Sunday, May 17, 2015

How to Memorize Lots of Words for Rites and from Holy Books

When I was a kid, my mom enrolled me and my sister in a summer local Bible Olympics thing in Oklahoma. All summer we would travel and answer Bible trivia questions against other teams from other churches in the local counties. My sister and I kicked their fucking asses every time. Pathetic nominal hose beasts that they were.

One of the things they had was a scripture memorization contest. We had to memorize verses, and recite them to someone in our church. Whoever memorized the most got a Bible with their name embossed on the cover.

And you better fucking believe I walked away with a Bible with my name on it.

The other first-place-level prize was a board game based on CS Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader. My older sister won that. We tied for first, and she already had her own Bible, which she had taken to school to show her teacher why we weren't actually descended from fish because we share some eye parts. We swept the contests, mostly because my mom was like UBER BIBLE BITCH.

In all the best ways.

She taught us how to memorize things in a great way. She bought a roll of butcher block paper, and wrote out the verses we were memorizing in multi-colored magic marker, and hung it on the walls of our dining room, kitchen, and living room. We spent time each night memorizing and reciting, memorizing and reciting, with the sole goal being the utter humiliation of the local backwater nominal Christian teens of Hennessey and Crescent Counties at 11 and 13.

To this day my mom feels bad about how harsh we skunked those illiterate bastards. LOL!

So these days, I'm in the A.'.A.'., and part of the curriculum incudes memorizing vast swaths of the Thelemic Holy Books. Doing so is a LIFECHANGING event, and everyone should totally do it, because they that seal up the book into their blood are the chosen of Adonai, and the Thought of Adonai becomes a Word and a Deed; and they abide in the Land that the far-off travellers call Naught.

It's pretty freakin' cool.

Even if you're not a Thelemite, memorizing rites is important. When you really know the words, you can say the words without interruption, and when they are a part of you, you can focus on what they mean, what they represent in ways you just can't do when you're reading a printed script. Memorization is BAD ASS.

But it's hard.

Fortunately there are tricks. The  next sections are about how to memorize stupid amounts of text so you can be a boss magician without getting in your own way with your stupid uh, uhm, uh stuttering through the rites. 

And also, you look amazing doing rites from memory. Scott Stenwick and Michele Montserrat primarily led a series of rites at the lodge around the time we celebrated the Writing of the Book of the Law at the Lodge, and they totally knew their shit, performed it 99% from memory, and it was super effective in setting the tone and the vibration of the temple space. Memorization matters so much.

For Liber LXV, I broke the chapter I chose to memorize into sections of related verses. Each section told an aspect of the story. Break your text up into related lines, and put them together. Our human brains love stories. A really pure argument can be made that all magic is the art of telling stories to the spirits that make things happen. By memorizing all the different stories of the chapter, all I had to remember when it was time to present it was the order in which the stories went. Be creative in your story-naming when you break things up, I had a section called "the prophet sucks" for a reason. You remember that kind of thing.

Harper (my LOVELY fiance) also recorded herself reading the chapter using Audacity. She and her son put together a mix of various sounds they recorded one afternoon (bells and bottles are awesome), and we downloaded some drum loops, and I listened to that for months while I worked out. I knew the rythym, I knew her voice, and when I presented my recitation, I heard her speaking with me every word. Totally awesome, not feeling alone when you're reciting your memorized lines.

She also put stuff we were memorizing up in the shower on the door so we could see it every day. Reminded me of the butcher block paper on the walls in my youth. It works.

But the most effective thing for me was writing it out line by line, and grinding through each word. I'd take a section and write out the lines in a pad of lined paper. Then I'd read the first line, and say it out loud with my eyes closed, as best I could without cheating, glancing until I had it perfect. Then I'd move to the next line, and start with the first line, adding on line by line, saying the whole thing each time. By the time I recited my verses, I'd said "Ah, my lord Adonai" about a million times.

It's not easy. At first I couldn't do two lines a day. But it gets better. By the end I was memorizing about 12 lines a day, like a machine. My brain softened up, and it opened up, and the words sank in, in a totally good way. The trick is not giving up, not giving in to the "I can't..." bullshit you try to claim on the way. It was do it, or don't move on, so I did it, and I rocked it hard core.

So, you've got a lot of shit to memorize. Here's how to do it:
  • Break it into sections.
  • Write it on paper, post it on walls/showers/mirrors.
  • Memorize it line by line. 
  • Grind it out.
  • Meanwhile, record it and listen to it daily in the background.
  • Don't stop when you feel like you can't. You can.
  • Pace with the pad with the lines in your hand, and cuss a lot when you fuck it up until it's perfect.

The last one I didn't mention in the post before, but let's be real. "FUCK FUCK FUCK, GOD DAMN IT, as FUCKING Ra that gathereth his FUCKING clouds about Him at eventide into a molten sea of FUCKING Joy" might have resounded through the house a time or three.

When all is said and done, you'll know something other people don't, and you'll feel good, and honestly, it's a mystery what it does to you to memorize that crap. You'll NEVER regret the time you spend putting ritual into your brain, I promise.