** (The following glossary is a work in progress. It will be regularly updated, expanded, and edited over the coming months. Any questions, comments, or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org) ___________________________
Short Glossary of Occult Terminology
A.A. – Not to be confused with Alcoholics Anonymous. In occultism, the A.A. (alternately called the “Astrum Argentum” or “Astron Argon” – “Silver Star” in Latin and Greek, respectively), was an organization founded by Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones after the break up of the Golden Dawn. The A.A. was a teaching order based upon the Golden Dawn hierarchal grade structure, albeit with certain changes and embellishments.
Chaos Magic – A modern occult philosophy that views all beliefs and paradigms as tools to be used and exploited by the occultist. Chaos Magicians, sometimes called “Psychonauts” (from the Greek — “soul-sailors”), enjoy eclecticism, and tend to draw from any occult discipline they find particularly useful at the time, even if it appears antithetical to a previously embraced discipline.
E-Prime – English Prime, referred to as V-Prime or Vernacular Prime when referencing non-English languages. E-Prime stems partially from experiments in physics where photons were observed to have wave-particle duality, which was theoretically impossible up until that point. Many scientists began realizing that the problem was not found in the phenomena they were observing, but in the language they were using to describe said phenomena. Subsequently they noticed that nothing “is” anything, per se, though things may “act” in certain manners when observed. The stress in E-Prime, then, is placed upon action and potentiality rather than “existence”. Many philosophers, occultists, semanticists, and scientists have been rallying behind the use of E-Prime. A wonderful introduction to the use of E-Prime can be found here at the Robert Anton Wilson website.
Egregore – A mystical “thoughtform” or “entity”, either historically-based or created by an occultist (or group of occultists), encompassing broad traits and philosophical concepts. The historical goddess Venus, for example, could be deemed an egregore of love, lust, and sexual attractiveness. The fictional entity Cthulhu, on the other hand, might be seen as an egregore of insanity, evil, and domination.
Enochian – A language and series of magical systems derived from the evocation rituals of Elizabethan court astrologer John Dee and rogue alchemist Edward Kelly. Through a series of meticulously recorded scrying sessions during the late 16th Century, Dee and Kelly supposedly interacted with “angelic” spirits who imparted the language/magical systems to them.
Evocation – The process of calling up and interacting with an entity (demon, spirit, angel, etc.) that remains outside of the magician, typically conjured in a scrying mirror or crystal shewstone of some form, though incense smoke and campfires have also been used for these purposes. This differs from the process of Invocation, where the spirit/power in question is called upon to enter the body of the magician.
Gematria – In ancient times, before the invention of separate numerals, letters were used to denote numbers. This led to the belief that words with the same numerical equivalent were mystically “connected”. Techniques were later invented (especially within Qabalistic systems) to utilize these numerical correspondences for occult purposes. Modern numerology appears to be a simplification of these older practices.
G.D. or Golden Dawn – The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a hierarchal initiatory order founded by three British Freemasons in 1888. Easily the most influential occult order of the modern era, the Golden Dawn, which drew a (somewhat dubious) lineage to older Rosicrucian orders, was host to such illustrious members as W.B. Yeats, Bram Stoker, Arthur Machen, A.E. Waite, Alan Bennett, Maud Gonne, and the ever-infamous Aleister Crowley. The order lasted approximately twelve years before internal power struggles tore it apart, creating splinter orders with varying degrees of influence.
Grimoire – A magical “cookbook” of sorts. Typical grimoires throughout history listed a series of demons, angels, or spirits that could be called upon by the magician to perform various tasks, such as finding treasure, procuring lovers, cursing enemies, or learning languages. Though all grimoires tend to have striking similarities, they each employ a somewhat self-contained system of evocation. Notable grimoires include the Heptameron, Goetia, and Grimorum Verum.
Hermetic – A blanket term for a series of complex mystical disciplines following relatively Neoplatonist frameworks. During the time of the Pax Romana, trade flourished throughout the Mediterranean world. Along with typical goods and services, people also traded mystical/magical ideas, to the point where a major synthesis occurred. During this time period, it would not be uncommon for one to find magic spell instructions written in Greek on Egyptian papyrus, using Hebrew, Greek, Egyptian and Roman “words of power”. Derived from the name of the Greek messenger god Hermes (associated with the Roman Mercury and the Egyptian Thoth, among others), “Hermetic” references more specifically to a series of writings/dialogues from the time period attributed to a mysterious Hermes Trismegistos, or “Hermes the Thrice-Greatest”. Over the centuries, other disciplines were absorbed into the general Hermetic structure, most notably Astrology and Qabalah.
LHP or Left Hand Path – A term that tends to reference various “darker” paths of occultism. The left hand being seen by certain cultures as “evil” or “unclean”. The modern English word “sinister”, for example, comes from the Latin word for the left side, “sinistra”. In general, LHP magic, mysticism, and/or gnosis tends to pay close attention to the baser and more bestial aspects of existence – lust, territoriality, anger/rage, death, depression, depravity, etc.
Magick – Aleister Crowley insisted upon spelling “magic” with an additional “k” in order to distinguish Hermetic spell-casting/psychological self hypnosis techniques from sleight-of-hand/stage illusions. Qabalistically speaking, he changed a 5-letter word (representing the microcosm) to a 6-letter word (representing the macrocosm).
O.T.O. or Ordo Templi Orientis – Translated as the “Order of Oriental Templars”, the O.T.O. was originally a quasi-Masonic German order, but would later become an organization propagating the works and philosophy of Aleister Crowley. In 1910, Crowley met and became friends with the then head of the order, Theodore Reuss, who would later initiate him. Over time, Crowley began re-writing the order’s rituals to incorporate his “Nu Aeon” concepts of Thelema. This angered many traditional O.T.O. members, who left the order. Upon Reuss’ death, Crowley became head of the order, completing the transformation. Crowley passed in 1947, but the O.T.O. remains an active organization.
Scrying – A blanket term for mystical “viewing”, the stereotype being that of a psychic seeing the future in a crystal ball. Cultures throughout the world use a plethora of scrying techniques, from communicating with spirits through obsidian mirrors, to visions gleaned from lucid dreaming and astral travel.
Servitor – A minor “thoughtform” or “entity” called upon to perform specific tasks. Like an egregore, a servitor can be drawn from history (such as in the case of a Goetic demon), or invented/created by an occultist (or group). A typical servitor might be employed to procure new investments, prevent psychic attack, or quit smoking.
Seven Holy Planets – The seven celestial bodies observed by ancient people to travel across the sky, with only five being actual planets. They are the Sun, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury.
Sigil – A glyph or mandala created and employed for occult purposes such as meditation and spell-casting. Sigil creation varies widely from simple alphabet manipulation, to complicated astrological and gematria techniques.
Thanateros – Coined by Peter J. Carroll, one of the progenitors of modern Chaos Magic, Carroll noted that the two primary motivating factors of humanity seemed to be fear of death and sex drive. He subsequently combined the Greek words “Thanatos” (Death) and “Eros” (Sexual Love). Carroll co-founded an occult organization known as the I.O.T. or Illuminates of Thanateros.
Thelema – A libertarian approach to Hermetic philosophy propagated by the writings of Aleister Crowley. The term derives from the Greek word meaning “will”, and is a partial reference to the fictional “Abbey of Thelema” found in the writings of Renaissance satirist Francois Rabelais. On his Cairo honeymoon in 1904, Crowley and his new bride Rose began having mystical experiences interacting with what he deemed a “praeter-human intelligence”, culminating in the writing of The Book of the Law. The experience was so profound to Crowley that he augmented his entire mystical worldview to accommodate it, claiming the Book of the Law (alternately known as Liber AL vel Legis, or simply Liber AL) as a sacred text. The “Law of Thelema” is thus stated: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”
Theurgy — A reference to magical and meditational rites that ambiguously center around “divine union” or “illumination”, as opposed to spell casting or “results” magick. Self-empowerment and banishing/cleansing rituals also tend to fall into this category.