Ritual Timing and the Risk of Preemptive Defeat

An act of magic does not begin only upon the release of the cone of power, the empowerment of the sigil, the charging of the talisman or spirit-aid.  An act of magic does not begin with the casting of the circle.  It does not even begin with the purifying bath before the ritual begins.  An act of magic begins the moment you set your will to an end, and echoes, still, after you achieve your result.

This is a thing that, I think, we all know, but which we all forget.

This is why, if you plan your rituals thoroughly or even just a few days in advance, you begin to see results before you have charged your sigils or talismans, or even finished arranging your correspondences.  I find that this is particularly common with multi-stage rituals, or when you’re doing magic for other people: frequently, Aradia’s mother will ask her to enchant for something, and then receive it while the offering candles are still burning.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to follow through with the ritual.  I think this is what a lot of people are talking about when they say they “manifested” something, but then get dodgy when you ask about their technique.  This is, interestingly, one the phenomena I have seen scare people away from magic in their earliest experiments.  (When my sister gave me back the magic books I had lent and bought her, she told me with wide-eyed terror about how, when she wanted things, “they just happened!”)

Conversely, when you are attempting something particularly difficult – an exorcism was the example that came up Gordon’s recent podcast interview with Jenny McCarthy – you can begin to encounter resistance as soon as you declare your intent.  Personally, I find this phenomenon most pervasive with my social justice magic: the apathy and depression which beset me when I begin to contemplate how best to undermine the structures of Archonic power; the mind-numbing blank, so much worse than normal writers block, which I struggle against when I attempt to work on my hypersigil novels; the reflexive planning-stage push-back I get from people who were down for the cause until the moment I announced I would actually take action.

I know a great number of magical people who rely too heavily on the first two of these three phenomena.  They are accustomed to the path opening for them effortlessly.  They mistake effective magic for destiny and, as a result, take every obstacle they do encounter as a cosmic DO NOT ENTER sign.  These are the same people who spend their lives wondering, “what am I supposed to do?” and flinch at the question, “what do I want?”

Linear time and causality are the meat and bread of historians, but they are illusions of mortal consciousness.  We are witches and sorcerers and magicians and priest/esses.  We are subject to illness and doomed to die, but in all other regards we disdain the limits of mortality.  The past pushes.  The future pulls.  Things outside of time – ourselves included – stir the pot.

Sometimes, of course, we do encounter DO NOT ENTER signs.  And sometimes we should even heed them.

But we are witches.  We are sorcerers.  We are wizards.  We are priests and priestesses and healers and mystics.  We are crossers of the hedge, climbers of the World Tree, explorers of the astral realms.  We are dabblers in forces forbidden to mortals.  We are possessors of knowledge others fear to face.

If we have any ambition at all, the obstacles we face become challenges which must be surmounted or circumnavigated.  We must set banquet tables for strange gods, even if we must then strangle them in their sleep.  We must slay or subdue or even seduce the dragons.

When you set out on a quest, the resistance you face is pro often of that you are going in the right direction.  Take solace in the stretches of easy, open road, and rest when you can.  And don’t take every challenge personally.  But remember that some of the obstacles arose in opposition to your intention; crush them and use the rubble as stepping stones.

And when you see a DO NOT ENTER sign on a side path, consider that it might be a challenge to be accepted.

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Armed Venus

Armed Venus

“Armed Aphrodite”

A young woman stands bare chested, a cloth draped around her waist, a golden-colored apple in her left hand and a sword in her right.  From a Classically themed photoshoot with a friend from college, this image was inspired by a combination of art and myth.  The apple identifies the figure as Aphrodite; the sword is inspired by a spear-bearing statue of Aphrodite that I saw at the temple of Asclepious in Greece.

From a photo shoot about this time last year, this post somehow got lost in my drafts folder.  To see the rest of the series, or order prints, please check out my portfolio.

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Ozark Mountain Nightmare and the Mundus Occultus

At the beginning of the month I released my second novella on Amazon:

ozard mountain nightmare-1

For sale on Amazon – Kindle only.

Megan has been coming out to the cabin every summer since Eric and Liz brought her and James with them on their family vacation after their sophomore year of high school.  Things have changed since then – Eric’s gotten married; James is now exclusively gay – but the tradition remains: the axis of peace and hope and, for lack of a better word, family around which her otherwise banal and depressing year revolves.  Angel comes with them, now, and every year James brings a different boy.  This year is no different,  at first.

An unseasonable cold hits the mountain as evening approaches, and a cold rain falls as the sun sets.  The wind sounds like someone screaming, and the lamps don’t illuminate the cabin like they should.  They manage to convince themselves it’s just their imaginations, at first — rain happens when you’re camping, right?   And James’ buddy Randal is just a religious nut who’s scared of storms.  Nevermind that the locals don’t go out alone after dark, or the number of tourists “lost” in the Ozarks every year.  The darkness can’t move outside the window.

What’s worse, though, the darkness, itself, moving?  Or something moving outside in the darkness?

Having released my second story set in that world, I am also releasing the logo, which you will also see at the top of my page to the right.  All my stories will be available at that link as they are released.

mundus occultus logo

The Mundus Occultus is my world of occult horror and supernatural mystery.  Unlike most of the genre, however, my stories are rooted as much in my life experience as a neo-Pagan witch as the conventions of the genre.  Along side all the werewolves and vampires and flesh-and-bone monsters, half the thigns we love, you will see magic that makes sense, refferences to books you’ve read, books you wish you’d written, and an insider’s perspective on how Pagans and magicians would live in such a world.  I also strive to defy the conventions of the genre in respect to the treatment of queers, women, and people of color.  This is not a world with hero cops or innocent white boys.  The world may not be saved.  That may not be a bad thing.

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What is the Work?

Again again again I come back to this question.

What is the work?

Simple question, on the face of it.  So many dangerous non-answers.

I ran into an old friend over the weekend.  She said some things to me that made me want to scream.

“It sounds like you’re exactly where you need to be,” she said.  Then ahw proceded to tell me what I needed to do instead of what I’m doing now: find a new home festival, if Heartland has become all work; go to other festivals to see how they do things (how are those two not murually exclusive?).  I asked her how her life was going, and she changed the subject.

Running into D struck me as an omen of sorts.  There’s a conversation we get stuck in every time we talk about life: “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing,” she’ll say to me; I’ll respond, “What do you want?”  We didn’t actually have that conversation this time — or perhaps we did, obliquely and by inversion — but I couldn’t not think on it.

Since the end of the Ceremonial Experiment and the decomissioning of the Sunrise Temple, I have been spiritually adrift.  My magical practice has ammounted to repeating the Experiment in miniature —  powering through RO’s Seven Spheres when it came out last year; attempting to code-switch planetary conjuration into the language of Witchcraft at the beginning of this year.  My spiritual practice has consisted solely of orchestrating the rituals for Heartland Pagan Festival — playing priest to the community, a role to which I have long aspired, but somehow to the exclusion of my personal spiritual pursuits.

I keep coming back to the same to questions.  Where do I go from here?  What is the next phase of the work?  The blog has suffered for it even more than my life.  Existential angst is not the writing mode that I do best.

I have been seeking teachers again.  But there are a number of reasons that so many of the books on magic are exclusively 100-level beyond the obvious American (and, perhaps, to a lesser degree Anglophone) prefference for shallow knowleged.  At a certain point you must cross the line from the techniques of magic into the experience of the Mysteries.

I have found some inspiration in the recent works of Gordon White and Peter Grey.  But Peter Grey, however brilliant his writing, is too much the cishet fuckboy: for every brilliant illumination he provides, there is an overlong passage of literary masturbation wherein he gets so caught up in his own language that he forgets his point, on the one hand, and some casually awful straight man bullshit on the other.  And Gordon White, for all his Chaote brilliance and animist awakening, is too comfortable with the lingering structures of empire and his emphasis on ancestors is a place that I have not yet been able to follow.

And there, of course, obvious directions that I could go from here.

Going back to basics (again) would probably serve me well.  Struggling to meditate means you need to meditate more, right?

Leaving my body was my greatest aspiration when I fist began practicing magic.  I never quite got the hand of “astral projection” techniques, but I am unconvinced that the shamanic visionary techniques I did, once, excell at were taking me to a fundamentally different place.  And yet… I have let htat practice slip.

I have a small cadre of familiar spirits accumulated throughout my visionary and ceremonial practices, all of whom probably have something to teach me if only I were talking to them.

 

I have a collection of masks, maked in frantic, mantic fever, each of which has some purupose that I have not yet unlocked, and which is probably more subtle and potent that the production of occult art.

I have drawn Powers and spirits into the bodies of others, almost too casually, but I have only experienced trance-possession, myself, and handfull of times: once Death, once my Natal Demon, twice a Sun God, all by the aid of masks, and, most recently, the Nine Muses followed by Typhoeus as a part of the Air and Water rituals this year’s festival.  And yet, it was long considered the defining feature of moder neo-Pagan witchcraft.

There are gods and powers I have encountered in my practice whose interest in me I never managed ot understand.  The Intelligences of the Moon.  The Witchmother and Witchfather — the latter possibly Lucifer, the latter whom I never idenitified.  The Queen of the Deap Water.  Certain Solar powers.  Rhea Cybele.

And Dionysus, who has shown me small favors yet always remained aloof.

A clever reader, of course, sees not an overabundance of options, among which one cannot chose, but rather an escalating programme that I should be pursuing.

And yet … the dillema remains.  How do you meditate when panic rises every time you try to still your mind?

This is the work.

 

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Producing a Lexicon of Queer Witchcraft

This post was originally written several years ago, while I was still in the Sunrise Temple.  For some reason I can’t recall – possibly because it didn’t tie in neatly with the Ceremonial Experiment – I decided to post it exclusively to my Tumblr.  I repost it here, now, because I was looking to link to it as I was drafting my response to the Ruth Barrett issue and was irate that I couldn’t find it.  It was, probably, my most popular Tumblr post, and I think that the discussion is still relevant, and I am still struggling to think clearly in the wake of post-festival and post-tragedy collapse.  The below post has been slightly edited for spelling and grammar.

This is a thing that has been on my mind for a while, and I’m going to float it here before I begin drafting a larger post for the main blog.

I know for a fact that I am not the only genderqueer witch who doesn’t fit comfortably under the trans umbrella.  I strongly suspect that many like me share my struggle to find language to describe their experiences.  The one word I know that comes close to describing the way in which my spirituality and gender identity intermix–Two-spirit–is not mine to use.  Being a Classicist, though, I have access to two whole lexicons from which to less problematically adopt words:  Attic Greek and Classical Latin.

Let me, therefore, propose a word for those of us whose spiritual genders embrace a combination of masculinity and femininity: digenes, from διγενής.  Literally, it renders as “two kind”, but is more commonly taken to mean “of dual or ambiguous nature”.  For those who wish to explicitly embrace a broader spectrum, the neologism polygenes (πολυγενής) can be coined: many-natured.  If you don’t like genes, phusis can be used: diphues (διφυής) or polyphues (πολυφυής): literally two- or many- natured.  Digenes is historically testified to describe Dionysus (citation pending), and diphues to describe Eros in the Orphic Hymn.

So: the proposal:

digenes, diphues, polygenes, and polyphues

Attic/Koine Greek borrow-words and neologisms to describe the experience of genderqueer spirituality for those of us whose traditions do not come equipped with such words.

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Looking for the Labyrinth

This weekend, I attended my first Gnostic Catholic Mass with the local chapter of the OTO.  Because my timing is sometimes awesome, there was a group in from Omaha to see three of their number baptized, which really elevated the initiatory current of the rite.  I could get into a detailed analysis, but that’s not why I’m here today.

The ritual was beautiful and powerful.  I definitely enjoyed the power-up.  I’m glad I went.  There were good people there.  I will almost certainly go again.

But it’s not home.

I spent half the ritual itching to go home and do witchcraft.  To light candles and beat a drum and chong out my altar room with incense and oil smoke.  To pour libations and swill wine with the gods.  To leap the hedge and descend the World Tree and seek once more the realms beneath the Earth.  I want to walk the winding paths of the labyrinth.

Instead, though, I struggle to meditate.  My dreams elude me.

I stand before my altars and stare, futile, even as I stare at the blank page.  Should I draw or write?  What project needs my attention first?  How do I even?  How do?  What do?

I want to burn the world.  I have to tools.  And yet my hands shake.  The circle trembles.  My heart hammers in my chest.  Where do I begin to begin again?  I am paralyzed by indecision.

I cannot find my voice.  I cannot find my way back to the labyrinth.

 

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Elemental Postures

Feral bearing the masks of the Elemental Keepers, performing the elemental Postures.

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Death and Violence

I spent the last two months lost in the woods.  Tragically, while true, this is not a literal statement.  I lost the entirety of April and May to preparing for and putting on the Heartland Pagan Festival.  In those months, I did not engage with social media except to shout into the void.  Since I have come back from festival, and started checking in, I have found a number of clusterfucks waiting for me, and I have struggled with how to engage with them.

And then the last week happened.  Yesterday morning, I struggled to write something relevant about Ruth Barrett, her heinous anthology, her history, and Cherry Hill Seminary’s inadequate response.  This morning I struggle to address the violence in Orlando, and the routine, inadequate, responses to it. There are things I want to say.  There are things that might be useful to say.  I’m not sure how much overlap there is between those things.

I am not the only one who predicted this attack (or, rather, something like it) in the hours after last year’s supreme court ruling by which marriage equality was made national law.  I must admit that that I, at least, expected it to come much, much sooner.  Instead there was the long litany of murdered transwomen, mostly women of color, which grew steadily day by day.

Watching people blame “radical Islam” for the Orlando attack, when I have spent my entire life listening to mainstream Christians advocate similar violence, is sickening.  I remember the mainstream gay bashing of the 1990s.  I remember when, in the 1990s and 2000s, ultimately 4/5ths of US states decided that the federal ban on same-sex marriage was insufficient and passed state laws and constitutional amendments to the same effect.  And I know my history.  This shit isn’t new, and it’s not Islam.  Or, not just Islam. Nor was Orlando the only attack this week, just the most successful.  There was also the Target bathroom bombing in Evanston, IL, and the shooter arrested on the way to the Los Angeles Pride Parade.  And probably a half-dozen more I haven’t heard about yet.

Meanwhile, I watch the slow rise of pro-gun and anti-queer paganism, and wonder how much longer it will be before I’m staring down a barrel at festival. There was more casual homophobia among Pagans in the 1990s, but I don’t remember people fighting this hard to kick us out.  I do remember Heathenry rejecting the Pagan identity as a whole precisely because the larger movement was, among other things, more accepting of queers than they wanted to be. (Which is why I was so surprised and suspicious when people I knew started getting involved with the Norse gods.)  That Cherry Hill Seminary would continue to employ Ruth Barrett after her repeated attacks on the transgender community, culminating in her TERF anthology project, tells me that her views are actually becoming more mainstream in the pagan community as a whole, despite being pushed to the margins of the festival circuit.

Paganism is not immune to the over culture: as queer rights progress, those who oppose us will continue to become more violent. And telling us to “embrace our own second amendment rights” in self-defense is basically telling us to violently secede, because there is no place in society for us.

Don’t look to me for a conclusion, here.  Now is not the time to ask me about solutions, either.  I am angry and afraid, and the only paths that I can see from here are defensive separatism or answering violence with violence, neither of which, statistically, pan out well for us in the end.

The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that assimilation is worse than death, and I will not no more conform to the heterosexist dualism of my fellow Pagans than to the white supremacist cishet patriarchy and materialist nihilism of mainstream American culture.  I will not give up the magic.  I will not give up the ecstasies.  I will not conform to the prescribed roles for my sex, gender, or class.

I am a witch.  The war is on, but I will not submit to a fair fight.

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HPF 2016: Spirit Conjuration Workshop Notes

For the amusement and convenience of my readers and in the hopes of getting feedback from the more experienced conjurers in the community, I present my notes for the spirit conjuration workshop.  I would greatly appreciate feedback from anyone who attended, or who has an interest in the subject, in order to make a better workshop next year.

I)       Introduction

A)     Allow me to Introduce Myself ….

i)       20 years and counting of magical practice and experiments

(a)   Started with energy work and failed attempts at astral projection at 16 yrs

(b)   ~’00-06 swapping tricks and going on adventures with KU WPA

(c)   Independent experiments with shamanic visionary work since 2008

(d)   Intense exploration of ceremonial and chaos magicks 2011-2015

¨       Ceremonial Experiment

¨       Project Null

B)     Conjuration

i)       When I was but a wee faun of a mage …

(a)   1990s taboo against spirit conjuration

(b)   Jeremy and summoning elementals

ii)     Historical perspective

(a)   Extremely ancient tradition, dating to earliest preserved spells

(b)   Extensively attested across the whole of the Western magical tradition

¨       Archaeology

¨       PGM

¨       Picatrix

¨       Renaissance Grimoires (to say nothing of theater)

¨       Lodge traditions – GD, A .: A .: (Argentium Astrum), Thelema, &c.

¨       ATR &c. – Hoodoo, vodoun, voodoo, conjure, &c.

¨       Basically everywhere but mainstream modern neo-Pagan witchcraft

iii)   Sources for conjuration experiments

(a)   Christopher Penczak’s Temple of High Witchcraft

(b)   Electional astrology via Christopher Warnock’s Spiritus Mundi

(c)   PGM Stele of Jeu via Jack Faust

(d)   Rufus Opus’ Seven Spheres in Seven Days marathon

(e)   Peter Carol’s Liber Null

(f)    RO’s Seven Spheres

(g)   Wild assortment of personal accounts by other sorcerers gleaned across the internet and over beers

II)    Theory, Part One

A)     Theories of magic (Phil Hine, Condensed Chaos 1995)

i)       Cybernetic model – fractal reality, programmable magic: coded wards and servetors

ii)     Psychological model – 19th + 20th C,Jungian/archetypal understanding of the cosmos, “it’s all in your head”

iii)   Energetic model – also introduced to the West in the 19th C, “subtle energies”

iv)    Spirit model – oldest, probably best, and most relevant to our discussion

v)      All four must be at least partly true, because all four work

B)     Conjuring, obviously, works on the spirit theory

i)       magic is achieved through petitioning spirits to act on our behalf

(a)   ancestors & other dead

(b)   elementals/fairies/devas

(c)   planetary powers – spirits, archangels, gods, whatever

(d)   gods and demons

ii)     the magician makes contact with the spirit, persuades them by some means, and the spirit makes the magic happen

III) Ethics

A)     Concerning Free Will

i)       do spirits have it?

(a)   actually don’t according to many theories of the spirited world

ii)     does conjuration infringe upon it?

(a)   lots of authoritarian language in spirit conjuration

(b)   lots of it reads as theater

iii)   survey sez spirits do what the fuck they want, regardless of “contract”

(a)   why doesn’t anyone ever extend this line of reasoning to include the gods?

(b)   Quarter calls traditionally “bid” spirits rather than “asked” them

(c)   “calling” isn’t asking either

B)     Indirect Action and Unintended Consequences

i)       how responsible are we for the means that spirits employ in our name?

IV)  Mechanics

A)     Ritual Arc

i)      Preliminary Work

(a)   Clean the workspace

(b)   Physical construction of the altar

(c)   Mood lighting

(d)   Bathing

(e)   Banishing

(f)    Fumigation

ii)    Opening

(a)   Dedication of sacred space

¨       Blessing the altar

¨       Incense

¨       Circle casting

¨       Offerings to relevant familiar spirits

(b)   Invocation of authority

¨       Supreme deity/deities

¨       Identification with great mages of myth and history

à         Moses and Osiris in the PGM

à         Potentially Medea, Merlin, or Aradia for modern witches

à         Affiliation with established order or egregore

¨       Offerings to that authority

iii) Body

(a)   Evocation of the spirit by speaking its name and attributes

¨       This is the place for hardcore flattery

¨       Listing off multiple names and attributes of spirit to be called helps to specify

¨       Traditional hymns and/or devotional poetry go here

(b)   Depending on the ritual tradition, there may be cajoling, bribery, or threatening

¨       Hermetic tradition ~ “Don’t I remind you of Dad?”

¨       Grimoire tradition ~ “Dad made me the boss of you!”

¨       Egyptian style ~ “If you don’t do as I say, I’ll get a bigger god to clobber you!”

¨       Folk magic ~ “If you do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me!”

¨       First round of offerings go here – fumigation and/or libations

(c)   Asking something of the spirit

¨       “say ‘hi”,”

¨       “empower this talisman”

¨       Planetary spirits are great for initiations and general power-ups

¨       Second round of offerings to the conjured spirit may be appropriate, particularly libations or food offerings

¨       If I am asking for communion or initiation, this is where I will share a drink with the spirit

iv)  Closing

(a)   Thanking and/or Dismissal of the spirit

¨       May be personal or formal

¨       More offerings are not uncalled for, particularly libations

(b)   Thanking the authority

¨       More offerings, depending on the authority

(c)   Dismiss elements/quarters/whatever

(d)   Dismiss circle

(e)   Banish as necessary

V)     Theory, Part Two

A)     Style

i)       varies from one tradition to another

B)     Substance

i)       A conjurer (“exorcist”) must believe in their own authority

ii)     Psychodrama of ritual

C)     Planning

i)       What is your purpose?

(a)   Empower this talisman/sigil

(b)   Perform this action –

(c)   Shower me with the blessings of your domain (relevant for planetary spirts and their ilk)

ii)     Who or what are you conjuring?

iii)   What school of thought are you employing?

iv)    Have your script ready

VI)  The Triangle of Conjuration

A)     A reality map – Trimethian archetype

i)       Characters of the seven planets on the outer ring

ii)     Archangels of the four earthly quarters in the second ring

iii)   Sacred geometry make up the center

iv)    Crystal placed in the central geometry in which the spirit appears

v)      Represents the material and spiritual realms through which the spirits must descend to the “exorcist”

B)     Traditional tool helpful with some kinds of conjuration

C)     Adds to the psychodrama

VII)           Personal Experiences

A)     Relationships With Spirits

i)       Formal first contact is best

ii)     Research and experience alike indicate that personal is best

(a)   Some relationships may remain extremely formal

(b)   Depends on the magician as much as the spirit or rite

B)     Conjurations

i)       Natal genius and demon

ii)     Cannabis

iii)   Planetary spirits/archangels

VIII)   Sources for Research

A)     Books

i)       Rufus Opus’ Seven Spheres (Scarlet Imprint 2015)

ii)     Gordon White’s The Chaos Protocols (Llewellyn 2016)

iii)   Corpus Hermeticum (public domain)

iv)    Lesser Key of Solomon the King (Crowley’s Goetia, Weiser 1990)

B)     Blogs

i)       Rufus Opus @ Head for Red

ii)     Polyphanes @ Digital Ambler

triangle-of-art-with-characters_thumb.jpg

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HPF 2016: Workshop After-Action Report

I hosted four workshops at this year’s festival.  That’s quite an escalation from last year’s two, and next year I will probably do five.  I’ll probably go at it all a little differently, though.

The nature of my first three workshops required that they be in a particular order, and on the same day.  I taught a basic energy work and circle casting class, followed by a class on conjuring spirits, and culminating in an actual conjuration of the spirits of the Sphere of Venus at their appointed hour on their appointed day.  Nescessarily, then, all three were Friday.  That was kinda tiring.  Also frantic.

The 101 course was sparsely attended – just two people – but they were very enthusiastic.  It was intimate and effective, and I will definitely teach it again next year.

The conjuration workshop drew about eight people, twice as many as last year and more than all my other workshops combined.  There was a good mix of experience levels, and people had a fun variety of their own stories to share.  Almost all of them went on to participate in the actual conjuration that night, along with a handful who hadn’t made the workshop.  Definitely a success.

The final workshop was a discussion on being queer and pagan.  Relatively few people showed to that one, which had the misfortune of being placed at the same time as workshops by both Sede and Lupa, two of our guest speakers.  In particular, I was interested to see if there was an interest in hosting meet-and-greets to help queers attending the festival to find each other and create a sub-community, and I think there is definitely enough interest in that.  Hopefully some younger and more radical queers will attend next year, and we will have a more lively discussion.

All in all, I think the workshops went well, and putting them on was a very rewarding experience for me.  I will definitely try to spread them out more, next year, if I can, but I will probably do them all again.  I may even do two queer and pagan workshops: a meet-and-greet at the beginning and an after-action discussion group to air any problems that people had.

 

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