Monthly Archives: May 2012

HPF 2012: The Blessings of Dionysus Upon you All

 

"Bacchus" by Caravaggio.

“Bacchus” by Caravaggio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flannigan’s Right Hook was playing their cover of Paint it Black as Aradia and I stumbled back from one of the furthest-flung encampments at Gaea, still high from our first shamanic journey.  That was Friday night of HPF 2009, our first year together; they played again the following year on the Sunday night main-stage, to which they returned  this year.  I missed the first part of this show, too, eventually abandoning half of my encampment to their face-painting shenanigans.

After the quiet of rest of the festival, walking up to the stage was like running face-first into a cacophonic wall of neon light and raucous sound.  A beautiful, much-needed wall, the impact with which brought me back to 2k9 and ‘10, returning to those moments in cyclical time.  The guitars, the cello, the electric fiddle … it was catharsis, pure and powerful.

I needed it desperately.  The festival, to that point, had had its ups and downs.  The main ritual, the day before, had been an utter disaster from which we were all—despite the passage of twenty-four hours, multiple cleansing rituals, and the completion of the public closing ritual just hours before—still recovering.  Even the land was stained.

So I stood there, vibrating with the music, and trying to let go.  To let go of my frustration with the Sacred Experience Committee.  To let go of my frustration with my camp-mates, most of whom had not yet made it to the pavilion[1].  To let go of my desire for the festival—which I have been attending since I was eighteen years old, to which I have introduced probably a dozen people at this point, and to which I had brought three “virgins” this very year—to be perfect, and just enjoy it as it was in the then and the now.  Perfection doesn’t exist in this world.  I’m skeptical that it exists anywhere.  …. So why, then, do I get so upset when things turn out to be less than perfect?

The music was amazing, the light show was a blast, and I was drinking thoroughly-blessed wine.  And yet, I was still struggling to find the fun.  My ambivalence must have been clear.  When Aradia asked me if I was alright, I didn’t lie.

Aradia and Aurora had been to one of the workshops I’d missed on account of my work exchange obligations.  The workshop was on aura cleansing and chakra balancing.  Together, as I stood there listening to the music, they worked over my energetic bodies until I was almost in tears.  Finally, something inside me broke loose, the tears came, my aura opened up, and I was able to let go and find the fun.  Power filled me, and a few sudden insights.

The band was clearly having the time of their lives, too.  Somehow, bottles of mead kept finding their way on stage.  At one point, the band stopped to toast the audience.  I raised my glass and toasted them back: “The blessings of Dionysus upon you all.”

My wine, as I said, was well-blessed.  Recognizing that I was not the only one in my encampment stained by the miasma of the previous night’s ritual, I took the box of wine Aurora had offered for the purposes, and called upon Dionysus to bless it so that all who drank of it would be purged of the stain and incited to sacred revelry.  I wish I’d thought to wright down the specifics, but I kinda got lost in the moment.  I completed the blessing by pouring a libation in a circle around the box; suddenly, it was “hot” to the touch.

“Holy shit,” said Aradia.  “What did you just do?”

When I toasted the band, my blessing spread to their bottles.  But one of the things about working with gods and spirits, I guess, is that once you start talking to them, they’re listening more than you realize.   And I had said “upon you all.”  Little lights started going off in the audience as the blessing spread to those bottles.  And then little bells started ringing in my head as other bottles throughout camp were lighted with the same blessing, too.

It was about that time that the rest of our encampment showed up, beaming and with faces painted.  The wine flowed liberally and, when the concert was over, we found a secluded place to load a bowl while they lit the bonfire.

The tenor of the evening was changed, radically, and for the better.


1 – I love you guys, but you can’t spend five days camped with anyone and not end up a bit frustrated at some point.

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Packing for the Hedge: A Prelude to HPF 2012

Sometime today I will disappear into the woods for Heartland Pagan Festival.  This will be my tenth festival or so.  I’ve been going since 1998 or 1999, but I missed a few years toward the beginning on account of poor money management and mad life drama.  This will be my fifth consecutive year attending since I missed 2007 on account of being unemployed in St. Louis; it will be my fourth year going with Aradia.

This will, however, be my first year going as work exchange—20 hours of my weekend promised to the Heartland Spirit Alliance to help keep the festival running.  It will also be my first year as a head of an encampment.

Aradia and I are bringing three friends who’ve never been before, and hosting two more who have attended before but are coming without their usual retinue.  I’m going out today, a day before the festival opens officially, to be trained in (and hopefully to begin) my work exchange duties.  I’ll also use the opportunity to pick out a camp site for us all.

I can’t begin to describe how excited I am.

Christopher Penczak and Kerr Cuhulain will both be speaking.  Seriously, click the image link and check out the list of speakers and performers.  Then there’s that whole Lunar Election (9am-9:40 CDT Friday for any of my compatriots who are thinking about making a Lunar Talisman for themselves out there).

So I’ll be back in about eight days with a shit ton of stories.

Have fun here in the blogosphere without me.  And if any of my dear readers think they might be at festival, look for the encampment with this tent and flag:

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We’ll be camped somewhere around Dava Wood if all goes according to plan.  Look for the big guy with the beard and tattoos under his collar bone that match the flag; sun on one shoulder, moon on the other, and a astrological mandala between the shoulder blades.

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Gemini Dark Moon Reading

I’ve done readings at the last two dark moons.  I’ve even analyzied them, to a point.  But I never posted about them.  So I’m taking a page from Aradia’s book and I’m going to decipher it before your very eyes.

Interestingly, this is the second time I’ve managed to do my reading on the first degree of the new sign.


ANNUAL CARD(S)

When I did my annual reading at Samhain, the card I drew for for Gemini was the 5 of Cups, which I was to fix with the 10 of Pentacles (Robin Wood).  I’m not sure if the decision I’m going to regret is one I’ve already made or one I’m going to make over the course of the month.

DARK MOON READING

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1st – Self, Viewpoint – Princess of Disks

I am, apparently, laden with potential this month.  Elsewhere in the reading, this card would make me very nervous[1].  Here, it’s a hint of things to come, and the first hint of the amount of magic I’m going to need to do.

2nd – Finances, Income – VII Adjustment

I’m working again.  That’s a bit of an adjustment.  I’ve worked three twelve hour shifts in the last eight days.  I am nowhere near adjusted to this shit.

And, after months of living on pennies, I’m going to get a four hundred dollar check.  Two weeks from now I’ll get one for twice that.  Most of which, granted, is going to go paying my rent and utilities back in Indiana.  That’s not just going to take some Adjustment, that’s going to take discipline.  See the 6th and 10th Houses.

3rd – Daily Experiences – 8 Wands “Swiftness”

I’m going to be energetic!  Full of spunk and verve!

Who am I kidding? I’m going to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Working open-to-close shifts in the mall, attending Heartland Pagan Festival, trying to catch up with all my friends in Kansas City … it’s going to be a zoo.

4th – Home-place – XV the Devil

Uh, what?

5th – Fun / Pleasure – XI Lust

So, I see there’s going to be some sex, drugs, and rock&roll in my sex, drugs, and rock&roll.  I can live with that.

6th – Work – 2 Disks “Change”

Again, the meaning here appears straightforward and clear, given my transition from full-time student to part-time goon.

I think it may also be an admonition not to sink back into the employment ruts that were forming when I left Kansas City.

7th – Partnership – 7 Wands “Valor”

Aradia was sitting next to me as I laid out this spread.  When I turned over the 7th House she said, “please don’t set me on fire.”

This is a fighting card in a place where I don’t really see that kind of difficulty.  The most optimistic interpretation here is “Stay on top of shit.  Do not let anything fester.”

8th – Taboo / Crisis– X the Heirophant

Of course I have issues with Tradition and Authority.  What’s new?

Oh, wait.  I’ve been studying at the feet of Tradition lately.  That’s only going to make things more complicated.

9th – Higher Perception– VII the Chariot

Looks like I’m going places.  The question is “where”?  Crowley’s Chariot is a lot less about Will than the Chariot in other decks and a lot more about Destiny.  Perhaps I should ask ZG about this one.

10th – Recognition– 5 Disks “Worry”

I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.[2]

11th – Friendships – 5 Swords “Defeat”

This is worrisome.  I need to stay on top of things.

12th – Secrets & Fears – 3 Disks “Work”

Between working for money, working on my novels, and the Great Work … there is a LOT that I want to get done this summer.  I know I won’t be able to do it all.  I’m afraid I won’t manage to do any of it.

+1/6 – Current Position – 5 Cups “Disappointment”

I feel like this isn’t really the 5C in particular so much as it’s a generic swamp.  It’s my change of circumstances and Venus Retrograde.  It’s my indecision and my conflicting goals.

+2/6 Current Influences – XVII the Moon

If 5C is a morass, the Moon tells me I have to cross it in order to continue my journey.  Face the fear.  Walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  Descend to the Underworld.

+3/6 What Crowns It – Hexagram

And here, at last, we get to the point: whatever it is, fucking do magic about it.

+4/6 The Root of It – I the Magus

I am a magician.  I do magic.  See above.  Sometimes divination is anvilicious.

To pass from the Magus to the Hexagram, I must cross the 5 of Cups via the Moon.

+5/6 Going Out – Queen of Swords

I’ve done an awful lot of thinking, talking, writing, and intellectualizing about my magic.  That’s going to have to wane for a while in order for me to get back to really doingthe magic.

+6/6 Coming In – XX the Aeon

I’ve set myself on a path of transformation.  If I pursue it diligently over the next lunar month, I’m going to undergo some serious changes.


1 – childfree for life!

2 – Snoop Dogg.  Yeah.  I went there.

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Thoughts on the Stele of Jeu

As I mentioned in my previous post, the more I perform the Stele of Jeu rite, the more subtle the effects seem to be.  Given some of the more extravagant warnings I’ve heard regarding this ritual, this interests me a great deal, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last couple days.

Image May Be Unrelated -- Stone carving of Nike and a warrior offering an egg to a snake.

Image May Be Unrelated (From Wikimedia Commons)

One of the first sources to warn me about the Stele of Jeu was, of all things, Crowley’s Goetia[1], which refers to the rite as the London Papyrus.  According to the editor, the rite (before Crowley made his changes that ultimately produced Liber Semekh) was passed around in Golden Dawn circles as a last-ditch banishing/exorcism rite, to be performed with utmost caution and formality lest one permanently haunt the place where it was performed.  The next was from the gentleman who was kind enough to work me up to my first experiment with the ritual.  His warning, in addition to the above should one go through with a clearly botched performance, related the possibility of one’s life getting broken apart in order to be put back together in a better shape.

My own experience with the ritual, while powerful and transformative, has never quite lived up to the earth-shattering hype.  A commenter on my early experiments reported even less dramatic results.

After some rumination, I’ve come up with a theory.  You see, I’ve actually heard very similar stories about other rituals: the Abramelin Operation, for example; most other methods of contacting one’s HGA/Supernal Assistant; the use of moldavite for the first time.  The common theme in many (though not all) of these stories is that when people whose lives are already fucked do major-fix-magic, their lives get more fucked before they get better.

The GD source who provided the initial warning—with no disrespect intended to modern initiates of those orders—was clearly terrified of dealing with the spirit world in any situation where they did not have absolute control of the circumstances and proceedings.  The source of the second warning tells stories about the Stele of Jeu in ways that sound a lot like it was a part of his formative experiences with magic—which is to say, probably before he got his life in order.

Meanwhile, my commenter complaining of insignificant results has (to the best of my ability to determine from the stories he tells; he may feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken) had his shit together for quite a while.  College done, good job, college loans in order, sophisticated magical practice, already talks with his HGA so often that he complains about not having much to talk about.  There’s nothing there for the Stele of Jeu to fix, let alone break.

When I first performed the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist, my life was already largely in order.  I’ve already been through my Saturn Return.  I’ve already left the job I’d come to hate for higher education in order to pursue a new calling.  I have a regular magical practice that was pretty much at the top if its game.  My biggest problem is the psychic scars left over from all the shit I fucked up when I was a wee faun of a mage.  And, boy howdy, has it ever fixed that shit—but that deserves a post all on its own.

Now, all this evidence is anecdotal.  I’ve only been performing this ritual regularly for about four months now.  I’ve also been having a really hard time doing more than a preliminary study of its history, interpretations, and various effects.  I know that the Order of the Hollow Ones, Jason Miller, and probably countless other groups each have their own variations on the rite (to say nothing of Crowley’s, obviously).  But Jack Faust is one of the very few people I’ve seen talk about the ritual and its effects publically at all; one of the few others can be found at practicaltheurgy.com, but s/he appears to be defunct[2].  The silence of the scholastic community is even more deafening: I’ve only found one or two books which even refer to the rite, outside the PGM itself, and I have not had the opportunity to read them.

Thoughts?


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 – Discounting, for my purposes, allusions to the ritual solely as it relates to the Bornless Rite and attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which is clearly not what the PGM ritual is about.

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Continuing Experiments: Sigils, Talismans, and the Stele of Jeu

While I haven’t had much time to write clever blog posts since finals week started gearing up (then ended, with all the unanticipated post-semester and graduation-related madness), I have managed to make time to actually do the magic.  I have performed the Stele of Jeu twice, fired off a shoal of sexy sigils, and made two new talismans based on what I learned of talisman-making from the Jupiter Election.

the Stele of Jeu

The Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist  is becoming an increasingly integral part of my practice.  Interestingly, though, the more often I perform it the more subtle the effects seem to be.  I performed the rite at the last Dark Moon, on the Day and Hour of the Sun, and as a part of my Beltane celebrations in the woods behind my school.

In the first case—as seems to often happen—I was struck by the sense that something was watching me as I performed my rite.  That sensation faded, though, as I performed the ritual.  By half way through, actually, it had faded to the point where I decided to try out something I’d read somewhere and repeated the central portion of the ritual until I got the feeling of rising power:

Holy Headless One, deliver him, NN, from the daimon which restrains him, / ῥουρβριαω μαρι ὠδαμ βααβναβαωθ ασς ἀδωναι ἀφνιαω ἰθωληθ ἀβρασαξ ἀηωωυ / mighty Headless One, deliver him, NN, from the daimon which restrains him. / μαβαρραιω ἰοηλ κοθα ἀθορηβαλω ἀβραωθ / deliver him, NN ἀωθ ἀβραωθ βασυμ ἰσακ σαβαωθ ιαω

That definitely had an effect, though I would be hard pressed to actually describe what it was.  I sat in the salt circle and meditated for a while, basking in the magical afterglow.

I performed the ritual again at Beltane, under the nearly-full moon.  My outdoor festivities with Sannafrid were actually a couple days late, on account of the rain on the 1st and 2nd.  Being in the woods, I skipped the salt circle—salting the earth is not my idea of a good time.  On the one hand, the effects were much less profound than I had hoped/feared/anticipated; on the other hand, they were very interesting.  The woods suddenly felt more alive.  Sannafrid and I could sense spirits everywhere—not like I had conjured them, but more as if I had suddenly tuned in to the layer of reality where they already lived.

I think they were just the spirits of the wood, and while they may or may not have been aware of our presence, I honestly don’t think they could have cared less.  It was a very powerful experience, if just a little surreal.  I think that’s an important lesson for all magicians, but for witches and nature-worshipers in particular: to keep in mind that most of the spirit world, like most of the natural world, doesn’t care one way or the other about humans.  We’re doing our thing; they’re doing theirs.

a Sigil Shoal for More and Better Sex

The way I count the Moons, the third day of the Dark Moon is also the first day of the waxing phase.  After performing the stele of Jeu, once the hour had passed from Sun to Venus, I fired off a shoal of sigils for more and better sex.  The effects of this shoal were even more awesome—and, importantly, longer lasting—than the first one.  The shoal included five sigils (the specific phrasing of which is apparently in the stack of notes that didn’t make it back to Kansas City with me), all aimed at improving my sex life.  The majority of the sigils were aimed helping my body keep up with my libido—and, more importantly, with Sannafrid’s.

The results were fucking spectacular.  (Yeah, I went there.  How could I resist?)  At risk of crossing into the realm of Way Too Much Information: not only was I able to manage 2-3 times in a day (a little difficult at 31 on a mediocre diet), I was able to keep that up almost every day for a ten day stretch of the two-and-a-half weeks between when I fired the sigils and when they faded about a week ago.

So … waxing Moon, day of the Sun, hour of Venus is damn good astrological timing for sex magic.  I would have thought the Full Moon, day and hour of Venus would have been as good … but it was also the 3rd day of the Full, so technically a waning Moon, which may have had an impact.  Further confounding factors here include the sigils themselves, the way they were phrased, single versus shoal, and the fact that I was still tingling from the Stele of Jeu.

a Talisman of Venus

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Anticipating Venus’ recent retrograde movement, I made a talisman of Venus based on the Jupiter Talisman I made at the recent election.  I used Christopher Warnock’s Venus image on one side (I really need to buy his Picatrix translation and star producing my own images based on the descriptions); the Agrippan characters of Venus, my Glyph of the Moon, and a pair of sigils (empowering myself with the Favor of Kings) on the other.  I performed the rite at the Day and Hour of Venus, using a slightly altered version of the Orphic Hymn to Venus—I added a line at the end asking to be endowed with the Favor of Kings—burning incense of my own making, and anointing the talisman with Abramelin oil—and using the various Venusian symbols I keep on my altar rather than a formal Triangle of Art.  For a more general Venusian boost, I also took a bit of my Venusian incense and started an infusion like I do for my essential oil production.  I left both projects on my altar to marinade essentially until I packed everything up for the trip.

My understanding is that, so close to the retrograde, even the otherwise auspicious arrangement of planetary forces on that Day and Hour of Venus with a waxing Moon was less than ideal.  Still, I felt that it would be a good idea to shore up Venusian in my sphere given the complexity of my love life at the moment (that’s a post in and of itself, and one which is particularly delicate since all parties involved read the blog.  I’m glad that I did: the talisman and the infusion-in-the-making are both radiating good, clean, Venusian power.

Safe-Travel Talismans

My final magical project in the Sunrise Temple, before leaving for the summer, was to produce safe-travel talismans for Sannafrid and myself.  She is spending the month in China as part of an ethnography program through our school—a sort of “victory lap”, as they call it here.  I was going to be making a drive across three states with a number of the things most dear to me in my back seat.

Using essentially the same methodology as I did for my Jupiter and Venus talismans, I made a pair of Mercury talismans for Sannafrid and myself.  The most interesting differences between the rites was that these were made at the day and hour of Mercury, outside in the woods during our Beltane celebrations, and that I used a lock of her hair mixed in with the Mercury blend between the two sheets of cardstock and had her write her own Names to create the link to her, where I used my Glyph of the Moon for my own talisman.

The results were again spectacular.  If I do say so, myself, I’m getting pretty good at making paper talismans.  I’m looking forward to teaching myself some metal-etching skills so that I can use similar techniques in more permanent mediums.

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Sweet Home Kansas City

I left my temple in Sunrise, IN in the late afternoon exactly a week ago today.   The semester is over, I never found work there, and I have both a job and a lover waiting for me here in Kansas City.  The drive is 10 hours after the inevitable traffic and construction delays, so I decided to break the mind -crushing monotony with pit stops to visit friends in Bloomington and St.Louis on the way.

Bloomington is a nice place, and if any of you have the misfortune to pass through Indiana, I recommend stopping there if it’s not too far out of your way.

St. Louis, as long-time readers may recall, was briefly my home.  I moved there in August of 2k6 to escape the rut I had dug for myself in hometown Kansas, and while I definitely had some good times there … the city basically chewed me up over the course of 15 months and spat me back out.  I’ve been back a few times, but not as well-rested as I was this time.  So  when I hit town I was surprised to realize just how much of myself was still invested there: it was very much still “home”.  Although I had deliberately left the tendrils of my Web of Influence there, I hadn’t really imagined—after three and a half years in Kansas City and most of a year in Indiana—that they would have stayed in place so long and well.  I was tapped back into that web as soon as I crossed I-70 over the Mississippi River.

When I hit Kansas City, the experience was very similar … only magnified tenfold.  I settled back into the rhythm of Kansas City traffic almost effortlessly, and when I passed from the suburbs into the city proper, I found myself tapped back in to a base of power I’d almost forgotten that I had.  Yea gods, what a rush.  I’d had no idea that I’d left so much of myself behind.

So far, I’ve had no reason and little opportunity to actually perform any magic, besides resuming my daily rites.  But I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s eclipse and next week’s Moon election.  Because I think they’re going to be incredible.  Back in spaces I know this well, so close to Lawrence and Camp Gaea, where my web of power is rooted, and with the people I’ve worked the most and some of the most significant magic of my life …

It’s going to be amazeballs.

I love my life.

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New Thoughts on Initiation

Coming from my background in eclectic Wicca, the word “initiation” has certain connotations—first of group identification, and then of hierarchal advancement within the group into which one was initiated.  Skill and experience were supposed to be equivalent with rank, and in many groups I’m sure they are; one knows, however, that in others—groups more closely aligned with the Masonic traditions from which the initiatory degrees arose, perhaps—access to information was and is restricted to initiatory rank.  Whether or not that’s a functional system for some people is beside the point: I never wanted anything to do with it, and it’s one of the reasons I never pursued membership in a coven or lodge more vigorously.  Alternatively, Christopher Penczak and some other eclectic Wiccan writers discuss initiation in slightly different terms.  They speak of initiations as recognizing progress made, or the formal beginning of a period of intense work or study.  It was in these senses that I underwent my own initiation, almost two years ago, and it is in this sense that I am planning to undergo my next at Samhain, assuming that my experiments continue proceeding according to plan.

Since entering into my study of the Western Ceremonial tradition, however—particularly post-Golden Dawn and post-Chaos Hermeticism—I increasingly find the word “initiation” used in radically different ways.  Rufus Opus, for example, has frequently spoken of his Gates Rites, which he performs regularly, as initiatory experiences.  I was recently linked to another gentleman discussing his elemental initiations.

This use of “initiation” seems to convey a sense of immersion in the elemental or planetary force being summoned, and/or of opening (or maintaining) a channel of that force into one’s “personal sphere”.  This is a fascinating concept to me, and one which is probably not as revolutionary as it seems: going directly to the Powers of Elemental Fire for instruction in the nature and use of Fire; going directly to the Powers of Planetary Venus for instruction in the nature and use of her energies.  Or maybe it is revolutionary.  I don’t know enough about Medieval or Renaissance thought to even guess, and even within my own specialties of Classical Studies and modern Neo-Pagan witchcraft, it’s hard to say sometimes.

Whether or not the idea is new or not is beside the point.  It’s one that I’m definitely going to have to experiment with, and which may find it’s way into my personal practice.  Hell, in a sense I’ve already started: I’ve undergone Earth, Water, and Fire initiations (though they weren’t quite framed the same way) as part of my Penczak-based work (Outer Temple and Temple of High Magic), and begun the process of Earth/Malkuth and Moon/Yesod initiations.  I did all these through visionary work rather than evocation, and I think I will finish out the full set of four elements and seven planets before I do evocation-based initiations.

And then … what happens when I start experimenting with the signs of the Zodiac as sources of power?

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