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What is Magick?

Divination is the attempt to foretell the future, whereas Magic or more properly Magick (or sorcery) is the attempt 'to control the present', our lives, the lives of others, or events of nature.  Magick is associated with all kinds of paranormal and occult phenomena, including, but not limited to, ESP, astral projection, psychic healing, Wicca, the Kabbalah and Satanism.  It uses various symbols, for example, the pentagram, as well as a variety of symbolic amulets, talismans and ceremonial or ritual behaviours aimed at achieving powers which allow the magician to contravene the laws of physics, chemistry, etc.  In parapsychology, magick is often defined as 'the study and application of psychic forces and/or energy'.

Although magick can contravene the laws of physics, it is not capable of violating any physical laws of the universe by producing miracles, i.e. it cannot cause a solar eclipse or the reversal of gravity, but through harnessing and using the hidden psychic forces and energy of the universe it is theoretically possible to cause any change in any object of which that object is capable by nature.

Modern magick as we now understand it had its roots partly in Alchemy, which attempted to methodise ways to achieve certain tasks such as healing and making wealth (the wizardry employed in transforming base metals into gold).  One of the most famous alchemists during the 16th century was undoubtedly Paracelsus (1493 - 1541), pictured left, although he strongly believed in spiritual alchemy and thought that the purpose of alchemy was not to transmute metals, but to cure disease.  Another renowned personality who was also an alchemist is Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727), pictured right.  It is now quite obvious that the inspiration for his outstanding scientific work on light and gravity derived from his obsession with alchemy, and it has even been suggested that he actually succeeded in transmuting lead to gold!  If he really did, then I'm going in search of that formula!

Do not confuse magick with magic, which is simply the art of conjuring and legerdemain.  The 'k', in the spelling of 'magick' was originally used many centuries ago, but went out of existence.  Its usage was revived by Aleister Crowley (pictured left), probably the most celebrated occultist of the 20th century, to distinguish it from those stage or theatre 'magicians' who entertain their audiences with simple tricks and illusions.  He defined magick as 'the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will.'  By this, he included mundane acts of will as well as Ritual Magick.  In Magick in Theory and Practice he says:

"What is a Magical Operation?  It may be defined as any event in nature which is brought to pass by Will.  We must not exclude potato growing or banking from our definition.  Let us take a very simple example of a magical Act: that of a man blowing his nose.  What are the conditions of the success of the Operation?  Firstly, that the man's Will should be to blow his nose; secondly, that he should have a nose capable of being blown; thirdly, that he should have at command an apparatus capable of expressing his spiritual Will in terms of material force, and applying that force to the object which he desires to affect.  His Will may be as strong and concentrated as that of Jupiter, and his nose may be totally incapable of resistance; but unless the link is made by the use of his nerves and muscles in accordance with psychological, physiological, and physical law, the nose will remain unblown through all eternity."  If you have the slightest interest in learning more about Aleister Crowley, why not visit our partner site To Mega Therion?  You will find a terrific amount of information there.

The idea of being able to control such things as the weather or one's health simply by an act of will is certainly very appealing, as is the idea of being able to wreak havoc on one's enemies without having to lift a finger and thus not be incriminated.  Just think it and 'thy will be done'.  Stories of people with special powers are appealing, particularly if you read about the exploits of and the 'Confessions of Aleister Crowley', but for those contemplating becoming a magus consider this warning from a leading authority on the subject:

        ". . . magick ritual (or any magick or occultism) is very dangerous for the mentally unstable.  If you should somehow 'get out too far', eat 'heavy foods' . . . and use your religious background or old belief system for support.  But remember too, that weird experiences are not necessarily bad experiences."

The religions based on the Old and New Testaments have for centuries associated magick with 'false prophets', based upon the belief that Satan regularly exhibits his powers to, and shares those powers with us, mankind.  Using powers which contravene natural forces is classed as good if performed by or through God (white magick).  Such exhibitions of divine power are called miracles by the Church, but if performed by diabolical forces, they are classed as evil (black magick).  However, when prayer doesn't work, it means that the god has either chosen not to hear the prayer, or not to grant it, but when magick fails, it is because of some fault during the casting of the spell itself.  Ritual is not only the magician's 'failsafe mechanism', the key to any hope for success, but also the explanation for failure.

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The Purpose of Magick

Aleister Crowley defined magick as the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.  He also provided us with two further statements about the nature of magick - as he defined it:
  • Every intentional Willed Act is a Magical Act.
  • Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions, and the Art of applying that understanding in action.

Alphonse Louis Constant, known better as Eliphas Lévi, identified three fundamental principles of magic:

  • The material universe is only a small part of total reality, which includes many other planes and modes of consciousness.  Full knowledge and full power in the universe are only attainable through awareness of these other aspects of reality.  One of the most important of these levels or aspects of reality is the "astral light", a cosmic fluid which may be moulded by will into physical forms.
  • That human willpower is a real force, capable of achieving absolutely anything, from the mundane to the miraculous.
  • That the human being is a microcosm, a miniature of the macrocosmic universe, and the two are fundamentally linked.  Causes set in motion on one level may equally have effects on another.

For Crowley, the practice of magick is essentially to be used for attaining the Knowledge of and Conversation with one's Holy Guardian Angel.  As far as he was concerned, magick that did not have this goal as its aim was black magick and should be avoided.  He believed this was the first vital step necessary for spiritual attainment (See Liber VIII - How to attain the Mystery of the Knowledge of your Holy Guardian Angel).  Actually achieving this state with one's ‘Silent Self’ can be extremely arduous, so magick can be used not only to reach that particular goal, but also to clear the path for it.  For example, if someone needed a specific dwelling in a particular location to perform a magical operation, he or she could use magick as a legitimate means of obtaining it.

High & Low Magick

Crowley sometimes referred to magick as a ‘high art’, but he never used the term ‘low magick’.  Instead of these terms, he compared magick (which he saw as the essential method for achieving enlightenment and doing one's sacred Will) with such practices that he referred to as sorcery or witchcraft.  He considered the essential difference between the two to be one of intent, where the purpose of a magical event is either in service to the True Will, i.e. the Great Work, or to the individual ego.  Vanity/ego-driven practices such as love charms, fascinations, or fortune telling fell into the latter category within his personal framework of magick.

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The Techniques of Magick

There are several ways to look at what magick actually consists of.  To reiterate, in its broadest sense it can be defined as any willed action leading to intended change.  It should also be viewed as the general set of methods used to accomplish the Great Work of mystical attainment.  Magick often involves several practices and forms of ritual at the practical level, including:
  • invocation / evocation
  • banishing / purification
  • eucharistic ritual
  • consecration
  • yoga
  • divination

Invocation / evocation

Invocation is the ‘bringing in’ or identifying with a particular deity or spirit.  Crowley wrote of two main keys to success in this arena: to enflame thyself in praying and to invoke often.  Bear in mind that for Crowley, the single most important invocation, or any act of magick for that matter, was the invocation of one's Holy Guardian Angel, or Secret Self, thus allowing the adept to know his True Will.

Crowley describes the experience of invocation as:

“The mind must be exalted until it loses consciousness of self.  The magician must be carried forward blindly by a force which, though in him and of him, is by no means that which he in his normal state of consciousness calls I.  Just as the poet, the lover, the artist, is carried out of himself in a creative frenzy, so must it be for the magician.”

He discusses three main categories of invocation, although in the great essentials these three methods are one.  In each case the magician identifies himself with the Deity invoked."

  • Devotion - where "identity with the God is attained by love and by surrender, by giving up or suppressing all irrelevant (and illusionary) parts of yourself."
  • Calling forth - where "identity with the God is attained by paying special attention to the desired part of yourself."
  • Drama - where "identity with the God is attained by sympathy.  It is very difficult for the ordinary man to lose himself completely in the subject of a play or of a novel; but for those who can do so, this method is unquestionably the best."

Another invocatory technique the magician can employ is called the assumption of god-forms.  This is where, "by concentrated imagination of oneself in the symbolic shape of any God, one should be able to identify oneself with the idea which that god represents."  A general method involves positioning the body in a manner that is typical for a given god, imagining that the image of the god is coinciding with or enveloping the body.  This is accompanied by the practice of vibration of the appropriate God name(s) (see below).

Unlike what happens with invocation, involving a ‘calling in’, evocation involves a ‘calling forth’, most commonly into what is called the triangle of art.  Crowley explains the distinct difference between invocation and evocation as such:

"To 'invoke' is to ‘call in’, just as to ‘evoke’ is to ‘call forth’.  This is the essential difference between the two branches of magick.  In invocation, the macrocosm floods the consciousness.  In evocation, the magician, having become the macrocosm, creates a microcosm.  You invoke a God into the Circle.  You evoke a Spirit into the Triangle of Art."

The triangle of art is the protected space outside the magick circle, into which spirits are compelled to appear in Solomonic Ritual Magick.  The central circle is usually inscribed with the sigil (seal) of the spirit to be evoked.  The usual form is of a triangle, circumscribed with various words of power, containing an inner, blackened circle.  The purpose of the triangle is to contain the manifested entity.

Generally speaking, evocation is used for two main purposes: to gather information and to obtain the services and/or obedience of a spirit or demon.  Crowley believed that the most effective form of evocation was found in the grimoire on Goetia (a grimoire is simply a book containing one's personal spells, rites, recipes, etc.), which instructs the magician in how to safely summon forth and command seventy-two infernal spirits.  However, it is equally possible to evoke angelic beings, gods, and other intelligences related to planets, elements, and the Zodiac.  The relationship between the 72 spirits of the Goetia and the cardinal points is shown to the left.  As a general term, Goetia refers to the evocation of evil spirits in an attempt to force them to fulfil ones material wishes.  As a specific term, The Goetia is a part of The Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon - a grimoire (which contains Goetia) translated by Mathers and edited by Aleister Crowley, which led to the reason for their falling out.

Banishing / purification

Banishing rituals tend to be performed at the start of an important event or ceremony, often to eliminate forces that might interfere with a magical operation.  The area of effect can be a magick circle, a room, or even the magician himself.  The general theory of magick suggests there are various forces represented by the four classic elements, air, earth, fire, and water, the planets, the signs of the Zodiac and adjacent spaces in the astral world where various spirits and non-corporeal intelligences can be present.  A ‘banishing’ is performed to clean out these forces and presences.  Some believe that the banishing ritual is more psychological than anything else, used to calm and balance the mind, but the effect is ultimately the same, a sense of cleanliness within the self and the environment.  Of the many banishing rituals in use, the majority are just a variation on two of the most common, The Star Ruby and The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

Crowley describes 'banishing' in Magick in Theory and Practice as:

". . . in the banishing ritual of the pentagram we not only command the demons to depart, but invoke the Archangels and their hosts to act as guardians of the Circle during our pre-occupation with the ceremony proper.  In more elaborate ceremonies it is usual to banish everything by name.  Each element, each planet, and each sign, perhaps even the Sephiroth themselves; all are removed, including the very one which we wished to invoke, for that force as existing in Nature is always impure.  But this process, being long and wearisome, is not altogether advisable in actual working.  It is usually sufficient to perform a general banishing, and to rely upon the aid of the guardians invoked."

However, he also adds:

"Those who regard this ritual as a mere devise to invoke or banish spirits, are unworthy to possess it.  Properly understood, it is the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise."

Purification is similar in theme to banishing, but is a more rigorous process of preparing the self and the temple for some serious spiritual work.  Crowley tells us that ancient magicians would purify themselves through arduous programs, such as special diets, fasting, sexual abstinence, keeping the body meticulously clean and tidy, and undergoing a complicated series of prayers.  He also tells us that purification no longer requires such activity, since the magician can purify the self via willed intention.  Specifically, the magician labours to purify the mind and body of all influences which may interfere with the Great Work.  Crowley recommended symbolically ritual practices such as bathing and donning robes before a main ceremony:

"The bath signifies the removal of all things irrelevant or hostile to the one thought.  The putting on of the robe is the positive side of the same operation.  It is the assumption of the frame of mind suitable to that one thought."

Eucharistic Ritual

The word Eucharist originates from the Greek word for thanksgiving, but used in the context of magick it takes on a different, special meaning - the transmutation of food and drink into divine sacraments, which are then eaten.  The aim is to infuse the food and drink with certain properties, usually embodied by various deities, so that the magician takes in those properties upon their consumption.  Crowley describes the regular practice of Eucharistic Ritual as:

"The magician becomes filled with God, fed upon God, intoxicated with God.  Little by little his body will become purified by the internal lustration of God; day by day his mortal frame, shedding its earthly elements, will become in very truth the Temple of the Holy Ghost.  Day by day matter is replaced by Spirit, the human by the divine; ultimately the change will be complete; God manifest in flesh will be his name."

There are several Eucharistic Rituals within the magical archives, two of the most well known being ‘The Mass of the Phoenix’ (See Liber XLIV) and The Gnostic Mass (See Liber XV).  The first is a ritual designed for the individual, involving the sacrifice of a Cake of Light (the name of the Eucharistic host found within Thelema.  It contains meal, honey, and oil for the base ingredients, and is usually cooked in the shape of a small, flat wafer), to Ra (the Sun), and steeping a second Cake with the adept's own blood (either real or symbolic, in a gesture reflecting the myth of the Pelican cutting its own breast to feed its young) and then consuming it with the words, "There is no grace: there is no guilt: This is the Law: Do what thou wilt!"  The second ritual, The Gnostic Mass, is a very popular public ritual (although it can be practiced privately) involving a team of participants, including a Priest and Priestess.  This ritual is an enactment of the mystical journey that culminates with the Mystic Marriage and the consumption of a Cake of Light and a goblet of wine (a process termed communication).  Afterwards, each Communicant declares, "There is no part of me that is not of the gods!"


Consecration is an equally important magical operation.  It is essentially the dedication, usually of a ritual instrument or space, to a specific purpose:

"The ritual here in question should summarise the situation, and devote the particular arrangement to its purpose by invoking the appropriate forces.  Let it be well remembered that each object is bound by the Oaths of its original consecration as such.  Thus, if an object has already been made sacred to Jupiter, it cannot be used in an operation of Venus."

A common element in ritual consecration is anointing with Oil of Abramelin, a ceremonial, magical oil blended according to the recipe found in Mathers' translation of The Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage - one part myrrh, two parts cinnamon, a half-part galangal (a root with a hot ginger/pepper taste used primarily as a seasoning in Thai cooking), and half the total weight of the best olive oil.


Yoga, although discussed here, is not considered to be magick per se.  It is essentially the necessary training of the mind and body to allow for certain types of magick to be performed.  Simply put, the aim is the control of the mind, i.e. to increase concentration and to be able to enter different states of consciousness.  When developing his own basic yogic program, Crowley borrowed ideas from other yogis such as Patanjali and Yajnavalkya.  Patanjali, who lived around the 2nd century AD, was the first person to systemise and document yogic practice, the Yoga Sutra’s.  Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga and his Yoga Sutras strongly influence all styles of modern yoga.  Sage Yajnavalkya of Mithila (circa 1800 BC) advanced a 95-year cycle to synchronise the motions of the sun and moon.  He is also credited with the authorship of the Shatapatha Brahmana.

We shall not elaborate on the subject here, but simply say that Aleister Crowley has published several books on yoga, and it may serve you well to read Equinox Volume 3 Number 4 – Eight lectures on Yoga if you wish to know more.


The art of divination is generally employed solely for the purpose of obtaining information that can guide the magician towards furthering the Great Work.  The underlying theory is that intelligences exist (either outside of or inside the mind of the diviner) which can offer accurate information within certain limits using a language of symbols.

Divination within magick is most certainly not the same as fortune telling, which is more interested in predicting future events.  However, as Crowley tells us, it is also well known that divination is imperfect:

"In estimating the ultimate value of a divinatory judgment, one must allow for more than the numerous sources of error inherent in the process itself . . . . . "

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Other Magical Practices

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is a tool used to organise and categorise various mystical concepts.  At its most basic level, it is composed of ten spheres (emanations) called the Sephiroth, which are connected by twenty two paths.  The Sephiroth are represented by the planets and the paths by the 22 characters of the Hebrew alphabet.  These are subdivided by the five elements, the seven classical planets, and the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Each Sephirah (singular of Sephiroth) and path is assigned its own various attributes, such as gods, Tarot cards, planets, signs, elements, etc.  See Liber 777 for Crowley's 'Table of Correspondences' - almost everything imaginable relating to the occult has been cross-referenced in this remarkable publication.

Crowley considered a complete understanding of the Tree of Life was essential for a magician:

The Tree of Life has got to be learnt by heart; you must know it backwards, forwards, sideways, and upside down; it must become the automatic background of all your thinking.  You must keep on hanging everything that comes your way upon its proper bough.

Similar to Yoga, it is not so much magick as it is a way to 'map out' one's spiritual universe.  As such, a magician may use the Tree to choose which god(s) to invoke for what purpose(s) etc.  Within the Western Magical Tradition, the Tree of Life is used as a filing cabinet, and plays an important role in modelling the spiritual journey, where the adept begins in Malkuth, the everyday material world, with the ultimate goal being Kether, the Sphere of Unity with the All.

Keeping a Magical Record

A magical record is a journal or similar source of documentation containing magical events, experiences, ideas, and any other information that the magician may see fit to add.  There can be many purposes for such a record, such as the recording of evidence to verify the effectiveness of specific procedures (as per the scientific method that Aleister Crowley claimed should be applied to the practice of magick) or to ensure that data may circulate after the lifetime of the magician.

The benefits of a magical record vary, but usually include future analysis and further education by the individual and/or associates to whom the magician feels comfortable in revealing such private information.  Crowley was highly insistent upon the importance of this practice, writing in Liber IX (also known as Liber E)::

"It is absolutely necessary that all experiments should be recorded in detail during, or immediately after their performance.  The more scientific the record is, the better.  Yet the emotions should be noted, as being some of the conditions.  Let then the record be written with sincerity and care; thus with practice it will be found more and more to approximate to the ideal."

Other items he suggests for inclusion in the magical record include the physical and mental condition of the experimenter, the time and place, and environmental conditions including the weather.

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The Nature of Magick

Occultists agree that apart from black and white, the nature of magick falls into two distinct categories, these being:

Click on either of the two links above to read details on the chosen category in much greater depth, or simply scroll down the screen until you reach it.

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Personal Magick

As its name suggests, this is what we call magick used to affect the self.  This will often involve self-suggestion and self-hypnosis, otherwise known as 'positive thinking'.  Each and everyone of us possesses some limited degree of magical and psychic potential which really can be developed with the correct training and practice, but above all - dedication.  The whole aim of training is to develop an integrated personality, one no longer at the mercy of its surroundings.

There are two distinct types of personal magick:

  • active magick, which is outer-directed magick such as in psychokinesis, used to affect something or someone, or to cause something to happen, and
  • passive magick, which causes an effect by an outside non-physical cause, as in Extra Sensory Perception (ESP).

Most people are usually more proficient in one kind of magick than the other, i.e. active or passive.  However, some people are especially gifted, and can be proficient in both.  Irrespective of this, what must be borne in mind is that magick is simply the use of the energy either within each of us or that available in nature, or both.  Everyone can do magick, but whichever type of magick you practice, the more you become aware of your own psychic energy and the use of actual energy flows, plus the more you actually practice your type of magick, the more proficient you will become and thus the more effective your magick will be.

You can produce a magical effect and never even realise you have done it, one such example being 'Always think positive'.  What is actually meant here is, what we truly want will always manifest itself into reality.  Magick works on the subconscious level, the level we tend to ignore, and our personal environment is always changing to match what we perceive as 'reality'.  These changes are subtle, but anyone attuned to their psychic energy will always be aware of them and understand why the rituals and spells they performed either worked or didn't.  This is because our true will will always be expressed, thus explaining why the saying 'always think positive' is actually a helpful one.  In addition to this is the concept of whatever you 'give out' will return.  Who remembers Glenn Hoddle's short reign as England's football team manager, when he expressed the same theory albeit in different terminology?

All magick stems from within, and any paraphernalia used in ceremonies and rituals are simply aids through which inner powers can be summoned.  The best way of influencing the subconscious into creating even more powerful magick is through positive thinking, i.e. suggestion and visualisation.  Advocates teach that the human mind has the power to turn wishes into reality.  Visualisation is extremely important and tremendously powerful if you wish to perform effective magick.  You must always visualise the desired outcome of your wish, but our subconscious minds will censor out what they believe should not be there because it doesn't conform to our beliefs!  A good analogy here is the reason why a person who has been hypnotised and given the suggestion to do physical harm to another, will not harm that other person because it is not 'perceived as right', unless he is a natural thug.  In other words, it is not in their nature to do so, i.e. it does not conform to that person's beliefs.  Even under hypnosis, a person cannot do what he or she does not believe in!  So in order to penetrate your subconscious mind you must use repetitions of suggestions until it becomes a part of your make-up, your identity, your model or belief system.  Repeating such a thing as 'I will stop smoking', is simple, but very effective once it has penetrated your subconscious, thus changing your 'model' or the way you believe in something.

Sigils (signs or images that are supposed to have magical power) work in the same manner.  If you have designed them, you are instilling your energy into the created symbol(s), and working the idea over and over again in your mind until it works automatically on your subconscious level.  But bear in mind that since your subconscious is always working, be mindful of your thoughts because your true will and desire will manifest itself, and what you send out will come back.  This is because any type of magick has both a cause and effect.

Elementals or familiars are thought forms which you can manifest by worked up emotion for your personal use to enhance a ritual or spell.  These thought forms are taken from your subconscious and have aspects of you, although they are detached from you.  They are something you create through visualisation rituals.  You can communicate with your elemental or familiar either through telepathy or by talking to it, and it will perform whatever task you set it providing you believe it can do it.  Because you have manifested it, it now exists!  Elementals or familiars are manifested to perform tasks for you such as being a psychic guard.  They should only be used when working white magick (see below).

You can also invoke a spiritual entity or God or Goddess during a ritual.  These entities or Gods and Goddesses are archetypes from your mind and will also hold aspects of yourself.  You will perceive them in 'form' in the same manner in which you perceive them in your mind.  This technique involves drawing from your subconscious, just as it does with manifesting elementals and familiars.  It is the drawing of energy and creative visualisation from that part of your subconscious which is attuned to the astral world.  Energy is flowing constantly from the astral world to this physical world.  So because the mind is an extremely powerful tool - you can manifest anything you wish into a reality.  We have all had times when we thought we 'saw' something, then dismissed it as illusory, but what we understand as our physical world interacts with all other worlds and dimensions as well, and thus we are all connected in some way - maybe it wasn't an illusion after all!

Due to the natural complexity of this subject, this very comprehensive page within the suite of pages relating to magick tries to provide some background to as well as explaining each separate topic.  Click on any of the links below to go directly to that specific section, or simply scroll down the page until you reach it.

White Magick / Black Magick

Among most occultists, 'magick' is a fairly neutral term which has various connotations, for example, white magick and black magick.  White magick follows what is termed the right-hand path, and black magick, the left.  Left-handers believe in spiritual enrichment through working on and developing themselves, and thus they are answerable only to themselves, while right-handers believe in spiritual enrichment through the submission of the self into something greater.  In the minds of the masses, white magick is used for good intentions, e.g. to heal someone, to make someone fall in love, to get a job etc., whereas black magick is used for evil purposes, e.g. to make someone ill, to kill someone, to make a person lose a job, to cause a fire etc.  You will come across other terms used for white and black magick, these being 'constructive magick' and 'aversive magick' respectively.

It was the renowned occultist Aleister Crowley who revived the spelling magick to distinguish the true science of the Magi from its 'counterfeits', such as stage magic and illusion.  Today this spelling is used in the same or otherwise similar way, often to signify a Pagan/Neopagan, Wiccan, or Hermetic system of beliefs and ritual practices.

The actual 'forces' governing magick are neutral, but different systems adopted by a practitioner may take on qualities of 'good' or 'evil', as mentioned above, so-called white magick or black magick, with an element of 'grey' in-between.  There are many people on the occult fringes who claim to be 'black magicians', but most of them are charlatans who have not served their apprenticeship (or even begun it), i.e. they simply dabble in the art but neither understand what they are doing, or trying to do, nor the consequences of such actions.  However, a genuine magician is different and should be respected, even feared!  He will have dedicated his life to learning the secret traditions, and can invoke supernatural forces to act on his will.

You should always remember that any act of magick is likely to produce some side effect or other, irrespective of whether or not the actual desired result has been achieved.  Such side effects do not generally cause a problem with white or constructive magick, since they are also beneficial.  Conversely, black or aversive magick, being used to work against the universe's natural forces, can produce aversive side effects which, on occasions, will cause harm to the magician!  Some words from Chapter 65 of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley seem very apt at this point:  "Good work is priceless and bad work is worthless."

Click here to read a very basic typical Magical Rite.


The old term 'witchcraft', refers to a form of sorcery, or the magical 'manipulation of nature' for self-appeasement, or alternatively for the benefit of or to harm someone.  This manipulation often involved the use of spirit-helpers, or familiars and/or elementals.  Public use of magick was generally considered to be beneficial, whereas sorcery was commonly practiced in private and was usually considered malevolent.

European diabolical witchcraft was a form of sorcery that appealed to pre-Christian symbolism and was therefore associated by Church leaders with heresy.  The origins of witchcraft in Europe can be found in the pre-Christian, pagan cults such as the Teutonic nature cults, Roman religion, and the speculations of the Gnostics and the Zoroastrians ("Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith." - Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices).  These religions and philosophies believed in both a power of evil and a power of good within the universe.  Certain sects were later to believe the worship of good as false and misleading.

Religious persecution of supposed witches commenced early in the 14th century.  After the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum by two Dominican friars, Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, trials, convictions, and executions became commonplace throughout Europe, reaching a peak during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Under the authority of the Spanish Inquisition, as many as 100 people per day were burned as witches.  This mass burning was called the auto-da-fé, and took on the qualities of a fair or pageant, where spectators could buy rosaries, holy images, and even food.  The colonies of North America shared in this fanaticism, particularly in Salem, Massachusetts, where in 1692, 20 people were executed as witches.  From June to September of that year, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft due to 'confessions' extracted by the 'witch-hunter' William Stoughton, were taken to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, where they were hung.  Another man of over eighty was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial relating to witchcraft charges.  Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft, and dozens languished in jail for months without a trial.  Then, almost as quickly as it had begun, the hysteria that had swept through this small Puritan village in Massachusetts ended.  The twenty men and women who had been executed were all exonerated in 1711.

Early students of European diabolical witchcraft viewed it alternately as an invention of those of the elite who used accusations of sorcery as an excuse to persecute others less fortunate for material gain, or as a survival of pre-Christian folk religion.  Scholars today interpret it not as a single phenomenon but rather as a complex pattern of beliefs and practices that have been used in different ways at different times.  For example, during the Hundred Years War, Catholics and Protestants accused each other of witchcraft.

Witchcraft, therefore, in various historical, religious and mythical contexts, is the use of certain kinds of supernatural or magical powers by a witch - simply defined as a person who engages in witchcraft.  The terms witchcraft and witch are both controversial with a very complicated history, as can be seen above.  Consequently, witchcraft is viewed differently in different cultures around the globe, and used in entirely different contexts, and within entirely different cultural references.  To this effect it can take on distinct and often contradictory meanings.

Practices typically considered to be witchcraft are:

  • Influencing someone's body or property.
  • Conjuring the dead.
  • Casting spells.

Gardnerian Wicca

Witchcraft came to be generally known as Wicca in 1954, soon after the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951.  It is a neopagan religion found mostly in European and English-speaking countries.  Various Wiccan traditions have evolved since Gardnerian Wicca, each with its own rituals and beliefs, most of them remaining secretive.  Gerald Gardner's books Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft became the basis for the modern religion of Wicca, which grew in popularity during the 1960's, and spread quickly from the United Kingdom to the rest of Europe as well as the United States of America, Canada, Asia and Australia.  It has continued to grow as a religion, its followers now placing a greater emphasis on a reverence for nature, redeveloping the 'Goddess-worshiping' religion from pre-Christian and non-Christian religions, and group magick aimed at healing.  Gardner also 'revealed' the Ardains of Wicca, the 161 laws of Wicca, which are commonly known in the US as the Laws of Wicca, but which have now more or less fallen out of use except in true traditional Gardnerian circles.

Modern-day witches have even adopted their own alphabet (pictured left), the Theban script, as a cipher to protect their magical writings from others.  The Theban alphabet first appeared in print in the Third Book of Occult Philosophy by Henry Cornelius Agrippa in 1531, where it was attributed to the magus Honorius of Thebes.  It is sometimes referred to as the 'Runes of Honorius', although Theban is not a runic alphabet.  There is a one-to-one correspondence between Theban and the letters in the modern Latin alphabet with the exception of j, u, and w, which use the same letters as i, v, and a literal 'vv' or double 'v' respectively.  Theban letters only exist in a single case, the actual need for separate upper-case and lower-case letters never having been established.  The Theban character set only contains a specific reference to an 'end of phrase' character, or full stop - no other punctuation has been specified.  No numerals in Theban script have ever been found, with the consequence that many people use Roman numerals in lieu.

Like all religions, the Wiccan religion celebrates holidays with rituals and traditions.  Eight such holidays (called Sabbats and known collectively as 'The Wheel of the Year') are celebrated throughout the year, some fixed and some variable depending upon the length of sunlight on a particular day.  Each of these holidays, listed below in calendar date order as opposed to importance, represents a turning of a season or some change within a season.

  • Imbolc - or Festival of Brigid - February 2nd - Fixed.  Imbolc means in milk.  It celebrates the middle of winter, and thus the growing strength of the God, still in His childlike form, and also the return of the 'Maiden' aspect of the Goddess.  Milk was traditionally poured upon the ground as an offering.
  • Ostara - or Spring Equinox - March 21st - Variable.  Ostara is the Scandinavian Goddess of fertility.  The festival celebrates fertility, the return of life and growth to the earth (now beginning to thaw) and within the animal kingdom.  At this point day and night are of equal length.
  • Beltane/Beltaine - or May Eve - April 30th - Fixed.  This festival celebrates the rapid approach of summer and the death of winter.  It is the joining of the two powers of the Goddess and the God to cause creation.
  • Litha/Midsummer - or Summer Solstice - June 21st - Variable.  To celebrate the sun's peak of power (the longest day of the year) at the end of the waxing cycle of the wheel.  It is a festival of thankfulness as the sun's power begins to wane, for too much sun can be harmful to crops.
  • Luhgnasad/Lammas - or The Grain Holiday - August 1st or 2nd - Fixed depending upon tradition.  To celebrate the middle of summer and the gathering of the first harvest.
  • Mabon - or Fall Equinox - September 21st - Variable.  At this, the beginning of Autumn, the Goddess begins her return to the underworld.  Mabon celebrates the gathering of the final harvest of the season when day and night are of equal length.
  • Samhain - or Wiccan 'New Year' - October 31st - Fixed.  Samhain means summer's end.  It is the time during which Wiccans believe that life and death walk hand in hand, i.e. the veil that separates the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest, making it the ideal time to contact their ancestors.  It also designates the end of the harvest.
  • Yule - or Winter Solstice - December 21st - Variable.  It is the shortest day of the year and celebrates the coming of the rebirth of the sun to the earth - the birth of the new solar year, after the longest night.

Alexandrian Wicca

Alexandrian witchcraft was established in the 1960s by Alex Sanders (1926 - 1988), an initiate of Gerald Gardner's system of witchcraft.  It is a tradition based largely upon Gardnerian Wicca, but places more emphasis on Ritual Magick and Kabbalah (which Sanders had also studied) than other modern varieties of Wicca.

Proclaimed by his followers as King of the Witches, Sanders and his wife Maxine became very public promoters of Wicca, and although controversial, they are particularly responsible for the increase in the religion's popularity today.  However, supposedly because of Alex's homosexual tendencies, they separated in 1971.  Maxine remained in their London flat where she continued running a coven.  Despite this separation, their strong relationship continued, and the following year she gave birth to a son, Victor.

In 1979 Alex announced to the witchcraft community, "I wish to make amends for some of the past hurts that I have given and many public stupidities I created for others of the Craft," and expressed his desire that Wicca in general should some day put aside their differences and unite in brotherly love before the face of the Lady and the Lord, allowing them to become great again and respected in the outside world.

Note:  You will find many 'Wiccan' sites on the internet offering 'spells' for virtually everything.  Fortunately most of them are for the supposed good, such as love spells and healing spells, and whilst psychologically they may actually be beneficial to begin with, when they fail, which in my opinion the majority always do, you will be left with an empty and probably bitter feeling.  With matters concerning love and sickness, if someone of the opposite sex with whom you are infatuated has no interest in you whatsoever, or if a loved one is terminally ill, nothing can change the outcome, except a miracle (a spell?).  I would suggest you listen to Doris Day's 1956 recording of the song Que Sera Sera (Columbia Records, catalog number 40704) and bear those words in mind.

Click on the following link to go to our downloads page from where you can download your free copy of an eBook relating to Wicca.  Our Aspects of the Occult Download contains this eBook plus well over 300 other eBooks and documents relating to most aspects of the occult and is available should you wish to acquire a greater knowledge of this fascinating subject.


Satanism, like the word witchcraft, is another term that is often misused, referring to a religious, semi-religious, and/or philosophical movement.  The term is normally applied by non-Satanists to those individuals or groups who worship an entity called 'Satan', advocating the triumph of evil forces over good in the universe.

Satanism is supposedly represented by two separate groups, the traditional and the secular.  Traditional Satanists have been accused of conducting rituals which are specifically aimed at attacking Christian beliefs and practices (particularly the Roman Catholic Church), rituals in which they recite the Lord's Prayer backwards, or desecrate and use the host and wine stolen from a cathedral!  This is pure fiction which can be traced back to the Inquisition and to books written during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.  Examples of traditional Satanism are extremely rare, and testimonies of 'alleged former Satanists' and Satanic ritual abuse have long since been discredited.

Secular Satanism on the other hand, as opposed to Wiccan beliefs of divine laws or naturistic principles, focuses in general upon material or physical advancement of the self instead of submission to a deity or set of moral codes.  It is for this reason that secular Satanists shun traditional religious worship and beliefs, preferring self-centred ideals, for example, survival of the fittest, and practices such as materialism, using magick to attain them.  Secular Satanists tend to be highly critical of all other faiths, and are particularly opposed to Christianity, because of its major position in Western society and its historical persecution of Satanists and other religious minorities.

Followers of the now various forms of Satanism recognise Satan either as an archetype, a pre-cosmic force, an actual living entity, and/or some aspect of human nature.  Two of the more renowned 'Satanic groups' are discussed below, but you might also be interested to read about an underground movement that goes by the name of the Order of Nine Angles.

The Church of Satan

The Church of Satan was founded by Anton Szandor LaVey who was its High Priest until his death in 1997.  He also wrote The Satanic Bible and several other books including The Compleat Witch.  Before the foundation of his 'Church', he had been building a reputation for himself by holding lectures on the occult to a selected circle of friends and associates.  One of these intimated that he could/should form a new 'religion' based on his 'teachings'.  As a consequence, on Walpurgisnacht (30th April), 1966, he 'ritualistically' shaved his head and declared the founding of the Church of Satan, proclaiming 1966 as 'Year One, Anno Satanas' (the first year of the Age of Satan).

Anton LaVey's Nine Satanic Statements from The Satanic Bible

  1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!
  2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
  3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!
  4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!
  5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
  6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!
  7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!
  8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
  9. Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!

The Church of Satan is now the most organised of the Satanic groups (there are reputed to be more than 8000 members in San Francisco alone), and it refutes the common association mentioned in the introduction, as it does not actually believe in a being called Satan, and uses the name merely as a symbolic allusion to certain materialistic and individualistic values.  Satanists of the Church of Satan follow the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth:

  1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
  2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure that they want to hear them.
  3. When in another's lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
  4. If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
  5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
  6. Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the person and he cries out to be relieved.
  7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have used it successfully to obtain your desires.  If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
  8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
  9. Do not harm little children.
  10. Do not kill non-human animals unless attacked or for your food.
  11. When walking in open territory, bother no one.  If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.

David Shankbone, a Wikipedia editor, Wikimedia Commons photographer, and an accredited reporter for Wikinews, interviewed Peter Gilmore, the High Priest of the Church of Satan, who has led LaVey's congregation of Satanists since his passing in 1997 (he became the High Priest in 2001).  They discussed the beliefs of the Church, current events, LaVey's children and how Satanism applies to life and the world.  He wrote an excellent synopsis of Church beliefs and practices:

“LaVey's teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and 'eye for an eye' morality, with influence from Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand, while its rituals and magic draw heavily from occultists such as Aleister Crowley.  They do not worship - nor believe in - the Devil or a Christian notion of Satan.  The word 'Satan' comes from the Hebrew word for adversary and originated from the Abrahamic faiths, being traditionally applied to an angel.  Church of Satan adherents see themselves as truth-seekers, adversaries and skeptics of the religious world around them."

The full interview can be found by clicking HERE.

The Temple of Set

In 1975, Michael Aquino (pictured left) and certain members of the priesthood of the Church of Satan left that Church and established The Temple of Set, which was incorporated in California in that same year as a non-profit making church.  They left because of administrative and philosophical disagreements with its founder, Anton Szandor LaVey.  Michael Aquino’s claim for leaving was because he was disgusted with the amount of corruption within the Church of Satan.

The Temple of Set is an initiatory occult society claiming to be the world's leading religious organisation devoted to the Left-Hand Path, professing Setian philosophy and magical practice.  Set/Seth is the Egyptian god of chaos, evil, drought, thunder and storm, and destruction, embodying the principle of hostility, even outright evil.  Seth tore himself from his mother's womb in his hurry to be born, and is associated with the murder of his brother, Osiris.

Varying degrees of expertise, experience, and understanding of metaphysics (a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the nature of the world) are recognised among members.  There are six levels or degrees of initiation, with Setians identifying their members by their degree, these being:

  • Setian (First Degree)
  • Adept (Second Degree)
  • Priest/Priestess (Third Degree)
  • Magister/Magistra Templi (Fourth Degree)
  • Magus/Maga (Fifth Degree)
  • Ipsissimus/Ipsissima (Sixth Degree)

The Priesthood of the Temple of Set is restricted to those members holding the Third Degree or higher.  Full membership only comes about on achieving the second degree, which has a time frame of around two years.  Recognition is only performed by members of the priesthood, although it is up to the individual to find a priest to work with towards this end, but there are no actual set criteria for recognition, and no obligation for the priesthood to work with new initiates towards recognition.

All officers and workers within the Temple are volunteers, some receiving reimbursement for expenses incurred on behalf of the Temple, but none receive a salary.  All officers are selected from within the Priesthood.

The Temple of Set holds an annual assembly, normally lasting for about a week and held in various global locations (although it usually takes place within the USA), where members of the Temple can meet to exchange ideas.  There is also the occasional regional gathering, organised and attended by interested Setians, at their own initiative.  These local groups, referred to as Pylons, tend to explore a range of metaphysical topics and exercises, their members sharing locally selected interests.  The Temple also makes a variety of informational resources available to members for individual reference.

The Temple of Set has never stated or confirmed its membership numbers.  It maintains strict selective membership policies, proof being that fewer than half of all its applicants are accepted for membership within the two year recognition period.  The Temple's membership does, however, have a large turnover rate; most members (who pay an annual membership fee of about $80.00) leave for a wide variety of reasons, only a minority remaining with the Temple for more than a decade.

The Temple’s philosophy can be summed up as enlightened individualism, i.e. the enhancement and improvement of an individual by personal education, experiment, and initiation, a different and distinctive process being required for each individual.  This is referred to by the Egyptian god Khepera, symbolised by the scarab beetle, significant of personal rebirth and immortality within the Temple of Set.  The term is deemed central to Setian philosophy and practice, having been introduced at the founding of the Temple.

To date, Michael Aquino remains an active member of the Temple of Set, although he no longer holds any office within the organisation.

N.B.  In addition to Setianism, there is also a type of Gnosticism called Sethianism (after the third child of Adam and Eve (Seth) in the Book of Genesis), who date their existence as pre-Christianity.

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Ceremonial or Ritual Magick

While some form of ritualised Ceremonial Magick has been present in cultures going back thousands of years, most current practices stem from the middle ages or later.  Ceremonial Magick as we know it developed from Christian Kabbalah (a philosophical system adopted from Jewish mysticism), Mediaeval Alchemy and Gnostic/Hermetic philosophy, basically a System of Initiation and Mastery of Consciousness.  It includes, amongst others, Goetic and Enochian Magick and Thelemic Ritual.  Ceremonial Magick is by far the most complex form of magick, using magical theory drawn from a great body of literature amassed during the centuries, and always incorporates strict ritual.  It is certainly much more elaborate than other forms, probably because the magician draws strength from ethereal entities and the divine.

The general distinction between ritual and ceremony is that a rite is something done, while a ceremony is the way in which that something is done.  However, in general usage, these two terms are usually employed together.  Any act whatsoever performed on a regular basis is a ritual.  For example, if you set your alarm clock for 6.55 a.m., then switch it to 'snooze' for 5 or 10 minutes every day before getting up, that is a ritual.  Should you decide to get up one morning without putting it on 'snooze', you may well feel 'ill at ease', as if something 'isn't quite right', for the rest of that day.  It is exactly the same in Ceremonial Magick - a certain ritual is followed each time a ceremony is performed, but if the ritual is not followed strictly, something will not feel right!

One of the most important factors to consider when performing Ceremonial or Ritual Magick is self-protection.  Here, intuition might well come into play.  If something doesn't feel right - DON'T DO IT!  Using the example in the previous paragraph (we'll assume it is an electric radio alarm clock), let's suppose there has been a power cut in the middle of the night.  You would still tend to wake up with a start at around the normal time the next morning knowing intuitively that something is wrong.  The first thing most people would do would be to check the time, at which stage you discover exactly 'what is wrong'.  The alternative, despite the fact that you know it doesn't feel right, is to ignore your intuition and simply go back to sleep to wait for the alarm NOT to go off, thus ruining the rest of the day, by being late for work and so on.  Ritual is the magician's failsafe mechanism, the key to any hope for success, and also the explanation for failure.

Ceremonial magicians use rituals which may include preparing an area (normally a circle), donning robes, chanting, lighting candles, arranging amulets or talismans in a certain order on an altar and/or themselves, and saying prayers prior to performing the ceremony.  If something 'doesn't feel right' the novice may well continue and suffer the consequences, but an adept knows instinctively that something is wrong and will either abandon the ceremony or repeat the process until it does feel right.

Four traditional ceremonial tools are associated with Ceremonial/Ritual Magick, Wicca and related traditions, believed to derive from the Four Hallows (four holies) of the Arthurian Romances, in which the items are used as symbols of metaphysical ideas.  In turn, these are derived from early esoteric and Gnostic Christian ideas.  These four tools of magick are: the Cup or Chalice, a watery, female symbol; the Sword or ritual Dagger, a male, airy symbol; the Coin, Disk, or Paten, also known as a Pentacle in most Wiccan and Ritual Magick traditions, a female, earthy symbol; the Baton/Wand, a masculine, fiery symbol.  In some systems, the sword and the wand/club are reversed.  See also Magical Weapons.

In magick, these tools represent the four classical elements, the four directions, and the four archangels.  They comprise the four suits in a pack of Tarot cards, and the four worlds of creation outlined in the Kabbalah.  They also correspond with the four syllables of the Tetragrammaton (the sacred four letter name of God).

The sword/dagger and the baton/wand are weapons of destruction, symbolising archetypal male passion, power and dominance, i.e. aggression, which if properly channelled, propels human endeavour.  They are a compulsive, ever moving force, the dark, primitive expression of this force being destruction, violence, frustration, and ill-will.  The cup/chalice and the pentacle or paten/disk/coin, are symbols of 'feminine' traits, i.e. receptive, nurturing, and welcoming when correctly used but cruel, lazy, and cold when abused.  The masculine power seeks knowledge and progress, the feminine provides restraining wisdom, guidance, and grounding.  Where the masculine moves and expands, the feminine forms, shapes, and channels.

It really cannot be stressed enough just how vitally important it is to create and tailor your ritual individually, although it is also appropriate for the aspirant, student or apprentice to learn and practice tried and tested historical ritual.  The purpose of all Ritual Magick is to perfect what is known as the microcosm - you as an individual - in order to connect with the macrocosm - the Divine, to create within yourself a perfect mirror image of the Divine (as above so below), what mystics have termed Union with God, and in magick, the Great Work.  Should any of you have been practicing Ritual Magick for any length of time, you will no doubt have noticed subtle changes in your life already - your focus will be much sharper and your 'perception of what is considered reality' will have changed completely, indicating you have laid the necessary foundations on which to begin building the next stage of your development/enlightenment.

Ceremonial Magick can be practised by a novice using suitable and appropriate documentation describing the ceremony, but normally practitioners are organised into magical schools/orders/societies such as The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) and the Astrum Argentum AA.  These societies are certainly three of the more important influences on this tradition of magick during the past century, along with individuals like Israel Regardie, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and the three founder members of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, William Wynn Westcott, Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers and William Robert Woodman (pictured right).

A would-be apprentice will be questioned at length as to why he/she wishes to learn the ways of 'High Magick' before being taken under the wing of an adept and 'taught' the methods.  One of the first exercises he/she must practice until it becomes automatic is known as Reverse Meditation.  This is one most apprentices tend to neglect, but in every case, should they choose to do so, they will certainly have to return to it.  Every night, on retiring to bed, the apprentice must go over the events of the day in reverse order, i.e. starting with the last thing said or done that day, working backwards until reaching his/her first thought or action of the day.  Each event must be considered impartially, i.e. regarded as an impersonal record.  The results of each action, thought or word must be considered separately, and the apprentice must then try to ascertain why these thoughts, actions or words were the cause of particular effects, back to the starting point of the day.  Reverse meditation is extremely important for two reasons:

  • It helps to modify the normal habit of the mind to think in a time sequence of past, present and future.  Normal thinking works well in a three-dimensional world, but when the higher consciousness is opened up it has limitations.
  • By observing the end result first and working backwards, an initiate finds it much harder to make excuses for his/her conduct, thus tending to put a rein on some of the activity known in psychology as the 'false ego'.

Many esoteric schools of the Western Tradition use the mandala, the meditation glyph known as Orz Chiim (Tree of Life), ‘the mighty, all-embracing glyph of the universe and the soul of man’, as a symbolic picture or image placed before the apprentice as a reminder of his/her work.

Other basic exercises include:

  • Image formation (where the initiate is asked to build up certain mental images).
  • Image recollection (where images already in the mind are allowed to rise into consciousness).
  • Posture.
  • Breathing.
This site has not been designed to provide instructions to enable the reader to develop magically, so I shall not elaborate on the reasons for these exercises.  Suffice to say they are vital first steps on the long and often arduous road to becoming a magician.

Click on the following link to see the complete Golden Dawn version of invoking The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram.

Components of Ritual Magick

Magical Weapons

As with magick, a magical weapon is any instrument used to bring about intentional change.  As Crowley wrote in Magick in Theory and Practice:

"It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge.  I therefore take 'magical weapons', pen, ink, and paper; I write 'incantations' --- these sentences --- in the 'magical language' i.e. that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth 'spirits', such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people.  The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of magick by which I cause changes to take place in conformity with my Will.  By 'Intentional' I mean 'willed'.  But even unintentional acts so-seeming are not truly so.  Thus, breathing is an act of the Will-to-Live."

With that said, in practice, magical weapons are usually specific, consecrated items used within Ceremonial Ritual.  There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes or does not constitute a magical weapon.  If a magician considers it to be a weapon, then a weapon it is.  However, there does exist a set of magical weapons with particular uses and symbolic meanings.  Some such common weapons/tools include the dagger/sword, wand/baton, cup/chalice, disk/coin, holy oil, lamp and bell.

Sword or Dagger
Wand or Baton
Cup or Chalice
Coin, Disk, or Paten
Holy Oil

Magical Formulae

A magical formula is generally a name, word, or a series of letters, the meaning of which is used to illustrate principles and degrees of understanding that are difficult to relay using other forms of speech or writing.  It is a very concise means of communicating abstract information through a word or phrase, usually concerning a process of spiritual or mystical change.

For example, common formulae include YHVH, INRI, and IAO.  These words often have no intrinsic meaning in and of themselves, but when broken down, each individual letter may refer to some universal concept found in the system in which the formula appears.  In addition, by grouping certain letters together one can display meaningful sequences considered to be of value to the spiritual system utilising them.

Vibration of God Names

In magical rituals involving the invocation of deities, a vocal technique called vibration is commonly used.  This was a basic aspect of magical training for Crowley, who described it in Liber VI (also known as Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae).  According to that text, vibration involves a physical set of steps, starting in a standing position, breathing in through the nose while imagining the name of the deity entering with the breath, imagining that breath travelling through the entire body, stepping forward with the left foot while throwing the body forward with arms outstretched, visualising the name rushing out when spoken, ending in an upright stance, with the right forefinger placed upon the lips.  Crowley tells us that success in this technique is signalled by physical exhaustion, and

"though only by the student himself is it perceived, when he hears the name of the God vehemently roared forth, as if by the concourse of ten thousand thunders; and it should appear to him as if that Great Voice proceeded from the Universe, and not from himself."

In general ritual practice, vibration can also refer to a technique of saying a God name or a magical formula in a long, drawn out fashion (i.e. with a full, deep breath) employing the nasal passages, such that the sound feels and sounds vibrated.

Paranormal Effects

Crowley made many claims for the paranormal effects of magick, but like the magicians and mystics preceding him did, and those following him continue to do, Crowley dismissed such effects as useless.  From November 1901 he performed no magick of any kind until the Spring Equinox of 1904.  There were, however, two exceptions, a casual week in the summer of 1903, and an exhibition game of magick in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid in November 1903, when, accompanied by his wife, Rose, through his invocations he filled the chamber with ‘a brightness like that of full moonlight’.  It was no subjective illusion because the light was bright enough for him to read the ritual without the aid of the candle he had been using.  He concluded, "There, you see it?   What's the good of it?”   (The Equinox of the Gods).  In The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, he tells us:

“By the light of a single candle placed on the edge of the coffer I began to read the invocation.  But as I went on I noticed that I was no longer stooping to hold the page near the light.  I was standing erect.  Yet the manuscript was not less but more legible.  Looking about me, I saw that the King's Chamber was glowing with a soft light which I immediately recognised as the astral light.  I have been accustomed to describe the colour as ultra-#8d8145, from its resemblance to those rays in the spectrum - which I happen to be able to distinguish.  The range varies, but it is quite noticeably beyond that visible to the normal human eye.  The colour is not unlike that of an arc lamp; it is definitely less coloured than the light of a mercury lamp.  If I had to affix a conventional label, I should probably say pale lilac.  But the quality of the light is much more striking than the colour.  Here the word phosphorescence occurs to the mind.  It is one of the mysteries of physics that the total light of the sky is very much greater than can be accounted for by the luminous bodies in the heavens.”

Even so, Crowley realised that paranormal effects and magical powers do have some level of value for the individual.  In Magick Without Tears he tells us:

”My own experience was very convincing on this point; for one power after another came popping up when it was least wanted, and I saw at once that they represented so many leaks in my boat.  They argued imperfect insulation.  And really they are quite a bit of a nuisance.  Their possession is so flattering, and their seduction so subtle.  One understands at once why all the first-class Teachers insist so sternly that the Siddhi (or Iddhi) must be rejected firmly by the Aspirant, if he is not to be sidetracked and ultimately lost.  Nevertheless, 'even the evil germs of Matter may alike become useful and good' as Zoroaster reminds us.  For one thing, their possession is indubitably a sheet-anchor, at the mercy of the hurricane of Doubt - doubt as to whether the whole business is not Tommy-rot!  Such moments are frequent, even when one has advanced to a stage when Doubt would seem impossible; until you get there, you can have no idea how bad it is!  Then, again, when these powers have sprung naturally and spontaneously from the exercise of one's proper faculties in the Great Work, they ought to be a little more than leaks.  You ought to be able to organise and control them in such wise that they are of actual assistance to you in taking the Next Step.  After all, what moral or magical difference is there between the power of digesting one's food, and that of transforming oneself into a hawk?”

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Enochian Magick

What site relating to the occult can fail to mention this form of magick, re-popularised by the Golden Dawn, and then Aleister Crowley?  Enochian Magick is used for the evocation and commanding of various spirits.  It is a system of Ceremonial Magick based on the writings of Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley (also spelt as Kelly) in the 16th century.  According to Dee and Kelley their information was delivered to them directly by an angel (the Great Angel Ave), after which they created the Enochian Script (see right).  Their claim was that it embraces secrets contained within the Book of Enoch (a title given to several attributed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah, as opposed to the other three characters named Enoch in the Bible: the son of Cain, the son of Midian, and the son of Reuben.  The latter two are written as Hanoch in the modern translations).  Enochian Script is often referred to as the Angelic Script, and is used in Ceremonial Magick when working with angelic beings, particularly so in the Calls or Keys used to summon them (see below).

The account Dee and Kelley gave of receiving the information from an angel is actually taken at face value by many occultists, although some have pointed out various remarkable similarities to earlier texts known to Dee.  Doubts surrounding Kelley in particular have led many non-occultists to the assumption that the whole system was originally a fraud devised by Kelley as a means of obtaining extra financial support from Dee.

Enochian Magick, or at least the great body of raw knowledge of the system that Dee and Kelley had uncovered and which was lying dormant, was given some form and brought to 'life' more than 200 years later by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn .  Subsequent to this, Aleister Crowley worked with and wrote about this system extensively thus contributing much to its growing popularity and comparatively widespread use today.

Some years later in Chicago, Paul Foster Case, after his expulsion from the Golden Dawn in 1921, pursued the creation of his own occult school, the School of Ageless Wisdom, and led a crusade to convince fellow students that Enochian Magick was ‘volatile and dangerous’.  This organisation failed within a few years.  However, he moved to Los Angeles, abandoning a lucrative career as a musician, and established the Builders of the Adytum.  In its Inner Order Teachings, Case had all reference to Enochian Magick removed.  Others followed in his footsteps, claiming Enochian Magick was too dangerous and should be avoided.

Enochian Magick is certainly considerably more complex and difficult to understand than most other forms of magick.  This has caused numerous interpretations to arise, some of which have developed into schools of thought with individual bodies producing their own interpretative literature.  Despite this, almost all of these schools agree that Enochian Magick is a particularly powerful and dangerous form of magick.  Some of its practitioners even go so far as to suggest that Enochian Magick is inherently destructive to the magician.  Its use is forbidden not only for members of Builders of the Adytum, but also for those of the Servants of the Light.

Without entering into this ongoing debate into the dangers of Enochian Magick, when it is used with caution, and in accordance with Second Order Teachings, it is reputedly not only safe, but utterly effective in the physical world, and very illuminating in the area of Spiritual development!

The Enochian Tablets

Dee and Kelley were the two pioneers who brought Enochian Magick to the world, but somewhere along the trail of lost knowledge since their being given the information the Four Watchtowers of the Universe lay hidden.  These Watchtower Tablets were later adapted by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers to represent the Four Elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

There is a hierarchy to each of these tablets, although the hierarchy in its highest form is not to be found on the tablets, but comes from the study of the Kabbalah.  It is the Divine Name of the element in Hebrew that one must first intone and invoke.  The reason behind this is because Hebrew represents the Celestial influence and governance, and the Enochian hierarchy represents Assiah or material governance.  Contained within each tablet are three Secret Holy Names of God, which can be extracted from the horizontal cross bar of the central cross of each tablet.  In all there are twelve Holy Names on four tablets.  These infer a serious connection and bridge between the Macrocosm and the personal Microcosm of one's own sphere of sensation.

The Elemental Tablets are introduced one at a time.  In the Grade Initiations of the Golden Dawn, these Secret Names are invoked during the four Elemental Grade Ceremonies (initiations) by the Hierophant of the Outer Order.  Through the power of the Secret Names the general nature of the element involved in the initiation is filtered through the tablet into the aura or sphere of sensation of the advancing initiate, thus resulting in the establishment of a magical link and affinity with that element, serving to empower him or her as its new elemental powers are made available.

The process is reported as depending upon a trained and empowered Hierophant, and can, in fact, even be performed in astral form in full Temple to allow the elemental link to exist for members who live hundreds or even thousands of miles from a Temple.

There is an important initiation that is not depicted on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, known as the Portal Initiation.  It is attributed to the topmost point of the pentagram, which is Spirit.  Thus, in the Portal Initiation of the Order, the Tablet of Union is introduced as it represents the building Spirit or actuating 'adhesive' between the elements.

The Tablet of Union

The highest name of Spirit in this Tablet is EHNB (shown in the left-most column), the purest of Spiritual forces, and is only invoked when some empowering is required from the direct force of spirit.

The Tablet of Union is placed on the centre altar to act as the central hub from which the Elemental Tablets are its spokes.

The Elemental Kings

The King is invoked when lower elemental forces on the tablet are to be utilised.

There is one King per Elemental Tablet, which is extracted from a spiral whirl around the Central Cross to be found on each tablet.

The Seniors

In all workings where the King is invoked, so are the Seniors in that they work in a kind of collaboration with the Elemental King.  In rituals such as the consecration of an Elemental Tool the powers of the Seniors are called upon, thus allowing the Elemental Tool or Weapon to receive the Planetary powers in the charging phase through the Elemental Nature of the planet.  Later when needed by a trained Adept, the tool can then project this force for the purpose of magical and alchemical workings.

There are six Seniors on each of the four Elemental Tablets, making a total of 24.  The Seniors follow the King in the order of hierarchy.  Reference to the Seniors can be found in the Book of Revelations - the 24 Elders who bow down before the Throne of God.

They act as a kind of funnel for the specific forces of a particular planet, the King relating to Sol.  The planetary forces of the Seniors are configured and transformed within the specific Elemental Nature of the tablets.

The Sephirotic Cross Angels

There are two angels per cross; one calls forth a servant angel and the other commands the angel.  These angels are only invoked when an Adept wishes to work with a specific subservient angel.

There are four Sephirotic Crosses on each tablet, often referred to as Calvary Crosses.  There is one cross in each sub-element, thus, on the Fire tablet, there are four sub-elements of Air, Water, Fire, and Earth.  There is a cross in each.  On a coloured depiction of the tablets these crosses are white, which like the Seniors denote a spiritual nature rather than an elemental one.

The Kerubic Square Angels

These angels work under the Angels of the Sephirotic Cross helping to regulate and balance the forces employed.  They may be utilised for pyramid working and other important elemental considerations.

The Kerubic Angels are formed from the first letter in each file above the Calvary Cross and permutated to provide (4) in total per sub-section.

N.B.  The information given above is only a tiny fragment of Enochian knowledge, and far from complete, but has been provided for the purpose of giving some general understanding of the subject.  Enochian Magick requires a solid and rigid foundation in the study of not only the Kabbalah, but also in Geomancy, Tarot, Alchemy, and AstrologyIt is not a child's toy but a powerful system that should be employed with the same caution that any prudent person would use when handling a loaded gun.  It is extremely dangerous in the hands of a novice.  If it does not prove to be dangerous, then it certainly will be completely ineffective.

The Enochian Keys

Eighteen Keys (or Calls) given to Dee by the angels were intended for use with the Enochian system as a whole, but they can be used on a stand-alone basis as powerful prayers or ritual invocations.  Consequently, they should be used extremely wisely and cautiously, showing the appropriate reverence as befitting a mighty Force.  Versions of all of the calls or keys are readily available both on the web and in published books - they are perhaps too readily available in the opinion of many Adepts.

A nineteenth key is known as the Call or Key of the Thirty AethyrsAleister Crowley was the first known person to decipher all of these 30 Aethyrs and wrote his experiences in The Vision and the Voice (Liber 418 - Aerum vel Saeculi).  Crowley tells us about his invocation of the 30 Aethyrs during a trip to North Africa in 1920 in chapter 66 of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.

The table below shows details of the Thirty Aethyrs, the brief descriptive passages against each of them being taken on the whole from Crowley's Liber xxx Aerum vel Saeculi Sub Figura 418 (The Vision and the Voice):

30    TEX tah-eh-atz A vast crystal cube surrounded by a sphere; about are four archangels robed in black, with wings and armour outined in white.
29    RII rah-ee-ee Sky with stars of gold, background green; a vast eagle-angel whose wings seem to hide all the heaven.
28    BAG beh-ah-geh An angel with opalescent garments like wheels of fire holding a flail of scarlet lightning, face black, eyes white without pupil or iris.
27    ZAA zod-ah-ah An angel in female form with rainbow wings; dress green with pyro, flames of many-coloured fire surrounding; crest is a moon, sandals of curved pyro.
26    DES deh-eh-ess A very bright pentagram, the heavens filled with the blackness of a mighty angel; spears, vials of poison, sharp swords and whirling thunderbolts about the corners of the earth.
25    VTI voh-tah-ee The pale gold of the Rosy Cross; the aire is the dark olive of alexandrite; an angel on a white horse and another upon a black bull are devoured by a lion.
24    NIA en-ee-ah An angel like a warrior in chain armour, upon his head plumes of grey; about his feet are scorpions, dogs, lions, elephants and other wild beasts; crackling of lightning, rolling thunder and sounds of battle.
23    TOR tah-oh-rah Three revolving lights; a spiders web with a star of twelve rays; a black bull pawing the ground, flames from his mouth, transforming into an Assyrian bull-man.
22    LIN el-ee-en A tablet of 49 squares surrounded by a company of angels, some brilliant and flashing as gods, some elemental creatures; the squares of the tablet filled with changing letters in magical script.  An angel proud and beautiful with pan-pipes.
21    ASP ah-ess-peh A mighty wind and a sense of emptiness; shadows of great angels sweeping by with no sound; a glimpse of an avenue of pillars and a black marble throne supported by sphinxes.
20    CHR kah-hoh-rah A pool of clear golden water and the stars of the night sky; a peacock dissolving into clouds of white angels and archangels with trumpets; all gathering into a multi-coloured whirling wheel.
19    POP peh-oh-peh A black web pierced with a ray of light, then a black cross spanned with an arch bearing letters in an alphabet made of symbols like daggers; an old man like the Hermit of the Tarot.
18    ZEN zod-eh-en A crucifixion scene, the central figure an enormous bat; an angel offers entry to the mountain of caverns and tears down the vision with the sign of 'Rending the Veil'; a mountain of pure crystal is revealed.
17    TAN tah-ah-en The head of a dragon, and a pair of balances with a luminous azure plume behind; a filament of quartz suspended above an abyss; the angel like black diamonds transforming into a sphere of liquid gold then green then blue.
16    LEA el-eh-ah Flickering images in a misty landscape; the moonrise at midnight and a crowned virgin riding on a bull; the angel a mighty king with crown, orb and sceptre.  He tears off the crown and casts the orb and sceptre to the ground.
15    OXO oh-atz-oh A column of whirling scarlet fire with columns about it of green, blue, gold and pyro inscribed with letters of the dagger alphabet; a fire playing about the columns transforms into the skirts of a dancer who weaves a crimson rose of 49 petals.
14    VTA voh-tah-ah A white goat, a green dragon and a tawny bull are clouded by a veil of darkness; a voice announces 'The Great One of the Night of Time'; the veils of darkness are torn and fly away in a whirling wind to reveal the angel standing in the sign of 'Apophis and Typhon'.
13    ZIM zod-ee-em An image of shining waters glistening in the sun; an angel walking on the water a rainbow about his head; a golden veil parts to reveal two terrible black giants wrestling in mortal combat.
12    LOE el-oh-eh Two pillars of flame and a chariot of white fire like the Tarot trump; the charioteer in golden armour speak with a voice like a bell.
11    ICH ee-kah-hoh A sigil of the moon rolls up to reveal a host of angels in battle attire.  The whole defended by a fortress of nine towers of iron, the bastion of the outermost abyss.
10    ZAX zod-ah-atz This Aethyr is said to be accursed.  The Call of the 10th Aethyr may be employed to invoke Choronzon, the Demon of the Abyss.  This is potentially hazardous and appropriate precautions should be observed.  One such exercise was recorded and is included on the 'Liber Bootleg' tape released by the London Temple of 'Illuminates of Thanateros' in 1990.
9    ZIP zod-ee-peh The veil is rent with a clap of thunder and the vision is of traversing the abyss on a razor-edge of light with armies ranged above and in front; in the palace beyond is a proud and delicate woman lying naked: the Virgin of Eternity.
8    ZID zod-ee-deh A pyramid of light fills the Aethyr, and in the pyramid is the child of the union of light and darkness.  Instructions are given by which may be attained the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
7    DEO deh-eh-oh The stone of vision is divided with the left half dark, the right half light; a door like a keyhole in the shape of a Venus symbol opens and flames of blue, green and #8d8145 issue forth. A question concerns the key to open the lock.
6    MAZ em-ah-zod A great angel comprising magical symbols striving for mastery; illusions conjured by the Ape of Thoth; the more one struggles to devise methods of piercing the veil the further one seems from success.  A vision of the God of Lies.
5    LIT el-ee-tah A shining pylon set with the sigil of the eye; then an avenue of pylons, in each seated a god, leads to the top of a mountain; weapons are offered, and a mysterious password.
4    PAZ peh-ah-zod In the midst of the Aethyr a terrible god with a thousand arms, and clinging to him a young girl in throes of passion; the elixir of life distilled.
3    ZOM zod-oh-em An angry light and a great snake feeding upon the plumes of truth as upon itself; the veil of the Aethyr sundered to reveal the Magus of the Tarot.
2    ARN ah-rah-en The woman riding on the bull; a vision of the legend of Eve and the Serpent, and Adam and Cain bearing the Hammer of Thor; above all a vision of the Great Sigil of the Arrow.
1    LIL el-ee-el The veil of the aethyr dark azure full of countless stars; a vibration of the great word IAIDA; a little child covered with lilies and roses; the formula of the Aeon revealed.

Very little is known about the 30 Aethyrs, except that there is a distinct hierarchy, and that each Aethyr should be visited in numerical order, starting with the highest, 30, TEX, and ending with the lowest, 1, LIL, at the very highest spiritual level.  Within Dee's writings, we find specific warnings about accessing 10, ZAX, containing the infamous demon known as Choronzon (other spellings have been used by other writers).  Crowley's preparation for, and his battle with Choronzon is considered a classic in magical literature (see below).

Choronzon is the 'Dweller in the Abyss', the final great obstacle between the magician and true enlightenment.  With the proper preparation, he is simply there to destroy the ego, thus allowing the magician to move beyond the Abyss.  However, if he is ill-prepared, the unfortunate traveller will be utterly dispersed into annihilation.  Crowley's Oath of the Abyss is reproduced below:

Oath of the Abyss

  • I.    I, O.M., etc., a member of the Body of God, hereby bind myself on behalf of the Whole Universe, even as we are now physically bound unto the cross of suffering:
  • II.    that I will lead a pure life, as a devoted servant of the Order:
  • III.    that I will understand all things:
  • IV.    that I will love all things:
  • V.    that I will perform all things and endure all things:
  • VI.    that I will continue in the Knowledge and Conversation of my Holy Guardian Angel:
  • VII.    that I will work without attachment:
  • VIII.    that I will work in truth:
  • IX.    that I will rely only upon myself:
  • X.    that I will interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my Soul.
  • And if I fail herein, may my pyramid be profaned, and the Eye closed to me.

Choronzon is known as the 'Demon of Dispersion', and described by Crowley as "a temporary personification of the raving and inconsistent forces that occupy the Abyss."  In his system, Choronzon is only given form in evocation, simply to enable its mastery.  Crowley states that he and Victor Neuburg (an English poet and writer, particularly on theosophy, remembered for his early association with Aleister Crowley) reputedly evoked Choronzon in the Sahara Desert, but from his account it is unclear whether Choronzon was evoked into an empty Solomonic Triangle while Crowley sat elsewhere, or whether Crowley himself was the medium into which the demon was evoked; most writers take him to mean the latter.  He describes the demon throwing sand over the triangle in order to breach it, following which it attacked Neuburg in the form of a naked savage, forcing him to drive it back at the point of a dagger (a potent magical weapon).  Crowley's account has been criticised as unreliable because the relevant original pages were torn from the notebook in which it was written.  Both the evocation of Choronzon and the Abyss are discussed in chapter 66 of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley:

"The name of the Dweller in the Abyss is Choronzon, but he is not really an individual.  The Abyss is empty of being; it is filled with all possible forms, each equally inane, each therefore evil in the only true sense of the word - that is, meaningless but malignant, in so far as it craves to become real.  These forms swirl senselessly into haphazard heaps like dust devils, and each such chance aggregation asserts itself to be an individual and shrieks, "I am I!" though aware all the time that its elements have no true bond; so that the slightest disturbance dissipates the delusion just as a horseman, meeting a dust devil, brings it in showers of sand to the earth."

Here is a short extract from Crowley's The Enochian Keys showing the First Key:



(Pronunciation Key)
All letters are sounded as in English with exceptions:

A ah as in "fAther"
C k as in "Cook"
E eh as in "grEy"
I ee as in "mEEt"
O long o as in "jOke
Q k as in "Qabalah"
U long u as in "fOOl"

The First Key

Ol sonuf vaoresaji, gohu IAD Balata, elanusaha caelazod: sobrazod-ol Roray i ta nazodapesad, Giraa ta maelpereji, das hoel-qo qaa notahoa zodimezod, od comemahe ta nobeloha zodien; soba tahil ginonupe pereje aladi, das vaurebes obolehe giresam.  Causarem ohorela caba Pire: das zodonurenusagi cab: erem Iadanahe. Pilahe farezodem zodenurezoda adana gono Iadapiel das home-tohe: soba ipame lu ipamis: das sobolo vepe zodomeda poamal, od bogira aai ta piape Piamoel od Vaoan! Zodacare, eca, od zodameranu! odo cicale Qaa; zodoreje, lape zodiredo Noco Mada, Hoathahe I A I D A!

The First Key

I rayng ouer you, sayeth the God of Iustice, in powre exalted above the firmaments of wrath: in whose hands the Sonne is as a sword and the Mone as a throwgh thrusting fire: which measureth your garments in the mydst of my vestures, and trussed you together as the palms of my hands: whose seats I garnished with the fire of gathering, and bewtified your garments wth admiration.  To whome I made a law to govern the holy ones and deliuered you a rod with the ark of knowledg.  Moreouer you lifted vp your voyces and sware [obedience and faith to him that liueth and triumpheth] whose begynning is not, nor ende can not be, which shyneth as a flame in the myddst of your pallace, and rayngneth amongst you as the ballance of righteousness and truth.  Moue, therfore, and shew yorselues: open the Mysteries of your Creation: Be frendely vnto me: for I am the servant of the same yor God, the true wurshipper of the Highest.

Click on the following link to go to our downloads page from where you can download your free copy of an eBook relating to Enochian Magick.  Our Aspects of the Occult Download contains this eBook plus well over 300 other eBooks and documents relating to most aspects of the occult and is available should you wish to acquire a greater knowledge of this fascinating subject.

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Aleister Crowley's Religion/Philosophy of Thelema

The Religion/Philosophy of Thelema

The religion known as Thelema (also Crowleyanity) was ‘founded’ in 1904 by the English poet, mountaineer and mystic Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947), who is now regarded as its prophet.  Those who follow Thelema are called Thelemites.

Thelema emphasises individualism, and the uniqueness of each person's Will.  Consequently, it is difficult to make blanket statements about its nature or the natures of its adherents.  Even the label religion fits Thelema awkwardly in some contexts – it is in reality a philosophy and a way of life, while overlapping with the set of practices and symbols commonly called Magick.

How Thelema Developed

In 1904, Aleister Crowley was on honeymoon in Cairo with his first wife Rose, when she convinced him of some remarkable psychic ability she had suddenly acquired.  She instructed him to enter a room in their apartment at noon exactly, leaving at precisely 1 p.m., on three consecutive days, 8, 9 & 10 April.  During those three hours he took dictation from a praeterhuman intelligence which identified itself as Aiwass.  The resulting text was Liber AL vel Legis, which became known as The Book of the Law.  This book probably presented Aleister with his first reference to the Scarlet Woman since his reading of The Revelation of St. John the Divine in the Holy Bible as a child.

The Book of the Law was to become the core of Crowley's religious and philosophical system he called Thelema (Thelema is Greek for ‘will’, referring to divine and human will). It contains three short chapters with a comment written by Crowley which he signed as Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the only known writings of whom appear on the Stèle of Revealing. Ankh-af-na-khonsu was a priest of the Egyptian god Mentu who lived in Thebes during the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth dynasty (circa 725 BC). He is best known as the creator of the Stèle of Revealing, a funerary tablet he created for himself to commemorate his death. Crowley arranged for a copy of the Stèle of Revealing to be made, knowing it had a message for him. From this point onwards, the stèle was to play a prominent role in his life, and the copy accompanied him wherever he went.

Crowley summed up his Law of Thelema in three phrases:

  • Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
  • There is no Law beyond ‘Do what thou wilt’
  • Love is the law, love under will

The ideal of Do what thou wilt and its association with the word 'Thelema' originated with François Rabelais, (c.1495-1553), a Benedictine monk, physician, and humanist scholar.  Gargantua and Pantagruel was his epic, in which he attacked clerical education and monastic orders and expressed an appreciation for secular learning and a confidence in human nature.  Like other humanists, Rabelais criticised medieval philosophy for being concerned with obscure, confused, and irrelevant questions, and expressed his aversion to medieval asceticism.  He attacked monasticism as life-denying, and regarded worldly pleasure as a legitimate need and aim of human nature.  His Abbey of Theleme is described as a kind of 'anti-monastery'.  The inhabitants of the abbey were not governed by laws, statutes, or rules, but lived according to their own free will.  It was from here that Crowley's system of Thelema developed, where he hoped to replace the world‘s religions with Crowleyanity.  Thelema stresses individual liberty balanced by responsibility and discipline, the inherent divinity of every person, regardless of gender.  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The words of G. M. Kelly are apt at this point, "One should not slavishly and lazily accept the interpretation of the Law of Thelema habitually given by sensationalistic writers with no regard for truth and accuracy, fanatic and radical, religiously intolerant fundamentalist factions of the Judeo-Christian community, and the equally extreme, ego-serving satanists who consistently go out of their way to pervert every possible religious and esoteric ideal and concept known.  Each of these in their own way, for their own purpose, serve ego, the false self.  Would it not be wiser to accept the Thelemite's interpretation of the Law of Thelema?

Aleister Crowley has more than once explained the Law -- for example: "'Do what thou wilt' does not mean 'Do what you like.'" (Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion, to be found in THE "BLUE" EQUINOX, Vol. III, No. 1).  That is to say, the Law is NOT a license to cater to the petty dictates of one's ego as the fanatic pseudo-xtians, intellectually perverse satanists, and ignorant, sensationalistic media insist."

The discovery and manifestation of one's unique True Will is the central task of every Thelemite.  According to Crowley, every individual has a True Will, which should be distinguished from the ordinary wants and desires of the ego.  The True Will is essentially one's 'calling' or 'purpose' in life.  Crowley's concept assumes that this includes the goal of attaining self-realisation by one's own efforts, i.e. without the aid of any divine authority.

He also believed that in order to discover the True Will, one had to free the desires of the subconscious mind from the control of the conscious mind, especially the restrictions placed on sexual expression, which he associated with the power of divine creation.  He taught that the True Will of each individual was identified with his or her own Holy Guardian Angel.

While spending the period of World War I in America, Crowley conferred upon himself the grade of Magus which involved his identifying himself with the word Thelema and merging his personality in it.  Thelema “insists on the absolute sovereignty of the individual within the limits of his proper function”.  It was in the winter of 1917/18, after Crowley had given a lecture on magick, he was introduced to Alma Hirsig, who in turn introduced him to her sister Leah some weeks later.  Although he thought Leah was magnificent, they did not begin a relationship until twelve months after their meeting.  He returned to London, penniless, a few days before Christmas 1919.

Branded a traitor, he was spurned by those who knew him, so unable to raise funds he moved to Paris where he was joined on 11 January by a pregnant Leah Hirsig along with her two year old son, Hansi, from a previous relationship.  Shortly after their arrival he received the funds he had been craving by way of an inheritance (some reports suggest a sum of £3,000 from an aunt, although another figure quoted is £700).

In February 1920 Leah, known to Crowley as Alostrael, the Ape of Thoth or simply the Ape as well as being his Scarlet Woman, gave birth to their child, a daughter by the name of Ann Léa (nicknamed Poupée), at 11 bis rue de Neuville, Fontainebleau.  They engaged the services of Ninette Shumway as a housekeeper and nanny.  She was an unmarried mother with a three year old son (Howard) whom Leah had met on the crossing from America.  According to Crowley, “The girl was bloodless, drooping like a thirsty flower, and she dragged her brat along listlessly ...... he whined and wailed unceasingly like a puppy in pain.  He clung to his mother with pitiful helplessness ....“

Crowley felt he was now at his peak (as well as being financially secure for a short while) and thus ready to convert the whole world to the religion of Thelema, or Crowleyanity.  At the end of March, after consulting the I Ching, he left Paris with Ninette and the two boys, while Leah and Poupée went to Croydon to stay with an aunt of Crowley‘s until suitable premises had been found.

The Abbey of Thelema

Crowley and his three companions found the perfect place to establish the abbey, in a village in Sicily called Cefalu.  In his own words, it was a villa that might have been 'made to order', fulfilling all his requirements.  It had a well of delicious water and a vast studio which opened northwards.  Crowley said, “The gods took no chances.  They meant me to live there and guarded against any possible perversity on my part by planting two tall Persian nuts close to the house.  They might have been the very same trees as those in the garden of the Villa Caldarazzo, which, as I have told, I had taken for a token in the days of Ab-ul-Diz.”

The truth about the ‘villa’ is somewhat different.  It was basically a run-down one-storey rectangular farmhouse with 6 rooms, 5 of these radiating from a central one which became his temple.  It had no gas, electricity or sanitation, the only water coming from the nearby well.  However, included in the rent was a goat which provided the residents with milk – a real bonus!

A couple of weeks later the Ape of Thoth arrived with Poupée and he began to occupy himself once again with magick, poetry and painting; this included painting the walls of the abbey, mostly with erotic art.

Students travelled to Sicily from around the world to ‘discover their true wills’ or real purpose in life.  Before commencement of their training, all students swore an ‘oath of allegiance’.  The actual training involved the breaking down of all artificial and societal inhibitions so the essential self could be liberated.  At the same time, lessons in yoga, concentration, and self-analysis were given.  This training was essential to establish the Law as the ethical basis of the new social order.

Sadly, Poupée died in October, shortly after the abbey had been established.  Crowley‘s inheritance had been squandered along with his other windfall, and he was also burdened with the responsibility of two mistresses and several children (not all of his own making).  After the loss of Poupée he was not sure of which way to turn despite being a Master of every kind of magick; he spent long periods away in Paris and London.  But it would seem that the gods had not deserted him for ‘in a flash of intuition, which came upon him with shattering force’, he penetrated the ultimate mystery.  This is the meaning of Crowley‘s ‘godhead’.

The ceremony took place in the spring of 1921 when he was forty-five.  As Ipsissimus he would be beyond the gods, beyond all mental concepts, which is probably why he had to steel himself for the deed, to acknowledge that he, even he, who was known among men as Aleister Crowley, was by insight and initiation the Ipsissimus.  He wrote in his diary (The Magical Record of the Beast 666), “I am mortally afraid to do so.  I fear I might be called upon to do some insane act to prove my power to act without attachment.”  He entered the temple, followed by the Ape of Thoth, but of the actual ceremony he says nothing, and at the conclusion, only “As a god goes, I go.”  He left the temple as naked as he had entered it, no longer as a saint (Saint Aleister Crowley, of the Gnostic church) but as a god.  It should be noted that the Ape of Thoth found him unbearable after he had become the Ipsissimus, and shortly afterwards wrote about him in her magical diary that it was ‘damn hard’ to think of ‘the rottenest kind of creature’ as a Word (i.e. Thelema).

In 1922, being even more desperate for money, he and Leah went to London where he signed a contract with the publishers William Collins to write a novel, Diary of a Drug Fiend, for which he received a meagre £60 advance payment.  He rented a room in London and completed it in four weeks, Leah taking dictation in longhand of some 121,000 words in 27 days, 12 3/4 hours.  He promptly took the manuscript to the publishers who gave him another cheque for £125 in payment of advanced royalties on his autobiography.  They returned to Sicily immediately – with that much needed cash.

Many well-known people came and went including Jane Wolfe, (a Hollywood actress who appeared in more than thirty films), C. F. Russell (Godwin), Frank Bennett (Frater Progradior) 1° = 10ø A A , and IX° O.T.O.), Mary Butts (a British modernist writer) and Cecil Maitland, while Crowley still spent much of his time flitting between Cefalu, Paris and London.

Despite continual adverse publicity in John Bull magazine and the Sunday Express, the abbey and its residents were thriving.  They seemed happy enough and quite oblivious to the fact that hygiene was non-existent; nobody bothered to wash (either themselves or their clothes).  Basically, the place was squalid and insanitary.  In addition to this, the children watched sex acts daily and had unlimited access to copious amounts of narcotics.

Unfortunately, the abbey was doomed to failure.  It was after one of Crowley’s trainees, an undergraduate by the name of Raoul Loveday, died as a result of developing acute infectious enteritis that the Abbey’s fate was prematurely sealed.  Betty May, Loveday’s wife (who had disliked Crowley from the outset), returned to England and sold her story to the Sunday Express, a forerunner of the gossip and scandal tabloids of modern times.

The headline on 23 February 1923 read 'NEW SINISTER REVELATIONS OF ALEISTER CROWLEY'.  It concerned testimony that Crowley had been responsible for the death of her husband at the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, Sicily.  Tales of horrors filled the pages of the English newspapers for weeks and months to come: satanic rituals, black masses, animal sacrifice, and even human sacrifice, were reported - or blatantly lied about, for many of the stories were simply not true or were just fanciful exaggeration.  John Bull magazine ran headlines such as 'THE KING OF DEPRAVITY', 'A HUMAN BEAST' and 'A MAN WE'D LIKE TO HANG.‘  Once again Crowley was advised to sue, but on this occasion he simply couldn‘t afford to even though he was certain to win the case.

These adverse press reports, plus the imagined threat of secret societies, came during the time of the rise of Benito Mussolini‘s regime in Italy.  Shortly after these 'revelations' Crowley was summoned to police headquarters where he was shown an order from the Minister of the Interior expelling him from Italy, though he maintained no reason was given, and no accusation had been made.  Crowley left the island on 1 May 1923 with Leah who was concerned about his health.  After consulting the I Ching they travelled to Tunisia, arriving the next day, when he began a new diary which has been published under the title The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley Tunisia 1923.

The last person to arrive at the abbey before Crowley‘s departure was Frater O.P.V. (Norman Mudd), who had been initiated into the O.T.O. by C.S. Jones.  Crowley had met Mudd some years before at Cambridge University shortly after meeting Victor Neuburg.  At the time he was a member of the Cambridge University Freethought Association, as well as an undergraduate circle called the Pan Society, to which Crowley was often invited to present papers and lectures on mysticism.  Mudd joined Crowley in Tunisia on 20 May.

Many of the inhabitants of the abbey stayed after Crowley's departure, but eventually they all either drifted away or they themselves were expelled.  The walls of the abbey which were covered in Crowley's sex magick artwork were later painted over with whitewash by the authorities to deter sightseers.  They were rediscovered in 1955 by the film-maker Kenneth Anger who went to the abbey and uncovered the artwork hidden beneath the whitewash.

It should be pointed out that Jane Wolfe contradicted all the stories printed at the time, and was in a position to do so as she was still in Cefalu nursing Raoul Loveday.  She tells us that his illness came about not as a result of bad sanitation, but of his drinking from a polluted stream, the whereabouts of which everyone at the abbey knew and thus avoided.  She goes on to say that ‘no ceremonies of any nature took place during his illness or at the time of his death’.

During his time at the abbey, Crowley's addiction to both heroin and cocaine reached heights he never achieved as a mountaineer (incredible as they were), and ironically the abbey was the setting for his Diary of a Drug Fiend, a novel describing an idyllic 'Abbey of Thelema' in which King Lamus (Crowley) is the misunderstood mystic genius.  Unfortunately, the actual abbey did not live up to his ideal.

He was truly a prolific writer and found time to write a significant amount which included his long unfinished Commentary on The Book of the Law.  His original commentary was published in The Equinox, Vol. I, No. 7.  He reproduced the brief commentary to chapters two and three in his Extenuation, labelling it the 'old comment', to precede his 'new comment'.  However, he omitted the old comment for chapter one, so to see this one must read The Equinox, Vol. I, No. 7., or alternatively The Law is for All, edited and introduced by his one-time secretary Israel Regardie (see Appendix 1).  For a full list of Crowley's publications visit our sister site To Mega Therion

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Chaos Magick

See Illuminates of Thanateros.

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Impersonal Magick

Like personal magick, magick of the impersonal kind can also be broken down into three categories:

Magick Prayers, Spells, Fetishes

  • The Spell.  The magician asks for either a good or a bad deed, then, using the appropriate words in the right way, or possibly using his own words, casts the spell, with a variety of prayers.  Then follows the 'rite'.  This may be the destruction of a wax doll to harm a victim, placing pins or needles in a doll, using the hair of the victim or something the victim has used, or setting fire to something from a building to cause a fire in that place.  Alternatively it may be the placing of hands on the sick, or someone who wants a better job, the sprinkling of water to make it rain, or a thunderstorm.

  • The Fetish.  Something is given to the client who uses it to ask for what he wants.  This may be a potion, herbs, a charm, a prayer, an amulet to wear around the neck, a ring, a crystal, or even poison.

Amulets, Talismans

  • An amulet (from the Latin 'amuletum'), meaning an object that protects a person from trouble or a talisman (from the Arabic 'tilasm', ultimately from the Greek 'telesma' or 'talein') which means to initiate into the mysteries consists of any object intended to bring good luck and/or protection to the owner.  Potential amulets include gems or simple stones, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants, animals, etc.  A typical Christian example might be a crucifix or St. Christopher pendant.

  • The purpose of a talisman is not simply to protect or to bring good fortune, but is used to achieve a particular objective.  When unsuccessful in achieving its desired goal, the talisman is discarded, since it has proved itself not to have the powers required.

The Spoils

The spoils are simply the rewards of a successful spell.

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