In this post, I laid the groundwork for much of this blog’s future content by framing Hermekate as a product of personal gnosis; I also introduced the sigil that began as a representation of my “magical identity” and which I later came to identify with Hermekate. In this post, I’ll begin to explain how that works by offering some background regarding how and why the sigil came to be. This will include the story of the self-initiation ritual connected with it along with an abridged account of what has unfolded ever since. By the end, I hope to have helped you, dear reader, to understand how on Earth I dare associate two seemingly distant concepts such as “personal sigil” and an ancient word combining two well-known mythic entities.
Self-Initiation Background and Context
Only now does it occur to me that I have not properly introduced myself on this iteration of the blog. I haven’t wanted to make this about me, although I am well aware that doing so eventually is inevitable. Rest assured, I’m not trying to hide who I am; I’m just being more careful than I have in the past about maintaining this blog under my real name in ways that are easily referenced by search engines–and the same goes for images. This is mainly because, for now, I hold down a day job and the things I will discuss here just aren’t the things I want showing up when someone Googles my name. Is that a hopeless endeavor? Possibly; there’s plenty out there already connected with my name that I wouldn’t want to look a typical co-worker or one of my professors in the eye and discuss with them, that much is true; but let’s neither add to it nor make it easy to connect those dots, aye?
Similarly to the way in which the Star Wars saga unfolded (and, in the fullness of time, we will see some other interesting connections with Star Wars), to enter my story at the point of this ceremony and understand its context fully is to enter a saga in the very middle. Eventually, I will need to do prequels, and that’s where things get darkest. Those who have seen previous incarnations or versions of this blog may remember that I was quite candid in a series of biographical posts–and this time around, I have backups of everything.
I was initiated into “magic” at the age of 13 by a friend one year older than I. Perhaps I will edit and re-release the post where I describe my first teacher and his magic, but this is not the time or place to go into detail about it. Let’s just say that by 14, I was reading Llewellyn books because of things a childhood friend taught me, and because of what else he did that, as I look back, can only be called a sort of “Initiatic transmission.”
By that time, I had spent my entire childhood interested ghosts, probably primed first by the Ghostbusters movies, animated series, and toys, but secondarily when another friend of mine ran up to me in the school library in 2nd grade to show me a book called Real Ghosts; by the 4th grade, I had read everything I could find in the school library and several local suburban libraries about ghosts, UFOs, and the paranormal. These interests made it almost natural for me to roll with it when my friend decided to teach me magic, and after that my studies included some New Age fluff and early neopagan authors, but eventually the likes of Dion Fortune and Éliphas Lévi.
When, eventually, I found myself living within a few miles of the national headquarters of The Theosophical Society in America (I have family who lives right around the block to this day), I was quite familiar with Blavatsky. A curious visit to see a lecture one afternoon (I think it might have been this one by Stephan Hoeller) roped me in, and a few years later, I joined and began volunteering. Before long, I was working for the Society and giving talks myself. I founded and co-moderated the TSA’s erstwhile “official” social network and was rather involved in related activites such as Co-Masonry. I was part of a mentorship program meant to cultivate and develop Theosophical leaders. This is where things got a bit choppy, at least for me personally.
As a wider organization, the Theosophical Society in America is a great resource for the overall occult community and hosts diverse classes, lectures, and workshops. However, as far as the core teachings of Blavatsky and her inner circle of students, things were rather strict. There was a streak of asceticism involved–renunciation of meat, values involving resisting “lower desires” and keeping “pure,” or being too fascinated with psychic abilities and their development; actual, practical occultism was strongly discouraged. In fact, the foundation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn has something to do with the fact that Blavatsky (and, so it was said, her Masters) insisted that the Theosophical Society not foster or teach practical occultism. This was held to be for the good of all involved and gets down to nitty-gritty details such as the fact that the psychic atmosphere of London was wretched at the time (nevermind the physical soot and grime), etc. I was drawn to the T.S. partly because I’d had my own spiritual or, you could say, “psychic” experiences and wanted to understand them, but I found when I would try to talk about them on discussion boards or with others who were entrenched and steeped in Theosophical teachings, I would often be shut down and told all of that was dangerous. As such, I eventually learned to keep my personal occult interests secret, and when I began practical work during my time at the T.S., I dealt with a lot of cognitive dissonance. It was very unhealthy for me and I eventually cracked. All in all, I always found the Theosophical teachings to have a puritanical bent for which I didn’t much care, but I never felt like I could let loose and be honest about that without risking my reputation, which I was as-yet unwilling to do. Again I need to stress, as a typical member or a presenter, that would be one thing–but I was pretty deeply involved in the esoteric groups claiming direct spiritual descent from Blavatsky in an unbroken lineage. It was a different story for me.
In 2010, my wife, who was from Norway, decided to move back home and given my situation, I decided to go with her. I kept up moderation of the T.S.’s social network and also helped found both Theosophy.net and Theosophy Nexus before eventually dropping all involvement and cutting ties with Theosophical activities completely.
The work I had begun prior to my departure from both the United States and The Theosophical Society was simple: I had begun to practice The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I initially started the practice using my finger because I didn’t have a dagger and didn’t yet feel like doing to buy one when my wife returned from a trip she took to China with gifts for me that included a phurba, which becomes a much more important detail in the overall picture of Hermekate than is first apparent. This turned out to be a “rebellious” or antinomian act on a couple of levels; not only was the practice essentially “unsanctioned” or frowned upon so far as my spiritual community was concerned, but it turned out that the tool I was using–which, yes, I did completely outside of its native cultural context–was “antinomian” in the sense that the specific school of Tibetan Buddhism to which the Theosophical teachings are most closely connected has some contentious things to say about the ritual practice that surrounds phurbas, Vajrakilaya. I was declaring my opposition to the prevailing Theosophical current in ways I didn’t even comprehend at the time in addition to the more overt and conscious ones.
While practicing the LBRP on a daily basis, I was also meditating and studying Hermetic magic and alchemy with a particular emphasis on The Golden Dawn, and was also a member of Builders of the Adytum studying their tarot course, which has a lot of overlap with The Golden Dawn and some Theosophical ideas. The book Self-Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group formed a big part of the theoretical basis for the self-initiation ceremony in which all of this work eventually culminated.
When I eventually tell the earlier parts of my story, some of this will make more sense, but in order to get an understanding of my basic approach, I was studying the things I was studying because I frankly wanted to understand how it all worked on a “psychotechnical” level; I had also studied chaos magic via such luminaries as Peter Carroll, Frater U.:D.:, and Phil Hine, with corresponding ontological proclivities that explain why I could never completely sign my heart over to core Theosophy and its “Masters:” I was never convinced they were real, nor were the Secret Chiefs, nor that the spiritual beliefs around which all of this was built were realities; I was still quite open to looking at things through a more grounded, psycho-physical lens. I was never dead-set on committing completely to the Initiatic current of, say, the Golden Dawn, and rising in the ranks; I wanted to understand reality on deeper levels and said currents were simply one pathway to getting there. I was never big on becoming some high-falutin’, hat-wearin’ qabbalistic dudebro. I found that once I understood the essentials at work, I no longer cared much about the particulars.
Obviously, I hadn’t rejected everything Theosophy had to offer; I resonate very strongly with The Theosophical Society’s Three Objects to this day. My study and practice were founded on the idea that regardless of the system involved–whether Vedic, Buddhist, or European–and all of the endless differing details, there is some common reality expressed by all of them. Some people don’t understand that this isn’t the same as saying all systems are equal–they certainly aren’t–but that rather, there is plenty of room in this view for the nuance that somehow, amid this universal reality, the holism of any particular system is also deserving of respect and that differences between systems matter.
Once I had a pretty good idea how the model worked, I was happy to carry on my own practice toward my own ends. With the above theoretical groundwork in mind, I set out to test the limits of the principle of self-initiation by writing and performing my own self-initiation ceremony; this came at the suggestion of Jason Louv (I don’t remember which book it was, either Generation Hex or Ultraculture Journal One), who said a self-initiation ritual tantamount to inviting the universe to play could be a surprisingly effective way of jump-starting a practice. I wanted to see what would happen and I would say that I succeeded.
The Ceremony and The “V-Sigil”
The first element I find important regarding the self-initiation ceremony I performed was the timing. A big part of the intention behind the ceremony was to stimulate some response from within or from my Higher Self regarding what I can describe best as the True Will as described by Crowley. Just like some Theosophists, some students have formed a veritable personality cult surrounding Aleister Crowley, but I don’t think his concept of True Will was as unique as some Thelemites might suggest–and part of doing this self-initiation ceremony was to test the basic theory that a great deal of symbolic detail, although rich and beautiful, connected with systems like Thelema or The Golden Dawn are complete claptrap when it comes to actual, real Initiation: It might help but it is in no way required. I had sought some connection with my True Will or inner purpose for much of my life already; in fact, many years of my spiritual journey by that point were founded on a belief I held that I had incarnated on earth intentionally at this time in history to do this work.
When I performed the ceremony in 2012 (itself a contextually interesting year given the “apocalyptic” themes with which we will eventually be dealing), my Saturn Return was especially active; in fact, I remember just starting to think about my Saturn Return in Norway, then checking only to learn that Saturn’s position in the sky that very night was pretty much on top of where it had been in my natal chart; this ritual was timed to resonate with my Saturn Return–as I said, to draw out my purpose and activate it.
I won’t describe the ritual in detail because it doesn’t matter, and because I honestly don’t think that imitating it would bring too many other people the same results. It worked for me because it was appropriate for me; it was tailor-made for me. What I can tell you is that it took place in an isolated cabin in Leirfjorden, Norway; it’s the smaller, more distant cottage visible in the Featured Image for this post. Below is a view looking the opposite direction down the fjord.
Encoded in the symbolism and purpose of the ritual, however, was the specific intention to lay my former Theosophical identity–the one who bent over backwards to fit in and follow the “Theosophical rules”–to rest, and to take the first step into a bolder, more self-determined identity as a magician by invoking my Holy Guardian Angel–my own way.
One sigil representing that old identity was designed and, in the course of the ceremony, destroyed. The sigil connected with Hermekate–seen below–was the one corresponding to the new identity. To create it, as I had with an equally fateful previous magical act when I was younger, I designed an entire new magical alphabet just for this working. I created the “V-Sigil” by eliminating the repeating letters from a set of words that I had chosen to represent qualities or aspects that I wanted to be part of this new identity. I have no recollection or record of what all of them were, but I do remember that all of them began with the letter V (hence “V-Sigil”) and that two of them were “vulpes” (fox) and “vespa” (wasp).
As I shaped the sigil, there were certain formal ideas I consciously attempted to capture or convey, such as the basic concept of “as above, so below” or the way the concept of polarity is illustrated by the juxtaposition of the light and dark orbs; however, breaking down the semiotics of the sigil will be the subject for my next post.
For now, to begin transitioning from the foundational understanding of the ritual, its purpose, and the sigil it produced to an exploration of the meanings that have accreted around it over time, I will note that the word “Hermekate” itself, combining Hermes and Hekate, emerged most directly from the symbolism of those opposites and their relationship. I know for a fact that the entire premise of this blog will ruffle the feathers of traditionalists, reconstructionists, and those whose emphasis when it comes to understanding divinities is historical precedent; that was never what I was after, and because I have essentially grabbed hold of the word Hermekate because it resonates with my Initiation, they will discount whatever arises therefrom as illegitimate. That is fine with me.
I find that in studying comparative religion and mysticism in order to understand and what’s more, experience spiritual realities, there will always be those who are more focused on specific vehicles and forms; know, however, that my intention is not that of the huckster, charlatan, or the colonist who thinks everything is his for the taking. That is never what this is about. Everything I have done and that I will discuss here, you can rest assured, was done with absolute heart.
Eventually, I will need to explore the aftermath and intervening years following this ritual, which I had been hoping to do in this post, but it is getting long already. In my next post, I will explore the semiotics of the sigil itself and how its meaning developed over time.