A few years back, MysteriousUniverse.org argued that the extreme way in which most of society classifies porn is relatively on par with the views bestowed upon Aleister Crowley regarding his approach to Sex Magick—that is, the rituals using sex and sexuality to achieve a predetermined goal. Though it’s viewed by practicing Thelemites and Occultists to be some of the most pleasurable magick one can do, it was considered nothing more than hedonistic babble by the majority of society in the early 1900s. Crowley’s esoteric theories challenged the repressive Christian social mores of the time and are still viewed as doing such today. They have generated the same disdain for their vulgarity from today’s culture that the porn industry continues to face.
It’s not surprising that those involved in the adult industry gravitate towards a religion founded by the practicing occultist. Crowley’s views offer them solidarity and comfort knowing that his sexual theories and practices were as frowned upon as their own. There’s also a sense of hope gained from knowing there are others practicing a religion that allows and even encourages members to overcome the sex-negative programming that’s been ingrained in us from an early age. In fact, some within the adult industry have found Thelema, Occultism or similar esoteric practices so positive and fulfilling that they’re taking after Crowley, becoming as outspoken about their beliefs in his philosophies as he was.
Conner Habib is one star that’s coming out of the shadows, no longer hiding his religion, beliefs, or his profession. In an article from Motherboard titled “Sex, the Occult, and the Witches Who do Porn,” he told author Jason Louv that he and fellow porn actors got into the occult because they “choose desire where desire is forbidden.”
“We do this thing that we’re told not to do,” Habib said. “We’ve already gone against what seems to be a law. So why not break other rules? Why not defy right down to the laws of physics?”
Louv stated that with Habib’s following in both the gay porn world and with the alt-spirituality and psychedelics crowd, he’s helping to lead the revolt against traditional religion and sexual morality. “Habib portrays himself as a rebel against reality, embodying an almost Luciferian drive to break through the walls of repression, a self-appointed spokesman for the fusion of sex and radical spirituality.”
Habib continues to preach about the importance of a sex-positive view and the benefits of his occult beliefs when giving interviews or speeches. In December he posted a video of himself to his Twitter account doing just that while on the talk show Talk Gnosis.
The male stars aren’t the only ones attracted to the Occult teachings. One woman in particular who’s continued to make strides in combining the adult industry with Crowley’s theories of sex magick and Thelema is Ellen F. Steinberg, or as she’s more commonly known, Annie Sprinkle. Sprinkle has deep roots in the sex industry. She worked as prostitute in the 1960s and 1970s, then later as a porn star, creating over 200 pornographic films while active. In 1992, she earned a doctorate in human sexuality from the the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and from there jumped into her current career as a sex-positive author, educator, and performance artist.
According to PublicEye.org, some of her performances parody everything from masturbation to a gynecological exam, but other shows go beyond humor. For example, in her live performance titled The Legend of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute she demonstrates a sex magick masturbation ritual. In another, titled Public Cervix Announcement, Sprinkle showed the audience her cervix using a speculum and flashlight as a way to celebrate the form of the female human body. Unfortunately, such salacious performances were deemed obscene by right-wing patriarch Jesse Helms, who condemned her sex magick performance piece Post-Porn Modernist while on the floor of the Senate.
Sprinkle has even advocated for sex-positive adult films that represented her beliefs, specifically those from like-minded colleague and film director Petra Joy. Her endorsement of Joy’s Female Fantasies on AdamEve.com stated, “Petra Joy lives up to her name, creating joyous, uninhibited erotica for women…and men!”
There are several other adult stars who are well-known for taking part in magick practices, some even going as far as using them throughout their films. Ada Mae Johnson, better known as her former stage name Violet Blue, is noted from MadeMan.com as being initiated into the Thelemic religious organization Ordo Templi Orientis in the late 1990s. Then in 2010, adult star Monica Mayhem explained her involvement in Wicca and occultist practices in her autobiography, Absolute Mayhem: Secret Confessions of a Porn Star.
Mayhem in particular didn’t just incorporate her beliefs into roles, she helped create an entire adult movie around them. In 2003, she achieved her first writing credit for the Jim Holliday-directed Witch Coven College. Designed to be a comedy, the movie lovingly pokes fun at some Wiccan and Occult beliefs, with fictionalized spells and “magic dust” that makes people have sex automatically. In her book, Mayhem says of the film, “It was basically a spoof about witches teaching college girls a few tricks, although it was pure fantasy and nothing truly of a Wiccan nature.”
It’s inspiring to see that she’s able to find a unique way to spread the message of a sex-positive attitude to the audience available to her. For those who don’t appreciate her gently poking fun at her own religion, however, rest assured that she takes magick seriously. She admitted in her book to being hesitant about engaging in sex magick because she’s fearful of its power. Still, she expressed just how thankful she is to have found a religion that’s so welcoming to her lifestyle and reflective of her beliefs.
“That’s the great thing about Wicca,” she said. “It tells us there’s nothing wrong with being who you are and that no one is judging you. How this applies to me is that if I can make a living using my body for other people’s pleasure, then there’s nothing wrong with that in the eyes of Wiccans. As long as I’m not hurting anyone, I may do as I will. That’s the crux of our creed.”
The energy transference that occurs during sex is probably one of the most powerful forms possible. It’s not surprising that someone who engages in sexual acts for a living could benefit from learning how to utilize sex magick in an opportunist way, but it’s encouraging to see that many are choosing to use the connection for good.
Author of this post, Tara Notley is a writer and photographer from Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. For the last three years she’s enjoyed exploring different cultural studies including sex, religion, and spirituality.
Come Halloween, the popular imagination turns to witches. Especially in Pendle Witch Country, the rugged Pennine landscape surrounding Pendle Hill, once home to twelve individuals arrested for witchcraft in 1612. The most notorious was Elizabeth Southerns, alias Old Demdike, cunning woman of long-standing repute and the heroine of my novel Daughters of the Witching Hill.
How did these historical cunning folk celebrate All Hallows Eve?
All Hallows has its roots in the ancient feast of Samhain, which marked the end of the pastoral year and was considered particularly numinous, a time when the faery folk and the spirits of the dead roved abroad. Popular belief in this inspirited world endured long after the Christian conversion. This 16th century poem by Alexander Montgomerie evokes the enchantment of All Hallows:
At the hind-end of the harvest, on Hallowe’en,
When our “good neighbours” ride if I think right,
Some mounted on a ragweed and some on a bean,
All tripping in troupes from the twilight;
Some saddled on a she-ape all arrayed in green,
Some riding on hempstalks rising on high,
The King of Faerie and his court with the Elf-Queen,
With many a weird incubus was riding that night.
Old beliefs were preserved in the Christian feast of All Hallows, which had developed into a spectacular affair by the late Middle Ages, with church bells ringing all night to comfort the souls thought to be in purgatory. Did this custom have its origin in much older rites of ancestor veneration? This threshold feast opening the season of cold and darkness allowed people to confront their deepest fears — that of death and what lay beyond. And their deepest longings — reunion with their cherished departed.
After the Reformation, these old Catholic rites were outlawed, resulting in one of the longest struggles waged by Protestant reformers against any of the traditional ecclesiastical rituals. Lay people stubbornly continued to hold vigils for their dead — a rite that could be performed without a priest and in cover of darkness. Until the early 19th century in the Lancashire parish of Whalley, some families still gathered at midnight upon All Hallows Eve. One person held a large bunch of burning straw on a pitchfork while the others knelt in a circle and prayed for their beloved dead until the flames burned out.
Long after the Reformation, people persisted in giving round oatcakes, called Soul-Mass Cakes to soulers, the poor who went door to door singing Souling Songs as they begged for alms on the Feast of All Souls, November 2. Each cake eaten represented a soul released from purgatory, a mystical communion with the dead.
In Glossographia, published in 1674, Thomas Blount writes:
All Souls Day, November 2d: the custom of Soul Mass cakes, which are a kind of oat cakes, that some of the richer sorts in Lancashire and Herefordshire (among the Papists there) use still to give the poor upon this day; and they, in retribution of their charity, hold themselves obliged to say this old couplet:
God have your soul,
Bones and all.
Other All Hallows folk rituals invoked the power of fire to purify and ward. In the Fylde district of Lancashire, farmers circled their fields with burning straw on the point of a fork to protect the coming crop from noxious weeds.
Fire was used to protect people from perceived evil spirits active on this night. At Longridge Fell in Lancashire, very close to Pendle Hill, the custom of ‘lating’ or hindering witches endured until the early 19th century. On All Hallows Eve, people walked up hillsides between 11 pm and midnight. Each person carried a lighted candle and if the flame went out, it was taken as a sign that an attack by a witch was impending and that the appropriate charms must be employed to protect oneself.
What do these old traditions mean to us today?
All Hallows is not just a date on the calendar, but the entire tide, or season, in which we celebrate ancestral memory and commemorate our dead. This is also the season of storytelling, of remembering the past. The veil between the seen and unseen grows thin and we may dream true.
Wishing a blessed All Hallows Tide to all!
- Source: Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain
- Soul Cake Recipes: http://historicalfoods.com/souling-cake-recipe
- Souling Songs may be found here: http://www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/~zierke/watersons/songs/soulingsong.html
Mary Sharratt is an American writer living in the Pendle region of Lancashire, Northern England. Her acclaimed novel of the Pendle Witches, Daughters of the Witching Hill, is now out in paperback. Illuminations, her new novel exploring the life of visionary abbess and polymath, Hildegard von Bingen, will be released in 2012. Visit Mary’s website: www.marysharratt.com.
Excerpt from Daughters of the Witching Hill
At Hallowtide, Liza insisted on walking up Blacko Hill, as we’d always done, for our midnight vigil on the Eve of All Saints. Under cover of darkness we crept forth with me carrying the lantern to light our way and John following with a pitchfork crowned in a great bundle of straw.
Once we reached the hilltop, after a furtive look round to make sure no one else was about, John lit the straw with the lantern flame so that the straw atop the pitchfork blazed like a torch. With him to hold the fork upright and keep an eye out for intruders, Liza and I knelt to pray for our dead. In the old days, we’d held this vigil in the church, the whole parish praying together, the darkened chapel bright as day with the many candles glowing on the saints’ altars. Now we were left to do this in secret, stealing away like criminals in the night, as though it were something shameful to hail our deceased. I prayed for my mam and grand-dad, calling out to their souls till I felt them both step through the veil to bring me comfort.
In my heart of hearts, I did not believe my loved ones were in purgatory waiting, by and by, to be let into heaven. There was no air of suffering or torment about them, only the joy of reunion. My mam, young and pretty, worked in her herb garden. She hummed a lilting tune whilst her earth-stained fingers pointed out to me the plants I must use to ease Liza’s birth pangs. Grand-Dad whispered his old charms to bless me and Liza and John.
A long spell I knelt there, held in the embrace of my beloved dead, till the straw on the pitchfork burned itself out, falling in embers and ash to the ground. Our John helped my pregnant daughter to her feet, then we made our way home through the night that no longer seemed so dark.
©2010, 2011, 2014 Mary Sharratt.
“Magick in Theory” is a peer review, online journal exploring historical and theoretical magic. We approach magic from an emic perspective, which is to say that we may or may not practice magic, but we respect the worldviews of those who do and try to see the practice from their perspective. Our mission is to support the academic and intellectual study of magic, and to carve out a place for reason, rationality, as well as inspiration and experience, in the study of magic. Ultimately, “Magick in Theory” strives to apply the best features of the peer review process to the study of magic, in order to encourage, promote, and advance research in the magical arts. Submit papers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Magick in Theory” is designed as an academic journal, but has no affiliation with any academic institution, nor should any personal or professional affiliation on the part of any member of the volunteer editorial board be construed as representing an endorsement of “Magick in Theory” by any particular institution.
Submission Guideline and Stylesheet for “Magick in Theory”
“Magick in Theory” is looking for articles and essays about the study and theory of magic. Acceptable topics include:
- The application of socio-cultural theory to magical practice;
- Historical analysis and research;
- Translations and explanations of previously untranslated magical texts;
- Magical experiments and operations;
- Interdisciplinary essays on magic and its relationship to other academic or cultural areas;
- Personal essays with a critical (in the academic sense) bent.
We are not looking for:
- Spells, how-to, or rituals that do not have a historical context or significance (submit these to “Magick in Practice” instead);
- Made-up, fantasized, or channeled texts (unless accompanied with a heavy dose of critical analysis or historical significance);
- Rants, screeds, diatribes.
All submissions must adhere to the following guidelines:
- All texts in Word format. No PDFs or unusual file formats. They will be deleted unread.
- There is no firm limits on size, but suitable articles will tend to fall between 2500 and 7500 words.
- Include a header that includes your name, your pseudonym (if relevant) in parentheses after your real name, and any academic affiliation you want mentioned.
- Your name or other identifying information should not appear elsewhere in the text.
- All submissions must adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style. Use in-text citations — not footnotes or endnotes — and a properly formatted references page.
- Do not quote more than 100 words from any individual source.
- Any quotation or use of an idea not your own must be cited properly in Chicago Manual of Style format.
- If you use any images, also submit proof that you own the right to use that image or have secured that right from the owner.
- If you are submitting a translation, identify the source of the original text and, if applicable, provide proof that you have the legal right to do the translation.
- Edit, proofread, and polish your writing before submitting.
The procedure for selection is as follows:
- Your name will be stripped off and two copies will be sent to anonymous reviewers.
- They will write a 100-200 word response, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and offering a recommendation.
- If the reviewers agree that the essay should be published, it may be returned to you for edits or proofreading.
- Whether published or not, the reviewers’ comments will be forwarded to you.
- You will not receive monetary compensation for the publication of your article.
Submission email address: email@example.com
©2014 by Patrick Dunn.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Welcome to the first edition of Magick in Practice, part of an ongoing series of sample rites or procedures we will introduce for you to try and report back on. The general idea is that you take our suggestions, doctor them however you see fit, keep notes, and then come back here to report your results in detail — how you performed the acts and how they panned out for you. (We also intend to implement Magick in Theory at some point, whenever Patrick Dunn is ready to launch.) These systems may increase in formality later, but for right now, we’re going with a simple post.
An Exercise of Will: Password Mantra
For this first edition, the idea is simple: Change a frequently used password — we suggest the password you enter when you boot up your computer — to a phrase that will serve as a focus of will to accomplish a goal. This is something I recently heard about and found intriguing. When you enter this new pass-phrase, focus your will into a sort of short mantra, repeating the phrase internally until it fades of its own accord as you continue working on your computer. Some examples might be:
- forgivemyexwife (This is similar to the original usage I read about.)
You get the general idea. Feel free to add sigils or a more formal ritual structure surrounding this, but be sure to report on the details of how you dressed up the procedure. Report back here in comments either a) when you get results, or b) in about 30 days if no results. You may comment here with suggestions, speculation/theory and/or questions if you so desire.
Best of luck!
Most of us exploring magic, the esoteric, or any deep spiritual wisdom . . . we come to a place in our lives where we have to face ourselves and our shadows. We have to face where we get into our own way. Sometimes it’s a dark night of the soul. Sometimes it’s an epiphany. Often it’s something external happening in our lives — we lose our job, we go through a divorce or breakup, or we experience some other tragedy or loss. Other times our shadows become more clear to us when we ask the question, “Why does this keep happening to me?”
There’s an old axiom often quoted in many magical and spiritual traditions, “Know thyself.” The problem is, people are pretty good at putting on the blinders. We very often bind ourselves up in our story of who we want to be — or, who we are told we “should” be. But then we hit one of those moments where we have to reevaluate ourselves, reevaluate our identity. We have to acknowledge our shadows, and we have to renegotiate some of the contracts we have (usually unintentionally) bound into our own identity.
Tarot cards are a great visual, mythic, and esoteric guide for working through part of this process with intention. The Tarot cards reveal a pattern:
- The Devil — those contracts we signed, the stories we’ve bound our life force into.
- The Tower — old patterns that became a massive, caging structure, destroyed in lightning and fire.
- The Star — unbound life force, healing waters, inspiration, and hope flow back into us.
The Tower and Old Stories
Have you had a Tower moment? That’s Tarot shorthand for have you had life come crashing down around you in certain disaster? Tarot readers will often refer to a big life catastrophe as a “Tower moment.” However, sometimes when you face massive upheaval in your life, you might realize that you were finally free of all the things that you said “yes” to once upon a time. These things you said yes to, these contracts, became the chains that bound you. What are your shadows, your old stories, the fears that constrain you? What contracts have you made? Who did you agree to be? What stories do you tell about yourself?
My old story, my old contract, was that I’m not pretty. I’ll just be strong. People can deal with me all rough around the edges. I’m tough. I’ll reject them first.
Over and over, I cast the spell with my words, reinforcing the contract. I was dealing with bullies and abuse, it was a defense mechanism. It kept me sane, it protected me. But then, once I was out of that bad situation, I wondered why nobody wanted to be around me. “Nobody likes me,” I’d say. And later, I started wanting to maybe wear a skirt, but I hated myself for it. “I’m strong, I shouldn’t want that.” My contract had bound my identity and my life force.
When the Tower fell for me, I realized that I had been the one to keep that old story going. That I wasn’t being bullied or abused any longer. That I was the one pushing potential friends away. Instead of being lost in the ruins and embers of those bricks of the Tower, I embraced the transformation. I saw the Tower on fire as burning my old contracts. I saw what I could be, if I wasn’t held back by those old spells.
Renewed Life Force and Reshaped Identity
I felt the unveiled light of the Star; hope, healing, regeneration. That Tower I’d built up around myself had kept me safe until it strangled me. When it was gone, the life force returned. The Star lights the way the best in ourselves, to beauty, vision, creativity . . . her essence is the waters of deepest love that fills our souls.
What contracts have a hold on you? If only ego weren’t such a difficult monster to wrestle. We make contracts with Ego and say, “This is my identity, this is who I am.” And Ego does its job — sometimes too well. Ego works to make us like ourselves, to feel good. Sometimes Ego helps make us feel important . . . sometimes Ego just works to make us feel safe when we aren’t.
But Ego does not cope well with shame. And so we have Shadows that hide in the basement. Shadow is all the things we aren’t “supposed” to be. If I were a good girl, I wouldn’t want pleasure, I wouldn’t want wildness, I wouldn’t want to be seen and praised, I wouldn’t want. . .
But we do want. We need. We all have needs that we have been told aren’t okay. Maybe our parents told us that, or a friend or a lover or a teacher, or a billboard or a magazine. And so we put Shadow in the basement. Ego’s job is to keep us liking ourselves. So Ego has to divorce us from those things that we said, “I’m not that. I don’t want that. That’s not me.”
Except we need. Our own human nature breaks the contracts we set up. “I don’t need to be seen for being unique and special, that’s being a show-off.” “I don’t need pleasure and intimacy.” “I don’t need to do important work.” “I don’t need creature comforts.” “I shouldn’t take a day off and rest.” “I shouldn’t need alone time.”
Our Tower is built, brick by brick, contract by contract, chain by chain. Every time we agree to a contract and sign it in our own blood, we build that Tower up for ourselves. But it’s not a sustainable structure, and eventually, the Towers we build will fall.
Looking in the Mirror
What are your Shadows? What do you hide? Where are you afraid of being bad so much so that you pretend you don’t need something? I find my Shadows in a few ways. When I say, “shouldn’t,” that’s often a sign. Or, when I see someone else doing that thing that I hate, that thing that I myself secretly do, or fear that I do.
When I see friends of mine stuck in depression and apathy, I cringe. I get nauseated. I fear that will happen to me again. Other times, I see people doing things and I get judgmental, like when I see someone who is sleeping around a lot. Then I realize, that’s society forcing sexual morals on me that I don’t even agree with.
Sometimes, I can negotiate with Ego. “See, it’s okay that I want that; that’s a part of me.” I renegotiate the contract. Sometimes, it’s a little harder than that. “I don’t like that I do that, but I do, and I don’t want to hate myself for doing it.” With depression and apathy, I have to accept that I get tired and depressed sometimes. That I need rest and can’t keep going at a sprinters pace constantly. Other shadows become easier to negotiate when I realize it’s cultural baggage. Or pressure from a family member. Those are the contracts and the chains that chafe. The contract I made with a parent to come and visit for the holidays even when I was exhausted and needed time alone. The contract I made with a spouse or partner to put them ahead of my creative and spiritual work.
How do you embrace your Shadows? How do you renegotiate your contracts?
The Magic of Transformation
Some of the deepest magic out there is when we learn our own true nature, when we look into the mirror and stop hiding. I have found that ancient aphorism “Know Thyself” to be a core of my magical and spiritual practice. I’ve heard the saying quoted by many teachers of magical and spiritual work, though its use goes back to ancient Greece where the maxim was carved into the Temple of Apollo, the seat of the Oracle of Delphi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself.
It’s a simple set of words, but it cuts to the heart of the matter; if I don’t know what my own issues are, then I’m bound in chains to keep repeating my old patterns.
Part of magic is manifesting change through my own will. Understanding myself is core to that; if I don’t observe myself, if I’m not honest, how can I change anything about myself, much less change the world around me? What are your Shadows? What contracts bind you? And how can you bring in that unveiled light of the Star?
© 2014 by Shauna Aura Knight.
Edited by Christopher Drysdale.
An artist, author, community leader, presenter, and spiritual seeker, Shauna travels nationally speaking on the transformative arts of ritual, community leadership, and personal growth. She is the author of the The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path, and other nonfiction and fiction books.
Magic and science have long been strange bedfellows. Their histories are interwoven, much like the histories of magic and religion, although the story is not as widely known. Many magicians have been scientists; many scientists, magicians. At times, the line between the two seems blurred, unless viewed through the scientific lens of today. This rather furtive love affair has continued well into the present day, where magicians will borrow heavily from scientific findings to prove that their magical worldview is scientifically tenable. However, there are two interesting factors in this relationship. First, science rarely borrows from the realms of magic to prove the existence of its worldview. Second, there are very few magicians who are actively engaged in the front lines of science. It seems that most read the popular accounts of science, then begin making connections. Most magicians will claim that they practice magic as a pursuit of knowledge and power, or at least knowledge. Science has proven its effectiveness in both of these areas; we have learned a tremendous amount of information regarding the universe, and science has given us power to control the universe to a large extent. Thus, it would only seem natural that magicians would seize the opportunity to learn about the universe they hope to understand and affect.
In the past, many magicians, whose names have become legendary, were not only interested in science, but pioneers in the field. These figures regarded magic and science as complementary, not adversarial. Their desire was to understand the universe, not play ideological or emotional politics (although, of course, many found themselves engaged in such activities). Thus, magic and science were considered different aspects of a single reality, and as such, both contributed to the knowledge of that reality. Paracelsus is a prime example. As an alchemist, he felt that the true purpose of alchemy was to create medicines that could lead to a better, longer life. He is credited with giving birth to the science of pharmaceuticals. Alchemy itself had named many of the elements that the science of chemistry would later use in its investigation of the universe. John Dee, who is remarkably well known in the occult and magical communities, was engaged in navigation and mathematics, in addition to the more well-known espionage connections. The Neoplatonists of the Renaissance were often involved in science, either through investigation, like Dee, or by patronizing scientists. Aleister Crowley related a lifelong love of science, which he claimed to have “sacrificed to the altar of magick.” Despite this he maintained a keen eye toward scientific advancements, and often touted the worth of science. Plato himself laid the foundations for the integration of science and magic; he proposed that reality is composed of two Worlds, the World of the ideal, perfect Forms, and the World of the imperfect Things. According to Plato, the means whereby one may apprehend the World of Forms is through their “shadows” in the World of Things.
Many people of a magical, or otherwise spiritual or religious bent, decry the exclusive materialism of the new scientific worldview. The fact that many, supposedly due to the scientific worldview, ridicule or marginalize any type of spirituality (with the possible exception of orthodox Christianity) often leads to a distrust of or enmity toward science in general. Thus, magicians seem to find themselves in the position of using the findings of science to “keep up” in the world of ideas. Quantum physics is one such branch of science that has been used extensively in conjunction with magical ideas; psychology is another. However, as we’ve seen, this split between magic and science is not inherent in these two systems of knowledge. What is needed is a wider acceptance of science and magic as two means of observing, categorizing, understanding, and controlling the same reality.
The world as we know it is ripe for such a change. We live in an era where the rate of technological advancements rise exponentially each year, where values either shift daily or become embittered political parties, where the world constantly swings between global prosperity and global economic meltdown, where the very planet that sustains us may be our demise. As far as the sciences are concerned, they are booming. We are witnessing the development of new technologies almost daily, with advancements in computers, biotechnology, and the tantalizing promises of nanotechnology. As literacy and scientific knowledge spreads across the world, more and more young people are taking up the challenge. Likewise, there are perhaps more magicians in the world than ever before. Magicians are able to openly profess their practices and beliefs, and there are entire sections in mainstream bookstores dedicated to “New Age” or “Metaphysical Studies.” A simple web search will yield vast amounts of magical lore, from our ancient predecessors to modern-day practitioners. The number of organizations dedicated to the practice of magic is greater than ever before. Some maintain the old ways, others look to new ways to bring magic to ever greater heights of sophistication. Magic is studied extensively in universities, and more and more academics are beginning to see the value of magic. In this storm of chaos, those with clear eyes can see the seed of potential. Humanity is in a position to redefine our position in the cosmos, and our relation to it, much as happened in the Renaissance period before us.
Whenever two human cultures begin to interact, whether through trade, exploration, or warfare, there is always an exchange of ideas. This exchange is sometimes mutually beneficial, such as those between Spain and China as facilitated by Marco Polo, sometimes destructive to one culture, such as the colonization of North America by the Europeans, and the persecution of the Native Americans. Regardless, an exchange occurs on some level. This exchange often leads to new and more empowering worldviews. With magic and science, we have two cultures, one of magicians, one of scientists. With these come to distinct worldviews. Magicians generally see humanity as a key player in the cosmos, whether its perfection or co-creator, with the universe as a place of mystery and wonder. Scientists generally see man as an unusually intelligent creature, no more a creator in the cosmos than the simplest archaea, and the cosmos as a massive clock with strange, quantum irregularities. If these two cultures, and their attendant worldviews, were to merge, with the trailblazers of science being simultaneously the trailblazers of magic, the resultant worldview could be extraordinary. It would be foolish, however, to expect scientists to initiate this merger. Science, as a worldview, holds sway currently in the West. Thus, it is up to magicians to begin this transformation of human knowledge and perception. If it were to be any other way, then magicians would not deserve that title.
©2010 by Alexander.
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Many books and articles that I’ve read, as well as some I have written, espouse writing in a journal. Since middle school I’ve not had a class or person require me to keep one, so a lot of skills that I had back then I lost until I became a pagan and I started to practice ceremonial magic. What I write here may not be academic or “the right way” of journal writing, but these techniques have worked for me. What I hope you get from this is both a sense of what to use your journal for, and how to write in it so you can actually benefit from using it.
Physical Journal or Blog?
We’ll first delve into using paper journals, then move on to blogs. This isn’t because I dislike the medium for journal writing, but the purpose of a physical journal as opposed to one online can be and usually is totally different. I look at physical journals as useful because they can act as repositories of everything contained within an experience. I used to be more honest in my physical journals because I’m not writing for an audience, but as I’ve become more comfortable with writing online, this has changed (more on that below). I also tend to record more in the introduction, where I include time, moon phase, and the like, and in the body of the entry, where I tend to include more details. I do this because I’m usually doing my journal alongside or immediately following the magic or spirit-work, lending the journaling itself to being part and parcel of that spiritual work. It can be as much a time to ground as it can be a time to record, write down insights, and reflect on the working.
As for blogs, out of the gate they have a ton of advantages. Perhaps the greatest advantage a blog has is that you have a worldwide audience able to comment on your journal, suggest changes, give advice and provide links for more information, or vice versa. Most are highly customizable, even without knowledge of HTML, letting your design your journal however you like. There are other benefits, such as being able to upload photos of your working area or tools, as well as other media and even polls for some blog sites. Personally, this is the only way some friends will see my journals. Some live too far away or are people I only know online, and for the remainder, my blog tends to be much more convenient than coming over and reading my journal. My handwriting isn’t the greatest, and blogs allow for quick dissemination of ideas and occurrences within your life to an audience you can choose to let in or not, as the feeling takes you.
With regard to journals, the security of your work is also a factor: Do you want this work to be seen, even critiqued? Do you want to deal with questions about “Why did you” or outright rude or abusive statements like “you don’t know what you’re doing”? I’ve yet to receive one of these kinds of statements, but you may potentially have to deal with them in an online setting. The spirits you may work with may or may not want their work with you to be posted online. Another thing to consider is that if your physical journal is lost or destroyed, that’s it, and you may have to write everything over from scratch or memory. A physical journal, however, can be right there with you alongside all your other working tools, it needn’t be plugged in, and it can be another physical way to connect you to what you are doing or have done. I personally do a mix of both. Some things I write may never reach my blog because they are deeply personal, whereas my blog contains some quite personal entries that my physical journals do not because I wanted feedback and it is easier for me to type than write. Ultimately, the choice as to where your journal ends up is yours.
The first thing you should decide on is why you want to keep a journal. I’ll give you some examples below, but I look at there being three main archetypes: 1) Experimental, 2) Experiential, and 3) Multipurpose. Experimental journals are entirely about experiments in spirituality, magic, etc. and are written in a straightforward format that nearly entirely eliminates personal perspective save where it is needed. This is a style that closely mimics a scientific journal. The Experiential style is almost exclusively about subjective experiences, opinions, and observations. The Multipurpose style can be either of the two in whatever amounts you need and the flow in it changes as needed. The writing styles will vary greatly; I’ll show you examples so you can decide which you want to use.
I personally advocate a two-pronged approach to physical journaling. Keep your physical journal, but electronically back it up. Either scan it or write it out in a word processor. If you lose the journal, you’ll at least have a backup, and can print it off or refer to it in later sections of your physical journal. The advantage here is that if you have spelling errors, or large sections crossed out (like spirit-corrected entries of spirit communications) you can put your journal into a more logical, and less messy format.
As the actual content is largely up to you, here are some suggestions:
- Regardless of which style you go with, the journal should have all the information you may want to reference later. Write down anything which may affect a working at the beginning of an entry — information like the date, time, moon phase, astrological time, etc. of the working.
- Write as thoroughly as you can, noting feelings and facts with equal weight. Sometimes those feelings can be looked back upon, and you can note trends, or how your emotions may have affected the outcome of a working. It could also give you ideas of how to do a working better next time.
- Do not censor yourself. This is so incredibly difficult, but keep in mind no one needs to read this but you. This is your work, your private journal if you make it so. The details you put in here may help you when you least expect it, so honesty really may help you out some day.
- Nothing is inconsequential. You have feelings, reactions, instincts and intuitions for a reason. It is good to reflect on them, even if they prove wrong later on. Again, as above, your honesty can help you fix or avoid problems altogether.
- Have fun or, at the least, do not make this a chore. If you really don’t like journaling on paper, find another medium. If journaling is going to be a help, approaching it with The Death March playing in the background won’t endear you to it.
DR: OR: RR:
Today begins with a meditation to Hela, then Odin. After getting my breathing and heart calmed, I did square breathing for 15 minutes and slipped into trance state. I went utiseta (out of body).
The DR, or Daily Rune, can also be replaced with DC or Daily Card if you’re using tarot. The OR is Outworking Rune, and RR is Results Rune, and all can be labeled according to what you need. The PDS is the Planetary Day Sign and the PHS is the Planetary Hour Sign, all of which can mean something according to what system of magic or spirituality you are working in. These are just suggestions as to what you can record. To me, anything that you record during these workings can be of value.
Some Sample Activities to Journal On
Sometimes you get settled with doing activities that you can journal on, like spiritual events, spells, and the like. What do you do when you’ve hit a dry spell? Here are some things you can do and journal on to give yourself something to write, and perhaps jump start a low period in your life or spirituality.
- Write on a spell you’ve done that did not work. You may be surprised to learn that the spell worked in a way you didn’t think it did, or you may uncover why it didn’t work.
- Revisit a topic you thought you’d mastered, even something relatively simple like basic energy work. Refreshers can help you spiritually, and going back over it can show progress or give you some new tricks to play with.
- Commune with Deity, noting particulars like how they might appear to you, what they’ve said, or information they’ve told you that their myths, legends, and lore doesn’t cover.
- Commune with your Ancestors; learn a skill or insight into your family tree from them.
- Write a tune, chant, mantra or ritual for a God/dess or spirit.
- Do research on a God/dess, spirit, spell, ritual, or religion and write about what you find.
Comment here if you have suggestions!
©2010 by Sarenth.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Sarenth has been a Neopagan since 2004, on and off as a solitary eclectic. His personal practice consists of NeoShamanism stemming from the Norse pantheon, but he also engages in ceremonial magick and works with a variety of other gods. He is a co-founder of the Pandoran Society. Visit his blog here.
In 1612, in one of the most meticulously documented witch trials in English history, seven women and two men from Pendle Forest in Lancashire, Northern England were executed. In court clerk Thomas Potts’s account of the proceedings, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, published in 1613, he pays particular attention to the one alleged witch who escaped justice by dying in prison before she could come to trial. She was Elizabeth Southerns, more commonly known by her nickname, Old Demdike. According to Potts, she was the ringleader, the one who initiated all the others into witchcraft. This is how Potts describes her:
She was a very old woman, about the age of Foure-score yeares, and had been a Witch for fiftie yeares. Shee dwelt in the Forrest of Pendle, a vast place, fitte for her profession: What shee committed in her time, no man knows. . . . Shee was a generall agent for the Devill in all these partes: no man escaped her, or her Furies.
Quite impressive for an eighty-year-old lady! In England, unlike Scotland and Continental Europe, the law forbade the use of torture to extract witchcraft confessions. Thus the trial transcripts allegedly reveal Elizabeth Southerns’s voluntary confession, although her words might have been manipulated or altered by the magistrate and scribe. What’s interesting, if the trial transcripts can be believed, is that she freely confessed to being a healer and magical practitioner. Local farmers called on her to cure their children and their cattle. She described in rich detail how she first met her familiar spirit, Tibb, at the stone quarry near Newchurch in Pendle. He appeared to her at daylight gate — twilight in the local dialect — in the form of beautiful young man, his coat half black and half brown, and he promised to teach her all she needed to know about magic.
Tibb was not the “devil in disguise.” The devil, as such, appeared to be a minor figure in British witchcraft. It was the familiar spirit who took centre stage: This was the cunning person’s otherworldly spirit helper who could shapeshift between human and animal form, as Emma Wilby explains in her excellent scholarly study, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits. Mother Demdike describes Tibb appearing to her at different times in human form or in animal form. He could take the shape of a hare, a black cat, or a brown dog. It appeared that in traditional English folk magic, no cunning man or cunning woman could work magic without the aid of their spirit familiar — they needed this otherworldly ally to make things happen.
Belief in magic and the spirit world was absolutely mainstream in the 16th and 17th centuries. Not only the poor and ignorant believed in spells and witchcraft — rich and educated people believed in magic just as strongly. Dr. John Dee, conjuror to Elizabeth I, was a brilliant mathematician and cartographer and also an alchemist and ceremonial magician. In Dee’s England, more people relied on cunning folk for healing than on physicians. As Owen Davies explains in his book, Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History, cunning men and women used charms to heal, foretell the future, and find the location of stolen property. What they did was technically illegal — sorcery was a hanging offence — but few were arrested for it as the demand for their services was so great. Doctors were so expensive that only the very rich could afford them and the “physick” of this era involved bleeding patients with lancets and using dangerous medicines such as mercury — your local village healer with her herbs and charms was far less likely to kill you.
In this period there were magical practitioners in every community. Those who used their magic for good were called cunning folk or charmers or blessers or wisemen and wisewomen. Those who were perceived by others as using their magic to curse and harm were called witches. But here it gets complicated. A cunning woman who performs a spell to discover the location of stolen goods would say that she is working for good. However, the person who claims to have been falsely accused of harbouring those stolen goods can turn around and accuse her of sorcery and slander. This is what happened to 16th century Scottish cunning woman Bessie Dunlop of Edinburgh, cited by Emma Wilby in Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits. Dunlop was burned as a witch in 1576 after her “white magic” offended the wrong person. Ultimately, the difference between cunning folk and witches lay in the eye of the beholder. If your neighbours turned against you and decided you were a witch, you were doomed.
Although King James I, author of the witch-hunting handbook Daemonologie, believed that witches had made a pact with the devil, there’s no actual evidence to suggest that witches or cunning folk took part in any diabolical cult. Anthropologist Margaret Murray, in her book, The Witch Cult in Western Europe, published in 1921, tried to prove that alleged witches were part of a Pagan religion that somehow survived for centuries after the Christian conversion. Most modern academics have rejected Murray’s hypothesis as unlikely. Indeed, lingering belief in an organised Pagan religion is very difficult to substantiate. So what did cunning folk like Old Demdike believe in?
Some of her family’s charms and spells were recorded in the trial transcripts and they reveal absolutely no evidence of devil worship, but instead use the ecclesiastical language of the Catholic Church, the old religion driven underground by the English Reformation. Her charm to cure a bewitched person, cited by the prosecution as evidence of diabolical sorcery, is, in fact, a moving and poetic depiction of the passion of Christ, as witnessed by the Virgin Mary. The text, in places, is very similar to the White Pater Noster, an Elizabethan prayer charm which Eamon Duffy discusses in his landmark book, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580.
It appears that Mother Demdike was a practitioner of the kind of quasi-Catholic folk magic that would have been commonplace before the Reformation. The pre-Reformation Church embraced many practises that seemed magical and mystical. People used holy water and communion bread for healing. They went on pilgrimages, left offerings at holy wells, and prayed to the saints for intercession. Some practises, such as the blessing of the wells and fields, may indeed have Pagan origins. Indeed, looking at pre-Reformation folk magic, it is very hard to untangle the strands of Catholicism from the remnants of Pagan belief, which had become so tightly interwoven.
Unfortunately Mother Demdike had the misfortune to live in a place and time when Catholicism was conflated with witchcraft. Even Reginald Scot, one of the most enlightened men of his age, believed the act of transubstantiation, the point in the Catholic mass where it is believed that the host becomes the body and blood of Christ, was an act of sorcery. In a 1645 pamphlet by Edward Fleetwood entitled A Declaration of a Strange and Wonderfull Monster, describing how a royalist woman in Lancashire supposedly gave birth to a headless baby, Lancashire is described thusly: “No part of England hath so many witches, none fuller of Papists.” Keith Thomas’s social history Religion and the Decline of Magic is an excellent study on how the Reformation literally took the magic out of Christianity.
However, it would be an oversimplification to state that Mother Demdike was merely a misunderstood practitioner of Catholic folk magic. Her description of her decades-long partnership with her spirit Tibb seems to draw on something outside the boundaries of Christianity.
Although it is difficult to prove that witches and cunning folk in early modern Britain worshipped Pagan deities, the so-called fairy faith, the enduring belief in fairies and elves, is well documented. In his 1677 book The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, Lancashire author John Webster mentions a local cunning man who claimed that his familiar spirit was none other than the Queen of Elfhame herself. The Scottish cunning woman Bessie Dunlop mentioned earlier, while being tried for witchcraft and sorcery at the Edinburgh Assizes, stated that her familiar spirit was a fairy man sent to her by the Queen of Elfhame.
The crimes of which Mother Demdike and her fellow witches were accused dated back years before the 1612 trial. The trial itself might have never happened had it not been for King James I’s obsession with the occult. Until his reign, witch persecutions had been relatively rare in England compared with Scotland and Continental Europe. But James’s book Daemonologie presented the idea of a vast conspiracy of satanic witches threatening to undermine the nation. Shakespeare wrote his play Macbeth, which presents the first depiction of a witches’ coven in English drama, in James I’s honour.
To curry favour with his monarch, Lancashire magistrate Roger Nowell of Read Hall arrested and prosecuted no fewer than twelve individuals from the Pendle region and even went to the farfetched extreme of accusing them of conspiring their very own Gunpowder Plot to blow up Lancaster Castle. Two decades before the more famous Matthew Hopkins began his witch-hunting career in East Anglia, Roger Nowell had set himself up as witchfinder general of Lancashire.
What do we actually know about Mother Demdike? At the time of her trial she appears as a widow and matriarch, living in a place called Malkin Tower with her widowed daughter Elizabeth Device, and her three grandchildren, James, Alizon, and Jennet. Her clan was very poor and supported themselves by a combination of begging and by the family business of cunning craft. The trial transcripts mention that local farmer John Nutter of Bull Hole Farm near Newchurch hired Demdike to bless his sick cattle. Interestingly John Nutter chose not to testify against her family in the trial.
Demdike’s family at Malkin Tower had a powerful rival in the form of Chattox, another widow and charmer, who lived a few miles away at West Close near Fence. Chattox allegedly bewitched to death her landlord’s son, Robert Nutter of Greenhead, for attempting to rape her daughter, Anne Redfearne. For social historians it’s interesting to see how having a fearsome reputation as a cunning woman could be the only true power a poor woman could hope to wield.
Unfortunately this could also backfire as it did with Demdike’s granddaughter, Alizon Device, who exchanged angry words with a pedlar outside Colne in March, 1612. Moments later the pedlar collapsed and suddenly went stiff and lame on one half of his body and lost the power of speech. Today we would clearly recognise this as a stroke. But the pedlar and several witnesses were convinced that Alizon had lamed her victim with witchcraft. Even she seemed to believe this herself, immediately falling to her knees and begging his forgiveness. This unfortunate event triggered the arrest of Alizon and her grandmother. Alizon wasted no time in implicating Chattox, her grandmother’s rival, and Chattox’s daughter, Anne Redfearne.
The four accused witches were interrogated by Roger Nowell, and then force-marched to Lancaster Castle, walking over fells and moorland. Both Demdike and Chattox, whose real name was Anne Whittle, were frail and elderly. It was amazing they survived the journey. In Lancaster they were handed over to the sadistic Thomas Covell, the gaoler who reputedly slashed the ears off Edward Kelly, friend of John Dee, when he was arrested on the charge of forgery. The women were chained to a ring in the floor in the bottom of the Well Tower. Although torture was officially forbidden in England, gaolers were allowed to starve and beat their prisoners at will. Being chained to a ring in the floor and kept in constant darkness would certainly feel like torture for those who had to endure it.
On Good Friday following the arrests, worried family and friends met at Malkin Tower to discuss what they would do in regard to this tragic situation. Constable John Hargreaves came to write down the names of everyone present and later Roger Nowell made further arrests, accusing these people of convening at Malkin Tower on Good Friday for a witches’ sabbat, something he would have read about in Daemonologie. The arrests didn’t stop until he had the mythical thirteen to make up the alleged coven. Twelve were kept at Lancaster and one, Jennet Preston who lived over the county line in Gisburn, Yorkshire, was sent to York. Apart from Chattox and Demdike and their immediate families, none of these newly arrested people had previous reputations as cunning folk. It seemed they were just concerned friends and neighbours who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kept in such horrible conditions, Demdike died in prison before she came to trial, thus cheating the hangman. The others experienced a different fate.
The first to be arrested, Alizon was the last to be tried at Lancaster in August, 1612. Her final recorded words on the day before she was hanged for witchcraft are a moving tribute to her grandmother’s power as a healer. Roger Nowell, the prosecutor, brought John Law, the pedlar she had allegedly lamed, before her. Again Alizon begged the man’s forgiveness for her perceived crime against him. John Law, in return, said that if she had the power to lame him, she must also have the power to heal him. Alizon regrettably told him that she wasn’t able to, but if her grandmother, Old Demdike had lived, she could and would have healed him.
Mother Demdike is dead but not forgotten. By the mid-17th century, Demdike’s name became a local byword for witch, according to John Harland and T.T. Wilkinson’s Lancashire Folklore. In 1627, only fifteen years after the Pendle Witch Trial, a woman named Dorothy Shaw of Skippool, Lancashire, was accused by her neighbour of being a “witch and a Demdyke.”
History is a fluid thing that continually shapes the present. Long after her demise, Mother Demdike and her fellow Pendle Witches endure, their story and spirit woven into the living landscape, its weft and warp, like the stones and the streams that cut across the moors. Enthralled by their true history, I wrote my novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, dedicated to their memory. Other books have been written about the Pendle Witches, but mine turns the tables, telling the story from Demdike and Alizon Device’s point of view. I longed to give these women what their world denied them — their own voice. Their voices deserve to finally be heard.
- Owen Davies, Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History (Hambledon Continuum)
- Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (Yale)
- Malcolm Gaskill, Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy (John Murray)
- John Harland and T.T. Wilkinson, Lancashire Folklore (Kessinger Publishing)
- King James I, Daemonologie, available online.
- Jonathan Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze (Carnegie)
- Margaret Murray, The Witch Cult in Western Europe, available online.
- Edgar Peel and Pat Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches (Nelson)
- Robert Poole, ed., The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (Manchester University Press)
- Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, available online.
- Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (Penguin)
- John Webster, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (Ams Pr Inc)
- Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits (Sussex Academic Press)
- Benjamin Woolley, The Queen’s Conjuror: The Life and Magic of Dr. Dee (Flamingo)
©2010 by Mary Sharratt.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Author Mary Sharratt has lived near Pendle Hill in Lancashire since 2002. Her novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, inspired by Mother Demdike’s true story, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Visit her website.
Matrix of Possibilities
There are many ways to perform the operation of theurgy and the evocation of spirits. Most of those who practice this kind of magical operation work through one or more of the many available grimoires. However, there are other ways to perform this operation that have little to do with the old grimoires; yet these other methods require the invention of a completely alternative magical technology. A practitioner is generally stuck between using existing information and available materials or creating something entirely new. The path that I took was to create a new methodology for invocation and evocation; but the clues on how to proceed were already well documented, even though they were subtle and obscure.
Ever since I first examined the Goetia of the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, I have been fascinated by those entities called Goetic Demons, but found the methodologies for invoking them to be too abbreviated and incomplete to be entirely useful. Others have made use of this grimoire, but I found it beyond my ability to produce an effective methodology for evocation. I also found the 72 angels of the Shemhemphorasch (ha-Shem) in this same category, even though they were not specifically listed in any grimoire that I had at the time. To me there seemed to be a lot of pieces of occult lore without the ability to pull them all together. So I tended to work with the spirits and powers that I was able to access through my developed ritual systems, and ignore all of the other spirits that didn’t fit into those structures.
However, when I first read Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth and also studied Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn (specifically, Book T) there seemed to be a new structure implied that might associate the tarot, astrology, Qabalah and the hierarchy of spirits into one unified system. That structure was found in the 36 Naib cards of the minor arcana of the tarot and the 36 astrological decans.
Aleister Crowley discusses that there is an associated spiritual hierarchy with each of the Naib cards, stating it as such: “It is governed from the angelic world by two Beings, one during the hours of Light, the other during the hours of Darkness. Therefore, in order to use the properties of this card, one way is to get into communication with the Intelligence concerned, and to induce him to execute his function.”1
Crowley goes on to write that these two spirits are the angels of the Shehemphorash and that there are a total of 72 of them, corresponding to the five degree astrological segment of the “quinaries,” or what I refer to as the quinarians.2 Crowley omits relating the astrological decans to these 36 Naib cards, but he does use the old style planetary rulers that are associated with them in assigning the planets to these tarot cards. One can see this illustrated in a table on page 283 of the Book of Thoth.
Book T goes further than Crowley by not only showing that the astrological decans correspond to the 36 Naib cards of the tarot, but also that there is a larger matrix consisting of the 16 court cards and the four aces.3
So it would seem that there is a very tight tabular system consisting of all of the 56 cards of the lesser arcana. This tabular system can also be used to represent a spiritual hierarchy of the four elements, the ten sephiroth of the tree of life and the twelve signs of the zodiac. The one association that is missing is where the decans are shown to be hierarchically related to the quinarians, since the former would represent a ten degree segment of the zodiacal wheel and the latter, a five degree segment.
A decan would therefore be the higher order structure of two corresponding quinarians. What this means is that the decan and its associated spirit correspondences rules over the associated quinarian and its spirit correspondences. If the angels of the ha-Shem and the demons of the Goetia are associated with the quinarians, then the angelic ruler of the decanate would be their hierarchical lord, and the decan would be the key to the quinarian.
Clues to the nature of the astrological structure of these spirits are found in the lore from the Golden Dawn and Alesiter Crowley. In the book 777 (cols. CXXIX CXXXII, CXLV CLXVI), the angels of the Ha-Shem,4 angelic rulers of the decans and demons of the Goetia are organized by the zodiac, using the ascendant, cadent and succeedent parts of the wheel of the zodiac, by day and night.
It would seem that the number 72 would lend itself to occult interpretations, being a multiple of six times twelve, both very sacred numbers in Judaism. Also, there already was an astrological structure for the quinarians as lesser aspects of the decans, so I think that it would fit into a neat hierarchy.
I don’t know where this idea originally came from, but I was using existing schemes for all of this, as well as hints from Aleister Crowley in the appendices of the Book of Thoth, so I didn’t invent it.5 As a system it fits really well together, and it’s better than using the Shemhemphorash as a unique and separate set of spirits without any correspondences. As I have stated above, determining a context for spiritual entities so that they may be defined and highly qualified is important if the magician seeks to invoke them.
When I carefully researched the clues, I found where the angels of the Shemhemphorash were given their astrological correspondences. It was in Agrippa’s Book III of Occult Philosophy, Chapter XXV, paragraph 6. Agrippa writes: “And these are those [angels of ha-Shem] that are set over the seventy two celestial quinaries.” So if the angels of ha-Shem are set over the seventy two celestial quinarians, then their hierarchy would naturally be associated with the 36 decans and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and also with their associated archangels and angelic rulers. This relation between decan and quinarian is not spoken of either by Agrippa or anyone else, but is alluded to in Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth,6 and also Book T of The Golden Dawn. If you put what he says together with the tables in 777, you come up with the system that I am using. To my knowledge, no else quite makes all of the combinations that I have made; but it seems to be functionally elegant.
Needless to say, I was quite thrilled at how neat and tidy all of these various elements were pulled together through the cards of the Lesser Arcana of the Tarot. I speculated that if one could identify the various correspondences associated with each of these cards, that one could put together a system to invoke and evoke all of the associated spirits. So, after basking in this wondrous revelation, I set to work to build a system of magick that would do just that.
To recap, the angelic ruler of the decan and tarot Naib card has the following hierarchy:
- Element godhead
- Qabalistic sephirah
- Zodiacal base element
- Zodiacal triple spiritual intelligences (archangel, angel, house ruler) — these qualify the specific zodiacal sign
- Planetary ruler of the decan
- Angelic ruler of the decanate
- ha-Shem angel of day and night
- Goetic demon of day and night (from Lemegeton — Goetia)
- Angel of the zodiacal degree (From Lemegeton — Ars Paulina — Part 2)
Obviously, if one were to perform an invocation of the angelic ruler of the decanate, one of the angels of the ha-Shem, or one of the Goetic demons, then one would establish or invoke the associated spiritual hierarchy, beginning with the element godhead. Tools used to assist in the establishment of these qualities would be the pentagram (element), lesser hexagram (astrological triplicities), greater hexagram or septagram (planetary ruler) and the enneagram (sephirah).
My methodology uses a technique that defines a spirit through a matrix of correspondences and generates the elemental body and planetary intelligences of the spirit from them. I will defer that explanation to a future article, but I believe that the above information is enough to get occultists thinking of an alternative method to performing invocation and evocation.
Importance of the Astrological Decans
So, what is the importance and significance of the astrological decans? Even if they seem to fit into a nice tidy structure that defines a whole hierarchy of spirits, why is it such a compelling structure by itself? These are good questions, but in order to answer them, we will need to share some historical information about the decans. Once that is done, I am sure it will be obvious why they are significant.
The decans have a long history in the annals of magical religion — the Egyptians had minor deities associated with each of them and these play an important part in the Book of Gates.7 The decans are used in horary (predictive) astrology to determine the dignity of planets in the divinatory chart and they have been represented in both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian theological systems as sidereal gods of time and destiny. Thus the magician contacts the angelic ruler in order to realize and control his destiny, and to affect the general causality of the world. The decans were also used by the Egyptians to indicate the hour of the night.
What gave me a startling clue to the importance of the decans is when I came across a passage in the book Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization by Dan Barton and David Grandy. That passage said that the Egyptians used the decans (and their associated godheads and marking stars) to determine and qualify the hours of the night sky. During the night, the decan that appeared at the ascendant (eastern horizon) would tell the Egyptians what time it was. A decan period would last approximately 40 minutes, so for each night approximately 18 of the 36 decans could be revealed. During the changing of the seasons, the evening would potentially begin with a different decan over time, passing through the whole zodiacal wheel during an annual period.
So the decans were possibly used as magical hours during the night, but these hours would have lasted 40 minutes instead of 60, and each decan would have been accorded a different minor godhead and quality, not to mention the 12 gates of the diurnal solar boat transit through the underworld.
It would also seem that the Egyptians used a system of reckoning when attempting to determine the hours at night, using the decans passing over the horizon as a kind of clock. Since twilight would have made this reckoning impossible, there would have been 12 hours of night associated with the decans, since making this measurement would have required complete darkness. Dawning light would have also potentially interfered, so there would have been an hour and a half both before full night and before dawn when such reckoning would have been impossible.
A device called a merkhet (plumb line) was discovered in an Egyptian tomb. This tool, whose invention was late, probably around 600 BCE, was used to determine the north-south axis. Two of these devices were set up in a specific measured line from each other, and the subject would observe the rising of the decan star between the line of these two devices. It’s likely that this late tool was based on more primitive technology, which would have been used to perform the same kind of sighting.
Another interesting thing about the decans is that every ten days a new decan would appear at the horizon at the first observable hour of the night. It’s from this array of 36 decans, each lasting ten days, that the Egyptians determined their solar based calendar, where the last decan coincided with the period just before the annual inundation of the Nile river. They had a yearly calendar of 36 decans with five days added to the end to make 365 days in all. The five additional days would probably represent a 73rd quinarian in the Egyptian astrological system, but that is another interesting item to discuss in another article.
As you can see, the decans were used to measure time during the night. They also represented the hours of the domain of the underworld, where the solar boat and its occupants fought the threatening chthonic foes in order to gain passage to the gateway of the dawn in the east. This underworld passage occurred every evening, but to the Egyptians it represented the mythic passage from death and mortality to the immortality of the gods — an initiation cycle of profound consequences.
If we now observe that the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot are analogous, then not only do we have an elegant system of occult correspondences, but we also have a map for an aspect of the Inner planes, governed by various spirits and representing the underworld passage of occult initiation.
- Barton, Dan and Grandy, David Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization (Indiana University Press 2004)
- Crowley, Aleister 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley (Samuel Weiser, 1994)
- Crowley, Aleister The Book of Thoth (Samuel Weiser, 1972)
- Regardie, Israel The Golden Dawn (Llewellyn — 6th edition, 1995)
- See The Book of Thoth p. 43
- David Griffin, in his book Ritual Magic calls them “quinants.”
- This association was first documented in the Golden Dawn material, particularly Book T — Tarot. See The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, 6th edition, p. 87 & p. 551.
- Actually, the angels of the ha-Shem correspond to nine of the ten sephiroth of the tree of life for the four suits of the tarot, paired by day and night. Pulling the various pieces together requires a correspondence between the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot.
- The Goetia of Dr. Rudd has paired the angels of the ha-Shem with the Goetic demons. The relationship of the 72 spirits to the quinarians is quite old, and may be a part of the ancient system of astrological magick, such as that proposed in the Picatrix (11th century). However, there is no precedence for grouping the decans and the quinarians together, and organizing the associated spirits into a hierarchy.
- See The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley, “Part I — Theory,” p. 40 — 44, and “Appendix B,” p. 283
- The Book of Gates, or Am-Tuat, was a hieroglyphic book depicted in Egyptian tombs of the New Kingdom, but may have been conceived from earlier sources. The Tomb of Seti I is a prime example.
Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of witchcraft and ritual magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Foundation and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at this email address and visit his website.
©2010 by Frater Barrabbas.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Once upon a time, I was speaking with a friend online about some aspects of shamanic work, and the old axiom of “keeping silent” came up as a topic relevant for both us. Sometimes the things we see or experience in our Work can contradict what is generally accepted or acceptable among modern magical practitioners, and we keep quiet lest someone declare that what we are doing is wrong. I realized that I have internalized this attitude to a certain level. It keeps me from actually doing or trying different things, not just in trance work but in any sort of esoteric practice I might undertake.
Letting yourself be limited isn’t a healthy approach to spiritual work. When worry about things you cannot control, like potential failure or community censure, comes into the picture, it can quickly overshadow anything else happening in your practice. Fear can keep me from undertaking any sort of new or unfamiliar practice, which is probably the worst possible response.
First, on the matter of failure itself. It’s easy for me to sit here and type that if you tried and failed, at least you tried, which is better than not trying at all. I can also tell you that people doing their work for years or even decades, whether mundane or magical, will still fail sometimes. The key is how you handle that failure. Do you get up, dust yourself off and try again, or do you wallow in the feeling of failure? I know how hard it is to pick yourself back up when you’re in that moment — wondering if it’s even worthwhile to make the effort to continue or to simply keep replaying that failed moment in your head.
The only thing that seems to help is to learn from it. Don’t give up, and don’t feel sorry for yourself. Take an inventory: Is your failed magic based upon a technique you have previously used successfully, or is it something new? Is there some bigger reason for your magic not succeeding? Maybe you have doubts as to the wisdom of the work, or maybe you feel you don’t deserve success. Is it perhaps time to try a new technique, or a different practice entirely? Maybe you need to shift your perspective from, say, a particular concrete result to the efficacy of the process itself.
If you are in suffering a failed working, I would suggest not making any rash decision in the heat of the moment. Take some time to distance yourself from the event to gain impartiality, and work from there. If you let missteps keep you from walking, your only option is to stay in the exact same place, never progressing further. Rather than giving up, step back and look at things more objectively.
When the fear comes from a worry of being shunned, that is more difficult. I am well aware of the drive in most people to seek both approval and success. Positive reinforcement from others is a powerful motivator, and success means you live to see another day. But what do you do when you fall on your face? Or do not receive reinforcement? Or when people tell you exactly how you messed up? Are these people, the ones who’ll be judging, of any real consequence? Do their personal opinions really matter to you? Do you even need to share what you’re doing? Community is a wonderful resource for support, and it helps knowing that at least one other person has possibly tread this path before you. There is no substitute for learning from others, even if we are a community made up of people who most often learn from books. But when we worry for our reputation, often it’s a misguided need for validation that will enhance (or at least not undermine) our self-esteem.
Are their reactions knee-jerk? Are they responding from a place of concern for your well-being? This is one that is not as easily answered. I would hate to sound like a relativist and somehow allow my words to imply that if you’re doing something, it’s automatically okay. On the other hand, in my own Work I often find myself at the boundaries, which is not a regular space for most people, nor a comfortable one. Some of what I learn, I share — and some of it is meant to be shared. A great deal of my work is private and, at this point, meant for me first and foremost. I find that it’s a balancing act.
My best advise it to take a good look at why other people might not agree with the directions your magical work takes you. Are you ready to be taking this step? Could what you’re doing cause a great deal of hurt or harm? These are necessary questions to ask
yourself in this situation. Don’t shy away from the answers if they are not to your liking.
Hopefully, you are not in a position in which your choices are potentially harmful, and the fallout from whatever you’re doing will be minimal. If this is so, and you’re still feeling fear, and you’re not doing as a result, what can you do?
Perhaps a divination is in order, either cast by yourself or someone you trust. Or you could set this particular Working aside for the time being and focus on another project, or even on another aspect of your life, whether it be magical or mundane. You could throw caution to the wind and do it anyway, and see what happens. If you fail, so what? You’re not the first person to do so, and certainly not the last. That’s when you pick yourself up and learn from the experience.
And, perhaps, you’ll succeed.
©2010 by Soli.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.