Monthly Archives: February 2012

Monthly Tarot: Pisces

Last month was so crazy that I haven’t even begun to process it.  Hopefully, this month will be a little more manageable—though this last week tells me it probably won’t be by much.  Interestingly, this lunar month began precisely as the sun moved from Aquarius into Pisces.

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Aeschylus’ Aid In Appealing for Justice

For reasons which I will not delve into here, I have had appeals to justice on my mind.  I could, of course, go the Curse Tablet route—the tablets found at Bath were almost exclusively appeals for justice(1)—but the only good site for deposition nearby that I’m aware of is the Quaker graveyard by the school, and I’m not sure that I want to go down that road just yet: appealing to the dead could get me something much closer to revenge than to justice.

Which leaves me needing to compose a spell of some other sort.  A prayer, a statement of intent, an image, perhaps a sigil or three.  And poetry.  Poetry is always good for magic.  But for those of us, like myself, to whom poetry does not come naturally, it is often useful to seek inspiration in the poetry of others, or even to outright plagiarize.

By coincidence, I have been reading Aeschylus’ Orestia(2).  And I have to say: if you are seeking justice or revenge, The Libation Bearers is a good place to go looking for poetry on the subjects of justice and revenge:

There has been wrong done.  I ask for right. / Here me, Earth.  Hear me grandeurs of Darkness

–Aeschylus Libation Bearers, 398-9

Tell me that’s not the good shit.

Almighty Destinies, by the will / of Zeus let these things / be done, in the turning of Justice / … The spirit of Right / cries out aloud and extracts atonement / due: … Who acts, shall endure.  So speaks the voice of age-old wisdom.

–Ibid, 306-8, 310-14

Yeah.  That’s the good shit.  And if you’re in more a mood for bloody vengeance than fair justice, just add back in the lines I’ve omitted.

My plan is to take these lines, and maybe a few like them, and write them on one side of a page as a prayer.  On the obverse will be images of the persons involved (the internet is handy that way), along with sigils pointed at having my appeal heard fairly.  The end result will be the sort of thing I can leave on my altar with a spell candle while the issue is in play, then torch or bury upon resolution.

One more for the road:

O gods, be just in what you bring to pass.

Hear then, you blessed ones under the ground, / and answer these prayers with strength on our side.

–Ibid. 462, 476-7


1—Magic of Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome.  Which I have returned to the library and therefore cannot cite properly.

2—Aescylus I.  Ed. David Grene, Trans Richmond Lattimore.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1953).

EDIT: Because I cannot be trusted to talk and type at the same time, I originally attributed these passages to the Eumenides rather than the Libation Bearers.  That was incorrect.

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Sappho Fragment

Diehl 94 / Voigt 168b / Cox 48 (Source for the original Greek)

Δέδυκε μὲν ἀ σελάννα

καὶ Πληίαδες· μέσαι δὲ νύκτες,

παρὰ δ᾽ ἔρχετ᾽ ὤρα·

ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω

The Moon has set

and the Seven Stars;

it is the middle of the night,

and the hour is passing;

but I sleep alone.

The translation is mine, albeit with a great deal of help from my professor and the rest of the class. I have done my best to achieve a balance between a literal translation and maintaining a sense of the poetry.  The “hour” (ὤρα) of which Sappho speaks conveys a strong implication of “opportunity”, much as it can in some English usages.

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I Think I’ve Found the “Reset” Button On My Aura

Fair Warning: In this post I’m going to talk about some of the “woo” that a lot of serious magicians don’t seem to like to talk about, but which I’m pretty sure they all practice on account of… well… their magic works.  Some of this sounds hokey, I know: if someone’s got better language to describe these things, I’d love to hear it.

Like many of you, I imagine, my earliest training in magic revolved around various chakra meditations.  I imagined that I was discovering these features of my energetic body, exercising them like mortal muscles.  I worked diligently to strengthen them, all on the assumption that the Eastern traditions from which they were “adopted” had knowledge of the subtle bodies that Western traditions had just somehow missed.  Now I’m not so sure.

“Forget everything you were told about chakras.”  Was it Peter Carroll or Phil Hine who told me that?  I don’t have those sources at hand to look it up.

The last public Beltane ritual I attended featured a number of children (before they were sent off to finish their own ritual while we grown ups poured some wine and finished our own).  The ritual leader pointed to them, and their as-yet-undifferentiated auras, and her belief that it was because, as children, they had not yet learned to compartmentalize their lives: that they did everything with the whole of their beings.  The auras I could see … the explanation, however, seemed unlikely.

I have already mentioned that my ceremonial experiments have been moving things around: a Malkuth node below my feet, my Crown (Kether) chakra rising a little further above my head, Geburah and Binah nodes forming at my shoulders, and my lowest three chakras fading almost to nothing.  I have been working to counteract these trends—or, at the very least, the untenable side effects.  Since beginning my work with the Stele of Jeu, all of my chakras—except for my Crown and Heart, which have been maintained by my Yoga practice—have been fading,  leaving my aura largely undifferentiated except for a dense corona at the edge.  Interestingly, this is having none of the undesirable consequences of some of my previous experiments—unless the insomnia, which seems to have passed, was related.  All this leads me to conclude that much of what I have taken for granted about my aura—seven chakras, various layers, and what have you—are not natural features but molds we train ourselves to fit within.  The magic we practice shapes our “energetic bodies”, much as our experiences physically altar our brains… except more so.

What does this mean in practical terms?  I don’t know yet, other than the obvious: I’ve lost another round of Everything You Know Is Wrong (I actually kind of love loosing that game; it means the universe it still interesting, and also that my experiments aren’t suffering from confirmation bias.).  It certainly means that, if I continue this path and my familiar energy nodes are replaced by something new and different, certain exercises I have used for years will be less efficacious.  As long as the benefits of jamming this Reset Button continue to be more positive than negative (and so long as none of the side effects are things I’m just not willing to deal with, “objective” measurements be damned), I’ll keep the course and see how things turn out.

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My Name Is A Heart Encircled By A Serpent

I have now performed the rite of the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist three times as a part of my lunar rites.  It has been, without question, one of the most powerful magical operations I have ever performed.

The first time, at the last Dark Moon, the sheer power of it got me so high that I forgot to take down my circle; I had strange visions and nightmares that night, and when I did to Yoga the next day, I walked out feeling like a god.

The second time, at the Full Moon, was less dramatic; I was high, but not disorientingly so, and I could feel the magic moving out into my Web of Influence.  Although there may have been other factors—stress from too heavy a course-load, conflicts with a professor, and a sorting out some issues with my lover, among other things—I hardly got one good night of rest out of three for the next two weeks.  My patience with any sort of bullshit vanished altogether, and my temper was entirely out of control.  These symptoms faded over the early-semester break, but did not disappear entirely until the next Dark Moon, when I performed the ritual again.

The third time, again at the Dark of the Moon, was less dramatic still.  I think I need to linger more over the voces magicae and Barbarous Words.  My patience has returned, some, and my temper faded; more importantly, though, my will to act has been charged.

Though I feel that the results so far have been extremely positive—excepting the insomnia, which may or may not be related—I am still struggling to understand the precise affects of the ritual.  Jack Faust argues—and convincingly—that it is somehow related to the ἀγαθός δαίμων (agathos daimon).  Crowley’s Liber Semekh was derived from a less complete version of this ritual, known as the London Papyrus 46(1), thus linking it to the tradition of modern Western Ceremonial Magic and the pursuit of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.

The ritual, which reads as an exorcism of sorts—“…deliver him, ____, from the daimon which restrains him…”(2)—is thick with interesting syncretism.  The magician identifies himself as Moses, and with the line of the prophets of Israel.  He also identifies himself a the “Messenger of the Pharaoh Osoronnophris (a cult-name for Osiris).  Osoronnophris and IAO (a Graeco-Egyptian name for YHVH) are both evoked (or perhaps invoked), and the ritual culminates with a particularly interesting and graphic image and imperative: “My name is a heart encircled by a serpent, come forth and follow.”(3)

Now, bear with me a moment as I seem to change subjects:

Over the last several weeks, I have also been using a variation of DuQuette’s Ganesha banishing/invocation to start my day and to open my rites.  Not feeling sufficient personal resonance with Ganesha, however, I have substituted a deity that I can subsume myself in utterly: Eros the Elder.  When I perform this banishing/invocation, it gets me high.  Really, really high, actually.  And the sensation is interestingly similar to what I’ve felt while performing the rite of the Stele of Jeu.  And, if you didn’t follow that link I just gave you, you missed this image:

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A heart encircled by a serpent, perhaps?

Now, before anyone jumps me: I’m not drawing any conclusions.  Maybe I just don’t have enough experience invoking transcendent powers to tell them apart in the heat of the moment.  (The temptation to make a sexual analogy here is almost overwhelming.)  But it’s interesting, and I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone else who’s tried either ritual.

Regardless, things in my life are already starting to move around.  I can’t see the effects, yet, but I can feel them.  Temper, patience, and will to act as noted above.  More people going out of their way to get my attention—both people I already knew and people I’ve never even seen, let alone spoken to.  And some really, really strange and interesting things are starting to happen to my aura, which deserve a post all their own.

Further details as they come.


1—As described by Hymanaeus Beta in his foreword and footnotes to the Illustrated Second Edition of The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King. Weiser: York Beach Main (1995).

2—Betz, Hans Dieter.  The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1986) PGM V.124-5.

3—Ibid. 155-6

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I Think I May Be Dead

I’d like to say I don’t quite know what happened to the last two or three weeks, but I do: stress, sleep deprivation, and school.  I’ve been sick all semester, to one degree or another, and  since the Full Moon my insomnia and temper have been so far out of control that I’ve been starting to wonder if I’ve been hexed.  I know, I know: that almost never happens.  And I’ve been checking my aura, performing banishing’s, and even trying the good Master Balthazar’s water trick, all with no signs of any attack.  So it’s probably “just” stress.  Probably.

I’m sure y’all know: stress and sleep deprivation make for a nasty downward spiral.  So nasty, in this case, that instead of just dropping a class with an abusive professor, or even filing a report, I’ve been deliberating dropping a curse tablet on him, instead.  (My school is so conveniently situated next to / on top of a grave yard … though I suspect the Quaker dead might not be very helpful in this regard.)  Don’t worry, I haven’t done it.  I know this impulse to scorch the earth and salt it is a product of that same stress and insomnia; it’s instructive in illustrating the degree, though.

This past weekend was Early Semester Break.  I got caught up on my sleep (mostly; it takes more than a few good nights to completely make up for two solid weeks of not sleeping), but I’m still sick.  (Hack.  Phlegm.)  My temper is still out of control.  Everything makes me angry.

Still, my experiments continue.  I have been performing DuQuette’s banishing/invocation in the mornings instead of the pentagram rite, to interesting effect.  I have twice more performed the rite of the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist—at the Full Moon and the Dark.  My journeys to the Underworld and my Inner Temple have been … peculiar but, I think, productive.  I have completed the first round of Deb’s New Year, New You project, and am looking forward to continuing with the project.  My monthly Tarot reading looks good … except on my professional and social fronts.  And I have completed the first draft of my Personal Manifesto of Sacred Sexuality.

Posts with actual thought will be coming soon.  Also, site maintenance.  Lots of it.

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NY, NY: Lessons Learned

The New Year, New You: Experiment in Radical Transformation is winding to a close.  We’ve all gotten a lot done, and somehow—despite the lack of any physical contact or, in many cases, even direct communication with each-other—built a community and an egregore or sorts, our own mini-current.  We’ve analyzed our goals and broken them into manageable pieces.  We’ve hit roadblocks and thrown off long-held burdens.  We’ve sighed with collective relief when the Cruel Muse gave us all a break.  And quite a few other things besides.  The final prompt asks us to consider the lessons we’ve learned in the process.

I have learned, among other things, that I get a lot more done than I think I do, and that when I set myself reasonable goals I tend to achieve them. 

I have also confirmed my suspicion that I often do better when Someone Is Watching: I am more likely to achieve some goals when there is some risk of making a public fool of myself by failing.  This is not something I am particularly proud of, but I wonder if that’s just that old rugged individualism narrative going off in conjunction with the tropes of toxic masculinity.

I have learned that the struggles I have with maintaining my regular practice are shared widely, even among people who are pretty fucking badass.

As vain as it is to mention, I have confirmed my believe that (some, at least) people really are interested in what I have to say.

Mostly, though, I’ve reaffirmed that I’m in this for the long haul.  Doing magic.  Rearching magic.  Writing about the doing and the researching, the ways in which each of those things intersect.  That this really is what I want to spend a significant portion of my limited spare time right here, with y’all.

–Peace, LVX, and wild monkey sex.

Satyr Magos

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NY, NY: Help? What? I … Er… Fuck

Ask for help?  What?  I don’t need help.  I help other people.  It’s what I do, right?  I’m an endless font of support and wisdom.  Or, you know, funny stories.  Or whiskey.  Or mead.  Whatever the occasion calls for.  I’m your monster.  Er … man.  Goat.  Baphomet.  Or something.

I’m not just bad at asking for help: I’m not even very good at taking it when it’s offered.

Part of my problem right now, of course, is that there’s not really anything going on that people can help me with.  I’m a student.  No one can really help me with the work.  In terms of my personal history, I’ve actually done a pretty good job of asking for help, lately.

When it came to performing the Stele of Jeu, I turned to Jack Faust for advice on sources and those potential problems which somehow never seem to get written down.  Without his generous councelling, those experiments would almost certainly not be going as well as they are.

After wresting with the Registrar for a couple weeks getting my transfer status sorted out a little better, I spent this afternoon talking with my academic advisor, working on my three-year plan.  I really want to spend time abroad, but as a transfer student I don’t have quite as much time for that sort of thing, and the London program doesn’t fit as nicely into my academic requirements as I might like.  Also, it’s never too soon to start planning for my Senior Capstone.

I’ve been employing time-management techniques I learned from Aradia during out time together, and that’s been helping me get caught up..  I’ve been begging my local friends for assistance in the form of patience while I climb out of the hole I’ve dug for myself, falling behind in my course work.  The folks at the local pagan store have been helping me out by providing me a venue to make a little cash on the side, teaching mead-making workshops—even when I only break even, like this weekend, I at least get a concrete reminder that I am a) competent at a lot of things; and, b) already a decent teacher.

Sannafrid—and all my friends, but her in particular—has been doing her best to keep me sane, but that’s a Herculean task at the best of times.  I am not a fun person to be around when I’m stressed out.  Just ask anyone who knew me in St.Louis.  Especially the ones who don’t talk to me anymore.

So we come full circle.  I’m not very good at asking for help, and I’m pretty damn graceless when it comes to taking it as offered.  I’ve been doing better, lately, but unfortunately my problems are largely things that no one can help me with.

Except the gods.  But in the highly ritualized headspace created by my ceremonial studies, I’m not sure how to ask them for help.  I’m still working on phrasing sigils and enchantments.  Any of you folks out there have suggestions for time-management magic?  Charming the shit out of obnoxious professors?  Battering the bureaucracy of the Registrar’s office into submission? Oh, hey.  There’s me being good: asking for help some more.

And fuck it: I’m a witch, I could just try asking nicely; start with some devotional images as a bribe.  (And, fuck, I should probably try out some of my own damn self-care rituals while I’m at it.)

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Areas of Expertise

It seems like I’m writing a lot of “inspired by” posts lately, but there’s just been so much awesome in the air that it just makes me want to participate.  Alison Leigh Lilly and John Becket have been discussing the need for us each to specialize somewhat, rather than to be Experts in All Things Pagan.  Having once, myself, wanted desperately to be such an EiATP, I am more than sympathetic.  Mr. Becket has outlined a variety of disciplines that he thinks people might divide themselves between.  Inevitably, I feel the need to place myself within it.

Mystics. These are the people who are walking between the worlds: the shamans and hedgewitches. They experience gods, spirits and the Otherworld directly, and some of those experiences are as real to them as your experience of today’s lunch.

This is very much the primary direction my practice has been taking over the last several years.  As strange as things have been getting, I know that I am only beginning to push the far edge of “Novice”.  I have a long way to go on this road before I’m ready to get off, and things are only going to get stranger.  Of all my callings, this is one of the strongest.

Magicians. From the high magic ceremonialists to the low magic kitchen witches, these people are all about causing change in conformance with Will.

Readers of this blog know that, having neglected it for much of my life, this is where the majority of my efforts are currently focused.  I will not be one of the great magicians of my generation, but it it my hope to someday be much better than I am.  And I hope that my experiments will be informative and inspirational to others.

Environmentalists. Whether they see the Earth as a living being or simply as the only planet we’ve got, these people emphasize living sustainably and with deep concern and respect for other creatures and ecosystems.

While these issues are deeply important to me, the fact is that they take a back seat to almost everything else.  Although I will strive to live ever-more sustainably throughout my, and recognize the intersectionality of environmental issues, an absolute dedication to environmentalism requires more sacrifice than I can currently afford.

Advocates for Justice. The political Pagans, questing for the rights of religious minorities and for an end to exploitation of the environment and of the poor.

Like environmentalism, this is a hugely important issue that I simply can’t make enough time for.  Unlike environmentalism, I’m trying a lot harder.  My social justice work, so far, consists largely of striving to live a publicly feminist and sex-positive life, and calling out people on issues when I see them.  This is insufficient.  I want to start volunteering with the local Planned Parenthood, and the campus sexual violence and queer organizations.

Artists. Writers, poets, musicians, dancers, painters, film makers, sculptors, liturgists, costume designers and all the people who articulate Pagan concepts and practices and who make them beautiful.

The conection between art and magic is something that I have dabbled in my whole life, but only recently begun to explore seriously.  Devotional images, masks, talismans and tools, even a bit of poetry (people who know me will laugh at this; I hate poetry, and I’m terrible at it).  Tattoo art, sigils, tarot decks, visual meditations.

I’ve been drawing since I was a child.  It is inevitable that would eventually find a way into my magic.

Culturists. Historians, anthropologists, folklorists, linguists and others who study what our pagan ancestors believed and did. Some attempt to re-create or re-imagine ancient practices, while others simply try to understand our ancestors so we can better honor them.

I am currently attending college to study History and Classical Greek.  I have long said that the neo-Pagan movement needs better scholarship.  Happily, we have been getting better scholarship, particularly in the last decade or so, particularly in the reconstructionist quarters, but not limited to that.  I intend to be part of that trend: to help reconnect the neoPagan movement to the Graeco-Roman tradition it so often invokes by advancing the field of scholarship in the mystery cults and providing translations and adaptations that are both accurate and relevant to modern Paganism.

Priests. Priests and priestesses serve their gods and goddesses and they serve their religious communities. They are the glue that holds covens, groves and other groups together. They do the planning, organizing and leading of our seasonal celebrations and other rites.

Some day I hope to build a temple.  Until then, I will do what I can to aid other priests.

Theologians and Philosophers. (added on prompting from Alison Lilly) The people who study our beliefs and practices and organize them into a rational framework that helps us understand and explain our experiences.

As much as it fascinates me, this is not really my work.  I don’t have the mindset for formal logic, nor the patience to write apologia for an unsympathetic world.  Instead, I will provide the primary sources for those theologians and philosophers to contemplate and cite: “Here’s the crazy shit I did.  It was awesome; I’m’a gonna go do it again.  Someone else make sense of it.”

That’s an awful lot of areas of expertise for me to try to lay claim to.  Life will probably whittle me down a bit further.  But no one achieves greatness without trying for something more.  Fame happens by accident, but not greatness.

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Heraclitus of Ephesus

ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων. – Heraclitus, Fragment 199*

“ethos anthropo daimon”: a dative noun sandwiched between two nominatives.  No verbs, of course: the being verb εἰμί is often implied.  The first word in a sentence is often given a certain emphasis … but so is the last.  Heraclitus the Obscure, indeed.  The passage is traditionally rendered something to the effect of “A man’s character (ethics, moral standing) is his guardian spirit (fate, destiny, guardian angel, tutelary divinity)”, with the understanding that character (ἦθος ) is what is important here.  A man’s ethical nature determines his fate.  But this reading seems to take for granted that a man’s (and we’re going to use the male noun here because there was nothing like feminism in 6th Century Greece: when they said “man” they meant “man”.) δαίμων was not a real thing.  If one assumes, as I see no reason to believe Heraclitus did not, that individuals do, in fact, possess a tutelary diety who oversees their destiny, that implied being verb between the two nominative nouns works as an equals sign:

ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων.

ethos = nom. masc. sing. noun “character”

anthropo = dat. masc. sing. noun “for humans” (appears to be dative of interest)

daimon = nom. masc. sing. noun “guardian spirit”

esti = 3rd per. sing. active. “he/she/it is” (implied)

[for humans] character == guardian spirit

A man’s character is his guardian spirit, and vice versa.  A good moral character and a good fate/guardian are synonymous.

This semester, I am taking a survey class of Ancient Greek philosophy.  Last week we covered Heraclitus of Epheseus, a philosopher from southern Italy in the 6th Century BCE.  His work only remains in the form of testimonia, making everything a little sketchy, but his works seem to provide me with my first look at Hermetic thought—or, at very least, its predecessors.

Heraclitus’ core thesis revolved around the universal λόγος (logos: word, account, speech, reason), which governed all things.

“…[A]ll things come to be [or: happen] in accordance with the logos…”[1]

“Listening not to me, but to the logos, it is wise to agree that all things are one.”[2]

The λόγος was common to all, but most people could not comprehend it even after long study.  It governed a κόσμος (cosmos) which “…the same for all, none of gods nor humans made, but it was always and is and shall be: an ever-living fire, kindles in measures and extinguished in measures.”[3]

To those who could understand the λόγος, Heraclitus attributed noos**[4 ] , understanding, and σοφρῆν (sophren)[5], right-thinking.

He spoke of the gods in general and in particular, but also of το σόφον  (to sophon), Wisdom or the wise, which “…is one alone, both unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.”[6]

Clearly, I don’t know enough of Heraclitus or Hermetic thought to draw any stronger conclusions than “Hey!  Look!  Noos, logos, sophia!  A parallel!”  But it’s interesting, and gives me my first hints of the directions these ideas will later take.

 

* My source for the original Greek; I really don’t like their translation, though.

** Sadly, I cannot find the original Greek noun.

[1] Curd, Patricia. A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia. 2nd ed. Trans. McKirahn, Richard D. and Patricia Curd. Heraclitus1. (22B1) p. 40

[2] Ibid. 11. (B50) p.42

[3] Ibid. 45. (B30) p. 45

[4] Ibid. 8. (B104) p.41

[5] Ibid. 35. (B116) p.44

[6] 47. (B32) p.46

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