Magick of Voodoo: Ode to the Crossroads

Voodoo, or voudon as it was termed by Kenneth Grant, was brought to Haiti by African slaves. Naturally, as missionaries in turn took the Roman Catholic religion to Haiti, Christianity is part and parcel of voodoo. A curious admixture!

Voodoo Likeness

Medieval grimoires are sophisticated in their use of symbolism. They are also frequently obscure, whether through copying errors, intentional ‘blinds’ or perhaps sheer ignorance. One only has to look at the Keys of Solomon, usually rated as a better class of grimoire, to find complex systems of astronomical hours and days, Qabalistic powers, thrones and dominions. Add to that the hosts of angels, demons and spirits, each defined by quality, type and signature, and one can see why these rare books, usually written in Latin, were sought after by luminaries such as John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I and a leading scientist and cartographer.

Voodoo AmuletIn the case of grimoires we can usually assume the ‘recipe’ ingredients are metaphorical. If the instruction is to use the “blood of a bat and eye of newt” we know that what we are really being told is to use black ink pigment for the vellum. The newt is neuter, ‘neither-not’, and is a salamander that has the combined characteristics of fish, serpent and frog. The field of magical transmutation is that part of the occult anatomy corresponding to the medulla oblongata.

Voodoo Chile

I stand up next to a mountain, and chop it down with the ledge of my hand … I pick up all the pieces and make an island, might even raise it to the sand.

James Marshall Hendrix, Voodoo Chile

The song lyric is not about commanding the forces of nature. It is about being the force of nature itself. Hendrix delighted in such esoteric themes as the precession of the equinoxes and magical birth, death and resurrection. There are tales of being abandoned in a deserted place, rescued by mountain lions and carried through the air on an eagle’s back. Self-identification with natural and cosmic forces as typified in the natal horoscope is a key magical practice. Some are born with a powerful sense of destiny, others seek it out. All must come to understand at last the impersonal source of such power, or else suffer the delusion of personal identification with Ishvara, the “great chief”. The relationship with the Holy Guardian Angel is more complex than that of any terrestrial daemon.

Black Cat Bone

What then are we to make of the “black cat bone”, as recounted by legendary blues singers? The instruction might well have been intended quite literally. Bones, whether human or animal, are frequently used to decorate the village shaman’s hut—or apartment, as it may be. It seems fairly unlikely that modern devotees of the hybrid cult will be devout (and practicing) Roman Catholics, which rules out any really authentic voodoo initiation. The faith is of course an absolute requirement, as it was for the European witches, so called. There is one thing we can know for certain. Once we begin to imagine that the mere procurement of the right ‘ingredients’ will confer supreme governance of nature then we are certainly on the short road to the lunatic asylum. Analysis is necessary, then synthesis. We need both solve and coagula to work magick.

Let us begin then with solve. We are told the creature must be “black”. Black is the one colour that is not a colour; it is defined by the absence of any colour. Very good. What of the feline? The cat is notable as combining the characteristics of lion and serpent—a fact that owes in some measure to the pronounced flexibility of the spine. In a certain sense the cat is also neuter, as was the case with the newt. Finally, the bone—the hardest, most indestructible part of the physical frame.

Having applied solve, we may proceed to coagula. The real import of the black cat bone has been readily revealed. All we had to do was to think of the principles involved, the neteru. We must now apply this knowledge to our great and noble purpose. We have an absence, an androgynous lion-serpent, and the most indestructible part of the anatomy. Magical operations do not begin with a word; they begin with silence. Before Kether is Ain Soph Aur, before that, Ain Soph, and before that we have Ain, beyond definition. While magick begins there, meditation ends there, if it ends at all. It is the goal of yoga to know as we are known, and to do that we first have to get ourselves out of the way. We now know something of the conditions needed for a magical operation, beyond any considerations of the timely orbits of the planets. We go to praxis. (In this, we are inspired to spontaneous utterance of prayer, of invocation. Yet we maintain silence, else no bone may be cast. By supreme effort of will, all images are forged in the one image.)

Crux Voudon

In the rolling abyss, a glowing spark—behold!
Flame-fire in the depth: Energy of the Universe unfold.
Thy serpent trunk, thy lion crown bedecked with stars.
My God, my God! Nameless thou art.

Thou lurking beast, to whom all flesh is prey,
Devourer on the threshold of Amenti,
Legion on the bank of Bayou,
Feast on judgement day!

Hastened by Odin’s eightfold steed,
Honed in the stalwart stream.
Raised up, the mount of bones gleaming white.
Then behold one king—crucified.

Groan Golgotha, cry aloud Carfax Voudon!
Now come the stainless seed, deep born perfection.
At the last, a fit offering: one dewdrop remain.
Behold, the diamond soul—thus named!

© Oliver St. John, 2018
More on the Nightside:
Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft
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Aleister Crowley and Thelema—Equinox of the Gods

“Although Crowley preferred to cast himself in the mould of the Eliatic Greek school, going so far as to adopt the argumentative methods and intellectual idealism of Socrates, the Egyptian Book of the Law rails against such reasoning and argument.”

There is division hither homeward; there is a word not known. Spelling is defunct; all is not aught. Beware! Hold! Raise the spell of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Liber AL vel Legis, III: 2

“All is not aught” is a succinct though subtle refutation of certain streams of the Eastern philosophy. Even if we make a clear distinction between Aleister Crowley, the man or personality, and the consciousness current we term “93”, the buddhistic way is intellectually alluring—for some, compelling.[1] It also becomes a very easy way if we pay lip service to it while neglecting the core meditation practice. Sri Ramakrishna, the Hindu sage and devotee of Kali, held a view that in no way contradicts ancient Egyptian pharaonic theology:

God has form and He is formless too. Further, He is beyond both form and formlessness. No one can limit Him.

Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita[2]

Great Neter: God comprehending all other Gods, E.A. Wallis Budge

Crowley and Thelema: God of all Gods

Crowley and Crowleyanity

The aim of magick is to make contact with occult intelligences. Historically, it has often been the case that such direct contact refutes mainstream dogma. Religion is about belief. The value of belief is in the telling of a good story but it is ultimately a bar to Gnosis. The ancient Egyptians had no word in their language for “religion”, since the concept for them did not exist. The Book of the Law is a transmission from an ancient Egyptian source. As such, it is a knowledge stream that vastly predates both science and religion.

Although Crowley preferred to cast himself in the mould of the Eliatic Greek school, going so far as to adopt the argumentative methods and intellectual idealism of Socrates, the Egyptian Book of the Law rails against such reasoning and argument.[3] Indeed, the rationalist science of today has its roots firmly immersed in the clay of classical Greek dogma. Thus scientism is not only against Nature but has also tricked mankind with its stream of inventions to the extent that all life on the planet is now under threat of imminent extinction.

Magical Timing

It is more likely that Crowley received the writing of the Book of the Law on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd April 1904, not the 8th, 9th and 10th as he subsequently claimed.[4] This was first noted by Kenneth Grant, who studied the diaries and holograph MSS of Crowley at first hand, while receiving personal tuition from him.[5]

Does it matter? If it matters at all, then it matters only for the purposes of understanding how practical magick works. The timing of things is vital in magick. To separate magick from Nature is to separate man from truth with the divisive sword of intellectual reason. Destruction is the outcome, as surely as is splitting the atom. When a magical operation is performed on the Equinox of Aries (20th March, the initiation of the Cairo working), the fulmination of that work arrives with the full Moon. In 1904, the full Moon in Libra very nearly coincided with Easter (Friday 1st April), and there was a lunar eclipse so that any corresponding events would be marked ever more deeply.

None of this need be of any concern to historians or scholars of the life and times of Aleister Crowley. Let it be then, that Crowley wrote down the book on the 8th, 9th and 10th April 1904. Then we can all sleep safe in our beds. After all, some observe this ritually, by reading aloud the three chapters of Liber AL vel Legis, one for each day. A more magical (and poetic) approach to this is to read from the book on the full Moon immediately following the Equinox of Aries each year. Anciently it has always been the Moon, and not any arbitrary calendrical date that determined the times for rituals. Crowley, on the other hand, wisely suggested it might be best to burn the book after the first reading.

Ouarda the Seer

Should it bother us that Crowley played down the role played by his wife, Rose or Ouarda the Seer? As she was the mediumistic agent for the whole business, Rose may very well have received and dictated the book to the scribe Crowley.[6] This would account for the instructions on practice given him in the middle of the second chapter that he clearly refused to obey. It would account for the fact of Rose’s handwritten notes added to the manuscript, not to mention that even by his own account the Beast had to consult with her concerning his anxiety over the neologism, “unfragmentary” (Liber XXX, I: 26). After that, the tone of the book becomes increasingly cryptic and menacing—hence the second verse of the third chapter that we have quoted.

Wise Words and Foolish

Some have interpreted, “there is a word not known” (AL, III: 2), as meaning that Crowley somehow failed to utter a word to inaugurate the New Aeon. The Aeon that subsequently ensued was abortive, so it is said. This has deluded some (including perhaps Crowley) into thinking an actual word—a word that can be spelled or spoken—is a necessary part of the equipment of a Magus that is somehow in charge or governance of an entire epoch in the history of human civilisation.

Some have posited that Crowley’s Aeon of Horus was very swiftly superseded by an Aeon of Ma’at.[7] This was later qualified by Kenneth Grant as a dual Aeon of Horus-Maat. Grant also made much mention in his books and letters of a “Wordless Aeon”. Others would have it that all aeons in time are presided over by Horus and Ma’at in both ancient Egyptian and astrological terms. The balance of the year is Aries and Libra. There is nothing in the Egyptian Book of the Law in any case about any “New Aeon”! All of this has introduced some bewilderment in the minds of those students of the occult that wish to find truth in written words and historical facts, so called. According to Liber AL vel Legis, III: 75:

The ending of the words is the Word Abrahadabra.

Everyone knows that ABRAHADABRA adds Qabalistically to 418. It appears in the grimoire attributed to King Solomon as a spell for invisibility, and the original form of this spell was ABRAKALA.[8] Crowley’s favoured interpretation was typically solar-phallic, “Father-Sun-Satan”. However, the seven-lettered ABRAKALA expresses the power of the divine creatrix, summed up in 256 or 16 x 16, the shade of the full Moon. There are three colours or primary kalas for the face of the White Goddess, white, black and red. She is either visible, invisible or in eclipse. During eclipse, a shade appears ahead of time, so to speak, thanks to the intervention of the body of the earth. Thus the powers of a lunar eclipse include prophecy, divination and oracular utterance.

One thing we can certainly be sure of is that Rose Crowley, who was first abandoned by Crowley and subsequently rejected by him, was the Pythoness and oracular seer that brought us the Egyptian Book of the Law.


1. Buddhism—generally speaking, for there are many schools of thought and practice—appeals to the rationalist and employs what might be termed ‘Greek reasoning’ to set its particular truth over and above all other truths. Perhaps the statement would be better qualified as “intellectual Buddhism”.
2. Recorded by Sri Mandiram, March 11, 1883: Conversations with Sri Ramakrishna [Vedanta Press].
3. See R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Sacred Science (pp. 18, Inner Traditions International) and Plato’s Phaedrus for the naturalistic explanation that Socrates gives for all sacred myths. The interested reader is encouraged to read the Foreword by Robert Graves to his second edition of The White Goddess (Faber and Faber), as it is relevant in the present context.
4. Crowley cared little for such trifles as historical times and dates. The time and date of his birth is a documented fact. By his own admission (Confessions of Aleister Crowley) his recorded time of birth indicated that Cancer, ruled by the Moon, was rising on the hour. Crowley much preferred the fiery solar-masculine sign of Leo the Lion over the watery, feminine-lunar Cancer the Crab. He therefore simply changed the time of his birth to suit!
5. See Kenneth Grant, Beyond the Mauve Zone pp. 34 [Starfire Publishing].
6. Such a book does exist and is titled Liber L vel Ouarda, or Liber DLXXVI, The Book of Ouarda the Seer. The content is identical to that of the MS version but without the interrogative interruptions of the scribe Crowley. The numbering of verses differs therefore. Ouarda has the Qabalistic value of 576. The original title of the book was “L”, not “AL”, since it is a book of the Law of Ma’at, not a book of religious precepts.
7. A disaffected disciple of Crowley, Charles Stansfeld Jones (Frater Achad) posited an Aeon of Ma’at as commencing from 1948 e.v. See The Incoming of the Aeon of Maat [Starfire Publishing].
8. See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, under the number 256  [Ordo Astri].

Related articles:
Magick of the Aries Equinox
Crisis of the Modern Age
The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga
© Oliver St. John, 2018

Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium
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Magick of the Aries Equinox

Aries Equinox: The entry of the Sun into Aries signifies the commencement of the Thelemic New Year, as dated from year zero, 20th March 1904. This commemorates the first ritual of Thelema, the “Equinox of the Gods”, an invocation of Horus performed by Aleister Crowley and his wife Rose, in Cairo Egypt.

Aries Equinox: Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot trump The Aeon XX

The Crowley-Harris Tarot trump for the Aries Equinox is The Emperor IV. It is a surprisingly conventional image compared to the rest of the deck. As an alternative Tarot for the equinox, we present The Aeon XX. Here we have Nuit, Hadit and Heru-ra-ha, the double form of Horus. The principle of governance is extended to the cosmic level. Concerning The Aeon XX and the 31st path called the Perpetual Intelligence:

“Evocation is among the magical powers of this path. Whereas invocation means ‘calling in’, evocation is ‘calling forth’, or to call up. Thus images of the Tarot card based on the Renaissance Tarot de Marseille deck depict the dead being called up from their tombs on the day of judgement by an Angel blowing a trumpet.  Aleister Crowley changed the title and the image of the card so The Aeon XX depicts the Egyptian gods or neters, Nuit, Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Here, Horus becomes the Avenging Angel, the Lord of Judgement. It is notable that in this image Horus is shown in dual form. He is crowned and throned as Ra-Hoor-Khuit but at the same time is surrounded by a figure of Harpocrates or Hoor-paar-kraat, the God of Silence. There is a dark side to this, for in the present age man has replaced the image of Logos, the word, and Theos, the divine, with the image of himself. If a word is not heard then it may not be uttered. At the apotheosis of his technical and scientific wizardry, man has become dumb. The ventriloquist’s dummy is thus an apt totem of the present technological age.”[1]

Aries Equinox: Natural Intelligence

“The 28th path of Tzaddi connects Netzach, the sphere of Venus, with Yesod, the sphere of the Moon, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key, The Emperor IV. The title of the 28th path is the Natural Intelligence, for it is the perfection of the nature of all things under the orb of the Sun. The desire of Venus reflected into the mirror of the Moon makes impressions upon the Astral Light. Much of the work of occultism is to create new forms as suitable vehicles for the incarnation of the will to transcendence. On the other side of the coin, forms are created to hook or enslave the soul, as revealed by the fishhook of the letter tzaddi.

Aries Equinox: Hebrew letter Tzaddi of the 28th path

“The king portrayed in the Tarot trump is the fisher-king found in the myths and legends of many cultures. The king is an image of meditation and magick where key symbols are held and fixed by concentration of will. Meditation requires sustained and persistent effort over a lengthy period of time—years, not days or weeks—before it ceases to be regarded as a personal exercise. The powerful astral glamour that pervades this path gives rise to the delusion of instant enlightenment, that much can be gained spiritually in return for very little effort. The desire for acquisition of spiritual or magical powers, or the belief that one can be made ‘healthy, wealthy and wise’ through magical manipulation, psychological improvement or hypnotism, is no more than the restless urge of the human ego to maintain its tyranny over the soul. The beginner at meditation discovers that instead of making things more comfortable, the practice irritates the body and is annoying to the ego. Most therefore terminate the discipline within a few days or weeks, deciding that it is not their ‘path’, after all—they soon return to the market place where vendors are eager to trade in miracles. The magical power of the 28th path is the Power of Consecrating Things.”[2]

The Aries Equinox and 28th path thus embody the principle of governance. The King and the land are one. The ego and body are one. There is a need to seek out a holy graal, lest the body of the king becomes a wasteland, and the soul is dragged down with it.

Aries Equinox: Esoteric Title of the Tarot Trump

There is a note of interest here on the esoteric title of the Tarot trump, Sun of the Morning: Chief among the Mighty. These titles were passed down from the historic Golden Dawn of 1888 and presumably came from the inexhaustible genius of the Golden Dawn founder, S. L. Macgregor Mathers. Some Golden Dawn sources—and there are many—render the title as Son of the Morning. It is impossible to know for sure what was originally intended as the papers of the Golden Dawn were all passed on and copied by hand. Those that have rendered it Sun of the Morning have taken it from Aleister Crowley’s tables in 777. However, these were compiled from the same kind of sources and even the most recently published editions contain ‘typos’ never corrected in the first draft. Crowley never even got round to updating his key scales to conform with the Liber AL change of the trump’s allocation from the 15th path of Hé to the 28th path of Tzaddi.

Ithell Colquhoun used Sun of the Morning in her extraordinary surrealist Tarot, though it is possible she had access to other sources than that of Crowley. We are happy in any case to take the title as it was given in 777, and by Colquhoun, though our intuitive sense tells us that Mathers most likely named it Son of the Morning after all! The first placement of the card was on the 15th path from Chokmah to Tiphereth, and so the King is called Chief among the Mighty as his root is directly with the supernals. As for Son of the Morning, this would be an allusion to the Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphereth as well as the name of the Order, the Golden Dawn. The title has provoked interesting lines of thought, whether the trump is placed with Hé or Tzaddi. For example, as Tzaddi, the King becomes the Son of the Morning Star. To save losing any sleep, it is well to remember that in Qabalistic terms, “son” and “sun” are identical.


1. From The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity, “The King of Tzaddi”.
2. Description of the 31st and 28th paths from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth.
Related articles: Equinox of the Gods
© Oliver St. John 2015, 2018 (revised)

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