Megalithica Books (March 21, 2009)
Reviewer: Ian Vincent
This book is a spirited attempt to reclaim that most twisty and controversial of magical ideas, Black Magic — and is also a manual of what the author calls “Anarchashamanism.” The position taken could be broadly described as anti-capitalist, non-hierarchical (power-with rather than power-over), ecologically aware and rebellious without falling into the trap of simple knee-jerk opposition.
The three lines which preface the book sum up the author’s position nicely:
“Never sacrifice individuality for individualism.
Never sacrifice rebellion for contrariness.
Never sacrifice dignity for arrogance.”
The introduction gives a quick look at the history of the two key terms, Black Magic and Anarchism. I felt there was a touch of self-supporting bias to the history, especially in reference to the Satanism of the pre-revolutionary French Court (I don’t really think La Voisin was making “calculated protests” against the church, for example), but the author does freely admit that both black magic and anarchism lack a true unbroken tradition (and indeed says the same for all modern magic “trads,” which is refreshing).
Black’s angle on black magic (heh) is summed up well in this quote — after referencing the Voudon-inspired slave rebellion in Haiti, Black writes:
“This spirit of rebellion, freedom, independence and self-reliance is the very spirit of black magic. Times have changed, and the dominant religion is now capitalism.”
I think Black makes a better fist of explaining the difference between actual anarchism and the distorted public image of same than they do in trying to reclaim Black Magic — a key quote here describes anarchism as “the absence of rulers rather than the absence of order,” which is an important distinction most people outside of anarchist thought rarely consider.
I especially liked this line: “Maintaining a ‘spiritual’ dimension to one’s life in a critical and flexible manner provides an excellent defence against religion and ideology, whereas dogma of any kind does not.” Take that, Dawkins!
After the introduction, the book is in two parts. The first, “Guerrilla Warfare,” covers a set of basic techniques and observations. The second, “Guerrilla Mind Theatre,” covers more advanced exercises and goes deeper into Black’s model of Anarchashamanism.
The exercises given all emphasise personal, flexible, paradigm-shifting and idiosyncratic approaches and are applicable to all levels of practitioner. I did like seeing some of the less common ones, such as “make knots with intent.” I was also very glad to see the exercise “attend a variety of different religious services over an extended period,” especially backed up with provisos given for avoiding cult recruitment.
I loved the phrase “controlled superstition” as a descriptor for the magical mindset, and Black’s version of the multi-model approach (though not using the term). Black also covers such possibly controversial areas as sex-magic and entheogen use with intelligence and care. Like much else in the book, I found some of the positions taken on “culture” a bit strident (e.g. having a whole chapter on how veganism is the only moral and correct diet for a true magician, or saying that early religious conditioning is “. . . a weakness of character that is easily overcome”), but the point of view given is understandable and well expressed.
Part 2 kicks off with my absolute favourite chapter in the book, “Ancient and Mystical Secrets of Toontra.” Toontra, introduced in a suitably daft and po-faced manner, is working with cartoons (starting with a ‘toon version of yourself) as a visualisation/ projection tool. It’s a great idea, nicely explained. The emphasis that “not taking yourself seriously is one of the most important skills a magician must master” is a fine way to harness that spirit of Discordian silliness so often missing from modern praxis. There is also a very good sidebar on importance of earthing oneself to remove pompousness etc.: “In my experience, few things can earth you quite as well as scrubbing the toilet.” How true!
Next, Black takes a couple of chapters to define Anarchashamanism, beginning with a robust defence of the shamanic calling. Anarchashamanism is then defined thus: “. . . the development and practice of an organic and uniquely personal spirituality and the adoption of a Shamanic relationship with a community without creaing or imposing a power structure or hierarchy. Tough call.”
Rather than being a separate specialist in a community which looks to the shaman for spiritual insight, “the anarchashaman despecialises,” guiding the other people to their own spiritual insight rather than doing it for them. A fine idea, well delineated.
Black also makes a good point on the class-related aspects of modern spiritual guidance: “In the Western hierarchy of sanity people in positions of wealth, authority or power may legitimately receive unearthly guidance, and poor or working class people just get a choice between being labelled crazy or superstitious.” The Anarchashaman endeavours to empower others rather than imposing their ideas of who or what they should be — a wise position when dealing with spiritual and personal development, and here given as an antidote to existing hierarchies of belief and control.
A program of exercises is given next to develop this working style. I found a few problems here.
The first exercise is “Kill your TV.” Although I understand the impulse to divorce oneself from the corporate conditioning which often goes hand-in-hand with TV as a medium (and, like the author, I’ve read such works as “Four Arguments for the Abolition of Television”), it seems odd to pick on TV — especially as the author is perfectly comfortable to use memes and archetypes from film and animation. . . and mostly, the very same corporations that make TV shows also make films and ‘toons.
I’m also unsure of the wisdom of renaming mojo-bags as “bombs” and leaving them in public places. . .
A version of “High” magic, suitably adapted to the authors anarchic take, is then explored in some depth. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of developing your own style of ritual, the acquiring of useful and accurate self-knowledge, etc.
For example, on the subject of banishings, Black recognises their use, makes note of their hierarchical aspects, observes the artificiality of dividing the “mundane” from the “magical” world (I agree entirely here), says they don’t personally use ’em — but goes on to suggest that their use is to be decided by the individual, and then gives pretty good instructions for performing them if you should choose to do so.
At this point in the book the Black Magic elements are brought forward to a greater degree. Ritual is mostly described as being used for worship of Luciferian entities — ranging from classical Satanic forms to fictional villains/ antiheroes such as Riddick or the Alien Queen — and the summoning of demons.
If you’re going to do this . . . well, the advice given is lucid and useful (i.e. if you make a deal with a demon, be very careful with the small print) and it does cover the model where such entities are manifestations of one’s own self. It doesn’t have too much that’ll help you if the demons turn out to be actual independent entities (in terms of protection and banishing). This is, to put it, mildly a controversial area — so caveat emptor.
The last couple of chapters explore the nature of sacrifice, creation of initiation rites and ritual tools. As previously, these are discussed with intelligence and knowledge. I would have liked some kind of conclusion to be drawn at the end, tying the Anarchashamanic and black magic perspectives together further, but it’s not a crippling loss.
Overall, I think the take on black magic as such is a little too forgiving of the less friendly elements of the practice. Also, I don’t really think the book quite manages to reclaim “Black Magic” as a term (or actually spend all that much time trying to do so) — but Black does repurpose the phrase for their own use effectively.
The more strident and preachy passages are understandable in the context of the author and, if you agree with their position, they will no doubt inspire. If you’re critical of any absolutist position . . . less so. But there’s nothing wrong with taking a stance.
Conspicuous by their absence in a book about rebellious counter-hierarchical magic are any mentions whatsoever about self-defence, shielding, counterspells — any combat magic techniques at all. Not even the oft-suggested, “go and learn a martial art” hint, or even suggestions of how to combine magical approaches with other direct action. The assumption that one can oppose something using magic, but that your opponents would not use magic too, is a little naive — and odd considering the militaristic models used in first half. After all, in a sense this is a book of Tradecraft for magicians — which in the context of rebellion against the militarised, monopoly-of-violence state structures is apt, but does perhaps lead to a merely oppositional position (though the book to its credit often emphasises mere dualistic tussles aren’t the solution). I would have liked to see more, shall we say, practical applications given.
But for the most part, these are minor quibbles about a book which I found interesting, useful and entertaining to read.
4 stars out of 5 — one point given for Toontra alone!
Review ©2009 by 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.
“This thing of darkness, I acknowledge mine.” — Prospero (The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1)
Geoff Mains, in his seminal work on Leather culture, Urban Aboriginals: A Celebration of Leathersexuality, uses this quote in his introduction to that work. Later, he frames the tribe of Leather (at that time, Gay Leather, the pansexual Leather/BDSM movement, was in its infancy) in terms of Apollonian and Dionysian structure. This dynamic has framed discussions of early SM and later BDSM culture since that period in much the same way that the terms had framed discourse regarding culture from Nietzsche to the present day.
Nietzsche himself, well loved by many for his masculine Ubermenschian ideals, took a pair of Greek gods to illustrate the tension between logos and pathos in The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche discussed this in terms of Apollonian dream of beauty and Dionysian instinct to drunkenness, and wrote that it was in the union of inspiration and ecstasy that true art was found. “Apollonian” is a term often applied as a descriptor of the forces of reason, of structure, of logical process and civilization. “Dionysian” is used to describe the primal, the intuitive, the emotional, the wild and unrestrained — a primordial self. This primordial self was both integral and central to the unified self, the Apollonian consciousness being merely a veil that obscures the frightening Dionysian instinct.
Interestingly, Nietzsche leaned away from a fragile union of the two as the ultimate form of art and self in rejection of the structures of Apollonian reason as his philosophical thought progressed. The Ubermensch is a unified figure unbound by the strictures of conventional morality that creates its own ethos through the power of its own will. The Apollonian veil is one of imposed civilization that creates a split in the primal self by its very nature, blinding the self to its instincts.
The Apollonian/ Dionysian dichotomy was clearly an attractive analogy to Mains, most likely for a number of reasons. The radical sexuality and pleasure seeking behavior of Leathermen admixed with pain captured the vital, Dionysian essence of SM culture at that time. The defining terms, Apollonian and Dionysian, come from the social sciences. This is certainly what Mains was doing — looking at Leather as a scientist. From his application of anthropological terms and concepts to the subculture, to his explanation of the physiology of SM, Mains was uniting those two strong, attractive, and ultimately male role models — the Scientist (Apollonian) and the Leatherman (Dionysian) — within himself.
However, if Dionysus was a deity of ecstatic, drunken orgies symbolizing rebirth who was primarily followed by the bloodthirsty women known as Maenads (a fact which always seemed to be glossed over by gay male writers), then we should also mention Cybele. She was identified with Rhea and Demeter, and was also a deity of ecstatic, bloodthirsty, drunken orgies and served by the Gallai, the castrated and transgendered followers of her son and consort Attis. Evidence suggests that the practices of the Dionysian cult were derived from that of Cybele. Some legends state that Dionysus was actually initiated by Cybele.
Castrated men ecstatically serving a female deity is a threatening concept to most men, regardless of sexual orientation. Castrated, transgendered men. . . This is not the Leather Ideal. The Christ-like, virile figure of Dionysus offering community, solace, and perhaps even redemption is much more palatable to the gay Leather soul. This is especially true if we ignore the troublesome details of the actual cult practice such as the powerful, and very female, Maenads.
This, of course, is the problem.
Towards the end of Urban Aboriginals, Mains notes the rise of faerie (Neopagan) spirituality in the Leather community. In discussing the wide appeal and universal nature of SM, he also notes the existence of the lesbian Leather community as well as JANUS (aka the pansexual BDSM community). While the argument might be made that Leather is inherently masculine, there is nothing to support the notion that the practices of BDSM are.
Here I would suggest that the Dionysian steps aside for the Chthonic. This term is one of the Underworld, of darkness, of death. The Greeks didn’t divide their own gods into Apollonian and Dionysian, and modern scholars have developed a more nuanced division of the deities into Olympian and Chthonic: the younger deities of the Heavens and the older deities of the Earth. The Chthonic is a black female yin to the white male Apollonian yang. This is eminently and inherently unsettling to a dialectic formed of two male ideals, the philosopher-king and the wild man of the woods.
A darker, less noble truth is ignored.
The Erotic and the Thanatotic are closely linked to the Altsex community these days. The community — Leather, pansexual, transgender, and fetish — has been living and dying under the specter of AIDS for a quarter of a century. This community has been dying for other reasons as well: domestic violence, hate crimes, and the banalities of choking on food, car accidents, and slipping in the shower. This is the inescapable Darkness.
Writing in 1984, Mains himself noted that AIDS was changing the landscape of Leather. Now, more than twenty years later, I would suggest that Dionysian is only a portion of the dynamic that we see in the current Altsex community. While Apollonian is also descriptor of light, of the sky and heavens, Dionysian might be viewed as descriptor of darkness. But its connection to the earth is one of vitality and life, the vine and the grape, the passion that brings forth life in orgiastic frenzy. He is unconquerable life, the rebirth after death, not death itself.
Today, you practically cannot open a book on BDSM without a hip and often trite discussion of the Jungian Shadow in terms of BDSM. The Shadow is often equated with all the scary things about BDSM: the untamed sexuality, the ownership of desire, the passion of pain, the heady bouquet of blood, sweat, and tears. It is a Gothic ideal of a radical underground, a sensual aesthetic that provides psycho-spiritual justification for the sorcery of the dungeon.
But the Shadow, as closely linked as it is to darkness, is not in fact Darkness. It is merely what we pass through to get there at the end of one road and the beginning of another. The Shadow is that part of the Self that is formed by the fundamental struggle between the light of our own consciousness as it attempts to deal with its brushes with death. Not so much the death of the ego, though that is involved, but the death of the body, the final Darkness that will claim us all.
The Shadow has become so romanticized that its intrinsic nature, the battleground between Light and Darkness, has become lost. Instead of engaging in a dialogue with the Shadow about the Darkness, the discussion has become a self-absorbed dialectic with the Shadow about itself.
The question becomes: How do we retain the discussion with the Shadow and regain the dialogue about the Darkness?
To this day, despite the pansexual appeal of both BDSM and Leather, discussions of Jungian archetypes, and rise of the shaman-styled divine androgynes, there is continued homophobia in the “pansexual” BDSM community, a strong undercurrent of misogyny in gay Leather subculture, and Transfolk are still looking for a place to safely call home. Just as the mainstream gay and lesbian communities ostracized Leather out of disgust and fears of public-relations disasters, the Altsex community itself polices those who play on the edge for the very same reasons. Rather than a frank discussion of domestic abuse and mental illness within the Scene, the community engages in self-congratulatory discussions of how evolved and self-actualized it is to be kinky compared to “vanilla” folk.
These are the Shadows that should be dealt with.
©2009 by Edward Dain.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
“Edward Dain” is the long standing pseudonym for a “squicky, neoshamanistic, Ordeal Path, Leatherman.” Given his skills and focus, he has been known to introduce himself as “the guy your High Priestess warned you about.” Despite this people still tend to think he is a nice person and seem interested in the opinions he has formed over a quarter-of-a-century of esoteric practice. A practicing therapist who specializes in sexual minorities and relationships, “Edward Dain” also values his work with religious and spiritual minorities. Currently he is completing his internship, the final requirement for the award of his doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
Amongst all the various names for magical practices, the word necromancy is probably the most foreboding and sinister. No doubt that such a practice was diabolical and associated with the blackest forms of magic. Popular folklore and belief defines necromancy as divination performed through the conjuration and manipulation of the spirits of the dead. The most outrageous form was the exhumation and reanimation of a corpse, which many often think of today when defining this term.
Necromancy has a long history, but during the Christian era it became confused with the conjuration of demons, which was called nigromancy or black magic. Christian leaders believed that since only the Lord had power over the dead, sorcerers who performed necromancy were actually conjuring demons. After a time, the two were used almost interchangeably, which caused the practice of necromancy to lose its meaning. However, spiritualists and mediums who sought to contact the dead and gain from them information about the future were actually unwittingly practicing a form of necromancy. Yet no one ever called them necromancers, which would have meant that one was evil personified. This confusion has not helped to clarify or define this system of magic; instead it has become something of topic of horror stories and low budget films.
The origins of necromancy occurred in the far distant past, long before the time of antiquity. It was a system of divination that was ultimately derived from the pious observances paid to the dead at their tombs. It isn’t hard to imagine a person going to the grave site of some great kinsman and in addition to giving offerings and oblations, to ask for assistance with some family crisis. So the practice of necromancy probably stemmed from a natural desire to seek help from one’s departed ancestors. Thoughts about the value of advice or prophecy given by the dead varied considerably in antiquity. Some believed that the dead had resources beyond the ken of the living; others (like Homer) believed that the dead knew no more about things than when alive. Necromancy may have been derived innocently enough from funeral observations, but it’s also likely that it had a separate shamanic origin.
Necromancy in antiquity, although not considered a legitimate public procedure for gaining intimate knowledge, shadowed the greater centers of divination, such as the Oracle of Delphi and the Temple of Asclepias. It was based upon a procedure that was well represented in folk tradition and literature, going back to Homer’s Odyssey. We will briefly look to the Odyssey for a classic example of a rite called the nekuia.
The Greeks had terms for this kind of magic; they called it nekumanteia (rites of divination from the dead) and psuchomanteia (divination from souls). From the Greek word came the Latin version, necromantea, from which we get necromancy. Typical places where these rites were conducted were tombs, cemeteries or even old battlefields. Such locations were called psuchagogion, which were drawing places of ghosts. Individuals who summoned ghosts or shades were called psuchagogoi, or evocators of ghosts1.
Greeks and Romans believed that the spirit or shade departed the body at death. It wandered around the burial site, visited places habituated in life or ended up in the underworld of Hades or, more rarely, the Eleusinian fields. These visitations of the dead to places of the living occurred only at certain times of the night, when most of the populace had gone to sleep. People of antiquity loved life, so the perception of death was dismal, lonely, a heartbreaking end to everything good. Shades of the dead often were harbingers of gloom and doom, sometimes directed to curse other living people with their unhappy blessings. The most accessible of the dead shades were those who were prone to restlessness, such as the ghosts of untimely or violent deaths.
Archaeological traces have been found at certain locations where necromancy was practiced as a kind of permanent oracle. These special places were called by the Greeks, nekuomanteion. They were usually located in places such as natural mephitic caves or lakes where water and brimstone appeared to mix; offering clues to an intrusion of the stygian underworld. Four famous locations were Acheron in Thesprotia, Avernus in Campania (Italy), Tainaron, which was located on the Mani peninsula of the southern Peloponnese, and Heracleia Pontica, located on the south coast of the Black Sea. Two of these locations had caves, but Avernus was a deep lake formed by a volcanic cone and Acheron was a lakeside precinct with indications of vulcanism. Both lakes were reputed to be without birds, since the mephitic fumes would have killed or driven them away.
Petitioners who visited an oracle of the dead would undergo certain kinds of rites performed in dimly lit caves or at night next to turgid lakes, guided by a leader who would conduct the rituals and speak the incantations. Offerings were given and the petitioner would spend the night in that place to obtain what he sought through incubation, by dreams, visions, or a ghostly visitation. The guide also had the responsibility to explain the dreams and visions later on, helping the petitioner to understand their meaning. However, incubation was one of many different ways of contacting the dead.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, book 11, a classic rite of necromancy is performed by Odysseus under the direction of his lover, Circe. Odysseus and his men dig a pit with their swords, around it pour libations consisting of milk, honey, sweet wine, water and then sprinkling barley over the mixture. He prays to the dead and sacrifices a pair of black sheep so the blood collects in the pit. The carcasses of the sheep are flayed and burned, then he prays to Hades and Persephone. He and his men ward the pit with their swords keeping out any unwanted spirits who are drawn to the offerings. They allow only those to whom Odysseus wishes to speak receive a draft from the fresh blood. After drinking it, a shade can assume a temporary visible appearance and converse with the living. Odysseus talks to several ghosts, but the real purpose of the rite is to consult with the dead prophet Tiresias, seeking to learn the future and the way home. Circe is Odysseus’s divine guide and instructor in the necromantic rite; she assists him in analyzing and deciphering the experience, acting as the archetypal witch. Also, the location of the rite is important, too, for it resides next to a cave leading into the underworld.
This tale was followed by other examples, but it would seem that the necromantic rite, as described by Homer, was already fully formed and traditionally established. By the 5th century, there were professional necromancers who were called goetes — sorcerers, derived from the Greek word goos, which was the mourning wail of the dead. Such individuals were reputed to have the ability to conjure and manipulate ghosts. Pythagoreans also had a reputation of being a kind of shaman who not only used necromantic spells as their stock and trade, but could travel to the underworld themselves. Another kind of magic that was practiced and related to necromancy was a divination called lecanomancy, which was a ghostly scrying into a bowl of liquid.
The Greek Magical Papyri also had some representations of necromancy, particularly papyrus PGM IV (Paris Papyrus), which contains a group of spells associated with an individual called “Pitys.” These spells extracted prophecies from corpses or the heads of corpses, bringing to mind the kind of magic performed by the classic witch. Such an individual might have had skulls or heads that talked, animated by trickery, one’s familiar spirit or a ghost.
Finally, the actual description of necromancy as a method of reanimating and interrogating corpses was first introduced by the poet Lucan, who made it part of the repertoire of the evil Thessalian witch Erictho. She uses it to gain information from a hapless dead Pompeian soldier. Erictho first pours hot blood and a concoction of herbs into the dead body, and then conjures the shade of the soldier, forcing it to enter the corpse to question it. This was a fictitious literary work, and it was followed by others, most notably Apuleius and Heliodorus. However, there seems to be little evidence that this type of working ever really occurred, that oracles of the dead and necromancy usually had much greater respect and veneration for the deceased than what is depicted in these satirical stories. Later on they may have become the primary impetus for judging the necromantic art as nothing more than the conjurations of demons. It passed into the Christian era completely debased and more the stuff of horror stories or propaganda against the practice of witchcraft.
- These and other quotes and information were distilled from the book Greek and Roman Necromancy, most notably from the introduction. Ogden, Daniel (2001). Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ
©2009 by Frater Barrabbas
Edited by Sheta Kaey
A few years ago occult students and practicing magicians became enamored of the old grimoires and began to purchase newly translated and annotated copies of them. This may be due in part to published books written by Steve Savedow, Joseph C. Lisiewski and Aaron Leitch. All three authors recommended using the old grimoires in a literal fashion, and seemed to encourage the evocation of Goetic demons. Chaos magic has also lately latched on to Goetic demons, as if the faux gods of H.P. Lovecraft weren’t enough to keep them occupied. So now it’s quite stylish to use the Goetic demons in various workings, and everyone seems to be getting on the bandwagon to engage in this kind of magical working.
I have no intention of engaging this new fad, since my system of magic always had the evocation of Goetic demons as an included part of its overall strategy for magical theurgy and evocation. However, where I differ from the crowd is that I don’t work with these entities individually and in isolation. In a word, I don’t conjure anything without using a very tried and true context. This is because I believe that spirits don’t exist in a vacuum, that they have a very specific hierarchy and I use that hierarchy to work with spirits in combination. So that means that I don’t evoke Goetic demons in isolation, as seems to be the fad out there — instead I work with them as part of a hierarchy that includes the archangels of the 12 zodiacal signs, the angelic rulers of the 36 decans and the 72 angels of the ha-Shem. So if I sought to evoke one of the Goetic demons, it would only be after a series of theurgic workings that would include the archangels and angels that are part of its hierarchy.
The 72 demons of the Goetia have their counter-part in the 72 angels of the ha-Shem, and I would never evoke one of the demons without also invoking the matching angel of the ha-Shem. In this fashion the evocation would be controlled and balanced between light and darkness, which would protect me from potential demonic obsession and allow the dark aspects of my inner self and the inner planes to be worked out through the powers and the intercession of the ha-Shem angel. Pairing Goetic demons with angels of the ha-Shem isn’t new, since we have a record of this methodology found in the book, The Goetia of Dr Rudd. Where I part with tradition is that I choose to build a complete spiritual context using the angelic rulers of the decans and the archangels of the twelve signs as part of the hierarchy of spirits that I engage when working theurgy and goetic evocation. It’s my understanding that the Golden Dawn had proposed this kind of hierarcy, Aleister Crowley hints at it in his The Book of Thoth, and Carroll “Poke” Runyon uses a variation close to what I use. So there is some precedence for this hierarchy — but it’s likely to be recent and is not to be found in the tradition of the old grimoires, as far as I can tell.
If one were to perform the evocation of Goetic demons without use of the above hierarchy, then another hierarchy would implicitly come into play, and that would be the Infernal Hierarchy of Satan and the organization of Hell. This hierarchy is also part of the tradition of the old grimoires, but the demonic hierarchy would not be approached without the power and wisdom of the Holy Guardian Angel to aid and protect the magician. One would assume that because the magicians of the previous epoch would not have attempted to invoke a demon servitor without first going through the infernal hierarchy, then we shouldn’t consider these spirits in isolation either. However, because I am not a Christian or a Satanist, I believe that the infernal hierarchy is kind of contrived and represents a dualistic spiritual philosophy, which I don’t think is workable as a witch and pagan. I also don’t have a deity in my pantheon who is like the devil, even though the Horned God does come close — except that he continually dies and is reborn, which is not a good quality for an angelic adversary. I do believe that the concept of demons does work in a pagan and Wiccan spiritual environment, and I will attempt to explain this theory.
So exactly what are demons, anyway? If they are merely personifications and agents of evil, why would anyone want to traffic with them? One could assume that either magicians want to control the chaotic forces in their lives and apply them in a constructive fashion or they have a perverse desire to engage in malignancy and the exaltation of their own darkness. Others who traffic with them may be doing it out of curiosity, boredom, or because they are jaded and want some kind of new kick in their lives.
I see demons as spiritually negative, but more like a natural negativity — the dark Yin to the light Yang. Angels are like the agents of control who maintain the spiritual status quo, and demons are the agents of chaos who break up the status quo and counteract the laws of nature, including, perhaps, even the physical laws of nature. Where one could see angels as a kind of masculine force, demons would be feminine. They symbolize the archetypal opposition of light and darkness in nature, but without the connotation of good and evil. Angels represent the perfect mathematics of Euclidean space and Newtonian/ Einsteinian physical laws, and demons would represent the curved and distorted intricacies of Non-Euclidean space and the convolutions of Quantum mechanics. One can see by this comparison that demons are an integral part of the natural spiritual world, and that if one works with angels, one should also ultimately work with demons as well — to maintain a holistic approach to magic and spiritual mechanics.
Since demons of any kind represent the opposite quality of angels, then we could assume that they would represent chaotic, disruptive and even stochastic spiritual forces and intelligences. Obviously, we would want to engage such forces and intelligences in a very controlled environment, but conversely, such entities would be useful in breaking through old patterns and dealing with internal flaws within the psyche, or even engaging in processes that would be considered outside of the normal space time continuum. Such a controlled use would require either the assistance of the Holy Guardian Angel, a hierarchy of archangels and angels, or a combination of both.
I have used demons in the past to specifically address my spiritual dark side, to realize myself as a being of light and darkness, and to learn to harness and empower my dark side so that I might be able to master myself. I believe that this is relevant because the physical and social worlds that we live in are neither light nor dark, but rather a balanced gray. Demons help me to determine my limitations, flaws and weaknesses — something that angels would not be capable of doing since they are programmed to aid and assist humanity. Sometimes things need to be broken or even destroyed in order to ensure continued spiritual growth. Magicians, like everyone else, can allow habits and limiting opinions trap them. These habits can carve deep ruts in their lives that seem almost insurmountable. Drastic measures may be required to eliminate them. I believe that demons can do this quite adequately. Similarly, demons can also allow for the incursion of the impossible, assisting one in attracting totally new and completely unrealized possibilities into one’s life.
In the magician’s search for wisdom and power, no stone should be left unturned, and this is also true for the evocation of demons. However, I maintain my argument that one should never evoke demons without also working through the hierarchy and also, hopefully, having a powerful guide such as the Holy Guardian Angel to assist.
©2009 Frater Barrabbas
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of witchcraft and ritual magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Foundation and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magic — Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at the email address email@example.com and his website is at www.fraterbarrabbas.com.
At this witching time of year, in the chill of lonesome October when the leaves turn brown and pile in drifts, and the frosted pumpkins begin to rot in the fields, we turn our minds to elongated shadows and gloomy pits, deep willow woods and gaping cavern mouths, secret places that elude the sun, chill haunts where spring the roots of black magic. It has always been a part of the Western esoteric tradition, but it is something that is seldom talked about in polite circles. It carries a taint of decay, a discoloration of disease, and most practitioners of the arts are leery of contracting its infection by casual contact.
Central to the black arts is the fabled Black Book that was referred to in hushed and horrified tones by the Christian demonologists of the Renaissance period such as Boden and Remy. It went under various names according to various learned authorities, but its qualities were always the same. It was a book of damnation that taught occult practices for the spreading of evil abroad across the land. Inspired by the Devil himself, it had but one purpose, to corrupt and destroy all those who fell under its influence or used its methods. Even to open the Black Book, or to hold it in the hands, or touch its binding of human skin, was to become a lost soul forever barred from entry into heaven, forever damned to hell.
The reason the book had many names is because it never actually existed in a material form. Various real grimoires, having titles well known but which few men had actually read, were chosen by the Christian demonologists to represent it. Works of dire reputation such as the Grand Grimoire, the Goetia, the Picatrix, the Key of Solomon, were vilified in harsh terms as corrupting tomes to be strenuously avoided, lest those whose idle curiosity led them to read within should be forever lost in the coils of the Evil One, he who is called the prince of shadows and deceiver of the flesh.
The Victorian occultist Arthur Edward Waite studied these books and many others of a similar foul reputation during his researches in the British Museum Library, and he observed rather dryly that when the grimoires were actually read, it turned out that their contents were not nearly so damnable as the references of the demonologists would lead one to suppose. Indeed, the common effect of reading them was more apt to be tedium than damnation. Waite was not the first to condemn and dismiss the supposed black grimoires — the student of Cornelius Agrippa, Johannes Wier, had done much the same two centuries earlier in the course of defending the reputation of his former master.
But these men had actually read the grimoires — it seemed that those most apt to condemn such infamous occult books as soul-searing one-way tickets to hell were those least likely to have actually studied them — the learned divines and inquisitors of the Catholic Church. The fabled black book of the Devil had the uncanny property of becoming smaller and less significant the closer one examined it. The reality was just not up to the task of sustaining the mythology.
Even so, the myth of the Black Book persisted down to modern times. The celebrated writer of horror stories, H. P. Lovecraft, created it anew in the early part of the 20th century in the form of his Necronomicon — which is perhaps the most well-known of its incarnations. In part, Lovecraft’s imaginary black book of evil was based on the equally imaginary book The King In Yellow, invented by the writer Robert W. Chambers and used in several of his supernatural stories. We may have left the era of the quill pen and the ox cart behind us, but the fable of Satan’s Black Book has followed us. Yet always it remains an illusion that vanishes like a mirage when it is approached and investigated.
Even those modern writers who have attempted to actually create the Black Book must be judged to have failed in their purpose. The self-proclaimed Satanist of San Francisco, Anton Szandor LaVey, made such an attempt in his The Satanic Bible, published in 1969, but it was weak plant that bore scant fruit. Several intrepid writers, myself among them, have written versions of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, but no actual book can begin to approach the mystery or power of the original that existed in the imagination of Lovecraft alone — and perhaps, also in the akashic records of the great library of the astral world.
The Black Book does not yet exist in a cohesive, tangible form despite these attempts, and has never existed intact and entire in our material world. It is an enduring myth that from time to time has been associated with an actual but poorly known text, or a lost text, or even an imaginary text, and that is all. But in this gloaming of the year, when we hang suspended between summer and winter, when the dead are said to leave their graves and walk among us, unseen but not unfelt, we will imagine what the Black Book would contain in its pages, if there actually were such a book.
It is supposed to have been inspired or actually written by the Devil, who is reputed in Christian theology to be the father of all lies. Therefore it must be designed to deceive and mislead those who read it. The grand promises it makes of wealth and power and beauty and eternal life should all be presumed to be untrue. Yet they will be phrased in such a seductive manner that the susceptible reader will find himself unable to resist their siren allure. They will be designed to play upon the weaknesses and impulses of certain human beings who are open to deception and to spiritual corruption, by triggering character flaws in their natures such as greed, lust, envy and hatred.
If these sound familiar, they should — in past centuries they were known as deadly sins — deadly to the soul, not the body — an archaic term we distance ourselves from today. Who talks about sins anymore? Almost nobody, not even the priests and ministers. Yet these weaknesses of human nature still exist and are just as apt to cause the downfall of human hopes as they were when clouds of dark smoke arose from the blackened, crackling flesh of burning women in public squares.
In exchange for the offer of power, wealth and other things desired by the impressionable reader of the Black Book, the crafty author will demand a pledge of obedience and loyalty. In the lore of European witchcraft, as assembled from the confessions under torture of women accused of the black arts, this pledge took place at the sabbat gathering of witches, when the Devil presented his Black Book and demanded the neophyte of witchcraft to impress the print of his thumb in blood beneath the oath. This is all very fanciful, of course, but if the Black Book actually existed, the confirmation of the pledge would take a different form — it would be the requirement that the reader commit some initial act of unspeakable evil and perversity, as a confirmation of his sincerity in his oath, and to forever bind him to evil and prevent him from turning back to the light.
We see something similar among modern street gangs, where the new member of the gang is required to commit a crime, such as a random murder, in order to confirm his sincerity. This may be largely an urban legend, but it illustrates the necessary initiatory act that would be near the beginning of the black book.
The instructions of the text would teach practical methods of black magic, but woven among its rituals and techniques would be a path leading the reader progressively further along in his descent into hell, which in not a locality of space but a state of mind. The reader would be induced by the text to deliberately break all bonds of love and friendship with other human beings by betraying and injuring those he loved. In order to weaken his conscience, he would be encouraged to take “strong drugs” that would open his mind to illegal and immoral acts.
Drugs were used in this manner by Charles Manson to shape the members of his Family, prior to the murders he induced them to commit. Drugs were used in a similar way by Aleister Crowley to weaken the resistance of his followers to sexual acts considered sinful or perverse by society as a whole. Crowley used drugs to aid in destroying his own sense of conventional morality — although he needed little enough help in this effort.
Sexual perversion would play a crucial role in the working of the Black Book. Sex has a powerful hold over most human beings. By inducing its reader to break his sexual taboos, even the strongest taboos among them, the book would addict the reader to such sexual acts, since normal sex seems tame by comparison. When the sexual taboos are broken, it is easier to break other taboos, such as the one against murder.
One of the texts that exists in the real world, and which comes nearest to being a genuine Black Book, is the 18th century work 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. This book is a catalogue of all the sexual perversions of mankind, arranged in an intensifying level of severity. De Sade was guided in his ordering of the perversions by his own sexual desire over the course of his life. When a perversion ceased to arouse him, he moved on to a stronger perversion, and in this way the catalogue of human depravity was graded from mild to unspeakably vile.
De Sade was a very clever man. He arranged his detailed descriptions of his sexual perversions so that in between each set was a moral diatribe designed to weaken some scruple or moral principle in his reader. Thus, he first sexually aroused his reader, then taught a lesson mocking virtue and faith. In this way he established a conditioned reflex similar to that of Ivan Pavlov’s famous salivating dog, which salivated at the ringing of a bell, because it had been trained to associate the sound of the bell with food. De Sade trained his readers to associate sexual pleasure with mockery and indifference to accepted moral standards. His intentional purpose was to deprave the sexual appetites of his readers and to use that depravity to turn them away from religion.
The final perversions in The 120 Days of Sodom are all descriptions of sexual pleasure derived from torturing, mutilating and slowly murdering innocent victims. This is the final state De Sade hoped and intended his reader to achieve — the state of morals, or lack of morals, that he himself had attained after a long life of debauchery and crime.
The central ritual of the Black Book would also be one of violation, mutilation, and murder. This would be its Great Rite, so to speak, the final and absolute confirmation in evil that is the underlying purpose of the Black Book, its very reason to exist, in comparison with which all its promises of power and wealth, all its teachings of practical magic, are insignificant. The true Black Book is first and last a book of damnation — the damnation of the self, and the spreading of damnation among others by lies and evil acts.
We see an allusion to this Great Rite of damnation in the mythology of the child sacrifice at the witches’ sabbat, where gathered witches were supposed by their Catholic inquisitors, and by the demonologists who wrote about witchcraft, to have sacrificed a baby in order to drink its blood and to harvest its fat for their flying ointments. The French novelist of the 19th century, Joris-Karl Huysmans, described a somewhat similar scene in the climax of his novel Là-Bas (usually translated into English as Down There), which details the descent of a curious man into the depraved practices of Satanists.
As the Devil is the spirit of lies, the promises of the book are all lies, but by the time the reader discovers this to be so, he is already damned in a very real sense — cut off from normal human feelings and normal social interaction by his perversions and crimes. His perverse desires act as an addiction holding him down and preventing the arousal of spiritual feelings or impulses. By his graded initiation into evil, the voice of his good angel is rendered mute to his ears.
As you can see, were the true Black Book to exist, it would be a very wicked text indeed. It is perhaps just as well that it exists only in fable, or at most, only in various detached fragments scattered far and wide, each of them possessing a limited power to do evil. Let us hope it always remains so, and that no individual possessed of sufficient creative ability, and having open communications with the spirit world, ever decided to bring this myth of the true Black Book of the Devil into our world.
©2009 by Donald Tyson
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.
I used to term myself a Luciferian on top of the various other titles that could apply to me, such as magician, mystic, Hermetic, Rosicrucian, etc. The history behind my adoption of the title will be told shortly, but first I wish to establish that I no longer consider myself to be a Luciferian. The reasons will also be explained shortly. I have recently gone through what might be called a crisis of faith regarding my Luciferianism and have come to some powerful conclusions, which will be the main subject of this essay.
Years ago, I began to very seriously explore the ideas and practices of chaos magic, at first as a supplement to my more Hermetic and Kabbalistic magical training, but later as a replacement thereof. As part of my experiments, I adopted a somewhat sinister approach to magic and especially enjoyed demonology. I admit that my primary motivation in exploring these particular aspects of the occult were founded in simple lack of maturity. I believe now that I did not even understand the material I was working with; I was very much alone in the dark without a lantern. At the time I did not care. I arrogantly believed that my pseudo-nihilism and disrespect for all things “light” was the right way to go. Everybody who respected the light was deluded, but those of us who not only acknowledged but reveled in the darkness were as enlightened as anybody could truly be.
After several years of messing with chaos magic, I became disillusioned with it. While I still stand by the basic techniques as a great method of training the will, I cannot any longer condone the childish philosophy (or, as chaos magicians like to term it, the “metaparadigm”) behind it which is itself somewhat of a contradictory and weak attempt at transcendental nihilism. I returned, slowly at first, and then all at once, to Hermetics, Kabbalah, alchemy, and related subjects. I did not do so without bringing plenty of philosophical souvenirs back home.
I continued to call myself a Luciferian and maintained a mild fascination for all things sinister, though I now looked through the darkness and toward the Light. The culmination of the process, and what I so far believe to be its crescendo, was quite recent but has its roots almost exactly one year ago as of this writing (November 2006).
Last year I was working on my first book, The Four Powers (Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, Staffordshire, England). I have always had ambitions of being a writer of one sort or another, though definitely more ambition than talent. To curb my self-doubt and ensure at least moderate success I decided to employ a bit of demonic magic. I planned it out, got everything prepared according to the instructions of King Solomon Grimorium Verum or the True Grimoire and, on October 31st 2005, performed a full diabolical Pact operation in which I made an agreement in writing (on virgin goat skin, no less) with Lucifer himself. The details of the Pact are irrelevant, except to say that I agreed to write a book concerning a Luciferian approach to illumination (that is, mysticism and magical self-improvement) using a particular grimoire as the book’s practical foundation. This book was to serve as my payment for services rendered which, of course, involved getting at least one book successfully published.
In the intervening year, I began to do a lot of serious self-purification. I began an intensive daily ritual routine of performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram, the Middle Pillar Exercise, the Circulation of the Body of Light, the canticle of Light from the Golden Dawn Neophyte ceremony, the Adoration to the Lord of the Universe, followed by yet another LBRP — and all this upon waking up. Just prior to sleep, I would perform the Rose Cross Ritual. I followed this routine more or less for several months, at which time I made the grand discovery of Franz Bardon. I still thank my lucky stars, and my friends Taylor Ellwood and Frater Griff for guiding me to Bardon’s work. I have since been quite seriously and intensely involved in the practice of Franz Bardon’s first book, Initiation into Hermetics (available in a new translation from Merkur Publishing).
This entire intensive period of magico-mysticism led me to a great deal of self-discovery. Self-discovery, of course, led me to the realization of many facets of myself which I do not much like. Self-love is important, even vital, but so is a dedication to self-improvement. Quite nearly one year after the Pact was made, I found myself regretting it deeply. It may sound superstitious to some readers, but I found myself in a very serious fear for the health of my spirit and soul. I felt deceived and dirty, as if making that Pact were an irrevocable selling of myself. Lucifer truly became the Devil in my mind, and I felt wretched for having given so much of myself for so very little. Less than a day after I became aware of these feelings within, I destroyed all of my Luciferian paraphernalia and hacked the Pact and all of the attendant sigils and seals into small pieces and kept them in a small bag until Sunday evening when I burnt them in my fireplace and prayed intensely to the archangel Michael. You see, not only was Michael the one said to have defeated the Devil at the time of his Fall, but I had also a long time ago read a Kabbalistic legend (I cannot remember where or I would cite it) stating that at the Creation of Adam, Michael had knelt before the Throne of God in Heaven and pledged himself to stand by even the worst mortal as long as he or she had even the tiniest spark of goodness left. That Pact had become more than a rash and greedy act, more than a symbol — it had become the very physical embodiment of all of my iniquities, mistakes, and flaws. I asked Michael to be with me, to stand at my right hand, and to fight back the shades and demons long enough for me to clarify and fortify myself. I cannot cite a more successful operation than this, for Michael was with me for the time I needed him. For his faith in me I can never thank him enough. Even with Michael by my side, I was nonetheless terrified. I had read many times and in many places that there was no worse companion than a cheated demon. How could I expect to break a Pact with the great Emperor Lucifer without being severely punished for such a transgression against his devilish and unfathomable will?
Ever since I first began to study Hermetics and Rosicrucianism, I had an intuition that there were important and deep mysteries in Christianity. I still maintain that the mainstream sects and branches of religion which go by the title of Christian do not, in their vast majority, approach the real meaning behind the teachings which they claim as their own. Especially exemplified in that seemingly out of place and obviously esoteric book of Ezekiel and the book so arrogantly discounted (or fanatically taken literally) called the Revelation or Apocalypse, there are mysteries in the Bible which common Christians and Jews do not even begin to suspect. I am not a biblical scholar, however, and could not even begin to put together a lucid or knowledgeable argument concerning the meanings of the recondite symbols and signs given in those books. My lack of biblical lore will not stop me from composing a little apocalypse of my own.
Bits and pieces of information, legends and myths, theories and the wildest of hypotheses have continually come my way since that night when I burned the Pact, that night which I am sure I will always remember as a turning point in my magical career. Study, chance findings, and personal intuition have each done their part. Whether I have made this all up out of random scattered pieces or if it is truly a relevant magical allegory I do not know, but I present it nonetheless for it constitutes the closest thing I have to a conclusion of the present story.
I used to maintain that Lucifer and Christ were the same person, a being of spiritual effulgence who incarnated in order to bring to us an enlightened doctrine compatible with all the greatest of mystical systems. I believed that this being was like the Light shining in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not, but that it was only in enveloping ourselves in darkness that we could come to appreciate it. Now I see things quite differently.
Lucifer and Christ are as brothers, dual and opposite but both quite necessary. Christ is like the gentle North Star, guiding us through long nights toward our inevitable destination. Lucifer is like the blazing comet, seeming to shoot into our view from nowhere, burning brightly as it points us toward a momentary but important waypoint, then disappearing back into the ether. Christ is the faithful Son who does the bidding of His Divine Parents without question, not out of fear but out of good will toward His Parents and to we little children. He is in a sense the universal and ideal Older Brother, protective and gently guiding but willing at times to teach a harsh lesson or two. Lucifer has disobeyed just as our mythical ancestors but in a more dramatic way. Lucifer is the older brother even of Christ, created first amongst the angels. Lucifer’s rebellion was one not of hatred but of love, for without allowing Himself to Fall, free will would not have been available for the rest of creation. Lucifer will maintain His loving rebellion until such time as free will has become a universal constant uniting all consciousness in one pervasive liberty. He has sacrificed His own place in Heaven to grant each one of us the ability to make our own, while Christ has given up His to open the way before us.
There is a Hell, just as sure as there is an Earth, and if you were to find yourself there I assure you that there would be no escape from the eternity of torment awaiting you there. The Gates of Hell will not open until that final Revelation when the enlightened shall be gathered in joy and the ignorant shall be gathered in trembling fear. When the trumpets of the angels call forth the return of Christ, so too shall Lucifer appear and they together will throw open the Gates of Hell, nothing but severity showing upon their faces. Yet their eyes sparkle with a light which will be read at first by many as sadism, for how can the eyes of divine beings sparkle and shine at the prospect of eternal torment? Soon all will be made clear, however, and the twinkle in their Holy Eyes will be shared as one joke amongst us, for as the Gates swing open there will be no torrent of sulfurous fire nor waves of rotting flesh washing over us in hopes of consuming our own living tissue. Instead we will see behind those wide open gates… a gaping emptiness, a void awaiting its fill but receiving none, for Hell was, is, and ever shall be empty. Each one of us, in the fullness of time, shall find our salvation each in our own way, and we shall all be assumed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Hellfire awaits no man, woman, or child no matter how sinful they may have been or may be still, for all are given the limitless and eternal Grace of God by default, by the very fact of our existence! Hell is not there as a warning or punishment for mortal souls but as a grand reminder before the eyes of the Gods and Angels that if Hell were to find itself occupied by even one lone mortal it would be Their immense failure. As sure as effects have causes, and causes produce effects (though not always in the expected order), we are each responsible for our own mistakes. The Gods and Angels set over us, and those Ascended Masters who have come before us, are in charge of our guidance and redemption. While we must seek to right our own wrongs and prevent our own mistakes, it is the duty of the Gods and Angels to make certain that we are given every opportunity to do so. Let there be no mistake that God’s Justice is severe, but so too is Its Mercy infinite.
And so, having set out to abandon a Pact, I have ended up fulfilling it in spirit, if not in letter. Every current which we set up must run its course, and as magicians we must understand this principle intensely and intimately. Every opportunity is given us for our personal development and evolution. It is up to us merely to make the most of them.
©2006 Nicholas Graham. Edited by Sheta Kaey