Friday, January 1, 2010

Hum-bugs meet ho-cakes

In a puff of smoke, Zandria Zatara emerges from the first semester of grad school and attempts to pull a rabbit out of her hat.

Unfortunately the rabbit escaped and all that is left is a steaming pile of bunny poo.

This is actually my Christmas post. I just got sidetracked with holiday stuff so it is a little late.

Christmas morning I got up and sent out a text message wishing all of my friends a Merry Christmas. Most responded in kind but there was one notable exception. One responded with a rambling voicemail about how she thought we are "pagans and witches and shit" and thus could not fathom why we would wish her a "Merry Christmas." She wrapped up the lecture with "I would wish you a Merry Christmas but . . . well look up Lon Milo DuQuette's Christmas song for why we shouldn't say Merry Christmas."

First off, without pulling any punches, let me just say Lon's Christmas song was just fucking bigoted! It wasn't cute or funny like some Pagan anti-Christmas songs can be. It wasn't even executed well. It was a bigoted rant set to somewhat catchy music - music with which the lyrics didn't even fit. Most of all, it was just mean spirited. I say shame on Lon for setting a really poor example for Thelemites and magicians at large. But the song has been discussed to death and I don't mean to rehash that here. My post is about Christmas, and ex-Christians.

I grew up in a strict Wesleyan church so for all of those who say that their hatred of Christians and Christianity is fueled by a fundamentalist upbringing - cry me a river! It is an excuse, a poor excuse, for hatred. These people have turned to various Pagan paths, Wicca, Thelema, or whatever, to escape from those early childhood experiences and only succeeded in creating a Pagan exclusivism or elitism. So to anyone who preaches Love, Peace, and Universal Harmony and then bashes Christians as a whole people based on their beliefs or the radical actions of a few, I say: Get the fuck over it already. You are not "enlightened" and you never will be as long as you are holding on to this. Let it go. And on a side note, for those who call themselves "Gnostics" and then bash Christianity - read a history book.

Completely apart from Christian beliefs and Christian upbringing there is our cultural holiday of Christmas. We, as Americans (and I direct this at Americans only because I have never experienced any other form of Christmas), regardless of religion, have Christmas as a cultural holiday steeped in tradition and possessed of its own, secular, meaning. Sure Pagans might do their solstice rituals, Christians might hold special services, Jews celebrate Hanukkah, and some African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa but in the end the "holiday season" is more about family and friends coming together for a dinner, office parties, the giving of cheer and love (in whatever form it may manifest), and creating a spark of warmth to carry each other through the winter to sunnier times. Why would I deny my children, or even my neighbor, a spirit of joy and love in the darkest part of the year because of ideological differences? We are all human beings. We all suffer, in some way, from the darkness and the cold creeping into our homes and our lives. It is very unfortunate that we cannot embrace the secular holiday of Christmas (or more precisely the December holiday season, because it is not just one day) without all of these petty ideological spats.

Think about it for a minute. I suppose I cannot speak for everyone but to me the real magic of Christmas is not in any religion. It is the twinkling lights lining the streets that almost make you forget it was dark when you got to work that morning and it was dark long before you got off work that evening and you missed the very brief and precious moments of light in between. It is in the smell of wood smoke rising from the chimneys like oak incense. It is in the excitement of children and the charity of people. It is in Santa Claus and his jolly ho-ho-ho. While all of our religious rituals might attempt to address the reasons we come together at this time or the symbolic meaning of these traditions, it is not the ritual that meets these needs and desires that we as human beings have at this time of year. It is the whole 'spirit' of the season. It is unfortunate that there are people who want to taint that spirit of union and harmony by asserting their symbolic explanations as more legitimate than another's.

In contrast, we for the most part do have a recognized and celebrated secular and cultural holiday at Halloween. We can send our children to the door of a complete stranger and feel confident that the person who opens the door will recognize and participant in our shared cultural ritual, regardless of their personal faith or background. While there are exceptions to that expectation, this is a marvelous cultural bonding ritual that does not get mired down by the same kind ideological trivialities.

So readers . . . celebrate as you will but please take with you my wishes for a warm and cheerful winter, a Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Rant - Old School Style

Didn’t your grandmother ever teach you to “respect your elders?” Or were you just too disrespectful of her to care?

Before anybody gets their panties in a wad and calls be an elitist let me just say . . . well that I guess I am an elitist in certain ways, in as much as I am a traditionalist anyway. I miss the old days when magickal teachers were respected. What happened?

Silly question. I know what happened - a couple of things actually. 1) Too many people calling themselves “magickal teachers” began abusing their power and made the lot of us come off as dirty and arrogant or, worse yet, sexual predators. 2) So many 101 books have been put out that every neophyte that cruises into the local mega-bookstore and picks up a Silver Ravenwolf book thinks he/she is an expert and has nothing left to learn.

Why do you come to me and ask to be taught if everything I have to teach you is going to be met with a huff and some longwinded explanation of what “feels right” to you? Better yet, what is the deal with criticizing me for publishing my credentials? It makes you feel small and intimidated that I have put 20+ years into this or that I am a consecrated Bishop? When you apply for a college program, do you what to go to the “everyone is on the same level and the professor is just the guy who is one lesson ahead this week” school or the school where the professor has a PhD in your field? Does it make you feel small to learn from a professor with experience? I hope you would say ‘no.’ Why then would you not want the same level of experience in a magickal teacher?

Another thing that drives me bat shit is students thinking that learning magick is supposed to be all hugs and bunnies and love and rainbows. Get over it! Initiation is an ordeal. Ordeals shape us. They tap into the meat of our subconscious and show us who we really are. I would like to hear what a Master in Tibetan Buddhism would tell a student who whined about him being too strict. (Now I certainly do not put myself on that level, matter of fact I would probably be the one whining in that case.)

My point: Discipline is an essential key to magick and if you cannot master the basic concept of respect your teacher and endure the trials and ordeals of your initiation then hit the bricks because no one really wants you calling yourself a magician.

On the other hand, magick is no place for mindless automatons either. If you are being abused by your teacher then get out. But I guess it is up to each person to decide their definition of abuse. I personally don’t think speaking harshly to a student or expecting the student to rise to a challenge is abuse. Then again I have had a magickal teacher try to rape me - that is my personal comparison for abuse. I have had a magickal teacher shove a shotgun in my face - that was a bit abusive. I have been dragged out of my fourth floor window and hustled down a condemned fire escape at 4 a.m. for ritual - that was pushing it a little. Still, I learned magick from each an everyone of these teachers. I wouldn’t trade my time with them, good or bad, for the world.

I certainly would not expect any student to endure the things I have but if being told to ‘shut up and listen’ is where you draw the line then you need not apply here. If you cannot respect the fact that I have more experience than you and thus I expect you to defer to me in quite a few things, no matter how many Silver Ravenwolf books you have read, then you have nothing to learn from me - move on.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Satanic verses

This is fascinating. Thanks to Jason Miller for posting the link.

"City-based scholar finds a century old manuscript Vetal Stotra, which confirms the existence of a sect that worships the folktale demon; plans to upload it on the Internet"

Read more:

Satanic verses

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

from the Mozarts to the Apprentices

This topic was spurred by recent posts and comments on Augoeides but is not a direct response to those posts.

Here are the questions I pose:

When we refer to "magickal people" who exactly are we talking about?
When we refer to "magickal talent" what exactly doeS that mean?
When we say "natural aptitude" what are we saying?

I have seen these expressions used in many places and I always have to come back to these three questions. I think the answers are as many and as varied as the people who use them. Do we really need some means of classifying all magick users under one universal definition? If so, is it even possible?

I see magick as a skill, not a talent. Now, as with any skill, some people have more natural inclination and ability than others. Nonetheless, it is a skill that can be honed and mastered by anyone who chooses to put the time and work into it. I see "aptitude," in regards to magick, as being more akin to a "passion" for the work. It is a drive and dedication that makes some "naturally inclined" toward the magickal arts. A willingness to open your mind and discard pre-conceived ideas is another important element in that.

I don't think one can classify "magickal people" under one big umbrella. People who practice magick come from all cultures and all backgounds. They subscribe to many different philosophies. They work within a variety of paradigms.

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Zero Sum Mojo

There have been rumblings in the blogosphere the last few days over Christian Black Magick and Who Practices Magick. This is a topic that has interested me for a long time. Not so much that Christians or people of various other “normative” religions practice magick but the trend among “counter-culture” magicians to belittle and dismiss the magickal prowess of the practitioners of mainstream religions.

This brings to mind a statement once made by a follow Gnostic Bishop in a discussion about the Pentecostal Holiness Churches and ecstatic ritual (snake handling, etc.): “It is really too bad we can’t just take all of that energy. They aren’t using it.” I beg to differ! I consider myself a pretty kick ass magician and have yet to meet the spirit I was too timid to take on in a fair deal but I DO NOT have the cojones to French kiss a rattlesnake. That is some intense mojo right there! Snake handling in and of itself might not be a magickal act, it is debatable, but the magick behind it is the proof of unquestioning faith in their God and their own righteousness. When that kind of faith is harnessed into spirit channeling (speaking in tongues) or energy healing (faith healing) it is a force to be reckoned with.

I am a big believer in the power of ecstatic ritual but I have rarely met the magician who could muster the unwavering faith and belief of Holiness Christians. Granted, this is a pretty small section of the population. To find a larger population one needs go only as far as their local Catholic Church. Transmutation is the ultimate alchemy! Screw gold, they physically transform bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Not even Aleister Crowley, the most egotistical (“counter-culture”) magician to ever walk the Earth, dared to claim an equal feat. Jason Miller discusses Catholic saint magick in his blog post on the subject so I won’t go into that as it would be repetitive.

This only addresses magick use within a Christian context though. What about all of the people, everywhere, who practice simple sympathetic ritual magick on a regular basis completely outside of the context of religion? Baseball players who always wear the same socks because they are their lucky winning socks, for example. I have seen many an ex-Catholic cross themselves as a funeral procession went by. That is basic protective magick that is ingrained so firmly in their minds that no matter how far from the Church they stray the practices stick.

Scott says, The remarkable thing is that if their philosophy is at all consistent conservative Christians should be condemning this guy, but so far I haven't come across any statements to that effect from any of the organizations that normally have harsh words for magical practitioners. Does this mean that if I call what I do "prayer" it suddenly becomes mysteriously okay?”

The answer to that is: If you are praying to the right God, yes.

Scott also says, Normally conservative Christians don't have a lot of magical aptitude simply because the best practical magicians usually don't fit very well into non-mystical spiritual systems. . .”

Well, if anyone knows anything about non-mystical spiritual systems and who needs to be vetted from the ranks it is the O.T.O. Oh, sorry – bad blood slipping out there. Seriously though, Christianity began as a mystery cult. It might have buried those roots deep in the cellar but they are still there. Christ, (the man or historical amalgamation, no matter), was an amazing practical magician – if he had not been there would be no Christianity today. As for “conservative” or “literalist” Christians, they are best practical magicians because they hold tighter to the mythos, have a deeper faith, and most importantly hold to a stronger sense of righteousness than your everyday, run-of-the-mill, Easter Sunday Christian. That gives them tremendous power. It gives them the power to bond, to incite, to agitate, to motivate large numbers, and so much more. When was the last time you saw an E.G.C. mega-temple complete with shopping malls? How many magicians have their own public access television shows complete with devout followers who faithfully send in 10% of their income?

Eh. Reading over this I realize I got off topic. I am arguing their point rather my own, which is: Why do “counter-culture” magicians dismiss the magick of mainstream religious people? From my experience, it comes from an “us versus them” attitude toward their own communities and even their own past. Many have escaped the restrictive bonds of mainstream religion and need to hold on to the idea that what they left behind is impotent and powerless. They need to believe it is powerless against them and ineffectual against the world they strive to create for themselves. If what they are doing is, in essence, no different than what they left behind then have they really escaped?

Thelema (as trademarked by the O.T.O) is a perfect example of this. I was fortunate enough to belong to the O.T.O. pre-U.S. Grand Lodge. Thelema was a philosophy and the E.G.C. was a separate entity. We were more-or-less autonomous bodies of individuals. We saw ourselves as libertines, indulging in the pursuit of our True Wills. Today the O.T.O. will not stand for autonomous bodies, much less libertines. Thelema is quickly becoming a religion, replete with modern day saints, prophets, and martyrs, and the E.G.C. is its Church. (All hail Pope Billy and his Arch-Bishop Dave.) New rules have been passed about when, where, and how the official rituals can be performed (I am mainly referring to the Gnostic Mass, not initiations). Magickal experimentation has been thrown over for rigid dogma. Mediocrity is the new aristocracy. An order that was founded on the idea of personal liberty is excommunicating long standing members for pointing to the Emperor’s naked ass. All the while, die-hard supporters deny the similarities to the Catholic Church, or any other organized religious movement, and hold their magickal prowess up in defiance of the mainstream. I have news for you, when Grand Lodge signed the documents to incorporate as a 501c non-profit religious organization you joined the mainstream and became just another “rigid spiritual system.”

I am not trying to pick on the O.T.O. in particular; it is just the example with which I am most familiar. There are many pagan groups who have traveled the same road.

You just can’t be “counter-culture” and cry for mainstream acceptance and religious equality at the same time. I think this belittling of mainstream religion and the denial that “they” can practice powerful mojo too is a direct reaction to the cognitive dissidence caused by this new direction.

I, personally, prefer my libertine ideals and wicked ways to the evils of “normalcy.” I acknowledge their mojo and don’t give a damn if they acknowledge mine or not. This is not to say I don’t defend my civil rights to practice as I will but I don’t need to project a zero sum game attitude on them in order to feel empowered.



The BIG Lie

There have been several topics pop up of late that I would like to address. I am going to start with the one that bugs me the most: The First (and Worst) Lie of Magick.

I cannot count the times I have read or heard people spread this horrible lie. It comes veiled in many forms but the root is always the same. It goes something like this:

“If you don’t it wrong it, it just won’t work.”
“If your intentions are not focused, or not truly what you want, it just won’t manifest.”
“You can’t call up anything you aren’t ready to deal with.”

Anyone who has told this lie needs to quit doing magick right now. Turn in your wand, don’t pass “Go,” and don’t collect your $200 – just quit. What you are really saying when you tell this lie is that you do not believe in magick or the manifestations of magick and you therefore would do better for yourself and everyone else involved if you just stopped pretending to know what you are talking about.

Let’s look at the facts.

    1. Magickal work calls up energy.
    2. First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
    3. Therefore, if you call up energy it has to go somewhere. It can be stored, but that is still somewhere. It never just stops being.

To translate the above statements in the context of these facts:

Lie –

“You can’t call up anything you aren’t ready to deal with.”

Translation –

“You won’t be able to fit your fork into any socket with a current of greater than 100 mA (=lethal). Go ahead and try all the outlets in your house. Don’t forget the toaster. You’ll be fine.”

Lie –

“If your intentions are not focused, or not truly what you want, it just won’t manifest.”

Translation –

“If you shoot your ex-boyfriend in the head but it was only because you were angry right then (you actually still love him and want him back) he will understand this, scrape his brains off the wall, and return to you as soon as he is finished patching the hole in his head.”

Lie –
“If you don’t it wrong it, it just won’t work.”

Translation –

“If you are leaving a message for your wife but accidentally call her by your mistress’s name on her voicemail that message will self-destruct before she listens to it.”

I know this is rather melodramatic but the translations are really no more ridiculous than the original statements. The bottom line is that magick works. If you do it fucked up, it will work fucked up. There are too many newcomers, and some old-timers who should know better, out there trying to coat magick in new-age rubber baby bumpers. They don’t really want anything to work because things that work can inevitably be dangerous. They want to call up an “energy vortex” just to feel the buzz and then ground it out. What the hell was the point in that? Buy you a violet wand already. If anything ever produces real results it scares them so badly they run for the hills – only occasionally after calling someone like me in to banish whatever nonsense they have gotten themselves into.

Magick isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is ready for magick. That isn’t elitist or judgmental, just a fact. People who are serious about magick do it because it works and if it didn’t work they wouldn’t be wasting their time. If you need spirituality in nice, clean, pre-packaged, bite sized nugget you are in the wrong place. If you think that magick is about the light and love and that those dark corners will go away if you chant hard enough, join a support group. There is a difference between Magick and Magical Thinking (a psychiatric term that encompasses a range of things from the irrational belief in superstition to delusional behavior). That is a topic for a later post though.



- wearing my curmudgeon hat today

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Found on 1word1day - Demonosophy

demonosophy [ dee-mun-AH-suh-fee] noun

The state or practice of being inspired by a demon or devil. (adapted from obscure word site The Phrontistery, defining "demonosopher")

demon (an evil spirit; devil or fiend, from Middle English, from Late Latin daemōn, "spirit," from Greek daimōn, "divine power") + -osophy (suffix meaning "knowledge," from Old French -sophie, from Latin -sophia, from Greek -sophia, from sophia "skill, wisdom, knowledge," of unknown origin)

The force employed by the African necromancers is not psychological action but demonosophy.
--"African Magic" by H. P. Blavatsky (