The Sabbat of Chaos

by Julian Vayne

A deep voice begins the invocation: O mighty Rehctaw! Thou who exists in all erogenousness, We evoke Thee! By the power of the meanings arising from these forms I make. We evoke Thee! By the Talismans that speak the secret leitmotif of desire, We evoke Thee! By the sacrifices, abstinences and transvaluations we make, We evoke Thee! By the sacred inbetweeness concepts Give us the flesh! By the quadriga sexualis Give us unvarying desire! By the conquest of fatigue Give us eternal resurgence! By the most sacred Word-graph of Heaven We invoke Thee! Two participants are dressed in their Halloween finery, leather corset, high heels and pointy hats. One of them carries a jar containing a green substance, flying ointment. Anointed with this magical unguent our participants sit in silence. A soundtrack begins, the rapid drumming lulling them into the trance. The sound of the wind fills the temple, then the half heard moans of ecstasy and of pain. The participants are flying over the inner world landscape. Caught in the wind they rise up into the heavens and looking down on the bare tops of the mountains they can see the place of the witches sabbat. Then comes the chant, ‘Isis, Astarte, Athena, Hekate…” and with the twangling of instruments the sound of rave music fills the air. They arrive in the hurly burly of the imagined sabbatic feast. What first appears as a horrific parody of the Christian Mass is revealed to be a naked celebration of joyous life. „Auf dem Hexensabbat“ Holzschnitt von Hans Baldung Grien, o.J. And as the dance comes to an end so they return to this world. And the spell is sealed with the words of Doreen Valiente: “Oh, I have been beyond the town, Where nightshade black and mandrake grow, and I have heard and I have seen What righteous folk would fear to know! … Oh, I have been and I have seen, In magic worlds of Otherwhere. For all this world may praise or blame, For ban or blessing nought I care. For I have been beyond the town, Where meadowsweet and roses grow, And there such music did I hear As worldly-righteous never know.” And the ritual is banished with cackling. *** As a chaos magician I’m always interested in rituals, in methods for changing consciousness. So what does this brief except from a recent chaos magick ritual that I created tell us about the chaos approach? The first point is that chaos magick isn’t, as is sometimes claimed, a style that necessarily tends towards the superficial. A typical chaos magic meeting often involves a ‘bring and share’ model, where participants bring a ritual practice or exercise to share with others. This means that participants can experience a method that is the distillation of the long-term practice of the person presenting the ritual. The ceremony above was the climax of long period of personal work and is rooted in the fact that I’ve been personally involved in the style of magick known as witchcraft for over twenty-five years. However this isn’t a ‘classic’ Wiccan Book of Shadows sabbat. Instead it’s one, which happily draws its inspiration from a multiplicity of sources. The invocation, for example, is from the sabbatic ritual created by Austin Osman Spare who is perhaps the single most important influence on chaos magick. Austin Spare was a genius, one of the greatest nude portrait artists of his time (so said the newspapers on the occasion of his death in 1956). Spare combined his formidable artist talents with his own intensely personal system of sorcery that included the technique of sigilisation which is perhaps his best known legacy. The witches officiating at the ceremony were dressed as, well, witches. If you ask a passer by to describe a witch they might tell you she (and it is almost invariably a she rather than he) is a loathsome hag or else a desirable harlot. Her gothic style clothing is marked with the silver traces of spiders’ webs and, of course, she wears a witch’s hat. By making conscious use of this image the ritual plugs directly into our mythology as it exists now, and this is a key feature of chaos magick. Although chaos magicians certainly do work with ‘traditional’ deities they are equally happy in using our lexicon of current cultural symbols. This can mean that plenty of chaos rituals might look like psychotherapeutic practices since psychology is a powerful modern retelling of how magick works. Equally a chaos magician might decide to do a ritual involving characters from film culture, contemporary literature, or recent history. Then there is the flying ointment. Of course in the exploration of our consciousnesses there are many occasions when magicians and Pagans of many traditions make use of ‘plant teachers’, particularly those substances that are frequently referred to as psychedelics. However anyone who knows about this territory will tell you that the ‘traditional’ drugs that make up flying ointment (belladonna, aconite, henbane, datura etc) are basically a recipe for disaster. Rather than risk killing anyone at my ritual I therefore decided to instead go for toothpaste mixed with green food colouring. Smeared on the body this potion would cause a tingling sensation but nothing more. The power here was in belief (the role of belief is of major importance as the ‘frame’ within which magic operates in the chaos style). I’d told the participants that this was flying ointment, that it did have homeopathic traces of the traditional ingredients present (it didn’t) and that they should trust me! As a chaos magician I believe that much of what makes magick work is our belief in it. The placebo effect is one such example of this process and so the very idea that this was flying ointment is itself magickal. (Obviously this is also a comment that, when working with wildly different systems and methods participants need to have a high degree of experience in occultism and feel confident in trusting their Brothers and Sisters.) There is the use of modern technology. The music I’d prepared for this ritual (which you can find if you look me up on was created using a simple freeware sound-editing package. By layering sounds (including trance drumming, sounds sampled from hardcore sadomasochistic pornography, the Lords Prayer said backwards and so forth) a complex soundscape can be produced. Chaos magicians, while very happy to do ‘empty handed magick’ (that is magick which requires no ritual props at all) are typically quite willing to deploy multimedia systems, biofeedback and other technological aids in their rituals. The ritual pivots on various ways of changing consciousness since, for chaos magicians, this is one of the core issues of magickal praxis. Generating ‘gnosis’ or an altered state happens in this rite through ritual poetry, through the placebo flying ointment, through visualisation and motionlessness and, once the music kicks in, through trance dance. After the sabbatic journey the rite concludes with the wonderful ritual poetry of Doreen Valiente. Once again this is an example of me bringing my tradition (witchcraft) to share with my colleagues. This is a poem which I first encountered in my teens and which beautifully summarises the ritual. Namely that ‘the sabbat’ appears to be, at first, all about darkness and death (“where nightshade black and mandrake grow”) but resolves itself into joy and an affirmation of life (“where meadowsweet and roses grow”). The poem also affirms the simple fact that being a magician often means going against the grain (“for all this world may praise or blame, for ban or blessing naught I care”). Chaos magicians recognise that while we live in communities and work for good relationships with others, the path of magic is a challenging one, both personally and socially. Magicians (of whatever tradition) seek to change the universe both inner and outer; to rock the boat of the status quo. The motto of the chaos magician is perhaps best summarised by the famous dictum of Timothy Leary (himself a Brother of the chaos magic order I am a member of) “Think for yourself and question authority”. The final act of the ritual is to banish the space, to open the circle if you will. This is traditionally done in chaos magick with laughter. Laughing helps break the mood of the rite. It helps us forget our intention (and therefore allow it to sink into the unconscious, deep mind to gestate). Moreover it reminds us not to be too serious about our magick. We should hold our beliefs in magick, and our view of ourselves as magicians, with both great seriousness and also generous humour. ‘Mirth and Reverence’ as it says in the Wiccan Charge of The Goddess. And of course what better way to end a Samhain ritual but to transform that laughter into the cackling giggle of the Crone? So there’s a practical example chaos magick in action. Of course other rituals and programmes will inevitably look very different but many of the core elements will remain the same. If you want to find out more the internet is a rich resource. will also point you towards actively working chaos magicians in both the British Isles and globally. As far as books are concerned naturally I’d recommend my own, those of Peter Carroll and of course Terry Pratchett. You may also wish to investigate where a number of chaos-influenced magicians teach courses on many different aspects of the occult arts. So, as we say in my tradition “Choyofaque!” which means, “Do the Great Work of Magick” and as they also say in my tradition ‘Blessed Be’.