Ineffable Experiences and Effable Gender

After what let’s call a "heated debate" on the HHoL, I find I have something to say about the perennial problem of gender, and especially the gender binary, in occultism and mysticism. I’m not going to bury the lede here: they’re just not things. Genders, I mean. They can be important to people’s experiences, but they cannot be ascribed to things outside of our social context.

That’s basically the thesis. Oh joy.

Continue reading “Ineffable Experiences and Effable Gender”

Tradition and the Individual Magician

A lively conversation on the HHoL revived my interest in an idea I had months ago: "magicians need to read Eliot." It’s true, of course, because everyone needs to read Eliot, but in this particular case it’s true because Eliot wrote an extremely short essay, titled "Tradition and the Individual Talent," in which he charts a course between tradition and uniqueness. Magicians need to read this because, between the Scylla of reconstructionism and the Charybdis of anything-goes Neopaganism, many magically operant people have a screwed up sense of what tradition really means.

Continue reading “Tradition and the Individual Magician”

Secondary World part 2: Visiting Other Worlds of Magic

Last week, I talked about how Coleridge’s "suspension of disbelief" can be used to understand how more than one magical system can make sense, even if they’re mutually exclusive. In short, a work of art that is not convincingly "realistic" tugs on your heart by reminding you of "inward truths," and I compared that to how one might sympathize with Yggdrasil not because one believes the world hangs from the boughs of a tree, but because one believes trees are central to the survival of our ecosystem on Earth.

This week we’ll go even further. Tolkien’s famous essay "On Fairy-stories" developed an idea called the "secondary world" and we can conceive of magical systems as secondary worlds that we visit. If they’re coherent, we may keep coming back!

Continue reading “Secondary World part 2: Visiting Other Worlds of Magic”

Seven Spheres and the Great Chain of Being

I recently finished reading the book Seven Spheres, by Rufus Opus, and it gave me Thoughts about ceremonial magic that I wanted to thrash out here. The thought, or idea, generally speaking, is that it feels like there’s something missing in the typical approach to magic in the western “ceremonial” tradition. Specifically, I think that the cultural ubiquity of the Great Chain of Being, coming as it does from Renaissance thinking, has caused people to omit other useful models, and that it can be powerfully supplemented by the addition of ecosystem thinking, a pairing I’m calling “companion planting” for now.

Fair warning: this is part one of two.

Continue reading “Seven Spheres and the Great Chain of Being”

Literature for Magicians: Descent into Hell

2021 saw me start to get into Charles Williams, a poet and prose writer who was friends with Yeats, worked in publishing, and was fascinated by magic and mysticism. Descent into Hell is his best-known novel, and well worth reading if you’re into magic and mysticism of any kind as well.

I briefly mentioned this book in my 2021 in Books post, but as I said there, I always intended to write more about it. It’s a really excellent book, and another great example of how fantasy can be weird as shit if it just, you know, exists before the generic markers hardened.

Continue reading “Literature for Magicians: Descent into Hell”

Literature for Magicians: the Llyvyr Taliessin

The Book of Taliesin is a great collection of medieval poetry. You should read it on its own merits. But for this inaugural post of my series, Literature for Magicians, I’ll be focusing on ways that the Welsh bard’s poetry could be useful to you in a magical or ritual setting. From direct quotation to loose adaptation, the verses of The Book of Taliesin can be incorporated in a variety of ways.

Continue reading “Literature for Magicians: the Llyvyr Taliessin”

Last Jedi as religious fiction

My title may be a bit misleading. “Religious fiction” usually means a specific literary genre which is overtly Christian and conservatively evangelical. I suppose stuff like Touched by an Angel was religious fiction. I don’t mean it in that way, but I can’t really think of another phrase. My basic point is that The Last Jedi is, and reminds the audience that Star Wars has always been, about a speculative, magico-religious way of life. I’m talking about the Force, of course. TLJ isn’t just about Force-users; it’s about Force-believers. And it is totally necessary for this movie to investigate the ideas underlying this religion in Star Wars.

Continue reading “Last Jedi as religious fiction”

Magic Writing

I’ve been struggling for years to get back into writing creative stuff — by that I mean poetry, fiction, so on. A friend once said I was one of the most prolific writers he knew, even though he is the most prolific writer I know. I tell you that to tell you this: since I finished my MFA I have completed maybe three short stories, and no poems. Or rather, every so often I will write a poem in the margin of a book or in a journal, but I never consider making it public in some way. This blog post serves as a companion, a non-fiction piece accompanying this poem. You should read it, but you can read this post first if you’d prefer. Or the poem. There’s no set order or anything, is what I’m saying.

Continue reading “Magic Writing”