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
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Aquarius and the Nightside

The Tarot trump for the 15th path of Aquarius is The Star XVII. The esoteric title of the path is Daughter of the Firmament: Dweller between the Waters.

Thoth Tarot The Star XVII Aquarius

Aquarius Invocation from Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light:

Thou art the Daughter of the Firmament, the Dweller between the Waters. Thou art eternity. Thou art the Star of Nuit. Thou art love, and the lamps of Venus! Thou art the window of heaven and the destiny of man to attain. Thou art the Holy Graal itself, and the amrita with which it is filled, thou art ambrosia of the Gods. Thou art the Waters of Space and thy cup is Binah on the Tree of Life. Thy veil is the Abyss betwixt the great sea and the fertile earth, the clouds that are broken up and drop down dew. Thou art the goddess of Infinite Space, and Babalon thy daughter. Thine are the Marks of Space, and thine art is Occult. Thy magical weapons are the Censer for the perfumes, as clouds carry the distillation of the water of earth and the Aspergillum for the sprinkling of the lustral water. For this is alike as to the shedding of the rain from the clouds. I invoke thee, whose number is eleven! I invoke thee, continuous one of Heaven!

The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth Volume One:

1. The placing of The Star XVII on the 15th path is to end the ages old confusion between the blood of material generation and the pure essence that is the substance of spiritual regeneration. The 15th path of Hé connects Chokmah, the sphere of the Zodiac, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The 15th path is called the Constituting Intelligence because it is the essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness; the word used for ‘essence’ is etzem, which has the same root as OTz, ‘tree’, from whence the Tree of Life. The same word etzem can mean ‘bone’, ‘body’, ‘life’, ‘substance’.

2. The power of manifesting or begetting is the primal power of the Goddess, which is that of division into two; the path therefore corresponds to the Goddess of the Stars. As declared by Nuit in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59:

My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.

3. Chokmah is the chakra of the Zodiac, as separate and distinct from the fixed stars, which are the domain of Kether and the North Pole of the universe. The Zodiac is the belt or girdle of Venus, the planetary symbol of Nuit in her manifestation as visible nature. Incense and fragrance are ancient metaphors for pure spirit or essence—that essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness. The darkness itself is a metaphor, since it is more than merely an absence of light. Visible light is a veil, an appearance that clothes the nakedness of Nuit, whose essence is the ‘Not’ of space. There were two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life or visible light, and the Tree of Death, Night or Nuit—the invisible light of Non-Being. ‘Blood’ is the self-replicating power or energy that moves through all incarnated creatures, yet the oracle of Nuit asserts that her creative essence has “no blood therein”. It is therefore necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths, for Aries, previously assigned to the 15th path, is the sign of the fire of blood, the blood of the Lamb as depicted in Christian mysticism. Aquarius, on the other hand, is the sign of the Waters of Space, typified by the Egyptian hieroglyph of two streams of water or radiation.

4. Nuit is the Star Goddess particularly concerned with the occult or hidden side of nature; her mysteries are those of sex and generation—not the generation of physical progeny but the generation of the magical ‘child’ that is the true son or Sun-Star of Nuit.

5. The magical power of the 15th path is that of Astrology; the starry wisdom of the 15th path should not be confused with popular notions of astrology.

Aquarius and the Qabalah

Aquarius, the Waters of Space, is a fixed air sign ruled by Saturn, the principle of limitation and form. The letter hé of the fifteenth path of Aquarius on the Hermetic Tree of Life means ‘a window’, and has the value of 5. The window of ‘five’ is the image of the starry goddess Nuit, The Star, through which the seer perceives the primordial wisdom. The path begins in Chokmah, associated with the ajna chakra or third eye, and terminates in Tiphereth, the beauty of all the sephiroth in radiant harmony. While Chokmah manifests fully as Mazloth or the Zodiac, in visible nature Tiphereth appears as the Sun, the life-giving spirit that animates the 12 signs through the course of the year. The key to the Zodiac is the Sun acting through Spirit in governance of the four elements, Fire, Air, Water and Earth.

The Hebrew word for Zodiac, Mazloth, provides a key to understanding the transmission of consciousness that is veiled by the symbolism of the fifteenth path. In The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, we find under the number 251 the Greek word imas, the thong, strap or girdle of the goddess Venus:

Esoterically the green line or girdle of Venus is the belt of the zodiac or ecliptic that encircles the earth; the planetary or mundane chakra name of Chokmah is Mazloth, the Zodiac.

Under ChKMVTh, 474 (equal to DOTh or Da’ath), we find:

Chokmah the second sephira is the sphere of the zodiac, Mazloth; the starry wisdom is the primordial gnosis, the secret kept by the Sethians or Typhonians, the builders of the oldest pyramids. The root of Mazloth is MZLA (78), a type of influx or influence from Kether or the North Pole of the universe.

The influx or Mazla is described thus, under the number 78:

MZLA has the meaning of flowing, to flow down in drops; it is a whirling or spiralic, radiant force. As MZLVTh is the name of the Zodiac, MZLA refers to the stars of Draco and Thuban at the North Pole. The Dragon constellation is named thus because at one time it coincided with the Nodes of the Moon, Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis. It is therefore a cosmic symbol of the Kundalini or Serpent Power, embodying the polar electro-magnetic force of the universe. The idea of ‘flowing’ and ‘drops’ (as in dew drops) suggests that Kether is to be regarded as feminine or neutral—the sahasrara chakra of the Tantras is described as a Moon or moonflower, turned downwards.

As declared by Nuit in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 9:

Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!

Aquarius and the Nightside

Nuit is depicted in the Tarot trump numbered 17 not as cosmic space but as visible nature, her manifestation. The esoteric title of the trump is Daughter of the Firmament: Dweller between the Waters. The ‘waters’ are symbolised by the two cups that Nuit bears, gold for the blood or energy of the universe and silver for the dew of the stars, the elixir of life. The seven-pointed star in the Crowley-Harris image is that of Venus; esoterically the number seven also relates to Set or Sirius, the Sun-behind-the-Sun.

Kenneth Grant, who devoted his life to an exploration of the Nightside of the Tree, is the primary source for a study of the dark aspects of the path that is both detailed and imaginative. In his book Nightside of Eden, concerning the fifteenth Tunnel of Set, he says that:

Seven, or Sevekh, was the primal goddess of the seven stars (Ursa Major) of the planisphere, and these stars or rays were the seven heads of the Dragon of the Deep that later appeared in the Christian myth as the Beast of the Apocalypse. The Star of the 15th kala is therefore the Star of Sothis or Shaitan, and is concealed in the feminine generative essence known as the soul or blood of Isis.

Grant then goes on to note, regarding the magical power of the fifteenth path:

The magical siddhi associated with this kala is Astrology which—on the other side of the Tree—has a very different connotation to that which it usually obtains, for it is there the genuine science of the stars, or kalas, and differs from the popular conception of astrology as does the Tarot from the vulgar playing-card game.

That which Kenneth Grant terms as “stars, or kalas” are not the visible gems of the night sky—though they have their correspondence with them. More often than not he is referring to the nodes and constellations of a matrix—perceptible to the seer as a shining gossamer web—that extrudes from the body of the consecrated Shakti. The Sri Yantra of the Eastern Tantras is a geometric symbol of this matrix. The same matrix was displayed in ancient Egyptian depictions of the Goddess, especially the polymorphic variations of Nuit and Hathoor, by networks of five-pointed or five-fingered stars. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the radiation of light or transmission of energy is identical to the astrological wave-glyph for the zodiacal sign of Aquarius.


Notes

For more on Draco and Thuban, the Pole Star of antiquity, see Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light (Ordo Astri). The Tarot image of The Star XVII is from the Crowley and Frieda Harris Thoth deck. Nightside of Eden by Kenneth Grant forms a part of his nine volume Typhonian Trilogies (Starfire Publishing) and deals with all the paths of the Nightside or Tree of Knowledge. Quotations are from Part Two, Chapter 5.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
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