If you are at least an Associate Member of the OTA you can view the post on their site with multimedia. I have stripped the pictures and video out of this post.
April 25th, 2015 was a big day, since we had Poke Runyon of the OTA fly out to our corner of the world and bring the Traveling Temple out to our yard. Myself, along with 6 other folks, took initiation into the OTA, and received encampment letters for our study group. What, in my mind, made it a real winner was that a bunch of other OTA folks were just like, “Well if Poke is out there, can we come out too?” Sure! The more the merrier, which is how we went through literally a barrel of beer. Good times all around.
I have spent almost the last month solid working on things like coordinating the building of the henge, fixing up an altar where the lines are terrible, praying to the Gods that the ground isn’t completely frozen (or, as usually happens up here, muddy). I think it really paid off since we caught the trees in bloom which made the yard really pretty and the kids were actually on their good behavior. Our looky-loo neighbors even managed to only discreetly open a window to keep an eye on us. I planted white cedars at the edge of the yard so that problem will go away. The high point of it for me was Poke went around and as part of the initiation he explains the individual symbols attached to (literally painted on in the OTA sense) of each object and gives a short speech on each one. If you attend OTA seasonal events it’s a short version of that without as much acting but it’s all the seasonals rolled into one. What is nice too, is once I got the initiation ritual it took a lot of pressure off the group for the seasonal rites, since now we know what the meat of the expression is.Anyway, mission accomplished, I’m now officially into the OTA and can run study groups/seasonals at the house. If you happen to be in the northeastern US, you can use the Contact page to reach out and we can grab a coffee or mail me.
Running an occult group is actually pretty hard. Boy, we haven’t had a rambling E/N sort of post around here in awhile, so let me waste some time.
Let me tell you a few stories.
The first problem is everyone is strapped for cash. Do you have a lot of cash laying around? Are you willing to spend it on magic? Are you willing to spend it on someone else to do magic? That last one is really the rub. Folks, like myself, with two kids, a wife in school, a completely beat car, etc – we don’t have the money. And since the Rosicrucians didn’t leave me the secrets of making gold, well, we’re just working off nickle-and-dime stuff I can spare from my day job without pissing anyone off about spending over the holiday. Folks that do have cash I don’t particularly blame them for feeling like they don’t have cash given the current situation with OPEC trying really hard to crash the US economy. And, we’re due for the 7 year slump in the markets, so it’s completely a write off. I am actually quickly getting better at woodworking, but I still can’t paint for shit.
The second problem is time. I find myself trying to co-ordinate magical events at my day job which is probably a no-no for the use of my time. Fortunately one of our folks has offered to help me paint (just in time for the single-digit temps, so no painting) and one of our folks was really quite nice and got the altar built. The person she had build it flipped all the colors around 180 degrees, so we’re back to having to re-paint it. Basically, the axiom here is “anything that can go wrong, will”. While we’re talking about temple kit, the first seasonal rite went great, and then the robe I got shipped was in the wrong color (without enough time to fix it) and we fell way short on props. It also happens to be one of the rites which involves fire. Not a little bit of fire, but big, giant goblets of fire. How much of the kit available online is fire-rated? Virtually none. Getting the props put together is a real mess. To add insult to injury, I bought a bunch of little mini-lite sticks from China to simulate “charging up lightning” for the performance and they sent me… A used $30 gift card to a women’s clothing store. Wouldn’t have been bad if I could buy the robe there, but the card was exhausted.
That being said, the people I’m working with are quite nice, it’s just getting everything nailed down is hard. Getting it all nailed down in an impressive fashion is harder yet, because I think folks are familiar with the OTA and they expect high end Rivendell type stuff. I didn’t buy a log cabin or hobbit house, so we’re starting out at a disadvantage. I don’t have a purple room. Winters here are brutal, so the henge has to be portable to be indoor/outdoor. Finally, the initiations are hard because travel is expensive. Might have been smarter to pick an order to join which had some east coast presence, but we’re going for the gold here.
Is it perfect? No. I actually strongly object to the spirit wheel being counted as an alchemical element, but generally I think the OTA system is the best one I’ve run across so far*. The “culture” is right also. The OTO, shortly after I just said to hell with it, started to have the discussion group thing going on but immediately capped it with “will there be grade specific things discussed?” So right there, the discussion group died. If folks are worried about what they’re saying, they aren’t going to talk. And unless the group is big enough that is has enough IIº members or similar, it’s just not interesting to higher grade members. While I realize magic is personal to the practitioner, there’s absolutely no reason for a social order like the OTO if the magic is so personal no-one can discuss it. Wicca goes through this also, as does Masonry, but Masonry is over that critical hump, and Wicca can’t even have two covens agree on whats historical or not or who’s line and initiation is valid. The OTA bylaw discussion recently agreed that the person’s spouse is the rank of the OTA member, which is an elegant and inclusive solution to that problem. Additionally, the whole crew is less interested about tripping on their grade-penis and much more interested in having a frank discussion about how the system works and why it is the way it is. That’s a good way to be. More on that point, everyone has read Crowley. Everyone has read Pike. Everyone has read Gardner. The OTA publishes everything (there’s some blinds but I’m not convinced it’s not illustration errors and such – especially after the altar coloring oops) and… Everything is out there to read. This is immensely practical. People are going to do the work, and produce stuff, or not. Is there grade-stuff? Sure. But it’s mostly geared towards “have you built the tools you need to do magic” rather than time spent in the meetings. Why join? For the people, of course.
If you’re in the northeast of the US, shoot me a mail at Fr.Phergoph@gmail.com and we’ll try to setup the next seasonal or join the OTA Philadelphia facebook group. It’s way punk rock (read: low budget) at the moment, but anyone who wants to hang out is certainly welcome. Also worth mentioning as a goodie has been the associate member geared Seeds of Astarte. It’s a once a month google hangout to discuss the OTA associate member program.
Also on that note, I’ve been asked to do three topics for the Coronzon Coffee Club, but I thought it might be fun to let folks pick…
*The spirit wheel makes the fourth element, but I’ve always wondered why the altar doesn’t have a triangle collar on it or why the three elements weren’t placed around the triangle of the art which contains the black mirror. Moving the elements together to allow them to mix would obviously be a motion of creation (coagulation) focused on the mirror in the center of the triangle (the mirror being the spirit wheel), while moving the elements apart to make the triangle would be a force of dissolution (solvency). This is a minor nitpick and I realize this would be a divergence from the actual historical document. I posted about it on ning.
We (me and the magic folks up here) managed to get Mot’s Mass done.
It was a fairly interesting step in my own personal path since I had conducted some group rituals before, but frankly trying to teach the classes and such really emphasized the need for putting the dramatic into “dramatic ritual”.
- Incense is almost useless outside. I live in a wooded area, on a hilltop, next to a creek, and the wind just carried the stuff off before anyone could smell it, including me.
- Tiki torches are great, and kerosene burns slightly orangey red with a great plume of smoke. Kerosene is so great that it’s impossible to put out when one of the torches leaks fuel down the stem and burns it to the ground. The smoke however really contributed to a ground-fog effect.
- My neighbors probably think I’m insane. That’s OK, they couldn’t really see it, but they might have heard it. They probably thought that we were joining a fraternity with the muffled command to “DRINK”.
- We need to build a better henge.
For the incense, it’s probably worth it to have the actors carry several small pots of it. The giant bowl I had prepared didn’t work simply because the wind was blowing the wrong direction. If the performers had carried their own small incense burners, it would have been possible to clandestinely move with the wind to keep the participants in the zone.
For the henge, one of the things I would like to do is put up planetary banners. Just testing the tiki torches, the colored construction paper wrap wasn’t visible with the planetary symbols on it so I omitted it. The point was to have the alchemical symbolism present in the performance, which was accomplished with the large banner over the altar, which was dressed with three candles on top of three lead ingots, and under all that a black cloth. It might have been good to have at least a torch dedicated to Saturn and, given the seven points of the circle, either the Sun or Mercury next to the altar to work with Saturn. (I would have picked Sol).
The circle was setup to the participants looked to the west for Mot’s entrance. Just on the note of tiki torches, the plan is still to put up plywood forms (or cardboard) and cover them with spray on foam. One of the folks here has some stage experience and tipped me off that fake rocks like that are done with spray on foam. It sounds really doable and could be cheap and easy for a good effect.
The actors were all top notch, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to participate! That is one thing we did get correct – the folks we’re working with here are amazing.
I finished putting together the Astarte altar yesterday. The altar has it’s own dedicated stand about the circumference of a basketball, and it is covered in a green cloth. Behind her are roses in one of those foam cones, to spread out their leaves as a backdrop and give an impression of an arch of roses above her. In front lays roses in bloom, spread over seashells. Finally there’s an offering dish in front of that, which can hold a candle (rose scented) or whatever I deem appropriate. I may also put an oil diffuser in there. The statue itself is one of the classic renditions of Venus, sort of similar to the paintings which put her on a seashell, but she’s holding doves and other bird imagery. It doesn’t photograph well, not as I compare it to my recollection.
It sounds wonderfully mundane to write it out but it is absolutely inspiring in a darkened room. Its fairly rare that I put together some arts and crafts where I can sit there in silence and enjoy the effect, but after the last post on the Heart, I was thoroughly intoxicated if for a moment on the wonderful effect of the light, scent, and flowers. For future efforts I think some rose incense cones would be the way to fly. I’m fairly big on having the incense match the visuals of whatever we’re working with and Astarte is no exception. Roses conjure up romance and love and the scent is significant to us from an early age, so it certainly makes a strong candidate.
I was going to try to post a quote from Crowley, something about silence being the most pure form of worship and I can certainly understand why. The same for (depending on who you ask) the first or last Enochian key being silence. The Key of Silence is that push onto the astral which cannot be expressed or complimented by words, thoughts, or actions. Certainly the initial appreciation of the altar is absolutely a nod towards that key. Dumbfounded and awestruck literally at the experience, it is all encompassing and pure joy.
Trying to google for the quote, I ran into Crowleys Vision and Voice.
Stuff to track down later – 14 is Mot? 12 is Baal? 2 is Astarte Properly? It’s very back of the envelope at the moment but I feel like Crowleys vision of it could be lined up for some neat insights and interests. Specifically 2 speaks to me directly with Thors hammer and references to the archetypes. Again, not OTA cannon, but food for thought.
Recently there’s been a lot of meditation on the heart around here. The OTA has a task where the practitioner is supposed to build an altar to Astarte.
Right there – one simple sentence – kicked off a giant search for “What is Astarte?”
So really there’s two different models, there’s the erotic model and the goddess model. There’s plenty of erotic statues out there which are nothing more than carrying on the fine Japanese tradition of sexualizing girls of indeterminate age. While I realize there is a place for erotic art, this is not it. Unfortunately putting in female statue in amazon litters the results with such degeneracy. On the other hand, this one is sort of OK for invoking Astarte as goddess of the strip club. If I throw down a bunch of $5s on my altar, that’s the number of venus, which makes it OK, right? (Edit: that’s a joke about the local chaos scene, I’m aware seven is the number of venus).
One of my buddies rightly pointed out that the God (Baal) and Goddess (Astarte) should always be standing. He has excellent taste. I understand that there’s dancing with someone to cultivate romance and there’s dancing to cultivate eros, but the proper form for this is to romance the stone.
Separately, while trying to sort out this Astarte stuff, there was a bit of a shot across the bow. I was at a wedding and the DJ put on club music. My wife took it as a queue to dance like a stripper, which I don’t normally mind. Except this is a wedding and everyone’s parents are there, and suddenly it dawned on me that I’m at a wedding. The goal wasn’t to be erotic – as a male living in the internet age I will be the first person to attest to the fact that opening a web browser is almost a cheap erotic experience just how things are out there – but rather if we’re seeing union then the initial goal is romance. Assuming Astarte isn’t a total whore wholly lacking in discrimination, the romance comes first. (The groom’s mother said “Save that dancing for the bedroom!” – spoil sport).
That brings us to an interesting observation about polarity. I like Poke’s Master Mandala idea, and that the Angel controls the lower spirit. Therefor to work with Astarte, invoke Baal, and run from there. (This is not official OTA work, this is speculation on my part and should be understood as experimental). What does Baal do? For one, he’s a bit of a jock. Someone said that to me and I haven’t been able to kick the association especially considering there’s a fair bit of horseplay in the poetry. At least part of the daily practice then should be 10 minutes of GETTING SWOLE. Particularly the “four hour body” book has absolutely handy rituals, oops I mean 10 minute workouts, which dovetail (pun intended) into what could be worshipful practice. That nicely ties up what we should have on the altar too – roses, clearly. Even above and beyond the Venus association (green, seashells, doves, etc), the imagery should be romantic. As much as Baal is about getting swole (only to have his sick gains tossed aside by Mot), Astarte is about romance.
Around this time I also picked up Evola’s Magic book again. My on-call week had tanked anything that resembled personal work except in the most ascetic sense. Evola’s writing ranges from almost Crowleyean accusations to being subtle to the detriment of expression, and he has a chapter which deals directly with the heart which is on the subtle end of the scale. He says a lot of things I agree with, mostly that the emotional world is also the lowest of the worlds. But also in the book is that the heart is fundamentally masculine. That’s a neat idea. Why is it masculine? He is very careful to lay out the idea that there are feminine components to the heart unto itself, but in the system of the spiritual body, he says the heart is masculine and projective. There was an ah-ha moment here, because I’m reading a book.
As with everything in the Hermetic worldview, the layers of something alternate when they are individual and distinct components interacting with one and another. When we’re reading a book, or when we’re trying to scour the page for information, we are putting our intellectual faculties into a feminine, and receptive state. When we do this, the lower world of the heart can become inspired, and project that inspired emotion onto the work. Once we have that inspired emotion from our altar, we can flip the coin so to speak and let our minds understand the astral images without being colored by emotional judgement of these ideas. Really it’s the “stones in the river” meditation where thoughts come by acknowledged but without judgement, but Evola’s eloquent rendition of the topic affirms a deep understanding of the material while making it accessible.
The converse of this loop is equally true and interesting. As I setup my Astarte altar, I was wandering around Michaels Art Store chewing the fat with another person interested in the OTA. However at that moment, my intellect is the masculine, projective form. I think about the roses, where I place the candles, judgements about materials, my budget, and so on. Each of these colors the emotional experience and each configuration is held for a moment and judged for it’s worth and effects on my heart. Which of these “leads” magic? Neither. Emotional decision making leads to the tyranny of the mob and intellectual decision making leads to an isolation. If we say the heart leads magic, then we regret and by extension subtly loathe our altars when we spend too much money on the thing and deprive ourselves of food or some other thing our heart wants. On the other hand if our altars are so paltry that they fail to inspire, then we have impoverished the emotional components of magic. The trick is to have a marriage.
The new wordpress UI sucks and ate one of my posts.
So the long and short of it is we’re going to be doing more arts and crafts, which has been part of the two week plus quiet period on the blog. I joined the OTA, and while it’s not 100% a fit for me and I have no idea how I’m going to get to Georgia to get promoted (or worse, California), they’re still a decent good folk. Poke is one of the few people who have made changes to the Gnostic Mass or the grimoires and I feel like they’re reasonably well done. Case in point, he substitutes wine, which he says is the symbol of death, with honey, which he says is a symbol of life. I tend to agree, and I really like the symbolism of the beehive (for masonry). Also been a long time fan of the hermetic hour. We’ll see how much tread the OTA has on it. This isn’t to say it’s not worth studying the crap out of the grimoires. It’s entirely worth it, and it’s entirely rewarding to understand the cabalistic symbolism in, say, the circle of solomon. I will probably continue doing traditional work along those lines by putting tape on the floor. To that end, I wanted to throw together some mead that wasn’t just honey mixed with Bicardi 151. That’s gross, don’t make that.
We have a few options. In the Eddas, and I recently bought Northern Planet Lore, we have the mead of poetry, the mead of inspiration, the mead of song, and so on. I could make this mead according to the guide in the book and come up with something similar to the Black Arts Foundry, but I strongly object to the use of drugs among the people who don’t expect to be intoxicated in that way. One of the local wicca groups here adulterates their wine, and one of the longrunning facebook lols has been a few folk who think that being a druggie makes someone a sage. Nope. While it could be done by making a mugwort tea, that might be for inner circle, fully informed and consenting adult stuff later. While making a mead of song might be appropriate later, I’m trying to keep it mainstream enough folks will willingly drink it.
So what I really need to make is a melomel. There’s about 20 types of mead and all of them are house blends, but if you pick up a homebrew book, you’re going to run into Braggots (Honey + Beer), Mead (Honey, or Honey+Water), Cyser (Honey + Apples), and Melomels (Honey + Fruit, but sometimes called cyser anyway). I actually don’t like cyser, every one I’ve run into in homebrew circles has been a result from someone trying to ferment cheap honey and boosting it with cane sugar. Cane sugar actually makes really good cider which tastes exactly like Woodchuck when force carbonated, which I suppose says a lot about Woodchuck. Cysers like this usually come from honey-bear mead, which is mead made with the ubiquitous North American Honey Bear.
That stuff is usually honey flavoring and water and sugar, with no actual honey. What sort of magickal stuff will this produce? Nothing at best, and it won’t taste very good to boot.
What do you really need to make sacramental honey beverages?
For starters (lol brewing joke) you need a fermentation vessel that’s food safe. I got this years ago for making giant batches of wine, it’s a 15 gallon trash can, but what’s neat about it is I wrote “food safe” on the side, so it’s food safe. No actually it’s #4 plastic. If it just has the recycling symbol on it, avoid it, but if it has the recycling symbol on it and a number from 1-6 inside of it, then it’s food safe-ish. #4 just means it’s more prone to taking on odor than I would like but given sufficient time to air out, it’ll be OK. What’s that gross looking pint? That’s Wyeast 1272, out of an IPA I just made. If there’s one thing you want to splurge on for this, it’s the yeast. Trust me. Buy one packet of Wyeast 1272 either mail order or from your homebrew store, buy a big spoon from the homebrew store (top right) and a packet of champaign yeast (or bread yeast).
Hm, what else do we need?
OK I know I just admonished everyone for using honey bears, but read the label, sometimes you find a deal. In this case, the honey on the left is actually legit honey, 3 lbs per bottle. The label says “Ingredients: Honey” and nothing else. It also had the crystal stuff on the bottom (I didn’t take a picture of) which means it’s legit and a pain to work with. Going left to right, you’ll see name-brand juices. This is important, as name-brand juices tend to have a lot more juice. If I wanted to go all out, I could have bought frozen fruit and mashed it up, but that’s expensive and time consuming and usually promotes mold. Don’t do it until you understand the brewing process.
Wash and clean the fermenter (trashcan), throw the yeast in first, and get pouring.
It’s a lovely color. Look at how I’m pouring it, this adds oxygen. Your yeast are going to need as much as they can get in this particular situation. I’m not above using an aquarium pump and stone to add oxygen, but since we’re making fairly well rounded, slightly watered down stuff, it’s probably OK to just pour aggressively. We’ll stir it up in a minute.
Alright so now you’ve got all the juice in there, the yeast you want to use, but we need the honey. Add it now. When you’re done with a bottle, put a pint glass of water in the microwave for a minute or so to make it warm but not hot, and add it to the bottle of honey. Put the cap on and shake it up. You’re getting the honey into suspension and adding oxygen. Pour those into the mix.
Yike, what’s this? Yup, it’s a mix of the yeast on the bottom, the honey, and the juice on top. You can see that the juice looks like a blush wine at this point, but we need to get that honey up. Use the big spoon to aggressively stir. This is going to be a theme of the week, the secret to making decent mead is to keep stirring it the first week. Once a day, open the top of the fermenter, and stir the crap out of it so it doesn’t look like this. If you see a colored band on the bottom, open it and stir it.
This will be ready in one month, so October is going to have a nice fall mead to drink.
Finally, taste it. If you like how it turned out, run with it. It should be (depending on the yeast) about 5% ABV. If you think it’s too sweet, or syrupy, add the champaign yeast and stir the crap out of it again. This will cause it to foam, but this will also dry it out in about a week. This will also double the alcohol. Bread yeast will add appley flavors to it, champaign yeast tends to be pretty neutral stuff.
I blessed the mead when I finished it as a new child would be baptized.
The mead was brewed up on Monday during the hour of Sol. If that doesn’t get the juices flowing for pagan sorts of stuff, I don’t know what will.
The lunar day is 8. Per Globa:
Symbol – phoenix. The day of penance, absolution, purification by fire, alchemy. One can fast, purge one’s stomach and intestine. It is good to prepare remedies for all illnesses. One should not be dissolute or egoistic.
The moon is currently in Sagittarius:
Generosity, openness, optimism and the desire to give advice and share experience are all increased. There is a heightened interest in travel and foreign countries, and any activities and recreations taking place in the open air. You may, however, be over-confident and may not have a good grasp of practicalities. It is a suitable time for large-scale plans but not for any occupations which require attention to detail.
In the body, Saggitarius rules hips and thighs.
Because mead, especially sack mead, makes you fat.
The lunar mansion is 20, which is ruled by Venus, so this is an excellent time to make a sweet drink for this. The aspect of God is the “Life Giver”, which I particularly read as a fortunate time to take on this project.
We also have fairly nicely balanced occult ingredients here. We have clover honey, which in three leaves is the scale of the trinity, and with four leaves is the elements themselves. We have the apples, which traditionally represent life and sustenance. We have grapefruit, which isn’t winey, but it is citrusy, which represents the sun itself. Finally we have cranberries, which I was trying to avoid wine while still having something tannic. I think I’ve managed to make a decent compromise between winey (death) and blood (the carrier of life) without getting too close to the death side.