Greetings Festive Pagans – and Happy Solstice!
Back in 1998, I published one of my earliest articles: The Ancient Gods and Neopaganism. I wrote it during the period I was discovering the Old Magick that would revolutionize my spiritual practice, and the essay is a great reflection of that transition.
To this day, The Ancient Gods and Neopaganism remains one of my most popular essays – especially around Christmas. And the reason is the Santa Template.
Essentially, I point out that the modern Neopagan methods of working with Gods are very different than how the ancients did it. Ask a modern practitioner how to go about invoking a deity, and you’ll hear about casting circles and inscribing sigils and wielding magickal tools. But when we look at records of ancient civilizations, we find their methods of invoking deities were based upon specific feast days and religious celebrations. In other words, the manner in which we celebrate Christmas today is much closer to how gods were worshipped ”back in the day” than how most moderns are going about it now.
And so it is in the spirit of the season, and on the off chance you haven’t already read about my Santa Template, I offer it again:
The Santa Template for Pagan Worship
(Adapted From “The Ancient Gods and Neopaganism”)
It will surely amaze you to find out that Santa Claus is a modern deity who fits each and every requirement of ancient Pagan deity worship. What follows is not about the well-known Pagan origins of the Santa Claus image (aka, Father Christmas – who has close ties to Germanic images of Odin). Instead, this is about the modern incarnation of Santa himself as a Western deity.
The manner in which we moderns deal with Santa Claus, and Christmas in general, is exactly how rites to Gods were performed in ancient times. Knowing this, it can provide an awesome sounding board against which to test our methods of dealing with any God we choose. At the very least, it offers us a glaring contrast to our normal Neo-Pagan methods.
To begin with, Santa is certainly old enough. He is not young enough to be a new thought-form creation (like- say- Cthulhu). Nor is he the soul of someone recently dead. He was, however, a once-living human. Nicolas of Myra was a Greek bishop who lived in fourth century Greece (in the area of modern Turkey). He made such an impression on the people around him – especially his legendary kindness to children - that he was eventually canonized into Sainthood by the Church. From a practical standpoint, a Saint and an Angel are much the same kind of creature – and one can erect altars and perform invocations to either one in times of need. You can even find religious icons painted in his honor:
Much as we see in the most ancient forms of ancestor worship, St. Nicolas’ spirit was captured after his death and never allowed to escape. Honoring this spirit, the people gave it strength and nourishment. Now he is known round the world, and even invoked in a religious context.
But that’s all very Orthodox stuff. What interests us here is how our modern western culture honors this deity today:
We start by having a Holy Day for him- every Christmas. Oh, I know they say that the holiday is to honor the birth of the Son of God. Or, as some know it, the Sun God. But, think way back to your childhood: Jesus might have been the Sun of God… But to a kid, God’s Name at that time of year was “Santa Claus.” His image was everywhere. You yearned for his coming. You wrote him letters and even offered prayers. I would hazard to say that not one of us as children ever cared about some guy born in a desert two thousand years ago. It was Santa we were focused upon.*
[* - Note that I do not mean to discount the honoring of Jesus (for Christians) or the Sun God (for Pagans) at this time of year. I could write at length about either. But this particular essay is about Santa.]
But we weren’t alone! Our god here is not lacking in priesthood any more than he lacks worshippers. He certainly had Prophets; men who would assume his form and have full authority to speak on his behalf. We saw them on street corners, we saw them in malls. The malls were where we could gain audience to the Prophet and ask him what the God had to say about our wishes. It was a divination plane and simple. We all knew that it wasn’t the real Santa, but we all played our roles for the divination so that the Prophet could properly invoke Santa’s essence and speak with his voice.
You’ll shoot yer eye out, kid.
Mind-altering drugs were not absent. The insane amounts of sugar we ate throughout the holidays altered our consciousness, and contributed to the euphoric feeling we associate with the season. All the sacred cookies and candies – often in the shapes of Santa, reindeer, snowmen and other icons – were especially consumed before traveling to consult the Prophet at the mall.
Yet Santa has a Secret Priesthood as well; the priests who are never seen, but are responsible for making sure all the “miracles” associated with the deity are accomplished. Today we know they were our parents, but as young children we didn’t. We still thought that the God himself was manifesting bodily and performing the miracles of Christmas morning. Each Christmas Eve our parents would usher us off to bed, and claim to go to bed themselves. Then, they would enter the Temple and perform Santa’s role. They would lay out the presents, and eat the milk and cookies. Sometimes they leave “evidence” that “Santa” had been there.
Why, I was once mystified by the sound of sleigh bells outside my window on Christmas Eve as I struggled to fall asleep. I lived in Florida, so of course these were not among the usual sounds of wintertime. I knew that no car was driving by, and that no one was walking or running by with them, for the sound had been too brief. Yet it had been long enough to be obvious- it was sleigh bells!
That event mystified me until I reached adulthood. Then one Christmas, when I was visiting home, I saw my mother do this to the children in the house (among them my own son). And now, I do it every year for my daughter. I pray it has effected them like it did me.
These are the priests of Santa- both those of the inner sanctuary and the outer prophets. The Temple I spoke of above is, obviously, your living room. It is decorated in very specific colors, with trimmings of specific kinds and shapes. Holly is sacred to him, as was mistletoe, and the mistletoe has important rites associated with it. Santa’s image must to be there, as well as his sacred tree. Every decoration hung on that tree, and in the temple, has a reason for being there. Each has it’s own rituals and tradition, which reflect family history and culture. And everything has to be “just so”; the instructions for that are no less involved than what one might find in Exodus ch. 30, where the Tabernacle of Worship was outlined.
Santa is even to be nourished with offerings sacred to him: pure milk and the sweet pastries known as “cookies”. Or at least some variation thereon. These were always consumed by one or both of the inner sanctum priests of your specific cult (family). It is a Eucharist for them. A similar Eucharist for worshippers in general (the rest of the family, friends) consists of more cookies and eggnog.
We even sing songs to Santa in the temple for the rather specific purpose of invoking and strengthening his presence into the room. This increases steadily all season until it hits its peak on the twenty-fourth, where the invocations are accompanied by specific rites on the holiest of nights. There are very intricate rituals that must be enacted on Christmas Eve, finally ending in the worshippers laying down to sleep. More than sleep- entranced into having visionary dreams. The sacred literature instructs that we should envision sugarplums if we do it right. We never do. Even more intricate and specific rites have to be performed the following morning and day. A description of that could fill chapters!
Not only this, but Santa can be offended and driven away. Bad behavior from children is at the top of that list. Although, anyone can offend him enough with an attitude that we have termed “Scrooge” or “Grinch.” We even have sacred literature about those kinds of people: such a person would end up alone and sad, and far from what Santa has to offer. But those stories always ended with the villain being converted and made a holy man at last! Of course, our sacred scripture incorporated much more than that. It also contained our whole mythos concerning our sacred heroes- Frosty and Rudolph for example. And the instructions for the visions of sugarplums.
As children during Christmas season, every day and in every way we lived, loved, and worshipped Santa Claus. We gave ourselves to him in pure faith, in perfect love, and in perfect trust. It was that simple. There were no circles. There were no “correspondence charts”. The rituals throughout the holy season weren’t technical, they were devotional. And they were so much a part of you that you never even thought much about them.
This is what it was like for the pagans of the ancient world as they honored their Gods. We Neo-Pagans have so very far to go.
St. Nick – The Template
Therefore, I have created what I call the “Santa Template for Pagan Worship.” Any time you feel you have a need to honor a specific God or Goddess, you might first wish to lay the Santa Template over them first. See how your own knowledge of the God in question lacks before you even get started. I will give an example. First, let me highlight the Template. Santa possesses all of the following:
• Sacred Images
• Holy Days
• Numerous and very specific rites and rituals.
• Specific Eucharist/Communion (and for other gods, Baptism and other religious observances as well).
• Sacred foods, plants, colors, trees as well as:
• Specific temple lay out and sacred objects as decoration. Traditions, mythos, and rites associated with all. Each to be properly maintained.
• Specific dances and music. Even specific musical instruments.
• Divinations, Visions, and petitions for the God’s aid or blessing.
• Sacred scripture and Mythology.
• Specific “sins” and offenses against the commandments of the God. Or, making yourself ritually unclean.
• An organized priesthood who take care of most of the above details, perform the important and most secret rites, and are also our direct link to the God by invocation of Him.
• Altered consciousness.
• Total and faithful dedication and love toward the Deity. If the God’s holy day doesn’t feel like Christmas, then you’re doing it wrong.
I do not believe that even one of the above points was missing from the temples of the old gods. Not only the above, but even more that I’m sure we’ll never even guess. Imagine a person five thousand years from now trying to observe Christmas from what he reads in maybe four or five surviving copies of our modern books on Christmas. Or even only commentary and short quotes about our Christmas from people who came after us. Or maybe (worse yet!) from old television commercials that have been recovered! Do you think he would capture what our children feel today? Not a chance- and that is what you are up against in attempting to re-establish contact with one of the ancient gods.
When dealing with a God other than St. Nick, we have to ask ourselves how many of the above points are we capable of fulfilling? How much information did we recover from those eras and the God’s cult (to be found in archeology books, not Neopagan beginner’s manuals), and how many points of our Template will be left empty?
Marduk – An Example
Marduk of Babylon
Let us assume that we wish to honor Marduk of Babylon. How many points of the Template can you fill out for him? What does our current knowledge of Marduk contain? Holy days? Yes, a few of those have been figured out. Certain rites and rituals? No- we can only connect Marduk to the opening recitations of some exorcism rites, and that’s all.
Very specific foods, plants, sacrifices, and other materials? Aside from Lapis Lazuli (which Marduk is often associated with), none.
At least we know what he looks like in one of his forms – thanks to a surviving image of him from Babylon. We also know he was associated with a strange dragon-creature that we can see resting at his feet (the same dragon depicted on the Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylonia) – though no one is sure who or what that dragon was, what he represented or what relationship he had with Marduk (or Ishtar).
Do we know what he was directly averse to; that is, what he considered sin against his commandments? Do we have any of those commandments? No.
Do we know the proper ways of gaining contact- the music, the dances, the particular tools used? We know none of this.
Can you speak to Marduk in his native Babylonian tongue? I would bet the majority would have to say no on that point as well. However, Babylonian is not a forgotten language, and you can learn it if you’re dedicated and can gain access to the right academic works. At least you can make use of it as a sacred language in your work with him – if not a conversational one.
These examples don’t even cover the entire Template, but it sure does put things into perspective. When it comes to comparing Marduk to Santa- we see how little we really know about Marduk!
What can change this is hard work and life-long dedication. Hours spent in the libraries scanning and re-scanning archeological and anthropological texts; both books on the shelves and articles from archeology journals. Do everything in your power to fill in each and every point in the Template before you even begin. Consider the ones you could not fulfill, and what might be done in their stead.
And with that I’ll bring this excerpt to a close, and let you all get back to your Christmas traditions. Enjoy!
Greetings again Egyptophiles!
James Clark has decided to wow us with another example of his Egyptian iconography from the Neo-Enochian (that is post-Golden Dawn) portion of the Essential Enochian Grimoire. This is another of the godforms that rule the “Truncated Pyramids” of the Watchtower squares:
The Greek name “Harpocrates” comes from the Egyptian Heru-pa-Khered, meaning Horus the Child. As the story goes, Osiris had impregnated Isis just before he left the realm of the living to govern the Underworld. Osiris’ brother and murderer Set, who had usurped the Throne of Egypt, was unaware of the pregnancy, and Isis did everything in her power to keep it that way. She went into hiding in a field of reeds to have and raise the child – who she named Horus - in secrecy. (As it happens Set did eventually find out, and made several attempts to assassinate his infant nephew, but all without success.)
Eventually, Hrous came of age and confronted Set to reclaim his father’s Throne. After 80 years of battle (on the field and in court), Horus achieved victory and became the ruler of Egypt. From that point forward, every Pharoah was considered a living incarnation of Horus.
The Child Horus became a special figure in Egypt, much as the Baby Jesus would become his own figure in later Christianity. (In fact, it is quite likely that images of the Madonna and Child are descened from older Egyptian images of Isis and Harpocrates.) Horus the Child represented the newborn Sun (in the morning, but especially after the winter Solstice) and the first appearance of crops and vegitation.
As Nick Farrell pointed out in his most recent blog post, our association with Harpocrates as a “God of Silence” was due to a misunderstanding on the part of the Greeks. They saw the young boy figure holding a finger to his lips, and assumed he was making the common gesture for “be quiet.” Thus, they associated him with their own God of Silence and Mystery – and that is exactly how he is viewed in the Golden Dawn system to this day.
In fact, the particular gesture being made by Harpocrates is simply an imitation of the Egyptian Hieroglyph for “Child.” I suspect this had something to do with children sucking on their fingers, or even making a non-verbal request to be fed.
Egyptian Hieroglyph for “Child”
Of course, even if Harpocrates is not specifically a “God of Silence”, there is still deep significance in the mythos of his being raised in secret by the Mother Goddess, and prepared for his eventual confrontation with Set. In the Golden Dawn’s Neophyte initiation ceremony, the candidate is presented as likewise raised in darkness and obscurity, protected and finally guided to seek spiritual wisdom by the Great Mother so he can someday reclaim his own spiritual Throne and govern his personal Kingdom.
In the Neo-Enochian system, Harpocrates represents balanced Air and Water. Two sides of his pyramid are Air (yellow with purple characters) and two are Water (blue with orange characters). His image is a youth wearing a yellow and blue tunic, a yellow pectoral collar, and a blue headdress. He also wears the double-crown of Egypt, colored yellow and blue. He holds a blue ankh and stands in the “sign of silence” – meaning his left fingertip is pressed against his lips. Sometimes he is depicted kneeling upon a Lotus blossom. He rests upon a yellow and blue base.
I’ll be making two lecture appearances this fall – and the first will be this Saturday at GreenSong Grove’s Samhain Festival. Make sure to click the link to register! Or you can write to them at Council@greensonggrove.org. Or give them a call at (727) 804-9370.
This year, I’ll be giving two lectures:
1) Secrets of the Girmoires:
Explore the history of the “Old Magick”, from anceint shamanic traditions, to the medieval Solomonic grimoires and into the modern occult revival. The Old Magick – a line separate from the Golden Dawn, Thelema and much of the modern Neopagan movement – has been a lost art in the West for hundreds of years. But now it’s coming back, and this lecture will explore how it got from its primordial origins to those of us following the same path today.
We will cover topics associated with famous grimoires such as the Key of Solomon the King, the Goetia, the Heptameron and the Book of Abramelin. We will disucss related systems of folk magick such as Witchcraft, Hexcraft and Hoodoo – as well as various African Traditional Religions. We will talk about the people and places that gave rise to the Solomonic grimoires, and we will talk about how the Old Magick is enjoying a massive resurgance in today’s occult communities.
Bring your thoughts, as this will be an open discussion!
2) The Old Magick in Today’s World (or ‘How to Make Your Magick Really Kick!’):
The term “Old Magick” is a blanket term to describe ancient and indigenous forms of occultism and folk magick around the world. Many cultures, such as those in the East, the Mid-East, Africa and South America preserved their old folk traditions even after Christiainity moved in. But here in the West, we lost touch with the Old Magick sometime around the Age of Enlightenment.
But the Old Magick isn’t gone from the West! It has survived in writings on tablets and parchment and early books. It has continued in New World folk practices like Hexcraft and Hoodoo. And it is currently enjoying a revival in today’s movements of Solomonic practice, conjuring, sorcery, etc.
Most students of magick are well versed in the material descended from the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner. But it has become more important than ever for us to look beyond these uniquely modern forms of occultism and revisit what the ancients knew. This class will talk about some aspects of the Old Magick that are sorely lacking in most modern traditions, and how we can incorporate the ancient secrets into what we are doing today. Take this class to heart, and watch your magickal results increase significantly!
At the moment I am unsure what times these lectures will be held, but they will both be given this Saturday, October 12. Come on out and enjoy a day of Samhain fun, and we can have a chat!
Stay tuned for the announcement of my next appearance (at Florida Pagan Gathering), in just a couple of weeks!
So James Clark has finally released some new artwork from the Essential Enochian Grimoire - and this time he’s drawing from the Neo-Enochian half of the book, where we find the Golden Dawn’s version of Enochian magick. And, in the Golden Dawn, they used Egyptian godforms as talismatic images to represent the “Truncated Pyramids” formed of the Watchtower squares:
Hathor – Goddess of Passion
Hathor is the Egyptian Goddess of Fertility and Passion – much like the Goddesses of neighboring countries: Astarte, Ishtar and Inanna. Also like these other Goddesses, Hathor is also a Goddess of War.
Egyptian mythos tells us of the time Hathor overheard some humans planning to assassinate her father Ra and overthrow his kingdom. In her rage, she assumed the form of the Eye of Ra (the disk of the Sun) and flew across the Earth burning and destroying everything in her path.
So complete was her destruction, the other Gods became afraid she would exterminate mankind for good. So, they quickly chose a valley in Hathor’s path and flooded it with beer dyed red to resemble blood.
Sure enough, when Hathor saw what appeared to be a lake of human blood, she waded in waist-deep and began to drink her fill. The beer eventually took effect and Hathor, her rage finally spent, fell into a deep sleep. What was left of mankind rejoiced at being spared, and learned to never again plot against mighty Ra.
In the above picture, we see Hathor as she appears in the Enochian system. (It’s a shame the Essential Enochian Grimoire couldn’t reproduce these images in full color!) She represents balanced WATER and EARTH. Two sides of her pyramid are Water (blue with orange characters) and two are Earth (black with white characters). Her image is of a woman wearing a blue and black dress, a blue pectoral collar and a black horned headdress. The headdress is surmounted by a blue disk and blue feathers. She carries a black ankh and blue lotus scepter and stands upon a black and blue base.
James really outdid himself on these Egyptian images. When Llewellyn first told me they wanted to have an artist re-draw the traditional GD Godforms, I was skeptical. I pictured some kind of modern fantasy-style depictions of the gods – which would have been nice, but would not have carried that “Golden Dawn” tone or feeling. Thankfully, James happens to have Golden Dawn experience, so he knew exactly how these images should look. I am proud to have these new images in my book – I have no doubt they will be used by practitioners again and again!
Thanks goes to Chic and Tabatha Cicero for lending me the original versions of these Godforms.
Great news for Abramelin aspirants!
Over the years, many students have privately emailed me to ask questions about magick – and one of the most common questions I am asked is “How do I use the talismans at the end of the Book of Abramelin?”
Unfortunately, that is not a question that can be answered so easily in a simple email or forum post. The Book of Abramelin contains a rather sophisticated system of goety – most of it scattered and hidden throughout the text so as to discourage dabblers. In order to explain it all in detail, it would be necessary to write a rather lengthy essay on the subject.
So, in 2009, that is exactly what I did. I wrote an essay entitled The Spirit-Magick of Abramelin that outlines the entire system – including how to summon and work with the spirits, how to create new word-square talismans and how to use them once they are made. I published it in an anthology from Scarlet Imprint called Diabolical – which focused on various traditions of working with demons. (My essay might have been the only one from the perspective of an angel-worker who also works with chthonic spirits.)
The only problem was that the hard-bound Diabolical – though an absolute must-have book – was a bit obscure and somewhat on the expensive side. Students continued to ask me about the Abramelin word-squares and spirits – and I’m not sure how many of them were willing (or able) to purchase the book just to get my essay from it…
Now we are fast approaching the year 2014, and I felt it was time to let the genie out of the bottle, so to speak, and release The Spirit-Magick of Abramelin in a more easily accessible format. Therefore, I have re-published the essay in the Autumnal Equinox 2013 edition of Hermetic Virtues Magazine (subscription info here.).
Hermetic Virtues Magazine
It is an electronic-format magazine, coming in PDF form directly to your in-box. If you don’t want to subscribe to the magazine (but, really, why wouldn’t you??), I’m pretty sure HV Magazine is willing to sell single-issue copies. So if you desire to learn how to properly work with the talismans and spirits of the Abramelin tradition, you now have an affordable and accessible source for my essay. Enjoy!
Special thanks to Jayne Gibson over at HV, who worked tirelessly to get the word-squares and other formatting issues with this essay exactly right. It was no easy task!
Also see my (free) essay on Abramlein’s Magickal Word Squares: Compiled and Corrected for the First Time. (This is just a taste of the work I’ve done on the existing word-squares, the bulk of which I will later publish in book form.)
Also see this blog post on Abramelin’s system of Mixed Qabalah. As well as this follow-up post on the same subject.
Finally, in the near future, keep an eye out for my latest essay that tackles the angelic side of Abramelin’s magick: After Abramelin: Working with the Holy Guardian Angel – to be published in Nephilim Press’ Walking with the Angel.
Greetings Angel Workers!
James is not only an accomplished graphical artist, but he also has practical knowledge of and experience with the subject matter. (That made working with him on these images *much* smoother. Not to mention it means he is as dedicated as I am to getting every detail just right.) The following is an image James is particularly proud of, from the upcoming Essential Enochian Grimoire:
The Seal of the True God.
“And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God ” [Rev 7:2]
The Seal of God appears in the Book of the Revelation of St. John, carried by an angel from God’s Kingdom (of Light in the East) to the Earth. It is then used to mark the foreheads of all the world’s faithful who serve the Light. (See Rev 7, and 9:4.) And this isn’t a religious concern, as even St. John clearly states the Seal was received by “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.” (Rev. 7:9). (The only catch was that 144 thousand Jewish guys got to receive it first.)
Personally, I suspect such a mark would be upon one’s aura – a spiritual mark. Consider the mark is places “in the forehead” in Revelation, the common location given for one’s “third eye” or psychic awareness.
The above Seal is probably familiar to most of you as the “Seal of Truth” – and Dee did refer to it by that term once or twice. However, its full and proper name is given in Dee’s journals as Sigillium Dei Emeth, which translates literally as “Seal God Truth.” In other grimoires that have versions of this Seal, it is called the “Seal of God.” Thus, I tend to refer to this image as the “Seal of the True God.” (However one could suggest other translations such as the “Seal of God’s Truth”, “Seal of the God (of) Truth” or even the “True Seal of God.” Plus “Seal” can also be “Signature”, so we get titles such as the “True Signature of God,”)
In any case, what you are seeing above is, in fact, a very unique image. Back in the old Enochian-L days (circa late 1990s), we dissected the numbers and letters of the Seal in minute detail – and we became aware of three problems in the available images of Dee’s Seal. The above image addresses these problems:
One appears to be a mistake (either of Dee’s or of some later copyist). A circumference character “y/15″ (see above) is rendered as “y/14″ in all published images of the Seal of the True God. The problem is that “y/14″ makes it impossible to decrypt the Angelic Name that contains that y. If you look on p. 103 of Joseph Peterson’s John Dee’s Five Books of Mystery, you’ll see the angels actually gave him “y/15″ (There is also a mathematical mystery having to do with the numbers in the Seal’s circumference that requires this to be 15.)
Interestingly, this letter is only used in the eighth “hidden” name Aborymon, which is associated with Antichrist and the End Times. (The name is likely related to Abaddon and Apollyon.) If one wanted to be completely ridiculous, one might even suggest it was a deliberate blind Dee introduced into the Seal so dabblers wouldn’t find Aborymon’s name…
The second and third problems were deliberate blinds on the part of Dee, so dabblers wouldn’t stumble onto Aborymon’s name. Really.
In most published versions of the Seal of the True God, you’ll find in the circumference a capital letter “A” without any numbers in its cell. That’s the first letter of Aborymon, and it doesn’t tell you where to go to find the next letter of the name. Dee originally recorded a “666″ in this cell, and noted that one was to move counterclockwise six spaces to find the next letter. Later, the Archangel Michael (in a vision) erased the “666″ in that cell to illustrate dominance over the Antichrist. Dee followed suit by leaving only the “A” on his own Seal. Most have followed suit, but a few practitioners are starting to put the “666″ back in place in order to repair the mathematical integrity of the circumference itself.
Finally, the last problem is a certain character “13/r” that also blocks the decryption of Aborymon. (This is why I suspect the “y/15″ was an honest mistake.) If you move thirteen spaces clockwise from “13/r”, it just takes you back to the capital “A” that started the name. However, this number 13 is necessary for that mathematical mystery I cryptically mentioned previously, so it has to stay. You just have to know that to decrypt Aborymon properly you have to remove the “1″ from “13″ and only move clockwise three spaces.
This image is really a joint effort of several people. First I drew up a sketch of a corrected Seal. Then Carrie Mikell took that sketch and turned it into something I could actually scan and submit to the publisher. (lol) James then had Carrie’s large and clear picture to work from to create the final version you see above.