Here’s an excerpt from Jason Miller’s Monday Magick Newsletter:
I opened up the Book of Gold and noted the descriptions of what you can do with each psalm are varied. Psalm 2 for instance can be used to heal gastronomic issues and make you welcomed by princes and powerful people. You pray the psalm over olive oil oil. The oil then gets applied directly to the sick person to heal them, or used to wash a tablet of magical characters then applied to your face before meeting a prince or powerful person.
Those are the recipes in this book for this psalm. Other books give other recipes: The 10 Lost Books of the Prophets for instance gives instructions for curing headaches and calming storms with this psalm.
If you can follow a recipe you can do magic at this level. Unfortunately, if all you can do is follow recipes, you will need a different recipe for every situation as well as all the ingredients in that recipe. After you have accumulated hundreds or even thousands of recipes they can get hard to keep track of. Some people however never get past this stage: Follow the instruction to the letter and get the result. Fair enough.
Insightful practitioners can start to see different methods emerge in the recipes over and over again, and can learn to apply these methods on their own without following the exact recipe. Someone who can comprehend methods at this level might take Psalm 11 and the characters given for it. but rather than inscribe them on a glass plate and perfume it with borax and bury it under the door of their enemy as that recipe suggests, instead create an oil as they did for Psalm 2 and wash a tablet of characters then apply it to a skull candle with their enemies links in it.
Understanding the Methods of Magic will give you the ability to make necessary changes and substitutions in recipes and also give the spirits that guide you greater latitude to aid you in your work.
Beyond method is understanding principles. Harrington Emerson wrote: “As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods.”
The Sorcerer who understands the principles involved in the use of scriptures, oils, and magical characters will find themselves completely unbound by, yet also deeply rooted in, what has come before. Such a magician might a scripture from an entirely different religion, perhaps an orphic hymn or suffic verse, and apply oils and characters resonant with the nature of that scripture. Such a Sorcerer does not comb their books for the exact recipe to follow in that moment, but will be able to respond to that unique scenario with the spirits and materials on hand.
The reason this has been on my mind lately is that many students seem to want more in the way of recipes and less in the way of methods and principles. “Tell me what to do and say exactly, so I can repeat what you did” is an increasing request. This is fine to an extent, but leaves the recipe-follower at a serious disadvantage not only in being able to adapt to their present circumstances, but in understanding the recipes they follow.
I will close with a story: In one of the first Arcane Audio’s I ever taught I mentioned that I liked to use Pigmy Pitch Pine needles in fiery cleansing spells, partly because of their connection to the Jersey Devil and Magic, partly because of their connection to fire, but mostly because they are easily available where I live and connected to the local environment.
I gave this as an example of how I applied principles and methods to create a recipe that was potent and connected to my local area. I hoped students would apply these principles and do something similar with their own local environments. Instead, I got 34 requests to purchase bags of pygmy pitch pine through the mail so they could repeat my recipe.
I wonder what the authors of Renaissance Grimoires or the Greek Magical Papyri would make if people bending over backwards to follow their recipes to the letter. Would they be gratified that people want to replicate exactly what they did in a different time and place or would be concerned that we aren’t grasping the principles that guided them in the creation of those texts?
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