The Vital Importance of a Magical Persona
Part 3: Character Creation
This is a continuation of a series of articles. In case you missed part one, you can check it out here.
Visualization is central to ceremonial magic, right? Pick up any old manual and it’s right there in the first chapter of most of them. Chic Cicero, Poke Runyon, and Franz Bardon all make a really big deal out of bringing to mind visions when you perform any operation, from the most complex of Enochian rituals to your bread and butter banishing ritual. You want to see the pentagrams there before you with your inner eye as you draw them. You want to see the archangels towering over you as you invoke them by name. You want to see the colors of the energy centers on your body as you perform the Middle Pillar. The more detailed these visions are, the more real they are in a magical sense. The same point of view holds true when creating a magical persona and you can do this in a number of ways. How you go about it is entirely your call, but the important part of this process is that this person that you create be as fully realized as the person who now reads this article. The more real that they are to you, the more separate from you that they’ll feel. When you slip into this persona, the transition will have a sensation to it that you recognize as strange. There’s a million ways to recognize that it’s working, too. In some of my more significant experiences with the other versions of Me I started having strange dreams that felt like I was looking into the mind of a stranger. I had a dream about breaking up with a woman that I was previously in love with but upon waking and writing it in my magical journal I noted that I had never seen this woman before. As a matter of fact, the dream featured none of the regular people that I am in contact with in my day-to-day life. Everyone in the dream was unfamiliar to my waking mind but in the dream they seemed to be the subject of very real, very deep friendships and romance. When I woke up, I was seized by a very serious feeling of sadness and loss at having broken up with this person. The feeling was as though I’d had a dream intended for someone else.
In some of these processes, the magical persona simply emerged from the void. The aforementioned Frater PVD, for instance, seemed to come into me while performing a series of otherworldly invocations. I opened the door with magic and he was the lurker on the threshold that came through and inhabited me. The identity was something drawn up from within, an evocation. If you consider how Vodun Guede rituals work, the possessing spirits seems to come over the carrier from within. In some of Poke Runyon’s writing on the Goetia, he theorizes that the 72 demons are fragmentary pieces of the operating individual. When we evoke, we’re calling something up from below, using ourselves as the physical medium by which these forces manifest in this world. These ideas dovetail neatly the idea of the Universe-as-Hologram concept, where every component of the whole contains a copy of the whole, as well. You have everything within you to craft the identity needed.
In the time since the arrival of Frater PVD, I’ve done a lot of reflection on who he is and what sort of current that he embodies. The creation of Frater Pera arose from a couple of sources. He was partially the result of a character created for the role playing game Mage: The Ascension, with characteristics that arose from being a DJ of an internet music show lifted from the same echoplex affect that Lux Interior used on the classic Cramps bootleg, The Purple Knif. The final details came from an obsession with Doctor Strange and simply being a yappy smart ass on social media. In the case of the RPG character, I put that version, a sort of porto-Pera named Kia Das Vega through my usual obsessive character creation paces and apart from detailing the what and how of the character in a series of statistical abstractions to modify die rolls with, I also wrote a very detailed short story about the character that helped me not only figure out how to play the character in the game, but also work in meatspace as this person when the time came to burn incense and chant in my temple. In some of my earliest experiments with this paradigm, I would play games of chess against myself, playing each side of the board with the single-minded focus of winning the game. At first, this chess-playing was awkward as I invariably played one side as a means to block the other side’s moves but with time came a strange fragmentation of personality that I’m honestly not sure that I can recommend. I — me, right now — would play the white side with intention of winning the game, but the me that played the black side began to arrive at strategies much different from those that I typically use in a game. Not that I’m anything approaching a competent player of chess, but the strategies were different and provided a crack in my own mind to place a pry bar and pull. Pushing the black pieces around the board had a different feeling, a more intense drive to win. The player on that side of the board was almost a Tulpa designed for a singular purpose: to play chess. And it took their game very seriously. The black player played aggressively and began to win games but I also found that I had a hard time disconnecting from them and echoes of this player would ride along with me for a good deal of time after the game ended. This system ultimately worked but at what cost? I stopped doing it after explaining it to a good friend, an observer with my best interests in mind who remarked that it sounded like I was engineering my own psychotic break and while that may have been a great device for chaos magic, it was a recipe for disaster in my own life, already teetering precariously over the black abyss of mental illness.
While pitting your shadow self against your waking self in dire games of chess is unadvisable, unless you’re looking for an energy capable of doing something terribly insidious, using a role playing game system to come up with the broad strokes of this new character of yours is a method that I stumbled onto quite by accident and recommend it quite highly. Which system you use is entirely up to you and being that the vast bulk of us in this scene are gigantic dorks, you probably already have one or more role playing game books in your possession. If you do not, allow me to recommend the Storyteller games by White Wolf/Onyx Path. I’ve written at some length at Codex Astarte on the potential for role playing games to become Jack Chick’s worst nightmare and be used as actual means of initiation, and for good reason. The game that I cited before, Mage: The Ascension, is steeped in real-world occult practice and does a great job of explaining magic and how it works. But the part that’s important to us right now is the simplicity and abstraction of character creation in that system. Storyteller is named as such because it’s unlike the popular dungeon crawlers where character takes a backseat to combat encounters. In Storyteller, the specifics of character and personality are front and center in order to tell a story (duh). There are also numerous games which fall under the label of Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) which trade grognard rule slogs for simplicity for story’s sake. The amount of time you put into the details is what will make the game better for everyone involved. You can very easily find a version of your own real-life magical practice in the Mage system and then extrapolate from there. Figure out who this persona is, define their practice and paradigm, define the things about them that make them them and express them in the character sheet terms. Meditate on this sheet. Write a short story, write a poem. Fuck it. Write a song, man! Evoke these statistics as you navigate the world around you and just like you would with Nema’s Dancing of the Masks, take note of the way in which people interact with you while wearing this character’s mask. Create a ritual for putting the mask on.
Here’s an example ritual. It’s nothing special but it does the trick. When I’m getting ready to perform my nightly rituals and I’ve just put on my vestments there is a thing I do to formally to bring the mantle over me: I spend a minute in silence, pushing out the noise of my mind, silencing whatever song has put down stakes and haunts me. Then with my hands, I brush them down my face, down my torso, and legs. Then I brush off my arms and declare, “I am Frater (Whatever)”.
The act of brushing off the mundane me goes a long way to set aside that part of me. In the same way that these identities come from within, I brush off the currently outer me in order to reveal the needed identity which waits below. Give it a try.
Set your expectations to find this persona over time and have fun discovering them as time goes by and more of this person emerges. Adopt them in the early stages of your imagination of them and work out the details as you go. Tack on parts that you like, hack off parts that don’t work or no longer serve you. This persona should be as real as you are and being that you’re a human being, whose own personality is subject to change, this persona will be as well. At the end of the day, we’re fostering an underground network of magical rebellion and the magical You should be as mercurial as the guerrillas of history. People under foreign occupation operate under the pressure of a nasty disadvantage but make up for it in ways that the occupiers cannot. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviet military invaded with the same bravado and panache of an American-style shock and awe. They overpowered the state military easily with modern combined arms tactics and hardware. They ruled on the flat lands with armor and controlled the sky with terrifying helicopters, bristling with guns, missiles, and bombs. But the Mujahideen, mountain men armed with nothing more than rifles dating back to World War One and an intimate knowledge of the hills and mountains fought the Soviets to a stalemate that lasted until the United States managed to sneak Stinger missile systems into the conflict and shift the balance of power away from the Soviets.
We will never have the support of a foreign power. We face a monolithic block of opposition aided by an uncaring, disenfranchised people beaten down by the pressures of modern day survival. What we do have on our side, however, is that same indomitable Will to resist and an intimate knowledge of the landscape around us. With a kaleidoscope of persona we hit and fade. We’re the Mujahideen. We’re the Zapatistas. We strike by ambush, we seed the community with terrifying rumors. The bodies sent home from Afghanistan spread rumors among the Soviet infantry that made many of the soldiers’ blood run cold at the thought of being overpowered by the Mujahideen and taken alive. The Viet Cong and Vietnamese irregulars during the Vietnam War struck from the bush with ferocity and then vanished without a trace. American air reconnaissance was useless to find them over the dense canopy of the jungle. The GIs lived in constant fear of an enemy that was ostensibly all around them. They looked like everyone else. They were surrounded at all times. This wore on them. It had an observable effect on troop morale.
Be this evasive with your persona. Evoke it on command, unleash your magic, and then vanish, leaving nothing more than the ominous motto: Ubique Sumus.
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