My Blog List

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Three kinds of magic...or is it four?

In 1510 Cornelius Agrippa wrote a three-volume treatise entitled Occult Philosophy and sent it to Abott Johannes Trithemius for approval. Trithemius' response was that Agrippa should be cautious,
"lest ye be trod under the oxen' feet, as oftentimes happens."
The manuscript was not published for another two decade.

Agrippa divided magic into three main systems:
"Naturall, Mathematicall and Theologicall."
The first kind -Natural magic derives from the natural world of herbs and stones, that occult virtues can be obtained by studying the correspondences and relationships between existing things.

My understanding of this world is encoded in symbol and metaphor. My knowledge of atoms: the planetary electrons spinning in shells with measurable location and direction (but not both!) around the solid protons and their inert companions, the neutrons is just a dreaming.

And a dreaming is *the best theory* an ephemeral web of links that seem to work; made of pictures that describe what is going on under the surface...when what is actually happening cannot be seen.

I personally do not get why the electrons spin so fast that they do not fall into the proton-neutron core; but there are whole chemistry sets of cat-crackers steaming away cooking complex hydrocarbons and this alone proves that the theory works correctly enough to be useful. And being useful is all that matters when the goal is to keep the wheels spinning. The pursuit of understanding and knowledge continues in research laboratories, then the knowledge is forged into machines...

Agrippa's second kind of magic is mathematical: the magical properties of stars and planets and numbers. Mathematical magic "mathesis" was based on Pythagorean mystical philosophy, that number is God's hidden symbolic language of creation.

I know and love it best in the virtual worlds of computer gaming.

Here endeth my first lesson on Natural and mathematical magick!

Agrippa's third category of magic was 'Theological'. As Agrippa seems to be using Pythagorean systems, then Iamblichus who recorded Pythagorean Doctrines sometime before AD 333 provides us with a definition of theological magic 'theurgia': a divine work which sought to raise the consciousness of the practitioner so that it contacted the highest form of the divine.
"When the soul has been united with the various parts of everything in turn, and with all the divine powers which pervade them, then the soul is brought to the undivided creator and is entrusted to his keeping"

De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum (On the Mysteries of the Egyptians)
This view corresponds somewhat with a contemporary understanding of the uni(meta)verse as a hologram. The sacred view is that this world and all the elements within, plus human souls are emanation from the divine. Theurgy is a process of return to the original condition of being -to God.

The Kabbala and Buddhism are both 'schools of theurgy'. Buddhism is a method of taking apart and then reassembling the phenomenal, everyday world; a process of assimilating all aspects of the mind hidden until meditation reveals them. The three vehicles of Buddhism suit three differing temperaments: the Hinayana for those who like things to be black and white and do well with rules. The Mahayana for those who need candles, pictures, and wish to be better people. The Vajrayana, for those whose minds respond well to metaphor and symbol.

The practice of placing one's mind in the mind of God is called Guru yoga.

But, if that is all there was too it surely there would never have been any witch hunts? Who could object to natural magic or mathematics when they result in medicines and machines or even to Guru Yoga, if Guru yoga is just a device to make people behave in a better, more integrated way?

The Vajrayana and Kabbala are paths that lead through the realms of angels and demons because the non-physical entities guard the gate to other levels of reality. Only by summoning the entities associated with that level, one may ask their permission to enter their realm.

If the primary purpose of magic is the attainment of various goals by consorting with spirits, angels, daemons and so on. And if there is no concept of 'integration' because we are -with Agrippa- still four hundred years away from Freud, Jung and any kind of psychological understanding of personality. And if the goal is not transcendent ie union with God, but seen to be material gain, such as getting someone into bed, or winning the lottery and people die because of love potions, or in mysterious circumstances, and if necromancy is involved! The intellectuals may see nothing wrong, but The Daily Mail readers of the three times and ten directions still to this day know otherwise.

Therefore Agrippa's division of magic into three forms ignores the bad associations the word magic acquired mainly I think, during the Roman era.

Witchcraft during Roman time was the key symbol for representing disruption of law and inversion of natural forces. Plutarch had written of the nature of demons, there were oracles (and who knew how those things was said to be under the rule of the god Apollo, but who knows). Old women, especially 'Thessalian' women were a device much used by authors, starting with Horace and his witch Canidia.
But oh, by all the gods in heaven, who rule the earth and human race, what means this tumult? And what the hideous looks of all these [hags, fixed] upon me alone? I conjure thee by thy children (if invoked Lucina was ever present at any real birth of thine), I [conjure] thee by this empty honor of my purple, by Jupiter, who must disapprove these proceedings, why dost thou look at me as a step-mother, or as a wild beast stricken with a dart? While the boy made these complaints with a faltering voice, he stood with his bandages of distinction taken from him, a tender frame, such as might soften the impious breasts of the cruel Thracians; Canidia, having interwoven her hair and uncombed head with little vipers, orders wild fig-trees torn up from graves, orders funeral cypresses and eggs besmeared with the gore of a loathsome toad, and feathers of the nocturnal screech-owl, and those herbs, which lolchos, and Spain, fruitful in poisons, transmits, and bones snatched from the mouth of a hungry bitch, to be burned in Colchian flames.
The name witch comes from the word for screech-owl: striges which became low Latin for "witch." and the sacrifice of young boys, or the ripping of un-born babes from their mother's wombs de rigour for necromancy.

The witch's original name -Medea- may have come from Greek mythology, but the true horror of her was created in Roman fiction.

Lucan writes:
For when the famous druidess Medea, daughter of Aeëtes king of the Colchians, came with Jason son of Aeson into Greece, she found in the land of Thessaly, although she was the chief witch of the world, much more than her witchcraft and druidic spells and poisonous herbs. The places on the globe wherein the Science of magic was most common, namely, the city of Memphis, and the land of Egypt, Babylon and the countries of the Chaldees, were all exceeded by the Thessalian witches. For they used to work their magic spells on the mundane elements, so that their own shapes were not left upon them. They used to lengthen the night and shorten the day as they wanted. They used not to leave the air or the firmament in its own power, for when they desired they would stop the firmament from its mundane course. They would bring thunders and storms into the air, and rainy clouds and darkness over the sun at the time when his lightnings were manifest and his rays were clear.
Lucan, a Roman poet: born November 3, 39 AD – died April 30, 65 AD continues:
Now although in the land of Thessaly there was many an evil witch reverenced in that art, one witch was there who surpassed them all and to whom all used to yield recognition and authority. A lath of a blue-haired hideous hag was she: Erictho her name, a sage of witchcraft she. Wizards' inventions, and new spells were made by herself on every day. She used to visit hell and the fields of the river Styx and the abodes of Pluto king of hell whenever she desired. Her dwelling and her habitation and her couch were in clefts of rocks and in cavernous holes of the earth and in tombs of the dead.

She frequented no assembly nor city nor human dwellings out of them, unless the darkness of mist or rain or night should have come. She culled and gathered her poisonous herbs and her magical gear throughout the districts that were near her. And the ploughed corn-field or the meadow untilled, on which she used then to tread, its grass or its corn would not grow for a long time afterwards. She never used to demand prophecy save from the demons of hell. These would answer her forthwith at the first spell; and they durst not wait for the second spell from her.
Lucan's witch Erictho pursues her craft out of a pure love of doing evil.

From Lucan's poem Bellum Civile, Erictho either dances in the charnal ground as a Hindu tantrika, or is an old woman dragged to the stake to be burned. Erictho stalks the edges of the imagination at the end of the film [REC].

Back to myth, but myth as dreaming.
2800 years ago the best theory to explain why some regions of the earth reek of sulphur, boil and rumble, erupt with liquid fire or have the unsettling qualities we associate with toxic fumes (thinking now of Avernus as the lake without birds) was the presence of a terrible creature imprisoned deep under the ground. The image given to us from from Norse/Anglo-Saxon myth is of caves containing fire breathing dragons guarding treasure. The Great Old Ones, spoken of in Hesiod's Theogeny and cast down by Zeus were prisoners, and something worse than dragons. They could never be described as beautiful; doing battle with them would be for the sake of survival, to prevent them crawling up out of the ground to wreck terror and vengeance on mankind. Hesiod describes 'unshapen hulks', some with fifty heads growing from their shoulders, a hundred arms with boundless strength and terrifying power.

Hesiod was a weaver of tales, spinning Mesopotamian theogony stories into Greek, as the Vikings wove Greek myth into theirs.

The difference is that Hesiod's theogony explained geological processes. There was proof in the bubbling mud pools and on the slopes of Etna that the battle between Zeus and the Titans had taken place. But far from making people keep away, people were drawn to these sites. Hesiod's  Theogony provided an explanation as to how Apollo was obliged to remove the python from Delphi - for the earth hid such horrors- but it doesn't explain why the priestess of the python gave oracles to for tell the future.

Something has gone missing in the understanding of how these places were used.

All this came to an end in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I ordered decrees that spelt the end for Delphi and all other sites to cease operation, effectively making the Catholic Church and Nicean Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

21st December 2010, sun and moon.

It feels as if the sun is a long way away; all the heat of the world being sucked out into space. The ground outside is covered in a fat layer of snow, the background sound free from the usual omnipresent drone of cars.

Sun stand still.

This winter solstice is a full moon.
It is also a lunar eclipse, the first total lunar eclipse to occur on the day of the Winter Solstice since 1638. The eclipse starts at 5:29 Tuesday morning and the moon is fully eclipsed at 8:16 am, which is unfortunately when the moon has virtually set (it sets at 8:18) and the sky will be brightening as the sun rises.

The time that the moon rises for the solstice, in the area of Swindon is 3:08 on Monday afternoon (azimuth 49)  it sets at 8:18 am (azimuth 310). The sun rises on Tuesday morning at 8:11 with an azimuth of 128 (London) and sets at 4:00 in the afternoon (azimuth 232) as the moon is about to rise, quarter of an hour latter at 16:14 (azimuth 51).

But snow and cars and a Tesco delivery..and should I be at Woodhenge, the Sanctuary, Avebury or Stonehenge or all four...

at the same time

is how I feel.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Lonely Planet...

I was listening to Susan Hill on the radio this morning, talking about her dislike of Wagner with a man who loved the music of Wagner. He touched on the subject Stephen Fry was so perplexed by, namely how can one love the work of someone whose attitudes and opinions are repellent.

I rarely find myself so conflicted, I don't need people to be *good* but on the other hand, listening to, or reading poorly understood Darwinian theories about the superiority of certain races...or even the idea of races, is immensely trying (from my place of safety).

I've no idea what I think about Wagner save that Ride of the Valkyries worked well in Apocalypse Now. I do not see myself saving up for a ticket to get into the Bayreuth festival. I'm seriously confused by why people want to believe that they belong to a Superior race, though in the case of Sir Arthur Evans perhaps Adler had a point!

Why am I troubled by Sir Arthur Evans?

Well in effect Sir Arthur Evans created Knossos, this act of taking myth out of the purely liminal and into into real world is in itself fascinating, but it means that I need to read about him, and I don't find him pleasant company.

The desire to find archaeological sites mentioned in ancient texts started in earnest with Heinrich Schliemann who believed that he had uncovered Troy. Now and then you will see people on BBC 4 tv programmes striding about the ruins of Hisarlik and calling it Troy.

Well it may be Troy as stormed by Achilles and Odysseus. Troy where the towers of Ilium burned and Astyanax was thrown.

Only one thing alone is true, it is now Troy.

I subscribe to the theory that Troy was the archetypal war, an amalgam of all wars, a record of war and that Troy never happened and always will...

The why is what makes the cross over from myth to reality important.

As I read I can't help contrasting the application of myth by Evans with Dr R F Paget, and Mike Parker Pearson. Dr RF Paget (don't forget Keith!) comes out of it very well actually, because in the end it doesn't matter at all that he believed in Orpheus as a real man, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that Homer was a blind poet rather than possibly 'Mills and Boon' a generic term for types of work.

Dr Paget always shows his workings out and keeps a clear record of what he finds and so his beliefs are immaterial.

Mike Parker Pearson represents a newish trend in the use of myth; this is the importation of a non-indigenous myth applied to similar structures thousands of miles away. A researcher invites someone to look at say Stonehenge because his country has standing stones that are still used or were used within living memory. The researcher asks about the meanings given to the rituals used and then apply those meanings to the structure and landscape in this country.

In some ways this reminds me very much of W. Y. Evans-Wentz's 'Naturalistic approach' as described in his book: The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (1911):
...the Naturalistic Theory, which is, that in ancient and in modern times man's belief in gods, spirits, or fairies has been the direct result of his attempts to explain or to rationalize natural phenomena. Of this theory we accept as true that the belief in fairies often anthropomorphically reflects the natural environment as well as the social condition of the people who hold the belief. For example, amid the beautiful low-lying green hills and gentle dells of Connemara (Ireland), the 'good people' are just as beautiful, just as gentle, and just as happy as their environment; while amid the dark-rising mountains and in the mysterious cloud-shadowed lakes of the Scotch Highlands there are fiercer kinds of fairies and terrible water-kelpies, and in the Western Hebrides there is the much-dreaded 'spirit-host' moving through the air at night.

The Naturalistic Theory shows accurately enough that natural phenomena and environment have given direction to the anthropomorphosing of gods, spirits, or fairies, but after explaining this external aspect of the Fairy-Faith it cannot logically go any further.

In the internal aspects of the Fairy-Faith the fundamental fact seems clearly to be that there must have been in the minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of modern men, a germ idea of a fairy for environment to act upon and shape. Without an object to act upon, environment can accomplish nothing. This is evident. The Naturalistic Theory examines only the environment and its effects, and forgets altogether the germ idea of a fairy to be acted upon; but the Psychological Theory remembers and attempts to explain the germ idea of a fairy and the effect of nature upon it.
I really do not like the word fairy. I have more of a problem with the word Celt. The turn of the last century was a weird time and each time I turn a Crowley card (Book of Thoth) and read him wittering on about The New Aeon, I want to spit!

W Y Evans Wentz was an excellent travel writer, here is his description of the Highlands of Scotland:
In the moorlands between Trossachs and Aberfoyle, a region made famous by Scott's Rob Roy, I have seen atmospheric changes so sudden and so contrasted as to appear marvellous. What shifting of vapours and clouds, what flashes of bright sun-gleams, then twilight at midday! Across the landscape, shadows of black dense fog-banks rush like shadows of flocks of great birds which darken all the earth. Palpitating fog-banks wrap themselves around the mountain-tops and then come down like living things to move across the valleys, sometimes only a few yards above the traveller's head. And in that country live terrible water-kelpies. When black clouds discharge their watery burden it is in wind-driven vertical water-sheets through which the world appears as through an ice-filmed window-pane. Perhaps in a single day there may be the bluest of heavens and the clearest air, the densest clouds and the darkest shadows, the calm of the morning and the wind of the tempest. At night in Aberfoyle after such a day, I witnessed a clear sunset and a fair evening sky; in the morning when I arose, the lowlands along the river were inundated and a thousand cascades, large and small, were leaping down the mountain-highlands, and rain was falling in heavy masses. Within an hour afterwards, as I travelled on towards Stirling, the rain and wind ceased, and there settled down over all the land cloud-masses so inky-black that they seemed like the fancies of some horrible dream. Then like massed armies they began to move to their mountain-strongholds, and stood there; while from the east came perfect weather and a flood of brilliant sunshine.

And in the Highlands from Stirling to Inverness what magic, what changing colours and shadows there were on the age-worn treeless hills, and in the valleys with their clear, pure streams receiving tribute from unnumbered little rills and springs, some dropping water drop by drop as though it were fairy-distilled; and everywhere the heather giving to the mountain-landscape a hue of rich purplish-brown, and to the air an odour of aromatic fragrance.

On to the north-west beyond Inverness there is the same kind of a treeless highland country; and then after a few hours of travel one looks out across the water from Kyle and beholds Skye, where Cuchulainn is by some believed to have passed his young manhood learning feats of arms from fairy women,--Skye, dark, mountainous, majestic, with its waterfalls turning to white spray as they tumble from cliff to cliff into the sound, from out the clouds that hide their mountain-summit sources...

W Y went on to write out a translation made by Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup of 'The Tibetan Book of The Dead' which is in effect a Lonely Planet travel guide for the bardo thodol.

Jung wrote in the introduction just about all that can be said about W Y's work:
The Bardo Thödol began by being a 'closed' book, and so it has remained, no matter what kind of commentaries may be written upon it. For it is a book that will only open itself to spiritual understanding, and this is a capacity which no man is born with, but which he can only acquire through special training and special experience. It is good that such to all intents and purposes 'useless' books exist. They are meant for those 'queer folk' who no longer set much store by the uses, aims, and meaning of present-day 'civilisation'.
— Carl Jung.
How all this relates to me is, I need to value my sense of disconnection and turn it into a gift. Being an insider isn't useful because the ordinary and the familiar fade out of consciousness like the ticking of a clock, or the hush of my computer.

To see I need to increase my disconnection -so that's good then!?

Also I'm grateful to W Y Evans Wentz's explanation of 'The Naturalistic theory'.

It has helped me to clarify what I'm working with..W Y writes:
In the internal aspects of the Fairy-Faith the fundamental fact seems clearly to be that there must have been in the minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of modern men, a germ idea of a fairy for environment to act upon and shape.
I am saying that there is a germ idea that makes the theme of the lost girl reoccur again and again -germ is an odd way to think of it, seed is much better- a seed idea. This seed idea has grown into this world in many forms, and where it appears its roots remain firmly in that Otherworld of the human mind...

Monday, 6 December 2010

"In The Footsteps of Orpheus"

...was published in 1967. It tells the tale of Dr Paget and Mr Jones's exploration of tunnels and passages further on from the Oracle of the Sibyl as excavated by Amadea Maiuri in 1932 at Cuma.

Dr Paget and Mr Jones knew of two tunnels cut through the crater wall at the site of the Roman dockyard. One of them was named the Grotto della Sibilla and its custodian: Signor Alessandro maintained that it was in fact the original entrance to the Underworld. But they both went on to explore much further and deeper, following tunnels too narrow to turn around in, and in fear of being overwhelmed by noxious gases, convinced that they had found the argillae of the Cimmerians.

For Homer's Odyssey describes the Cimmerians as living beyond the Oceanus, in a land of fog and darkness, at the edge of the world and the entrance of Hades.

Quoting Strabo (who is quoting Ephorus) and talking about Cuma close to Avernus:
There is here a spring of water, near to the sea, fit for drinking, from which, however, every one abstained, as they thought it water from Styx. They thought, likewise, that the oracle of the dead was situated somewhere here. Ephorus, peopling the place with Kimmerii, tells us that they dwell in underground habitations, and that these communicate with one another by means of certain subterranean passages; and that they conduct strangers through them to the oracle, which is built far below the surface of the earth. They lived in the mines together, with the profits accruing from the oracle and grants made to them by the king. It was a traditional custom for the servants of the oracle never to behold the sun, and only to quit their caverns at night. At last, however, these men were exterminated by one of the kings, the oracle having deceived him; but the oracle is still in existence, though removed to another place. Such were the myths related by our ancestors.'
Unfortunately, neither Strabo nor Ephorus explain what people did once they entered the Underworld. Pausanius (second century AD) goes further, but he too respects the rule of secrecy the oracles demanded.

Pausanius describes his visit to Labadeia:
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 39. 3 ff (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D:

"The most famous things in the grove [at Lebadeia, Boiotia] are a temple and image of Trophonios; the image made by Praxiteles, is after the likeness of Asklepios . . . If you go up to the oracle, and thence onwards up the mountain, you come to what is called Kore’s Hunting . . . What happens at the oracle is as follows. When a man has made up his mind to descend to the oracle of Trophonios, he first lodges in a certain building for an appointed number of days, this being sacred to the Daimonos Agathon (Good Daimon) and to Tykhe (Fortune). While he lodges there, among other regulations for purity he abstains from hot baths, bathing only in the river Herkyna. Meat he has in plenty from the sacrifices, for he who descends sacrifices to Trophonios himself and to the children of Trophonios, to Apollon also and Kronos, to Zeus surnamed King, to Hera Charioteer, and to Demeter whom they surname Europa and say was the nurse of Trophonios.

At each sacrifice a diviner is present, who looks into the entrails of the victim, and after an inspection prophesies to the person descending whether Trophonios will give him a kind and gracious reception. The entrails of the other victims do not declare the mind of Trophonios as much as a ram, which each inquirer sacrifices over a pit on the night he descends, calling upon Agamedes. Even though the previous sacrifices have appeared propitious, no account is taken of them unless the entrails of this ram indicate the same; but if they agree, then the inquirer descends in good hope.

The procedure of the descent is this. First, during the night he is taken to the river Herkyna by two boys of the citizens about thirteen years old, named Hermai, who after taking him there anoint him with oil and wash him. It is these who wash the descender, and do all the other necessary services as his attendant boys. After this he is taken by the priests, not at once to the oracle, but to fountains of water very near to each other. Here he must drink water called the water of Lethe, that he may forget all that he has been thinking of hitherto, and afterwards he drinks of another water, the water of Mnemosyne (Memory), which causes him to remember what he sees after his descent.

After looking at the image which they say was made by Daidalos (it is not shown by the priests save to such as are going to visit Trophonios), having seen it, worshipped it and prayed, he proceeds to the oracle, dressed in a linen tunic, with ribbons girding it, and wearing the boots of the country.

The oracle is on the mountain, beyond the grove.

Round it is a circular basement of white marble, the circumference of which is about that of the smallest threshing-floor, while its height is just short of two cubits.

On the basement stand spikes, which, like the cross-bars holding them together, are of bronze, while through them has been made a double door.

Within the enclosure is a chasm in the earth, not natural, but artificially constructed after the most accurate masonry. The shape of this structure is like that of a bread-oven. Its breadth across is the middle one might conjecture to be about four cubits, and its depth also could not be estimated to extend to more than eight cubits. They have made no way of descent to the bottom, but when a man comes to Trophonios, they bring him a narrow, light ladder. After going down he finds a hole between the floor and the structure. Its breadth appeared to be two spans, and its height one span. The descender lies with his back on the ground, holding barley-cakes kneaded with honey, thrusts his feet into the hold and himself follows, trying hard to get his knees into the hole. After his knees the rest of his body is at once swiftly drawn in, just as the largest and most rapid river will catch a man in its eddy and carry him under. After this those who have entered the shrine learns the future, not in one and the same way in all cases, but by sight sometimes and at other times by hearing. The return upwards is by the same mouth, the feet darting out first. They say that no one who has made the descent has been killed, save only one of the bodyguard of Demetrios. But they declare that he performed none of the usual rites in the sanctuary, and he descended not to consult the god but in the hope of stealing gold and silver from the shrine. It is said the body of this man appeared in a different place, and was not cast out at the sacred mouth...After his ascent from Trophonios the inquirer is again taken in hand by the priests, who set him upon a chair called the chair of Mnemosyne (Memory), which stands not far from the shrine, and they ask of him, when seated there, all he has seen or learned. After gaining this information they then entrust him to his relatives. These lift him, paralysed with terror and unconscious both of himself and of his surroundings, and carry him to the building where he lodged before with Tykhe (Fortune) and the Daimon Agathos (Good Spirit). Afterwards, however, he will recover all his faculties, and the power to laugh will return to him. What I write is not hearsay; I have myself inquired of Trophonios and seen other inquirers.

Those who have descended into the shrine of Trophonios are obliged to dedicate a tablet on which is written all that each has heard or seen...This oracle was once unknown to the Boiotians, but they learned of it the following way. As there had been no rain for a year and more, they sent to Delphoi envoys from each city. These asked for a cure for the drought, and were bidden by the Pythia to go to Trophonios at Lebadeia and to discover the remedy from him. Coming to Lebadeia they could not find the oracle. Thereupon Saon, one of the envoys from the city Akraiphnion and the oldest of all the envoys, saw a swarm of bees. It occurred to him to follow himself wheresoever the bees turned. At once he saw the bees flying into the ground here, and he went with them into the oracle. It is said that Trophonios taught this Saon the customary ritual, and all the observances kept at the oracle. Of all the works of Daidalos there are these two in Boiotia, a Herakles in Thebes and the Trophonios at Lebadeia."
After Dr Paget and Mr Jones's work, Oracles of the Dead have become tourist destinations, as we no longer fear 'Necromancy' as did the Romans who had laws against 'witchcraft' and closed the oracle...