In the Dark’s Early Light

In the Northern Hemisphere we are emerging from the darkness of winter. Blinking into the cold, clear, even cruel light of the Imbolc season. This year, we initiates emerge from the long vigil of the pandemic night and now, as the seasons turn, we can begin to imagine what comes next.

What sort of rebirth will this be?

We need to appreciate that for many people the last year has been the most challenging of times. Some have been working to save the lives of others. Some have fallen down lonely rabbit holes of conspiracy fetishism, holes that have become yawning chasms in culture, where legitimate fears are conflated with concerns of a much less well-evidenced sort. Some have found themselves with several months off work on full pay, a delicious time in which they have been rediscovering their local area and exploring their creativity. Others have been holed up for months in difficult or even dangerous situations. Healthcare workers have been living through a time of tremendous stress. A friend of mine spent several weeks holding up iPads to the faces of prone and dying patients with Covid-19 so their families could say goodbye.

The range of experiences within this one great, shared, global crisis are legion. But for all of us there is now the challenge of finding good ways to remake our connection with others. There is both danger and opportunity in this delicate time.

One practice I’ve developed to help deal with isolation is contained in the guided meditation below. This is a practice to help us connect with our sacred magical places. Special places we may not have visited for some considerable time. We know that a lack of connection is commonly at the root of both depression and addiction. By using our imaginal skills to reconnect with those places we love, we help ourselves be well and better prepared for the challenges to come.

This meditation was one of the practices that Nikki Wyrd and I shared in our recent online ritual hosted by The Psychedelic Society. For the rite Nikki also wrote a beautiful text about the spirits of the time which you can read in its entirety at the end of this article.

Imbolc or Candlemas is closely associated with the Goddess (or Saint) Brigid, the archetypal skilful woman. A skilful woman who received a long overdue celebration of her work this month is the artist and occultist Rosaleen Norton. A beautifully realized film documentary telling her story, The Witch of King’s Cross, is now available on Vimeo and Amazon. If you find yourself entranced by Norton’s work and story then your next stop has got to be Pan’s Daughter, an excellent biography by Nevill Drury. I’ve been a fan of Norton’s work for many years, and the new film includes some stanzas of her ritual poetry. Below, I’ve recorded in full a poem quoted in part in the film. The image I’ve chosen is the one originally published alongside the poem in her banned occult art book The Art of Rosaleen Norton (published in 1952, just one year after the repeal of the witchcraft act in Britain).

As we in the North emerge from the winter and into reconnection with others beyond Zoomland, in physical space, there are going be lots of issues to negotiate, many of which will cluster around our ability to trust. It is lack of trust that fuels the conspiratorial mindset. This is quite understandable. The hesitancy to be vaccinated as demonstrated by some communities is perfectly intelligible given the very real abuses of trust they have suffered in the past where people, generally the more excluded members of our societies, have indeed found themselves the unwitting guinea pigs of appalling unethical scientifically mediated interventions, such as the infamous Tuskegee Study. Sure, the whole notion of ‘the state’ is problematic, orientated as it generally is around a monopoly on violence. Simply put; some guy comes along and tells you you have to give a percentage of your crops to The King, if you don’t his knights will make things difficult, or terminal, for you and your family. Later The King explains that he is protecting you from other Kings and other knights, and so the great protection racket begins. It is therefore explicable that, in the face of this pandemic, the state narrative (for some nations) is voiced in the language of fear, protection by authority, othering and ‘reasonable’ draconian measures.

However, that is not to say that letting the state control pendulum swing totally in the other direction would have been any better; some people fail to understand that, especially in a pandemic, it’s not just one’s own health that matters but rather the health of the nation, or indeed the species. Such an individualistic attitude would have let the pandemic rip through our society, which would have been most unkind; nor would it have necessarily have led to less suffering than that caused by lockdowns, social distancing and the other strategies. We might for example think back to some early news coverage of the pandemic which suggested that a large percentage of the British workforce could be off sick all at once. This could realistically have led to many kinds of problems in maintaining even basic infrastructure like water and power, leading to potentially catastrophic domino effects. The point about the pandemic is that we are dealing with dis-ease, an experience that, by definition, is not easy. Life is often like this, there are some situations in which there is no good option, Whatever we do it’s going to hurt. (I should mention here other models of the nation state, or more broadly collective action, that don’t originate in totalitarian oppression which in turn gives rise to the shadow of the ‘sovereign individual’ as an apparently isolated and autonomous self. Alternative systems based on compassionate collective action and personal integrity are possible, as exemplified in this excellent documentary Gather.)

Meanwhile, the number of people I know who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 is increasing. Thus far none of them have been taken over by Bill Gates’ nanobots or whatever, so that augurs well for my own chances when the time comes! Personally, I rather like vaccination as a concept, the idea of limited exposure to disease which primes the body to better manage the actual infection has a somewhat alchemical or even initiatory quality to it.

In initiation rituals we go down into the darkness, recapitulating the experience of our intrauterine existence and our birth. We do this in a limited, controlled but authentic way. Initiation is a little death, a death that doesn’t kill the bodymind but instead enables us to experience a managed crisis of psychic dismemberment and physical tests. In passing through these rites we discover a new appreciation for life just as those who experience near-death events do. Moreover, we acquire enhanced resilience in the face of challenges posed by the human condition.

Over the last few months I, like many people, have spent quite a bit of time online and I know for myself that it’s going to be a curious journey re-making and re-joining collective physical space. While we have all experienced a pandemic, the differences in our narratives will be very significant, as will our experiences of coming back into social space. There are going to be lots of people, notably those in the medical profession, who will be carrying with them deep wounds and trauma. I hope very much that as a community we can find good ways to help each other, and as the year turns, to re-emerge together into the light. Let’s spring clean, shaking out the dust of the wintertime, and make space for the year to come.

Julian Vayne


St Brigid’s crosses (the three-armed variation!) made by Nikki Wyrd
A Call to Brigid and the Spirits of Imbolc

We call in the spirits of the technology that connects us, electronic wizardry conjuring deep magic spells through wires drawn from deep in the ground. 
Flowing electrons, rising sap, leaves budding, fluid birdsong, surge across landscapes. 
We feel the life force stirring beneath the earth. 
Feel the quickening in the belly of the year.
Start to see glimmers of sunlit days ahead. 
The clean clear white light reminds us of the Shining Emptiness at the centre of the psychedelic experience. 
Place of creation, forge of identity, lit by sparks of aspiration from the hammer that beats, and beats with passion for the making of love. 

Imbolc, the time of emerging from the dark of winter days, the time of emerging from under the ground.  
Green shoots with white bells, push up through the snow. 
Pale primrose yellow signals the opening of the season for flowers: Golden trumpets herald the sun’s return. 
Make way, make space! 
For new shoots, springing from old roots. 
Clear the ground, clear your mind, hear the beginning of life from way, way down.  
Make room to breathe, room to forge ahead, room to grow. 

Brigid, goddess of smithing, of fire, of the bright, of wells, of healing and fertility, of poetry, of love, of brilliance. 
Crowned with candles, the saint walks through the land, stirring our hearts with a touch of her wand, soothing away the cares of the winter with a touch of her hand. 
Milk flows from sheep, from mothers, they give life to those that are just born, ancestors nurturing and nourishing what were twinkles in last year’s eyes. 

Brigid, Brid, you who were born as the sun rose, exalted one, blessings on those who celebrate you on this holy day! 
You, who know what we need, wise goddess, we ask for visions, for words, for you to show us what is hidden within! 

The pulse of the year, as the wheel turns again; the beat of the heart, as the smith’s hammer beats time into shape. 
Sparks fly up, tiny lights glimmer, the sun glints from ice crystals as the daylight grows. 
Tiny bright sparks, catch them in your mind’s eye. Breathe with the bellows breath and see the light glow. 

Brigid, inspire us, as our thoughts rise up, like a spring bubbles forth from the ground, overflowing with inspiration long held, deep within our hearts. 
Seed sparks, giving rise to bright flames, flowers blooming on the anvil of Earth as the season of creation arrives.

Nikki Wyrd

Coming up this spring

Strange Days call for Strong Magic

These are strange days indeed as, following a diversity of approaches, we all try to make our way through this time of pandemic. As with any complex multi-layered phenomena it can be comforting to look for simple, easy to perceive, patterns. I’ve written before how, when faced with complexity—especially complexity that could be threatening—it can feel good to take refuge in uncomplicated messages; ‘Lockdown harder!’ … ‘End the lockdown!’ … ‘Vitamin C will save us all!’ And on and on and on. While such straightforward responses make perfect sense in terms of human psychology, they are quite inadequate when it comes to dealing with the uncertainty we all face today. (We actually face uncertainty everyday, but the global pandemic has thrown this into stark relief, especially for people who don’t normally get to wrestle with potentially life-threatening, economy-crashing changes to their reality or inconvenient changes to their travel arrangements).

Rather than trying to make over-simplistic sense of things, a smarter approach is to ensure that we are in the best physical, psychological and spiritual place possible to address the innumerable micro-decisions that make up our lives.

At a metaphysical level I, and many others, have been doing this by working with the Hearty sigil. This isn’t one practice but many approaches, using the sigil as the anchor for our aspiration to put care at the heart of the pandemic process. To empower, and support the awareness of, the many examples of this heartfelt care. We could, as communities, chose to do nothing; simply let people suffer and die as this new illness races around the globe. But, however imperfectly, it seems the collective process of responding to the pandemic has, at its best, been driven by feelings of care for, and solidarity with, others.

Hearty sigil placed within a radionics chart, by a magician living in Italy

Meditation and magical work to support those caring for people sick with COVID-19 and its associated traumas is incredibly valuable. If nothing else such acts of magic offer much needed psychological support for those working at the sharp end of the current crisis, and on their behalf, I thank all those working with Hearty and other caring magics at this delicate time.

May care be held in our Hearts

Meanwhile, to help keep our spirits up and share some magical goodness, the My Magical Things series on the Deep Magic YouTube Channel is continuing its mission to frivolously entertain (and incidentally educate) the discerning viewer. One of the participants, occultist and academic Amy Hale, pointed out that it is turning into a fascinating ethnographic journey through contemporary occulture. Christina Oakley-Harrington, occultist, academic and founder of the iconic occult bookstore Treadwell’s, also made the wise observation of how My Magical Thing allows us to see deeply into people’s practice. Christina pointed out that if you ask an esoteric practitioner ‘so what is it that you do?’ you’re likely to get a rather stock answer. However by asking about an object we get to understand that individual’s process much better; by inference, from the type of thing they choose, the way they explain its story, and how they describe what it means to them.

Today’s new episode of the show is with Carl Abrahamsson sharing his super powerful magical thing… enjoy!

Write on magical things…

I’m going to keep this project running for a while and have been really delighted and honoured by people’s willingness to join in. Please like, share and subscribe, as they say 🙂 It has also been interesting to see, from my conversations before and after filming, that many occultists are dealing relatively well with phenomena such as lockdown, or working all hours in the caring services. Perhaps this is a result of their ability to see the bigger picture, rather than just their personal desires and circumstances. Maybe it’s engendered by a deep awareness that ‘everything flows, nothing is static’ and that ‘this too shall pass’. It could also be due to reticence to get swept up in those unasked for evocations of one’s ‘Inner Torquemada’ which, depending on circumstances, may be visited on others (generally through the medium of internet chatter) as lockdown vigilantism, ‘Bill Gates is the Devil’ memeplexitis, or any number of other narrow, debilitating reality tunnels.

Other recent work for me has included adding more techniques to the Imagination and Wellbeing resources on my new teaching site. I’m pleased to say that I’ve had lots of positive feedback from people who have used the material there. Some of these films were commissioned by the British National Health Service (NHS) mental health services. As a teacher it has been a great opportunity to bring methods I’ve learnt in occult contexts—to centre ourselves, to come into our power, and bring our attention to the good—to a much wider audience (who tend to be put off, or at least nonplussed, by all those barbaric words of invocation or visualizations of angelic beings).

Inevitably, all the direct magical teaching I’m doing these days is now online. I’m going to be opening the virtual temple with Treadwell’s starting next week with Advanced Elemental Magic for Beginners. This is going to be a journey through the classical four elemental system, designed to bring a new depth to the practice for those who are already using it, and to introduce people new to magic to a method which is ubiquitous across global spiritual traditions. Next up we will have a spot of Left-Hand Path Tantra (bring your own skull for the Chod ritual) and a workshop on Cleansing, Banishing & Centering that will present some of the material I’ve curated in a non-magical idiom for the NHS but here with the esoteric content reinstated; plus more specifically occult methods of clearing and making sacred space. Forthcoming classes will feature the Magical Qabalah and Psychedelic Magic. For these, and other services that Treadwell’s are providing, please check out their site.

Across the other side of the great river from me (here in sunny Devon) is Soror Brigantia (in sunny Wales). Former Section Head of The Magical Pact of The Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT), she has started a YouTube series (must be something in the air…). She kicks off with an interview with the current Section Head of the British Isles (‘Sections’ are the autonomous regional groups within the IOT). Historically the IOT has refrained from publicly making statements simply because, while the group has a basic organizational structure, it has no centralized authority which can offer pronouncements (unlike say Ordo Templi Orientis or The Servants of The Light). However the rules of the IOT network are such that people can, of course, talk about their own practice quite openly if they want (I do this all the time). Soror Brigantia’s work is going to be a breath of fresh air, giving people a genuine insight into the ‘The Pact’ (as members often refer to it). This is a fascinating opportunity for people to learn about an international magical network that I value very highly, from people who know it from the inside. Stay tuned to her channel for updates.

In these times of turbulence and trouble let’s also recognize that out of disorientation and chaos can come marvellous things. ‘What disorientates us is good’ as Timothy Leary once observed. Paradigms can shift in innumerable ways and, while we should keep an eye on what the nefarious forces in our world are doing, it behoves us to invest in our own well-being and that of all those around us. Stay centred, breath, laugh when we can and banish often.

By all means listen to the concerns of 5G-causes-coronavirus conspiracy theorists; for their anxious state of mind is certainly genuine, if not perhaps the focus of their fears. By all means check out the latest ‘research’ on epidemiology by the bloke who (until recently) was the guy in the pub giving you financial advice about Bitcoin. By all means listen to the waffling of antipodean alcoholic armchair archonologists if you find that passes the time in an amusing way. We should listen, and care for, the fears that hide behind the swaggering certainty of the twitter ninja and the keyboard warrior. We must also take time nourish ourselves with good soul-food: To express our gratitude for what we have, to do practices to help us remain open to new possibilities (even on issues as apparently fundamental as to whether vaccine hesitancy is a good or bad thing), to cultivate a clear mind, and to attempt to be less panicked by the uncertainty that we all live with in every moment. Not easy, but no Great Work ever is.

And now, a quick list of other cool things coming up…

Magic, Witchcraft, Chaos and BeyondAN INTRODUCTION TO CHAOS MAGIC – 4th July 2020 at 14:00 BST
Dave Lee and Niki Hughes will provide a comprehensive introduction to Chaos Magic. There is possibly no better introduction as Dave wrote one of the most accessible and thorough books in the field of Chaos Magic—Chaotopia. Let the author himself to guide you in the discovery of all things Chaos Magic, aided by his one time student, and now accomplished practitioner and tutor in her own right, Niki Hughes.

Mermaid of Unconscious has broken out of Facebook and onto YouTube! Check out her interview with Soror Brigantia on the chaos magical tradition known only to elite initiates (and anyone with access to the internet) as Disco Voodoo. Enjoy!

The next chapter of The Rose of Paracelsus goes live very soon. If you’ve not heard the first one you can listen here. Chapter 2 is read by the esteemed Brother David and will also appear on Lorenzo Hagerty’s fabulous and long running podcast Psychedelic Salon. (Remembering our prisoners in this time; some now temporarily released but others still locked down in what can only be described as inhumane conditions (even when there is no pandemic), by cruel and pointless laws. May they be safe, may they be free! Aho!)

Finally my friend Daniel, of Tam Integration, and I will be on a thing called Instagram Live (apparently) this coming Friday 29th May at 7:30pm British Summer Time which is I think is 11:30am in California. Join us for conversation on magic, psychedelics, pandemics, transformation and more. Check out our respective Instagram feed thingies https://www.instagram.com/tamintegration/ and https://www.instagram.com/julian.vayne

Thanks for being there wonderful people!

Respect and Be Well

Julian

🙏❤️🌈