I’ve recently reviewed some commentaries on Nick Farrell’s article, Olympic Spirits
around the Magic/Esoteric Blogosphere. Perhaps its worth noting at this early stage not all the comments were from practitioners of the Golden Dawn system specifically and so the personal interpretations tend to take on well just that personal reflections and understandings. Nick’s article brings up some interesting questions on the evolving nature of magical systems as a whole. I also must confess/assert that at present my interest in this is more academic than it is magic. One of the most fascinating developments in recent sociology has been the emergence of the awareness of subcultures in the veins of the established community and society. Magic can be largely divided into several smaller sub-groups but in my view it stands as a subculture in its own right.
Before examining the thread of Olympic Spirits perhaps defining how to identify a subculture might help. Wikipedia proclaims that:
Subcultures can be distinctive because of the age, ethnicity, class, location, and/or gender of the members. The qualities that determine a subculture as distinct may be linguistic, aesthetic, religious, political, sexual, geographical, or a combination of factors. According to Dick Hebdige, members of a subculture often signal their membership through a distinctive and symbolic use of style, which includes fashions, mannerisms, and argot. They also live out particular relations to places; Ken Gelder talks about “subcultural geographies” along these lines.
The Golden Dawn system actually adheres to much of this principle in that we don ostentatious clothing when we wear our robes and regalia and with our usage of insular terminology such as in the Outer Order degree system or indeed in sigil formations which may have unique application in the Golden Dawn system even apart from other Magic Systems. This is all before we get into the differences within the different Golden Dawn Orders which for various reasons take on differences in ritualistic practices.
Coming from a Neopagan background to the G.’.D.’. System there appear to be a lot of similarities and a lot of differences at the same time. Notably in the Neopagan paradigm the nature of godforms can be quite varied. Some modern Pagans/Witches will look upon the Gods as immanent and some will look upon them as emanations of the Divine. As most religions or spiritualities go the labeling of one’s Path can be more cumbersome than sociologists and cultural theorists would prefer. While my own Spirituality does not normally incorporate the Olympic Pantheon like most people I am familiar with the 12 Principle Gods of Mount Olympus (note: the Arbatel uses 7 of these Gods; Apollo, Selene, Ares, Hermes, Zeus, Aphrodite and Chronos). One of the things that strikes me looking at the various interpretations and renditions of the Greek Pantheon is it’s continued usage.
As Nick points out when looking at the Olympic Spirits in the Arbatel are given titles possibly to make them less “pagan” or even as a formula to approach them within the context of the power of the energy behind the planetary elements. In his article Nick provides some examples of Gods associated to the Spirit and their associations. The usage of Olympic Spirit workings clearly has avenues of expression in Western Magic as a whole and not just their traditional presence in Western Ceremonialism. Perhaps some exploration between the god names and the Olympic Spirits may illuminate how the energies of the names and the powers behind them have also evolved if at all. I look forward to hearing about others experiences…
I’m reserving Part II of this blog for more practical experiences to be explored. The magician’s path is after all one of personal exploration rather than academia alone.