Foundations of Magical Practice: Ritual

Last month’s post, as I noted at the time, was meant as a backhanded introduction to magical training. That sort of introduction is necessary just now, because of a certain bad habit common among those who don’t know a great deal about operative magic. If, like me, you write books and give talks on magic, you can expect to meet plenty of people who have never worked their way through a curriculum of magical training, but are convinced that they can put together such a curriculum on the basis of their own likes and dislikes, and that the system thus constructed will be as good, if not better, than a system constructed by an experienced mage.

Not so. Magic is not whatever you want it to be; it’s a difficult and demanding craft, and like all crafts, it requires the development of a great many skills that are not obvious to those who haven’t practiced it systematically. Nor—and this is crucial—is it without risk. There are methods of training and practice that most people can follow in relative safety, but it takes a certain amount of practical experience and technical knowledge to recognize the differences between these and other methods that are far from safe. Where the rewards are significant, the dangers are real, and certain wrongheaded ways of approaching magical training can mess you over in significant ways.

That’s what my look at Julius Evola’s brief and ineffectual foray into magic was meant to suggest. To be fair to Evola, things could have turned out much, much worse. I’m thinking here of the fad for kundalini yoga that flared and burnt itself out in Californian occult circles during the 1920s, in the last years of Theosophy’s boomtime. Manly P. Hall, a sympathetic observer as well as a major occult teacher in his own right, described the consequences in one of his books. Young healthy Theosophists launched into practices they thought would make them enlightened masters; one by one, they turned pale, sickened, and died. (Mishandle kundalini training and you risk screwing up your endocrine system; my guess is that’s what killed them.) That was an extreme case—most other forms of magical dysfunction are noticeably less terminal—but it’s worth keeping in mind that we’re not talking about harmless forces.

That said, there are certain courses of training that can be done in perfect safety by most people, and I propose to talk about one of them here.

A few caveats are in order. First, the training program I’m about to outline is not intended for those who simply want to practice a little helpful magic to improve unsatisfactory aspects of their own lives and those of their friends. If that’s what you want out of magic—and though there’s been a lot of prejudice against such things in occult circles, my experience is that it’s a valid option—you don’t need the kind of training I’ll be sketching out.  What you need instead is a good introductory book on some form of folk magic, such as old-fashioned Southern conjure. The magical training I’m discussing aims at the awakening of the higher potentials of human consciousness; while it also involves practices that can fix a lot of unsatisfactory things in the student’s life, that’s more or less a useful side effect.

Second, the training program I’m about to outline is not the only option, and the practices I plan on exploring aren’t applicable to every kind of magic. In the western world these days, there are broadly speaking three major currents of ceremonial magic.  There are other kinds of magic , of course, and the traditions of folk magic just referenced are among them; there are also a good many smaller traditions of ceremonial magic, far more than any one person knows about. The three main currents are simply the ones you can count on seeing pretty much anywhere in the Western world.

Broadly speaking, there’s an English current, which runs from John Dee et al. to the Golden Dawn, with an infusion of Eliphas Levi en route; from there to Dion Fortune and her pupils and associates, of whom Israel Regardie was one, and from there to most modern Anglo-American ceremonial magic. There’s a central European current, which runs from the 18th-century Rosicrucian movement, also with an infusion of Eliphas Levi, through a great many names unfamiliar to my English-speaking readers; the one well known in England and America is Franz Bardon, whose works are of very high quality. Finally, there’s a Traditional current, which has emerged in recent years, and seeks to resurrect such older magical practices as goetic evocation and Renaissance astrological magic.

I’m talking about the first of these three options. If you’re practicing one of the others, or one of the less well known systems of Western magic, or for that matter a system of magic with its roots outside of Europe, my advice can be summed up in one sentence: ignore what I’m saying and follow the path you’re on. Similarly, if you’re studying magic in what I’ve called the English tradition, and your teacher says something that differs from my counsel, that same sentence applies.  These posts are meant for people who want to follow a magical path, find the English tradition appropriate to their needs, and don’t happen to have access to a teacher or a school they feel they can trust.

Finally, operative ceremonial magic isn’t for everyone. It’s a specific path of training and practice within the wider field of occultism, and there are other paths of training and practice within that wider field that pursue their own routes toward the absolute. With those caveats in mind, we can proceed.

Learning magic requires the mastery of a great many unfamiliar skills. Fortunately for the student, they can be grouped together into practices that exercise a range of magical skills at once. Half an hour of practice every day, divided among the three basic practices I’ll be setting out, is enough to take a total beginner without a single clue about magic and lead him or her step by step to the summits of the art.

Every day? Yes, every day.  A lot of people balk at this. These days, especially, a lot of people want to think that they’re so magically talented, they don’t have to put in the practice. “Magic pours from me like sweat”—yes, I’ve actually had someone tell me this. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Learning magic is like learning to play a musical instrument: the only way to get good at it is to put a great deal of time into studying and practicing it, and the best way to do the latter is to make time for practice every single day. I have yet to meet a competent operative mage who didn’t practice daily, and I have yet to meet anyone who practiced daily who didn’t become a competent operative mage.

With that in mind, let’s move to the first of the three categories of practice, which is ritual.

Ross Nichols, the founder of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD), called ritual “poetry in the realm of acts.” That’s a good first step toward understanding, because just as a poem is a way of using language to focus consciousness in unexpected ways, ritual is a way of using embodied actions to do the same thing. Put another way, ritual is one of the few performing arts whose performers are also its primary audience. . To perform ritual, you coordinate physical motion, vocalization, imagination, and intention to form more or less complex patterns of meaning, which shape your consciousness.

Repeated regularly, that shaping becomes a potent force for the transformation of personality. It also, and not coincidentally, teaches you a bunch of skills that you’re going to need to develop in order to become a competent operative mage. You need, for example, to be able to build up visual imagery in your mind with a great deal of intensity, and coordinate it with your physical movements and senses; you need to be able to vocalize words of power in a distinctive way, called “vibration” in magical textbooks, which sets up palpable buzzing sensations at any chosen point inside or outside your body; you need to be able to hold an intention firmly in your mind through a series of ritual activities—and you need to be able to do these and a number of other things all at the same time. How do you learn that? By taking a single, relatively short ritual that includes all these things, and doing it once a day until the skills in question become second nature.

You can get those benefits from any short ritual you like, for any purpose you can imagine. There’s another important factor, though. When you begin magical training, you’re entering into contact with unfamiliar realms of being. You’ve been surrounded by those realms all your life, and they’ve shaped your consciousness and your behavior in ways most people never notice. Once you begin to notice those realms, your relationship to them will change; you’re likely to attract attention on the part of some of the beings who dwell in those realms, and not all such beings have good intentions.

You’ll also begin to notice that not everything that moves through those realms is good to have on and around you. The inner planes, to use a convenient phrase for these unfamiliar conditions of being, contain influences of sickness as well as health, hatred as well as love, madness as well as sanity. There is also, due largely to the conditions of modern life, a great deal of plain old muck that it’s good to get off you. As English is not well equipped with terms for such things, I like to borrow a Japanese word from the technical terminology of Shinto, and refer to the muck in question as kegare.

According to Shinto priests with whom I’ve discussed the matter, kegare—the word, by the way, is pronounced as though it rhymes with “the car, eh,” not as though it rhymes with “she-bear”—is one of two kinds of impurity that can get in the way of harmonious interactions with the realm of the kami, the spiritual potencies revered in Shinto. Tsumi comes from wrong relationships with other people and the environment, and thus has an ethical dimension. Kegare, by contrast, has nothing to do with ethics; it’s not a synonym for “sin;” it’s simply a matter of coming into contact with substances and influences that cause an assortment of problematic reactions when brought into the immediate presence of the kami. Do you have kegareon you? If you haven’t purified yourself, you can bet on it.

Concepts very closely equivalent to kegare are found in traditional religious and spiritual systems around the world, and so are methods for getting rid of it. Those methods vary, and again, if you’re already working in a tradition that has such methods, keep on doing what you’ve been taught. In the traditions of operative magic I’m discussing here, though, the standard method for getting yourself clean of kegare is the daily practice of a banishing ritual.

This habit has come in for a certain amount of criticism of late in the Neopagan scene, most of it from people who don’t practice operative magic themselves and so have no particular reason to know what they’re talking about. These critics claim, among other things, that performing banishing rituals is disrespectful, hierarchical, chases away friendly spirits, and implies that there’s something wrong with a space that hasn’t been banished. To be quite frank, this is nonsense. They might as well insist that washing your hands after you’ve used the toilet is wrong because it’s disrespectful and hierarchical toward fecal bacteria, chases away microbes that would be perfectly happy to inhabit your mouth, and implies that there’s something wrong with dysentery.

The comparison is tolerably precise, as it happens.  Banishing rituals are to magical sanitation what soap and hot water are to physical sanitation, and in both cases, they should be applied regularly, as well as on specific occasions, for optimum health. In the practice of operative magic, before you perform any magical working, you need to be able to establish a state of balanced clarity in the working space, and you need to be able to restore the working space to the same state of balanced clarity once you’re finished, to keep the influences you’ve summoned from bleeding over into the rest of your life and that of anyone else who lives with or near you; that’s the specific application. A state of balanced clarity, on the other hand, is a good thing to inhabit as a general rule, and the daily practice of a banishing ritual is one effective way of getting there; that’s the general application—and of course it’s also relevant that practicing a banishing ritual every day is a very good way to be sure that you can do it to good effect when it’s really needed.

Most banishing rituals in common use these days follow much the same pattern, and can be traced back by one route or another to the Conjuration of the Four, a ritual presented (in typically evasive form) in the pages of Eliphas Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic. In all its many variants—the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram practiced in the Golden Dawn, the Sphere of Protection practiced in the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and so on—it sets out a circle or sphere, defines the center and the boundary, invokes a balanced and potent spiritual influence into the center, and establishes certain points on the periphery (the four directions in a circle, those plus above and below in a sphere) as representations of certain other spiritual potencies. The operative mage typically begins at the center, goes to the periphery, and then returns to the center.

I’ve used the somewhat vague term “spiritual potencies” here, and that’s a little evasive. In most traditional banishing rituals, you’re invoking either the Christian God and his angels, or some set of Pagan gods and goddesses. There are exceptions—the Sphere of Protection in particular was designed by its creator, Dr. John Gilbert, to work with impersonal spiritual powers as well as with divine persons—but by and large, ceremonial magic invokes deities. It doesn’t require belief in them, but it does require openness to the possibility that when you call, something might just answer, and it’s not a good idea to go around invoking deities you actively dislike. Half the reason so many people have had very mixed experiences with ceremonial magic, I’m convinced, is that a lot of people who can’t stand the God of Christianity have been performing rituals that constantly invoke him by his traditional names!

There’s more going on than this, of course, and those who know their way around the literature of psychology will already have guessed part of it. One of the things that made Swiss psychologist Carl Jung famous was his focus on mandala symbolism; he found that people under certain kinds of serious psychological stress tended to dream, daydream, and doodle images with some resemblance to the traditional mandalas or sacred diagrams of Hindu and Buddhist lore—that is, circular diagrams in which the center and the four quarters are of symbolic importance—and he also found that encouraging patients to follow out that habit, and draw or paint mandalas in as much detail as seemed appropriate, seemed to help them resolve their inner conflicts. He insisted, though, that these images had to be spontaneous, and that it would do no good simply to enact them according to some formal pattern.

There, as it happens, he was quite wrong. A Jungian mandala—a circle with symbolic emphasis on the center and the four quarters—can be just as effective when done to an established pattern; all that’s required is that it be repeated over and over again, using concentration and certain other methods to get the mind moving spontaneously along the patterns thus drawn. That’s what a banishing ritual does. It establishes a Jungian mandala in space, and then places the mage at the center, the place of mingled powers, where the forces of the four directions are in perfect balance. That same balance among the powers then, over time, manifests itself in the physical body, subtle body, and mind of the mage.

As noted above, though, that’s only part of the picture. Another part comes from the spiritual potencies that are being invoked in the ritual. One common misunderstanding of banishing rituals is that they somehow chase away all spiritual influences, leaving a vacuum. Not so; when you perform a banishing ritual, you’re doing quite a bit of invoking, and it’s the influences you invoke that do the heavy lifting of bringing the space into the state of balanced clarity mentioned above. A space that’s been properly banished is full, not empty—but it hasn’t been filled at random. The influences you’ve brought in are in a state of balance so precise that you can build anything you like on the foundation they provide.

Two other notes may be worth inserting here. First, it’s not at all uncommon for students in the very first stages of practice to be taught to alternate two different forms of the same ritual, one banishing, one invoking. The difference is straightforward. When you perform the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, let’s say, you establish the four elemental energies at the periphery of the circle, but the main influence that fills the space is the influence you’ve invoked into the center: in the version of the ritual practiced by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its many offshoots, the Christian God; in the version we practice in the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, the transcendent Godhead whose name is concealed behind the letters O.I.W.

In the Lesser Invoking Ritual, by contrast, you’re calling in the forces of the four elements, and so those are the primary influences that fills the space you’ve marked out. The difference is worth experiencing, as it helps the beginner get a handle on the way that different influences feel. After the basic stages of training are past, though, the usual practice is to go to daily banishings, and bring in other modes of ritual in which specific energies are invoked—and there are other rituals, such as the Sphere of Protection, which include formal invokings and banishings in the same ceremony and so take care of the process that way.

The second note that’s worth putting in here is a reminder that practicing a banishing ritual isn’t the be-all and end-all of magic. It’s a basic exercise done daily, like playing scales on a piano or horse stance training in a traditional kung fu style. You start with that, and you keep doing it, but you add other things as you develop the necessary capacities—and exactly the same thing is true in magic.

So that’s what a banishing ritual is, what it does, and why you should plan on practicing one of them every day, preferably first thing in the morning, if you have any interest in learning the kind of magic I’m discussing here. As for where to learn the actual nuts and bolts—well, for that we turn to…

Resources:

There are some hundreds of books that cover basic training in the kind of ceremonial magic I practice, and most of them teach a banishing ritual. For a variety of reasons, not all of them crassly financial, I do tend to recommend my own books. If you’re comfortable invoking the Christian God and his angels, the Hermetic version of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, which does that, is covered in Learning Ritual Magic; if you would prefer to invoke the British deities of the Druid Revival tradition, the Druidical version of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is covered in The Celtic Golden Dawn; while the Sphere of Protection, which can be used to invoke any set of deities you happen to revere, and can also work with impersonal powers, is covered at length in The Druid Magic Handbook.

271 Comments

  1. Excellent. Actually just received my new copy of The Celtic Golden Dawn a couple weeks ago. Trying to work out a way of performing the Rituals of the Lesser Pentagram in a confined dwelling space with lots of other stuff the way isn't necessarily easy, but it's fun.

  2. If anyone here is into Wicca or British Traditional Witchcraft, I am rereading Doreen Valiente's NATURAL MAGIC, which is a good introduction to both folk magic in that tradition, and Wiccan ritual. I am Wiccan and a devotee of Gaia and Pan, with some secondary members of other pantheons on the side, and lately with a strong senile drive towards bare-bones simplicity in my workings.

    One question I've been having of late about our use of candles – does Gaia really want us to burn the mass market petroleum-based candles? Or the tear-up-the-rain-forests palm oil which the manufacturers are trying to sell us as, Gaia help us, ecologically sound? Yet, it's rooted deep in all forms of magic I've ever heard of.

  3. Disposium, delighted to hear it. You can do the pentagram rituals standing in place, and simply turning to the four quarters — I've done my morning ritual practice in hotel bathrooms from time to time, using that approach!

    Patricia, does Valiente teach a banishing ritual? I ask out of curiosity — I've never studied any form of witchcraft or Wicca, thus quite simply don't know. As for candles, that's a good point. Beeswax might be an option to look into; another might be oil lamps — it would be tolerably easy to color and scent vegetable oil so that it has the right magical resonances.

  4. Hmm, one reason I am reluctant to engage in any of this is my feeling of being out of my realm and I'm not interested in spiritual risk taking. At least, I've never found that necessary.

    But as to whom to invoke. First, I'm a bit gobsmacked that a lot of people who might want to engage in magic (and I take that to be a rather tiny percentage of the population) would then invoke the Christian God, when this sort of thing would be roundly condemned by almost any church? There's some cognitive dissonance.

    Second, about what deity I'd be comfortable invoking, I don't know how to answer. The Christian God – you mean the one that I alone believe in and consider myself His/Her staunch defender against constant slander of the so-called followers? I think that would be closer to your transcendent God. As for Jesus, I have little or no experience of him and don't think we can know the truth of who or what he was, so that's out. No faith, although some inspiration at times.

    The divine influence in my life is the Holy Spirit. That one has come to me and altered my soul and brain. I've been pretty content with the results. Angels would be OK, too. Then there is my guardian angel, of which there might be two. But I've met my main guardian angel once, although he was not the warm and cuddly type…

    Are you saying a banishing ritual would take 30 minutes?

  5. Well, since I'm not all that happy with the Christian pantheon, and I don't feel a draw to the Druid path, I'll go back to the Sphere of Protection, without a specific pantheon. While I was practicing it, I noticed a couple of things. One is that the elemental directions in the cross don't all correspond to the directions while calling the quarters; the other is that there isn't a way to practice vibrating holy names if you aren't using holy names. Any ideas?

  6. Do you have any tips on how to go about finding a trustworthy teacher or school? I worked through a few lessons of Learning Ritual Magic, and found it fascinating, but I got increasingly nervous without any source of outside feedback.(i.e. no one to answer my numerous and possibly silly questions.) I’m no longer practicing, and quite content for the moment to study the philosophy without acting on it, but I would like to take up some basic practices again at some point.

    In A Plea for Occult Philosophy, you outlined a path of study which focused initially on philosophy rather than operative magic. That approach definitely appeals to me. Would some of the reading techniques in Learning Ritual Magic still be applicable if I wasn’t actively practicing?

  7. A lot of the local witches use the LBR. Circle casting with the salt-and-water “cleanse and purify” followed by the incense “charge and consecrate” is what we do to open a working when we're serious, but the circle is more “nothing may enter here….”
    But there are specific cleansing rituals.

    What I'll be looking into for candles is a local couple who make soy candles and sell them online. They'll be at this year's Pagan Pride gathering (in a local city park) this fall, I hope.

    I'm afraid a lot of Wiccans aren't very green. Or at least, not very deep green.

  8. JMG –

    Re the kundalini: yes, folks who think that the kundalini force is only some kind of lofty metaphor or mere symbol for enlightenment are greatly mistaken and could be headed for a calamitous reckoning if they're haphazardly playing around with it. I will say this – there do seem to be people who are on hair trigger for a kundalini awakening. I know, I was one of them, and no, I'm not one of those who imagine they are undergoing an awakened kundalini, which a lot of enlightenment seekers do tend to do. I was still in high school when I experienced a morbid kundalini awakening in the mid-70's. I came very close to insanity and likely an early physical demise. Kind of an interesting story – I was a white kid from an affluent Chicago suburb, and the guy who saved me was a black man living just above the poverty line on the south side. It was a miracle, born out of desperate prayer, that I found him. He knew what he was doing; he recognized the problem immediately and able to re-channel the kundalini flow, saving me from madness.

    Nonetheless, I was severely weakened, physically and mentally, and had to live in a hallucinatory wilderness for decades. I still suffer considerably from the risen kundalini. Obviously I've had to live a sequestered life. So what did I do to bring this k-eruption on? In high school I had been having ecstatic experiences, without meditating. Then I read a couple of Edgar Cayce books and I had tried meditating, nothing exotic, no deep breathing exercises, simple lotus position. Then one day, kaboom, everything changes, the world grows dark, ability to focus deteriorates, a vibrating pressure and pain at the base of the spine. That was only the beginning.

    Again, it seems as if I was a hair-trigger candidate for a full blown kundalini awakening. Gopi Krishna describes a very similar experience in his auto-bio Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy In Man, though Krishna had been meditating for years before his K erupted and nearly killed him. There do seem to be those who are simply primed for this kind of experience, not many, but probably more than there used to be. Sadly, from what I have gathered, most of them are institutionalized or commit suicide. So yes, the spiritual path certainly has its risks. Most spiritual seekers aren't going to be prone to this kind of k-eruption, but, given the dangers, every precaution should be taken when starting out on the spiritual path, whatever venue it might be.

    I might add that I still see a lot of “Kundalini Yoga” classes popping up here and there – I don't think the students are specifically taught to visualize a rising life-force; it's more like the pre-fix “Kundalini” was added to give it an exotic Eastern luster. I hope this is the case, anyway.

  9. Greetings, honored teacher. I have a question about vibration. I'm one of those who quietly mutter or whisper the vocalized aspects of a ritual. I'm also a lifelong musician, so I do have the ability to experience and manipulate things like timbre and polyphonics in my head. Do you think that, with practice, I might be able to create vibrations in the astral plane without the need to turn up the volume in the physical plane?

    @Patricia, I don't know how helpful this might be, but when I want a little fire in a ritual I put some dry pine needles in a small metal container, pour in a little high-proof alcohol, and light it up. A word to the wise from the foolish; don't use a glass container.

  10. Onething, cognitive dissonance? Not at all; Christian magic goes way back, and most of the magic in the Western tradition for the last two thousand years has been Christian in focus. It's just that mainstream churches don't like it. As for operative magic, though, if you don't feel called to practice it, don't. There are many different paths.

    John, how the elemental cross relates to the directions is very much up to you — the Sphere of Protection allows you to insert any set of names you prefer, so you can make things correspond if you wish to. (Does the Michael Teachings have names or words of power you might use?) As for practicing vibrating the divine names, why, that's another good reason to do the SoP every day, now isn't it? 😉

    Marie, the best way to find a teacher or a school is to learn something about the system first, so you can tell if someone's shoveling smoke at you. As for questions, you can always post them to this blog, you know! Yes, you can certainly take elements of Learning Ritual Magic that appeal to you and study them apart from the ritual work; I'll also try to make time sometime soon to talk about how the study of occult philosophy can be pursued as a path in its own right.

    Patricia, interesting. The LRP followed by purification with water and consecration with incense is standard Golden Dawn practice also, and then there are additional ceremonies for cleansing and the like. I suspect there's some common heredity there.

    Will, thank you for describing your experience! One of the reasons the standard Golden Dawn method for working with the energy centers in the body starts from the center above the head and descends from there is precisely to avoid accidentally triggering something like that; as you've said, it can be a world-class mess to deal with.

    Ynnothir, yes, and in fact that's a common practice; I was taught to call it “Great Voice” and to practice it tolerably often. It's a valuable skill when you don't have sonic privacy!

  11. Hello, I just want to
    let you know that after a hiatus of not-practicing I have started to work again with the SOP of Druidry Magic Handbook. I am proud of my newfound ability to resist racing ahead and skimming the whole book, but instead to stop and do the work of a small section until it gets comfortable before proceeding to the next bit.

    The hiatus, however, was not wasted time. As I look back, I realise I have been clearing away certain issues of both the “kegare” and of the “tsumi” kind from my life as a whole. This, too was necessary.

    Thanks for reassurance that questions may be brought here.

  12. Shuddhi was the name of the purification meditation I learned. Relax, let things come up in your mind from daily life, sweep them away. Do that at start for a minute and then various visualizations, etc.

    My mantra training is only nonvocalized, supposed to be more powerful. Start of yoga with sun ritual is with an invocation, long mantra. Grace also before eating is similar. I have 7 mantras. Monday is krishna, tuesday tirumoolar, etc. so my space is not empty. By using the mantras mentally a vibration is set up related to the vibratory energy of the saint, so that one becomes more like them over time. See catholic rosary for example. The syllables in mantras seem nonsensical, have no translation, so are in a sense magical.

    Endocrine system, hormones and uncontrolled k awakening, check.. Usually we in the west are pretty cramped physically, emotionally, socially, nutritionally. So yoga for example treats nutrition, physical flexibility, mental cleanliness as a holistic system. Slowly when system is cleansed the spirit will move through the body with ease. In a woody allen neurotic or obese white trash or middle class stick in the mud civilizational illnesss are all similar, blockages , stiffness, impurities ( smoke, drink, tv, autos, big macs, porn, sitting 12 hours a day, egoismus, loneliness, cynicism, agnosticism). K awakening with such an unalanced organism, without ritual control for channeling, purifying is like an overweight 50 year old smoker going on iron man triathlon contest. First doctor check up, slow walking to jogging build up with right shoes, diet,, etc. No difference here in spirituality. I am a very saturn controlled person, cynical, scientific, everything has a physical cause mindset. I see that as reality. If energy is flowing incorrectly, visualizing, redirecting can fix it. I am bored by temperament. I play with my energy, get excited, get it under control, get bored again, keep on going.

    I feel as if I am reinventing wheel of religion. Icon worship, madonna, photos of young women give me energy like several months or a year ago necessitated physical presence of women. Concrete goes to abstraction, ritual control of energy. Heart center is most important. 'God is love' is typical in india and West. This brings balance. Flow between mental/intellectual, sexual/anger centers gflows over heart. It starts mostly there by me and flows up and down simultaneously but I might have to warm up with stretching, meditation on pictures, etc.

  13. In relation to the difference between safe and unsafe ways of training, I am more familiar with Tai chi (taijiquan) which is traditionally taught in a way roughly analogous to what you describe here, that is to say, daily practice of set forms slowly reveals the treasures of Tai Chi to the practitioner, and this process cannot be hurried or replaced with book-learning or lectures or other forms of transmission. Using this method, the incremental pace at which the body realigns, at which mental and physical qi pathways open and flow, can be assimilated without disturbance.

    Qi gong, a related practice, is sometimes (not always) taught using different methods that can provoke more sudden openings of qi pathways, and my TCM professors were known to warn of this, as they would have encountered clinical level disturbances of qi provoked by this kind of training. One case study related to us concerned a young man in China who had been learning qi gong, and had lost the ability to sleep as he was continually aware of the movement of energy throughout his body and also around his body to an extent of several feet.

    I gathered from such warnings (given to us as prospective clinicians, not as practitioners) that they considered hyper-awareness of qi flow in the body to be like hyper-awareness of one's heartbeat (palpitations) – pathological, and not a sign of healthy, well-regulated qi.

    I think there is something to be said for a slow pace of changes revealed by steady practice that can be assimilated as they occur.

  14. One thing worth pointing out re: the Christian god is that all theological issues seem to be on the side of the practitioner. I doubt anyone here is going to question the magical chops of one Lon Milo DuQuette, and yet his book The Chicken Qabalah is basically one side-splittingly funny blasphemy after another.

    Whatever the gods' priorities, theological purity doesn't seem to be one of them, and the god of Abraham is no exception.

  15. Hi JMG,

    Your description of magical sanitation really resonated with me because of a dream I had several weeks ago. In the dream, there was a baby who was possessed by an evil spirit, was grotesquely misshappen, and horrible. There were several adults gathered around it, including me, and although in the dream I was terrified, I (alone) put my hands on the baby and repeated over and over: “You are not wanted here!” in a fiercely intense, almost desperate sort of way.

    The evil spirit seemed to hate my touch, screaming in protest, and eventually receded. I semi-woke, scanned the room but there was nothing evil in the room with me, and, feeling very unsettled, repeated the names I use from the elemental cross of the Sphere of Protection to myself, imagined angels around me, and went back to sleep.

    When I woke, I had a very strong sense that I had successfully passed a test and that my teacher was very pleased. What was most significant, however, was that my head was more clear than it has been in a very long time. It was like a fog had lifted.

    Given that experience and what you wrote in your post this month, I will pay more attention to banishing rituals. I have been guilty of thinking that I have no authority to tell evil spirits where to go, but the microbial analogy to kegare as you explained it makes a lot of sense to me.

    As an aside, it's freaky how closely your monthly posts reflect something I need to learn at that particular time. Thank you!

  16. This certainly clicks with me – the sound you heard from the south was all the tumblers falling into place in my brain. You basically described the ritual outline I was taught – just using a bit different language. (http://www.tangledmoon.org/ritual-design.htm for those curious) I was taught the quarters guardians guarded from anything attracted to our workings that might interfere or attempt to leech off any energy raised. We also used to joke that not everything you meet on the astral plane is (or can be) housebroken, so it's always best not to bring in any strays of that nature.

    Patricia, the candle question is quite the sticky wicket. I guess stick incense isn't that much better. We tended to pick up feathers when out and about in nature for the Air representation on the alter … perhaps a small fan of feathers in place of a candle? That of course does throw out the entire candle magic idea. The other option I can think of would be to either learn to make your own candles, or find someone local (or online, I guess) who makes them in an Earth-friendly manner. Yes, the candles will be more expensive, so we'd use less, but then they would likely pack even more of a punch with all the intention involved in obtaining them.

    (Hopefully, I have had enough coffee to be coherent.)

  17. 1)Interesting idea about banishing/cleansing ritual as partaking in a living mandala.

    2)JMG wrote, “When you perform the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram… the main influence that fills the space is the influence you’ve invoked into the center: in the version of the ritual practiced by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its many offshoots, the Christian God.”

    I have a question about this. I understand the Christian imagery in the LBRP is significant. But I was wondering about the Cabbalistic aspects as well. Since the vibrated divine names are Hebrew and since the Cabbala so influenced the Golden Dawn, I was wondering if this ritual could just as easily be said to call to the center the spiritual potencies associated with the Cabbalistic understanding of God (some kind of ineffable Absolute beyond human concepts or understanding and the source of all). The reason I ask about this is because the Cabbalistic notion of God (as much as I can understand of it) resonates more with me.

    I'd appreciate your take on any of the above.

    Thanks,

    Pierre

  18. @JMG: would the Irish Gods of the Tuatha be a good option for the LRP? After studying the different mythologies of Europe as a hobby I found the greatest affinity for that family of gods, more than I got from the Aesir or the Greco-Roman Gods of my Italian ancestors. The Aesir are too invested in war and the Greek gods are too fickle and tempestive, things I really don't want in my life.

    Lugh is my favorite of the Tuatha and I try to emulate his aspect as a multi-talented God in my life as much as possible.

  19. Looking more closely at local practice, I'm amazed at how much Golden Dawn influence there is among all the neopagans here, excepting the Asatruar and possibly the Cauldron of Awen, whose rituals I have not attended yet.

    Colors designated for the quarters are yellow, red, blue, and green respectively, altars are in the east, and even the now-universal Tarot attribution of swords to air and wands to fire, for which I've heard all the arguments, thanks, but it still seems shoehorned in to fit. [Swords are weapons and Michael is a warrior. Wands are a wizard's tool and wizards are air to the max; and Rafael is a healer. The healer's symbol is a snakey staff. And so on.] Even among those who are not Wiccan.

  20. First, I'm not sure if you're still taking submissions of stories that include operative magic but here is mine. It is a rehash from one of the contests you held on your other blog but I believe it meets the criteria.

    FYI these stores are basically rated R.

    http://regeneracy.org/2015/11/a-grub-with-a-chive/

    Here is another short with some details at the end sketching out the setting.

    There technically IS a dark lord (from the muggle perspective) but it is one manufactured by the magic users for their protection. The girl and the boy in the story below are both Versling acting out a ritual that helps keep their community safe (through the generation of fear).

    http://regeneracy.org/2015/12/the-not-worthy-acorn/

    Second, I've been doing a banishing ritual of my own design (almost daily) for almost three years now. I didn't design it from scratch though. I've read each of your books that you've mentioned here and performed the reading exercises suggested in Learning Ritual Magic.

    After the banishing (but before the closing) I throw a bit of woo in to plead for help refining the ritual. It started out very simple and, as you can probably guess, has evolved quite a bit.

    Interestingly though, the the evolution happens in spurts where change is rapid for a short time followed by longer and longer intervals of, “things remaining basically the same.” Magical punctuated equilibrium.

    The intensity of my desire to actually perform the practice daily, follows the exact same pattern. When change is happening, I'm eager to get into temple and try out the changes. Once they've solidified though the psychic boredom sets in again and daily practice becomes a bit more difficult (though easier on each plateau).

    A daily banishing is like a slow stroll up a very tall hill with a slight incline (with a cliffs and staircases thrown in every once in a while for good measure).

    Walking up the hill does't seem like it is doing much at first but after a while, when you look behind you, you can see the height you've obtained.

    When I stop daily practice for whatever reason I begin rolling back down the hill. It is times like these where the benefits of daily practice become quite obvious.

    I wasn't fully aware how angry I used to get while driving until my first break from daily practice.

    I wasn't fully aware how many daily frustrations (or bouts of great luck) where the result of my own doing until my first break from daily practice.

    I wasn't fully aware how my own moods colored how I perceived the actions of others until my first break from daily practice.

    The hill doesn't feel that tall until you begin tumbling down it.

    I literally worship the archetypes of the four fundamental forces and four fundamental states of nature (plasma, gas, liquid, solid) as science has revealed them.

    These eight things surround a ninth which is both a fundamental force and a state of matter at the same time. 🙂

    Each has its own vowel sound and specific symbol which is a letter (phoneme) in my own alphabet.

    My daily banishing involves invoking the forces to banish the ailments of the elements and to also call in their blessings, graces and virtues.

    It works wonders for me and I'm quite addicted to the practice. Some people take Prozac, I banish regularly.

    Also, some might find it disgusting but banishing while pooping is EXTREMELY effective.

    Thanks!

    Shawn

  21. Another thought on the popularization of the daily banishing.

    Suggesting that an average somebody perform a magic ritual to banish evil every day will likely lead to it not happening ever.

    But many rational people, when confronted with an article like the one I've linked to below, have no problem understanding nor believing in something like a spiritual virus. Followers of Dawkins definitely believe in such things but hide their esotericism behind the language of the disenchanter (CSICOP type skeptics).

    http://realitysandwich.com/75652/greatest_epidemic/

    Popularizing a ritual specifically for dealing with Wetiko within and without could prove quite valueable on a few fronts.

    In your mind, what is the connection between kegare and Wetiko?

    Thanks!

  22. Great essay, giving me a lot to think about. A few comments–

    On the Christian God in Magic– I hated YHVH from roughly age 15 until I started performing the LBRP at 29. I still have difficulties with that pantheon and I switched to the Celtic Golden Dawn on purpose, but the relationship has been repaired in many ways. And I'm grateful for that.

    Actually, one of the things that keeps me from returning to any Christian church is the way that they keep magic out, often shooting themselves in the foot on purpose. The Catholic Church in particular has raised this to the level of a science in recent decades. I was journaling about this the other day, and I wrote, “The Catholic church destroyed its magic, and that's why it's failing. It did this by deciding it needed to change to fit the times, but was unable to change in a way that would be magically effective because it had over the course of centuries forbidden itself from understanding how its rituals worked.”

    On Kundalini, and on Danger in Magic– Some of this discussion has struck a bit close to home. I don't practice yoga and know nothing about kundalini specifically. However…

    I spent the last 2 years simultaneously working through the Celtic Golden Dawn and pursuing a certification in Medical Qigong. Every now and again odd things would come up, but I think odd things always come up when practicing magic, and for the most part things were fine. Then last year two things happened. I began greatly upping the amount of qigong training I was doing in a day, and incorporating a lot more “advanced” meditation practices (shengong, for those who are familiar with the terminology.)

    And then all H— broke loose.

    I won't bore everyone with the details (I bored our gracious host with them quite a bit at the time), but for a couple of months it was quite terrifying. My qigong teacher insisted it was the magic work– i.e., that the Druid gods were actually demons and were the sole cause of the problem. Unsure what to believe and having no experience with this sort of thing, I tried various things, and nothing worked until I suspended all practice of every kind for a while, and things calmed down. A few months later I started regular ritual again, and things have been fine. I also do a bit of tai chi for health, which has been fine (I think), but I've been switching to an external martial arts style as my main physical practice.

    But reading a couple of the comments about kundalini, some things are starting to click. For example– There was a particular meditation meditation that begins with drawing down energy from the heavens and then up from the Earth, through the perineum. Doing this meditation while seated, my body would shake and vibrate when drawing energy upward. I took this as a sign that I was doing it right. The weirdest incidents that occurred did so after practicing this meditation. I did notice that– but I felt I couldn't stop practicing, as I'd 1. also had a serious expansion of my faculty for “energy work,” and 2. put a lot of time (and money) into learning this stuff. I wonder if that's how those Theosophists in the 1920s felt.

    Anyway, since I stopped practicing Taoist stuff many of the– it's weird to talk about this, even on an occult blog– abilities or powers that seemed to come with it have faded, but I also don't suffer regular spirit attacks. And the Golden Dawn rituals seem to work just as well as ever, I guess since they don't rely on channeling energy through my body in the same way.

    So, thank you JMG for bringing up the often-unmentioned fact that this stuff can be dangerous. For those who are familiar, does my experience sound like a kundalini awakening gone wrong?

  23. So, we’re going to be kicking off into a supplementary training course after all. Are there going to be lessons and homework? Or is this going to be more about giving advice and pointers to help shape and inform whatever else we’re doing?

    On to the meat of the essay: You said “the training program I’m about to outline is not intended for those who simply want to practice a little helpful magic to improve unsatisfactory aspects of their own lives and those of their friends. If that’s what you want out of magic—and though there’s been a lot of prejudice against such things in occult circles, my experience is that it’s a valid option—you don’t need the kind of training I’ll be sketching out. What you need instead is a good introductory book on some form of folk magic, such as old-fashioned Southern conjure.”

    I’ve occasionally wondered why adepts at the folkier magical schools tend to give very different advice from the sort I usually hear from adepts from the ceremonial and mystery school end of the occult, with less focus on mastery, working through a complete course in the proper order without skipping ahead and balancing magic with meditation, shadow work, self-knowledge, and other things related to personal development, and more on getting the recipes right, being prepared to pay the price, and making sure to clean up before and after the work is done, with most . Of course, there are definite overlaps even in the folk magic arenas, with most all of them involving regular cleansings with vinegar, Florida water, sage, salt water, or some other wash, herb, or prayer at the core of the practice to fill the role of the banishing ritual, and things like the Lord’s Prayer, representations of saints, the feeding of mojo bags, and regular offerings of food, milk, or alcohol to appease and attract potentially beneficial house spirits filling in the invocational role in various folk traditions from around the world. I suppose the question there, is: if they have a different focus and approach, what advice would you offer for using folk magic techniques while working through training in ceremonial magic? Usually the advice with magical traditions is to stick to a single practice because of the effects of potential overlap. But do folk magic techniques overlap less or in different ways with magical training?

    The other question, that may (I hope I’m not the only one) be an elephant in the room for a lot of people… that’s been a stumbling block for me more than a few times… what is your advice for if someone misses a single day, or a few days of daily practice? Is it a situation that requires going all the way back to the very beginning of the training and starting over? Do you pick up where you left off and move on? Or do you spend a few days with basic practices until you feel your feet under you again and then pick up on the level that you were before the slip up? Everyone has the occasional bad day, and over the course of an entire year, much less a lifetime, it’s possible for occasional interruptions to come in (right now, I’ve managed 6 months of the sphere of protection with no interruptions, which is the longest I’ve ever managed of any sort of daily spiritual practice without a single day off, but I’ve still had a few occasions where some other aspect of practice… meditation and stillness, daily divination, or journaling fell through the cracks). I know there are some other courses of magical training that emphasize regular practice, rather than daily practice specifically, but with an emphasis on daily work, what happens when you’ve been going for 8 and a half months of a 9 month course, or 11 months of a year-long course and suddenly miss a day because something happens?

  24. @JMG

    No, the Michael Teaching doesn’t have a magical orientation. Michael (who comes from the mid-Causal plane and is definitely not the Archangel Michael – see below) is focused on a system of spiritual personality, spiritual cosmology and how to align better with your Essence (high self, source of your being, etc.). They will talk about things that fall into the realm of classical magic and occult philosophy, but a lot of what they say isn’t all that compatible with standard lore, at least the little I know about it.

    For example, when a student asked them about divination techniques, they called them “props.” Not that they think that using props is wrong, but it’s possible to move beyond specific techniques to directly perceiving things, which they would consider good work if the student cares to put in the effort. And they’re fine with a student wanting to focus their effort elsewhere.

    As far as powers, etc: at one point they said that we (meaning the people here on the Physical plane) invented all of that. Beings like the Archangel Michael, Mother Mary, Zeus, Isis, the Holy Spirit and so forth are more in the line of job titles. Praying to the Archangel Michael is simply a request for assistance from some entity that can do what the “Archangel Michael” does and has agreed to answer prayers to Archangel Michael. (This, by the way, relates to your comment some time ago that there seems to be more than one Jesus that different groups of Christians are praying to. There are.)

    Similarly for astrology: we invented it, and, after due consideration, it got woven into the fabric of the mechanism that’s used to schedule and arrange events. It’s why you can cast a chart for the beginning of the year and get a result: the year is a meaningful unit of time for those of us here on the Physical Plane, although it means absolutely nothing on the Astral Plane, so it got woven into the mechanism I try not to call Fate. (That doesn’t, by the way, mean that the planetary energies don’t exist.)

    If I seem to be off the wall at times, that’s the wall I’m bouncing off of. By the way, I’m not tooting my own horn by claiming to have a high teacher. Michael has a teaching contract with all 100,000 or so Essences in Energy Ring 14. Anyone else who wants to talk to them can as long as they’re comfortable with working on the Astral Plane.

    @Will,

    That sounds like a rupture in the “pranic tube.” Here’s what I know about it: From Susanah Redelfs: “The pranic tube is a slender tubular column that connects the crown and base chakras and passes through the other five major body chakras. It holds the “pranic fuel tank” and anchors the fields to the body. Cracks in the pranic tube and pranic leakage can be immediately life-threatening, depending on how severe the breach and how rapid the leak.

    “Since the pranic tube is a “time-bound” structure, and Spirit exists outside of time, such breaks cannot be repaired by upper planer assistance. In such cases, the soul does its best to get the person to a competent healing practitioner, who can do the delicate work necessary if the pranic tube must be replaced entirely from within a dimension of time.”

  25. JMG,

    Timing is perfect for me with this post today. Before reading it, for the first time in months I re-connected with my magical work after a few good months of not being able to practice. A lot going on in my life, but also I felt like I had been pushing my work too hard. It is very similar to when I had taken up a 10 week rock climbing training regime about 8 months ago and after about a month in I injured myself and had to take a break. I subsequently picked up a book called 'Convict Conditioning' by Paul Wade – a manual of old-school calisthenics which helped me to deal with some of the injuries. In it I came across the concept of building up a 'training momentum', and his contrast of the old-timers approach to building strength with the unrealistic and unhelpful notions we get from contemporary trainers and media. Even then, after following his year-long program for several months I kept rushing it and overdoing it and had to take a break from both exercise and magic – lost any motivation. I suspect that something like the physical exhaustion was taking place in my psyche as well. But in the wake of that I was able to let go of whatever it was that was driving me to rush, which must have been buried deep somewhere because logically I knew what I needed to do. Over the last two months I feel like I've been able to pick up the calisthenics, focusing mostly on what 'training momentum' feels like. For the last 2 weeks I'm making steady progress to finding the same kind of momentum with my magical work, 'milking the early steps' (as the old-timers would put it) for all they are worth. And today I am feeling a new sense of purpose! The comparison to physical and martial culture really rings true. Reading 'Psychic Self Defense' by Fortune recently also helped me to gain some perspective in the magical/martial culture connections, and I also managed to watch a couple of the first episodes of Kung Fu and I have to say that the effect was much the same :).

    Best,
    Oliver

  26. JMG,

    I had a very unsettling experience with Kundalini yoga. I was working at a Sikh health food store in Baltimore, and began taking Kundalini yoga lessons. The experience essentially cured my long-term lower-back problems, for which I am still enormously grateful, and I enjoyed the meditations immensely, esp. the pranayama practices, which were exceedingly powerful.

    The owners and several of my coworkers hosted a trip to see Yogi Bhajan on his visit to Virginia. I showed up as one of the only people not wearing al white clothing—most of those in attendance were Sikhs or long-time practitioners. I settled in, listened to the yogi's talk, and then he began to lead a meditation. We were sitting on our heels with eyes half-closed and Yogi Bhajan began slowly hitting a gong. Brrrrronnnnnnnnnng…… brrrrronnnnnnnnng….. It immediately led me into a deep state. The slow, rhythmic pulse of the gong continued to several minutes, pulling us all deeper.

    Then, suddenly—BOOOOOONNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG! He hit the gong with all of his strength. From behind my closed eyelids the entire room lit up as if illuminated by thousands of flashbulbs. I felt a surge of energy in my body.

    Afterward I felt absolutely horrible. Completely off, as if my head was screwed on sideways. The dysphoric feeling lasted for days, and when it finally subsided I was enormously grateful that I hadn't been permanently injured. No one else seemed to be adversely affected. I assumed it was because their nervous systems, though extended practice, could handle that kind of energetic surge. Needless to say, I gave up my practice shortly thereafter.

    I have been practicing Golden Dawn-based ceremonial magic for a number of years, and I find the Middle Pillar ritual is as powerful as anything I learned in Kundalini yoga.

    One quick question: I have been dipping my toes into Graeco-Egyptian magic of late, using the PGM and books by Skinner and Flowers. There is an interesting “purification” Heptagram ritual (PGM XIII. 825-835) that I have been working on. Are you familiar with it, and do you have any thoughts on its relevance/usefulness as a banishing ritual?

    If I may also be so bold as to recommend another one of your books, I always suggest Circles of Power to anyone who wants to explore the Golden Dawn system. It has been my go-to since you recommended it, and I find the exclusion of Enochian elements to be a major plus (as I had a very unpleasant experience with John Dee's system and stay far away from it).

    Another great post!

  27. Hello, so JMG, I wanna thank you again for doing what you do, you've really helped me along my path so far. Right now I'm at the point where I've been doing the Sphere of Protection with Norse gods for almost 4 months, with a meditation discipline that is now breathing while reciting and imagining each letter of the futhark in my mind, 1 per breath, X 3 then with number instead of name X3 then backwards X3 – comes to be about 20 minutes. It has been pretty difficult to do it because I hate sitting still, there is this concentration/frustration energy that I feel really strongly sometimes while meditating(like when doing a math problem, that feeling, waves and waves of this feeling)and I'm hoping this isn't Kundalini that is going to burn me out :-p is sitting with this concentration/frustration/tension a good thing or something that could potentially back fire?

    My other problem is that I've been doing this germanic path for 4 months now, but I also feel really strongly about Celtic stuff – my earliest known ancestors were kings of Gwynedd after the fall of the Roman empire, though I'm sure I have as much germanic blood in me, it's just not as well known. With the Celtic side I feel this lightness, greenness, fairness – and I am a bard/poet/musician and a gardener/herbalist/permaculturist. But with Odin I feel a deep darkness, and both are part of me, but since the language I speak and write is Germanic I've been doing the Runes, which seem more appropriate to form spells/sorcery with. I guess I just need to research the celtic side now, but since I've already started a connection with Odin and Freya, I don't want to piss them off!

  28. John–

    I find myself at an interesting, if bewildering, crossroads. Of late, I have begun to recognize (and acknowledge) an attraction — not a mere intellectual curiosity, but a visceral, deep-seated pull — towards what I can only describe as a Gaian spirituality and earth-centered magic. Having grown up in a reasonably traditional Christian household and being something of a recovering abstractionist/Gnostic, this attraction leaves me rather bewildered, as it is more or less the exact opposite of what I'd always sought and envisioned — concrete, tangible, material rather than abstract, ethereal, sublimated. Moreover, I am not thinking that the Gaia I sense that I am seeking is the one I perceive in more popular depictions of modern paganism, but a deep, mysterious, Goat-of-a-thousand-young kind of Gaia. Archaic (pre-Classical) Greek Gaia. Raw, cthonian, and immensely powerful.

    My predicament is that I have no idea where to even begin to learn what or how to approach such a practice. I suspect that ritual is a part of this path, but beyond that, I have no conception. With the rather muddled description I've given, would you be able to suggest some resources and/or traditions which might align with what I sense I'm being called to? I did recently acquire a copy of your _Encyclopedia of Natural Magic_, but I am working very much from square one.

    Any guidance would be appreciated!

  29. This is the post I've been waiting for! I gather from the comments that there are a lot of readers here with experience in the topics covered, but for me as a complete beginner this post gathered together many concepts and pieces of advice I'd gleaned from my reading but had been scratching my head about.

    Thank you for your clear words about the risks involved. I'd gathered that much, mostly from an experience earlier in life which, while not as intense as Will's, was similar in its unexpected arrival and debilitating effect.

    I'm in a similar situation to Marie, wanting to learn more, unsure about which path I want to follow, trying to find trustworthy meatspace folks with whom to talk about these things. I practiced the Sphere of Protection for a little while as taught in your Druid Magic Handbook and found it well worth the time and effort, but I also found I wanted to share the experience more than I wanted to deepen it. So I left off practicing after a couple of months, at least for the time being.

    Since starting to read this blog I found one potential teacher, but backed off in a hurry when a couple of discoveries caused me to question the person's judgement.

    I've said it before but it's worth repeating. This blog is like a ray of light descending into the murk of muddled concepts I've been working with to understand my own life and what I see happening around me. Thanks again.

  30. One more thing, regarding Christianity and magic. This section from the Pistis Sophia jumped out at me when I was doing some research:

    Jesus said to his disciples: “Come unto me!”

    And they came unto him. He turned to the four quarters of the world, and spake the Great Name over their heads, and blessed them, and breathed onto their eyes.

    Jesus said unto them, “Look, see what ye may see!”

    And lifting up their eyes they saw a great Light, exceeding vast, which no dweller on earth could describe.

    He said to them again: “Gaze into the Light, and see what ye may see!”

    They said: “We see fire and water, and wine and blood.”

    (translated by G. S. R. Mead)

    Sound familiar?

  31. Thanks for a fascinating and informative post, JMG. I've also been working with the Celtic Golden Dawn for the last couple months – spent part of this afternoon fashioning my druid wands from an old fence post!

    @disposium I had the same question about space needs for the lesser ritual of the pentagram. I've essentially been doing just that – turning in place to the four directions – so I'm glad to hear it affirmed as a legitimate way of making it work. Every time I get anxious about thinking that I don't have the right space, setup or equipment for practice, I think of all the people down the ages who had to do magic on the sly to avoid persecution, and think that they must really have had to improvise. Comparatively, I'm in very good shape!

  32. Valiente's banishing/protection is standard Wiccan circle casting, again similar to the Golden Dawn's, but I ran across/remembered two things of interest.

    The first is a sung banishing from a fantasy filk by Lackey and Fish, based no a long-forgotten story, but no less effective for all that.

    “If there be anything here that cometh not in the name of the powers of light, then in the name of the powers of light, let it be gone. Let it be gone.”

    The second, as part of my compulsive clean-up drive of all the old half-started notebooks and journals stashed in the bottom of my bedroom altar/shrine, was an even longer-forgotten course in hoodoo, taught in the back room of a long-closed neighborhood place. A very cheap, colorful, and unpretentious notebook, probably the first one where I didn't try for Gardnerian Pomposity.

    Finally, on the subject of fantasy-fiction-based filks, “Wind's Four Quarters” invokes the Goddess at the quarters as “Maiden, Warrior, Mother, and Crone.” Later we get their male counterparts added in. But this is more religion than magic.

  33. Hey… Am I an idiot or what? I keyed in 'rituals of the Lesser Pentagram' when I should have keyed 'Lesser rituals of the pentagram'. I suspect I just prefer the cadence of the former, erroneous, expression.

  34. Hi JMG,
    Great post, as usual. It’s rather timely, actually. I’m working on a story for the magic anthology, and I have a character who has a wrongheaded approach to magic similar to what you’ve described. She’s taken up the study of magic (enchantment, specifically) for the sole purpose of performing a dastardly deed. She's attempting to enchant an object with a curse that she hopes will be deadly (and she's going to change the ritual along the way to suit her own inclinations). The results will turn out a lot like you’d expect, with a twist at the end.

    You mentioned a while back that you'd be willing to offer some advice, so I was hoping you could help me with a couple of questions about this kind of magic and the risks involved. First, how long would it take for an enchantment like this to work, assuming it has been done correctly? And can an evil magical working rebound, even if it's done incompetently and incorrectly?

    Thanks! Kelly

  35. For what it's worth, I've found that using other languages helps tremendously when starting to banish. The words keep their magic if you will.

    For example the Star Ruby, a thelemite banishing ritual, uses Greek instead of Hebrew.

    Apo Pantos Kakodaimonos!

  36. Scotlyn, that's very common — some of the old occult philosophers used to talk about “karmic fulfillment” and say that when you take up any kind of spiritual training, any unresolved business you have is going to show up and sit there waiting for you to resolve it. The good news is that (a) it gets resolved and (b) getting that effect shows you that your practice is going somewhere.

    Ed, that's a good comparison — and a good reason why any training program in occultism intended for people in the western world needs to start very basic, just a half an hour a day of gentle exercise, and build from there.

    Scotlyn, that's a lesson I very nearly learned the hard way! The taijiquan school I studied includes a lot of qigong and neigong, and that reacted very badly with some of my magical work, giving me a nasty case of yang kidney qi depletion. Fortunately I caught it and dropped the qigong and neigong practices, and am recovering nicely. The moral to this story is that mixing systems is not necessarily safe…

    James, I won't argue — I've worked rituals with Lon (the two of us helped perform the Portal Grade initiation for a California Golden Dawn temple that had an adept shortage) and the guy knows his stuff.

    Myriam, you're welcome. You certainly have the authority to tell evil spirits to get lost, by the way; you are yourself a spiritual being, with a rightful place in the great scheme of things, and that gives you the same authority as other spiritual beings over those entities of lower grade who behave intrusively. So get out there and banish with confidence! 😉

    Dfr2010, glad to hear it. As one of my teachers liked to point out, the mere lack of a body is no guarantee of good intentions.

    Pierre, that's a valid point. Though some aspects of the Golden Dawn work are specifically Christian, you're right that the LBRP is not, and so can be done in good faith by Jews or those who relate well to a Cabalistic Jewish conception of deity.

    Nicolas, yes, but you'd have to rewrite the ritual extensively. It's not something you can cut and paste! You need an opening and closing gesture equivalent to the Cabalistic Cross (based on the Christian sign of the Cross) or the invocation of the Three Rays of Light we used in the DOGD; you need four divine names of four letters each (Lugh and Danu would be good choices, but I don't know enough Irish mythology to suggest two more); and then you need four persons or symbols who represent the elemental forces, who should not be deities (the four archangels in the Hermetic GD LRP and the four animal emblems we use in the DOGD are examples). You could, however, plug the Tuatha De Danaan into the Sphere of Protection without difficulty, since it's designed for that.

    Patricia, the GD really is the template on which most magic in the English-speaking world is based. You do know, don't you, that Michael is very often portrayed with a spear… 😉

  37. Shawn, with regard to banishing while defecating, William Gray advised his students, when they used the toilet for that purpose, to imagine something they wanted to release or get rid of — a habit, a personality issue, what have you — in the feces, and deliberately release both at the same time. It's quite an effective little working. With regard to “Wetiko,” I'm enough of a Jungian to see that whole theory as a matter of projecting the shadow — all the people I've met who wax lyrical and apocalyptic about civilization as evil incarnate, a form of mental illness, etc. are enthusiastic participants in exactly what they claim to hate — and you cannot banish something that you yourself are projecting onto other people and the environment. It's exactly like all those fundamentalists who repress their own homoerotic tendencies and then project them on others in the form of evil incarnate; until they grapple with the fact that it's their own desires that terrify and disgust and allure them, and deal with that within themselves, their efforts to banish the supposed “evil” of homosexuality will accomplish nothing but pointless suffering on all sides.

    Steve, thanks for bringing that up here! I'm not a specialist in kundalini workings, but certainly you were releasing a lot more energy than your body could handle.

    Eric, no, there won't be lessons. If you want those, I can recommend some books! With regard to your questions, in my experience, ordinary folk magic is perfectly compatible with either Golden Dawn-style magic or the system taught in The Druid Magic Handbook; there may be other kinds of magic for which that's not true, but I've never had any trouble, and I've done a lot of folk magic. As for skipping a day, everyone does it from time to time; don't worry about it. Nobody is sitting up in the sky with a chalkboard marking down your absences. Just pick up and keep going; go back to the beginning only if you feel you have something to learn by doing so.

    John, fair enough — thanks for the info. I have no idea where Energy Ring 14 might be, but clearly I'm not on or in it!

    Harvester, exactly. The old Rosicrucians used to say Festina lente — “hurry slowly.” Take it a step at a time, go on to step 2 only when you've gotten what you can out of step 1, and don't hesitate to go back over familiar ground again if you think you have something to learn from it. The Druid teaching is that you've got all of time to get this down, so there's no need to rush. (And Kung Fu was my first exposure to the idea of esoteric spirituality, so your final comment makes absolute sense to me!)

    Professor P., that makes perfect sense to me. No, I'm not familiar with the PGM ritual — it's been a long time since I studied the Graeco-Egyptian magical papyri. Do you know of an online source that gives it?

    Isaac, if you've got a relationship going with deities, talk to them. Let them know your concerns and ask for their guidance and help. They do tend to answer, though the answer may not be immediate or obvious.

    David, that sort of thing's far from rare these days. My advice here is the same as my advice to Isaac: you've made contact with a spiritual force; call to it. Prayer is profoundly underrated these days. Turn your attention to that deep presence you feel, and ask Her help in finding the path She wants you to walk. The answer may not be obvious or immediate, but listen for it and you'll get it.

    Dylan, you're welcome and thank you.

    Professor P., nice. Morton Smith would have been pleased… 😉

  38. Shaune, forgot to say — your first story is in the contest. The second is too short; if you'd like to revisit the call for stories and bring it up to length, then resubmit it, you certainly may.

    Curtis, delighted to hear it.

    Patricia, filk will work. (Though at the moment most of my current filks are Lovecraft-themed. Imagine Donovan singing “They call me King in Yellow”…)

    Disposium, you're not alone. I've read books on magic that reordered the words the same way, and some of them were by very competent mages.

    Kelly, a lot of the timing depends on the nature of the malefic enchantment, but weeks, certainly, and possibly longer than that. Very few spells work in hours or days. As for recoil, yes, an incompetent spell can still blow up in its caster's face — in some ways, this is even more likely than if it's been done right. I look forward to your story!

    Nano, very true — that's why we use Welsh words in some DOGD rituals, and why the Hermetic GD used so much Hebrew.

  39. Patricia Mathews
    Can you give a reference or link to:

    “The first is a sung banishing from a fantasy filk by Lackey and Fish, based no a long-forgotten story, but no less effective for all that.

    “If there be anything here that cometh not in the name of the powers of light, then in the name of the powers of light, let it be gone. Let it be gone.””
    I have tried to Google but to no luck.

  40. @JMG: I know the SoP quite well. Last year I practiced it for months so I'm very familiar with it. Therefore my next question would be, is the Sphere compatible with the Celtic Golden Dawn?

    In case of rewriting the LRP for the Irish Pantheon this is what I've thought about:

    For deities you have Lugh, Danu, Cian, Neit, and Ogma

    Animals related to the Tuatha: Dogs, Cattle, Swans, Pigs, Horses and Corvids. Corvids can go in the place of Air, Swans for Water, Pigs or Cattle for Earth and Horses for Fire.

    The hardest part would be the opening and closing gestures.

  41. Hi JMG,

    Well that was interesting.

    OK, so I was left wondering an important question after I read your quote: “Not so; when you perform a banishing ritual, you’re doing quite a bit of invoking, and it’s the influences you invoke that do the heavy lifting of bringing the space into the state of balanced clarity mentioned above.”

    I'm frankly curious as to what you believe is the benefit that the influences would get out of this act? It seems extraordinarily altruistic when you consider it, and I have a little voice in my head telling me that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Dunno.

    Cheers

    Chris

  42. Greetings and peace,

    I must say than you again for so generously sharing so much useful information on your blogs, and thank you for the work you do in the world, generally!

    I'm going through a time of having left a period of significant investment in one school/practice but not yet practicing another that has been stretching on for a few years now. I'm still a bit gun-shy, but am nearing a turning point towards reformation (thank the Gods!) and dedication to continuing on an appropriate path for me, finally. Oh, how I recognize so many of those mistakes that you described in this and previous posts from personal experience! Part of me wonders if I unknowingly set out on the western magical path intent on making them all. 🙂 I am sure there are still many more to come waiting for me to make them.

    I've taken some comfort and aid (and some embarrassment)here, and just wanted to say thanks again. Your work is a real light. Thanks for shining it!

    BHW

  43. JMG,

    Here is the Heptagram ritual from the PGM:

    The Instruction: Speaking to the rising sun, stretching out your right hand to the left and your left hand likewise to the left, say “A.” To the north, putting forward only your right fist, say “E.” Then to the west, extending both hands in front [of you], say “Ê.” To the south, [holding] both on your stomach, say, “I.” To the earth, bending over, touching the ends of your toes, say “O.” Looking into the air, having your hand on your heart, say “Y.” Looking into the sky, having both hands on your head, say “Ô:”

    – PGM XIII. 825-835

  44. Good post, thank you.

    I too had a weird issue with trying to mix very basic druid practice with overly ambitious development of tai chi. My kidneys felt a bit weird the whole time. I remember at the same time having a few crippling headaches after class. Then a job forced me to take a couple weeks off from tai chi, and when I had intended to take back up the practice I couldn't bare to even go back to the school except once to awkwardly back out of classes. For slightly more than a year after that I was irrationally fearful of even going onto the street with the school. Tying in with some common themes I am picking up from the comments I suspect that it might be an issue with the way that energy moves upwards. Last week I did some “Tai Chi” for the first time since, fortunately it was a watered down stretch session, which felt great on my lower back, and had basically no internal mojo; also the forms taught wouldn't have been accepted from a totally fresh student at the old school, hehe.

  45. For almost a year I have been doing the sphere of protection much like I play the flute, inconsistently. Certainly not in a way that would lead to becoming a well trained mage, but still enough for the small role that magic has in my current phase of life. I might return to regular practice soon, I am still very transformed from the years of practice I had in Fort Collins, and might be ready to continue shoveling through my muck; especially since I have so far this year gotten a decent sense of what new space in my life was opened up by the last phase of practice in my life, and am starting to notice the piles of muck remain on paths I should like to explore.

    When I have used SOP it has been very creative and spontaneous this year, which has been fun. I think the break was important because I had so many preconceived notions about the four elements from before encountering your writing that I needed to rest from focusing on them for a bit. But I am noticing the elements calling to me to work with them again. For one thing I nearly drown about a month ago, got into water only to suddenly find myself much less boyant than usual. Then three days ago I was learning friction fire at a primitive skills gathering and flame came to me quickly on wet materials two tries after carving the spindle and board. Half a dozen tries more and not even a cherry.

    I feel so unsure of what to banish, and I think that during my last stint of work my banishing was getting weak because of that vagueness. Also, I found little connection to the forces of the elemental cross, and didn't know how to go on. In addition to this the three vertical elements of spirit felt blocked by preconceived and inarticulate notions of some kind. Maybe I am shy of deities?

    Though once I did meet a deity of great interest a beautiful woman dressed in blue, came from the west during one SOP, she seemed very wise and understanding. I called her, in my memory of the event, Sophia. Does anybody else know her? Seemed nice enough.

    I think I read somewhere that the AODA was considering a new set of introductory directions to the SOP, but I cannot remember where I heard it. I like that the ritual has a degree of freedom in making the poem in the realm of actions one's own; and yet I am unsure what to do with such freedom. Especially in finding figures for the four stations of the cross.

    Thank you again for writing on these matters, I enjoy these things as a philosopher even when the topic far exceeds my practice!

  46. I grew up in a very skeptical and strict monotheism conveyed by good people, now departed, who I still very much revere. This kept me apart from occult studies or practice for decades. Yet, being a serious homesteader has given me a very strong bond, albeit somewhat incoherent, with moon, stars, sun, soil, and creatures, so the paganism of the Druids, what little I know of it, now seems much more natural and appropriate. I've been getting over my queasiness over there being more than One out there (and right here!) Is there a study of Kabbalah that is not based upon Christianity or has there been any synchronism of Judaism and Celtic beliefs? Would that even be possible or advisable?

  47. Nicolas, nope — the Celtic Golden Dawn requires Golden Dawn rituals. With regard to elemental symbols, William Butler Yeats' “Castle of Heroes” magical order used the four treasures of the Tuatha De Danaan as their elemental emblems: the Sword of Finias for air, the Spear of Gorias for fire, the Cauldron of Murias for water, and the Stone of Falias for earth. Thus “Before me the Sword of Finias and the powers of Air,” and so on.

    For the deities, it's best to have two gods and two goddesses, and to have one pair north-south and the other east-west. I'd suggest Lugh in the east, Aine in the south, Ogma in the west, and Danu in the north. The remaining challenge is the opening gesture. The Three Rays of Light we use in the DOGD is based on the creation myth from Barddas. As I recall, the Irish legends don't have a creation myth, but can you come up with three powers, principles, or persons who were more or less at the beginning of everything? Alternatively, three powers, principles, or persons who are central to the Irish Druid tradition? I can probably suggest something for you in that case.

    Cherokee, I don't think it's altruistic at all. One of the common concepts of the old European Pagan faiths is the belief that the gods and goddesses maintain the world in a state of balance against various chaotic and destructive powers from outside it — think of Zeus whacking the Titans and Giants, the struggles between the Norse deities and the various powers of fire and frost, the wars of the Irish Tuatha De Danaan against the Fomorians, and so on. By performing a banishing ritual, you're lending your aid to the struggle, opening a channel through which the gods and goddesses can manifest their balancing power more easily and effectively here in the muddled realm of material existence. You're helping them, so they help you help them.

    There's an old board game that was common all over northern and western Europe in early times; the Welsh called it gwyddbwyll, the Irish fidchell, the Norse tafl, and so on. It's an asymmetrical game: one side has a king and 4, 8 , or 12 pawns (depending on the version), the other side has 8, 16, or 24 pawns. The king starts in the center with his pawns around him; the other side starts at the outer edge of the board. The first side's goal is to get the king to the edge of the board, thus symbolically extending his power throughout the realm of being; the other side's goal is to trap the king so he cannot move. It's a very good representation of the way of looking at the world I mentioned above.

    Bonnie, you're welcome and thank you. I think we all make every single mistake there is, in this life or some other. When Taliesin said “I have been all things previously,” I suspect that's included… 😉

    Professor P., fascinating. That could be combined instantly with the Sphere of Protection ritual, interestingly enough. As a banishing by ltself, it would probably want some visualizations and a few other details, but vibrating the vowels as sacred sounds was much practiced in Egypt and Greece and so ought to have a fair amount of power built up. I'd say give it a try and see what results you get.

    Ray, by all means let the spirit move you in terms of when to practice and when not to do so. As noted earlier, not everyone is meant to be a ceremonial magician! With regard to AODA, the current Grand Archdruid is working out a new set of instructional papers — he announced that in the newsletter a while back — and that may be what you're thinking of.

    Roberta, there is indeed a Celtic Cabala. I unearthed bits of it while doing research for my book The Celtic Golden Dawn; there was even a Cabalistic Order of Druids back in the 1930s. The Celtic Golden Dawn covers the basics of the Druidical Cabala, and a much more extensive book — The Celtic Cabala is the working title — is currently in process, and will probably be published in 2018.

  48. JMG, I have a question that as usual is not quite on topic sorry! I've noticed that in debates about immigration and terrorism in Europe the “Refugees Welcome” crowd (for want of a better name for them) have some strange fixation on love and hate. I'm guessing it's Christianity in disguise – the idea that God is love and love your enemies and all that. But they're obsessed with the idea that anyone who disagrees with them must be motivated by hatred. And, more so, that hatred is somehow a completely evil emotion while love is invariably a good one. Maybe that's modern speak for accusing you of being possessed by the Devil! They're trying to impose a human idea of God as Love onto human relationships aren't they?

    But then they have lots of quotable people on their side, like Jesus. Or these ones:

    “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
    – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.”
    – Confucius

    I don't understand that because some people actually find it easy to love and hard to hate. And what feels like love to a human can often be more like obsession, projection, rampaging hormones and can cause huge harm. And what feels like hate can more often be a sense of injustice, healthy anger or an instinctive risk aversion and can be motivated by protection of who and what we love. If many of us much of the time can't tell the difference between that and the kind of love and hate that Confucius etc are presumably talking about then what sense does it make to turn that emotion into some kind of sacred one and therefore call its opposite evil?

    Mallow

  49. @JMG: I'm really getting the Four Sacred Treasures for the Elements, they fit very naturally (that's what I get for thinking too late into the night, the memory suffers).

    Googling for the Creation Myth of the Tuatha I found this article. I'm not putting much stock into it yet, since it's a reconstruction and is the first time I've read it. But there is an interesting part in the end about Fintan mac Bóchra (Fionntain) living part of his life as a Salmon and a Hawk (and probably Bear and Stag). Part of the story seems to be connected to the Myth of the Flooding.

    http://www.irishtribes.com/articles/2012-11-lost-celtic-creation-myth-in-english.html

    (I have more articles to ponder about but I'm posting this right before leaving for my job)

  50. Oh, one other thing, someone mentioned on this blog or the other about religious sensibilities alternating between fear of sex and fear of death. I was reading an article by an Orthodox rabbi who said that the reason women are supposed to abstain from sex during menstruation and then have a purifying bath afterwards isn't because of aversion to biological mess and misogyny. He claimed it's because menstruation represents the death of a potential life whereas sex is part of the creation process and so it's kind of death that is being cleansed away by the rituals, and kept separate from life. I thought that was really interesting because it's almost like a crossover point between death and sexual taboos.

    Mallow.

  51. Oh dear. Lots of bone broth with ginger for you!
    (remember a yang tonic is like blowing on the embers, whereas a yin tonic is actually adding fuel for the fire to feed on later – you need to do both to replenish yang qi long-term. Foodwise, bone broth laced with ginger does very well for this and is easily tolerated long term – providing you are not a vegetarian).

    I want to say that I have learned to my chagrin that acupuncture *can* cause disruptive movements of qi in certain people who are, perhaps, involved in other forms of qi building or qi regulation, including many practices discussed here. And of course these are the cases you think long and hard about…

    I have worked on this and suspect it has something to do with the will. There is a way for me to tune in to what it is the person themselves intends, though most people are far from clear in what they intend. If I neglect this and simply “play” my healing intention over theirs, it can be a mess.

    For someone who practices meditation or magic, or is religiously devout, I find the “one needle” technique useful, and least likely to disturb in a chaotic way. The task is to pinpoint the most important intention, and choose the single point that most resonates with it. Pure focus, not scattered.

    I think there is a question in here about the will, but I'm not yet clear how to articulate it. I will maybe come back to it later.

  52. Eric, no, there won't be lessons. If you want those, I can recommend some books!

    I'm working through the Druid Magic Handbook at a very slow pace now, and my charismatic Christian mother is currently working through Learning Ritual Magic, so I'm following along with her in that to answer questions along the way, and getting at the very least some intellectual familiarity with that system vicariously, and from someone who has had absolutely no experience of magic or occult philosophy at all, which has been exciting to watch unfold. It just looked for a second like you were about to start doing over here what you were doing on the other blog, and start tagging on monthly homework at the end of the essays.

    Regarding working the Tuatha de Dannan into a LRP style ritual, there's also Bríg, who could go nicely in the south. In the West, I’ve seen some scholars suggest that Mann may be another name for the deity Manannan, as well as the name of the island. As for the three principal powers of Irish myth, that seems much easier. It seems to me those would be talam, muir and nem, the powers of land, sea, and sky, which are the primal realms of creation in Irish mythology, and which would by symbolized in gesture by the triskele.

    Thinking more about the 4 letter deity names in the LRP, though, I’m starting to realize something about magical systems, and part of the reason why doing the plug and play thing is so difficult (and potentially dangerous). With the 4 letter names in the LRP, from what I can see, what matters isn’t just that they’re four letters, each of those names is a reflection of a very specific habit in Hebrew tradition of concealing sacred names by encoding them by using anagrams to encode deeper meanings, removing letters, or rendering them unpronounceable. In that sense, the Tetragrammaton, and the other 4 letter renditions of the names of God presented in the LRP have a purpose much more similar to the role Morganwg gives the 3 primal letters and the vowel triads in the Barddas that point the way to the secret name of God while simultaneously concealing it. It seems to me then, that merely substituting four letter words for other four letter words isn't quite enough to get the right effect across, there also would need to be a transfer of purpose. In both Celtic and Norse societies, sacred names are often concealed and codified through kennings and titles so that might be one approach to take. But it seems like something that would take some deep meditative work to get to the heart of, since translating ritual is as much about making sure the meaning translates as the structure.

  53. Hi, JMG. Many thanks for this wonderful series of posts! One of the many reasons I value each and every one of your posts on WOG is your (un)common sense and warnings of the potential pitfalls of practicing magic. I am among those of your readers who have experienced the “downside” of kundalini awakenings. As an adventurous teenager, I delved very deeply into yoga and eastern meditation (to the tune of 3 hours’ daily practice) and started dabbling in kundalini yoga. With no proper teacher available, I had enough sense to head straight for the exit once really weird things started happening to me! Still, this brief flirtation negatively affected my health for over one year. I then decided to limit myself to the philosophical, mystical and devotional workship aspects of Hinduism.

    I have been practicing the SOP for about a year now (starting with the elemental cross and circulation of light and gradually adding an element and spirit as per your recommendation in The Druid Magic Handbook). These days when I don’t have time for the full SOP, I do an abbreviated version (elemental cross and circulation of light only) and I can certainly feel the difference between the “full” and “brief” versions!

    This month’s posting has prompted a question from me. I am eager to progress to the Grove Ceremony, but circumstances do not allow me to use the actual physical substances (incense, candle, etc.) representing the elements. Is it OK for me to perform the ritual without these – or will there be unfavourable results, or no effect whatsoever if I neglect this part of the ritual?

    Lastly, like you, I was introduced to esoteric spirituality via the Kung Fu TV series. Being exposed to such teachings at the age of 9 profoundly affected my life. It still awes me that such a deep program was televised weekly over a period of several years right into the heart of darkness of the American Empire! It would be interesting to speculate on the extent to which it altered the collective unconscious of that period (1972-75).

  54. Hello JMG,

    I just ordered the Druid Magic Handbook and I'm going to get started on the sphere of protection when it arrives. I've also had a recurrent interest in the Tarot and would be curious if you had some books that you might suggest for a novice.

  55. And a good folk magic banishing is done with a simple house broom – one with a wooden handle and a plant-based brush (corn? Straw? Whatever it is) preferred. Sprinkle some cleansing substance like salt around the area, give it a thorough sweeping, with whatever words fit. “Out, out, whatever is harmful, out.” Whatever. Sweeping done counterclockwise because you're getting rid of something; on a waning moon is most effective.

  56. Hi JMG,

    I am interested in folk magic, and wonder if you could recommend a book or a style.

    I would prefer to stay as close to my ancestors as possible, so mostly northern and western Europe/England, not so much Scots or Irish as far as I know.

    And I would like to practice this mostly in relationship with the seasons, with growing food and raising animals, and with the other work of our Small and Delicious Life.

    Thank you,

    Ruben.

  57. JMG– Well it was a weird experience, and not one that I knew was possible before it happened.

    Of course I'm happy that energetic healing modalities are becoming more widespread and even becoming available in hospitals. But I'm worried that, as with the mindfulness meditation craze, the possible risks and the original context are being ignored. The only people who seem to be paying attention to the risks associated with Eastern spiritual and energetic disciplines appear to be Christians of the Paranoid American Protestant style, who are I think legally required to throw a shrieking fit about Satan any time anyone does anything interesting. But as more and more people are introduced to intensive types of qigong, yoga, and so forth, more experiences like the one I had and that others here have had will naturally become more common. I'm afraid it's going to lead to a massive backlash, with all the babies being tossed onto the garbage pile with the bathwater.

    I'm also fascinated by the discussion of fidchell et cetera, and the related worldview. I never thought of it before, but the idea of the gods struggling with chaotic powers from beyond the universe actually makes sense of a few things…

    I note that the goal of the “dark powers” in the game is to *prevent the king from moving.* In other words, stagnation, ossification. Isn't that what happens with the shifting of religious sensibilities that we talked about in the comments last month, and the cycle of the rise and fall of civilizations? A new religious worldview appears. It inspires and grows and becomes the general worldview. Then it stagnates, loses its light, becomes petrified and tyrannical, and people begin to feel its commands as authoritarian burdens rather than as a liberating or inspiring light. The king can no longer move! And so that worldview– really, that world, going back to your first post on this blog– dies. And a new one is born.

  58. John Roth –

    Yes, the “pranic tube” overload that you referenced is basically what I experienced – my etheric body had been badly ruptured and was essentially replaced by my Teacher, to whom I was led in miraculous fashion. It didn't bring the K experience to an end – that I still live with 40 years later – but it did save my life and sanity (barely).

    I don't mean to imply that my experience was and is without its benefits; my condition has dramatically improved over the decades and has certainly honed my spiritual insight and sobriety. Eventually the flow of K energy can be channeled from the crown chakra downward, as I experienced via another miraculously-found Teacher. And, I have to say, a morbid K awakening is certainly a way of expiating a boatload of lifetimes of karma in one concentrated starburst.

    Still, I sometimes envision some poor 17 year old kid like me out there in the hinterlands, right now, not knowing what kundalini is, nor energy centers, nor really anything metaphysically substantive, who through meditating or perhaps a physical injury, experiencing a full-blown K eruption and having the contents of his or her unconscious mind suddenly, unceasingly, flood into the conscious mind as the body weakens dramatically, and knowing only that something is terribly wrong, without a notion of where to find relief. I can only hope and pray that they will find the same help I did.

    Btw, JMG – at the same time the Golden Dawn was really rolling in the early 20th c, the political/metaphysical philosopher Sri Aurobindo was also advocating a “top down” energy flow, an awakening that he evidently experienced.

  59. Greetings from a fellow former South Seattle resident, JMG. I've read, enjoyed, and benefitted immensely from both of your blogs, and several of your books, for many years. Thank you so much for what you do. I'm a bit bashful, but here goes:

    I took heart awhile ago when I read a term I believe you applied to a commenter a few months back who had tried many paths, and was currently practicing a bit of this, and a bit of that. “Eclectic Esotericist” was the term, I think. Anyway, that sure spoke to my situation. My childhood and young adulthood was all about Christianity, and trying oh so hard to believe in Jesus as the only son of God. Epic fail. Moved on to Tibetan Buddhism for several years, then Sant Mat for several more. Took a few years off, and then took a run at OBOD and completed the first year. None of these stops were without benefit, but I'm not there anymore. Currently, SoP with Norse deities, working with the runes, and Step 1.5 of Franz Bardon's IIH. Am enrolled for Reiki I this week.

    My question: I dabble in genealogy off and on. All of my life, I've had the great good fortune to sense kind, usually feminine, beings near me. Not often, mind you, but I am certain they exist. Two weeks ago I was finally able to trace one of my long ago grandmothers to a Lutheran PA Dutch community in colonial era PA. The next morning, I could swear her loving presence permeated my home for a few minutes. My first thought was “Disir! My German/Norse ancestors understood this all along!” My husband is cool with this, but only on your blog would I dare to tell this story.

    My best to you and your amazing commenters.

    OtterGirl

  60. .Mallow, that sort of sloganeering is typical liberal doubletalk. If you want to hear a world-class hatefest, get a bunch of liberals talking about the people whom they accuse of hating others. The words “love” and “hate” function, in this discourse, as misleading markers for specific political stances with even more specific economic motivations — and it's precisely to cover up those latter that everything gets phrased in terms of abstract values such as love and hate.

    That said, you've made another good point here, which is that “love” can be used as a label for destructive emotions and “hate” can be slapped onto emotions that are healthy and appropriate. A human being who has achieved wholeness can hate when that's appropriate, love when that's appropriate, and experience every other emotional state when that's appropriate — and that, to my mind, is healthy, and a goal worth achieving. To me, similarly, the idea that one emotional state ought to be forbidden and its opposite ought to be mandatory looks like emotional amputation. It's also a good way to end up hypocritical and neurotic — look what's happened to every other normal human emotional state that's been suppressed by some similar binary rule!

    Nicolas, I think Eric's suggestion of Talam, Muir, and Nem (Land, Sea, and Sky) will work very well for an opening and closing gesture. Can you, or any of our other Irish speakers, give me a translation (with pronunciation help!) of the following words into Irish:

    “I invoke the blessings of Land, Sea, and Sky into this place. So be it!”

    I've already worked out the gestures, using the triquetra or triple knot. So I think we're almost there!

    .Mallow, fascinating.

    Scotlyn, fortunately I'm an omnitarian, and yes, bone broth and a variety of warming spiced play significant roles in our cuisine. (They would anyway, but this is lagniappe.) As for one point acupuncture, that makes perfect sense — just as a lot of herbalists these days are turning to simples (single herbs) rather than the traditional complex blends, because body states are so diverse it's hard to be sure that a blend will have the effect you want.

    Sven, good question. I've simply found through repeated experiment that it does indeed make a difference.

    Eric, hmm! I wasn't aware that Brigid's name could be spelled that way. If so, yes, that would work. I'd put Ogma in the west rather than Mann, because there's a specific association in Druidry between the west and learning; of course then you have the elemental deities you invoke in the greater pentagram ritual et al., and in that Manannan would be the obvious choice for water. With regard to the Hebrew names, yes, they include a lot of Cabalistic intricacies; all I can say is that most members of the DOGD have mentioned to me that the Druidical LRP, which has none of those, is at least as powerful as the Hermetic version, so the intricacies may be more in the way of interesting options than magical requirements.

    Ron, can you use other symbols of the elements that don't involve fire, say? I also learned a version of the ritual, in one of AODA's sister orders, that uses a feather fan, a wand, a cup, and a stone as elemental emblems, and treats them the same way the AODA grove ritual uses the four cauldrons. It worked just as well.

  61. Jeff, it's been a very long time since I've done anything with the Tarot, and I have no idea what books are available these days! As long as you have a deck that resonates with you, and you cast lots of readings, write down your interpretations, and check back later to see what you missed, you should have no trouble learning how to read Tarot.

    Patricia, and that's extremely well suited to a folk magic practice. I'm not sure if it would have the same effect as the lesser ritual of the pentagram, say, if practiced daily — but it might be worth the experiment.

    Nicholas, interesting. No question, though, the signal-to-noise ratio on the internet is very low.

    Ruben, that's not something I've studied. Does anyone else have suggestions?

    Steve, agreed. I plan on talking about the problems with mindfulness meditation in an upcoming post — more generally, about what happens when you take a subtle spiritual technique, wrench it out of its context in a system of training, and turn it into a tranquilizer for stressed yuppies. The situation with energy healing is comparable, though there the big problem is that so few people realize that there's a potential for harm. With regard to fidchell, though — thank you! That's not an application of the metaphor I'd thought of, and it works.

    Will, fascinating. Not surprising — Aurobindo was influenced by Western occultism — but I'd be interested in learning more about it. Can you recommend a source?

    OtterGirl, thank you for your story! No need to be bashful — this sort of thing happens. Given the number of German Rosicrucians who came to colonial Pennsylvania and taught their occultism to others (there's a reason why Pennsylvania Dutch magic is so rich!), your ancestress may have understood the matter just as much as her ancestors further back. If you cultivate the ancestral contact, some interesting things might come through…

  62. @JMG: I won't be able to help with the Irish translation unfortunately. It's not a language that is taught in my country. And that means the Tree of Life needs to be adapted by somebody else since the Welsh names are not going to work well with an Irish Celtic GD system. Since I don't want to jump ahead on the book I'm guessing that a lot of things are going to need adaptations.

  63. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful response, JMG. I read the first half of “The Red Church” and very much enjoyed it. But, since I am not a Christian in the only-son-of-God sense, I figured that was that. You mentioned the Rosicrucians. My ears perked up big time. I want to follow that up. Would you please point me in the right direction?

    Whew! I am SO glad I shared my story with you!

    OtterGirl

  64. Thank you JMG, and I would welcome any advice from other readers as well.

    Maybe I made my question sound more detailed than it is. What I mostly mean is that I don't want to learn voodoo, because that seems entirely culturally unrelated to my experience.

    The folk magic of agrarian peasants is what would most interest me.

    Cheers,

    ruben.

  65. Thanks JMG!

    I can kind of help with Irish – we learn it in school.

    Breege is definitely another way of saying Brigid (or Bridget or Brigit or Bridgit!). Older people spelled it that way – like here:

    http://www.funeraltimes.com/bridget-breegefahey103313465

    It’s like an everyday, pet name for a Bridget. You often get those in Ireland – a more formal name and the one that everyone who knows you calls you by. But Breege would be an anglicized spelling of a name as English speakers heard it.

    Brighid is the older spelling and Brid is the more modern one. You pronounce them the same (breed) in some dialects but in others the d at the end is so soft it sounds much more like Breege. It turns into Bhride when it’s possessive like here:

    http://solasbhride.ie/

    I don’t know about Brig (with a fada over the i which I can’t find on my computer). I haven’t seen it before and a g like that would be an unusual ending in Irish. Brigh might be more like it. But different dialects of Irish in each province pronounced things differently anyway so if they could have spelled they probably would have spelled them differently too.

    The word for earth is talamh (like thaluv or tholuv). The t is more dental like in ‘thorn’ rather than sharp like in ‘tin’ or really soft like in ‘through’. I think talam is old Irish. They used to put a dot over an m on the end like that to make it soft like mh, so it’s the same word really.

    Muir is pronounced mwir.

    Nem again is old Irish and I don’t know how they pronounced it but now it’s Neamh (nyav). It means heaven as well as sky.

    When we were taught the Our Father in Irish it went: “Go ndéantar do thoil ar an talamh mar a dhéantar ar neamh.” = Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

    Basically I think there’s genuinely no one right answer for Irish spellings and pronunciation because Irish was passed on through oral culture mostly and wasn’t uniform for most of that time. It still isn’t and the different dialects are all correct. So is old Irish spelling but no one learns that anymore.

    I couldn’t translate that ritual phrase though, my Irish isn’t that good! I might be able to help with pronunciation if anyone else has the words though.

    Catholic literature and prayers in Irish would probably be the best source because they put lots of work into translating those properly and it’s maybe the only place you might find terms like invoke.

  66. John, to the best of my (reasonably extensive) knowledge, Wicca does not have any kind of iconic daily cleansing/protection practice, though some Witches of my acquaintance use the LBRP or a variation thereof. It's definitely a weakness in the teachings. I do know some who have a daily practice of one kind or another, and I find myself wondering if/what they include for cleansing and protection. Now I'm curious, so I think I'll ask around.

    For myself, a decade or so ago I finally put together a quick, comprehensive cleansing/grounding/protection practice for myself that involves breath, gesture, visualization, and speech, starting with a basic Tai Chi cleansing practice I learned from my sifu, a balancing along my spine between Earth and the stars, a connection with the Elements in their directions, and ending with a visualized semi-permeable membrane around myself. It works.

    I've taught this to all of my students. It can be done in two to three minutes. I always suggest it be done daily. I explain that, once mastered, it can be simply visualized when needed (I taught in a prison for a while. Discretion was necessary for them) But when I ask, almost invariably I find that the daily practice isn't happening. At best, a couple of times a week, if that. The “daily” part seems to be where the resistance to growth arises most predictably, probably because it is so profoundly transformative. I always know when I've hit a wall in my own growth, because I somehow start to “miss” days.

  67. Thank you for your this excellent blog, JMG – I’m getting a lot out of it.

    I’m hoping you (or anyone else) might have a bit of advice. I’m into Chapter 3 of Learning Ritual Magic, but am having difficulty with the attention / meditation exercises.

    We have a sweet, affectionate, small, young dog – and his demands for attention make focusing and getting mentally “into the zone” difficult. The best work-around I’ve come up with so far is to go through a quick morning routine to settle him, let him fall asleep in my lap, move him to his bed, and then I can get on with things.

    Though this isn’t as reliable as I would like, it work most of the time. I am able to do the LBRP and Cabalistic Cross while he sleeps. The other day, on my first attempt I was even successful in laying out the Trumps in circle on the floor and doing the visualization exercise while he slept. I have two reservations, however: 1) it’s always on the back of my mind that I could get interrupted at any moment, and 2) I wonder how much this will be a problem going forward?

    How have others solved this issue?

    I have a course on basic Sigils. Perhaps that would help further. On the other hand, in the interest of not mixing systems – should I finish L.R.M. before beginning with Sigils?

    Thank you again.

  68. @Jeff and JMG: For Tarot, wouldn't Learning Ritual Magic be a good starting point, since the Tarot is at the heart of that system?

    @Ruben: The place you'd want to start if that's the direction you want to go is cunning craft, which is British, Scandinavian, and Central European Folk Magic (and which continued well into the early 20th century). The best book on the subject I currently know of that's out there is Stephen Pollington's book, which is a really comprehensive guide to everything, along with some translations from the Old English of some primary source documents (http://www.asbooks.co.uk/t%20Leechcraft.htm). There's also a really good chapter on early modern cunning craft in Phillip Carr-Gomm's “Book of English Magic” with a bibliography highly worth perusing. And Owen Davies has some good historical material on the subject if you're interested in cultural context and background. There are modern practical guidebooks too, but one of the things that happened to the cunning craft tradition, particularly in Britain, was that it went into severe decline with industrialization, and much of what was left of it got absorbed into Wicca in the 20th century, so you'll find a lot of stuff that's got some good traditional techniques but has been severely goddess-washed.

  69. Hi Will,

    Yes, it is a tremendously altering experience, everything is changed, and usually no one around to share the experience with… I was a couple of years older than you when I had my awakening. Physically if anything – for the most part – it has strengthened me, but mentally, yes, there was great difficulty. 2, or 3, years madness/wildness seems to be the standard motif from myth after such an awakening, but you say you had decades of trouble – how are you doing now, or – if you don't mind me asking – what are you doing? I can identify with the sequestered life, I have adopted a pretty rigid lifestyle, and schedule… Seems to be a force vs form set-up a lot… Only so much energy/issues one can take at a time. In the past couple of years, though, I've definitely been branching out more. I'm 5 years in. Looking back – it does seem like I was pretty primed for it.
    Like you, actually, I was lucky enough to come across some unlikely aid when I was really struggling.
    It's a great challenge. Jung has the individuation process being potentially damaging if set off before mid-life;and Gareth Knight on the importance of having had proper relationships before awakening the kundalini… Although, we didn't have much choice in the matter!
    These days, with the internet, I think most people will find out what's happening to them, and what they are undergoing. I found it helped, for the most part, especially when you're in the midst of it, although there's a lot of fear inducing material out there also.

  70. All right, my mind is blown right now.

    Just as a bit of playful exercise– not with any real serious intent– over the last couple of days, I've been playing the mental game of trying to fit deities from the Shinto pantheon into the formula you laid out in comments (and elsewhere) for a Ritual of the Lesser Pentagram. Of course, it was just a bit of play– I recognized that Shinto and western magic are two different beasts which have evolved in different directions for thousands of years, right?

    Then suddenly, tonight in the shower– not coincidentally, for each time I shower I do a quick cold water cleansing “misogi” prayer– I realized something. *There already is one*. It's the Oharai Kotoba, aka “Great Prayer of Purification”. It's very nearly an exact fit. (Specifically especially to the Celtic Golden Dawn version.) I mean it, exact. It's rather insane, actually. It's so precise, it's almost unsettling to me right now. It's like I've turned a secret key to a door that nobody had even noticed for hundreds of years.

    The Oharai Kotoba begins in the heavens. There, Kamurogi and Kamuromi (the “male force” kami and the “female force” kami– who I imagine one could imagine in the forms of beams of light) summon between them Yaoyorozu no kamitachi (all of the “myriad gods” of the universe — which one could well imagine as, say, a third great beam of light in the middle). They confer of aiding a fellow Sumemima (“holy grandchild of heaven”) to bring peace and tranquility to the land below, and returning errant stray thoughts, er, I mean “rough kami” to harmony, and bringing silence to the entire meditative state, er, I mean every single leaf and blade of grass in the land.

    So they take this holy grandchild of heavens down to the land, where his job is going to be to bring order and tranquility to the “four corners of the land”, dwelling within a sacred shrine whose most notable feature is a grand pillar reaching from the earth to the heavens.

    So, that's the Rite of the Rays done with.

    (Parenthetical aside to hypothetical folks who might be following along with an English translation– I haven't yet found a translation that satisfies me, as they all seem to add a bunch of language in that is merely their own interpretation of what the words must mean, as opposed to just saying simply what the words say.) (Yes, I am planning to make my own, intentionally bare bones, translation at some point.) (Also, if you're using the most common Evans translation, IMO you can skip the part that goes “Heavenly offenses such as those committed in the Expanse of High Heaven where…” all the way to “…For disregard of the order of Nature brings sorrow and darkness”, because that’s all a modern addition that wasn’t at all in the prayer as it originally was transcribed in the Engishiki. Just replace the whole passage with the phrase “Heavenly sins and Earthly sins.”)

    The next section starts with, the land will prosper under the guidance of the sun; but when there is sin, either heavenly or earthly (the word “kegare” is not used here—it actually doesn’t appear in this prayer—but perhaps a heavenly sin would be akin to kegare?), then to remove it, then a priest shall do, er, something or other I don’t quite understand yet*–

    *(next is a short section involving clipping the tops and bottoms of golden trees and in some way arranging them. The translations I have deal with it very differently, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it myself yet looking at the original Japanese, so it requires more research. [And ponying up the cash for an Old Japanese grammar book.] But it’s almost certainly something to do with proper offerings or display setting when doing ritual.)

    –after which they will intone Heavenly Words with grandness/thickness. (Vibration, perhaps?)

  71. Sorry, going long here– with your indulgence, I'll continue on to a second comment.

    Next comes of a description of what various kami will do when called upon, and saying the kinds of things they might do or it will be as if they might do – it seems to be a metaphorical grammar construction. But I think it is notable that this results in various elements being mentioned.

    First the kami will climb from the tops down to the bottoms of mountains, clearing away fog and making all clear— with the “winds of heaven” (which seem to be contrasted to later more usual winds which appear just after). One could easily read “Fire” in the esoteric elemental sense here, although I grant there’s room for debate on that matter.

    Next it is told how it will be as if morning and evening mists are cleared by morning and evening winds—of the conventional kind. Clearly “Air”.

    Next, that it will be as if a mighty ship is released into the ocean. “Water”.

    Finally, that it will be as if a thick tree is felled at the roots by a sharp iron sickle. “Earth”.

    Assuming my read on Fire is correct, it’s not only the right elements—it’s in Exactly. The same. Order. I believe this may even be sufficient grounds to suggest that the directional correspondences could be the same, when it comes to administering to the “four corners of the land” referred to earlier.

    And now, finally, the invocation of particular gods for the great cleansing. First is Seoritsu-Hime (“hime” means “princess” but here also means “-goddess”), goddess of fast rivers and waterfalls of the high and low mountains. She is first to receive the impurities; she takes them through her rivers down to the ocean, where they are swallowed in a vast whirlpool by Hayaakitsu-Hime, goddess of the rough and salty tides; from there, the impurities are somehow transmitted to Ibukido-Nushi (“nushi” means “lord” but here also means “-god”), god of the door of the breath; and finally, he blows with great wind and the impurities travel to Hayasasura-Hime, wanderer of the deep “root country”, i.e. bowels of the earth, where the impurities will be crumbled and forgotten.

    So the order is:

    1. Seoritsuセオリツ – water
    2. Hayaakitsu ハヤキツ – salt, myriad rough tides, whirlpools – for obvious reasons, I’ll suggest that if you squint, it’s fire?
    3. Ibukido イブキド – air
    4. Hayasasura ハヤサスラ – earth

    Except for Hayasasura-hime, the god names are each even spelled with four letters. (Technically Hayaakitsu is usually five, but I’ve seen the four letter version too.) And I wonder if I dig, I can find an alternate name for Hayasasura-hime – Shinto abounds with alternate god names. Unfortunately, the genders don’t match your suggested rules for gender balance. Only one male god in the bunch!

    As is plain to see, is clearly specifically a banishing ritual, literally banishing impure elements to the very depths of the earth. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that the order of the elements for the gods is precisely the reverse order they came in when the elements were listed before. I.e. the first time it was Fire->Air->Water->Earth, but pivots to turn around on the “high and low mountains” so to speak, to go backwards, Water->Air->Fire->Earth. Counter-clockwise back round the circle?

    This is all just amazing me too much. This is really something. For those who don’t know, the Oharai Kotoba is one of the very most central prayers – probably THE very most central prayer, really – of Shinto as it practiced today.

  72. Thanks for this post. It looks almost like it was made to answer a question I asked a few days ago, although I'm sure it was just what you were going to write anyway.

    Ok! So, some specific questions:

    1. Is is possible to perform magic unintentionally? Part of what you said seems to suggest that it isn't, but I'd like to be clear about that. For example, if someone learned to play and sing a lot of dark-themed songs not of his own making, would he be at risk of attracting unwanted attention from the theosphere, or collecting extra kegare, or anything like that?

    2. Would I be at any particular risk if I performed an Elemental Cross ritual as outlined in this page without knowing anything else? The page says practice that step daily for a week.

    Thanks very much.

  73. I know you said to ignore whatever you have to say if one is following another magical system, but I have to say that I see a lot of similarities between what you wrote and magical training in certain Asian systems.

    I think a lot of people don't like to call it “magic” over there, but tantra in both Buddhist and Hindu forms has a very similar structure. Vajrayana Buddhism also teaches a daily, foundational practice to clear oneself of the “muck” — different teachers might teach different practices but the goal of purifying one's body, balancing the elements, with mantra, mudra and visualization is all there.

    There are a lot of similarities between the Indian systems and the Arab system too. In both systems, as part of a ritual, you request a ritual space from resident spirits, request them to leave, set up a boundary, invoke beings and recite large numbers of mantras to focus your invocation. There used to be a man named Aghor Pir who had trained extensively in Ruhaniya (Arabic/Islamic esoterism) as well as Hindu tantra who described some of this online. Unfortunately he stopped posting and deleted all his posts.

    I personally suspect that this form of praxis passed from India to the Muslim world, then from there to mediaeval Europe. The Arabic grimoires are full of references to India being the source of much of their lore; the Arabic grimoire Al-Ajnas for example has an operation called Al-Mandal, which is clearly derived from Mandala, and indeed refers to its Indian origins. This got passed on to Europe with some changes as Almadel/Almandel. On the other hand, I've heard other people say that it is due less to that than an inherited older ritual structure from proto-Indo-European times.

    A few things that seem to have been lost in the transition to mediaeval Europe though, seem to me to include: the kind of daily practice to “banish/purify” and “invoke”, the use of visualization, and the use of repeated mantras. I mean the grimoires do also talk about how to consecrate the circle, and to fast and purify yourself before the working, but it isn't taught in the form of a daily practice. Visualization and repetition of mantras are not taught at all, AFAIK.

    Do you know what might explain this?

  74. Two more quick notes about Shinto vis a vis a “ritual of the pentagram”.

    One is that the ritual movement for purification that gets repeated over and over and over again in Shinto is tripartite. Left-Right-Left. That's the order to wash hands; it's the order to pass through chinowa (big purification rings), it's the order that priests will wave gohei (purity wands) over you. I can't help noticing a similarity to the tripartite Left-Right-Center of the CGD.

    The other is pentagrams itself. As perhaps you are already aware, Shinto has its own famous “Merlin” type character, named Abe no Seimei (actually a master of onmyodo– the fusion of daoism and the Japanese folk religion of that age from which modern Shinto possibly received many of its ritual forms and symbolism). Visit one of the shrines dedicated to him, and guess what you'll see plastered all over the place? Yep.

  75. Parts of the lifestyle and routine I've adopted, I guess, are also hang-ups and parts of my psyche, now irresistibly made manifest and played out due to the surplus of energy. Just like the situations one runs into, again and again! I think the energy also has requirements – and intentions – though, and everyone has to make adjustments after an awakening.
    I could start to align my awakening into different phases, perhaps, just like in alchemy for instance. After a time new possibilities arise, and the way seems to become gradually clearer…

  76. Jeff, if I may be so bold to jump in, I teach and give talks on tarot and would be happy to continue the conversation outside of this comments section. I have a number of good books I would recommend, as well as decks I consider the most useful (for magic or otherwise). Let me know—I'm not sure if I can leave contact info or links, but if so I will direct you to my website.

  77. I know a couple of people who from your description have a lot of kegare in their lives, but who are also not at all interested in ritual purifications. Is it possible to help them out anyway?

    I also remember you mentioning a book on defensive magic. Could you give that reference again?

    Thanks for another fascinating blog!

  78. Thanks for a useful post. I know I sound like I pick things a bit at random, and it's true that I do, but what I haven't mentioned before is that from the start I tried to get a decent roadmap into magic that I could make sense of. The difficulty for me was finding one that made sense for me.

    That's why I've ended up looking mostly at modern stuff – I did look at older things, there's a wonderful lot of older texts at sacred-texts.com that you can look at your leisure for free. It's just that the older stuff was simply confusing. I think some of it has helped and sunk in, though. The Gnostic Christian texts are utterly baffling, but they also made me realize that by then, magic was well developed, and not at all in its early days, which is what I thought at the beginning. And I'm sure some of it gave me some correct ideas, even though I couldn't make head or tail of it at the time. I also looked at some ancient Egyptian material, and even though at the start I found it close to impossible to relate to (too much of a cultural gap), I kept doing it because so many sources keep referring to it, and eventually some of it started to make some sense. But by and large, the modern texts are so much easier – even when they're talking about ancient things, they're talking to a modern reader.

    I looked at a whole bunch of things as a roadmap: the traditional seven planets, Tarot, Kabbalah. I found all of them more confusing than helpful as a beginner. I ended up looking at the traditional elements (water, fire, air and earth) as my last choice – I really didn't want to, because my first impression was that everyone had a different idea of what the element correspondences are, and how can you do any magic if you aren't even sure about the correspondences? It actually was looking at the angels of Rennes le Chateau that I got my first good feel for the elements (each of the angels represents one of the elements, and once I noticed that, a few things started clicking into place). By the way, this was about seven or eight months ago, I'm not talking about my recent meditation on them. At that point I started to see that there was more agreement that I had thought initially about the correspondences with the elements, and I could start trying to work with them.

    The first one I got a handle on was water, though at the time I didn't even know it was water elemental forces I was invoking, and actually, it was only much later that I realized that was what people were calling water elementals. Then I managed to invoke air elementals, and that's when I started making comments here. During the gap when I wasn't posting I learned to invoke earth, and shortly afterwards I figured fire – well, it wasn't so much that I figured it out last, it was that it seemed so easy at the start that I hardly made any effort into that direction, and it's been only recently that it dawned on me what a stupid mistake that was. You can easily argue that fire is the most powerful element. And fire has been my main focus lately. A perceptive mage like JMG might have felt that I was pursuing only fiery activities lately, like the Sun meditation. But I was mostly trying to catch up with lost time, so to speak.

    I'm now back on to the planets. I gather that Mercury corresponds to air, Venus to water, Mars to fire and Jupiter to earth. That leaves me the Sun, the Moon and Saturn to work on. I think I have a general idea of what working on each of them is about, but I'm still trying to make sense of specifics.

    Also, there are some experiments I'd like to try before moving on to any more planets, but I want to be quite cautious about it. There's no point in pissing off entities in the astral plane or attracting unwanted attention. So far, I've just watched stuff. But it's probably high time I try to get astral entities to respond to me. I just want to think very carefully what it is that I'd like to try.

  79. Great post. I actually bought a folk magic book but after reading a bit of “Learning Ritual Magic” I realized what was wrong with the book I already had — no theory, no technique. Basically anthropological. Are there any folk authors or books you recommend?

  80. @ Ruben, on resources for folk magic–

    “The Cunningman's Handbook” by Jim Baker contains a large amount of folk magic material from England from the 16th through the 20th century. “The Long-Lost Friend” is a collection of 19th century Pennsylvania Dutch magic. It is available online here: http://sacred-texts.com/ame/pow/pow113.htm

    Interestingly, I've noticed some overlap in the charms presented in both books. For example, a spell in The Cunning Man's Handbook against malevolent magic reads “Bedgoblin and all ye evil spirits, I forbid you my bedstead, my couch…till you have traveled over every hillock, waded through every water, have counted all the leaflets of the trees, and counted all the starlets in the sky, until that beloved day arrives when the mother of God will bring forth her second Son.”

    Meanwhile, here is one of the spells in the Long-Lost Friend (http://sacred-texts.com/ame/pow/pow113.htm). These words are to be written above your stable, to protect your cattle from witchcraft:

    “Trotter Head, I forbid thee my house and premises; I forbid thee my horse and cow-stable; I forbid thee my bedstead, that thou mayest not breathe upon me; breathe into some other house, until thou hast ascended every hill, until thou hast counted every fence-post, and until thou hast crossed every water.”

    …I was trying to find the exact page on which the spell appears in The Cunning Man's handbook. I don't have the physical book with me, and you can't pull it up on Google Books. My source for it is from Gordon White's blog (http://runesoup.com/2014/12/the-best-films-and-books-of-2014-plus-a-spell/, near the bottom of the page). So I went to Google Books and searched for “Bedgoblin and all ye evil spirits.” Here is the first result:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=SxG9dirwRDIC&pg=PA266&dq=Bedgoblin+and+all+ye+evil+spirits&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi18Zn3kdvOAhVC8GMKHTVvCogQ6AEIIDAA#v=onepage&q=Bedgoblin%20and%20all%20ye%20evil%20spirits&f=false

    This book, “The Red Church, or, The Art of Pennsylvania German Braucherei” is probably a great place to start– though I hadn't heard of it until today. However, it's turned up via two completely unrelated sources– my search for the spell from The Cunning Man's Handbook, and a comment by OtterGirl that I read about the same time, in a different browser window. That kind of synchronicity is worth paying attention to.

    (Hmm! My own roots go very deep in Pennsylvania, and within the last week I've felt a prompting to research and contact my own ancestors from the region.)

    I think it's only fair to note that I attempted the “Bedgoblin” spell more than once during the Weird Kundalini Or Something experience I mentioned in my earlier comments, without effect– though that may simply lend support to the idea that it was my excessive practice of Taoist energy work that brought the weird things forth, rather than an external factor.

  81. You know, that does make some sense. I've been doing some experimenting myself with the ritual, and just like you I've found that certain Déithe will do very well in it, while certain others not so much. What I've paid attention to, though, has been syllables rather than the number of letters, and found that two syllable names seem to respond the best, one slightly less, but still quite sufficient, while invoking God/s/desses with three or more syllables to their name more often than not falls flat on its back (notably Manannan son of Lír in the western quarter whom I thought would be the obvious choice). It's almost like vibrating a name with many syllables somehow dilutes the power before it's projected.

    I think I'm gonna have a go at it tomorrow at noon with Lugh, Brighid, Ogma and Danu. For the opening I suggest “Iarram ar na cumhachtaí Talam, ar Muir agus Nem. Beidh sé amlaidh!”

    I'll file my report afterwards.

    Oh, and for Jeff and others who are looking for a book on Tarot, “Tarot: Theory and Practice” by Ly de Angeles might prove a good option.

  82. Nicolas, true enough — the entire thing would need to be revised to use traditional Irish rather than Welsh Druid Revival concepts, words of power, terminology, etc. That's something I've had in mind for some time, but I'd need to work with a coauthor who's familiar with the Irish material — I'm not, as it's never really spoken to me, and the material in Yeats' “Castle of Heroes” papers is fragmentary enough that it's not adequate by itself.

    (More generally, I'd like to see more Pagan polytheist Golden Dawn workings; I've been working with one person who's made a lot of progress on a Hellenic GD system, and heard from a couple of people who are working on a Norse GD; it should be applicable to any pantheon and tradition — but such projects require a thorough familiarity with the tradition in question.)

    OtterGirl, there are a lot of really awful books on the Rosicrucians and not many good ones. Christopher McIntosh's The Rosicrucians is probably the best introduction; Frances Yates' The Rosicrucian Enlightenment is a good source for the history behind the movement. Those ought to get you started. The Rosicrucian movement is a Christian occult tradition, btw; if you had Rosicrucian ancestors in Pennsylvania, they probably thought of themselves as good Lutherans — but the local pastor probably didn't agree!

    Ruben, understood — though there's a huge difference between voodoo (properly, Vodoun) and hoodoo. Vodoun is a religion from Haiti; hoodoo is pure folk magic, and originated in the American South. The similarity of the names is unfortunate as it's caused a lot of confusion.

    .Mallow, thank you! Interesting that neamh is so exact a cognate of Welsh nef (pronounced nev), which is also both heaven and sky, and relates to nwyfre, the Druid Revival term for life force/magical energy/qi. Is there an Irish word related to neamh that means something like spirit or spiritual power?

    Dio, no question, daily practice is the step at which most prospective students balk. I emphasize it precisely because it's a good way to determine who's got the capacity to become a capable operative mage, and who would be better off doing something else in the occult field.

    David, once you get into serious ritual work, you'll probably need a puppy sitter or some similar arrangement. Though it's also true that your pup will presumably get calmer as it gets older…

    Eric, but it's not primarily focused on Tarot divination, which I assume is what Jeff's after.

    Quin, utterly fascinating. I'm not actually surprised, though — there are remarkable parallels among magical systems from around the world: I've read translated Taoist rituals for summoning spirits that read like something out of a medieval European grimoire, for example. Still, I wonder if back in the day, there were gestures to be made and images to be visualized when you perform the Oharae Kotoba…

    Stacy, of course you can do magic unintentionally. Everyone does so all the time. The point of magical training is to get to the point that you do it consciously, to achieve what you want, rather than unconsciously, according to whatever set of self-frustrating programming you got from your family, schooling, religious training, etc. With regard to just doing an elemental cross, well, what do you hope to achieve by just doing that?

  83. @JMG: IF I were an expert I would offer myself for that endeavor. Perhaps this could be done here, going step by step. In the meantime I'll go with the program as detailed in the book and see if I get results.

  84. Alvin, there are indeed — I just didn't want to have overenthusiastic readers taking a copy of my post to Tibetan lamas, Vodoun houngans, Martinist initiators, etc., etc., and insisting that they were doing it all wrong because JMG said blah blah blah. As for the omissions in the medieval grimoire tradition, that's because the medieval grimoires assume you're using them as a supplement to participation in medieval Christian spiritual practice, where you've got mantric prayers (the Paternoster, the Ave Maria, etc.) recited with a mala — er, rosary — and a whole series of practices known as “sacramentals,” most of which got dumped in the wake of the Reformation. Those were your basic practices, onto which you add the ceremonies of evocation; the latter weren't meant to be used all by themselves.

    Quin, no, I hadn't heard about Abe no Seimei — my Japanese stepfamily are Shingon Buddhists, so of course the Merlinesque figure I heard about was Kobo Daishi. I'll have to look Abe no Seimei up. (By the way — and I address this expostulation to the audient void, not to you in particular — will someone please write a book in English on Onmyodo? The one aspect of that I've had the chance to encounter, the Nine Star Ki, works extremely well, and I suspect a lot of people in the Anglophone world would be interested in more.

    Emmanuel, no, if somebody likes to wallow in filth, that's their right, and there's no way to change that from outside. The book in question is Dion Fortune's Psychic Self-Defence.

    Maria, no, the planets aren't identical to the elements. Take your time with them, get to know them, and you'll get a sense of their qualities and nature.

    Colin, I'm partial to Cat Yronwode's books on Southern conjure, but the best of them (which covers theory) is only available to students of her correspondence course (which I highly recommend, btw). Other than that, you might follow Eric S.'s advice to Ruben above.

    Sven, fair enough; I'll look forward to your report. How do you pronounce the invocation, by the way? I can parse Welsh, Cornish, and Breton, but the Goidelic languages, not so much…

  85. Bummer, my tarot post I spent 30 minutes writing disappeared. Instead of rewriting it, here is the list of books I recommend to my students (below). You can't go wrong with getting Jodorowsky's The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards and everything Gareth Knight has written on the subject. I'm partial to the older (pre-20th century) decks like the Marseille because I think they are more powerful, whether used for ritual or divination. But if you are working in the Golden Dawn tradition, the Ciceros' Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot is very faithful to the order's teachings, although the artwork is not to everyone's taste.

    The Rider-Waite (Waite-Smith) is a great beginner deck, but I think in the long run it can stunt a reader's growth by being too explicit in its illustrations. The Crowley Thoth is a beautiful work of art, and reads well, but is too infused with Thelemic content for my taste. It may sound paradoxical but it's true—the older decks, though they are simpler and not stuffed with the esoteric cruft of most modern decks, actually can provide richer readings. Now I only read with ancient decks and my readings have never been better.

    My list of books is here: http://tarotbootcamp.com/recommended-tarot-books/

    I especially recommend that people study the tarot's history. There's a lot of pseudo history out there, and it will make you a better reader if you know the real story.

  86. JMG,
    On the sidebar of this page I noticed that you have a forthcoming book on architecture and sacred geometry. As an architect myself, I have a keen interest in the shaping of the built environment. It has taken years to critically assess the brainwashing done by contemporary architectural education. I have always suspected that architecture could and must address more that what I was taught. I eagerly await reading your take on the matter. Thank you for your continuing, thoughtful scholarship!

  87. Hi JMG,

    Thank you for the in depth response. I have had to take a bit of time to dwell upon the meanings of your reply. Nothing here is simple, but then I enjoy that aspect – as do the others here – of these complex topics.

    I'm unfortunately left with the question of why would the world be in a state of balance against various chaotic and destructive powers from outside it. I hear you though but just need a bit of time to process that thought.

    Cheers

    Chris

  88. Ooooh!!!! I have an answer!!!! Find a local beekeeper or honey shop anywhere near your home or just order real beeswax over the internet. 80% of honeybees are dead now, our beekeepers need all the support they can get. Many sell beeswax candles, but if you're crafty and have little time, you can buy the beeswax and wicks and learn to make candles of your own. I like turning little mason jars into container candles. You can add herbs and stones and 100% customize the candle which is awesome. I hope that helps 🙂

  89. Oh, with the beeswax, yes, I use less candles, you're right! I label them and save them, so every time I light a candle for fire, I use the same fire candle until it's gone. I have a specific candle for each god and I reuse it. Every time I do a ritual I dig through my candles and pull all the ones I need then decide if I need any others. When they are tiny stubs I melt them down and the process starts all over again, and I try to melt similar energies together when I make new candles. For tapers, I save them wrapped in scraps of cloth so their colors don't rub off on each other. I hope this helps someone else 🙂 I have a whole basket full of labeled candles, full of gods and intentions 🙂

  90. I agree!!! Swords are forged in fire. In Irish mythology, the staff is sometimes represented by a spear, a weapon thrown through the air. So there is stone, cauldron, sword and spear.

  91. That’s a difficult one.

    Neamh comes from old Irish nem. Nem with a fada over the e means brilliance or radiance. So I think it’s an idea of rays in the light from the sky so the two terms are connected.

    The word for spirit now in Irish is spiorad (spyurad) which seems unrelated to nem.

    Anam means soul. It sounds similar but comes from the old Irish ainim which seems to come from Latin anima. But it can be a very similar idea to nwyfre in the sense of being a person's aura.

    Interestingly, the word fuinneamh means energy. I can’t find any etymology for it but I’m sure it stems from nem.

    fuinneamh, m. (gs. -nnimh). Energy; force, vigour; pep, spirit.

    http://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/fuinneamh

    You can say fuinneamh spioradálta or fuinneamh anama or it can refer to energy in the sense of electricity etc.

  92. True, JMG, and I guess the memory training techniques in Europe (one thing the East lacked) also involve intense use of visualization. Still, maybe I'm reading it with jaundiced eyes but it seems like the memory work and the prayers are “exoteric” stuff, while the more “esoteric” practice of communing with spirits seems to lack those components in the European tradition. I mean, everyone, both lay and ordained, with some education in mediaeval Europe would have been exposed to memory training and the use of the different prayers, and quite a few of them might even have received Minor Orders (analogous to initiation, I guess?). But only a minority of those would ever be interested in ceremonial magic and those practices, which are quite common in esoteric practice in Asia, are not really present in esoteric practice in Europe until recently.

    But maybe it's inappropriate to read esoteric vs exoteric as things with hard borders in the mediaeval context. If Christianity was originally a mystery cult from Asia Minor, then its practices were all originally “esoteric” anyway. Maybe a similar situation where the esoteric becomes “exoteric” to some degree can be observed in pre-modern Tibet, where every man and woman would received a tantric empowerment at some point in their lives and might have done some practice on their own, but of those, few would ever go on to learn the rites for different magical activities.

  93. Many thanks, JMG, for providing elemental alternatives for the Grove Ceremony. I was hoping that it would be possible to conduct the ritual without physical substances (as we do in the SOP), but it is clear to me from your answer that physical representations of the elements are essential.

  94. There is talk of Celtic symbols in modern observances and Patricia Mathews asks of interest in Wicca or British Traditional Witchcraft.

    The British Isles are not unconnected of course with wider past European traditions but include specifically Irish and Scottish Gaelic traditions as well as the Welsh & Cornish Brythonic branch and the presumably not inconsiderable Germanic traditions.

    All of these, at least the more magical daily personal rituals seem to have been adapted to the Christian context during the Middle Ages, if I understand our host correctly. The magic of the wider European Renaissance period seems to have been something else according to CS Lewis writing in 1943 who talks of it as being the Twin of Science, if a rather sickly one – well that was his point of view at the time and I value having read his lectures on the Mediaeval period.

    Regarding modern movements I have come from an interest in the poets and dramatists, especially in the literary revivals in Ireland. I am reading a little book by George Russell 1867-1935, aka ‘A.E.’, The Candle of Vision 1918. I think his interest in Anthroposophy and thereby in Eastern conceptions is evident, but he is still fired by his own visions of the Celtic imagination and Irish mythologies.

    “… I saw rising out of deep water seven shining and silvery figures, and three on one side and one beneath, and they held uplifted hands on the hilt of a gigantic sword of quivering flame, and they waved that mighty sword in air and sank again beneath the waters. And after that seven others rose up and they held a great spear, and it they pointed skywards and sank below; and after that arose two carrying a cauldron, and when they had vanished, one solitary figure arose and it held in its hands a great and glittering stone; and why these beautiful beings should bring forth the precious symbols of the Tuatha de Danaan, I do not know …”

    I occasionally meet contemporaries in person who have visions usually with compelling symbolic content, so I remain interested.

    Regarding specifically Wicca and Doreen Valiente I have come across this review of modern Wicca writing including Gardiner and Valiente. I would be interested if you, Patricia, found it a useful and accurate enough account.
    Pukkila’s Review http://digitalcommons.colby.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1058&context=faculty_scholarship

    best
    Phil

  95. Okay, time for some quick errata on what I wrote. I really should have allowed a day for my insight to process– I was striking while the iron was a bit too hot.

    (1) It was very gracious of you, JMG, not to point out in public that I misremembered the order of the elements in the CGD Ritual of the Pentagram. In no way whatsoever is Fire-Air-Water-Earth “exactly the same order” at all. Perhaps the guardians of the order were temporarily fritzing my brain to prevent me from revealing secrets in public. 😉

    (2) In another embarassing mistake, I seemed to suggest that “Fire Air Water Earth, Water Fire Air Earth” was symmetrical, which makes no sense at all.

    For the record, as I've spent more time considering it, and talked it over with a Japanese cohort, I would say I had a few misinterpretations of the text in what I wrote above. I won't go into minutiae here, but currently the correct order of the prayer would be as follows. “Air->Fire[?]->Water->Earth, Water->Fire[?]->Air->Earth.” Which, honestly, works better anyhow probably.

    More generally, I'll say one more thing about the Oharai Kotoba. It has a very strange structure– very self reflexive. The prayer is famous for being quite long, but the very simplified story of its words basically say “The gods called on this great man to rule the land. When impurities happen, you can say the Oharai Kotoba, and if you do, some gods will come and clean everything up.” And then– in literally only the last couple of lines of the entire, extremely looooong prayer– comes a few words which could be considered the “actual” words of the prayer, tacked on to the end.

    The Oharai Kotoba dates from a period when things were not notated. When it was recorded in the Engishiki, it was the first time we know of that anybody ever wrote it down.

    Since this revelation came yesterday, though, it seems quite likely to me that the odd, cleverly self-reflective structure of the prayer has a different meaning. Because it's *not* self-reflective– it's *not* the actual prayer. It's memorized, verbally transmitted instructions on *how to give* the prayer– what to visualize, what materials to put out, what elements to visualize, which gods to call upon. And perhaps the words to say as well.

    But if the ritual were actually to be properly performed, it wouldn't involve all of those many many words. No, just a few of them. More or less the same number as one would find in, say, a typical Western occult-style banishing ritual.

    By the way, I didn't properly say “Thank you”. Thank you– I don't know that I ever would have had this insight without this blog.

  96. P.S. If you're ever planning to write about “kegare” in a book, you should know that the pronunciation notes you gave are a little bit off. The first syllable doesn't rhyme with “the”. It rhymes with the last syllable– it's the same vowel sound, “eh”.

  97. Thank you for the book recommendations, JMG. I will definitely follow up on those. In my first Reiki lesson, which was last night, I learned the first teacher was a Japanese Christian, who consulted with a Buddhist abbot. Given my decades' long ambivalence about Christianity, this revelation, so soon after your comments about my PA Dutch Lutheran ancestress and a possible Rosicrucian connection, gave me an inward belly laugh at the likelihood that I will revisit Christianity, but from a different direction. How refreshing!

    As to developing the connection to my ancestress, which I very much want to do, I am inclined to continue to remember her, learn more of her era and likely beliefs, and do simple things like imaging her knitting when I am knitting. Am I on the right track? Any suggestions?

    OtterGirl

  98. In order for you to get a perfectly good pronunciation, I'd recommend consulting a more cunning linguist than myself, but something akin to “ee-ARR-am ar na KOOM-hak-TAY ta-LAM, ar mw-EER AH-gus NEMM. BEDH schz-ÉH AM-ledd.” Would have helped to have my former professor in Celtic studies breathing down my neck right now… As for the rest of the ritual, I've given it a go today and I'd say we're on to something. How is the opening gesture coming?

    Oh, and you were hinting at someone experimenting with Norse G.D.?

  99. JMG: I'm trying to get a proper feel for how this kind of ritual works, and practicing the skills of vocalization, imagination, intention, and physical movement, and co-ordinating all those. It's not trivial. I'll use your analogy of learning a musical instrument: The best I can do now is the magical equivalent of the buzzy, unmetered “bwit, bwop, thmp” noises I used to make with a guitar before I got a lot of practice in. Now if anything, magic sounds a lot harder than guitar, and you're saying that it can attract unfriendly presences. So, baby steps, baby steps. No?

  100. One more thing – I discovered – quite by accident – an industrial age folk cleansing that nobody realizes is magic, though it works with (or against) the Law of Contagion. I had a cat blanket, the kind I keep in the carrier for bedding, that I had used to protect a dead cat from flies and other contaminants while I was waiting for someone to find a 30″ box – long enough to bury him in, since he was stretched out nose to tail.

    The cat blanket never touched Buster: I had covered him nose to tail with a rag first. This was concealment as well as anything else. Nonetheless, it *felt* self-evident to me that I needed to throw it into the washing machine – alone. I feel sure other people have done exactly the same thing. Then, of course, it will go on the line or rack to air dry, just like the earlier ones that did touch the cat while he was dying.

    Also, it felt quite right to pad his cardboard coffin with all the old all-cotton T-shirts that were no longer fit to be seen, and material cut from other such shirts. And to have shoots from my wild roses transplanted on top of the grave, since he was feral, but that's another story. The washing machine cleansing is the point (forgive the rambling.)

  101. JMG – re Aurobindo and Kundalini,

    You can find Aurobindo's discourse on the “descent process” in his “Letters On Yoga – lll: The Triple Transformation”, as well as his “Letters On Yoga – I: Intregral Yoga and other Paths”.

    As to Aurobindo's being influenced by western occultism – I've not run across any direct links between him and the Golden Dawn, though I've not researched it thoroughly. I don't doubt that he was influenced by some form of western occultism, as he matriculated at Cambridge.

    One thing I found interesting re my Aurobindo reading – given that he was a Greek scholar, Aurobindo must have been well acquainted with Plato's Timaeus, in which there are selections that certainly read like references to the kundalini process. (Timaeus, More about the body, 73 c), also (Timaeus, More about the body, 77 d). I won't go into great detain, but Plato speaks of a “divine seed” in the brain and the “stream coming down from above flow(ing) to other parts”, etc., which certainly could be interpreted as a “descent kundalini” process. I imagine that Aurobindo could very well have been directly influenced by Plato re his shaping of his Integral Yoga path and technique for channeling the K flow.

    Btw, re the rancor generated by this year's presidential election – cognitive dissonance, certainly, no doubt abetted by the Pluto-Uranus alignment (square) that is dominating this decade.

  102. Mooncalf –

    I'm doing okay, thank you for inquiring! Day by day, you know. There's always rough patches, just as there are in “mundane” life, but it's not the blizzard of astral confetti I used to have to slog through. In some sense, the K affords its own safety valve, that is, a sense of detachment, which I found to be very unnerving at first, but then came to regard as a crow's nest, quite apart from the rollicking ship I was on. That helped a great deal, and still does.

    I do have my own set of rituals that are very specific to me and the K condition. As fascinated as I am with magic and all things metaphysical, I have to proceed very gingerly re actual practice. For example, I can't undergo acupuncture – not only can it cause my K flow to fluctuate but can actually cause a disturbance in the circle of my colleagues who also have active K's. Similarly, I love the study of astrology, but must measure myself lest I get too spacey.

    Re Jung – with all his analytic skills, he still came close to madness during his individuation process. That's why it is said that no one should undertake a study of the Kabbalah until age 40, when the psyche has settled, so to speak.

    I agree with you re the internet making it easier for those with an awakened K to find at least some kind of format into which they can situate their experience, although there's quite a bit of nonsense to be found there. You might be interested in E Collie's writings on her K experience – she wasn't the most eloquent of writers, but her honesty and directness is refreshing, and she references many sources related to the K. I found it to be a quite thorough interpretation and synthesis of various K experiences.

    It may have been an “accident” in the technical sense, but I can posit a reason why you and I and others have experienced such a sudden and unsettling K awakening – what if for many lifetimes we had danced right up to the cusp of enlightenment and true spiritual awakening, and then declined the offer because we just didn't want to undertake the responsibility for it? Because, in short, we were having too much fun in the mundane world? And now we are forced to take the responsibility? Thoughts?

  103. I don't know much at all about kundalini, and I hesitate to draw conclusions about it, but I don't think you would be forced into enlightenment ever, for any reason. That's justy opinion, but I think the ways and means of climbing your own spiritual ladder are choices you made before you were born, with slight deviations based on circumstances. To put it another way, you, as Spirit in your pre-birth spirit form drew the map of your life, along with plenty of directions in case you got lost and had to back-track, but you left room for pit stops and side trips 🙂 life's a journey, right?

    My weird spiritual experience was very different and not related to kundalini as far as I know. I had a few minor enlightening experiences and got to the point where I could achieve a sense of oneness any time I meditated (but only in meditation or ritual and only for short periods of time). Then my brother died and I was crushed to my soul and lost the ability for about 3 or 4 years. The whole time I could feel spirit reaching to me but I had this internal, infinite well of sadness. I kept working through it, and every time I made progress, I had some other really horrible heartbreaking thing happen to me, it was like I had an awful run of luck (and about every other tarot spread had the tower in it). Ritual seemed dull and lifeless. But I kept struggling to deal with everything, and eventually, Fate lined up a bunch of bizarre circumstances that led to a weird experience that felt as if the Spirit of Everything reached into my heart and unbroken it. I felt a connection of oneness for 3 days, felt high as a kite, ecstatic. I realized at that time that the suffering I endured made me strong enough to withstand the ecstacy, by learning to be myself in such suffering I had also learned to be myself in such ecstacy,rather than gsetting swept away in that gigantic coursing current of divine light. So my point is all these weird unpleasant experiences have a purpose, they aren't a punishment. My 2 cents 🙂 hope I didn't sound like a gibbering idiot.

  104. I am fascinated by the evolutionary meme of spirituality/magic over time within and between cultures as described by many here, celtic, germanic, near eastern, india, tibet, japan, china but all with same basis. Plato or jesus being k awakened or newton working on magic, ritual visualition, cleansing same in all religions, etc. I am quite orderly ( mars in virgo) and would like to have a wall chart or comparative encyclopedia of all this for reference to show we are all really the same.

    Nice to hear people have same problems, experiences I did, are chugging along same path. It would be cool if we could measure our progress objectively compared to one another and to where we are supposed to arrive. Say k awakening, small buzz at first, 1 k volt, burning along whole spine, open chakras, sweating nights 100 k volts, levitation, telepathy, bilocation 1000 k volts, measured with a k voltometer. Body melted, disappeared, 1million k volts. More virgo mars fantasies of logically organizing what is really emotional I suppose. Jung was good analyst, sri aurobindo and el collie have written and I have read.

    Nice vacation, increasing energy. New plateau, higher. I still get surprises, shocks( energy surges suddenly) also anger, tears, but can deal with them better. Routine, ritual, stable social environment very important when internal changes are massive. Generally true that stress is when lots of life changes all at once occur. Few things at a time better ( job, partner, location change) so adaptation gradual.

  105. I'm having some trouble reconciling some of the things people here are experiencing with my ideas of schizophrenia. I come from a family hard hit. My grandfather died in a mental institution. My father was perhaps the most functional of the crazies in my family, but as the years went by I understood that he had some grandiose and unrealistic ideas and that nothing he did ever succeeded, again, due to poor judgment. There were 5 kids in my family, and 3 are schizophrenic. Of those, one had a child, and she has some of the milder symptoms although she has full insight. It is quite difficult for her to function due to inability to motivate herself in very small ways. In each person's case it manifests slightly differently but they are all in the spectrum.

    She has a relationship to someone who claims to be Apollo of some 15 years duration. She is skeptical and questions him. Sometimes she is convinced he is a tulpa, (a concept that irritates me). She asked, why me? He said that she amuses him, if I recall correctly. When she told me this a couple of years ago my heart sank. To me, this is schizophrenia and yes, she hears his voice in her head. I believe he was preceded by someone else who he booted because, according to him, that entity was not entirely ethical. She is able to keep things under good control as she had a couple ground rules for them, which was not to bother her when she has to function, such as at work. I forget what the other rule was, but it was sound.

    After I began reading here and people speak of talking to Jehovah and other gods, I thought maybe I am wrong, but what are the chances? She calls him a god spouse, which is apparently a thing.

    I don't know what to make of all this.

  106. Hmmm another blog for deep thought, and similarly with the comments. If you want to get good at something then daily ritual practice makes sense. That's no different for whether you want to practice magic, be a sportsperson, or build furniture. I've just finished building my first wooden structure – a pig shelter – and found that powers of visualisation are immensely important and powerful. I've never really built anything before, least not on my own, and only one or two very basic things before, but because I have worked on my powers of visualisation, I've been able to look at a few images of how others have built them, and come up with my own imitation design. In fact nearly everything I'm doing at the moment is imitation of what others do. I can't remember which book you mentioned about mammals learning by imitation – but it's working for my partner and I.

    That makes me think about something I learnt (true or not!) which is that the old Celtic bards would have to learn all about poetry for 7 years, improving their skills, knowledge etc. and only after that amount of time, and much recitation of others, were they allowed to compose their own piece. It seems that these days people want to jump straight into the creative part without doing the hard graft of learning first. And that quite often means 7-10 years worth of practice and learning. When I was younger I thought you could skip all the hard bits, and get straight to the creative bit, but realise now, with a little more age, that you can't do that! It seems imitation, whilst being the sincerest form of flattery, is also the best way to learn.

    As someone who tends to have his energies disparately dispersed, would you recommend that I stick to adding one thing at a time? I'm saying this, knowing the answer to my question as I write it. My terrible habit, is taking on too many things at once, and then finding myself too stretched to give the necessary time to each. I've learnt that having a few pots on the stove at once is very good for me, and indeed I can cope with it, but as with trying to cook a huge sunday roast, introduce one pan too many and the whole lot gets spoiled. I'm currently halfway through your books on geomancy and the secret teaching, whilst also having suspended my daily CGD practices, along with reading Eric Berne's books on transactional analysis, along with whatever else I can't even remember starting. With the CGD, I feel most drawn to doing the daily rituals (probably because I find meditation excruciating at times). Although I really enjoyed doing the meditations from the secret teachings of the earth book. I'd love to learn geomancy, and really want to use it, but perhaps right now haven't got the time for it.

    Well I've more or less answered it myself.

  107. Aurobindo had a connection with Western esotericism through Mirra Alfassa, “The Mother” in his community, from the early 20th century onward. She had studied earlier with the Western esotericist known as Max Théon, the instiration behind the organization called the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in English-speaking countries, and alsp behind the so-called Cosmic Movement in French-speaking countries.

    Earlier in his life, as will noted, Aurobindo probably read Plato, including the Timaeus. There is no question in my own mind that Plato, in his earlier life, had some acquaintance with both Indian esotericism and also Near Eastern mystical traditions of the sort that informed the First Temple in Jerusalem (as diatinct from thos of the Second Temple)

    The former influence follows from Plato's isolated reference to the “third eye” in the human body. This was in a work now lost, but quoted by the early anti-Christian philosopher Celsus. (Celsus's work is also lost, but extracted at great length by Origen in his “Contra Celsum” (Book VI, cvhapter 8), whicb does survive and is even available now in English translation.

    For the latter influence, see especially Margaret Barker'e essay, “Temple and Timaeus,” which is chapter 11 in her seminal book, “The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy” (2003).

    And let me emphasize, again, that the careful and detailed study of early forms of Christian ritual and liturgy shed enormous light on not only the history of magic, but also on its effective practice today — even for and by non-Christians. I speak here from a position outside the Christian religion, or indeed any of the Abrahamic religions, when I claim this. Early Christianity was judged by Roman law to be a magical religion, and as such, an illegal practice. Its adherents met at night, in closed meetings, often in cemeteries (catacombs); they made use of parts of the bodies of executed criminals (the martyred saints, ie.e relics); by some hard-to-understand means, they transformed bread and wine into human flesh and blood, and then ate and drank that same human flesh and blood: they claimed to have other-than-human powers (spirits, angels, saints, et alii) as other-than-human helpers; they claimed the ability to subdue demons and evil spirits; and so forth. This was enough, and more than enough, to bring down the whole weight of Roman law on Christianity.

    The English Catholic scholar, Francis Young, has recently published magisterial papers and books on the history of (Catholic) exorcistic practices, and in them makes the sound point that the roots of *modern* grimoire magic are to be found in these practices. And looking much further back, as Jake Stratton-Kent does, these same traditions of exorcism, on the one hand, and modern ceremonial magic, on the other, both go back to pre-Christian traditions of ritual magic and theurgy. (For the latter, Hans Lewy's “Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy” is still perhaps the most valuable survey of all the survivng evidence.)

  108. I know more than I want to about the recent “mindfulness meditation” movement and its relationship to the Buddhist practices it's derived from; maybe I should write some of that up for y'all. The short version is that the disastrous “side effects” people have been getting are known problems described in texts dating back to the 5th century, there are known fixes for most of them, and shame on everyone who is teaching this stuff without studying the lore.

    JMG, a personal question about disastrous side effects: I'm an ex-Zen Buddhist. I am told, by people familiar with both Buddhist and Golden Dawn models of spiritual development, that I am presently stuck in what you folks call “the Abyss”. Do you have any advice for that situation? If I take up a Golden Dawn approach at this awkward stage, are there particular practices I should focus on or avoid for now? (Yes, I realize that ideally part of the answer is don't switch systems now, you maniac, but it's clear at this point that Zen really won't do the job, for whatever reason.)

    Also, I've heard from Zen monks that studying Christian mystical philosophy alongside a Zen monastic practice is a very bad idea for novices — basically, newbies don't understand either system well enough to navigate the differences, and end up jumbling everything together and tripping over themselves. Are there similar concerns in Golden Dawn training, or can I get away with doing discursive meditation on Buddhist ideas alongside cabalistic ones?

  109. And with relation to having caution and things not always going as one might hope. From being around the alternative medicine community, and being a homeopath myself, there's plenty of naiveté and wooly thinking in this area. I've been frequently told by homeopaths that the remedies cannot possibly harm, and that they can only do good. I could write an essay on why that's utter nonsense, but to keep it short, just because we're working with 'energy' doesn't mean it's always good, doesn't mean if we don't get it right nothing happens, and doesn't mean that just because we do get 'it' 'right' that it won't cause harm. Not even discussing when a remedy is given that causes extreme reactions, or when someone 'proves' a remedy, just when a close match is given, the results can be traumatic – and if that person doesn't have the resources in whatever way needed to deal with what comes up, then good luck! I've been through hell after taking remedies at times – particularly at the beginning of treatment. It was just about ok for me, because I just about had a way of dealing with it all.

    It's a bit like that concept of karmic fulfilment you discussed above. When you take a remedy that can happen, and more often than not does. Can that person handle that? Most of the time probably yes, but many times not. The idea that 'only what you can handle, comes up for you' spiel that homeopaths often give is not based on reality. And of course must go for all methods of healing and magical practice.

  110. onething, Joseph Campbell speculated that what we call “schizophrenia” is what happens to people who would've become shamans in other cultures, but who in our culture never get the training they need to cope with their experiences. That seems plausible to me, but I don't know if anyone's investigated the idea any further. (My family also has a history of schizophrenia, so it worries me a little too! It sounds like your relative has already learned that she shouldn't implicitly trust any random thing-that-can-talk-into-her-head; good for her.)

  111. A question to all Qi Gong/Kundalini experts: do you think that Chan Mi Gong (consists mainly of spinal serpent movements) could be dangerous, like triggering the kind of things discussed above? Thank you

  112. Robert Mathiesen, interesting information, I will read up on those sources you provised, thanks!

    But wasn't the persecution of Christians also due in large part to the refusal of the Christians to participate in the state cult of the emperors and rejecting the social norms in other ways such as refusing to eat sacrificed meat?

  113. Francis, thank you. The Secret of the Temple is kind of an odd book; over the course of two decades of study on subjects ranging from Freemasonry to ancient Pagan temple rituals to the legends of the Holy Grail, I noticed common threads that seem to relate to an archaic traditional technology that boosts agricultural fertility. The book is a first exploration of that territory, frankly speculative, but I hope it will inspire others to look into what I think I've found.

    Cherokee, good question. Maybe it just happened that way!

    .Mallow, spiorad will be a loan word from Latin spiritus, like Welsh ysbrydd. Nem with the fada is the one we want — a word meaning brilliance or radiance will make a perfect Irish term for the Astral Light, aka nwyfre. Thank you!

    Alvin, in medieval Europe the boundary between exoteric and esoteric was the line between laity and clergy. Once you received minor orders, for example, you could actually see the Mass being performed — laypeople sat on the other side of a barrier, the rood screen, and got to hear the ceremony but weren't allowed to see it. There were a lot of other disciplines that were for the clergy in those days, and not for the laity. Ceremonial magic was originally one of those, and the right to engage in it came with the minor order of Exorcist, which was relatively easy to qualify for.

    Ron, yep — you have to use some physical representation, though it can be purely symbolic in nature.

    Quin, you're most welcome! A lot of old magical workings use what's called commemoration — basically, you repeat a story that recounts the first time the spell was used, as a way of connecting yourself to the deity or sage who originated it and participating in that first occasion. I suspect that's what's going on here — reciting the Oharae Kotoba, you're commemorating the act of the kami and so participating in it. With regard to pronunciation, oh, granted — about a day after I wrote this, I realized that “they are, eh” would be better.

    OtterGirl, you're definitely on the right track. That should facilitate a gradual, not too drastic opening up of the contact. (Technical jargon alert: “contact” or “inner plane contact” is mage-speak for a connection with a disembodied being, usually though not always a human who's no longer in the body. The initiative usually comes from their side, not from ours — the sort of presence you sensed is one way a potential contact lets you know they're interested in interaction.)

    Sven, I'll leave discussions of cunning linguists to racier blogs than this one! Here's the gesture:

    a) Raise your right hand above your head, and draw it down to your solar plexus, saying “Iarram ar na cumhachtaí Talam,”

    b) Bring it in an arc that takes it past your right nipple and then out to the top of your left shoulder, saying “ar Muir,”

    c) Bring it in another arc down past your heart and then up again to the top of your right shoulder, saying “agus Nem.”

    d) Bring it in a third arc past your left nipple and then back to your solar plexus, then extend both arms out to the sides, angling downward. Say “Beidh sé amlaidh!”

    Remember that you're tracing a triquetra point down, with the points at your solar plexus and your shoulders, and the gestures should be easy enough to figure out. Of course you're visualizing the triquetra drawn in pure white light as you trace it, and when you extend your arms and say the final words, you formulate the Three Rays of Light /| streaming down from a source high above your head, illuminating you and everything around you. Give that a try and let me know what you think; I'll be experimenting with it also, as there are a fair number of people who've expressed an interest in an Irish GD working.

  114. Sven (continued), yes, I've been contacted by a couple of different people who have begun work on a Norse GD working. That would be simple enough; you'd draw the hammer of Thor for the opening gesture, handle up as in the usual around-the-neck amulet: head, heart, right shoulder, left shoulder, with some suitable words in Old Norse; four deities whose names can be spelled with four runes each; not sure what you'd use for the directional emblems/guardians, but the gods know the tradition's rich enough that a Norse GD system along the lines of the Druidical GD would be a slam-dunk. I bet the banishing would send nasty spirits running home to mama in no uncertain terms!

    Stacey, fair enough. Regular practice of a banishing ritual isn't going to do you any harm, though, so I'd encourage you to proceed in due time to the rest of the Sphere of Protection.

    Patricia, if you get something that really needs cleansing, wash it once the ordinary way, and then again in cold water with just a teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Cold water absorbs etheric influences better than warm water does, and that and the salt will give you something that's profoundly energetically clean.

    Will, many thanks. As Robert noted a little further on, Aurobindo's connnection with occultism wasn't Golden Dawn; Mira Alfassa aka “The Mother” was a student of an important occultist, Max Theon aka Louis Bimstein (yes, I'd have changed my name to Max Theon too).

    Jessi, no, you don't sound like a gibbering idiot. These things happen.

    Onething, my take is that a lot of people who hear voices actually do hear objectively real voices. They go crazy because people nowadays treat people who hear voices in profoundly crazy-making ways.

    Alex, yep.

    Robert, you beat me to it! I don't know how much of Theon's post-H.B. of L. material is available; it might make an interesting doctoral dissertation (maybe at Miskatonic University!) to compare that with Sri Aurobindo's work.

    Grisom, when you say you're an ex-Zen Buddhist, does that mean that you've stopped practicing zazen? You'll need to do that, and give your subtle bodies a rest, before launching into GD-style work. As for subjects of meditation, for the time being — as in, until you've worked your way through a training program a couple of years in length, and hopefully gotten yourself out of the Abyss — don't mix themes; if you're going to do GD, do GD, meditate on GD themes, and let Buddhism alone. The themes are also an important part of the training. We'll be covering this in more detail next month!

    Alex, absolutely! My wife and I use the biochemic cell salts, 6x only, for our home health care precisely because higher-potency homeopathics can have such dramatic and messy side effects.

  115. Alvin Leong, that's the safe, accepted academic explanation for the Roman persecutions of early Christians, and it does rest on early Christian accounts of why individual martyrs were killed. But these early Christian “martyrdoms,” as the accounts are called, are apologetic documents, written with the clear political goal of making the Roman persecutions seem foolish and unnecessary. In short, very many of the martyrdoms now appear (in light of recent research) to be fundamentally dishonest documents. — This is not to say that most early Christians (in Rome, say, or in Antioch) thought of themselves as practicing magicians. They did not, no more than Christian Scientists or Spiritualists do. The words “magic” and “magician” are far too loaded with negative associations for mainstream tastes, and until recently it was very dangerous to apply those labels to oneself in public. Step back, however, from the apologetics, look hard at what early Christians were generally known to have done, and compare their doings with the Roman stereotypes about what magicians were generally thought to have done, but were capital crimes under Roman law.

  116. Some years ago my mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I visited her, got her on her medicine, but rom talking to her I heard her descriptions of internal radio from kgb, retc. and seeing worms. Classic signs. I read up internet back then on prevention, self healing. I suspect much mental illness is energy related, blockages, etc. could be healed to some extent or is ability which is essentially wasted as not directed. Chemical imbalance alone is allopathic modern answer. Obviously this could be approached by nutrition, socializing, sport, etc. She was isolated, inactive, badly nourished. I read that there are significantly more neurotic/mentally ill people in urban areas per capita so it seems contact with nature is significant benefit for 'sensitives'. Trying to be truly human, i.e., open, warm, decent and simultaneously cool, cynical urban person causing significant cognitive dissonannce which can destroy a sensitive personality. Spirituality obviously is meant to open us up, civilization to close us down into fixed routines. Self realization in a crowd is difficult as the absorption of foreign energies cannot be shut down. This is not recognized by medical community as chemical, i.e. real cause. For me it is very real but I understand its origin and discount it. Perhaps my mother had partial k awakening in upper chakras which led to communication disorders, in other words, schizophrenia could be result of not grounding one's energy. Perhaps psychosis, sociopathy have similar chakra, energetic sources.A new theory of mental illness in general might do good to disempower pharn0ma, might even help heal people.

  117. And a question to JMG, encouraged by this month's discussion (thank you for making all this available!):
    It's been a year now that I asked a question here and then meditated about which practice I would take up. I decided to follow your Druid Magic Handbook, to deepen my connection with nature that had always been there, and because the concept of solar and telluric current appealed to me. I have tried out the Hermetic basics, and felt they made me feel to “solar” at the time.

    The plan was to join AODA – then came your retreat from the Grand Grove. I decided to continue the practice for at least a year and see then what I would do. Now I'm more than a year into it, with hour-long practices (including study and journaling) almost every second day. The practice feels very beneficial in itself. I'm progressing really slowly – took almost a year to do the whole SoP, and still divining with a single Ogham card. There's a lot of questions but I try to solve them in meditations!

    Now I feel like running dry – my guess is that contact to the theosphere is missing; I am not using any divine names, maybe I was afraid of it, and couldn't find which ones to call. There are celtic roots in my country too, but more hidden. My own germanic/slavic heritage has interesting pantheons, but I find them tainted by alt-right nationalist movements. Christianity was a phase of my childhood in an agnostic family, in a country where the catholic church is still very powerful, so this is kind of strange, too. Should I follow Dion Fortune's advice to start from your culture's dominant religion, or call out to unknown deities – and if yes, how?

    It's also difficult to progress without feedback from community and/or teachers. There is no serious organization in my corner of the world, as far as I know, and without your clear and structured communication I find it more difficult to see from another continent what's happening at AODA, or if it even makes sense to join and be a long-distance member.

    Do you have an advice? Thank you again for the unique work you're doing.

  118. @ JMG

    I'm delighted to hear that. I've been working on Norse G.D. magic myself some time now and it's coming along nicely. The ritual I have in mind features (clockwise from east) Thor, Loki, Rigr (i.e. Heimdallr) and Frey. The all male cast partly because I do favor a bit of manly galdr magic, and partly since Loki being the obvious choice for south, it's well advised to have Thor and Heimdallr to keep him under control lest things get out of hand. For directional emblems (again from east) Gungnir, Laevateinn, Gjallarhorn and Gullinbursti. As you can see I've thrown in my lot with Jessi and Patricia and put the spear in the east and the sword in the south. Given we're talking Odin's spear I'd say it rightly belongs there, and equally the sword belongs in the south as it is being kept by Surtr's wife under lock and chain in Muspellheimr (and because it's a sword, for crying out loud!). Since runes will of course be used for divination, tarot attributions won't be an issue anyway. I've finished assigning the gods to the various spheres on the tree, but the tree itself is gonna take some work. And of course, Norse tradition has precise equivalent concepts to physical, etheric, astral, mental and spritual levels of being, so much shoehorning won't be necessary.

    I think I shall leave the task of finishing the Irish ritual in your hands and concentrate my efforts on this. JMG, is there a way to get in touch with you “off the grid” to discuss these matters more closely? I'm sure I'll be in need of some help here, particularly where the tree is concerned.

  119. So far as I know, JMG, very little of Max Théon's work is available in English. Most of his available material was published in French a century ago, and I read French very poorly. However, http://www.kheper.net/topics/Theon has some English summaries of his doctrine, and also links to a few PDFs of some of his original publications. No doubt there are others who know a lot more about him and his works than I do.

  120. Well, well, my head is swirling because there are just no answers. I am familiar with the idea that some schizophrenics might be natural shamans. It could be so, who knows. But this disease has so many manifestations and many of them are clearly very dysfunctional. There is some sort of disconnect that I am currently pondering in the problem of, for example, being unable to acquire the habit of brushing one's teeth regularly despite knowing it would be a good idea and one has dental problems, but the will just isn't there. To me, this is something broken in the psyche. And yet, these problems are more a matter of degree than of kind, as most of us struggle at least a bit with putting things off or acquiring habits. But not to the point of it crippling us and remaining unimproved year after year. This makes it hard to me to consider such a person as someone to look up to.

    Then, the more flamboyantly crazy ones in my family are also the ones who might make it as a shaman. Two siblings were markedly abnormal even in childhood. The other one was much better, women liked him and he had a couple of girlfriends before he went mad at about age 30. I loved him very much and miss him terribly. He really thought about things and had interesting ideas. He heard so many voices in his head that it was a chaos, you couldn't really reason with him and he often began talking in rhyme and I don't even know what that was about. Total, stark raving mad paranoid schizophrenic.

    The other brother is sort of washed out as a personality, never was much fun, and now has absorbed a huge fundamentalist dogma that is quite judgmental and narrow, although he is personally mild, nonconfrontational and fairly kind. No way he is shaman material, and his life is one of complete lack of any ability to do anything with himself. No delusions except thinking that he has some kind of plan such as flipping real estate that gives him perhaps hope and comfort.

    It may be true that my niece hears a real being. But what about my brother? I'm beginning to think the old idea that it is demon possession is not so silly after all. If those spirits are almost of a tormenting variety and one cannot be present with other people due to their interference? And I knew a guy who had a breakdown and he said to a friend one day that he had gotten 50 death threats in just the last hour or two. My friend said “It doesn't sound like they're serious.”

    Were those real voices? And what about the fact that they are not volitional at all and are intrusive?

    I'm not against the idea that telepathic communication is a reality. My daughter has managed to get people to actually hear her voice three times that I know of. The first one was me, a week before she was born, I was walking quietly by myself when I heard a clear voice in my head “I'm a girl!”

    The other two times she was a teenager, and both times the other person heard it so clearly that they responded in person. One was outside the building and the other on the opposite coast.

    I am wondering if the people here who have these relationships actually hear voices or how it goes.

    When my mother died she was around me and we could communicate telepathically almost conversationally but there was no voice.

  121. Thanks, JMG, that's very helpful! Yes, I no longer practice zazen. I do have another daily practice now, though, so the same would apply. How long should I pause to “give my subtle bodies a rest”?

  122. Thank you JMG! So after I read your response I asked Odin to let me know if his was the right path for me, and that night, I felt like I saw a different side of him, like yeah he's a god of death, terror and war, but he is also the god of poetry, inspiration, ecstasy and consciousness, and he doesn't care if he's considered “unmanly”! I have continued to think about it, answer myself, circle around again and all that, but I guess the thing I keep thinking about is: how do I know who this entity really is? Even if what I think is Odin is Odin, they're not likely to care one wit about my best interest, or am I just connecting to diety and calling it Odin? Does it matter what I call it? Are Woden and Odin the same being? Like it seems as though the nature of Odin has changed over the millennia, which Odin/Wodanaz/Woden is the real one? What the hel is real anyway?

    I still feel like I'm grasping at straws, and maybe going into directions that aren't necessarily helpful. I was initially initiated into this whole “spiritual” thing by a group founded by the WV mystic Richard Rose (Truth And Transmission) and they don't really have anything to do with gods, rituals or much else besides introspection, meditation (watching thoughts) and backing away from untruth. I feel like maybe going into all of this (Western magic with a Norse twist)is just wrapping myself in more layers of illusion. The problem is, I felt like I didn't have anything to grab onto with TAT, and I don't know where these straws I'm grasping onto now are leading me.

    @OtterGirl: Glad to see somebody else doing SoP with Norse Gods! Have you tried the Thor's Hammer ritual a la Edred Thorsson? I tried it for a while but went back to SoP just because I like it better lol.

  123. I have read with interest what JMG and others have written about the dangers of working two different systems at once. I would like to hear more about this.

    I have practiced basic Buddhism Zen and Vipassana meditation for many years. I have also done basic GD practices for the last few years. To the best of my knowledge, I haven't felt any adverse effects from doing both. I would like to continue both kinds of practice; they both greatly appeal to me and feel true for me.

    But after readings the warnings expressed here, I am wondering about why exactly it is problematic or dangerous to work with these two systems at once. I'm guessing JMG will be addressing some of this in upcoming posts.

    Pierre

  124. Ed, “spirituality is obviously meant to open us up, civilization to close us down” — oh, really? It seems to me you're being a bit simplistic here.

    Anioush, the fact that I stepped down as head of AODA shouldn't make you less interested in it — I'm still very much a member, and the order itself is under the guidance of a very experienced Druid with a background about as weird as mine, the intrepid Gordon Cooper — no relation to the astronaut! As for deities, if you feel called to work with Germanic or Slavic deities, don't let the fact that they're also being worshipped by the alt-right stop you. The gods and goddesses aren't tainted by their worshippers — if they were, human beings being what they are, gods and goddesses generally would be in deep trouble!

    Sven, the Druidical GD doesn't make much use of Tarot either — if you've read “The Celtic Golden Dawn,” you'll have noticed that it doesn't say a word about the Tarot but uses geomancy as its core divinatory method. It sounds like you've made a very good start. If you'd like to get in touch offlist, type in a comment marked “not for posting” with your email address, and I'll respond more or less promptly. 😉

    Robert, many thanks — that's what I thought. I'll probably leave the issue to that hypothetical grad student!

    Onething, one of the problems of being an untrained shaman is that you can't control the voices. Another is that you can't pick and choose which entities to talk to. Obsession by hostile spirits, Dion Fortune pointed out, is very often the cause of mental illness and even more commonly a result of it.

    Pierre, the keyword here is “basic.” As long as you stick to the basics, you're unlikely to get into any trouble. It's when you move into more advanced techniques that things can get problematic.

  125. @Isaac Hill – No, I haven't tried the Edred Thorrson version. I'm glad you mentioned that as a possibility. Thank you! I'm happy with the Norse Gods SoP, especially since I recently substituted a god and goddess for another god and goddess. I'd name names, but as you know these entities are real, so I'll leave it at that. Just feels right. The “fit” just wasn't there after several months of trying. After the switch, the flow is noticeably better. Wish I'd done that sooner!

  126. My kids understand religion at cynical level of parody 'spaghetti monster' god. When I imagine Gods of a long since nonexistent culture, zeus, odin, marduk, baal, really exiisting and not being their answer then to natural phenomenon, i.e. an evolutionary step between animism and science, I have difficulties. Being hinduistic bent gthen how do I explain their trinity? Avatars? Evil spirits to explain mental illlness also catches me off guard. I need explanations which build on cause, effect in a scientific manner. If my spiritual experience is energy based and yes with limited telepathic experiences recently as upper chakras more practiced then I explain everything from that angle. Interesting that gods should have various personalities to worshippers. How do you get to know them. I literally worship some women, mostly pisces, and their influence is strong, personality becomes mine, gets me through troubling situations. I guess I will only accept certain things I can weigh, measure, at least experientially even if noone else gets it. I would put off gods' personalities as subconscious roleplaying, like imaginary friends and not accept evil spirits at all. How can I be so advanced in one way, kundalini, and so in denial to something else, calling it superstition? Perhaps all feelings stuff, gods, demons, mental illness is energy manifestation(shakti/shiva interplay) and I am climbing everest. At lower energies gods and goddesses, demons satisfy one. I find it unsatisfying. This does not make me atheistic, maybe at another developmental stage, perhhaps just somewhere else.

  127. Ok, JMG, I think Alex's comments on potential harms of homeopathy has clarified a question for me – about the will.

    I absolutely know, from my own clinical experiemce that acupuncture can harm as well as heal. I have been fortunate in having patients who trusted me enough to allow me to change tacks and do better after initial adverse effects.

    Other practitioners are, in my opinion, too secure in the idea that acupuncture is harmless and will look to other causes for adverse setbacks in patients. One told me if a patient said they were worse he'd ask THEM “what did they do?” I was very upset at this as it seems the first question shd properly be “what did I do?”

    Anyway, we are talking here about dangers that can arise from practices engaged in solitary, but in a therapy or healing practjce, there are two people involved, and a potentially profound inequality, as one of them is vulnerable and is choosing to place their well-being in the therapist/healer's hands.

    As a trained TCM acupuncturist, with 11 years clinical experience, I am increasingly aware that neither my training nor experiemce is adequate enough for me to have the responsibility of another's vulnerable self placed in trust in my hands. I am increasingly nervous about this and continually seek ways to mitigate the possibility that I might over-direct or over-step their will, or expose them to energetic danger.

    I suppose the question is something like this: is there a form of the SOP or a similar daily practice that I could use to protect my clinic and all who enter therein from harm that might result from having *their* energy changed during a session there? And although I'm aware other entities might make use of this I'm also concerned simply that my own “will to help” might overwhelm & not help.

  128. JMG, may I share a short story with you? You've given me wonderful advice, which I am taking concerning my Pennsylvania ancestress. Here's the short story: I live near Boise, Idaho. Most transplants here in recent decades were/are conservative folk from California, with others from Oregon and Washington. Earlier migrations were from Oklahoma and Kansas. And, of course Utah. Those would be my jack Mormon mother's people. Anyway, here comes the bit I find chuckle-worthy: Over lunch yesterday, I asked my Reiki instructor if she was an Idaho native. Nope. From Pennsylvania. Hilarious! (At least to me.)

  129. “Commemoration”, very interesting. Further evidence for that, perhaps– as part of its instructions, the text of the Oharae Kotoba name-checks a different prayer known as the “Amatsu Norito”, more commonly known as the “Misogi Harae Kotoba”. It's much shorter, but it's even more clearly a commemoration. It basically just says “Izanagi, in this particular location, performed a misogi cleansing ritual, and out of this the cleansing gods were born– please cleanse here”.

    Izanagi is one of the senior kami in the pantheon– he created Japan with his wife Izanami– and he performed the very first misogi, after escaping the underworld and the wrath of his rotting dead wife, in what's kind of a J-horror variant on the Orpheus in Hades theme. The “cleansing gods” (haraedo no okami) generally considered to be the same four who are mentioned more explicitly by name and image in the Oharae Kotoba.

    By the way, this prayer *does* use the word “kegare”, when referring to the things that are meant to be cleansed. If you were looking for a classical source to quote!

  130. A question not only for JMG, but anyone out there:

    As far as purifying rituals go with the same general structure, I'd like to be able to explain these similarities to Japanese people by using as many and varied “very old” sources as possible. In these kinds of conversations I don't want to start with mandalas, due to their association with Buddhism in Japan and the fact that I don't want to go anywhere near even remotely giving the hint of a suggestion that Buddhism could have influenced the structure of the Oharae Kotoba. (Religious politics– basically things are on the mend between Buddhism and Shinto these days, but there's still people who get a little bit weird about it; I'm looking to stress similarities, not highlight sometimes sensitive fault lines).

    Professor Pan pointed to the Pistis Sophia and the Greek Magical Papyri. Are there other ancient sources, from anywhere in the world, with similar rituals (directions combined with sacred names) that anyone could point me to?

  131. JMG,

    What do you make of the genetic connection to mental illness and some of the symptoms such as apathy and lack of motivation? I also read that mentally ill people in childhood often had delayed development in language and ambulation. This was certainly not true of my brother, who spoke in sentences at 14 months. It seems like a spectrum in which only some are suitable as shamans. My niece seems to have instinctively and quickly controlled them. Good instincts.
    My brother could have been driven mad by the voices, which were an early and main symptom. But to be driven mad by them versus having mental illness first which then causes it – this seems like sort of an opposite.

  132. Onething–

    I'd encourage you to look into the literature on demonic possession. There are two excellent sources of information that I've found online. One is a Catholic priest, philosopher and psychologist who is a practicing exorcist; the other is a Taoist priest (recently deceased) who helped compile the California state acupuncture curriculum, among other things. Neither should be approached in isolation as each is rather narrow-mindedly convinced of the absolute truth of his own tradition. But both have an enormous amount of valuable information. The Catholic has a great deal of direct experience working with people suffering from possession; the Taoist has also participated in exorcism but also has an encycolopedic knowledge of the massive literature on this topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

    The work of the Taoist priest can be found here: http://www.dayuancircle.org/store/class-recordings/healing-apprenticeship/healing-apprenticeship-2011/. Unfortunately, with the exception of the introduction, these lectures are not free. But they are worth every penny you spend.

    The work of the Catholic priest is available on youtube, for the price of one decade of the rosary/lecture. A good introduction is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiYh96TrITE. I will warn you that he is an extreme Traditionalist, and it's best not to approach his work in isolation.

    And they can be balanced against one another by adding in Dion Fortune's Psychic Self Defense, which goes into detail on the topic from the perspective shared by our host and many of the rest of us on this forum. It can be found online in pdf form (I'm about 90% sure it's in the public domain).

  133. (@onething on possession, continued from above)

    My interest in this subject comes in part from my experience. I know of many, many families that have an adult child at home. About five-ten years ago I noticed that this was becoming common– an adult child in their 20s who had apparently been adversely affected by the economic situation but spent all their time glued to a computer. Well, 5-10 years later the same kids (the ones that are still alive) are still there, now in their 30s, still staring at the computer screen, and in many cases spiralling deeper and deeper into “mental illness.” In many of these cases no ordinary medical treatment has helped. The literature on possession, from both the Western and Eastern perspectives, makes more sense of the phenomenon than anything else I've encountered.

    The difficult spiritual and kundalini-type experiences described here don't fall under this category, by the way. That meditative and energetic disciplines can bring on serious difficulties has been known to real teachers in all of these traditions for centuries. This isn't just limited to the Far East, either– Catholic mystics have very often been tormented by demons; some Orthodox monks that go deep into contemplative work actually embroider exorcism prayers into their robes. You could use Western Medeical terminology to describe these incidents as something like “Acute Schizoaffective Episode Resulting from Meditation, Qigong, or Yoga,” but at that point you have already broken the materialist model, which doesn't really allow for schizophrenic episodes in response to, say, visualizing a red light rising from the Earth through the perineum. So at that point, materialism doesn't have very much that is useful to say anyway.

    It's also worth noting that, from this perspective, not all “possession”-type experiences originate from external entities. The individual psyche can be fragmented, and what appears as an external demon can actually be a part of the person's own mind/spirit that has been broken off by some external event. There's no reason, on this model, that that event couldn't be what we call “brain chemistry.” These cases can then be treated by material means, such as a massive change in diet or an antipsychotic medication. So the spirit model can account for cases where the individual responds to treatment along materialist lines, while the materialist model cannot account for cases where the individual responds to, say, exorcism prayers. That's another point in its favor.

  134. As usual, I am late to the party! I'd like to thank everyone for the marvelous comment thread accompanying this post. Having been out of the community for about a decade, it's just sheer delight to be connected again to active practitioners with such a wide range of skills and backgrounds. I am not personally drawn to practices based on the cabalistic tradition due to a belief that origins and historic traditions MATTER in magic. Once I discovered how thoroughly the QBL is grounded in Judaic belief, I could not and cannot see how any practice beginning with its forms can be disentangled from patriarchal monotheism. The tradition is simply too long and too deeply embedded. That said, I do use a highly modified Hellenistic version of the banishing ritual originally designed by John Opsausos on the old Alexandria board, which I justify with recognition of the extensive interaction which occurred between Greeks and all of the Middle Eastern cultures during that era.

    Also, coming from a VERY eclectic neopagan background, I'm going to stick my foot in it and insist that syncretism can work under many conditions, one of the most obvious being that when you're young and foolish, you don't USUALLY raise enough power to do much damage ;-). A few blowbacks can, by demonstrating that magic actually does anything at all, be very helpful to overcome the social conditioning against believing it enough to bother a) wasting your time learning it or b) taking the trouble to do it right. And like many other things in life, I also think that in magic we can often learn as much or more from our mistakes as from textbook perfection. While constant, steady practice definitely brings rewards, it can be terribly boring unless livened up by an occasional unexpected reaction.

  135. I wanted to add that I am enjoying the discussion of the various alterna-Golden Dawns. I think I mentioned last month my feeling that the reason that the Catholic Church has become so useless is that it has forbidden itself from understanding how its rituals work. That's fine in an era of relative conservatism, where nothing or not much is changed, but it seems to me that it's disastrous in an era of rapid change. Listen to Adrian Willaert's Missa Christus Resurgens, and imagine hearing it sung in a traditional cathedral lit by candles, the air thick with frankincense. Now, imagine listening to “On Eagle's Wings” sung by a college kid strumming an acoustic guitar in a church designed to look a Soviet shopping mall (like this monstrosity). If God, omniscient and omnipresent, bound by nothing but his own will, is equally present in each case; if each mass is equally valid; if Christ is equally present ex opere operato in both communions– then there is nothing to explain why the second hypothetical mass is so flat, boring and powerless. But to believe otherwise is to contradict the Catechism. Thus the church forbids itself from being able to save itself.

    The Golden Dawn tradition could suffer a similar fate. I've seen plenty of internet magicians who seem to think that the rituals were granted but once to McGregor Mathers in their final form, and this is the final revelation after which there can be no others. If that's the case, the tradition of Golden Dawn magic will die the death that the Catholic church is dying.

    I seem to be thinking about Christianity today, for whatever reason. I was thinking that if one wanted to do an exclusively-Christian Golden Dawn, reducing the Hebrew influence, the divine name “JESU” could be used in each quarter. (Perhaps ISSA, for Russophiles.) (Would it be harmful to use the same name in each quarter?) From there, one would have a choice of either the four archangels or Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, maybe with, or even as, their emblems of man, lion, ox, eagle. The sign of the cross could be imported pretty much directly, with the Latin used. I wonder how one would do the Tree of Life. I imagine it would have to be reorganized to begin with a descent, and that it would roughly follow the path of the Divine Comedy. But how would you change the Tree to place Malkuth near the center?

    Speaking of which, I'm also interested in the Norse Golden Dawn, and Sven I'd be very happy if you could keep us posted on that project here. My only interaction with the Norse pantheon is through reading– don't have time for any more gods at the moment– but I find the stories and the cosmology delightful. But I'm thinking about the Tree. On the one hand, you already have a cosmology based on a tree containing multiple worlds. But Malkuth would also in this case have to be in the center, as Midgard… I wonder if you would scrap the Cabala design entirely and use something more like this. But what would the process of initiation look like? Would you even want to visit places like Muspell and Niflheim? (I think the answer might be Yes. I have an intuition that the “evil powers” in the Norse tradition aren't equivalents of the Qliphoth, and that the correct way to deal with them might be “directly, with courage” rather than by avoidance.)

    Alternatively, it just occurred to me, Malkuth/Midgard could stay right where it is, since it's the base of the Middle Pillar. But what would the tenth world be?

  136. Quin, you might want to pick up Hermetic Magic by Stephen Edred Flowers, which has a version of the ritual I posted from the PGM. It's the earliest form of the directional ritual I've found in the ancient literature, and Flowers's modified version is well-constructed, IMO. If you find that era to be of interest, Skinners's Techniques of Graeco-Roman Magic is a must-have as well. Both books provide references to the Betz translation so you can check vs. the original.

    I've performed a version of the Headless Rite from the PGM (called the Bornless Ritual by the Golden Dawn) and it was quite powerful. Gordon White writes about it in his Chaos Protocols.

  137. @Scotlyn

    In the system I’m learning, there’s a practice called the “transpersonal spiral.” It brings you and the person you’re working with into the “causal plane” where there are no dualities, unifies the two of you, and then brings that down to the mundane world so you can work with that person without your ideas of what’s best getting in the way of what is actually going to work for that person.

    I wouldn’t suggest shifting your practice – what I’m working on is way outside the norm for this forum which is diverse enough as it is – but hopefully that’s a good enough description that someone can find a cognate practice that will do the same job.

    @onething, Steve Thomas

    I’ll go on record as saying that demonic possession is a real thing. I ran into a case once. I was going to visit a couple of friends, and when I arrived they were in pretty bad shape with what I perceived as a classical demon – small, tubby, horns, tail, the whole bit. I had to pull in a whole lot of stuff from past lives – well, I certainly hadn’t learned it in this life! – to bind it. I remember a Star of David with the colors on the lines shifting, for example. A Native American shaman eventually disposed of the beastie. I finally think I understand how it got there, and today I’d probably send it back to the practitioner in Italy who’d put it on their daughter, with instructions to do what it thought appropriate and then go back to where it came from, but then it was simply enough to bind it.

    I’m familiar with the notion that a lot of mental illness, especially of the schizophrenic or paranoia variety is due to outside influences that they don’t know how to control. Unfortunately, I don’t have any sage advice on how to deal with it. The ability to deal with non-material entities is best learned slowly and with a great deal of caution.

  138. Grisom (whose earlier comment I managed to miss somehow), that depends very much on how hard the rest of your life pushes you. If you're tired a lot due to a difficult schedule or what have you, a couple of weeks would be a good idea. If you're well rested and healthy, three days ought to be enough.

    Ed, it sounds to me as though you simply haven't encountered any deities, and thus you have a hard time explaining about them to your children. Of course a lot of people these days don't want to encounter deities, and get very uncomfortable at the thought, but that's another matter.

    Scotlyn, you can definitely adapt the Sphere of Protection for that. Part of the ritual is that you choose what you summon and what you banish with the help of the elemental powers. One other thing to keep in mind, if this works for you, is a relationship with a healing deity who can guide you, and help keep your therapeutic work from having negative consequences.

    OtterGirl, you certainly may! Since a lot of the original Mormons came from upstate New York to Utah, I don't know that Pennsylvania is that far out of line — and Boise is a pleasant town; I once just barely avoided being spat at by a camel at the zoo there. 😉

    Quin, that's a classic commemoration spell — many thanks for sharing it!

    Onething, children who are going to grow up to be shamans, in societies that still practice shamanism, are notoriously slow to develop, the odd ones out in a variety of ways. Since, by the core theory of magic, things on the material plain reflect things on the higher planes, heredity and other physical factors can express the spiritual orientation that leads someone to become a shaman.

    Cynndara, I know John's ritual tolerably well — I used to edit a quarterly journal of occultism that published it in an early issue. It's quite workable, though it can be improved by using four-letter names. With regard to the Cabala, though, while the forms in which it reached the Western tradition are Jewish, the Tree of Life isn't — a functionally identical diagram appears in Chinese esoteric literature a century before the first Jewish Cabalistic literature, and the writings of Celsus and Origen show that the Gnostics had their own forms of it many centuries before that. I'm quite certain, on the basis of research I'll be publishing in my forthcoming book The Celtic Cabala, that the Tree of Life was originally a product of Hellenistic Neopythagoreanism, and it and a lot of other material was adopted into Judaism and many other traditions from that source.

    With regard to syncretism, it really does depend on what you're doing and how much experience you've got. The Druidical Golden Dawn workings I've devised are way up there on the syncretism scale, though not as much so as the original Hermetic Golden Dawn, where you've got officers visualizing themselves as Egyptian gods, reciting versicles from the Chaldean Oracles, and pointing to medieval alchemical diagrams as they lead a candidate up one of the paths of the Cabalistic Tree of Life! That works — but I've also seen some syncretisms that were a dysfunctional mishmash that blew up in the faces of their practitioners.

  139. Steve, that's one of the reasons why I tend to think that the salvation of sacramental Christianity in the western world probably depends on the little churches of the independent sacramental movement, who have the freedom to figure out what actually works. “Less dogma, more ritual” is a common theme in those groups. Christian Cabala already exists, btw, and has been developed extensively since the fifteenth century, so that's not a wheel that has to be reinvented.

    As for the Golden Dawn tradition, I hear you — and one of the reasons I wrote The Celtic Golden Dawn is to remind people that yes, they can be creative with the tradition, the same way Westcott and Mathers were, and the same way that Dion Fortune and her students were. In my dream future it would give rise to a couple of dozen different Golden Dawns that use GD technique with the symbolism and divine powers of an assortment of traditions. But we'll see.

    Oh, and with regard to putting Midgard in the middle — the diagram you indicated looks a lot like the Wheel of Life I introduced in The Druidry Handbook and The Druid Magic Handbook, which does exactly that. A Norse Golden Dawn, though, would need to use the standard Tree — and the way to put Midgard “in the middle” is to see it, first, balanced between the two pillars of fire and frost, and second, as the point where the realm of the Aesir and Vanir overlaps with the realm of the primal chaotic powers that were before the Nine Worlds — those are spelled “Qlippoth” in Hebrew and “Jotunr” in Norse.

  140. @Steve/JMG: I’ve been having some conversations about what adapting the tree of life to fit with the nine realms of Yggdrasil, with runic pathways might look like with a Norse-leaning friend who is interested in magic, what made the most sense to us structurally without compromising the cosmology was to place Midgard within the place of Tiphareth, and the Ginnungagap in the place of Malkuth, at which point the only things left to contend with are 2 extra runes which would need to find a place. That set-up then leaves three triangles based around the three realms (above world, below world, midworld), rising up out of the primal abyss which is a closer approximation to Norse cosmology than the process of creation outlined in the traditional qabalah, since in the traditional qabalistic system, the process of creation is represented as a crystallization of reality into increasingly differentiated and degraded forms finalizing in Malkuth, and the infernal realms are essentially (immense simplification I know), a byproduct or residue of the process of creation. Meanwhile, in Norse cosmology (like in most other Indo-European systems) the process of creation is one of order rising up out of a primal chaos, and those infernal realms are in fact essential elements of the creative process. Niffleheim and muspelheim have a much closer functional role to Chokmah and Binah in the Norse cosmology, as the places from which the primal abyss begins to give way to first form. Just some more ideas to toss out there. Another symbol that has a lot of potential within Norse magic is the Web of Wyrd/ Skuld’s net symbol, (the symbol that brings all the runes together into a single bind rune), which other symbols such as the 9 realms can be placed along, and which provides a network of paths that could be used in a number of ways, nothing that comes out of that would be based around the qabalistic tree of life in any way, but I get the feeling there’s a lot of unexplored potential along that route for people who have a qabalistic background and can think in that way. Germanic traditions and heathenry have a history of being staunch traditionalists, so that does seem to be a place where there’s still a lot of unexplored notional space to move around in.

  141. @Steve Thomas,

    Thank you very much for your comment. I had actually missed it earlier, but I did a screen search to see if anything new had popped up in the conversation and found your detailed response.

    Cheers,

    Ruben.

  142. The proposed witch hunt (the irony of a witch hunt in the pagan community!) follows the usual “SJW” methods at several points, such as calling people´s employers to get them fired, etc.

    However, it also contains a lot of frankly fascist/Stalinist storm trooper stuff I haven´t seen before, making it more extreme, such as the calls to “sabotage”, entrapment, arming yourself, physically bashing the local skinheads (?), etc. Note also the de-humanization: “cockroaches”.

    Yes, this is classical shadow projection, especially since we already learned that it´s not just directed against Neo-Nazis (or skinheads at an Oi concert), but apparently against everyone slightly to the right of the Green Party, or the Monster Raving Loony Party, or whatever party the original poster supports.

    Somebody should perhaps point out, calmly but firmly, that many of the methods proposed are clearly *illegal* and can be used by, cough cough, Neo-Nazi provocators out to harm the leftist non-cockroaches…

  143. So, here are the compiled notes for an Irish Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram using the texts from the CGD modified for the themes discussed here:

    1. The Rite of the Triqueta

    First, stand facing east. Imagine yourself expanding to a vast height until your head is among the stars, the sun is at your solar plexus and you stand upon the round earth. Then raise your right hand above your head, and draw it down to your solar plexus. As you do this, visualize a ray of light descending from infinite space above you to formulate a star of brilliant white light abouve the top of you head. Say “Iarram ar na cumhachtaí Talam”.

    Second, bring your hand it in an arc that takes it past your right nipple and then out to the top of your left shoulder, saying “ar Muir,”

    Third, bring it in another arc down past your heart and then up again to the top of your right shoulder, saying “agus Nem.”

    Fourth, bring it in a third arc past your left nipple and then back to your solar plexus, then extend both arms out to the sides, angling downward. Say “Beidh sé amlaidh!”

    2. The Summoning Ritual of the Pentagram
    This is performed as follows:
    First, face east and perform the complete Rite of the Triqueta
    Second, go to the eastern quarter of the circle. Using the first two fingers of your right hand, with the others folded under your thumb in the palm of your hand, trace a summoning pentagram, starting from the upper point and moving clockwise. The pentagram should be two or three feet across. As you do this, visualize it taking shape before you, as though your fingers were drawing it in a line of golden light. When you have finished, point to the center and vibrate the divine name Lugh
    Third, with your extended fingers, trace a line around the circumference of the circle a quarter circle to your right, ending at the southern quarter of the circle; visualize it in golden light as you trace it. Trace a pentagram in the south in the same way as the east, point to the center and vibrate the divine name Brig.
    Fourth, repeat the process, tracing a line another quarter of the way around the circle to the west, visualizing it in golden light, and tracing and visualizing the pentagram as you did in the east and south. Point to the center of the pentagram and vibrate the divine name Ogma.
    Fifth, repeat the process once more, tracing a line around to the north, tracing and visualizing a pentagram there, and vibrating the divine name Danu.
    Sixth, trace a line as before back around to the east, completing the circle, and then return to the center and face east. Extend your arms up and out to your sides, taking on the posture of the Triqueta. Say:
    Before me the Sword of Finias and the powers of air. Behind me the Cauldron of Murias and the powers of water. To my right hand the Spear of Gorias and the powers of fire. To my left hand the Stone of Falias and the powers of earth. For about me flame the pentagrams, and upon me shine the Triqueta of Light.
    As you name each of these things, visualize it as solidly and intensely as you can. You are surrounded by the elements – a cloudscape to the east, a desert scene of blazing heat and flame to the south, a seascape to the west, and a forest to the north – with the divine artifacts visible against these backgrounds. The pentagrams and circle form a pattern like a crown surrounding you, and the Triqueta of Light shine down from the starry center of light in your head as in the Rite of the Triqueta.
    Seventh, perform the complete Rite of the Triqueta as before. This completes the ritual.

  144. After reading the bizarre fascist stuff, I felt like purifying myself, and found this! The back matter (I think) from a scientific book on “Cockroaches: Ecology, Behavior and Natural History”. Also available in Kindle for 106 dollars!

    ———–

    The cockroach is truly an evolutionary wonder. This definitive volume provides a complete overview of suborder Blattaria, highlighting the diversity of these amazing insects in their natural environments. Beginning with a foreword by E. O. Wilson, the book explores the fascinating natural history and behavior of cockroaches, describing their various colors, sizes, and shapes, as well as how they move on land, in water, and through the air. In addition to habitat use, diet, reproduction, and behavior, Cockroaches covers aspects of cockroach biology, such as the relationship between cockroaches and microbes, termites as social cockroaches, and the ecological impact of the suborder.

    With over 100 illustrations, an expanded glossary, and an invaluable set of references, this work is destined to become the classic book on the Blattaria. Students and research entomologists can mine each chapter for new ideas, new perspectives, and new directions for future study.

    ———

    How can a pagan compare Nazis to these wonderful creatures? 😉

  145. You're welcome!

    I want to encounter deities but I never do. Why do some people see them and others don't?

    Mallow.

  146. Yes – “Directly, with courage” is always the way to deal with the hostile Powers in the Norse literature. With everything else, in fact.

    Thanks for the link and the image; mind if I print it out for the basic-magic-handbook I'm compiling for my own use? (Tarot, runes, words of wisdom, etc…)

    Pat

  147. Re: Pagan politics: Yeah, we were definitely in the thick of things last month. This is the latest from the Wildermuth side of the fence claiming that a witch hunt isn’t even happening, and that the people saying it is are just pagan leaders afraid of being questioned (despite the targets consistently being regular people who aren’t leaders of anything): https://godsandradicals.org/2016/08/23/editorial-the-witch-hunt-that-wasnt/, and this one offering up an ultimatum to cut off friendships with members of folkish groups as well as with people who try to remain neutral http://heathentalk.com/2016/08/24/a-line-in-the-sand/. (I will say that I really don’t care much for the AFA, I’m fine with the concept of ethnic religion, but I don’t think there’s anything about Norse polytheism that theologically necessitates it being an ethnic religion. I can sympathize with the choice to treat it as one, but not with the attempt to universalize that viewpoint and insist that there can be no other legitimate path to the gods, even other ethnic religions offer some sort of ritual or initiatory in-road to bring outsiders into the fold such as the threefold process of circumcision, ritual cleansing, and blood sacrifice that go into the process of conversion to Judaism for those who are not ethnically Jewish. That said, I support the right to associate with members, follow their blogs and conversations , and so on even though I might find that viewpoint perplexing and more than a little gross. And this latest outrage is a rough equivalent to suddenly drawing a line in the sand regarding the southern Baptist church because of something Pat Robertson said when Pat Robertson has been saying outrageous stuff for decades).

    Right now loyalties, friendships, associations, and even fleeting rants and attitudes are extremely difficult to keep private since the internet and particularly social media has become such a de-facto form of communication that being networked means that not only your words, but your friends words and even the groups your friends belong to are weighed according to a standard of behavior. That sphere of accountability used to be restricted to actual group spaces so long as it didn’t break the law. And in a year like 2016, when group rage is the default dynamic on all sides, the impacts of such things are being amplified twenty fold. I do think anti-discrimination rules within groups are appropriate (with political ideology being included on them and protected so long as it doesn’t derail the group mission or turn into harassment within a group space or towards a group member outside of that space (some people have suggested that the mere act of establishing non-discrimination policies and rules for hospitality in group spaces is a political act, but as discussed previously that stretches the definition of politics beyond useful meaning).

    As political polarization continues to rise up and begin to affect pagan spaces, another thing I’m beginning to notice is that a lot of the complicated, nuanced ideas about politics that don’t fall easily into left/right divisions are beginning to be labeled “alt-right” which is fusing with the concept of the “new right” that Rhyd was talking about, and making it extremely dangerous to be difficult to classify politically (I’ve even seen The Archdruid Report called an alt-right blog before). Meanwhile, despite it being a label that’s growing to encompass more and more controversial viewpoints, it’s becoming increasingly defined by its most virulent and hateful corners, especially after Clinton’s recent speech on the subject. There’s an extra dimension too, with the fact that (especially on its uglier fringes), it acts as the first crack in the narrative of moral progress since as a secular phenomenon it can’t be blamed on religion like such values usually are.

  148. Re: witch hunts – oh, dear. Well, glad to be working my own path.

    And to change the subject, for what it's worth, our local “college of witchcraft and wizardry” up in the Jemez Mountains, Ardentane, which has been offering courses at their campus and in Albuquerque, is now offering them at Sunflower River Farm in Albuquerque's South Valley. (Zoned, if zoning exists, for agriculture, residential, and small businesses; heavily Hispanic; famous for their Dia de los Muertos parade and their Las Posadas parade/ceremony)

    The Sunflower River people are vaguely pagan, rituals I've been to based loosely on what everybody else in Albuquerque is doing, but their Path is organic gardening and back to the land. I've long thought they were another major center in our loosely knit “community”, whereas the legal and formalized neopagan “church” here can barely scrape up a quorum for it's meetings, which take place in the matriarch's living room.

  149. As for the unfortunate witch hunt, I don't want to go into politics, but I've seen the results of the inquisitor's mentality ruling for 12 years in my country. The results are, putting it politely, a complete disaster. We're almost nine months after we kicked them from our backs and the more power they keep loosing, the more dangerous they are becoming. So my advice for the Neopagan community is to leave them powerless as fast as possible, and never ignore them, because they are going to try everything they can to get the Scepter of Power and glue their hands to it.

  150. I'd like to join the apparently growing chorus of those interested in seeing a Norse Golden Dawn and/or Norse Cabala. I've toyed with assigning the gods and goddesses to the Tree, and just following the old interpretatio germanica equivalencies between the Norse gods and the Roman gods and matching them up by their planets gives what seems at first glance like some reasonable correspondences: Geburah is Tyr, Chesed is Thor, Tiphareth is Sunna, Netzach is Frigg/Freya, Hod is Odin, Yesod is Mani.

    I'm not entirely satisfied with these correspondences. For example, simply assigning Mani to Yesod because he's the god of the Moon seems to miss a lot of what Yesod is about. Heimdall seems the most appropriate here because of Yesod's function as a bridge to higher consciousness.

    Sunna for Tiphareth should work, especially given her more prominent place in early Norse culture. That said, I can also see Baldur there. I've read somewhere that he's god of the summer son, and fits with the “Christ-center” sense for Tiphareth.

    Saturn doesn't have an equivalent in Norse culture. Perhaps the Norns for the three supernals?

    As far as Midgard needing to be balanced between the two pillars and the point of overlap… wouldn't that just be Malkuth? That's in the middle pillar and where all the forces on the Tree eventually lead, isn't it?

    I'm sure I've just shown my ignorance in this comment. This is why I said, “toying around” rather than “what I'm using.” Anyway, I'm really looking forward to seeing what Sven and others come up with.

  151. Also, if we're going to make a Norse Cabala, can we please all go ahead and agree on how to spell it? 😉

    My submission is ᚲᚨᛒᚨᛚᚨ. It transliterates easily to English as either Kabala or Cabala. Given our host's preferences, I vote for the second. (That, and there are just too many spellings that start with a K. I've at least only seen the one with a C.)

  152. @Eric S.

    If I may, yes I think you have simplified it a bit too much, and the relationship you suggested between Binah/Chokmah and the worlds of Fire and Ice, which I find a bit off, is perhaps born of a little too much simplification. You see, in both the Kabalistic Tree and in Germanic tradition creation both descends and ascends and influences work their way up and down and around the Tree. The forces of primordial chaos are in this respect a remnant from the universe that preceded our own. They emanated from the above, but the whole structure of the Tree cracked asunder from the pressure, and they the fell to the below, from where they were left to gnaw their way up the roots in the draconian shape depicted by both traditions, while the divine descends anew, this time filling the empty vessels left behind. The presence of the leftover structures from the previous process enables the descent to take place in a more balanced manner this time around. Binah and Chokmah are more akin to Vanaheim and Ásagárd respectively, i.e. sphere of form and the sphere of force, home to the mightiest of created beings. That said Binah/Vanaheim is very much the “earth of the heavens”, and Binah serves much the same role in the supernals that Yesod (as Svartalfheimr and to a slightly lesser degree Niflheimr) does in the levels of the Tree below the Abyss (Daath is spelled “Bifröst” in Norse, btw). Their symbolism is very much similar and in a sense they mirror each other. Also note that worlds surrounding Midgard on the vertical plane are not merely worlds of chaos and evil, but elemental planes each embodying the power of an element in its rawest form, and as such has the potential to be destructive when not governed properly from above and balanced out with their responding counterparts. They too are places of power and beauty and have their place in the scheme of things, but I do recommend you bring a big hammer with you when you venture there 😉

  153. Tidlösa, this sort of thing is an old tradition on the West Coast of the USA. I have seen it before, back in the late '50s and the '60s and the early '70s in the San Francisco Bay Area, stirred up by a few people (mostly part of the Old Left). People who were far older than I am (and are now dead) saw similar things in some of the generations before mine. The iteration that I saw ended very badly indeed, with violence, a few kidnapping, more than a few murders, and eventually some extra-judicial executions of random activists, as often as not by agents of the city governments involved. I expect it to end just as badly this time around, if not more so. (Moreover, Rhyd himself will probably prove agile enough to escape any serious consequences from his writings — which are quite clever pieces of work.)

  154. @ Steve

    Midgard goes very well in the middle of the Tree. The sixth sphere is the sphere of conscious perception, which is the world we actually dwell in. That which emanates from below (or is projected on to it) is assembled there as an object in awareness, while that which emanates from above appears to the self as those (literally) mystical things that are beyond the mind, including will and knowing (not to be confused with knowledge, which is abstractions projected unto the lower levels, and thus appears to the self as objects in awareness too). Much of the initiation process is aimed at coming to terms with that and subsequently adjusting the self accordingly.

    I must say it's really cool that you guys are interested in this, and that several people are working on the Tree in their own way. I've pretty much finished the Norse L.B./S.R.P., I'll post it once I've given it a good practice run to work out the bugs. A Middle Pillar exercise is already on the drawing board.

  155. Eric S.,

    Thanks for the summary of the situation. I'm of the same mind as you re: folkish heathenry: it's not really appropriate since the Norse gods never established an exclusive relationship with the Germanic people in the way the Yahweh did with the Jews or similar cases, but if someone wants to do that it's not my business to tell them not to.

    I agree with the Heathen Talk post to the extent that the AFA has gotten too much attention and stands to give Asatru and heathenry a bad name. The “beautiful white children” line is disgraceful. However, the last thing you want to do in that situation is to overreact and make them look like the reasonable ones.

    What's going on is that we have a Rescue Game being played by the anti-AFA side. Victim: people of color. Persecutor: AFA racists. Rescuers: white liberal heathens. While racism within heathenry is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, the outcome of the game is going to be that the witch-hunters eventually get bored and go home (many denouncing heathenry as hopelessly corrupt) and everybody else is just going to keep doing what they're doing.

  156. Eric, the difficulty there is that Malkuth in trad Cabala isn't the base of the tree but its furthest extent — a lot of old images of the Tree have it growing upside down, with the supernal triad as the roots and Malkuth as the furthest branch. It's crucial, to make sense of the Tree of Life, to get past the spatial metaphors and realize that it's a diagram of process: Midgard is not “lowest” but “last formed,” and it's “in the middle” because it sums up the influences of all the other spheres. To my mind, Ginnungagap is primal, not last formed; if anything, it's the Abyss, in which Ymir's cow licks free the original form of all manifested existence.

    Tidlösa, I'm pretty sure it's the same sort of process that gave rise to the Symbionese Liberation Army et al. back in the day — when a movement for social change fails to attract any kind of following, it ramps up the rhetoric, and sooner or later turns violent and gets gunned down by the police.

    Nicolas, yep. If anyone decides to practice it regularly for a while, please post a report on your experiences here!

    Tidlösa, too funny. Thank you.

    .Mallow, do you pray to them? That's usually the first step.

    Eric, this is one of the reasons why so many of the older occult traditions consider a reasonable degree of secrecy to be a a good idea. I may do a post on that down the road a bit. As for The Archdruid Report being an alt-right blog, too funny; you may recall that I've been accused of being Jewish by one neo-Nazi and denounced in blistering tones as a traitor to the (imaginary) white race by a good many others.

    Patricia, I suspect a lot of people are interested in something other than generic Neopaganism at this point.

    James, good. The planetary correspondences are really tricky, and in fact I'll be publishing a book down the road that will suggest scrapping them entirely, now that none of us believes in the Ptolemaic cosmology that made them relevant! Odin isn't Hod in any sense that makes sense — as the one-eyed lord of the Aesir, he's pretty clearly Kether. In the same sense, I'd put Heimdall in Yesod, as the son of nine mothers and a deity of passage from plane to plane — for that matter, his description as “whitest of the Aesir” would fit a lunar correspondence, should one want to use that. Still, all this will be worked out in due time.

    As for Cabala, let us please agree to use the original English spelling, since we're writing in English — yes, that would be Cabala, and in runes, the spelling you've given it. The squabbalah about (insert one: C, K, Q)a(insert one: b, bb)al(insert one: a, ah) deserves decent burial.

  157. @JMG: It seems the part I said about a missing portion in the end of the Rite of the Triqueta is also missing; an equivalent to the end of the Rite of Three Lights, when Awen is Vibrated.

    @Everybody: regarding the Cabalistic Tree, does anybody has good material about what each sphere represents. I have some vague notions but to do a version for an Irish CGD I need to delve deeper to find equivalents.

  158. I don't really know what counts as praying or who to pray to. I have your book about the Gnostic Celtic church so I might do an altar like that says. You told someone last week:

    ‘Formulate the intention, “Whoever you are, I'd like to be guided to you,” or something like that, and see where it leads you’

    But would that count as being a prayer? And how would a god know I’m talking about them if I say that and don’t have any picture in my head of who they are or if they’re really real or not?

    Mallow

  159. @Sven/JMG on the tree: I’ll defer to experience there, since studying something and working with it are very different things, and there are insights I know I don’t have. I was mostly just noticing a marked difference in the pattern of the process in creation in Norse versus Cabalistic traditions, namely that the beginning state of creation takes the form of a primal void, differentiating into the first forms through fire and ice, with the divine realms emerging as the final product of creation while in the latter, the divine is also the primal state. It appeared to me to be a reversal in the order of creation, since Ginnungagap was the first formed (and could fit with Kether as the supersaturated void from which all things crystalize), but gives rise to Niflheim, Muspelheim first, with Asgard being built much later after Midgard had already been walled off from Jotunheim. In terms of the process of creation, the last formed realm would be Helheim, which could work with Malkuth as the last formed, being walled away from Niflheim after the other realms were already well established. I’m definitely interested in seeing what unfolds, and what seems to work best after some experimentation from those who are experienced enough to try. Once you figure out how to line up the spheres, the next challenge would be figuring out how to lay out the runes along the pathways.

    @James: The thing with the AFA at this point is that everyone already knows they are what they are… So of course they’re going to say something disgraceful. Which means that at this point, if someone is making them into news it’s because they’re either new and shocked that a group like that exists… or because they’re intentionally looking for a reason to bring them back into the conversation. The thing that concerns me most about the latest hullaballoo is the way that the target is turning towards friendships, or people who might follow their literature for other reasons (such as scholarship on topics unrelated to their philosophy). It really does seem like it ought to be possible to regulate people according to their actual behavior, rather than the behavior of their friends, the functions they attend, or the authors they read.

    @JMG: Yeah, I think the person who made that assertion was using the typical guilt by association tactics, pointing out that since some alt-right blogs share your stuff from time to time, and you hadn’t put out an official statement denouncing them, and since you allow comments from people in that movement slip through your moderation as long as they follow the house rules, you must be one of them.

  160. In my “liberal boilerplate” way, I have been drawn to meditate upon the idea that among the other things our civilisation has created, and that stands between us and a sense of connection to the land, is an egregore of Whiteness. White Man's Burden, Civilised/Enlightened/Scientific/Progressive Whiteness, Morally Advanced Whiteness, White Exceptionalism have given shape to a collective, numinous “thing” in the world, and this thing has provided the moral, social, political and economic logic for locating current wealth pumping arrangements where they are, and operating them as they are.

    I am cognizant of the point you've made that you cannot banish yourself, and so I ponder how I, a flesh-and-blood person whose skin so happens to be (small-w) white might alter my personal relationship with this egregore.

    Someone has made reference to a book titled “How the Irish became White”… and one obvious magical operation would be to reverse that and study how the “White” might become Irish (or French, or Polish, or Latvian, as it were)… ie, one's own ordinary, unburdened, unexceptional, unarchetypal self, but somehow re-connected to actual real-life networks of kinship & place.

    Secondly, one might try to figure out what an egregore eats and decline to feed it. (This is subject to further meditation, I think).

    And over time, perhaps, that specific egregore may wither and leave us all blinking, wondering what the fuss was about…

    *Stacy, I want to thank you for guiding some of my recent meditations, and also I will hold up my hand to half of your description. No, not “liberal” 😉

    But “boilerplate” may well be apt. Preachermen and missionaries are numerous among my ancestors, and I think I come by the exhortation and thunder in my style of discourse honestly. I do try not to take myself too seriously, though, and never expect mine to be the last word…

  161. Rhyd Wildermuth just keeps digging and digging, doesn't he? I wonder if he realizes that the actions of people like him are making a violent backlash inevitable, like we were discussing on the other blog?

    In his book “The Ominous Parallels”, Leonard Peikoff pointed out that the behavior of the radical Left played a major role in the rise of National Socialism in Weimar Germany. By the early 1930's, left wing extremists had managed to thoroughly alienate everyone who wasn't a Marxist and drove tens of millions of ordinary Germans into the arms of the Nazis.

    When the behavior of the SJW's becomes intolerable, the backlash finally explodes into violence and people like Wildermuth find themselves being strung up from lampposts or being blindfolded and lined up against a wall, they will have no one to blame but themselves for their fate.

  162. Hey JMG you forgot my response in addition to grisom's, but I don't know how you have time to answer all these questions anyway, and my question was kinda muddled. I'm just kinda scared of Odin, don't really understand what gods are (like, are they objective, parts of psyche, made up by humans) – like I have a connection to “diety” or “higher self” or it doesn't matter what I call it, but have only recently been interested in the possibilities of polythiesm. But is Odin a specific diety that exists objectively, some other entity that we just call “Odin”, multiple entities, just an idea in people's heads, something else, or all of the above?

    Apologies if this is also muddled.

    @norse GD people – I dunno if you've read Edred Thorsson's 9 Doors of Midgard but he has some stuff in there that looks to me like Norse Cabala, though I don't really know that much about Cabala, only having read “The Chicken Cabala.”

  163. I´m not into Kabbala (or Squabbalah), nor things Norse (despite living in Sweden!), but a Swedish occultist named Thomas Karlsson has written extensively on a 17th century Swedish esotericist named Johannes Bureus who developed a “Goth” (or perhaps Geat) Kabbala. He was also into the secret symbolism of runes.

    Unfortunately, Karlsson´s texts on the matter are only available in Swedish. They are titled “Adulrunan och den götiska kabbalan” and “Götisk kabbala och runisk alkemi. Johannes Bureus och den götiska esoterismen”.

    I haven´t read any of them, but here is an English article on Bureus, written by a certain Gangleri:

    http://www.gangleri.nl/articles/45/johannes-bureus-the-renaissance-rune-magician/

  164. Nicolas Costa:

    “regarding the Cabalistic Tree, does anybody has good material about what each sphere represents. I have some vague notions but to do a version for an Irish CGD I need to delve deeper to find equivalents.”

    You're spoiled for choice on this one! There's JMG's Paths of Wisdom or the book he co-authored, Learning Ritual Magic; there's also Dion Fortune's The Mystical Qabalah and William G. Gray's The Ladder of Lights, among many others.

    I'm highlighting these specifically because all of them go into good detail about the spheres of the Tree. In addition, Paths of Wisdom goes into detail on the paths of the Tree.

    If you can only get one, I recommend The Mystical Qabalah. It's the classic book on the subject that everyone who's anyone has read.

    For online sources, you might take a look at the pages linked on by Chabad.org. They write from an Orthodox Jewish perspective and it may not be exactly what you need, but I doubt anyone's going to challenge their knowledge or seriousness.

  165. I do find it supremely ironic that Rhyd Wildermuth and his fellow travellers (pun intended!) are describing their enemies as cockroaches. After all, one of the standard rhetorical tricks the Nazis used to justify the extermination of groups of people they didn't like, including Jews, Russians, Poles, Gypsies and homosexuals, was to characterize them as vermin. Once they were in power, it was only a short jump to using poison gas to exterminate those they considered to be “cockroaches”. After all, Zyklon B was originally developed and marketed as a commercial pesticide.

    I also find very interesting that he doesn't deny being an entryist in his latest screed. It's pretty clear based on the evidence I have seen so far that you caught him red handed and exposed him for what he truly is and that is why he has been responding in such an irate and defensive manner. As you correctly pointed out to Galina Krasskova, he seems to be more of a Marxist infiltrator posing as a Pagan. Marxist pseudopagans indeed! Rhyd and his collaborators need to be exposed for who and what they really are so that people in the Pagan community are aware of the games these people are playing.

  166. JMG,

    “The planetary correspondences are really tricky, and in fact I'll be publishing a book down the road that will suggest scrapping them entirely, now that none of us believes in the Ptolemaic cosmology that made them relevant!”

    Hmm. I'll be looking forward to that book. I always thought the planetary correspondences made quite a bit of sense — the benefics in the pillar of Mercy, the malefics in the pillar of Severity, the luminaries in the middle pillar. Mercury is also in the pillar of Severity, but it corresponds with Hod, intellect, which Mercury rules.

    The only one that I really strain to understand is Saturn on Binah. Somehow I have a hard time thinking of the sphere of understanding as the greater malefic!

  167. Here is a great response to Galina Krasskov's post from the other day, one I agree with wholeheartedly. What Rhyd and his friends are advocating is a declaration of war against Pagans who don't follow the Marxist party line and is just as abhorrent as what the Nazis, the Bolsheviks and Daesh were advocating before they came to power.

  168. Just performed my very first LRP, the first of a daily practice I've long intended to begin. I've created some time in the AM on a daily basis, so looking forward to having set foot on the path.

  169. Hi JMG,
    This seems to be the thread for asking nitpicky questions about operative magic, and I've got a couple about the Sphere of Protection.

    I use the Greek pantheon when I do the SoP, but so far I've been using the elemental symbols out of the Druid Magic Handbook. It sounds like, based on previous comments, that I would do better to find a set of elemental symbols out of Greek mythology instead. Are the symbols meant mostly to engage my imagination as I work, or is there another level to them?

    Also, do you have any pointers for vibrating sacred names? My attempts at vibration basically consist of me saying the names in a really deep voice, causing me to feel a vague vibration in my throat.

  170. Nicolas, what I posted is what was in the queue. If you'd like to repost with the missing piece added, I'll certainly put it through.

    .Mallow, yes, that counts as a prayer. Prayer is any attempt to communicate with a deity that doesn't rely on ritual — though it can be accompanied by ritual, of course. You don't have to use any particular set of words — the traditional Christian reliance on established prayer texts such as the Our Father has obscured, for many people, the fact that prayer can as well be a spontaneous expression of thoughts and feelings, directed toward any known or unknown deity.

    Eric, one of the interesting things about assigning the runes to the Paths is that the Druidical GD uses an approach to that very different from the Hermetic GD — it's an approach that was presented to me, in one of the various traditions in which I've been initiated, as the secret inner GD attribution, but I have no idea if there's more to that than wishful thinking. At any rate, we start from Malkuth, not from Kether, and the spheres as well as the paths have letters, geomantic figures, Tarot trumps, Coelbren letters, etc. assigned to them. This means that the paths and spheres crossing and beyond the Abyss have a different symbolism, which (as I was taught) is exactly as it should be. More on this in a future post.

    Armata, I gather that you didn't name yourself after the new and very effective Russian tank by accident. 😉 Yes, though I expect the backlash to come sooner and, with any luck, in a less violent means. Unless it can pull itself out of the fixation with social-justice Rescue Games on the one hand, and selling out its last remaining ideals to the political hacks of the Democratic Party on the other, the great wave of liberal social activism that got going in the wake of the Second World War is probably at its last gasp, and will go the way of the Progressive movement, the Populists, and so many other defunct movements for social change, leaving the field open to something that will probably look a lot like today's alt-right. I suspect Wildermuth would enjoy being thought important enough to string up from a lamppost; what he really can't stand is the thought of being utterly irrelevant, which he's well on his way to becoming.

    Isaac, you're quite right, I did miss your question! How do we know who and what deities actually are? We don't. Human capacities for knowledge are extremely limited, and when applied to divine beings, they're far more limited than otherwise. All we've got to go on is tradition and our own limited perceptions. That's why the concept of faith is relevant to religion. Faith doesn't mean believing something that contradicts the evidence; it means trusting in something when you have no way of knowing what's involved. Being human, we land in that situation tolerably often…

    Tidlösa, your timing's good. I just wrote a section on Bureus for a book on the history of occultism I'm doing right now. I don't know of anybody since the eighteenth century who's used Bureus' Adulruna system — it might be worth reviving, but as I don't know a word of Swedish and have quite a few other things to take care of, I'll be leaving it for someone else.

  171. Armata, I caught that too. I think it's pretty clear that he and his fellow travelers, so to speak, are doing the usual entryist thing, and trying to hijack as large as possible a chunk of the faltering Neopagan scene to advance their own political ambitions.

    James, the placement of Saturn is one of the problems — why is the Abyss between Saturn and Jupiter? What corresponds to the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars? What about Pluto? What about the dwarf planets, and potentially the full-sized planets, out beyond Pluto? It all made perfect sense in the days when Ptolemaic cosmology was state of the art, but it really doesn't make much sense at all today.

    Gwizard, delighted to hear it. You've taken your first step on a path that can take you very, very far indeed.

    Cliff, by the elemental symbols do you mean the ones you trace in the air, or the Hawk of May et al.? If the former, keep 'em; if the latter, yes, you should probably come up with something a little more Greek. As for vibration, that's something that comes with practice. If you're getting a vibration in your throat, good — now try moving it out into the fingers of your outstretched hand when you vibrate.

  172. JMG,

    “James, the placement of Saturn is one of the problems — why is the Abyss between Saturn and Jupiter? What corresponds to the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars? What about Pluto? What about the dwarf planets, and potentially the full-sized planets, out beyond Pluto? It all made perfect sense in the days when Ptolemaic cosmology was state of the art, but it really doesn't make much sense at all today.”

    I agree with the Saturn problem, but I'd think the easiest answer for excluding the asteroid belt, dwarf planets, and outer planets is that we can't see them from Earth with the naked eye. Even astrologers who use all of those tend to feel that the smaller or more distant an object is, the less influential it is overall. That doesn't have to be just a prejudice about size, either: those two factors also determine how much of the Sun's light they reflect back at us.

    Then again, distance has a very large influence on the speed of the planet, and that's considered quite important, too.

    Regardless, looking forward to the book!

  173. @JMG: Ahh, miscomunication. I meant to say the Ritual still needs an equivalent for the vibration of Awen, unless that portion is compatible. Sorry for the confusion.

  174. Hi JMG,

    That is as good a reason as any. Thanks for your comment to Francis too alerting him to the new book. I wondered what you meant about that matter when I asked you about it all those years ago now. All will be revealed in time, I guess.

    That, I believe, is my path, if it means anything to you. I already undertake a lot of that work here and if I try to step off that path, then I get forced back onto it by events and circumstances. So much for free will, I get a little bit, but not too much and not without facing consequences.

    Cheers

    Chris

  175. Ritual magic seems like an old man's game. Work+commute 9 hours a day; sleep 9 hours a day; chores – I find it hard to envision that I'd want to spend the hour or two I have left over sticking to a strict magical exercise routine. I just want to fit in a couple hours of video gaming, ya'know? Maybe later in life I'll have room for that sort of thing – and the 6 miles a day I want to walk.

  176. It might be encouraging to some of the people following the hullabaloo in the pagan and Polytheist community of fascists versus radical leftists and moderates getting caught in the middle of the disputes and looked at with suspicion from all sides, to see that prominent voices in the polytheist community are FINALLY beginning to call for the crusades and rescue games to stop dominating the conversation and for polytheists to get back to the work of actually doing the things they do. It may lead to yet another faction of moderates being chased off with pitchforks, but it's comforting to know that there are still at least some sane voices left in the mainstream conversation.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2016/09/polytheism-doesnt-need-saving-it-needs-practicing.html

    “I’m not suggesting we whitewash over our legitimate religious and political differences – far from it. And I’m not suggesting we excuse personal attacks or other bad behavior (but I am suggesting it be dealt with one-on-one where ever possible). What I am suggesting in the strongest of terms is that the crusades have to end.

    […] Crusader mentality is anathema to the polytheist principle that different Gods call different people to serve Them in different ways. The proper response to polytheists who are “doing it wrong” is not to crush them but to “do it right” so well that everyone else sees the obvious benefit of following your way instead of theirs.

    Polytheism doesn’t need saving from fascists or communists or atheists or would-be popes or anyone else. Polytheism needs practicing, in solitary and especially in groups.”

  177. @ Patricia– The Yggdrasil image isn't mine; I found it by googling “Norse 9 worlds.”

    Dammerung–

    I suppose it depends on how you want to spend your time. I'm 33, I currently work an 8-5 job and find time for daily ritual. I usually also find time for daily martial arts, guitar practice, reading older literature, creative writing, and other good stuff. Every now and again I end my day so exhausted that I want to look at the internet or watch a video, the idea of coming home from work and looking at a computer all evening kind of horrifies me. But, maybe it works for you.

    Don't think that by turning to video games that you're not practicing magic, though– or having it practiced on you.

    Here's something I discovered today, and meant to bring up here anyway: The “Proteus Effect.” This is a term researchers coined to describe the ways that the avatars people use in online roleplaying games affect their personalities in the physical world. A pdf link to the paper: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/24/the-proteus-effect-how-our-avatar-changes-online-behavior/ . A non pdf article: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/24/the-proteus-effect-how-our-avatar-changes-online-behavior/

    In other words, putting yourself in a hypnotic state and imagining yourself as a character you'd like to be affects your day-to-day consciousness in a tangible way. Or to put it more simply, magic works.

    The larger topic it raises is interesting though– the magical implications of digital technology. The source for the paper I posted above was an article in the NYTimes about video games and gender identity; it mentioned a navy officer who came out as gay after playing a gay character in “The Sims” game. So you have people transforming themselves in ways they want to by creating an imaginary identity. The effect as described in the article is relatively benign, and I imagine that you could, using videogames or TV, use it as a deliberate magical tool for personality change. (Actually the occult author Jason Miller described using exactly that technique to prepare for a corporate job, by going on a Twin Peaks marathon in order to “become” the character Dale Cooper from that series.) I doubt it's JMG's style and it's not mine either, but still, it's a possibility. The article doesn't mention the more sinister implications, though– like the addictive nature of video games; the fact that your “personality choices” are limited by large corporations who probably don't have your personal growth in mind; or the implications of spending 2-5 hours a day pretending to kill people.

    And, completely out of left field, here is an article in The Daily mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3734361/Woman-tells-police-RAPED-Pokemon-character-felt-assault-virtual-reality-game-detected-creature-bedroom.html about a woman who claims to have been raped by a Pokemon Go character. That sounds ridiculous (and the woman may have been lying) at first, but notice the way her account closely matches classic spirit-attack accounts… and the being she encountered was one she'd spent (wasted) hours building up in her psyche.

  178. Can anyone recommend a ritual or ceremony for saying hello and welcoming yourself to the local Gods, energies, and spirits when you've moved to a new place? I feel like we need to do something to sort of introduce ourselves and also would like to do a banishing of any unwanted energies from where we now live. I know there's various ways of cleansing a house, but what do you do? It's something we would like to do shortly.

  179. JMG,
    If I may add a few more nitpicking questions to the chorus… 🙂

    I've been doing a modified SoP for almost two years and am ready to do the full ritual properly. (Can't say I rush things.) I've bought several of your books the last few years and considered following the course set out in Learning Ritual Magic. However, The Druid Magic Handbook feels like a much better fit because it uses the Wheel of Life. I have a strong visceral feeling about it, possibly because of the way I experience the burst of energy that flows out from me in all directions when I do the SoP.

    However, I have been using the Tarot cards for over a year and a half, and would like to keep using them instead of the Ogham fews. In Learning Ritual Magic, you have excellent lessons and exercises for the Tarot, and I want to do them, but am afraid of mixing up systems. I hear the cautions against it loud and clear.

    As for the Oghams, I noticed that there are several versions that switch fews and symbols, and to my anal nitpicking mind, that makes it a shaky foundation on which to build. The Tree of Life uses the Tarot for the paths. Can I use them for the Wheel of Life instead of the Oghams? If so, can you point me in a direction that would match the cards to the paths?

    I'm wondering too if I can use the opening gesture given in Learning Ritual Magic. It reminds me of the American Sign Language sign for book/opening a book, and in the gesture, I proceed (symbolically) to rip the book apart at the spine and look beyond it. Wow, does that work for me to part the veil!

    I'm afraid again of mixing systems, but it's working well for me so far. Advice? Caution? Your kitty litter in the cake analogy still echoes…

    One more question, please. I have become aware as soon as I start the SoP of four tall figures in long robes, like slim giants, standing at each of the 4 directions. They are facing outward, so I can't see their faces, but they seem to be bearded older men with swords, silently standing on guard. Rather comforting, but I have no idea who they might be because I did not visualize them. They just appeared. I don't know what to do with them.

    Thank you!

  180. Alvin, Robert’s observation regarding magic and early Christianity in the Roman world is at least part of the story. (The political dimension of disrespecting the emperor is certainly also an element.) Certainly there was also the distinction in the Church between authorized and unauthorized magic.

    Back in the Clenched Fist of Reason on this blog JMG refers to Valerie flint’s observation that “one of Christianity’s major selling points in the post-Roman dark ages was that its priests and monks were considered better at magic than their pagan rivals.” I think that applies to both the “Southern Conjure” variety as well as “awakening of the higher potentials of human consciousness”. And thank you to our host JMG for that useful distinction.

    Robert, thank you for the pointer to Frances Young’s work. He does seem to be onto something. Absolution and exorcism seem to fit reasonably well the work with Tsumi and Kegare referenced this month. the Young reference led me to Melchior Cibinensis.

    “Rosicrucian ancestors in Pennsylvania, they probably thought of themselves as good Lutherans — but the local pastor probably didn't agree!”

    Except is the cases when the pastor himself was a hexenmeister.

  181. JMG, thanks again!

    Colour me intrigued by Norse GD as well.

    On spelling that word, we could always adopt the convention of picking a different spelling at random every time we use it! I know of one author who actually does this, it's pretty funny.

  182. James, and yet Uranus and Neptune, which are not visible to the naked eye, have effects as significant as Jupiter or Saturn — I track them as part of my regular survey of transits — so I doubt that that's the issue!

    Nicolas, no, that's what the words “Beidh sé amlaidh!” are for. It's the equivalent of “Amen” in the Cabalistic Cross, and doesn't have to be a single word, much less a major word of power.

    Cherokee, good! Exactly; free will doesn't mean infinitely and absolutely free, it just means that you get to choose among a narrow range of available options, and take the consequences that come with them.

    Dammerung, and if that's your choice, by all means. Me, I've been practicing ceremonial magic since I was a teenager, and I work longer hours than you do (most working writers do). It depends on how you want to spend your time and what you want to get out of it.

    Eric, yes, I saw that. It'll be interesting to see if anybody listens.

    Alex, I'd do a lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram followed by an OIW Ritual in every room of the new house, then set up a proper Druidical GD altar, open a temple on the Bardic Grade, and use scrying in the spirit vision to interact with the local spirits and gods. That is to say, you may want to ask somebody who hasn't been doing this stuff for nearly forty years!

    Myriam, there are even more versions of the Tarot than there are of the Ogham, so I don't know that you're doing yourself any favors! If you're going to study a system of magic, I strongly encourage you to study that system of magic intact, and not discard this and add in that — not until you've completed your studies and have some sense of what you're doing.

    Brother Guthlac, good! I know a Lutheran minister who's a hexenmeister, too; you might be interested to know that he used to be a Satanist, but decided on reflection that he was on the wrong side and became a Christian mage.

    Grisom, I once noted in print that the word “tradition” in ceremonial magic circles refers to any two or more people who spell the words “magic” and “cabala” the same way…

    Bonnie, exactly. One of the Druid teachings is that each of us, in order to be ready to move from Abred (the realm of incarnate life) to Gwynfydd, the “Luminous Life” beyond it, must know all things, do all things, and suffer all things. Not, as you've pointed out, all nice things. We've all of us, by the time we reach that point in human incarnation at which spirituality is more than a game with arbitrary symbols, been the wolf who leaps on the deer and the deer who dies under the wolf's fangs, the beaten slave and the guy with the whip, and so on through all the experiences it's possible to have.

    It's said in Barddas that the human stage of Abred is the first point at which happiness and misery are more or less in balance; before that, in the animal creation, misery greatly outweighs happiness. People like to daydream about the wolf running free, but it's desperately trying to chase down enough prey to keep itself and its family fed, and its life is hard and usually short. The same is true of other wild things. Druids love nature, but they don't romanticize it!

  183. Thanks JMG! I'll remember that in 40 years 😉 Until then I think my approach for now is to do the lesser ritual of the pentagram (summoning and banishing) in each room, as I'm doing it anyway, but currently only been doing it in one room. And hopefully soon I'll be able to set up my ovate grade altar.

  184. JMG,

    Thank you for your answer. I will take your wise advice, put everything else aside for now, including the Tarot, and focus solely on your two Druidry books: The Druidry Handbook and The Druid Magic Handbook. I also have Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, which I loved reading (twice) but I don't think you'd object if I read and meditate on it again.

    That's a clear path. Thanks. If you have any other suggestions I would welcome them.

  185. There's something that I have been mulling over in my head for some time and the magic in early Christianity discussion has been bringing it to my mind more.

    How does one distinguish magic from religion?

    It seems to me that there is indeed a difference, despite many would-be magicians borrowing the techniques of different religions.

    I notice for example many occultists, usually of the more eclectic (not necessarily Chaos magic) sort, adopting practices such as offerings to spirits, and different petitions to the Saints. They call this magic. I am not so sure that this is magic; millions of animists, ATR practitioners, Buddhists, Hindus leave offerings for local spirits, ancestral spirits, deities and so on — even Christians offering candles before Saints, memorials and so on is a variant of this practice — but they never call it magic. These ordinary people acknowledge that there is some difference between their offerings and what a rain-making ritual specialist would do for example.

    From a spirit-based perspective, it seems to me that the key difference is the establishment of some kind of authority that the spirits recognize. This is not necessarily hostile and may itself involve offerings to those spirits, but the key is some kind of mutual set agreement between the practitioner and the spirits.

    I don't know, but it makes more sense to me than calling what is normal, exoteric religion for millions of people “magic”.

  186. This has been brought up in the past on this blog in reference to the Picatrix, but since this month's thread includes several people discussing various types of folk magic, hoodoo, leechcraft, cunning craft, and so on it should probably be brought up again: when working with folk magic systems, especially when working with texts like Lacugna, Bald's Leechbook, the Long Lost Friend, etcetera that are from different times, but the same applies to modern books no matter how respectible the author; do not do anything that involves imbibing, burning, inhaling, or rubbing something on yourself without consulting a good modern herbal or talking to a skilled herbalist. It should be common sense, but it isn't always. Most of those old folk magic grimoires were the sort of reading that sat right next to the family recipe books and were focused more on healing, blessing, and protection than the fringier arts like those seen in Picatrix, but also language changes and the identities of some herbs is lost, and knowledge changes and there's lots of stuff we know is dangerous now that people used to eat like candy. So if folk magic is your thing be smart. I Hope that little PSA isn't too out of place in this conversation, it's the sort of thing that has to be tossed out every once in a while in discussions on magic.

  187. JMG, well, I defer to your considerably greater experience and knowledge!

    One question, if I may: are you planning on a post on the magical dimensions of memory? I have a question I've been wanting to ask you for a while but it would be too far off topic on nearly any other post. It's not an occult topic per se but one I feel could benefit from some magical analysis.

  188. I'm interested in the Hellenic CGD adaptation. Is there any discussion about that somewhere, such as the DOGD message boards (I'm not yet a member), or has this just been some personal emails?

  189. Alvin,
    How does one distinguish magic from religion? I will dare to comment, and we’ll see who else has an opinion. Our host has often commented to the effect that “ask three druids and you’ll get five answers.” I am not a druid, but still …. The word magic is considered to have various meanings. Stage magicians do tricks. Folk magic of the ‘Southern conjure’ variety aims at certain things. Harry Potter and Dr. Steven Strange do magic. However the usual definition used on the ADR and Galabes blogs seems to be involved with “change in consciousness in accordance with will”. This month JMG specified that he wants to talk about
    “The magical training I’m discussing aims at the awakening of the higher potentials of human consciousness; while it also involves practices that can fix a lot of unsatisfactory things in the student’s life, that’s more or less a useful side effect.”

    So what is religion? If you choose to define religion as dogma and ethical rules without reference to experience or consciousness, then clearly that is not “magic”. If religion means exoteric ritual without real meaning or results, that is again not “magic”. If one wishes one could define religion in terms of authority and control of others’ behavior by dysfunctional abusive males. If religion is defined as a strictly social phenomenon, then that excludes the “solitary mage”, and most of what JMG writes about does seem to be aimed primarily at the solitary practitioner with some allowance for group work.

    The “spiritual but not religious” meme is popular. Religious can be defined to exclude magical.

    If one chose to admit that religious activities might intentionally seek to cause change in consciousness through various practices, that could be interesting. If one concluded that a significant number of humans seem to experience contact with non-embodied entities and have developed religions as a means of dealing with the potentials of such contact, that could be interesting. If one chose to assume a synergy of human with other “entities” or “powers”, that could be interesting. If one is interested in ceremonial ritual that shapes consciousness, some religions may have some experience with rituals and ceremony. Some of those who developed those rituals and other practices in a “religious” framework may have accomplished “the establishment of some kind of authority that the spirits recognize.” And some “exoteric” forms may have “esoteric” significance. Some might think that some people involved with “religious” practices of groups (even so-called “Christian” groups) could possibly accept the hypothesis of “higher potential of human consciousness” and have systematically attempted to develop such. It might even be allowed that some religious practice is systematically personal and solitary and not merely social. It might even possible that the activities of normal exoteric religions for millions of people might have a deeper significance, with or without the name “magic”.

  190. @Alvin Leong

    To use an old joke framework:

    I'm practicing our religion
    Your practice is a bit unusual
    They're practicing magic.

    Dion Fortune's formula is pretty widely known: The art of making changes in consciousness with accordance with will. JMG has discussed the meaning of both consciousness and will before; they're not the common ones.

    I think of it as any systematic practice that gets results that aren't possible within a strictly materialist framework. That of course includes religious practices if they get results.

  191. Alex, that'll certainly work.

    Myriam, you're welcome! By all means reread “Mystery Teachings” as desired; as you've probably figured out, it's designed to be compatible with my other books on Druidry.

    Alvin, people have been bickering over the difference between religion and magic for a long time now. Both, of course, are abstract labels for poorly defined (and difficult to define) categories, and it's possible to spend a long time unproductively trying to figure out which is which. Me, I let people describe their spiritual practices using the terms they like; when a Christian or an Asatruar, say, says that they practice a religion, I use that label out of politeness, and if a Hermetic occultist says that he or she practices magic, I use that label. I'm not sure it's possible to go much further than that, given the inherent problems with language and the like.

    Eric, a good point. I made it repeatedly in the Picatrix translation because there are recipes in there, presented as good things to ingest, that will drop you in your tracks — in that case it was quite deliberate, one of the many security measures worked into the book. In other cases it's sheer incompetence. In all cases, know what you're doing before you ingest anything!

    James, I'll certainly consider it.

    Yucca Glauca, so far it's just been a matter of private emails exchanged between me and the person who's working on it.

  192. I'm working with the book Experience of the Inner Worlds, by Gareth Knight, as recommended by Brother Greer previously.
    The banishing ritual is the Sphere of Light, from the first chapter. What stands out for me in this month's discussion is that there is no gestural or spoken part to this exercise. This seems unique: from what you all have discussed gestures and recitation form a large part of your rituals. My practice thus far feels comforting, so I have no inclination to change, but I do wonder why this difference.

  193. Tidlösa, JMG, others,

    Thomas Karlsson has a short section on Bureus and the Adulruna in English in his book Uthark – Nightside of the Runes. It's out of print, but can be found online as a PDF with a quick search.

    He also presents a version of a Norse Tree of Life with Kether as Ginungagap, Tiphareth as Asgård, Yesod as Helheim and Malkuth as Midgård, plus runic correspondences for them. Worth checking out if you're so inclined.

    (The main subject of the book being the Uthark rune row — or circle, with the beginning shifted one step forward, so it starts with Ur and ends with Fehu. Which is interesting in its own right.)

  194. Feeling a little guilty, I in fact tried the beginning Sphere of Protection exercise, substituting my own deities and kenned relationships for the Druidic ones on offer. It only took a couple minutes – is that the length of time it ought to take? I definitely felt something, sort of like I was stretching out a rubber band from one fulcrum to another as I worked through the up-down-left-right-back-forward-center stations.

  195. BoysMom, good question. Gareth Knight is an extremely experienced and competent mage — some of his other books, notably the two little gems Occult Exercises and Practices and The Practice of Ritual Magic were central to my magical training back in the day — so presumably he had a specific reason in mind. By all means keep working with the system exactly as he gives it, btw; to my mind, the first phase of any serious training in magic has to begin with learning one system all the way through, by the book, without tinkering at all. (The second is working with a bunch of other systems; the third is synthesizing your own system out of all you've learned.)

    Brother G., yep.

    Patricia, er, well, I suppose so. (Hangs head in dismay…)

    Peter, many thanks! I don't use the runes at all — most people I know find that they can use either the runes or the Ogham, but not both, and Ogham's my style — but I'll check out what he has to say on Bureus.

    Dammerung, glad to hear it! Five minutes is usually adequate unless you're really working it, and then you might get up to ten. The sense of things stretching is one common way people start to sense the energy polarities take shape.

  196. I am glad to see your response to BoysMom. I have been uncertain about whether I was doing my own practice right since I've begun exploring more systems.

    After your magic series on the Archdruid Report in 2011 I got Experience of the Inner Worlds (after seeing you recommend it to another commenter on one of those posts). I dedicated 2012 to working through it, one chapter per month, with June and December for review. I got a great deal out of it, to the extent of healing longstganding psychological difficulties (which I should write more about re: the subthread on schizophrenia but I don't have much time).

    2013 and 2014 were dedicated to pregnancy and infant-care.

    In early 2015, inspired by this blog, I started on Learning Ritual Magic but had only been at it for a few months when I found Josephine McCarthy's Quareia program, which really resonated with me. So I've been working at that for a bit upwards of a year and have got through most of her first module. It is very slow going with a toddler to manage. I get less than two hours per day to myself, with the constant threat of interruption, so a lot of things are hard to fit in.

    Consequently, it's clear that it will take me a long time to get far and there's a lot of other stuff that I want to have in my life. I am able to read and learn a lot by dint of podcasts while lying down and singing lullabies and then ebooks in the gap between when he falls asleep and when I can get up, etc. Sometimes paper books while he plays. I don't want to wait a decade before beginning to incorporate practices from other systems. Specifically, I want to be working through the Druidry Handbook as a means of addressing some of my religious needs.~

    Also it seems like every book I read has its own set of exercises. I don't propose to modify the basic practice from my main system, nor change any rituals or anything like that. But is it okay, at this point in my development, to do different types of meditation at different times of day? Or to do ritual from one system during my big block of time at naptime while doing meditation from another system during stolen minutes in the bath or something?

  197. Breanna, not to be alarmist, but I would advise emailing Josephine directly about your situation. She STRONGLY advised me against practicing magic in a household with a young child. The guideline I have heard is to wait until the child is *at least* seven years-old, and ideally later. Why? Because you are attracting all sorts of astral critters, some of which may find your baby's energy very appealing.

    Not sure what JMG would add, but Josephine was quite adamant, and I took her advice. I had initially asked her because my five-year-old daughter was having terrible nightmares that she described in very mature mythological terms (they featured Mercury, an underworld, and other mythological elements far beyond her usual vocabulary). I stopped all practice and the nightmares faded.

    That was evidence enough for me.

  198. Dear Mr. Greer,

    I'm practicing the Elemental Cross and Circulation of Light from the Sphere of Protection Ritual, and just becoming consistent at it, but I'm having problems with holding the visualizations vividly and consistently. I only seem to be able to maintain them for a second or two at a time. I've been practicing the ritual with my eyes open and I'm wondering if I should do it with my eyes closed? Or is it more beneficial to be able to develop the visualizations with my eyes open?

    Thanks again for all that you are doing!

    Sincerely,
    Joe

  199. BH

    Dear John Michael,

    Thank you for this series of posts. Two very young children at home makes ritual time difficult, as does procrastination.

    May I please ask about things found on the inner plane? I am suspecting that my young son's night terrors for many months after a hospital stay and now the scary man that appears to him outside the window at night may be a ghost. He is not scared of the man he calls “the scary daddy” and calmly describes him as having blood and bruises down his face. He knows that it is not his daddy, it's a different man, and sees him outside the living room window and tells me that the window should not be there. I have been telling him that it cannot hurt him (not because I know this, but because I am trying to keep him calm.)

    Do I do anything? The LRP would be good for this, and good in general, yes? Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated. He has not, to my knowledge, been exposed to any visual, audio or print media that would put these kind of things in his head and we have no TV but the Internet.

    Kind Regards,

  200. Breanna, while I am certainly no expert, my children–I have six–seem entirely unaffected by my magical practice, which I do after they are asleep at night. We are, however, actual practicing Christians, not the social sort. Even my not-quite-two-year-old takes Communion of her own desire. I expect they have some regular supernatural protection of their own: the rote bedtime prayer my littles use asks for angelic protection. The only real nightmares reported are of the category of dreams that contain possible futures, and that is a family trait of some sort: even my atheist-leaning agnostic father has those. My older children had already experienced them before I began magical practice, as I have since childhood.

    So I suppose if I were you, I would ask myself what supernatural activities is this child already participating in, and how will that interact with what I am doing? If everything is compatible, then proceed with your eyes wide open.

  201. Breanna and Professor Pan,

    Whenever I've heard Josaphine McCarthy give an interview, she talks quite proudly about how her personal space tends to have a large number of visiting spirits, both invited and uninvited, and how other magical practitioners are often dismayed by the high spiritual activity and her (if I understand correctly) generally lax attitude towards the sorts of protections that most traditions value. The issues with children could be a system-specific thing. Either way, you should probably take her advice if you intend to practice her tradition.

    You might consider talking to practitioners of other systems to see if their traditions are more child-friendly.

    BoysMom,

    Regarding what I said above, what particular kind of magic have you been practicing?

  202. @BoysMom

    I started to answer Breanna and then deleted it, however the gist was exactly what you suggested: a protective ritual for everyone in the family. A “bless this house” ritual would also be helpful.

    There is a lot to recommend the old standbys – the LBRP and the Sphere of Protection, because you can use both of them for warding your environment and everyone in it, from early on.

    I started reading in the Quarea program, and it seems like it doesn't deal with protections and warding until a bit into the course.

  203. Breanna, that was my normal routine when I was working with different systems of magic: my primary practices first thing in the morning, and then other modes of working at other times in the day. I found it best to leave at least 90 minutes between one practice and another, though that might be one of those things that varies from person to person.

    Professor Pan (if I may), in my experience some kinds of working are safe to do around children and some kinds are not. If Josephine McCarthy says her system isn't, I'd believe her — but the material in Experience of the Inner Worlds seems to be entirely safe, and so does the material in The Druidry Handbook and The Druid Magic Handbook. (I've corresponded with scores of people who've worked through the latter two with young children in the house, and have yet to hear of problems.) If you have young children around, in other words, you need to choose your practices from among those that aren't going to stir up trouble for them.

    Joe, that's a common problem, and what works differs for different people. I'd say try visualizing with closed eyes for one week, then with open eyes for one week, and see what results you get.

    Cake, yes, it's probably a ghost. Children haven't yet been bullied into shutting down their inner senses, and the energy transformations that occur with puberty can also bollix up the clairvoyant senses in various ways; before that point, they're often a good deal keener. Regular performances of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and, when you get to that point, either the Rose Cross Ritual (used in the Hermetic GD) or the OIW Ritual (the equivalent in the Druidical GD) ought to keep anything awkward from happening.

    BoysMom (if I may), you've also got the advantage that the workings given in Experience of the Inner Worlds seem to be very safe to do around just about anybody. That said, you're also quite correct that the sacramental rituals of Christianity are very strong magic indeed, and if you and your children are regular participants in such rituals and back it up with regular prayer, there really isn't much that can mess with you. (And backing that up with Christian magic is lagniappe.)

  204. I'd like to echo what our host just said, “that the sacramental rituals of Christianity are very strong magic indeed.” Indeed, I am of the opinion that the early Christians (and Jesus, too) had an uncommonly deep understanding of what we now call magic, but what in their day counted as theurgy and, more generally, the ritual action in a religious context — no matter what the religion. If the word “magic” as applied to earky Christian religious practice doesn't scare the reader off, I'd reccomend Morton Smith's “Jesus the Magician” and several books by Robert Conner on the same subject (published by Mandrake of Oxford), and particularly Helen Ingram's PhD thesis, _Dragging Down Heaven: Jesus as Magician and Manipulator of Spirits in the Gospels_. (Ingram also has an excellent, more accessible wibsite summarizing her work at http://wasjesusamagician.blogspot.co.uk/ .)

    On another note, there are at least four ways, maybe more, in which children are often — not always — protected from adverse consequencs due to A family's pactice of magic in their home. (1) Sometimes a child will independently form a relationship, entirely unknown to this or her parents, with some protective and nurturing inhabitant of the theosphere. (2) Or, a family's religious practices — especially sacramental or ritual practices — may create such a protection. (3) Or, the family may have a heritage of protection, inherited from some of its ancestors at some remove [our own case, or so it seems to us]. (4) Or, the place where the family happens to live may itself drive away predatory or hostile inhabitats of the theosphere.

    One of the reasons why Christianity spread as rapidly and powerfully as it did may well be the protections it offered, or was thought to offer, against demons and similar predators from the theosphere. It does seem as though the fear of such immaterial predators increased as the Roman Empire slowly declined, and then fell, in Western Europe.

  205. Thank you for the insights. I have only really been doing the basic meditation and cleansing and warding stuff from Quareia anyway, and haven't noticed any troubles at all with my child, so I am not too worried. The meditation, at least, has been valuable in making me a better parent, among other things. It sounds, though, like focusing on another system for at least the next few years might be the way to go. Heaven knows I've got enough books to keep me going for awhile.

    As to spiritual protection, my son participates with me in devotions to Brigid every morning and prayers to our angels every naptime and night, as well as regular religious observance. I have also done a full cleansing (according to the Quareia method) followed by a ritual consecrating our house to Brigid and asking Her protection. That one is practically visible; if I focus in an inner way I can see/feel something like a reflected candle glow all around the walls of our apartment. I can't precisely call myself a Christian anymore, having adopted polytheism (well, having realized that it better accounted for my experiences and beliefs) but I am still a devotee of Jesus as well, and seek His blessing for all my magical and spiritual activities.

    I'm also practicing more with tarot and trying to do divination to find out if anything I contemplate doing would cause problems. I'm just not that good at tarot yet. One of the systems I've been trying to scavenge meditation time for is Gareth Knight's The Magical World of the Tarot, which has been very helpful.

  206. Inadvertent magic, trauma and night terrors…
    Seems obvious we are yeasty stuff … inner landscapes … language and image, infant and child experience, connections & continuities…

    Am glad to hear about the safe and safeguarding stuff.

    Night terrors are not just ‘bad dreams’. We had night terrors in some children in my family. I was the first – I can remember some of it. A niece (older brother’s first child) and our eldest daughter were the others. Daughter and I had early trauma though I am not aware of any trauma for the niece when an infant. It was serious experience for both child and attending parent. As a parent I remember searching the inner landscape for a way to help. It might have helped if I had more experience and connections to appeal to back then – any thoughts?

    best
    Phil H

  207. Thinking of landscapes, both inner and outer and the connections between, others might be interested in a recent story.

    Our house is in an ancient ritual landscape created over a period of a couple of thousand years or so by a Neolithic civilisation, which overlapped into the Early Bronze Age. Similar types of ritual stones (and wooden monuments) in probably geometrical and astronomical alignments were used to develop different ritual centres from southern Brittany (France) to Orkney Isles in the north and to Ireland in the west (Boyne Valley). I guess we are in the east. Some pre-Celtic names still persist as river names in our area.

    Some 25 years ago some friends interested me in such alignments as well as in interesting old folk stories (stylised unlikely tales) attached to prominent places in our landscape. I won’t go into ‘ley lines’ (smile) but a straight edge on our quality Ordnance Survey maps defined a prominent not quite N/S line running several 10s of miles between a religious coastal site (of no known ancient provenance but used in early Christian times), exactly through an extant stone circle, then through a ritual centre on a flat plain (several Neolithic henge monuments) where they grew their grain; extending several more miles to the top of a conical hill. (Height matters at our latitude – the top of the hill would probably have been above the tree-line even back in the day.) Interestingly the line could be projected even further south to go exactly through a hollow cairn on what seemed a ‘pilgrimage ridge’. Immediately below this cairn, still ‘on the line’, friends discovered a large boulder (‘erratic’) having a yard and half straight hole (perhaps a rough couple of inches diameter) aligned to the E/W local horizons for the winter (rising over the sea) and summer (setting) sun at the solstices.

    To bring this unlikely tale up to date, an archaeological dig just finished a few days ago less than half a mile from our house. It has revealed a late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age henge, needless to say exactly (well… within the accuracy of my straight edge on my old map of 25 years ago) on the aforementioned ‘line’, a few miles north of the ‘ritual centre’ and south of the stone circle. It was quite something to be allowed to briefly hold a polished stone ceremonial axe – only a bit damaged, that had emerged from the henge ditch. The axe was almost certainly earlier than the monument. The stone could be identified as originating in the famous ‘factory’ located in the English Lake District.

    Personal update – in my ‘simple-as-possible’ daily ritual ‘protection’ practice started over a year ago I have found the approximate N/S line useful to help visualise my cardinal directions – projected south through the ‘Heart Cairn’ on the putative pilgrimage ridge. Thus, inner and outer landscapes and connections thereof, and all that… Last week I gave to the archaeological students for a souvenir a few heads of recently harvested Emmer Wheat, which species was grown by that early civilisation. I have kept some growing here for three decades, which is a kind of annual ritual in itself.

    best
    Phil H

  208. About BoysMom – yes. When I'm at my brother's house, the atmosphere is very noticeably peaceful and filled with good energy; I feel no need of any sort of protection. I also feel unable to do any sort of ritual other than prayer to the God I grew up with. Not hostility – more like I would be bringing in an alien element needlessly, which would be rude. It doesn't bother me; in fact, its rather pleasant, though not me.

  209. Further from your previous warning against Chaos magic, I've read into the other strand of postmodern magic, the semiotic approach as explained by Patrick Dunn. So far it seems the best use of postmodernist theory I've ever encountered, and yet I still can't shake the suspicion that postmodernist anything is a new dark age sealed in a Campbell's soup can.

  210. For those who burn candles and do not want to use petroleum-based ones, I found a source of soy candles while cleaning out my supplies drawer. Lucretia's Creations.

    http://www.lucretiascreations.com

    That is about as sustainable as you can get short of beeswax.

    I'd order from them now, but they'll be at Pagan Pride in Albuquerque a few weeks from now.

    Not an ad – just a public service for Green Wizards & others.

    Pat

  211. JMG, Breanna, et al.

    Just to clarify, the magic I was doing when my daughter started having nightmares was very basic Golden Dawn—LBRP, LRP, BRH, Middle Pillar, Rose Cross. I had been reading Josephine's books at the time, which is why I contacted her to ask if she thought there could be a connection. She was very adamant that simply practicing magic, no matter what the variety, could be risky, and that things attracted by it might find my daughter more far more interesting than me, especially because my she has frequently exhibited psychic abilities.

    So I figured I could take a break in my practice and instead continue to study magic through reading and meditation, and it was simply a matter of shifting my emphasis from practical working to armchair exploration. I did that for nearly two years, and my daughter's nightmares ceased shortly after I stopped my nightly rituals and didn't return. Maybe it was just coincidence, but I didn't want to take a chance, and now that she is older I have gone back to a more syncretic practice and things seem calm and stable.

    JMG, thanks for your insights, and I apologize to you and Breanna if I came across as alarmist. I now believe that it is probably my daughter's gifts that made the situation problematic, not the practice per se. I absolutely agree that those who utilize prayer and protection of other sorts create a psychic deadbolt to keep the nastier things out. Your previous advice to me on using the Rose Cross Ritual as a calming influence has come in handy on the rare occasions when weirdness has flared up.

    Since I mentioned it, I found the email from Josephine and here are some excerpts [slightly edited to remove personal details].

    The usual rule of thumb is if you have children, do no magic around them until the youngest is at least seven, preferably ten if they are psychic. It can be tough, but I had to do that as my eldest is incredibly psychic and it has taken her until fairly recently to learn how to operate magically without being overwhelmed.

    Heavy wards, banishing and protections, and then doing magic while a child is around can be counter productive, as the natural guardians who would step in to protect them get filtered or deflected by the various layers of protection. It is better to work with beings to guard over them and guide them. If your child is psychic and is 'seeing' things, just nod and smile. She is getting a vocabulary from somewhere, so you have to be a bit more cautious with what you say around them. It is really important, particularly with psychic kids, not to impress things in their mind: let natural contacts rise. And if something is appearing to her and telling her that he is Mercury, that is not Mercury, that is something cross dressing.

    I never mentioned anything magical to my kids in any way until they were around ten. I did no magic whatsoever until the youngest was seven. The dangers can be wide ranging, immediate and very damaging . . . Once you have kids, life is no longer about you and what you want, it is about what is best for the child. And doing magic around small children is really asking for trouble, and I don't mean nightmares.

    In retrospect, I went with my gut feeling, which was that my workings were linked to my daughter's sudden rise in night terrors with mythological themes (in one I'll never forget, she described the classic shamanic death, dismemberment, and reassembly in what she called the “underworld”—and remember, she was only five). After hearing feedback from everyone in this conversation, I now appreciate that it is always an individual decision, and one that seems pretty obvious. If you don't notice that your practice is having any negative effects on your kids, then there's probably no reason to be concerned.

  212. @Patricia

    I may see you there – I've sort of committed to hauling myself out of bed early enough to help Raven set up the Coyote Willow CUUPS stand. At least if my congregation doesn't need a projectionist.

  213. @Breanna

    Sounds like you've got everything you need. Brigid is very powerful. From what I'm told this is her third pantheon after manifesting from one of the higher planes – at least the Mental, and possibly higher.

    @Robert Mattheson

    I've read Jesus the Magician and also Helen Ingram's site. I'll have to put Conner on my list, as well as Ingram's thesis. Michael says flat out that Jesus was an occult master who was able to produce psychic phenomena at will. And that was before the manifestation.

  214. At the risk of offending people, I have to say something.

    I really doubt McCarthy is a very good magician. I've read her books in the past, and her main technique involves free-associated visualisation without any safeguards, which leads to a lot of Unverified Personal Gnosis. After I came across a passage where she claimed sand mandalas in Tibetan Buddhism trapped local spirits and destroyed them when the mandala gets destroyed without even checking with the tradition involved, I just saw no point in continuing to read her stuff.

  215. @John Roth

    I'm not surprised that the Michael teachings take a similar view of Jesus as a magician. Smith first put the idea forward, somewhat more gently than in “Jesus the Magician,” in 1973, and it rapidly caught on among folk interested in occult or esoteric matters. If I'm not mistaken, the first of the Michael books came out five or six years after that. And Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, who was born in 1942 in Berkeley, has been very interested in the occult ever since her teen years; in Berkeley, where she grew up, there has been a public occult “scene” at least since the late 1950s, when we were both in high school there. (We are almost exactly the same age.) She and other members of the Michael circle could hardly have remained ignorant of the idea that Jesus had been a powerful magician or occultist: it was in the air. (In fact, I'm pretty sure the idea can be traced back further, even to the later 1800s, though I haven't systematically collected the documentation for that claim yet.)

  216. @John Roth, again:

    I had forgotten for the moment your reminder that CQY was not a member of the original group of five. If you have access to the original transcripts of the sessions, perhaps you could see whether the idea of Jesus as magician is found in them, or was added later, by CQY or others who later channeled Michael. Either way, it isn't surprising to me that the teachings include that idea: it was definitely in the air at the time in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  217. David, by the lake – yeah. Don't talk to me about sneering atheists. I got a little book out of the library last week titled “The science of faith: why we believe in gods.” “Foreword by Richard ….” name covered by the library bar code. If I'd known it was Dawkins….

    The pity is, the science is sound, and on that level, the book is very informative. But the author seemed to feel that to explain is to debunk. Although he does throw in that the same or similar mechanisms explain why an ape invented mathematics and the like, and apparently doesn't feel that math is thereby debunked.

    And his definition of “religion” was either ignorant or dishonest. He claimed that religion throughout the ages was centered on a patriarchal male god, with the feminine “sneaked in occasionally.” As if he never heard of the major role Athena and Artemis played in the very male-centered classical Greek society? Or other pantheons full of goddesses?

    When even the daily crossword asked for the location of the Temple of Artemis?

    And he cites the triumphs and goodness of science as if that automatically made religion bad. As if one could not had two separate goods in the same value system.

    Shakes head. Pitiful mixed bag; a very nice little scientific explanation of what is going on in our heads and why faith is so strong. But….

    Note: Atheism is not, or need not be, knee-jerk anti-Christianity, though it often is. And polytheists are totally left out of that equation, except perhaps as poor benighted barbarians. Gaaaaah.

  218. Robert, I've always found Morton Smith's Christology more convincing than most of the others out there, but that may just be me. A book that very powerfully reinforces the point you made about Christian magic in the twilight of the Roman era is of course Valerie Flint's The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, which argues (on the basis of very solid documentary evidence) that one of the main factors behind the successful spread of Christianity in Europe in the Dark Ages was that its practitioners were better at magic than the pagan competition.

    Breanna, if you want to focus on meditation and divination for the next few years, while maintaining the magical practices from “Experience of the Inner Worlds,” that could take you far indeed!

    Phil, never having had to deal with night terrors myself, I can only go by what I've read, which is that (a) no, they're not just bad dreams — there are entities involved, and (b) religious protections seem to work best, but only if the practitioner and the person suffering from the night terrors both actually believe in the religion in question. As for leys (aka “ley lines”), have you by any chance read Alfred Watkins' book The Old Straight Track, which launched the whole thing? If not, might be worth a look.

    Synthase, I haven't looked into Dunn's work — my experience finishing my BA at the University of Washington in the early '90s left me with an incurable allergy to postmodern and/or semiotic anything. As for “a new dark age sealed in a Campbell's soup can,” there I'd disagree — dark ages produce good poetry, and Campbell's soup has some nutritional value… 😉

    Patricia, thank you!

    Alvin, someone else finished a translation and published first, so I stuck the translation and commentary on a far back burner for the time being. No doubt I'll go back to it at some point.

    Professor P., you'll notice that I didn't include the Golden Dawn system among those I recommended as safe among young children. It's not invariably problematic, but it stirs up a lot of force, and practitioners of the Hermetic GD routinely get “astral static” (odd, seemingly hallucinatory experiences, except that other people can also see them — I should tell the story sometime of the not-quite-physical cat that freaked the bejesus out of a couple of dinner guests one evening) which appear in the first year or so of practice, and fade away after that. I'm still gathering evidence regarding the Druidical GD; so far it seems to be less problematic, but we'll see.

    One question, though — at the time you were practicing Hermetic GD rituals, did you reverence the deity they invoke? I'm quite sure that one of the main reasons people get into trouble with those workings is that invoking a god you can't stand and don't revere is generally not a good idea!

    David, yep. They've gone from trying to convince other people of their case, to doing their best to offend everyone who doesn't agree with them already, so they can be sure of having lots of people they can feel superior to. A lot of Christian fundamentalist evangelicalism went down the same road, so it's not surprising that atheist fundamentalism would follow suit.

  219. You've said multiple times that you believe that invoking a deity you don't revere is a bad idea. Yet clearly that was the only option for polytheists involved in Golden Dawn work for quite a while, and even today the only GD-style systems I'm aware of are the original, Crowley's pseudo-Egyptian variant, your own Welsh Druidical GD and the Norse one that's still early in its coming-together.

    What if the GD system appeals to you but you don't worship any particular deity or are devoted to a different pantheon, such as the Greek or Slavic? What if you're bitter at Christianity as a religion but suspect Yahweh and Jesus are probably alright if you really get to know them?

    I'm curious what the best course of action in such situations.

    (Oh, and I'd love to hear the story about the cat sometime.)

  220. Re: fundamentalist atheists

    “They've gone from trying to convince other people of their case, to doing their best to offend everyone who doesn't agree with them already, so they can be sure of having lots of people they can feel superior to.”

    I remember an atheist from YouTube who went by CaptainOAwesome, who stated flatly that this was his purpose. Ironically, it made him one of the more tolerable ones, since he was funny where the rest were merely sanctimonious. The fact that he was politically on the right when that was still anathema to most of the atheist community probably also helped him avoid the herd mentality.

  221. JMG, that “translation” consisted of Gosnell(who knows no Latin) going through a dictionary and picking out definitions. In addition, he is a materialist who fails to understand anything about magic and claims Yates went on a wild tangent on the links with Hermetism. I'm not kidding, he talks about it on a podcast.

    I don't know if that might encourage you to publish your own translation.

  222. Oddly enough I periodically encounter demons when sleeping. What seems to encourage them is if I have too many blankets on the bed, and my body is too warm. I generally respond to them extremely aggressively, and try to smack them round the back of the head if I can reach them in time.

  223. JMG wrote
    “As for leys (aka “ley lines”), have you by any chance read Alfred Watkins' book The Old Straight Track, which launched the whole thing? If not, might be worth a look. “

    Yep, when I was 13 a while ago. Have always since then been intrigued by ancient stuff popping up in the landscape – “dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass” as Tolkien had it.

    best
    Phil H

  224. Hi JMG,

    I know Im late to the discussion, but had a few questions about choosing a magical system.

    After dabbling for a while, I've been steadily (albeit slowly) working with basic Golden Dawn magick for about 2 years. First I worked through most of Modern Magick, and recently added Learning Ritual Magic to fill gaps in my practice. I like what I've done, but don't have much desire to learn intense astrology or certain other things in the system, and do have occasional distaste for the Christian symbolism.

    If I decided I could stick with the system in your Celtic Golden Dawn, would it be bad to discontinue the system I started with, in spite of what progress (however small) I've made? My main concern is, I have a bad habit of switching from one thing to another too often.

    On the other hand, would it be bad, or would there be any point to, continue with the regular Golden Dawn if I dislike some of the Christian/Jewish aspect?

    I like ceremonial magic, and want a system I can devote myself to. I do plan to finish Learning Ritual Magic since I like all the exercises. I've also wanted to work through Initiation into Hermetics for a while. However, part of me yearns for something pagan-oriented, as well as more nature-based, which is why the Celtic GD caught my attention.

    If anyone else has suggestions as well, especially folks who are working with the Celtic GD system, I welcome any thoughts and comments.

  225. As a note to my previous comment,I didn't see James' comment until after submitting mine (the comments after Sep 4th weren't showing for me). Aside from the question of whats best for my personal practice, his question sums mine up pretty well.

    Also, this talk of a Norse Golden Dawn is super fascinating! I'm really interested to see the results anyone has if they put this into regular practice.

  226. @Robert Matheson

    The transcripts have been published. They're only available from Lulu – the compilers don't want a cut, so it's pretty much at copying cost. http://www.lulu.com/shop/center-for-michael-teachings-inc/michael-speaks-the-legacy-of-sarah-chambers-volume-2/paperback/product-20719169.html

    For reasons, I got the paper version and got bored about half way through, so I can't verify whether the comments about Jesus were in the original year and change of the channeling sessions. I have no particular doubt about the situation, though. When the Infinite Soul manifests, it requires a body that can handle the energy.

    From the transcripts:

    “Why am I here?” someone asked one night. Michael answered, “To hear the words you didn’t hear 2,000 years ago. Maybe this time, you will listen.”

  227. James, you always have the option, as a polytheist, of seeing if you can establish a working relationship with Yahweh for the duration of your training. (Monotheists hate this, but polytheists have been doing it since the invention of monotheism.) Alternatively, if there's a specific pantheon you would prefer to work with in a Golden Dawn context, talk to someone who can help you sort out the details — for example, ahem, me. With regard to Captain Awesome, once you admit you're just in it for the fun of the game, you can have a sense of humor; lacking that, well, we've seen the consequences.

    Alvin, interesting. In that case I may indeed revisit the project. I can readily think of a publisher who would like to see something of the sort…

    Phil K., interesting. I used to have comparable dreams, though they didn't have anything to do with temperature; I'd know I was in one when things went pitch black, and I'd be fighting against something that was immune to my punches and kicks. The trick I figured out was to grab them by a limb and do a throw that slammed them headfirst into something in the surroundings — they couldn't be hurt by me directly, but the other items in the landscape were quite another matter, and those dreams stopped after a certain amount of carnage.

    Phil H., glad to hear it. I always bring up Watkins when leys come up for discussion, because his original theory was limited, sensible, and plausible — unlike many of the post-1960s riffs that have been played off it.

    John, it's always best to finish the specific course of study you're engaged in before you go on to something else. In your case, that would mean working all the way through “Learning Ritual Magic.” If at that point you decide that you'd rather pursue the system from “The Celtic Golden Dawn,” by all means make that change. If at that point you'd rather work through Bardon's system, then by all means. As basic training for the magical will, though, when you start a book or a correspondence course, decide in advance on a minimum that you're going to complete and then complete it, come Hell or high water.

    With regard to the Norse Golden Dawn, the basic elements of that are being field tested right now.

  228. I'm wondering if anyone has experienced negative entities using other people to target your ego specifically, in an attempt to use your ego to distract you from your path. Lately I've been hearing comments from too many people that depict me as a rare being of light, with one psychic going so far as to bow to me, with tears in her eyes in a worshipping sort of way, thanking me for the honour of my coming to see her. If I'm attracting this nonsense, I'm not aware of what I'm doing.

    This is making me very, very uncomfortable, and I don't know what to make of it. It's hard enough to silence the ego to clear the mind without hearing this sort of hooey. If anyone has figured out how to navigate the treacherous waters of awareness that one is growing beyond the normal, without feeding the ego with that knowledge, especially when others are reinforcing it, I'd like to hear from you.

    I'm in the process of learning the Calling of the Elements in the Sphere of Protection, which might help, but this will take awhile. Suggestions welcome!

  229. @James: I posted a little back on this essay a version of the Lesser Ritual that JMG helped me figure out for the Irish gods of the Tuatha. Given that I'm very green on the system itself so far it's the only thing we were able to convert from the basic Welsh CGD. If somebody else is interested in helping with this endeavor I would be glad for the help.

  230. “James, you always have the option, as a polytheist, of seeing if you can establish a working relationship with Yahweh for the duration of your training. (Monotheists hate this, but polytheists have been doing it since the invention of monotheism.)”

    Good point. Though I'd argue that by “monotheists” you'd have to exclude most Jews. The Jews I have talked to or read about the Cabala have basically said that if non-Jews want to get into it, more power to us. The sense seems to be that if Yahweh wants to work with others, it's none of their business.

    A while back there was a feature on Slate called “Slate blogs the Bible” by David Plotz. A secular Jew, IIRC, he finally read the Tanakh through and blogged about it. One of the points he made was that while Yahweh had lots to say about the sins of Gentile cultures, the mere fact that they worshiped other gods was never among them, and at one point in the Bible, Yahweh personally negotiates with the leader of another tribe.

    That agrees with what Bill Pulliam reported (on this blog, I think; possibly on ADR) about his interaction with Yahweh and being told that while Yahweh accepts Gentile worship, he doesn't demand it.

    Then again, as you've pointed out, many of the angels and archangels of Abrahamic lore are thinly-veiled versions of other pantheons' deities. Perhaps Yahweh's willingness to work with polytheists is part of an arrangement he has with those deities?

    Who knows? As Dion Fortune put it, “To the devotional mystic this is not a point of any great moment; he gets his results, and that is all he cares about.”

  231. @Myriam – Suzette Haden Elgin published a delightful short story on just that theme, “Lest Levitation Come Upon Us.” A woman finds herself an unexpected saint, and tries every way she knows to shake the burden, using the standard Christian 7 deadly sins. None of it works. Finally she ends up bragging about it, vanity license plate and all – and of course, that does the trick.

  232. (Deborah Bender)

    I'm not sure whether this is a distinction or a quibble. My knowledge of Cabala is a millimeter deep, but I think it may be a question whether the Ultimate Source, Ain Sof Aur, and YHVH, at one time the national god of the Children of Israel, are exactly the same entity. One arrives at the concept of Ain Sof Aur through negative theology; qualities like being or non-being do not apply.

    The most fundamental doctrinal statement of Judaism, the Shema, can be interpreted either henotheistically or monotheistically, and AFAIK a good case can be made either way.

  233. Myriam, a traditional Buddhist trick is to just have a chat about your spiritual experiences and insights with someone who's been at it a lot longer than you. That deflates the ol' spiritual ego in no time! 😉

  234. @ Deborah Bender
    My knowledge of Cabala is much less than a millimetre, but your use of the term 'henotheistically' prompted me to look to remind myself what category that term serves. I only vaguely knew about this stuff bearing on Israelite history. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Henotheism

    This is about the relation of 'magic' and 'religion' perhaps? 'Revealed' knowledge proceeds historically it seems, and, I guess, much or most is forgotten along the way, but somehow the Children of Israel got born. I seem to be interested in and to wonder about the 'time before that'. Something of history does get reborn in our individual, family and communal lives.

    For a later example of the religio/magic role in both continuity and loss there is the conjecture about magic's role in the early mediaeval conversion to christianity of pagans across western and northern Europe where some historians float the theory that christian magic out-competed indigenous magic, (or was perceived as stronger magic). It does make one wonder what these ‘magics’ were all about. [Footnote: I am not sure when to put capitals on my words these days but, whatever traditional beliefs we might hold, these notions of 'competition' appear foundational in our modern conception in this latest age of the world now that a powerful ideology has globalised human relations.]

    best
    Phil H

  235. “the sacramental rituals of Christianity are very strong magic indeed”

    I would agree with that. Especially with emphasis on “sacramental”.

    Unfortunately the protestant deformation largely tossed out not only most sacramental practice but even the concept of sacrament itself. Fortunately Protestantism is not the whole of Christianity, just a recent experiment.

    That said, the observation made some time back that the Pentecostal/Charismatic end of christendom is up to something magical whether they recognize it or not is also relevant.

  236. Hi JMG,

    This is really an interesting post. Makes me wonder about an experience I had a couple years ago that I couldn’t explain. I went to a couple hot yoga classes and had a really strong reaction during the second one, a strange kid of dizziness. I thought that it was possibly dehydration although I drank quite a bit in preparation, but it persisted in various ways – I still see it as the start of some very strange things with my body, none of which I’d ever experienced before (sleep paralysis, vertigo, an electrical feeling in my spine – really hard to explain, a feeling of being choked slightly), with increasing intensity for about a year or so. Ultimately all of this drove me to go to a doctor who suggested that I might have had anxiety and I accepted that diagnoses (no doubt I did have anxiety over the various symptoms I was seeing) and was able to let it go and slowly it got better. Reading this makes me wonder if there wasn’t something else going on also though.

    I should say that at the height of this I tried to smoke some marijuana to see if it might calm me down and I experienced what I assumed was a hallucination (I have never had that happen to me ever before with the stuff) but I had a perfectly clear vision when I closed my eyes of a black scorpion before me. The more I closed them the closer it came until it filled my whole field of vision, like it was the size of the universe, underneath reality (that is how it felt to me). I had a very strong feeling that it was letting me see it, it didn’t do anything other than watch me calmly as I watched it for several minutes and then after a while I saw a black bird flying in the darkness and it was gone. I had no idea how to process this and just took it as some sort of byproduct of the stress I was under but I have always wondered about it.

  237. @Patricia
    That short story does sound delightful! I will hunt it down and read it. In the meantime, a full-bellied laugh at myself might help.

    @grisom
    That's exactly what I am doing posting here. I am quite aware that many of you could crush my ego with a withering look. 🙂

    Thanks.

  238. @JMG, thanks for your advice! I will follow it and stick with “Learning Ritual Magic” until completed.

    @Eric S: Hi Eric, I don't know if you're still following this post, but I saw your comments about Steve Pollington's “Leechcraft,” and wondered if its focus is more herbal-healing or folk-magic? I'm also interested in cunning-craft, but it seems most of the books out there are either focused primarily on herbal medicine, or else written by a scholar rather than an actual practitioner.

  239. Hi JMG,

    I realise that it is late in the blog cycle and there have been an awful lot of comments. Respect for generating such interest (if I have not said that before).

    I have been meditating recently on our previous discussions about hexes as we discussed them relating to the spiritual side of your other blog. That was a profound understanding for me and I often wonder how much is hidden in your mind that should be obvious to us, but takes a very long and circuitous path for us to even get to!

    My interest is in nature magic. And I have been considering that the outward human experience is a representation of people's inner spiritual lives since that above understanding. That is a complex situation in and of itself, and far out, it doesn't look that nice to me, despite other peoples claims to the contrary.

    And then I started considering a whole new branch of thought which was this: What if you were to modify your external local environment so as to better represent your spirituality? You see, I do exactly that here, and the reason for that modification is that I attempt to encourage the greatest diversity of life in this particular local environment. This does not demean that life here and it can also be pretty brutal from time to time and also for different species there can be different equilibrium's in different seasons. Life is rarely fair.

    The thing is, I was wondering whether the Druid's have any place for that particular school of thought?

    The Aboriginals used to believe that their very souls were in peril should they fail to maintain the country. And honestly, I see little reason to believe that they are wrong in that belief. It is complex.

    I would be interested in your thoughts in relation to this matter (and hopefully you have the time to do so?).

    Thanks

    Chris

  240. JMG, thanks a lot for answering. I reflected on it and decided to continue the path I started. I'd like to insert another question on this month's topic, if it's not too late: if the Sphere of Protection corresponds to your standard banishing ritual, which ritual is equivalent to the Middle Pillar in this school? If I understand right, you work with the currents from top AND bottom to the center, instead of top-down like in GD?

  241. @Patricia

    I found the first line of that article amusing, since those are the driving motives behind the founding parents of the US – Plymouth Rock and Jamestown. The rest of it, not so much. There's kind of a background assumption there that if the “religion industry” were to vanish, nothing else would replace it. That is, of course, nonsense. However, the headline will attract a certain number of clicks, which is, after all, the function of headlines.

  242. @John: with that particular book, the first half is very scholarly, but it then goes on to include translations of several medieval folk magic primary sources such as the Lacugna, which were scribed by and for practitioners (but not by modern people, which is why you need to follow along with modern herbals to not hurt yourself), some of which are herbals, some of which contain bits of spell craft all mingled together. That's the way a lot of primary sources for folk magic tend to work. Not sure if you've read The Long Lost Friend, but my experience of that was that it contained herbal recipes and magical ones in roughly equal portion as well, and of course if you look into root work, it's all about using herbs for magic and is very closely related to folk herbalism. The line between folk healing and folk magic is a really blurry one, and part of the reason cunning folk tended to be valued members of the community rather than the pariahs a lot of other magic users out on the fringes could be was that theit services included practical healing as well as magical aid, and the two were pretty mixed. Scholarly sources are an important starting point, because it gives cultural context and can help you check your BS meters when you encounter an author who suddenly starts bringing in stuff that is obviously infused with some element from modern occultism or Wicca. Another approach you can take with the scholarly books is get a clear idea of the techniques that fell into the average cunning wizard's toolkit and pick up those techniques separately, folk magic tends to have a very grab-bag approach to picking up techniques, but the core of that craft is going to be found in the old grimoires and herbals and that's the place to begin. I can give other sources later on when I get home, I'm out of town at a gathering right now and don't have many books on hand.

  243. A neopagan LBR of my own devising, as the bits and pieces and my tendency to think in 4s (or 3s or 7s) came together in my mind last night as a fill-in-the-blanks.

    The form is the same as the classic LBR. I'm happier with straight lines and simple circles than with the swooping arcs of the Sphere of Protection as dimly remembered.

    The Cabalistic Cross uses the same gestures, but for me it's: “By Sky! By Earth! By Strength! By Beauty! By Spirit, the Center of All Things, So Mote It Be.

    The Pentagrams use 4 syllables, not 4 letters, and the equivalents of the Names of God are from a dim memory of how they actually translate, plus creative blank-filling in. So: “One in All things. Lord Protector. Blessed Lady. “Old and Wise One.”

    The Archangels don't mind being used in Pagan practice; they're used to it. At least out here. But since Rafael's votive candle calls him Healer…

    “Before me, Healer! Behind me, Messenger! On my right hand, Warrior! On my left hand, Keeper!”

    No. I didn't research Auriel, or Uriel. That popped in naturally, out of Jung, by Myer-Briggs. Besides, the Animal of the North is Ursa, the Bear, as far as I'm concerned. By way of the often way-out-by-the-ballpark-fence Geoffrey Ashe, (Dawn Behind the Dawn) but this one makes good sense. (And as The Grey Badger, Bear doesn't mind either.)And a good companion for the Salmon of the West, the Hawk of the East, and the Great Cat of the South (whose Egyptian dress nobody seems to mind, even the more local Jaguar. Besides, her offering of red beer suits my tastes well.)

    How Magically Correct this is, I have no idea. Probably not at all. But then, my pentagram is small and dainty , rather than fitting the hollow of my hand; my athame's blade is stainless steel, and I never did get around to wrapping the handle in black leather; and my pantheon is syncretic to the point of out-Romaning the Interpretatio Romana. I slept clear through the night last night without a break, which for me is a great piece of good luck/gift from the Gods, for which I duly give thanks.

    So. For what it's worth.

  244. @Eric, thanks for the detailed reply! That makes sense about the two being intertwined a lot. I also see what you mean about the “grab-bag” approach of folk magic; I just started reading some of Cat Yronwode's Hoodoo stuff (after no experience with folk magic), as well as JMG's “Encyclopedia of Natural Magic,” and both of those seem to have the same mindset of just jumping in and trying things.

  245. “The Aboriginals used to believe that their very souls were in peril should they fail to maintain the country. And honestly, I see little reason to believe that they are wrong in that belief. It is complex.”

    Chris, But of course.

  246. John–

    Well, I have embarked on this path, though I must admit that I feel rather clueless as to where it goes or how best to proceed — blindly stumbling forward is my only option at the moment. So Gaia Thea it is.

    I did have a powerful encounter of communion/something this past weekend. I spent time alone at a nearby nature preserve — and definitely felt *something*, though I do not really know what to make of it. One thing that was made very clear, however, is that Serpent is significant to my walk (as totem? as guide? I'm unsure). Moreover, I suspect, though need to verify somehow, that I am being directed along a shamanistic path. Most certainly outside my “box”! (No intellectual route for me, apparently.)

    So, perhaps not blindly stumbling forward, but cautiously feeling my way without a whole lot of sense of where I'm going…

  247. @John: I finally got a chance to sit down and look through my books… and they all do the same thing, point to various medieval or early renaissance herbals, snippets of folk superstition, and old grimoires (some authentic, most forged) that went into popular circulation at various times and got tricked down into the popular culture of various eras and became part of the grab bag of popular folk magic. The most thorough ones that aren't straight up anthropology textbooks like Davies' book on the subject are Pollington's book, and Jim Baker's Cunningman's Handbook, which I think someone else in the comments had already remembered to recommend. Beyond that, you'd still want to pick through other scholarly works, old herbals, and old popular books on magic. The Book of English Magic is also a big recommendation, since it's fun, simple reading, has an excellent section on English Folk Magic, and mixes in some practical recipes, spells, and such, and contains separate bibliographies both for scholarly research and practical study (but that's a collection of very simple introductions to the subjects it covers, and isn't a complete guide to anything).

  248. @Patricia Mathews–I like your neopagan LBRP.

    You wrote that you were trying for translations of the original Hebrew names of God. I'll give you my semi-educated attempt at translation. It probably won't help, but FYI.

    Adonai is “lord” with I believe a possessive ending. Adon without the ending can be any sort of lord.

    AGLA is an acronym for Atah Gibor Le-olam Adonai, which I think means “Thou (art) mighty forever, Adonai”. The prayer books are full of statements of that kind. Famous people are sometime referred to by acronyms of their full names, such as Rambam which stands for Rabbeinu Moshe ben Maimon, Our Teacher Moses Maimonson, AKA Maimonides. This exact way of creating a divine title I haven’t seen except in the LBRP.

    Eheieh is a verb. It is part of a famous passage in the Bible where Moses IIRC encounters God and asks who he's talking to, to which God replies, “Eheieh asher eheieh,” sometimes translated “I will be what I will be.” Which I take as God's way of saying, “Don't ask an impertinent question.”

    YHVH. Among Jews a taboo has grown up against pronouncing it aloud. I believe the reason for this is that while some of the words used for the deity are titles, this one is understood to be God's proper name. Although we have been introduced, we really are not on a first name basis with our Creator. The convention is that when reading aloud or reciting, one substitutes Adonai. I'm observant enough that if I were doing the classic LBRP, I would spell it out Yod Hay Vav Hay or say Adonai which would be redundant. I don't think anyone knows what the name means.

    So, one verb, one title, one acronym made from the initials of a sentence, one proper name that isn't supposed to be said aloud. A mishmosh. Not, I think, assembled by anyone who prays in Hebrew. It has always struck me as cultural appropriation, though not ill-intentioned, and I don't use that set. The archangels I don't mind. Their names may be Hebrew, but the concept of cherubim and all the rest of the heavenly host seems to have come from the neighbors.

  249. @Eric: I appreciate you looking through all that. I'll try to follow your tips and pick out a handful of books to sort through. Jim Baker's book caught my eye some time ago, but the price has kept me from getting it just yet. The hoodoo material I've been reading has been pretty fascinating too though, so there's a ton of experimenting ahead! 😀

  250. AAAAND I just discovered this blog. I've been reading ADR on and off for years and have at least a dozen of your books. How did I never find/know about/read this blog before? I am so excited. Mind. Blown.

  251. Hey jmg! I hope you reply to comments on older posts. My question is can you do the qabalistic cross and the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram silently? Like saying the words in your mind?

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