The magical world view and the personal search for meaning.

Photo by Aditya Aiyar from Pexels

“Everyone is the other, and no one is himself.”

Martin Heidegger Being and Time

Today’s discussion got into some interesting territory and it made me stop and think about the deep integration of magic into the life of the practitioner. Magic is a way of being in the world more than any specific set of actions or principle beliefs. Our ontologies encode assumptions about the metaphysics of the universe that the magical world view demands to hold true. It is through these ontological perspectives that we construct not only our understanding of the possibility-space we inhabit but also our nature.

Are we mere matter? What is human in our nature? What does it mean to practice magic? To this, my mind turns to Heidegger. The mage is an embodiment of dasein. Magic is our process of authentic choice. We make the meaning of our life through the individual actions that are obfuscated from the social structure at large by the fear of the nothingness our leap to the essence of our being represents. It threatens to break the fragile vessels of category we build up to facilitate social knowledge transfer by the direct and indisputable experience of the ineffable.

In this way we stand at the door of the abyss, watching the shapes that try to encapsulate the nature of being dissolve before the epistemic nothingness. We are tasked with carrying the knowledge of the unknown realms of death. Death, which proves to be inexpressible through its existence beyond the experience of the other. It is only through this dark mirror that meaning resolves. Within that resolution are the workings of all of our spells.

This is why the fool must be inscrutable. Why the mage must address the chthonic. It is only through the experience and confrontation with death that life can be given its essential nature and meaning can flourish.

At least, these are the thoughts of one mage. 🙂

Ego Dormio Cum Spiro

âŠș

Happy Kemetic New Year (Almost!)

Photograph of Nut in the tomb of Ramses VI by Hans Bernhard

A Guide to the Epagomenal/Intercalary Days
Via the Axis Family

The epagomenal, or intercalary days are the final five days of the Kemetic year, leading up to Wep Ronpet, the celebration of the new year which I may write something on in a couple of days. As the story goes, the grandchildren of Ra, Geb (the earth) and Nuit (the sky) spent so much time doing… athletics… that Ra had his son, Shu (the air) physically separate the two. From here the story differs depending on your source (a very common theme in Kemetic stories): either they are forbidden from having children any day during the year, so Thoth gambles with the moon to create five extra days of the year during which they could procreate, or they were simply so close together that she could not give birth, and their separation let her have her five children. In either case, each of the five days, she bore a child, and it’s both the union of earth and sky, and the birthdays of the important figures I’m going to write a bit about below.

It’s worth noting that the actual new year varies depending on where you are in the world. It’s actually based on the ascension of Sirius, which is usually around late July. Therefore, most modern Kemetics simply choose to keep a specific set of days, the most common begin the five days leading up to August 1st (July 27th through the 31st).

Offerings

Each day, one honors the Netjer/t whose birthday it is, usually with an offering, some veneration and a prayer. Offerings are pretty simple; you usually only need a few things to make an offering:

– Iconography of some kind. Not strictly necessary, but good to help focus on a god/dess, especially if you don’t know them well. This can be a statue or just a picture of them.
– A quiet, clean space where you won’t be disturbed.
– Incense. Incense serves a dual purpose in Kemetic ritual: firstly, it purifies the space. Secondly, it is a signal to the god/desses that you’re requesting their presence, which is reinforced by saying their epitaphs (More on this later)
– A lit candle. Same reasons as above, mostly. It’s a signal, a source of light, warmth, energy. Also if you do pyromancy, it can be helpful for gauging things.
You can also, if you’re inclined, do all of this astrally.

Once you have a space set up, it’s time to present your offerings, light your candle and incense, and get into a calm, receptive headspace. Common offering items include:
– Bread/Fruit/Meat/Honey
– Water/Milk/Beer/Dark liquor/Wine
– Incense (Any kind will do for casual use)
– Natron (Practical as well, for any witch that works with salt)
– Flowers
– Perfume
– Gemstones (Again: practical)
– Any kind of devotional art or writing (Best if you’re pretty familiar with the Netjer/t)

These are the “safe” bets, good for beginners and it’s hard to go wrong with them. Once your offering is complete, then find something to do with it. If it’s decorative, leave them in a place it can be appreciated by them, if it’s a tool of some kind (including salt/natron) then remember to take good care of it, and maybe leave it in a special place. If it’s food or drink, this it’s best to follow the Kemetic tradition of “reversing the offering.” Back then, wasting food was not acceptable, so after allowing the gods or spirits time to eat, the priests would consume the food themselves. The act is in giving and sharing, not in sapping the food of its quality for them. If it’s something you can’t/won’t eat or drink, then you can give it to someone else who will.

Invocation

This should be pretty easy for those who have experience in summoning, but for those who don’t, it’s pretty simple in practice. Once you have everything together, spend some time settling yourself. Close your eyes, take deep breaths. My personal method of breathing is five seconds in, hold for five, out for five, but do what makes you comfortable.

Once you’re in a good state of passive alertness, you can start reaching out. This can be through mind-speech or actually speaking, either way is good. Begin with the Netjer/t’s name. Easy enough. To make sure they know you’re speaking to them, you then begin adding what we call “Epitaphs,” or titles. I’ve provided a short list with each one the days cover, but feel free to add your own that you find in independent research, or that feel right. You’re not going to offend them for being new at something, or being a little awkward on your first reach. We usually give about three or four for a new Netjer/t we’re contacting for the first time. After that, you explain why you’re contacting them. You have a pretty good reason at the outset: it’s their birthday and you’re saying hello. Tell them what you’re offering, in detail, and why. If you feel comfortable, maybe even talk a bit about yourself. What do they make you feel? Why are you interested in them? What other things do you like? In our experience, they love meeting new people who are curious about them.

Speak for as long as you like, and then try sitting there in silence. They may speak directly to you, if you have a good godphone. They may not for some reason. They may try and use symbols, images, ideas or single words. Keep yourself in that state of receptiveness for as long as is comfortable.

Once you are ready to get up for whatever reason, thank them for receiving your offering and giving them your time, then snuff the candle. The incense, you can leave burning or not, it’s up to you (and sometimes Them). It’s customary to exit the shrinespace by bowing one’s head and taking three backwards steps before turning and walking normally. At this point, you may do what you must with your offering, whether eating it, displaying it or using it.

With all that preliminary discourse out of the way, let’s get right into introducing the stars of the event:

Epagomenal Days

Day 1: Osiris (Original name: Wesir/Ausir)

Osiris is the Netjer of the cyclical nature of death and rebirth, decay and fertility, and the duties of royalty. He is usually portrayed as a tightly-wrapped, upright mummy with green skin, a long curled beard (a pharonic symbol of stature), an atef crown (A tall, white crown decorated by two ostrich feathers) and wielding a crook and flail. Initially, he was associated with the yearly inundation of the Nile, and the harvest that it yielded. Is is for this reason that he is often associated with the colors green (for plant life) and black (the color of fertile soil; indeed, the old name for Egypt—Kemet—translates to “black land.”)

Though the process of mummification far preceded stories of Osiris, he came to represent the mummified dead which had transcended life and now lived in Duat, or the Unseen, after being murdered by his younger brother, Set (more on that later). In Old Kingdom texts, this was a fate reserved exclusively for royalty, but by the New Kingdom, Osiris had come to symbolize any person who was making the journey from this life to the next, to the point where his very name was used to refer to them, regardless of gender. Upon meeting his fate, Osiris became the ruler of the land of the dead, as well as fulfilling his prior role as the one who begins the fertile season. In Osiris, we can see the fluidity of life and death, and the course of nature’s wheel.

Common Associations:
– Bulls and Rams
– Cedar
– Acacia
– The colors green and black
– Turquoise
– Malachite
– Wheat
– Gauze
– Soil or gardenwork

Common Epitaphs:
– Ruler of Eternity
– Foremost of the Westerners (The Western horizon was said to be where the land – of the dead’s borders lie)
– Lord of silence
– Lord of the Sacred Land

Day 2: Horus the Elder (Original name: Heru-Wer)

Whereas Osiris became recognized as the embodiment of dead royalty, both Horus the Elder and his descendant-in-name, Horus the Younger (Heru-sa-Aset, Heru, son of Isis) were very much representative of living royalty. His domain was that of kingship, righteous rule, civilization, justified war, as well as being a god of the day, sunlight and the sky, as opposed to Set, whose affiliations were toward night, the dark and earth. It is difficult to discuss Horus (either of them) without discussing their contention with Set, because in times since pre-written history, the two were embroiled in a binary struggle: order versus chaos, law versus strength, the clear day versus the unknowable night, the restrained and regal versus the uninhibited and animalistic. This relationship was, at different times but in equal parts: violent, playful, mutually beneficial, and sometimes even sexual. Horus, in his most glorious, is divine wisdom, discipline, and the strength to do what is just, even when it is not what is easy.

Common Associations:
– Hawks and falcons
– Weaponry
– The Wadjet eye (The left eye is the eye of Heru: a powerful symbol of protection, – divinity, sacrifice and healing)
– The Sun
– The colors blue and gold
– Bronze

Common Epitaphs:
– Lord of the Sky
– He Who Illuminates the Two Lands
– Great of Strength
– He Who Rules With Law

Day 3: Set (Also Sutekh, Setesh, Sutah, or Seth)

As noted before: Set is in many ways the opposite of the Kemetic ideal (An ideal symbolized by Heru). In stories that feature him, he is loud, abrasive, boasting, arrogant, given to drinking (often in excess), aggressive, and sporting an immense sexual appetite, having the most documented consorts of any Netjer by a wide margin, of multiple genders. His domain is chaos, confusion, darkness, storms, deviancy, foreign lands, the harsh, unforgiving desert, and his favoured form is of a strange, unknown mythical animal with a long, crooked snout, squared ears, and a forked tail. He is wild and energetic, raw and uncouth, and the strongest of all the Netjeru. He is the murderer of Osiris and the enemy of Horus. Depending on the time during which one reads about him, he could be a name that is feared and cowered from, a name invoked to channel his unending strength, or a demon whose name and visage is struck from history. If he is so fearful, then why do we honor him? Why celebrate him as we do noble Netjeru like Osiris and Horus?

Because underneath his outward appearance and mannerisms, Set has much to offer. He is a god of necessary chaos; that which upends in order to rebuild and challenges the status quo. He is the patron god and protector of immigrants, outcasts, and those who are looked down upon by society. He was, in his time, the ambassador for Kemet, and foreign relations were his domain. He may be the god of thunderstrikes and violent winds, but he is also the god of gentle, life-giving rain. His killing of Osiris was necessary for Duat to have the rule that it does, and more than that: to show the ruler of mortals exactly what mortality feels like. After the Contendings between Set and Horus ended, and the two lands united, the both of them crowned the Pharaoh together, and would until its fall; wisdom and strength, in perfect unison. Further, one of his most important roles in Duat was to defend Ra as he made his way across the sky, slaying each night the vile s/e/r/p/e/n/t that threatened all life on Earth. He is chaotic, yes, but chaos alone is not evil, and despite his misdeeds and impulsiveness, Set is far from evil. Set is a reminder to us that looks can be deceiving, and that good can come from unconventional, or even earth-shaking sources.

Common Associations:
– Storms
– Violent rebellion
– Drunkenness
– Sexuality of all kinds
– Donkeys, crocodiles, hippopotami, boars and scorpions
– Lettuce (His favorite food)
– The colors red, black and gold

Common Epitaphs:
– He Who Is greatest of Strength
– Before Whom the Sky Trembles (A favorite of mine)
– He Who Revels in Tumult
– Lord of The Red Land
– Slayer of A/p/e/p
– He Who Neglects the Law
– The Red

Day 4: Isis (Original name: Aset)

Isis is both the sister-wife of Osiris and the mother of the younger Horus, and the ways she conducted herself in each role demonstrate how multi-faceted she is as a goddess. Beside (often behind) Osiris, she is what the ancients would consider the ideal Egyptian wife: supportive, loving, loyal and emotional. When Set drowns Osiris in the river, and he is washed away, she journeys for many years to find him again. When she does, and Set kills him a second time—this time by shredding him into thirteen pieces—she again travels in mourning across the land to dutifully retrieve each piece to put him back together again. When view as a partner to Osiris, she also takes on at least one of his most prominent associations, that of the flooding Nile, to represent abundance and resources.

In her role as the exiled mother of the young Horus, she becomes a protector figure, sometimes taming scorpions in order to best defend him, and using great magic to keep him safe from the forces of Set. As Horus was a sickly and accident-prone child, it should be no surprise that she also used her gifts of magic for healing—a specialty that her cults around Kemet would come to be known for. Isis is a nurturing, motherly figure, but not a weak one. It is through her power and resolve that her family is kept safe. She even, in later myths, was able to swallow her anger toward her brother Set for killing her husband (twice) and endangering her child to cure him of a splitting headache, so deep is her compassion.

Common associations:
– The kite (the bird, of course)
– Scorpions
– Thrones
– Cows
– Red Jasper
– Milk
– The colors gold and purple (Personal interpretation, not necessarily historical)

Common epitaphs:
– The Great Goddess (simple and to the point, right?)
– She Who Is Great of Magic
– Mistress of the Beautiful West
– The Great Mother

Day 5: Nephthys (Original name: Nebt-het)

Though she is the sister-wife to Set, Nephthys is more frequently shown next to Isis, as when they both weep over the dead Osiris, and are invoked together in hieroglyphs within tombs to protect the dead. Her name directly translates to “Mistress of the House,” and the aforementioned examples, plus her being the mother to the far more well-known god Anubis, should be a clear indication that the house she is a mistress of is the house of death. Whereas Anubis is the god invoked during mummification, and one of the judges of the dead during the Weighing of the Heart, it is Nephthys that guides the dead there, and, by some sources, is also the “reckoner of lifespan” and the “mistress of years” herself. She is in some ways like a dark reflection of Isis: while her sister specializes in healing and abundance in Earthly life, the shadowy Nephthys is the nurturer of the recently dead—during a time of great vulnerability and confusion. It is likely that her influence was vital toward resurrecting Osiris, as well, because in stories where Set falls in his battle against the forces of evil, she is the one who resurrects him. Set’s domain is for the individual to show strength, and to overcome one’s fears and troubles through personal mettle. Nephthys’ is to show care and love for those who are struggling and aid them however you can.

Common associations:
– Death
– Darkness
– Nighttime
– Passing/Transitioning from one thing to the next
– Lotuses
– Kindness (This also includes self-care)
– The color black

Common epitaphs:
– Lady of the Tomb
– Mistress of Fate
– Lady of the Dark
– Protector of the Dead

Sources:

Goddesses and Gods of the Ancient Egyptians: A Theological Encyclopedia
https://seshkemet.weebly.com/netjeru–gods.html
Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt, by Joyce Tyldesley

Aretalogy and Invocation.

One of the fun parts of being a mage is looking for small patterns within ritual that preserve echos of the past within the modern praxis of magick. Invocation is one of the basic practices of modern craft, exhibited fairly universally in chaos magic, hermeticism, kemetic practice and even wicca. I was recently looking through some of my older invocation rituals when I came across the following:

 

[…] I  invoke Tahuti,  the Lord of wisdom  and of utterance, the  god that cometh forth from  the veil. Oh thou majesty of  the godhead, wisdom crowned Tahuti,  lord of the gates of the universe, thee  thee I invoke. Oh thou of the ibis head,  thee thee I invoke.

 

After some prefacing the spell shifts perspective, with the operator assuming the direct identity of the godform.

 

[…] Behold,  I am yesterday,  today, and the brother  of tomorrow. I am born again  and again. Mine is the unseen force  where of the gods are sprung, which is  as life unto the dwellers in the watchtowers  of the universe. I am the charioteer of the east,  lord of the past and the future. I see by my own inward  light, lord of resurrection who cometh forth from the dust, and  my birth is from the house of death. […] Behold! He is me and  I in him. Mine is the radiance wherein Ptah floatheth over the firmament.  I travel upon high. I tread upon the firmament of Nu. I raise a flashing flame  with the lightening of mine eye.

 

This is, by all accounts, a fairly typical invocation. But the format resonates, drawing on echos of an old poem in my mind.

 

I am Isis, ruler of every land.

I was taught by Hermes (Thoth) and with Hermes devised letters, both hieroglyphic and demotic, that all might not be written with the same.

I gave laws to mankind and ordained what no one can change.

 

These are the opening stanzas of a Ptolemeic aretalogy to Isis, exemplary of the “I am” form that has come to be commonly associated with the genre ( “The Great Goddesses of Egypt”. p196-198). These forms of divine biographies often serve as our best clues to the shifting nature of the gods in contemporary religious studies (Jan N. Bremmer p111-114). The striking similarity of invocation and this older poem form made me look at this genre a bit more carefully. The recitation of deeds and domains is an easy way to establish correspondence. Each of these forms, both the ritual and the poem, extend much further than the small snippets I have, and even in the act of reading the resonance is strong. In fact, the recitation of these divine biographies may be one of the earliest and most universal cultic acts, being a baseline from which the development of other rituals is measured (Jan N. Bremmer P116)

 

In any case this has given me an interesting thread to pull at and I look forward to unraveling it further this saturday 🙂

The Goetic Tradition

The Key Of Solomon

The Goetic tradition is one of the most iconic parts of the western tradition. Its language of sigils and spirits permeate through the archetypes of magecraft as to be a truly universal touchstone. From the high french ceremonial schools to the folk traditions of the African-diaspora, Goetic magic and its symbolary draws power from a strong current to a practitioner’s spellwork. Whether found inscribed on a lamen or stuffed into a mojo bag, these lines draw wide connection within the diverse practices of western magic.

 

In recent years there has been a revival of interest in the early goetic grimoires through new scholarly examination of the assumed timelines of transmission within the multitude of black books. Under more critical scrutiny the long upheld lines between the high theurgic traditions and the ‘lower’ goetia have broken down. As practitioners who have inhabited both currents have long suspected, the basic techniques remain consistent across many of the classic grimoires, reflecting their authorship’s particular mixture of folk kabbalah and practical spellwork.

 

Recently some magicians have put forward the theory that these practices preserve earlier religious observances and beliefs. Essentially these magicians claim that the goetia conceal a ‘pagan’ or as I prefer ‘traditional religious’ mindset and system of working within the trade dress of abrahamic faith. The majority of this argument consists of drawing a line of transmission back to our earliest known magical texts, the Greek Magical Papyri, often abbreviated PGM for the Latin Papyri Graecae Magicae. These texts are the remnants of an underground syncretic tradition of magic drawing from a wide variety of mythologies. These texts often contain warnings to keep the contents secret for fear of the purging of such magical texts, a typical event in the traditional period from traditional religious practice to a centralised authoritative institution as exampled by Acts 19.

 

Hans Dieter Betz has long argued that the PGM represents a microcosm of the majorly metropolitan religious practices of ancient cultures. In these texts Moses and Solomon are invoked in the same breath as Atman, Ra and Abraxis. It has long been held that this sort of syncretic mode was far more typical of traditional religious practice. Thus, it is not difficult to follow the line of argument that a tradition relying on the logic and structures of the PGM represents a survival of the practices that generated the PGM into modernity. One such work that makes this argument is Jake Stratton-Kent’s Encyclopedia Goetica.

 

The core of Jake Stratton-Kent’s argument comes from the long line of traditional correspondances that are transmitted through the rituals’ components as well as the technique of scrying as outlined by the ‘Armadel’ technique explored in the PGM. He draws a parallel between the spirit work of the PGM and the ritual rites of the Abramelin, which he uses as a touchstone to establish a lineage of technical transmission. Through some novel liniageation Stratton-Kent manages to tie the Grimoire Verum into the line of decent, making an argument for using this book as a basis for an exploration of his thesis.

 

This is an intriguing move and one that cemented this series as my recommendation to the group. The Grimoire Verum is a book that has enjoyed an infamous reputation within occult circles. Traditionally considered a book of the black arts, and one of not particularly high quality, the scholarship surrounding the sourcing of the book as well as the available translations were quite poor until recently. Stratton-Kent’s commentary and analysis of this often maligned tome is nothing short of brilliant. In addition to forming a solid argument for the elevation of this book within the grimoire tradition he writes with the viewpoint of a modern practitioner in mind, bringing us through the historical context as well as magical significance of the goetic and necromantic works within. Approachable substitutions as well as their logic are given so that the practitioner can try out these formulation, making this first volume work an absolutely practical grimoire and a brilliant introduction to working these sort of books.

 

We look forward to discussing the book with the group this Saturday as well as the wider subject of the Goetic tradition! 🙂

Hello world!

This is the first post of the Tampa Bay Occulture Club!
Isn’t it a beaut? Today marks the day we’re finally in the great wide web in our own home!
For historic reasons, the club was established on May 4th 2018, as it was the first time any of us met in person. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two months already. We’ve gotten a good group of people so far and we are sure to have more in the future.
To first steps into the unknown!