I picked up The Book of Oberon recently. It’s a real beauty of a book—clean and attractive illustrations of all the figures and sigils, Latin and English translations of the orations, and excellent front matter from the editors contextualizing the work and its discovery.
One thing caught my eye specifically in the front matter. As they were talking about the creation of the hazel wand, they noted that this had clear ties to the disciplining used in the school system. The selection of a young, flexible, branch of hazel was also encouraged for teachers, because its flexibility gave it a sting without inflicting serious injury, contrary to the staff.
This is especially interesting when you notice that many of the workings in the grimoires use a young boy as a scryer. The worker then quite literally takes up the position of the school teacher, standing over the child who must ‘read’ from their text correctly, lest they risk punishment, the snap of the rod which would be well-known to both the worker and child.
A little uncomfortable to consider, too, the relationship between that and forms of torture, and to consider that both might inspire tale-telling. Recall, too, that Jack London’s great spiritualist novel was inspired by the experiences of a man subjected to the most awful treatment in the American prison system. I don’t want to identify the grimoire work with torture, precisely, but to note the way in which it might be harnessing forms of trauma to spiritual effect, perhaps even to therapeutic effect.
Grammar schools, right? They point out the obvious and well-known connection between the word ‘grimoire’ and ‘grammar,’ too. It sets me thinking, though, that the seed bed for grimoire culture may very well have been the school system. I have had a nagging sense that there is something I am missing about the transmission of grimoire culture and that it might have its roots in the hijinks of school children turned into more serious occult experimentation makes a lot of sense. The networks through which grimoire might have moved might have been old school ties.
It also suggests that the grimoires might be tailored to the mind of a person who has been subjected to that particular form of discipline. There is something to consider there about how strictly following such texts designed for people socialized quite differently might not be as effective as transforming the works with an eye toward the present.
Which has me thinking, in no particular order about
- some of the horror stories about strict and cruel hierarchies between students I have heard from people who have come up through the contemporary (but quite established) elite British grammar schools.
- the occult nature of gang initiations in South Africa (described in this book).
- Harry Potter
- the school culture of modern Japan and the occultism of some anime.
- of course, yes, Plato and his (problematic) eagerness to use young boys to forward his own spiritual advancement.