by Phil Hine, Neil Mclachan & Estelle Seymour
This article forms a collective account of a ritual invocation to Babalon, including our motivations to perform such a working, what effects it had upon us, and what insights we gained from it.
Lammas 1990; the three of us were discussing the possibility of performing a ritual whilst attending the PaganLink Moot in Staffordshire. Given the Solar nature of Lammas, we at first discussed the idea of enacting a confrontation between Odin and the Giants, with Thor as the mediator (following Freya Aswynn in her book Leaves of Yggdrasil ). Estelle, however, suggest that we invoke a solar Goddess, possibly with a martial aspect, and suggested Babalon. Estelle & Neil had performed a Babalon working about a month previous, and Estelle was currently exploring the element of fire. Phil had not done any work with Babalon for a few years, and so we considered this a good opportunity to examine this Goddess in more depth.
We initially discussed Babalon in terms of her attributes as given in The Book of Babalon by Jack Parsons, as recently published in Starfire, Volume One, No.3. Also, in her attribution to the Tarot trump 'Lust' - a firey earth-goddess with Chthonic attributes - an underworld initiator. We decided to use a series of invocations to Babalon based on Parson's writings.
On arrival at the Link-Up we looked around for a suitable site for the rite, which was to begin at sundown. We settled upon a site called Ash Hill, which we later discovered was an old beacon hill. The 4 quarters of the circle were marked as follows:
in the East, the rising moon (and some cows); in the South, the Chimney stacks of a power station; in the West, the setting Sun and a reservoir; in the North, a blasted tree-stump (from which, during the rite, Babalon would emerge).
Prior to beginning, Estelle coloured in a Tarot Card of 'Lust' as an aid to attuning herself to the role of Babalon. In this working, she would assume the role of Babalon, whilst Phil represented the forces of Chaos, and Neil the Magus.
The rite began with 'the unsealing of the vortices' - a centering exercise using 'spiral pentagrams', to the sound of a steady drumbeat. Estelle then retreated to within the tree-stump, whilst Phil moved to the South. Neil remained in the centre and, taking up the sword, proceeded to evoke the primal, unresolved forces of chaos which appeared in the form of a terrifying demon (i.e. Phil). The Magus then attempted to bind and constrain the demon to his will, but it refused to be cowed, leaping to attack the magus, making insulting gestures, screaming and gibbering, and hurling the occasional cow-pat in his direction.
The Magus then called upon Babalon to manifest and bring the chaos demon(s) to heel. Armed with spear and shield (as in the design of the Thoth image, Princess of Disks), emerged from the cleft of the blasted tree into the centre of the circle. She lowered her spear, allowing the Magus to remove a red veil which covered the crystal tipping her spear - signifying that the power of Babalon was now unleashed. Following this, Babalon didst lay most heavily into the demon using her weapons and there was a terrific battle during which the avatar of chaos copped a mighty biff in the face from Babalon's shiled and was subdued. Babalon stood with her spear at the demon's throat and her foot upon its chest, and constrained it to remain in the West (ie. Amenta or underworld), its face reddened from gore.
The Magus then laid his sword at Babalon's feet and crawled between her legs (E to W) to enter the underworld (paying lip service to her chalice as he did so). He then returned from the underworld (W to E) with the demon, who returned to the manifest world with a primal scream of joy. The Magus then took up his sword, and charged the demon to carry out his will, for which it could enjoy 'all things of sense and rapture'. The rite was then closed and we returned to the gathering, where a large bonfire had been lit, and there was diverse revelry.
In the morning, we compared dream-notes and found that all had had vivid dreams. Phil had dreamt of Estelle, standing atop Ash Hill, overshadowed by the image of the Princess of Disks, surrounded by a brightly-coloured vortex of energy. Neil dreamt strange visions of cyborg sex, and of extracting a leech-like creature from his left foot. Estelle dreamt of sex and betrayal, and woke twitching and shaking due to the intensity of punishment she was meting out in the dream. We all felt unsettled and labile, particularly Estelle and Phil. Phil spent the day at various paganLink meetings, whilst Neil supported Estelle - they later returned to the ritual site where Estelle meditated within the tree stump and Neil looked out over the landscape. We all recovred somewhat during the day, but towards the evening, all reported feeling shaken and drained - and it seemed that Neil's mood was largely being affected by Phil and Estelle.
During dinner, Phil had a 'flash' of insight over what for him, was happening. All throughout the day he had felt the 'prickings' of things which he had attached himself to; things which, in his state of low energy, it would have been easy to become entangled in - such as the changing relationship with his ex-lover and the future of different projects. However, not having enough energy to dwell on these things, he had escaped becoming 'caught up' with them. His insight was that the 'gift' of Babalon was a scouring of such attachments which needed to be dropped. He had a vision of a swastika with razor-sharp edges whirling down a tunnel, destroying tapeworm-like creatures who were burrowing into the walls. He realised, he said, that clinging onto things which were no longer valid, possible, or even desirable, was the ego-image trying to maintain the fiction of itself in terms of being 'successful' or 'competitive'.
We spent some time discussing how this insight applied to ourselves, before retiring.
The next day, we all awoke with varying degrees of diahorrea, and both Estelle and Phil continued to feel shaken and drained of energy throughout the day. In the evening, we collected together our perceptions of the working. It is interesting to note that although Estellle did not feel particulalry imbued with the force of Babalon during the rite, nonetheless there was an effect.
There is a marked difference between the aspect of Babalon referred to in Parson's work and the aspect of Babalon who's energy flowed through us. It is surprising that although Babalon is a central figure in the cult of Thelema, there has been very little contemporary work published about her attributes. Parsons' writing on Babalon reinforces the image of her wild sexuality and power to induce samadhi, as depicted in the Tarot trump 'Lust'. here, Babalon is the archetypal 'scarlet woman' (i.e. magician's ride) conjoined with the Beast.
The Babalon that we invoked was the 'Babylon' of Crowley's The Vision and The Voice. Attributed to the West, her weapon is the Chalice and is shown in the Thoth image, 'The Chariot'. Her modus is mystical, rather than magickal - eternal openness, which neccesitates the experience of being vunerable. Growth comes through being prepared to expose weakness to others, with the increasing awareness of the need to relinquish self-control at appropriate times, allowing yourself to be hurt rather than always having to be seen to be 'in control' of the situation. Therefore Babalon is equivalent to the power or ability to relinquish the ego - to transcend our self-forged fetters and embrace that which is 'more than we are'.
"This is the Mystery of babylon, the Mother of Abominations and this is the mystery of her adulteries, for she hath yielded up herself to everything that liveth, and hath become a partaker in its mystery. And because she hath made herself the servant of each, therefore is she mistress of all. Not yet canst thou comprehend her glory.
Beautiful art thou, O Babylon, and desirable, for thou hast given thyself to everything that liveth, and thy weakness hath subdued their strength. For in that union thou didst understand. Therefore art thou called Understanding, O Babylon, Lady of the Night."
- from the 12th Aethyr.
The key word here is understanding. The insights which welled up from our Deep Mind as the 'gifts' of Babalon were lessons that (hopefully) we are learning all the time. It was literally a 'flash' of insight that Phil described, rather than a step-by-step analysis of a process. Neil also reported later a marked increase in 'intuitive certainty' in matters where doubt and reticence had been dominant formerly. A gut-level feeling of being able to 'let go', giving us an opportunity to grow by shedding character armour - the defensive measures by which we 'shut ourselves up'. How much of the scar tissue we manage to strip away at any given time is of course, in our own hands. Perhaps Babalon's heat also gives the neccesary courage to let go.
The opposite experience is that of'closing off' - clinging to attachments with external things, as though they are roots from which we draw our sense of self-validation. We try and maintain these situations in a state of stasis, refusing to change when neccesary and attempting to preserve the past. A refusal to change goes hand in hand with not recognising the needs of others - all is subsumed in the need for the ego to defend itself.
"Now again I see those wandering souls, that have sought restricted love, and have not yet understood that 'the word of sin is restriction'. It is very curious; they seem to be looking for one another or for something, all the time, constantly hurrying about. But they knock up against one another, because they are so shut up in their cloaks.
And a voice sounds: It is most terrible for the one that hath shut himself up and made himself fast against the universe."
from the 7th Aethyr.
As noted earlier, the tarot image most appropriate for this aspect of Babalon is 'The Chariot' - Firey water (Lava or dissolving water). Cancer, the crab, has a soft body beneath its shell.
The lesson of the rite was that the magician cannot bind demons to his will without recourse to Babalon. That is, you cannot work with energies and forms by seeking to restrict or bind them, but only by letting them flow through you. Also, once you begin to stir the waters of the Deep Mind through magickal practice, obsession and attachments can quickly swell from unresolved complexes and problems which lurk in the dark corners of your psyche. Seen in these terms, Babalon is not so much the cosmic fuck which some male Thelemites seem particularly hung up on, but an image of wisdom and intuitive understanding of the process of growth; from that self-image which clings to attachments (ego) to that self which flows with change (exo). Invoking Babalon triggered a subtle shift in our collective field of awareness, resulting in an enhanced perception of gestalt; and once a new pattern is glimpsed, then we can begin to work with it.