Ceremonial Studies: Refining My Intent

When I set myself to the study of the Western Ceremonial tradition it was largely an intellectual exercise.  Yes, I expected to be a more competent and powerful witch/magician by the end of it, but I’d already learned the rudiments of sigils from Chaos magic (which I had largely understood as a subset of the ceremonial tradition, though I now know better) and I didn’t imagine that there would be much that would actually stick with me after the experiments were done.  After five months of study, I have come to understand just how little of what I thought I knew about the ceremonial tradition has any basis in reality.  Conversely, I have found that my chief concern was fairly well founded: I am fundamentally incompatible with some of the powers it deals with, though not in the ways I had imagined.  I have also come to recognize what the ceremonial tradition has to offer me personally: access to planetary Powers.

Various manuals of witchcraft that I have read in the course of my life have come with huge tables of plants, rocks, scents, colors, and their planetary correspondences.  But the rationale of those correspondences has never really been explained, nor why the attributions and uses of those correspondences varies so radically from the mythologies and portfolios of the divinities for which the planets have been named.  My explorations of ceremonial magic have helped me to understand (for example) why it is that Mars, the planet, has so little to do with Mars, the Roman god of war and the citizen-soldier.

More interestingly, particularly from my perspective as a visionary/shamanic witch looking to delve into that most forbidden of arts known as the evocation of spirits, I have learned of the multitudinous hosts and legions of spirits who make up those planetary Powers.  Even if, having acquired some skill at conjuration, I decide that it’s not for me, the names and sigils—phone numbers, as Frater Acher describes them (and I need that book)—will still be useful in seeking out contacts by other means.

Despite my best intentions, I am still having difficulty translating my theoretical studies into actual praxis.  This is partly a matter of trying to convert certain patterns into ones I understand, partly a matter of struggling to overcome inertia after having fallen off the horse (so to speak) of daily practice.

I want to begin seeking that thing known as “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” (or, you know, something along those lines, since I don’t quite buy the “guardian angel” part), but I have not yet settled on a particular ritual to that end.  The Stele of Jeu?  The Bornless Rite?  Liber Samekh?  (Sure, they’re all variations on the same tune, but I still need to choose one.)  Or some other ritual I haven’t found yet, aimed at the same goal?  Right now I’m leaning heavily toward the Stele of Jeu.  Very heavily.

When I resume pursing the planetary forces themselves, do I continue with the quasi-Golden Dawn route of Penczak’s High Temple?  Do I buy RO’s Gate Rites (I’ve been tempted for a while)?  Do I go whole-hog and dig into Abremelin?  Frustratingly, a lot of these questions would be a lot easier if I were Christian, or at very least if I weren’t energetically incompatible with the Archangels.  I really need to get my hands on a copy of the PGM—both translated and not.

I’ll say this much, though: by the time I’m done, there will be a neo-Pagan grimoire for sale somewhere.  I can’t be the only one struggling with some of these issues.  And maybe, as I continue, I’ll find that someone else has already done this.  Maybe I can use their work, maybe I can build on it, and maybe I’ll blow them out of the water.  There’s only one way to find out.

A research paper is no stronger than its thesis.  Until now, I had been doing no more and no less than preliminary exploration.  Now I have more specific aims—my theses, to continue the metaphor:  to get in touch with the Planetary forces, Powers, “elementals” (for lack of a better word) and spirits; to craft rites which fit within a neo-Pagan conceptual framework; and to make those experiments available to the public.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Ceremonial Studies: Refining My Intent

  1. More than being Christian, be Hermetic: there's still a threefold conception of the Divine like the Catholic Trinity (Father = Nous, Son = Logos, Spirit = Pneuma or Sophia). You might do well to ask some of the people taking RO's courses who aren't Christian to see how they reconcile things (the Unlikely Mage comes to mind). RO has a post floating around the internet somewhere that describes using the Olympic pantheon's names instead of holy names of the Judeo-Christian God for conjuration, too, if you're curious.

  2. I appreciate the research pointers. I will definitely look into those things.

  3. I had the same issues beforehand (GOD, angelic beings) but I managed to reconcile them. My own travels in ceremonial magick, it tends to be more eclectic than what most would prefer…..:)

  4. Dude, I hear that. “Eclectic” is the only word for my Work. The obstacle is often grokking primary (and secondary) sources well enough to make them my own.

  5. I would not engage in this activity to write a new book. I honestly feel that one should avoid such endeavors until at least a decade or two of work on those lines has been done. Our understanding of the spirits evoked, and what they tell us, is contigent (in my opinion) on the success of multiple operations. “As above, so below” – the further into the astral / starry realm we can move, the deeper through the Cthonic we can move. Astral movement into those spaces is similar to the ability to evoke enities residing therein.

    As for what road to take? The one that calls to you on the deepest level. I am disinterested in the typical sets of angelic parhedral spirits. But I am immensely interested in their predecessors, and how to contact them.

    From a sorcerer's perspective, some of the differences just don't matter. It is the contact that matters, and what you can learn from it.

  6. Oh, yeah. Also, pick up a copy of Jake Stratton-Kent's True Grimoire if you find yourself able to afford it. He breaks the Grand Grimoire down into a true “Greek Goetic” perspective, with the Grimoire ruled by Hermes Kthonios, Zeus-Kthonios/Hades, and Persephone. How hot is it? Positively scorching!

    I love my Gesophia, too. In the next decade, the original idea of the Goetes may actually make its return to neo-Pagan culture.

  7. Thank you, I'll keep an eye out for those volumes.

    I realize that I need to spend as much time going “up” as I do going “down”. For whatever reason, I find “up” to be significantly harder.

    As for writing a book on the matter–it's not that I'm doing the work in order to write a book about it. That would be assinine. It's more that, because I am a writer before all else, I want to write about everything I do. Hence this blog.

    I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

  8. Pingback: My Year of Ceremonial Study: The Home Stretch | Journey Through The Obsidian Dream

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