Reviewing and Renewing my Offering to All Spirits

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I could share with him one of my old documents, a digitization of my vademecum that I keep with me as my own personal prayer book and handbook for ritual and ceremony.  I had designs to digitize it and maintain a cleaner, more organized version of it, but I never really got that off the ground.  Still, it did serve as an excellent resource for all the stuff I didn’t want to copy by hand into my vademecum, and I’m glad I kept it up for as long as I did, because I apparently forgot about it sometime in, like, 2014.  It had honestly and completely skipped my mind entirely until my friend reminded me of it, so I dug through my Documents folder and, would you believe it, look at all this awesome stuff I was amassing.  (Including a bunch of recipes that I’m personally thrilled to remember again, thank God and the gods.)

One of the entries in my vademecum is an old prayer I was using at the time for a general offering to the spirits.  Not just for a specific spirit, not for a fill-in-the-blank template, but as an honest offering to all spirits of incense and water.  I wrote about it on my blog back in 2012, and gave my general framework for it then and the prayer as I had it then.  According to what I wrote (you’d be surprised what you forget over six years), at the time I was in the habit of generally making “this offering as the first offering I do after my prayers to the Almighty, so that any other spirit I call upon afterwards can also partake of the offering as they come into the area of the altar”.  I apparently stopped this practice at some point, and six years later, I can certainly recall why and why I might not recommend this practice as commonly or frequent as I once would have.

To start with, this prayer and offering practice was influenced by my friends taking Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery class, who shared some of their tech with me.  (If you noticed similarities between my phrasing of things and the phrasing of Strategic Sorcery offering prayers, well, now you know where it came from.)  Jason Miller talks about why we would make such offerings in a recent post of his on generating sorcerer’s luck, when he specifically talks about making daily and widespread offerings:

Not just to specific spirits, but widespread offerings. We use four classes in Strategic Sorcery, but it is good enough to just make an offering to the spirits of the air, land, and underworld where you live. Pour some libarion, light some incense. Do it every day.  Do. It. Every. Day. Not feeling receptive” today? Not feeling “into it”? Not “in the right headspace”? Do it anyway. It’s not about you.  Take care of the spirits and the spirits will take care of you. Shit will start to work out almost as if the universe is conspiring with you. 1000 unnamed helpers from the land in which you live often outweigh the influence of the Archdemon that you spent 3 hours conjuring.

In a general sense, I agree with Jason, because making offerings is a way to build a relationship with the spirits.  It’s like a quote I shared on my Facebook recently, attributed to the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry: “We offer sacrifices to the gods for three reasons: that we may venerate, that we may give thanks, and that we may implore from them things necessary and avert from ourselves things evil”.  By making offerings to the spirits—light, incense, libation, food, blood, song, art, prayer, energy, what have you—we build a relationship with the spirits we engage with, nourish them, strengthen them, and fortify our connection to them.  It’s a wonderful thing to do, whether you think of yourself as a mage or a priest or just as a spiritually thoughtful and considerate person, no matter where you live or what you do.  By showing respect and offering tribute to the higher entities of the cosmos and nourishment to the lower ones, we build up our spiritual networks that we can call upon for any number of ends.

And yet…well, I can’t help but feel anymore that such general offerings, without some limitation or focus or modification to one’s environments, can just as easily be deleterious to one’s safety and stability, or cause other problems that need to be resolved.  Case in point, in fact the very case that got me to scale back these sorts of offerings to begin with: one time I was making my normal prayers in my old apartment, and…something just felt off.  Not wrong, but like there was something there that shouldn’t be, something there that was stuck awkwardly.  It took me a bit to catch on, but there was a spirit stuck in my window.  Like, not trapped in the windowpane, but a spirit that was stuck half-in half-out through my window, like a big dog that tried to get through too small a pet door.  I was caught off-guard when I turned my gaze towards the poor spirit that got stuck there, and the conversation we had basically clarified what happened: it heard my offering prayer and wanted to partake, but something about the protections I had set up on my property had prevented its access inside, while at the same time it was drawn to partake in the offerings within that same property.  This ended up causing an inadvertent trap for the spirit, and it could neither fully enter nor leave as it had gotten so stuck within the property’s spiritual boundaries.  I ended up punching a hole in the protections to the place, gave it offerings of its own, and sent it on its way, but it got me thinking: in my generosity, I was making a banquet for all sorts of spirits, not all of which would normally be permitted entry to my property given my protections, and yet I wasn’t making the right allowances for them.  On top of that, I was also reminded that for those same spirits who were able to partake, how would I be able to keep my property clean and cleansed, and how could I get those spirits to mosey on out if they got too used to enjoying regular offerings to me, without providing any other benefit?

Consider: our resources, supplies, time, and energy are inherently limited.  We might have access to infinity through whatever choice and selection of divinity we work with and call upon, but our capacity to accept and disperse them is limited.  We only have so many hours in the day, we only have so many cups for offerings, we only have so many sticks of incense we can spare, we only have so much attention we can devote to our necessities and chores and obligations.  There’s also the classical notion that we should always give enough, but not too much, so that we might always have something to give, and indeed, my own practices have long since shifted to making offerings only when necessary, and even then, only making the necessary offerings.  This helps prevent certain spirits from getting spoiled and taking us for granted, and it also helps keep me in check so that I don’t get worn out or resentful from always giving so much for the mere sake of giving.  And even then, not all spirits are worth making offerings to; while all spirits are worthy of existence and respect, just like people are, not every spiritual person needs to truck with every spirit.  Some spirits are harmful for us to work with, and some spirits are just those that offerings shouldn’t be received by our hands; I know that, even despite my own good intentions, some spirits find my mere presence harmful, while they might find the presence of my friend more acceptable and so could more easily accept offerings from them.

I understand Jason’s point of view; after all, he’s very much a tantric sorcerer and Buddhist, and in that system, offerings should be widespread, general, and for all sentient beings in all levels of the world.  Really, the systems of offerings he teaches are a kind of very lite chöd, which is wonderful and easy enough for people to pick up and practice without too much danger, so long as they’re diligent about it (and isn’t that really the whole problem right there?).  But in my worldview and practice, that’s not the case; there are some spirits that we simply don’t have any business dealing with or making offerings to, there are some spirits that take us for granted, and there are some spirits that we’re simply not the best ones to make offerings from them even if they want/need them and even if we want to give it to them.  Rather, it’s generally better to at least have an idea of who it is you’re making offerings to, enter into some sort of relationship with them, and gradually build up to making offerings through completion and fulfillment of vows, making offerings for special occasions, and then if the relationship proves itself to be beneficial for the both of you, then making regular offerings.  But even then, there’s also the risk of attracting spirits that we don’t necessarily want around us after the fact; making general offerings can pick up nasty, unwelcome, or harmful spirits who see the offering as a good free meal and then might help themselves to more without you wanting them to, but hey, you’re the one who invited them to begin with.

By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t making offerings for the benefit of all sentient spirits, or for spirits generally, but what I am saying is that you need to be smart about it.  The way I was doing it was wrong, because it ended up being harmful for some spirits that wanted to partake but couldn’t break through the protections I had on my house properly for such a meal, and I know that others who make such offerings often also pick up unwanted spirits that linger around them and cause them more problems down the line that need to be taken care of through banishing and exorcisms that necessarily are harsher than they otherwise would have been.  You need to be careful when making offerings in such a general, widespread format: you need to make sure the door is open enough for them to enter, you need to make sure you keep yourself clean and your place cleansed, and you need to make sure your guests don’t overstay their welcome.  If you can manage all that, you’re set, but figuring out how to do that is part of the problem, isn’t it?  Truth be told, I can easily pick out what went wrong in my earlier practices, and my own mistakes and missteps.

To that end, I took another look at that old offering prayer of mine.  I like the idea, sentiment, and underlying purpose of it, but now that I’m a little older and a little more experienced and wary, there are some changes I’d make to the thing, including the wording of the prayer itself (my writing skills, I like to think, have improved with time).  So, I made the changes, and I’d like to present my updated prayer and methodology here.  One of the most important changes I made to the prayer was that I stopped beckoning the spirits to come to me, so no more “come, all you spirits” again and again; this prevented a need for spirits to try to come to me or enter into my property, because part of the prayer dedicates the offerings to specifically flow out from their place of offering into the rest of the cosmos, so that really, the offerings would come to them rather than the spirits having to come to the offerings.

For this ritual, you will need a simple cup of clean, fresh water and either one stick or three sticks of some generally-pleasing incense.  The water should be left unmixed with anything, though may be sweetened with a drop of honey or rosewater if truly desired; the cup itself is best one dedicated to spiritual work, and better dedicated solely for this specific kind of general offering, but this is not necessary so long as it’s been cleaned and cleansed after each use.  For incense, frankincense is always a good option, but scents like sandalwood, benzoin, sweet or mild musk, jasmine, rose, amber, and the like are also plenty fine; avoid anything too strong, potent, sharp, bitter, or sour.  Blended incenses are perfect, so long as they’re pleasantly fragrant enough without being overpowering.  You don’t need to use sticks, although I find them convenient; if you prefer to go with loose incense, feel free.  Although I like having a candle burning during all my prayers and spiritual work, with an exorcism and/or blessing said over it, it’s not necessary for this offering, as it’s not something being offered to the spirits themselves, although you may find it helpful just in case.  Other offerings, such as food, flowers, candles, and the like may also be set out, but those are entirely extra and unnecessary.  In this case, it’s better to keep the offering simple, short, and clean.

Ideally, this offering would take place in a neutral area, such as an outdoors place not on your own property, or in a place that is not otherwise bounded by spiritual protections belonging to some specific person or ruling entity.  Ideal places for this would be a park, field, crossroads, beach, or some other place that cannot be said to belong to anyone.  It is inadvisable to perform this offering in a place that is controlled by someone else, such as a sacred precinct, church, a place known to be claimed by a particular divinity or spirit, or someone else’s property.  Otherwise, it may be performed in your own home or on your own property, though you may need to ward and protect yourself accordingly to permit the offering to pass from the property without allowing anything baneful to enter in by the same way.  Depending on how you feel afterwards, you may want to follow up this offering with banishing to make sure nothing sticks around that shouldn’t.

When ready, wash your hands, set the cup of water and the incense out on a clean surface, whether on the ground or on a low table or other elevated surface.  Light the incense and let it begin rising through the air.  Hold your arms out, palms upward and out as in the orans gesture and recite the prayer aloud to the spirits:

Hear me, all you spirits, by whatever name you take, by whatever form you take!
Hear me, all you spirits, before, behind, beside, below, or above me who call you!
Hear me, all you spirits, of the north and the south, of the east and the west!
Hear me, all you spirits, within or above the Heavens, upon or under the Earth!
Hear me, all you spirits, with whom I hold favor or disfavor!
Hear me, all you spirits, who owe me debt or to whom I owe debt!
Here do I call to you, wherever you may be: partake of this my offering!
I dedicate to you now this water and this incense as offerings to you;
I give you these offerings freely and joyfully, and ask that you accept them in the same,
as symbols of my thanks, love, goodwill, honor, respect, trust, and joy for you
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.

Dip your fingers of your dominant hand (or the hand you prefer to use to give offerings with) into the water and scatter it around you to your front, back, and either side.  Visualize the water to rise up and flow out from the cup outwards as a constant fountain, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this water, fresh, clean, and sweet,
that it may refresh you, cleanse you, and cheer you.
Let this water nourish you how it you need it best,
whether as golden rivers of nectar or as boiling seas of blood.
Let this water swell and surround you and the common ground we share,
that we may understand and console each other, comfort and soothe each other.
Let this water overflow this vessel and wash over all that exists,
reaching the uttermost shores of the cosmos in all directions,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

With the same hand as before, place it palm-down in the incense smoke, then lift your hand in one swift motion to draw the smoke upwards, then fan it away from you with the same hand seven times.  Visualize the incense to rise up and fill the entire cosmos with its plumes of pure fragrant smoke, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this incense, sacred, whole, and pure,
that it may satisfy you, strengthen you, and fortify you.
Receive this incense as you how you need it best,
whether as abundant forests of fruits or as burning mountains of flesh.
Let this incense rise up and fill your beings, your hearts, and your minds,
that we may understand and know each other, hear and see each other.
Let this incense be compounded upon itself a myriad myriad times,
rising up and filling the entire cosmos with its sweet smoke,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

Maintain the orans gesture and conclude the prayer:

If I hold favor with you, then let this offering strengthen us and be a mark of alliance and friendship.
If I hold disfavor with you, then let this offering reconcile us and be an expression of apology to you.
If you owe me debt, then let this offering be a symbol of my faith and trust in you.
If I owe you debt, then let this offering be repayment towards its ultimate fulfillment.
Come and take your fill of these offerings, of this water and of this incense!
As you take your fill of these offerings, remember me who gives them to you!
Let this offering aid you in your work; let this offering sate you and please you!
Let this offering of goodwill be taken in goodwill, of peace in peace, of love in love
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.
If you came here to me in peace, so now return to your home in peace;
if you reside peacefully with me, so too abide peacefully with me.
Take your fill of this offering and continue in your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

Let the incense burn out completely; you can enter into a period of contemplation or chanting other prayers, if you want to be present for the rest of the offering, or you may take a brief leave and return later.  Once the incense burns out, the offering may be formally drawn to a close. If possible, scatter the incense ash into the wind and pour out the water onto the ground; if done indoors, these may be disposed of in a trash bin and a sink respectfully.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

The water I poured for you is drained, the incense I burned for you is spent.
The offering I made for you is given, the offering I made for you is complete.
May this offering be pleasing and fit for all spirits where they are,
that they may be at peace, and be at peace with me.
May no ill-will remain, may no malice remain,
but only peace and peace and peace and peace.
All you spirits who have come to me to partake in this offering,
as you have come in peace, so now go in peace.
Go now with my peace, go now with my blessing, and go now to your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

The offering is complete.

Balthazar Black’s Review of “Secreti Geomantici”!

Earlier this week, I was pleased to announce the release of my latest ebook, “Secreti Geomantici”, a text exploring the possibilities, practices, and methods of using the system and symbols of the art of geomancy for magic in addition to its more well-known divinatory abilities.  After all, we have a literal millennium of texts describing every in and out of geomantic divination, but only a small handful of authors have ever written about geomantic magic, and what has been written is often terse or kept very closely-guarded and cloaked in secrecy and blinds.  This text was originally meant as part of my larger forthcoming textbook on geomancy, “Principia Geomantica”, but I decided it was better broken out into its own separate text.  Thus, “Secreti Geomantici” was born, written, and put out for the world to read and use in their own practices.

Because I find his geomantic candle magic techniques so useful and clear, I asked the excellent magician, rootworker, diviner, and geomancer Balthazar Black of Balthazar’s Conjure whether I could incorporate some of his techniques into the text.  He graciously agreed, and as an expression of my thanks, I sent him a copy.  Earlier today, he put out a review of the text, in which he “babbles excitedly” (his words, not mine!) about it.  Take a look at what he had to say about it:

I’m gonna need a few days to recover, because Balthazar apparently liked it so much that he killed me with what he had to say about it.  I can reasonably assume, at least, that he enjoyed the read.  Hopefully, you will too, dear reader!

Balthazar Black has done many other videos on his YouTube channel relating to Solomonic, hoodoo, and other types of magic, as well as divination systems such as geomancy, Tarot, and Lenormand.  His videos are all wonderful resources on their own, and I’m always excited to see whatever new stuff he puts out.  I definitely encourage you, dear readers, to visit his sites, look at his wares and services, watch his videos, and subscribe/like where possible:

So, if you’re interested in the more magical aspects and abilities of geomancy and haven’t gotten a copy of “Secreti Geomantici” yet, let Balthazar Black convince you!  You can find it for US$16 on my Etsy page, along with my other ebooks, tools, and crafts that are there.  Take a look, get a copy, read the book, and ply some magic today!

A Break in the Threads

So, I had a few thoughts to myself lately on what I’ve been doing, where I stand, and the like, especially with regards to the whole lot of nothing I can account for these past…what, seven? ten? months.  I figure that I can use this, too, as a learning experience and gain from it, and if I can learn from it, I can write about it.  Besides, it’s not like I’ve been wearing you, dear reader, out with an endless stream of posts these past few moons.  I apologize that this is something of a navel-gazing whinefest, but it’s something that, perhaps, some of my readers could use.  While the burnt hand teaches best for some (e.g. myself), I’d rather those who can learn from the examples of others do so from me.

I don’t know where to really begin or even how to really discuss it, but I suppose I could always start with a list and give a rough chronological order of things.  Mind you, I plan on being vague about a few events, but it should give you an outline of the magnitude of things.

  1. Back in October 2014, despite a few of the good things that happen, there were other things happening beneath the surface.  Things for me and mine got really rough and there was a massive falling-out.  There was isolation, there was drama, and there were tears.  I personally got really knocked off-balance, and even to this day am still trying to get my bearings back.
  2. In early November, some of the problems of the preceding month had been cleared up; perhaps fittingly, everything in October happened during a Mercury retrograde, and as soon as Mercury went direct again, things started picking up and being picked up and put back together.  Some of the breaks were mended, but only some; mutual animosity, as well as righteous indignation and asshattery, had permanently assured me that some breaks were permanent.  Good for that.
  3. In late November, I performed what was intended to be an empowerment ritual using a well-known, lengthy psalm which had some massive and unanticipated side-effects.  This opened my life up to amazing and awesome new people, but at the same time, dredged up a sealed Pandora’s box of emotional what-the-fuckery I thought I had sealed and buried for good a long time ago.  Still, if even King Solomon couldn’t permanently seal the demons of the Lemegeton Goetia in a brass vessel under the sea, I suppose I shouldn’t have expected any differently.  Some of those personal demons are still hanging around and lingering at the corners of my eyes, and the only way I can face them now is head-on; how is still yet to be determined.
  4. In December, my partner and I took two steps towards being together in the eyes of God, gods, and men: not only did we exchange our rings in our engagement, but I started playing Final Fantasy XIV, a massively multiplayer online RPG which is frickin’ awesome.
  5. In February 2015, I undertook my first major initiation in the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which significantly changed my outlook on more than a few topics personal and magical, not to mention completely thrashed my energetic and spiritual state of being for at least one solid weekend and, to a lesser extent, several weeks afterward.
  6. In early July, between visits from a good magical colleague of mine, an upcoming party, and a rather busy week at work, out of whimsy, I remembered one of the holiest acts I as a human and magos can do: the Hymns of Silence.  Even briefly, standing outside on my patio smoking a cigarette in the work week on a humid summer night, that little shadow of an echo of a resonance caught me off-guard and…broke something in me, something that really needed to be broken, something that needed to be snapped.  It wasn’t violent, it wasn’t sharp, it wasn’t painful; it was like taking out an extraneous support beam that didn’t need to be there.  I’m not even sure “broke” is the right word.  Starting about this point, I abruptly put a hold on playing FFXIV, feeling burnt out due to repetition in the game as well as personal drama with the group I play with.
  7. In the transition between late July and early August, I accepted a new job position within my current office, one which has great potential for my career, personal development, and (most awesome and utilitarian) income.  This is causing some changes in my routine and how I approach people, as having to start a new job (even in a familiar environment) is going to cause me to be hyperaware of certain elements in myself and around me.  Plus, now that I won’t be able to work from home for several months at minimum, I’ll need to develop a better routine to keep me in shape and in line.

So that’s about where I stand.  Not exactly the most epic of journeys, but every road has its flat and boring stretches, I suppose.

What I want to focus on here is the effect that playing FFXIV was having on me, especially now that I’ve been divorced of it for a few weeks now.  I admit, I enjoy the company and interaction of the people I play with, and the world of Eorzea that Square-Enix built up for us to play in is beautifully crafted and exceedingly well-done, and I miss hanging out with my free company and our antics.  That said, what’s been interesting, and something that I’ve noticed more and more as of late, is that I can pretty solidly say that I was relying on FFXIV for more things than just entertainment for…pretty much eight months of my life.  To be fair, I think I needed it; shit was getting too heavy even for me to healthily deal with, and I needed an escape.

So escape I did, and took a break from the rest of the shit that was going on around me.  In those eight months, I’ve done fuck-all.  Sure, I’ve kept up with commissions for crafts and divination readings, taught my students as I’ve agreed to do, and led or undergone a few rituals here and there, but I can’t say with any level of honesty that I’ve been active in my magical life.  I haven’t bothered with pretty much any of the tasks I set for myself to accomplish at the start of 2015, I haven’t kept up with my prayers or offerings, and when I have gone into my temple room, it’s usually to get something for myself instead of actually doing Work.  I’ve ended up putting on a few more pounds than I had, and the Quimbanda tronco I built on my own based on ley-person guidance has been shut and more-or-less ignored only right after I built it.  I’ve barely even kept up with blogs on my RSS feed and haven’t really been active with other magicians besides the occasional theory or theology discussion with friends, and as you may have noticed, I’ve barely had anything to say on my own blog.

I’ve completely wasted my time pursuing simple antics of fun and relaxation, which even sometimes produced problems on its own accord, in a made-up world not of my own creation, obeying its own sets of rules that I have willingly submitted myself to. Dear reader, take note: if you have even a barest glimmer of Hermetic or Gnostic cosmology and anthropogony, or if you’ve read some of my metaphors for human existence in the Hermetic worldview before, you can see the conundrum.  This world is beautiful, but also incredibly seductive; our true origin is not here, but Elsewhere, in the All.  And yet, not only have I forgotten that much on an intellectual level, I’ve even gone so far as to forget myself in this world and get lost in a tinier, even more beautiful and seductive world, forgetting even my incarnate origin and work in this world.  But hey, at least I can see that now, and I can treat the world of Eorzea in the archonic grip of Square-Enix as the fun side-show it really is.

What’s peculiar is that I still haven’t gotten my bearings straight yet after several weeks.  Rather, instead of just replacing my work in FFXIV with my Work in the cosmos, which is what I’d like to claim and what would intellectually make sense to do, I’ve just kinda been…adrift.  I’ve been experiencing what might be seen as symptoms of addiction withdrawal (as MMORPGs tend to cause in certain people), or what might be seen as depression: lack of energy to do things, general thoughtlessness, increased sleep (which would normally be a blessed thing), unwillingness to focus on the tasks before me, yada yada.  It’s almost embarrassing, but now I’m starting to see my situation with clearer eyes than I’ve had in months: I lost the threads of my Work and haven’t picked them up again.  I’ve picked up other threads to fill the gap in time, but now that I’ve dropped those, I haven’t yet picked up the new threads of my Work.  Call it a lull, or a change in direction where the mere act itself of looking in another direction is taking a long time.  The fact is that I have not yet given myself anything to substantially and substantively Do to fill this void of time and energy, and it’s taking its toll on me and driving me into another, different unhealthy place.

I lost the threads I once wove, and I’ve been struggling to find a new one to pick up and start weaving again.  But, in a tapestry, there are countless threads with which to work, even if it’s just tying a few of them them up for good.

Recently, I picked up one thread I had lost a ways back.  Some of you may remember that I developed an interest in astragalomancy, or Greek knucklebone divination, late last year after I finally got a book on the subject.  Yes, it still is an interest of mine, but memorizing all 56 oracular verses proved more difficult than I had anticipated, and given the knockings-around I’ve had, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I wasn’t going to memorize them anytime soon.  Still, I didn’t want to lug the book around with me just for reference, so I got myself a tiny little black journal, about the size of my palm, that I wanted to copy all the verses into so I could have an enchiridion, a handbook of sorts, I could consult at will.  I planned on copying verses into it during the downtimes I had in the office, but either found myself too busy or just too lazy to do so.  Recently, I decided (while working at home, no less!) to finally copy down those last…gosh, more than half of the verses that I hadn’t touched in months.  And, even though it’s such a minor task of copying down words from one medium into another, it…it was good.  Even the most basic and elementary of activities, picking up a book and just copying notes out of it, made me feel a little satisfied with things.

Even the smallest thread can act as a sturdy rope, if it’s all you’ve got.  And you need something to hold onto and climb up in order to get out of a pit, however deep.

I have many shelves of books on astrology, divination, magic, religion, and cult.  I have a temple room filled with idols and offering cups and magical tools of great power.  I live on a land filled to bursting with life and spirits.  I have friends, colleagues, and teachers both in the physical and online who surround me, showing me countless possibilities of work and the rich rewards thereof.  Shit, I have my own destiny and path to walk, and sitting on a bench beside the road playing chess is not getting me anywhere, especially when I haven’t set up a tent to keep me out of the rain or a fire to cook food.  Me neglecting my Work is not only disrespectful to the spirits, angels, gods, and saints that I’ve called on before, it’s disrespectful to my friends and students and others who look to me and check up on me, and it’s disrespectful to myself and my own well-being.  I know I have shit to do, and I know I have projects waiting for me, and I know I have places to go and things to do.

It’s time I’ve picked up a few of those dangling threads again.  Who knows?  Maybe, in the mess I left for myself, I’ll find a few of those that I dropped.

Book Review: “The Holy Guardian Angel”, ed. Michael Cecchetelli

As you may already have heard elsewhere on the blogosphere, dear reader, there’s a new book out on one of the most central and confusing parts of modern Western Hermetic magic: the Holy Guardian Angel.  Michael Cecchetelli of The Lion’s Den, author of Crossed Keys and The Book of Abrasax, recently approved the final proof of his most recent book “Holy Guardian Angel: On the Practice and Experience of the Holy Guardian Angel” and it’s on its way to the printer with Nephilim Press.  With 10 authors contributing, including amongst others Jason Miller, Conjureman Ali, Scott Michael Stenwick, Aaron Leitch, Frater Ashen Chassan, and my own mentor Frater Rufus Opus, the book is one I’ve personally been waiting for for some time now. Happily, Fr. MC himself posted a call for reviewers, and after sending the good man an email, he sent me a copy of the text for my own review!  To say that I’m honored is an understatement.

I personally made contact with my HGA back in the summer of 2012, about the time when I was consecrating my Solomonic Ring and was undergoing a large amount of time doing solar work in addition to the Headless Rite at least once daily.  I made some allusions to it before, but never formally talked about making contact with my HGA or talked at length about my HGA’s nature.  Partially, that’s because I’ve been busy with other parts of my ritual work done or finishing up other projects, and in my life that’s already pretty busy to begin with, this is no trivial matter.  I haven’t done as much introspection and inspection of my HGA that I probably should have by now, and I admit that the feeling I get between us may be strong but is also somewhat distant.  That said, since having made contact with my HGA, he has never ignored me or abandoned me; that connection, though it may be distant and small, has never been weak or forsaken.  I’ve spoken with other magicians in my circle of friends about the nature of the HGA, with one of the best/most comical ideas being that the HGA is akin to a “divine sockpuppet”, throttling back the incomprehensible majesty of the Source into a single comprehensible figure for our individual selves, something like a personal Christ figure, but this might be more properly be considered akin to an agathodaimon or similar tutelary god.  It’s tricky, and during previous blogosphere debates on the HGA, I’ve never thought myself capable of getting enmeshed in them since I don’t really know what to say.  The connection with the HGA is something intensely personal and is truly a revealed mystery, and there’s really so little that can be said about the HGA to begin with.  Those who have contact with the HGA know what it’s like and have little need to talk about it; those without contact have no means to understand what can be said.  Still, even among those who do have contact with the HGA, there’s a lot that can be said about the development, use, and work with the HGA, and that’s what Fr. MC’s new book aims to accomplish.

"Walking With the Angel" Banner

The text itself is 216 pages long, beautifully typeset and well-edited, making the reading of it a pleasure all on its own.  The book is broken down into four parts: the nature of the HGA, what comes after contact and how to work with the HGA, different schools of thought about the HGA, and a whole section devoted to some of the important blog posts made during the 2011 pan-blogosphere debates on the HGA.  Of course, MC himself is only one contributing author to the book, and that only in the final section; as he says in the introduction, he “realized no author had set about producing such a volume [on achieving K&CHGA], wherein are presented a diverse and varying cross-section of the beliefs on the subject, was because no single author could”.  It’s a complicated subject with layers upon layers of interpretation, use, and philosophy, making writing such a book on such a spirit more daunting than any other series of tomes on almost any other part of magic.

One theme that’s developed throughout the work is that K&CHGA is not just part of the Great Work, but is in fact the whole of the Great Work itself.  Taken at face-value, that’s kinda a silly statement, and doesn’t make much sense, but on deeper inspection, it becomes abundantly clear.  Many people in the Golden Dawn associate contact with the HGA to start at the grade corresponding to Tiphareth on the Tree of Life (Adeptus Minor); it’s no coincidence that (as far as I’ve heard) there are no formal grades beyond this point beyond what’s directed by one’s HGA alone, though the structure exists for them.  The entire work from this point onward is directed by one’s HGA, who really is our true teacher to understand our True Will.  After a certain point, however, even the HGA disappears when it becomes no longer useful for us, like how a raft is left behind after a journey across a river.  This is why I almost always say that I’ve made “contact” with my HGA instead of “knowledge and conversation”; I have at least partial knowledge of my HGA, sure, but developing the deep connection between us to where there is nothing external to me, becoming one with, within, and as God, the true “conversation” of the HGA, is something I’ll forever be working on.  The HGA, indeed, is a fundamental part of the Great Work, and though Crowley states that “the single supreme ritual is the attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”, this is a ritual that takes a lifetime to complete.

This theme is developed through the book, that attaining contact with the HGA isn’t a one-time thing.  Even for myself, where I already have contact with my HGA, Fr. MC’s book is packed with good advice from people who have done the Work beyond what they’ve generously written about, and it inspires me with new things I’m eager to try out.  While I don’t see the need at this point to go through the Abramelin operation or redo a six-month stint of daily Headless Rites, that doesn’t mean I completely understand and can do anything with my HGA that I want to do.  You don’t just do the rituals and be done with it, receiving a full spirit guide at your beck and call; it’s the opening to a relationship where you two must work together to understand the Work to be done.  Just as the Sun rising once for one day doesn’t give all the light and energy necessary for the Earth to do everything it needs to do for its predicted 3.7 billion years, it has to rise continuously over and over again, each time going through the nocturnal underworld in order for the Earth and all its life to continue developing, building, and lasting.  Speaking from experience, I can definitely attest to this being the case, but happily this book provides means and new ideas for me to continue working with my own HGA in a big way that I wouldn’t’ve thought of.

Something that I’m totally okay with and agree with as a matter of scope is that the book does not offer much in the way of ritual.  Several authors offer some ritual rubrics and ideas to actually work with the HGA, but these are still rubrics with mostly experiences of use with them and not detailed ritual instructions themselves.  Rather, the book focuses more on “what the HGA can do for you”, and points out that there are so many ways to approach the HGA and many ways to come in contact with it, not just via the Headless Rite or the Abramelin operation.  That’s one of the goals of this book and the overall work of the HGA, too: it really doesn’t matter how you do the work here, so long as you do something.  Fr. MC himself says as much in his final entry: “there is no substitute for experiential knowledge…what is most crucial is to DO”.  The rituals offered within the book are references to those from the PGM, Abramelin, Solomonic-inspired shamanic acts, or Gnostic Ogdoatic methods to work with the HGA, which is saying quite a lot about the background the book offers that it combines all of them near seamlessly into a cohesive text.  What this book is good for is that offers the reader a glance into the experience of those few practicing magicians with actual experience with the HGA, as well as their (wildly divergent but critically useful) thoughts on the spirit.

It’s the combination of authors within “The Holy Guardian Angel” that really gives authority and authenticity to the book.  There’s a lot written about the HGA out there, but very little of it can be trusted (even more than most stuff on magic out there).  Even Fr. MC himself says as much in one of his old blog posts (reproduced in the book as a part of the section on the blogosphere debates):

…of all those who claim they have established “Knowledge and Conversation….”, 70% are lying, 15% have interpreted the aforementioned S.A. or another helpful spirit AS the HGA when in fact it is not and therefore truly believe they HAVE Knowledge and Conversation… etc…, 10% have no contact with any spirit and are under the new age proliferated misconception that contact with spirits evoked comes in the form of “clear messages, like really reeeaallly clear messages in my head” or another such abominable lie.

5%, then, are those who genuinely have made conscious, true contact and have attained what Abramelin and Abraham von Worms call “Knowledge and Conversation of The Holy Guardian Angel”. And thats a liberal number. In the majority of cases, those who are among this 5% and have ascended to this level, will know recognize one another in conversation or when reading each others writing on the subject. This is because the experience of meeting this transcendent being is absofuckinglutely changing, and there are no circumstances under which one having done so could not be utterly, permanently changed.

While I may not agree with the literal percentages of these counts, it hits home when Crowley himself says that “until the Magician has attained to the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel he is liable to endless deceptions”.  Attaining contact with the HGA is no easy thing, and while it’s no advanced thing either, it takes work and, like any real spiritual endeavor, it changes the entire game of one’s life.  It’s one of the closest parallels the modern Western mystery tradition has to a life-death-rebirth ritual seen in many other spiritual paths, and if you ask anyone who’s undergone that type of ritual, if it was done right then you and everyone around you knows for a goddamn fact it was done right.  Anything else is a lie and there is no substitute for it, either to get others to think you have the contact with this spirit or to get yourself to have contact with this spirit.  That we have such a collection of esteemed magicians who have the experience and scars to show they have the real deal with their corresponding HGAs is a treat for magicians in the modern day, especially since more and more is being written about the HGA by people who may not be anywhere as qualified to talk about it.

Whether you’ve already had contact with your HGA, or even already reached the grade of Ipsissimus in the Golden Dawn, or even are a newcomer to Hermetic magic generally, Fr. MC’s book “The Holy Guardian Angel” is going to be a wealth of information and practice for you.  It’ll give you things to look forward to if you don’t yet have contact with your HGA, and it’ll give you plenty to chew on if you already do (or think you do).  The book is one of the closest things we have to a textbook on working with the HGA especially when paired with things like the Book of Abramelin or Liber Samekh, but it’s also definitely one of the most approachable texts out there.  To see the words and minds of these magicians put together in a single volume on a complicated subject is a treat, both intellectually and spiritually, and definitely a must-have for ceremonial magicians.  Stop by Nephilim Press and place your orders soon!

49 Days of Definitions: Review

This post is the final recap of the series “49 Days of Definitions” that discussed and explained some of my thoughts on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy.  These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius:, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff.  It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text.  The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon.  I sought to afford people some food for thought with my meditations on each aphorism in a series of blog posts, one aphorism per day, and while I know I didn’t plumb the entire depths of each one, I also didn’t try to do that.  Still, it was a blast to write, and I hope it helps in explaining some of the philosophy involved when dealing with Hermetic work.

For convenience, here are links to the posts for each aphorism, along with a very brief summary of each section:

  1. Part I: one, two, three, four, five
    The three worlds of creation: God, the world, and Man.
  2. Part II: one, two, three, four, five, six
    The elements of the world and light which enables the world to be known.
  3. Part III: one, two, three, four
    The ubiquity of God, the place of Man in the world, and of the world in God.
  4. Part IV: one, two
    The different types of living beings and what they’re composed of.
  5. Part V: one, two, three
    Nous and Logos, God and reasonable speech.
  6. Part VI: one, two, three
    The development towards perfection of the soul of Man in the body of humans.
  7. Part VII: one, two, three, four, five
    The immortality of Man afforded by God, and the mortality of humans mandated by the world.
  8. Part VIII: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven
    Knowledge or ignorance of God/world/Man/self, and the power of Man as God.
  9. Part IX: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven
    The place of Man in the cosmos, the nature of the soul in Man, what perfect knowledge is.
  10. Part X: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven
    The natures and realization of good and evil, how the parts of the world work together.

So, what are some of the takeaways from the Definitions?

  • God is both the end result of spiritual development and the ultimate source of all things that exist, don’t exist, might exist, etc.  Everything else that exists does so within God as part of God.  There is nothing that is not within God.  God is greater than anything conceivable, and is exemplified by and is knowledge.  God is intelligible, able to be known, by those who are able to understand the intelligible.
  • The material world is a part of God, but also hides God from those within, since the world is sensible, able to be directly perceived according to material senses, but things that are intelligible are invisible and unsensable within the world.  The material world is populated with bodies, composed of matter, and different bodies have different components of elements as well as of living essences: souls, spirits, and minds.
  • We as humans are composed of different parts: a material body that dies, an immortal soul that moves the body, spirit that performs the movement within the body according to soul, and mind which is our connection to God.  We contain the nature of all things of the sensible and intelligible worlds, and rule over the sensible world as God rules over the entirety of creation.  No other creature has this distinction, since only human beings are given a special connection to God through our souls.  We are both of the sensible world and of intelligible God, God made us in its image, and God loves us and we love God as spouses or children of each other.
  • The way to salvation (immortality, freedom from death, freedom from evil) is knowledge.  Knowledge of the self is the same as knowledge of creation which is the same as knowledge of God.  Knowledge is possible due to the presence of Nous/divine Mind within our human souls and the ability to use Logos/reasonable speech.  Perfection of the soul is knowledge obtained by attaining Nous itself, joining ourselves with God in the process, and in the process we obtain the power to help others free themselves from suffering, ignorance, and evil.
  • The way to obtain knowledge is through silent contemplation, the use of pure Logos without need to further anything of this world.  Logos is the servant of the Nous, pure Reason working for and under pure Mind, and through reasonable thoughts, meditation, speech, and action can we obtain knowledge.  This must be aimed toward divinity, however, and all actions as well; the use of speech or action to further worldly, animal, or material goals does not fulfill this.  Much as one should treat the body well so much as only to keep the soul on its way to perfection, so should all actions in this world be done with an eye on the goal of divinity.

Despite the area covered by these definitions, there are some questions leftover that I’m sure are ringing in the minds of my readers; there are some I have, as well.  Some of the questions that are left unanswered wholly or in part by the Definitions that I came up with, details and minor things as they might be:

  • The many gods that exist are not God, this much is clear; I never claimed to think otherwise, since God and gods operate and exist on two wholly different levels.  That said, there are experiences of people who encounter gods made flesh, though the Definitions preclude such a thing, relegating the gods to the heavens and out of earthy existence.  What of the many myths, stories, and experiences of those who experience gods made men, not God made Man?  What about the underworld gods that are immortal?
  • Is it possible to reconcile worship of God with that of other gods, even if we recognize the difference in nature between the two?  What is the proper method of worship to God, when God is without attributes and is divinely simple and without comparison?
  • The Gnostic/Neoplatonic aspects of the text make the material world we live in to be evil, with the immortal and eternal intelligible world beyond good.  Why is this the case?  It makes sense that denying the soul is bad for it, but why should all material actions done for material purposes and aims automatically neglect the soul?  Is it impossible for a combination of Nous, soul, and immortality to exist from the outset?
  • God made the world for Man; everything exists within and for Man.  Without Man, the world may as well not exist, and likely wouldn’t.  So why did God make Man?  Why is Man desirable and loved by God, and vice versa?  What’s the whole point, and why should we have to strive for Nous in the first place?  Why does Man have to be mortal to strive for immortality?
  • What exactly does it mean that we are made in the species of Man after God?  I’ve been using the phrase “Man is made in the image of God” from the Bible, but what does that entail?  Is it physical form?  Is it our ability for Nous?  What is the nature of an essence, idea, or species that makes us so different from other creatures?
  • God is said to have conceived Logos in silence, and that we should do the same.  But what is silence?  Is it meditation and contemplation of reason, direct use of Logos without speech?
  • Because of our connection to Nous and God, we have as much power as the gods.  What is this power, exactly?  Just the choice of choosing knowledge or ignorance according to our soul-based passions?  What does it mean that we can become gods in our own right?  Gods as in the Olympians, gods as in heroes, gods as in planets or stars, gods as in God?  Or just immortal, pure Man?
  • The text hints at but never directly states that the soul may require multiple iterations of lives in order to be perfected, i.e. the soul may undergo reincarnation or transmigration.  What is the nature of death and birth, and how do souls go between one or the other?  What happens to a soul that is not yet perfect when the body dies?  What about humans who are born without soul-Nous/the Nous-based connection to God?  What about humans who are unable to use Logos/reasonable speech?
  • What about the spiritual lives, if any, of animals or the gods themselves?  These beings have soul, but lack Nous.  Is there a possibility for them to understand God and the cosmos as well?  Does reincarnation have any role to play in this, or transmigration of the soul?  What about plants or stones?  Many magicians work with the spirits or genii of individual places or bodies that are said to lack souls and Nous or even spirit, so how are they taken into account?

Alright!  That’s it for this blog project.  I really thank you guys for sticking through with me through this phase of philosophy, and I hope you got as much out of it as I did.  I had read the Definitions before, but I was honestly surprised at how much I got out of it this time by going through each with analysis and writing my thoughts down.  The past seven weeks really helped me put myself on a more solid Hermetic footing in my work, and I hope all you guys who stuck around got something out of this as well.  If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments and help polish and refine some of my analyses further.  While the Definitions lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, there’s a lot that was left unsaid or unclear.  That’s kind of the point of any introductory text, of course, since it serves as an introduction, so I hope you’ll investigate more of this with me, with friends, or on your own and dig deeper into the philosophy and worldview of Hermes Trismegistus.

The past 49 days have been full of writing, and would you look at that, it’s suddenly the end of 2013!  I hope you guys had a fantastic winter solstice, however you may have spent it, and I hope you have an even better New Year and start to 2014!  Now let’s stop talking about spirits of God and soul and let’s start talking about the spirits we’ll be drinking and enjoying tonight.  Happy New Year, my fellow amblers and dear readers!  You guys made this a truly awesome year, and I look forward to what next year will bring to all of us.

Review: Richard Webster, “Geomancy For Beginners”

In my ongoing quest to collect pretty much every published work on geomancy, I picked up one of the newest books on geomantic divination, “Geomancy For Beginners” by Richard Webster recently off Amazon.  It was first printed in early 2011 and published by Llewellyn Publications, with the offical price of US$14.95.  Coming in at 264 pages, it feels a little thick, but that’s due to the book being a standard trade size and the larger-than-normal font with generous spacing.  The text is clear to read, though the formatting of the figures and diagrams could be better.  Given that this is a Llewellyn book and is explicitly marked “for beginners”, I wasn’t expecting radically new insights into the old art of geomantic divination, but I decided to give it a chance.  Being a traditionalist with a streak for heavy texts, I expected a fairly strong new-age flair to the book (it is, after all, published by Llewellyn).  Overall, the book is a passable though fluffy introduction to geomancy, though it really is meant for rank beginners who know nothing of the basics of Western occult symbols.  It has more going against it than for it, unfortunately.

Cover of Richard Webster's "Geomancy for Beginners"

After starting off with a brief history of geomancy (basically Stephen Skinner’s historical writings on geomancy, the entire subject of his “Terrestrial Astrology”, condensed into a few pages), Webster describes geomancy, what it is and what the book is about (divination using the geomantic figures), and what it isn’t (feng shui and similar arts of “living in harmony with the earth”).  He shows the basic method of geomantic divination using the dot-and-sand/paper method, quickly moving to his preferred method of using casting sticks (also called “druid sticks”, four sticks with one dot on one side and two on the other, cast on a cloth to produce a geomantic figure, a fairly modern invention on its own).  He glosses over other methods of generating the figures, then launches into a chapter describing what divination is at a high level and how it works, attempting to use historical references but ending up sounding pretty new-agey.  Why this chapter wasn’t at the start of the book is confusing, since one should probably figure out the value of divination first before coming to grips with an implementation of geomancy.  Webster’s descriptions of the figures is pretty straightforward, though with an emphasis on modern symbols and a few confusing correspondences (e.g. linking the figures to what seems to be random months of the year and body parts, things usually corresponded according to the zodiac sign of the figure).

Through the book, he introduces the basics of geomantic divination through the use of the shield chart and the house chart.  He provides, as most common geomancy texts do, a series of lookup charts and lists that describe at a high, general level what each figure means in each position.  This is not something I’m a fan of, since people often stop bothering to actually meditate and learn the symbols of something at this point and just resort to using the lookup table in divination.  Imagine if someone wrote a book that described at a high level what each of the 78 cards of the Tarot meant in each of the ten positions in the Celtic Cross spread; people would likely use the book as a reference and cease to really think about the cards as windows into a much deeper system.  This is, at least to me, why I like John Michael Greer’s books on the subject, because he offers the reader a good grounding in the foundation of the symbols and then provides the rules to interpret them as the situation requires.  I’m not saying that lookup tables aren’t useful, but the foundation Webster gives isn’t that great to be able to fluidly and completely interpret the symbols of geomancy beyond what he says they mean in a given spot.

However, Webster’s example charts, few though they may be, are well-written and from a personal standpoint.  The author’s examples read almost like journal entries, complete with setting, context, and decent analyses of the charts and for whom they were cast.  Although I think his presentation of geomantic technique reduces some of the most important techniques in favor of offering lookup tables, at least he covers the basics, including things like calculating the Part of Fortune and aspects (which, in my own practice, I barely use in favor of things like perfection and elemental analysis).  I think his presentation of geomantic technique is a little too simplistic, his use of astrological chart interpretation to use the planets and signs based on the figures found in the houses is redundant, and his overall presentation of divinatory meanings to the figures is fairly fluffy and focuses on the positive at the expense of the more difficult.  After his presentation of the basics, Webster offers six more chapters focusing on a different style of geomancy:

  1. Gerard of Cremona’s astrological geomancy, where one throws a dumbed-down astrological horary chart based on geomantic figures, along with his zodiacal attributions to the geomantic figures.  This is more about using geomantic technique to draw up a horary chart without the degrees.  This isn’t a method of geomancy I’m particularly fond of, since it’s really just a kind of makeshift astrology, though I do use Gerard of Cremona’s zodiacal attributions in my own work.
  2. Cornelius Agrippa’s attribution of zodiac signs to the figures and his house allotment technique.  There isn’t a lot of information to really be said here, and I’m unsure why this was its own chapter with as many words as Webster uses.
  3. The Golden Dawn’s use of the planetary spirits (Chashmodai, Sorath, etc.) in ritual divination, house allotment technique, and another set of lookup tables, along with Crowley’s assignment of different query topics to the seven planets.  Again, not a lot of information really to be said here, since he already mentioned the Golden Dawn’s use and incorporation of geomancy into their work at the beginning, and the lookup table is taken right from the Golden Dawn’s text on geomancy and is entirely redundant, seeing how Webster provided his own earlier in the book.  Also, even though he introduces the planetary spirits and tells the reader to use their sigils in rituals, he doesn’t show them or instruct the reader where or how to find them!
  4. What Webster styles “Arthurian divination”, a kind of modern druid-ish (emphasis on the ish) system that uses nine geomantic figures arrayed out in a quartered circle.  This is probably the only innovative thing in the book, though certainly not geomantic in origin and only seems to use geomantic figures in a style of divination that could just as easily use runes, Tarot cards, or whatever.  Though he ascribes the technique to Merlin or Arthurian-derived traditions of magic, this really doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the book except to show how geomantic figures can be employed in non-geomantic occult crafts.  The technique itself is not tied to geomancy, but it’s definitely one to learn and keep in the back of one’s mind for use with other sets of symbols.
  5. What Webster calls “horary geomancy”, which isn’t anything more than a forecast-style of reading for a given timeframe without a specific query.  This did not need its own chapter, and is only 2.5 pages of text and one diagram.  Though forecasts are useful to know how to do, his placing of this here didn’t make sense to me.  The name itself is confusing, since it implied to me something more along the lines of Pestka’s and Schwei’s method of incorporating a horary astrological chart with a geomantic chart for the same time.
  6. Napoleon’s “Book of Fate”, or more accurately, a brief description of what the Book of Fate was and how it enabled geomancy to become a parlor game.  No technique is presented here, just a bit of historical trivia on geomancy and a list of the questions the Book of Fate had a lookup table for (but not the figures or answers for the questions).  I don’t see why this was included or even brought up past the historical references at the start of the book; at least the foregoing chapters had something new to learn.  The Book of Fate was interesting in that it uses geomantic figures with five lines instead of four, giving the system 32 symbols instead of the standard 16, though doesn’t expand the system enough to really make use of them in a proper geomantic-style reading, selecting only one figure.

As I said in the beginning, the book passes for being a standard modern introduction to geomancy.  It’s best suited for people who really have no knowledge of the basics of Western occult symbols, and even then, the book isn’t that great in giving a strong basis with them, either.  Its presentation of information and technique is disjointed, and though it can be useful for people who don’t have much of an attention span to learn geomancy, its extra fluff and needless expanses of words unfortunately take up as much time as it does to learn the symbols and techniques of geomancy itself.  The only really innovative or new thing Webster brings is his chapter on Arthurian divination, but that alone doesn’t justify the rest of the fluff and cruft, especially since it’s not really geomantic.  Though Webster laments the descent of geomancy into divinatory anonymity, his book doesn’t offer much to bring it out of those depths, and doesn’t really inspire the reader to learn more or meditate on this art more than figure out how to correspond the meanings of figures given in different lookup tables.  Though it’s a decent buy for someone who just wants something to learn as an honest-to-goodness beginner to divination, I’d much rather suggest a good book on astrology and a more complete book on geomancy for someone to seriously study this divinatory art.

Review: Les P. Cross, “Astrogem Geomantic Divination”

キタ━━━(゜∀゜)━━━!!!!!  It arrived!

After weeks of waiting, I got the newest and supposedly revolutionary book on geomancy, Les P. Cross’ “Astrogem Geomantic Divination”.  It’s a self-published book written by Mr. Cross, and cost GBP £20 not including shipping.  It has an elegantly simple cover, marked with the Sun above a traditional square chart design and the Moon below, in a matte black and yellow cover.  No spine text, and the back text just has the author’s name and website URL  I was delighted to find that Mr. Cross had signed the book for me, because the man’s awesome.  The book is 177 pages in a clean, smooth paper with clear printing.  What pleasantly caught me off guard was the inclusion of several color images of semiprecious stones which put the “gem” in “astrogem”.  From the outset, I was told that astrogem geomancy is not traditional, and strict traditionalists would take issue with this.  I normally work as a traditionalist, keeping the old rules and spurning the use of the trans-Saturnian planets and such, but even though these don’t form a part of my practice, I’m still well-acquainted with them, and so tried to keep an unbiased mind on the matter.

After the foreword and introduction, the book describes astrogem geomancy as “a method of divination which combines geomancy and astrology into a single oracle”.  The book claims that it’s suitable for both the beginner as well as an experienced astrologer or geomancer, and the technique as both appealing to bystanders as well as interested diviners.  The next few chapters review the basics of astrogem geomancy: astrology, gemstones, and geomancy.  First, Mr. Cross goes over the basic symbols of modern astrology: the planets, signs, houses, and aspects.  As I expected, he uses the trans-Saturnian planets and links the geomantic figures up accordingly while leaving the other assignments the same from Cornelius Agrippa’s style of traditional geomancy.  The next chapter describes the use of semiprecious gemstones as material components for divination.  The author explains his reasoning and requirements for the use of stones, as well as his choices of stones.  The book ascribes one stone to each planet used, instead of by the figures themselves.  Although he describes his own choices in stones, Mr. Cross encourages the reader to go by what they feel is appropriate.  The last chapter in this part of the book illustrates the very basic techniques of geomancy, coupled with with a short list of recommended books (that I’d recommend as well) for the more interested geomancer.  The book deliberately neglects the traditional geomantic method, since Mr. Cross wanted to leave behind the complexity of geomancy for a simpler but complete form of divination.  He presents his own exposition of the geomantic figures, complete with astrological correspondences, illustrations, descriptions, and keywords.  The book’s choice of illustrations (e.g. Carcer as two chained men standing back to back, Fortuna Major as a four-leaf clover, Caput Draconis as a new dragon hatchling sticking his head out from an egg) were especially refreshing and helpful.

Leaving aside the modern correspondences, this is where the book really diverges from traditional geomantic theory.  In nomenclature, the author calls the figures “geomes”, giving them their own suitable jargon after so many centuries.  In technique, he creates a new model of interpretation called the Four Levels Model.  In traditional geomancy, the four levels of dots or “taps” are ascribed to each of the four elements (fire, air, water, earth), with one dot representing an active or present element, and two dots representing a passive or absent element; combinations of active and passive elements, much as in an alchemical formula, lead to a specific state of the world. In the Four Levels Model, each of the four lines in a geome is given a realm (heavenly or earthly) and a focus (external or internal).  The system translates to the old elemental model cleanly by mapping the Four Levels qualities to the traditional qualities of the elements; to me, he’s fine-tuning a traditional system for a modern understanding of modern perspectives:

  • First line — Fire (hot and dry) — Heavenly and external
  • Second line — Air (hot and wet) — Heavenly and internal
  • Third line — Water (cold and wet) — Earthly and internal
  • Fourth line — Earth (cold and dry) — Earthly and external

One tap in the elemental model represents an active element and two represent a passive element, but one tap in the Four Levels model represents an internally-focused energy, while two represent an externally-focused energy; this is superficially similar to the traditional system, although their use is quite the reverse. The author makes clear his logic by showing the different aspects of these forces in each of the four levels.  This is combined with a notion of energy “flow” based on the order of the figures obtained, which determine whether to use an expanding or contracting aspect of the overall force of a reading.  The book shows how to arrive at the core meaning and context of each geome through the Four Levels Model along with their positive/negative or expanding/contracting effects on a situation, depending on how the geome realizes in context.  All told, the author gives the reader a complete toolbox for a new system of divination using planets, signs, houses, aspects, and geomes in a coherent manner.

The book then shows how the tools can be combined to perform divination; this part of the book is about half the length of the former, since the fundamental concepts were presented so thoroughly that it only remains to show how to use them.  The author lists the materials required (a bag and cloth for the stones, a template for the chart and notes, an optional tool to choose houses with), reviews simple ethics of divination, how to form good queries, and divinatory procedure.  He goes over the application of the astrogem framework to anything from simple yes/no queries to personal meditation to natal interpretations.  The book is clear on showing how astrogem geomancy can be done with a simple draw of one stone to using the complete traditional geomantic technique coupled with complete astrological analysis.  A tasteful conclusion and a summary of the Four Levels Model, geomes, and techniques wraps up the book, followed by an appendix showing the author’s logic in arriving at the Four Level Model.   Correspondences between the traditional elemental model and interpretations of the figures with the Four Levels model and interpretation of the geomes are reviewed and compared, and it looks pretty solid to me, though definitely modern.

“Astrogem Geomantic Divination” was well-written, clear in style and layout, and presents the reader with a solid base for this style of divination.  Examples and descriptions fill the book, and Mr. Cross makes it easy to grasp the subject matter with meditations and guidelines to arrive at interpretations, while still leaving room for inspiration and intuition.  It looks more like it’d lend itself more to astrology than to geomancy, with the main focus shifted towards the planets rather than the use of figures.  As a divinatory art on its own, this book gets high marks, since it manages to present its tools coherently.  I have a hard time calling it a proper form of geomancy, since it doesn’t follow the same rules and generation like I’m used to, but that’s okay; it’s about time someone started innovating with this ancient art!  Besides, astrogem geomancy isn’t without precedent; an older but highly similar style of divination is given by Gerard of Cremona in his “On Astronomical Geomancy”.  Even for traditional geomancers, the author provides useful insights and techniques that can be applied in traditional geomancy as well as astrogem geomancy.  Though I have a few differences in style (e.g. I use different zodiacal correspondences based off of Gerard of Cremona instead of Cornelius Agrippa), the differences are minor indeed.

My only gripe is that I’d’ve liked Mr. Cross to devote a full chapter to the Four Levels Model instead of tacking it on as an appendix, but this structure would’ve bored those who don’t care about bridging the gap between old and new styles of geomancy.  Traditionalists may indeed find the book annoying with its insistence on politically correct “empowerment of the client” (e.g. don’t say “positive” or “negative”, say “expanding” or “contracting”) and the use of modern techniques and rulerships.  Advanced geomancers or astrologers will find the first part of the book a useful, if not overly astrologically-focused, review; geomancers may be disappointed to find the lack of information on traditional technique, since astrogem geomancy doesn’t rely on the shield chart at all.  Despite these, I found no issue with the technique itself.  The book was a fast and simple read, and a good introduction for modern people more acquainted with astrology than geomancy.  It’s not geomancy, but it’s definitely geomantic.  I’d suggest picking it up if you have the pocket change, especially if you’d like to experiment with astrology and geomancy and use a system familiar to the public but still powerful enough to harness geomantic concepts.