Tag Archives: Ceremonial magic

The Dweller at the Threshold … Again

At the beginning of the summer, I took on two projects that have given me much more trouble than I anticipated.  To my frustration, the trouble has not been that the work, itself, is beyond me, but rather the emotional crisis that it has precipitated.

Skylights

With the conclusion of the 2012-13 academic year, I have been studying and experimenting with ceremonial magic for two years.  I have conjured my Natal Genius and Daemon.  I have journeyed to each of the seven Spheres via both neo-shamanic visionary techniques and by conjuring archangels to lead the way.  I have employed electional astrology to create talismans of great power, and conjured the powers of the planets to influence the shape of politics.

I recognize that this is a pittance, and that I have barely scratched the surface of the subject matter.  I have dabbled in the Golden Dawn and Agrippa the Picatrix and the Arbatel, mostly via Christopher Penczak, Rufus Opus, Christopher Warnock, and a few other modern authors.  Although I await Aaron Leitch’s new book eagerly, I have not yet even made the most cursory study of Enochian magic.  Although I have read Crowley/Mather’s Goetia, I have never conjured any of those demons.  There are countless grimoires of which I know precisely nothing.

With that said, however, I think that the products of my experiments—my insights and my struggles—may be useful to others.  There are core concepts in ceremonial magic that are simply alien to anyone coming from a witchcraft background like my own, and straightforward presentation of the core techniques are few and far between.  As such, I think that I might be able to shed some light on the path, at least the first few steps, and have committed myself to writing a chapbook on the subject by the end of the summer.

The plan is to publish the results of my experiments so that others may build upon them.  As I said on tumblr, I would like a few beta-readers who have more experience with conjuration than I have so that they can tell me how far off the mark I am, and a few beta-readers with no experience in conjuration to try to see if my UPG works for others.  I have one volunteer for the former and two for the latter, but would like one or two more of each.  (Hint.  Hint.)

Translating the Stele of Jeu

I began performing the Stele of Jeu as a part of my Esbat rites at the end of 2011.  Although I no longer perform the ritual quite so regularly, I still find it to be an exceptionally useful part of my practice.  Because of the difficulties that one of my friends is having right now, I believe that the ritual would benefit her a great deal.  Unfortunately, however, she is not of a mindset which will permit her to simply perform the ritual: it’s too alien.  So I have taken it upon myself to annotate and, where possible, rephrase the ritual for her benefit, and the benefit of other witches who find the peculiar language of Greek-translated-for-scholars to be incomprehensible bordering on intimidating.

In my magical fantasy world, this project will culminate in my writing a version of the Stele for witches of an eclectic Wiccan background what Crowley did for his own students and peers in writing Liber Samekh.  Unfortunately this has been hampered by my inability to locate any scholarship on the subject, forcing me to rely in unseemly fashion on my personal experiments and UPG, and on the research of Mr. Jack Faust.

The Crisis

The crisis these projects has engendered is twofold, but the components are embarrassingly straightforward.

Firstly, I am plagued by the question, “Who am I to pose as an expert of any kind?”  The fact of the matter is that I know how little I know.  For all that I’ve been practicing magic for upward of fifteen years, my neuroses and social circles have somewhat limited my avenues of research.  Attending college in Indiana has also been surprisingly limiting to my options for interlibrary loan.

The fact that I am explicitly positioning myself as a fellow Seeker, not an expert or teacher does not seem to assuage this fear at all.  The fact of the matter is that I want to be a community leader somewhere down the road, have said so before, and only a fool could fail to put two and two together: Yes, I am hoping that some day, when I have something more substantial to offer, people will remember that I had clever things to say before.

Secondly, somewhat in light of the above, I find myself asking the question, “Is this where I want to focus my efforts?”  I am just old enough, at 32, that I am beginning to really feel my own mortality.  There are so many things I want to study, so many experiments that I want to do, so many books that I want to write.  Every time I choose to focus on one of them, I am potentially closing off others simply by virtue of the limited time available to me.

Is planetary witchcraft the thing I want to focus on?  What about the visionary work?  What about the alchemy?  What about the elemental powers I have touched, or the Chaos Magic I’ve dabbled in, my experiments in art as magic?  And where does that leave time for my novels?  Or my formal, public scholarship?

And, oh, yes, that whole thing where I want to seek out my gods but am deathly terrified to do so.

So I find myself stalling.  Sure, I needed to take advantage of this long weekend to actually relax and get some things done around the house.  Yes, I need to work my job to pay my rent and save up in hopes of being able to study in Greece at the end of the coming school year.  Damn right I need to actually get caught up on my sleep.  But I don’t need to do any of these things to the exclusion of the Work.

ETA: Edited to provide link and correct the spelling of Mr. Leitch’s name.  My apologies, sir.

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My Year of Ceremonial Study: The Home Stretch

In retrospect, I wish that I had set more concrete goals for my year of studying ceremonial magic.  I started with a particular programme, but I abandoned it about half way through as inadequate to the task it proposed.  I did refine my goals a little short of half way through, but even those were not particularly specific: to begin the pursuit of a supernatural assistant, to form connections with the Planetary and Elemental Powers, to begin producing a grimoire for people of a more polytheist bent, unable to swallow the top-down, antropocentric cosmology of Ptolemy.  Realizing even then that my original time frame of a year could well prove inadequate, I mused about pushing it out to eighteen months or more.  As you, my clever readers, have already inferred, I have decided against extending my study for now:  I am content with the Work I have accomplished in the last year.

There are quite a few projects that I haven’t found the time or clarity to write about yet, but only two goal experiments remain before I am ready to begin my year with Chaos magick.  Through the Spiritus Mundi group, I have learned of a Solar Election this weekend, which will allow me to create the one talisman I had wanted to but not yet had the chance.  Using that election, I will create a talisman for the Favor of Kings—like those I have created for Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury—and a Solar ring of power.  And when the Dark Moon comes, I will use my shiny new Circle of the Art to conjure Baphomet and empower my Chaosphere.

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My “Year” of Ceremonial Study: The View From Month 11 of 12

It occurred to me this evening that the year I set aside to study the Western Ceremonial Tradition will come to an end in fewer than thirty days.  I wrote the first post on my experiments a year ago yesterday.

Holy fuck.

It’s been a wild ride.  What started as a vague (almost childish) intention to study “ceremonial magic” has wandered across Chaos Magick, the grimoire traditions, traditional astrology, the qabalah, the Golden Dawn, and quite a few things I don’t even know the proper names of.  I’ve experimented with the Qabalistic Cross and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  I’ve conjured my Natal Genius, and am planning to conjure my Natal Demon, as well.  Although I have struggled with my maintaining my visionary practice, I’ve gone on visionary quests to the Temples of Malkuth and Yesod, striven and failed to reach Hod, and visited the Elemental Realms of Earth, Fire, and Water.  I have made Planetary talismans of Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and Mercury.  I have discovered the Greek Magical Papyri and incorporated the Stele of Jeu into my Lunar devotions at both the Dark and Full moons.  I have discovered the magical value of the Orphic Hymns.  I As my studies progressed, they focused increasingly on Hermeticism and astrological magic, with a bit of grimoire magic on the side.

Shit has been intense.  The rituals have been elaborate, effective, and exhausting.  Although I’ve been fighting it, I’ve been falling into the trap of armchair magicianhood because, as much as I’ve enjoyed a lot of it, there are parts of my nature that I have to fight to do this sort of Work.  And because I’ve been having so much fun getting caught up in the theory that I’ve been loosing track of the practice.  Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not done with the Western Ceremonial Tradition by any stretch of the imagination.  But I think that, when my year is up, I’m going to switch streams.

This coming year is going to be dedicated to Chaos Magick. Stephen Mace and AO Spare. Phil Hine and Peter Carrol. Gordon White and Jason Miller. And probably lots of authors and bloggers that I haven’t even heard of yet. Hopefully some of them ladies.

Lots of things have been pointing me toward Chaos Magick over the last year, anyway.  I mean: y’all have noticed that Gordon White is just too damn cool to ignore, right?  There’s been this whole post-Chaos thing that Jason Miller’s been talking about, though I think Gordon and Skyllaros have the right of that in a lot of ways.  And, even if Chaos Magic really isn’t what he seems to be doing anymore, I’ve picked up a serious torch for Phil Hine.  So … I’ll come back to Agrippa, the Picatrix, and the Corpus Hermeticum sooner rather than later.  Hell, I’m probably going to keep working on planetary talismans and my illustrations of the Picatrix images of the planets even as I change trajectories, because they’re pretty and they make me happy.

Any recommendations?

 

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Ceremonial Studies: Refining My Intent

When I set myself to the study of the Western Ceremonial tradition it was largely an intellectual exercise.  Yes, I expected to be a more competent and powerful witch/magician by the end of it, but I’d already learned the rudiments of sigils from Chaos magic (which I had largely understood as a subset of the ceremonial tradition, though I now know better) and I didn’t imagine that there would be much that would actually stick with me after the experiments were done.  After five months of study, I have come to understand just how little of what I thought I knew about the ceremonial tradition has any basis in reality.  Conversely, I have found that my chief concern was fairly well founded: I am fundamentally incompatible with some of the powers it deals with, though not in the ways I had imagined.  I have also come to recognize what the ceremonial tradition has to offer me personally: access to planetary Powers.

Various manuals of witchcraft that I have read in the course of my life have come with huge tables of plants, rocks, scents, colors, and their planetary correspondences.  But the rationale of those correspondences has never really been explained, nor why the attributions and uses of those correspondences varies so radically from the mythologies and portfolios of the divinities for which the planets have been named.  My explorations of ceremonial magic have helped me to understand (for example) why it is that Mars, the planet, has so little to do with Mars, the Roman god of war and the citizen-soldier.

More interestingly, particularly from my perspective as a visionary/shamanic witch looking to delve into that most forbidden of arts known as the evocation of spirits, I have learned of the multitudinous hosts and legions of spirits who make up those planetary Powers.  Even if, having acquired some skill at conjuration, I decide that it’s not for me, the names and sigils—phone numbers, as Frater Acher describes them (and I need that book)—will still be useful in seeking out contacts by other means.

Despite my best intentions, I am still having difficulty translating my theoretical studies into actual praxis.  This is partly a matter of trying to convert certain patterns into ones I understand, partly a matter of struggling to overcome inertia after having fallen off the horse (so to speak) of daily practice.

I want to begin seeking that thing known as “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” (or, you know, something along those lines, since I don’t quite buy the “guardian angel” part), but I have not yet settled on a particular ritual to that end.  The Stele of Jeu?  The Bornless Rite?  Liber Samekh?  (Sure, they’re all variations on the same tune, but I still need to choose one.)  Or some other ritual I haven’t found yet, aimed at the same goal?  Right now I’m leaning heavily toward the Stele of Jeu.  Very heavily.

When I resume pursing the planetary forces themselves, do I continue with the quasi-Golden Dawn route of Penczak’s High Temple?  Do I buy RO’s Gate Rites (I’ve been tempted for a while)?  Do I go whole-hog and dig into Abremelin?  Frustratingly, a lot of these questions would be a lot easier if I were Christian, or at very least if I weren’t energetically incompatible with the Archangels.  I really need to get my hands on a copy of the PGM—both translated and not.

I’ll say this much, though: by the time I’m done, there will be a neo-Pagan grimoire for sale somewhere.  I can’t be the only one struggling with some of these issues.  And maybe, as I continue, I’ll find that someone else has already done this.  Maybe I can use their work, maybe I can build on it, and maybe I’ll blow them out of the water.  There’s only one way to find out.

A research paper is no stronger than its thesis.  Until now, I had been doing no more and no less than preliminary exploration.  Now I have more specific aims—my theses, to continue the metaphor:  to get in touch with the Planetary forces, Powers, “elementals” (for lack of a better word) and spirits; to craft rites which fit within a neo-Pagan conceptual framework; and to make those experiments available to the public.

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