Magic: an Archive of Talismans

I recently listened to Brian Wilkins on RuneSoup, whose new book (and deck) from Revelore Press, A Wheel of Small Gods, is supposed to be out pretty soon. I face the publication of his collection with a mix of envy and equanimity — envy because I’d hoped my own wheel of small gods, invocation hymns to the Greco-Egyptian deities of the Decans, would get similar attention… and equanimity because it seems like the spirits of the Decans are on the move, and have work to do in the world.

Just part of FVoSaS’s table of contents

A Full Volume of Splendour and Starlight, of course, is a much larger collection of poetry than just a wheel of 36 small gods… It’s a complete set of all the poetry I’ve written about the stars: twenty eight hymns to the angels of the Mansions of the Moon, thirty-six to the Decans, nine to the planets, and some for the constellations that are important to my own practice.

But Brian said something in the podcast which I thought was important.

He said that the poems he published are not the poems he wrote to invoke the spirits of the Decans… but the poems that he wrote and edited while that particular Decan was activated by the Sun’s presence; the response, if you will, from the spirit in question to the world. And it was a reminder that the Decans’ power was and is always supposed to be called into a talisman, a thing on Earth, a framework of substance and order that’s intended as a tool for healing. Brian Wilkins made poetry that he hoped would help people heal more quickly — from trauma, from physical injury, from emotional damage. And that struck me as both relevant and useful.

So I find myself embarking on a new poetic venture.

three of the talismanic letters so far this year…

And it’s a talismanic one. In my version of the Decans Walk (accessed through my Patreon at the $5 tier and higher, though some elements of it can be found on the $3 tier), I taught about making talismanic letters, using a standard closure technique for letters from the middle 1600s AD… and recognizing that Benebell Wen‘s The Tao of Craft had important things to teach Western magical practitioners about magic… not to incorporate Taoist magic directly into our practice, but to sort of squint at it carefully, and realize that it had tools and techniques that we either forgot or never thought to use for ourselves.

Among the standard ways that Benebell Wen shows us that Taoist magic empowered paper talismans, for example, was the use of a seal. Seals, of course, were tools of the Chinese imperial bureaucracy, and the rank of the seal’s owner had something to say about how seriously a specific decree or edict would be taken. The more elaborate the seal, the higher the rank. In Europe, the method of securing the letter said something about the importance of the missive — and the seal on the outside helped set the mind of the recipient as to their intellectual and emotional response to the letter: desire, pleasure, anticipation, excitement, joy, attentiveness, eagerness, dignity, or dread.

So, on this journey around the decans walk, in addition to my column and other writing and sewing and wood projects, I seem to be making an archive of poems that it’s unlikely anyone will read until after I die. They’re an archive of talismans, if you will — sealed letters to deities with poems and illustrations inside them, that it’s possible that no mortal might ever lay eyes on these texts again: they belong to powers other than mortals now.

I’ve often thought that there’s value in giving some of your own poetry to Anonymous, that prolific and profligate writer who will never tire of the tremendous capacities of plagiarism to swell their catalogue of fine thoughts and ideas, turns of phrase, and elegant composition. But it didn’t occur to me until I heard Brian Wilkins, that there’s a similar logic in creating a body of poetic work that looms larger in the imagination than my hand and cunning brain could ever write for a public readership.

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