It's finally a reality! This podcast has been years in the making, and I've finally found the courage to get it off the ground. I'm hosting this show on sounder.fm, a free podcast host for new and small shows.
Podcast Website: https://greenlionpodcast.sounder.fm
This podcast aims to dig deep into topics of the paranormal, forteana, and high strangeness, through the various lenses of Philosophical analysis and dialectic. Join me (Taylor Bell) as I explore these topics one by one, and chat with interesting people orbiting the world of the strange and peculiar.
The first four episodes are out now - an introductory monologue which is only 15 minutes, and a slightly longer monologue about the allure of mystery, plus a two part interview of Nicholas Chapel (whose blog can be found at Hermeticulture.blogspot.com)
Ta ta for now
This June I'll be teaching a class through Magus Books in Minneapolis. The class will be in 4 parts, taking place each Saturday in June from 1pm to 2pm, and it will indeed be accessible online. Each class is $15 a la carte, or you can pick up the whole course for $50, saving you $10. I'm trying to figure out a way to host video of it after the fact, but as of right now it sounds like the only way to participate will be live at the time they're happening, either in-person or online.
Sigils, like words, carry meaning and purpose. Join me for a comprehensive course on Sigils, learn how to make them from scratch and imbue them with your own magical intentions. Learn how to utilize sigils and sigil art in your magical practice, and discover the myriad of different ways we can craft these strange and cryptic symbols. This course takes place over 4 weeks, Saturdays from 1 - 2pm Central. Each week will serve as a standalone class, and they will come together to offer you a full education on Sigils, and the tools you need to go forth with your own sigil magic.
Week 1: Variations on a Theme (6/5, 1 - 2 PM Central)
A History of Sigils and their varieties, from Cuneiform to Hieroglyphics, and into the magical practices beyond. We will explore the origins of different types of characters, symbols, signs, and sigils throughout time, and we'll discuss the context in which we use these ideas in our everyday lives.
Week 2: The Art of Sigil Craft (6/12, 1 - 2 PM Central)
Learn the fundamentals of creating sigils of any kind, learn the ins and outs of how you can imbue these symbols with meanings, and find out techniques and tips for helping to simplify your sigils, or tailor them to your specific needs.
Week 3: Sigil Magic Basics (6/19, 1 - 2 PM Central)
In this class, we will discuss the basics of how you can use sigils in your magical practice. This will cover some common approaches to activating sigils, as well as how to identify the methods that will work best for you.
Week 4: Advanced Sigil Magic (6/26, 1 - 2 PM Central)
Learn how you can incorporate sigils into your life in more discrete ways, pick up ideas and concepts for turning your Sigil Craft into an active pursuit, and learn about how to encipher complex information with Sigils. Plus, discover how you can combine various forms of sigils to create unique composite sigils, and even learn to hide your sigils within art or creative projects.
You can sign up here, so please join me this June for a fun romp exploring sigils, their history, and how to use them in your own magical practice!
Have you ever wanted a tarot deck that was entirely pitch black? The Sigil Arcanum Tarot is a new take on the classic divination technique, a distillation of the symbols of the Tarot in the universal language: Sigils. Each card features sigils which are made up of pertinent symbols from the history of Tarot. The Thoth Tarot deck is the source for these symbols, though an effort has been made to make the deck compatible with both the Thoth system, and the RWS system.
This deck is great for anyone who already feels proficient with Tarot reading, and despite its abstract nature, the deck has proven to be easy to learn on as well, especially if mathematics, archetypal symbolism, and abstract interpretation are up your alley. The deck also comes with a 52-page booklet explaining the symbols used in each card, and features a pictorial guide to the various symbols used.
The Sigil Arcanum is available in the full color Spectrum edition, where sigils are given their appropriate colors relating to elements, planets, the zodiac, and much more. The deck is also available in a Blackout edition, printed on full black paper stock with black UV for a beautiful effect that shines in the light.
The Sigil Arcanum Project was funded on Kickstarter in May of 2019, and is available for Pre-Order now. You can find a link to the Pre-Order here. In the interest of transparency: I created the Sigil Arcanum Tarot, so I wanted to promote it here on my blog. If you like it, Pre-Order the deck, which is shipping out March 2021.
"Gone are the leaves on the Hecate trees,
Shed to the wind, 'til her skeleton claws the sky,
I am alone in a forest of memories,
Dragging behind me the howl of the winter.
Hecate, Hecate, Hecate."
~ Wendy Rule, Hecate.
The holy goddess of the night, queen of dreams, bringer of light and flame. I spell it with a 'k'. If I had to put a name to the reason I have begun to 'believe' that gods and goddesses are real, that name would be Hekate. There are any number of other spiritual beings floating out there in the ether. This one is the one that called to me. One of several, but one in particular. One and one.
Hekate has come to me in dreams. She has whispered to me during meditation. She is teaching me the values of belief, and of determination. Before meeting this goddess, I would proclaim that I didn't believe in anything. I felt (and still do in many ways) that we can never really know for certain the objective reality of paranormal and spiritual experience. I was trying to be a true agnostic. I still keep that idea in mind, and I remember to check myself against it, but I also question its usefulness, and am reminded of its importance: to not let myself get stuck in one hole or another. But I am coming to realize that belief carries a power, with which we can do just about anything. It is naive, however, to think that belief alone could solve all our problems. Therein lies, like with most things, a spectrum of balance to be sought after.
I believe in Hekate because I have experienced her in many ways. I disbelieve in Hekate because I don't believe in anything. It seems to be a Catch 22. Cognitive dissonance can be a tricky thing to navigate, and with regularity when exploring these strange realms, but it can also keep us on track like ancient koans. On track, irregardless of where the track leads.
Hekate has taught me many things. I have learned to pay more attention to my dreams, to interpret them symbolically and to begin to understand how to pull meaning out of my dreams - even old dreams from years ago. I have learned to respect the process, and to remain consistent with my practice. I have learned how to find balance and stillness within myself. And I have even learned to respect myself and trust my own experiences. She has taught me these things in complex ways.
Rituals have effects. They just do. I have seen it happen many times, I've watched rituals unfold quickly, within hours; and slowly, over many years. Personally, I have no doubt that magic works, and ritual seems to be one mechanism by which to work magic. It is not the only mechanism, but it's the one I'm most familiar with.
One thing I have found regarding the efficacy of working magic is that if the people involved do not believe that the ritual or ceremony will have effect, then it is likely to have no effect - but it is not guaranteed to have no effect. Sometimes even when you disbelieve, things will happen; and often these things end up appearing to us as very symbolic and meaningful to the experiencer.
Another thing which makes ritual extra complicated is that it appears that you do not have to follow existing prescribed rituals to a 'T'. It seems that one can work a ritual with modifications and still receive desired outcomes (as much as if they had done it by the book). That being said, there are many people who swear by doing it by the book; these people claim that part of the efficacy of the ritual working comes from the authenticity of the work itself - making sure that you're pronouncing words correctly, making sure you're wearing the proper dress and amulets, using the proper oils and candles and perfumes, etc.
However, I have also found that people who don't even do rituals, but express their intent and put in the Work in other ways, still receive their desired outcomes - often in "magical" or unexpected ways. This makes it so hard to objectively discover what exactly it is in magical practice that makes it work; which makes it hard to create and tailor effective rituals in good faith. One of the most powerful magical effects I have ever experienced involved simply drawing a bunch of sigils on a sticky note, while I was feeling intense emotions, and burning that sticky note.
The closest approximation I can come up with is something like this:
Magic causes real effects. It takes belief. It takes intention. It takes work. Magic can be done in any way that feels right to the operant, and seems to benefit from consistency, and embedded meaning in the work itself. There is no right or wrong way to do magic. One must simply do it, in some way, and it'll probably work, in some way.
When I use the word "magic" I am not referring specifically to this kind of ritual or that kind of prayer, I mean anything a person does which they believe will cause a desired outcome in their life or the life of someone they are doing magic for, and which results in either the desired outcome which was expected, or some other spontaneous type of Change which has similar outcomes to what was desired, or at least some kind of outcome which appears, in retrospect, to have been needed.
It is true that people interpret superstitions with more meaning than they may deserve on their face, but the fact of the matter is we live in a world that is literally made of meaning and symbolism. We talk and write in words which are abstract sigils full of meaning which a reader interprets. Our economies operate on small, inherently worthless pieces of cotton paper with intricate symbols and faces printed on them, which we value somewhat arbitrarily - and inconsistently. Nowadays we don't even bother to use the paper, we just give people a numeric value in their bank account which we all pretend means the same thing as having that amount in cash. Our entertainment sources - such as movies, music, and books to name a few - convey stories and complex ideas through the lives of people or characters which aren't even real (not unlike the Greek divine dramas). We live in a magical world, so it makes perfect sense to me that magic works.
I'm not surprised that magic occasionally does not work for people who believe it won't work, because it seems that at some level the "magic" isn't really the dance and song of ritual, it is just the way that we express our will into our world, and by the virtue and power of belief in this will. We create our world by thinking about it, and in more ways than one.
One of the trickiest aspects of this subject is that it has been ridiculed for decades - if not hundreds of years - by a Scientific establishment of materialist thinkers who believe (and yes, I do mean believe) that the world is wholly objective, physical, and describable; and because of this, these people find no room in their beliefs for the "utter nonsense" of magic.
I do not feel obligated to provide evidence or explanation for the claim that magic is real or works, because anyone who believes the claims will not need evidence - except for their own practice and experience proving to them the reality of it all - and anyone who disbelieves is not going to be persuaded by the mountains of anecdotes that have accumulated across every single culture for literally all of human history, including all those decades or centuries of the recent past which have been dominated by Scientifically minded folks who have been so hurt and abused by religious zealots and theocratic fools.
If you want to know for yourself whether magic is real, why not try something? Give it a chance, and go into the experience at least half-believing that it might work. You'll be amazed. I was. Then again, maybe I'm crazy. Maybe we're all crazy. Doesn't make it any less meaningful.
Alchemy is very much like all the other things we do in life. It is work, art, love, science, and greed. It is a process by which we understand our world and navigate our way through it. This is because "alchemy" is not as simple as the entertainment world would lead you to believe. In most conversations if you bring up the word alchemy, most people will assume you are referring to "the process of turning lead into gold", or "the process of turning 'base metals' into gold."
This is not untrue, but it is also not the entire picture - as it is quite difficult to capture the entire picture of any idea. Alchemy is more than just turning things into gold, but let's examine what this idea really means at its roots, and I believe we will discover the actual process of alchemy along the way.
Let us break down the phrase into its constituent parts:
If alchemy is a process, that means there must be steps to it, one could not simply snap their fingers and transmute (change) a metal like lead or iron into gold. If we look at examples of renaissance alchemy we will see that there are usually tools involved: beakers, flasks, burners, tubes, liquids, etc. Tools are key to being able to do the work in question.
If alchemy truly involves turning lead into gold (or whatever metal into gold), then there must be a process involved there which acts as the transitory tunnel between the two; there cannot be a simple immediate leap. You need to place the lead into a crucible and heat it up in order to break it down. Once it is broken down, you can begin the next step.
The process after breaking down the substance is quite complicated and there are varying accounts of how one might do it. At the end of the day, we still can't turn "base metals" into gold. In fact, this is probably not the real goal of alchemy. "Gold" is a concept, much like happiness, or energy, or love. Gold may mean "Au" on the periodic table, it may refer to the shiny yellow ore and refined ingots that people love to covet (and engineers love to use as an electrical conductor). But the word "Gold" refers to more than just this. If we take a look at the alchemical symbol for Gold, we see that it is in fact the same symbol as is used for The Sun. So is the goal to create the Sun? Not quite.
Plato used the Sun as a goal as well, but in a different way. The allegory of the cave places someone in a dark cave where they are bound and only able to see shadows cast on a wall in front of them. They have no concept of anything except these shadows - images of trees, people, cars, dogs, whatever. At some point, the person becomes unbound and is able to turn around. They see the bonfire that is projecting the light, and the see the objects which were casting the shadows: small figurines of trees, people, cars, dogs, etc. Not real people, not real trees, just depictions of them, even though these are more real and three-dimensional than the shadows they cast. The person then finds that they are in a cave and that there is in fact a way out of the cave. When they reach the surface, they discover real trees, real people, real cars, are more animated and alive than the figurines. The person then glances up and sees the Sun in the sky, and realizes that this is the source of all their world, it gives life and allows balance between day and night, it warms the world and serves as an anchor for our orbit. The sun is, in this sense, truth itself. In Plato's words, it is an image of the Form of Good.
So then perhaps "gold" is an allusion to the idea of truth and goodness, and not just a reference to the metal, or even just a reference to the hot ball of gas we call the Sun. We must realize that we are not talking about things as they are, we are talking about the aspects that make up why a thing is the way it is. We are talking about ideas, and using real world examples to better understand these ideas, to make them more tangible. We are breaking down concepts and things in order to better understand what makes them up, in order to peer into their essence and learn from them. We are dissecting a phrase into its base parts, and using these to build a better definition for what that phrase really means. We are doing alchemy. Right now, right here in this blog post. We have taken the phrase "alchemy is the process of turning lead into gold", and we are running this idea or concept through the alchemical process. I have broken it down into its different parts, and explored these parts individually. I have used tools of allegory, allusion, reference, and rhetoric to transmute the sentence into a better understanding of how alchemy actually works, and I have done it with alchemical philosophy.
This is a dialectic, however, and as you may have guessed, we are not done with this process. There are two more steps we must hit, and we will not hit them within this article. The third stage involves carrying this idea with you, allowing it to steep in your mind and further refine or develop itself naturally - like the pages of a book which yellow and ripple as it is read and reread or collecting dust in a box somewhere, or beaten down by the sun. This is a process which unfolds naturally over time. At the end of this, we may find a "perfect" understanding of alchemy, and in this we have achieved the Rubedo (the reddening): The Philosopher's Stone. If you have ever encountered this stone in media (Harry Potter, Full Metal Alchemist, etc) you may notice that the stone is usually depicted as red. That is because it is the Rubedo, it is not a result of the Rubedo, it is the red itself.
As you may have guessed, the word perfect up there is in quotes for a reason. There is no such thing, but for however small a sliver of an instant, we can imagine that it does exist. We can catch a glimpse of the feeling that we are hitting on the right thing, that we have figured it out or understood it purely. In that same moment it is broken down because now we have defined it, and the process must start over once again.
Alchemy is endless, and it is everywhere. I urge you to look into your daily life and discover where this process unfolds for you or people around you. You may find that it is more prevalent than you first thought.