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.


Languages and Magick: Angels, Demons, and Drunken Scribes

2011/07/12

So last time I rambled on the importance of specific languages in calculating the name of an angel. It had a lot of open-ended and circular problems. Are languages important, why, and which ones? It led to some interesting discussion in comments, twitter, and an email. (At first I was confused how this person got my email, until I remembered I put it on my About page, just so people could get in contact with me without having to post a comment. I guess my brain is too full remembering The Raven and Pi to 23 digits to pay attention to what I do with my blog.) This is more of me working out my thoughts in writing, and hoping for some good ideas.

Now the process of calculating an angels name surely complicates matter and if you just stick with already named angels and demons that will make it much better. I remember when I first got into spirit work I had this strong instinct that by knowing the name of a spirit I had influence over it, by knowing their Name I could control them. Over years I found this idea represented in Babylonian/Akkadian/Sumerian magick, in Egyptian magick, western Ceremonial Magick, even in Vedic and Buddhist magick. Names have Power. Along with this is the parallel idea that Sigils/Seals have the same control/influence. Simply I’d say a name is auditory and a sigil is visual but they are the same thing.

Traditions may argue how much power and influence the name or symbol gives you, but they largely agree that they do. So that makes this a lot simpler than calculating a name, here you have the name provided for you, and a seal, and that makes it simple… as long as you never look at another text. When I received my Goetia of Dr. Rudd I was surprised by how many of the names and seals were close but not the same as my Mathers version. I had come to understand a lot of this magick through the doctrine of names. But what did it mean when Halphas/Malthus and Raum have their names and seals rendered differently? If my power over Malthus or at least my ability to contact or communicate with em is based upon my possession of eir seal and name how did I accomplish anything if I had it wrong? I can’t reach you if I dial the wrong number, can you reach a spirit with the wrong name/seal? This preoccupied me more than some people’s focus and questioning of the inclusion/absence of the Shem ha’mephorash angels.

I was able to wrap myself around this, and that became less of a concern until I realized it wasn’t just names and seals changing, but spirits were being stolen, or split, and combined. This opens up a magickal can of worms on its own, but I want to focus on names here. If the name is the connection and control of a spirit, what happens when a name of one spirit gets applied to another apparently unrelated entity? Or more curious to me, when a spirit’s name and existence was completely a mistake? Halphas above is a good example, Halphas is the 38th spirit of the Goetia and Malphas is the 39th and they share similar abilities and may have been a scribal error initially. Or Berith the 28th spirit of the Goetia whose name is actually the Hebrew term for the covenant between YHWH and the people of Israel (Belanger 70) and was probably included in Christian occult texts because they knew this “Berith” had power, but didn’t know who (or what) it was, so obviously a demon.

So where do these entities and power come from? Is there something inherent in the word and what it represents? While not a demon the covenant between YHWH and the Israelites is arguably a powerful thing (if you believe it) and maybe the name taps into that? Maybe it’s the collective attention (fear) of generations of priests and magickians that give these names and seals form and force, even if they’re drifting off of the original. But how does that apply when the name of someone gets applied to someone else, or a name from nothing but a mistake? Is this an issue that transcends the language issue? Absolutely but it is the naming that has me wonder, because if names and seals matter, then how come they work when they’re wrong?

Again I have no answers to offer, but in traditions that value the power of names and seals, how can we reconcile the fact that these change, or are added, misappropriated, or scribal errors? I’ve been leaning toward the idea that it isn’t what you use, but the process, but I’m still working some of that out in my life and in my head.

Source:
Belanger, Michelle. Dictionary of Demons. Llewellyn, 2010. Print.


Review: Chöd Practice in the Bön Tradition – Alejandro Chaoul

2011/07/07

Chöd Practice in the Bön Tradition: Tracing the origins of chöd (gcod) in the Bön tradition, a dialogic approach cutting through sectarian boundaries – Alejandro Chaoul, Forewards by Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Snow Lion. 2009. 116 pp. with appendices. 9781559392921.

Chöd is a fairly obscure practice from Tibetan Buddhism and it also appears within Bön, the pre-Buddhist “shamanic” religion of Tibet. It is generally conceived as a Buddhist practice, framed in Buddhist imagery and philosophy, and the mythology places it firmly within the realm of Buddhism by use of its founder Machik Labdron, a Tibetan Buddhist saint. Yet in Bön the philosophy and mythology are a bit different though the practice is largely similar. So where did chöd come from?

Chaoul makes, what he believes, to be the first real study of chöd within Bön tradition. The book based upon his MA thesis at the University of Virginia, where he tried to find the interconnection between the two chöd practices. He did not focus on trying to find an origin for chöd but instead focused on how the practice has been shared and exchanged and developed between the two traditions. One tradition was not viewed as more legitimate or superior, instead Chaoul states “that the beauty of this rich, intricate, and often misunderstood practice, is to be found in the coexistence of many different views, which can expand beyond the traditional horizons delimited by social, academic, and sectarian boundaries.” (4)

I find this a curious and interesting case; as a perfect example of what he was studying Chaoul included in the book the sadhana called in English “The Laughter of the Dakinis” which is a sadhana within my lineage as well, even though his source is Bön and my lineage is Buddhist. So there I find not just the general sharing, but a specific ritual within both traditions. Personally it was a great book to read because of my lineage, my lama taught me (and understands this) through the Buddhist perspective and it was great to see the other, less common, perspective.

In fact in my initial chöd training I learnt that chöd had incorporated aspects from Bön, as it had from tantra and sutra traditions and even Hinduism, but I was unaware that there was a full chöd tradition within Bön. Most of this book made sense, and I could see the exchanges and changes, and some parts had me really wondering. For example when describing the tools the damaru (drum) is described as being made from two skulls (53) whereas I was taught, quite emphatically, that the damaru is to be acacia wood and the skull drums are from an unrelated tradition but due to similar appearance get associated with chöd, but should never be used for chöd. (Sidenote: The damaru shown on the cover is quite clearly not made from skulls) Things like this intrigue me, I want to learn is this a difference between Bön and Buddhist chöd, or is this lineage specific and my lama was speaking from his bias?

This book is highly academic, as mentioned it was based upon an MA thesis, it has 299 endnotes (to help make the point), so if you’re looking for an easy read, this isn’t it. This book is not appropriate for someone curious about chöd or looking to learn it, too much of the knowledge, history, mythology, and philosophy is chöd specific. For those studying chöd the complete sadhana of “The Laughter of the Dakinis” is included and “intended for use by those who have received transmission and explanation from an authentic lineage holder” (69) and if you are a chödpa (Buddhist or Bönpo) with an academic or bookworm leaning, this book is an excellent read and resource.


Languages and Magick: Alphabets, Orders, and the Naming of Angels

2011/07/04

Language and magick; there is so much I could write and ramble about this combination that it will take several posts. Names, linguistic drift, spoken languages, dead languages, when languages have power and why; every time I sit down to write or think about this I come up with more ideas.

For now I’m going to focus on alphabets and names. I recently finished updating my Genius Name Calculator (more on it in an upcoming post) and I know what you’re thinking “Kalagni, you’re already a genius and you already have a name, what do you need this calculator for?” That’s not what you were thinking? Could have humoured me at least…

What I’m referring to is what gets called the Angel of the Nativity and is often connected to the idea of your Genius or Daemon. Renaissance magick has a method of calculating the name of this spirit from your birth chart. If you’re interested you can find it in Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book III Chapter 26, or wait for my post with the calculator. Traditionally this is done in Hebrew, so I made my calculator in Hebrew. After all, it’s a magickal language isn’t it? I shared the calculator in this early form on an elist and people were appreciative, but asked for other languages. While Hebrew is traditional it isn’t uncommon to see this done in Greek and two different methods of doing it in English are popular too. Now for the rest of this post to matter you’re required to assume this method works, that you can find out a valid and workable Angel name from this process, so at least keep that idea in mind for now, if you assume the method has no validity than this is just a moot ramble.

So now you have one method, which you can substitute four different languages for and you end up with four different names. Using the time of this writing as an example the name of our Angel is Kavatzalah in Hebrew, Gochochopa in Greek, Xaqedije in English, or Majihats in another way of doing it in English. Which is correct? Are they all correct? Xaqedije sounds Enochian almost.Will any language work? I had someone ask for this in Sanskrit, which while representing a totally different culture, philosophy, and magickal system, I can’t give a reason why Sanskrit isn’t just as valid as Greek, Hebrew, or English. Especially as Sanskrit is also seen as a very magickal language.

Now one theory is that all of these are correct, loosely it is like brother, frère, frater, bruder, four words/names but one meaning. If that’s the case I can stop wondering, go home, and sleep soundly, it just means Kavatzalah is the Hebrew from of Majihats, simple. While I don’t deny the possibility of this answer it does seem a bit too easy to me and I don’t like that. (I tend to make life difficult by rejecting the simple initially)

Do we make languages magickal? I’ll touch on this in a later post, but the two most common languages for this process are Hebrew and Greek, languages that the magickians who used this system didn’t speak natively and associated with the magickal traditions they studied. Is it their investment in the magickal tradition of the Jews and Greeks that make these the languages magickal to use rather than English, German, or French? So is it the case that Greek and Hebrew aren’t inherently magickal, but the amount of time, both personally and historically, spent investing the languages with magick give them power?

With both Hebrew and Greek the alphabets are used in order when doing the calculations, yet both English methods don’t use the alphabetical order. Is that because English is too mundane and everyday to us as it is and requires some mystery added to it to become workable? (While the 26 letters of English and the order we have now is actually from the last two-hundred years most of the alphabet existed in roughly the same order before then, so I doubt that’s a factor) Perhaps it is something about our religious upbringing or ancestors, the languages important to our religion (in the Christian age of Europe that would be Greek, Hebrew, and Latin) or what our ancestors (however you view that) spoke, that this connection gave them the magick.

I don’t know, sorry if folks reading thought I might have a conclusion. I alternate between all languages are valid and there is something that makes one language more valid than the rest, but I don’t know if that language is always more valid or if it is personal. Perhaps Tibetan would work best for me, but Greek better for a friend and Enochian for another? Maybe the language doesn’t matter, but it is the process and effort that gives strength and reality to the Angel of the Nativity? The effort and process matters more than the tools? I don’t know, but I’d love to get thoughts on this. Hopefully in time I’ll have a follow up, as I’m strongly suspecting some friends are going to get roped into an experiment with this. I see myself distributing a bunch of Angel Names (and fake names) in my future.


Review: The Dictionary of Demons – Michelle Belanger

2011/06/02

The Dictionary of Demons: Names of the Damned – Michelle Belanger
Llewellyn. 2010. 362 pp. with appendices. 9780738723068.

For the sake of transparency before I start this review I will admit to two reasons why I could be biased toward the book.
1. Michelle is a friend of mine.
2. Jackie, the very talented artist who did the alphabet art and several seals and pieces of art within the book, is also a friend or lab partner.
Of course people who know me, know I’m not exactly easy on most of my friends…

From Aariel to Zynextyur (is he next to your what?) this book has a listing of over 1,500 demons from the grimoiric tradition. This book is an amazing wealth of information on the entities within. Michelle worked strictly from an academic perspective; personal experiences and ideas do not enter into the text, only what information Michelle could dig up from the grimoires. Dig up is a great way to put it, Michelle went through an extensive process of several years of cataloguing these demons and searching for more information, other translations, older manuscripts. The common and popular texts like the Lemegaton and the Book of Abramelin were used, as well as more obscure texts like Liber Juratus Honorii, Caelestis Hierarchia, and Liber de Angelis.

“This book is not intended to be a how-to book on grimoiric magick” (10) instead it is as the title says a dictionary of names that have appeared in various texts. Names, ranks, and powers are given, along with much more. The entries on a demon let the reader know what grimoire they appear in and in many cases the several grimoires they have lent their names too, as well as information like what their name may be derived and distorted from as well as showing how some demons are most likely the same figure but over the course of years scribal errors have pushed their names further apart. Michelle pieces together part of the puzzle of grimoires, by analyzing names and lack of names in different texts Michelle attempts to establish a connection and timeline between the various books. Interspersed with the different entries are small articles by Michelle and Jackie about various relevant topics to the text, such as the scribal process involved in medieval grimoires, the history of Jewish appropriation in Christian mysticism, and comparing different lists of what demon rules what directions.

While most of the book is written in a straight forward manner Michelle was not above the occasional humorous observation. “From the profusion of [love] spells in all the magickal texts, it would seem that practitioners of the black arts had a very difficult time find a date in the Middle Ages” (15) or pointing out that Pist, who helps you catch a thief, has a name that sounds like how one would feel when stolen from (247).

While reading it I only noted one thing that seemed off in that Michelle attributed Mather’s translation of The Sacred Mage of Abramelin the Mage to a 15th century manuscript, when I have always seen the French manuscript dated to the 18th century. All in all I was greatly pleased and impressed with the effort, resources, and scholarship Michelle put into this book. While not a practical how-to guide, this book is an invaluable resource of names and histories for those interested in the grimoiric tradition. I felt the plot was a bit dry, but it had a wicked cast of characters.

Also for those wanting a related, but simpler text, I recommend you check out Michelle and Jackie’s D is for Demon. It is a delightful (not for) children’s book of rhymes leading you through 26 demons. I, of course, got a copy for my two-year old niece to make sure she is brought up right.


Goetia Flow – Tao To Summon Demons

2011/03/12

The circles slightly distort my vision as the preliminary evocation comes to a close. My body stands up straight while my mind is present, yet above and beyond me. My mind is a thread in a cosmic spider web stretched far past my little self. I am me and I am more. Attention is turned to my triangle with the seal of Raum drawn red on the black mirror. My mindstream and voice as one dance along the spider web “Raum, mighty Earl, take your place in the triangle.” The spider web thrums as a crow sitting on a dying tree branch forms amidst the smoke and the darkness in the triangle. Raum is told to harm no one in the process of this working, to speak only the truth, and to stay within the triangle for the working. He agrees and I give him his charge, he agrees and I give him license to depart. Slowly I sit down and pull my mind back into me, into a peaceful and empty glowing self.

I know some Goetic magickians have an issue with my style of evocation but the above pretty much sums it up. No long winded preambles on why the spirit should show itself, no threatening and torturing if it is late, no binding and threatening the spirit into service, just a natural flow of myself and the spirit.

I can’t always invoke this way, I assume it is a me thing, just sometimes I can’t get my mind where it should be, but this is the method I always strive for. Now for the horrible puns in the title; Goetia Flow is a poor play on Go With The Flow, and Tao to Summon Demons is a poor play linguistically and spiritually on How to Summon Demons. Yet in a loose way they describe what I feel I do.

As mentioned briefly in my Secrets of the Summoning Circle post I view the circle style I use less about protection and more about connection. Within the circle I’m reaching far beyond Kalagni the university student, occultist, sex-god, whatever, and I’m reaching up into the highest aspect of the divine that I can access. I find at that level there is less effort and more flow. Abstract but that’s the way it seems. I erroneously call my summoning style Taoist, not because it has any connection to Taoism -because it doesn’t- but most people who are familiar with Taoism understand what I mean there. Taoism can be translated as Path, Way, and Natural Order, and that’s what I find relevant to my evocations. When I use the traditional Goetic methods or variations of such, there is a feeling of a battle, my will against the demon, the forces I can wield against the spirit. Yet in my preferred method there is no such battle, it is just the way of things, the natural order.

When in my circle, connected to the highest divine I can reach, the entire process seems natural, normal, just the way the universe works. When I reach out and call the spirit there is no sense of command or ordering, and I don’t feel the spirit is threatened or forced to appear. Instead the spirit appears because that’s the way the universe works. When I spill my cup of tea the tea flows out of the cup across the table and if it finds an unlevel section it rolls down the incline. Not because the tea is forced, coerced, or threatened, but water flows downhill and that’s the way the universe works – at least in sections of the universe with enough mass to create sufficient gravity to cause water to flow toward the focal point of the gravity, but let us not nitpick. To me this is much the same as my summoning. I’d call it Effortless Evocation, but that term has problems too, and yet it does feel effortless as long as I reach this mind state. Once I’m in the “flow” of the universe, the spirit just comes because that is what it does, when I tell it to stay and be honest it does because that is what it does, when I give it a command and have it depart it does as I request because that is what it does. In this flow the universe just works; hot air rises, water flows downhill, entropy increases in closed system, and Goetic spirits respond and obey to divine forces without pressure or struggle.

Part of me thinks this is so clear in concept and explanation, yet another part of me feels this is something that I’m not explaining right. While sometimes summoning and dealing with spirits is a battle of wits and wills, I find sometimes it is a peaceful and effortless exchange that occurs simply because I am part of the Divine and when in that flow the spirit responds to that because that is the natural order of thing.

I know some Goetic magickians love pointing out why I’m wrong, or endangering myself, or even deluding myself. So far this process has worked for me with no horrible backlashes, and I feel –simply put– to quote dear old Uncle Al, “Success be thy proof.”


The Secrets of the Summoning Circle

2011/01/11

This article was originally written for a “flavour” article in a friend’s Dictionary of Demons book. The format of the book changed and my articles got cut, though some the information was still incorporated into the book. I’ve slightly edited it from the original format to be a bit more personal and experiential rather than just cold theory.

The Circle is probably one of the most important, and misunderstood tools in the arsenal of a magickian who works with Demons. Anyone who has flipped through a text on summoning Angels or Demons has come across a Summoning Circle, but probably with no more explanation than the method of drawing it, and that the circle is important to use.

Over the course of time the design of the circle has changed, and the importance of it has shifted. In modern magick, more than ever, the circle is being deemed unimportant, or simplistic. The Summoning Circle is being replaced by Psychic Shields, or ritual belts, or a simple visualized bubble. This shows, among other things, a tendency to interpret the Summoning Circle as merely a form of protection when dealing with Demons, when in fact it is far more than just that in some interpretations.

Before the modern interpretation of the Summoning Circle, the most common alternative Circle was published in the Mathers/Crowley translation of the Goetia. This circle was written over the image of a spiralling snake with the names of each of the Sephiroth, with the Names of Gods, Angels and Forces associated with each Sephiroth. This was an adaption, or a simplification of an earlier form of Summoning Circle that appeared in one of the earliest serving texts on Summoning Demons, the Heptameron.

In the Heptameron, which is a Grimoire that predates the Goetia, the Summoning Circle was at once the most simple and most complex form it would take. The Heptameron styled Circle was not a constant Circle like the other ones, in the sense that the design changed depending on the Season, the Day of the Week, and the Hour of the Day. In each case of Season, Day and Hour, there is a set of Angels associated with that period, and with the Heptameron system, to create the Circle, one must know and use the Names of the Angels associated with each of these periods. The belief was that each Angel had a period of power, and through working with that Angel in their ruling period, you had the ability to control the other Spirits in your work. I find there is something about skilfully directing your attention to specific forces and Spirits to create your Circle, rather than just toss out all the Names you can think of to cover everything. In magick when you have a goal you direct your attention to the appropriate entities, you don’t call upon everyone you know to help you get a job or deal with an abusive co-worker that would complicate matters.

The Construction of the Summoning Circle, when interpreted through the lens of Qabalistic Magick, revels that the Circle is much more than just a form of protection. The following section presumes the most basic familiarity with the Qabalah and the structure of the Tree of Life, which can be picked up in any introductory text. The world that we live and operate in is Malkuth, and represented by the number ten. The Sephiroth above us is Yesod, which is represented by the number nine. The Summoning Circle has an outer circle of nine feet, representing the demarcation of the world we live in, and the magical world involved in the magic. Above Yesod is Hod, which is represented by the number eight, above that Netzach represented by the number seven, then Tiphareth represented by the number six. Within the nine foot circle, there are three smaller circles, each a foot less than the one before, the magickian stands in the smallest circle that is six feet across. The magickian is in the circle of six feet, surrounded by seven, eight, nine, and lastly the entire world beyond.

It is in Tiphareth, that the human can first truly touch the Divine in a pure form. In every Sphere below Tiphareth the Divine is only accessed in a filtered form, like coloured light from a stained glass window, whereas in Tiphareth the Divine flows down uninterrupted, like the sunlight before it hits the coloured glass. By standing in the concentric circles, surrounded by the appropriate Names, the magician identifies their place in the Universe. The first Circle of Yesod separates the magical realms, from what is outside of it, Malkuth, the world of the day to day existence. In the centre circle the magician identifies their place in Tiphareth, the place of their direct connection with the Divine.

In this sense it is understood that the magician is not operating through the power of the Angels, but by knowing what Angel and God Names to surround themselves with, the magician is able to gain access and place themselves in a higher sphere, that of Tiphareth; this grants the magician access to all the power that the Divine will bestow on them. The power is no longer that of the Angels, but that of the Magickian, in their most Divine Aspect.

This Qabalistic interpretation of the Summoning Circle focuses more on the empowerment of the magickian than just their protection. This is not to deny the role of protection in the circle, but it is a manifestation of the magicians Divine Will that they are protected, rather than simply being protected and aided by outside forces. The protection the Circle offers is through the magician becoming a conscious manifestation of the Divine in this world, and it is this same access to Divinity that is what grants them the power to control the Spirits. It isn’t about threats and borrowed power, but existing in the natural order of things and helping to bring the Spirits into line with that order through the tasks they are given.

I don’t know if it was merely a confidence boost as I started to uncover this system and interpretation of the Circle but I’ve found my workings more successful and easier with this Circle. Before I felt like I was grappling with some power and trying to wrangle it to keep the Goetic entities under control, but now when I work with them it feels more relaxed, I don’t need to really control them because their obedience is a natural part of the Divine order which I’m consciously accessing. The best way of explaining it sometimes is almost Taoist in nature, that in the Circle I’m in Tao and the Goetic obedience is part of that Tao, no force, no struggle, simply nature taking its course. As with all things I think people should at least try it out, see what they think of this style of Circle. I’ve explained the why, and you can find the how in the Heptameron. Personally mine is slightly altered from the Heptameron but the theory behind it is the same.

It is not just the nature of practices that change over time but the understanding of practices, the whys get lost in the whats. Tracing a practice to earlier times occasionally leads to a now irrelevant practice but can also lead the magickian to a greater understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing in the modern form.


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