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!