Occult Glossary A–F

A∴ A∴ Abbreviation (in the abbreviations using three dots format) of a magical order founded by Aleister Crowley.  The name of the Order is often said to be “Argenteum Astrum” or “Astron Argon”, which mean “Silver Star” in Latin and Greek respectively.  The purpose of this order is to teach magical and spiritual attainment through a detailed curriculum of practices including raja yoga, ceremonial magic, and reaching a major milestone with the attainment of knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  The structure of the Order is such that each student has a teacher of a higher degree, who in turn has another teacher.  Each member (other than for purely administrative purposes such as address lists, etc.) is only supposed to work with their direct teacher and their direct students. The degrees of the Order are based upon the sephiroth. Not to be confused with the other order closely associated with Crowley, the Ordo Templi Orientis, which is more fraternal in nature and amenable to (indeed, focused on) group performance of ritual and social events.

Abbreviations using three dots. It is not uncommon practice in the occult to use three dots in a triangle (∴) rather than a single period to mark abbreviations.  This practice originates in Freemasonry. Aleister Crowley used it for the name of his magical teaching order, the A∴ A∴.

Abramelin. Name of a magician who supposedly lived in Egypt, and the book named after him, written by a German Jewish author known as Abraham von Worms in the Middle Ages.  The system of magic described in the book of Abramelin involves a lengthy (6 or 18 months depending on which of the medieval copies you read) process of prayer and retirement from the world in order to achieve clear communication with one’s Holy Guardian Angel. The book teaches that after one has achieved communication with one’s Angel, the magician is to summon the rulers of the demons and compel them to pledge themselves to serve the magician.  Thus the Abramelin system is one in which one obtains divine empowerment and then uses it to command infernal forces, generally so that the demons can be made to do beneficial things they would not typically be willing to do.  In the system of Thelema, communication with the Holy Guardian Angel is the surest means of discovering one’s True Will, and so the Abramelin system is studied by many Thelemites. (Wikipedia)

Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF). Irish for “Our own druidry.” A modern neopagan religious organization dedicated to the study and development of modern reconstruction and reinterpretation of the old Celtic religion.  Founded by Isaac Bonewits. (Wikipedia)

Astrology. The process of examining the position of the planets in the sky at key moments in history, or in a person’s life, for the purpose of making predictions about events, or about the person’s character, or about their interpersonal relationships.  Popular today as “daily horoscopes” for a person born with a certain zodiac sign, (that is to say, they have a certain sun sign) but astrology has existed since ancient times and is much more complicated than simply “if you were born in early September, today’s a good day to go job hunting.” (Wikipedia)

Bonewits, Isaac. (1949-2010) Founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin, and a leader in modern neopaganism. Controversial with some for his clear distinction between neopaganism and paleopaganism; some in the pagan community wanted to insist that their religious practices had been passed down unchanged for centuries.  Author of the book Real Magic, about how ceremonial magic might relate to ESP and other phenomena which parapsychologists have studied.  He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1970 with a degree in magic, being one of, if not the only, person to get such a degree from a modern university. (Wikipedia)

Book of the Law, The. Also known as Liber Legis (“book of the law”), Liber L, Liber AL, Liber CCXX, etc. A book written down on paper by Aleister Crowley in April 1904 during his stay in Cairo.  Crowley claimed that the book was dictated to him by a being called Aiwass, which he later identified as his Holy Guardian Angel.  The book contains the famous verse “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and is the foundational text of the religious philosophy known as Thelema.

Bornless Ritual. Better translated Headless, this is a ritual originally found in one of the Greek Magical Papyri and first translated into English in the mid-1800s. It is an invocation of the “Headless One”, some form of higher being, and appeal for its assistance in exorcising an evil spirit or demon.  The ritual was adapted by the Golden Dawn as a ritual for personal spiritual development, and thought by practitioners of Thelema to be a useful ritual for invoking one’s Holy Guardian Angel.

Carroll, Peter. English magician. Co-founder of the Illuminates of Thanateros and considered one of the leading practitioners of chaos magic.  Author of several seminal works on the subject, notably Liber Null and Liber Kaos. (Wikipedia)

Ceremonial magic. (Sometimes spelled “magick”.) The use of ritual practices, which may include gestures, walking, speaking in various languages, incense, and such implements as swords, wands, chalices, etc. to summon non-corporeal entities or manipulate magical energy in order to cause changes in the universe or in the magician’s consciousness. (Wikipedia)

Chaos magic. A system of magic based on the notion that beliefs themselves are a tool, and you can use a wide variety of techniques for focusing (or emptying) the mind and unleashing magical power.  Chaos magicians believe that one can use existing systems of magic or even make up your own.  One frequently used technique in chaos magic is the creation of sigils. (Wikipedia)

Crowley, Aleister. (1875-1947) English occult writer on ceremonial magic, meditation, and (somewhat concealed) sex magic; founder of the religious philosophy known as Thelema; founder of the magical order known as the A∴ A∴; reformer and leader of Ordo Templi Orientis; author or channeler of The Book of the Law. Popularly known as the “Wickedest Man in the World”.  Self-identified with The Beast 666 from the Biblical book of Revelation. (Wikipedia)

Degrees. Many mystical organizations initiate their members in a system of degrees, or ranks. A new member might be said to be a “first degree” member, and after some time and other requirements are met, will undergo another ritual to initiate them into the “second degree”, and so on.  Examples of such groups are Freemasonry, Ordo Templi Orientis, and the Golden Dawn. The Illuminates of Thanateros turned the degree system upside down, with the Zeroth Degree being the leader of the organization, the First Degree being the members just below the leader, the Second Degree below those, and so on.

Demon. A spirit being, usually of an evil or at least mischievous nature.  Certain grimoires describe demons and how to make them serve the magician following processes of ceremonial magic.

Divination. The process of using occult means to discover information about the past, present, or (perhaps most frequently) the future.  Popular systems of divination include astrology, geomancy, I Ching, and the use of Tarot cards.

Druidry. May refer either to the paleopaganism of the ancient Celtic peoples, or to a form of neopaganism based upon the ancient Celtic religion.

Elements. In Hermeticism and the Western mystery tradition, four different categories of physical matter, energy, and other phenomena, labeled Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.  These are applied to intellectual concepts as well as physical ones; for example, a person’s personality traits may be labeled thus: Passion is Fire; love is Water; logical reasoning is Air; pragmatism is Earth.  A full listing of what concept goes into what category is beyond the scope of this glossary.

Frater. Latin for “Brother”.  A common title used by magicians (usually those identifying as male), especially those in magical orders. Frequently used before a magical name.  Compare soror.

Freemasonry. A fraternal system originating probably in England in the early 1700s, almost exclusively for men, although various organizations closely related to Freemasonry (and often sponsored by Freemasons) exist for women.  Freemasonry is founded upon the Biblical story of King Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem, and uses metaphors from that story to describe how each Freemason should build his own character, life, and soul into a metaphorical Temple, i.e. a state of moral and ethical uprightness.  Freemasonry contains rituals of initiation and secret words and handshakes which, although widely published in various “exposés” over the centuries, are considered sacred secrets of the fraternity.  Because of its secrecy, Freemasonry is a central feature in countless conspiracy theories.  The Roman Catholic Church forbids its adherents to join the Freemasons, and many Evangelical Christian groups accuse them of Satanic practices, charges which are generally regarded by disinterested observers as unwarranted.  The initiatory system of the Golden Dawn, of Ordo Templi Orientis, and various other occult groups have many similarities to that of the Freemasons, notably initiation by degrees. (Wikipedia)