Monthly Archives: March 2012

Madness or Magic: Xerxes and the Hellespont

Herodotus relates a tale in his Histories of how the Persian king Xerxes bridged the Hellespont that he might invade Greece.  Initially foiled, he does something that strikes modern historians as very strange:

…[A]fter these bridges had been built, a violent storm descended upon them, broke them up, and tore apart all that work.

Xerxes was infuriated when he learned of this; he ordered that the Hellespont was to receive 300 lashes under the whip and that a pair of shackles was to be dropped into  the sea.

–Herodotus, Histories 7.34-35.1

He goes on to send “others to brand the Hellespont” (Ibid. 35.1), and to chastise it:

“Bitter water, your master is imposing a penalty upon you for wronging him even though you had suffered no injustices from him.  And King Xerxes will cross you wheter you like it or not.  It is for just cause, after all, that no human offers you sacrifice: you are a burbid and briny river!”

–Ibid. 35.2

It’s hard to say, as I’m not up to the original Greek yet, whether Herodotus and his own audience interpreted this scene the way most modern historians I have spoken to interpreted it—that is, as a sign of his barbarous idiocy, or possibly as tyrannical madness.  Given Herodotus’s typical Greek disdain for foreigners—which is slightly ironic, given that Herodotus, himself, was from Halicarnassus, which many Athenians would have hardly considered Greek—this interpretation is plausible.  But it’s also true that Herodotus, having travelled widely, was well and truly impressed by the works of many “barbarians”, the Persians in particular.  And most modern historians wouldn’t know an enchantment from their own assholes.

As I re-read this scene today, after a few years of escalating magical practice and research into the way things were done in the Old Schools…. well, this scene looks like a binding to me.  How about y’all?


Herodotus, First. Histories. Landmark Herodotus.  Ed. Robert B. Strassler, Trans. Andrea L. Purvis.  New York: Anchor Books, 2009. Print.

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Hod Altar—or, Seething on the Bench

I disassembled my Yesod Altar last night and built up an altar representing the powers of Mercury in Hod.  This, of course, is a part of my ongoing studies in Western Ceremonialism.

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I chose last night to do it, in part, because I wanted to upgrade the talisman I’ve been using to help with my studies in Ancient Greek.

Then I remembered (again) that Mercury is still retrograde, and that not only is any magic a bad idea, but that Mercurial magic specifically directed at communication was an exceptionally bad idea.

The results from my last experiment were less than ideal.   To say I haven’t slept right since would be an exaggeration, and imply a causal connection that is probably better attributed to a combination of  school-stress and the manic side of SAD exacerbated by unseasonable weather.  In this wake of this, a friend pointed out that perhaps Mercury Retrograde and the Vernal Equinox (the former in general and the combination in particular) were not the best time to be fucking with shit if I didn’t want to break my brain (again).  I decided he was right, and have pretty much set aside all my experiments in favor of some basic aura maintenance and Yoga.  This is probably the best decision I could make, because I really do feel a lot better after another rest.

But I’m starting to get antsy.  That’s, again, at least party the unseasonable weather and the inevitable energy burst of spring.  But I’m hot to get back into the magic.  This isn’t βούλομαι—a rational wish or desire.  This is ἐπιθυμεω (longing desire) bordering on ἐραω (love+lust).

I have always been drawn to magic; the more I do it, the more I lust after it.

I cant wait for Mercury to turn direct so I can get back to work.

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Magical Self-Care IV

I’ve told the story of how I broke my brain and then spent a year or so hiding in the basement.  To say that I quit practicing magic altogether is an exaggeration, but these two meditations made up 90% of my practice at that time.  It is to these meditations and that period of seclusion that I attribute my current sanity (such as it is … if that gives you any idea of how crazy I was before hand).

The first exercise, obviously, is rooted in the near-ubiquitous seven-chakra system I was originally trained in.  It is not of my own design, but I can’t find my original source—perhaps it’s back with the library in Kansas City—or anything similar on the web.  It should be easy to adapt to whatever shape you’ve worked your aura into.  The second is of my own design.  Suffice to say, I was once obsessed with energetic balance in the form of the Yin-Yang.  Still, it was very useful.

Fountain of Light Chakra Meditation

Find somewhere quiet, preferably in front of your altar.  Light incense, put on music—do whatever it is what you do.  Sit comfortably with your back straight.

Reach down into the Earth, as far as you can.  Open your Root chakra and let energy flow up into it.  Feel it energize, swirling, building.  The traditional color of the Root Chakra is red, and I found it helpful to concentrate on that color.  Feel yourself grounded, steady, and rooted.

When you’re ready, let the energy flow up from your Root into your Sacral Center.  Feel it energize, swirling, building, orange light.  Feel yourself swell with vigor, love, and lust for life … and maybe outright lust. 

The light and energy rises further, to the One Point at your solar plexus.  Feel it energize, swirling, building, yellow light.  Feel your body: feel its strength and precision, your capacity for movement.

The light rises further, to your Heart Center.  Feel it energize, swirling, building, green light of primal life.  Feel your heart and lungs, feel the blood and breath of life moving through your body.

The light rises further, to your Throat Chakra.  Feel it energize, swirling, building, blue light.  Feel your voice, your  spiritual connection to the world around you.

The light continues to rise to your Third Eye.  Feel it energize, swirling, building, violet light.  Your Astral Sight grows sharper.

The light reaches your Crown.  Feel it energize, swirling, building, and finally pouring out of you and back down into the earth in a fountain of brilliant white light.  Your whole body buzzes with power.  As the light flows out of your crown, you continue to draw it up from the earth, through each of your chakras, and out of your crown.

Allow the energy, the light, the power to continue cycling through you until you feel clear and bright.

Break the cycle at your Root, and allow the excess energy to drain off.

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Yin-Yang Power Meditation

Sit somewhere comfortable where you are unlikely to be interrupted.  Visualize yourself floating in a void. 

In the void below you, visualize a large Yin-Yang disk floating perpendicular to the axis of your spine.  Set it to rotating clockwise, and let its power rise up to fill you, then overflow upwards into infinity.

When you are ready, visualize another Yin-Yang disk floating above you, parallel to the first.  Set it rotating counterclockwise and feel its power flowing into you, parallel to the stream from the first, and down into infinity.

Let the perfectly balanced energy fill you to the brim, as much as you can take.  When you are ready, slow the rotation of both disks simultaneously, letting the energy flow taper off slowly until you are grounded and centered.

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Possibly Everything You Will Ever Need To Know About Sigils

I wasn’t going to repost this at first.  Everyone who reads me already reads Rune Soup, right?

On the off chance that some of you don’t: Gordon has just posted the most clear, concise, and exhaustive explanation of sigils, how they work, and how to use them that I have ever seen.  Fucking read it.

As an added bonus, it also serves as an index to everything else he’s ever written about sigils, so by the time you’ve read them all you may consider giving up any and all other forms of magic.

Dude is fucking genius.

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Dweller on the Threshold

I can’t find it now, of course, but I was first introduced to the idea of the magical threshold and a monster that guarded it by a ritual I found on Witchvox when I was eighteen.  I never did the ritual, of course.  I wasn’t really doing magic back then, outside of my energy work and house wards and games of psychic tag.  Hell, I don’t even remember anything about it except that it existed.

In the years since, I have encountered a number of variations on the idea, but I can’t really point to many of them because (until I started specifically researching them as I wrote this post) they were always incidental—either to the research I was doing, to the the article I was reading, or some combination of the two.  The fact is that I dismissed them—incarnations of the Dweller on the Threshold, that is—believing them to be manifestations of a Christianized anti-magic worldview.  The way I articulated that thought became more sophisticated over the years, but I never really re-evaluated that conclusion until recently.

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Seeking the Natal Genius I–Or, Satyr’s First Evocation

Last night, during the Hour of the Moon, I performed my first spirit evocation using something like the Triangle of the Art.  I have made contact with spirits before, of course, using shamanic techniques and Wiccan invocations and even a bit of mask-work.  But if my experience as a jeweler has taught me nothing else, it is that studying someone else’s techniques is an excellent way to refine your own.  Thus, the Triangle of the Art.

I have by now studied a half-dozen forms of evocation: the Goetia, Donald Michael Kraig, Trimethius, the Stele of Jeu, and others whose names I either don’t know or can’t remember off the top of my head.  Combining techniques developed by various modern magicians and shared at the Queen of Pentacles with my own artistic talents and gnosis, I produced my Triangle.

For my first such evocation, I chose to contact my Natal Genius as described by Agrippa—or, more accurately, as described by Rufus Opus and Frater Acher, augmented by my thus-far-infantile examination of Agrippa and Frater Acher’s generously free-for-download spreadsheet calculator.  It seemed like both a natural starting point for experiments in Triangle evocation—a spirit not just friendly to me, but actively interested in my advancement, and likely to be particularly amiable to such contact—and a natural outgrowth of my work with the Stele of Jeu.  As to the timing, I chose to operate on the Night and Hour of the Moon because I am a witch at heart.  And, as a witch, my first allegiance will always be to the Moon.

I sketched out my Triangle of Art last Thursday evening, when I was struck by sudden inspiration.  I re-calculated the name of my natal genius (I had forgotten to round up the degrees), and developed a seal and a preliminary pronunciation.  Following the lead of my Muse, I elaborated on the utilitarian format of the Triangle until I had something that looked more like a grimoire-based design: my genius’ name written in Hebrew inside the Triangle, my statement of intent spiraling clockwise around it in English, and the names DIONISUS, RHEA, and AGATHOS DAIMON written in Greek along the inner edge of an outer circle.  (I’ll post pictures once I have the chance to scan it and edit out the most intimate details.)

I did some preliminary divination, sought the approval and aid of my patrons and guides, bribed the one who thought it might not be a good idea (the consensus was overwhelming … I’m not sure why my Kouros disapproved), and cast my circle.  Taking up my pens and pencils, I inked and colored the Triangle I had constructed in advance, and finally placed my obsidian sphere within the Triangle as a focus.  I chanted the name of my Natal Genius 76 times using the counting beads I strung at the beginning of spring break.  When I was done, I poured a libation of mead and sat back and waited with my sketchbook in my lap.

There had been a build up of power as I chanted, but at first nothing happened.  After a while I took a hit of absinthe to facilitate the visionary process, and when that didn’t work I started to get worried.  After a while, though, impressions started coming to me: I started by drawing the seal of my Natal Genius on the page, and a rough skeleton of a humanoid figure.  The impressions I got became more and more clear as I worked and started adding copies of the seal around the page.  Soon, the spirit was able to correct me on the pronunciation of its name, and the image grew even more clear.  Finally, it was able to instruct me in the proper construction of its seal, and the image came together along with a list of associations.

The figure that appeared to me was a little on the feminine side of androgyny, with six eyes in an otherwise featureless face, arms that doubled at the elbow, ephemeral wings, and a serpent for a tail.  It told me it’s nature was of the sign of Scorpio, of the planet Saturn, of elemental Earth, and of the number XVII.

Then the Hour of the Moon—the time frame I had built into the statement of intent—was over, and the spirit was gone.

I was too exhausted to perform the Lunar journey I had also intended for the evening.  I was also too wired to get to sleep for several hours afterward.

Despite this success, I think that I need to curtail some of the experiments I had planned for the near future.  I’ve made so many Otherworld contacts in the last six months that I think the best thing to do is to focus on developing those relationships.  I don’t want to loose the momentum I’ve got going, but I also don’t want to miss opportunities for learning and spirit-relationships because I’m moving too quickly.

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St. Patrick’s Day, Liberalia, and a Modern Neo-Pagan’s Ritual Calendar

In the ancient world—in the early modern world, as well, in fact, and to this very day in some places—the liturgical calendar was managed by the state.  That is, in fact, a large part of why we have the records we do.  Although this was not theocracy in any sense, this was not mere public piety, either: in addition to stimulating the economy—food stalls, sacrifices, costume, and the like—state-sponsored religious rituals helped form and maintain community bonds.

Today, in the United States, we don’t quite have state-sponsored religious rituals.  We have “bank holidays” which are not formal religious (or even nationalist) observances, though they “coincidentally” lean strongly in that direction, which are set aside by law so that employees of local, state, and federal governments have a paid day off, and bank employees do as well.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day.  We also have a number of “unofficial” holidays—that is, days when no one can count on a paid holiday, but which local authorities bend over backwards to facilitate.

The most recent of these is St. Patrick’s day.  I’ve heard so many different versions of the history, I’m not even entirely certain which ones to believe.  One thing I am certain of is that the snakes-as-pagans version plays into the historical oppression narrative that we’re a little too fond of—see the Burning Times—and on closer examination, doesn’t fit what I know of Christian myth without being viewed through that lens.  Another thing I’m certain of is that, regardless of its roots, its modern manifestation is harmful only in terms of liver damage and drunk driving.  Not being a fan of the whole “pinching (or punching) people for failing to wear green” thing, and being somewhat terrified of the amateur drunk drivers who come out of the woodwork on St.P’s and New Years.

My attitude about that sort of thing has changed over the last couple years.  For one, I’ve just flat-out loosened up a lot.  When I was younger, I found bars to be painfully over-stimulating on a regular Saturday; these days, I enjoy a little hyper-stimulation from time to time.

Then, late Friday night, I learned, about the festival of Liberalia through one of the above links.  Liber Pater, to the best of my knowledge, is not a god of wine and harvest “like Bacchus”, as the Wikipedia asserts, but one of Dionysus’ Roman cult titles.  Although the Roman reconstructionist source I find emphasize the part where of the festival at which a Roman youth was acknowledged as an adult man, Ovid memorializes it as a festival of fertility and protection under the auspices of Bacchus and formless Numina, of whom I previously had not heard and will need to do some research.

Now, as some of you may know, I count Dionysus among my patron divinities.  He and his representatives have helped me a few times, first at my initiation and during subsequent explorations of the Underworld.  But, other than offering him tastes of every batch of homebrew I make (every time I sample it myself during the racking process), and of most of my bottles of “recreational” wine and mead, we haven’t really worked out a devotional relationship yet.  I don’t know what he wants from me … if anything.

The coincidence of St. Patrick’s day—one of the great US drinking holidays—and a day sacred to Dionysus is too interesting to ignore.  And it seems like a good place to start.  So I made offerings at midnight when I discovered the fact, in the morning, and upon returning from the bar after my revelries.  He seemed to like them, but I (so far) haven’t gotten very … tactile responses for any of the offerings I make—from the gifts I give to Tsu, to the offerings I make to my Kouros and Cyclades figures, or to any of the other gods on my altar.

Besides, I need holidays more frequent than every six weeks.  Liberalia is now officially on my own personal calendar.

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Ostara Altar

It’s sad, but this is the first seasonal altar I’ve done since I took down Yule.  It’s also atypically early for me.  (“What,” you ask, “a whole four days before the Equinox is early?”  Yeah.  I suck.)  IMG_5099

The basil is left over from Yule, but it’s pretty.  The flowers are from trees around campus and the neighborhood.  The purple egg is from an Ostara celebration with the proto-coven, the blue is a rattle from HPF 2011, and the condom is “protection from the rabbit spirit” from HPF 2009 so that no body gets the wrong impression.  The basalt with the Yin-Yang has been with me since I was 16, as has the boline.  The Japanese perfume jar with the nut-“ivory” dragon on top are an old spell of mine—a receptacle for ill-timed lust, which seemed appropriate given the way this spring has gone so far—that I mostly keep around for sentimental reasons, as I haven’t used it in years *.

I’ve talked before about my slightly uncomfortable relationship with the Wiccan “Celtic” Wheel of the Year.  It’s pretty well known at this point that the scholarship that went into its construction was, if not spurious, at least largely debunked in the year since.  It also bears little resemblance to the actual seasonal cycle of the part of the world in which I live.  Imbolc is not the last frost in the Midwest of the US—it’s usually the fucking coldest part of winter.  Ostara is not generally the first bloom—as often as not, there’s still snow on the ground.  Beltane, while often warm enough (if just barely) to celebrate propperly by fucking like monkeys out in the woods, is often hindered by cold rains and usually gets cold enough at night that there’s frost instead of dew in the morning.  The Summer Solstice is the beginning of summer, not the middle.

This strange year, it is the first bloom.  I really do feel like spring is in the air.  (Both in a romantic, positive way, and in the sense of holy fuck my goddamn allergies are going crazy … although, at least with my immune system in overdrive, the headcold has been overthrown.)  I full anticipate that, although I probably won’t be able to celebrate Beltane with the vigor it deserves on the First of May**, it will definitely be warm enough to celebrate propperly, and Lake Onessa will be beautifully warm by Heartland.  We’ll see how the rest of the Wheel goes.

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I also took a day of cleaning as an opportunity to redo the altar as a whole, and to add a mirror I found in the school’s Free Box.  (People keep throwing away things I need where I can find them.  I fucking love it.)  Most of the tools have been moved off the altar itself to make room for icons and active spellwork.

 

* Of course, I’ve also had a full-time partner for the last four years running, so that hasn’t been the issue it once was.

** For several reasons including but not limited to FINALS WEEK, but which will get a post all their own one of these days.

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Orphic Hymn to Phanes

As my first solo attempt at translating Ancient Greek raw, the below represents about twelve hours of work.  I’ve included notes on some of the less clear choices I made in the translation, as well as some of the interesting subtext.  Unfortunately, I can’t find any modern or reliable translations to compare mine to—the Thomas Taylor translation, while pretty, is to poetic too aid me.

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A Bit of Housecleaning

Good afternoon (well, it’s afternoon as I type this, here in Sunrise, IN), dear readers.  How are you all doing today?

There’ve been a few changes around the Obsidian Dream since I last addressed my audience directly, and I thought it was about time to say hello to my new readers and subscribers.  I really can’t express how happy I am to have you all.  Despite changing blog services in February, I still got 411 pageviews, and I’ve already hit 300 for this month.  You folks fucking rock, you know that?

Some, particularly my newer readers, may have been startled by last night’s post.  While I do have “hedonism” in the subtitle, it’s not something I’ve had a lot to say about for a while.  This is partly because sex, drugs, and rock&roll don’t actually generally make very good telling for the people who weren’t there.  Additionally a number of people I know from the real world read this blog, and—despite my high ideals of radical honesty—I’m a little leery of sharing more than they’re comfortable with… especially if they were there, and might not want that widely known.  That said, I do plan on talking a great deal more about that sort of thing, especially as we wind into the summer.  So be prepared for the hedonism tag to blow up a little over the next 3-6 months.

Speaking of tags, I’m sure you have all noticed that I haven’t finished retagging everything after the move.  It’s kinda boring, and I just can’t bring myself to do it in one big run.  So I’ll keep updating posts tags (and their internal links) a little bit at time.  Also, as you can see, I’ve finally got the Blogroll on the side going.  The way WordPress does that is a little odd, though, so please bear with me as that goes through several permutations.  I’ve also added two new “Pages” up at the top: Resources and Statements of Belief; the latter is self explanatory, the former is intended as an index of internet resources for the more serious scholar-types among my readers.  In sum: the blog remains “under construction” as they say.

As always, your input—as the consumers of what I produce—is welcome.  How can I make this blog more readable to you?

Thank you, again, one and all, for reading.

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