Musings after a Marathon Month of Mancy

So, funnily enough, as it turns out?  72 hour-ish-long geomancy readings, eight domino readings, four video consultations, three planetary adorations, one New Moon celebration, one consultation done for myself, and taking two online classes?  All on top of the usual full-time job (surprise, I became the lead developer of a high-profile project with low-profile resources!) with three hours of commuting three days a week, daily practice, and managing a household?  It might, just might, have been a bit too much for me to handle with my usual amount of comfort and flair.  Yet, here I am, somehow alive after it all, thanks be to God and the gods.  I’m tired, my back and arms are sore, but I managed to get all my yearly readings done (and quite a bit else) before January was out, and for that, I’m pretty damn proud of myself.  It’d be nice to have a weekend to relax, but there’s always more Work to be done—as well as a few out-of-town trips that needed making, as well.  Oh well; no rest for the wicked, I suppose.

Over the past month, I’ve done probably the most divination I’ve done in a single month’s worth of time, and this was one of the busiest and among the most challenging months I can ever recall having (as well as one where I’ve slept the least).  It’s gauntlets and marathons like this that give us a chance to learn, not just about the things we do but about ourselves, and I wanted to share some of the observations, realizations, and concessions I’ve come to terms with from all this work this past month.  To be sure, I learn more and more about geomancy with each and every chart I cast, but I want to focus on some of the bigger and broader things than mere technique.

First, and probably most practically, I don’t think I’ll be doing a special for yearly divination forecasts again.  I’ve done them for three years now, and while it’s great practice for my own divination skills and a great thing for us all to do at the start of a new year (depending, of course, on when your new year starts), and while everyone loves a good deal, let’s be honest: I don’t charge enough for my usual reading rate (US$44 per geomancy reading) to make a special worth it.  Each yearly forecast takes about 60 to 90 minutes to do, and that’s after my usual reading ritual process of preliminary preparation and prayer, to say nothing of how much it takes out of me to do such a widespread and all-encompassing reading, including typing a 2000-to-3000 word report on it individual for each person.  While the energy spent on divination isn’t exactly repayable through money, it certainly helps, that’s for sure, and…well, let’s be honest, I know I undercharge for my divination services.  I consider them fair prices for me, and I would prefer to err on the side of caution to avoid any risk of gouging my clients while also ensuring that such divination can be accessible to those who need it.  I do not claim that my prices are inherently better than others, and those who charge more often have very good and necessary reasons for doing so, and I charge what I can because I can afford doing so (this is just my side gig, with my full-time job paying the real bills) without it impacting my actual skills and ability to do the work asked of me.  I charge what I charge because I think it’s fair, and I plan to keep them fair.  If people want or feel obliged to pay more, either out of appreciation for the work done or to ensure that my prices stay low for the sake of others who need it most, then you’re always invited to tip your diviner—such as through my Ko-fi account.

So, while I won’t be doing yearly specials for this type of reading anymore, that’s not to say I won’t be doing yearly forecasts.  If you find yourself, dear reader, wanting such a forecast done for you for the new year (using whichever New Year date you choose), you’re more than welcome to book a reading with me, just at my normal rate as I would for any other query.  However, towards the end of this year (and in the future, if this year works out well), I do plan on compiling a list of all the diviners, astrologers, readers, and seers among my colleagues and those I trust and look up to who do plan on doing yearly specials, for those who are looking for something specific from another reader.  It’s something I want to try out, especially to share good business with good people.

Also, besides tipping your diviners (if they deserve it or if you feel it’s appropriate to do so) and taking note of other diviners who do good work?  It’s absolutely, super important for us to get feedback on our work we do, and it’s so rare that we ever actually get it.  Retrospective feedback is like pure gold for us, because while we always stand to learn from books or teachers, learning from experience is at least as important (and in many ways is even more so), because retrospective feedback is what helps us refine our techniques, learning what actually works in practice or what doesn’t, realizing what a given omen actually meant in retrospect, and the like.  By postdicting our predictions, we can make better predictions, and that helps us all.  In-the-moment feedback is important to us, too, because that helps us navigate the energies, flows, and currents of power and fate during the divination itself, but that’s silver to the gold of retrospective feedback.  So, be kind, rewind: after you get a divination reading from someone, and after the event or situation inquired about comes to pass, take another look at the reading you got, see what matches and what didn’t, see what was precise and what wasn’t, see what was accurate and what wasn’t, and go back to your diviner and share your results.  I promise you, they’ll be ecstatic with this, even if they fucked things up, because it’s a chance for them (and all of us) to learn and improve.

Oh, and another thing?  Reviews!  For many people, the best way to advertise is simply through word-of-mouth, or leaving a good comment about someone whose work pleased you with their skill, precision, accuracy, and approach.  I know I don’t and won’t pay for advertising (in fact, I actively pay for webhosting to keep ads off my platforms as much as possible) and would rather let my work speak for itself, but I certainly won’t mind others speaking for me, either.  Diviners are still professionals, and professionals need to be able to profess their skills, otherwise they’re no professionals; if you found that such a diviner (whether me or anyone else) did a good job, consider leaving a comment on their blog, or telling others about them.  I’m not exactly greedy for more clients, but I won’t deny that I’d like to have a few more regulars or a bit more activity in that area of my life, and reviews are great for that.  Also, not gonna lie, getting a good review really just makes us as diviners feel good, and sometimes, that makes all the difference in whether we continue practicing publicly at all.  If you’d like to leave a review for me, feel free to simply mention my website on social media, leave a review on my Facebook page, or send me an email and let me know that it’s a review that I can share on my blog (and, if I get enough of them, I may even put up a whole testimonials page to collect them all).

As for getting more clients and business along the lines of divination, I think it’d be good, but the past month…well, it was hell for me to get all the work done on time.  It wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t already working a full-time job, but as it is, and given how much else I get up to, this month has really impressed upon me that (a) more people actually come to me for divination than I anticipated and (b) my time is far more limited and constrained than I had thought, and I had been taking the flexibility of my schedule for granted.  While it was great to do four or six divination readings a day, it got old real fast when it was day after day of it while also trying to juggle household affairs and work concerns, both of which took a hit due to the time and energy I couldn’t devote to them as I should, along with the stability and quality of my sleep.  This marathon month of μαντεια showed me that, barring making this my full-time job (which would necessitate a significant price increase to make ends meet) instead of my stable software engineering job, that I just can’t do this kind of work at this rate, and that I need to both throttle the work I do as well as get better at scheduling it.  In the future, I plan to limit myself to 10 to 12 divination readings, consultations, or other client tasks a week, depending on what else is going on, compared to the 16 or more I was doing this past month.  There is a possibility that this may increase wait times for some clients, but I already specify an up-to-two-week turnaround time for my services, which I was (somehow) able to keep up with this month (and January is my absolute busiest month for divination readings), so I think that this possibility is fairly small in reality.

Something else I’ve learned is that, as it turns out, I do a lot of typing.  (Surprising, I know.)  In the past month, I’ve banged out about 80 divination reports on top of all the other notetaking, programming, and writing I do, and that adds up to about 160,000 words—far more than even what I typed out for my Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration thesis-length blog project last summer (only about 100,000 words).  My arms, wrists, and hands are tired, y’all, and I’m starting to feel the pains of work and pangs of age the more I do this, especially since my full-time job is already so heavily typing-based.  I’ve been using a standard 104-key mechanical keyboard this whole time, a sturdy and lovely thing, but it was getting to the point where I had to take more breaks than ever between typing/divination sessions, and that only slowed me down further.  With the proceeds from all these divinations, I splurged and got myself a nice split-keyboard for ergonomic and power-computing use; although it’s taken me some getting used to using it, typing feels so much better and more relaxing, which is only a good thing for me. For those who are interested, it’s the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, which some of my more technologically-inclined friends might have seen ads for online on various social media platforms.  This is, hands down, the most elegant, amazing, and productive bit of computer input technology I have ever had the pleasure of using, and though it costs a pretty penny (especially with some of the add-ons which are still in development), I am super, super happy that I got this thing.  Not only does typing no longer hurt, but I can do so much more right from the (eminently and easily customizable) keyboard that I couldn’t do with my old keyboard.  (I do miss having a separate numpad, and I’ve been having a hell of a time replacing that, but I can still just use extra inputs on this “60%” keyboard as it is without it just fine, even though that too takes getting used to.)  If you’re interested in one of the finest and well-made keyboards out there, whether or not you need it for ergonomic reasons, then this is the keyboard to use.  (Also, despite my love for the clacky-style Blue mechanical switches, I decided to go with Brown switches for this keyboard.  It turns out that, even though I love the sound and feel of banging out words like several machine guns going off at once, it’s somewhat more annoying for my coworkers, clients, and interviewers who have to listen to it on phone calls or recordings.  Brown switches still feel nice, at least, and have a much calmer sound.)

Switching gears from logistic and physical concerns, there were a bunch of other spiritual realizations that I made, too, during this month that affects or enhances my divination practice.  Probably the best lead-in to this is how truly fundamental daily practice is for me.  Yes, I’ve harped on it before for years now, as have countless other magicians, Jason Miller of Strategic Sorcery among them, but having a daily practice really is the bedrock of a magical and spiritual life, and if you don’t have that, then you’re building on sand.  For me, my daily practice is my anchor-point for the day, and I have a rule about it: if I don’t do my daily practice, I cannot do anything else spiritual for the day.  I mean, consider: if I skip my daily practice because I’m so fatigued or so unwell to not be able to do 40 to 60 minutes of meditation and prayer, then I necessarily don’t have the energy or health to do anything else, right?  And if I don’t have time to do my daily practice, then I must likewise not have time to do anything else on top of that that day.  Otherwise, if I have the energy and if I have the time, then I have no reason to not do my daily practice, and if I can’t manage my daily practice out of sheer laziness, then I have no business trying to claim anything else that day, because I don’t feel appropriate working for others if I don’t do the work I need to do for my own well-being and spiritual maintenance.  My daily practice is essential for everything else I do, and even if I use some of the same prayers in divination readings as I do in my daily practice, my divination readings are not part of my daily practice, yet still build on it.  I feel like this is a good rule to have for those who need to stick to a daily practice and have other things planned, like divination readings, consultations, conjurations, or the like, and it’s one I force my students to keep, too.

Related to prayers, doing all these divination readings day after day has been a wonder for three other things:

  • Memorizing prayers.  I have a particular ritual process that uses several prayers that I precede and conclude divination with, and though some of them I’ve memorized, there were others that I was struggling to for the longest time.  Doing this same ritual day after day after day, saying the same prayers day after day after day, has finally helped me to memorize them without dedicating extra time just for memorization, because I’m still engaging in repetition of the same prayers.
  • Hygiene.  As part of that ritual process, I precede everything with ablution, which for me is flossing/brushing my teeth, saying a prayer, washing my hands and arms and face and feet, and then concluding with another prayer.  I like going into spiritual work cleaned from physical concerns or worldly “dust”, since this helps me focus better on the work to be done.  Yes, I start every day with a thorough ablution (i.e. a shower), but if it’s been more than a trivial amount of time between that and doing divination or other ritual work, or if I’ve had to get significantly involved in worldly or decidedly non-spiritual stuff, I perform a lesser ablution as above to reset and refresh myself.  More than that, though, doing divination for so many people in succession is itself…I don’t want to say dirtying or sullying, but such frequent ablution helps keep me going without getting too dragged down in a spiritual morass.  I did, of course, also finish up the month with a full spiritual bath on top of ablution to really reset myself, and I probably should have been taking weekly baths during the month to keep myself cleaner and fresher than I was, so I’ll make a note of that for future times when I’m swamped with divination work.  All that said, my teeth have never been so clean, and my dentist would be proud.  However, I was guided by my HGA to focus especially on my eyes and mouth when doing pre-divination ablution for the obvious spiritual symbolism: clarity of vision to see, purity of speech to communicate.  Ablutions, too, can be tweaked for broader spiritual purposes.
  • Anointing with oil.  Though it’s not an essential part of my divinatory ritual process, I do like anointing myself with a special oil prior to engaging in divination.  Though I could certainly just use holy oil, I rather prefer to use Quadrivium Oil‘s special Vision oil, currently only available as an alcohol-based spray.  Quadrivium is one of my oldest colleagues in the Work, and her oils have been a mainstay of parts of my practices for years, and her Vision blend (which I helped test for her back in the day!) is a wonder for me.  While it’s not necessary for me to use it, I greatly enjoy doing so and enjoy the boost it gives me.  Also, it turns out that anointing myself with this oil day after day after day, combining it with my usual anointing prayers, doesn’t just help me with divination skills, but has also had rather interesting effects on the quality, frequency, and semantic content of my dreams, too.  That was a side effect I hadn’t anticipated, but which I’m happy about all the same.

Something I want to remind people about when it comes to yearly readings specifically, and all forecast-type readings generally, is that forecasts are just that: forecasts, descriptions of high-level trends that cover some specified length of time.  While super big things that are planned to happen during that timeframe can likely be described or accounted for in forecasts, in general, it’s not a good idea to read too much into forecasts, especially long forecasts that extend over a month, and definitely like those that go on for a year or more.  A number of clients this year had super-specific queries that they wanted investigated in the yearly chart, and I had to remind some of them that a yearly forecast only reliable describes high-level, long-term influences that describe the year as a whole, and trying to read specific things into that is clumsy and misguided at times.  This isn’t to say that I can’t and don’t get super-specific with these forecasts, as many of my clients can attest, but the specificity of abstract trends is not the same thing as the specificity of concrete events.  When in doubt, if you’ve got something actually specific to ask, it’s better to get a separate reading to investigate that.  That goes not only for forecast-type readings, but for any other reading, too, depending on how many things you want to know.  I know that some geomancers, especially of an Arabic or Persianate bent, feel confident in reading all sorts of unrelated queries from a single querent within the one and same chart, but that’s not an approach I feel comfortable doing, not because I can’t, but because I find that there’s just too much crosstalk in a chart that’s put to too many queries at once.  Rather than having to sift through the crosstalk, I find it easier and cleaner to just do one chart per query, which also increases the reliabilty of the readings, in my opinion.  I do try to work with the querent to reframe and rephrase their queries so that it covers everything they want to know as much as is possible, given the mechanics and techniques of geomancy at my disposal, but sometimes, some queries are just so unrelated that they’re best broken out into separate charts.

Along those same lines, I want to also emphasize that it’s so often important for us as diviners to understand the context of the query, not just what the querent is asking with their communicated words, but how and why they’re communicating it, as well.  While some diviners make a point of having the querent not ask their query as a proof of the diviner’s own psychic ability (or ability to read between the lines along with body language), I don’t make the claim that I’m outright psychic.  (I mean, I reasonably could, but I don’t.)  So much of the divination I do is done online by email or over Zoom or Skype, and it’s hard to get a good read on the immediate energetic feel for people without spending a lot more time and energy than I want to to tune in; I find it easier to rely on the words themselves, especially because geomancy is such a literal oracle: as opposed to other divination systems that answer the query you should be asking, whether or not you phrased it that way, geomancy answers exactly the query you ask, no more and no less.  Although there are some styles of divination where you let the oracle speak for itself as it answers a query only it knows, I don’t find geomancy to be one of those oracles, and I find it helpful for us geomancers to have a reasonably complete understanding of the query, not only so that we know exactly what the querent wants to know, but also so that we know what techniques to use and what to look for in the chart going into the divination.  Besides, there was one time earlier this past month (not using geomancy, I might add, and trying to use a more context-free form of divination) where I got burned by not really spending as much time as I otherwise have done with the querent in understanding what was going on leading up to the reading.  The reading was still eminently helpful, but my manner of delivery was shit and ended up hurting more than I wanted it to.  It was all sorted out in the end, but I still feel bad about that.  Knowing more of the context and reading more between the lines would have prevented that, and it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.

And that leads to perhaps my biggest and most important realization about divination: divination is an act of intimacy.  In fact, I consider it one of the most interpersonally intimate things we can do as human beings with spiritual capacity.  Normally we consider physical sex to be the height of physical intimacy—the nudity and literally baring it all before someone else, letting them feel you from the inside, letting them know what makes you tick and pulse—but consider that divination goes so much further beyond that.  With divination, a querent lets me see their past, their present, and their future; with divination, a querent lets me see their hopes and dreams, their fears and anxieties, their envies and jealousies; with divination, a querent lets me see them more fully, even through a glass darkly, more than any parent, any doctor, any lover ever could.  It’s because of this intimacy that both diviner and querent need to take care, the diviner to keep a good measure of distance to avoid bias as well as spiritual pollution or contamination from the querent, and the querent to find a diviner they trust with finding out anything (or everything) about them.  This is why it’s so important for diviners to learn to keep readings confidential, just as lovers wouldn’t blab about the kinks of their partners or the lushness of their genitals, just as doctors wouldn’t gossip about the hilarious or depressing health problems their patients get into, just as parents wouldn’t air the dirty laundry of their children to the world.  Divination is intimate, and I’m somewhat embarrassed I’m only just now realizing the full import of how this intimacy truly takes form.  In that light, I want to extend my deepest appreciation and thanks to each and every one of my querents and clients for allowing me to divine for them, for trusting me to take care of them when and how they need care.  Thank you.

Alright, that’s enough for one night; it’s time to relax, especially after two separate out-of-town trips and another online lecture taken care of this past weekend.  Haha, just kidding; I’ve got plenty more to take care of this week, but at least things are going to ease up a bit, and I’m going to do my best to make sure things stay good and proper for me as much as it is my clients.  But I am definitely going to call out one day soon for a well-deserved trip to the local Korean spa and bathhouse.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: First Swirlings

A few weeks ago, I made a post about an idea about working with a Greek style of Hermetic qabbalah, tentatively calling it kambala (Greek way to write out qabbalah from Hebrew) or to Paradedomenon (lit. “that which is handed down”).  The idea, I claim, is an interesting one: in the absence of Hebrew kabbalah, is it possible to make a Hellenic style of emanationist cosmological magic and theology that works with the Greek letters as magical units and entities in their own right?  Asked another way, could there conceivably be such a thing as a Greek qabbalah?  So I started thinking about it, and I first went and looked up translations of the names of the sephiroth and the like from Hebrew into Greek, and started translating other names into Greek as well, and also rewriting the magic number squares of the planets using Greek letter-numerals to develop new planetary spirit names.

Now I’m thinking I was going down the wrong path and need to start fresh without using the Tree of Life, or even using Jewish kabbalah at all.

I mean, what is Jewish kabbalah?  It is a deep, powerful, multifaceted, beautiful system of Jewish mysticism that can deliver one great, perhaps infinite, knowledge and power through the proper use of its system, but it’s still at its heart a Jewish system.  Thus, it is Jewish, and geared towards those who are Jewish: not only by blood (as tradition would have it), but also by culture (having the means and faculties available to a proper Jew) and definitely by religion and religious studies.  Kabbalah is really only meant for those who are prepared to study it, which requires a deep and thorough study of the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, Mishnah, and so many other aspects of Jewish religion and how it ties into Jewish life.  For all intents and purposes, to get the most out of kabbalah, you have to be Jewish.  You don’t necessarily have to be a Jew (unless you’re so hard-core traditionalist that only the first-born son of a kabbalist can learn it from his rabbi father), but you definitely have to be Jewish in order to properly study kabbalah.  Anything less, and you’re not going to be able to use it as much as it can or ought to be.

As for me?  Sure, I can claim descent as a Jew, but I’m about as Jewish as an Olive Garden is Italian, which is to say “hahaha not really”.  Sure, I can say the berakhah for Chanukah, and that’s about it.  I’ve never had my bar mitzvah (even though my father has idly wondered that we should probably get ours done eventually at the same time), and it’s more likely that I’ll be baptized into Christianity before having a bar mitzvah.  I’ve only read the Old Testament in English, not even in the proper order of the books that the Tanakh would have; I don’t maintain kosher standards of purity or cleanliness (especially not with the occasional use of blood rum), and I can’t even read or speak Hebrew.  In all honesty, for me to properly study kabbalah, I’d need to learn Hebrew, get bar mitzvah’d, and undergo what’s likely to be many years of studying before I even read properly about the sephiroth.  Which is why I’m not, nor will I ever, learn about Jewish kabbalah outside a few books by Aryeh Kaplan.

But of course, that’s not the only way to study the Tradition.  What about Hermetic qabbalah (this time with a Q)?  I’ve been making good use of that, to be sure, as have many others in the Golden Dawn, Thelemite, and other modern Hermetic movements, and heck, even in a good number of neopagan movements I’ve seen that are influenced by Gardnerian Wicca and the Golden Dawn.  While I’d argue that the heart of Hermetic qabbalah and Jewish kabbalah is the same (it provides a means to understand the source of an emanationist panentheist cosmos by means of a cosmological Abrahamic structure), the study of the two nearly couldn’t be further apart.  And, to be honest, after mulling it over some, I’m not sure Hermetic qabbalah is even recognizably able to achieve the same goal as Jewish kabbalah.  My good friend the Rev. Michael Strojan has compared Jewish kabbalah to a beautiful rose garden maze leading to a unique spiritual experience of the mind of God in creation, while Hermetic qabbalah is a far more rational, utilitarian cosmological mapping.

In fact, when a Hermeticist tends to refer to “qabbalah”, they’re usually referring to the specific teaching of the Tree of Life, the linking of the ten sephiroth with 22 paths in a particular geometric array.  In Hebrew, this is known as the upright arrangement of the sephiroth, or “yosher”, which is one way to view the sephiroth; the other is “iggulim”, or “circles”, viewing the cosmos as a series of nested circles with God on the outside and Malkuth in the innermost circle.  I’ve seen a similar way to represent the sephiroth before in Hermetic qabbalah, but only as an introduction to emanationist principles and never for serious magic or prolonged study.  While the paths of the Tree of Life are important, they’re usually grossly understudied in favor of the sephiroth themselves; I’ve seen plenty of people talking about scrying the spheres but next to nobody about scrying the paths, and I admit that I’m guilty of this, too!  It’s nearly all about corresponding things to the ten spheres, and that’s about it.  Consider Yesod, the ninth sephirah: Yesod is associated with the first heaven, which coincides with the sphere of the Moon, so anything lunar can be corresponded to Yesod.  That’s nearly about it in Hermetic qabbalistic framework, it’d seem, unless I’m missing a large amount of the cultural movement and study of the thing.  I’m aware that many Hermeticists have gone in much deeper study of the sephiroth and the paths, but I wouldn’t call them a majority.  To most magicians who use Hermetic qabbalah, they only use it as a system of correspondences.

More than that, however, for a non-Jew, even a learned Neoplatonic theosopher and magician, to attempt their own study of kabbalah can come off as something insincere.  I mean, as non-Jews (and I’m including myself de facto in that group), we’re not raised Jewish, we celebrate different holidays, we’re not studied in the traditions and text that Jewish kabbalah builds upon.  While it’s certainly possible to get a lot out of the system, we won’t be able to fully plumb the depths of the system without having all those other things under our belt.  And while it’s certainly allowed to study any and all knowledge and teachings out there on the subject, it’s still a subject that’s pretty much not meant for most of us.  Even in traditional kabbalistic teachings, many Jews couldn’t learn it, which is why we have the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, since (chapter 9, my emphasis):

This wisdom hath its foundation in the high and holy Qabalah which is not granted unto any other than unto the first-born, even as God hath ordained, and as it was observed by our predecessors. Thence arose the difference, and the truck or exchange between Jacob and Esau; the primogeniture being the Qabalah, which is much nobler and greater than the Sacred Magic. And by the Qabalah we can arrive at the Sacred Magic, but by the latter we cannot have the Qabalah. Unto the child of a servant, or of an adulterer, the Qabalah is not granted, but only unto a legitimate child; as occurred in the case of Isaac and Ishmael; but the sacred wisdom through the mercy of God all can acquire, provided that they walk in the right path; and each one should content himself with the gift and grace of the Lord. And this must not be done out of curiosity, and with extravagant and ridiculous scruples, wishing to know and understand more than is right; seeing that temerity is certainly punished by God, who then permitteth him who is presumptuous not only to be turned aside out of the true way by the Second Causes, but also the demon hath power over him, and he ruineth and exterminateth him in such a manner, that we can only say that he himself is the sole cause of his own ruin and misery. It is certain that the Old Serpent will attempt to contaminate the present book with his venom, and even to destroy and lose it utterly, but O Lamech! as a faithful father I entreat thee by the true God who hath created thee and all things, and I entreat every other person who by thy means shall receive this method of operating, not to be induced or persuaded to have any other sentiment or opinion, or to believe the contrary. Pray unto God and ask him for his assistance, and place all thy confidence in him alone. And although thou canst not have the understanding of the Qabalah, nevertheless the holy guardian angels at the end of the six Moons or months will manifest unto thee that which is sufficient for the possession of this Sacred Magic.

Is there a means for us to study divinity and obtain power and knowledge thereby?  Of course!  The Word of God is something all humans with ears can hear (as much of my 49 Days of Definitions project indicated), but not every word is meant for us.  There are many words out there for us to understand the Word; they are all the Word, but not using the same words.  In a Hermetic sense, kabbalah is a form of Logos for the Jews who are able and allowed to study it.  So, while a Hermetic qabbalah with roots and liberal borrowing from the Hebrew kabbalah is not improper, strictly speaking, it does seem like trying to borrow a prayer in another language to another divinity and speaking it aloud with a bad accent to your own.  To be terse, the more I look at it, the more Hermetic qabbalah looks like cultural appropriation, and knowing how rife much of the Golden Dawn material was with culturally appropriated techniques and technology, this isn’t too surprising.

Besides, while Jewish kabbalah is definitely Jewish, it’s not entirely Jewish.  It’s apparent that there was much cross-pollination between Jewish and Neoplatonic thought back in the days of the Roman Empire, especially after the Jewish Diaspora after the destruction of the Second Temple, and it was only then did the Hebrew alphabet begin to be used as numbers in addition to letters, a notably Greek practice that had already been in place for centuries, along with the Greek practice of isopsephic exegesis in interpreting words as numerical strings and linking them to numerological concepts and other words by means of isopsephy.  Heck, even the Hebrew word “gematria” has its origins in Greek “geometria”.  It might reasonably be said that what is today Jewish kabbalah is a combination of Greek Neoplatonist philosophy and isopsephic techniques combined with the native Jewish Merkava and Hekhalot mystic techniques.  This was used, then merged again with other European thought as the centuries passed, so that kabbalah borrowed and reborrowed other philosophies just as it was borrowed and reborrowed from.  As a magician in the vein of Neoplatonism, I can definitely see much that I resonate with in kabbalistic thought and practice, but the system takes place in a context that is sufficiently different from my own that it’s difficult for me to penetrate it without my entering into that context itself.

In that light, recontextualizing kabbalah into Hermetic qabbalah wholesale just isn’t the best way to go about it, and to develop an even further-detached system as a Hellenic or Greek kabbalah based on the Hermetic qabbalah would be even less effective.  While such a Greek kabbalah would be great for my own practice and context, being much more familiar with Neoplatonic, Stoic, and even some Pythagorean philosophy (which is really the root of much of this, anyway), trying to base it on the already “debased” (to exaggerate the sense) Hermetic qabbalah would be like a game of Translation Party.  And, just like with proper English-to-Japanese translation, you need to have a good sense of the language, structure, and system you’re trying to build things into based on the ideas and thoughts you already have instead of trying to go through a predetermined middleman system with its own rules already in place.  In order to create a Greek kabbalah, I’d need to start fresh from first principles.  Scrying the Tree of Life in a Greek framework isn’t the only work that has to be done, but the creation of a new map of the cosmos and new paths, developing an understanding more fitting to my own context instead of that of a different religion and tradition, is all necessary.

In other words, I hope you stay tuned as I work towards a Greek kabbalah.  This will be a series of posts over the coming month exploring all the aspects I consider necessary to build such a system, so I hope you follow along.

Timeframes Within Timeframes

Recently, someone took advantage of my divination special (which you should totally take up yourself through the rest of this October!), and while talking shop about what she’d like to ask, she also mentioned that she’s starting to learn geomancy as well.  This is kinda awesome, since it made my job a little easier in describing the symbols used and how I arrived at their interpretations for her readings.  Something this client is doing to help her learn geomancy is by drawing single figures to predict how things will go over a period of time, or in other words, a single-figure forecast.  She does it for seasons, months, weeks, and days, and uses the figures to give her a heads-up on what’s coming her way.  This is a good way to learn the figures, though it can be vague at times since it’s just a single figure and not a full chart.  Still, it’s a useful thing.

However, she wanted advice on how to interpret these figures in this manner when it comes to a forecast for a small timeframe that takes place within a larger timeframe.  For instance, say she drew the figure Via for the fall of 2013, Carcer for October 2013, and Rubeus for the first week of October 2013.  Although each of these figures can be fairly clear on their own, seeing how they interact can be difficult.  In a way, it’s like trying to figure out patterns within patterns, or wheels within wheels.  After all, in many ways, Via and Carcer are very different figures, and understanding how they interact in this kind of time reading can be confusing.  How do these figures interact with each other?  The client wanted to know whether the longer-term figure affected the shorter-term one or vice versa.

My understanding of this kind of interlocked readings is that it’s not a matter of which affects the other, but which provides context or details for the other; the two are harmonious, generally speaking, but indicate different spans of time.  Consider the relationship between the Court (Witnesses, Judge, and Sentence) of the Shield Chart and the houses of the House Chart in geomancy: both answer the same question but with different levels of scope.  While the Court indicate the overall answer, or the bird’s-eye view of the situation, the houses indicate specific influences and effects in each aspect of the situation.  Thus, the Shield Chart indicates the overall broad view, while any particular house indicates a specific detail that fills in the broad answer of the Court.  Likewise, the Court provides context for each and any of the houses to make sense in the overall query.

When this logic is applied to timeframes, we can treat a long-term figure as providing a general heads-up on that timeframe, which indicates the overall direction or trend of things happening within that timeframe.  A shorter-term figure indicates trends and events that happen just within that timeframe as it fits into the overall timeframe given by the long-term figure.  As an example, if we draw Via for fall 2013, we can say that the overall trend of the season will be “change” or “motion”, but not everything in that season will necessarily have something to do with it, and some events within it may actually hinder change or motion.  Other figures for shorter time periods within fall 2013, from seconds to months, can fill in the details for what exactly is going to happen within those timeframes, and can help the querent understand what those types of change might be.  Conversely, shorter-term figures can be given a broader context or background information with long-term figures, to see how a particular event might be related to others in a larger timeline.

So, for instance, going back to the client’s example, she drew Via for the fall of 2013 and Carcer for October 2013.  How might these figures interact?

  1. Although Via is the overall theme for that quarter, not everything that happens in that quarter may be directly connected to Via itself; in other words, Via provides a high-level view but with no details.  Carcer is a little more detail-oriented, and suggests that October may have things more important to focus on than just change.  It’s not a matter of Via “affecting” Carcer, but the timeframe signified by Via itself is broader than that of Carcer, so Carcer can help fill in the gaps that Via leaves behind; alternatively, Carcer indicates a temporary influence within the overall arc or trends that Via indicates.  If you think of wheels within wheels, this may make a little more sense.
  2. Despite that Via means complete change and Carcer means enforced stability, they’re both figures indicating separation and solitude, with Via being more about chosen solitude or exile and Carcer being forced isolation or imprisonment.
  3. Despite that Via means complete change and Carcer means enforced stability, it could be that the enforced stability of Carcer is the change that Via was hinting at, at least as Via applied to October.  While things before may have been easy-going or easy to change from within, Carcer indicates that all change is being handled away from you without your involvement, and that it’s now time to be alone or locked into some other situation.

Divination as Intel

One of my favorite webcomics (which is ending this year at 10+ years old, alas!) is Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire.  In addition to being a painfully/punfully witty and action-packed high-fantasy webcomic, it also centers around the young Dominic Deegan, a career seer, an oracle who receives visions, and occasional savior of the world.  Given my own divinatory inclinations, this shouldn’t surprise anyone that I like the comic so much.

Despite my guesses that DD’s artist Mookie isn’t an occultist or seer himself (though I could be wrong), he does hit the mark fairly close when it comes to certain topics and problems that come to divination.  Among my most favorite comics is the one from January 5, 2007, where Dominic says a bit about the nature of divination to his students in a class for second sight.  His students are shocked, shocked to know that part of their required reading involves the massive “A Brief History of Everything (Unabridged Version)” :

When a seer looks into a crystal ball and spouts some cryptic message, it’s not because second sight is inherently mysterious.  It’s because the seer doesn’t know what he’s looking at and he’s probably disguising his ignorance with cliché mysticism.  To master second sight you must have knowledge, which is found in books, which is why we have so much required reading for this class.

Later on, his students complain about the amount of homework he assigns on the first day of class, and assume that Dominic used his own second sight to find out that no other teachers had assigned them homework.  Dominic himself then pops by, having overheard the students, and says that he had actually looked at their other teachers’ syllabi in the teacher’s lounge.  After all, Dominic remarks, “knowledge is power”.  A few days later, while discussing how uncool of a teacher he’ll be with his girlfriend and his archmage-school dean mother, he explains why he sadly guesses most of his students will drop the class:

Second sight is hard.  It requires a solid knowledge of history, politics, religion, arcane theory and even geography to really be of any use.  Otherwise it’s just looking at pictures.

When I do a divination for someone, I often ask them what’s on their mind, what brings them to the shop, what problems they might have going on.  They might bring up a specific problem or a concrete, pointed query, which is awesome, but more often than not they’ll try to cover a broad swathe of their lives with something like “I wanna know what’ll happen in my love life” or something equally vague.  I’ll help guide them to specific questions, because geomancy really shines when given something like that, but also because I need a working context for a chart in order to understand what it’s telling me.  Knowing that Puella falls in the 7th house is all well and good, but without knowing how it specifically relates to the query and the other circumstances in the querent’s life, I don’t really have a way to understand what it means.

Unlike some traditions of diviners and seers who’re trained to be clairvoyant or mystic enough to not require knowledge of the query or its context, I need context.  It’s why I read so much on current events and why I read up on other practices, beliefs, cultures, sciences, histories, and the like.  It’s why I engage the querent in conversation first and see what’s generally going on in their life from their perspective.  It’s why I ask questions probing into their life during the reading to clarify some of the symbols (with only 16 geomantic figures to represent all the infinity of the cosmos, I use any and all help I can get to whittle down the possibilities).  Context matters in divination, and it helps me be more specific and, thus, more helpful to the querent than if I worked without it.

Some diviners and readers often work with vague queries and, through skill and mastery with no small amount of intuition, can delivery fairly specific answers relevant to the querent though the querent may not have said anything about them.  Some divination systems like Tarot can cultivate such an intuition, but more often than not it’s a talent.  Still, when one works with vague questions, much more often than not one is going to get vague answers.  It’s a result of having a limited number of symbols that can mean any number of things without knowing how to whittle it down.  This lack of context can take a potentially meaningful message and water it down into uselessness, effectively turning it into a Forer effect-style blurb (consider how general newspaper horoscopes can be).  It sucks when this happens, because it gives divination and diviners of all kinds, including astrologers, a bad name.

Divination is probably best seen as a form of intelligence gathering, in which one draws a distinction between data and information.  Data is a Latin word literally meaning “that which is given”, or things that one has at their disposal.  Information comes from Latin as well, originally meaning “to shape” but figuratively meaning “to instruct” (which has similar etymology and figurative meanings).  One can define information as “data that makes a difference”; if data tells us nothing new, it’s not really helping us to inform ourselves.  Not all data is information; some data is just noise or is erroneous.  Not all information is data; sometimes information can be obtained through patterns of the data or through an analysis of other analyses.  Divination helps one obtain data or to make sense of patterns in data, but it’s only one method.  To produce truly useful information, one should correlate divination and divined answers with historical research, official expertise, and other sources of information.  Although it’s good to trust divination, it shouldn’t be the only thing one goes by.

Marie Laveau, the queen of voodoo in New Orleans, was a renowned seer and reader, but she also worked as a hair stylist for professional high-class clientele.  Working in that kind of environment exposed her to a wealth of gossip, hearsay, and rumors that she was able to verify or refute on her own or with the help of others, which helped her be seen as much more intuitive to her occult clients.  Likewise, Jason Miller takes a dim view of just relying on divination.  Even as far back as ancient Greece, prophecies from the Oracle at Delphi were debated, tweaked, and analyzed in order to be made of use by the groups who received them (cf. the “wooden walls” that protected the Athenians).  Unless it’s really the only thing one has to go by (which is damn-near never in our modern information-based culture), divination needs to be correlated and buffed out with any and all other information out there.

Specificity and a refining of data matters in order to obtain useful information, especially in an occult art like divination.  No matter how real or vivid a vision may appear, or how explicit a Tarot reading may seem, any divined answer should always be reflected upon, backed up with other information, and analyzed in order to clear out any ambiguity, solve any riddles, and reduce any metaphors to their concrete basis.  Much of this can be fixed by having a wide breadth of knowledge, and many gaps can be filled simply by phrasing one’s query specifically and clearly to the diviner.  Still, as awesome as divination may be, it’s a flaw of any system that works with a finite number of symbols that one needs backup and thought to whittle down the infinite to the finite.