Midsummer, or: the Magic of Tradition

Midsummer is the time of the year when the Nordic heathen tide runs highest. Swedes erect Midsummer poles, a variation of a Germanic maypole, while Finns, Danes, and Norwegians light huge bonfires by the water, adding a warm glow into the bleak light of the nightless night. By the pole or the bonfire, a raucous party is held, typically with dancing, swimming, a sauna, and copious amounts of alcohol.

All over Scandinavia, Midsummer is considered a time sizzling with magic. The old traditions survive, though few take them seriously anymore, choosing instead to partake for fun or out of a respect for tradition. It’s especially a time of fertility, romance, and even promiscuity. Magic reserved for unmarried women takes the center stage: most know how a maiden can use wildflowers in order to see her future husband in a dream, or enchant a crop so that bread made from it works as an aphrodisiac. But other magic is also done in midsummer, for wealth, good crops, healthy livestock, and for divination.

Finland was converted into Christianity fairly late, and even then, the new faith was mostly one for townsfolk. For a long while, the influence of Christianity was seeping into the old ways of the country folk rather than replacing them. Paradoxically, the thin layer of Christian frosting — calling Midsummer St. John’s day, for example — helped Finns preserve the old ways, at least partially, until the present day.

But why is a practitioner of the Left-Hand Path even rambling about traditions, pre-Christian or not? Aren’t we supposed to be Antinomian, discarding the bonfires erected by those around us in order for our inner truth to burn that much brighter?

In this post, I write about three good reasons to appreciate, and to make the most of, tradition. For Northern Europeans, Midsummer makes for an excellent case for each of them, but they can be applied to the traditions local to where you are. Continue reading

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Reframing vs Change

 

Most of us have things we would like to change, something we are working to change, plan to change tomorrow, or when we move to a new town or when the stars are right and so on. Sometimes we believe that we have changed a lot, but our world has the audacity to not acknowledge this, even if we might be looking at it differently. Sometimes we are doing the same thing we have always done (or this is what we believe), but weird things happen. People seem to try to push us in strange directions for obscure reasons, our friends back away, and the job we loved suddenly begins to be a burden. It feels like a small-scale conspiracy going on.

It is not always easy to see when actual change has happened. The response from the world is not what one might expect, even if the change actually is for the better in the long run. Change often disrupts the current balance and threatens what is known as “normal” – and most people dislike that.

In this context I also want to write about Change with a capital C: a permanent difference in you that has made you into something more than you were before the Change happened. Initiation is about causing such Change, often through directed work towards a certain goal.

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Going it Alone: Initiatory Groups and Solo Work

“I’m not one for group work,” says the earnest Seeker. “I’d rather go it alone. My tastes are too weird and quick to evolve for sustaining any cohesive group, plus, I mostly Work on my Self anyway.”

“The Left-Hand-Path and being a member of some group are antithetic to each other”, says the ardent Antinomian.

So when a Novice Magician says, “I need the support of a magical group for my self-development, but I have no idea what that support could be in practice”, the former two balk.

“You don’t need it”, the Seeker says, “you only need yourself”.

“Don’t do it”, says the Antinomian, “you’ll lose track of yourself”.

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…and while our friends can see our faults, they won’t tell.

This is sort of a follow-up post to the one about how we are so blind to our own faults, the aptly named: We know all humans have some common faults, except us. After all, we can see no such faults in ourselves.

To sum up that one a bit:

We know there are common human faults and we can see them in others, but for some reason we seem to think we personally are exceptions. Since we can’t really see our own inconsistencies and faulty thinking very well, and which in some way makes us perceive ourselves as flawless.

We lie to ourselves when it adds  to our current beliefs, making the world a place which is easier to understand and more comfortable (even if our belief is that everything goes to hell, since the point is often to confirm what we already believe, in other words avoiding the unknown), and to make ourselves look better in our own eyes. Or to preserve our current view of ourselves. Others helpfully with these things, and of course we help them in return. To some degree this works, we mostly don’t try to kill each other during normal social interaction even if it does happen. We tend to feel safer when those around us agree with us (echo chambers are comfortable!), despite all incidents of being the last to know because nobody told you, and if you ask why, you are only met with excuses. Others might see us clearer than we do, but they are usually of no help since they don’t tell us.

If you remember the cognitive biases, a lot of them are about (and developed because) we are herd animals on some level. They are probably necessary, and this is a funny thought, if not a very comforting one:  The strange thing seen as normal social interaction based on little lies, misunderstandings and indifference, might actually be the best viable option. These lies have the purpose of making the world seem more consistent and comfortable, catering to the same cognitive biases which keeps fooling us, so they are very easy to make. We all know them. “Of course things are as you want to think they are”.

Comforting thought #2: Other people will help us lie to ourselves to be nice and since they will often see us more clearly than we do, they might be far better at telling us what we want to hear, than we are ourselves. Continue reading

Bird-song and Becoming

I like the winter months. I prefer cold over hot. I like the dark days of winter over the bright sunlit hours of summer. There is little more annoying to me than hearing cries of “I can’t wait for summer!” as soon as the temperature reaches about 15 degrees Celsius. The first sign of thaw means a gateway is opening to hordes of insects, hordes of screaming children, and disgusting heat and humidity. However, the thaw also brings a sense of awe to my ice encased Heart.

The weather has been warm over the past few days. The accumulation of snow and ice has mostly melted. The birds (that is to say those birds who aren’t badassed enough to stay out during the winter months) have started to sing again. Even though this process of thaw happens every year there is something liminal and numinous in the experience. Underlying the reawakening of spring life is an underlying expression of newness and of rebirth. Obviously I’m not stating new insights; spring is often seen as a time of rebirth.

However, most discussions of such renewal are focused on the external world. I mentioned warmth, snow, and bird-song above. These are all descriptions of external phenomena. We can limit our experience and expression of spring to those external phenomena but there is more to it. As Black Magicians we can take these experiences and apply them to our own Initiation in subjectively meaningful ways. For example, when I opened the kitchen window recently I heard a bird singing (a spring bird not one of the awesome all-year-round birds). I stopped what I was doing. I closed my eyes and I listened. I didn’t simply think “Ah yes, a bird is singing…spring is here.” The bird’s song was a signal and reminder for me to be present. Each moment of being present is a potential moment of awe as we come to experience our Self. After months of dark winter silence, the bird-song resonated through me as a reminder to take a new look at my Self. It was a song just for me and I was thankful for it. I’m still not looking forward to the inevitable idiocy of summer but I am happy that the bird-song is back to remind me to be present and to Become.

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(Original image: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=58433&picture=bird)

KonMari like the Devil: how to find True Indulgence

Anyone who fancies themselves more authentic than the masses will concur that many people go through life never even knowing what they like. It’s banally true for the masses of guys on Tinder or Grindr who, when asked what they’re looking for, respond along the lines of “I’m open to a lot of things”. But let’s face it, “I’m open to a lot of things”, if not prefaced by “well, I’m especially keen on foot massages and movie dates, but”, is code for “I have no idea, please don’t reject me”.

But this reality becomes less of a banality when we admit that many of these people who are clueless about their own desires and dislikes are Initiates. This ignorance of desires is a reality for many people who genuinely seek after the mysteries of their own inner selves, including some for whom that search occurs within the Temple of Set.

Sometimes our desires and dislikes are hidden to us because we lack the confidence to state what our own preferences are. We maintain a cautious impartiality, as if looking at options — soup or salad? Suit or sweater? — from the sidelines… and withering away. At other times, our desires and dislikes are concealed by the norms of the society, including its subcultures. This is as true for the married evangelical Christian unable to admit to her own homosexual desires as it is for the jazz lover whose sense of self-worth is so hung up on his lofty musical tastes that he denies his love for Taylor Swift. The theme is present on all levels of likes and dislikes. “This sweater is almost new and the colour is a fashionable green” conceals “I hate it, that’s why I never wore it”. This level of likes and dislikes may seem trivial, but how do you profess to know something about your core Being if you can’t even tell if you like the sweater or not?

I offer a relatively simple antidote for this. Like all antidotes, it can only begin the process of reversing ignorance about our likes and dislikes. Like most, it involves a task that sounds tedious and is surprisingly fun. It draws from two major inspiring figures: Anton LaVey of Church of Satan fame, and queen of neat Marie Kondo.

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Cool combo, right? Continue reading

We know all humans have some common faults, except us. After all, we can see no such faults in ourselves.

The headline is how we often appear to think, since it is how the world might look like. We have this insane blind spot concerning ourselves and even if we know this in theory, it seems to make little change. This is the first of two connected blog posts, this first about why we can’t trust ourselves and the next will be about why we can’t trust our friends, either.

One of the more useful(?) things one can use facebook for, is finding out what or who provokes you, and then analyse why you react to this specific thing. The provocation part often happens all on its own, so this could be said as ‘when something pisses you off, try to understand why’. The theory behind it, which is not wrong in itself, is that we will know our own faults intimately and so be able to see these same ones in others very quickly, since we know all about it.

The more you ‘speak the same language’ as somebody, the more subtle insults you will be able to pull off.. on the other end of the scale is punching somebody in the nose, which is pretty universally understood across different cultures.

 

The ‘if this annoys me, I’m guilty of it’-way of thinking can create some strange loops and questions about what sort of horrible person you really are, because the above theory is only true to some extent. If the fault you perceive in others is something most would react to because it is illegal, harmful to others or at least completely unethical by most standards, you don’t need to do this a lot yourself to object to it. At some point the reason you get provoked will be about something more than projection, but the line can be blurry.

But there are other methods for seeing our own faults and little illusions, which does not serve as an excuse for even more time wasted on social media. Discussing this lead to this blog post about why we can’t be trusted to observe ourselves, and also a follow up one about why we can’t trust our friends either. If it was easy, the world might have looked a bit different. Maybe not better, just different. Anyway!

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