You can read part 1 here, also this might be a shorter post since I don’t really want to comment on the body of ritual in the second half of the book and my kindle apparently didn’t sync on the airplane wifi so I lost my highlights. First world problems…
I screwed up a bit – I should have been referencing Gardner’s “The Meaning of Witchcraft” which has some overlapping commentary. I remember reading it quite awhile ago and it didn’t stick in my head since I really hated Gardner’s writing voice at the time. “It is said…” and “it is known that…” would get any author the [citation required] tag on wikipedia which is what turned me off to it since I recognized some of the references but he didn’t publish any of the sources. Is it a defense mechanism? Probably not, he’s giving interviews on TV and such and I feel like it’s something by that time the bones of the golden dawn rituals were available and the freemasonry rituals were long since published. However he probably felt some obligation to secrecy from his oaths and that’s fine. I personally chose to omit commentary on passages myself when writing on Masonic/OTO/Golden Dawn topics so I am certainly sympathetic to the idea for Gardner.
The second half of the book isn’t as dense for religious commentary as the first half of the book. He’s got to wrap up a story after all and I won’t spoil the ending. One of the main themes persists where High Magic continues to be theurgic (communion with spirits) and witchcraft deals much more with practical matters. Curiously things like a talisman comes up and both the magicians and the witches seem to know about their operation, so I think Gardner really wanted planetary talismans to serve as the bridge of curiosity for advancement.
Morvan says, for instance:
Some there were who would look into a pool of water or a magic stone, and see visions of what was happening at a distance, and so we would be warned of approaching danger. By these means we escaped for long, though yearly, as we grew weaker, so did the hatred of our enemies increase, so that they came with armed men to our gatherings to take us … but, being forewarned, we would disperse ere they arrived. They said ’twas the Devil who warned us.
Gardner, Gerald B.. High Magic’s Aid (Kindle Locations 1592-1596). Aurinia Books. Kindle Edition.
Morvan is used as the mouthpiece for “this is something firmly in the realm of witchcraft” while Thur is usually the magician. To that end Thur himself is some sort of pagan, neither side is quite cleanly delineated in the book as a hard “this not that” and I think this mingling of the disciplines is intentional. Thur is never “only” the magician and Morvan is never “only” the witch. Thur’s name by itself is a saxon derivation of Thor, which leads us to the conclusion that if his parents were Good Christian Folk or something they would certainly have been aware of the “other religious practices” or some such. What would you call Thur’s birthday? Probably Thur’s Day.
’Tis a phallic religion,” said Thur, “and the broomstick symbolises the phallus.
Gardner, Gerald B.. High Magic’s Aid (Kindle Locations 1606-1607). Aurinia Books. Kindle Edition.
Thur has a really telling moment when talking about the broom symbolism (and the preceding passage) and this is pretty much straight up theurgic sex magic. Sex magic is older than Crowley but the parallels between the altar at the gnostic mass and the altar in wicca (and the tools involved) are worth a study. As usual, Gardner gives us one sentence acknowledging the source of an idea he’s trying to convey but never directly spells it out. This is a particularly good choice of kit because it’s one of the components from folk religion Gardner has picked to include but he very nicely relates it to higher purposes and religious analogy rather than simply saying “Well witches ride brooms, it’s what they do”. He directly relates it to the phallus, while Crowley warps the entire symbolism up into the wand itself.
To further illustrate the idea that High Magic and Witchcraft are supposed to go together, we find the following passage:
I have been looking at thy books, Thur. Tell me of them. Some have pictures of plants, and I think, tell of their virtues. Wilt thou truly teach me the art of reading them?”.
He laughed, and showed her his small stock, which was a mighty library as things went in those days. There was a Latin work of Apuleius Platonicus with drawings of plants, also a Grateuss, two books on astrology and several classical works, among them the poems of Sappho, with other Greek works. He read a little from a Herbal: “’For colds in the head, or if phlegm will not clear, take Horehound, which the Romans call Marrubium, seathe it in water, and let them take, and it will clear them wonderfully … .
For lung diseases seathe the wort in honey and the patient will heal … ’ For sore teeth take roots of henbane and seathe it in strong wine. Sip it warm and hold it in the mouth, and they will speedily heal. … For dizziness let them run three times, naked, after sunset, through a field of flax, when the flax will take unto itself the dizziness. For ague, eat nine sage leaves fasting, nine mornings in succession and you shall be healed.’“
“Truly thou art a wonderfully clever man…
Gardner, Gerald B.. High Magic’s Aid (Kindle Locations 1841-1847). Aurinia Books. Kindle Edition.
That’s about the closest we get to The Golden Bough or the notion of The Golden Thread, Gardner is clearly saying “look all these sources are knowledge that has been in what we call witchcraft since time immemorial and they are worthy of study”. The writing style also changes, and it’s written in a way which would be comfortable with Agrippa in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (please read the Kraig edition, if you feel so inclined). These books, however, are books which would have influenced Gardner, and so to conspicuously place them and the writing style in the hands of characters who lived (at latest) in the 13th century isn’t an accident – it’s a clear nod towards the encouragement to read them. The tell is that warfare had changed in Europe regarding castles and cannons in the late 13th century and the standard tactic for castle siege became mass volley fire both directions rather than bow and arrows. Gardner, being well read and English, would have certainly known this. Furthering the idea of period renaissance magic:
A Pentacle of Saturn will induce his good qualities of steadiness, perseverance and loyalty, but this can only be carried by one born under Saturn; to anyone else it would bring disaster. A soldier born under any sign could wear a Pentacle of Mars, with advantage, which might produce quarrelsomeness in a merchant, while the latter would be well advised to wear one of Mercury. While a medal such as described above is sometimes called a Talisman. This name should more properly be kept for articles made especially for its owner, with the express intention of bringing him success in what particular object he has in view, and are made in accordance with the owner’s horoscope. They are usually made by an expert, in the proper day and hour, with the special object in view, with protection and safety.
Gardner, Gerald B.. High Magic’s Aid (Kindle Locations 3421-3426). Aurinia Books. Kindle Edition.
That’s straight up Book of Solomon/Dee/Agrippa right there. The picatrix adds components which require the planet be in the right celestial house and in a fortunate sign and visible, but the emphasis in European sources for this magic at the time were day-and-hour sorts of magic and horoscopes rather than the arabic observations of the heavens. There wasn’t a good copy of the picatrix floating around at the time, it would be quite interesting to ask Gardner were he alive today if he would have included them. Regarding temptation and the era’s emphasis on being free from Christian error…
Here would be no temptation, no distraction for him in this beauty unadorned because a Magus must be immune to such conditions, ere he may become a Magus, for if he cannot at all times prevent his mind from straying, failure in his enterprises would be inevitable; rather was such nudity an added strength to him, for by its presence it signifies the strength of his will and the power of his self-control. For a Magus must ever work with a naked woman till nudity is naught to him, lest an evil or mischevious spirit should appear thus, and distract his mind at the critical moment and so ruin an operation.
Gardner, Gerald B.. High Magic’s Aid (Kindle Locations 3438-3443). Aurinia Books. Kindle Edition.
Jan has to fight off the sexual temptations when he’s tested by Mars, and this particular part of the book shows a good amount of philosophy. I would venture that a good portion of “first spells” are love spells, and its probably the most popular selling spellbook on amazon. Is a love spell something “good”? Sure, between a husband a wife, usually. But both sides have to consent or it’s a violation of free will somewhere. Therefor to attack the baser sexual components and redeem the raw sexual desire into the appreciation of beauty, there’s nudity. Crowley went about this in a very different way and embraced each vice to a fault until he was sick of them, I think in this way Gardner is somehow more polite and considerate than Crowley. Gardner isn’t saying we have to lead stoic lives, but rather sees the potential for mischievous temptation in magic and realizes that the strongest, basest desire (lust, sex) is probably going to be the stumbling block to everyone. I think it’s very likely he knew about the whole Dee Kelley wife swapping incident. For the unaware, Kelley is really trying hard to get with Dee’s young wife, and he redesigns the Great Table several times over the course of several days to produce an encrypted message supposedly instructing them to swap wives. It makes no sense whatsoever unless it appeals to each of their lusts – Dee for more contact with the spirits and more knowledge and Kelley to lay with Dee’s wife. There is a similar Kelley style crisis of faith which Gardner deals with:
The Church denounced what Thur was doing, declaring it to be sinful, punishable by death, and forbidden by God. Yet it Was God who was aiding Thur. Jan knew that Thur was not working through the Devil, as the Church said, all sorcerers worked, because one cannot invoke the devil in God’s Sacred Name. That evil would surely blast a man where he stood. No, Thur had worked through God with the uttermost reverence, and God had answered his prayers. So clearly it was God’s Will! In this creation of Bartzebal, Jan saw the hand of God in answer to solemn prayer, and Bartzebal sent by God’s hand was there, though he frowned and so was there unwillingly, and the thought came, he himself was there unwillingly, to gain his own ends. Was this not sin? and God in his infinite Goodness and Compassion, had plainly worked this thing…
Gardner, Gerald B.. High Magic’s Aid (Kindle Locations 3786-3791). Aurinia Books. Kindle Edition.
Finally, Gardner also sticks up for us who study “dusty old books” which are decidedly unsexy in pursuit of Dee style theurgy. Spiritual pursuits for the sake of sex and powder are essentially science without morality and we should be ever guarded to ensure we’re actually working for the best amount of good we can as we understand it.
It is the fashion to-day to laugh at the Magus and his pretensions, to picture him as either a charlatan or a doddering old fool, and bearing the slightest resemblance to the men who were in fact, the scientists of the day, who gave us alcohol, but not the Atom Bomb.
Gardner, Gerald B.. High Magic’s Aid (Kindle Locations 3460-3462). Aurinia Books. Kindle Edition.