There has been a bit of intellectual and synchronitic fallout since the Feast Days of Saint Cyprian. I prayed every morning for nine days, lighting a new candle every day on my new altar. The first half of the feast days my prayers were rote, as they are offered in Pieces of Eight and in the Book of St. Cyprian.
About half-way through though, something shifted, and I began speaking in plain language to the sorcerer saint. I made promises to him that I will fulfill if what I asked for manifests. Maybe I asked the wrong things, maybe I asked to much, maybe he just wasn’t listening, I don’t know. It feel quiet again and aside for two small events that seem to have the potential to align with my entreaties and a renewal of that chemical body buzz when I say my planetary prayers and my prayers to him and Saint Barbara, there was no great boulder cracking or earth shaking.
It makes me think of appropriation and the very Western obsession with blood quantum’s and how genetics are tied to culture and appropriation. I’m not Portuguese, my background is German and Swedish and Irish. Saint Cyprian has touched the Netherlands, that is on record. Is that enough to build a bridge from him to me? Or is the idea of one’s genetic code being the marker for what magic one can practice complete bulldada? And if THAT is true, what does that say about magic and cultural appropriation of magic that ‘might’ not belong to you?
One thing is clear, I am practicing again, and after my Nadir, it was hard to get that started, which makes magic a little like going to gym after your birthday or New Years, but in a less psychologically disrupting way.
Another thing I realized was that I had completely lost track of the Decans and had walked the gate of the first degree of Libra twice, skipping the third degree of Virgo. I’m not sure that is a repairable breach and I might have to start that clock over. The cost is minimal, only a year of my life. Walking the Decans has me thinking more and more about the Necronomicon I have sitting on my shelf but have yet to crack, and the Book of Oberon. Walking the Decans is, I believe, conditioning me to walk the gates of the Necronomicon or ‘work’ the entire Book of Oberon (but how do I avoid strangling and draining small animals of their blood - I haven’t worked that out).
I guess my real lesson coming out of the Feast Days of St Cyprian is that magic begets more magic, you can put hell money on that.
A little housekeeping is due this week as well. Before the feast days of St. Cyprian, I posted on the second King on the stage at our paranormal prom, Henry Wentworth Akeley, but in my haste I did not map Mr. Akeley back to the tarot, as I normally do.
Akeley, the Good and Severe Man, is the best match for the King of Wands. The Holistic Tarot describes the King of Wands as creative and filled with energy. Akeley, through his letters, exhibits a type of constrained creativity, a willingness to look at solutions just outside of what is accepted as normal. Akeley as the academic returned to the rustic, is brash and temperamental, especially when defending his physical and intellectual property. Now, as an older man living on the side of Dark Mountain and defending his home nightly from an onslaught of black magicians and extra-stellar threats, he relies on his intuition to continue to learn about his enemy and defends his findings through fiery and articulate prose.
As I was performing research at work this week for a presentation others are going to do (which is my preferred way to participate in formal presentations, lol), I had my media player tuned to a playlist filled with John Zorn’s ‘Book of Angels’ compositions, along with some other related music.
This track came on and it just dug into me, right, Kimmo Pohjenen’s ‘Allo’ from his Uniko album.
There isn’t much music to this track, it is more of a gut feeling of something being horribly wrong expressed through electronics and accordion. I’ve included it below, along with two other videos of Kimmo in performance.
He has been described as the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion, but he, and his music, is so much more than that.
The reason I picked the Book of Angels is because I’ve been noodling on the idea of music or noise as a form of initiation ever sense hearing the interview with Douglas Lucas on the Into the Dark podcast that talks about it. Then, as icing on the cake, Lucas mentions that he has a tape label *swoon* of initiatory noise sigils... I bought the Anger / Butler duet and plan on posting a review of the experience when it slithers its way into my postbox.
The Uniko track Allo’, and Kimmo’s work in general really fit that Lovecraftian imbricated ambience for me this week.
Check em out!
BETWEEN VIRTUE AND RITUAL
Before I get to our third King, Mr. Noyes, there is that Cyprianic magical fall out to deal with first. Much of it is potentially and peripherally relevant to our discussion of the third king, the representative of the occult elite.
The first pieces of armchair shrapnel I’d like to look at is below, coming from the Book of Saint Cyprian, the context is Cyprian’s meeting with Lucifer after he refused to obey the saint’s command to stay put.
“Cyprian punishes Lucifer, and, after punishing him, placed a precept on him so as he could never again make a pact with anyone else.
It is this precept that does not allow the Devil to appear to us, only under obligation from God or from all the Saints.”
When we talk about occult elites, we are really talking about ritual magicians, right? And if we are talking about ritual magic, we are talking about grimoires. And if we are talking about grimoires, we are talking about hierarchy.
Does this account place Cyprian at the top of the hierarchy of Hell? For if Lucifer cannot appear without ‘permission from all the Saints (permission one presumably obtains from Cyprian) can any of the demons of hell?
Also from the ‘Book’, there is this passage, introducing the reader to St. Bartholomew.
“In a book, very much esteemed and very much unknown even to the majority of well learned men whose title is Life and Miracles of St. Bartholomew, we have found a way of making the cross of this saint..."
St Bartholomew is in The Golden Legend, so maybe this tale is perhaps referring to the source of the material found there? Is this secret book of folk magic another vector into Lovecraft, is this book of the Life and Miracles of St. Bartholomew a twin to the Necronomicon? It certainly has the same shape.
The residual impact of reading both the Book and the Immaterial Book of Saint Cyprian is the consistent, what I see as contradictions, between grimoire magic and folk magic. It seems that Cyprian is a champion of both systems and his book and his legends show this split. For instance, in describing a particular magical spell, the following phrase is used:
“This is by occult virtue, and does not require a pact with the Devil, as the Bruxhas perform.”
What is occult virtue? The context lends me to think that it is from a system of magic that predates the idea of the Devil and certainly that of Lucifer. There are a number of these pre-Christian shapes in the Book of Saint Cyprian, much like the werebeast myths / shaman / skinwalkers I mentioned last week. Regardless, occult virtue is an interesting proto-idea offered by the Book of Saint Cyprian that can be folded into existing magical practice, I think. This idea intersects with Lovecraft and in particular Whisperer in the Dark because of the different levels (maybe that isn’t right because it implies hierarchy) of magical practice that are described or alluded to.
If you read any Lovecraft, you’ll know that ‘place’ and ‘doors’ are a huge theme that repeat throughout the entire work. If you’ve gone through ’Twin Peaks: The Return’, you’ll be familiar with this concept - only very specific places are the location for certain doors between ecologies (I like that better than ‘worlds’ or ‘dimensions’) and those doors can only be open if things are done in that place in a very specific way. Tugging on the concept of ‘occult virtue’, this is a bridge between Solomonic Magic and Occult Virtue (magical practice whose superhero origin story takes place sometime prior to Christ the Magician. Take, for an example, the below quote from the Immaterial Book that describes a very specific boulder in which an enchanted treasure hides:
“The boulder has a round crack at its center, from top to bottom, and, when hit by any object makes a sound like a bunch of bells."
This reminds me of something that Gordon White mentions (I forget if it is in his Premium Member Q+A or one of his public forums) about his visit to Gobleki Tepi - where the carven monuments all resonate with a tone when struck. Continuing the excerpt:
“And they went there on a certain night. The men dug, dug, and the priest was reading the Book of St. Cyprian. At a certain point, they found a door, from where the Devil came out to take the soul of the Galician."
As mentioned above, the devil appearing from a door is very Lovecraftian for their are almost always gates or doors as barriers between the two worlds and a desire of the human party to break down that barrier. The need to be in at this certain place is also an edge connecting Lovecraft to Cyprian and by extension, the wider magical ecology.
Another clear theme from Immaterial is that all of the men and women that try to disenchant treasure (or practice magic in general), unless of the Priest Class, are plebeian, none are rich or elite and certainly none are magicians. This places the practice of Cyprianic magic in a different frame than that of Solomonic magic, which was practiced by an upper class of individuals originally. Lovecraft fills his grimoire with these same ‘rustics’ (I like that term, I grew up as one and even though a city rat now, will always be ‘from the hills’, the son of a pig farmer).
The above quote shows that other side of practice also, when it drives home that adherence to the letter of the ritual is necessary and leaving it incomplete invites disaster on the practitioner. So on one hand we have ‘occult virtue’, which can be undertaken and predates Solomonic ritual forms, but nonetheless is a formula that needs to be followed to get the desired result.
Cyprian, as Jake Stratton Kent states in The Testament of Cyprian the Mage, has a foot in the Old World and in the New. Through reading his ‘Corporeal’ Book and his ‘Immaterial’ Book over the past week and a half I’ve found him to be more like a bridge, forms that are described in ‘Immaterial’ are familiar to me now. I’ll offer one final excerpt from a legend reported in Immaterial as an example:
“A LONG TIME AGO, IN San Leonardo de Galafura, there lived a Moura called Lady Mirra...”
a more refined definition of Lady Mirra is offered in Leitao’s footnote:
“although this is mostly true in the Algarve (far south of Portugal), the word ‘mirra’ can also mean a skeleton (as well as the funerary incense myrrh).”
The account of Lady Mirra continues:
“Legend says that there was a man who tried to disenchant [Lady Mirra]. He entered [her] cave and walked for such a long time that he took [the corn bread offering he carried] and ate one of the four parts. A little further on, he came across a three-legged horse. The man mounted the horse for this would take him to [Lady Mirra], and further down he met a woman who was half snake. This was not the moura, but rather just an obstacle... he was afraid [and] no one heard from him again.”
Is Lady Mirra and early form of Santa Muerte? If so, then can one secret to gaining her favor be an offering of corn bread cut into four parts and the reading of the Book of St Cyprian backwards? Can this beginning to invocations work at all caves? Or a particular one. Is there a place where Santa Muerte is actually buried?
And, in one final nod to the ritual / virtue dichotomy, the Immaterial book mentions that the new printed versions of the book are no good or don’t work - whereas the manuscript copies (presumably) do. In the Corporeal there are few signs, seals, sigils, or circles, which are (again, presumably) some of the items or preparations mentioned as necessary in the Immaterial Book’s legends - perhaps this is what is missing from the printed versions? Leitao mentions in a footnote that where the ‘seal of Solomon’ is mentioned it is short hand for a pentagram. Is it more? Meaning is this a degradation of ritual practice with much more complicated seals? Or is it less? Is the pentagram being used here a tie back to when that sign was first engineered and then represented by human hands?
Piecing together ritual is something that is required when investigating the role of Mr Noyes, who introduces the wickedness into the gloom and foreboding of Whisperer in the Darkness. Mr. Noyes is the elitist practical occultist in opposition to the armchair folk magician who is Henry Akeley. ‘Whisperer’ is, in a sense, a micro-grimoire - a bit of a culmination of the rest of the Lovecraftian grimoire. For instance, in Akeley’s second letter to Wilmarth, we have what amount to a spirit list:
The Lake of Hali
The Yellow Sign
The Magnum Innominandum
There are also correspondence of sorts included here, such as the relationship between the Winged Ones, the pinking things, and the Yeti or Mi-Go.
There are specific dates, which should be familiar to us, Akeley’s wax cylinder (so many cylinder’s in Whisperer) recording is cited to have been recorded on May 1st at 1 AM, which in the proper (non-Western) treatment of time, such as we see in the Hygromantiea, this is really Walpurgistnacht as the ‘day’ of Beltane does not begin at midnight in this system, but at dawn.
And much like our dear friend the Greek Magical Papyri, we are offered a fragmentary invocation, and a few more spirits to add to our list:
“is the Lord of the Woods, even to... and the gifts of the men of Leng... so from the wells of night to the gulfs of space, and from the gulfs of space to the wells of night, ever praises of Great Cthulhu, of Tsathoggua, and him Who is not Named. Ever their praises, and abundance to the Black Goat of the Woods. Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!
Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!
And it has come to pass that the Lord of the Wood, being... seven and nine, down the onyx steps... tributes to him in the Gulf, Azathoth, He of Whom Thou hast taught us marvels... on the wings of night out beyond space, out beyond th... to That whereof Yuggoth is the youngest child, rolling alone in black aether at the rim...
...go out among men and find the ways thereof, that He in the Gulf may know. To Nyarlothep, mighty messenger, must all things be told. And He shall put on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe that hides, and come down from the world of Seven Suns to mocks...
Nyarlothep, Great Messenger, bringer of strange joy to Yuggoth through the void, Father of the Million Favored Ones, Stalker among…”
It is revealed near the end of Whisperer, that the human voice on the wax cylinder is none other than the Boston elite (I derive this from the description of his accent and later, his clothes and demeanor), Mr. Noyes.
Mr. Noyes is first encountered in the flesh, for he is a very human element of this tale, after Wilmarth receives the last letter from ‘Akeley’. A letter with the same intelligent level of prose but in a wholly different tone. This letter is different as well in that it is typed instead of handwritten. One can read into this event, right, the shift from the folklorist’s handwritten letters to one typed on the latest technology. Through the context of the story, I have derived that this is the machine that would have been used to type that letter, the newest model at the time, the Corona 4 from 1928.
I like to add these sign posts, this is something you can go out and find, touch, use, I like the idea of technology as a gate and how analog writing technology now has the same ‘feel’ as the scribe-written manuscripts and codices of old.
Mr. Noyes, in our mapping of the archetypes of the Tarot over the Lovecraft Grimoire, fits nicely over the King of Swords. He is our third king, watching as Cthulhu and Medusa retire for a time to their requisite cliques of acolytes, to enjoy some henbane punch and mandrake bites while the music plays on and the lights dance on an empty gymnasium floor.
Holistic Tarot describes the King of Swords as being detached from others, someone that is overcautious, a man of action, leadership, and effective management of the ambitions of others. Benebell Wen describes him as a guardian of social order, and as a Boston elite, who better to take on that role (for if the order is dismantled, so is that elite status). He is ambitious and articulate. If Mr. Noyes was the author of Akeley’s last letter, then this is true of him too. Mr. Noyes is the voice on the wax cylinder speaking the words of that deranged incantation in the dark of the wild Vermont woods. We know though, that for the Beast with One Thousand Young to appear, there needs to be more then just words, as is told to us in the Book of Saint Cyprian:
“There are many people who say that magic is performed with magical words, this is false, however, for there is no magic which operates through words, what may be said is that without words nothing can be done; but words are worthless without certain other things which have magical power, and these are also worthless by themselves”
but on the other hand (or tentacle) we have this concept of ‘occult virtue’, which is closer to the other side of the gauge, where magic is a part of the natural world and as such, does not require the very human convention of words and symbols in order to work.
Grant Morrison invokes the occult virtue side of Lovecraft in his prose poem ‘Lovecraft in Heaven’, which can be found in The Starry Wisdom compilation, edited by David Mitchell. In that piece, Morrison describes this state:
“Sweet rotten scent of biological mystery... The thing is coming up from the depths, getting bigger and bigger. It is vast and primitive and he knows it’s name.”
In trying to wrap my mind around the faint touches and silence I experience from Saint Cyprian and this newfound Lovecraft as Cyprianic as Lovecraftian vein I’ve tapped. This quote frpm Morrison ‘almost’ gets there - biological mystery, in Haraway’s context, approaching an ecology of the spirit world with the same understanding a human can muster of the world of bacteria or the kingdom of insects, that describes the affect of occult virtue. And in juxtaposition to the phrase above where the Book of Saint Cyprian decries the use of words alone as a method of plugging into the spirit ecology:
“becoming a thing of words, a word-crab built for descent into the dark. His stories have turned on him in the wet interior light, growing beyond his control...”
Morrison captures, not only my deeper suspicions on the use of words in magic, but also an apt description of Mr. Noyes’ relationship with the ‘Pinking Things’ from ‘Whisperer in the Dark’. Morrison continues this prose investigation of words:
“Stories disintegrate and fill the room like flying ash. Ash in his head. A blizzard of atomic debris, stories tearing themselves apart, reconfiguring, creating new stories endlessly. A carrion storm of words earring him from within, descending upon him from outside. His soul, at last, faces annihilation... Ideas condense from nuclear chaos. Lovecraft stops at the top of the thill to make some notes in his black book... He invents the blasphemous Necronomicon, only partially aware of the fact that he is evoking the Book into being. He is Abdul Al Hazred, ‘Slave of the Presence’... He is unwriting the universe... defiling white paper”
’Stories disintegrate and fill the room like flying ash…’, is this not a description of the Immaterial Book of Saint Cyprian? Stories that have never been written down, passed amongst the rustic hills of the countries that Cyprian blesses with his presence, his presence, another familiar bit. Where Morrison describes the author of the Necronomicon as the ‘Slave of the Presence’, this is the same phrasing used by Cyprian when he exclaims who is new master is after being saved. Cyprian says in his meeting with the fourteen ghost witches, over and over, that he is the ‘Slave of the Lord’.
Also in ‘The Starry Wisdom’, hidden in the back of the word-closet, is an essay from Phil Hine entitled ‘Cthulhu Madness’. Hine goes even further towards the virtue side of our occult ritual / virtue gauge. He begins with the strong statement that:
“Those who would sanitise magic, whitening out the wildness with explanations borrowed from pop psychology or science... madness is still something we fear”
I’m not saying Solomonic ritual is what he is describing above, but prescriptivist views of magic pulled from fragmentary texts, texts that almost admit themselves that they’ve been altered and are unreliable (as the Book of Saint Cyprian does), these views are sanitized in a manner of speaking, are approaching something with the same hard geometric surface as Cartesian science. Hine continues with what I feel is as close to a description as Noyes’ experience in the woods of Dark Mountain, invoking the Old Ones with the help of some Plutonian Space Crabs:
“Walking through a forest. It is pouring rain. The trees are bare of leaves, slimy mud churning underfoot... clutching fingers attempting to snare the sky, as winding tentacles. Cthulhu is all around us. It is a squid-thing, bestial, dragon-winged - a theriomorphic image...”
and even though Noyes is our elite occultist and with that status must come a type of arrogant confidence, once that invocation recorded on the wax cylinder is successful, I imagine echoing these words from Hine:
“All pretense at being a Magician has failed. This thing is too big. I can’t banish it and even if I could, I have a strong sense that I mustn’t”
Mr. Noyes as the King of Swords is the occult project manager [insert circle thrice blog post] who is trying to apply this logic and reason to a spirit ecology filled with chaos.
In closing, I will leave you with this final quote from Hine’s essay, which says what I feel is the truth here better than I can express it:
“There’s something gut-wrenching, exciting, awful - romantic - about Lovecraftian magic. Contrast it with the plethora of books available on different magical ‘systems’ which abound in modern bookshops. Symbols everywhere - everything has become a symbol, and somehow... less real... experiences have had the feeling boiled out of them, into short descriptions and lists...”