The Key to Evocation: Zodiacal Decans

April 30, 2010 by  
Filed under evocation, magick, qabalah, theory

The Key to Evocation: Zodiacal Decans

Matrix of Possibilities

There are many ways to perform the operation of theurgy and the evocation of spirits. Most of those who practice this kind of magical operation work through one or more of the many available grimoires. However, there are other ways to perform this operation that have little to do with the old grimoires; yet these other methods require the invention of a completely alternative magical technology. A practitioner is generally stuck between using existing information and available materials or creating something entirely new. The path that I took was to create a new methodology for invocation and evocation; but the clues on how to proceed were already well documented, even though they were subtle and obscure.

Ever since I first examined the Goetia of the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, I have been fascinated by those entities called Goetic Demons, but found the methodologies for invoking them to be too abbreviated and incomplete to be entirely useful. Others have made use of this grimoire, but I found it beyond my ability to produce an effective methodology for evocation. I also found the 72 angels of the Shemhemphorasch (ha-Shem) in this same category, even though they were not specifically listed in any grimoire that I had at the time. To me there seemed to be a lot of pieces of occult lore without the ability to pull them all together. So I tended to work with the spirits and powers that I was able to access through my developed ritual systems, and ignore all of the other spirits that didn’t fit into those structures.

However, when I first read Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth and also studied Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn (specifically, Book T) there seemed to be a new structure implied that might associate the tarot, astrology, Qabalah and the hierarchy of spirits into one unified system. That structure was found in the 36 Naib cards of the minor arcana of the tarot and the 36 astrological decans.

Aleister Crowley discusses that there is an associated spiritual hierarchy with each of the Naib cards, stating it as such: “It is governed from the angelic world by two Beings, one during the hours of Light, the other during the hours of Darkness. Therefore, in order to use the properties of this card, one way is to get into communication with the Intelligence concerned, and to induce him to execute his function.”1

Crowley goes on to write that these two spirits are the angels of the Shehemphorash and that there are a total of 72 of them, corresponding to the five degree astrological segment of the “quinaries,” or what I refer to as the quinarians.2 Crowley omits relating the astrological decans to these 36 Naib cards, but he does use the old style planetary rulers that are associated with them in assigning the planets to these tarot cards. One can see this illustrated in a table on page 283 of the Book of Thoth.

Book T goes further than Crowley by not only showing that the astrological decans correspond to the 36 Naib cards of the tarot, but also that there is a larger matrix consisting of the 16 court cards and the four aces.3

So it would seem that there is a very tight tabular system consisting of all of the 56 cards of the lesser arcana. This tabular system can also be used to represent a spiritual hierarchy of the four elements, the ten sephiroth of the tree of life and the twelve signs of the zodiac. The one association that is missing is where the decans are shown to be hierarchically related to the quinarians, since the former would represent a ten degree segment of the zodiacal wheel and the latter, a five degree segment.

A decan would therefore be the higher order structure of two corresponding quinarians. What this means is that the decan and its associated spirit correspondences rules over the associated quinarian and its spirit correspondences. If the angels of the ha-Shem and the demons of the Goetia are associated with the quinarians, then the angelic ruler of the decanate would be their hierarchical lord, and the decan would be the key to the quinarian.

Clues to the nature of the astrological structure of these spirits are found in the lore from the Golden Dawn and Alesiter Crowley. In the book 777 (cols. CXXIX CXXXII, CXLV CLXVI), the angels of the Ha-Shem,4 angelic rulers of the decans and demons of the Goetia are organized by the zodiac, using the ascendant, cadent and succeedent parts of the wheel of the zodiac, by day and night.

It would seem that the number 72 would lend itself to occult interpretations, being a multiple of six times twelve, both very sacred numbers in Judaism. Also, there already was an astrological structure for the quinarians as lesser aspects of the decans, so I think that it would fit into a neat hierarchy.

I don’t know where this idea originally came from, but I was using existing schemes for all of this, as well as hints from Aleister Crowley in the appendices of the Book of Thoth, so I didn’t invent it.5 As a system it fits really well together, and it’s better than using the Shemhemphorash as a unique and separate set of spirits without any correspondences. As I have stated above, determining a context for spiritual entities so that they may be defined and highly qualified is important if the magician seeks to invoke them.

When I carefully researched the clues, I found where the angels of the Shemhemphorash were given their astrological correspondences. It was in Agrippa’s Book III of Occult Philosophy, Chapter XXV, paragraph 6. Agrippa writes: “And these are those [angels of ha-Shem] that are set over the seventy two celestial quinaries.” So if the angels of ha-Shem are set over the seventy two celestial quinarians, then their hierarchy would naturally be associated with the 36 decans and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and also with their associated archangels and angelic rulers. This relation between decan and quinarian is not spoken of either by Agrippa or anyone else, but is alluded to in Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth,6 and also Book T of The Golden Dawn. If you put what he says together with the tables in 777, you come up with the system that I am using. To my knowledge, no else quite makes all of the combinations that I have made; but it seems to be functionally elegant.

Needless to say, I was quite thrilled at how neat and tidy all of these various elements were pulled together through the cards of the Lesser Arcana of the Tarot. I speculated that if one could identify the various correspondences associated with each of these cards, that one could put together a system to invoke and evoke all of the associated spirits. So, after basking in this wondrous revelation, I set to work to build a system of magick that would do just that.

To recap, the angelic ruler of the decan and tarot Naib card has the following hierarchy:

  • Element godhead
  • Qabalistic sephirah
  • Zodiacal base element
  • Zodiacal triple spiritual intelligences (archangel, angel, house ruler) — these qualify the specific zodiacal sign
  • Planetary ruler of the decan
  • Angelic ruler of the decanate
  • ha-Shem angel of day and night
  • Goetic demon of day and night (from Lemegeton — Goetia)
  • Angel of the zodiacal degree (From Lemegeton — Ars Paulina — Part 2)

Obviously, if one were to perform an invocation of the angelic ruler of the decanate, one of the angels of the ha-Shem, or one of the Goetic demons, then one would establish or invoke the associated spiritual hierarchy, beginning with the element godhead. Tools used to assist in the establishment of these qualities would be the pentagram (element), lesser hexagram (astrological triplicities), greater hexagram or septagram (planetary ruler) and the enneagram (sephirah).

My methodology uses a technique that defines a spirit through a matrix of correspondences and generates the elemental body and planetary intelligences of the spirit from them. I will defer that explanation to a future article, but I believe that the above information is enough to get occultists thinking of an alternative method to performing invocation and evocation.

Importance of the Astrological Decans

So, what is the importance and significance of the astrological decans? Even if they seem to fit into a nice tidy structure that defines a whole hierarchy of spirits, why is it such a compelling structure by itself? These are good questions, but in order to answer them, we will need to share some historical information about the decans. Once that is done, I am sure it will be obvious why they are significant.

The decans have a long history in the annals of magical religion — the Egyptians had minor deities associated with each of them and these play an important part in the Book of Gates.7 The decans are used in horary (predictive) astrology to determine the dignity of planets in the divinatory chart and they have been represented in both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian theological systems as sidereal gods of time and destiny. Thus the magician contacts the angelic ruler in order to realize and control his destiny, and to affect the general causality of the world. The decans were also used by the Egyptians to indicate the hour of the night.

What gave me a startling clue to the importance of the decans is when I came across a passage in the book Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization by Dan Barton and David Grandy. That passage said that the Egyptians used the decans (and their associated godheads and marking stars) to determine and qualify the hours of the night sky. During the night, the decan that appeared at the ascendant (eastern horizon) would tell the Egyptians what time it was. A decan period would last approximately 40 minutes, so for each night approximately 18 of the 36 decans could be revealed. During the changing of the seasons, the evening would potentially begin with a different decan over time, passing through the whole zodiacal wheel during an annual period.

So the decans were possibly used as magical hours during the night, but these hours would have lasted 40 minutes instead of 60, and each decan would have been accorded a different minor godhead and quality, not to mention the 12 gates of the diurnal solar boat transit through the underworld.

It would also seem that the Egyptians used a system of reckoning when attempting to determine the hours at night, using the decans passing over the horizon as a kind of clock. Since twilight would have made this reckoning impossible, there would have been 12 hours of night associated with the decans, since making this measurement would have required complete darkness. Dawning light would have also potentially interfered, so there would have been an hour and a half both before full night and before dawn when such reckoning would have been impossible.

A device called a merkhet (plumb line) was discovered in an Egyptian tomb. This tool, whose invention was late, probably around 600 BCE, was used to determine the north-south axis. Two of these devices were set up in a specific measured line from each other, and the subject would observe the rising of the decan star between the line of these two devices. It’s likely that this late tool was based on more primitive technology, which would have been used to perform the same kind of sighting.

Another interesting thing about the decans is that every ten days a new decan would appear at the horizon at the first observable hour of the night. It’s from this array of 36 decans, each lasting ten days, that the Egyptians determined their solar based calendar, where the last decan coincided with the period just before the annual inundation of the Nile river. They had a yearly calendar of 36 decans with five days added to the end to make 365 days in all. The five additional days would probably represent a 73rd quinarian in the Egyptian astrological system, but that is another interesting item to discuss in another article.

As you can see, the decans were used to measure time during the night. They also represented the hours of the domain of the underworld, where the solar boat and its occupants fought the threatening chthonic foes in order to gain passage to the gateway of the dawn in the east. This underworld passage occurred every evening, but to the Egyptians it represented the mythic passage from death and mortality to the immortality of the gods — an initiation cycle of profound consequences.

If we now observe that the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot are analogous, then not only do we have an elegant system of occult correspondences, but we also have a map for an aspect of the Inner planes, governed by various spirits and representing the underworld passage of occult initiation.

Bibliography

  • Barton, Dan and Grandy, David Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization (Indiana University Press 2004)
  • Crowley, Aleister 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley (Samuel Weiser, 1994)
  • Crowley, Aleister The Book of Thoth (Samuel Weiser, 1972)
  • Regardie, Israel The Golden Dawn (Llewellyn — 6th edition, 1995)

Footnotes

  1. See The Book of Thoth p. 43
  2. David Griffin, in his book Ritual Magic calls them “quinants.”
  3. This association was first documented in the Golden Dawn material, particularly Book T — Tarot. See The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, 6th edition, p. 87 & p. 551.
  4. Actually, the angels of the ha-Shem correspond to nine of the ten sephiroth of the tree of life for the four suits of the tarot, paired by day and night. Pulling the various pieces together requires a correspondence between the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot.
  5. The Goetia of Dr. Rudd has paired the angels of the ha-Shem with the Goetic demons. The relationship of the 72 spirits to the quinarians is quite old, and may be a part of the ancient system of astrological magick, such as that proposed in the Picatrix (11th century). However, there is no precedence for grouping the decans and the quinarians together, and organizing the associated spirits into a hierarchy.
  6. See The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley, “Part I — Theory,” p. 40 — 44, and “Appendix B,” p. 283
  7. The Book of Gates, or Am-Tuat, was a hieroglyphic book depicted in Egyptian tombs of the New Kingdom, but may have been conceived from earlier sources. The Tomb of Seti I is a prime example.

    Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of witchcraft and ritual magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Foundation and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at this email address and visit his website.

    ©2010 by Frater Barrabbas.
    Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Lesser Wheel of Fortune and Practical Magick

January 29, 2010 by  
Filed under magick, theory

Lesser Wheel of Fortune and Practical Magick

We have covered the greater wheel of fortune and how it’s associated with the solar return and the point 180 degrees from the solar return, or halfway in the annual cycle. This greater wheel of fortune is very important to know if one is going to work magick to change one’s material situation.

There is also a lesser wheel of fortune that involves the moon and this lesser cycle is more characterized by the emotions than by material gain. It’s an important truism that if the emotions are not aligned with one’s greater material purpose, then one’s endeavors will ultimately fail.

This lesser wheel of fortune has the same basic components as the greater wheel. The natal chart lunar position is extracted and the halfway point in this cycle is determined by plotting a position that is exactly six zodiacal signs ahead of the natal moon position. For instance, my natal moon is in Gemini when the moon was gibbous (just before full), so the halfway point would be the moon in Sagittarius when it is balsamic. So I can use either the lunation types of gibbous and balsamic to represent the natal return and halfway point or I can use the signs of the moon in Gemini and Sagittarius. Either set of points have their validity.

Now for me the emotional wheel of fortune works like this: When the moon is gibbous or in the sign of Gemini, I am typically feeling very emotionally centered, grounded and fulfilled. When the halfway point is achieved, then my emotional state is decidedly muted and turned inward. It’s a time when I am not as certain of myself and feel compelled to question my motives and the things that I usually take for granted. The natal lunar point is an emotional high point and the halfway point is one of instability, where the unconscious mind is more able to affect me and my emotional sense of self.

The key to this emotional wheel of fortune is that it’s better to perform magical workings so that they achieve their climax up to but not beyond the full moon. The waning moon represents particularly difficult times for me and it’s much better to use that time for reflection, divination and contemplation, allowing the unconscious mind to unload some of its internal pressures and negative or dark self-perceptions in a controlled environment. It’s also a good idea to synchronize the greater and lesser wheels of fortune so that magical workings and mundane actions involving material advancement occur during the better half for both cycles. For me, that would be the second half of my solar year when the moon is gibbous. I would also be advised by these cycles to avoid taking risks during that same time when the moon is waning and nearing the new moon phase.

We can also analyze the transit aspects of the natal moon with the transiting moon and get a very clear idea of the kind of forces that are active. Like the sun, we can examine the aspect where the transit moon is in conjunction with the natal moon and the aspect where the transit moon is in opposition to the natal moon.

Transit Moon Conjunct Natal Moon

This is called the lunar return and it occurs once every month. It represents the beginning of an emotional cycle. It’s a time of emotional sensitivity and emotional intensity. It has a magnetic effect and tends to attract external events and people to its emanating field. Another way of examining the Lunar return is to determine the precise lunation type found in the natal chart. This represents the lunation type that one was born under, so it becomes a powerful emotional base for the individual.

Transit Moon Opposition Natal Moon

This aspect represents deepening moods and powerful emotions. One becomes self-absorbed and loses objectivity, which tends to create emotional oppositions with others. It’s definitely not a time to be dealing with relationship issues, business partnerships or emotional issues involving family or friends. It is a good time to go deep into the self and retrieve insights and directives from the deeper self.

So you can see, there is a Greater Wheel of Fortune involving the solar return and a Lesser Wheel of Fortune that involves the lunar return. Both cycles need to be carefully examined, and dates where both cycles are at their optimum can be chosen for the working of material based magick.

Bibliography

©2010 by Frater Barrabbas.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of Witchcraft and Ritual Magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Volume 1: FoundationVolume 2: Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at this email address and visit his website.

Anatomy and Organization of the Star Group

January 23, 2010 by  
Filed under featured, general practice, magick, theory

Anatomy and Organization of the Star Group

Ever since the advent of Masonry, individual occultists have sought to unify and organize themselves into a collective to facilitate group ceremony, study and collaboration, often using the Masonic lodge as a model. A Masonic lodge has temporary leadership roles, and Masonic brothers are considered to be equal no matter what their social status, degree or role. Perhaps this is why many founding fathers of western democracies were members of Masonic groups. Masonic lore seems to perpetuate the ideal that all men are created equal, despite the fact that initiates and cowans (outsiders) are treated differently. Yet a spirit of egalitarianism pervades Masonic organizations even to this day. This is especially true in the more basic Blue Lodge, which promotes only three initiatory degrees and a rotating hierarchy.

Grand lodges and larger aggregated organizations forewent this spirit of equality and produced a hierarchy of individuals vested with various degrees of authority and power. The Societas Rosecruciana In Anglia and the Golden Dawn were based on this later kind of organization, and other groups, such as the O.T.O., invested certain individuals with authority to ensure that the local bodies as well as the grand lodge had trusted individuals to maintain continuity and stability. Many of today’s occult groups modeled their organizational structure loosely on the model of the Masonic blue lodge or grand lodge. Others have deviated quite remarkably from the Masonic belief in the equality of all members. However, Masonic lodges have shown themselves to be capable of extreme longevity, withstanding change and still operating long after the deaths of the original founders. Fraternity and equality arguably play an important part in the endurance of these groups.

In the various religious groups of Wicca and Neopaganism, there is a trend in which a grove or coven is headed by an autocratic leader or small group of elites ruling a larger group of novices, often with no checks on their authority and little accountability. I have personally experienced the abuses that can occur within Wiccan covens, but the fault is to be found wherever groups invest their leaders with near dictatorial powers. This is true whether or not these individuals have the qualities and experience to be good leaders. If leaders are gifted and skilled at leading, then a benign aristocracy is formed; otherwise, the worst kind of cult of personality and autocracy can develop. The fact that ritual magick and godhead assumptions can be practiced in such groups makes the effects of bad leadership even more damaging.

This is probably why many ritual magicians prefer to work alone and retain their autonomy despite the benefits of belonging to a group. Many magicians started out belonging to a group or organization, but seldom do they stay for more than a few years. Being alone and completely isolated is not a good idea, either. Regardless of the religious or spiritual background of magicians, they tend to branch out, discovering that performing magick for its own sake is more rewarding than belonging to a cult or creed.

The choice to work magick within a group is often made because all magicians need peer review, objective viewpoints, and solidarity, which are critically important to one’s spiritual growth. There is nothing more stultifying and potentially dangerous than the practice of complex and intense ritual magick in complete isolation. While working magick alone is at times necessary, a magical practitioner should have recourse to a peer group of other magicians to balance the intensely subjective nature of ritual work. Having a group of experienced and knowledgeable friends to judge one’s work is very important. In fact, it’s probably the only way that a ritual magician can maintain balance and objectivity. A peer group keeps individuals honest with themselves and helps them to understand their spiritual and magical processes in an objective manner.

Since ritual magicians are not common, such a peer group will be small and intimate. It may not even be centrally located in one’s own community. Because of Facebook, MySpace, blogs, email and Yahoo! groups and chat rooms, the social network of a ritual magician may be entirely virtual. Yet it’s important for a practicing ritual magician to have friends and fellow magicians his or her physical neighborhood so that he or she may periodically meet them and have intimate conversations about personal, spiritual and magical topics. I maintain that a virtual community, although helpful, can never replace real social contact between individuals. Much more is communicated through phone conversations and face to face to meetings than could be written in blogs, chat rooms or email. These same close friends will share common ideas, swap books, look over rituals together, examine excerpts of each others’ magical journals, and perhaps even perform rituals and ceremonies together. When a loose confederation of ritual magicians starts working magick together, then group organization will naturally develop.

Rituals magicians, like many occultists, aren’t known for their social skills, diplomacy or empathetic abilities. They are usually absorbed in their own practices and perspectives, and they generally despise authority figures within their own discipline. They don’t like being ordered around or told what to do. They are independently minded and probably even a bit anarchistic, eschewing any kind of formal group dynamic. This is my question and the central theme of this article: How do you get a group of ritual magicians to function as a creative, sharing, objective and harmonious organization? The answer to this question is to use what is known as a “Star Group” model.

What is a Star Group, one might ponder, and how does it differ from other kinds of groups? First, a Star Group is an autonomous, egalitarian collective where each member is an equal and respected partner, functioning as an integral facet of the whole group. A Star Group is particularly sensitive to the phenomenon of the egregore, also known as the group mind. The leadership roles in a Star Group are temporary and carry little or no real power or authority. The true authority is vested in the group itself and all decisions are determined by a process of consensus.

I define consensus as a mutual agreement in which, for any given decision, a majority of the members of the group are for it and no one is against it. Abstention does not count as a negative vote unless there is not a majority who are for it. An objection from any one of the members of the group will force that decision to be either shelved or altogether abandoned. This kind of rule-by-consensus ensures that a majority will not override the objections of even the humblest member. All individuals are heard and decisions have the backing of nearly everyone. The person who presents the idea or direction to the group has the responsibility to sell it to everyone so that no one finds fault or objects to it. Getting a small group of ritual magicians to agree nearly unanimously to a given plan of action is no small matter, but it can be done. In fact, it must be done so that everyone feels that they have been intimately involved in the decision making process. When the group makes such a decision by consensus, the outcome is guaranteed to be satisfactory to all of the members. Leaders are essentially facilitators with all of the responsibility and none of the authority. Thus no one person can abrogate the power of the group and the equality of everyone is fully protected.

I can almost sense the eye-rolling from my readers after proposing this kind of group. The first objection is that such an organization will not be able to accomplish anything substantive if there isn’t someone who makes the final decision and acts as an overseer. Hierarchical groups seem to be more efficient, goal directed and practical. Anything done by committee is guaranteed to be mediocre at best, and terribly disjointed and chaotic at the worst. It often ends up representing the untutored whims and creative hubris of the least capable in the group. I have seen rituals constructed by committees and I would agree that they are usually ineffective. Yet a Star Group is deliberately small. The execution of consensus agreements incorporates the best abilities of the most able members.

What does that mean? It means that a Star Group is not driven by ego gratification, since everyone is a respected and valued member. Each has a role and a part to play. In such a situation, the group will vest an individual with certain tasks that they are best equipped to accomplish, incorporating other members to aid and assist them as required. People work together and cooperate jointly to produce the best product that they can. A Star Group is an egalitarian team with objectives and goals, and they work together with the powerful commitment of having unanimously agreed to do a given task.

Suppose a Star Group decides to perform elaborate theatrical rituals that require props and even sets. One person who is a gifted artist may produce the sets; another who is a writer would write the script; another who is a musician would assemble the music; an electrician would provide the lighting; yet another might be a costume maker and would design and sew the costumes. One individual might be chosen to act as the director, to direct the others to take on various parts in the ceremonial play. None of these individuals would act alone, since all of their contributions would be screened and examined by the whole group. Everyone would contribute materials, time, labor and money. The net result would be the combined efforts of gifted individuals working together as a group. The quality of such an effort would be far greater than what one of the members could do alone.

Would there be disagreements and sometimes heated discussions? Certainly, since disagreements and occasional arguments would be part of the dynamic. However, the overall objectives and goals of the group would have been set up early in its formation, and the members would be motivated to work out their differences in a peaceful and cooperative manner to get the work done. It might take longer to complete a project, but the level of group satisfaction and the quality of the work would be pleasing to everyone.

Contrast this same effort as applied to a hierarchical group. If the leader is smart and knows how to motivate people, sensing their needs, strengths and weaknesses, then the assignment of roles may show a high degree of wisdom. It may also show a high degree of favoritism and cronyism, since those who are favored by the leader would get the best roles. It would be guaranteed to be done in less time, but it probably would not be satisfying to the whole group unless the leader used good judgment to correctly and accurately call the shots.

If the leader is an autocrat, then the outcome of any project may be just as disorganized, poorly contrived and executed as it would have been done by a committee. In such a situation, the hard labor would be delegated to the least favorable members and the best jobs reserved for the favorite members. A skilled seamstress may be completely overlooked because the leader’s girlfriend wants the job. Similarly, a gifted writer may be forced to do carpentry work because the leader either doesn’t know about her skill or purposefully ignores it to favor someone else. Often the leaders reserve the best parts for themselves. When the overall project fails to be fully satisfying, he blames the least favored members for failing to do their jobs. Other members who know what is really going on will resent the leader’s biased authority and either leave the group or eventually force a confrontation. A hierarchical group may have to contend with a leader’s ego inflation, unethical conduct, exploitation of other members, favoritism, despotism, incompetence and outrageous behavior.

Of course, not all hierarchical groups are dysfunctional and certainly large groups can’t function without a hierarchy. Large groups use bylaws and formal procedures to ensure that leaders are accountable, so despots or incompetents can be removed from their positions of authority. However, we are talking about small groups with less than twelve members. In such a group the temptation to acquire and hold power over others is just too great. Magicians don’t have much stomach or tolerance for such blatant examples of hubris and ego inflation, but with a Star Group, there is an alternative capable of accomplishing goals and tasks with everyone fully engaged. This is much more satisfying than what might occur with permanent authority figures.

The qualities of a Star Group can be summarized by the following points:

  • Egalitarianism — each member is treated equally, valued and respected.
  • Consensus — each decision is made through the process of consensus.
  • Leadership roles are temporary and frequently rotated.
  • Groups are fully autonomous (they answer only to themselves).
  • Sensitive to the formation of egregores.
  • Authority and power is vested in the group, not any individual.

An example of the bylaws used to organize and run Star Groups in the magical Order of the Gnostic Star can be found at this web address. (PDF; right-click and “Save target as”)

©2010 by Frater Barrabbas.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of Witchcraft and Ritual Magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Volume 1: FoundationVolume 2: Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at this email address and visit his website.

Greater Wheel of Fortune and Practical Magick

Greater Wheel of Fortune and Practical Magick

Yule — the wheel of the year turns; yet everything appears to stand still in the frozen, icy world. Thoughts during this season turn to the past as we examine and reflect on everything that has happened — from joys to disappointments.

We make promises to ourselves, New Years’ resolutions aimed to fix the flaws and invigorate the positive within ourselves.

Timing is everything. That is probably the greatest lesson to be learned from the year’s successes and failures.

In the realm of magick there are many considerations to make, such as when to work magick, when to pause and when to plan. We can examine our natal charts to determine trends, consult calendars that tell us the cycle of the moon and what sign the sun is in. We can divide the day and night into planetary hours, seeking some kind of insight as to when a given event is auspicious. Timing is everything, but in the practice of magick there is little said about when we should or shouldn’t work magick. Are there auspicious times? Does it even make a difference?

With all of these factors to ponder, we ignore one important consideration and that is the personal cycle or wheel of fortune of the magician performing the magick. Even the most optimal and auspicious signs and portends will avail magicians nothing if they ignore important factors about their own waxing and waning material fortunes. Magick done during a weak trough in the personal fortune of the magician may produce nothing or it might even cause losses and misfortune. Perhaps the most important knowledge that magicians can possess is that which will enable them to work magick on their own material circumstances, and knowing their own timing is critical to that kind of working.

In the many years that I have worked magick, I have discovered purely by accident that certain times of the year are better for materially based magick than others, and that there is a pattern to this cyclic process.

What I discovered is that there is a personal wheel of fortune that systematically turns so that half of the year has the potential for material gain and the other half is better used to plan and position oneself for more optimal times, when action can be met with success. The year is cut in half, and one half fosters increase and the other, decrease. It may not be that the poorer half of the year actually experiences losses or setbacks, although this certainly can occur, rather the richer half of the year seems to effortlessly assist one in the pursuit of material gain and personal advancement.

It’s analogous to breathing — inhalation represents internalization and re-grouping, and exhaling represents external activity and successful outcomes. Both are required for the cycle of breathing to be complete. This is also true of the wheel of fortune.

The simplest way to determine this wheel of fortune is take one’s birthday and add exactly six months to it. So if you were born on January 5 as I was, then your halfway date is July 5. So the two most important dates are the natal return and six months later, which would be a point where the sun would be 180 degrees from its natal position. I am a Capricorn according to my natal sun sign, so my annual halfway point is under the sign of Cancer.

I have found that my time of increase begins after the halfway point in the year. From there it proceeds to climax at my birthday and then declines until the halfway point is again achieved. For me, the best time to plan and reorganize is during the winter, after the holidays and before the summer. After the summer vacation period, I am ready to start putting into action everything that I have learned and determined in the previous six months. This is how my wheel of fortune works.

A few years ago I experienced a terrible economic downturn and the resultant massive debt almost forced me into bankruptcy. However, with an open mind and a willingness to do whatever it took to legally regain my fortune, I performed a large series of Elemental magical workings, starting in June and proceeding for three months. At the climax of these workings, I also invoked and charged several items with the talismanic elemental, Jupiter of Earth, during the lunar mansion called the Star of Fortune1. In addition, I put together a list of specific material objectives that I wanted to accomplish and crafted them into magical sigils, which I charged. In the intervening months, I was able to accomplish all of my objectives.

All of these events helped me to completely transform my financial situation. In fact, the magical workings still continue to aid me, often from unexpected sources. Because I worked this magick at the most important pivotal point in my wheel of fortune, it had a profound and incredible effect on my material situation. Once I discovered this pattern and realized it, I decided that it was the most important piece of self-knowledge that one could possess.

How do you determine the greater wheel of fortune for yourself and learn about your own important personal timing? The first thing that you do is to find that halfway point in your yearly cycle and note it down.

Then look at the past several years and see if you can see a pattern as to when important material advancements occurred for you. It won’t be perfect, but I think that you will find that one of those half year cycles is more auspicious than the other, which is better for planning and regrouping.

The period from the halfway point to my birthday is the most important time for material advancement. However, for others it may just the opposite, from their birthday to the halfway point might be auspicious. I don’t believe that one pattern should fit everyone, but you should at least examine all of the things that have happened to you in the past and make some kind of judgment as to what part of the year is better for advancement, and that will reveal the time that you can work magick to aid that advancement.

An astrological examination of the transits of the Sun to the natal chart Sun show that a conjunction aspect for the birthday and an opposition aspect for the halfway point are clearly delineated as auspicious points in one’s astrology. The Natal Sun is compared against transiting positions of the Sun in the paragraphs below.

Transit Sun conjunct Natal Sun

This is the Solar Return, when the Sun returns to the position that it had when one was born. This aspect represents new beginnings, the ability to perceive the whole year ahead as if one were standing upon some metaphorical ascent and looking across time at the events for the coming year. It is a time of receiving new impulses and perspectives as the old year gives way to the new2.

In some ways a birthday is a lot like a personal New Year’s day, symbolizing the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year.

Transit Sun opposition Natal Sun

This aspect represents energies in life reaching a culmination, events causing realizations, revealing a critical point of success or failure. Situations judged to fail now appear to fail. The way to success opens up and is revealed. It is necessary for one to change course or redirect oneself3.

The halfway point is a place of judgment and evaluation, where one thoroughly examines all of life’s activities, especially those that bear upon one’s fortune. Those efforts that are failing should be either drastically adjusted or ended. Those that appear to be gathering momentum for success should be steadfastly continued. New opportunities may also arise that will need to be judged as to their worth and a change in course may be called for to take advantage of them.

If one reads these two aspects correctly, then my cycle of the wheel of fortune would seem to fit them. However, it would also fit if one experienced the greater fortune on the first half of the year instead of the second half. It really depends on the individual to determine his or her own personal cycle, and once realized, it should be used to one’s greatest advantage. What is clearly indicated is that these two points in the calendar are very important to working material based magick.

Footnotes

  1. Al Sad Al Su’ud (#24 The Star of Fortune) Capricorn 25E 51N — see Celestial Magic by Nigel Jackson, pp. 82 – 96
  2. See Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living by Robert Hand, p. 55
  3. See Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living by Robert Hand, p. 58
  4. Bibliography

    ©2009 by Frater Barrabbas.
    Edited by Sheta Kaey.

    Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of Witchcraft and Ritual Magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Volume 1: FoundationVolume 2: Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at this email address and visit his website.

Necromancy: Dark Art Exemplar?

Necromancy: Dark Art Exemplar?

Amongst all the various names for magical practices, the word necromancy is probably the most foreboding and sinister. No doubt that such a practice was diabolical and associated with the blackest forms of magic. Popular folklore and belief defines necromancy as divination performed through the conjuration and manipulation of the spirits of the dead. The most outrageous form was the exhumation and reanimation of a corpse, which many often think of today when defining this term.

Necromancy has a long history, but during the Christian era it became confused with the conjuration of demons, which was called nigromancy or black magic. Christian leaders believed that since only the Lord had power over the dead, sorcerers who performed necromancy were actually conjuring demons. After a time, the two were used almost interchangeably, which caused the practice of necromancy to lose its meaning. However, spiritualists and mediums who sought to contact the dead and gain from them information about the future were actually unwittingly practicing a form of necromancy. Yet no one ever called them necromancers, which would have meant that one was evil personified. This confusion has not helped to clarify or define this system of magic; instead it has become something of topic of horror stories and low budget films.

The origins of necromancy occurred in the far distant past, long before the time of antiquity. It was a system of divination that was ultimately derived from the pious observances paid to the dead at their tombs. It isn’t hard to imagine a person going to the grave site of some great kinsman and in addition to giving offerings and oblations, to ask for assistance with some family crisis. So the practice of necromancy probably stemmed from a natural desire to seek help from one’s departed ancestors. Thoughts about the value of advice or prophecy given by the dead varied considerably in antiquity. Some believed that the dead had resources beyond the ken of the living; others (like Homer) believed that the dead knew no more about things than when alive. Necromancy may have been derived innocently enough from funeral observations, but it’s also likely that it had a separate shamanic origin.

Necromancy in antiquity, although not considered a legitimate public procedure for gaining intimate knowledge, shadowed the greater centers of divination, such as the Oracle of Delphi and the Temple of Asclepias. It was based upon a procedure that was well represented in folk tradition and literature, going back to Homer’s Odyssey. We will briefly look to the Odyssey for a classic example of a rite called the nekuia.

The Greeks had terms for this kind of magic; they called it nekumanteia (rites of divination from the dead) and psuchomanteia (divination from souls). From the Greek word came the Latin version, necromantea, from which we get necromancy. Typical places where these rites were conducted were tombs, cemeteries or even old battlefields. Such locations were called psuchagogion, which were drawing places of ghosts. Individuals who summoned ghosts or shades were called psuchagogoi, or evocators of ghosts1.

Greeks and Romans believed that the spirit or shade departed the body at death. It wandered around the burial site, visited places habituated in life or ended up in the underworld of Hades or, more rarely, the Eleusinian fields. These visitations of the dead to places of the living occurred only at certain times of the night, when most of the populace had gone to sleep. People of antiquity loved life, so the perception of death was dismal, lonely, a heartbreaking end to everything good. Shades of the dead often were harbingers of gloom and doom, sometimes directed to curse other living people with their unhappy blessings. The most accessible of the dead shades were those who were prone to restlessness, such as the ghosts of untimely or violent deaths.

Archaeological traces have been found at certain locations where necromancy was practiced as a kind of permanent oracle. These special places were called by the Greeks, nekuomanteion. They were usually located in places such as natural mephitic caves or lakes where water and brimstone appeared to mix; offering clues to an intrusion of the stygian underworld. Four famous locations were Acheron in Thesprotia, Avernus in Campania (Italy), Tainaron, which was located on the Mani peninsula of the southern Peloponnese, and Heracleia Pontica, located on the south coast of the Black Sea. Two of these locations had caves, but Avernus was a deep lake formed by a volcanic cone and Acheron was a lakeside precinct with indications of vulcanism. Both lakes were reputed to be without birds, since the mephitic fumes would have killed or driven them away.

Petitioners who visited an oracle of the dead would undergo certain kinds of rites performed in dimly lit caves or at night next to turgid lakes, guided by a leader who would conduct the rituals and speak the incantations. Offerings were given and the petitioner would spend the night in that place to obtain what he sought through incubation, by dreams, visions, or a ghostly visitation. The guide also had the responsibility to explain the dreams and visions later on, helping the petitioner to understand their meaning. However, incubation was one of many different ways of contacting the dead.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, book 11, a classic rite of necromancy is performed by Odysseus under the direction of his lover, Circe. Odysseus and his men dig a pit with their swords, around it pour libations consisting of milk, honey, sweet wine, water and then sprinkling barley over the mixture. He prays to the dead and sacrifices a pair of black sheep so the blood collects in the pit. The carcasses of the sheep are flayed and burned, then he prays to Hades and Persephone. He and his men ward the pit with their swords keeping out any unwanted spirits who are drawn to the offerings. They allow only those to whom Odysseus wishes to speak receive a draft from the fresh blood. After drinking it, a shade can assume a temporary visible appearance and converse with the living. Odysseus talks to several ghosts, but the real purpose of the rite is to consult with the dead prophet Tiresias, seeking to learn the future and the way home. Circe is Odysseus’s divine guide and instructor in the necromantic rite; she assists him in analyzing and deciphering the experience, acting as the archetypal witch. Also, the location of the rite is important, too, for it resides next to a cave leading into the underworld.

This tale was followed by other examples, but it would seem that the necromantic rite, as described by Homer, was already fully formed and traditionally established. By the 5th century, there were professional necromancers who were called goetes — sorcerers, derived from the Greek word goos, which was the mourning wail of the dead. Such individuals were reputed to have the ability to conjure and manipulate ghosts. Pythagoreans also had a reputation of being a kind of shaman who not only used necromantic spells as their stock and trade, but could travel to the underworld themselves. Another kind of magic that was practiced and related to necromancy was a divination called lecanomancy, which was a ghostly scrying into a bowl of liquid.

The Greek Magical Papyri also had some representations of necromancy, particularly papyrus PGM IV (Paris Papyrus), which contains a group of spells associated with an individual called “Pitys.” These spells extracted prophecies from corpses or the heads of corpses, bringing to mind the kind of magic performed by the classic witch. Such an individual might have had skulls or heads that talked, animated by trickery, one’s familiar spirit or a ghost.

Finally, the actual description of necromancy as a method of reanimating and interrogating corpses was first introduced by the poet Lucan, who made it part of the repertoire of the evil Thessalian witch Erictho. She uses it to gain information from a hapless dead Pompeian soldier. Erictho first pours hot blood and a concoction of herbs into the dead body, and then conjures the shade of the soldier, forcing it to enter the corpse to question it. This was a fictitious literary work, and it was followed by others, most notably Apuleius and Heliodorus. However, there seems to be little evidence that this type of working ever really occurred, that oracles of the dead and necromancy usually had much greater respect and veneration for the deceased than what is depicted in these satirical stories. Later on they may have become the primary impetus for judging the necromantic art as nothing more than the conjurations of demons. It passed into the Christian era completely debased and more the stuff of horror stories or propaganda against the practice of witchcraft.

Footnotes

  1. These and other quotes and information were distilled from the book Greek and Roman Necromancy, most notably from the introduction. Ogden, Daniel (2001). Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

©2009 by Frater Barrabbas
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Goetic Evocation – The New Fad

Goetic Evocation - The New Fad

A few years ago occult students and practicing magicians became enamored of the old grimoires and began to purchase newly translated and annotated copies of them. This may be due in part to published books written by Steve Savedow, Joseph C. Lisiewski and Aaron Leitch. All three authors recommended using the old grimoires in a literal fashion, and seemed to encourage the evocation of Goetic demons. Chaos magic has also lately latched on to Goetic demons, as if the faux gods of H.P. Lovecraft weren’t enough to keep them occupied. So now it’s quite stylish to use the Goetic demons in various workings, and everyone seems to be getting on the bandwagon to engage in this kind of magical working.

I have no intention of engaging this new fad, since my system of magic always had the evocation of Goetic demons as an included part of its overall strategy for magical theurgy and evocation. However, where I differ from the crowd is that I don’t work with these entities individually and in isolation. In a word, I don’t conjure anything without using a very tried and true context. This is because I believe that spirits don’t exist in a vacuum, that they have a very specific hierarchy and I use that hierarchy to work with spirits in combination. So that means that I don’t evoke Goetic demons in isolation, as seems to be the fad out there — instead I work with them as part of a hierarchy that includes the archangels of the 12 zodiacal signs, the angelic rulers of the 36 decans and the 72 angels of the ha-Shem. So if I sought to evoke one of the Goetic demons, it would only be after a series of theurgic workings that would include the archangels and angels that are part of its hierarchy.

The 72 demons of the Goetia have their counter-part in the 72 angels of the ha-Shem, and I would never evoke one of the demons without also invoking the matching angel of the ha-Shem. In this fashion the evocation would be controlled and balanced between light and darkness, which would protect me from potential demonic obsession and allow the dark aspects of my inner self and the inner planes to be worked out through the powers and the intercession of the ha-Shem angel. Pairing Goetic demons with angels of the ha-Shem isn’t new, since we have a record of this methodology found in the book, The Goetia of Dr Rudd. Where I part with tradition is that I choose to build a complete spiritual context using the angelic rulers of the decans and the archangels of the twelve signs as part of the hierarchy of spirits that I engage when working theurgy and goetic evocation. It’s my understanding that the Golden Dawn had proposed this kind of hierarcy, Aleister Crowley hints at it in his The Book of Thoth, and Carroll “Poke” Runyon uses a variation close to what I use. So there is some precedence for this hierarchy — but it’s likely to be recent and is not to be found in the tradition of the old grimoires, as far as I can tell.

If one were to perform the evocation of Goetic demons without use of the above hierarchy, then another hierarchy would implicitly come into play, and that would be the Infernal Hierarchy of Satan and the organization of Hell. This hierarchy is also part of the tradition of the old grimoires, but the demonic hierarchy would not be approached without the power and wisdom of the Holy Guardian Angel to aid and protect the magician. One would assume that because the magicians of the previous epoch would not have attempted to invoke a demon servitor without first going through the infernal hierarchy, then we shouldn’t consider these spirits in isolation either. However, because I am not a Christian or a Satanist, I believe that the infernal hierarchy is kind of contrived and represents a dualistic spiritual philosophy, which I don’t think is workable as a witch and pagan. I also don’t have a deity in my pantheon who is like the devil, even though the Horned God does come close — except that he continually dies and is reborn, which is not a good quality for an angelic adversary. I do believe that the concept of demons does work in a pagan and Wiccan spiritual environment, and I will attempt to explain this theory.

So exactly what are demons, anyway? If they are merely personifications and agents of evil, why would anyone want to traffic with them? One could assume that either magicians want to control the chaotic forces in their lives and apply them in a constructive fashion or they have a perverse desire to engage in malignancy and the exaltation of their own darkness. Others who traffic with them may be doing it out of curiosity, boredom, or because they are jaded and want some kind of new kick in their lives.

I see demons as spiritually negative, but more like a natural negativity — the dark Yin to the light Yang. Angels are like the agents of control who maintain the spiritual status quo, and demons are the agents of chaos who break up the status quo and counteract the laws of nature, including, perhaps, even the physical laws of nature. Where one could see angels as a kind of masculine force, demons would be feminine. They symbolize the archetypal opposition of light and darkness in nature, but without the connotation of good and evil. Angels represent the perfect mathematics of Euclidean space and Newtonian/ Einsteinian physical laws, and demons would represent the curved and distorted intricacies of Non-Euclidean space and the convolutions of Quantum mechanics. One can see by this comparison that demons are an integral part of the natural spiritual world, and that if one works with angels, one should also ultimately work with demons as well — to maintain a holistic approach to magic and spiritual mechanics.

Since demons of any kind represent the opposite quality of angels, then we could assume that they would represent chaotic, disruptive and even stochastic spiritual forces and intelligences. Obviously, we would want to engage such forces and intelligences in a very controlled environment, but conversely, such entities would be useful in breaking through old patterns and dealing with internal flaws within the psyche, or even engaging in processes that would be considered outside of the normal space time continuum. Such a controlled use would require either the assistance of the Holy Guardian Angel, a hierarchy of archangels and angels, or a combination of both.

I have used demons in the past to specifically address my spiritual dark side, to realize myself as a being of light and darkness, and to learn to harness and empower my dark side so that I might be able to master myself. I believe that this is relevant because the physical and social worlds that we live in are neither light nor dark, but rather a balanced gray. Demons help me to determine my limitations, flaws and weaknesses — something that angels would not be capable of doing since they are programmed to aid and assist humanity. Sometimes things need to be broken or even destroyed in order to ensure continued spiritual growth. Magicians, like everyone else, can allow habits and limiting opinions trap them. These habits can carve deep ruts in their lives that seem almost insurmountable. Drastic measures may be required to eliminate them. I believe that demons can do this quite adequately. Similarly, demons can also allow for the incursion of the impossible, assisting one in attracting totally new and completely unrealized possibilities into one’s life.

In the magician’s search for wisdom and power, no stone should be left unturned, and this is also true for the evocation of demons. However, I maintain my argument that one should never evoke demons without also working through the hierarchy and also, hopefully, having a powerful guide such as the Holy Guardian Angel to assist.

©2009 Frater Barrabbas
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of witchcraft and ritual magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Foundation and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magic — Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at the email address tiresius@gnosticstar.org and his website is at www.fraterbarrabbas.com.

43 queries. 1.334 seconds