I have always been simultaneously fascinated with and repulsed by ceremonial magic. Fascinated with the elaborate props and ritual, with the finely tuned cosmology and infinite resources, and with the endless influence it has held over Western magical tradition. Repulsed by the fundamentally Abrahamic roots, the seeming rigidity of rank and practice, and the endless hours of formal, repetitive work.
As a witch, my magical practice owes a great deal to ceremonial magic: Gerald Gardner based his infamous Book of Shadows on the rites of the Freemasons and the Golden Dawn, steeped in pastoralist poetry and (presumably) tempered by his own visionary experiences. Many British Traditional rites (or so I am assured the scholar Ronald Hutton and by those who are willing to push the boundaries of their oaths to one group or the other) are nearly indistinguishable from those of the Golden Dawn, and many of those in turn mimic Masonic rites.
Even before I began studying Wiccan ritual as such, my first magical work was a variant of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. That ritual – the bastardized one, found in some forum or FTP server; not the true LBRP – remains fundamental to my magical practice.
I have owned many book son ceremonial magic over the years. Eliphas Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic was my second occult book purchase, after the Simon Necronomicon (I was sixteen years old. I didn’t know any better.). I own Barret’s The Magus and Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Magic. I have owned and lost or sold a half-dozen other books on the subject over the years. Most of them I never got around to reading, let alone doing.
My actual forays into ceremonialism began, interestingly, with Chaos Magic – borrowing Phill Hine’s Condensed Chaos from Chirotus Infinitum). I have recently finished reading the much-lauded Chicken Qabalah of Lon Milo DuQuette, supplemented in interesting ways by Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess and Aleister Crowley’s Moonchild. Now, I continue with this much-belated portion of my magical training with a … somewhat less respectable source: Christopher Penczak’s Temple of High Witchcraft. I will be supplementing this with Kraig, Barret, and Levi , of course, and with several blogs recommended to me by my friend Sthenno – observant readers will have noted the addition of several blogs to my reading list over the last few moths; Head For the Red, Rune Soup, Conjure Gnosis, and My Occult Circle are among her recommendations.
Frankly, If I’d realized that ceremonial magic involved so much visionary work, I’d have probably tried it years ago.
Because it is such a cerebral form of magic, I am reading the books ahead of time and will begin Penczak’s exercises on the 15th of August – as I begin settling into my new apartment in Far Eastern Indiana and wait for the Fall semester to begin. I will journal rigorously, and will hopefully have many elucidating experiences to write about here.