My Pentagram, My Sibyl

The present installment is apt to wander in time somewhat, from four decades ago to this very year. However, seeing that the great bulk of it takes place at 248 Norton Street, this seems like the logical locus in which to lodge it. I anticipate it will all come out as though James Joyce had been struck in the head by a blunt instrument.

But such a long wait to tell the story! Half an orbit of Uranus.

Before William Herschel, my astrological chart would have been a total mystery to the learned. "Oh, there goes a Taurus" they would have nonchalantly uttered then. And, yes, there is a sprinkling of that, especially my love of beauty and (so some have said) a bit of stubbornness.

Yet some 42 years ago, I definitely knew I was no typical Taurean (though it rhymes with Dorian) and always wondered why I felt more Aquarian (which rhymes with contrarian) than anything. Sex, drugs and overthrowing (or at the minimum, at least ignoring) the establishment meant much more to me than accumulating wealth, if you take my drift. Did I mention sex?

So, where did that come from?

Well, I'm happy to say, my mother had the good sense to hang on until her last progeny bore Uranus in a tight square to Venus conjunct Mercury (in Aries). In one fell swoop, the interpretations change--so much for Jeanne Dixon. Uranus has tugged ever at my ruling planet, as though suckling it, not to forget its Siamese twin Mercury. I suspected this trio might be up to something way back when, but was too caught up in the paper chase of those days to see the big picture. However, I recognized that Uranus was surely the flashpoint in my nativity.

A bit of a reminder: Uranus is the ruling planet of Aquarius.

Lest you've grown weary of all this astrology, I'll simply mention that half of Uranus' circuit through the heavens (84 divided by 2 is 42 years), takes me back to age 20, when I first visited London, leading to the events to be described, below.

1973 found me ensconced at 248 Norton Street, the Dirty House. In many ways, this was really the golden age of magick for me, or at least the eye-opener. Though indeed I did have several roommates there, as described in a previous entry (most notoriously a Christo-Nazi of the worst sort), I commanded the entire ground floor and felt quite on my own: no visitors, no interruptions, surrounded by books on the inside and green and blue on the outside, for the filthy abode was the final dwelling on a dead-end street, perched above a ravine filled with trees and unmown grasses. I saw it not so much as Walden, but the very establishment Abramelin recommended for a magickal retreat. Truly. All manner of spirits lived there with me that summer, beckoning me to grow, to look inward and to find the core of the star spoken of in Liber Al vel Legis.

Really! My octagonal bedroom/study was a constant hangout for lesser angels and demons; Nuit and Hadit waited patiently while I worked through the prerequisites. I mean, after all, I was only in my freshman year of Thelema. Though somewhat minor, thaumaturgical rather than theurgical in those days, the conjurations were sufficient to send Brother Denny and his frozen zombies scampering. I'll confess, though, it was fun for a while to have the opposition living there. The contrapositive is often the best way to uncover truth as I found out a year later in mathematics.

Warm days and nights, fresh air, quiet, bookshelves exploding, constant study, invoking often, the four adorations performed regularly (dawn, noon, sunset, midnight): I formed a definite relationship with the universe then.

Hail unto Thee who art Ra in Thy rising,
even unto Thee who art Ra in Thy strength,
who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Uprising of the Sun.
Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow,
and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm.
Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Night!
Not a bad way to wake up. Tahuti always gave me a bone, by the way. Aching to learn does that to a fellow.

Gaining weight, gaining strength. A carcass reaching 225 pounds, approaching double that of high school. Long hair, ponytail per usual, thighs bursting at the seams, broad shoulders. Partial deadlifts crossing the 1000 pound point, and cleans that taught me so much about yoga; my mind went elsewhere when cleaning the Olympic bar (7.2 feet in length--that made me feel grown up) stacked with more plates than even Bill could handle. My long, tall body had finally come into its own and made me proud of what I could do with it. Did you get that? It wasn't the body that invoked pride, but the dedication which shaped it.

Winnie---Photo by Flapper Tank Ball
The refrigerator was always filled with Nutrament, to be imbibed at the top of every hour. Naturally, that was in addition to the standard six meals a day and health malts. Like Winnie, my ever constant companion in those days, I always thought of food. Unlike her, for me it was a regimen. I kept meticulous notes on what was consumed, much as described in Aleister Crowley's Diary of a Drug Fiend. Winnie just ate, since she didn't know how to write cursively.

Despite the riff-raff on the second story, whose doxology was a crime against nature (but at least they kept strangely silent), Winnie and I had the run of the estate to ourselves. The summer winds blew through the octagonal room while I studied, and Winnie chased her tail endlessly. A thunderstorm boomed while concentrating on Blavatsky or the complete set of Alan Leo astrology texts which filled a bookshelf (thanks to reaping my old man's Social Security benefits and one bounced check to Circle Books). A phone call to Israel Regardie; what balls on my part, but he was nice as could be! One degree from the Great Beast, and those ten minutes still matter.

I was studying Crowley's Magick without Tears that summer. Years later, I showed the big fat blue volume to a girl and out of nowhere she uttered, "I love you." Kind of surprising.

The estate, ah, the estate. From the kitchen, down the few dusty steps, avoiding the right-turning staircase to the basement which definitely was something straight out of an H. P. Lovecraft fable, Winnie and I would find ourselves "out back" overlooking an enormous ravine, spying down on Searing Center. The incline was immense, perhaps a 40% grade or so, but much fun to take as a slippery shortcut from my own little Abbey of Thelema to hippie friends living in Searing. A bit of a struggle getting back up again, but I did mention that my thighs were gaining strength profoundly in those days. Winnie, though tall and lanky, seemed to deal with it okay. We were very alike in many ways. It's not clear who had the worst case of flatus, but at least I had an excuse. Remember the stacked racks of Nutrament in the fridge?

One day, the two of us headed out from 248 down the ravine, when she stirred up a bit of trouble. Always inquisitive (I told you, we were very alike), Winnie poked around where she shouldn't have and before you knew it, was retreating like a greyhound, long legs pumping in the manner of a locomotive's wheel crossbeam. Head down, big black nose lowered to the ground, normally erect ears flattened back, man oh man, did she run! A swarm of some half-dozen house wrens circulated around her head. Have you ever seen those artist's conceptions of electrons whizzing about a nucleus? That's what it looked like!

Winnie knew I was laughing and licked me sheepishly after the tyrants of the bird world departed. Don't you find it interesting how aggressiveness is inversely proportional to size? I mean, you could mail a half-dozen house wrens first class for the price of a single postage stamp, but they cowered a malamute-Alsatian mix big time.

I mentioned my hippie friends at the bottom of the ravine who holed up in Searing Center that summer. Oh my, what a summer! One night: Bonehead, Alf (who evoked many erotic thoughts), Rog-Baby, one other guy whose name escapes me but had recently returned from Viet Nam and had seen too much, Winnie and I, all congregated in what had once been a dormitory room. Lights out, maybe a candle flickering, probably even some patchouli wafting. The stereo, bass boosted, exuding the Moody Blues. A reefer making the rounds. Winnie chasing her tail, no doubt enjoying the fact that dogs were illicit in that apartment complex. Sociopathy is catching. No words from anyone, just luxuriating in the moment.

But I was focused on what I had been studying all that summer. In the dark I proceeded to mentally carry out the Lesser Ritual of the Pentragram. And then, there it was...a brilliant five-pointed star, hanging in space, painted with blue flame. Have you ever seen an alcohol lamp burn? That was the color. It was intense, and it was more solid than I had ever managed before. A blue Pentagram, some six feet in diameter, floating above this collection of hippies in the darkened room. Very nice. We were all there for different reasons, but that really was the age of love, the Age of Aquarius. Chasing tails mattered too then, not so much now.

There are no rules when it comes to self-development. Which is why I have long admired Sade, Crowley and Dr. Timothy Leary. And Winnie.

Come October of 1973, Winnie and I were installed across the street. A very different atmosphere. While 248 Norton was much like the Golden Dawn, 249 was closer to the Teutonic tinged Ordo Templi Orientis. Definitely a sharper edge to the knife, but still important nonetheless. Oscar Wilde hadn't appeared yet to temper things to the love I so admire. Nonetheless, the O.T.O. influence was crucial to where things eventually led.

A year later, my first trip to London came about.

An eye-opener, the missing ingredient.

The elegant Kenilworth Hotel was my abode, just a couple blocks away from the British Museum where I spent day after day amongst the Egyptian antiquities. I saw quite a bit of the magick Aleister Crowley wrote of. At the Kenilworth one night, through the open window I heard a pub some several blocks away destroyed by a massive bomb, for in those days the IRA was hard at work. It is so strange, but though the denizens despaired, I felt completely at ease. I guess I understood the Northern Irish, having dealt with Beetface in high school.

One block thence under the copious shady elms or sycamores, I found my way to Museum Street and the Atlantis Bookshop, the premises of what used to be Mandrake Press, Aleister's publisher during his autohagiography days. There, overhanging the door, was a curious sigil from that time, a little woodcarving which caught my eye. I felt a closer connection to Thelema just by standing under it and fathoming its significance.

The proprietor noted the eccentricity of my purchases, by way of a single uplifted eyebrow. You might say I stocked up in the same manner as a shopper visiting the sale on lavatory paper at Sam's Club would. Indeed, when departing London, I discarded all my clothing there so to leave room enough in the suitcase to return with all manner of rare books.

The Atlantis Bookshop was easy enough to find, as was Watkins off of Charing Cross Road. (That's the place in which Aleister made all their wares magickally disappear one day in a fit of pique. The proprietor didn't want to discuss it with me, for remember, that was still within recent memory; AC had only been absent a body for less than thirty years then).

But then it was on to an out-of-the-way shop somewhere in the Seven Dials district. It was a curious little place, so reminiscent of the Crystal Egg described by H. G. Wells. It seems to me that I passed by Mark Mason's Hall on Great Queen Street to get there from the Atlantis Bookshop. That, of course, was the home base of the Golden Dawn, among other things. In those days, I knew the London streets better than my hometown. But more about London another time.

So, in this little nameless shop, I browsed and bought even more books. It was a fairyland, I finding all manner of the outré to draw me in.

In the glass case at the front was a pendant, a silver Pentagram. Of course, I knew it and I were entwined and grabbed it at once. And yet, I neither wore it out of the shop, nor wore it out of London on the flight home. Indeed, I didn't even hang it round my neck upon return to Minnesota.

As a matter of fact, for forty years it lay dormant, hidden among the debris upstairs. Too many years of being distracted.

Then one day she silently beckoned, "Never forget." After some frantic searching to find her (for indeed, she became my fairy child then and there), making a right royal mess of her neighbors, she arose, encircling her arms, and we embraced.

I donned the Pentagram for the first time in 2015. That was a spectacular era, full of the boons predicted in The Book of the Law, and all seemed auspicious:
Lust not for result.
Little did I know at the time, however, that she would become my sibyl. For, come the most recent winter solstice, she went missing for a day or two. That was weird, since she always embraced me during the day and I was very particular about putting her safely to bed at night.

It seems my Pentagram vanished at the very moment she was trying valiantly to tell me something, something that stunned me.

I eventually found her again, hiding in a sofa which once meant so much to me. "Don't ever run away again," I chided. But my darling Pentagram remained mute. I took it as mere churlishness and shouldn't have.

We embraced again for several weeks, but she didn't sparkle as before. I refused to believe it and pretended not to notice, blaming it on old eyes. And she never spoke lovingly as we once did. Looking back, I see now my Pentagram's temporary absence was a foretoken.

Then, on the morning of a special day this winter in 2016, as we prepared to embrace again, her chain broke in my hands, the Pentagram falling to the floor.

That very day...well, you probably can guess...this time I heard her voice clearly. "I tried to tell you," she apologized. Still hurt, I banished her to the book room.

Then we had this crazy premature spring day out of nowhere last week which evinced all manner of poetry from Keats, Byron and especially Shelley. Basking in the warm sun, I finally realized my Pentagram cannot help seeing so clearly, even if I don't like her messages.

I gathered up the wherewithal, headed to the shop and fired up the soldering iron. After a certain amount of cursing and repeated attempts, I managed to reconnect her chain and wear the Pentagram again. I know not why. And not being a jeweler, the solder joint gives her a crooked, crippled appearance. See! She cannot help imagining the future.

So, we two resume our knowing love for one another. And I see her in much the same light as depicted in Shakespeare's 130th sonnet.

Do you know what I like best about her hanging round my neck? If someone outside of us looks, he or she simply sees a Pentagram. But when I crane my neck and look down on her, I see her inverted. Of course, that is Pan, what the illiterati called the Devil. Check out Eliphas Levi if you need a bit more explanation of that.

Speaking of whom, when I first donned the Pentagram, after she lying fallow for half an Uranian cycle, I was reminded of Levi:

The Pentagram signifies the domination of the mind over the elements, and the demons of the air, the spirits of the fire, the phantoms of water and ghosts of earth are enchained by this sign.
For me, she signifies even more.

Next installment: 249 Norton Street

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