The Magick of Margaret Bruce

Margaret Bruce is as unknown now as she was when living and working at her isolated farm retreat deep in the countryside. There is next to nothing about her on the Internet. Yet she wrote and privately published what may be the most original and instructional book on the subject since Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic.

Margaret Bruce Magick: Daemon

No sooner is a temple built to God, but the devil builds a chapel hard by (Herbert)

Belief  alone makes your world what it is. You have been conditioned to believe in illusion. Let me teach you to believe in reality!

Those who see me as the Sphinx, propounding riddles, are those who have difficulty understanding most other things in life. But others may say, as was said of Lady Godiva, “She reveals too much!” Let them take comfort however. The greatest Occult Secret of all, proclaimed in ringing tones from every rooftop in the land would be perfectly safe.

Few occult students appreciate the arrogance of their demands. Many an enthusiastic young hopeful, armed with regalia, ritual and Words of Power, sets out to invoke some Cosmic Entity only to find that his boss wants him to work overtime that evening. The hilarious incongruity of the situation fails to register and his appointment with the Cherubim and Seraphim is postponed sine die while he helps with the stock taking.

The following legend is emblazoned inside the front cover of the book, Margaret Bruce’s coveted collection of Tried, Proven and Practical Natural, Goetic, Theurgic, Transcendental and Illusory MAGICK as inherited, professed and practiced through seven generations from the year of Our Lord 1777 to the present day.

TAROT CARD NUMBER TEN

Margaret Bruce Magick: Drop-cap

N the Temple of HATHOR served a priest called Nefer-hotep. His path from Zelator to Magus took threescore years and led through realms of Fire and Ice and many ordeals. One day a woman gave alms at the Temple. A group of actors and clowns, seeing the coins, were filled with envy and greed. Exchanging their motley for priestly robes, they banged on drums and blew trumpets to attract the crowds. “Miracles and Blessings for sale!” they shouted; and soon the simpletons in the town were flocking to buy. When the simpletons found they had been swindled, the clowns were far away, selling more Miracles to more simpletons.

The clowns grew ever bolder in their new trade and their boasting grew sillier. Each tried to outdo the other and they squabbled and fought among themselves. “I can make the old young again!” cried one. “I can transform goats into maidens!” screamed his rival. Until even the simpletons could see that, for all their priestly garb, the clowns were nothing more than clowns.

A thrice told lie is believed by the liar, and the clowns began to believe they had miraculous powers. Thus came their downfall. For Nefer-hotep was hated by the Demons he had exorcised in the past but they could not harm him because his Heart, when weighed in the balance of THOTH was not one breath lighter or heavier than the Sacred Feather of MAAT.

But the Demons saw the clowns in priestly garments and smelled the corruption beneath the stolen robes of office. So entered the Demons into the souls of the clowns and destroyed them, thinking they had destroyed their enemy Nefer-hotep. The flesh of the clowns fell from their bones and the serpent made her nest in their skulls until, in time, the bones themselves became dust; and this dust mingled with the sands of the desert and was borne upon the wind. Their names, if names they ever had, are forgotten.

The Temple of HATHOR remains. Nefer-hotep remains.

And a new band of strolling clowns and actors approaches.

And the Demons wait with infinite patience.

Margaret Bruce MAGICK

Each chapter of MAGICK by Margaret Bruce, her only (known) published work, is a single page, lavishly illuminated with antique line drawings and arabesque motifs. The pages are not numbered but the text is printed on different coloured papers, as Bruce explained in her Preface.

This is not simply a book of Magick, but a Magick book. The pages are unlimited by numbers and the Magick dwells in the pauses between the reading of each word and the turning of each page. Just as music is mere noise without the measured periods of nothing between the notes and chords, so the art and craft of Magick comprises the placing of apparent nothings in dynamic relationship with apparent realities in order to create a desired result. In order to do this, it is necessary to learn the difference between illusion and reality—a task which may be attempted by perhaps one suitable person in a million. Of a million such aspirants, one partial success might be an optimistic estimate. The ability of the reader to comprehend this basic fact is all that limits the Magick of this book.

Margaret Bruce Magick: LyonesseWhen I came back from Lyonesse with magic in my eyes… The photograph (left) is of Margaret Bruce as a child of six years. It is placed with ‘Images Within Images’, on the centre pages of the book—which was “written, designed and printed from the outsides towards  the middle, the page numbers are only in your mind”. What little is known about Margaret Bruce derives either from what she disclosed in her book and letters, or that resides in the memory of those who were fortunate to have corresponded with her. She was a recluse, living in a remote farmhouse surrounded by rescued animals, and would not entertain human visitors. All proceeds from her apothecary and the book went to Margaret Bruce’s Animal Sanctuary for neglected and ill-treated farm animals and wildlife. Her grandfather was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and collected a huge store of arcane knowledge, including secrets of incenses, oils and all manner of potions and charms. It is clear that he passed on this knowledge, gathered from translating countless manuscripts and much more besides, to his daughter.

According to Margaret Bruce, some of the recipes were from Voodoo Queen Octavia Labeau.

When she visited Britain in 1909 to demonstrate clairvoyance to the Spiritualist groups she stocked up with perfumes from my grandparents and allowed my grandmother to copy some 600 recipes and spells from the hand written minute-book she carried on her travels. These recipes, translated from the curious Creole French of Madame Labeau’s original, now form part of my own hand written grimoire that runs to several volumes.

It is not known whether the precious grimoire still exists. We first knew of Margaret Bruce through Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, co-founder of the SOL Association, who gave us the recluse’s address in Ireland. From there we requested her catalogue and soon became regular customers. Her incense, oils and other products were of unsurpassed virtue. The little book, MAGICK, is among the most highly valued of rare books in our library.

All sanity, all reality, all nature is, together with magick, retreating from the suffocating menace of mankind. If you wish to discover real magick perhaps you should hurry!


Quotations from Magick [Angel Press, 1984].

1. Tarot Card Number One
2. Epilogue
3. Magick and the Supernatural
4. Preface
5. Voodoo—Religion or Racket?
6. Magick and Madness

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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.[1]

Voodoo AmuletIn the case of grimoires we can usually assume the recipe ingredients are metaphorical. If the instruction is to use the ‘blood of 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 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!


Notes

1. The Mage John Dee was the personal astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I and a leading scientist and cartographer.

© Oliver St. John, 2018
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Equinox of Maat: Balance of the Year

When the Sun enters Libra at the Equinox of Maat, the days and nights are equal in length. Soon the days will be shortening and the nights lengthening as we, in the northern hemisphere, journey towards the winter solstice. In the southern hemisphere the situation is reversed; the days will be lengthening and the nights shortening, as the journey begins towards the height of summer.

Maat Equinox: Thoth Tarot Adjustment VIII

The Thoth Tarot trump for Libra is Adjustment VIII, depicting the Egyptian goddess Maat. A young woman is masked and bearing on her forehead the uraeus serpent. She is crowned with the ostrich plumes of Maat, and is perfectly poised upon her toes. In her hands is a magical sword, with the point downwards. She is The Daughter of the Lords of Truth, the Ruler of the Balance. She represents the absorption and transmutation of all experience in the flowing forth of continuous manifestation. She is the mistress of creation and destruction, and the balance of light and darkness. She is cosmic law, and the law of nature: truth, twofold, and the immutable law of the universe. Her powers are the works of Justice and Equilibrium.

The Oracle of Maat

Behold! I am the Eye of my father, Ra. I am the one in whom the word is accomplished. I am the Bride of Tahuti and the Measure of the Universe. I am truth, and the feather is my symbol. To pass my door, you must justify every part of your soul, and you must visit the beautiful fields of the grasshoppers. You shall bathe in the pool where the Sailors of Ra in his sun-boat bathe. Purify yourself in my name, and come before me as Horus Triumphant. For I stand upon one side of Ra in the ark of the heavens and Tahuti stands upon the other. And unless you have found the flint that is hidden in my furrow, then you shall not pass my gates. But if you know all these things, and if you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra, and if you are pure—then Tahuti shall call your name! And you shall be known in the palace of the starry ones, and shall live forever and forever.[1]

Maat is the goddess that presides over the weighing of the heart ceremony, and is the ‘Straight One’, the principle of Perfect Truth and the Balance of the Universe. She is clothed in emerald green and wears the crown of double plumes. The feather is her symbol, and the Ankh of Life. Maat is the Eye of Ra, the Sun, and is the bride and consort of Thoth or Tahuti, the Egyptian Hermes-Mercury, the god of magick and of magick words and writing—the Word or Logos.

The Neteru or Gods are the personification of impersonal principles. Maat, especially, is a cosmic principle. The ancient Egyptians loved puns, the play on words. Maat says, “If you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra…” One of the epithets of Maat is ‘The Me’, the Measure of all things. One must find the measure, the ‘me’ that is Maat, in the heart, the centre of all.

Maat is the Eye of Ra, and the secret hidden in the heart of Ra—she is his daughter, and so the apple of his eye. As with students, a good pupil is as that which is in the centre of the eye. It is emptiness, yet beholding all—therefore receptive. Also it is one who hears—for the human ear was shaped by sound. The heart itself is the void place of spirit. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the heart (Ab) is a pot or vessel. The handles are the ‘ears’. The ‘eye’ is the emptiness inside—the necessary condition for true meditation. Nuit wears a pot on her head, which is the hieroglyph of her name, ‘Nu’; she is the Holy Graal.

The ‘emptiness’ or spaciousness of absolute Nuit is not equal to ‘nothing at all’.  As it is put, cryptically, in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, II: 2:

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!

Far from being ‘nothingness’, Nuit’s spaciousness is everything! The one true power in the universe is the power of attention. The all-seeing eye of Ra is the eye of the beholder. In Liber AL, I: 28:

None, breathed the light, faint and faery, of the stars, and two.

Everything concerned with Maat is double. The ancient Egyptians usually had two of everything, including pairs of male and female gods or neters. Maat presides over the Neophyte Hall of Dual Manifestation. Everything in nature is double; there is ‘no-one’ in truth. The power of Egyptian magical spells is in the words; to know they are true, and to speak them truly, is the perfection of Maat.

There is a popular New Age notion that any affliction suffered in this life must owe to some ‘karmic debt’ incurred in a previous life. Let us dispel this myth, for the rule of Maat is not in any way a moral or ethical law. The law of nature is exact; we must not confuse this with any notions of human justice based on morality—if we do then we confuse this idea of karma and make little tin gods of ourselves. Furthermore, ‘reincarnation’ is a self-limiting modern myth, based on rationalist determinism.[2]


Notes

1. The Oracle of Maat is taken from ‘Ceremonies of Nuit and Ra’, Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light [Ordo Astri].

2. See ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for Libra is Maat VIII. The card and its description may be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St John 2013, revised 2019

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