Iuratus: The Construction of Christianity through Conjuration

2015/07/03

The Construction of Christianity through Conjuration: An Exploration of the Christian and Non-Christian Elements and Nature of Liber Iuratus Honorii

Medieval Europe has an unusual class of texts known as grimoires. These books claim to grant the reader power over their material and spiritual world, by instructing how to summon angels, demons, and a variety of other spirits. What makes these texts more compelling is that they are apparently Christian in nature; their symbolism, their language, and their purpose all claim to be Christian and appropriate within the religion. Yet the concept of these books –conjuring demons and commanding them to do the bidding of the reader– seems to be non Christian. Considering the witch trials that took place in this period, religious and secular laws against the practice of magic, and the pre Christian religions of Europe, it would not be unreasonable to consider the grimoires may not have been truly be Christian. Liber Iuratus Honorii, or The Sworn Book of Honorius is one of earliest surviving grimoires, and like the rest claims a Christian heritage. This paper analyzes Liber Iuratus Honorii using links with other texts and traditions, the internal Christian elements, and the internal logic and narrative of the text to show that Liber Iuratus Honorii is a genuinely Christian text likely written by a member of the clergy who disagreed with the establishment of the Church, but not Christianity.

Historical Background of Liber Iuratus Honorii

Liber Iuratus Honorii attributes itself to Honorius of Thebes, son of Euclid. It is unlikely that such a figure ever existed, as grimoires are often pseudopigraphical in authorship and the name seems designed to make the reader associate the text with Euclid of geometric fame. Regardless for ease of reference, I will refer to the author of Liber Iuratus Honorii as Honorius. The earliest surviving copy of the text dates to the fourteenth century, but dates as early as the first half of the thirteenth century have been argued . Dating the text is difficult as it may actually have been composed in parts, some dating to the thirteenth century, and some to the fourteenth. Though six copies of the manuscript survive, in slightly different forms, when compared to each other and by their list of chapters it seems there is not a complete copy surviving. These manuscripts are all written in Latin, and only one critical edition of a manuscript has been produced currently by Gösta Hedegård in 2002. This paper will focus on the only version of the manuscript that has been translated into English, Royal MS 17Axlii, translated around the sixteenth century, though the modern compiler notes textual deficiencies and variant readings from three other manuscripts. The text itself is divided into three or four books (depending on the manuscript), which include: a complex ritual to attain vision of the divine, rituals to attain knowledge in many fields, instructions of specific spirit conjuration, and more conjurations respectively. Other academic works have focused on the textual and religious relationships of Liber Iuratus Honorii, what influenced it and what it influences. Though these works highlight what is and is not Christian in origin in the text, they all assume the Christianity of Liber Iuratus Honorii as certain without challenging that assertion. While I do not disagree with their final position, in this paper I seek to examine and prove the Christian nature of the text, thus further supporting the study and interpretation of Liber Iuratus Honorii as a Christian document.


Liber Iuratus Series Intro

2015/07/02

As some of you know I have a degree in History from a University one of the top three History programs in North America. My final thesis was on Liber Iuratus Honorii, an early grimoire.

The next several posts will be that essay. I could post it all at once, but I know how attention spans on the internet work, so I’ll break it down into more reasonably sized chunks and post it over several days. Unfortunately due to the nature of academic writing there are long thoughts and paragraphs, so there isn’t always a good place to break the essay down. Some entries will be 500 words, others a 1000. I tended to break it along themes whenever possible.

Due to being on this blog, I’ll be removing the footnotes, because they’re a pain in the arte to put onto wordpress, but I will include all the texts I reference in the final post.

My paper is on whether or not Liber Iuratus is a Christian text or not. It claims it is, and I agree (as I’ll say in the intro), so it might seem odd to write a paper on it, but that’s how the historical process works. We can’t just accept at face value a claim in a text, so we have to evaluate it. So the paper is me breaking down the grimoire and looking for clues that really confirm or deny the Christian nature of the text. If you’re not familiar with the process it might seem odd to prove a text is telling the truth. As a historian we can’t just look at what a text says, we have to understand why it would say that, who benefits from it, why has it survived, and what does it tell us. The most fascinating element of history is taking something minor, and fleshing it out to see what it means. Sure, Liber Iuratus is a Christian grimoire, but what can we learn from it, what does it tell us about Christianity at the time, the view of the Church, the social structure of society? That’s the fun, teasing out the information.

Also, as it’s an academic paper written for a general audience of medieval historians, some of my points and explanations will seem really simple and obvious to magickal folks familiar with grimoires, but they have to be said for everyone else.

So that being said over the next several days I’ll be rolling out my posts on it.

And before it begins, since I know someone will be curious. I got an A on the paper, and my professor only challenged one of my assertions, as she felt it was too biased. It was probably my second favourite history paper to write. (My first one being the creation of the lesbian identity in Western culture due to the World Wars.)


Lack of Perception

2015/06/28

I can’t sense anything right now. I close my eyes and open my mind and there is nothing. Not the exquisite silence of heavens, or the empty hum of reality, but nothing, a lack.

I run my exercises, focusing energy in my hands and running it down my arms and across my chest. I draw in from my arms to my belly. Through all of this I feel nothing. I feel the results, a growing pressure and warmth in my belly, but not the energy itself.

I gaze at the candle obscured in the smoke, and I don’t know if anyone is there, but my life shifts, so I know Behrat is listening.

This happens to me from time to time, I don’t know if there is a reason, I don’t know if the reason is personal or situation. For some reason from time to time, a week or few every other year or so my perceptions just vanish. It’s very disconcerting. While I might not be the most psychically sensitive person in the world, I still tend to live in a world populated by spirits whom I get impressions of, I navigate a world filled with currents and eddies of energy that I feel as I move through them, but right now, it’s as if that sense is shut off.

I still get results within reason when I work magick like this. As I tell my students just because you don’t perceive a spirit doesn’t mean it isn’t there, so continue your work. None the less I know how awkward it can feel to not be sure if you’re just yattering at the darkness or if the spirit you seek is hiding beyond vision.

On the other hand I know too many people place too much emphasis on the whizzbangs of magick. They’re so into sensing thoughts, spirits, and auras, that they never apply themselves to making changes, or direct more energy to honing perceptions than they do to living a good life.

It’s hard, and I want the other half of my world back, but I take times like this to remember that seeing spirits doesn’t make me a sorcerer. Sensing the blue fire I call from my hearts and run through my body doesn’t make me a sorcerer. Knowing how or why someone is damaged just by being in their field doesn’t make me a sorcerer. Knowing what I want in the world, moving towards it, effecting change through magick, moving forwards and enjoying my life as I take each step on a journey taking me deeper and farther within and without, that’s what makes me a sorcerer.

I’m writing this not because I feel the need to share for its own sake, not because I want someone to tell me how to bring my senses back (but suggestions and theories are not unwelcome), I share this for two reasons.

As mentioned too many people focus on the shiny lights in their magick, not on the planning and execution and getting results. I want to remind them that’s not the point of magick, and I want to encourage those who have never lived in the threshold worlds with spirits and flows of energy just beneath the surface, you can do magick too, even if you can’t sense it. Sensing doesn’t make it work. I know a handful of competent sorcerers who need to be hit with an energetic transport truck before they sense anything, but they still work.

Secondly, this isn’t something I see talked about too much, and when it first happened to me in my late teens I didn’t know what to do. Had I lost my gifts? Did someone Bind me? Maybe I was delusional and finally coming to my senses. If I had the reassurance then that this happens, it would have been easier the first few times. So to anyone out there, who it seems like half of the world just went silent, or goes silent from time to time, don’t worry. I can’t say why it happens, in general or in any specific case, but it doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Take a break, or keep working, it’s up to you, but chances are it will come back. Let the silence remind you next time you complain about being too empathic or whatever. If you want it back, you can eventually work towards it, or it will happen on its own.

This too shall pass, and I await the world to bloom around me anew, but I know not to worry and through all this, I’m still a sorcerer.


Wednesday Webshare: Rationality, TGFKAI, Scale and Probability, and Cursing Fucktwads

2015/06/24

Mercury WebMany folks know that Carl Sagan is an important figure to me, who shaped a lot of my world view. One of the foremost science popularizers of our generation, and he shapes a sorcerer? Indeed. I have a fairly rigorous practice of verifying experiences, at least until enough evidence is collected, and I think rational thinking and even elements of the scientific method are crucial to being a competent sorcerer (and person). So here are Carl’s rules for critical thinking and nonsense detection, they are completely compatible with magick, if the sorcerer is willing to be honest with themselves and their practice.

A bracelet found from 40,000 years ago, created by an extinct human species that we never believed had the capacity. As someone with a history degree, I love seeing stuff that challenges our stories, even if this is before an era more historians would (or could) touch.

Due to recent issues with Western media and Daish, and the acronym of Isis, the goddess is changing her name

My First Ars Goetia colouring book. I have a copy already, and have another set aside for my niblings.

I’ve talked about grave dirt before, but here is another perspective on it that I enjoyed.

Having trouble understanding the Book of Revelations? How about reading the first part of it as a manga/graphic novel, Apocamon.

During my Abramelin retreat one thing my HGA focused on was showing me how impossible my existence was. Ey showed me about the chances of me being born, and how easily that could have not happened, and then replayed that back generations until the conclusion was drawn that my existence was next to impossible. Here is a great image showing that.
(Ey also showed me that it was impossible for me not to exist when you take those odds and play them out over the universe)

I’ve ranted on the issues with the newage mindset, especially when delivered in inspirationally small snippets, here is a look at 5 of the most dangerous newage myths.

Have a list of five extreme places to meditate. I’ve done all but number 5, which is ironic, because that’s where I’m sitting writing this post right now (go Tim Horton’s!). Meditation should be taken out into your world to receive the full benefit.

Want to curse your way to a better world? Join with my friend Rachel as she starts off with a horribly transphobic preacher. I especially value her point, that he is essentially working death magick, which is, I would say, a good reason to counter.


Ancestor Work: Categories of Dead Folks

2015/06/08

Last week I talked about starting ancestor work, and a few people in the comments already jumped ahead to what I wanted to talk about this week, which is the different categories of the dead and ancestors.

The tradition I ended up working with included a few categories of the dead, and that has been tweaked a bit by me based on my cosmology.

The first is the Beloved Dead. The Beloved Dead are the family you knew. If they were alive at the same time as you, if you knew them, then they’re in the Beloved Dead category. This is the primary group most people work with, and in a lot of ways it’s the most accessible.

The second would be the Faceless Dead. The Faceless Dead are the family you didn’t know. The great-great grandparents who died before you were born, all those you never got to meet but whom you are a descendant of are the Faceless Dead. They’re still an easily accessed and immediate presence in ancestor work despite the distance.

Some people wonder why or how someone you never knew would work with you, even if you are a descendant. There are several reasons, the first, as cheesy as it sounds is the love of family. How many of us have had someone born into the family, a child, a niece or nephew, a cousin, whatever. Right away we probably love them. We have no idea who they’ll grow up to be, but there is this immediate bond, they’re family, they’re our kid, or our sibling’s kid, or someone else’s, but we love the parent, and that transfers to the child.

Another reason, which is harder to explain, is the continuation of self. There is a saying that children make us immortal, because our genes and values will continue through them. (Technically with that logic, it just means you’re long-lived, cause all of humanity will die eventually.) We’re a physical emanation of those who went before us, we’re connected to them, and in many ways a part of them, so it’s in their best interest to work with us. We’re a continuation or extension of them, it is natural to seek to benefit that which is connected to us.

Note: Some groups and lineages refer to this category as the Nameless Dead. For me that doesn’t work, first off I’m my family geneaologist, I know names of my family going back before the Battle of Hastings. Secondly Nameless has a very specific connotation in my spiritual background which clashes with this understanding, so I switched it to Faceless. For the most part there are no visual representations, so they are Faceless to me.

Those two categories are the two “proper” categories of ancestors we have to work with. The next two are not quite ancestors properly, but interact with us in a similar way.

The first of these is the Lunar Dead. The Lunar Dead could be seen as our adopted family. They are our friends, teachers, and people we had close ties to. Your best friend, or even your best friend’s mother depending on your relationship, might come through as a Lunar Dead in your life. If you’re part of a spiritual tradition, the teachers before you can be part of the Lunar Dead, and much like the Faceless Dead, this can include those you’ve never met. In my case my lama’s lama, who died a few years before I got into Buddhism, has made his presence felt with the Lunar Dead. If they were the type of person who would help you out, no matter what in life, then chances are they’ll fall under the Lunar Dead.

The second group in this set is, as some might have guessed, the Solar Dead. The Solar Dead is a very broad category. It includes anyone who could be in the previous categories, but from a past life. You might still have some connection, however subtle, to family members from another life, to friends and teachers who knew you before you took this birth. The Solar Dead can even potentially contain other forms of your self from the past. I have a very loving woman who occasionally shows up, and I get the sense she was a nanny of some sort for a life I spent in India, where she was closer to me than my mother was. Basically though the Solar Dead is any type of connection with a deceased spirit from a life before this one. I don’t know how far back the Solar Dead can go, I assume it’s more based on how long the connection has been dormant, how strong it was, and how connected you are to it now, but that’s just what seems right to me, and might not be the case.

The last category of the dead is not really an ancestor in any sense of the word (though there could be overlap), and that would be the Mighty Dead. The Mighty Dead are the powerful, fascinating, and unique historical figures out there. They’re people that made a huge difference in the world, the people who will be remembered by many not related to them. This could be famous political figures, Ghandi or J.F.K., warlords like Napoleon, great minds like Sagan and Einstein, even great sorcerers like John Dee, or Crowley. If they’re a figure famous for their work in some regard, they can be included in the Mighty Dead.

I know some people work regularly with the Mighty Dead, giving frequent offerings, much as they would with their ancestors. Personally I don’t, I don’t have a connection with any of them that I feels warrants it, but if I need to work with one of them, I can create such a relationship, but I don’t keep one going on standby just in case.

For me these extra categories slowly developed as I worked with my ancestors. My Great-Grandpa who died before I was born showed up after a while, and I felt I couldn’t exclude him, just because I never knew him. So I included him on the offerings, and then another family member I had never met made their presence known, and over time I realized there was a group, so I gave them their own category and set of offerings.

I find every once and a while I get a few new Faceless Dead, as if my work with the rest of them is slowly calling them, or awakening them, or perhaps the dead communicate and tell their parents and family “Hey, someone is actually acknowledging us, come get a meal.”

My Solar Dead showed up before I began ancestor work, but it was my ancestor work that gave me a format to work with them, rather than just having them occasionally around.

No Lunar Dead showed up before I began to call them, it is a category I created out of utility, as I worked with the dead I made a point of acknowledging some friends who had been murdered, and felt that whatever was out there of those who I knew, but was not related to, could still benefit from some offerings.

Once a week I make my offerings to the various groups. My Beloved Dead and Faceless Dead receive incense, candles, and water or tea. My Lunar Dead and Solar Dead receive bread. Perhaps more importantly though, they all receive my attention, which from my conversations with them, sounds like most of them almost never get.


Review: Sumerian Exorcism, by M. Belanger

2015/06/04

sembSumerian Exorcism: Magick, Demons, and the Lost Art of Marduk – M. Belanger
Dark Moon, 2013, 9781482521733, 180 pp.

Disclaimer: Michelle is my friend, so while I try to remain unbiased I acknowledge the potential for such is present.

Mesopotamian culture set the foundation for many elements of the modern Western world, and that includes the influence on magick. While the magick of the ancient Near East is often a feature in pop culture and obliquely referenced in paganism and magick generally in terms of Inanna it is rarely more than loosely based in actual beliefs and practices.

This book is a step towards helping shed some light on the actual practices of the time by sharing translations of the original source documents of various magickal tablets, most notably the Maklu Texts made famous by their reference in Simon’s Necronomicon.

The book is a collection of various texts, translated by academics, not by practitioners, and presented with some interpretation and explanation. The fact that the texts are academic translations is important to me, because while academics still have their own bias, when a text is translated by a practitioner they often translate to support their belief which may or may not be factually correct.

Michelle provides the necessary background material, when possible, to help the reader contextualize the spell. Whenever a god or demon or class of spirit is mentioned Michelle gives a brief introduction to them, knowing that the average reader, even of a text as focused as this, might not know whom they are discussing or praising. Sometimes there is a clear parallel between an ancient practice and a modern one, and when noted Michelle will often draw the link out for the reader. Also whenever something is suggested or implied in the text, but not stated probably due to being “common knowledge” to the priests at the time, Michelle fills in the gap or at least makes educated guesses. For instance a few spells reference the way a demon or influence might “melt away” and be burnt, so it’s suggested (and I’ll agree) that it probably referred to making a wax figurine or tablet to be destroyed.

The spells included cover what one would expect in general from a magick sampler text, there are curses, praises, exorcisms (imagine that), protection spells, blessings and more. This text is more for the academically inclined. If you’re looking for a how-to guide to ancient Mesopotamian magick and religion, this won’t be it, it might fill in the gaps and inspire, but won’t give you the foundation you need. The bibliography would also be a great starting point for a more involved study. For students of the western traditions of magick it will be interesting to see the origin (or at least oldest recorded description) of various ideas and both see where some practices came from, and perhaps rekindle part of them in your modern work.


Ancestor Work: Start Simply, Simply Start

2015/05/31

Ancestor AltarI put my fingers on the touchstone and allow my shrine to open. Muted sensations fill my mind and brighten. I light the two white candles on either side of the picture frames, then from those flames the incense. In my mind’s eye I let the light and smoke expand, both illuminating the space and obscuring it, filling it with a bright cloud on which my mind can receive images. Slowly I pour the hot water in the tea cups and say hello. I speak to my Beloved Dead, it’s not formal, it’s respectful but casual, these are my grandparents and great-grandparents after all. I tell them about the week, how it was my niece’s first birthday and she’s incredibly cute and they’d all love her, only one of her great-grandparents getting to meet her, just once before cancer took Nana. I talk about work, all the things that grandparents love to hear. I thank them, every week, for the role they played in shaping my personality. I ask for their support in my life, I have nothing planned, so it’s a general request, just be there for me.

Moving from my main ancestor shrine I light another stick of incense, and place a piece of buttered toast in two cups, marked in my mind with the light of the moon and the light of the sun. More formally, I offer the food and incense to them, but as with my Beloved Dead, I thank them for how they shaped me, and ask that they continue to work with me, and walk with me.

I never thought I’d be the type of person to work with my ancestors. Honestly I got into it accidentally it seems. I’m horrible with birthdays, so I asked my mother to email me all the birthdays for people in the family. She obliged, but her list included my great-granny’s birthday, despite being dead for nearly 20 years. I didn’t know how to arrange the information, so when googling my options to easily keep track of it, I ended up making a family tree. Then I decided to expand it, so I tracked down a few deceased family members and their information and added it. My grandmother (now deceased) found out and thought this was great, she was the family historian. She saw my initial family tree on Christmas Eve, and when she went home she couldn’t get to sleep, not because she was excited for Christmas, but because she wanted to track down all her records for me. It was bittersweet, for she gave me all her unorganized records and I made sense of them, but she died suddenly four months later. If we hadn’t worked on the family tree together the information would have been lost.

I don’t know how the ancestor work happened to be honest, but at one point it just felt natural that I should honour the dead I knew, that doing the family tree awoke this idea. I printed out pictures of them, both young and old when possible, and put their teacups in front of them, the only memento I have from most of them, and some candles. I don’t come from a family that has an ancestor tradition, my culture by the time it reached me had lost such things, and while there is some ancestor veneration in Buddhism, at that time I wasn’t involved enough to know it well, nor did I feel like their formalized methods were appropriate. So I made my own. I’ve worked with spirits for years, I regularly chatted with my one grandma as she’s buried a mere five minute walk from me, so I just adapted it from those ideas, and built upon responses over time. Sometimes when people ask me about ancestor work, when I mention that my simple methods are my own that’s the end of the conversation, they want something “traditional” because we’re taught to think that’s better. Other times the fact that it’s my own method is what appeals to people, because perhaps like me they’re not from a family or culture or religion with such practices, or perhaps like my take of Buddhist forms, they find it’s too formal and structured.

My practice is simple, but I thought I would share it. It’s nothing special, but it’s from the heart and effective for what I need.

My ancestor shrine has many objects on it, but a few simple classes of items. Most important would be the photos, the pictures of how I remember these people, and younger pictures them in their prime. I don’t know why I felt compelled to include both, but I like it, and when I acknowledge birthdays it’s nice to see them young and healthy, and when I honour their death it’s nice to see them as I remember them. As mentioned I have teacups from all the Beloved Dead, so they’re on the shrine. Two white candles, two incense holders, and a small vase big enough for two flowers. I also have a few random mementos, I didn’t want to include them initially, but they’re items I’d have no place for otherwise, and would probably throw out: a blue glass Madonna from my Grandma who wasn’t Catholic but had over 50 Madonna figurines, a backscratcher from my Great-Granny who died when I was five and that was always my toy when visiting, or the Statler and Waldorf figurines of my Granny who always claimed they were her boyfriends. Then in the centre is a statue of the Angel of Death, representing the Dead I don’t have on the altar, those who I knew but aren’t in direct lines (the Great Aunts and Uncles for instance), or those Dead whom I never knew.

Every week I boil some water, and perform the basic ritual described above. I make offerings to them, tell them about my week, what’s happening with the family, remind them they’re loved and missed, and thank them. If it is an important day, a birthday, anniversary, or death date I’ll make them a proper cup of tea, as an extra honouring for that day. I don’t use tea weekly for a few reasons, first water is traditionally offered by…well almost every culture to their dead, it’s the elixir of life, practically I don’t think it’s needed to use tea, and quite frankly brewing several cups of tea, only to dispose of them before they go bad (and they do, experience taught me that) is annoying, whereas water can stay on the altar all week until the next offering.

More important than anything I’ve found as I’ve done ancestor work, is to connect and acknowledge. Unless we come from a family/culture/religion with ancestor work, the dead are buried and then mostly ignored. Just by acknowledging them, you’re welcoming them back into your life. Sometimes I think about offering more elaborately, but to me, it’s about family. If they were alive and came over, I wouldn’t have cake ready for them, I wouldn’t have large meals just appearing, but I’d have tea, and if they wanted anything else, they could ask. So I keep it simple, hot water or tea, candles and incense. These are my Beloved Dead, they don’t need anything more, just love and remembrance.

A lot of people put off ancestor work (and a lot of work) for fear of doing it wrong. Contextualize it in the flesh though. Start with your Beloved Dead, the ancestors you knew in life, and just give them a space and time of your attention. Just talk. You don’t have to be formal, you don’t have to be elaborate. These are people who loved you (and if they didn’t that’s another issue for another time about ancestor work), so they’ll be understanding. If Grandma came over and I didn’t have tea, she might grumble, but in the end it wouldn’t be a big problem. Don’t worry about getting it wrong, they’ll forgive you, and if you’re open, they’ll guide you. Like many things in life it’s better just to start.


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