Goetia Work in the Context of Chaos Craft


Introduction

Having just convened for the second time after the lockdown with our coven we performed a conjuration of Astaroth – the third time that I have done goetic work in a group and we considered it to be a great success. Without revealing my exact method (I would like people to come along and experience my method for themselves!) we managed to each of us ask Astaroth a question and get a fitting answer. All of us were very happy with what we had achieved! Participants left feeling inspired and empowered.

Being a chaos magician I will freely construct my rituals in a creative way to hopefully achieve the desired result without worrying unduly about violating principles of tradition. I used strobe lights with the lenses painted over with colours and out of step with each other to induce an altered state of consciousness. I tested this at home with my friend in the kitchen one evening: they got scared and kicked me in the shin on the way to the light-switch accusing me afterwards of ‘pulling faces’! This told me that I got the desired result!

Paradigms

I tend to think that the entities in the grimoires are not inherently evil but am more inclined to think that we have a list of spirits here, many of them gods of ‘other’ religions, re-branded as ‘demons’ for which we have instructions for performing pujas in order for them to assist us in our lives. Many purists will think of me as being dangerously complacent! However, I have worked extensively with Astaroth within groups and by myself using various methods and have come to no harm by having this perspective. For me the word ‘evil’ is in itself dated and of little relevance in modern language, a word usually reserved for things we fear or don’t like.

Here we reach a point of clashing of paradigms and theories on how this kind of magic works and for that matter any type of magic. The psychological model based on Jung’s theories is a favourite for many. Ideas about the Shadow and archetypes with Jung believing that thoughts do not altogether take place inside the brain. Crowley himself was a veteran of this perspective when he introduced his Goetia publication by asserting that the spirits are actually parts of the brain. ‘Psychologizing’ magic has a history of at least 100 years. There is no doubt in my mind after reading Jung’s Red Book that Jung himself was a Hermetic magician since Philemon, Jung’s Daimon actually carried a copy of the 6th and 7th Book of Moses with him, which is a grimoire! He believed that thoughts have an external reality of their own, that would literally mean that ‘complexes’ can be equated with spirits by his way of thinking. How thoughts can be ‘external’ has not been clearly explained to my satisfaction, hence I am not fully subscribed to this theory or any other paradigm for that matter.

Whichever way you believe magic works: there is no complete theory which explains it flawlessly. Jung was a scientist and his theory on the paranormal is elegant and serves as a good springboard for magic until the moment when you dive in and actually do the work! Once the circle is drawn: all that stuff falls aside for a while and you proceed without a rational framework.

Approaches: Purist versus Pragmatist

Being a chaos magician, I am concerned with results rather than traditions. I don’t think it is necessary to quench my ritual knife in mole’s blood in order to get a good result when following instructions in the True Grimoire but if you are a purist which instructions do you follow and which ones do you ignore? Working as a gardener and I can tell you that I am proud of my Japanese pruning saw as it makes me look like a garden ninja however: even with this tool I would struggle to cut a wand thick enough with one stroke to put all the necessary signs on it as prescribed in the grimoires!

As for the virgin parchment: I recognize a life-force offering when I see one! If you cut the throat of a goat and pronounce the name of the spirit that you wish to conjure that is what I see, a life-force offering. This should be an important part of the ritual but for obvious reasons, it cannot be so. In the African Traditional Religions the use of blood is difficult to overlook. I have seen goats being sacrificed in India. It features in the Bible: Jehovah insists on it and punishes Cain for failing in this. The use of blood in religious and magical traditions is cross-cultural and can be found from South America all the way to Nepal. It is considered effective.

My argument is this: there are no purists in goetia work! You will never catch enough moles to quench that blade in their blood and you must not try to do so either!

Pragmatic Approach

Seeing as you are unlikely to be able to follow exactly the instructions as set out in the grimoires: what would be the best way to proceed?

Black and Hyatt in Pacts with the Devil give some good ideas on substitutions. For a life-force offering they suggest that the sexual act can be used and the resulting fluids be offered instead of blood. Crowley did so with great effect in the ‘Paris Working’. One’s own blood can also be used to great effect: using sterile diabetic lances, a few drops is enough in my opinion to get impressive results. Drop some in that incense for example! It would not take a creative genius to come up with really good techniques to make a powerful and effective life-force offering without injury to yourself or any other living creature! The ‘Vinum Sabbati’ that Kenneth Grant refers to in the Carfax Monograph I would consider to be the ideal.

Chaos magicians will dissect a ritual and see procedures that are common to many other acts of magic. Altered states of consciousness are useful and everything from incense and various drugs to spinning, over-breathing, sleep deprivation, fasting are used in magic around the world in various cultures and times. My ‘unusual’ approach to conjuration would not be considered at all unusual in this context. I like using a dutch-pot (cauldron) as the place where the spirit manifests: painting the sigil of the entity onto the floor of the pot. I have the charcoal read on there with the incense that has all of the special ingredients that you wish to add. This might be some heady incense and a few drops of blood/Vinum Sabbati that you have hygienically added.

Chris Bennet in Liber 420 argues convincingly that intoxicating drugs were used in spirit communications of many types – asserting that the incense used was actually exactly that. It would be a shame to reduce conjuration work down to a ‘controlled hallucination’ as it is not a complete theory that explains every aspect of the phenomenon, such as the paranormal effects, but it might be considered another way of opening a path to successful work in this area.

Our Formula

I would suggest the following formula for goetia work, like recipes in a cookbook you will not want to slavishly follow my suggestions and you might have strong opinions that will prevent you from doing so:

  1. Sacred Space: Circle and Quarters Ritual
  2. Cleansing of participants with white sage or preferred method
  3. Switch stobe-lighting on
  4. Invocation: Petition your patron deity to oversee this work
  5. Headless/Bornless Ritual: invocation of Holy Guardian Angel by your preferred
    method as ‘preliminary invocation’
  6. Lighting of specially prepared incense
  7. Repetition of incantation as per True Grimoire
  8. Chanting of name of spirit in step with in and out-breaths for 10 minutes
  9. Manifestation of spirit in cauldron
  10. Quizzing the spirit/making requests
  11. Banishing
  12. Closing of ritual and license to depart
  13. Chaos Magicians use the IAO ritual as a ‘re-centering’ rite after everything has been completed. You might wish to use voice-recorders during the ritual and share insights with participants after the ritual before going your separate ways.

Conclusion

I have directly used over-breathing and strobe-lighting to great effect in group goetia work as well as drumming, using my own blood and other unconventional methods. As a group we have successfully communicated with Astaroth: each member in turn and got satisfactory answers to our questions. I certainly had very vivid visual effects without using intoxicating drugs. There is no need to harm animals and there is no need to skimp on those techniques that help just because they are not in the book or form part of goetia tradition. Magic is a dynamic pursuit which in my opinion should evolve and change with time. Our method also needs honing and improving. I would like to do a great deal more to make our ritual more powerful and effective!

Frater Ananael (Priest of Chaos Craft)


Coming up next…

Julian will be teaching Street Sigil Sorcery on the 25th of November, 19:00-21:00 GMT. Join the workshop live or catch up afterwards with delayed viewing tickets.

Julian will be leading The Sun at Midnight, an online ritual as we approach the winter solstice on the 9th of December 19:00-21:00 GMT.

An Audience with Jake Stratton-Kent

Could you give us your superhero backstory please? How did you get involved with occultism?

It was very spontaneous, hanging out with some guys in a log cabin one of them said ‘Jake, you’ve got the soul of a warrior’. This was a life changing catalyst from out of the blue, and I rapidly hunted down a magical manual; luckily enough the first one I found was Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, and I balanced research and practice from then on, never assuming moderns knew better on an a priori basis. As the saying goes, I’ve never looked back.

Goetic Adept

Goetic Adept

Could you tell us a little about your work with the English Qabalah and the Thelemic current more generally?

When Ray Sherwin handed over ‘The New Equinox’ I contacted the editors, particularly the late Jim Lees (attended his funeral recently, complete with jazz band, a good send off). English Qaballa (there’s reasons it is spelled that way) rocked my world: it was very modern, assumed nothing on the basis of previous systems (including the numeration of letters, which wasn’t decimal but serial) and was extremely productive. The approach was radically different from the GD/AC qabalah; if there is a Hebrew analogue it’s more Abraham Abulafia (who connected so called ‘literal kabbalah’ with *practical* Kabbalah rather than mere number crunching. Other affinities range from Dee (who saw cabala as universal rather than limited to Hebrew, see Hieroglyphic Monad) to Austin Spare’s practical use of the English Alphabet. It was majorly focused on esoteric exegesis (deep immersion in scripture, which is dangerous but properly conducted very powerful too). From these ‘interpretations’ various magical formulae were derived, leading to revolutionary approaches to astrologically timed ritual. Some of this work broke the old rules, for example not avoiding the ‘unfortunate’ Via Combusta (the Moon’s  transit between particular degrees of Libra/Scorpio), but using it. The 93 Current was understood to be destructive, and SCORPIO=93 in EQ. Solar conjunctions, also traditionally avoided, were a strong focus of this work also, often with ecstatic ‘Tantric Worship in English’, which, with astro-timing a given, was essentially the definition of magick within this paradigm.

It didn’t hurt that the group concerned included several scientific types and was very capable and practical: making swords, growing herbs and test driving all manner of plants, even making their own paper – an intense and highly educational period. Had no resemblance to Edwardian Lodge magic either, which also helped!

You’ve written extensively on goetic magic, what is it about this approach to spirit work that appeals to you? What would you say have been the key discoveries from your historical/applied research and how have they informed your practice?

There’s another approach? <grin>

It’s been a while but a couple of things kicked it off, other than my long standing interest in the grimoires, and the Grimorium Verum or True Grimoire in particular.

One was the dawning realisation that the darker grimoires tended to involve more ‘primal gnosis’ and were closer to the ancient approaches as in the papyri and elsewhere. There were historical aspects to this, the shift in Western magic from images (often involving animal forms), to words and particular ‘sacred alphabets’ was a given to me from my reading of Frances Yates &c. This initial insight only deepened and widened as I proceeded.

Another was my response to Ron Hutton shooting down modern witchcraft’s pseudo history; balanced with his rider that it also had a real heritage: the ritual magic tradition. Another spontaneous statement by a friend provided the final spur in the right direction. Oddly enough she has the same surname as the friend whose words kickstarted my magical career. Anyhow, she mentioned the connection between the Idaean Dactyls and goetia (a reference to them in ancient Greek is the first mention of goetia in the literary record).

So I worked my way through the process of the Grimorium Verum very thoroughly, making more pacts than is strictly necessary or sane. Much of this ‘overkill’ was necessary to better understand the system and its pantheon, which is essentially how I view a ‘spirit catalogue’. Also wrote a commented reconstruction of the grimoire based on my interest, experience and so forth. Much of this work took place in England, but some large scale group rites in the US played an important role. My appreciation of the ancient background of goetia was developing rapidly during this intense work phase. Ultimately what began as an intended appendix to the True Grimoire turned into a two volume sequel detailing the origins of ALL Western Magic in ancient goetia!

Connecting goetia with necromancy, a connection it never shrugged off even when actual work with the dead diminished in the Middle Ages &c, was a critical insight. From there it is a small leap to realising that ideas about the Afterlife  eschatology in short – are and always were connected with our ideas about spirits.

It is this which always provided a context in which spirits and magicians have a basis for working with one another which is mutually beneficial. Rather than the modern but dated ‘unpaid shopkeeper’ approach which is lacking in depth in a big way. Mugging an entity to supply your wishes is so philosophically unsatisfying, but with modern Western Magic being largely from a secularised Protestant culture, it doesn’t occur to most of us how inadequate this perspective is. The briefest possible definition of magic is in fact ‘practical eschatology’; it is interesting how much explanation such an obvious point requires sometimes!

Allowing for whatever secrecy is required by your practice, could you share what techniques do you tend to use in your magick? (ie the predicable chaos magic question ‘what do you *do*?’)

It varies. I started out with a similar toolkit to everyone else, have worked the IOT curriculum solo and with a mentor, as well as the GD/AC stuff etc etc.

On the other hand, I’ve generally had an eye on ancient methodologies as well as what little an English lad could learn about New World Traditions in 70s England onward.

One of my major bendings of the modern toolkit is definitely worth mentioning. Assumption not of godforms but animal forms (bestial deities &c or ‘theriomorphs’ to coin a term).

That always packs a punch for me, and I’ve worked it in a variety of ways with consistently good results. In the process I’ve adopted ‘animal alphabets’ connected with particular constellations and lunar mansions. Originally the magical images of the decans were of a similar type, before getting ‘laundered’ and made more human and/or allegorical.

Warping myself or my ‘astral body’ into the appropriate animal or beast headed deity &c to – say – consecrate a talisman, connects with deeply primal magical currents. It also works a treat, which is the main issue.

Could you explain your current understanding of what a spirit is (or ‘does’)?

I’ve found working with them as autonomous entities is the most straightforward and effective method. I remain largely agnostic as to the hows and whys.

Yes, as a fairly sophisticated Westerner I’ve pondered possible scientific explanations. Coming from an EQ background, or my take on it anyway, I find a ‘psycho-linguistic’ model provides a possible ‘scientific’ explanation. With leanings toward Chomsky & Monod; no Cartesian dualism involved!

Language is the vehicle of consciousness and culture, and has always been deeply linked to magic. Whether this model explains everything or not, it at least shows that the ‘Jungian archetypes’ are only one possible take, and one with more dodgy overtones. Gods, heroes, myths and spirits are present in every aspect of normal life; especially the media: sport, politics, war, drama & the arts, and our responses to them. Essentially though I’m an Instrumentalist philosophically speaking, the autonomous entity model works best and also shuts off the cop out clause. Once you begin a relationship with a spirit you have to see it through; a ritual is much more than a quick fix to some problem or other and then forget your partner in crime.

You’ve been doing this magick lark for some considerable time. Do you think esoteric practice/culture has changed since you first picked up a wand, and if so in what ways?

Yes and no – while the more aware practitioners who keep up with their peers have definitely opened new directions or rediscovered stuff the early Revival neglected or got wrong. Meanwhile, the same old same old is never hard to find. I still occasionally have to tell people goetia is not just the name of a book Crowley pinched from Mathers.

That aside, some of the fuddy duddy stuff has definitely slackened off, but there’s still plenty of market led consumer magic around.

How do you see the relationship between (your) occultism and wider culture (eg politics)?

There is no shortage of elitist, right wing & self-centred takes on magic; it isn’t anything like the whole story. Hecate – the archetypal witch goddess – was patron of the poor, and *need* is one of the most potent drivers and amplifiers of magic. I rarely do magic for personal gain, unless there is some experimental purpose to be served. Politically I’m wary of the State and lean more towards anarchism among the modern political philosophies. I don’t particularly like socialism, and certainly don’t glamourise communism, but while they may not be the solution, unbridled capitalism is still the problem. Both socialism and capitalism have their problems, but in a democratic society balancing the two makes a deal of sense. In practice I vote against the Tories consistently, and see the world trying to drift towards corporate fascism and a less free world than the one I grew up in, Cold War notwithstanding. Hopefully the ‘inevitable’ triumph of the Right will prove to be as illusory a tunnel reality as the old Mutual Assured Destruction was.

What current projects are you working on?

A couple of things in the writing line, one of which will compare the spirit hierarchies of several major grimoires. One purpose is to clarify the identities behind the seemingly wildly different names. Also to shift the view from text and apparatus towards the real stars of the show, the spirits; who have represented magic far longer than any of us have been involved in it.

Thanks again for your time Jake, really appreciated.

JV

You can find more information about Jake’s work here, here and here.