And that’s how my pursuit of fire led me onto the Great Hungarian Plain.
It was back in late April that I decided it was time to make a wand. When contemplating what kind of wood to make it out of, it occurred to me that we’d been invited, to a day-long social event at our friends’ secluded house on the Great Plain, along with a gaggle of other families whose matrons know one another from Waldorf and home-birth blogs and forums. “Acacia! How about making it out of acacia?” I said to myself. Checking the aforementioned table at the Esoteric Archives I found the quote from Franz Bardon himself: “the wood of an oak or an acacia, too, is an excellent material for making a magic wand.” Considering that Franz-baby lived a stone’s throw from here (relatively speaking), he probably even had the same variety of acacia in mind. Hot dog! Acacia it is!
It was a pleasant, sunny, breezy day, and all the families that had gathered were the type who’d bring lots of wholesome, homemade food. These are also the kind who have several children each, so there was lots of commotion. Fire. The fire of community. The fire of united will.
In America, celebrating out of doors, you light the grill and grill up steaks, or chicken, or hot dogs (in latter days, marinated vegetables). In Hungary, you still light the fire, but instead of grilling, you whip out the iron cauldron and make stew: fish stew (from carp), goulash, or paprikás. Fire: the fire of the hearth. Fire in the belly.
When lighting the fire, we discovered that a clan of lizards had taken up residence in the bricks that constituted the fire ring. They were out sunning themselves after awakening from their winter’s naps. We needed to catch them and relocate them somewhere safer for them. I managed to catch two at once, and happened to snag two fine specimens; one male and one female.(Click on the image to see them life-sized). Fire: the fire of the sun.
The men pitched in together to cook the stew – cutting up vegetables, tending the fire, stirring the cauldron. This being Hungary, the stew was nice and red from generous amounts of paprika in the spicing. The fire of spice.
After much had been eaten, and the children were playing while others engaged in woodworking and other hand crafts, I borrowed a saw from the host and headed off for the woods, timed so that I’d be there during the hour of sun (it was Sunday, by the way, and I also took note when planning this that the waning moon was in aquarius, an air sign, so the wood would dry properly). I wandered for a while, looking at various acacia trees, asking them if they wanted to be my wand. Nothing seemed decisive, so I sat down on the ground to meditate. I began with a prayer to the Master Within to guide me to the right tree, and then calmed and emptied my mind. When I opened my eyes, I stood up and walked straight to a tree that was no more than ten meters away from me. I tapped it with the saw and it sounded solid. I asked it if it wanted to be my wand, and the response felt affirmative. Since these trees are so leggy, there was no way I could make a decent wand from a branch. I’d have to cut down a whole tree, and use the trunk. I didn’t really feel like I was wasting the wood, since I’d leave the rest to rot and fertilize the forest.
You can see the piece of wood I brought home in the accompanying photographs. While handling and admiring this piece of lumber during the month I waited until I would carve it (I couldn’t resist “playing” with it every day), I suddenly understood why the Ace Of Wands is an unfinished stick of wood in many tarot decks. It’s a wand in potential. It’s still undefined for its purpose and unadapted to its working environment. For two weeks I would pick it up every day and tap it with another piece of wood and get nothing but a thud. I worried I’d chosen a bad, soft piece of wood. Then, some time into the third week, I tapped it and it resonated with a nice “tonk”. After that, it sounded more musical every day.
As luck would have it the kids were at their grandmother’s the day I designated to carve the raw piece of wood. I had to get up indecently early on Sunday morning to catch the first hour of the sun, but it was exciting to get all the tools together and start peeling the bark off. I’d never worked with acacia before, so I was surprised at how yellow it is. A very unique wood. Though I often get myself in trouble when I make spontaneous decisions about magical procedures, once the bark was off and the wood smoothed down (not easy because of all the knot holes!), I was inspired to carve a “pine cone” at the top of the wand, with the pineal gland in mind. So I went with the flow. At the conclusion of the morning’s work, Very Aries said it looked like a giant penis. She was right. I’d been thinking the same thing. OK. I’m no prude. It has to be assumed that sometimes a cigar really is a phallic symbol. Right, Uncle Sigmund? Fire. The fire of sex.
The wand sat on the shelf for several weeks. It got oiled every couple of days so it wouldn’t crack, since the wood was still slightly green when I peeled the bark off. Recently I borrow a wood burner from a friend. With this I burned two spirals in opposite directions on the “pine cone” to make it more pine-cone-y, with a moderately pleasing effect. But somehow, it didn’t seem finished. I left it on the shelf and contemplated it for another couple weeks. Names of God? None really seemed appropriate to me. The symbols on Trithemius’s wand from the “Drawing Spririts…” grimoire? No, that didn’t strike a chord with me either.
I don’t recall when the idea of putting a salamander on the wand occurred to me, but with time it grew on me. My graphic skills are extremely limited. I can screw up stick figures. Add to that the awkwardness of working with the cumbersome wood burner, and I feared I could mess up months of work trying to draw a salamander. But I was still attracted to the idea. So I looked in Google Images and found lots of simple renderings of salamanders that I could adapt. I spent several hours practicing simple, linear, top-view pencil sketches of a salamander until I was confident I could pencil it onto the wand and then follow that with the burner. Here, you can see the results. I’m pleased. It is an instrument I will be happy to work with. Fire. The fire of creation. The electric fire of the wood burner.
Funny, though. The more I look at the drawing on the wand, the more I see those lizards from the fire pit. In a way, it also looks like a living flame.
In my search for fire, I found it on the puszta of the Carpathian basin. For a boy from Appalachia, the Great Hungarian Plain is a very strange environment. And although I’ve lived in Hungary for 17 years now, I only came to know this unique windswept corner of the earth about two years ago.
A nutshell geography lesson: The area north and west of Budapest (i.e. the Buda side of the Danube) is hilly. South and east of the Danube (the Pest side) is flat. This polarity is one of the keys to what makes Budapest a dynamic city. It affects everything: the weather (it’s cooler on the Buda side, and it often snows there in the winter when it’s still just raining in Pest), social strata (Buda is the classy, expensive half of the city), zoning (Buda is more residential, Pest is more commercial), and so on.
If you drive out of Budapest in a southeasterly direction, you end up on a wide plane of alternating farmland and low, thin forests. My family has become friends with a family that lives on an isolated tract of this land, about eighty kilometers southeast of Budapest.
The first time we went to spend a weekend there, I was fascinated by the terrain. The soil consists of very fine sand. And, as in the desert, sand gets into everything. People must spend a fortune on machine oil around there. Dirt roads are sand. Taking a short walk along the road covers your shoes in fine grit. The flora that survives in this climate is tough, low-growing weeds that tend to be kind of scratchy and thorny. Almost all of the trees are stunted skinny acacias. There’s an odd beauty to the way the scrubby vegetation manages to hold onto the surface of this aenemic earth, and even manages to bloom in the spring.
And on clear summer days, the sun bears down mercilessly on this terrain. When the sun is high in the sky, it’s best to retreat to the cool shadows of an ancient farm house with thick mud walls.
This region is where the word gulash comes from. Hungarian cattle herders (called gulyás in Hungarian) grazed wandering herds on these plains.
What do I mean when I say I am looking for fire?
The way I understand my magical development is that my current task is to learn the nature of the four elements, and to balance them within myself. That’s one of the things I’m using the LBRP for. I’m also doing research and reading in various sources about them, and I am doing “path working” and dreamwork to this end (more about both of those in future postings). And as a physical, objective-world manifestation of my coming to grips with the elements, I am slowly gathering the four elemental weapons: the cup, the wand, the dagger and the pantacle.
In my youth I had a leather bag that had all of my magickal tools in it. Among other things it contained: a three-legged incense burner for placing charcoal disks on; bags of various incense powders; a bottle of annointing oil my mentor had made for me; and a chain made of 333 steel wire links that my mentor had made for me as a “portable” circle, with its own leather pouch decorated with an embossed leather talisman, also made by my mentor. As far as the elemetal weapons were concerned, I only had two: a chalice-shaped pottery cup, and a simple but beautiful black hilted knife in a sheath. No wand. No pantacle. That bag disappeared from my life through, well, let’s call them karmic circumstances. In a way a test. In another way a cleansing. No matter. I haven’t seen those things for nearly two decades, and have no idea where they ended up.
How a cup came back into my tool box is interesting.
In AMORC, one is taught to prepare for all inner work by washing one’s hands while clearing the mind of all mundane concerns through an act of will, and then drinking a glass of cold water, as a sign of inner cleansing. A senior member told me that it becomes a more powerful gesture if one always uses the same glass or cup for this purpose. That made lots of sense to me, so I went to the Christmas market on Vörösmarty Square, found a potter whose wares I liked, and chose a cup that appealed to me as a ritual water vessel. Voila! I had a cup again. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not big on consecrating, but I’m very big on dedicating. That cup has been used for nothing but ritual purposes ever since I bought it. And it has lived in the cabinet with my sanctum mirror. My children know that cup. When I do Rosicrucian healing for them, the last step is to give them a cup of water to drink that I’ve magnetized with my hands. Because it’s the only time they ever see that cup, and they know I get it out of the sanctum cabinet, it has a deep effect on them (not to mention that it smells of rose otto oil, like everything else in the sanctum cabinet).
The dagger, as I mentioned in my last posting, was a fairly recent addition to my toolbox. A small windfall coincided with the the desire to add that energy to my LBRP. I acted on the impulse.
So, oddly, once again I easily acquired the same two weapons out of the four. But, when I think of it, this manifestation speaks volumes about me. I am undoubtedly more manifest on the air and water “channels” than I am on the fire and earth side. I grew up in a very intellectual (airy) family. My father was a professor, and everybody in my family has at least one college degree. One wall of every room in the house I grew up in was a book shelf. And I was a very emotional, expressive (water) boy. I did lots of amateur acting and sang in choirs, and performed in musical theater.
What I lacked was will (fire) to persevere in tough situations and see projects through to the end. I was more likely to sneak around behind people’s backs to get my way than to confront them. And I didn’t quite have my feet on the ground (earth). It took a long time for me to understand the importance of earning money and having the physical means to get things done.
Now slowly, over time, I have developed more fire and earth through life experiences (aikido training provided some of both), but I can still perceive that I am imbalanced that way. My fire isn’t always under control. I can get angry and bully people to get my way. And my earthy side can get weighed down and lethargic.
These are the reasons, among others, for my quest to add a wand and a pantacle to my arsenal.
Trying to find definitive instructions on how to make a wand confused me more than it helped me. Regardie’s Complete Golden Dawn would have you make either the elaborte Lotus Wand (which is for specific purposes) or an elemental fire wand, which it describes like this:
The Staff of the Wand should be of wood, rounded and smooth, and perforated from end to end, and within it should be placed a steel rod, just so long as to project an inch beyond each end of the wood rod.
It is often convenient to form the Wand from cane which has a natural hollow through it. If of cane there should be three natural lengths according to the knots, so that these knots may be placed similarly to the manner in which they are placed in the figure which is such as a turner would produce. Eighteen inches is an extreme length. The magnet should be a strong one.
One end of the Wooden Rod should be cone-shaped. The North end of the magnet,(known by its repelling the so-called North Pole of a compass needle) should be placed at the end of the Wand which is plain.
The whole is coloured flame scarlet, and divided into 3 parts by Yellow bands. The Cone shaped end has also painted upon its red surface three wavy flame-shaped YODS as ornaments; they are painted in bright yellow as in illustration. The Divine and Angelic names of the Element Fire, should be there written in green paint along the Shaft and on the Cone. Their sigils should be added with the Motto of the Adeptus. The green should be bright Emerald. The wand must then be consecrated.
The Wand is to be used in all workings of the Nature of Fire and under the Presidency of YOD and of the Wand of the Tarots. Sigils are not given. The Adeptus must work them out for himself.
And that doesn’t even include the very elaborate consecration ritual prescribed for the wand.
I compare that to some of the grimoires, and to the wands they designate for the specific purposes they have in mind, and there’s almost no comparison. There’s no agreement on what it should be made of, on the design of the wand, nor on how it should be “ornamented”, for lack of a better word. Joseph Peterson, owner of the online esoteric archive The Twilit Grotto, was good enough to put together this detailed study of the world’s wand lore, which pretty much leaves the reader with the same impression: there are more ways to make a wand and more things to make them out of than… er… you can shake a stick at.
Since I’ve decided I’m only going to consult Golden Dawn material as a reference, but not strictly follow the system (the reasons for which are a hole ‘nuther posting in itself), I’d come to the conclusion that the most important attribute of a wand is that one feel comfortable with it; that one is confident it can conduct and represent their fire energy.
I want to steer a middle path between Frater RO’s nonchalance regarding the source of one’s ritual tools and, say, Joseph Lisiewski’s rigid insistence on following all grimoire prescriptions to the letter. I obviously didn’t learn blacksmithing to get my dagger (as cool as that would be!), but if I can think of a way to make my own ritual tools, then I will. The personal touch adds special vibes to anything you do.
Ever since Reading Caroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass I’ve had a fascination with mirrors and what might be on “the other side.” This, and other things (preparations for a project I plan to engage in later this summer) led me to decide I should experiment with making a scrying mirror. You can find all manner of instructions for making one through a simple internet search, most of which tell you to take the glass out of a picture frame, paint the back of it black, and put the glass back into the frame. Voila! A scrying mirror.
I read a number of these articles and took note of the various tips on materials and methods, but I also had a slightly different objective in mind, due to having read this article several years ago about some black mirrors found in a storage room of AMORC headquarters in San Jose. I found the description of the mirrors intriguing: nearly black, but actually a very dark violet or indigo. I also noted that chemical analysis showed the mirrors’ coating contained traces of silver.
So, when I went out to buy acrylic paint for making my mirror, I not only bought black paint, I also got violet and metallic silver. Mixing them was tricky, but I finally came up with a shimmering purple-y dark gray that looked about right. Painting the three coats was easy enough (one vertical, one horizontal, one diagonal). It didn’t take that long, besides the usual slower pace of work that comes from working during the appropriate planetary hours.
I began using the mirror last week with not-so-dramatic results. I figure that’s par for the course. I don’t expect to learn something like this overnight. What I’m doing is setting up a working space with the LBRP, and then opening up one of the quarters. At first my idea was to simply scry the element of that direction (starting with North/earth). I quickly came to the conclusion that seemed a vague objective, so I switched to calling the cherub of that element to appear in the glass. I’ve searched forever to find names for the four cherubs, and the closest I’ve ever come has been Adam, Aryeh, Nesher and Shor. But that strikes me as sort of lame, since those are just the Hebrew words for man, lion, eagle, and bull. Hmmm. If anyone can help me with better names, I’d appreciate it. At the moment I’m just tracing the astrological symbol on the mirror and calling on, for instance, “The Bull Headed One”. The reason I’m going for cherubs is that I figure they are fairly humble creatures on the totem-pole of spiritual hierarchy, and I believe in starting small.
I haven’t really seen much of anything in the mirror. What does happen is that I occasionally get these “blank outs” during which I lose all consciousness of my external senses and I am completely involved in a multi-sensory internal experience for a few seconds. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to recall any of these once I snap out of it. For now, I’ll assume it’s like dream memory, or memory of those flashes that come in meditation: it takes practice to develop a bridge between that type of experience and the conscious memory.
Lack of success made me figure it might not be a bad idea to hedge my bets. I read up on Bardon’s take on magic mirrors, and was surprised to find that, unlike the “optical” magic mirrors one can so easily find all over the internet (and advertised for sale in occult supply stores), Bardon’s mirrors aren’t necessarily even mirrors in the conventional sense. For Bardon, a “mirror” is a surface treated with, soaked in, or coated with what he calls a “fluid condenser”. Fluid condensers are substances that act as good conductors and holders of cosmic energies of various sorts (what I would generally categorize as “psychic” energies).
So, I followed his recipe for making a “Simple Fluid Condenser”, using chamomile tea as the base. I followed the recipe as closely as possible, but I don’t have a piece of gold for making the “gold tincture”. It’s on my shopping list now: one small gold coin for heating and dropping into water to make tincture of gold. Shit, this magic stuff is getting expensive fast! But I didn’t skimp on the other vital ingredients. I’d forgotten what a challenge it is to poke your own finger to get a few drops of blood.
Making the fluid condenser was a learning experience (translation: I know what I’ll do differently the next time). I knew I didn’t have the optimal ingredients or tools, but I also knew I only had one day of waxing moon left, and I didn’t want to wait two more weeks. All of our pots and pans are stainless steel. I know that’s not good for making such sensitive formulas. Oh well, it’s on the shopping list: enamel-lined pot for making magic potions. Did I mention this magic shit is getting expensive?
One surprise was from something I did spontaneously. After boiling down a pot full of chamomile tea to about 1/8 of the original volume, it was a nasty brown cloudy substance, and scum was rising to the top. I tried skimming it (think clarified butter) but that wasn’t working. Out of frustration I dropped a quartz crystal into the pot, and instantly all the nasty stuff crystallized and precipitated to the bottom. Awesome! Lesson learned. I’ll be experimenting with that in the future. The instructions are to mix 50ml of the base tea with 50ml of alcohol. You can’t buy grain alcohol in Hungary. I looked in the liquor cabinet and the best I could do was white rum. Hey, I bet there’s white rum in some voodoo potions! I used cotton wool to filter it, and I filtered it twice: once to filter the tea, once after adding the other ingredients and giving it a vigorous shaking.
In the picture (click on it for enlargement) you can see the mirror, the bottle of fluid condenser and a piece of felt soaked with fluid condenser, spread on a rack of chop sticks to dry. The smell of the condenser is sickeningly sweet and very musky. I consulted with Very Aries (who’s a crafty sort of person) before I soaked the felt, and we agreed that wool felt has probably already been shrunk by the felting process, so I went ahead and cut a piece to fit to the back of the mirror frame. Wrong! It shrunk big-time. I had to pull and stretch for about fifteen minutes, once it had dried, and even then had to abandon the idea of gluing it to the back of the frame, and stapled it instead. I’m not thrilled with the idea of all that steel on the back, but I really had no choice. I know what I’ll do differently the next time.
It’s totally lost to digital photography, but the mirror isn’t black. It’s a shimmery dark purple.
So now I have my mirror, backed with fluid-condenser-treated purple felt. Tomorrow I’ll use my newly sooped-up tool.
Cue Grace Slick singing “Go Ask Alice!”