On Geomantic Education

To those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, this will come as no surprise.  I’m finally working on my book on geomancy again.  It’s something that people have been dogging me about for years, and it’s been an on-again-off-again project since 2013.  However, since recently rebuilding my computer and getting all my files back together, I got the bug again to write that book, and good progress is being made again.  At this rate, it’ll be the size of a proper textbook, and my aim is to make it thorough and complete on a level not rivaled since Fludd or az-Zanati.  I’m not going to discount the extremely valuable books put out by John Michael Greer or Stephen Skinner, as I stand on the shoulders of those two living giants with regards to this art, but I aim to put out a text of a different kind.

And yet, despite that this book is (currently) estimated to come out at around 300pp., I can already hear a complaint off in the distance.  My goal is for this book to present a fundamental and thorough exploration of the art of geomancy in such a way that it will start from first principles (what is divination, what are the elements and planets and stars, what are the relationships between these forces and the figures, what are the relationships amongst the figures, how is geomantic “mathematical”, etc.) and go through every major technique I can document in Western geomancy, including variations and specifics of detailed things along the way.  In this sense, I’m following in the same steps as the geomantic authors of yore.  However, there is one major thing that my book does not and will not have that virtually every other book on geomancy has, and while it may frustrate people used to it, I find that it’s something that should never have been written by anyone ever to begin with.

If you haven’t guessed yet, dear reader, it’s lookup tables, those lists of premade answers to particular arrangements of Court figures, figures in the houses, and the like.  It’s these lookup tables (cf. Hartmann, Skinner’s “Oracle of Geomancy”, the Golden Dawn primer on geomancy, etc.) that I believe are a bane to the proper study of geomancy, and I refuse to include them in my work.

Now, I understand why they were written.  For the sake of completion, many authors have endeavored to provide a clear explanation and guide to interpreting each figure in each of the houses; since there are only 16 figures and 12 houses, this is only about 192 small entries.  After all, astrologers have done the same for the planets and parts in the houses for centuries, and they have a lot more to worry about in their texts.  And, for the sake of being reeeaaallly complete, many authors have also included premade interpretations for the different possible combinations of Witnesses and Judge; after all, if the Judge must be an even figure, then that cuts down all pairwise combinations of Witnesses to just 128 different combinations.  Again, not terrible.  For completeness’ sake, and to offer an illustrative guide to the gist of what figures mean for a query, sure, I can see why this was done.

The problem, however, is that many people are not as dedicated to the art when they claim to be its students, and would rather be lazy.  Mass-market publishers, additionally, want things that sell, and will happily cater to the many who would spend a few pence on a text that appeals to them rather than the extraordinary few who would spend more on a text that they need.  I mean, consider how much trash there is out there with the neopagan or pop magic literature; sure, it sells well, and it may very well be a good starting point for those who are serious about their studies.  Hell, even I admit to having a few of Scott Cunningham’s fluffier books somewhere in my library, and it did help me get started back in middle school with learning what magic is and how it works.  That said, if I were to stop there, I’d be putting myself at a great disservice and would never have gotten to where I am today; moreover, if I thought that Cunningham’s style of pop magic spells done on a beach or in the snow was all there was to magic, I’d insult all the magicians and occultists who came before him, not to say the field of magic as a whole.

The problem is that, as time went on in the Renaissance and more and more books were published on geomancy, all they really focused on was the lookup tables.  The techniques were discussed only inasmuch as they enabled you to use the lookup tables; for this, see Franz Hartmann’s book on geomancy as a prime example.  Geomancy became whittled down from this elaborate, profound system of divination that could elegantly answer any subject with extraordinary detail into this…well, the phrase “parlor game” comes to mind, something like Chi-Chi sticks or those little folded paper fortune-teller doodads we all used to make in elementary school.  Even though geomancy was more popular in Europe than Tarot is now, imagine if Tarot were reduced only to using its numbers and suits; it’s effectively playing cards, ignoring different spreads and the qabbalistic symbolism inherent in the art and structure of the Tarot.  That’s what basically became of geomancy towards the end of the Renaissance, and was one of the main contributors to geomancy effectively being lost once the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution came around.  No, geomancy was not completely forgotten, but it was all but regarded as useless and overly complicated for an answer that usually amounted to little more than “evil, except for bloodletting”.

So much for how the publishing and spread of lookup tables influenced the general perception of geomancy.  However, there’s another part of the problem with relying on these: lookup tables are inherently limited.  Sure, the small number of combinations of figures in houses or Witnesses and Judge is sufficiently limited to offer a good high-level summary in a single text; it’s not the fact that there are only so many combinations in geomancy, but it’s that these summaries cannot be helpful in all circumstances and for all queries.  These interpretations are very general, but also very isolated from other factors in a geomantic chart.  Yes, Fortuna Maior in house IV is a good thing for one’s personal life, but what if we’re asking a query about having an ex-lover move out of our house, and this figure is aspected by opposition, and it’s in company with a negative figure, and the querent has indicated that health issues may be at play?  Fortuna Maior, although a good figure, is sufficiently negated that it becomes stressful and harmful to the querent.  Yet, what can a lookup table say?  Not much, except that the querent will do well and strong in their personal life and home.  That’s all well and good, but the geomancer still has to link that to every other factor present to actually give a useful answer.  Without indicating how, books that stress the importance of lookup tables without teaching how to synthesize these factors gimp the geomancer.

Lookup tables, in effect, cheapen the art of geomancy; it reduces a synthetic, holistic, detailed divination system to a copy-and-paste, abbreviated, vague system of terse and snippy answers.  Because of this, geomancers who rely primarily on lookup tables aren’t really learning how to actually use geomancy beyond following page numbers like a “choose your path” story book.

That’s why my book will not have these lookup tables.  Tables of correspondence that indicate what figures mean in specific contexts?  Absolutely! Detailed interpretations of each figure as they are and how they relate to other figures to explore their own worlds?  You got ’em!  Case studies of geomantic readings that explore each individual factor and technique used for a particular chart, then synthesized together to form a coherent, cohesive narrative?  But of course!  These are all parts of understanding the principles of geomancy from a ground-up approach, so that lookup tables become useless anyway.  By enabling the geomancer to develop their own interpretations through a deep knowledge of each figure, understanding how the figures interact with each other ideally and in particular charts, and giving them the tools to synthesize different parts of a reading, the geomancer will never need to use lookup tables for answers on “will he obtain his love” or “how will the undertaking end”; at a glance, the geomancer will be able to answer these on their own anyway based on their own skill and intuition.

So, if the fact that my book is gonna be around 300 pages and remind you of college, dear reader, don’t worry.  This is not a book to flip through because you want to be lazy.  This is a book to absorb thoroughly because you want to be excellent.

A Division of Studies in Mathesis

Based on the revamp of the Tetractys of Life with all its newly relettered paths, I had a thought about what the differentiation of forces between the Gnosis Schema (paths associated with the zodiac signs) and the Agnosis Schema (paths associated with the elements and planets) would mean.  From the post redoing the lettering of the paths, I commented that:

Thus, while we’re trapped in this world, we cycle chaotically and confusedly around the cosmos without real understanding of how it works, no matter how much we jive with the planetary and elemental forces.  It’s only once we recognize them for the powers that they are that we break free of them, traveling among the fixed stars themselves.  Even in agnosis, there is learning; we need to be aware of what the elements and planets do to us before we can truly break free of them and shed ourselves of their influence.  Once we know how to work them and how to get rid of their influence while remaining in control of them, we then proceed to rise above them to gnosis and understand what the whole cosmos is really about.  Planetary and elemental magic can only get us so far; they cannot get us to the most extreme parts of the cosmos (or, in this model, the outermost spheres of the Tetractys) nor can they get us to a point where we’re balanced and able to go in any direction we want (the sphere of Mercury).  It’s only by making the leap from agnosis to gnosis that we can do that, but even then, we must be on our guard; we can slip and fall back into agnosis by dwelling too much on any one energetic force, allowing it to entrap us once more.

In other words, we should only make the leap from Agnosis to Gnosis once we understand what it is we’re dealing with.  In order to fully be able to reap the benefits of the powers of the zodiacal paths and make the trips from sphaira to sphaira, we need to already have the powers of the elements and planets supporting us in a way that we control them and not the other way around, or at least on such a level where we’re at least equals with their forces.  This is no easy task; it took me several years of conjuration of the elements and planets, scrying and harmonizing and understanding the forces, before I even dared attempt a conjuration of the angel of the fixed stars to gain a glimpse into that sphere.  Without the planetary and elemental work behind me, I could not have been able to successfully parse together the new information and power I received, as well as understanding how it manifests through all the lower forces.

In that sense, perhaps this jump into scrying the odoi (paths) and sphairai (spheres) on the Tetractys isn’t meant as an introductory or novice activity.  In fact, if I were to teach mathesis as a lineage or as a school of occultism, the division between the powers of the Agnosis Schema and those of the Gnosis Schema suggest an outer circle and inner circle of students.  The outer circle would be those who have not yet made the jump from Agnosis to Gnosis, still remaining in the paths of the elements and planets.  They would be focusing on rudimentary magical skills, understanding the basics of divination and conjuration, understanding the spirits of this world in all their forms, education on the various forces of the cosmos and how to work with them, and the like.  All this would prepare them for the real work of the Gnosis Schema, the theurgy and ascension and subtle powers that they can only really understand after they have all the basics down.

In some ways, it’s a lot like martial art training.  Sure, you start with a white belt and proceed up the ranks to a black belt, and from the perception of non-black-belted people, getting your black belt is like a crowning achievement.  It is huge and a notable thing to obtain, don’t get me wrong, but it’s certainly not the be-all-end-all of the work.  In fact, all the training and testing leading up to the black belt is mere preparation; with the black belt, you finally become a real student and the real education begins, but only once you get that first rank in being a black belt.  In a similar way, being in the outer circle focused on the powers of the Agnosis Schema is a lot like working towards your black belt, just trying to learn the basic moves and motions that allow you to do more complex and natural motions and forms later on.  The initiation into the Gnosis Schema is like being presented with the black belt, but only the first degree of it; the real meat of mathesis lies in the Gnosis Schema, where the more profound power and knowledge lies.

Sure, you might have that black belt, but how good of a black belt are you?  As a black belt in a martial art, there’s always more training to do, more perfection of techniques, more refinement of motion, more fluidity and grace to be developed.  There truly is no end, and even the founder of a martial art themselves will constantly practice.  Hell, even the Buddha Shakyamuni was constantly in meditation after he achieved nirvana; yes, he was enlightened completely and utterly, but he still felt the need to meditate.  Even though he had attained the end of samsara and dependent arising, he still meditated.  Why?  Because there’s always more Work to do; he still needed better ways to teach, more things to delve into, more things to know beyond knowing or not knowing.  Even in his death and passing into paranirvana, the Buddha is thought of to have gone past all going-past into a state of gods-know-what.  It’s not an ending.  There’s never an ending.

Likewise, the process of going through the Gnosis Schema is cyclical.  You might have made one complete circuit around the Gnosis Schema, or you might have made a hundred; that hundred-first time can still get you more power, more knowledge, more gnosis that you didn’t get the first hundred times around.  And this isn’t limited to the schemata of mathetic theurgy, either; even in qabbalah with the Tree of Life, once you attained Ipsissimus and reached the sephirah of Kether, you could either keep going up into the Infinite Light and discovering more of the Infinite, or you could bring that light back down to Malkuth and start the process all over again.  It’s cyclical.  There is never truly an ending, neither in qabbalah nor in mathesis, neither in martial arts nor spiritual arts.  Trying to ascend to the gods or to the Divine Source itself is the most important and gravest undertaking, and to try to attempt it while alive is even more difficult.

So, if (on the off, distant, and unlikely chance) I were to start up a school that could teach people magic and the occult, let’s say I call it the Disciples of Hermes, or simply the Mathetai (from the Greek phrase οι Μαθηται του Ερμου, hoi Mathetai tou Hermou).  The mathetai, collectively, are those who study the occult science and philosophy under the overarching framework of mathesis.  I might actually divide it into three circles, not just two, based on the topic of study and where they are in relation to the schemata of the Tetractys, along with an extra division for people who aren’t involved at all:

  • The Agnostai (οι Αγνωσται, lit. “the unknowing”, sing. agnostes) are those who aren’t involved in mathesis, the occult, religion, or spirituality generally.  They’re on their own and are outside the reach and teachings of the Mathetai, either willingly or circumstantially, and are not initiated or educated in any sense of mathesis.
  • The Hypognostai (οι Υπογνωσται, lit. “those who are under knowledge”, sing. hypognostes) are those who have begun studying magic and the occult generally.  The focus here would be on an understanding of basic occult philosophy, the forces, spirits, and how to work with all of the above.  This covers all the basics, from conjuration of spirits and proper worship of gods to talismany and divination.  Basic meditation and prayer work would be taught as well, but only as a simple practice in simple ways to help the development of the Hypognostai in their other studies.  In this stage, one is still on the Agnosis Schema, but they begin their awareness of being caught up in it despite being prohibited from being taught about the schemata or deeper mysteries of the Tetractys.  Most of the material here can be taught from books, prepared documents, and demonstrations, usually under the direction of a teacher or more advanced student.
  • The Epignostai (οι Επιγνωσται, lit. “those who are approaching knowledge”, sing. epignostes) are those who have shown enough skill with the skills of the Hypognostai and have begun the process of synthesis and analysis (putting together and taking apart) in order to reform themselves into a proper stage of purity and self-awareness.  The focus here is on developing the skills of meditation and prayer and using them to continue the mastery of the skills of the Hypognostai, as well as developing them for their own sake to develop a firmer mastery of the mind and body itself.  Although still on the Agnosis Schema, the stage of epignosis is the process of forming the bridge from the middling sphairai around that of Mercury so as to begin the process of gnosis itself.  At the end of this stage, when the epignostes is ready, they are prepared for initiation into the Gnostai and the process of traveling the Gnosis Schema.  This stage is marked by more intense oral and practical teaching and less on books, although some research may be required for more difficult refinement of the skills of the Hypognostai.
  • The Gnostai (οι Γνωσται, lit. “the knowing”, sing. gnostes) are the ones who have entered into the mysteries of the Gnosis, having demonstrated enough mastery of the skills of the Hypognostai and Epignostai to be fit to travel along the Gnosis Schema with or without guidance.  A special connection between them and the gods, as well as of the Monad, is forged and they are allowed to penetrate into the deepest mysteries of the Tetractys.  Deeper meditation, theurgic rituals, and astral travel and inhabitation of the gods within the body is explored as well as to begin teaching other mathetai, as well as other mysteries that would never be told to anyone who hadn’t already attained a particular level of spiritual development and growth.

In a sense, the three circles are modeled after the “three parts of wisdom” as described by Hermes Trismegistus in the Emerald Tablet: the three sciences of alchemy, astrology, and theurgy.  In this instance, the science of alchemy would be given to the Hypognostai through the transformation of lower materials into higher ones, either metaphorically or actively; the science of astrology would be given to the Epignostai, who must understand the connections between above and below in order to ascend between and around the worlds while harnessing their power; the science of theurgy would be given to the Gnostai, who work towards the Source and Divinity itself by building upon both astrology and alchemy.  In a sense, though, alchemy is also given to the Gnostai, since the twelve signs of the zodiac (and, correspondingly, the twelve paths on the Gnosis Schema) are associated with twelve common processes of alchemy, and thus the cycle begins anew.  Being inducted into the Gnostai, after all, is by no means the end of the journey, but truly the start; everything before that is just preparation.

While there’d be no formal levels beyond that of the Gnostai (though a fifth and hypothetical circle could be proposed, the Metagnostai, those who are beyond knowledge, could be set up for divine or heroic entities who guide and nurture the school as a whole akin to the Secret Chiefs of the Golden Dawn), I’m sure it might arise that there’d be an Archegnostes (ο Αρχεγνωστης), a “first gnostes” or teacher of teachers in the Mathetai, or the Aristognostai (οι Αριστογνωσται), the “best gnostai” or council of senior gnostai who govern and instruct the school as a whole, both in terms of judging the capabilities of particular students as well as organizing teaching and management for the school.  Of course, parts of these responsibilities might be delegated to the Epignostai, but the teachers (bless their hearts) have to both manage spiritual and worldly responsibilities with this.

Of course, I’m letting my imagination run freer than a tabletop RPG gamer drawing up a new character sheet just before a campaign.  Mathesis is still brand new and largely unexplored as a magical system, I’m still barely into my own practice generally and mathetically, and here I am already planning on not just taking a few students but setting up a whole school for it.  I have plenty on my plate before I even try to attempt any of this sort of dissemination of wisdom to the world who so badly needs it, but at the same time, who can say what’ll happen but the gods?  Maybe in another ten or twenty years or so, secret societies and orders will be a thing again, and maybe I’ll have just enough under my belt to actually start helping others in studying this.

Foundations of Ritual

I’ve gotten a few requests from people for me to teach them magic and ritual.  This is fantastic;  I’m glad people are eager to learn more about themselves, their place in the cosmos, their innate godhood, and everything like that.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I started writing this blog, not just to vent and show people the things I do and how easy(?) putting Hermetics to use is.  That said, I’m hesitant to teach, not only because I find myself as-yet unworthy of having students, but also because I don’t consider it possible to teach anyone magic as an isolated subject; one doesn’t “just learn” magic, just as one cannot “just learn” how to build a spaceship or “just learn” protein synthesis.  Before I even consider taking up anyone as a student of mine, I insist that they have the proper foundations that provide the context in which ritual magic can be done.

For anyone to learn anything, they need to have a strong foundation upon which they can build.  For ritual magic, indeed, any life that involves ritual, those foundations are myth, technology, and reason.  Above the others, however, myth is the single-most important factor in any magician’s knowledge.

It’s important to understand what I mean when I say “myth”.  I don’t mean a set of fanciful stories about primitive worldviews or pre-scientific notions of how things work.  I mean “myth” in the classical sense: the overarching backstory to the world, the legends that fuel our lives, and the causes for things.  Myth has been described as “ideology in narrative form” and, to a large extent, I agree with this.  Instead of understanding it as a collection of stories, you might interpret myth as “theory” or “philosophy”; myth provides the reason for us to live our lives in the world we happen to live in.  If your worldview includes gods, then the mythos you should learn will involve those gods, their natures, their stories, their likes and dislikes, and their adventures and pleasures and wraths.  If your worldview is atheistic and focused on energies, then the mythos you should learn will involve the background of energy, how it works, how it flows, and how it affects and is affected by other things in the cosmos.  If your worldview is based around emanationist Qabbalah, then the mythos you should learn will involve the sephiroth, the planets, the elements, the angels, God and his different names and forms, and how events in any sphere of existence are reflected, affected, and effected by other spheres.  Myth provides the theoretical framework upon which myth is based upon; it can be as terse as tables of correspondences, or it can be as flowery as ancient histories and stories passed down by mouth from one generation to the next.

Technology, on the other hand, might be considered the opposite of myth.  Technology is the study of useful skills, arts, and crafts.  Knowing how things should be in the ideal world is one thing, but knowing how to accomplish things in the real world is quite another.  While technology can involve any sort of tool usage, it can also include methodologies such as procedures to make something, from food to clothing to houses to jewelry.  Anything you do down in this world involves technology in some way; learning how to use technology efficiently and powerfully is important in being successful in the world.  Something doesn’t have to be hi-tech to be considered technology here; writing systems, calendars, proper usage of heat to cook food, and eloquent speaking can all be considered technologies, as can building windmills, solar panels, computers, jewelry, or orgone accelerators.  Technology uses the world around us to make or change something for a particular end with a particular method and process.  If you’re a computer scientist, then your technology should consist of programming languages, setting up computers, managing RAID storage systems, and the like.  If you’re a chef, then your technology should consist of knives and other implements, cutting foodstuffs for preparation, using ovens and stoves and grills, and presentation of food for aesthetic pleasure, and the like.  If you’re a masseuse, then your technology should consist of strong hands and arms, energy manipulation, proper oils for lubrication and sensuality, and the like.  Technology is what we do down here to do stuff.

Reason is the bridge that combines mythos with technology for a higher aim.  This is essentially logic, but not necessarily the formal logic of mathematicians and legalists.  Logic here can consist of that, but it can also consist of emotions (how to feel better), survival (how to keep living), economics (how to become wealthier), or philosophy (how to live better), and other styles.  Reason uses myth as its values and axioms, upon which all arguments and actions can be based; everything else that follows is either a logical derivative of myth (e.g. if Aphrodite dislikes Helios for revealing her tryst with Ares, it follows that involving the powers of Venus and the Sun in the same place may not end up well) or an application of mythos with technology (e.g. if Aphrodite likes apples due to the whole Paris-Helen thing, one should probably sacrifice apples to Aphrodite).  Reason is what allows myths, tables of correspondences, divine preferences, and stories to be effected in the world using technology, as well as being what allows technological results to form more myths.  Understanding the causes and effects of things in a strictly material sense, strictly spiritual sense, and some combination of material and spiritual senses involves reason all around.  Figuring out “how things work” in a technological sense within a mythological framework involves reason every step of the way.

So, consider the case where someone wants to build a spaceship.  First, they need to understand the mythos of spaceships: the physical theory behind flight both in air and in space, the mathematical knowledge of arithmetic and calculus, the material properties of steel and aluminum, the theoretical programming of spaceship software, gravity, meteorology, and the like.  They also need to have a solid technological footing to build spaceships: how to cut metal apart and rivet it back together, how to wire computers together, how to set up an air ventilation and water filtration system, where to purchase fuel from, where and when to launch from, and the like.  They also need to have reason: how will the dynamics of space travel affect the integrity of the ship, how will high-acceleration and low-gravity environments affect the human body, where it might be legal to build and launch a spaceship, whether it’s a good idea given one’s finances and health to build and launch a spaceship, and the like.  No matter what, though, the theoretical knowledge (the “myth”) behind building spaceships is most important, because one cannot figure out whether a spaceship will work without knowing the mathematics and physics behind spaceships.

All these same things come into play when working with magic, just with different mythos, technology, and reason.  This is why I insist that, for people who want to learn my style of magic and Hermetics, someone have an exceptionally strong footing in the classical stories of European literature, such as the Homeric Cycle, the Bible, apocryphal and philosophical texts from different European and Mediterranean religions, tables of correspondences and qualities of the elements and planets and zodiac signs and lunar mansions, astrology and astrological timing, etc. Beyond the others, myth is the single most important foundation someone can and must have in order to learn magic and ritual.  All ritual takes place within mythology, whether it’s building a spaceship within the mythos of physics, making a talisman within the mythos of astrology, or making sacrifices within the mythos of a particular deity.  The technology can be picked up as one learns and grows, and the reason to link mythos with technology can be cultivated over time to produce new and hitherto-unknown ritual, but myth is that which guides and directs us to pick up either the needed technologies to implement it or the reason to bind it and bridge the gap between technology and myth.

Myth should never be dismissed as something that is merely primitive.  Myth is the foundation for our lives, and if all ritual is an extrapolation or extension of life itself, then ritual is even more based on myth than our lives.  Ritual brings myth into our lives and makes our lives into living myths; if one has no myth, one will necessarily have no ritual.

Getting Burnt by the Stars, part 2: Stop Worrying and Love the Burn

Last time, I talked about the costs of magic.  It sucks, and it costs, and it will burn everything from your bank account to your soul itself, but magic is worth it.  Magic is the locked gate that keeps higher fulfillment and human realization from most of the world, and magic is the golden key that unlocks the mysteries to attaining them.  It may have a high price, but it has an even higher payoff that makes magic worth it.

Being a magician for only a few years now, but having the success and results of people who’re far older than I am (I credit having good teachers, good friends, and good allies abounding), I’ve learned a few things that helps in minimizing the burn, or at least in maintaining onself through being burned, so as to keep on keeping on.  This works for me, and I can only suggest it as part of a daily practice and regular maintenance in any magician’s life.  Even these steps may suck at times, but they help overall in minimizing the real burn going on from the real magic.

  1. Sanitize.  Keep your entire sphere clean and cleansed, from the basest material components to the highest intellectual and divine ones.  Air out your house, vacuum your carpets, sweep the floorboards, dust the fanblades, wash the car, light the candles, burn the camphor, sprinkle the holy water, clean all the things.  Asperge yourself with holy water or other cleansing agents frequently.  Do regular banishing and force balancing on yourself.  Recleanse and reconsecrate your tools, talismans, and ritual space every so often.  The more astral dirt you accrue by tracking it in from the higher spheres, or the more dust you bring in from inviting higher ups down into your house, the more confused and imbalanced things get down here and up there alike.  Keep yourself, your surroundings, your tools, and your mind clean, cleansed, and clear.
  2. Learn.  You can’t do anything if you don’t know how to do it.  Read any and all books you can get your hands on magic, philosophy, religion, spirituality, mathematics, literature, mythology, archaeology, linguistics, folk traditions, fiction ancient and new, science, engineering, history, economics, crafting, and more.  Take classes in whatever you have an interest in, whether it’s related to magic or not.  Talk with friends about their hobbies, experiences, stories, advice, warnings, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires.  Expanding your mind also expands the potential horizons you can explore, no matter how innocuous or trivial something may seem.  Don’t harbor any biases on what you read, study, or discuss; keep an open mind and admit anything with practical merit.  Go on roadtrips just to see new things.  Walk in big cities to see new faces and fashions.  Read blogs with political opinions opposite yours (but are well-written and reasoned).
  3. Protect.  If you’ve got one foot in the door to get into the mysteries, you also leave the door ajar for ethereal nasties to come at you.  Don’t let them.  Set up barriers, shields, or guards around your house.  Make protective charms, phylacteries, or enchanted trinkets to keep on yourself.  Find out what force you best resonate with and manipulate it to act as a shield around you.  Always keep an eye out for anything awry or ominous.  Create a few magical or ritual weapons to call on or call up when needed.  Create magical oils or incenses to keep out bad things and keep in good things.  Be mindful of barriers, boundaries, and circles that have already been erected.  Don’t go looking for bad stuff just to mess with it for shits and giggles.
  4. Breathe.  Breathing is the source of life down here, and aspiration shares the same root with “inspiriation” and “spirit”.  By knowing, feeling, and controlling our breath we control our voice level, our speech and diction, our bloodflow, our thought patterns, and ultimately ourselves who are tied into material reality just as we are into spiritual reality.  Breathing is the crux of meditation, and meditation is the crux of knowing yourself, which is the holiest injunction humanity has.  Breathing, just breathing, is magical in and of itself; it’s what animates us, ensouls us, and keeps us alive and living.  Breathing is the foundation of magic, and breathing must be known, understood, and integrated constantly with oneself in order to progress.
  5. Pray.  Humans, powerful as we are, were never meant to be alone in any sense of the word, nor can we make it to our goals on our own.  We need help, and prayer is how we obtain it.  Pray for guidance, for patience, for mercy, for compassion, for humility, for forgiveness, for health, for sight, for knowledge, for wisdom, for authority, for power, for light (and in that order).  Pray the Source, the gods, the angels, the celestials, the elementals, the dead, and each other for their blessings, advice, guidance, alignment, unity, and boons.  Pray to know how to use the blessings and boons given to us to the best of our abilities and for the best result for all of us.  Pray with praise, pray with emotion, pray with silence.  Pray with your entire body, soul, spirit and mind.  Pray every day, pray several times a day.  Pray.
  6. Stay healthy.  Humans are amphibious, both spiritual and physical.  Magic is largely focused on the spiritual, but it always needs to bring the spiritual and astral down into the material and physical.  Be sure you don’t neglect your body, because that’s the primary vehicle you have to work magic, and the one tool you’ll always have with you in the world.  Get enough sleep every night.  Go to bed at the same time every night.  Get enough to eat every day, but no more.  Eat the proper things in the proper amounts.  Shower, wash your hair, brush your hair, brush your teeth, floss your teeth, exfoliate, deodorize.  Get at least half an hour of light physical activity every day.  Expose yourself to the elements once every so often.  Go outside and enjoy the sunlight, moonlight, starlight, wind, mist, clouds, rain, rivers, oceans, dirt, trees, and animals.  “Healthy” has its roots in the same word as “whole”, and you need to stay whole physically in order to spiritually progress wholesomely.
  7. Get dirty.  Actually go out into the world and remind yourself that you’re still a physical, material being that has physical, material needs.  Everything in moderation, yes, but also including moderation: get sick, get jacked up, get fucked up, get high, get rich, get poor, get happy, get sad, get angry, get lonely, get loved.  We’re human beings to experience human life, after all, and without that experience we’ve ultimately failed at out birth’s purpose.  Getting ourselves meshed in human life, living in the world while not wholly of it, helps keep things in perspective and shows the power of the cleansing, cleaning, Light-bearing work we’re doing.  Plus, getting dirty helps us realize that even the dirt is pure and holy, that nothing is truly separate from the Source from which it came.
  8. Do it.  Complain however much you like or don’t complain at all; magic is going to suck no matter what.  That doesn’t change the fact that you’re a magician to do magic.  Do it.  Do it now.  There’s no other way, time, or place to do it.  Just do it.

The more you burn up, the more of you there is to burn until burning doesn’t need to happen anymore.  Don’t worry about what’s burnt up and gone.  Worry about what you have left to burn and what can still be purified and transmuted into the pure divine essence we really are and should be.

I’m prone to gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums generally from plaque.  Part of it’s my own dietary and hygienic habits, and part of it is my genetics and natural body’s processes.  That doesn’t mean I need to have gingivitis, much less that I should.  How do I keep my gums clean and free from the disease?  More toothbrushing, flossing daily, rinsing with mouthwash, and watching what and when I eat.  Does this all get easier with time?  Nope; it still takes as much time the hundredth day as it did the first, the same spots in my gums still need maintenance, and my food choices are still as obnoxious as ever.  Is the payoff worth it?  Totally; my teeth are whiter, my breath stinks less, my gums bleed less, and my mouth is generally healthier than before.  The payoff here is worth the cost of the daily maintenance, and if (heavens forbid) I ever have to go under for a root canal or other major dental operation, it’ll all go easier before, during, and after due to my lack of gingivitis and better oral care.

Magic works much the same way.  Dealing with the raw forces of creation and the stars is dangerous and you risk not being able to handle the influx of those energies without the proper maintenance.  Laying the foundation of daily practice to stabilize, sanctify, and secure your life goes a long way in dealing with the heavy machinery of the cosmos.  If you don’t have the rest of your house in order, don’t expect good times to result when you invite emissaries and presidents of foreign planes of existence in.  If you have your house and life in order and prepared in the proper way, you’ll still have to go through the paperwork and shopping and security drama, but the emissaries and presidents will be more pleased, more willing, and more able to help you who’ve helped yourself so much without them.  Daily or regular mainteance takes time and effort all in itself, and that’s not even where the real heart of magic lies, but it’s that very same regular maintenance that builds the tower to get to it.

How to Learn a New System (of Anything)

By now, it might be apparent to most of my readers that I’m a student and practitioner of geomancy.  And, while I don’t mean to brag, I also wouldn’t be too far from the truth to say that I’m one of the most experienced geomancers this half of the Mississippi (though, given the dearth of modern geomancers, that’s not a terribly difficult claim to make).  Geomancy is an interesting system that works really well with a lot of Western occult traditions, has been called the little sister of astrology by past occultists, and predates Tarot by centuries.  It’s a pretty nifty system and style of divination, I claim, and is made all the more fascinating by its mythological Hermetic and historical Saharan origins.

However, it’s just one system of divination out there, and there are many.  Western occultists, including most modern ceremonial magicians and neopagans, often use Tarot, astrology, and runes as their first and preferred divination systems, for instance, and that’s to say nothing of the various different kinds of *mancies that have arisen across the world since time immemorial.  Just as in any other system of thought or practice, we tend to be biased towards the first system we learn; speakers of foreign languages tend to retain their native language’s phonology inventory and retain an accent, programmers raised to use one programming paradigm try to fit other paradigms into their own, and so forth.  This is just the same as in magic and divination, but the risk to holding onto our “first taught, always retained” biases is somewhat greater than awkward sentence structure.

Consider a person who really likes using the Elder Futhark as a divination means, and who is then interested in geomancy.  The angular, point-based structure of geomancy may intrigue them, say, and the shapes the points of geomantic figures make when connected may resemble runes to some people.  Naturally, being intimately familiar with the symbology and meanings of the runes of Elder Futhark, the rune diviner will try to relate their cosmos to the 24 runes first before considering the 16 geomantic figures.  However, the mapping is not always clean or consistent; the geomantic figure Amissio has a similar graphical structure to the Futhark rune othala, which may lead one to think that they have similar divinatory meanings.  However, consider what they mean:

  • In geomancy, Amissio refers to loss in all its meanings: things are gone, going away, taken away, stolen, out of reach, missing, misplaced, left behind, waning, subsiding, or decreasing.  It is beneficial in romance (losing one’s heart to another) and in illness (getting rid of a cold instead of catching one), but is generally unfortunate in all other situations (since humanity likes to keep, gain, or increase things instead of the opposite).
  • In the Elder Futhark, Othala refers to ancestral property and all that it entails: inheritance, history, culture, wealth, things of value and importance on a spiritual or sentimental level, safety, increase, and abundance.

Despite the graphical similarities, Amissio and Othala are two entirely different symbols meaning almost the exact opposite meanings; further, Amissio’s inverse figure Acquisitio (Gain) and Othala reversed (or merkstave Othala) also mean almost the exact the opposite things.  After all, geomancy has its origins thousands of miles, hundreds of years, and many cultures away from the birth of runes, with different attributions, uses, and correspondences drawn between their figures and symbols in other systems.

Although drawing correspondences between different systems or styles of thought is often helpful, it can’t be done on such a superficial level.  Moreover, you can’t simply translate things from one system to another without taking into account how they were formed and how they’re actually being used.  For instance, although Mars is often seen as the planet of war, in Mesoamerican cultures, it was Venus that fulfilled the same role due to different circumstances and perceptions on the same exact planet and celestial object.  Whole systems need to be treated as such until they’re learned intimately and deeply enough to be blended when and where appropriate.  This is the big complaint that some traditional astrologers (especially Christopher Warnock) have with people learning their systems when coming from a modern viewpoint, and I agree with them most of the way.

Am I saying you can’t draw connections between disparate systems of knowledge?  Heavens above and hells below, no!  I’m saying that you need to be smart and thoroughly learn a system in its entirety from scratch and first principles before trying to relate it to another system.  Without starting from scratch and learning how a beginner would in that own system, thinking that you know enough of your own to bust headlong into a new, radically different system will only lead to failure.  It’s like the Athenian and Chinese scientists in Richard Garfinkle’s book “Celestial Matters” (which I think should be highly recommended reading for most Western occultists); each is familiar with their own system of elements, medicine, alchemy, and astrology, but when faced with that of another, they find nothing but confusion and difficulty because they haven’t actually bothered to learn how the other system works.  They kept trying to overlay an entirely foreign system of thought with their own, which just doesn’t work.  In much the same way, it’s like trying to understand the Basque language using an English grammar book, or the symbols of geomancy using runic divination.