It was my very great pleasure to be shown around the Royal College of Physician’s exhibition, Scholar, Courtier, Magician: The Lost Library of John Dee, last week before the event opened to t…
Happy Holidays! I took a break from the internet for December and celebrated Yule, Baalsamin, Christmas, New Years, did some traveling, and made a lot of beer!
This came up in a chat – and it’s wrong. Lets explore why. This intersects a couple of my interests including Islam, the Bundy Ranch, and esoteric morality. I will also apologize in advance: I am not a muslim nor a scholar on the koran. I have had some really neat discussions with converts to Islam.
So right off the bat we’ll deal with the broadest dismissal of this idea: Lumping all people of one religion into the “bad apples” basket is wrong. Not all Occultists don’t kill babies, not all Christians bomb abortion clinics, not all Jews run banks, etc. Not all people of the Islamic faith are interested in starting World War 3 or are party to terrorism. Yeah, I think folks could go a long way towards condemning people on the fringe who actually do these things, but they’re on the fringe. Actually what Islam really needs is something like the Jefferson Bible, where only the words from the divine are actually expressed in the Koran, which contains a lot of Mohameds pontificating about life in general and actually not a whole lot of divine inspiration. It’s a lot like the Bible actually in that respect where the New Testament is actually the meat of the thing.
But lets take a walk into the actual revelations that Mohamed received. We know a few things off the bat: Mohamed is doing something like the Abramelin Operation, and doing a lot of sitting out in nature. He’s probably eating the local cactus, and he is visited by an angel. Can we apply hermetic concepts to that and tease out how this was supposed to work? Sure! The Holy Books are a treasure trove of Hermetic ideas, and the koran is no exception. Actually the Hermetic Tradition owes a lot to Arab magic.
The koran is not presented in chronological order – in fact one of the frustrating things about it is that Mohamed (or subsequent apostles) rearranged the haditha (speeches) into what they felt was order of importance and truthieness rather than chronological order. While it makes the koran easier to read than, lets say, the Bible where there’s multiple accounts or references to events of Christ, it means that the dealings with the Divine messengers tend to occur whereever that particular person discusses them. The first revelation is documented in Chapter 53, Verses 4-10. (Later commentary in Sura 96:1) Crowley people should take note that the chapter is named The Star. Avoid the wikipedia koran, it’s written for people with no grasp of language. Interlinear notes:
I swear by the star when it goes down. Your companion does not err, nor does he go astray; Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed, He was taught by one Mighty in Power, The Lord of Strength; so he attained completion*, And he is in the highest part of the horizon. Then he drew near, then he bowed, So he was the measure of two bows or closer still** And He revealed unto His slave that which He revealed.
*The Lord of Strength has enabled the angel to manifest
**About 10ft or so I believe is correct. Russia preserved the old units of measurement for the curious up until recently. It was extremely common to take units of measurement from items intimate to the measurer. Note that this refers to a bow as in archery – the are completely different words in the original dialect.
A couple of points here – yes I mixed translations to cherry-pick ideas. But also notice that aspects of Allah are used here to indicate the magical function required to accomplish a task. Allah as The Lord of Strength has literally knit the angel together. The star is the sun. Mighty in Power indicates Allah means serious business. Note that Allah is never directly named, but rather always assumes titles. One (or more) of those titles is to be hidden, which is shades of Enochian. And finally, as in any proper invocation, the person perceiving the Angel is held captive to it. Also of note: The sura records the angel as appearing with the “ringing of a bell”.
We could hit low hanging fruit here ans mention that only one of the names is really used negatively (Al Qahhar – the subduer) but it occurs exactly once in the Koran. Point being, nowhere in the Koran where Mohamed is having a divine experience and interacting directly with the supernatural is Allah portrayed as vengeful or spiteful or generally dickish. There’s plenty of that later where early Muslims say that God will punish, but that tends to be along the lines of people acting outside the moral guidance of the koran rather than quotes directly from a messenger.
But that’s an important point also – when Allah punishes people, it’s typically written in the Donald Trump speaking voice of: “They will be the losers” as in, someone has forfeit paradise by knowing and willingly committing indecency rather than this idea manifest in later “Enlightenment” period Stoic commentary where sins are sins despite intentions.
To expand on that idea, Gabriel is sometimes called Namus in the koran. It’s a Greek loanword, which is why I usually argue Mohamed was anything but illiterate, and means Virtue. If we reword the passage to read the Angel’s name as Virtue, then what Mohamed is doing is purifying himself to become virtuous in the eyes of the One Thing. Since Mohamed has had the strength to be Virtuous, he has successfully evoked the Angel by our terminology in the occult. Spoiler alert: One of Mohamed wives (Khadija) was fluent in Greek and Hebrew, according to Aisha.
“O Muhammad! thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel.” – again, this idea that Mohamed was virtuous before meeting the Angel.
If Mohamed is virtuous in the eyes of the One Thing before meeting the Angel, what then is Mohamed doing to be virtuous? If Allah is warlike, then we should assume he’s a great warrior. Except he’s not. He’s a merchant. (Ever seen a merchant who can’t read or write? Me neither.) He’s not even particularly religious, because he doesn’t have parents, because he’s an orphan. In fact Mohamed himself isn’t really a clear historical figure – similar to some of the Christian disciples – because the title merely means Praiseworthy. But again, the gist of the idea isn’t that he is a messenger, but that he is Virtuous. We could examine the Suras here, but this is where we enter grain-of-salt territory that there would be a strong effort to whitewash him.
What we do know from general historical commentary was that Mohamed was probably ethnocentric, since everyone in the nomad group would have been related by blood. We also know he would have been pagan like modern Asatru or Wicca, where a tribe had a patron God. We know that the Gods were not antagonistic towards one another since the original Kabaa housed 360 separate idols. Most of the pre-islamic era gods were of trees, groves, and wells. What we are pretty sure of is that Mohamed was at least some sort of Christian, having met Bahira during a trading caravan to Syria. The meeting with Bahira was a result of Mohamed disregarding the social norms of his family (and their Pagan gods) and coming invited to a Feast. After that is a bunch of political ends, but the gist of the stories are that Mohamed is actually a pretty good deal maker and everyone seems generally happy with his negotiations. Importantly, this means he’s treating people fairly and upholding his end of the deal. He’s not flawless, and in fact a few of those deals fall through and lead to fighting, but he’s doing his best as he understands the world. More importantly there’s more shades of Enochina here where Gabriel refutes small portions of the text as being delivered by demons. The sad part here is really a broad view that most of Mohamed’s morality seems to come from economic ends rather than moral decisionmaking. He’s navigating the political spectrum based on a love of commerce rather than mystical devotion. However, nowhere is it supposed that Allah favors the economically successful. Mohamed implements a sort of social security for the elderly, and espouses charity, and (maybe since widowers had cash) allows women more rights. In contrast to previous societies, this is really progressive stuff, and seems to have a sharp contrast to modern (Saudi family) Islam. Food for thought.
Is Allah a war god? Not really. Allah seems to be a god of progressiveness as a product of mysticism and economy rather than war. I won’t say that the wartime stuff doesn’t play a role in the Koran – it does factor significantly into Mohamed’s later years – but that’s after he’s attacked. The bulk of the divine inspiration in the Koran is Mohamed riding around on Sleipnir (or on mountaintops) and having conversations with spirits and then commenting on those channelings with his family or friends.
(Also relevant if you’re wiccan and have been following the wikipedia links – Mohamed had a “mark of prophecy” between his shoulderblades. It’s a skin tag the size of a “pigeon egg”.)
I try to write eulogies for every deer I take. The last few have been pretty somber, this deer is going to be different.
First off: Why hunt? I find the animals beautiful, and I love deep ecology. When I’m not hunting I’m usually off in the woods foraging, or tending to my fruit trees, or building food plots. We’re planting a bunch of pepper seeds this year because those seemed popular among the animals and when we go to the supermarket, it seems like a real waste to just send them down the drain.
“OK phergoph, couldn’t you just leave the animals alone?”
I’ve never found that to be a very wholistic view. We spent a billion, million years in the presence of the Gods of Nature, being formed into their will, to eat meat. Animals eat one another. And frankly, the fruititarians are the only ones who have half a moral leg to stand on since every other species of plant dies after it produces offspring. Quite simply living and dying is part of nature and it is against nature to live forever. Certainly I wouldn’t to. I believe a head of lettuce would be just as rotten next spring as a deer taken by a bobcat. But if we are going to experience nature and interact with it, let our experiences be pure joy. Find beauty in it. Revel in it’s glory and be glad of the moment of participation given unto you. Take the time to care for the animal, make it’s passing as gentle as possible, and make a real good meal out of it to provide for everyone. As the experience provides spiritual sustenance, let the animal provide material sustenance to me and my family. Its a simple prayer, really. I’ve even talked to other hunters about their own practices, even if they enjoy the woods but not the meat, it can go on to provide for others too. I know this animal is going to satisfy my family’s food needs, but donations fill other peoples food needs too. Don’t let this go to waste.
Bucks are fun. No bones about it, they are the archetype of male essence. While the does tend to herd up, and care for the young, the bucks are out there in the woods thrashing about in the trees, sparring, jumping, and playing. They remind me a lot of my own son, who is a constant, bright sun of swirling energy. Ah to be young again.
Today was a typical hunting day. The gear comes out and gets locked up in the truck. I have taken the time to make sure I can shoot well and produced five rounds very specific to the task at hand. I have invested that time to make sure I do my part well in nature. I set my alarm clock for very early, and bathed, and prayed. Rather then pray to the enochian spirits or angels, I pray to Skadi. I pray to Ullr. I want to experience the glory of nature. I want to invest the effort. I want to feed my family.
I get into the truck and drive out to the woods. While I could hunt the back yard, that always feels like cheapening the experience to me. The Holy Places are the places where people are not. Sometimes I hike a mile into the woods over the rocks and trees, but this time I went to the farm of my ancestors who taught me these things. I try to say a word to my grandfather, if he’s still listening, for providence. We didn’t always see eye to eye on a lot of things, but he was always a good friend in the woods.
The woods are happy today. It’s warm. While the dark time of the year is here it feels more like spring, and it’s hard to imagine Yule being right around the corner. I pull the truck down the long, unkempt path to the old farm. Frost is on the ground, but doing courtesy to the sun, recedes except for the most shadowy areas. As I walk down the path I am shadowed by a fox. He too is out hunting. We are one and the same. We are connected in this moment. We understand one another completely. He hopes I kicked up rabbits, I hope he goes into the pines where the deer lounge.
The knob in the woods provides a good lookout, the pines thankfully have provided me with a quiet bed with which to move across. I actually don’t like to clear shooting lanes, I like to hike. I like to experience it. There is groundfog ahead from the creek, I move through it to where I like to hide. Weirdly, a groundhog has given me an extra six inches of height today with his efforts to clear the shale out of the soil and make himself a home for his family. I see where he’s eaten at the small trees and brush to feed himself and his kin.
At the top of the next hill I catch a flash of white. I know the next hill is about 125 yards away, more pines, and oak. The deer knows I’m here, but he doesn’t startle. Instead he seems more intent on rubbing up along the low pine saplings. I know what’s on his mind. A quick glassing shows that he’s a pretty mature deer. Strong tines, good neck, wonderful coat. He’s bred before and he knows what brings in the ladies. The white flash came when he was rubbing his scent on the brush. I guess he’s about three years old, which in deer terms is firmly middle aged. How wonderful that these animals grow so quickly.
He frolics in the shade, stopping to catch some of the sun which is burning off the fog in the lowland. His coat is red, luxurious, and his antlers are glorious. Truly a crown for a king! I move slightly to get next to a tree to rest my arm on for a stable position. He sees me and moves around the hill.
I’ve blown it! Ullr, Skadi, whats this? A moment of doubt. Are my prayers insufficient? Do we really need this deer? Is there someone else who needs it more than us? My thoughts hang in the air for a good 20 minutes while I slowly lose hope and fill with doubt. But, then I see a movement from the left side of the hill. Joy! The deer is not gone, he merely moved a bit. He is curious. I do my best to look like an inviting doe. I don’t think he buys it.
But I hold still. He runs back up the hill, kicking and pushing over plants and eating the berries which grow on the ivy there. I can’t eat the berries, the fallopia japonica is too tough and woody. But the deer can eat the berries, and doesn’t mind them so much, and this is how nature provides us with nutrition. The deer eat them and grow strong, and the vines provides for the deer to make more deer. Actually the deer looks like he quite likes them and stops to browse on quite a few. After his wonderful meal he beds down for a bit (a bit like Thanksgiving, actually, at my house) and then stands up. Once again he’s scenting everything, and like a flash takes off and crosses the ravine.
He emerges on the closer hill, this hill is about 100 yards away, and I believe he’s scented a doe. His nose is to the ground, and he’s very obviously looking for some love. There are no does here, but there may have been earlier. I know the paths well and don’t worry too much when I can’t see him. Eventually, however, the search for a doe to breed consumes him and he wanders into a small clearing of brush at the midpoint of the hill.
It is then I took the shot. A single, loud report from the rifle. A bit of sadness since I have spent such wonderful, rare time with this animal, but knowing that my children really love the steak puts good faith in my heart that this is the right thing to do in the eyes of the One Thing. He jumps, he stumbles once, and passes.
I say a prayer of thanks, and let my breath out.
I let my wife pick the cuts this time, she always says I get too much hot sausage. The deer already has a place on my wall which my son can look at and ask, “Dad, tell me about that time you went hunting.” The cycle continues and warms my heart.
Well, I can write about this now that it finally settled out.
My current job was a six month contract, which is pretty common in the IT world. Either folks get well integrated in the organization and have made a contribution in six months or they’re cut loose for something new. I was told I was making valuable contributions and they loved me and I seemed like an upstanding person (DON’T TELL THEM I’M A WIZARD) and so they wanted to make me an offer.
Well, my boss couldn’t get anything approved, so they extended the contract for one month.
Then my boss said he couldn’t get anything approved, so they extended the contract again another month.
Once I got the notice of extension which includes all the normal paperwork headache of SoW, rate, budget approvals, time sheets, equipment, etc I started looking. I wasn’t going to do this a third time and frankly I felt like they were jerking me around to try to get the project launched so they wouldn’t have to hire me. Being a magician, I started to setup magic to work for me to help.
Day of Sol and Hour of Sol
I put the SDAs out in their normal places in the ritual room and pulled the plug on the electronic claptrap which lives up there. The SDAs always give me a sense of being on top of a rollercoaster when I put them out. Merely looking at them inspires curiosity, but actually working through them inspires awe, even from an academic perspective. I dressed the altar in the enochian colors and made sure I was facing towards the sun. I had a yellow candle illuminating the shrewstone. Opened the temple by normal invoking pentagrams and hexagrams.
A spontaneous idea grabbed me: Frankincense (really, “church blend”) is what I normally use for the enochian work but I also decided to add some pine resin to the mix. Whats a plant which is so solar that it doesn’t even drop it’s leaves in winter? Evergreens, conifers. I added some to the frankincense mix and it really set the mood nicely.
Also off the normal course I decided to open by using calls 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The first call is normal. The other calls open the elemental tables. This in my opinion Just Works in the broad view of the system. Not only does it request physical, manifest changes, but it also is appropriate to the rulership of the Heptarchy and the Tablet of Union. Also frankly at this point I’ve been considering using the names of the tablet of union in place of the archangels in personal practice for enochian work but that’s a different post.
The opening generated a slightly strange, jammed up feeling. Which quickly felt like a coiled spring had just let fly and spiraled out into the universe. I took it as the generation of the solar system for the solar king. I felt connected.
Things were asked for, spirits inquired, all that good stuff. Similar to the post about needing a car, I was very careful to ask for something to fill the requirements, but not a specific job. Afterward my wife asked me “Why didn’t you ask for [that specific job]?” Well, I did go on an interview, I was pretty sure I was going to get an offer. I didn’t know if they would be willing to pay what I was asking for (basically my contracting rate) but I knew my old job really wasn’t willing to come up. However, I don’t know if the new job is a good fit. I would rather deal with my old job at a cut rate than deal with a new job I don’t fit in well at for the rate I was asking for. If I don’t say “Give me job X”, it really leaves it up to things with a broad view of the universe to hook me up. More on this problem in a minute. If I take the new job and I don’t fit in well, it’s likely they’ll fire me in six months and then we’ll have no income at all. So, I ask the spirits to fish me out a job for a comfortable rate I fit in well with rather than say that I want this particular thing over here. To some folks its probably a cop-out, but this is really a matter of faith.
To put it bluntly I strongly believe that it’s possible to say something like, “I want this job over here, for this rate, I want to get along with everyone, and I want it for three years, and I want the offer in two weeks.” The best case is the spirit can’t possibly fulfill that request, either because it’s unlawful by the designs of the One Thing or because there’s a factor unknown to the magician which prevents the spirit from fulfilling that request. At worst the request is fulfilled and because the magician hasn’t taken a broad view of the universe (which includes time), the magician isn’t a good fit for the job and gets fired shortly thereafter. But lets tighten it up and walk though it.
I want this job over here: Do you live near the job? Is the job going to cause problems with your family life? Are there undue contractual requirements like a noncompete which might kill future jobs? Does the company have a terrible reputation? Is the company going to put you on a product or project you don’t want on your resume?
for this rate: This is the easiest to point to for the “bad request” list. Simply – the position might not pay that rate. The company may not be able to come up. The person might overvalue the position. And the worst case is the person might get the job only to be fired when the project slips. Companies can (and do) buy contractors for the chopping block. It sucks. It totally happens.
I want to get along with everyone: Danger, Will Robinson! No-one gets along with everyone. This is really one of those True Will issues. I really strongly suspect that magic when done to people doesn’t really work. Sure the tricks like vanities can be used to maybe make a few pounds drop off but I strongly suspect that one person cannot do magic to change another persons True Will. This is pretty much my standard reply to the random “Send me a love spell” mails I get once a month from teenagers. (How do you even find my blog?) But yeah, forcing people to like other people through magic wears thin quickly, even if they buy into it. There’s simply too much other stuff on the astral that folks bump into which influences them to force everyone on the same page. Trust me, I’ve even heard of groups which tried to get folks to surrender their cellphones into a basket at the door to try to encourage them to get along. It’s sad. Don’t force it.
and I want it for three years: Is the company even going to be there in 3 years? Especially in the world of IT – the Trans-Pacific Partnership passed and we’re all going to be outsourced next week since it has provisions for the treatment, taxation, and tariff of intellectual property.
and I want the offer in two weeks: The final coup-de-grace of stupid. My job couldn’t even get me an offer in two months. Sometimes big corporations just move that slowly.
The more space you give the spirit to work, the better chance of finding something that fits those bare requirements you’re going to have. I don’t see it as embracing mediocrity (which is a frequent criticism of either my truck story or Lon Milo DuQuettes car story) but rather having the faith that if I understand what I need versus what I want, I have a much better chance of finding something. I actually really wanted to keep my existing job. I felt really quite betrayed that the company thought I was too expensive.
A full week ticked by, I got a call back from the new job asking for my salary, which I gave them. They said they wanted to call me back. Doubt set in. In the meantime my job came up on their offer another 10% which was minimizing the shave to 20%. It still wasn’t enough. I frankly was doing trench work and project manager work and I expected at least mid-level trench pay let alone project manager pay. I started to suspect that they wanted to lowball me to get me in so they could “promote” me and give me a token raise for a song. But, before I could really explore that thought, the job I interviewed for called me back to tell me it was no problem. I briefly thought DRAT I SHOULD HAVE ASKED FOR MORE but the whole Sphere of Availability cautions crept up on me and I decided to be thankful instead. Also because this job comes with health insurance and 7 month on Obamacare had really cut me pretty good.
To complicate issues – I’m a huge fan of the idea that strong, legitimate, heartfelt emotions power magic. Crowley got off on sexual exploits. Mathers loved the yolk of authority in a uniform. Bennett was really an aesthetic magician at heart. Myself? Plain, stupid, desperation fueled by pessimism. I am really great at working myself up over the idea that maybe the new place will suck. Maybe the old place just wants to launch the project and fire me. What would life be like for the kids if we had to move? Who would buy the house if they knew how I wired that one outlet? A hundred random things focus themselves into a “pure ray of will unassuaged”. It didn’t surprise me then when, the next day, literally before I could turn in my resignation, my boss said they could come up to the rate I asked for.
I still told him thanks but no thanks. I set the wheels in motion, I’m going to follow through.
(This discussion played out two months ago or so and eventually reared it’s head in a semi-public mailing list. I’m fairly sure the person who popped the question is a friend-of-a-friend. That mailing list eventually pops up this link which may be of interest to the Gardnerian readers).
I’m hanging out with some Gardnerians who are well read and have philosophy behind their witchcraft – they have asked not to be named.
The important thing, or the part that caught my attention, wasn’t that they are Gardnerians. Rather what gets my attention is where they disagree with Gardner. One of them is a feminist. I know what you’re thinking – finding a feminist in wicca is like finding a leaf on a tree. She is actually extremely well read and points out in a variety of places where Masonry has crept into Gardners work via Crowley. She actually knows Masonry probably better than the Masons I know. One of the things she harps on is the pantacle (ranks, god, goddess, scourge, kiss) is lifted almost directly from the OES. As such she tends to see Gardnerian wicca as a vehicle for feminism rather than an end to itself and as such is not scripture. The other one is a philosophy major and he’s also wildly interesting to talk to. He’s a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and you probably know where this is going if you’ve read American Gods. I personally am a fan of William Gibson and think Gaiman fans are worse than trekkies.
I kid. I kid.
But, me being me, I’ll present the topic from the Ceremonial Magic perspective. The particular idea was the concept of a “small god”, or tulpa.
They think that the God and the Goddess assist them in making their magic, as they assist the God and the Goddess in their turn by raising power for them by their dances and by other methods. In fact, they seem to consider the gods as being more like powerful friends than deities to be worshipped. To them the concept of an All-powerful God, one who could simply say, “Let there be peace. Let there be no sickness or misery”, and all wars, sickness and misery would cease, and who for his own reasons will not say that word, and keeps men in fear and misery and want, is not fit to receive worship.
So there’s two things going on in what Gardner writes. One of them is a requirement of faith. The “perfect love and perfect trust” here also extends to “perfect accountability”. Since the gods, so to speak, have failures, we can fairly comfortably put them into the realm of the demiurge. The dedication of the coven to a particular god and goddess works a lot better when the god and goddess are represented in greek, or teutonic forms where they are not infallible. This is contrary to ceremonial magic philosophy which requires that a god/demon/whatever be infallible within it’s own realm of influence. Or, to make a god or demon imperfect implies that they don’t have complete control over a realm. I oftentimes believe that something like “hostility” can be controlled by Mars in both extended and with-held forms. Mars may initiate hostility, but he also may stay his hand when appealed to correctly.
They quite realise that there must be some great “Prime Mover”, some Supreme Deity; but they think that if It gives them no means of knowing It, it is because It does not want to be known; also possibly, at our present stage of evolution we are incapable of understanding It. So It has appointed what might be called various Under-Gods, who manifest as the tribal gods of different peoples; as the Elohim of the Jews, Isis, Osiris and Horus of the Egyptians, and the Horned God and the Goddess of the witches. They can see no reason why each people should not worship their national gods, or why anyone should strive to prevent them from doing so.
Yes, I realize this is really Wilhelm Diefenbach or Wilhelm Riel talking, but the point stands – a culture is going to call a storm god by whatever name the culture wants to name a stormcloud. If we call it Zeus or we call it Jupiter, Thor or Baal, the culture has named the storm. I think The Weather Channel does a particularly shit job of naming storms.
Julian – ironically killed by Persian polytheists after spawning a civil war on his home front – really ushers in this idea of a hierarchy of gods in neoplatonic form. Julian does it largely for the same reasons Hitler will eventually follow – he is born Christian but sees the religion as foreign, so he takes the idea and attempts to hit rewind on it and come up with an idea which won’t see tread until the renaissance in Dee’s work inspired by Bruno.
What we have in Gardner’s world is an idea which seems more comfortable in modern chaos magic. Rather than the Gods of the Eddas which are really ancestor worship, the small gods fit very comfortably in the chaos magic of Peter Carroll. Carroll himself never cites Gardner as an inspiration but perhaps ironically that’s because Carroll is a fan of Crowley. If we do some back-work here, the product which is Wicca is putting the small gods into the same altar as what a chaos magician would put any Teutonic or Celtic or whatever have you Gods which fit into that European mold. The mold is earthy, everything is made of sticks and stones, leafy sort of feeling. Ancestor worship may be a welcome part of Wicca, but there’s definitely a separation of the gods and the ancestors which doesn’t track to history, but we can certainly see the product.
To take that idea and run with it, America is a largely young nation. Our heros aren’t thousands of years old, they’re hundreds of years old. We don’t typically think we all descend from Abraham Lincoln. And actually one of the particularly weird ideas that folks hold in the Asatru scene is that they can track familial lineage back to Thor. The much more balanced folks would simply tell us a fun story about their uncle who beat the sheriff in a wrestling match. But, one of the things which I think neatly ties up the Order of the Eastern Star, Gardnerian Wicca, and such is one of the folks at my Lodge commented that he could “trace the grips, ritual, and uniform” (paraphrased) “back to George Washington”. There is a desire in the American, or European subconsciousness to have that national identity which Gardner writes about. (Before anyone reads Hitler into this, this was an idea floating around Europe since about 1860 or so, and Gardner himself doesn’t have it until after he’s gotten on with Crowley who we know is openly racist). In the European consciousness, this idea has very obvious implications. In the American consciousness, not so much. Hence the citation of American Gods.
In America, we can’t do the Ancestor Worship thing for more than a handful of generations. It simply didn’t exist. Rather, if we follow the idea of a National God, we could do something like worship Uncle Sam, but I suspect that most Americans have been disappointed with the federal government their whole lives (I know I have) and so he’s not worthy of worship. On the other hand, as an American celebrating Halloween, I had strongly considered the idea of dedicating the holiday to Spider Man. Science? Check. Selfies? Check. Newspaper spin? Check. Urban sprawl? check. Spiders? Totally checked. It would have worked. Instead I built an ancestor altar with my wife.
Anyway, neat ideas, philosophical points on Gardnarian Craft, and a bit of a halloween treat. Happy Halloween! Samhain! All Saints Day! Satans Birthday! Motmass! Or whatever you call it!
My wife recently posted one of the particularly interesting artifacts from the golden age of folk magic. The trick? “Modern” society found the item before they found the grimoire. It’s one of the rare instances where someone was practicing the magic before someone else wrote it down and published it. Before anyone gets their hopes up, this isn’t some sort of ancient and accepted thing, it’s only a few hundred years old (at best).
Necropants are made of human skin and were worn by Icelandic sorcerers in the 17th century. As far as we know, there is just one pair of intact necropants left on earth and they are locked behind glass at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery Witchcraft in Holmavik, Iceland.
The Strandagaldur Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft in Holmavik tells the story of seventeen people burned at the stake in the 17th century for occult practices. The museum’s claim to fame is an exhibit showcasing the macabre legend of Necropants, or nábrók.
According to legend, necropants could produce an endless flow of coins if done correctly.
To begin with, one would need to get permission from a living man to use his skin upon his death. After burial, the sorcerer would then have to dig up the body and skin it in one piece from the waist down. A coin stolen from a poor widow must then be placed in the scrotum, along with a magic sign called nábrókarstafur scrawled on paper.
Once worn, the scrotum of the necropants would never empty of coins so long as the original coin remained.
But wait, there’s more! That’s the safe for facebook version and doesn’t include a clear picture of the stave. If you read the Icelandic Version, things get a little darker… It’s mostly the same as above but:
As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed. To ensure salvation the owner has to convince someone else to overtake the pants and step into each leg as soon as he gets out of it. The necropants will thus keep the money-gathering nature for generations.
OK it seems straightforward but why would anyone think this was a good idea?!
Wild speculation hat on: Silver itself was known for it’s curative properties, which is where the practice of having a silver chalice came from. It’s used in wound care today, and there’s plenty of myths about silver bullets and such warding against werewolves, who by themselves are lunar creatures and therefor belong to the world of the dead. It’s very likely that when this was passed down orally, the coin was important as a way to preserve the vitality of the person. The legend might not have originally had anything to do at all with the production of the coins, but rather the preservation of the line. What if we had a male figure in the household who didn’t produce an heir? Rather than accusing the folks practicing this of simple greed, it seems much more likely to me that if someone else wore the pants in the family, they would be the progenitor themselves of the line.
But, it couldn’t be anyone, it had to be someone worthy. There’s a few requirements to this – the most important is that they had to get the permission of the dead to use their skin. Since I’m speculating here that the purpose of the pants was to extend the line of the family and the coin was merely incidental payment of doing exactly that, and add the impression of fullness to the reproductive organs, the permission part was fairly important. That also has precedent in other civilizations whereby if the husband died, the wife and the family passed into the care of the brother. No brother? No problem! Make the pants! We’re told that the pants will actually become your skin, or you will actually become the pants…
But rather than picking anyone, this person also had to be pretty skilled with the primary tool of the society – the knife. The pants had to be cut from the corpse perfectly and without error. In short, the pants had to be passable as the actual body of the person from the naval on down. But, that also meant that, especially if passed onto a young person, that the person was at least industrious and good with their hands, and also a good hunter and skinner.
Anyway, the worst part about all this thinking is that – at the end of the day – we’re talking about extending the line of the family, which means the wearer is expected to have sex while wearing them. Try talking your wife into that. But speaking of the woman, where does she come into this? Why the coin being “from a poor woman?” Back in the days when the womenfolk typically stayed home while the men worked (or visa-vera, just because we haven’t found female necropants doesn’t mean they don’t exist), losing the families partner was actually a huge economic blow. The women, being lunar and ruled by the moon in the era and place the spell was written, would be represented by silver. The woman is also putting her effort into the creation of the pants so that if she’s not involved in the propogation of the line, she at least has put a bit of her family essence into the work also. Hermetic readers will note that this is really putting together a hermaphroditic magical item. For men, I would expect they give a gold coin to the person wearing the female necropants.
All this sounds much better to me than simply saying “Our ancestors were really greedy weirdos”.
It should really start off earlier since we know that Dee himself had access to several grimoires which are referenced in his own work but it’s still a neat slice of history.
Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in several editions between 1584 and 1665, has been a personal inspiration for a long time. Scot’s work is notorious for its sixteenth book, which is a compilation of magical materials, apparently compiled from the works of two cunning-men, ‘T.R.’ and John Cokars. Scot intended to present these materials as a way to confute the practice of conjuration, and also to draw parallels between magical and ‘popish conjurations’ of Catholic ritual. However, in doing so he provided many a would-be conjurer with all the materials they required to begin working magic: it’s no surprise that many manuscripts, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, the work of both learned and less well educated scribes, contain interpolations from the work of Scot.
The materials that Scot presents might at first seem obscure or idiosyncratic to modern readers whose knowledge was, until relatively recently…
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This time of year has me drifting towards all sorts of pagan themes. Specifically I always remember Samhain and Yule from my youth (called “halloween” and “christmas” because… I was raised Christian), but today I realize that those themes are mostly pagan. I blame the Christians firmly for this – if Christmas had a birthday cake, I would imagine that youth might actually treat it like Christ’s birthday and it would do lots to actually personalize him. However, Christmas isn’t a birthday party and Easter is certainly not a wake, so I ended up in the occult and the rest is history. Looking at pagan practice, I have a few real folk heros who have managed to avoid the trappings of Ceremonial Magick, and offer an exceedingly fresh perspective on things. Unlike most other modern pagans which seem to really just self identify as “whatever Christianity isn’t”, these folks take the time to research, read, and weave in family traditions. Previously Varg Vikerens alone really held that title with his blog and book – Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia – and his wife is clearly his muse. Marie Cachet’s Forebears should really remind the ceremonial magic community that the political commentary akin to The Wild Hunt (which I stopped reading until recently) isn’t the best pagan folks can do; The Abrahamic religions don’t have a monopoly on deep occult discourse. In fact those religions have context in pagan themes themselves because of the history in the Mediterranean with the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, etc. We just happen to grow up in a society that ignores those cultures, except maybe the Greeks, and we don’t tend to think of them as “pagan” since the material largely burned at Alexandria. Funny how history is taught in schools, huh? Seems like everything begins with “And so and so culture accepted Christianity and…” Do we really know anything about the Romans before Christianity? Did you learn that in highschool or as an adult?
(An aside: If you read Edred Thorsson/Stephen Flowers as anything but putting Norse paint on Gardenarian Wicca – which by itself is the resurrection of Waite’s mythical Celtic Golden Dawn, throw out those books and start over with Varg’s book).
The “magical layer” in a lot of these myths is the mushroom. I’ll say it plainly: Ancient cultures were obsessed with the states which hallucinogenic drugs brought on and their mystery schools trained their priests and shamans first by making them memorize everything so they had an extended set of symbols with which to express themselves, and then took drugs to train their minds. The hallmark of any good magical system is going to be the language. It shouldn’t be an English substitute like Hebrew or Enochian, but rather it would best be a set of pictures. If we want to use heiroglyphics, great. Tarot? Sure, but that tends to be artistic and complex. Planetary glyphs? Wonderful. Pick a set of reasonably simple symbols, memorize them, and and take drugs to train the mind. There’s even a Hermetic Hour on the topic.
“But”, you say, “your ancestors couldn’t just stop by Ye Olden Saxon Mobile Home Park and score”. Well that’s correct too, and that’s where the myth and the magic comes in. See, it’s not sufficient to simply go, “Oh that mistletoe thing is really cool” and ignore it, our ancestors actually believed it had magic powers. After all, it’s a portion of a tree which is green even in winter, so it must represent immortality, right? Which brings us to Fred’s blog entry, Another Mistletoe. If you read Varg’s book, you know all the ancient shenanigans which surrounded the mistletoe. Men would dress as women and race, sorcerers would try to claim the everliving bush as their own, and it even became the torch for the Scandinavian Olympic Games (the bride races). Carved into a wand it was supposed to have extremely potent powers, and the forces of the Summer (the race of men) fought the forces of Winter (orcs and dwarves) in symbolic combat (ragnarok) to posses the branch to bring back spring.
But most importantly, if you read Fred’s post, you’ll see that birch is pretty darn useful stuff to a culture without modern pharmacy and having the Gods illuminate those handy trees in winter is both a helpful sign from their realm and a beacon to medicine. We tend to think of hunting in modern times as men chasing animals through the woods, but a thousand years ago, hunting for plants was just as valuable if not more so than hunting for animals. And, similarly to the medicinal properties of plants, so too do we know today the medicinal (or harmful) properties of animals, be it a snakebite with it’s poison or the antlers of a deer being a sort of Chinese Viagra. Masons may want to consider the beehive.
But nothing is as simple as “find it, cut it down, eat it, problem solved”. Our ancestors knew two pretty cool things: We were in charge of the ecosystem and could influence it, and if we didn’t take care of the ecosystem, we were pretty hard up for it’s resources. Therefor, our ancestors put together rituals to propagate and maintain that ecosystem. Varg’s example is finding the mistletoe, and chopping it down to have a symbolic fight over it, at which point the mistletoe is captured and re-planted. The trick here is to realize that mistletoe, being parasitic, has to be planted on a similar host tree if the bush is to survive. In this way, the people took the marker of the Gods, and marked their own groves of medicinal trees. Additionally this was probably a good way to have the Jarl tip off his sons where the old mistletoe was and where the new grove of trees were so that they’d have an advantage in the Bride Races in the coming year.
Fred’s post deals with a similar idea but I don’t think Fred is quite as magically minded. Fred talks about the chaga mushroom, and how it concentrates the birch’s sap. Valuable for the same reason the birch is, the mushroom concentrates the birch’s medicinal properties, but it doesn’t grow without the birch itself. Our ancestors already knew mushrooms were good to eat for healthful and spiritual ends, so it’s not a stretch to say that eating the mushrooms off a medicinal tree would be also healthful. Also, mushrooms tend to favor particular species of trees and that’s one of the criteria for making a solid identification in this modern age. Fred hints at the next bit but doesn’t quite make the jump.
To make this jump we need to know about another folk practice: the brewing stick. See, if the cauldron represents the womb and the stick (wand) is the… Oh sorry, ceremonial magic hat on. The brewing stick was, quite simply, the household stick the family would treat with respect because they knew that the magical stick turned their grain soup into delicious beer. The delicious part is important, wild yeast generally tastes like ass. I brew on the side, I know. Here we have another magic stick. We know the mistletoe is a magic stick. We know the brewing stick is a magic stick. We know the birch is a magic stick. We know the chaga mushroom is a magic stick (it grows near the base of a wounded branch) so sticks are pretty darned important. Fred brings up the last bit for our recipe of magic here – the Ogham alphabet.
Ogham is first mentioned in the Book of Ballymote, which is most certainly one of those books which puts Odin at the feasting table with Jesus. If the Irish were a Lost Tribe of Israel, surely Christianity will appeal to those pagans, right? But, fortunately, it also tells us about the Ogham notation for language. Where I think Fred loses the point a bit is he compares the tree to the letter B. While that’s useful for a memorization perspective, it really overlooks the practical use glaring us in the face. The alphabet wasn’t observed, it was always carved. Into rocks, into trees, into axes… While everyone is familiar with the norse runes of popular culture, the Ogham alphabet is pure functionality. If we have a staff, or a thin object, score it along the length of the object to carve a spell into it. But, success be thy proof, our ancestors wouldn’t do it simply because it was convenient, right?
The Ogham alphabet would have also provided nucleation and incubation sites for the yeast in the brewing stick. Carved brewing sticks with spells on them would work a lot better than smooth brewing sticks. Perhaps even worse would be rocks. Smooth stones tend to be sterile because of their surface. But, carve a spell into it, and suddenly it can hold yeast. Carve a spell into a tree down the trunk, and the chaga mushroom could spread. Carve a spell into the mistletoe, press it into the wood you want to bless, and the wood would perhaps sprout mistletoe next year. In this way the magic happened.
Anyway, merry season. Enjoy the intellectualism of the ceremonial magic, but don’t neglect the raw pagan bits either. They’re quite fun. Just don’t burn down a church.
Two years ago I wrote about Syria, and at the time it was the Syrian civil war which in America, we thought was largely an extension of the war in Iraq, and not much had shaken out of the situation as of yet. Certainly we hadn’t seen anything from the refugee crisis yet or Europe’s response. “Arthur” left me a note the other day simply saying “thanks”, which drug my attention back to the post. Honestly I was looking at local problems here and it didn’t even cross my mind that the post still existed, or that I even had written anything on the topic.
I’ve sort of come around to having a weird crisis where I seem to be decent at prognostication but the resolution never improves. It’s easy these days to move the rocks around and change the flow, it’s harder to anticipate the flow, it’s much harder to look at strange rivers and see their flows. It’s like a train, traveling at a good pace. I pass by apartments and storefronts and catch small glimpses when scrying, but never enough to really say, “I see clearly”. There are gestalt moments of that feeling when things come to fruit, but it’s merely a feeling of the passing of a round in boxing or a hole in golf. Did we make par? Did we anticipate that correctly? Did we move our pieces appropriately?
Do we understand? Yes.
Do we see? A dim glass.
Yehi or? Fiat Lux.
The spirit in that vision appeared as a bright flame, and in enochian in particular, spirits can be summoned mercifully or they can be summoned wrathfully, and it was clearly a wrathful image to be a living flame upon a throne.
The checkerboard floor is the Grand Game, although any of the standard antimasonic or Illuminati sites will make that bit obvious.
I took note of a water feature, but this isn’t particularly out of place considering the presence of the Mediterranean sea right there. I think more important is the notes on the “sense of being in two places at once”. What is a nation? Really it’s just lines on a map, and those lines have been the vexation of the middle east as a whole since the last world war. What makes a nation? The people. If the people move, so does the nation. We use terms like “little italy” or “chinatown”, but that doesn’t mean that the nations of Italy or China have any sovereignty there. Rather they recognize that the people from Italy or China have brought the national spirit with them and placed it in America. To be in two places at once was to follow the refugees from Syria to wherever they went.
The boats moving down the river are corpses, literally, corpses. We now find, in the news today, that this is actually happening. The sackcloth of saturn was a literal image – it was how corpses are wrapped. It was literal enough that it doesn’t surprise me to see the bodies washing up. It does sadden me.
The two skeletal kings have yet to reveal themselves. I suspect one is Russia, that much is obvious considering their recent military posture. I have no idea who the other one is. The mold is very likely chemical or biological weapons. I’m willing to put money on that considering how literal the sackcloth part of the vision was. Two syrias? Maybe not. Or not yet, but refugees taking syria with them? Sure.
I feel bad because I haven’t written anything public in a month.
I have two large rituals in flight I can write about in another month when they pan out, although the larger of the two may never see the light of day unless I write a book.
Neat Idea #1 – One of the more interesting philosophical ideas from OTA discussions: “What about things which exist outside of Creation?” I like the OTA because it’s not a giant hugbox like the OTO tends to be (a show called “Everyone Loves Crowley”) and it’s rigid enough that it provides philosophical structure. Spoiler Alert: There is no official OTA answer to this problem except that the only uncreated thing is the godhead itself.
He framed up the question as “Death is the only thing which lives outside of creation but within it”. Which is sort of a new age version of creation, but he does turn a phrase as well as Crowley or Grant. But it’s a neat philosophical idea – Death by itself is the unmaking, and I personally think it sits more towards the idea of entropy than personage like The Grim Reaper. That’s a very pagan concept by itself, the Teutonic Gods directly operated against the entropy of the universe. And conversely, a lot of traditions are based around fertility. Again, not some version of “drawing down life” sort of the way a Christian Mass works but rather making babies to fight against the losses of humanity against the entropy of age and the environment. We don’t really think about things in that way in this day and age when there’s always a new mug or toaster at Walmart when these things break, but things age, they break, we fix them. (Note to self: Put maypole in toaster…)
When we think about Death this way, it’s very much like Saturn. Saturn takes forever to wander through it’s orbit, but wander it does. Saturn is depicted as leaden – soft, grey, and when it sits around long enough it turns ashen, and white. If someone were an alchemist, they would think this was decay and the salts were settling out. This is almost true, but what they were looking at was probably zinc. Zinc, once it gets into lead, is almost impossible to separate, and melts at a very similar temperature. However, let the lead/zinc sit around for 10 or 15 years and it will eventually separate, with the zinc oxide being a brilliant and hard to tarnish white. Small wonder why lead paint was a real popular item – the colors would get brighter for 10 or so years and then start to fade. When looked at from a philosophical or occult perspective, the painting is given life from the artist, or the alloy is given life by the alchemist, and then “lives” for 10 years, and then “dies”.
Anyway, in my heart of hearts and how I use the term “creation” to be “all things which are made by the Godhead” (really Valentinian Gnosticism or Middle Platonism), the answer in my mind (or how he framed the question) that that “Satan is merely the Prosecution in the Court of Heaven”. Also to quote Dee, “All things do curtsy unto God”. Although we may not understand these things, or we do really poorly and assign intent to inanimate objects, we forget that things are merely hunks of metal and as such governed by natural law. Because mankind has remade some bit of tin into a turtle does not mean its going to eat a cricket.
Neat idea #2 – I was slumming it on Vigilant Citizen and they had an “expose” on Sherlock Holmes. Of course the problem with VC is that they believe the NWO has some rules and everything is hidden in plain sight. However what particularly grabbed me was the meta-idea that not only did Doyle have access to a secret society (the masons) but that whomever made the movie was smart enough to include that symbolism in the film and expand upon it. Sort of like how Aronofsky claims he didn’t write any occult meaning into The Fountain (eyeroll), someone sure did put a whole lot of very relevant occult symbolism into Sherlock Holmes. It’s not quite as good as Rune Soup, which is my other guilty pleasure. However, ideas realizing themselves (or realizing themselves because of their opposites) is one of the staples of magic. The NWO tells you what it’s doing because then you “see” and once you “see”, the idea is in your psyche. It can be manipulated. No-one wakes up and goes, “Oh today I will be a glutton”, but rather for lack of good food dies of anorexia. The reality of the situation is that if there is an NWO (there isn’t, todays government is too large to be effective), it would have a goal, and it wouldn’t matter if you believed the message or not because the goal could be accomplished along either path. The will of the magician is simply to have a well defined goal and then use spirits to move folks along the path they want to take naturally, which is what Dee was really after I think.
(If I don’t blog again, I was totally wrong about the NWO thing, and they got me).
One of the ongoing experiments is actually testing this idea. The problem with testing magic tends to be that what you suspect is true because you have made it to be true through your will. Really I’m just thinking about tools to build tools to make tools to use tools to unmake tools… It’s tools, all the way down.
Neat Idea #3 – I’m hoping that someone who reads the blog has a better grasp of Hebrew than me. I was talking to my brother about the above ideas and life in general and I typically find it refreshing because he renounced occultism after a few oopses and returned to more conservative Christianity than we were born into. Did you know we were Presbyterians? Me neither. He’s been picking up quite a bit of Greek and looking hard at joining some Roman Catholic churches and generally being disappointed either with the engagement of the congregation or the quality of the philosophical discussion. One of the topics we were stomping on over cigars and rum was “badly translated Bibles”. I personally like the King James Version if I’m going to do English, and would use Thomas Jefferson’s bible if I were to try to subscribe to Christianity in some way, shape, or form. He is big on interlinear Bibles, but is starting to realize (*shaking fist at ThAOI guys* – you know who you are) that the translations are little better than running words through Google.
If you haven’t guessed already, the word is qliphoph – the opposite of the sephirot. The Evil-Is-Cool crowd use this sort of vulgar idea that “Qliphoph is where the demons live!” and a casual search of wikipedia would bear this out. However, a lot of my philosophy is “natural order” sorts of stuff, so it recently struck me as particularly strange that “demons” are assigned to something. In fact, the way the writing is done (grain of salt warning: I am not nearly fluent enough to make a strong case here), the word means “peel”, or “shell”, or “husk”. I’m going to break from traditional Hebrew here and make a leap into Dee’s Aethyrs, I’m hoping someone will chime in to tell me if the language supports this idea or not. The Aethyrs are not a spirit but rather where a spirit lives. The vulgar expression of a fire might be burning wood, but the spiritual expression of a fire is a quickening sulfur, and the spirit who lives in it is a salamander if we want to borrow Bardon here. The Aethyrs are very abstract but I believe it’s the same sort of idea. We have the holy temple, which we build with our hands. We fill it with things which build the idea, the astral temple, and a spirit moves into it the same way a fetus is animated in the womb. Since the sephirot are emanations from God, they can be nothing but holy. How could God not be holy?
So we ended up circling back around to the protestant reformation where folks were arguing that Hell was not a literal place of punishment except that it is the absence of the grace of God. Therefor when God goes somewhere (writing with my Christian hat on…), God emanates into that place, and the sephirot are created. When God moves from that place or when we describe the place hollowed out by the movement of God, that describes the qliphoph. It does not mean that “the demons live there” – there is nothing which is not holy in Creation – but rather these places receive the grace of God as perfectly as a husk receives the corn inside. Sephirot emit, qliphoph receive, and it’s as easy as that. All of the ridiculous Jewish mumbo jumbo are Jewish attempts to put pagans (really the Greeks) in a bad light, and that shows in the list of demons who are things like “the false duality of god” and “the burning pit” (the toilet), and “clinging mud”.
Or at least I believe so, but I haven’t run across any academic sources. Ideas?