So Saturn squaring my Moon in the 9th house has turned the upcoming Sorceress Astro-Report into a labyrinthine vortex of research. I’m not satisfied with the usual definitions of anything. A few years ago I might have been content with info from Wikipedia, Crystalinks, my Women’s Encylopedia of Myths & Secrets, and what I remembered from a lifetime of reading myth/magic.
Now? I have made notes from books like Astral Magic In Babylonia and its painstaking deciphering of multiple texts and inscriptions. Now I have spreadsheets comparing things like constellations, priestess techniques, cuneiforms to runes, and the thousand names for Mercury. It’s deranged enough to qualify as a mood disorder but my dreams are sensational.
You know how studying some things robs them of the thrill? The genius of magic is that seeing it through academic optics makes it more satisfying. Magic* is the most ancient thing going and always the most contemporary.
Anyway, I have some observations:
(1) When applied to magic, the ‘cultural appropriation’ argument is a bit yesterday. It comes from genuine horror at how indigenous cultures had their lands stolen and their spiritual practices outlawed, then exploited. In New Zealand, for example, the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907 forbade Maori medicine and spirituality. Tohunga’s literal meaning is “a person skilled in reading signs”:
It encompasses an array of shamanic and healing perspectives. Banning an entire belief system doesn’t, as we know from the example of witches, work too well. So it’s easy to see how people are angered by seeing these meaningful, recently illegal, symbols suddenly the new cool thing sported by people who actually don’t give a s**t about any of it. But magic is built on layers and layers of corresponding concepts; themes echo over time. I’m not offended if someone thinks the name Draco is purely the name of a Harry Potter character but if the Inquisition or persecution of Celtic Pagans was more recent, I probably would be.
But the real point here is that the symbols, deities, and concepts from your core ethnic group – your ancestral heritage – are more potent for you. And they all go back to Ancient Babylon anyway.
(2) It’s shocking how much the influence of Christianity pervades writing about magic. It’s understandable when you’re reading a Victorian archeologist’s thoughts on the ‘Heathens’ or the Catholic Encylopedia’s bone-chilling take on Gordiano Bruno. But when a piece starts out being about “druids” or “moon magic” and degenerates into angelic charms to ward off the Fae/protect against evil, it’s weird.
Or it’s a quasi-Christian Law of Attraction rave with a few mentions of witchy deities and then the promise of access to an entirely benevolent Universe if your mindset is positive enough. It’s eerily similar to the old Christian concept of keeping your thoughts ‘godly’ so you did not manifest bad things. There are also a plethora of magical ritual recommendations that are like Church ceremonies with a few names substituted and some patchouli thrown around.
(3) The “technology of sorcery in the ancient world” – as my new fave book puts it – was not madly sexist or anything ist. There were priests and priestesses, Gods and Goddesses, deities who were gay or transgender, and so on; the magical texts reflect this. But from around 400BC, two new concepts emerge: Yin (aka female vibe) as a lesser, weaker, darker, or even ‘abysmal’ force and left hand/anti-clockwise anything being demonized. And you still read it today, as if either is the way it’s always been. Interestingly, the clockwise direction was said to be better as, in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Sun-wise. If you face the East, the direction that the Sun rises, it travels to the South, which is your right hand. I’m developing a line of thought on this.
(4) You don’t need to be overly concerned about having – for example – medieval styling or accessories for spells and rituals. Of course, if you want them, go for it. But if an ancient priestess of Babylon or a Celtic druid time-traveled to the 21st Century, you can betcha they’d be delighted with gas lighters and apps that let you confirm the star you’re gazing at. And, if you’re psychic, you can scry from television static just as readily as you can from an officially sacred mountain lake.
(5) I put this in the Daily Mystic email for Monday but awareness of Space Weather is the coming thing. I was reading about Solar Minimum and had to keep checking I was still on a science site. Short version: During all of April, Earth was bombarded by a lot more cosmic rays than usual. Less Solar Wind, more electrons and lightning – what are the effects of all this on us? And what is the relationship to astrology as we know it? I think it’s linked to the Jupiter and perhaps the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions. I am on it!
(7) Finally, when you read a heap of old texts about magic, you see how artificial and pointless the division between astronomy/science and astrology/magic is. Contemporary scholars and anyone in recent eras cannot study the pre-Monotheistic eras without a working knowledge of magic because it was woven into everything. It still is, of course.
And if you want a little touch of old Babylonian thought, I was reading about Lunar Mansion – vis a vis my Moon in the 9th House – and found this beautiful line from an ancient astrologer: “What a star has wrought, a star will undo.” If you felt you’d been copping the adverse side of a planetary influence, you’d do various rituals or meditate on the nature of that influence.
*In this context, I’m meaning magic as astrology, divination – particularly of dreams, rituals or spells, plants used medicinally as well as metaphysically and reverence for the old gods.
Image: Louis Chalon – Circe – Note the Zodiac decor behind her throne.