On the Limited Lifespan of our Magical Tools
This week I took down my temple and gathered all my ritual implements. All of them needed to go. For one last time I made contact again with all the living tools that had helped me to unlock so many doors and contact so many beings. Then something struck me out of nowhere. Something I had known from day one, something that had actually had been the trigger to build up my first temple decades ago and always remained with me ever since - yet, something I had always misunderstood.
In our Western Magical Tradition (WMT) we believe that each created form has at least two aspects. A physical one as well as an astral one. The physical aspect roots the object in the realm of material creation, the astral form links it back to the realm of the spirit. Within the object both aspects are interconnected, like the two sides of a mirror.
Now, traditionally WMT magicians - especially male ones I shall emphasise - will spent a significant amount of their time crafting ritual implements. The commonly held believe is that in order to conduct rituals of a higher order certain tools are needed. These paraphernalia are used as part of ritual movements and the magician's imagination and thus allow specialised actions which in return lead to communion with certain kinds of beings and the direction of their related forces. The process of creating these types of tools is twofold as both a material as well as an astral form need to be designed, created and consecrated for them to work effectively. Both processes can either be conducted by the mage in isolation - or with the assistance of the spirits or contacts he or she desires to work with.
Either way, no later than when the magician is actively applying these tools in rituals they will come in touch with living forces that in return will leave an imprint on their astral forms. Thus the more the tools are used ritually, the more they will become affected or ‘marked’ by both the mental powers of the magician as well as the spirits contacted. Such paraphernalia - assuming they have been used over years by a person knowing what they are doing - are therefore truly co-created by both humans and spirits.
That was the part I had been quite conscious of. In fact that part of the story had been an essential part of my magical workings over the past decade: Creating tools that become co-inhabited by both me and my spirit contacts. Creating tools that turn into bridges between our worlds. Like a dark mirror that turns into a window for as soon as we are looking into it from both of our sides... -- What I hadn’t understood, is that it is not only us, but also our stories that get caught in these tools.
When my mother got tired of me or my sisters she would often say ‘Oh well, it’s just another phase to go through.’ I hated it whenever I heard her say these words. It made me feel as if she brushed off what seemed so essential to me as nothing but a passing stage... The truth is though, we do live our lives in chapters. We change and so does the world around us. It doesn’t mean that each phase we go through doesn’t matter or are just a means to an end. Quite the opposite. Yet, the nature of experience is ephemeral and while memories live on our lives move on quicker than the proverbial waters in a river.
It’s on this particular matter that magical implements have a funny effect: They counteract the ephemeral state of nature. They preserve patterns and thus resist change. They are tools to trap presence into their forms - our presence, the spirit’s presence as well as the presence of the story we formed a part of in that very moment when we made contact through the help of these tools.
Magical paraphernalia are like four-dimensional recordings of a ritual event. Think of a sacred space filled with a handful of such implements - and now switch positions and look through the eyes of the spirits: Can you see how incredibly busy and noisy this place is? Because from the spirit’s viewpoint these implements, these material tools of spiritual recordings, are in constant playback mode. Without ever stopping they express the rhythms, utterances, forces and living beings recorded into them.
If you are a musician think of a recording studio as your temple - and then think of a moment when all instruments are played at once. But rather than playing one piece together, they all play echoes of all pieces that have ever been played on them at once. This noisy cacophony only stops if the magician steps in as a director and applies his mental force - to absorb most of them and amplify the few that will tell the story of his rite. The thicker the layers of ritual past within these tools, the harder it is for the mage to absorb their voices. This is a real plus if a set ritual pattern is meant to be repeated again and again. And yet it takes a Herculean effort by the mage to establish any new patterns over time. -- Can you see now, how magical traditions working with the same ritual tools (sigils, wands, lamens, etc.) begin to preserve themselves simply through the use of the same patterned astral forms?
But even that isn’t the full truth yet. The above is still a pretty traditional way of looking at what’s going on here. Why? Because nature actually doesn’t do recordings and neither does it do playback. Nothing is every static in nature and nothing can ever be played-back without taking effect on the future. Magical implements might be carriers of recorded patterns but they are not static at all. In constantly repeating their patterns they themselves affect change.
Here is how this worked for me - and this is the part of the story that only dawned on me when I cleaned out my temple to bury all of my magical implements in a remote forest.
For years these tools had accompanied me through a long series of rituals. They were part of my journey conducting many planetary evocations, Saturnian cycles, communions with my HGA, the Arbatel grimoire just as they were part when I ritually began to work on the German land several years ago. All of these rituals live on in them. Some of them had a rather foundational effect on them similar to the grounding of a blank canvas. Others left marks on them in more piercing colors and especially the most recent ones embedded full ritual patterns into them.
Now, these patterns, recorded in my magical tools, want to get heard. They want to get heard by nature’s ears, drunken by its lips and taken in fully by its body. These patterns are seedlings. And some of these seeds are trying to manifest into trees through the walls of my temple already, through the ceiling of my living room, through my own dreams, hell, even through the bodies of myself and my wife living in this place.
So here is what I understood: Magical implements once fully ritually charged hold an urge to become flesh. They are drawing down the spiritual forces attached to them and making them attempt to flesh in every moment of their existence. What they need for this process to work is raw substance - and whatever they get in touch with, they will try to turn into exactly that. Call it a host or call it whatever you want. Yet these tools are so much more than mirrors. They are spiritual machines that will only stop fertilising, colouring, affecting everything that’s around them once they are fully dissolved - both astrally and physically. I guess as magicians we better be careful which patterns we lock ourselves into?
And that was why I needed to bury my temple’s paraphernalia. In essence for me there were two main reasons:
- The 'story' that I had told through my rituals over the last several years had grown strong enough as a mythical pattern to be released. This particular pattern was about refreshing the German land and it was recorded in all of the tools I had been working with. Putting these tools into the land, burying them, was the only way to make them truly flesh. It was the final act needed to close the ritual cycle.
- Secondly, this pattern had grown so strong, it began affecting me both physically and psychologically in a negative way. During the stage of its inception my mind, my body and heart had been the source as well as the host of this pattern. From within me the pattern was expressed in rituals and sublimated and enforced through many spirits’ help. Yet now, more than three years of continuous works later, it was still trapped in my temple, in my implements and even within me. Releasing its patterned powers into the German land was not only a technicality to finish the ritual cycle, it was an essential act to protect myself from being blown up. But boy, did it teach me about the powers of ritual patterns, the forces behind spiritual creativity and the thirst for life captured in many myths.
By bringing all of these wonderful tools into their graves in the forest, I am also bringing them to a new beginning. If a gardener was sad when bringing seedlings from their tree nursery out into the wild, I guess they should have looked for a different job altogether? Burying the physical manifestations of many years of magical work out in the open, of course is a bitter-sweet act for me. I need to let go of a lot of close friends. I am loosing many patterns I had grown fond of. But it also helps me shedding a skin that otherwise would have locked me down, stalled me, and ultimately would have surrounded me with death - either my own or the one of my magic.
It's only with this letting go I understood these tools never belonged to me. While I might have birthed some of them, they always held a life of their own. I guess the only way to avoid such ‘goodbyes’ is to perform your rituals out in the wilderness, ideally naked, without leaving any traces but things that nature can dissolve itself... Such path of the empty-hand is hugely powerful as it acts without attachment. Yet the seeds it produces are different from the ones we can create in our own temples. It’s in these spiritual greenhouses, these magical recording studios, these ritual workshops that we create patterns so unique, so powerful and deep that once released they unleash new stories in the world around us.