A few mornings ago I received a phone call from a friend on the opposite side of the country. Alay’nya started out as a hard-driving scientific researcher. We met at a psychic fair in San Diego where she came and received a Tarot reading from me. Although we’ve rarely seen each other in person, we have kept in touch.
Alay’nya has gone through enormous changes. Today she is a professional belly dancer, teacher, and more. You can learn about who she is and what she’s teaching and doing by going to her website.
We talked about a new book she’s completing. We also talked about how she’s setting up classes combing spirituality with dance in a highly structured format.
Although there are some special forms of belly dance for men (such as in the image shown at the left), most people doing belly dance are women. I pointed out to Alay’nya that many women I know personally or know of, who would be interested in combining the physical (dance) and mental (spirituality), do not like “highly structured” formats. Some consider such structure and hierarchy to be patriarchal, regressive, and antithetical to their spiritual progress.
Alay’nya said that although this may be true in some areas, in other areas this such as where she teaches, this is not true and that women there are looking for the structure. Still, I suggested that she might consider adding something about the nature of her work and how the structure of what she is doing integrates mental and physical, body and mind.
Different people have different needs and because of their backgrounds may see things in different ways. In fact our backgrounds and personal history build up the way we see the world. They make up our “maps” of reality. But as we say in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), “The map is not the territory.”
I believe that for magickians this understanding is important. It’s one of the reasons I introduce NLP concepts in the new chapter of the 3rd edition of Modern Magick. Our personal understanding of the universe, our map, is not the reality of the universe. It is merely the way we use to better interact with the universe and other people in it. The closer our map is to reality, the better we function in the universe.
Welcome to Paganistan!
It’s important to understand that our maps are neither right nor wrong, they are just different. The closer your map matches my map, the better we communicate. Patrick Dunn deals with this more explicitly in his book, Postmodern Magic. I introduce some of this concept in Modern Magick. We both show how this concept can help you understand and better work magick. And that brings us to Paganicon.
Paganicon is a new Pagan convention taking place in Minnesota (AKA “Paganistan”), possibly the first such convention in Minnesota since Llewellyn held the first modern Pagan conventions in the U.S., the annual Gnosticon, in the 1970s. This year, my friend John Michael Greer (who wrote a foreword for Modern Magick) was the keynote speaker and, I understand, received a well-deserved standing ovation.
One person who attended the convention was Frater Barrabbas Tiresius who made a blog post about his experience. In the post he describes a workshop given by Scot Stenwick. Mr. Stenwick, it would seem, didn’t like my presentation of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram followed by the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram as a prelude to magickal work. You can read his complete presentation at this LINK. He claims, “The ‘banish-banish,’ or as I call it the Banishing Field, shuts down all ongoing magical effects in both the microcosmic and macrocosmic realms.” This, he claims, limits success.
Frater Barrabbas writes this about the workshop:
One of Scott’s most important declarations about planetary magick is encapsulated in the following quote: “The correct method for most macrocosmic work is in fact to combine the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram with the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram.” This clears the magician’s personal field of consciousness and then calls the macrocosmic forces into that field. I found this statement to make a lot of sense, although since I don’t use these rituals, I couldn’t verify that statement off of the top of my head.
Ah. So rather than LBRP followed by LBRH, Mr. Stenwick prefers the LBRP followed by the Lesser INVOKING Ritual of the Hexagram. Frater Barrabas believes this makes “a lot of sense.”
Your Map is not My Map
This could be seen as a serious, considered and reasonable criticism of my book. I think it’s fair to ask the obvious questions: Is Mr. Stenwick right? Am I wrong? There are actually two answers to that question.
Answer One: I would respectfully say that Mr. Stenwick is partially correct. I would say that the LBRP followed by the LBRH purifies and banishes all ongoing magical effects in both the microcosmic and macrocosmic realms around the magician, not that it shuts them down. This small difference means that your immediate area becomes open to any sort of magick you wish to do. This is extended in answer two below.
However, the way I present this is my map. My system works excellently for me and many of my students. In his map it absolutely shuts things down. In his map he will be more successful doing the LBRP followed by the LIRH. So the answer is not that one of us is wrong or right. It’s simply that his map is not my map. If your map is closer to his, as Frater Barrabbas’ seems to be, Mr. Stenwick’s method will “make a lot of sense.” If your map is closer to mine, then the method presented in Modern Magick will “make a lot of sense.”
Answer Two: Frater Barrabbas does some excellent work, looking into this question in other resources. He points out that Modern Magick doesn’t go into the type of magick Mr. Stenwick is presenting. What isn’t discussed by either Frater Barrabbas or Mr. Stenwick is that Modern Magick is cumulative. I have done both planetary and zodiacal rituals but not after merely doing banishings. Instead, I would do the Opening by Watchtower which includes a very powerful invocation. The Watchtower ritual is fully and extensively described in Modern Magick. In sum, Modern Magick has you banish on all planes and then invoke. Mr. Stenwick proposes a brief banishing and a brief invocation.
So which of us is right? Again, it’s not a question of right or wrong, it’s a question of which map is most closely aligned with your map. To Mr. Stenwick, who lives by his map, he is right. To Frater Barrabbas, Mr. Stenwick’s map makes a lot of sense. For me, my map makes the most sense.
I realize that this leaves people reading this blog in a bit of a conundrum. Which system should you follow? In Modern Magick I strongly urge people to study other books to get other opinions and ideas. For the truth (at least, the truth according to my map) is that magick is an experimental science. It doesn’t matter what any of us think or believe. What matters is what works. Mr. Stenwick, Frater Barrabbas, and I can only show you what works for us. We show what works when we follow our maps. We are like fingers pointing at the Moon; look at the Moon and not the finger.
Therefore, the real key (again, according to my map) is what Dion Fortune wrote, that there is no room for authority in occultism. As a magician, an experimental scientist, it’s up to you to try it out. Give each system, each methodology, a thorough set of experiments/rituals. See which one works for you. That’s what you should use. That’s what most closely matches your map.