The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 164, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Austin Coppock
Episode originally released on July 25, 2018
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Munsel
Transcription released May 2nd, 2021
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Friday, July 20, 2018, starting at 6:47 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 164th episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit the astrology podcast.com/subscribe.
In this episode I’m going to be talking with Austin Coppock about his new book titled, The Celestial Art: Essays on Astrological Magic. Hey buddy, thanks for joining me today.
Austin Coppock: Oh, my pleasure, man.
CB: Alright, this, this episode has actually been a long time in coming because I’ve been meaning to do just a general, on the one hand I’ve been meaning to do a general episode on this very broad topic of astrology and magic for quite some time now, and then on the other hand, I’ve known for at least a couple of years now, that you’ve been working on this book. And I’ve been waiting and sort of putting it off until your book came out in order to have this big discussion, and now it’s finally out, and here we are.
AC: Here we are as the moon conjoins Jupiter in Scorpio.
CB: Right, we have a nice election today, I really appreciate our election here with, at least in Denver we got early Capricorn rising, Saturn in Capricorn, and this lovely Moon-Jupiter conjunction in Scorpio that seems appropriate. But you’ve been working on this book for quite some time, right? When did this project first come together?
AC: Oh, boy, I think that I was approached by the publisher about doing this right after, right after Faces, 36 Faces, was published. I think maybe discussions happened at the end of 2014?
CB: Okay, so your first book, and it was published by the same publisher of your first book on the decans, and the publisher is Three Hands Press, and your book on the decans came out, you said, in what, like 2013, 2014?
AC: 2014. It came out, I remember because it was literally the day of my Jupiter return, like the one day out of every 12 years where Jupiter is conjunct your Jupiter.
AC: That was the day I received my copies of the book in the mail [laughs].
AC: Which you really, you know, mail isn’t even reliable enough to try to make that happen, so yeah, I do remember when that happened.
CB: Brilliant. Alright, so that was a few years ago now, and this book, so Three Hands Press is typically more of a small occult publisher. But you’ve been with them over the past few years, they did your decans book which was beautiful, and this is, seems like the sort of next step in that evolution.
I mean, even though your decans book was really notable, and important, and unique, this is something else. Like this is a much more, I think from my perspective gonna be a much more significant book, historically, just because you’re really, I mean you were sort of approaching new ground with the previous book, obviously.
But this is a much bigger topic and I’m really surprised that, I knew this was going to be a good compilation because one of the things about it is that you had an all-star team of people writing essays for this book. But I’m actually, getting it and reading it over the past few weeks I was actually still surprised at the quality, and like how thorough the coverage was of this topic, that you guys really did set out to give a very broad overview of this topic, while still getting into a lot of details at the same time.
AC: Awesome, well I’m glad to hear that. That was, that was certainly the intention to do that. Part of what I was trying to do with the authors that, that we had was to, should we say, define the space in which astrological magic occurs, both historically and in terms of different approaches and viewpoints.
There’s, as, you, you know, I’m sure you noticed there’s, you know, Lee Lehman gave us a really excellent chronological overview of the text of the intersection of astrology and magic in, you know, any given text. But then there are also essays that are explicitly pragmatic in a, like, you know, in a how-to [laughs] sort of way, or when you’re doing this, think about this. And so I was really, I was trying to, you know, how should we say, make, create a big enough bubble to contain as much as possible, and give people, hopefully just a sense of what are the different considerations – historical, practical, theoretical, etc. – within this area.
CB: Alright, and so, this is a, you know, this is a book that you edited, but what it is, is a compilation of papers where a number of different people that have done important work in this overlapping field, these overlapping fields between astrology and magic, where the areas where they do overlap have each written sort of lengthy, and detailed, and pretty high-level essays on different, sort of, facets of this topic.
What was your process of like deciding who, who would contribute to this? Because I’m actually, I’m surprised at how many great authors you actually got into this book. How did you get all of that done together?
AC: I think I literally just sat down and wrote a wish list of people [laughs].
CB: Was this like your ideal wish list of like, “If I could write the ideal book on, like, astrology and magic,” this was pretty much the list you came up with?
AC: Yeah, at the time, you know, since the publication I’ve gotten to know some other practitioners that I didn’t know back then, and I’m like, “Oh! It would have been cool if they were in there.”
I think the only person, we might have had a [few], I think the only person that I invited who wasn’t able to contribute, because of other responsibilities was Christopher Warnock.
AC: Which, you know he’s, he’s held the torch for astrological magic for a long time, and so it’s a bit of a pity that, that it didn’t happen. But, you know, whatever, nine out, 12 out of 13 ain’t bad [laughs].
CB: Yeah. I mean this is definitely, like I said earlier, an all-star cast. So you have, at the beginning of the book it’s like you have the very first essay, but then there’s Lee Lehman, Benjamin Dykes, Demetra George, John Michael Greer who famously did the, I mean, a number of things, but most famously for, from the astrological community standpoint, wrote or did the translation of the Picatrix with Christopher Warnock, a few years ago, in 2010. Freedom Cole, who’s a practitioner of Vedic astrology, who I know you’re a big fan of, and you have studied his work a lot, right?
AC: Yeah, I’m actually currently in his year-long Vedic astrology program.
AC: Which is, that was a result of growing admiration for the way that his tradition was handling material over several years [laughs], you know, and reading his essay and editing his essay for The Celestial Art.
CB: Right. Let’s see, other authors include Jason Miller, Eric Purdue, Al Cummings, Aaron Cheak, Mallorie Vaudoise, Daniel, Daniel Skulky, right? Is that how you pronounce
AC: Pronounced Schulke.
AC: Dan was my co-editor on this, and is the owner of Three Hands Press.
CB: Okay, great, yeah, and he, annoyingly on Amazon, for some reason it lists Demetra as like the author, or something, just cause she’s one of the contributors. But you and Daniel are the, the two that edit, sat down and edited these papers and put together the whole compilation?
AC: Yeah, we talked about who to invite, and, you know, and went back and forth with people, and, you know, there was, there was a lot of, I don’t know, I’d never, I’ve never edited an anthology before, and so this was, this is a new experience, it’s different than writing your own book.
In some ways it’s easier, in other ways it’s more complicated, you know, because you have, [it seems] you have to have dialogue with people about, “I love this part. I’m not so sure about this. Can we do more of this?” You know, etc, etc, and so there was, it was, it was fun, I really like that, sort of shaping via dialogue?
AC: And seeing, you know, you know, when you were saying earlier about how, you know, in some ways The Celestial Art is more significant, or, that wasn’t exactly the term you used, then 36 Faces, what I was going to say is, well I had, you know, a dozen people’s talent to draw on for [laughs], for this one, whereas I only had my talent to draw on for 36 Faces [laughs].
CB: Right. Well, it’s like each of these people could have written a book on the topics, an entire book on the topics addressed, but instead what you get is a very concentrated, high-level treatment of each of these topics, within each of these essays, which ends up being, you know, almost could have been like an anthology in and of itself, but instead it’s, it’s like condensed down to the essence of what they were covering in each of these essays.
And the other thing that’s really striking, that you can see is, because its essays from different authors it switches from the writing style, in the sort of tone from some of them switches from essay to essay, but they’re all written extremely well, and you can kind of see what it’s like for different writers who have honed their skills and developed their writing practice over years. And what it looks like to have somebody who has a different voice, or speaking in a different voice, but is still writing at a very high level, and treating like a very interesting and deep subject at the same time.
AC: I’m glad you enjoyed that. Yeah, there were, there were some editorial questions about, you know, do we try to herd people towards a more, coherent, how should we say, you know, to push or encourage the authors to keep a more, a continuity of style between the essays, or do we really just let every, let every author shine, you know, in, in, in their own, shine in their own voice; one doesn’t shine with the voice, but you know what I mean.
AC: And I, you know, we went for a more, you know, heterodox, like let everybody, let the essays come from different angles, you know, scholarly, historical over there, casual, super practical over here, like let everything come from different angles, as well as in different voices.
AC: So, I’m glad that worked for you.
CB: Yeah, I mean it worked really well. And I mean obviously, and nowhere, actually, what is it more notable or interesting in terms of, just your essay opening at the very beginning where your, your opening essay for the entire compilation was on the fixed stars. And you wrote in your voice, and it was really interesting and fun seeing you write a serious and important treatment to the topic, like this, yeah, just the writing style that you’ve developed over the course of the past decade, or two. It was nice seeing that open up the entire compilation. Did you, like adopt this, you know, what were you going for with your opening essay, or how did it, what sort of tone did you want to set?
AC: Well, so, it wasn’t decided that my essay would be the first, until about 2 ½ months ago.
AC: That was one of the last decisions made before it went to [laughs], before it went to layout, and that was, that was Mr. Schulke’s idea. And I think it’s not a, yeah, we, Dan and I open and close the book with our essays, so that which I think is kind of fun. And so, I don’t know, I think it was probably like stepping outside of pride, the pride and, or embarrassment that an author feels about their own work.
I think my essay was probably good in terms of, a good way to open in terms of tone, because it’s both scholarly in some portion, and it’s scholarly in some portions, it is a poetic reflection in others, and it’s practical in others. And so, you know, it’s that, what I hoped would be, will that large in scope, and multitudinous in focus, but still coherent, you know, and that’s kind of the style of all the essays when taken as a whole. So I think maybe that’s, you know, that’s what Dan was thinking with putting mine first, and I can see that.
CB: Yeah, I think it actually really worked, because it reminded me a lot of, you know, like mixing, like a, an audio CD, or mixing a, you know, an audio album, or like a band’s album, and there’s like certain albums where they’re just mixed really well in terms of like the sequence of the tracks, and it just comes together like, you know, Nirvana’s Nevermind, which was mixed by, partially by Butch Vig.
But sometimes you have, you just have some albums where, like the sequence of the tracks, like they really nail it, and it creates a nice, orderly thing that has like a, its highs and lows, but just ends up working out really well as a full compilation. And I think you guys achieved that here in terms of the order and the sequence of the essays, because it, it opens with your essay, you know, sort of going to great, sort of rhetorical heights in ways that you’re, you’re characteristic.
AC: As I want to do.
CB: Yeah. That was definitely turned up to, to ten, and was on full display, but then you get, like Lee giving this, this amazing historical overview of, and sort of catalog of like the history of major astrological magical texts over the past 2000 years.
You get Benjamin Dykes giving a historical treatment of this very interesting, sort of location for astrological magical texts in the early medieval period. Demetra writing more of an academic essay on a specific botanical, or astrological, sort of medical, quasi-medical text, yeah, it just ended up working out very well in terms of the sequence of each of the essays.
AC: Yeah, I’m going to give 95 percent of the credit of that, for that, to Dan.
CB: Okay. Brilliant.
AC: He’s got, I mean, he’s a publisher and he’s put together several other anthologies, and so he has, you know, a sense of [laughs], of what, what order of the track should go in.
CB: Right. And just returning back to that, because it’s so interesting in this new era of publishing that sometimes you do have these smaller companies doing really interesting work, and Three Hands Press has become one of those. And one of the ways in which this book really stands out is just in terms of the layout, and the design, and the typography, and everything is really beautiful.
And they’re also following kind of the unique model that they’ve kind of pioneered, it seems, like over the past few years where a limited number of copies has been printed up for the first run, even though we’re in the era of like, print-on-demand, where theoretically you could, you know, keep printing innumerable copies, or what have you. They actually did print a limited edition run, a paperback, but also some special hardback versions of this book, right?
CB: Okay, so how does that work, just, you know, because some people might not be familiar with that, how that goes in terms of the limited run. There’s the sort of standard paperback, which is what I got, which is beautiful, but also there are some special editions that can be bought as well?
AC: Yeah, there’s a standard hardcover, and then there’s, and I believe, five hundred of the standard hardcover were printed, and then there’s a deluxe hardcover which is, you know, it’s beautiful, it’s quarter bound in black goat [skin], with marbled papers and slipcase, and there are only 50 of those, or there were 50 printed, I don’t know how many there are now.
CB: Right. And you get something similar with the decan’s book, where there was like a limited, super high quality addition of just like thirty-six copies that were printed at one point, right?
AC: Yeah, and those were, yeah and there’s one for each decan, and those were also bound in goat, we went full golden goat for that [laughs].
CB: Okay. And that’s sort of drawing on that, sort of, more from the magical tradition of like grimoire books that have like these super elaborate, sort of special editions, right?
AC: Yeah, well the idea is, you know, the idea that Three Hands Press, as well as several other, well select, a few other publishers embrace is the idea of talismanic publishing that, you know, you’re making, the book is the body for the spirit of the book, and so that attention should be paid to the book’s construction and materials, and all that, you know, treating the creation of the book as inherently talismanic.
CB: Right. Brilliant. All right, trying to think of any other preliminary things, but I think those are the main points. People can get the book, I should mention since we’re still relatively early on, at the publishers website, which is Three Hands Press.com, or you can get it through Amazon. I’ll put links to the book on the description page for this episode, where people can click to get the book on either of those websites.
Why don’t we get into the core topic, though. One of the questions I had right at the beginning is how does one define magic, and what definition of magic, if we can define it, are we using here, if this is a book on astrological magic?
AC: Right. So, I think I’m going to try to sidestep defining magic as a whole, but instead, in favor of defining astrological magic.
AC: So, with astrological magic I would say the main thing is that you, in order to create an effect, or a change which could be external in one’s life, right, you know, getting that job, or becoming wealthy, or whatever, any of the desires that people have always had that they have either taken mundane action in order to succeed at, or have taken ritual action to achieve any of these things. You know, people always want the same thing, or the same range of things, and so magic is trying to make that happen, externally.
Magic is also, people have internal goals, wanting to feel a certain way, right, and so internal, successful internal change, I think we can also put within the parameter of magic. And so with astrological magic we’re using the potency of the stars and the planets in order to achieve those things.
Whereas, you know, if we were looking at, we can contrast that with, say, grimoire-style magic where you are summoning a particular entity – angelic, or otherwise – and then trying to get that entity to do the thing for you, to make the change for you. Whereas, or, you know there’s a, obviously there’s a giant history of necromancy, or trying to get the dead to do things for you, or to tell you things.
Right, and so with astrological magic we’re not drawing on the dead, or angels, or demons, or fairies, or any of the other, as we say, spirit classes; we’re drawing on the power and intelligence of the planets and stars, so that’s the fuel, as it were.
And that’s, I think addressed well in John Michael Greer’s essay, which is, you know, The Sources of Power in medieval and modern magic, where is the power supposed to be coming from?
Right? There’s the machine, you know, there’s the technique of the ritual, which is in its own way a machine, but then what’s powering that? Right? What’s the gas?
CB: Right, that was actually a brilliant essay. He’s an amazing writer, and I sort of vaguely knew that, but re-reading, reading that essay over the past few days has actually really reacquainted me with it. It was one of my favorite essays from the book in a way, in a field that’s kind of hard because there’s so many good essays, so (–)
AC: I just want to say, I’m really glad you like that one. We were debating whether to do a shorter, or like to keep it, its original size, because it’s pretty long, or maybe do a cut down, and we decided to keep the whole thing, so I’m glad that you really enjoyed that.
So that essay came out of, I asked John because he’s done so much different magic, and been involved in so many different things, he’s had so much experience. I asked him for a reflection on translating the Picatrix, and thinking about that style of magic, and comparing it and contrasting it with everything else he’s experienced.
I thought that would be really interesting, and he, he liked that, and delivered a lengthy and excellent reflection on that topic.
CB: Yeah, and it seemed like his primary axis point was the realization that the way that ancient people conceptualized, like the cosmos, was different. It was actually interesting because he makes a really important point that’s funny, because it goes against like a core point that I made in my book where, in my book I tried to say, on Hellenistic astrology I tried to say, you know, life, today, and the concerns that people have are not that different compared to what they were 2000 years ago. It’s like people still care about relationships, their finances, their family members, their career, and what have you, and in that way it’s a sort of axis point for understanding ancient astrology and why it’s still relevant today.
He very early on in his essay, though, argues from the other perspective which I thought was really refreshing and interesting. Which he was saying, the cosmological outlook and the way that ancient people understood the world was so radically different in some ways that we can’t actually fully conceptualize it ourselves. And he actually tried to convey that a little bit just by explaining the different cosmologies, and how different, how radically different the cosmology was, and how radically different their understanding of how everything in the world is, and how it could work, or how things like magic could be possible within the context, and I thought that was really interesting and refreshing.
AC: Yeah, well and I think that, that’s good, yeah I’m really, one of the things I really depended on that essay to do was to sort through and discuss some of the key paradigmatic concerns that come with even taking on the topic of astrological magic, and, you know, I think he did a really nice job. And so I’m glad, I’m really glad to hear that you got that out of it.
But, it’s sort of like a point of reconciliation between those two points of view. You know, if we read literature, of any sort, from two thousand years ago, or a thousand years ago, people are definitely similar, right, they still like, they want love, they want this, they’re afraid of that. But the paradigm, the world in which you set your human experiences, changes the meaning of those human experiences.
You know, if you think about the way that you view the same, the same, how should we say, if you think [about], if you’re ever gone through a big paradigm shift in your own life, the way that, that changes the meaning of the same experience, right, before and after astrology, for example [laughs].
AC: Or before and after magic, for me, or both, or you could liken it to a, you know, to a religious conversion which is sort of one of the most well-known paradigm shifts, or leaving a religion, right, the same human experiences mean something, in some cases radically different.
CB: Right. Yeah, and that was really important in terms of setting up the context for. I mean he tried to make it an argument very early on that modern, the way that modern practitioners of magic treat the subject is not necessarily the same as it was treated or viewed a thousand or two thousand years ago. And astrology is a large part of that, because astrology was much more integrated into the culture a thousand, or two thousand years ago, and was less so after the 17th century, I think was one of his main points that he sort of established that essay with, right?
AC: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Okay. So how, how, where does that come in, because that’s one of the things, maybe we should get out of the way right from the start, is that in modern times astrology and magic are not necessarily intertwined, and it seems like the astrological community and the magical community have been largely separate.
So that, you know, most practitioners of astrologer, most professional astrologers we know don’t practice magic, or don’t really know anything about magic, and most practitioners of magic, I don’t know if this is accurate, you’ll have to correct me if it’s not, don’t necessarily, aren’t terribly well-versed in astrology, necessarily, right?
AC: Yeah, that’s increasingly less true, but that’s the case we’re working from, it was much more true, let’s say, ten years ago.
I remember going to the first Esoteric Book Conference, which is all magic, basically [laughs], in Seattle in 2008, and talking with practitioners, and you know, very, very few of anybody was interested in astrology, or saw it as being potentially relevant to their process, or to their practice.
But that’s, and I have been trying in small, and in some cases large ways to bridge that gap, you know, for those last ten years. Because I would, you know, I’ve been a practitioner of magic and astrology, I’ve been both the whole time, and so it’s been really nice to see that beginning to seriously change, and maybe that’s generational to some degree, and maybe it’s just sort of time for that.
You know there’s one consequence of the traditional revival – the translation movements in astrology – is that we’ve gotten to see the history of astrology much more clearly, and as Lee’s [Lehman] essay, I think illustrates, when you can see the history you see all the intersections.
And what’s interesting is that, at the same time that traditional revival happened and has been happening in astrology, almost exactly the same thing is happening in magic, people are getting really into older grimoires. There is a, there’s, the two communities are very parallel at least in the English speaking world over the 20th century, the single biggest influence on Magic in the 20th century was the Golden Dawn which is a late 19th century magical lodge, and, so, you know, sort of Victorian-Edwardian, and then everything kind of went from there.
But, and just like with astrology, you know, who was the, sort of like late 19th century theosophist, and a few other people that, you know, put astrology out there, and that’s what people thought of, that’s what astrology was for people.
But in the case with both fields over the last 20 years has been looking at what happened before that, right? [laughs] Going literally as far back, yeah, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but just like in, so just like in astrology, before looking at history, you have people who are really interested in the medieval and Renaissance period, you have that with the grimoire magicians.
And then people are also really interested in the Hellenistic era, wow that’s totally been happening with magicians as well, people are really, the Greco-Egyptian magical papyri has been a hot thing [laughs], it’s, you know because that’s the astrology magic happened, a lot of it happened in the same places, and so you end up, you know, you end up in Alexandria, but, you know, maybe looking for sorcerers rather than, rather than looking for astrologers [laughs].
AC: You end up in Alexandria regardless.
CB: Right. And that’s so funny and interesting because that’s, that, that would be the case in terms in modern times, because, like with modern astrology, I guess that part of the point is that modern astrology, even though in like the early and mid-20th century astrologers inherited some small pieces of the earlier tradition, they then sort of created a system a new, or a new system of astrology, and it infused it with a lot of modern psychological, and social, and sort of New Age concepts in order to create something that was very unique and kind of reflective of the times.
And even though astrologers often would, sort of, reference the long history of astrology, and they would sort of assume that the way that they’re practicing astrology is largely the same as it’s been for thousands of years, in reality, once scholars started producing translations of older texts, which astrologers didn’t have access to until recently, it became clear that the modern versions of astrology were very different then it was practiced like a thousand years ago, or two thousand years ago, or what have you.
And so one of, I guess John Michael Greer’s points in his essay was that there’s a similar thing in the magical community where the magical, practitioners of magic in modern times often assumed that the way that they were doing magic was the same as the way it’s been practiced like thousands of years. But, in fact, when you go back and start comparing, it’s not actually quite the same, and one of the major differences is the extent to which astrology was integrated into many of those older forms of magic.
AC: Yeah, there were, even when you’re doing, even for a number of different types of magic that are not explicitly astrological, aren’t using astrology as the power supply, there’s still timing. There’s still like, oh, yeah, yeah, you know, like in the PGM, for example, the Pyro Gregor Magic, they’re like, oh, yeah, Moon in Libra is great for necromancy, right. For this, you want to do that on the fourth day of the Moon, and when the Sun’s setting. You know, for this, it’s not they’re not, it’s not the same sort of deep electional stuff that you get with explicitly astrological magic, but they’re very few grimoires that don’t have the elements of astrological timing.
CB: Right. So, and one of the things, you used a keyword earlier that I really liked, which was intersection, it’s like intersections historically between astrology and magic, because they are kind of different things, but they have this tendency to overlap at different points in history in major ways, even though there are things that could be practiced, and often are practiced completely independently, right?
AC: Yeah. Well, yeah there’s, you know, it’s a Venn diagram situation.
AC: There’s a significant overlap, and then there’s, you know, astrology without magic, and magic without astrology. But, you know, some of them, one of the places of overlap is in practitioners, you know, Sibley, you know, for whom the Sibley chart of the United States is named, had one of the biggest magical libraries in England at that time.
AC: I don’t even need to bring up [John Dee] [laughs].
CB: So that’s Ebenezer Sibley from like the 18th century.
AC: Hm, hmm.
CB: Yeah, so that, and that becomes, and that’s one of the things that Lee’s essay focuses on is different. Every once in a while you’ll get a person in the history of astrology who wrote a significant astrological work, but then also had, let’s say a large, library of magical texts, or who also did something significant, or addressed the topic of magic, or astrology and magic at the same time.
AC: Yeah, well, and I think that it’s a, so it’s an interesting thing. I think that astrology has clung to, how should we say, just like a scrap, a pebble of legitimacy [laughs], for these last couple of hundred years that magic did not. Like, you know, whatever, you know, it’s sort of like, in terms of what is either stupid, you know, either considered a pseudoscience, or ignorant, or potentially, you know, soul corrupting from a judgmental and limited religious point of view.
Like astrology gets a lot of that, but magic always got it worse. Because magic has this, because with magic you’re dealing with, you’re dealing with the question of power, right, the power to change something, and so power is inherently more threatening than divination. Sure, you know, divination is its own power, but it’s not the ability to directly exert. And so, you know, in both societies that believe in magic and don’t believe in magic, it’s always sidelined to some degree.
CB: Right. I mean one of the ways I try to formulate it, when I was reading the book, or that the issue was formulated in my mind was, that the basic issue is once you know the future, via astrology, which is basically the purpose of astrology for the most part, what do you do about it? And (–)
AC: Right. Yeah, and that’s exactly, so, and you, feel free to disagree with me here, but I, for me, at least, reintegrating the magical side of astrology into astrology, it feels like a restoration of astrology. It’s like, well you know this, now what do you do with it?
And I think in many ways astrological magic, especially at the points where it intersects with remediation, gives you the ability not to just diagnose, but then to prescribe a course of action.
CB: Yeah, I mean that was always, I mean historically in the Hellenistic period, just thinking about primarily the period that I’m most familiar with, which is like the earliest phase of the Western tradition that’s recognizably Western astrology, that uses, you know, birth charts especially with planets, signs, houses, and aspects, and that, that fourfold system that came together in the first century BCE in the Mediterranean.
Yeah, it’s like you had different approaches because sometimes you did have a purely stoic approach, and most of the astrologers tended to echo that approach, which was simply that the purpose of astrology is to gain foreknowledge of the future in order to better understand the things that you have to accept about your fate, in order to be forewarned.
And, basically from a stoic perspective, just learn how to accept those things ahead of time so you’re not completely caught off guard when they happen. And that’s kind of it, at least for some astrologers, that was it, and it’s like there’s a period there and that’s the end of the sentence, and that’s the purpose of astrology.
But there were other people where and there were other traditions of astrology where, for example, there was medical astrology which was used to diagnose, but also sometimes to treat medical issues.
And then, as you said, there was remedial measures which is the branch that takes a different approach to astrology, which is more like: these are the indications for what you have, for let’s say positive and negative things in your life, or in your birth chart, or in your future. But here are the things, once you know that, have that knowledge, that you can do in order to mitigate, or counteract, or basically alter the future, or offset it and change it so that the trajectory is different than what it would be otherwise if you didn’t intervene.
AC: Yeah, well, and that’s the, I guess I, remediation is a good word, but there’s also, you could also think of it as optimizing.
CB: Hm hmm.
AC: Right, because there’s also, we’ve got this good thing, you know, turn that up to eleven, right [laughs]. But, yeah, and so it’s optimizing in a sense that you’re trying to minimize the difficulties augured, and maximize the, you know the desirables that are equally or similarly augured.
But yeah, I think that’s really important that when you look at the Hellenistic material you can really see both of those streams. And it’s a little harder, I think, to see the more remedial in some of the Hellenistic texts, because there’s a little bit of, first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club with magic in most cultures.
Like people believed in magic in that time period. That doesn’t mean that everyone was totally cool with sorcerers.
AC: Right. [laughs] Legally and, or otherwise. And, you know, as I’ve brought up a number of times, you can see with Firmicus [Julius Firmicus Maternus], for example, where he’ll edge up against a type of knowledge which was received in secret, maybe, you know, it may be part of a mystery cult thing that he was part of, and then he’ll be like, yeah, and we can’t talk about that.
And you wonder, it makes you wonder how many people were just not even bringing it up. You know, with Firmicus, in particular, I’m talking about his section on the decans, where he’s like: oh yeah, you know, this is how you figure out the dignity, and this is how this works. Oh, and by the way, there are thirty-six invincible gods living here to which everything is subject, but we’re not going to talk about that right now. [laughs]
CB: Right. Yeah, or sometimes political things where he would say like, fate controls everything, and once you know your birth [chart], like astrology, you can make predictions about anybody’s life, and know the future, and know their fate. And then he says, except for the emperor, nobody can talk about the emperor’s birth chart, and then that’s the end of it, and he moves on.
AC: Yeah, yeah, I know, I actually reread that the other day. Yeah, that’s some, that’s some pretty epic ass-covering.
CB: Right. [laughs]
AC: But, I mean it’s good advice, especially, you know, what, because he’s fourth century, right. They’d had some crazy emperors by the time they got to the fourth century.
CB: Right. Well, and Firmicus was living in a time that was an important turning point both for astrology and magic where the empire was transforming into Christian empire. Where Christianity was officially taking over in Firmicus’s lifetime, when Constantine legalized Christianity, that ended up having a negative, sort of side effect for both astrology and magic.
And that was one of the points that was interesting in Lee’s essay that made me realize how intertwined, even though they were oftentimes separate disciplines – astrology and magic – that would overlap, or intersect, that often their fate became the same in different eras. Where, you know, if astrology was flourishing, magic was also sometimes flourishing. And when astrology was taking a hit, or going underground, or being pushed underground again, then magic was also, oftentimes doing the same thing.
AC: Yeah, very much. You find them in the same spaces.
CB: Sure. So circling back around, then, part of the, it’s like in natal astrology, especially in the Hellenistic period, there’s so much of a focus on fate, and often the philosophy is so stoic in orientation that the astrologers, like Valens, or Firmicus are often just saying that the purpose of setting your birth chart is just to figure out your fate so you know what to accept.
But the place where that’s oftentimes and where magic seems much more relevant is within the context of another branch of the four branches, which is electional astrology, which, I think, most people would agree is probably the most magical of the four branches of the astrological tradition. And that seems like the area where magic, both philosophically and practically speaking, often becomes the most relevant within the context of electional astrology. Would you say that’s accurate?
AC: Yeah, I think that’s deeply true. So two points on that: one, there’s no astrological magic without very precise elections [laughs]. Like that’s what you need, like you, there’s literally a rigorous protocol for doing any astrological magic that’s an electional protocol.
And then, two, on a bigger, broader, deeper, older level, if we’re, if we look at what human beings have been doing with timing via the sky, they have been timing ritual, they’ve been timing, you know, religious, magical, spiritual, whatever you want to call it, observance, and ritual by the sky, by the stars for as long as we have any evidence of human beings building things, right?
Like Stonehenge is [laughs], Stonehenge is geared to a certain part of the sky, at a certain part of time. The pyramids, all of the, all of these oldest structures that we have are sky aligned, right? And that means that you, and they’re sky aligned so that this, you know, this star comes through this gate at this time of the year, which is the time when you’re supposed to do the blah, blah, blah ritual, right?
So that like, that intersection between electional timing and ritual is as old as anything we know about human beings.
CB: Right. And even like the decans, for example, in Egypt there’s this funny debate that happens sometimes in the academic sources where they argue about whether, or at what point the decans started being used for astrological purposes in the Egyptian tradition. But that very early on they were using the decans in order to time certain, like religious rituals at night, and this question about whether that’s already an astrological, or magical use of the decans going back to like 2000 BCE?
AC: Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, it is, I think it’s important to both appreciate the time, depth, and scope of electional, in a loose sense, but also to differentiate when this star arises, you know, when this star arises immediately after the sun sets, at this time of year we do this.
Versus, you know, doing hard electional, like we would. Like, alright, we want the Ascendant with a benefic on it, this planet needs to be in its exaltation, or rulership, its ruler needs to be good if it’s in its exaltation.
You know, like that [laughs], like that kind of, like what we would recognize as electional.
CB: Sure. But it’s still, it like philosophically goes back to, and this is where it seems like electional opens up astrology potentially to that intersection between astrology and magic, and going back to that question of: once you know the future, what do you do about it?
And part of the purpose of electional astrology, it seems like from very early on, from like the first century CE where we have one of the earliest electional texts that survives from Dorotheus of Sidon, he has instructions for if you want this outcome, or if you want this result, then initiate the action at a time in which the planets and the stars are aligned in this way.
So that you’re almost deliberately trying to manipulate, or to sort of pick what the future will be based on starting at a moment when the stars are aligned in a specific way. And there’s like an element of almost choice, or sort of free will, or whatever you want to call it that’s built into that, the basic assumption of what you’re trying to do there, on the one hand.
So it’s like the an approach to astrology that makes room for free will, but also an approach to astrology that says that astrology works in such a way that you may be able to control, to some extent, or to manipulate the future if you’re simply aware of, and you pay attention to, and you make deliberate choices about when to act.
AC: Yup. Exactly.
CB: And that’s very similar, essentially, to magic, then, and that’s where you start getting major overlaps, basically, right?
AC: Right. Well, and the idea is, okay, so if you have some power to choose, right, then how do you maximize that?
And, you know, one thing that’s interesting just in this, in the context of the Hellenistic era, you know, there is a tremendous belief in fate, and because of that, there is also a tremendous effort to figure out how to get around that [laughs].
If you look at what the Gnostics were doing, what certain Gnostic sects were doing, and what we have evidence that some of the magicians during that time were doing, there’s a lot of like trying, appealing to powers which are thought to be above fate, or above fate, or astral fate is, you know, how it’s often translated, right, to figure out, you know, again, yeah to make good, or to rise to the level of powers which are situated above what the planets decree.
CB: Right. Because the planets became closely, by that era, the Hellenistic era, by the first century BCE, let’s say the planets became associated with fate, and became interchangeable with fate. And that is why I actually subtitled my book, Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate And Fortune, because part of my thesis was that Hellenistic astrology became the primary tool with which, that people used to study the fate of an individual, in general.
But then you’re right, there became, once Hellenistic astrology got really huge, there was this interesting, sort of philosophical and religious, and sort of metaphysical pushback from different traditions that sought to try to teach you how you could free yourself of fate, how you could get out of the control of fate, or out from under the control of the planets, and therefore change your future and change your life rather than just accepting it. And one (–)
AC: Right. Well, and I think, actually, sorry, go ahead, finish your point.
CB: I was going to say, just that, so then you’re right that then there were many different, like magical and philosophical, and sometimes occult traditions that tried to address that.
But then interestingly, it’s like one of the, I’ve read there’s been some treatments, like over the past century, but especially in the past decade, or so, of early Christianity. And one of the like underlying things that seems really evident to me, and that people are really careful about mentioning it, but it seems really clear that a lot of the early versions of Christianity, that one of the things that was appealing to Christianity, about Christianity to people living in the Roman Empire in the first two centuries is it said that, if you do this, if you accept Christianity, you can free yourself from fate.
And so one of the interesting, like weird historical, it’s not paradox, but interesting, little historical truths, potentially, is that part of the reason that Christianity became as popular as it did is it provided a sort of alternative to astrology, and the conceptualization of fate that was so prevalent in that time period.
AC: Yeah, absolutely. And you, you know, the names of some of the prominent archons in early Gnostic Christianity are the names of the planets.
AC: You know the controlling powers which keep you stuck in the demiurge’s flawed creation are the planets. [laughs]
And so, you know, there are a variety of basically rising above and through the gates of the planets to get beyond the planets.
AC: And so, and you can see some of that echoed even in, even in the initiatory structure of the Golden Dawn and Golden Dawn derived traditions like Crowley’s Thelema, where there’s a tree of life structure where the, most of the spheres are associated with planets, and the progress of the initiate is through those spheres and beyond them, right out to the sphere of the fixed stars, and beyond.
And so we have this, you know, this persistent attempt to try to access, access a truth, or a power beyond that of the planets.
CB: Right. And so some of that was like, sort of philosophical and religious, but then there was this other undercurrent that was more practical in the magical tradition. And that sort of brings me back, actually, to a question I want to ask you, which is the question: Then is electional astrology inherently magical?
Because I think you could maybe argue that either way, but I think you might argue that it is, or would you argue that it’s inherently magical?
AC: I think you could argue that either way, really depends on which term you want to use for magic.
You know, part of the problem why everybody has to define magic, whenever they’re talking about it, is because it’s a complicated, complex thing, a set of things, and we really need a better vocabulary [laughs].
Right, you know, if you’ve never seen snow, one word for snow is enough. But if you lived in Wisconsin growing up, like I did, you want to know, you want to have a word for slush versus like light, fluffy snow, versus like heavy wet.
And so, you know, with magic it’s not one simple thing. And so because we’re kind of stuck in, most conversations using an imprecise term, we have to keep redefining it [laughs]. And so by some definitions, yes it is, and by other definitions, no.
AC: But it’s certainly like its intersection with magic, both philosophically, or its, you know, philosophically, theoretically, and practical, practically is right there.
CB: Sure, I mean to the extent, I guess I would say if you’re, it depends on what you’re using electional astrology for. But if you’re making the basic presumption that people have free will, that you can use the planets, and you can use timing in order to change the outcome, or manipulate the outcome and make it different than it would be otherwise, there’s a lot of overlap there with the same presumptions that people that are involved in magic are making, and sometimes using the same things.
I guess there is probably a version of electional astrology that’s not like that, though, where sometimes with Dorotheus, and some of the early Hellenistic authors, it seems like they’re more using it purely for prognostic purposes in order to say, if somebody initiates this action at X time, then this will be the outcome. And you’re just using that purely to make predictions, you know, about the future based on when people initiate things, and it’s not actively using it in order to attempt to control, or manipulate the future, so much as just to know the future.
But to the extent that if you are, and much of the later electional tradition did use it in order to actively change things or control things, in some way that seems like more of a, something closer to a magical application then anything.
AC: Yeah, well, and in the sense that most of the time, or almost a hundred percent of the time we’re talking about magic, we’re talking about exerting indirect control over a situation. Right, like there’s no reason, there’s no direct causal link between, I burn some incense and say some words in my room, and my finances improve, right?
And there’s no direct link between, Oh! I started this book at 2:30 on a Tuesday, rather than I started it at 4:30 on a Wednesday. Yet, the idea is that the action has an effect on the endeavor, right, or the situations. So if we do an indirect power or control definition of magic, then electional is most certainly magic.
CB: Sure. And does that, I mean does the conceptualization of, like in modern, like psychological astrology, let’s say, astrology is often conceptualized within the context of something like synchronicity where there’s like a causal sort of correlation between celestial movements and earthly events.
And the sort of cliché analogy that’s often used is that, just like a, the clock on the wall says that it’s, you know, eight o’clock at night, right now, but the clock itself is not the cause or the reason that it’s eight o’clock at night; it’s just reflecting what’s actually, what time it is.
That the planets are similarly just reflecting what’s happening on earth, or happening in your life, for whatever reason, even though they’re not causing it. Does astrological magic make the presumption that astrology is more causal in nature, or that there is some power, or influence that the planets have, or is that, you know, something that’s even open for debate, or where there’s disagreements about?
AC: Yeah. I would say the implication is that there is some type of causality, obviously a more subtle causality, a causality where we can’t see the links of the chain at this level. But it would be very difficult to argue magic from a purely synchronistic point of view.
You know, like maybe there’s a way to get there, but if the magic works, and if electional works, then I think that synchronicity is not enough of a model. I think the synchronicity piece is a piece, but I don’t think it’s enough.
CB: Right. I think that makes sense. And that’s where, obviously there’s a lot of overlap in terms of the astrological tradition, especially in the medieval period, or from the time of Ptolemy, onwards, where there was more of a causal conceptualization of astrology, and some of the magical traditions, the medieval period, which were trying to conceptualize the sort of the force, or the energy, or the effect of the planets.
And there you would see astrology, or magic, sometimes, as a result of like a natural, I forget the term that was used, but it’s used a few times in the book in different essays, but like as a, not a natural science, but sort of a natural phenomenon in some ways.
AC: Yeah, they call it, natural magic, or natural philosophy.
AC: And that’s part of how Agrippa got away with writing about astrological magic. We’re not summoning spirits, that’s oof! That’s, you know, that’s a bridge too far. We’re just making use of the natural, you know, the structure of God’s creation, right, you know, the world’s set up this way.
Just like you can make use of the weight of a rock to keep your papers from blowing away, you can make use of the power of Mars, you know, to do X, Y, and Z.
CB: Right. And that’s how some of the, like Christian astrologers and theologians during the medieval and Renaissance periods got away with it. Or that was the rationalization that astrology had power, or the planets had the power to influence like the body and physical world. But that our spirit, or our soul was still free, and that as long as astrology was only dealing with like natural, or physical matters, like as an extension medicine, or natural science, that it was acceptable to the church. But that if it started divergent, going to other areas, then it became problematic with sort of the church authorities?
AC: Yeah. And, you know, and from a paradigmatic level, you know, astrology the, you know, the power of the planets and stars was one mysterious force among many. You know, they didn’t have a, they didn’t have this presumption to know everything, and so, you know, is it really that different? It’s a little bit more interesting then, you know, the force of gravity, right? [laughs] But it’s, again it’s one mysterious force among many.
AC: And so, I mean in terms of what I think a lot of the astrological, actually I got a couple of things to say.
So one, that makes you talking about the rationale of church fathers, or medieval church fathers, the Scholastics, makes me think of the Hygromanteia [The Magical Treatise of Solomon, 15th century], which is, I think a, it’s either 14th or 15th century grimoire. And in that there are prayers to the planets, you know, there are planetary conjurations and they’re all addressed as: God set you in your course to do this, this, this, and this.
You know, Hey! remember, you know, and sort of, how should we say, by praying to powers above the planet that are nonetheless responsible for its power, doing a little bit of like: Give me nice things and don’t hurt me.
Which resonates with the conception in some schools of Vedic astrology that, which is, well it’s in the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, that all of the planets are incarnations of Vishnu, that Vishnu, the sustainer, incarnated as all the planets at once, in order to keep the universe going and to manage things, right, to manage things here on earth.
But they are, you know, they are, should we say, single embodiments of our avatars of a power which is superior to them.
AC: Because, you know religions and different spiritual lamas they’re always trying to have to figure out how to recognize the planet’s power without making the planets their only gods.
CB: Right. Well and that actually becomes one of the primary issues, or became one of the primary issues with like astrology and Christianity, or some of the monotheistic religions is that it really, a lot of the magical astrological traditions and the harkening back to different polytheistic societies like in Mesopotamia, and these views of the planets as being gods, and being alive, or ensouled, or being intelligent in some way.
And you still in the medieval period, it seems like in some of the astrological magical texts, some of which, like in Van Dyke’s essay he gives some translations, which is actually a really fascinating part of the book is he actually translates some excerpts from some astrological magical texts.
And one of the points that’s made, and one of the points actually that you make in your essay, is just that the planets, and the stars, and other celestial bodies are treated like entities that are alive and intelligent, and that you can interact with, or have some relationship with, in some way?
AC: Absolutely. Yeah the unstated implication of a lot of that material is a worldview that is at least, in part, what we might call animist. That, you know, we are not, that human beings are not the only points where mind and spirit intersect with matter. And that, you know, it’s easy to extend that to animals, but, you know, and this is actually, you know, that this is actually built in to a lot of medieval stuff, right, you know you’ve heard of like, oh, human beings have a rational soul, and an animal soul, and a vegetative soul. What that means that they are vegetative souls [laughs]. Right. Or in even a mineral soul, and this is the worldview inherent to alchemy, as well as a lot of other things.
But, you know, in order to get the planets attention, in order to, you know, create a talisman, or to do a conjuration, or approach for a specific purpose, you talk to the, the conjurations are written: Hey you, I know you, you’re like this, etc, etc.
CB: Right. Addressing the planet itself directly?
AC: Yeah, yeah. And in my experience you get a huge response when you do that at the right time. It’s quite overwhelming.
CB: Sure. So that the premise, then, is that there’s sometimes when, if you do it at the appropriate astrologically auspicious time, or let’s say, in this context, astrologically auspicious means a time in which that planet is prominent and well-placed astrologically, let’s say, in a chart, or in the sky that you have a better chance of interacting, or receiving an answer, or of getting what you want, or getting a response that’s favorable that you’re looking for?
AC: Yeah, exactly. Well, and you know, it’s the other side of a coin that we’re already familiar with as astrologers, which, you know, that certain planets have way more influence at certain times, right.
If, you know, and so, and we interpret that in natal charts, you’re like, Oh! Saturn was rising in Capricorn as this person was born. Saturn had a lot more power during that birth moment window.
Or when we’re doing scheduling, right, like, you know, we [laughs], you and Kelly and I, you know, do some light electional on all of our podcasts. We did for this, we’re like, oh, I would like a time where Jupiter is, has much more influence and maybe not Pluto. Or, maybe, you know, let’s stay away from that Mars.
And so, that’s just, that’s what we’re doing, we’re figuring out who, you know, which planets have the greatest influence, and in a sense will be the most present at a given time, and then we’re using that to connect to them.
CB: Right. And it’s like astrologers are doing that, partially, on the most general level just under the premise that, that planet and the qualities we associate with it will be the most characteristic at that time. So that if somebody is born with, you know, Saturn and Capricorn rising, and Saturn on the Ascendant that the characteristics we associate with Saturn will be more prominent to their life in various ways.
But in astrological magic, it seems one of the interesting and very specific applications is sometimes there’s an attempt to not just use electional to initiate things, but sometimes to like capture, and to hold the sort of energy of that moment permanently (–)
AC: Well that’s the, that’s the talismanic.
CB: Right. And that seems to be the area where astrology and magic sort of come together the most thoroughly is in the practice, or the use of talismans?
AC: Yeah, I would say that that’s kind of the grand art, because it, the successful creation of a talisman draws on all of the ritual structure you would use for, you know, for various appeals, or planetary prayers.
You know, it brings in the incense, it brings in all sorts of things, you bring all of that in, and then you also bring in your full electional powers. Because if you’re going to keep the power of the planet, at that time, then you’re going to, just like with a birth chart, you’ll get to see every perfection and imperfection play out for as long as you possess that talisman.
Whereas, if you do like we call a conjuration, or appeal, or a call, where you’re like, yeah, Mars is pretty good, I’m going to do a ritual so that this Mars’y thing happens in my life. Or I’m going to do a Venus thing for money, because it rules my second house, and, you know, whatever, that there’s sort of one off structure.
But then there’s also, excuse me, but then there’s also the talismanic, and with a one off you’re just trying to make one thing happen; it’s not permanent, you haven’t anchored it in a durable body, although there are exceptions.
Most talismans are made of stone and metal which are the most durable things that [laughs], that we encounter, right. A stone will probably outlive you; a stone will probably outlive me. So you’ve got to be really, really thoughtful about the election, because you’ll keep the errors.
And I, and everybody else whose practice I know who’s been at this for a while have totally made things with side effects that were not acceptable and destroyed the talisman. Be like, oh, I can get away with this. No, you can’t.
I have a friend who made a talisman for a very benefic star, with Jupiter on top of it, but retrograde Mars was squaring that from the Ascendant. This person, and there’s some, I won’t get into the whole thing, but basically this person, within a little bit of wearing it, fell down the stairs and broke their leg and couldn’t walk for six months. And it was easily seen in the election, in retrospect.
And so, so yeah it’s, you know, it’s saving a moment of perfection, and it’s something I’ve struggled with, well it’s something that anybody who practices the art will struggle with, because you’re like, no, oh it’s so good, everything else is so good, it’ll be fine. [laughs]
But, you know, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve seen people make mistakes, and I’m a little bit concerned when I see astrological magic seems to be having a moment, and a lot more people are interested, and I see some things on social media, and I see the elections, and I’m like: Oh, don’t do that.
Like don’t, that’s going to have, this works and so don’t worry about it working, or not working; as long as you do the protocol correctly it’ll work. And you’re much more, I think because people don’t, they don’t maybe, they don’t really “believe,” because they haven’t seen it. Because when you can, when you’ve just done this a bunch of times, and you see what it does and what it doesn’t do you’re not believing, you just have knowledge and experience.
But when, you know, there’s a bit of skepticism for anything, especially for something kind of amazing, or magical, or miraculous, when you haven’t done that. You’re like, well, you know, whatever, maybe it’ll do something, maybe it won’t, let’s just do this.
And, yeah, and I want people to be more careful with their elections, because I see some elections where I know there will be weird blowback, and side effects.
CB: Right. It’s like one of those weird stories like a, that’s like a proverb, I can’t think of the right term right now, but just, yeah, if you’re literally, if your premise is that you’re creating a chart, and you’re capturing the energy of that moment, or whatever it is about that moment that has certain qualities, and then you’re making it permanent, and you’re keeping it with you, and that’s going to then interact with your life, and have some impact on altering the course of your life from that moment forward, that sometimes there can be unintended side effects.
AC: Yeah, you don’t just get what you ask for, you get what that planet is in position to provide.
CB: Right. It’s like the classic, like the story of like, you know, the genie and they grant you a wish, and then you get exactly what you wished for, but there’s some like catch to it where, it’s like literally what you asked for instead of metaphorically, or something like that?
AC: Yeah, I would say it’s more like the genie, that which is probably going to be a planet, or star. Mars is like, I’m only setting things on fire right now. You’re like, I would like this, this, and this, and he’s like: Okay, I will set things on fire.
CB: Right. [laughs]
AC: Right, like they’re, the Picatrix is very clear like, ask the planets what they can provide at the moment that you’re asking. Right, like don’t, you know, there’s like general principle stuff, it’s like: Hey, don’t ask Saturn for Venus things; don’t ask Venus for Saturn things, and don’t ask, you know, don’t ask Mars for going forward swiftly and, swiftly and effectively when it’s going retrograde, right? Don’t, you ask what the planets are providing anyway, and then you, you know, you catch that rain in a barrel.
CB: Sure. Well, and it’s the classic issue that all electional astrologers run into very early on in their studies and their practice of electional astrology, even outside of magical purposes, which is that a) you, there’s never a perfect electional chart. That there’s always going to be something, even if you have some great things in the electional chart, there’s going to be some drawbacks, or there’s going to be some things that are, that could be better, or that are problematic, and what sort of impact those negative things are going to have on what you’re trying to accomplish, or what your goal is.
And then secondarily the issue of how does the electional chart, even it’s an amazing election as a standalone chart, how does it interact with your own birth chart, and therefore, how is it going to impact your life, in particular, just aside from the electional chart as a sort of thing unto itself.
AC: Yeah. And the, what should we say, the degree to which planetary talismans and a person’s birth chart interact is interesting, because it’s not just through the birth chart. You’ll get just that, especially like, for example, if you did a ring when Saturn was in its single degree of exaltation in Libra, you’re going to get a lot of just global Saturn effects, exalted Saturn effects from that.
You’ll probably also get a secondary ping on whatever house Libra is for you. And you might also see some, you might also see it influencing some events in wherever, whatever the house, whatever houses Capricorn and Aquarius end up in, but you will get just the general thing. And in a lot of cases it doesn’t, how should we say, it doesn’t matter that, it’s a secondary consideration, except when it’s right on top of something.
Like I had a Mars exaltation piece done several years ago, and it just so happens that my descendant is right next to, is right next to the exaltation degree of Mars, and it just never sat right with me, it just never, really, it was never a piece that I could wear, or felt like I could cohere with energetically. I think that’s the only one of everything that I’ve ever done.
And there was nothing, the election is great, it’s just that its intersection with my chart is very awkward.
CB: Sure. And I mean I don’t want to lead too far away from the topic of talismans, but just raises some other issues that I meant to ask. Which is, one, so do you think, I mean just as a general question, so you think, if you believe that magic works, or you’ve seen magic work in your own life?
AC: Oh, hundred percent. It’s as real as astrology.
CB: Sure. And I ask that just as, from an outsider’s perspective as somebody that just does astrology, and that’s all I’ve ever been into, and have never studied, for the most part the magical, or otherwise, occult traditions.
Did you, so that raises another question in terms of your background: which did you get into first, astrology or magic, or was it at the same time?
AC: Astrology was first by about two years. And so astrology, I think I was about nineteen, and then magic was more like, maybe twenty-two, twenty-three, and then mid-twenties I had my, my, holy crap, this is real, with astrology at maybe twenty-two and twenty-three. But, you know, I’d been into it for a while. But, you know, it’s like, oh my God this is like really, really real.
AC: And then I had my, holy crap this is real, with magic maybe like maybe twenty-five, twenty-six.
CB: And were they separate things, because if you’re, like you’re studying like modern magic that’s largely not necessarily astrological in nature, and did you have to find your own way to synthesize those, or do you treat them separately for a long time, at first?
AC: Well the first stuff I, this is true for a lot of people, a lot of people who got into magic, who are around my age, picked up a book called, Modern Magick, by Donald Michael Kraig, and there’s a bunch of stuff in there, and [laughs], to do, and I did a bunch of stuff. And there’s a little bit of planetary stuff, but it’s basically like Golden Dawn stuff, and so that was very interesting, and it did a lot of things.
But it really wasn’t that I also, I don’t know, I think mid-twenties, I got a book called, Planetary Magick by [Melita] Denning and [Osborne] Phillips, which I think was written in the 70s, which is a very 20th century take on planetary magick, and didn’t really have any electional requirements, which is a problem. And so a lot of the stuff, it would do stuff, but it wasn’t like, it wouldn’t, it didn’t create events, it didn’t echo outward into clear events in my life that you could point at.
You know, the turning point, and I think this is a turning point for astrological magic period, was the publication of the Picatrix, and I got, so I think I can share this as a story.
So when I first met William Kiesel in 2007, in Seattle, who’s the owner of Ouroboros Press, which had the Arabic version of the Picatrix, or the Ghayat Al-Hakim, that was the first English translation. And then [Christopher] Warnock, and [John Michael] Greer published some years later, and they did a translation, very clean translation from (–)
CB: Do you remember, do you remember what year the Ouroboros version was published? That was like 2004, or 2003, or earlier?
AC: Well, so the books one and two, and books three and four were published separately. So there’s Volume One, and I think Volume One was around 2004, and Volume Two was, I believe, 2008.
And so, but anyway, when I first met William, in the flesh, basically he handed me the first half of the Picatrix, which was all those published, and he says, ‘I think you’ll know what to do with this.’
AC: And so (–)
CB: What year was that?
AC: That was 2007, I think that was maybe September of 2007.
AC: And so I immediately, I went home and I read the whole thing. And, you know, I was looking and I’m not sure exactly what all this means, but I think I get it. And there was a, there was this nice Venus election. I think I got Venus in Libra on the rising, in a trine with the Moon in Aquarius, you know, free from malefic aspect, and day and hour, and all that.
And so I did this Venus thing, and I was like, alright, what’s going to happen? And within the next few days, I was given like several hundred dollars of gift certificates to eat at different restaurants. And Kate was given, Kate got like an all-expenses paid weekend away, for, I don’t even remember what reason.
And also the process of doing it just, I felt suffused with the Venus and Libra energy, I was like, oh, this is amazing! You know the point is not just to make yourself feel a certain way, but that happens along the way.
But anyway, yeah, I was like, you know, I just basically hit the Venus in Libra button, and literally got cash in prizes, and I was like, alright, let’s do more! [laughs]
And, you know, I’d done planetary stuff before, but I’d never gotten, I had interesting experiences and insights into the sphere of Venus, or whatever, but I hadn’t gotten like an immediate feedback, right, from my external life.
CB: Sure. Okay, so let’s talk about that, because that’s really important from a historical standpoint, especially if anybody is ever listening to this at some point in the future. Because I think there’s an interesting sequence of events, and now that your book has come out, it’s an interesting completion of that sequence of events.
But there was this, like a mythical book, which is the Picatrix, which is like this medieval, it was like the medieval text on astrological magic, like the most important and most influential one. And no modern translations of it existed until the mid-2000s when William Kiesel got together with a translator, and they translated it and published, like you said, book one, the first part of it by, at least 2004, if not earlier. Because I actually remember living in Seattle in 2004, 2005, and it had just come out. I actually (–)
AC: It was three or four.
CB: Three or four, okay. And I met William Kiesel, actually working at a bookstore in Seattle around that time, and I remember seeing the book. So that book came out, and then the other part came out a few years later.
And then a few years after that, in 2010, Christopher Warnock and John Michael Greer got together and did another translation of the text, and published that in 2010, from I think the Latin translation of the Picatrix, right?
AC: Yeah. And so the, one way to differentiate, I’ll usually just say Latin or Arabic Picatrix, but it was really the Latin that was known as the Picatrix, whereas the Arabic was titled the Ghayat Al-Hakim, or The Goal Of The Wise.
And they’re not, the Latin is not a straight translation of the Arabic; it is in some places, but there are pieces missing, pieces added. There’s some meaningful differences if you want to get really nerdy about it.
CB: Sure. And there was some sort of catch with those two translations, though, where it was like the earlier one by Ouroboros was translated from the Arabic, by an Arabic translator, but there was some sort of issue where he might not have been as familiar with the astrology as he could have been. And therefore, if I’m understanding correctly, and I hope I’m not, some people have questioned sort of the fidelity of the translation just due to the translator and their background in astrology.
Versus later, Christopher Warnock and John Michael Greer who both have major backgrounds in magic and astrology translated the text again from the Latin version, which is not necessarily, as you’re saying, you know, isn’t quite as the same as the original Arabic versions since it’s Latin translation of the Arabic version. But they had much more thorough and solid background in astrology and magic, and therefore were able to improve in some ways from that perspective.
AC: Yeah, it’s a cleaner translation in a lot of ways.
CB: Okay. So that was a major watershed moment, the publication of that text over the course of the past, whatever, fifteen, twenty years now. And that’s, you know, provides, because that’s one of the first times that you get a text that was published, I guess up to that point the only other major text that was available would have been the work of Agrippa, right?
AC: Yeah, yeah. And, I mean there’s good stuff in Agrippa, but the Picatrix is the mother lode, I don’t think there’s any dispute from anyone, anywhere about that. It’s really what’s made the, it’s really what’s made it possible for astrological magic to reemerge during this time period.
CB: Sure. So, and that’s also taking place within the context of the broader revival of traditional astrology, in general. And you have, you know, things like Project Hindsight translating some of the Greek works, in the 1990s, but then more recently over the past decade, Benjamin Dykes translating, you know, just dozens of (–)
AC: Everything. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, pretty much everything, medieval and Arabic era texts on astrology, which would’ve been then contemporaneous with the Picatrix, and that, in and of itself revived the practice of traditional astrology, or traditional medieval and Hellenistic astrology.
And Renaissance astrology which then allows, so that there’s like a group of astrologers now that are well-versed in traditional astrology and can pick up a text like the Picatrix, and actually understand from a technical, astrological standpoint, what it’s recommending, and why it’s recommending those things.
AC: Yeah, the logic of the elections is in most cases crystal-clear.
CB: Sure. And that text, one of the essays is by Benjamin Dykes, and he kind of talks about the geographical area that, that text came from, and like the group of people that produce it, or have thought to have produced it, right?
AC: Yeah, the Sabians of Harran.
CB: Right. So what’s the sort of short version of the story with them?
AC: Okay, short version. So Harran no longer exists, there are few ruins, but it’s basically right around would be the Syrian-Turkey border, right now. And so during the period of, the caliphate period, it was just over the border, it was basically just over the border from the Byzantine Empire, but it was part of the caliphates, right.
Now there are a couple of things that we know. One, we know that the people who live there refer to Hermes as their prophet, and then that was, Hermes was syncretized with an Old Testament prophet, and so even though they were not devout Muslims, they were allowed to exist within the caliphate as long as they basically paid the heretic tax, right, because, you know, it’s not like everybody was forced to convert to Islam during that period.
It was like, Islam was in political power, but then you were allowed to be of a sect that was of an earlier revelation, but from the same current, right. Like the, you know, the Jews were recognized as, you know, basically the Jews and the Christians were recognized as having, sort of being a legitimate branch of the family tree, just not as good, right; they hadn’t heard the latest news.
And so, anyway, but so you have the, the Sabians are like, we are Hermeticists, we think Hermes is our prophet. There were a lot of scholars that came over like, basically, Platonists, who came over during the purges in the Roman Empire when they were getting rid of the pagans who then, who came over and brought Platonic, and presumably Greek astrological material to Harran.
But what’s interesting, or what’s sort of crucial and fascinating is that Harran, Harran was an ancient, ancient place, it was of the, in the old Babylonian structure, that was where the Temple of the Moon was, the Temple of the Moon god.
And as far as Mesopotamian pagan survivals, right, Babylonian, which is going to give us this planetary magic flavor already, we know that they were openly celebrating the ritual death of Tammuz, every year.
So there, you know, this is not just a place that has some history, you obviously have some Mesopotamian, you know, pagan survival stuff, which again is explicitly planetary in a lot of cases, mixing with this Platonic-Hermetic point of view.
And so of course.
AC: Of course that’s where the Picatrix comes from [laughs].
CB: So you have this ancient, ancient city that has this, like long tradition stretching back to Mesopotamia where there’s still, even later, even once, like the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, and astrology and magic are on their way out, or have reached a low point and are being banned.
You have this like ancient city where polytheism, or some form of polytheism in planet worship still exists and is being practiced, and is fully integrated into the culture, and into the society in this really unique way. And they have different, like, sort of buildings set up for each of the planets for, like worship, and for ritual purposes.
AC: Yeah, I mean it’s, it’s amazing that, that just existed [laughs]. Like that sounds really fantastic. But that’s not, that’s not like I channel this information from the Atlanteans; there’s lots of scholarly work on this.
There’s, there’s actually a great book on Harran that I think was called, Temple of the Moon?
AC: But, yeah, so the, should we say the point of origination for the Picatrix is as interesting as the Picatrix, itself.
CB: Sure. So somehow, in that Harran, as you started to say, even when the Roman Empire became extremely hostile towards astrology, some of the astrologers, and some of the philosophers, like for example, after Justinian closed the last remaining pagan philosophical schools, or some of the last schools, some of the philosophers and the astrologers fled to Harran and ended up settling there, or close by.
And so you get the last vestiges of what survived of the astrological tradition sort of hold up in this, this city, this town, or this area that had this long, sort of polytheistic, astrological and magical tradition. And at some point, it’s thought that it’s from that city that this important work on astrological magic survived, or was created, the Picatrix?
AC: Yeah. And what’s interesting is some of the more, oh I don’t know how you’d say, like legitimate, or I don’t know if mainstream is the right word. The big name Arabic astrologers of that period, in their biographies they have like these periods where they spent a few years in Harran, and then went, you know, and then went to the big city, hung out with the, there it was, you know, it was a go to spot. There was probably, there’s probably a little bit of: What happens in Harran, stays in Harran.
CB: Sure [laughs]. Alright, so, yeah, there’s a lot of interesting, like cultural stuff and some of the essays discuss that, or discuss Harran, and its importance as a sort of cultural nexus, you know, during these periods when the Hellenistic tradition and the Roman Empire is on its way out, and the medieval Arabic tradition is in its, is ascending.
Yeah, so that’s the talismanic tradition. I’m trying to think of what other major magical applications are sort of relevant here, or where we need to go, what we haven’t covered so far.
AC: I think I’d like to talk about Demetra’s essay because, it’s magic, but it’s a different style, it’s not talismanic, it’s not necessarily done in the style of a conjuration of a planet with burning incense, and all that. It’s the astro-medical, right.
So Demetra’s essay, Demetra George’s essay is a translation and discussion of Thessalus of, it is Tralles?
CB: Yeah, Thessalus of Tralles. Something like that.
AC: Yeah, whatever, Thessalus. And in, so Thessalus’s work was one of the earliest planet herb magic, basically associating particular plants with planets and signs, and then using the, we can say, magical influence of the planets on those plants to create medicines of wondrous power.
And so here we have an intersection with an almost medical, alchemical approach, or a spagyric approach. And what’s really funny is, Thessalus gives as sort of the, you know, in his introduction, he said, listen, so I went down to – he’s a Greek guy – he said, yeah, I went down to, I went down to Egypt to try to get all the secrets, as, you know [laughs], as happened constantly during that time. I believe Valens has his own more bitterly toned recounting of going around Egypt trying to get the secrets.
And so he’s like, yeah, and I found, you know, and I found all of the, you know, I got the, I was taught this, which herbs with which plants, excuse me, which herbs with which planets. He’s like, and I wrote back home and I was like, I’m going to do miracles, you guys, you know, hold on, hold on to your seats.
And he goes back home, and it doesn’t work. And so then he goes to, and then, so, you know, while he goes to the corner to cry, and then he does a pilgrimage to the Temple of Asclepius, the god of medicine. And, so he does this dream incubation, which is common practice in certain temples, especially the Temple of Asclepius where you fast, and you do all this. And there’s ritual, and then you sleep in the temple and you have a dream-meeting with the god which gives you your cure, or, you know, tells you the answer to your question, right.
And it’s Asclepius is like, he says, listen, Nechepso and Petosiris knew a lot, but their knowledge was not divine, so you didn’t get the complete transmission. The thing that you’re missing is the timing of when to pick the herbs which are connected to the planets and signs. Because you got to harvest them when they’ve got the potency and at that elected moment, in order for this to work. Right.
And Thessalus says, and then I did that, and it worked great. The end.
And so, that’s really interesting, because again we have the electional component, as what makes the whole thing hum. That’s what I said when I was doing some of the more Golden Dawn derived planetary magic stuff that didn’t have the electional component. It’s not that it did nothing, but the whole thing didn’t really spark, you know, didn’t have that obvious, how should we say, that obvious echo in real events in my life.
And so we have that same sort of thing with the medical side, which is like, yeah, it’s kind of something, whatever, when you add the right elections to it, then the whole thing just shines.
CB: Right. So this is really important in terms of the, you know, another two fields that were independent fields where you have medicine, and then you have magic in the ancient worlds, but where sometimes, much more often, obviously, then in modern times, there would be overlap between those traditions, and that’s another major area.
And another major area that runs through the astrological tradition is the application of astrological magic to healing, as a process for healing and for medicine, in general. And that’s, you know, this is one of those early texts that deals with that, and it deals with the topic of, what it’s called, it’s called like the Hermetic Chain of Correspondences, or something like that.
Like I forget what the common term is for that of, you know, associating certain planets with certain stones, and certain herbs, and certain plants, and other things like that, in order to create sort of lists of associations.
AC: Right. Well, I mean, what you’re doing with a lot of astrological magic, that’s, you know, the golden chain of being, is your yanking on those chains, right.
Like if you’re, you know, if, for example, you’re doing a talismanic thing, you need the metal that corresponds to that planet, you need the stone that corresponds to that planet, you need the words that correspond to that planet, you need the colors, you need the plants in the form of incense which correspond to that planet. For some of them, you need pieces of an animal that corresponds to that planet. You need the time, the window of time that corresponds to that planet [laughs], right, you’re lining everything up, you’re making sure all of the links of the chain are there.
CB: Right. And that’s really important because that’s also here, in the Western astrological tradition, in like the medieval period, especially, and also in the Hellenistic and Renaissance traditions you have this close interaction between astrology and medicine, and this is where the topic of remediation comes in. And using remediation measures, especially from a medical standpoint, in order to seek, in order to balance out certain things in a person’s chart in order to promote health, and not just healing, but health and balance.
CB: And the idea that through things, like the concept of the humours or the temperaments, that it’s when people get out of balance and their basic temperament that, that’s when illness can take place, or when negative things can happen physically in terms of a person’s health.
And so there’s this desire to use astrology in order to identify the correct medicines, or plants to use in order to bring a person’s sort of constitution back into balance. And you see a lot of parallels between that and the Western tradition, and similar things that were also happening in the Indian tradition in terms of using astrology in that way for, sort of medical purposes.
AC: Yeah, the intersection of astrology and Ayurveda is a huge thing.
AC: So one thing I just wanted to point out, if anybody has the book, in Demetra’s essay, at the very, towards the end, she translates Thessalus’s healing, not healing, his harvesting prayer, because in addition to picking the right time to harvest the plants, there’s also basically like a harvesting prayer invocation to make that exactly right.
And, you know, usually there’s a particular kind of knife, or a knife composed of one substance, and another, etc, etc, and Kate and I have been using that, and it’s awesome. You know, because Kate’s been, Kate, my wife, for those who are not familiar, has recently started offering some of the stuff we usually just make for ourselves, and so she’s been gathering lots of materia, you know, lots of plants, and what not, [laughs] for different recipes, from the yard.
And so that’s, even though that’s like a part of a scholarly translation, that’s also a piece you can use if you do plant magic, at all.
CB: Sure. And so this is, we have some of that that survives in like the form of modern, like an apothecary where you can go and you can buy different herbs, and different things, and sometimes some of those people will be knowledgeable about the astrology behind it, and which plants are associated with certain planets, or what have you.
AC: Yeah, yeah. And I just love the, I feel like Thessalus is maybe more important than it seems, especially for people who are doing, you know, who are doing plant medicine. I’m, I’m not a, really very attuned to the plant realm. I get along well with animals and metal [laughs], the mineral and the animal work for me. I kind of don’t get it with plants.
But I know, I have a lot of people who are amazing herbalists, and I feel like Thessalus is, or the publication of, translation of Thessalus is, it’s sort of putting it back together for plant, astrological plant magic, in a way that the Picatrix puts it altogether for talismanic magic.
CB: Definitely, that makes sense.
And your wife, Kaitlin Coppock, her website is https://sphereandsundry.com/ where she’s doing some of that, right?
AC: Yeah, yeah. It was, it sort of came out of nowhere like two months ago. Because, you know, we do stuff, and people ask me, oh, will you make a thing for me, or do you take commissions, and the answer is always, No.
As you know, I don’t have enough time to do even what I already do [laughs].
AC: And, you know, I do stuff for me, I don’t know, I just, I just don’t feel like doing that.
But, but anyway, you know, Kait, and Kait’s also just an excellent craftsperson, craftswoman, she’s just attention to detail, and all that. And so for some of the stuff we were going to do anyway, she’s like, I’m going to make a bunch of extra stuff, and if people want to buy it, they can.
And it’s gone really well. It’s been a really interesting set of experiments, you know, doing only really careful elections, etc, etc,, and yeah, I’ve been really happy with all of the results, it’s a (–)
CB: Right. On the website (–)
AC: Like, and what’s funny, there’s an Asclepius piece, like thread that runs through this, so Demetra’s piece has, you know, or Demetra’s piece involves, basically, the transmission from Asclepius about plants and planets.
And then, and then I, in my essay, just happen to use Asclepius as an example for how you might, because, so one of the issues with stellar magic is you don’t have these awesome conjurations in the Picatrix for the different stars, like you do for the planets. I mean, that would be a whole volume, right, there are a lot of stars.
And I was talking about ways you might get around this. And I was like, well, you know, there’s some, you know, there’s some stars like Rasalhague, which is the key star in Ophiuchus, which to the Greeks was Asclepius. I was like so, if you’re going to do stellar magic with that star, why don’t you just use the Orphic Hymns to Asclepius, because it’s already written, right.
And then that was one of Kait’s first experiments was, let’s do some Asclepius stuff, which is sort of half reconstructed, you know, what did the people who honored Asclepius do, what were the associated woods, and flowers, and all that. And then half of it, let’s line it up with the primary star in the constellation they called, Asclepius.
And that was probably the, like everything, so far, has worked in the series, it’s done, it’s been as it should, and done as it should, but that, the Asclepius stuff was kind of an experiment, because that’s not in the books, but it’s using the principles. But that stuff was like mind-blowingly great.
It just feels, and it was so nice, because there’s so much poison this summer [laughs], you know, it’s not, the skies are not friendly, and so it’s been really cool to have some healing, like heavy healing potency [laughs], in the house.
CB: Sure. So, and just reading the description from her website, she says that Sphere and Sundry produces handcrafted, small batched, talismanic items on rare and potent astrological elections.
So it’s really reviving, you know, some of that process of using electional charts, and using magical elections for the purpose of creating, not just physical talismans, but also for creating herbal, sort of concoctions, and things for the purpose of healing, or balancing, or other things, like that?
AC: Right. Or like, for example with, we caught Mars at the exaltation degree, with a good supporting Moon, and nothing interfering, month and a half ago, and so, you know, she did Mars’ candles, for example. And you will probably see one in the background the next time we do the [laughs] Astrology Podcast.
But it’s like, there are, you know, so anybody when they’re doing Mars stuff is generally going to have a red candle, and red, to a certain degree, is going to make a correspondence to Mars. But this has got the herbs of Mars, this was literally poured and created after, you know, after a big conjuration of Mars while it rose in its exaltation.
So it’s just doing, bringing all the tools to bear, and you just get more potent stuff when you bring all of the elements to bear.
CB: Right. I always thought that, that was an interesting access point where, on the one hand, it’s like in a causal conceptualization of astrology you could understand that the premises that you’re creating something, at a moment when a planet is prominent, or strong, or, you know, whatever you want to call it in an astrological chart, and you’re literally conceptualizing it as attempting to capture something about the power of that planet.
But then, even in a, like a causal, or an acausal, or almost like a synchronistic view, you’re almost, you’re creating something and capturing something about the quality of that moment. Even if your premise of astrology is purely acausal, it’s almost kind of interesting, or, where you could almost see how that might work in the sense of capturing qualities of time.
But one of the things that you’re doing in order to ensure that you’re capturing one thing rather than another is you’re trying to deliberately go out of your way to pick certain materials. And in order to use things that invoke a certain planet through the notion that the, sort of symbolic, I mean I don’t know if it’s, maybe it’s not purely symbolic, but that the, you know, in your example, you’re using the example of like red, that you would want to use the color red, or make whatever it is, that you’re creating red in order to invoke that specific planet.
And that there’s specific herbs that you would use, or other materials, or substances that you would use that would also correspond to that planet in order to correctly invoke it, and capture it in that moment.
AC: Yeah, and also, well, so yes, and one way of thinking about it is you’re giving the, the spirit of that planet, of its potency, you’re giving it a body, right. So in a sense you’re ensouling an object, and so there has to be a body which can host that particular, whatever you want to call it, spirit, or power, or energy, or force, right.
And Mars like to be in a red body. You meet somebody with Mars on the rising, they’re going to tend to be red faced, right, you know [laughs], they’re going to like, they’re going to have more red to even their skin, then a person with Saturn on the rising, you know.
And so Mars likes red. Mars like iron. [laughs] Mars likes a variety of things. And so you wouldn’t like, we wouldn’t pour like sea-green, like sea-green candles scented with geranium, for Mars, right. Those are, that’s Venus [laughs]; Venus, whatever, the potency of Venus can live in that. But, you know, Venus wouldn’t want to live in like a red, the body of a red candle with a bunch of iron filings, and hot pepper in it [laughs].
CB: Sure. So to change the subject a little bit.
CB: I know we’re getting towards the end of this. So I want to make sure, like one of the points I wanted to address, or wanted to have you address is a question of, because astrology, because magic has not been a part of astrology for a long time, one of the questions is going to be: how do you deal with astrologers who either, that’s just not their thing, or where they actively don’t want it to be, astrology to be associated with magic, for various reasons.
So, for example, for a long time astrologers might not have wanted to be associated with magic due to, for religious reasons, let’s say, due to Christianity, or other religions where that’s, where magic is forbidden.
And therefore, some astrologers in the past have gone to great lengths to say that astrology is not magic, that it has nothing to do with magic, and, you know, that’s not it at all, to distance astrology from that.
Or, more recently, and that’s still going to be relevant. I mean, for some astrologers, especially, let’s say that are coming from a Christian background, maybe they might have issues with the idea that some astrologers are using astrology for magic.
But even more recently, in modern times, another relevant issue, or I can think of like a subset, or group of astrologers that might have a problem is maybe astrologers who would want to, or have wanted to distance astrology from magic, from the perspective of science. And to say that astrology is a real phenomenon, and that it’s scientific, or will be demonstrated to be scientific at some point in time, and that it does not have to do with magic, and that they want to distance astrology from magic for those reasons, you know, those seem like relevant concerns.
Or I would think that, at some point the discussion, that discussion’s going to come up as, you know, people like yourself and through the publication of this book, some of these practices become more prominent, like how that sort of discussion will play out in the astrological community.
AC: Yeah, that’ll be interesting. You know I don’t have a single response to that, to the variety of angles that you mentioned.
AC: I mean, yeah, I think my response would be critiques specific.
You know, I would say that astrology only makes sense, only truly fits into a world that is magical, and that magic and astrology are just different ways that we can see some of the more subtle functions and connections of the reality in which we have always lived, and that magic (–)
CB: Right. So that’s your (–)
CB: That’s your explicit, like theoretical, that’s your, you’d make that as an explicit argument that astrology does not make sense outside of a context in which something like magic exists, and that the two are co-mingled in that way.
And that they, astrology can work because magic can work, or because we live in a cosmos where something like magic is possible?
AC: Yeah, exactly.
CB: Okay. Good. Sorry for interrupting.
AC: Oh, no. Yeah, that’s, and that it’s not that astrology fits one hundred percent within a materialist conception of reality, but magic doesn’t, or vice versa. You know, they’re both rooted in a world that is stranger then has been recently advertised.
There are, you know, there are portions of astrology that makes sense, you know, that you can see. If you come from an empiricist, materialist point of view you can catch pieces of them, but that certainly doesn’t explain the whole thing.
And even if, you know, even if you can have, oh, you can test certain astrological claims statistically, and see that there is an effect there of the type claimed, that doesn’t tell you why. If that’s the case, then obviously your cosmology needs to grow beyond the materialist, because it doesn’t make any sense. You can see it statistically, but that paradigm still doesn’t hold it, right.
CB: Sure. So part of then, I guess, your work, or part of what you, I guess would set out to do, or part of what this book about, to some extent, is to revive some of the traditions, and the cosmology, and the understandings of the nature of the cosmos that created platform in which astrology and magic coexisted and had that intimate relationship, and sort of reanimating, or bringing some of that back to the modern world, to the early 21st century?
AC: I don’t know that I can take that on as a solo project [laughs].
CB: Sure. [laughs]
AC: It’s certainly something I think about all the time. I’m like, okay, you know, I mean that’s, we’ve talked about this. Like once you understand that astrology works, you’re like, okay, there’s some things I don’t know about how reality works, because it’s not supposed to be able to work.
AC: And I’m reminded of a quote by Peter Carroll, who is an important figure in, a movement in the 80s and 90s called, Chaos Magic. And he said, magic works in practice, but not in theory.
And I think that, that can be said of astrology, as well. Like, no it works, but I still don’t know why [laughs]. Is it synchronicity? Is it this? Is it that? I think it’s this, because there’s something there.
But, and that’s because our, you know, our cosmological options, right now, our metaphysics is pretty, pretty impoverished, and so we don’t even have, we’re still scrambling for ways of thinking about things that we can confirm work.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I mean, I mean that’s, the basic sequence is like astrology shouldn’t work; we all sort of know that going into astrology. It’s like modern people raised in modern society with a basic scientific understanding of the world, or at least of what our current cosmology is where [it] doesn’t really make room for something like astrology to exist.
But then eventually you get into it, you realize it does work, and then there’s this question of why, or how, and different astrologers come to different conclusions about that.
But for the most part it’s just, one of the weird things about the astrological community is that most astrologers are using this weird technology, and that they’re users of the technology that they otherwise, nobody has a fully, like one hundred percent answer of how it is that something like this is capable of working.
In the same way that, like maybe you could operate, like a car, or like a microwave without necessarily understanding exactly how it’s doing what it’s doing, you just know how to use it as a sort of tool.
AC: Exactly, and I think a really good metaphor for that comes from Gordon White of the Rune Soup Podcast, which we’ve both been on.
So when Gordon’s talking about magic, he’s like, in a lot of cases it’s like a manual for how to build a UFO; it’s alien technology, and if you follow the instructions you can get a UFO. You can fly it around, but it still doesn’t make sense [laughs], like you don’t know why it works, right. It’s not a theoretical treatise, it’s a how-to-build, it’s, you know, how to build a spaceship. And so you can follow it, but, you know, in a sense, the mind that designed that system, or the minds that designed that UFO are, understood things that you don’t, right, or else you would understand it.
And so I like the blueprint for an alien spacecraft, you know, it’s crash-landed, alien technology on a metaphorical level.
CB: Sure. Yeah, and I mean, so it’s of magic, and the understanding, or some of the philosophy underlying astrological magic becomes one of the ways that astrologers traditionally have understand and attempted to both explain. But also use astrology from a philosophical and metaphysical, or even a scientific standpoint this becomes sort of like an explanatory rationale for why astrology works.
But also, to some extent, dictates what you use it for and how you use it. And that you’re going to use it in order to do specific things rather than, you know, approaching it another way like the stoic way, or a purely, like modern psychological way.
The magical tradition provides this other sort of approach that has its own set of philosophies, or philosophical and cosmological understandings, as well as a set of practices, or procedures that have kind of come along with it.
AC: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think that’s right. And, you know, this is what I do. I don’t think everybody needs to do astrology this way, or needs to, you know, come at it from the same angle, etc, etc.
I, you know, again this is just like what I was doing anyway. And so, you know, my work grows out of what I’m interested in, and what I’m experimenting with, and, you know, what I [smiles], what I have to share.
But, you know, this doesn’t mean that, you know, magic shouldn’t, it shouldn’t and can’t replace, for example, astrology as a very powerful adjunct to psychotherapy; that’s a totally different thing, with different goals, right.
There are, yeah, there’s a lot of room in astrology, astrology touches many things. But it has been important to me to share with people that this is part of what astrology touches, this is part of the larger terrain of astrology, and that if you’re interested in this, this is a real thing, and a fascinating thing.
CB: Yeah, definitely. Well I think this book, I mean this book is amazing, and every single essay, just individually and then also as a compilation, really does the best job I’ve ever seen of any modern, or any contemporary publication in providing an overview of what, you know, like, sort of “astrological magic” tradition is on its own, sort of as a whole.
But then individually, what some of the different variations are within it, what some of the different practices and sometimes competing philosophical notions are within that, and I’ve never seen anything like that.
And it’s for that reason that I think this is a landmark publication in the history of astrology, regardless of even if somebody disagreed with it, or didn’t think that astrology and magic should be mixed, or that astrology is magic, or had a different philosophical approach.
I think looking back on this publication it’ll be interesting to see how it influences the astrological tradition going forward. And I suspect that will, it will play a major role in terms of some of the ongoing dialogues about what astrology is and what it’s capable of.
Yeah, and I want to, yeah, thank you for putting it together.
AC: Well that’s, that’s high praise. I think I might have blushed a little bit there.
CB: [laughs] Yeah, well I just wanted to say that. Because even as a spectator who, as I’ve sat on the sidelines, and mainly just focusing on astrology, and not having much background in magic, I can appreciate what this is, and what the book represents.
And, yeah, I’m interested to see where it goes and what sort of influence it has on the astrological tradition. And I think it will create a nice foundation for everything that precedes after this point, which will be interesting to see.
AC: Well, you know, it hasn’t been out very long, and I haven’t had very many conversations with people who really read through everything, and so I look forward to those. You know, you’re one of the first people who actually read the whole thing and [laughs], you know, it has feedback about it, so it’s really interesting to hear.
Because, but you never know how people are going to receive and react, and what they’re going to do with it.
CB: Yeah. Well I was just, I mean I have background in so many other traditions that people were talking about here, that it made it really interesting and enthralling for me as a reader. Because it’s not like it’s, usually, in terms of just publications, astrology books often tend to be more practical, and you don’t usually have like deep philosophical, or historical, or other sort of treatments of topics.
So a book like this is rare and sort of far between, where you have these really interesting, deep, sort of profound discussions that are happening, but also some really great academic scholarship. Like there are some articles in here that should and probably will be cited in academic treatments of some of the subjects, in the future. And to have all that sort of wrapped up in one book is pretty notable.
And it’s very much in line with, you know, what I try to do with my book, and the type of thing that I like and that I love to talk about here on this podcast. So, yeah, so that’s the reason we talked about it today. And I look forward to seeing some of those discussions about in the future, as well.
AC: Yeah, your question about the position that astrological magic will occupy within the larger community and, you know, what possible critiques, or aversion there might be, that’s interesting,
I hadn’t really thought. I’ve just been, I’m, you know, just kind of blown away that, not that anybody cares, but, you know, this has been like a, like you said, most astrologers don’t fancy themselves wizards. And so, you know, this is getting a little bit more attention then I thought it would, you know, I thought it was just going to be me and the weirdos in the corner. [laughs]
CB: Right. Well, I’m just thinking of it, because I’m always thinking of it from a historian standpoint of like different phases and different eras in the astrological community, and what groups of astrologers are getting excited about, or are clustering around in terms of explanations for astrology and attempts to validate the subject, or not, from a societal standpoint.
And like a few decades ago it was like astrology and science, and scientific validation, astrology being the big thing, and like Gauquelin’s results, and the idea of astrological research,“scientific research.” And that’s why you have organizations being founded with those names, like the International Society For Astrological Research, or the National Council For Geocosmic Research.
And then, you know, something that went on for two or three decades, and then it hit a wall by the 1980s and a lot of the energy fell out of that movement.
And then all of a sudden there was the rise of horary astrology, and the Geoffrey Cornelius thing of astrology as divination, and that is a conceptualization of what astrology is, or what it’s about, and also some of the revival of the different traditional forms.
And then this seems like a really important and interesting missing piece that hasn’t been around up to this point. But the idea of astrology as magic, and seeing some astrologers, or some groups of astrologers getting excited about the idea of astrology as magic, or astrology in connection with magic is an interesting new phase that seems to be emerging, that I haven’t seen in previous, at least recent decades. So I can kind of appreciate it from that standpoint, if even only that.
AC: Yeah. Well, thanks. Yeah, and I think, yeah, astrology as magic, or astrology and magic being rooted in a world that has these particular characteristics is an important part of the discussion, you know, like you said, missing piece.
I’m really big on trying to provide missing pieces, you know, that was part of the decans was like, what’s cool that nobody is talking about? What can I, how can I, how should we say, enrich the conversation by demonstrating that something is worth talking about. And so astrological magic is less specific than the decans, but, you know, coming from the same place in the sense of like trying to figure out what’s relevant that we’re not talking about.
CB: Sure, definitely. And last point, just, also sometimes, it’s interesting you mentioned with the electional thing that with this revival of interest, or sudden revival of interest in astrology and astrological magic, you’ve also seen some things that make you a little nervous, with like the elections.
Are there any other things like that where you worry about, I don’t know, the potential for problematic issues, or for, I don’t want to say abuse, but it’s like, I think, sometimes like the Indian tradition where they do still have a living, contemporary talismanic tradition, to some extent, and remedial measures. But sometimes that gets abused with things like the gemstone trade, and stuff like that.
AC: Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, what’s to stop a charlatan from saying: Oh yeah, I did this stone on the super rare election and it’s so potent.
And the customer doesn’t have the background to be able to say: Okay, well let me look at the election and, you know [laughs] evaluate, and, you know, also just be able to have a feel for whether this person actually knows what they’re talking about.
They’re like: Yeah, this is, give me two thousand dollars.
Absolutely, it absolutely has the potential to be abused. And so, you know, when anything gets popular enough, it will inevitably be abused, right?
AC: I mean there’s, like, and so that’s been a little bit of a weird, you know, I kind of got what I wanted, in the sense that more people are talking about astrological magic. And now that it’s happening, it makes me a little nervous [laughs].
CB: Right [laughs].
AC: But that’s, you know, that’s just the, that’s the price of being part of things, rather than being hidden away.
CB: Yeah, I mean the potential for abuse there, is there, sort of no matter what. Or even in any astrological application there is, you know, appropriate uses of astrology, and there’s inappropriate uses, or different ways that things can go awry, even if you’re just doing, you know, psychological astrology, or something like that.
AC: Oh yeah! Yeah. Tinkering with, you’ve got to be careful tinkering with someone’s head, you know, that’s why the, the psychology can be, you know, the psychology field has, especially, you know, therapeutic counseling has such extensive codes of ethics.
And so, I don’t know, you know, for me, with astrological magic, again it’s not something I like do professionally, it’s something that I just do, and I’ve done for a long time that I think is really interesting, it’s made my life a lot better.
And so I’ve always, you know, my ethical, how should we say, I’ve simply, the ethics have been like, am I willing to experiment with my life? Right. [laughs]
AC: The answer is very often been, yes. But, you know, it’s getting a little bit bigger in scope, so I don’t know. I’ll do what I can to try to, I mean, I guess I’ve taught two classes on astrological magic, and I try really hard to make sure people are doing it the right way, and for the right reasons.
But, you know, you can’t, knowledge is a cat, which once it has left the bag is very difficult to stuff back in.
CB: Sure. Well it raises and hope, maybe this can be a separate discussion at some point in the future, but in the early 2000s, a lot of the astrological organizations were getting together, and putting together their own codes of ethics. And now twenty years later, each of the astrological organizations has their own code of ethics.
But one of the issues that came up really quickly in, when they started doing that was it became very clear that when an astrologer starts putting together a code of ethics of what’s appropriate versus not appropriate, it’s often, they design it relative to what they understand astrology is, and what their personal, sort of subjective approach to, and beliefs in astrology are.
And initially that was designed by some of like the psychological astrologers, but then it immediately ran into conflict with some of the other evolutionary astrologers who had a different philosophy and a different approach, and belief about what was appropriate, or not appropriate, and therefore what was ethical conduct versus unethical conduct.
And now it would be interesting if you get, I’m just sort of thinking in the future here, if you get a revival of, you know, practitioners, or people that are using astrological magic as part of their astrological consultations, that there’s almost a different set of ethical guidelines.
It would then need to be crafted about a) what’s appropriate within that context, just in and of itself. But that also how do you craft community-wide guidelines that are applicable to the psychological astrologers, and the horary astrologers, and the evolutionary astrologers, and then the magical astrologers at the same time, and that’ll be an interesting question to discuss at some point in the future.
AC: Yeah. Yeah, well and I think that we can, there’s a lot to learn from the Jyotish’s about this because, you know, they’ve had, for a long time it’s like, well, one of the remediations for your Mars conjunct your blah, blah, blah is like, oh you get, you know, you get a priest to do a particular puja for you, that costs X amount of money, you know, gemstone remediations.
And there’s, you know, a right and wrong way to do all of this stuff. But they’ve been doing this for a long time, and so I think there’s probably some experience [laughs] and knowledge to draw upon for what’s, you know, what’s ethical, and what’s not.
CB: Definitely, that makes a lot of sense. Alright, well, I think that brings us to the end of this discussion. I think we were able to cover just about everything we wanted to cover here today.
Where can, I guess people can order the book either at the publisher’s website: threehandspress.com, or they can go to amazon.com and search for, The Celestial Art: Essays on Astrological Magic.
I’ll put links, as I said, in the description, on the description page for this episode, on the podcast website. And people can find out more information about your own work at austincoppock.com right?
AC: Hm hmm.
CB: Alright. Brilliant. Well thanks a lot for joining me today, this is an awesome discussion. I’ve been waiting to do this, literally, for like a year, or two. So I’m glad we finally got a chance to do it. I’m glad the book is out, and congratulations.
AC: Thank you.
CB: And, yeah, keep up the good work.
AC: Alright, man, I will. Thank you for all the kind words. And this was a, this is a fun conversation. I had like notes of stuff I was going to talk about, but it ended up having a really nice flow.
CB: Yeah, me too, I thought, so we just, we wrote down a bunch of random like bullet points we wanted to cover, but it actually ended up coming together quite nicely. So, thanks a lot.
AC: Yeah, I didn’t look at the outline once. [laughs]
CB: Okay. [laughs] Alright. Well, that’s it for this episode. So thanks everyone for listening, and we will see you next time.