Monday, September 30, 2013

Further Thoughts About Witchcraft

For many years now I have been a lineage head and an elder of my specific branch and line of Alexandrian witchcraft. This role has given me quite a bit of latitude in developing and establishing a set of witchcraft lore that I felt was true to spirit of what my old coven had been attempting to forge all those years ago when I was under the leadership of Christopher and Alexandria, our coven leaders. Of course, as the story goes, these two individuals left witchcraft and paganism to become leaders of an ersatz fundamentalism and to pen a notorious book (“Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie” by Bill Schnoebelen), which left me as the defacto head of that initiatic line. Some have commented that such a schism would (or should) have nullified my line altogether, and others have said that what I have as a tradition is of questionable value, considering what my teachers later achieved.

As a result, my line has the dubious distinction of being not only considered fraudulent, but all my practices and opinions are also said to be spurious and automatically disqualified. I have certainly annoyed some individuals with my overly liberal viewpoints and my belief that witchcraft has a long period of change and development ahead of it before it can become a truly deep and profound spiritual path. Those who seek a comfortable orthodoxy and stasis within witchcraft are actually doing that tradition far more harm than good. Thus I am perceived as a gad-fly to traditionalists, or worse, as a borderline apostate.  

However, I have always made the point that we shouldn’t be isolated practitioners and that we should receive, from time to time, some kind of peer review from others who are qualified to make a proper judgement of our work. This kind of objective examination should apply to everything that a witch or pagan believes or does in their practice and within their spiritual discipline. I have found such a one to examine my work as a witch and a lineage holder, and perhaps this opinion, which I intend to share with my readers, will at least silence the pundits who think that I have produced a variant of Alexandrian witchcraft that is spurious, deviant and invalid.

Over the years I had assembled, refined and produced a written document containing not only my biography, but also the specific additions and refinements I found necessary to run a well established coven and lineage. This document is extremely confidential, and I only share it with individuals who are part of my line, which until recently, has been those women and men (via an acting High Priestess) who were initiated into my line. I am proud of what I have been able to assemble, and all of the rituals included have been used and refined over many years. I can’t discuss any of the contents of this document, but if someone were to judge my work and my line, this document would be the source for that examination.

Recently, I have been in communication with an individual who would be considered the actual head of my overall lineage, although he is no longer practicing the craft. I shared my lineage document with him and requested his opinion and input about what I had established as my particular line and its associated practices. I got his permission to share with my readers his judgement on my work, although he has asked to remain anonymous and wished to be referred to by his old craft name “Summanus.” Here is what he had to say about my lineage document.

I very much enjoyed your account, especially the way in which you’ve fleshed out the bare bones of the original Alexandrian BoS - that has always needed to be done. The very paucity of the initial material (‘is this all there is?’) naturally spurred a great many initiates wanting something more than initiations and short seasonal rites to try their hand at extended development - Alex included - which generally had regrettable results, as they usually left the original Wiccan spirit behind and flew off into ever more complex and idiosyncratic fantasies.

You have done an admirable job of keeping to the script and reinforcing the tropes that attracted people to Wicca in the first place, while offering what appears to be a far more multifaceted ritual system for those initiates that desire that sort of thing. I also found your occult life trajectory interesting and familiar as well - the fixed reality of nearly everyone’s esoteric career are the occurrence of internecine disputes, group founding and dissolution (coagula and solve?), disappointment and re-energizing, but many drop out.. without achieving what you have done - congratulations!

Summanus 08/08/2013

As you can see by the above comments, my lineage document and work has been validated by someone who has the knowledge, objectivity, and experience to properly judge me. Hopefully, his comments will put to rest any opinions, whether within my line or outside of it, that I have somehow egregiously deviated from the foundation of my tradition. While I have built up an entire system of magic from that foundation, my Book of Shadows and my lineage document are what I pass on to others who initiate into my line. I have faithfully kept all of this material properly accounted for and distinguished from the basic Alexandrian tradition and the elements that were added to it. That is all that I am expected to do, and that knowledge is passed on to those who I choose to initiate (or those who are initiated by High Priestesses in my line). What I don’t do, nor do I advocate for others to do, is to just stop there and merely perform the same rites and the same workings year in and year out. I have a foundational tradition, but what I normally do is well above and beyond it, even though it is the point of origin for everything that I do today.

Wicca vs. Witchcraft

This brings me to my second topic as I think about witchcraft, and that is the troubling split between the craft part of witchcraft and Wicca as a pagan based religion. Witchcraft is a tradition consisting of techniques and methods of working magic as well as an immersion within the modern revival of paganism. Some might link up the magical practices of bush-craft or cunning craft with that of modern witchcraft, and they wouldn’t be wrong to do so. What saddens me is to encounter those who are adherents of Wicca who eschew any form of magic. I was taught that in order to be a witch you had to practice witchcraft, and that meant that you had to know and practice magic. To me, Wicca is just a variety of witchcraft, yet without the practice of magic, it becomes something of a milk-toast or watered down version of a harmless neopagan religion. If you consider yourself a witch, then you need to know and practice witchcraft magic - it’s as simple as that. 

As you might know from what I have written in the past, I believe that a witch is someone who is both an adherent of modern paganism (Wicca) and also a knowledgeable practitioner of ritual magick. I am not talking about ceremonial magick, of course, although that could be part of what one might know or even practice. I am talking about both high and low magic that is based on the foundation of modern paganism and the crafty part of witchcraft. Low magic is aptly represented these days by hoodoo, which I find acceptable as long as the more obvious Christian elements are removed or better yet, replaced with pagan deities. Earthy witchcraft practitioners would include the Gods in their magical workings, even though some forms of Hoodoo don’t involve any religious elements at all, or do so in a very oblique manner. Followers of Wicca have the dispensation to produce charged items and certain sacraments, and these can be powerfully employed in a very effective form of low magic.

Gardner, in his fictional work, “High Magic’s Aid” gives the witch the all important role and function of being the wielder of a consecrated blade, and it is to be assumed from that story that witches could consecrate other items as well to be used in a high magic working. We can assume that opinion is what Gardner held regarding Wicca and high magic. Grimoires from the Renaissance and later periods directed the magician to get his vestments and tools consecrated by an ordained priest, but of course, such an individual would hardly engage in performing such a dubious without asking a lot of questions. A witch, on the other hand (if we use this logic) would have no such qualms, being herself a practitioner of low or earth-based magic. According to the logic presented by Gardner, a witch would be in the perfect position to master high magic as well as perform low magic.

Now, when I differentiate between low and high magic, I make no condescending judgement upon what I define as low or earth-based magic while behaving like a snob and elevating what I call high magic. If a witch is not disposed toward high magic and doesn’t want to engage in conjurations or walking the “other” world, then that is quite acceptable and completely within the domain of what I call witchcraft. Obviously, high magic is a special calling, requiring a certain proclivity for complexity and a more intensive regimen and discipline. Even so, a witch who is an exclusive practitioner of low magic should be able to perform various types of elemental magic (not to be confused with the four elemental creatures) as well as generating a planetary or Deity-blessed talisman. Modern witches should know how to perform these two operations and also how to create and employ sigils. These types of magic are fairly simple and fundamental to any magical practice, high or low. Yet I am amazed at how many adherents of witchcraft don’t know how to perform these tasks, or even worse, feel that such forms of magic are somehow harmful or bad.    

As I have said, if you call yourself a witch, then you should be able to formulate and practice magic as your form of “witchcraft.” Otherwise, you are just a harmless neopagan trying very hard (and failing) to be acceptable to your Christian neighbors. There are a lot of materials available for any witch who aspires to be proficient with witchcraft, and in fact you can find many of those techniques discussed on this blog at various times in the past.

My particular proclivity is to help witches master a form of high ritual magick that is based on the way that they learned to perform magic when going through their initial training. The system of ritual magick that I developed is particularly relevant to either witchcraft or magical forms of neopaganism. The two books that I have written on ritual magick represent a specific system that uses the witchcraft magic circle as its base, and therefore performs all of the operations using a technique of immersion. This means that the witch is not shielded from the various conjurations that he or she might perform because everything that is done is accomplished within the magic circle. What is outside of the circle is part of the mundane or profane world, and yet what is within the circle is part of the domain of spirits, ancestors and deities. All that protects a witch performing these kinds of workings is her own special and individual alignment to her personal Godhead, to which she has assumed and internalized as part of the basic regimen of magical preparation. She performs this work as a temporary representative of the Goddess, and so whatever spirits she evokes will comply with her desires and perceive her as a greater authority over them - and for that moment, so she is.

I have written a number of articles in the past that talk about this methodology, and I would like renew my readers acquaintance with them so that my perspective regarding high ritual magick is made abundantly clear. As witches we are the receivers of the legacy of sorcery and forms of conjuration and necromancy. We are the walkers between worlds, and so we should also be the mediators of Gods, spirits and ancestors. To start off this review of my past articles, let us first examine the difference between ceremonial magic (Golden Dawn) and witchcraft high magic, and you can find that article here. Then we should examine how I define immersion when I talk about witches performing high magic, and you can find that article here. Then I have a couple of articles that examine the basic theories of magic, particularly the energy theory of magic, which is most apt for witchcraft high magical workings, and you can find those two articles here and here. I would also like to share my thoughts about practical magic in an article here, and then examine the nature of pagan deity, here. These articles were written back in 2009 and many of my readers will probably have missed out on the useful material that they contain, since looking for them can be a frustrating hit or miss process.

This is a theme that I am pursuing in my present series of articles, so you should stay aware of my newest postings. I also regret that I haven’t been posting as frequently as I have done in the past, but I have been grappling with my regular job and trying (successfully, so far) to reinvent myself, and I have also been having issues with sleeping again. I will probably have to go to a sleep clinic in the near future to resolve this malady, since it has become obvious to me that getting a good night’s sleep is valuable for having the focus and energy to do lots of other things. Hopefully, I will be able to resolve this problem soon.

Enjoy the review articles and hopefully I will  have more interesting things to share with you in the future.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Children of the Gods and Enochian Magick

Through the agency of my magical workings dating back to the early 1990's, I had been told by the same spirits that Dee and Kelly talked to centuries before that the teachings of Enochian magick were the work of the fallen spirits, known as the Watchers, or Sons of the Gods, but also as the Nephilim. I admit that I have been intrigued by what I read in the Old Testament book of Genesis, chapter 6, verses 1 through 4 since I was a young man. These mythic occurrences supposedly happened contemporaneously with the patriarch Enoch, as attested to in the book “Enoch 1,” and so any occult lore attached to that patriarch, such as the Enochian system of magick, would also have to be associated obliquely with the Nephilim. At least that is my opinion on the subject. That I also found this to be true when I sought and successfully reworked the original Enochian sessions (in my own magical methodology) was also a revelation to me, but unfortunately, one that I alone seem to bear.

Let’s move forward from whether or not Enochian magick and the patriarch Enoch have anything to do with each other (even though John Dee seemed to think so) or with the Nephilim and instead examine the implications that might arise if they are indeed connected. We can put aside the general skepticism because Dee and Kelly never mentioned them in all of their diary writings and visions. The purists would say that if nothing is to be found in the extant writings of Dee or in any of his diaries, then there is little or any real substance to make a conjecture. You can indulge me with some “what if” type fantasy and we can get past this purist loggerhead to arrive at a place of pure speculation just to see what it might look like.

The source of all of this wonder is to be found in the Genesis verses, 1 through 4, throwing away verse 3 as not really belonging to the overall narrative. Since I have a working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, I can assist us in really examining these strange and archaic verses from the original script. What I have found is quite interesting and it is a subject for a lot of theorizing. Even so, what I end up wondering about is speculating whether spirits can mate with women and produce offspring. I know that it sounds quite strange or even absurd to think about something like that in this post modern age; but there are many references in many pagan religions to sons of the gods and I often wonder if they were really the offspring of deities or just mythic tales.

My question is this: “How, then, are such progeny conceived from something that would otherwise appear to be disembodied consciousness?” Perhaps I could put it bit more succinctly, “How can something that doesn’t have a material body impregnate a physical woman?” If we read the old texts or study the pagan myths such occurrences weren’t too abnormal. There were many sons and daughters of the gods in times when mortals and immortals supposedly lived in proximity together. Only in modern times have such occurrences become just children’s stories, except perhaps for the Christian Son of God, who was born of a virgin by the miraculous powers of the supposedly One True God.

In Christian theology that occurrence of a Son of God was the only valid one, but the old myths are populated with the offspring of the gods. Certainly, one cannot admit the possibility of one without also admitting the possibility of the others. Since I am not a Christian then somehow I need to explain how this might have occurred and perhaps even answer the question of whether it could happen again. Are there sons and daughters of the gods in our post modern world? Maybe it just depends on how we define what a son or daughter of a god would be.

Then there is the question of how such a tale of fallen angels taking human wives would be possible or is it just a strange myth. Do we take such tales as these in a literal fashion, maybe substituting the angel, god or spirit with an alien extraterrestrial? While this might be a plausible idea to some, it is not one that I personally entertain. So we shall leave the stories of ET astronauts coming to earth to fiddle with human genes and slum around with hominid women to other pundits and their causes.

What I want to do is to interpret the myths and stories about the sons of the gods in a more occultic and less materialistic manner, which is how I generally interpret all myths and stories from our early past. I believe that such material is to be treated as allegory instead of the literal truth. I will leave the more literal interpretation of the Bible to those fundamentalists who seem to be so daunted by subtlety and confused by allegory in their rampant pursuit of the simple truth. In my opinion there is no simple truth to be found in all of the sacred writings penned by human beings - it is all complex, multilayered and suffused with allegory.

Now that I have established the foundation for how we will examine these odd Biblical verses, we can proceed to the real meat of this article, which is the textual analysis. I will try to be succinct and not get into too much detail, which would probably only interest the linguists amongst my readers.

Here are the relevant passages from the Jerusalem Bible, Genesis chapter 6, verses 1 through 4:

When men had begun to be plentiful on the earth, and daughters had been born to them, the sons of God, looking at the daughters of men, saw they were pleasing, so they married as many as they choose. Yahweh said, ‘My spirit must not forever be disgraced in man, for he is but flesh; his life shall last no more than a hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth at that time (and even afterward) when the sons of God resorted to the daughters of man, and had children by them. These are the heros of days gone by, the famous men.”

Chapter 6, verse 1 and 2 talk about how mankind had become numerous on the face of the earth and that they had also given birth to daughters. The verb ChLL (to be common, to profane) which is used in this sentence would seem to indicate that humanity had become common or had profaned the earth in great multitudes (like cockroaches). It is quite odd that this verse mentions that daughters were born to mankind only when they had became numerous, but then again Biblical scholars have said that this entire section is both odd, linguistically peculiar and likely added out of context from another source. 

Then the second verse reveals that the sons of God (literally, sons of the Elohim) saw that these daughters were beautiful, and they took to themselves the elected ones from the many that they chose. That is how the actual text reads, and there is no mention of wives or marriage, just a selection of those who were so appointed. This was not a random selecting either, since those who were chosen (Hebrew nasim - root SVM - “appointed”) were given a special honor, being therefore superior in some manner to the others. The story or sentiments about those elected daughters of man were never told nor were they even named. Still, they were very special, since through them a dynasty was born.

As I said previously, we can throw out verse 3 since it discusses that Yahweh didn’t want his spirit (breath) to be forever trapped in men. To enforce this decision, he has decided to limit the number of years that any man could live to just 120. Prior to this edict, men were living to be quite old (in excess of 400 years, with Methuselah topping in at 900 years). What this is actually saying is that the mythic age of humanity was nearly lapsed, therefore, Yahweh would limit the life span of men so that it would be more in line with the potential life span we know now. The mythic life span, seldom actually achieved, was probably an even 1,000 years. Because all of these verses should be examined as allegory instead of the literal truth, it would seem that this verse reveals an incremental milestone that marks off the golden age of early humanity in the Garden of Eden and afterwards, and the post flood humanity that exclusively descended from the lineage of Noah. After that event, human beings lived much shorter lives and Yahweh seemed pleased with the overall effect. He also appeared to be pleased that the chaotic life forms that had existed before the flood were now effaced from the earth.

After passing over the discarded third verse, we pick up with the fourth verse that begins with the statement that the Nephilim existed in the earth in those ancient times, and even afterwards (after the flood?). Then it says that when the Sons of the Gods came into the daughters of men and begat children, these scion were the great ones (haggivorim - GBR - great), who from these ancient times, were “men of the name” (anshe ha-shem). I guess it could be said that “resorted to” is a more tactful way of saying having intercourse with, and the Biblical verse in Hebrew is more graphic than that bit of politeness. The children were said to be men of the name, which generally means to be famous, to have a name that is remembered in history, to be someone of great importance. I prefer a more esoteric interpretation for the phrase men of the name - they were sorcerers, men who knew the words of power. The term “great ones” applied to them could also be interpreted as “giants, ” which is one definition of the odd word “Nephilim.” This brings us to an interesting subject of discussion.

The word Nephilim has the colloquial meaning of “giants” even though the Hebrew and Aramaic root is NPhL, which means to fall. Thus, giants must somehow be equated to “fallen ones,” and perhaps the ancient mythology of the Jews believed that all larger than typical individuals (giants) were actually either fallen angels or the children of fallen angels. The verse also indicates that the Nephilim were in the land both before and after the event of the birth of the children of the Sons of the Gods, and perhaps it also indicates that giants continued to appear after the flood, since there is a whole folklore associated with them including that Goliath the Philistine (of David and Goliath fame) was one of them.

So, it would seem that both the fallen angels (who would have to assume a material form) as well as their offspring were larger than the average person living in the ancient world of myth and legend, and they would have been spiritually fallen as well as being great men (and sorcerers). Of course, being considered a “great” man could represent far more than just physical stature, such as prowess as a warrior or even intelligence. The Sons of the Gods who fell to earth and took to themselves human mates also taught humanity the sciences of metals, writing, adornment, cosmetics, architecture, astronomy, agriculture, irrigation and animal husbandry and many other important lore - all of them consisting of the basic set of tools needed to build a civilization.

This is the story as told by the book of Enoch, and additionally, humanity learned the arts of magick and sorcery from these angelic beings. They were, of course, cursed and condemned by Yahweh for their Promethian gifts to humanity, but that is likely just the party line, and an absurd one as well. Since they were Sons of the Elohim (and not Yahweh), then they would not have been under the authority of anyone but the primary pantheon of Semitic Gods (El and Asherah). This sounds a lot more like how humanity got its various civilizing skills through the beauty, artifice and sensual wiles of a number of elected women who thereby enchanted and seduced a lusty group of demi-gods and thus benefitted all of humanity.

How this myth is interpreted by modern Jewish scholars is also quite interesting. According to my handy Wikipedia (if we can trust that source), it would seem that theologians quite early on rejected the notion that there were any such fallen angels, and that the Biblical verses are to be interpreted as a quixotic reference to foreign princes marrying commoners for reasons of lust instead of duty. It would seem that such individuals had a more perfect physical lineage, and these goatish young men were sullying and diluting that lineage by cavorting with low-life women. This, of course, was likely something that Jewish scholars could appreciate in the late middle ages. However, I find this argument kind of weak and unsatisfying, but you can read the reference article by examining this Wikipedia link.

Traditionalists and philosophers of Judaism in the Middle Ages typically practiced rational theology. They rejected any belief in rebel or fallen angels since evil was considered abstract. Rabbinic sources, most notably the Targum, state that the ‘sons of God’ who married the daughters of men were merely human beings of exalted social station. They have also been considered as pagan royalty or members of nobility who, out of lust, married women from the general population. Other variations of this interpretation define these ‘sons of God’ as tyrannical Ancient Near Eastern kings who were honored as divine rulers, engaging in polygamous behavior. No matter the variation in views, the primary concept by Jewish rationalists is that the ‘sons of God’ were of human origin.” 

If I have (more or less) rejected all of these various explanations as being intriguing but not quite satisfying, then the onus is upon me to come up with an alternative explanation. How can fallen angels mate with human women to produce children who are preternatural and godlike in their abilities. This explanation would also apply to the children of the various pagan gods and goddesses as well as the Christian Son of God, although I suspect that Christians would be automatically against any answer that varied from orthodox theology. What is my glib answer to this perplexing question? I guess the answer has to be tackled in regards to whom one would consider to be a son or daughter of a god or goddess.

In my opinion it is obviously a deliberate magical operation involving specially consecrated individuals who have assumed a godhead and then proceed to perform the great rite with a suitable partner, often consecrated in the same manner. Special sexual rites have been a part of ancient religions for a long time, and the typical offspring from such sacred rites would be considered the children of the god or goddess of the rite from which they were conceived. This is not something that would be that difficult to conceptualize, and certainly such rites were a part of the most ancient pagan roots of the Hebrew religion. The giants are just men and women who were considered to have sacral parents, and so they were deemed special, and perhaps even the leaders of a dynasty (or a cult following), so they were famous individuals associated with the gods as their parents. Through magic the mythic stories were blended into the fabric of a cultic theme, obscuring it but also celebrating it.

Even as recent of an historical figure such as Gaius Julius Caesar, the greatest First Man of Rome, included in his family lineage the Goddess Venus. His family of the Julians were the children of the Gods, and considering his achievements, who are we to argue with him. Other great men in antiquity have claimed similar divine family origins (Alexander the Great, etc.), and the further the stories go back in time, the more family trees were affected with an infusion of divinity.

With this motif firmly in mind, it is quite possible for anyone who has the knowledge and ability to make a magical child whether in a physical body or as a simulacrum. It is all part of the art of ritual magick, albeit a highly advanced methodology. Additionally, it is possible to infuse oneself with the numinous spiritual glamor and intelligence of a godhead, and this is achieved over a long period of cultic service, godhead assumptions and internal identifications.

The barrier between human and godhead has never been insurmountable except in the minds of those so afflicted to believe it so. Pagans, even modern pagans, should know that we can experience the Gods first hand through special surrogates. It is therefore possible for anyone of us to be able to live and be like the gods, even for a brief moment. How much easier is it to be adopted by a god and made part of its greater family and fortune. The doorway to divinity is always open, all we need to do is to assay it and find our way through its inner labyrinth of mysteries, and that is one of the tasks of the Great Work.

What I learned so many years ago from the various spirits associated with the Enochian system of magick, including those of the Nephilim, is that there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained through intercourse with the entities of the spirit world. Talking and walking with the spirits is an age old practice, and one that the shaman of old mastered in the ages even before antiquity. If John Dee acquired the knowledge of the Enochian system of magic through the artifice of his wisdom and the keen psychic abilities of his seer, Edward Kelly, then we, too, have that option and ability to acquire and add to the lore that is already known. If we seek out knowledge that is as yet unknown to us, then perhaps as we acquire it, we shall be like the giants of mythic times, realizing the legacy of the Nephilim in the post modern age.

Frater Barrabbas

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A World Polarized by Light and Darkness

As a magician I am often asked if we actually live in a world that is morally and spiritually dangerous. Certainly, the world at large can be a physically dangerous place and there is no lack of tragedy and calamity in the world. If you happen to have the misfortune of living in a dangerous part of the world, most of the tragedy consists of human perpetuated acts of malice and mayhem. There is also nature herself who visits catastrophes on the earth from time to time, and the frequencies of these phenomena will likely increase as a result of climate change and other factors. However, the real question is whether or not there is a supernatural force of evil that is behind all of these tragic occurrences. Is there a Devil who is the great mediator of the forces of evil that prey on human weaknesses and promotes the destruction of mankind? Or perhaps it is the actions of a morally ambiguous Deity that gives out mercy and severity in a seemingly quixotic mixture of good and evil?

Those who believe in an active mythic war between the forces of good arrayed against the forces of evil see the world and its populace as a kind of titanic battleground between benefic angels and hostile demons, and that even natural disasters are painted with this kind of dualistic gloom. In the Bible, the Deity itself has purportedly engaged in mass destruction and the wanton killing of sinners and innocents alike (although non-believers, however innocent, are shown to be justified killings), and all of this has been noted as the actions of a just and righteous godhead. Who are we to judge such actions, as the God of the Monotheists moves in such mysterious ways? Even so, as a pagan man, I find all of this speculation to be irrelevant, overly simplified and even troubling. It could even represent a kind of mental illness called global paranoia if it is allowed to achieve extreme levels of expression.

As a pagan, I reject that the world is polarized between the forces of good and evil and that there is a supernatural basis to evil operating in the world. I have been keenly observing the behavior of humanity for the duration of my adult life and I have steeped myself in a broad study of history. It would seem to me that the real evil in the world is perpetuated by individuals or groups of human beings and not some overarching force of evil. While I might believe in intermediaries called daemones, I don’t believe in the Devil and hostile demonic forces. Others might indulge in this Manichean belief system and to them it is a reality, but it is not a universal reality, and that is my whole point. I believe that there is a sane way to deal with both the secular world and the occult world of spiritual consciousness and disembodied beings without bringing into the equation the mental venom of perpetual duality. There are hazards aplenty to be found in the Spirit World, and I have experienced many of them at first hand. Yet hazards are not the same as a unified force of evil.

If there isn’t a universal reality consisting of the supernatural elements of good and evil warring against each other, then what about the concept of white magic and black magic? Is there such a thing? Having recently written about the basic elements of ritual magick, it would seem that what colors a magical working is the intention. If the intention is to hurt or coerce someone, then, depending on the context, the magic produced in such an effort could be considered ethically negative. Of course, then we get into the whole highly complicated discussion about ethics in the use of magic, and that is not the theme that I am following here in this article. It is a topic to be discussed (or avoided) in a future article. So, if there isn’t a universal evil being, and magic is neither black nor white, then what about black magicians and black lodges? This is a favorite topic of a number of authors, some deployed as fictional tropes, others as talking points about the ethical shape of the occult world. I suspect, based on my own  experiences, that it is best to keep these concepts within the domain of fiction where they belong.

This also brings us to the topic of magical or psychic attacks, often perpetuated by individuals who would be considered “black” magicians. Every now and again, I will get an email from someone who is claiming to be under attack, whether magically or via some superhuman psychic agency. Are there “black” lodges out there training individuals to be “black” magicians who excel at fomenting magical or psychic attacks on helpless individuals? While it might be a good fictional theme is it actually true or real? I have to admit that I am quite skeptical, so my answer is a qualified “no.” Anyone who has read a book on magical self-defense or personal protection might think that the world is filled with magical malefactors and lodges to support them, and that the moment someone begins to learn magic they have effectively placed a target on themselves for all the evil magicians to see. This is particularly true with Dion Fortune’s book “Psychic Self-Defense” where she talks about magical and psychic predators and even the existence of black lodges. An uncritical reading of her book could lead individuals to all sorts of erroneous ideas, and often when someone either sends me an email or talks to me about being magically attacked, this book is used as a reference and a tool for validating it.

As a magician who has practiced magick for nearly four decades and who, for the most part, has been around and met many magicians and other occultists, one thing that I can say for certain is that magical and psychic attacks can and do occur. However, they are more rare and isolated instances rather than common and often occurring ones. Of course, if you are talking about the Voudoun or Palo/Santeria communities, there are probably more actual occurrences of such phenomena; but if you are talking about the Wiccan and Pagan community, they are probably more rare. Why is this so? Because in order for a successful magical or psychic attack to occur, it has to be performed by someone who is competent and capable of doing such an act, and I might add, getting away with it. Believe it or not, this is a tall order, especially in the Wiccan and Pagan communities. Keep in mind that someone who would be competent in a fee-for-service kind of magical working would be able to be employed for many purposes, not just performing negative (retributive) magic. A dedicated black magician is likely more a myth than a reality, and even more so would be a collective of black magicians. Could you really imagine a group of egotistical evil magicians being able to function as a group, conducting their work in a civil manner and following specified by-laws? I can’t, and the thought is actually quite amusing if it wasn’t so completely ridiculous.

Many individuals in the Pagan and Wiccan community struggle to perform simple rituals and some eschew even a basic practice of magic altogether. There is also a lack of training materials or an effective collection of spells for malefic rites (but no small number of books on the subject), and not a lot of competence, either. Additionally, there are individuals who are capable of affecting or impacting someone in an indirect manner without having any knowledge of magic. Sales people, seducers and con artists use these skills every day, not to mention bullies, thugs, spouse abusers and even sovereign nations. The threat of doing something will often be just as effective as the actual act, so innuendo and implied actions could be considered a form of indirect coercion, even though they are not to be considered any kind of malefic magic.

Negative magic has a number of rules to be followed just as positive magic or magic in general. One of the most basic rules is that the targeted person must be informed in some manner that they are being attacked, and the magician often finds an ingenious way of leaving a subtle but unambiguous calling card. (I call that the “gloating gotcha.”) Also, the effects of being magically attacked are usually unambiguous. There are ways to determine if one is being attacked as there are ways of deflecting it. Any attempt at blocking or deflecting a curse or attack will at least have some success, showing that the source is indeed external. Still, sometimes instead of being attacked from without an individual can experience something like an attack from within, and that is where we leave the domain of magic entirely behind and enter into the domain of mental illness and/or internal process-based issues.

I can at least speak from experience about magical attacks because in the long course of my magical career I have been magically attacked. In all cases it was from someone with whom I was intimately familiar. There are usually implied threats or some kind of innuendo or calling card left behind, and it often manifests with a clear sense of where the attack has come from. Simple exercises can deflect it, even partially, or a recourse to one’s spiritual alignment can often completely silence it, at least momentarily. The most effective curse deployed uses a person’s sense of guilt or culpability as a means of establishing a pervasive link, so a curse sent against someone who is a sociopath or one who is totally devoid of conscience or empathy (or who believes that they are without blame) will obviously fail. It is also true that someone who has studiously made himself immune to psychic or magical attack will have little that can be targeted for such a purpose.

Truly, the most vulnerable type of person is one who feels guilty or is very empathically susceptible, or a combination of both.  Natural psychics often ward themselves when dealing with the general public during readings, and I have even met a few psychologists who have admitted to learning to be completely detached from their patients. (One psychologist friend of mine burned Epsom salts in her consulting room after each consultation.) Even so, the most susceptible person can block or deflect a magical attack, and they can therefore determine the nature of it and even its source.

A curse is always a two-way street, since it requires the link between target and source to be in effect as long as the curse is being used to subjugate the victim. Perhaps the smartest curse (and the least effective) is what I call the “hit and run exercise,” which amounts to putting a curse on someone and then quickly breaking the link. If such a vehicle finds a potent vulnerability then it could conceivably continue to work even after the link is broken. Yet finding this kind of severe vulnerability in a person that could either harm or even kill them would be quite a feat in itself. People are not without natural defenses and internal stabilizing mechanisms, so very few individuals are that fragile or liable for self-destruction. Therefore a hit and run exercise will more often cause some minor mischief, if it is, indeed, effective at all. A serious magical attack relies on retaining the link between the magician and victim, even if malefic spirits are conjured and used to carry it out.

How can a person tell if they are being attacked by an external agency? As I have stated earlier, because it can be deflected in some manner or form. Victims will sense an external “alien” source to themseves that will urge them to some kind of behavior that is against their desires or interests, but a simple warding rite will cause it to diminish somewhat or cease altogether. I call this a “curse flickering effect” and it indicates an outside source.

A sure sign that the attack is coming from within is when any protective action has no effect at all. After all, how can we protect ourselves from our own internal minds? An internal attack is a sign that some issue or internal process has been triggered and empowered, and now represents a potential internal threat or even an overall crisis. This is a sign that what is occurring represents some variety of mental illness, whether it is just annoying at the very least or life threatening at the very worst. Now it is important, in my opinion, for everyone to understand that mental illness is not a stigma nor a sign of some internal flaw. No one is perfect and no one is immune to the debilitating effects of mental illness - it can strike down anyone. Some of us are perhaps more susceptible to certain kinds of mental illness either due to genetics or bodily chemistry, but as many as one in three experience some degree and variety of mental illness in a lifetime. We should see it as a disease rather than some kind of personal defect, and it is, unfortunately, not uncommon.

The most important thing that you can do if you believe that you are under a magical attack is to try to be dispassionate and think about what is happening to you in an objective manner. You can also get a friend or a family member to act as an objective outsider and listen to you describe what you are going through. Finding an objective and rational base is an important first step to thwarting a curse. Once you have achieved that, then you can try some simple warding exercises, protection spells or get some basic spiritual help from a professional member of one’s clergy. If any of these actions gains you some relief from the experience, then what you are experiencing is undoubtably a magical attack. Doing more of these kinds of exercises will gain you more relief and perhaps even a solution.

Still, to stop the attack cold, you should identify the “alien” source in your head and its directives, and then locate that place of guilt or susceptibility within you that it is targeting. You can then either mask or eliminate it, thereby depriving the curse of an access point. Once this is done, then the curse will be automatically deactivated. You can also employ someone who is an expert at magical counter measures to do this operation for you, if such a person is available. However, an external attack can be deflected and the link broken, and once that happens, the curse is thwarted. Any residual energy typically goes back to the originator from whence it came, forcing the aggressor magician to hastily break the link or deal with the consequences of a malefic blow-back. Even so, when mental illness strikes there is little that can be done other than seek professional help. If you think that you have been magically attacked and you seem immune to any kind of counteraction then you are suffering from an internal attack. Hopefully, such a test will help you to objectify it and allow you to see the nature and source of your problem.

Most of the people that have either emailed me or talked to me about being magically attacked were actually experiencing some kind of internal attack. The source and cause of such attacks are numerous and since I am not a professional counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist, I am powerless to do anything but help the person objectify what is happening to them. If the source isn’t external nor magical, then I am helpless to do anything about it.

One last thing to consider is the nature of the attack and its power. If the attack seems to be perpetrated by someone who would have to be wielding the powers of a spiritual master, then it is more likely that the attack is actually internal. There are limits to what any practical magician can do to someone, just short of putting a powerful drug or poison into their food or drink. If what you are experiencing would seem to indicate someone who is able to live inside of your head (and know every thought that you have had, or any dream that you might have dreamed) as well as living his own head, then you are likely also experiencing an internal attack (and not a magical one).

I have been involved in magic for many years and I have yet to meet anyone who has that degree of psychic power. It might even be impossible for someone to consciously live in their own head and in the head of someone else. If it’s not impossible then I would assume that with such great powers would also be a towering spiritual love, an infinite compassion for all beings and the ethical desire to allow others to find their own way however faulty or fruitless. I just don’t believe that there is such a thing as a spiritual master who is completely evil, nor do I believe in a lodge of assembled magical malefactors. Myths have their purpose, but that purpose is not to hide or mask the true nature of everything.

The world as we know it is one that is morally and spiritually grey. There is no battle between good and evil spirits, and human nature is often corrupted with greed, avarice, mendacity, and driven by an egotistic lust for power. Human beings are flawed, and so, too, their endeavors will be flawed. Human nature can also display great transcendent virtues, so life in this material world is a mixed bag of virtue, talents, achievements, incompetence and moral failings. There is stark clarity, murky duplicity, and everything in between; but “sometimes, my dear, a cigar is just a cigar.”

Frater Barrabbas           

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Basic Elements of Ritual Magick

Recently, there has been some discussion on the blogosphere regarding the importance of intention and will, or perhaps more accurately, the inflation of the importance of these elements. While will-power (initiative) and intention do play important parts in the performance of basic rites within the discipline of ritual magick, they are (of course) not exclusively important. These two elements are part of an overall package, and unless the whole package is known and understood, then all sorts of silly ideas about ritual magick can be entertained by the beginner.

In my previous two books, “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick” and Mastering the “Art of Ritual Magick,” I believe that I have defined these elements but not in a concise manner. Going over what I wrote years ago has prompted me to revisit these basic concepts and attempt to write about them in a much clearer manner than I had previously in these books. I guess you could say that my thoughts, perceptions and my ability to write has improved to the point where I believe that I can now write a better and clearer set of definitions about the basic elements of ritual magick.

How I define intention and will-power regarding ritual magick is to understand them as important parts of the very beginning foundation of any kind of rite to make a change occur in material reality. Intention is important because it represents the plan for making something happen (although it is not yet implemented) and the will, as will-power, representing the desire and discipline to make something happen. Yet these two elements don’t trump the others and are seldom useful or constructive by themselves. In other words, I have never believed that intention alone can cause something to happen, and that will-power by itself can’t accomplish any kind of important achievement. There has to be a coordination between several elements and it’s important to know what they are and how to define them.

The key-stone to functioning as a successful ritual magician is to be empowered, and what I am referring to here is “self-empowerment.” So you might ask what is self-empowerment? It’s certainly a phrase that gets used a lot if you read books on magic, pop psychology and self-help. It is the opposite of helplessness, which is the usual state of being that most humans encounter at some point in their lives (often, but not always, at the moment of their death), and some people never seem to get beyond this state once their desires are thwarted. If we examine the definition of empowerment then I believe we will find the clues to understanding self-empowerment and how it relates to the practices of the ritual magician.

Looking up the word “empowerment” in the dictionary reveals to us that it has the meaning “to enable, to make able, give power, means, competence, ability, to authorize.” Power itself (in this context) means to do something, to act, to accomplish or achieve. In the context of ritual magick, empowerment cannot be given to someone. It must be earned by experience and personal achievement over time, and that’s why it’s called self-empowerment. A teacher can teach someone how to perform ritual magick, but the student must master the art by themselves and learn to be competent and have the assurance to succeed at gaining their magical goals. That can only be accomplished over time (usually years) and through many experiences (including failures as well as successes). Yet it is only the successes that build up personal magical empowerment, and that’s why a magician will focus on them rather than the failures; since the successes are what have given him the empowerment and certainty to continue the quest, and ultimately, to complete the great work itself.

Where self-empowerment is the key-stone, then discipline is the foundation. In order to be competent at something, one must practice in a periodic and regular manner. A ritual magician uses the cycles of the moon and the sun to partition her world and to fill a practical discipline with daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal rites and exercises. An old saying amply reflects this kind of activity - “Live by the Sun, love by the Moon.” What a discipline should contain varies from magician to magician, but it should have regular meditation sessions and periodic rites of spiritual alignment, including and particularly, godhead assumption. Based on the Lunation cycle, the magician should also regularly practice magical workings. The more experience that a magician has, then (hopefully) the greater will be her self-empowerment. These two elements work together, of course.

Within the foundation of the repertoire of practices of the ritual magician is the ability to achieve a form of ultra-conscious ecstasy. There are a number of different methods for achieving this state, and these can be facilitated singularly or in combination using breath control, trance, dance, mantra chanting, sacramental drug usage, sacred sexuality, bondage and discipline, or any other mechanism that achieves ecstasy. It is said that in magick, ecstasy is the key, and that is quite true; but ecstasy is used to push one’s self into the highest states of consciousness as well as exeriorizing or projecting magical power into the mundane sphere. The thing that all of these forms have in common is that they are achieved through the process of resonance. I define resonance as an iterative process that increases in frequency and amplitude until a climax is achieved. Even if a magician uses sacramental drugs, she must engage in some kind of iterative process to push the altered state into its highest expression.

All spell work begins in the same place, which is a desire or a need for something fueled by the imagination. From this the magician puts together an intention, which is a kind of plan of action. A wise plan for a specific end always has a greater overall plan behind it, so that is how the intention and purpose work together to forge a magical working. The intention is a kind of rationale for the desire and fantasy based result, which I call the objective, and it can be established by affirmations and self-promotion that engage one’s self-empowerment. However, if the intention does nothing more than this and there are no corresponding actions, then the intention will likely produce nothing. What makes the intention a truly powerful magical element is the joining of desire, affirmation, imagination, self-promotion, with actions, both magical and mundane. The most important thing that I stated about an intention is that it is a plan, and a plan should have magical actions and also mundane actions. It is also important to schedule your working for an auspicious time (phases of the moon) and determine deadlines for the results to appear, since this defines the proposed working within the boundaries of limits and forces one to take the initiative.

One further step in building up the intention is to translate the objective into a symbolic formulation. The easiest way to do this is to craft a sigil, but there are other attributes that one can use as well. For instance, often it is good to classify the objective in regards to an element or one of the seven planets, and then to find other attributes to identify the objective, such as color, perfume, incense, associated godhead, angelic or goetic spirit, etc. A sigil can additionally represent any of these attributes, such as the color of the ink or paint, the medium upon which it is inscribed (stone, parchment, wood, metallic disk, gemstone, etc.), and then blessed and charged with an incense, perfume and in the name of some aspect of Deity. I believe that translating an objective into a sigil is a very important stage in any kind of ritual magical working. Even if you are using a sigil or a character to help summon a spirit, adding a sigil for the objective to that the sigil of the spirit can further help to determine that goal in a symbolic manner. Minus a sigil, a magician then has to create a construct consisting of the attributes associated with the working, and often these are collected together and placed in a cache or medicine bag. I prefer to use a sigil to translate an objective into a symbolic form. You can find a whole article dedicated to sigil magic here.

Why is this item so important, you ask? Why must we symbolize the objective of a spell in some manner? There are two reasons. The first is to make it into the physical link for the spell, and the second is that it can be more easily acted upon during the symbolic manipulation phase of the spell. A physical link is a handy and succinct representation of the spell’s objective, and it becomes the magical carrier for the spell itself. A physical link is the bridge between the world of spirit and the mundane sphere, so it has an important task of representing the objective within the spirit world itself. 

Once these elements have been defined, we can move on to discussing the magical actions, or what would be called a working or an overall spell. A ritual magical working consists of two parts, which is the focusing of emotional forces and symbolic manipulation. It doesn’t mater if the magician is using the energy model or the spirit model; both models use these two elements equally. These actions are performed within sacred space and through a proper altered state of consciousness as established by a meditation session. As part of the self-empowerment, the magician may also employ a personalized attribute of deity within the working, such as that which is acquired through a godhead assumption. The more that a magician can do to bolster his own sense of self through a magically induced spiritual alignment then the outcome will be more potent. It is good to have the Gods on your side when performing a magical operation to acquire something.

So, the elements that have already been determined for a working before the working is actually commenced are those that involve the self and space (various preparations), alignment (god head attribution and/or assumption), defining and building the physical link, and establishing the intention and clarifying the objective. Additionally, the magician should have performed divination on the objective to determine its probability and explore the various associated mundane steps. Ethical considerations should also be weighed (during the divination process), and the magician should feel fully justified in performing the working. The timing of the working and choosing an auspicious date to perform the working is also determined well before the working is to be performed. 

Preparations regarding the self are forms of purification and meditation used to transition the mind from the mundane to the spirit world. Also, the space where the working is to be performed is also purified and made sacred, thereby taking it out of the mundane context. A circle can be used to establish a boundary line, and the area within the circle is sacralized with incense, soft illumination, conducive music, and aspurged with either lustral water (salt water) or florida water (water and perfume). Drawing the circle and establishing the cardinal directions are performed by the magician to establish a complete world within the domain of spirit. All of these preparations are performed in a thorough and methodical manner, leading the magician up to that moment where the magical operation will be performed.

As I stated previously, the actual magical working consists of the focusing of emotional forces and symbolic manipulation, in that order. The first step is to harness the passion and emotions that are the driver of the magical and mundane intention. If a magician feels ambiguous or lacks passion about a proposed magical objective, then whatever is done will be weak and likely ineffective. Conversely, the greater the passion that a magician feels about an objective, then the potential for success is greater. Passion is an emotional energy, and establishing a base of this kind of energy will help charge and empower the working. While it is not singularly important that the energy be given any kind of definition (some still think energy is just energy), I believe that defining and articulating the energy makes it more precise and capable of driving the process. The easiest way to define the energy is to use an invoking pentagram of a specific element, and to set these to the four cardinal points and then draw them to the center of the circle through a spiraling circumambulation (from the outer periphery to the center of the circle - a deosil spiral) .
Symbolic manipulation is where the magician uses tools and symbols to express a symbolic meaning or ideation within sacred space. Of course, setting or consecrating a magic circle and performing various other rites with tools, drawn devices (lines of force, circles, spirals, triangles, pentagrams, hexagrams, etc.), intoning incantations and words of power, and using various visualization techniques are all a form of symbolic manipulation. Aside from assisting in defining the base energy of the working, the operation of symbolic manipulation that is critical to a simple spell is joining the physical link to the raised energy (called empowering the link), and thus when the energy is so imprinted, to perform an exteriorization rite (thereby projecting the power to the actual objective outside of the circle).

Empowering the link is where the charged and consecrated sigil is brought into the center of the circle at that point where the power is fixed, and then an association is made between the sigil and the latent energy. At this phase of the spell the magician can visualize the objective and also the intention, including all of the mundane actions, and focus that into the power using his hands or tools. The accumulated magical power, which is the emotional passion associated with the desire for the objective, has now been imprinted with a clear intention and objective, and it is ready for exteriorization.

An exteriorization is achieved through resonance, and this can be accomplished through several different mechanisms. This could also be when the magician employs some form of ecstasy as a method of exteriorizing the collected and imprinted energy. I often use a widdershins spiral and a simple chant, and as I proceed from the center to the out periphery of the circle, I can feel the intensity and the stress of pushing the power increase with every step. Even the chant speeds up and increases in volume as I get ever closer to the outer circle. I plan this spiral so that I will only transcribe the circle three times, and at the end, I will project the power out of the circle with every bit of energy that I have. Sometimes the exteriorization is so potent that it causes me to fall to my knees in exhaustion.

As you can see in the example above, I have used the energy model to describe a simple spell. A magician could also use the evocation of a spirit (typically an elemental, planetary or goetic spirit) to achieve a material goal. In that situation the whole working would be orientated to performing the evocation, and then the intention of the working would be presented to the spirit to achieve, often with some kind of exchange. To perform this kind of working, the magician would have to be proficient with evocation, and that would represent a kind of working that would be somewhat more complex than what I have presented here. However, the use of a sigil that would symbolize the intention and the objective would still be fashioned, and this would presented or imprinted on the character, tool or sigil used to evoke the spirit.

The various stages that I presented above is called the master pattern of ritual magick, and there are seven of these stages. The master pattern consists of the elements of self, space, power, alignment, empowering the link, exteriorization and divination. You can find an article in my repertoire that amply covers each of these elements. As for divination, I am a firm believer that divination should be performed both before and after a working to ensure that the magician is fully informed at all points during the working. You can find an article outlining the master pattern of ritual magick here. I have also discussed these concepts more thoroughly in the article about sacred geometry in the energy theory of ritual magick, and you can find that article here.      

To recap what has been discussed in this article, I have proposed the following nine elements as important attributes that are found in a simple energy based working or spell as practiced in ritual magick. These nine elements are:

  • Self-empowerment and discipline - the competence to perform the working
  • Intention - plan, including magical and mundane actions
  • Initiative or will-power - desire to take action
  • Emotions, desires, imagination, passion - the basic magical power
  • Objective - goal
  • Physical Link - symbolized translation of intention and objective
  • Symbolic manipulation - magical and symbolic actions (performed in sacred space)
  • Altered states of consciousness and sacred space
  • Timing - an auspicious time for the working

As you can see, it takes a number of elements, an overall structure and emotional passion to achieve a goal through the art of ritual magick. Not one of these elements is exclusively important, although some of the elements might be either omitted or glossed over without destroying the effectiveness of the overall working. However, I believe that part of the discipline of ritual magick is to thoroughly develop and work each of these elements, since the more that is put into a magical working the better will be its potential outcome.

Frater Barrabbas