Archive for the ‘religion’ Tag
Greetings Theurgists! (That is, Invokers of Angels and Gods)
I’m back from my trip to North Carolina, and getting caught up on my email, forums, blogs, etc, etc. During the catch-up process, I found that someone had posted an interesting question to my Solomonic forum. You can read it below, but in short it asks if there is really a difference between Pagan Gods and Angels, and how the answer to that might impact how one works with either. I felt you guys might find my answer of interest:
— In email@example.com, “Priest of Iset” wrote:
I was just re-reading “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires” to brush up on some basic skills and came across a statement in the book that I didn’t really pay attention to during my first reading and I was wondering if someone could elaborate a little more on this. Here is the page number and chapter. Ch.8 pg.241. It says, quote: “Theurgy literally means to ‘work with gods’, who are technically one and the same with angels.”
Upon reading this I was a little confused; does this mean that angels and gods are in the same hierarchy or does it mean that their functions and offices are the same. If either is correct, does this mean that you can build relationships with gods and goddesses in place of angels and get the same benefit? I am very open to opinions and interpretations.
Yes, Angels and Gods are essentially the same species of creature. “Angel” simply means “Messenger”, and they represent the same class of beings that were messengers, servitors, viziers, etc to ruling Gods in pagan pantheons. [I also should have added: Even in the Old Testament the angels were referred to as the "Sons of God", which mirrors other groups of Pagan Gods who were considered the "Sons of" or "Children of" a particular ruling Deity.]
Historically, many Angels descend directly from Gods. Michael (or more archaically: Mikhal) was an epithet of the Canaanite God of War and Plague Reshef. Reshef, in turn, migrated to Palestine from Mesopotamia, where we find him named Nergal – Lord of the Underworld and God of War and Plague.
Raphael has close connections to Hermes and Mercury. In their most ancient forms, Hermes and Mercury were closely associated with the underworld and sickness – and were therefore appealed to for healing. The occult symbolism of Raphael is undoubtedly Mercurial, but he is in fact the Healer of God.
In the Celtic lands, where the old Catholic Church was relatively “kinder and gentler” than it was in Europe, a great number of local Pagan deities became Saints and Archangels. Often, churches were built right on top of existing holy sites, and folks just went right on worshiping the God or Goddess (now called “Saint Whoever”) connected to that site.
Grab a copy of Gustav Davidson’s “A Dictionary of Angels” and read through the entries. You will quickly see how many Angels can be traced to older pagan deities.
Also, in practice, the methods of working with an Angel are no different than those for working with a God. Enter any Catholic or Orthodox Church in the world, and you will see several beautiful examples of altars to Saints (who include such as St. Michael, St. Raphael, St. Gabriel, etc). Those altars – that is the manner of making them – date back to altars for such deities as Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite, Isis, Osiris, Ammon, etc, etc, etc.
Likewise, the folk methods by which families set up household shrines to Saints and Archangels date right back to ancient methods by which household shrines were established for local Gods.
Along those same lines, the methods of working with Angels in the Solomonic tradition can be traced back (in part) to the methods used by the ancient Sabians to invoke Gods like Marduk, Sin, Ishtar, Nebo, Shamash, etc. Their methods were the basis of the Arabic Picatrix, which in turn became foundational to the European grimoire tradition.
And speaking of foundations of the grimoire tradition, the Greek Magical Papyri are another great example. Those spells are chock full of invocations to various Egyptian Gods, whose format were then adopted by the Solomonic mages to invoke their Angels and Archangels.
In the Medieval and Renaissance times, it was not uncommon for magickal literature to mention “the God Michael” or “the God Gabriel” right along side of “the God Hermes” and “the God Helios”, etc. I believe you can read more about this (with quoted examples, of course) in “The Golden Dawn Journal: Book II.” I’ll have to find the name of the exact essay.
[Another important point to add here: the Judeo-Christiain hierarchies of Angels include the "Elohim" or "Dominations" - who were regarded as composed of the National Gods of all nations - basically suggesting that *all* Pagan Gods were in fact Archangels and Angels all along. On the other side of the same coin, many branches of Christianity believe that all Pagan Gods were/are in fact fallen Angels. As an example of the latter, look at the Goetia. There we find 72 "fallen angels", many of whom trace back to Pagan Gods.]
So, as you can see, there is a pretty smooth transition in history from “God” to “Angel” – but they are essentially the same creature. The concept that they are somehow different is attached entirely to the erroneous concept that Judeo-Christianity is somehow “original” and “different” from the religions that preceded them. It is equally attached to the fallacy that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are “monotheistic.” All complete bullocks, of course.
Avete Fratres et Sorores!
So lately I’ve had this growing urge to seek membership in the S.R.I.America. And I recently found a blog written by a Jewish member of the S.R.I.A (he doesn’t say which branch) that inspired me to share my own thoughts here with you good folks.
For those who don’t know, the S.R.I.America is an irregular branch of the original S.R.I.Anglia – and more specifically of the S.R.I.Scotia. That’s a lot of initials to sort out, I know, but you can read more about these groups and their history here:
My interest lies mainly toward the “…in America” branch – which I called “irregular” because they broke away from the larger family when they decided to admit women and (therefore) non-Masons. I am, myself, a non-Mason so it’s really my only choice.
Why would I chose this particular route? Well, I’m sure it is in no small part because the founders of the original Golden Dawn – Westcott, Mathers and Woodman – were themselves members of the S.R.I.Anglia. In fact, all three of them held the position of Supreme Magus in that organization at different times.
My understanding is that they wished to put their Rosicrucian knowledge to practical (that is, magickal) use – but the S.R.I.A was mainly an academic society that studied Rosicrucianism as an historical curiosity. So, they created the Golden Dawn as a kind of “occult version” of what they were already doing in the S.R.I.A. The two Orders use similar Grade structures and terminology. But the Golden Dawn had an in-depth corpus of occult teaching and practice that the S.R.I.A itself wouldn’t touch. (That’s where the Cipher Manuscripts, the Theosophical Society, Anna Kingsford’s Hermetic Society and all of that stuff came into play.)
Another reason for my interest is surely because I happen to know the Supreme Magus (Imperatrix) of the current S.R.I.America – Tabatha Cicero. She’s a hell of a lady, I must say, and I’ve been most fortunate to have her (and her husband, Chic, of course!) as a teacher in the Golden Dawn for the past 15 years. It has been in the back of my mind for a long time now that she heads the S.R.I.America, and I’m very curious to know “what’s up” on that side of the fence.
I’m sure some of you must be thinking: “But, Aaron, you’re a famous Pagan. Why would you try (or even want) to join a Christian-only Order?”
Well, as for “trying” to join such an Order, I’ve seen no resistance at all from Mrs. Cicero to my proposed membership. In fact, she was quite pleased when I voiced my interest – and she knows very well my stance as a modern Pagan with Neo-pagan origins. In fact, she herself has an interest in Babylonian Paganism (as we can see in her Babylonian Tarot deck) – and that just so happens to be the ancient Paganism that most influenced my own path. (If you’ve known me long enough, you might just remember my early work with the Enuma Elish, the 50 Names of Marduk, the Seven Annunaki, etc. Before I joined the HOGD, I called regularly upon Marduk, Ishtar and the rest of those Gods more regularly than upon the Archangels.)
But I’m digressing… The second part of the above question deserves the closest consideration: why would a Pagan even wish to join a Christian Order? We’ll leave aside the above-illustrated fact that – as Christian Orders go – it’s pretty friendly to Pagans and Neo-pagans. More important is my own stance in regard to Christian ritual and symbolism. As a member of the Golden Dawn, I’ve already encountered my share of Christian-based symbolism. (Especially in the Inner Order.)
And, as a Solomonic mystic I’ve also delved deeply into esoteric Christian belief and practice. As I described in Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, some of the greatest teachings I received (aside from what I learned from the Santo Ochani Lele) came from a Russian Orthodox Priest named John. He was as instrumental in my ability to make sense of the grimories as Ochani was. In fact, it was John from whom I obtained my Solomonic censor – it having been used for several years in his Orthodox Christian ceremonies, several of which I had attended myself.
Yep – you heard me right. I attended several of John’s masses. I received his blessings. I bowed down and touched my head to the floor when the name GOD was sung in the Psalms. I took the Holy Communion from him. And all this while I was a practicing Wiccan!
I have always said that religious “hang ups” are a burden one should strive to eliminate from one’s mind and spirit. The Divine is not found in any single place or tradition. It is found as surely in Christianity, Judaism and Islam as it is found in Wicca, all forms of Paganism, Shamanism, Sorcery, the Golden Dawn, Masonry and everywhere else human beings have sought it. And you should be able to enter any Church, any Synagogue, any Mosque, any magickal Circle, any Lodge, any sacred space of any kind and experience the Divine. You should be able to visit these places, participate in their ceremonies and mean it with all your heart.
If you find yourself in these places and are repelled by their symbols and the names they use for God, then the problem lies within you – not them. I understand that some of us have had bad experiences with so-called followers of many mainstream religions. But we’re not talking about them here. They don’t represent God or Goddess no matter how much noise they make. You should be able to look past them to the faith they claim to represent.
This is what the Golden Dawn means when its ceremonies say “Hold all religions in reverence, for there is none but contain a ray of the Divine Light which you seek,” That’s not something to which you should just pay lip-service. It is a profound Truth – and it is something each of us must strive to achieve.
So, folks, go out there and participate in a Mass. Attend a Passover meal. Dance naked to the beat of drums around the bonfire. Vibrate words of power. Discuss mathematics and physics with atheists. Seek the Truth from each and every source you can find – because the Truth can only be found through all of them together, not by restricting yourself to just one tiny part of the Truth.
As for me, I think I’ll go see what these S.R.I.A folks have to teach. It’ll be fun.
In LVX and BB
Greetings Occult Navigators!
Ok, so there seems to be a bit of a stir going on over a recent post made on the Strategic Sorcery Blog, where Jason Miller lists five trends in modern occultism that he thinks need to be overcome or otherwise laid to rest. Rufus Opus had a few thoughts about it on the Head For the Red Blog. And even Morgan Eckstein links to it and adds a sixth trend that he wants to see die a painful death.
Because this list of five “gravity wells” happens to touch on a couple of subjects near and dear to me, I felt I should weigh in with my own thoughts. So, let’s begin by taking a look at the five issues:
1) The Holy Guardian Angel as a magickal prerequisite.
2) The Goetia as the be-all and end-all of goetia.
3) Wicca bashing.
4) Quantum Physics as “proof” of magick.
5) System Hubris – or “my system can beat up your system.”
I’ll just run down this list one by one:
1) The HGA: Jason’s problem here is not with the concept of the HGA. It is with a trend he is seeing that seems to make gaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel some kind of requirement for the practice of magick.
Frater RO takes it in a different direction. He doesn’t see a trend that requires one to make contact with the HGA so much as a trend toward over-blowing the entire concept of the HGA itself.
To be honest, I have to agree with RO on this one. I don’t really believe that anyone out there who uses magick without the HGA feels that they are getting no results because of it. What I do see is people treating the Abramelin Operation as some kind of ultimate initiation into Adepthood - something that can only be attempted by the most advanced and powerful mages, and which will result (if you survive) in the elevation of the individual to a godlike and ascended status.
That is complete bullshit, folks. If you read the Book of Abramelin itself, you will see that it was written by Abraham the Jew for his son Lamech as an introduction to the practice of magick! That’s right, it is intended for beginners. And, Abraham states very clearly in the text that achieving it will not make you an adept. It is only by working diligently with the HGA over a long period of time that one will eventually achieve adpethood in the practice.
Yet, for all of that, I was recently attacked on my own Solomonic forum at Yahoo because I stated that I commune with my Holy Guardian Angel (nearly) every Sunday morning. My telling the young lass all of the above didn’t change her tune. My quoting the Book of Abramelin where Abraham gives the instructions for communing with your Angel every Sabbath didn’t even change her opinion. She, sadly, was among the many who view Abramelin as a one-off summoning ceremony. She angrily insisted that contacting the HGA takes six months (or a year and a half) and thus there was no way I could be doing it every Sunday morning. Besides, if I had contact with my HGA as I claim, then certainly I wouldn’t be tooling around down here with the unascended plebes.
So, yeah, Frater RO is right when he sees the concept of the HGA being overblown. The HGA is not your Higher Self. Contacting it does not mean you have attained the Ultimate Magickal Goal and can therefore leave the Earth-plain behind in your own chariot of fire. And, I should add, merely making contact with the HGA is not the same as gaining “knowledge” of that Angel.
As for Jason’s gripe against viewing the HGA as a magickal prerequisite – I have to admit I am a bit on the fence. First – hell no, it is not a prerequisite for magick in the larger picture. However, I do feel that Western magick has long ignored the concept of gaining a Head Spirit to be your primary go-to entity for your magickal practice. (Much as I think we have ignored ancestor work, magickal offerings and other very ancient aspects of magickal practice for too long.) I believe we all need to consider these concepts very carefully, and I fully support the trends that are developing to bring them back into our “occulture.” Where the Santerians have their Saints/Orishas, and various grimoires have their Gatekeeper spirits and even the PMG have their Agathodaemon, I feel that Abramelin provides us with a solid method of establishing one’s Head Spirit rooted firmly in our Western heritage.
But, Jason is right when he says that you shouldn’t think gaining “K&C of the HGA” is the one and only way you’ll ever find success in your magick. It is ONE way, but not the only way. Even Abraham said there were only five or six people in the world who have attained the goal. I would say there are a few more today – but, still, consider that for every ten people you meet who say they’ve done it, one – maybe two – have actually done so.
2) The Goetia: Jason is right, the Goetia (the book) is fairly overblown today. But, I don’t think I have such a problem with that as Jason does. He’s sick of hearing about it, and I can dig that. But it’s a popular book.
Meanwhile, I have to point out that “the Goetia” is not the be-all and end-all of the practice called “goetia.” Goetia is a vast subject matter. It is not about the summoning of a list of 72 demons from hell. It is, in fact, a broad system of magick by which one works with chthonic entities. (That means Underworld entities – some infernal, some not, some lesser spirits and not a few of them Gods.) If you work with Demeter and Persephone, or with Angels such as Cassiel, or with Osiris, or use the Orphic Hymns or the Psalmic “lamentations” – you’re working goetia. Likewise, if you work with Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub and Belial – you are also working goeita even if you’re not using the book called The Goetia.
If any of the above shocks you in the least, then you need to run out and find yourself a copy of Jake Kent’s Geosophia and his The True Grimoire. You will come away with a better understanding of the subject of goetia, and with a better understanding of the magick you are already using. ‘Nuff said.
3) Wicca Bashing: Ok so Wicca has had its problems. During the latter half of the 20th Century it was a bit co-opted by the Self-Help movement. I once had a seeker (back in the 90s) write to me and say that the Wiccan ceremonies he had attended felt more like a support group meeting than an actual magickal ritual. And, I fear I had to agree with him.
Plus, Wicca was also co-opted by the mass media. From Llewellyn’s endless publication of fluff material, to Buffy and Charmed, to movies like Practical Magic (Sandra Bullock – yummy!) and The Craft, Wicca did seem to have had its soul sucked out by modern commercialism.
However, I can’t entirely knock the fact that Wicca went mainstream. When I first started on my path, I was a Wiccan. And even then (early 90s) it was still dangerous to be a witch. You could lose your job, your home and even your children. You could be physically attacked. But after the movement’s heyday in the last decade of the 20th Century – that is after Buffy, after The Craft, after Harry Potter – being a witch finally became “ok.” Maybe you were weird, but you were no longer “a dangerous cultist who doubtlessly abused children and small animals.” This applied not only to Wiccans, but to witches of various types. That was a Good Thing.
But we were still left with the overall impression that Wicca was for fluffy-bunnies, self-help New Agers and overweight teenage girls looking to shock their parents. (I have no clue why “overweight” got tossed in there – have you seen some of the skinny girls running around half-naked at Pagan festivals?? But I digress…)
For my part, I have always felt that this was an unfair characterization of Wicca. Just take the time to read through the Farrars’ Witches Bible, and you will find a deep and fully-formed Tradition of spirituality. Read through Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler and you will discover that Wicca and Neopagansim – as a movement - has a fascinating and diverse history. And, personally, I think you should also read Future Shock and The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler while you’re at it. He doesn’t mention Wicca or Neopaganism, but he describes fundamental changes taking place in our culture for which Neopagansim is quite well suited. (Look for the term “demassification” and think about how it applies to religion, and how Neopaganism fits the bill as a demassified religion.)
For my part, I once wrote an essay called The Neogan Altar – Shamanic Paradigm – wherein I presented the standard Neopagan usage of the Altar from the standpoint of ancient shamanism. My goal was to point out that Wicca, in many ways, fit the bill as a form of modern shamanism – having arisen quite naturally in our modern Western culture. I had intended to follow this essay with other “Shamanic Paradigm” essays illustrating further aspects of Wicca and Neopaganism in this light. Alas, my writing career took me in other directions – but perhaps I will someday return to the subject and complete the series.
All in all, I am quite proud to have begun my magickal career as a Wiccan – no matter how far I have since delved into the grimoires and the Golden Dawn. So, yeah, I agree the Wiccan bashing has run its course and – in many ways – is entirely based on ignorance. (See #5 in this list.)
4) Quantum Physics: I agree with Jason and Frater RO. For a very long time people have been conflating magick with the theories of Quantum Physics. Not only are they not saying the same things at all, but those who make the connection most often do not understand the first thing about QP. It is simply that when QP is dumbed down for presentation to us non-physicists, it can sound an awful lot like magick. I refer you to the famous Arthur C. Clark quote about advanced science often appearing like magick…
Yet, I will also play a bit of devil’s advocate here. While I do not feel QP and magick are one and the same, nor do I feel that QP helps explain or prove anything about magick, I still find the subject matter a worthwhile one for practitioners of magick. Much in the same way I feel that psychology and NLP are useful studies for magiciains. It is not that they are the same thing at all, but I feel that the modern scientific studies can inform our views of magick. (Plus, I tend to see science as a kind of magick or mysticism in its own right.)
Understanding that everything in the universe is formed from different vibrations of energy is useful when you’re contemplating magick. Understanding that there are various dimensions – only one of which we can easily perceive with our five senses – is useful, too. Understanding Chaos Theory (systems, feedback and iteration) is very very useful in the study of magick. Even String Theory, Schrodinger’s Cat and the postulation of parallel universes – all of these examples and many more are good things to think about when you’re studying magick.
It remains true, though, that you should consider them as separate studies than the art and science of magick. They are not “the same thing” at all.
5) System Hubris: I don’t have too much to say on this one. It seems to be something humans have always done, and will always do. In the classical era, the city-dwelling Theurgists swore their magick was “better” than what the Goen practiced in the rural areas. The Christians, Jews and Muslims swore (and still swear) their religions are “better” than the Pagan ones. Ceremonial magicians swear their systems are “better” than Wicca and Neopaganism. Solomonic magicians swear their chosen grimories are “better” than the grimoires used by other Solomonic magicians. The list could just go on and on and on ad nauseum.
And it is all part of the same chain of childish bullshit. The phrase “There is nothing new under the Sun” was written a few thousand years ago – and it is as true today as it was back then. Your system isn’t any better than all the rest – it just happens to be better for YOU. What you found works best for you is what we refer to as a Calling.
If the African Orishas called you, then Santeria is going to work better for you than anything else. If the Angels and spirits of the grimoires called you, then Solomonic magick is going to kick ass over all the rest. If the Angels of the Tree of Life called you, then the Qabalah is your thing. If the Lord and Lady called you, then I guess you’re stuck with Wicca. Every magician, every witch, every shaman, every man or woman of God/Gods/Goddess/etc. of any brand whatsoever was called to their post by their own spiritual guides and guardians.
This is simply something over which you do not have free will. You’re either called, or you’re not. If you’re not called to a path, then that path isn’t going to lead you anywhere. If you are called to a path, then you’re either going to go that way (even if it’s kicking and screaming) or you might as well lay down your wand and give up your quest.
Sure, you can be called by more than one system. I was called to Wicca. (One of my earliest spiritual experiences was of the Goddess walking beside me in a dream, whispering in my ear, “Blessed are thy feet that have brought thee in the way. Blessed are thy knees that shall kneel at the sacred altar. Blessed…” well you get the idea.) Then I was called to the Qabalah and Golden Dawn work. Then the Grimoires called out to me. Even the Gods of Santeria and Voodoo called out to me – not to come join them, but that they had something they wanted to teach me. But, regardless of when or how I was called, I was called to each and every path I’ve walked. And so have you been.
I was recently a guest on an episode of the ‘Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole’ Podcast. We talked for about an hour (on the air – and about as long off the air afterward!) and had an absolute blast. We discussed Solomonic magick and its place in the current occult revival, its relationship to the African-Caribbean Diaspora traditions (Santeria, Voodoo, Hoodoo, etc) and about grimoire magick in general.
Check out the Podcast here.
I can’t wait to hang out with those guys again soon. ;) I believe the topic will be Enochian magick and the Angelical Language.
A member of the Conjure Corner forums asked for some historical facts about the figure of Satan. The timing is interesting as I am currently doing some work with the Abramelin system of spirit magick. Thus, I decided to put several obscure bits of theological history into one post – and why not archive it here too? So if you’ve ever wondered about that Satan guy, here you go:
Here are some historical facts you will find very fascinating.
- The name Satan comes from the Hebrew Sathan - which means “accuser” or “adversary.” You see, the Israelite people adopted many aspects of Babylonian culture, both before and during the Captivity (about 600 BCE). The Babylonians, meanwhile, are the folks who created the system of law that we use to this very day – including the concept of the prosecuting attorney. This prosecutor’s job was (then, as it is now) to stand in the royal court and bring formal charges against those accused of crimes. And since Babylonian cosmology assumed the heavens worked just like earthly courts, they assumed the Gods sat around in the same kind of court setting – judging the fates of humans. You can see this in the first known record of “Satan” – the Book of Job. There, we meet haSathan (the accuser) hanging out in the Court of God, BS-ing back and forth with the Big Guy Himself. Not only that, but he is quite comfortable with contradicting God and placing bets with Him over the true faithfulness of a human being. What Job reveals is that Satan (or haSathan – his job title) is not in rebellion against God at all, but merely doing the job appointed to him.
-The Jews understood that haSathan was just a title. They believed the name of the entity depicted in the Book of Job was Samael – the poison of God. Samael was not in open rebellion against God, but still firmly in his employ. Most anciently, he seems to have been an Angel of Death (especially violent and untimely death). In the Qabalah and the grimoires that borrowed from it, Samael became the Angel of Mars and Gevurah – thus making him the Angel of War. There are Hebrew midrashim (legends) that suggest Samael once refused to bow down to Adam (the Image of God), and was thus punished. These legends were likely adopted from similar Arabic myths. For his refusal (which was based on his love for God and refusal to worship a mere image) he was cast down to earth and sentenced to serve the roles of Angel of Death and (thanks to his understandable beef with humans) as haSathan. He took his punishment, and does the jobs he was assigned. But he was still a big wig in God’s Court, as illustrated by the Book of Job.
-Lucifer was originally a Roman deity of Venus. Lucifer Morningstar was the herald of the light of dawn. Meanwhile, in ancient Canaan we find the God of Venus is named Helel Ben Shakhar (Helel, Son of the Dawn). Apparently, there is an obscure Canaanite myth wherein Helel attempts to rise up and take the Throne of the Rising Sun from his father Shakhar. He fails and is cast down. Basically, the entire tale is an embodiment of the fact that Venus is the brightest star in the night sky, rises in the East just before the Sun and is finally the *last* star in the sky to fade out in the dawn light. In this sense, the Sun must “defeat” Venus each morning in order to successfully rise. (Which reminds me of the Egyptian Apophis, a serpent-monster that had to be overthrown by Re’s army each and every morning in order for the sun to rise.)
In the book of Isaiah (chapter 14), the prophet makes a comparison between Helel and the king of Babylon, when he says of the Babylonian king, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Helel, Son of the Morning!” Later, the Bible was translated into Latin, and the translator merely looked for a Latin translation of the name “Helel.” He found “Lucifer”, and thus the Lucifer-as-Satan myth was born. The casting down of Helel by his father Shakhar was transformed into the famous tale of Michael (Archangel of the Sun) casting Lucifer down from heaven. Lucifer even takes the form of a dragon very similar to the Egyptian Apophis (which is interesting considering the Egyptian origins of early Christianity).
-The typical “horned and hoofed” image of Satan didn’t come along until the medieval era. The Catholic Church was by then a massive political force in hot competition with any other religion or Mystery Cult it encountered. The Greek and Roman Pagan Mysteries were certainly a target, and so the image of Pan was adopted and demonized as the image of “Satan.” Pan represented everything the Christian Priesthood stood against – sex, drugs, parties, hedonism and pleasure. Pan represents everything that is still animal about the human animal, and his cult encourages a proper ritualized indulgence in that part of ourselves. The Church surely had a hard time stealing members from that cult – so they demonized its followers and invented stories of witch gatherings who worship and have sex with a horrible goat-demon. The Devil was born – and over the years would become associated with all things vile and horrible about humans (violence, rape, torture, etc).
UPDATE: Unfortunately, I skipped a rather important aspect of Satan’s origin story when I first posted this blog. Several of you wrote to me and pointed that I had forgotten about the god Saturn in my analysis. Well, I can’t agree that Saturn – or Chronos in Greek – has much of anything to do with the figure of Satan. (He has more to do with the image of Thanatos, or Death.) However, I also suspect some confusion may have been made between Saturn – the god of Time – and the god Pluto (or Hades in Greek) – the Lord of the Underworld.
Much of the imagery we associate with Satan as the God of the Underworld comes to us from Hades. Take a look at this image of Hades, with his two-pronged pitchfork in hand and cerberus lying at his feet. That is the origin of Satan, ruler of Hell. In Greek mythology, Hades is one of three brothers who possess the world: Zeus who rules the sky and carries a single-pointed spear or thunderbolt, Poseidon who rules the sea and carries a three-pronged harpoon, and Hades who rules the earth (up top and below) and carries the two-pronged pitchfork. Thus, Hades is intimately connected with nature and its seasonal cycles, as well as with underwold concepts such as the dead, treasure and occult initiation.
When we consider this, the Christian concept of Satan as “God of this world” begins to make more sense. He not only rules in Hell – but notice that the grimoires quite often invoke him as the ruler of the natural world as well. Such as we see in the Book of Abramelin – where all the lesser spirits of nature are classed under the authority of Lucifer, Leviathan, Satan and Belial. (This is likely a break-down into astrological triplicity – Fire, Water, Air and Earth respectively.)
Sadly, the Church tended to see anything associated with nature as evil – as evidenced by its demonization of Pan. The same happened with Hades/Pluto, so that the once-venerated Lord of the Underworld became the feared and despised demonic Satan. Still, the grimoires do seem to preserve some of the older concepts – focusing on Satan in his Hades/Pan aspect as ruler of nature.
-As for Satanists: The actual ‘Church of Satan’, founded by Anton LaVey, is strictly atheist. They view the Church (and in fact all religion and spirituality) as a major historical enemy of humankind. They also realize that Satan (as the Devil/Pan) embodies many things that are natural and beautiful to the human animal. Therefore, they elevate Satan as a fitting symbol of opposition to everything Christianity (as a political force of mass control) has done to the world. They do not believe in any actual entity by that name, nor in God, etc. Even their witchcraft is strictly of the psychological type.
There was once a sub-group of Satanists who believed in an actual entity named Satan. They assumed that Satan traces back to Egyptian concepts of the War God Set (which is only partially true), and thus began to worship Satan as the ancient Egyptian deity. This caused a row in the Church of Satan, as atheism is a strict rule of the Church. So the group broke away and established the Temple of Set. I think they draw a lot from Crowley’s Thelemic material.
-I assume there are also true “Satanists” – that is, those who worship the Christian Satan *as* the embodiment of evil and hatred, etc, etc – but I’m not personally aware of any official groups. To my knowledge, most of these types are teens (either alone or in small groups) looking to freak out their parents and teachers. lol
-Finally, there is also a Luciferian tradition – about which I know little. However, I’m fairly certain the tradition refers to the original Roman deity Lucifer Morningstar, the perfectly benevolent Herald of the Dawn. Someone else might correct me here, but I think they associate Lucifer with other figures like Prometheus (who brought fire to mankind from heaven).
Greetings, faithful seekers!
It is January 6th, and the Feast of Epiphany (or Three Kings’ Day) is upon us. It is the official end of the 12-day period (Dec 25th – Jan 5th) that is properly called “Christmas.” (Remember the song? “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”) It is also a commemoration of the visit of the Three Magi (otherwise known as the Three Wise Men or Three Kings) to the birthplace of Jesus. There was a time when Three Kings Day itself was as culturally important as Christmas – and even today children in some countries are taken to the mall to visit the Three Kings rather than Santa. (After all, these bringers of gifts to children are quite a bit older than ol’ Saint Nick.)
The story of these three wizards includes much to interest anyone studying occult subjects. To get us started, let me share a riddle about the Three Magi that I posted on my Facebook page a few days ago:
The Three Magi of the Bible were from Chaldea, far to the east of Bethlehem. Tradition has these men traveling across the desert, following a star visible “in the east” toward the birthplace of Jesus. How could that have led them *westward* toward Israel?
The answers I got were varied and fascinating, though for the sake of brevity I won’t include all of them here. I will, however, give the answer I provided a day later:
The Three Magi were Zoroastrian Priests, and as such were expert astrologers. They cast a horoscope for Israel and found a star ascending on the eastern side of the chart- it could have been a star or planet- that indicated a new king was to be born there. Thus, the “Star in the East” the Magi were following was on an astrological chart. (The image of the Magi following a light that hovered directly over the manger- as described in Matthew- is cute but inaccurate.)
Given that Jesus was more likely born sometime in March, we can assume the Magi had been casting horoscopes for the coming Spring Equinox. (In Chaldea, Spring Equinox was the start of the new year.) Exactly what they found ascending in the East when they cast a chart for Israel is debatable – it could have been Jupiter, or even a new star appearing/discovered in the sky. Whatever it was, the Magi felt it indicated that Israel was about to get a new king. They made on official diplomatic visit to Israel to congratulate King Herod on his newborn heir, only to find out that he *had* no heir. Only then did the Magi realize their grave mistake and sought out the birthplace of Jesus to warn his family to evacuate before Herod’s men arrived. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is interesting, but it leaves one questioning the point of it all: Why do these men play such an important role in the birth of Jesus? And what do they have to do with occultism?
The answer is that they were Zoroastrian Priests, and that happened to be the world’s dominant religion at the time. If the people were going to accept Jesus as the Messiah and the rightful heir to the Throne of Israel, then he needed an endorsement from the Priests of the world’s largest religion. If these guys accepted Jesus as the Son of God, then who else could say otherwise? (It would be much like the Pope today declaring- officially- that a newly born Buddhist child is the second coming of Christ. It would shake the political world of Catholicism to its foundations.)
Image of C+M+B 2011 over my front door.
Of course, Jesus never did take the Throne of Israel away from the Romans, but the legends about his birth, life and death persist to this day. And the legend of the visit of the “Three Kings” has grown in its own way. For one example, there exists a folk tradition of using chalk to inscribe the initials of the Magis’ names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) over the front door of one’s home on Jan. 6th, along with the year and crosses to separate the letters:
C + M + B
I have also seen this format at least once:
20 + C + M + B + 11
This not only invokes the protection of the Three Magi specifically, but the letters are also interpreted to stand for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” (Christ Bless this House).
We also find the Three Kings playing a vital role in the 6th and 7th Books of Moses. Therein, the Laws of Entrance (that is, the preparations for performing the primary Rite outlined in the book) require one to ritually purify oneself over a thirteen day period – including Christmas day itself and ending on Epiphany. On Jan. 6th, one must complete the process by attending a Mass of the Three Kings. Later, the book also calls for the use of “Three Kings Holy Water” – which is likely holy water consecrated during the Mass of the Three Kings itself. Finally, when the magick is performed, the names of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar are invoked directly.
The above information is thanks to Joseph Peterson who, in his edition of the 6th and 7th Books…, clears up a rather obscurely-worded passage. The book says that one must prepare oneself for 13 days, ending with the “holy sacrament of the Three Kings.” For generations, Hoodoo practitioners have supposed this “holy sacrament” indicated that one should bring a gift to the ritual, just as the Three Kings had brought symbolic gifts to the infant Jesus. This interpretation has actually become “traditional” among those who use the grimoire. However, Peterson rightly assigns the “holy sacrament of the Three Kings” to the Mass of the Epiphany itself. Then, counting back 13 days lands us directly on December 25th. Kudos to Joseph for clearing up that small, yet obviously important, technical detail for us.
BTW – if any of you out there are currently undertaking these 13 days of purification in order to work with the Books of Moses, I’d love to hear about your experiences with the magick.
It is no surprise to me that the Three Magi should hold such an important place in magickal Bible lore. The Zoroastrian Magi are where we derive our modern words “magic”, “mage” and “magician.” In the time and place of the New Testament, these Priests were the embodiment of the concept of “the wizard” – much as the Egyptians had been before them, and as the Jewish people would become in the Middle Ages. Thus, the role of the Three Magi is akin to those of Moses, Solomon, Simon Magus and others who employed the arts of magick in the Biblical context – and whose names would therefore be invoked by the mages who followed them for millenia to come.
Apr 24, 2010
A good friend of mine just sent me an email asking my opinion about all of this Muhammad on South Park BS. He stated that he has always tried to keep an open mind about the religious views of others, but that Islam was really beginning to grate on his last nerve. I can grok where he is coming from. But… well here is part of what I said to him in reply:
Well the problem isn’t really Islam – just like it isn’t Christianity, Judaism or any other religion. The problem, in all cases, are whack-o religious fundamentalists. People like that are NOT “faithful” or “spiritual” people. For them, religion is a weapon to use against others, and to force people to bow to their control.
This goes hand-in-hand with my assertion that there has NEVER been a religious war on this planet. Not once in all of recorded history have I found an example of one nation/people going to war over how another nation/people choose to worship. Or who they choose to worship.
No, the so-called “religious wars” that have raged and currently rage around the world are ALL about politics and power. Religion is just the excuse used by war-mongers to drum the people into accepting the war. Again – for them religion is a weapon. (Ever read the “Dune” series by Frank Herbert? How about “The Prince” by Machiavelli? If not, do so!)
So, no, I don’t think Islam is the problem. There are *millions* of Muslims in the world who just live their lives and worship as they choose and leave it at that. We can’t paint them with the same brush we should paint the “religious authorities” of the Muslim nations, who use religion as a social-engineering tool. The same goes for faithful Jewish people vs. the State of Israel. And the same goes here in America for Christians vs. the “Christian Right.”
Religious authorities have never and will never have a damned thing to do with God.
I ended with some choice words about how much I cared if Muslims were offended by South Park’s depiction of Muhhamad, nor about anyone being offended by anyone else’s religious satire. But the words I used aren’t suitable for a blog that kids might read. lolol