Monday, July 17, 2017

Family Ancestry and Veneration

The following topic could possibly illicit some horrible reactions. Given that everyone wants to be focused on issues of racism and cultural misappropriation these days, there may be an assumption that this entry is about race. To address that, I have to first note that this is my blog and I can write whatever I want, because until further notice, I do still have the freedom to express myself. You, the reader, also have the freedom to navigate away from my words and not read them. Secondly, let me note that this blog entry is not about race at all, it is about families and their cultures. If you can't separate the two in your head, you need to stop reading now and go away.

The honoring of our past relatives is extremely important. Without diving into an extremely long blog entry on why it's important, just follow me down this thought path. Wouldn't you rather your descendants remember and honor you, instead of completely forgetting you? If you aren't going to leave a significant mark on this world through an invention or some major discovery, don't you at least want the mark you leave (your progeny) to recognize your contribution to their existence? And if the previous is true for you, why wouldn't you want to provide the same recognition to those who were responsible for your existence so that they are not forgotten? You exist because of them. To me, that alone makes them worthy of honor.

I'm not going to get into what you should do in ritual practice to honor your ancestors. Some great insights can be found in a book that I love because it is completely on target and appropriately written. It is also briefer than most books, as ancestor veneration is more about action and feeling than about research and "doing things right." If you can get it, read through Weaving Memory: A Guide to Honoring the Ancestors by Laura Patsouris.

You may think it a gripe of semantics, but I should note that what I am exploring here is not called "ancestor worship." The word worship is tossed around a great deal, particularly in relation to this topic and by those who understand it very little. One can show honor to a deity that one worships - indeed, honor is one expression of worship. But worship is what one does for deities, not for the spirits of the dead. As a result, calling this "ancestor worship" is incorrect and shows misunderstanding. Doing so also incorrectly communicates to those who don't understand (and may be seeking to) exactly what we are doing, allowing them to have a misguided view of what we believe. I am not addressing here whether or not the dead can become deified; that is certainly possible. Rather, I am addressing what it is correctly called when one honors one's ancestors, albeit in a ritualized manner. Also commonly used and acceptable is the word veneration, since veneration is synonymous with reverence.

I should note that making appeals to ancestors for aid is also not worship, though it is an extremely common and valid magical practice. It is a practice seen in Catholic appeals to the Saints, as well as in Hoohoo appeals to the (named or unnamed) dead. One is not worshiping the dead when one makes an appeal to a dead spirit any more than one is worshiping the living when one asks for help from a living person. You can better hold onto the understanding of this concept by remembering that the dead are simply "the formerly living."

Because of the importance and power of names (you can read a bit more about that in this entry), knowing the names of your ancestors is extremely helpful and powerful. Upon first learning the name of a previously unknown ancestor, my mind swirls with speculation of the culture, the time, the whole world in which that person must have lived! Learning names breathes life into your ancestors - like peering through a window in which the past is on the other side. Of course, one can only learn names by doing research. Though you may not be good at research, it is the most effective and powerful non-ritual method of honoring your ancestors. Once you know their names, they are no longer forgotten. What could be a greater gesture of honor than making someone no longer forgotten? To advance my own practices of veneration, I have been researching my own ancestry for many years and I've worked very hard to discover their names.

Does this mean one can't do ancestor veneration unless one knows the names of one's ancestors? Certainly not! It is completely valid to conduct an act of veneration for those who are unnamed. I have personally made appeals to certain unnamed ancestors asking them to reveal themselves in my research, only to have new avenues of records become available that reveals their name!

There are a few practices that are traditionally frowned upon, mostly by the Hoodoo culture, when conducting ancestor veneration. I'm going to review a few and provide my two cents about each.

  1. Veneration should never be conducted in a room where people sleep. I have no problem with this, unless one lives in a single studio room that includes one's bed, or there are sleeping people everywhere. If the rule would exclude the practice altogether, one needs to evaluate the spirit of the rule. Some have claimed that the dead can disturb the dreams of the living and make sleeping not very restful. But then my logic asks, "if they are your family, and disturbing your dreams would make you not venerate them, why would they do that to you and halt your veneration?"
  2. Offerings of food are okay, as long as there is no salt or animal flesh provided. Does this mean no ice-cream? My dad loved butter pecan ice-cream. If I was going to make an offering of food, that would be what I'd pick. But is milk an animal flesh? I have to ask why food is even necessary at all. Aren't they no longer living? I would advise not to use any kind of food in your veneration practices. I think the desire to give food to the dead comes from anthropomorphizing what is no longer human. Yes, they are "formerly living" people, but a transformation happens to them when they give up their material body. Once the dead give up their bodies, the desires that are motivated by material life fall away. The salt simply comes from the tradition that salt blocks the movement of energy.
  3. Images of the dead should not include anyone who is living. I completely agree with this one and here's why. An altar is a ritual focal point. It is where you pump your magical energy. If that energy incorporates an unconscious understanding that the target is dead, yet there are images of the living present, those living people could become the recipient of that energy for the dead. That could be disturbing to the psyche of the living. It could potentially cause problems as your energy for the dead constantly bombards their personal field. Given that computer-based scanners and photo editors are easy use these days, there is no reason why the living can't be excluded from altar photographs. When in doubt, leave it out.
  4. Ancestors who were abusive or substance-abusers in life should not be venerated in death. The intent behind this rule is to prevent you from granting access to your energy to spirits with potentially hostile intent. Again, I have trouble with this one for the same reason I gave in #2 above; this is an attempt to anthropomorphize the dead. According to the writings of spirtist, Allan Kardec, once spirits give up their material bodies, all of the trials that motivated their actions in life fall away. They become free from those material influences and their motivations change, as do their actions.

Recently, I decided to have my DNA tested for the proportions of genetics contributed by each of my ancestral origins. But if I look at the research I've already done, as well as the extensive research completed by my uncle in this area, I think I can chart a solid expectation of my test results. Let's assume that my family history breaks down into 8 main lines (my 8 great-grandparents). This is what I expect.

Mother's grandparents:
1. Line traced to 1741; German (the earliest was a "Hessian" captured by General Washington when he crossed the Delaware)
2. Line traced to 1670; German
3. Line traced to 1915; records for this line are undiscovered; possibly German
4. Line traced to 1590; British and Netherlander

Father's grandparents:
1. Line traced to 1811; German and British
2. Line traced to 1622; Scots Irish and British
3. Line traced to 1291; Swedish, then French, then British
4. Line traced to 1794; German (Franconia/Bavaria) and from where my surname comes.

Nearly all of the mentioned family lines settled in the western Maryland and south-central Pennsylvania areas as early American colonists. They were farmers and a very solid part of the colonial Pennsylvania Germans (the "Dutch"), though not of the Anabaptist groups.

I expect that my test will show a large amount of northern and central European (Germanic) heritage. I may find that most of my family is centered in one small area of Europe; I may find that there are hidden or unknown cultures about which I never knew. I don't expect to see very much from any other cultures on other continents, but it would be a fun surprise to know I had more in the mix, such as, Hispanic, African, American Indian or even a far eastern culture.

Being made up of mixed cultures means I have more complexity to tap when I honor my ancestors. Ancestral veneration practices are only partially built and executed for you. Mostly, they are done for the dead. You give them what you think they want. This means that a past ancestor may respond favorably if one uses practices that are based on one's familiar culture. Like the living, the dead prefer to have familiar things around. when one has many cultures contributing, the arrangement can become wonderfully "patchworked." Consider it like this: if you were a spirit being honored by one of your descendants, wouldn't you like to see some familiar elements from your own culture woven into the effort, instead of veneration that doesn't tip its hat to your culture in the least? As a result, your practices may seem like a cultural hodge-podge. That's entirely alright. What's most important is that you do something - anything - to show them honor and pay them some memory. Your practice can be as simple as lighting a candle, saying a prayer of honor and thanks, then blowing out the candle.Yep, it's that easy!

Ancestor veneration also achieves something wonderful. It gives you a moment of daily meditation. You can use the memory of your ancestors on which to focus, much like a mantra. These moments of meditation slowly transform your mind to be more receptive to intuitive skills. Not only will you grow closer to your familial dead, you will become more receptive to their messages and more adept at spell work in general.

Now for the racial part that is going to make people upset. Just as there are many different cultures produced by racially white people, there are many cultures produced by racially black people and brown people and yellow people and red people. Every tribe, clan, country and region produced its own practices that it held dear. Honoring those, rather than thinking that some are more valid or desirable than others, is what's most important during ancestor veneration. Whether you are the most racially pure person on the planet or a thoroughly blended human being, your ancestor veneration should be free of your racial issues.

This practice also teaches us - the living - that being different from each other is okay and worth celebrating. We can't celebrate diversity until we recognize diversity. We have to be willing to point out how we are different and then be open to sharing it. We have to be willing to say to each other, "I am white; you are black. Let's learn about each other so we can better value each other." Because of racism, I believe that there is too much effort in the world today seeking to wipe away that we are all different by making our world intolerant to the act of cultural celebration. Cultural celebration is not racism.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Further Examinations on Pyramid and Pentagram

I have had a change of thinking. I would like to reexamine a couple of esoteric symbols thanks to some recent reading.

In my post on the Witch's Pyramid, I wrote the following:
It has come to my attention that, in recent years, the Witches Pyramid has had ascribed to it a fifth principle: "To Go." I believe this is happening from a misguided attempt to correlate the pyramid with the pentagram. The pentagram is a very different symbol and does not discuss the hermetic principle symbolized by the pyramid. The pentagram is a symbol of the unity of the five elements of the universe, not the principles employed by hermetic students to understand how to evolve the spirit. Though I'm fine with people developing whatever mnemonic device they feel is helpful, I do not agree with inventing something that never was while claiming that it did. The pyramid has older names including the "Hermetic Quaternary" and the "Four Powers of the Magus." Both of these names specify four principles, not five, because the new principle that has been invented is clearly not necessary. The four principles are forward-moving principles, so to state that one must then go is redundant to the goal. It also shows a failure to understand what is being taught.
The hermetic magical principles are not symbolized by the corners of the pyramid, but by the faces. There are four triangular faces representing the principles. They are supported by a square face that is hidden. Triangles are symbolic of active properties. Squares are symbolic of manifestation. The surprise to most is that we are not trying to metaphorically travel to the peak of the pyramid. Too many people assume incorrectly that the only way to symbolize the attainment of higher states of being is with a literal movement upward. However, in this case, what is revealed comes from looking at the face of the pyramid that we cannot see. On each of the active faces rests one of the elemental angels, as we saw in the Wheel of Fortune, above. On the base is the manifested figure of the Sphinx herself, for she represents the unity of the elements. Only through unifying the powers of the elements do we gain manifestation. This is the core lesson of magical work.
My change of thinking is not about the reinvention of the Witch's Pyramid to have 5 principles. I still believe contemporary magicians should not try to muck with an axiom that works. Rather, I am seeing more connection between the pyramid and the pentagram. This change of thinking is not simplistically caused by the fact that both feature the number 5; there are deeper connections at work. I would like to explore them and expose more of my thinking on the matter.

I also wrote in the previous entry a little about the riddle posed by the sphinx to Oedipus. Let's look at that riddle so we have it before us (Apollodorus, 3.5.8).
And having learned a riddle from the Muses, she sat on Mount Phicium, and propounded it to the Thebans. And the riddle was this: What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed? . . . Oedipus found the solution, declaring that the riddle of the Sphinx referred to man; for as a babe he is four-footed, going on four limbs, as an adult he is two-footed, and as an old man he gets besides a third support in a staff.
Note that I stated that squares are symbolic of manifestation. That is an important link to understand the potential divinity in man. Our bodies are material things, made up of the four elements unified on this material level. But on a divine level, there is a reflection of our bodies ("as above, so below"). That reflection is also made up of the unified elements, but in the divine sense; the elements are not material, they are spiritual. They are the elements about which Levi spoke. They are the non-material principles that together make up the spirit. That which is opposite to the peak of the pyramid is the base of the pyramid. So if the peak is our spirit self, which is conveniently represented as a point with no dimension, the base is our body, which is also conveniently represented by the square, the symbol of the material in balance. I have already mentioned in the last entry that the base is also represented by the sphinx herself, a being still in this material plane, but incorporating all of the elements. She is the Magus.

What changed the connection between the pyramid and the pentagram was a passage from an occult writer I greatly respect, though more current than Levi. Here is a passage (translated) from The Practice of Magical Evocation by Franz Bardon:
When practicing evocation or invocations of beings, it is desirable to draw within the center of the circle in which one is to stand another smaller circle or a pentagram with one of its points upwards, the symbol representing man. This is then the symbolization of the small world, of man as genuine magician.
So here we read that Bardon reveals the symbolism of the pentagram be symbolic of man. Allow me to provide an image that may help illustrate this point. It is by Agrippa, from book two of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, 1651.

Next, let's recall the associations between the pentagram and the elements, which has come down to us through tradition from the mystery schools.

So we can see that the pentagram embodies both the elements and the body of man. But does this analogy only seem solid because both coincidentally incorporate the number five? Does the connection between the pyramid and the pentagram go deeper? Considering the image above, what happens if we lose one element? Five becomes four. Suppose that the element above called "spirit" is more correctly "divinity." Without the divine, one is a creature with four elements only, much like the sphinx - the base of the pyramid.

For one to travel from the base of a pyramid to its peak - to metaphorically evolve from the material plane to a divine one that is without dimension - one must travel up each (perhaps all) of the four triangular faces. To do this on a material pyramid, one would travel a distance that the Greek mathematicians called "phi"

The value of phi was so important to the Greeks that it was used as the basis of all of their architecture and was called the Golden Mean and the Divine Portion. Interestingly, the same value is found all over the pentagram.

The shape of man's body is also packed with phi, which is illustrated by this image very well (represented by any section labeled M, where E is the value of 1).

So it is true that the Hermetic principles are symbolized by the faces of the pyramid, rather than by the corners. But it is also true that there is a divine relationship between the symbolism present in both the pyramid and the pentagram. Both are helpful to understanding the lessons found in the witch's pyramid as a guide to evolving the spirit. Both point to the power inherent in man.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

More Math in Magic Squares

This entry is a continuation of my last blog entry on planetary sigils and kamea. It is the entry with all the math and odd speculation that makes a blog entry boring. So if reading about investigation and the process of decoding puzzles isn’t your thing, feel free to skip over this one. But if you are the least bit curious about the Solomonic sigils, you might want to take a peek.

First, let’s remember that there are sigils for both the planetary intelligences and the planetary spirits. We saw in the last blog entry how those two groups of sigils are created using numerology and names.

But there are also sigils simply called “planetary seals.” Here are images from around the web of how each of the planetary sigils are traditionally drawn. I will note that the seal of Saturn is my own drawing because the web is currently circulating all sorts of non-traditional garbage for what is probably the easiest drawn seal in all of ceremonial magic. (Witches, please check your work!)

Sigil of the Moon (9)

Sigil of Mercury (8)

Sigil of Venus (7)

Sigil of the Sun (6)

Sigil of Mars (5)

Sigil of Jupiter (4)

Sigil of Saturn (3)

These sigils are not drawn using the same method we examined previously, but I did get curious how they were created. I also began to notice some odd characteristics of the seals and the kameas.

I first noticed that the sigil of Saturn is drawn over that planet’s kamea using a very obvious technique. The numerals are divided into three sets of three. The numerals of each of the sets are connected with lines, separate from each other. A circle starts and ends each connecting line. I’ll illustrate that here by removing the numbers and using colors so it’s easy to highlight some of the characteristics of this seal. We will observe those characteristics later.

Saturn Drawing

Notice how the seal has bilateral symmetry with the axes of symmetry falling on the whole kamea's diagonals. The middle set of numerals also creates a line of symmetry (in red). The sets before and after the middle set make designs that are reflections of each other. Also, there is a convergence of lines on both sides of the center block.

I don’t know why this one planetary sigil was drawn using this technique, while the others were not. But I began to wonder what would happen if I applied these drawing methods to the other kameas. Allow me to walk you through my process.

So let’s draw on the other kameas, but only those that are based on odd numbers for now. Using the same methods we observed in the sigil of Saturn, we first write down all the numerals of each square and divide them into sets appropriate for the planetary number, then we draw out each numeral set using circles to start and end each set. Some interesting designs appear. We can see that there is bilateral symmetry in them. Again, the numeral set in the middle creates one of the lines of symmetry (in red). Each of the pairs of numeral sets on both sides of the middle set create designs that are reflections of each other. Also, all the beginnings and endings of the numeral sets straddle the diagonal (with the exception of the middle set). I’ve illustrated all of this with colors again to make it all easier to see.

Mars Drawing

Venus Drawing

Moon Drawing

What this shows is that the odd numbered kameas represent the symmetry inherent in mathematics. In order for all the rows and columns of blocks to sum the same, the very largest number must be placed opposite to the very smallest, then the next largest and smallest, and so on until the middle of the available numbers is reached. This isn’t magic, it’s just math. We can also see from the patterns that all of the odd numbered kameas are based on a similar numeral arrangement, but just increase their complexity as the kameas get larger. This makes the convergence that we saw on both sides of the middle block no longer the only convergence.

Let’s apply the same drawing methods to the even numbered kameas and see what happens. Jupiter and Mercury also show a bilateral symmetry. Since there is no middle numeral set, the sets simply pair up evenly without it. However, now the axes of symmetry have been rotated 45 degrees from the diagonals to the vertical and horizontal. Also, the start and end of each set has moved to the outer blocks. A convergence of lines becomes prevalent, only now all of the numeral sets is contributing. Here are more colors to illustrate all of this, though Mercury started to get visually busy, so I separated the first four numeral sets from their mates. This also helps to show the symmetry that is happening, as the first four sets create a mirror image of the last four sets. Notice also that a pentagram is starting to appear in Mercury's crossing lines.

Jupiter Drawing

Mercury Drawing

The odd man out in all of this is the kamea of the Sun. When we start to draw the lines from the sets, we quickly notice that there is no symmetry! Drawing it to the end shows that there is only one point of convergence to the right of center and there are several sets that force a drawn line to be back-tracked, which never happens in any of the other kameas. However, the sets do begin and end only on the outer blocks. I've separated the mates of the pairs, as I did in the Mercury drawing, to show the lack of symmetry.

Sun Drawing

Since I know that there are many different arrangements of numbers that can create a magic square still fulfilling the row and column summation rule, my first thought was that tradition had brought down to us the wrong 36-block kamea for this planet – one without symmetry. So, I tried to build a kamea that fit the rules displayed by all the other kamea. This proved impossible. Here’s why it’s impossible.

For an even numbered kamea to have bilateral symmetry, the base number must be divisible by 4, because bilateral symmetry creates a reflection (two images) on two planes, which creates quadrants of images (2 images x 2 planes = 4 images). Imagine a kaleidoscope that only produced four images inside it. Odd numbered kameas don’t have this problem because one of their numeral sets creates one of the needed lines of symmetry; a midline will always be built into those drawings. If we had kameas with a base of 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, etc., they would all show the same problem with bilateral symmetry, because they are all even numbers that are not divisible by 4. Again, this isn’t magic, it’s just math, though I will agree that math, particularly as it applies to shapes (geometry) can be very sacred.

By now you have likely wondered exactly what technique was used to create all those sigils of the planets that have come down to us - the ones at the very beginning of this entry. Well, unfortunately, no one knows. The best hypothesis I’ve seen to date was done by a clever Rosicrucian, who speculated that a counting technique was applied to the kameas. That information can be found here. For now, we simply accept that it is knowledge lost to the past.

If any of you have done work with kameas and planetary sigils, please comment your insights below or link the rest of us to your pages.

Thanks for indulging my mathematical deviation.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Magic Words and Sigil Magick

Recently, I was working with sigils (again). I was reviewing the methods used by modern Hoodoo practitioners to make Key of Solomon-style sigils. It’s fascinating stuff, but there are some elements that are shortcut. I’ll explore sigils here in an attempt to provide connections between several very deep topics.

I apologize in advance if something I write seems as if I’m being cursory. One could likely write a long book about all this. However, as this is only a blog, my goal is to show you the connections, so that you will better experience the wonder that I felt when all this began to become meaningful for me.

Mankind began with sounds, which he modulated in the mouth. That led to an attempt to make symbols to represent the sounds – as stated in the movie, The Dark Crystal, “words that stay.” Writing was born. Let’s explore speech and writing separately.

Since much of what comes down to us in the Western Mystery schools comes from the Kabbalah, we should start in the Ancient Near East. Kabbalah was highly influenced by Babylonian numerology and astrology, which was also influenced by ancient Hindu principles through trade routes. Kabbalah then lent its systems to Greece.  A bit later, I’ll show a tiny bit how each of these cultures contributed.

Speaking is represented in myth as a very special and creative event. Yahweh created the universe by speaking it into being. The Memphite (Northern Egypt) creator, Ptah, created things by what was described as an act of the heart and the tongue. It’s important to note that the people of the ANE didn’t view ideas as living in the brain. Mummification (and warfare) gave people an understanding that there was an organ in the skull, but no one knew what it did. Thinking was done in the chest – in the heart – where ideas lived. So an action of the heart and the tongue was an action of generating an idea and then making it known to the world. This was such a powerful concept that it led to the esoteric idea that knowing the name of a thing could give you power over it.  Certainly, it gave you the power of creating it, because until it was named, its creation process was not complete and so it was not a real thing. For this reason, Yahweh brought all of the animals to Adam to be named. Each of them needed an identity.

The Hindus have mantras. Mantras are phrases spoken over and over, perhaps thousands of times, to bring a desired change to your life by manifesting what is needed. Mantras are made up of “seed sounds.” These are the basic and core sounds used to form more complex words. Yet these sounds are not simply utterances. They are mystical vibrations that modulate the resonance of the universe to bring things into being. By speaking these seed sounds in the correct order, vibrations move out into the universe to bring about the desired changes. Often, these changes occur in the mind of the speaker.

But why does the power to create something give you power over it? To the mythic mind, creation and destruction are the same process. Raw materials are destroyed and remade as something else. What was mud or an elder tree became man. What was the body of a titan, became the land, sea and sky. To gain the power over a thing, you simply need to know what it is called. This is the reason secret societies (like witches in covens) have inner-circle names that are never shared. This is also the reason why divine names become magic words of power. (A completely acceptable charm is to write the name of a deity on paper, then fold it into a bundle to be tucked into a mojo bag or a fold in your clothing, to summon the powers of that deity.) Any word can be used as a magic word because it identifies an essence.

Many cultures believed, and so represented, the invention of writing as a sacred event, often telling tales of writing systems as gifts from their gods. Odin brought the runes to mankind; Thoth brought hieroglyphics. Because writing was a lasting representation of a sound, which was the word of power naming a thing, the glyph itself had the power of the sound. It was a representation of the very essence of the created thing.

Just as alchemy was the forerunner of chemistry, so numerology was the forerunner of mathematics. The Babylonians loved their numbers so much that they would actually use numbers to refer to their deities as a kind of short-hand honorific. For example, if the number that represented you was the number 123, I could simply refer to you in conversation like this, “123 and I had a great time in circle,” which would be a gesture of respect, because your number is your essence. Transmitted from the Babylonians throughout the ANE was the idea that the glyphs of sounds correspond to numbers.

Pythagoras was a clever Greek when he discovered music theory. Vibrations could be created by mathematically dividing a vibrating string. Interestingly, the vocal cords are simply vibrating strings that are similarly modulated like the stretched stings of a lyre. This shows a deep connection between mathematics and vibration; as such, every sound corresponded to a particular numerical value. If every sound has a glyph, and every sound also has a numerical value it means that every glyph has a value.

Because speaking, singing, writing, language and mathematics are not enough, let’s bring astronomy into this. The Magi of Babylon were expert astronomers as well as accomplished mathematicians. In the Babylonian sky were seven dominant heavenly bodies. Their gods ruled over sections of the sky and were embodied by the seven observable heavenly bodies, which were mathematically chartable. To state that they believed numerals to be divine was an understatement! The Babylonian custom used mathematical sums as a substitution for the names of their gods as a kind of respectful short hand. So numbers represented their gods, but also the planets.

They assigned a number to each of the planets based on its speed through the heavens. Saturn, the slowest planet observed, received the smallest number, 3, followed by Jupiter, Mars, The Sun, Venus, Mercury, and finally The Moon, which was the fastest body gaining the number 9. (Incidentally, this is also how the planetary hours are ordered in ceremonial magic charts. I have also seen some schools of thought that use this planetary rulership for the seven chakras.)

Each of the assigned numbers were used to create magic squares, or “kamea.” Kamea are traditional Babylonian and Kabbalistic grids that contain both rows and columns equal to the planetary number. In each block of the grid is placed every numeral from 1 through the square of the planetary number. For example, in the kamea of Saturn, there are 3 rows of 3 columns containing the digits 1 through 9 (32). The numerals are placed so that every row and column, as well as the major diagonals, have the same sum. In the case of Saturn, each row and column has the sum of 15. However, there are many different ways to arrange the numerals in the kamea to still accomplish the uniform sum. So there are traditional arrangements of the digits that have been passed down. Below are the traditional kamea of all the planets.

The idea that names held power permeated the Kabbalah, which was used to compose some of the most famous source books for magical systems in the world, The Keys of Solomon. Anyone who has ever opened a cover of these books knows they are filled with Solomon’s “seals.” These seals are simply arrangements of sigils creating designs that can be inscribed on metals to create charms. Often, the charms are purported to allow the holder to gain power over certain spirits or intelligences. The designs accomplish this because they contain the names of these spirits and intelligences represented as glyphs. The method for creating these glyphs uses sound and numerology to create a written symbol of power.

In Kabbalah, each of the planetary intelligences and spirits have a name made up of a string of sounds, just like your own name. Their name is their word of power. Each spirit is associated with a ruling planet, which has a kamea. If we convert the sounds in the name into numbers, then connect the numbers using the correct kamea, we create a glyph for each name that magically represents each spirit.

Observing just a few standards, you can use the same method to make your own sigils of your name, or of any other word that is powerful to you. Contemporary Hoodoo uses an adaptation of this method. It is an easy method, but it does deviate from the Kabbalist method just a bit. I’ll describe the Kabbalist method used above a bit later.

For the hoodoo method, use the following table to convert all the letters in your name to numbers.

Now choose the kamea that rules over your natal zodiac.

Now simply draw lines to connect the numerals in the kamea in the order of the name. Here are the drawing standards that seem apparent to me based on the sigils in the Keys of Solomon. First, no line should ever be back-traced, which means that every time you visit a block, you should use a unique line. It also means that when returning to a block that already has a line stop, you should stop at some other place in that block. Second, double numbers should have a small wave or bump to show that the block was marked twice (or more). Finally, the first numeral should be marked with a small circle.

Here is an example of the sigil for Hagiel, the intelligence of Venus, which shows a repeated letter and parallel lines, but no lines are completely back-traced. Notice that returning to block 3 required that we put a stop in a different part of the block, rather than intersecting with the one that was already there.

Despite the rules, you can flex your creativity a bit. It appears acceptable for the stops in each block to be rounded rather than sharp points, or to go from block to block using arcs, rather than straight lines, so long as the arcs are consistent. The last numeral can be marked in many ways, such as with a final circle, a small perpendicular line, a wave, a chevron, or simply stopping. The sigil is your creation and it carries the power you put into it.

You can also build sigils for other words that are powerful to you, such as “health” or “money.” You would simply use the kamea appropriate for those purposes. These are the accepted hoodoo associations of each of the planets.
Sun: Health, vitality, ego, power, success, advancement, leadership, and growth
Moon: Clairvoyance, sleep, emotions, astral travel, imagination, women, birth, and reincarnation
Mars: Male sexuality, strength, lust, anger, destruction, medical issues 
Mercury: Communication, intellect, writing, contracts, information, wisdom, science, memory
Jupiter: Success, abundance, money, growth, gambling
Venus:  Love, pleasure, female sexuality, arts, music, beauty, luxury, social affairs
Saturn:  Real estate, banks, debt, obstacles, binding, knowledge, time, discipline

If you are feeling a bit nefarious, you can also build a sigil to represent another person to gain power over them.

The difference between the hoodoo version and the Kabbalistic version is that the latter relies on sound, rather than just letters. Rather than the names being converted based on the letters used to write the name, they are converted based on the sounds that are used to construct their utterance. The values of each sound can be found in the following table (Mathers, 3). Note that the values for the sounds k, m and n differ when they are final sounds than when they are elsewhere in the word. For the sound made by w, use v. There is no letter e. Short vowels are generally ignored, which leaves the sound created by an e represented by either the long a or the long i, depending on which sounds closer.

Also note that there are values that are too large for some kamea. In that case, simply drop zeroes until the number fits. For example, the name “Tom” would be a strong T (9), then O (70 or 7), then a final M (600 or 60 or 6, not 40). The name “Steve” would be S (60 or 6), a strong T (9), a long ee sound, represented by the I, Y (10 or 1), then a V (6). The final vowel is silent.

Oddly, the numerology table used in hoodoo is the one also used in so-called “Pythagorean numerology.” This is an odd name to me because the Greeks had an alphabet of sounds, just as in Kabbalah and were big fans of assigning numbers to the sounds made by their alphabet. This was a very popular process called Isopsephy and was used even for very mundane affairs. They did not have letters that made multiple sounds as we do in English. It seems to me that the best Pythagorean numerology table would be based on sounds and would use the original isopsephographic values that the Greeks used so often. That translated table would look like this.

The value for each row in the table increases by a factor of 10. So G is worth 3 and L is worth 30, while T is worth 300.

Whether you use the Hebrew, the Isopsephy or the “numerology” table to assign values, you now have all you need to move forward in sigil magic.

For more information on the numerology of the Babylonians, investigate Trail of the Serpent by Christian writer, Murl Vance.


Mathers, S. L. Mac Gregor. The Kabbalah Unveiled. Theosophical Publishing Co., New York. 1912.

If you have any interest in diving into a more mathematical look at the kameas, feel free to look at my next entry, found here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Witch’s Work using the Powers of the Witch

In my particular coven, we have what is called “witch’s work.” This is the stuff within ourselves on which we must work to become better people and more powerful witches - to really evolve our spirits so we can move to the next chapter in the improvement of our spirit.

I don’t know if all covens teach about witch’s work, though I suspect not. I was taught that all covens teach it (or maybe should). But most of the Wiccan covens I’ve encountered are not concerned with any ultimate end goal for their existence here. Some of them show a morality that is merely borrowed from Christianity, or no morality at all. At best, they simply go about their lives like pagan robots, accepting only the techniques and teachings of a favorite author, not fully understanding that there is a larger goal and a story that transcends just the here-and-now.

How does one know what one’s work is? I was taught that a clue comes from one’s astrological natal chart. My experience is that this merely scratches the surface of what the work might be. It is simply the shadow cast on the wall by a very complex and deep problem requiring handling. The best way to know what is one’s witch’s work is to look at one’s fears.

Fearing the Past

Fear is a funny thing (funny-weird, not funny-haha). It has built into it the desire to turn away from it, yet it is the very thing at which we must look to understand how to propel our spirits forward. Any time there is something about your life that you fear, you are receiving a clue that the issue needs some attention. So fear is a scab – a kind of bandage – that prevents us from seeing or even knowing that we have a wound.

This doesn’t mean that because you fear death, you should experiment with killing people or yourself. I don’t mean that everything you fear is a life lesson. Fear’s job is to be a warning that something you face in the environment may hurt you, so fear has a place and should be respected as a useful tool. Instead, I mean that those parts of your inner self about which you are inflexible, intolerant, and resistant, may be the very parts of yourself at which you should look for a deeper understanding about your inner nature, or what needs some attention. The most useful manifestation of fear at which we should pay attention for clues into necessary change is embarrassment. It is the condition you feel when your self-worth has been completely destroyed. When you are embarrassed about something, it’s because you fear the judging and belittling thoughts you believe others think about you. Most of the time, your belief is based on speculation, rather than true knowing. Your inner power becomes completely destroyed when you are embarrassed because you believe the speculations.

If you are someone who fears commitment, you should dive into those parts of yourself. If you fear success or learning, you should dive into understanding why. If you fear being alone or crave control over others, you should pay extra attention to the part of yourself from where those desires come and why they exists in you.

I once had a teacher that seemed to have a problem defining his identity. He was someone hungry for power, which I suspect was what brought him to Wicca. In Wicca, one can simply do the rituals for a few years to get one’s elevation to be a High Priest. This happens because spiritual lessons are tough to prove that they have been successfully learned. No one wants to call out someone as the person who can’t do witchcraft, because proving the claim is nearly impossible. As long as a witch can lead a circle well, he tends to be elevated, even if he can’t do any of the “powers of the witch.” (I digress; more on these later.) My point is that my “teacher” had no idea that he was a megalomaniac and had even less inclination that he should work on that part of himself to be a better person.

The witch’s work exists within each of us because of our life experiences. We are the product of the experiences of our pasts. We get hurt and so we begin to fear commitment; we get approval for our learning and so we begin to crave knowledge. Everything that happens to us helps to shape who we are. But often those experiences teach us behaviors that are not healthy or helpful. They can be obsessive, avoiding, or oppressive over others. Basically, our experiences help to create baggage.


The Greek Philosophers said, “Know thyself.” This axiom has been the foundation of countless spiritual movements throughout the Western Mystery Schools. The entirety of the New Age and New Thought movements are based on this axiom, buried somewhere in their deep foundations. Yet it is the first axiom forgotten when it comes time to do the witch’s work.

When a witch knows his inner self, he knows all of his dark faces. He has put names to the parts of himself that makes him afraid. He knows that he is inclined to crave power, or solitude, or love, and he knows why each of those cravings exist. He has faced those damaging experiences that helped to create those conditions in his personality. More so, he has freed himself from the power that those past experiences have over his current self. The past no longer influences his decisions of the present, so his decisions are based on what is actual, rather than on the inaccurate perceptions of the world he thinks he remembers.

By contrast, most who are not doing the work simply have no idea that the past created these conditions in their personality. They are not guilty of failing to handle the baggage that is the source of their fear. Instead they simply assume that they are free of baggage, so they believe there is no work they need to do.

Here’s a hint: being in this material world is all about becoming a better you, with new lessons every day. School won’t end until you’re dead, with the experience of your own death being the final lesson. So if you think you’ve learned all the lessons of this life and can just spend the rest of it coasting along as a powerful witch, you are just plain wrong. Stop fooling yourself and get back to class.

The Witch’s Classroom

Wiccan Tradition has perpetuated a list of witch powers. These are powers that can play two roles in the evolution of a witch. The first happens when one or more powers are pre-existing in a mild form. They can be clues to a person that one is a witch at all. This is not an exclusively witchcraft kind of thing; the truth is that anyone has the ability to develop all of these powers. However, everyone has a few powers that are more difficult to develop and a few that are easier to develop. Yet many witches can mark at least one of these powers as the one that blossomed in them to such a degree that they became called to study witchcraft.

The second role that the powers of the witch play is to function like a crucible, burning away the parts of our personality that limit us. The efforts through which we go in our studies of the powers of the witch help to refine our spirits. This happens because there is something built into these powers that exercise all of the intuitive parts of the human spirit. As we work with the intuitive, we are brought face to face with the parts of ourselves with which we are not comfortable. As we exercise each of our inner qualities, they get stronger, which makes each of our inner qualities better. Yet the powers of the witch will effect no change if one simply assumes that one’s work is done and so stops trying. As with any system, “the system works, if you work it.”

The best public source for the witch's powers comes from Charles Godfrey Leland’s 1890 work, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Here is the list of powers as Leland presented it. I will elaborate on each one.

1. To bless or curse with power, friends or enemies
This power deals with the ability to cast spells. As this is not a treatise on the nature of spell work, I will not provide details, but suffice it to state that spell work is the ability to cause positive or negative events to occur in others’ lives through the effort of sheer will.
2. To converse with spirits
This power deals with the ability to be clairaudient. The witch is capable of sensing, which is more so a mental sense, the thoughts of non-corporeal beings. These could be spirits that were formerly alive or environmental spirits that never had a body.
3. To find hidden treasures in ancient ruins
This is the power of dowsing. It can be done using dowsing rods, pendulums or other divinatory methods that point to locations. The “treasures” mentioned here are not necessarily of monetary value.
4. To conjure the spirits of priests who died leaving treasures
The “conjure” used here denotes this power as being very different from #2. This is the power to cause a spirit of a previously living being to create a physical manifestation, usually in smoke, or to perceive the spirit (clairvoyance), to pass along knowledge. In common parlance, this power is called “necromancy.”
5. To understand the voice of the wind
This is the power to interpret the impending weather. It is not “weather magic” as many believe. Weather magic is actually a product of #1, for as you bring positive events into your own life, you bring the weather that is best for you. Instead, this power is simply a knowledge of what the weather will be before it happens, through the observation of patterns. Basically, it is a kind of meteorologic forecast, but using experience instead of scientific sensors.
6. To change water into wine
Many incorrectly call this power “transmutation” and it would seem that it is an application of alchemy. In fact, it is the ability to cause “intoxication” from water, usually by the addition of the correct entheogenic plants, or through the process of fermentation. This power is an extension of shamanism and herbalism.
7. To divine with cards
One of the forms of divination, this is the power of understanding the unseen using a common and mundane tool. Cards are only one of many possible tools.
8. To know the secrets of the hand
Better known as “palmistry,” this is the power to understand a person’s inner nature by reading the lines on the palm. By understanding one’s nature, a witch can also predict likely futures. This latter ability is what turns a rather academic study of palm lines and bumps into an intuitive and very magickal art.
9. To cure diseases
This power is an application of herbalism, but also of energetic healing such as reiki and shamanism. It deals with any power that takes away disease, including the disease of the emotions and the mind.
10. To make those who are ugly, beautiful
This power is also called “glamoury” and is part of love magic. It is the power to manipulate the perceptions of onlookers in any way that succeeds. It can be achieved by changing the physical using make-up and clothing, modifying perceptions of character, or spells that modify the situation to produce favorable conditions for love. It is not a power that causes love where there was no chance of it happening. It creates the most fertile possible garden for love.
11. To tame wild beasts
This is the power to learn and understand the communication and behavior patterns of animals so that they work for the witch, rather than in opposition to him or simply ignorant of him. Examples of this can be seen in the efforts of popular trainers such as the dog, horse or cat whisperers. But this power goes more deeply because it incorporates the witch’s understanding of the spiritual role those animals play in the larger web of which we are all a part.

EDIT (21 April 2017): Many people think this list is incomplete. They claim that the witch has 13 powers, not 11. This comes from the popular poem listing 13 powers, which was an expansion of Leland's list and published in 2003 by Silver Ravenwolf in her book Solitary Witch. It is a wonderful poem and adds powers like astrology and weather magic. Certainly, these are powers that witches use. Any intuitive power that a witch exercises will help them to evolve the spirit. That poem is the first time that the witch's powers were represented as a kind of witch-dowry that can be passed on in ritual, somewhat the way reiki attunements are transferred.

Goal Oriented

Some people also wonder why the list doesn't cite the powers that they hear about in movies or the pop culture of witches, like psychokinesis or astral projection. The list seems incomplete because many people don't realize that this is not so much a list of powers, as it is a list of goals. Witches don’t do anything unless there is an end goal in mind, whether that be healing, causing love to bloom, finding information, or whatever. Most of the “powers” that people think should be on this list are just other methods to accomplish one of the listed goals. Getting good at astral projection seems like a nice idea, but what good is it if you aren’t using it for a reason. Projection for the sake of projecting is a useless endeavor, other than the experience it provides to you.

The ultimate goal of this existence is to learn power to be helpful. As witches move through the effort to learn each of these powers, we become better and more helpful people. It is the goal of the witch - of anyone in a village - to serve his people. Throughout the history of mankind, the powerful in a tribe became healers and helpers, because they knew that everyone had a role to play to help humanity survive this wild material plane.

Many witches will tell you that anyone who tries to use his powers to harm his people will find his powers robbed from him. The paradox of power is that it is actually just a loan of experiences from the universe. If you abuse it, you will lose it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Pagan Lifestyle

I am a critical person; it's built into my personality as an "internal processor" and it is part of my "witches work" to juggle it until the day I die. I won't deny it, but I'm also not going to sugar-coat it. However, I will attempt (as I regularly do) to channel this trait into a positive characteristic rather than a destructive one.

A rant that regularly passes through my head comes from the criticism I exact against many contemporary pagans. In my opinion, most self-identified pagans don't live a very pagan lifestyle. They call themselves pagans, but they don't act as if their pagan-ness is driving the decisions of their world.

It is accepted that Wicca is a pagan religion. It is said that all Wiccans are pagan, but not all pagans are Wiccan. Wiccans are typically called "witches." It is very possible for someone to be a non-pagan witch. An example would be a Curandera, a Hispanic spiritual healer who uses ritualized actions to seek the involvement of the power of the Christian God and Angels. It's also possible to be a pagan believer, but to do no witchcraft.

What would be examples of pagan-ness expressing itself? If you are pagan, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you step on an insect without understanding its journey at that moment in time, even if you find it completely intrusive?
  • Do you recycle, even if your town doesn't provide it?
  • Do you know the names of the trees in your yard or on your block? Are they native plants or are they completely invisible to you?
  • Do you cook with the herbs from your magical collection? Have you ever actually done a spell at your kitchen stove (your "hearth")?
  • Do you worry about the chemistry that goes down the drain with your laundry soap?
  • Do you wonder what's in your soap that isn't soap, or in your canned goods that isn't food?
  • Do you avoid the outdoors because it's humid, has mosquitoes, or you can't get a cell signal?
  • Do you throw things in the trash completely unthinking of where they go next?
  • Do you have any idea how many things in your home - in the room with you now - are made of plastic?
I know some (or many) of the examples of a pagan mindset seem to be very much part of the modern "environmental" movement. Efforts to recycle or keep the oceans clean, or protect tuna, or prevent dog fighting, or prevent glaciers from melting, all stem from a pagan mindset. 

This means that a great number of people, of all different religions, have a pagan mindset, or at least the seeds of one. It is the result of tens of thousands of years of being tribal people, living in close concert with the land. We can imprint whatever culture - whatever religion - on top of it we want; we can obscure it in many ways. Yet it will always rise to the surface because humanity has spent the majority of its evolution being close to and part of the web of life. It is a quiet calling at the back of our minds. That kind of lifestyle can't simply and completely disappear.  It is an instinct that is built into our DNA. yet we do have the ability to avoid it, or to focus on an empty pleasure that makes us feel and believe we are fulfilled.

From time to time science will reveal a study that proves this connection. The state of New York, Department of Environmental Conservation has prepared an excellent web page highlighting some of this research. The studies prove that living as a part of nature is essential to the correct functioning of our bodies and minds (and by extension, our spirits). Our very lives depend on us maintaining a connection with unspoiled nature. By not living a pagan lifestyle, we are killing ourselves. The fact that an environmental movement exists at all is evidence that something deep inside humanity wants us to be working harmoniously with nature, rather than in opposition to it.

In addition to the environmental movement, pagan-ness hides throughout our modern world because the instinct to be pagan seeps out of humans when we aren't looking. It shows up in Disney movies about an American Indian princess, or the birth of a lion cub, or the story of a girl who can talk to the ocean. It lasts in the wishes we make as we blow out birthday candles. It drives the movement to leave cities for a rural life, or to buy a tiny house, or the farm-to-table movement. It keeps the herbal medicine industry alive. It sings about the satisfaction in a hard-working life that enriches Country music. The pagan way of life speaks quietly to us from a memory that is older than language itself. 

I have watched too many pagans operate as if they are no different from the Christian or the Agnostic or the Atheist or the Jew next door. Few pagans these days have any idea how to live a pagan lifestyle, but more sadly, even fewer of them even care to try. 

As time passes, humanity moves more and more away from these memories. Many of us now operate by using a product briefly, then discarding it. We have even begun to discard things before their usefulness is gone, so that we can have the things that we are told we ought to have - the newest phone, a bigger house, better clothes and even the newest medications. As a species, humanity is drifting away from its inclination to be connected to nature - to be pagan - and that drift is making our species unhealthy. 

I'm not saying that to be a contemporary pagan, one must sell everything and go live in a yurt or join a commune. I'm simply asking that people who claim to be pagan spend some time allowing their pagan-ness to express itself in small ways throughout their lives, even if it goes contrary to popular culture and social media. I urge pagans to do whatever it takes to avoid the trap in which they suppress their pagan natures to become part of the contemporary age. There are many ways to be a part of this age without obscuring one's pagan side.

When I first converted to paganism, it was because I attended a ritual that made me remember this inner pagan memory. I discovered something inside myself that felt very ancient, yet very correct.

I also had high hopes for the other pagans I encountered. I thought that we were part of an awakening of something buried deep within humanity. Over the years, my disappointment has grown as more and more pagans I encounter show they have no idea how to live a life that honors nature, or even gives nature a thought. Isn't that what it really means to BE a pagan?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pentagrams, Traditions and Pagan Evil

I've recently noticed a modification or reworking to a practice that has been around for a long time. The invoking and banishing pentagrams have been used in magick, as a result of ceremonial influence, for about the last 150 years. However, I've recently noticed that there has been a new form of invoking and banishing pentagrams circulating on the internet. I'm not entirely sure why someone decided that reinvention was necessary, but I decided to explore the topic.

The earth banishing pentagram is more commonly known from its use in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram ("LBRP" for short). The LBRP is a kind of energetic prayer, which incorporates visualization, body movements and vocal intonation. It originated as a Jewish prayer and many original elements are still present. Personally, I don't do the LBRP ever, for the same reason I don't do the Tibetan prayer to the dead or the Christian mass. They simply are not my religion. The Golden Dawn may use magic, much like many pagan traditions (including my own), but that doesn't mean it is a pagan religion. 

It stands to reason that if there is a pentagram that banishes, there must be one for the reverse of that, which is accepted to be invocation. It also follows that there must be a pentagram for each of the other elements also. So we find that there is both an invocation and banishing pentagram for each of the elements. All of them have a traditional drawing technique used to create them. The techniques come from the Golden Dawn by way of Eliphas Levi. Both Levi and the GD by extension, base much of their magical principles on the Kabbalah. I have been unable to determine if the techniques for drawing the pentagrams extend back into Kabbalah, or if they began in the late 19th century with the western mystery schools already mentioned. 

A digression: banishing is not the opposite of invocation, though it can function to do something similar. The word "invocation" comes from the Latin meaning "call upon" (not "call in"). An invocation is a means of speaking to a being, to ask, or perhaps to implore, its attention. Only its attention or consideration is being called, not its presence. To achieve the presence of a being, you must do an evocation, which comes from the Latin for "call forth." To evoke a deity is to bring it into your presence, so banishing is completely the opposite of evocation.  Incidentally, those who are drawing into themselves the presence of the Goddess every Full Moon are not invoking or evoking, they are actually introvoking ("to call within"). Digression finished; back to the pentagrams.

The traditional method of drawing each of the invoking and banishing pentagrams can be seen in this graphic from an article over at

For the sake of reference, let's also glance at the placement of the elements at each of the points of the pentagram:

From these graphics, one can see that an invoking pentagram always moves toward the invoked element, while the banishing pentagram always moves away from the banished element. This is an obvious (to me) logic behind the directions of the drawing motions. This also means by consequence that the Air invoking pentagram is the same as the Water banishing pentagram and vice versa. Because each point on the pentagram is made up of two lines, you may be asking why the particular lines are used to start each type of pentagram. For me, the line that intersects with Spirit is the default one to start each motion because it is more elevated (spiritually, not just literally). So even though one could do an earth invoking pentagram by beginning at water, beginning at spirit is more accepted.

The new drawing technique I have seen must have some reasoning behind its pattern. Since the human mind loves patterns and order, as opposed to chaos, when it can't find understanding, it will remake the world around it to fit into a comfortable pattern.

The new method I've seen capitalizes on the fact there are two lines converging at each point. The theory behind it's pattern (I speculate) must be based on the idea that one of the lines is an invocation line and one is a banishing line. In this new method, both the invoking and banishing pentagrams begin at the element of interest. The invocation drawing then progresses around the figure clockwise, while the other progresses counter-clockwise (or the reverse of this in the Southern hemisphere). I get the idea behind this, but it leads me to two points (rants, actually) that I feel might need to be explored.

The first is the idea that anyone can remake the accepted format for these drawings. Yes one can do anything one wants in the comfort of one's own circle and tradition. This is the Scott Cunningham philosophy and it is a wonderful one. However, once one steps outside of one's own circle to begin interacting with the greater world (the internet is a venue that does this), one needs to consider what one is teaching to others. It is irresponsible and even dangerous to listen to that inner voice that says, "I'm going to circulate my own way as if it's the right way until enough people start doing it my way, because I think the traditions need to be changed."

Traditions exist for three reasons. The first is that they build power around a coherent idea that does not change. They create a "tulpa." This is a body of aetheric power that exists to give a thought form a kind of non-corporeal life. Creating a tulpa takes a great deal of energy. The more energy put toward a tulpa, either by a greater number of people or people over time (or both), the greater its power. This is why ancient charms work and must be crafted according to specific instruction. This is why a spell has specific words in it and certain herbs. The tulpa is like a boat designed to carry you successfully across a chaotic sea of magickal energy. Why would anyone want to start building a boat from scratch when there are plenty of free boats already made and known for their success?

The second reason traditions are followed is because they work. A person, or multiple people, over the course of decades, tried a tradition and tweaked it until it produced the best possible results. The tradition has then been passed down to you as a formula for instant success. Changing it is nothing short of starting from scratch. Again, why would you want to rebuild the boat when there is one that already works very well?

The third reason is that traditions unify people. They create constancy over time and between people so that they can share in the comfort that a familiar practice provides. Consider a recipe that one of your parents might have made while you were growing up. Maybe it was a lasagna, or pancakes on the weekends. Wouldn't it be great to make that recipe for your own kids so you can share with them the comforting feeling you felt when you were their age? Wouldn't it be great for them to make the same recipe for their own kids so the same sharing can happen with their own kids? The tradition has bound you to your kids and to your grand kids, in turn. This is why traditions are important. They are supposed to unify us, not restrict our sense of selves. Traditions allow workings with others to have the comfort that comes from predictability and consistency. If you are a solitary practitioner who has never experienced traditional coven work, you have missed one half of the spiritual lessons of Wicca. We are not alone on this Earth or in this life, so working with others is part of our existence. Traditions turn a mere group of people into a Ritual Body. Also, by moving a practice into tradition, it becomes reflexive, because it becomes stored into the long term memory. This means that the conscious mind can focus on other things while the subconscious mind executes the practices of tradition unconsciously, much like the muscle memory of a martial art. Don't you find it easier to cast a circle when the words are committed to memory than when you have to read the casting from a page? Doesn't it feel more fun - even more meaningful - to be in a flash-mob when you know the dance? This is why children have patty cake games, handshakes, jump rope rhymes, or pop-culture poems that they repeat with their friends. This is why line dancing is so popular. There is an attraction to be "in the know" with the words, the dance, the actions that make one feel a part of the group energy.

My second rant inspired by redrawing these pentagrams is the idea of deosil and widdershins. Most of contemporary paganism has incorrectly evolved the idea that deosil (mimicking the circling direction of the sun) is for positive magic, while widdershins (the opposite circle from deosil) is only for negative magic. This is all complete BALONEY and is utterly anti-pagan. Contemporary pagans need to wake up to the idea that they are being surreptitiously Christianized. It is leading to a generation of pagans who are spooked by some crazy idea of retribution. If you truly believe as a pagan, you don't believe in the Devil or some ominous darkness that will come get you if you do a spell of harm. I will admit, that this is a difficult concept from which to free oneself these days. But deosil doesn't not mean "happiness and light" and widdershins doesn't mean "evil, darkness and harm." Each direction is simply an energetic polarity, much like the north and south pole of a magnet or the + and - of an electrical wire, not the moral polarity of good and evil. There are times to use each polarity based on how one wishes to drive the energy of the circle. But at no point does widdershins generate evil. (I may have to explore the pagan idea of morality in another post; it tends to make most people upset.) Witches, please stop this rigid policing of circles and spells to be conducted only deosil, because anything else is evil.