Photo by Esteban Chiner
Death is one of the very few common threads that runs through the entirety of humanity’s experience. Every person who has ever lived has been touched by death, and eventually succumbed themselves. Most religions and belief systems seek to provide a sense of security around death, allowing their adherents to peacefully pass through life with some kind of assurance of what will happen to them after they leave their body behind.
Right hand path religions tend to provide answers that will keep their believers in line – heaven/hell, reincarnation, and the like. Behave yourself in this life, they say, and your great reward awaits you on the other side, ultimately becoming one with the universe.
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The Left Hand Path provides no such promise, leaving it up to the individual to determine what they believe they will experience after death. Some of us staunchly believe in the immortality of the psyche, some take an agnostic stance, and others feel strongly that our time is over when our bodies die. Ultimately, of course, one has to admit that no one truly knows what will happen to their psyche after death, until they experience that transformation first hand – and those who have made that transition aren’t talking (at least, not in any objectively quantifiable way).
More important than positing and debating the possibility of an immortal soul, though, is the question of what each of us can do with Death while we’re alive, during the time that we know we have. How can we let Death into our lives, and let it teach us? How can it make us better magicians, and stronger people?
Each of us must confront their own mortality at some point. Really confront it. Stand before the vastness of the universe, attempt to comprehend its random, chaotic nature, and understand that you are infinitely small and insignificant within its scale. There is no greater force “out there” that loves you, nor values your existence. And, at any time, your life can be snuffed out, in any number of ways, for no reason.
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Many people would wallow in despair when confronted with this thought (before running into the welcoming arms of the nearest RHP prophet). A good Black Magician will transform it into something powerful, and use it to their advantage.
How that is done will be unique to each of us, as we are each ultimately responsible for finding and creating meaning in our own lives. It begins with meeting Death not as a destroyer, but as a teacher.
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Photo by Jayel Aheram
Black Magicians tend to be a resourceful lot, and most of us learn early into our Initiatory journey that there is great value in being adaptable. Learning to Work with the tools that are available to us at any given moment is a good skill to develop.
I’ve also found that tapping into the magical essence of my location is an useful ability that has benefited my magical operations. All places have a magical current that runs through them, and through learning to recognize its nature, a skilled Black Magician can harness the power of a location and use it to help fulfill their goals.
Everyone has traveled to a new place and experienced its “vibe” – a kind of subjective state created by certain cues, its apparent character, and the kinds of people one most encounters there. As I traveled to different parts of the world, I became aware that, beyond the surface traits that various cities and regions seemed to have, I could often feel something else running through them – a sort of energy that seemed to be reflective of that place’s essence. The obvious vibe of a place, and its magical current are often closely aligned, but not always. Sometimes the magical character of a specific location is mostly hidden unless one seeks it out.
Photo by Ed Schipul
I live and Work in Austin, Texas, and this city has a definite magical personality of its own, as does Houston, my hometown, and the entire Lone Star State. I have encountered Magicians who didn’t respond well to their time here, not finding the heat or culture to their liking (Newsflash: Texas is hot, it’s probably not a good place to move to if you can’t handle that). That’s completely valid. There are plenty of places in the U.S. and world where I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time if I could help it.
But the Magic of Place is a reciprocal thing. One gets out of it what they put in, and even a skilled Magician can miss opportunities to tap into a location’s current and its benefit, if they don’t engage with it.
Photo by Adam Baker
Houston’s magic is strong – a strange mixture of urban energy, electric and vibrant, swirling and intermingling with the wilderness that snakes through the city along dark bayous. It is a perfectly evocative environment to perform Magic of all types, and when I learned to appreciate and embrace Houston’s unique energy instead of working against it, my magical success blossomed.
Austin is known for being quirky and cool, packed with hipsters, live music, and youthful innovators. It’s a haven for hippies and free-thinkers of all kinds, perceived to be an oasis of liberal ideas within an otherwise conservative state. It’s not at all surprising that there has been a long tradition of alternative religion in Austin. But of course all magic has a dark side, and there is a decidedly sinister, vampiric current running through Texas’ Capital City – drawing in the unwary and feeding on their energy. It is, after all, also known as Bat City.
Photo by Caomal
I’m fortunate to know many great Black Magicians, Working all over the world, and it’s clear that their Initiatory journey and their day to day magic is shaped by their environments. It made me realize that it’s worthwhile to develop my ability to Work wherever I might find myself. I might not be overjoyed to land in rural Mississippi for several months, but I would do my best to discover its magic while I was there. And it does have magic unique to it. All places do. It’s our responsibility to ourselves as Black Magicians to explore the currents local to us at any given time, and to learn to adapt our Work to them. Or we can miss out, and just complain about how no one sells good sushi in rural Mississippi. The choice, as always, is ours to make.
The following is a guest post from Pylon member Nachtriesander.
Photo by Happy Krissy
When I first discovered the occult, I was a kid in junior high living in a small, podunk town outside of Houston. The idea that magic was real and something that a person could use to enrich their existence, was compelling to a weird youngster like myself; the world suddenly seemed much more interesting and full of promise.
A lot of that early “magical wisdom” was ridiculous in hindsight – a common type of quick buck, 1970’s self-help sorcery, and goofy Wiccan tomes for hippies and collectors of quartz. Over the next few years, most of the people I encountered who were interested in magic were those types of occultniks – advocates of dancing nude in forests to honor Mother Nature, and quick to warn others not to dabble with Black Magic, lest they suffer the dire consequences of some silly three-fold law of karma. I endured a lot of admonishments and Wiccan stink eye on my way to the Crowley section in Houston’s occult book stores back then.
One thing a lot of those folks seemed to have in common was a tendency to blame external forces for any aspects of their lives with which they were unhappy. I get it, we all encounter adversity from time to time, but dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances should inspire a skilled Black Magician to change the things that are causing them consternation. There’s nothing wrong with doing magic to push things towards a more satisfying outcome, but I’ve also encountered lots of occultists who seem to feel like the reason their life isn’t satisfying is because of some enormous external obstacle that is unfairly keeping them down.
For instance, I’ve encountered male Magicians who seem to believe that their lives would be better if it weren’t for feminists. They’ll squeak and squeal about “misandry” and other injustices pushed upon men such as themselves by evil feminists, never once considering that their problem might be because they’re simply creepy to women.
Or perhaps they’ve been though some unsatisfying experiences with the opposite sex. Back in the 1990’s, a woman I’d been dating broke up with me because her guru had told her I was a “Dark Lord” (along with Madonna. We were both fallen angels, according to the guru).
It’s a tough world out there, and things don’t always work out when you’re in league with The Devil and Madonna. But experiences like that didn’t make me blame feminists or women for my bad romantic stumbles, and it seems to me that a Black Magician who allows that kind of thing to make them bitter and resentful isn’t really a very skilled Magician.
Photo by wendEwho! Thompson
I’ve also seen plenty of occultists who use the same sort of magical fixes over and over. For example, I’ve met people who’ll use magic to attract a romantic partner, but their relationships inevitably crash and burn. After everything has gone belly up, they’ll angrily curse their exiting lover, and then start the whole process over again, using magic to attract a new one. Rinse, and repeat. It’s a bad pattern to fall into, and anyone who’s known a magician like this has probably experienced that person’s psychic vampirism, too – they seem to go hand in hand.
The thing magicians like this have in common is the inability to look inward, to find what’s not working in their lives, and to use Black Magic effectively to change the pattern of failure they continue to fall into, and no amount of naked forest dancing and crystals is going to fix those things. Self-Work can, however.
Here is a crash course on sigil magic from the High Priest of Set.
One of Austin’s lesser-known attractions is the extensive collection of Aleister Crowley manuscripts, documents, and personal papers housed at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center.
I recently asked Setnakt to share the strange tale of how a large chunk of The Great Beast’s archives found their way to Austin.