Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How I Venerate Ancestors

A recent comment from a reader asked me to reveal what I actually do to venerate my ancestors, both genetic and spiritual. This comment was triggered by an extensive article that I posted last month about ancestor veneration, and how it is an important but often forgotten element in modern paganism. Since I have already pretty much explained the why and wherefore, I guess that I should just write up exactly what I do to venerate my ancestors. (You can find that previous article that I wrote and posted, here.)

What I do to venerate my ancestors is to put together a couple of different shrines. First, I distinguish between my genetic ancestors and my spiritual ancestors. Some of my actual lineal ancestors would have issues with my occultism, witchcraft and magical practices, so I feel that they must be sequestered from that activity. I have therefore selected an area in my temple library for my genetic ancestors, and I have gathered all of the pictures that I have of them, going as far back as I can. I occasionally burn incense and talk to them, and although many of them have been silent so far, I do sense their presence. Since I spend some time in my library reading and doing research, they are a part of that activity, and I know that all of them, more or less, loved books and reading. My genetic ancestors, therefore, share with me a common household activity that they would find agreeable and beneficial to all.

As for my spiritual ancestors, these individuals reside in the temple proper. What I do is to place a picture of them in a nice frame so that they are facing in such a way as to be present for all magical operations. I also burn incense for them and include them in my meditations and prayers. Right now I have a picture of Alex Sanders, but I am also going to include a picture of Mathers as well. 

I also make distinctions with those entities that I consider to be personal demi-gods, such as Hermes-Thoth, or actual deities, such as Dionysus and personal aspects of the God and Goddess of the Witches.

All of these individuals have physical markers that are placed on my personal spiritual shrine and are given offerings of incense, flowers, sacraments (wine and host fragments), and temporary food and drink offerings. These beings are very much a part of every working that I do, and I dote on them each time I perform a Mass or Benediction rite, which begins a magical operation. I prefer to work with magically animated statues, and these require a certain amount of upkeep, such as offerings, oblations, prayers and meditations. Additionally, I also traffic with the various spirits that I have summoned and invoked, and I keep a Liber Spiritus where I store the consecrated sigils that I used to invoke them. All of these spirits are a part of my personal religious and magical cult, and I seek to keep them all maintained and fresh within my workings.

So there is nothing overly formal or regimented in regards to how I venerate my ancestors and my spiritual allies. I try to regularly keep something going in the temple to ensure that all of these contacts stay alive within me and within my magical work. As a witch who practices ritual magick, my religious liturgy dovetails with my magical workings - they are one and the same. All of the magical workings that I actively perform also have religious dimensions as well. Keeping a charged and active temple with its various shrines and living presences is a very important task for me, and I would assume that it is an ongoing concern for others who function as I do.

Next time you do a magical or liturgical working, spend a moment focusing on your genetic and spiritual ancestors. Doing this regularly will certainly aid your work, and it won’t in any way detract from it.

Frater Barrabas

Friday, August 24, 2012

Is Achieving K & C of the HGA Important?

Some magicians in the blogosphere have recently stated that they think that the huge importance placed on a magician achieving the knowledge and conversation with his or her holy guardian angel is rather overblown. It has become something of a badge of honor for some, but I couldn’t agree more with the pundits’ opinion. However, I would stress that some cautionary insights be included to the overall argument.

While it seems to be have become something of status symbol for individuals who have claimed to have undergone the traditional Abramelin ordeal, the actual achievement represents something that harkens back to antiquity itself. In those times, the signature achievement of any sorcerer of repute was that he had acquired, in some manner, a familiar spirit. Whether you call it a person’s genius, higher self, indestructible spirit, over-soul, augoeides, eudaimon or holy guardian angel, it is, in my opinion, variations on the theme of possessing a familiar spirit. I think that all of these entities are one and same, although not everyone would likely share my point of view.

Anyone who has perused the spells listed in the PGM will quickly discover that there were quite a number of different techniques for acquiring the vaunted familiar spirit, and this is still true today. While some purists would thumb their noses at anyone who had claimed to achieve the K & C without performing either the six or eighteen month Abramelin ordeal, I believe that there are as many different ways of achieving this important goal as there are magicians currently practicing the Western mystery tradition. The Bornless One invocation rite (ala Crowley or the Golden Dawn), the Abramelin Lunar ordeal, the Pyramidos rite (again, Crowley), the rite of Beatification (as found in Liber Juratus), summoning a spirit guide, family animal totem, departed ancestor or nature ally (as found in various earth-based religions), and numerous other rites represent the same analogous trial, which is achieving the intimate companionship of a spiritual mediator.

(We won’t spend any time here discussing my belief that there should be some kind of mechanism or peer group assessment to validate that a magician has indeed succeeded in this quest other than just taking his or her word on it. Presently, it seems like many individuals are claiming to have undergone the traditional Abramelin ordeal. Still, it seems to me like there are far too many who are making this claim in order for it to be credible, but woe betide to anyone who would contradict or challenge the claimants to somehow prove their claims. That, of course, is another topic for another time.)

Another point about this whole theme is that acquiring a familiar spirit was one of the first steps that any credible magician would undertake in order to be considered a legitimate sorcerer for-hire. It would seem that having this spiritual aid was what separated the adepts from the would-be dabblers, and I think that this is still a valid consideration. Achieving this quest doesn’t represent the end of all quests for the magician, instead, it represents the very beginning of a more serious practice of ritual magick.

In other words it is just one of many steps to becoming an adept magician, so it is neither a mark of prestige or specialness. It represents that the magician has the ability to mediate the world of spirits with the mundane world, and that he or she has the ability to enact changes in both worlds. A magician with a familiar spirit could also be assumed as having access to inner plane contacts, since he or she would be able to make important spiritual associations through the intercession of that spirit agent.

So it would seem that this achievement, although important, should be never seen as some kind of exclusive club for purist aficionados of the Abramelin system of magick. While I honor those who have taken the time and effort to perform the original Abramelin ordeal, I don’t believe that their achievement somehow makes them better than any other magician.

Unlike the adherents of the “grimoire only” crowd, I happen to know that there are many ways of achieving this goal, and that each ordeal should actually be unique and appropriate to the magician and his or her path. To my way of thinking, successfully mastering a custom path is much more legitimate and authentic than just following what is written in some book or grimoire. We are all impacted by our choices, but one path or choice is not necessarily superior to another for everyone. Anyway, that’s my two cents on this controversy.

Frater Barrabbas  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Professional Pagan Magus?

Ever since I became more involved with the Pagan and Wiccan community as a writer and teacher, I have become aware of those who write, consult, present workshops and teach others for a living. Some are modest but very successful “magician teachers and consultants” such as Jason Miller, who I have learned to admire and respect. There are many others as well, like Christopher Penczak, who may have been fortunate enough to start out with a good economic foundation to support them as well as being prolific in their vocation. While I might admire these various individuals who can focus all of their time on their occult studies and practices and still have a decent level of material comfort, I don’t envy them. Even if I were handed this opportunity on a silver platter, I would probably turn it down. Why do I feel that way? After all, isn’t that what all magicians and occultists strive for?

First of all, I absolutely love the work that I am currently paid to do. I love my job and I look forward to each new challenge and project that I receive. I guess you could say that I am very fortunate in that respect. My career may not have much of anything to do with occultism or magick, but it does give me a great deal of satisfaction. Resolving hairy technical issues and designing new application systems in my field of expertise gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment that functioning as a professional magician and either teaching courses or writing probably wouldn’t achieve. Unfortunately, my identity is narrowly defined by my interests in paganism, the occult and ritual magick, so being able to have a really good paying career completely outside of this narrow world view is actually quite mentally healthy for me. In order to achieve my material needs, I have to compete against many individuals who are quite different than me, and to be successful at it allows me to value myself in a manner that has nothing to do with paganism, occultism or magick.

Secondly, I doubt that I could earn the large income that I am presently making if I had to live as a professional magician. I would have to master the art of self promotion and spend a lot of time gathering new clients or students and building up my course work or performing an array of operations to keep them all occupied, so they would in turn keep me gainfully employed. I am certain that Jason has figured out all of these different angles, and I honor him for being able to do all that as well as sharing his knowledge with others for a modest fee.

I guess you could say that I prefer my current employment environment where my technical expertise is easily determined by tangible results that I produce every day. A professional magician would function more like a clinical psychologist, often with only some subjective testimonials indicating that the magick worked for this person or that it greatly helped them. As for me, my professional skill-set is constantly being challenged and measured, even certified by an official testing regimen. Since there is nothing like that in the occult world, then claims of self-mastery and teaching accolades would have to be verified by the subjective opinions of various individuals. For myself, I would find this too intangible and tenuous. There is also the problem that if I initiate and teach someone, any fees that I might apply to that teaching would have to be done on a purely “quid pro quo” basis. I could never charge another initiate anything more than what would cover my out of pocket expenses, if even that.

Over the past thirty years I have managed to reinvent myself and my career every five years. I have undergone an extensive amount of technical training and certification, and I am now contemplating yet another period of training and self redefinition. This might be the last time that I will have to go through this, but I have found that the more expertise that I have acquired, either through experience or training, or both, then the more important I become to my employers. I have managed to escape a number of layoffs and staff reductions because I didn’t get stuck in a rut and become outsourced, nor have I stagnated for years surviving on past accomplishments. I have always been preparing for the next project or the next job, and strategically positioning myself to take advantage of opportunities whenever they presented themselves. I believe that my flexibility and mobility in regards to learning new techniques have been what has saved me from becoming just another statistic in the never ending gulf of financial inequality that is occurring in this country. I have been lucky, but I have also made my luck as well. 

Thirdly, if I were to really consider starting a new profession, I would want to try something completely different than what I am doing now. I would love to be a professional writer who writes historical fiction, historical murder mysteries, or even some science fiction and fantasy. I wouldn’t base my writing career on my occult knowledge or by presenting occult classes or workshops, since I would see that more as a spiritual duty rather than a means of supporting myself. In fact, I fully intend on becoming a full time writer when I am finally forced to retire from my current career, which won’t happen for at least another decade or so. I have lots of stories inside my head, along with characters that seem to assume almost an independent life of their own, talking and acting out in my musings and imaginings. I have been told that having those kinds of things in one’s head is a sure sign of being a proficient fiction writer. All I need to do is to develop and master my ability to write, which I am doing right now by writing this short article.

Frater Barrabbas  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Musings About Some Mundane Ordeals

You may have noticed recently that I have not posted an article every three days as I usually do, and that is because things have become really very busy at work. I am right now in the middle of a complex server re-hosting project where the three databases and associated applications that I have previously been tending must be wholly copied and relocated on a new server architecture. Since I had a hand in originally developing much of this overall system, I am a key player in the re-hosting project. We are now in the very middle of this project, responding to all sorts of challenges and I am engaged in its most complicated stage, so I have had little time to write or even contemplate new articles.

Throw in some changing relationship dynamics (all good) and the fact that I recently had to undergo a special medical procedure (for middle aged men) into the mix of my world of work, and you have a recipe for the “perfect storm” of mundane activity. All my resources are taxed and focused on my job, my girlfriend, and all of the necessary domestic chores of keeping house and tending a large yard and garden. I also had to undergo an internal colonic cleansing for my exam, so it has been a very busy week indeed. It all came together starting on Monday and is still proceeding through this weekend, so there won’t very many articles coming out of me for several more days.

I apologize for this lapse, but sometimes the mundane world demands quite a lot of my time and keeps me from writing, which is one of my current and special vices. I have a number of new articles in the planning stages and one that is slowly being written, so you will once again get some interesting articles to read. (I have completed reading a couple more of Ramsey Duke’s books and found a scandalous book written about real life vampires and satanists that points to my blog for corroboration.)  In fact, I have found a treasure trove of ideas recently, but I just haven’t had any time to work them up for you. Amidst this flurry of activity, I am also hosting my elderly father’s visit and having to work a couple of talismanic workings for Venus and Jupiter, so I expect to be pretty busy for a while.

This is a temporary situation, but it may last for a few weeks or so. I will also attempt to post some ideas or short articles in the next week, but I don’t expect things to lighten up for me until after Labor Day. So while I go through this maelstrom of overwhelming mundane tasks, you are invited to examine the index on the left hand side of the blog frame, and read any of my more numerous previous articles arranged by topic.

I am grateful for your readership, your emails and interactions and your patient apprisal of my work. So stay tuned, there will many more articles coming in the future. Also, let me know if there is any topic that you would like me to write about, since I always enjoy taking up a topic provided to me by one of my readers.

Have a great summer, and don’t forget to experience the magick of the outdoors while you still can!

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fool’s Journey vs. Hero’s Journey

Many years ago, I discovered that the exact number of Tarot trumps found in the Major Arcana was identical to the overall number of stages in Joseph Campbell’s iconic book “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” I also found that this apparent coincidence had an even greater impact when I was able to match each Tarot trump to one of these twenty-two stages. This wasn’t a loose affiliation, the twenty-two stages matched the twenty-two Tarot trumps almost exactly. Yet I didn’t so much as use this newly discovered pattern as a tool for Tarot divination as I did for practical magical applications. I found that the magical use of the double gateway was the whole basis for the underworld cycle not only of the Hero’s Journey, but of the mysterious process of transformative initiation itself. 

It would seem that the Hero’s Journey was also the cyclic process of death and rebirth that ruled the more profound changes that occurred within a person’s psyche. Also, since I used the sequence of stages in the Hero’s Journey to specifically qualify the matching Tarot trumps, it did indeed change how I defined those trumps and it impacted how I interpreted them within a divinatory reading. But the Roman numerals that were printed at the very top of each Tarot trump seemed to have less to do with the actual sequence of the Hero’s Journey, and could therefore be ignored when working with this pattern.

If you want to review what I have written on this subject, you can find that article here. This is a theme that I have been presenting and working for many years now. I originally discovered it back in 1976 when I first read Campbell’s book, and found how these stages do indeed match up with the twenty-two Tarot trumps.

However, I found that the greatest power in using this structure was in the actual development of a mystery system of the Self, which is one of the key elements in the five mysteries of the modern pagan world. Since the mystery of death is one of the greatest mysteries, along with the mystery of the creation of life, any archetypal system that uncannily depicted that process would represent a very powerful symbology useful in both ceremonial initiations and magical workings. This pattern consisting of accessing the underworld, undergoing a complete dissolution of the self and then its resolution and return to unity in a new guise, and finally emerging from out of that place of darkness and death is perhaps the greatest mystery cycle for all living things. It is also reminiscent of a more ancient psycho-spiritual cycle, and that is the healing and redeeming cycle of the archetypal shaman. So it would seem that this archetypal pattern is not only very ancient, but it is still very relevant today. I have discovered that it is completely integral to any kind of modern pagan system of magick and mystery.

Yet as I have proposed the universality and usefulness of this cycle of transformative initiation in the works of ceremonial mysteries and the basic tools of ritual magick, others have also seen this analogy between the Heros’ Journey and what is called the Fool’s Journey, or between the cycle of the hero and the sequence of the Tarot trumps. These others have included a few authors who have taken this pattern analogy and applied it strictly from the perspective of the Tarot and performing Tarot divination. Still, there is some question as to whether what I am proposing as a complete comparative analogy between the stages of the Hero’s Journey, and what others have called the analogy of the Fool’s Journey to the Hero’s Journey represent merely two different ways of stating the same thing.    

As far as I am aware, the Fool’s Journey is a title for the numeric sequence of the twenty-two trumps of the Tarot, beginning with the first card in that sequence, which is the Fool. Some writers have compared this sequence with the 17 stages of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, mostly using the stages as place holders for a Tarot card reading using all 78 cards. However, the 17 stages of the Hero’s Journey doesn’t  represent the complete cycle because it is missing an important additional set of five stages, which are known as the Cosmogonic Cycle, or the cycle of Creation through Dissolution. The Cosmogonic Cycle is important because it represents the vision that the Hero experiences when he is fully reconstituted (reborn) and awarded the boon or gift for his achievement. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the Vision is synonymous with the boon that the Hero receives. The critical importance of that vision of the Cosmogonic Cycle is that it assists the Hero in determining his destiny within the greater world drama, once he has acquired a renewed self definition.

The Cosmogonic Cycle consists of the five basic phases of the material and spiritual universe. These are described by the five rubrics - Source, Creation-Emanation, Mythic-Golden Age, Age of Death, and Ultimate Dissolution. These five stages represent the life cycle of the cosmos, and it is important for the Hero to realize his specific role and part in this transitional drama. So the Cosmogonic Vision not only imparts the mythic narrative of creation and dissolution, but it also determines the specific mythic and historical context of the Hero, showing his place in the present world and his ultimate destiny. 

What I have proposed would essentially exclude any consideration of the Fool’s Journey, since by applying all twenty-two trumps to all of the stages, including the Cosmogonic Cycle, the numeric sequence at the top of each card (typically in Roman Numerals) is altogether ignored. Therefore, when examining the twenty-two Tarot trumps as active archetypes to be used within magical initiations and invocative operations, they become instead actual triggers for spiritual and psychic transformation. In other words, these twenty-two stages become the actual symbolic progression of a profound internal transformation, which is harnessed and controlled by the magical practitioner. This is quite different than anything that I have so far seen where the Fool’s Journey is compared to the Hero’s Journey. What I am proposing has little to do with divination, other than it serves to completely redefine the Tarot trump cards when they appear in a reading; it has to do with dynamically using the Tarot trumps to trigger an internal, psychic and spiritual transformation within the operator. It is, therefore, a highly active and instrumental use of this pattern.

Additionally, there is not only a Hero’s Journey, but also a Heroine’s Journey. Although this mythic theme is rare, it does have some representations, most notably in the tale from antiquity entitled “Eros and Psyche,” which appeared in the book “The Golden Ass,” written by Apuleis. Another example of this myth is to be found in the Scandinavian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” It can even be found in the modern story, “The Wizard of OZ.” While similar to the Hero’s Journey, it is also remarkably different, so it would have a somewhat different sequence of twenty-two trumps to effectively qualify that cycle. So where a man would focus on the Hero’s Journey, a woman would focus on the Heroine’s Journey, and the difference in the qualities and outcome between the genders is quite remarkable. So far I have not found anyone who was talked about the Fool’s Journey and the Heroine’s Journey, so that aspect of the magically transformative cycle has yet to be adequately covered by some author.

This leads me to the actual point of this article. I have been thinking about writing a book that would examine this myth purely from the point of view of the showing how the Hero’s Journey can be further defined by the twenty-two Tarot trumps; but instead of using Campbell’s text, I would seek to approach this work from the perspective of the Tarot trumps. I have never really written an in-depth analysis of how these stages are identical to the Tarot trumps, since it always seemed so obvious to me. In order to accomplish this task, I will have to go back to the Italian artistic emblems from which they are derived. I will have to engage in a greater symbolic analysis of the Tarot trumps to prove without any doubt that the stages match the specific Tarot trumps. Once this is accomplished, I can then show how the newly developed Tarot based cycle of transformative initiation can be used in initiation rites, ordeals and even forms of pagan based evocation of spirits. To my mind, no one yet has done this work, so I think that this book will be well received and important to anyone who is both a Pagan, Wiccan and magical practitioner.
In my forthcoming book proposal, I will discuss in detail the nature of this Hero’s Journey (and the Heroine’s Journey) and how it relates to the original Shamanic healing cycle, and how it can be deliberately used to foster a kind of theurgic transformation. In this way, the Hero’s Journey becomes a symbolic euphemism for transformative initiation within the regimen and practices of the ritual magician. Anyone who is interested in capturing this process in their own initiatory rites, emulating the basic mystery system that it underlies or using the double gateway and underworld thematic structure for accessing the unconscious and entering the domain of the Gods and the mysteries would prize a literary work that demonstrates how this might be accomplished. I am inspired to write this manuscript, but I hope that a publisher will also be as interested in publishing it as I am in writing it.

Anyway, this is new book idea that I am going to be researching and developing over the next several months. I see it becoming quite a significant work for me, and although it will repeat many themes that I have already written about, it will do so in much greater depth and detail than what I have done previously.

Frater Barrabbas

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Geosophia and Demonic Musings

Although I read the two volume book “Geosophia” written by Jake Stratton-Kent almost a year ago, I hadn't been able to fully resolve all my thoughts about the topic enough to warrant a proper book review. Recently, the last pieces of the puzzle have come into place, and my overall opinion of Goetic Magick has undergone an evolution over the last couple of years. When the book “True Grimoire” first came out, I held the opinion that one had to balance any kind of spiritual relationship with demons with that of the corresponding angel, and I felt that the True Grimoire had too great an emphasis on the demonic, with hardly any kind of corresponding work with angels. I saw this imbalance as a potential problem for anyone who would attempt to work with this grimoire, and even said that is was like giving a loaded gun to a child. Additionally, my biggest problem with the True Grimoire is that it stipulated that the goetic magician must make a kind of blood pact with the infernal ambassador Scirlin, and I considered this requirement as a barrier to ever working with such a grimoire. Still, things do have a way of changing and evolving if one is open minded and capable of growing.

The answer that I was seeking to unlock my own puzzle over the nature of good and evil was discovered in two parts, with the first being found in the book “Crossed Keys,” where it seemed that the results of the author’s ritual workings were highly influenced by his belief system, his intention and internalized values. What I realized (and actually already knew in a different manner) was that there couldn’t be a preconceived overall value system that would tie all magicians and their experiences about spirits into a unified and simplified spiritual classification. In order to truly understand and realize the nature of any given spirit, the magician must invoke that spirit and develop a relationship with it. I found that we couldn’t trust the written texts and lore of the old grimoires because we, as a culture and a people, had lost that kind of simple faith. For the post modern ritual magician, there is no generalized good and evil, since what is actually experienced is a combination of the magician’s present day beliefs, sentiments and intentions in regards to the magick that he or she performs. Where this becomes very complex and highly contextual is when spirits become the focus of a magician’s work.    

What I discovered essentially caused me to realize that the lore and descriptions about spirits, particularly demons, was based on a very antique and conservative Christian definition of the spiritual hierarchy. Since these sentiments are actually quite alien to my own spiritual beliefs, then I must be careful in accepting them, or in fact, I might consider rejecting them outright. What this does is put the entire spiritual value system that stipulates that angels are good and demons are evil as being both irrelevant and inconsistent with my own modern pagan based spiritual beliefs. Thus, the question of good and evil, in regards to morality and the supposed characteristics of spirits, becomes nothing more than a question of relativity. I think that I stated this concept quite well in my article posted nearly a year ago, entitled “Does Culture Influence Occultism and Spirituality?” (you can find that article here), and I believe that the answer to that question was a resounding affirmative. A quote from that article pretty much presents what I discovered at that time, and it allowed me to completely loosen the frame of reference that I had been using previously.

The question of good and evil therefore becomes a relative question instead of one that is steeped in universal principles. In order to intelligibly speak about demons, devils and spirits of the dead, we need to first define our own spiritual foundation, and based on that alone, establish our judgements on the nature of these spirits, their use in magick, and their overall spiritual characteristics.”

This first answer allowed me to completely re-evaluate the antique lore about demons and approach them not as a class of evil and malignant spirits, but as one of individual and independent spirits, each with its own personality and characteristics. It makes such a document as the “Pseudomonarchia Daemonum” written by Johann Weyer (1563) and other analogous or associated documents seem to be completely irrelevant for the modern practitioner. The problem with this whole methodology is that to make generalizations about classes of spirits is likely to be more erroneous than useful, especially if that classification system is as old and antique as many of the grimoires that dealt specifically with demons.

As a technological culture we rely on classifications to describe and categorize all material objects and phenomena. Science has taught us to rely on these classifications, since we continue to find them relevant and useful for ordering the natural world. However, when it comes to spiritual entities, we can no longer hold to rigid classifications, since what we are dealing with is wholly subjective and determinant on the personal perspective of the magician performing the invocation or evocation. Spiritual classifications are not based on any kind of objective reality, so they must be more malleable and mutable than scientific classifications if they are deemed to be useful at all. Ultimately, it is up the practicing magician to build up a hierarchy based on his or her personal observations when invoking spirits. In other words, a magician must build up the listing of characteristics of the spirits in his or her spiritual hierarchy based mostly on observation and personal experience. While it is useful to place a grid of symbolic correspondences over such a list, the ultimate determinant of any specific spirit’s character must be based on summoning and establishing a relationship with that spirit.

Despite this realization, I still found approaching the True Grimoire nearly impossible because I resisted the idea that anyone should make a blood pact with an infernal spirit, ambassador or not. I also found the whole concept of an infernal hierarchy influenced far too much by the antique and conservative Christianity underlying the spiritual faith associated with the old grimoires. I just didn’t buy into the gothic perspective of either demonolatry or engaging with supposed malefic spirits, so I felt that I couldn’t approach the True Grimoire on its own terms. That was where I had left things over a year ago when I had completed reading Jake’s two volume set. I saw the continuity that Jake had intended to create from the two volumes of Geosophia to the final product of those considerations, which is the True Grimoire. I agreed with all of Jake’s premises established in that work, but I couldn’t get beyond that barrier and find any kind of use for the demon based magical system of the True Grimoire. I had reached a kind of logger-head and couldn’t make any further progress.

One thing that I have researched over the months is that the whole concept of demons representing hostile, lowly and evil spirits is based on a more recent definition of the word daemons, particularly, the influence and perspectives of medieval Christianity. If we go back to the writings of Iamblichus, we will find no mention of cacodaemons or evil spirits. According to the writings of Iamblichus, daimons functioned as an intermediary between humans and the Gods. As intermediaries, they didn’t have any independent volition, but acted as agents for the will of the Gods. In fact, if we examine the general hierarchy of spirits that Iamblichus espoused, we will see that daimons were not, in fact, either infernal or lower than mankind. Here is what that hierarchy looked like. (See the book “Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus” by Gregory Shaw - Penn State Press - 1995)

1. Gods
2. Archangels
3. Angels
4. Daimons
5. Heroes (Demi-gods)
6. Archons (sub lunary)
7. Archons (material)
8. Human Souls
(See Shaw, p. 79)

It would seem that the daimons are actually functioning as intermediaries, just below the angelic hierarchical level, but far above the level of human souls. According to Iamblichus, daimons and heroes served as media connecting the extremes of human souls and Gods. The daimons, according to Iamblichus were analogous to the laws of nature, since they were instrumental in binding human souls to their bodies. The role of the heroes was what Shaw called “epistrophe,” aiding human souls (when they were ready) to be released from the bondage to their bodies and ascend to the Gods.

Additionally, it would seem that Iamblichus’ teacher, Porphyry espoused a de-sacralized cosmos, where the daimons were inferior to human souls, due to the simple fact that he believed that human souls were not bound to the human body. It would seem that the concept of daimons representing a lower level than humans, or even an infernal level (in Hell) was proposed by Porphyry and later adopted by early Christian theologians. Perhaps an earlier perspective of this philosophical definition of daimons can be found in the writings of Xenocrates, who became the leader of the Athenian Academe after its founder, Plato, passed away. I have gone over the historical progression of how daimons became synonymous with evil spirits in my article “Whence Cometh the Demons,” which you can find here. I would like to add that the body of lore about demonic spirits was taken up by many different hands, but that the whole basis of this hierarchy and its importance has its source in Greek philosophy and various sects and systems of antique occultism. 

Despite all of these various revelations, my opinion about working with demons hadn’t really changed. I believed that only a balanced working that involved both angels and demons would actually produce the safest results within a magical practice. This kept me from really apprizing the True Grimoire and being able to determine its value, since I was unwilling to undergo the first step of establishing a blood pact with the infernal ambassador, Scirlin. 

All that changed recently when the second part of the answer I was seeking came to me in the guise of a series of conversations between myself and my old friend, Lugh. My friend Lugh is a practitioner of the ATR systems of magick, and he is initiated into a number of cults and organizations, most notably for this article, Palo Mayombe. It was he who gave me the final answer that I had been pondering and searching for all these months. That answer was that all spirits, according to Palo teachings, are to be approached independently and that a kind of treaty is sought and achieved with that spirit. It requires a dialog and the establishment of a relationship, which can’t be accomplished in a single evocation.

What the practitioner does is to summon a spirit and communicate with it. He will then, perhaps over a period of time, find out the nature of that spirit, what it can do (and can’t do), and then when all of this is known, he will tell the spirit what he wants, and then ask that spirit what it wants in return. One doesn’t have to assume that the spirit will want the operator’s blood or some kind of irrevokable bond, instead the spirit might ask for something simple, perhaps some food and drink, or even a mere token. Each spirit is approached in this manner regardless of its classification or associated mythic lore, and so a respectful relationship is established with a kind of quid pro quo exchange.

This is what the Palo adherents call a treaty - it is not considered a pact as much as it is a sign of an important spiritual relationship. I found this answer to be both simple, direct and without any kind of bias or prejudice. Such an approach requires the magician to be respectful and seek a relationship with that spirit. He doesn’t command, coerce or bind the spirit to his will, nor does he perceive the spirit to be inferior or implicitly hostile. Some spirits will be harsh and angry, some will be benevolent and others will be neutral; but in any case, each spirit is perceived as a unique individual with its own specific characteristics. The revelation of those spiritual characteristics are completely subjective and relative to the spiritual perspective of the magician.

Therefore, if I seek to engage with the spirits of the True Grimoire, then I will have to approach them as unique individuals despite how they might be defined in any renaissance Christian based document. While it is assumed that the infernal ambassador called Scirlin requires a blood pact in order to engage with the rest of the demonic spirits, that requirement could be tested by simply establishing a relationship with Scirlin and finding out what it would want in return for access to the spiritual powers of the True Grimoire.

Perhaps the most important rule operating in this kind of work is to never make any assumptions, and that the magician should be strong enough to deal with any kind of challenge, including invoking spirits that might otherwise be either harsh or even hostile. In other words, I should take the directions associated with any grimoire with a grain of salt, and that what is written is going to be subjected to my beliefs and spiritual alignment. So this is the answer that would allow me to progress in my dealings with the True Grimoire, or any other grimoire that I might be interested in incorporating. The key to this work is that the magician must first access, engage and then establish a relationship with the target spirit, and then over time, determine the basis of a treaty. In forming a treaty, the magician need not do anything that he or she would feel uncomfortable with or would find out-of-bounds. This is a negotiation, and like all negotiations, some things can be required, while other things are kept out-of-bounds by both parties.

Now that I have crossed this threshold that was holding me back, I can understand how to properly approach Goetic magick and demonic spirits. I can also more adequately judge Jake Stratton-Kent’s work, from Geosophia to the True Grimoire. With that in mind, let me now present my review of the work Geosophia.

Review of Geosophia - Volumes 1 and 2

The two volumes have to be taken as two parts of one complete work. To attempt to review just one volume independently would be absurd. I have often found that some reviewers will take a multi-volume work and attempt to review just one of the parts, and this will produce a review that is both incomplete and erroneous. For this reason, I will treat these two books as one work, since they are integral and contiguous.

Geosophia is modeled on the mythic adventure of Jason and the Argonauts, but in the very beginning, the author defines this mythic adventure in a very different manner. This adventure is actually a shamanic underworld journey, and the boat called the Argo is the medium of making the passage into the underworld. While the journey has an interesting geographic element, the actual destination of Colchis is really in the dark underworld domain of spirits. The quest is for the Golden Fleece, which in reality is the Shaman’s healing and empowering aegis. It would seem that Jake has brilliantly taken a popular Greek myth and brought into the context of an ancient system of spirit shamanism. Yet that shamanism has its roots not in Greek culture, but in the older and more archaic cultures to the east, Thrace and Phrygia, where a form of eastern Mediterranean shamanism, goetic magic and necromantic mystery cults have their source and origin. This is also the source of the teachings of Pythagorus and mysteries of Orpheus. In some ways, the journey of the Argonauts (called by Jake, the Argonautica) not only seeks to enter into the domain of spirits, but it also recapitulates the journey that these systems of magic made from East to West in reverse, as if to seek the source both within the underworld as well as in the unknown eastern lands of Thrace.

I found this whole concept to be novel, fascinating and quite believable. While the combined two volumes make for a rather long reading regimen, the contents of the two books more than make up for the sheer volume of information presented. Amidst all of the details of this work, I found nothing either boring, redundant or irrelevant. Everything in this work is there for a very strategic purpose, and there is no digression whatsoever.

Some of the information covered by these two volumes brings together a seemingly diverse amount of classical material, whose relationship to goetic magic is only now revealed to be compelling and instructive. Jake covers the full spectrum of those mysterious Sibyls, and even presents a practical method for invoking one of them. He covers the geography of Hades and how it represents an underworld model accessible to ancient and modern mankind, accessible through the shamanic trance. Other topics covered are the various mystery cults in antiquity of the Necromanteia (divination via the heroic dead), the critical importance of Dionysus and Orpheus, Media as the personification of the Great Mother, and the hierosgamos and deification of Jason and Medea, where Media functions as a kind of magician’s scarlet woman. The homeward journey of the Argonauts is analogous to the Goetic magician bringing the powers of the spirit world into the mundane world, thereby revivifying it. To put greater context to all of these suppositions, the Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (PGM) is examined and key elements of that book are shown to contain the hidden and obscured practices of the goetic arts in antiquity. The later Picatrix and Sabean planetary and astrological magic demonstrates a continuity of these practices from late antiquity to the middle ages.

Some of the points that Jake makes in his two volume book are quite compelling and integral to an understanding of the continuity and relevancy of ancient goetic magic and the practices performed today by various individuals and traditions. These points are:

  • All Greek deities have a chthonic foundation and source-godhead attribute. It is as if to say that the Olympians all started out as underworld gods and only later assumed the status of heavenly deities.
  • Source for the Greek Mysteries is likely came from Thrace and Phrygia, and in fact, much of the religious, spiritual and mystical found in Greek culture has its source in that geographic locality. It is likely here that the foundation for goetic magic has its source, as part of the archaic system of eastern Mediterranean shamanism
  • Goetic magic later became a part of the practices of necromancy in ancient Greece, and spread from there to around the Mediterranean world. It would appear that there is a continuity in practices in regards to goetic magic, from the ancient world through the middle ages and on to the renaissance and to modern times.
So, it would seem that the premise presented by Jake Stratton-Kent, that Goetic magic is a Greek phenomenon with Thracian roots, is quite compelling. No one else that I am aware of has traced the history of this practice so accurately and pulled together so many fascinating elements into a seamless whole, as if they were once indeed part of a spiritual and magical tradition. I had written a criticism of this premise put forward by Jake in a previous article, and you can find it here. However, after reading over this two volume work, I would have to fully agree with this premise. While it might be true that Jewish occultists had their own perspective on demonic magick, and they may have contributed to some of the demonic names that are used today for these entities, the Jewish and Christian belief that human souls are superior to the infernal demons has done little to add to the practice of Goetic magick. In fact, one could say that it has unfortunately muddied the water considerably.

My only criticism of this two volume work is that there are no citations indicating the supporting premises that Jake has made throughout this work. I am fortunate because I have actually read most of the books that appear in the bibliography listed at the end of volume 2, so I have a pretty good idea as to the source material that would support these claims. I found myself nodding my head, saying to myself, that I had found this statement or that in some of the works that I have read in the past. However, this won’t help either the goetic practitioner or the erstwhile student who would like to delve deeper into the source material that Jake used to determine his thesis. 

Jake’s reason for omitting all of the citations is that it would interfere with the flow of his narrative, and perhaps he is correct in that judgement. Often scholarly works have so many footnotes, comments and citations that it does make the bottom of the page quite busy. It could be said that such books have so many citations that they could alone easily be made into an independent book. Still, it is my opinion that the lack of these citations unfortunately lessens the importance and value of this work. Perhaps a future edition might incorporate all of these missing citations, and that work would represent perhaps one of the greatest contributions to both scholarly research and the necessary lore for a comprehensive understanding of the history and evolution of Goetic Magick.

One of my earlier opinions, though, still stands, and that is I wish that the two volume Geosophia had been written and published before the True Grimoire. Looking at the True Grimoire in the context of Geosophia gives it greater value and continuity. That was something that Jake had promised, and he did indeed deliver. However, I would not have made such a fool of myself in my earlier comments about the True Grimoire had I been able to read Geosophia before I read the True Grimoire. It would seem that with my most recent revelations and having read the Geosophia, I will now have to re-read the True Grimoire, and perhaps I will discover a more practical and down to earth manner of harnessing its wisdom and power.

Finally, taking into account all of these considerations written above, I must declare that I recommend all three volumes of the Geosophia I & II, and the True Grimoire. All of these works are brilliantly written, researched and represent a possible new wave in the theory and practice of Goetic Magick. However, I would recommend starting with the Geosophia, and then when the contents of that monumental work are fully digested, to move on to reading the True Grimoire.

Frater Barrabbas

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Talking About Ritual Magick - Third Anniversary - 2012

As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having too much damn fun, and once again, we have passed the August 2nd anniversary date, which is an important mile-stone for this blog. All I can say is that the year has gone by in what seems like a flash of lightening! Still, it was a really good year and there were some very interesting articles. The blog is now averaging around 670 subscriptions, has 272 followers and nearly 193,000 views since it began. I am also maintaining an average of around 8 to 9 articles a month, with a grand total of 341 posts (including this one).

Since quite a number of those posts represent somewhere around five or more pages, that’s quite a lot of information for you to read and examine at your leisure - and we are only three years old! I am really looking forward to the next year, but I am going to have to start figuring out what I want to write about and what new topics I can cover in a more strategic manner. I have covered most of the topics that I would like to write about, but I am sure that much more will be forthcoming. If you have any specific topics that you would like me to write about, just drop me a line into my handy email box. I typically respond within a day or two to those who write me. For topic article requests, that might take a bit longer to realize.

Also, don’t forget to check the subject index (Labels) for the blog, located on the lefthand side of the page, just under the favorite blog listing and web site links. I am usually pretty thorough about putting proper labels on all of my articles, so by clicking on one of them, you can find all of the articles associated with that label topic. I often use this mechanism myself to find articles that I want to link to for the purpose of establishing a reference foundation or linking to a previously written article that is relevant to the current one.  

Normally, for these anniversary articles I usually write about the year and what I have accomplished during that period. However, I would like to do something entirely different for this anniversary date. What I am proposing is to put together a list of links for all of the really good articles that have been posted since this blog started out, particularly those articles where I have actually experienced some real magical phenomena. Anyway, here is my list of all-time great articles, just for you in case you missed out on catching any of them when they first were posted.

Let me start out with the serial articles -

Abramelin Lunar Ordeal - A Complete Index Guide to Articles

Qabalah - A Complete Index Guide to Articles

Talismanic Portae Lucis Ordeal - List of article links -

There are eleven articles for this set, and I haven’t created an index for them yet, so here it is.

Some of the ten most popular or infamous articles on this blog -

1. Demon Lovers, Succubi and Incubi
2. Grimoire Armadel - Curious History and Use
3. Great Rite and Sexual Alchemy
4. Remembering Michael Bertiaux
5. Thoughts About the Qliphoth
6. Sex Magick Made Simple
7. Best of H. P. Lovecraft
8. Alex Sanders - A Pagan Magus
9. Non-Duality and the Qabalah
10. Jesus Christ - Myth, Legend or Historical Person?

So, that’s a wrap for this anniversary issue of the blog “Talking About Ritual Magick.” As we begin the fourth year of this blog, we will hopefully have many more interesting articles and concepts to float by you, my readers. One thing that I will note is that my ability to articulate often difficult and obscure points is getting much better, and this is due to the energy that I have put into the many articles appearing in this blog. My goal is become a much more accessible writer while still tackling some pretty difficult topics. That's a tall order, for sure.

Yet the real success story for this blog is to found in the many wonderful readers who link in every time I post a new article. I am grateful for your readership, which appears to be doubling every year. Hopefully this process will continue, and I will certainly do my best to make certain that there are interesting and compelling articles here every month.

Once again, thanks for all your support, comments and questions. You have made this a very rewarding experience for me, and I hope that I have given you some moments of inspiration as well.

Bright Blessings to you in the coming months (and I hope you had a happy Lugnasad) -

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Veneration of Ancestors - A Pagan Theme

Pagans from all time periods have engaged in a practice that is called ancestor veneration, where one’s departed forebears are given a certain reverential respect and honor due to their linear importance to one’s own birth and residence within the continuity of a family organization. I think that this is a very natural and basic human sentiment, perhaps somewhat displaced in modern times, but still important. I also believe that it is particularly important to modern pagans, as well as magicians who work with spirits.

In the U.S., there is a decided bias against this sort of belief and practice, and there is a habit of diminishing one’s forebears and putting them into a perspective that everyone who lived and existed in the prior age are inferior to everyone who lives and exists today. We are so devoted to progress that we have learned to belittle and dismiss the efforts and achievements of those who have come before us. This mind-set has unfortunately affected people’s attitudes towards their ancestors. It has also forced our culture to be divorced and cut-off from the people who made our lives and our very existence possible. I find this lack of respect and veneration for one’s ancestors to be not only problematic, but it also has the potential of making a practicing magician a lot poorer and much more isolated. Allow me to explain why I believe this to be true.

Several years ago, I had the same attitude towards my ancestors that everyone else of my generation had. We had a complete disregard for anyone in our past who was from the “older generation,” starting with our parents. Since I, like all of my contemporaries, had experienced a decided generational schism when growing up, we amplified this fissure by dismissing and devaluing everything associated with my father’s as well as my grandparents generations, and we even dismissed those unknown individuals who came before them. I guess we believed that we were the Crown of Creation and that everyone who had lived before us was deemed irrelevant. This was the kind of inherent snobbery held by those of us in the “Boomer” generation, and I suspect that this attitude has been continued in the later generations.

Some years later my sister got heavily involved with genealogy and she performed some extensive research and even interviewed some of the remaining family members who remembered events and individuals in our family’s past. I found all of this somewhat interesting, but because I was the only member of my family who had a strong proclivity for occultism and magick, I felt that I was unique and had little in common with any of my forebears. I read her reports with a certain detached interest, but I felt that it wasn’t really relevant to my life in the present world.

This sentiment continued for some time until I underwent a reformation in regards to my pagan beliefs. A few of my most respected pagan friends then gave me some constructive criticism and informed me that it was natural for pagans to have a certain veneration and reverence for their ancestors, regardless of what they might have been like when alive. I have also encountered individuals engaged in the African Religious Traditions who told me that the most important spirits in any kind of root-work or invocation regimen were one’s ancestors. Without them, a magician had no allies nor anyone to guide or vouch for them. In other words, without the ancestors, a magician was alone and without spiritual allies.

I pondered all of these various ideas and came to realize that they were all correct, and this completely changed my opinion and attitude towards my living family and its resident ancestors. I don’t have to either engage with these spirits or seek specific guidance from them, but I do need to at least keep the “spirit door” open for them, and to honor and respect them in turn. In doing this, I have encountered some vague but intriguing notions that I am not the only one in my family line who has had an interest or an ability with magick and occultism. I can’t exactly determine who they were or from which genetic family line or time period they once lived, but I feel them and I sense that they are very much behind the scenes when I perform various magical or liturgical rites. My own mother, who is recently departed, seemed to show her ghostly presence to me whenever I perform the Mass of the Great Goddess, and of course, our recently departed furry friend, the cat Stars, is very much actively participating in the work of the grove where he is buried.

All of these elements have come together and forged within me a very different attitude and perspective in regards to my ancestors. I now have a special sacred place in my library where I have placed all of the pictures that I have of my linear ancestors. They occupy a place of honor and learning within my occult and spiritual work. Certainly, a number of these ancestors would have objected to my occult practices if they were alive (and in fact a few of them did), but now that they are dead, it would seem that I have realized a greater acceptance from them. I have acquired an attitude of honor and reverence for these important individuals regardless of what kind of person they actually were when alive. It would seem that the transition of death gives a person a certain amount of restitution and rehabilitation. Whether they were scoundrels or irascible tyrants during life, death has a way of mitigating all of their faults so that they become worthy of honor and remembrance simply because they were ancestors. Perhaps this is one of the greater mysteries of death, although still being alive, I am unable to confirm this as a fact.

Another thing that I learned is that we have both physical ancestors and we also have spiritual or magical ancestors. We have our actual genetic forebears, and we also have individuals whose traditions we have been initiated into or whose beliefs and practices we borrowed and incorporated into our own spiritual and magical work. Eastern mystical traditions as well as some western venerate their founders and include them in their prayers and spiritual practices. Catholics have their saints arrayed in great abundance, but western occultists have founders and trail blazers who could also receive the same degree of veneration, honor or respect.

We who work with these traditions believe that those individuals whom we venerate are not dead, mute or lost to time, but instead they have a manner of existence that continues beyond death. These spiritual ancestors, as I call them, have become part of the egregore of the spiritual system that they helped to found. Because so many people believe, think or talk about them, and even pray to them, thereby building up their legendary mythic persona, they have become far more powerful and important in death than they ever were in life. As occultists we can choose to either engage with these spiritual ancestors or we can ignore them, but I believe that we ignore them at our own cost. Spiritual personalities that are part of a tradition’s egregore are quite important, and I believe that one must engage with these various individuals in order to fully engage with that tradition. In my opinion, to omit them or somehow denigrate them is to greatly impoverish the holistic experience of that tradition.

Imagine how poor Catholic magic would be without the power of the Saints and the Archangels. The founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ himself, is so pivotal to Christianity that it would seem to be totally absurd to omit him from any kind of Christian service or religious celebration. Yet it is no more absurd to omit the founder or trailblazer of any given occult tradition from one’s considerations and practices. So it is for this reason that I accept and believe that I must give a certain degree of respect, honor and even veneration to those individuals who laid the occult foundation for me to follow many decades later.  

This brings me to the point of my article, and that is the answer as to why I supposedly venerate certain individuals who I believe are critically important to me, and therefore, are my personal spiritual ancestors. One of my friends recently said that he doesn’t believe in putting anyone on a pedestal, which I guess means that he doesn’t subscribe to venerating ancestors, whether genetic or spiritual. I believe that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but I think that taking this attitude makes any magician a lot poorer and less able to be spiritually guided and assisted. Perhaps this does occur whether one has this attitude or not, but I have found in my own work that engaging in the proper attitude of honor, respect and veneration makes it much more likely that I will be fully conscious of any positive encounter with my ancestors, and in fact, I highly welcome it. 

Some have obliquely criticized me that venerating such individuals as S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, Gerald B. Gardner or even Alex Sanders is ridiculous. These individuals were just ordinary men who lived and died in the last century, and they were as likely to be highly flawed as well as particularly gifted. Of course this criticism can apply to nearly everyone, since we are all flawed and imperfect who are also mortal. In the eyes of my critics I must be some kind of naive fool or a complete sucker to venerate such individuals as these (or for that matter, to venerate anyone). 

Even so, we live in a nation and a world that venerates its past leaders, ingenious creators, inventors and military heroes. Our public areas are filled with statues, busts and commemorative edifices. We have millions of acres of graveyards carefully tended with the past dead, so it would seem that a respect and reverence for our forebears is part of our culture, whether we admit it or not. So, with all of this in mind, I can hardly be perceived as a naive fool because I venerate my spiritual and magickal forebears. In fact, I believe that I am doing what only comes natural to a modern pagan and a member of my culture.

As I have said, founders usually become spiritual attributes associated with the tradition that they established. In this manner, Mathers, Crowley, Gardner and Sanders are alive in some fashion, existing within the ever growing and waning power and prestige of the traditions that they founded. Regardless of whether someone like Nick Farrell or Pat Zelewski excoriates and denigrates the history of someone like MacGregor Mathers, it would seem that he continues to have a powerful presence within the rituals and methodologies that he originally wrote and passed on to his followers. Not only do I find this lack of respect and honor on their parts toward Mathers to be offensive, it would seem to be a very un-pagan thing to do as well. 

Since I have established above that it is proper and a good pagan practice to venerate, honor and respect one’s physical and spiritual ancestors, then I and others who have taken the teachings and practices from the Golden Dawn should naturally have this same kind of attitude to the founder of that tradition. In fact, I would say that anyone who is an initiate in the Golden Dawn should have a particular veneration and respect for Mathers if they are going to be actively engaged with that tradition. In my opinion, to denigrate and devalue Mathers is to do violence to the egregore of the Golden Dawn. Such a person is not only guilty of a kind of attempted spiritual patricide, but they would seem to have stepped fully out of the egregore altogether, and could no longer be considered as actively engaged with that tradition in any kind of magical or spiritual manner.

Finally, do we judge someone who lived either decades or centuries ago by the scant information that exists about them, or do we judge them by their contribution to our world? Certainly Beethoven was a highly flawed individual who few either liked or loved when he was alive; but it was his transcendent music that made him a venerated and respected composer. Do we consider someone foolish who has a bust of Beethoven in their home? Of course not, since his music was so extraordinary in that time, and it is still performed and listened to today. The same thing could be said of Shakespeare or any other great author, poet, or literary master.

In our post-modern world, many westerners have become iconoclasts and have rejected the relevance of their forebears, despite the fact that we owe our cultural heritage and our lives to many individuals who lived in the past. Their efforts have enriched our world today, so giving them their due seems hardly foolish or reprehensible. I think that have made my point, and I believe that now you might understand why I have said certain things in my previous articles about my spiritual ancestors.

Zalewski’s Critique of My Review for “King Over the Water”

One other thing that I would like to mention before I end this rather long article is that Pat Zalewski has recently criticized me for my review of Nick Farrell’s book, “King Over the Water.” I would like to quickly respond to a few of his points, since it does fit into the overall topic of this article. In his response to me, Pat made the following point:

It was interesting to read a review of King over the Water, which has recently popped up. The author cited Sword of Wisdom as a good Mathers biography and essentially admonished Nick for his analysis of Mathers. Now most of us know that Sword of Wisdom was an informative book, but was essentially a whitewash of Mathers and depicted him as a hero throughout. Now Nick does not need me to defend his work as he is quite capable of doing it himself. What I am commenting on here is how people (like the reviewer) have an idealized mental construct of Mathers and don't want that view shattered with some facts getting in the way, as did the author of Sword of Wisdom. The review was a defence [sic] of the mental image of Mathers and what he should have been like, not like he was. He apparently cannot differentiate the work Mathers did from the character. Howe lays it out [on the] table as to what Mathers was. Though Howe's work is dated, the new material on Mathers that has come to light since Howe, is more peripheral than core.”

Of course, anyone who read my review would note that my problem with Nick Farrell’s book is that it is filled with conjecture, innuendo and talking points; but it has very little actual historical research in it. The lack of citations and the sparse bibliography alone demonstrate that this work is very poorly researched. Farrell has created a supposed psychological profile of Mathers, even when there is so little supporting facts to make such an effort possible.

If Mr. Farrell was such a good historian, then why did he fail to notice that there was another Mathers family in Bedford (possibly related), and that the student who supposedly went to the local grammar school was actually not the same person as MacGregor Mathers, since the birth month in the school registry was in March instead of January? This little fact was explored in the “Sword of Wisdom,” representing one of the many irregularities found in attempting to reconstruct Mathers’ personal history. In short, we don’t really know if Mathers attended that school or not. Maybe he was home schooled. So little is known about his childhood, and also, so much is a mystery about him even as an adult that much of what do know could be considered speculation. With such little information it would be impossible to make a coherent history of Mathers, or even attempt to build up a psychological profile.

Mr. Farrell’s book is more fiction and political talking points than it is factual, and if Mr. Zalewksi thinks that Farrell has presented a factual historical analysis of Mathers, then I wonder how he can make such a statement without perjuring himself. It would seem, as I have pointed out in my review, that Farrell has a hidden agenda for writing two books that disparage and denigrate Mathers. I don’t believe that Mathers was a perfect human being, but I do believe that he deserves honor and respect from us who have used his work to augment our own. It is his work that is being judged, not his person, because so much time has passed that no one is able to build a detailed factual history of him.

Pat continues with the following comment:  

The reviewer was clearly out of his depth, going by some of the contrasts given. What Nick did in his book was to try and get rid of the fantasized Mathers and let the real one stand up. Now not everyone will agree with all of Nick's comments, but at least he tried to separate fact from fantasy which is a lot more than the reviewer did.”

Well “Golly Gee Wilikers,” I must be out of my depth because I believe that the contribution that Mathers has made to western occultism and the practice of magick is extremely important. If I think that Mathers was important, then I must be either delusional or just plain stupid!

I regret to inform Mr. Zalewski that I am equally as capable of making this kind of judgement as he is, and as a magical practitioner of nearly 40 years, I think that I am not at all out of my depth! I believe that Pat’s condescending attitude towards me is really quite obnoxious, and I feel that I can completely reject it as a bit of character assassination. Nick created a fictionalized cartoon character of Mathers in his book, whereas I judge Mathers based solely on his work. That’s hardly attempting to separate fact from fantasy, and I think that my opinion and attitude towards Mathers is much more realistic. I believe that we can argue about what Mathers was really like for the next century, but it doesn’t change the fact that his work was critically important to many magical practitioners today. The historical Mathers can never really be known because so little information has survived, but his work lives on, and for this we can happily venerate and honor him, just as we do with Beethoven or Mozart, regardless of what they were really like as individuals.

Pat goes to say that he does admire what Mathers produced for the Golden Dawn, albeit simply because he follows those practices and teachings, but he doesn’t enshrine him. In reality, he and Farrell do nothing but disparage and denigrate Mathers, so it hardly seems that there is much truth or sincerity in regards to their supposed “admiration.” I think that it’s obvious that Pat and Nick are really engaged in a serious bit of historical revisionism simply because they want to elevate the Stella Matutina (which is their own lineage) over the A+O; it’s all really as simple as that. 

Anyway, I think that I have made my point, and I believe that my readers will now understand what I mean when I say that I venerate certain spiritual ancestors. In my opinion, taking this attitude towards one’s spiritual and magickal forebears (as well as one’s genetic ancestors) is a testament to a practitioner’s sense of honor, worth and continuity. You don’t have to follow my way of doing things in regards to the ancestors, but if you are a modern pagan, then I think that omitting them from your religious and magical considerations might be a serious mistake.

Frater Barrabbas