The Serpentine Cross

Steve Dee crosses himself and plunges into the gnostic depths…

Leviathan Cross Alchemy Sulfur Satanism Satan Symbol" Art Board Print by  h44k0n | Redbubble

Reflection I

I was first struck by the Serpentine Cross when anxiously reading the Satanic Bible for the first time. While already familiar with other magical and Left-Hand Path traditions, I felt that in cracking open the cheap edition of LaVey’s work I was breaking some new taboo. The Christian software installed during my time as a believer struggled with its raw use of satanic language and imagery.

LaVey in his trickster role laughs in response to his use of this symbol. For him it was an alchemical symbol for sulphur but from the moment he deployed it as the header of the nine satanic statements it became synonymous with the wider sinister path. LaVey offers a wry smile at our all too human projection of meaning onto symbols. His use of symbol is masterful as the evocative whiff of hell-fire is left to permeate the consciousness of the reader.

Reflection II

I have a longstanding interest in weird crosses. The Gnostic use of the serpent climbing the Tau cross, the Cross of Lorraine with its two parallel cross-bars and the Psychick cross of thee Temple of Psychick Youth all hold a strange allure. They connect to the idea of heresy (Lit. “To choose”) and a form of spiritual freethinking that draws me in. This heretical bread crumb trail can be one of half-truths and misdirection. Part of my own attraction to the sulphur symbol was a mistaken association with the Cathars. 

While I might reject orthodox notions of soteriology and the child-like obeisance of my past faith, these symbols still act as Gnostic door-ways and the myth of the dying god still poses powerful questions.

What risks are we willing to take in speaking our truth to a hostile world? Would I become a martyr to my own truth?

What happens in our body when our perception of God collapses and we have to confront cosmic silence?

What does it mean to forgive? How do I allow the space for both others and myself to change? 

Band Logos - Brand Upon The Brain: Psychic TV: Logo #314
The Serpent Cross - Symbol of the Day #26 - YouTube
Cross Of Lorraine Icons - Download Free Vector Icons | Noun Project

Psychick Cross, Serpent/Gnostic Tau Cross and the Cross of Lorraine

Reflection III

In my reading, the innovation of much “traditional” witchcraft involves the reintroduction of Abrahamic material to our reimagined paganisms. Dissatisfied with being flooded with the blunt pantheism of much Neo-Pagan theology, the dynamic tension between the transcendent and immanent seems more acute when traditions are allowed to generate a creative frisson.

This the realm of the Meso-Pagans who spans the domain between paganism past and its romantic rebirth. This form of Witchcraft seems more like a mood or a felt-sense rather than water tight systematics. We feel it in our gut and in our body as much as we understand it with our head. Hail the Messy Pagan!

Reflection IV

When we walk the path of the Witch, we dance between tensions and apparent opposites. Light and darkness and the turning of the year are familiar within the canon of Neo-Pagan Wicca, but my hunch is that the true power of the Craft lies in the way in both induces and manages apparent conflict at an interior as well as external level.

To be accused on Witchcraft was to be faced with threat and an allegation of working malign magic. Our postmodern reimagining of the Witch as the beloved wise woman/cunning man fails to capture the perilous implications for those who were connected to the functions of the Witch. Even those who embraced the role of magical practitioner within their community were potentially vulnerable if their craft was deemed as ineffective or the cause of disaster. We know that in all likelihood the vast majority of those accused of witchcraft were unconnected to magical practice, but that is not to imply that the concept of the witch didn’t contain real power.

If the perceived harmony of the natural world is reliant on the sovereign rule of the godhead, then the pursuit of personal agency and a transformation of circumstance could be seen (ironically by those in control) as malign power and therefore as innately demonic.

Reflection V

The symbol for sulphur in its hot, dry male polarity is the counter balance to the feminine fluidity of Mercury. When the Red King and White Queen meet and balance each other the alchemical goal of integration is furthered.

My own subjective response to working with the serpentine cross is innately linked to the magical pursuit of daemonic integration. Connected to my longstanding interest in the 4th Way teachings, my reading of this glyph is to see it as the uniting of body, heart and mind. The way of the body (the fakir), the heart (the monk) and the mind (the yogi) are brought together so that the skilful practitioner/ “sly man” can awaken in the context of their everyday life.

The infinity-serpent at the base of the cross is our visceral body, the first cross-bar our horizontal connections to community and the top bar is our mind and cognition. These three working in concert together allows us to tune in to the voice of our deepest self and in listening, the pursuit of our unique Great Work becomes possible. To discover and walk this path is the true work of heresy.

Steve Dee


There are few places left for Julian’s final Treadwell’s Books workshop of this year. A two hour immersive, participatory ritual for The Sun At Midnight. Hope you can join us in the magic circle for that one.

Meanwhile, Julian will also be presenting on the theme of his ban this year from speaking at the University of Oxford. More details of the story can be found here and here. To book for Julian’s lecture on this issue on 22nd of December follow this link. You can purchase your own copy of the incendiary Banned Lecture of Getting Higher here.

A Witch on the Front Line

It’s 07:40 am as I arrive at the hospital. I walk through empty, silent corridors that just a few months earlier bustled with relatives, patients arriving early for procedures, teams heading into handover and porters keeping the hospital in motion. This morning I hear only my own feet and the acceleration of my breath as I reach the unit door and swipe my ID card to gain access. I walk past the next set of doors, behind which the beeps of cardiac monitors and infusion pumps form the soundtrack I know so well. I head to the staff room and change into my uniform, rubbing a herbal anti-viral balm into my skin and drawing a protective sigil across my heart before I zip up my blue dress. The air is heavy, though now, several weeks into the pandemic, we pretend that it isn’t. 

I head towards the unit, pausing at the doors to pull on the mask that I have become so used to wearing. Next, the eye protection. I open the doors into the high dependency unit I have spent years working in. On first inspection it looks like it always has, occupied beds and the organised chaos that is this kind of nursing. The siderooms are closed, with isolation signs up. Outside the doors are the trolleys I have come to expect. Upon them lie extra personal protective equipment (PPE). The patients are suspected COVID-19 patients. 

We sit in handover, masked, chairs 2 metres apart—ironic seeing as when we are all working together for a critically sick patient, there is no option to distance. It is then time to allocate patients. I am allocated one of the siderooms, a man in his seventies, admitted for a number of symptoms, some of which match the disease pattern we read about each day in the news. He has been tested, but the results have not come back yet, and therefore he is to be treated as a suspected case. Being a nurse is a part of me, I’ve nursed so many types of patients, seen so many different cases, and many times in my life I have been afraid, but I’m not used to being this afraid at work. 

I prepare to meet and assess my patient. Outside his room, I dress into the next level of PPE. It isn’t like armour. Unlike the language used outside of the hospital, this doesn’t feel like a war. It feels like a very treacherous path to walk. The mask sits tight and hot on my face as the visor comes down in front of it. The tighter it feels the safer it feels—this kit is my protection as I work in a closed room with a probably contagious patient. I cannot wash him from 2 metres away, I cannot set up his intravenous medication from 2 metres away, or dress a wound, or hold his hand, or comfort him whilst he is unable to see any of his loved ones in his time of need. The PPE however is not my only protection. The sigil I drew earlier is one of protection and solidarity with fellow practitioners of the craft and I am wearing it on my heart underneath these layers. It goes by the name of Hearty, and within that circle of practitioners, and with Hearty I am held. With my hand on the door, I pause to give thanks to all those practitioners, many I have never met and I call the sigil into my mind, take a deep breath and push open the door. 

He is so very sick, yet like so often, his spirit is so fiery that he’s sitting up talking to me through strained breaths and watching me through red, tired eyes. We talk about how he is feeling and he asks if his test results are back yet. He is desperate to know if he has it. The results are not back yet, but I feel sure that I know. None of us know COVID-19 well enough to know its presentation from experience, the disease is still new to us. But I know its energy and I know spirit and I know my job. I know that what is in that room with us is new. It doesn’t feel like any of the patients I am used to nursing, but it is there, heavy, brazen and full of sorrow. I spend a lot of time listening to the landscape, learning to navigate it or hear it. It is a crucial part of the spiritual path I walk. In many ways, clinically, the patient was not a textbook case but as I took a break I explained to my colleague that I felt sure he had it. I nursed him for my 12-hour shift. The next morning my colleagues informed me that he had tested positive. 

As the pandemic began to take hold in the UK I had worked hard with divination to try to understand what I would be meeting, how it would manifest. I had worked with other practitioners who shared this divination work and we talked at length about this new addition to our world. Now, in its presence, so much of our work felt precious and full of depth. 

At first as we prepared to nurse our first COVID-19 patients, I thought this virus was malevolent, arrogant—a bully. As the months went on, I met more patients with the virus and started to learn the nature of this new presence. It still felt like a powerful bully, but a wounded one, as all bullies are. A week later I was working a shift in intensive care. I was in a sealed bay of four COVID-19 positive ventilated patients. In a quiet moment as I sat next to my patient to write his notes, I stopped, closed my eyes, and from behind that tight mask I began some breath work. I focused on breath—the thing these patients were fighting for, as the lungs take the brunt of the disease—and on my own longing for a breath of fresh clean air from under the kit. I remember thinking of the recent forest fires, as the lungs of our planet burned in Australia and Brazil. I thought of the sounds of the ventilators all working to breathe for the patients. Breath is a part of my practice, but in that moment I truly felt how sacred it is to breathe, how connected we are in that exchange between the internal and the external, the delicate balance of the atmosphere, the biosphere, the everything. I wrote and shared a Hearty practice centred around breath and I hope this story serves it well. 

Being a nurse means sitting with suffering. Sitting with the dark times, the things that many avoid. It means listening and understanding that which is unseen but that is very much there, forming the stories of people’s lives, loves and losses. For me, the craft is similar—it comes from a great love and connection to those I share my existence with, in all their forms, on all their levels. It is about holding that sacred space with compassion, being prepared to ask the bully why it is sad, what does it want to say? It is the love, the hope, the joy and the sadness of that space. It is playing it out on the drum, sending on that which must leave and holding safe that which must be protected. For me it has included the comfort of kind herbs on the days my heart is heavy from the last few months, the soft light of the moon and my bare feet on the belly of the earth. It has been the comfort and love of other practitioners, across the globe working with Hearty or their own practices, to hold the space for better times. 

There is much yet for our craft to give and I have so much gratitude to all my brothers and sisters on this path. Merry Meet, albeit from afar. 

The Heretic Nurse


Keep dancing!

It’s essential to keep the people dancing in this time of pandemic. Big respect and thanks to Quarantine Dance Specials 2020 and to Social DisDance for doing just that! Aho!