1 April 2017
Art and Design, magic, Magic & Spirituality, Makery
carving, magic, magical seals, seal, seals, wood, woodcarving, woodworking
I recently read Benebell Wen’s brilliant book The Tao of Craft after hearing her on Gordon’s show.
One of the things that really caught my attention in the book was the idea that a Fu sigil or talisman should really be signed and sealed — that is, in the same way that a decree from the emperor would be signed and sealed, a Fu sigil carries the authority and mark of the creator. I explained this idea to my partner, who thought it was equally interesting. And so I decided to make a chop — a seal stick — for her, in part as practice for making my own. Which is part of the reason I made that captive ball a few days ago: I want to get better at wood carving, because it’s a useful skill to pair with woodworking generally, and because it will be a nice fit with the automata work I intend to do when the woodworking shop is up and functional again.
My partner frequently uses an owl as her emblem, so I went online and searched for how to carve an owl. This isn’t the one that I used, but it’s close enough — a series of photos of an owl carving. I used basswood, because I don’t carve jade or soapstone (slightly different and sharper tools, more patience and care required); and I had the tools for this already. It’s a fairly simple procedure to carve an owl. It was also fairly simple to reverse and cut the runic-style emblem my partner uses for her magical sign, into the base of the chop. Except, I still screwed it up — and I’m going to have plane the bottom of her chop flat, and then cut it again. I don’t have the tools out to do that yet, butI can certainly do something else while I wait to make that set of tools available.
From there, it was fairly simple to find a procedure for carving a bear. His advice about frequent sharpening is good — I sharpened my cutting tools about six times in the course of carving the bear, and I still wound up using too much force and chipping his right arm off. I chose to do a statue against a pillar for my bear, because I want to have a place to practice chip carving, on the back of his pedestal; I already completed the small chip-carvings around the base, and I cut my own version of an emblem into the bottom of this seal. I still think this won’t be my final seal, for me — the missing arm is a bummer.
So here we have an object that shares kinship with a magical-scribal-calligraphic tool from Chinese Taoist magic: a seal. But it’s carved in a Western style, with a Western character sign that indicates a person. And it could be used in western magic to do the same thing it does in Taoist magic: sign and authenticate and command the results in the name of the practitioner.
Is it cultural appropriation — Or cultural inspiration— to draw on the techniques and tools of other traditions to add to and build to the existing Western tradition? Ironically, I think this is part of the reason why I broke my bear at the last possible moment… because the character on the base of my chop is one I chose for myself from Chinese characters a decade or more ago. But it’s not my emblem to use, nor my tradition. And so, this one is broken, and I’ll have to make it again.
But I still think it showcases what’s possible, what’s within the realm of workability. The folk tradition of carving already exists in the West; the tradition of ‘enlivening’ statues and statuettes has been part of Western magic since Egypt; the idea of a personal seal to accompany a signature has fallen out of favor in the last two hundred years, but there are still signet rings in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and early Enlightenment periods… and we have evidence of signets or seals all the way back into Babylon and Sumer, at least.
Maybe it’s time to re-awaken the idea of a personal seal.
25 January 2017
magic, Magic & Spirituality, Poetry
behenian, Behenian stars, chapbook, etsy, kindle, odes, pdf, poems, poetry, watermountain studios
I’m pleased to report that the Poems for the Behenian Stars poetry book is now available on Etsy as a downloadable PDF (US $10.00) file, and on Amazon.com as a Kindle file (US 9.99). So you now have a choice of formats. I earn somewhat more from the Etsy download than from Amazon, which I hope factors into your choice; but either way it should work to your advantage.
What do you get in this collection?
The Behenian Stars are found in the writings of H.C. Agrippa in Book II, Part 4, chapter 47 and in other sources on medieval and Renaissance astrology and astronomy. No wonder, really: most of them are first-magnitude stars in the northern celestial hemisphere:
- Algol in Perseus
- the Pleiades in Taurus
- Aldebaran in Taurus
- Sirius in Canis Major
- Procyon in Canis Minor
- Regulus in Leo
- Arcturus in Bootes
- Algorab in Corvus
- Spica in Virgo
- Polaris in Ursa Minor
- Capella in Auriga
- Alphecca or Gemma in Corona Borealis
- Antares in Scorpio
- Vega in Lyra
- Deneb Algedi in Capricorn
And to this list I’ve added three other poems, honoring Fomalhaut, the only one of the four royal stars not in the list; Altair in Aquila the eagle, one of the other first-magnitude stars in the northern sky; and Alkaid in Ursa Major, a star whose spectrum helps to classify other stars and which sits somewhere between 1st and 2nd magnitude on that 6-point scale.
The poems are in the traditional formal style called an ode: three stanzas of ten lines each, organized metrically and with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDECDE. Each poem draws on the traditional lore of both astronomy and astrology, and ends with a call to bring the influence of the star into our lives. For magic, for poetry, for learning the northern stars, for the purpose of studying the night sky — these poems help get you to the behen (from the Arabic word for ‘root’) of naked-eye astronomy. Reading the poems while under the night sky will help connect you to your ancestors, and to the timeless mythology that constantly rolls by overhead.
17 January 2017
magic, Magic & Spirituality, Makery, Poetry
behenian, Behenian stars, chapbook, etsy store, pdf, purchase, star lore, stars
I’ve published a chapbook. It’s a digital PDF that you can download (and choose to print, if you so desire, for your Book of Shadows, your poetry binder, your vademecum, your 3-ring circus of astrological or mythological lore.
The Poems for the Behenian Stars is available immediately through my Etsy store for $10.00. It’s a collection of eighteen poems — for magic, for praise, for learning the stars, for learning to read and recite poetry, for supporting me. The poems will take you on a journey through some of the astrological lore, imagery and powers of the Behenian Stars, while waking you up to their power in the world.
And what are the Behenian Stars, I hear you ask? Well, they’re a list. They’re most of the brightest stars in the Northern Celestial Hemisphere (I’ve added three to the traditional list of fifteen), and they range from Caput Algol, the snake-haired head of fierce Medusa in the constellation of Perseus, whose baleful eye allegedly wreaks havoc at first but then brings protection… to Sirius in Canis Major, the dog-head of Orion’s hound, who grants us peace-making and mediation skills.
Whether you’re a magician, an astrologer, an astronomer with a penchant for poetry, a poet with a penchant for astronomy, or just a lover of the other poetry on this website — here’s a collection for you. None of the poems in this chapbook has appeared on this website before, and likely won’t ever. They’re a secret testimony, a hidden hymnal, and a way to begin your study of the stars!
I hope you enjoy them.
6 January 2017
magic, Magic & Spirituality, Poetry
epiphany, hymn, hymn to the three kings, ode, ode to the kings, poetry, three kings
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. Among other things, it’s the feast of the Three Kings, or three wise men, or the three magi, who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child in Bethlehem of Judea. This is a hymn to them, (as opposed to a sonnet) as witnesses and greeters of Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Hail to thee, wise ones in search of a king,
bearing gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold:
you beheld a star, a marvelous thing —
a royal birth in Israel, long foretold.
From distant lands you traveled, while the star
chatoyant and shimmering in beauty,
ascended from the East to find its throne,
to shout glad tidings: “The child is here!”
You three of great wisdom knew your duty,
and went to the place where the star shone down.
What gifts you brought! Shining gold for a king;
myrrh, because death is the fate of all men,
and — since for this child, the angels sing —
not the soldier’s sword nor the prophet’s pen,
but frankincense offered to deity.
How else does one welcome a conqueror
who sets down his arms and makes you his heirs,
Imparting the peace of eternity
On those who believe? Still, baby-terror
startles the chickens, the ox and the mares.
Purpled linen and rich embroidery
becomes stained with mud, and urine, and straw
as you worship the babe. No finery,
no gold cradle — just the prophets and law
fulfilled as you need in adoration,
while Word Made Flesh bawls. Guide me and send grace,
wise men three, who saw in that star good news
of a king sent from God for Creation—
transcendence immanent in time and space —
show me the Light where my knees sink in ooze.
+ 20 + C + B + M + 17 +
Painting gifted to S: The Final Approaching
2 January 2017
magic, Philosophy, Teaching, teaching Latin
giordano bruno, gordon white, latin, latin class, memory palace, palace of memory, scott gosnell, Teaching, teaching latin
I’ve been reading Scott Gosnell’s translations of Giordano Bruno, on Gordon’s recommendation over this holiday. Giordano Bruno was an Italian, a Dominican monk, a university professor, a heretic, a scientist, and probably a magician of some great capacity, and was executed on February 17, 1600.
He was also an expert on memory palaces, and used the work of Raymond Llull, the 13th century logician, as a basis for developing his own ideas. At the core of both Llull’s work and Bruno’s extension of that work is a paper machine similar to a Caesar cipher wheel, to find multiple combinations of images and attributes, to invent memory pictures for study and recall… More
24 December 2016
magic, Magic & Spirituality
34th street miracle, coincidence, magic, miracle on thirty-fourth street, synchronicity
I’d never seen Miracle on 34th Street (1947) all the way through from beginning to end before. It’s one of those movies that I’d caught six or twelve or fifteen scenes from, but out of order and with only a general sense of the plot without caring too much about the specifics. Which is fine; I imagine that many of you have seen other charming movies in much the same way.
Yet this time, seeing it all the way through, two things stood out for me. First, the movie is utterly without special effects. It may be that there are ‘behind-the-scenes’ film-editing techniques that are creating astonishing results. Yet those results are invisible to the audience member. The whole movie is told with (sometimes campy) acting and storytelling, not with flash-bang and crazy imagery.
The second thing I was aware of is how much Miracle on 34th Street looks like magic. Or more specifically, how frequently magic works exactly as it’s presented in this movie.
Consider: a series of coincidences results in the real Kris Kringle being able to replace the old lush who was intended for the parade. The real Kris has a variety of people come to his aid. Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbal come to various detentes and agreements because it seems to be good business. The right place for Kris to sleep opens up for him. The Post Office delivers the letters on exactly the right day, exactly at the right hour, to release Kris from custody and win the day.
This is what magic looks like. Don’t expect lightning flashes and Goetic emblems to manifest in the air in fire as you cast spells (though that sometimes happens). Don’t expect demons to manifest in lightning and cloud (though admittedly they sometimes do.). Don’t expect powers and principalities to respond to your requests with voices like thunder and volcano (though that sometimes happens).
No — instead, recognize that your magic is likely to manifest in synchronicity and coincidence, like a 1947 movie about Santa Claus. The letter or the check arrives in the mail on the right day. The bill is delayed from arrival for a little while. The old lush gets fired and a job opportunity appears for you. The friend has a spare bed in the right neighborhood. The right opportunity opens at the right time.
So… recognize that you are in the business of altering probabilities. Creating synchronicities. Inventing coincidences. And accepting certain benefits that arise from that. You cannot expect that your magic will ever generate Hollywood-style special effects, of course. But that doesn’t prevent your magic from generating spectacular results that are nonetheless perfectly natural.
But it does to some extent depend on believing in Santa Claus.