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Hell freezes overYeah, it must have happened. Rhyd Wildermuth just wrote something I agree with. 

Longtime readers of mine will recall Mr. Wildermuth as the instigator of an attempted witch hunt against nonconformist groups within the Pagan community -- "nonconformist" here meaning both not conforming to eclectic American Neopagan orthodoxy, and not conforming to his personal ambitions as a Marxist agitator hoping to pursue some good old-fashioned entryism in the Neopagan scene. I'm pleased to say that his crusade didn't get far. I doubt my critique had much to do with that -- the people who read my writings are unlikely to pay much attention to his, and vice versa -- but the attempt to whip up a frenzy about sinister New Right infiltrators in our midst seems to have fallen flat. (My guess is that most of the people who were backing the witch hunt found something else to be upset about the moment Donald Trump won the 2016 election.)

But Wildermuth made his way back onto Pagan newsfeeds the other day by way of a fine thumping tirade directed at the social justice movement's insistence that all white men everywhere are evil, full stop, end of sentence, and ought to be exterminated for the benefit of everyone else. Inevitably, in the topsy-turvy world of social justice activism, Wildermuth's refusal to support the rhetoric of genocide immediately got him labeled a fascist -- a claim to which he responded with another solid diatribe. His sin, of course, was that he pointed out that it's just as preposterous to insist that every individual white male human being is personally responsible for all the evils in the world as it would be to insist, say, that every individual Jew is personally responsible for all the evils in the world. 

Wildermuth being Wildermuth, of course he phrased his critique in the theological jargon of Marxism; since that's his religion -- if I recall correctly, the guy literally has a picture of Marx on his altar as an intellectual and spiritual ancestor -- I have no quibbles with that, though it's not a jargon or a faith I find particularly appealing. Still, if he's going to be a Marxist, I hope he goes whole hog and takes in some of the very thoroughly developed Marxist critique of bourgeois moral crusades as a common hegemonic strategy in late capitalism. Along these lines, it wouldn't be too hard to show that the social justice movement functions exactly the same way the Methodist movement did in 19th century Britain: it provided a vehicle by which bourgeois interests excused and justified their treatment of the proletariat by insisting on the moral viciousness of the latter, and urging the working classes to reform themselves by conforming to bourgeois standards (and, not accidentally, supporting bougeois hegemony). 

There's a good reason, after all, why by and large the social justice movement is willing to discuss every form of privilege imaginable except class privilege. Now that that's being pointed out -- and Wildermuth is only one of the voices pointing it out, though he seems to have made more of an impact than most -- it'll be entertaining to see the fur fly. 
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Rudolf SteinerIt's getting on for midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Rudolf Steiner, arguably the deepest thinker to come out of the Theosophical movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, and founder of his own movement, Anthroposophy, which still thrives today. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.  

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next Monday!***





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I’ve had several people ask about the Great Old Ones who appear in The Weird of Hali, my seven-volume epic fantasy with tentacles, and the other stories (some published, most still awaiting their fate) set in the same fictive world. While I borrowed them from H.P. Lovecraft and a few of his friends, notably Clark Ashton Smith, my versions of these vast and eldritch beings are not the same as the ones you’ll find in the stories of the Cthulhu mythos. Thus a few words of explanation might be entertaining for readers of these stories—oh, and a diagram.

Tree of Eldritch Life 

These are the Great Old Ones who play central roles in The Weird of Hali and its tentacular kindred. (Yes, I know, some of these are considered Outer Gods or Elder Gods in other versions of the mythos, but not here.) There are other Great Old Ones in my fictional world—several hundred active on Earth, and unimaginably many in the cosmos as a whole—but this is the cast of divine characters readers of the series will want to have in mind.
 

Azathoth

The eldest of the Great Old Ones, a bubbling primordial chaos inhabiting a realm of being incomprehensible to humans. Does not manifest on Earth except under very special conditions, but forms the backdrop to the entire cosmos. Servitors: immense lumbering flute-playing beings of indescribable shape.  Worshiped by: some witches.  Form usually encountered: nothing you can possibly imagine.


Yog-Sothoth

The Gate and the Guardian of the Gate, a being who spans all space and time; the father, grandfather, or great-grandfather of most of the other Great Old Ones on Earth. Servitors: none. Worshiped by: some sorcerers, the Starry Wisdom church, the Tcho-Tchos. Form usually encountered: floating luminous spheres that reflect the entire universe.


Shub-Ne’hurrath

(Yeah, I know, Lovecraft spelled it differently, but then he could never miss a chance to slip in a racial slur.) The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, the great mother goddess of Earth, she can also manifest as the Black Ram with a Thousand Ewes. Most of the Great Old Ones are her offspring or descendants. Servitors: the Dark Young of Shub-Ne’hurrath, massive treelike beings with heavy legs below their huge bodies, and a forest of tentacles above; also the Thousand Young, who are humans or other intelligent beings strangely reshaped by Her power. Worshiped by: pretty much everybody.  Forms usually encountered: often puts on the appearance of an old woman, but may also be seen as a gigantic faunlike shape, female, with horns and shaggy hips and legs.


Nodens

The Lord of the Great Deep, he is not strictly speaking present on the Earth, but rules all movement to and from other realms of being, including the Dreamlands. Servitors: Night-gaunts. Worshiped by: some sorcerers, families descended from the people of drowned Poseidonis. Form usually encountered: a vast midnight-black male form, hoary and bearded, with eyes like moons.


Cthulhu

The high priest of the Great Old Ones, the only one among them capable of invoking those powers as far beyond the Great Old Ones as they are beyond human beings, Cthulhu lies, “dead yet dreaming,” in his temple-tomb in drowned R’lyeh until the stars are right. Servitors: Cthulhu-spawn, who are wingless but otherwise resemble him, and Deep Ones, who are aquatic hominids closely related to humans. Worshiped by: the Deep Ones, the Esoteric Order of Dagon, families descended from the people of drowned Poseidonis, the Starry Wisdom church, the Tcho-Tchos. Form usually encountered: he hasn’t been encountered awake since the end of the Cretaceous period, but when he rises from the sea at last, he will be a titanic bipedal figure with great dragonlike wings, many eyes, and tentacles descending from the lower half of his face.


Ithaqua

The Wind-Walker, lord of the world’s frozen places, Ithaqua is the god of limits; he is half-brother to Cthulhu and full brother to Hastur. He strides through the air and is accompanied by tremendous cold. Servitors: the gnophkehs, monstrous six-limbed hunters of the frozen wastes.  Worshiped by: nobody. You respect Ithaqua, but you don’t invoke him.  Form usually encountered: a gigantic, gaunt, naked human figure with flowing white hair and a long white beard, most often seen stalking through the sky; his eyes burn red like coals.


Hastur

The King in Yellow, ruler of the Great Old Ones on Earth, he dwells in the City of the Pyramids in far Carcosa. His face has been hidden behind the Pallid Mask for sixty-five million years. The Yellow Sign is his emblem. Servitors: the Fellowship of the Yellow Sign, an order of humans and other intelligent beings who are sworn to his service. Worshiped by: the Esoteric Order of Dagon, families descended from the people of drowned Poseidonis, the Starry Wisdom church, the Tcho-Tchos. Form usually encountered: tall and thin, pallid white in color, with flowing white hair. His face is covered by a mask the color of ivory; his hands have six fingers each; he wears tattered and scalloped robes of yellow.


Yhoundeh

The Lady of the Beasts, she was worshiped as an elk goddess in old Hyperborea and has special rulership over all mammals. A daughter of Shub-Ne’hurrath by Ithaqua. Servitors: all wild animals. Worshiped by: families descended from the people of drowned Poseidonis, the Starry Wisdom church. Forms usually encountered: a winged elk, or a young woman with elk’s antlers. She can also take human forms when this is convenient.


Nyarlathotep

The soul and mighty messenger of the Great Old Ones, the One in Black is coeval with Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth. He is the Black Man of witchcraft lore, the crossroads devil of blues legend, and the messenger of the gods revered in many ancient faiths. Servitors: witches, human cultists, silent black dogs who appear and disappear as he wills. All animals obey him. Worshiped by: everyone who reveres any of the Great Old Ones. Forms usually encountered: a very tall man of Egyptian appearance, dressed in a long black coat and a broad-brimmed black hat.  In the Starry Wisdom church, he also takes the form of the Watcher in Darkness, a bat-winged horror with a three-lobed blazing eye.


Tsathoggua

The god of sorcerers and lord of voor (the life force), Tsathoggua is the oldest of the Great Old Ones on Earth. He dwells far underground and works mostly through his servitors, and through human sorcerers that venerate him. Some of his human worshipers call him Saint Toad.  Servitors: voormis, who are prehuman hominids who dwell underground, and the Formless Spawn of Tsathoggua, pools of fluid black shapelessness that eat Tsathoggua’s enemies. (According to the Pnakotic Manuscript, shoggoths were created by the Elder Things in imitation of the Formless Spawn.) Worshiped by: families descended from the people of drowned Poseidonis, the Starry Wisdom church, the Tcho-Tchos. Form usually encountered: an odd, huge, somnolent form, rather like a toad, something like a bat, a little like a sloth, with glowing red eyes usually half-closed.


Phauz

The youngest of the Great Old Ones on Earth, just nine million years old and so little more than a hatchling, Phauz is the daughter of Shub-Ne’hurrath by Hastur. She will be Queen of the Great Old Ones on Earth in the far future, when Hastur and Cthulhu have both withdrawn into contemplation. Her emblem in Hyperborean times was a woman-breasted cat. She is the mistress of cats; what any cat anywhere in the world knows, she knows. Servitors: cats. Worshiped by: families descended from the people of drowned Poseidonis, witches. Forms usually encountered: a cat, or a cat lady of indeterminate age.

***

Alongside the Great Old Ones stands another being who is not one of them, and so doesn't have a spot on the diagram, but has similar powers and characteristics. Back in the early Triassic, the Elder Things—a race of extraterrestrial critters who settled what is now Antarctica and several continents then nearby—set out to create a being comparable to the Great Old Ones but under their control. Their work succeeded rather too well, and the resulting entity—Nyogtha, The Thing That Should Not Be—rebelled against them. While he was defeated, he could not be reduced to subservience, and he fled into the deep places of the Earth. There he conspired with the shoggoths, the slave species the Elder Things made in imitation of the Formless Spawn of Tsathoggua, who had attempted unsuccessfully to win their freedom in the late Permian. The result of that conspiracy was the total extermination of the Elder Things. (If this suggests to you that Nyogtha is not an entity to mess with, why, yes, that's what it suggests to me, too.) Nyogtha remains active on Earth, and his pact with the shoggoths remains firm, so he can be added to the list above to make an even dozen:
 

Nyogtha

Known as The Thing That Should Not Be—the Elder Things called him that, and he adopted the title as a gesture of defiance—and the Dweller in Darkness, Nyogtha lurks in the deep places of the Earth and pursues intricately plotted plans of his own. Servitors: shoggoths. Worshiped by: shoggoths, and also small cults of human witches. Form usually encountered: sheer impenetrable blackness. 
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Bruce LeeI'm not sure how many people these days outside of the martial arts scene even remember the nunchaku, the iconic Okinawan weapon that Bruce Lee made famous in the Western world. It started out as a rice flail, a tool farmers used to crack open rice husks before winnowing the husk from the grain; like other farmyard implements, it got pressed into service as a weapon once Okinawa came under Japanese rule and laws that prohibited commoners from owning swords were enforced by the new government; like other farmyard implements, it then got taken up by an assortment of local combat arts that, over time, evolved into the various schools of modern karate. 

(No, it was never a ninja weapon. The people who came up with those cartoon turtles apparently either didn't know much or didn't care much about martial arts history -- all the weapons the turtles use are Okinawan peasant tools that became standard karate weapons; only one of them, the bo (a six-foot staff), was as far as I know used in traditional ninjutsu at all.  The moral to this story is probably not to take advice on martial arts history from adolescent chelonians.)

For reasons that still make me scratch my head, the state legislature of New York banned nunchaku in the state -- as in, you couldn't even have one in the privacy of your own home. Recently, though, a martial artist named James Michael Maloney got busted for having a nunchaku, and sued. His case finally reached a ruling, and the judge found the law unconstitutional, pointing out that the Second Amendment doesn't specify firearms and therefore martial artists who wanted to work out with this elegant and effective device were free to do so. 

This strikes me as good law, and it's also nice to see a certain very common sort of Puritanism -- "it might hurt someone, we must ban it absolutely!" -- get taken out with the legal equivalent of a good hard side kick to the head. Kudos to Judge Pamela K. Chen for a crisp judicial knockout of a law that badly needed clobbering -- and congratulations to the karateka of New York State, who can break out their bootleg nunchaku and get to work learning nunchaku kata for the first time in more than four decades. 
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William Quan JudgeIt's almost midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of William Quan Judge, an influential American Theosophist of the late 19th and early 20th century and author of several Theosophical classics. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar. 

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***



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Merry Krampus by Corinne Barrios'Tis the season -- meaning, in this case, the season for 55-gallon barrels of fake sentiment and slithery Christmas music. Yes, I know there's a lot of really fine Christmas music out there, from haunting medieval carols to 19th-century classics such as "O Holy Night," but for some reason all of it's vanished without a trace here in southern New England. What we get instead is buckets of stickily sweet glurge about sleighs and snow and presents and Santa Claus, all sung in the kind of oleaginous voice that makes you long to stopper the mouth in question with a well-aimed fist. 

Maybe I'm just middle-aged and grumpy, but it seems to me that the last trace of meaning has trickled out of our public celebrations of Christmas. I hope the Christians, at least, still remember that the official excuse for all this hoopla used to be the birthday of their god, and choose their music accordingly. For the rest of us, along the lines of my earlier Cthulhu carol, I offer this charming image by Corinne Barrios of one of the classic icons of the old, dark Yuletide celebrations, and a carol you can use to drive away the glurge. You know the tune. 

KRAMPUS THE YULETIDE DEVIL

Krampus the Yuletide devil
Used to stalk the winter night,
And if you ever saw him,
You would wet your pants in fright.
All of the ill-bred children
Used to pester poor St. Nick;
They'd whine and scream and snivel
'Til they made the old elf sick!
Then one foggy Christmas eve,
Santa came to say,
"Krampus, with your birchen switches,
Won't you flog those ---- -- ------- !" 
Then how the children feared him,
And they shouted out in dread,
"Krampus the Yuletide devil,
We'll be good and go to bed!" 

Note 1: For best effect this should be sung in an oleaginous tone, with the kind of tinny orchestration that involves lots of sleigh bells being shaken with mindless mechanical regularity. 

Note 2: Yes, I know that corporal punishment is now considered child abuse by the soi-disant enlightened. I suspect we'll get over that in another decade or so, once the consequences of having a society full of shrieking spoiled brats of all ages become too obvious to ignore. As usual, the opposite of one bad idea has turned out to be another bad idea...
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John MichellIt's almost midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of John Michell, first-rate sacred geometer and researcher into forgotten sciences, whose 1969 book The View Over Atlantis introduced leys and sacred geometry to the counterculture, and was a major influence on my insufficiently misspent youth. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***
 
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emerald ringThese days people in most Western countries assume as a matter of course that engagement and wedding rings have to have diamonds on them. That didn't become the universal custom until after the Second World War, though; it was in 1947 that the DeBeers diamond syndicate launched the first of a series of massive ad campaigns under the slogan "Diamonds Are Forever." Well, maybe they are, but...

In the lore of natural magic, every kind of gemstone has a different effect on consciousness; these are normally categorized by the old scheme of the seven planets. Diamonds correspond to the planet Mars. Their magical virtue is that they give strength and victory in battle, but they are also traditionally unlucky, and make their wearers unhappy. 

Maybe it's just pure coincidence, but I find myself noticing that it was right after a stone of war and unhappiness became standard wear for married women that the divorce rate began to soar, and many branches of the feminist movement took on a distinctly angry and bitter tone. 

If you want a better-omened stone for an engagement or a wedding ring, the magical lore suggests going for an emerald. Emeralds correspond to Venus, and are fortunate for love; they were held to strengthen the eyes and the memory; and they make the wearer truthful and difficult to fool by trickery, all of which would be helpful in marriage. I'm sure the diamond merchants won't approve, but it might be worth trying to reverse the trend...
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Alan LeoIt's almost midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Alan Leo (real name William Frederick Allan), a prominent British Theosophist and one of the prime movers of the late 19th century revival of astrology. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***


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Vintage WorldsI'm delighted to announce that several fiction projects in which I've been involved to one degree or another are now available. First of all, Vintage Worlds -- an anthology of SF tales edited by me and the indefatigable Zendexor, set in the Old Solar System, the wholly imaginary but utterly entrancing realm of classic science fiction -- is now available in both print and e-book formats.

Think of it as space fantasy: tales of two- (or more-) fisted adventure set in a solar system that's chockfull of intelligent species, inhabitable worlds, and spaceships that look like something other than random collections of hardware -- yes, we're talking tail fins here. The mere fact that we turned out to inhabit a much less interesting solar system doesn't take anything away from the delight readers still get from the solar system tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, and the other great authors of science fiction's Golden Age, and there's no reason not to set new stories there -- after all, how many people quibble about the fact that Middle-earth and Narnia don't exist? 

This collection includes seventeen stories, including my "Out of the Chattering Planet," and amounts to 120,000 words of interplanetary adventure. You can pick up your copy here

There's also good news for readers of fantasy. The first two volumes of my epic fantasy with tentacles, The Weird of Hali, are heading into print in new paperback and e-book editions, with the others scheduled to follow over the course of the next year. The first volume, The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, is already available in e-book format and can be purchased here, and the paperback edition is in press -- it can be preordered now (use the same link) and will be in print on December 17. The second volume, The Weird of Hali: Kingsport, will be released in print and e-book editions that same day; it can be preordered here

Kingsport coverThose of you who haven't been following this end of my writing may want to know that, while these novels use the tentacle-ridden horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft as raw material, they're not horror fiction. Lovecraft was a brilliant fantasist as well as a capable horror writer, and I've long felt that the fantastic end of his work has been neglected for far too long; the worlds of his imagination are also just too tempting a venue for fantasy for me to pass up.

The twist, of course, is that we're not getting your standard tale of how tentacled horrors out to devour the world, with the aid of their sinister human cultists, get stopped at the last minute by some combination of square-jawed investigators and sheer dumb luck. (That's been done not merely to death but out the other side into a couple of further reincarnations.) Au contraire, there's always at least two sides to any story; these tales are from the point of view of those awful cultists -- the ordinary men and women, that is, who discover the forbidden truth about those tentacled horrors (aka the old gods of nature) and get drawn into the ancient and terrible struggle between archaic gods and their all too modern, efficient, and up-to-date adversaries. It's a conflict on which the fate of the world does indeed rest, but, ahem, it's not the old gods of nature who are seeking to turn the living Earth into a smoldering, lifeless waste strewn with plastic trash...

So here are the first two volumes -- the stories, to be precise, of how the two main characters of the series find their way into a wider and more eldritch world. The third volume, The Weird of Hali: Chorazin, which launches those characters and several others on a desperate quest to awaken a sleeping goddess, will be out early in the new year.  The others -- The Weird of Hali: Dreamlands, The Weird of Hali: Providence, The Weird of Hali: Red Hook, and The Weird of Hali: Arkham -- will be in print by the end of 2019. Stay tuned for more announcements! 
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The following showed up in my inbox today: 
solicitation
I have to assume that this is a blanket email sent out to everyone who gets something published in Anthropology of Consciousness -- either that, or they're really, really desperate for editorial board members. The sentence "Taking your academic background and expertise in this field into account, the Board believe that you may be the most suitable person for this position" had me giggling -- after all, my academic background consists of a bachelor's degree from a not especially distinguished US public university, my major career achievement so far has been the twelve years I served as Grand Archdruid of a contemporary Druid order, and my most widely read publication is a book on monster lore that argues, among other things, for the real existence of werewolves. 

Oh, and the paper that got them all excited was a reprint of this item, which interprets certain trends in left-wing political activism through the lens of traditional occult philosophy. Just the thing you want in your nice serious journal of social sciences...
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Llewellyn GeorgeIt's almost midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Llewellyn George, one of early 20th century America's great astrologers and teachers of astrology. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it!

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***


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magical templeSeveral previous entries here have covered the basic practices of ceremonial magic in a form reworked for those who follow polytheist faiths. We've discussed the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, which is the most basic ritual working in Golden Dawn-style ceremonial magic, and the Middle Pillar exercise, which is the basic GD method of spiritual development and inner alchemy. I've heard from a number of people who've been practicing those regularly since then. That being the case, it's time to move on to the next piece of the system: the rituals for opening and closing a temple. 

Please note that a magical temple in this sense isn't a building set aside for magical work. I wish I had one of those, but that's kind of hard to afford on a writer's income! A magical temple is a space temporarily set aside for magical practice. It can be any convenient place. Before the temple is opened and after it's closed, the space can be used for any other purpose. (For example, I use my study as a temple space; the rest of the time, it's where I write.) It needs to be large enough that you can set up an altar in the center and then walk around it without bumping into anything. The altar can be any flat surface at more or less waist height at least 18 inches square -- a folding tray works very well. You can cover it with the altar cloth of your choice, or leave it bare. 

You'll also need two pieces of hardware to go on the altar. One of them is something in which you can burn incense; the other is something to hold a small amount of water. These can be as ornate or as simple as you like. I practiced for years with a simple pottery wineglass and a plain wooden incense burner. Put the altar in the middle of the space, with the four sides square to the four points of the compass -- if you have any question where east is, get a magnetic compass and find out. When you stand at the west side of the altar and face east, the vessel of water is on the left side of the altar and the incense burner is on the right. 

Once you're set up, you're ready to begin. As with the other polytheist ceremonial magic rituals I've posted here, the marker (PATRON) in the text should be replaced by the name of your own patron deity.  Here are the rituals:  

Opening the Temple

First, stand at the west side of the altar, facing east. Raise your right hand, palm forward, to salute the divine powers you will summon during the ritual, and say, “In the name of (PATRON), and in the presence of all the gods and goddesses, I prepare to open this temple.”

Second, perform the complete Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram to call magical energies into the space.

Third, standing at the west of the altar, facing east, pick up the vessel of water in both hands and raise it up. Say: “Let this temple and all within it be purified with water.” Go to the east, dip the fingers of one hand into the water, and flick droplets of water three times to the east. Go around to the south, and do the same thing; repeat the same action in the west and the north. Return to the east, face east, lift up the vessel of water in both hands, and say: “The temple is purified.” Then go back to the west of the altar and return the vessel of water to its place.

Fourth, standing at the west of the altar facing east, pick up the incense—if you are burning stick incense, just the stick is fine; if you are using cone or loose incense, lift up the burner in both hands.  Say, “Let this temple and all within it be consecrated by fire.” Go to the east and with one hand, wave smoke from the incense three times to the east. Go around to the south, and do the same thing; repeat the same action in the west and the north. Return to the east, face east, lift up the incense in both hands, and say: “The temple is consecrated.” Then go back to the west of the altar and return the incense to its place.

Fifth, starting from the west of the altar, walk clockwise in a circle around the altar, passing the east four times. Each time you pass the east, bow your head in respect. This is the ancient and very widespread Pagan rite of circumambulation, still practiced in many polytheist societies around the world. As you walk, imagine your movements creating a whirlpool of energy that draws in magical power from the far reaches of the universe to your magical temple. When you have passed the east four times, circle back to the west of the altar and face east.

Sixth, spread your arms wide and say, “(PATRON), my patron god(dess), I ask you to bless and consecrate this temple of high magic, and aid me with your power in all the work I perform herein.” Pause for a time, and concentrate on sensing your patron deity’s presence and power surrounding you.

Seventh, still standing at the west of the altar facing east, raise your right hand again, palm forward, and say, “In the name of (PATRON), and in the presence of all the gods and goddesses, I proclaim this temple duly open.” This completes the ritual.

Closing the Temple: 

First, standing at the west of the altar, facing east, pick up the vessel of water in both hands and raise it up. Say: “Let this temple and all within it be purified with water.” Repeat the process of purifying the temple with water, exactly as you did in the third step of the opening ritual. Then go back to the west of the altar and return the vessel of water to its place.

Second, standing at the west of the altar facing east, pick up the incense and say, “Let this temple and all within it be consecrated by fire.” Repeat the process of consecrating the temple with fire, exactly as you did in the fourth step of the opening riutal. Then go back to the west of the altar and return the incense to its place.

Third, starting from the west of the altar, walk counterclockwise in a circle around the altar, passing the east four times. Each time you pass the east, bow your head in respect. As you walk, imagine your movements dispersing the whirlpool of energy you created earlier and sending the intention of your working out into the universe to accomplish your will. When you have passed the east four times, circle back to the west of the altar and face east.

Fourth, spread your arms wide and say, “ In the name of (PATRON), I set free any spirits who may have been imprisoned by this ceremony. Depart unto your rightful habitations in peace, and peace be between us.” Pause for a moment, and then perform the complete Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. 

Fifth, standing at the west of the altar facing east, raise your right hand again, palm forward, and say, “In the name of (PATRON), and in the presence of all the gods and goddesses, I proclaim this temple duly closed.” This completes the ritual.

*************************
Okay, now you've got the rituals; what do you do with them? 

First of all, of course, you practice them until you can do the complete opening and closing ritual from memory, just as you did with the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar exercise. (If you haven't practiced those two rituals enough to do them from memory, go back and work on them until you can do that, before you get to work in this ritual.) 

Once you've got the opening and closing rituals by heart and can do them with intention, the fun begins. The opening ritual establishes a space in which you can do serious magical practice, and the closing ritual disperses any unused energies and makes the space safe for other purposes. They're the two slices of bread on which you build your magical sandwich. The filling? That's up to you. It can be spellwork, it can be spiritual exercises, it can be active imagination aka scrying in the spirit vision aka Pathworking, it can be whatever kind of magical working you happen to want to get up to. Doing the work in an open temple gives you a safe, cleansed, magically empowered space for any work you want to do, and closing the temple afterwards settles things down afterwards. 

There are other ritual elements that get plugged into the ritual structure we're developing here, and we'll get into those as we proceed. For now, try doing this at least once a week; if you don't have anything else to do between the opening and the closing, try doing the Middle Pillar exercise in the space between the opening and the closing. 

Have fun, and we'll go further in due time. 
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Vera ChapmanIt's almost midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Vera Chapman, fantasy author, founder of the Tolkien Society, member of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift in its glory days between the wars, and Pendragon of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids in Ross Nichols' time. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.
 
With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***

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Beardsley illustrationFor some time I've been watching, with wry amusement, the antics of a certain subset of Neopagan witches who have apparently decided to embrace the Christian notion of what witches are, i.e., evil. These are the folks who have been posting long earnest essays online insisting that witches have to curse people and do other forms of nasty magic, since after all that's their heritage, and it's justified at least sometimes, and real power means the power to harm, etc. etc. Me, I'm an old-fashioned occultist and not any kind of witch, so what witches do is really no business of mine -- not my circus, not my monkeys -- but as my academic background is in the history of ideas, I'm intrigued to watch this particular remake of a familiar pattern. 

A few days ago one of the Neopagan witches just mentioned, one who's sufficiently on board with the idea of witches being evil that she's embraced the term "banefolk" for herself and those who agree with her, posted a lengthy diatribe on her blog that denounced Neopagan witches for being, well, evil. Specifically, she accused them of making up traditions and then lying about their origins, of making money off witchcraft, and of various kinds of sexual improprieties -- all of which, in her eyes, are apparently sins far more serious than (say) using magic to hurt people. 

There are plenty of things that could be said about the diatribe in question. It's amusing, for example, that she starts out by denouncing the habit of equating "pagan" with "Wiccan" and then goes and does exactly that, treating habits and teachings specific to modern American eclectic witchcraft (such as the "Thirteen Principles of Neopagan Belief") as though they're common not only to all Neopagan traditions, but to unrelated phenomena such as the Druid Revival and chaos magic (!). Still, the thing that struck me most was a powerful sense of déjà vu. 

La-Bas cover artI don't know how many of my readers are familiar with the French author J.-K. Huysmans, a very popular literary figure at the turn of the last century, or with his most notorious novel, Là-Bas. (Down There is the usual English translation, though it's very rough; the French idiom "là-bas" is pretty much untranslatable.) It's a novel about Satanism -- specifically, the fashionable Satanism that became wildly popular in French occult and countercultural circles at the end of the 19th century. The viewpoint character, Durtal, disgusted by the banality and crassness of modern life, lets himself be drawn by the mysterious Mme. Chantelouve into Paris' devil-worshiping underground, attends a black mass, and then tears himself away from Satanism to return to the Catholic faith of his childhood.

Là-Bas
once had a lurid reputation, though it's frankly pretty tame by modern standards; the thing that often gets mislaid by modern readers is that it's a profoundly Christian book, and it accepts as a basic truth the orthodox Christian attitude toward occultism -- essentially, that if it's serious it's devil worship, and if it's not devil worship it's just play-acting and dress-up games. The Paris occult scene at the time Huysmans was writing was large, active, and those people who weren't playing at Satanism were by and large involved in serious work; the Martinist tradition and the modern alchemical revival are just two of the things that were getting under way then and there; but you won't learn that from Huysmans. 

What's more, Huysmans spoke for a significant movement in the counterculture of his time. There really was a big Satanist scene in late 19th century Paris; last I checked, most biographers of Huysmans agree that he probably based the black mass in his novel on one he actually attended. That movement had a predictable outcome, too, one that W.B. Yeats wrote about in his visionary essay Per Amica Silentia Lunae. In his early visits to France, he recalled, "one met everywhere young men of letters who talked of magic." Fast forward a few decades, and that had changed: "It was no longer the soul, self-moving and self-teaching -- the magical soul -- but Mother France and Mother Church." 

Beardsley illustrationSatanism was the intermediate step between those two conditions, and it's easy to see why. If you embrace the idea that Christian orthodoxy is right about the nature of occultism, it's a very short step to embracing the idea that Christian orthodoxy is right, period. Once people got tired of the fringe benefits of being evil -- in turn of the century France, those mostly involved plenty of cheap sex and the opportunity to shock people, more or less the same as today -- they could then go through a fine melodramatic repentance, renounce their sinful ways, and be welcomed into a community of people who were eager to give them lots of attention and encouragement. This they accordingly did. 

It's far from the only time that's happened. Some of my readers are old enough to remember the twilight of the hippie scene at the end of the 1960s. Peace and love and brotherhood got chucked overboard by a significant faction of hippies, who took up in its place the kind of evil-hippie image made permanently famous by the late and unlamented Charles Manson. This was followed, after an interval of a few years, by the transformation of a great many hippies into "the Jesus People," and after another brief interval most of the latter ditched their countercultural values and settled down to get jobs and raise families as ordinary Christian Americans. 

I'm pretty sure that's what's going on in this case, too. Countercultures die when their members give up their own independent value judgments about the counterculture, and accept the (usually hostile or dismissive) judgments of the mainstream culture from which they previously distanced themselves. Now that a significant fraction of the Neopagan scene seems to be embracing the notion that witches are evil, and a few early adopters (like the author of the essay cited above) are generalizing from that to denounce the whole movement for its sins, I don't think we'll have long to wait before the current trickle of defections from Neopaganism turns into a flood. Conservative Christian denominations, on the off chance that this post of mine comes to their attention, might want to brace themselves for the arrival of a great many loudly repentant sinners in the years immediately ahead. 
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Emerge Podcast logoMore raw meat for podcast fans! 

I recently appeared on Daniel Thorson's podcast Emerge, to talk about the Kek Wars and the role of magic in the 2016 US election. It was a good lively conversation and covered some fascinating ground. If you're interested, you can take it in here. 
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 Though I wasn't a major Marvel Comics fan back in the day -- I went from Gold Key early on to DC's Batman and Green Arrow comics -- my imagination, like that of pretty much every other American in my generation, was shaped by Lee's creative vision. The following, from an otherwise unremarkable back issue of a Marvel comic, makes a good tribute to the man.

Stan's Soapbox

It's a reminder that all of us, on all sides of the fractured political landscape of today's world, would be well advised to take to heart. 
ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Ross NicholsIt's almost midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Ross Nichols, founder of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD) and, alongside Lewis Spence, one of the two most influential 20th century authors on Druidry in the English-speaking world. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***

ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Infinite Path logoI recently appeared (again) on Niles Heckman's podcast An Infinite Path to talk about the nature of consciousness, the universe as mind, the New Thought movement, and a great deal more along similar lines. It was a good lively conversation; those who are interested can have a listen here
ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Watkins magazineReaders of mine in Great Britain, or anywhere else that has ready access to British magazines, might like to know that the latest issues of Watkins' Mind Body Spirit magazine has an essay of mine on the forgotten temple technology I explored in my book The Secret of the Temple. It's a good issue generally, with an article on the mystical artwork of Carl Jung, and essays on Alan Watts, Ithell Colquhon, and more. Interested? You can get a copy here

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ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)John Michael Greer

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