update

I’ve had a year of transformation and crisis, turmoil and growth, which has been both traumatic and magical, appalling and unmissable. This isn’t one of those things where you can say “there, it’s over” (that isn’t how deep processes work), but I am coming through and feeling the joy of life return, and a much deeper sense of self-worth and original selfhood. I really have to thank my amazing husband for being with me through all this. He is an amazing man. Moreover I’m coming through as a Satanist, which I would consider a test of the fitness of my path.

We did a ritual at the weekend, with the first altar we have really set up as a Satanic altar, complete with a sigil of Baphomet wall hanging which I had painted.

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The altar was oriented to the western wall of the living room. Black cloth, black candles in brass holders, silver (plated) chalice with wine, votive statue of the Set animal, athame standing in for a sword, and ritual “phallus” (in fact a dildo!). A picture of a naked man offering himself (blurred in the picture below) was added to affirm the earthy and carnal nature of the Satanic altar. A naked woman is the traditional Satanic altar, but for gay men that doesn’t really connect erotically, so a naked man offering himself was more appropriate for us.

It was a very simple ritual, but significant.

One of the things that has come out of the last year is my personal identification on an inner level with the Thelemic goddess Babalon (an identification of primal nature and sacred function). In fact Thelema continues to come out as having a personal compatibility and elucidating applicability for my own path. Babalon and The Beast are good by me.

So on we go, for life, liberty and selfhood.

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bad girls and crimson lads

Astrology can be a very rewarding study, as it deals in a psychological language that subjectively correlates with our inner and outer lives. It does this in a way which is not rationally explainable, but due to its potency it seems to dig down into Nature. For the receptive astrologer it can illuminate principles that structure experience, and elements of identity in a luminous manner. It is not a science, nor a rational study, but it is real in the same sense that poetry and artistic meaning are. Its archaic interaction with our lives is one of the reasons I consider it akin to magick and divination. Magick and astrology both inhabit an intermediate, ensouled world between matter, body and psyche.

Astrology uses the planets and other astronomical bodies, and associates these with principles which it links to the gods of mythology (most commonly, though not exclusively Roman). These might not be understood in the way that a hard polytheist would, but they nevertheless carry an influence which can follow mythological themes and structures, in poetic recombinations. This is why exploring your natal chart can almost seem like the discovery of your own, personal sacred themes, as if you were discovering an unwritten mythology, which yet resonates with larger themes, but without absorbing or replacing the individual life and its meaning.

I’ve had some interesting experiences with this kind of thing. One of the challenges in my own chart lies in a square (90° aspect) I have between The Moon and Venus (the latter being on the IC). The square is generally consider a “difficult” or challenging aspect, as the planetary energies have conflicting modes of expression, due to the signs they are in. So for instance one may express impulsively and spontaneously, and the other express cautiously and sensitively, but being linked, they have to learn how to get the combinations of their energies “right”. In the case of the Moon and Venus, these are both archetypally feminine energies, and very compatible simply as energies, but the square aspect creates an awkwardness, with my responsive and reflective, receptive Moon nature being independent and spontaneous, and my more romantic, sensual and relating nature being protective and nurturing. I’m very Moon-Venus by nature, but it takes work to understand my own awkwardnesses and sensitivities, insecurities etc.

The challenge is further elucidated by my Moon being conjunct both Eris and Black Moon Lilith*. It’s important for me to be able to reconcile both my Venus (which is also my chart ruler) and the complex of Moon, Black Moon and Eris, for me to be myself most deeply, and have a full life where I fulfil my nature and “purpose”.

Recognising the necessary relationship (for squares are powerful relationships, and as necessary as any other) between Black Moon Lilith/Moon and Venus has itself been very important for me in understanding myself. Darkstar Astrology says the following about the conjunction:

“Moon conjunct Lilith fuses two ‘moons’ together. So we get the mother and the anti-mother in one being. I think it becomes rather like the Black Madonna, it is extra potent and a Virgo archetype. This combination has to successfully merge the paradox of the virgin and the whore or the very worst manifestation of Lilith can surface. At its best this is sheer priestess and occult ability at the highest level. The conjunction can work as a hard or soft aspect, so when it is good it is very good, but when it is bad it is terrible”

Darkstar Astrology

Yup, I get that. In fact it’s been one of the themes of my life, first surviving (in my earlier life), and then understanding this, and its meaning for me.

The connection with this in perception came about after I had come to relate to a deity that isn’t found in astrology at present though, the Thelemic goddess Babalon. This itself was accompanied by events in my life, which led me to search inwardly. Our lives are driven from deep within us at crucial points. Babalon is based upon a reinterpretation of The Whore of Babylon, and she is both a Venusian goddess, and also a transformative spiritual agent with “demonic” (or daemonic) associations. The above mentioned merging of “the paradox of the virgin and whore” is apparent in her qualities, for she is both deeply sexual and powerfully spiritual, and evokes Virgo’s self-possession, but with Scorpio’s transformative and taboo inheritance thrown in.

I knew Babalon was important to the person I most deeply was, and knew I had to become. Now I can see it in my natal chart, and the patterns fall into place still more. Love, nurturance, sexuality, spiritual transformation and the most raw forces of life and desire are all called forth, to confront shadow, and truly love.

Virgo and Scorpio are placed either side of Libra, the Venusian sign most associated with relationship and balance. In terms of astrological rulerships of signs, we have the planets Venus and Mars, combined under the auspices of Mercury/Hermes.

Babalon is an archetype of the “Scarlet Woman” in Crowley’s system, but this same energy can and does manifest through males. I like to call the male counterpart “crimson lads”, but that’s just a little poetic license.

In astrology, if you follow intuition, feeling, instinct and creativity, you can come to listen to its language more personally. At the right time, this can help to illuminate our authentic experience and natures.

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Star of Babalon

* I’ve written before on the subject of Black Moon Lilith, and this “imaginary Earth” is a fascinating astrological point that can resonate on many levels.

Babalon

Everyone comes to their own understanding of spiritual principles. For me the place of love and sexuality in spirituality has always been a key question, and one which I knew had crucial answers.

Certain faces of “the feminine” are very important to me, in that they coincide with my deeper nature, and the meaning I carry within me. Thus they carry an intimate and very personal meaning for me.

To be a man who loves men is not always an easy circumstance, for it really has nothing to do with being “gay”, and to be all that you are, often without social guidance or validation, and find true relationship, can be a challenge. But life is miraculous, and if we are true to ourselves, we can be taught directly, and find our loves.

Babalon is a modern Thelemic goddess, based upon a positive interpretation of “The Whore of Babylon” of the Book of Revelation. I used to find parallels between her and the Hindu goddess Durga, but I find it better to look at her uniquely now. I would particularly like to focus on the “whore” or prostitute aspect, and its relationship to a certain kind of feminine individuation¹.

The Roman Venus was a patroness of many things, but amongst them were prostitutes and homosexual men. The link between homosexual men and prostitutes is really quite long and abiding, probably because we are both manifestations of the feminine (at some level) that goes beyond the “respectable” and socially acceptable, or at least beyond the procreative family. In both our cases there is something conventionally “missing” or mismatched, but on a deeper level there is also something that convention cannot provide. Also, we both tend to find our meaning in a form of service (I think that is a reasonable if inevitably non-comprehensive generalisation*).

When I say homosexual men, to be historically (and maybe psychically) valid, I mean men who primarily love and desire men in a devoted and receptive way, as there are many men who are able to have active sex with another man without being “homosexual” or “gay”, and who may want to for many reasons. This kind of homosexuality doesn’t necessarily have outward feminine characteristics though, it being a much deeper and instinctive orientation within someone who is male, and little to do with superficial appearances. These of course cannot be definitive generalisations. Our modern categories are just overly controlling and inaccurately labelling.

Love engages all of us. Body, heart, soul and spirit. This kind of love is a fire that brings us alive and burns down our constraints, transforms us, and offers us the chance of both ultimate fulfilment and complete destruction. You have to be courageous to take up such a challenge, such a risk, but to not do so is to never live.

In my own life Babalon is an exemplar, of how to live from my heart and soul. And of how to have the strength to truly love, even beyond need, and beyond calculated safety. This same great force leads people to love purely and with absolute “fidelity” (which can mean many things), and to the madness of obsession if our own needs and blocks are not burnt up for the sake of love. Only through this fire do we understand the nature of union, and how we love with our whole body and soul, following our true meaning, with those we are truly bonded and intimate with.

tattoo of Leilah Waddel, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley - by Rosa Laguna

tattoo of Leilah Waddell, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley – by Rosa Laguna

¹ meaning individuation along a feminine pattern of experience, whether for a woman or man.

* it is striking that homosexual men do tend to end up in service occupations, whether it is retail, health care, counselling, mediumship, therapies or sex work. I think this is in many cases an instinctive orientation, rather than that we are “better with people” etc.

21st August 2016: last paragraph edited “needs” to “needs and blocks”.

gendering the devil

It will soon be New Moon, first since the eclipse, and a New Moon in Libra, just after 1am BST. I am quite relieved, as it feels like something moving, emerging; resolving would be the wrong word for it, but there feels like there is an answer in it. Almost a physical answer.

Venus is still conjunct Mars, which is conjunct Jupiter, all in Virgo. Venus forms a T square with Neptune and Saturn. It’s been quite uncomfortable, but it’s as if it now comes to rest, acceptance, like when the sticky mess turns to risen dough.

This morning I had dreams of a Venusian Middle Eastern goddess which I felt a very physical sense of identification with. Venus is my chart ruler, and it’s not so surprising, certainly not for me. Phil was in there somewhere too, and it was all between sleeping and waking, and Phil had a kind of membraneous “cowl” over his head, like babies with “second sight” are meant to be born with. I felt relief with this dream, for part of me is tired of the struggle, the fight, however necessary I might have learnt that it is. A part of me is at peace today.

One of the real joys of Satanism is its freedom from coercive, consensual politics and mob trending. It is too individual, and too boiled down by nature for that. “Political correctness” can’t survive long, and even an idea like being “on the right side of history” becomes a little wry in the long view. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make our own choices in the things we question and love, and the things we explore. Indeed we are bound to, as the actual people that we are, irrespective of what anyone thinks we should or shouldn’t do. Gender is one of the areas that I personally question a lot, even as I withdraw from political colonization of the subject, and all the unpleasantness and dishonesty that involves. I hate to see people boxed in on gender, told what they are or aren’t, and what it  means, whether they are being whipped for being non-conformist, or “traditional”, or something else. It is I think one of the more insidious assaults on individuality, and I can’t remember a time when that didn’t anger or upset me. It’s also an area which I find commonly confused with sexuality, which isn’t helpful either.

Satanism often has a quite male image (though there are many female Satanists, as well as transgender Satanists), and its iconography tends towards the masculine often. That was helpful to me, coming from the blithely female-centred world of neopaganism. It was refreshing, freeing and affirming. But I don’t actually want a solely masculine sacred universe, nor a solely binary one for that matter. Indeed myself is a mystery, entirely male, yet my very functioning is informed by resonance with intelligences both male and female, when I look into the world of the subconscious, and dream, and poetic communication. And btw I entirely reject the idea that as a gay man I am of an intermediate sex or gender. It’s something different to that, as I am a man without quotation marks. I have an unambiguous relationship to both my gender and to masculinity. Maybe when the fish swims upstream its meaning must take in more than itself, in order to be itself. I don’t know.

So my dream was a relief. And that got me thinking about figures and iconography, and that brought me to the Thelemic figure of Babalon. Babalon is a goddess who was brought to our consciousness by Aleister Crowley, along with The Beast as a god. You can see these two as demonic gods if you like, and I wrote something about Babalon here. Crowley was himself bisexual, yet his iconography is very heterosexual, but I think it is important to understand these figures not as role models of sexuality or gender. They are beyond that. I was disappointed to find male Thelemic magicians often viewing Babalon as a kind of cosmic porn queen, though the place of sexuality in Thelemic magick maybe makes it understandable, and I certainly have nothing against porn, quite the opposite. I on the other hand tend to relate to goddesses as wisdom figures, but there is in Babalon, as in a number of other Venusian goddesses, that fusion of sexual fire, soul and literal physical experience which, as in my dream, irrigates the fields of our inner life and its union with our own bodies. There is no desire for her, but in her there seems to be some of my own nature, or vice versa. As the glass rings to its musical note, I recognize a core part of myself.

I need my gods, my deities, my demons, to be free. That is part of the appeal of my practice. That is why I could not relate to the neopagan worshipping of sacrificial male and procreative female, dragging us back again to a world without choice, a world of loaded, coerced options. That is part of why I answered the Devil’s call, and answered as myself.

And the Devil is many genders.

version of Babalon, rewroked from Virgin Mary by Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

version of Babalon, reworked from Virgin Mary by Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

13th October 2015: minor edits without change of meaning.

the ruddy and rosy goddess

Back near Beltane I almost did a post on what some might term “red goddesses” (and I think that is poetic, if open to reductive interpretation). What that means to me is goddesses whose character and attributes seem directed towards love, eroticism and individuality, rather than the common Pagan obsession with “mother” and procreation*. These are often “venusian” deities to our modern view point, and what really interests me is the potential divergence of eroticism and procreation which they embody, right in a female form which has socially been used to carry the meaning of fertility and procreation over and over. It’s not that they can’t have children, it’s just not their meaning.

I gave up on that post at the time, because the associations of Beltane were so conventionally fertility related. It seemed appropriate in the first place because of the rulership of Taurus by Venus. Now we are on our way to  Venus’ other sign of Libra I might have another go.

The sort of goddesses that might be included here are Inanna, Ishtar, Hathor, Aphrodite, Venus, Freya, and the Thelemic deity Babalon. The goddess which I have had a personal connection with is Freya. You can also note some connections with sacred prostitution, the spiritual erotic, and areas of overlap between the body, spirit and sexuality which completely burst the banks of typical “patriarchal” ideas. There are commonly links to transgenderism and homosexuality which can also often be picked up. It’s an area which is very dear to me.

On the subject of Babalon, she is often depicted riding on “the beast”, and in the Crowely Thoth tarot trump she appears to be riding an animal that looks very leonine (apart from the multiple, polymorphous heads!), matching the astrological rulership of the card. What this always recalled for me was the depiction of various Hindu goddesses, shown riding mounts. I remember mulling over this back in 1990 and feeling that Babalon reminded me most strongly of Durga, who is often shown riding a lion. Durga is like the power of spiritual realization itself, awesome, self-evident, liberated. She famously defeats the “demon” that besets the gods and the universe in no uncertain terms. At the time I went looking for a poster of her at a local head shop in Margate. I got a beautiful, brightly coloured poster and took it home. When I got home I looked at the tiny order code in the bottom right hand corner. It read “666”. I laughed.

Phil Hine and his friends reported an interesting attempt at working with Babalon (again in 1990, funnily enough). as he says:

   “The lesson of the rite was that the magician cannot bind demons to his will without recourse to Babalon. That is, you cannot work with energies and forms by seeking to restrict or bind them, but only by letting them flow through you. ……. Seen in these terms, Babalon is not so much the cosmic fuck which some male Thelemites seem particularly hung up on, but an image of wisdom and intuitive understanding of the process of growth; from that self-image which clings to attachments (ego) to that self which flows with change (exo). Invoking Babalon triggered a subtle shift in our collective field of awareness, resulting in an enhanced perception of gestalt; and once a new pattern is glimpsed, then we can begin to work with it”

I had to laugh at the comment about the fantasized “cosmic fuck”, because yeah, it gets pretty boring hearing that. Neither does it match the vision I may have glimpsed of a magnificent spiritual presence. But the erotic element is important I think, because it is there, in the lust for surrender, to both the physical and the spiritual. There is also here a form of magick which is hinted at by the idea of “sacred prostitution”, and congress with the invisible.

With intuition and heart a lot can be explored, by the grace of the rosy and the red.

"Venus und Amor" by Hans Holbein the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Image electronically altered.

“Venus und Amor” by Hans Holbein the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Image electronically altered.

* there are of course other kinds of goddess, but this is one category of departure from the neopagan stereotype of maiden, mother and crone.