“The Adocentyn Temple Almanac” Preferences Questionnaire

This is just a quick update for tonight, but for once, I’d like some input from you, my amazing and darling readers.

As some of you might recall or have seen me go on about on Twitter, I’ve been working on a bit of a fun project lately, an automated almanac project that I call “The Adocentyn Temple Almanac” (or TATA for short, because I’m cute like that).  This is a project where, using the well-loved Swiss Ephemeris codebase and typesetting the output with LaTeX into something nice, I can produce a customizable almanac document for (almost) any populated latitude, longitude, and altitude on Earth.  It’s my hope that this becomes a truly useful thing for people: after all, can you imagine having a customized astrological/astronomical almanac for your very own temple room in your house or communal space, specific for where you might actually stand and see the stars?  My plan is, in exchange for a modest fee, to produce this almanac (made custom for each person, with a preliminary check to see what information they’d like) as a high-quality PDF, which you can have on your mobile device or laptop as needed, or which you can send off to a printer to have a hardcopy for on-hand off-line reference in your own temple space.

I’ve been working on TATA on and off for a bit now, and I’ve gotten a lot of features built into it already (all of which can be turned on or off as a user might desire):

  • Sun ingress Zodiac signs and decans
  • Sun transit seasons and season midpoints
  • Moon ingress Zodiac signs and lunar mansions
  • Moon phases
  • First and last sightings of the Moon
  • Solar and lunar eclipse times
  • Lunar month day numbers
  • Decan day numbers (using my “rebalanced true degree method” I mentioned in an earlier post)
  • Rising sign and culminating sign windows
  • Rising, setting, culminating, and settling times for the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars
  • Planetary hours
  • Simple ritual windows

Even so, however, because I have a perfectionist streak and because I want this to be the best, most useful, and most flexible bit of software that I can make it, I need your help to figure out what else I should build into this!  After all, there are some things that I just don’t know whether they’d be popular or some things I just don’t know about in general, and there are other things that I do know about and haven’t yet developed because I don’t know how desirable they’d be.  For that, I need to turn to you—yes, you!—to let me know what you think.

If you’re interested in helping me out with, please fill out this questionnaire on Google Forms.  You’ll need a Google account to take it, but this way you can change your responses afterwards if you have a wit-of-the-stair moment and need to add in something later.  It should only take about ten to thirty minutes, depending on your speed of answering and thinking about possibilities, but do feel free to suggest in the questionnaire whatever you might like!  After you’ve taken it, please also share this post (or my post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter) to your magical, astrological, priestly, occult, or spooky friends to also get their input.  I’ll keep everyone updated, to be sure, as this is a project I hope to bring to light and made accessible for anyone interested before the end of 2020, so please be sure to get your answers in soon to help guide my continuing effort on TATA!

A Classification of Magical…Things

I mentioned before that I’m digitizing my personal vademecum (or grimoire, or spellbook, or book of shadows, or what-have-you), which is a really nifty project for me.  For one, it gives me a chance to keep my LaTeX skills in shape, which is something I suggest anyone familiar with HTML or scientific/professional/Linux publishing pick up.  For two, it help keeps all my rituals, prayers, and recipes in a single document.  For three, eventually when my hand-written journal gets full, I plan on printing out a copy of my grimoire through Lulu or something and probably suffumigating it in a holocaust of my old moleskine, just for the magical oomph (I’ll be sure to add in at least as many blank pages for further additions).  For four, if I ever take on an apprentice, I can just print off a copy of this book and give it to them as a starting grimoire, referring to it as necessary.

Well, part of doing this digital vademecum thing right involves organization.  For my handwritten vademecum, there’s no organization involved; simply put in things as I find them.  This leads to Orphic hymns mixed in with Solomonic invocations and pagan apotropaia, which makes finding things more and more obnoxious.  To that end, organizing my spells, prayers, rituals, and whatnot is a fantastic thing, especially with how flexible LaTeX can be.  The downside is that I actually have to go through the process of organization, and that’s where things can get hairy.

I’m deciding on something like a five-fold organization of the different aspects of my practice

  • Prayers: holy words to reach out to cosmic forces.  No ritual, few gestures if any, and no specific intent is ascribed to the individual prayers, though they may be focused on a particular circumstance.
  • Rituals: theurgic practices, high magic, and the like.  Conjurations, consecrations, empowerments, and such easily fit here, though sometimes the difference between Rituals and Prayers can be difficult to discern.
  • Works: thaumaturgic practices, spells, low magic, and the like.  While Rituals focus on cosmic power and celestial or elemental forces, Works focuses on the material, immediate, or quick sides of things.  In a sense, Works is like Rituals Lite; while the latter may involve heavy drama and gear, Works may require maybe a short muttered prayer and a gesture or two.
  • Layouts: the aesthetic, geometric, and philosophical foundation for materials and organizations used in the Work.  Circles of Art, pentacles, altar layouts, sigil creation, and the like go here; permanent tools or intangible processes are what this section focuses on.
  • Recipes: the process and production of materials used.  While Layouts consists of tools or setups, Recipes consists of consumable, perishable, or depletable supplies.  Things like holy water and consecrated candles can either go here or in Rituals, depending on the process used, but Recipes mostly consists of the physical, material, tangible side of things, while Rituals deals with the occult and spiritual side.

To some people, I’m sure this just sounds like organization for the sake of organization.  To me, though, it’s a useful key to figure out the different aspects needed to draw from for a given project.  Say I have an intent, like “I want a new car”; what might I do to obtain it?  I could use prayer to ask for the right circumstances and aid in the matter, a ritual to formally establish my desire and work with the forces of the cosmos to set things up, works or light rituals to keep things active and in my favor throughout the day, a particular layout or method to handle the occult side of things, and a recipe for an oil or powder to make people more amenable to my cause in the process.  It’s not quite a four-level or three-level model of existence, and the different aspects can often be intertwined: a conjuration (ritual) can use a particular invocation (prayer) and consecrated oil (ritual + recipe) using a particular altar format (layout) to obtain a certain goal.

Then again, trying to differentiate out prayers from rituals from works can be a hairy process.  It’s really similar to differentiating religion from magic: what’s legit, what’s not, what’s theurgic, what’s thaumaturgic, what’s official, what’s shady, and so forth.  Consider the Invocations to the Planets from the Picatrix: they’re long-winded prayers, but at the same time, it’s a magical operation.  Do they belong in Prayers, like with the Orphic Hymns to the planets, or do they belong in Rituals?  If the former, what about the ritual or magical side?  If the latter, what about the magical use of other prayers to specific deities or planets?  Sometimes, I go by the source of the text (Picatrix is a magical work, Pythagorean or Orphic literature is more religious or plainly spiritual, etc.), and sometimes I go by how they’re often used.

What are your thoughts on organization?  Do you organize your personal libraries, books of shadows, or rituals?  How do you decide what’s sufficiently theurgic or thaumaturgic for you, if you care to distinguish between them at all?

Sidenote: I’ve been making a lot of blog posts this week, and have a few backed up for a rainy day.  I was really confused at why I was all of a sudden being so productive (at least for my blog), then realized I’ve been working with Mercurial forces for, like, a week straight starting with the Mercury Cazimi election last Monday, plus some nontrivial Mercury transits going on at the moment.  How cute.

Digital Vademecum of the Digital Ambler

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

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

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

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

Also, two notes:

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