Exploring the intersection of magic, culture, spirituality, and humanity

Month: April 2022

The Experience of the Ritual Godforms

I recently listened to the Glitch Bottle Podcast interview with Dr. Al Cummins on Cyprian’s Mirror and the Four Kings. It sparked some good food for thought in several different arenas, but one quote from the episode stood out especially strongly to me:

You can be paying attention to what’s going on and what you’re feeling mid-sentence…and the feel of the words and the sense of where you find yourself emphasizing things can also be ways of not just calling the spirit, but feeling the presence of the spirit. Noticing one’s own speaking voice changing as an instrumentation of measurement of the spirit’s presence and movement and virtues and things like that. So conjuration is not just about pulling a spirit to you, it’s also about feeling the rope of the spirit pulling back.

Dr. Al Cummins, Glitch Bottle Podcast Episode #114

I have encountered this phenomenon a number of times when reading invocations, and couldn’t agree more with Dr. Al’s assessment here. But the reason I wanted to highlight this dimension of experience is because long before I had my first successful scrying session and achieved two-way communication with the spirits, I began to notice this phenomenon spontaneously emerging during Golden Dawn ritual.

The words of Golden Dawn initiation rituals are scripted and static, of course, but as with any performance the art is equally in the delivery. I had been doing Golden Dawn magic for many years prior to my Adeptus Minor initiation, but shortly afterwards I noticed that I would begin to feel things as I was reciting the texts as an officer during initiation ceremonies. I would get strong emotional impressions. These would guide my reading, and my speaking voice would change as I let the impressions wash over me and fill my speech. It was like the “character” of the script inhabited me and I was a vessel merely conveying that which was given to me. And as I yielded to these intuitive pulls, I found that the intensity of the overall initiation experience became much greater–for myself as well as for the initiate.

It wasn’t until later, when I started doing Trithemian-style spirit conjuring, and started having encounters that weren’t on scripted rails, that I started putting the pieces together as far as recognizing the real significance of these initial experiences. As psychologized as the Golden Dawn system has sometimes become, it can be easy to forget that we are still dealing with godforms, and when we assume those godforms in ritual we are effectively inviting them to inhabit us in precisely the ways that I have experienced–and in the same ways that Dr. Al describes with reference to invocations in the grimoires.

The thing is, nobody prepared me for this experience. Nobody recognized it when it was happening and let me know that while what I was experiencing was new, it was not only perfectly normal but a desirable and intended consequence of the rituals themselves. I had to connect these dots on my own. When you have weird and new experiences in the magical arena, it can help to be able to contextualize them and recognize that they are an expected part of the journey. The Golden Dawn system is great as a system, but it often does a less than stellar job in practice of actually laying out the benchmarks of experience by which you can recognize magical attainment or encounter.

So for any of you out there who find that you feel the ceremonies more deeply than usual, that you instinctively inhabit those roles and that the feelings of the words and the interactions wash over you like a wave compelling you to swim with them, don’t second-guess yourself: embrace the feeling, run with it, and allow it to well up within you. What you are feeling is real. Provided that you’re able to maintain the necessary degree of control over the experience to keep it from disrupting the ritual rather than merely informing it, you will almost certainly find as I have that it adds an entirely new dimension to the experience of initiation. And if you are a Golden Dawn magician, this is likely to be your first taste–on training wheels–of what it’s like to begin spreading your wings and soaring magically.

Painting the Golden Dawn Colors

In my last post, I talked about the relative scarcity of resources when it comes to digital values for the Golden Dawn colors. Unfortunately it’s not just in the digital arena that practical color information is scarce and difficult to come by. Tabatha Cicero gives specific paints in Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, but some of these paint colors are no longer made and others have drifted in their Munsell values from what they represented when the book was written.

The following is a list of paints that I have used in creating my own tools, and which I recommend as a starting point for others. When possible I’ve provided colors from two paint lines: Liquitex Heavy Body, which is great for ground coverage; and Scribbles 3D Fabric Paint, which stands out well from the ground in order to contrast with it.

Generic Color NameLiquitex Heavy Body ColorScribbles 3D Fabric Paint Color
RedNaphthol Red LightShiny Bright Red
Red OrangePyrrole OrangeShiny Bright Orange
OrangeCadmium Orange HueHarvest Gold
Yellow OrangeYellow Orange AzoShiny Bright Yellow
YellowCadmium Yellow LightIridescent Tropical Yellow
Yellow GreenVivid Lime GreenShiny Lime Green
GreenLight Green PermanentShiny Bright Green
Blue GreenIridescent Shimmering Teal
BlueCerulean Blue HueIridescent Holland Blue
Blue VioletPhthalocyanine Blue (Green Shade)Iridescent Island Blue
VioletPrism VioletShiny Petunia Purple
Red VioletDeep MagentaShiny Wine Cordial
BlackMars BlackShiny Black
WhiteTitanium WhiteShiny White
GreyNeutral Gray 5

I wasn’t able to find a suitable Liquitex equivalent for Blue Green; instead I recommend Golden Artist Colors Light Turquois (Phthalo).

For Citrine, Olive, and Russet colors we have to turn to a different line of paints. Citrine and Olive are a good match for Folk Art 503 Yellow Citron and 449 Olive Green, respectively. Russet can be achieved with Americana Acrylic Russet.

Personally, I do not have a steady hand when it comes to brush work, whether for line or for lettering. The tip of the Scribbles paint vials is narrow enough that I found it easier to do both lines and lettering this way than via traditional paint and brush methods, but this technique is extremely fussy: it requires precise pressure as you squeeze the vial along with keeping the tip ever so slightly above the work surface so that the tip doesn’t end up bisecting the line of paint you are attempting to lay down. I would imagine someone with a steadier hand would achieve better results. I don’t know how well the Scribbles paints would apply via brush, or whether it would be worth using these paints instead of the Liquitex variety if one is able to do quality lines/lettering with brushes. My speculation is that the texture of the paint would help the color to stand out more from the ground color without needing to lay down another (equally precise) set of lines and/or lettering in gesso beforehand.

Recently, however, I found a far better solution when my friends Grier Conley and Andrew B. Watt introduced me to the existence of acrylic paint markers. I recently recreated my broken Water Cup, and had the opportunity to test both the Scribbles 3D paint technique I had used previously and the acrylic marker technique side by side. I got a 12-color set of Uni Posca acrylic paint markers (PC-1M12C) and found that the color match was sufficiently good to be suitable for the purpose at hand.

Old and Busted
New Hotness

There’s a slight learning curve to the acrylic markers, but the 0.7mm tip makes fine lines and lettering a breeze compared to any other technique I’ve tried or heard of. It does still require steadiness and a light touch, not unlike the Scribbles 3D technique. Going too heavy or stop-and-go on the pressure will cause a degree of cast-off speckling from the pen tip, but this is still exponentially more precise and less fussy than using the fabric paints–and the colors stand out with enough vibrancy that only a single application is necessary. In the future, I’ll be using this technique far more often.

RGB/Hex Values of the Golden Dawn Colors

As it turns out, given the heavy reliance of the Adeptus Minor work in the Golden Dawn tradition on color theory and on proper coloring of tools, there seem to be very few specific resources out there for people who are looking to use these colors in their own practical work. This is especially true when it comes to digital values of the various colors used in the tools.

There have been a couple of attempts to render the Flashing Colors in digital palettes, notably among them the Lelandra.com page, and we can see an attempt to do so represented in the Rose Cross Lamen image we see in Wikimedia Commons:

Rose Cross Lamen, Wikimedia Commons

The challenge that arises is that these attempts clearly begin from a standpoint of digital color representation and derive the color palette from there. Conversely, in the historical Golden Dawn tradition the colors of the Hodos Chameleonis were derived by mixing of paints, not of digital palettes. Something does get lost in the translation.

Thankfully, Tabatha Cicero is likely as close to a modern-day Moina Mathers as we have in the Golden Dawn tradition, and she had the foresight to include Munsell values for the paints she recommended in Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple. Unfortunately she did seemingly omit the values for Deep Magenta / Quidraquinone Violet (i.e. “Red-Violet”), but I tracked down a Liquitex reference book on their acrylics, and obtained Munsell values for the closest matching color represented in their line.

Having amassed a list of Munsell values, I tracked down a Python-based Munsell to RGB converter website and entered Tabby’s values in one by one. In some cases this resulted in RGB values that were outside the integer boundaries (either going slightly negative or a bit over 255), but resulted by and large in a very usable digital palette. I was somewhat surprised in that the colors were not only somewhat more muted than I anticipated, but the blues in particular (Tabatha gives two alternatives) were notably lighter than the palette given in the Wikimedia Commons lamen.

I’ve been playing around with trying to derive RGB color values lately for the Golden Dawn palette, and I’ve tried several approaches. My last attempt involved using Munsell’s canonical colors (e.g. Munsell blue) as a reference point and deriving colors from there, but I find that replicating the Liquitex color values that Tabatha Cicero presents has given a much more appealing palette and one which matches much more closely with the documents and exemplars with which I am familiar.

By contrast, here is the same Rose Cross Lamen from Wikimedia Commons, colored appropriately in the Munsell palette derived from Tabby’s work:

Recolored Lamen Using Munsell RGB Values

And now that I’ve given you the obligatory detail on my process, I won’t spare you the detail any longer. Below are the RGB and hexadecimal color values derived from the Golden Dawn Liquitex/Munsell palette, courtesy of Tabatha Cicero. There are some notes to a few of the entries, which I’ll cover afterwards.

Color NameMunsell Hue/Value/ChromaRGB ValueHex ValueColor Swatch
Red6.8 R 4 13181, 40, 42B5282A
Red (Alternate)5.6 R 3.9 12174, 42, 52AE2A34
Red-Orange9.5 R 5.5 13224, 92, 49E05C31
Orange3.6 YR 7 13255, 143, 45FF8F2D
Yellow-Orange6.2 YR 7.1 13251, 153, 13FB990D
Yellow6.5 Y 8.8 12.5250, 223, 0FADF00
Yellow-Green7.6 GY 7 10127, 191, 727FBF48
Green1.2 G 4.9 100, 138, 60008A3C
Blue-Green3.8 BG 5 80, 139, 127008B7F
Blue8.0 B 5 90, 133, 1770085B1
Blue (Alternate)2.7 PB 4 90, 101, 15600659C
Blue-Violet7.6 PB 4 1272, 89, 1744859AE
Violet5.0 P 3 999, 51, 117633375
Red-Violet6.5 RP 3 5.6112, 51, 7670334C

Most notably, there are two variants given for Red and for Blue. There isn’t a lot of difference between the reds, but the versions provided are based on the Munsell values Tabatha Cicero gives for Naphthol Red Light and Cadmium Red Medium, respectively. She also provides Munsell values for both Brilliant Blue and Cerulean Blue, which are represented above; I find I prefer the darker of the two represented by Cerulean Blue, but your mileage may vary. As mentioned previously, no Munsell value was given for Deep Magenta or Quinacridone Violet, so the Munsell values used here come from the Liquitex Deep Magenta #300 catalog entry.

I hope this helps those of you who are doing digital work in the Golden Dawn space! I have more to write about the physical pigments used for painting tools as well, but I’ll save that for another post. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to comment or drop me a line!

Genre Theory and the Kybalion

My friend Grier Conley recently wrote an article on genre theory for magicians, in which they propose using the techniques of genre theory from the field of literature to evaluate magical texts–including The Kybalion, which I have my own history with. When I was a Religion undergraduate and grad student, I encountered a lot of critical theory lenses; but this one was new to me.

Grier approaches the topic with the question of how such a diverse array of sources and texts from the Corpus Hermeticum through Agrippa and the Golden Dawn can be authentically considered Hermetic, and posits genre theory as an approach to understanding this conundrum. Simply put, the concept of genre involves a “horizon of expectations”, or a set of assumptions and expectations that we bring to a particular genre of work. Diverge too far afield of those assumptions and expectations, and you have transgressed the limitations of the genre’s horizon.

Western esotericism is a tricky thing to define: Antoine Faivre ended up using a cluster definition, with a set of mandatory and additional traits that characterize the western esoteric current. This is not entirely dissimilar, it seems to me, from a genre-based treatment. The form of Faivre’s cluster definition is for all practical purposes a codified articulation of the horizon of expectations comprising the western esoteric tradition. Hermeticism is scarcely less diverse in its manifestations than is western esotericism in general, and I feel the same approach can greatly enrich the discourse.

Where Grier’s work really benefits us is in enabling us to engage in an ongoing conversation about what the horizon of expectations entailed in Hermeticism consists of, without approaching the matter with an a priori definition already in mind. We can, for example, discuss the expectations and assumptions of piety and gnosis inherent in Hermeticism, and see how The Kybalion diverges from these expectations. There are a great many depths to be plumbed just in applying genre theory to this one problematic text, but I believe Grier is really on to something here. Check out their blog post on the subject for more, and look for me to be bringing it up whenever I talk about The Kybalion in the future!

A Golden Dawn Recension of Liber Resh

The Sun Man at Cosmovitral, by Diego Callejas

Like many in the Golden Dawn tradition, I have used Liber Resh for many years as a daily solar adoration. Many people are likely unaware, however, that the original concept for Liber Resh comes from the Golden Dawn’s Theoricus Ceremony. The names of the godforms in this ceremony are at variance with what Crowley puts forth in Liber Resh, therefore I have provided the recension below in order to reassociate the text with the original deity names.

At dawn, face East. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art HORMAKU1 in thy rising, even unto Thee who art HORMAKU in Thy strength, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Uprising of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Night!
Give the Sign of Silence.

At noon, face South. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art RA in thy triumphing, even unto Thee who art RA in Thy beauty, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Mid-course of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Morning!
Give the Sign of Silence.

At sunset, face West. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art TOUM in thy setting, even unto Thee who art TOUM in Thy joy, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Down-going of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Day!
Give the Sign of Silence.

At midnight, face North. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art KEPHRA in thy hiding, even unto Thee who art KEPHRA in Thy silence, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Midnight hour of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Evening!
Give the Sign of Silence.

1: Harmachis, or Hor m-Akhet, “Horus in the Horizon”

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