I was sitting with the irrepressible Grim Rita on the night before The Occult Conference held recently in Glastonbury, and was privileged to be offered a sneaky peak at the manuscript of her memoirs. Aided by the truth-saying that naturally comes with consuming prodigious quantities of wine, Rita asserted the significance of the telling of personal stories. Her memoir, as one might expect, is an intense document. Even in my brief dip into the first 25,000 words I encountered some powerful, at times harrowing material. I congratulated the author on putting down on paper some deeply personal experience.
To paraphrase Rita herself, the fact that we’re people trying our best to figure out ‘what it’s all about’ is the important stuff. So rather than write a book about the god Set (the deity she is devoted to) she has instead been inspired to write a book where her devotion to Set can be understood as emerging out of, and informing, her life story. Personally I really like this approach which is why I like books like My Life With The Spirits by Lon Milo DuQuette.
Esoteric writers may produce all kinds of exciting instructional texts about the seals of spirits X,Y & Z, the correct pronunciation of Enochian and all that but, when all said and done, these arcane powers only come to life when embedded in a human narrative. To find meaning in the world we need to take things personally, to absorb raw abstract instructions and to realise them through our own practice.
The perennial desire, to make sense out of our lives is certainly a great motivator for those of us who get hooked on magick. Even when our rituals may seem to be the simplest bits of results orientated sorcery they are also all opportunities to know ourselves. Magick is an autopoietic process, where (depending on your favourite description) we reveal, enact, or create our Selves. So it was with Rita’s observations in mind and, having been informed that there wasn’t a data projector in the house (so my audience would escape getting a PowerPoint presentation that afternoon) that I significantly amended my talk.
For The Occult Conference I was billed as a chaos magician speaking about Baphomet. The week before at the Devon and Cornwall Pagan Federation Conference) I’d spoken about Baphomet too. In that lecture I’d described this spirit entity (its Templar origins, its links with the Horned God of Wicca, its connection with Satanism etc), but I didn’t include much of my own story in the narrative. The lecture went fine (and I did manage to create a new catchphrase within the Pagan community) and lots of people gave me positive feedback. But somehow I felt that something was missing. So at Glastonbury I spent much more time talking about my own relationship with Baphomet and included much more personal material. Although I only had a few scant notes and no slides to show the lecture went very well indeed. Proof of Grim Rita’s point that it’s the human-scale experience that matters the most. Sharing personal stories of magic – its realisations and questions means that we meet others on the level playing field of our shared humanity (no matter what grand titles or mystical lineages we may claim). When I’m inspired, when I feel a connection with my audience that’s when my lectures go really well and I felt this was one of my best performances. So thanks to Grim Rita, Priestess of Set for reminding me that being human is the most amazing, magical thing of all.