Drinking a veritable tankard of demonic knowledge!

I’ve been attending a series of lectures as part of a demonology conference called Demon Things at Swansea University during the last few days. This conference was specifically about Egyptian demonology, that is to say the study of demons and liminal beings found in ancient Egyptian myth and lore, and there were many speakers who showed up to present papers on various subjects pertaining to this theme (subjects such as the role of demons, liminal deities, donkey-headed deities, the nature of “evil”, the status of the deity Anubis, protective deities/demons at specific archaeological sites, and much more). Due to regular lectures happening at my university (the last before the university closes on Good Friday and we break up for the spring holidays), I unfortunately could not attend the last few lectures this morning, but the lectures I did attend had a lot of information. I’m not sure if I managed to absorb or contain it all, but I learned some interesting things about demons from the Egyptian view, and about demons in general, that will probably inspire a lot, and I think may have inspired plenty of things already.

Demons in ancient Egypt weren’t necessarily like the concept of “demon” that most are familiar with. For most people, demons are hostile and inherently malevolent beings. And demons often could be hostile beings in ancient Egypt, and some may have been malevolent, but in Egypt a lot of them actually served a protective role. In ancient texts demons were held to guard the afterlife against the souls who were not meant to pass through – if you did not have a certain password (for lack of a better word) that the soul would utter at certain points in the journey to the realm of the afterlife, then you would not be allowed to pass through, leading to the total annihilation of the soul. They were often considered liminal beings, due to the fact that they guarded the threshold in the netherworld through the afterlife. For the layfolk in Egypt, they were defenders and played a vital role in their culture. This basically means that they have a generally ambivalent role in Egyptian myth – they were a potential threat to the deceased (or rather, the unjustified dead), but they can be protectors of the living, and in general they already are charged with protecting the underworld from the negative forces. Their role may have been very morally relative – if you knew how to propitiate them in the trials leading to the realm of the afterlife, or if they were invoked as protection, then they could be seen as good, but if you were crossing the netherworld and were unprepared. Often, demons were under the control of deities such as a Ra, Sekhmet, Anubis, and others. Some deities may have been identified as demonic, or demons as deities, like Bes, Tawaret, Tutu, and a deity named Meneh – the last two are identified as master or lord of demons respectively.

Egypt also seems to be, to my knowledge, the only culture where entities are depicted with weapons on their feet!

The logo of the Demon Things conference, depicting an example of one of the demons found in Egyptian depictions.

Egypt also seems to be, to my knowledge, the only culture where entities are depicted with weapons from their feet!

I realized that the Egyptian notion of demons was largely as ambivalent aggressive/protective beings, and it reminded me this role was actually fairly common in many world cultures before the rise of monotheism. You have in Mesopotamia demons like Pazuzu, who was so powerful that every other demon feared him and so was invoked as protection from other demons. In Tibet, wrathful and/or demonic beings fight and repel negative or evil influence in order to protect the practitioner as well as remove obstacles of spiritual practice and enlightenment. It is similarly true in esoteric forms of Japanese Buddhism. In Bali, the demon queen Rangda is simultaneously seen as an evil and protective force. In Greece, images of chthonic beings like the Gorgons adorn temples in order to ward off evil.

The nature of “evil” was also discussed in one lecture, and within that lecture we got round to discussing the notion of the 42 “judges” that appear in the Book of the Dead, and how they guard the netherworld by feeding off of “evil”; or at least one of them does – a judge named Dwdw=f, who I think may or may not have been a manifestation of Apep.

I was also enticed by a symbol from the Egyptian texts called the Black Ram – an image of something referred to as the “Lord of Power”. It seemed to represent a liminal power, or a hostile power of the netherworld. The ram character may have been connected with a solar being, the liminal state, danger, darkness, hiddenness, injury, and death. There was mention in the same lecture of a Black Sun that appears in the Tomb of Irunefer that devours evil. The ram’s role may have been morally relative just like the other demonic figures, depending on your position in the Egyptian underworld. I have found in that Black Ram a new personal symbol, one that to me at least appears to combine the powers of the sun (and fertility) associated with the ram, with the powers of darkness and the netherworld – it seems to me like a black ram would make for a powerful demonic totem, as the ram symbol gains more personal prominence.

The Black Ram

The Egyptian interpretation of the demons is one that I would definitely mix in with the other interpretations of the demons, even with the modern idea of the demon. When I run this in my head, I envision passionate, mysterious, “dark” spirits, embodying the nether of the human being, and mostly ambivalent, whose aggressive/protective nature in the past makes them seem like rajasic (as in one of the three gunas) and I seem to like that. That a lot of them have animal aspects reminds me that they are animalistic beings – remembering what Anton LaVey commented about the deities that represented the animal in Man, and Michael W. Ford’s talk of demonic deific masks typically being bestial or animal. And who knows, over the centuries the demons may have gone through transitions . When they once served the deities in the heavens, in the modern age those deities are no longer in control, or the heavens have rejected the demons. And now they’re rebellious, chaotic spirits, making their own rules in the absence of divine masters. That may be just the fire of inspiration those lectures set off in me, one that I think makes me appreciate the demons ever more, and because of the way I think of demons I feel more excited about the kind of “animalistic” spiritual path that I prefer to follow – in conjunction with my prior reading of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible.

In my opinion, the lectures were a smash hit and you simply had to be there. But if you missed them, it’s possible that the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project may publish proceedings from the Demon Things conference in due course.


Boredom with conspiracy theories

In the past I have sometimes talked about conspiracy theories involving Satan, devil worship, the occult, and pagan gods, and made artwork that flirted with some of the ideas presented in those conspiracy theories. At those times, I thought they were fun, even though I did not believe in them. I even played with conspiracy theories on various levels. What was I thinking?

I feel fed up with conspiracy theory, becasue not only are those conspiracy theories mere showcase the ignorance and utterly closed minds of fundamentalist Christians, but the fact that this is the case eventually shows, especially if you question the whole point. For the average Bible-worshipping fundamentalist Christian conspiracy theorist, everything that is not Jesus Christ and/or is outside his/her particular brand of Christian belief is actually affiliated with Satan, or part of some Illuminati/Masonic/NWO conspiracy (the latter kinda moot when you consider that often this very conspiracy is believed to be Satan’s plan for the earth). And often times, even more absurdly, they accuse the symbols, myths, and holidays closely tied to their own religion as originating entirely from some ancient monolithic “pagan” religion bent on world domination, probably as per Satan’s will. Some of them believe that there was an ancient monolithic religion devoted to the worship of Nimrod (a king of Shinar depicted in the Bible) and Semiramis (an Assyrian queen), and that Nimrod and Semiramis are the sources of the gods and goddess respectively, which is all just laughable at best.

Like this shit right here. How fucking spurious can you get.

And the problem with all this is that it gives a really bad image of everything pagan, occult, and satanic because, if you really believe that stuff or even fiddle with it, it partially derides from the gods, the symbols, belief system, and even knowledge of such things for what they really are, and when you get a better and more mature, informed, or at least refined understanding of those things then all this conspiracy shit starts to crumble.

And speaking of the occult and the satanic, I forgot to mention about demons supposedly being in everything. It’s not just neoclassical symbols that dot Washington DC that supposedly contain the power of occult forces, it’s fucking everything according to these people! Pokemon (among other video games), Santa Claus, Coca Cola (for Muslim extremists anyway), energy drinks, Disney, every popular musician and their music videos, the Super Bowl, sign language, even saccharine cartoons intended for little girls. Every innocuous thing imaginable, based on nothing more than the crazed and distorted imaginations of some people and their utterly closed beliefs, themselves pathetic excuses for religious beliefs to begin with.

The fact is, it’s all from the point of view of not just Christianity, but some even more twisted and paranoid version of Christianity, more times than not designed to suit some delusions and/or extreme agendas to deceive and/or divide ordinary people. And if it has any influence, that is worrisome. But for the mind that is open, perhaps mature and refined too, then these ideas will eventually become worthless, and hopefully that will lead to a correction, an ability to understand the symbols, gods, and belief systems of the world for what they are, not to mention Satan and paganism. And if that leads to either acceptance or rejection of any of those things, it doesn’t matter, so long as whatever you do is based on a better understanding of things, and your true connection or relation to things.

Balance, the Neutral path, and inspiration from Star Wars

OK I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Star Wars here in that I don’t particularly care about the franchise, but I have found some things about the Star Wars universe interesting. For instance, I have on separate occasions been shown the Sith code and the Grey Jedi code by my friend Tadashi. First let me show you all the codes. First, the code of the Jedis.

“There is no emotion, there is peace There is no ignorance, there is knowledge There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force.”

Next, the Sith code.

“Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength. Through strength, I gain power. Through power, I gain victory. Through victory, my chains are broken. The Force shall free me.”

The Jedi code obviously reeks of denialism, as in it ignores both vital components of existence and flaws in human nature, but it strangely reminds me of Buddhism and Hinduism. The Sith code seems very likeable and appealing to me but looking back it feels like it’s incomplete and missing things because of the apparent absence of peace, harmony, and order (which is actually hypocritical because of how a Sith regime operates when it is dominant). Yes, I like passion in life, but there’s no way that can be all there is. It actually reminds me of Satanism cranked up a couple notches to a kind of military level. But then, there’s the code of the Grey Jedis.

There is no Dark side, nor a Light side There is only the Force I will do what I must to keep the balance The balance is what keeps me together There is no good without evil, but evil cannot be allowed to flourish There is passion, yet peace Serenity, yet emotion Chaos, yet order I am the wielder of the flame, the protector of balance I am the holder of the torch, lighting the way I am the keeper of the flame, soldier of balance I am a guardian of balance I am a Grey Jedi”

The Grey Jedi idea fascinated me, mainly because I did not think something like that was found in Star Wars (though I’m personally not entirely sure if it’s actually fan-written given). The philosophy behind it is apparently that the Grey Jedi believe the force is neutral and any notion of alignment was an attribute of the user. Their most imprtant tenet is balance, they do what they must to preserve it above all else, even if it means letting some evil come to pass or destroying a whole planet, but they would not allow evil to flourish and thought good must always cancel out evil and keep it in check. They needed passion and emotion to fuel their power, but also needed peace and serenity to remain in control. It’s all very Taoist.

Red lightsaber, blue lightsaber

When I was shown the Grey code, I felt that while I would never fully identify with Grey, I think the much of the words of the Grey code offer a great picture of the nature of the universe, as well as human nature. In particular, the idea that there is Chaos and yet harmony or serenity. That actually sounds like a great application of the colours red and black, which are both traditionally the colors of Chaos (at least in my MegaTen-influenced books anyway). Together they could express Chaos in a strangely serene and harmonious way, and to think, what a beautiful thing that would be. Of course the down side is that this combination is still always dark and leaves little room for the light element, unless red happens to count as that element. Speaking of light and dark, thinking about it, this new way of applying the red and black combination can also be a great reference to Taoism and by extension Eastern philosophy (which is good for my sake since I frequently worry that I’m losing touch with the Eastern culture that so inspired in the first place). I often see depictions of the yin and yang symbol where the yin half is black but the yang half is red instead of white.

Like this one, though it’s not a very old depiction I must say.

It might not be a very traditional depiction, but it still depicts yin and yang very clearly, red obviously being yang and black obviously being yin. Not to mention, I’ve talked before about energy and void being red and black respectively, and that still fits with all my previous ideas about the universe in a reasonably cozy fashion. Really red and black tied in with Taoism can incorporate all manner of ideas. It still has a Satanic flair to it, and let’s not forget that Baphomet, now commonly linked with Satanism, is essentially similar to the Taoist principle of yin and yang. Also, that part about the Grey Jedi being the wielder of the flame and protector of the balance reminds me of own alter ego character and the role I ascribe to him within his own universe. He utilizes the fire element (albeit in two forms; the traditional flame and the demonic flame), and one of his roles is to protect his world, which also means protecting the balance of the world by destroying evil and defeating the ambitions of all manner of evil beings whether they’re human, demon, or divine. Because of all that, I refer back to Shin Megami Tensei and become very tempted to align myself as Neutral, since not only does the Grey Jedi code kinda remind me of Neutral, it presents a good warrior framework for Neutral. But I can’t settle on just Neutrality. Aside from me having criticized before for canonically accomplishing almost nothing, Neutrality on its own is rather bland if done for its own sake. I also don’t believe there is a middle ground for absolutely everything or can be, certainly not a middle ground for freedom and slavery, the individual and the collective, or strength and weakness. And while light ad dark can be balanced, good and evil cannot, since good and evil are a matter of ethics, morality, and/or subjective judgement. My alter ego character can’t be a total neutral either, as he is meant to be a hero, and his ideas of heroism are based on mine, and actions are based on the same. However, this is one case where Neutral should be mixed with Chaos here. In a MegaTen sense, I couldd be effectively Neutral but from a Chaos perspective, or perhaps the other way around. If I’m Neutral, then that Neutrality would have to be guided by my own nature, my spiritual ideas, my basically libertarian philosophy, all of them influenced by being aligned with Chaos, and my tastes would remain pretty much unchanged. And finally, who knows, maybe Order/Harmony and Chaos really could be treated as different forces, and the fire I seek to live by as the Fire of Spirit, or perhaps, at least something more encompassing then the Fires of Chaos. Perhaps, recalling the inner flame I once described more frequently a few years ago.

Afterlives of the rich and famous and other crap

I recently visited a local Waterstones, just to see what they had that I might like, and unfortunately I chanced upon the books on the “Mind and Body” section to find a book titled Afterlives of the Rich and Famous. My first reaction was “What?”, and my second reaction was to discover that it was by Sylvia Browne, you know that self-professed con artist psychic with a criminal record, and my third reaction was something along the lines of “for crying out loud”.

No really, it’s actually still quite a sight to see these books get sold no matter how much tepid bullshit they are. It’s the same kind of dreg that appeals to the audience of middle-aged to old-aged people who’ve apparently become dull enough to be interested and too dull to find their own path. And speaking of that audience, that’s all the spirituality books and such in Waterstones seem to appael where I’m from. The books and the subject offer no exciting spiritualities and offer only the housewife spirituality forged by shills and believed by worse sheep than the kind who fall for the average mainstream religion. And outside book stores like Waterstones, you have whole market stalls dedicated to selling you spiritual items from all the soft household brand of spirituality (and I’m not talking about the ethnic shop I go to). You know, Buddha statues, soft light pagan stuff, chakra stuff, and fairy art.

How come all the spiritual stuff I find outside the net is astrology, psychics, domestic spirituality, fairy junk, and angel cards? I never find any wild spiritualities, no fire, nothing representing the other side, nothing that offers any glimpse of the old ways so that I can learn them. It seems stupid to complain about, particularly since I can feasibly search for all the things I might like on the Internet, but outside the Internet there is very poor diversity in representation of spiritual ideas and that’s my complaint. Only the mainstream beliefs and ideas are represented, only mainstream ideas sell, and the culture of where I live is the poorer for it, especially if the alternative can only be found on the Internet where it can be represented by anyone (and don’t think it’s not likely some idiot will run into another idiot to get their opinions, because it does happen on the Internet).

Thoughts on the concept of Ki

Recently I’ve been growing a new found interest in the concept of Ki, also known as Qi or Chi (Ki is in fact the Japanese pronounciation of the Chinese Qi or Chi). In Chinese culture, martial arts, and traditional medicine, it is described as kind of energy, life force, vitality, or spiritual power. But I’m mainly interested in the concept of Ki as a force energy and source of spiritual power and strength. This concept of Ki appears in various pop cultural material such as Dragon Ball, and I think something like it appears in martial arts. Something like this appears throughout culture all over the world, including Prana in Indian thought, Mana from Hawaiian culture, and Vital Energy in Western philosophy.

Ki as it appears in Dragon Ball.

The image above shows characters from Dragon Ball irradiating a powerful aura of Ki, raw power. They emit so much power that their auras flare up.  This also appears in the game Asura’s Wrath, where the auras of characters flare up, and is also a staple in Japanese fighting comics, and I swear it recurs in other anime and manga (mainly shonen). It also appears in Buddhist artwork in Tibet and Japan, where deities apparently emit so much power that it appears as flames, and the flames or energy emitted by the deities denotes power. Could it be that gods, demigods, and other spiritual/supernatural beings use Ki within their mythological universe? Mythological speculation aside, though, what I’m trying to get across right now is the idea of Ki as a supernatural/spiritual power that can be used by anyone.

Buddhist deities Hayagriva (left) and Vajrapani (right) in Tibetan artwork. They emit a lot of raw power, as represented by the flames.

According to the Dragon Ball universe, Ki is latent energy or fighting power, and by drawing it out the individual is able to manipulate it for various purposes and for performances outside the body, and it can be used for many techniques. It is also necessary in some way to increase one’s Ki in order to become strong, as there are physical limits to the strength of the body itself. Thus by strengthening and increasing one’s Ki or spirit, one overcomes that barrier to greater personal power. I must say it reminds me of strengthening the will. It is also said that being able to control that Ki is important, since the more your Ki is increased and the stronger it is, the harder it is to control.

Overall, I find an appeal to towards the concept of Ki as referring to spiritual force or energy. Not sure about life force though.

Satanism and the supernatural

While doing some research on Satanism, I found something interesting. While LaVeyan Satanism is usually atheistic, it is said that many Satanists, including those who are members of the Church of Satan, do believe in spiritual or supernatural things. Just to be clear I am not talking about so-called “Spiritual Satanism”, which is something otherwise different.

One Church of Satan member, King Diamond, who was a very close friend to Anton LaVey, once made this statement: “Satanism is about the Powers of the Unknown. I’ve had hundreds of strange experiences with the occult, the other side, the beyond, whatever you want to call it that proves there is a spiritual world that can crossover into our world.” He goes on to say that “Satan on a spiritual mystical level stands for the Powers of Darkness, the Powers of the Unknown which are always around us at all times”.

A picture of King Diamond taken during the late 1980’s.

Another statement comes from Church of Satan reverend Thomas Thorn. He said, “There is a spiritual dimension that communicates with us and there are powers and deities in this spiritual world. We use Satanic rituals to summon, communicate with, and make pacts with Demons that are real beings as well as other spirits.”

Wait. I thought the rituals and magic in Satanism were more psychological than magical. I dunno, I’ll just leave him with that statement since I’ve really got nothing.

I’ve also heard that “America’s Favourite Satanist” Joe Netherworld has a website where he talks about how he apparently has an ability to communicate with the spirit world and uses it to help solve cases and it also claims to give accurate info to people during divinations that he conducts.

From what I have heard from an agent Church of Satan member (an Agent is an active member qualified to represent the Church of Satan and explain the philosophy to the media and other interested parties), LaVey had no real problem with Church of Satan members believing in supernatural things like ghosts and the afterlife and some such things as The Satanic Bible is mainly concerned with life philosophy and he left a void in it when it came the spiritual, supernatural, or religious side, and it is thus up to the individual Satanist to decide on their own as these are personal beliefs. LaVey himself is said to have created a glowing pentagram to attract supernatural forces and wrote essays on the trapezoid, which is said to open gateways to these forces. He also claimed to have tried calling up spirits and demons using circles and names of God and Jesus for protection but it didn’t work, so began to think he needed to be on the side of the demons instead in order to call them up, gain magical powers, and have things go his way.

As a final disclaimer, I am not here to agree with anything stated. I am simply here to point out that Satanists (or Church of Satan members) can and do believe in spiritual or supernatural things. But I don’t think this includes God.

The curse of Masakado

Masakado’s grave

Let me tell of the story of  an early samurai known as Taira no Masakado. Or more specifically the legend of his ghost.

During the Heian period of Japanese history, Masakado raised a rebellion against the central government in Kyoto, which back then was the capital of Japan, along with declaring himself “Shinno” (New Emperor). As a response, a bounty was placed on his head by the central government. He was eventually killed by Fujiwara no Hidesato and Taira no Sadamori, his own cousin, in the Battle of Kojima east of Kanto, after which his head was brought to Kyoto, and then Edo (which would later be known as Tokyo), where he would soon be buried.

Legends of his exploits beyond this life soon followed, and not only do people in Edo believe his ghost exists, but that the condition of the shrine affects the fortune of the metropolis of Tokyo. If his shrine was disrepected or neglected, then natural disasters and other inexplicable misfortunes are said to follow.

The story goes that Masakado’s head was infuriated at the fact that it had been decapitated, and frantically quested to find its body in order to become whole and fight another day. The head searched far and wide, but to no avail. Finally, growing weary of his fruitless efforts, the head crashed from the sky to rest on a plot of land that would come to be forever known as Masakado-no-Kubizuka (“The Hill of Masakado’s Head”).

This woodblock shows people cowering in fear of Masakado’s head. Terrified villagers washed the head, buried it, and erected a memorial stone to appease him.

About 1,000 years later, and what was once Edo is now Tokyo, and Masakado’s shrine shares space with many skyscrapers, and stands next to the Mitsui Bussan building, just a few minutes from Otemachi station. Government leaders have tried to remove the shrine from its spot, but each time to no avail. According to legend, the shrine is untouchable, thanks to the age-old curse of Masakado.

After the 1923 Kanto earthquake destroyed much of the city, the Ministry of Finance in Tokyo took an opportunity to level the land where Masakado was buried and enshrined and filled the pond where his head was washed, in order to erect a temporary office building there. Within two years, the minister and 14 other employess had died from accidents, illnesses, and other misfortunes, and afterwards many more inexplicable injuries broke out among the other employees, and people began to fear treading on the cursed ground. Realizing this, officials razed the office building, and rebuilt the hill after holding a Shinto ritual to appease Masakado’s angry spirit. After this, the government held a small service every year in its honour. That is until the outbreak of World War II, when government’s attention would, naturally, be diverted to other matters, and ceremonies eventually stopped.

Then, in 1940, the Ministry of Finance was struck by lightning, which set off a fire that destroyed much of the structure that was adjacent to Masakado’s hill. To appease the angry spirit once again, and on no less than the thousand-year anniversary of his death, the Minister of Finance sponsored an extravagant ceremony and erected a stone memorial on the site which stands to this day. But the legend of the angry ghost of Masakado doesn’t end here. After the war, when US occupying forces took control of Japan, they tried to demolish the shrine in order to build a motor pool for American military vehicles. While they were attempting to level it, a bulldozer flipped over, killing the driver inside. After a string of other accidents coupled with the pleas of local officials, the Americans cancelled the project, thus Masakado’s shrine is once again undisturbed.

And there are stories concerning his body too, not just his head. It’s said the body went looking for its head and eventually fell on the site of what is now Kanda Shrine, or Kanda Myojin.

The gate of Kanda-Myojin (Kanda Shrine)

Over the centuries, Masakado came to be regarded as a hero, and even a god or demigod, and even though he was a traitor to Kyoto, he was a hero to Tokyo, and to this day Masakado is said to stand watch over the city, though it is still believed that he is an angry spirit who needed to be appeased in order to satiate his fury. Even today, his shrine is well maintained, and occupies what is currently some of the most expensive land in the world in Tokyo’s financial district, not far from the Imperial Palace. He is also considered a god in Kanda Shrine (as pictured above), which is located in Kanda.

And so goes the story, legend, and legacy of Taira no Masakado, the rebel warlord who, in death, became a legend, a hero, and a god, still honoured in Tokyo even to this day.