End of a Decade

So, here we are at the end of 2019, all of us headed into a new decade in less than thirty days. It seems to be all the rage on Twitter and Facebook to do an end-of-decade recap, so I figured I may as well pitch in with mine. This was originally going to be a tweet thread over on my Twitter, but it turns out that Twitter won’t allow threads over a certain maximum number, and 2010—2019 was…well, quite the decade for me, and I wanted to do it justice as some of the most formative years of my life to this point. So, let’s try this over here on this, my beloved website and blog, that has seen me through all these years and, God and gods willing, many more years to come. Now that I’ve written all this, it’s…kind of astounding everything that’s happened to me, for me, by me, and with me over just the span of ten years, how much I’ve changed, how so much has happened that I would never have dreamed of happening.

Ten years ago, at the end of 2009, I was wrapping up my penultimate semester in undergrad at UVa. (I still have old photos from my old laptop, long since sold off, of me in the 24-hour library studying and partying with friends.) That semester was the most difficult and credit-intense of them all; the semester after that was the easiest and most fun of them all. I wrote my undergraduate thesis for my B.S. in computer science on using software metrics and variable name uniqueness to predict bugs, and how software engineers are awful at using metrics for actually engineering their products.

There was an unfortunate issue with an unofficial subletter we had in my apartment who, while the rest of us were out of town for winter break 2009—2010, ended up exploding the fireplace (and damn near destroying the rest of the apartment) while drunk and drugged up. He and one of his friends thought it would be a good idea to have a fire in the fireplace and start throwing shit into it: potatoes, bottles of cleaning products, rolls of toilet paper, cans of food…and one can of chickpeas was built exceptionally sturdy, and failed spectacularly. None of us, especially our landlady, were thrilled about that. We were finding bits of charred potato, melted bottles, and ash across the place for weeks. He dropped off the face of the map, but we were able to track down his family’s contact information and pass it along to our landlady for restitution.

While I had begun my blog, “The Digital Ambler”, early in 2010, I didn’t really do much with it. It was originally a devotional space for XaTuring, the Great Worm, god of the Internet. It fell stagnant and quiet for a while. I got Twitter and deleted Facebook in the spring of 2010, around the time when I graduated college. Cesspool that it is, I’ve met some amazing people on Twitter since that time, many of whom have become lifelong friends in the process.

I was living with my then-boyfriend (who graduated one year earlier) at the time. We were together for less than a year after this; we moved in together upstate after I graduated, then we broke up and he went to be with someone else. He moved out, and I had the place all to myself for about a year—while he was still paying, no less, for his share, which was great for me, and gave me the space I needed to eventually begin my magical and spiritual practices. (It also gave me the wonderful time to just be home naked all the time without a concern in the world.)  We met about two years earlier at our rival college through the furry community, ultimately through my ex, who was on-and-off-again president of the furry club; through them, I met the local furs upstate where I moved and made friends with them, too, even after my breakup.

It was in the final weeks of my last semester at college, literally during the study period before finals, that I got my job acceptance call with the federal government. I was skipping down the hallway to my Proto-Indo-European Linguistics study session in joy. The job was slow-going, but eventually the work picked up for me. It was quiet and enjoyable.

By this time, I was already good with geomancy, having studied and practiced it for about two or three years by this point. The Geomantic Campus Yahoo! group was alive and well at this point. For a long while, I had only wanted to just be a diviner, keeping magic well out of it, but…well, in 2011, after finally settling down into the idea of Actually Doing Magic, I had the choice between one of three alternatives. After doing a reading for myself, I got into Fr. Rufus Opus’ “Red Work” course, and I restarted my blog as a place for my Hermetic research and rambling. I didn’t stop writing or let the blog stagnate this time—or, at least, not for as long.

Through my furry friends in the area, I met a particularly fascinating magical practitioner and priestess. She put me in contact with others, and by them through others, and by them through others. Abundant adventures ensued, as well as a few visits to some tattoo and piercing parlors: I got a caduceus on my left forearm, a Rod of Asclepius on my right forearm, the Golden Chain of Homer on my spine, and several piercings in my ears and one under my lip. I’ve yet to get any more, but I’m looking forward to it when I can; I’ve only had to take out my labret piercing (it was wearing down the gum on my lower teeth), and while I later got nipple piercings, I took those out too and never bothered putting them back in.

My mother’s mother passed away in late spring 2012. The worst part of it all was the long trip to my ancestral state for her funeral—and watching my brother blab on in his eulogy about her lung cancer, which she had kept secret from others all this time (hilariously enraging my mom in the process). My mother still has yet to go through all her records and files, but she’s making progress again.

Looking back on it and given how complete it was (though never as complete as he set out for it to be), I would say that Fr. Rufus Opus’ “Red Work” course has two main objectives: contact with your holy guardian angel/supernatural assistant, and induction into the eighth sphere of the fixed stars. I accomplished the first objective in early summer 2012.

Lots of adventures with furries and magicians and pagans in this time. I miss a lot of it, debauched and dramatic as it sometimes was. I still get to hang out periodically with some of those friends, but it’s a lot less common nowadays. Those adventures, stupid as they sometimes were, were at least memorable enough to provide some much-needed learning experiences, not just about magic, but also myself. Through some of my magical contacts, I began doing readings and teaching an occasional class at a local new age/occult shop.

After a weird amount of online dating and hooking up, I met a new boy towards the latter half of 2012; we met through OkCupid after rating each other highly, and we commented on the weird grammar used in the automatically-generated message it sent out. I was attracted to his profile because of his impressive back tattoos (large arachnidian-demonic wings). He later admitted that he did a bit of a candle spell to find someone—he got a candle from the same new age store I did readings at, on a day when I was teaching a class. He recognized my voice when we went out for the first time and got drunk at an Irish pub down the street from me. It’s also because of the boy that I got a Facebook again, to prove to his friends that I actually exist. It’s been useful in other ways since, too, especially for creating and maintaining the Geomantic Study-Group I admin. Lots of other social connections, too, as it turns out.

Through my branching internet and magical friends, I learned of a mages’ convention a few states north. Great antics were had, even if I don’t remember them all; I learned that drunken prophecy was a Thing for me (who knew?). It was at this convention that I not only got to meet Fr. Rufus Opus in person (as well as Jason Miller and a bunch of others), but I also got to meet the man who would become my bromancer, my partner-in-crime in the occult, with whom I’m still excellent friends. (At one point I even shoved God into his head, which was fun. Neither of us remember that event clearly.)

It was around this time, in 2013-ish, that I began working on a draft for a textbook on geomancy. Also this year, the husband and I spent a lot of time with our first godfamily and spiritual community in another state, people I met through my earlier contacts. Lots of fun times were had and lots of learning. I also learned that I look pretty good with a buzzcut.

In the autumn of 2013, there was a lengthy government shutdown, which put me on temporary enforced vacation. I used that time wisely, constructed a fantastic ebony Wand of Art (the wood itself a gift from a friend), and, after more than a week straight of heavy conjurations, achieved the second objective of the “Red Work” course: induction into the eighth sphere of the fixed stars. It changed everything for me.

The boy and I moved in together in early 2014 with another friend. I still miss that house with its abundant fields, problematic though it was in the long term. Because of the distance involved and how much further I moved away, I had to stop going to the new age store I was doing readings at; I want to visit again, but the time never seems to be there. The housemate eventually moved out when she got into a relationship of her own, and though she and the boy are good friends, she doesn’t come around much anymore. In fact, many of the friends we had in the area in common we haven’t seen much; they were all really tight when they lived together, but I guess time is an amazingly busy knife for so many people.

In the summer of 2014, I made a trip back down to my alma mater for an academic conference, “Tracking Hermes/Mercury”. I was probably the only non-academic attendee, but that was fine. It was great to be back, even just for a short while.

The pleasant times the boy and I had with our out-of-state godfamily all blew up horrifically in our faces in late 2014; I’m still bitter about it, honestly, so it’ll be for the best if I never have to cross paths with them again. That blowup with the erstwhile godfamily really started at that year’s mages’ convention in the autumn. I never went back after that, and the convention itself fell apart not a few years later. Oh well. Memories are memories, sweet and hollow as they are.

Towards the end of 2014, I did a month-long magical working, in which I made the most rookie mistake ever: I didn’t actually read the full ritual text in detail that I was going to work from. It was…a harsh learning lesson, and it brought up and opened up a lot of things for me that I thought I had locked, chained, and cast down to the bottom of the ocean. Some things you just can’t escape or hide your head in the sand from; it’s a lesson I’m still learning. I suppose it was still a successful operation, though I question whether I would have done it if I actually had read the text itself beforehand.

I took my first step (well, a lot of them, really) into Lukumí (Afro-Cuban orisha religion, aka “Santería”) in 2015, receiving my Warriors, Hand of Orunmila, ilekes, and Olokun throughout the year. My godfather turned out to be one of the people I had met through that magical practitioner from before; his godsister, the boy’s godmother. I still find it hilarious how the furry community ultimately got me into this religion.

In summer 2015, I took a new job offer to be a team lead in a different program, same building and agency, right down the hall. It was a year of suffering; I developed panic attacks in an utterly horrific office that I could not fix. It was a mess of micromanagement, poor coordination, and a terrorized staff. It was awful.

In autumn 2015, the boy became the husband. We had already been headed that way for some time, but plans fell through, we couldn’t get the money scrounged up in time, and we just decided to leave it be. But then the gods themselves intervened and brought everyone and everything together at the right time, on the very day we wanted in the exact context we wanted, for us to get married anyway. I had no intention of visiting my (not-yet) godmother’s house to get married, but it happened anyway.

At the end of 2015, our landlord told us he was going to sell the place we were living in, so we had four months to GTFO. Thus began months of house-searching and freaking out. We were pushing right up into the limit—and over it. But we made it, and me, my husband, and our new housemate bought a house together at the start of summer 2016. After months of chaos and anxiety, this worked out exceedingly well and in our favor in so many ways—sometimes as if it were by magic or divine intervention. (Imagine that.) Now we just need to keep improving it, fixing what was leftover from the previous owners, and making it more livable and sturdy for as long as we’ll be here for it.

In summer 2016, after exactly one year in that horrible team lead job, I left it and went back to my old job. I’ll always be grateful to my supervisor for helping me get back there; I’m perfectly happy with my team, my work, my workload, and my position where I am, and though it was helpful to get that team lead experience (and a pay bump), I’m glad it’s over with. I’m happy being at the top of the career ladder and quite content with my position where I am; sure, the money from being a team lead or supervisor might be nice, but it’s not worth the stress of the position, nor is it worth giving up the work I already enjoy so much. Looking back, it seems like my work life has been the most stable thing about my life, which is frankly surprising.

In autumn 2016 (coinciding with his and my Saturn Return), my husband and I went to Cuba to be initiated fully into La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, him as a priest of Oshún and me a priest of Ogún. Everyone got giardia in the process, but I was the only one who didn’t have to take Cipro to get over it. (I also learned that dairy and intestinal parasites don’t mix too well. At least I didn’t have to worry about caloric blowback from those milkshakes on the way back.) I lost 15 pounds from our Cuba diet and our gastro-intestinal affliction, but I also gained a new life, a battery of orisha, and such divine guidance and support that I cannot but be honored and humbled by it all every day.

That began one year and one week of wearing only pure white clothing, every day, all day, inside and outside, publicly and privately. Not a lot else happened publicly or otherwise due to religious restrictions for our initiatory year; mostly just quiet processing. It was rough, but it was also worth it. I understand now what other priests say when they say they’d go through the entire process all over again, hard though it is to believe. There was some nasty drama during the year, however; our house didn’t explode, but our household nearly did. The Year in White is never easy, and it’s never the same for any two given priests. We made it, by the grace of God and the gods. I gained those 15 pounds back over the course of the year.

My father’s mother passed away in 2017. I can’t be sad about it; the woman basically won at life in every regard. She had a quiet and easy death in her 90s surrounded by family, after living through World War II, being married three times, inheriting a business fortune, traveling the world, and even having a short stint with the Jewish mafia. She’s earned not just a good rest but a whole throne and pavilion just for herself in the afterlife.

Since coming out of my Year in White in autumn 2017, it’s just been a lot of learning, studying, practicing, writing, experimenting, divining, casting, praying, meditating, and on and on. Routines get set up, fall apart, and set up again. Projects come up again and again, and some even get worked on enough to actually make it somewhere. The Work never really ends, thank God and the gods. There’s never a dull moment, even in the downtime.

Our husband’s cat Isis, which he had for over a decade, whom we took in from his grandmother’s in 2016, fell ill and died in early 2018. It was…hard, especially for him. She’s in a decorated resin canopic jar now, watching over us and the house. We got a new cat later that summer. Well, I should say, he wanted to get a cat, and I ended up getting one. Nephthys is…well, she’s a cat. And, more recently, thanks to the husband’s mother, she has a new brother now, Set, whom she is not yet a fan of. (At all.) It’s a process. My husband recently pointed out that Nephthys is much like him in personality, while Set is more like me. And Set is very much his cat. (Funny how that works. And yes, the husband picked all three names for the cats.)

I took on students this past year in 2019; it’s not my first time having a student, but this is the longest and most thorough arrangement I’ve ever had, and helps me as much as it helps them. It also gives me a good way to experiment and check in on some of the stuff I myself do. Not to make them my guinea pigs, of course, but it does point out to me better ways to teach and instruct some of the things that I myself have been taught, or that I’ve had to teach myself.

I was invited to speak at another magical conference up north this past summer; it was a great time, and I already look forward to this next year’s. I just need to figure out what the hell I want to propose to talk about this time! In fact, this whole summer was weirdly high-profile for me, getting to meet a bunch of big names from across the country.

After being in credit debt since 2013, the husband and I finally finished paying all of it off this year. We’re finally able to start saving money—and up our monthly allowances. Still need to keep a tight rein on our spending, but that shouldn’t be too difficult at this point. Besides, our credit scores are high enough that we can get most anywhere we need. (And sure, I’ve taken out a loan or two since then, but those are household expenses, so I’m not half as worried about them.)

Over the past decade, I’ve gained a bit of weight and I smoke more than I did in college, and though I don’t drink as much as I did, I’m not as physically active as I was, either. I’ve done things that I would have thought impossible for me, and though I didn’t set out of college with some big overarching plan or design for how I wanted my life to be, if you had told me that this would be my life as I took off my graduation gown, I would have laughed in your face. I’ve met countless people, some of whom I’ll probably never meet again and others with whom I look forward to meeting again time and time again. I’ve traveled to places that I thought were only stories, and I’ve done things that I would have considered to belong in the realm of fables. Heck, somehow, after writing more words than are in all the Harry Potter books put together, I’ve even ended up making a small name for myself in the occulture, which is as shocking to me as anything else. Sure, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve stepped on toes, and I’ve fucked up, yes, but I’ve also grown a bit, or at least I think I have. All told, I look forward to everything this next decade has to bring. If this past decade has been any indication, then things should only get better from here. When I raise my glass for this upcoming New Year, I’ll be sure to raise it, my voice, and my spirit for all that has gotten me here and all those who walked this road with me, whether or not they’re still at my side.

And yes, the geomancy book is still in progress.

On Budgeting Time for Work and Work

I’m spending these Days of the Cyprians and the following days leading up to Michaelmas trying to get back to my magical practice.  It’s…well, let’s be honest, I haven’t really had much of a magical routine since 2015, between new-job-chaos and having-to-buy-a-house and house-moving and Santería-initiatory-period and so much else.  Even doing simple planetary invocations strikes my heart with beauty and power, and the muscle memory of prayer comes back easily, though meditation is, as ever, a pain in the ass (a good one, though).  But what strikes me is that my ideas of a magical schedule like how I used to do it simply aren’t as useful as they once were.  It’s not to say that my notion of what constitutes good daily routine for spiritual activities aren’t effective—they most certainly are!—but that I simply can’t use them in the way my life has developed with everything that goes on.  Some practices and prayers I don’t have the need anymore, but others, I don’t have the time for.  It’s not like I haven’t talked about my daily practices before, but maybe it’s time for a refresher.

Let’s consider my daily schedule, shall we?  On a normal workday when I go to the office, with no magical routine nor frills nor extra plans thrown into the works, my schedule looks like this:

  1. Wake up no later than 0615.
  2. Get a shower, brush my teeth, and get myself put together around 0630.
  3. Get breakfast and scarf it down, finishing no later than 0645.
  4. Take a break, make sure all my stuff is together, then head out the door to go to work between 0715 and 0720.
  5. My work day is flexible, demanding anywhere from six to twelve hours, plus about two hours for commuting either way total (including wiggle room to make sure I don’t miss my train) so I can be home anywhere between 1730 and 2030.  Taking the average, let’s say I get home at 1900.
  6. At some point, I need to spend roughly 15 to 30 minutes doing chores around the house just to keep things livable.
  7. In order to get at least six (preferably seven) hours of sleep, which is generally sufficient for me to be operational and which I can catch up on more on my days off or teleworking, I need to be in bed by 2300.

That means I spend time on the following:

  • Sleeping: 6 to 7.25 hours
  • Out of the home working, running errands, etc.: 10 hours to 13 hours
  • Other necessary activities: 45 minutes to 1 hour

All told, that means anywhere from 16 hours to 22 hours of my day are spoken for, leaving anywhere from like two hours (on a rough day) to just under eight (on a really relaxed day).  This is what my free time consists of, so on an average day, let’s say I have about four hours free leftover for whatever I want.  I know people whose schedules are more strained than mine, and I know others who have more relaxed schedules than mine.  Admittedly, it’s my commute (anywhere from three to four hours a day?!) that really eats up a substantial chunk of my time, but we can talk about that in a bit.

Four hours of free time, I suppose, sounds generous enough, but the moment you get engrossed in something, boom, it’s gone.  The moment something slips and needs to be redone or done differently, boom, it’s gone.  The moment you get lazy and want to just take a break, boom, it’s gone.  The moment you have something that needs your immediate attention, boom, it’s gone.  The moment something rears its head from your procrastination because you didn’t have enough time earlier, boom, it’s gone.  The problem is that “free time” can’t all go to one’s leisurely activities or spiritual pursuits; I can’t spend all of that time on playing video games, writing my book, praying and devotions, energy work, or what-not.  Things that are arguably higher priority are:

  • Groceries, supply-shopping, and other procurement for my household (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Chores, housework, and household improvements beyond the daily tidy-up (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Working out for fitness and health (+20 mins for getting to the gym and back home, +60 to 90 mins for the actual workout)
  • Client work and consultations (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Mandatory spiritual obligations and observances befitting my station and initiations (+10 to 30 mins)

Then, when it comes to my desired magical routine, what is it I’d like to do?

  • Meditation: 15 to 60 minutes
  • Prayer: 15 to 60 minutes
  • Energy work and sphere attunement: 15 to 30 minutes
  • Offerings: 5 to 30 minutes

We’re looking at anywhere from almost one hour to three hours of spiritual work a day.  On the face of it, that’s going to be impossible some days, and pushing it on others.  And that’s just the daily routine; that doesn’t take into account special things I want to do, like intense offering sessions to a particular entity, conjurations, consecrations, and so forth, which take up their own time and have their own preparatory phases.  This means that I need to keep my daily routine short, sweet, and to the point, but then I feel like I have to rush it lest I fall behind schedule with something else; the prime time for me to do daily routine is just after I wake up, so that means I need to wake up at least an hour earlier, which means I need to get to bed an hour earlier, which cuts down my time in the evenings after I get home from work.

What all this adds up to is that I have a busy life, and I simply can’t take care of everything I want to in the way I want to.  I have go to go work, I have to sleep, I have to keep my household in order.  I really can’t slack off on working out (like I already have been for too long already), and now that I’m getting back into a magical routine, I don’t want to slack off on that, either.  I simply have too much going on to handle everything I want every day like I want.  Some days have to be set aside for one thing, other days for another thing; I have to really prioritize everything I do and be as efficient with everything as possible if I want to feel useful.  I won’t be able to run errands for groceries and supplies on the same days I go to the gym or have to extra-special prep the house for company, nor will I be able to spend extra time making offerings and doing ceremony if I have other necessities planned like taking my pet to the vet or going out with my husband on date night.

Then there’s the fact that I simply can’t be doing something all the time.  Nobody can, nobody should; sure, we shouldn’t waste time, but consider that you just need downtime where you’re not doing anything at all besides self-care.  Watch a movie, take an extra-long bath, veg out on YouTube, go to happy hour, whatever to just unwind.  If you’re doing things you have to do all the time, you’re going to wear yourself down thinner than tissue paper, and you’re going to run yourself into the ground.  It’s not healthy.  Sure, there’s always a lot to do, but there’s always a lot to do; setting aside an appropriate amount of time in moderation for yourself isn’t going to make things substantially worse than they already are, so you may as well enjoy yourself when you have the opportunity.

Happily, all the above doesn’t go for every single day.  For one, I have the ability to work from home, which allows me to (a) avoid spending three to four hours commuting and (b) I work from home longer hours so I spend shorter hours in the office.  Right now, that’s just once a week, though in the future, I might be able to get it to twice, which would be substantially helpful in freeing up more of my daily time.  There are also the weekends, where I simply don’t have to do nearly as much; of course, “have to do” is different from “need to do”, because these are prime times for me to catch up with friends (which I consider a necessity!), visit family or godfamily (who live up to four hours away), work religious ceremony (which can honestly be an all-day event, if not across multiple days),  intense research, and the like.

Plus, there are times when I’m doing something else necessary that I can overlap with other things.  For instance, while I’m in the office, I’m not always busy; I have downtime there, too, and I often use that for writing and researching and taking care of some client stuff that I don’t have to do at home (mostly paperwork, sending stuff out, and conversations for clarification and guidance).  I’d like to be able to do readings in the office, but between the spiritual gunk that drifts in and out and the fact that I don’t have a fully-enclosed office, it’s hard to have the privacy and ability to concentrate that I’d need, so I have to limit myself to just the mundane paperwork side of things.  The hour and a half I spend on the train…well, you’d think I could use that better than I can, but there’s no wireless connection on the train, the cellular signal drops out frequently, and the seating is awfully crammed for someone my size with large legs.  I try to read, but more often than not, I end up falling asleep and use my traintime as backup-naptime.  I know many people who can overlay trainrides, carrides, and working out with audio books, but that’s not for me; I find such disconnected listening to someone speaking even more soporific than stupid ASMR videos.  Either way, it’s totally possible for me to overlap work and commuting with some of the less-active tasks I have, but it’s not guaranteed that I’ll be able to do so; plus, it’s hard to use these times as honest-to-god downtime or relaxation times, because I’m still technically at work or cramped up in a fast-moving metal box surrounded by people, and it’s hard to be really relaxed to the point of being able to decompress like that.

Ugh.  So where does this all leave me?  There are things I need to do, and then there are the Things I Want to do.  And, unfortunately, I don’t have the time or lifestyle that lets me do it all at the same time.  If I had my way, I wouldn’t be working nearly as long or nearly as far away (housing costs and lack of comfort in cities, yo), which would do me good, surely.  I’d be able to wake up in the early morning, take care of my meditations and prayers and other magical and religious routines, then go to the gym, come back home, get ready for work, go to work, then come home, enjoy some peace and relaxation and work on a few things that needed my attention, then go to bed.  Unfortunately, that can’t happen in the real world, not with the lifestyle I have with its own pre-existing demands.

The big thing to keep in mind is that, for better or for worse, you have to do what you have to do to keep you afloat.  I can’t dedicate my time primarily to magical stuff because that doesn’t pay the bulk of my bills which keeps food in my belly and a roof over my head (career work), and I have to dedicate the proper time to make sure that food in my belly doesn’t rot my bones due to lack of use (working out), as well as making sure that roof over my head doesn’t rot from lack of maintenance (chores and household work).  These are essential things that cannot be compromised.  It’s what I have time leftover that I have to use wisely and prioritize, and that not only means I have to prioritize my routines and day-to-day activities (is this a day for running errands or running on the treadmill? a day for spending time in profound ritual for divinity or spending money in the supermarket for groceries and clothes?), but it also means I have to prioritize my overall projects I work on.

Projects throw an interesting wrench into this whole thing.  There are several big, overarching things I want to do in my own personal practice:

  • Finish and publish my geomancy textbook
  • Begin the Arbatel Operation with the seven Olympic Spirits as well as the Four Kings of Secrets
  • Dig deeper into Mathēsis, including zodiacal explorations
  • Nine-week exploration of particular aspects of Sts. Cyprian, Justina, and Theocistus
  • Explore my own Four Guardians of the Directions
  • Toy around with some of the more involved rituals of the PGM (esp. PGM XIII’s Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses)

There are other things I want to do, too, and there are also other pots I have my fingers in.  For instance, there’s also the need to learn more songs and practices and rituals for La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (a.k.a. Santería), which is a pretty  involved thing on its own, but again, the study portion of it can be handled elsewhere, and the involvement parts that demand my presence handled on their own dates and times and places.  Each of the projects above is a big, overarching thing that isn’t done in a single one-off task, but a series of tasks established over days and weeks and months.  To work on a project takes time, and I only have so much time.  If I use my spare time to write my geomancy textbook, I don’t have time to focus on Arbatel preparation; if I spend time planning and researching Four Guardians stuff, I don’t have time to give to St. Cyprian.  Sure, I might be able to switch focuses now and then, but it’s a lot easier to dedicate all my spare mental processing cycles to a single thing than to split them across multiple things.  For instance, it’s a lot less stress-inducing to know that I have just my geomancy textbook to work on than to remember, in my idle moments of enjoying chillwave mixes on YouTube, that I have my geomancy textbook to work on as well as that Cyprian invocation next week and also the New Moon’s coming up so I need to prepare for some Mathēsis investigation, etc. etc. etc.

I suppose this is all just me flailing around, trying to figure out how I want to get to where I want to be, how I want to become what I want to be, given the fact that I can’t seem to fit everything into my daily and weekly schedule as much as I want to.  But at least I know how much time I have to afford on a daily basis, and I know how much time certain things take.  It’s a start.  All project, timeline, and schedule planning demands to know how long certain things take and in what order they need to occur; knowing this much is helpful for myself.

On the Temple as a Convenience

It’s weird sitting here in this living room, full of clutter and boxes and antiques and the occasional errant Christmas decoration that was never put away two years ago.  We keep saying we’ll get it tidied up, but between me living 200 miles away and my sister busy with being a Tarot-reading poledancing camgirl, we haven’t.  Between a variety of memories, a vague sense of comfortable unease, and several mountains of candy and chocolates that’re amassed in one of the unused rooms, I don’t know whether I prefer or disprefer being here.

I’m staying at my mother’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, and she’s basically the only one I ever actually call and talk to on the phone (and for someone who hates phonecalls, this is notable).  And, add to it, I hardly ever visit the place where I grew up, about 150 miles away as the bird flies.  While growing up with her could oft be a pain, our relationship markedly improved once I moved out for college.  I don’t see her that often anymore, but when I do it’s usually a combination of fun and stressful; she’s still my mother, after all.

This visit I’m paying to her is to help her out after a recent surgery she had, a hip replacement.  This is her second this year; the first one was on one hip, and this is on the other.  She needs someone to chill with and run a few errands during the day while she’s staying at her rehab center, and during the night I’m out wandering playing Ingress or just internetting idly at her place.  It’s not unbearable, though it is odd that it coincides with my birthday week and the Full Moon, and right after Crucible Convention 2014, and that my boyfriend isn’t with me.  I do get to hang with my sister aplenty, too, when she’s able, and I have plans with a few friends from high school and college.  Not too shabby a birthday week, I reckon.

Still, it’s weird.  I’m not one for travel generally, despite my Hermaic nature and despite that I’ve rarely not enjoyed a trip.  What’s probably most weird is that I’m currently away from my home, and with it my temple.  I have a small bedroom at my house set up to act as my temple, shrine, and altar room; the boyfriend and our housemate are okay with this, since they get the even-larger outside shed for their work.  I’m used to spending at least a little time each day in my temple for meditation, contemplation, prayer, jamming with the spirits, making offerings to the gods and saints, and the like.  And this week, I’m cut off by a lengthy distance from all that, and it’s somewhat jarring.  It’s kinda funny how much I’ve gotten used to having a whole temple all to myself within only a few months of living in my (still relatively new) place, and now that I’m without it temporarily how much my spiritual practice has changed and can still yet change.

To be fair, nothing I do strictly requires a temple.  For that matter, nothing I do strictly requires being in any one place; I carry my gods with me in my heart and in my mind, and occasionally in the jewelry that I wear.  All of my tools are relatively compact and can fit in a duffel bag with enough space leftover for a bottle of wine, and if I don’t have my tools with me, I have my own force and prayers to wield as wands and swords.  The statues and shrines I have set up for my gods and spirits are nice to have, but not strictly necessary if I have somewhere outside to pour out wine and water and oil.  I memorize my prayers, formulae, and rituals, and what I haven’t memorized I keep written down in a small journal that can fit in a cargo pants pocket.  If I have a lighter, a box of generic incense, a pack of tealights, a bottle of wine, a bottle of oil, and a bottle of water, I have more than what I need to make my offerings and prayers, and even then most of that isn’t necessary if I have time and a quiet space to pray.

Having a statue to dedicate to a spirit is nice.  Having a shrine to interface with a spirit is nicer.  Having an altar to do Work with spirits is even nicer than that.   Having a room to store shrines, altars, tools, and supplies is pretty damn nice.  Having your head on your shoulders is all you need, though, because without your presence, mindfulness, and mental effort, nothing else matters.  If all you have is a quiet room, or even a public room with a few minutes of quiet and maybe a little bit of privacy, you have all you need to be any level of spiritual, religious, occult, magical, or whatever.

All this is rather clear right now to me.  I used to have a little “shrine” on a bookcase with a few baubles, a mini-sand garden, and plants when I was in middle school and high school, but I never considered it anything special, nor was I doing Work back then (just reading about it with all the fascination of a middle-schooler).  That room has long since been taken over with extra Christmas presents, surplus clothes bought on discount, and giant bags of yarn, and I’m basically living in the living room while my mom’s at rehab.  As far as my spiritual needs are concerned, I have everything I need: a space to sit, time to myself, and all the privacy I could want.  As a bonus, I have a countertop to make offerings on, so even if I can’t pour wine out at my shrines, I can at least do it here.  And yes, I did bring along my carcanets and chaplets as my major tools plus a bottle of Florida water; the heavy work that requires full circles can wait, after all, but even if an emergency happened, I could still manage here just fine.

Even then, say I had nowhere to stay this week.  Say my mother’s house was either metaphorically or literally wrecked to the point where I didn’t even have the couch to sleep on or enough floor space to sit, and I had to live out of my car.  I’d be able to manage just fine, then, too; there’s this little thing called the astral temple, after all.  We all have access to it, and we all have our own astral temple, if not our own astral “country”, our own little space and neighborhood that exists all to ourselves.  Whether you access it in your dreams or through projection of one sort or another, you can get to it all the same.   The rules are a little different on the astral than they are here; there’s no limit to the things you can do, really, so long as you can think and command it so.  Any tool or drink you want, craft it from thought alone; call on any spirit, and they’ll appear before you in any form you ask (if they’re willing); any ambiance or setting you need, snap and the set changes immediately.  The more you work in the astral, the more you can do and the easier it gets to work there.  If all you have is a bed in a shared room to spend time in at night with someone else asleep, if you can slip into your astral temple, you really have pretty much all of magic at your disposal (give or take a few physical actions to ground out the purely-spiritual work).

You don’t often find me talking about astral temples or astral work generally because, generally speaking, I don’t do it.  I have my own temple in the physical world that I (almost always) have access to; what more could I need?  Well, I don’t strictly need a physical temple if I have an astral one, and even then, I don’t strictly need an astral temple, either, if I can pray and work anywhere.  Magicians have gotten by without astral temples far longer than the notion of them has existed.  Even priests and the faithful used to worship anywhere they could, regardless of the regalia or temples or community they might’ve been accustomed to; the real purpose of it all was the things you did as Work.  Even the ancient and huge temples of the Hellenes weren’t the focus of worship, but the tiny, almost insignificant altar just outside to the east.  Temples, devotional art, shrines, processions, tools, and the like all exist to support and facilitate the Work, but they themselves are not the Work.  They’re convenient.  That’s all.  They’re nice to have, but the Work does not require them.

Of course, I am taking this time to get my astral skills back up and running and dust out my astral temple.  I’ve been neglecting my astral presence and environment, after all, and I could do with a good banishing and touching up of the place.  Even if I don’t strictly need a temple space to do my Work and offerings, I am used to it, and even if all I have is a place in my head I can overlay with the place my body’s at, I’m good to go.  I’m used to the convenience of having a temple; it’s nice to be reminded that I don’t need one, and if all my wordy gaudy blinged-out shit isn’t needed, then none of you need it to do the Work, either.  They’re nice, but they’re not needed.

So, if you’re not Working yet, what’s your excuse?

Setting a Daily Spiritual Practice

As much as I harp on about setting up a daily practice, I have to admit that I’m kinda terrible at maintaining my own.  Then again, mistakes, lapses, and unexpected events are often the case, and with an already-packed schedule, sometimes prayers or meditations or offerings get pushed back or forgotten entirely (and made up later with profuse apologies).  It happens to everyone, unless you’re one of those die-hard devotees with good time management and enough free time to allow for it all (confound you, lucky/hardened bastards).  I try my best, all the same, and I try to keep myself on the ball when I can.  After all, what good is a daily practice if it’s not kept daily?

Lately I’ve been experimenting with different routines and different ways to set my routines up, from spending less time in the mornings and more time in the evenings to changing when I sleep and how much I (can stand to or get by on) sleep.  Some things have worked, and some things haven’t, and it all informs what my ideal practice would look like given my current situation.  However, that doesn’t take into account what my actual practice is, and whether aspects of my daily practice are worth it or should stand to be continued as daily as they are, or whether they should be cut back to weekly or even less frequent practices.  For instance, it used to be the case that I would spend time every day doing the Headless Rite before attaining contact with my HGA; now that I have contact, I don’t do the Headless Rite except when I really need the extra oomph for a ritual.

To that end, I decided to come up with five major questions that helped guide me to clarify my own thoughts, desires, and necessities when formulating a daily practice, each of which deal with time constraints and necessities:

  1. What are your worldly obligations?  While it may be nice for some of us to daydream about becoming full-time spiritual, devoting every second of every day to prayer and magic, that’s quite out of the realm of possibility for many of us.  Hell, even monks of various traditions have to spend some of their time farming, taking inventory of goods, doing chores, and the like.  For the majority of us, we’re obligated to interact with the world in ways that can easily take over most of our time, especially when it comes to school and work.  Classwork and studying, or preparing lessons and teaching, as well as meetings and overtime work are all important things that must be given highest priority, as well as all the attendant time-sinks like commuting, lunch breaks, and the like.  Making yourself presentable and livable, too, also counts as worldly priorities, so getting enough sleep at night, taking care of your body and hygiene, and taking care of chores and errands also count here.  Without fulfilling our worldly obligations to the extent that is proper for ourselves, we neglect to build a solid worldly foundation upon which we can build our spiritual lives.
  2. What are your personal priorities?  As human beings, we have human needs such as intoxication, being social, supporting families, enjoying hobbies, being productive, and just generally being happy.  Working in the world and Working in the cosmos both lead to happiness, sure, but chances are you’re going to desire other things besides these that can help you be a well-rounded human being.  Unless you’re a die-hard OCD schedule-master, you’re going to have at least one hour a day where you’re relaxing and enjoying some sort of pastime.  Sports, martial arts, hobbies, craftwork, being social, going partying, writing, and anything “extracurricular” can be considered something personal, and these should also be given important weight.
  3. What are the crucial aspects of your daily practice? Everyone has a different notion of what they consider to be their daily practice, and more than that what they consider essential to it.  Some people have no need for any type of daily ritual, only interfacing with their spirits and the like as needed; other people like doing a bit of daily meditation or prayer, while others insist on doing a LBRP-type ritual every day.  It’s up to you to determine what exactly you find yourself doing every day and what you need to be doing every day, and no two magicians or priests will have exactly the same schedule.
  4. What do you have time for?  Once you have an idea for what you want to do for your daily practice, it helps to figure out what you absolutely need to do to have a core minimum practice that you can elaborate for when you have time.  When you have little time, you can only do a little; when you have more time, you can do more.  It’s that simple.  Within the time you can afford to spiritual practice, what is it you absolutely need to do that you can fit within your time constraints?  What practices can be combined or smooshed into a single practice, or what practices can be eliminated from daily practice entirely?  As we grow, we may find that our needs may evolve over time, working more on this thing that we before never encountered and working less on that other thing now that we’ve gained some more knowledge or initiation.
  5. When are you most comfortable Working?  Even considering one’s obligations and priorities, not everyone is going to enjoy carrying out one’s practice at the same time in the same way.  Many of my friends prefer to do their spiritual work at night when they’re relaxing after work, while I’ve always been a morning person and get my best work done before I leave my house.  Biasing your practice towards a particular time of day can benefit your practice substantially, but if you don’t have such a preference, using any available time works just as well.

For instance, consider my own situation.  My primary worldly obligation is my job: I work roughly 40 hours Monday through Fridays with mandated half-hour lunch break at an office that takes me an hour to commute to in one direction, so already I spend about 53 hours each week at a place where I can’t really do much in the way of spiritual growth or ritual.  Plus, I tend to spend about three hours a week taking care of errands and chores, get about seven hours of sleep a night, work out for about half an hour each day, and my major hygiene routine takes about half an hour each day. Among my major personal priorities are going to a 2-hour aikido 20 minutes from my house class three times a week, divination readings and classes on Sundays for six-ish hours at the local new age store, and going out to eat with friends for about three hours a week total.  Plus, to factor in where I’m decompressing and don’t need to be doing anything else, we can factor in another hour per day of just downtime.

All told, this yields about 135 hours a week where I’m given to be doing other human things.  A week only has 168 hours, so I only (“only”?) have 33-ish hours a week for spiritual work.  Taking into account my obligations for each day, this leaves about 9 hours on Sunday and Saturday, 1.5 hours on Monday, 4.5 hours on Tuesday and Thursday, and 2 hours on Wednesday and Friday.  On paper, these time amounts hover between “eh, it’s enough” and “mildly stressed for time”, so it doesn’t look terrible from the outset, but when I factor other things such as potential emergencies, delays at work, spending time with my boyfriend or family, and so forth, those 33 hours can quickly dwindle down even further.

When it comes to daily routine, I find that the things I feel compelled to do for my practice are meditation, energy work, prayer, and offerings.  Meditation is a must for any spiritual activity, as I and many other occultists see it, and I spend about 20 to 30 minutes in meditation a day, usually in the mornings after I work out and shower but before I do anything else.  Energy work comes after all my other daily spiritual work in the mornings before I get out into the world for work or pleasure, and my ritual takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on what I need (anointing with oils, weekly banishing, extra ki training, realigning my magician’s altar, etc.).  Prayer is a wide and varied thing for me, but I generally break it down into morning prayers (recognizing and praising the Divine and the World, aligning myself with virtue and divine will, singing the Hymns of Silence, requesting the aid and company of my Holy Guardian Angel) and evening prayers (reflection and contrition, thanksgiving, singing the Hymns of Silence); without other prayers, each set of prayers takes about 30 minutes to do.  Offerings, on the other hand, are even more varied, and can take forms such as praying the rosary to the Virgin Mary, making a planetary observation with the Orphic Hymn for the day, reciting a chaplet for a particular saint, offering wine to the gods, or spending time with my ancestors; while prayers are for the Divine, offerings (which are also prayers) are for other, lower spirits.  I spread my offerings through the week, and usually spend between 10 and 60 minutes a day in offerings to the spirits and forces I work with, especially if I have multiple offerings to do.  Some offerings I do in the morning and some in the evening, depending on the spirit and my time, but generally it’s half-and-half.  Between all this, I spend about 1.5 hours (one hour in the morning and half an hour at night) to 3 hours (two hours in the morning and one hour at night) a day in daily practice alone.

Clearly, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are days where I can’t do my lengthened daily routine schedule, since I’d only just barely cut it on Wednesdays and Fridays (and that’s with an already full day with my aikido practice!), and Monday simply doesn’t have the time (since I reserve that for chores and errands).  Sundays and Saturdays, with the most amount of time, would be best for my extended daily routine, given that I have the most time available for them generally, as well as other ritual work or simply relaxing.  Of course, even this schedule can be variable; if I work from home on a particular day, I can overlap my work with chores or Work and do away with commuting entirely, especially if I have a day off from work.  Plus, I often have downtime at work, where I do my general internetting and a good amount of my writing, which saves me time at home for more ritual work; my own work schedule is somewhat variable within certain boundaries, too, so I can take off early one day and leave later another day to make up for the time.  If I take a trip out of town (as I’m wont to do once every month or so), then my free time might not be free at all depending on where I’m going, how far it is, and whom I’m visiting.

Since I work best in the mornings, I try to allot as much time for myself as I can within my boundaries.  I take the last available train to work, so I have to leave my house around 7:50am; since I don’t like going to bed super-early but need to get enough sleep, I go to bed around 11pm and wake up around 5am or 6am (usually the former, but sometimes the latter if I really need the extra hour).  That way I have almost two or three hours in the morning to exercise, shower, get my morning routine done, and get ready for work before leaving.  After work, when I get home usually around 6:30pm or 7pm, I have about four hours to decompress, run whatever chores or do whatever rituals I want, and then wind down for my evening practice before heading to bed at 11pm.  Some nights I have plenty of time, even with aikido class; some nights I have only enough time for a quick prayer and heading off to bed after errands and chores.

Of course, my daily practice itself might be changed up a bit depending on what other rituals I do on a given day.  For instance, if I do a conjuration in the evening after work, a lot of the introductory prayers I make are the same as the ones I do in my morning prayer set, so I might elide those out of the morning routine or the preliminary ritual.  Offerings one day might be delayed a day or so to coincide with a better astrological timing for it, or I might forsake something like energy work entirely (arguably my lowest priority daily practice) if I don’t have the time in the morning and make up for it the next day.  Offerings can be more tricky, since they might be made as a gesture of appreciation or as part of a vow, and broken vows are never fun to deal with; I might double an offering to make up for a previously missed one, or simply ask forgiveness and forbearance from the spirit being made offerings.  If nothing else, offerings are the one thing I make my highest priority, but even they can get missed from time to time due to scheduling conflicts (like a Saturday offering at my altars when I’m out of town).

After all that, I think I have a good idea of what my daily practice should be like.  I’ve looked at my time constraints and time sinks with a critical eye, as well as what my practice consists of and what it should consist of; I’ve figured out what practices can be done on which days and to what extent, as well as my other general free time that I can use for (gasp) more practice, other rituals, other obligations (commissions, readings, studying, drinking, etc.) or other non-spiritual acts entirely (luncheon, video games, aikido, drinking, etc.).  The only thing left at this point is to actually implement my practice, and now that the first Mercury retrograde of 2014 is over, it’s a good time to do just that.

Do you have a daily practice you stick to, or try to stick to?  What are some of your biggest time sinks in terms of obligation, desire, and vice?  What do you consider necessary for your daily work, if anything at all?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Formalities of Ritual

One of the complaints my boyfriend has about my style of magic is that I’m way too wordy.  It’s true, I admit; a standard Trithemian-style conjuration has about five to ten minutes of preliminary prayer, not including the spiritual preparation and ritual space setup.  I like using the Orphic Hymns frequently, long-winded prayers, strings of barbarous words from the PGM, and so forth.  While he gets a bottle of rum and a cigar for his spirits and gets to work, I prefer my candles, incense, altar cloths, summoning circles, and so forth.  He’s not the type to get into heavy ritual, anyway, but that’s alright.  Someone’s gotta do the work, after all.

Thing is, though, he has a good point.  The stuff I do takes time and patience and perseverance, and with my life being already so full of spirits, not to mention commuting and martial arts classes and being social, my time is increasingly limited.  This got me to thinking about how I can do the same work with the same spirits I do work with in different ways, which led to my having to reevaluate the necessity of my ritual structure and format.  If I lived a court astrologer’s life, or some beneficiary of a magnate paying me to do magic, I could devote all my time to this stuff and not get enough; as it is, though, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon (regrettably), and I have to keep doing the work with the resources and time I have.  And since the time my rituals take is based largely in my habits of formality, perhaps I should reevaluate how necessary such formality is.

When you’re starting work with some new spirit, whether it’s the angel of a celestial sphere or a saint or a genius loci, it pays handsomely to be formal and proper in the beginning.  It’s like making a new professional contact: you want to make a good impression, so you get out your nice suit, you prepare your business cards and elevator speeches, you make sure you schedule the meetings at the right time and show up on time, and so forth. You go the extra nine yards to make sure communication is clear and effective and that you lay the foundations for a solid partnership; it’s a good time to get information on the contact, to make sure they’re who you think they are, and whether you want to continue working with them.  Likewise, it’s good for you to give them the right idea about who you are, what you’re capable of, how comfortable you are in meeting and discussing things with them, and so forth.  The same goes for spirits: you want to make sure they’re comfortable with working with you and you with them, so you make things as proper as you can when you start off with them.

But over time, as the relationship between you and the spirit develops, things can (but are not necessarily) get more casual.  The spirit might be more comfortable with calling on them whenever as opposed to a specific time, the use fewer tools if any at all, opening up to trying different offerings than the standard stuff, the use of special or true names, and so on.  Special permission might be given or agreed upon to work with them in different contexts than you may have been limited to in the past.  As a relationship develops, so too does flexibility and understanding between you and the spirit.  And that’s where things can get interesting for developing one’s own unique spiritual practice.  Of course, this is all dependent on the spirit itself, and sometimes they insist on the formality of something being done in a proper way.  It’s hard to generalize, but generally, formality isn’t as needed after building up a solid relationship.   Building up a solid relationship can take a good amount of time and trials, though.

Take the Trithemian conjuration ritual, for instance.  In the beginning of my magical career, I spent the time and built my own tools and put them to use at the proper time in a space I cleansed and prepared beforehand with the proper candles, incense, prayers, and so on handy and ready to go.  Hundreds of conjurations later, I still do this same thing, even after saying at the end of every ritual “return to me when I call you in His name to whom every knee bows down”.  The angels I work with largely agree to that; they don’t need the conjuration ritual to be present when a simple invocation of them will suffice.  Sure, the full ritual helps in communication and scrying and pathwalking, but none of the ritual is strictly necessary to do any of that, especially after the initiations I’ve received from them and the relationships I’ve built with them.  If I don’t need to do the formal ritual with them to do the same things when simpler, faster rituals will do, why not just go with the simpler, faster rituals?

Part of it is that I’m stuck in the habit of being formal.  I do enjoy donning my white linen robe and sitting down at a specially-prepared conjuration altar, but that takes a good chunk of time that I don’t always have.  I mean, I have my primary magician altar with all my talismans and tools of the planets and elements on it that I hardly use, when it fills all the same needs as a Table of Practice does and is permanently set up.  Why not just do the conjuration there on a slightly more informal level, sans robe and lengthy prep prayers?  I mean, the setup and preliminary preparation does have its good purposes which should never be overlooked, but after having done them so often for so long, maybe they’re not as needed as much anymore.  I mean, consider my ancestor practice: every Monday I get flowers, rum, water, and incense for them, and open up with an invocation and invitation for my ancestors to be with me.  Putting aside the fact that our ancestors are always already with us (they’re literally in our blood, after all), I also wear a pendant dedicated just to them and I invoke them every morning.  They’ve told me to cut the long-windedness and just sit down and chat with them, because they don’t need the formal prayers recognizing them when it’s part of a weekly observance and chillout.  The other spirits I work with, namely the angels of the planets and elements and stars, are more than happy to use a different means of contacting them besides a full ritual at a custom-made conjuration altar, especially if it means I get to still advance in my work without sacrificing my health or sleep too much.

For big rituals where I need the power for a specific purpose, or for a monthly or yearly observance celebrating the feast of some god or other, nothing beats a good formal ritual with all its attendant pomp and circumstance.  For general checkups or offerings, though, the formality isn’t as necessary, especially if I already have a good working relationship with the spirit.  So long as the rules and wishes of the spirit are abided by, everything else is pretty much up for grabs if we’re tight enough to be informal and casual.  Deformalizing rituals with spirits you’re already integrated with is one good way to simplify one’s spiritual life, and one I definitely need to work on.  Nobody’s gonna put more days in the week, after all, and I need as much time as I can get.

Another way to simplify one’s spiritual life is to condense altars and spiritual tools, but that’s a topic for another day.  Perhaps one when I’m not eyeing alternative furniture arrangements to fit in another altar to another spirit.

49 Days of Definitions: Part I, Definition 5

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations 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.  While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the fifth definition, part I, number 5 of 5:

God is eternal and uncreated; man is mortal (although) he is ever-living.

Short, but this contains not only another comparison between God and Man, but also an apparent contradiction regarding Man.  Since this statement affords us some more correspondences, let’s continue building up our sets of correspondences to the three worlds given in the first definition:

  • God: intelligible, immovable, partially sensible, invisible, ineffable, Monad, Good, eternal, uncreated
  • Heaven: sensible, moveable
  • Man: sensible, destructible, reasonable, mortal, ever-living

First, let’s go to God.  We already know from previous definitions that God is uncreated; God is the Monadic Source of all things, creating all things within itself yet never being made from anything besides itself, never taking away from itself into less nor multiplying itself into more.  God is Mind, and Mind is the source of Word, which enables things to be both intelligible and sensible, though the Word itself is spoken only by Mind; although Mind and Word are one, they are not identical, no more than a man’s speech is the same thing as the man itself.  I think we get the point by now with this.

However, God is also “eternal”.  Eternity is something different from the popular conception of it; while most people consider “eternal” to mean “forever and ever”, extending infinitely foreward and backwards in time, this would more properly be called “everlasting” or “sempiternity”.  Eternity, on the other hand, means timelessness.  We can consider the passage of time to be like a car driving on an infinite road.  A temporal car (neither sempiternal nor eternal) gets on the road at one point, continues driving along it for some time, then exits off the road.  A sempiternal car drives along the road, has always driven along the road, and will always continue to drive along the road; just as the road was infinite, so too is the car itself, the only thing changing is its position along the road.  An eternal car isn’t on the road at all; instead, the car is off the road entirely infinitely high above it, observing the entire road at once, seeing all points along the road.  Similarly, an eternal being is one who doesn’t experience time but is outside it entirely, seeing any set of distinct points in time at the same time, much as one might look at multiple objects on a table from afar instead of feeling each object at the same time; in a geometric manner, it’s similar to a three-dimensional being seeing the entirety of a two-dimensional shape, while a two-dimensional beingcan only see one side of a two-dimensional shape at one time.  (You might be interested to go read Flatland to further illustrate this point.)

Because God is both uncreated and eternal, it makes God wholly separate from anything made or unmade.  There is simply no way God can be part of time or space; God is bodiless, invisible, and insensible, only being intelligible.  God is eternal time just like how he is transcendent in space; although God is always present in all parts of the sensible world, God also is independent of and extends far beyond it and is far more than just that, and in a similar manner just as God is present at all times of the worlds, God also is independent of and extends far beyond it and is far more than just that.  This is a powerful statement, allowing God to be truly infinite and unbounded.  (There’s also the implication that because God is uncreated, God is also undestructed; that which cannot be made likewise cannot be destroyed, but we’ll encounter that later, probably.)

Now we go to Man.  Man is both “mortal” while being “ever-living”; these terms seem to contradict each other.  By being mortal, Man can die; by being ever-living (i.e. immortal), Man cannot die.  We know that from the first definition, Man is a destructible world; that which is Man can be destroyed.  However, Man is also made in the image of God, who is immovable and eternal, and so Man is made like God, and so Man is also in some way immoveable and eternal, right?  It’s complicated, but it reflects the inherent complication within the world of Man.  This much is said in the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter IV, part 2):

So down [to Earth] He sent the Cosmos of this Frame Divine,—man, a life that cannot die, and yet a life that dies. And o’er [all other] lives and over Cosmos [too], did man excel by reason of the Reason (Logos) and the Mind. For contemplator of God’s works did man become; he marvelled and did strive to know their Author.

The problem here lies in the fact that Man is made in the image of God while being made in Heaven, i.e. the cosmos or material world.  Part of us is cosmic, and part of us is godly; we have mind from God “after the species”, but body from Heaven.  The parts of soul and spirit are intermediaries between the mind and body, and are neither here nor there for this discussion of mind and body.  Mind, being from God, is immovable and eternal; this is the “ever-living” part of Man.  The body, being from Heaven, is moveable and destructible; this is the “mortal” part of Man.  This is discussed, though not very fully, in the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter VIII, parts 1 and 2):

For there’s no death for aught of things [that are]; the thought [this] word conveys, is either void of fact, or [simply] by the knocking off a syllable what is called “death,” doth stand for “deathless.” For death is of destruction, and nothing in the Cosmos is destroyed. For if Cosmos is second God, a life that cannot die, it cannot be that any part of this immortal life should die. All things in Cosmos are parts of Cosmos, and most of all is man, the rational animal.

For truly first of all, eternal and transcending birth, is God the universals’ Maker. Second is he “after His image,” Cosmos, brought into being by Him, sustained and fed by Him, made deathless, as by his own Sire, living for aye, as ever free from death.  Now that which ever-liveth, differs from the Eternal; for He hath not been brought to being by another, and even if He have been brought to being, He hath not been brought into being by Himself, but ever is brought into being.  For the Eternal, in that It is eternal, is the all. The Father is Himself eternal of Himself, but Cosmos hath become eternal and immortal by the Father.

Now we get a connection between Man and God: “now that which ever-liveth differs from the Eternal”, since that which is eternal is unmade (“not brought to being by another”), but that which is ever-living (sempiternal) is made and made to be so by God.  In addition, since God is uncreated, God is also undestroyable, since God “ever is brought into being”, so God is never destroyed.  Similarly, things that are made cannot be destroyed in the true sense of not-existing, hence “nothing in the Cosmos is destroyed”.  The Corpus Hermeticum discusses what we call death and what actually happens in the world (chapter VIII, parts 3 and 4):

For matter, son, when it was yet incorporate, was in unorder. And it doth still retain down here this [nature of unorder] enveloping the rest of the small lives—that increase-and-decrease which men call death.

It is round earthly lives that this unorder doth exist. For that the bodies of the heavenly ones preserve one order allotted to them from the Father as their rule; and it is by the restoration of each one [of them] this order is preserved indissolute. The “restoration” then of bodies on the earth is [thus their] composition, whereas their dissolution restores them to those bodies which can never be dissolved, that is to say, which know no death. Privation, thus, of sense is brought about, not loss of bodies.

In other words, this is a Hermetic variant of the law of conservation of mass in physics: mass is neither created or destroyed, but may be rearranged or processed into new forms of mass.  Just as “nothing comes from nothing”, the world has always existed, being made sempiternal by the eternal God.  However, Man in bodily form is not sempiternal, so only sees part of the sensible world for part of the time it exists.  In this way, Man speaks improperly of things “passing into existence” (true creation) or “passing out of existence” (true death).  Because of a lack of constant ordering, material and sensible things constantly increase and decrease, while immaterial and intelligible things preserve themselves or are preserved by higher things forever.

Thus, Man takes part of two natures: a temporary material one, and a sempiternal immaterial one.  Both come from God, with the material one indirectly through the world of Heaven and the immaterial one directly from God.  This produces a weird nesting-doll effect, which I can liken best to a large container of water containing a bubble of air within it, which contains a water droplet within itself.  The big water around the bubble represents the intelligible God; the air bubble within the water represents the sensible world; the water droplet inside the bubble represents the entity of Man, which exists within the sensible world with a shape that can change much like the bubble itself, but with a nature like that of the intelligible God outside the bubble and which doesn’t change.  At any time, the water droplet can leave the world (with the boundary of air surrounding the water droplet returning to the bubble and not leaving), or a new water droplet can enter the bubble (with the boundary of air surrounding that water droplet coming from the rest of the bubble).  In either case, the parts of the bubble proper to the bubble stay within the bubble, while the parts of the water proper to the water stay in the water or stay watery even in air.  This, as best as I can describe it, is like the relationship of God (big water), cosmos (air bubble), and Man (water droplets).

This is the final definition for the first set.  From this set, we know that there are three worlds: God, Heaven, and Man.  God is the uncreated, unbegotten, eternal, intelligible first world of all worlds; there is nothing outside of God, and all things that exist are within God.  Within God, which is intelligible, there is an additional world known as Heaven or the cosmos, which begins to be sensible; this contains the material world and all things within that, though things immaterial may not be in the cosmos.  Within the Cosmos, there exists another world, that of Man, which acts as a kind of “water droplet in a bubble in water”, partaking of the sensibility of the cosmos and the intelligibility of God, being made from both godly Mind and material Body.  To link the two, bodies are also given soul (which provides physical and emotional motion from the mind) and spirit (which provides the capability for reason and speech from the mind and enables the body to live).  The mental part of Man is ever-living, just as all things in the cosmos fundamentally are, but the physical part of Man is as physical as anything else in the cosmos is; thus, the link between mind and body is temporary, because the body is only temporary.  Because Man is made from both cosmos and God directly, Man reflects both in its own microcosmic form; we derive all our characteristics, forms, motions, words, and qualities from God directly (providing sempiternal qualities) or indirectly via the Cosmos (providing temporal qualities).

Timeframes Within Timeframes

Recently, someone took advantage of my divination special (which you should totally take up yourself through the rest of this October!), and while talking shop about what she’d like to ask, she also mentioned that she’s starting to learn geomancy as well.  This is kinda awesome, since it made my job a little easier in describing the symbols used and how I arrived at their interpretations for her readings.  Something this client is doing to help her learn geomancy is by drawing single figures to predict how things will go over a period of time, or in other words, a single-figure forecast.  She does it for seasons, months, weeks, and days, and uses the figures to give her a heads-up on what’s coming her way.  This is a good way to learn the figures, though it can be vague at times since it’s just a single figure and not a full chart.  Still, it’s a useful thing.

However, she wanted advice on how to interpret these figures in this manner when it comes to a forecast for a small timeframe that takes place within a larger timeframe.  For instance, say she drew the figure Via for the fall of 2013, Carcer for October 2013, and Rubeus for the first week of October 2013.  Although each of these figures can be fairly clear on their own, seeing how they interact can be difficult.  In a way, it’s like trying to figure out patterns within patterns, or wheels within wheels.  After all, in many ways, Via and Carcer are very different figures, and understanding how they interact in this kind of time reading can be confusing.  How do these figures interact with each other?  The client wanted to know whether the longer-term figure affected the shorter-term one or vice versa.

My understanding of this kind of interlocked readings is that it’s not a matter of which affects the other, but which provides context or details for the other; the two are harmonious, generally speaking, but indicate different spans of time.  Consider the relationship between the Court (Witnesses, Judge, and Sentence) of the Shield Chart and the houses of the House Chart in geomancy: both answer the same question but with different levels of scope.  While the Court indicate the overall answer, or the bird’s-eye view of the situation, the houses indicate specific influences and effects in each aspect of the situation.  Thus, the Shield Chart indicates the overall broad view, while any particular house indicates a specific detail that fills in the broad answer of the Court.  Likewise, the Court provides context for each and any of the houses to make sense in the overall query.

When this logic is applied to timeframes, we can treat a long-term figure as providing a general heads-up on that timeframe, which indicates the overall direction or trend of things happening within that timeframe.  A shorter-term figure indicates trends and events that happen just within that timeframe as it fits into the overall timeframe given by the long-term figure.  As an example, if we draw Via for fall 2013, we can say that the overall trend of the season will be “change” or “motion”, but not everything in that season will necessarily have something to do with it, and some events within it may actually hinder change or motion.  Other figures for shorter time periods within fall 2013, from seconds to months, can fill in the details for what exactly is going to happen within those timeframes, and can help the querent understand what those types of change might be.  Conversely, shorter-term figures can be given a broader context or background information with long-term figures, to see how a particular event might be related to others in a larger timeline.

So, for instance, going back to the client’s example, she drew Via for the fall of 2013 and Carcer for October 2013.  How might these figures interact?

  1. Although Via is the overall theme for that quarter, not everything that happens in that quarter may be directly connected to Via itself; in other words, Via provides a high-level view but with no details.  Carcer is a little more detail-oriented, and suggests that October may have things more important to focus on than just change.  It’s not a matter of Via “affecting” Carcer, but the timeframe signified by Via itself is broader than that of Carcer, so Carcer can help fill in the gaps that Via leaves behind; alternatively, Carcer indicates a temporary influence within the overall arc or trends that Via indicates.  If you think of wheels within wheels, this may make a little more sense.
  2. Despite that Via means complete change and Carcer means enforced stability, they’re both figures indicating separation and solitude, with Via being more about chosen solitude or exile and Carcer being forced isolation or imprisonment.
  3. Despite that Via means complete change and Carcer means enforced stability, it could be that the enforced stability of Carcer is the change that Via was hinting at, at least as Via applied to October.  While things before may have been easy-going or easy to change from within, Carcer indicates that all change is being handled away from you without your involvement, and that it’s now time to be alone or locked into some other situation.