Languages and Magick: Cultural Artefacts and Split Personalities

2015/03/01

(The bulk of this post was written three years ago, but got lost in the shuffle. To refamiliarize yourself with my ramblings you can find Part One here and find Part Two here.)

I’ve touched a bit upon languages, alphabets and names in the past, but there is another aspect of language and magick that interests me. It’s less convoluted and more just varying opinions. What power does language have (as in a specific tongue), when, and why?

Religions and magickal traditions have all sorts of different opinions. I have Muslim friends who know no Arabic, except what it required to read and recite the Qur’an, and say their prayers. Not to mention Jewish friends that know only enough Hebrew to say the first part of many prayers “Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu *mumblemumblemumble*” The why and the how differs. Not surprisingly though very few Christians learn any Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic for their religion –and if you want to win arguments with them, learn these languages.

So why does language (not) matter in magick? I’m talking including religions here, because yes there is a big crossover with magick. There are all sorts of different opinions on why you should or shouldn’t use some language. My friends have explained that the words of Mohammad (P) are sacred, so when reciting the Qur’an or the prayers, they should say it as he said it, that the literal words are sacred. A Lukumi friend of mine has learnt Spanish, Yoruba, and some pidgin language of which the name escapes me for her prayers, for what seems to be a cultural respect. On the other side of things is good old Abraham von Worms who said essentially don’t pray in any language other than your mother tongue as you’ll never be as sure what you’re saying, and you could say or imply the wrong things. Even if you learn the language, there can be dozens of subtle nuances you won’t know if it isn’t your mother tongue, or you’ve spoken it regularly for less than a few decades.

Enochian magick pretty much is always initiated in Enochian. When studying with one lama I was told that my sadhanas (rituals) should be performed in Tibetan, but if I can’t manage that then English would work. He never really explained why and it later confused me when I was taught to do the same sadhana without speaking at all; should I be thinking in Tibetan or English? Yet at the same time many Tibetans do rituals in their Sanskrit forms (in fact my lama translates them into or back into Sanskrit sometimes), yet Mongolians often practice these same rituals in Tibetan. There is this clear idea that language matters, but it’s often the language of the other. So Western and Mongolian Buddhists might use Tibetan, but many Tibetans are using Sanskrit.

What does it matter? I think Lon Milo Duquette said it best, it was on a podcast, but I can’t remember which, possibly Thelema Coast to Coast, but when referring to the Enochian Entities he said something to the effect of “They’re like Frenchmen, they want you to take the effort to speak their language, even if you’ll fail horribly, and then they’ll talk to you in English.” In an earlier post Ars Mysteriorum said that higher beings can understand any language, but it is more polite to speak with them in the language they’re most familiar with. We agree it was a simplified analogy but the rough idea seems appropriate.

Many entities are culturally specific, and have been approached in the same language for hundreds or thousands of years, and while they may understand other languages, these are the languages of their history. One lama stresses performing the sadhanas traditionally, not because they are written in stone, don’t work in English, or anything, but out of respect for the tradition they come from, as well as believing there is a greater sympathy by performing the ritual in the same way and same language as many great saints, holy people, and magickians have for hundreds of years, while my other lama translates them into the older tongue of Buddhism, Sanskrit (but does not translate them into Pali, which is an even older tongue for Buddhism).

Is language in magick just an artefact? Is it an issue of respect? Is there magickal power to it? Another take is magickal languages (well languages in general, but this is Blue Flame Magick, not Blue Flame In General) cause split personalities. Aside from being confused by the language, or worried I’ll get something wrong, when I’m speaking in Enochian I /feel/ magickal. When not cringing at mispronunciations I can’t seem to correct just chanting in Tibetan makes me /feel/ more engaged. This is more than just my simple feelings about the matter though.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (You’ll need an access code like a University library to get this I assume) in their November 2010 had a relevant article “Two Languages, Two Personalities? Examining Language Effects on the Expression of Personality in a Bilingual Context.”

It says “Self-reports and behavioral observations confirmed the effects of perceived cultural norms, language priming, and interlocutor ethnicity on various personality dimensions.” People, both notice about themselves and in others, that their personality shifts along “perceived cultural norms” when speaking in another language. People act, in a subtle stereotypical way, similar to the cultural/people that uses that language. In the tests English/French speakers tended to be more verbally aggressive, independent, and withdrawn when speaking in French, common stereotypical traits. Whereas native Chinese, Korean, and Spanish speakers who learnt English tended to be more extroverted, more assertive, and more open to new experiences when talking in English. Traits they associate with the North American English speaker.

Tibetan is the language of the day to day life of the Tibetan people, but Sanskrit and Pali were the languages that the early siddhis and yogis spoke, and by using it they are closer to them…if only in a stereotypical association of the other. English is day to day, but Enochian is supposed the language of the Angels, of course speaking Enochian seems magickal…if only for that reason.

The language rabbit hole goes deeper, because despite whatever objective power might be there, the subjective association of the magickal other adds something to languages in other language, and perhaps that little bit extra is worth pursuing.


Wednesday Webshare: Spirit Communication, Christian Archaeology, and Meditation

2015/02/25

If you happen to be in Prague check out The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians.

Read the comic book intro to Chaos Magick. It’s pretty cool. I’m glad to see the focus on meditation and discipline, that often gets dropped in more pop forms of chaos magick

As the world changes, so does our relationship with the divine, so have a look at The Twelve Gods of the Internet.

10 Signs your boyfriend is a bad ass wizard. Pretty much speaks for itself.

Even as someone who deals heavily with spirits, and has an asshole in my head an HGA who occasionally kicks me around I find a lot of the time people use their “spirits” and intuition as excuses. So here is a list of thirteen ridiculous woo-woo excuses people make. I’ve heard a lot of these, and it’s amazing how often your “spirit” tells you to do what you want, or not do what you didn’t want to…why it’s as if you just happened to pick the perfect path without any effort, good for you!

Following up with that, here is a list on helping sort out if what you receive is divine guidance or not. While I disagree with large chunks of this list, it’s better than most of the ones like this I’ve seen. I think their signs that it is a false message are more spot on than their true messages, in my experience at least.


In case you’re one of the three people who didn’t see the video, Cthulhu inspired fauxga yoga. Yoga Fhtagn.

As an introvert, and a dark sorcerer, I can confirm this list of dealing with introverts it completely factual.

The earliest known version of the Gospel of Mark has been discovered in the mask of an Egyptian mummy. I figure my burial mask will be made from unreleased copies of my novel “The Cheesegrater walks at Midnight.”

Another Christian discovery, archaeologists may have uncovered the site of Jesus’s trial. I assume the give away was the skeletal remain of disco dancers at the bottom of the swimming pool. (JC Superstar reference if you managed to miss it)

In more tragic news Guards gun down four angels trying to escape Heaven, though I admit I’m fine knowing Shamsiel is out of the picture. As someone who was terrified with the standard depiction of Heaven when I was five, this amused me and I could imagine wanting to break out of the place.

And with a serious flip again, Sixteen things mentally ill pagans have to put up with. These are sadly things I’ve seen happen to a lot of people. Mental illnesses and conditions are a fact of life, being sorcerous folks doesn’t make us immune, and doesn’t mean they can be whisked away with magick. So if you know a pagan with a mental health problem keep this list in mind before you (in a well meaning way) try to engage them about their practice and their condition.

Because I believe to be a competent occultist of any stripe you have to be at least familiar with scientific process, and because I see way to many magickal folks buggering up scientific data in support of their ideas here are 10 mistakes we all make when interpreting research.

Also, does anyone else remember when the internet wasn’t just numbered lists?

Pepperidge Farm Remembers.

The Dalai Lama talking about what to do if we meet extraterrestrials. Basically respect and compassion. Gotta love that man. (Also, the transcribing is obviously not a Buddhist, for they got confused when Kundun said “Mother sentient being.”

The shape of the singing bowl inspires a new more efficient solar panel.

An interview with the founds of Trans*Buddhists which is a great site (found here) about making meditation centres and retreat centres more inclusive. As someone who fits under various understandings of gender variance it’s great to see this, Buddhism is by it’s nature an open and loving faith, but admittedly the sanghas and structures sometimes need some work in that regard, so hopefully this can help get some conversations started.

As great and essential as meditation is, it’s not without problems, as discussed here before. Here is another take on the problem of mindfulness meditation, specifically how it is presented and used in the West.

Aztec Death Whistles. Need I say more? If you love me you’ll get me one.


Retreats, Rants, and Priorities

2015/01/05

When last we left our hero Kalagni was proving eir inability to make reasonable decisions and had entered into a tantric retreat while working.

Anyways, I survived. The retreat was, not surprisingly, rough and tough and emotional. To make matters worse near the end I was told to complete the retreat a week early, meaning adding in about a thousand extra mantras per day.

It was definitely intense, and I can’t wait to do the next one.

Even though I finished a week ahead of schedule (a week before solstice) I’ve been decompressing and processing the experience since then. The retreat itself was a big event, but it’s finished with a fire puja, which is a long elaborate ritual of burning offerings. I spent two hours in the snow and slight drizzle invoking gods into a fire pit, and throwing food, alcohol, flowers, a hell of a lot of melted butter, and more into a fire. It was awesome, I cried…not cause of the ritual, because I had thick viscous black smoke in my eyes for a lot of the ritual.

One thing that came up with people before, during, and after was the fact that people often say to me things like “How do you manage to make time for all these things?” or “I wish I had the extra time to spend on my practice.” Here is the thing that bothers me, so here beginneth the rant, it is very unlikely that you don’t have the time, the thing is you’re not making it a priority. Don’t blame your life, you’re choosing not to do these things in most cases. I didn’t have a casual extra three hours a day to spend in my basement calling up gods and saying mantras, and there are things that would have been more fun, and more practically productive, at least short term, that I could have been doing. The thing is I make my magickal practice a priority.

When I did the Abramelin I had a fulltime working commitment, but still managed to dedicate nearly five hours a day to the ritual. Currently I work, volunteer, and go to temple three times a week (doing stuff unrelated to the retreat, and each temple session is a three hour minimum commitment), and I still managed to set aside two to three hours a day for the retreat. I even went out of country for a few days to spend some important time with friends, and still had time to follow through with my commitments.

How? It’s nothing special, I’m not saying it as a point of pride, it’s simply a matter of priority. Cut down the time you spend on email/twitter/facebook/youtube. Don’t watch tv, drop your hobbies, stop playing games, whatever. You probably work 8-10 hours a day including travel time, sleep another 8, you spend maybe two hours a day between preparing and eating food, one hour doing chores, that’s still 3-5 hours free. And to be honest most people spend less time preparing and eating and doing chores, and most people don’t sleep as much as they should. Your day is filled with all this time, it’s just a matter of prioritizing it. Even when I was at my friend’s place I made the retreat a priority, and as much as I loved spending time with everyone there, I still would excuse myself for a few hours a day and hide in a secluded area to do the ritual.

We’ve become a culture that often treats our entertainment as a right and necessity, and our commitments as choice. It should generally be reversed. Remember when you were a kid and your parents said you could go outside and play, or watch tv, but only after your homework and chores were done? That’s how we should treat our spirituality, especially if we’re trying to do something intense, or make time for a retreat. When you come home from work, don’t hope onto the computer or watch tv, go to your altar and do your prayers and mantras for the day. Don’t settle down to knit or play video games until your commitments are done.

It’s tough, you’ll miss your hobbies (but probably not as much as you think), you’ll have to really ration your social time with friends/family, and you might have to let things slip a bit. (Apologies to my neighbours about the state of my backyard during the retreat) But if you want to take your practice seriously, you have to treat it as seriously as anything else, if not more so. It shouldn’t be this boredom activity of “oh, I have an extra twenty minutes before bed, maybe I’ll meditate and talk to my Patron,” it should be something that you’ve made time for, that’s scheduled into your life, and everything not a necessity comes after.

If you don’t make the time for your gods, why should they make the time for you?


Staycation…Kinda…

2014/11/18

I did really well at posting on this blog regularly for a few months, but then, as always life interfered. In fact the only reason I have time to write this post is because life is interfering with life and I’m currently on the last leg of a long bus ride –edited and two days later I arrived at temple twenty minutes early so I could hurriedly upload this via the wifi of the coffee shop a few doors down.

For those wondering about my absence (I prefer to assume people wonder, rather than forget my existence) my life is busy busy again because I got a new job, I started volunteer tutoring (the same week I started working), my temple commitments have gone up to three times a week, and I’m also currently doing a lerung “working retreat.” A working retreat, as a friend of my put it, is a Buddhist staycation.

I guess for comparison you could see it as similar to the Abramelin in its structure. It’s a retreat where I live at home, though have a room set aside for this (reusing my Abramelin prayer room), and I’m allowed to work, and to an extent I’m allowed to be social, but several hours a day are involved in tantric rituals. So excluding this weekend my schedule has been wake up, ritual, work, ritual, sleep, wake up, ritual, work, ritual, sleep. I wish I was exaggerating that, but I seriously haven’t had time to go grocery shopping, or clean, or things like that (you know, I could have bought food rather than upload this…hindsight…). But the retreat is settling down into a rhythm so hopefully that will be less of an issue in the near future.

This means though that I don’t have time to really post until the retreat is over on the Winter Solstice (it’s short but intense and densely packed), so hopefully I should start getting some posts out around the new year.

Until then, go the way of your wishes.


Substitutes

2014/10/24

A popular practice in Tibetan magick is to make a substitute, which is by no stretch just a Tibetan or Buddhist practice, pretty much every culture has something similar. Though you don’t tend to see it in ceremonial magick, I suspect because of the disconnect that happened between living culture and practice. I’m going to share a variation on the Tibetan substitute, I say variation because every teacher probably has it done a little differently, and every practitioner has their own twist I’m sure. Making substitutes is one of the most common suggestions that come up in a mo dice reading. It’s used to uncross (in Western parlance), to make peace between you and a spirit you’ve offended, to misdirect magickal attacks, or to release stubborn connections.

One thing I like about Tibetan substitutes is that they’re fairly impermanent (shocking I know). I remember years ago making a doll substitute with a friend to help with some rough shit going on, and while it worked I was stuck with this little doll until I learned how to safely release it.

For making the substitute base you need flour, butter, salt, and water.

I don’t know if anyone ever actually has a recipe or proportion my advice is basically what I’ve been offered and what I tell people “mix the stuff together until you get a stiff dough that isn’t sticky.” Obviously it’s more flour than anything, butter and water are the next main ingredients, and barely any salt is needed. Make a fist-sized ball, you won’t need too much.

When you have the dough ready there are a few steps to align it with you, first make it into a ball and hold it in your non-dominant hand, then with your dominant thumb press firmly down on the dough to leave a thumbprint and a hole most of the way through the dough. The thumbprint is the first step of aligning it to you. Now that you have this cave in the dough ball you can fill it with something else to connect to you. Depending on the severity of the issue, what you’re comfortable with, and whatever considerations you have, you can either breathe into the hole (probably the “weakest” of connections), spit into it, put in some blood/semen, or work in some nail or hair clippings that were taken off just to put into this.

With all of these feel free to put more work behind it. For instance when breathing or spitting into the dough I usually very consciously breathe in slowly and let the energy I breathe in fill my body and mix with it, then from my core I breathe out slowly of my own energy. If I’m going to spit, as I breathe out I try to “filter” the energy and my breathe apart forming a ball in my mouth, which I then mix with the saliva to spit. When producing blood/semen or taking hair/nail clippings you can see your essence gathering into the appropriate spot and then leaving your body with it.

Mix the dough again, and then make a human-shape from it. This can be very loosely human, mine often look a bit like deformed starfish, but you can see the sense of arms, legs, and head.

Now you connect to the substitute. Visualize a white spot of light in your forehead (an Om if you know the Tibetan alphabet and care to be that traditional) and from that little pearl of light see a ray of light stream into the dough-person and hit the same spot leaving behind a smaller white spot. This is your physical energy and sensation. Then from your throat a red spot does the same to their throat. (It’s a red Ah if you want to be traditional) This is your energy in the sense we generally use the term in magickal circles. Then from the heart a dark blue spot to their heart. (A Hum to be traditional) This is your mental energy, or awareness.

Take a moment to reconnect all three, and then one at a time, and just see yourself pour into the substitute. Through these connection points anchor what you feed into the substitute and see it taking on more and more of your essence. Depending on why you’re making a substitute you can focus on grabbing extra connections to you and putting them onto the doughbody, that way certain people or things currently attached to you will be connected to the dough form.

You can breathe on it / into it again, name it your name and address it as such, whatever else you want, but it is essentially done.

Now depending on why you’re making it, it’s time to dispose of it. Make sure it is “sealed,” that the three points are no longer connected to you, you do not want to dispose of a dough form that is actively tied into you. You can toss it into a wild place, a cemetery, offer it to a tree, or submerge it in water.

If you’re using a substitute as a general uncrossing type procedure, then any method of disposal is fine. If you’re making amends to a local spirit, leave it somewhere that is heavily their domain. If trying to throw a specific person off track leave it between your place and theirs (if you know it) or in a cemetery.

As it’s just flour and water it will be more or less gone in a few days due to animals and weather, and hopefully whatever you’re trying to rid yourself of will be gone too.


Gate Crasher At The Ancestor Altar

2014/10/20

Like most obsessed sorcerers I have several altars around my house. Sorry, according to Rinpoche I’m not obsessed, I’m “dedicated,” that sounds nicer. I’ve downsized recently, but I have my general and planetary altar, my chöd altar, my wealth altar, my Buddhist altar (okay a few of those), and my ancestor altar (recently just added a second one of those to discuss later).

Of all my altars my general/planetary and my chöd altar are my most “open” altars. When I do my morning prayers to the planetary angel while the offering is for them, it’s understood that what they don’t take/want can be taken by any spirit in the area. In chöd you go out of your way to call everyone you can to take the offerings. These altars are right on top of each other, so it tends to be, not surprisingly, where a lot of my random spirit activity occurs. My wealth and Buddhist altar(s) are semi-open, they’re dedicated to specific figures, but aren’t exclusive. I have trouble picturing a Bodhisattva getting annoyed that a random spirit is coming to take their offering. For the most part though since the work is directed to these figures no one else shows up.

Lastly there is my ancestor altar, which is closed in two ways. First it’s dedicated to my ancestors (imagine that) and anchored to them via photos, teacups, and art. Secondly it’s somewhat shielded. I wouldn’t say shielded or warded in the traditional sense, but it’s in my living room and I have it isolated from that space. While it is physically located in the living room, it’s energetically elsewhere behind a veil/shield, not for any super mystical reason, but as a genderqueer pansexual polyamorous sex-positive sorcerer my living room is often the scene of many things my very Christian ancestors might not approve of. (I may or may not be naked typing this within arm’s reach of the altar) So whenever I work with that altar, there is a stone I have to touch and “pull” the altar through that visual/sensory boundary.

One day, several weeks, back I opened the space, felt something off and thought nothing of it, and went about my weekly offerings. I lit the candles and incense as I chatted with my family about what had happened in the last week with the family and myself, I refilled their tea cups and noticed there was someone new in the space. Now every once and a while a new ancestor appears, it’s as if they talk from time to time, and someone says “Hey, your great-great-great grandkid is leaving us food and drink, come visit.” It’s weird, cause I don’t know these ancestors, my altar is for those I knew in life, but I’m not going to turn away someone just because they died before I was born. Anyways this new person didn’t feel right. There is a feel to ancestors, when the new people showed up I could feel the connection, I know they were family, and could even intuit roughly who they were (maternal/paternal and how far back). This new person didn’t feel like them in any way, he felt disconnected. It’s like when you’re in high school, there are 500+ students in your school, but you can immediately spot the transfer student in the crowd and tell they don’t fit in.

Before I could even address him, he asked for buttered tea. I asked who he was, and got no response, my awareness of him faded, so I left it. The next week he was there again, a bit stronger, I got a visual sense of him, he was an older white man, thick square glasses, and in a rocking chair, quite at home. Again he just suggested (cause asked implies too much communication) that he would like some buttered tea. This is odd, because buttered tea is a Tibetan drink, and that man is not Tibetan, and he didn’t strike me as someone who lived in Tibet or with the exile, he didn’t feel tied to Tibet/Tibetan Buddhism, he was just a strange old man asking for buttered tea. Again I asked who he was, and he faded out.

It sounds odd (because the rest of this story is so run-of-the-mill down to earth…) but I felt almost insulted by his presence. He wasn’t family, he wasn’t an ancestor, why is he inside my ancestor altar? I have two free-for-all offering buffet altars downstairs, why is he hanging around with my grandparents? As I’m overly polite with spirits (moreso than people most of the time) I decided to leave him be, I wasn’t going to cast him out, but I wasn’t going to indulge him without knowing who he is, or why he was there.

After several weeks of him occasionally showing up I got out a neutral coffee cup and made him buttered tea, which I served along with the drinks for my ancestors. The impression I got when I put down the tea for him? “Some apple crumble would be nice too.” It is amazing how someone seems unwilling to communicate, but still suggest/request to be fed in this manner. He got his tea, and no more.

It didn’t get rid of him, it wasn’t as if he wanted one last cup of tea before moving on, or anything like that. He’s a pretty “grounded” spirit, as solid as a stout ghost or ancestor that’s been worked with, he has presence and personality and awareness, which are really not common traits for wandering human spirits. Usually they’re weak, echoes, mentally dull, but not him. He still shows up, sometimes he’s an older man, sometimes he’s in his 40s-ish. He has the most unusual penetrating glance when his face prominently appears, as if his thick glasses are magnifying his sight, not just fixing it. I asked him to make use of the other altars for offerings, but he never showed up there.

I really have no idea who he is, or why he showed up, how he got into my ancestor altar and why he doesn’t go to any of the other ones.

This really is just to share some of what my magickal life is like, folks read my theorizing and my rants, but I thought I should also share some of what happens in my life. Also if you’ve had anything similar, or any ideas, I’m still trying to sort him out, so commentary is welcome.

He did lead me to creating two more categories of the dead beyond what my tradition held, but that will be discussed another time.


Social Media Round-Up

2014/09/29

My internet presence is scattered, and often if you miss the first announcement or two about where I am, that’s it you’ve missed it. So I thought I’d put all of my various social media stuff in one place, so people can stalk me in multiple ways. Warning though, I’m semi-serious on my blog, but elsewhere not so much, if you respect me just stick to reading the blog :-p Seriously though, follow stuff and chat with me, I love hearing from folks…well…most of the time…well…occasionally…well…

Twitter: Blueflamemagick

Twitter, for better or worse, is probably where I’m most active. It’s filled with random quotes from my life or what I’m reading, a lot of pictures of cemeteries recently, and just whatever grabs my fancy. (This is especially the one not to follow if you want to continue to respect me)

Facebook: Evan Sabahnur

I’m fairly active here. It’s more of a rambly journal of what’s going on in my magickal practices. (I have a non-occult facebook too, but for career reasons that’s not public, which is why this one is almost all magick stuff, I am more well-rounded than that if just barely)

Ello: Blueflamemagick

I just got onto ello, don’t know what I think about it one way or another, but I’m there.

Goodreads: Blueone

More than anything this lets you stalk what I’m reading. I don’t generally review on it, or when I do it’s a terse sentence or two, as my real reviews are here or on Spiral Nature. Also don’t judge me for what I read, I have my reasons.

Librarything: Blueflamemagick

This lets you browse my most of my library. I find I like snooping people’s librarythings a bit too much.


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