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!”
My decision to begin practicing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP) came last summer, several weeks before my family and I were to go on a vacation in the country. We were going to a rural manor house in southwestern Hungary, near the Slovenian border. The manor house is divided into several apartments now, and serves as a guest house. We’d stayed there for a week the summer before, sharing our apartment with another family with children, and we’d enjoyed it so much that the two families decided to do the same thing again. It’s a great vacation for city kids, and for us city parents. We can just let the kids do whatever they want, because there’s plenty of space to spread out.
The house is connected to a working farm, with poultry and pigs and draft horses. But the main income of the area comes from wood, so the farm is surrounded by many square miles of managed forests. Very near the house, the owners planted several acres of dense woods with a narrow winding footpath through it. It’s thoroughly artificial in that a walk on the path takes you through various stands of different species of trees planted in monoculture. Here and there is a sign identifying the trees. Obviously the purpose of the little patch of woods is educational, and for that reason it is called, in Hungarian a tanösvény (apologies to those of you whose computer won’t handle Hungarian letters), which translates roughly as “teaching path.” Appropriate name for the way I planned to use it.
After a wasted youth as a decadent night-owl, in my later adulthood I have become a born-again early riser. A disgustingly early riser. In order to deal with the responsibilities of a large family, a full-time job and mystical (and sometimes literary) pursuits, I get up at 4:30am. I planned to take advantage of this habit to get time alone in the woods.
Every morning, I woke up before dawn and slipped into the kitchen to get dressed. Armed with tea-light candles, good Japanese rose incense, a notebook, and some matches, I marched off to the forest and meandered along the Teaching Path until I came to a stand of fir trees that appealed to me, and offered enough space and level ground between them to move easily. That first morning it had rained the day before, so it was misty, and dew was dripping off the trees.
I decided where my cardinal points were (I’m fairly obsessed with knowing which way North is anyway, so that wasn’t hard), lit a candle and some incense near the middle of the circle and got started. I had the text memorized, and didn’t have any problems regarding pronunciation because I took Hebrew classes when I was in college. I had a little chart with all the names in the respective directions in my pocket notebook, which I’d been studying and memorizing for days. So I was all set.
But I didn’t know what to expect. You see, two friends had told me strange stories about what happened when they did the LBRP. One of them, a woman I knew in St. Louis in the late seventies, said that after she’d done the LBRP, some kind of elemental appeared in the air and floated around her apartment for hours. Then another one appeared. And eventually one of them ate the other one before it finally disappeared. Whoa!
Then in recent years another friend, a man from the South of England, said that after he’d performed the LBRP, when he came back to the room later, he would find objects, like the candle holders, standing upside down, and other poltergeist-like phenomena.
I had no idea what to expect.
Well, it was exciting to pronounce those holy words of power (names of God, and angels) with the energies of daybreak buzzing through the forest, but there were no special “phenomena” that I could detect. Rowe’s instructions for the Kabbalistic Cross include seeing a rose bud where the beams of white light connecting Kether to Malkuth and Geburah to Chesed (Gedulah) cross in your breast. The rose then unfolds and emanates an aura of pink light around your body. This is similar to an exercise from Joseph Weed’s books for projecting heart energy that I’ve done for several years now. I felt the heart-energy buzz for hours after that first performance.
Several days into vacation, I kept hearing noises in the woods while I was performing the ritual, which I assumed to be deer. Once I’d finished with the ritual and was packing up my stuff, an old man dressed in simple rumpled clothes, carrying a bucket and a paring knife, walked up to me and, in a local rural accent asked me if I’d found any mushrooms. I replied only small white ones, and held my thumb and index finger up about an inch apart. He dismissively waved his hand, and disappeared in the opposite direction he’d come from. I wondered if he’d seen or heard any of my ritual. I briefly wondered if he’d really been a human being. (Can spirits have two-day beards?)
There are a few details I can outline with a few notes.
— I didn’t use any “weapons”, because I’d been in the habit, ever since reading Culling’s The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G.B.G* as a teenager, of using my fist in the shape of a figa as my wand. I’m sure it has sexual connotations to the Crowleyites, but I was too dense to cotton on at that age.
— At first, it was the power of the words themselves that made the biggest impression on me, but that changed later.
— Rowe’s instructions are to visualize a landscape seen through the portal of the pentagram that is expressive of the element in question: i.e. in the south, a parched sun-baked desert for the element of fire. It’s a heavy load of visualization along with all the pentagrams and other elements of this ritual, but it ended up paying off later when I started using the ritual for opening the portals. And I suspect this was intended.
— At first I used the anthropomorphic images of the angels that Rowe described, but I changed that later. Which I will describe when the time comes.
— Rowe’s text describes invoking in great detail, and only incidentally mentions banishing. So I invoked for nine mornings straight. This ended up leading to an interesting adventure, which I will describe now.
Ever since the first LBRP in the woods, I had a hankering to go into the woods and perform the ritual in the middle of the night. I kind of imagined it as a test of courage. It’s one thing to do a magic ritual by yourself in the woods in daylight, but in the dark of night? But I was always too exhausted after getting all the kids in bed, and my stomach was too full, and I’d had one too many beers while we were preparing supper, and I didn’t have a decent flashlight, and… and… and…
As dim as I can be sometimes, it even occurred to me that after invoking for all those days, it might be a good idea (understatement) to banish, so I wouldn’t come back to this patch of woods in years to come to find a pack of wandering golems or giant man-eating flowers, or what-have-you. I planned to banish thoroughly on the morning of the day we left.
That was the plan.
The night before we were to leave, my seven-month-pregnant wife woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me she was bleeding. The obstetrician (thank God for cellular phones!) told us to go to the closest hospital to get an injection that begins “ripening” the foetus’s lungs; the weak spot for any premature baby. We left the mother of the other family in charge of our sleeping kids and headed off. After an ultrasound that determined there was a small tear in the placenta, and giving her the injection, the doctor informed Very Aries that she was staying in the hospital for observation, and that I was welcome to leave (Hungarian hospitals are not very user-friendly).
When I returned to the farm, I realized that all hell would break loose the next morning when the kids heard where their mother is, and that I would be too tired to get up obscenely early like I usually do. Sitting in the car it occurred to me that I had all the supplies for the ritual with me in my hip pouch, including a flimsy plastic LED flashlight one of my kids had bought somewhere. The idea of depending on that light scared me. I wasn’t sure the batteries would last or if it would suddenly malfunction. And there’s no way to find your way out of a dense wood with a windy little path without a flashlight.
But I decided to do it anyway. I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t banish.
In our Waldorf school (and others), the first through fourth graders undergo a “test of courage”. At Michaelmas (end of September) they are taken out to a forest where they have to perform some sort of symbolic quest involving following a certain path and performing some tasks. The children in the higher grades play the parts of gnomes and spirits (dwarves and whatnot) who try to deceive the little ones and lead them astray from their task. There are other symbolic acts involved. Now, even though the little ones know the dressed up “elves” darting around in the undergrowth are their school mates, the whole thing gets pretty real for them, and they get sort of scared. On a certain level, it really is a test of courage.
Going out into the forest with an iffy flashlight was a test of courage for me. I knew if something went wrong, I’d simply have to wait in the dark and cold until the sun came up. And,… well… there are THINGS out there in the woods, you know! I read fairy tales to my children. Civilization is a very thin veneer on a very mysterious world that still exists beyond the tidy order of our cities.
It was a humid August night, with a new moon (wouldn’t you know!), and legions of singing crickets and other bugs. I could barely make out the trail with my light and almost got lost several times. Amazing how different the forest looked. The circumstances surrounding my wife and the hospital already had me keyed up, but now I was in a state of high adrenaline consciousness. I kept spooking small animals and deer that weren’t used to people being in the forest after dark. They went crashing away in the dark.
I found the spot, which I was only sure of because I’d rubbed an X on the bark of a tree the first day. I started the incense and the candle, and turned off the flashlight, placing it in the hip pouch outside the circle. No light but a single candle, and the fir trees just sucked it right up.
I composed myself and my thumping heart. Despite the fact that it felt like there were a million eyes in the forest watching me, I performed square breathing (inhale six beats, hold six beats, exhale six beats, hold six beats…) until I was relatively calm. I began the Kabbalistic Cross, and my voice sounded impossibly loud, echoing off of the trees around me. I definitely did not feel like I was alone.
The stories of bizarre phenomena connected with the LBRP went through my mind. Although I’d been through a week and a half with nothing unusual happening, if anything weird was going to happen, I was sure it would be now. I was ready for anything to crawl out of the woodwork.
Since the only light was the tea-light candle on the ground, every time my arm passed between my eyes and the candle, for a split second I thought it had gone out, and a shock of panic would go though me. But then I would go on. Finally, I got to the invocation of the archangels, and with the formula fully expressed, and the forces arrayed all around me, a calm and peace came over me. I felt safe.
Once I finished the ritual, my state of mind was quite different. I was in no hurry to leave the woods, and several times I came across bucks and does, who allowed me to get within a few meters of them.
The next few days were difficult. I had to pack up and take the children back to Budapest by myself to drop them off at their grandmother’s, and then return to pick Very Aries up from the hospital. She got enforced bed rest for three weeks after that.
But my difficulties seemed more manageable. I’d passed the test of courage. A minor test, but a test no less. And every time you are tested and pass, you gain just that much more confidence in yourself.
*I know! I know! Lots of people think it’s a really crappy book. But I learned a lot from it at the time. Everyone’s got to start somewhere!
He deserves to be acknowledged: Benjamin Rowe managed to motivate me to get off my ass and do something. I am in no position to judge one way or another as to the efficacy of his Enochian magic methods or to the quality of his insights into the nature of those spirits and how one works with them. Could be total freaking delusion for all I know (though, even for the uninitiated his visions make interesting reading, in small doses).
But God bless his dearly departed little head for two non-Enochian essays he took the time to write: A Short Course in Skrying and (especially!) The Essential Skills of Magick. God bless him, because he wrote them for people like me. And if you’re among the fledgling magicians reading this blog, it’s worth your while to know that he wrote them for someone like you!
You see, as alluded to in my first posting (remember the seeds I said would sprout and grow in the course of writing this blog?), for a number of reasons, I threw Western mysticism in the trash bin in my mid twenties. The mentor of my youth often said that studying occultism requires a lot of threshing and winnowing to get a meager amount of wheat out of a mountain of chaff. At one point I got tired of the backlash from the slipshod “magic” I and my friends were doing (exacerbated by drug use and promiscuous lifestyle; we were some of the first chaotes and didn’t even know it 😉 ), and I became convinced that for all the chaff I was going through, I’d never get enough grain together to bake a half-decent loaf of bread. Let’s face it: there’s an awful lot of pure hogwash between the covers of many books on “mysticism” or “occultism”. Some good clearly written stuff has come out in the last ten years. But in my youth, most of what you could get was from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I fled to martial arts and what seemed like more straight-forward and clean philosophies associated with budo. Seemed is an operative word. Zen is, well, enigmatic, and Shinto is, come to think of it, an awful lot like western magic in many ways.
When we started sending our eldest son to Waldorf school seven years ago, the things the children did and learned in class, as well as the symbols and vibrations I encountered in school festivals and seasonal celebrations, struck chords deep inside me. Waldorf education is based on Western mysticism and an understanding of human nature that arises from an essentially “Rosicrucian” ontology. It arises from the wisdom that has roots going back beyond recorded history. Chords kept being struck that resonated with the kabbalah I learned way back when; with esoteric mythologies; with the things I learned as a devout Catholic in my childhood. After giving it more than two decades to settle in my mind, I now recognized the wheat of the Western tradition when I saw it, and it was easier to separate it from the chaff.
Western mysticism was the nourishment my soul needed now. After all: I am a Western man.
So I picked up a thread I’d dropped back then. I rejoined AMORC.
Now, I know lots of folks in the magick crowd (note: I included the k this time), have little respect for AMORC. And that’s their privilege, as long as they don’t waste their breath trying to run it down to me. The simple fact is that it’s a genuine initiatory school. It suits some people, and doesn’t suit others. Fine. The usual criticism from these quarters consists of faulting it for what it isn’t. It isn’t a school of magic. It doesn’t teach esoteric kabbalah or laboratory alchemy. It doesn’t teach astrology. All of this is true. But it does teach what Mark Stavish calls “the raja yoga of Rosicrucianism.” He should know. He was once a high officer in AMORC. Though he chose to move on and pursue other things, I’ve seen Mr Stavish defend AMORC on forums. The gist of what he says is: criticisms of AMORC just show that the critic doesn’t really understand what AMORC is.
Many of you would be interested to know that the exercises taught in the AMORC monographs are very similar to the exercises in Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics, and the monographs were published first. I suspect common sources.
Anyway, I rejoined.
As I relearned things I’d left behind long ago, I also did internet research. It’s bizarre how Google searches often lead you “accidentally” to exactly the information you need in a particular moment. I was amused to read Frater Rufus Opus refer to this form of divination as “Googleomancy”. If you plug in keywords like “Rosicrucian”, or “hermetic”, or “astral” or what have you, it doesn’t take long before you start finding magic(k) sites. So I started reading them. And I was amazed to see how many occult resources there are on the internet nowadays. Back in the seventies, if there was no occult book store down the street, you were just plain out of luck. Which pretty much covered everyone living outside of a major city. But the internet has changed all of that. Plus, I found digital versions of books I sold or gave away long ago when I moved long distances and had to shed possessions.
The itch to do magic developed. Mind you, I’ve always engaged in spiritual practices of one sort or another. Meditation and breathing exercises were part of my martial arts regimen. But magic is something a bit more… what? Challenging? Intrigueing? I don’t know. Maybe the best way to describe it is a deep-seated feeling that I’ve always been meant to do this. It’s sought me out in this life.
So now we come back to Benjamin Rowe (thought I’d disgressed hopelessly, didn’t you?) There was always the question in my mind of where to start. I’m sort of a methodical, plodding sort, so I wanted a plan. LBRP is always a likely candidate, but the version I had in my youth (a reprint of Crowley’s version from the Equinox) was so barebones and dry. Every now and then I would come across another version of the LBRP on the ‘net, note its particular strengths and omissions, and save a copy or print out a copy for my files.
And then I found Rowe’s Essential Skills. Now I’ll delve into why I say he wrote it for someone like me (and, for you other fledglings). Benjamin Rowe was not a member of a magical order. For whatever reasons, he chose to pursue the path of magic on his own, that is: to teach and initiate himself. He made it quite far, and eventually became an internet publishing phenomenon. Nobody who is serious about Enochian magic has not heard of him. He knew what it was like to struggle with the great messy verbose body of written work on the subject of magic — a veritable thousand-headed dragon to be slain by the fairy prince — and that is why, I suspect, he wrote this essay. He is essentially saying (and I’m licentiously paraphrasing like hell here) “I know this stuff is confusing, and it’s hard to take that first step — because you don’t know where or how to take it — so I’m gonna take you by the hand and show you.” Brilliant! The first half of the essay is theoretical, and the second half applies the theory to a particular way of performing the LBRP. The version he gives is the most complete and understandable version — including all the necessary visualizations — I have ever seen published anywhere, bar none. When I finished reading the essay, motivation hit me like a lighting bolt up the rectum. “I must start practicing this, and I must start practicing this NOW!”
Blessings on you Benjamin Rowe, whoever you were/are! If, as I suspect, your little essay has had the same effect on other aspirants to the temple of knowledge, you did a great service to The Work.
In susbsequent postings, I’ll talk about how I applied Rowe’s and others’ guidelines.