There are a number of things in the air lately, shadow people, sigilmancy, and new gates to the Dreamlands… I’ll try and encapsulate them all without getting too long-winded.
I’ve spoken about the Shadow People before. It is said that the shadow people came into popular consciousness with this episode of Coast to Coast AM Radio featuring Art Bell and his primary guest, ‘Thunder Strike.’
In this broadcast it is mentioned that the Shadow People are here to feed off of our negative emotions, that they are spirit entities and our darkness is their food. The Shadow, as it is defined by Jung, is mentioned in a recent tweet from Mitch Horowitz citing Gary Lachman’s recent article in New Dawn Magazine where he offers his perspective on Jordan Peterson:
“[Peterson has an] obsession with what C. G. Jung… called ‘the shadow’ in the human psyche [which] gave rise to a fascination in him with totalitarian ideologies and the question of how human beings can be so enamored of their belief systems that they were willing to engage in global conflict — even annihilation — rather than abandon them.”
In Jung’s work, Aion, he engages directly with The Shadow, which is part of a trinity, tripartite divinities are also in the air for me this week:
“Whereas the contents of the personal unconscious are acquired during the individual’s lifetime, the contents of the collective unconscious are invariably archetypes that were present from the beginning... The archetypes most clearly characterized... are the shadow, the anima, and the animus... The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort... recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real... Closer examination of the [shadow] reveals that [it has] an emotional nature, a kind of autonomy... an obsessive... possessive quality… Though the shadow is a motif as well known to mythology as anima and animus, it represents first and foremost the personal unconscious, and its content can therefore be made conscious without too much difficulty.”
If we take out Jung’s assertion that these are aspects of the self and recognize the shadow as possibly an aggregate of spirit forms that reside in, or rather, ride a human, these phrases take on a different character, in fact explaining and verifying the lens offered in the Coast to Coast AM broadcast, The unconscious into the conscious is both the act of Red Booking one’s dreams and of Sigil Magic. If we recognize the Shadow as a representative of the spirit world inside of us, then the secret to successful journeying and sigilmancy is establishing a dialog with this spirit aggregate known collectively as The Shadow. The Shadow believes its own lies, and thinks it is a part of us as it rides us. Humans have their own spirit however, which exists alongside the Shadow. The Shadow Men are often the first spirit form a human can ‘learn’ to see. They are the closest spirit forms to us because, as is mentioned by Bell’s guest, they exist as a symbiotic parasite, symbiots (if I am allowed to get all Star Trek-y) are as much a part of their host as they are separate from it.
The Shadow Men are often the first spirit form a human can ‘learn’ to see. I think, in my personal practice this last year and a half, it might be the only spirit forms I’ve seen. I’ve reported on seeing grey smudges after calling the Devil at Chinatown’s Dragon’s Gate, way back when I attempted the Birto operation I distinctly remember a black figure rising out of the floor. At the time, I thought it might have been Birto, that I put in place to many substitutions in the ritual to really bring him out… but now, maybe, maybe that wasn’t it. The Birto operation had a lot of anxiety and fear attached to it, perfect food for the Shadow Men. The more I think on this, and the more magic I practice, the more sightings I have. A few weeks ago, on the first temperate morning, after being inspired by the Marcus Matawhero interview on Rune Soup, I journeyed on and worked hard at communicating with the river near my house, part of that practice involved a 4 AM bike ride along its length and passionate appeal on a bridge over that small river. During that bit of practice I felt a sense of dread and fear and for certain saw a Shadow Man in my peripheral vision, but when I internally examined the feelings, they were attached to nothing. I live in a safe suburban area, there was nothing to fear. The fear and dread felt almost projected onto me, but I also felt to some degree, protected. I think that might have been the first bit of contact from the river, or at least, from another spirit type other than the Shadow Men. It felt different, it still gave me that pit in the stomach feeling but the fear filled me up instead of, I don't know, leaving me feeling empty, siphoned off of...
Since that time, I have been drawn to water more than usual, especially when it comes to magical operations, sigils in particular. Asking the permission of, and then casting sigils into bodies of water has produced some of the first trackable metrics I’ve had when performing sigil magic, the rest has just been guesses. Aligning with the spirit (or spirits) of a body of water when performing sigil magic works, at least for me.
Jung speaks on the importance of water through a gnostic lens in Aion as well. From the text:
“The agent is an inanimate and in itself passive substance, water. It is drawn from the depths of the well, handled by human hands, and used according to man’s needs. It signifies the visible doctrine, the aqua doctrine or the Logos, communicated to others by word of mouth and by ritual… The Logos [is] a philosophical idea and abstraction... the dynamic power of thoughts and words... It is... hypostatized to a high degree: it is real water, and not figurative water, that is used in ritual… [Water is] of a numinous nature and therefore [has] a degree of autonomy… the Naassenes... taught that the four rivers of Paradise correspond to the eye, the ear, the sense of smell, and the mouth. The mouth, through which prayers go out and food goes in, corresponds to the fourth river, the Euphrates… As the reference to John 4:10 shows, the wonderful water of the Euphrates has the property of the aqua doctrine, which perfects every nature in its individual and thus makes man whole too. It does this by giving him a kind of magnetic power by which he can attract and integrate that which belongs to him.”
So just like The Shadow, Jung lends a statistically significant amount of agency to water, treating it as close to an animate living spirit entity as his era and discipline aloud him to (publicly). I read this as an acknowledgement that water is the perfect vehicle for sigils, in a Gnostic frame, as all bodies of water are connected to the Euphrates, the carrier of all prayers, either literally (if the body of water connects to the ocean as does the Euphrates), aerially, or chthonically via underground rivers and aquifers.
While I was in San Francisco last week, along with my revisiting of the Mission Dolores Dead and upgrading my rosary tech, I did perform one other piece of practice. I was trying to limit myself, so I didn’t get confused as to what worked and what didn’t, like after last year’s visit. My last day there, however, I knew I was going to be on the waterfront, and I didn’t want to let the opportunity to ask that queen of all water, that limitless mother of abominations, the Pacific Ocean, if she would care for a handful of meager sigils I had been working on that week. I arrived early, before my technical workshop located in the Fort Mason Center, found a bench as close to the water as I could get, and started what Jason Spadafore described on the latest Glitch Bottle podcast as a self-initiatory act, praying the rosary. Again, like in the Mission, once I reached the sixth and seventh sorrow, I got that feeling that the magic had ‘kicked in,’ and that I was in the right space to focus on opening up the communication channel. It went as one would expect, such a giant and all consuming force that is the largest ocean on the planet, it was very much like sitting at the foot of an Old One, a mix of indifference and overwhelming connectedness. I sat there, watching the swells of waves that seemed gentle but would smash my body to pieces if I were caught in them, roll towards me between the piers of the Fort Mason Center. This fort, by the way, was a gateway to the largest act of intentional killing and death we’ve ever perpetrated, the Pacific Theater during World War II. The vast majority of ships left for the conflict from this very place. I was not oblivious to this, and made sure that my intentions were not filled with love and light, but of respect and the right amount of terror and humility. There were, I will point out, not Shadow Men feeding on me this trip. I think that might be the first goal, the first gate, of regular practice. Replacing an ego-based fear, the kind that lead to the attachment to world-views that launched so many ships from the place I was sitting, to an externalized reverence for the Wild Adversary.
I don’t know how much time passed, probably not much, but I was deep in the meditation when to my right I heard a familiar squawk. I looked up to see a gull perched quite close on a bright yellow bollard. The last time I had done this type of work had been with the Milwaukee River. That was the time I received very clear results from the spell. The sign I had latched onto was the appearance of a gull beside me with a fish, which it proceeded to eat alive, a blood sacrifice. Seagulls are the animal I most identify with, and not by choice (at least not my choice). I was identified with the gull by my late Ojibwe mentor, Ayabe. I used to work as an HVAC maintenance mechanic and that was my career when I knew him. I told more than my share of seagull stories as I shared the roofs of Milwaukee with them for years. One day, as a joke that he found quite funny, he called me Gayashkwinini. ‘Gayashk’ is the word for seagull (modeled after their call) and ‘inini’ is the word for man. Seagull Man is as close to an Indian name as I’ll ever get. Being as white as a winter night is long, Ayabe’s endearing nickname for me is all I really deserve anyway. Indian names belong to Indians. Nevertheless, I have internalized it, seagulls are my thing, and I listen when they speak. I rose from my spot, cast my four sigils into arguably the oldest and largest aggregate spirit form on our planet.
OK, I said I wasn’t going to be long winded, but with good practice comes the inspiration to write about it, to share it with all of you. Let’s break for some imbrications. Our first one this week has clear associations with our theme. They are The Ocean, offering for us their song, Firmament:
This exercise has lead me to so many wild discoveries, and our next imbrication is one of those. Before this week I had no exposure to the psychedelic rock band that took their name wholesale from the subject of our study, H.P. Lovecraft. Below are two versions of their song, The White Ship, the first is the well recorded track and the second a cutting room floor version of them performing the track live, in case you, like me, aren’t fully convinced they were a real thing (spoiler: they totally were).
and finally, let’s get a better look at these cats, with the slightly better video evidence of their song, I've Been Wrong Before:
If you haven’t put it together yet, our Lovecraft tale this week is none other than The White Ship. We are introduced to one Basil Eaton, described as the keeper of the North Point Light. Lighthouses are very close cousins to towers, so they fit our aesthetic perfectly. This is another one of Lovecraft’s tales, like Saint Ibid’s skull in Solomon Juneau’s cabin and Bloch’s ghost home on Knapp street, that takes place in Milwaukee, WI. Lovecraft is very specific with the name of the lighthouse, North Point Light. His ties to Milwaukee and Wisconsin are deep, he had many friends here besides Bloch and corresponded with them regularly, his use of the exact name of Milwaukee’s iconic lighthouse, located in Lake Park, marks it as the departure point, the Gateway to the Dreamlands, described in The White Ship.
While Lovecraft’s keeper, Basil Eaton, is a man, North Point Light’s longest running keeper was one Georgia Stebbins, a fact that will have significance once we map our tale to the tarot.
Basil speak on his isolation, hermitage being another quality of a Lovecraftian Mage, when he says that he:
“Feels alone, as if he is the only human left on the planet…”
He also speaks on gaining wisdom by communing with the spirit bodies of water. This is the exact same sentiment we saw in our peek into the gnostic view of water, reading the spirit body as a tome, the sea as a grimoire:
“more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of the [sea]. Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent... At first it told to me only the plain little tales of calm beaches and near ports, but with the years it grew more friendly and spoke of other things; of things more strange and more distant in space in time… Sometimes at twilight the grey vapors of the horizon have parted to grant me glimpses of the ways beyond… to grant me glimpses of the way beneath.”
We are shown that the sea is a gate, a portal, a doorway. And as in the Dream Quest and the Unnameable, gateways to and from the Dreamlands are often connected to or located inside of towers. Departing from the North Point Light, Basil enters the Dreamlands and visits the lands of Zar, populated with forgotten dreams. This is perhaps a nod to those dreams that escape us when we lapse in our Red-Booking, in our proper journeying practice. He visits Thalarion, which is filled with demons, or dreams of non-human spirit entities - dreams that humans have no conception of. There is also Xura where unobtained pleasures walk the streets, and Sona-Nyl, the ‘Land of Fancy’ where no time or space or suffering or death exists. Here Basil languishes but despite the timelessness and the escape from Samsara, he (like most humans) is not satisfied. He longs from Cathuria, the Land of Hope.
After embarking for his final destination, he finds himself ejected from the Dreamlands:
“So to the sound of melody the White Ship sailed into the mist betwixt the basalt pillars of the West. And when the music ceased and the mist lifted, we beheld not the Land of Cathuria, but a swift-rushing resistless ea... on the far horizon ahead the titanic spray of a monstrous cataract, wherein the oceans of the world drop down to abysmal nothingness... Then... I opened my eyes and beheld myself upon the platform of that lighthouse from whence I had sailed so many aeons ago.”
It is telling that the Land of Hope is a place where Lovecraft will not let the feet of humans walk. If I were to translate this into magical tech, I would say that Lovecraftian Magical Journeying can only result in a sense of timelessness, a way to exist out of space. It cannot be used towards the greater good of mankind. It is an individual magic whose purpose is solace, a balm for troubled souls.
Our tarot trump, our match to our archetype, the North Point Light, is the High Priestess. This is one of the odd cards in the Etteilla deck. It’s title is ‘Repos’ or Rest and the image on the card is of Eve, the Serpent, and the Tree of Knowledge. The North Point Light as a gate to the Dreamlands is the Lovecraftian Mage’s stark white limbless tree, and the moon in the tale is our apple. The serpent, in this analogy, is the promise of hope.
Repose, deconstructed, takes us back to the Latin term repos-, a stem of repiner, which means to ‘put back, lay out, or to stretch away from’. The sea is an embodiment of the word. Repose, and the idea of rest, is also a neat vector into the primary imagery in the Sola-Busca correspondence to The High Priestess.
Our match to the Sola-Busca is not 1:1 either. I have found that, while the Sola-Busca trumps by and large diverge from the traditional ones as set forth by the Visconti-Sforza, the position in the major arcana is a good indicator of the match between the two. Therefore, I took a closer look at the third trump in the Sola-Busca, number two, Postumio.
This card is mapped to Lucius Postumius Albinus by Peter Mark Adams in The Game of Saturn; an assertion I agree with. Lucius Postumius Albinus was the praetor of Hispanic Ulterior - of which the most powerful city was Corma, now known as Carmona (more evidence that the Sola-Busca was a predecessor to our modern day game of Risk). Carmona is the site of a large and rich Roman necropolis, where there is extensive evidence of cremation. This connects the skull and the torch being held by the figure in the card above with the city and in particular, the necropolis. The Roman Goddess of cemeteries is Trivia, part of a trinity of Goddesses, Trivia, Luna, and Dina. The crossroads and the cemetery are synonymous in Trivia, the Moon is the governor of the ocean, and Diana, the goddess of the hunt. This trinity is embodied by The High Priestess, and in Etteilla’s deck, by Eve herself. Eve, in her act of procuring the fruit of the tree of knowledge, was the first bringer of age, death, and fear to humankind. Eve, like Trivia, is the mother of cemeteries, for without her, there would be no need for them. Without Trivia, there would be no place for our final rest.
Our archetype, the North Point Light, is a female tower as her primary caregiver, Miss Georgia, would have imparted to her many of those qualities, the undeniable strength and adaptability of the woman. She stands still on the bluffs of Lake Michigan, what the Ojibwe call Gichigami, or Great Water, a cognate of Gichimanidoo, the Great Spirit. She stands there still, a signpost marking the gate to Lovecraft’s Dreamland via the aqua doctrinae, The Grimoire of the Mother of Abominations, that magic, that element, that gives both our lives and our deaths, the most meaning.