18 November 2016

Robes

I've actually never had a dedicated set of robes just for magic; it wasn't ever a priority or a requirement for the traditions I've been and am involved with. I take ritual purity very seriously, so I always make sure I'm wearing clean, nice clothes when I'm doing any working and that I've cleansed myself via praying, ritual bathing, and anointing with oils, and so on. Now that I'm affiliated with the O.T.O. it was time to look towards acquiring some tau robes, and naturally the amazing Ziia volunteered for the task immediately. I commissioned some from her and she did a fantastic job; they're very roomy and comfortable even for asanas. At my request she ensured that the sleeves wouldn't hang too much; my primary concern with robes in general was that they would swing over candle flames too closely for comfort.


Clothing certainly has a major effect on ritual drama. Witchcraft rituals in the nude with nothing but a cord around the waist and a dagger in the palm carry a completely different feeling right off the bat, before even the first words are intoned, from modest, all-linen Kemetic rites. The differences were especially dramatic for the Seven Spheres rituals I worked last year: for Jupiter I must have looked as if I were on my way to a prestigious charity ball; for Saturn, a dreary funeral.

I'm going to consecrate these new robes soon and involve them with my Thelemic, ceremonial, and witchcraft work. I plan on later commissioning a white robe as well.

14 November 2016

Fire II

I came into the Fire initiation with a few expectations, garnered from the experiences related to me by other magicians. Common themes running throughout the different stories I heard included anger, impulsiveness, increased sexual drive, and a desire for physical activity. The ritual proceeded well; Michael made his manifestation clearly known and there were no issues that I perceived with regards to general communication. The visions that came with the initiation were powerful and motivating and I left the scene energized and bursting with excitement to get work done.

And then came the exhaustion. A part of me wondered whether or not I had done something incorrectly with regards to the summoning, or if there was some sort of malfunction in the initiation, but my spiritual court advised me that it was normal and should be welcomed for its transformative insight. I didn't feel very transformed or bettered in any way, however. I felt like I was running on fumes; every emotional interaction felt taxing and rickety. I wasn't any more moody or angry in general, just for the most part completely spent. 

Yet after a week and a half of eating well, sleeping in, and having some quality time with my spirits, friends, and some light magical practice... it was like the engines were refueled, finally stopped sputtering, and just kicked into action. I still didn't notice any "anger" or fiery moodiness, but I did experience a significant increase in overall confidence. Any trace of timidity or meekness that I might have displayed in any given situation was set aflame with a sense of power and drive. Consequently, I observed that I was less prone to holding back on voicing my opinions on more sensitive matters where before I simply would have held my tongue. Judging from my notes and from what my closest friends and spiritual allies alike have told me, I wasn't any more impulsive or physically active than the norm. However, the original writing in the lessons by Rufus Opus really wasn't kidding about the sexual drive. My libido definitely went crazy.

I've been on an immensely creative kick since. At this time I have a lineup of assorted magical crafts to create, both for myself and for others. Additionally I have a wealth of materials to go through and study in the meanwhile, as well as preparations to make for the next stage of the elemental initiations: the Demonic Princes. Now that the force of fire is really going through my sphere I definitely want to capitalize on the energy and have fun with it, especially with regards to all this creativity I'm feeling.

1 November 2016

From the Shelves

There's nothing quite like a fire ritual to get you super energized and bubbling with inspiration. I've been zooming through so many different academic assignments and spiritual workings ever since the air rite, and now with fire it feels like I've switched to an even more motivated gear.

As I was filing some books onto my shelves today it occurred to me just how many volumes I've gone through in the past month and a half. While I rarely do reviews on this blog I do like to frequently give shout outs to some of the more interesting or noteworthy titles that I've come across; it's definitely been some time since I did that last, so there's no better time than the present to get back into the swing of it.

I'm a huge fan of Doreen Valiente's writing; she's truly one of the witches I admire most. Her Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed has been dearly coveted, being on my wishlist for a long time, but I never managed to find a copy locally. In late September while on campus I suddenly felt the urge to visit a popular used bookstore during a break between classes. I definitely wasn't expecting to find anything; I frequent the stores often enough that I'm usually up to date on the stock. Yet there it was, leaning on its back against the other spines so that the cover was in full view: A Tradition Renewed for less than ten dollars. I was elated. This short volume is a real treasure; it's not exhaustive by any means, but the rites inside are simple and a perfect fit with the ones I make use of on a near-daily basis. Funnily enough, ever since I purchased the book, it's suddenly been showing up everywhere for me; I keep reading mentions of it where normally it was never even written about, and I've even seen a few people reading it on the subway while commuting.

The long awaited Cypriana: Old World anthology from Rubedo Press also arrived around the beginning of October. Don't let the slim binding fool you, this book is packed with fascinating information presented in a concise and engaging way, relating to both theory and practice. The cartomantic instructions especially really appealed to me, as did of course the historically-minded essays. My copy also came with the bonus of two postcard-sized icons of St. Cyprian and St. Justina, both of which are now installed on their main altar. They are a breathtaking pair.


A few months ago Hell Fire Club Books released a new book by Frater IAO131 titled HRILIU: Symbolic Explorations of the Gnostic Mass. The concept—a step by step, line by line analysis of Liber XV from the author's perspective—intrigued me right off the bat, though I decided to wait for the possibility of a cheaper, paperback version as such a release was hinted at on IAO131's blog. I snatched it up as soon as it was available and read it three times in the weeks culminating up to my final Minerval class at the O.T.O. I can safely say that it has helped me be far more appreciative of the more subtle symbolic elements of the Mass, especially as I have been rehearsing with our lodge's Mass team for the past month in the role of Child. It's a wonderful secondary reference to have in addition to the existing literature on the ritual, especially for cross-referencing. 

Finally, I wanted to comment briefly on a peculiar book I came across. The Toad in Magick, Sorcery and Midwifery by Ernst Hentges and Steve Seven is a new translation of a German monograph exploring the toad's role in different forms of witchcraft, including healing, cursing, fertility, and the infamous toad stone or bone. The last part of the volume is a reflective essay by the translator, going into a few Jungian analyses of the text while also connecting it to other studies such as Andrew Chumbley's A Leaper Between. From what I can tell, the translation's publisher is only providing copies through its eBay store, which is where I bought it from. I admit I didn't purchase it with the highest expectations as to quality, but it's actually very nicely edited, being free of spelling and formatting errors. It's a very short work and I quite enjoyed reading it; it's something I would definitely recommend for anyone interested in the icon of the toad familiar. Concerning editing quality, I wish I could say the same for some of the self-published books I've seen put out on Lulu and Amazon, where the content is good but the manuscript looks as if it had never even been proofread for the most basic errors (there were about two pages of Nick Farrell's Egyptian Shaman that were almost illegible; a few of his other releases were also rife with poorly placed punctuation and spacing). The Toad in Magick is a breath of fresh air concerning price as well, being quite cheap. The shipping was extremely quick as well. I'm quite pleasantly surprised.

I'm eagerly awaiting two exciting new releases which should be issuing out around this time: Ashen Chassan's Gateways Through Light and Shadow from Azoth Press, and the omnibus edition of the first three volumes of the PILLARS occult journal by Anathema Press, titled PILLARS: Perichoresis. I haven't yet read a single issue of PILLARS and they've been long sold out, so I'm very pleased that an omnibus is being, making the works accessible again. Ashen Chassan's work speaks for itself; his writings and talismans are endlessly inspirational. An entire book filled with the journal records of his evocations is something I can barely wait for.

And finally, two major volumes on occult herbalism are now available for pre-order on Amazon and Three Hands Press respectively: The Witching Herbs: 13 Essential Plants and Herbs for Your Magical Garden by Harold Roth of Alchemy Works, and The Green Mysteries: An Occult Herbarium by Daniel A. Schulke. I am certain that these two works combined will end up being my most referenced herbals once they are published.

31 October 2016

Samhain 2016

It's been an exceedingly long and wonderful past two days. Ziia and I began observing Samhain yesterday, partly because of the auspicious timing of the new moon, and partly for the practical reason that we had the entire day to ourselves without interruption, as it was still the weekend. We gathered early in the morning to greet the nature wights, prepare offerings for the later ceremonies, and begin prayers. 

While we are two sister-witches learning the form of the craft the spirits of our tradition are passing on to us, we certainly have different traditions that we adhere to separately. We share a passion for traditional witchcraft, Kemetic religion, Hermetic magic, and now, Thelema as well, and eagerly work together on those fronts in celebration and study. But we of course have our individual patrons and systems that call out to us—I am a fervent pupil of Hekate and have been working with Jason Miller's Sorcery of Hekate tradition daily since it was even made available to his Strategic Sorcery students, for example; and she is deeply committed to a path of witchcraft that chiefly honours Qayin as the Witchfather. Sometimes, if there are no issues with oaths of secrecy and the spirits allow it, we will assist each other as ritual handmaidens and assistants in these separate paths. This is not feasible for the Hekate coursework I mentioned, but it definitely is for her Qayinic tradition, so often when we are meeting for a full day of rituals and there are other ceremonies she would like to do with her spirits in my temple room, I will provide "mundane" assistance; fetching candles, oils, potions, matches, and other such things while she goes over the preliminary cleansing and banishing spells.

I helped her out in this manner while she consecrated two gorgeous rosaries she had created as tools and gifts to the Witchfather and Witchmother. Afterwards, while she worked on another task, I communed with my spiritual court, remaking a good portion of my mesa blanca/white table in accordance to the desires they had expressed. Originally I had a large wine glass in the middle surrounded by six champagne glasses with a crucifix in the front; later, thanks to a dream, this was changed to a single large glass with a crucifix inside it flanked by one smaller glass on each side for a total of three. This arrangement remained for nine months. I liked it because the fewer number of glasses meant it was easier to work with, and my spirits at the time were content with both the symbolism of the three and the division of what each goblet of water represented in our court. 


A week ago we agreed a change was welcome, both to reflect the energy of the court as it has shifted in accordance with the new spirits that had joined over the past months, and also the changes in my personal practice as well. The layout they showed me was almost identical to the first; six glasses (with different meanings assigned to them this time) around one large goblet in a circle. The main difference was the omission of the crucifix and the inclusion of a large clear quartz point in the main goblet. The size and shape of the glasses themselves are also completely new; not a single one from the previous layout was recycled. The outer rim are all small and easy to move, while the middle is round with a short stem. As soon as I finished praying the goblets flooded with bubbles all around, indicating a flurry of activity and contentment with the arrangement. 

After a joint ritual completed under the guidance of our coven's tradition we moved on to the main Samhain working of the day. This was a rite we designed with our coven's spirits to perform an alchemical wedding of the three most vital forces our tradition works with, for the purposes of honouring the gods and mighty dead in a manner appropriate to the Sabbat.

We laid out a long piece of cloth on which we drew a large white circle with a solar cross and spiral in the middle, with a smaller green and red circle at the West and East respectively. At the North we stationed the master flame, a figure representing the Witchfather, and a skull I had consecrated years ago with the aid of the mighty dead. The Troyl, or wine and cake feast, was also placed nearby. At the South was placed my sacrificial bowl for the use of later divination, and in the center of the main circle was the font; a large "chalice" filled with blessed water and anointed with Scryer's Milk in the name of the Begetter, the chief spirit of our coven. We surrounded the circle with buckeyes that we had collected outside, as well as pink roses and chrysanthemums I picked from my garden.


We hallowed the Compass and took our stations on either side, I at the green and she at the red. Drawing glyphs on our circles with the chalk we conjured and evoked, becoming in the process guardians of our respective portals. As soon as we saw the power the other was calling on manifest, we lit the candles that joined each other's circles with the main boundary. Over the course of the next two hours, the seven directional guardians empowered the three forces represented by the triple compass which in turn merged into one font, flowing from the chthonic realms through the central axis we had planted. We meditated, communed, channeled messages, and held séance. We feasted and celebrated. We flew.

Today I performed my solo work privately with my court, in addition to leaving another supper for Hekate at the crossroads. The warmth of the elemental fire initiation is still flaring on my fingertips. I'll take another week to reflect on that before heading into the evocation of the demonic princes.

26 October 2016

Air II

This was the most subtle of the elemental initiations thus far. Raphael commented that it has to do with my natural affinity for the element, especially in terms of personality, learning style, creative talents, and so on. I was initially wondering if I would get a little overloaded, so to speak; in the teachings I'm going through there is a note of caution that one might become too easily distracted or scatter-brained. Yet Raphael quite adamantly insisted that the forces would actually be more easily integrated into my sphere because of the existing harmony in the alignment, and that I should only expect such troubles if it had particular blocks to work through.

So far that seems to have been the right assessment. There's a lot of daydreaming, yes, but equally a lot of intellectually-driven work. Communication is more effective with minimal misunderstandings, as is conflict resolution. I said that my memory seemed to be better after the Earth initiation. With Air, the emphasis has been on the actual process of memorization. I'm committing things to memory with greater clarity, speed, and recollection.

But in general, it doesn't feel like there's been a very localized, obvious change as there was with Earth and Water, it's more as if I'm operating at a higher percentage more often than not—kind of like an added boost to the general flow of things. This is the primary reason why noticing the "negative" side-effects has been easier and more immediate; they simply stand out more. I've been much less patient with things like delays and any kind of slowness. I'm rarely the kind of person that gets irritated on a whim, but for the past week it hasn't been difficult to earn the equivalent of an eye-roll from me. I'm not exactly short-tempered (though I'm sure I can expect that with Fire), I'm just more judgmental. If the other two are any indication, this will probably recede as the weeks go by.

After Fire I'm going to go through working with the "Four Princes of spirits, upon the four angles of the world", to quote Agrippa, in the same order. The most I've ever really done with them before was the offering practice at the end of the Headless One rite in The Chaos Protocols. I'm quite excited to see how that will proceed.

17 October 2016

Water II

Water initiations are something of an oddball for me. One the one hand, they've always brought increased clarity in divination, scrying, and spirit communication, alongside a helping of heightened empathy. Yet these effects are always coupled with ephemeral emotional states that feel anything but. The highs and the lows are equally as drastic and yet they flow seamlessly into one another: I'll be elated for an hour and then solemn for the next two. Things that would normally have little effect on me would move me to tears; conversely, things that would normally move me to tears instead send me into a rut of depression. Heart-wrenching compassion wrestles with acerbic doubt. So while my psychic senses are greatly enhanced, their efficacy in a way is actually thrown into flux by the possible hindrances the shifting emotions present.

These were the considerations that I had been mulling over while preparing for the water initiation last Monday. Though I didn't voice them, Gabriel brought them up during the evocation and pointed out that though the experience is no less intense each time one undergoes the initiation, the process of calibration for the energies being integrated into one's sphere proceeds more smoothly. At this time I believe I can safely say that it has been the case. I'm certainly still processing all the emotions that became unearthed by the waters, but it's easier to engage with them in a more lucid fashion than before. The bedrock laid down in the Earth initiation also provides a high degree of stability, literally grounding the more turbulent facets of the initiation for easier engagement. 

Though this could be considered to be more characteristic of the upcoming air ritual, one change I've really noticed is a decidedly easier time penetrating texts while studying. To use the language of feelings, it's like it's infinitely easier to simply get a sense or "feel" for what their authors wanted to convey to the hearts of their readers. This has been of immense value not only in school (my assessments of my assigned readings for the last week have been consistently shrewd) but also, of course, with my magical practice. I am actually studying the Gnostic Mass right now as I've been signed on to play the role of one of the two Children for our lodge, and I've seen similar effects in that realm. Engaging with dense writings in general have been much more rewarding on an intuitive level. I am eager to see how the addition of air will play into all of this come this Wednesday.

8 October 2016

Earth II

The most peculiar part of Rufus Opus' Seven Spheres system for me was definitely the recommended order of the initiations. You start at Jupiter, work your way down from Mars to the Moon, and then go back up to Saturn for the final ritual. When I first went through the initiations last year I was determined to follow the book's suggestions as it was all very new for me. Now that I'm approaching Trithemian conjuration again through an actual course as opposed to as a solo endeavor, the order has been reversed—and frankly it makes a lot more sense to me that way. You get a taste of all the different planetary spheres in Moon, and then move your way up in the same order of succession as the actual Hermetic model of the planets.

The reprise of the seven spheres initiations proper will be taking place way later, however. At this stage in the Red Work I'm studying Agrippa, reading Hermetic texts, and cycling through the different facets of elemental initiation. It's funny how what happened originally for me last year was that I dreamed about adding on to the Seven Spheres book by going through the elements as well, using the archangels of the four quarters. With the help of my spiritual court we devised a plan to work through the elements in clockwise order of the directions, beginning with air. Now in the Red Work course this is an actual assignment, though it comes with a number of nuances and furnishings unique to its material.

So I'm going to be working through the elemental initiations a few times, getting comfortable with the spirits and really letting their rays fill and flower in my sphere. Instead of writing about them the evening or night of the ritual's performance, I'm going to wait a week to better reflect on the actual feeling. Since I completed my Earth initiation last Saturday, now would be the the time to do so.

I called Auriel again, communed, and requested the initiation. It might be something of a cliche but right off the bat I felt immensely "grounded". I can certainly be a little flighty at times (I'm constantly multitasking and working on a thousand things at once... I'm a Gemini with an Aquarius ascendant!) but after the initiation I noticed I was completely "rooted" to whatever I was to be doing at the time. Whenever I set my mind to something I just accomplished it. I've been super productive, breezing through university work and personal magical projects in a way that honestly has been a little unsettling to me. My memory seems to be better as well, which is interesting.

As for the "materialistic side" of things, as the element of Earth most certainly deals with that... about two days after the initiation I started to seriously clean. Whatever doesn't smell like hyssop smells like Florida water now. I wiped down everything, completely remade my working altar, waxed, polished, and dusted every tool, and fumed everything with a good helping of incense. I'm not a messy person and it's not like my spaces weren't clean to begin with, but I suddenly couldn't help but feel the need to get intimate with all the "materia" of my life. One on one, touching everything as if it was the first time I encountered it. Really mesmerizing myself with every texture and colour. Thinking back on it, it was almost trance-like. I'm elated with the organizational changes I've made; no doubt I'll be going through this many times over in the future.

Another noticeable effect was that I kept finding myself getting pulled over and over again to my ancestors. With their assistance and input I helped create a brand new shrine for them that works infinitely better for them and for me. The centerpiece of the shrine itself is actually a large, decorative, wooden box my grandmother gave me. I filled it with the keepsakes, trinkets, and inherited items from my family that help me best connect with my ancestors, and flanked it with other furnishings as well as a glass of cool water. Everything feels so much more steady and powerful, as well as joyous over all. Spirit itself moves more easily through the physical channels I've laid out because of the new correspondences.

Finally, regarding more "negative" side effects—because with the elements you certainly get both the good and the bad. I don't think I'm any more "dense" or "literal", but what I am is more... heavy? Mentally and emotionally, I feel as if I just sink as opposed to float. In a good way this has made me more productive, committed, and resilient as I mentioned. But the same applies for situations that aren't productive: when my brain decides to quit, that's it. On the days where I don't have classes I've slept in way beyond my normal time. When I don't "feel like" doing something I would be better off doing, I've found it a lot easier to justify to myself committing to and reinforcing that feeling. Honestly, it's kind of surreal to notice myself being so stubborn when I'm usually so flexible. Auriel basically warned me to watch out for that and it still slipped my mind the first few times. That said, Auriel also advised that it would take me less time to set a habit in stone than it would normally, and that's absolutely been true. As such, as soon as I recognized a problem it was far easier to move past it and train myself out of that negative mindset than usual.

This Monday I will be going through the water initiation, so I'll reflect on that in another week.