Two of the best books I have read in the last twelve months have been about the Devil.
Most recently, it was Peter Levenda’s The Dark Lord. And prior to that, it was Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft.
Pause to enjoy the sync that is two Peters offering the keys to an entirely different sort of kingdom.
(Throw in Pete Carroll and you have yourself a veritable janitor’s keychain of multi-dimensional possibility.)
I’ve gone in and out on where to begin with this post for a number of very good reasons.
- I’m not a witch.
- Baphomet is not quite the same thing as The Devil, but my summer of Baphomet has thrown up some interesting hypotheses.
We may as well begin with my preeminent observation of Apocalyptic Witchcraft.
Peter states in the book and repeatedly in various posts and social media that it was his and Alkistis’s intention that this book provoke a discussion and re-examination of witchcraft.
Now, like I said, not a witch. But I am a voracious blog reader and, as far as I can see, this hasn’t happened beyond a round-up of justifiably favourable book reviews. At least not publicly, anyway. In my own case, it certainly has on a private level and I can only presume that it is the same for you. (Much as the piece should be considered in its entirety, there may be some little upside to having the manifesto and the first chapter available on the blog? Food for thought, guys, if you’re reading this and feel like upsetting a few more ossified apple carts.)
The book’s overall thesis that we must update and radicalise our relationship to the world is very welcome here. You all know how I feel about seasonal festivals and the forces running our planet at the moment. We aren’t living in Disney’s Pocahontas. We are living in Mad Max.
And I can only attribute the thunderous silence with which this suggestion was met to cognitive dissonance. People just don’t want to think about it. (Welcome to my world, guys! Pull up a chair. There are many, many, many free chairs. I may have over-catered the tea, as well.)
But for the purposes of this post, I want to zero in on the Devil itself, the Black Man of the Sabbat. And its (rather than ‘his’) relationship to the ‘w’ word.
From chapter 1:
What is witchcraft?
The answer is simple. Witchcraft is the work of the enemy. Witchcraft is the sex that other people have, witchcraft the drug that other people take, witchcraft is the rite that other people perform…
…For the whole of recorded history witchcraft has been malefica, venefica, incest and murder. The next village, the next town, the next country, the old woman, the young woman, the Jew, the leper, the Cathar, the Templar, the Ophite, the Bogomil. They do it. Not us, you understand. Them. You will find the witch at the end of a pointed finger.
The end of the pointed finger. That’s certainly where I’d look, and, all too often, where I’m frequently found.
Now, it is an error to think that the loudest online voices represent the attitude of a wider group simply by virtue of their greater volume. But let me give you my honest opinion of the drift among some magical sectors toward this wishy-washy, inter-faith ecumenicalism.
It is some sad, student council bullshit that requires you to sit down with my enemy. To sit down with homophobes and transphobes and misogynists and child abusers. And for what? Legitimacy? Keep it. That won’t save you from the pointed finger when the crops fail or when the vicar’s daughter needs an abortion. From Terence McKenna: Culture is a simplification and a lie. It’s the currency by which fools navigate.
To sit at our accusers’ table, you must become, like Bret Easton Ellis’s gay man, a magical elf.
The Gay Man as Magical Elf has been such a tricky part of gay self-patronization in the media that you would by now expect the chill members of the LGBT community to respond with cool indifference. The Sweet and Sexually Unthreatening and Super-Successful Gay is supposed to be destined to transform The Hets into noble gay-loving protectors—as long as the gay in question isn’t messy or sexual or difficult.
The straight and gay sanctimoniousness that says everyone gay needs to be canonized when coming out still makes some of us who are already out feel like we’re on the sidelines. I’m all for coming out on one’s own terms, but heralding it as the most important news story of the week feels to me, as a gay man, well, kind of alienating. We are apart because of what we supposedly represent because of… our… boring… sexuality—oh man, do we have to go through this again? And it’s all about the upbeat press release, the kind of smiling mask assuring us everything is awesome. God help the gay man who comes out and doesn’t want to represent, who doesn’t want to teach, who doesn’t feel like part of the homogenized gay culture and rejects it. Where’s the gay dude who makes crude jokes about other gays in the media (as straight dudes do of each other constantly) or express their hopelessness in seeing Modern Family being rewarded for its depiction of gays, a show where a heterosexual plays the most simpering ka-ween on TV and Wins. Emmys. For. It? Why isn’t the gay dude I have always known and the gay dude I have always wanted to be not front and center in the media culture now?
I pray the Devil saves me from your fascist, beige, ecumenicalism and drops me in a polluted swamp filled with transvestites and circus dwarves! Back to Peter Grey:
When I say Apocalyptic Witchcraft it is deliberately antagonistic because I see witchcraft being used as an excuse for solipsistic escapism when it is the exact opposite…
…Witchcraft has a history of remembering its radical heritage whether through Michelet, Jack Parsons or feminism, and also of inventing itself anew. Montague Summers writes: Witches, satanists and the whole unhallowed crew were meddling with and mixing in politics from the first, and as their liege lord, the Devil, rebelled against God in heaven, so do they rebel against any legitimate form of government on earth.
A ‘legitimate form of government on earth’? Well shit, Monty. Find me one. The near-total absenting of the Devil in contemporary witchcraft is mistaking ‘the earth as sacred’ for ‘the earth as nice‘. And it’s a recent mistake. Our spiritual ancestors weren’t so deluded. From another Scarlet Imprint title, Serpent Songs:
The traditional witch’s nature is revealed in many of the facets of her Craft. The West Country witch was not entirely a pagan in the modern sense in which the word is popularly used, but more a dual observer, in which the Devil was the old one of the earth and the hidden world within nature. The witch made use of all that was of use, and simply employed Christian themes and practices in a way that suited her needs.
Previous witchly generations have eschewed the Devil for political reasons. “Oh, the Devil’s that Christian stuff. We’re Pagan.” Don’t believe it. As Baudelaire says, “the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist”.
But it is also more than a little disingenuous. From Horns of Power: Manifestations of the Horned God.
The image of the horned figure on the Gundestrup Cauldron is the best known image attributed to Cernunnos, and also shows him with antlers. This silver cauldron dates to between fourth to first century BCE and was found in Denmark. It has been shown how this figure depicted on the cauldron is probably derived from the deity Pashupati (‘Lord of the Beasts’) or proto-Shiva. Pashupati was the main god of the Harappan culture of around 3000 BCE from the Indus Valley, and by this point he already had a huge amount in common with Cernunnos.
This point is reinforced by Alain Daniélou in his work Gods of Love and Ecstasy, where he points out that “All the symbols associated with the cult of Shiva – the erect phallus, the horned god, the bull, the snake, the ram, the Lady of the Mountain – are found in this cultural and agricultural complex which, starting from 6000 BC, spread westward to Europe and Africa and eastward to southern Asia.”
With or without direct historical connections -and the time distances are too great to rely on finding them- there is nevertheless a peculiar and potent resonance to these ‘shapes’; to the shape of a horned lord and a woman dancing with a serpent. Calling upon them, they ‘unpack’ inside you, like accidentally firing up a Pharaoh’s space ship.
It is a transgression but I am unrepentant. This is how magic works. And it is amazing what happens to your whole praxis when you restore the Devil to the Western European tradition. It’s like returning The Empire Strikes Back to the Star Wars trilogy.
From Levenda’s The Dark Lord:
And so we return to Apocalyptic Witchcraft, and Peter Grey’s invocation of the Devil of our times:
The Devil as the mask of wild nature and the Goddess, giving us the choice to control our bodies, minds and destiny. We have already seen Baphomet as a cipher for Mohammed, and Islam will not be the only bedevilled enemy. Ecologists, feminists, psychonauts, shamans, will continue to be decried in these terms….
The will of God is a clear understanding of and opposition to the designs of our enemy. This is not simply destroying the mythic structure of the Christian Church which gave man nature to despoil, just as it cut down the cedars of Lebanon, but the final ugly phase of Yahweh: corporate fascism.
One, two, three, four, I declare a Mind War!
Returning to Levenda’s The Dark Lord, its central contention hits me right where I live. If my heart could write theses they’re sound like these. Buy the damn book. He effectively threads a line through Lovecraft and the Necronomicon, Crowley and Kenneth Grant, making a fairly compelling case that they are aspects of the same current. You can see why I’d like it. Talk about a romp.
When you’re writing about Grant, of course, you’re also writing about Set.
Speaking of transgressive forces, there is the whole sex thing:
A reviled, therianthropic sex god of chaos. Now we’re getting somewhere! And as for the origin of this being, according to Grant?
The Black (Space)Man of The Sabbat? Somebody’s spinning somewhere. Indeed, this particular angle warrants further analysis. Consider Tituba’s testimony from the Salem witch trials (recounted in Sinister Forces).
In the final analysis, what we have here is probably the first recorded instance of what would become the satanic survivor craze of America in the 1980s. In fact, many of Tituba’s “memories”—as well as those of her “co-conspirators”—were slow in coming, and memory disorders, real or imagined or feigned, were part of the Salem experience. Recovered memories, tortured children, witch covens, a satanic network spanning the Northeast… welcome to Geraldo Nation.
Add to this mixture the figure of the “man in black,” and we can tie all of this in nicely with the UFO phenomenon. Indeed, Tituba’s account of leaving her body at night and traveling to the meetings, and then returning again before dawn, sounds eerily similar to some accounts of alien abductions. The existence of witch marks—odd bruises on one’s body suggestive of pacts with the Devil, etc.—have their correlates with the stories of alien surgery and alien implants. In fact, Tituba first claimed that she flew to Boston through the air in both body and soul, but amended this fact later to state that she only appeared in Boston in the spirit.
By the time the Devil reaches us here in the era of Apocalyptic Witchcraft, it has picked up and embodied the transgressive, animating force of all life in the universe, the face of a homosexual donkey, the tools for rebellion against the outgoing archonic regime, the blood of two Crusades, a role as Western Europe’s Trickster Spirit, some kind of extraterrestrial initiatory tech literally fallen from the stars, centuries of clandestine meetings in forgotten places and a decidedly Neighbourly hurricane of High Strangeness accompanying it down through the millennia to our sabbats… High Strangeness that persists to this day.
All of this puts me in mind of my favourite iteration of the Grail story: that the Grail is the Emerald Tablet, fallen from the Ajna Chakra of Lucifer as he was cast out of heaven, thus making the Quest truly cosmic in its scope and implications. Our enemies have given us a particularly useful construct in their hybridisation of these beings, exemplified by the torch glowing between the horns of Baphomet.
And so, I’d like to leave this visualisation exercise for those of you out there who -like me- are part of the magical current that has temporarily lost the Devil. (Just to head off any of you ATR or possibly Basque folks out there who say the Devil never went away. Fine. He did here.)
Well, I call it a visualisation exercise. You can tart this up with any extra layers of ritual that you like but it is quite potent just on its own. I tend to do this after some chakra work, sometimes with some Pan incense I picked up in Glastonbury.
It’s inspired by Chumbley’s ‘The Great Unbinding’, which in turn was inspired by reading Serpent Songs. (I hadn’t read any Chumbley for years before that.) These words:
By the Sigils of the Lock and the Key conjoined at the heart of the
High Sabbat of the Ages, I obtain release from Circumstance.
They remind me of the Pharaoh’s capacity to ‘come down into any sky’, which sounds to me like a release from ‘Circumstance’ (envisioned in Egypt as the power and position of the planets at your birth). This is the ultimate promise of the Devil, this is what the Loa asked of the Creator. To do whatever it is one wants. To do thy will. It is the gnostic sorcerer’s freedom to act independently of the conditions of archonic reality.
- Perform chakra meditation or energy meditation of choice.
- Invoke the Devil as Lucifer, with his emerald ajna chakra still in place.
- Visualise Lucifer standing facing you, but also simultaneously visualise him forming inside your heart chakra.
- Stay with that for a few moments and then visualise heart chakra Lucifer lifting his emerald stone from his forehead to your ajna chakra.
Hold these three visualisations for as long as you deem necessary. Given the potency of the various symbols involved, you are effectively Russian-dolling the tools for your own liberation, and the first few times are a little weird.
Close by feeling the sentiment expressed in the following words:
“I had forgotten how much light there is in the world, till you gave it back to me.”
Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea.