The magical and erotic phenomenology of ritual performance within the Babalon Current
As a precursor to the release of the forthcoming publication of ‘The Marks of Teth’, it seems timely to post a series of articles which give context and background to the material in the book from my earlier works. The posts will condense some of the material presented over the last couple of years in public lectures. In this piece, the focus is on ‘Mother Destruction’ (1990-2000). M.D. has been the longest standing public art project thus far in a series of works dedicated to the Babalon current. The project was a collaboration with Patrick Leagas of 6 Comm who contributed original compositions to the project, as well as working with me in creating musical structures which supported the magical practices within live performance and recordings. Although I won’t be featuring the project directly in the book, the ‘M.D.’ ritual performances were vital in consolidating some of the techniques that form the core of the practices in the M.O.T., the recordings may be of interest to those working or experimenting with performance/group ritual within the 156 current.
The Mother Destruction project was part of an ongoing corpus of magical work concerned with manifesting a personal definition of the ‘Body of Babalon’, the ‘body’ being a metaphor and a phenomenological map which delineates the occult anatomy and magic of the Babalon priestess. This is a form of magical cartography which is extended via an experimental, multidisciplinary process concerned with the development of the mysteries of the 156 current; and its ontological development as a vehicle for female, sexual gnosis. The praxis supports a proposition that Babalon’s magic is synonymous with a process of radical reform within current paradigms of magical sexuality. As ‘Woman girt with sword’ Babalon represents female magical intelligence and wisdom, a transgressive force that is driving the re-evaluation and deconstruction of the female position within existing occult systems.
Within the emergent Post-Crowleyan era, clarifying and developing understanding of the sacred occult anatomy of the Babalon priestess is an essential part of ‘new aeon’ sexuality. Within the contemporary Western Mystery Tradition, there has been much progress in terms of a greater female presence and powerful contributions to the Occult Corpus made by women. However, progressive methodologies to channel the very specific sexual mysteries of the Babalon priestess have been scarce and this has seriously hindered the progress of the current. This situation has sabotaged formulation of an active, initiating sex magical priestesshood. The process of reform cannot only be focused on retrieval of what has been repressed, lost or missing within female magical traditions. Reform must also be concerned with investigating the current in relationship to contemporary discourse on philosophy, theology, feminism, ecology, physics, biology, neuroscience, consciousness studies, etc. Much of contemporary thought and debate in these fields is relevant to the many unresolved concerns within esotericism about the epistemic development, metaphysics and ontology of the Babalon current. Questions are being raised on the nature of ‘Babalon consciousness’ itself, her magical subjectivity, corporeality and relationship to love and Eros; and definitions of space, language and gender in the context of women’s magical experience.
A wider, contemporary understanding of female occult anatomy can be explored within movements of modern philosophy and feminist theory, such as the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the feminist theology of Luce Irigaray and the linguistic theories of Julia Kristeva. Although not directly related to esoteric philosophy, I’ve found the work of these writers of great value in terms of providing models for critique and process, which are interesting in juxtaposition with the traditional esoteric corpus and an experiential, heuristic magical practice. Merleau-Ponty elevates the concept of the ‘phenomenological field’ within his work, emphasizing the inseparable relationship between body and world as the ‘Chiasm’, acknowledging the primacy of the body as mediator between consciousness and matter. Irigaray’s work is important in regards to deconstructing the gender bias in language and supporting concepts of female subjectivity. These core ideas lead to her advocacy of female divinity as a vehicle for what she terms a ‘radical immanence’. Kristeva rejected the concept of ‘écriture féminine’ (women’s writing) promulgated by feminist thinkers who felt it vital to develop feminine symbolic systems which emphasized concepts of difference within gender. However, her interpretations of Plato’s concept of the ‘Khora’ as a maternal device for exploring somatic origins of language and poetry have some compelling correspondences with Babalon’s magic and exploration of body-centered language within ritual performance.
Such perspectives can create some challenging contrasts to traditional esoteric models and one’s orientation when defining metaphysical position, space and dynamics within a ritual context. However, the work of Irigaray and Kristeva, in particular, is contextualized within classical philosophical tradition and psychoanalytical (and Kristeva’s predominantly Freudian) models which do not reflect paradigmatic, sociological shifts created during the modern occult revival and the progress of women within this. This generates a grey area between feminist theory, philosophy and contemporary esoteric traditions within which I believe the Babalon current is of great importance to the future direction of feminist theology and occultism. Within my practice, I’ve had to conclude that the epistemological remit of the Venusian, Babalon current does demand a very specialized ‘langue féminine’, comprising of wholly erotic, corporeal, new magical languages and magical formulas that are derived from the female occult body itself. This extends Irigaray’s concept of feminine subjectivity into a highly technical and specialized phenomenological, occult, field of action. The M.D. Project was an experiment in defining magical space in a relationship with the concept of the ‘Body of Babalon’.
‘And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body.’ (AL I:26)
The core of the ‘Mother Destruction’ project centred upon live ritual performances within which the various disciplines and techniques that I had created through trance/possession with the Babalon current could be put into practice by creating a primal experimental, experiential space that has some parallels with Kristeva’s ‘Semiotic Khora’. However, it is a space that is not only linguistic but also has a distinctive bio-erotic force, which drives the creative action. M.D. was in part created to challenge the nihilistic aesthetic that pervaded the post-punk, post-modern experimental music scene. It was also a general response to the collective existential impasse and schism that characteristics our current era, to which I believe Babalon is a powerful antidote. However, Babalon’s new formulas represent a form of sexuality not yet fully matured and scarcely resembles anything related to previous cultural, old aeon perceptions of love and Eros. The Babalon current exalts women in the western esoteric tradition in the role of sex magical initiatrix. It can’t be overstated how pivotal this will be in transforming the spiritual core of humanity. This momentous shift will reverberate to challenge the reductive perceptions and dismemberment of female sexuality in contemporary culture, that often define womens experiences of sexual love as primarily driven by instinctual, reproductive urges or narcissistic, reflexive responses to the male gaze. Thus, as well as the extremely radical psycho-physical, magical transformation that the current engenders; the ongoing re-evaluation of female sex magical territory is creating a ground zero, a launching pad, from which the regenerated and revolutionary aspects of the new sexuality may emerge.
‘Mother Destruction’ was a vessel created to develop this new prima materia. The name evokes the stark reality of a raw, erotic, untrammeled state of divine frenzy, the domain of the primal goddess. It is a metaphor for the kinetic turbulence within the alchemical, sexual process of ‘solve et coagula’ and ‘fire snake’ consciousness, a force that generates the ‘in-between’ worlds that propel one through ecstatic disintegration into the dark womb of potential and regeneration, through which any and all forms of copulative exchange may emerge, a universal, creative flux, which is mediated through the sacred anatomy of the Babalon Priestess. The performances brought together important parts of the practice I’d developed into a magical environment which would hopefully communicate the orgasmic gnosis at the heart of the Babalon current at a corporeal and etheric level; and create a platform from which to develop experimental, ritual formulas and magical languages.
In terms of the physical dynamics of performance, the presence of the fire snake within the body generates some universal phenomena – erotic, ophidian currents that have often been sublimated into the distinctive movements seen in sacred dance forms throughout history. For example, the undulative serpentine dances of the ‘Kordax’ and ‘CifteTelli’, licentious and sacred dance forms that originated in Greece and the middle east and were precursors of modern ‘belly dancing’, have a powerfully seductive momentum. The captivating grace of the temple dances of the Devadasi, historically animated the mudric/yantric forms of the goddess into flesh. Both of these art forms evoke the fire snake through a very defined aesthetic. However, grafting any existing dance forms or magical techniques into my practice would have felt very artificial. It seemed very important simply to cultivate the physical dynamics that I had experienced directly from Babalon into performances. This created a distinctive but very raw, uncontrived aesthetic. I found that during possession by Babalon one creates a phenomenological field that has similarities to a shamanic séance and that Babalon and 156 egregore is the source of a magical-physical language with many distinctive qualities. Once possessed, one is immersed within a complex spectrum of trance states through which distinctive movements spontaneously emerge. These kinetic motifs create a corporeal narrative or journey within the magical performance space.
The phenomena of convulsive shaking and trembling observed in many shamanic cultures is a feature of the trance of Babalon, yet it is distinctive from other forms of traditional trance practices in that it is primarily erotic and directed through occult channels related specifically to the 156 current. Also key is that the priestess must work from within a pre- orgasmic build up or state of release.The performances were personally very challenging and intended as a form of erotic, ‘Electro-shock therapy’, designed to puncture collective stereotypes of female, magical sexuality. The movements of the priestess causes spontaneous reactions from the audience/participants which creates a collective ecstatic counterpoint to the invocations of the priestess. The participants engage within the magical space and some may actively become entranced and commune with Babalon via the collective ‘khora’. I believe the magic of Babalon augurs future possibilities of vitalist, evolutionary paths which can nurture deep articulacy of sensation and perception within the physical being. It seemed very important to put into practice the principles of embodiment which are at the core of the 156 current. Being present with a person completely immersed in a state of abandonment and trance is a very disorienting experience, more so with the Babalon trance which is highly sexually charged. The priestess must be prepared to fall into a completely deranged, ecstatic state, which makes her simultaneously vulnerable and empowered.
The performances were concerned with creating ritual structures to earth and communicate the quintessence of the current. A significant aspect of the work has been to reinforce the kinetic energy produced during ritual with corresponding sonic material and vocals. The early Mother Destruction performances featured trance practices, movement and sound that expressed these earthy, shamanic aspects of the Babalon current. Freyja as the Nordic avatar of Babalon revealed herself as holding techniques concerned with corporeal aspects of sex magic and embodiment. From these revelations a very personal interpretation of ‘seidr’, the shamanic/archaic sex magical tradition associated with Freyja was incorporated into the practice. For example, the ritual performance of the ‘Hella evocation’ is a live trance working in which the dark underworld aspect of Freyja emerges through vocalizations (click link below to hear) and movements that relate directly to her vibrational location within the magical body.
The movements that invoke and channel Hella are wildly spasmodic and violent. The shamanic frenzy of these underworld energies is essential in assimilating the highly explosive and unstable manifestations of the fire snake that accompanies the first stages of initiation into the mysteries of 156. Thus, Hella is important at the ‘Saturnine’ stage of development of the ‘Body of Babalon’, a complex process described in detail in the M.O.T. Her energy once assimilated can also be invoked in group work or performances, in which Hella has the function of eliminating any energies from the field of action that hinder the success of the rite. By contrast, ‘kenaz’ was a poetic, liturgical drama and a phenomenological narrative which describes and physically evokes the construction of the solar, ‘golden raiment’, the definitive initiatic garb of the Babalon priestess. Through delicate and skillful trembling and shuddering movements, the priestess weaves the structure of the golden garment in light. Then, clothing herself in the rays of the sun, she carries and propels the participants in magical flight across the abyss, via the fiery, vulvic, solar gateway of Babalon.
My understanding of Babalon’s magic is that it encompasses many aspects of trance and possession states that may be considered shamanic and I have discovered that there are some distinctive phenomenological motifs that link shamanic practices with Babalon and Seidr work. However, Babalon’s magic is characterized by its sex magical foci and it’s transmission through the female body and has many qualities that are unique to her. Through the development and communication of these feminine aspects of Babalon, the development of her magic in relationship to all of her devotees across the gender spectrum will advance greatly. The M.D. project was thus an experiment to create a form of sex magical technology specifically to transmit these nuances of the current. A synthesis of Sonics, movement and ritual dynamics focused on the melding of the core of Babalon’s bio-linguistic formulations in the magical field, to create a matrix through which a vibrational, simulacrum of Babalon could be constructed.
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Engaging with Irigaray. Feminist Philosophy and Modern European Thought.Edited by Carolyn Burke. Naomi Schor. Margaret Whitford. Columbia University Press.
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Seidways. Jan Fries. Mandrake Press.
Liber AL VEL LEGIS. Aleister Crowley. Falcon Press.