Black Magic and BBQ

bbq

Photo by Marc Majcher

First of all, if you eat meat, and have never had the opportunity to try Texas style BBQ, I feel sorry for you. It’s good stuff – delicious brisket, beef ribs, German style sausages, and other meats, seasoned and then smoked to tender perfection. Sauce is secondary, and not even needed or desired by a lot of folks. Serve it all on a sheet of butcher paper with pickles, onions, and white bread, and you’re good to go. BBQ has a culture, and various regions are locked in an endless battle over who does it best. (I’ll save you the trouble of trial and error. Texas does it best).

But can BBQ also be of value to a Black Magician? Perhaps that seems unlikely to some of those reading this, but as an Evil Wizard who also has studied BBQ and its culture extensively, I assure you that an astute student of the Left Hand Path can indeed learn a few things from Texas BBQ.

A large part of successfully performing magic is being able to control one’s Subjective Universe – the Black Magician’s ability to shape his or her inner world and apply their Will to create change in the Objective Universe. Go to just about any BBQ joint in Texas, and you are stepping into a carefully cultivated environment. This is especially obvious if the place is not particularly old. Much of BBQ culture is based around “authenticity” and the length of time a BBQ practitioner has been at their craft. In most parts of the country there are a few venerable restaurants that have been in business for generations. It’s immediately obvious upon walking into one of those culinary time machines that they’re the real deal, and that the ambiance developed naturally with little effort spent to look “authentic.”

When a Black Magician walks into such an environment, they should take note of the subjective bubble they’ve entered. Like the ritual chamber, some of these temples to BBQ are protected from outside influences. The successful Black Magician’s ritual chamber is a highly charged environment where they are in complete control; when one walks into a good BBQ joint, they are immediately under the influence of someone else’s a carefully created subjective environment. Black Magicians must learn to interact within subjective spaces created by others, and a local BBQ joint is as good a place as any to do just that.

Next, let’s look at Franklin BBQ. It’s probably the most nationally famous BBQ joint in Austin at the moment, despite having only been around a few years. It seems to make every top 10 “Best of BBQ” list around, and I don’t doubt it’s good. But “best”? I wouldn’t know first hand, as I’ve avoided the place. Why? How can a self-professed Evil BBQ Wizard (EBW) such as myself not have eaten at Franklin? Well, the thing is…it’s also famous for having an hours-long line, and is only open until it runs out of food.

One magical principle I’ve learned as both a Black Magician and an EBW, is that one should only allow themselves to submit to subjective manipulation if they want to. We all filter out the obvious stuff; the constant white noise static of TV ads and spam emails, irritating energy-sucking people we have to deal with at work, or other kinds of time-wasting crap that we don’t want to allow in. How does this relate to one of the supposed best BBQ joints in America?

Well, I know the truth of the matter. There’s bad BBQ, and there’s a lot of average to good BBQ…and there are a few consistently great places. However, once you enter that “good to great” level, most people can’t tell much difference in the food. When someone tells me that the best BBQ in town requires waiting in line for two hours, hoping they don’t run out of anything, I start to question whether the food is that great, or if smoked shoe leather would taste transcendent after waiting forever, while talking to others in line about how amazing the meal will be. Creating that sort of rewarding subjective environment is both masterful marketing and a form of Lesser Black Magic. It’s fine to allow oneself to enjoy that kind of experience, but a Black Magician should be aware that’s what they’re doing. Me? I’ll go to any one of several other local places I know of where the line isn’t so formidable and the food is great.

I invite others to become Evil BBQ Wizards. But be wary and mindful. There are lessons to learn, and they can be applied to our own magical operations.

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Photo by Robb1e

Xeper and the Art of Creation

The relationship between art and magic has always been a close one. Both deal in the act of creation; of bringing forth something from Self, and it’s not surprising that many Black Magicians are also artists, musicians, or writers of some kind. Some artists who probably aren’t involved in the occult can still provide inspiration and insight to Black Magicians. Andy Warhol is one such artist, and recently the Bull of Ombos Pylon convened and took a trip to the Blanton Museum here in Austin, to see the “By The Book” Warhol exhibit. The focus of this particular presentation of Warhol’s work was his contributions to books, and the art on display is pulled from every era of the artist’s career. Visitors would see his early work – the shoe drawings, his pre-fame illustrations for children’s books, and other whimsical pieces. One room had the artist’s famous screen tests projecting onto a wall, filling the area with black and white close up footage of many of his Factory superstars. Faces, and the preservation of those faces at a specific moment in time, were important to Warhol, and that becomes obvious looking at a retrospective of his work. The presentation of “By the Book” greets visitors with canvas after canvas, most of which seem to be filled with faces; most of which were instantly recognizable and iconic. Warhol took Polaroids to capture images of the famous people he painted, using the instant photos to create the types of silkscreened images the artist was most known for.
Warhol was interested in interesting people; in the famous and potentially famous. The artist helped exalt his Factory superstars, taking his entourage of oddball bohemians and giving them 15 minutes of fame. As Black Magicians, we find Initiatory value in preservation of the Self, of magnifying our most pure and refined essence. This is no secret to anyone on an Initiatory path, and one can find many parallels in Warhol’s work. He visually captured the essence of many of his subjects, creating a form of immortality that will live far beyond any of their lifespans. The “By the Book” exhibit is well worth viewing if one is a fan of Warhol’s work, but it also gives magicians much to consider. How we present ourselves, and what kind of permanent presence we create within the world is important always consider, and Warhol helped to cement not just his own legacy, but that of many of his subjects, and in a way more engaging  than most other artists. His portraits and films still feel fresh and immediate, helping to craft the images of people who are still alive, while preserving the those of people who are not. It is a magical act not often bridged in art.

Interviews with Setians 2.2

Austin Bat Bridge

Tonight we have responses from Brother Virgil to our second round of interview questions.

1. How did you know your magic was working?

There were times when it didn’t, or at least seemed not to. Maybe my Balance Factor was off, or Lust of Result sabotaged my unseen hands behind the scenes. But I persevered, keeping in mind that magic is not an Easy Button. Magic is a skill, and like any true skill, you have to suck at it before you can become OK at it. When a basketball player misses a free throw, he doesn’t say “Welp, I shot a brick, so shooting a basketball doesn’t work.” He practices, corrects, and practices some more.

While in the routines of daily life I tend toward a secular and skeptical way of looking at things, but I find that when my magic really crackles, the results hit me like a Hurricane Kick across the face and remind me why I keep doing this. It often takes the form of unexpected plot twists, uncanny timing, and/or being in the right place at the right time in such a way that it’s almost like someone scripted the moment with my Desire in mind.

Interpreting the efficacy of one’s magic is largely a matter of recognizing patterns and connections over time. It is necessarily a subjective art – not a science – that takes one’s internal landscape, passions, and Desires into account. This makes it a hard sell in our superficially “secularized” and “rational” age (I can hear my fellow Americans laughing…). Subjective interpretation is not admissible to empirical study, for good reason. But magic is not empirical, nor reliably reproducible by different people doing or saying exactly the same things the same way. Every would-be magician must look within and find one’s own combination, one’s own style or method that works. To put it another way: if magic were science, then it would just be science.

2. What difficulties or sticking points did you experience during your First Degree period?

There were times I had to catch myself when I was going through the motions of what I “thought” a Black Magician should say, think, do, or believe. Having prided myself on outgrowing the conformity-centered culture of sameness and obedience to authority that I’d come from, it irked me to realize I was still susceptible to the all too human urge to mirror the crowd, even in small, subtle ways. It’s one thing to get the basic idea of the Left-Hand Path. It’s something else to gain the working Understanding that, no, it’s really not about black clothing, subcultural posturing, or compliance with any particular political checklist of pet issues. It’s about cutting away the parts of you that aren’t really you, until only the essential Self is left.

3. What was the strangest thing that happened to you as a First Degree? The most unexpected thing?

For whatever reason, I found that I had this bizarre talent for recognizing Setians in person as Setians, sight unseen, without even knowing who they really were. On my journey to my first International Conclave, there were at least three or four examples I can think of who I spotted in passing – at airports, in the streets, in the hotel lobby, even in nearby restaurants – and “noticed,” thinking maybe they might be going to the same place I was. All turned out to be Setian Initiates of varying degrees.

New Interviews with Setians

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The following is the first installment to our second set of interview questions, answered by the Sentinel of the Bull of Ombos.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Priest Keane of Black Rivers Pylon for his collaboration in crafting these questions.

1. How did you know your magic was working?

There were two aspects to this realization. First was the obvious – I got the things I wanted. I performed magic based on desire for tangible objective things, and these things materialized.

The second was more subtle but arguably more important. I saw and felt a transformation take place within myself. I became more confident and courageous. I was evolving into the person I’d always wanted to be. I started to attract the right people, find the right places, and found that I could trust myself and my own intuition.
2. What difficulties or sticking points did you experience during your First Degree period?

The most difficult aspect of joining the Temple for me was learning to relate to myself, and certain parts of my world, in a new way. Experiences that may have once been petty annoyances could be transformed into an important step on my initiatory journey, but this required that I learn to work with them.

Also, I was in a thriving Pylon with people I had known socially for years, which meant we all had to reframe our relationships. This was another ongoing act of discipline and transformation.

3. What was the strangest thing that happened to you as a First Degree? The most unexpected thing?

The strangest thing that happened to me as a First Degree occurred within a month of joining the Temple (if memory serves, I had not yet received my welcome packet in the mail). I knew I was taking a big step…toward what, I wasn’t sure. I just knew that big changes were coming. I remember a distinct sense of possibility and potential, tinged with fear and uncertainty. There was just SO MUCH out there. I came home early from work one day, and was getting dressed to go on a date with my future husband, when I smelled something weird. I went into the hallway of my house and it was filled with smoke – an electrical fire! I saved my pets and called the fire department, but ended up living in a furnished apartment for several months while the house was cleaned and repaired.

That internal, subjective sense of uncertainty and liminality had manifested itself in my outer world. Just making sure I got the message, I guess!

The most unexpected thing that happened during my First Degree period was the confidence I began to feel. I was able to make changes to myself, to create myself. As a result of this, I became more attractive to more (and better) people, I was more equipped to practice discernment regarding who and what would further my Xeper, and I was able to ruthlessly remove negative influences from my life, without guilt. I started to find the strength to live as an antinomian.

 

Pylon Interviews: The Gritty Reboot

black-rivers

The Black Rivers Pylon is one of the Temple of Set’s newest Pylons, based in Ottawa, ON. As the Temple’s oldest Pylon, The Bull of Ombos was happy to send its blessings on the night of the official opening of the Pylon’s gates. In the spirit of community and collaboration, Black Rivers has opted to pose our interview questions to its members.

The first of these posts can be found here.

The Sentinels of our two Pylons have worked together to craft a second set of interview questions, which will be coming soon.

Thoughts from Brother Virgil

Pylon

Photo by Jorge Lascar

Brother Virgil is an esteemed member of the Bull of Ombos Pylon and a resident of Central Texas. His personal magical blog can be found At the Void’s Edge.  He recently got back to me with his answer to one of my questions for our members.

Q: What do you recall of your earliest impressions of the Temple of Set?

A: At first all I had to go by was my initial correspondence with Setians, which more or less fit with what I had expected of them: intelligent, dignified, respectful, coherent, and generally approachable or friendly. I took it as a good sign, but also knew there could be no substitute for getting real, in-person interaction with these people to get a real sense of the caliber of individuals I was dealing with.

For many new Setians, this first contact comes from a one-on-one meeting during the initial interview process or soon after formal entry into the Temple. For others, it’s at a local (or at least nearby) Pylon meeting. But I never had any of that. It wasn’t until I’d hopped on a plane and flown to an International Conclave I encountered my first fellow Setians in person.

What struck me immediately was the ecclectic mix of “types” represented within the Temple. It wasn’t all goth rockabillies, all hipsters, all heavy metal dudes, all clean-cut professionals, or all bookish scholars, although all these types and more were present. But that to me just underlined what I had come to understand about Setian philosophy: It wasn’t a cultural or sub-cultural posture based on one particular aesthetic, style of dress, or other superficial means of constructed identity. Rather, the various characters I encountered represented an array of examples of what the Left-Hand Path can look like in practice, a multitude of expressions of common core principles.

I was also highly vigilant about any potential warning signs of “culty” behavior, cringey grandiosity, delusion, or general toxicity in the Temple membership. I’d read enough and judged my correspondence enough to pretty much be optimistic, but knew that people will still surprise you. Happily, I found that the Temple’s screening and interview process does a pretty good job of weeding out unsuitable persons early on. Those who get in and stay in are there for the same reason I am: a knowledge base, a toolset, and a network of like-minded individuals cooperating for mutual benefit on an as-needed basis.

To this day my fellow Initiates continue to inspire me.

 

Praise Junk

Nestled in a residential neighborhood in South Austin, the Cathedral of Junk is an incredible folk-art creation with a distinctly Austin vibe. The Bull of Ombos Pylon recently spent some time at this monument to transmutation, using the unique energy which permeates every inch of the place as inspiration for our own Initiation. How might we use the “junk” in our own worlds, and transform it into a palace of our own? How can we transform lead into gold?

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