Obeah and Wanga: Service to the Great Work

Service given to the Great Work is a vital spiritual obligation. It is vital because giving and receiving are one and the same act. Therefore service has practical import to the art of magick. It is not merely a ‘moral’ requirement.

Service to the Great Work: Pilgrim's Progress, H. Melville, W. Floyd (engraver)

According to the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, I: 37,

Also the mantras and spells; the obeah and the wanga; the work of the wand and the work of the sword; these he shall learn and teach.

The seeking out of esoteric knowledge should firstly involve the question, “How can I serve?” Even Aleister Crowley, frequently cast in the mould of black magician—a role that he evidently delighted in playing—was unequivocal regarding the supreme importance of service freely given. One must be prepared to give all that one is and all that one has to the Great Work.

Tyros nonetheless regard a magical Order as a brand product like any other. The quest or inner searching that supposedly precedes application to a mystery school is reduced to trivial nonsense: ‘Does it match my personal preferences, my self-image? Will it enhance my profile? What can they do for me?’ They vainly consider whether the Order is suitable for them, not the other way round as it should be and is, in reality. Perhaps a sales manager can help with such a difficult choice?

Madam, perhaps you would care to look at our range of colours in this style? We have a delicious shade of violet that would perfectly match your highlights. Dislike Qabalah? I am sure we could find another game that will take your fancy. We have a range of mystic methods from diverse global sources. Let us see what we have on our shelves, we will surely find something to please you…

The majority of magical shoppers plan to give nothing in return apart from their complaints when the immortal stone of the wise has not dropped into their lap within the first month—we can rest assured that no work will have been done. In magick we get precisely what we are prepared to give.

Service to the Great Work

Eckhartshousen’s Cloud on the Sanctuary is the Rosicrucian template for a magical Order, used by Crowley and many others since—though most have sought to avoid its rigorous obligations. Few now have even heard of it, yet should they happen to read it, they would probably think it has nothing to do with them. Likewise, there are those who think that John Bunyon’s classic of English literature, Pilgrim’s Progress, is only relevant for pious Sunday School pupils. It does in fact apply to any spiritual path in any tradition.

Members of the O∴ A∴ Collegium are expected to manage their own contributions to the Order. Usually they make regular or occasional donations, as according to their means. Ideally, each practitioner also adds to the store of knowledge. A Neophyte is literally a ‘new flower’ (neo photon). The honeybee is the cognate symbol, for that miraculous creature gathers the raw material from flowers, cross-pollinating along the way. The hive, with its hexagonal cells, is the emblem of the primal Matrix. Flowers open to the sun, for which the relevant Qabalistic path is the 30th, called The Gathering Intelligence. The six-fold opened cube of the universe, Tiphereth, is naturally the flower of the Golden Dawn of any functional magical Order. As knowledge is freely given out, so individual aspirants give freely to the Order that sustains them spiritually.

Books Required for Probationer Study

The Enterer of the Threshold
Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs
The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth
The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation

© Oliver St. John 2017, 2019

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Capricorn: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Set XV

The Capricorn Solstice is depicted here by our Egyptian Tarot of Thelema image of the god Set.[1] The esoteric title of the O∴ A∴ deck for Atu XV is Lord of the Gates of Matter: Child of the Forces of Time. The Thelemic year begins for us, not on the 20th March each year, but on the winter solstice, when the Sun crosses the zero degrees mark of Capricorn.[2]

Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Set XV

The 26th path of Capricorn is the Renewing Intelligence, and the time of year marks the first light of the Khabs in the Khu, sounded in the depth. Cancer and Capricorn mark the height and depth of the Sun. The equinoxes mark the cardinal crossing. The four cross-quarters mark the Kerubic signs, Aquarius, Taurus, Leo and Scorpio.

Commencing from the winter cup of Capricorn and Aquarius, we can follow the course of the Lightning Flash on the Tree of Life through the year. Capricorn and Aquarius, ruled by Saturn, send the current from the supernal Eden to the sphere of Jupiter, ruler of Pisces. The next station is Aries, ruled by Mars, in which is the Sun’s exaltation. Next comes Taurus, ruled by Venus, the lovely star. We then pass across to Mercury, ruler of Gemini. Arriving at the solstice of the summer cup, the Moon and Sun are conjoined and the Holy Hexagram declared, with the Earth as witness. The current then streaks back up the Tree, in reverse order until the Capricorn solstice is again reached.

The number 3 is that of Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, Binah and therefore Set-Typhon. It requires a triangular prism to split white light into seven colours, for only the triangle can reduce a phenomenon to its components. Therefore, the rainbow spectrum is the veil of Set, sevenfold. Seven is the number of Venus, who doubles as both morning and evening star, and Saturn is the ‘power behind Venus’. Set is the most difficult of gods to ‘pin down’; his very nature forbids it. He is on the other side of wherever we happen to be, in terms of consciousness. The function of Set is dual. Firstly, Set veils the invisible in an infinite variety of forms. Secondly, he destroys the illusion of the appearance of things.[3]

Set is identified with Sirius, the star of Egypt, and is the manifestor of the seven stars of Ursa Major. Sirius is the birthplace and home of the gods. It is the star of the ‘one in eight’ as Set-Hadit, manifestor of the seven and revealer of Nuit. Sirius is the ‘sun behind the sun’ of our solar system, the transcendent regulator of all terrestrial aeons.

Both the Egyptian and Greek names for the star, Sopdet and Sothis, are not well disposed for application in ritual sonics. The Aramaic word, Avrek, or Aurek, suits our purpose well. AVRK has the Qabalistic number 227, and means, ‘Sirius’, ‘shining, flowing’. This noun has the same root as the Nile of Egypt, IAVR, 217, ‘river; light, flowing in a stream’. This identifies the word vibration IAO with the outflow from Ain Soph. Thus IAO typifies Da’ath as the portal for sonic utterance from the mouth of Ain (zero, sifre). IAVR is the light-radiation consciousness current itself. The river Nile and Sirius, the star of Isis, are so closely linked as to mean the same thing. If we add the holy ‘IA’ to AShRH, the divine name in Kether of Atziluth, we have IA-AShRH, 517, the light flowing consciousness current of supreme Nuit.

AVRK, 227, is a metathesis of ARVK, 227, ‘lofty’, ‘noble’, ‘tall’ or ‘giant’, the name given in the book of Genesis for the Nephalim or antediluvian elder race that preceded that of humanity. The number 227 is also that of ZKR, given as ‘phallus’ ‘remember’, ‘to be named or mentioned’. The phallus here means ‘image’, or the projection of the light of AUR. The word is identical to the name of the Egyptian hawk-headed Lord of Death and Resurrection, Sokar. At Sokaris, or Saqqara to use its modern name, is a vast Necropolis. The region, west of the modern city of Cairo, holds many secrets. It is here that the labyrinth beneath the so-called Serapeum was constructed aeons ago, and by precise alignments, highly polished vessels made from one piece of solid granite hermetically sealed and placed.

The remembering is the memory of ‘the elders’, ZQNIKM, also equal to 227, as is IAIRI, ‘they shall give light’. AVRK, the star of Egypt, may also be spelled ABRQ, 303. ABRQRBA may therefore be considered as the pure form of the corruption given in the Key of Solomon and other grimoires as ‘Abracadabra’. Aleister Crowley rendered it as the elevenfold ABRAHADABRA, equal to 418. He explained this in monotheist terms, as ‘Father-Sun-Hadit’.

ABRQRBA Star of Egypt SquareThe sevenfold spell of ABRQRBA, on the other hand, is a palindrome equal to 506. The number 506 is a number of Nuit as conveyed by the riddle of Liber AL, I: 46–47, and of Asherah (AShRH), ‘the woman’ and original bearer of the Tree of Eternity or Life. Her sacred grove is the supernal Garden of Eden that is the image of the terrestrial sphere as created in the minds of the elder race.[4] By Greek values, ΑΒΡΧ is equal to 703, the word of a Magus that opens the door of Mystery. The palindrome then equals 806, ‘Divine Sophia (Wisdom)’ and ThVTH or Tahuti, the Lord of Utterance.[5]


1. The drawing of Set is based on that of Jeff Dahl. This is a prototype of the Order deck; the images will be redrawn for the final version. 2. The alignment of the O∴ A∴ with the Typhonian Thelemic dating system commences from the Capricorn Solstice, 2018. The New Year begins here, Anno V–5, year of the Hierophant by ROTA correspondence. 3. This paragraph is fully explained in the book, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs. 4. The section on ABRQRBA is also explained more fully in Babalon Unveiled [ibid]. 5. A great deal more can be gleaned by studying the values given for the number 703 and 806 in The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2018 Visit Ordo Astri (or return to home): Thelemic Magical Collegium Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal

Maat: Daughter of the Lords of Truth

The Daughter of the Lords of Truth is the esoteric title of the Tarot trump Justice VIII. The Tarot and path correspondences of the Tree of Life are ingenious. There is a special relation between Leo and Libra-Ma’at. Leo and Libra revolve about Virgo, while Aquarius and Aries revolve about Pisces.

Sekhet and Maat: Leo and LibraThe original type of lamed, the letter ‘L’ of the Law of Thelema and 22nd path of Libra or Maat, was the ancient Egyptian ‘sickle’ hieroglyph. According to Golden Dawn Isis-Urania founder member, Wynn Westcott,

“VIII Justice [corresponds to] Lamed and Libra, and Strength [to] Teth and Leo—which causeth a transposition for these are cognate symbols. But at one time the sword of Justice was the Egyptian knife symbol of the sickle of Leo whilst the Scales meant the Sun having quitted the balance point of highest declination. So the female and the lion gave the idea of Venus, Lady of Libra repressing the Fire of Vulcan (Saturn in Libra) exalted. But earliest was the lion goddess to Leo and Ma to Libra with her scales, and this is better. Also Libra was given to Horus at one time.”[1]

The Golden Dawn changed the order of trumps to fit on the Tree of Life. La Force or Fortitude was usually numbered 11 and Justice 8. MacGregor Mathers and Westcott elected to swap the numbers round so the order of paths and letters and signs is the same as the order of trumps. Leo then corresponds with teth the serpent, the letter of path 19, and Libra to lamed and path 22. What Westcott was driving at in his lecture was the interchangeable relation between the Lion (ma’a) and the Woman with the Sword (ma’at). This is comparable with mutual reception in astrology, where the attributes are held in common through ‘dignity’. If we place the Scales of Maat on the Tree of Life then inevitably the beam will fall across the 19th path. Maat has a natural affinity with Gedulah, and Sekhet with Geburah: THE LION OF TRUTH. Furthermore, the esoteric title of the Lion of the 19th path is Daughter of the Flaming Sword.

The next step in the perfection of the Tarot came a few years later in Cairo, 1904, when Aiwass, conveying the oracle of Nuit (Liber AL, I: 57), tells Aleister and Rose Crowley that,

All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.

This greatly perplexed Aleister Crowley. It took him years to work out that the idea is to counterchange the positions of the Star and the Emperor. Presumably he got to this by meditating on the earlier counterchange of Justice and Fortitude by Mathers and Westcott. He next found that we can show the perfection of the arrangement with the diagram, ‘Double Loop of the Zodiac’.[2] He thought to revert the numbering of the Tarot to that which it had always been, Justice VIII and Fortitude XI. Otherwise he would have needed to number the Star as IV and the Emperor as XVII, which disrupts the integrity of the Tarot sequence. So the numbers of the Tarot, the ‘Book T’, are unchanged; only the locations of the two cards change on the paths.[3]

Maat and the Lion of Truth: Double Loop of the ZodiacIt happens, though Crowley never mentioned it, that this method of placement reconciles the Tropical Zodiac with the Sidereal Zodiac. By Alexandrian astrology, Aries is the sign of the spring equinox and Libra that of the autumn equinox.[4] This is so natural and right that it cannot be argued against sensibly. In the present precessional epoch, by Sidereal reckoning, the Sun aligns with Aquarius on 21st March, and with Leo on 21st September. So there, with our Tarot and Tree of Life schema, we have the perfect reconciliation—and the magical images, the Woman and Beast both in time and outside of time.

The original title given to the Cairo transmission, the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, was Liber L. By Qabalistic values, the letter ‘L’ corresponds to Libra and the Scales of Maat, ‘truth’, having the value of 30. The letter lamed is derived from the Egyptian ‘sickle’ or ‘scythe’.[5] It is literally ‘the Measure’ of Maat. The sickle hieroglyph means ‘truth, justified, true vision, true-speaking and true-seer’.[6] It also spells LION. Mau or Sekhmet is the principle of love in the most powerful or dynamic aspect, the love of truth. Thus Sekhet (power) and Maat (truth) are inseparable to our way of thinking. The Book of the Law, which is the Book of L, might be better named, the Book of the Seer (Soror Ouarda, Rose Edith Kelly).

Sickle Maat Leo and Libra

Venus rules Libra, Saturn is exalted therein. The path of the Lion connects Jupiter (Maat) and Mars (Sekhet). Sekhet and Maat, Fortitude and Justice, are cognate symbols. The sickle hieroglyph is identical to the astrological glyph for Saturn, save for the tau cross-bar. Saturn is the ‘power behind Venus’, as Set-Hadit (the stellar Sirius) is the manifester of the seven stars of Ursa Major: Love is the law, love under will. Lamed is the sickle of Saturn and Sekhet, and as we know, this means both ‘true-speaker’ and ‘true-seer’. To speak truth and to see the truth through the eye of beholding are one and the same. The sickle has a dual function. Firstly, it is needed to clear the field for ploughing the furrow in which we seek the flint or jewel of Maat. It is the Opener of the Ways. Secondly it is needed to reap the harvest, which is analogous with the emergence or ‘second birth’ of a justified soul.

Scales of Maat: Knowledge and Power

The twin pillars of Maat are sometimes named, ‘Knowledge and Power’.[7] It is also quite common to hear it said that ‘knowledge is power’, and that the whole purpose of the magical arts is to gain knowledge and thereby increase power. This rests on the assumption that power is something that can be acquired, purchased, gained or lost—as though it were a thing in itself.

There is much made of the term ‘empowerment’ in New Age literature and academic (or psychological) occultism. Yet, with all this careless use of jargon, one seldom if ever finds anyone taking the trouble to define the term, to say what they mean when they use the word, ‘power’. The first definition in the Oxford Dictionary is, ‘the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way’. Very well then; so if we understand power as ‘the ability or capacity to do something’, then what is the source of such an ability or capacity? The emphasis with this common definition is on the verb ‘to do’; it is all about doing and acting. Yet all such doing, moving, going about the place, is merely the observed effect, the appearance. The exoteric concept of power then owes to causal determinism, where one thing or event is caused by another that preceded it, and so on for perpetuity. If we seek for the cause, the Will, we find that we know nothing whatsoever about it. All we know is effect or appearance, and we mistakenly judge this to be a cause. This whole idea of power then collapses in upon itself, revealing nothing. The solution is really quite simple. In Liber AL, II: 3–4, Hadit (Will) declares his nature:

In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.

To use a geometric analogy, the circle of all possibility (Nuit) is determined by the hypothetical point (Hadit). If we move the point, the curvature changes. Yet the point only exists by virtue of the circle. Neither comes first or second; every event is simultaneous and spontaneous. The ‘Will’ is esoteric. The ‘Effect’ is exoteric.  Hadit will not be known because he is the Knower, consciousness itself, which causes things to appear. Rational thought stops short, reaching its ring-pass-not at causal determinism.

What then is true power? For example, do politicians really possess a thing called ‘power’? They may produce acts of governance, and those acts may be enforced by the power of the State via the police and military forces. But if politicians seemingly have the power to command forces, from whence does that power originate? In the case of the politician, it depends entirely on the bargains, the deals they have made with others behind closed doors. It depends on the confidence of their financial backers. Warfare, the inevitable consequence of financial greed and lust for power, may depend on the weather, as evidenced by the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Blind forces move modern economic systems, which is called a ‘market economy’. That power owes much to the chance element of the roulette wheel. The gamblers feel powerful on winning, powerless when losing, especially if losing all, in which case they may be seen sky-diving from an apartment window twenty floors above the ground. What then is the real meaning of such power?

There is only one true power in the universe. That power is the power of attention, observance. Every creature on earth but one exercises that power continually and with utmost precision, not being deluded for one moment into thinking that it can be won, lost, acquired, given or received. The one creature that alone confuses power and will is the human creature. The isolating doctrine of scientism and psychological determinism has ensnared the modern esoteric movement and thwarted its true purpose. Initiation, direct knowledge, is the remedy for the ill. The foundation of true initiation is not in learning what to think, but how to think differently—through the mode of analogous thought, which is the method of communication used by the ancient mystery schools.


1. Westcott, ‘Tarot Lecture, Part 4’, The Complete Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts, Translated and Edited by Darcy Küntz [Holmes Publishing Group, Washington, 1996]. The transcript is in note form and we have taken the liberty here of inserting parantheses and punctuation marks to clarify the meaning.
2. See Crowley, The Book of Thoth pp. 9–10, ‘The Double Loop in the Zodiac’.

© Oliver St John 2018
This essay appears in the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.
Sickle-Maat-Lion hieroglyph and ‘Double Loop of the Zodiac’ drawn by Oliver St. John.
Drawings of Sekhet and Maat by Jeff Dahl.

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Visit Ordo Astri (or return to home): Thelemic Magical Collegium