The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 239, titled:
With Chris Brennan and Christopher Warnock
Episode originally released on January 24, 2020
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released August 22, 2021
Copyright © 2016 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m talking with Christopher Warnock about the Picatrix, which is a 10th century grimoire of astrological magic. Hey, thanks for joining me today.
CHRISTOPHER WARNOCK: Hey, it’s great to be here, Chris.
CB: Yeah, this is funny because you actually are one of my earliest guests that appear. This is your second appearance on the podcast, but it was so long ago, was way back in episode 16 which we recorded and released back in like, I don’t even know, like 2013, or 2014, or something crazy like that.
CW: Wow. Well, I have to say it’s a great honor to be here. I mean, this is the premier astrology podcast, no question about it. And plus, you’re way out there. I mean, I look at Hellenistic astrology, you’re the guy. So it’s like no question.
CB: Yeah, you wrote a lovely review of my book when it came out a few years ago. So thanks for that. But it’s an honor to talk to you today because I’ve been wanting to do a full episode on the Picatrix for a while, and I felt like it was finally time. I did a interesting discussion with Austin about astrology and magic last month. So I’m ready to like delve into this topic. I’d read and skimmed through parts of the Picatrix before, but I finally now sat down and done a detailed read through of the entire thing. So, I’m excited to talk about it. And I thought who better to talk about it than you who’s been one of the primary proponents of reviving that work and putting some of the precepts in it into practice over the course of the past couple of decades.
CW: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s because I think one of the things I really enjoy about being an astrologer is that you have to have this theoretical knowledge, but then at the same time, you got to put it to practice. And they definitely inform each other. You know what I mean? It’s like we’re not just having a theoretical academic discussion here as useful as that is and we’re also not just doing practical stuff, we have to do both, you know? So to be a scholarly practitioner, that’s kind of my highest goal. And I think if you don’t have though that union of those two, of theory and practice, you’re really not getting it.
CB: Yeah, that’s one of the things that’s unique about the traditional revival is it sort of reading a lot of these old texts requires having a scholarly bent on some level and the ability to work with historical sources and put things in context and understand ancient philosophy and mathematics and other things like that. But then obviously, also, there’s a very practical hands-on element to it as well in terms of does this work and what’s effective versus what’s not?
CW: Yeah, I think that’s true. And it’s funny because my alternate career as an attorney it’s really very much the same thing because I have to be knowledgeable about the sources about the law, but then I’ve got a case in front of me I have to deal with. So people say to me it’s like, “Those two are such different things.” And like to me they’re very similar, you know? They have these practicals. I really want to be practical. I love practical stuff. At the same time, I’ve always loved knowledge and learning and things like that. So I had an opportunity when I was in– I went to the University of St Andrews which is in Scotland. And afterwards, I could either go to Cambridge to study history or to law school and ended up going to law school. And I’m glad I made that choice because I think that had I stuck with a purely academic study, I would have been frustrated just because of my own personality. But you know that’s part of thing you’re talking about sources. I have a master’s in history and so the historical methodology which really does deal with different sources. I mean, a textbook is not history, right? If you’re reading a textbook, you’re not reading history because you have to– I remember I had my teacher in high school, a history teacher at AP history, and she said, “Okay, here’s three different sources. Think about where each of these sources came from and what their bias is and what their views are, and they need to synthesize those.” And so that’s really what we end up doing as we look at these traditional sources. And there’s basically a couple of different approaches. The first approach is to just ignore the sources altogether and just flail around and do your own thing. The next step when people get into the sources, they treat it like “Oh, my God, I’ve got to follow each bit of it specifically slavishly.” What you need to do as a student, you need to kind of closely follow the sources but there comes a point where you penetrate through the source to the essence of it and then you’re able to do it yourself. It’s a bit like learning music. If you had a blues teacher and all you did was– If you don’t learn how to follow them in the beginning, you’re lost. But if all you do your entire career is copy them lick for lick, you’re not going to ever be a master on your own. So that’s really the level of there’s not a lot of people at that level. But once you become a master, then you start doing your own stuff like John Frawley. John Frawley is a really excellent example say in horary. He has his own idiosyncratic techniques that he uses. I don’t follow them, but I don’t look at him and say, “Oh, that’s wrong.” Right? He’s just developed his own sort of yet he’s in the tradition. So that’s that kind of dance we’re always doing is we don’t want to be doing too much variation to go outside the tradition, at the same time you don’t want to just be monolithically trying to do the same thing over and over again as the beginning sort of.
CB: All right, so let’s jump into our actual topic today which is the Picatrix. And this was a book that was written probably in the 10th century. And this is a text that hasn’t been around or hasn’t been in wide circulation in modern times, but has had a bit of a revival recently over the course of the past decade or two. And you’ve been a person who’s partially been involved in that, right?
CW: Yeah, when I first encountered Picatrix, it was with my teacher, Robert Zoller. And it’s interesting. He didn’t teach me astrology so much as we basically spent about a year and he taught me the theory or the basis for it. And his Latin was good so he could translate it. And I’m like I said to him, I said, “Oh, do you have a translation of Picatrix?” He said, “No, don’t worry about that.” So, I spent about 12 years trying to find somebody to translate it with. And finally John Greer stepped up and was willing to do that and we used Pingree’s Latin critical edition. So what Pingree who’s a scholar did was to look at every single manuscript he could find, go through line by line, and then come up with his best view as to what the appropriate Latin was for the critical edition.
CB: Right, so let’s set the tone though before you even got to that point. It was just this legendary text that everybody knew about and everybody knew was very influential on the later like Medieval and Renaissance magical tradition, astrological magical traditions. But it was something and it was incorporated into other works like Agrippa, but nobody had actually read because it hadn’t been translated into modern languages yet?
CW: Yeah, on their head. Like I said, if you look at Ficino, there’s big chunks of it in there. If you look at Agrippa, there’s big chunks of it in there. A lot of the recipes had already partially been translated. And also it’s made a pieces of other manuscripts too. The author, who’s also referred to as Picatrix, says he used over 240 other books that he referred to and you can see as you go through that he’ll mention, oh, this book or that book the Liber Antimaquis, Aristotle this or Plato that, so it is a compilation. So once it was translated, it wasn’t really a shock. It wasn’t really that, “Oh my god, there’s new stuff in here,” but having the whole book available does really make a difference.
CB: Sure. So, parts of it had been incorporated into so many later sources and it was so influential that it wasn’t that it was completely new, but it had never been seen in its entirety from start to finish in a modern language.
CW: Mhm, that’s correct. I mean, and it really had been the predominant influence and source for astrological magic in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. I mean, this is what as I said, Ficino used, this is what Agrippa used, this is what Lily used. Everybody used this as their key source for astrological magic.
CB: Okay, so let’s talk about the text was written we think in the 10th century. And the original title was the, do you know the pronunciation? It’s the Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm.
CW: One of the problems of being autodidact or being self-educated is I never heard anyone say anything. I just read it. And also, I have a heavy Midwestern accent. So it tend to be Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm. I guess that’s how I’d say it.
CB: Okay. I like that. That sounds better to my ear than my mangled pronunciation. So, we’ll go with that. And that translates the Arabic title has been translated either as The Goal of the Wise or The Aim of the Sage as the original title of the text, but then the Latin translation for the Latin version of it has just universally been referred to as the Picatrix.
CW: Right. And there’s the whole process and Pingree has an interesting article about it of the translation from Arabic into Spanish. And there’s a whole variety of typographical errors and minor changes and things like that. And again, if you’re an academic, you’re going to spend a lot of time worrying about that. The main body of it though, the recipes, and then the main philosophical portions of it are translated fairly intact, though. It’s different, but it’s not like a completely different book or anything like that. It’s a descendant of it so to speak.
CB: Sure. So, let’s talk a little bit about the history behind the text, then. So in terms of dating, it was probably written in the 10th century. It seems like the latest authors that it cites or uses are ninth century astrologers like Abu Ma’shar who lived around the middle of like the ninth century. And recently, it seems like at least the academic scholars have sort of agreed on a specific person as the probable author of the text. How do you feel about that attribution? Is that something you’re on board with? Or are you ambivalent? Or where are you at with it?
CW: I think that it’s extremely important to understand the context and the background that we’re working with of these sources, where it came from and the time period. It’s useful to know that. But, I’m less concerned about specifically who did it because I’m not– You know what I’m saying? I’m interested in the material, you know what I mean? I’m interested in the information it contains. And one of the debates that they’ll have is, for example, the Centiloquium, I don’t know how to pronounce it. The academics have basically looked at it and said, “You know what? This is also a 10th century text. It’s written in Arabic. It wasn’t written by Ptolemy.” And for them that means it’s worthless. If we don’t have the authorship nailed down, then it’s useless. But I look at it myself and say, “Look, this is an authentic 10th century text, has lots of useful information from an astrological standpoint.” So the fact that the attribution may not be how we would, a modern historian, would do it doesn’t bother me so much. So I think that I definitely accept the 10th century. As far as the specific, the academics love to debate about things. That’s how they get there. They can write an article about it, they can read a PhD dissertation about it, and then they can get the prestige and their community from the arguments. But again, I’m an attorney and I like to know what can be proven. And in this case, I certainly accept that as a pretty probable hypothesis, but I’m less worried about the details of who the author was. It clearly is not fictitious. It wasn’t invented like Necronomicon or something. It is authentic. It was written in 10th century. It was widely used in Europe. So that for me is sufficient. And then I’ll look at the contents. You know, that’s what I look at in terms of what’s important to me is, is it usable as a as a magical text, as an astrological text? But I do, I think, yeah, I would say the short answer is I think that’s correct. I think it’s 10th century Arabic and appears to be in Andalusia. I think that’s correct and more of Spain.
CB: Yeah, so I was reading, there was a book titled The Arabic Influences on Early Modern Occult Philosophy by Liana Saif, and she says that it’s become generally accepted that it was likely penned by an author named Maslama al-Qurtubi who died in the year 964 CE and was referred to in one text as a man of charms and talismans. But he lived and the general assumed geographical area that this originated from was Al-Andalus which is like the Iberian Peninsula of basically like 10th century Spain essentially, right?
CW: Right. When Spain was under Islamic domination, so that’s the Omayyad dynasty and then as it broke up into those smaller Islamic dynasties and so you have a– It’s interesting because these are the areas where we talk about the Crusades and say, “Oh, we got this from the Crusades.” In fact, a lot of the Islamic civilization Middle Ages was the highest and most advanced in the world at that point. And the Europeans had fallen behind. So when they wanted to learn about philosophy, about Plato, or Aristotle, and then the occult sciences they needed to get it from an Arabic source. And so Sicily, in particular, and also Spain were two of the areas that were the most important because these were areas that had been under Islamic domination that were conquered by the Christian powers so you had a lot of scholars around. When this was eventually translated in 1256 at the court of Alfonso the Wise, you had these teams of that would be made up of Islamic scholars, or at least what would read Arabic there often were Jewish. And then scholars who were writing in Latin actually was in Spanish. So Picatrix actually was first translated from Arabic into Spanish and then into Latin because that was much more accessible for the rest of Europe than Spanish. There’s incredible amount of stuff was translated at the court of Alfonso the Wise. And in fact, in addition to Picatrix, there’s another book called Astromagia, which is another astrological grimoire that no one’s really heard of. But I have some translations of that on my website as well. But there’s a great volume of all sorts of different texts of philosophy, of science, of astrology, of magic were translated in the 12th and 13th century from Arabic into Latin and then became the real sort of there’s a mini Renaissance at that time period that went on. Yes, so I kind of ran out on that. So, go flip to your next question.
CB: So that’s a really good point that this is happening during this period where it’s like Europe is still hardly coming out of the fall of the Roman Empire and coming out of what used to be referred to as the Dark Ages. But meanwhile, in places like Spain and in the different lands controlled by the Arabic Empire, knowledge and wisdom is sort of flourishing at this point in the sciences and occult wisdom is having this sort of renaissance in Arabic amongst Arabic speaking people or Arabic speaking authors. And so one of these authors was the author of our text, the Picatrix, who wrote this compilation that incorporated a bunch of earlier lore that he found in different texts on magic and astrological magic. And he claimed to have consulted over 224 books and to have written it over a period of six years. And the text was originally written in Arabic.
CW: Right, one of the things I would point out is that nowadays we tend to exalt the author, know the individual genius who came up, who’s the font of all this knowledge that they came up with out on their own. They didn’t have that attitude so much in the Middle Ages. Here, the Picatrix, the author is interesting, he’s quite happy to go and summarize things and he’s essentially doing– I mean, Agrippa has a much more systematic treatment of this sort of area and Three Books of Occult Philosophy. He actually sits down and tries to make sense out of it and organize it. Picatrix is not that organized. It’s got a lot of bits and pieces of stuff put together. And but again, that’s something that they felt like, “Well, here, I’ll summarize all the sources. Lily does that. He’ll say, “Here’s the 15 different things that different people have said about this particular house,” even when he’s trying to do a job of more objectively explaining himself.
CB: And I think that’s really valuable in instances like this where the Picatrix is drawing on texts that no longer survive. So, we would have no knowledge of some of these doctrines if not for the fact that he summarized some of this stuff in different points in his text even though it’s a little scattered or a little bit not systematic.
CW: Right. He didn’t really feel like he needed to basically rewrite everything. He felt like it was enough to kind of collage it. But, it’s interesting the author will inject himself occasionally, there’s those points where he’ll say, “Oh, I tried this and it worked really well.” There’s a couple portions where he said, “I actually did this talisman and I had these very interesting results with it.” So, it’s very interesting to see that, but a lot of it is he summarizes or it doesn’t necessarily speak with a coherent voice, that’s the thing. There’s not really, you say, Picatrix says x, well Picatrix says a lot of stuff. So that’s one of the things that you have to realize with this source is that it doesn’t always have an internally consistent view of philosophy of magic of a lot of the issues that come up that are dealt with in Picatrix.
CB: Yeah, and sometimes it draws on sources that can sometimes contradict or say different things because it’s a compilation. But even that’s still useful and informative. So going back to your timeline, so you’re saying it was written in Arabic probably around the 10th century. But then in the 13th century, the text there’s some sort of like interest in it around the court of Alfonso the 10th of Castile in Spain, and they translate the text first into Medieval Spanish and then from the Spanish version it’s translated into Latin. Why was there this sudden interest in this text in that specific court?
CW: Alfonso the Wise was incredible, really a polymath. He wrote poetry, some of the earliest Castilian poetry. He helped compile a legal code. He was interested in chess. And he just had an enormous interest in the philosophy and science and particularly in the occult sciences of astrology, alchemy, and magic. So he directed, he didn’t do it personally, but he directed these various teams of translators to translate just a large amount of material. So Picatrix is probably the most well-known text that was translated at that court. But it really was, as they say, the advanced Middle Eastern civilization really was seen as the exemplar and that if you wanted to learn, you were going to have to go to a place where you could read Arabic and you could read these sources, otherwise much of the philosophy or advanced science was close to you. But the magic they didn’t differentiate really between magic and other sciences and astrology, those were all to them mixed together because they don’t have the split that we have between a science and spirituality. To them, they had a unified schema of knowledge. It was all part of the knowledge and philosophy we’re all connected. But I think Alfonso the Wise liked astrological magic. There was also I said Astromagia, and then there’s also a Lapidary which is a description of the magical properties of various stones are oriented to the degrees of the zodiac. So that also is another text that exists that was translated at his court.
CB: Okay, so in this Latin translation that was based on the Spanish translation, then the Latin translation goes on to influence the rest of the European tradition, as we’ve said. And the Latin translation though in some instances was a little different than the original Arabic, right? Or there was some things that were added or?
CW: Like I said it’s sort of if you play that game of telephone where one person talks to another, by the time you get to the end– When you’re doing manuscript copying and you’re doing translation, there’s always going to be changes and typographical errors. And in particularly in translation, there’s going to be differences of opinion about how to do that. So, there are some significant differences between the Latin and the Arabic version. But again, it’s not as if it’s changed 100%. I mean, if you read, I’ve taken a look at the German translation to Arabic and it’s like, “Yeah, there’s significant differences.” But the main corporate, I would say 80% of it is the same.
CB: Sure. There’s some passages that get added and others that get dropped.
CW: Mhm. And they change how you translate things, you know, the meaning the nuance of things. So there are some definite differences. But the Arabic version which Liana Saif is translating will be very interesting to see. But it was Latin one that was actually used by astrologers and magicians in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. So certainly that’s the source that we have the most exposure to the most and it works. The analogy I would make is that if you don’t have the original 1931 version of Joy of Cooking, you have the 2019 version, you can still make pancakes. The recipe still works. You can still test it. So that’s what I would say about Picatrix is that because I have occasionally people say, “Well, we want the Arabic. It’s the best.” And I said, “Well, depends on what purpose you’re looking for. If you’re interested in the influence on the Arabic milieu and the original, that’s useful. But if you’re interested in making astrological talismans in the same tradition that they did in the in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, then the Latin works very well for that as well. So each of the different translations, we can probably talk about those later, each one has a very, very useful and I say get all of them. I mean, I did a five star review for the Attrell and Porreca translation of Latin because I thought, “This is really useful to have an academic translation.” Because it fulfills that role, that academic role whereas ours is really more focused on the practitioner. Some of them were interested in making talismans and learning how to do that from Picatrix. So each of the different translations has a different role and each of them is really best for its own role that takes care but none of them’s best overall.
CB: Okay, let’s introduce that then, let’s first talk about the critical editions, then let’s talk about the modern translations. So, it seems like there was a flurry of scholarship in the first half of the 20th century, where some academics got interested in the Picatrix and eventually through the Warburg Institute or in connection with the Warburg Institute in London produced a critical edition of the original Arabic text. And then eventually in the 1980s, David Pingree went back and produced a critical edition of the Latin text, where a critical edition is where you compare all the manuscripts and you try to reconstruct the archetype of what you think the original text looked like. So, those two critical editions of both the Arabic edition and the Latin edition have been floating around for a few decades. But then it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the first English translation which was initially released by Ouroboros Press, right?
CW: Yeah, and that’s an interesting– Again, each thing is different. The Ouroboros Press version, it was really a book collector version, and they were gorgeous. I mean, even they did a super expensive leather bound and the less expensive leather bound and then a hardcover–
CB: I found a deluxe version–
CB: –of the original Ouroboros which is pretty impressive. So it was by William–
CB: –Kiesel who works he organized for years the Esoteric Book Conference, right, in Seattle?
CW: Right. This is it’s interesting because there’s a real split between the book collectors and the astrologers or astrological magicians. Because the book collectors what they’re interested in is the binding and it is gorgeous. I have to say that those are really beautiful books. The problem was that the translation was from the Arabic was from one manuscript by a guy who’s he’s just an Arabic speaker basically so had no knowledge of astrology. So my favorite passage from the Ouroboros was don’t drop the arrow of fortune. And if you look at the Latin, it’s don’t put the part of fortune indicating house, and you can kind of see how that would float that way. Like the arrow versus the part of fortune and falling, don’t drop falling a cadent house. Cadent means falling. So it just that was the problem with it is it was gorgeous, it looked beautiful on the shelf, but as an actual translation that you could use either scholarly or for magical purposes, it had it had its problems. It was interesting but.
CB: Sure. So William was able to find an Arabic speaking guy to translate the text. And they published that I think in two volumes for books one and two and then books three and four. But that translation was widely criticized because the translator didn’t know astrology and so it reads really weirdly in places.
CW: Yeah, definitely.
CB: But nonetheless, it was still groundbreaking in terms of like one of the first translations of the text, and I’m sure that brought a lot of awareness and interest to it for the first time.
CW: Yeah, I think that’s definitely true because there’s no doubt that Picatrix is widely known. It’s just amazing how many people are aware of it outside the astrological community. It’s like the astrological magic is a very small subsection, but many, many people in the occult area, esoteric area are aware of Picatrix. So I think you’re right that Kiesel did a great service to that to that community by getting it out there.
CB: When did you get into astrological magic? Like when did you become aware of it or first start seeing references to the Picatrix and knew of it as a book that existed out there?
CW: So, I started my professional practice as an astrologer and also my first talisman was in 1998. So when I started getting interested in astrology, I remember I was just having that part of my spiritual seeking. And I looked at Liz Greene and things like that. And it was interesting, but it just seemed like a fog, modern astrology, you couldn’t get the detail out of it. And so what I first encountered was horary, and so the QHPs in the Olivia Barclay lineage if you’re familiar with that, and so I studied with Carol Wiggers and then Lee Lehman. And so when I started to do horary, electional astrology is sort of the sister of horary, I mean, once you’ve done horary, then you can get a good handle on electional. And then I started looking at things like Three Books of Occult Philosophy and I met Robert Zoller and Rob Hand and that’s really where my introduction was to Picatrix. Now Bob Zoller has actually translated big chunks of it, so he actually was able to provide me with, it wasn’t a complete translation, but big chunks translated. And, of course, his knowledge of philosophy was very deep or it still is. So that was really my introduction to Picatrix, both as not just a grimoire with recipes, but having a pretty deep philosophical basis as well. And so that is really what distinguishes Picatrix from what most of us would look at as a grimoire because the grimoires will just be recipes like do A, B, C, and D, whereas Picatrix has a lot of philosophical material and has this deeper Neoplatonic and Hermetic basis for understanding. Essentially, what the author did was to take a lot of different sources from different areas and then put them together, but explain why they worked. You know, explain why this is… And essentially from a Neoplatonic or Hermetic standpoint, everything comes from the one, everything emanates from the one, they’re these chains of sympathy and corresponds that connect everything and therefore the wiseman can understand the sympathy and correspondence and then can do magic using that understanding of the ultimate nature of the cosmos. And so that’s what’s most enthralling about Picatrix is that it does have this point the way to this deeper understanding of reality. As much fun as it is to maybe do magic or follow the grimoires or whatever, I think that’s really what also pulls people in has provided the interest and excitement about Picatrix is that there’s this deep philosophical basis to the practice.
CB: Sure. So that’s what drew you to the text, really got you into it and made you more interested in seeing eventually a full version of it or a fresh translation that could translate it more accurately and more clearly. And then eventually at some point in what mid-2000s you started finding a way to work towards them?
CW: Yeah. It’s amazing how many people I sent to translate the Latin copy. They say, “Oh, I’ll do it.” And you send a copy to them and you never hear from them again. And John Greer, though, he makes a living as an author, he’s an expert. He’s not only was an expert magician, but also that’s what he does and his Latin is excellent. So he said, “Yes, let’s go for it.” And so I translated probably 25% of it. I handled all the astrological portions of it. My Latin is really bad. But I can look at a text with an astrological recipe and translate that reasonably accurately. And then John handled all the rest of the heavy lifting in terms of the philosophical and other passages. But I would say that the advantage of our text is that from a practitioner standpoint, that’s what we focused on. And we wanted to make sure that the astrology was intelligible, that you could look at that as an astrologer and you can understand what those directions meant in terms of actually making a talisman. And I think that that’s really what the advantage of our translation is. It doesn’t have the sociological background or the historical background that the academic translations have and that’s why they’re useful as well. But as a practitioner, if you’re looking to say, “Okay, I’m interested in learning how to do this.” Now the problem with that is you need to know electional astrology before you can do Picatrix. It’s a bit like handing someone advanced neuroscience texts and saying get your drill out and start doing your lobotomy when you haven’t been to medical school yet. And you have to learn all the basics of traditional astrology before you’re going to be ready to work with Picatrix.
CB: Yeah, it seems like it takes for granted that you already know astrology and even that a lot of the basis of not just natal astrology but also electional and even horary to some extent. So, what year did you guys publish your translation of the Picatrix?
CW: Let me just pull out I got one in front of me here. I’ll have to take a look at it to get the exact year.
CB: 2010. Okay, so that’s about 10 years after the first volume of the Ouroboros translation came out. So that’s a 10-year gap between that first kind of very rough translation of Arabic, and then you guys came in with a more full actual decent treatment by an astrologer of translating this text. And what are the different versions because you guys have released a few different versions of your translation, right?
CW: Yeah, I was going to talk about that a little bit. Here’s the thing, one of the things about that was talking about the book collector version and the academic version, I’m happy to have a photocopy of something. I just needed the information. I mean, it’d be nice to have an expensive leather bound version, but frankly I’m happy to have the information. So that was kind of my focus on it. And one of the things that I’ve done is all the Picatrix versions we publish are all print-on-demand. So what that does is allow us to actually make– We don’t have to go bankrupt doing it. With the traditional way of being an academic or non-academic and esoteric publisher would be that you’d spend $10,000 or $20,000 paying for these really expensive bindings and they would sit there and they’d sell until they sold out and then all of a sudden the price would go up. So, it was never a business that anyone really could make much of a living at and–
CB: Yeah, I interviewed the guy who did the Regulus edition of Lily and their story about getting together all the money for that, then printing up however many thousands of copies and then just having them sit in a warehouse and hoping they would sell out at some point which they eventually did after like 15 or 20 years. But that sounds like a really rough way to do astrological publishing back in the day and the late 1980s. But luckily, technology had changed by this point in the late 2000s when you came onto the scene with some of this.
CW: Well, here’s the thing, we were hoping that it would be published by Wiser or Llewellyn or something like that, they wouldn’t touch it. I think that the reputation of Picatrix, I think that it just wasn’t as it was, well, somewhat well known, but wasn’t as popular astrological magic was outside the pale. I mean, astrologers didn’t want to deal with it so.
CB: Yeah I would have liked to hear that pitch meeting to Wiser, to Llewellyn of how that how that went.
CW: We didn’t even get to meet with them. What’s interesting is that John Greer’s he published with those guys before. He was a well-known author, but they didn’t want anything to do with it. And I didn’t quite get the details as far as what their problems were. But I think maybe thought, well, no one will buy it or it’s got black magic in it or things like that, but they didn’t want to publish it. So we of necessity had to publish it ourselves.
CB: I mean, even historically, it was interesting. One of the things that I read was that the Picatrix itself never was put into a printed edition even back during the Renaissance, but instead it was always the Arabic and the Latin versions were always passed around as manuscripts like written hand copied manuscripts. So there wasn’t even any publisher at any point who was almost brave enough to put it into a printed edition back then. So, it’s almost not surprising that that’s still the case today.
CW: Yeah, for sort of different reasons. It’s interesting, we maybe talk about that with natural magic versus how people think nowadays, but yeah, and it was just too hot. And certainly what I’ve noticed in the 20 years that I’ve been doing this is that the atmosphere has just become more and more and more accepting, first of astrology and then of astrological magic. So certainly for me that’s been a great improvement. But when I started out, I was doing astrological magic and Bob Zoller, Rob Hand none of them wanted to touch it. They didn’t want to actually do make talismans and I was pretty much alone of the people that were practicing traditional astrology and the Medieval and Renaissance style that were willing to actually do talismans. Now that’s really changed particularly, again, people like Austin Coppock, there’s a whole track at UAC. He’s done an amazing job of popularizing and then explaining and really making this a legitimate study for astrologers.
CB: Sure, but definitely that was not the case. And for a long time you were the only person I remember first coming across your work with talismans in like 2003 or 2004 after I had learned about the concept of talismans when I was studying Kepler, and I was reading one of Holden’s works and he was talking about Bonatti making talismans. And I went out and searched and I found some Mercury talisman that you had just made recently. So, you were doing this stuff long before anybody else, and what sources were you drawing on at that point circa like the early 2000s?
CW: Well, we had Three Books of Occult Philosophy has a lot of stuff in it. Book Two has all these images in it. And that’s really got some of the guts of what you’re doing in terms of particularly because people are most interested in planetary talismans. You can do planetary talismans, you could do Mansion of the Moon, you can do fixed stars, you can do decans, you can do house talismans, but people really are most comfortable with planetary talismans. And so that’s what we started with. And it’s interesting, I’ll look out now and what I sort of have done is the architecture. And it’s not always obvious, for example, the idea of saying, “Okay, here is the source that I’m using, and the title and page which I require my students to put for answers in the course, you have to cite your source. And then here’s the factors I actually used in the election. And here’s the actual chart.” That’s kind of almost just de regard now for anyone doing, selling talismans or doing astrological magic. But I was the first person again to start using that. It seems very logical, right? But that rigor is something that was lacking before I came along and kind of, I’m not going to say invented, I more manifested it. It seems like the logical thing that you want to do. But if you’re not going to take a serious approach to talismans, you’re not going to put that sort of level of interest into it.
CB: Sure. In terms of translations, so you guys published yours in 2010. And then more recently there was a couple of academics who published another more academic translation of the Latin version of the Picatrix that came out just last year, I think, in 2019, right?
CW: Right, that’s the Attrell and Porreca, god, I don’t know their names, how to pronounce them. But they’re in Canada, at a university in Canada. And so they use the same source, the Pingree’s critical edition, and then turned out a very good translation of Picatrix. And it’s, again, it’s very useful to have the academic view of it. Theirs is specifically for, as I said, students of history, it’s for academics. So their focus is not so much on the practitioners. I don’t think they can. If you’re an academia, I don’t think you really can come out and say, “Yes, this is for practitioners.”
CB: So, here’s the cover of that one. So it’s titled Picatrix of Medieval Treatise on Astrological Magic. And then is this the first edition of yours or?
CW: Yeah, we don’t use that one anymore.
CB: Okay. Then you have the main one now is the–
CW: Yeah, this one.
CB: The black one?
CW: Yeah, right.
CB: Okay, so that’s the Liber Atratus edition.
CW: Yeah. I was going to say with the print-on-demand, one of the things that that was really cool about print-on-demand is that you can just leave the edition sitting on a server. So if you want to have multiple versions of it, you can. So what I did was to go through and just say, “Oh, it’d be fun to have–“ I have a Liber Rubeus, a red version of it. And then it has sort of a dance macabre kind of motifs in it, lots of skulls and things like that. I just thought it would be fun. And then I actually have a color version of it which is really beautiful. It’s eight and a half by 11. And it’s got its full color. So it has all sorts of beautiful illustrations and fonts and things like that. And in fact, for a while here in Iowa City, I had a book binder and I was doing these leather bound… They actually were print-on-demand. So, we would do these color photocopies and then the book binder would bind them with these incredibly ornate what’s called Emperor folio which is huge. Was like a two-foot, gigantic. They were really gorgeous. So we did them, but I was able to make a profit on it because someone would order it. And then I would go ahead and make it for them on the spot. So, it’s sort of like a traditional print-on-demand. So, the thing I’ve been able to do is I’ve been a professional astrologer and that’s where I derive my income from for the past 22 years. And so from a business standpoint, you need to have something that works as a business and the standard way of doing it, like I said, of doing these really expensive bindings and then putting them in the warehouse that’s a money losing proposition. In fact, one of the things I suggested to Ben Dykes a long time ago with his translation of Bonatti’s Liber Astronomiae was I said, “Hey, go ahead and do print-on-demand.” So that’s because they’re available. I mean, print-on-demand will never go out of print, you know? You don’t have that problem of these wonderful texts that you know you have 500 copies of it and all of a sudden it’s no longer available.
CB: Yeah, I think he eventually followed your advice because his first two translations were not print-on-demand. And he had to invest and have stock for these big thick, hardback books of Bonatti and then Sahl and Masha’allah. But I think by the time of his third book, he switched to print-on-demand around 2009, 2010, around the time that you released your translation. So there’s those translations and then finally, there’s one more translation that’s coming out hopefully in the near future. And this is an upcoming translation from the original Arabic text that Liana Saif is putting together and she actually interestingly live tweeted her progress as she was translating the text on Twitter through her Twitter handle which is MaslamaQ. So that was interesting to follow. And I think she’s getting ready to publish that at some point in the next year or two, I think.
CW: Yeah, and that’s what I heard as well. It’ll be really interesting to see, the Arabic will essentially give us another perspective. We’ll be able to see the Arabic version of it and the differences and everything. Again, it will be an academic translation so the focus is going to be on the historical and sociological basis of it rather than using it to make talismans. It will be interesting to see the astrology. It’s just a problem for academics because they don’t specialize in it. The Kaske and Clark translation which I love of Ficino’s Three Books on Life which is a wonderful text, they got confused between being combust and the via combusta, things like that. It’s just not their forte. And yet they’re not going to be consulting a traditional astrologer to get it right because that’s kind of beyond the pale for them.
CB: We’ll see what she comes up with. I have faith in her she’s from the Warburg Institute. And there has been more penetration of astrologers into academia in the past decade or two like Rob Hand or Dorian Greenbaum or other people like that. So I think hopefully they’re starting to talk more. And I know Liana has worked with or had some interactions with two traditional astrologers that recently went and got their degrees who I interviewed just a few months ago who wrote On the Heavenly Spears and I’m spacing out their names. You know the name of the couple from Portugal I’m talking about?
CW: Oh, yeah, I know you’re talking about but again [laughs] I must say I have a problem remembering. I think that–
CB: Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro, those are the two.
CW: Yeah. Unfortunately, it’s still officially you’re not allowed to do it. You know, it’s one of those things is that academia is still in the grip of the atheistic materialism paradigm. And as much as they’re sort of some people that are on the side doing things, officially you’re just not going to be able to come out and say, “Yeah, this stuff works. And here’s how to use it.” That would put an academic– You’d probably lose your job over that. And it’s amazing–
CB: It will be interesting when she publishes that, just because things will finally be, that seems like the last piece that’s missing and then everything related to the Picatrix will be in modern translation finally. Why don’t we transition though into talking about like the actual contents of the text a little bit if you’re up for it?
CW: Yeah, let’s do it.
CB: All right, so contents of the text. It’s got some astrological magic, and by astrological magic, a large part of that is specific electional rules for creating talismans, but the text also has some magical potions and spells and it also has a lot of different philosophical passages from Hermetic and Neoplatonic and quasi Aristotelian streams of philosophy that were all going on in the Medieval period around this time. So, it’s very much a synthesis in the 10th century of essentially a Medieval astrology and magic.
CW: Oh, definitely. The confections, as they’re called, are sort of things like the blood of a white dog and that sort of– I don’t bother, I don’t do anything with animal parts. So it’s in the translation. We debated that we’re going to do a complete translation regardless of the fact that we don’t want anybody to ever do that stuff. So, I hope people are not running around using our book and using the animal part stuff hopefully. I’m a Buddhist, so I wouldn’t be too happy about it. But we didn’t feel like we should censor it. It was just one of those things that like, you know what, I don’t approve of it. I’ll never do it myself. I even say in the translation I don’t think you should do it. But, I don’t feel like censoring it for people. So that was something that we did debate with but–
CB: Sure, and there definitely are distinct parts especially at the beginning, it starts off doing magical elections or astrological magic which it seems largely focused on picking an electional chart and attempting to capture the power of the planets in an object like a talisman or an image and using that for different purposes. And it’s very much like it’s astrology, but it’s almost a magical application of astrology, but then definitely later in the text at different points it does take a turn and starts focusing on more like almost classical witchy type occult spells and mixtures or almost like alchemical recipes in different chapters.
CW: Yeah, that’s the confection part, too. So what’s interesting about it is the causality is never quite clear. There’s a lot of wandering around. And I think you were talking about that in your notes, about wandering around, about how this stuff actually works. And I think that reflects the various differences of opinion among astrologers at the time. How does astrology work? You have an almost a physical model, Ptolemy’s talking about heat and the humors. You’ve got Al-Kindi who’s got these spiritual rays. Not electromagnetic, they’re definitely spiritual, but still a more mechanical sort of view of it. You also have this idea that if you… Natural magic, natural magic is beautiful because at the time you wouldn’t have to worry about Ficino-like natural magic because you don’t have to worry about, oh, I’m calling on demons or something, it just works naturally. If I make it at a particular time, I put a scorpion on it and that’s when Scorpio is rising or whatever, then that will affect scorpions naturally. There’s the occult virtue, in other words, hidden powers of things and it’s mechanistic. But the final method which is, I think, easily drawn to is essentially almost like Astro religion, the planets and the celestial, every celestial body is essentially a spirit or an angel and you can invoke that and that’s where the magical power comes from. So all these different causalities are kind of mingled together and they’re never really quite clear as to whether or not… Picatrix doesn’t really put its finger to it and say, “Well, this is the one right one.” It kind of mentions all the different possible types of causality. And I think that what I’ve ended up doing is what’s resonated with me has been more of that I said, Astro religion, and I almost would characterize myself not as an astrological magician, but a celestial priest. And so that’s the theoretic side of it and the more devotional side of it is what has drawn my attention. I wouldn’t say it’s right, I just think that that’s the area that I’ve personally found I’ve been drawn to and plenty of people are still doing straight up magic. You know what I’m saying? Okay, I want wealth, so I’m going to do a wealth talisman and that’s perfectly legitimate as well. So that’s an area if you want to delve into any of that, we can definitely talk about those various things.
CB: Yeah, let’s do that. Let’s touch a little bit first on one of the big things that it does as electional astrology for magical purposes and it introduces different electional principles that are focused on or I thought we could focus on or introduce some of those principles that are used in the Picatrix. One of them though that we might want to talk about is a meta topic is just the idea people aren’t familiar with it of the idea of talismans, amulets and images, and how that works or not how it works, but just what that general concept is if we could like introduce it really quickly.
CW: I mean, really, it’s interesting because people tend to think of a talisman as– Let me just pull one out. I’ve got some sitting up here nicely ziplocs and I’m not actually touching it. This is what people think a talisman is. It’s a pendant or a ring–
CB: Like a metal object that has something inscription.
CW: A metal that you wear put on a chord you wear around your neck. That’s people– Okay, that’s a talisman or a ring, that’s another thing. Generally when people are contacting me when they’re thinking of talisman is they’re thinking a pendant or ring. Anything can be a talisman. You think of I’ve done mirrors, you can see in the background here. You can see all these different mirrors. Those have all been made as talismans. Think of a sword, Excalibur, that’s a talisman. In the Renaissance, they did gardens, they did houses. And in fact, Picatrix talks about a whole city called Adocentyn that was built with astrological magical principles. So really anything can be a talisman.
CB: So, it’s like anything that is born at a specific moment in time where you can try to capture the astrological essence of the cosmos at that moment in time through the electional chart for that moment.
CW: Yeah, I mean, another way to think about it is that you’re inviting the spirit into the talisman, you know? And Picatrix talks about this. He said you’ve got the union of spirit and body, that the talisman is the body and then the astrological spirit then is like the soul of that talisman. So that’s another way of looking at it. Or, and Agrippa talks about this it’s like a ray thing. The rays hit this at a particular moment from the planets or whatever and then they freeze it. So, there’s a variety of different– I would say they’re perspectives. It’s a bit like light, light can be seen either as a wave or as a particle. If you treat it as a particle, it acts as a particle. If you treat it as a wave, it acts as a wave. But the underlying reality is going to transcend those characterizations. But as a way of modeling, as a way of interfacing, we need to have a model. And so essentially what’s the resonant model for you? Do you like the idea of the natural magic? That if it make the ray at the right time that the beams are hitting it or that’s how it works, or again, like I’m saying, I’m doing devotional practice. I’m calling on these spirits that I have this long term relationship with and I’m sort of renewing my relationship with them when I make a talisman. To me a talisman is like a cell phone. It’s a means of contacting that spirit. The power is not from the talisman in itself or not like a battery, it’s just a way of communicating with Jupiter or fixed star, right? Or you can think of it as charging it. People talk about, “Oh, I’m charging the talisman.” So, these are all valid ways of conceptualizing it, none of them are capturing the true reality which is going to include and transcend all those different conceptualizations.
CB: So from a practical standpoint though, there is definitely a focus on creating something at a specific moment in time that’s been chosen ahead of time and that they’re focused on a specific astrological chart set for a specific date and time and place that has a certain configuration of the planets at that time.
CW: Definitely, the timing, the time, date and place is the absolute key and that’s what we’re doing here. Essentially, we’re doing a type of ceremonial magic, right? But it’s going to strain by you’re doing the ceremony at a specific time for only for astrological spirits. So that’s essentially what astrological magic is, is a type of ceremonial magic but a very focused type of ceremonial magic. But just as you said though, it has to be a specific time. You got to look at that chart. Now what factors you use that’s incredibly variant, right? But definitely, you’re going to have to have a specific time, date, and place to do it. And again, what I do are full chart elections. I’m not just doing Waning Moon. Waning Moon is half the year, but six months out of the year would be good for it. The power of the election comes from the specificity of it and you really going to want to– Typically, the time range that we have available will be half an hour to 45 minutes to an hour. Rarely, we’re going to have more than an hour. The fact is just not going to line up for more than that time period.
CB: You mentioned that most of the elections or at least there’s a tendency to focus on planetary elections, so creating an election for a time when a planet is well situated by, for example, being in its own domiciles. So, let’s say a Mercury talisman would be elected for a time when Mercury is in Virgo which is the sign of its domicile and exaltation. And then you would also want to put it in a prominent place in the chart like in the rising sign or in the Ascendant so that it becomes the ruler of the first house. What other things that would you look for in the chart?
CW: Again, here’s the thing, is that if we’re talking about a planet, then this is by everyone, it’s interesting there’s incredible debate right now because we now have an astrological magic community. And so we’re getting all sorts of different people. And again, what I want to emphasize is this is that there is not one correct way to do this. And anyone who says that they’re right and everyone else is wrong doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But you can, like I said, what you can do is to find what resonates for you, right? What I think there’s a lot of right methods and then there’s the infinity of wrong methods, right? But no one correct way of doing this stuff. So my methodology for a planet is to say what I want to do is find a time when that planet is really strong. So just as you said, it would be sign or exaltation or multiple lesser dignities because you can have a jackpot where you’ve got like plus six or plus eight or something like that in a talisman. Those are kind of nice.
CB: So, essential dignities of domicile, exaltation, triplicity, bound and phase?
CW: Yeah, I would say phase, term, triplicity, exaltation and sign because I use a Lily style terminology, just what I was trained in. So that’s all is to say Mercury in Virgo, that’d be great. Mercury in Gemini, that’d be great, too. Mercury rising, now when I’m looking at is the Ascendant and the Midheaven, not so much as their house but because those are from an angularity standpoint. So you think of the most powerful points from an angularity standpoint are going to be rising as the most powerful and Midheaven is going to be a little bit less but almost equivalent to it. So not as a house ruler, but because at that point they’re going to be manifesting their power most strongly. Then planetary hour, planetary hour is really important. If you look at, again, there’s a section in Picatrix, I think book one chapter four has a whole bunch of paradigmatic sort of planetary elections. And they’re very much, just like you said, Mercury in Virgo, Mercury rising and then the planetary hour, that’s always emphasized as being a really key factor in terms of the power.
CB: The day and hour, so, for example, if you’re doing a Mercury talisman, you would want to do it on Mercury’s day which is Wednesday, right?
CW: Not necessarily. Again, if you look back at Picatrix, their focus is on planetary hour, right? So here’s the thing, if you’re going to do an election, you’re going to have to pick a certain limited number of factors. And this is something that what I call the– I’m in a debate on one of these groups, I call them the OCD school. And the OCD school of astrological magic looks at 50 factors. And if any of those 50 factors are either there or lacking, your head will explode. So they’re very paranoid about the chart. And they’re like,” Oh my god, it’s a Mercury talisman but Pluto’s in the third house.” I’m like, “Well, so what?” They’re like, “Oh no, that’s really bad.” So there’s all these they’re looking at like a billion factors. I’m like, “You know what guys? If you’re going to be practical about elections, you’re going to have to focus. You’re probably only able to choose about four or five factors.” And so, like I said, you got the planet is essentially dignified, strongly placed, planetary hour and then not afflicted, and that’s going to be key, too.
CB: So, not hard aspect like a square or an opposition with the Mars or Saturn?
CW: Applying, no, not separating, separating is fine. Like horary, electional astrology at least what I was taught is that… And if you look at Bonatti, for example, he’s like, “If you separate, you’re okay.” So applying square, applying opposition of any planet, applying conjunction of an afflicted planet or undignified Saturn or Mars and then combust or retrograde. So those are kind of your major afflictions. So, you don’t want to have it… Now, Moon void-of-course, whatever. Doesn’t worry me. And void-of-course is not in Medieval and Renaissance astrology a disaster, it’s not on the level of detriment or follow retrograde or combust.
CB: Yeah, there’s a hierarchy of worst case scenario things to avoid at all costs versus mid-level or lower level annoyances.
CB: And sometimes people especially coming from the modern tradition don’t know how to balance those so few electional rules actually survived. And like void-of-course, is one of them that seems like it just kind of blown out of proportion in the 20th century.
CW: Yeah, my theory to that is that if you look at modern astrology, which it’s so funny because one of my favorite things to do is a natal psychological reading, I love it. I’m good at them. I love doing them. So I’m not down on modern astrology by any means. But the thing about modern is because it’s built on a psychological perspective, everything’s positive. I mean, Saturn in Aries is good, right? I mean, it’s not bad. It’s just Saturn, he’s serious, but he’s also happy or something like that. So there’s a few things that are malefic like void-of-course Moon and retrogradation, they have to carry the weight of all the negativity for everything, so they become really bad.
CB: That’s a good point.
CW: Retrogradation those are the only two things that are negative in modern astrology. So they’re really bad. I mean, and you have retrograde– Because it started out with Mercury like Mercury retrograde, well then you don’t sign a contract. Well, I suppose I could see that. But then Mercury retrograde don’t do anything. Then any planet retrograde don’t do anything. Now there’s shadow periods. So for every planet, retrograde is bad. And then their shadow periods before now. I mean, it’s just because way out of control. And you know retrogradation, oh, it’s definitely an affliction. But, for example, if you’re doing a Mercury talisman, does it matter if Jupiter’s retrograde? I mean, you’re talking about emphasizing the power of Mercury, right?
CW: And so that’s, again, there’s not a right or wrong way to doing this. I’m not coming here and saying, “Look, if you want to look at all these factors, that’s wrong.” I’m just saying, “This is my methodology.” And I think the key is you want to have a methodology. Because what I see people doing, both modern and traditional, with elections is they just start looking at charts. They look at the chart, and then they say, “Oh, this is a good chart.” And they don’t have a methodology. They don’t have factors that they’re looking at. Whereas the way I’m looking at it is I’m saying, “You know what? Okay, Mercury talisman, let’s look out to the next year, when’s Mercury going to be in Virgo?” Okay, then I can block that out. “Okay, if Mercury’s in Virgo, when’s Mercury arising? Okay, when’s Mercury planetary hour?” And so I have a very systematic way of finding elections. So that’s what I recommend to people. I’m not saying you have to be like me, but I would suggest to people it’s good idea to have a methodology as opposed to just kind of flailing away looking at electional charts.
CB: Sure, sort of ground this. I want to give an example because really early on the Picatrix itself introduces an example of a talisman. So, I’m just going to read this treacherous paragraph.
CW: What page is this?
CB: So, this is actually from the [unintelligible 1.00.24] translation just because it was able to do the passage citation numbers. So this is from book one, chapter five, sentence one or passage one. So it says when you wish to craft an image or otherwise a talisman for inducing love between two individuals and give their love and joy the strength of an oak, make images in both of their likenesses, make the image in the hour of Jupiter or Venus with the head of the dragon ascending. So that’s the north node. Let the Moon be with Venus or looking towards her with a favorable aspect. Let the lord of the seventh house look upon the lord of the first house in a trine or sextile aspect. Afterwards, join the images together in an embrace and bury them at the home of one of the two people i.e. at the person’s home whom you wish to feel most in love. Whatever your desire is shall come about. Yeah, so that’s like one of the first examples of a love talisman that–
CW: What that is is a house-based talisman. So this is not a planetary talisman because it’s not really based around the planet. The key thing, the key factor in that talisman is the relationship between the first house ruler and the seventh house ruler. So first, that’s love, and they’re making a trine. And so that’s really the essence of that election. And so the house-based talismans are really interesting because– And this is an interesting one too because it’s a double talisman. You’re making two of them.
CB: Right, you’re creating two images.
CW: Yeah. The other thing that’s interesting is these are statuettes. I mean, the earliest talismans are basically they’re not pendants, they’re not rings, they’re actually statuettes, and you’re making them look like the person. So, they have that because they look like the person they actually have a magical sympathetic connection to them, right.
CB: And that’s coming out of some older Neoplatonic tradition or Hermetic tradition of insouling or enlivening statues or statuettes.
CW: Corpus Hermeticum. We’ve got the whole this this the god making passages in the Corpus Hermeticum. And so the other thing is it works. [laughs]
CB: So that’s the thing, that’s your main thing is that this actually works. And I guess that’s one of the questions that people would have coming into this is would something like this work? You make an image of these two people and then you do it at an astrologically propitious time that matches what you’re shooting for with the ruler of the Ascendant in the seventh and then you feel like after doing this for years and making talismans like this that you’ve actually seen effective or positive results that this is something that’s legitimate?
CW: First of all, I’m not a big fan of doing love magic for a specific person.
CB: Yeah, maybe this not a good example because it is questionable.
CW: And I’ll tell you why that is. I’ll tell you what? Yeah, because here’s the thing that comes into it, here’s the thing about doing love magic for a specific person, there’s a problem that the user of the magic gets obsessed with the person that they do the spell on. There’s a certain amount of backfire because when you start feeding energy into that the attraction between those two people that can be a downfall of it. The other thing about it is that it’s less likely to be successful if you’re interested in a specific person than opposed to just doing love in general. So if you did that exact same talisman and just said, “Love, bring me love.” You’re more likely to have better effects than that. The more specific you’re trying to get of an effect, the less likely it is to happen. It’s just the reality of it. I mean, because this is real, you know what I’m saying? This is not this is not Harry Potter, this is not a movie. In a movie, you can put 10 cents of effort and get a million dollars out of it, doesn’t work that way. Spiritual is just like anything else. It works, but it’s limited. So you have to spend a lot of time and energy and effort if you want a big result. And the less time you put into it, the less result you get out of it.
CB: And that sounds like you’re invoking some sort of energy or power or theme in your life, especially in the way that you’re talking about or conceptualizing it here like invoking love as a theme to become more prominent in your life in some way if you’re doing some sort of general, let’s say, like a Venus or a love talisman?
CW: Yeah, what I would suggest to people is I’d say look here, if Venus is– Because another issue is how you coordinate with your chart. But let’s just say Venus is well dignified, it’s in Taurus or something in your chart. I had someone today that asked me, “Is a Venus talisman okay?” And they had Venus in Taurus. I’m like, “Yeah, great.” So if you do a Venus talisman and you do my devotional style, there is an effect. People tend to think of let’s make an effect change the outward world to conform to me, right? There’s also, and I think is even more important in a lot of ways, you changing yourself. If you’re a more loving person, if you manifest Venus, you’re going to get love more easily. So and not to say it’s all in your head or it’s all based on belief or it’s all internal or something like that, but there is definitely a strong spiritual impulse effect of these talismans. But what’s going to happen? Who knows? People email me and they say, “Will I win the lottery?” I’m like, “No.” And I had someone, in fact, today email me and say, “I did this Venus talisman and it failed.” And I said, “Don’t buy one of mine, then.” I said, “That’s a red flag right there.” Because perhaps you’re being unrealistic about the effects, but it’s failed for you already. Uh-uh, I don’t want to sell you a talisman. And I spend a lot of time saying to people, “Nope, don’t buy a talisman.”
CB: So, I guess that brings us to one of the questions I had that Austin and I struggled with a little bit, which was attempting to define magic or what astrological magic is in this context. And one of the themes that seemed like it kept coming up for me and reading to the Picatrix is at least in some of what they were doing was actualizing the will or something that was desired through hidden or occult forces as a major theme.
CW: I mean, I would say that that is what a lot of people are doing when they’re doing magic, and you could even call that magic, right? But what I’m doing is a little different than that because I’m a Buddhist, right? And I’m a Zen Buddhist. And so the realization that I have had is there is no self. So it’s a little foolish for me to try to go on actually something that doesn’t even exist and the desires that I have. That’s my problem is that I have the desires. That’s where all my suffering is coming from. So there is– But then you get that fate and free will thing. So that’s what I would say. But as I said, “Yeah, I think people do try to use magic to get what they want.” How successful they’re going to be in doing that and how that’s really going to help them in the long run, I don’t know. From a spiritual standpoint, that’s a little bit– At the same time, hey, people need wealth, people need friendship, people need love and to do it through a spiritual means I don’t think it’s any worse than trying to achieve it through material means. But trying to go out and get what I want as a way of making myself happy is going to fail in the long run. I’m just getting that from a broad spiritual perspective. So that’s what I would say. And for me, what I enjoy about astrological magic is the fact that I’ve built up this incredible relationship. I do a daily planetary ritual. So, for example, today is Wednesday, so I’m wearing a mix color for Mercury and I will invoke Mercury. And then so tomorrow is Thursday, I’ll invoke Jupiter. I’ve been doing that for the planet of the day for 20 years. So I have a really, really close relationship with those particular celestial spirits. And what I’m asking them to do is I’m saying, “Look, manifest yourself through me.” And I can look at my life and I’ve had incredible success. And I really do attribute that to a lot of this astrological practice. But as far as individual amazing things that happened, I have some examples of that. I remember in your notes you’re saying, “Picatrix says if you do this, it’ll definitely happen.” I’m like, “No, it won’t.” [Laughs] That’s a little bit of marketing on Picatrix’s part.
CB: Would you say at least that there is a preoccupation with actualizing one’s will in the Picatrix or at least the temptation?
CW: Oh yeah, definitely, magicians in general. To me the essence of a magician is that will. And one of the main differences between a magician and astrologer is the astrologer will watch the cycles unfold, and then you’ll predict or you’ll forecast based on those cycles. Magician says “No, I want to act. I want to use that for a particular purpose.” And the astrological magician is this weird synthesis of those because you will have to have will, but you can only act at a particular moment.
CB: Yeah, there was a really interesting contradiction, not contradiction but tension there because in the astrological magic they’re giving you rules for elections to pick out in order to get what you want or to actualize your desire like many of the rules will end with this common, these different variations of the same phrase that I wrote down like, whatever your desire is, shall come about or whatever he seeks from the lords with whom he interacts, he will obtain or once the image is completed, keep it near and secret out of sight. When you go before lord and seek an office or promotion from him, you will have it. Or another one says what you seek will happen and so on and so forth. But there’s an interesting tension between these electional rules for trying to get what you want, but then the occasional reminder and statement that the electional chart has to be connected with the natal chart and has to already be promised in the natal chart ideally or connected with a horary chart that has already promised that there’s good chances of that thing happening before you should then attempt to do a talisman or elected somehow.
CW: What I would say is that when I do astrological magic, I don’t know whether I’m causing the effect or announcing the effect. I have no idea. See what I’m saying? So if you’re going to be a magician or you’re going to act and you’re going to do this stuff, it’s a lot of effort. You need to come from a perspective of will and action because you’re not going to have enough energy to do it otherwise. You’re not going to have that willpower. But you cannot take that as being the ultimate reality, you have to step back from that because it’s the fate and free will question. As astrologers, we confront that constantly. But the reality of it is that that the cosmos transcends fate and free will, that the actual ultimate reality of the one has the nature of both being fated and having free will at the same time. That transcendent logic is very weird, but it has both. It’s that light, the wave particle combination that’s going on. And so what we’re doing is if you’re going to be a magician, you need to act from a will perspective. But you can step back from that as an astrologer and have a fated perspective about it as well. And I refuse to say with the astrological magic, I do it. But again, like I said, the first thing I did was this– The only malefic magic I’ve ever done was a pest control, was a rats be gone. It’s on my website. And we had a rat in our townhouse in Washington, DC and I thought, “I’m going to do some astrological magic. I’ll get rid of it.” So I followed this whole made an image of a rat and it got dark from the four corners of the house and folded and everything. As I did this, I elected a time that was extremely malefic for the rat, and I started to get really angry. It was very weird. The emotional, it just swept over me this incredible anger. And then I buried it. And then the rat it got caught in a trap. Now I don’t even know when, I don’t know if it was before, it was contemporaneous. But it could have been before, it could have been after. It was within a day or so. So I don’t know. Did I cause that? Or did I announce it? Do you see what I’m saying? Am I aligning myself with this or actually did the ego self-cause that? You see what I’m saying? So that’s a mystery really. And I think that from a practical standpoint, you need to feel like, “Well, I’m causing it I suppose to act, it wouldn’t act otherwise.” But if you’re really on higher level of awareness, it’s manifesting. This is a manifestation of it. And perhaps that moment was necessary for you to do that but the ultimate causality is really unclear. So that’s not something that we worry about when you’re making talismans, but it’s something that you and I can think about now and recognize that there’s not an ultimate answer to that.
CB: Yeah, there’s certainly anybody that deals with electional astrology long enough runs into that question occasionally of… Because you’ll sometimes see people that will like let’s say get married and they’ll just have an amazing electional chart and there is no intervention whatsoever on the part of an astrologer. So just naturally having positive alignments like that or other times like doing an electional chart and having something come up in the future but then having something interrupt and make it so that you can’t like use the election at that time. So, it becomes out of your hands in some ways?
CW: One of the things I’ve noticed with elections is sometimes they’ll be incredibly easy. You’ll start looking and it’ll just pop out at you this amazing election. And other times like, for example, when I wanted to move into my house, seriously for a month 24 hours a day for 60 days, there wasn’t a good election. I could not elect the moving into my house. I had to have a bad election for it. And this house has been kind of a pain, but there was no way I could avoid it. There was no window open for me to do anything with that. I was just stuck.
CB: Well, that’s one of the interesting things about the electional rules even in the Picatrix is that some of them are so highly specific or restrictive that it’s almost impossible sometimes to find a chart anywhere in the near future that will have that. So it’s like one of the things you start wrestling with as soon as you do electional astrology is your own limitations of just having to work with what is available to you in the timeframe that you have in the vicinity of whatever you have to work with. And that in and of itself can sometimes be very restraining or give you a real sense of fate in some sense, and that you’re really just trying to work with what you have and you don’t have a complete ability to just exert your will 100% over everything with no restrictions.
CW: One things I loved about your book was you fought front and center, you put fate right in the title and I thought that was very brave of you [laughs] and very much in the tradition because as astrologers, we are the votaries of fate. We are. That’s who we’re really focused on. And but that’s very much antithetical to the modern way of thinking because modern people want to think I can do anything I want. And they can accept maybe, “Okay, I’m 56 years old, I’m five six, I’m not going to play in the NBA no matter how much positive energy I bring to that. It’s not happening.” But that’s physical. Other than physical, they’re like, “Oh, I can be a billionaire.” Nope, not going to happen. It’s just not. You can know with people, you can look at their chart, for example, and say this is someone who’s not going to be a billionaire. And I think that that’s at the same time then understanding how… That’s why the astrological magic I think was a little bit of a hard sell. It’s easier to make an astrologer out of a magician than it is to make an astrological magician out of an astrologer. Here’s what the magicians don’t like about astrological magic. What they don’t like is they want to do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. The idea of it’s got to wait six months till Jupiter rises in Sagittarius, no way. I don’t want to do that.
CB: Yeah, they don’t like how restrictive it is because it imposes a lot of rules and it means there’s some things that you just can’t do during certain times or you have to wait a long time in order to do certain things.
CW: Yeah. Like Jason Miller, who I really like, I think he’s a great magician, but we disagree. We agree to disagree about timing. He’ll do Jupiter stuff and I’m like, “Jupiter’s retrograde in a detriment.” I’m like, “What?” And on the other hand, they do a really, really elaborate ritual. The two components I think are most important for powerful astrological talisman are a good election and you have to do a consecration ritual. Those are the keys. Materials are there. My personal view is they’re not quite as important. If you take the timing away and just do a massive ritual, it’s going to have that effect, but why not combine everything you can? I would never just do the timing without the ritual, you know? Let’s get back to the astrologer thing.
CB: The point you were making about natal astrology though in my book was that I think Hellenistic astrology and the core of Western astrology was originally developed in a largely fate-oriented context, where the purpose of looking at the birth chart was to know your fate and know what would happen to you in your life in the future. But one of the things then that Austin and I were talking about last month is that’s where the magical tradition, and especially the astrological magical tradition almost seems antithetical to that on some level because it seems to be emphasizing more on the attempt to have what you might describe as free will or the ability to actualize your will to make certain things happen or push them in a certain direction if you can. And that’s what might not be completely antithetical to the idea of fate or natal astrology. It seems like it’s pushing in a slightly different direction that’s more balancing out or on the other end of whatever the fate/free will dynamic is.
CW: No, I think you’re 100% correct. I think that it’s just really weird that… I mean, I was once teaching a little traditional module for a modern astrology online course and I asked them, I said, “Look, I have Mercury and Mars opposed to the second.” And I said, “I can be very aggressive in speaking.” I said, “It also makes me great at debate.” I said, “I’ll never be a wallflower.” I said, “Isn’t that fate?” And they’re like, “Nah!” They freaked out. I got reported for heresy basically to the teacher. But let’s face it. Even with modern, if you have a personality, isn’t that fated? I mean, if I can look and say, well, you’re a Pisces, so you’re sensitive. Isn’t that fated? But the modern paradigm is essentially the worship of the self, the ego, and ego gets to do whatever it wants. How many times have you seen a movie where they said, “Oh, you can change the future,” like a time travel movie, “as long as you can change it.” The future is fun because it goes your way. That is not the way astrologers have traditionally thought about what we’re doing. Like I said, I would say it’s 75%-80% fate. And free will seems to me to be, even with myself, more of a possibility. You what I mean? If I look at my behavior most of the time, I can see where it’s coming from and there’s a definite fated quality to it. But you can look at that and-
CB: Do you think in the Picatrix though that there is an attempt and a belief that you might be able to change some aspects of your fate in an attempt to do so in some of the roles in the Picatrix?
CW: I think that people have never liked the idea of having everything written in stone, and you can look at it and say, well, I can’t predict super specifically so there’s obviously some give even if there’s fate. I mean, I can’t predict it, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think you’re right. I think that the astrological magic comes more from a free will standpoint, right, but within a traditional context. So, they’re accepting fate, but they’re saying, “You know what? There’s some wiggle room here.” And I think that’s what we’re talking about is that I don’t believe you can overthrow your chart with magic. You can express yourself within the confines of that natal chart, right? It’s like if someone’s got totally afflicted second house, their Jupiter’s afflicted, unless they’re coming from a really rich family, they’re likely not to be that rich no matter how much astrological magic you do, right? Now you can improve your situation, you can take those cards that have been dealt to you and do the best you can with it, you can emphasize, you can get the best you can, but I think that the natal chart provides the framework you’re going to have to work in no matter what you do. I don’t think you can change your fate in terms of that big picture stuff. But the details, I don’t know how good we are at actually predicting it anyway so that becomes more a matter of opinion about it. Oh, go ahead. I don’t want to interrupt you.
CB: No, go ahead with your point?
CW: No, I forgot. [laughs]
CB: Okay. I was going to transition into a discussion we started going down which is that the Picatrix demonstrates both positive and negative or I don’t know how to frame that, like constructive versus destructive, benefic versus malefic uses of astrological magic, where early on it’s like the first talismans it introduces are relatively benign like the one I read earlier which is trying to make two people fall in love with each other. But then relatively early in Book One, it introduces a talisman for destroying an enemy, and this is something that you’ve had some discussion about, for example, in another translation you did that I found that I really love, I want to say more than the Picatrix, but I really enjoyed his Astrological High Magic: De Imaginibus of Thabit Ibn Qurra, who was like a ninth century astrologer. And this is a book on basically rules for making certain talismans and the electional rules for doing that. But in that text, in the commentary where John Michael Greer did the translation and he wrote commentaries on each chapter, you actually very early on and very overt about discouraging people from using magic for bad things. And at the same time, you said in that text that you think it’s important not to censor the tradition because it was important to understand the principles of creating constructive versus destructive elections.
CW: Yeah, I think that’s true. Here’s the thing, modern technology, everybody can get a driver’s license. You can get into an SUV, and you can drive it into a crowd. You can kill 20 people easily. You can buy an automatic weapon and kill a bunch of people. There’s all sorts of ways for modern technology to kill people, and it’s easily accessible. This stuff is hard. Thabit Ibn Qurra to do those talismans or the Picatrix house-based talismans, you’d have to study for like a year and learn all this stuff and then do a lot of practice and then you could make them. And even then, it wouldn’t kill people as surely as running a car into them would. Part of it is that this is actually not that accessible or that easy to use. And so a lot of the worry about it is, let’s face it, only a small number of people are ever going to have the expertise to be able to do it. That being said, again, I’m a Buddhist. I’m coming at this from a very devotional standpoint. So I’m like we really debated do we put the malefics stuff in there? But I also believe that it needs to be put out there. I don’t want to be censoring people. I want to be honest about what the text says, and it’s not my place to make those decisions for people. At the same time, very clearly I said, I don’t think you should be doing anything to hurt people. I mean, it’s just as bad taking a two by four over the house and beam over the head with it as it is doing a curse on somebody. I see no difference ethically or morally from that. And there’s a tendency nowadays to be like, “Well, it’s not really real anyway. We’ll just try it out. And if it works, great, but I don’t have to take responsibility for it because it’s just magic.” It’s just not true. You’re just as responsible for it if you go ahead and do what you do physically yourself. At the same time-
CB: And did you have any trepidation about unleashing this stuff out there on the early 21st century astrological and magical community given that the text does contain some, let’s say, destructive potential?
CW: I can say yes, and we dealt with that by saying don’t do it. But also like I said, the recognition that only a few people could do it. Like I said that the time I put it out there, there is like five people in the world could even have the expertise to be able to handle making this kind of talismans. Now that’s expanded nowadays, but I think that there’s a lot of people doing magic outside… Astrological magic is such a tiny subset. The amount of people doing spells and magic and stuff like that, it’s just exploded tremendously. The Solomonic stuff can be negative. The Goetic stuff can be negative. There’s all sorts of spells and everything like that. I guess what I would say about it is that the debate was between censorship, imposing our values on everybody else or saying to people, “Look, this is what we think we should do,” in a very specialized text. But yeah, I mean, with my students, for example, I say, “Don’t do any malefic magic.” I say, “As long as you’re a student of mine, I don’t want you doing it. You are under my wings.”
CB: You say that partially for moral reasons, you made the analogy to like hit somebody with a two by four is the same directly as to like use magic where the effect or the mechanism may be obscure or not clear, but the negative impact can be just as significant. So partially for moral reasons, but also you’ve mentioned the blowback and the potential negative repercussions even on the person who would engage in something like that.
CW: It’s bad karma. I mean, this is as easy as that. My view of reality is, like I said, I’m Buddhist or even the Hermetic stuff, everything’s connected. So you cannot escape the bad consequences of your actions, even if you do it secretly. You do it secretly or spiritually, it’s still going to have a negative blowback on you as well. There’s lots of practical and ethical reason for not doing malefic magic. It’s not effective. I had a situation, a problem with the government for example, and I didn’t get the beef tongue and stick nails in it and I didn’t put curses. What I did is I did a [serious] talisman and a [serious] talisman is for reconciliation with government officials. And then I put it in a jar full of sugar, all hoodoo spell to sweeten them up and I prayed the 23rd Psalm every day for about a year and it worked. Everything worked out. They were nice to me after that. It took a long time, I went through this whole process, but that is my typical approach to a problem. If I’m going to actually do anything magically, which I don’t do that often, usually I just let things go. I’m going to try to find a positive solution to it. Now, I don’t rule it out entirely. Like I said, the pest control magic is I can see how that’s some malefic magic you might want to do. It’s a malefic for the rat or for the cockroaches or whatever or the scorpions, but I just think it’s from a practical standpoint. In your life, it doesn’t make sense to attack people whether you’re doing it magically and you think you can get away with it or you’re doing it physically. I don’t think it’s a good practical methodology as well as having ethical problems.
CB: That actually brings up like this, you mentioned the scorpion there’s like an election in Thabit Ibn Qurra like one of the first ones is getting rid of scorpions in a certain area. But it raised an interesting conceptual issue for me and the way that it was doing it was basically creating an electional chart but just making it the worst electional chart possible and then hoping that that chart would not be applying to you the one initiating the action, but instead it’s applying to the thing that you are then making the image after. So, I think the scorpion image was like pick an electional chart with Scorpio rising and create an image or a statue of a scorpion to bring evil or put malefics in the first house.
CW: You do things like for example, you make the first ruler squaring or opposing the eighth ruler or put the eighth ruler in the first house. You have the first ruler being detriment, if possible, afflicted, that sort of stuff. Now, that’s what I did for that rat election, right? And it was supposed to be rats be gone, and the rat got killed. That to me was a good example of, you know what, anytime you’re moving into that malefic area, you’re unleashing this power, right? And like I said, you want to get rid of your boss, you want him to move and he ends up being dead or something. That’s the thing with this is that once you start that going… I mean, if you did a positive spell, fine. It’s more positive than I thought it was going to be. But if it’s more evil than I thought it was going to be, again, I don’t want to be messing around with that. One thing I would say though is that we’ve had about 2000 years of conditioning that magic is bad. And it’s amazing to me how afraid people are of… Like the stuff I’m doing, it’s basically to me like a saint or an angel. When I’m doing an invocation of these spirits, it’s very positive. But people are like, oh, they’re really afraid of it, and I’m like yet you’re having plastic that has estrogenic compounds in it. You’re allowing all these electromagnetic fields, right? We have Coronavirus going on. I mean, the scientific stuff is definitely dangerous, but we’re not worried about it. You know what I mean? It’s something that we’ve been conditioned to that this is positive whereas we’ve had 2000 years of conditioning from the church and from the atheistic materialism to be afraid of anything magical. I just don’t think it’s that overwhelmingly effective. I mean, I think it works, but it’s not like instantaneous death or instantaneous wealth by any means.
CB: Sure. I guess I can see because you were referring to almost not alchemical but the theurgic version of magic, where you’re trying to create connections or deepen a connection or have connections with higher spiritual beings or even like celestial bodies and the spirits associated with them, and there’s like that version of the magical tradition, but then there’s also this other version which is more attempting to exert your will in order to accomplish something or get something that you’re seeking.
CW: Yeah. I would say that that’s definitely magical. When you guys were talking about the definition of magic is getting your will, I totally agree with that. But I think also what I’m doing is showing, look, there’s a theurgic side to it as well, right? And so that’s another possibility that you can follow with it. Here’s what I would say, my style, the theurgic style, you cannot make a deal with the spirits. You cannot make them do what you want. They’re going to do what they want to do and they think it’s in your best interest, but there’s no blowback. The worst people usually complain about with my talismans is that nothing happened. Occasionally, some will come back and say nothing happened. I don’t know usually have people saying negative stuff happened. If you try a style that’s a little more will-based in getting what you want, you maybe can get what you want, but you get more blowback. So it’s kind of a trade-off. The more you do that, the more you get into a demonic sort of thing, and the demons will apparently make deals with you and then cheat you. There’s a classic story with one guy, he’s Goetic which isn’t quite a demon, but getting more rambunctious called Boone and that’s a wealth one. He asked for a specific sum of money, and about a month later his house burned down and he got that check for that specific amount of money. So that’s the classic kind of demonic, they mess with you like Mephistopheles kind of stuff.
CB: I don’t know if this is true, maybe you know. Is it true that Joseph Smith when he was killed was found with a Jupiter talisman on him, the founder of Mormonism?
CW: Yeah. I happen to have it on my website. It’s a straight up right out of a book called Francis Barrett, The Magus which is a copy of Three Books of Occult Philosophy. It was a completely straight up normal Jupiter talisman. It wasn’t anything-
CB: The founder of one of the major religions at this point in the world who founded his own religion, basically. He had a Jupiter talisman, whatever he was using it for, was probably attempting to increase the positive things sorrounding Jupiter in his life and arguably was somewhat successful at least in founding a religion even if he met an untimely demise or untimely end.
CW: He was really into different kinds of esoteric studies. It’s very controversial because the Mormons don’t want to play that up, but there’s a whole controversy where he was doing treasure hunting and seer stones and it’s a ton of Masonic ritual and the temple ritual. He really was very eclectic in putting together these esoteric strands at the time and then incorporating it into Mormonism. It’s interesting because my respect for him increased when I realized how much Joseph Smith was knowledgeable about this esoteric stuff because it wasn’t that easy to find that in whatever, 1830 or 1840, to find that kind of thing. It’s not like you go on the internet and find all this Jupiter talismans or something like that, but yes.
CB: Sure. You mentioned that magic has gotten a bad rap over the past 2000 years or so, which is true, but then on the other hand, I can see why in reading some books like this and some of the portions of it which are clearly more trying to actualize your will or in some instances tried to impose your will on somebody else why that could have elicited some very negative reactions from people when they see, let’s say, magicians running around trying to do things like that. Even if anybody believed that that was even partially effective, I could see why that would rub some people the wrong way.
CW: Oh, definitely. No question about that. But like I said, I think people’s reaction is disproportionate when you’re talking about something doing like… Like I said, people are very worried about the stuff that I do, right, and will cross examine me about what we’re dealing with and spirits like that. Well, like I said, people are drinking plastic bottles without even thinking about it. It’s just one of those things. It’s like the real dangers in our life, like driving. I mean, 30,000 people a year in the United States drive cars, but people aren’t freaking out about getting in their cars to the same level that they’re worried about getting a Venus talisman for me so I’m not going to have some negative impact on them. Everyone needs to make these decisions for themselves. And if you feel uncomfortable about it, don’t do it. That’s my thing. I don’t want to proselytize for this at all. This is very much an area that it appeals to a certain number of people. And for those people, they just find it enthralling. I always have. But a lot of people they’re just not interested in or other people are like, “Oh, I don’t want to deal with that stuff.” I think that’s completely genuine. You need to follow your own heart in terms of this stuff, and I certainly wouldn’t be saying oh, everyone should be jumping and doing astrological magic.
CB: Sure. One of the other areas to transition out of that is there’s a theme that keeps coming up in the Picatrix about belief and having faith in the operation as a necessary component to it working and to it being effective or to your desires actually being brought to fruition in statements that like, if you don’t believe or have some underlying belief in it, then it won’t work. And I thought that was a really interesting thing because on the one hand, I could see somebody being skeptical or using that as a point of critique and saying that it should work whether you believe in it or not and that this is a weakness somehow, but then I could also see another scenario where your genuine belief or genuine conviction in something actually having an impact on the outcome, and I was curious what role you think that plays in terms of astrological magic.
CW: Picatrix never doubted the existence of the spiritual. The author of that was not sitting in an atheistic materialistic environment where he just believed in it, right? They fully accepted that there are spiritual beings, there are spiritual entities, there is spiritual energy and everything. So they are looking at it from a different perspective. A modern person is like, “Oh, it’s all fake.” And so we’re looking out for a causal mechanism. And so that causal mechanism only if you believe in it, affirmations, so like chaos magic. Chaos magic all comes from an individual, it’s all individual power, which exists. What I would say about… And [unintelligible 1.37.01] actually has a very interesting passage where he talks about faith and belief. He says, “If you have a physician and you don’t believe in that physician, you don’t have faith in them, they’re not going to cure you as easily.” And so, there’s that self-power that’s very, very powerful, and if you don’t have it… Think of it, if you’re an athlete and you’re going to be in the Olympics, and you’re like, “I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose.” You psych yourself out. What are your chances of winning if you don’t have any faith in yourself at all despite the fact that you’re a world class athlete, right?
CB: Well, and this even comes up in consultations with astrologers where if you sit down with somebody who just thinks of astrology as bogus and this is lame and they don’t want to be there, this is one of the reasons why a teacher of mine, Dennis Harness said he doesn’t do gift consultations because it’s just too likely to end up in a scenario where the person just doesn’t want to be there and isn’t invested enough in the process to actually have a productive consultation where they’re going to get much out of it. So, it’s kind of a similar issue on some level with astrology where while I do believe it’s like an objectively occurring phenomenon that exists whether you believe in it or not, I’ve seen how persons perceptions and beliefs about it can alter their experience and their willingness to see the phenomenon on some level, and I don’t know if that’s part of what’s connected here in terms of the magical tradition.
CW: I think it’s both. I think that there… The power of the talisman is outside, right, but it’s also inside. And then also the belief can either enhance that power or block it. So that’s what I would say is that we’re dealing with a multivariant thing because you have that inner power, right? You think about a panacea, right? That’s incredibly powerful. If you think about it, you give someone this blue pill and you’re cured. 25% of people are cured, then there’s 25% of them the pain goes away even though it’s a sugar pill, right? That’s really powerful. Instead of saying, oh, that’s bullshit. That’s panacea. I’m like, that’s incredibly powerful and that’s the power of belief. Okay. That is something that’s additional though to… And astrological magic is not coming from oh, I believe in and that’s the only thing that works based on, there is an external causality I think at least from this perspective that’s going on. But whether you can access that effectively and whether you’re enhancing it or blocking it, I think that your belief does come into it. Again, I think Picatrix is overselling it a bit. It won’t actually work at all if you don’t believe in it. I mean, I think that you’re still going to have some effect, you know?
CB: Yeah. Well, I just thought it would be interesting if it was true that your belief or lack of belief in something if you’re trying to do one of these operations is a factor that’s a component that’s playing into it at all, that’s an interesting thing to be aware of in terms of how the cosmos would be working and the level of interactivity and cooperation that’s involved rather than it just being a one way mechanistic like push a button and get this result type thing.
CW: I think you’re right. I think you really have put your finger on something that’s really very, very essential which is that interaction is really key, right? And that you’re bringing something to this and the outside circumstance is bringing something to it as well. I think what I’d add to it is this is that we tend to think of the magic and like I said, it’s transforming the outside world. Right? What I’m looking for is that I have my desire and I want it to manifest in the outside world. Again, that inner transformation is very important too though. So, what’s going on with the talismanic work is, again just like I said, this interactivity. You have outside force, you have your belief, and then you have a transformational effect on yourself as well. It’s a very complex process that’s going on, but I think that’s a very, very cogent point that you made. I think it’s very important.
CB: Sure. Yeah, it’s something to be aware of. Let’s see other things. Let’s see, routing the nativity electional stuff in a question or nativity, one of the points actually might be good to make is a lot of the rituals seem to make a lot more sense even though this is being written in like Muslim Spain in the 10th century, a lot of the rituals come from a much earlier strata of the tradition especially through the Sabians of Harran and it seems to come from this earlier polytheistic pagan tradition where like what they’re trying to do and some of the rituals and stuff almost to make a lot more sense in that context versus the later more monotheistic traditions where a lot of that had been removed.
CW: I don’t think there’s any polytheistic religion that doesn’t have a view of the one. I mean, if you look at the actual traditional societies that have multiple spirits, right, they always have a sense of unity ultimately for that. It’s just like I just said, “Look, why do you go to Jupiter for wealth?” It’s like, well, I don’t need to go to the mayor if I want my trash picked up. I’m going to go to the Department of Public Works, you know? My conceptualization is that it’s a unified whether it’s Daoist or Hermetic or however you want to look at it, it comes from the one. But there’s a differentiation in terms of practical level of working with things that you’re going to work with the planet that it’s the interface. Essentially, if you want to plug in at the celestial interface, okay, well, if I want love, I’m going to go for Venus. If I want wealth, I’m going to go for Jupiter.
CB: Right. I have a quote I wrote down up from Book Three, Chapter Seven where it says, “Fundamental to all these requests is that you never seek anything from a planet unless it is attributed to its dominion.”
CW: Very much. As essential planetary magic aphorism is that each of the planets has a natural rulership and if you’re going to go on up straight up planetary talisman, you need to get… Now the weird thing is with the house-based talisman, that’s much harder for me to get my head around, right? Because any planet could be the first ruler or the seventh ruler where you’re giving that. And it would be nice to have Venus because it’s like typecast like a Clint Eastwood is in a cowboy movie, right? Venus is typecast in a love talisman. But you can have Saturn as long as it is well-dignified, right? Saturn and the Moon, for example, is a first and seventh pair that’s possible, right? That’s fine for love talisman. I think of it like a repertory theater. You’ve got seven actors, and they can play 12 rules. And depending on what’s going on at that particular time, each of those seven planets can play the role effectively as long as they’re dignified. So, what am I doing when I make a house-based talisman? I’ve been thinking about that recently. I’m like, I’m clear on what I think is happening with a planetary talisman. I’m trying to get the natural rulership, the natural energy of that planet and understand the personality of say Saturn, he’s like a cranky old man, he’s very isolated, whereas the Sun’s like a king. But when I do a house-based talisman, I’m like, “What are we doing here?” So that’s a much more difficult thing to conceptualize. That’s what I would say about is that definitely, I have a better handle on the planetary talisman than what’s going on with the house-based talisman. Nevertheless, right, I’m just like you attracted to Thabit ibn Qurra and attracted to Imaginibus, and those house-based talismans really are the height of astrological magic because they are the hardest to do. I mean, they might have a chart that has 10-15 factors that you have to find. Some of the most demanding talismans I’ve ever done have been house-based talismans. And people have been successful with them. People have been happy with those talismans. So, there’s still a lot more to be done. That’s what I would say. We’ve only started the revival. We got the skeleton, we’re starting to put the flesh back on and that’s what’s exciting about working now. You’ve got people like Austin Coppock, you’ve got Cliff Lowe, Alexander Cummins, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, these are all people that are really doing exciting work and forging their own path. And I have a particular methodology. Like I said, there’s devotional practice. That’s just one way. There’s a lot of different ways for people to do this. It’s very exciting time I think to be involved in astrological magic.
CB: It’s heartening to you because going from 15-20 years ago, literally being the only guy doing it to suddenly seeing all of these younger kids running around doing astrological magic. Has that been heartening for you?
CW: Oh, I love it. I’m mean that’s what I felt like my role. When you look back and say Chris Warnock, it’s like, okay, he revived astrological magic. But what’s the point if no one else took up the banner, you know? If it had been just me and had been this solitary thing, it really been point… I feel like I have a big mirror and it’s a talisman and it has Picatrix on it and it’s right in the center of my planetary altar, and I’ve really felt like my job has been serving Picatrix. And getting it translated, it manifested through me. I can’t really say I did it. And I felt like that was my job that I was supposed to get it out there and now everyone else can run with it. And I think that’s a really exciting development that’s going on. And like I said, Austin has just been amazing in terms of the UAC stuff. They wouldn’t even invite me to UAC after the first time I went. I applied and they said, “No, we don’t need you. We don’t want you anymore.” And I was like, “Okay.” [laughs] And it was like I withdrew a little bit. Now, recently, Cliff Lowe came to me and said, “You’ve got to get out more.” And I said, “You know what?” That’s part of why I contacted you, Chris and said, “Hey, let’s do this podcast.” Because you know what, I need to just be more publicly available and to put it out there because the 20 years of experience has been useful. Like I said, I wouldn’t want to come and say it’s the only way or the best way, but it’s interesting to see how I’ve developed and the stuff that I’ve been doing. And also, I like to let people know just what you’ve been talking about the process of the Picatrix translations, people aren’t really aware of that so I think it’s really nice. What you’re doing is almost like an archive. You’re systematically going through all these different areas and it’s basically the definitive word on these areas as you go through it. I’m really proud of the fact that we’re able to do this and get it down on this podcast because this is it. This is the definitive word.
CB: Yeah, I’m glad we could document some of this history because it really is history in the making that you were involved with directly over the past 20 years and now, we can already see it changing and shaping the course of the astrological community as a result in a relatively short span of time. I mean, it’s 202 now, which sounds weird to say, but just seeing the dramatic change just in the past five years has been really remarkable.
CW: Yeah, I think it’s taken off. What’s happened is people, particularly younger astrologers, because the baby boomers are like they want to… I always get the sense with modern astrologers that they want to wear turtlenecks and sit in their office and get insurance reimbursements, that science will eventually accept them. It’s like it’s not happening. Whereas the younger astrologers are like, let’s try this stuff out. Let’s go for it. That was always my thing. I’m like, “Wow, look at this cool stuff, a grip or a Picatrix. Let’s do it.” And everyone’s like, “Oh, no, don’t do that. I don’t want to do it. And I’m like, “Hey, let’s try it.” And that spirit is what’s exciting about what people have been doing and also the fact that just ascetics exploded. I look at Cliff, he’s got this Stellar Sorcery group and there’s incredible number of people on it. People are very excited about it, sharing the things they’re doing. I don’t always agree with everybody, but we have a beautiful… What’s cool about that group is that there’s an agreement to disagree. We don’t have a lot of sophomoric arguments or flame wars or everything. There’s a level of respect that’s really nice to see and I think that’s really exciting too with the astrological community is just to have mutual respect and acknowledge that my way isn’t the only way. I mean, that’s probably what I have to offer right now for everybody is to say, look, if you think that your way is the only way, it’s the only way for you, right? But we need to tolerate other people’s variations within the tradition and realize how rich the tradition we have by having some differences like that.
CB: Right. That was a Facebook group, the Stellar Sorcery group that you mentioned? Okay. And then what you’re saying right now brings up a point which is interesting which is it seems like for a while in the 2000s, you were doing your own thing and you were having to, in some ways, defend your approach and maybe be a bit more aggressive sometimes about defending your approach as a traditional astrologer or as somebody that was doing astrological magic. But in some ways, it seems like you’ve mellowed out a lot over the past decade [laughs] or two. What do you-
CW: That is my personal mellow. I mean, for somebody whose Mars is directly opposite to Mercury, I’m doing pretty well. That tends to be a little bit too aggressive. Here’s what I would say about that. I’m going to give a couple of things. First of all, when I started out, even doing traditional astrology at all, you had to defend because people would email me very indignant like why aren’t using Uranus, Neptune and Pluto? How dare you not have Scorpio ruled by Pluto? People are very indignant about that.
CB: Not even just that, and respect to him because he recently passed away Noel Tyl and he did a lot for the modern astrological community and he was a great proponent of modern astrology and a certain version of it and I have respect for him and it’s too bad that he passed away, but one of the things that he said I had a conversation with him once where he was the guy that led to a band where Llewellyn would not let astrologers use the terms benefic and malefic and that was like one of his personal hobby horses in astrology was making sure that astrologers did not use that terminology anymore because he felt that it was harmful to clients or harmful in a psychological setting or what have you, but that’s like part of the context in the early 2000s when you come into the community doing traditional astrology that you had to come up against was things as simple as that like a ban on using terms like benefic and malefic.
CW: I mean, they say you can’t predict. I would have people say to me making a prediction is unethical. I’m like, what? Hell, astrology has been doing for the past 1000 years other than making predictions? What do we do? What’s our point other than predict? Even psychological reading is a prediction. Oh, no, blah, blah, blah. So that part of it was that when you’re all by yourself and then you can’t even do your most basic stuff. And then the other thing I would say is astrology is one part of a spiritual quest that I’ve been on and another part of that was the heavy involvement with Buddhism and particular Zen Buddhism. And so, I spent years doing tons of meditation every day. Until to this day, I meditate every single day, I sit zazen. And then also, I have been privileged to have a teacher called the non-dual tradition which is coming out of Advaita and Zen, but it’s a modern spiritual tradition. And with him, I was able to have what’s essentially called a Kensho or Satori experience, which is an experience of your true nature. And so that spiritual awakening had a really strong effect on me as well. Mellowing out is just part of that. Essentially, what’s happening is the Chris character, the Chris ego self, the Chris idealization is starting to fade out and what we take to be ourselves to be our I is not really real. It’s just thoughts and conditioning and calm and everything. It’s a bit like you think of a cartoon, you’ve got a bunch of still pictures and you just run them together, there’s an illusion of continuity. With the idea of a self, that’s the most central. We just say that to people like you’re nuts, I mean, there’s can’t be anything more central to people’s view of themselves than that I exist. But that’s one of the central teachings of Buddhism is that there is no self, there’s no I, and that’s really hard for people to deal with now. On psychedelics, you can have that experience and you can also have that experience like I said on this Kensho or Satori experience and so this is a manifestation though of spiritual progress. And so, if you sing a mellow now, I’ll love it, I mean, like I said, I’ll take that as a gold star on my forehead.
CB: Sure. Well, yeah, and just the elder statesman of the astrological magic community and a lot of younger people running around, one of the things that’s interesting that’s been a recurring theme in this interview today that might be interesting for people to hear especially that are just getting into astrological magic or are a part of that like as recently as you seem much more reserved or restrained about saying that you can use astrological magic to get whatever you want or just like completely impose your will in any way possible and that you might feel like there’s much more restrictions on what’s possible through it than some people might claim.
CW: Well, here’s the deal. I mean, I’ve had 20 years of experience with this stuff. I’ve seen what can happen. I’ve been a professional astrologer for 22 years. All my income, like I said, it’s all coming from… I’m a lawyer, but that’s just for fun. People think that’s bizarre, but that’s my service to the community. The astrology is where I make my living. I attribute a lot of that success to doing this astrological magic, to doing making talismans and having a strong relationship. A lot of my success I think comes from that. But I have a very clear idea that you know what? People will write to me about stuff and I’ll say, look, a lot of people are happy, some people are unhappy, and some people will come back and say nothing happened. I’m like, “Well, if you want to buy a talisman, you just have to realize that.” So, a lot of what I’m trying to do is reduce people’s expectations. They need to have a realistic understanding of what’s possible. So, you’re in a sense taking a little bit of a leap in the dark, you know? A lot of people have-
CB: How much are you rooting the talismans at all when you’re making a talisman for somebody versus how much is it just like a talisman that is a planetary talisman that has a good electional chart for that planet?
CW: That’s all I do. I can’t make talismans for individual people. It’s a practical matter, a couple things about that. First of all, when we’re doing casting, I mean, I have a guy in Pakistan who’s a student of mine who does it for me. For example, I looked out for the 2020 and I have a schedule and I try to do one a month so he’s not getting too overworked. For example, we have not been able to make Mercury talismans for a year. All of 2019 there wasn’t a single second that was optimized standard for Mercury. I couldn’t get Mercury dignifying by sign rising planetary or reflected, I couldn’t do it. We don’t do it. It doesn’t happen. I think there’s one election that I found in 2020. It’s an hour so that’s our window. So, he’ll make 20 or 30 and I’ll store him up. The thing is if you’re going to do natal stuff, if you think about a talisman, you got four or five factors and then you want to put in natal factors, you got another four or five, you’re going to go nuts. You’re not going to be able to do a talisman that’s going to be both good as an election and good as a natal chart.
CB: Yeah, it seems like that somewhat on the customer on some level to make sure that the talisman chart matches their own natal chart to some extent and would be a good match for them.
CW: What I do is I have a very idiosyncratic method. Again, I’m coming from a devotional approach. What I do is I look at your birth chart and I only really need the date because the planets don’t move enough. Obviously, if you have the time and location, that’s great. But what I’m looking at is the essential dignity of the planet. So, if for example you have a strong Sun, to me that says, look, you have a preexisting good relationship with the Sun. If you have Sun in Aries, I’m like, wow, Sun talismans are going to be good for you because you already have a good relationship with the Sun. If the planet is peregrine, I’m like, okay, that’s all right. If it’s in detriment or fall or retrograde or combis, I’m like you know what? It looks like you have a negative relationship with the planet and maybe you don’t want to do a planetary talisman because my experience is they’re very unpredictable. People can get a good result or they can have a negative result. And so, a couple times students of mine have actually made talismans or bought talismans that were afflicted in their chart, they had a tough time but they said always useful for spiritual growth. Most customers don’t want to have a difficult time and useful spiritual growth. They went positive effect. So that’s why I say to them, don’t do the afflicted planets in your chart.
CB: Have you ever had a negative example in your own life of doing a talisman that was like a good planetary talisman but it didn’t hit your chart in a very good way and learning from that?
CW: I’ll give you two examples of things that I’ve done. First of all, I have Mars is afflicted. Mars is retrograde in the sixth, right? No. But I’ll say stuff like I have Sun Pisces or Aquarius rising, but I don’t give the exact time for astrological magic reasons so nobody can do my chart. [laughs] We can talk about that. But anyhow, the two examples. The first example is I thought, you know what? I’ll make a Jupiter talisman, just Jupiter day an hour, but Jupiter in detriment or retrograde. I made it and I started losing money incredible. It was just ridiculous. My student loans were forgiven, right? I made a deal and paid them off. I got a $1099 like a day later, $10,000 in additional income, so I had this huge tax bill. I mean, I’m like oh god, so I had to deconsecrate the talisman. So that was an interesting example of if you make a talisman when the planets are afflicted, it has a negative effect. The other-
CB: Okay. And by deconsecrate it, you mean you had to remove the energy from it or destroy the talisman in an acceptable way in order to remove that from your life?
CW: Yeah, exactly. What I did was I just did a consecration. I said, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. That’s enough. [laughs] You can leave now. That was my tone. I’m like, I don’t want to be rude, but I’m like you know what, this is just not working for me. Yeah, it’s a breakup, a good breakup with the planet. [laughs] Yeah, exactly, exactly. Because you don’t want them pissed off at you. You know what I mean? That’s bad enough. You don’t want it to be angry. The other one has a Mars talisman and so Mars is afflicted. I got a Mars talisman put it on and about an hour later, got like a mild migraine. Mars rules migraines. That was an example to me. Now, I had somebody once who bought a Jupiter talisman and he’s like, “Oh, it’s great. The day I got it I got a new job. I was so happy.” And I said, “Let’s look at your career chart.” He had Jupiter in Capricorn, which is in fall. So, it’s not like if you get a talisman that’s afflicted in your chart it’s a death sentence or something like that, it’s just that they’re always variable. Now here’s the other thing. That’s just Chris Warnock’s weird, idiosyncratic method because there’s other people out there that say, you know what, if the planets are afflicted in your chart, you should get the talisman of that chart.
CB: Right, there’s some people that are trying to strengthen place somehow in their chart.
CW: Yes. That’s logical, right? I don’t think that’s irrational at all. What I can’t do though is people will call me up and say, “This is what I should do, right, Chris?” I’m like, “No, that’s not my method.” And they’ll say, “Well, could you sign off on my method?” And I’m like, no. [laughs] That I don’t do. But nevertheless, I don’t think that’s irrational. You know what I mean? I’m not going to say that my way is the only way with that one, but that’s just my experience with it. And so, like I said there’s a real strand that comes from Vedic astrology that they talk about remediation. And so, what they’ll tend to do is the traditional Western method seems to be if you say you go to the astrologer and you say, look, I’m poverty stricken and he says, you know what, I’m going to do a wealth talisman and then maybe they would look at your chart if you had it, right? It’s very goal oriented, right? Whereas the Vedic they’re like, okay, well look at your chart and Mars is afflicting you, so let’s hit Mars. They tend to be more focused on the planets in the chart in natal, natal, natal which appeals to modern people because they’re all natal, natal, natal anyway.
CB: Yeah, that was actually a question I had is there’s a lot of Indian influence in the Picatrix and we see things like the nakshatras and the mansions of the Moon coming in as a practical component, some stuff with the triplicity version of the Deccan rulers coming from the Indian tradition, and I wondered how much of some of this electional or magical material was coming from portions of the Indian tradition where they may have already had some of those remedial measure type tendencies by that point.
CW: I don’t know about Picatrix, but for myself, one of my favorite things to do is planetary charity. If you have a planet that’s afflicted in your chart like Saturn, you would do planetary charity to Saturn. If you’re in India, I suppose you could go to the temple of Saturn but that we don’t have temples of Saturn, what I tell people to do is I say make a vow to Saturn, invoke him on his day and hour and tell him you’re going to do Saturn charity and make a vow to do it, there’s different numbers for planets, whatever three times or nine times, whatever it would be. Saturn is easy because you just go to homeless people, you just give a donation, they are children of Saturn and you just make sure you do it. You want to do it on planetary hours of Saturn and the day if possible and then don’t break the vow and that’s a good way of… The talisman is such a concentrated form of the energy of the planet in my experience. That’s why you might get negative effects. Whereas the charity, you’re not going to have blowback from doing planetary charity. Again, the concept is well, it’s a person you’re having a relationship with them and you’re not getting along with them so you’re going to do this to make them feel better about you. So that’s the conceptual as opposed to like a mechanical where you’re like what’s bad or in your charging with energy and that’s fine, too.
CB: Yeah, it’s just going back to that old either polytheistic tradition or that old tradition of seeing the universe or celestial bodies as in sold in some ways in the platonic tradition where they’re not just inanimate objects that are floating around or rocks in the sky, but they’re intelligences or have consciousness in some way?
CW: Yeah. My most favorite part of the Picatrix is those Harranian Sabian invocations in Book Three, Chapter Seven, you know? And that looks like it really came from the Harranian Sabian. Harran is in the southwest corner, yeah, whatever of Turkey. It was ancient city. And they looked like all the way along, they had pagan under the Christians and they stayed pagan under the Muslims too and they said, “We’re a people of the book because our prophet is Hermes Trismegistus and our book is the Corpus Hermeticum.” And so, they were able to have special status as people in the book under the Muslim occupation. But they appear to have a very astral based religion and then have adapted that Hermes Trismegistus and Hermetic philosophy into it and that’s why I love those Harranian Sabians because those were taken and used for magical purposes. But you can originally see that they are spiritual, they are religious, they are astral, they’re in that deep embedded astral religion. That’s my favorite. I like to use those for my planetary invocations. I have an adaptation that’s much shorter than those that I use for my daily stuff to.
CB: I’m trying to find that. Again, you said it was like three, seven? I think I highlighted some of those. You’re right. There are ones for different planets and the Harranians had different temples dedicated to individual planets for doing some of these planetary rituals.
CW: Yeah, it’s cool. Like I said, if you want to go to India today, you can go to a temple of Jupiter. They definitely have Jupiter temples, and all the other planets too. That’s the cool thing about Buddhism too because in the Buddhist tradition, and Geoffrey Corte is great. He’s really done a lot of really amazing work. But one thing that was cool for me as a Buddhist was to go to Japan and realize that they already had astrological magic integrated into Buddhism because they look at the planets as being like a diva like a god. You have the Buddha’s at the highest in the Buddha’s office and then the divas are at a lower level of spiritual being. And so, for example, Shingon was initiated, it’s the Japanese Tantric School of Buddhism, they have these mandalas and one of the mandalas, it’s got up like 100 different spiritual beings in it and up at the top on the edge there, they’ve got all the planets. They’re already integrated into it. The other thing that Geoffrey Corte figured out from his research was that there was a flourishing school of Western astrology, mostly Vedic and Persian, in China and Japan until about the 12th and 13th century. So, in addition to Chinese astrology, they were doing the Western style astrology as a school in Japan and China so that was really interesting as well.
CB: Yeah, Geoffrey was on the show a year and a half ago and we talked about his PhD dissertation, about the transmission of Hellenistic astrology basically to China and Japan through a text, it looked like Dorotheus, which is interesting because Dorotheus also shows up in the Picatrix and seems to be one of the influences in terms of some of the electional technique.
CW: Yeah, it’s really interesting if you think about it. We have these periods, it’s Hermetic revivals so to speak and we’re having one now. We had one back in the Renaissance. And then again, back to Picatrix, it’s also a period where there’s incredible amount of revival when it was translated into English and then also in the 10th century. But whenever this Hermetic stuff becomes interesting astrology, alchemy, magic and the underlying philosophies, whether it’s Hermetic or Neoplatonic, it causes a cultural ferment, you know? This idea of everything being connected to the one, that excites people. One of the reasons I like Renaissance astrology is because of the Renaissance. It’s an incredible period of cultural beauty and poetry and literature and art and everything like that and so I think that magic and astrology plays its role in that so that’s why it’s exciting to be doing this stuff now, you know? It’s a fun period to be an astrologer.
CB: Yeah, it seems like the periods where astrology really flourishes is always when there’s a revival of the older traditions that are synthesized with the newer ones and that diversity is part of what leads to a new epoch in each new era of astrology is the diversity suddenly and then having all these different ideas melding together and eventually creating a new synthesis. And certainly, the Picatrix is a great example of that because he draws on so many different sources and he doesn’t fully synthesize everything, but just by reading all of them together, it probably did create a new synthesis that then when later generations of astrologers came across the book, they naturally synthesize themselves in some ways in their heads.
CW: Yeah. And I think that’s what’s cool about now too. The only thing I would say to people is that you want to get deep into it. I had a teacher that said to me, “You can’t dig a well with a bunch of shallow holes.” I think that takes a certain level of mastery. And at that level though, then there’s a natural tendency to do your own idiosyncratic technique and then also possibly like you said, the synthesis and I think that’s what’s happening now, too. I mean, we have an incredible amount of stuff being translated, we have an incredible number of people working and practicing these areas and we are starting to have this, a truth is not a superficial synthesis, which is what you can get with a new age perspective, but we’re having a really deep synthesis of things. For example, I call it a traditional psychological reading. It’s very intuitive, so it’s very much like a modern psychological reading, but what I’m doing is when I’m looking at someone’s chart, I’m also adding an essential dignity in house placement and aspects and so I do much more of a shadow as well as that so you can see the positive and the negative. To me, people’s personalities are incredibly evident in their charts. It’s definitely psychological, which is a little bit of a difference from the traditional natal reading. At the same time, it’s adding a lot of depth into it because a modern reading doesn’t have the dark side as much. You don’t have the access to those techniques so they don’t have that level of knowledge that you’re able to get as a traditional astrologer.
It’s funny because I know that for example, John Frawley, I don’t know if he believes this anymore, but he started off really lambasting modern astrology. I don’t want to be like that. I want to give credit where credit’s due. Because otherwise, I’m in a weak position if I don’t give everyone else the right to think that I’m going to be giving it up myself. And since I’m in the minority all the time, I’m going to lose my ability to think what I want. So, it’s a little bit self-preservation, but it’s a little bit of that mellowing and recognition that you know what, there is always a certain amount of wheat mixed in with the chaff. No matter what you’re dealing with, you can always look through that and say you know what, that’s actually useful. But when I look at traditional astrology whereas Hellenistic or medieval or Renaissance or whatever you’re doing, there’s so much content to it. And that’s what I always really love about it is like the incredible level of technique and the incredible tradition that’s built up and we can stand on the shoulders of giants, you know? I don’t have to be reinventing the wheel or coming up with my own system, I can step in and be part of this long tradition. And that’s really an honor for me to be able to do that. Because if I look at my website or my books, it’s 99% from the sources. I’m not inventing anything. I think I’ve done one thing which is Fomalhaut and Fomalhaut is a fixed star. They’re supposedly four watcher stars associated with different archangels. I’m not exactly sure what that comes from, but I like it. But Fomalhaut is not in our list of 15 fixed stars, but it’s conjunct a really significant planet in my chart and I’ve just felt like I had an affinity to it so I did a divination and got a positive divination for it. I said, “Okay, I’m going to do a fixed star for it.” I manifested both an image and a sigil for it and I did the talisman and so that in 22 years is my only innovation.
Yeah, Fomalhaut, yeah. Yeah, it looks like a fish because it’s the southern fish, right? Sigil looks like, I don’t know, it’s hard, almost like automatic writing. The process was interesting so it’s hard for me to say that I created it and I feel much more like it manifested through me.
CB: Sure. And you mentioned your birth chart which brings me back [laughs] to my earlier question where I had always heard rumors of certain astrologers that didn’t like sharing their birth charts and sometimes it was just astrologers that turned out would have Scorpio rising and they were more private or secretive about sharing personal data feeling like that was more sensitive than other astrologers who were sometimes literally like walking around with a picture of their chart on their shirt. But I would see an uptick on not just the Scorpio risings, but also sometimes the astrologers that had some interest in astrological magic who didn’t share their chart and that turned out to be for magical reasons and now that I’ve read the Picatrix as well as Thabit Ibn Qurra, I understand now more where some of those practitioners are coming from because there are specific rules in there for using a person’s natal chart or knowledge of the natal chart against them potentially, where there’s some astrological magic operations where you incorporate that in order to make a talisman that’s tied into that person’s chart in order to get whatever you want out of them or what have you.
CW: Yeah. Essentially, what we’re talking about is that we need to have a way to tie… For example, just like a horary chart, right? How does a horary chart take that universal figure of the heavens and tie it to a particular question, right? Because of the timing, a strongly emotional question that you ask that timing boom that’s that ties it, right? On a natal chart, it’s time of your birth so each of these things has a link. With magic, we need links as well. Like for example, the classic ones are like fingernails and hair, right, like voodoo. They call it voodoo, but it’s actually standard European magic.
CB: Where if you’re doing a spell, again, with or related to somebody you want like a piece of them in order to incorporate that into what you’re doing and that will personalize it more.
CW: Yeah, it connects to them, right? Because if you think about it, it used to be connected to them, so it continues to have a spiritual connection. The other way to do is their signature, or a picture of the person, or the degree of their rising. The thought that I like to use is you’ll say making the likeness of the person and then use the degrees or degree of their rising. So that’s why I’ve never given out my chart, never. My entire career I’ve never ever publicly made my chart available to me. I’ll say stuff like I said, well, I have Sun in Pisces and I have Aquarius rising. I’m basically a split between Pisces and Aquarius. I have a bunch of planets in Aquarius and a couple planets in Pisces. Once you know that then you can get a better sense of me. That’s a weird mix.
CB: You do that as a protective measure though against other potential astrological magicians who you worry could use that against you in some way?
CW: You know what the other reason is? Because I hate being psychoanalyze by modern astrologers. They would always do that and be like, oh, it’s just such and such and such and I’m like, you know what? I’m more than just like your fast style, flip answers and like, I didn’t like that, you know?
CB: Yeah, some astrologers worry about people making presumptions about them just based on their birth chart based on whatever astrological tradition they’re coming from and that being annoying before actual or circumventing the process of actually getting to know the person.
CW: It’s more just like a psychologist could do that to you if they’re like, oh, I know all about you. You’re such and such. it’s just like it was my crankiness at the time. So, the combination of crankiness and being cautious about my, for example, internet stuff. I’ve always through 22 years been very cautious about what I put out on the internet. There’s no pictures of me drunken on Facebook or whatever like that. You know what I mean? Even from like 2000, I recognized that this stuff is public and everything you put out there is public and everyone’s going to see it. That’s part of maybe an Aquarian quality or maybe Saturn, Saturn and Aquarius or something like that, but just a lot more cautious about how my public persona or whatever, so I think it may be part of that.
CB: Sure. I guess the question Austin and I were debating then is that a general recommendation of how strong of a prohibition is that or should that be and should that create a general panic about people being scared about sharing their birth chart or is it really not that big of a deal? One of the counter points Austin made was that there’s lots of other ways if somebody is going to do magic against you to tie in you to whatever magical operation they’re doing and not having your birth chart is not going to be a major impediment so that it’s almost not as much of a big deal to worry about for that reason.
CW: I would analogize it… I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Earthsea trilogy, Ursula Guin, it’s fantasy. In that the magicians, their purpose is they need the true name of something in order to affect it, right? So, if they don’t know the true name of something, they can’t do any magic. For a mage, you definitely don’t want to let anyone know your true name because then that would be in their power. In the book, you don’t let people know your name, but basically, what I would say about the chart thing is that unless you actually think you’re going to be a target of astrological magic, right? And how many people in the world can do it now? A couple 100 people, right? Then you probably don’t need to worry about it, you know? And I think Austin’s quite right that there’s plenty of other ways. They can use your picture, they can use the signature, then get your toenails or whatever, but they can do it. I wouldn’t be panicking about letting it out. My wife laughed at me once she said, when I was from law school to my job, I had a two-week gap and I went out and got health insurance for that two weeks, you know? I’m just a very methodical, careful person about stuff like that. Unless you’re a similar Saturn-Aquarius rising person like me, you probably wouldn’t be too worried about letting that information out there. And again, if you’re not an astrological magician or worried about that stuff, then you don’t need to. I mean, I’m in a milieu where people might do that. You know what I mean? It’s possible that someone might get jealous of me or something like that or want to take a zap at me. So, I’m like, okay, I just thought of caution for caution’s sake. I know Zoller let his out. I’ve seen his chart, and he was into astrological magic to a certain extent.
CB: Sure. I guess I just wonder with the recent rise in popularity of astrology, one of my worries is if people suddenly start becoming more paranoid about that or holding back versus the earlier tendency like astrology conferences to like put your big three or Sun Moon and rising on your name tag or whatever.
CW: I don’t mind letting people know that. Like I said, I’m Aquarius rising Sun, Pisces, Moon, Aquarius. You know what I mean? Because I think it’s interesting because for people who know about astrology, if I tell them that information then it’s useful for placing me. You know what I mean? I don’t mind that.
CB: Just a side note, but I’m an Aquarius rising with Aquarius Moon as well.
CW: Yeah, right. Well, it’s funny in talking to you because I can just see how we’re on the same wavelength in a lot of ways. You know what I mean? Because with astrologers, you just don’t have this intense scholarly interest in knowledge, you know? And both of us are sitting there spouting off all this stuff, right? But I don’t have conversations with people that have that level of knowledge about the subject. To be an astrologer, it’s a lot more intensive in terms of the technique, right, but to the level that we’re at, and I don’t see that very often. And that Aquarian Moon stuff, that’s an interesting placement for the Moon too, don’t you think? The Moon Aquarius I think it’s very intuitive. I think it’s very appropriate for astrologers. One of the signatures that I think of astrologers is it’s not unusual to have or any fortune tellers to have an angular Moon or a dignified Moon because of that intuition. I was going to Japan and doing these little mini readings and the Japanese they do have a lot of fortune telling, it’s much more acceptable, and it’s amazing how many of those people had prominent Moons and Mercury too. A strong Mercury is also a signature. And then you have people that don’t fit it at all. That’s what’s funny about it is that you’ll have somebody who’s a great astrologer and they have none of that stuff at all. It’s just interesting how that signature… Like Mercury, this is an aside, I’ve noticed that everyone I’ve ever seen that has a strong Mercury is intelligent, but people with afflicted Mercury are intelligent too. So, this is one of those things of being careful of making any 100% statements about any one indication, you know?
CB: Sure, definitely. Yeah, that is always a risk in astrology. All right, well, I think we’re reaching the end of that. We’re at like two hours and 20 minutes. We might want to wrap it up. And I’m trying to think of a way to not summarize but maybe bring things full circle in terms of the Picatrix and what its significance is in not just the history of astrology but maybe in our time right now as people are picking it up and reading it. What’s your overall feeling about it?
CW: It’s interesting. My astrological magic course that I recently upgraded really is, the whole course is say, okay, I want to use Picatrix. Take the course. It takes like 14 lessons. It probably takes you about a year to get through that course. But that’s really what’s necessary to actually use Picatrix. I mean, if you already have traditional astrology, you don’t need to do that. But if you’re starting from scratch, you need a lot to get up to speed to use it. And the interesting thing about Picatrix is it says this is for the sage, it’s deliberately difficult because you don’t want to have people have access to it easily. And also, the finding of it, making it hard to find you’re going to give more value to it. That process of getting through there is very valuable.
CB: Yeah. I mean, the author repeatedly swears the reader to secrecy and to keep the teaching secret. It’s supposed to be part of an occult tradition. It reminded me of how Vettius Valens does the same thing like three different times where he makes the reader swear an oath to keep his teaching secret and not to share them with the unlearned and uninitiated and that led me to some actual trepidation at different points when I was in the process of writing my book and wondering like, is this okay what I’m doing or should I be worried about this curse or oath at all? Did you have any similar reservations in releasing the Picatrix publicly?
CW: This is what I would say. I think the Picatrix is what I would call an arcana, okay? And an arcana is something that it publicly appears, but it conceals itself. You know what I mean? The true depths of Picatrix, 20 years later and I’ll pick it up and go, “Wow, [laughs] I didn’t think about that.” This is a book that has incredible depth to it. And even just doing the recipes in it, it takes so much preparation and so much effort and so much time. I think there’s very few people that would be willing to do that for a negative purpose, really. You know what I mean? Again, with my students, hopefully, that energy and effort it takes to get through that is going to be part of a spiritual seeking and they’re going to say, “You know what? I’m not going to do it for malefic purposes.” But nevertheless, I think Picatrix is emblematic of the deeper spiritual and philosophical depth that astrology points to. And if we look at that as really a way to get what I want or how can I predict what I want to get, then you’re really missing out on some of the deeper implications of it. And I think the practical stuff is great, but a lot of the practical stuff to me was like this stuff actually works, that the spiritual realm actually exists. And then that put me able to be in touch with the other spiritual, the zen stuff and everything that I did.
CB: I love that you’re interested in the practical side of things, but the biggest realization for you is the fact that any of this works at all has huge implications for one’s cosmology and religious beliefs and philosophy and everything else and all of that is so much bigger than just doing any individual operation or ritual that sometimes people might miss the bigger picture.
CW: Yeah. Here’s the thing is that I look at people and they compartmentalize, and they’ll be like, “Well, I’m an astrologer by night, but the rest of the day, I’m just a regular middle class atheistic materialist.” And I’m like that I don’t understand. Picatrix blew my life apart. You know what I mean? That quest that I was on the Picatrix was part of an astrological magic, it changed me irrevocably and it changed all the way I look at reality. My worldview now is a traditional worldview. I see the entire cosmos as being full of spirit, in fact, the spiritual is primary and that’s 180 degrees from where I started out as an atheistic materialist. I think that that’s what really is exciting about whatever… The thing about it is astrological magic isn’t for everybody. If it resonates with you, go for it. But any type of these traditional esoteric sciences have this incredible potential for revolutionary impact on your thinking, on your worldview and on your entire life. And I think that’s what’s most exciting about working with Picatrix if it resonates for you. This is the thing, there are people that come across this and they’re just consumed by it and I certainly was. But that’s a very small number of people. And other people are like oh, interesting, they put it on the shelf, they buy it or whatever, or they’re not even interested in astrology or whatever. But what’s happening is the all the froth, all the new age stuff and all the people that are into Sun signs and people who know what Moon sign is now, this is what allows us to do it. People like you and I are able to be supported by this incredible interest that’s going on and we can do this deeper stuff. The work that you’re doing is incredible and it’s been exciting for me to be part of it. I lit the match. That’s all I can say. All I did was light the match and now we’re getting the bonfire.
CB: Right. Yeah. Well, it’s definitely burning brightly and appears to be getting bigger and headed in very positive directions in the future, so thanks for doing that and thanks for your contributions to the field. Where can people find out more information about your work and your editions of the Picatrix and the course and everything that you mentioned?
CW: Yeah, just go to my website which is renaissanceastrology.com and I’ve been doing a lot of recoding. It’s a 20-year-old website if you can believe it and I’ve been doing all this recoding, so it’s mobile responsive now. You can see books, courses. Now readings, I’ve got a commitment. I have an oral argument in the Iowa Supreme Court in February, early part of February, so I have to take the first two weeks off from readings, but I’ll be back to doing readings after that and then also talismans. So, we have an incredible selection of talismans. If you’re seriously interested in buying one, go ahead and email me with your birthdate and I can check it out for you to see if it’s what’s compatible for you. The website has 700 pages so it’s a huge resource.
CB: Yeah, it’s a huge resource and it’s been for a while, like one of the primary resources for traditional astrology on the internet since the early 2000s before there were blogs or YouTube channels or anything on traditional astrology, so that’s been in and of itself just a huge contribution to the community over the past couple of decades.
CW: Yeah. I think that the book stuff too is I think really key. Getting Picatrix translated and getting it out there, it still sells a good number of copies. A lot of people have an opportunity to delve into it so I think it’s exciting. And again, I want to thank you for having me on today and I had a great time. It’s like I said, I don’t get a chance to talk to people with your level of knowledge and enthusiasm about this stuff. Usually, it’s people asking me about the most basic stuff and so it’s really a privilege to be able to interact. I have an afflicted ninth house so that’s partly why I have a just a tough time traveling. But Cliff said to me, “You got to go to UAC.” I said, “All right, if I can go, I’m going to be at UAC next time.” So, I make that as a commitment that I’m going to do my best to be there. And it’s just been exciting over the past year coming out again and being on the Cliff’s thing and doing this and everything and really being in open communication with people. I’ve got such great feedback, so it’s been wonderful. I’m going to do more of it.
CB: Good. Well, there’s a big conference coming up next year here in Denver, which is the ISAR conference in September, so maybe we can talk you into coming out for that or something to make an appearance [laughs] right?
CW: I don’t even drive anymore. I probably don’t even get in a car more than once a week, and my eyes are getting to the point where I just don’t feel comfortable driving. But I’ve been Ubering around and stuff like that. The more I do it, I’m like, “This is really great and there’s no reason to be a hermit anymore with this stuff.”
CB: All right. Well, maybe listeners could write in if they want to [laughs] encourage you perhaps to make an appearance at the ISAR conference next year, and we’ll see what happens.
CB: Cool. All right. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today. People should check out your website, which is renaissanceastrology.com. And otherwise, that’s it for this episode of The Astrology Podcast. Thanks everyone for listening and we’ll see you next time. Thanks to the patrons who supported the production of this episode of The Astrology Podcast through our page on patreon.com including patrons Christine Stone, Nate Craddock, Tenor Robinson and Marin Altman. Also, thanks to the Astro Gold astrology app available at astrogold.io, the Portland School of Astrology at portlandastrology.org, the Honeycomb Collective Personal Astrological Almanacs at honeycomb.co and also the International Society for Astrological Research, which is hosting a conference in Denver, Colorado, September 10th through the 14th, 2020. More information about that at isar2020.org and the Northwest Astrological Conference which is happening in Seattle, Washington, May 21st to the 25th 2020. More information about that at the norwac.net. To sign up to become a patron and get early access to new episodes and other bonus content, go to patreon.com/astrologypodcast.