Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And the Goetia Discussion Continues

In his latest post, Frater Rufus Opus says:
Have you noticed how quick people are to blame the spirits in Goetia when things go badly? I've never seen any system so quick to get booted to the curb in spite of previous successes. Magicians can have years of good results with a spirit, but if they have one bad experience, all the spirits of the system are bad bad bad.

There are so many assumptions and prejudices surrounding these spirits that the skills required to use them effectively, consistently may never be gained, documented, and disseminated to the occult community. It's annoying as hell. If people shelved Angelic Magic, Planetary Magic, or even your average Pagan conjurations of Hekate every time they had a ritual provide results they didn't like, no one would do any magic at all.

I think one of the reasons for this is that when Goetic workings go bad they tend to do so in a spectacular fashion. Planetary or Pagan workings don't generally explode with quite that degree of messiness.  (I have, however, seen this kind of blowback from lwa and orisha workings that went awry. I've talked to at least one person who sought Oya's assistance in solving the problems with the money pit house he had just purchased. Oya solved them by burning said house down. Unfortunately, he had been so busy paying for repairs that he neglected to purchase homeowner's insurance. He later on became an initiate in Lukumi: I don't recall whether or not Oya was his crowning orisha, but I trust that in any event he was more careful about asking her for favors).

If lots of people who have worked with the Goetia tell horror stories about the Goetic spirits turned on them, they may all be falling prey to their Judeochristian conditioning. Or they may have decided the risk outweighs the reward. It seems that lots of people who have worked with the Goetia talk about getting their fingers burned. Not all of them are cowards, Christian fundamentalists or incompetent magicians.

That being said, I would be interested in seeing a useful system which allowed magicians to work with the Goetic entities safely, consistently and effectively. Such systems exist for the lwa and orisha: those who get badly burned generally do so because they don't know those systems or think they are unnecessary.  I suspect that consistently safe Goetic workings will involve many of the trappings which some modern magicians believe are unnecessary.
The really funny part though? When things go well with Goetia, it's because the magicians are following the grimoire's instructions properly, or are psychically shielded, or somehow appropriately initiated, or otherwise prepared the way a good magician should be, but if things go badly, the spirits themselves are somehow corrupt, kick you when you're down, or are "corrosive."
If a spell works, I presume it is because the magician did things correctly. If a spell blows up in the magician's face, I presume it is because said magician made a mistake. I'm not sure why Frater R.O. would object to that classification. If one keeps a magical diary, presumably one of the reasons is to ascertain what works, what does not work, and what really, really, really does not work.

I hear many more tales of Goetic workings gone awry than Angelic, Enochian, Wiccan, Planetary, etc. workings.  My own experience suggests that the spirits I worked with had detrimental effects on my mental and spiritual well-being. (I believe that I could have avoided much if not all of that pain by being more careful with shielding and coming at the ritual from a place of calm rather than a highly emotional state: I found that Goetic work, like boxing, requires concentration and focus and once you start fighting rather than boxing you've lost the match... ). So I think it is reasonable to at least entertain the idea that these creatures are hard to handle at best and actively hostile to humanity at worst.

Again, I am not using the words "corrupt," "evil," "demonic," etc. to describe the Goetic entities. I am simply suggesting that there may be some good reasons for their bad reputation.  I believe they are more difficult to handle than many other spirits and less forgiving of mistakes on the part of the summoner. This is not the same as saying they are "evil." Venomous snakes are no more "evil" than nonvenomous snakes -- but I don't recommend handling a king cobra the same way you handle a boa constrictor.
Objectively speaking, I've had at least as many, if not more positive results that I was happy with after Working the so-called demons as I've had with alleged Angels. I've been disappointed more with the Angels, but mostly because when I want something badly enough to do magic about it, I want the results like fucking yesterday, man! Not in a couple of weeks.
This is another thing which makes me think the Goetic entities are very like the "djabs chaud" (hot djabs) of Haitian magic. They get you quick results, and tend to specialize in making changes to the material world. But they are hard to handle and can do injury to the summoner and those in the immediate vicinity if they get too riled up.  It doesn't mean they are to be avoided altogether: there are many magical workings one can do with a djab as an ally or a travay (work) spirit. But it is vital that the practitioner recognizes the danger and takes the appropriate precautions.