Upcoming Appearances 1

ConVocation

Pawn Takes King: Political Magic

Thursday February 20th 10:30pm 

Magic and politics have been intertwined throughout history. The metaphysics of magic are often expressed in political language or imagery, especially that of monarchy and feudalism. The Sforzas and Borgias launched a Renaissance arms race of astrological talismans. In America, slaves sought to magically destroy or gain power over their oppressors. Spiritualism had an essential role in the suffragist movement. Magic has played a role in modern political movements on both the Right and the Left. Discover how practitioners of magic are attempting to control elections and manipulate leaders in democratic governments today. Explore the rise of political radicalism in magic, and learn practical spellwork you can do to support the issues and people that matter most to you.

The Dark Arts: Curses, Binding, and Coercive Spells

Friday February 21st 4:00pm

People have been using magic to harm others since before recorded history, and practitioners have been busy inventing new and more ingenious spells to destroy people, places, and things in virtually every tradition. It’s controversial because it works. We’ll survey historical methods of cursing, binding, and dominating, and highlight effective methods for the contemporary sorcerer and witch. Learn how to make a Hoodoo poppet to cause suffering and incapacity, create a modern defixio from a lead sheet to cause illness, burn a black skull candle to drive someone insane, create a wax astrological talisman to foment strife, and more terrifyingly useful techniques. As the Weird Sisters said, “Double, double toil and trouble.” Let’s get cooking.

Creativity, Magic and The Genius

Saturday, February 22nd, 2:00pm

Seeking inspiration? Use magic to enhance your creativity! The very word “inspiration” is rooted in the belief that invention is a force that comes from outside the self—even from the spirit world. To the Romans, the word “genius” once meant a guiding spirit. Several important grimoires provide guides to unite the initiate with a higher, perfected self or powerful spirit being capable of endowing formidable skills, knowledge, and power. More immediate methods include scrying, tarot, bibliomancy, dream incubation, and many others. In this class we will survey how magicians have used the spirit world for creativity and brainstorming in these and many other ways. Delve into historical practices and learn effective modern methods for cultivating your creativity.

Mystical Minds

March 28th through 29th, 2020

Times for my lectures at Mystical Minds Convention have not yet been finalized. 

Big Money Magic

I doubt that money is the root of all evil, but the lack of it certainly feels like hell.” As long as people have wished for more than they have, practical wealth magic has offered solutions. This class will be a broad survey of effective magical techniques to draw and keep money. Whether you’ve wanted to find buried treasure, win the lottery, get a raise, inherit a fortune, invest like a pro, sustain your lifestyle, or even beat the house in Vegas, learn powerful spells you won’t find anywhere else. Big money magic is real. 

Pawn Takes King: Political Magic 

Magic and politics have been intertwined throughout history. The metaphysics of magic are often expressed in political language or imagery, especially that of monarchy and feudalism. The Sforzas and Borgias launched a Renaissance arms race of astrological talismans. In America, slaves sought to magically destroy or gain power over their oppressors. Spiritualism had an essential role in the suffragist movement. Magic has played a role in modern political movements on both the Right and the Left. Discover how practitioners of magic are attempting to control elections and manipulate leaders in democratic governments today. Explore the rise of political radicalism in magic, and learn practical spellwork you can do to support the issues and people that matter most to you.

Panel Discussion on Magick

Details to be announced later.

Big Money Magic @ ConVocation 2019

Big Money Magic at ConVocation 2019

 

Continuing what we began with “A Treasury of Money Magic” we will discuss even more techniques of wealth magic from a wide range of traditions, as well personal tips, methods, and strategies I’ve leveraged successfully for myself and for clients.

If you’ve already been dusting your money with sachet powders, putting talismans in your wallet, petitioning your ancestors with lottery tickets, and burning green candles dressed with lodestone dust and pyrite grit, we’ll take it to the next level and beyond; expect a few surprises.

This lecture will help you greatly along your quest for treasure and living like royalty.

Big money magic is real.

If you find this video useful, please subscribe to http://sorcerer.blog and http://www.youtube.com/GrimoireTV , give thumbs up and Like posts. Your feedback matters.

Your Astrological Magic Is Broken

planets-3

Introduction

Many people studying magic and astrology depend upon reference books and tables of correspondences—especially early in their studies before details are memorized and internalized. Among practitioners of magic, a fairly standard set of numerological and chromatic correspondences are the established consensus for the seven traditional planets.

You may be familiar with these, seen here in the table below:

Planet Color Number
Saturn Black 3
Jupiter Purple or Blue 4
Mars Red 5
Sun Yellow or Gold 6
Venus Green 7
Mercury “Mixed Colors,” Orange or Brown 8
Moon Gray, Silver or White 9

I would like to be conservative and polite by noting that these are only one of multiple sets of planetary correspondences which are at variance with each other; but in all forthrightness, I am certain that the preceding list is almost completely wrong, with only a few exceptions. I am not referring to the four scales used in the Golden Dawn system of magic, nor the confusion regarding what Mercury’s “mixed colors” actually mean or whether Jupiter’s proper color is purple or blue. The problem is much more fundamental than that.

Essentially, for practicing magicians almost everything you know about astrology and planetary magic is wrong. Dead wrong.

The upshot of this is that magicians have been using this table of correspondences unquestioningly for several hundred years and almost consistently failing to conjure wealth from Jupiter, love from Venus, wisdom from Mercury, and so on. Frustrated, they have often drifted away from the astrological foundations of much of Western Hermeticism, or have stubbornly persisted for the rest of their lives uncertain what they have been doing wrong.

None of them were stupid. They simultaneously had too much faith in the infallibility of the authors of the manuals of magic which they had access to, and insufficient understanding of the actual history of how these correspondences developed—or to be blunt, devolved.

Understanding how we got from a series of correspondences which were mostly correct to ones which seem almost designed to fail has a long and winding history going back over two thousand years of misunderstandings, religious supersessionism, economics, the availability of textile dyes, and even a prized species of snail.

I’ve studied the interactions of magic and astrology in an intensive way since 2001 and have become one of the most prominent experts on the subject, so I realize this is a very bold and controversial declaration. I’ve become a somewhat well-regarded amateur historian on the subject; so while there is an amount of speculation in reconstructing this history, it is an informed and reasonable conjecture.

It also has one additional virtue helping validate my reconstructed descent of planetary correspondences: the colors and numbers that I have unearthed work far better than the more familiar ones. I believe that readers of this blog who experiment with them will come to similar conclusions.

Unpacking my discoveries will probably stretch several blog posts, and I’d rather you follow my reasoning and insights before providing you the corrected table. I also would like to use this as an opportunity to explain some contexts in how these planetary lists were meant to be used, and some significant misunderstandings about these which have been undermining students of magic for several centuries.

The Problem Is Revealed

For me, the journey goes back nearly 20 years to when I was actively researching how to integrate magic and astrology. In order to understand how I came to these discoveries requires an autobiographical interlude which has been a long time coming.

I was a latecomer to belief in astrology for various reasons, but certain highly frustrating events a few years earlier convinced me that planetary transits could cause a great deal of personal mayhem. A major project I and several friends initiated during highly adverse astrological conditions resulted in an entire year of betrayals, mysterious bad luck, unforeseen expenses, illnesses, and near-universal exhaustion and bitter regrets. The project was able to be saved in the end, but the sheer difficulty of it all forced the previously-skeptical me that astrology was something I could no longer ignore or scoff at.

I was aware that magic had worked in tandem with astrology for centuries, and was astonished to discover that almost nothing was available in print on how to turn predictions of doom into opportunities to flourish. Magicians are by nature obsessed with achieving the impossible, and the fatalism of astrology seemed to be antithetical to the hopeful and ambitious character of the practice of magic. Even traditional depictions of wizards often had them wearing robes covered in the symbols of astrology, so it was obvious to me that I was missing some very important bridge between two temperamentally incompatible fields of knowledge.

The majority of material on modern astrology itself was frustrating, full of slippery language about the function of nearly every foundational component of the horoscope. Nearly every book left me more perplexed than the last, leaving me very concerned that my skepticism should not have been directed at astrology itself, but at its current leading voices. I accumulated multiple shelves of books on the topic which after I began studying traditional astrology have only accumulated dust. And deservedly so. Modern astrology is very bad at providing concrete answers and clarity about almost everything, and clarity is precisely what I was looking for.

The available material on planetary magic was almost exclusively derived from the output of Victorian lodge magic, such as the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and the Aurum Solis. The astrology of these fraternal orders was utilized as a set of universal archetypes and symbols used for the spiritual development of the initiate, not to remediate adverse horoscopic conditions. Sometimes planetary imagery was incorporated into practical rituals, but these rituals were seldom truly astrological in nature. Many of these groups claimed to routinely raise the initiate above the influences of astrological vicissitudes, thus rendering the study of the horoscope a spiritual hobby like palmistry rather than something essential.

Nevertheless, I did have a few resources which were useful starting points. I had Francis Barrett’s The Magus, Henry Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, and Mather’s edition of The Greater Key of Solomon. All of them taught me many useful things, but not how to solve the puzzle which was driving me through all of this.

I began experimenting with planetary candle magic. Dressed candles were originally established through the tradition of Hoodoo generations earlier, but in New York City the practice was popularized in the largely Caucasian Western Esoteric community through occult shops. Creating some version of a dressed candle was thus a foundational practice for nearly anyone learning practical magic in the area during the 80s and 90s. Candle magic of this flavor wasn’t consistently powerful, but candles cost pennies and a dressed candle could be sold for $10 and up. This was understandably pushed heavily by nearly all the local occult shops in order to stay in business. Candles were engraved, dressed with essential oils, sprinkled with glitter, and sometimes passed through incense smoke in front of the customers. It was partially entertainment, like a teppanyaki grill at a Japanese restaurant, but it served to teach customers how to do the same at home. I was friendly with many of the owners and employees at these shops, so I knew the procedures especially well.

My starting point was to use the conventional planetary colors for the selection of my candles for dressing as offerings, and prepare them during the appropriate Planetary Hour or Day. When this proved entirely unsuccessful, I used a variation of the Golden Dawn Hexagram Rituals (which are used to invoke the planets) upon the candles to give them a boost of power. I found some interesting unconventional uses for the Hexagrams in the process, but the candles were producing results which were just as disappointing. I could not tell whether any results were the results of false attribution and the placebo effect or any magic causing changes, and that is always a bad sign.

Completely frustrated, I began to experiment with the cycles of time itself. I had found a copy of Estelle Daniels’ book Astrologickal Magick at a local shop and thought it might be what I had been looking for. The book was a potpourri of notions on how to blend magic and astrology; most of it was unhelpful or even slightly dangerous, but gems were scattered within. It introduced to me a clearer notion of astrological timing and that of Essential Dignity by way summarizing some of the work of pioneering traditional astrologer J.Lee Lehman.

Daniels wrote that one could bring about superior outcomes when a planet was transiting the Signs of its Rulerships, which was one of many types of Essential Dignity–zones of power for individual planets as they moved through the Zodiac. Furthermore, a lesser-known type of Sign placement was Exaltation, which was sometimes more powerful with the timing of magic.

So, I began to experiment with creating and lighting dressed candles when they were, as astrologers say, in Sign. Much to my surprise, the results were almost the same when planets were in Rulerships; but strange and intriguing outcomes proceeded from making and lighting planetary candles when present in their Exaltations. In spite of this, the results were not very powerful and highly unreliable; but I could tell that finally something was going on which could not be attributed to mere coincidence and wishful thinking.

Necessity Is The Mother Of Opportunity

The eureka moment was, strangely enough, the result of my highly precarious financial situation.

I had a bad employer who would pay me a variable amount of money at a seemingly random moment, but I had no better options at the time. My solution was to adapt by buying up bulk goods whenever I was paid and subsisting on them until the next check. Thus for a few years I lived out of boxes of canned food, stacks of books to read at my leisure, and most importantly glass encased novena candles that I would purchase by the dozen at local thrift stores.

Inevitably I would time things poorly, and I would run out of something. As I was experimenting with elected planetary candles, I would run out of candles of a necessary color when the corresponding planet was in Sign or Exaltation. Out of desperation, I crossed my fingers and used whatever color candles I had available. As my use of planetary candles increased and the length between paychecks seemed to stretch longer, improvisation correspondingly increased and a pattern emerged.

Planetary candles which used colors that were quite different from the traditional correspondence tables frequently worked better than those which were traditional. I burned hundreds of these candles, and was baffled and intrigued. I was still using very primitive electional techniques by the standards I use today, but I began to track which colors worked best with each planet. The only conclusion I could come to was that the traditional color scheme was wrong; the correct color scheme remained elusive.

I tried using the colors of the Signs rather than the planets; that was not the pattern. I tried comparing the colors with those of the configurations of my personal horoscope; again, this was not consistent. Nor was it anything to do with the Exaltations. I was mystified.

That’s when I realized that astrology was fundamentally broken. If even the proper colors of the planetary correspondences were incorrect, then all of our assumptions about the meaning of the planets were questionable.

At this point my exasperation and disgust turned into excitement. Because I finally saw this as an opportunity. I had begun to worry that I was incompetent; solving magical puzzles usually didn’t take me nearly so long. Now I realized that I had been misinformed.

Finding out where the misinformation had originated and the correct correspondences became a personal mission; a mission which has led to the discoveries of the remaining posts in this blog series.

I hope that you will join me on a wild ride through the history of magic, astrology, and much else.

Magical Medicine @ ConVocation 2019

Magical Medicine at ConVocation 2019

 

Since prehistoric times, magic has been used to heal the sick and revive the dying.

The historical line between enchantment and medicine is elusive at best. A mind-boggling array of methods and theories have been employed throughout the ages.

Grimoires which banish the demons of disease, enchanted poultices, wound talismans, amulets and mojos, baths and potions—all are based on the seductive premise that the spiritual can restore the corporeal.

In this class we will explore many of these systems, survey healing recipes, investigate eras when the doctor and witch doctor were one and the same, and discuss methods which may be used as complementary medicines today.

If you find this video useful, please subscribe to http://sorcerer.blog and http://www.youtube.com/GrimoireTV , give thumbs up and Like posts. Your feedback matters.

A Treasury of Money Magic

A Treasury of Money Magic @ ConVocation 2019

 

I doubt that money is the root of all evil, but the lack of it can feel like hell.

Magic to manipulate prosperity precedes the invention of currency, and there’s no sign it’s going out of style any time soon.

As long as people wish for more than they have, practical wealth magic offers solutions.

This class is a broad survey of magical techniques and traditions that draw and keep money.

Whether you’ve wanted to conjure a spirit to find buried treasure, win a lottery, get a raise, inherit a fortune, invest like a pro, get an edge over your business rivals, enchant an ever-full purse, sustain your lifestyle, or even beat the house in Vegas, I have some amazing and effective spells to teach you that you won’t find anywhere else.

If you find this video useful, please subscribe to http://sorcerer.blog and http://www.youtube.com/GrimoireTV , give thumbs up and Like posts. Your feedback matters.

Spellbound: Love Magic Through the Ages

Spellbound: Love Magic Through the Ages @ ConVocation 2018

 

Love magic is arguably the most universally practiced form of practical magic. Different spiritual traditions approach love magic differently and reveal their worldview through the way they bring two (or more) people together.

It’s often said that all magic is love magic; that cosmic eros is the sacred principle which orders all reality. But taking the abstract and putting it into practice is often tricky, and ultimately none of that matters without results.

In this lecture we will survey the different goals and methods used in several traditions of magic and highlight those which have a reputation for strong results.

If you find this video useful, please subscribe to http://sorcerer.blog and http://www.youtube.com/GrimoireTV , give thumbs up and Like posts. Your feedback matters.

No Trespassing: The Magic of Wards

No Trespassing: The Magic of Wards @ ConVocation 2018

 

Wards are magical defenses that prevent a designated space such as a room, home, or property from injury or trespass by inimical forces, spirits, or persons.

Typically focused upon enchanting liminal spaces such as thresholds, property boundaries, chimneys, weathervanes and foundations, wardings take the primal essence of territoriality and give it metaphysical heft, protecting oneself, family, and pets.

In this class we will explore the themes of the protection of spaces in several long standing magical traditions as well as some innovations, analyze their features, and help you create effective defenses for your personal space that are both powerful and uniquely your own.

(There is some drumming noticeable from a nearby musical performance nearby. My apologies for the distraction.)

If you find this video useful, please subscribe to http://sorcerer.blog and http://www.youtube.com/GrimoireTV , give thumbs up and Like posts. Your feedback matters.

Prosperity Candle

Powerful Spell for Success in Business and Investments

I recently received a commission for spellwork to advance a client’s investment opportunities in cryptocurrencies, but he could not afford a petition or a talisman. We negotiated a fair price and I got to work.

I particularly enjoy magic where I can incorporate my ongoing fascinations; the blend of African-American Hoodoo and medieval astrological magic has been extremely successful for me in numerous experiments and advanced projects. I wanted to do more for him than what he could get from another conjure doctor. I upscaled some of the ingredients, did a “soft election” for the timing, and added some more Scholastic Image Magic to give it even greater punch.

A “soft election” in my nomenclature is simply one where the most egregious of afflictions to relevant significators are removed, moreso than any attempt to particularly strengthen them. This means the power of the ritual comes from the conjurer and his spiritual helpers rather than the celestial hierarchies, but at least they are not substantial impediments.

prosperity-candle

Here we have a fortune on the Ascendant and the Moon applying a tight trine to a benefic and then the Sun. The Moon is extremely fast and the ruler of her Sign is not cadent. The Moon is cadent, however.

Again, our goal here isn’t to do a petition or make a talisman but simply to remove as many afflictions as possible and let the Hoodoo do the heavy lifting.

CMB - 1

Here’s the natal chart of the client printed out, not the chart of the event. This will serve as a very strong personal concern or relic in tandem with the petition paper. I have anonymized the client’s personal information.

CMB - 3

One of the new variations I used in this operation is to write out the petition request on the flat wick as a supplement to the conventional petition paper. It was difficult; next time I’ll use a different kind of pen, but I was pleased by its addition overall.

This is only possible because I used a beeswax sheet for the body of the candle this time. I find that natural materials are better conduits for magic, and while paraffin candles are effective, I will use beeswax occasionally. Beeswax also has a delightful natural scent which is a pleasure in itself; I imagine some of that is passed on to the success of the operation.

CMB - 5

Here’s the petition paper, written out on green card stock and torn into a rough circle. I prefer circular petition papers when possible, in part because of its relevance to Scholastic Image Magic as a perfect repository for spirit. I tend not to use woven lines of text simply because my handwriting is bad but my ability to draw is fairly good. I replace it most often with pictorial depictions of the goal, similar to those sometimes used on talismanic iconography. Here we have a pot of gold with the Bitcoin symbol on it. The clockwise line is just an embellishment dictated by my intuition.

The dish is covered by aluminum foil for cleanup convenience.

herbs

The candle was loaded with herbs at the core, around the flat wick. Alkanet removes money jinxes and generally is good for prosperity, alfalfa is a strong wealth herb, and I included one more special ingredient (trade secret). Three is a fortunate number, and I didn’t want to overload the candle and risk it going out.

CMB - 8

After loading in the herbs next to the wick, I rolled up the beeswax towards me and trimmed the wick at the bottom (where there was no petitional text.)

 

I then added a bit of iron pyrite into the mouth of the candle to give it an even stronger association with gold and riches.

CMB - 12

I anointed the natal chart of the client with Wealthy Way Oil in a quincunx pattern and folded it towards me, placing it below the green petition paper. I then dressed the candle lightly with the same oil. I placed the papers below the saucer and candle, and set the work in motion.

CMB - 16

It burned quickly, albeit with some excess smoke. Good signs so far, and I’m very optimistic about the outcome.

The King Solomon Incident

Talismans, Pentacles, Contagions, and Other Hidden Things Revealed

A Trip to the Museum

A couple of months back I was at a local magic convention and an old friend of mine from days of yore lectured on ancient Egyptian mythology and magic in such a righteous way that the mummies themselves would have sat up and applauded if they could. Another friend drove down with me, and when we looked for things to do while she was in town we found out that the American Museum of Natural History in New York had an exhibition on mummies, both Egyptian and Peruvian. It seemed more than coincidental, and so we spent a free day at the museum.

juanita

As an adult, my favorite museum is certainly the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But as a kid, my second home was the AMNH. Going back there and revisiting all the old classics was truly a lot of fun. It’s a sprawling place, and easy to forget the sheer artistry of the aquatic fauna sculptures, the scale of the dinosaur bones, the occasional very badly-preserved stuffed animal, and the section on climate, ecology, and agriculture. I get something different out of every visit.

The Hall of Gems piqued my interest this time because of my interest in medieval lapidaries and talismans.  In particular, I  fell in love with the giant yellow sulfur crystals and the shimmering aquamarine jewelry. Not that interesting magically, but aesthetically nourishing. It’s a shame that they’re going to completely remodel it; it had a wonderful retro-futuristic feel.

In any case, we went to the mummy exhibition and it was a lot of fun. In addition to a variety of human Egyptian mummies were a few sacrificial animal mummies. My mother was an unrepentant Egyptophile, so I was immersed in much of this since birth—and once even took a cruise down the Nile.

Equal time was given to the Peruvian mummies and mummification techniques. I’ve been to Peru and Machu Picchu, and one of my favorite books remains Patrick Tierney’s The Highest Altaran exploration of human sacrifice in ancient and modern times, using Inca mummies as a fulcrum. The exhibit even gave me an idea for a magical project or two, now in the works. (They do not involve human remains. They may involve other remains.)

The Magic Gift Shoppe

bast-anubis

Somewhat predictably, the exit of the exhibit led directly to a gift shop brimming over with Egyptian mementoes. Knowing that the Bast plushie, the scarab refrigerator magnet, or Anubis pendant could all be fun décor but equally repurposed into genuine magical objects justified a spending spree. Our cradled arms were full when we went approached the cash register and put down the subjects of our inflamed avarice.

The cashier did not initially catch my attention, partially because we were distracted with our booty and because she was wearing work clothes and did not stand out. But I caught her attention it seemed.

She stared at the selection of purchases, and then her eyes shot to my hands on the counter, and then back and forth. Something was going on.

As some of you know, I wear gemstone rings on all of my fingers (and swap them out every so often). They sometimes attract attention, but they almost never are recognized for what they are: exceptionally powerful talismans, homes or bodies for celestial spirits which assist me in many things.

“You shouldn’t let people touch your rings,” she said sotto voce. “They will lose their power if other people touch them.” She spoke with great sincerity and urgency. She was right, of course. When I began wearing talismanic rings, I would refuse to shake people’s hands out of concern the rings would become inert and the spirits would leave. Chris Warnock urged me to never let anyone touch my talismanic pendants, but he never quite knew what to do about unique problem of magical rings; I was left to figure all that out for myself.

This isn’t an uncommon notion in ceremonial magic; the classic grimoires require that your blasting rod, black-handled knife, athanor, lamens, swords and so forth be made by your own hands from scratch, and that nobody ever touches them but yourself or they will cease to function. Victorian era lodge ceremonialism retains a less-strict version of this too. Mojo bags and jack balls in Hoodoo have similar prohibitions. Astrological talismans are not terribly different, but they do pose social problems in a culture where refusing an extended hand causes an immediate affront. And often an irreparable first impression.

Eventually I began wearing gloves at all times—replacing one horrible problem with a slightly lesser one—and after years of experimentation finally discovered that there was in fact a way to protect talismans from the perils foreign contact. (This turned out to be, somewhat arbitrarily, rings of the 13th Mansion of the Moon. Arcane secret revealed, right here right now).

I was in a state of partial disbelief that the cashier not only recognized my rings as magical, but that she knew magical rings would be imperiled by the touch of others. It is not common knowledge, nor uncontroversial.

I quickly surmised that she had profiled me from my selection of items—it’s even possible that she had scoped them out for herself at one point or other. They were virtually all replicas of magical tools which could easily be turned into the real things. Then again, ankhs and such aren’t actually that weird in this day and age.

That still didn’t explain her absolute confidence that my rings were special. The only way to explain that was that she was able to perceive that they were metaphysically active. She was very likely a practitioner, and a very capable one too.

Yet it was still somewhat possible that she was a New Ager who was fond of crystals, and was about to prescribe soaking them in salt water overnight to purge them of bad energy. Just because you can maybe sense something doesn’t mean you know what it truly is.

I attempted to reassure her that I knew the danger of contact with “things like these” and had found a solution, but I don’t think she quite processed that such a thing was possible. Her response was rather marvelous.

“I keep mine hidden.” She tapped her chest and I could hear the jangle of jewelry. “That way, nobody can touch.”

She leaned in. “King Solomon,” she said, with much gravity.

I gaped a little. I really needed to be sure.

“Do you mean like a pendant with King Solomon’s image on it, or do you mean the Pentacles of King Solomon?” I said.

“The latter” she replied, with a conspiratorial grin.

“I have those too!” I said, and tapped my own chest and jangled right back at her.

We laughed together.

All right, then.

The Pentacles of Solomon are either astrological talismans themselves, or something very similar to them, depending on whom you ask and how they are made.

At that point the people behind us in line were getting restless and I didn’t want to cause her to lose her job, so we quickly moved on. I really should have given her my card. She was capital C Cool.

The whole incident was intense but dreamlike. I was giddy to find a fellow practitioner in an wholly unexpected place. I was also a little startled that I could be spotted so easily.

Normally, even at magic conventions people don’t know what the heck my rings are unless they are explained in detail. They also don’t give off power that most practitioners can detect unless they’re very familiar with the tradition and know what to look for.

Apparently, if you’ve worked in some varieties of Solomonic practice, you can develop that faculty. Which is a good thing to know.

We are everywhere. Hiding in plain sight.

A very memorable encounter.

Pentacle_of_Jupiter_Talisman_Amulet_from_Key_of_Solomon_2__57243.1429732537.1280.1280

The Byzantium Flyers

IMG_0604s

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.)

yeats

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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“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

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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.

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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.