Monday, March 08, 2010

On Goetic (and other) Approaches

Jason's post Friday is irritating. It reveals a number of things that annoy me, and they're all about how people are in general, and occult people specifically.

I got mentioned in there as a potential warning for those who do Goetia. I don't think he meant it that way, but I can see how some people would read it that way. Just in case they do, I'm going to be clear:


I have to be careful how I word things because the internet is notorious for bringing the wrong impression. People say things that can be taken in a thousand ways, and you can't hear my tone or see the expression on my face (or the hair sticking straight up off my skull like Einstein's; there are benefits to this faceless typing that I am grateful for).

It wouldn't have mattered if I were using Agrippa's Spirits of the Planetary Tables, the Archangels of the Spheres, or lighting candles in front of icons of Saints. Any system that I used and gave such generic and open-ended direction would have as much potential to burn down the house. Magic isn't a fucking game. I played fast and loose, and I got burned. That's how it works.

Since then I've backed off, not because I'm scared or because Goetia is EVIL, but because I found out I have areas of weakness to address before I go off conjuring up spirits with the level of power and potential that impact me, my family, and my work. People rely on me, and I am human. Add stress, and I make mistakes. More stress, more mistakes. It's exponential.

The idea that is at the core of Jason's post is that people who use alternate methods to conjure the spirits of the Goetia are incurring more risk than those who stick to the recipe, follow the directions, and do everything "by the book." From what I can tell, people who want to follow the book can generally be classified into two camps: those who want to see a demon, and those who have little experience. The first group I can understand, but I think they're silly. The second group I can also understand, and I expect them to relax a bit as they go along.

The spirits listed in the Goetia existed long before the "Solomonic" tradition existed. The history of the Lemegeton's Goetia is detailed in the research of Joe Peterson. You can see by comparing the different manuscripts that emerged at different times in the Renaissance that it was an evolving system that had a lot of gaps early on that were filled in and smoothed over as the drafts were rewritten, reinterpreted, and as the philosophy of the system was filled in. It went from a system used by a couple of mavericks and outcasts to a comprehensive system that fit nicely into the toolkit of a magician Working on the Great Work.

I think what really scares people about the Goetia is that the spirits listed really work the way they're described, or pretty close anyway. Spirits who are supposed to be useful in the area of love really are useful in the area of love. Spirits who bring riches really do bring riches. It's a system that works really well, and unlike most grimoires, it's pretty complete and comprehensive. The only more-complete system in a mini-grimoire form that I've found is the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals. It's spartan though, and doesn't talk a lot about what the spirits can do.

The bottom line is that no matter what methodology you use to conjure Bune, whether it's a spirit pot, a petition like Jason's, or the full Lemegeton method (the fully developed one) with a circle on the floor and a lion's skin belt and everything, if you just tell the spirit to fetch you money without letting anyone get hurt or killed, they're going to have too little direction to manifest the results in a way that is completely safe.

Now at this point, I've realized that there will always be something that I miss when I try to conjure a spirit and tell it to go do something. I can't cover every possibility. There are mitigating things I should have done, like divination, planning, and basically having a real strategy in place. Any time a magician does a rite out of desperation, they're opening themselves up to a huge risk.

The responsibility of being a magician is strongly underrated, especially when you realize how many lives ones own mistakes can impact. I had a long series of successful works with Bune under my belt when I started the weekly "maintenance" rites that ended up leading to the downfall. It was a wrong turn, and I've paid the price. But it was my failure, not Bune's, not the system of conjuration I used.

This conjure magic thing is not an exact science by any means. I commented on Magian Ruminations the other day that I'm sitting at the cracks between the realms listening for voices that sound a lot like my own thoughts. I know that spirits are real, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they're all "in my head." I'm just saying there is no one formula for success when it comes to conjure magic. Every mage with the balls or ovaries to step into the Circle and conjure up a spirit is performing an experiment with the forces that affect the very manifestation of existence. There's a lot that can go wrong. I can't find my keys and badge for work some days, let alone being able to plan for every potential misinterpretation of direction given to entities with vast power and a completely different frame of reference to my own.

Whatever technique you use to get yourself in front of a spirit, never make the mistake of thinking you know how the ritual will end up manifesting in your life. Remember it's always going to be an experiment. Even if you have every seal and sigil and god name spelled just right in the appropriate script and you've somehow managed to be the only person on the planet with the true and accurate pronunciations of the barbarous words, you're still the man or woman in the Circle that you are outside the Circle. Any direction given to the spirits can and most likely will manifest in ways other than you expect, even if it is exactly what you intend. It's the nature of the system.

But dammit, no one knows how to pronounce the Barbarous Words. Astaroth was around for millenia before Solomon was a twinkle in Bathsheba's eye. We learned how to conjure the spirits from the spirits themselves. Any system that establishes bi-directional communication with them is a valid system. The effects of conjuring the spirit are determined by a million things, your level of initiation, your level of experience, your personal life history, and most importantly, how you actually direct the spirit in the rite. These factors all come into play, but no one can tell you with any accuracy that if you conjure a spirit under circumstances XYZ, the precise manifestation QRS will be the result. We're flying blind with a set of instruments few can even read, and fewer still can explain.