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.

 

The Divine and Demonic Absurdity of Names

The divine and demonic absurdity of names.

This was a topic raised elsewhere, but I want to highlight it here while also avoiding getting into anything which could be construed as personal with people I respect.

Astaroth and Astarte are completely different beings.

It is historically correct that the name Astaroth (a male, aggressive demon) was probably derived from Astarte (a female, seductive goddess.) This was also obviously done to defame Astarte and eliminate competition. That does not mean that under the mask of a nasty, aggressive soul-eating monster there is a friendly sex goddess waiting to be your nekkid playmate on the astral plane.

Perhaps your experiences diverge from mine, but with respect I think you’re being conned. Demons are dishonest bastards. They invented lying. After a few trillion years of practice, they’re quite good at it too.

I think it’s entirely likely that an ancient nameless parasitic entity took the opportunity of the name variance to absorb offerings given to Astarte to set itself up as the demon Astaroth. Sometimes you try to order Dominos over the phone and get one digit off by one and end up talking to a strange guy in a Utah call center. People also sometimes acquire calls from the prior owner’s pals when they get a new phone number.

A name is sometimes just a name, just like your phone number is usually an arbitrary number. My old phone number used to spell out (201) TED-BUNG. I am not Ted. I am not Ted Bung. Nor do I know anyone named this. This is arbitrary information.

Now, this whole Astorath = Astarte thing begins to fall apart pretty rapidly under inspection. And that’s what I want to talk about.

Firstly, it wasn’t just ancient gods being turned into demons as a means of Christian defamation of pagan religions. Many ancient gods were turned into saints and angels. Hermes was an angelos ton theon, a messenger of the gods. Ficino and the Renaissance Neoplatonists thought all of the benevolent pagan gods were probably archangels who had been misunderstood, but they didn’t come up with that idea themselves. Brigid became Saint Brigit; you know that drill. This shatters the notion that there was a concerted effort to demonize all pagan gods. Pagan gods of noble virtues who made sense as angels were cast as angels or the holy dead, and the gods who demanded human sacrifice and orgiastic behavior were the ones who were thought to have led mankind astray and thus were demons.

However, it wasn’t just the Christians doing this. The pagan polytheists attempted to redefine foreign gods as beings in their own local pantheons. And some of this was just bonkers.

The Romans identified Venus with the Greek Aphrodite, but virtually anyone who has studied the Classics knows that there were huge differences between the two goddesses. There were also numerous local versions of both goddesses with pretty variable attributes. We all know by now that Zeus had many epithets but these were often understood to be distinctive beings. Venus was also associated with the goddess Ishtar and she with Inanna, but while the latter two were thought to be the planetary Venus the Romans only transferred the name Venus to signify the planet but didn’t believe the planet was the actual goddess. A name for Venus was Lucifer, and yes some early Christians thought the connection wasn’t accidental either.

It gets crazier.

Osiris was identified with Dionysius. Both were identified with Jesus by Hellenistic pagans. That may have been wishful thinking. It should be obvious that a castrated god of vegetation, a feral god of drunken underworld antics, and a magic Rabbi who got executed have precious little in common. Yet many believed they did.

This one isn’t discussed a lot; the pretty boy god Adonis and the Hebrew Adonai are the same guy if you go back far enough. But the Jewish version doesn’t even have an appearance at all, doesn’t get killed by a giant pig (though that might explain why I’m not supposed to eat bacon), and isn’t in a polyamorous relationship with Aphrodite and Persephone– though He’d probably win points with me if He did. Can we switch back? Never mind.

Here’s another one. The Egyptian god Aten– the semi-monotheistic Sun god that Akhenaten was so into– was identified in the ancient world as Athena, wisdom goddess and patroness of Athens. And Aten was probably Jehovah, or the inspiration for Him. So Jehovah is Athena. So, owls.

I may be hurting you. I’m sorry. Not enough lube?

Alexander’s parentage opens the door to another wacky conflation. He claimed to be the son of Amun, the Egyptian Sun god. One of them, anyway. (They had a lot of Sun gods, didn’t they?) In Greece that became Zeus instead, though in the form of a snake banging his mom. Because Zeus was the original furry. He deserves credit for that. And then Amun later became a demon Amon. Who is also evoked in Amen, in prayers.

Do you need a hug? I won’t turn into anything weird, I promise.

My point is actually very simple. Don’t trust these identifications. Don’t trust these appropriations. They were all done for political reasons and the names we use to call up a spirit, god, demon or whatever depend enormously on context. None of that shit is unique like DNA.

Because if you’re going to be stupid about this, it means every time you say “Amen” you’re giving a shout-out to a demon.

That is absurd. Use your brain.

The spiritual universe is almost certainly full of beings of immense power. It behoves you to figure out who you are actually talking to, but also whether they’re your awesome super pal, a nut, a sneaky brain-eater, or just a cosmic heroin pusher. The books of history, mythology and theology will only get you so far.

A Warning Against Demonic Magic

Soapbox: Once a week I pay homage to the ancestors, but I have a pretty loose definition of these. I don’t just include relatives, but also pets, friends who have passed beyond, and even a few inspirational figures.

Of the friends who are dancing jigs amongst the stars or in Valhalla or whatnot, a lot of them were magicians who engaged in what I call unsafe practices or what I sometimes describe as not practicing “clean.”

The list of things I consider unsafe is lengthy and controversial, but they include traffic with demons and objects contaminated by the same. (As per Al Biruni, demons cast rays.)

Most of these friends died young. The causes of death were sometimes fairly ordinary, sometimes pretty exotic, yet never something like spontaneous human combustion. I would not make calls to their spirits if I did not think they were remarkably good and pretty capable persons, but ones whose reach exceeded their grasp– and perhaps met the dooms akin to Faust or Solomon.

I also know many living practitioners whose practices have floundered for decades, ever trying to find the right combination of factors to turn their enterprises into great successes but mysteriously blind to certain things. I often discover these individuals rely on demons or engage in unsafe, unclean practices. I wish them the best, but do not wish to work with them.

I do not come at this attitude out of fear or prejudice for religious reasons. I have abundant experience.

My first two magical acts were demon summonings, the second of which resulted in a full apparition that was tangible and in front of two witnesses. Full apparition is quite rare. I will not identify the entity but merely say it was one of the most powerful of its kind.

I spent the next ten years trying to undo the damage resulting of having a horrific demonic infestation in my own home, because nothing would make it go away. I learned several traditions of magic between 1981 and 1993 because it was necessary for my own survival. Nobody who I spoke to during this period could figure out how to fix this; I had to do it all myself. So much for the experts.

When the demon was finally banished, upon departing it told me that it hadn’t encountered anyone as tough as me in a very, very long time (presumably centuries or millennia.) Then again, demons are liars. Since then, a lot of stuff which ought to have killed me has mostly rolled off.

Not quite learning my lesson, I participated in a large group magical ritual which evoked a powerful demon in Chicago. Most of the people actively participating in this ritual were damaged horribly by the experience; two of which ultimately died and a third may well have suffered a fate worse than death. (I honor the two as ancestors.) I had been promised that everyone involved was an expert in their specialty of magic and nothing could go wrong. This was the second domino to fall which led to my extreme skepticism regarding the purported competence of occult community’s leadership and experts.

Still not learning my lesson, a close friend and colleague taught me a safer version of practicing the Goetia, and I spent much of the following year attempting to summon the vast majority of demons in that book. Results were strong, but after a working with a Solar demon a visit to my eye doctor informed me that my corneas had become perforated and were on the verge of bursting and permanently blinding me. Apparently the Solar demon had penetrated the magical circle (which they most definitely can do if they’re inclined) and decided to scratch my eyes out. He nearly succeeded.

This ended my career as a demon-summoner. I learned my lesson at that point. I concluded that demonic magic could not be conducted safely, that magic circles were easily penetrable, and that once a demon is called upon it basically runs the show and only lets the magician believe he’s in control. Because demons see arrogance both as a vulnerability and a food source. They encourage it through their behavior with magicians.

Demons did provide me boons. Every last one of them were poisoned or perverted in some capacity so that I ultimately wished I’d never asked for them. Ever heard of the Monkey’s Paw? Demons can no more do good than a fire elemental can serve you a nice glass of iced tea. It is against their principal nature. Even when used as weapons, the victory is inevitably pyrrhic.

Sometime later I met a young woman who claimed to have a demonic familiar of great power. I did not believe her. She decided to prove me wrong. One morning I woke up and the entity was in my head for about 24 hours. I learned more about how demons behave and think from that terrible experience than all of my prior years of experimentation. Three friends got together and helped rid me of the unpleasant passenger.

Nowadays my only interactions with demons are exorcisms, or unbinding demons attached to sorcerers so they get devoured by their own supposed servitors. (They do kind of ask for it.)

I have so many more stories to tell about the follies of my friends. Nearly everyone who engages in unsafe practices gets hurt.

Frequently, people close to them die as well. That’s one of the things the books don’t tell you. If you act like a moron, innocents are actually more likely to get hurt. I was always puzzled why my pets died so horribly, until I realized the connection.

When it comes to my own practice, I’m actually a bit of a daredevil when it comes to experimentation. At the same time, I know that fire will burn my fingers pretty reliably the fourth or fifth time I’ve tried to touch a bonfire, and see no benefit in any further tests.

I see no value in demonic work, except the voyeuristic kick of watching my worst enemies become damaged by demonic parasitism and beguilement while thinking they’re great successes. The schadenfreude factor is immense.

What I do know is that my magic has become in every way superior since I learned that the real power does not emanate from spirits of disobedience and corruption.

If you are an active proponent of demonic magic, I do not believe you are evil or wicked or whatever. You’re probably a nice guy. Just a little too trusting, a little too optimistic. You are a victim. You have been tricked into swallowing tapeworms to lose weight, to drink radium-laced beverages to make your complexion more brilliant, arsenic for greater pallor, and things of these kinds.

The compassionate side of me wishes you would stop, to save yourself and your loved ones some heartbreak.

The misanthropic side of me hopes you hurry up and finish the inevitable, because I plan on using you as a negative example. And if you’re particularly nice, adding you to my list of “ancestors.”

I do hope that there will come a day that demonic magic will be considered obsolete, and an ugly phase magic had to mature its way out of. I hope to further things in this direction as best as I am able.

I should also mention I have a long track history of encountering magicians who scoff at these things I say, and then they come around to my point of view after a catastrophe of some kind– often with me applying bandages and mopping up the blood. Sometimes quite literally.

In any case, I don’t talk about this every day but these are my strong opinions.

I don’t usually personalize these things. I can get along with you just fine, even while potentially believing you’re completely and awfully wrong.

If you strongly disagree enough to find my views offensive however, do whatever you need to. I believe it is unethical to conceal my viewpoint on this matter, but rude to be a pest about it.

Restoring the Old Literary Canon for Magic

In order for us to understand the medieval and renaissance mindset, we have to understand what they were reading.

Trying to rebuild the assumptions and cultural context of the authors of books of magic is essential, and thus becoming well versed in the literary and scientific canon of those eras is helpful and perhaps mandatory.

At the very least, it is deeply beautiful and enriching.