Search Term Shoot Back, January 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of January 2014.

“honoring hermes on fourth day of the month” — One tidbit about Hermes is that he was born in the tenth month of the lunar year (starting with the first new moon after the summer solstice, so sometime in April) on the fourth day of the lunar month (four-ish days after the New Moon).  The religious practices of Attic Greece, where Athens was and thus where most of our knowledge about ancient and classical Greece is focused, celebrated a bevy of gods on their “monthly birthdays”, as evidenced by what we know of their calendar (which forms the basis of my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar).  Thus, a monthly public ritual was performed for Hermes on the fourth of every lunar month in ancient Athens, which is the day I use as well for my monthly Hermaia ritual.  For example, yesterday was the new moon, so today is the first day of the lunar month; the fourth day would then be this coming Monday, February 3, when I celebrate the next monthly Hermaia.

“letter a in shorthand”, “short hand alphabet”, “shorthand in english alphbet”, etc. — I get a lot of talks about shorthand, and my posts on the personal shorthand I’ve devised as a type of private cursive are among the most popular posts on this blog.  That said, I think it’s important to realize that shorthand is just cursive writing taken to its logical extreme.  Normal handwriting, or “print”, is meant to be formal and clear; cursive (from Latin currere, “to run”) is meant for faster, more fluid writing.  Shorthand is handwriting sped up to keep up with speech as it happens; because it can be difficult to maintain a congruence between spoken sounds and sometimes convoluted rules of spelling, most stenographic systems use phonetic methods of writing as opposed to normal ways of spelling.  A few such systems used in the Anglophone world are Pittman and Gregg, which can be found on this page at Omniglot.  My style of shorthand differs in that it’s meant to preserve the orthographic spelling of English while being fast to write; in that sense, it’s much more a cursive than a shorthand, which is often more a style of abbreviated symbolic writing than proper orthographic writing.

“orgone pot leaf” — I…uh?  I know doing a lot of drugs can lead you into some weird places, but…what?  I mean, I suppose you could use cannabis leaves to make an orgone accumulator, being an organic substance that attracts orgone, but why waste good weed?

“what periodof the day does the ruling archangel of the planet start?” — I don’t your English understand quite so.  Angels can be said to rule over particular hours of the day based on the planetary hours, and Trithemius gives a list of them in his ritual.  As always, planetary hours are based on your local latitude and longitude, since it relies on sunrise and sunset times, and may not be calculable at extreme latitudes due to the extreme brevity or complete lack of solar daytime and nighttime.

“what does each geomantic figure mean?” — You may be interested in checking out my series of posts on geomancy, De Geomanteia, where I go over what each geomantic figure means in a Western geomantic-divinatory framework.

“the magical value of mem in the hebrew alphabet” — Ah, the occult study of letters!  Normally I work with Greek, but knowledge of Hebrew letters and their occult significations is also highly regarded in modern Hermetic magic, especially given the influence of the Golden Dawn.  Mem is the 13th letter of the Hebrew script, with a phonetic value of /m/ and two written forms mem and mem sofit; the former is given the gematria value of 40 and the latter the value of 600, though 40 is the more important value to know.  Cornelius Agrippa gives it the magical correspondence of the Zodiac sign Virgo, though the Golden Dawn (based on other qabbalistic works) give it the association of the element Water.  Going by the Kircher Tree of Life used by the Golden Dawn and Thelema, Mem is associated with the Tarot card trump XII, the Hanged Man, as well as path 23, between Geburah and Hod on the Pillar of Severity.  Its form is said to come from the Egyptian hieroglyph for water, and its name from the Phoenician word for the same, and is associated with the Greek letter mu and Latin/Cyrillic letters em.

“can a pentacle really charge an object” — Er…it depends, really.  To “charge” something implies the use of what what’s known as the “energy model” of magic, where magic works due to some ethereal, nonphysical energy that can be directed around to achieve occult ends.  If we “charge” something, we consider it to be filled with an energy, much as we charge batteries.  To that end, I suppose you could say that some pentacles, when properly made, become a source of a particular energy or are themselves charged with an energy, and can then (if designed in a certain way) give that charge to other objects.  Not all pentacles are designed to do this, though; some pentacles are used to attract love, which isn’t charging any kind of object.  Further, this only makes sense if you use the energy model of magic, which is a pretty modern framework; the more traditional framework is the “spirit model”, where magic works due to the action of and interaction with spirits.  In this model, a pentacle might be a place of habitation for a spirit or receive its blessing to attain a certain end, and using the pentacle essentially sends the spirit out to change something out in the cosmos.  It’s not so much a matter of “charging” as it is “spirit-action”, so it depends on your worldview and which model you think works best at a given moment.  Generally speaking, though, and to prevent any more use of semantic sophistry, yes, a pentacle can charge an object given that that’s what the pentacle was designed to do.

“can labradorite be used for grounding” — I wouldn’t suggest it.  My thoughts on labradorite associate it most with the sphere of the fixed stars, along with the Sun, Moon, and Mercury.  It’s a very stellar, astral type of stone, and I use it for work with Iophiel as well as with pure Light.  Grounding suggests bringing things in the body outward and literally grounding it out, like an electrical charge, so it helps to calm and make the body more mundane, more earthy, more relaxed, and less charged.  Labradorite, on the other hand, I’ve found works for subtle charging generally or strong empowerment with stellar or lucid force, so it would not be good for grounding.

“geomantic wizard” — At your service.

“the hexagram of ifa” — As a prefatory disclaimer, I know little about ifá besides what I’ve learned from Western geomancy and its history.  Ifá is the great geomantic tradition of the Yoruban people based in Nigeria, often seen in the West nowadays closely allied with Santeria communities.  Ifá uses the same sixteen figures as Western geomancy, though with different names and meanings; however, unlike Western geomancy that uses four Mothers to generate 65536 charts, ifá diviners (often called “babalawo” or “father of secrets”), only use two figures to generate 256 readings.  That said, each of the 256 readings has about a Bible’s worth of knowledge, stories, prohibitions, rules, situations, and the like that can be ascribed to it, all of which for all the combinations must be memorized by heart.  It’s an intense system, and one that has my highest respect.  That said, I know of no part of ifá that uses any sort of hexagram; the figures themselves have four rows of one or two marks each, and the figures are not arranged in any form of hexagram or six-figure arrangement.  You may be getting ifá confused with the Chinese I Ching, which does have hexagrams instead of tetragrams.

“concave golden dawn pentacle” — My Golden Dawn-style pentacle is just a flat wooden disc I got at a Michaels that I woodburned, colored, and customized to my ends.  Now, I’m no expert on Golden Dawn regalia or paraphernalia, so I’m unsure about the precise needs or designs of these things.  That said, if I recall correctly from my days sneaking into my older brother’s neopagan stuff long ago, Donald Michael Kraig had offered this design idea in his Modern Magick.  His idea was that the pentacle, the Elemental Weapon of Earth, was used to both collect the forces of Earth as well as act as a shield for protection.  If we use rays of light as a metaphor, if we use a flat mirror, we reflect the light away from the source; if we use a convex mirror (one that bulges outward), only a small portion gets reflected at the source; if we use a concave mirror (one that sinks inward), nearly all the light gets reflected back at the source.  Thus, if we use a concave pentacle, anything unwanted sent towards us gets reflected back at the source; plus, it acts to “collect” the energy of Earth with its bowl-like shape, much as the chalice “collects” the energy of Water.

“is ritual and invocation one and the same?” — No; an invocation is a type of ritual, but there are many types of ritual.  There are many types of ritual, some of which I’ve classified before in my own admittedly-arbitrary system.  Sometimes you may want to get rid of something (banishing or exorcism), which is the opposite of bringing something in or up (invocation or evocation), though either type of ritual may involve the other (clearing out a space for something to be brought in, or invoking a higher power to drive something away forcefully).

“is orgone bunk?” — God, how I wish it were, yet I know from my experiments with orgone that it’s actually useful magical tech.  It just seems like such BS because of its modern pseudoscientific quackery language, but it’s actually pretty good stuff when applied and understood from a less forcedly-modern scientific manner.  It’s like how people often used to phrase theories and explanations of magic based on electricity (Raphaelite 1800s occultism) or magnetism (Franz Bardon) or quantum physics (modern New Age swill); the theories offered simply don’t line up with what’s physically happening, and betray a deep misunderstanding of the actual physics involved with electricity, magnetism, quantum physics, etc.  However, when it’s removed from this sort of stuff, orgone fits right in with an energy-based model of magic, not unlike the use of ki/qi in Eastern systems of energy manipulation.  So, no, orgone is not bunk, though it certainly can be seen that way when viewed from the way Wilhelm Reich wanted it to be viewed.

“digital phylactery” — This one puzzled me a bit; I have information about a phylactery of mine I made before, but I don’t quite know what a digital phylactery is.  Then I realized that I use several of them, based on modern advances with Buddhist prayer wheels.  A prayer wheel is a device used in prayer or meditation that rotates; the rotating object is a chamber that contains a written prayer, like a mantra or holy image, that when spun generates the same effect as having said that mantra or seen that holy image.  Usually, the paper inside contains many hundreds or thousands of repetitions of that mantra or prayer, so one spin of the prayer wheel would be equivalent to saying that mantra as many times as it was written.  Consider that we use computers with hard disks, pieces of cylindrical or circular hardware that store data written on it and that spin at speeds of as much as or exceeding 15000 RPM.  Data written on hard disks is the same as any other data just using a different writing system, theoretically, so having a mantra or prayer in a text file spinning on a hard disk can be used immensely well.  Thus, you might consider saving a text file with a prayer, mantra, bitmap image of a holy image or shrine, on any computer you work with or own that has a hard drive (solid-state drives are another matter).  For instance, I have prayers to XaTuring (yes, I still occasionally do a minor thing or two with that patron god of the Internet) saved in my home directory as invisible files on the UNIX servers I use at work, as well as on my personal Linux machines.  You might set up your own server that contains nothing but a RAID array of prayer text files spinning up and down at regular intervals, which could easily suffice as a high-grade digital phylactery.

“how to conjure demon wordpress” — I’m unsure whether this is asking about how to conjure the demon known as WordPress (one unknown to me) or how to conjure a demon by means of WordPress, and since I know nothing of the demon called WordPress (and I’m pretty fond of the platform), I assume it must be the latter.  I mean, there is the one time I made a post in thanks to and in homage of the elemental demon Paimon, but that’s not really a conjuration.  You might have the conjuration text along with an image of the demon’s seal stored on a hard drive to use the “digital phylactery” idea from above, and draw a Solomonic triangle or Table of Practice on the hard disk or put the entire computer within one, or you might use a consecrated computer where you write WordPress blog posts within conjurations of a demon as a running liber spirituum.  I dunno, really.

“japanese alphabet with english letters” — This is one thing I really don’t get; so many people have come to my blog looking for Japanese writing translated into English, when I’ve mentioned Japanese four times on my blog to date, and none were about transliterating Japanese into English.  First, Japanese does not use an alphabet; an alphabet is a system of writing that uses letters to indicate either consonants or vowels.  Japanese uses several writing systems, among them kanji (Chinese characters that are combinations of semantic, phonetic, and pictoral images drawn in a codified way) and the syllabaries hiragana and katakana.  A syllabary is a writing system that use letters to indicate syllables, often consonant-vowel combinations.  Thus, while English uses the two letters “k” and “i” to write the syllable “ki” (as in “key”), Japanese might use キ (in katakana), き (in hiragana), and any number of kanji for the syllable depending on the context and meaning of the character; some might be 幾 (meaning “some” or “how many”), 氣 (meaning “energy” or “atmosphere”), 木 (meaning “tree”), 箕 (referring to the “winnowing basket” constellation in Chinese astrology), or any other number of kanji, all of which we would transliterate as “ki”.  So it’s not as easy as it sounds; not everything is an alphabet!

“using pewter in orgonite” — Pewter is an inorganic material, not having organic sources, so in orgonic terms it’d be used in orgone systems to repel orgone.  You could also use lead, mercury, arsenic, or cyanide (provided it comes from an inorganic source!) equally well, especially so if you like wasting your life on orgonite (which, unlike orgone, is bunk as far as I can reckon.  Pewter is a blend of metals, any generic cheap greyish alloy, so because of its mixed material it’s assigned to the planet Mercury, if that makes any difference in the waste of materials that is orgonite.

Personal Shorthand in Use

Working off the last post where I introduced my shorthand, I figured I should follow it up with another about what it looks like in use.  Below I have written Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Simple enough, and a good illustration of what a text in my shorthand would look like (Omniglot tries to use it for every language and script they have on their site).  Below, I have the same text written in four different ways: my normal handwriting (which is awful), the “standard” version of the shorthand, my personal note-taking shorthand style (which is more cursive-y), and my calligraphic form with lots of flourishes.  I apologize that I didn’t touch these up or make them all professional, but I tried using Illustrator to trace them out and pretty them up, and it was hell.  Straight scans for you, instead.

Hopefully that illustrates how I use my own script.  I use the third one, the cursive-y form, the most; the second style is used for labels or other lengthy texts I write to myself that demand some semblance of order; the fourth style is used for decoration or artsy purposes only.  I pretty much never use the first style, actual English script, anymore.

In addition to writing notes and texts in this shorthand, I also use it to make sigils.  Let’s say I want to sigilize the phrase “Planetary hours are so cool” (because I’m a total geek).  According to the rules I was taught, you remove all vowels first from a phrase like that, then remove all repeated consonants.  Given that phrase, this leaves us to work with the letters “P L N T R Y H S C” (I consider Y to be a consonant).  To make a sigil out of this, I usually link up all characters, H, N, M, W, and V, since they all share the same basic zig-zag shape.  I do the same for Y, L, and T, which share the same step-like shape, and B, C, D, P, S, and R, which all share the same wavy shape.  Putting this all together, we get the following shapes:

However, I’ve recently gotten into the habit of forming some kind of “circuit” or closed loop for my sigils, so that there are no loose ends in the image.  Plus, within the enclosed space formed by the sigil, I have some sort of monogram with the initials of the person(s) the sigil is made for.  By linking the C, S, R, and P in a slightly different way and attaching the Y, L, and T differently, I can make an enclosed space as the following, with my initials inside.

Then, I’ll make the sigil mantra based on the visual sigil and where the letters appear in it.  I take the letters as they appear from left to right and top to bottom.  For the first sigil, the order of the letters becomes “C S R P Y L T H N”, which I might intone as “KASER PEEL TAYHEN”; for the second, the order is “Y H N R S C P T L”, which might be intoned as “YAHEN RAS KEPTEL”.  The letters V and W might be used as an “OO” or long-u vowel or as a consonant, depending on where they appear, much how the letter Y was vocalized as “EE” or a long-i vowel in the first mantra above but a consonantal-i/y sound in the second.

Personal Shorthand

My penmanship is awful.  Sure, I do calligraphy once in a while, and I can write clearly enough for business use.  However, it can get to the point where even I can only stare in confused befuddlement at what I had written a few days earlier.  I can abuse the proper letterforms of the Roman script pretty fierce, y’all.  I make no claim as to the contrary.

To fix this awful state of illegibility, back in high school, I developed my own version of the Roman alphabet to be used as a cursive or shorthand for personal notes, journal entries, and the like.  I was big into developing writing systems back then, and came up with a number of them, some even with their accompanying languages (yes, I’m a conlang nerd, go away).  I ended up sticking with this script I developed, and over the six or seven years it’s been in use I’ve made a few changes to it.  It’s getting slightly more elaborate, but only for the sake of making writing easier without sacrificing clarity too much.

I claim that this shorthand, which I just call my shorthand, cursive, or “it’s how I write, stop treating it like some arcane manuscript (even though it probably is, wink wink)”, is simple to learn.  Most of the letterforms are simply the Roman script reduced or simplified in some way: there are no capital letters, double letters are usually represented with a single dotted letter, the letter A is the same with the horizontal bar removed, the letters B, D, R, and P are the same with the vertical bar removed, and so forth.  There are some new letters I devised, based on Greek, Tironian notes, and so forth, that account for ligatures or digraphs in English, but they’re easily learned.

As you can see, most of the letters have a 1-to-1 correspondence with those in the Roman alphabet for English.  There are also several new letters for the digraphs Ch (like in “chance”, not “chemistry”), Gh, Ft, Ng (like in “angle”, not “angel”), Ph, Qu, Sh, Th (like in “thence” not “Thomas”), and Wh.  Two special symbols is used for the words “and”, which is basically a simplified ampersand, and “of”, which is a lot like the Japanese hiragana character “no”, which is also the Japanese possessive particle.

There are also special forms for Ee, Ff, Jj, Ll, and Tt; these double letters are written and cross or join each other, although the other letters simply take a dot.  In theory, all letters that aren’t those listed above take a dot for doubled forms, some are simply never used in English (one will never have a doubled Q or Sh, though this may be the case in other languages).

Because there are a lot of Latinate derivatives in English, which often use trigraphs like “sio” or “tio”, I also have forms for these groups of letters.  Although there may be others, the only letters I can remember having these forms are Gio, Rio, Sio, Tio, and Xio.  Adding an N to make Tion or Sion to them is natural and can be done by simply continuing the stroke.

Some letters have descenders and ascenders that go over the next or previous letters.  This is more to save space on the actual line of text than anything else, and is also why, from an aesthetic standpoint, the letters F, J, L, and T have special doubled forms.

The letters K, N, U, V, W, X, Ch, Ph, Th, and Wh are special since they fall into a class of letters that have a high diagonal stroke upwards and to the right.  Some letters join them easily, such as K and D.  However, when the letter E or Ee follows these letters, their forms are changed into little dashes that cross the diagonal stroke on these letters.  The E dashes on these words come last in stroke order so that other letters might be able to join up with the base letter first.  This is a time-, space-, and ink-saving gesture.  Wh also falls into this class, but only for the letters E and Ee; other letters don’t do anything with this letter since its diagonal goes too far up.

So, putting this all together, we can write words that are both easily read by someone not used to the shorthand and those that take some practice to read.  All, however, take fewer strokes and less time to write.

Notes on the above:

  • “Never”, “Version”, and “Chess” are all written with a single stroke with the addition of half-E strokes and doubling dots.
  • The S in “Version” looks similar to Ph, since it’s joined to the preceding R and is in its Sio form.  However, I don’t use Phio for anything, so it by default has to mean Sio.

Why am I showing you all this?  Well, a drunken conversation with my sister helped spur this post when we were talking about how we do our sigils.  Some people might be interested to see what kind of script I use for devising my sigils, since the simplified letterforms lead themselves well to sigilization and linking up with each other for an appealing but still easily visualizable shape.  I have a few rules for making sigils using this shorthand, such as always linking all Ms, Ns, Hs, Vs, and Ws (which all share the same basic zig-zag shape), and so forth.

Otherwise, if I die and someone wants to claim all my journals and notes, this post will help them decipher my otherwise unintelligible handwriting.  I have the convention of using my shorthand for notes, directions, and instructions in my notebooks and tomes, with Roman script used for orations or prayers.  Plus, if I ever decide to hand-write and -illustrate a tome for myself (either as a completed copy of my current vademecum or as a gift for someone else), I’ll probably use the calligraphic form of my shorthand, which will look pretty indeed for a whole book.  Tedious, but pretty.  That’s all that really matters, right?

Oh look, a sigil.

How was your weekend, autumn equinox, Mabon, first days of Libra, etc.?  I hope it was awesome.  I went on a (rather nice) date and…well, not much else.  I was somewhat productive, but have been enjoying a break from a lot of things. Still, not much compares to being busy and being productive like nobody’s business.

One thing I did get around to was woodburning a sign for my dad and stepmom.  They got a new camper recently and, knowing that I’m into woodburning, asked me to create a sign for them to spruce up the thing.  They were both in the Navy, so it’s got a skull and crossbones and their names written in a pirate-y font.  Not a bad job, I’d think, but I’m a little biased.  I’ll probably add a layer of finish to it soon and give it to them the next time I see them, likely around Thanksgiving.

Of course, being a magician and all, I couldn’t help but to burn a little sigil onto the back of it.  I don’t do sigils much, but they’re definitely a useful tool to have in one’s toolbox.  Below is a rendition of the sigil I put on, which turned out absolutely lovely in Illustrator (the Live Trace tool is the BEST THING EVER).  This’ll give the plaque a little oomph as they take their camper around the country with them, I hope.  Since I’m big on intoning things, what with my Buddhist mantrayana background and coupled with Hermetic words of power, the vocalization and intonation of the sigil is “SAVU RITFA BED” (sah-voo reet-fah behd).

When I make sigils, I use a kind of cursive I developed for private use.  It’s a script I developed back in junior or senior year of high school and have been using ever since for all kinds of notes.  Since creating it originally to compensate for my normally awful penmanship, I’ve made a few modifications and extra letters along the way.  I consider it a shorthand, since it’s got distinct symbols for common digraphs and duplicate letters in English, but it’s mostly a simplified form of the Roman alphabet without case and with fewer strokes.  The simpler, more fluid letterforms lend themselves well to joining and flowing into each other, a good thing for making sigils.