the writings of Emerson would indicate).

Once the initiate has passed this threshold of Earth as the manifestation of Spirit, then he or she begins a process of transformation that has many incremental steps, both great and small. Yet the first progression can be compared to a series of ordeals that emulate the internal qualities of the four Elements. These transformations are therefore referred to as the initiation of the Four Elements, and represent a larger and more complex cycle for the initiate who is seeking to master Spirit. Of course, the quest for mastering Spirit is the long sought after achievement that bestows adepthood upon the seeker.

Where Earth is the revelation of the material world imbued and made sacred with Spirit, the sequence of the next three elements represent a similar progression. Let me briefly note them here for you to examine and ponder. Keep in mind that an actual transformative initiation process might not undergo the next three elements in the order that I am presenting here. Some systems use the progression of Earth, Air, Water and Fire, others might use Earth, Water, Air and Fire, and still others might use Earth, Fire, Water and Air. The order is not important, what is important is that the initiate goes through all four Elements in some manner. In fact, it is usually the case that an initiate will track through all four of them multiple times until they are completely mastered.

Water (Yesod): This transformative degree is characterized by the imagination, the power of dreams, symbols and psychic occurrences. This is where magick seems to become a fully realized phenomenon, where spirits and powers are encountered and realized. Initiates who walk this path also acquire a spiritual sense of themselves, and they discover that they have helpers, guides and spiritual allies who seek to aid them in their spiritual and magickal quest. As you can imagine, divination is important in this sphere, as is the foundation of archetypal symbols that lie at the core of the spiritual domain. 

Air (Hod): The next transformative degree is characterized by the occult intellect and the individual will, the ability to organize diverse spiritual and magickal phenomena using various occult systems, such as the Tarot, Qabbalah, Astrology, Alchemy, Psychology and occult metaphysics, and the desire to use them to will things into manifestation. Science is also used to understand the subtle occult processes that the initiate has personally experienced, and all disciplines and areas of knowledge are culled to assist the initiate in being able to intellectually apprehend the fullness of the spiritual and magickal world and then, to subjugate it. 

Fire (Netzach): The final transformative degree of the four elements is characterized by spiritual love, selfless devotion, spiritual service, and the practices of spiritual alignment. This degree is where the initiate begins the transition of becoming a priest or priestess of Spirit, and it is also where the other three elements begin to blend into a seamless discipline of spiritual and magickal practices and insightful experiences. In some traditions this would be the first element degree experienced beyond Earth, particularly if spiritual love was the pre-eminent foundation that one had to establish before doing anything else (this would be true of the Abramelin ordeal as well as certain monastic Christian traditions and Sufiism). This degree would also represent the beginning of the manifestation of the higher self, which becomes more materially apparent to the initiate through spiritual love. Initiates walking this path dedicate their lives to building a core of spiritual practices that erect powerful bridges between themselves and their chosen personal Godhead.
Adepthood is the transformative process where the four elements of the self (body, imagination, intellect and heart) join together to fully reveal the manifestation of Spirit. An adept has learned to master the four elements and thereby, through internal alchemy, undergoes the transformation of their quintessence, which is spirit. Therefore, adepthood is all about learning to master the fifth element, a process that can take decades or even a lifetime to accomplish.

Typically, but not always, the initiatory process of the adept is broken into three levels, representing the revelations of the Self as Spirit (5th Degree of Tiphareth), Mastery of Personal Destiny (6th Degree of Geburah), and Mastery of the Mysteries of Spirit (7th Degree of Chesed). Adepts must pass through the so called lesser abyss and undergo the mystery of their own death, and therein, find a deep and powerful spiritual revelation. This revelation helps them to undergo the regeneration of the body as a vehicle of spirit, which is the primary task. Sometimes this process of death and resurrection can be experienced as a near death experience, life threatening accident or some kind of terrible calamity. More typically, this experience represents something much less dramatic, which is an end to all of the practices and knowledge associated with the four elements and the beginning of the practices and knowledge associated exclusively with Spirit. The old self is surpassed, and the new self is fully imbued with the powers and wisdom of the higher self. This new self must grow and evolve over time before it becomes the foundation and basis for the practicing adept.

So what is an adept? Is he or she some kind of godlike being who directs and manipulates events from behind the obscurity of oaths of secrecy and personal mastery? I think that this is a highly romanticized belief, particularly since the adept is still gripped with the process of continuing to grow and evolve. Adepts do not cease from growing and learning, so they would have to be seen as nothing more than an advanced student.

Adepts have powers and spiritual knowledge far beyond the ordinary non-initiate, but those powers and knowledge seem only to make their lives more complex and burdensome. It causes the adept to realize how problematic and fraught with risk it is to use that knowledge and power. Often, adepts are so encumbered by the process of the mastery of Spirit that they are unable or unwilling to interfere in the actions and beliefs of other sovereign individuals.

Sometimes an adept is called upon or even reluctantly forced to intercede in another’s person’s spiritual process. More often an adept functions as a teacher, guide and unassuming assistant to others, offering them the tools for self-transformation but never interfering.

Adepts are usually humbled by their responsibility for assuming the path of spiritual mastery, and as they evolve there is a corresponding desire to engage in selfless spiritual service, seeking situations where one can do the most good without being identified. Life is complicated enough without all of the spiritual pretensions and delusions projected upon one by others. While it is possible for a beginning adept to act in an immodest way and to engage in outrageous self-promotion, this posture soon gets the adept into lots of trouble, forcing him or her to drop all pretensions and disappear into a blessed anonymity. Adepts either learn to be invisible to others, hide behind a public persona or erect strict boundaries that hinder accessibility, because otherwise they would be hounded by the multitudes for the use of their knowledge and power.

As you can see, adepts are not the great movers and shakers of the world, since their work is still at a critical stage, and such distractions as assuming other people’s issues appears prohibitively onerous. I would guess that adepts would seek to help where possible, otherwise they would respect the sovereignty of other people’s will to do what they wanted, even if it resulted in terrible folly. The real mover and shaker isn’t the adept, so it must be the initiate who has achieved the next greatest level beyond adepthood, and that is domain of the high adept.

High adepts have achieved their exalted level of spiritual and magickal accomplishment through the act of having successfully crossed the great gulf between Spirit and Mind known as the Greater Abyss, which separates the Supernal Triad of the Tree of Life from the rest of the sephiroth. Not only must this transition be successfully accomplished, it should also be stable. This massive ordeal, once completed, would represent the completed transformation of the initiate into a kind of avatar, which is a pure and true representative of the Godhead, living and breathing in the world. A higher adept has transcended normal consciousness and lives day to day within the exalted conscious levels of the higher Subtle and lower Causal.

Such a person is continuously aware of the monad within and has obliterated all non-dual states of consciousness without, which are the source of the illusion of separateness. An avatar is capable of unleashing magickal powers of a miraculous nature as well as displaying psychic abilities such as precognition, clairvoyance, a kind of telepathic empathy, and even a charismatic projection of self. Yet all of these abilities are completely controlled and unleashed only when required, which is rarely. Along with these abilities would be the superior judgment of knowing when to intercede in the lives of individuals or even large groups, and when to remain anonymous. A high adept could invisibly walk amongst the crowds of normal people and not be noticed or seen as anything other than a common and ordinary person. We pass hundreds of people every day as we travel for work or recreation; any one of those strangers could be a master and we wouldn’t even know it.

What I don’t accept is that a high adept, or master, would be beyond mortality or be able to appear and disappear, and act in an omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent manner - that is reserved for the Godhead. A master is just a human being, although one that is able to project Spirit into the world without any bias or interference from the “petty” ego or illusory self. Such individuals would be rare, and they might not even operate through an established religious or occult organization. It might be that such groups would actually hinder the execution of a master’s true will, which would be nothing less than the will of the Godhead manifesting into the world.

Since discussing these exalted levels of consciousness and the kind of person who would act through them are at the very edge of what I know and have experienced, I am unable to really and effectively describe and explain spiritual mastery beyond what I have tentatively written here. Suffice it to say that the high adept is the true conduit of Spirit manifesting into the mundane world, and that the greatest teachings and practices have been imparted from such individuals to human posterity. We can surmise that such individuals were known to humanity as Zoroaster, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Jesus, Rama Krishna, and many, many others.

All of these remarkable men and women changed the world as we know it, and left behind critical and important teachings and practices. The process of world spiritual evolution has only just started, and we can assume that eventually there will be enlightenment on a global scale, affecting everyone alive in the world. At that time, the world itself and all within it will be profoundly changed, and humanity’s childhood will finally end. We will hopefully emerge from that transformation as a mature species with a conscious mental state and a technology that would be seen by us in the present age as truly godlike.
Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Book of English Magic - Book Review

The Book of English Magic” - co-written by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate, Overlook Press - 2009.

I have completed examining and reading over a book entitled “The Book of English Magic” co-authored by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate, both of whom are authors of books on Druidism. Since I was sent a complimentary copy of this work, I also promised to read it over and write up a book review for my readers. Because I have such a large pile of books to read, this task took a little longer than I had anticipated. The book begins with this paragraph, which pretty much defines its focus and its scope.

Every country has its magic: in wild places, in its history, and in the traditions of its healers and mystics. The lands that border England have a special magic - Wales and Scotland are brimming with tales of wizards and seers - but this book focuses on the country that has grown, by design or quirk of fate, into the world’s richest storehouse of magical lore: England.

With an introductory paragraph like that, how could anyone resist diving into this book? It is compelling but also accessible, written for the adherent as well as the novice. Still, let us continue with the critique and examination of this work. 

First of all, this is a very long and nearly comprehensive examination of just about every conceivable occult or magickal belief system or perspective in both the history of England, and in its present state. The authors have stated in the very beginning of their book that England has become a veritable source for all things having to do with the practice and belief in magick, and after reading over this book, I would have to agree with them. At 538 pages, this is not either a small work nor one that can be read over a weekend. The book is densely packed with information, and even a supposedly advanced occultist can find something of interest in this book. However, this book was written with the novice in mind, approaching each chapter with an easy to read and comprehending kind of narrative that explains the history and modern practices of each subject area. The book is divided into twelve chapters, one for each major area of the occult, although there is some overlap. There are maps, pictures, biographical entries, locations of interest, lessons and exercises, in fact everything that anyone would want to have in order to gain an overview of western occultism, or perhaps to perform a kind of occult tour of the U.K.

The Twelve chapters cover the following topics in the order they are presented in the book:

1. Leylines, Caves, earth magick and dowsing.
2. Druidism - both past and present
3. Anglo Saxon Sorcery (past and modern reconstructions)
4. King Arthur and the Holy Grail
5. Witchcraft
6. Alchemy
7. John Dee and English Renaissance Magick
8. Cunning Folk, Folk Magick and the Faery Faith
9. Freemasonry, Theosophy and Numberology
10. Rosicrucians and Magickal Orders, Golden Dawn
11. Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune
12. Modern Renaissance of Magick in England and London

Each chapter is laid out in a very ordered manner, having the following structure:

  • Basic Introductory narrative, history and current practices
  • Chapter bibliography (annotation of important topical books)
  • Historical Personages and short biography
  • Current Proponents and practitioners, places of interest
  • Autobiographical segments on current practitioners (in their own words)
  • Things to do, activities and places to visit

The book is well written, edited, well stocked with pictures, diagrams and maps elucidating a general overview of the topical chapter, but including books and other sources for a deeper examination. There are also quite a few sections devoted to practical exercises and basic occult lessons. This book has something for nearly everyone, and because it’s so easy to read and lots of fun,  I found it enjoyable and actually quite absorbing. Even a focused reading of this book would take a while to complete it, but then this book was obviously written to be read in sections, fully explored and enjoyed. I found this book to be quite excellent, and I would recommend it to anyone who wanted to have an overview of many of the occult paths that have their origin in England.

Perhaps one of the best features of this book is that it would easily facilitate someone who wanted to build for themselves a kind of occult tour of England. There are lots of featured locations and even internet links that can be used to get more information, such as contacting the organizers of public events. I think that this book deserves to have a place in the library of every serious occultist, since it can and does function as an important overview of every occult path that had its origin in England. I suspect that those who are either dilettantes, beginners or completely new to western occult beliefs and practices will find this book to be very valuable, too.

Hopefully, someday, someone will write this kind of book about the U.S., since there is quite a large body of adherents found in every part of the country, and plenty of magickal and mystical places as well.

Frater Barrabbas