Greetings, Faithful Readers!
Since I got caught up in the blogosphere, I’m afraid I’ve been sorely neglecting my old Writings webpage. (How old is it, you ask? Check the link below and you’ll see the URL is called “indexaol.html” – because it was originally my old AOL homepage! LOL Now it’s on Tripod, where it has been for what seems like eons…) That is where you can read most of my published essays and book reviews, listen to/read my interviews, find links to my books, etc.
Today, I finally took the time to do a massive update to the page – bringing the list of published material pretty much up to date. I think I included everything that has been lacking – but if you know of anything I’ve missed, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
Some time ago, I was given a beautiful signed copy of Avalonia’s The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet: a 17th Century London Cunning-man’s Book of Charms, Conjurations and Prayers, edited by David Rankine. With several writing projects and public events to get through this year, it has taken me some time to finish the book and gather my notes for a proper review. Yet, I feel this book is important enough for me to return to it and share what I have found.
So, why do I feel this book is so important? Even better, you may be asking, why should you be interested in the obscure personal grimoire of some guy whose name you’ve never heard before? The answer to both questions is the same, and it comes in two parts. First, I will discuss who Arthur Gauntlet was and then I will discuss the particular treasure his grimoire contains.
Many of you may know that I have described Solomonic magick as a form of “urban shamanism.” Some have taken exception to my use of the term “shamanism” to describe a system of occultism that arose among city-dwelling Christians in the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Most readers, on the other hand, have understood that my use of the term was based on a strict definition of “shamanism” as a social role. In this sense, a shaman is a person who operates outside of Church or Temple authority, and serves his or her community as a liaison between common folk and the realm of spirits. They act as healers and exorcists, and perform spells for day-to-day needs: such as love, money, jobs, friendship, favor with authority figures, finding lost items, divination of the future, etc.
Based on that definition, I have contended that Solomonic mages have historically served the functions of the shaman for their communities. While modern wizards have a tendency to lock themselves away in private and work magick for their own needs, the stereotypical wizard of the past offered his services – usually for a fee – to the laypersons of his town or village. (Much as we see with local cunning men and women and folk magicians even today.)
The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet is a wonderful illustration of this very paradigm. Arthur Gauntlet was a physician of the early seventeenth century, living in a time when medicine still included the use of astrology, magickal talismans and images, and incantations alongside the mundane applications of herbal remedies and tinctures. He moved in circles we would today consider occult – knowing such men as William Lilly, William Laud and possibly even Alias Ashmole (who ended up in possession of Gauntlet’s grimoire and claimed to recognize the man’s handwriting). He also employed a skryer named Sarah Skelhorn, who worked with him until 1636 – the possible time of his death.
Without a doubt, Arthur Gauntlet offered his services – both as a healer and a magician – to his community. And what we have in his grimoire is a practicing wizard’s working notebook – not merely a manuscript intended for mass publication as we find in many of the more common grimoires (i.e. the Key of Solomon the King or the Lemegeton). Instead, The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet falls in the category of a true receipt book – a record of the spells and charms and occult wisdom of a Solomonic mage and healer actively plying his trade.
We can easily see the practical nature of this grimoire by looking at the included material along with the order in which it is recorded:
– On the very first pages we find general instructions for all magick as taught by Ptolemy and Cyprian.
– Following these are the preliminary prayers to God and Psalms for defense and success in all matters, as well as conjurations against all evil spirits, that Dr. Gauntlet was likely to have used at the start of any magickal or healing operation. These include a prayer “for thy Genius” – showing that Dr. Gauntlet understood the importance of invoking his Patron or Guardian Angel at the start of any magickal work.
– Next, we find several charms that, I wager, were used by Dr. Gauntlet somewhat early in his career. (Later sections of the grimoire will contain a larger number and greater variety of such charms.) In this section, we find charms for protection, making spent money return and one for healing a person sick with “worms in his body.”
– Following these are the “49 Aphorisms” copied entirely from the Arbatel of Magic. This is the first of many inclusions from more popular grimoires, showing that Dr. Gauntlet was always on the look out for occult manuscripts to further his own understanding of the magickal arts.
– Next we find a rather lengthy section dedicated to the evocation of angels into a shewstone – several examples of which include the use of a child skryer. (This was a common feature of Solomonic magick, though we know that Gauntlet employed an adult woman for this purpose.) After the instructions given for summoning the angels, several sets of instructions are given for employing the angels for various purposes: discovering theft, finding hidden treasure, curing sickness, obtaining prophecy, returning lost cattle, returning runaway servants and children, and defense against witchcraft.
This section continues with alternate methods of summoning angels for yet further purposes – such as protection, theft, love and pleasures of the flesh.
– Next we find another inclusion from a popular grimoire: this time from the Heptameron. Included are the instructions for creating a magickal circle, exorcism of the fire, information about the garment and pentacle (including several versions of such a pentacle), and the full evocation ceremony – complete with the “considerations” and conjurations for the angels and spirits of every day of the week.
– Following all of this is a lengthy section of text drawn from the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy – teaching general occult philosophy, characters and forms of spirits, creation of sigils and talismans, books of spirits, evocation, obtaining oracles, etc.
– Then we find several sets of instructions for binding spirits to crystals, and the skrying of the same.
– Next are several experiments of necromancy or summoning the spirits of the dead. The most lengthy of these operations will be of much interest to any of you have have read Jake Stratton-Kent’s Geosophia, because it involves conjuring the spirit of a recently deceased person to go and fetch a fairy named “Sibilia” – who is apparently one of the Sybils (Oracles) of Greek history and myth.
– This is followed, surprisingly, with an elaborate ceremony for summoning “Sathan” (aka Satan) for the purpose of divination upon any subject whatsoever. This is apparently based on the philosophy that Satan is the “god of this world” and should therefore know everything that happens within it. This section ends with the spirit-curses found in many Solomonic texts for entities that are disobedient.
– The following section includes instructions for making and consecrating a magickal wand – the only magickal tool that Dr. Gauntlet seems to have used in his work. (No swords or knives are mentioned.)
– Then we find a section of recipes for incenses appropriate to each planet and zodiac sign. An interesting point here is the fact that all of the planetary perfumes are to be made into “pills” – or small rolled balls. These are created by mixing the powdered plant materials with blood – and in each case the blood is taken from an animal sacred to the planet itself. Such as bat blood for Saturn, that of a white rooster for Sol, that of a goose for Luna, etc.
– The next section might be thought of as a companion to the Sibilia conjuration. This time, the conjuration is for a spirit named “Oberion” – who is obviously the King of Fairies Oberon. It is interesting to note that this ritual also includes an invocation of the “Kaberion”, who are likely the Kabiri of ancient Greek mythos.
– Next we find a section dedicated to various Psalmic charms that Dr. Gauntlet likely used and prescribed in his practice. These are similar to those found in Use of the Psalms or the Book of Gold. They include charms for healing weakness (exhaustion? consumption? fatigue?), protection from demons, easing colic in infants, gaining honors, eloquence, healing sickness and injury, aiding childbirth, overcoming accusations, discovering theft, exorcising demons, protection of children, stopping bleeding, cramps, curing epilepsy, etc., etc.
This same section continues with more charms that do not depend on Psalms, but instead upon characters, herbs, magickal images and the like. Their purposes are more of the same we have seen – such as the curing of several specific injuries and diseases. Among these are seven “images” (actually more like talismans) attributed to the seven days of the week – and therefore the seven planets – fashioned from different metals and alloys. Each is attributed to a particular effect – such as binding tongues, creating discord or love between couples, etc.
This final section of charms is very lengthy – apparently representing bits of useful magickal lore Dr. Gauntlet acquired along the course of his career. I suspect he would have gone right on expanding this last section indefinitely throughout his lifetime.
Overall, we can see clearly in the above a notebook that would have been in use by an active practitioner of the art – specifically one offering his services to others in his community. The arrangement of the text even gives us a clue into how Dr. Gauntlet went about his ritual process – starting with his preliminary prayers and invocations and the methods by which he (and his skryer) made contact with angelic entities. Then follow the various charms and lore he picked up in his own spiritual quest and professional career. Furthermore, we see in the collected philosophy and lore the progression of Gauntlet’s own understanding of occult philosophy – as he would (certainly after much searching) lay his hands on one grimoire after another and hand-copy the portions of them he felt were most important.
I must also point out that the practical nature of this notebook gives us a rare glimpse into the “nuts and bolts” of Solomonic magickal practice. Where the more popular “mass circulation” grimoires often give us only a broad overview of the methods employed, more often than not mixed with a large amount of mythos and fantasy, Dr. Gauntlet’s grimoire is more concerned with specific how-to’s of the practice.
Some of the best examples of this latter dynamic is found in the instructions for skrying – which are absolutely some of the best I have ever seen in print. While this text and many others give us the rituals to use in skrying angels and spirits, only this one among the classical texts gives step-by-step instructions on how to divine specific information from the entities thus evoked.
The first example is found on p. 117, “How you shall make your demands to the Three Angels And first for a Friend.” It concerns how to question three summoned Angels to tell you exactly where a friend of yours is at the time of the working. (Apparently, Gauntlet’s skryer Sarah used this method often enough to continue using it after his death. The introduction describes Sarah later working for a client who would ask her to divine whether or not her – the client’s – mother was at home before she would commit to taking a trip to visit her. Remember this was the day before the phone, or even the telegraph or mail service. It would appear that Sarah was accurate enough in this divination to remain in the employ of the same client for many years.)
In the instructions given on p. 117, we learn that one did not simply ask the angels “where is my friend so-and-so right now?” Instead, a specific process was undertaken: First one asks the angels to show a vision of the friend in whatsoever place he or she may be. The vision will be granted, but no place will be named. The skryer must then ask how far away this place is – “is it five miles away? six miles? seven? eight? ten? twenty?” etc – until an exact number is settled upon. Then the skryer asks which direction the location lies from the current location – asking “is it north from here? south? east? west?” Then the skryer must ask, “Is it such-and-such a place?” The place must be specifically named by the skryer, and possible locations are to be named until the angels answer in the affirmative.
On p. 118, “How you shall make your demands for Theft to the Three Angels” we are told to use the exact same process. First one asks to see the thief – so that a description of the person can be recorded. Then, to find the present location of the thief, one goes through the same sort of questioning one used to locate a friend. First how many miles off he is – naming different distances until one is affirmed. Then which direction, then naming specific locations until one is confirmed as the hideout of the thief.
Also on p. 118 we find “For Treasure hidden”, which uses a similar but more restricted process. One first determines the land wherein one believes treasure is buried. Then the process of elimination is followed as above – only using feet rather than miles.
On p. 119 we learn how this kind of divination is done “For Sickness.” Once the angels have been summoned, the symptoms of the sickness are explained to the entities. Then one asks if the patient is going to live or die. If it is divined that he will die, one then asks how long that will be in coming by naming different lengths of time. If it is divined that the patient will recover, one must then ask how that recovery will take place. Will it be accomplished naturally, or will the doctor need to apply medicines? If it is to be by medicine, then one must determine the disease by naming known maladies until the angels affirm the one afflicting the patient. Then remedies and treatments are to be named until the angels confirm the one(s) that should be applied. Then one asks how long the recovery will take – once again by naming different lengths of time.
What a perfect illustration of how divination is properly done! One can imagine using this technique with a divinatory device such as a pendulum, geomantic squilling, a toss of coins or any other method that can provide a “yes or no” answer to any question. At no point are the angels expected to simply state outright the location of the person or the nature and cure of the disease – but these must be divined one bit at a time until the answer is finally settled upon via a process of elimination.
As you can see, there are many treasures to be found in the Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet. I agree with the editor when he suggests, in the introduction, that this book shows the marks of a person who actually used this material in the real world. That is what makes this book so important. The nuts-and-bolts nature of the instructions give us a rare insight into how this kind of magick was really done – much akin to the few precious eyewitness accounts of such rituals that have been preserved in various journals.
But even those eyewitness accounts are second-hand at best – descriptions of what a person saw and thought they were seeing that gives us little insight into the motivations and skills of the wizard himself. (Imagine, for example, trying to describe to another what you saw a surgeon do during an operation. It would hardly amount to an instruction manual for surgery.) Meanwhile, The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet gives us a real view into Solomonic practice much akin to the eyewitness accounts, while also giving us the step-by-step instruction to do it ourselves.
Yet again – not long after their publications of The Veritable Key of Solomon, A Treatise of Mixed Cabala and The Book of Gold – Avalonia and David Rankine have provided us with another leap forward in our modern understanding of classical Solomonic occultism. Therefore I must urge you to pick up The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet – whether you are a student of cultural history or an active practitioner, you will discover treasures buried within the pages of this obscure physician’s personal grimoire.
Greetings God brothers and God sisters!
Scarlet Imprint is now taking pre-orders for an awesome new book called:
This new anthology brings together authors and practitioners of various Afro-Caribbean and Western systems of occultism to compare notes on their traditions’ difference and, especially, similarities. From the Scarlet Imprint page:
At the crossroads the paths of magicians and worlds meet.
Grimoire and root workers, Hoodoo and Vodoun, Quimbanda and Ifa. A potent fusion is occurring, a second diaspora.
At the Crossroads tells the stories of what happens when the Western Magical Tradition encounters the African Diaspora and Traditional religions, and vice versa. It is a mixing and a magic that speaks of a truly new world emerging.
My own offering to this brew is called Folk Traditions and the Solomonic Revival. The above quote, actually, is a fair description of exactly what my essay is about. I discuss the current cross-semination taking place between the modern Solomonic movement and various folks traditions – such as Santeria, Voodoo and Hoodoo. I briefly mention the relationship these traditions have shared in the past, and then explore the important impact such folk traditions are having upon the current understanding and practice of the medieval European grimoires.
And this goes far beyond the magick of Solomon, too. This movement reflects a relationship between Westerners and magick that was lost thousands of years ago, but which is now re-emerging and flourishing throughout every aspect of the occult revival. It is having an effect on everything from the Golden Dawn and Thelema to Wicca and Neopaganism. My essay, and Crossroads overall, gets right to the heart of this new movement and why it is so vastly important for all of us.
At the Crossroads is going to be a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand what exactly is happening to magick in the Western world in the 21st Century.
Peter Grey – Preamble: Standing Still
Jake Stratton-Kent – Necromancy: the Role of the Dead in a Living Tradition
Aaron Leitch – Folk Traditions and the Solomonic Revival
Eric K Lerner – Eleggua; Eleggua’s Worlds (art)
Stephen Grasso – Open up the Gate
Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold – The Invisible City in the Realm of Mystery
Richard Ward – In the Shadow of the Cross
Drac Uber & Ivy Kerrigan – Libations for the Lwa
Michael Cecchetelli – Countermeasures
Humberto Maggi – Crossing Worlds
Ryan Valentine – A brief history of the Juju
Hagen Von Tulien – Soul Dream (art)
Kyle Fite – The Syncretic Soul at the Cross of Cosmic Union
ConjureMan Ali – Goetic Initiation
Christopher D Bradford – Nigromantic Putrfaction
Chad Balthazar – A Garden Amidst the Flames
Angela Edwards – Queen of Fire & Flesh (art)
Jake Stratton-Kent – Magic at the Crosssroads
Greetings Avid Readers!
The latest edition of Hermetic Virtues is finally out! It was published on June 24th, in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the consecration of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s Vault of the Adepti. It even includes the very same signed announcement I published here (and which has appeared on blogs and forums across the ‘net). :) :) :)
And what’s more, it also includes an essay by yours truly called Two Thrones for the Golden Dawn. In the essay, I discuss the mythical structure of the Hall of the Neophytes and why we place the Coptic-Egyptian godforms in their traditional positions. Some groups have made changes to these godforms (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I explain exactly why we choose to keep them where they where in 1888 when the original Order was founded. (What can I say? The HOGD is a traditional Order.)
I am especially proud of this essay because Tabatha Cicero made reference to an earlier version of it in a piece she wrote for the latest edition of the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. In fact, her essay is what prompted me to get this one completed and published at last. :)
There are also essays and reviews by such big names as Chic Cicero (HOGD), John Michael Greer (DOGD), Nick Farrell (MOAA), Sam Scarborough (OSM), Jayne Gibson (HOGD), Eric Sisco (SRICF) and many more. If you want to see a great review of the entire magazine, check out Peregrin Wildoak’s blog. :)
If you get a chance, make sure to drop a note of congratulations to the Hermetic Virtues team and give them kudos for their own five year anniversary. We haven’t seen a magazine of this caliber since Gnosis – so let’s hope they stay around for decades!
King and Man – But Mostly Man
One thing that makes the Golden Dawn great, in my opinion, is their humble origins. The founders of the Tradition in the late 1800s existed in an environment of secret societies with pretentious mythical origin stories – claiming direct lineage to ancient cults and guilds in Greece, Egypt, Chaldea and elsewhere. In truth, none of them had such connections – not even the Masons! Yet, if you wanted your secret society to be taken seriously, you had better find a way to establish some kind of connection to powerful mystical figures and groups from the past. This is really no different than the authors of the grimoires who found it necessary to sign names such as King Solomon, Enoch, Moses and even various Archangels to their own work. Or the authors of the Biblical books who wanted us to believe that Moses, Enoch, the Disciples of Jesus and other Biblical heroes had written their texts. It isn’t about fraud, its just how things were done at the time.
What makes the modern Golden Dawn stand out in this regard is their willingness to admit, without shame, that the stories of their origins are mythical and that their founders were very, very human. What matters to them is that the system, in and of itself, works as advertised. They look with gracious humor at the tales of Cipher Manuscripts, German Adepts and embodied Secret Chiefs (who nevertheless chose to visit only upon the astral). For them, true lineage rests within the continually burning flames of Western Qabalah, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism and other currents that are the true foundations of the Order and its teachings.
Nick Farrell’s “King Over the Water” is a shining example of this willingness to admit the truth. It is an honest and scholarly biography of a man who never became what he wished to be – nor what he wished others to believe he was. His contributions to the Golden Dawn cannot be overstated, but his opinion of himself most certainly was. Yet, the modern Golden Dawn goes right on using the material the man created – because it is sound and it works.
I strongly urge any student of the Golden Dawn to read this fascinating biography. Perhaps Mathers was never the sole link to the Secret Chiefs he asked his followers to believe he was. Perhaps he was never the all-powerful arch-wizard he longed to be. But that doesn’t mean the Secret Chiefs didn’t speak through him when it was necessary. And the modern students of the Golden Dawn should never fear to look upon their leaders – either yesterday or today – with an open mind and even a grain of salt. They are, after all, all human too.
King Over the Water
Greetings wasters-of-time and mental masturbators!
Lisa's Angel Fossil
Recently, an old essay from 2002 written by Alan Moore has been making the rounds on Facebook and the blogosphere. It is entitled “Fossil Angels” and it focuses upon the – supposedly – sorry state of modern occultism. You can read the essay here, if you’re stout of heart:
I did not actually begin by reading Moore’s essay. Instead, I was introduced to it via an article written by Miguel Conner called “Moore Evidence for the Death of Occultism.” It attempted to (blessedly) summarize Moore’s essay, outlining all of the major points made in the original piece. Frankly, I felt the article would have been better placed in the 1990s, as it seems to have missed a lot that is going on today. Here is what I had to say about it on Facebook:
This article reminds me of the Naked Ape. The author of that book made some great points – I highly recommend the book to anyone. Yet, at the same time, the author – writing in the late 60s – seemed *entirely* unaware that the 60s were happening. He insisted that humans had never attempted to do the things that young folks were trying at that very moment…
Same here, folks. The article is spot-on about the shortcomings of modern occultism. Or, to be more specific, of late 20th-century occultism. However, the author seems utterly unaware that new occult movements are rising as we speak – have been on the rise since the late 90s – that address and seek to correct these shortcomings. In other words, occultists are fed up with modern occultism too – and now they are looking into the Old Magick again. The Keys of Solomon, Dee’s records, the ATRs and much much more – all of these are currently “in vogue” among occultists who know damn well that our modern culture lost something along the way. Yet, the author seems to be unaware this is happening…
After posting that, I was told by many people that I should read Moore’s “wonderful” essay before I make up my mind about it. I was given the link to livejournal and so headed over to read the original. Then, I posted this:
Ok, I have read about two-thirds of the way though Moore’s original essay. Frankly, I’ve given up. I’m exhausted after slogging through the over-written text, endless adjectives, pointless metephores and digressions without destination. This dude should NOT have taken writing lessons from A.E. Waite, but he sure seems to have…
As for his ideas – sorry, folks, but I have to call BULLSHIT on every last bit of it. I thought perhaps I would find an essay that was slighty outdated but still full of sound points about what the modern occult movement lacks. It wasn’t. What I found instead were concepts like: “if magick works so well, why do all pracitioners still have day jobs and lives that suck?” That alone tells me this guy is as clueless as it gets. I assume all of those ancient shamans he admires didnt’ have day jobs or troubles in their lives? For the sake of the Gods, magick arose as a method of dealing with a hostile and hard world. If this idiot honestly thinks magick is about making your life “easier”, then he doesn’t have the first business writing on the subject. He should go join up with Randi and the other de-bunkers.
The rest of his ideas – once you mine them out of the text – are just as far away from the point. For example, he quotes Arthur Machen’s negative opinion of the Golden Dawn – but sidesteps the fact that Machen was writing long after the GD fell apart and its Temples had lost their way. Machen encountered the same GD as Regardie did, and that was NOT the GD of Mathers and Wescott. Machen met the GD and bad-mouthed it for its fallen state. Regardie saw the same things and DID something about it. Yet Moore goes with Machen…. surprised?
He almost made some good points when comparing the GD/OTO/etc with the work Dee and Kelley did – showing how Dee and Kelley were working magick as a cutting edge science, while the GD and those who followed were looking toward the past. Of course, Moore ignores all of the years Dee dedicated to gathering the oldest occult texts he could find. And, in saying the GD was just “historically re-enacting the past” he seems to forget that no magickal system had EVER taken the form it did in the GD. So these ignorant past-gazers somehow came up with something new? Well, sure, and so did Dee. But in both cases the material was based on what had come previously.
Moore doesn’t understand magick. He doesn’t understand what it was in the past, and he doesn’t understand what it is today. And, like many who fail to understand, he chooses to poke fun instead. Well, more power to him. Meanwhile, I’ll persist in my rituals to call down and commune with the Angels, and to work with the spirits. I’ll accept help from them anytime they want to offer it. I’ll let them save my very LIFE as they have done in the past. And we’ll all do so while we laugh at Moore and his outsider’s opinions of magick. ;)
Moore makes the common mistake of believing the BS that magick simply fell by the wayside after science came along and made everything “better.” If he’d pick up a copy of Yate’s “Rosicrucian Enlightenment” he might learn that magick was forced underground by religious authorities and “science” arose as a result. Or, put better, a false rift between “magick” and “science” was created at about the time of the age of enlightenment. No one decided magick didn’t work – it was people who were convinced that it DID work that sought to eradicate it. Science struggled to be accepted in the same environment (because it wasn’t originally a separate pursuit from magick), and it came out on top. That says nothing about the efficacy of magick, friends…
It is very esay for Alan Moore to sit comfortably within the fantasy of the modern Western world and poo-poo all modern magick, claiming that it just isn’t relevant since we figured out all of this nifty science. But just wait until this fantasy finally comes crashing down, and the Western nations are faced with the reality of living on Earth once more. Just wait until it is common for Western people to be unsure from where (or when) their next meal is coming. Wait until medicine becomes something we aren’t allowed to have at all. Wait until we are living in tent colonies and going to the bathroom in a hole we dug out back. THEN we shall see Mr. Moore going to his local witch or wizard, offering in hand, in the hopes the spirits can help his family in times of need. If I were those spirits, I’d tell him to go find a scientist.