Monday, September 5, 2016

Brandy William's Time Machine (a book review)

Those dirty guys at Amazon won't let me post this review right now, so you'll get it here first.  :o)

I know I haven't posted for a long time.  I'll remedy that situation soon, as we are planning some interesting ritual work here at Castle ROHF soon.  Meanwhile, my review for Brandy William's book, to be released later this week:

In preparation for an interview that I recently performed for the Ordo Templi Orientis U.S. Grand Lodge podcast, “Thelema Now,” Ms. William’s publishers, Llewellyn Publications, sent me a pre-release copy of her book “For the Love of the Gods: The History and Modern Practice of Theurgy.”

I have enjoyed this book in several ways.  I expected a high level of scholarship, and was delighted at the engaging way in which stories were told relating the practices of theurgy throughout the ages.

In a history that begins in Egypt before the Common Era, and moves into our temporal backyard with Theosophists and modern occultists, we are taken into the lives of those who have studied and practiced these techniques. In the stories that compose the first portion of the book, we are projected into stories generated around historical fact that transport the reader into the lives of those who sought personal relationship with deity.  The tales illustrate the techniques of theurgy, the teaching mechanisms employed, and the relationship between the theoretical and experiential aspects of the tradition, the importance of ritual.

The final portion of the book introduces the reader to studies, practices and rituals adapted from historical sources and tailored for today’s reader. This part is the praxis to bring the theory and history uncovered beforehand to life.

In short, this book is a time machine.  In it, we receive an almost familial sense of continuity between ancient practitioners and those people who are stalking direct encounters with divinity today.  A quote from the text (p 257): “Theurgic ritual is performed today.  To a Witch, Ceremonial magician or Pagan student of history, the rituals performed by Hellenistic era magicians two thousand years ago seem very familiar.  The spells in the papyri are strikingly comprehensible.  Our world is contiguous with the world in which these rituals were created, and there is a traceable connection through the literature of Neo-Platonic philosophy, so it should not be surprising that the rituals themselves expressing this philosophy are understandable to us.”

Thanks to Brandy Williams for a readable, enjoyable and rigorous history of theurgy and its practices, and thanks also to Kat Sanborn at Llewyllen for providing me with a REAL BOOK to read, and not teasing me about my allergy to reading electronically!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Initiation by the Solar Wind

I am sorry if any of you were missing me.  I’ve been busy.  This spring we moved houses again, this time into one with our names on the mortgage.  We have had lots of guests, lots of Great Work.  I’ve also been involved in a very intimate and deep solar initiation.

You see, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.  First there was an irregularity on the mammogram.  After the mammogram was the biopsy, after the biopsy was the surgery, after the surgery was the radiation therapy…and I’m almost done with that.

This is not an adventure for the faint of heart under any circumstances.  It’s painful, frightening, embarrassing, fatiguing, terribly hard.  Even if I weren’t sort of spiritually inclined by nature, it would bring into sharp focus the way so many ordinary folks are wandering the world with so much hidden pain.
My fellow cancer-travelers are like me: we have surgery, basically, and get up to go back to work.  Some of the ladies in the waiting room worked through their chemo.  And they go to baby showers, shop for groceries and mow the lawn in their post-mastectomy gear.  Life goes on, and you’d never know about their situation by looking at them.  Their husbands come with them sometimes, and they have the fear of losing their life-partners all about them.  It’s like a cloying scent, the fear of death is always on the partners.

Never forget that the people in your life have hidden pain.  This is a lesson that brings compassion in 55 gallon drums.

I have been lucky.  The tumor was small and not very aggressive. I didn’t need classic lose-your-hair chemo.  The surgery made a mess, but most everything is still there.  Radiation is freaky and turns your skin the most amazing color of red, but that side effect is most likely temporary; in general, I’m told that I have tolerated the treatment well.

And the treatment seems to me to be the most solar of initiatory experiences…

“Radiation treatment” for cancer is exposure to x-rays.  Lots and lots of x-rays.  It’s performed in the hopes of killing the cancer cells that remained after the surgery, of course, but it doesn’t just kill cancer cells.  Normal tissue is also impacted.
My thoughts about my experience changed when I realized that in nature, X-rays are emitted by stars.  When the sun throws off solar material in a coronal mass ejection, x-rays are also produced.  These particles end up causing the phenomenon called the solar wind, which encounters the gases in our atmosphere to make the aurorae. 

Of course, the solar wind also removed all Mars’ atmosphere.  It’s strong stuff to the unprotected.

On a hermetic level, the experience is also solar because of the intensity and the processing of the impure things out of the system.  As Crowley states in Magick in Theory and Practice (bold font mine), “The First Matter is a man, that is to say, a perishable parasite, bred of the earth’s crust, crawling irritably upon it for a span, and at last returning to the dirt whence he sprang. The process of initiation consists in removing his impurities, and finding in his true self an immortal intelligence, to whom matter is no more than the means of manifestation. The initiate is eternally individual; he is ineffable, incorruptible, immune from everything. He possesses infinite wisdom and infinite power in himself. This equation is identical with that of a talisman. The Magician takes an idea, purifies it, intensifies it by invoking into it the inspiration of his soul. It is no longer a scrawl scratched on a sheep-skin, but a word of Truth, imperishable, mighty to prevail throughout the sphere of its purport.’

One of my impurities, it seems, was a tumor.  So, it’s gone now, dissected and photographed for posterity.  So is the innocence that is related to the visceral health that I previously enjoyed, the feeling of physical immortality.  I feel fragile now, even though I am still strong and, tumor notwithstanding, healthy.  I am not afraid to die, but very cognizant of the fact that I may well die of something related to the cancer or its brutal treatment.

The only thing to do is to treat it like a message from god.  I am being initiated intimately with the solar wind into a different person.  It is a literal shamanic death trip.  It is necessary for the shaman in training to undergo some type of serious crisis, and I guess this is mine. 
In getting ready for the radiation, the technicians put me in a CT machine to figure exactly where the tumor-bed lay in my mangled breast.  They marked me with small tattoos in a cross that lays across my breastbone so that they could use lasers to position me the same way each time on the table under the linear accelerator that makes the x-rays.  

Every morning, when I lay down to be positioned in the machine, the lasers overlap the tattoos in a three dimensional cross that bisects me in each of three dimensions.  And then the treatment starts.  The technicians leave the room, of course.  It’s lined with a foot of lead in every direction.  It is as alone as being in the Alaskan wilderness.  The buzzing that indicates that the machines is on, the smell of ozone from the x-rays ionizing the air.  That’s all there is in that room.

Every morning, I anoint and bless myself with Abramelin oil.  “Bless me, an animate creature of god…”  I lay in the machine and perform the Middle Pillar exercise.  I feel a presence at times that may be some of the first inklings of K and C.  My daily meditations have become sharp and easy, my pranayama practice the same.

 My body has been scourged with many whips, but I remain. 

I remain.

Be thou blessed.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Demands and Requests

Quiet for a long time, I know.  Practical realities have been in the way, as well as self-care and holidays.

I have not been without my seership practice, however.

Last week, RO had some work to do for a client, working with the spirit Caim.  I came home absolutely exhausted from a stressful day at work (hardware release coming, it's not ready... that kind of thing), ate dinner and declared that I would get ready for bed.  RO stated that he needed to do the work, that it wouldn't take long and that he'd join me momentarily.

I went into the bathroom and began to take my contact lenses out.  All of a sudden, my eyes began to water.  Not single tears, mind you, but like a hose.  It was like cutting onions, the worst onions in the universe.  Still dripping, I went into see what RO was doing.  He hadn't started yet.  I explained what was happening, he asked me if I'd like to participate in the working.  I was intrigued and agreed to scry for him.  Immediately, the weeping stopped.

We got into the meat of the working, and it was clear that the spirit needed a voice.  There were some complicated ideas that needed to be expressed. My presence seemed to be helpful for the expression of concerns from the spirit before he granted his agreement to help RO's client.

There's a first time for everything, and this post documents the first time I was ever invited to a rite by the spirit.

Be thou blessed.

Monday, September 1, 2014


As I threatened/promised in my last post, RO and I had more work to do.

The night before last, we switched roles. He was the scryer and I the conjurer.  We used the same modified Trithemian rite as usual, but started things off with Thelemic version of the LRP and LRH.  Once the space was made consecrated and defensible, I summoned the spirit:

"In your name and by your seal, I conjure you, Bune, Thou great and mighty Duke. Appear before us and speak clearly and truly without the least ambiguity, so that even men such as ourselves may understand. Be comely in thine appearance and equally comely in thy manner. We bring you here today to bless these spirit pots, if you find them acceptable. Also we ask for the gift of your eloquence so as to clearly and concisely speak our Wills into being."

RO felt the spirit right away, and knew him. They've worked together extensively in the past, as you know, so this makes sense. I asked the seer what the spirit looked like: RO reported that he did not have a vision of the spirit so much as sensed him. There was a heavy heat in the room as we started talking to him.

RO asked him for approval of pots, which he immediately gave. There was a field of “yum” about this that was palpable.  The spirit had a quiet, expectant energy.

I then asked him if he had anything else to communicate, and he said that making spirit pots for other people was fine, but not to sell them to anyone stupid (I almost cracked up about that).  He explained that they are connected in a way, and if we made too many of them would diminish their power, like objects in a flow causing turbulence. This would interrupt the hydrodynamic flow in the same sense as putting big rocks in a stream. The flow can be used to create power, he said, but it must be allowed to move without impediment.  Additionally, he made a wry and crabby statement about the least common denominator which I don't remember well.

I asked Bune what the spirits received from having relationships with people: he said that other spirit were like forces of nature, and therefore couldn't choose their actions. They are a cause-and-effect system, and there’s no responsiveness in them; people are different in that way, and therefore interesting to “speak with.” Additionally,  he said, that humans are almost like mirrors to him, and allow him to see himself, as well as communicate outwardly.

He spontaneously stated that he liked my vocabulary and would like to help me with my writing and marketing efforts. I thanked him and accepted that gift.

The spirit then fell silent. I dribbled the spirit pots with whiskey, and I gave leave to depart.
I said: Be thou blessed, be thou cleansed and raised. By my skills and office, I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May all impediments and obstacles standing between you and your Source be removed. (RO talks in his post a bit more about us having been ordained, so I won't go over it here.)

We then extinguished the candles and tipped over, because we'd been sitting on our heels for so long and our feet were completely asleep.

Be thou blessed.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

In need of practice...

Last night was our first private working together in our new house. We have been here for two months, but have had visitors for most of that time; not at all conducive to the invitation of and conversation with the spirits. In between, we did a working together with two other magicians in which we conversed with Usiel and Ansoel about divorce shenanigans for a client. My first paid working. It was strange, and I’ll comment about it one day. Not now, though.

Our first private working, then, in our new space, was a spirit pot working. RO has some client work bound up in these, and lately gave a talk including a brief mention of their use at MNCON, an OTO convention held last weekend in Minneapolis at Leaping Laughter Lodge. A spirit pot, basically, is a particularly rich talisman that gives a meeting place between you and a spirit, a place from which the spirit can influence your physical reality. He’s written extensively on such things, have a look here:

The actual recipe for the pots were using will be in his blog post of today (he’s sitting next to me writing it, in fact… “Babe, what’s the herb we used that smells like a dirty sock?”)

The target for my spirit pot was a duke, as described in the the Pseudomonarchia daemonorum:

"Vapula is a great duke and a strong, he is seene like a lion with griphens wings, he maketh a man subtill and wonderfull in handicrafts, philosophie, and in sciences conteined in bookes, and is ruler over thirtie six legions.”

Yesterday, Venus was in Leo. Additionally, of course, Friday is the day of Venus, and the Dukes are all about Venus…

My part in the working began with a ritual bath, NaCl and NaHCO3 added. I took kratom beforehand; I was interested in its effects on my scrying. Kratom is an herb local to Thailand (currently legal, but this status may soon change – keep your eye on Erowid) that is considered a mild stimulant and intoxicant. In candlelight, I sang Lutheran Te Deum, and put my head under the water and listened to the sounds of the house, the tub, my heart beating. When the water started to cool off, I got out and bound my hair in a white, new dishtowel.

RO began the Trithemian rite by calling on the Source/First Father. After that, he performed the LRP and I the LRH. After that, we returned to the script described in the latest entries. Before we donned our phlacteries, I took off the towel. RO consecrated me to the work at hand, and then he summoned Vapula.

When he entered, my head (the back particularly) became hot and slightly prickly. The crystal had in it a figure like a superposition of a hawk’s head and the skull of a big rodent. There seemed also to be a pointy tail underneath these things - a scorpion’s tail, perhaps.

Vapula made the crystal appear to be a tiny planet, complete with an atmosphere. This seemed a wonderful trick that he did just for me. Then, the atmosphere became a black aura around the crystal that throbbed.

When RO asked him if he had anything to tell us, he said, breathily, “Who are you?” Then he told RO to speak to him more. RO reminded him of other workings they had done together.

When prompted, he agreed to work with me on deepening both my learning of physical sciences and occult history and philosophy. He agreed to come when I call on him. He liked the spirit pot, and wants menstrual blood to be applied to his seal.

[I’ll have to consider that request…]

At this point, he showed me several different phases and forms of iron, including blood, before we wrapped up.

When releasing Vapula, RO blessed him and said, amongst other things, that we hoped any obstacles between V. and his Source would be removed. V seemed to like that very much.

A couple of comments on the rite: I’m out of practice and I could tell. I guess it’s like playing a musical instrument. If you play guitar and you lose your callouses, it’s hard to dive in. Perhaps worse if you play a woodwind or brass instrument and need an embouchure.

I’m also not drinking alcohol at the moment, and am as a result more sensitive about all sorts of things. The kratom gave me a terrific headache later, so use with caution. I am not going to use it again.

Tonight…more spirit pots. For those of you interested in the male-female/conjurer-seer stuff, you should know that I’ll be driving this time. I’ll report back.

Blessed be thou.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Yin and Yang of Ritual Work

The role of women as magicians is a topic that rolls around the internet periodically. It seems to be back in sight at the moment, and I wanted to say a thing about it. Most of what has surfaced is the usual. Lots of it is advice driven: Don’t hang out with people who want you to do things that seem inappropriate to you (no sex for initiations, don’t pay the guru too much, etc). Find something that resonates with your interests, and don’t be intimidated into doing things. There’s nothing earth-shattering here. People should do what feels right to them, and avoid doing anything that feels wrong.

Another topic that has surfaced (again and again) is whether certain magickal organizations are inherently sexist. Under particular scrutiny at the moment are the societies that were developed in late Victorian times with a masonic structure. Certainly, when looked at with modern eyes, the people who developed these societies look fairly sexist. For their times, however, they were for the most part quite progressive. The organizations founded around the turn of the 20th Century that are still in existence also find themselves on the edge of social progress. Since they promote the double-edged sword of personal freedom and responsibility for one’s actions, these occultists are typically supportive of LBGT rights and of any sort of consensual relationship. Many are champions of civil rights of all kinds.

The “sexist” label comes into play, at least in the OTO, because of the lack of outwardly recognized female saints and the very rigorously defined roles of priestess and priest in the Gnostic Mass. Since this is the only OTO ritual that most people know anything about, this evidence can appear somewhat damning. However, there are reasons for the sexual polarity invoked in the Mass, having to do with the energy of procreation.

Descriptions of the reasons for the public silence involved in female saints and this sexual polarity of the Mass are numerous, and truly scholarly work exists to explain how this is in no way represents a sexist situation. I’m not going to go into those things, because others have done a beautiful job of it already, and if you’re going to allow yourself to have a knee-jerk reaction about the facts in the paragraph above, adding my voice to those will not change your mind. The reason I brought this up is that I wanted to address some polarities in ceremonial ritual work that have been under discussion lately.

I want to talk about the polarity that exists in the working pair of the magician and the seer. In this operative pair, the magician is the projective element, and the seer the receptive element. This is not the same as doing dishes as compared to changing the oil in the car. The latter pair of activities do not have an inherent polarity, they just both need doing. The only thing that is similar about the two pairs of activities is that there are not inherent gender assignments for either one. The relationship of the magician and the seer in conjuration is the same as an outgoing email is to the electronic answer. They form a necessary couplet, which is a communication. It is also as gender specific as this example, which is to say, not at all. It's not even a different function, it's more like a frequency shift, as in the gif of the sine waves.

To more thoroughly beat this dead horse, then, men are not inherently the projective part of the pair. Women are not naturally more sensitive, and therefore the seer. I would venture that you can’t do either at will, you need to do some homework. Some people have brought forward that I’m the seer end of the R.O. – H.F. dyad because I’m female. Folks, it’s just not that simple. My professional life is thoroughly masculine. I’m normally the only woman in the room at any meeting. About my role in magickal operations, I have been the projective part of our magickal couple many times, but prefer the receptive part because I need the practice. My “mundane” life doesn't give me that opportunity; I’m lucky to have it in my spiritual work.

In closing, I’d like to say something indirectly related. It’s been forever since I’ve written a post. I’ve been finding a new job, finding a new home in a city 1300 miles away from where I am now. And now I’m packing. Prior to that, the room that served as our temple developed a leak in the window that the landlord wouldn’t repair, making it impossible for us to use that room the way we were beforehand. I am hoping my focus returns to ritual work shortly; life isn’t the same without feeling the invisible friends at your side. Is it?

Blessed be thou.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


RO and I performed a conjuration of Tzaphkiel, spirit of Saturn, last night.  It was the first planetary working for some time, since we’ve been busy with Thelemic things (including an invocation of Baphomet that I may describe at a later point).  Tzaphkiel is held to be the angel of YHVH Elohim, and is connected with the sephira of Binah.  The link between “understanding” as the characteristic of Binah and patience and hidden things (a few of Saturn’s attributes) is chiefly made through the application of silence and observation, which will explain some of what we experienced.

I started with a purification bath, with sea salt, magnesium sulfate and sodium bicarbonate.  I made it as hot as I could bear, as I have reported previously, and sat singing bits of Lutheran liturgy until the water was cold, then dressed in a black robe with my phylactery and a black filmy veil.  I was absolutely empty at this point.  I went into the temple room, where RO was finalizing the preparations of the altar and the space, and sat down.  Then we began.

We purified one another with hyssop and consecrated with Abramelin oil.  We then together said the phrase from the Stele of Jeu (ΑΟΘ ΑΒΡΑΟΘ ΒΑΣΙΜ ΙΣΑΚ ΣΑΒΑΟΘ ΙΑΟ).  After that we called universal forces with the First Father prayer, and consecrated the crystal and the incense. RO then summoned Tzaphkiel.  I then read Fr. Achad’s Conjuration of Kronos ( ).  The room began to thicken, and I put down the veil.  It made the candlelight dance in an interesting and confusing way (meaning it was perfect).

RO then read the Orphic hymn to Saturn.  The room was electric, and I peered into the crystal.  I saw first a mouth with a thousand very slender and pointed teeth, and it then resolved itself into any eye.  The overall sense was a quiet expectant waiting.  RO saw an old man in the crystal, but I will leave his impressions for his blog post on the subject. 

RO then stated our requests, for Tzaphkiel to open us to the wisdom of his sphere, to help us on the path to occult wisdom and understanding.

Everything felt of quiet and patient waiting (although I confess to being concerned about the flammability of the veil and the lack of a strong impression) when I heard the voice:

“You can take off the veil any time you want.”

Of course, there was a mild joke in it about my headdress, but it was also directly addressing our request.  Apparently, it really is up to us.

Blessed be thou.

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