Friday, February 28, 2014

Myth & Cult - on the Nature of the Gods.

(Another snippet that got a good reception on the internets, preserved here so I can avoid typing it again.)

In the business of restoring polytheistic worship in a European context we are faced with a variety of difficulties.  One of the most notable is the almost total break in folkloric transmission concerning the nature and desires of the gods and spirits. Kids just don’t grow up with an intrinsic understanding of who Dagda Mor is, in the way they may know St Jude,
or the bigger names in the more common pantheons. We are left to reassemble our ways from the snippets available in preserved ancient literature, from equally ragged folkloric bits, and by analogy with modern Non-European polytheisms.

As readers have seen me say before, the long round of invocation that Neopaganism has been making to the gods and spirits is paying off. Pagans are hearing the voices, seeing the visions. It is not unusual for personal experience to contradict scholastic norms (which are never the same as real lore transmitted by folkloric methods). Those of us who look to scholarship as a primary (almost scriptural in some cases, though not Yr Hmbl) source of the nature of the gods can be confounded when worshipper experiences contradict our understandings.

My friend John Machate asked how we respond when someone reports actions of a god that contradict scholarly understanding. Sez I:

…let's start with a little theology...

I'd say that there's no such thing as a god that isn't worshiped. God-ness is defined by the relationship of a spirit to mortals. If the spirit is in a relationship of offering-and-blessing, i.e. if it has cult, then that spirit is a god; if not it is not. It may be a spirit of some other type; it may just be a character in a story, provided to help poets make a point.

The tales are not, after all, mythology. We have no Celtic stories that were provably told by pagans to pagans (and Norse is little better). Even in cases of unbroken mythological lines, such as India, or of good preservation of literate Paganism, such as Greece, the nature of the gods is determined by both story and cult. The actions of the gods in cult are local, specific and often related to the needs of their worshipers, rather than their poetic category.

No Celtic God has
been more altered by
Neopagan gnosis than
To speak of a god and the actions of a god, we can go two routes. We can describe the poetic and symbolic categories most often associated with that being. We say that Brigid is a goddess 'of the hearth' or 'of home and kin', or that Morrigan is 'of battle'. When we attempt to derive these big categories I suppose it makes sense to draw on the tales we have.

The second source is the power of the god in cult. I don't suppose anyone would suggest that Brigid would not defend her worshipers with war, if needed, or that Morrigan *could not* heal or aid in childbirth. That they might do so for the right petitioner does not, I suppose, change their greater poetic category. If I were healed by Morrigan I don't suppose it would lead me to address her as "the Healer", though I would recite that she had healed me. It's common in practical world polytheism to ask one's house-gods for what one needs first. They often come through, without resorting to others in the local pantheon.

So if a modern Pagan comes to me and says "Morrigan saved my childbirth" I would congratulate them, and perhaps remind them of their debt. If I hear "Morrigan is a Goddess of Childbirth" I'd ask for references.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Two New Oracle Decks

The Ninefold Druid Oracle Deck
I have been working for some while on a oracle deck that would fit inside a more archaic, northern European system. I raised myself on the Tarot, but it’s very late-period and hermetic content has pushed it further and further from my mind over the years. I need something that works in my current symbolic universe.

I settled on using nine key symbols from our ADF system: Gods, Dead and Sidhe – the Three Kindreds of Spirits; Land Sea and Sky, the Three Realms of the Middle World; and Fire, Well and Tree, the Three Hallows of the Sacred Center. To tell the truth, when I began I was hoping to create a set of runic ‘sigils’ for each category – linear figures that would be used in magic as well as divination, rather like the runes. I hoped for 3 symbols in each category. The fact was that I simply couldn’t get enough expression by limiting myself to three symbols for each category. Too much would be left out.

In the end I devised nine symbols for each of the nine ‘suits’, producing an eighty-one card pack. I got myself to clipping some art and limbered up my photoshop filters, and made an alpha-test set of cards which I had duplicated by print-shops in business-card size. I have presented the material at ADF workshops a few times in the past years, and there have been a half-dozen folks or more working with the system, to pretty good report.

At last I’ve found an on-demand card printer for decks of cards. The quality is nice, and the robot is obedient. As a result I can now offer these decks for sale. Each pack contains the 81 cards of the oracle, a significator card, title cards and a 20-page booklet giving one-line meanings of the cards. Purchasers will have access to the download of the amplified meanings of the cards. This summer a small book will become available, but the starter material is sufficient to allow use of the deck.

Those who enjoy cartomancy and would like a nature-centered, fully Pagan symbol system should find the deck useful. While it is primarily Celtic in perspective it should offer little conflict to other Indo-European Paganisms. Norse and Slavic folks will find little to object to, and even Hellenic and Roman devotees should find it suitable.

 The Tredara Ogham Oracle – A Card Deck for Beginners
The Ogham letters (the ‘h’ indicates that the ‘g’ vanishes, producing the pronunciation “oh-uhm”) are an ancient secret cypher of the Irish Poets and, quite possibly, Druids. In the dawn of Irish letters, as the incoming literate church met the vast oral traditions of the Irish poets and seers, the new scribes invented a method of writing letters easily on stone and wood. The Ogham letters are meant to be drawn on a center-line, the hash-marks running right, left and across it. In practice the ‘center line’ was the edge of a stone or wooden monument, running bottom-to-top along it. These cyphers were used by the poets and Druids of the Gaels to create pillar markers for graves, to inscribe spells on wood, and even to write manuscripts on paper.

The majority of the information that has been preserved on the Ogham is found in the ancient Book of Ballymote. In those pages we find dozens of variations on the standard letters that we use here along with descriptions of custom and lore surrounding the Ogham. It reveals a system of remarkable complexity based on these twenty-five simple symbols.

Modern Celtic Paganism has revived interest in this writing system, and it has inevitably been used as the content for divination by the drawing of lots. Magicians and Pagan priests have always divined the web of fate and the thoughts of the gods and spirits by assigning meanings to tokens, and then drawing them randomly. From ‘drawing straws’ to chickens pecking at grain on letters in the ground, to modern card-reading the drawing of lots is probably the most common basic technology of divination.

I’ve worked with the ogham letters in this way for some time, but I just have an affinity for cards, and they are so very convenient. Recently I’ve found a site that offers card packs on-demand in the way that is done for books, and I’ve prepared a simple deck of ogham cards for my own use, and yours in you like.

The thing that bugs me most about the ogham letters is the utter graphic dullness of the
scratch-line number-code used for the letters. I have trouble holding them in my head. So the cards are prepped, each with the Irish name of the letter, it’s direct translation, it’s tree association, and a short phrase from the ancient “Phrase Oghams” associated with the letter. These notes will not replace serious study, but they should help the student reach for the associations that study builds.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good Stuff in Self-Publishing

I’m working on a couple of things, and a fairly big announcement in a week or so.  In the meantime there are some opportunities to buy valuable magical books at a reasonable price right now at There have been some discussions about the relative merits of self-publishing, and I’ll just point out some serious folks who use on-demand self-publishing (and some good deals available now). I use, and that’s the catalog I notice things in...
(Incidentally, Lulu has a free Shipping offer right this minute, until sometime 2/21/14.)

1: Western Magic Classics: For the Western Magic folks somebody is reprinting the complete Golden Dawn collection of Israel Regardie, in two hardback volumes for prices reminiscent of 1990. Likewise Crowley’s ‘Equinox’ is available in 10 volumes plus the ‘blue’ volume, for $30 each in hardback. Great deals. I assume these must be public domain, or that they won’t be there forever.

   Also, Francis King’s “Secret Rituals of the OTO” is available at a very modest price.

2: Celtic: “Dance of Oak and Wren: Rites of Draiocht” is a collection of ritual material by Celtic Reconstructionist Robert Barton. I just received it, but a quick look reveals a table of ritual phrases in each and all modern Celtic languages that, alone, is worth the book’s modest price. What, no hardback?
   Morgan Daimler has been prolifically generating short Celtic and Druidic books for Moon Books, but has a selection up in self-pub land as well. I just enjoyed her fantasy-romance novel, Murder Between the Worlds quite a lot. She’ll be a guest as the Wellspring Gathering this year.

3: New Western Material: In my own continuing commitment to self-publishing I am pleased to see a big-name like Nick Farrell using a direct service like He has recently published what looks like a core work on Cabalistic angelic magic, “The Shem Grimoire”. While I’m entirely removed from that mythic system these days I am interested to see the results of a modern magician’s own research and practice.

That’s the exciting part to me. The ‘occult revival’ has been cooking in the west for some 60 years. People my age (I’m a young Boomer) have spent our lives doing occult work, devising new rituals and revising old ones. The technology available now allows us to begin writing this stuff down and sharing it. There are many more (a quick search reminds me of IAO131, Denise Alvarado, and Jason Newcomb) All of those are producing professional publications with content of value. I’m sure there are many more. I think that we’re in a golden age of occult research, development and publication right now. Sure there’s lots of dross, but we must keep panning.

4: Don’t forget Me. My work attempts to fill in some blanks in modern Pagan occult techniques with material from late-pagan high magic and its inheritors.

And just to add some socially redeeming value to this chat, I’ll encourage you, dear reader, to pursue the same path if you have the inclination. In the old left-wing days we used to say “Read; Think; Write; Speak.” For a magician we must replace ‘think’ with ‘work’, I suppose, but the general formula still stands. Take notes, write down your rites, think about the results and write something for the rest of the occult world. The worst that will happen is that you’ll get a book with your name on it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cthulhu Occultism, Pt 6 – Bad Advice; Three Steps to a Cultist Future.

Let me be frank. I don’t think it’s worth doing to try to make occult systems out of fictional paradigms. Lovecraft, Tolkein, Pratchett, Rice, whoever; no single author or even group of authors can construct stories with the depth and resonance of mythic tales that have been signaled down the line through thousands of human nervous systems. Thus I find the notion of creating seriously-intended occult systems from those authors essentially ludicrous, in the original sense. It is a game, a joke, an amusement – not to be done (or taken) seriously.

That being said, I do love games. In fact I enjoy Lovecraft games, including table-top role-play, board and card games. I’ve already turned my hand to producing a fake Lovecraftian grimoire. Called the “Dwale of Afagddu”, it purports to be a conflation of medieval Welsh lore with mythos sorcery, and it was a fun project. Designing a grimoire is easy when it doesn't have to mean anything.

Buy me!
In the experiments given therein I employ dream-induction, fear-stimulus and outdoor environments to seek the atmosphere of Lovecraftian magic. At the time that I wrote the material (late 90s, as I recall) I approached it piecemeal, with little effort at theory or internal consistency. To continue that sort of fun a little, I’ll try to distill what I see as core ideas in a career in Lovecraftian occultism. If you want to become one of the Hopefully Uneaten Elite, it’s as easy as one-two-three.

1: The Preparation of the Operator
The Lovecraftian sorcerer is often born into the cult, but equally often must discover their connection, behind the mask of the ‘normal’ family and life. By whatever means, the protagonist… er, magician must discover that there is a Secret Truth behind the veil of common opinion and industrial science.

That truth is frightening. Or is it? HPL lived at the end of the end of the age of consensual mythic faith in the Biblical narratives. Science and archeology were battering away at the older models, and even more modern science was battering away at 19th century scientism and the doctrine of material progress. It is in the cracks in the belief system of the magician that the Great Old Ones make their presence felt.

There are two classic approaches to this problem in spirituality. The more common assumes that the human is basically living an animal life, following greed and lust and sloth as they please. It attempts to break through habits of daily survival by opening the mind and heart to empathy, widening he perspective from the personal to the communal, and opening to some symbol of ‘the Light’, usually understood as doctrinally-correct moral goodness.

The second method assumes that the adult human is a programmed social robot It sees us proceeding through our days with a set of ideas and opinions that provide acceptable ‘truth’ without being at all the whole truth, and often being simply false. It presents the Secret Wisdom to the common mind, and expects the containment jug of our inner certainty to break, spilling us out into unknown potentials.

It is the latter that Lovecraft exploits for his horror. His protagonists are usually either academics or artists. In artists we see a natural tendency to see past the norm, to allow imagination to be influenced by the thought-currents of the GOO. Academics usually find their way through discovery of facts, and the fitting of those facts together into a true picture of frightening reality.

So the Mythos wizard candidate is in a process of disintegration and reintegration (hopefully) from the outset. There’s plenty of occult mechanism out there for this process. Most commonly used by modern attempts at  occult Yog-Sothothery is antinomianism. The laws and moral strictures of society are thrown off, and the mind made soft and easily constrained through shock and horror. We see this in the great swampland sabbat in Call of Cthulhu. Old Castro recites the cult’s particular flavor of pie-in-the-sky:

That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.”

In a society such as HPL’s, where a woman’s insistence on personal liberty could result in shock treatment or hysterectomy; where homosexuals were imprisoned and inter-racial sexuality resulted in sanctioned murder such teachings were, quite literally, madness.

Step One – Go A Little Mad.

2: Study and Conjuration
The usual response of a Lovecraftian acolyte to their sudden understanding that the world is not what it seems is to proceed right down the metaphorical stairs into the demon-haunted crypt in their psychological bathrobe. The unshakable aesthetic and intellectual pull of the new knowledge leads our student to plow through the material at hand. In the stories this phase may involve association with an existing cult group, or may happen purely by research in books and manuscripts.

This often allows some agent or presence of the GOO to get a hook into the target’s – er, student’s psyche. This usually results in either an obsessive pursuit of ritual actions - assembling the right stuff and finding the right words, etc – or a round of dreaming and dissociative psychological incidents. The would-be magician ought to aim or hope for the former – those led by the latter seldom end up in charge of their fates.

This phase is marked by withdrawal and hermitage. The student’s conversational habits may become unusual, their public interactions unpredictable. Common life may be neglected for hours of study of strange tomes, and construction of unusual implements and structures. Associations and friendships may alter - especially helpful is to discover a sexual partner who can further initiate one into the cult. While it is best if this is a human partner (survivability rate-wise) occasionally non-human lovers may be available. Dietary restrictions may apply.

This phase may result in a special moment of contact between the magician’s self-up-until-then and the object of the work.  Again in some cases the contact is with non-human races, but Yog Sothoth is the being most commonly conjured by Mythos witches and wizards, with Nyarlathotep his messenger and Azathoth the incomprehensible sovereign behind them. Those were the Gods of whom Great Cthulhu was priest, but perhaps I say too much… Once again those who actually become mythos mages achieve this phase consciously – many achieve it involuntarily, in the tales.

Step Two – Make a Deal with Alien Powers

3: Machinations
The scale of this varies in the tale, depending on the type of madness that afflicts the protagonist, and the ambition of the particular Alien Demon-God involved. Some tales reveal large-scale, world-remaking plans, while other cultists seem to desire only to rule their own little slice of the world, or become lunchroom attendants for their patrons.

In “The Terrible Old Man”, a small story in the Mythos scale, we might see what a 'successful’ Lovecraftian mage looks like.

“He is, in truth, a very strange person, believed to have been a captain of East India clipper ships in his day; so old that no one can remember when he was young, and so taciturn that few know his real name. Among the gnarled trees in the front yard of his aged and neglected place he maintains a strange collection of large stones, oddly grouped and painted so that they resemble the idols in some obscure Eastern temple.”
This local wizard has collected spirits (dodging spoilers for once) with whom he could speak, “addressing them by such names as Jack, Scar-Face, Long Tom, Spanish Joe, Peters, and Mate Ellis”. He has a reliable supply of gold, a sea-port house, and ample means of self-defense.

­We see that some Mythos wizards do achieve a sort of success. Obed Marsh establishes his cult in Innsmouth and lives to a very ripe old age among his cultists. Ephraim Waite (if that is the original entity involved) successfully passes on from body to body. Randolph Carter becomes a king in the Dreamlands. Keziah Mason achieves interdimensional immortality. Even old Wizard Whateley lived until his end with his family around him. If one is willing to take the first two steps, there can be a variety of third options open. Lovecraft relied on an element of moral horror, since all these feats were accomplished through murder, violation of corpses, unusual sexuality and breeding, and with the aid of monsters.

Really the rest is just rinse and repeat. Mythos Wizards bring various intentions to their work – extended lifespans, wealth, and personal influence are shown in the tales. Some cultists seem to have joined the efforts by the GOO to unlock Those Old Locks, and restore earth to the Old Ones. One cannot tell, in the stories, whether these cultists have merely been coerced by contact with alien minds, or have personally become convinced that the return of the GOO would be some kind of good or benefit to them.

Step 3: Try to Take Over the World.

The astute occultist reader will notice a certain resemblance of this three-fold plot-sequence to the real psychological stages of the student of  magic. In our materialist culture to develop an ear for the spirits is to go a little mad, and immersion in unusual projects and parent-puzzling activities is as common  now as it was for Charles Dexter Ward. While few real-world occultists attempt to allow their patrons to rule the world, many attempt to gain personal rulership of their lives, and extension of consciousness into strange and challenging worlds.

Perhaps this is why Lovecraft remains so interesting and inciting to experimental occultists. Not only does he grasp the aesthetic feel of medieval sorcery and ancient demon-cults (in fact he helped to invent it in modern horror) but he seems to grasp with an artist’s feel the process of learning occult skills. Perhaps it was his life-long fascination with the ever-more-wondrous apocalypses of the science of his day.  Lovecraft himself seems to have longed to peer behind the veil of common reality, seemed to realize that the common conceptual position of the people of his time was ripe to be broken like an egg. The secret knowledge that Lovecraft sought was scientific, but he knew that even that had been ‘forbidden’ not too many centuries before. The unveiling of the hidden – of the occult – part of the world was Lovecraft’s delight, and the delight of the Mythos sorcerers of his tales, if not of their hapless descendents.

This brings my theoretical examination of occult themes in Lovecraft’s writing to a close. I hope these reflections (which have been great fun to write), will be of some use to occultists drawn to HPL’s themes and characters. Going forward I may take a look at the premise that HPL’s monsters and fictional deities might have some legitimate correspondence with world mythic systems, and attempt to deconstruct Lovecraft  Qabala. However next I will list and review what I know of the modern literature of Lovecraftian occultism. There are a number of texts, of various qualities. We’ll see how long it takes.

I assume that my personal opinion on the value of attempting a Lovecraftian occult practice is clear. In general I see little value in attempts to build practices on *any* fictional symbol-system. Lovecraft’s system has no more connection to traditional magic and occultism than does the Buffyverse or Middle Earth. If I were choosing a fictional paradigm for my magic, and despite my life-long love for horror and dark-sorcery literature, I would not choose a Lovecraftian one, nor advise anyone whose goal is wholeness and happiness to do so.

Fun stuff, though.

Next time I launch, at last, a review of modern occult literature that attempts to use Lovecraft's material. It's not all bad ; ).

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mind-Training Audio Release.

I have finally arranged a digital home for my old trance and meditation workshop. This 75-minute recording is a complete workshop in basic mental skills for magic and Paganism. It begins with the Complete Breath and Progressive Deep Relaxation, offers a basic pattern for developing a pre-ritual entrancement routine, and teaches a pattern of energy-work based on balancing Underworld and Heavens energies in the body. Each exercise is taught in a fully guided, scripted induction, framed in set-up and follow-up advice.

This is basic material. If you have been struggling to understand the experiences of relaxation, basic trance and the Two Powers, guided exercises offer a reliable means. On this foundation many other magical and spiritual practices are built.

As a single workshop it could fill a 90 - 120-minute slot with breaks and discussion, and be fairly challenging. It can also be used in 15 - 20 minute segments in a series for group or personal training.

Buy it here, and thanks.