I wanted to share a bit of my history. This is in relation to/inspired by two different blog posts- one from Sarah Anne Lawless on Open Source Magic and one from Downstrodden - Do Try This At Home, as well as recent chats with friends.
I’m a terrible student in one sense. I will only do what makes sense to me to do. Stubborn doesn’t begin to touch it! I can also be persistent, like a glacier. Which is really fucking good, as otherwise I’d get nowhere! So when I began practicing magic (practicing in both senses), I did the shit that made sense, and then tinkered with the bits that worked for many, many years. I’ll give some examples.
My first mentor hooked me up with a pile of Crowley & Golden Dawn books, as well as Liber Null & Psychonaut by Peter J. Carroll. I actually thought Carroll made a lot of sense…unlike Crowley, Regardie, and Mathers. So while I read their work, I kind of tore it all apart to see what seemed useful to me. The other thing he told me to do was to practice the LBR 2x a day for six months.
I didn’t think the instructions to visualize stuff during the LBR made sense, so I didn’t try to visualize. But over time, the ritual began to clearly work. At first, it cleared my mind & space. It also cleared a lot of my relationships completely away! At some point, maybe a year or two into the 2x daily LBR, I started getting input from the Archangels. Which seemed weird, as this was a banishing ritual! But they were very helpful! I started to alternate the Star Ruby with the LBR, which also changed things. And it became clear that through some odd process, I could use these ‘banishing’ rituals for invocation and more ‘spell’ kind of things. Within a couple of years after this (so maybe 3-5 years into my ‘2x a day for six months’!) I’d brought in all sorts of odd shit. Runic stuff, the vowel singing of the Gnostic Pentegram Rite, wildly different god forms. The interesting thing was that I found I could do pretty much anything I wanted to magically using the ‘framework’ of this really simple ritual. When I took it apart, this is sort of what I got:
- take a few breaths and focus
- ground & center
- draw some kind of figures in the quarters while calling in some kind of entity/entities
- state that I am ‘in the center’ of these figures & entities
- state what I am doing/what I want
- ground & center
- take a few breaths and focus
Now I am totally not saying you should do this, or that my experience is normal, or that it’s even a good way to work. But it is the way that I worked.
Early on I also added in sigil magic- both the TOPY variety and then the better known Spare derived graphic version. Pretty quickly I started carving the sigils into wood. I learned a trance induction technique. I started meditating. I also began to think of my altars as one ‘machine’ or ‘engine’. I later dabbled in spirit possession, which is somewhat amusing as I originally got deep into magic as a way to stop unwanted spirit possession!
This mostly went on like this for about 13-14 years. Lets look at this another way. For the first 13-14 years of my magical practice I (mostly) had:
- one ritual framework with a bunch of variations, all derived from the LBR/Star Ruby
- one ‘written/artistic method’ of manifesting intentions, i.e., sigils
- one trance induction method
- the ’engine or machine’ view of my altars
- a method for spirit possession
That’s it! I never learned Greek, Hebrew, or Latin. I never learned Enochian, or Solomonic magic. I never really did ANY rituals that I didn’t write, except for taking part in the Gnostic Mass at the OTO lodge I was a part of, and a small amount of group work. But 99% of what I did came from me. I never learned Astrology or Tarot. I used a pendulum, the runes, and the I Ching for divination, nearly always the pendulum. I never dedicated myself to a god or pantheon. I didn’t even use color or planetary correspondences! Thanks to Ray Sherwin I used purple & orange candles for YEARS simply because I liked them.
What I did was build a practice that right or wrong, good or bad made absolute sense to me, and I drove that beast (and myself) as far as I could. And it worked beautifully. I made solid spirit contacts that persist to this day, even after a ten year break from most magic.
I’m not writing this to toot my own horn. I expect a good number of people who read this will be appalled! And I don't think it is 'the right way' for everyone or even many people. But the deal is this:
It's not how many ways you know to do something that matters. It’s how well you can work with what you do know. A huge wide field of knowledge is really cool. But it isn’t always required. Sometimes ‘wide’ is like hitting something with a mattress, while the deep & narrow is like cutting something with a scalpel. There’s a place for the wide, but day to day the narrow edge of the blade is far more useful!
I am not suggesting that anyone not study. I’m certainly not recommending the course I took! I truly believe I was guided by the spirits I work with every step of the way. I think they opened me to the path I took and kindly shut a hundred doors that would not have served me. What I am suggesting is that if you find the massive amount of magical/spiritual data out there today overwhelming, don’t worry about it. Find a few tools that you like and that work for you. That's your horse, if you will. Then climb on that horse and strive become one being with it. Ride that horse as far as it will take you. Don’t worry about what others think of your path, what they say about your horse. You'll learn more from your horse than you will from 99% of the books about horses you ever read. And your horse will take you farther, and take you home again.
In the words of James Branch Cabell, ‘do that which seems good to you’, and do it with utter devotion.