On Tattoos of Spiritual Artifices

Recently on the endless stream of half-formed thoughts that keeps me sane in the office, which is to say Twitter, I was approached by someone who likes my work and thinks highly of it.  While I take this as a humbling and honoring thing, I was troubled by this as well, since they asked if it was a bad idea to take the Table of Practice design I developed based on Fr. Rufus Opus’ coursework and use it as a tattoo on their body.

Table of Practice

I told them bluntly that, yes, this is indeed a bad idea.  Why?  Because the Table of Practice pattern is a combination of spiritual geometry and sacred names that is put together in such a way so as to contain and manifest spirits; this is the point of the diagram.  To have this on their body would mean that, wherever they go, they risk having spirits collect on their tattoo with or without their knowledge and, worse, to give those spirits form and place in the world without actively working with them or even attentively or intentionally calling upon them.  These things happen anyway, which is why regular cleansings and baths and banishings and the like are so necessary, but to trigger that even more than it happens on its own and in a more dangerous way is a terrible, awful, no-good idea.  Worse, the person in question wanted to use this for spiritual protection, which is not the point of this design at all!  It can be used for containment and isolation, sure, but it is not primarily intended for that, and has way too many side-effects that make this a poor choice for a protection tattoo.

Put simply, this person was coming from a place of ignorance, a place which I hope I was able to help them out from.  The occult world is full of arcane geometries, obscure patterns, and unusual shapes that many a graphical artist would love to get their hands on or take credit for.  Add to it, so much of this stuff is just so cool-looking (and if you’re one of the vast majority of people who get into the occult, you got into it because it looks so freaking awesome).  There’s a heavy and high danger in this, though, because if you merely work with this stuff because it looks cool, you often overlook how powerful and grave and serious this stuff is.  It’s easy to forget that these things that appear so simple are in and of themselves so dangerous; a simple stray mark, a vowel pronounced with the wrong intonation, the wrong type of pepper used in incense, or such minor differences could honestly and hugely change how something works.  Just because something looks simple and straightforward doesn’t mean that it can be used in a simple and straightforward manner.

This stuff is called the occult, and the word “occult” means “that which is hidden”.  This stuff is not always apparent but always needs to be studied and mulled over for it to make sense and for it to click.  Picking something up and running with it is a bold move, and can easily cross over into folly; without a firm understanding of what you’re doing and to what end, as well as the construction of the tools and designs and artifices you’re using, you could really hurt yourself or those around you.  This goes double for tattoos of spiritual designs and artifices, because you’re literally and permanently transforming your body into an occult tool or a container for occult forces and entities; you need to take extra care when getting a spiritual tattoo because you may be biting off far more than you can chew.

Apologia

Being a WordPress user, I’m fond of the sometimes silly and sweet things it does for me like any overdesigned fun information system should.  Today, it told me that this is my four-year anniversary of joining WordPress.  Before that, I was using Blogger, and was envious of some of the bloggers who had fancier features than I did.  About that time, too, I was still getting my bearings in the magical world and was only just starting to practice conjuration.

What a wild ride it’s been in just a measly four years.  I went from talking about my mistakes in making natron to giving talks on theory at conferences, from showing off my first-ever woodburning projects to making them commercially, from reading about geomancy to teaching it to others.  It really has been a wild ride, and I’d like to thank you, especially, for sticking with me through all these times, no matter when you stepped in to pay attention to lil’ ol’ me.

To those who have stuck around longer than a few months, you’ll note that I haven’t been posting as much lately as I’m known to do usually.  I don’t apologize for that; after all, this is my blog, and I post when I want, what I want, and how I want.  That’s a good bit of advice for those who have blogs of their own or who want to start one; you’re beholden to nobody by blogging alone, and it is your platform, after all, so use it however and whenever you feel like you should.

The thing is, things have been slow lately.  My writing is tied to my activities, my Word to my Work as it were, and since I’m not doing much Work, I don’t have many Words.

My life is good.  There are always things to improve upon, and those are getting knocked out in slow but steady order.  I’m working towards my goals for this year day by day, but some days, just not a lot is happening.  I’m definitely on a plateau, but it’s not a bad one, and that’s okay; taking it slow is something I’m fond of, and things are going well.  The gods and spirits treat me well, and I try to uphold my bargains and offerings and honor to them; I have few pressing problems to worry about, and can spend my time in leisure and work without stress or concern.  I am blessed with good health, good friends, and good money, and I can’t complain for want of that.  I could always use more, of course, but that’s a matter for my own work.

But what work would that be, though?  I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve hit a slow spot, just as I’m not afraid to defiantly not post for longer than a few days at a time, but surely there’s work to be done, and there certainly is.  I’m a far cry from a master in any way of any art, despite how far I’ve come; after all, to someone still at home, a mile is a far ways to walk, but there’s a world of difference between walking across town and walking across the world.

Basically, I’ve been slow lately to the point of laziness.  For that, the self-made cause to the symptom of having little to write about, I apologize.  So let me get back on the ball, get back to working, get back to writing, and get back to the world I’m meant to create.  After all, that shit won’t do itself.

Search Term Shoot Back, April 2015

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of April 2015.

“which demon spirit can grant the conjurer every kind of need” — Be careful with these guys.  Many demons are proud and prideful enough to claim that they can do anything anywhere anytime, and granted, they often have enough power to do so.  However, just because a single spirit can do something doesn’t mean it will do it well, or whether it should do it at all.  Consult books like the Lemegeton or the Munich Manual to get little snippets of information that can tell you what a given spirit excels at; alternatively, check in with your supernatural assistant or Holy Guardian Angel, or simply do a bit of divination, to check whether a particular spirit can help you and whether they should help you.  It’s unlikely you’ll find a demonic spirit to fulfill every single one of your desires on their own.  The supernatural assistant or HGA on the other hand…

“are summoned spirits following you?” — They might be, if you don’t send them away.  After all, once summoned, they tend to not leave unless given leave to do so (or are powerful enough to simply blow off the magician anyway).  In any summoning or conjuration ritual, it’s good practice to close it out with an offering of thanks and goodwill to the spirit along with a formal giving of leave to depart; if you prefer, and this isn’t always suggested, you can banish the area and cleanse yourself afterwards to get rid of any residual resonance with the spirit.

“what is the means of talisman use in the ritual your name will be written 9x around the diagram own blood in talisman” — I think you’d be better off than me to say how to use such a talisman.  I haven’t encountered anything that describes this sort of talisman outside fantasy works and tawdry modern occult manuals that I pay little attention and less credence to, but given the number 9 there, I’d say you might use it in visceral works involving the Moon or Saturn.

“ebony huge cocks” — Man, I had to search high and low for a suitable bit of ebony to make my Wand of Art before it was given to me by a good friend.  Trying to find a phallus made of ebony would be near impossible, as I doubt many woodworkers are willing to use such rare and expensive wood on so unusual a bit of art.  That said, I’m sure a few of my gods would appreciate such a statue.

“what magical element begins with the letter k” — I…I can’t say there is one.  Of the four elements, there’s Fire, Air, Water, Earth, and then there’s the fifth quasi-element sometimes called spirit, ether, or quintessence (the closest thing to a K I can come up with).  The seven planets don’t start with any such letter, either, so unless you’re referring to some other system of magic that recognizes other elements, or using the cop-out of using another language, then I think you’d be better off telling me the answer when you find one than me trying to make one up on my own.

“ακραμμαχαμαρει meaning” — One of my favorite barbarous words of power, commonly seen in Mediterranean classical magic like from the PGM.  The prevailing theory behind this word is that it’s a corruption of an Aramaic phrase meaning “cast off the nets”, or “remove all obstacles or blockages”.  I use this word when piercing through shields or protections, but also to free myself from things that entangle or trap me.  However, it canonically has no meaning on its own that humans can understand, being a divine word and name on its own.  I also use it to refer to the luminary of the heights, the protector of the space above us, whose image is that of an old man in grey robes holding a staff in his right hand and a ring of keys in his left, but that’s a personal innovation in my own practice that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

“is sun bad for labradorite” — No.  Labradorite is, beyond anything else, a rock.  Sunlight doesn’t degrade that, and leaving such a stone out in the Sun will not cause it to shatter or lose its labradorescence.  Energetically, there might be a bit of a conflict; labradorite is more resonant with the aurora borealis of the nighttime skies, and is more stellar than solar.  Still, it’s a silly thing to worry about unless you’re tuning the stone to a very specific need over time.

“communing with the spirit of your unborn child” — First of all, uh, ew.  I have no disrespect towards parents or parents-to-be, but I’m not one of them nor will I ever be.  I have no fathering instinct and I do not like being around children until they can start forming logical, coherent thoughts that are worthy of discussion.  Yes, I was a child once, too, but it was a phase and I grew out of it.  Anyway, as for the spirit of an unborn child, what do you hope to glean from that?  Speaking Hermetically, while the moment of conception is an important time, the moment of birth itself is more important, because at that point the child finally becomes separate from the mother and becomes an independent (strictly speaking) living being, as opposed to something that is still part of and inside the mother.  Before it becomes its own being, it’s still a part of the mother, and has no life of its own to speak of; heck, it doesn’t even have much of an existence because it hasn’t had experience of developing, growing, or interaction, and as such is like a spirit of a newly dead person; it’s unreliable, confused, and still nebulous enough to the point that it’s better to leave them alone for the time being.  While singing, treating yourself holistically well, and the like is a good idea, and while pregnant women are holy in and of their own selves, I don’t think there’s much of a spirit of the unborn fetus to communicate with.  Then again, I’m probably not the right person to ask about this; I have a bias against children anyway, and seeing how I’m a gay man who will never seed, bear, or give birth to a child, my opinions and pontification aren’t worth much, anyway.

“lemegeton cloth circle” — Large cloth and tarp sheets are excellent ideas for Solomonic work because they allow you to draw on the magic Circles of Art once and transport it anywhere, so long as the space is large enough to unfold the sheet.  Before, you might have had a stone or wooden floor with the same pattern inscribed or painted onto it permanently, but traditionally, you’d do it in the dirt.  If you read the instructions given in the Keys of Solomon to create the magic circle, it references using rope and knives to mark out the boundary of the circle, which can only really work if you’re doing it on an earthen floor that can have a knife stuck into it or scratching the surface of it.  The whole point of the Black-handled Knife or athame, after all, wasn’t just to act as the Weapon of Saturn and to threaten and intimidate spirits, but also mark out the Triangle of Art and other magical patterns into the ground.  Cloth is more convenient, but if you want to go cheap and old-school, use the knife for all it’s worth and draw the patterns out in the dirt.

“conjuration of spirit to see visions past present” — Many spirits can show you this, and there’s no one conjuration to do.  In fact, if you’re blessed with a spirit of prophecy, then you may not need to do anything besides calm your mind and get into the right headspace.  There are problems here, however: you have little assurance that you’re seeing the right thing (the past, present, or future itself as it actually occurs) nor that you’re seeing the thing right (actual physical happenings versus metaphors).  If you’re seeing through the eyes of a spirit, bear in mind that the spirit may see the world and cosmos from a radically different perspective than you’ll ever be able to attain, and trying to translate from spirit-sight to human-sight can be more difficult than it is worth it.  Spirits may focus on different things than humans do, and trying to make sense of spiritual descriptions of events may not make any sense to us.  Add to it, you have to trust the spirit that they saw exactly what you’re asking about, and not all spirits are able to traverse time nor ubiquitous; sometimes they’ll have to call on other spirits who were at the event both in time and space, or they’ll have to branch out themselves.  In other words, trying to use a spirit to gain clairvoyance through time and space is a risky business.

“orgonite octahedron with charged talismans inside” — You’re precious.  Go away.

“sick person determine the illness by geomancy divination” — Ah, medical queries!  This is a type of query where geomancy really shines, but there are some caveats.  First, unless you’re a licensed doctor giving a medical examination, you are not certified to give medical advice, so don’t do it.  Bear in mind that geomancy is not a certified method of practicing modern Western medicine, and as such you can get yourself into huge trouble if you misrepresent yourself as capable of doing so.  Once you’ve gotten that understood and out of the way between yourself and your querent, you want to inspect the figure in house VI, the house of illness, and see whether that figure passes anywhere else in the chart.  If it does, then the part of the body indicated by that house the figure passes to is the source or primary affliction of the illness (I’ll let you look those up on your own); if it doesn’t, then the illness is relegated to the stomach, GI tract, and overall humours.  Take into account the elemental and planetary association of the figure itself, and you start to get a good idea of what’s going on with the illness exactly.  For more information, house VII represents the doctor who can help the querent, house X represents the regimen or prescription or treatment of the illness, and house IV represents the overall outcome of the illness.  Noting perfection between these multiple houses indicates how well things can be affected by each.

“gods dick” — They pack a whallop, that’s for sure, and can be quite nice, besides.  Check out your own if you get the fancy; the phallus is a mystery in and of itself, though one more explicit and, thus, more easily misunderstood.

“occult epiphany chalk blessing is occult” — This refers to the practice where, on Epiphany, the Christian holy day that remembers the visitation of the Three Wise Men to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  At Mass, the priest blesses chalk that the faithful take home and mark YY + C + M + B + XX, where YYXX is the year of the Ephiphany AD, and CMB stand for the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar (the Three Wise Men) or for the phrase Christus Mansionem Benedictat, “may Christ bless [this] house”.  I try to do this myself on Epiphany day, even though it’s not well-practiced in American Christianity (and even then, relegated to mostly traditional Catholics).  As for whether it’s occult, absolutely, in the sense that anything spiritual or actively religious is occult.  If you want to see it as merely a religious custom, you’re free to do so, but if you believe in the apotropaic and blessing power of the act, then it becomes closer to a miracle or magical act, and thus occult in the strictest sense of the word.

On Confusing Geomantic Charts and Geomantic Competency

I started studying geomancy in college, and I was blessed to go to a university with a huge library and good connections.  I’ll always fondly remember hauling my ass to the Old Stacks on grounds, and walking up the claustrophobic submarine-esque stairwell to get to the parapsychology and occult aisles, and finding tomes of occult knowledge from a variety of traditions across the world, including geomancy (which was often mixed up with feng shui manuals written in Classical Chinese and Korean as well as African divination that was only tangentially related).  Of these books, I have to credit Stephen Skinner and his out-of-print book Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy with really getting me started in my research.  His up-to-date version of the book Geomancy in Theory and Practice is something every geomancer should have in their library; it’s a wealth of knowledge on the historical development and context of geomancy, as well as some of the major names in geomantic history dating back to its earliest mythological Arabic roots.

However, as I’ve come to learn and practice geomancy over the years, I’ve realized that Skinner’s book on geomancy has its major shortcomings.  The book is far better a history on geomancy than it is a guide to practicing it, and what little there is on actual practice is focused on a very late Golden Dawn-style of geomancy.  This isn’t bad per se, but it doesn’t draw on all the research Skinner has done in Arabic and European geomancy, especially all the new texts that have come to light since the publication of Terrestrial Astrology in 1980.  It’s one technique in particular that Skinner describes that I take major issue with, and it’s based on a fundamental issue with geomantic practice that I find to really hinder geomantic practice.  Skinner says that the Sentence, also known as the 16th figure or the Reconciler or superjudge, should only be used as a last resort if the Judge and the rest of the chart is unclear:

Who could ask for greater clarity?  If the answer were ambiguous, don’t forget that you could always resort to that back-stop, the Reconciler (figure XVI), which is formed by ‘adding’ together figures I and XV, that is, the first Mother and the Judge.  However, don’t form a Reconciler if you have already got a satisfactory answer, as this is rude persistence in the face of a perfectly adequate reply by the oracle!

The idea behind this is that the Sentence is “extra” and not needed by a geomancer except when the chart is confusing, and shouldn’t be part of the normal reading process.  As I’ve come to practice the art, I find the Sentence is always something to examine and is crucial to forming a complete answer.  In Arabic traditions, the Sentence is called “the result of the result”; if the Judge is the result of the query and how the situation resolves itself, then the Sentence is the effect of the resolution on the querent and how things go from there.  In other words, I treat the Sentence as a long-term post-mortem retrospective view on the situation and see how the querent will be effected by everything that happens, and it completes the chart by giving us a final sixteenth figure to round everything out from beginning to the end and afterwards.

The notion of using the Sentence to clarify the Judge does the role of the Sentence a severe injustice, since it belittles this noble figure way too much.  While the Judge does, of course, take precedence in giving an answer to the query, the Sentence is vital in seeing how things continue even after the situation comes to a close and gives us a final view on how the querent will be personally affected by the situation.  This differs from the rest of the chart, which describes what happens or how things happen.  To say that the Sentence is to be used as a “back-stop” doesn’t accurately describe the role of this figure, and to say that it should only be used in the case of a confusing chart is to insult it when it’s far more useful than that in every chart.

It gets worse, though.  Behind this technique of using the Sentence as a last-resort clarification to the Judge in the case of a confusing chart is the underlying notion that a geomantic chart can be too confusing to interpret with the usual methods and one must use “extra” figures in order to make sense of the thing.  I cannot overstate my disagreement with this notion, so let me make my point clear:

In a well-constructed geomantic reading, the symbols are always correct.  It is up to the geomancer to make sense of the symbols and soundly interpret the chart.  The chart in a geomantic reading is not wrong on its own, but the interpretation of the geomancer will be correct or incorrect depending on their own competency.  If a chart in a geomantic reading cannot be interpreted, the fault lies with the geomancer and not the chart.

When I say “well-constructed”, I don’t mean a chart that is drawn up correctly (though that is a necessary condition of a reading that is constructed properly).  I also mean that the reading is performed in a proper mindset: a clear, detached mind that isn’t afflicted by taxing concerns or worries.  The reading should also be performed when the geomancer isn’t physically afflicted with illness that would cause distraction, and other distractions to the geomantic process should also be minimized: the reading should be done when the weather isn’t violent or otherwise bad, in a place that is not moving (i.e. don’t do a reading in a moving vehicle), in a place that is relatively calm and peaceful, without obstruction from outside influences including spiritual adversaries or an unethical reader that stacks the deck or manipulates the generation of the Mothers or a person working maleficia against you to mess with your divinatory skill, and so forth.  This also includes heeding the usual warnings of Rubeus or Cauda Draconis appearing as the First Mother, though how one takes that warning is dependent on tradition.  These are all crucial things to be aware of, and while mental clarity and stability can neutralize many of these concerns ranging from a raging storm to raging emotions, they should all be heeded to construct a reading in the best possible way.

Assuming you’ve heeded the weather and your own well-being, the chart is going to have all the information you need to answer the query.  However, while the chart gives you the figures to interpret, it’s still going to be the geomancer alone who develops the interpretation.  This is where geomancy turns from a mathematically-rigorous technical practice into a spiritually-refined oracular art, and this is where things like intuition, emotional understanding, and perspective come into play.  If what the geomancer says is wrong, then it’s not the chart’s fault that the reading went wrong; the blame for an incorrect interpretation lies solely with the geomancer.  It’s up to the geomancer to give a proper interpretation of the figures; and that requires the geomancer to be competent in their knowledge of the figures and the techniques of geomancy.  You do not need to relegate certain figures to be last-resort interpretive methods, nor do you need to add the Sentence to the four Mothers to get another set of Mothers to draw up a new chart that can potentially be clearer than the first; you don’t need any other figures besides the first set you got.

This notion of a chart being too confusing to read is, as I understand it, an excuse for an incompetent geomancer who lacks the finesse to put together the pieces of the geomantic puzzle before them into a coherent interpretation.  Sometimes charts will be hard to read, and this is to be expected when we have only 16 figures to represent all of the myriad myriad things in the cosmos; however, I can solidly say that there has never been a chart constructed properly that was wrong in my own practice.  I’ve had a number of readings go awry with incorrect interpretations abound, but hindsight is 20/20 and I can always point out what went wrong after the fact and see how I could have interpreted the chart better.  It might take me five minutes to develop an interpretation for a chart or it might take me five hours, but there is no such thing as a chart that is too confusing to read.

As a result, I find this notion of having techniques to resolve a confusing chart to come from a very bad understanding of geomancy, since it pushes the blame of not being able to read a chart from the geomancer to geomancy itself.  This is not the case, and never has been!  If you’re not competent enough to properly read a chart, then become competent with more practice and trial-and-error.  It’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to go well every single time.  That’s why we practice and build up our knowledge of the figures and techniques of geomancy, and while geomancy is an art that can take a week to pick up and start practicing with good results, it can take years and years to actually become competent at it.

Consider this from the point of view of an alchemist.  In their art, they deal with the subtle forces and changes in material components to drive spiritual changes in the world, and it’s an excruciatingly fine art and science to practice.  Some alchemical processes can take months to complete and must be performed time and time again, and not all these attempts come to success.  If an alchemist’s experiment comes to failure, it’s not alchemy that was at fault, but the alchemist; they didn’t perform their calculations or their processes correctly, or they used the wrong set of materials, or they did things at the wrong time or in the wrong state.  To say that it’s alchemy itself that doesn’t work is, quite simply, wrong, and no alchemist would say such a thing of their art.  For us to say that about geomancy is misguided at best and hypocritical at worst.  Don’t do it.

If the chart is confusing, it’s because you’re the one confused.  While it’s lamentable, it’s not irreparable; there are plenty of things you can do to resolve a “confusing” chart that don’t involve these problematic techniques.  Take a step back, take a deep breath, and try looking at the chart from another perspective.  Think more deeply about the query put to the chart, and see if there’s something you missed in an assumption you made or if there’s something you aren’t aware of when the query was asked.  See if you missed something in your understanding of the techniques or the symbols in geomancy, if you misapplied a particular technique, or if you’re using the wrong set of meanings for a particular symbol.  Consider your own state of being and that of the land and area around you to see if there are negative influences surrounding the reading.  If you need to, take a nap and sleep on the chart for a bit (literally or otherwise) and come back to it later.  If, even after looking at the chart from every angle, you still can’t come to a satisfactory answer, wait at least a day and draw up a new chart for the same query, but save the old one for reference to compare results later.

Over time, competency will come, but it’s up to you to work on it.  There are no shortcuts and there are no substitutes for this.  Trying to make your life easier by geomantically begging the question with “clarification” techniques does neither you nor geomancy any favors.  Research the techniques; meditate on the meanings; practice the process.  That’s the real way to resolve confusing charts.