Thursday, 22 September 2016

Quick Update

Just letting you guys know that I will not be around online much now from today until Tuesday 27th September, so please bear this in mind if you are looking to book a reading, thank you.

I hope you all have a great Equinox!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Sassy, Sorcerous Sigils - Or, yet ANOTHER guide to Sigil Magic!

OK, ok, we all know there are already 50 gazillion guides to sigil magic out there, but in my defence, I re-discovered this fairly extensive (for a blog) article I wrote four years ago and I'd like to re-share it in this slightly updated format.

The Magic of Sigils


A “sigil”, at its most base level definition, is a symbol. I describe a symbol as being a pictorial representation which points to something beyond itself. Some use the terms “sigil” and “glyph” interchangeably. You will likely come across these terms when reading through a typical evocation ritual as detailed within the various grimoires. A glyph or sigil representing the particular entity to be evoked (many describe it as being a signature of that being) is often placed within the triangle of manifestation (this is a triangle drawn on the ground outside the magic circle, around the perimeter of which are often inscribed protective divine names of God as a means of ensuring that the spirit will be bound into the space within the triangle) Sigils can be found within various grimoires for long lists and categories of spirits. The notorious “Goetia”; a manual of demonic evocation, for those that don’t know, presents the reader with a sigil for each of the seventy two demons found within its pages. As signatures of spirits, this form of sigil can be likened very strongly to the phenomenon of the “veve” in Haitian Vodou. In ceremony, each veve symbol drawn on the ground (often drawn in chalk or traced with flour) can be seen to act as a magnet for the particular Lwa (Vodou spirit being) calling them to be present. The veve needs to be activated a certain way by a Houngan (Vodou priest) or Mambo (Vodou priestess).

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486 - 1535)

In popular occult understanding, however, when we hear talk of sigils, most of us immediately think of the process of using reduction sigils, the philosophy of Chaos Magic and the late occultist Austin Osman Spare. Reduction sigils, however, were being written about way back in 1510 by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa in his classic “Three Books of Occult Philosophy”, so there is nothing new about them. Likewise, if we think of sigils in their broadest sense, as symbols in other words, then it actually becomes impossible to say when sigil magic truly began, as magic has always worked with symbols.

The fascinating English occultist Austin Osman Spare (1886 - 1956) made great use of different forms of sigils. He was an incredibly talented artist and many of his paintings were living magical sigils in themselves. Spare’s use of sigils, however, whilst of inspiration to the founders of the modern magical philosophy known as Chaos Magic, were often used for quite different reasons to the practical, mundane and material results for which so many people use them today, and were intrinsically linked to his own very personal and complex magical philosophy. Often described as “totemic” and “shamanic” in nature, an exploration of Spare’s work and philosophy would be too big of a tangent for me to go off on here, however. One influence from Spare still employed by some magicians when working with sigils, other than the “Death Posture” which I will go into later, are his words, “Does not matter, need not be” which some will recite when they look upon a sigil of their own creation as a means of dealing with the “lust of result” that can so often be the bane of the magical practitioner (in short, the fact that lusting after the results of your magical endeavours can actually inhibit their manifestation).
"Self-Portrait", 1907 by Austin Osman Spare, what an amazing artist he was!

For this brief look at the use of sigils I will focus on what are known as reduction sigils and various methods of activating them. A brief look at the phenomenon of planetary sigils will also be included towards the end of this article.

Reduction Sigils

In a nutshell, the term “Reduction Sigils” refers to the process of creating your own sigil from a written statement expressing your desire. The goal is usually something specific, practical and material and is written clearly and succinctly. The sentence is then reduced by removing all duplicated letters from the equation. The remaining letters are then arranged into a pictorial design (a sigil!) which can then be simplified and decorated. Once it has been finalised, the sigil is then released somehow in order to bring about the goal’s manifestation. Let’s look at these stages in more detail:

Expressing your Desire

As with all works of magic, the very first step in creating a sigil requires you to decide on your goal or desire. The possibilities are infinite. As stated above, sigils tend to be used for practical mundane goals. Some of the commonly used purposes for sigils include, but are by no means limited to; getting laid, getting money, getting a job, improving your psychic abilities, finding a car parking space, obtaining some physical product, be it a new pair of jeans, a cake, whatever!

If you are new to sigil making, it is best to start with something relatively small. Many teachers in this form of magic recommend making sigils for simple, mundane and easily obtainable goals to begin with because, as we will see later, the key to getting these things to work for you is to ultimately forget them (more on this later, not everyone agrees that you need to forget about them) and it is much easier to forget about a sigil we created to manifest a pencil sharpener rather than a lottery win!

Another often recommended practice is to create multiple sigils for multiple random goals so that the purpose for each individual sigil is forgotten about once the time has come for them to be released (a written record of the goals kept in a notebook concealed in a drawer somewhere to be looked through at a later date is a good idea so that you can check to see which goals manifested, and you may well be surprised that some of them manifested without you even realising it at the time) There is a fantastic blog I will mention towards the end of this article which provides some very interesting methods of firing off multiple sigils.

Once the goal has been established, care needs to be taken in the writing of the statement of intent. There are different rules about this. Everyone agrees that any punctuation should be removed. No apostrophes or full stops etc Most people write the statement in block capitals. Another bone of contention is whether the statement should be written in the present tense or not. Many agree that it should be, based on the idea that the subconscious mind can, and often does take messages very literally. Some feel that statements such as “I will get” or “I am going to” will result in keeping the mind in a permanent state of not quite reaching the goal, and that statements such as “I have (insert goal)” are thus far more effective.

Another point to look out for when it comes to the workings of the subconscious mind is that many feel it doesn’t deal with negatives very well. For instance, the statement “I will not eat any chocolate or cake today” from the lips of someone attempting to lose weight will simply be picked up as “I will eat chocolate and cake today” by the subconscious mind. Many feel that a positive statement which replaces the negative statement entirely by putting an alternative in its place, tricks the subconscious mind into complying better with the intent. A good example in this case might be, “I eat healthy and low calorie foods today”.

These guidelines on how best to program your subconscious mind, however, are not an exact science. What doesn’t work for you, may indeed, work for another. Experimentation is the only way to find out. Whilst many write their statements in the present tense, another popular and recommended method of expressing the goal is that it always begins with the words “It is my will to…”

“Go figure” As the Americans say!

One last point I would like to make on the writing of your goal is to consider whether or not you would like to set a time limit on it. If there is a particular event you are going to on a set date and there is something you specifically want to happen there, then specifying the date would be good. Likewise, if you need a certain amount of money so that you can pay a bill or your rent, then specifying the time frame is especially recommended. For example, “I have fifty pounds by Tuesday the second of October”

You may have noticed that I wrote “fifty pounds” rather than “£50” and “second” rather than “2nd”. This is for the same reason as the rule about not using punctuation. Avoid numbers and symbols. Your sigil is to be made entirely of letters.

Reducing the statement

Once you are happy with your written statement you need to reduce the letters. There are different ideas about how to do this (are you surprised?) The most common method is that you remove any duplicated letters, keeping the first instance where that letter appears. For example, if reducing the word “CATERPILLAR”, we would be left with; C A T E R P I L. Another method is to remove any letter which occurs more than once entirely. Thus, to use the same example, “CATERPILLAR” in this case would become; C T E P I.

An even simpler method for reducing the words is to write down the first letter of each word and then remove duplicates. For example, “I HAVE A NEW CAR” would leave us with; I H A N C. If this method leaves you with more than one of the same letter then you can remove the duplicates or that letter entirely. For example, “I HAVE A NEW ANORAK” leaves us with; I H A N A, which we can reduce to either I H A N or I H N. One criticism of removing from a sentence all letters which are repeated is that it tends not to leave you many letters to work with which can result in a sigil which is too simple. A sigil which is too simple is more difficult to forget (and remember, you will be needing to forget the sigil in order for it to work!...according to many sigil users, but not all!).

One final point, some people remove all vowels from their statement entirely. My advice; pick a method of reduction, try it and see how you feel. I have experimented with all of these methods.

Designing your Sigil

Once you have reduced your statement you can begin the designing process. It is best to begin trying to forget the purpose of the sigil already. This may sound impossible but there are subtle steps you can take which encourage the mind to get into this forgetting frame of mind. Begin by scribbling out your statement of intent so that you are literally just left with the letters your statement has been reduced to. Now reverse the order the letters are written in. To use a simplified example, if you wrote “I HAVE A NEW CAR” and used the reduction method which requires that you simply keep the first letter of each word, then you will be left with; I H A N C. You then reverse this to C N A H I so that when you look at the letters your mind isn’t mentally reading the statement anymore. This is a good thing.

You now need to play around with drawing the letters into one complete symbol. Some letters can be bigger than others, they can link in aesthetically interesting ways, some of the letters may be backwards or upside down, for instance.

Once you have done this, you can simplify the design. If you have used a lot of letters you will probably find that a few can be removed because they can already be found within other letters. For example, horizontally you can see an “I” in an “H”, an “M” in a “B” and so on. Your aim is for the individual letters to be as unidentifiable and indistinguishable from one another as possible.

Once this stage is complete you can work at making it look more balanced and harmonious to your personal aesthetic eye. This may involve making small decorative embellishments to the design if you are so inclined. Popular choices amongst my sigil working acquaintances include adding small pitchfork-like prongs to the ends of some of the lines, or small circles. I have even seen the odd small pentagram being incorporated into a sigil design. However you design it, you should bear in mind that you want to be left with a sigil that is neither too complicated nor too simple. The sigil will need to be simple enough for you to be able to visualise it for the duration of a ritual to charge or release it (more on this later) but not so simple that it will stay in your mind forever like the pictorial equivalent of some kind of irritating catchy jingle.

Many people who use sigils develop some little quirk or design that they always work into all of their sigils. For example, they may always draw their sigil inside a circle to complete the look (this can also be seen as symbolically placing the sigil in its own little magic circle).

Drawing your sigil in a colour which corresponds to the goal is another option some like to take. Obviously, this doesn’t really go well with the idea of trying to forget the desire but if it appeals to you, go for it. As you may have gathered by now, a lot of experimentation is often employed in sigil construction. Some draw all of their sigils in the colour they find easiest to visualise (which in the case of one person I know, is gold) Others draw all sigils in red because red is the colour of blood, so to draw anything for magical purposes with this colour can be seen as a potent symbol of bringing the desire to life. A simple blue or black biro pen or a pencil, however, is fine.

Just a quick note about the concept of forgetting sigils: Not everyone goes along with this idea. As with the methods of reduction, whether you feel it is important to forget the sigil or not is down to your personal choice. Experimentation is the name of the game when it comes to sigil magic.

Activating your Sigil

Once you have finalised the design for your sigil you are now ready for that final magical and crucially important step; the activation of your sigil. Throughout this article so far I have used the terms “activate” and ”release” to describe this process but it is also often referred to as ”charging” the sigil. I have steered away from this term because in this context, the word “charge” is being employed differently to its more accepted definition in popular magical terminology. In most cases to “charge” something means to empower or imbue an object with a specific intention such as charging a talisman to attract wealth. Charging a sigil, however, refers to the act of implanting the sigil into the subconscious mind. Ritual magician Frater U D likens this process to a computer program being loaded or stored onto the memory of a computer or the loading of a cartridge into the chamber of a revolver. If you thought I gave you too many options on how to construct the sigil then I am afraid I’ll be blowing you away even more with this section as the methods of activation are many and diverse and speaking with other occultists on the matter will often bring up new techniques you have never previously heard of. This is because reduction sigils are a particularly personal form of magic which can be worked into pretty much any flavour of magical ritual you prefer. I will present some of the more well known methods here.

Many of these methods call for a physical representation of the sigil, i.e an image of the sigil drawn on a piece of card or paper, but the sigil itself can simply be visualised clearly if you prefer your sigil magic to be free of talismanic associations. Just make the relevant changes or avoid some of these methods altogether.

The Death Posture

The ominously entitled “Death Posture” was a technique recommended by the aforementioned occultist Austin Osman Spare. Whilst no full details were actually given by him on this process, various methods have been propounded by those who have studied Spare’s work. The aim of the Death Posture is for the magician to achieve a state of no-mind. A complete emptiness which enables the sigil to implant itself in the subconscious mind and achieve activation. This empty mind state can be likened to any moment you may have experienced such a strong emotion that nothing else seemed to exist for you and for a brief second you may have lost all concepts of identity and self. Orgasm often achieves this state and is another method that is employed for sigil activation which I will cover later. Concerning the Death Posture, here are two examples given by Frater U D in his excellent “High Magic - Theory and Practice”;

1) If you have heart of breathing problems, this technique should be avoided! Place the sigil on a wall in front of you, whilst you stand or sit before it. Take a deep breath and close your eyes, mouth and ears and nostrils with your fingers. Hold you breath. When it becomes almost unbearable, hold your breath for just a brief moment longer. Do not think about the sigil or it’s purpose. Just before fainting, open you mouth and eyes and stare at the sigil while you exhale and take in fresh air. Now abruptly close your eyes again and banish the sigil by laughing heartily (yes, it probably will be forced, but it is still very effective and is also a great way of achieving the empty mental state) It is also advisable at this point to instantly call to mind something completely mundane and unrelated to your magical goal. To further this distraction you could watch some TV or go for a run or engage in some other activity.

Such actions will ensure that the gateway you just opened into your subconscious mind will be thoroughly closed once more and are recommended at the conclusion of any work of magic. Activating sigils, casting spells, or any other forms of “results magic” are best forgotten about and left to do their thing once they have been performed. I have always liked the analogy which likens casting a spell to planting a seed. Just as no gardener worth their salt would consider digging up the seed to check on its progression, no magical practitioner would mentally mull over or discuss their magical work once it has been done and the results are pending.

2) Here is a less hardcore approach which is safe for people with heart and/or breathing problems, although probably not suitable for people with certain eye disorders! Sit in front of a table in an upright chair with your spine straight. Place the sigil on the table in front of you and position your hands flat on the surface around it. Position the thumbs so that they form a ninety-degree angle touching. Stare at the sigil in the centre of the square you have formed with your hands and don’t blink, even if they start running! Twitch all of your muscles one by one. Beginning with the lower legs (first one, then the other, then both at the same time) Continue with the twitching in a firm and relaxed manner up the rest of your body; upper legs, buttocks, hands, arms and ending with the scalp. It is probably best that you practise this muscle twitching prior to trying this exercise so that it becomes second nature and you can twitch your entire body in half a second. As the twitching climaxes, open your eyes even wider whilst still staring at the sigil. Now quickly close your eyes and banish with laughter followed by mundane thought and activity.

Alternative methods of Sigil Activation

If the Death Posture examples sound completely unappealing to you, do not despair! (I can hardly blame you, they hold zero appeal to me!) As previously mentioned, there are plenty of other activation methods to choose from. I present you with some examples below, most of which I have successfully used myself. Several of the techniques can be combined and used together in one ritual.

1) Burning Sigils: A natural choice for those of us who feel that we are only truly practising magic if fire is somehow involved in the equation. The most common methods are to either burn the sigil paper in some kind of heatproof container or to carve the sigil into a candle and burn according to standard candle magic practices (i.e using a candle of a colour which is in alignment with your goal, which can, of course, be replaced with all purpose white if no other suitable colour is available) The candle may also be anointed with a magical oil matching your goal (Hoodoo condition oils can be used to great effect if Conjure is your thing) Prior to lighting the candle you can make your statement of intent over it or chant your desire. Obviously, this breaks the taboo of disassociating the sigil itself from the desire. The burning of the sigilised candle can be regarded as releasing the desire out into the universe. This notion of sending your desire out into the world is common with many forms of spell casting and in this case I feel is suitable for sigils aimed at bringing something external into your life. I feel that the Death Posture methods and other examples in which the sigil is being taken into yourself in a more obvious way (see my next example below) are more suitable for sigils which are geared towards self-transformation e.g overcoming an addiction or bringing out a certain quality within your character.

2) Sigil Ingestion: Eat your sigil! Make it out of something edible. Icing the sigil onto a cake prior to consumption can be fun. You can use appropriately coloured icing and maybe if you are really clever and enjoy cooking, incorporate ingredients into the cake which are in sympathy with your desire, e.g cherries, being ruled by Venus, would be perfect in a sigil cake with Venusian intentions such as anything concerning love, beauty or sex. The eating of magical sigils is a practice that can be found in certain instances amongst Sufis, ancient Egyptians and various grimoire magicians.

3) Orgasmic Sigils: Probably the most frequently cited method of sigil activation you will ever come across (pun intended, I’m afraid!) Sex, or more commonly masturbation, is a favourite method amongst many Chaos magicians (I could joke about them being a bunch of wankers but I actually quite like the ones I've met) In a nutshell, the sigil is stared at (or strongly visualised) during the climax of orgasm as it induces the empty mind state. The sigil is then banished using the aforementioned methods.

4) Verbalised Sigils: A personal favourite method and one which lends itself very well to being combined with other techniques, especially candle burning. Prior to designing your sigil, take the list of letters you have to work with and make up words from them. Arrange the letters in whatever order you wish. The words will of course, be nonsensical and made up. It is likely that the letters you have will not form words by themselves as you probably won’t have enough vowels, if any. This is fine. Add the vowels in yourself. For example, let’s say we have the letters P S H K V. I would probably come up with “Pesh-ka-vee”. Once you have your magical words they can be chanted, vibrated or both in ritual to activate the sigil. As the chanting climaxes, set the sigil alight and burn it in a cauldron or other heatproof container, or, alternatively light a candle which has the sigil carved into it, or simply visualise the sigil strongly before releasing it if you prefer not to have a physical representation of it. The chanting of the magical words, as with chanting in ritual in general, is best begun slowly and softly as a whisper and gradually built up into a fast paced cacophony of sound. Dancing, running or otherwise moving yourself around the ritual area in a circle whilst chanting almost goes without saying. It sounds Witchy as hell and creates a potent ritual ambience.

5) Sigils on Display: Some like to place their sigil in a prominent place in their home where they will see it regularly. Over time, once the sigil has “blended into the background” as it were, and you no longer notice it any more it will begin to do its work. This is definitely a more passive approach. Others like to post images of their sigil around the town, perhaps engaging in some casual graffiti in public places, or leaving business card style slips of paper around for random people to encounter. The idea here is that the sigil will be activated as it enters the minds of the many people who may discover it, completely unaware of its meaning. Yet another option for getting your sigil out in the public domain could be to display it online. Posting the image as your icon on social networking websites, discussion forums, or Youtube videos are all viable options. Company logos (sigils) work in exactly the same way on a much larger scale. Given the fact that this method involves the minds of others who are inadvertently becoming a part of your magical ritual, some people feel that this is against their personal ethics. Just putting that one out there in case it's something you want to think about.

This list of methods is, by no stretch of the imagination, exhaustive. If you speak to others who work with sigils or read books or blogs on the subject, you will find many many more. People seem to be coming up with refreshing, innovative (and often quirky) methods of activation all the time. It’s fun.

Kameas and Planetary Sigils

Lovers of planetary magic may sigilise the name of a planetary intelligence, planetary spirit or an archangel onto what is known as a Kamea. The Kameas are basically squares consisting of numbers arranged in such a way as to numerically represent the force of a planet. The number of squares in a row and a column is what you may call the classic number of that planet. For example, seven being the number of Venus, the Kamea of Venus is seven by seven. The Kamea of the moon is nine by nine etc Each row and column totals the same numerical amount. For example, in the Kamea of Venus each row and column totals 175. Kameas may be used alone by the practitioner as a symbol of the planet being worked with and are most commonly incorporated into talismans. Sigilising the name of a spirit or spiritual being associated with the planet onto the appropriate Kamea will give the talisman more focus.

Originally created by Kabbalistic magicians in medieval Europe who were fans of mathematics, the Kameas for the seven classical planets of astrology and planetary magic can be found in many a book on Western magic. Some modern day magicians have since created Kameas for those more recently discovered planets which some have since incorporated into the astrological world, i.e Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

The method of sigilising names onto the Kameas appears to have first been written about by Agrippa in the aforementioned text, “Three Books of Occult Philosophy", though I could be wrong, there may well be older examples. The numerical value of each Hebrew letter which makes up the name of the spirit, intelligence or archangel is recorded and plotted onto the Kamea. This is done by drawing a line from the first number to the last. Loops are made in the line if the same number is revisited. The lines are often ended with circles or vertical lines at the start and beginning of the sigilisation. The system of numerical values for each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is known as Gematria. A full exploration of this system is beyond the scope of this article but I will mention here that careful readers of Agrippa’s work will note that he doesn’t always follow his own rules!

If sigilised names for the categories of beings I have mentioned above (which are very common in planetary magic) are being used, most magicians will simply look up the standard sigils in books or on the internet and use those, but some practitioners like to plot the names on the Kameas according to other systems of numerology. Some may like to sigilise other words onto the relevant Kamea to the talisman being created. Still another practice engaged in by others is to sigilise one’s name onto an appropriate Kamea (using whichever system of numerology is preferred) in order to fuse themselves to the desired planetary force for the talisman.


It is my hope that this brief introductory article on sigils has highlighted how versatile these little squiggles can be. There is no end to the creativity you can put into your sigil magic and the fun you can have with manifesting changes in your life. If you are interested in this topic I would advise looking into Chaos Magic literature as there are plenty of books to read on the subject. I would also highly recommend Rune Soup: always an enlightening and entertaining magical read, its author, Gordon White, has written plenty of articles devoted entirely to practical tips on working with sigils and has developed some exciting and innovative techniques of his own (look for references to Robofish and shoaling) Since I originally wrote this article in 2012, Gordon White has had three books published (all this year, 2016). Some of the information on his take on sigils can be found in his book, "Chaos Protocols".

By Seth David Rodriguez
Rodriguez Mystic on Youtube
Rodriguez Mystic on Facebook



“High Magic - Theory and Practice” by Frater U D
“Practical Planetary Magick” by Sorita d'Este and David Rankine

Rune Soup

Monday, 8 August 2016

We're all Mad Here!...

**This is another post I'm moving over from my old blog and was originally published on July 21st 2014. Still very much relevant and always will be **

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “otherwise you wouldn’t have come here.”
(“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll)
I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve been in the company of magical practitioners mocking the practices and beliefs of others. I freely admit to having engaged in this myself, bitchiness can be very contagious after all.
I understand the passion so many of us often have for our practices, and the frustrations that we may experience when we encounter people who we feel are doing something incorrectly, based on misinterpretation or sheer ignorance (at least, as far as we are concerned).  Sometimes though, we can do with taking a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror and asking ourselves what it is that makes us so sure about our own practices.
Hanging out with magical practitioners of various flavours and persuasions and engaging in magical discussions with them soon taught me that we all put up these barriers around ourselves. We have the stuff we believe in and practice and that we perceive to be within the realms of magical possibility, and then there are the beliefs and practices that we deem to be nonsense and are relegated to the “woo woo” pile. We each have different “woo woo” meters, though, so unless we are solely in the company of those with very similar views to ourselves, discussions can get interesting and sometimes just outright uncomfortable.
You may feel that the new age girl with the turquoise feather earrings and crystal round her neck talking about messages she received from an Ascended Master to be full of the brown stuff, but in the same breath will speak in a very matter of fact tone about something one of your dead relatives told you just last week. Is it any more ridiculous for one person to claim to have been communing with an ancient Greek Goddess of Witchcraft, than it is for someone else to feel that their prayer to an Orisha has been answered?
I’m not trying to make a case for swallowing everything anyone says without question. I just feel that too many people are too quick to make snap judgements about what is genuine or not. If you do feel another person is simply delusional, whereas you’re personal interactions with the spirits are genuine, ask yourself why that is and remind yourself from time to time of just how crazy all of us magic working, spirit believing folks are to the outside “muggle” world.
Some of the most judgemental and black and white views I hear tend to come from people who are very settled in one particular tradition or way of working. I have no issue with those who only stick to what they know or prefer and don’t challenge themselves by spreading their horizons, it can be a very practical thing to do and advantageous for the individual in some ways. Reading about, or acquainting yourself with some different concepts and traditions, however, can only be a good thing in terms of your personal education and understanding. It is good to remind ourselves of how little we know. Many people in the Craft, for instance (and many other traditions, I’m sure), often comment that the more years they spend practising and learning, the less they feel that they truly know.
Are Qabbalistic pathworkings just adventures in imagination land? Is spirit possession just your brain playing a trick on you? Is that mojo bag nothing more than just a pouch of herbs giving you a psychological confidence kick? As the old saying goes, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

What is Energy?

Me in drag make up raising energy and shit.

This post is a revised version of a piece I originally wrote for my old blog. It's a brief exploration of this concept of "energy" all magical practitioners are introduced to in their studies and training, whether they make use of it or not. The post was originally inspired by a conversation I had with some friends whose magical practices could be described as being "energy free". They mainly practice folk magic. Largely Hoodoo – that 19th century African American organically grown system of effective and practical magic that works extensively with herbs and roots and operates from a Christian worldview. 
Hoodoo makes use of magical herbal folklore from African, European and Native American traditions. It also has influences from mystical Judaism and European medieval grimoires. Christian prayer and The Holy Bible are used extensively, particularly with the recitation of the psalms (with different psalms being deemed appropriate for different situations) although other Biblical passages are also used (a classic example being “The Song of Solomon” in love workings). Hoodoo has a reputation for working well and bringing successful results, which is probably one of the main reasons for its popularity.
I have practised Hoodoo myself on occasion over the years, but I am by no means an expert, and tend to just make use of a few techniques I know to work well, but it's not a major part of my personal practice. These friends of mine practice their rootwork (one of the many alternative names you hear being used to refer to Hoodoo, other common terms being “Conjure” and often, simply “Spiritual Work”) on a professional basis for clients and I highly recommend you pay a visit to their website The Occult Consultancy. Their oil blends are powerful and gorgeous smelling and their emailed Tarot and other divination readings have knocked the socks off more than a few of their clients. Whilst Hoodoo could be argued to originally be most closely associated with African American folks attending Baptist Churches, there were also many Catholics who started using Hoodoo, often incorporating it in with petitioning saints, and it is this Catholic flavoured Hoodoo that tends to be the practice of my friends. I feel I should point out also, that petitioning saints in folk magic is not just a Hoodoo practice, it's much older than that and has been common in Catholic countries for centuries. If you are interested in Hoodoo, don’t know much about it and would like to know more, the single best online resource for information, hands down, would have to be Lucky Mojo.
To get back to the purpose of this post – the main magical practices of these friends of mine would fall into the categories of Hoodoo and European (and often Catholic) folk magic, with the occasional smattering of grimoiric influence. In other words, my friends don’t do “energy”. It isn’t a thing for them. Their approach to working magic, which has a long historical precedent (see Agrippa’s “Three Books of Occult Philosophy” and probably any grimoire or medieval magical text) is that this stuff works because it works. All the herbs and roots are made by God (because God made everything because he’s God!) and they each have different abilities. It's a case of gathering the suitable ingredients (materia magica) which are in harmony with your intent (the materials themselves are important, again a very classic and old world, traditional approach to magic found in all cultures, none of this “Oh, it’s just a prop or a tool” attitude you find amongst so many today - though I also understand and see some value in this approach too, magic is paradoxical). The ingredients are then worked with in some way: magical oil blends are made with the correct ingredients and prayed over, herbs and roots are stuffed into pouches (mojo bags or gris-gris bags) along with other magical ingredients – animal parts (like a chicken’s foot or raccoon penis bone, for instance) seals or talismans from grimoires (which are regarded as inherently powerful for the symbols and Hebrew names of God that are inscribed on them) and perhaps, a passage from the Bible written on a piece of paper along with a personal petition. All of these activities are done with prayer and intent. There is no “energy” concept, no symbols are traced in the air and visualised, no white (or blue, or green or any colour) of “energy” needs to be raised, felt or visualised emanating from your hands into your working. It’s all about combining the correct or suitable ingredients with strong faith and heartfelt prayer. Much European folk magic in general seems to work in this way.
"Holy Fire, Panel 1" by the psychedelic Alex Grey.

Whilst familiar to a point, with the concept of “energy” that so many magical practitioners of modern Western systems and New Age practices speak of, my friends’ personal dealings with it were little to none. I then discussed some of my personal experiences over the years of the kinds of sensations and feelings of “energy” I experience when I engage in energetic work such as Chakra opening exercises and The Middle Pillar ritual. I mentioned the subtle feelings and tingles I get from crystals and the variations depending on different minerals, the sensations of power flowing through my body when working Craft based magic and how, when being attuned to Reiki Level One a few years ago, I became aware of strong heat and flowing forces circulating about me that were so palpable I could see moving circles in my mind’s eye mimicking the cyclical movement. The feeling of tightness I experienced in my head after the Reiki symbols had been traced in the air over me and that left me for an entire week afterwards with a strong spaced out feeling and that “ear popping” sensation you get when you are in a plane that is about to land.
Whilst I totally appreciate that the concept of a subtle force may well have been completely alien to the magic of many of our medieval European forbears (be they angel summoning magician or folksy down in the dirt cunning men and wise women) there is definitely an historical precedent for working with this “energy” in other parts of the world. Teachings on auras, subtle bodies and currents of invisible force that flow through our bodies in channels and can be controlled and projected from us humans have been in existence for centuries. Many cultures recognise this same “energy” as being found in all natural objects – trees, plants, rocks, rivers and the very earth itself, in flows and currents. In India we have terms such as prana and kundalini. In Hawai, mana (for some reason this particular term became very popular in a lot of sword and sorcery style fantasy role playing video games, as any geeks reading this may well be aware). To the Chinese, it is known as Chi and martial arts students the world over are introduced to this concept. The famous Czech Hermetic magician Franz Bardon was referring to this force when he spoke of “vital power” (“lebenskraft”) and electric and magnetic fluids (not to be confused with the usage of those terms in actual Physics!). In 1939, Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich discovered what he described as life-force or cosmic energy and labelled it Orgone and even went as far as to construct orgone accumulators. If you have a penchant for kooky looking gadgets, I’d definitely recommend googling those!
My knowledge of this subject is limited, but Asia appears to have the most detailed and sophisticated understanding of this topic. Tantric, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, Shinto, and undoubtedly many more traditions go into teachings on how to regulate, cultivate and channel this power for all manner of goals from healing to harming.
In the West, I don’t know if Celtic or Norse tribes had an awareness of this energy, but I would not be at all surprised.
So why is there such a huge emphasis on it by so many Magicians, Pagans, Witches and New Agers in the West today? I think that most of it boils down to the early trailblazers of the occult revival in late 19th century England, whose work continues to inspire and inform so many in the Western magical traditions (although I am well aware of a movement away from this material by some modern occultists now that we live in the information age and have access to better translations of magical and mystical texts from around the world) I am of course, referring to the likes of the Golden Dawn magicians, the Theosophists and the infamous Aleister Crowley. The Theosophical Society had a strong Eastern influence which continues today in their philosophy and practice and Crowley had a keen interest in Yoga, Buddhism and Tantric practices. In Victorian England, amongst occultists and I’m sure at least a few spiritualists, opening your Chakras became a thing (it must have been tough in all those corsets and waistcoats they used to wear!).
"Eternal Flow" by the awesome Rassouli. 

A little later in history, the aforementioned terms of Reich and Bardon would have gained popularity amongst practitioners familiar with either of these men’s works. Baron Carl Von Reichenbach’s term Odic force, which is again, described as life force or vital energy (and in this case, named after the Norse god Odin) was also used in some circles.
In terms of modern Witchcraft/Wicca, early Gardnerian and Alexandrian Witches seemed to simply refer to the use of the “power” and the importance of raising a cone of power in coven based magical workings. In his first factual book on the practices and beliefs of modern Witches, “Witchcraft Today“, Gerald Gardner discusses the notion of power emanating from the human body and how ritual nudity in the Craft is necessary so as not to inhibit the flow of this power.
The dreaded “E” word seems to have gained more prominence in Witchcraft, Pagan and Ritual Magic terminologies as a result of the New Age movement. Many today still use the word “energy”, whilst continuing to profess to hate it for it’s pseudo-scientific connotations and vagueness as a term, probably for its convenience and universality. The equally popular pseudo-scientific New Age usage of the terms vibrationfrequency and wavelength can also be found to make their way into the speech of some occultists.
No longer purely the domain of the mystical and magical, "Energy", like "Karma" has become a common term used in everyday language for everyone these days. I'm an unapologetic fan of the reality TV show Big Brother (I think it's because I find people fascinating) and people are always talking about the "energy" of their fellow housemates and whether someone has "good energy" or "bad energy" or how they don't like a person's "energy" or how the "energy" in the house has been brought down by negative activities such as gossiping and confrontational arguments.
Terminology aside, I find the concept of  life force/Chi/vital power to be a very interesting and necessary aspect of some of my key magical practices and I think  it’s a shame that it's met with such derision from some quarters. Not all traditions acknowledge it or seek to work with it, as I have mentioned.
 Jason Miller (whose work I greatly admire: Love his books and highly recommend his year long email correspondence Strategic Sorcery course) gives a simplified but pretty nifty way of looking at magical traditions in his book “Sorcerer’s Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick“. You have three levels. One deals with the physical ingredients and tools, another with all things energetic and the other with the divine and all spiritual beings etc. Some traditions work with all three in their magical process (such as Wicca) others may work with just two, completely bypassing one of the levels, such as is the case with Hoodoo, which deals solely with God, spirits and material ingredients.
I feel ultimately that those interested in magic and mysticism on a global and universal level, keen to explore more than just one or two traditions, will find the study of “energy” and the practice of energetic work to be a fascinating and worthwhile piece of the “Mysteries and Magic of the Universe” puzzle, especially if drawn to some of the Eastern paths of mysticism and sorcery where, quite frankly, it's fundamental.