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XV – The Devil

Note: what follows is rough notes from a project between me and Neuchowski.

devil

Ave Satanis. The Devil is a much misunderstood card, much like Death. Crowley’s deck goes out of its way to try and distance itself from the traditional depiction of Lucifer from the Christian cosmology and instead reverts to an older, pagan Horned God, while still holding on to some of the darkness inherent in the card.

One thing you could never really accuse The Devil of the Tarot of is ‘high-mindedness’. The Devil is concerned with Earthly matters. In other decks The Devil may have human slaves chained to him like bleak parodies of The Lovers. In some decks there isn’t even a personification, The Devil being depicted as a huge chest of gold that humans are trying and failing to carry.

In the Thoth, The Devil is a three-eyed goat, mantled with magnificent horns which are crowned with a wreath of flowers, another nod to the pagan Horned Gods. If The Devil is often used to depict ugly lust, Crowley’s Devil subverts this depiction by instead having the Devil represent fertility. The goat stands before what can only be seen as a giant phallus, the tip of which reaches into opaque clouds. White humanoid figures dance (or writhe…) within the testes, all seeming to try and leap upwards, unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, dark, murky webs surround the card.

In this card Crowley is possibly making a rather incendiary statement, at least for the Victorian era in which this would have been initially produced: the idea that sex, lust and the continuation of life are interlinked and mutual. Fear of sex and all things venereal was a definite trope within British Victorian society, and the necessity for sexual coupling in the establishment of a family was an uncomfortable topic. People wanted a good marriage, a family and a respectable image, however in order to procure this they’d have to engage in some sweaty, breathy, grunting wet beastial fucking.

Crowley is mocking the prissiness of his era, reminding everyone that his time’s fear of sex, cum and blood was a modern superstition, one laid upon them by a Judeo-Christian perspective, and one not respected or even considered in an Older time, when there was at least some degree of honesty about the human experience. This is why Crowley utilises pre-Christian imagery for this card, to remind us that the moral trembling of his era was by no means Right or Logical.

Steven King was asked about the character Randal Flagg, who appears in many of his books as a sort of recurring Anti-Christ figure, and whether the reader is supposed to consider Flagg a Satanic character. King, in an answer which surprised many, considering his Born-Again status, replied that he didn’t believe so, as “The Devil probably has a sense of humour.”

Notice the goat’s smirk. Crowley’s Devil mocks the social mores of his generation, the empty puritanism which serves only to increase misery, and the kind of Faith that causes people to disregard this precious little time on Earth in favour of some promised ‘afterlife’. You’re taking things too seriously, and The Devil thinks it’s hilarious. Fuck, cum and be merry, because what the hell else are you going to do?

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V – The Hierophant

Note: The following is from rough drafts of a project me and Neuchowski are working on.

hierophant-thoth

The Hierophant can be read several ways, but primarily they stand for an ascended figure of wisdom. Oftentimes The Hierophant represents a figure who initiates others into an esoteric tradition; a keeper of higher knowledge who ferries neophytes to the shores of wisdom, a Guru.

Conversely, The Hierophant embodies the knowledge, power and ascended position of the Established Wisdom. The Hierophant may represent an entire cultural ethos, with all the entrenched power and influence of a long-standing and unquestioned tradition that the practitioner may find repellent.

The Hierophant is the Shaman who teaches the younger tribesmen about when and where to hunt, which herbs are medicinal, how long the crops will take to grow and how to harvest them, and why the moon changes shape. 
The Hierophant is also the Pope, armoured in all the history, grandeur and authority of the Vatican and the Holy See, a master of esoteric knowledge you do not fully understand but that you already know you find disagreeable, leaving you forced to acknowledge that despite the equality of your viewpoints, The Hierophant will always be considered before you due to the weight of their office and the long-trusted tradition they represent.

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Magick & Me

I was initiated into the magickal practice during a very long period of self-imposed exile, during which time I had come to lose faith in everything I had previously taken for granted. The hierophant who introduced me to this very different way of thinking was a young man named Tim, with whom I had very few interactions. The little time we did spend together was, however, rich with esotericism. Synchronicities were firing off left and right all around me at the time, and I can only think now that, if I do have a soul (and this is still very much up for debate), it was sending out a kind of psycho-spiritual distress signal in the hope of being rescued from an extremely depressing time in my life. Tim answered the call.

I should probably go ahead and mention: this isn’t a short story like previous entries, this all happened for really-reals.

Okay, some context: I dropped out of school when I was twelve. Had something akin to a breakdown following an assault and never quite recovered from it. I withdrew from the world, stopped going outside, stopped speaking to people, stopped opening the curtains. When I finally emerged and began talking to people again, they always asked the same question: was I American? This was due to me not having spoken to anyone in a very long time and spending a lot of time listening to podcasts from the States. This might sound a bit strange, but that’s what pretty much not leaving a room for eight years will do to you.
Hoping to gradually re-enter society, I applied to volunteer at a charity bookshop, and right around the time I started working there, so did Tim.

I don’t know where Tim came from, I don’t know where he went. All I know about him is that he’d read some pretty interesting literature and it had coloured his perceptions somewhat. We got to talking, and he revealed an interest in magick. Magic, I asked? Like, as in card tricks and tophats? Nono, that was ‘magic’. It was MAGICK Tim was into (don’t get too obsessed with the difference in spelling; it was mostly Crowley’s way of being all individual and shit). Tim told me that he’d read certain books, certain texts, and had practiced certain techniques described within, and horror of horrors: he’d gotten results from it. I was intrigued.

He put me onto certain books and comics, and then just as soon as I’d met him he was gone. He’d joked about putting his barista-CV into the letterbox of the local Freemason lodge, and I never heard from him again, Coincidence I know, but it’s an entertaining path of thought.

Reading these works, most of which had a ‘Chaos magick’ bent to them (more on that later), I realised something: I’d already done this stuff.

Side-story: When I was 16, I’d discovered weed. This isn’t easy to do when you don’t get out of the house, but somehow I’d finagled a way to procure it without having to know anybody. Problem was, it was freaking me out hard. I was getting seriously fucked-up visions from it, really dark paths of thinking, and I was just about ready to just pack it in when I had a weird thought: why not ask a God to help? Far as I could tell, there weren’t many Gods around who existed solely to defend the worshipper from throwing a whitey, so I figured I’d make one up. I spent two weeks designing this deity (bear with me, I was pretty messed up back then); I had an invocation, a prayer, a visualisation, and method of communion, the whole nine-yards. And as soon as I started saying a prayer to this Goddess I’d concocted… no more freak-outs. No more paranoia. Now maybe it was the deep breathing, maybe it was the meditation, maybe just maybe I actually caused a deity to come into being. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is this: I got the results I wanted. You can imagine how overjoyed I was when I realised years later, while reading about chaos-magick, that I’d been doing it all along.

I got into Tarot cards, sigil magick, even invoked Choronzon one time when I felt my life needed to change (and Christ did it…), and I loved every second of it. Alan Moore described it really well one time, he said that it’s important you understand that when someone who’s into magick talks about all this stuff, that they are at once deadly serious, and also talking about things happening exclusively in their heads. Your mind and perceptions are your own territory; do what you want with it. Magick, as I saw it, was just a way of tricking your brain into processing things differently, in a way that appeared to alter the exterior world. Whether it did or not wasn’t really important; it all came down to a kind of solipsist-satisfaction.

At this point my idea of “The World” was very malleable. I’d been cut off from it for the better part of a decade, and was now engaged in mental exercises that taught me not to put too much faith in any one perception-model. Due to all this, I think, I reacted VERY positively to hallucinogenic drugs. As I see it, chemicals like psilocybin and LSD take a wrecking-ball to the concrete structures we’ve built in our minds since childhood. This is why some people find it scary: it’s the ultimate in uncanny-horror, the realisation that the familiar is in fact very far from it, and that perhaps you’ve been wrong all along, perhaps everyone has. Never run from what you see on acid; acid didn’t put anything there, it just dredged up what was already buried deep in your unconscious. For me, the world hadn’t really solidified into that concrete form. I’d taken it apart piece-by-piece during my exile, and it was all newly-laid wet clay when I started engaging in magick and psychedelics. All the drugs did was teach me not to let it harden, to keep my mind open to all possible facets of perception. This may be why I’ve yet to have a bad trip after ‘dropping’ around 14 times.

Eventually I went to university, and I kind of strayed from the magickal path a bit. Studies took up most of my time, and what spare time I did have I mostly spent on baser concerns: videogames, getting high, and jacking off. I’ll admit to having used sigils a couple times for essays I was a little nervous about, and those times yielded very good grades, but for the most part I was letting that funny little magus in me atrophy.

Now, a year after graduating, I’m feeling it again. I don’t know how to describe it, but the cards feel alive in my hands again, the sigils glow in my mind’s eye once more, and though perhaps a healthier mind would be worried about once again engaging in what a friend once described as “recreational schizophrenia”, I couldn’t be happier.

At least it’s got me writing again.

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