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The Holy Guardian Angel?

The Guardian Angel

The Guardian Angel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, as someone clever once said, “it’s that time of year again.”  People are arguing about the nature and merits of the Holy Guardian Angel.  Beyond what I’ve learned by following the conversation and from Frater Acher’s study, however, it’s a subject I know next to nothing about.  Which makes it fascinating to me.

This conversation seems to have been sparked by a post of Jason Miller’s.   If I understand correctly, Rufus Opus sees the entire operation as a Solar initiation.  Jow thinks it’s an awesome act of will, but will move at his own pace thank-you-very-much.  Meanwhile, Skyllaros  gets into some related issues which become relevant as the conversation continues, and the illustrious Frater Acher has shared his thoughts on the topic as well.  Jason weighs in further, addressing his understanding of celestial powers and shiny-red-reset-button-style-initiation.  The conversation (that I have seen so far, anyway), currently concludes with more thoughts by Rufus Opus.

The whole thing, as I said, is fascinating to me.  Although I’ve done some very interesting Solar

19 The Sun

19 The Sun (Photo credit: n0cturbulous)

work, none of it yet qualifies as an initiation[1].  I have, using rites derived (vaguely) from Agrippa, recently contacted my Natal Genius. Over the last several years, I have acquired a small cadre of spirit-helpers by other means, as well. The first is clearly not an HGA, and one of the the others laughed in my face when I asked her if she was.  I’m familiar with existence of the Abramelin rite, of course. but I honestly know just enough about the details to I know that I’m never going to do it. Not my bag, as they say. I have read the Bornless Ritual.  I’ve never performed it, or the Samekh variant, but I’ve been doing the ritual from which both are derived regularly for some months now. The association between Bornless and Abramelin, however, is purely the invention of Crowley[2]. Whatever its effect has been, though, it has not been the vaulted Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  It’s distinctly possible that, even if I have a Holy Guardian Angel in the original sense[3], I may never achieve “Knowledge and Conversation”.

Honestly, I’m not sure that I want or need K&CHGA.  As RO points out, the explosive immolation which many have reported

undergoing with the Abramelin, Bornless, Samekh, and other such rites, is not universal:

For others, it’s not that bad at all. A couple students, a few fellow wise old magicians didn’t go through a ton of shit, just some minor shit, because they got the point quicker than I did. I bet Jow, with his appreciation of the important things in life, his honest gratitude, his humility, his kindness… I bet for people like him, it’s a walk down the beach, and the heat of the Sun is a pleasure, not a pain at all.

At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing: I have been putting myself through a transformative slow-cooker for as long as I can remember.  I think I was eleven or twelve years old when I first realized that the world was fucked, that all the rules I’d been taught served to put the needs of bullies before my own, and that authority could not be trusted.  When I discovered magic at the age of thirteen, I was obsessed with gaining power, but when I started practicing magic for real between sixteen and eighteen, it didn’t take long for my magical practice to become a way of managing my moods and getting my shit sorted out.  I came out publically as a Pagan about that same time, and figured out I was bisexual (with the accompanying coming out process) about the same time I moved out of my parents’ house at twenty.  Between the move to St. Louis (what was explicitly to make me a better writer by taking me away from my home base), my experiments in visionary and shamanic work, the shift of my career path from I have been jamming the Shiny Red Reset Button on my life pretty constantly since 2006.  Or, as RO put it:

[P]eople go through worse shit without ever conjuring their HGA. You know anyone over thirty who hasn’t had some shit to deal with, something traumatic, something huge that you think about and wonder if you’d be able to handle it? I’ve got magician friends with more experience and empowerment than me who I respect and love who are facing or have faced more terrible things than I can imagine being able to deal with. Shit that doesn’t just go away in a year or two.
Shit. Happens. Regardless.

And and then there’s the whole thing with the spirits who have sought me out since beginning of this process.  So really, while I would welcome another supernal assistant, between the life and magic I’ve already got more on my plate than I can handle.  Like Jow, I would rather continue to simmer off the excess and the unnecessary, rather than risk an unplanned series of detonations in a life which is already on the edge, with too few resources to be spread between the various people who love and depend on me.

There’s a part of me that wishes that I had even known about this kind of magic back in the day: high school and the early years of my apprenticeship would have been much more interesting.  I might not have taken quite so long to pull my head out of my ass.  Or, you know, I might be in a padded room wearing a straight jacket.


Reset (Photo credit: kokeshi)

As things stand, though, I’ll have to content myself with listening to the stories that others tell about their explosive pursuits of the  HGA and other Solar initiations.  With reading the theory performing my own, smaller, experiments.  And maybe in another twenty years, when I’m more magician than satyr, when my tenure is secure and my ambitions achieved, I’ll say “fuck it”, and go looking for the “Nuke” setting on my Shiny Red Reset Button.

1 – You see what I did there?

2 – See 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).  See also: The Bornless Ritual by Alex Sumner.

3 – Something I am not convinced of, as I reject the sort of top-down cosmology which is necessary in order to assume that everyone has the same arrangement of supernatural allies.



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Let’s Get to Work

I think many of you know that Beltane is also International Workers Day.

Here are a few links for your perusal with that in mind:

Gordon: Occupy as a Phased Enchantment … Too bad I wasn’t ready for this shit then.

Cut-out 3-D Occupy Mask

Cut-out 2-D Occupy Mask

Planetary forces aren’t the only streams out there: More Occupy Wall Street Art for May Day Talisman Action

Two months ago I planned to have a whole fancy post with sigils and glyphs so we could work together on this a little more closely.  That didn’t happen.

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Sex, Gender, and Magic 1/n+1


I was already drafting this in my head as a response to a reddit thread—particularly this comment—when one of the bloggers I follow decided to wade into the subject.  It’s something I’ve talked about before from time to time, but usually only in reference to Wicca.  There is a great deal of gender essentialism and heterosexism in the occult community, and the privileged apologia that tends to accumulate when someone calls bullshit makes me fucking furious.

Now, let’s look at the two OPs, first: a woman asking for people to share their experiences of gender difference in different forms of occultism, and gay man exploring the possibility of a huge oversight in the (human understanding of) Hermetic Law.  The first got a few genuinely thoughtful answers, but the response to both (overwhelming in the one case, so far singular in the other) amounts to “how dare you ask that fucking question?”

That response infuriates me.  It drives home the fact that, just as the neo-Pagan community is rife with mainline American anti-intellectualism (a rant for another time, but just look at popular responses to Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon), the occult community as a whole is permeated by outdated and debunked ideologies of sex, gender, and sexuality.

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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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A Short Rant On Theft and Sharing

Every producer of intellectual property has some concern that their work will be stolen.  This morning, I was confronted with a reminder that many people on the internet have no respect whatsoever for the work people like me (and, I think, most if not all of my readers) do:

The Theft; The Fallout.

In the resulting conversations on a friend’s facebook account, I’ve seen a couple people talk about pulling everything they’ve ever written from the interwebs, and mourn for the “good old days” when the Craft was private and “the Grimoires were sacred and secret in the right way”.  I do, in fact, remember those days: the days when all I had access to was whatever 100-level bullshit I could find at the library or the local bookstore, with no access to community and no way of vetting sources before shelling out what little money I had.  When I thought I was going batshit crazy because none of the books I’ve ever read dared to get into the visceral experience of magic, or cop to how terrifying it is to be in the presence of a god for the first time … even one who likes you.

Having my work–which, here, amounts to a bit of artwork, a little research, and a lot of very personal stories–is something that concerns me.  But not so much that I’m going to quit.  I need the community this forum gives me access to, and I know that somewhere out there is some neophite like I was who needs someone else’s account of madness to ground them out and help give them context for the experiences that don’t ever seem to get put into print.

So, to all the fuckers: yes, I put my work out here to be seen.  Not to be stolen.

If anyone wants to use my work in their own, they’ve only to ask.  But please: fucking ask.

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Phil Hine posted recently.  You should read it.

Interestingly, it contained a link to a post which I had not read, but which was fascinating and fairly relevant to the possibility of gods experimenting with us.  Also: mmmm…. Baphomet.

In turn, that post linked to another which I had read before but which I try to link to whenever it comes to mind.  It also happens to be relevant to the subject of sacred sexuality.

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O, Look! A Controversy Re-Emerges!

Apparently, the occult corners of the internet have recently exploded in controversy.  Mostly in corners I don’t frequent, actually, although a few of my favorite bloggers have added their two cents (Jason and RO both link to the broader controversy, and also provide a little bit of context).  I avoided the “physical” manifestation of spirits brouhaha on account of I haven’t ever done any conjuration and therefore had nothing to contribute (though I hear that didn’t stop everyone).  Besides, it’s an old controversy among those who enjoy talking about the theory of magic as much as they enjoy actually doing it.  To my warped mind that gives me leave to comment on the matter of “it’s all in your head”.

Interestingly, it’s a subject that’s been on my mind. I have, after all, just finished Lon Milo Duquette’s latest book, in which he advocates the vary theory under debate (which apparently I haven’t gotten around to reviewing; I’ll have to fix that as soon as Sannafrid gives it back).  The general direction of my thoughts on this matter can be inferred from an old post of mine.  At the time I was speaking of the particular tendency of some Wiccans and New Agers to gloss over the distinctions between cultures and divinities in favor of their own, alternate, fluffy-bunny reality, but the same arguments apply.

Aalways, though, it’s more nuanced than that.  Fr. SEA discusses DuQuette’s example of the love spell, which doesn’t make someone love you so much as it makes you into the person your beloved will love back.  In the case of the particular example, it makes a great deal of sense.  What’s left out of the resulting discussion is how explicitly solipsistic DuQuette’s worldview is: at the end of Low Magick he explicitly states that he’s not entirely certain there is a world outside himself (quote and citation to come when I get the book back in my hands).  It’s also meant to be humorous, because Lon Milo DuQuette is a funny, funny guy.

Let’s not forget that Chaos Magick maxim (where did it come from, anyway?): “It’s all in your head, except when it isn’t.”  Magic generally takes the path of least resistance in order to get things done.  How often have we been admonished to be careful not to kill Grandma for the inheritance with a poorly-targeted money spell?  As Gordon so eloquently pointed out: “Magic has an extremely frustrating ability to give you your desired results in the least convenient way possible.”  What, by and large, is the least convenient and most energy-efficient way to make change happen?  Cramming your own damn square peg into that proverbial round hole, that’s what.

Now, my own take on this is necessarily skewed.  Although I have practiced magic for fifteen years, I spent the first decade devoted almost exclusively to pulling my head out of my own ass, getting it screwed on in the proper direction (forward-facing, but never, ever “straight”  ;p ), and clearing out the cob-webs.  It’s only in the last four or five years that I’ve escalated my outward-focused magic from the web of influence that puts me in the right place at the right time into actually manifesting changes in the world around me.  And while that’s been working out for me pretty damn well and very concretely so far, my experience definitely bears out Gordon’s addendum to that above maxim.

All that said, Jason’s take on this is very compelling: that some of the larger entities we deal with cut cross-ways through our measly, mortal, three-or-four dimensional understanding of reality, that they are both within us and without us.  That fits in perfectly with my understanding of a spiritual reality which is at the very least equally complex as the material reality, and probably more so by orders of magnitude.  So, too, RO’s argument that the distinctions of “within” and “without” are matters of perspective which the clever magician will use as best suits their means and ends.

Still, I remain skeptical of the idea of a “top-down” construction of reality, whether it figures the magician or some Absolute Divinity at the “top”.  That Neo-Platonic paradigm and all its children are too simplistic for me, intellectually, and fly in the face of the rational conclusions I have drawn based on my own personal experiences.

Finally, however, I wish to make clear: my conclusions and beliefs are inevitably founded on just that: my own research and personal experiences.  All of the stances I have seen so far are well considered and, I assume, similarly founded on years of research and experimentation.  Which, if we assume that everyone is operating and arguing in good faith (and I do), only goes to prove that the universe is bigger and more complex than any of our puny, mortal, meat-brains can comprehend.

Love and light, folks.  The blessings of your favorite gods on each and every one of you.

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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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Coming out of Hibernation

Solstice approaches and the daylight wanes almost to nothing.  Here in Kansas City we’ve just had our first snow and our first night below 0F.  The semester is over, with only one final exam left between me and (hopefully) sounder sleep.  It seems as good a time as any to reacquaint myself with the world.

At 14,000 words my NaNoWriMo novel is neither a failure nor a success: in fewer than 20 days I doubled my fiction word count for the school year.  I’ve written one major and one minor paper in the last two weeks, the first of which I may share here. 

I’m working on my recipe for my Yule mead.  While searching for inspiration, I found a fantastic beginner’s recipe: http://www.moremead.com/mead_logs/Ancient_OCC.html

And while I’m sharing links, I found this while catching up on Chas Clifton’s blog: http://mysterytheater.blogspot.com/2010/10/free-classic-weird-fiction.html

Happy day, all.

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Thought of the Day

I’m not posting much for two reasons: 1) I still haven’t gotten back on that big magical bandwagon yet, though I’m doing better; and, 2) it’s National Novel Writing Month.  Because it’s NaNoWriMo time, and because I just did the First Friday thing to celebrate my birthday with one of my oldest friends, I’m in a certain headspace.  Eris Hilton has recently summed up that headspace well (though the rest of the post is actually unrelated):

Magic isn’t rocket science …

It’s rocket art.

Interestingly, in the midst of my frenzied writing, I’ve had a couple breakthroughs with key ideas on how to develop my own mystery tradition without relying any more than absolutely necessary with some of the more … problematic elements of neoPagan cultural appropriation.

One word: Labyrinth.

More on that later.

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