Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Tag: magic

Terrifying Initiation Ordeals

May 17, 2022

But Zarathustra escaped from prison and also from attempts to murder him. He lived to fight many battles against the forces of evil, battles where he pitched his magic powers against the powers of evil sorcerers. Later he became the archetype of the wizard, with a tall hat, cloak of stars and an eagle on his shoulder. Zarathustra was a dangerous, somewhat disconcerting figure, prepared to fight fire with fire.

He led his followers to secluded grottoes, hidden in the forests. There in underground caverns he initiated them. He wanted to provide them with the supernatural powers needed to fight the good fight….

Zarathustra prepared his followers to face Ahriman’s demons, or Asuras, by terrifying initiation ordeals. He who fears death, he said, is already dead.

It was recorded by Menippus, the Greek philosopher of the third century [B.C.E.], who had been initiated by the Mithraic successors of Zarathustra, that, after a period of fasting, mortification and mental exercises performed in solitude, the candidate would be forced to swim across water, then pass through fire and ice. He would be cast into a snake pit, and cut across the chest by a sword, so that blood would flow.

By experiencing the outer limits of fear, the initiate was prepared for the worst that could happen, both in life and after death.

The Secret History of the World, Chapter 10

Author’s emphases are in italic. Mine are in bold.

Intermediate World of Spirits

May 15, 2022

Neither angels nor devils, jinn can move in both directions, as is clear from the romance of Sayf al-Kulut and Badiat: they can surpass the devil’s works in wickedness and also act vigorously on behalf of the supreme God and goodness. In the sura called ‘The Jinn’ in the Koran, the jinn tell us, ‘That among us there are the righteous, and there are the less so—of diverse persuasions are we’….

In a plot, the supreme being can act as a narrative force embodied in providence, but there are limits to the spectrum of his behaviour. Even the furious God of the Old Testament does not possess the degree of idiosyncrasy and vitality that less strictly perfect beings, intrinsically various and unruly, can add to a story. It is not simply a question of the devil having the best tunes, but a reflection of the inherent demand that this kind of fairytale storytelling makes: for surprise, for wonder, for astonishment. The Greek myths could imagine gods and goddesses behaving badly and the stories correspondingly fizz with inventive plots: with the fairytale and the tales from [A Thousand And One] Nights this variety and spice, so necessary to a good story, moves out of the ranks of the divine into the intermediate world of spirits.

Stranger Magic, p. 48

The American Spiritual Temper Is Unconsciously Calvinist

May 13, 2022

[The] American spiritual temper is…uniquely oriented toward the will. Our soil produces more magicians than mystics. We inherited part of this strong will impulse from a source that most of us now find repellant: the Calvinist religion of the early settlers. According to Calvinism, God likes some people better than others and expresses his approval through earthly gifts. Health, wealth, and happiness are proof of God’s favor. Poverty and suffering are telltale signs of sin. Whether people will be favored or rejected by God is already decided before they are born. Some are predestined to be saved, and some are earmarked for damnation.

Contrary to what you might expect, this peculiar doctrine didn’t plunge its believers into despair or stop them from making an effort. On the contrary, it spurred them on. By working hard, amassing wealth, and keeping their lives in good order, they could prove to themselves and others that they were among the elect. This was the source of the Protestant work ethic.

Nowadays, you don’t find many card-carrying Calvinists. I’ve never met one personally. But I have known many who pursue yoga or Buddhism or even paganism in a Calvinist way. The Calvinist impulse has broken free of its Protestant origins and entered the collective unconscious of Americans. When I spell out its doctrine explicitly, you probably think it’s the dumbest spiritual teaching you ever heard. Yet, at some level, you are almost sure to be influenced by it. Rare is the American who isn’t.

You might say that you don’t believe in predestination, but if you are fond of the phrase “meant to be,” you’re leaning in that direction. If you think that an unhappy marriage, poor health, or money troubles are a sign that you’re on the wrong spiritual track, or that spirituality will fix it, you are making a Calvinist assumption.

In medieval Europe, people looked to the impoverished and emaciated for spiritual teachings. Austerity was the mark of a saint. In America, the prerequisite for any spiritual teacher is a life that works. We don’t turn for guidance to someone who can’t pay their electric bill. Consciously or unconsciously, we assume that the spiritually accomplished lead healthy, prosperous, and well-ordered lives….

On Becoming an Alchemist, pp. 149-50

Odic Shields and Shrouds of Concealment

May 9, 2022

In magical theory and practice, [an odic shield is] a field of etheric energy established around the outer edge of the human aura to protect the user from hostile magic or assaults of spirits. Several different methods have been used to establish and maintain an odic shield. The shroud of concealment, which is used in rituals of invisibility, is a closely related phenomenon….

In Golden Dawn magic, [the Shroud of Concealment is] a shell of etheric substance built up around the magician by intensive ritual work that prevents other people from perceiving the magician. The creation of the Shroud of Concealment is fundamental to the Golden Dawn method of magical invisibility….

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult

Why There Is No Justice in The World

May 7, 2022
Chandler Jarrell:
What’s this knife?
Kala:
The Crossed Dagger of Ajanti. They brought it to this world to kill the second Golden Child, the bearer of Justice. His death was a great loss.

— “The Golden Child” (1986)

Never Run From Anything Immortal

May 7, 2022
Unicorn:
Don’t look back, and don’t run. You must never run from anything immortal; it attracts their attention.

— “The Last Unicorn” (1982)

A Weapon Against the Dark But Also a Beacon That Summons It

May 5, 2022

“You see,” [Ravenor] remarked, “why I prefer to use my mind with restraint. Here in Queen Mab…indeed everywhere…any manipulation of the warp causes ripples. The more you use such powers, the greater the force of them, then the greater the reaction. I am a weapon against the dark, Beta, but I am also a beacon that summons it. We must keep ourselves guarded and hidden….”

Penitent, Chapter 19

To Test Your Powers Or Prove Their Own

April 28, 2022

Elric turned his stern gaze on [his apprentice].

“As a group we seek wisdom. As individuals we can be eccentric, peevish, perverse, opinionated—apt to take offense upon small occasions. Act with restraint. Be courteous. We get along best at great distances from one another.”

“Every convocation has its confrontations, its challenges. You’ve been sheltered in the past. Once you’re initiated as a full mage, you won’t be under my protection any longer. Others may challenge you, to test your powers or prove their own. Do not rise to the fool’s challenge to be a fool yourself….”

Casting Shadows, Chapter 1

The Wand Is a Symbol of the Will

April 18, 2022

Far and away the most common magical instrument in legend, as well as in actual magical practice, the magical wand was originally one of many devices in the toolkit of the ancient and medieval ceremonial magician. In the Key of Solomon, the most famous of the medieval grimoires, it is one of more than a dozen tools carried by the magus and his five disciples, although its importance is marked by the fact that the magus himself, and not one of the disciples, must carry it…. Many other grimoires give it a lesser place, or omit it altogether.

The writings of French magician Eliphas Levi, who kickstarted the nineteenth-century [C.E.] magical revival, paid much attention to the wand as a symbol of the will, and it was Levi who assigned the wand to the element of fire, still its most common attribution….

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult

Blood Sacrifice Was the Central Religous Ritual

April 16, 2022

Ritual sacrifice is the most clear-cut instance of violence made sacred. When the victim is nonhuman, the central act of violence is essentially a familiar and understandable one: the slaughter of animals for food. The fact that the simple act of butchery has so often been sacralized hints at a sinister side to the deities so honored and is suggestive, as we shall see, of an anxiety far older than either religion or war, and possibly central to both.

Few religions today openly practice blood sacrifice…. But contemporary historians of religion remind us of what religious practitioners often prefer to ignore or forget: that blood sacrifice is not just “a” religious ritual; it is the central ritual of the religions of all ancient and traditional civilizations. For thousands of years, the core religious ritual from the highlands of the Andes to the valley of the Ganges was the act of sacrificial killing. The temple that housed the altar, or the raised platform or stone circle that constituted a holy place, was also an abattoir….

Animal sacrifice…was an all-pervasive reality in the ancient world.” Hebrew sacrificial ritual resembled that of the Greeks, which in turn resembled that of the Egyptians and Phoenicians, the Babylonians and Persians, the Etruscans, and the Romans. The names of the gods who were the recipients of the sacrifices varied from culture to culture, but the main elements of the ritual were everywhere recognizable and familiar to the ancients: the procession, the climactic throat-slitting or beheading, the butchering, the examination of entrails, the ritual uses of the fresh blood, the burning or cooking of the remains.

Blood Rites, pp. 23, 28

Emphasis mine.

Everyone Is Religious

April 9, 2022

The world is a dangerous place, full of death and chaos. What little people have been able to figure out about it they’ve passed down to their children and grandchildren. Societies that discover the right way to live might prosper; those that don’t are doomed to fail.

This hidden knowledge of the ages isn’t something you can afford to ignore. It’s folklore and science and culture all wrapped into one. This is religion.

In our present day, there’s a rift perceived between religion and science, two areas of life set at odds against each other. To many, religion is something you do in private for vaguely “spiritual” reasons or to “be a better person”. Science (like its aft-facing counterpart history) is seen as a proper area of learning and study, where useful knowledge can be obtained.

With that mindset, it’s easy to forget about religion. …[Everyone] is religious, in one way or another.

  1. Religion is ancestral. It’s been passed down from generation to generation, a tangible link to the ancestors who came before you. You might not own anything your great-great-grandmother once had, but you can still practice her religion and know her story.
  2. Religion is cultural. If all our people do things the same way, that way identifies us as a people and shows who belongs to our group.
  3. Religion is political. When religion determines identity and prescribes conduct, religious authority becomes political power.
  4. Religion is knowledge. The ancestors did things this way for a reason. We’ve lost a lot since the apocalypse; following their ancient rule may save us from dangers in ways we don’t even understand.

Religion That Can’t Be Avoided – Signs in the Wilderness

Author’s emphases.

The Reason for the Seasons

April 2, 2022

Demeter’s hair was yellow as the ripe corn of which she was mistress, for she was the Harvest Spirit, goddess of farmed fields and growing grain. The threshing floor was her sacred space. Women, the world’s first farmers (while men still ran off to the bloody howling of hunt and battle), were her natural worshipers, praying: “May it be our part to separate wheat from chaff in a rush of wind, digging the great winnowing fan through Demeter’s heaped-up mounds of corn while she stands among us, smiling, her brown arms heavy with sheaves, her ample breasts adorned in flowers of the field.”

Demeter had but one daughter, and she needed no other, for Persephone was the Spirit of Spring. The Lord of Shadows and Death, Hades himself, the Unseen One, carried her off in his jet-black chariot, driven by coal-black steeds, through a crevice in the surface of Earth, down to the realms of the dead. For nine days, Demeter wandered sorrowing over land, sea, and sky in search of her daughter, but no one dared tell her what had happened till she reached the Sun, who had seen it all. With Zeus’s help, the mother retrieved her daughter, but Persephone had already eaten a pomegranate seed, food of the dead, at Hades’s insistence, which meant she must come back to him. In the end, a sort of truce was arranged. Persephone could return to her sorrowing mother but must spend a third of each year with her dark Lord. Thus, by the four-month death each year of the goddess of springtime in her descent to the underworld, did winter enter the world. And when she returns from the dark realms she always strikes earthly beings with awe and smells somewhat of the grave.

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, p. 3

Making a Magical Sword

March 24, 2022

Near the Castle of Erl there lived a lonely witch, on high land near the thunder, which used to roll in Summer along the hills. There she dwelt by herself in a narrow cottage of thatch and roamed the high fields alone to gather the thunderbolts. Of these thunderbolts, that had no earthly forging, were made, with suitable runes, such weapons as had to parry unearthly dangers.

And alone would roam this witch at certain tides of Spring, taking the form of a young girl in her beauty, singing among tall flowers in gardens of Erl. She would go at the hour when hawk-moths first pass from bell to bell. And of those few that had seen her was this son of the Lord of Erl. And though it was calamity to love her, though it rapt men’s thoughts away from all things true, yet the beauty of the form that was not hers had lured him to gaze at her with deep young eyes, till—whether flattery or pity moved her, who knows that is mortal?—she spared him whom her arts might well have destroyed and, changing instantly in that garden there, showed him the rightful form of a deadly witch. And even then his eyes did not at once forsake her, and in the moments that his glance still lingered upon that withered shape that haunted the hollyhocks he had her gratitude that may not be bought, nor won by any charms that Christians know. And she had beckoned to him and he had followed, and learned from her on her thunder-haunted hill that on the day of need a sword might be made of metals not sprung from Earth, with runes along it that would waft away, certainly any thrust of earthly sword, and except for three master-runes could thwart the weapons of Elfland….

It was scarcely dark in the valley when he left the Castle of Erl, and went so swiftly up the witch’s hill that a dim light lingered yet on its highest heaths when he came near the cottage of the one that he sought, and found her burning bones at a fire in the open. To her he said that the day of his need was come. And she bade him gather thunderbolts in her garden, in the soft earth under her cabbages.

And there with eyes that saw every minute more dimly, and fingers that grew accustomed to the thunderbolts’ curious surfaces, he found before darkness came down on him seventeen: and these he heaped into a silken kerchief and carried back to the witch.

On the grass beside her he laid those strangers to Earth. From wonderful spaces they came to her magical garden, shaken by thunder from paths that we cannot tread; and though not in themselves containing magic were well adapted to carry what magic her runes could give. She laid the thigh-bone of a materialist down, and turned to those stormy wanderers. She arranged them in one straight row by the side of her fire. And over them then she toppled the burning logs and the embers, prodding them down with the ebon stick that is the sceptre of witches, until she had deeply covered those seventeen cousins of Earth that had visited us from their etherial home. She stepped back then from her fire and stretched out her hands, and suddenly blasted it with a frightful rune. The flames leaped up in amazement. And what had been but a lonely fire in the night, with no more mystery than pertains to all such fires, flared suddenly into a thing that wanderers feared.

As the green flames, stung by her runes, leaped up, and the heat of the fire grew intenser, she stepped backwards further and further, and merely uttered her runes a little louder the further she got from the fire. She bade Alveric pile on logs, dark logs of oak that lay there cumbering the heath; and at once, as he dropped them on, the heat licked them up; and the witch went on pronouncing her louder runes, and the flames danced wild and green; and down in the embers the seventeen, whose paths had once crossed Earth’s when they wandered free, knew heat again as great as they had known, even on that desperate ride that had brought them here. And when Alveric could no longer come near the fire, and the witch was some yards from it shouting her runes, the magical flames burned all the ashes away and that portent that flared on the hill as suddenly ceased, leaving only a circle that sullenly glowed on the ground, like the evil pool that glares where thermite has burst. And flat in the glow, all liquid still, lay the sword.

The witch approached it and pared its edges with a sword that she drew from her thigh. Then she sat down beside it on the earth and sang to it while it cooled. Not like the runes that enraged the flames was the song she sang to the sword: she whose curses had blasted the fire till it shrivelled big logs of oak crooned now a melody like a wind in summer blowing from wild wood gardens that no man tended, down valleys loved once by children, now lost to them but for dreams, a song of such memories as lurk and hide along the edges of oblivion, now flashing from beautiful years of glimpse of some golden moment, now passing swiftly out of remembrance again, to go back to the shades of oblivion, and leaving on the mind those faintest traces of little shining feet which when dimly perceived by us are called regrets. She sang of old Summer noons in the time of harebells: she sang on that high dark heath a song that seemed so full of mornings and evenings preserved with all their dews by her magical craft from days that had else been lost, that Alveric wondered of each small wandering wing, that her fire had lured from the dusk, if this were the ghost of some day lost to man, called up by the force of her song from times that were fairer. And all the while the unearthly metal grew harder. The white liquid stiffened and turned red. The glow of the red dwindled. And as it cooled it narrowed: little particles came together, little crevices closed: and as they closed they seized the air about them, and with the air they caught the witch’s rune, and gripped it and held it forever. And so it was it became a magical sword. And little magic there is in English woods, from the time of anemones to the falling of leaves, that was not in the sword. And little magic there is in southern downs, that only sheep roam over and quiet shepherds, that the sword had not too. And there was scent of thyme in it and sight of lilac, and the chorus of birds that sings before dawn in April, and the deep proud splendour of rhododendrons, and the litheness and laughter of streams, and miles and miles of may. And by the time the sword was black it was all enchanted with magic….

And now the witch drew the black blade forth by the hilt, which was thick and on one side rounded, for she had cut a small groove in the soil below the hilt for this purpose, and began to sharpen both sides of the sword by rubbing them with a curious greenish stone, still singing over the sword an eerie song.

Alveric watched her in silence, wondering, not counting time; it may have been for moments, it may have been while the stars went far on their courses. Suddenly she was finished. She stood up with the sword lying on both her hands. She stretched it out curtly to Alveric; he took it, she turned away; and there was a look in her eyes as though she would have kept that sword, or kept Alveric. He turned to pour out his thanks, but she was gone.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Chapter 1

This novel is available as a HTML E-book via Project Gutenberg.

On Divination

March 7, 2022

If I’ve learned anything about divination in the succeeding years, it’s that divination doesn’t do a very good job of telling you what you should do. Divination will show you where a given path or course of action is likely to take you, but it’s up to you to figure out if that’s a good thing or not.

A Need For Divination – John Beckett

Observed Process of the Causality of Magic

March 7, 2022

Entropy is the engine that drives the Universe, which exists in a constant balancing act of Cause and Effect. Once you cause something to be set in motion, it inevitably slides down the slope of entropy, into the unavoidable effect of that action. Magic works more directly with Entropy and begins with the desired effect and then alters the fabric of the Universe so the proper cause sets it in motion.

— fragment from unknown ancient text found in the Vault of Alexandria

Only the Spiritually Gifted Are Capable of Flight

February 6, 2022

It is a widespread spiritual belief that all humans were able to fly in primordial times, in illo tempore, before the fall from original grace, when the first people shared much in common with supernatural beings. In later times, only the spiritually gifted, such as wizards, yogis, witches, saints, and shamans, were believed to fly or levitate. Two ideas related to flight appear in religious thought around the world: first, that the human soul has the form of a bird, and second, that birds function as psychopomps, leading the souls of the dead into the next life. Associated with bird and soul imagery is a widespread notion that at death the human soul becomes discarnate, leaves the body, and flies like a bird. Flight, therefore, is a strong symbol of the soul’s autonomy, transcendence, and ultimate destiny after death. People capable of either physical flight or soul flight during their lifetimes are considered to have transcended the human condition and re-entered the original time; they enjoy supernatural privileges, denied most people until death. The shaman is revered, and sometimes feared, precisely on these terms: He or she has the power to leave our ordinary condition and pass the boundaries into the spirit world; to be able to fly and visit the land of the dead; and to enjoy the friendship of discarnate beings, the helping spirits.

Tom Cowan, Fire in the Head, p. 84

Unseen But Nonetheless Real

January 25, 2022

It may be that all this training is paying off. I went home that night uneasy: I felt some sort of psychic barometric shift taking place. It was not a good thing. The Japanese describe seme as the type of pressure and intimidation a master swordsman can force on a lesser opponent, without seeming to do anything. It’s unseen but nonetheless real. I had that sense of something pushing against me, probing my weaknesses.

Sensei, chapter 10

A Magical Sword Is Used to Command, Banish, and Defeat Spirits

December 26, 2021

One of the standard devices in the magical toolkit since early times, the magical sword is used to command, banish, and defeat spirits, especially in the practice of magical evocation. The Key of Solomon, the most famous of medieval grimoires, provides detailed instructions for preparing and consecrating no less than four magical swords, as well as a scimitar, a lance, a dagger, a poniard, and a collection of knives—the Solomonic magician entered the magical circle as heavily armed as a knight going to war…. Most other grimoires suggest a somewhat less topheavy collection of magical armament, but at least one sword was normally in evidence….

The use of the magical sword is at least partly a function of natural magic. Many occult traditions claim that iron, especially when sharpened, is inimical to many types of spiritual entity. The most common understandings of the etheric realm suggest that iron, like other conductive metals, can short-circuit etheric bodies that lack the protection of a physical form….

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult

Emphasis mine.

Where the Power for Spells Comes From

December 12, 2021

Where exactly does the power for your spell come from? Well, there are several possibilities, and rather than leaving it to chance, the spellcaster would do well to consider this question before operating and make a conscious decision. The first and easiest power source to access is you. You take subtle energy in all the time from the surrounding universe—it is called ki in japan, qi or chi in China, and prana in India, but the concept is the same. It is poor occult practice to use your own power reserves as a source, though. If you use your own reserves of energy you will feel drained and unwell at the end of the operation; effectively you have become a drained battery and will need to be recharged. In the long run, continued use of your own body’s energy for magick can lead to more serious conditions. Furthermore, it is a very limited source, and as a result not particularly effective.

The next source of energy to consider is elemental force, the neoplatonic system of earth, water, air, fire, and spirit. Depending on the spell, you may channel one or more of these forces, and they can be very effective. They are particularly useful for cleansing or blessing operations, which are often simple, localised events, and this gives a clue to their weakness, which is that these are pretty much “blind” forces. I feel that they are less effective where the spell is more complex, requiring an intelligent power source. Still, they are forces that every serious spellcaster should become familiar with and be competent in using.

Moving up the intelligence chain of possible sources of energy, we come to ancestors. But what do we mean by ancestors? Do we mean the other people on our family tree, now in spirit? Do we mean the people who lived where we do now? Or all the people bonded in some way by a common cause or set of beliefs? Actually, it is all these things….

Duffy, Franklin, Palin, SidheRaven, and Whitehorse, Spellcaster, pp. 79-80

Emphasis mine.

Magical Practice Required Specialist Knowledge

November 28, 2021

Magic was accepted without exception by all strata of society, but its practice required considerable specialist magical knowledge; amateur dabbling with such powers was generally disastrous. In the official rhetoric of these times magic is a powerful but ambiguous quality, sometimes practised by specialists or charismatic individuals, and also by priests and rabbis drawing on religious lore. Magic is intimately bound up with religion for the Greeks and Romans, somewhat more removed for Jews. It is by turns valued, contested, debated and deemed dangerous; it is a variable quality but still central to social and cultural forces, as well as being a good diagnostic of them. Magic is as important for the historian in the present as it was for contemporary people millennia ago, and in order to understand it we must briefly sketch out broader cultural traditions and histories, many of which also provide the foundations of the world in which we live today.

Chris Gosden, Magic: a History, p. 240