Digital Vademecum of the Digital Ambler

Like any competent occultist, magician, sorcerer, or witch, I keep notes, and plenty of them.  I know of at least five notebooks I keep for records, results, divinations, ritual setups, and so forth, and at least as many binders to keep track of texts, lamens, and the like.  It’s efficient, in some ways; I’ve heard a term used by artists and messy officemates, “organized chaos”, that bears some resemblance to my method.  Granted that the most important of one’s rituals and notes should be committed to memory, it’s good to have a backup material copy on hand.

Among the most important of these books of mine is my personal vademecum, the Latin term for enchiridion, the Greek term for handbook.  Pagans might better know it as a Book of Shadows, but it’s the same thing: a collection of prayers, rituals, recipes, and symbols I keep track of for easy and quick reference.  Since I started the Work, I’ve gotten about a third of the way into this book (a fancy lined Moleskine journal, because I’m fancy like that), and often find new things to add every week or so from any number of sources old and new.  It’s convenient in many ways, except for one important one: there is no organization.  I just add stuff as I find it, which makes sense and is an honored tradition in magical writing, which accounts for why things like the PGM, the Munich Manual, and the like are so horribly disjointed, confusing, and utterly unsuitable for light reading.

So, I’ve recently busted out and dusted off my LaTeX skills and started transcribing everything from my material vademecum into a digital one, importing the designs, texts, prayers, and whatnot from there, this blog, and my personal library into a fancy e-book format.  LaTeX, though confusing and with a notorious learning curve, makes things very pretty and, once you get the hang of it, becomes easy to edit and manage large writing projects.  For another, I figure having a digital form of my vademecum would be a good thing, especially once I fill up my hardcopy version or if I lose it at any point.  Plus, if I ever start teaching (and some people can already read this in me,terribile cogitatu), this would be a good start for a textbook I could instruct and teach from.

Though it won’t be for a long while yet, I may decide to make this digital vademecum (eTome? GrimoireOnline?) of the Digital Ambler (Vademecum Polyphanae? Encheiridion Polyphanou?) public and published, maybe in e-book format, maybe in hardcopy through someplace like Lulu.  In some ways, it could be seen as a distilled version of the methods used and seen on this blog; in others, it’s a collection of rituals, some ancient, some modern, and some revealed directly or created and unattested anywhere else.  Since some of the material in my vademecum is taken from modern copyrighted sources, I’d probably want to figure out what I want to do about those (maybe include a references section? be original and come up with my own rituals?).  Out of curiosity, what would people’s opinions be on the matter, whether publishing such a work at all, or the interest of people picking up/downloading a copy?

Also, two notes:

  1. No, Michael, I’m not trying to emulate the name of your very handsome blog.
  2. LaTeX is a bitch to learn, yes, but learn it.  It makes typesetting both a skill and an art that anyone can use; it’s a very good freelance skill, especially if you find yourself in technical writing.  If I could get a technical writing gig employing LaTeX that would also let me work from home, I’d probably devote myself to that position and never look back.  You don’t need to be a masochist and compile TeX in the commandline like I do; there are lots of word-processor-esque fancy-schmancy GUIs that do a lot of the work for you.

12 responses

  1. I jokingly refer to my device as The Nook of Shadows. I have a nook I reloaded android on and I keep it talking to a storage device with (usually illicitly downloaded) copies of my real books in PDF format. I can take notes on it, search the entire library, etc.

    That being said, the more I read the more I realize a lot of the books out are The Abridged Golden Dawn. Not only are they just rehashes of the GD material, but they’re written the same way. A lot of talk about how things are arranged, then “feeling a rushing of force” and that’s about it. It would be nice to see more books which describe how things FEEL and then we can make up our own minds what the props should be. Also celestial magic is underrepresented, I suspect there’s fertile soil there. Don’t neglect the basics (the neophyte golden dawn temple where they put only one elemental force in it I thought was a GREAT idea), but give people more personal experience than a HOWTO OF MAGIC.

    It’s not to say the GD won’t work for people, its just I feel like most ceremonial magic books just end up being cousins to their work.

    • I love the Nook of Shadows idea. Very useful, indeed, especially with all the grimoiric literature in ebook/PDF form nowadays.

      It could be that a lot of books seem like the GD because the GD picked up a lot from other systems, sometimes in part, sometimes wholesale. Go back a bit further in time or forward to more modern stuff, and you get more detail, more techniques, more stories, and more material in general to work with. The GD, it would appear, took a lot of systems, distilled them into a particular regimen, and instilled that; since the GD is still largely the face of ceremonial magic nowadays (though that’s changing and shifting), a lot of people need to have a GD-esque hook to get readers unless they really know what they’re doing (cf. Rufus Opus). Plus, since our language is generally lackluster when it comes to describing ethereal or spiritual phenomena and sensations, and since it’s often highly subjective to the most minor detail, it makes it difficult to write about results like that without simply transcribing afterritual notes and hoping someone can make sense of them.

      I take my work and rituals from all kinds of sources: the PGM, Greco-Roman curse tablets, the Munich Manual, the Heptameron, Agrippa, Solomonic stuff, Rufus Opus, Jason Miller, chaos magic, the Bible, and so on. I’m making an effort to source everything in my eTome that wasn’t originally devised by myself, even if it was a revealed prayer or technique from some spirit or angel or other. Since I’m not in the GD and have no training by them, I’m coming from a more grassroots version of ceremonial magic than their established traditions. Whether what I come up with will look like a GD derivation is in the air, depending on what you consider GD-esque.

  2. Well I for one would buy it if you published one! I’ve often thought of doing a personal hard bound book through lulu, but only for my own use since, as you mentioned, I have a lot of copyrighted stuff mixed in with my own.

    This is a problem near and dear to my heart. I’ve started many fancy and nice books but it’s the lack of organization that gets me every time when I add new stuff. I keep everything online so I can access it by computer/phone/kindle but for my physical book I’ve settled on using a post-bound leather journal with fancy parchment paper. That way I can organize all I like and still maintain the “book-like” feeling. Except that I haven’t really been good about updating that either!

  3. I like the greek word. enchiridion. so many wonderful vowels. I was recently exploring with google translate in greek to puzzle out “book of spirits.” The one I liked the most is “tomos pnevmata”

  4. Awesome! I look forward to the new developments. Also, even if you were copying me – plagiarism is the highest compliment… or something like that. ;)

  5. I tend to call my book my grimoire. THanks to our mutual friend Frater RO, I’ve started a new Liber Spiritus, but my favorites are still the pseudo-GD grimoires I wrote up in Moleskine Japanese albums. In fact, I’ve done the Modern Angelic Grimoire that way, but it’s an inconvenient form to carry the Table of Practice, the Orphic Hymns, and related material, all together.

    • Andrew, I’ve recently gone to this approach as well (like as of this week) collecting all related material in various assorted Moleskines. I love them being small enough to take anywhere with me.

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