Sparked by a recent discussion with Jake about the Necronomicon-ish nature of the rise of St Cyprian this year among the English-speaking magical world. Think about it. Two of the best books published this year have been under the patronage of one being.
And it is a being of hybridity and continuity, floating out in the middle of the Atlantic… pulling Babylonian demonology through Europe and North Africa, out into the hinterlands of South America and back again.
What if there are other hands on the wheel than our own? What if the rise of Palo, Quimbanda, etc, are part of the same ‘project’ as the rediscovery of Goetia?
This thought experiment emerges from another one that Jake and I were playing last week. I posed a question: what magic books is future teenage Gordon -growing up in regional Australia and living in the year 2100- going to read? Do you think he’ll be excited to discover Westcott’s shitty Collectionea Hermetica? How different will magic look now that we appear to be about five years past ‘Peak Neoplatonism’?
Viewed over a longer timeline, the story of New World magic was -quite rightly- frontloaded with ATR. There has only been maybe fifteen years of academic research at scale into the European component of New World magic. Yet here we are, discovering it as we go along, like building train tracks in front of a moving train. But who is driving the train and where is it going? What kind of being could be the psychopomp and instigator of a decentralised project of rediscovery?
Both Jake and Jason remarked that the churchy components of Jose’s Cyprian may represent an emotive barrier for a lot of today’s occultists. This is a pity. You all know how I feel about the Church (Goldman Sachs with more paedophiles). But you also know how I feel about the saints. (Not just a modesty curtain for savage gods, but also an uninterrupted continuation of at least three different strands of European customs pertaining to the Dead). Only a moron would confuse a criminal bank run for and by paedophiles for the activities of a grandmotherly herbalist in a Venezuelan barrio.
We need to have more sophisticated eyes. Because there is that which remains.
The goddess and the saint are often almost indistinguishable. Sometimes, all that separates Celtic from Christian religion is a change of clothes and gender. The Three Mother Goddesses of the Celts appear as the three Marys or as Jesus flanked by two angels. In their hasty disguises, the Celtic gods are everywhere. Near the end of the same section of Chaussée Brunehaut, after Cormeilles, where another Christianized Epona stands in a niche, there was a familiar, smiling creature with a large club and a broken nose above the west door of the church at Hardivillers. He looked like a retired peasant on a visit to the farm he had known many years before. It was Ogmios, the Gaulish Hercules, only half-transmuted into his Christian avatar, St Christopher. [The Ancient Paths]
Turning to the canonical gospels themselves, which in their present form do not appear in the historical record until sometime between 170-180 AD/CE, their pretended authors, the apostles, give sparse histories and genealogies of Jesus that contradict each other and themselves in numerous places. The birth date of Jesus is depicted as having taken place at different times. His birth and childhood are not mentioned in "Mark," and although he is claimed in "Matthew" and "Luke" to have been "born of a virgin," his lineage is traced to the House of David through Joseph, so that he may "fulfill prophecy." Christ is said in the first three (Synoptic) gospels to have taught for one year before he died, while in "John" the number is around three years. "Matthew" relates that Jesus delivered "The Sermon on the Mount" before "the multitudes," while "Luke" says it was a private talk given only to the disciples. The accounts of his Passion and Resurrection differ utterly from each other, and no one states how old he was when he died. In addition, in the canonical gospels, Jesus himself makes many illogical contradictions concerning some of his most important teachings. Non-Biblical Sources Basically, there are no known non-biblical references to a historical Jesus by any historian or other writer of the time during and shortly after Jesus's purported advent. As Barbara G. Walker says, "No literate person of his own time mentioned him in any known writing." [The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus]
Just as Caesar recognized the Roman pantheon in the deities of the Celts, a reincarnated Druid entering certain chapels on the meridian would find himself among familiar figures. He would see a human heart dripping blood and a partially eviscerated man nailed to planks of wood. In the lonely chapel of Condé, he would see cringing sinners impaled by a skeleton and a figure in painted plaster (St Denis) offering its bloodless head to the visitor like a gruesome Sunday roast. In the late Roman empire, when Druids were still guarding some remote rural temples, certain shrines were renamed after saints who were supposed to have wandered all over Gaul, carrying their own severed heads. The original Celtic temples had contained stone pillars carved with niches from which human heads stared out. Sacrificial victims had been hung on the walls so that birds of prey could take their rotting flesh to heaven; others had been left to ferment in ‘hollow altars’. Celtic historians refer to these bloody practices as ‘the Cult of the Severed Head’.
At Ribemont in Picardy, in the early third century BC, Celtic tribes from the east won a great battle against tribes from the west. After the battle, according to their custom, they raised a gigantic panoply of headless human corpses, exposing victors and vanquished to the elements and the birds of prey. As one observer points out, those gory shrines must have had ‘a rather peculiar aesthetic effect’. On the section of the meridian that crosses the swampy forests of the Sologne, the observation was confirmed. At the side of the narrow road, someone had erected a tall wooden structure resembling the front of an open barn or a lychgate at the entrance to a churchyard. Almost every inch of its wooden beams was covered with the nailed skulls of slaughtered animals. To one side, a long wall had been painstakingly adorned with hundreds of leg-bones, exactly reminiscent of the panoply at Ribemont. A hunter who spends whole days in the silence of the forest tracking wild boar and deer had accidentally recreated a Gaulish shrine, as though the old gods had secretly commissioned a new private sanctuary of their own. [The Ancient Paths]
The legend of Moses, rather than being that of a historical Hebrew character, is found in germ around the ancient Middle and Far East, with the character having different names and races, depending on the locale: "Menu" is the Indian legislator; "Mises" appears in Syria and Egypt, where also the first king, "Menes, the lawgiver" takes the stage; "Minos" is the Cretan reformer; "Mannus" the German lawgiver; and the Ten Commandments are simply a repetition of the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, among others. Like Moses, in the Mahabharata the Indian son of the Sun God named Karna was placed by his mother in a reed boat and set adrift in a river to be discovered by another woman. A century ago, Massey outlined that even the Exodus itself is not a historical event, an opinion now shared by many archaeologists and scholars. That the historicity of the Exodus has been questioned is echoed by the lack of any archaeological record, as is reported in Biblical Archaeology Review ("BAR"), September/October 1994. [The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus]
It is an uncanny characteristic of Celtic myths – including those that recount the adventures of a demi-god – that they often turn out to be true. The bards who preserved tribal memory in verse were not rambling improvisers: they were archivist-poets who knew the dates of battles and migrations. The story that Massalia (Marseille) was founded by Greeks from Phocaea in about 600 BC has been confirmed by archaeological excavations. The legend of a mass resettlement of Gaulish tribes in northern Italy is more accurate than histories written by erudite Romans, who were never sure whether the Celts had come from the east or from the west. In Irish mythology, the great mound called Emain Macha (Navan Fort) was said to have been founded by a certain Queen Macha (identified with a goddess of that name) in 668 BC. This was considered impossibly early until archaeologists dated the oldest features of Emain Macha to c. 680 BC [The Ancient Paths]
From its origins in Ptolemaic Alexandria to its rediscovery in Renaissance Florence, the Corpus Hermeticum was secretly shuttled across medieval Egypt, Turkey, and the Middle East. Fleeing the ravages of religious intolerance and wars of conquest, it travelled from Alexandria to the mysterious city of Harran, where it became the prophetic book of a strange community of Hermeticists. From Harran it reached Baghdad, where, in the midst of Islam, it informed the mystical philosophy of the Sufis. And when Islamic fundamentalism came to power, it abandoned Baghdad to find a haven in a Constantinople that would itself soon fall to the Turk. [The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus]
In the earliest creation stories of London, Brutus the Trojan was caught in a storm on his voyages from Troy, and amid the wreckage of his ship was witness to a vision of the Goddess Diana, the virgin huntress of The Moon. Radiant on the waters like so many incarnations of Our Lady from the Stella Maris to the Virgin Caridad del Cobre, each appearing to those in distress at sea. Diana saved his life, and told him to build her a temple at the place where he struck land. He founded a city and dedicated it to her. Luan-Dun, the City of The Moon, and built her sacred temple upon the hill where St Paul’s Cathedral now stands….
The mysteries of the city are never far from the surface, wallpapered over by concrete and glass construction, but when you look into the yawning crevices or scratch away at the right location, all the old spells are still in place. This negative image of London is the landscape of magic, and even if they built a shopping centre over it, the Hill of Diana would still abide and her children with long memories would still make their devotions under the Full Moon to their ancient mother. Madame La Luna, the old ancestor, grandmother of the devil.
London partakes of the nature of its mother. The Moon is both radiant and treacherous. Often obscured by cloud, it looms into view upon occasion offering a glimpse of the infinite. Moonlight and music and love and romance are all on offer, and we stare transfixed by the possibilities and potential. Moonstruck, our gaze is held by the promise of London, its cold hard paving slabs reflect the gold majesty of the Sun and we’re taken in by its glamour. The city is akin to a hall of mirrors, it offers all you can imagine, but its tableaus can be deceptive and distorted. Those conjurers who grasp the city’s slippery luminescent character can become adept at her enchantments. Shady bankers and politicians, TV producers, it girls and backstreet sorcerers alike have learned to work this old magic and cast their own spectacle upon Our Lady’s silver screen, but the Moon and its creatures are feral, and her talons may tear out the heart of those she finds lacking in subtlety. [Old Devil Moon]
It is hard to say exactly when one age of humanity ends and another begins, when Nampty became a shrine instead of a nemeton, or when Lugh and other gods replaced the prehistoric deities, and when those gods in turn were supplanted by saints. In the twenty-first century, the Church has no doubt that the incineration of road-soiled garments at Fisterra and the YouTubed commemoration of the offering constitute a form of pagan ‘sun-worship’. The same war on paganism was being waged at the end of the Roman empire, when the Church rewrote the histories of Celtic shrines. Along with thousands of other holy sites, Nampty was said to have been a wilderness where outlaws butchered innocent travellers. Like broken pots thrown onto a midden, the old beliefs were relegated to the fields beyond the sacred enclosure. Now, they survive only as names on the meridian nearby: ‘le Grez-Qui-Tourne’ (‘the Turning Stone’), ‘Fosse aux Bardes’ (‘Bards’ Grave’), ‘le Bosquet du Diable’ (‘the Devil’s Wood’) [The Ancient Paths]