The Byzantium Flyers


Exotica Noir

I once ran a dance club event called Byzantium at NowBar on Fridays in the West Village of Manhattan. It was my third weekly event, and arguably the best. Unlike the two which preceded it, I used the event as an opportunity to perform magical experiments related to publicity and mental influence of benevolent kinds.

The venue helped define an eclectic but strangely coherent musical style. It had Moroccan lamps, leading me to think we could lean into the Arabian Nights imagery which cropped up in the Goth genre (which generally was one of our major ingredients.) It also had futuristic furniture, tiki torches, and an artificial waterfall. Trip hop, techno, medieval revival, ethereal, shoegazer, industrial, and world music entered the sonic tapestry. The upper level had a lounge and we had poetry readings there at first, then art installations and live bands. It was thoroughly weird and unlike anything that had come before.

Magic was a part of my thinking from the start. I had been ruminating on the Orientalist imagery in Victorian magic, particularly that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, the Theosophical Society, and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. The artificiality of the usage of the exotic and the Other fascinated me; the forbidden and the liberational aspects as well. I saw strange parallels between this and the embrace of the Other in alternative cultures, and parallels between the remixing of cultural artifacts to alter consciousness and the blending of styles in contemporary World Dance and World Music. (I am entirely guilty in overthinking club promotion, but I really do think it is an unsung art form.)


A member of the Golden Dawn was William Butler Yeats, better remembered as a great poet than as a magician. He wrote two poems, “Byzantium” and “Sailing To Byzantium,” which helped inspire the naming of the event. Yeats’ notion of Byzantium was of a distant land of opulence and the exotic, where all cultures blended and anything was possible. It was a fantastic realm somewhat unlike the historic Eastern Roman Empire, yet vastly more alluring and powerful than the reality. I wanted to sail away to Yeats’ Byzantium and bring my friends along for the ride. Every Friday night we embarked upon adventures.

I could wax nostalgic all day about the event and never quite capture its essence, or list all of the amazing people who made it possible. That’s not my point here, though. What is relevant is that while we were doing something innovative, we had a lot going against us.

Friday nights had been a dead night for Goth scene events at the time for several years. The fact that we were not truly a Gothic event only protected us somewhat. Our venue was small and we were in a part of the city most of our patrons visited infrequently. When we debuted, we had only one competing event. A few months later, we had eleven. Twelve events all competing for the same attendees and dollars. It was a swarm hungry for limited resources. Some were actively unfriendly and unprofessional to us. And try as we did, we were losing ground. We had to fight for every single attendee.

My prior two events had also struggled to get traction, and eventually ended. I was an accomplished magician, but had rarely used any magic to give my projects a competitive edge. So when Byzantium debuted, one of the first things I did was enchant the heck out of our flyers. And how I did that requires a bit of personal history.

Rootwork and the Greater Key of Solomon


Years prior, a magical colleague of mine returned from a trip to New Orleans and began to whisper about something called “rootwork.” It took me a while to realize this was an alternate term for Hoodoo, which I had been practicing in a somewhat bastardized form for many years. I recognized that my knowledge was fragmentary, and so was hungry for every legitimate scrap of knowledge that I could find.

One of the things she told me was that the pentacles of the Greater Key of Solomon could be incorporated into Hoodoo candle magic to great effect. I did not believe her. I knew the grimoire well and the pentacles it described had to be created very precisely, according to the instructions. She urged me to try it her way before dismissing the notion entirely. I respected her, so I suspended my judgment and decided to give it a whirl.

At the time I didn’t know anything about petition papers, but nearly all of the magic shops in Manhattan used pull out candles and dressed them and carved them up, often also adding glitter. Since I couldn’t afford that on a regular basis, I used plain pour-in novena candles bought at dollar stores and supermarkets and used paint markers (mostly gold and silver ones) to carefully replicate the pentacle designs on the glass. I dressed the candles with Hoodoo condition oils and stroked around the paint to prevent them from smearing.

After three or four candles like this, I was convinced and converted. It was impossible for me to ignore how effective the Solomonic pentacles on the candles were. It was so effective that for over a decade it became a quickie solution for magical work. The method certainly wasn’t as potent as full Solomonic pentacles, but it was a lot cheaper and easier, and could be made rapidly as the need arose.


I have made several conclusions from working this hybrid system of Hoodoo and GKOS pentacles. The pentacles of the Greater Key almost certainly precede the grimoire and its elaborate instructions, and are of the kind of power that even if created in imperfect conditions (like using paint markers on the side of a candle) they will still produce diminished but powerful marvels. I sometimes call them shadow effects.

Since then I have used this as a method of evaluating grimoires; if their pentacles or sigils activate a candle in a noticeable way, they’re probably really powerful when made with the full ritual requirements. If nothing happens after several attempts, the system is quite probably weak and ineffective. It saves me the effort of spending a year or two and thousands of dollars working through a grimoire to determine whether it’s magnificent and miraculous or merely a dusty hoax.

The Flyers


After working through this method for a number of years, I was introduced to the usage of petition papers in Hoodoo, and other grimoires more popular in Hoodoo such as The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses and The Long-Lost Friend. I was slow to make the transition from using paint markers on glass to petition papers of pentacles under candles because I was, frankly, concerned about fire safety. But when Byzantium launched I had an idea of how I could experiment with a variation of this.

One of my long-term goals had been to coax the Goth scene overall away from the centrality of dance clubs and towards a salon culture by way of the literary gothic. I knew that the dance clubs were dying a slow and painful death, and having poetry readings at the event—very much a novelty—inspired me to design the Byzantium flyers as bookmarks. At the top was the Byzantium logo, a scan of some mysterious looking byzantine jewelry edited heavily in Photoshop. The middle plugged the various DJs, bands and musical styles of the week. And at the bottom was my experiment: the Mathers Greater Key of Solomon’s Fifth Pentacle of the Sun. On every flyer.


“The fifth pentacle of the Sun. It serveth to invoke those spirits who can transport thee from one place unto another, over a long distance and in short time.”

Mathers notes: “The versicle is from Psalm xci. 11, 12: ‘He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands.'”

So, why did I use that particular pentacle? I suppose I could have used one for gaining wealth, but I was impractical at the time and didn’t see that as a pressing issue. I also wasn’t sure whether this would make the bearer of the flyer wealthy or me. If some of those flyers were in the possession of my rivals, it might even work against me.

What I did want was to ensure that my flyers were distributed far and wide. Getting flyers to as many people as possible back then was key to the survival of an event, and some promoters had been known to track down and destroy flyers of their rivals in the music shops where they most often could be found. Flyer saturation was key to the survival of an event, particularly one in an unfamiliar venue with an odd theme, which Byzantium certainly was.

I also liked the design, I admit. It looked mysterious. I didn’t want people to realize the flyers were actually magical; I wanted people to think I was just being artsy. I didn’t want my competitors to copy my idea. Aesthetics can be important, but they also can conceal one’s methods or intentions in magic.

Magic was my biggest edge over the competition. I’m good at a lot of things, but magic is what I’ve always been best at. When I’ve forgotten this, I’ve always regretted it; when I’ve made mundane aspects of my life magical, they’ve soared.

Things Get Weird, Things Get Wonderful


Around the time Byzantium began to get hit by the worst of the competition, the magic began to manifest in earnest.

There had been signs of something strange happening earlier on. NowBar was a trans bar on most nights of the week, and was across the street from Meow Mix, a famous lesbian bar. Whenever our financial situation seemed to be in peril, we would unexpectedly get flooded by the regular clientele, but the lesbian bar would also empty out and drink our bar dry. At first I just thought lesbians and transpeople loved our event, but it did seem a little excessive—albeit very welcome.

Then the ancient famous photographer turned up. He worked for a major NYC magazine and his wartime work was spoken of with reverence by many in his field. He was in awe of Byzantium and assured me repeatedly that he’d never seen anything else like it, and that it was something he wanted to preserve for all time. I asked him where he’d heard of my event, and he told me that everyone was talking about it. I inwardly wondered who everyone was, where they were, and what were they saying. Hopefully nice things, right?

They weren’t the only ones talking, however. Our competition multiplied over and over, eventually to utterly absurd levels. A few of them had it in for us– the scene was very cutthroat back then– but most promoters just assumed there was some hidden untapped market that they wanted a slice of. Everyone and their cousin seemed to be opening up a new Friday event. Our attendance started to take a hit, but then strange things started to happen.


For example, this highly fashionable couple approached me one night at the event with expressions of delight and wonderment. They told me that they were from Switzerland and had flown to America just to come to Byzantium. They had to tell me this several times before I realized they were sincere. I asked where they had heard about Byzantium. They told me that everyone was talking about it, even in Switzerland. Wow. Really? Fascinating.

Then an Asian man approached me at the event and told me he’d picked up a Byzantium flyer in Tokyo. He’d just had to come; it sounded amazing. Someone else found a Byzantium flyer on an airplane, and he changed his vacation plans to get off in New York instead to check it out. Over and over I began to hear about people discovering my fairly small event with a modest budget all around the world, largely through the instrument of my enchanted flyers turning up in the most unexpected of places.

To this day I have no idea how the Byzantium flyers ended up scattered across the world. I have no idea how the buzz about my event went so strangely viral on the eve of the year 2000 AD. But I certainly have strong suspicions of a magical nature.

What I am quite sure of is that the somewhat inexplicable buzz about our event which had spread across the entire world ultimately fed back into local attendance. It kept our struggling event alive for months and months, when everything seemed to be going against our little passion project.

Night Work

The enchanted flyers weren’t the only magical work (by far) that I integrated into Byzantium, but I still use those today and think of them as trade secrets. The other ones weren’t focused on publicity but making the environment fun, uplifting, and sexy. Considering how many people got laid in the NowBar lavatory and how fondly Byzantium is still spoken of today—all over the world apparently—I think they were pretty darn effective too. If you’ve been to my Green Fairy Parties in California, you’ve seen some of that other sorcery at work.

In spite of my magical and mundane efforts, Byzantium did not last forever. It might have done better if I hadn’t been so keen on lowering the cover charge to allow more people to attend; that gave us very poor financial reserves. The management at the venue expected us to become profitable sooner than we realized. The competition remained somewhat fierce to the end. Perhaps if I had focused on the business end more than the creative end, things would have lasted longer. But they wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

It was a very successful event in creative terms and that’s what I really cared about. it was unforgettable and it injected some creativity into a scene which was stagnant. Our staff and regulars had also become a family. When management told us it was to be our final night, the head bartender– hired by the venue management– was so outraged that he quit on the spot. People really loved us, and I’m grateful for it.

Hopefully this little tale can inspire you to experiment magically, to improvise, and find new ways to make your life more magical and marvelous. Magic permeates everything and insinuates itself in the gaps between; this is where your hidden strength dwells.



Mercury Retrograde Is My Ally


So, I guess this is what happens when you’re an astrological magician and Mercury goes Retrograde–

Companies send you $1100 Movado wristwatches completely randomly, and don’t bill you for them.

Magic is awesome.

Also, please tell me how Mercury Retrograde is awful. For you, maybe.

PS: Things like this happen to me relatively frequently during Mercury Retrogrades. Cosmic glitches happen in your favor if you practice SIM. For everything there is a season…

February 2017 Convention Schedule

I will be lecturing at both PantheaCon in California and ConVocation in Michigan this February, along with many other esteemed colleagues and friends. Please consider attending either or both.

PantheaCon 2017

On Saturday, February 18th at 1:30pm–

Eat Me: Magical Recipes in Medieval Astrological Magic

Though better known for the creation of talismans, medieval and Renaissance astrological magic texts contain further recipes and instructions. Many are intended to be consumed, buried, or burned, with numerous purposes and means of creation. Yet they all point towards a forgotten view of the universe and magic. From counting olive pips to cure illnesses to the creation of wax talismans or incense pills for evocation and influence, such mysteries depend on the philosophies of Al Kindi and his contemporaries. Explore how the outlook of the ancients can enhance our spiritual practices.

ConVocation 2017

On Thursday, February 23rd at 8:30pm–

DIY Talismans

Astrological talismans from the Scholastic Image Magic tradition often seem as challenging to make as they are powerful. After electing the window of time in which a talisman can be created, one must confect incenses, select appropriate sigils, and obtain tools and materials for the talismans. We will discuss how to create a talismanic laboratory, the process of practical considerations including choosing the best combinations, knowing which substitutions do and don’t work, and time and money saving strategies. Take the theory of talismans into real life creations and applications.

On Friday, February 24th at 4:00pm–

About Time: Basic Chart Calculation

Invaluable to numerous systems of magic, the astrological horoscope is a Swiss army knife for divination, classical medicine, and much else. One of the most advanced achievements of the ancient world, the horoscope can often be perplexing for beginners. This class will focus on the basics of erecting a horoscope chart. We will attempt to demystify the process and render the math easy, while also explaining the essentials of its parts, some of history of its development, and the rationale of the chart from the traditional (pre-1750 AD) perspective.

On Saturday February 25th at 4:00pm–

Fearless Magical Protection

It’s a jungle out there. In most magical systems one of the first things you are taught is basic protection against spiritual attacks, and for good reason. A magical life is a perilous one at times. As you become more proficient, the need for protection grows and takes new forms. This class will survey practical methods of protection from a variety of spiritual systems and methodologies. Some of these techniques are unpublished anywhere and likely to be unfamiliar, but have proven very effective. Magical protection will help secure your success.


Sriracha Sorcery

I have entered this decade at last and finally tried sriracha sauce this morning, and liked it.

But this being me, I quickly came up with four potential magical uses for sriracha.


Let’s start off with ingredients of normal sriracha: Jalapeño Peppers, Sugar, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Bisulfite, Xanthan Gum. 

#1 Hot Footing Into Hot Mouthing: Now, to lay a Hot Foot down on someone in Hoodoo is a curse which causes someone to become so restless they wander the world until they die. Lucky Mojo’s Hot Foot Powder “…a proprietary blend of Red Pepper, sulphur, salt, and essential oils that include Black Pepper and other herbal extracts.”

Since red peppers and salt are already ingredients in sriracha, all you need is to add black pepper, sulfur, and your other favorite cursing ingredients in small amounts, mix it up, and put it back in the bottle.

Since the application is to the mouth rather than the feet, it might work differently– perhaps force the person to confess their lies and betrayals to anyone within earshot. (A tiny scrolled up petition paper put in the bottle would help that along rather nicely.)

Then you can surreptitiously replace the bottle with your target’s sriracha when visiting their home. Perhaps add it to a meal as flavoring and serve it to them.

Perhaps you can write your wish in script using the nozzle, making a cross on the plate like a Hoodoo petition paper, and serve food on top of it– the food obscuring the sriracha text. You could have JohnSmith crossing RevealAllLies below a nice pork pie.

What fun if you can serve him this special dish at a big dinner party where many disclosures would have a significant impact!

#2 Goofering Their Guts: Now, suppose you’re feeling extra naughty and you want someone to get sick or die.

Turn that bottle of sriracha into a deadly condiment as Goofer Sauce:  Lucky Mojo’s Goofer Dust Recipes for making it vary, but it is almost always a mixture of simple natural ingredients, usually including Graveyard Dirt, powdered sulphur (which can give it a yellowish colour) and salt. Subsidiary ingredients may include powdered snake heads or snake skin ‘sheds,’ red pepper, black pepper, powdered bones, powdered insects or snails, and greyish, powdery-surfaced herbs such as mullein and sage. In the past, some formulas for Goofer Dust included anvil dust, the fine black iron detritus found around a blacksmith’s anvil.” 

Just take small amounts of the ingredients which you like that aren’t already in sriracha and grind them up and mix them in. Deploy in a manner similar to Method #1.

#3 Tangy Temperament: People misunderstand the system of Elements. It’s about the experience of the four which determines their presence, so that something which tastes extremely spicy and hot has the same amount of the Fire Element in it as a blazing fireplace.

In Traditional Medicine– by which I mean what came before Modern Medicine and even Alternative Medicine– and includes Ayurvedic Medicine– you use fiery foods for specific conditions, most particularly assisting weight loss.

I can attest to the fact that using spicy relishes has helped me get over weight loss plateaus when nothing else has.

I can also confirm this works great with #4 for health conditions of all kinds.

#4 Talismanic Teamup: One of my own innovations is combining talismans with other materials: Usually magical but not exclusively. A select few are food based.

The way it works is that if you put an astrological talisman in the proximity of a material that falls somewhat or fully under its celestial hierarchy, it wildly magnifies the power of the previously mundane material.  It’s called “receptivity” in Picatrix. But if you put a supercharged material into your body, then you become flooded with power in a manner wearing a talisman alone cannot do. (It’s part of the rationale of planetary dieting described in Picatrix) You are making your body temporarily more receptive to stellar rays of a particular hierarchy. Combining that with a talisman rather than a petition is also very strong.

For example I’ve made Solar potions by making small Sun talismans and dropping them into bottles of Goldschlagger, Antares potions by dropping talismans into Fernet Branca, and a few others. That’s because Goldschlagger is a cinnamon liqueur and that herb is Solar, it has gold flecks and that metal is Solar, and things which are sweet and spicy are Solar– so it all lines up. Fernet Branca is different, because it contains saffron and that is an herb of Antares according to Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. Drinking my Solar potion gives one courage, luck in money, leadership abilities, health and vigor. Drinking my Antares potion protects against demons, makes one eloquent and more physically attractive.

So… the question becomes how to apply that to sriracha sauce?

Well, the choice most people would make would be to drop a strong Mars talisman into the bottle and shake it up, and add that to food for skill in combat and defense against physical or metaphysical threats.

Of course, one can use an afflicted and weak Mars talisman and do the same to make a really vicious cursing sauce to put into someone’s food.

But that’s actually not what I’d do.

I think the rooster on the bottle is a big deal, and makes the whole artifact of a bottle of sriracha strongly Solar and appropriate for strong Sun talismanic placement. The rooster crows at dawn, when the Sun is on the Ascendant.

Peppers specifically may be Martial but they’re more generally fiery as is the Sun, and the overall flavor of sriracha sauce is spicy-sour and sweet– and that enlivening specifically ought be deemed Solar. It wakes you right up, in a more pleasant way than a truly hot pepper– that would be solely Martial because it is more irritating than invigorating. As William Lilly says on Solar flavors: a mixture of sour and sweet together, or aromatic  flavor, being a little bitter and astringent, but altogether comforting and a little sharp.” 

Furthermore, I should note that the bottle’s body is red because of the sauce, but the tip is green to make the whole resemble a pepper. Red and green in combination are especially Solar because at dawn the Sun usually looks red, but occasionally it flashes green at dawn. (That, incidentally, is why peridot is a very Solar gemstone. In certain lights it alternates between green and gold colors.)

When it comes to the celestial receptivity of a food, condiment or beverage, one can go with ingredients, flavor, symbology of the item as a whole or a combination thererof. All are effective in magic.

12/18/2016 Addendum: In addition to talismans using food and drink for as a vector for extending the reach of the talisman, the reverse also is effective. Herbal remedies which fall under a celestial hierarchy when stored with an appropriate SIM talisman also become more potent. Foods become more nourishing, sweets become tastier, garnishes become more attractive, and so on.

Black Magic And Dark Paganism @ ConVocation 2009

A lecture and reading covering the ethos and practices of black magic, a survey of curse methods, and dark paganism– a term which he coined in the early 1990s. (It is a fusion of elements from the PantheaCon lecture of the same name from 2008, the Secret Sequel lecture from 2009, and some unique material.)

Like several lectures during this period, the audio is imperfect. Please accept my apologies.

Black Magic Part Two (Partial) @ ConVocation 2010 


Part of Clifford Hartleigh Low’s lecture about the deeper ethics, strategy, and practice of curses, black magic and dark paganism. The omitted portion of the lecture was recorded without audio due to technical issues.


On Scholastic Image Magic


Scholastic Image Magic or SIM was one of two main branches of magical practice in the Medieval Era and the Renaissance. It was heavily influenced by the science of the Arabic world, and incorporated astrology, optics, mathematics, and the philosophy of antiquity. The European version was an outgrowth of Medieval Scholasticism; a movement which attempted to reconcile Christianity with the works of Plato, Aristotle and the mystical Neoplatonists.

Scholastic Image Magic focuses primarily upon the creation of talismans; objects created or modified to become repositories of celestial light which alter the attributes and destinies and basic nature of anything in their proximity, including human beings.

It also includes celestial petitions, which are akin to highly ritualized prayers which facilitate the granting of expressed wishes. This is where Scholastic Image Magic and theurgy, the other main branch, cross over.

(The other branch is also sometimes called necromancy, depending on emphasis. It largely focuses on angel magic and spirit evocation, and use of Biblical charms and sometimes variants of Kabbalah. There is significant overlap, but the rationales for these traditions are different at heart.)

Both the creation of talismans and the making of petitions are endowed power largely through astrological timing. Some have asserted that Scholastic Image Magic is a subcategory of Electional Astrology, the choosing of fortunate times. It certainly is dependent upon it; but I and others believe in the importance of the materials used as well. There is no way to become minimally competent in this tradition of magic without being very skilled in Medieval or Renaissance Era Astrology.

Scholastic Image Magic may also include the creation of confections, suffumigations (incenses), and potions; though these are often considered to be alchemy.

Many of us who have experimented with Scholastic Image Magic believe it to be the most powerful (and sometimes dangerous) form of magic in Western history. The demands usually exceed those of other magical traditions in numerous ways, and the results are proportional. It is not for the dilettante. Many of us have studied under Christopher Warnock, whose is a great place to learn a major flavor of this from tabula rasa. Without having some background in the generalities of Traditional Astrology you’ll probably be very confused. John Michael Greer often describes this stuff as the rocket science of the Middle Ages. (And he should know, because he translated Picatrix with Christopher Warnock a few years back.)

Scholastic Image Magic has a body of literature which we refer to frequently. The most central text is the Picatrix, which has two popular editions at present. Another, harder to find text is the Treasure of Alexander. Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books on Occult Philosophy (especially the upcoming complete Eric Purdue translation) is an excellent source for Scholastic Image Magic and much else besides, and large portions of the somewhat derivative The Magus from Francis Barrett are appropriate. Though the available version of De Imaginibus is purged of suffumigation recipes and incantations, it is still of great value. I find the Liber Lunae to be very fascinating, and has had an influence on Kabbalah. The Mysterium Sigillorum and the Kyranides have content of interest. Many shorter texts such as the Quindecim Stellis and De Mineralibus, Seals & Stones of Solomon, Seals & Sigils of Chael, Talismans of Hermes, and the Seals of Thetel are also very important, and sections of the works of Giordano Bruno and even parts of the so-called Greater Key of Solomon merit study. But all of this is built upon a foundation of antique astrology and metaphysics, such as the essential writers Guido Bonatti, Johannes Sacrobosco, and Abu Yusuf Al-Kindi, which the authors expected the readers to have expertise in.

I have studied and practiced Scholastic Image Magic in a very focused way for over a decade, I have witnessed it cure incurable diseases, draw hundreds of thousands of dollars from nowhere, conjure storms, raise and banish spirits, repel dangerous animals, hypnotize and compel obedience, and make a subject fall hopelessly in love. In my own experience it is vastly closer to the kind of magic which appears in myths and Fantasy literature than anything else I’ve seen. (And I have expertise in many other traditions of magic, which have their own distinctive advantages.)

If this tickles your fancy and you’re considering putting in the effort, welcome aboard. SIM is one of my very favorite flavors of magic. If it isn’t your cup of tea, there’s a lot of additional material on my blog to inform and tantalize.