Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Sunday, April 30, 2023
I recently finished reading Celestial Angel Magick by Corwin Hargrove (2023). This is the first book by this author that I have read. I have not read any of Hargrove’s other books mostly because I find the marketing for them a similar flavor as BALG and other “dark fluff” books about spirit work. Really, I know almost nothing about this author or their other works so I can’t talk about their authenticity or how this book compares to any of their others.
Having said that I will say that there are things I really like about this book and other things I really dislike. Celestial Angel Magic is all about the Mansions of the Moon. I have been researching the Mansions of the Moon for my own projects and when I find something about the Mansions I grab it to add to my knowledge. It is a slim volume, 79 pages on the ebook, Kindle version.
First, the things I like about this book. The greatest asset of Celestial Angel Magick is the set of 28 Arabic talismans, one for each Mansion, that Hargrove calls sigils. The author claims to have come across the same talismans in two separate, handwritten, personal grimoires that collectors sold to him 12 years apart. I personally have only a little exposure to Arabic magic through my research on the Mansions but they look like other Arabic talismans I’ve seen in different contexts and the story is plausible enough. Paradoxically, the apparent lack of research that went into the writing of this book bolsters this claim.
The second thing I like about this book I actually have mixed feelings about and that is the poetic verses that accompany each Mansion. I love the idea of poetry acting as the image, as opposed to a picture, in working image magic. I am ambivalent to them being referred to as “pathworkings” just because I recognize this term has come to mean “meditative visualization”. Personally, the talismans and the idea of verse images have justified the purchase of this book.
But my criticism of the verses themselves are that they are strikingly similar to each other. The author implies that these verses came from one of the handwritten grimoires but my impression is that they were derived from a few scrying or visualization sessions the author may have done themselves. In itself this isn’t problematic but it feels almost superficial and lacking depth. Similarly, the stated powers of each Mansion lack depth to my ear but they are written ambiguously enough to apply to a variety of applications.
The names of the Mansions are the common Arabic names but I am a little surprised that Hargrove lists the name of each Mansion as the spirit name (Al Sharatain, Al Butain, etc). No doubt the sources for the talismans lists them this way, or is ambiguous enough that one would infer this. Variations on the names of the Mansions or attributing spirit names to them are dismissed as deliberate obfuscation by some unknown person or group who is trying to keep the truth from the reader. This is absurd and discounts the literal thousands of years across cultures in which the concept of the Mansions of the Moon existed.
What this book is not about is astrology or astrological magic. The procedure to use these talismans is simply to gaze at them, visualize or read aloud the pathworking image verse, and state your petition, then walk away. This is all fine to me but Hargrove is strangely dismissive of any kind of elaboration into a praxis. Perhaps this is simply to reassure a beginner that ceremony is not necessarily required.
I mention earlier in this review that it seemed there was little research done in preparation of writing this book but honestly I can't know that. It seems that way because there is not much content. There is mention of the Picatrix and the Liber Lunae but only in that they mention the Mansions of the Moon. It is unclear if they lent any elucidation on the subject to the author. Hargrove explicitly says that, because this content came from private grimoires that research was impossible. And who cares anyway because it works. Similarly, Hargrove says that the reader shouldn't, and indeed can't, interpret the marks in the talisman sigils themselves. This too is strangely dismissive to me and sounds more like an excuse for why one would choose to not even try. Most frustrating to me, there is no bibliography. This reinforces the idea that, one, Celestial Angel Magick is simply a repackaging of a found grimoire, and two, that very little research went into writing this book.
All in all I am glad to have found this book. I think the contents will lead me to some interesting experiments as I work with the Mansions and their spirits. I can't say I am impressed with Hargrove's writing or logic but there are things about this book that excite me.
Sunday, November 27, 2022
I have entered a new phase in my work with the spirits of the Mansions of the Moon. The invocations and the ability to connect with the spirits has gone well. I have come to realize that trying hard to connect with the spirits of the Mansions was something like a fish trying hard to find water. Their presence is all around all the time. Additionally, my experiments with Mansion talismans has gone reasonably well with some hits and (more) misses with a lot more work to do in this arena. And, most importantly, art making is progressing, albeit slowly, on a few fronts at the same time; some tablet drawn stuff, some Photoshop collage, and some physical collage. I’ll share some work in progress in future posts.
In my working with ideas for art making I find I have a desire to explore the Mansions more deeply. The thing I find missing is mystery. And by mystery I mean a few things. One, that there exists for each Mansion a riddle, a sort of thought experiment that has no resolution but only deeper and deeper ideas and truths. Like a math problem that gives a never ending series of digits, like Pi. Variations on a theme leading off into infinity.
But mystery also means spiritual truths and realities that are seemingly contradictory or incongruent. Like the alchemical marriage, by understanding some part of the mystery transformation of elements are possible. In this way, initiation and spiritual advancement are also possible as well as magical effects and deeper wisdom. I kind of hope to find unexpected features and facets of each of the Mansions, things that will add depth to my creative projects.
Essential to mystery, however, is its inherent ineffability and unknowability. One can never really find the end of a mystery, it just keeps unfolding with more and more expressions and manifestations of the deeper truths. What one can do is explore that mystery. A person can start with what tools they have and ask for the guidance of spirits to impart the lessons of the mystery to which they are part. And, stepping stone by stepping stone, one can delve into the lessons that each of the Mansions has to teach.
In order to explore the mysteries of the Mansions of the Moon I am inventing little rituals, unique to each Mansion, to be performed while the Moon is in that Mansion. One devotional action each day in the name of the spirit of that Mansion. It is my contention that the repeated performance of each rite will teach lessons over time.
Or maybe not. Who knows? But we’re going to try it and see what happens.
Over the past lunation I did a couple of tarot divinations each day, asking two questions, “what is the mystery of this Mansion” and “how can I explore the mystery of this Mansion”. I have recorded those divinations and will base this project on those throws to develop a series of rituals. Along with the divinations I will use other Moon based rituals in the Latin Picatrix, like those given in Book 4, Chapter 2, and other sources as I am guided.
Ideally, these are fairly easy, quick rites that can readily be expanded or contracted as circumstances warrant. Personally, I would love them to be ten minute affairs with minimal tools or props, something I could do on a lunch break. They are tailored to the Mansion in question and performed in the name of the spirit of that Mansion. There should also be an opportunity for feedback built into the ritual structure.
We’ll see what kind of direction this experiment takes me.
Let's call these the Little Lunar Mystery Rites.
Monday, July 11, 2022
As I write this the Moon is in Albelda, the Lunar Mansion at the end of Sagittarius. It is a Mansion characterized by transitions, hard stops, and open space. The influence of Albelda was apparent to me before the Moon was in it in the tropical zodiac. Currently, I am traveling abroad with a family group of six. One of our members became seriously ill and I caught a cold. Even while the Moon was still in Alnaym we had a hard ending to our itinerary to seek medical attention for our companion. In comparison my cold was a minor, if gross and full of mucus, inconvenience. And now, here I sit with the rest of my party waiting under the pretext of relaxing, to hear how they are doing and recovering from my own illness.
I have seen Albelda described as the District, the City, and the Area. But I think my favorite translation is how Amina Inoles characterizes it in her translation of the Shams al Ma’arif as the Wasteland. It occupies a bit of sky in which there are few visible stars on the ecliptic and was considered an open space. For this reason, the Wasteland seems an apt name for this Mansion. Its image in the Picatrix is a Janiform man, that is, a man with a face both on the front and on the back of his head, and its talismanic power was to depopulate and devastate an area or a city.
In ancient Rome Janus was a god of thresholds, marking the end of one state and the beginning of another. The month of January is named after Janus and it occurrence marks the beginning of a new year. Janus would reportedly be invoked to mark the beginning of religious ceremonies or the formal declaration of war. To pass Janus’s doorway was to never go back.
This implication of abrupt change was certainly my experience during my travels. The remainder of this trip will not be as I had originally planned it. In terms of its place among the Lunar Mansions Albelda sits just before the series of “lucky” stars and so marks another threshold. Part of me wonders if, long, long ago, Albelda was the beginning of the Mansions. It would be appropriate, just as in the calendar of months, to begin with Janus. But I haven’t done the math to see just how many thousands of years back we would have to go to account for procession so this may be idle musing.
Part of the symbolism of the doorway is its sense of in-betweenness, the state of not this any longer but not that yet either. There is a moment, even if infinitesimally brief, of stillness; a pause between inhalation and exhalation, the floating feeling as the rollercoaster cart reaches the apex of a crest just before gravity pulls it down the other side. And as I continue to wait here this aspect of the symbol of Albelda is thrown in high relief. Albelda is a rest between the hunting in Alnaym and the sacrifice of Sadahaca. It is the breath before the ritual begins.
And so, I accept my forced downtime, even as I feel a slight frustration at not being able to explore.
Sunday, March 27, 2022
So much of my magical attention has been trained on the Mansions of the Moon lately. If one were to dig through the archives of this blog one would find references to the Mansions of the Moon years and years back but for the past year and a half the Mansions have been the center of my focus; the names, the images, the spirits. I continue to dig into the star lore, the magic, and the thinking behind the Mansions in a concentrated effort to learn as much as I can and try to understand them. I am just now getting to the point where I have an idea of how much I don’t know and how vast the amount of things yet to learn. But understanding needs to have a starting point and a process and so, here I am, working through trying to understand them.
Let’s work through some of the ideas and insights I’ve stitched together from various sources or invented myself to see if I can make sense of any of it. Organizing my thoughts for public consumption will help me question my assumptions and lines of thinking. Explaining things to you will help me understand them. In the spirit of the Moon I reserve the right to be irrational, obscure, or cryptic as the mood strikes me.
I will begin with a general idea, an abstract, thousand foot level question to kick things off. No doubt we will wade through the weeds of minute detail as we progress but I need to define some broad outlines first. I need some big shapes to get my figurative hands around before we drill down into the pith of individual Mansions.
At this point I am not going to get into what the Mansions of the Moon are with the hope that you are at least somewhat familiar with the idea of the Mansions. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept
Why bother with the Mansions of the Moon? This question is probably best answered with practical, concrete advantages and things one might hope to get or achieve by working with the Mansions. From my perspective there are several good reasons why one might go down this rabbit hole.
The first practical use I'll give is the reason that I started to study the subject in the first place, the Picatrix. The Picatrix says in Chapter 4 of Book 1 that the Mansions of the Moon are essential to working astrological magic. One needs to know the effects and condition of the Moon based on where it is in the lunar zodiac in order to fully understand the potential results and efficacy of a magical working undertaken at a particular time. I infer from the Picatrix that consideration of the Mansions is a basic skill in the performance of electional astrology but in modern times the Mansions are not a big part of Western magic if one is working outside of Chinese, Arabic, or Hindu contexts. And while Chinese, Arabic, and Hindu traditions have immense value, the inclusion of the Mansions of the Moon in the Latin Picatrix and in Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy hints at a tradition in Western magic that is somewhat forgotten, muted, and struggling to regain a place of prominence. Studying the Mansions of the Moon reestablishes some of the depth and complexity of magic with European roots.
And I have found that the depth and complexity of the Mansions is profound. In all seriousness one could spend their entire lives studying nothing but the Mansions of the Moon. I am convinced that each Mansion has its own lessons to teach and mysteries to reveal. As I said earlier, the more I study the Mansions the more I realize how little I really know or understand. Part of the purpose of these blog posts going forward will be to try and work out some of the tangle of ideas to find the stepping stones on this path.
One of the exciting things about the Mansions is that I have found the spirits of the Mansions readily available for communication using either pendulum or tarot cards. In some ways it was almost too easy. Sometimes I would lament what I perceived as a failure in invocation or communication only to realize I was calling to someone who was already there. I started joking that it was like being fish trying to be aware of the water it was in. At all moments of every day the angel of the Mansion in which the Moon is sitting is present and exerting its influence on the world. This realization opened up my perception and suggests the third practical use of the Mansions of the Moon, development of skills. In terms of astrological elections Mansion talismans are considered one of the easier kind to find suitable times to perform. In terms of spirit communication the spirits of the Mansions are readily available to teach and perform tasks. Additionally, other occultists have linked the Mansions to other traditions. Two that I have seen are Jake Stratton-Kent equating each Mansion to a spirit in the Grimorium Verum and Chris Reppucci linking the Mansions to the 28 icons of Hekate initiation mentioned in PGM VII lines 756-794 The Prayer to Mene. I find this idea intriguing that the context of the Mansions can expand into a variety of traditions or practices.
Lastly, for me, the Mansions of the Moon are a great way to break out of the homogeny of astrology and the standard zodiac. The lunar and the solar zodiacal wheels are related but I have found the Mansions to be much more descriptive of star lore. I have found great value in changing my perspective on the stars in the ecliptic with the Mansions that I didn't so much feel when studying the decans.
I imagine as I progress with my research and learning that other practical uses will become apparent. These are the most easily identified reasons I have for chasing down the Mansions of the Moon. As this blog moves forward and we explore each Mansion individually more will be revealed.
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In the Moonlit Hermit Tarot deck there are four cards that are supplementary to a classic tarot deck. These four cards were added as a reward in the Kickstarter campaign and make the Moonlit Hermit Tarot an 82 card deck. Here I will talk about the inspiration behind making them and offer some ideas about how they can be interpreted in a tarot reading.
First off, I feel I should say that this essay is meant simply as a set of suggestions. The four supplement cards are unlabeled and therefore can take on whatever meaning the reader chooses. If the ideas in this essay don't resonate with you feel free to discard them.
Echoes of goetic spirit magic pervade the Moonlit Hermit Tarot. For instance, the hem of the angel in the Temperance card is the "dancing" sigil of the spirit Klepoth from the Grimorium Verum. The four unlabeled spirit cards originally were representations of a set of spirits called the Four Kings. The concept of the Four Kings exists in several cultures and spiritual cosmologies all over the world. The concept is also prominent in the rituals of the medieval European grimoires. In a nutshell, each of the Four Kings is thought to have dominion over spirits that originate in or have their home in the cardinal direction associated with that King. It is not uncommon to invoke the Four Kings in a ritual context as a way of empowering the magician and claiming authority over spirits in their name.
As is often the case with spirits in sets of four there is a tendency to attribute them to each of the four classic elements; fire, water, air, and earth. Therefore each King has an association with a cardinal direction as well as an element. If one compares traditions one quickly learns there is no one, standard way to associate a King to a specific direction or element. Also the names of the Kings have gone through changes over the years. This was one of the big factors that suggested I should leave these cards unlabeled.
In terms of divinatory meaning in the deck the Directional Kings denote the spiritual realm and the actions of spirits. In this context "spirit" is very general and may refer to deities, angels, demons, daemons, nature spirits, elemental spirits, or spirits of the dead.
First up we have the King of the East.
Sunday, August 1, 2021
There are two ways to approach the magic of the Mansions of the Moon. One is when the magician uses ritual to capture astrological influence to empower a talisman. And the other is in direct spirit contact, calling out to the spirit and receiving responses in return. And while these are two separate avenues of practice there are overlaps and sometimes the distinguishing line between them can be a bit blurred.
As I conduct research into the details of the Mansions of the Moon I have been supplementing my academic gathering with a simple meditation and mantra using the names of the spirits of the directions of the Moon. Most days I will get myself settled in a quiet spot, sometimes it is sitting in my home office and sometimes it is while I’m alone on a dog walk, and I will use a visualization similar to my work with Perfect Nature, calling a name while envisioning a presence in that place; Hediz above me, Maryuz below me, Meletaz to my right, Timez to my left, Hueyuz in front of me, Menelaz behind me, Dehanuz as a sphere surrounding me, and Harnuz as a point inside me at my heart that connects all the spirits together, like the hub of a wheel. Then I intone the name of the spirit that rules the Mansion in which the Moon is passing at that time. When I have the time and ability I’ll do this for 108 repetitions on a string of mala beads but I do it at least seven times when I can’t do more.
Invariably when I do this I get impressions and images in response. I find myself accumulating quite a few bits of UPG about the Mansion and its spirit. Sometimes I will try to concentrate on the image for the Mansion as it is given in the Picatrix or Agrippa and sometimes I will simply try to listen to what comes my way. It is proving to be a font of artistic inspiration.
As one might surmise with a mention of doing this while walking a dog there are no candles and no incense. I am certain I will add those elements as I get more involved in the spirit contact part of my research and I am actively gathering incense ingredients. I find, however, that this is a good stepping stone into a more elaborate Mansions practice. The influence of the Moon is so pervasive that striving to feel it is like pushing a river. The more one tries, the less successful they are.