Every race and culture has held a belief in Magic until this Century. Magic is the tool that is used to exercise control over those events that we do not have direct control over.
Ceremonial Magic is a method of doing magic. It historically uses the religion of those practicing it. As a result, Magic in Europe in the Renaissance was strongly Christian. Today Ceremonial Magic is often Hermetic and uses a mix of Greco-Egyptian and Judeo-Christian Symbolism
It requires a detailed knowledge of self and of the Cosmology used. As practiced today, it requires a great deal of study and practice. The Ceremonial Magician should always know precisely what is being done in any ritual and why.
In the Classical period, magic that we today would classify as ceremonial was usually the domain of the Priesthood. During this time Egyptian mysteries held the same fascination for the educated seekers that the Oriental mysteries hold for most of us today. Unfortunately by the late period of the Roman Empire, most real knowledge of these mysteries had been lost.
In the Medieval period in Europe, there was available both the Christian and native magics. During this time the Christian Church came to power and any attempt to do magic based on earlier religions was considered to be evil. The Church felt that any means available to eliminate the rival beliefs was justified. This included subversion of existing religions and the killing of those who held to the older beliefs.
During the Renaissance, there was a flowering of interest in the Classical knowledge and myth. It is during this time that the Classical Gods began to reappear in the dreams of the seekers and artists. It is also during this time that Qabbalah emerged as both a philosophical and magical system in the writings of Magicians.
Today Ceremonial Magic is dominated by the Golden Dawn and derivative systems. There is some interest in both older systems such as the Solomanic Cycle and alternative systems, with Chaos magic being the most favored.
QBL (or as it is often spelled Qabbalah) is the primary cosmology of modern practitioners. QBL was originally an attempt to find Mystical Truths hidden in the Torah. Its goal was to illuminate God and the relationship man has or should have with the Divine. The two primary streams of study are Mystical (associated with Sephardic Jewish practice) and Magical (associated with Ashkenazic Jewish practice).
Today QBL is often viewed as a 'filing' system. This approach uses a diagram known as the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life represents the relationships of the numbers 1 through 10 and of the Hebrew letters that connect them. The numbers and letters total 32 'paths'. These paths can be used to describe anything that can be imagined. 777 published by Crowley is an example of this approach. To do a ritual the magician decides what is needed, refers to the appropriate line of symbols and correspondences, and by using as many of these as possible is calls the desired result into existence.
The primary texts of traditional QBL include the Torah, the Sepher Yetzirah, the Bahar, and the Zohar. Modern texts tend to be explanations and extrapolations of these texts. Among the most important are The Tree of Life by Regardie, 777 attributed to Crowley and Mystical Qabbalah by Dion Fortune.
The primary cosmology of Renascence Magic was Astrology. Like the QBL anything that can be imagined can be defined in Astrological terms. There are lists of attributes that range from the desired effect to the materials used. The study of Astrology can be directly traced back at least 4000 years. Today astrology tends to be viewed primarily as a tool to understand an individual. Most modern books express all the terms of Astrology in as positive a manner as possible. In the Renascence, the dark sides of the planets and the Zodiac were considered to be just as important as the bright.
There is a direct relationship of the Planets and Signs to the Tree of Life. The planets visible to the naked eye in a clear sky are attributed to 7 Spheres or Sepheroth and the Zodiac to one. For many modern magicians these attributes are so deep that we often think of the Sphere as being the Planet given to it. This is something to be guarded against.
One of the most important aspects of Astrology for the magician is to define the best time to do any given magical work. I usually call this using a Time Window (a window of opportunity). By calculating charts for the times that the magician has available to do a given working, it is possible first to determine what forces are available for use in that working, and secondly how to improve the results by changing the time when the operation is done.
Divination should always proceed any magical work. Doing a divination first can often bring up issues that sharpen the focus of the work. Knowing what forces are at play is critical, and if the working is of a personal nature, it can clarify what our primary needs and motives are.
Divination can be considered to have two primary classes; intuitive and objective. When using intuitive forms of divination the magician seeks visions. Intuitive forms of divination include dreams, crystal and candle gazing. Objective forms of divination depend on symbols associated with either natural phenomena such as the movement of the planets in Astrology or the random movement of objects such as dice in the case of Geomancy or cards in Tarot.
Geomancy in Europe is a divination system that probably originated in northern Africa where a similar system is still practiced. (the eyes of Fa) A modern Geomancy chart resembles and is interpreted like an astrological chart. Tarot is actual rather modern in origin. The earliest decks are late medieval, and appear to have been used for gambling. It really wasn't until Levi and Papus in the late 1800's that Tarot became popular as a divination system
The style of operation usually determines type of divination used. Astrology and Geomancy are common to Renaissance Style Magic while Astrology and Tarot common to Modern Magic. The intuitive styles of divination are often used within an operation rather than before it.
Outline of Rituals
Typical Ceremonial Rituals have common elements. These elements are always multi-layered. Even the common sprinkling and censing of a space before working has meaning buried in the words spoken, the actions performed and the materials used. Rituals serve to provide a structure to allow the magician to work effectively and safely. Rituals arrange the symbolic elements in such a way as to have the greatest impact on the deep mind. By using an established ritual pattern, there is less chance the magician will overlook or forget something important.
Invocations and Evocations
Just as Divination can be described as having two primary classes, so too can the process of doing magic. Magical operations can be either a ritual of Invocation or of Evocation. To Invoke is to call in while to Evoke is to call out The choice is determined by the purpose of the ritual.
Talisman is Vessel
Copyright: © David Jackson - July 1998