I have spent the past three hours trying to sync my daughter’s iPod. The iTunes software seems to be attractive to gremlins. These are the little imps that get into your electronics. They can mess with mechanical machines too, but they particularly seem to thrive on electricity. Computers must be the ultimate chocolate shop for gremlins. As I understand it, gremlins were first identified as a species of imp by flyers in WWII. They liked to mess with radar and other aeronautical instruments.
Many people ask me, in my capacity as an Advocatus Diaboli, what gremlins look like. The answer is, it depends. (That’s always the answer with demons and imps, isn’t it?) Unlike your grand demons with noble titles, legions of spirits at their command, and huge tracts of prime real estate in Pandemonia, gremlins are humble little creatures. They most commonly appear as a blink or flash, but can also appear as inexplicable spots of light or sparks. Today, as so many of them have moved into our personal computers, the gremlin likes to take on the shape of the Endless Spinning Pinwheel of Doom. Gremlins delight in making progress bars cease to move.
What, you may ask, do gremlins eat? That is, what do they thrive upon. Demons of the greater sort thrive on our emotions — the more out of control, the more filling and delicious. Gremlins thrive on frustration, also an emotion, but one that is of a lower intensity than say, lust, hate, anger, or greed. Yes, you are right, these are among the Catholic church’s Seven Deadly Sins. Needless to say, they are accompanied by actions, and these actions are the bit that are usually against social mores. But the church fathers will have you confessing and doing pennance for even the emotions that emerge before the act. There is good sense in this. Because, if you, for example, have a flare up of lust looking at a beautiful and sexy person of whatever gender or genders may appeal to your nature, that flare is food for the demons in your head. And if you yeild to the emotions and let them grow stronger, you can bet that the demon who is eating them will egg you on. Moreover, acting on emotions brings them to a climax of power, and very often produces the added benefit of a delightful dessert of regret and pain.
Gremlins are not quite as bad as that. They don’t want to drive you to ruin your marriage or your reputation, or get you in jail, or drive you to murder. No, they just want you to pull your hear out and swear. They get a kick out of confusing you too. If you say, “What the hell is going on?” or “Damn this machine!” that is just what the gremlin wants. You have invoked Hell and kindly given them a new computer. As a matter of fact, the denizens of Pandemonia never ever have to buy a computer. There are so many of them that have been damned to Hell, that you can just pick them up off the streets. The streets of Heaven may be paved with gold, but the streets of Pandemonia are paved with personal computers (mostly running Windows).
Indeed, it is ironic that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is trying to spread computer access and the Internet throughout the mundane sphere of human societies. Microsoft has already provided universal access to Pandemonia, which, is a lot larger in terms of sheer acreage than planet Earth.
But I digress.
I am not certain, but I think that PC’s seldom have more than one gremlin at a time. Unless, they have settled in a particular software application. Then you can get several, sharing the electronic space in a symbiotic relationship. You get mad, anxious about work slowdowns or files that have vanished, and they share in the emotional bounty of your glow. If you have ever wondered what it is that is using up all those megabytes on your hard drive, take it from me, its the gremlin nests. In fact, one thaumatologist with whom I am in regular correspondence, Dr. Rubin L. Milani, is conducting experiments on a hypothesis that Dark Matter is really gremlins and demons. And their nests.
So, is the gremlin in the machine or in your head? The perennial question that frames the whole thing wrong. You might as well say, neither, or both, or in Hell. The gremlin’s effects exist in the energetic matrix of your electronic apparatus, but to say “in the computer” is a little misleading. It isn’t as if you could open the case and shake out all the gremlins. They are not insects, even if they are called “bugs.” From the viewpoint of a programmer who can delve down into the code and troubleshoot (like in Tron), the gremlin is manifest as a conflicting bit of logic or syntax.
Precisely the same thing is true of the greater demons. We speak of our inner demons or when we do socially unacceptable things we say “the Devil made me do it.” But are the demons inside or outside? If they are inside, can they make us do things against our will? No, not worth the effort. It is much easier to just tantalize our egos with images of our deepest desires and pull the plug on the old frontal cortex so that we forget about the consequences of our actions and instead get swept up in the sort of immediate gratification and excitement our lizard and monkey brains like. If you look at what the Goetia says about the powers of its 72 demon kings, princes, and dukes, you will find that they very often can bestow scholarly ability in the liberal arts. That is hardly a bad thing, surely? But, you see it can be. The reason that one is even more popular than making a woman fall in love with you or finding hidden treasure is that the chappies doing this sort of magick were monks, students at the University of Paris and like seats of Scholastic learning.
If you spent all your time running after skirts and drinking beer and wine, you might very well wake up one day and find that you were doing so bad in Geometry and Astronomy that the dour doctors of theology and philosophy were about to expell you from the university. And then where would you be? Well, you would probably be living just as you are, but without the excuse of going to the university. And Dad might cut off the allowance. So, desperate and frantic, you turn to one of the Goetic demons to try to help you learn your liberal arts and pass your exams. The name of the demon most often invoked in this situation is named Cram.
However, the demon who promises learning is really one of your inner demons. Wherever it is he calls home, he also lies within your soul as a potential. A potential for learning — the latent power of your intellect. The demon is all of those grey cells that you have not been using. Such fellows do not feed off of your baser emotions — lust, gluttony, greed, anger. No, they feed off of higher emotions like passion and pride. If you end up a learned doctor puffed up with self-importance and looking down on everyone else, that’s rich fare for the table of your demon, and you sustain him. However, passion for knowledge, can become pridefulness and pride grows all by itself. You might stop learning altogether and just rest on your laurels taking grant money to go on research vacations to California or Italy. The book never quite gets written, but the scholarly activity feeds your pride, and that is food for your demon.
I am not saying that college professors draw magic circles and triangles and evoke Goetic demons to physical form to demand favors. If only it were so externalized! But the circle and the triangle can happen entirely inside your unconscious mind, in the depths of your soul. Dante understood the inside of our heads quite well. Our normal consciousness is a dark tangled forest full of fearful things. We feel lost there and often doubtful of our pathway or what lies at the end of the path. But that dark forest has a doorway that leads to the underworld of the Unconscious. There we find all the demons and sinners we carry in our depths. They are parts of us. Or at least potentials within us. But we can do more than repress them or be afraid of them. We can engage them in conversation. And the method of the Goetia teaches us how to do this without foolishly giving in to the temptations demons offer — especially the temptation to pride or doubt.
If you let demons feed on your emotions, it is the same as saying, as the Jungian psychologists do, that you are giving away your psychic energy to that power, locking it in your Unconscious where it is not available to be used by your conscious ego. You feel self-doubt. You feel tired. Weak. Confused. Because all that energy has been given to feed the demons. That is why Dante had his poetic alter-ego descend into the Inferno before he could rise up through Purgatorio to Paradiso. You have to deal with the demons first, and reclaim your energy, your power from where they are locked up in the dark, emotions that are tortured and exiled because you don’t acknowledge them as part of you.
Embrace your demons — and your gremlins. You are better than the are, stronger, and they will serve you not master you if you apply your reason to them rather than your emotions.
Next time, the Seven Deadly Sins.
I just learned this word. Mononymous. It means you go by one name instead of two or three. Like Colette, or Voltaire, or Nemo. Of course, all the old heroes were pretty much mononymous. Odysseus, Hector, Rama, Galahad, Gandalf, Gumby. But it doesn’t really count if its just your given name. True mononymity has to be with a nom de plume, and alias. Not, it should be noted, an alter ego. It isn’t a name you are hiding behind. It’s a name that you have taken upon yourself. You have been re-named. Often female authors used to do this because they didn’t want anyone to know they were female novelists. Shocking!
It struck me that the taking of a druid name is similar, though for many those names are compound, not just one word. And one word is essential. Now, granted, Colette took a name that was a first name. It just wasn’t the one she was given by her parents. At almost half a century old (that’s a the twentieth part of a millennium), I’ve grown accustomed to my name. It almost makes the day begin. (My day usually does start with lying in bed saying “Who am I again?” because just moments before I was somebody else.)
But, of course, what I realized when I learned the word was that I am mononymous. I go by Alferian when I’m not going by Owl. (Gemini’s can be excused for being bi-mononymous). Granted, I also go by my three druid names together — Alferian Gwydion MacLir. But that’s too long to say or write, really. It’s a mouthful. I hadn’t thought of publishing under a mononym, but now I am. Much easier to find in the Alphabet. “Owl” is, I fear, too common to work as a nom de plume, except here. One in nine pagans are named Something Owl. But Alferian is distinctive. I’ve ever only stumbled upon one other Alferian. Of course, there is the spell-checker problem. Your typical spell-checker application wants it to be “Algerian.” (If I moved to Algiers, I could be Alferian the Algerian.)
Perhaps it should have a suave accent in it: Alférian. It is pronounced: al – FAIRY – un. It is neither Latin or Belgian, much less an English name. And not, Celtic. It is an Eranor name. The language is called Eranor. Since most of our languages are called after the people who speak them, it might be called and Elvish (or Elfish) language, Elfic, Elfian, etc. But “elf” being the Anglicization of Alf, it might more appropriately be called Alfic. Except that in Eranor, that would be bad grammar. Something “elvish” to the Alfar (that’s the plural of Alfë), would be called Alferion, the genetive plural of Alfë. But there are lots of Elves (and lots of other denizens of Elsewhere who are lumped together with Elves and called “fairies”). Different groups and tribes call themselves Sarithin, Saranci, Valorn, Eldar, Sindar, Noldor, and so forth. Some of these tribes are more different from each other than Englishmen from Bulgarians. Saying “Elves” is a bit like saying “Indo-Europeans.”
The Eranor language is a scholarly language, a literary language, but the variety of usage is very wide and often extremely subtle to our minds. So, with that caveat in mind, I can state that the name “Alferian” is the singular of the compositional case of the plural noun Alfë. That means that it means some thing like “made by the Elves” or “made out of the Elves.” This noun case is used where we might use an adjective. So, we could translate it simply as “Elvish” or “Elfin.” Some thing that came from the Elves and was made by them — a poem for example, or the language Eranor.
Well, that’s the short explanation anyway.
The funny thing about being mononymous is that it is usually considered silly unless you are a famous author or entertainer. Like Sting. Unlike Jim Morrison. His “Mr Mojo Risin” was just like Tom Malvolo Riddle’s “I am Lord Voldemort.” An anagram. It mustn’t be an anagram, nor an abbreviation.
So, let’s hope that I get famous sometime soon, to make it seem less pretentious. And let’s also hope that I don’t get infamous so that “Alferian” takes on the spine-tingling character that has become attached to some mononyms, such as Satan, Voldemort, Sauron, or Frankenstein.
Which brings me to the news of the day. Today the big news is that someone named Dr. Frankenstein has created an artificial cell and the commentators and reporters are bending over backwards to correct the impression that this constitutes “creating an artificial life form.” While, at the same time, they are all whipping up ethical and moral umbrage at the idea of “scientists playing God.”
Why do people care about such things? These are the same people who brought us the Gulf Oil spill, species extinction run rampant, and global climate change. I try not to be a Luddite. I’m as impressed by the human ability to design a steam engine or a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as the next guy. It’s a guy thing. I grew up in the sixties when being in love with technology was pure and unadulterated by the Dark Side of the Force, or cyberpunk post-apocalypses.
But I got over it. The artists got over it pretty much in the seventies. By then we had looming smog, burning lakes, poisoned rivers, and people who were thinking began to say, “Hmmm. Maybe Science and Industry have sold us a bill of goods. As neat as these things are in a sci-fi novel or movie, they invariably become monsters when they are manifested in the material plane. And all the curious Dicks who have been poking their noses under the skirts of Mother Nature for the past three centuries ought to stand up like men (even if they are women) and admit responsibility for the Industrial rEVILution and all its deadly spawn. Enough is enough. The game isn’t fun anymore. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein 200 years ago and nothing has changed for the better since. Men passionately clamor to acquire women’s power of conceiving and nurturing life. They desire to do it without women. Or maybe a female lab assistant, if she’s cute.
I ride my bike around the neighborhood (I think no real evil has come from bicycles. Except iron mines and the making of tires. Oh well.) Anyway, I’m on my bike and noting that it is the Cottonwood time of the year when the spring air is full of cotton. We have one particularly old and gigantic specimen in our neighborhood and it sends forth its seeds floating in the air like snow and drifting against the curbs. It is also the Propeller time of the year. The maples have launched their seeds in a profusion of propellers helicoptering to earth in a short, but no doubt thrilling (for a seed) journey. Sometimes they get a second or third chance if a little boy or girl picks them up and tosses them up in the air to watch how they spin as they fall. Marvelous. Really, much more pleasant that a helicopter roaring overhead. The cottonseeds and propellers come just on the heels of the Elm Seed time of the year, when 80 billion elm seeds fly out from their mothers like tiny beige flower petals that will quickly become little elm trees if they aren’t swept up.
The true petals of the cherry and apple have gone, to be replaced by wonderfully early roses this year. And the rowan flowers look like fuzzy cream clotting amid the eleven-fold leaves. What’s more, the hawthorn!. What can I say about the white flowers of the hawthorn? Tiny five-pointed stars in little fairy bridal bouquets. Their scent is pungent and one cannot decide if it is erotic or revolting. It hovers there, in between, like the Fair Folk who live in the tree, for whom it is a doorway between states of being.
This is life.
This is real life. Natural life.
Why, with this profusion of columbine and phlox, bleeding hearts, and lilacs, would anyone wish to create artificial life?
We only had one job when we were put here on Earth. To garden. To preserve life. To flourish and not destroy. Somewhere along the road of education, we listened to some very bad teachers who wanted to subdue nature, cut down forests, and build fortifications, great civilizations, stock markets. Having apparently forgotten that we were living in God’s garden, we decided we needed to cut down the trees to build houses to him. Though our forebears had found spirits in every well, dell, lake, and tree, in the mountains and the sea itself, we somewhere long ago decided all these spirits needed buildings — temples of stone. And they got grander and grander and even when it was later decided that Gods, Inc. had to merge into one mega, multinational corporate God the Father, the temples still grew more and more elaborate and marvelous. Meanwhile, our species was becoming a plague on the Earth, overrunning and destroying all its other life forms.
Time passes. Industrial Revolution and seemingly limitless cheap energy from coal, oil, and then nuclear power. Our teachers start thinking — hey, who needs God, Ltd.? Let’s return to polytheism and worship the god Coke and the goddess Toyota, or even barbarous-sounding gods like General Electric and the mysteriously mononymous Amoco, Microsoft, Shell, Chanel, and Dior. There are gods so frightful they cannot be named. Only their initials can be uttered: BP, UHC, 3M, AT&T, GM, and IBM. There are throngs of gods and goddesses that do nothing but create new clothes, all the better to show off seductively voluptuous human bodies. Some are so unspeakable they are only known by names like Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart, Mitsubishi, and ExxonMobil. Some goddesses take conglomerate forms, such as the goddess ING, and the mysterious Samsung.
Among we later humans, there are so many gods that we have to hire other lesser deities to keep track of them on the Fortune 500 list. The greatest group of gods are the gods of Petroleum, chthonic deities wreathed in black smoke and fire. Only slightly less powerful are their servants the Banks. These gods have grown so powerful in their cults that their priesthoods rule over those of all the lesser deities.
One could well wonder where Satan and the demons of Hell went. There aren’t any. Some of the deities fall from grace, occasionally, but there are none who are regarded as evil. Every last one does only good. But when they fall, flaming to earth, those who dare to watch the horrifying spectacle have noticed that these gods, like the legendary wickermen of the ancient Celts, are hollow and full of thousands of tiny, helpless human beings.
Where have the gardeners gone? Swallowed up by the Juggernauts. Except a few of us, who sit, smoking our pipes and watching the roses bloom or the grapes plumping on the vine.
Yesterday I was in excruciating pain. The strained muscle in my back was causing pain any time I moved or sat down — huge spasms of my whole lower back. I’ve never had muscle spasms like that. Not as bad a pain as a kidney stone, but I’d say it rates just below. Now that ice and heat and rest have brought it back down to the level of discomfort, I can reflect philosophically on the pain. First of all, it is interesting that I have still a vivid memory of this pain. Usually, pain memories fade as soon as the pain is gone. Perhaps because it isn’t entirely gone — the muscle is still damaged — I can conjure a slight memory of the pain. Not the pain itself, but a memory. Second, while afflicted this way, I thought it a good time to shave off all my facial hair and be clean-shaven. I have these odd fits of shaving from time to time, but this is the first time since I was about 19 that I have not had a moustache.
It is very funny. I look completely different. My smile is not hidden, but the tiny thin lips are now revealed, which may be good or bad, depending on your preference for lips. But hiding them was not really much of an improvement. Of course, I may grow it all back again. Stubbly is fashionable right now. However, while it looks sexy on young men, on a chap as grizzled as moi, it just makes me look like a wino.
On the other hand, my Taoist name is Wine Tzu…
While in this state of pain, I could still read and I thought it good, right, and salutary that I continue my reading of the Lemegeton, a medieval grimoire that has quite a catalog of daemons. Now, in the Christian middle ages, these were thought of as demons serving Lucifer, or the Devil — the supreme Rebel angel against Jehovah. You have to get a sense of The Lord’s sense of fairness in the whole story. He created Man and then ordered the angels to worship (respect) Adam and all Mankind as his children. Now, some of the angels thought this idea kind of demeaning. Lucifer, the number one archangel at the time, disagreed with the Creator. This tells us a couple of things –first, that angels weren’t considered God’s children; and second that The Lord was a bit insensitive to the feelings of the angels; and third, that angels have free will. This means that the angels were being treated like servants or feudal vassals, not The Lord’s children. We can take from this that the creation of Adam was a matter of sexual reproduction. The Supreme Being having divided himself into so many created things, joined his magnificence to Mother Earth to create a mud person (“adam” means mud) and so entered into the material world he had created in a new way.
Why He didn’t think of the animals as His children is another question. But for the purposes of this article, it is enough to say that angels were not created in this way. In fact, the Book does not tell us how or why angels were created. In every ancient culture, angels and demons were simply taken as a fact of life. And it also seems to have been assumed that they were older than humans and immortal. I have the impression that the medieval Qabalists and Jewish scholars even earlier were the ones who received the revelations of the celestial hierarchy and its demonic reflection. One was Light and the other Darkness. They were as different as day and night.
Of course, as a druid, I don’t consider darkness to be evil. It is only our inability to see in the dark that makes us feel scared and fearful of it. Cats are not afraid of the dark and, I suspect, do not consider it “evil.” It is the mice who consider darkness and night evil because big things jump out of it and eat them. So, you can see why demons and cats have a rather close association in the human mind. Cats were bigger in days of yore, and humans smaller. Our shorter ancestors had just the same fear of going out at night as the mice. The big cats. Wolves, at least would warn you of their presence before hunting you down and tearing you into tiny bits. Cats, no. They just jumped out of the darkness. So, too with demons.
Only demons (an idea that came from the Greek word daemon, which just meant spirit) jumped out of a darkness of another sort. It was darkness figuratively because we could not see where they came from. The astral world was invisible most of the time to ordinary folk tilling the soil and hunting the forests. Only the shamans — those zany medicine men and women who had visions — could see into the astral world of the demons. And this world was considered to be underground. That was the best way to explain why ordinary people couldn’t see into it. And it also explained why there were huge systems of caverns, too deep for our ancestors to penetrate.
So, here’s Lucifer, the Morning Star (the name “Lucifer” was not applied to “the Devil” or “Satan” until rather late, but if it was good enough for John Milton, it is good enough for me). Here’s Lucifer, I say, at the very right hand of the Old Man. Angels, we are led to believe can see “the Face of God.” So, they have the Beatific Vision that the old Qabalists were seeking and which modern mages seek still today in the ceremonies of High Magick. We are led to believe that angels are far more powerful and wise than humans. Yet, Mr. Big, Joe Heavy, was so chuffed about his mud guy that he told all his old pals that Mud Guy was His Child.
If you look at the Book of Genesis, you will find that the first three verses use the name Elohim for the Creator. Elohim is not a singular name. Indeed, it is a feminine word root with the masculine plural ending. “El” was the Babylonians name for Mr. Big. In those days it was good enough to think of him as the Sky Father. But the angelic hosts new this fellow far more intimately and went way way back with him. The Elohim were with the angels back in grade school. But angels might not have been there for the Big Bang. (That’s the part where the Elohim say “Let There Be Light!”) Some students of the the Jewish Holy Scriptures have speculated that the Elohim were the angels. That is, that the angels were themselves “gods” or lieutenant gods to El. That would explain why so many of their names end in -el. It’s a suffix that means “divine.”
So, here’s Lucifer, working at his desk one day and in comes this memorandum from Upstairs saying that the angels are all required to respect Mud Guy just as if he is the Son of God (meaning El, or Whoever). Mr. Heavy. Anyway, Lucifer can’t believe what he’s reading. Who is this new Favorite? And why on earth make such a fuss about him? Lucifer was on good terms with old Logos, the original Son of God. He was a good fellow and had been there for the Big Bang. In fact, Lucifer liked Mr. Logos better at times that Mr. Big, who was just a bit arbitrary and full of himself at times
Well, long story short. Lucifer filed a complaint. Mr. Heavy said, “I asked for worship, not complaints.” Lucifer got together a party of angels who agreed with him and rebelled. This resulted in a war in Heaven and when the Archangel Michael defeated Archangel Lucifer, the late head of Heaven was banished. Since Heaven encompassed everything, Mr. Big had to create a new place for Lucifer and his followers to be banished to. And this is the realm that was later called “Hell” and, for some reason, became the place where the dead go — or at any rate, the dead Men who rebelled against Mr. Big. Lucifer, still pretty sore about the war, went to Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden of Eden and told them that apples were actually good for you and mr Big was holding out on them. They would be like gods if only they ate of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Which is a way of saying the Tree of Light and Darkness, or even more simply, the Tree of Duality.
Eve, being the smartest girl who had ever lived on Earth, thought this made perfect sense. She had heard about the war in Heaven and didn’t really like their teacher Raphael, who God sent to teach them. School was a bore. If you could eat an apple and have Universal Knowledge — well, it was sort of a no brainer. Any other teenage girl would have done the same thing. And Adam, like any teenage boy, would do anything Eve asked him to do because he was so afraid she would stop sleeping with him. Adam, in short, was ga-ga. Eve was the only girl in the world for him. Well, she was. If he got her angry, there was no place else to go for sex; and since Adam didn’t have a job, sex occupied a lot of his time and energy. (This may have had something to do with why the androgynous sexless Lucifer was so disgusted by the idea of lower himself to bow down to Mr. Mud.
They say Lucifer was disguised as a serpent. I suspect this was because if he appeared to Eve as an angel she would have asked him what side he had been on in the war. And his picture had been in all the newspapers. Besides that, serpents were not, at that time, snakes. If the artists of the Middle Ages had read the Book, they would have read that one of the punishements inflicted on the serpent was that he would have to go on his belly. In other words, before then, serpents had legs. That is, they were dragons. Wise old Dragon. This was one of Lucifers favorite physical forms. In fact, if the renaissance artists are believed, Archangel Michael defeated Old Nick when he was in the form of a Dragon. On the astral plane, of course. But now that there was a material plane, angels could take form there as well. There seems to have been some policy debate about this. We read, later in Genesis that the Nephelim (some call them giants, but it seems pretty obvious the –el suffix means they were angels) came to Earth and had sex with human girls, and this is where the race of giants came from. Presumably the Titans of Greek Myth.
Anyway, Lucifer gradually earned himself the name Satan, which means The Adversary, or The Enemy. Not that he cared. He was Joe Heavy’s adversary. Having lost the war in Heaven, Lucifer was no longer a subordinate to the Sky Father. He was a king in his own right. Oh, yes, Mr. Supreme Being could always make an argument that Everything was subordinate to His Greatness simply because Everything was part of Him. But, once there were billions and billions of things in the universe, and once the angels had free will and could think for themselves (which they manifestly could, if you believe in the rebellion), then Lucifer began to question this whole claim on the part of Mr. Big. After all, there weren’t really any witnesses to confirm His story that Everything was a part of Him, created out of his own vast Nothingness.
We would be hypocrites if we considered Lucifer – the best mind every created – to be foolish in Questioning Authority. Even Logos couldn’t fault his logic. He was questioning the number one premise of Number One. How do we know that you are really the Great Big Nothing? Because, obviously, now you are a Great Big Something. Lucifer was a Qabalist, of course.
All of this story is meant to lead up to the matter of the Goetic spirits, as they are called. Goetia is a Greek word and it seems to have meant “sorcery.” But because sorcery has always been a little scary to people who do not practice it, goetia took on a negative connotation. If you were a goes (pronounce GO-ease), then you could dedicate your skill to do good or to make mischief, and it was the mischief-makers who gave goetia a bad name. The Greeks made another word for the activity of sorcerers “mageia” which, means simply “what magi do.” And the magi were the priestly advisers of the Persian kings. The Greeks went to war with the Persians and so, developed a bad attitude toward magi. Anyone who lent aid to the King of Persia was simply the Enemy.
By the time Judaism had mixed with Greek philosophy and the mainstream of polytheistic theology, the idea of Mr. Big as “The One” became itself mainstream. Whatever you called him, He was Mr. Big, and Mr. Other Big was, of course, His Enemy. Lord Lucifer, now Lucifer, King of Pandemonium, quite naturally got blamed for every little bit of mischief made by humans. No wonder he hates the Mud People. Not only are they disgustingly gross, but they lie and try to pin the blame on him for their own shenanigans. Worse, Mr. Big Upstairs believes his priests on Earth and so sends every rebellious riff-raff soul to Pandaemonium. They are like dirty, out-of-work immigrants. And stupid? You wouldn’t believe how uneducated and unenlightened they are. We can hardly blame King Lucifer and his angelic vassals for their bigotry against humans. They don’t really hate humans as much as they hate the policy of Heaven that sends all the rejects to Hell. It isn’t fair. And that lack of fairness, that edge of pure vindictiveness in Mr. Big, just supports Lucifer’s theory that he isn’t really The Big Kahuna, but is just pretending to be.
So, anyway, the Goetia. The first part of the book called Lemegeton, the Goetia is famous as one of the few books that survived the book-burning frenzy of the medieval Catholic church and its barbarian followers. They burned the Library at Alexandria and then carried on burning books as one of the major tenets of their religion. It made a good spectacle. When the novelty of the bonfires wore off, they started burning heretics. This included sorcerers of all kinds, no matter how well-intentioned. One of the popes even got himself executed for sorcery. Which just goes to show you.
In English a Goes (GO-ease) was called a magician (somebody who practiced magick, which was a word based on the Greek mageia. The term “witch” was another term for an evil sorcerer. It was borrowed from the Old English word wicca (pronounced WITCH-ah) (like the double c’s in “cappuccino”). Witches were both men and women and had nothing to do with feminism at the time. It was a practical magick. In fact probably English witches were practicing Herbalism and medicine, surgery, and midwifery. As an herbalist, you can whip up a sachet for love as well as for a fever, but this sort of magick is a far cry from Goetia of the medieval sort. It doesn’t require you to conjure demons.
Now, the book, Goetia, which became part of the Lemegeton collection, instructs the reader exactly how to conjure demons and induce them to work for you. The method isn’t too complicated and only requires some memorization, a wand, a ring, and some sigils written on parchment or engraved on metal plates. Not too hard, but still obviously the stuff of the educated man. Women were, almost never given a higher education. Even most men never learned to read and write. They didn’t need to, so why should they? Who wants to gossip and argue in writing? (They didn’t’ have the Internet then.) So, the folks who were writing and reading the Goetia and the other medieval grimoires so delightful to modern wizards, were undoubtedly either noblemen or clerics, and likely mostly the latter. When books all had to be hand-copied one at a time, it was the monks who had the market cornered. They had the books, so we may presume it was highly educated monks who wrote and studied (and presumably practiced) Goetic magick.
With that in mind, then, let us consider the daemons. I call them “daemons” rather than “demons’ because the former is the original Greek word and it didn’t have quite such negative connotations. In fact it pretty much meant the same thing as what we mean by a person’s “spirit.” A daemon was the astral, higher part of a person. The magical philosophy’s first lesson was that human beings had a higher, invisible part – a spirit that could continue existing after the body had died. But the daemon was also sort of a guardian angel while you were alive in the flesh.
We find that, in fact, the demonic hosts described in the Goetia are, for the most part, no worse morally than the typical medieval nobleman. Indeed, they are all given noble titles, and envisioned as organized into a military hierarchy of fiefs, vassals, and legions of knights. The legion idea is actually a pretty Roman idea, for in the Middle Ages, even kings had a hard time getting up whole legions of knights. They weren’t that well organized until the 18th century wars when regiments essentially took the place of the old Roman legions.
Anyway, if you study the Goetia, you quickly realize that there are very few of these fellows who are completely nasty. One or two, you definitely want to avoid, and some are not wholly trustworthy. All of them need to be dealt with firmly. As the magister Lon Milo Duquette has pointed out, daemons will test you and try to weasel out of your request for favors if they can. Wouldn’t you do the same, if you were an Earl and some smelly peasant came to you demanding a favor? Think about it.
The smelly aspect was dealt with by long preparation involving ritual baths with flowery bath salts, and purifications that would make the soul look at least less disgusting than otherwise. Remember, these fellows are angels. Or perhaps we need a different name for what they are. After all “angel” means “messenger.” So, the only chaps who were “angels” were the ones who ran errands for Mr. Big Sky Father. We use the generic term “spirits” when discussing them, and so did the medieval experts. Presumably that is what they call themselves. But whether we call them “daemon” or “spirit,” the point is that they are highly intelligent astral beings – spiritual beings – and they need a bit of convincing before they are going to interact with a Mud Man. Think of the contempt and bigotry of the followers of Voldemort for “Muggles,” in the Harry Potter novels.
An ethereal Earl or King would not give one of us even the time of day, except for that memorandum. Having lost the war in Heaven, Lucifer and his vassals were bound by the peace treaty, to abide by that Memorandum that had started the whole mess. They had to respect and revere humans as if they were Mr. Big’s sons and daughters.
By this time (I mean the Middle Ages), it was apparent to all the inhabitants of Pandaemonium that humans did have spirits and could be taken to Heaven after their bodies wore out. Even thought the bodies seemed to be wearing out at a much faster rate than the Old Days when Adam and Methusalah and Noah were alive, these Children of God were given supremacy over the angels by virtue of their being born into the material world and not the astral and mental higher planes of existence.
So, the method of the monk mages was to make themselves presentable in every way. This was not intended to awe the spirits into servitude, as some seem to think. It was to pay respect to them, so that they would be inclined to help and assist. If you read the descriptions of what these spirits do, you can see immediately who the mages were and what sorts of things they wanted help with. Perhaps the most common request was for help in learning the trivium and quadrivium – that is the liberal arts which formed the education of a cleric. The medieval universities taught the seven liberal arts as a prelude to the higher doctoral studies of philosophy and theology. So, help with learning was big.
Another was help getting girls. Not surprising, if you imagine your smarter-than-average French university student in an all-male university. Another big one was invisibility. Useful for sneaking out after curfew once you had got the girl to love you. Also perhaps useful for stealing money and the answers to the next Logic exam. It is interesting that the spirits who can bestow invisibility are often said to bestow “wit” as well.
Another big request from the spirits was to “give a good familiar” which presumably meant that the spirit would send one of its subordinate spirits to serve you, often taking the innocuous form of a cat, which in the Paris Latin Quarter could blend in easily and operate by night, which is a big feature when you are sending a message to your girlfriend that you can’t come after all because you have to study for the Logic exam.
There are a few spirits who can conjure up armies for you (suggesting that noblemen were practicing this art too). Almost all of them could answer any question put to them about past, present, or future. And this was, I think, the number one reason to conjure one of the residents of Pandaemonium. They would talk. More than one, it is said, would gladly tell you all about Creation itself and the War in Heaven. If you wanted to find out God’s business, just ask his disgruntled former employees. And this too may be one of the reasons the spirits were so happy to talk to God’s sons and daughters. They could abide by the Memorandum and still undermine the Authority and absolute sniveling obedience to Big Daddy.
Now, it is probable that few women performed such rites. Few would have had the education to read them. However, if human nature hasn’t changed since the Middle Ages, I bet there were plenty of girlfriends who were let in on the deal, or found out about it. Men weren’t any better at keeping secrets then than now. And besides, as Eve proved, women are more cunning than men, and can easily manipulate them with their beauty and sexual favors. So, it is possible, maybe even probable, that this lore did get disseminated among the girl friends of the mage-monks.
Did people in the Middle Ages think the Goetia was scary? Well, the spirits almost all appear in some crazy, scary form at first. That is the first test of your mettle. If you immediately drop your wand and run screaming from your room, that’s a deal-breaker. No self-respecting angel is going to do favors for anyone who can’t take a joke.
So, who exactly are the noble daemons of Pandaemonium? Well, we are told by the theologians that when Lucifer lost the War, among his punishments he was put in charge of running the material realm – i.e., Earth. Presumably all inhabited planets. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the natural world. He is charged with testing and teaching human beings and the measure of his effectiveness is how many idiots he can keep from immigrating to his own kingdom.
Thus, the spirits of the Goetia are not only our “inner demons” as Magister DuQuette says. They are also the fundamental forces of the physical universe. That is why Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. John Dee (celebrated scientists) were so eager to meet the angels and learn about them. And they were probably getting a lot of information. I suspect the King Lucifer and his staff, all the way down to Screwtape and Wormwood, felt they needed to take action and managed to steer the natural philosophers away from Goetia and toward modern science. And so, the study of nature was turned away from the study of the intelligences running the world to the study of the effects and laws of that government. The government itself became invisible to modern Mudmen. I have it on good authority that around the water cooler, the spirits call us Muddles.