Friday, December 19, 2008

Of Course You Do

In the middle of this fluff piece about a New York City magick shop called Enchantments, I came across the following:

I had to ask: “Where do you guys stand on Satan?”

Eyes rolled. The Enchantments store policy is explicit on the Web site: “We DO NOT carry any items dealing with black magick.”

Some news for the Enchantments folks - of course they carry items that can be used for "black magick." That's because magick is a technology and whether a given spell is "white" or "black" depends on the intent of the caster, not the implements employed. This is one of those misconceptions that comes from Hollywood ideas of spellcasting. How many films have you seen in which the hero and villain in a magical battle conjure up different colored beams of light to show that one is good and the other is evil? I'm a big fan of occult themed B-movies, and let me tell you, it's very common in that genre.

I do understand why filmmakers do it, because (1) they really want to represent a magical battle as a scene where the two combatants throw beams of light around because an actual magical battle doesn't look that interesting, and (2) if both combatants' beams of light were shown as the same color the battle would be difficult to film because it would probably look confusing. However, this cinematic technique does reinforce the idea that "black" and "white" magick are two completely separate forces fundamentally linked to the conventional ideas of good and evil. In reality, magick is magick, and you can use the same wand to cast a healing spell or a curse - it all depends on what you want to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wiccan Alleges Religious Discrimination

A woman who practices the Wiccan religion has filed a lawsuit against the University of Nebraska alleging that she was fired from her position because of her religious beliefs.

The filing says the woman, who practices witchcraft as her religion, was hired by the university in February 2007 to direct a youth program. She was fired when it was discovered that she was a witch.

While I don't know the whole story here, if the allegations are true they reflect some pretty ignorant behavior on the part of what is supposed to be an institution of higher learning. There might be grounds for the firing if the plaintiff was prosletyzing or attempting to promote her beliefs to students, but barring that there really is no excuse for this sort of religious bigotry.

It always amazes me when some Christians try to claim that they are some sort of persecuted minority despite being the majority religion in this country. It's usually those who hold less popular beliefs who find themselves threatened with tangible sanctions like job losses.

UPDATE: In response to the comments, I want to make it clear that I am in no way accusing Christians of being behind this firing. Since I haven't heard the University's case, I have no idea who initiated it or for what reason. However, if the firing was solely because of this woman's beliefs, I stand by my description of it as religious bigotry - no matter who initiated it or what their own religious beliefs might be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If Only It Were True...

A friend of mine in Ordo Templi Orientis once commented to me that he wished all of the crazy conspiracy theorizing about OTO was true - that we ran the CIA, the FBI, and probably these days the Department of Homeland Security. You would get up to some high enough degree and at your initiation someone would whisper in your ear, "Okay, here's your secret CIA pass code. Call this number if you want anyone rubbed out."

As far as the real OTO goes, I've often repeated the joke that the order has infiltrated every level of society, if every level of society is defined as IT departments and tattoo parlors. And believe me, if you're in the OTO that joke will always prompt at least a knowing smirk. For the most part the order is simply a collection of interesting and eclectic people who share an interest in the works of Aleister Crowley and alternative culture, rather than some kind of all-powerful oligarchy that stands behind the throne of government.

Masonry comes closer to these conspiracy claims in terms of membership, almost twenty thousand in Minnesota alone, but while there are more Masons in politics and government than OTO members the fraternity is much more removed from anything that most people would find occult or sinister. In fact, finding a Masonic lodge that even discusses real esotericism is quite difficult, despite all of Jack Chick's posturing about "The Curse of Baphomet."

Trust me, this is not because there's some inner Masonic order that hides the truth from its members - if such a thing existed, I would have tracked it down by now so that I could figure out whether or not I wanted to join. I mean, as a Thelemite I'm already damned in the eyes of conservative Christians, so I might as well have some fun. Sadly, nothing of the sort exists in either Masonry or OTO, and let's face it - if we really were running the entire show of modern civilization I'd get invited to much better parties.

Reality doesn't stop conspiracy theorists, though. Recently I came across a series of articles that lays out the entire OTO/Masonry/Illuminati conspiracy in a more concise package than I've seen in the past. I suppose I shouldn't be linking to them and giving them more traffic given the sheer volume of misrepresentation, innuendo, and outright nonsense, but here they are nonetheless.

Codex Magica by Texe Marrs - Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six.

That way, those of us involved in magical orders can peruse this bizarre worldview and imagine what might have been. But of course, that's what I would say, isn't it?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Paranormal Home Security System?

Here's a magical home security system that sounds lot more effective than an alarm. It's probably cheaper too, since you don't have to pay any monitoring fees on a spell. In Malaysia, a burglar broke into a house only to be trapped by a "supernatural figure."

Police official Abdul Marlik Hakim Johar told The Star newspaper the house's owners found the 36-year-old man fatigued and dehydrated when they returned from vacation Thursday.

He says they called an ambulance to take him to a hospital.

The man told police that every time he tried to escape, a "supernatural figure" shoved him to the ground.

It sounds like the homeowner has figured out how to make my theoretical poltergeist-binding trick work. I wonder if the ghostly security guard can also fetch drinks, or if it could somehow be convinced or bound to do so.

I realize it's a long shot, but if anybody knows how to get in touch with these Malaysian homeowners I would love to ask them some questions about their techniques.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Review: Advanced Enochian Magick by Frater W.I.T.

Years ago Gerald Schueler wrote a book for Llewellyn entitled An Advanced Guide to Enochian Magick as a followup to his first book, Enochian Magic. Schueler was one of the early authors to try and put together a set of books that would allow beginners to start practicing the Enochian magical system, but his work suffered from a number of significant flaws. The "Advanced" book consisted mostly of a recounting of Aleister Crowley's The Vision and the Voice along with Schueler's largely Theosophical interpretations of each aethyr vision. The book included some more complex rituals in the back which, I have to say, for the most part did not work. And yes, I started out working with Schueler's books, so I did try them out. Now Frater W.I.T., author of Enochian Initiation, has published a new similarly-titled book that is a real improvement over Schuler's failed effort. Entitled Advanced Enochian Magick, it is now available from Outskirts Press.

I wound up really enjoying the book, but there are a couple of things that put me off at first glance. The book is subtitled "A Manual of Theory, Training, and Practice for the Novice and the Adept." My first question was why an "advanced" book would include "novice" level material. It seems like a bit of a contradiction, though I've seen this sort of thing before, like with Jason Newcomb's introduction to the Goetia subtitled "A Simple Advanced Key." If it's simple, what's advanced about it? Furthermore, as I read through the early chapters of the book it pretty much felt like everything I was reading was material that I'd seen before - basic Golden Dawn rituals, Timothy Leary's eight-circuit model, the Qabalah, and so forth. But basically what is going on here is that W.I.T. is laying out the magical language that is necessary to understand the more complex rituals later in the book. If you already know this material, you can skip ahead.

The most valuable material in the early chapters is the set of recommended practices for both beginning and more advanced magical practitioners. It is not really new material, but I've seen few books that outline the practices so concisely or make it as clear that there really is quite a bit of work involved in being a magician. It's not a discipline where you can read a few books and then go around proclaiming yourself an expert without ever casting a spell or maintaining a daily ritual practice, which I've seen all too many people do. While I recommend a slightly different sequence of rituals based on my operant field model, the practices outlined by W.I.T. will work fine - and actually doing them will put you head and shoulders above about 90% of the people out there who claim to be magicians but in fact do little to no work.

It should be kept in mind that this is not a "novice" level book, despite the subtitle. The "novice"-level material is laid out with basic instructions, but there is little of the hand-holding that you tend to find in real beginner books. For example, you won't find a whole chapter dedicated to answering the question "Is practicing magick evil?" If you know nothing about magick and are picking this up as your first book you are likely to come away a little confused. You should probably read a few introductory books before you pick this one up if you're just starting out, but for people who are already practitioners looking to learn the Enochian system these straightforward explanations are nice. Given this, I think that W.I.T. oversells the potential power of magick in a way that is unnecessary for its target audience, people who are already practicing magick and understand its usefulness, though I do like seeing an author who doesn't shy away from advocating objective paranormal results.

It is the second half of the book that really shines, once it has covered all the background material and gets into the substance of the Enochian ceremonies. Here we find more material along the lines of the material covered in Enochian Initiation, a complex set of rituals accompanied by accounts of magical results. If every magician did this with the ceremonies he or she performs and published the results we would be well on our way to establishing a knowledge base for magick that is similar to what we find in the physical sciences, and in my opinion establishing such a knowledge base should be the goal of every magician. Secrecy about techniques and results helps no one, and does nothing to make the magick itself more powerful or relevant or meaningful.

Frater W.I.T. approaches Enochian magick from the Golden Dawn perspective as far as attributions and techniques go, much as Aleister Crowley did. I am not going to offer a line-by-line analysis of the rituals in the book simply because in my own Enochian practice I've eliminated many of the Golden Dawn elements and am more of a Dee purist, though I also use attributions from Crowley's The Vision and the Voice and incorporate Thelemic rather than Christian symbolism. I use the 1587 reformed Tablet for my model of the Watchtowers which attributes EDLPRNAA and RAAGIOSL to different directions, I don't use the truncated pyramids for the squares, use a different order for the Angelic Keys, and so forth. That being said, as far as I can tell the rituals follow the Golden Dawn model well and I do know a number of magicians who claim to get really good results with that system. Some of his ideas, such as evoking multiple angels at once, are actually more in keeping with the original Dee system, and as that's the way I usually work Enochian magick I can vouch for it as a very effective practical technique.

The self-initiation ceremony in the book's final chapter is a particularly interesting and powerful piece of magical work. A version of it was published in Enochian Initiation, but this new version includes some additional symbolism and I find it hard to believe that anyone could work through it without getting some sort of tangible result - at least if they've done the work leading up to it. Initiation ceremonies are one of the aspects of the Enochian system that appears to be missing when you work through the diaries and other source documents, and this ceremony or something very similar to it seems like a good way to fill that gap. I've heard of the occasional "Enochian Order" offering some manner of initiation, but as far as I know no groups of this sort have managed to last more than a few years or accumulate more than a handful of members. The Enochian system may just not be suited to such a group structure for some reason.

For magicians working with the Golden Dawn/Thelemic Enochian system (that is, probably most Enochian magicians these days) this is a good book to pick up, especially for the later chapters which show how to put together and perform large and complete Enochian rituals. Such rituals are rarely published anywhere and they serve as good examples for serious and involved practice of the Enochian system. Furthermore, working with multiple angels has proved to be very powerful in my own magical work and this is a technique that is not addressed or usually even mentioned in the books that I've seen on the Golden Dawn Enochian system. As with Enochian Initiation, I wish more magicians would publish this sort of material so that all of us could collaborate more effectively, and I congratulate Frater W.I.T. for his efforts along these lines.

Want to buy your own copy of Advanced Enochian Magick by Frater W.I.T.? Order from my Books and Media page and you can help support Augoeides.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

When Alchemy Goes Bad

A Jordanian man has been conned into spending more than a million dollars on a scheme to extract gold from his land "using magic."

"The three men were arrested two weeks ago. One of them claimed he was a magician from another Arab country, and even used a non-Jordanian accent," police spokesman Mohammed Khatib told AFP.

Because everyone knows that magicians have funny accents. Clearly these folks were organized and up on their 1960's occult movie lore. The con artists convinced the victim that he could multiply the money he spent once he had the gold from the magical extraction, and apparently he had a lot of money to spend.

During the past two years, he paid the three more than 1.2 million dollars, "thinking that his money was going to be more than doubled after the alleged gold extraction," according to Khatib.

Of course, once the con artists had enough money they took it and ran - but didn't get very far.

"He complained to police after the suspects, who are currently being prosecuted, disappeared and stopped contacting him."

I suppose the more things change, the more they stay the same. Renaissance Europe was full of would-be alchemists looking for rich patrons whose money they could spend in the fruitless pursuit of gold production, and this is pretty much the same scam. I'll also point out that the boundlessness of human greed is what makes this sort of thing possible. Give me a million dollars in the Middle East and I could live comfortably for a very long time, but some people just aren't satisfied with that and jump at opportunities that from the outside obviously seem too good to be true.

There's no news yet on whether or not the alleged magician in the group had any magical training at all, but I'm guessing that it's doubtful unless of course he was casting glamours to convince victims to fund the group or something like that. Either way, con artists who exploit magick make all of us look bad and maybe some misfortune should be sent his way - that is, misfortune in addition to being stuck in a Jordanian prison for who knows how long.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Odd Spell From Africa

Here's a news story about a spell from the African nation of Namibia the likes of which I've never seen before.
  1. Perform some sort of magical ceremony, the details of which have not yet been published, causing one of your cows to give birth to a strange creature resembling a human baby.
  2. Bury this (presumably dead) creature in the same place as the grave in which you previously buried your dead son.
  3. Magically acquire more cattle.
Does it work? I suppose we'll never know, since local law enforcement caught the would-be magician disturbing his son's grave and exhumed the "creature," probably a malformed calf of some sort.

Thai Magick Update: So It Worked?

Following up on the political crisis in Thailand, the used sanitary napkin spell appears to have worked. And I suppose shutting down the international airport didn't hurt, either. The People's Alliance for Democracy has succeeded in forcing the party of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to disband.

So is the crisis over? Somchai's allies claim that they will form a new coalition government, so it remains to be seen how this will play out. But as of this moment in Thailand it looks to be a pretty good day for menstrual blood. Hey, the best blood is of the moon monthly, right?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Review: A Haunting Seasons 1 and 2

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had a chance to watch seasons one and two of "A Haunting," a television series produced by the Discovery Channel about encounters with ghosts and other paranormal manifestations. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a real fan of shows like this and I'll watch and enjoy just about any sort of paranormal documentary. Not only do I find them entertaining, but I often take away bits of folklore that might someday prove useful in my magical practice.

"A Haunting" features dramatizations that are essentially somewhat hokey, so if you're not a B-movie fan like me you might find them distracting or downright annoying. However, they are pretty well-done for the genre and the show manages to be more interesting and entertaining than most of the other paranormal shows that I've seen the Discovery Channel produce. The incidents dramatized on the show follow the familiar "haunted house" narrative. Usually a couple or family moves into a new home and encounters small, unexplained disturbances. These escalate until the homeowners are compelled to take action, which usually means calling in paranormal investigators, priests, mediums, or all of the above to resolve the haunting.

One of the main things that I took away from the show is that paranormal investigators are useless. Seriously. I don't know if that was the producers' intention, but the tactics that they use to resolve the haunting usually fail. The investigators spend a lot of time documenting things like temperature shifts and odd occurances, and do research to find out the "reason" for the haunting. Here's a news flash - this idea that spirits haunt a house for some external reason and that once get what they want they will just leave is a literary device, not any sort of factual observation. Spirits stay in a place because they want to stay, and they usually are not about to be talked out of it or appeased.

At the same time, priests are called upon in a number of the cases to bless the house or expel the spirits and that usually doesn't work either. In fact, it tends to make the spirits mad and often the manifestations increase. While there's nothing wrong per se with the Roman Catholic magical system, this show pretty much confirms my suspicion based on my own studies that the Church doesn't have many people in it these days with real magical talent. Furthermore, the intercessory structure of the rites implies that such ability might not be required, except that to perform effective magick you just do need it and there are no workarounds.

Mediums present the opposite problem. You would expect someone who studies ghosts to have a reasonable grasp of magical techniques, but with mediums that doesn't seem to be the case. Aleister Crowley referred to spiritualism as "low-grade necromancy" for a reason - most of the mediums on the show practice the "yoo hoo, come and get me" school of invocation. No circle, no ritual forms, nothing that might allow them to control the spiritual energy that they are trying to summon up. And, no surprise, they often get themselves into trouble and have to break contact with the entities, and they generally can't talk the ghosts into leaving. The trouble with mediums is not a lack of talent, but a lack of skill. Unlike magicians, they seem to rely solely on intuition and raw ability. This lack of discipline makes their powers unreliable at best.

So I suppose you can see where I'm going with this - to expel a ghost you need a magician who has both natural talent and a disciplined spiritual practice. Such an individual can get rid of a ghost with a simple banishing field - the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram followed by the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram, which will flatten all spiritual influences in the area where it is cast. You do need to make sure that the anchor, the point in the house from which the spirits emanate, is within the field, but other than that it's pretty easy. If you can't find the anchor spot, set up a matrix of talismans around the entire property to extend the banishing field and you should be able to shut down any paranormal activity within its boundaries.

So, you might ask, am I willing to put my money where my mouth is and clear ghosts from a house? Sure! In fact, if you have a poltergeist that can actually move stuff around get in touch with me. I have this idea about binding it into a crystal so that I can have it bring me sodas from the refrigerator when I'm hanging out on the couch watching TV. I mean, my magician friends would be so impressed!

Want to buy your own copy of A Haunting Seasons 1 and 2? Order from my Books and Media page and you can help support Augoeides.

Witchcraft Versus Poverty?

The idea that one should stop using magick in order to alleviate poverty is kind of surprising, given that many spells exist to produce wealth. If you're a magician, you presumably believe that your spells work and can therefore make you more prosperous, whereas if you are a skeptic you presumably believe that such spells accomplish nothing and therefore can't make you poorer unless you spend a lot of money on materials or hire a con artist to cast them for you.

However, this never even occured to me. Addressing the Ugandan Alur people, Anglican archbishop Henry Luke Orombi comments:

“People still share one grass-thatched hut with goats, children, chicken and ducks. You Alur people should have trust in God and stop witchcraft. Stop giving yourselves names like Kumakech (I am unlucky), Ajaruva and Masedi (disturbance), among others associated with poverty,” he said.

“An Alur will not want to see his fellow Alur prospering; they prefer seeing other tribes developing as they bewitch themselves. An Alur will wake up at night and sprinkle blood on the doorway of his fellow Alur who is developing. We must stop this backward habit.”

The remark about having trust in God is pretty much standard for a Christian official addressing witchcraft believers, but if the rest is what actually is going on in Uganda the country must be full of lousy magicians. One of the main arguments against cursing is that in many communities misfortune rarely effects only one person, but instead spreads across the entire group through the local economy. A wise magician works magick for personal success and also for the success of others close to him or her. Such magical work is good for the magician and good for the community.

Hopefully Orombi's remarks either stem from ignorance or Christian propoganda and don't reflect the real situation in Uganda, but if they do I have better advice for these magicians than to cultivate "trust in God" - just quit being stupid and start using your powers for constructive ends!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fire and Brimstone in California

Well, fire at least. In the wake of wildfires striking California, Christian evangelist James Hartline offered his explanation for the disaster to anyone who would listen. God was smiting California because of gay activism in the wake of Proposition 8's passage.

This brings up a number of questions. First of all, if homosexuality is really the biggest issue in God's mind, and God and Jesus are the same, why is it that Jesus said absolutely nothing about gays during his ministry? Doesn't the complete lack of any comment suggest that maybe Jesus just didn't care about this issue that much? He did instruct his followers to "keep the commandments," which likely refers to the Jewish laws set forth in Leviticus that refer to homosexuality as "abomination" - but the same term is also applied to the eating of shellfish. A lot of Christians eat shrimp and their churches are silent on that issue.

Second of all, Proposition 8 was a ban on gay marriage. It passed. So shouldn't God be happy if he indeed considers gays to be the root of all evil? Couldn't he find something more important to be angry over besides a bunch of protests that aren't going to change the law? I mean, it seems like the smart thing for God to do if he supported the ban would be to shower California with all sorts of good fortune after it passed. In fact, couldn't you argue that God is angry over the passage of the ban because he's in favor of committed relationships, both gay and straight, or because he's opposed to writing discrimination into the state's constitution?

Finally, if Hartline indeed is a prophet of God as he claims, we can be absolutely certain of one key detail: this guy is God. God taking on the form of a homeless person is a pretty shrewd move, especially for highlighting poverty and other social justice issues that Jesus clearly cared about so much more than gays during his lifetime.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Political Magick in Thailand

With all the coverage of the US Presidential election, the ongoing political crisis in Thailand has attracted little attention. Briefly, in 2006 a group calling themselves the People's Alliance for Democracy led a military coup against the government of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, alleging corruption on the part of the Prime Minister and his ruling party. With a new government in place, the coup leaders stepped down and declared their goals accomplished. However, Thaksin's allies came back to win a majority in the 2007 general election, prompting the current incarnation of the crisis. From wikipedia:

The PAD re-established itself after Thaksin-affiliated parties, led by Samak Sundaravej's People's Power Party (PPP), got the majority in the 2007 general election and decided to ratify the Constitution after one of its leading figure was charged with electoral fraud. According to the Constitution, this violation could lead to the dissolution of the party. PAD also believe that the real cause of the attempt to ratify the Constitution is to rescue the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra back to power. In May 2008, PAD began its street protest at Makhawan Bridge, on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. The main objectives of the renewing protest are the resistance of the constitutional amendment and the rejection of the PPP as the ruling party.

PAD began formal protests in May of this year, and during August and September seized the government house in an effort to force the current government to resign. The Thai seat of government is still occupied and the crisis shows no signs of letting up any time soon - especially since dark magick is apparently involved.

Sondhi Limthongkul, one of the leaders of the group which is illegally occupying the seat of Thai government, claimed in a recent televised speech that a wicked wizard has blocked the protective power of some of Bangkok's holiest sites.

It seems to me that this is a pretty inefficient way to go about creating political change using magick. I mean, why not just do a spell to restore the former prime minister to power? As an reasonably accomplished political magician, I can tell you that just specifying your final outcome without any intermediate means works fine. But I digress - naturally, once the spell was discovered Sondhi's supporters moved quickly to counter it.

He described how his own magicians removed six imaginary nails that had been placed around a towering royal statue in the city centre to block its power.

"I must thank the women of the PAD," he continued, "because after [the imaginary nails] were pulled out, to ensure they could not be replaced, they took sanitary napkins from menstruating women and placed them over the six points.

"Experts said the (evil wizards) were furious because they could not send their spirits back," Mr Sondhi boasted, "Their magic was rendered ineffective!"

In Thai superstition women's sexuality, and especially menstrual blood, is believed to have great destructive power.

Some thoughts - first off, why imaginary nails? You could use metal talismans, enchant them all together so that they are linked, and set them around the area of the statue at various distances forming a field. They would thus be difficult to find, especially if deeply buried or well-hidden. Imaginary nails used as talismans are kind of silly, since from a technical perspective you would be better off drawing a bunch of sigils over a polaroid photo of your target.

Secondly, blood and especially menstrual blood is very magically energetic, but that energy can be turned to many different purposes - it is not necessarily inherently destructive. If Sodhi's magicians don't realize this, the "remedy" could easily be reversed by a skilled rival. It would be especially diabolical because once the energy shifts, the blood itself would become the new anchor for the blocking spell and the only way to break it at that point would be to undo the remedy itself - and doing so would probably look very bad politically after Sondhi made such a big deal of it in his speech.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Appeal Filed in "God Lawsuit"

No, the lawsuit filed by former Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers against God is still not dead, even after being dismissed with prejudice by a judge. Chambers has filed an appeal protesting the dimissal. The appeal will take the case to the Nebraska Supreme Court, who hopefully will refuse to hear it on the grounds that it's just plain silly.

I think Chambers needs to find himself a hobby, or more to the point find himself a different one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

When Monks Attack

Why is it that the religions that disagree the most are so often those with trivial differences in theology? You never hear about Christians and Thelemites getting into brawls, for example, or Wiccans fighting Buddhists. Comedian Emo Philips had a routine on this very subject that he used to do back in the late 1980's, and I still find it funny - but it's funny in part because it's so sadly true.

The latest chapter in this saga finds a battle between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of Christianity's holiest sites.

The feud revolves around a demand by the Greek Orthodox to post a monk inside the Edicule - the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus - during the Armenian procession. The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way.

I realize that this likely has great spiritual significance to both sides, but from the outside looking in it seems like a pretty silly thing to fight over. Nonetheless, neither side was willing to budge.

It ended with the arrival of dozens of riot policemen who separated the sides, seizing a bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead.

Both men were taken away in handcuffs.

I guess it's a good thing for all involved that Western monks aren't trained in Shaolin Kung Fu.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fascist Candidate's Dark Magick

I have been deliberately avoiding blogging about the imminent US presidential election, but this is just too funny. Did you even know that the United States has a Fascist Party? I didn't. Their presidential candidate is a dark sorceror by the name of Jackson Grimes.

Grimes is a Sunshine State-born Vietnam War veteran with an artificial British accent who failed at acting, spent a year on the New York City streets and now aspires to the Oval Office under the auspices of the United Fascist Union.


He was offered the party leadership and has spent much of the past decade traveling and making speeches to raise money. His supporters can be unlikely – he’s spoken before the Flying Saucer Society and recently had engagements in Canada – but he sincerely believes in his efforts.

Maybe it's just me, but I've always found that a fake foreign accent totally screams "LOSER!" On the other hand, I have no problem with Grimes speaking to UFO enthusiasts. I mean, I'd do that. UFO hysteria is fun, whether or not it's factually true.

But wait a minute. I said sorceror, right? Where on earth would I get the idea that this guy is a powerful dark magician? Why, from his secretary and partner Heather Goldsmith!

Goldsmith connected with the party’s pagan affinity and gravitated toward Grimes. “The Pentagram flag by his desk by the bust of Saddam Hussein was also an occult symbol, so I thought this guy can teach me a lot about magick and witchcraft if I can get in with him,” Goldsmith wrote in an e-mail. “Learning he had no wife, a couple of days later I went back and asked him if he’d like one and moved in with him a couple days later.”

Clearly any practicing magician recognizes that combining the occult symbol most widely recognized by complete ignoramuses with the bust of a secular dictator who pulled a bunch of stupid crap and got the entire world pissed off at him is a sign of incredible unholy power. Oh, wait...

And isn't success supposed to be thy proof? Just saying. So far Grimes has lost three elections in a row by a lot, and yet he still clings to the idea that he could actually win.

“I’m in this to win,” the Florida native said with distinctly British enunciation. “If I didn’t think I could become the president of the United States by being a fascist, I wouldn’t be a fascist.”

But hey, at least Grimes' magical weirdness got him laid, even if it won't make him President.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Both/And, Not Either/Or

I came across this comment in an article on Jason Miller's blog, Strategic Sorcery.

You can use magick to aid you in gaining wealth, but it’s not the best way to get wealthy. You can use it to find love, but its not the best way to find that either. In almost every regard, whatever practical results magick can accomplish, is can be done better and surer using non magickal means.

Why bother with it then?

Miller goes on to explain why magick appeals to him, but I'm kind of surprised to see such a comment coming from a practicing magician. The statement is literally true - take two people and charge them with accomplishing some sort of practical task, and explain that one of them must accomplish it using only magical rituals and that the other may only use mundane methods. The person using mundane methods will usually get it done faster unless the task is something for which no clear mundane method exists, like controlling the weather.

However, this artificial situation represents a false dichotomy in the real world. As I've said before, there's a simple answer to the question of "what do I use magick for?" and that answer is "everything!" You still use the appropriate mundane methods to accomplish your goals, but you also use magick so that anything you can't directly control will also break your way. Put me against the "magick" and "mundane" method people above as a "both" person and I'll win every time. That's part of what makes magick so much fun. Used in this way magick can result in improbable levels of success across the board, and I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of high-performing people in the mundane world do some sort of spiritual practice that facilitates their success.

As an example, practices like yoga and meditation are reasonably popular among high achievers, and both practices can produce some pretty impressive results when combined with a high level of natural magical talent. A person who engages in such practices may not think of them as magick, but instead as practices to stay in shape and "keep their mind clear." But these practices have a magical component that naturally unfolds over time, and this component develops the will in such a way that influencing the material world through directed thought becomes easier for the practitioner. They may just figure that "positive thinking" is working for them, without realizing that some magical accomplishment is necessary before that particular method becomes very effective.

If you're not a high achiever by nature, magick can also let you be a little lazy in the mundane sphere - a skilled magician can usually accomplish as much as a non-magician with a lot less effort. If you have a co-worker who seems to not work all that hard but nonetheless do well because he or she is "just lucky," well, you might be working with a magician and not know it. Most of us are pretty quiet about our practices with co-workers. Magically-assisted success often looks like incredibly good luck to an outside observer, especially if it seems to happen for the same person over and over again.

So if you ever find yourself wondering if you should use magical methods or mundane methods to get something done, stop wondering right away. Do both!

Happy Halloween!

Here's a question for you all - if Halloween is another name for Samhain, a cross-quarter day, why is it celebrated on October 31st? The zodiac moves into Scorpio around October 21st and into Sagittarius around November 21st, so if you do the math you wind up with a "real" cross-quarter day 15 1/2 days after October 21st. That's more like November 5th, which means that "real" Samhain is going to be closer to US Election Day than it is to Halloween.

At any rate, I came across this article on Slate which is a little too recognizable to anyone who has organized rituals for the Pagan community. While it's about witches organizing a ritual for Halloween, which is just about the biggest overlap between magick and popular culture that you're likely to find, I still think it's great to see some journalism in the mainstream press that touches on some of the things that actually happen in the course of practicing this sort of alternative spirituality.

Maybe one of these years we'll get an article about ceremonial magicians calling upon the cross-quarter days to power their spells and the various technical aspects that need to be considered in order to make it work, but I'm guessing something like that is a lot further down the road.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bad Magick Update

Just when I thought that the strange case of Joseph Craig and Joy Johnson, charged with sexual assault in connection with an alleged "Satanic cult" in North Carolina had slipped away into the shadows never to be heard from again, I came across an update on the case. I pointed out in a previous article that as far as I can tell, neither Craig nor Johnson were affiliated with any genuine Satanic group or magical order, and I wondered if the court had just decided to quietly drop the case after the cult allegations failed to hold up to even cursory scrutiny.

It seems that Craig did claim to study magick, though his involvement in this situation suggests he was a really, really bad magician. Not bad as in tough, bad as in ignorant and probably incompetent. I'll say it again - reading a few books won't teach you magick, no matter how interested you happen to be in the subject. And in my experience, nothing like these allegations would ever arise in the life of a serious and competent magical practitioner.

According to the article much of the "cult" hysteria seems to have been dropped from the case, which is a good thing because frankly the earlier allegations along those lines were completely unbelievable. More to the point, it doesn't make any difference to the court whether or not you're performing some kind of ritual when you rape someone. If you don't have consent, it's rape and you're guilty. End of story. The case now seems to hinge on this question of consent, which is exactly where the focus of the trial should be.

As I suspected, this appears to be a BDSM situation that got out of hand, and Craig and Johnson's guilt will be determined based on whether or not they transgressed the agreed-upon boundaries of the scenes in which they participated. I'll continue to follow the case and keep you posted.

World Safe for Voodoo Dolls

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has lost his case against the company that is manufacturing a voodoo doll in his image. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that such a complaint would never hold up in the United States, and from this ruling it appears the same is true in France.

Sarkozy's rival Segolene Royal said that she never planned to take any action against the company, which also sells a doll bearing her image.

"I have a sense of humour," said Segolene Royal, Sarkozy's Socialist opponent in last year's election, when asked if she planned to take action against her own voodoo doll, which is sold alongside Sarkozy's.

Words to live by in a world that is now safe for voodoo dolls.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Erasing Conditioning

One of the less controversial powers related to magical work is the ability to work through conditioning in the mind. While the neocortex in humans is much more sophisticated than that of other animals, when we look at the older portions of the brain what we see is not that much different from what we see in rats or pigeons. Conditioning loops work pretty much the same in most organisms with any sort of nervous system, and in fact research on conditioning has been done with aplysia, a sea slug with a nervous system composed of just 26 neurons.

This power is not unique to magick. The various systems of psychotherapy claim to be able to do the same thing. For some systems the evidence is weak at best, but there is one system that seems to hold up to scientific scrutiny - cognitive-behavioral therapy, a system that specifically addresses the effects of conditioning. Whatever the method, the elimination of conditioning contributes greatly to the magical and mystical goal of mindfulness. In Thelema, conditioning is seen as an impediment to the will.

Of course, the conditioning we're talking about is not useful stuff like understanding that fire is hot or knowing how to speak a language. It's the stuff that gets in the way - irrational aversions, addictions, bad habits, and so forth. These reactive conditioning loops are part of our older brain systems and much of the time they make our lives a lot more difficult. Magick can be used to break them, just like cognitive-behavioral therapy, but wouldn't it be nice if there were an easier way?

Well, there might be. Researchers have discovered how to erase conditioning in mice by manipulating a specific brain protein. The headline of the article bills it as "erasing memories" but that just goes to show ignorance on the part of the reporter. There are two kinds of memory - declarative and non-declarative. Declarative memories are those that can be experienced and described, and are usually what we mean when we talk about remembering things. Non-declarative memories are made up of things like skills and conditioning loops, and such memories are not stored the same way or even in the same area of the brain as declarative memories.

The researchers mentioned in this article are "erasing" the memory of an electric shock from the brains of these mice, which clearly falls into the "non-declarative" category, and in fact its unclear whether or not animals like mice have anything resembling declarative memory at all. So this suggests that the technique would work on conditioning, but probably not on declarative memories. For magicians, that could be pretty useful.

Imagine - a pill that you could take whenever a conditioning loop trips you up in your day-to-day life that would erase that particular loop and nothing else. There's a lot of research left to do in order to find out if it really is possible in humans, but at some point in the future it might be.

Voodoo Doll Business is Booming

In a follow-up to my article on political voodoo dolls, reports are now coming in that the Nicolas Sarkozy voodoo doll is now a top seller on Amazon France. A voodoo doll from the same company bearing the likeness of rival French politician Segolene Royal is also selling well.

I don't read French, but all three commenters on Sarkozy kit rated it as one star, as did the lone commenter on the Royal kit. I guess I was right in my initial assessment and they just don't work.

The more I look at it, the more I think this could be an American business opportunity just waiting to happen. And of course, if I were making them they would be constructed from natural materials, properly enchanted, and linked to their targets.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Enochian Magical Fields

My Enochian pentagram and hexagram rituals can be used to open an operant field or any of the other magical fields just like the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram/Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram or the Star Ruby/Star Sapphire combinations. However, they are designed slightly differently from the other similar rituals found in the tradition in order to streamline magical operations.

The main innovation I wanted to incorporate was to encapsulate my ritual work within both rituals rather than repeating them to close down a rite. As a result, the basic structure works like this.
  1. AOIVEAE steps 1 to 7.
  2. MADRIAX steps 1-9.
  3. MADRIAX step 10 is the Enochian ritual itself.
  4. MADRIAX step 11.
  5. AOIVEAE step 8.
So according to this structure (1) and (2) are the opening, (3) is the ritual work, and (4) and (5) are the closing. It's an elegant way of doing the ceremonial forms and it is quite fast and efficient.

These two rituals can also be used to create stand-alone fields without additional ritual components. In this case, the invoking form of the MADRIAX omits steps 10 and 11 and the banishing form omits steps 9 and 10. So a standalone invoking MADRIAX would end with "MADRIAX CARMARA, YOLCAM LONSHI" while the banishing version would drop the "YOLCAM" line completely and follow the circumambulation with "MADRIAX CARMARA, ADRPAN LONSHI."

The main reason that I developed these rituals was, first of all, to streamline Enochian evocations, and second of all because I like the idea of matching your ceremonial forms to the magical system that you are using. For Qabalistic rituals I use the LRP/LRH and for Thelemic rituals I use the Star Ruby/Star Sapphire, so I wanted something similar that was directly related to my Enochian work. Truth be told, you can do Enochian work with the Qabalistic or Thelemic rituals, but at least for me matching up the opening rituals to the system works better in terms of objective results.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MADRIAX: An Enochian Hexagram Ritual

This ritual has been in development for a long time. I published the original version on the Internet in 2000, and a number of different web sites have archived that version. That older version can be found here, among other places. The link is to a Wiccan ritual site, and while I have to admit I find the idea of Wiccan Enochian magicians kind of incongruous, I think it's great that they were willing to archive it and keep it available for interested students. The 2000 version of this ritual has a number of issues, though I will say that I was still able to get pretty good results with it for a number of years. I've recently rethought various things based on my revisions to the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram that I think will make it work a lot better. I'm not going to go through a step-by-step comparisons of the 2000 version and this 2008 version, but since the previous version has been archived you can do that yourself.

One of the biggest changes is the use of the unicursal hexagram, which I have found to work well with the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram as well. A while back Michael Sanborn put up an article suggesting that the unicursal hexagram represents a hyperbola. Unfortunately, Sanborn's article does not seem to be available online at present, so I will summarize the basic idea. A quick look at the hyperbola confirms that the unicursal hexagram maps onto it particularly well.

Just imagine the upward and downward curves overlapping while the dotted red cross stays where it is and becomes solid.

Sanborn goes on to explain that he feels the unicursal hexagram is more elemental than planetary. I'll go further - I think that the unicursal hexagram specifically represents the macrocosmic aspect of the elements, much like the elemental hexagrams of the original Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. The hyperbola is an excellent representation of the microcosm and macrocosm with one side of the curve representing "above" and the other "below." Overlap the two, as in the unicursal hexagram, and there you have it - an operant field.

Aleister Crowley outlined the elemental associations of the unicursal hexagram in The Book of Thoth. What you do is map the figure onto the Tree of Life centered on Tiphareth, so the upper point on the left side is Fire (Geburah, Mars), the upper point on the right side is Water (Chesed, Jupiter), the lower point on the left side is Air (Hod, Mercury) and the lower point on the right side is Earth (Netzach, Venus). As far as tracing the figure goes for each element, I have adapted the basic Golden Dawn principle that for elemental figures you trace toward the associated point to invoke and away from the associated point to banish. In addition, in keeping with the hyperbola association, you always trace to or away from the top or bottom point. The invoking form may be thought of as bringing the two curves into an overlapping position, while the banishing form may be thought of as separating them back into the normal hyperbola configuration.

In this revised ritual the four elements are arranged in the standard zodiacal order as in the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram - Fire = East, Earth = South, Air = West, and Water = North. The names vibrated are those of the Kings from the Heptarchia Mystica, Fire = BABALEL (Mars), Earth = BALIGON (Venus), Air = BNASPOL (Mercury), and Water = BYNEPOR (Jupiter). The use of planetary names with the elemental unicursal hexagram represets the union of the planetary and elemental realms, the microcosm and macrocosm. The "above" and "below" points of the ritual are then attributed to BNAPSEN (Saturn) and BLUMAZA (Luna). The figures traced for these points are the usual planetary hexagrams, not the unicursal. When working with the Holy Table the figures form a column running from the heavens to the earth with the hexagram on the Holy Table itself at its midpoint. When working without the table, the column is centered on and surrounds the magician as in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram ("and in the column stands the six-rayed star").

The final figure in this ritual is attributed to BOBOGEL (Sol). In the 2000 version of the ritual the heptagram of Sol was traced over the magician following the other heptagrams, but I have now moved it to the beginning of the rite replacing the Keyword Analysis in the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. It is combined with the invoking unicursal hexagram of Earth to symbolize the invocation and grounding of the solar force.

In this version of the ritual I have removed the calling upon of the Governors at the directions to focus solely on the Heptarchial symbolism.

The revised ritual follows.
  1. Trace the invoking unicursal hexagram of Earth over yourself while vibrating BOBOGEL. This tracing is done is the following manner: forehead -> left hip -> right shoulder -> genitals -> left shoulder -> right hip -> forehead. This hexagram is visualized in yellow-gold as opposed to the usual green. It is always traced in the invoking form, even for the banishing form of the ritual.

  2. In the east, trace the unicursal hexagram of Fire in scarlet red as you vibrate BABALEL.

  3. In the south, trace the unicursal hexagram of Earth in emerald green as you vibrate BALIGON.

  4. In the west, trace the unicursal hexagram of Air in orange as you vibrate BNASPOL.

  5. In the north, trace the unicursal hexagram of Water in blue as you vibrate BYNEPOR.

  6. Above you, trace the hexagram of Saturn in black as you vibrate BNAPSEN.

  7. Below you, trace the hexagram of Luna in violet as you vibrate BLUMAZA.

  8. Extend your arms and make one full clockwise rotation (or circumambulation of the temple if you are using the Holy Table) as you vibrate TA CALZ I OROCHA ("as above the firmament so beneath you", probably the best Enochian rendering of "as above, so below"). Then clasp your hands over your heart for a moment and hold the full visualization of the rite.

  9. For the invoking form, hold your hands in front of you with the palms facing outwards and then separate them as though opening a heavy curtain as you vibrate MADRIAX CARMARA, YOLCAM LONSHI ("o ye heavens of Carmara, bring forth power"). Carmara is the eighth Heparchial King who rules over the other seven.

  10. The ritual work for which you opened the field goes here.

  11. At the conclusion of this work, hold your hands in front of you and to either side with palms facing inwards, and then bring them together as though closing a heavy curtain as you vibrate MADRIAX CARMARA, ADRPAN LONSHI ("o ye heavens of Carmara, cast down power").

This is the invoking form of the ritual. For the banishing form, you would turn to each direction going in a counter-clockwise order (East -> North -> West -> South -> East), trace banishing hexagrams (aside from the opening Earth hexagram which should always be the invoking form), and make the final rotation/circumambulation counter-clockwise.

This ritual works with the AOIVEAE to open and close magical fields. Tomorrow I'll post a more detailed explanation of how the two rituals can be used together.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Political Voodoo Dolls

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to sue a company that manufactures a voodoo doll bearing his likeness. The doll includes "instructions for use" and pins that can be stuck into the doll in places representing various Sarkozy quotes. The French President contends that he owns his likeness and as a result the company cannot legally make use of it.

Voodoo dolls actually have little to do with real voodoo practices. The idea that you can fashion a doll into the likeness of a person in order to create a magical link to them is found in a number of different traditions, but as far as I know the movie idea of sticking pins into the doll was concocted because it looked menacing on screen. Sticking a pin through a magical link to a person doesn't do anything to the person, it just damages the link. You have to cast an actual spell in order to affect a target through the use of a doll or poppet, though I suppose the pins could be specially charged so that they unleash a curse on the target when they make contact with the doll.

Legal questions aside, political voodoo dolls are a great idea - so long as they actually work. If nothing else, it would keep politicians more honest to have an army of magicians out there ready to poke them at a moment's notice. Of course, this thing probably doesn't fit the bill because I'm guessing that it's made from cheap plastic and polyester, neither of which hold enough of a magical charge to create a link, and that the pins are just ordinary pins. Nonetheless, at least the thought is present.

Somebody should try this here in the States. Or maybe they have, and I just have never heard about it. There couldn't be a legal challenge over here because in the United States public figures don't have any sort of veto power over the use of their likenesses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Exactly Backwards

After writing the previous article, I came across this article on "Manifestation vs. Magick." I've written about this topic before in the context of comparing the "Law of Attraction" explained in books like The Secret to formal ceremonial rituals. While the author sees a connection between the two concepts just like I do, he comes at it from the opposite direction.

The article defines the two terms thus:

Manifestation is the sponataneous creation of the things we need in our lives, generally something we've wished for or something necessary for our path. This can be as simple as having a lane suddenly open up for us in busy traffic or as unexpected as having a job offer drop into our lap from out of the blue.
Magick is the conscious and intentional attempt to manifest that change through energetic means. It is always something we're aware of and something that stays with us after the moment of its working has passed.

Energetically speaking, the process behind each is almost identical.

Let's be clear on our definitions:

Magick = creating change using ceremonial forms.
Manifestation = creating change without using ceremonial forms.

So far, so good. But then we get to this:

So why is manifestation so successful and magick usually subtle, at best?

Um, because you're doing it wrong?

According to all of my empirical trials, forms work much better. There's really little comparison between form and no-form. You have to do magick for years before you get good enough to reliably "manifest" things by just willing them to happen unless you have a lot of natural talent, and even then forms make everything work better. What universe is this author living in?

Well, maybe this helps:

While we can almost always look back and find the exact moment we consciously wanted the shift in energy to take place, it is usually not something we place any amount of thought into and generally something we forget about in the next moment.

So apparently, anything positive that happens to you is "manifestation" regardless of whether or not you willed it to happen. Seeing as life is a mixture of positive and negative experiences, if you assume manifestation "succeeds" whenever good things happen to you it is certainly possible to rack up a success rate higher than what magicians can generally produce. Not only that, but as the quote makes clear this determination rests on hindsight, which psychologists have found to be notoriously inaccurate.

In the light of this, the author's recommendation makes little sense.

If you were to pay attention to your own energy when manifesting, you'd realize that it comes from a completely different area than when you're consciously working a rite. We'll look at this in later material. The key isn't to find some missing incantation to power your intentional workings. The key is in projecting energy from the same place you do when you're manifesting changes to your path. And when you're capable of projecting energy in the same way for your rites, you'll discover that your magick begins to work in ways you never imagined possible.

Trust me, doing magick from a place of selective memory is useless. The only reason that "manifesting" looks more effective is that according to the author's model it is given credit for all sorts of things that really are unrelated to any sort of psychic or magical energy. Something good happened? "My manifestation succeeded!" Something bad happened? "My manifestation didn't work that time." Do you see how silly this gets?

The key to making your magick work has nothing to do with this sort of psychological trickery, and everything to do with maintaining regular magical practices and learning to use the ceremonial forms properly. One of the side effects of diligent practice is that over time things will begin to go more your way in general and you will experience more serendipity in your life, but that's more of a secondary goal and doesn't depend on some mysterious energy that's different than the energy you use when working magick. It's more like a general tendency that surrounds anyone who is really walking the path.

A Lens, Not a Crutch

Ever since chaos magick first emerged as a coherent metaphysical paradigm, some magicians have insisted that "less is more" when it comes to the use of magical forms such as the basic pentagram and hexagram rituals. The idea that the forms can be discarded for specific magical operations once you reach a certain level of proficiency is true - but I don't think that means what they think it means.

Thanks to empirical investigation, I can say pretty definitively that after practicing for many years I can do quite a bit just by directing my thoughts and willing things to happen, my spells still work better if I open an operant field, which involves the pentagram and hexagram rituals. I firmly believe that the forms are not something you use until you somehow "get it" and then can toss them aside. The forms focus your magical power regardless of how good you are, so they work more like a lens than a crutch.

Forms are usually necessary for beginning magicians to get solid results, but that's because the amount of power that beginners can summon is limited. Without the additional focus provided by the forms this power is not strong enough to do much, at least at first. After years of diligent practice it increases, and eventually reaches a point where a single directed thought can do the same work that the forms did when that magician is starting out.

However, anyone who believes that this means they can stop practicing forms is missing the big picture. By using the forms properly, the experienced magician can do much more than he or she could with a simple directed thought. Ceremonial forms are like katas in Karate - every practitioner uses them, from the rank beginner to the highest-ranking black belt. A master of Karate is going to be good in a fight with or without katas, but the katas are used precisely because they are especially effective.

The same is true of magical tools. The school of thought suggesting that magical tools simply represent ideas and as a result you don't absolutely need them goes back to Aleister Crowley, who wrote about performing the Abramelin operation astrally without any of the physical materials. Again, while this is literally true, the tools are around because they work. Even if you are at a place where you can get results without them, you'll be able to accomplish a lot more with them.

So keep up those practices and don't become complacent just when you start to experience some success. We've got a whole world to transform!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Magick for Profit

This article showed up today in my news alerts. I took a look through it, decided to comment on it, and then... well, I'll get to that.

Looking for free witchcraft spells? Many people are.

Sure! Why not? While I'm not precisely into "witchcraft" I'm always interested in checking out techniques that have worked for other magicians and comparing methods.

And why do you want free witchcraft spells? Do you want free witchcraft spells to find “true love”, free witchcraft spells to hog-tie that wayward ex and drag them back, free witchcraft spells to make you sexier, smarter, stronger, healthier and, of course, free witchcraft spells to make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams?

Definitely! Or at least I'm interested in magick that could in theory help me do all these things and augment the techniques that I've already developed to accomplish similar goals.

The problem with free witchcraft spells is that they are not worth the paper they are printed on.

I'm sure this is news to all of the traditional witches out there who maintain that teachings about the craft should be offered free of charge. While I agree that there are a lot of published spells out that are not all that useful, in my experience the cost of said spells has little to do with their usefulness.

For that matter, this is news to me. The spells I publish on this website and offer for free have worked well for me in the past, and I think it's great to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with other practitioners.

These days, if you were to toddle into your local bookshop, close your eyes and fling a dart, there’s a reasonably good chance you’d hit a spell book. There’s an even better chance that you’d be forcibly ejected from the shop shortly thereafter, so I’m not advocating this practice. It does, though, make the point that this literary genre has never been more popular.

Maybe if you're at Magus Books (I couldn't resist inserting a plug for my favorite occult bookstore here in the Twin Cities), but in fact the occult sections at stores like Barnes and Noble or Borders are pretty small, one or two shelving units at most. And not all of the occult books they sell are "spell books" in the conventional sense.

I suppose that one could argue that such books have never been more popular, but that's because they never have been all that popular. The interest today still represents a tiny percentage of the reading market.

Everybody wants witchcraft spells, but nobody want to go into the bookshops and pay for them. Which is just as well, really, since that would be a pointless waste of money in most cases.

I'm beginning to think that the author of this article must live in a community composed solely of impoverished pagans who can't afford to stock their libraries. "Everybody" wants spells? Really?

Most people in Western societies don't even believe that magick works. The ratio of spirit workers to non-magical people has varied between about 1 in 30 and 1 in 50 throughout human history, from societies with tribal Shamans to the priesthood of ancient Egypt. That suggests to me that the segment of humanity interested in magical spirituality is and has always been a tiny minority of the population - 2-3% at most.

The biggest Witchy complaint against spell books or free witchcraft spells online is that the spells don’t (or possibly can’t) work. The spell in the spell book or the free witchcraft spell on the web page looks comparable to a recipe, but whereas Delia Smith can reliably lead most of us through the creation of an omelette, the compiler of spells is less likely to guide the average punter to health, wealth and insuperable sexual charisma.

Let's see, I publish free spells on this blog, so I guess the author is calling me a loser. Nice.

The better authors in the field make it clear that the spell isn’t really the equivalent of the recipe for “Grandma’s Mushroom Meatloaf”. It’s more like sheet music: valuable to those who have put the effort into learning how to read music and perhaps play an instrument, but bookshelf clutter to those who haven’t.

Finally, here's something that I agree with completely. A spell made up of the best techniques in the world is useless to somebody who hasn't developed their magical abilities. That's why I recommend a serious period of daily practices to rank beginners prior to the use of any of the free spells that I have available here. You need to get yourself in shape before you try to lift heavy weights.

Free witchcraft spells as no more than electronic bookmark clutter if you haven’t learned how to work magic. The free witchcraft spells you will find online often contain expensive ingredients which, co-incidentally, are supplied BY the writer of the free witchcraft spells. Go figure.

Again, correct as far as it goes. You need to learn to use spells properly in order to get decent results with them. And it's pretty cynical to imagine people putting spells out there in order to sell spell materials, even though I'm guessing that plenty of such folks exist.

But what's going on here? Does the author think it's bad that people who post spells want to find a way to make money, or bad that people aren't willing to pay for the spells? Which one is it?

Well, clicking on this link at the end of the article I found out. THE WEBSITE IS A FREAKING INFOMERCIAL! See, the problem is not that people should pay for books, or that they should pay for materials, or that they want to learn magick for free, but that they want to do it all without paying the author of the website. And wow, does she sound like a pro:

"Who Else Wants To Know How To use the ultimate power of awesome magical forces to lift your vital energies, find and keep your perfect partner and become a MONEY MAGNET!?"

To get the proper effect, imagine the quote in big letters that would do Billy Mays proud. The promo goes on to explain how much the author's book is really "worth" and then asserts it to be a bargain at ONLY $27, just like the claims you might find in an ad for a salad shooter. "But wait! You also get..."

I suppose being a hypocrite must be fun, or at least profitable. After all, why else would there be so many of them around?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Suing God?

Yesterday a lawsuit filed by Ernie Chambers, a Nebraska state senator, was thrown out because the court ruled that defendant could not be properly served. Why not? Well, the defendant in this particular case is God. Chambers filed his lawsuit seeking an injunction against God for causing natural disasters such as earthquakes and tornadoes. While I realize that Chambers is not serious and that this is essentially a publicity stunt highlighting frivolous lawsuits, my mind as always turns to the technical.

First off, in terms of serving papers on a deity, all the court needs to do is hire a magician. In fact, I'd be happy to take the job myself. If the law specifies that the papers need to be retained by the defendant, I'd still be out of luck, but so long as the law only states that the defendant must see said papers we're good to go. You place the necessary papers into your containment structure, perform your conjuration, and you're good to go. Even if God doesn't show up physically you can still be pretty sure that an attempted conjuration would get his attention, and with the papers in the structure that's all you need. So the lawsuit could go forward.

The biggest problem, though, remains collecting on the lawsuit. If God doesn't honor it, what are you going to do? If the monotheistic model is fundamentally correct then you're out of luck because there isn't a force in the universe that's bigger than God. After all, you can't exactly send the sheriff out to arrest him. Even a magician is of limited assistance against a truly omnipotent being. On the other hand, if God is a more localized theistic deity I might be able to call him into some sort of containment structure and hold him there if he loses the case and refuses to pay up.

You wind up stuck in a bit of a loop, actually, given the contents of the lawsuit. If God is not really all-powerful and thus can be contained by a magician, it probably also follows that he can't be held liable for every natural disaster. However, if God is indeed omnipotent no magick in the universe could ever enforce a judgement against him. In technical terms, that means the lawsuit is pretty much doomed either way. If it's possible for Chambers to win he can't collect, and if it's possible for him to collect he can't win.

Maybe Chambers should try suing Satan instead. There are a number of Christian groups who teach that the devil is behind natural disasters and the magical procedure for summoning and binding demons, even very powerful ones, is much better understood.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Tearing the Veil Between the Worlds"

In response to Rufus Opus' article about the folks who wanted to end the world because "they were bored" I came across the following comment from reader Patrick:

So, I found this group in Chicago which shall go nameless. So I figured, "hey, I'll meet them." Chaos mages and all, you know. So I go to Chicago with a friend, meet them up in a coffee shop. The first item on their agenda? "Tearing the veil between the worlds." Ahem. As if that's a *thing*.

While this particular group of magicians were probably completely ignorant of what they wanted to do aside from talking about something that sounded "edgy," the idea nonetheless has me thinking.

The "veil between worlds" is called the Veil of Paroketh in Qabalah and represents the boundary between the microcosm and macrocosm. According to my operant field model of magick, transcending this boundary is exactly what the operant field does, so in effect one could think of "tearing the veil" as the creation of a permanent operant field in a specific place or region. This requires some work, but it is by no means impossible or even that difficult if you know what you're doing.

Whether or not this is a good idea remains an open question in my mind. On the one hand, it would be convenient to just be able to do effective practical magick without having to open a field at all, but on the other hand anyone could use the field and in fact it might be hard for them to avoid doing so. Within an operant field thoughts have a natural tendency to influence physical reality, so dropping such a field over a bunch of chronic worriers might have nastier results for them than the biggest curse I can summon.

A related issue that I'm not clear on is whether thoughts within the field will affect reality to a degree that is proportionate to the magical aptitude of the individual thinking them or to a degree proportionate to the magical aptitude of the magician initially casting the field. The latter is more dangerous because in that case the field would in effect turn everyone within it into operant magicians without the benefit of the mind training that is developed by practice. I think the former is more likely, but you never really know until you have experimental data in front of you.

None of these issues represent a technical barrier to creating such a field. In fact, there are almost certainly more ways to open an operant field than just using the Golden Dawn ritual forms and I suspect many of the "power sites" around the world actually do possess localized operant fields that were created at some point in the past. Many ritual temple spaces will build up such a field as operant spells are cast within them over and over again, and it is likely that religious rituals of various sorts can have a similar effect. We're looking for a technique, though, that would be more immediate.

What I'm envisioning is a collection of four small talismans, each representing one of the four elements, and a "master" talisman representing spirit. You would want to make them from a single piece of metal, probably brass. Brass is easy to find at craft and home improvement stores and has a solar association due to its color. It is also an alloy (Mercury) of copper (Venus) and zinc. The upward triangle formed on the Tree of Life between Mercury, Venus, and the Sun (Hod, Netzach, and Tiphareth) crosses the Veil of Paroketh, which is exactly the symbolism that we want.

After engraving the appropriate elemental symbols on each talisman, they would then be charged with their respective elements, just as if you were making elemental tools. Following these five operations you then perform a sixth (5=6? I just thought of that as I was writing it) to empower the whole thing and bind all the talismans together. As part of this operation I would create a servitor that would be charged with gathering energy from the environment and using that energy to sustain both itself and the operant field. The servitor would be bound to the spirit talisman and from there would distribute energy to the other four.

Once you have your operant field array set up, all that remains is for you to place it where you want it to be operational. The four small talismans will constitute the corners of a square, much like the quarters in the LBRP and LIRH, and the master talisman should be kept within the square's boundaries. For example, if you wanted to set up this field over your neighborhood, you would plant each talisman in the ground a couple blocks from your house and keep the master in your temple. Place the small talismans to the four directions using the macrocosmic arrangement - Fire = East, Earth = South, Air = West, Water = North.

There you go - the veil is officially "torn," at least within the area defined by the talismans. An experimental question would be whether or not the field loses intensity as it gets larger. I've done some similar work with talismans defining an area in the past, but my results are inconclusive on that particular point. This would be easier to test with something more general like the operant field idea presented here. If any readers want to try it out and let me know how it works, that would be great.

So, will I try it myself? An important question for me would be whether or not this permanent operant field would be stronger than one that I could create myself using the LBRP/LIRH or Star Ruby/Star Sapphire combination. If not, such a field would be of little use to me. Generally speaking, the magical influence of a talisman winds up being only about 80% as effective as an individual spell directed toward the same goal. The permanence of the talisman seems to detract from its strength in any specific instance, with the tradeoff being that the influence persists longer than that of a spell. This suggests that if I did it myself the field would be weaker than the fields I normally conjure when starting any practical operation, so that would argue against it.

The only case in which I think it might be worthwhile would be to try it out with my magical working group. Several of us are pretty accomplished ritual magicians, and if we all worked together we could probably make a talisman that would be stronger than the fields we can cast individually. Building a permanent field under those conditions at least merits consideration.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Low-Budget Apocalypse Update

More dramatic low-budget apocalypse news - "We're trying to end the world because we're bored!"

From the article:

Remember dude I mentioned that wanted to be a Moonchild? I got that all wrong. He corrected me. Seems they weren't trying to be Moonchildren at all. Oh no, nothing so puerile, he assured me. No, these two geniuses were trying to start the Apocalypse!!! The end of the WORLD!!! For Serious.

Because, you know, they were bored.

So could these same "geniuses" be behind the other signs of the low-budget apocalypse? Perhaps when the urge to unleash the End of Days comes from a place of supreme dumbassery all that can be accomplished magically is the creation of a sad, eminently mockable facsimile thereof. Of course, to be sure I'd need to know when their "operation" actually started to make sure that the other "signs" didn't precede it.

Just as a point, to my knowledge the only magicians to ever attempt the Moonchild operation were Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard, and rather than an all-powerful messiah-like being the operation actually gave birth to the Church of Scientology. To my way of thinking, that's a compelling enough reason to never attempt it again.

"Magick": Not Another One!

I've complained before about people on the Internet using "magick" as a term for various things unrelated to esoteric practices, including music albums and stage magic shows. Now a software developer has decided to use it as the name for a new Linux distribution. I'm an old Unix hacker from way back and like Linux as much as the next person, but I seriously wish people would quit making esotericists' keyword searches more difficult. As it is the Google Newsreel is already worthless in that regard.

I mean, this is a Linux distribution - couldn't it have been called "Magix" or something? It's kind of cute and has the added advantage that people looking for Linux information won't be getting back links to my blog. Or maybe it could have been named using one of the poser spellings like "magik" or "majik." Any of those would be preferable from a search engine standpoint.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Norwegian Politician's Psychic Advisors

Saera Khaen, a Norwegian politician, has announced that she will not seek re-election after it was discovered that she racked up a bill of over 48,000 kroner (approximately $7800 US) calling a psychic hotline from a government mobile phone over a one-quarter period. The calls came to light when the Norwegian parliament refused to cover the bill. Khaen first claimed that she was making calls to her boyfriend's satellite phone, but when that was investigated and found to be implausible she came clean.

Finally, she released a statement late Wednesday confirming news reports that her bills were so high because she called pay-by-the-minute fortune tellers 793 times in one nine-month period. She said she paid back the amount.

'A large part of the cost was due to calls to alternative advisers: so called fortune tellers,' she wrote. 'I apologize.'

Let's hope that the advice was worth it! Also, wouldn't you think the psychics would have seen this coming and told her not to call? As a matter of fact, according to the Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, they did. Khaen just wouldn't listen.

Her calls became so frequent that many fortune-tellers told her to stop ringing, the Norwegian daily said.

What's the point of calling psychics if you won't take their advice anyway? It seems kind of pointless to me. There's also no word on any other advice she was given by her psychic friends, though her party insists that their policies were not influenced by Khaen's calls.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thoughts on Theurgy and Thaumaturgy

I came across this article the other day from back in July. I consider myself a pretty serious thaumaturgist, so what particularly struck me was this comment:

I am now of the opinion that the work leads the ego to pull out all of the stops. It starts to lay at your feet whatever it is that you think you want. Sex, money, accolades, acceptance... whatever you WANT. If your universe is in balance and your link with your HGA is firmly made, then you take what you want and keep walking. If not this trap of satisfying your lower needs becomes the Hotel California. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave..."

So what is the big deal? I mean isn't that a PERK of the work? I would say yes and no. When that perk becomes a driving force then you realize that you are no longer a Theurgist but have suddenly become a full time Thamaturgist. So what is the big deal? The big deal is that you stop. You graze from the field of plenty and forget that this is just a small lawn in a much larger area. Inertia is the trap.

This is all true as far as it goes, but what it fails to acknowledge is that theurgy and thaumaturgy are fully complimentary disciplines. It's not just thaumaturgy that can become a trap - theurgy can as well. I can't count the number of self-proclaimed "theurgists" that I've met who seem to think there's something wrong with doing practical magick. And you know what else? None of them could actually do much of anything besides rituals that maybe felt good, but produced no lasting positive effects on their lives or the lives of the people around them.

The truth is that obsession with either outlook to the exclusion of the other is a problem. In thaumaturgic work, you first unite your consciousness with that of the divine and then from that foundational position send forth a current of will to accomplish your practical goals. In theurgic work, you should see practical, measurable changes for the better start to happen in your life as your consciousness becomes more attuned to the divine. Thaumaturgy without divine union is much less effective, and theurgy without any noticeable practical results probably means that you're doing it wrong.

I approach magical work from both perspectives. From a thaumaturgic standpoint, I do whatever practical work that I have to do to keep my life going the way I want it to be - and I do a lot. I figure that if I have the power I should use it. In my daily practice, my statement of intent includes "set my True Will in motion and bring me to the accomplishment of the Great Work," an essentially Theurgic goal. These practices support each other - the better I am about doing my daily practices, the more effective my practical work becomes. And the more successful my life becomes, the more opportunities I have to practice.

Finally, I do believe that thaumaturgy, even on its own, can accomplish theurgic goals so long as union with the divine is a preliminary part of the ritual form. Conveniently, that's also the best and most effective way to get thaumaturgic results. Magick is nice that way sometimes.

Defining Invocation and Evocation

One of my pet peeves when reading through books on magick is authors who don't understand the technical distinction between invocation and evocation.

I commonly run across the statement that invocation is when you summon "higher" entities such as angels and evocation is when you summon "lower" entities such as demons. This is incorrect, at least as far as the definition goes. While it is true that the best entities to invoke are generally those defined here as "higher," it is certainly possible to evoke them. A good example of this is the most famous angelic magical system of all time, John Dee and Edward Kelley's Enochian system.

The distinction between the two terms is one of technique and is only secondarily related to the class of entity summoned. When you invoke an entity, you call it into your own sphere of consciousness represented by the magick circle. When you evoke an entity, you call it into an external containment structure. The most famous of these is the Goetic triangle, but the Enochian Holy Table also performs a similar function.

The "invoke angel"/"evoke demon" concept is based on an accurate understanding of the nature of these classes of entities, but the relationship is correlative rather than definitive. Generally speaking, entities are classed as angels if (A) their nature is creative and/or (B) their attitude toward human magicians is generally friendly. Entities are classed as demons if (A) their nature is destructive and/or (B) their attitude toward human magicians is generally hostile.

When looking over the old grimoires there is some ambiguity about the term "demon" because, first of all, the Medieval Church classified just about any spirit that you could summon as a demon. This point is especially confounded by the later "Faustian" grimoires which, while likely fake, are constructed around the mechanism of a pact with the Christian devil. Also, the word "daimon," which more just means "spiritual entity" without the "evil" connotation, may have been miscopied over the centuries in the days before the printing press when books of spells were still copied by hand and passed from master to student.

Nonetheless, the classification above remains basically correct for most of the cases you are likely to encounter, especially as a beginning magician. Invoking entities that are hostile to you or essentially destructive in nature is not a good idea. The hostility of the entity will divide your consciousness and thus undermine your magical operation, and calling destructive energy into your own body of light can undermine its integrity and contribute to health problems.

Friendly, creative entities, on the other hand, pose neither of these risks and are generally safe to invoke. Invocation also is better suited to theurgic work because when trying to unite with a divine entity evocation is kind of inefficient. In a theurgic evocation, you would have to call the entity into a containment structure and then perform some sort of additional procedure to unite with it. Invocation does it all in one step.

Evocation does make sense for angels and other "higher" entities when you are using them in practical thaumaturgic operations. When I do this I use the Enochian Holy Table as my containment structure and place it in the center of my circle, unlike the Goetic triangle which is normally placed outside the circle (though I will add that I do know a couple of Goetic magicians who place the triangle within the circle and have encountered no ill effects from doing so). Invoking for practical operations can work, but a side effect can be that you as the caster are affected by your spell along with the intended target. I'm convinced that this side effect is the origin of the Wiccan "Threefold Law."

So get it right - invocation = summoning and entity into yourself, evocation = summoning an entity into an external containment structure. If you're summoning an angel into the Holy Table the ritual does not become an invocation simply because the entity you are summoning is an angel. An author who says otherwise might not understand the source material as well as he or she thinks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Michigan Idiot Assaults Non-Witch

A Michigan English teacher was recently assaulted by an adult student in an attempt to cleanse her of witchcraft.

This particular student apparently believed that he could kill the teacher by pouring what he said was holy water over her head from a Gatorade bottle, which probably explains right there why he was in need of adult education. I mean, last I checked that only works on vampires - get with the program, dude! He also held a lighter near her because witches are made of wood and readily burn, even after being doused with water. Just ask Sir Bedevere from Monty Python and the Holy Grail!

"The suspect later told us he was trying to kill the witch by pouring holy water over her head," said Ferndale Detective Ken Denmark. "We confiscated two lighters from him and he was committed for psychiatric evaluation."

Why did he think she was a witch? Because she told him she didn't believe in witchcraft, of course!

The suspect, Darin Najor, 20, faces a pretrial hearing Oct. 23 in Ferndale 43rd District Court on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery. He was arrested and posted bond in the incident on Monday.


The English teacher told police she had a discussion with Najor the day before the incident about "The Crucible," an assigned play by the late Arthur Miller set in 1692 that deals with events that led to the Salem witch trials.

Najor asked the teacher if she believed in witchcraft, police said. The teacher told him she did not believe in witchcraft and explained that the events in the play were a metaphor for unjust persecution, police said.

The student's response to this conversation was not encouraging, or for that matter, coherent.

"The suspect threw his homework papers on the floor and declared it was all blasphemy," Denmark said. "The next day he came up behind her chanting what sounded like religious verses while she was working at her desk."

After all, everybody knows that a witch is somebody who doesn't believe in witchcraft! Oh, wait...

The only remaining question is which segment of the stupid demographic this guy falls into. Frozen lake jumper? Tiger petter? Place your vote now!