Summer update: Jailbreak the Sacred, the Salem Summer Symposium, and more!

I hope everyone’s been enjoying the Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts that have been going up lately!  There are still a few more to go, but in the meantime, I didn’t want you all to think that I was just relaxing taking a vacation (as much as I might want or need to).  Rather, things have been as busy as ever, between commuting and working and Working and writing and Writing and this and that and the other, and I wanted to take a quick moment to fill you guys in on some of the things that have been happening lately.

First, a few updates about the website structure.  I decided to go through my blog archives and make things a bit easier to navigate for some of the more fun or interesting posts I’ve made, and while there’s too much to outright do a whole highlight reel of posts, I have made a few new pages for ease of navigability and readability, including adding a few goodies to the Rituals pages from old posts that discussed some rituals I apparently forgot about.

  • The About page has been updated with links to all the different categories of posts (which are also accessible on the right side of the blog page, at least while using the desktop view of the website blog).
  • Several new pages have been added to the top navbar:
    • About → Geomancy Posts: an index of all the important posts I’ve done about geomancy, geomantic divination, geomantic magic, geomantic spirituality, and divination generally.
    • About → Post Series: an index of all the different multipart series of posts I’ve written about over the years, with a summary of each series and links to each of the individual posts in each series.
    • Rituals → Candle Blitzkrieg Blessing: a ritual that utterly fills a house or dwelling with divine light for the sake of blessing it.
    • Rituals → Dream Divination Ritual: a ritual to be done while the Moon is in your ninth house for dream divination, lucid dreaming, or other forms of dreamwork.
    • Rituals → Uncrossing of the Mouth: a ritual to uncross, unbind, and free the mouth from any maleficia, cross, or curse that has settled upon it so that you can speak freely and easily once again.
  • The page Rituals → Classical Hermetic Rituals → The Headless Rite has been (finally) updated, with much of the Greek being corrected, a full transcription of the Greek provided, and more information provided on carrying out the ritual itself.

Second, I was on another podcast!  The wonderful, amazing, and handsome astrologer Nate Craddock of Soul Friend Astrology started a podcast earlier this year, Jailbreak the Sacred, where he sits down to talk with leaders, thinkers, practitioners, and activists about the intersection of mainstream religion and alternative spirituality.  After all, as he says, “spirituality in the 21st century is only getting weirder from here on out, and there’s no better time to team up with people who have walked that path before”.  It’s a wonderful and refreshing thing to listen to, and there are some great speakers already in the lineup, and it’s an honor for me to be included among them!  We spent a good hour and more talking about the intersection of my magical and religious practices, what it’s like being an orisha priest in the Afro-Cuban tradition of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, and how that impacts my philosophy, ethics, and morality in how I approach my life and Work.  Head on over to JTS and take a listen!  And, if you use iTunes, be sure to subscribe to JTS through that platform, too!

Also, for his patrons over on Patreon, there’s an extra bonus episode of Nate and I talking about geomancy, where I give a very rough-and-fast explanation of the origins of geomancy, and I read for Nate on the air and give a full explanation of what a geomancy reading with me is like on the spot.  You’ll also be able to listen in on a special prayer I’ve written for divination, what I call the Praise of the Lord of the Unseen, which has hitherto not been published anywhere (yet).  If you’re interested, help Nate with his podcast, pitch in $10 a month, and get access to this and all sorts of other goodies and bonuses Nate has for his subscribers!

Third, I’m really super excited to announce that I will be in Salem, Massachusetts in early-mid August this year to attend, present, do readings, and generally have fun at the Salem Summer Symposium!  This is the first major event of its kind hosted by the good folk at the Cauldron Black, with the main show of events lasting from August 7 through August 11, but with other activities occurring around the city of Salem as early as August 3.  I’ll be teaming up with the wonderful Dr Al Cummins for a Double Trouble Geomancy Power Hour on Friday, August 9 from 10am to 12pm, and later on that day I’ll be presenting on my own about my recent development in geomancy-centered theurgical practices from 4pm to 6pm.  Tickets are still available, and I heartily encourage those who are able to attend to do so; there’s a massive list of fascinating talks, presentations, workshops, and other delights for the eyes and heart and mind to partake in, and that’s besides just the social fun to be had in a spot of great renown in old New England!

Last but not least, I mentioned a bit ago that the Russian occult website Teurgia.Org is working on translating some of my writings and works into the Russian language.  They’ve done it again, this time translating my old post on Ancient Words of Power for the Directions (April 2013) into Russian on their website.  If you’re a speaker of Russian, go check it out!

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say for now.  I hope the weather is treating you all well, and that the upcoming summer solstice (or winter solstice for those in the Southern Hemisphere) is blessed and prosperous for us all!  And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

On the Nine Offices of Saint Cyprian

Recently, as part of my effort to get off my fat, lazy ass and get myself into gear again, I started off with a novena to Saint Cyprian of Antioch, the patron saint of magoi and sorcerers and necromancers and all kinds of occultists.  I pretty much winged it, and I wasn’t going off any particular novena rubric; I would say a few of his prayers I commonly use followed by his chaplet, but I did make it a contemplative novena.  To explain how I did it, it would help to back up and explain one of the short invocations I make for Saint Cyprian of Antioch, which goes like this:

Holy Saint Cyprian of Antioch!  Mage, martyr, and mystic; theurge, thaumaturge, and theophoros; saint, sorcerer, and sage!  Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

It’s a short prayer, but it encapsulates a lot of Saint Cyprian’s presence and symbolism.  Besides, as one of the sacred symbols of Saint Cyprian is the number nine, I figured it would be a decent structure to use nine “offices” or “aspects” for the good saint, hence the threefold division of three offices, one for each letter.  Plus, with nine offices, I figured it would be good to meditate and contemplate on the mysteries of Saint Cyprian of Antioch by focusing on each one of his offices each day of the novena.

Well, on day five of the novena (halfway through), an annoying thing happened.  I wear a bracelet made of bone and precious stones dedicated to Saint Cyprian to keep his influence around me, and I took it off to take a shower in the evening before doing my novena (a little later than I had planned on doing because I was tired and engaged in conversation with other people).  The bracelet snapped and scattered beads all over my bedroom, and I had the hunch that it wasn’t a mere accident.  During my novena prayers that night, I did a bit of confirmation divination with the saint, and yes, it wasn’t just an accident; Saint Cyprian was miffed at me for being tardy with my prayers, and made the point that not only was I to shape up and act right in the future, but the bracelet could not be remade until an offering was made and the beads cleaned off.  Moreover, as part of my “punishment” (or education, same diff really), he instructed me to keep better track of what I had been meditating on and what he had been teaching me.

Hence this blog post.  I wanted to discuss some of my thoughts, in an abbreviated, short way, on the nine offices of Saint Cyprian of Antioch that make up his invocation I use.  These were some of the thoughts and conclusions, sometimes spontaneously said aloud or sometimes silently passed on, that I think would be good to keep for records as well as for others to learn from.  Yes, I’m aware that much of this is quite explicitly Christian or Gnostic in many aspects, but that makes sense, as Saint Cyprian is, well, a Christian bishop and hieromartyr.  Dear reader, if you don’t much care for that kind of talk, you have been warned ahead of time.

Mage
The word “magician” comes from Greek μαγος, from the ancient Persian astrologer-priests, who managed the celestial forces as they achieved contact with the Earth as well as our own powers and prayers that rose to the heavens.  A mage is an intermediary, in many ways, between the spiritual and physical, the celestial and terrestrial, the terrestrial and subterranean, the personal and impersonal, the internal and external.  However, just as the magoi were seen as “foreign” the Greeks compared to their own goes, or goetic sorcerers or “shamans” as some people make them out to be, mages are always “foreign” to wherever they may be found.  In some way, they do not fit: they are on the fringe, the outside, the external, always looking in and playing with things in a system that does not completely accept them.  Magicians, by definition, are in the world without being of the world, for some definition of “world”.  It is this stark differentness that is ostensibly a curse, but also its own blessing, when recognized for what it is: we must link being in the world without becoming part of it, and in doing so link what is with what is not.

Martyr
The word “matryr” is Greek for “witness”.  The good Rev. Dn. Strojan had this to say to me about the word:

…primarily is concerned with living in a manner consistent with Gospel teaching and nurturing a relationship with God. Martyrs are said to be witnesses of the faith by the fact that they are presumably killed for their beliefs.

The word is used based on what Paul said in Acts 22:15, that “you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard [of Christ]”.  Indeed, Cyprian the Mage had no idea what he was up against when he tried to seduce, enslave, and eventually slay the virtuous maiden Justina, who defeated every single thing that Cyprian threw at her.  Indeed, Cyprian saw firsthand the power of Christ and, even without being baptized or believing in Christ, made the sign of the Cross and drove back the Devil.  Cyprian, as a mage, knows power when he sees it, and he had never seen any power like Christ before; Cyprian truly witnessed the power, grace, and saving strength of Christ.  And, add to it, where there is such power, there is indomitable truth, and Cyprian could profess nothing but the truth he had seen, and he could never deny it, either, even in the face of certain death.  That is where the word “martyr” comes in: martyrs are those who witnessed the power of Christ and professed it, even when they knew it would lead to their death.  Cyprian would never budge from his position because of the true power he knew.  What would it take for me, I wonder, to do the same?  I am far weaker, and would naturally prefer to save my own neck than repeating truth, yet…truth is greater than I am, and Christ is greater than death.  It’s not that Cyprian gave everything up for Christ, but quite the opposite; in Christ, Cyprian had everything, so death could not take anything away from him.  A side effect of martyrdom: it truly is a crowning in its own holy way, a gifting of all power, that one may never be diminished after suffering the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Truth.

Mystic
A mystic is an initiate in the mysteries, and Saint Cyprian was initiated into them all, first to the god Apollo, then to the cult on Olympus, then the cabals in Argos, then the covens in Tauropolis, then the clans in Sparta, and on and on until he became a master of all gods, religions, and practices in his day, including ultimately the mysteries of Christ, greatest of them all.  But what is a mystery?  It is a truth, something true and mythic that lives on in the world outside us as well as the world inside us.  In all mysteries, there must also be a mystagogue, a “leader into the mystery”, and Saint Cyprian is both mystic and mystagogue.  He leads in a way not unlike Hermes, and in doing so, helps shine truth upon us; this was evident both when he was Cyprian the Mage as well as Cyprian the Saint.  I sought his aid in leading me into his mysteries, as well as to those in which I am fit and made for.

Theurge
The origin of the word “theurge” is from Greek, literally meaning “god-worker”.  Yes, work is part of this word, but it’s a special kind of work, as this is a special kind of magic.  Theurgy is magic that goes upwards, and I kept seeing an image of a double-sided Cyprian, one side facing me in his normal guise of old man in rags, but the other ennobled and enrobed facing away from me with arms outstretched towards the cosmos and all its stars and planets and lights.  A theurge is no normal magician, but a “priest to the gods”, as in one who acts not in service to the gods but who acts on behalf of and ministers to the gods.  In only approaching the gods as equals (God became man in Christ that man might become God in Christ), we help the gods and help ennoble and empower the gods above even their own rank, that all might approach the holy glory of the One.  However, this is difficult as mankind, because we’re so trapped down here that we cannot see the cosmos in all its infinite glory.  The body, especially, is something that is a tool, yet hinder us since we usually cannot use it well.  We treat the body too well, or too lazily, or too softly, and in effect the body traps us.  Yet, we cannot destroy the body, as it is our only tool in this world, and so we must treat it well enough that it lives well yet not so well that it becomes an obsession for us.  This is much akin to the Buddhist notion of the Middle Way, which to an outsider would seem incredibly ascetic yet from its own system makes perfect sense as moderation; it just goes to show how far obscenely extreme we are in our indulgences that the Middle Way seems extreme in and of itself!  In treating the body right, we can then, slowly, turn away and up from this world and engage in the right practice of the gods.

Thaumaturge
NB: this was the night that my bracelet broke, and I first asked Saint Cyprian about it.  I had been lying on the couch, delaying going to my temple room for my novena, and chatting with friends before deciding a shower would be nice before making my prayers, and then my bracelet broke.  Saint Cyprian firmly reminded me of our chat the previous night, about not overly treating the body well, which is exactly what I had been doing.  Thus, a bit of a wonder had to happen in order to catch my attention, and this is where the role of thaumaturge comes in, literally “wonder-worker”.  Little meditation was done tonight, instead to be replaced by an injunction to make my own wonders happen in the world.  Cyprian showed me an image of his cauldron, and taking power out of it to cast death on this person, healing on that person, wealth on this person, poverty on that person, and so on.  What is my cauldron?  What is inside it?  What is its fire?  What is my hook?  What is my spoon?

Theophoros
The office of “theophoros” was originally chosen on a whim, but it turns out to have been highly appropriate.  Coming from Greek meaning “bearer of God”, the word “theophoros” was originally applied to Ignatius, student of John the Apostle and the third Bishop of Antioch (!).  Saint Cyprian was not originally Christian, but born to pagan parents, dedicated to the god Apollo as a child, and initiated into countless mysteries before finally coming to Christ.  In all these things, God was still present, and Cyprian took on more and more paths of God, taking a very roundabout way to his eventual ultimate initiation.  In every work, every ritual, every spell, every tool, every initiation, and every step, Cyprian the Mage carried God around with him, though he did not know it; it was only during the climax of the Mage’s life and conversion into the Christian that Cyprian dug through all the detritus, muddled darkness, and clutter of practices that he found God at the center of each and every thing he had ever done.  When he cleared all that away, Cyprian no longer had any burdens to bear, as God was, crucially, weightless; indeed, instead of bearing God, once the Mage became the Christian, God bore Cyprian, turning him from the Bearer of God into the Borne of God.  God is in everything we do, from the smallest to the greatest, from the most mundane to the most spiritual, but we may have difficulty seeing him; that difficulty, that blind distance and rejection of grace, is our burden to bear.  It is meant for us to bear, and it is eventually meant for us to one day put down our burden, cut to the heart of it all, and not only find that we have little to truly carry, but also to become carried by that which once we carried.

Saint
A saint, according to Catholic doctrine, is anyone who has holiness and grace enough to be granted access to Heaven, whether in life or in death.  Saint Cyprian, obviously, is such a person, but it’s amazing that he could do so, given that almost for his entire life he was raised counter to everything in Christianity.  He was part of every pagan path, every mystery religion, every magical order of his day; he worked with, worshipped, and worked upon countless gods and all but fought God himself.  Yet, despite of and because of the spiritual darkness he lived in, he had grace and holiness enough to become a saint in his own, unpredictably magical way.  Yet, moreover, he was human, like you or me.  All of humanity possesses the ability to become saints, showing us that this is not something reserved for the elect or the blessed few, but that sainthood is open to all of us, each and every one of us.  How do we become saints?  It’s not that we stop sinning, for we can never really do that; even Saint Cyprian repented and shit and ate, although certainly his magical training gave him discipline enough to keep his sins at bay more than most.  We become saints by enjoying grace, and grace…really isn’t that hard a concept to grasp.  All we have to do is to keep looking at God and not look away.  Much how Cyprian had everything when he converted to Christ and thus couldn’t lose anything, we don’t become blind to other things if all we look at and look for is God, because God is all and all are in God.  It’s when we look at other things for their own sake that we lose sight of God, and that is when we turn our back on grace, but if we can just keep that Light in our eyes, it illuminates everything.

Sorcerer
The word “sorcerer” is largely interchangeable with the word “mage” or “magician”, though it’s usually had something more of a sinister connotation.  It ultimately comes from Latin sors meaning “lots” or “fates”, like the throws of a die or pulling of pieces of paper from a hat, by means of Medieval Latin sortarius “teller of fortunes by lot”.  In a sense, it could be seen that mages work with the forces of the cosmos at their disposal to attain particular fates, while sorcerers manipulate the fate of the cosmos itself.  This is kind of true, but also kind of not true; all sorcerers are magicians, but not all magicians are sorcerers.  In some sense, sorcery is more difficult, yet also more popular, than magic meant in its stricter senses.  While I thought that sorcery could be thought of as magic with a heavy bent on divination, given the emphasis on lots, it’s more that mages are the processors and implementors of the cosmos, while sorcerers are the engineers of the cosmos; we hack the systems at work themselves to change how they work, as opposed to putting them to work as they are.  As for fate, well, if you consider destiny a destination after a long road, while magicians can make certain parts of the road easier or more difficult, it’s when you change the path itself or even the ultimate destination that sorcery is involved.  Sorcery is the deception of the nature of reality itself.

Sage
Saint Cyprian showed me a vast city full of different types of buildings: some modern, some classically Greek, some Chinese, some simple mud-brick huts.  This is the City of God, he said, and he asked “who built it?” It is the work of not God, but man; mankind brought each brick about, and each brick was inscribed with Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.  Respect of God, who gives life, who gives grace, who gives guidance, is the key to wisdom, as it is by respecting the the Creator that we respect and know Creation.  In recognizing our true power above, not a temporal or mundane power above us but a being that is actually greater than us in every way, we recognize the structure and harmony of the cosmos, and by respecting God, we inherently align ourselves with our purpose and plan in life.  The world is meant to be lived in and manipulated to our good ends, not for our selfish or mundane ends, since it is by harmony with the created universe around us and all its creatures that we show God in ourselves as creators, yes, but also as maintainers and stewards and caretakers and inhabitants of it all.  Why do we seek wisdom?  We all have that flame of Sophia in our hearts, after all, but why do we let it burn, why do we want it to burn greater?  There is no speakable answer; the only correct answer is by God, and it is by respecting God that we come to know God, and it is by knowing God that we come to knowledge of all.