The Magician as Creative Theologian

Before I was aware of being a magician, I was a theologian, digging deep into the nature of Mystery and how we locate religious authority in an academic setting. These efforts began a process of deconstruction that lead to a radical expansion of my previous faith.  In contrast to the claustrophobia I had experienced when trying to hold-on to the tenets of belief, the esoteric path felt like an expansive opportunity to explore the fullness of my humanity.

As a fledgling magician I was launched into a landscape in which my own occult exploration and direct experience had a profound impact on my process of interpretation and understanding ( or hermeneutics, for the theologically fancy). While research into the best primary source material was still vital, I was far more aware of the role that my personal religious experience was having in shaping my worldview. I recently had a go at mapping out this process, and while not definitive, it looked a bit like this:

I thought I would share with you an example of such magical hermeneutics at work. What follows is an extract from my piece ‘The Queer Gods of Alchemy’ that was part of the excellent anthology Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries (2018) edited by Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin.  I highly recommend the whole anthology for those interested in Queered and creative approaches to spiritual practice.

The Sabbat of the Queered Christ

I’m sure I’m no different from most of people in trying to make sense of the paths I have walked and what they reveal about the core aspects of who I am. When I consider the differing traditions that I have worked within I’m often struck by the commonalities in how I have approached them.  While I might admire the dignity of a scripted ritual rubrik, I personally love music, dance and drumming.  For me this type of embodied, ecstatic leaping about, was once part of my teenage Pentecostalism and now strongly connects me to the shamanic archetype of the Witch and the nightside mysteries of their craft.

Within the collective psyche of Europe, the Witch has often acted as an icon of disturbance and freedom. The projected fantasies of clerics and folkloric imaginings often allude to something dark, disturbing and subversive.

The Witch often acts as an attractor for the shadow aspects of those cultures within which they are suspected of dwelling. They are the hags and the shape-shifters whose messy bodies both arouse and unsettle us. They seem to be scapegoats onto whose heads the repressed longings of society are spoken.

In bearing the weight of such dangerous passions they often hold a position on the outer edge of social and ethical evolution.

If our magic is to mean anything, we must be willing for it to Queer and haunt us. The certainties that we cling to must be placed on the altar of our work as our Gods and ancestors draw us to the crossroads at which the sacrificial cost of true change must be weighed. 

My own work with the Witches’ path induced a profound sense of unease. Have you ever felt haunted? Haunted by an idea or a person who, despite all your best efforts, seems to be lurking at the edges of your vision and prodding your unconscious to give them a bit more space? For me, this was a phantom of my own history, pointing towards past explorations and adventures that were still unresolved. 

In my seeking to more fully appreciate the potential connections between the Witch trials and medieval Christian heretics, I became aware that the figure haunting me from the shadows was that old trickster Yeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus to his Greek speaking friends). 

In relation to my own journey I have already sought to describe how my initial flight into Christianity was largely related to my adolescent confusion about the fluidity of my own sexuality and gender identity. While I now feel that it was necessary to take leave of Christ due to the type of self-suppression that seemed innate to my faith at that time, I am still able to appreciate some of the Queer liberation that I experienced via the androgyny of Christ.  

While owning my own needs and bias, I eventually encountered in my reading of Jesus a blurry ambiguity that provided for me an alternative mode of being. Yes, this was the Jesus who cleared Temples and overturned tables, but also the Jesus who blessed the gentle and sought out the one lost sheep. 

In a personal world where the versions of maleness, certainty and force made little sense to me, my own gnostic encounter allowed access to a gentler, more mysterious experience. This Christ became a mirror through which I could view myself more closely. Such looking can be far from comfortable, but over time it allowed me to engage with deeper truths about who I needed to become. For me this magical process of engaging with the Christ myth allowed me (somewhat ironically) to become accepting enough of myself that I no longer wished to call myself a Christian.

To follow the path of the Witch or the Gnostic explorer is to pay heed to those incoming messages bubbling up from the unconscious. In the same way that I couldn’t adhere to the exclusivity of a Christianity at odds with my Queerness, neither can I turn away from the insights still offered by the Christ-spark within. 

In the Gospel of John (Chapter 11) Jesus describes himself as ‘the door’ and for me the Christic myth still provides a doorway via which I can explore greater self-understanding. Walking through this doorway asks that I leave behind the child-like sentimentality of my past beliefs, but I choose to risk this path as if offers freedom from claustrophobic certainties and the possibility of breathing in fresh insights. 

For all of us I would pray that we might access true gnosis as we listen to the Wisdom of our Queer ancestors and Gods, and as we take heed of their counsel may we be brave enough to pursue the uniqueness of our path towards greater wholeness and freedom. So Mote It Be!

“Be a light unto yourself” Shakyamuni Buddha

Steve Dee


Coming Up This Spring

Julian is teaching two workshops with The Last Tuesday society on Sigil Magic and Chaos Magic in February, and continues his regular workshop series with Treadwell’s Books; next up, Advanced Elemental Magic for Beginners, Magical Energy and The Magical Qabalah for beginners and advanced practitioners. In addition, Treadwell’s is hosting The Banned Lecture of Getting Higher in March, which like much of their other online content will be available to watch after the live event as a video recording.

Julian’s work is now gathered together on his newly launched portfolio website julianvayne.com

Nikki Wyrd and Julian Vayne will be hosting an Imbolc Ceremony with The Psychedelic Society on Monday 1st Feb 2021, 7pm – 9pm UK time.

Hoping to see you in the magic circle soon! 😀

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.