Is there any real difference between magick and religion? I don’t think so – and indeed this issue has been raised in several recent books, including my own Bull of Ombos. On the whole, magick has not been well served by anthropology, starting with the old Frazerian distinction between magic and religion; magic and science. Apparently the eminent historian Ronald Hutton has now entered the fray, with a slightly different take. Speaking at the recent Witchfest, he acknowledged that ancient Egypt is the big exception, (which is a very big and important exception). Even so, he thought a parting of the ways did occur from the early Christian era onwards and only in very recent times was this supposed difference between magic and religion beginning to break down. His views coincides very much with that of the Christian theologians, who were at great pains to persuade people that JC was neither a magician nor exorcist! But is that really true? When looking at the classical roots of magick, the key questions are :
Do the gods practice magick?
Is there a god of magick?
Are priests and magicians the same people?
The answer for ancient Egypt is yes to all of the above
Answer in non-Christian world is yes to all of the above
Answer in Christian world is maybe?
The other issue we discussed at the recent Talking Stick was on the related matter of the roots of magick. The eminent Egyptologist Jan Assmann, argues in his book, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, that liturgy is the root of the Egyptian magical religion and not as you might think, some form of individual mystical experience. Liturgy equals ‘public worship in accordance with a prescribed form’ – for example actions performed at rites of passage such as death. Liturgy is not so far away from magick – especially if one contemplates, as the Egyptians often did, what happens when you threaten the gods to abandon their liturgy unless they give you what you desire!
Emma from an organisation called HAD - canvassed my opinion on reburial of museum artefacts. The subject of archaic burial seems to be very much on my personal agenda just now. Here are my initial thoughts - feedback welcomed:
1. Death House
I'd say that the artefacts should, where possible placed in a non-volatile, collective 'valhalla' , 'death house' or 'ossary' in such a way that they can be reexamined or reinterred if necessary. This also makes it possible for people with a reconstructed religious sensibiltiy to have some sort of ongoing interaction with the remains (an indeed future academics to do new research).
Special attention needs to be taken with orientation (this could equally apply to human remains in museums)
The first principle is cardinality - the head should be orientated to one of the cardinal directions, probably in the north but facing east. Care should be taken to avoid inversions - eg: skulls should be prevented from rolling jaw uppermost ( a common feature of ancient execration burial) - if the remains come from an existing execration burial then this raises the issue of whether this arrangement needs to be preserved.
The collection of 'red ochre' is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous of human activities and this is almost invariable a feature of archaic burials - so replenishing the ochre in some actual or symbolic way might be appropriate perhaps as the inner lining of the 'death house'.
4. 'Opening the mouth'
This is another archiac and almost universal practice accomplished via spoken prayers of transfiguration said over the reinterred remains - unknown remains could be given a 'name' or possibly an 'epithet' as part of this process. Otherwise, i'd say the rites should involve other forms of sound especially music - the bottom line being the intoning of the seven sacred vowels and other forms of polyphonic music, such as flutes, didgeridoos, gentle drumming, etc.
The eventual resting place should be marked and facilitate at least the occasional ceremony of remembrance.
Seems like Samhain continues as a season right up to Armistice day on the 11th, or perhaps Remembrance sunday - maybe even until the end of this moon on 15th November? Although feeling a little blank - I went along to the G.O.D.S. samhain ritual on the 5th November. A dry windy night during which the leaves fell from the trees like departing souls - which reminded me of Omm Sety's account of Thoth's 'Tree of Destiny' quoted in my book, Tankhem:
She says there is 'a belief among the Moslems in Egypt that in Paradise is a tree called 'Tree of Destiny', which bears as many leaves as there are people in the world. Each leaf bears the name of each person living, but in the middle of the Arabic month of Shaaban (which is followed by the fasting month of Ramadan), the tree shakes, and the leaves bearing the names of those persons destined to die in the coming years fall down. It has long been the custom for children to gather in groups at sunset on the evening of the fateful day and go round the streets singing: 'O Lord of the Tree of Destiny, make our leaves strong and green upon its brjanches, For we, O Lord, are your little children.'
Its been a samhain I won't forget - my mother died just two weeks ago and the funeral a week later. She was 80 years old and had been fading for a few years - so it wasn't a surprise but the her struggles at the end were quite traumatic.
So it was particularly poignant to be again leading the samhain walk and visit to St Cross churchyard for the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Kenneth Grayam, where we read the following extract from Wind in the Willows:
`This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. `Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'
Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror -- indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy -- but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered. (from chapter 7)
After that we went to the tomb of Charles Williams, Inkling and member of the GD. Being a poet thought he might appreciate Yeats' All Soul's Night. We finished with a sung lament and individual poems. Thanks Wayland for the Irish ghost story, Payam for the poem and Sharron for the voice.
Next stop Bath Omphalos for a talk on Seth:
'contemporary magical practitioners have always been interested in the 'problem of evil' - the nature of good and bad action. Take for example Helena Blavatsky's statement - 'demon est deus inversus' to be found in her highly influential and monument work 'The Secret Doctrine' (1888:1.411). This was later adopted by the poet W B Yeats as his magical motto in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Most practitioners believe that the ancient Egyptian god Seth is the prototype for the contemporary archetype of Lucifer, Satan or the Devil. I want to take a brief look, in context, at the famous image of Seth deriding Apophis, (the demonic / chaotic serpent of 'non-being') as a leitmotiv for the nature or 'personification' of evil in ancient thought. '
here's a report of the talk - someone must have been paying attention:
The Egyptian God Seth: the Personification of Evil?
>A talk by Mogg Morgan for Omphalos 12/11/05
The existence of evil poses as much of a dilemma for practical
occultists as for philosophers and theologians. One possible solution
was presented by Blavatsky in chapter ten of "The Secret Doctrine",
and may be summed up by the phrase "Demon est deus inversus", which
was subsequently adopted as the magical motto of W.B. Yeats.
Mogg discussed how Blavatsky, whose work drew upon Coptic and
Ethiopian sources for the Bible as well as Vedic texts, saw Satan as
an eternal power "required by the equilibrium and harmony of things
in nature." She used the Qabalistic image of a double pyramid (much
like the Yin Yang symbol, combining black and white as a reflection
of each other). This imagery suggests that Satan is no more or less
than the mirror image of God. Some of the greatest Qabalistic
scholars were believed to be descended from Cain.
Moving on to the iconography of Seth, depicted as a dog-like creature
with a long snout and square-tipped ears, Mogg explained how the
detail of Seth's fork-tipped tail may be identified as the Pesesh-Ket
knife, a ritual tool for severing the umbilical cord. This tool was
made from meteoric iron, a metal associated with Seth. Interestingly,
the name of Apophis, the Demon of Non Being who is slain daily by
Seth, is also the same as the Egyptian word for "umbilical cord".
This reflects an important distinction between the Osirian funerary
rites, which focussed on death and an afterlife, and the earlier
Sethian rituals which looked to rebirth.
Mogg commented upon the genesis of contemporary Setian groups, from
their origins with the Church of Satan, from which a faction evolved
into the Temple of Seth, and then subsequently gave birth to a group
called The Storm. As these groups have developed, their methods and
philosophy also appear to have undergone a radical transformation
from Anton LaVey's original "Word of Indulgence". Mogg eschewed a
rigid stance on the claim that Seth is not Satan, suggesting
that "the jury is still out on that one."
Many Victorian translations of Egyptian texts glossed over attitudes
or ritual methods that were thought to be inappropriate or shocking.
More correct translations are now coming to light, and reveal
Egyptian magicians threatening the gods, much as a Goetic magician
might threaten and compel demons. Mogg quoted from "An Invocation
Against Osiris" and "The Cannibal Hymn", which speaks of the dead
king becoming a god so powerful that he eats all the other gods.
Neolithic Egyptians practiced dismemberment and ritually ate part of
the deceased's body.
Many Egyptian spells involve eating or drinking magical texts to
absorb their power. These practices derive from the oldest forms of
Egyptian beliefs. In the Greek Magical Papyrii, names of power may be
distinguished by the care taken to ensure correct pronunciation, and
this enables us to identify "Seth" as a name of power,
whilst "Typhon" is merely a title made accessible for the Greeks.
Describing a detailed image from the Payrus Heruba, Mogg commented
that the Egyptians may have perceived the greatest possible evil
as "Non Being", represented by the serpent Apophis, who is shown here
being slain by Seth.
An informal and original talk that left me pondering over some of
the "sacred cows" of Egyptian magic.
Seems like Samhain continues as a season right up to amerstice day on the 11th, or perhaps Remembrance sunday - maybe even until the end of this moon on 15th November? Although feeling a little blank - i went along to the G.O.D.S. samhain ritual on the 5th November. A dry windy night suring which the leaves fell from the trees like departing souls - reminded me of the Omm Sety's account of Thoth's 'Tree of Destiny' quoted in my book, Tankhem:
She says there is 'a belief among the Moslems in Egypt that in Paradise is a tree called 'Tree of Destiny' , which bears as many leaves as there are people in the world. Each leaf bears the name of each person living, but in the middle of the Arabic month of Shaaban (which is followed by the fasting month of Ramadan), the tree shakes, and the leaves bearing the names of those persons destined to die in the coming years fall down. It has long been the custom for children to gather in groups at sunset on the evening of the fateful day and go round the streets singing: 'O Lord of the Tree of Destiony, make our leaves strong and green upon its brranches, For we, O Lord, are your little children.'
11 September 05 – Ganesha Chaturti
Well actually that was last week on the fourth day of the new moon, but near enough. Ganesha is our house deity and has been ever since I can remember. My interest in the Mercurial/Jupitarian God dates back to my student days in the 1970s, when I travelled to Chennai to study Sanskrit. I was also engaged in spiritual work for the fourth degree of the OTO (Typhonian style). The instructions, such as they were, were based upon the grade-work of Crowley’s Argentinum Astrum. They required a period of devotional work to a deity of one’s own choice. Ganesha seemed more than appropriate although in the end my work was deemed inadequate – largely because it only lasted four weeks – and I had to repeat the whole exercise. Even so, it was quite prescient, as since that time I’ve witnessed the steady growth in popularity of Ganesha among the neo-pagan movement. Some of my ideas have just emerged in a new ebook called ‘Tantra Sadhana’ which can be obtained for a modest $14 from: www.OccultArts.co.uk.
I really enjoy cleaning up the hearth, which can get a bit cluttered over the months. Then rearranging the sacred things, the centrepiece a large bronze statue of Ganesha, which after a good polishing, is adorned with his favourite red and white flowers. Ganeshsa always gets at least one of those India sweets known as Ludoos he loves so much. Ludoos are often the ritual offerengs (prasad)_ at temples such as Tirupati near Chennai (Madras). Every pilgrim comes away with at least one. The sweets are also used the weigh down the eyes of the recently deceased – either as offering to the ferryman, or as some sort of sympathetic magick to ensure a good rebirth. The ludoo’s round shape is supposed to mimic that of the foetus awaiting birth in the womb. I don’t know when Ganesha ate his ludoo, but it’s already gone. A sign of good luck for the coming year – there are already signs that it is so.
This year, another innovation. Like many occultists I tend to accumulate little trinkets from either mine or others travels. Tidying up, my partner and I decided to pile them into the cauldron, so they can receive the blessings of the house god. It’s full to brimming now with good things – all of which will do service whenever we have need of a little offering – or want to pass on the blessings to a curious visitor.
Most years I make little plaster castings of Ganesha to be offered up in the local sacred river on the final day of the festival. This year we took some of the special stones from the cauldron and offered these instead. Seemed the right thing to do – this day is sometimes called ‘stone-throwing’ fourth – and in the poetic invocation, that was one of my earliest efforts in translation it asks the listener to ‘imagine an island, made of seven previous stones.’ Several of these semiprecious stones are now lying on the bed of the Cherwell, near to where it forms a sacred confluence with the Isis. May the god’s blessings be on all who read this.