Monthly Archives: October 2013

On the Formation of Divine Pairs

A while ago, I split my giant altar up into a devotional space and a planetary working space.  It was good for the planetary magic, but it actually made devotional work really difficult, as it greatly reduced my space.  Offerings were spilled, gods were cramped, and it was pretty much less than ideal.  So, shortly after coming back at the beginning of the semester, I started rebuilding again.

The fact is that planetary work is no longer a large enough portion of my practice to justify each planet getting its own mini-altar.  So I’ve replaced that structure with a set of planetary boxes, inspired by Jason Miller’s Jupiterian cash-box, and reincorporated the shelves back into my primary altar, leaving only the end-table as a workbench which I can lift out of its corner and back in as needed.

As a part of that reconstruction, I finally—as I had been considering doing for some time—added Eros/Phanes and Aphrodite to the altar.  You can see them in the box immediately below Dionysus at the apex.

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It’s somewhat amusing, but it actually didn’t occur to me until more than then days later that I had framed the two as a divine pair: like the Witchmother and Kouros at the heart of the altar, like my natal genius and daemon, even like my familiar Tsu and the Cave Canem construct.  Like I have considered pairing Hephaestus and Athena as gods ruling craft—or, alternatively, Athena and Hermes as gods of the mind.

It’s interesting how ideas linger.  I have never identified as a Wiccan, never really believed in the duotheistic worldview.  But all of my formative literature came from that perspective, and the asymmetrical balance of Wiccan altar construction has always appealed to me.  I have consciously employed that aesthetic to various degrees at various times, but this is the first time I can recall having done so unawares.  Unlike the Witchmother and Kouros, a fairly traditional set of complementary opposites—specifically set up, in fact, so that I might explore my relationship with those archetypes—they form a unified pair: dual expressions of the primal need that moves the world. 

When I pour out my libations, I address them as “Eros/Phanes, Aphrotide: source and expression of desire.”  So far they have been good to me.

 

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Dionysiac Sketches

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A pair of sketches from the last few days: a female satyr (unattested in the 5th and 4th centuries Greece, but appearingin the Roman era and rife in later neo-Classical periods) and a Dionysiac phallus.

From Eric Csapo:

The zoomorphic concept of the phallus is pervasive in Greek thought-one has only to think of the many representations of phallus birds in Greek art.  It is also essentially Dionysiac. The phallus icon of Dionysus and the phalli carried in Dionysiac processions are always regarded as independent living organisms, of which the glans is a head, equipped with eyes and sometimes with (phallic, horse-like) ears and other animal attributes (see Plates 1A, 1B, 1C, 3, 4, 8A, 8B).41 The eyes, ears, and the phallus are the essential organs of the Dionysiac creature, but especially the eyes and phallus, because, though one can be possessed by music through one’s ears and possess others through theirs, it is by one’s own eyes and phallus that one is both possessed and takes possession.
— p.260 “Riding the Phallus for Dionysus: Iconology, Ritual, and Gender-Role De/Construction.” Phoenix. 51. no.3/4 (Autumn – Winter, 1997): 253-295. Emphasis mine.

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Currently Ongoing Projects

For your amusement and my future reference, here is a list of my currently ongoing projects and magical experiments.

1) Skylights chapbook.  Twenty four pages so far detailing the results of my experiments in planetary magic and outlining a roadmap for other witches without ceremonial backgrounds to recreate them, plus copyright-free line-drawings of the major planetary sigils to make everyone’s life easier, and a few personal-use-only talismanic images produced over the course of my experiments.

2) Planetary Boxes.  Inspired by Jason Miller’s Jupiter Cashbox and the conjure boxes made by RO and Skyllaros, these sort of occupy the intersection of talisman and portable altar.

3) Stele of Jeu adaptation.  Crowley did it, why shouldn’t I?  (Yes, I know the answer to that question.)  “I am Aradia, your daughter, initiate of your Mysteries…”

4) Cave Canem.  Although my lovely guard dog has so far been a technical success, there have been some … oddities which require further observation and documentation.

5) Texting Coffee.  Earlier this week, my partner Aradia needed a coffee fix but couldn’t afford (temporally or financially) to go get the quad-mocha she craved.  So I texted her a picture of the espresso I had just produced.  Although done as a joke, it actually worked.  Now the experiments begin.

6) Book Reviews.  I’ve read a lot of books in the last year but have never written about them.  Highlights include Jason Miller’s Sorcerer’s Secrets and Advanced Planetary Magic, Deborah Castellano’s Arte of Glamour, Josephine McCarthy’s Magickal Knowledge: Foundations, and the new edition of Apostolos N. Athanassakis’ translation of The Orphic Hymns.

7) Feminist Sex Magick.  Aradia and I manged to pull off non-creepy, non-dominating, mutually benefiting sex magick.  Now to find a non-creepy way to write about it.

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Typhoeus: King of the Earth-born Monsters

Typhoeus: King of the Earth-born Monsters

Inspired by images such as this, combined with the Hesiodic description:

Hesiod, Theogony 820 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“Typhoeus; the hands and arms of him are mighty, and have work in them, and the feet of the powerful god were tireless, and up from his shoulders there grew a hundred snake heads, those of a dreaded drakon, and the heads licked with dark tongues, and from the eyes on the inhuman heads fire glittered from under the eyelids: from all his heads fire flared from his eyes’ glancing; and inside each one of these horrible heads there were voices that threw out every sort of horrible sound, for sometimes it was speech such as the gods could understand, but at other times, the sound of a bellowing bull, proud-eyed and furious beyond holding, or again like a lion shameless in cruelty, or again it was like the barking of dogs, a wonder to listen to, or again he would whistle so the tall mountains re-echoed to it.”

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10 October, 2013 · 3:05 pm

διγενὴς ἔκστασις : Queer Spirit Journeys

[This post was originally written ten months ago for a queer occult Zine that, to my great disappointment, seems to have gone defunct without publishing.  The tone is more … literary, and the content a bit more intimate than most of my posts. ]

The void opens before me and the crystalline spire of the World Tree rises into infinity where there ought to be a horizon. The ground beneath my feet is an illusion for my convenience: there is nothing but the void and the Tree.

In the physical realm, I am uncomfortably male. Although I reject all the social tropes of masculinity, excepting only a few which are synonymous with being a decent human being, I am generally read as so butch that I am routinely mistaken for straight. While wearing a skirt. In a gay bar.

In the Otherworld, however, things are more complicated.

My most familiar spirit approaches me before I even reach the Tree. She is eager, and there is mischief in her eyes. Until recently, she appeared as a gorgon; now, just a woman. I ask if she has any adventures planned for me, and although she is one of the few spirits whose voice I can hear reliably, tonight she answers only by taking my hand.

Together, we walk to the World Tree. She places her hand on the shimmering facets of the bark, and slides into the pillar of crystal. I follow.

It is quite telling, in retrospect, that I have been fixated on leaving my body since I first began my study of the occult at the age of sixteen. Although I have never mastered astral projection, my success with Michael Harner’s visionary techniques, to which I was introduced by a friend a decade later, has been markedly greater. Enough so, in fact, that I began having experiences that my source materials could not help me contextualize almost immediately. I began seriously exploring and experimenting with visionary techniques in the spring of 2009. At first, as I imagine it is for many people, it was all or nothing: the trance would either elude me, or I would find myself in a mindscape which I could barely comprehend. Those first visionary experiences were frightening—some of them are, still, as I have no cultural context in which to ground them.

We descend, spiraling into darkness, and emerge at the edge of a stone circle. There is a drummer hiding in the shadows on the far side. Beautiful dancers writhe in the inconstant light of a small fire. I cannot see their faces clearly, or hear their voices over the drum.

I leap into the circle, joining the dance with abandon. Our bodies collide to the rhythm of the drum. There is nothing but the drumbeat and the heat of the fire and flesh. My hips and breasts sway as I dance and spin, round and round the fire.

It probably goes without saying that, at first, my spirit-body appeared as an idealized version of my mortal flesh: a little more muscular, a little less soggy around the middle. For a while, before I realized that it was irrelevant, I tried to form an “astral body” that was more “realistic”. Then I just let it be what it was: trying to dismantle that small bit of vanity was a distraction from the real work of exploring the spirit world. So, the first time it was radically different, I almost didn’t notice.

I was at a Qaballistic workshop at the local New Age store. The instructor was leading us on a visionary journey to Malkuth, the Earthly Kingdom. The path led across a bridge over a river, where we were to abandon certain symbolic representations of our mortal lives. Seeing my reflection in the river, I was surprised to see that I was a woman. My tattoos and ritual garb were what I had formed as I entered the visionary trance, but my flesh was not. For much of the rest of the journey, which was clear and productive, I was viscerally and self-consciously aware of the differences between that body and my mortal one—and of the fact that I had been unaware of those differences until I saw my reflection.

The drummer has slipped outside the fire light, and moves around outside the circle of stones, deosil to our widdershins, so that he is always just out of sight. One by one, the other dancers disappear as I make my way around the circle again and again. One turn I am a woman: my center of gravity lower, my breasts swaying and bouncing with my gyrations. The next I am a man: my cock slapping against my thighs as my center of gravity rises. Though the movements themselves are not so different—I am a terrible, unoriginal dancer, either way—the relative proportions of hip to shoulder create the illusion that it is otherwise, both visual and tactile.

The goddess I met at the end of that journey was not the Queen of Malkuth, but the Titan goddess Rhea: vast beyond my imagining, reclining nude and crowned and flanked by lions. To this day I have always-but-once been a woman when summoned to her presence in my visionary work. Other spirits, too—such as the equally vast but yet-unnamed goddess of Elemental Water—prefer that I be female in their presence. I have always been male in the Elemental Realm of Fire. My gender in the Otherworld is increasingly uncertain and malleable: male, female, both, neither. I shift at random, or at will, or at the behest of the spirits with whom I entreat.

All that remain, now, are myself and the the fire and the drummer I still cannot see. But my body has solidified in the image of Hermaphroditus: full breasts and hips, bearded and phallic. My hair is thick and glorious, from my head to my feet. Horns crown my head. A satyr’s tail sways behind me, and a satyr’s Priapism sways in front.

I leap into the fire, and we consume one another. My flesh is incinerated, then reformed, as I swallow the flames. When I emerge, the drummer has reveled himself: my Natal Demon. My Genius is there, too, and my most familiar spirit.

We dance.

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* διγενὴς ἔκστασις – “Diges Ekstasis”, lit. two-kind displacement, alt. trance of doubtful sex. διγενὴς cf. LSJ.A, ἔκστασις Middle Liddel.A.II.4

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