Can you make up your own rituals, or does magick have to be authentic, using ancient words and images? During the chaos magick movement, it became obvious that you can invent your own rituals and get them to work. As chaos magick began to lose its sparkle, many occultists realized that there is power in magick that has gone before. Emerging from chaos, we combined invention with tradition. When you blend history with creative invention, occult workings become immensely effective.
You will often see magickal workers trying to find the most original and authentic sigils, words of power and spirit names. It’s often assumed that if you get a really old document, it’s probably more authentic because there’s been less corruption. This may be true to an extent, but it ignores the fact that magick is always created by humans. It’s possible, and even probable, that the authors of those ancient documents made up the magick from scratch. If that’s the case, is there any reason we can’t write our own rituals and have them become valid?
The angelic seals found at the center of the sigils in The 72 Angels of Magick, for example, were drawn by people. There are many versions of these sigils, and it’s safe to assume that when you get your hands on an older document, you’re getting something that’s more likely to work. But where did these sigils originate? Did the angels hand them down as gifts? Or did somebody just make them up in the hope that they would eventually work? We’ll never know, but we do know that the older sources often yield stronger results, whether they were made up by people or not.
Due to this inherent power in older magick, I was one of those occultists who became obsessed with finding the most original source for a particular talisman, sigil or word of power. I’ve spent a long time tracking down extremely rare documents, to get to something that appears to be more authentic; something that has not been corrupted by centuries of small changes from document to document. But after many years of occult development I recalled that my first few magickal acts were invented. I made them up by instinct, and they worked. Remembering this, I decided to see if I could make up my own angelic sigils and get them to work. Could I make something that worked effectively? If others had done it centuries ago, why couldn’t I?
When developing my own sigils I contacted angels and others spirits for guidance, and worked with those beings to hone and perfect the magick. In time, the sigils I invented worked. Then I wondered whether they would be as effective for others as they were for me. To my disappointment they were not. At least, not at first. After I’d used them for long enough, other people found they could use my sigils and get results. And when more people used the sigils regularly, they took on a new level of power. There comes a point where a created sigil seems to take on a life of its own. Once the sigil has been quickened in this way, anybody can use it. This is true of any magickal practice. The formula used in Words of Power is not traditional, even though it uses many traditional angelic names. The process is one that we came up with ourselves, with the ordering of the names based on a treasured text from our private collection. Through repeated use it works so well that just about anybody can use the technique and get results.
Despite this, I eventually abandoned my own angelic sigils and went back to using the oldest sources I could find, and those are the ones that most often appear in my books. It became apparent that the longer something has been used successfully, the more likely it is to generate this magickal effect. This is true even when something has become obscure, corrupted and unknown over the centuries. If it once worked effectively, far in the past, it is more likely to work now than something that has been created from scratch.
In practical terms, this means that I still like to find good source material as a starting point for my magick, but then work to develop simplified methods that cut out as much of the dross as possible. Invention is an essential part of magick, but not the whole story. When magick has worked for others, we should not throw it out and assume that everything we invent will work just as well. At the same time, there’s no need to assume that just because something has been around for centuries that it can’t be improved upon. Indeed, the whole purpose of our project has been to find the most practical ways of getting magick to work, whatever its origin.
This means that experimentation is as worthwhile as sticking to the rules and trying to get everything ‘right’. I get many questions from people asking what they can do to ensure they are doing the magick exactly as instructed. This desire to do the magick perfectly is better than just skim-reading a book and hoping you’ve got enough information to knock out a ritual. The ideal approach is to see the magickal instructions as an effective blueprint, but one that you can modify. There are instructional books that tell you exactly how to paint, fly or play music, but every artist finds their own way of holding a brush, every pilot develops a unique flying style, and a musical performance is nothing if you play the notes exactly as written. When it comes to magick, your own interpretation is an inventive act that can make the magick work for you.
One summary of magick said that you decide what you want to occur, create an experience that represents your result coming into being, have that experience and then get your result. In essence, this is what we do every time we perform a ritual. With this approach in mind you can use everything from ceremonial magick to wiccan spells and you can get a result. This is good news for occultists, because it means that with the right state of mind in place, you can get a lot of magick to work.
Magick is about creation and change. You are taking the stuff of the present and transforming it into a future that matches your will. With that in mind, you could say that every magickal act is an act of invention.
– Damon Brand
Adam Blackthorne has written a book about inventive and creative magick called The Master Works of Chaos Magick.