Conflicted over Apocalyptic Witchcraft

Samael

And the serpent is riding
over the voice of the raven,
the Other God, to his spouse,
magic, in which Samael,
the Other God, becomes complete.

Tiqqunei Zohar

That’s the epigraph of Veneficium (out of print) by Daniel Schulke, Magister of the Cultus Sabbati. As Samael can be translated as the Poison of God, He, Samael, is regarded by Schulke as the Patron of the Poison Path, the use of poisons and entheogens (often the same plant) in magic and to achieve Gnosis. Poison also kills. It can kill you if you’re careless with it. You can use it to kill your enemies. One Latin word for witch is venefica/veneficus, “one who uses poisons”. The link between witchcraft and poisonous herbs is at least as old as Classical Greek literature. The name of one of Sophocles’s plays, of which only a fragment remains, is The Rootcutters. The Rootcutters means The Witches. Thus Samael is the perfect Patron not only of veneficium, but of witchcraft in general, which in Classical Greece was almost synonymous with root-cutting and poison-making. (Let the record state that it takes a bit of fudging to get the Poison of God from Samael’s name, סמאל. To get Poison of God you need to add a Yod: סמיאל. That’s probably pedantry on my part.)

If we take it at face value, this snippet tells us many things. Samael is the serpent, since the rise of the monotheisms perhaps the ultimate symbol of evil — the symbol of the Devil according to Christian exegesis of the Garden of Eden story. Samael is sometimes considered the original but forfeited or the real true name of Lucifer and/or Satan. He’s called the Leader of the Satans in Jewish lore. In that Jewish folklore however He is considered a powerful archangel in good standing with God, albeit he has many unpleasant duties to perform. He is basically a chief prosecutor and, I assume, enforcer. See the Book of Job. In Renaissance Hermeticism he is named as the archangel of the Sphere of Mars. Nowadays Kammael usually holds that position but some mages still conjure the Renaissance archangels of the Spheres by their older names, including Samael, when the going gets tough on a large scale and changes are necessary in the world at large, no matter how harshly they’ll be effected. —Basically, Samael is many things simultaneously to many people. Or is there simply more than one Samael? Duplicate angel names abound in the literature of magic. But I simply do not know the answer to that particular question.

The voice of the raven could possibly refer to A’arab Zaraq, the Qliphotic counterpart to Netzach, whose corresponding Planetary Sphere is that of Venus. Unbalanced, as all the Qliphoth are said to be (whether they exist on a separate tree or not: I tend to think they don’t as the usual Hebrew name for the so-called Tree of Death is the Sitra Ahra, meaning the Other Side, while Qliphoth itself means husks, shells, peels) — anyway, being an unbalanced image of Netzach A’arab Zaraq may mean unbridled lust, unbridled fertility and production — as of poisonous plants, for example, or as the global economy’s never-ending need to produce new goods for us to consume. The Sphere of Venus manifests the pleasures of life, enjoying which we can lose control of ourselves. Addiction of every kind is a good example of this. A’arab Zaraq means The Ravens of Dispersion. A good name for unbridled lust, appetite and addiction. —If you’re interested in such matters I highly recommend Thomas Karlsson’s Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic Magic.)

You Nightsiders out there know that A’arab Zaraq is said to be presided over by the demon Baal. But if Samael is an archangel, or if He deserves the title “The Other God”, then He can go any damned (or undamned) place He wants. Note I capitalize His name, as is my custom when writing about Powers with whom I have however small an acquaintance. (Those meetings must be dealt with another time in another post.)

But the voice of the raven probably doesn’t refer to A’arab Zaraq at all. In the epigraphic snippet from the Zohar above every reference is either to Samael or to His spouse. The voice of the raven thus becomes His spouse, magic. Now Samael’s spouse, it’s pretty much universally agreed, is Lilith. Perhaps magic stands metaphorically for Lilith, as a sail can refer to an entire ship. (Mystical and magical literature is everything but consistent, this might not be the case at all, but let’s go with it for now.) The Akkadian phrase Daughters of Lilith may refer to female demons or it may refer to witches, of whom Sumerian and Babylonian society had a great fear. Also, remember, Samael is named as Patron of the Poison Path, a form of witchcraft. The Zohar quote is talking about witchcraft, not genteel 1700s angel magic practiced by doctors and lawyers. —So let’s just substitute the word witchcraft.

Read thus Samael, the Poison of God, also known as the God of the Left Hand, becomes complete in witchcraft. Adopting a maybe heretical, maybe not, bit of the Christian mythos as Traditional Craft itself often does, we can go on to identify Samael as the Devil in His most potent manifestation. (He is called the Leader of the Satans, after all, at least in Jewish lore.)

We’re left with this — The Devil becomes complete in witchcraft.

Let’s turn it the other way around and ask, Does witchcraft only become complete in the Devil?

I ask this because Peter Grey in Apocalyptic Witchcraft, which I mentioned here, devotes an entire chapter to the thesis that, yes, witchcraft can only become complete if the Devil is there, at the Sabbat. And you’ve probably made a pact with Him even, Grey suggests. Devoted yourself to Him. As Grey writes:

The traditional formula is simple, kneeling with hair loose, praying aloud for his help. You do not need a book to tell you the words. They are within you. If you wish to place an intercessor between you and your desire, then a tradition already exists for you, it is called Christianity. Witchcraft simply removes the things which are obscuring our sight of the narrow path [The Devil reveals a narrow path into a dark wood, Grey has written on the previous page], and this agency, this game, is called the Devil (pp. 66-67).

174 the devil+

Although I love reading and rereading Apocalyptic Witchcraft, it’s at this point that something within me says Wait just a minute. Is such an adversarial stance really necessary? Is it even possible that a group with such a stance might prevail in these admittedly perilous times, or is it all just a pipe dream? Still I’m conflicted. The world is headed, probably inescapably, toward drastic ecological and cultural changes. These changes will not be for the better. Thousands of species already wiped out, the rain forests still being cut down, oil spills every week it seems, barely enough fresh water for the current world population’s needs, drones and surveillance cameras proliferating, and things do indeed seem to be getting worse and not better, every day.

It makes me want to do something. It makes me angry. As I said, I’m conflicted. So the following clauses of “An Apocalyptic Witchcraft Manifesto” speak to me at a deep level. A level that responds Yes.

11 We call an end to the pretence [sic] of respectability.

12 We will not disarm ourselves.

13 The War is upon us.

—Part of me responds to this fierily with Yes. Yet still something deep inside also whispers Wait just a minute… Which voice am I going to listen to?

Let me state immediately that I harbor no prejudice against Satanists, Theistic Satanists, Demonolators, Luciferians, et al. I myself venerate Lilith, and from me at least She prefers the title Demoness over that of Goddess. I’m a votary of Quimbanda, honoring mighty spirits who are called the Devil and his wife.

But Lilith came to me, only a couple of days after I came out to myself as trans. Though I was afraid of Her for a long time, though I tried to drive Her away, She would always return — with comfort, solace and empowerment. She has proved unfailingly loyal to me and kind and wise.

LOUVAO~1

—As for Quimbanda, Nicolas de Mattos Frisvold writes in the opening words of his magnificent work Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbùmba Nzila:

Quimbanda is largely understood as a black art because it is here that we find the cult of the devil and his wife. The red world of the devil’s spouse and mistress merges into his darkness as roaring laughter bursts from the pits of hell and mischievous acts are incessantly
performed.

That’s one way to do Quimbanda. But it’s not Frisvold’s way. It’s not Quimbanda de raiz, Quimbanda of the root. He states the pristine nature of Quimbanda on page two:

The spirit retinue of Quimbanda has much to give and can aid in maturing our understanding of the world, if we can only allow them to do so. Doing this invites challenges, for to take on the devil as one’s tutor will not make for a safe journey. They are hard and demanding teachers that at times perplex in their responses and actions as they seek work to heal the tormented human soul [italics mine].

I judge no one who practices a tradition of adversarial witchcraft. Good luck and more power to you. I do not however believe it is the only way. I also believe that the war Peter Grey declares in Article 13 of his Manifesto is one that all the practitioners of magic in the world can never win. We are too few. What then must we do? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? No, not exactly. —I believe the key is neither to go to war against the status quo, nor to be a slave to the status quo, i.e., to be a fully complicit member of it, but instead to master the status quo.

That sounds just as huge and hopeless as all out war, doesn’t it. But if we analyze our lives we can see how we can master the individual facets. Start with money.

Paraphrasing one of my teachers, it’s bad to serve money, to be a slave to money. Unless you take a course in survivalism and live in the woods for the rest of your life, you are complicit to some extent in the global economy that is ruining our world. Few of us are prepared to do completely without money, and making minimum wage at a coffee bar helps nothing — that leaves you a slave to your wage, a servant of money. And becoming the Monopoly Man and serving money that way by the endless accumulation of it solves nothing — that makes you the source of the problem. The solution is this: we must master money. We must know how money works, we must make money and more than just enough to get by, we must enjoy money, but never serve it. Make money do your bidding. Better the world a little with charitable donations or by giving your employees a living wage. There’s really no other way but just in these sorts of mastery, wisdom and good deeds.

Another example is the Internet. (TV is not an example: kill your TV or watch as little as possible.) Yes, the Internet immerses us in our civilization’s Borg-like hive mind, the words and images seep into millions of people, so some people say it would be better not to use or look at the Internet. —But just as with money, we do not have to be slaves to the Internet. We can master it. Look at the work of alternative news sources, the Web sabotages of Anonymous, the service that Wikileaks does us all by allowing us access to information that would otherwise be hidden by the establishment. It’s almost as difficult these days, because of our jobs, because of our desire to Skype with far-away loved ones, to abandon the Internet as it would be to abandon money. We must keep our critical faculties sharply honed and finely tuned to avoid becoming slaves to the memetics of the Web. But it can be done. What’s more, if you’re so inclined you can go on to master the internal workings of the Internet, to make it work for you and to work for the greater good.

There are countless more examples I could cite. But my thesis is this. —I believe declaring war against the status quo, the establishment, Western civilization, is a hopeless cause. And if we won, would we prove any better masters of civilization than the current ones? I doubt it. Instead, we must fight the hard fight of mastering each facet of our individual lives and then work both individually and in like-minded groups to make the world a better place.

I love Apocalyptic Witchcraft. It is a great read and a truly important book, idea-wise. But a flawed one, I believe.

Instead of magical war let us work to change and to better the world. Ultimately only as individuals can we do this. We must first change ourselves, then strive to change the world. We can make a difference. And if enough of us practitioners accomplish this lofty goal, we might turn magic into civilization’s trusted friend and helper and guide. I’m not positive that stranger things have happened. But like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.

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14 thoughts on “Conflicted over Apocalyptic Witchcraft

  1. gordonpwhite says:

    Rather than a war, I prefer a supply raid.

    Totally get what you’re saying about being conflicted. I ADORE the book. But where I hunt is the corporate world. If I land a big prize I will retire to a cottage and grow poisons. Hunting grounds are still hunting grounds even if they’re toxic.

    Until then… I acknowledge I’m part of the problem.

    • Rachel Izabella says:

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve been reading your blog for years and love it. —I too adore the book but … it’s a quandary. I suppose raising quandaries is a good thing in a book. Anyways, visit often!

  2. Spiritwize says:

    So, I’ve not read the book but to me it seems like the stuff people associate with, as you say, the ‘adversarial current’ and all that which, honestly, I’m not fond of. I don’t think an ‘us vs them’ attitude is going to help down the line and, instead, I think our time would be better spent doing our own work and also focusing on things to affect change on a greater scale. An ‘adversarial’ bent need not apply in order to do this work effectively. Blessings.

  3. […] my post Conflicted Over Apocalyptic Witchcraft I come down against the adversarial stance of author Peter Grey’s marvelous book. In doing so […]

  4. […] I recall my post Conflicted Over Apocalyptic Witchcraft. About that, in an email conversation a friend wrote to […]

  5. You make many good points in this post, and are a good writer. I totally agree with you that “witchcraft can only become complete if the Devil is there, at the Sabbat”. I have been an initiated witch for over 30 years and the more i learn from experience the more i know is that what i practice is Witchcraft, not “Wicca”, and i curse the day that politically correct name (even though it does have valid roots) was first coined to make the new agers more comfortable. I prefer the gritty writings of Nigel Jackson and others who strip the whitewash off of our old twisted path. The old Horned God who may have been Pan at one point is definitely represented as Satan in medieval witchcraft, and i think that is not just Christian propaganda (hate to say they were right) but also amongst the pagan witches. Oh and BTW i also work with Exu and Pomba Gira.

    • Rachel Izabella says:

      Thank you! Both for the complement and for just commenting. It is indeed a crooked path, one that’s baffled me, that I’ve tried to define, till I’m tired of the bafflement and especially of “definition”. I like the Cultus Sabbati’s own name for their cultus — The Nameless Path. I don’t believe witchcraft can be pinned down or defined. Yourself for example, a witch, but with interests in Thelema and if I remember correctly gaining K&C of the HGA. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be limited even by the words witch & witchcraft. Visit often please!

  6. Elazaruss says:

    I read the post, very interesting points and observations. The theme of the active witchcraft in a failing world is a recurring motif in scarlet imprint editions, like Blood of the Earth, XVI and Apocalyptic Witchcraft. All are pretty ambitious and great works by notable scholars in the contemporary Occult community. As for the figure of Samael, it is one of the divine aspects. From a Judaic perspective all the angels/archangels are various aspects of the One God within his creation. They are universal principles in their purest form if you like, and the nature of those principles is represented in the various names. Because each angel or name stands for a certain aspect those aspects are depicted as lesser entities – lesser than the One God himself – due to being fractions of his all constituting being. It also hints at the fact that through mastering one craft or principle completely one will unavoidably arrive at the essence of all things viewed through the prism of the craft he/she mastered. Which can tell you that all the aspects in the face of varying angelic beings unavoidably extend to the One Source – the One God.

    The name Samael means the poison of God. If I had to add a letter to make it more defined I would not add a Yod, but a He’ which would make it into Sam Ha El – literally the poison of God. If you add a Yod it will be read as Sam Mi El which is The Poison From God – a slightly different meaning although very similar. Sam in Hebrew also means Drug which can suggest that although we are talking about poison, because it is the poison from God himself it is also the sweetest ambrosia – since as we know a Drug is unique due to its attribute of causing immense pleasure while simultaneously poisoning and killing gradually or fast (depending on the dosage), and it is also addictive making one cling to its usage and constantly rely on it just like one tends to cling to God and rely on God (only in this case it comes as a very negative thing). One more thing which I caught my attention was the LHP mention along with the mention of devils and etc.

    Although Satan in the Hebraic understanding is an angel that ismeant to test the man’s resolve – the name comes from the Hebrew term Lehastin – to divert, or Stia – diviation/diversion, which makes Satan to mean – someone who diverts (in the Biblical context we are talking about someone who diverts from the path of good conduct, shaking the man’s faith and inner resolve). There are many angels who perform such a function – many Satans, and they all are subordinate to God and act in accordance with his will (evil or good are irrelevant here as you mentioned in the post). The only problem with LHP and luciferianism is the personal perception of the practitioner. Many people don’t understand the intended definition of the entities in question and the lesson they are supposed to convey. They still bounce from the Christian conventional depiction of those forces which is very demonizing, dualistic and labeling the forces in question as evil.

    The thing here is that what you anticipate – even on a subconscious level – is what you shall reap. The One God has both creative and destructive aspects, and if you are referring to and anticipating to explore this side of the spectrum you should be ready to taste exactly what you are venturing into. While it is possible to obtain realization through the exploration of the other side of the spectrum it can be very harsh at times. As you also said in your post “their lessons can be harsh” in reference to work with Devils and nightside forces. In the overall I enjoyed your post, it kept me reading to the end. Respectfully,

    S.

    • Rachel Izabella says:

      Dear S. – I love your comment. Thank you for the erudition and wisdom you show. Thanks also for correcting me on Samael and that Yod mistake I made. I’m very happy to know better now. What a comment! Wow…

      Visit often, comment often.

      Much love – Rachel Izabella

  7. Blyss says:

    As a fellow trans person I thought you might find it interesting that at the bottom of Peter Grey’s recent blog ‘Rewilding Witchcraft’ he provides a couple of links to Deep Green Resistance. DGR is a deeply transphobic organization. I emailed Peter to express my concern and provide an article detailing their documented transphobia. He responded by saying that he was aware of the DGR/transphobia issue and that he supports the trans community but doesn’t think linking to DGR means that he supports all of their ideas. I responded by disagreeing and stated that by his linking to those organizations that he is providing his tacit approval of their stance. I asked him if he would provide links to an organization that questioned if people of color were really human if he really liked their environmental ideas? No response.

    He espouses ruthlessness when it comes to Witchcraft, but not in other areas I suppose. That kind of narrow/limited point of view definitely gives me pause…

    • Rachel Izabella says:

      Blyss — Thank you for your informative comment. What you say gives me pause too. I’ll be looking into the DGR myself now. And I love your last sentence in your comment. So succinct, exact, and true.

      Please visit often and comment often.

      Much love, Rachel

  8. gg irkalla says:

    I respect you and I love your article and I love your blog. The path of the apocalypse witch is brutally hard. It is hard to be awake in a world where most people are sleeping. It is hard to live with the truth of it every day, like a shadow on your life. But through truth we can find a beauty and power and passion that we never knew from sleeping. thank you for being so strong.

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    -dylan thomas

  9. it looks like the DGR link was removed from the rewilding witchcraft post. Fyi, and thankfully.
    Can’t comment on much else…. Still need to read the book.

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