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Posts Tagged ‘Occult’

He’s the wolf screaming lonely in the night;
He’s the blood stain on the stage.
He’s the tear in your eye being tempted by his lies,
He’s the knife in your back; he’s rage!

You want to experience the Horned God right now? Go and grab a copy of Mötley Crüe’s Shout at the Devil and put it on the record player. Turn it up. Listen to it. Feel it. Get into it. There he is—lurking under the surface of the music, ready to burst out at any minute with a raging hard-on and an urge to do violence. This is the music your parents were afraid you would listen to, and for good reason. This is Pan’s music, and Pan is everything they were afraid of.

Rock music has a long tradition of flirting with the Devil, but with a few notable exceptions, these musicians don’t worship the actual Devil of Christianity. The Devil of rock and roll is not really anything like the Satan found in the Bible or in modern Christian theology. Some Christians might be bothered both by the content and the imagery of rock and metal, but not actually because they accurately represent the Christian Satan in a theological sense. The Christian Satan is a fallen angel who is miserable because he is separated from God, and as a result, he wants to make humanity as miserable as he is by tempting them to sin against God and thereby separate themselves as he is separated. That same motivation is often ascribed to the Devil of rock and roll, but it is falsely ascribed. It is a reaction, a fear-motivated impulse that rock and roll deliberately provokes because it pushes people’s boundaries and forces them to confront everything that rock and roll and its Devil stand for. But under the surface, it has nothing to do with Christianity’s Satan.

The Devil of rock and roll is a different Devil: he is instead the Devil of the occultists, the magicians, and the romantic poets. And whether the Christian Devil was in fact deliberately distorted in the Middle Ages to look and act like a pagan horned god or whether that idea is a modern conceit, the romantic occult Devil, who came much later, was most definitely and intentionally modeled on the pagan Horned God. This intoxicating devil inspired the poets and magicians who inspired the musicians of the twentieth century. It’s no accident that the first real heavy metal album, Black Sabbath’s self-titled record, is completely and totally immersed in the imagery of Satan. This Devil was a god of libido, of power, of freedom, a god of fear and lust, a god of the revel, of nature, of the night, a god of secrets and rage, a god who stands as a guardian of or even a living embodiment of the inexhaustible wellspring of the universe’s raw, primal, and sublime essence. His worship ran counter to the Church and its theology, but not because he was a part of the Church or its theology. He was a Devil, but he was not Christianity’s Devil: he was in fact Pan. Pan, the horned god of the Greek shepherds, whose music inspired fear and panic and sexual lust, Pan the god of the wild places and the lonely, magic, dangerous corners of the earth, the Great God Pan. When the romantics and occultists looked to the gods of the ancient pagans, Pan stood out from all of them because he represented a direct, divine connection to that raw stuff of the universe that the Church of the Middle Ages did its best to monopolize, control, and intermediate. Pan stood out and invited the occultists to come and feel his power directly, through ritual but most importantly through the revel. And heavy metal gives us both, in spades. Heavy metal gives us the real Devil, the Devil that human beings hunger and thirst for.

He’ll be the love in your eyes, he’ll be the blood between your thighs
And then have you cry for more!
He’ll put strength to the test, he’ll put the thrill back in bed,
Sure you’ve heard it all before.
He’ll be the risk in the kiss, might be anger on your lips,
Might run scared for the door…

People fear Pan because Pan cannot be controlled. Pan is wild; Pan is free. Pan is unpredictable and the unpredictable makes us uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit in our neat categories; it doesn’t follow our made-up rules.

By invoking his imagery and creating music that is a perfect channel for his divinity, heavy metal has served him and worshipped him more purely than perhaps any other modern human endeavor. Heavy metal stands as a dangerous and powerful testament that despite Plutarch’s report and the wishful thinking of Milton and Browning, Pan is not dead at all. Like nature itself, and like his sometime father Dionysus, Pan can never die. Pan returns and demands that we deal with him. Pan has a hold on all of us, whether we like it or not: we are all dark and dangerous, we all have the urge to create and destroy, we are all animals playing at being human. And when we hear a song like “Shout At The Devil” we can’t help but feel who we really are.

But in the seasons of wither we’ll stand and deliver—
Be strong and laugh and
Shout! Shout! Shout!
Shout at the Devil!

Feel the swagger, the sexuality, the aggression in the music. Feel it in your body, as your body answers. That is Pan. Pan’s music is rough and savage, but no less powerful and intricate than Apollo’s hymns. Apollo calms us, but Pan arouses us. Pan shows us a side of humanity that is frightening but real, and even essential. It’s not evil—it’s who we are. Modern pagans shy away from talking about the Devil because they are afraid of being misunderstood or maligned. And maybe that’s fair, but I think it’s a mistake. Pan is the Devil, and that’s a good thing. He is the Devil in the best way possible, and I say embrace that. Put the record on. Turn it up. Throw up his sign. You know how it’s done.

Listen to it! Listen, and shout at the Devil!

(Article originally published in Hoofprints in the Wildwood: A Devotional Anthology for the Horned Lord; song lyrics from Mötley Crüe’s song, “Shout at the Devil” written by Nikki Sixx)

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I clearly had “Stairway to Heaven” on my mind yesterday, and I still do today.  I think the song is absolutely amazing, and I think it’s unfortunate that so many people regard it as played-out or cliched.  I’d be willing to bet that a staggering number of young people have heard someone disparage “Stairway to Heaven” more times than they have actually heard the song.  In fact, I think that insisting that “Stairway to Heaven” is a cliche is itself far more of a cliche than the song is.

Anyway, I think the song is powerful, mystical, and magnificent.  My dad always talked about how he thought certain songs seemed to tap into some kind of cosmic energy or some power source out there, implying God or Heaven or something like that.  I think he might be right.  There’s something about the way this song is put together, the words, the phrasing, the musical arrangement, the instruments, the guitar solo, the crescendo and decrescendo, something about the architecture of this song that makes me think of occult architecture, of buildings and statues built specifically to channel otherworldly supernatural power through symbolism.  Somehow this song is like that.

I’m not even sure what all of the words mean, and I’m not even convinced that if you broke them down and analyzed them like you would a piece of literature that they would come out the other end seeming very profound at all.  It’s like the pieces of this song are combined in such a way that the song itself–not specifically the words to the song or their meaning–works like a magic spell.  But a spell meant to do what?  Something is being invoked here, but what is it?  If this song is a key, what door does it open?

What is this taste of infinity that rolls around on my tongue every time I hear this song?

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I have been turning into something of a tarot enthusiast here lately. I’ve been fascinated by the tarot since I first played around with a deck back in high school, but I didn’t have my own deck until I bought a Rider-Waite from a game shop during my first year of law school, near to the time when I first started to really broaden my horizons in terms of the scope of my spiritual search. I did a few spreads with it back then, but mostly just let it sit around until a few months ago when I finally started to grapple with the tarot in earnest.

I feel like I have a talent for the tarot. I have done spreads for myself, for my beautiful and sexy wife, and for my brother, and some of them have been shockingly insightful. I’m still using a couple of guidebooks to make connections and understand the meanings of the cards, but I am slowly gaining an understanding of my own through a combination of committing key-words and other peoples’ interpretations to memory, and also through meanings that have emerged from readings I have done. Not every spread I do winds up being useful or insightful, but enough of them seem to be so incredibly on-target that I think I have a lot of potential as a tarot-reader.

While I have not yet written the post I want to write about magic, I will say that I don’t necessarily think that the tarot cards are supernatural. A good deck of tarot cards is composed of powerful symbols that correspond to complex structures in the mind (conscious, sub-, un-, and probably super-), and can be used to make connections or better yet reveal hidden connections between emotions, ideas, and events. So my basic understanding of the tarot is that it is deeply psychological, but psychological nonetheless.

I’m kind of a purist as far as decks go. I’ve looked around at some of the alternatives, and I am generally not impressed. For most decks, I don’t even think the art is all that good, and I definitely would be hesitant to even bother with divination with any deck but Rider-Waite. On the other hand, I realize that my prejudice is purely a matter of personal aesthetics, snobbery, and a persistent nigh-insuppressible orthodoxy reflex. Which means I don’t think you’re an idiot for using a different deck, but I’m going to pretty much stick with the one I’ve got. Although I need a new box or bag for my cards, because the one they came in is rapidly disintegrating, since I habitually take my cards with me, stashed in a pocket of my backpack or rucksack.

Personally, I have grown to identify strongly with the Knight of Cups, and I am considering eventually getting a full-sized tattoo of the card, probably on an upper arm or back shoulder. I imagine at that size and in full color it’s not going to be cheap, so I will probably wait until at least next summer when I have a job and a steady income. Anyway, the Knight of Cups is the consummate questing knight, the grail-knight, on a journey of discovery that is a journey into the depths of the subconscious. Cups have a lot of water-symbolism, and water is an element of mystery and the subconscious. It’s also a strongly female element, particularly when associated with cups or the grail. So there are aspects to the quest and the quest’s object that are associated with the divine feminine, the deep places of the soul, and the mysteries of the unconscious mind, all of which are intensely relevant to me. It’s also the card that I used as a significator—purely because of the color of my hair and the instructions in the little pamphlet that comes with the Rider-Waite cards—way back in high school when I first started to become familiar with the tarot.

I plan on spending a lot more time and effort with the tarot. I’d like to have a deep understanding of all of the cards, even the tricky ones that elude me, and I would like to start moving past individual cards and out into the relationships between them. It’s exciting and compelling stuff for me. And also, it is just plain fun.

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For a few days I’ve been thinking about the possibility that there is no God.  For my whole life, I have assumed there was one, but I’ve never experienced him or had any kind of spiritual relationship with him.  So I have no personal basis for claiming that I know or even suspect that there is a deity.  I mean, I’d like there to be one, but that’s not really enough for me.  I’m too skeptical to be satisfied with believing based solely on the desire to believe (sorry, Alma- it’s just not going to happen).

What if there is no God?  What then?  Is there morality without God?  Of course there is.  Morality, to me, is instinctive and universal.  True morality at least.  Every religion teaches respect and kindness towards fellow humans- we don’t need a god to tell us that.  The things that aren’t universal, like whether God forbids the eating of pork or beef, are in my opinion clearly manmade morality.  Arbitrary garbage that has to do with human institutions, not with what’s really right or wrong.

What’s “morally wrong” with coffee?  Nothing; the very idea is preposteroous to everyone but Mormons.  But to them, it’s a moral issue because they believe God commanded it.  This is the kind of thing that I gleefully abandon.  We need God to tell us to not drink coffee, to not eat pork, and to adhere to specific religious observances.  We don’t need God to tell us to not be jerks.  We know to not be jerks on our own, and we manage to do it regardless, even when we’re told to not do it by “God.”

Anyway, I digress.  I don’t feel like  I need God to have morality, and anyway, that’s beside the point.  If there’s no God there’s no God regardless of whether we “need” him for something or not.

So if there is no God, what is there?  I don’t believe that the science we have describes everything, and I don’t believe that the material is all that is.  Maybe that’s ignorant and superstitious of me, but it’s who I am.  Does that mean I believe in spirit, or in mind that is separate from body?  I’m not sure.  Does it mean I believe in magic? Unfortunately, no.  As cool as magic would be, I don’t think it exists (unless you define it so broadly that it can’t help but exist, and then you’re not saying anything useful).  Likewise, in believing that there is something more than the material, I suppose I could formulate what I do believe in and call it “God,” but that would actually only confuse and mislead, since I would be talking about something that is a far cry from what most people mean when they use the term.

I’m not so sure I believe in a distinct divine being  with consciousness and personalty.  I certainly don’t believe in a God with a physical form (of flesh and bone or otherwise).  The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I think I may be comfortable with the idea of no God.  Not because it gives me license to do whatever I want or anything, because like I said, I still believe in morality.

I certainly do not have all the answers, and it doesn’t seem like anyone else does, either, no matter how adamantly they claim to have them.  I believe in mystery.  I believe in the unexplained, and perhaps in the unexplainable.  I believe that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.  But I don’t know if I believe in God.

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The night before last when I had my “Great Plain” meditation, I also had an odd impression of sunlit carved standing stones on a green hill. More than once. It seemed more like the product of whimsical thought than anything else, but last night when meditating, I decided to investigate a little further.

The whole sequence was jumbles and discontinuous, so don’t get the wrong impression from the way I explain it.

After some centering exercises including “going to my room,” I was able to find myself among those stones, but no sooner did I get there than the sky grew dark, the trees withered, and the stones grew thinner, taller, and more frightening. There was also a crow, and the distinct presence of a dark figure behind one of the stones that I thought might be the God/god I had conversed with a few days ago. I wasn’t sure.

I was sure that this wasn’t what I was looking for, so I changed into a bird and flew- a strange feeling of detachment and flying as I focused inward, until I came upon the sunlit hill again. However, once again, the sky grew dark and everything turned gray. The crow was there again.

A third time I found myself in the form of a bird and flying- almost an ecstatic metitative state (though I think some of it was just the fact that my eyes were crossed, and that always makes you feel weird). Once again I came to the stones, and ocne again the sky was darkened, the stones changed, the raven/crow landed on them, and I had the impression of a dark figure.

For no real appreciable reason, I yelled out the name of Odin, not crying out to him to save me or anything, but more to request his presence. A large figure appeared, claiming to be Odin, looking like something out of a video game, ogre-sized with a horned helmet and a great beard. After a few minutes of conversation (I don’t really remember what we talked about), I decided that this was not in fact Odin or any other god, but the impression of the dark figure behind the stones was still there.

I spent the rest of the meditation in a focused state, rapid-firing questions about faith, religion, and reality at God or whatever, not visualizing anything and not getting any answers. The whole thing seemed strange and powerful, though, and I kind of had to decompress for awhile afterward.

When I did the Tarot layout the other day (with the Hanged Man as the end), the card that crossed me, i.e., my obstacles, was the death card. Of all its meanings, the ones I focused on were “end” and “corruption.” Funny that corruption has played a role in my meditative exercises- first with the face of God on the path, and now with the standing stones. Maybe I’m off the mark here. I don’t know.

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The Hanged Man

After my meditation experience last night, I did a Tarot reading with my wife, to inquire about what I should do about religion.  I don;t necessarily want to go into the entire card spread, but it was very interesting.  Most of the cards seemed to describe my situation in unique ways, and I was defintiely given insight.

The ultimate card, the one representing where all of this is going, was the hanged man.

According to the book we were using, the card represents Wisdom, Circumspection, Discernment, Trials, Sacrifice, Intuition, Divination, and Prophecy.  It seemed like a progression to me, leading to my ultimate goal.

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Last night, I prayed,

God reveal yourself to me, and let me know You. 

If that means to know You through Jesus Christ, in the pages of the Bible, in the communty of Christians, or in the ritual and liturgy of the Church, then let me know You that way. 

If that means to know You through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You in silence, in peace, in integrity, and in lisetning to the Light, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You through the trees, through magick, the awesome power and majesty of nature, and through the beliefs of my most ancient ancestors, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You through His holy word as revealed through his prophet, be it Moses of Muhammad, then let me know You that way.

If You are the Tao, or Brahman, or  Ahura Mazda, or simply the consciousness of the cosmos, let me know You in whatever way you would have me know You.  If that means to know You through whatever path or faith or religion You might choose for me, then let me know You that way. 

If You exist at all, I pray that I might know You.

But I did not get an answer.

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So, yesterday and today I’ve been pondering Druidry. And reading about it. I have some different things running through my head.

First, when I was a teenager and interested in such things, there was a time when I felt a connection ot the natural world. This wasn’t just a matter of liking nature, but I actually felt like the personified Wild, the world, whatever, had somehow singled me out for some kind of special connection.  It’s hard to explain, because it originally came out of the context of general occulty-goofing-around, but it was a sense that stayed with me long after I left the occult behind.

When I got serious about Mormonism and went on my mission, I just kind of locked all of that up in a cognitive closet soemwhere.

Furthermore, I haven’t spent much time in the woods or in the outdoors, in a decade.  I’ve lived in apartments and gone to universities and lived in large metro areas and I’ve been to busy to go out into the woods and just feel the wild places and the energy there.

Yesterday I became acutely aware of missing something because of that.  Partially because of that, and partially just because of the pretty snowfall, my wife and I packed up the baby and drove to Rock Creek Park, where we lit out into the woods and had a great time, and got cold and tired.  It was nice.

I didn’t have a mystical experience with nature, but I wasn’t really expecting to.  I feel like I’ve been a stranger to the natural world for too long, and I hardly expect to walk back outside and have it embrace me with mind-blowing spiritual experiences.  If that kind of thing even exists.  Plus, as much fun as it was being out there with my family, we were there for fun and to spend time together, not necessarily to commune or anything.

However, I am now resolved to go out of my way to get out into the trees more often.  And I’m resolved to do it in a serious and meditative way as well as a recreational way, on my own as well as with my family.  Unless of course I just change my mind again, like I do with religion every other damn day.

With nature and Druidry on my mind, I came back home and did some internet research.  If I had the internet as a teenager, I’m sure I would have joined some Druid group a long time ago.  I just didn’t know where to look, so I was trying to reconstruct Druidry on my own with my limited resources and limited knowledge, which meant that I didn’t really get anywhere.  But now, I have options, and that intrigues me.

I am not necessarily interested in things Celtic per se, which might raise the question “Why bother with Druidry then?  That makes no sense.”  But it seems that there are takes on Druidry that see it as a reflection of Indo-European indigenous religion in general, and that wakes me up and makes me take notice.  That hits something primal and fundamental inside me that hasn’t been hit in a long time, not since I was stoked about Joseph Campbell way back in the day.  I don’t know why.

That modern revivalist take on Druidry allows for the connection to Norse myth that I feel a desire for, while having an ethic and philosophy that I am more comfortable with than the philosophy of Asatru.

So, I’m idly thinking about taking a Druidry correspondence course, like the one that AODA has.

Of course, now I struggle with my religious morning-after problem.  What seemed cool and interesting and compelling one day seems just dumb and embarrassing the next day.  I don’t know what to do about that.  It seems to kick in no matter what religion or church or flavor of spirituality that I am interested in.  Also, I just may be too chicken to abandon Jesus.

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Today I am reading about Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan.  They don’t actually worship Satan, by the way, or even belive that he exists (and before you go quoting Verbal Kent on me, I’ve heard it before).  Instead, they revere what he represents: indomitable will and ultimate freedom.

I think that LaVeyan Satanism actually has a lot to commend it, and I wouldn’t mind reading the Satanic Bible to see what he has to say (in more detail than a Wikipedia article at least), but I’m not sure that the kind of cutthroat all-against-all (or as my dad would put it, “Hooray for me and screw everyone else”) world that it envisions would really be a very nice one.   Too much like law school.  I guess the Satanist answer would be that they’re not trying to create a utopia; they’re simply reflecting and accepting the world for what it is (reflective rather than aspirational).

There’s no reason a Satanist can’t be nice to other people, if being nice to other people pleases and fulfills him, but he recognizes that ultimately he’s doing it out of self interest (Remember the argument between Joey and Phoebe about there being no completely selfless act? This is kind of like that).

But it also looks like LaVeyan Satanism owes a lot to Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand (with a veneer of probably worthless occultism), and I have historically thought their ideas were dumb.

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You are the Emperor card. The Emperor leads the way into the world that The Empress allowed us to experience. He is the archetype of the Father who provides the organization and structure of the world. The Emperor is the government, and as such represents control. At this stage in The Fool’s Journey, there is no need to deviate from the status quo. By participating actively in society, we come to an understanding of social structure. The Emperor applies the laws and rules for us to follow. The Emperor is the first of the zodiacal attributions in the major arcana. He shares with Aries a creative energy and, at his best, responsibility for the subjects in his charge. At his worst he can become domineering and authoritarian. Image from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck.

Take this quiz!

Interesting. I have always thought of the Knight of Cups as the card that most represents me. Probably this quiz only deals with the Major Arcana, so the Knight wasn’t going to be an option anyway. In any case, I may need to do some thinking about the Emperor.  Oddly enough, my wife took the quiz too, and she came up as the Empress…

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