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.
- Al Sad Al Su’ud (#24 The Star of Fortune) Capricorn 25E 51N — see Celestial Magic by Nigel Jackson, pp. 82 – 96
- See Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living by Robert Hand, p. 55
- See Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living by Robert Hand, p. 58
- Hand, Robert (1976) Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living Para Research Inc., Gloucester, MA
- Jackson, Nigel (2003) Celestial Magic: Principles And Practices of the Talismanic Art Capall Bahn Publishing Sommerset, UK
©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: Foundation — Volume 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.
The Hawaiian Oracle: Animal Spirit Guides from the Land of Light
Rima A. Morrell; art by Steve Rawlings
New World Library (April 13, 2006)
144 pages plus 36 cards
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a totem deck/book set. I’ve had this one sitting in my personal collection for a while, and figured it was about time to take a break from my review stacks. I also wanted to give myself a fresh look at it, because someone I respect as a totemist gave it a pretty scathing review last year, and I didn’t want that biasing my approach.
There’s good and bad in the set, so I’ll give you some details in list form:
- The author emphasizes interconnection and responsibility to nature in the book. There are some valuable lessons for postindustrial cultures that often take the environment and its denizens (includes humans!) for granted. It’s obvious that she’s passionate about being a caretaker, and while she doesn’t include it quite to the extent that, say, Susie Green does in the Animal Messages deck, it was a nice touch. (In addition, she walks the talk, having set up a charity and refuge for rescued animals of various sorts, for which I give her major kudos.)
- Morrell has a Ph.D. in Huna, a New Age mix of Hawaiian mythology and other elements. She’s pretty familiar with Hawaiian mythos, and includes mythological information on each of the animals along with her interpretations, to flesh out the meanings and give people more to ponder when working with each animal.
- The cards themselves feature some of the most beautiful artwork by Steve Rawlings (who sadly only gets mentioned on the copyright page and the acknowledgment in the back of the book, instead of on the cover of the book or box). A lovely blend of realistic depictions of animals and brightly colored environments, the pictures make working with this deck extra delightful!
- One of the first things that stuck out was the author’s dogmatic adherence to vegetarianism even in the face of historical facts. I’ve no problem with vegetarianism in and of itself; however, Polynesian cultures are not and never have been vegetarian, and they did not simply begin eating meat because of contact with the Europeans. Yet she asserts this very idea on the first two pages (6-7) of the introduction.
- Lemuria and Atlantis: Arrrrrrgh. This is New Age stuff, pure and simple. Yet, like so many New Age authors, she tries to connect these fictional, completely unproven, conveniently lost continents to Hawaiian indigenous culture.
- Related to my last point, her book is based on the aforementioned Huna — which is not traditional Hawaiian religion. It’s a creation from the latter half of the 19th century when spiritualism and other such things were all the rage, and while it (and this book) dabble in Hawaiian religious and cultural elements, they are not synonymous. The author (who as I mentioned has a Ph.D. in Huna gained from University College in London, U.K.) claims to have spoken to indigenous Hawaiian practitioners of this, but she doesn’t give any indication of what status they have in their indigenous culture(s) or where they learned their material. Given that even indigenous cultures can have their frauds (being indigenous in genetics does not automatically confer full understanding of indigenous culture if you are primarily white in culture), I have to question how verifiably indigenous her information really is. This looks more like cultural appropriation than indigenous Hawaiian religion and culture.
- ”Land of Light”? This idealization of Hawaiian culture (and it’s definitely not limited to the subtitle) smacks of the Noble Savage stereotype.
Honestly, I’m leaning towards setting aside the book and keeping the cards. Unless you’re brand new to animal card divination and don’t yet feel you can interpret the cards based on your own observations (and the study of a species’ natural history, from whence its lore ultimately springs), it’s really not necessary. The information that is provided on cultural and other contexts is spotted with questionable content. Read through the book to get an idea of the author’s perspective and intent for creating the deck, but take it with a huge lick of salt.
Two pawprints out of five (though I give the art a five!)
Review ©2009 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.
Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon Series, including
- Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred
Llewellyn Publications (December 1, 2004)
- Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon
Llewellyn Publications (July 1, 2006)
- Necronomicon Tarot
Illustrated by Anne Stokes
Llewellyn Publications (September 1, 2007)
240 pages plus 78 cards
- Grimoire of the Necronomicon
Llewellyn Publications (August 1, 2008)
Reviewer: Lon Sarver
Stars rating pending.
H.P. Lovecraft, a writer of weird fiction for the pulp magazines of the first quarter of the twentieth century, created for his fiction a pantheon of demonic deities and their debased cults. This collection of beings and lore are known today as the Cthulhu Mythos, and have been expanded, first by Lovecraft’s friends and fellow pulp authors, and also by later generations of fantasists. Lovecraft and the others did the job so well that even now there are still people who believe that Lovecraft was writing fact disguised as fiction.
Even those who do not believe that Lovecraft’s writings are on some level literally true feel the dread pull of the Cthulhu Mythos, finding therein powerful symbols of strangeness, fear, and alien mystery. As with anything that grabs the attention and provokes the emotions, the Mythos has found its way into several serious works of magick.
Don Tyson’s Grimoire of the Necronomicon (Llewellyn 2008) is an attempt at one of these. Along with its companion volumes, Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred (2004), Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon (2006), and the Necronomicon Tarot (2007), the Grimoire presents a new look at the Cthulhu Mythos as workable magickal system.
As such, the texts can be evaluated three ways: as contributions to the overall literature of the Cthulhu Mythos, as contributions to occult scholarship, and as a functioning magickal system.
Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred, the first to be published, presents itself as a version of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, detailing the Mythos as discovered by Abdul Alhazred, a medieval Arab sorcerer. Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon is a much longer work, describing the life and journeys of Alhazred in the form of a novel of adventure and occult mystery.
From his surviving letters and non-fiction writing, we know that Lovecraft believed in using fragments and hints to fire the reader’s imagination. Dread and horror would thus be created in the reader’s mind far more effectively than they could be in complete descriptions on a page.
Unfortunately, Tyson’s writing does much to remove that kind of mystery without replacing it with anything worthwhile. While Necronomicon could easily be excused as an occultist fan’s labor of love, perhaps, Alhazred could not. The novel would read and feel exactly the same if one were to change the names of the protagonist and the monsters so as to remove all allusions to Lovecraft.
Also, the attributes Tyson ascribes to the Mythos and its entities are so changed from Lovecraft’s work that it seems, at times, as if the author is writing about entirely different things, and only borrowing the more famous names. This would give the books a hollow feeling to any reader familiar with the other stories that make up the Mythos.
This is important to the magickal value of the Grimoire and the tarot deck. Insofar that the point of writing a work of Cthulhu Mythos magick is to tap the current of energy created by generations of readers of this kind of fiction, departures from that fiction weaken the link, and the power that can be drawn through it.
The Necronomicon Tarot suffers heavily from this. The descriptions of the various Mythos entities used in the deck frequently do not match their presentation in works of Mythos fiction, and often do not match the meanings of the cards upon which they appear. For example, Azathoth is described by Lovecraft as a blind, idiot god dancing at the physical center of the universe. The deity is generally understood by Lovecraft scholars as a metaphor for Lovecraft’s existential dread of a blind, uncaring universe far too large for humans to comprehend.
In the Necronomicon Tarot, this deity is used as the image for Trump 0, The Fool. While the traditional divinatory meanings of innocence, child-like wonder, and gullibility are kept for the card, the deity is described as a filthy, insane being squatting in its own excrement. Use of the deck for divination, or really for any purpose other than rounding out a collection of Mythos paraphernalia, would be impaired by such internal dissonance. It certainly was for me.
The Grimoire of the Necronomicon itself suffers on many levels. Stripped of all of Tyson’s Lovecraftian pretentions, it is a simplified system of planetary/astrological magick. In brief, particular beings from the Mythos are ascribed to the seven “planets” of classical astrology, whose energies are held to rule various aspects of life. Communing with these beings through ritual brings these energies under the magician’s control and perfects the magician’s soul. Additionally, Tyson created twelve beings to represent the signs of the zodiac, for similar use.
Stripped to its bones, the system isn’t bad, just incomplete. Much of the material is borrowed from other, better works of planetary magick, without the context or depth that the original systems provided. In place of this is a narrative which attempts to explain how the various deities of the Cthulhu Mythos are related to the planets, why they would work with the magician, and why such an alliance is a good idea in the first place.
The narrative begins with the creation of the physical world as the aftermath of a cosmic rape. Nyarlathotep, a malign trickster god, attempts to usurp Azathoth’s throne and rapes his daughter. Azathoth is blinded and driven insane, and his daughter flees the divine court and wraps matter around herself, becoming the Earth. Nyarlathotep and the other deities then vow to extinguish all life on Earth and destroy the planet, to “free” the goddess in order for Nyarlathotep to force himself on her again and complete his usurpation.
It should be noted that this is original with Tyson. Except for the characterization of Nyarlathotep as a malign trickster, none of this appears in any Mythos fiction of which I am aware. Thematically, the story is entirely counter to original stories. What made the entities of the Mythos horrible in the original stories was that they were undeniable proof that the Earth is not special and that the powers that be do not care if humanity lives or dies. It is, so far as I can tell, a rather loose adaptation of certain Gnostic ideas about the corruption of the material world and the human spirit’s fall from grace.
The text of the Grimoire is ambivalent about the myth at its center. Sometimes, it seems to hint that the tale is about the redemption of a fallen world, and that the “good” magicians work to restore Azathoth to health and power. Most of the time, the text suggests that there is nothing one can do but go along with a bad system, repeating that those who will not serve Nyarlathotep will be destroyed with everyone else.
Perhaps the only saving grace of the Grimoire is that it does not pretend to be a revelation of the “real” magick behind Lovecraft’s fiction. The introduction is candid about the text being a fusion of fiction and bits and pieces of magickal systems. Despite this, however, it never quite makes a case for why a magician would want to choose this particular modern synthesis over all the other more complete, and less offensive, systems of planetary magick available.
So these four texts contribute nothing original or useful to the literature of either the occult or the Cthulhu Mythos. The question remains, though: Does it work?
Yes and no.
In order to test the system, I performed an evocation of Yig. In the original fiction, Yig was a snake-god in the American west who took horrible vengeance on anyone who harmed a snake. In the Grimiore, Yig is the god associated with Saturn, the keeper of forgotten and occult secrets. This seemed to be the appropriate entity of which to ask questions about a magickal system.
The ritual for contacting the Great Old Ones detailed in the Grimiore is not complex. One goes to a lonely place, preferably one at altitude and with a view of the night sky. A circle of seven stones is made, with four rods painted the colors of four of the Great Old Ones marking elemental directions. On a central altar, three more colored rods representing Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, and Yog-Sothoth form a triangle. Candles are placed at the points of this triangle.
The magician then sits or stands to the south of the altar, facing north, and recites the Long Chant. The Long Chant is a fairly standard invocation, customized to the narrative of the Grimiore. The chant is presented in both English and Enochian, for the convenience of the magician.
Once the chant is completed, one calls upon the chosen entity to appear in the triangle. Any offerings or sacrifices are placed on the altar inside the rods. The text does not provide invocations for the deities, though many of them have personal requirements of location or timing the magician must observe.
What is supposed to happen next is left vague. The magician is to meditate, and will, if all goes well, receive some kind of communication from the entity called. The gate is closed, the candles extinguished, and the rite is over.
For me, a circle of stones on a hilltop was not practical. I substituted a room on the second floor of my home, with a large, open window through which I could see the night sky. In the place of a stone circle, I created banners for the cardinal points according to the instructions in the Grimiore, and hung them in the appropriate directions. As the Grimoire stresses that the “true” circle exists on the astral, I felt comfortable in simply visualizing the standing stones.
I read out the Long Chant four times, first in English and three more times in Enochian. After, I improvised an invitation to Yig, praising his wisdom and asking for contact. In my mind’s eye, I saw a snake curled up in the triangle. Meditating on the altar, I did receive a vision of Yig and his realm, and heard the god’s answers to my questions about the system of the Grimiore.
To summarize the wisdom of Yig, the beings contacted by the magick of the Grimiore are not, in fact, the beings written of by Lovecraft and his peers — but they could be, given time and the effort of magicians using this system. In any case, the specific names and images of the system are only tools for achieving contact with whatever it is magicians are contacting, so it doesn’t matter whether or not the deities are fictional or historical.
I thanked the old snake and closed the rite.
So, did the magick work? Yes, in the sense that the ritual induced a vision. However, the ritual did not evoke any of the sense of dread or cosmic vastness associated with the Cthulhu Mythos. This is for the best, really. The folks who seek experiences with real-world magick based on the Mythos are most likely not imagining what it would feel like to be living out one of Lovecraft’s stories. Instead, they’re probably recalling what it felt like to read those stories, and seeking to tap into that emotional current.
While the system seems to produce results, it doesn’t actually do anything better or differently than any other system of magick I have ever worked. The Lovecraft pastiche doesn’t seem to interfere, but it also adds nothing.
One might wonder how useful it is to make contact with a fake snake god. To quote Alan Moore, author, magician, and worshiper of the late Roman snake god Glycon; “If I’m gonna have a god I prefer it to be a complete hoax and a glove puppet because I’m not likely to start believing that glove puppet created the universe or anything dangerous like that.1”
Approached this way, the Grimiore of the Necronomicon might be useful in maintaining a healthy skepticism about one’s magickal work. Those seriously interested in planetary magick with an old-school feel would be better served to study the systems of the Golden Dawn or the The Key of Solomon The King: (Clavicula Salomonis). Those seeking to evoke the mood of the cosmic and alien in their spiritual lives would do very well to track down a copy of The Pseudonomicon, by Phil Hine2 .
- Quoted from an interview, “Magic is Afoot,” published in Arthur magazine in May 2003
- New Falcon publishing, 2004
Review ©2009 Lon Sarver
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Now is the time of the embarrassment of riches.
Summer heaps abundance upon us — an abundance of heat and sunlight, of long golden days that stretch into steamy twilights, of the fertile Earth heaping the treasures of flower and fruit for all to see. In the garden, the tomatoes weigh down the vine, the zucchini and pumpkin push their creepers further out as their fruits swell obscenely, the apple trees groan under their burden of ripening fruit. Insects swarm, the animal babies of Spring are seen following their mothers. All the unrestrained living of our living world is in full force. Summer pours its blessings on us all in a wealth of light, heat, blood and chlorophyll. Every leaf, every fruit, every branch has rushed out to its furthest edge of ripeness and splendor — we are at the zenith of the year’s productivity and about to tip over down the other side.
It’s easy in the crush of such overwhelming growth to forget the scarcities of winter, its bitterness and the emptiness of the land. It’s also easy to forget that the balance to all this abundance and grace is sacrifice. The Sacrificed King is slain to provide for his people, as all life depends upon the eternal cycles of life and death and life again. This sacrifice is not always easy for us to comprehend, and makes us feel uneasy and perhaps guilty. We must not forget that “sacrifice” means to “make sacred” and an integral part of the sacrifice is our humble willingness to receive the blessing of this gift. In receiving it, we become witnesses to it, and if we do not shirk the responsibility that this gift incurs, we enter into an eternal contract with the Mystery. We are changed by receiving this grace. It requires courage to accept it.
I have lacked this courage. Despite my belief in the overflowing power of the Universe to provide, and faith in my own ability to manifest, somewhere deep inside I don’t truly allow myself to receive the abundance that I know is immanent. One of the most important, and most uncomfortable, lessons I’ve received this year, was to have my inability to receive shown to me. I had booked a night at a retreat center and spa to recharge myself. This was a gift to myself — 24 hours of silence, of water and sand, of being intimate with myself in ways that the crush of parenting and working full time had made almost impossible. I desperately needed the down time, but for the first two hours I sat by the tide pool in my bathing suit, unable to stop fretting about my kids, my work, my responsibilities elsewhere.
I was unable to be present with the gift I had given myself, and was ruining my own mini-vacation because I could not accept the gift of time, silence and luxury. No one was denying me this but myself. Somehow I was more comfortable feeling stressed, anxious and angry at trifles than I was letting go of it all and taking in the healing of salt air and hot water. In moving through my mundane life, I had been pushing through, trying to hold myself together and all I had really accomplished was to close myself down. I needed the courage to give myself permission to be at rest, to not be dealing or in charge, to not be productive, to simply let myself be and allow myself to be at peace. It was scary to let it go, I felt vulnerable, but in letting go I was able to finally open to the blessings.
The image that came to my mind then was the yoga Warrior pose (asana): one knee forward, one back, arms stretched out, the chest open and vulnerable. The Warrior is not closed down and defensive. He pulls his shoulders back, which opens his chest, then his heart, generating strength out of vulnerability. The heart grows stronger, the spine lengthens, the blessings of the Gods pour down. It takes courage to receive grace, to incur the responsibility for receiving it, for being called upon to be present and mindful of it. Our culture does not teach this type of gratitude, because gratitude dispels the illusion of disconnection and isolation that supports its dominator paradigm. Meat comes from the store, water from the tap, power from the switch — how these things got there are invisible processes that do not importune us with questions about their true cost. We do not need to be mindful of the true cost because we do not have to raise the animal we eat, or carry the water we drink, or generate the power we use. Because we are encouraged to remain in our illusion of isolation, the real costs and liabilities of these things are never really known to us, and we cannot be appropriately grateful for what we have received. It takes courage to see things as they are, to see what things truly cost, and to willingly acknowledge our indebtedness.
Earlier this summer I was the recipient of profound grace, with all its perils, when my family bought our first new house and prepared to move in. The house had been vacant for at least two years and a large colony of wild honeybees had made their home in the upstairs dormer window sill. It was the bees that had first made me seriously consider this house. The first time I went to look at it, as I stood on its crooked front stoop, I asked the house “What do I need to know about you?” whereupon I heard an intense buzzing. Looking up, I saw several bees flying in and out of the window sill. As a Priestess of Ochun, I was immediately attentive. Bees are her sacred animals, and since she is a household Goddess, I had requested her help in securing the right house.
Relocating the bees was the first thing that happened once the closing papers were all signed. None of the options for moving them along were easy or cheap, but the only effective method was the also the most ethically sound. I had no intention of just exterminating the bees, of course, but I found it ironic that even if they were simply gassed by an exterminator, the entire nest would still have to be removed, the space cleaned out and rebuilt, and that would not be the end of the problem. “Oh, poison just makes them mad,” said one bee keeper, and makes things even worse when the bees inevitably returned. Having someone remove the bees, relocate them to a new hive and remove the nest was going to incur some casualties among the bees, but it was the best solution for us and for the bees.
The morning the bee keeper came was cloudy and cool, a perfect day for the removal. It occurred to me that in agrarian communities, June was traditionally the time for setting up housekeeping as couples were married, and also for wild bees to swarm. This was also a time when bees could be put into hives where the honey could be more easily harvested. Honey has a long and venerable history as a medicine and treasured delicacy. I was reminded that in ancient times, before humans learned to keep bees and had to raid wild nests, honey was more valuable than gold. I had a perfect and safe view through the window as the sill was removed, hundreds of bees alarmed into defensive flight, and when the rotted wood was lifted out, a flood of gold poured out like treasure. It did really look like treasure being pulled out of the ground, as the dark wood gave way to ivory colored wax pulsing out liquid amber. The comb glowed like it was lit from within, its life force (ache’) so strong that lit up a dark overcast morning. The nest was a few years old, the slabs of comb three feet long and more, several inches thick, crawling with thousands of bees and just dripping with honey.
Over forty pounds of honey and comb were taken out of the wall, and a large healthy hive was relocated. The sill was repaired and I could go forward with other necessary repairs. I could not help but feel sad for the bees as I watched them crawling around, disoriented, on what was left of their home. It was obvious they were traumatized by the invasion. A colony is organized by function and none of the bees could perform their work. The defenders were overmatched by the human cutting into their precious hive; the comb builders could not build comb and the nectar collectors had no place to return to. I considered how, like many families in the recession, they had lost their home, their life’s work and their savings through no fault of their own. I learned later that this was a recurring narrative for the house, having been foreclosed once before. We had purchased it at a steep discount from a family who could not continue with their plan to fix and flip it. So this house had an unfortunate history of its inhabitants investing big and losing it all. This gave me pause, made me feel somewhat guilty and also concerned about my own fortunes.
I realized that this sacrifice was also a blessing. In Santeria and Lukumi, the ritual libation (ebbo) is sometimes covered in honey as a final touch of grace, and my house had, at great cost to the bees, been blessed by a wealth of honey poured on it. As witness to their sacrifice, I had to honor and acknowledge what others had sacrificed for this house, which made it the wonderful safe place to raise my family. I had done plenty of magick to find the right house at the right price in the right location, and this house had everything and more — I knew I had been divinely led to this house, and I felt deeply that the house itself longed to change its narrative of loss and disappointment. We had been brought together for our mutual good, and every sign, omen and touch of grace was a blessing. I had been reluctant to make an offer on the house because it just felt too rich — everything too perfect, the view too great, the yard too nice, etc. I had to acknowledge that this was not too good to be true — it was just challenging me to accept something this wonderful, and to accept it humbly with an open heart.
©2009 Leni Hester
Edited by Sheta Kaey
June 5, 2009 by Gerald del Campo
Filed under alchemy, astrology, columns, divination, magick, mysticism, philosophy, qabalah, religion and spirituality, the dictionary of traditional magick and etherical science, thelema
(Alchemy) One of the Four Elements of alchemy believed to carry the archetypal properties of spirit into the visible world. It is linked to the process of Separation and corresponds to the metal Iron.
(Ecclesiastic) A full-length gown with sleeves and collar worn priests, bishops and helpers.
(Qabalah) Hebrew The animal soul that corresponds to animal/ vegetable levels of consciousness. It is said to reside at the level of Yesod and Malkuth. It is mostly corresponds with the automatic bodily functions and ego. Also known as the automatic consciousness. This body does not survive death, as does the Ruach and Neshama. This really upsets people who practice Astral Travel as a way to cheat death, since the Astral Body is a projection of the Nephesh.
(Qabalah) Hebrew Corresponds to the purest aspirations of the soul and the Soul itself and corresponds to Binah on the Tree of Life. It is where the individual Soul merges with the Oneness or God. From this plane we may approach the collective unconscious. The Neschama is composed of three parts: Yechidah, Chiah, and Neschama.
(General religious, Philosophy) Omnipotence is all-powerfulness. Many religions view God as omnipotent. Descartes (and most Gnostics) postulated the possibility of an omnipotent demon who could manipulate our thoughts and deceive us.
Path of Zadek
(Qabalah) Hebrew A reference to the path illustrated by the Temperance tarot card between Yesod and Tiphareth. This path traverses the path of normal consciousness between Netzach and Hod. It is the border line between the ego and the true Self. It is called “the path of the honest man” because it is only accessible to those rare individuals who have liberated themselves of self-deception and psychological slothfulness.
pl. Qliphoth (Qabalah) Hebrew Literally, “shells” or “excrement.” A reference to the remnants of the previous, failed universes. The pieces of these shattered vessels are said to have fallen into Assiah, where Malkuth is now engrossed in them. In their present state, they serve to test and prove worthiness. The Qliphoth project the illusion of duality, making it so that we perceive one another as separate and isolated individuals. Largely due to superstition and a lack of understanding of the purpose of duality, the Qliphoth have been unfairly labeled as evil.
(Qabalah) Hebrew Literally “breath.” It is one of the three parts of the human soul corresponding to personal self-awareness or false self, the emotional self, intellect and ego. It resides within Sephiroth 4 through 9, between Meschamah and Nephesh. The Neschamah seeps into the Ruach, but it is rarely noticed by the ego, which is a shame since the effects of the Neschamah can only observed by the Ruach.
(Yoga) Gives mastery over the self, and leads to the control of the powers of ecstasy.
(Astrology) An area of the sky (sometimes called a “belt”) divided into twelve parts through which most of the planets appear to move. Each part has a name and symbol, and is connected with an exact time of year. According to Hermes Trismigestus, “As Above, So Below” indicates that the direction of the stars correspond and allude to the course of human evolution.
©2009 Gerald del Campo
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Gerald del Campo is the author of A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his website at http://thelemicknights.org. Gerald serves as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.
The Serpent and the Eagle: An Introduction to the Elder Runic Tradition
by Chris Travers
BookSurge Publishing (February 2, 2009) $15.99
There are a number of introductory guides to the runes on the market. Some of them are well-researched and well-written; others are full of poor scholarship, which negates whatever writing style may have been applied. This, fortunately, is in the former category. Travers presents a good mix of scholarly research and practical application from personal experience.
For the beginner, the book offers an excellent basic guide to the elder futhark, including meanings and interpretations of each rune, and a basic “why” for each of the three groupings known as aetts. The material is firmly couched in the cultural context that the runes were created in. Travers has done many years of research not only into the runes themselves, but also Germanic cultures and even the greater, overarching Indo-European influence. There are many, many tangents that this book gives to the intrepid researcher. It’s not, however, a particularly dry read, and even novices should be able to make good sense of the material.
However, unlike some authors Travers doesn’t just focus on the divinatory/oracular uses of the runes. While divination is covered, so is the poetic magic of runes. An appendix covers further concepts, such as the creation of a niding-pole. One could wish for more of this not-divination material, especially because what he does describe is intriguing. However, it is a nice change from the usual “Here’s how to cast the runes, and here’s what they mean.”
My only real complaint is that the book really could have used a proofreader. There are numerous typos throughout the text, to the point where I found it distracting. While it doesn’t completely counteract the overall quality of the book otherwise, it does come across as a bit unprofessional (and is why I generally recommend that self-publishers hire an editor who’s well worth the cost).
That aside, this is one of the best self-published books I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and a text on runes that I would highly recommend to both those who want to make a thorough study of the topic, and those who simply would like to have a good, basic reference guide in their library.
Four and a half pawprints out of five.
Review ©2009 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.
War is hell — neither pretty nor kind, and it is bringing lamentation and suffering to so many in the world right now. People have hated war ever since there was war to be hated. It shouldn’t be terribly surprising then, that Mars — the Roman God of War — was not well liked around Mt. Olympus. He was much maligned by his father Jupiter, his sister Minerva, and all others who preferred peace and order to wanton savagery.
But if Mars is so easy to hate, then why is our media saturated with iconic characters that are clearly born under the influence his planet? Let’s see: Off the top of my head, we’ve got ninjas, samurai, marines, Navy SEALs, Jedi, medieval warriors, Roman gladiators, cowboys, hitmen, gangsters, secret agents, martial artists, renegade cops, and (wait for it. . !) super heroes.
Like it or not (and some of us love it), the red planet of Mars’ namesake is present in all of our birth charts. However, the negative attributes ascribed to the Greco-Roman war god are usually found in individuals who have an afflicted Mars. Mars being a malefic force, a stressed placement in a chart can lead to a very unstable person — someone who throws a punch when diplomacy is called for, or who screams at loved ones against his own heart’s wishes.
A healthy Mars, however, will usually lead to the qualities we revere in our action heroes — men of will, vision, courage. Our Clint Eastwoods, John Waynes, Bruce Lees; our Schwarzeneggers, Stallones, Bruce Willises (Willii?), our Steve McQueens, Jackie Chans, and various James Bonds — these are the guys who put a presentable face on wrathful action.
Turning our attention to the higher echelons of geekdom, there is only one comic book character I can think of who so singularly personifies the Mars archetype. Love him or hate him, Wolverine is about as Mars as you can get as one of the good guys.
When we think of the word “hero,” Wolverine’s gruff visage is hardly the first conjured up. The heroes of myth are usually Mars archetypes who have received Jupiter’s blessing and been given a task from a Saturnine figure.
Perseus, for example, who decapitated Medusa and destroyed the sea monster called Kraken. He wouldn’t have performed these deeds if he had not been given marching orders from Zeus (his father) and Athena, who charged him with an epic task. And while they’re the ones who ordered him around, they’re also the ones that gave him the gifts he needed to succeed. His heroism was bestowed on him by providence.
A modern parallel might be a character like Captain America. The U.S. government granted Jupitarian blessings on skinny, meek Steve Rogers, but they only did it so they could make him into a weapon. Spider-Man is another example: He was granted amazing powers by a freak accident, but was tasked to responsible use of those powers by the dying wish of his Uncle Ben, the man who raised him.
Wolverine was born a mutant; he was born with his healing factor, his heightened senses, and his bone claws. There was no divine hand to guide him along a quest — he was simply thrown out into the world with the innate ability to destroy.
Wolverine was bestowed with his adamantium skeleton by the clandestine Weapon X program, but there’s not much Jupitarian about having metal surgically bonded to your skeleton. No, this transformation seems much more like Pluto’s work, especially if we consider that the Lord of the Underworld is often known as Lord Pluton, God of Hidden Riches. Adamantium is, after all, a very rare and sought after metal.
As for Saturn, the cornerstone of discipline and self-control, well, it’s plain to see that Wolverine has serious issues with authority.
For these reasons, Wolverine is what we call an “anti-hero.” While there’s less glory and bluster in his story, and while he doesn’t always behave in a manner that society would condone, there is a primal element that we can all relate to. He is human because he is animalistic, and is possessed of a brutality that many of us hideaway deep within ourselves.
We relate to his pain, too. Though our own personal torments are not usually quite on par with his, his suffering and frustration are familiar.
His image has been somewhat softened since his early days, but as much as he as labeled as a “super hero,” his anti-hero nature remains at the core of his character. Which is fine — most of the people he eviscerates have it coming.
Logan has a ton of Aries signatures; if we were to assemble a fictional chart for him, it’d probably be where his Sun, Mercury, and Mars all reside. He acts like an Aries, he talks like an Aries, and he sure as hell fights like one.
Aries is Cardinal Fire, represented by the ram in the West and by the dragon in the East. It is the first emergence of divinity, sustained by self-belief and through conflict with others — creating “sparks” with which it can add fuel to its fire.
Like the ram, Aries often seeks out esteem through dominance of others — think of that Aries jerk you know who just savors the experience of butting heads with you. And like dragon, Aries is a paragon of willpower (as evidenced, of course, by its exaltation in the Sun). Though the dragon is a mythical beast, I think we can safely imagine that there’s not much stopping one from doing what it wants. And being possessed of bestial super powers, soaring through the air and affecting the weather, the dragon (like Aries) probably had little regard for the affairs of the other animals down on Earth’s surface.
Wolverine is relatively self-centered. Always standing slightly apart from the rest of the X-Men, always hogging cover space, always taking off at the drop of the hat to explore a lead in the search for his lost past — he’s basically commandeered the entire franchise.
It’s not that he doesn’t care about others. It’s just that he’s the center of his own universe.
Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, as well as the eternal child. In a sense, Wolverine is “first” among the X-Men, being far older than almost any living mutant, but kept relatively young by his mutant healing factor. Despite his age and inflated attitude, his short stature ensures that he’ll always have the nickname of “runt,” another obvious indicator of his eternal childhood. Also like a child, and like a certain other “first man,” Wolverine has a habit of assigning nicknames — “bub” and “darlin’” are his basic means for designations of male and female.
In addition, Wolverine has a tendency to group himself with younger people. Even in a group of young people like the X-Men, he seeks out the youngest as his sidekicks. First there was Kitty Pryde, then Jubilee, and most recently, a young mutant named Armor seems to be soaking up his shadow.
What’s more, straddling the line between totally childish and completely badass, Wolverine is world-famous for his berserker rage, a homicidal frenzy that overtakes him whenever the battle turns serious. While it’s cool to see our angst-ridden anti-hero flip out and kill things, it should also be noted, in correlation with the notion of Aries-as-child, that his berserker rage is a glorified temper tantrum. This is why I, for one, have never really bought Wolverine as a ninja/samurai/master of Japanese martial arts. Because, seriously, when do you ever see him fight in a manner possessed of any discipline? And while one of Aries’ innate qualities is betterment by way of self-mastery, it seems pretty clear that Logan missed a memo somewhere and skipped over all his training to get to the bloodlust.
A final evidence of Aries lies in Wolverine’s most used mutant ability: his healing factor. Unlike Leo, whose fire is sustained by social approval, or Sagittarius, whose fire is simply fueled by excitement and vision, Aries’ runs on self-belief. This can translate into a stubborn “never say die” sort of attitude, so it is appropriate that Logan’s mutation keeps him alive through ordeals that would kill a normal man.
While Aries’ signature is certainly the largest zodiacal signature on Wolverine, the Mars war god’s other half, Scorpio, also seems to have a marked presence. Though I believe Logan’s Sun would have its exaltation in Aries, I’d also believe his second luminary, the Moon, to be fallen in Scorpio.
The Moon is the mysterious foundation of our souls — a bundle of intrinsic needs and desires that we are often unconscious of. And while a good understanding of one’s emotional base is healthy, the Moon often contains mysteries that we have unconsciously locked away from ourselves, truths that we cannot deal with. Dredging up painful psychological complexes can be most unsettling, and the Moon — being the foundational structure of the psyche — should not be unsettled.
At first glance, watery Scorpio, notorious for its connection to stories of intrigue, should be right at home in the mysterious structure of the Moon. The problem is that in all those detective or spy stories, the Scorpionic character is the one who works toward unraveling the mystery — in short, Scorpio doesn’t like any mystery that it isn’t at the center of. And so, a Scorpio Moon relentlessly tries to solve itself, which is equal to a drilling of, and eventual negation of, this all-important emotional base.
This circumstance is pretty easy to apply to Wolverine. If the Moon is a mysterious foundation, it can also be a person’s past. A different man might be content to let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with enjoying his new family with the X-Men and finding gratification in super heroics. Not Wolverine. No matter how excruciating the truth is, Wolverine cannot help but delve into his past at every possible opportunity. And this is a past that is most painful to relive, and was probably buried for a good reason. Though he’s lived for ten lifetimes, he’s seen nearly all his loved ones cut down at the start of their lives.
Battle Without Honor or Humanity
Considering his mass appeal, rich characterization, and constant involvement, it seems odd that Wolverine doesn’t get a lot of glory. There’s not too many major villains that he’s toppled — sure, he’ll get a good cut in on Magneto every now and then, but that’s usually only after he’s been nailed by Cyclops, punched by Rogue, and has been mind-raped by Professor Xavier. And even then, he only really tags the super villains when he sneaks up on them. Most of the time, Wolverine’s the guy who’s ripping through henchmen while others rumble with the big fish.
Again, this is an echo of the Greek God, Ares. Ares was bested by Athena, defeated twice by Hephaestus, and was injured by mortals on two separate occasions. There aren’t very many stories about the war god winning important battles. Those big victories usually rely more on clever thinking (Hermes,) a brilliant strategy (Athena,) or raw power (Zeus.) Battle frenzy has its place, but that place is usually reserved for chewing through the ranks of foot soldiers. That’s what Ares was good at, and that’s what Wolverine’s good at.
A Venusian Menagerie
He’s no Remy LeBeau, but Wolverine does all right with the ladies. He usually ends up with long-standing relationships that are ultimately doomed, but which carry explosive emotional weight for him until they disintegrate.
Many of the gods, following Zeus’ example, would just have sex with whomever they pleased with little regard for the consequences. But Ares, despite his gruff function, would have relatively consistent and consensual consorts. The most notable, of course, being with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.
Venus is represented in the tarot as The Empress, and Wolverine tends to attract women in that sort of role. His late lover, Silverfox, ended up being the leader of a terrorist organization known as HYDRA. He was betrothed to Mariko Yashida for years, before the yakuza princess was tricked into an untimely death. He had a relationship with another beautiful crime lordess in Madripoor, Tigerlily. His best-known romance, of course, is his unconditional (yet unconsummated) love for Jean Grey …who was in many ways the “Empress” de facto of the X-Men.
©2009 Nick Civitello
Edited by Sheta Kaey
A plethora of works exist on the subject of the Tarot; some well informed, some less so. At the outset of the formulation of this essay, permit me to state that there are two key maxims derived from the teachings of the Golden Dawn and of Aleister Crowley to which I adhere as well as I am able:
- As above, so below
- The goals of religion, the methods of science
This philosophical framework compels and requires that observations and analysis concerning the Tarot should be harbored within the contexts of broader occult and scientific philosophy, without which its symbols would have little or no meaning. For the Tarot is most assuredly not in any sense an entity with absolute properties and values as its dominant trait, but rather comprises a complex set of mirrors and microscopes through which an attuned mind may view the universe that lies beyond the confines of four-dimensional space and time. Thus, if we wish to examine the properties of complex molecules with a view to discovering more of their intrinsic physical properties, we may use an electron microscope as our tool, whereas exploration of the universe’s more subjective and spiritual phenomena and properties is aided by the instrument of the Tarot.
But before we can use any instrument, we must first understand and become intimately familiar with that instrument. In the case of the electron microscope, this requires a fairly deep understanding of physics, of the the dual wave/particle nature of electrons and their interaction with other particles of various classes. To achieve this understanding we rely on a prerequisite understanding of mathematics, and of course of engineering which is the discipline through which our scientific mastery is both expressed and expanded.
Although the Tarot is predicated on an understanding of metaphysics rather than the physics of Einstein and Penrose, et al. And yet, there are overlaps that provide tantalizing glimpses of how we might yet arrive at a “Theory of Everything,” or TOE, by eventually combining the teachings of both schools. Such an achievement lies many decades into the future though, as the criteria of measurement adopted by each of these schools are divided by differing views on the nature of consciousness and its role in perception. Let us proceed then to the framework within which the Tarot exists, and the natural world which it both reflects and focuses within the mind of the practitioner. We will not be discussing the history of the Tarot here, as we are concerned with its properties rather than its provenance, much as a physicist is generally concerned with the nature of matter rather than the history of science. The suits are those of Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck: Wands, Swords, Cups and Disks.
Whilst the introduction to this essay may be regarded as generally true for all students and practitioners of the occult sciences in general, this section is focused on three specific areas of practice and study of particular importance to this author:
The Tarot deck we shall be considering is the Thoth deck designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. You may then deduce that our essay has a somewhat Thelemic bias. However, given the universal scope of the Qabalah, I venture to say that its chief metaphysical construct, the Tree of Life, encompasses all belief systems whatsoever and that by using its remarkable properties we are able to continue the Great Work of synthesis to which so many adepts from all schools have contributed for millennia. In other words, if you are a Pagan, a Witch, a Christian, A Buddhist, a Thelemite, or any other type of spiritual or occult practitioner, there’s room for you and your beliefs on the Tree. However, some may find the context in which their belief systems are set somewhat difficult to accept. Let us then make our first definitive statements on The Tarot:
- The Tarot is an active Mirror of the Universe comprised of agents and forces through which an adept may view the trajectory of events and forces that underpin events in the real world, and thereby achieve knowledge of “real world” events.
- The Tarot reflects four levels of existence, as do the Qabalah and Alchemy.
- The Tarot incorporates the forces of astrology.
We will illustrate the validity of these statements as we examine each of the four suits in turn. We begin with the Suit of Wands.
The Suit of Wands
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
As is well known, alchemy claims four elements as the foundation of the universe: Fire, Air, Earth and Water. We will not here attempt a separate exegesis on this matter, but rather weave the essential nature of each element to its attributed suit.
The Suit of Wands represents the alchemical element Fire, which we consider to be a limitless force of passion that finds expression in great outbursts of energy. As much as we find the passion of Fire concealed within the nature of combustible materials, so do we also in the hearts of men. Not for nothing are the Celts known as a fiery, warlike people.
We see then that the Suit of Wands is associated with Archetypal Ideas, a concept that we will shortly reinforce. We should consider Alchemical Fire as a metaphor for its mundane namesake, and thus readily intuit the passionate yet short-lived nature of the phenomenon by which its nature is expressed: the fury of the raging bull, the battle lust of the inflamed warrior. But equally, we see the inspiration of the thinker and prophet, the sudden thought underlying the inspirational speech of the orator, and the potential for combustion lying within the atomic structure of potassium and the molecular structure of petroleum.
Moving on to Qabalistic schema, we find that this suit represents the most ethereal of the four levels of creation, Atziluth, which is the domain of archetypes, of the potential of all things in the most tenuous sense. Although we may regard the world of Atziluth as eternal, it is important to be aware that in its realization in our material existence, it takes the form of fleeting inspiration, of sudden realization and compulsion to action. We need also to understand that the element of Fire is but the vehicle that conveys the one aspect of the impulse of a higher source and state of being. So when we find a card from this suit in our spread, we immediately note these elementary aspects.
But of course, Fire is modified by its environment. For instance, in the Two of Wands we find the astrological attribution of Mars in Aries, wherein the fury of the rage of war is ascendant and a great release of energy must ensue. In a Thelemic sense, this may represent “Pure Will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result… (Liber Al I:44).” And so we see the neat interlocking of the astrological and alchemical schema with those of the Qabalah and Thelema, thus affirming our conviction that the Tarot is indeed a map of the universe.
The Suit of Swords
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
The Suit of Swords is assigned to Air. Alchemical Air is considered to be the issue of Fire and Water. As such, it is a more complex idea than those underpinning other elements. The first and foremost power we attribute to Air is that of intellect, of cold, dispassionate analysis. The act of analysis, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is to break something into its constituent parts. And so it seems that nature itself has an inbuilt capacity for introspection.
In humans, this capacity, this expression of Air, is usually tempered with the illusions of Water, the reality of Earth and the passion of Fire. When this is not the case, we observe a sad and sorry creature, a human mind denuded of an appreciation for beauty, incapable of feeling; a calculating machine that knows logic alone.
In the Qabalistic scheme, Air corresponds to the domain of Beriah, the realm wherein the inspiration and passion of Atziluth is reduced to working schema and plans. This is the realm of the engineer as much as it is of the artist. So when viewing cards of this suit we should always be aware of the detachment implicit in the agency of Air. I have written elsewhere that we should always consider Air as the seed of the potential for division. This links most appositely with Thelemic scripture, wherein it is stated that, “For I am divided for Love’s sake, for the chance of union. . . (Liber Al 1:29).”
For as the redoubtable Mr. Crowley once told us, there are only two operations in all of nature: division and synthesis. To illustrate the astrological influences on this suit, we will use the example of the Two of Swords, which is assigned to the Moon in Libra. The Moon we regard as indicative of illusion, of distortion through the lens of Water and Libra, an Air sign as balanced force. Combining these things, we deduce that this card indicates a strongly driven intellectual force that is balanced and yet potentially misleading and illusory.
The Suit of Cups
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
This suit is allocated to Alchemical Water. Immediately, a range of relationships and attributions spring to mind here: the Moon, Scorpio, illusion, the Sephira Binah, Cancer, Pisces and much else. An analogy with the mundane element is instructive when we consider the long term erosive effect of water; its power to confuse through reflection and distortion of reality exists together with the correlative power to most perfectly reflect an image of reality without ever being reality in itself.
Water is the fluidity of all things, nature’s capacity to dissolve the universe. Equally, Water is the element of rebirth after death, the incubator of time and life, the source of love. Which aspect is represented on any card depends as always on its position on the Tree, whether as a court card or a numbered card from one through to ten, each number representing a specific aspect of reality as existence unfolds from the nothingness of eternity into the fourfold realm of the Qabalah. Let us examine the Three of Cups as an example whereby we may illustrate the synthesis of meanings.
The Three of Cups is assigned to Mercury in Cancer. This means that the torrent of Water, or unrestrained love, symbolized by Cancer is quickened by the Word of the Logos, which provides us with the archetype of fertility, of an act of impregnation giving rise to the birth of the realization of an idea, of a concept. One of the children of water is of course Air, as described for the Suit of Swords, above. The problem for the reader and the querent is that Water is always the dominant influence in this suit, and so discerning reality from illusion may be difficult.
Further reinforcing this viewpoint is the attribution of the Suit of Cups to the Qabalistic domain Yetzirah, which is the realm of formation, of the fluidity of merged and swirling concepts that are about to differentiate and solidify in the “lowest” of the worlds, Assiyah. We readily observe that the properties of Yetzirah are fully consonant with the alchemical and astrological symbols we have so far attributed to this suit.
Further insight to The Suit of Cups is provided by the above image of Our Lady, the Holy Whore, Babalon. Here we see the Cup of the Blood of the Saints contained in Babalon’s Grail. On her forehead is the alchemical symbol of water, complemented by the Hebrew letter Mem lower down, symbol of the Great Sea of Binah, the Great Mother from whom all life and consciousness arise. Babalon accepts all, but first, every drop of blood must be surrendered to her Cup. Notice also the Moon representing the reflective powers of Water, its mystery and periodic brilliance.
To summarize then, in The Suit of Cups, we have the expression of alchemical Water, representing the womb of those things that will rise from death. And yet, Water also represents the decay of death, the final phases of corruption. We end this brief and inadequate section by repeating our assertion that Water is both truth and illusion, and remains so even under the influence of Mars or Jupiter, but most assuredly when refracting the light of Venus or the Moon.
The Suit of Disks
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
We arrive now at the Suit of Disks, corresponding to the Qabalistic domain of Assiyah, the material world (in some respects, at least). Here we expect outcomes in measurable and identifiable morphology and dimension. Disks are assigned to the alchemical element Earth and, as such, represent the properties of the universe as we commonly perceive it. Whilst the origin of time for instance is with Binah, third of the emanations (Sephiroth) on the Tree of Life, in the domain of Earth, we are familiar with the fruits of time as aging, decay, sorrow and renewal.
There is solidity to this suit that dampens the lighter expressions of the planetary influences. There is an implied sluggishness, a lack of fluidity and fire. All of these things are well known, commonplace truths. But! The alchemists who devised these attributions were creatures of their own time, and worked to the boundaries of the knowledge available in their age. We now live in a radically different time, a transformed age within which our knowledge of the universe has grown immeasurably. Consider the following concerning the known composition of our physical universe:
- Stars and Galaxies: 0.4%
- Intergalactic Gas: 3.6%
- Dark Matter: 22.0%
- Dark Energy: 74.0%
The dark matter and energy are postulated by scientists as necessary factors to explain the expansion rate of the universe. However, they are termed dark because science as yet has no clue as to the true nature of either of these things. That last statement is most assuredly not a criticism of science, but given the gulf that still exists between the scientific and occult understanding of the universe, it seems possible that here lies at least a portion of the answer to the hiatus in our understanding.
Always we look to the gaps in our understanding for enlightenment, for the potential of synthesizing disparate facts into a greater and more cohesive whole. For this reason, I have dubbed Earth The Treasure-House of Limitless Secrets. For far from being the most understood of the elements, Earth may actually be the least, and our current understanding informs us that we must always look deeper than the surface in all earthly affairs if we are to have any chance of reaching the truth.
When we examine the Three of Disks as an example of this suit, we find the assignment of Mars in Capricorn, which denotes the fiery energy of Mars elevated in the domain of earthy Capricorn. This reminds us of the tale of Prometheus, bringer of Fire to humankind, exalted in the eyes of humanity yet brought low indeed in the eyes of the other gods.
The Qabalistic attribution of this card, assigned to Binah on the Tree of life, further damps the energy of fire with the dullness of time, and yet promises the birth of a new entity from the womb of the great mother. And so do we see the element of Earth, modified by its condition on each branch of the Tree of Life, as the dominant trait of the Suit of Disks.
The artwork of the figure just above illustrates the Sun and Moon forming the phallus of To Mega Therion, which is the counterpart of Babalon in her aspect as the fertile Earth and represented here by her seven pointed star. Their act of creation animates creation, penetrating and permeating the universe. Through the exchange of energies between these entities is the power of the Aeon of Horus unleashed. But this is no empty, unconscious outpouring of power, for the power of Horus permeates all even as he gazes over time’s latest landscape, ordering all in accordance with the precepts of Liber Al.
As Crowley states in The Book of Thoth, the newborn emerald green of Isis permeates the world, indicating the rebirth of Osiris as Horus. Again taking our cue from Crowley, the whirling spheres of nature indicate the vitality and power of Earth, of the final creation of Assiyah, and six wings support the composite globe of creation. Scattered in the darkness are the symbols of time and Earth: Saturn, the bringer of sorrow; the Earth signs of Taurus, Capricorn, and Virgo. And yet around the peripheries lies darkness, reflecting the current state of humanity’s ignorance. Surmounting the image is the Hebrew attribution to Malkhut, lowest of the Sephiroth, emphasizing the material level of the Suit of Disks. Finally, the number of the Master Therion, Aleister Crowley, Prophet of Aiwass and deliverer of The Book of the Law, is placed at the heart of the scheme.
We believe that this brief essay illustrates that the Tarot is a map of the universe synthesized from the knowledge of many mystical schools, but chiefly from Qabalah, Astrology and Alchemy. We have not attempted a complete exegesis here, but merely a brief distillation of a broader work in progress at this time.
Sincere thanks to Sheta Kaey, Editor in chief of Rending the Veil, for the opportunity to submit this article to such a wonderful, high quality publication. Hettie and I are deeply honored and grateful.
The artwork embedded in this piece is by Hettie Rowley of the Thelema Trust. The written work is by Keith Rowley, who co-owns the Thelema Trust with Hettie. This piece is derived from an ongoing analysis of the Thoth Tarot that is being developed on the Thelema web site. A blog with RSS feeds and subscription capabilities is available for contributions and comments.
Jupiter enters Aquarius (Jupiter in Aquarius: January 5, 2009 – January 18, 2010) A technological era of economic advancement begins January 2009 with the planet of luck and fortune, Jupiter, newly entering the constellation Aquarius. Jupiter in Aquarius brings innovative solutions to economic problems. It also allows us to realize our economic strength as whole communities, bringing people together to work towards building financial strength and salvation.
A review of the past: Jupiter in Capricorn
(December 18, 2007 – January 5, 2009) Since December 18, 2007, Jupiter was traveling through Capricorn, focusing the magic of great wealth and expense on such Capricorn-like things as construction, building, banking, corporate growth, architectural feats, estate management, and administrative expertise.
Jupiter in Capricorn brought numerous types of business endeavors with regard to corporate takeovers, big shifts in property management and, as we’ve seen in last year’s American housing crunch, foreclosures in the banking industry. Capricorn’s key phrase is “I use,” and there has been no mistaking the fact that many people’s misfortune or mismanagement of financial affairs has been to the prosperous advantage of wealthy real estate tycoons and other such shifty manipulators of the economic slump which openly reared its ugly head in early 2008. It was also evident that big economic change was headed our way when, on December 11, 2007, Jupiter reached an exact conjunction with the power-monger, Pluto — on the Sagittarius/Capricorn cusp — bringing some seriously disruptive changes to our economic powers and to our overall perception of what it means to maintain and experience wealth.
The past year of Jupiter in Capricorn has been a time of loss and financial mismanagement for many folks in North America, yet we must remember that Jupiter’s domain focuses on gain, and those areas of life where fortunes continue to rise, not fall. Just as it is in any era of marked recession, where many have fallen, some do excel at unprecedented rates. As a general rule, Jupiter’s influence brings enthusiasm, stimulates economy and focuses on prosperity. Even in difficult economic times, Jupiter puts us in touch with the necessity to find, to develop, or to create new skills and new means to generate prosperity. Jupiter is often the catalyst in raising the overall morale. Out of the drive to create competent caregivers, and practical management strategies, comes the hope of maintaining and rebuilding a stable economic future. While Jupiter was in Capricorn, the key to successful gains came with the proper management of goods and services.
Capricorn is conservative by nature, and requires the flow of prosperity to be useful, attainable, applicable, substantive, and controllable. The old Capricorn adage, “I use,” implies that favors have been hard won, wages have been compromised, and bargains haven’t come cheap. The demands and expectations of Capricorns are often high, and their stealth and thrifty propensity to achieve material growth through unrelenting persistence gives this sign its not-so-jovial reputation of being cold, calculating, profiteering and exclusive. Despite the downside of this corporate attitude, efficient and well organized frontiers of economic growth continue to thrive in many parts of the world. While Jupiter was in Capricorn, economic shifts have indeed had some weight to them, and this past year has been an especially useful time to take note of exactly who prospered — and why.
Jupiter in Aquarius
(January 5, 2009 – January 18, 2010) Jupiter now travels through the humanitarian domain of Aquarius, bringing the focus of knowledge and science to economic systems. Jupiter in Aquarius implies a time of experiment and taking chances. It is here that the term “thinking outside the box” is accentuated, with Aquarius representing eccentric and unconventional means of thought, while Jupiter represents unyielding increase and rapid growth. No such “box” has a chance to contain the type of expansion and unusual avenues of economic strategy that we (humanity) are about to encounter. Jupiter in Aquarius may lead to unusual, but very humane and conscientious encounters with richness and prosperity. Aquarius is ruled by Uranus, bringing the radical and unpredictable qualities of chaos into the human equation. Jupiter expansively provides, while the radical energy of Uranus blatantly destroys all superfluous or unnecessary matter. Jupiter gloats over wealth, skill, and abundance; Uranus depletes, destroys, and strips away dysfunctional realities. Jupiter’s social appeal represents prosperous growth, valuable talents, fascination, joy, joviality, and the spreading of happiness. When Jupiter traverses through the Uranus ruled domain of Aquarius, the act of prospering occurs with a consciousness raising purpose, with innovative knowledge, and with a certain degree of chance taking and experiment. Jupiter in Aquarius brings economic changes which will affect the quality of our institutions and our public funding programs, which in turn affects each one of us individually. If there is a lack of expansion and growth for everyone, and too much economic suffering is occurring around us, the quality of life will eventually affect us on a personal level.
Aquarius focuses on how the overall good of humanity may operate and evolve. It seeks to undo and re-create outmoded or dysfunctional systems. This time of Jupiter in Aquarius will bring large sums of revenue that will be spent in the effort to create workable systems through the chaos of volatile markets. Jupiter in Aquarius takes us to a place where people can expand in unusual occupations and expertise. This may well be the time to invest in future markets that hold the most practical and feasible potentials for creating alternative resources and sources of power. Over the course of the next year, we will find ourselves adapting very quickly to some especially innovative uses of technology. Joy may be found in the power of invention. Through applied systems of knowledge and highly prized creative skills, as well as through unpredictable risks and the discovery of unbridled talents, Jupiter in Aquarius is likely to bring a very revealing picture of where our prosperous growth can be found.
Aquarius people will be able to enjoy some abundant opportunities and joyous personal experiences while Jupiter crosses over their natal Sun throughout the year to come. They will also have a strong influence on the wave of the economic future. The other air signs of the zodiac, Gemini and Libra, will enjoy the fruits of Jupiter being trine to their natal Sun signs in the next year. This will bring the potential for travel or financial boons of some kind for Gemini and Libra people. Leo folks would be wise to use their sensibilities and take precautions with their expenditures while Jupiter opposes their natal Sun over the next year. They may also find that the effort to handle massive volumes of business, or a large inheritance, may be overwhelming at times in the next year. Taurus and Scorpio people may discover that it will be especially difficult to keep up with expenses and opportunities in their lives while Jupiter squares to their natal Sun signs. They would be wise to proceed cautiously in business. Sagittarius and Aries people’s natal Sun signs will be in the sextile position to Jupiter this year, bringing the potential for business or career opportunities in those areas of life where these people have already been working hard, or where they have made some genuine effort to succeed over time.
This is a time of great change, as the slow moving planet Neptune, also in Aquarius, will be conjunct with Jupiter on December 21, bringing expansive spiritual growth to those seeking to broaden their awareness for social and economic growth. Jupiter conjunct Neptune will bring oil and gas resources into a revealing light as Neptune represents the realm of the oceanic underworld, the sea, and oil is one of the big commodities found in this realm. The time of Jupiter conjunct Neptune in Aquarius will also give strong clues about the spiritual evolution of our ideas of prosperity, and it will be one of the eye opening trendsetters of our economic outlook for the next decade or so.
Jupiter in Aquarius is bound to assist us towards an effort to uplift whole communities and to expand our awareness of the needs of others. Many social programs will be designed to improve people’s outlook, hope, and enthusiasm. We can also expect to see some very profitable breakthroughs for specific technological systems and in certain fields of science.
©2009 Annie Bones
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Runes for Transformation: Using Ancient Symbols to Change Your Life
by Kaedrich Olsen
Weiser Books, 2008
When I first became interested in paganism back in the mid-1990s, the very first divination set I worked with was the elder futhark of runes. I had a photocopy of a few pages with rune meanings out of a book that I suspect may have been from Ralph Blum’s questionable writings. While runes have never been a central focus in my practice and I no longer utilize them, I do have somewhat of a nostalgic soft spot for them. I am quite pleased with this brand new text — it takes an entirely innovative approach to the runes, not only as a historical alphabet/divination system couched in venerable traditions, but also as a living, evolving set of energies and symbols that the modern practitioner will find relevant regardless of current cultural context.
Olsen presents us with a solid overview of the history and origin of the Norse runes. However, before he even gets into that, he throws a chapter on the nature of reality at the reader, asking us to challenge our perceptions and assumptions, particularly with regards to magical thinking. This sets a stage for an introduction to the runes not only as symbols with correspondences, but as tools for shaping and understanding subjective reality.
While Olsen has done his research, drawing extensively on primary texts, he strongly supports the use of Unverified Personal Gnosis as a key to one’s individual relationship to the runes and their meanings. This is a much more organized and introspective process than mixing up runes and the I Ching, for example. While UPG is crucial, it is still set within the context of historical meaning, and the two are meant to complement each other, even if their information doesn’t entirely agree. In short, Olsen allows the historical material on the runes to serve as a solid foundation on which the practitioner may then build hir own extensive personal research — a healthy balance.
The runes are not treated as only tools for divination. One of the most valuable dimensions of this book is the potential for a Western system of internal change. Olsen blends techniques from NLP and other psychological systems, as well as other areas of modern science, with runic magic and spirituality to create a wonderfully workable system. The runes are promoted as tools for understanding interconnection between the self and the world, and various elements thereof; as energies that may be utilized in improving the self in deep, fundamental capacities; and making connections with deities, among other capacities. The depth with which Olsen explores these possibilities is commendable, and I say this not only as an experienced psychonaut, but also a counselor-in-training.
Practitioners who are critical of UPG may find this book to be too UPG-heavy for their tastes. This all comes down to a matter of subjective preferences. Olsen does an excellent job of presenting his material, and beyond a certain point it’s not really possible to change people’s minds. The solid research may mollify some by-the-book folks; however, I can also see this book coming under fire from exceptionally conservative individuals.
Overall, this book is a winner. Whether you are Asatru, a psychonaut in need of a system for internal exploration, or merely someone who appreciates the magic and aesthetics of the elder futhark, this text is an excellent choice.
Five pawprints out of five.
Review ©2008 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.