Strange Grammars

So, magical language as reality, performing that language, thinking about where it comes from, and where and when we do it. In this post, I’m going to begin by covering some familiar territory, but I’m doing so for three reasons. Firstly, I try not to presume everyone remembers where I’ve gone before (let alone those new to the blog). Secondly, I also find myself reconsidering or deepening my perspectives on where I’ve gone before. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly here, I’ve been seeing how the performing of these ideas has resulted in my perspective deepening.

I begin by reconsidering the linguistic nature of the universe before grounding the terrestrial expressions of that language in DNA, especially within an ontologically flooded context, or at least more flooded than DNA is normally allowed to be. From there, I move to talking about how I’ve been seeing how this linguistic and narratological action can occur, at least in my practice.

Universal Language

I’ve written before about Eduardo Kohn’s theories on the linguistic construction of reality—his “sylvan” or “forest language”—in which, beyond our usual representational use of language, the universe itself emerges through meaning and interpretation. For example, a bird’s wing and the passage of air over and around it can describe flight. The wing and the airflow become elements of a “sentence” that predicates a resulting action. Humanity has learned enough how to express this particular flight-related “vocabulary” and “grammar” so that we can now fly ourselves.

As part of our process in doing so, we used mathematics (of various kinds). I don’t discount the importance of mathematics in helping humans enact/express what the world otherwise manages without our forms of calculation. I would note, though, that mathematics remains itself linguistic, or perhaps more accurately, the manifestation of mathematics is linguistic in nature. I imagine that this reality is easier to grasp if one thinks about how programming languages (or scripting languages even) use logic and math, within very particular grammars and forms, in order to do all sorts of things. Indeed, what is the engineering of modern human flight but a physicalizing, literalizing, performed encoding of Flying?

It’s not hard to push this understanding into a kind of Magic as Programming Language perspective, and I know 1990s chaos magic liked to play with this idea. Peter J. Carroll has described magic as manipulating information. Although Carroll builds from the level of information upwards, he acknowledges its linguistic, narratological basis:

As we comprehensively argued…this universe does not expand despite the optical illusion to the contrary. It has the same size at any point of the finite and unbounded time within it. So, as argued…the universe always contains the same number of bits of information as defined by its surface area. The size of the book remains the same[,] but it constantly rewrites itself as the entropy and the information shift around and mass turns into energy and back again with a restless creativity and destructiveness.

The relationship between information and entropy has a far greater subtlety than a simple equivalence as we shall see.

We have incarnated within a never ending story that has no cosmic scale genesis and no impending cosmic apocalypse, despite all the small to medium scale genesis and apocalypse going on all around us.  Quantum indeterminacy confers upon us the choice of what sort of chapters we would like to write for ourselves. Here we come at last to what you might call ‘Spiritual Matters’. What makes a good life story, and in particular what should we use our freedom and magic for? What does indeed constitute ‘High Magic?’[1]

Indeed, Carroll makes repeated reference to the grammar (associating it with grimoires) magicians act through and within. In reading Carroll, I personally find it easy to slide into a kind of Information-as-Immaterial perspective, but as Kohnian sylvan language should show us, grammar and information can be abstract but also, like a bird, her wing, and the wind, quite literal.

Word Hoards

While we find it tempting to focus our attention on the human forms and uses of this Kohnian language and its accompanying grammar, we should remember that the more-than-human world (including what we call “nature” in an often diminishing, dismissing manner) accomplishes all these feats already. Cats may not (usually) fly, but flying beings do. Humans have learned how to manipulate that underlying grammar of the universe in order to express/enact things previously barred to us.

Where does this language come from? Firstly, if I limit myself to Earth for the moment, then the “grammars” of energy, stone, and motion were already present. We are all starstuff, and we’re all incarnate starlight and sunlight who sustain ourselves through eating animals and ultimately plants who have turned sunlight into matter. In a sense, that light provides a good chunk of the possible information, grammars, “words” that can exist or that can be expressed and enacted on Earth.

However, on its own, the Sun and Earth could have elemental empires aplenty, but organic life as we know it might be said to use that embodied sunlight as a medium and raw material. Gordon White has pointed to DNA as the source of our, I’ll call it, “word hoard” for life on Earth. We tend to think of DNA as merely material, but we should cultivate a sense of DNA as something more ontologically flooded and haunted than we give it credit for. If we honor our ancestors, then surely our DNA is their physical anchor into this dimension and our lives, and it is also the word hoard from which we and they were created—in cooperation with the grammars of sun and gravity and so on. If we also grant that panspermia occurs, let alone directed panspermia, then the introduction of extraterrestrial DNA via viruses like Mimivirus (or as Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe has argued, bacteria at times, as well) extends our ancestry and that language of life and creation to literally celestial dimensions.

Now, I’m not just talking about the cliched version of the “miracle of life.” I use the scare-quotes not to diminish the topic—there’s a definite miracle there—but to point to more than what most folks might associate with what DNA and this Kohnian language allow us. I’ll quote White here (from the same article linked above):

Magical views of the universe largely hinge one way or another on the contention that, rather than consciousness emerging from matter, matter emerges from consciousness.

Shamanism, Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Buddhism, and so on…you have a ‘real’ world that is somehow the progenitor of the physical world.

These meat suits and their surrounds are variously described as a prison, as imperfect copies of perfect ideas, as dangerous illusions, as a physical expression of an idea in the mind of god, as a way for the creator to come to know itself through physical manifestation. One way or another there is—if not artificiality—then intentionality.

If you were to cast your eyes about looking for how this construct may be manifest, what the blueprints for this prison/playground of matter might look like…then surely DNA is on your shortlist? It’s on mine. But then, if it hasn’t escaped your notice, I’m rather fond of looking for vastly ancient remnants of things that just might make our universe bigger.

Of course, our understanding of DNA is naturally going to change year by year as developing countries like India and China pick up the ball we have dropped and invest billions into unlocking the secrets of creation. However it shakes out, here is where we stand:

  • According to people much smarter than me, DNA is extraterrestrial.

  • A virus is the most-likely candidate for a directly panspermed/extraterrestrial LUCA as viruses can survive in space and then ‘unpack’ and eventually terraform.

  • We have found at least one monster virus that is old in a way that makes Cthulhu look like a freshman.

  • DNA is the most efficient coding language ever encountered and parts of it actually behave like a language.

  • Combinations of the four elements (get it?) build genes that pass down unchanged across billions of years, flying in the face of neodarwinian theory.

It seems to me that viruses like Mimi brought to Earth the DNA, the information, the grammars that enable not only Kohnian sylvan languages like the wind flowing over a bird’s wing allowing birds to fly—and humans now—but also the kinds of magic that a magic blog should be interested in. Not that flying isn’t absolutely cool.

Magical Grammars

Let me circle back on that more-than-human manipulation of these grammars. If we accept that many spirits have ontological existence distinct from, but in relation to, humans (and each other and more), then surely they participate within these grammars: the world, the cosmos is linguistic, narratological in nature.

Now, when the more-than-human world is generally left to its own devices, the world runs along its “natural” course. I’ll quote again Kim Mahood writing on the Jukurrpa, or Dreaming, from the Aboriginal-led exhibition catalogue on the Seven Sisters Dreaming:

The Jukurrpa, or Dreaming, is an active continuous time, an animating presence in the land, reactivated whenever country is traversed by its keepers, or song or ceremony performed. The Jukurrpa stories are the connective threads that weave the landscape into a tapestry of places and events, committing knowledge to memory by embedding each component of the story in a particular place, and recording it in song. The natural features of the landscape are the raw materials of narrative.[2]

As I noted previously, the myths/forms that populate the Dreaming are

always ongoing, re-enacted as [the] songs and ceremonies are performed by living Aboriginal peoples. The Dreaming is often seen as “the creative period from the time immemorial” during which “Aboriginal ancestors travelled the country.” These Ancestors

established the code of life which today is called The Dreaming or The Law…passed on for countless generations of people through the remembrance and celebration of the sites which were the scenes of ancestral exploits. Song, dance, body, rock and sand painting, special languages and the oral explanations of the myths encoded in these essentially religious art forms have been the media of The Law to the present day…Through The Dreaming the law is prescribed for the land and its inhabitants.[3]

I don’t want to appropriate The Dreaming and Aboriginal lifeways, but I do want to compare these ideas to what I’ve been discussing in regards to Kohnian language and cosmic grammars. Indeed, when we can extend ancestry into the heavens—and I mean the “literal” heavens above, outer space, but also the “literal” heavens in terms of a haunted perspective of those same skies—then I find that comparison even more richly suggestive. Furthermore, Aboriginal lifeways show how that cosmic, enchanted language remains performable. This performativity comes through what Aboriginal practitioners call ceremony, through which, again quoting myself, they “can activate The Dreaming in a place and/or time” even as “Ancestral Spirit Beings [like the Seven Sisters] had themselves performed ceremonies on their travels and left songs, dances and other rites to be followed to ensure the continued existence of the world and all its life forms.”[4] The Dreaming, those cosmic grammars, Carroll’s “never ending story,” it is from that wellspring that the world we live within was generated and which is, in theory, constantly regenerated. When persons perform those ceremonies now, they join with “the very being of those ancestors.”[5] And those grammars, those ancestors, emerge as well from cosmically-ancient DNA.

Calendrical Grammars

That’s the big, macro view. Of late, I have found myself engaging with the same things in the micro, as well. In theory, all magic works on these principles. It is a different thing to live it, though.

I’ve written before on Paul Weston’s work, but I want to orient its significance with what I’ve been talking about here. Weston has observed for ages the narrative nature of reality, writing extensively on his own “psychic questing” that’s grounded in myth—whether “real” or “inaccurate” myths or what we ordinarily call “fiction”—and his psychic questing team would intuit and experiment with different ritual grammars in particular places at particular times, and they achieved wild synchronicities, if not outright apportation and more.

In Avalonian Aeon and (more so in) Atargatis, Weston observes how time seems to provide a way into manipulating our biography. An avid journaler, Weston has accumulated decades of information on the literal days of his life. As he began finding recurring patterns in his life, he began playing with them. For example, he noted how recurring motifs or even events seemed to repeat or echo on the same calendar dates, and as some recurrences of a particular calendar date would loom, he would specifically lean into repeating the applicable motifs and actions. He would watch the same movie, read the same books, talk to the same people as he had on previous years’ dates, and as he did so, he would trigger synchronicities. He has often spoken of one incident where, on a previous date he had avoided jail time with only a £250 fine. On the anniversary of that date, he intentionally repeated many of the things he had done incidentally on the first occasion, surprising himself with the resulting synchronicities, including a new £250 fine (for different reasons).

Weston also points to Argüelles’s, Strieber’s, and Castaneda’s accounts of memories of other versions of themselves who knew already far more than their conscious selves did. Weston notes how their experiences reminded him of his own adventures with psychic questing and his particular flavor of Weston-style magic. I’ve also had this sense—quite often, and I’ve touched on it here—and Weston himself thinks this way of living in the world reflects how we’re already embedded in that deeper reality (Weston opts for a 4D explanation, which is as probably good as any). On any particular given day of the year, Weston exists already within all the instantiations of that date, and when he can engage intentionally with his ordinarily unconscious, transtemporal self, then weird shit can happen.

Some may ask why the arbitrary delineation of the modern calendar works for Weston, and I would say that’s the calendar he lives with(in) and which shapes his everyday existence. His birthday marks his entry into that calendar system, which remains embedded within larger cycles of solar returns, seasons, and the daily day-night cycle that marks one day from another. Because he has been an obsessive journaler, he has the accumulated data to lean intentionally into the patterns, grammars, and stories of his life.

Now, I have been journaling quite a lot since 2013, and inspired by Weston, I began poking at my own anniversaries. In the aftermath of some work with Astaroth* a while back, I recalled a dream I had that seemed relevant. I checked the date of said dream—October 31, 2017—and the date tickled me. However, I decided to check the last several years’ worth of Halloween notes, going back towards 2014 or so. I noticed definitely recurring motifs, though they were not necessarily identical in expression, and the further from the present they got, the more diffuse they seemed to me. I decided to time a particular follow-up Astaroth operation on October 31, 2018, and that decision seemed to pay off.

More recently, I have been scheming audacious astrological magic based around the space weather coming up in January 2019. I also have to recognize how these schemes began taking root during the Endless Retrogrades of 2018, though perhaps most coherently during VenusRet 2018 (very much associated archetypally with Ishtar’s descent into the Underworld) and as an outgrowth of my relationship with Astaroth and other beings. I have begun to notice how the timing I settled on and intuited for January has been rippling out, almost like it’s worked its way back through time, in a very Weston style.

In short, I’m going to attempt a particular eclipse operation that I had the idea to attempt after listening to White and T. Susan Chang describe tarot and divinatory remediation strategies, such as going out and buying ten needles if the 10 of Swords comes up during a divination. The idea, as I understand it, is to game the results of the divination—and thus your future—to your advantage by giving the image from the divination a manageable manifestation. Instead of the lived trauma a 10 of Swords result might point to in your life, you can try to replace it with ten literal needles you buy at the store. The prophesy is fulfilled—and you can move on with your life. There are Mercury Retrograde remediation strategies that involve leaning into the Retrograde by doing something appropriate for MercRet so the grammar of MercRet has a way to manifest easily and, hopefully, without the problems of MercRet doing so on its own. As I pondered eclipse remediation in particular, I found Kaitlin Coppock’s articles on remediating the North and South Nodes for eclipses, and through Coppock’s work, I found further inspiration for playing with the language of the eclipses, especially those occurring with Saturn in Capricorn.

Now, part of me felt a bit unsure about such performative strategies because they seemed too simple. They weren’t complicated, per se. They require planning, but I can tell you I use the shit out of Google Calendar for planning my magical operations (including many many reminders). So, while I felt unsure because they didn’t seem complicated—and I got used to thinking that “real magic” had to be complicated—I have to admit that they felt right. And, as the other synchronicities and Weston-esque timing synchs have piled on, I suspect (hope?) that “4D” Me knows what she’s on about.

Uncomplicated Language

I asked Langston Kahn recently to do some work on my behalf, and I cannot fault his accuracy, vision, or ability. The rituals he gave me to do for follow-up are simple enough, even as he welcomes me making them my own, as well.

They seem deceptively simple rituals, and it is not hard to do them. Indeed, as I was reading over his recommendations on doing a Fire Ritual, I was seeing it from a hermetic perspective and that it was pretty damn solid in that regard. The ritual itself involves calling up Fire, giving Fire a place to live for a while so that you can give Fire that which you want to burn away from your life. You embody that which you want to burn away as something physical that you will literally burn.

For my version of the ritual, I had a cast iron cauldron—a tiny little one—and set out a big piece of yellow (fiery to me) paper for the cauldron to rest on. I got a yellow chime candle. I opted to ensigil what I wanted Fire to take. I fashioned the sigils into the candle itself. I set the candle in the cauldron, and I set several tarot cards from Robert Place’s Alchemical Tarot on this Fire Altar.

Now, that probably would have been sufficient. However, I considered timing. I wanted to do the ritual sooner rather than later, and I considered a Tuesday (Mars and fire, right?), but the Solstice and the Sun’s ingress into the first decan of Capricorn was looming. So, I chose the last planetary hour of daylight before the longest night of the year. The Hygromanteia told me that was a better hour than the immediate ingress of the Sun into Capricorn 1, which was the planetary hour before. I opened my space, did the Headless Rite (while the just-about full moon was right over where Orion’s head would be), poured out some rum for the Four Kings, and I started into the Fire Ritual proper.

The Prayer of the Salamanders worked pretty damn well, I have to say, to get Fire’s attention. From there, I moved into what I wanted to say once Fire was seated. As I sat with Fire and the candle, I had the sense that I was also the Fire in the candle, and I suspect this was a consequence of carving the sigils into the candle rather than doing them on paper or parchment and burning that. But just as I wanted Fire to burn them away so that their potential could be reclaimed—or their “energy” if you like—they were fuel for the Fire even as I was also that Fire.

It also occurred to me that the cauldron—it’s a literal cauldron with a lid—proved entirely apt as well, let alone the Alchemical Tarot imagery I used. Once the candle was done, I offered Fire rum by pouring it into the cauldron and closing it, the smoke dense within.

Now, I didn’t realize it ahead of time, but in choosing the Solstice—just before the Full Moon in Cancer—I had done my ritual a lunation before the first January eclipse, and at that point, the Fire Ritual and the now rum-stewing cauldron are the lead-in for the first eclipse and its planned alchemical and astrological ritual. And as I realized how the timing had worked out—a timing that wound up linking with Mercury stationing direct and which linked out of Venus’s retrograde cycle and my own Jupiter in Sagittarius business—well, I decided to look into my journals for Weston-style synchs.

And, well, I found them. So, I looked ahead to the dates for the eclipses, and I can see the motif and topical matches, and again, I could see how the further back I looked, the matches grew more diffuse.

It occurred to me that the reason they were growing more diffuse was because they were the spreading ripples from some event further up the timeline. At some point, the proverbial stone will be cast into the waters, and the ripples begin spreading out—backwards in time on those dates, and I’m suspecting forward in time, as well. The further from the Rock in the Water Moment, the smaller and more diffuse the ripple becomes. I also have had to ponder how retrocausal all of this may be—to what degree are those ripples the future pulling me closer to it, or at least “4D” Me shaping me closer.

And, despite the simplicity of the Fire Ritual—even as I tied it into the Winter Solstice, into the Full Moon in Cancer, and the looming eclipse cycle—I began seeing the repercussions from that ritual within nine hours. Like, big, in-your-face results coming out of my business with Fire.

I drew upon my own participation with and emergence from the cosmic grammars I spent the first half of this post talking about to perform my Fire ritual, even as the specifics grew out of my own personal mythologies and personal grammars. After all, Jung shows us that we are built from, shaped by the mythologies that have us. Mine happen to include angels, faeries, sirens, great cats, and stars—but also the stories that my life thus far has told.

So, let me bullet list for you the takeaways I’ve been forming from all this:

  • The world is linguistic, performative, narratological.
  • That world and that language are alive—they have agency and interiority.
  • You can intentionally co-create with them.
  • Timing matters—that is, the explicitly astrological, the cosmically and metaphysically significant, and the timing and biography of your life.
  • You want to get your sense of how these all weave together so you can better figure out how to “talk” in this language, which is also the language of your life, your ancestors (including your ancestors in the stars), your world, and your future.

Featured Image: strikers | Pixabay

[1] Peter J. Carroll, The Octavo (Roundworld Edition): A Sorcerer-Scientist Grimoire, Kindle edition (Oxford: Mandrake, 2011), locations 1626-35.

[2] Kim Mahood, “The Seething Landscape,” in Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, edited by Margo Neale (Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press, 2018), 32.

[3] Colin Bourke and Helen Cox, “Two Laws: One Land,” in Aboriginal Australia: An Introductory Reader in Aboriginal Studies, edited by Colin Bourke, Eleanor Bourke, and Bill Edwards, 2nd edition (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2006), 56-7.

[4] Bill Edwards, “Living the Dreaming,” in Aboriginal Australia: An Introductory Reader in Aboriginal Studies, edited by Colin Bourke, Eleanor Bourke, and Bill Edwards, 2nd edition (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2006), 56-7.

[5] Ibid.

* I note that Astaroth is very much related to Inanna-Ishtar–who plays a central, if ambiguous, role in Weston’s growing psychic questing adventures and his deepening relationship with time.

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2 thoughts on “Strange Grammars

  1. Well this is a lovely coincidence. I just wrote a piece about how I’d like to sing the living world back into existence. Seems a small thing to do in an extinction emergency but it is something rather than nothing and the way I plan to fuel my activism for the coming year. Loved reading this. Connecting language with magic is a cross cultural phenomenon. It is present in the Abrahamic religious text but also in pop culture: this is how Narnia and Arda were formed too. Many first nations groups on turtle island also sang to life. Though the people of Australia’s tradition is really breathtaking.

    Liked by 1 person

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