Celebrating Winter Holidays

It’s the beginning of December, and in the Pacific Northwest, that means it gets dark really early and the Sun rises late. We have a lot of darkness this time of the year, and in Portland we make up for that darkness by celebrating a lot. My family isn’t religious, but we still celebrate Christmas in what I have always assumed is the traditional American way – a tree, a bunch of presents, The Night Before Christmas, big meals, shots of akvavit, and singing carols together. That’s how everybody does it, right?

But unlike my family, I am religious and I’m not Christian. What holidays are available to the modern pagan? I’m curious about how other modern pagans pick their Winter holidays, so I’m going to share some things that my friends and I have done or are planning to do.
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There are a few books coming out that I’m really excited about. If you read this blog regularly, you should be excited about them, too. First, Dan Attrell’s translation of the Picatrix is finally available for pre-order. I interviewed him back on episode 29 of My Alchemical Bromance and have been eagerly awaiting his book.

Second, One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy, Keith Readdy’s book about Aleister Crowley, the OTO, and other cool Thelema stuff is available for pre-order. I interviewed Keith about his book in episode 40 of My Alchemical Bromance. Go check out those two books and add them to your list!

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The featured image for this post is “Old books” by David Flores on Flickr.

This is a list of books on Freemasonry. In case it hasn’t been made abundantly clear by my numerous podcast appearances, public lectures, and short list of published articles, I’m a Freemason. This generates a lot of curiosity in those who aren’t Masons. Occultists and esotericists, the main audience for this website, have lots of misconceptions about Freemasonry, so I get asked frequently for reading suggestions. The problem is, there is a ton of bad Masonic reading material out there.
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The Immortal Body in Hermeticism

Back in March, I had a conversation with Jeremy Crow in episode 28 of My Alchemical Bromance. We discussed the Left Hand Path (LHP), about which I had only a surface understanding before we really dug into it. While there are multiple ways to differentiate between the two paths, we focused on one in particular that divides magical and mystical practices into two rough categories: those that seek to dissolve the self into a greater oneness are on the Right Hand Path, while those who seek to glorify the self and enable it to continue after death are on the Left Hand Path.
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Arts and Crafts in Ritual Magic

“Ritual magic is a combination of performance art, prayer, and meditation.” – Dan Attrell

When a person gets involved in ritual magic, they probably aren’t prepared for the amount of artwork they need to create. Wands, altars, and magical tools and weapons all need to be created, typically by hand. This can mean picking up skills like woodworking, sewing, painting, and drawing. As magical work becomes more complex, even metalworking and jewelry-making skills can be necessary.
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Hi everybody! As I am sure you have noticed by now, I am financing this website and my continued work using Patreon. This unfortunately means that a lot less of my new content is appearing here, but I have one piece in particular that I think many readers will be interested in: an audio lecture series on using the Art of Memory to memorize and work with Tarot cards.

Currently I just have part one up, which covers the Minor Arcana pips. If you’re a Patreon patron, you can listen to it here. If you’re not yet one of my Patreon supporters, this series will be available at the $1/month level. That’s so cheap! Go get it.

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Lately I’ve been trying out some dream magic from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM). The PGM is a collection of Greco-Egyptian texts from northern Egypt in late antiquity, dating from 2nd century BCE to the 5th century CE. They describe a staggering array of ancient religious and magical practices, and were originally written in Greek, Demotic, and Coptic. There are quite a few dream oracle spells in the PGM, so I took some time to sort through them to figure out what they have in common and which would be the easiest to perform.
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Working with grimoires and classical magic means needing a deeper understanding of classical and Renaissance astrology. You’ll need to be able to easily access information about the astrological houses, signs, and planets. Inspired by Giordano Bruno, I devised a mnemonic chain that can be used to memorize the twelve houses. The following should be used as an imaginal journey, with each step being envisioned in a way that is equivalent to a moving picture in your mind.

  1. I look in the mirror and see myself
  2. Over my shoulder, a pile of money – currency and specie
  3. I take a quarter and put it into the payphone to call
  4. Home, where my mother tells me a story
  5. About an artist who paints a portrait of her true love,
  6. A physician, who works hard amongst people, toiling to afford
  7. Their wedding, bedecked in flowers and celebration, leading to
  8. Fruitful partnership and joint responsibility in a ship
  9. That sets sail on a long journey to the Academy, where Plato still teaches
  10. And my father sits among them in a place of great honor and respect,
  11. With friends and associates around him, celebrating a long life, all of which leads to
  12. A moment of reflection as the face in the mirror is no longer mine, but everybody’s.

In the Asclepius, we are taught that images which possess movement are ensouled. This means that your memory images should actually move. It should be more like a motion picture than a slide show. Bruno and others also teach us that images that carry emotion along with them are more memorable, so make the images those that inspire strong emotions. Love, awe, lust, humor, and even disgust are all strong emotions that can help your memory images stick around better.

Bruno’s Third Seal: The Chain

In Thirty Seals & The Seal of Seals: A Book of the Art of Memory, Giordano Bruno describes a number of different mnemonic structures to be used for different types of memorization. The third structure is the Chain, which is used to link together related information in a fixed order. He gives an example of a memory chain for the signs of the Zodiac. The great thing about this is that it actually works! I’ve included the Latin below, and if you are interested in a translation, check out Scott Gosnell’s translation on Amazon.

The chain technique is fast and effective, and can be used to store a “linked list” of items much more quickly than a memory palace. Similar techniques are used by practitioners of the Peg System to link items together.

Dux gregis, armenti regem sublatus in iram
   In geminósque pedes, impete fronte ferat.
Vindex menté vacans hinc Taurus concitus, ictu
   Irruit in Geminos impaciente fratres.
Germanos iuuenes affines protinus vndae
   Excipiunt. Cancer rosida prata petit.
Repens obliquó lympharum Cancer alumnus,
   Villosi vultum forte Leonis adit.
Percitus inde leo crinitos surgit in harmos
   Vnde vagans rapidae visa Puella ferae est.
Hanc petit: illa fugit: quae gressu insana fugaci
   Librantem incurrit persica lance virum.
Aestuat hic, cupidis quem dum complexibus haeret:
   Attriti Vermis cuspis adunca ferit.
Formidans laetum medicas dum currit ad artes
   Poné Sagittiferum sentit adesse virum.
Qui modo stuprata, quam credit virgine laesus
   Quo petit hunc iaculo, vulnerat ecce Caprum
Vt primum intrusum ferrum persensit iniqué
   Effugit in rapidas praecipitosus Aquas:
Sic caper anfoelix á gurgite tractus aquarum;
   Insueta inclusis Piscibus esca datur.

The original Latin version is available online at the Twilit Grotto Esoteric Archives, along with much other excellent work.

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