Unleashing the furies
by Phil Hine
"Sometimes it is necessary to go too far, in all directions."
William S. Burroughs
I decided to write up this account of a ritual following a discussion with a friend, during which the subject of cursing came up. I mentioned that I had done some work on the lines of attacking viral behaviours/beliefs (memes) rather than individuals, and cited the rite that follows as an example. My friend suggested that I write up the account, and perhaps add some comments, so here it is, although I feel I should add the caveat that this event took place well over a decade ago, so my memories of events may well have blurred, and my magical diary of the time has only survived in fragmentary form. Also, I am no longer in contact with the other people who were involved in this ritual, and so cannot verify events with them.
The year - 1989. The place - Headingley, Leeds 6. It was a long hot summer, and gradually, tensions were rising. We suspected that the current dope famine was turning people to booze and speed - never a good combination, and this seemed to us to be manifesting in two ways - increasing incidents of queer-bashing and overt homophobia, and more reports of young women - particularly single mothers - being verbally abused and physically threatened. Headingley was changing - more heroin coming into the area, and interracial tensions becoming more apparent.
Living in Leeds 6 provided, for me, a unique opportunity to explore the possibilities offered by acting as a magical worker in an urban community. At the time, Headingley had a large 'alternative' population (over 70% of housing was given over to multi-occupancy dwelling) consisting of students, squatters, self-defined anarchists and people living on the dole or participating in the black economy. There was a strong feeling of community - and, as in any community, there were individuals to whom one went to get things done. For example, there were the people who'd been involved in the Leeds Claimant's Union, who could help you out with your DHSS claims. There were people who had very practical skills such as "Picklock Pete"; or the semi-professional shoplifters known as the "bargain basement. I'm not trying to romanticise this lifestyle here, rather I'm trying to get across my memories of how the community operated.
Headingley was also home to a strong magical community - there was a University Occult Society that provided a focus point, as well as people running workshops, small groups, and 'zines.
So where did I fit in, here? By 1989, I'd slowly, gradually, acquired the reputation of being one of the people that others went to about "weird stuff" - which ranged from anything from doing tarot readings for people worried about court cases to checking out alleged poltergeist activity in a squat. At that time, I had quite a high public profile, as a result of editing a monthly pagan magazine (Pagan News), being involving in PaganLink Network (restarting the Leeds Pagan Moot), and running both workshops and courses locally. But you don't make a 'name' for yourself in a local community by turning up and announcing that you're a magician. You do stuff. You listen to people. Help them if you can; point them in someone else's direction if you can't. And word gets around. It takes time. You need to be sensitive to people, and also to places. After three years of living in Headingley, I felt I was becoming sensitised to the area, beginning to discern the hidden currents amongst the streets; feeling omens bubbling out of graffiti and gridlocked traffic. I was in a relationship with Leeds (or bits of it, anyway) as though the city were a living entity, and coming to realise that there is relatively little information in contemporary magic & paganism which allows us to accommodate to city living, and the problems which it throws up at us.
On a more personal level, I was getting to grips with my own sexuality, experiencing the highs and lows of relationships with men, and also, doing magical work with bi, gay, lesbian & transgendered people.
When the incidents of homophobia & violence against women started to come through the grapevine, we were worried, naturally anxious, but did not initially have a focus for action. Then matters were brought to a head by an incident at the Royal Park pub - a man verbally abused a single mother, and threw glass in her baby's face. This incident brought things to a head. Rage and frustration boiled over. I recall sitting in a friend's house, together with a lesbian friend with whom I'd been doing some magical work with, and all three of us deciding that we "had" to do something. But what?
This seems to be a good point at which to discuss the magical 'theory' behind the actual rite. There were, for me, two significant strands to this. Firstly, the fact that earlier in the year, I had, in cooperation with another magical colleague, been performing a series of experimental operations using the goetic spirits of the Lesser Key of Solomon grimoire (these experiments are described in the essay on Goetia - also in the e-book Aspects of Evocation). As part of this series, we had begun to utilise the goetic spirits for direct magical interventions in a variety of extreme situations - and although wary of the seemingly 'addictive' power of the goetic spirits (my transgendered partner of the time commented that it seemed that the more we evoked the spirits to do stuff, the more extreme situations arose in which we were likely to resort to them as a means of intervention - almost as though 'they' were creating more work for themselves) I was, at the same time, impressed with the speed at which the results from these operations manifested themselves.
The second strand to the rite was the idea of cursing or targeting memes (i.e. behavioural/belief constructs) rather than individuals. A few years ago, I had come across Hakim Bey's "Black Djinn Curse" - a curse operation targeted at institutions and companies rather than at individuals. Also, around the same time, I'd been deeply inspired by Starhawk's Dreaming the Dark, the ground-breaking book which fused magic and political action. William S. Burroughs' concept of the Word Virus also left a deep impression.
The Word Virus is a very small unit of word or image that entraps the energy of its human host into recycling an instruction or behaviour pattern. Ever walked around, unable to get a popular tune out of your head? Advertising, slogans, jingles, words and images are all carriers for the parasitic virus. Likewise harmful gossip, and of course political ideas (and behaviours) which perpetuate a particular set of power relationships. As Ghandi pointed out, the problem is not people, but the attitudes that they maintain, which can be understood, from a magical perspective, as viral entities. ...Getting even, being Right, holding onto to power...viruses which infect and corrupt the collective psyche of human beings, and are difficult to counter by intellectual or emotional argument alone.
I'd already begun to work with this idea practically, convincing some members of the local Anti-Fascist Action group to counter the BNP's ability to spread it's tendrils across the city by meditating on a swastika cutting through the strands of a web.
It was these ideas that formed the basis of the Furies working - that what we wanted to do was to attack a particular meme - the belief that it's 'okay' for men to abuse women and queers. We were aiming at tapping the vast reverse of repressed anger and frustration and setting it loose to walk the streets of the city.
There may be readers who at this point start thinking, "Well what about Karma? What about the Law of Three-fold return?" Well, what about them? Both ideas are beliefs, not immutable cosmic laws. Personally, I've never had much time for either of them.
As far as I can recall, we spent some hours discussing what we were going to do. It wasn't a spur-of-the-moment action, but neither did anyone present that we wait until the morning, go off and consult someone else, or that we "shouldn't" act. Rather, the consensus was that we felt driven to act. We couldn't let this go on.
The ritual took place in the cellar of H., a woman who, though not into magic at the time was nonetheless sympathetic to it, together with her boyfriend of the time, C. The celebrants consisted of myself, and my lesbian friend, T. What follows is a description of the stages of the ritual, followed by some perceptions of it from the participants, as recorded by myself after the event.
The intention of the ritual was to send forth the powers invoked/evoked to attack the male meme referred to above. However, we also felt it necessary to direct the "Furies" at M., the man involved in the glass-kicking incident which brought matters to a head. In using M. as the 'focus' for the Furies' attentions, it was intended that they would use 'him' as a 'sample' of the meme - along the lines of - "we want you to attack meme X - you can find an example of it in this particular host."
The ritual area consisted of a physical circle with quarter-candles, and an altar in the East upon which were a variety of magical objects (three-dimensional pentacle, scrying mirror, etc.) and a triangle of art which had previously been used in the goetia workings.
In order to prepare the space, we performed the banishing ritual of the NuSphere - a banishing originally conceived by Rodney Orpheus and reproduced in his book Abrahadabra (Looking Glass Press). Basically, this ritual is a quasi-thelemic banishing, similar in structure to the Golden Dawn Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, but establishing four winged 'goddesses' as guardians.
Invocation of the Dark Star
At the time, I had been using the idea of the 'Dark Star' as a symbol of inspiration, creativity, and transmissions from that which is 'beyond' the known and familiar.
Invocation of Ra-Hoor-Khuit
Ra-Hoor-Khuit is an Egyptian/Thelemic deity closely associated with workings of a martial nature. I would also suggest that invoking Ra-Hoor-Khuit is useful for gaining a 'hawk's eye-view' of a situation, soaring on the currents of wind until it is time to strike. In the past I had found Ra-Hoor-Khuit to be very useful for generating "energised enthusiasm" - the feelings of energy, power, poise and focused awareness which for me is crucial in ritual magic.
Invocation of the Guru-line
This requires some explanation. Another consequence of my time in Leeds was initiation into the Adinath Samprayada, a Tantric lineage which was transmitted from India to Europe in the 1970's. In 1986 I attended a lecture at the University by an initiate of this current, and after a year or so, was initiated by him. (It was only years later that he told me that by doing so, he'd come across quite a bit of apparent homophobia in the Leeds occult community by doing so.) One of the elements of Adinatha puja (ritual) is the honouring of the guru-line - whom I always envision as a crowd of naked, hairy men and women, waving tridents and skull-bowls and yelling "Go for it, kiddo!" The Nathas have historically been associated with political action, and were reportedly involved with fomenting both the Indian mutiny and magico-political actions against the British Raj. In some ways, I view the guru-line as a kind of ancestral lineage.
Invocation of the Furies
This section comprised of a series of invocations of goddesses which we felt were appropriate to the working - Kali, Hecate, Isis, the Morrigan, Ma'at, Diana, Eris, the Furies as a group, Cerridwen and Babalon. The invocations were directed into the space itself, rather than either of the celebrants. The emphasis was placed on the wrathful and destructive aspects of these goddesses.
Evocation of Haures & co.
Haures is a goetic spirit who has dominion over 36 legions of lesser spirits (36,000). In the earlier goetia series, Haures was the first entity which we evoked - described in my diary entry of the working as having "not much personality but ...a tremendous force" - together with his legions:
"G. suddenly saw a horde of small black spindly-limbed beings flitting around the circle, whilst A. later reported a host of black demons gleefully dancing around the circle. G. was taken aback by the sudden intensification of the atmosphere, and felt that the manifestation of Haures was made stronger by the presence of the legions. Abbadon then ordered them to go forth - both saw Haures & the legions spiral upwards and jet off into the night as a writhing dark mass, moving constantly."
Following this evocation, the License to Depart was given, followed by another Banishing ritual. The ritual's duration was 3.15am - 4.05am.
Perceptions of the rite
As one might imagine, the atmosphere of the ritual space was charged with anticipation even before we began. As we began the preliminary invocations, we both noted a rise in temperature, and a feeling of electrical build-up - a kind of pre-storm build-up which H.& C., who were in the sitting room above us, also perceived this. T. reported that during the Kali invocation, she felt herself to be tall, blue, with long, sharp fingernails, and felt a raw anger, almost psychopathic in intensity, building up - she felt, she said, a strong urge to rip me apart with her bare hands. She also 'heard' the sounds of clinking bracelets & ankle-bells).
T. then performed "The Scream" - visualising women of all races, in all cultures, in all eras, who have been oppressed, screaming their frustration and anger into the night (this is basically a visualisation sequence aimed at unleashing and focusing anger and determination). By this time we were both dripping with sweat and shaking. Upstairs, both H. & C. both reported a feeling of great activity below them, and a being 'pulled downwards' sensation. Apparently their two cats also reacted, going to them for comfort with their fur up and their eyes wide open.
We then proceeded to perform the evocation of Haures, following the procedure in the Goetia, which consists of:
- The First Conjuration
- The Second Conjuration
- The Constraint
- The Address unto the Spirit
- The Welcome to the Spirit
- The License to Depart
About the time of the second conjuration H., on her way upstairs, saw what she later described as 'gneeches' - small, black, spindly-legged spirits flitting about. One appeared in front of her and she said something on the lines of "Get back fucking down there" whereupon it made a chittering noise and vanished. She also observed that down in the sitting room, the temperature dropped and the room suddenly became windy (sudden winds blowing up had occurred during previous goetic operations).
T. reported later that she 'saw' Haures as an aryanic angel with a flowing gown, blood-red eyes, and a depraved smile. We both initially perceived him to appear in the Northern quadrant of the room, to which he returned until forcefully constrained. T said that she felt that the cellar was packed with spirits crowding around the circle. H (upstairs) reported hearing feet stamping from below, and all present, to varying degrees, 'heard' an insect-like chittering noise. T. said she could smell horse-sweat, and perceived a strong sense of the "nervous energy of horses".
As Haures & co. were given their instructions, I felt them blast out of the cellar as a cloudy mass out of which dangled tangles of spindly legs. T. likened them to a plague of locusts, with the faces of angry women.
It is always difficult to gauge the 'success' of a rite objectively. Over the weeks that followed, the local incidents of women/gays & lesbians being harassed seemed (to us) to diminish. We also heard some reports of women who'd been abused by their male partners turning on them or leaving them. Shortly after the ritual, T., who at the time worked for Leeds City Council, was subjected to homophobic abuse by a male colleague - and her reaction was to punch him through a plate glass window! A work tribunal later concluded that she had been provoked and was not penalised. The ritual also had personal effects on all involved. H. & C. split up shortly afterwards, although how far this can be said to be a direct consequence of the rite is debatable. I suffered what amounted to a mini-nervous breakdown, which in retrospect, probably did me a lot of good.