Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Review - The Heir To The North by Steven Poore


The book is Part 1 of the two part story Malessar's Curse.

In the prologue, we learn of a mighty empire that reigned in the North, eight hundred years before, and was smashed by the sorcery of the wizard Malessar. The echoes of the fall of Caenthell and the High King reverberate down through the centuries, appearing in the tales told by storytellers. Protagonist Cassia is marinated in these and other stories, as a result of homeless wandering with her abusive drunken storyteller father. 

This is a superb plot device - between the storyteller father and a centuries-old wizard whom he and Cassia take up with we have a rich explication of the rich backstory as this ill-matched crew travel the myth-drenched landscape on a quest for the ancient sorcerer Malessar, a quest the true nature of which remains tantalizingly obscure until near the end.

The opening scene of the prologue establishes the cause of the subjugation of the empire of the North, in terms which tell us we are definitely in the zone of epic fantasy: 'Sorcery tore the castle to pieces around him.'

In the chaos, Baum saves the infant heir to the High Kingship of the North. You will spend quite some time trying to work out who is the descendant of this individual, and the tension and doubt are maintained with expert skill.


I am not generally a fan of epic fantasy - I think the only one I really enjoyed before this was Lord of the Rings, which I read at age 15 then again, at various ages. Some might say: Come on, powerful warriors, noble kings, beautiful queens, sorcery and blood oaths - what's not to like? But I usually have a problem with the treatment of magic in fantasy novels, especially in epic fantasy, where it is almost invariably over-used, and gives the impression of the arbitrary universes of Dungeons and Dragons rather than a believable world into which magic erupts as a shocking discontinuity, something truly rare, even alien. 

But Poore has got the mix just right - magic is used sparsely and sparingly. We are aware of the existence of powerful and terrible forces, but they are so rare that many people do not even believe in such powers. 

And he can pull out the stops when need be, giving the reader a vision of magic which is alien and frightening. In a magical battle, 'The air tasted of stone, sand and nightmare.'

The religion is also done well. Characters' relationships with the various gods of the peoples of the story is convincing - somewhere between belief and doubt. A wise wizard outlines the nature of the gods:

'They are primal and emotional. There are gods of anger, of joy, of love, and desire. Gods of war, of luck, of fate. They are all of the heart, not of the head.' 

Similarly, Poore is good on battles. He lays on the action in doses that don't stretch one's credulity or reduce the whole novel to increasingly boring bouts of violence. 

I like a lot the way that place and history are woven together. Cassia travels far with her mysterious companions, to places which are forgotten cities reached by uncountably ancient roads, through a whole landscape soaked in layer upon layer of history. This kind of world-building uses the storyteller theme to embed stories within stories, resulting in an intoxicating depth of myth underlying every important event.  

The quality of the prose is excellent. I started an Edward Cox fantasy recently and was so put off by the liberal handful of clichés in the first paragraph I couldn't be bothered to continue reading the book. Poore's writing does not suffer from such literary jerry-building, but is bright and fresh.

The story is strengthened further by the relatively unusual choice of protagonist. Cassia is a girl, in a male-dominated world. And she is young, with the dreams of youth, which often make a poor fit with the realities of the world she lives in. But her secret, which she comes to understand at the end, is about to change that world.  

This is a book to read more than once, for the sheer pleasure of the writing and plotting. Heir to the North is a story told with superb prose and characters and pace. Buy it, read it, read it again.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Brion Gysin exhibition, October Gallery

Went to see this last weekend. This is a last-minute blog - there is only a week and a bit left to see this exhibition, so I won't be writing much. Check out http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/exhibitions/2015gys/index.shtml

There are so many rich things about the work on display. One of Gysin's hallmarks is Arabic-style calligraphy, done in hot desert colours, glimpses into a shadow-realm between words and pictures, a realm of magic.

Another of his techniques is used to create the large pictures, painted with a carved paint-roller, forming cityscapes, dream cities. Friends Popping Out of Windows shows tiny photos of his friends, inset into the enormous structures of the world - again, the feel of magic.
Of course, the thing Gysin is most famous for is the invention of the Dreamachine. In the event we went to last Saturday, Luciana Haill spoke of Gysin's intentions in promoting the Dreamachine - to restore an alternation of the dark and light stages of consciousness, our civilization having got stuck in the light side.

Gysin never fitted in. He got thrown out of the Surrealists for being gay (Andre Breton's exploration of his unconscious mind didn't go as far as addressing homophobia), was in the seminal Lettrist group which influenced Situationism, and then became someone on the outside of the Beat literary scene. He is one of the ultimate Outsider figures in 20th Century art and culture, and his legacy is the power of the one who stands outside, looking at the world through a vision which we are only just catching up with. His work is neither obscure nor comfortable, but supremely elegant and magical, poised and luminous, outside of time. Go and see it while you still can.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

On Turning the Wheel of Wealth

Recently, my partner inherited money from her parents, after her mother's death. Once some debts were paid, we were both better off. This increase in our wealth happened at a good time - our lives were definitely enhanced, but as a side-effect of the death of someone we loved dearly.

I tell this tale to point up the paradoxical gratitude mixed with mourning that is the state in which we inherit resources, and the underlying pattern in human life - that of receiving and passing on. The amount of money I received was not large, it will not enable me to retire, or to change my lifestyle significantly. But the amount does not matter in this case - even if you don't stand to inherit any money, consider what you have received from the world around you.

You live in a house. It is likely that someone else built it. That person may now be dead - you will never be able to meet and shake the hand of the person who built the home environment you live in. One day you will leave the house, and someone else will live there. Maybe it was someone's death that made room for you to move into that house. You use resources provided by the society you live in - maybe UK's National Health Service, maybe the local buses. These things were made and run by people you will ever meet, who may no longer be alive. You in turn will pass on what you have used, or at least some of it.

So we did a magical working, to tune in to all the things we have received from others, to express gratitude, and to focus on our material resources being part of a chain of temporary possession.

The emotions of inheritance are complex, and inherently somewhat dark. Passing resources on is a responsibility which some people cannot handle. One friend of mine, when his father died and he inherited a house, cashed it in and went on a bender from which he never recovered.

This is a Black aspect of Blue or Wealth Magic, a Saturnian dimension of your wealth working.

That last bit of symbolism will make sense if you are familiar with the Colours of Magic, Peter Carroll's eightfold scheme of simplified Planetary attributions. This scheme uses the colours associated with the seven planets of antiquity plus Ouranos/Octarine to classify any kind of magical working.
When we apply the Colours of Magic model to Blue magic, we get a set of attributions which are all about the different ways you can work for wealth.

Here are a few sample attributions - please note, these words are not exhaustive or final - each person should find their own resonant meanings within each Colour.

Red of Blue - enthusiasm, discipline, initiative, drive, hard work;
Orange of Blue - intelligence, communication, speed, work smarter, language, talking skilfully, planning work in more detail;
Yellow of Blue - self-image, identity, what wealth is for you;
Green of Blue - what you love. Wealth brings harmony. Desire for nice experiences/things motivates;
Blue of Blue - the whole idea of wealth for you;
Black of Blue - inherited property, endings, passing resources on;
Purple - desire. What you crave. Wealth as pleasure, passion;
Octarine - Mysteries of wealth and money, secret language of wealth. Magical attitudes, beliefs that are useful to wealth.

The point of the Wheel is that we need to work for wealth all through our lives. Each time you do a working for one aspect of wealth, say Green, if it succeeds, your life changes. The next time you approach Green magic, you will have gained something and maybe also lost something - and  hopefully learned something; your approach to Green of Blue us bound to differ each time you go round the Wheel.

The wheel turns, everything changes, but with the attitude of the Wheel of Wealth you have a way of making the best of every change.

A few years ago, I ran a Wheel of Wealth course at Arcanorium College. It ran over slightly more than 8 weeks, one lesson for each working to complete the Wheel. The Wheel itself is a circular talisman, the material base for a complex and sensitive servitor.

This year, on Saturday October 3rd, I shall be running a one-day intensive workshop to work all aspects of the Blue ray and condense them in to a Wheel talisman that you will take away with you.


We will consider each of the Eight Rays of Magic in relation to your wealth, so that all the aspects of wealth in your life are covered, and we'll plan and perform a ritual for each colour.
At the end, we put them all together.

Your talisman will have eight colours and perfumes attached to it, and a servitor, tailored for your own wealth workings, which you can develop in your own work afterwards.

So what qualifies me to be running such a magical event?

In my youth, I was totally useless with money. When I left home, I calculated how much my student grant would work out to per week, and it seemed perfectly adequate. But I managed to get rid of it all within about one third of the time it was supposed to last, and I never understood what went wrong.

So Wealth was one of the last aspects of magic I got a good grip on. Which is why I wrote The Wealth Magic Workbook (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Wealth-Magic-Workbook-Paradigm/dp/1481935011) - because I'd spent quite a lot of time getting to the stage where I had the resources to live as I wanted, and I was writing abut what worked for me.

Let me be perfectly clear here - my wealth magic teachings are based on my view of wealth. The important feature of wealth for me is: The resources that give me the freedom to accomplish my will. Money is ultimately incidental. In other words, I need as many resources (including money and property) as it takes for me to live at my full potential. To put it another way - for me, wealth is a condition where money is not a terribly big issue.

This is not a radically anti-acquisitiveness position, more a case of putting acquisitiveness (of money and property) in its place. Which has to be below all the really important things in life, like learning, enjoying other people and sheer moment-to-moment joy in life. All these things can and are often crippled by obsession with money and property.

If you'd like to ask about the Workshop, please write to me at info@chaotopia.co.uk .

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Notes from Energy Magic Workshop

Practical Energy Magic

Wick Farm House, Oxford,  May 16th 2015. 11.00 – 19.30

This was a great day of energy work, healing work and discussion. Here are the notes. 

If you would like advance notice of similar workshops, please leave your email address in Comments below or contact me at info@chaotopia.co.uk and I'll include you in mailouts. 


Summary Notes for Participants

Introduced ourselves. Talked about Varieties of Energy Work:  have y done: qigong? Rebirthing BW? Holotropic BW? This is related to all of those practices.

Talked about:
-         Energy magic, what is it? The energy paradigm in magic. The loss of a European traditional lineage for energy magic; we refer a lot to Qigong, and Prana work.
-         Connected Breathwork and Energy Magic.

Practical: Basic Energy Exercises:
Becoming aware of your Energy centres, Circulating the energy.
Sealing your aura for when you emerge into the world
Grounding, for when your energy gets too intense.

Practical: Raising the energy:
Loosen up, do Shaking.
Feel the shiver…

Practical: The Energy Healing Breath (EHB):

Do continuous, connected breathing, through the mouth, to a rhythm of 2-6 or 1-4.
Experiment with the length of inhale and exhale.
Breathe from your abdomen for the best results - if you're not sure where you're breathing from, place one hand on your belly and one on your chest - only the belly hand should move if you're breathing abdominally.

Entraining the Energy:
Breathe in, from the earth, your feet, up your body with the inhale.
When you have a good rhythm established, introduce this visualization: the energy flowing up from the earth into your feet on the inhale, up your body to your head, changing direction with the beginning of the exhale to flow down your arms to your hands.
Keep going till you feel it in your hands.

Continue this for 10 minutes, to learn how to sustain this level of energy.

Feedback time:
Stop the exercise and breath gently and slowly. Take stock.
Sensations like dizziness may arise – these are harmless but may be disturbing.  

Practical: Elemental energy:
Go outside, walk to the woods.
Repeat EHB exercise (as above).
Walk about, watch and feel.

Feedback time:
Discuss what we felt from trees, sky, etc.

Practical: Moving the energy:
Do the EHB. Move around.

Form Qi-balls.

Group energy: pass the energy around with the chi balls, play around with it.

Get into a circle, still keeping energy going.
Pass energy to person on opposite side of circle, entraining it to flow between our heads and feet, then to all in circle.

THAT was a Chaotron! We can come back to that if you like, later.
But for now, let’s do some HEALING

Practical: Healing:
Call for volunteers.
Stand round and direct energy at them.
Move closer, place hands over sites where energy is needed.

Feedback time
Discussed experiences.

Practical: Chaotron again – 25min, remote healing, each choose own recipient.
At end of this, did films  (Story of smoky-light entity round neck of man in exorcism)

Practical: Sitting meditation
25 minutes

Practical: Final Energy Exercises:
-         Energy centres, Circulation, lesser orbit, seal aura.
-         Grounding.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Rune-Song Workshop, Bilbao

The following is the text of the notes I used. I am very prone to improvising, so this is very much the bare bones of the event.

The Runic Attributions handout at the end is the Spanish language one used at the workshop. An English language version is now available. Please email me at dleeahp@inbox.com for a copy of it.

Next weekend, 16th May 2015, I shall be giving a day-long workshop on Energy Magic in Oxford. This promises to be a terrific event, and there are still a few places left. Check out https://www.facebook.com/events/427827944041507/

I shall soon be offering some new magical events; as well as my occasional workshops, this will include online events, coordinated workings, and webinars at some stage.

If you would like to be kept informed about these new things, please email me at dleeahp@inbox.com and I'll put you on my mailing list.

Rune-Song Workshop, for Public IOT Event, 
Ateneo Izarbeltz, Bilbao, April 23rd 2015

Need: Elder Futhark handouts, BFTW cover.

1. Intro to Rune-Song:

My first commitment to the discipline of magic (as distinct from youthful visions) was to Chaos Magic.

My second was to the mysteries of the Northern way, the way of my ancestors, and of the runes.

The relationship between these two aspects of my magical world can best be illustrated by this glyph [SHOW cover of Bright From the Well] which is also scribed on my skin.

How it breaks down is as follows: All round the outside you see the familiar Sigil of Chaos, or Chaos Star. This is what most people will see of my magical world.
But at the core of the glyph is represented the symbol of my spiritual quest: the Valknut, the sign of Woden or Odin.

Woden is the Allfather, the god of the creation of the world through the act of the consciousness that is at the core of us all.
Whether we know it or not. Some, maybe all of you, know it.

As the father of all, he has many names.

Woden and Odin both mean Master of Inspiration or of wild ecstasy.
He is the god of any cults, one of which is a cult of poetic ecstasy.  One of his famous exploits was the recovery of the Mead of Inspiration, which is definitely not just a mug of drink, but the ultimate psychoactive sacrament that induces the controlled frenzy of the poet-magician.

Another of his names is Yggr, the Fearful One. Why fearful? You may have heard an old saying:  He who looks into eyes of an initiate feels fear, because he is looking at someone who has died to the mundane world, whose ordinary identity has been deconstructed, swallowed up by the terrifying ecstasy of the transpersonal.

Woden's best know exploit is of course the getting of the Runes. Woden is the god of the vitki, the wizard.
He hung on the tree, which is both the world and the spinal column with its power centres, its cauldrons of subtle force. He allowed himself to die to himself, like a shaman, he hurled his consciousness to the limits of the universe. He thereby gained the runes.
And he gave them to us.

Today I want to share with you an experience of working Rune magic. An experience of raising consciousness to the ultimate and going beyond, into the realm of magic.

[Sing the 'VEIT EK...' part of Havamal, dramatically. ]

2. Singing single runes
[Hand round the Rune Handouts - see below]

Take a look at the handout.

I have written in some well-known attributions, and a few less well known that I have found myself.

Each of us, in working the Runes, must emulate Woden and find our own runes.
In other words, to work the most powerful rune-magic, we must load these ancient symbols with our own attributions.

We will only make the merest start on that today. But we have to start somewhere, and we start with these well-known attributions.
We are going to load these associations into the runes before us, by singing them as we contemplate their meanings.

Then we will learn how to combine them into special magical forms called bind runes.
Then we will do some operative magic, just for fun.

This singing of the whole rune-row is not just a technical exercise. The whole futhark was sometimes written and maybe sung as such, as an extremely sacred thing, an invocation of the all the powers of the cosmos in balance.

This was done with various versions of the futhark or futhorc - for instance on the Thames scramasax, a highly prestigious weapon on which all 28 runes of the Anglo-Saxon rune row were carved. Also on memorial stones for the dead, to consecrate their memory for as long as stones stand.

So I am inviting you to do the ultimate spell as well as to learn the runes.

The singing: gentle but rich.

[Sing them one by one]

3. Bindrunes

Galdor is rune-song.  Singing is the core technique of rune magic - in fact, much of the Northern magical tradition is called galdor.
Runic enchantment is a flexible, subtle, sophisticated and extremely powerful system.

So of course it is ideal for Chaos Magicians. Chaos Magic and the Northern Mysteries go back a long way, but that is another story, not to be told today.

Each rune is like a colour, forming a spectrum. Each 'colour' is quite broad in meaning - look at the attributions of URUZ  .......

If we combine the force of URUZ with that of another rune, it narrows down the meaning.

This is how we design an enchantment with runes.

Simple combinations of a vowel and a consonant gives a whole range of Galdors:  for example, UL, LU, for healing.

(Sing it)

Intro to Waterfall Galdor

The bindrune has a name, which is derived from the names of the runes that make it up, and it may also have a more intimate name: the entities created using bindrunes can vary from very simple wights, like servitors, to much more sophisticated spirits.

Traditionally, the bindrune is carved on wood, but I would like to show you a modern, Chaos Magic approach to runic enchantment too.

To give you an example of a modern runic spell, this is the basis of a spell to expose wrongdoing:
Made from words, taking the word EXPOSURE and writing it in a grid until it disappears. Cutting the shape of the Kenaz rune out of it; this Kenaz can now be sacrificed.

4. Our spell

Construct a Bindrune using TIWAZ and DAGAZ.
Intention:  Justice for the people and the environment.

Intro - shaking.

Two groups, one does Ti, the other does Da.
Start the rune song.
Make it quiet.
Tense up.
All do Ti-Da, release, and launch.


The venue: Izar Beltz Ateneoa, http://izarbeltz.noblogs.org

Other speakers at the event have placed their talks here:

Rune Handouts:
Design: Mar Delgado, www.filobotica.com
Illustration: Jorge López, https://www.facebook.com/jlrtatuaje?fref=ts
Translation: Fra. Modus 081

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Mysterious Force That You Know So Well

My first unambiguous encounter with life-force energy occurred in my teens. I'd taken a fairly high dose of LSD, and was watching my friend's cat, which was stalking peacefully about at the other end of the room. Then something moved me to point at the cat, with a lazy, flicking gesture. This stuff, like light but all bent and twisted like lightning, came out of the tip of my index finger and arced across the room, hitting the cat. It looked exactly like the stuff that came out of the hands of sorcerers in Doctor Strange comic, those kinked, glowing arcs of energy exchanged between battling wizards.
It would just have been a drug hallucination but for the effect it had on the cat. It jumped two feet in the air and leaped out of the window. I was concerned for it (I've always loved cats) and went over to look out; it was tearing off across the yard. Later I discovered it was fine. The movement I had made was slow and easy, not abrupt enough to startle the cat.

Those Doctor Strange panels were depictions of energy magic. Energy magic is one of the great paradigms of magic, one of the basic ways of thinking about so-called magical effects. Within that idea, wizards seek to project or block energy to heal or harm, to rearrange energy internally for health and strength, to use energy to carry enchantments.

A few years later, when I had started disciplined magical work, a friend and I were standing,  discussing energy projection, which neither of us was sure he had experienced. He said something about using the voice. I said, 'What, like HUH?' The HUH was a rapid exhalation, a huff of breath; my friend fell over. He got up, said 'You bastard!' and we laughed about it. We'd both wanted an experience of projecting energy, and we'd got one!

This energy is a central part of many traditional systems of healing, martial arts and spiritual awakening.

From Chapter I-1: A brief history of magical energy

Looking at the great traditions, we see an intimate connection between life-force and breath, to the extent of finding words for breath which also double as words for life energy or spirit. In Greek, we have pneuma, in Chinese qi or chi, in Sanskrit prana, in Hebrew ruach, in Latin spiritus. The latter leaves a trace of this double-concept in modern English: it's not hard to see the connection between the Latin root of 'inspiration', both in its physical, objectively-observed sense of drawing in breath, and in its more commonly-used interior meaning, of a very special mental condition.

In the modern age, the most extensive systems of life-energy work survive in the Hindu teachings on pranayama, and in the Taoist disciplines of qigong / qi gong. In the word 'pranayama', the prana part refers to life-force and the -yama root means death or control; so pranayama means 'control of breath or life-force'. Qigong means 'breath/life-energy work'.

Teaching about prana or qi permeate many aspects of the esoteric teachings of those traditions. In the Hindu tradition the control of prana is central to Kriya Yoga, Tantric sexual alchemy and the healing knowledge of energy centres in Ayurveda, to mention just a few areas. In Taoism, consciousness of and control of qi is essential in Tu-na breathwork, esoteric martial arts, acupuncture, sexual alchemy and the energy magic of qigong.

So we can see that vitalism, the idea of a universal life-energy, forms an important feature of esoteric traditions. It is a consistent ingredient of what has been called the Perennial Philosophy, the teachings that form an intellectual underpinning to traditional worldviews. Further, we can see that vitalism has been deeply intellectually unfashionable since the rise of the scientific worldview. It is the radical reductionism of even healthy scientific thought (let alone fundamentalist scientism) that has rendered life-force a redundant hypothesis, sliced off by Occam's Razor because it seems we do not need to distinguish the activities of living things quite so sharply from the inorganic substrate of the world - DNA is, after all, 'just a chemical'.

This puts the sceptical practitioner of martial arts or energy healing in a strange position. When you have experienced real life-energy adventures, like the above, or like the ones you have no doubt had if you work esoteric martial arts or energy magic, you have no doubt that these techniques work to produce a sense of something which feels and behaves very much like life-energy. So the traditional notions of life-energy become the most obvious, the immediately-comprehensible articulation of what you are experiencing.

David Lee will be presenting a day-workshop on Energy Magic next month. Details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/427827944041507/