I mentioned a while back that I tend to think about there being two major magical diasporas flowing out of Mesopotamian antiquity, a celestial and Magian one and a cthonic and Goetic one. I have been rereading Dina Katz’s excellent The Image of the Netherworld in the Sumerian Sources with some of that in mind. Appendix 4, a translation of Edina-Usagake (“In the Desert by the Early Grass”) has me thinking I may be missing a third element of that world, the feminine aspect of it.
I often lament the rapid transition between structuralism and post-structuralism, between modernity and postmodernity. While there are many figures grouped under the latter’s banner that are vital and important, in most cases it seems like the sort of rapid transition that hides more than it reveals. In the refusal to dwell with structuralism and with modernity, there seems to be a missed opportunity. Or, rather, a whole field of missed opportunities.
Take Claude Levi-Strauss’s most basic insight that myths aren’t singular, that the understanding of a myth requires establishing a sense of the family of myths that share and redistribute its elements. The myth comes to occupy a field defined by its variations. These variations are defined by sharing overlapping elements and themes, even as those elements and themes are constantly redistributed.
My partner has had a copy of Alison Butler’s Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic: Invoking Tradition lying about the place for a few weeks. I’ve cracked it open and start reading at random; so far, it has always been interesting. Besides thinking that the book would have sounded sexier had the title and subtitle been transposed, it is pretty much all I could ask for from a scholarly book on the matter. It embeds the Golden Dawn in a broader historical horizon and it does so with frequent appeal to biographical detail.
This is one of those posts that I have been circling around. I don’t know if it will look like much, but it contains some important elements. It regards the significance of the number 72, so when I opened up WordPress and saw this in my feed, I decided it might be time to start working it out.
For the magicians out there, 72 likely puts them in mind of the number of goetic spirits. That number connects the goetic number to certain kinds of astrological lore (still eyeballing that book, haven’t purchased it yet) and links them to a number of other religious associations, especially in the Kabbalistic material. Picking and choosing my favorites from that list:
- The numbers of degrees of Jacob’s ladder through which he ascends to the heavens
- The number of God’s names in the Kabbalistic material
- The number of languages spoken at the Tower of Babel
- The number of Set’s accomplices who help him nail Osiris into a coffin
- The portion of each day that Thoth receives from the moon to make the intercalar days; these days are linked to the sighting of Sirius and thus tied to Isis
These suggest an overlapping cross-cultural pattern of associations that relate the movement of the heavens, the passage of time, and eternity.