It must have been clear we were in from the sticks. It wasn’t just the way were dressed, farm hands in jeans and bulky jackets. It was the way Alex and I wandered through the occult bookshop, exclaiming at the book titles, stocking up on packages of incense charcoal.
Then we found it: The Golden Dawn, Israel Regardie’s massive tome, Llewellyn’s fourth edition and printing. We were so excited. The man who sold it to us smiled and said, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
The table of contents promised Book 1 would begin with knowledge lectures and meditations. Book 1 began on page 96. There was no index. As we worked with the material sticky notes sprouted at the top of many pages.
Alex and I were on a three-year magical retreat living and working in an apple orchard in the Okanogan Valley in Washington state. Magic was our whole lives. We studied the knowledge lectures and did the rituals. I learned the Ritual of the Pentagram and the Hebrew alphabet for the first time. I practiced breathing meditations while thinning apples in the orchard.
When we got to the initiations, Regardie had a little note that said something like, if there’s no group near you, visualize the initiations. We thought we were pretty bright, so we gave it a serious try, using dice and little counters to represent the officers. Without having seen an initiation we just couldn’t figure it out.
It wasn’t the easiest self-study system. When we had worked through that big book we graduated to the Aurum Solis Magical Philosophy series, which was easier to learn outside a magical group.
I don’t know what that long-ago bookstore owner would have done, but having that book granted us access to the magician’s body of knowledge and cemented our committment to the Western Ceremonial path.