December 10, 2018
What is Ceremonial Magick?
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.
Progress and personal change on any spiritual path involves shedding the past. As practice and intent develop, understanding is deepened. Preconceived notions are cast away as new insight becomes integrated into action. This is going to be my approach to answering the question, “What is ceremonial magick?” The answer I’m offering you today, is different from how I would have defined it ten years ago, and I’m comfortable accepting the fact that it will be different ten years in the future. So today I’m giving you 1000 words on how I define and practice ceremonial magick right now. I’m not claiming to be an expert on a cosmic scope, but I am certainly an expert on my own magick that is both alive in daily practice and dedicated research. In this spirit, let’s move on.
Ceremonial magick is planetary. The seven planets of antiquity (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercury and Luna) are the primary energies that I work with in my practice. This is the foundation from which I undertake all operations and rituals. A solid understanding of the planets and their attributes is necessary. The use of planetary hours in ritual and daily life is pivotal to success and manifestation. The power of the planets is evident in so much of our daily mundane lives. The names of the days of the week are the most obvious example, but think about the planet Venus and its relationship to our concept of the word “love” or the planet Mars and “war”. We already have some of the basic concepts of the planets and their attributes. If we were to take this one step further, we might decide to schedule a business meeting on Wednesday, because of its correspondence with the planet Mercury and commerce. We might develop this further by scheduling the meeting at the hour of Mercury on the day of Mercury and by wearing a pentacle of Mercury from the Key of Solomon. Planetary magic is very potent and the results of precise implementation are astounding.
On this note, I must add that precision in ceremonial magick is critical. There is work involved and effort counts. You don’t get the luxury of burning a sage stick or scented candle and then calling it a day. If you get results from this minimalism, well, congratulations. I however, need to be punctual in my timing, present in my consciousness, and precise in my execution. Attention to details amplifies the energy created and then directs it toward the results. Making your own incense for a ritual with ingredients that correspond with the working is an example of this. Subtlety and innovation are signs of a true magus. As you continue with your practice, one of the first things you’ll begin to notice is that you become punctual. It’s not as though you become dictated or directed by clock time, it’s that you’re in sync with the stations of the sun, the phases of the moon, and the planetary hours. It becomes second nature, as you show up for ritual, you show up for mundane life. As above, so below I guess, but in essence you gain a mastery over time and its passing. You begin to understand your mortality. You begin to see the urgency of impermanent life and its mastery.
Ceremonial magick is results oriented. If the same ritual performed in the same manner produces the same results each time it is performed, it is a good ritual. If not, there are things to adjust or reconsider. Our modern science has roots in earlier practices of alchemy, astrology and astronomy. These early sciences also influenced modern ceremonial magick. Scientists experiment, generate hypotheses and record results. Ceremonial magicians do the same. A magical diary is one of the most important tools, serving as a living record of spiritual development. Without it, how is success measured? How are ideas developed? How is spirit communication recorded? More than any other tool, the magical diary is the most important. Ceremonial magick is notorious for promoting the excessive acquisition of tools and objects. However, the magical diary is one tool that is indispensable. If you spend money on any tool, make it a good journal.
Ceremonial magick is project based. It isn’t unique in this fact, but it is authoritative in prescribing the manufacture of specific tools, implements, inscribed images and general items of magical import. Not all projects are product oriented, sometimes the project is invoking a particular spirit consistently over a period of time. Sometimes it is pathworking through an astral realm and then recording the results. Projects may vary, but the projects delineate the armchair occultist from the practicing magician. Completing a ritual working from a grimoire is more important than memorizing tables and correspondences. Just “knowing” the information is a total waste if you aren’t reaping the rewards of consistent practice. Invoke the spirit Sitri into your living room. Offer him some whiskey, have a conversation, and then bid him farewell. Have a real Friday night. Make mistakes. Have fun. Step outside your consecrated circle and see what happens. But do. Always do.
In closing, I would like to share a few things that I’d like to see less and more of in modern ceremonial magick. Of course, the dark fluff of consumer Satanism is overrated, but there are other things which grab my attention. Namely, the propensity for ceremonial magic to be viewed or treated like a form of elite magic, in contrast to folk magic and witchcraft as superstition or a lower form of magic. There is no magical hierarchy of refinement or efficacy. New research is uncovering evidence that disproves previous inclinations that traditionally, ceremonial magick was practiced primarily by the wealthy, the literate and the aristocratic. The Grimorium Verum for instance, was a mass-produced grimoire that has instructions for men and women, resolving assumptions that female practitioners were illiterate or discouraged from practicing ceremonial magick. This research also blurs the lines between witchcraft and ceremonial magick. Regardless, wealthy white men have influenced ceremonial magick for centuries and there are outdated biases and perspectives. I would like to see ceremonial magick progress into the 21st century, instead of attempting to sterilize itself in tradition. I would like to hear from more diverse perspectives. I would like to create more community and see less internet trolling. I would like to promote more intersection within practices and see less isolation of tradition. As a teacher and practitioner, I would like to help ceremonial magick develop into something that promotes more compassion for the environment, more human equality and more love under will.
Love is the law, love under will.