The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #21

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #21


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.


(Gnostic) Someone who claims that they do not know or are unable to know whether God exists.


(Philosophy) Actions performed for the sake of others are altruistic. Altruism is the hypothesis that morality involves acting for the sake of others.




(Magick, divination) Literally, “clear seeing,” also known as skrying or scrying. The astral art of acquiring visions, images and other information. The actual technique used is very similar to Astral Projection. Clairvoyance has been taught by numerous magical orders in order to investigate the archetypal nature of magical symbols, or to view real-life locations. It was extensively used in England during WWII to spy on the Nazis and again in Russia during The Cold War to spy on the U.S.


(Philosophy) An epistemological view which maintains that there are two kinds of knowledge or beliefs: basic beliefs, which are obvious or self-justifying, and non-basic beliefs, which are justified by basic beliefs. The basic beliefs explain why the justification of knowledge does not involve an Infinite Regress.

Hatha Yoga

(Yoga) Sanskrit. Gives mastery over the breath, and leads to the control of the physical body and vitality.


(Alchemy) The third and final stage of alchemical transformation. Because it is marked by the purpling or reddening of the material during the Coagulation operation, it is also known as the “Purple Phase.”


A ray, star, digit of time, radiance, essence, perfume. The vital psychosomatic essence which is manifest as a result of Maithuna (linking, joining, as in Tantra), these are considered to be 16 in number, 8 manifesting from the female and 8 from the male. The Tantric “glow” of the Kala will be different according to the digit in time where, when, and with whom the Tantra is worked.


(Philosophy) The branch of philosophy that deals with the formal properties of arguments and the philosophical problems associated with them. Central questions in logic include: What is a good argument? How can we determine if an argument is good or not? What are paradoxes? Can they be resolved? How can we talk meaningfully about objects that don’t exist, such as God or fairies?


(Ecclesiastic) A plate, usually of gold or silver that is used to hold the host during the Mass. Also called a “patina.”

©2008-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at and his websites at and Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Greater Wheel of Fortune and Practical Magick

Greater Wheel of Fortune and Practical Magick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transit Sun conjunct Natal Sun

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

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

Transit Sun opposition Natal Sun

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

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

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


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

    ©2009 by Frater Barrabbas.
    Edited by Sheta Kaey.

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

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #19

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #19


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.

Akashic Record

(Yoga, Theosophy) A term invented and popularized by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The idea is that the Akasha is a thought substance which can be imprinted by experience, making it possible to retrieve otherwise inaccessible information from the past, such as a person’s past life. This is remarkably close idea to the concept of Jung’s Universal Unconscious and may in fact be a reference to the same phenomena.


(Gnostic) Literally, “Unreason.” The act of misusing thought.


(Alchemy) A naked child symbolizes the perfect intelligence, the innocent soul. In alchemy and in magical tomes, the child represents the Union of Opposites. A crowned child or child clothed in purple robes signifies Salt or the Philosopher’s Stone.

Descriptive Meaning

(Philosophy) A statements or declaration whose meaning is shown in terms of reporting or describing actual or possible facts have descriptive meaning. Compare to Emotive Meaning.


(Alchemy) The egg represents the hermetically sealed vessel of creation. In alchemy, corked retorts, coffins, and sepulchers represent the same principles.


(Alchemy) The most perfect of all the metals, gold in ages past represented the perfection of all matter on any level, including that of the mind, spirit, and soul. The Sun is often used to hint to gold.


(Qabalah) Hebrew Master or teacher. Synonymous with the Holy Guardian Angel, Higher Self, etc.


(Alchemy, Roman mythology) The smallest of the inner planets and the one nearest the sun. The Roman god of pranks, thievery and commerce, which says something of how Romans conducted their business affairs. Called Hermes by the Greeks, Mercury is the messenger for the other gods, as well as being the god of science and travel, and patron saint of athletes. He is typically represented as a young man wearing a winged helmet and sandals and holding a caduceus. Mercury is also a heavy, metallic silver poisonous element that is liquid at room temperature. Often used in scientific instruments. Also called also quicksilver, alchemists acquired it by roasting cinnabar (mercury sulfide). The mercury would sweat out of the rocks and drip down where it could be collected. When mixed with other metals, liquid mercury has a tendency to bond with them and develop amalgams. These properties seemed to make mercury the master of duality in solid and liquid states; earth and heaven; life and death, and the Above and Below.

Philosophy of Science

(Philosophy) The branch of philosophy which scrutinizes the nature and results of scientific inquiry. Central questions include: Do scientist describe reality or just appearances? Can we have good reason to believe in the existence of unobservable entities (e.g. quarks)? What happens when one scientific theory replaces an older theory?

Ruach ha Kodesh

(Qabalah) Hebrew The child of the Supernals, she is the unmanifested essence that lingers like a curtain beneath her parents. Marked on the Tree of Life by the illusive, non-Sephirah Daath, or Knowledge. It is a portal through which the Absolute may enter to intervene directly with existence. Mystic Christians think of Daath as The Holy Spirit.

©2009 by Gerald del Campo.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at and his websites at and Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Chaos Magick – Iconography

December 14, 2009 by  
Filed under chaos, experimental, magick, sigils

Chaos Magick - Iconography

Every witch is familiar with intention-based magickal workings — Know Thy Will, focus intention through a process or on an object, direct the focused energy, then expect manifestation. For simple example, my Will is “I will be healthy and fit.” I then focus my intention of health onto an apple, directing that intention by eating an apple several times per day. Finally, I expect my body to manifest itself as healthy and fit. (Yes, sometimes magick is really that simple.)

I prefer intention-based magick when performing Elemental workings. But when Chaos is my ritual’s force majeure, nonintention seems to be most effective. After all, as powerful as consciousness is, it is also exactly what can screw up a spell. Self-sabotage is often subconscious, and quickly and cleanly effective. Working with Chaos through nonintent ritual eliminates the consciousness variable by allowing the unmanifest to randomly express exactly what you didn’t know you had Willed in an act of pure epigenius. Wild Chaos. Wise Discord.

Nonintention-based magical workings vary slightly from the intention-based sort: Know Thy Will, erase intentions from the conscious mind through an automatic perfection task, imprint task’s perfected symbol of forgotten intention onto the unconscious, live your life and forget about all of it.

Austin Osman Spare’s sigil magick is a beautiful system of nonintent. Even the simplest sigil spell is extremely effective. An outline for creating a basic sigil is: I write out my Will in capitol letters; “I WILL BE COVETED”. Then I begin the process of erasing my intention by crossing out any letter that appears twice, leaving me with; “IWBCOVTD.” I write the remaining letters directly on top of one another, noticing what new shapes are being made. Sketching and resketching my way into artistic trance where I am essentially performing automatic drawing, I define a new story from the previously overlapped shapes. My goal is perfection of the sigil, not artistic merit (necessarily). The task is perfect when I am done. I then imprint the new sigil deeply into the unconscious through orgasm, entheogen or physical exhaustion. Finally, I forget about forgetting about it and live my life.

The challenge and opportunity in this style of Chaos Magick lies in the honest erasing of intent. If I am thinking about “being coveted,” or thinking about “forgetting the desire to be coveted” while drawing, I am performing an intention-based working rather than a nonintent working. Success in sigil magick in this case, would be defined by becoming completely unable to recall one’s original intent. The honest erasing is the key.

Recently, a fellow Chaote partnered with me on an advanced sigil working that assures I have no idea what I’m working towards. Hail, Discord! Here is how we, together, achieved a powerful symbol of Forgotten Intention:

Advanced Sigil Working: Partner Iconography

  1. Know Thy Will and from it, locate your intent. I honestly cannot remember what my intent was upon start of this sigil working. Well done.

  3. Convey that intention to your magical partner. In this case, Chaote and professional magickal artist, Nemo, was my partner. In an email I suggested my now forgotten intention to Nemo, blurring the original intent already. The process of forgetting began with the first communication.

  5. Your magical partner now creates the sigil through automatic drawing. Nemo, in this case tells me that he held space for my original intent, and then concentrated so deeply that he tranced out, surrendering all my (and his) intention to the spirit that wished to be drawn. Again, we stepped even further away from my original intent.
  6. On this, Nemo adds, “My own form of ‘forgetting’ is done by trance. . . akin to making the outline of a form with intention and then filling in the details by intuition/ deep-mind/ trance/ universal-will. . .” and, “The key to making this kind of painting is to focus on your intent so deeply, you forget it at the moment of manifestation.”

  7. You receive the finished artwork, then imprint the entirely new symbol of forgotten intent onto the unconscious. In this case, Nemo created a vibrant piece of art in the center of which is my glowing image. We’ve coined this artistic sigil style Iconography. I imprinted my Icon into the unconscious by dancing about it, around it, in front of it until I was flat with exhaustion. I then meditated on its visual for three days more.

  9. Finally, appreciate the artwork and live your life. All of this comprises a forgetting technique. I appreciated Nemo’s art as a magnificent masterpiece and displayed it on my hearth. Friends commented on it, it brightened my Beltane eventing. By trusting a magical partner with my intention, allowing him to transform intention into an original piece of art, and relating to the artwork as nothing more than beautiful artwork, I have honestly forgotten my original intent. And don’t you know, without me knowing, this new symbol presents itself to me throughout my daily life in different forms — I see a cactus in a Hollywood garden, I dream of candy cane octopi, I enjoy the sight of the art on my mantle.

Together, Nemo and I have created a path for random genius to emerge — in a form of its own unexpected choosing, and without the chance for my conscious mind to interfere. I am working with the unmanifest here. My Will is done without me even knowing it.

So mote it be.

©2009 by Tonya Kay.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Tonya Kay is an actress, pro dancer, danger artist and raw vegan renegade appearing this year on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, CBS’s Criminal Minds, Comedy Central’s Secret Girlfriend, Showtime’s Live Nude Comedy and the History Channel’s More Extreme Marksmen. Look for Tonya Kay, starring in Jim Balent’s comic book series Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, the pagan-centric 9-years-running comic (released Nov 25). For a complete nutritional analysis of Tonya Kay’s athletic raw vegan diet, visit

A Syllabus for Magic: Crossing the Intermediate Chasm

June 5, 2009 by  
Filed under experimental, featured, magick, theory

A Syllabus for Magic: Crossing the Intermediate Chasm

My friends and I complain a lot about the occult section at the bookstore, mostly because hanging out at a bookstore and complaining is cheaper than a movie, even with the latte. Our favorite complaint is that there are no advanced books on magic.

Our second favorite complaint is the music they play, but that’s irrelevant.

I’ve kicked this idea around over and over, asking why there are no advanced books on magic. The question itself is faulty. There are advanced books on magic (I even wrote one). But the question fails in another way: It betrays a misunderstanding of the field.

Most books on magic are textbooks, because textbooks sell. People want to learn how-to, and if you ever find yourself in the enviable position of writing a book on magic, you might as well put the exercises in from the beginning because if you don’t, the publisher will suggest you do.

Publishers and readers have expectations for what a book on magic contains. A book on magic has exercises (which nearly everyone who reads the book ignores), and offers the same exact rigmarole — here’s how to move “energy” (rarely a critical discussion of why we’re using that clumsy and out-dated model); here’s how to relax; here’s how to see auras (two-thirds of the time, the books actually teach you to see retina burn, a not very mystical, and entirely useless, skill). Wiccan books will tell you how to ground, center, cast a circle, call the quarters, and eat cookies, in that order. Ceremonial magical books will have a chapter or a section on each of the sephiroth, planets, and elements. And all of this repetition and sameness is absolutely okay.

In fact, it’s necessary. Everyone learns differently, and every writer offers a new perspective on the old topics — at least, if the writer is doing his or her job. Some readers will want a step-by-step, logical approach without many frills. Others will want reassurance or an open-ended, experiential approach. The techniques of magic can be reduced to a small number — perhaps a couple dozen — but the application and presentation of those techniques is as manifold as those who practice magic.

The other reason that there aren’t many advanced books on magic is that there aren’t many advanced textbooks in anything. When one gets to the point of advanced study in any academic field, textbooks become less and less useful. In about seven years of graduate school (gods!), I bought an average of ten books a class every semester, so sixty books every year, and of those, maybe five were textbooks. The rest were primary sources, or anthologies of primary sources.

Similarly, economic factors influence the books that get published and, more importantly, distributed. A large chain bookstore is unlikely to carry advanced books in magic, just as it is unlikely to carry advanced books in physics. The markets for such books are small. Writers do produce works of magical critical theory, philosophy, or experimental results. But those sell slowly, if it all, so bookstores rarely carry them. You need to hunt.

This lack of advanced study materials leads to an interesting situation for those who study magic. Learning the basics is easy. Moving on is hard. It’s doubly hard because most people who study magic do so themselves; they’re autodidacts. An autodidact can learn a topic perfectly well; in fact, I’m mostly an autodidact in magic. But an autodidact faces specific problems of assessment, organization, and even emotional reactions that a teacher can support a student through (or, conversely, make worse).

What we need, then, is not necessarily better books on magic (there are lots of good ones), but a guideline for how to study this art in order to get over that chasm between beginner and expert. Such a guideline, in academia at least, is called a syllabus.

Most syllabuses are written by professors for their classes, but some universities have program-wide syllabuses adopted by the whole course. Most universities mix the approaches, with some parts of the syllabus coming from department or program-wide initiatives and some from the professor’s own mind. Writing a syllabus for self-study might seem a bit odd to those used to the university syllabus. After all, the university syllabus is written by an authority in the topic and offered to students as a guideline and, in a legal sense, a promise. But a syllabus is really just a plan for how to learn, and anyone can construct a plan, even without necessarily knowing much about the topic beforehand.

Writing a syllabus for magical study is much like writing one for any other topic, but there are specific features of magical study that complicate the basics. Nevertheless, every syllabus, regardless of its origin or subject, has three sections: objectives, a set of goals for the course of study; learning activities, a set of assignments or actions to be taken to achieve those goals; and assessment, a description of how the success of the student will be measured, as well as the success of the learning activities in promoting the desired outcomes. All three components, whether in mathematics, literature, or magic, are interdependent. A syllabus missing one of these elements is not a complete or effective syllabus.

A syllabus needn’t be a rigorous and complex document, however, especially for self-study. For example, I am currently learning the piano, and while I do have a teacher I have a syllabus of my own. Here it is in its totality:

  • Objectives: I will learn to play the piano well enough to read, memorize, and improvise music. To enjoy the piano.
  • Assessment: I’ll know I can read to my satisfaction when I can play a song through slowly with few errors after only practicing it for a short time (one or two weeks); I’ll know I can memorize music when I can play at least three classical pieces and five or six short folk pieces from memory; I’ll know I can improvise when I can play music from a fake-book at sight.
  • Activities: I will take weekly lessons, practice at least a few minutes daily, and play for pleasure at least twice a week.

Obviously, I will not meet the objectives of this syllabus easily or even necessarily quickly. But notice that each objective can also be broken down. After all, I can memorize pieces one piece at a time. Notice also how flexible I am with the activities. If I really wanted to be good at piano I’d set myself a set goal, say, an hour a day. Of course, my second objective is the most important: to enjoy the piano, and I know how I would best enjoy piano, and that is at my own pace.

When writing a syllabus for your own self-study of magic, it can be as complex or as simple as you need, and this complexity comes ultimately from the objectives you choose. Therefore, a wise autodidact starts with objectives, which can be things you wish to know, things you wish to be able to do, or even attitudes you wish to develop. And keep in mind as well that you can think of it as a single course, rather than the whole totality of magic. A syllabus with objectives like:

  • Learn to evoke spirits
  • Learn to invoke gods
  • Learn to heal
  • Learn to make talismans
  • Learn the Cabala
  • Learn the runes

is a more overarching syllabus than one with objectives like:

  • Learn the sephiroth of the cabala
  • Learn the Hebrew alphabet
  • Perform an invocation of each of the ten sephiroth

And the second set of objectives is more likely to lead to a manageable set of activities. By all means, begin with your overarching goals — what you really want out of magic — but narrow them down into specific courses of study to make the next steps more manageable. Any time you find yourself struggling with the next steps, go back and narrow your objectives, keeping in mind that you can always come back to the other objectives later.

Your objectives are always and only yours to define. But if you are new to the study of magic you may be unaware of what sorts of skills a magician needs, and so you might become stuck. At this point, those introductory books can be useful. You can head to a bookstore or library and browse through some of them, getting a sense for what they cover and defining a set of objectives from that.

Once you have your objectives, you need to skip ahead to assessment. How will you know you have achieved these goals? You should be able to come up with some indicators that are measurable and more or less objective. I don’t recommend giving yourself grades (most professors would avoid them if they could). Assessment and grading aren’t the same thing: assessment is determining two things: (a) am I learning what I set out to learn? and (b) is this method working to teach it to me? With regard to the first, remember that you cannot always easily judge your own improvement, especially by memory. Keeping a journal of your activities and reflections on your skills can be useful, therefore, so that you can go back and see “ah, yes, I really didn’t get that but now I do.” I find that a sense of embarrassment for how dumb I used to be is a fairly good sign: it means I’m just a little smarter.

You also want to assess your activities, but doing that requires having some. Activities include materials and exercises. Materials are those very books I’ve talked about earlier. At the beginning, you may wish to start with a fundamental text (some are listed in the bibliography). Later, in more advanced classes, you will find yourself looking at primary sources more and more, and less and less at the introductory textbooks. If you find these sources boring, or simply incomprehensible, keep in mind that no one says you must study advanced magic. It is not as if you’ll get a Ph.D. in it. Go that far only if you find yourself passionate.

You need to evaluate material before using it to learn from, especially because so many books on magic are, in fact, pretty awful. A lot of them are good, but some are — not. Ideally you’ll want to create your own set of criteria for judging an introductory book. (Once you have some practice down, it’s fairly easy to discern good advanced texts from bad — most people prefer the Arbatel to the Black Pullet, because it’s easy to tell which is real and which is nonsense.) To help you create your own criteria, here are mine. Remember that I am a grumpy man with a stick up my nose for critical thinking and good writing, and take that into account.

Criteria for Evaluation of Learning Materials

  • Can I understand it? Is it written and organized well enough to comprehend, or is it filled with jargon I do not know and convoluted sentence structure? Is it often, like some theosophical materials, complex but reducible to simple statements that are often obvious or clearly untrue?
  • Do its claims match with what I already know or suspect about the world with greater or lesser certainty? Obviously, I can be wrong and I need to occasionally read stuff that disagrees with me, but a text that tells me that science has discovered that Atlantis used crystals to power their machinery is wrong.
  • Will it address one or more of my objectives?
  • If I read a chapter, can I put the book down and summarize what things the chapter argued, or am I left with just a vague feeling? Vague feelings have their place — I actually think one of the chief purposes of occult writing isn’t instruction, but encouragement. And I might want one or more such materials. But if I’m trying to learn something concrete from a book, I need to be sure I can take something concrete from it.
  • Does it have solid arguments and citations of its information, or does it just plop authoritative-sounding stuff in the midst of the text with no indication where it came from? My favorite of these is a book that lays out the totality of Druidic magical practices — without ever citing a single source, and making multiple factual errors (the druids did not have pumpkins).

Once you identify a set of materials that you wish to use, go request them from the library or buy them from a bookstore. Most introductory texts contain a set of exercises, but if you are an intermediate learner you need to make your own. An intermediate learner of magic has the task not just of building the skills of magic, but synthesizing them. So let’s imagine you have learned elemental pore breathing (a technique of drawing in elemental “energies” through the breath, promoted by Franz Bardon and stolen by nearly everyone else), the twenty-two path/letters of the Cabala, and the chakras. This rather hodgepodge approach now opens up doors for the intermediate magician to experiment with breathing the elements into particular chakras, or breathing the letters instead of the elements, or permuting the letters into chakras. The overwhelming proliferation of magical techniques that this mere synthesis can create is staggering.

Once you have your materials and your exercises determined, it’s wise to plan how you will assess your development. The single most productive way to do this is with a magical journal. Most people, however, do not understand the purpose of this journal. It is not merely a diary of your practices, although it can be. It’s also a critical reflection on your development and learning. Exams, papers, and so on work well enough if there is a teacher, especially in a university setting where a numerical grade must be assigned. But for an autodidact, the only measure of success is success. If, for example, you wish to learn practical talismanic magic, you may regard yourself successful when you have a 80% success rate, or when you have three successful talismans under your belt, or any other largely arbitrary measure. But if you are trying to learn something less concrete — if you’re trying to learn advanced techniques of theurgy, how do you measure your successful invocation? Obviously, if you find yourself levitating around the room, probably you did something right (or very, very, very wrong), but more likely you’ll end up after an invocation thinking, “was that just a fantasy, or real communication?” If you can record your experiences and your doubts in one place, you can reevaluate them later and see how they fit together with later experiences.

When it comes to devising a practice schedule, I suppose it’s customary for me to become stern and demand that you spend forty-five minutes a day doing magical exercises. What a hypocrite that would make me. You are better off setting modest goals, perhaps even tiny ones. Otherwise, you will simply skip lessons and feel guilty. Guilt is not educational, contrary to Puritan beliefs. Instead, if you decide that you will spend just ten minutes a day meditating, you’re more likely to do so without guilt — and before you know, you’re meditating for an hour as a habit.

When you finish a syllabus, it is time to look again at your overarching goals and define a new one. Skills build on each other. Once you get the hang of talismanic magic, what can you use it for? How can you combine it with other magical techniques that you’ve learned? The usual method of learning magic — studying with this person here, that dubious person there, this book, that book — can work for some people. Other people will prefer a more organized approach, even if they scribble their syllabuses on napkins and keep their magical notebooks on the backs of receipts.

People pay professors a lot (well, not that much) to offer them a hand over the intermediate chasm of their fields of expertise. We have, unfortunately, no professors of magic, and when we come to the chasm we need to find our own way across. The good news is, we can build our own bridges, especially if we’re willing to do a little planning.

A Tiny Bibliography

Introductory Books I Like

  • Christopher, Lyam Thomas. Kabbalah, Magic, and the Great Work of Self-transformation. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2006.
    Covers some of the same ground as Kraig, but from a somewhat different angle.
  • Dunn, Patrick. Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2005.
    This wasn’t meant to be strictly a beginner’s book, but I wanted to rethink the common conceptions of how magic works from the ground up, which necessarily involves a lot of beginner stuff.
  • Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magical Arts. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 1988.
    This book is a very good introduction to a particular kind of magic — Golden Dawn style ceremonial magic. It comes with the advantage of having a syllabus built in, although most people who have read the book have, unfortunately, ignored it. Not ignoring it is a very, very good idea.

Intermediate Books I Like

  • Agrippa, Henricus Cornelius. Tyson, Donald, ed. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 1992.
    I know magicians who live by Agrippa, and there are worse ways to go. This text is a core source text for most of western magical tradition.
  • Dukes, Ramsey. SSOTBME: Revised. The Mouse That Spins, 2002.
    Perhaps the single best book on advanced magic I have ever read. Explores the nature of knowledge, the structure of magical theory, and the role of magic in culture.
  • Dunn, Patrick. Magic Power Language Symbol: A Magician’s Exploration of Linguistics. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2008.
    Magic’s about language. Or maybe language is about magic.

©2009 Patrick Dunn
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Patrick Dunn has written two books on the occult, Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age and Magic Power Language Symbol: A Magician’s Exploration of Linguistics. He lives near Chicago, where he teaches and writes. You can find his blog here.

Guttershaman 3: Working Magic

Guttershaman 3: Working Magic

. . . hoodoo’s no different than regular praying. The prayers are always answered, just that sometimes the answer’s no.” — Bill Fitzhugh, Highway 61 Resurfaced

(Disclaimer: This is not a how-to guide for spell-casting. It’s a quick look at some of the background and theory. I take no responsibility for the results of anyone mistaking the below text for an instruction manual!)

Previously, I made the point that any theory or description of how magic works will be necessarily subjective, partial and on some level utterly insufficient in fully describing what happens.

But I’m going to have a go anyway.

So, a magician takes patterns in their mind, forges meaningful connections between symbols, events, people and places and things. This set of patterns, their map of the universe if you like, orients them and shows possibilities of action.

What happens next?
That depends on the map.

There are a few ways of describing the overall patterns — the meta-models — used in most magical styles. A good summation of four rough types is here. Using that scheme, I’d describe what I do as a mix of the Energy and Information models, with a side-order of the Psychological. I don’t work the Spiritual model much, except when needed (i.e. if I encounter something that acts like a spirit!).

The Energy model — especially the Far-Eastern-styled variants — is pretty good for describing what I actually do and feel when I “do magic.” A “spell” to me is basically a series of instructions imprinted onto personal energy and send out on a push of focused emotion and intent. Like a martial arts punch — it’s not just the movement of hand and arm that matters, it’s the will behind it.

And, again like martial arts. . . it’s all about the breath.

If you look at most traditions, the words for magical energy all translate as “breath.” Mana, Prana, Baraka, Ch’i/Ki, Pneuma. . . they all seem to describe the same thing. Even a word like ‘conspiracy’ (which pops up now and again when talking about the occult…) means at root “those who breathe together.” The primacy of breath is one of the reasons so many systems instruct the beginner in some form of meditation — to teach breath control both as a quick and easy method for altering consciousness and as the basic tool of controlling and focusing one’s ch’i to be deployed magically. Meditation also teaches the student to cut down the signal-to-noise ratio in his mind, the better to sense the change in energies around him. To “detect magic.”

Again I should point out, it’s only a model. The use of the word “energy” in mysticism, especially these days, has been haphazard to say the least. Probably the only word misused more these days is “vibrations.” Or possibly “quantum.”

The Chinese term Ch’i has a lot of utility for me, mainly because Ch’i is considered a universal energy, pretty much like The Force. It scales up nicely — the same system used in acupuncture theory or martial arts is applied on a larger scale in feng shui. It also ties in to my own Taoist tendencies belief-wise. So, I’ll be using it a lot here.

(I’ve always had what could be called a sensitivity to magical energy, to both my own Ch’i and that in my environment. I usually feel it as a kind of temperature shift, sometimes as a tingle in my peripheral nervous system, sometimes even as a kind of ghost-of-a-smell. I’m pretty sure that this sensory input is only a symbol for whatever it is I’m actually getting information about/from, in the same way that the senses we call “smell” and “taste” don’t actually feel like molecules rubbing against our mucous membranes. It’s a shorthand, a symbol, like everything about magic — and it’s a good idea to remind yourself of that fact on a regular basis.)

Back to that spell. The next point to consider is, what is the spell for?

It can be for anything the magician can imagine. Though the intent alters the kind of emotional set and setting for the spell, it doesn’t usually change the mechanics of casting — though of course some techniques work better than others, depending on the intent. (You probably wouldn’t want to focus on feelings of anger and violence when attempting healing, for instance.) The key thing here is the magician must seriously want the instructions to be carried out, he must suit his mood to the intent, and he must formulate his instructions reasonably clearly.

I could go on at great length here about the morality of magic use — and I may do so at a later date. (Short version: I’ve seen no sign of any kind of automatic “Law of Three-fold Return” or similar retribution governing spell use. The morality of magical action falls to the caster. Though karmic payback isn’t guaranteed, often like energies will attract like. But it’s not inevitable that “bad magic” will lead to a bad end. Unfortunately. My own morality leans heavily toward the issue of consent. I never initiate magical combat — only defend or counter-attack when hostilities are begun. I don’t push healing unless I’m asked. And I never, ever, work love spells. To my mind, they’re the psychic version of date-rape drugs.)

The traditional, old school, Spirit-model-based magical styles of spellcasting are usually lengthy processes. The mage would have to thoroughly research the timing (both logistically and astrologically) of the casting, determine which spirits and entities have to be invoked or kept away, lay out surroundings which are conducive to those spirits, select tools in keeping with the occasion, make a magically clear and safe space, probably observe some kind of ritual cleansing beforehand, cast a circle, make ritual obeisance to the pantheon involved… and then finally cast the spell.

All very well and good. . . and those High Magic rites can have great beauty and efficacy. But from my perspective, most of that prep falls under the heading of “getting into the mindset,” reinforcing the associations in the pattern. For most people, generating the emotional charge needed for working magic requires a dramatic shift from “ordinary” reality — and the borders of the magical reality they are creating have to be fiercely guarded, lest they fall. They’re making a kind of Temporary Autonomous Zone, a brief suspension of the ordinary rules. Though this separation of the magical and the mundane has its uses, I find it mostly a false distinction. With practice — and a good understanding of one’s internal patterns of symbol and Ch’i — one can generate the right mood with a few muttered words, humming a snatch of a tune, or simply taking a slow deep breath.

The emotional push, the Ch’i generation and harnessing needed for magic, can be found in anything that matters to the mage and fits their internal map. Some find it in rituals as described above. Some get to it through sexual activity. Some from dancing, from the emotional climax of a piece of a music or a movie or beating the Boss Level in a computer game. Anything can work. The closer it fits both the intent of the spell and the internal pattern-map of the mage, is usually the better.

The mood is found, the intent created in the magician’s mind. . . then with a push (or a shout, or a waving of wands, or an orgasm, or…) the spell is cast. Instructions/requests given to the Universe to change according to the magician’s will.

Some kind of banishing should then follow. Even if there’s no clear delineation between the magical and non-magical space, the energies recently harnessed should be allowed to settle and disperse, any entities which may have manifested given leave to depart, and generally the whole place cleaned and tidied up thoroughly. The residue of a space where this is not done can deform, grow toxic. . . and sometimes attract unpleasantness. (Think of the neglected remains of a picnic, attracting ants. Replace “ants” with “demons” or “bad vibes.” You get the idea.)

Then comes the hard part. . . seeing if the spell worked.

Like everything else in magic, deciding whether or not a casting has actually had any effect is just about as subjective as you can get. (And that’s before you even start to worry about how it worked!) Quite often, the exact results aren’t quite as the caster imagined them; usually the changes in the world are small.

Maybe that’s all magic is — a way of nudging chance in a tiny way, allowing the repercussions to spiral outward like the butterfly wing altering the quantum flow of —

Bugger it. I said, “quantum.”

(Next on Guttershaman — much, much more on tradition, “authenticity” and such. And I use “the S word” again.)

©2009 Ian Vincent
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Ian Vincent was born in 1964 and is a lifelong student of the occult. He founded Athanor Consulting, a specialist paranormal protection consultancy, in 2002. He closed Athanor in 2009 to better focus on studying wider aspects of the Art. He blogs on magical theory.

Invoking the Dragon: Musings Upon Magical Shields

Invoking the Dragon: Musings Upon Magical Shields

By the dragon’s claws, I crush the hex.
By the dragon’s wings, I dodge the hex.
By the dragon’s breath, I burn the hex.
Dragon-Shield Chant by Grey Glamer

As a student of witchcraft, I endeavor to understand not only the practice itself, but also the reasons why witches do what we do. For myself, I find my magical practice much more meaningful when I reflect upon my actions. By meditating upon the nature of my spells, I gain deeper insights about my Craft, and even more crucially, a greater understanding of my unique place within our shared cosmos. Know thyself! This maxim — carved by the ancient Greeks upon the stones of Delphi — rings just as true today. Consequently, whenever I design or develop spells for my own use, I endeavor to shape those spells around my penchant for introspection.

For many witches and magicians, one of the first magical experiments to be undertaken is the crafting of magical shields. Magical shields are essentially defensive thought forms which turn aside or otherwise disable all the harmful energies that might come the caster’s way. While I persist in the somewhat controversial conviction that the number of genuine magical assaults is generally overstated — and those curses which do occur are rarely effective — in fact there are psychic and spiritual dangers out there, including curses and bindings cast by others, malicious and dangerous spiritual entities, and all manner of life-negating energy patterns. (I don’t deny there are real threats, mind you. I do believe that by searching for the obvious demon, we miss the soul-draining pessimism of our workplace, or the broad malaise of clinical depression. Most of the bad things out there don’t speak backwards or writhe when splashed with holy water!)

Once deployed, these magical shields interact with the surrounding energy patterns, and with a little introspection, the reflective witch acquires a deeper understanding of the cosmos as streams of energy. Do your magical defenses flare up brightly in the presence of certain people or situations? An instinctive activation of shields could signify unhealthy or harmful configurations of magical energy flowing from the circumstances, information which subsequently allows you to consciously protect yourself from harm.

Is your significant other yelling at you? Shields keep your emotional center from taking the verbal lashing personally, which enables you to approach the underlying issue constructively. Is your workplace draining your reserves, so that when you get home you crash in front of the television? Shields protect your personal sparkle of enthusiasm, even when you’re surrounded by drudgery or stress. Properly understood, magical shields guard against much more than formal curses and full-bore demonic sieges.

The process of developing magical shields itself teaches several valuable lessons. For one, the aspiring witch learns to raise and direct power towards magical ends. Moreover, the manifestation of effective shields demands good visualization skills; even the relatively simple egg of white light suggested for beginners encourages the caster to hone his imaginative focus. And as we’ve already seen, deployed shields teach us much about how energy flows through our immediate environs.

Beyond these immediate benefits, I believe the study of magical shields can teach us something more, something important about how we approach magic. The crafting of psychic shields can be a deeply creative endeavor, insofar as we employ different visualizations to effect specific ends. The basic shield deflects harmful configurations of energy, which is already a monumental leap over the alternative of getting struck. In my experience, however, very few witches and magicians cease experimenting once they achieve the basic egg-shaped shield formed from white light. Rather, they experiment with different forms, which deal with harmful patterns in unique ways. I suspect most practicing spellcasters who read this have implemented porous shields which selectively allow in positive or beneficial energy patterns. More exotic shields are possible, though. One may design and deploy thought forms which catch and hold the harmful patterns like flypaper. Adopting the opposite extreme, one may cover one’s shields with psychic grease and watch harm slide away harmlessly. Visualizing mirrors can even turn harm back upon the sender!

For some months, my usual pattern of shields followed my training in Aikido — accept the force of the strike as gift, then redirect this force towards the ground, where the energy can be recycled into healing forms. I still find this visualization extremely helpful when confronted by threatening circumstances. Still, my inner witch has been eager to experiment of late, and especially with the intersection of shielding and invocation.

Invocation is something which many people — many witches included — find intimidating. To invite another presence into one’s very being takes courage, and perhaps some small degree of insanity. On the other hand, I don’t believe we should fear the process of invocation, when we consider everything — everything which ever was and ever will be — already exists within every individual’s soul. The Goddess — by whatever name you call Her — exists inside you now, whole and healthy, patiently waiting for the mystical moment when you acknowledge Her presence. Likewise, every possible Form exists — in potential — inside your imagination. Invoked beings don’t arrive from without; they awaken from within! Once you grasp the whole complexity of the cosmos lies before your fingertips, genuine magic becomes possible.

With this paradigm in mind, I set out to develop protective invocations which could function as magical shields throughout the day. This experiment requires some rethinking of the traditional paradigms. Most purposeful invocations occur within some defined space and time, usually marked by a magical circle or some like means, even if the experience itself takes on the mystical transcendence of space and time. Shielding, upon the other hand, engages the proverbial back of the mind throughout the day. To hybridize the two practices, I needed to invoke my chosen Form, and then “set” the Form into a defensive posture for my daily activities, much like programming a burglary alarm and then arming the system. I’ll touch upon this process again momentarily.

For my first such experiment, I elected to invoke a dragon-like pattern of shields, emphasizing three particular aspects of the dragon — the claws, the wings, and the breath. The choice of a complex pattern was deliberate. I think one potential pitfall confronting those who consciously shield is the tendency to create one extremely powerful response for every problem. The issue here is plain: There is no single ideal response for every harmful pattern which may come our way. The deflection provided by an egg of white light is very effective against a wide range of threats, which together with its simplicity makes the bubble an ideal place to begin shielding. To borrow from the cliche, hammers are good at solving several construction-related problems, and they’re fairly easy to wield, yet when you possess nothing but the hammer, everything else begins to look like so many lengths of galvanized metal! Applying the metaphor back into my endeavors, I’m looking to broaden my magical toolbox.

The first aspect I invoked was the claws of the dragon. I envisioned my hands and feet sprouting razor sharp talons backed by inhuman strength and speed, which would then shred harmful energy patterns before they could reach my emotional core. Some threats require the witch to challenge magical force with magical force, though unlike the generally passive bubble-shield, this layer of defense actively seeks out and crushes those things which would bring harm. Moreover, I would add as caveat, the destructive element here severs harmful connections and influences, rather than wreaking havoc more directly upon the sources of such malign patterns. Often the author of some hex or other invests some significant portion of their focus or power into the negative patterns which they send out: When they lose their investment, such enervation is upon them.

Not everything is amenable to sheer force, however, even when such force is applied with the utmost skill. Sometimes the best solution means stepping out of the way and letting the negative pattern sail past harmlessly. This is fundamental to the soft martial arts — when the strike arrives, be somewhere else! Adopting a psychological mindset for a moment, this can mean rising above the fray and not taking a verbal assault personally. The dragon is a deadly predator precisely because he’s out of reach until he wants to close. Thus I envisioned the dragon’s leathery wings emerging from my back and bearing me aloft, above the realms where negative patterns dwell. Magical assaults generally don’t possess power over us unless we give them such power. So teaches the dragon!

The third aspect I invoked was the dragon’s fiery breath. The breath is perhaps the most emblematic element of the thought form we call dragon. We should take note the breath is something closely connected with spirit. Within the language of ancient Greece, the two words are one and the same! To conceive the dragon’s breath — or pneuma — to be laced with flames also acknowledges something important about his spirit. The flames are transformative, the powerful element of alchemical fire which converts one substance into another. By invoking the breath of the dragon, our own spirit takes on this transformative character. Sometimes the proper response to magical assaults isn’t outright destruction, or even evasion. Rather, with our thoughts and our words we can transmute harmful patterns of energy into something positive, spiritual ashes from which the flowers may blossom or the phoenix may rise. Energy itself is morally neutral, only the configuration of energy renders some particular pattern either life-affirming or life-negating. By taking the energy of the magical attack as a gift, we can transmute deleterious patterns into something more beneficial. This process isn’t always easy — Flames do burn, after all! — yet transmuting woe into weal can make for some of the most fascinating and satisfying magic.

The process that I’ve outlined here is an ongoing magical experiment, but one which has met with some success so far. Establishing shields by invoking a thought form does require practice. The visualization itself requires imaginative focus, and I find such shielding requires somewhat deeper reserves of magical power than relatively simple eggs or bubbles. Having shielding which not only dispatches the harmful pattern, but also recognizes and implements the best approach for each threat, requires somewhat more subconscious activity. Still, I think this price is well worth paying. Engaging the broader world with informed and creative magical tools requires intense personal effort, and I’m willing to give some to approach the cosmos more constructively. After all, this same cosmos provides all the magical power we could ever want! Thus we give some and we take some, always learning more creative ways to channel the goodness of the world.

I hope my notes here offer you, my readers, something to consider whenever you design your own shielding spells. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to broaden your magical toolbox!

©2009 Grey Glamer
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Magic: Is It Another Four Letter Word?

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

Magic: Is It Another Four Letter Word?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2008 by Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Guttershaman 2: Meanings and Patterns, Part Two

Guttershaman 2: Meanings and Patterns, Part Two

“What is truth, man? You heard the weirdo. . .” — Zaphod Beeblebrox

Earlier, I made the point that there’s a difference between what is (for want of a better word) real and what we can actually describe. This is an idea which many find a little troubling.

It’s not a new idea. Plato’s Cave model is a couple of thousand years old at this point; the acceptance that reality cannot be fully described is a basic in Taoism, which is at least twice as old. The modern riff on this, usually called Post-Modernism, has been around long enough in modern society to become cliché.

I think the reason folk find this notion unsettling has a lot to do with the need for stability. Once you start considering just how much of “consensus reality” is neither that real nor that much of a consensus, things get very unstable, very fast. People work harder to reinforce the boundaries of their version of reality when it is questioned — often falling back into simpler beliefs which they don’t have to think too hard about.

“Just keeping it real. . .”

Another reaction is, of course, to ridicule the idea. Often when the idea of a subjective element in perceived reality comes up — both in discussing post-modern ideas in general and modern magic in particular — the line of attack most used is, “You don’t believe anything is real, right? So why can’t you walk through walls then?” or similar.

It’s not that we think nothing is real. It’s just that we’re aware that local definitions of reality vary, that the context matters. If you change language, you change the way you think. Change the way you think, you change which parts of the outside world get filtered. The outside world doesn’t suddenly go away, you just notice different bits of it.

Of course, even that notion of “the outside world” is a blurry one at best. All we can ever know about reality is what we sense — and it’s known both to science and common experience just how easy our senses are to fool. Eyes have blind spots, ears have sound frequencies they can’t hear — and even a small chemical change in the brain (say a few microgrammes of an entheogen like LSD, or a lowering of sugar or oxygen levels) will completely mess up both the filters and the mind receiving the data. Yet knowing this doesn’t change most people’s opinion that what they see and sense is Really Real Reality. But there seems to be something beneath that sense data and filtering. Usually.

For example. . .
Just because you’re so off your face that the cars whizzing past you on the street look like Technicolor Unicorns doesn’t alter the cold hard fact that all cars continue to be real — as you will soon find out if you step in front of one. Like Philip K Dick said — reality is that which, if you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. But that still leaves a lot to play with — especially if belief itself can actually alter what you sense as being real, what you filter out. . . and maybe on some level, in a very small way, the underlying reality itself.

That’s the trouble with magic. It’s so much smaller, subtler, than the hype makes it out to be. The myths and fantasy tales about mages walking through walls, levitating mountains and disintegrating enemies bear as much resemblance to what actually happens as cars exploding in movies does to driving down the road. Of course from inside the mage’s head, what happens can have the same impact mentally as lifting a mountain with their mind. . . or indeed, being hit by that car.

It helps to have some way to balance solid reality with subjective imagination. Magicians lacking this discernment are often found in mental health facilities. The ones who do come to an understanding of the difference often develop a kind of “model agnosticism,” an ability to switch from one description of reality to another, depending on the needs of the moment — but never ignoring all those cars.

One of the handiest mental tools in modern magic is often stated like this: “Treat the things you encounter as if they are real, not as real.” It’s a key concept in the work of Austin Spare and informs many of the less dogmatic Fortean theorists, like Jacques Vallee and Patrick Harpur. There’s a need in magical practice for mages to immerse themselves in belief — if they don’t believe in what they’re doing, the magic doesn’t work too well — but that all too often leads to slipping into the oh so easy mindset that the belief system they’re immersed in is Real. The “as if” rule of thumb helps guard against this. (Crowley’s technique of working intently within a belief system until you get a magical result and then dropping that belief system completely, swapping another one in and repeating the process is also quite instructive. Eventually.)

It’s a lot easier to deal with some of the heavier results of magical working — such as facing something that looks, sounds and acts very much like a god/ demon/ angel/ alien — if you can take that one step back and act as if it is what it looks like, not that it really is that. Though, at the same time, it’s a good idea to treat the alleged apparent entity with the same degree of respect as you would if they were Really Real. That’s just polite. And much, much safer than not doing so.


  • I’m very aware that this piece is kind of loose and non-specific. That’s the nature of the beast. I’ll likely waffle on more about this in later posts.
  • For a longer and better consideration of the subjective nature of perceived reality, you could do a lot worse than reading Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger Volume 1.

©2008 Ian Vincent
Edited by Christina Ralston and Sheta Kaey

Ian Vincent was born in 1964 and is a lifelong student of the occult. He founded Athanor Consulting, a specialist paranormal protection consultancy, in 2002. He closed Athanor in 2009 to better focus on studying wider aspects of the Art. He blogs on magical theory.

The Web of Time

March 21, 2007 by  
Filed under experimental, magick, spellcasting

The Web of Time

I recently created a new tool for some of my space/time experiments, a tool which is basically a box of memories. The function of it is similar to that of the pensieve in the Harry Potter books. The Pensieve is a cauldron that holds the memories of a person. Each day memories can be added to the cauldron and if the person wishes, s/he can actually go into the pensieve and re-experience the memories (but not alter them). I thought this idea in the Harry Potter books was pretty intriguing and wanted to develop a similar tool, but one that could actually aid in changing the experiences of the past. What you see below is a small chest I remade into the tool.

Memory Box 1

This chest used to hold a lot of letters from different people I wrote to, so it already had a lot of memories associated with it. The little lock on the door was something I felt appropriate for guarding those memories. It added to the nostalgia of the box and its innate charm of being a box of memories. Each day when I’d come home from work, I’d open the box, put my fingertips to my temple and then imagine silvery liquid pouring into the box from my fingertips. I’d usually come home overloaded from everything I learned, but as soon as I put those memories into the box the overloaded feeling went away. Also, just as with the pensieve, the idea was that I could access any memory I put in the box with exact detail. This was useful, I felt, for retaining skills I’d learned for when I needed to have access to them again. Still, I felt as if something was missing from the box — it seemed limited to use for memory work.

Memory Box 2

I developed a concept based off the Flower of Kairos design developed by Brian Shaughnessy. I’d originally called it the “flower of potentiality,” but then realized it wasn’t really a flower, but more like a web, constantly changing, flowing, and involved with interconnection. It’s different from the Flower of Kairos because it isn’t a container unit or outside space/time, but instead flows within time1. I’ll admit as well that a lot of my space/time work has shifted more toward time and less toward space, with the thought being that space is an identifier and limiter of reality, whereas time is fluid, always in motion, unlimited potential and possibility in the quantum sea. I felt as well that the web represented my connection to not just other people, but to all possible moments of existence that included me, a connection to every possible version of me. This design influenced the shaping of the tool, which I see as an extension of the multiple versions concept.

Memory Box 3

As you’ll note, the interior is silver. The color scheme is partially based on the silver strands in the pensieve, and partially representing silver strands of possibility in the quantum matrix. That latter idea originates in an article by Andrieh Vitimus, where he discusses being able to use the quantum matrix as a means of finding alternate versions of the self2. Each strand on the silver web leads to an alternate reality. The strands are infinite and the paths they provide are in themselves valuable for learning the secrets of reality and unwinding the DNA of space/time. By using the memory box, a magician can travel the web of time to the past, future, or an alternate potentiality.

When I meditate with the chest, I place my hands on each side. It feels as if each hand is encased in a glove of static electricity. I get a very intriguing feeling of being out of synch with the space my body is in, and I’m aware that I can access all potential points of time. The feeling is similar to some very deep altered states of consciousness, but with less work needed to get there, because the box acts an aid. It’s possible to surf the past, present, and future possibilities, as well as change them as needed. I’ve used this tool to connect with versions of myself that are more financially successful, so that they can direct me to resources that will help me in that regard. In return, I gave them information about magic.

One of my recent experiments has been to meditate with the box open and in my hands, focusing on a specific desired probability, imagining it in extreme detail, feeling, tasting, smelling, hearing, etc the desired probability. When I’m finished, I close the box, storing that experience inside to let the imagined probability soak into the web. A few hours later, perhaps a day, I’ll open the box to release the energy, and then move on to the next desired probability. I’ve also put fetish objects, sigils, etc. into the box to let the box absorb and then release the energy into the web of probabilities, and manifest that reality into place. This technique has proven useful, particularly with removing obstacles for long term goals, such as moving to another city. The web of time device can be used for more than just these purposes. I’m still exploring the full potential of this tool and will provide reports in the future of what I’ve been up to with it.


  • Shaughnessy 2004
  • Vitimus 2007

©2007 Taylor Ellwood. Edited by Sheta Kaey

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

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