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Month: March 2022

Constructing a Simplified Hegemon’s Wand

The Wand of the Hegemon is one of the more difficult Outer Order wands to replicate, given the peculiar split shape of the Mitre head at its top. To construct a faithful Wand along these lines requires at best not only a jigsaw to shape the two separate pieces that become joined into the shape of the head, but also a good electric sander to do a significant amount of shaping work. For some this may be a low bar to hurdle, but for many Temples just starting out, construction of all the requisite equipment–and especially the Wands of the Hierophant and Hegemon–can pose a high barrier to entry.

It is with these Temples in mind that I sought out to simplify the designs of both the Hegemon’s and the Hierophant’s Wands in order to make them constructible with nothing more than simple hand tools and paints, while doing my best to preserve the symbolism latent within these Wands. (The Hierophant’s Wand will be the subject of a future post.)

I have opted for a simple pentagonal head for the Hegemon’s Wand, emblazoned with the familiar red Cross, rather than attempting a Mitre shape. The bands and pommel are easy enough to do with hand tools. As a bonus, because the head of the Wand screws on to the shaft, it can be removed and replaced with a Mitre head of more traditional construction down the road if desired.

Here is the design for the simplified Hegemon Wand. You can see that the placement of the bands and pommel on the shaft preserve the Sephirothic structure and attributions.

Materials Needed:

  • 3/4″ x 36″ length of dowel
  • One 1.5″ doll head
  • Three 1.5″ x 1/2″ flat wheels
  • Small block (6″ x 6″) of 3/4″ thick wood
  • Two 3/8″ x 2″ dowel screws
  • 3/8″ drill bit
  • 3/4″ wood drill bit
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • Gesso for basecoat
  • Liquitex Heavy Body – Naphthol Red Light paint
  • Liquid Leaf – Gold paint
  • Clear gloss finish (brushable or spray)

Tools Needed:

  • Electric drill
  • Hand saw
  • (Optional) Clamp
  • Paint brushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Needle nose pliers

Assembling the Shaft

The Hegemon Wand, like all of the other Golden Dawn wands, is fundamentally composed of two pieces: the head and the shaft. Of the two, the shaft is far easier to produce. The benefit of using dowel screws over pegs and glue, however, is that you can swap out the head for a different one down the road if you choose to do so.

The most difficult part of constructing the shaft, particularly when doing so by hand, is creating the bands that go around it to mark the Sephiroth. A pair of 1.5″ diameter “flat wheels” makes a very good starting point, and eliminates the need to use a hole saw to drill the pieces out of a board and then sand them down. The wheels already have a center hole which can be widened out to 3/4″ in order to fit around the dowel. I used a 3/4″ wood drill bit for this purpose, with a bit of sacrificial wood underneath to prevent drilling into my work surface. Be sure not to drill out all of your flat wheels, because you will need one as-is to go between the shaft of the wand and the head.

Drilling out the flat wheels

There were three big challenges with drilling out the center hole in these flat wheels. The first was holding the wheel steady. It’s possible to do this by hand, but difficult. A better option is to use a clamp affixed to the edge of the wheel and the board to hold it in place while you drill. The second challenge was breakage: if you press down too hard on the drill the stresses on the wheel will cause it to crack, so be sure to use a light to medium touch. Finally, I had difficulty getting the hole to drill straight. After drilling out about six of these, I managed to get several with holes that weren’t skewed. The ones that are askew don’t look too bad when fitted over the dowel, but it’s less than ideal. A drill press would have been a great asset here, as it would have ensured a straight-down hole all the way through. If I were doing this over again, I likely would have gradually widened the hole with progressively larger drill bits in order to reduce the angle of any resulting skew.

For a 36″ dowel, you will want to space the two drilled-out flat wheels along the middle of the band at the 12″ and 24″ marks. Glue them into place using wood glue. If the wheels don’t slide on smoothly you can take a bit of sandpaper and run it along the inside hole, but note that it doesn’t take much to accidentally widen it more than intended. You’ll also want to use a 3/8″ drill bit to drill one hole on either end of the dowel to a depth of about one inch, in order to attach the head and pommel.

Blank Hegemon Wand

Once the glue sets, paint the entire shaft with at least one coat of gesso. Multiple coats may make the color of the wand stand out more, but I didn’t feel the need for multiple applications. When the gesso is dry, paint the shaft (but not the wheels) red using Liquitex Heavy Body Naphthol Red Light. When they say “heavy body” they aren’t kidding, and I found I only needed a single coat to get a good overall color. Be careful when painting around the flat wheels so that you don’t get red paint on them.

Painting the shaft of the wand

Once the red paint dries, mask off the shaft using painter’s tape and use gold Liquid Leaf to paint the flat wheels.

Masking the shaft to paint the flat wheels

At the same time, you can take the “doll head” (a wooden sphere with a flattened bottom) and the remaining un-drilled flat wheel, coat them with gesso, and paint them gold as well.

Once all of the paint is dry, brush or spray on at least two coats of clear gloss finish. Be sure to let the finish dry adequately between applications. When this is done, you’re ready to assemble the shaft of the wand. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to grasp the unthreaded middle portion of the dowel screws and twist them into the holes you drilled out in the shaft. Screw on the doll head pommel, apply a couple coats of gloss varnish, and you’re ready to move on to the head of the wand.

Assembling the Head

Because we’re working with hand tools, a mitre head isn’t an especially feasible choice in terms of shape. I elected to simplify this down to a pentagon, which is the approximate shape of the mitre. To begin with, I traced a 4″ diameter circle on a piece of 3/4″ thick wood and inscribed a pentagon in it.

Pentagon inscribed in circle

Next I used a hand saw to laboriously cut out the shape. It’s a rough job, and using a jigsaw as opposed to a hand saw would have been a huge benefit for cutting out the pentagon.

This cutout is definitely rough

I used 100 grit sandpaper to smooth down the edges and make the shape more regular. Since I’m coating it with gesso and painting, I didn’t see much reason to sand down the shape to a finer grit.

Drill a 3/8″ hole in the bottom of the pentagon for the dowel screw, coat it in gesso, and paint it gold using Liquid Leaf. Use painter’s tape to mask out a cross of six squares on both sides, and paint it with a coat of gesso and red paint. Be careful to press the painter’s tape down well, or you’re likely to get some bleed on the underside of the mask.

Masking the head with the Cross shape

Cover the shape with a couple coats of gloss finish, attach it to the shaft of the wand, and you’re done!

The finished Hegemon Wand

Evaluating the LIRP

With all of the emphasis given to the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, its companion invoking form tends often to get overshadowed. Why should this be? And what is the proper use of the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram, anyway?

It turns out, the first question is easier to answer than the second. In contrast to the LBRP, which stands alone as the only ritual traditionally prescribed for students in the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn, the LIRP is quite literally barely a footnote. Regardie says in The Golden Dawn that it should be used “as a form of prayer…in the morning”, but no further attention is given to it.

Historically, there’s a reason for this. As the Adept material on the Pentagram Ritual (again from Regardie) spells out, the “Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is only of use in general and unimportant invocations”—and such trivial invocations seem not to be worthy of mention to the Golden Dawn founders. Conversely, the LBRP “is permitted to the Outer that Neophytes may have protection against opposing forces, and also that they may form some idea of how to attract and to come into communication with spiritual and invisible things”. Even as a lesser ritual, the banishing serves an important function as a rite of protection—to the point that it is the first and last ceremony performed alongside any other working. The LIRP’s aims, however, are much more generic and ill-defined.

Like the LBRP, the LIRP is a generic microcosmic ritual, just in the invoking form rather than the banishing form. In the same way that the LIRH gets used as an invocation when you’re working with the energies of multiple planets, or of the Macrocosm as a whole, the LIRP is used as an invocation of the sum total of the Elemental or Microcosmic world. Unlike the Greater or Supreme Pentagram Rituals, the Lesser Pentagram Ritual does not specify any one force in its invocation, and consequently it is—as Regardie relates—a general rite “to attract and come into communication with spiritual and invisible things”.

In other words, whereas the LBRP magnetically repels spiritual energy on the microcosmic level, the LIRP magnetically attracts it. This can be a bit of a crap shoot given that you aren’t calling upon or drawing in any specific influences, but it does have its place. The Lesser Banishing Ritual serves to shoo away any astral interlopers, sweep out the dust bunnies, and prepare a clean working space–but it also leaves you in a nice and clean but ultimately empty house. The Lesser Invoking Ritual, on the other hand, is more like sending out a message blast to all the people you know saying they’re welcome to drop on by your house and hang out with you. You might attract some company for the evening, but you don’t really know what energy you’re going to be getting out of the bargain.

Now, this lack of differentiation is what makes the LIRP a lesser ritual rather than a greater or supreme ritual. The “lesser” rituals are general, not differentiated for any specific planet or element. The “greater” rituals specify a unique element or planet in the banishing or invoking. And the “supreme” rituals are like the greater ones, except using the Enochian tablets—which is also why you don’t have a Supreme Hexagram Ritual distinct from the Greater Hexagram Ritual, even though different sources use the two terms interchangeably: the Enochian tablets are terrestrial watchtowers, and so only have appropriate reference with respect to the Pentagram Ritual.

Now that said, the question you may be asking yourself at this point is “what’s the actual use of the LIRP?” And that’s a harder question to answer, because the LIRP was never intended to be used for any sort of operant or practical magic. The LBRP is used to create the protective magic circle, but if you’re invoking any specific forces you’re going to be using the corresponding greater/supreme ritual rather than a lesser ritual.

When I was in the HOGD we never used the LIRP for much of anything, and my Temple emphasized the LBRP exclusively. That doesn’t mean the LIRP has no value, but the value it does have is going to be subtle and it’s not something that necessarily needs to be prescribed for the Neophyte for any particular purpose. Moreover, the conventional wisdom is that you want to spend an extended period of time focusing only on banishing with a given ritual before you start invoking it: if you’re going to make mistakes in the learning process, you want to do that while you’re in this stage of banishing without doing any accompanying invoking. It’s best to mess up when you aren’t actively trying to dismiss a spiritual entity you’ve already called up beforehand!

I’ve heard that in the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, ovates in training are supposed to shift back and forth between doing the LIRP in the morning and the LBRP at bedtime on the one hand, and performing the LBRP in the morning and the LIRP at bedtime on the other. The rationale behind this is that it allows each person to see how these subtle energetic differences impact them when doing it one way versus the other. This is the kind of experimentation I can fully get behind, and I may incorporate this idea into my own practice in order to obtain a better feel for the different shadings of flavor between the two.

So even though the LIRP is but a literal footnote in the much larger Golden Dawn system, once you’re sufficiently comfortable and practiced with performing the LBRP, I encourage you to experiment with performing the LIRP at different times of day and under different circumstances to get a feel for how it functions and what effects it has for you. After all, it’s only through experimentation that the system thrives and grows.

The “No-BS” LBRH

I’ve put out a video over the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram, and I’ve forgotten to post about it until now. Oops! Life comes at you fast.

For those of you who have seen my “No-BS” LBRP video, the video follows the same rubric for the LBRH. I don’t inundate you with a lot of theory or visualization, instead giving you the basic mechanics of the ritual and a demonstration so you can begin performing it on your own.

I hope you find it beneficial! Please feel free to comment and let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I could better clarify.

And a special thanks to Frater Ziegmund for the animations of the Hexagrams used in the video!

Mistakes Along the Path

Someone recently messaged me on Discord, saying that they had performed the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram for the first time and were worried about the consequences of messing it up if they accidentally forget an angel name or inadvertently omit the closing Qabalistic Cross. They were feeling anxious about it, and wondering if this was a big issue.

First, let me put you at ease: the answer here is a resounding “no”. A technically incorrect LBRP may be ineffective, but it’s not going to be harmful unless you’re actually trying to banish something where the consequences matter. But when it comes to just learning the ritual, or to your daily practice, the consequences of a botched LBRP are going to be somewhere between minimal and negligible, apart from simply not having the benefit of a successful banishing.

Second, let’s get real for a moment about the Golden Dawn tradition, and about fear of failure within it.

Even those of us who have been doing things so long they’re second nature still botch things from time to time. I’ve been performing the LBRP for 20 years or more and sometimes I still have a brain glitch on rare occasion and trip up on which name I’m supposed to be vibrating in which quarter if I’m just spacing out instead of actually concentrating. (And once you’ve been doing this a long time, maintaining that mindfulness in performance is the long-haul challenge!)

Yet we don’t often talk about failures in the Golden Dawn tradition. Perhaps this is because most of us simply prefer to highlight our successes and gloss over our perceived shortcomings, or perhaps because it’s not something that the corpus of the tradition speaks to it simply hasn’t gotten the attention it’s deserved. Either way, I find that the biggest thing that holds people back when they’re getting started on this Path isn’t difficulty understanding the material or any actual technical shortcomings, but rather fear of making mistakes. The fear of messing it up is a lot bigger barrier for people than actually messing it up.

The fear of making mistakes is something I deeply relate to. Before I make a decision I always want to understand my options, understand the relative merits and drawbacks, and most of all to understand the ramifications and consequences of those different potential choices. I want to have all of the data, understand it, and be able to choose confidently as a result. I’m the kind of person who wants to be able to learn something and dig into it and understand how and why it functions. Then after I figure that out I can start working with it, adapting it, and personalizing it. But when you’re first approaching this stuff and have no idea what the metaphorical levers to tweak even are, it can present a significant barrier to forward motion. And as you can well imagine, my desire for complete information and understanding is nice in theory, but tends not to pan out so well in reality.

Apart from my love of ritual and ceremony (blame it on growing up Episcopalian), one of the things that most appealed to me about the Golden Dawn tradition back when I started journeying down this road was that it lays out a pathway and a structure that supports it. There’s a system, which promises to lead the Neophyte through the wilderness of uncertainty like a beacon in the night (or like the Lamp of the Keryx illuminating the way forward). And one of the jobs of the system is to help the beginner learn the necessary skills in safe contexts.

It can be difficult to put one’s trust in an unfamiliar system, and I don’t advise doing so lightly. But in this case, the way the system was designed addresses exactly these fears. There’s a reason why only the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram was prescribed to the Neophyte, and no practical work was given out until the Adept grades.

Learning things takes time and experience, and gaining that experience inherently involves trying and failing, and committing to getting just a little bit better each time. Practice is the only thing that makes perfect, after all! And as it turns out, this is exactly where you want to mess up your ritual work in the Golden Dawn system. It’s better to make the mistakes when you’re just banishing as a part of your training or daily practice, because most of the time there are no consequences to a botched performance and you can simply try again (or move on and come back to it later). This is far preferable to messing up an important invocation, or even worse, hosing the banishing afterward. The expected training regimen of the Neophyte (and by extension of the Outer Order) omits practical magic other than the LBRP because by the time you get around to using that practical magic as an Adept, you’ve come to understand the system deeply and have come to see why your trust in the system can be well-placed–because you’ve learned enough to know what you’re doing when you perform a ritual action, and don’t have to simply take it on faith.

We don’t talk about fear of failure, because we’re told that “fear is failure”. But let us not forget that the true failure–the one that matters, the one that the Hiereus admonishes the Neophyte not to give over control to–is the fear itself. The real failure isn’t in messing up a ritual performance, in forgetting what names or words to use, or in being hesitant to try something new and unfamiliar. The real failure is in being too afraid to try in the first place. As long as you show up to try, and don’t try to get over your head with invocations before you’ve got a firm command over your banishings, the safety nets built into the system will do their job.

So take heart, you who are just starting out on this journey: your banishings may not be especially powerful or even technically correct to start with, but you aren’t going to rain calamity down on your house as a result. The biggest loss is the one that comes from not trying at all. So if you feel overwhelmed or if you’re too caught up in your head about where to begin, just pick something that seems doable and start practicing. Once you start getting over those initial hurdles and the various pieces of gesture and sound and visualization begin coming together, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll nail down the practice. The biggest part is just getting over that initial hurdle of discomfort and starting somewhere. The rest will come.

The Step of the Neophyte is given by advancing the left foot forward a short distance. It alludes to the decision of the Neophyte to seek the Hidden Wisdom within the Order. It also represents the Will of the Neophyte expressed in its first glimmer of action–as every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If you are feeling held back by your indecision and fear of mistakes, try incorporating the Step of the Neophyte into your magical practice and meditations, and see if it helps you. As you step your foot forward, feel yourself as The Fool, walking ahead into the unknown but trusting the universe to carry you toward a safe and nurturing end. (And if you try this method, please let me know!)

Initiation Three Ways

I’m probably in a somewhat unique position among Golden Dawn practitioners in that I’ve experienced the initiatory journey in three different ways. I’ve been treading this Path for the past 20 years, starting as a self-initiate using the then-newly-published Self Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition, by Chic and Tabatha Cicero. A few years later, I joined with a magical working group (in other words, a group doing the initiations without an Adept as Hierophant) and started again at Neophyte. Finally, I joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (the Ciceros’ Order) and went through the grades again, ultimately becoming an Adept. The experiences were different in many ways, but in some respects the similarities are even more intriguing.

The self-initiatory path in the Golden Dawn tradition is inherently a weird one, in that it adapts ceremonies with up to seven officers to be performed by the initiatory candidate alone. Doing it by oneself, it can feel awkward and unwieldy and generally less than graceful. But my first real visionary encounter took place during my self-initiation into Neophyte, and I’ve been sold on it as the system for me ever since. Having experienced that Path, you can’t tell me it doesn’t work. And based on the number of self-initiatory practitioners I know, I can surmise that my experience of the efficacy of self-initiation is not unique.

My second experience was with the magical working group. This was a small group of practitioners who were doing the Work and putting each other through the grades, and was affiliated with a community of self-initiatory practitioners of which I was a member. An interstate move brought me right into their backyard, which is still one of the greatest synchronicities of my life. My experience of initiation in a temple setting was profound. The ability to act only as the candidate, to be led and have the energies worked on me rather than having to work them on myself, enabled me to reach a deep trance state during the ceremony and fully absorb the etheric changes that take place within the initiation rituals. And absorb them I did. The grade energies hit me hard, until well after another move saw me land in another state.

Finally, I joined the HOGD and experienced the grades in a fully warranted Temple of the Order, headed by a trained Adept. Again, the initiatory experience was profound, and the way the energies of the grades unfolded in my life has provided me with ample evidence of its efficacy. But this experience wasn’t starkly different from that of my initiation with the working group; nor was it ultimately more effective at changing the course of my life than my self-initiation before that, even though the energy was more deeply impactful in the moment. But ultimately initiation does with a firehose what self-initiation does with a faucet, and my experience from the receiving end is that it doesn’t seem to matter all that much who’s wielding the firehose as long as they know what they’re doing with it.

Further Thoughts on Scrying

I’ve posted before about how spirit communication works for me, but had some additional thoughts I wanted to share about the method of scrying in particular, prompted by some stimulating conversation over on the Hermetic House of Life Discord server.

In a conversation about Rufus Opus’ Seven Spheres and the DSIC method of conjuration, discussion came up about the particulars of the scrying medium and whether scrying media other than the prescribed small crystal sphere would be equally effective. My own experience is that the best scrying medium is whatever works for the individual magician, and this varies from person to person. I have great difficulty scrying into a crystal ball, but a black mirror works wonderfully for me.

I didn’t write this post, however, to talk about suitable 7S/DSIC substitutions. Rather, I wanted to share how scrying into the medium actually works for me on a mechanical level, since it seems there’s a great deal of confusion out there about what scrying actually entails and how it can operate for different people.

A common perception seems to be that when scrying into a crystal (for example), the vision will appear and take shape within the crystal, and the magician will observe the vision with their eyes as it unfolds. This may be the way it works for some, but it is not the way it works for me. I find I don’t really see much of anything in the scrying medium itself. The medium is really more of a tool to let my eyes unfocus, or focus beyond the medium–kind of like one of those old Magic Eye posters you had to look at cross-eyed to see the 3D image in. When I see a sort of black vortex in the middle of my vision, I lean into that and make it my (non-)focus, and that leads me into a hypnagogic state. From there I’ll generally close my eyes and the visions will come.

It helps to think of scrying less as a mode of seeing with one’s vision, and more as a hypnotic self-induction into a receptive trance state. The object isn’t to see within the scrying medium itself, so much as it is to create the necessary receptive state in the mind of the scryer. On that note, I think it would be incredibly fascinating to experiment with scrying simply using hypnotic induction directly, rather than a visual scrying medium. I suspect the results would prove very fruitful.

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