Saturday, October 17, 2020

Lunar Mansion Notes, Alcalb

 Today, October 17th, 2020, the Moon is in the Mansion Alcalb. Alcalb sits fully within the sign of Scorpio, from 8° 36' to 21° 25'. The image of this Mansion is a serpent with its tail above its head. The serpent, along with the eagle and the scorpion, is one of the traditional symbols of the sign of Scorpio. Its gesture, with its tail above its head, is similar to that of a scorpion and suggests an innately defensive posture. 

The spirit of Alcalb is Egrebel. In its beneficial aspect Egrebel can be called to take away fevers and infirmities of the belly, to guard a house from serpents and hurtful beasts, to build buildings that are strong, and to free captives from incarceration. Or as Christopher Warnock states in his book, The Mansions of the Moon, to 'seize' poisons and render them ineffective. Certainly poisons are the province of both scorpions and serpents. 

In its wrathful form Egrebel can be called upon to conspire against kings, to get vengeance upon enemies, and to separate friends. Again these have poisonous connotations but are used in offense. 

The indicator star for this Mansion is Antares in the constellation Scorpio.

Image from SkyGuide

 It is known as the Heart of the Scorpion. Its ruddy color puts it on par with the planet Mars in terms of effect. The name Antares could be interpreted as Ant-Ares, an alternative Ares as god of war (Mars). This is apparently how Ptolemy saw it. Mars is the traditional ruler of Scorpio.

According to R.H. Allen, in his Star Names and Their Meanings, Al Kalb was considered a fortunate Mansion. Offering defense against hidden dangers and the effects of poisons.

Together these elements suggest to me that the this Mansion is best suited to addressing or using poison in the sense of pervasive or systemic destruction, either in defense in the beneficial aspect or in offense in its wrathful aspect. The planet Mars would have an amplified effect, for good and for ill, aspecting the Moon when she is in this Mansion. 

The symbol of water is strongly enforced in the connotations of this Mansion. Scorpio is a water sign and the undulating serpent has a fluid affect. Infirmities of the belly, presumably from something ingested, and the way poison spreads through the blood also reinforce the watery image of this Mansion. 

Potential variations in the talismanic image of this Mansion clearly lie in the gesture and condition of the serpent. Is it attacking or is it defending? Is it hidden or is it plain? These decisions in composing the   image will be central to its effect in accordance with the intent of the talisman. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

I Am An Imperfect Mage

This post is an ice breaker. It seems I have so many of these, mea culpas about neglecting some part of my practice and this blog, as I break through the intimidation of the blank page and the gulf of time from the last post. This post is really a way for me to absolve myself of the sin of sloth. I offer you this absolution too, if you need it. Let us not be stopped by lapses in ritual purity. Let us rise above the guilt of missed offerings and held back teachings. Let us gnash the gristle of the spirit world in our teeth and remember that it is not regular, it is not pretty, and my mouthful is different from your mouthful.

In spiritual pursuits there is no such thing as a waste of time.   

Spirits are stirring, fires are burning. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Thoughts on Image Magic

Image magic, it turns out, is a subject much more vast than I had initially thought. Naively I thought I had a firm grip on what it was and what it entailed. Once I started to drill down and think about it in detail I realized that I had more questions than answers. One of the reasons for the subject to unfurl in greater and greater complexity is simply the vagueness of the word "image" itself. I remember in my younger days when I first heard that the act of writing was once considered a magical act. It surprised me that something so ubiquitous and common was imbued with the power to change reality and was once considered extremely dangerous and therefore inappropriate for the general public. Similarly it is hard to imagine that images have magical properties when I am surrounded by images in the culture in which I am immersed.

It is precisely this ubiquity that presents some difficulty in my understanding ideas about image magic. I have little doubt that there will be things that are too obvious for me to see. The gulf in contexts between myself now and some of the formative cultures integral to the development of image magic will also be challenging for my understanding. Neither of these challenges is insurmountable and the more I talk out these ideas, the more the proverbial puzzle pieces will fit together. I will make mistakes and I will hold on to mistaken assumptions so feel free to point these out to me as you see them. 

I have lots of ideas swirling around in my head about image magic. I am going to draft some of them out on this blog in no particular order. Let's work out some of these ideas together. What is image magic? What are the ways it was traditionally practiced and how is that the same or different from contemporary practice? What does image magic teach us about spirit communication and magic in general? What can we learn by examining the concept closely? How does it work? What are its limits? Who were the ones before us and what do we know of their methods?

To start with a purely arbitrary point chosen mostly at random, let's consider something the Picatrix tells us about image magic. It says that image magic is inextricably linked to the constellations and the 8th Sphere of Heaven (Book I, chapter 4). Does this mean that image magic outside the context of astrology doesn't exist? I don't think it does. Of course this runs counter to the idea that everything has its astrological correspondences and analogues but I think that I should try to not conflate the two ideas. The discipline of astrology is not the only possible source of images appropriate to image magic. Having said that, however, it is hard for me to truly conceive of a range of 10,080 (and probably more) separate images and how they may contain the full continuum of human experience. Perhaps what I should do is to make a postulate that astrology is a rich source of images but is not the only one. I am leaning toward the idea that one's imagination is the only real limit to what form an image takes. 

There are other sources of imagery in addition to astrology. The Greek Magical Papyri, the I Ching, tarot, mythology, and even popular, contemporary culture all have elements that can easily lend themselves to image magic. How then does one choose or invent an image to use in magic? This is going to be a subjective choice and dependent on the practitioner and their goals. The Latin Picatrix gives us a clue about making images in Book III, Chapter 5 where it says, "For example, if you wish to make an image for battles or to conquer and terrify enemies [make the image] of a lion or a snake." This is presumably based on the correspondences familiar to the author of the Picatrix, essentially a lion or snake is a symbol of physical danger. The thousand details of what this snake or lion might look like will be based on the intent of the magic, what spirits (like the planets, for instance) might be involved, and the media used (a painting, a sculpture, a performance, and so on). All of these decisions need to made in such a way as to support the intent of the image. 

Ultimately the depiction of an image in image magic is meant to create an emotional response. Our hypothetical lion-in-battle image will be quite different if it is meant to impart bravery, deadliness, leadership, or intimidation in the enemy. If it is done well a quick glance at the image will remind me of the intent, my bravery or how intimidating I am. This emotional response is a major part of the efficacy of an image. The Picatrix tells us this as well when it suggests that one of the essential elements of making magical images is a strong belief in its power. The more we can bolster this belief with emotion the stronger the magical effect will be. 

So let us end this little post by stating three postulates we have formed about image magic.

1. Emotional attribution is a strong part of the efficacy of image magic.
2. Images that can potentially be used in image magic are infinite and are shaped depending on the intent of the magician.
3. The Picatrix and other books of magic are rich sources of images but are not the limit of possible images. 

We will test these assumptions and postulates as I continue to form my ideas about image magic, adding to and subtracting from the list as we go. The postulates will be used to form hypotheses which will in turn be tested with experimentation. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Difference Between a Sigil and an Image

It may seem like a strange question, as they are clearly different things, but what is the difference between a sigil and an image? As a contemporary magician who is deeply invested in the Picatrix and how it fits within the greater philosophies of modern occultism, this distinction is an important one. I have a few thoughts on the matter and a few unresolved questions as well.

First off, let's define each of these concepts.
A sigil is generally considered to be a symbol, a graphic representation of an idea or an identity. Probably the most well know sigils are the symbols of the astrological sign. But sigils are everywhere in contemporary culture. The grimoires are full of sigils representing all manner of spirits, of the planets, of angels, and of demons. Many logos of corporations would also qualify as a sigil. Indeed almost all letters and written words in various alphabets, singly or in artistic combinations, can be sigils. They can be simple, like the symbols of the astrological signs, or incredibly complex, like mandalas composed of Arabic calligraphy. To me, the defining characteristic of a sigil is its design being rooted in the magic of writing. The sigil making process of A.O. Spare is a perfect crystallization of this idea. A common phrase of intent is reduced to a single symbol that still retains some of the features of the shapes of the Roman alphabet.  A sigil is almost no different from an ideogram. It is only the application of magical intent that separates them.

An image, on the other hand, is much more abstract. An image is a scene, like a picture, or an object, like a sculpture. Any inclusion of symbols, letters, or words are secondary to the greater depiction of the image. Religious icons and tarot cards are probably the most well known types of image magic. But images too can have a range of complexity; from stick figure like representations on the cave walls at Lascaux to a series of comic books by Grant Morrison. Artists use image magic all the time with the visual arts, theater, and cinema to make changes in themselves and in society. Advertising, whether in print, on TV, or over the internet, is all image magic. It works by tapping into the emotional, unconscious parts of the mind. Whenever one sees a picture of some kind it sparks a cascade of allusions and connections in the viewer. Meaning is built through the inherent cultural connotations of the objects, gestures, and characters depicted.

So why does it matter? Why should we care about the distinction between sigils and images? First, and most importantly for me, an understanding of image magic is a necessary part of learning the magic of the Picatrix. There are a few examples of sigils in my copy of the Latin Picatrix, symbols to drawn for the execution of some spell or other. But there are many more examples of images. The Decans, the Planets, the Mansions of the Moon all have descriptions of images that depict them. These images are important as a way to understand the character and the nature of the astrology and spiritual connotations of these concepts. But more than that, images can be used to make contact with the entity depicted. An image is a representation of that spirit. To be in the presence of the image is to be in the presence of the spirit.

Making images, inventing them, is one of the important facets of image magic that the Picatrix teaches. I have found this practice to be fundamental to my understanding of various concepts of not only the Picatrix but other grimoires as well. I have posted many of my efforts on this blog. Art making is a powerful way to learn about a subject. Concentrating, digging deeply into concepts, and carefully considering details are all highly instructive ways to learn about spiritual concepts.

I would suggest that widespread art making on occult subjects and entities is the next big phase of the proliferation of occult information and ideas. The texts and the information is all out there now. It is widely discussed and practiced. But what does one do with the accumulation of all the subjective, personal experiences? Passing on that knowledge through abstract means like art and literature turns it into a road sign for others on the path to spiritual enlightenment through the Mysteries. It renders inarticulate ideas in a way that can be absorbed, if not understood.

Having said all that I do have a few questions for contemplation.
Are sigils and images two ends of a continuum or are they two entirely separate things?
Where do hieroglyphics fit into these ideas? Mayan hieroglyphs in particular are intriguing to me when trying to parse the difference between images and sigils.
Is there a form of either sigils or images that could be confused with the other? In other words, when does the distinction become murky or they overlap in some way?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Creation Is Your Birthright

Creation is your birthright.
You, yes you.
The act of creating and the products of that creation belong to you. It is your power.
It is the gift from God that you be one step removed from divine power.
Your consciousness is able to conceive and produce all manner of things that have myriad impacts across the whole universe.
You can create.
And, in creating, you make your mark and stake your claim thereby bringing the entire universe into your influence.
Writing, making images, making offerings, these have immense impacts not always readily apparent. The ripples of their influence suffuse not only the culture in which you find yourself, but all of creation.
I call you to action.
Keep making and building despite judgments by yourself or others. The very act of making is God working through you.
It is your birthright.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Picatrix Decan Card Deck Back in Stock

To those of you who have been waiting I am please to let you know that the Picatrix Decan cards are back in stock on my Etsy page and ready for purchase. Check it out here:

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Egipcios Kier Tarot- The Magician

The Egipcios Kier Tarot

I am fascinated by the Egipcios Kier tarot and I think it is an interesting model of what a tarot or oracle deck can be. I have, however, had a hard time finding a thoughtful analysis of the symbolism found on each card. There is the Little White Book that came with the deck, written by Stuart R. Kaplan, but there is much that I find lacking about some of its suppositions and glosses. Plus, how in depth can one get in such limited space? 

There is also the work of Nelise Carbonare Vieira on her website but that site is in Portugese, which I can’t read. Google translate is great but I am sure there is plenty that I am missing in the proverbial and literal translation. She also seems to have her own system of understanding the deck that I’m not sure I fully understand or agree with.  

I would like to begin to do my own analysis and research on this important tool. This project will give me a good reason to do some of the more detailed research in Egyptian mythology and the use of symbolism found on each card. I have been using this deck for a few years and have come to have insights and intuitive leaps regarding the meanings of the individual cards. You may like that and you may not. But in the absence of voices on the subject, I would like to try to add my own to the body of knowledge. Essentially I am self-taught in the use of this deck and I would like to use this forum to explore it more deeply.

Let’s explore together. As always your thoughts are welcome. 

The Egicios Kier Tarot

1. The Magician

Meanings: Mastery, divine consciousness, divine intervention, magical ability, learning and knowledge, vivifying energy, health, beginnings, confidence and self-awareness. 

The Magician is the first card of the Egipcios Kier tarot and therefore has an especially important part to play. The fact that the deck is numbered 1 through 78 without separation of suits or court cards suggests to me that the sequence is important and that there is at least the connotation of a continuum or cycle. That there is the semblance of cycles in a tarot deck based in ancient Egyptian mythology should not be surprising.  

At the top of the card we have the sigil of the Solar spirit Och from the Arbatel. This is the first of the solar symbols on this card. The Arbatel says of Och that he...
"governeth solar things; he giveth 600 yeares, with perfect health; he bestoweth great wisdom, giveth the most excellent Spirits, teacheth perfect Medicines: he converteth all things into most pure gold and precious stones: he giveth gold, and a purse springing with gold. He that is dignified with his Character, he maketh him to be worshipped as a Deity, by the Kings of the whole world."

The bottom, terminal end of the Och sigil has astrological symbol of the Sun incorporated into it. I am not familiar with this little detail and this example is the first I've come across it. The Sun symbol at the bottom of the Och sigil falls between two eyes, right about where the Third Eye would be located. These two eyes are the Eye of Ra and the Eye of Horus, dieties in their own right and parts of the god Ra. On one level the eyes represent the Sun and the Moon, respectively. They are the consciousness of Ra. It is through our own consciousness that we can become aligned with the gods and thereby they become a symbol of the magician assuming the mantle of godhood through consciousness. 

To the left of the eyes is the Egyptian hieroglyph of a kite which E.A.W. Budge lists first in his hieroglyphic dictionary as the sound of the letter A. It is for this reason that it is used on this card. 

To the right of the eyes we have the letter A given in what is called the Alphabet of the Magi. The Alphabet of the Magi dates back to the 16th Century in Italy and was used in the construction of talismans. It was purported to have been transmitted by angelic spirits. Here again it is for the attributes of the letter A as the beginning of the alphabet that it is included. 

In the middle register we have the image of the Magician. He is in an active posture, with one foot in front of the other. On his head is a circlet crown with a cobra ureas serpent on his brow. His hair is a plaited wig. His wealth is signified by his jewelry; lapis bands on his arms and wrists, a large, lapis pectoral ornament around his neck. In his raised left hand he holds a mirror with a wand handle. The tilt of his eyes suggest he's looking into the mirror. His right hand is low, at his side, and he points down toward the ground. He is wearing a stiff skirt that appears to be bound with a lapis belt. In front of him is a cube shaped altar. On the side of the altar is the figure of a ibis bird, the bird sacred to Thoth, the Magician of the Gods. The edge of the altar is delineated by two bands that meet at a right angle. The top of the altar has three objects on it, a sword, a jar, and a coin. With the wand in the Magician's hand these represent the tools of the Magician and the four elements. Bellow the Magician, obscured in hashmarks of darkness, is an isometric drawing of a cube. This is a foundation stone of the universe. 

At the bottom of the card is the title band. On the left most side is the astrological glyph of the Sun. Next to it the astrological glyph of the sign Leo, sign of the Sun's rulership. Next to that is the name of the card, The Magician. To the left of that is the Hebrew letter Aleph and further to the right the number of the card in sequence, 1. 

One of the predominant meanings of this card is consciousness and awareness. Being the first card in the deck it also has connotations of waking up or first becoming conscious. This consciousness has qualities of being self-aware. The Magician, as he gazes into his mirror wand, points to the ground as if to say, "I am the real one over on this side of the mirror," (but of course the image is doing the same thing). With self-awareness comes mastery. With consciousness comes the ability to identify with other consciousnesses, including the all powerful gods. This is indicated by the Eye of Ra and the Eye of Horus at the top of the card.  

Solar iconography is often about self and identification. This is why the Sun sign is often what people refer to as "their" sign. The Sun is symbolic of the self. Carl Jung wrote that the astrological symbol of the Sun, a circle with a dot in the middle, is a graphic representation of the self. Here the identification of the Magician to the Sun is more explicit. Egyptian mythology is a solar theology. The goal of the aspirant was to be able to die, traverse the Underworld, and be reborn just as the Sun does each day. 

In traditional European astrology the Sun is the king of the planets and controls their disposition through their waxing and waning phases. The Sun keeps time and dictates the seasons. The Sun has dominion over the entire universe.

The Egipcios Kier tarot represents a journey through the Underworld and begins with the Magician, as master of himself and his world, taking up his wand and gathering his tools to walk the path. He is full of energy and backed by the will of the gods.