ceremonial magic

What's in a name?

  magical name

I have a confession to make. I have never given myself a magical name. My magical name is my actual name and I think that name is magical enough that I don't need to come up with something else. Recently I came across an article where the author mentions that he'd never realized that shifting from a magical name to your mundane name could be a form of grounding that separates your magical persona from your regular persona. He cited an article by Frater Barrabbas that discusses this aspect further and I found the argument intriguing.

Frater Barrabbas's argument is that if a magician uses his/her mundane name as his/her craft name, s/he runs the risk of believing his/her own pr and can become deluded about his/her magical achievements and also the reality of his/her situation. The adoption of a magical name and motto allows the magician to create a persona for his/her magical self. This in turns allows the magician to turn off that persona as needed and keep him/her grounded in reality. I see his point and I agree with it to a degree, especially because he cites how actors and other famous people also experience this kind of delusion, as I've noted in Pop Culture Magick, and as can be seen in any number of bizarre behaviors famous people end up doing. The amount of energy and attention thrown their way affects who they are and causes them to buy into the image as reality, instead of remembering that they are mortal. Sadly unless you are a triumphant roman general, you probably won't have someone whispering in your ear that you are mortal.

At the same time I have always considered magical names to be a conceit of sorts, a way for someone to give themselves a self important title. And because of that and also because I believe that the only way people in general will become more accepting of magic, Paganism, and alternative beliefs in general, I've chosen to use my own name as my magical name. Anyone who does a Google search on my name discovers that I'm an occultist, which has lead to some interesting discussions, but also provided me a sense of freedom because I am choosing not to hide what I believe or practice. That's my choice and yet it also serves to keep me humble.

If you read this journal you'll inevitably come across entries where I detail some of my personal struggles, failures, or magical workings that just didn't work out the way I hoped. Nor do I consider myself to be famous. I'm at most kinda famous, on the fringe of the occult community. And on a mundane level, I've gone through a divorce and made my share of mistakes with finances, work, life, and love. I can be petty, vengeful, and quick to anger, and my people skills could use work. On the other hand I can also be compassionate, caring, and generous. I've made an ass of myself on multiple occasions and I've lost friends, made enemies, and had other mundane issues come up. In short I am a fallible person and I don't buy into any pr about me because I know at the end of the day that any enlightenment I've experienced has been worked for...hard. And on the rare occasion I meet someone who acts impressed by who I am (it doesn't happen often, though I'll admit social media has been a nice shot to my self-esteem as a writer) what I try to do, more than anything, is get them to meet the real me. Not the author, not the magician, but Taylor Ellwood the person. Because Taylor Ellwood the person is a lot less likely to let them down, and because when they get to know me as a person they realize that while I'm a pretty interesting person, I am just another person at the end of the day.

I keep my name because it reminds me to be humble. The assumption of a magical name doesn't ground me...it just creates another level of occult BS that I dislike with an intense passion. Now to be clear I do respect why Frater Barrabbas has chosen to take on a magical name. I respect it because I think that is the intention behind taking on such a name. I just don't know that many people hold to that same standard. He does, and I can safely say that because I know him and we've had a few conversations both with his persona on, and off. If you want to take on a magical name, then do it, but do it for the right reasons.

The truth is that we all take a risk of believing our own pr. Occultists can be pretty arrogant and I've definitely been arrogant at times. I've just learned that being arrogant doesn't really help. It just makes you into an asshole that everyone else dislikes and avoids. Lucky for me I've moved out of that stage of life and actually have people who want to hang with Taylor Ellwood the person. I'll never be the most popular guy, but that's ok too. I am an acquired taste and I know it and I'm satisfied with being that way. So whatever way you choose to keep yourself humble...remember you are but mortal...

Revisiting my ceremonial magic roots

I think one of the best practices a magician can do is to revisit your magical roots or foundations years later after you'd moved on to other practices and places. Lately through reading R.J.'s works, as well as revisiting Ted Andrews work and taking the Strategic Sorcery course I've been revisiting ceremonial magic. It's good to revisit it, because I'm using the opportunity to do planetary magic as well as revisit core concepts I learned way back when. To me, this re-visitation has been most useful because it's also allowing me to take everything else I've learned and readjust the foundational material to account for more recently learned and worked with practices. I know that revisiting past work has always been beneficial simply because different experiences have been had, and those experiences shape the perspective and what is gleaned from work once read by novice eyes. It's wise to revisit works you've read, because even if you think you've mastered the content, you might be surprised by what you learn through the visitation.

Lately, in choosing to explore planetary magic and start employing it, I've found myself enjoying doing something that I might not consider experimental in the usual sense of the word, but that nonetheless is new territory for me to explore. You never stop learning and revisiting old territory can yield realizations and practices that shape your magical work.


Book Review: The Sphere of Art by R. J. Stewart

This is a must have book if you are interested in ceremonial magic or you are studying R.J.'s magical works and system of magic. What I enjoyed the most was the author's systematic explanation of the sphere of art and how it works and what the magician is doing when s/he is working with the sphere of art. I also found the appendices interesting, especially the author's encounter with Ronald Heaver. The author presents some excellent commentaries on ethics and how they apply to magic. If you get this book, I recommend reading it with a discussion group, as you'll get a lot of insights out of it, through conversation. Remember that what will make it most effectively is actively doing the practices.

How I like experimental magic to other people's practices

Recently when I taught a class on Space at Pantheacon, one of the issues I had to address was how my focus on space could actually be converted to other people's more traditional practices of magic. I'll be the first to admit I'm not a traditional magician by any means, although I am well versed in ceremonial magic and other traditional approaches. Still a glance at my book Multi-Media Magic, or any of my other books wouldn't necessarily convey how my approaches could fit into or apply to more traditional approaches to magic. Nonetheless all of my books are based in part on my own background in ceremonial magic. The main difference is that I've looked to outside inspiration for a lot of my workings. So in Multi-Media Magic I've combined my interest of acting methods with traditional techniques for invocation, and I've looked at how art can be used for effective evocation of entities. To me that's part of what magic is about: It's taking those creative activities we already do and integrating them into our magical work.

My writing and my experimentation is driven by what fascinates me. I have a boundless curiosity as it applies to the world around me and to what other people are doing. But I'm also interested in how all of it can be meaningfully applied to magical work and that's what my writing is about. I think any of the concepts and practices I discuss can be applied to more traditional approaches to magic. For example, my workshop in space focused on how we define ritual space as well as what we bring into it. By helping the participants understand space from a creative perspective, I was able to provide insights into how movement and arrangement of space could play a role in creating an effective sacred space for ritual.

If you haven't read my books, consider giving them a try. They will provide new insights into your magical work and perspectives and sources for you to look at that don't necessarily fall into the usual resources you'd draw on. But those non-traditional resources can provide some useful ways of thinking about magical work and the processes we use.

In Memoriam Ted Andrews

Earlier this week it was confirmed that Ted Andrews died of Cancer. Most people know Andrews for his books on Animal Magic, but I'll admit that my exposure to his works came from a decidedly different angle, that of the hermeticist. I actually, to this day, have never read his books on animal magic, but several of the very first books on magic I read were Enchantments of the Faerie Realm and How to Meet and Work with Spirit Guides, both by him. Those two books contributed to a fusion of neoshamanic and Hermetic practices I was practicing when I first got into magic. Even today, when it comes to how I work with spirits, it's fair to say that Andrew's work is the foundation for that approach. Andrews introduced me to elemental Hermetic magic, and to some of the concepts of ceremonial magic. My mate, Lupa, tells me she never read those two books. But she's read Animal Wise and Animal Speak, which were two of his books on animal magic, and what I realize is that this person had a wealth  of experience across a variety of different magical disciplines and was able to share all of that with his readers. I really respect the ability to write knowledgeably on a variety of subjects.

I wish the family of Ted Andrews peace and comfort during this time of sorrow, and safe journey to the spirit of Ted Andrews, as he moves on to the next adventure.

Further thoughts on clothing and magic

Since my earlier post on clothing and magic, I've been doing some further thinking about it, and considering just how much the act of getting ready for the day can be incorporated into a purposeful ritual that allows a person to invoke a persona that enables him/her to go into the day's encounters and succeed. I've mentioned clothing of course, but even other acts such as putting on makeup, or deodorant, or shaving, tying hair back or otherwise prepping for the day can be construed as part of the magical act of creating the persona. Each action can be perceived as putting on part of the costume or ritual garb, which allows the person to assume the persona of a business person, entrepreneur, or whatever it is s/he needs to be in the moment.

For myself the various activities I do to get ready for my day have become ritualized. Putting on the business shirt and buttoning it, and then tucking it it into the business slacks and tying m hair back, before putting on the business coat and shoes and socks has become a ritual I use to put myself into the right mindset I need for public speaking, visiting with a client, and otherwise assuming the persona or godform of the successful entrepreneur. It's lead to some other results as well, which has been useful on other levels of my life.

Part of my fascination with this topic is born out of my recent decision to dive back into ceremonial magic further, albeit my own brand of ceremonial magic. If I can use my flair for outfits and fashion choices as magical act, it turns that into another tool and/or medium to exert my presence on a metaphysical front, as well as physical and mental front.

I'm even fascinated of late with the jewelry that one can wear. Putting a ring on can have symbolic importance, but having gotten some finger talons recently, it's been quite fascinating to not only feel a physical difference when wearing them, but to also note the change in mindset while wearing them. It speaks to a subtle shift that I think occurs far more often than many of us might realize, when it comes to what we wear and how it prepares us for social situations, but also how we can proactively utilize principles of magical invocation to create personas, which can adeptly navigate those social situations and create more favorable situations in the future.


I'll actually be attending a talk by Thorn later this week at the Sekhem Maat lodge, on embracing the I am of selfhood, so this review is timely. Should be interesting.

Book Review: Kissing the Limitless by T. Thorn Coyle

This is one of those rare reviews where I would have to say that this book is an essential read for today's occultist. Taking a mystic's perspective to magic and it's integration into our lives, Coyle provides a model of attaining mindful awareness that isn't newagey and is something the occult culture sorely needs. She explores in depth the value of internal work and provides exercises that the reader can use to get in touch with his/her higher self. This book is a guide to internal work and what is refreshing about it is that it's written from a Western tradition of magical practice. Definitely put this book on your must read list this year.

five mystic sages out of five