Is It Really Energy?

January 26, 2010 by  
Filed under energy work, mysticism

Is It Really Energy?

The word “energy” is ambiguous, used as a cover word to describe a set of experiences and sensations, which may not actually be energetic at all. It’s a convenient word used to conceptualize those experiences, but at the same time it’s a fuzzy word because the experiences that fall under the umbrella term “energy” may not have anything to do with energy. Part of where this ambiguity comes from is associating the word energy with Chi. There’s no direct translation of Chi into English and so energy has been used as the word that roughly describes what Chi may or may not be (Bonewits 2007, Yang 2003).

Recently, as I was doing a breathing exercise to help me work through what would be termed an “Energetic Blockage,” I realized that the term wasn’t accurate to what I was experiencing. There was a gap between the concept of the energetic blockage and the reality of the experience I was actively involved in. I realized that the term “Energetic Blockage” could be used to describe the experience, but it wasn’t really accurate to that experience.

The actual experience was an awareness of physical tension in my body that was linked to an emotional issue I’ve been working on for the last couple of months. As I did my breathing exercise, I consciously focused on the physical tension, and specifically on allowing myself to feel it and work through the resultant emotions and thoughts that came up as I felt it1. Eventually I was able to work through the tension to a point where it was no longer physically bothering me. The emotional tension had also died down. I’m by no means finished working through this issue, but for the moment the sensation was no longer prevalent.

The breathing exercise I used is a Taoist exercise for dissolving physical and psychological tension in a person’s body. Both breath and chi are utilized in the dissolving process, but that doesn’t mean energy is involved. In fact, what I felt was involved was a conscious effort to be present with the emotions and thoughts I felt, and a sense of movement in the tension itself. I feel that same movement anytime I’m doing breathing meditations and as such would characterize it as my experience of Chi. I’m not sure that awareness of movement would automatically mean that Chi equals energy however.

My point in bringing this up isn’t to be overly semantic, though it may seem like I am being just that. Rather, it’s to question carefully the words we use to describe the experiences we have. While energy is a convenient term to use, it’s also become an umbrella term to describe a wide variety of sensations and experiences. And whether we are using energy in the quantum physics sense of the word or using energy as a biological field of electromagnetism, or as the mysterious force of chi, when it becomes an umbrella term for all of those experiences and more, then it might be worth considering being more particular about how we use the word and also comparing that usage against the actual experiences we have.

The word energy is used in so many different settings that it’s not surprising some occultists are skeptical of the word. My own skepticism comes more from the conscious experience I mentioned above, which has prompted me to consider how the energy paradigm may be used as another way of fully being present with the body. If we can take sensations we feel and make them abstract by referring to them as energetic phenomenon, then we can also avoid being present in the body, and also being present with the emotions linked to those sensations, at least initially. And that may actually be beneficial, given that Western cultures, in particular, are body phobic. Having a word such as energy represent the sensations we feel might then make those sensations easier to deal with on a psychological level.

At the same time, when I feel a flush of heat stir in my hands because I’m doing a Taoist exercise that uses Chi, I recognize that a physiological reaction is occurring. The sensations of heat and movement that I’m aware of tell me I’m working with some kind of force or awareness that effects me on the physical as well as metaphysical level. When I do rituals, these same sensations can be felt and indicate that the ritual is occurring. And what I realize is this: Accepting that I feel these sensations in my body allows me to fully integrate my body into magical work. Instead of needing to use an abstract concept to explain what the sensations are, I can simply choose to be present with my awareness of those sensations and accept them as physiological expressions my body is sharing to indicate that all of me is present and focused on this ritual working I’m doing.

I do think the word energy has value in metaphysical discussions. I just question how we use the word, and if the use causes people to neglect or ignore an experience they could otherwise have. Taking a moment to just be in an experience without labeling it with a word or explaining it way or analyzing it can be the key to fully allowing a person to come face to face with the moment s/he is in. and welcome what s/he experiences for what it is.

Bibliography

  • Bonewits, Isaac & Phaedra. (2007). Real energy: Systems, spirits. and substances to heal, change and grow. Franklin Lakes: New Page Books.
  • Yang, Jwing-Ming (2003). Qigong meditation: Embryonic breathing. Boston: YMAA Publication Center.

Footnotes

  1. Quick Note of Clarification: It’s true that people feel tension or stress all the time, but we also get good at ignoring it. Consciously being aware of tension is inviting yourself to feel it and discover what the source of that tension is.

©2010 by Taylor Ellwood.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Occult Author Spotlight – Bill Whitcomb

Occult Author Spotlight - Bill Whitcomb

Note: This is my last column for the Occult Author Spotlight. While there are many other authors to discuss and I hope someone will take over and write about those authors, the demands of several of my own ventures as well as some changes in my spiritual life prohibit me from continuing.

I was first introduced to Bill Whitcomb’s work when a friend bought me The Magician’s Companion for my birthday one year. I immediately saw the usefulness of this book as a compendium of information about various magical systems, symbols, archetypes and other information that could prove useful if you needed to quickly get information on a particular subject within occultism. I’ve used it on a few different occasions to improve the efficacy of my works, and it remains a book I consult on a regular basis. The book looks at both western and eastern systems of magic and discusses succinctly the elements of those systems, while also providing reading lists for people who would like to go more in depth with the materials. Another added benefit is that Whitcomb lists the systems by their use of numbers, so you’ll see a few systems with the number seven. Reading through the entire book can be quite novel and useful.

I met Bill shortly after I moved to Portland and became good friends with him. During that process, I learned about his second book The Magician’s Reflection, which had gone out of print some time ago and didn’t look like it would come back into print from the original publisher. With some wheedling on my part, he eventually got the rights back and decided to republish that book with Megalithica books.

The Magician’s Reflection is an instruction book in how to create your symbol system for magic, with an encyclopedia of possible choices you could make for that. Naturally you shouldn’t limit yourself to what is presented in the book, but the various examples that Whitcomb provides can provide useful inspiration as you develop your own system of magic. Whitcomb also includes the alphabet of dreams, a magical language with its own cipher, and an appendix about a system of time magic called Nar, written by a friend of his, which utilizes different patterns and colors to help a person manipulate possibilities in time. Both the alphabet of dreams and Nar provide some intriguing ideas about where a unique system of magic can be created and developed. The Magician’s Reflection provides you your own key for doing that as well.

Bill is currently working on the Dream Manual, which is a book with art and some phrases to be used for meditational purposes. If you go to his website you can learn more about this project. He and I are working on another book together, which is a best practices of magic book. It’s still very much in the rough draft phase, but will be available at some point in the near future.

Recommended Reading

  • Whitcomb, Bill. (1993). The Magician’s Companion: A Practical and Encyclopedic Guide to Magical and Religious Symbolism. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Whitcomb, Bill. (2008). The Magician’s Reflection. Stafford: Megalithica Books.

©2009 by Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Book Review: Pop Culture Magick, 2nd Edition

Book Review: Pop Culture Magick, 2nd Edition

Pop Culture Magick
Taylor Ellwood
Megalithica Books; 2nd edition (August 14, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1905713127
144 pages
Reviewer: RainSingingWolf
Full starFull starFull starFull starHalf star
 

When I first heard that somebody was seriously considering writing a book on media magick (specifically pop culture), I was both thrilled and terrified. As a longtime lurker on many boards, I have encountered so many terrible ideas using new media that I was doubtful when opening this book.

With this one book, my impression of pop culture magick has completely changed. I commend Ellwood for identifying the importance of previous (and current) belief systems, rather than simply disregarding them, as so many authors are prone to do. The first few chapters of this book are devoted to what exactly “pop culture” is, why it is important in our lives, and how powerful it can be. The idea that simply exposing people to something can give it power isn’t a new idea; however, Ellwood emphasizes exactly how important this factor is in one’s life from commercials (merchandise identification) to news (celebrities). With such a wellspring of options and power available in every day situations, it seems that using pop culture is an obvious choice for creating magick.

Ellwood emphasizes the importance of keeping one’s magick current to one’s living situation and personality. Finding a story or character that one identifies with can completely change the enthusiasm for magick; thus, a more powerful magick is made available to the magician. This concept is no different than when a magician may go searching in older religions for a god/dess that matches his or her needs.

According to Ellwood, a plethora of media is available for a creative magician to use. This includes: comics, cartoons, anime, books, movies, video games, card games, and even commercials! And why not? Many people follow characters or celebrities so closely that they know them better than family, friends, or even themselves; additionally, many books or movies provide clear rules and structure for their worlds that could easily be adapted for one’s own rituals. He generously shares examples from his own attempts and successes at using pop culture, as well as those of fellow magicians. If a reader is feeling up to the challenge, exercises are provided at the end of each chapter that can easily be used just as they are or adapted for one’s own ideas.

Like a responsible mentor, Ellwood not only emphasizes the positive in using these new techniques, but also reminds the reader of the risks associated with the practice. Just like every day people, characters from many sources have positive strengths that are just as strong as their flaws. While working with entities one may get the benefit of better strategy; however, that same character may have a splash of arrogance that can easily rub off on the magician.

Another useful thing Ellwood offers the reader is appendices with the various media he references throughout the text, as well as further explanations on some of the techniques he mentions. He also provides a bibliography of the texts he references, which could be useful to the reader.

The only problems I had with this book are completely technical. The font appeared small to me, and I’m not sure whether or not this has to do with the particular font or the actual font size. Also, while I understand the use of “hir” is a generous attempt at being gender-conscious, I find it’s usage to be hideous, especially in a book.

Using pop culture for one’s practices is certainly not a new idea, but many people are afraid of moving beyond the safe boundaries of known magical techniques. Ellwood invites readers to join him and others in, at the very least, giving these new techniques a chance. While the book is small, it provides a variety of examples to open the mind of the reader to the possibilities. Whether one is just curious about pop culture magick or seriously considering using it, I recommend this book.

4 and a half stars out of 5.

Review ©2009 RainSingingWolf
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight – Isaac Bonewits

Occult Author Spotlight - Isaac Bonewits

I first met Isaac Bonewits a few years ago at the Fall Gathering of the Tribes in West Virginia. It was quite interesting to talk with him and it was at that time that I was introduced to his work. Bonewits has been involved in the occult since the 1960s. He’s the only person to have graduated from a university with a degree in magic. Bonewits has founded and belonged to various pagan magical organizations, as well as having written a number of books on paganism and magic.

My familiarity with Bonewits’ work has focused on four books by him: Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic, Authentic Thaumaturgy, Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca, and Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, And Substances to Heal, Change, And Grow, which was co-written by his wife Phaedra Bonewits. Bonewits has written other books as well (see below). What I’ve most enjoyed about his work, beyond the sense of humor, is the attention to detail Bonewits provides in his works, as well as his ability to explain different tangents and concepts. Real Magic, in particular, is one of the first attempts I’ve seen to provide a coherent set of laws which explains how magic works.

I recommend Bonewits’ books for the detail and variety, but also because he maintains a rigorous academic approach to his works. Consequently, it is very easy to trace where he got his sources from, which can provide additional places of research and reading for people who are interested.

His website is http://www.neopagan.net.

Bibliography

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight: Jan Fries

Occult Author Spotlight: Jan Fries

I picked up all of Fries works a few years ago at Edge of the Circle, an occult bookstore in Seattle, which happens to stock these otherwise hard to find books. The main reason these books are hard to find is they are published by a U.K. publisher and have to be special ordered. However, it’s well worth your while to special order these books, as there is a wealth of information in them about diverse topics including Norse Runes, Seith shamanic practices, freestyle shamanic practices, in sights on the Tao, and practical magic experiments and exercises.

Fries is from and resides in Germany, and is apparently a musician, as well as a writer. For his books, he draws on Taoism, Celtic magic, Thelema, Maat Magic, and Austin Osman Spare’s techniques for automatic drawing as inspirations and sources which inform his own approaches to magic.

I have only read two of Fries works at this time: Visual Magick, and Living Midnight: Three Movements of the Tao. I found both works to be informative and filled with exercises that could easily be incorporated into a magician’s practice. At the same time, Fries definitely shows that he is able to provide his own perspective to the material. While he draws on Taoist and Buddhist material, he also makes it clear that he has his own approach to using the material, which is informed by a desire to make it as practical as possible. This is a very useful approach for any magician to utilize and Fries models it admirably.

I haven’t read his other three works, though I do have them. However, having spoken to some other magicians who have read his works, I’ve been told that they are of a similar quality as the other two works I mentioned, and I definitely believe it. What also impresses me about this author’s works is the bibliography and level of research that clearly has gone into each work. While I’d like to see more overt in-text citations, Fries does make an active effort to quote the works of others, which adds to the overall efficacy of the writing.

I highly recommend getting copies of Fries work. It’s a worthy investment for any magician’s library and will provide you a unique perspective on magical practices.

Below is a list of Fries’s works. It’s definitely in the interest of any magician to pick up Fries’s writing and incorporate it in your personal practice.

  • Visual Magick: A Handbook of Freestyle Shamanism (Mandrake, 1992, 2001)
  • Helrunar: Manual of Rune Magick (Mandrake, 1993 & 2002)
  • Seidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent Mysteries (Mandrake, 1996)
  • Living Midnight: Three Movements of the Tao (Mandrake, 1998)
  • The Cauldron of the Gods: Manual of Celtic Magick (Mandrake, 2003)

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Call for Writers: Women’s Voices in Magic

April 21, 2009 by  
Filed under news in magick, spotlight

Email for inquiries and submissions: brandyeditor at gmail.com

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press (Stafford, U.K./Portland, OR, U.S.A) is seeking submissions for an anthology on women working in the magical communities, particularly in communities where women have not been extensively published or in which women face stereotyping and misunderstanding within and without the community. These communities include (but are not limited to) groups and individuals working in the Golden Dawn, Thelemic, Aurum Solis, Alchemy, Chaos, and Experimental Fields.

Women have been involved in traditional and ritual magic since the late Victorian era. However women are often viewed as tangential to these communities or as soror mysticae, assistants to the magician. Today women are actively involved in ceremonial magical groups and lodges, alchemy, chaos magic, and Experimental Magic, overcoming stereotypes and creating new visions of magic within the communities.

Here are some suggested topics to give you an idea of the focus of this anthology.

Magical work

What magical work are you doing now? How do you describe it? Do you work alone, in a group, or in several settings? (For example, I do is traditional Ceremonial magic, traditional Witchcraft, experimental Ceremonial in a group setting, and I create experimental Ceremonial work.)

Women’s work

Is your magical work centered in a community where women do not have a strong presence, or in which women face stereotyping? Does it matter to your work that you are a woman? Do you feel that you approach the work in the same way that the men in your field do, or does being a woman affect your magic? Is that affect biological, cultural, magical, or all three? Do you present yourself to the world as a magical worker (”I am an alchemist”) or as a woman in your field (”I am a woman alchemist”)?

Stereotypes and prejudice

Has anyone ever told you “I didn’t know women were involved in that?” (”You’re the first woman I’ve met in the O.T.O.!”) Do outsiders assume that only men do the kind of work you are doing? Do people assume that because you are a woman you are doing the work in a particular way? (For example, do people assume that because you are a woman, you are doing psychological alchemy, not physical chemistry?)

Do you actively encounter prejudice? Do people talk to the man standing next to you rather than you? Are you silenced in person or online when you try to speak about your own work?

How do you counter stereotypes and prejudice when you encounter them? Are they only annoying, do they actively hinder your work, do they prevent you from doing your work? How important is it to you that your work is understood by others?

Women’s history

Women’s history has been difficult to document. This is as true in the magical fields as in any other endeavor. Mary Greer wrote about the lives of some of the early women in ceremonial magic in Women of the Golden Dawn. Are you aware of stories about women in the traditional and ritual magical fields that have not been told? Are you involved in documenting women’s history in the magical communities?

Soror mysticae

Stage magicians sometimes have women assistants. This image holds true in the magical field as well; Renaissance alchemists spoke of “soror mysticae” or women who assisted their work. Do people assume that you are not primarily directing or benefiting from your work?

Do you work on your own, with a partner of your own sex, with a partner of the opposite sex, or with a group? Do the people you work with support your work? Do you yourself have assistants whose work you direct?

Traditional cultures

In your work do you study or interact with people in other cultures and traditional cultures? Do the gender roles in those cultures differ from those of your own culture? Are those roles more or less restrictive, or just different? In what situations does your gender come up, and how do you handle those situations?

Honoring the cycle

Women’s magic has been associated with women’s fertility cycle. Do you find that comforting and supporting, or angering and limiting? How does your menstrual, pregnancy, and menopausal cycle affect the magic you are doing – deeply, tangentially, or not at all? Do you do any specific magic to honor the cycles of the body?

Feminism

If you are a feminist, do you present yourself as a feminist in the magical field in which you work? Are the others you work with in your field receptive to your feminism, or are they resistant or defensive around feminist discussion? Do you feel that feminism is central to your work, or do you see your feminism as social rather than magical?

Women’s communities

Is there a sense of women’s community in the field in which you work? Are you actively involved in building women’s community? Do you encounter resistance to this work? Are women you work with excited by women’s community? Do you and the women you work with see women’s community as a way to socialize, a magical path, a parallel community to the mens’ community? What is your vision for the women’s magical communities of the future?

Rough drafts are due 18 May, 2009. These drafts will be edited in a back-and-forth process with the editor. Essays should be 1500-4000 words, although if your work falls outside those limits, do submit it – we can discuss this during the editing process. Do drop us an email if you are unsure whether your idea fits into the content. The sooner you start the communication process the better, as after the deadline we won’t be considering additional ideas.

Essay requirements

  • Citations for all quoted, paraphrased, or otherwise unoriginal material
  • Bibliography of works cited
  • Prefer APA format

Do write in your voice! If you’re academically inclined or trained, feel free to be as intelligent and technical as you like. If your work entirely talks in the first person about your own experience, please include this also. There is a wide range in women’s voices, and we are interested in being as inclusive of style as possible.

Compensation will be ($25) (paid via twice-yearly royalties from book sales) plus a free copy of the anthology when it is published and additional copies sold at 40% off the cover price to contributers. All contributors will be provided with a contract upon final acceptance of their essays, not when they are accepted for editing. If your essay is not accepted for the anthology, we will tell you after the first round of edits.

The anthology will be edited by Brandy Williams. She is the author of author of several pagan/occult nonfiction books. She may be found online at http://www.brandywilliams.org and her email address for this anthology is brandyeditor at gmail.com.

Immanion Press is a small independent press based in the United Kingdom. Founded by author Storm Constantine in 2003, it expanded into occult nonfiction in 2004 with the publication of Taylor Ellwood’s Pop Culture Magick. Today, Immanion’s nonfiction line, under the Megalithica Books imprint, has a growing reputation for edgy, experimental texts on primarily intermediate and advanced pagan and occult topics. Find out more at http://www.immanion-press.com.

News in Magick appears as often as we receive press releases. If you’d like to send us a press release of potential interest to RTV readers, please email your materials to admin@rendingtheveil.com and be aware of our issue publication dates.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight: William G. Gray

April 14, 2009 by  
Filed under columns, occult author spotlight, qabalah

Occult Author Spotlight: William G. Gray

William G. Gray’s books on magic have been one of the foundations of my own practice since 1998, when I was first given his book Ladder of Lights by a mentor of mine. What I’ve found so fascinating with his work is its concise and thorough focus on the process of magic. Gray doesn’t embellish his writing or tell convoluted stories or leave information out to test his readers. Gray founded a magical order called Sangreal Sodality, which is focused on his interpretation of ceremonial magic and Hermetic Quabalah. In particular Gray developed the Rite of Light, which is a practice focused on accessing the innermost mysteries of esoteric orders without drawing on any particular religious affiliation.

My own familiarity with Gray’s work has primarily occurred through his books which discuss the process of magic and how it works, as well as through the book The Ladder Of Lights, which goes into great detail and depth about the Sephiroth in the Quabalah and the meanings, angels, godforms, and related concepts that are associated with each Sephirah. Gray’s books on the quabalah are very detailed. In Talking Tree he discusses the tarot on the tree of life and what the meaning of each trump is with the different paths on the tree of life.

However, my favorite books of his are Magical Ritual Methods and Inner Traditions of Magic. In Inner Traditions of Magic Gray discusses the basics of ceremonial magic, but also introduces readers to the power concept of Telesmatic images and questions the relevance of magic in the nuclear age, which can also be applied to some degree to the technology age we live in. In Magical Ritual Methods, Gray discusses zero, space/time concepts, invocation and other techniques which can be used to enhance the magic one is doing. Both books are essentials that will get any reader to think carefully about how s/he is approaching magic.

Recently, Weiser books started republishing Gray’s work, which had previously been out of print. I highly recommend picking the re-prints up while they are in stock, as his books can otherwise be hard to find. I was fortunate enough to get most of my copies right before they want out of print and to this day I still refer to them a fair amount, and find his books, along with Bardon’s, to be the most relevant to building a strong foundation for western ceremonial practices of magic.

Books by William G. Gray

There are more books written by him. The ones above are the ones I was able to find and have in my library.

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

News in Magick #13 – Call for Writers: Queer Magic Anthology

News in Magick #13 - Call for Writers: Queer Magic Anthology

E-mail for inquiries and submissions.

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press (Stafford, U.K./Portland, OR, U.S.A.) is seeking submissions for an anthology on queer magic and/or ritual.

What We Don’t Want

For the purposes of this publication, “queer” is primarily defined as anything of a non-majority sexual orientation (e.g. gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, etc.), or atypical gender identity (e.g. transsexual, transgendered, intersexed, genderqueer, metagender, etc.). Other things may be part of the widest understanding of “queerness,” including relationship styles (e.g. polyamory, etc.) or sexual practices (e.g. BDSM, fetishes, kink, etc.), and indeed magic, occultism, and paganism themselves (since they are “non-normative,” which is an agreed-upon definition of “queer” within many academic circles), but the focus of this volume will be on queerness particularly as it applies to gender and sexual orientation.

This is not an anthology that is intended to be about personal stories of the intersection of magical, occult, pagan, or spiritual identity and queerness, but instead about queer perspectives on magical, occult, and esoteric topics especially, but also possibly the impact of queerness on pagan or spiritual topics (e.g. theology). Further, where and when these topics of paganism and/or spiritual identity and affiliation might be addressed, this is not an anthology about coming out spirituality (e.g. the idea that it is okay to be LGBTQ and pagan/ Thelemic/ Santero/ Hellenic/ whatever/ &c.; “coming out” as ritual, initiation, etc.), nor should essays primarily be about how queerness of whatever sort gives one a better perspective or understanding on energy polarity or gender wholeness within any of these magical, occult, or pagan paradigms (e.g. the idea that gay men are more naturally gifted, magical, or shamanically-inclined because they are more in touch with their femininity, etc.). The latter has been done to death already; the former is an important first step in these matters, but as with all Megalithica publications, the intention with this anthology is to go beyond introductory matters whenever possible.

Personal stories that are primarily about alienation from mainstream magical, occult, or pagan circles because of one’s queerness are not the focus of this volume; if discussion of such is relevant to the wider aims of one’s essay, that’s fine, but having those wider aims is a necessity. If you want to do a piece on “queer love spells,” it would be better to address theoretical issues of how they’re different or in what ways their methodology is unique and presents challenges or enrichment, rather than giving templates or sample ritual/ magical texts. Essays on how to adapt “non-queer” spells, rituals, or practices to a queer context, or lists of correspondences and deities for particular queer issues, are not very desirable… unless they’re extremely innovative and unique!

What We Do Want

Some particular issues of interest might include:

  • How does one’s queerness suggest different viewpoints on particular aspects, methodologies, or theories of magical practice?
  • Just as one’s queerness may give one more useful insights on some magical or spiritual matters, are there likewise blind spots that one’s queerness may cause, and how can one address those usefully from a queer perspective?
  • Are there historical precedents or particularly interesting figures in relation to queerness within one’s magical or spiritual tradition?
  • Are there any useful practices or texts from the past (e.g. the Greek Magical Papyri; mythological tales featuring queer figures; established traditions with queer themes; historical figures who were known to be what we understand as queer; etc.) which can be used today, usefully adapted, or mined for insights for use in the very different contexts of the modern world?
  • What are some magical methods or procedures that one might use to creatively deal with what are viewed as queer-specific issues, like homophobia, transphobia, etc., safer sex practices and education, forming and interacting with the LGBTQ communities, legal and political activism, LGBTQ rights and equality struggles, etc.?
  • Are there “pop cultural” and “multi-media” magical techniques (see Taylor Ellwood’s various publications for further ideas/information!) or practices that can be employed in interesting ways for queer folks? Ideas may include:
    1. use of personals websites/Craigslist for spell casting or divination
    2. drag performances as aspecting/invocation
    3. uses of cruising and the entire bar/club scene for ritual work (which can be rather edgy, and not always in a good way, but nonetheless it’s a possibility)
    4. using queer-themed literature and films as bibliomancy or interactive ritual texts and/or sacred drama (on the latter, think The Rocky Horror Picture Show as ritual/ liturgy, but with other possibilities for the film that is the subject of the interaction)
    5. use of historical figures (e.g. Harvey Milk, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein), living personalities (e.g. RuPaul, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John), or characters (e.g. Valerie from V for Vendetta, Sterling [Patrick Stewart] from Jeffrey, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist from Brokeback Mountain, etc.) as archetypes or spirits, deity-forms, egregores, etc. for queer magical/ spiritual work

    and so forth.

  • What are the challenges that can be encountered with the interactions of LGBTQ people and non-queer folks in magical/ spiritual communities, and (most importantly) how can they be overcome creatively? What are the challenges that can be encountered with having interaction with a non-magical/ non-spiritual person in one’s personal life as a lover/ partner/ relationship, and (most importantly) how can they be overcome creatively? (By “overcome creatively,” what is meant is anything non-manipulative, non-triumphalistic, and non-resentful that can be done to address and/or alleviate the issues in a situation — which is to say, specific actions, not adoption of attitudes or viewpoints that run the gamut of “try to be open-minded, understanding, and compassionate; deal with people on an individual and context-specific basis,” etc., as the main resolution offered. These should be things that are tried and tested, not theoretical matters. In this type of essay, of course personal experience and sharing of stories are necessary, but if the one you’re considering does not meet all of the above criteria, it will most likely not be considered for inclusion in this anthology.)
  • And anything else you might think of which is innovative, interesting, different, new, unique, fascinating, scintillating, wonderful, and fabulous that involves queerness of whatever type, and its relation to and intersection with the practice and theory of magic, occultism, paganism and spirituality!

Requirements for Submission

  • Citations for all quoted, paraphrased, or otherwise unoriginal material
  • Bibliography for works cited
  • Format should be “Vancouver Style” footnotes — look it up if you are not familiar with it!

Do write in your voice! If you’re academically inclined or trained, feel free to be as intelligent and technical as you like. If your work entirely speaks in the first person about your own experience, that is also permissible, but please use a more formal writing style for as much as possible in your piece that is not quoted speech. Unless you do so sparingly, or define your terms (either in the main text or footnotes), do not use lolcat-speak, text message speak, or anything else that could be considered para-English.

Rough drafts are due August 15, 2009. These drafts will be edited in a back-and-forth process with the editor. Essays should be 1500-4000 words, although if your work falls outside those limits, do submit it — we can discuss this during the editing process. Do drop us an email if you are unsure whether your idea fits into the content. The sooner you start the communication process the better, as after the deadline we won’t be considering additional ideas.

Compensation will be ($25) (paid via twice-yearly royalties from book sales) plus a free copy of the anthology when it is published and additional copies sold at 40% off the cover price to contributors. All contributors will be provided with a contract upon final acceptance of their essays, not when they are accepted for editing. If your essay is not accepted for the anthology, we will tell you after the first round of edits.

The anthology will be edited by Phillip A. Bernhardt-House. Phillip is the author of several articles (academic and non-academic) on religion, spirituality, mythology, theology, Celtic Studies, paganism, queerness, werewolves, and a variety of other topics, as well as a published poet, and is a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (queer Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheism dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian). Phillip’s e-mail address for this anthology is aediculaantinoi@hotmail.com.

Immanion Press is a small independent press based in the United Kingdom. Founded by author Storm Constantine in 2003, it expanded into occult nonfiction in 2004 with the publication of Taylor Ellwood’s Pop Culture Magick. Today, Immanion’s nonfiction line, under the Megalithica Books imprint, has a growing reputation for edgy, experimental texts on primarily intermediate and advanced pagan and occult topics. Find out more at immanion-press.com.

News in Magick appears as often as we receive press releases. If you’d like to send us a press release of potential interest to RTV readers, please email your materials to admin@rendingtheveil.com and be aware of our issue publication dates.

©2009 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Occult Author Spotlight: Franz Bardon

December 30, 2008 by  
Filed under columns, occult author spotlight

Occult Author Spotlight: Franz Bardon

I first encountered Franz Bardon’s works approximately five years ago, and was amazed I hadn’t read or explored his concepts earlier. It likely didn’t help that until recently his works were out of print or printed only in German. In 2001, Merkur Publishing translated all of Bardon’s works and re-published them in the U.S.

Franz Bardon lived approximately forty years and was a stage magician as well as a hermeticist. He died in 1958 from pancreatitis, which may have been purposely induced when he was put in prison by communists. Bardon wrote three books on Hermeticism, and was working on a fourth when he died. There is also a biographical book about him called Frabato the Magician. [Ed’s note: This book is by Bardon, so if it’s a bio, it is an autobiography.] Bardon’s work tends to focus on practical applications of magic. While he discusses theory, the books are clearly written to instruct the reader in how to practice magic. Exercises are provided throughout each of the texts. It’s fair to say that the potential of his books isn’t fully realized unless the magician does the exercises.

The quality of Bardon’s work is high. I wasn’t exposed to his work until recently, and while most of the exercises he proposes in Initiation into Hermetics are ones I’ve done variants of, trying out his exercises has proven to be helpful in honing my skills and focus. In fact, it’s fair to compare the quality of his work to William G. Gray. Both tend toward an exactness of description, as well as a thorough explanation of how a practical technique should work, that is sorely lacking in a lot of the other occult literature of the time. The exercises in his first book are useful challenges to aspiring magicians, and I’d also recommend them to experienced magicians who want a different perspective on ceremonial magic than is found through the more traditional work of Crowley and Regardie. It’s interesting to note that Bardon clearly had some background in Far Eastern breathing techniques, as his concepts of pore breathing and energy accumulation are decidedly not Western practices. The energy work exercises are very helpful in improving one’s health.

Bardon’s second work, The Practice of Magical Evocation, provides an excellent explanation of how evocation works in a manner that is unique to Bardon, but nonetheless could easily have influenced the chaos magic movement in terms of how entities are created. Bardon provides readers an opportunity to summon a large number of entities based on planetary attributes, as well as explaining to readers how to develop relationships with said entities. I’d have to say that this book should be considered one of the cornerstones of evocation, as Bardon’s work provides readers an opportunity to really develop their skills in evocation, while also understanding how it works.

I have to confess I haven’t yet read The Key to the True Kabbalah. From what I understand, this work isn’t considered to be as good as the previous two works, though it should be noted that Bardon intentionally wrote his books to build upon each other. So prior experience with the practices in his two prior works may be necessary to unlock the key of the third book. It is interesting to note that Bardon uses the German alphabet in his kabbalistic workings, similar in fact to the work done with the English language and Kabbalah.

Below is a list of Bardon’s works. It’s definitely in the interest of any magician to pick up Bardon’s writing and run with it in your personal practice.

Recommended Reading

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2008 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Magic: Is It Another Four Letter Word?

December 29, 2008 by  
Filed under experimental, magick, theory

Magic: Is It Another Four Letter Word?

In my most recent article for Reality Sandwich, “Magic: It’s More Than Just Finding Parking Spaces,” I discussed the stigmas or problem issues that surround the use of the word “magic” and the subculture of the occult, and I pointed out that until these stigmas are dealt with decisively, magic will never be rehabilitated. One commenter pointed out that it might be easier to say, “willful intentionality,” instead of saying, “magic,” because of all the baggage associated with the word. This leads me to ask, “Is magic another four letter word?”

Within the occult subculture, it could be argued that magic isn’t a four letter word, but I’m reminded of a recent incident where I overheard a description of a social networking meetup for local occultists. “We get together and hang out. We’ll talk about our jobs, or something fun we want to do, or plan when we’re going to go out and dance. We don’t about magic or any of the magical work we’re doing.” The passion that this was exclaimed with and the emphasis placed on not discussing magic at the meet up demonstrated an odd kind of attitude about magic, even from people who practiced it. It was as if people who came to such an event shouldn’t discuss magic, because it has no place in everyday life. Magic had become a four letter word.

While there is a lot of baggage associated with magic, another question I asked in the aforementioned article was about what the benefits of magic are, and in light of that question, I am going to use this article to address what those benefits are and why we shouldn’t treat “magic” as a four letter word.

One of the benefits of magic is that it provides access to alternate ways of knowing, ways of experiencing reality that fall outside the conventional approaches, such as religion, materialism, or science. Alternate ways of knowing incorporate techniques such as chemognosis, meditation, sex magic, ritual magic, energy work, but can also draw on disciplines outside of magic. The recent focus on semiotics and memetics is an example of practices from non-occult disciplines that have influenced magical practice.

Another benefit of magic is that it provides access to a variety of resources that fall outside the traditional spectrum of reality which we’re conditioned to believe in. These resources can include gods, angels, and demons, but also include cultivating our natural gifts, which may fall into disuse if not cultivated. A non-linear awareness of space/time, or the conscious manipulation of the physiology of the body is an example of accessing resources that fall outside the traditional spectrum of reality, but another example can be the intentional use of writing or collages to shape reality in a particular manner. By conventional standards, it would be argued that writing can’t directly shape reality. However, there are plenty of cases where writing has shaped a person’s life or events. William S. Burroughs and Ernest Hemingway are two examples; one knowingly did it and the other didn’t, with tragic consequences for him.

Magic also provides a person the opportunity to find answers to the spiritual questions s/he asks. Praying to a god is one way to find the answer, but the magician can also create the answer by his or her own efforts as well. And magic isn’t applied only to spiritual questions, but also to the practical concerns that can arise in living life. Utilizing magic to help you through a financial rough time or for healing a disease would be an example of a practical concern.

One could argue that everything I’ve mentioned above could be filed under “willful intentionality,” but would most people even understand that or know what “willful intentionality” meant? Certainly magic has its baggage and is sometimes a four letter word, but there are many associations with it that are positive. Many people have benefited from practicing magic and incorporating it into their lives. And many people, including yours truly, are proud to talk about magic with others, as well as practice it daily, instead of attempting to treat it as something you only deal with during special events or holidays.

Willful intentionality doesn’t have the negative associations, but it doesn’t have the positive associations, either. Another comment made to the aforementioned article was that if we were going to rehabilitate magic, it’s not a question of rehabilitating the term; it’s about rehabilitating how that term is used. I think this is an accurate point to make, and yet also a semantic one, because really what it points to is the need to rehabilitate the varied definitions of magic. Certainly, examining the definitions is important. It provides us an idea of how people understand the term as well as their own agenda for defining it in a particular way. But the application and processes also need to be considered carefully. When we do that, we aren’t just looking at magic from an abstract perspective, but also considering it from an experiential understanding of it.

Magic isn’t a four letter word. But how it’s been used and how it is understood has not always portrayed it in the best light. There is a lot of cultural and religious baggage associated with the word and even though it is marginally more acceptable now than it used to be, magic may not ever be free of that baggage. This may not matter to the occult subculture at all, but it does matter if we ever choose to take the concepts and practices of magic and present them to a more mainstream audience. At that point, “willful intentionality” may be the best choice of words to explain how those concepts work (or not, as I don’t think magic is just about an application of will and intent), but in the process we will have to lay out many of the underlying assumptions and beliefs inherent within the word “magic.” It makes for a semantic challenge, but also necessarily may force us to consider anew just what the benefits of magic are, as we share them with a broader audience than just the occult subculture.

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.

©2008 by Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

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