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.

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Wednesday Webshare: Zombies, Tombs, and Temples

2012/07/04

Need help predicting how to survive the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse? Try the Zombie Apocalypse Tarot for advice.

As someone who performs a fair amount of magick in cemeteries, and often leaves offerings I enjoyed reading What’s Buried in that Graveyard another great post from the Cemetery Traveler

For the more artistic I want to share this beautiful painting The Conjurer of a magickian conjuring demons according to the Solomonic tradition, the attention to detail is delightful, I’m ordering a print soon.

Hrafn over at Weaving Wyrd wrote a good article about The Okay Plateau and the Occult and it’s worth considering what to do when we get to that plateau and can’t seem to get past it.

Sometimes you need a smack to get your head back in the game, sometimes you need drivel. Taking buzzwords from the drivel advice master and automating them gives up The Wisdom of Chopra, the random quote generator of Chopra-esque wisdom. And remember “Nature is the continuity of humble self-knowledge.”

In a Buddhist Temple in Malaysia the traditional ancestor tablets are being replaced with digital ones. Considering some of the views of technology, information, and cyber space held by some forms and practitioners of Buddhism, this makes sense, and is a neat step.

I’ve loved the idea of the John Dee opera since I first heard of it. While Gordon went to it, and gives us an awesome play by play, so jealous he could see it.


Review: Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy – Scott Michael Stenwick

2012/02/24

Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy – Scott Michael Stenwick
Pendraig Publishing. 2011. 178pp. 9781936922048.

“Dee’s obsession with scrying and communication has been picked up by many modern practitioners of Enochian magick, and from reading some accounts one might be led to think that this is all the system is good for.” (50) I admit, I was in this category, I wasn’t an Enochian magickian, but that’s what I thought the system was for, and my few experiments in the system with friends were for information. This book aims to dispel that idea, as well as the mono-focus on the Great Table which is even more prevalent in the magickal community.

The Heptarchia Mystica is a section of Dee and Kelly’s work that is often overlooked and separate from the Great Table. It is also closer in structure and usage to the grimoires of the time. If you’re a grimoiric/Solomonic magickian (like me) some of the mainstream Enochian system can see a bit much to get into, but the Heptarchia Mystica is more accessible and familiar in many ways. It gives a collection of planetary Kings and Princes, as well as the evocations for each figure, and how to work with them, in a style far closer to what you get from the Lesser Key than from most Enochian texts.

This book is more than just printing of the oft ignored text, but also a general book on how to work with it. It was written with the “intention that you as an aspiring magician should be able to pick up this book and begin working magick right away” (53). If not for the fact that it requires specific ritual items like rings and lamens, this goal seems to be hit. The reader is led through a cursory history of the system and then some preliminary magick. Stenwick takes the standard banishing 101 seemingly required in every magick book, and goes a step farther. Instead of just giving the standard LBRP, the reader is given to Enochian inspired banishing/invoking rituals based on the Pentagram and Hexagram rituals. These are not simple rewrites of changing a name you sometimes get in books where they replace a name and claim it is Celtic (or whatever), but actually fairly distinct rituals I found quite enjoyable. Also Stenwick mentions what he calls the various fields: the effects of combining the different invoking and banishing rituals of the pentagrams and hexagrams. I had toyed with what these combinations too, but he takes it a step farther and discusses each combination and what they are best used for. It was an unexpected inclusion, but I definitely got a lot from it. Aside from the meat of the text that is something I will definitely do more work with.

The Enochian system is Christian in inspiration, it is a fact you can’t really get around, as such a lot of the prayers and evocations are quite Christian. On the other hand Stenwick is not, he’s a Thelemite, so each prayer is presented in its original form and then followed by a more Thelemic form, which often didn’t require too drastic of a change. I really liked this modification, as my belief system is far closer to the Thelemic system in philosophy than the Christian, and I know a surprising amount of Ceremonial Magickians have issues working with an overtly Christian system.

The book had a few formatting errors that irked me. Many of the internal page references were off by a page or two, so when working from the book you have to mark it somehow so you know to turn to the right page. Also sections that were supposed to be italicized so the reader would know what to omit or change were not actually italicized. In the grand scheme these are minor, but interfere just enough with the text to be a gremlin in the book.

For seasoned Enochian magickians, grimoiric/Solomonic magickians looking to break into Enochian systems, or occults of any shade looking for something new to try, this book is a good place to start. Largely complete within itself, and focusing on an uncommon part of a popular tradition, this is an excellent book to explore.

Personally I’m going to harass friends and family to borrow some Enochian gear, and get to work. If you want to read more by Scott Michael Stenwick, you can follow his blog here or comment specifically on his forum post, which is a blog post that looks like it will be question and answer, and discussion with others who have enjoyed this book.


Wednesday Webshares: Crowley, Spare, Potlatchs and More

2011/08/17

Let’s start off this webshare with more Crowley because despite being dead you can’t keep a wicked man down, in fact I’m pretty sure that’s part of what got him in trouble much of the time…

If you have a few hundred pounds to spare Treadwell’s books currently has a collection of early edition Crowley texts for sales. Aside from going to collectors this shows again that there is a demand for Crowley books that isn’t being met.

Continuing with Crowley a new biography is being released in September claiming to be “the first complete” and “definitive biography” of Crowley. It is a large claim to fill, but we shall see in time if there is much new to say about the Beast from this book.

And the last bit of Crowley for the week: Abrahadabra is releasing the Grimoire of Aleister Crowley. A collection of the rituals along with deeper exploration into their purposes and explanations on their meanings and structure.

Following the book pattern Jerusalem Press is rereleasing The Book of Pleasure by A.O.Spare. In general I think it’s great that Spare’s working is getting some fresh print time, but especially as in this edition they’ve gone to great lengths to get new or high-quality versions of the images from the original and includes an intro by Alan Moore. Now this may not be news to some, it’s from a few months back, but apparently I either missed this or it slipped my mind.

If you’re more in the mood to receive random possibly magickal knickknacks, tchotchkes, and more the good folks at The Hermetic Library have suggested an “eclectic, esoteric postal potlatch.” You either send in something, or donate, and they’ll send you something back. I think this is a neat idea and I’m curious to see what I’ll get and to hear what other sorts of things get sent through this.

While I hate to jump on any finding and claim “this proves magick!” I recently came across an article that mentions “slogans trigger resistance while logos slip through.” Their wording caught my eye especially as when I describe to people why sigils are effective it’s in part due to their ability to “slip through” our filters into some abstract depth of our mind. This article is somewhat reinforcing this idea, our mind rejects slogans (verbal) but accepts logos (visual). While obvious more to it than just a good parallel to sigils I found it interesting that theory is reflected in this study.

A while back I linked to a new computer program/algorithm being used to help sort out the various authors of the Old Testament (hint: it wasn’t Moses) and now it seems that the same technology may be useful in helping us date the Gospels. Interesting, though I admit the dates tossed around in the article have me looking askance at it, for their initial dating (which they believe may be even earlier) is far earlier than I usually see stated for the dates of the Gospels, outside of heavily Christian biased and unresearched sources of course. If they manage to prove the Gospels date to within a decade of Jesus’s apparently life I wonder what that would mean to people?

Another necropost link (I forgot I had many of these put aside) that was of personal interest to me was from The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn blog spot where Tabatha shows several examples of common errors or “corruptions” of Divine and Angelic names. Of course of interest to me considering this has been part of my language posting recently, that names become altered, corrupted, and yet they still work. It was good to see the research and actually watch the progression of a name changing.

Another month late posting but Egypt’s own Indiana Jones wannabe Zahi Hawass has finally been fired. This man was essentially the face of Egyptian archaeology, when there was a discovery to be announced he was there. There have been rumours (as there always will be, especially about anything Egyptian) that part of this was to establish an “official story” that Hawass took the releases so information that conflicted with his views and theories didn’t make it to the light. I’ve heard it go so far as he rabidly suppressed findings, but as always such claims never had much evidence. I don’t know if it is rumours or not, but as much as I liked the man’s personality it will be nice to read about or watch a new Egyptian discovery and have someone else discuss it.

Finally one last book because it’s me. It’s not out, but I just received the announcement for Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture set to come out in May. A quote from the publisher about it:

Examining this magical system from its Renaissance origins to present day occultism, Egil Asprem shows how the reception of Dee’s magic is replete with struggles to construct and negotiate authoritative interpretational frameworks for doing magic. Arguing with Angels offers a novel, nuanced approach to questions about how ritual magic has survived the advent of modernity and demonstrates the ways in which modern culture has recreated magical discourse.

So sounds good to me. Hope everyone is surviving this Wednesday in Mercury Retrograde


Webshare Wait-It’s-Monday: Enochic and Enochian Galore

2011/06/20

Baraquiel- The Hanged Man

Baraquiel- The Hanged Man

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, I decided to run for an unplanned holiday on the family farm. I was going to share these links/stories later, but as one of them is time sensitive I’ll do so a little early and with that said it might as well be the link I start with.

My friends Michelle and Jackie have been working on a tarot deck. Michelle’s been scheming it for about a decade and if I remember my timelines right Jackie’s been painting for about five years. The Watcher Angel Tarot is a reinterpretation of the themes of the tarot through the legend of the Watcher Angels as told in the Book of Enoch. The deck is finally done and presales start this Tuesday (June 21st). Currently you can pre-order the deck as collector and supporter decks on Jackie’s art site to help foot the start-up cost, and the deck will be released October 21st, just in time for the end of the world, and that’s not a coincidence. On Monday and Tuesday at 1830 (EST) Michelle and Jackie will be doing a twitter to youtube question answer session about the deck, so if you’re interesting and/or want to learn more go to Jackie’s site or participate in the chat to hear about the deck from the people driving it.

Damon Albarn (Gorillaz) has written an opera ‘Doctor Dee’ on the life of the historic occultist John Dee, founder of Enochian magick. I’m actually really amused and intrigued with the idea. He says he will focus on the occult practices of the good doctor, as he feels that part of his life has been hidden from history. No mention if wife-swapping for YHWH will be in the opera as of yet.

While totally different, this just couldn’t help but remind me of The Enochian Keys Opera by Valentin Dubovskoy from several years back, which I had interesting results with.

Next month sees the release of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, a video game loosely based on the Book of Enoch (I’m seeing a theme in my links, this wasn’t planned). The game has you taking the role of Enoch the Prophet trying to stop seven fallen angels and the flood that will destroy mankind if they are not stopped. I have neither of the platforms it is on (PS3 or 360) but I’ve been debating a PS3 for a while (I don’t really play video games) and I think this might be a good inspiration. A PS3 for my spiritual research, that’s reasonable, right?

Edit: I just found a video trailer of the game. It looks good to me, and has an interesting artistic style.

An Orthodox Jewish Court has condemned a dog to death by stoning. The belief is the dog that invaded the court room was the reincarnation of a secular lawyer the judges had previously cursed to be reborn as a dog for insulting them. What I found most interesting is that it is a public admission of the belief in reincarnation (which while it has some historical basis in Judaism is a fringe belief currently) but also the belief that the judges have the capacity to use a curse to direct someone’s next incarnation and that it could include animals such a dogs. I was under the impression that Jewish beliefs in reincarnation was limited to humans, but animals and cursing incarnations, both are new tricks to me.

Lastly, and really really not least is Rob’s Basic Laws, Rules, and Rights of Magic an absolutely brilliant article on…well just that, the laws, rules, and rights of magick. It’s a long read, and you definitely need to take some time to work through it but it is worth it. I probably only disagreed with one or two points, and not in horribly strong ways, I really recommend you give it a read if you haven’t seen it yet. It matched up with some of my own conceptions on the laws/rules and made me question and debate others.

That being said I leave these links with you, and hopefully return to blogging proper soon.


Sex, Angels, Bones, and Books

2011/04/25

Easter Monday, time for a Judeo-Christian post I think. This is mainly more links and connecting data, but I have a few relevant articles off on the wings I thought I’d bring together.

Over at Remnant of Giants a post just went live “How Do You Know When You’re Having Sex with a Fallen Angel: Some Handy Hints from a Biblical Scholar“. The site is a mix of funny responses to relevant events and scholarly study related to the Biblical and extra-Biblical giants, and occasionally more generic Biblical/extra-Biblical study. As a fan of the Enochic literature (meaning related to the Book of Enoch, not Enochian in the Dee-Kelly sense) I find it is both an entertaining and informative site.

Of course there are a few mistakes. With number one, the Angels you could sleep with, humanoid ones, didn’t have wings Biblically it was the non-humanoid Angels that had wings. I’m actually writing a personal article on that now which may or may not make it up here in the future. Number two, should have stuck with naming fallen angels, Metatron (either one of them) is an odd choice of name for a fallen angel to assume. Other than that, it is a handy (silly) guide, of course I’d rather use guides not to avoid but to pursue, but to each their own.

The University of Wyoming shared the news that the trial/investigation of the James Ossuary box may finally be wrapping up. It’s only been about a decade. In fact since then the box has dropped off most people’s radar. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it is an ossuary box that is about 2000 years old (that part isn’t questioned) which reads “Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua.” For those without their Aramaic 101, that translates as “Jacob, son of Joseph, brother of Joshua.” Or when rendered out of Aramaic into Biblical English “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” So apparently we have the bone box of James, Jesus’s younger brother. But so far most of the evidence points to it being a fraud. “Ya’akov bar-Yosef” is generally believed to be authentic, but the bit about Jesus looks like it may be a modern addition, the trial is trying to figure out how modern, as some experts say it is more recent than the box, but still from the first millennium.

Speaking of Biblical forgeries it looks like Indiana Jones’s David Elkington’s codices are not standing up will to investigation. Rather than link to any individual story I want to link to this great resource here which is both a collection of relevant links and articles and a pretty solid analysis of the flaws of the codices. Included at the bottom of the article, the very last link is a collection of all the images of the codices that have been released, for those of us who like to take a look for ourselves. Just a sidenote since I brought it up the first time I posted about it, this man actually has degrees, a BA in Near Eastern Studies and a Masters in Jewish studies, and is working on more. Credentials aren’t the end-all be-all, but by Baal they’re useful.

Now in the spirit of Easter Monday, I’m off to buy discount chocolate.


Review: The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot – Bill & Judi Genaw and Chic & S. Tabatha Cicero

2011/02/11

The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot: The Synthesis of Eastern & Western Magick – Bill and Judi Genaw and Chic & S. Tabatha Cicero
Llewellyn. 2004. 418pp. 0738702013.

“The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot is unique among all published Tarot decks” (1) it “is not simply a Tarot deck with a book of card descriptions. This kit contains a complete system for magickal and spiritual growth. It includes card spreads, meditations, exercises, and rituals that are provided for three levels of spiritual attainment: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.” (2)

This may sound like a grandiose claim but the Ciceros and Genaws managed to win me over to this point of view. It is definitely a unique deck. Rather than the traditional 78 cards this deck has 89 cards, and unlike the traditional Major and Minor Arcana this deck is divided into four elemental suits of 22 cards each, one Spirit elemental card, and the cards are double-sided. Honestly the structure is so different I wonder why they felt the need to call it a tarot deck rather than a divination deck. This deck also comes with a book more than four hundred pages long, just a small sign about how detailed this deck is.

This deck is probably the most complex deck I’ve ever dealt with. One side of the deck is composed of “Western Tattvas” or alchemical symbols, the others side is an intricate synthesis of various symbols and parts of the Enochian Golden Dawn tradition. The Ciceros and Genaws consider the traditional Tattvas and Western Tattvas as both equally valid, but feel that the Western Tattvas are more appropriate and accessible to a Western magickian studying Western systems. So instead of the traditional Tattvas and colours, the deck uses the elemental triangles and colours from the Western Mystery Traditions. The Western Tattva cards are composed of single element/Tattvas, sub-elements, and tri-elemental combinations. The Enochian side of the cards are far more detailed and difficult to explain. They match the elemental attributes of the other side of the card, and are composed of elemental sides of the Enochian pyramids, Enochian angels attributed to the appropriate section of the tablet, astrological correspondence, an Egyptian God, Major Arcana parallel, Hebrew letters, and geomantric symbols. There is definitely a lot going on with these cards.

As mentioned in their introduction the cards serve more than just a divinatory function but actually compose part of a magickal tradition. The Enochian side of the cards can be used to compose the elemental tablets for use in Enochian magick, and the book contains enough of the Enochian theory and Keys to get someone going. An obvious and major part of this is, as the title of the deck says, skrying. This book contains some of the best training exercises for skrying I’ve ever encountered, and I was very pleased and surprised with that. The book leads the reader through increasingly complex exercises to train the magickian for skrying and astral projection. What surprised me was that as a divination deck, that all of the skrying was consciously chosen. If you want to understand something, go through the deck and find the most appropriate card according to the meaning in the book and skry through that card. I don’t see why one couldn’t (or shouldn’t) simply shuffle the cards and draw out the most appropriate card to skry, after all divining gives us access to reasoning beyond our self. The book contains some fairly standard magickal exercises, as well as some unusual ones, such as the creation of elemental “energy balls.”

The only thing I could really complain about is that since the structure is so different from a standard tarot deck, lacking intuitive images, and just so complicated, that the deck will be exceedingly complicated to learn. Beyond this issue I think the deck and book are quite marvellous. What these cards lack in stunning artwork they make up in sheer information. Not a deck for everyone, but anyone seriously studying Western Traditions and/or the Golden Dawn then this deck would make a great addition to your magickal repertoire.


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