Arbatel Experience - some thoughts on ritual purification

Last Friday I performed the third rite in the Arbatel operation, the ritual of Hagith. It was another wonderful experience that taught me so much about magick, planetary spirits and my own shortcomings in dealing with both of them. While I am writing up the full account I thought it might be worthwhile sharing some general learnings that came with it? So here is a snippet on what this week's rite taught me on creating proper purifications in advance of any ritual...


The key to any successful ritual preparation is to alter your state of consciousness in order to break through perceptive filters which normally inhibit direct experience of and communion with spirits. Therefore the term purification in this case refers to a period in advance of a rite that supports the breaking down of these filters or attachments to everyday life. Similar to most elements in the tradition of the Magickal Grimoires, the actual means to purify our state of mind and living are heavily influenced by a Jewish-Christian worldview. The standard procedures involve multiple weeks of e.g. fasting, cleansing, prayers and isolation.

I feel it’s important to point out, however, that the actual change brought forth by purifications happens in our hearts more than anywhere else. Whatever means we chose to purify our lifestyles, the real aim of the game is to change the state of our heart: Imagine we all had a compass in our hearts and the compass needle would normally be guided by our everyday affections, desires and fears. Then the purification rites are what replaces the magnetic field of our personal desires with a field of devotion to God or the spirits we summon. The foremost goal of purification rites is to change the intention of our hearts.

Martin Buber in his seminal introduction to the Legends of the Baal-Shem summarizes the four aspects of a purified life according to the Chasidim:

  • Hitlawut: is the flare, it is the zeal of ecstasy. A flaming sword guards the path to the tree of life. It sputters on the touch of Hitlawut.
  • Awoda: is devotion. If Hitlawut is the mystical feast, Awoda is the mystical sacrifice. All deeds bound into one and eternal life embedded into every action.
  • Kavanah: is the mystery of a soul directed towards a single goal.
  • Shiflut: is humbleness. It is the awareness of the uniqueness of each aspect of creation. It is the awareness that doesn’t compare two things but surrounds each of them with the love it deserves because of what it is alone.

Martin Buber’s wonderful introduction together with Aaron Leitch’s chapter on purification and prayer should suffice for anybody to get to the bottom of what purification rites in magickal rituals are all about. It might take a lifetime, however, to fully express and experience it in your own way. Or as Lou Reed put it:

“Between thought and expression lies a lifetime.”

Alright, enough deviation. Here is what this has to do with my rite for Hagith: I really think my preparatory purification for this rite didn’t get close enough to what I am sharing above. Here is what it consisted of:

  • Continued abstinence of meat, alcohol and cigarettes since the beginning of the Arbatel operation, i.e. August 2010
  • Setting the day of the Hagith operation one week in advance and consciously focussing on the forthcoming ritual during every day of that week
  • Dedicating the full day of the operation to the work, including several hours of preparatory work (e.g. creating the Lamen) and meditation
  • Ritual cleansing, bath and meditation before the performance of the rite

Now, before I started to perform the ritual I thought this was a pretty solid approach to changing the intention of my heart. And it was. But I forgot about everything outside of it. When I cleaned and prepared my temple on the morning of that day I forgot to realize that the atmosphere in it was cold and damp from the long winter months during which it hadn't been used. I did realize a lot of large spiders and white cobwebs behind the black curtains - but here we are living on the countryside and I guess building a temple into an old barn will always come with these types of silent visitors. Yet, what I overlooked was that the presence of spiders and cobwebs should have pointed me to the astral state of my temple: the energy was low and there were certainly some astral cobwebs on the curtains. I should have purified it by burning menthol crystals and performed a ritual cleansing of the entire sacred space. Perform a ritual act to revive the energies sleeping in the astral patterns of the temple so that they would actively vibrate and resonate when I entered for the Hagith rite at night... I took this as a deep learning and hope not to repeat it too soon: as a magician it is just so easy to become overly focussed on ourselves and forget about the world we are living in. 

As always good old Martin Buber hit it right on when he quoted the Chasid wisdom:

“Don’t look at yourself but look at the world around you.”