A Headless Ritual template


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kloster1Ever since Gordon published a version of The Headless Rite in his excellent book The Chaos Protocols, I’ve noticed an uptick in interest in the ritual, including quite a few people who were intrigued enough to begin performing it. Count me among them. Though it’s still too early days to comment one way or t’other whether I am getting any “results”, I have found myself thinking of adjusting the rite somewhat in my future performances.

To this end, I scanned the Stele of Jeu out of the PGM and put it through OCR to get a Word version of the original text. Everyone started from this version, wherever they eventually went with it.

Since I reckon I’m not the only person considering adjustments to the basic rite, I figured I’d make this template available to people. You can download it here. 

I have carefully read through the text to remove the blips that inevitably occur when working with OCR, especially making sure that the Barbaric Names are all spelled correctly.

I also reformatted the paragraphs from Chicago Style to more business-like block paragraphs (with a space in between), which I think are easier to read.

The OCR software removed all the diacritical marks from the vowels, so if you still want those, you’ll have to put them back in (I’ll just draw them on with a pen after I print out my ritual script).

Happy hunting!



Cosmic Chicken

“I’m ancient, bitch!”

Syncs happen in the durndest places in the durndest ways.

So I’m riding the the 14 tram home with my teenage daughter Saturday night when we come to a stop called fiastyúk utca (Mother Hen Street), a stop I’ve passed countless times over the years. I remark that it’s struck me often what an odd name for a street it is.

“You know, don’t you,” she says, “that it’s also the name of a constellation, right?”

Well, no, I didn’t know that. Hmmmm, I think to myself, I wonder which one. I get out my handy-dandy android phone, fire up my Hungarian-English lexicon app, type in fiastyúk, and when I see the translation I just about shit myself. It’s the Hungarian name for The Pleiades. Wait, what?

As y’all know, I went to London to personally pick up my copy of Gordon’s revolutionary new NSFSC (Not Safe For Sacred Cows) magical history book Star.Ships. I also managed to score an afternoon of “daytime drinking” (his words) with Gordon, which is the subject of another posting.

I’ve been squeezing reading sessions in between busily seething at home and office, and once I finish Star.Ships I will give it a proper review. But this sync just screams to be written about right now.

I’m not really risking any spoilers if I say that Gordon’s book lines up the evidence (based on a 13-page biography of weighty works) for a revised understanding of prehistory, in which the human race has had a sophisticated culture and potent technical knowledge for as long as 100,000 years. Part of his case is based on conclusions to be drawn from comparative star lore/mythology (they are intricately intertwined) that shows we have been long-distance land- and sea navigators since… well… long before The Flood. In building this case he dedicates a lot of text to discussing the importance of the constellations Orion and The Pleiades to both navigation and myths/star lore, throughout the world. Particularly he talks about how myths about sisters are associated with The Pleiades in far-flung cultures around the world; a connection that cannot be adequately explained by the canonical historical narrative being taught by academia. If you want to know why this is important, read Gordon’s book!

Reading Star.Ships and mulling over it’s contents as I commute and walk around the city, The Pleiades have been on my mind frequently the last two weeks. So discovering that the name of a street I pass regularly is actually the Hungarian name for the Pleiades really got my attention.

I quickly went into research mode.

Turns out that Norse culture referred to the constellation as Freya’s hens, and that in many old European languages the constellation bore a name referring to a hen and her chicks.

Norse? There’s little reason the Hungarian language would refer to Norse myths. Not much contact be those cultures. And Hungarian star lore would have been formulated by the Magyars long before they ever left Asia and settled in the Carpathian Basin, so it is unlikely they were influenced by European languages and lore in this case.

But, interestingly, Thai star lore associates the Pleiades with a mother hen. I suspect the Hungarian association of the Pleiades with a mother hen has more to do with the source of the Thai story than with the European outliers. Or are they all derived from something very ancient from another source I haven’t identified yet?

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more data on this story.



From the ninth planet to Planet Gordon


Ninth Planet

Home Sweet Home

“Out here in the perimeter there are no stars

Out here we is stoned


–Jim Morrison


Make it squeal like a pig!

I’m feeling sadistic, so let’s torture a metaphor. “We be linguistic pirates, mate! Prepare to be boarded!”

Back when the solar system was beginning to stabilize and the earth was cooling and beginning to form a crust — i.e. back before the magical blogosphere  had the juice sucked out of it by Faceblark — I sent a signal from deep space that managed to register on Gordon White’s radar screen.

You see, I live in the vast darkness out beyond the recently demoted dwarf planet Pluto on that huge cold gaseous giant they’ve just started to report on in the press this week (otherwise known as Central Europe). Gorden lives at the center of the solar system on a zippy little planet owned by a queen that sends ripples in the gravity field all the way out to where I am.  I’ve been a devoted fan of his blog ever since I discovered it six years ago. I can think of only one other magic blogger whose skills at crafting prose come close to Gordon’s (You know who you are, charmer!). But for some time I could only love him from afar.

Slaughtering black swans

Until one day I really got his attention by writing a posting that mercilessly lampooned his internet persona. It was a hit among bloggers, and we’ve had a virtual friendship ever since.

For years I’ve threatened to visit him in London, and he’s threatened to blow my mind on awesome British Museum exhibitions. But, alas, what with work and family and projects, it can be hard for me to get away from Budapest at times.

But then he had to go and publish a book with one of the most respected occult publishers. What’s more, he had to arrange that it be launched at “London’s oldest independent occult bookshop“, and taunt me (taunt me!) with the illustrious guest list.

Get the space ship ready, Jeeves!

Fuck! I have no choice. Time to suit up, climb into my interplanetary vessel and go join Gordon at the bright center of The System.

So,  on February 13 I’ll be sipping cocktails specially formulated by a mix-master for this occasion. Gordon! What a guy! Wonder what he’ll call them?  Alien Absinthe? Tequila Starshine? Nephilim Nukes?

And at some point I’ll make a pilgrimage to the the Royal College of Physicians to see the new exhibition based around John Dee’s personal library. Which is only fitting, since I have spent some transformative time in Prague around another mage who used to live at Kelley’s Tower. Sitting on the steps of that tower, he once said to me,  “Every Rosicrucian of the late Renaissance walked up and down these steps to Kelley’s laboratory”.


Wouldn’t you know, Gordon was given a preview of the exhibition, and he’s made an excellent video about it. I can’t wait!

And in case you aren’t baby boomer enough to know the Doors song and Morrison poem, here you are.

Offering the little things


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For you, o spirits!

“Have you ever studied Onmyodo?” RO non sequitured in the middle of a Google chat last November. “What’s that?” I replied innocently, then quickly Googled it.

My jaw dropped when I saw: medieval Japanese sorcery. Intuitive bastard! How did he know I’d just, the day before, been thinking of researching what kind of magic they practice/practiced in Japan?

He gave me a couple of links to help me get started, and then…

…well I haven’t gotten much farther since.

I won’t bore you with stuff you can go look up yourself in a few minutes of web searching. But most of what you could learn about onmyodo on the internet can be read within less than an hour. Like many things Japanese, you probably need a decent institute library dedicated to Asian studies and a knowledge of Japanese and Chinese to penetrate it to any significant degree.

RO said he planned “to be studying the techniques of onmyodo“, but with the scanty resources available, I don’t see how. I’ll be pumping him for information to see if he’s made any headway.

Nonetheless, my desire to bring more magic into my aikido practice (or to get more magic out of my aikido practice) is still there, and although I can’t say I’ve found much about onmyodo beyond the superficial academic history book level, the search itself has given me some ideas.

As I’ve indicated in recent posts, I currently see devotional practices as the key to spiritualizing aikido: sincerely evoking O Sensei every time I get on the mat, attuning myself to the collective egregore of the art through aiki no kami as a tutelary spirit.

It is an interesting experience to come back later in life to something you were heavily involved in earlier in your life. As I wrote about many times in the early days of this blog and in a previous blog, returning to Western/Hermetic occultism/mysticism after years of dedicating myself to other pursuits (higher education, martial arts, writing/journalism/editing career, raising a second family), I was amazed how the intervening years had given me a very different perspective on occultism, and how many things were much clearer to me since I had gained a lot of life experience in the meantime.

When I practiced aikido in the eighties and early nineties, my focus was on the Zen side of the Japanese martial arts. I have no idea why, but the Shinto aspect didn’t make as much of an impression on me back then.

As hard as it is to do Internet research on Japanese subjects when confined to European languages, I have occasionally been exploring mystical/metaphysical/religious/magical topics that might have relevance to Japanese martial arts.*


A few months back I became aware of the central role the kami Sarutahiko plays in budo.** He is an important figure in Japanese mythology: the highest of the “earthly” kami; guardian of the bridge between the earthly and heavenly realms. He carries a jeweled spear he got from his father Izanagi. It turns out that O Sensei prayed regularly to Sarutahiko, and he claimed Sarutahiko taught him some techniques that were eventually incorporated into aikido.

Taking this as just the clue I needed to further spiritualize my aikido practice, I printed out a good image of the god, put it in a frame, and placed it in our dojo. Now, first, you need to understand what I mean when I say “our dojo”. This is a fairly unique post-communist Hungarian situation. You see, in the days of state socialism, martial arts had a very limited presence in this society. Either you got training as a member of the military/police, or you belonged to a judo team, which the state sponsored. The state had a vested interest in judo, since it was an international Olympic sport, and excelling in sports was good propaganda for communist countries. To this day, there are judo facilities maintained by the state, because this policy of promoting the national image through the country’s athletes was never discontinued (along with many other policies and institutions that have been maintained uninterruptedly since the cold war).

Where I train is a huge, state-owned, barn of a facility, with enough mat space to hold three judo matches at once. That’s huge. A regulation competition area is 14m X 14m. So altogether that’s 588 square meters. I’ve been at a workshop where we had over 100 people training on that mat at one time.

Something I’ve learned about large facilities in Hungary is that nobody questions something you do if it has the appearance of plausibly being official. So I just took the framed image of Sarutahiko and superglued the back of the frame to the wall next to the area where we train. Next to the image there’s a convenient gap between two boards that holds a stick of incense at a good angle. Not one question was asked.

Now, every time I emerge from the dressing room, I perform the following ritual. First I put on my hakama (as a sign of respect for the art and for Sarutahiko). Then I walk over to Sarutahiko and insert a piece of incense into the “holder” (I always use a high-quality Japanese brand called “Herb and Earth”, which has bamboo sticks. It produces lots of scent with minimum smoke. Frankincense.). Then I perform the Shinto gestures of offering: two bows, two claps, and one more bow. At that point I close my eyes and visualize his living image, and pray to him, either silently or sotto voce.

I also have a small shrine to him in my house, and I light a candle and some incense every time I do my morning exercises.

The Home Altar

The Home Altar


Results? I have to confess this is all “subjective”. I don’t really have anyone to compare myself to. I don’t know anyone else who returned to the practice of aikido after seventeen years off the mats. And success at working to get my aikido “mojo” back at the age of 54 is also hard to judge, because I was 34 when I quit. It was amazingly easier to achieve physical fitness and agility at that age.

Nonetheless, Sarutahiko does seem to be helping me. After one year back on the mats, I am very happy with what I have gained back. In the above recently made video, you can see me performing up to black-belt form, even if it’s still not quite the stuff I could do in my thirties. In the video I am my teacher’s partner while he is demonstrating a technique, but in the last twenty seconds of the video he has me perform the technique twice (right side, left side) When I reviewed this video, I found my second execution to be smooth and subtle. I was pleased.

I was also pleased, when I saw the above video, to observe that my sword work has also picked up some power and precision lately. This exercise is called happo undo, which means “eight directions practice”. Chaotes should take note that the exercise is about projecting energy outward from the center in eight directions (It teaches one to turn rapidly and maintain balance, so as to be ready for an attack from any direction. There is also a spiritual metaphor that one is cutting the fetters that bind one’s spirit.). The first four cuts describe a cross. The fourth cut is a 45-degree turn (as opposed to 180 and 90 for the rest of the cuts), which then begins a second cross whose arms fall between the arms of the first cross.

This exercise should be performed like a meditation, working to maintain absolute concentration from the moment one draws the sword until one has sheathed it again. And it teaches a lot about integrating breathing with movement.

But perhaps the evidence that the spiritualization of my practice has born some results is best illustrate by the following anecdote.

As I’ve mentioned before, my teachers acknowledged my rank and skills by allowing me to teach the last class of every month. I contemplate what I will teach in my next class during the weeks in between.

This last weekend I was in the hills of Northern Hungary, near the Slovakian border, attending the annual kindergarten camp held by our Waldorf kindergarten. In the morning, before everyone else was up, I would slip into the forest and do my morning exercises in the fresh, conifer-scented air. As has become my habit, I visualized Sarutahiko and bowed to him before I began training. At some point I began doing a slow “mime” of one of the techniques I plan to teach this month. Suddenly, in a flash, it came to me how to explain the essence of the technique in terms of yin/yang, drawing and projecting. It struck me as the perfect way to show why, at the beginning of the technique, one hand turns upward while the other turns downward, and why they reverse for the throw. I knew I could get the idea across very easily this way. I’d never seen the technique explained this way before. I kept spinning and turning my hands, and I felt the smooth energy flow this enabled.

Then it struck me where this idea had come from. Immediately, I bowed deeply and said, “Thank you very much, Sarutahiko.”

To paraphrase Rick in Casablanca: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

*Strictly speaking, Japanese martial arts don’t really include karate, which is Okinawan, and came to the Japanese Islands by way of China. The form of karate that Elvis Presley made famous by becoming the student of Ed Parker is called kenpo, because kenpo is a Japanese adjective meaning “Chinese”; ergo it is Chinese empty-handed technique.

**bu=martial, do=tao=way or path; ergo, the martial path, the way of the warrior

Has the public really been that clueless?


The only thing that shocks me about the frenzy of news media “revelations” that US intelligence services have been intercepting just about all information crossing the internet for years is that so many people are acting shocked and outraged.

Really? Where the hell have you people been for the last two decades? I’ve taken it for granted that Uncle Sam has been watching my internet activity ever since I got my first email account. I’m sure he knows how much money I have in the bank, who my friends are, where I shop, and all about my reading habits and political leanings.

Taken it for granted.

For years.

I’m an America who has lived abroad for 21 years. I’m certain the CIA has a file on me. I’m sure it’s noted every time I cross an international border.

Taken it for granted.

For years.

What kind of rosy-spectacled cave do you all live in?

And why weren’t you saying anything back in 2001 when they set this whole system up, right before your very eyes? Oh! Right! You thought they were protecting you from terrorists.

Funny thing. I’ve never met a terrorist in my life. Never. I wonder if they even really exist.

“If you let me take all your personal rights from you,” says Uncle Sam, “I’ll protect you from something I can’t really even prove exists, and even if it does, it has an infinitesimal chance of actually affecting your life or the life of anyone you know. But we think it’s important to use every resource available to us to deal with this almost non-existent problem.”

To which Joe Public says, “Why sure, Sam. Thanks for protecting me!”

Fools! And now you act shocked?

It’s like Max Frisch’s play “The Fire Raisers”. You even helped measure and cut the fuse before they blew you up.

Lurch to the left (left-hand, that is)

blaue-eule-kleinOne of the gifts of my liberal arts education was the revelation in my freshman year of college that you can’t make sense of English literature using modern qaballah.  The summer after I finished high school (summer of ’77) a copy of Crowley’s 777 fell into my hands; a hardback copy with a blue buckram cover. And in the fanatical way that only a naive, enthusiastic young man can, I began pigeon-holing the world into the nice neat 32 categories the Golden Dawn showed everything fit into. And it all made sense! It all fit the pattern! I gained the vision of the universe as one big Dewey-decimal card catalog on acid. Groovy.

And then, after my psychedelic year off from academics, during which I read tons of books on the Western esoteric tradition, college presented me with the whole wonderful, beautiful, ungainly mess of unfiltered Western civilization. And I proceeded to try pigeonholing it à la Crowley-with-a-tree-of-life-filing-cabinet. It was that English class, Dr French’s “The Short Story Genre”, that finally broke the mold. Blew the son of bitch to smithereens, as a matter of fact. I think it was Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” that made me finally admit to myself that I was trying to stuff square pegs into round holes (or is it round pegs into… oh fuck it can be a bitch being dyslexic!).

I began to realize that  one of the dangers of the pigeonholes is that they can be a way of avoiding thinking. Or even worse, they can be a way to overthink things and avoid a genuine encounter with cultural artifacts such as those my education was confronting me with.

“Let’s see. Bearded gentleman with a stuffed eagle in his study. Obviously a Jupiter thing. Man who smokes lots of tobacco. Martian if I’ve ever seen it. Man driving a two-horse wagon. Chariot card.” But the more I stuffed things into little conceptual boxes, the more I realized I was missing the point, the more I realized  this was creating distance between me an the things I interacted with. Besides that, if I didn’t catch on to the critical theories the professor was talking about I was going to fail the coarse (I got a B+ in the end). And so it went with my academic career. I let Western mysticism slowly fade into the background as I studied Latin classics and ancient history as an undergraduate. And I got thoroughly soaked in modern scholarly perspectives studying German literature in graduate school.

Now, even during my early love affair with Western mysticism in my youth, I had a hard time digging tarot. Oh, sure, I read The Book of Thoth and Case’s Book of Tokens and God-knows-what-else available in the late 70s and early 80s. And I did some really effective work meditating on the major keys. These books all sold the slick lie that tarot was ancient, and that the 22 major arcana were based on murals painted on the walls of the Egyptian mystery schools, and yada yada. And like a naive young fool I bought it wide-eyed and mouth breathing. This view of the subject became a problem when it came to trying to read the cards for divination. I just couldn’t stop thinking of the cards as pages from some great akashic book of wisdom.

I remember, on one of the rare occasions I consented to read the cards for a friend, finding myself spouting gushes of esoteribabble that I associated with the cards. My friend furrowed her brow and asked, “Do you wanna say that in English?”

And don’t even get me started on qaballah. I took several semesters of Hebrew as an undergraduate so I could master qaballah. And what happened? When I could finally read Hebrew well enough to attack a bi-lingual edition of the Sepher Yetzirah, I discovered that the traditional attributions of the letters to elements, planets and zodiac signs had nothing to do with the system that Knorr von Rosenroth, or MacGregor Mather et al flogged to the Western world. I began suspecting that pond was contaminated, and I didn’t want to drink from it anymore.

And once you’ve trained yourself to automatically think “Venus” the moment you see the Hebrew letter Daleth, and immediately get a picture of the Empress in your head, along with a whole string of other correspondences, it’s too late to reshuffle them in your mind and learn a new system of correspondences.

So after a lapse of two decades, when I picked up magic again at the beginning of the 21st century,in my middle age, I half-heartedly began working with Golden Dawn-ish materials (e.g. Regardie) and magic books based on Western QBL (e.g Benjamin Rowe and Joseph Lisiewski). But slowly I became aware of the things that had been going on in the magical world while I was getting a liberal arts education and a few hard knocks (chaos magic, grimoire revival, the later developments of Nordic magic and witchcraft, etc.).

And here’s where I start getting to the point of my essay (and to the bottom of my third –or is it the fourth — glass of Villányi Bársony cuvée). The longer I work with the so-called Western tradition; the longer I try to harness powers with whatever this stuff is that we call magic, the longer I try to make sense of this maelstrom of symbolic experiences that make up incarnate life, the less I trust any teaching that espouses neat and tidy systems for pigeonholing everything into precise and consistent categories.

Fuck that!

Life is wonderfully messy, and you have to keep your eyes open, your hands busy, and your heart engaged in order to glean the subtle meaning of each precious moment. The world is a jealous lover, and she needs to know you are paying attention to her every second. And if you think you have the meanings of things memorized like a list of characteristics for identifying species of lichen in the field, WATCH OUT! You are likely to be bitch-slapped by an experience that doesn’t neatly fit your categories. And you won’t know what hit you.

This was all a roundabout way of saying that I have more or less thrown in the towel on tarot. I love it on a certain level (at least the major arcana), but I can’t use it for shit when it comes to divination. And I’ve come to the point in my practice where I need some reliable divination. Things have gotten serious in the last few years, if you haven’t noticed yet. We could all use some reliable divination.

Let’s face it. Tarot was invented by modern occultists from a set of playing cards (If I wanted to be hip and contemporary I’d say they “hacked” the tarocchi.). Over time individuals and esoteric schools grafted symbols and schemes onto the deck that weren’t there from the start, and they turned it into a “system”. This doesn’t detract from its effectiveness as a tool for teaching, initiation and divination. And by now the symbols have taken on an astral life of their own. Or they’ve hitched a ride on some pre-existing astral forces, or… well, it’s beyond me. They’ve just become more than a deck of cards, is the point.  If you accept this more sober historical perspective, it frees you from bowing to it as something sacred and ancient. (I know a Rosicrucian — a dear friend — who teaches tarot classes in which he gives people the whole tarot-is-an-ancient-Egyptian-mystery song and dance. I don’t have the heart to disabuse him or his students of this notion. It serves their purposes. What can I say? Due to the language barrier, much of Hungarian esotericism is still stuck in the early 20th century.)  So, since I’ve come to the realization that for my purposes one symbol set is more or less as good as another (let’s just take that as a given and understand that it can be taken to absurd extremes, but I’m not into the extreme end of that assumption), I started shopping around for one that doesn’t have the baggage you get with tarot. Geomancy attracted me, but then I realized it was just another set of pigeon holes. And it requires getting into astrology far deeper than I care to go (a different kind of baggage). Pendulums are cool, but just too 70s for me.

Lenormand deck

And then, around two years ago, Balthazar wrote about Lenormand cards on his blog. I was really intrigued. He said they were more down-to-earth than tarot; better suited to predicting day-to-day earthly events.

I bought a pack of Blaue Eule cards over a year ago, which I promptly stuck in a drawer of my magic chest and left unused. But then I had a conversation last week with a lady who runs an esoteric store in Berlin that finally got me motivated to start learning how to use them. I spent far more money on a hardback book about reading Lenormand cards than I usually spend on books, which showed me my determination to bring this skill on board.

I like the fact that the symbols have nothing to do with either tarot or qaballah. And I appreciate that a number of authors on the subject of Lenormand make no bones about the fact that the deck is a modern creation. They admit that not only is the deck a nineteenth century phenomenon, but that it very likely was not created by the famous Madame Lenormand, reputed to be the greatest card reader of all time, and a confidant of Napoleon.

All of this is part of a greater shift in my thinking about relating to the “invisible world”.

I am gravitating more and more toward working with the contents of consciousness in a direct and personal manner. I’m not looking to relate my experience to some greater set of correspondences. I am looking for how it resonates with me directly. I’ve become impatient with any layers of intermediation. Much of this comes from the fact that my primary mode of mystical experience is dreamwork. In dreamwork the dreamer is encouraged to regard the dream as an experience, and not as a set of symbols to be interpreted by some third-party key.

The longer I engage in dreamwork, the more I see that our subconscious gladly shapes itself to our preconceptions. It’s like that Abraham Lincoln quote. The story goes that a cabinet member asked him how he liked the play he’d seen in the theatre the night before. Lincoln thought for a moment and said, “Those who like that sort of thing will find it to be the sort of thing they like.” In much the same way, I think that if you find your are having a particular sort of dream, it is because that is the sort of dream you think you should be having. It’s an instance of the “observer effect“.

This principle is wonderfully illustrated by the experiences of the psychic researcher and OBE experimenter Werner Zurfluh.* Mr Zurfluh, during one period in his life, studied psychology at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. He observed that during this period of his life, his dreams were very accommodating, presenting him with symbols and sequences that perfectly conformed to Jungian theory. He was having Jungian dreams. But once he became suspicious of this, and he drifted away from Jungian studies, his dreams began speaking in other sets of symbols and he began having completely different kinds of experiences.

I am reminded of some magicians who occasionally discuss their dreams in their blogs, or other magicians with whom I’ve discussed dreams personally. Oddly enough, if the magician is very qaballistically inclined, he receives very qabalistically encoded dreams. If dreamers are Wiccan or Asatru, then they get dreams that include lots of Nordic symbolism. But when you speak to these people, you can tell they are under the impression that they are getting such dreams because these symbols are “universal”. This is the “real” deeper truth of the universe, etc. They don’t realize that those who expect this sort of dream will find that this is the sort of dream they will get.

So, in general, I’m less and less interested in “universals”, because I am becoming more and more convinced that they aren’t nearly as universal as many believe. That’s the “lurch to the left” referred to in the title of this posting. I have less use for sunny, agreed-upon, we’re-all-on-the-same-page kinds of methods, and am gravitating toward doing what seems right for me and my world view. And due to this shift, I’m taking greater interest in texts produced by people who are identified as “left-hand-path” or at least chaosy-ish, such as A. O. Spare, Andrew Chumbley, Gordon White.

This, naturally affects my approach to mythology and ritual, as well. There’s far more power (in my eyes) to taking myths as primal narratives, and relating to them as tales, rather than dissecting them to extract the planetary, elemental and alchemical building blocks (real or perceived) that make them up. I don’t think the ancients “devised” or thought up rituals as much as they received them from the inner planes or were inspired to create them as works of art. It’s a modern thing to make an artificial distinction between myth, ritual and art. I really seem to be developing a virulent pigeon-hole allergy here. (Must be some sort of feather mites.)

The admonitions against going one’s own way are legion. And, to a certain extent, I understand why initiates issue these warnings. The last thing a beginner should be encouraged to do is freestyle. You have to learn rules before you can break them. There’s got to be a standard things are compared to. It is true that many people claim they want freedom when all they really want is the freedom to be lazy and undisciplined. But I’m 54, and I’ve been in and out of this occultism game since I was seventeen. I feel justified in saying that certain things just aren’t working for me and therefore I’m doing some serious spring cleaning to rid myself of the clutter.

For the time being tarot and QBL (and all other clunky, rigid, highly compartmentalized schemes) are on the shelf, perhaps never to be taken down again (Nah! I’ll never be able to resist playing with tarot cards every now and then!). Dreamwork, martial arts, Lenormand experiments, body-based visualization and energy work, and more free-form rituals are going to be my mainstays for a while. I just don’t have time anymore for things that speak only to my head but leave my heart unmoved.



Be careful what you wish for…


And you know how that old chestnut ends.

It’s just odd. Sometimes you throw magic at things and they just don’t seem to want to happen. Other times you just idly think it would be nice if some particular thing would happen, and — voila! — it happens.

After coming out of my eighteen-year aikido retirement, and being back on the mats for only five months, and just beginning to feel like my flexibility, strength and black-belt mojo were coming back, I had the thought that I might like to teach the occasional technique in class, or even occasionally substitute for my two teachers. I expressed this desire two weeks ago, and a few days later one of my teachers broke a toe. And it was a nasty break, too. He asked me to teach for him. Bam! Idle wish becomes reality in days.

So I’m the Tuesday morning teacher until he recovers.

Yesterday my son took some videos of my class. So you can see the middle-aged Scribbler teaching.

Just so you understand a little about the clip, I’ll explain what we are doing. The techniques are called kokyu nage. Kokyu, in Japanese, means breath, and has all the metaphysical and metaphorical dimensions that word has in every language in the world (e.g. spiritus, pneuma, prana, ruach, atem, etc.). Nage means throw (roughly). So these are “breath throws”. The premise is that they only work if the attacker insists on holding on. They are not “real” techniques, in the sense that you wouldn’t do this if a 100-kilo gorilla came at you with a knife. These techniques are meant to hone your skills for other techniques, such as the infamous jiujitsu-like joint locks and rapid take-downs aikido is often known for (jiiujitsu is on of aikido’s ancestors). But the problem with practicing those types of techniques all the time is that the student ends up concentrating too much on the hands doing the joint lock, or the blocking of a punch, or grasping the partner for a throw/take-down. Then they forget to move their whole body, and to manipulate the partner’s balance and movement. Kokyu nage also teaches you to stay poised and balanced while you throw. The partner learns to fall and roll with a little oomph added by the thrower. When you master these moves, it makes the “practical” techniques all the more effective.

I see these as the aikido equivalent of a musician practicing scales, or an oil-painter drawing pencil sketches.

Watching this made me realize that I really need to work on my flexibility and on the end of my forward rolls. Being able to back roll out of a technique is something that only came back about two months ago. I was shocked I couldn’t do it anymore when I started training again. And I could stand to lose about five kilos (ten pounds). That would seriously add to my grace and precision.

But, all-in-all, I’m pleased to have worked back to where I am in five months. I can’t wait to see where I’ll be five months from now.

The slow train to Belgrade

Monday, 12 November 2012, 14:00, Somewhere between the Hungarian/Serbian border and Belgrade

I recall this from my last trip south: endless stretches of flat cropland, punctuated by forlorn little Serbian (Hungarian?) villages. The train crawls at a pace that is unimaginably slow for a route between two European capitols. And the way the train rocks back and forth, you know it would come off the tracks if it went any faster.

The border between Hungary and Serbia is still a real border. Cops with nine-millimeter automatics bursting into your train compartment demanding papers, scrutinizing your passport, and giving you the hairy eyeball as they (reluctantly) stamp a visa on its pages. I’ve gotten too used to easy-going inter-EU borders.

And I can’t help meditating on why this part of the world hasn’t caught up to it’s immediate neighbors: the foolish wars of ethnic domination it unleashed in the 1990s. Thirteen years after the last shot was fired in the last of those wars (Kosovo), they’re still paying for it. I look at this country (just like I look at post-war Germany) as a cautionary tale about the destructive power of pride, hate, jealousy and greed.

Just as Hungary was often referred to as the happiest barracks in the Soviet-bloc camp, Yugoslavia was regarded as the lucky socialist country that evaded Soviet hegemony. They were seen as “rich” among East European countries.

Well, not anymore. Not only did their wars make them miss the general infrastructural retooling (road system, data networks, utilities, railroads, banking system, services sector) the rest of the countries behind the former “iron curtain” got, they wasted all the treasure they’d accumulated on weapons and mobilization. And, of course, there’s the lingering illness you inflict on your nation when you make your youth engage in barbarous acts of mass violence. The insult upon injury was when NATO bombed their infrastucture until they finally withdrew and let peacekeepers occupy Kosovo.

Ever since then, their integration into the new Europe has been slow and carefully scrutinized.

But some things never change. I come here as part of an international network of corporate services firms. So I can fairly well judge how affluent a country is by how well off our network’s firm is in that country. When I visit Serbia, they haggle over every cent of my expense account. And for economy’sake, the firms in former Yugoslavian states pool their training resources, so they often send their personnel to Belgrade for workshops (such as mine). Last year I was out having a drink in the evening with those members of the course who were from other former Yugoslavian countries. They never missed a chance to make nasty jokes about the Serbs. This stuff runs deep.

Every time I’m confronted with ultranationalism in Central Europe, I’m reminded of what Joseph Weed wrote on the topic. A one-time Grand Counilor in AMORC, Weed was one of the leading Western mystics of the 20th century, whose out-of-print books I recommend highly for anyone looking for no-nonsense techniques to develop psychic faculties. (OK. You should be warned that the style and presentation is very mid-twentieth century. But if you can see beyond the surface and the faults of the times, there is some pure gold to be found in there.)

Weed’s work occasionally refers to the doctrine of “The Hierarchy”. The Hierarchy consists of ascended masters; souls now free of the wheel of karma, but still dedicated to serving mankind from the other side of the veil. (I think I might have just lost all the “chaos” people in my audience, if any, by indulging in such Blavatsky-esque terminology). The Hierarchy, being disembodied, does it’s work by broadcasting chosen thoughts to mankind in an effort to bring about desired trends in civilization. According to Weed, one such “project” to The Hierarchy was the evolution from absolute monarchy to the nation-state. He suggests that the thought framework on which the masses hung their sentiments of national pride and loyalty to country (as opposed to being allied to, or subject to a king), was all planted in the collective unconscious by The Hierarchy.

But now (he wrote some time in the 60s) this has become an out-dated idea, and those who continue to adhere to it are holding civilization back.

Every time I encounter some pin-headed nationalist, who thinks his insistence on wearing a national costume, desire to ban all popular music in favor of traditional folk music, spouting off about how his ethnic group descends from the Tibetans/Egyptians/Aryans/Atlanteans/You-Name-itians, insistence that nobody ever buy ANYTHING from outside the borders of their country, and last, but not least, that his ethnic group are the be-all and end-all of the human race and God has designated them sole heirs (despite whatever hell-hole they are currently living in), well… I can really see Weed’s point. I mean: do they really think they can hold back the flood tide of modernity? Do they? It’s rough living in the 21st century. We’re all overwhelmed by the pace of change. Indeed, much of the change seems to always benefit faceless multinational corporations. But, I swear, joining a tribal cult with members who like wearing military garb and cultivating cruel anti-semitic humor is not the solution by a long shot.

“But you don’t understand,” some people tell me, “this was much more complicated than you think.” My understanding gets a little short when it comes to genocide. Wholesale slaughter tends to make me unconcerned about “who was right.”

All of this tends to make me contemplate my own ambiguous relationship to nationality (which starts with the fact that my mother was a foreigner). I find it absurd that I carry a US passport. I haven’t lived there in 20 years. I haven’t even BEEN there in twelve. Why does the US government need to vouch for me? Why do I owe any allegiance to it?

Besides that: what is the USA anyway? The longer I’m away from it, the more I believe it’s not a country at all. It’s an idea. That idea spilled over its borders long ago, around the end of the second world war. I’m an American because of the things I believe, not because of where I come from. Not because of the fancy high-tech high-security document the State Department gives me to identify myself when I travel. As far as citizenship is concerned, I feel like a citizen of international Anglo culture. That’s the world of ideas and aesthetic contexts I live in. I believe in freedom and human dignity. Does the USA have a corner on that?

These are the kinds of things I think of when I come to this country. A country that has been overrun by a number of other nations in its time: the Turks, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians, the Germans. A country that is having a hard time accepting that their old idea of themselves is dying fast. Europe is coming. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing.

I’m not sure where The Hierarchy is leading us now, but it’s definitely far beyond the destructive nationalism the “dead-enders”* are holding onto.

*Yes, I know the bad taste Bush-administration officials used this term in. It’s just my little joke.

Binding to the warrior spirit



For certain kinds of magic, you gotta dress the part

Talk about your Saturn-return phenomena. I just had a sneaking suspicion that drove me to check the ephemeris. Indeed.

In January of 1985, after my first semester as a graduate assistant at UC Davis (a school infamous for being cut-throat competitive), I decided I had to do something to relieve my stress. My coping strategy of choice was tai chi, or so I thought. I don’t know how many days or weeks beforehand I thought I was going to sign up for The Experimental College’s tai chi class. But when the day came for sign ups, on my way across campus a small poster caught my eye: Aikido at The Experimental College. It just struck me at that moment that this was the class I was supposed to sign up for. On what many people would see as a whim, but I held to be inspiration, I changed my mind in a flash. I can be that way sometimes. Drives some people around me crazy.

That decision turned out to be fateful. Graduate school ended up only being two years out of my life, since I bailed on the PhD, taking the MA and high-tailing it out of there. But aikido became the passion of my life, to which I dedicated seven years of my life, eventually inheriting a small dojo from a training buddy, where I taught for over a year.

I played with teaching an English-language class in Budapest for a little over a year, but life got too complex and I dropped aikido in the autumn of 1994. In the intervening years I kept in shape as best I could with yoga, chi-kung and tai chi, but to tell the truth, somewhere in the back of my mind I always missed the rigour of aikido. As I mentioned in my previous post: there’s something about rolling and falling on the floor and getting twisted up like a pretzel that just toughens you up. And there’s the element of touch. It’s good for everything about you that’s human to spend that much time in physical contact with your brothers and sisters. I had a complex itch that only aikido could scratch.

Fast forward to August of this year, when the father of one of my son’s kindergarten mates started raving about how much he loves his aikido class. And then he said, “Actually, the dojo is only about 15 minutes from your apartment.” I went to observe a class, and I was sold. So, now I’ve been back on the mats for two months. I’m hardly even sore after a good workout now.

Two things happened that I never expected.

The first was that I didn’t anticipate the bug biting me again. But it’s bit. Hard. It’s like it was when I was in my twenties and early thirties. I count the days between classes. I watch aikido videos on YouTube. I trade techniques with my fifteen-year-old son who’s been taking aikido at a different school for two years (he knows some cool techniques!). I live to be on the mats.

The second thing is that I can now see aikido through the eyes of a Western magician/mystic, and through the life experiences I have gathered over the last 18 years. And what a difference that makes.

Back in the day, I’d just had my fill of a bunch of scalawag occultists in West Virginia who had been the friends of my teens and college days, including my ex wife and my former best friend. When I went out west to go to graduate school, I didn’t want to have anything to do with magic or occultism any more. Aikido was comfortably far-eastern and divorced from the kitsch and clap-trap of occidental hocus-pocus. It was pure and zen-like. Or so I thought.

Holly, one of my training buddies in California showed up for a belt test one morning and confided in me (sotto voce), “I had a dream last night that O Sensei was teaching me aikido. It was awesome. I feel really confident about my test now.” I smiled and humored her. Back then I thought the whole thing about bowing to a picture of The Great Teacher was a quaint form of far-east Asian ancestor worship. I went along with it out of respect, because I agreed with everyone else that creating this art was an amazing feat. But I was kind of skeptical about the  practice. I was also aware that after O Sensei (his name was Morihei Ueshiba) passed on they referred to him as aiki no kami, or The Great Spirit of Aiki. It was information I knew intellectually, but didn’t dwell on much.

But the first time I stepped back on the mats two months ago and saw the picture of O Sensei at the head of the room, I realized that there was a powerful bit of magic going on here. Every day, in thousands of dojos around the world, students of aikido begin and end class by bowing in reverence to an image of O Sensei. Teachers of a more mystical bent say that aiki no kami is present in the room whenever people are training; that he indwells the very ki we use and circulate around the room when we are practicing. Once, when I interviewed Jack Wada sensei for our dojo newsletter in Sacramento, he said he didn’t plan classes. He just let the ki tell him what to teach that day.

I don’t want to give you the impression that all aikidoists are heavy mystics. The majority aren’t. Some are even materialists who just think it’s a cool martial art. But there are always a few dyed-in-the-wool mystics lurking in every dojo.

So class begins with everyone sitting in seiza in a line facing the teacher. The teacher indicates it is time to collect oneself. Everyone sits silently and lets their mind settle. They become fully present and fully focused on why they are here. My new practice is to imagine a living breathing O Sensei walking on the mats in front of us, laughing, and radiating his light throughout the space. I ask him to abide with us and teach us. We perform the same ritual at the end of class, at which time I again visualize him as a living radiant being among us.

Each time I have done this visualization it has become stronger and more vivid. The aikido egregore is strong and easy to tap into using all the associated symbolism, ceremony and mythology.

The hakama is one such symbol. It is not universal when students are permitted to begin wearing it, but generally in the higher ranks. It has a symbolic and a practical function. Symbolically, as the traditional clothing of the samurai class, it represents the student’s adherence to the highest ideals of warriorship: bravery, loyalty, dedication to truth and beauty, reverence for all life, and integrity in the face of death.

Its practical purpose is to teach the student flowing circular motion. The legs of the trousers balloon out very elegantly when the aikidoka moves correctly.

It’s also a typically complicated piece of traditional Japanese clothing that requires a lot of care and maintenance. It has a lot of pleated folds that have to be arranged just right when it is being put away. After class the black belts gather on the tatami to chat while they attend to this chore. I once heard someone joke that the hakama was a conspiracy to keep black belts in the dojo longer.

Beyond the many pleats to be folded, it also has four long straps that need to be tied into a complicated knot so they don’t become a snarled mess in your athletic bag (or in the chests they were traditionally stored in).

After my first recent training I sheepishly tried to remember the knot I’d learned over two decades ago. After attempting several clumsy-looking variations, I just gave up and stuffed it in my bag.

But one day, after a particularly vivid visualization of O Sensei’s presence, at the point in folding up my hakama when I needed to make the knot with the straps, my hands just started moving by themselves. I wasn’t trying to figure the knot out, my   hands just did it. I looked at the knot (pictured on the left), and my jaw dropped open. Where did this sudden “knowing” come from? Then I realized. I turned toward the open mat and said, “Thank you, O Sensei.”

My new understanding of this phenomenon is that it’s the same as other types of “ally” one might use magically. Who is O Sensei other than the Heroic Dead? The mythology is that he transcended and became a wise tutelary spirit who teaches anyone sincerely training in his art. He sounds a lot like a Japanese St. Cyprian to me.

My scheming sorcerous brain has been picking up some waves associated with this phenomenon.

  • How about making an O Sensei mojo bag to take to the dojo with me? What would it charge from? The energy (ki!) released in the dojo by training, of course.
  • Sigils sewn into the inside of my hakama? After all, O Sensei said, “The art of Peace I practice has room for each of the world’s eight million gods, and I cooperate with them all. The God of Peace is very great and enjoins all that is divine and enlightened in every land.” Keep in mind that the Japanese word “kami” is often translated as “god”, but many times the word “spirit” would be more appropriate.
  • Astral travel to the heavenly dojo to learn higher technique?

The possibilities are endless. But it took eighteen years away from the art, and refining my understanding of magic, to be able to see these things.

But I began this posting with a reference to Saturn returns. Well, when I checked the ephemeris, I saw that in January of 1985, when I began learning aikido, Saturn was somewhere around 24 degrees into Scorpio. When I recently began training in aikido again, Saturn had just returned to Scorpio again (27 years).

Time for me to take this to another level.

Seething in a hakama


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Another kind of magic

Bless Deb’s twisted little overachieving heart. You never know what unexpected quarter inspiration is going to come from, but it’s such a blessing to get your creative urge goosed into action just when you feel your will to resist the darkness has completely drained, and you are becoming a colorless drone.

When the taxi arrived at the office to pick me up last night,  I’d been there for 14 hours, after having gotten less than adequate sleep the night before. I arrived to a dark, quiet apartment at 11:30.

All the children and Very Aries were sleeping soundly. I took off my tie and my shoes, fetched a bottle of white rum, a shot glass and a big tumbler full of cool water and sat down at the dimly lit kitchen table with my Android phone to read a couple of blogs before hitting the sack.

After the first shot and half a glass of water (Ah!!!) I began reading Our Little Charmer’s latest rant. Now there’s good rant and there’s tiresome rant. But it only took a few sentences to sense that she was cookin’ when she wrote this posting. And I could identify: that strung-out, used feeling that comes from being über-busy for weeks (months!) on end, and continually putting off those projects you promised yourself you would do; or worse, promised someone else you would do (sorry Justin). She captured the feeling that comes from wanting to engage in the more interesting and satisfying work of one’s life and just seeming to find… well… seemingly everything getting in the way. After the second shot and a goodly slosh of water (Ah!!!) I sat in that dim kitchen and stared at the clock on the stove. Shortly after midnight.

Now, you need to know that one of the more radical moves I’ve made recently was to return to aikido training after 18 years. I started doing aikido while I was in graduate school, and trained fanatically for seven years. In the end I was an assistant teacher at the school where I’d come through the ranks, and eventually got my teacher’s blessings to take over a school a friend was leaving behind in Davis, California to follow his wife’s career. Then I came to Hungary and for various reasons decided to retire from the art. It was mostly a time thing. Between family and work, I just can’t make serious evening commitments.

But then  a few months ago an acquaintance told me there’s a dojo near my apartment that has classes on Tuesday and Friday mornings from seven to eight. For nine-to-fivers, don’tcha know. The temptation was too much. I went to watch a class, and it was just what I wanted. I like their training. I liked the teachers.

So I got my hakama out of storage, bought a new judo gi, and showed up for the next class. My fifty-three-year-old body was pretty sore after the first class, but not as sore as I’d expected. All the years of morning chi kung and yoga  paid off. Now I’ve been training for about a month, and I’m getting back into that condition I’ve only ever achieved from aikido training. All that rolling, slap falling, getting twisted up like a pretzel, and swinging around heavy wooden weapons just makes you tough. And I can tell my body unloads a ton of toxins after each session. I’m finding those arthritic old-age pains I was just beginning to get are now disappearing. My eyesight is improving. And I just generally feel more alive.

So it was just the other day that I said to Very Aries that I’d be damned if I was going to let my work commitments keep my from training on Tuesday, because I would miss Friday class due to a business trip (Istanbul! More about that later.) and next week Tuesday is a national holiday in Hungary.

Isn’t it just like the universe to test our resolve after saying something like that?

So there I sat in the dim kitchen staring at the stove clock. Tired. Rum buzz (“Why’s the rum always gone? Oh. That’s why.”). Brains addled from marathon editing. Generally feeling like 21st century civilization’s bitch. But I felt a fire had been lit in my belly (Thank you, Deb!). “Damn it! She’s right. If I keep putting the muse off, the next time I go looking for her, she’s gonna tell me, ‘Not tonight, I have a headache’. ” So, it’s time to get writing.

And what’s more: I decided I didn’t care how tired I was when I got up less than five hours later, I was going to the dojo to train. Warrior training is not a luxury in the apocalypse.

And so I went. And it was good. I can’t tell you how gorgeous that post-class shower felt. And then walking out into the fresh air: sublime.

And what’s even more: I resolved that I wouldn’t let my trip to Istanbul go to waste, blog-wise. Even if it’s only a paragraph or two. I will blog while I’m there. I mean, for God’s sake: I’m going to the very edge of that quarter of our world where the changes are downright volcanic. There must be something worth observing.

A samurai never lets his vigilance lapse.