Exploring the intersection of magic, culture, spirituality, and humanity

Author: Nicholas Chapel (Page 2 of 6)

Golden Dawn Self-Initiation – Ciceros vs. Lyam Thomas Christopher

The Ciceros and Lyam Thomas Christopher have provided the most popular and accessible routes to self-initiation in the Golden Dawn tradition. I have things to say about both systems, but the upshot is that both work, both have different approaches, and it’s really a matter of personal preference. You can probably also mix and match effectively to some extent, you’ll just have to be proactive in understanding what part of the material is there for what reasons.

I’m familiar with both curricula: I actually started with the Ciceros’ SI book about 20 years ago when I was first getting into the system myself, back before I got into a more traditional temple setting, and I’ve read through LTC’s curriculum as well. The two have very different approaches.

Firstly, on an energetic level, both the Cicero route and the LTC route appear to “work”—which is to say, they both do the job of connecting you to the Golden Dawn Current. How they go about doing that differs, and the education they present alongside it differs almost as starkly. The strategy the Ciceros take is ceremonial, and if you’re drawn to the ritual aspects of the tradition that might resonate better with you. LTC takes a more meditation-based approach. You get meditations in the Ciceros’ curriculum as well, they just don’t do quite the same heavy lifting.

LTC also departs a bit from the mainstream of the tradition in that he gives a lot of Adept magical work in the earlier grades, and in particular I look askance at his decision to use the unicursal hexagram in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram (it has precedent within the tradition, but it’s nonstandard). So LTC diverges from the mainstream not just in the way he handles the initiatory current, but also the traditional learning curriculum.

(To be clear, I don’t necessarily take issue with the way that LTC does this or the reasons for which he arrives at it, I just find that where he ends up at looks different from the Golden Dawn tradition the way I learned it in some manners that make me a bit uneasy—but this is my own bias and my feels, not something I’m arguing as a point either in favor or against.)

Both the Ciceros and LTC are fond of giving students a lot of busywork and information that isn’t directly pertinent to the alchemical operation of the grade energies of the Current, if you want to talk about what’s strictly necessary for the alchemical growth and development. If you look at the material you get tested on in the Ciceros’ SI book versus what you get tested on in traditional temple-based systems (I was a member of the Ciceros’ HOGD for about ten years, and was an Adept and a temple chief), you see that they require you to learn a lot more. Which I find problematic. But LTC isn’t any better on that front.

But again, both approaches work. I personally prefer and recommend the Ciceros’ SI book if you’re going to choose one over the other, just because it’s more representative of the wider tradition that other people are following; and if you’re working with the Ciceros’ material, you’ll find a lot of other people with the same foundation. It’s also easy to work LTC’s meditations into the Ciceros’ curriculum as well, or to use the Ciceros’ ritual self-initiations with LTC’s. I don’t think mixing and matching is at all an issue here.

So to sum up, the best thing to recommend the Ciceros’ course is that they follow the Regardie-traditional rubric common to most of the living Golden Dawn community, and being in step with that living Tradition is especially important to me. If you prefer solitary work or if you don’t plan on joining an order, that’s probably not going to be a factor for you.

Finally, a word on the commonly-stated advice that one shouldn’t practice other (non-GD) rituals when it comes to Outer Order curriculum. This advice can generally be read in two ways. Firstly, you’re trying to learn a language; so you want to avoid taking on too much information outside the GD system in order to avoid “muddying the waters” by confusing yourself or getting your wires crossed. And that’s entirely a matter for your own honest assessment of your capabilities. Some people have no problem studying multiple systems at once, some people do. Use your discretion. The second reason largely comes down to concerns about systems that may be at actual cross-purposes with each other. It’s perhaps debatable whether it actually does any harm to pursue GD and OTO initiation simultaneously, for example, but it’s generally considered a) weird, since Thelema rejects what it perceives as the Old Aeon; and b) bad form, because you’re splitting yourself thinly. This particular kind of objection may have more substance, but it’s a rarer situation—and even then debatable. Either way, it is probably not wise to “cross the streams” of multiple initiatory energies from multiple currents at the same time. Bottom line, assess your own capabilities and act accordingly. Nothing catastrophic is going to happen from attempting to study multiple systems at once.

The Arbatel — Not for Beginners?

Over on the Hermetic House of Life Discord server, someone shared a link to Robert Powell’s post “The Arbatel of Magic is NOT for Beginners” on the Logos of Ophiel blog. It’s a well-written take on things, though I believe there are some foundational assumptions and conclusions with which I personally disagree.

Powell appears to write from a largely grimoire purist perspective, maintaining that it is impossible to separate the Arbatel from Christian notions of piety and purity, and holding that asceticism is required for the practice of Arbatel magic. The author writes about his own experiences which led him more deeply into this stance with respect to the Arbatel, and this insight into the personal history behind the author’s conclusions is both welcome and refreshing. That said, while the author’s opinion is likely the correct one for him based on his own experiences, we have to be careful in this work to draw a line between our own experiences and what’s worked for us on the one hand, and what we deem prescriptive on the other.

Based on my own experiences, whenever I encounter assumptions that certain spiritual perspectives or practices are necessary, or that certain parameters of a grimoire must be followed exactly, I always respond by going “oh really?” My own experiences of grimoiric magic have been much more flexible in contrast, and seemingly no less efficacious for it. While Powell notably speaks from a perspective of experience with the system rather than simply parroting inherited prescriptions, I have found in my own practice that there is often both much more leeway within the systems than is apparent from the texts, and much more flexibility than one might initially suspect. In the end, however, the only way to determine whether a particular component of grimoiric magic is truly necessary is to experiment for oneself. I tend to think these frameworks are more flexible than we often give them credit for, based on my own experiences; but this is one of those things I think every magician sort of has to figure out for themselves in their own practice.

As for the Arbatel being “not for beginners”, that’s practically standard boilerplate in my book. Magic will upend your life, no matter how you do it. If you aren’t prepared to roll those dice you should probably reconsider practicing magic—but that’s true of all magic, not just the Arbatel. As long as you’re prepared for some upheaval going into it, as is normal with any magical practice, I don’t see anything in the Powell’s post which appears to me to be anything insurmountable or which seems a significant disincentive to pursuing that practice.

Consequently, I would invite the reader not to be dissuaded from pursuing the Arbatel based on Powell’s post; but rather to consider it an invitation to (cautiously and deliberately) engage further with the source text and tradition, and to experiment with it. Magic is nothing if not experimental, and we make little headway if we are not willing to experiment and innovate. As long as we proceed carefully and with both eyes open, we can allow our own experiences to speak for themselves.

“The Kybalion’s New Clothes” in Portuguese

Back in 2016, Lucas Moraes translated my Kybalion paper into Brazilian Portuguese. You can find the PDF in the “Articles and Other Writings” section of this website (or simply click here). You can also find mirrors of the translation at the O Alvorecer site or at transaberes. Big thanks to Lucas for taking the effort to translate the article! I wasn’t aware until I did an episode of the Projeto Mayhem podcast on the subject that the Kybalion has a very large following in Brazil, and I very much appreciate Lucas’s effort to ensure the paper reaches a wider audience.

On the Efficacy of Sigil Magic

Someone on the Hermetic House of Life Discord server asked recently whether sigil magic actually works. I’ve worked with sigils for a very long time—in terms of praxis, it’s how I got started along the magical path—and yet I still ask myself that question as well. At least part of the answer for me, however, seems to depend on how exactly those sigils are being used within a given magical operation.

The vast majority of the sigil work I’ve done has been with Agrippa’s planetary squares. And I’ve had some really good results. But those results also came from using not just the sigils themselves, but also prayers and offerings to the planetary spirit/intelligence in question. That’s very different from something like my OTP cryptographic sigil methodology, which I’ve really only demoed for myself as a proof of concept.

My experience with Agrippan planetary sigils has been excellent, when using those sigils as a material basis for invoking and working with the planetary spirits. But that’s different from just charging a sigil and letting it do its own thing. The closest I’ve come to building a body of experience with that latter sort of work has been with pentacles from the Key of Solomon. I haven’t seen the returns on my efforts there that I would have liked, but to be perfectly honest I’m also not entirely sure that I was going about things the right way either—and I was also working with too many sigils at once at the time, so that unhelpfully muddies the waters.

Basically, the jury is still out when it comes to my opinion on sigil magic as it’s commonly understood. From my perspective, the crux of the matter lies to some extent in whether you’re using a sigil as a tool in a magical working (to signify a spirit you’re invoking, to articulate an intent that you’re doing other work around, etc.) or whether the sigil is itself the magical working. My experiences with the former have been a lot more profound and clearly effective for me than the latter.

The Experience of the Ritual Godforms

I recently listened to the Glitch Bottle Podcast interview with Dr. Al Cummins on Cyprian’s Mirror and the Four Kings. It sparked some good food for thought in several different arenas, but one quote from the episode stood out especially strongly to me:

You can be paying attention to what’s going on and what you’re feeling mid-sentence…and the feel of the words and the sense of where you find yourself emphasizing things can also be ways of not just calling the spirit, but feeling the presence of the spirit. Noticing one’s own speaking voice changing as an instrumentation of measurement of the spirit’s presence and movement and virtues and things like that. So conjuration is not just about pulling a spirit to you, it’s also about feeling the rope of the spirit pulling back.

Dr. Al Cummins, Glitch Bottle Podcast Episode #114

I have encountered this phenomenon a number of times when reading invocations, and couldn’t agree more with Dr. Al’s assessment here. But the reason I wanted to highlight this dimension of experience is because long before I had my first successful scrying session and achieved two-way communication with the spirits, I began to notice this phenomenon spontaneously emerging during Golden Dawn ritual.

The words of Golden Dawn initiation rituals are scripted and static, of course, but as with any performance the art is equally in the delivery. I had been doing Golden Dawn magic for many years prior to my Adeptus Minor initiation, but shortly afterwards I noticed that I would begin to feel things as I was reciting the texts as an officer during initiation ceremonies. I would get strong emotional impressions. These would guide my reading, and my speaking voice would change as I let the impressions wash over me and fill my speech. It was like the “character” of the script inhabited me and I was a vessel merely conveying that which was given to me. And as I yielded to these intuitive pulls, I found that the intensity of the overall initiation experience became much greater–for myself as well as for the initiate.

It wasn’t until later, when I started doing Trithemian-style spirit conjuring, and started having encounters that weren’t on scripted rails, that I started putting the pieces together as far as recognizing the real significance of these initial experiences. As psychologized as the Golden Dawn system has sometimes become, it can be easy to forget that we are still dealing with godforms, and when we assume those godforms in ritual we are effectively inviting them to inhabit us in precisely the ways that I have experienced–and in the same ways that Dr. Al describes with reference to invocations in the grimoires.

The thing is, nobody prepared me for this experience. Nobody recognized it when it was happening and let me know that while what I was experiencing was new, it was not only perfectly normal but a desirable and intended consequence of the rituals themselves. I had to connect these dots on my own. When you have weird and new experiences in the magical arena, it can help to be able to contextualize them and recognize that they are an expected part of the journey. The Golden Dawn system is great as a system, but it often does a less than stellar job in practice of actually laying out the benchmarks of experience by which you can recognize magical attainment or encounter.

So for any of you out there who find that you feel the ceremonies more deeply than usual, that you instinctively inhabit those roles and that the feelings of the words and the interactions wash over you like a wave compelling you to swim with them, don’t second-guess yourself: embrace the feeling, run with it, and allow it to well up within you. What you are feeling is real. Provided that you’re able to maintain the necessary degree of control over the experience to keep it from disrupting the ritual rather than merely informing it, you will almost certainly find as I have that it adds an entirely new dimension to the experience of initiation. And if you are a Golden Dawn magician, this is likely to be your first taste–on training wheels–of what it’s like to begin spreading your wings and soaring magically.

Painting the Golden Dawn Colors

In my last post, I talked about the relative scarcity of resources when it comes to digital values for the Golden Dawn colors. Unfortunately it’s not just in the digital arena that practical color information is scarce and difficult to come by. Tabatha Cicero gives specific paints in Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, but some of these paint colors are no longer made and others have drifted in their Munsell values from what they represented when the book was written.

The following is a list of paints that I have used in creating my own tools, and which I recommend as a starting point for others. When possible I’ve provided colors from two paint lines: Liquitex Heavy Body, which is great for ground coverage; and Scribbles 3D Fabric Paint, which stands out well from the ground in order to contrast with it.

Generic Color NameLiquitex Heavy Body ColorScribbles 3D Fabric Paint Color
RedNaphthol Red LightShiny Bright Red
Red OrangePyrrole OrangeShiny Bright Orange
OrangeCadmium Orange HueHarvest Gold
Yellow OrangeYellow Orange AzoShiny Bright Yellow
YellowCadmium Yellow LightIridescent Tropical Yellow
Yellow GreenVivid Lime GreenShiny Lime Green
GreenLight Green PermanentShiny Bright Green
Blue GreenIridescent Shimmering Teal
BlueCerulean Blue HueIridescent Holland Blue
Blue VioletPhthalocyanine Blue (Green Shade)Iridescent Island Blue
VioletPrism VioletShiny Petunia Purple
Red VioletDeep MagentaShiny Wine Cordial
BlackMars BlackShiny Black
WhiteTitanium WhiteShiny White
GreyNeutral Gray 5

I wasn’t able to find a suitable Liquitex equivalent for Blue Green; instead I recommend Golden Artist Colors Light Turquois (Phthalo).

For Citrine, Olive, and Russet colors we have to turn to a different line of paints. Citrine and Olive are a good match for Folk Art 503 Yellow Citron and 449 Olive Green, respectively. Russet can be achieved with Americana Acrylic Russet.

Personally, I do not have a steady hand when it comes to brush work, whether for line or for lettering. The tip of the Scribbles paint vials is narrow enough that I found it easier to do both lines and lettering this way than via traditional paint and brush methods, but this technique is extremely fussy: it requires precise pressure as you squeeze the vial along with keeping the tip ever so slightly above the work surface so that the tip doesn’t end up bisecting the line of paint you are attempting to lay down. I would imagine someone with a steadier hand would achieve better results. I don’t know how well the Scribbles paints would apply via brush, or whether it would be worth using these paints instead of the Liquitex variety if one is able to do quality lines/lettering with brushes. My speculation is that the texture of the paint would help the color to stand out more from the ground color without needing to lay down another (equally precise) set of lines and/or lettering in gesso beforehand.

Recently, however, I found a far better solution when my friends Grier Conley and Andrew B. Watt introduced me to the existence of acrylic paint markers. I recently recreated my broken Water Cup, and had the opportunity to test both the Scribbles 3D paint technique I had used previously and the acrylic marker technique side by side. I got a 12-color set of Uni Posca acrylic paint markers (PC-1M12C) and found that the color match was sufficiently good to be suitable for the purpose at hand.

Old and Busted
New Hotness

There’s a slight learning curve to the acrylic markers, but the 0.7mm tip makes fine lines and lettering a breeze compared to any other technique I’ve tried or heard of. It does still require steadiness and a light touch, not unlike the Scribbles 3D technique. Going too heavy or stop-and-go on the pressure will cause a degree of cast-off speckling from the pen tip, but this is still exponentially more precise and less fussy than using the fabric paints–and the colors stand out with enough vibrancy that only a single application is necessary. In the future, I’ll be using this technique far more often.

RGB/Hex Values of the Golden Dawn Colors

As it turns out, given the heavy reliance of the Adeptus Minor work in the Golden Dawn tradition on color theory and on proper coloring of tools, there seem to be very few specific resources out there for people who are looking to use these colors in their own practical work. This is especially true when it comes to digital values of the various colors used in the tools.

There have been a couple of attempts to render the Flashing Colors in digital palettes, notably among them the Lelandra.com page, and we can see an attempt to do so represented in the Rose Cross Lamen image we see in Wikimedia Commons:

Rose Cross Lamen, Wikimedia Commons

The challenge that arises is that these attempts clearly begin from a standpoint of digital color representation and derive the color palette from there. Conversely, in the historical Golden Dawn tradition the colors of the Hodos Chameleonis were derived by mixing of paints, not of digital palettes. Something does get lost in the translation.

Thankfully, Tabatha Cicero is likely as close to a modern-day Moina Mathers as we have in the Golden Dawn tradition, and she had the foresight to include Munsell values for the paints she recommended in Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple. Unfortunately she did seemingly omit the values for Deep Magenta / Quidraquinone Violet (i.e. “Red-Violet”), but I tracked down a Liquitex reference book on their acrylics, and obtained Munsell values for the closest matching color represented in their line.

Having amassed a list of Munsell values, I tracked down a Python-based Munsell to RGB converter website and entered Tabby’s values in one by one. In some cases this resulted in RGB values that were outside the integer boundaries (either going slightly negative or a bit over 255), but resulted by and large in a very usable digital palette. I was somewhat surprised in that the colors were not only somewhat more muted than I anticipated, but the blues in particular (Tabatha gives two alternatives) were notably lighter than the palette given in the Wikimedia Commons lamen.

I’ve been playing around with trying to derive RGB color values lately for the Golden Dawn palette, and I’ve tried several approaches. My last attempt involved using Munsell’s canonical colors (e.g. Munsell blue) as a reference point and deriving colors from there, but I find that replicating the Liquitex color values that Tabatha Cicero presents has given a much more appealing palette and one which matches much more closely with the documents and exemplars with which I am familiar.

By contrast, here is the same Rose Cross Lamen from Wikimedia Commons, colored appropriately in the Munsell palette derived from Tabby’s work:

Recolored Lamen Using Munsell RGB Values

And now that I’ve given you the obligatory detail on my process, I won’t spare you the detail any longer. Below are the RGB and hexadecimal color values derived from the Golden Dawn Liquitex/Munsell palette, courtesy of Tabatha Cicero. There are some notes to a few of the entries, which I’ll cover afterwards.

Color NameMunsell Hue/Value/ChromaRGB ValueHex ValueColor Swatch
Red6.8 R 4 13181, 40, 42B5282A
Red (Alternate)5.6 R 3.9 12174, 42, 52AE2A34
Red-Orange9.5 R 5.5 13224, 92, 49E05C31
Orange3.6 YR 7 13255, 143, 45FF8F2D
Yellow-Orange6.2 YR 7.1 13251, 153, 13FB990D
Yellow6.5 Y 8.8 12.5250, 223, 0FADF00
Yellow-Green7.6 GY 7 10127, 191, 727FBF48
Green1.2 G 4.9 100, 138, 60008A3C
Blue-Green3.8 BG 5 80, 139, 127008B7F
Blue8.0 B 5 90, 133, 1770085B1
Blue (Alternate)2.7 PB 4 90, 101, 15600659C
Blue-Violet7.6 PB 4 1272, 89, 1744859AE
Violet5.0 P 3 999, 51, 117633375
Red-Violet6.5 RP 3 5.6112, 51, 7670334C

Most notably, there are two variants given for Red and for Blue. There isn’t a lot of difference between the reds, but the versions provided are based on the Munsell values Tabatha Cicero gives for Naphthol Red Light and Cadmium Red Medium, respectively. She also provides Munsell values for both Brilliant Blue and Cerulean Blue, which are represented above; I find I prefer the darker of the two represented by Cerulean Blue, but your mileage may vary. As mentioned previously, no Munsell value was given for Deep Magenta or Quinacridone Violet, so the Munsell values used here come from the Liquitex Deep Magenta #300 catalog entry.

I hope this helps those of you who are doing digital work in the Golden Dawn space! I have more to write about the physical pigments used for painting tools as well, but I’ll save that for another post. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to comment or drop me a line!

Genre Theory and the Kybalion

My friend Grier Conley recently wrote an article on genre theory for magicians, in which they propose using the techniques of genre theory from the field of literature to evaluate magical texts–including The Kybalion, which I have my own history with. When I was a Religion undergraduate and grad student, I encountered a lot of critical theory lenses; but this one was new to me.

Grier approaches the topic with the question of how such a diverse array of sources and texts from the Corpus Hermeticum through Agrippa and the Golden Dawn can be authentically considered Hermetic, and posits genre theory as an approach to understanding this conundrum. Simply put, the concept of genre involves a “horizon of expectations”, or a set of assumptions and expectations that we bring to a particular genre of work. Diverge too far afield of those assumptions and expectations, and you have transgressed the limitations of the genre’s horizon.

Western esotericism is a tricky thing to define: Antoine Faivre ended up using a cluster definition, with a set of mandatory and additional traits that characterize the western esoteric current. This is not entirely dissimilar, it seems to me, from a genre-based treatment. The form of Faivre’s cluster definition is for all practical purposes a codified articulation of the horizon of expectations comprising the western esoteric tradition. Hermeticism is scarcely less diverse in its manifestations than is western esotericism in general, and I feel the same approach can greatly enrich the discourse.

Where Grier’s work really benefits us is in enabling us to engage in an ongoing conversation about what the horizon of expectations entailed in Hermeticism consists of, without approaching the matter with an a priori definition already in mind. We can, for example, discuss the expectations and assumptions of piety and gnosis inherent in Hermeticism, and see how The Kybalion diverges from these expectations. There are a great many depths to be plumbed just in applying genre theory to this one problematic text, but I believe Grier is really on to something here. Check out their blog post on the subject for more, and look for me to be bringing it up whenever I talk about The Kybalion in the future!

A Golden Dawn Recension of Liber Resh

The Sun Man at Cosmovitral, by Diego Callejas

Like many in the Golden Dawn tradition, I have used Liber Resh for many years as a daily solar adoration. Many people are likely unaware, however, that the original concept for Liber Resh comes from the Golden Dawn’s Theoricus Ceremony. The names of the godforms in this ceremony are at variance with what Crowley puts forth in Liber Resh, therefore I have provided the recension below in order to reassociate the text with the original deity names.

At dawn, face East. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art HORMAKU1 in thy rising, even unto Thee who art HORMAKU in Thy strength, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Uprising of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Night!
Give the Sign of Silence.

At noon, face South. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art RA in thy triumphing, even unto Thee who art RA in Thy beauty, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Mid-course of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Morning!
Give the Sign of Silence.

At sunset, face West. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art TOUM in thy setting, even unto Thee who art TOUM in Thy joy, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Down-going of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Day!
Give the Sign of Silence.

At midnight, face North. Give the Sign of the Enterer.
Hail unto Thee who art KEPHRA in thy hiding, even unto Thee who art KEPHRA in Thy silence, who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark at the Midnight hour of the Sun. Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow, and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm. Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of Evening!
Give the Sign of Silence.

1: Harmachis, or Hor m-Akhet, “Horus in the Horizon”

Constructing a Simplified Hegemon’s Wand

The Wand of the Hegemon is one of the more difficult Outer Order wands to replicate, given the peculiar split shape of the Mitre head at its top. To construct a faithful Wand along these lines requires at best not only a jigsaw to shape the two separate pieces that become joined into the shape of the head, but also a good electric sander to do a significant amount of shaping work. For some this may be a low bar to hurdle, but for many Temples just starting out, construction of all the requisite equipment–and especially the Wands of the Hierophant and Hegemon–can pose a high barrier to entry.

It is with these Temples in mind that I sought out to simplify the designs of both the Hegemon’s and the Hierophant’s Wands in order to make them constructible with nothing more than simple hand tools and paints, while doing my best to preserve the symbolism latent within these Wands. (The Hierophant’s Wand will be the subject of a future post.)

I have opted for a simple pentagonal head for the Hegemon’s Wand, emblazoned with the familiar red Cross, rather than attempting a Mitre shape. The bands and pommel are easy enough to do with hand tools. As a bonus, because the head of the Wand screws on to the shaft, it can be removed and replaced with a Mitre head of more traditional construction down the road if desired.

Here is the design for the simplified Hegemon Wand. You can see that the placement of the bands and pommel on the shaft preserve the Sephirothic structure and attributions.

Materials Needed:

  • 3/4″ x 36″ length of dowel
  • One 1.5″ doll head
  • Three 1.5″ x 1/2″ flat wheels
  • Small block (6″ x 6″) of 3/4″ thick wood
  • Two 3/8″ x 2″ dowel screws
  • 3/8″ drill bit
  • 3/4″ wood drill bit
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • Gesso for basecoat
  • Liquitex Heavy Body – Naphthol Red Light paint
  • Liquid Leaf – Gold paint
  • Clear gloss finish (brushable or spray)

Tools Needed:

  • Electric drill
  • Hand saw
  • (Optional) Clamp
  • Paint brushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Needle nose pliers

Assembling the Shaft

The Hegemon Wand, like all of the other Golden Dawn wands, is fundamentally composed of two pieces: the head and the shaft. Of the two, the shaft is far easier to produce. The benefit of using dowel screws over pegs and glue, however, is that you can swap out the head for a different one down the road if you choose to do so.

The most difficult part of constructing the shaft, particularly when doing so by hand, is creating the bands that go around it to mark the Sephiroth. A pair of 1.5″ diameter “flat wheels” makes a very good starting point, and eliminates the need to use a hole saw to drill the pieces out of a board and then sand them down. The wheels already have a center hole which can be widened out to 3/4″ in order to fit around the dowel. I used a 3/4″ wood drill bit for this purpose, with a bit of sacrificial wood underneath to prevent drilling into my work surface. Be sure not to drill out all of your flat wheels, because you will need one as-is to go between the shaft of the wand and the head.

Drilling out the flat wheels

There were three big challenges with drilling out the center hole in these flat wheels. The first was holding the wheel steady. It’s possible to do this by hand, but difficult. A better option is to use a clamp affixed to the edge of the wheel and the board to hold it in place while you drill. The second challenge was breakage: if you press down too hard on the drill the stresses on the wheel will cause it to crack, so be sure to use a light to medium touch. Finally, I had difficulty getting the hole to drill straight. After drilling out about six of these, I managed to get several with holes that weren’t skewed. The ones that are askew don’t look too bad when fitted over the dowel, but it’s less than ideal. A drill press would have been a great asset here, as it would have ensured a straight-down hole all the way through. If I were doing this over again, I likely would have gradually widened the hole with progressively larger drill bits in order to reduce the angle of any resulting skew.

For a 36″ dowel, you will want to space the two drilled-out flat wheels along the middle of the band at the 12″ and 24″ marks. Glue them into place using wood glue. If the wheels don’t slide on smoothly you can take a bit of sandpaper and run it along the inside hole, but note that it doesn’t take much to accidentally widen it more than intended. You’ll also want to use a 3/8″ drill bit to drill one hole on either end of the dowel to a depth of about one inch, in order to attach the head and pommel.

Blank Hegemon Wand

Once the glue sets, paint the entire shaft with at least one coat of gesso. Multiple coats may make the color of the wand stand out more, but I didn’t feel the need for multiple applications. When the gesso is dry, paint the shaft (but not the wheels) red using Liquitex Heavy Body Naphthol Red Light. When they say “heavy body” they aren’t kidding, and I found I only needed a single coat to get a good overall color. Be careful when painting around the flat wheels so that you don’t get red paint on them.

Painting the shaft of the wand

Once the red paint dries, mask off the shaft using painter’s tape and use gold Liquid Leaf to paint the flat wheels.

Masking the shaft to paint the flat wheels

At the same time, you can take the “doll head” (a wooden sphere with a flattened bottom) and the remaining un-drilled flat wheel, coat them with gesso, and paint them gold as well.

Once all of the paint is dry, brush or spray on at least two coats of clear gloss finish. Be sure to let the finish dry adequately between applications. When this is done, you’re ready to assemble the shaft of the wand. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to grasp the unthreaded middle portion of the dowel screws and twist them into the holes you drilled out in the shaft. Screw on the doll head pommel, apply a couple coats of gloss varnish, and you’re ready to move on to the head of the wand.

Assembling the Head

Because we’re working with hand tools, a mitre head isn’t an especially feasible choice in terms of shape. I elected to simplify this down to a pentagon, which is the approximate shape of the mitre. To begin with, I traced a 4″ diameter circle on a piece of 3/4″ thick wood and inscribed a pentagon in it.

Pentagon inscribed in circle

Next I used a hand saw to laboriously cut out the shape. It’s a rough job, and using a jigsaw as opposed to a hand saw would have been a huge benefit for cutting out the pentagon.

This cutout is definitely rough

I used 100 grit sandpaper to smooth down the edges and make the shape more regular. Since I’m coating it with gesso and painting, I didn’t see much reason to sand down the shape to a finer grit.

Drill a 3/8″ hole in the bottom of the pentagon for the dowel screw, coat it in gesso, and paint it gold using Liquid Leaf. Use painter’s tape to mask out a cross of six squares on both sides, and paint it with a coat of gesso and red paint. Be careful to press the painter’s tape down well, or you’re likely to get some bleed on the underside of the mask.

Masking the head with the Cross shape

Cover the shape with a couple coats of gloss finish, attach it to the shaft of the wand, and you’re done!

The finished Hegemon Wand
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