Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
TITLE: Homemade Magick: The Musings & Mischief of a Do-It-Yourself Magus
AUTHOR: Lon Milo DuQuette
BASIC INFO: Published by Llewellyn Publications (2014); Trade paperback version, 6×9, perfect-bound, 240 pp.
WHAT’S IN IT?
Homemade Magick is sub-titled “The Musings & Mischief of a Do-It-Yourself Magus,” which really sums up the book nicely. It is another book by the inimitable Lon Milo DuQuette, this time tackling the basics of ceremonial magick in his characteristic way of combining humor with knowledge, and personal anecdote with long-standing tradition.
The book is divided into three major sections: I – Initiation, II – Magical Weapons, and III – A Magical Lodge in Your Home. Aside from this, there is a short “invocation” of Nebraska Maids – a short rhapsody for his wife Constance – which begins the text, and the book ends with the script of the homemade “eighth” ritual of Crowley’s Rites of Eleusis that was created and celebrated in the DuQuette’s home. Within these bounds, the book is approximately 150 pages on the basics of ceremonial ritual. The book only took me about 2 hours to read, which at once shows both its page-turning nature as well as the fact that it is necessarily a basic – or “introductory” – text.
Part I: Initiation – Part I begins with a “Rant of the Homemade Magician” which amounts to saying that we always are working on ourselves as magicians, and – in the end – all the work is our own. He memorably states, “Doing magick is not what magick is about. The goal is magick is to be a magician. The only thing the magician can actually change with magick is the magician.” This then leads into a chapter called “Who Are You?” which beckons the reader to discover their true identity beneath the stuff we take to be ourselves, which then leads naturally into a chapter on creating one’s own magical motto. DuQuette then moves on to introducing the idea of initiation, eloquently stating that “A magical initiation marks the beginning of a change – a mutation – an evolutionary step in the life of the magician who, if all goes well, will exit the initiatory chamber a different person from the one who blindly entered.” The chapter ends by strongly making the point that “all true initiations are self-initiations.” The next and final chapter of this section contains a very brief “homemade ritual” for self-initiation which essentially takes the magician through various dis-identifications with the body to identify with the consciousness or Spirit which is “that which remains.”
Part II: Magical Weapons – Part II begins with an explanation of magical weapons, describing their basic symbolism and corresponding them to the four letters of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (YHVH). The next chapter deals more in depth with the Disk (or Pantacle), explaining it symbolism and demonstrating its possible design by extrapolating from DuQuette’s own self-designed Pantacle. The next three chapters deal similarly in explaining the basic symbolism of the Sword, Cup, and Wand, with the main point running throughout these chapters being that virtually any item will do and that it is the magician’s intent and reverence which truly makes a magical weapon a weapon of magick. The next chapter is a short “homemade” ritual to consecrate one’s magical weapons based off the formula of the Neophyte initiation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The second section ends with the admonition that “If you can’t transform a scrap of paper into a magick ring, then there will be no magick power in a golden ring… The magick comes from you, not the material,” emphasizing what is really the main point of the entire second section of the book.
Part III: A Magical Lodge in your Home – The first chapter of this section essentially gives the advice that the best way to learn magick is to try to teach it, and it gives several tips on running classes on magick. Next is a brief chapter on raising a child in a “magical home” with some more advice. Next, there is a chapter about doing magical rituals while traveling, including descriptions of how to use a deck of cards to lay out a magical circle. Next is a brief chapter about being married to another magician. After that is essentially a long anecdote of how DuQuette came to create his “Tarot of Ceremonial Magick.” The next chapter is a brief bit on “do I have to get a job?” and the chapter after that is essentially an anecdote about DuQuette and his wife Constance “playing monastery” for 3 years, including various rituals they performed regularly each day. Next is a chapter that involves an amusing anecdote of how the “demon” of an angry blogger got DuQuette to realize he needed to lose weight. The final chapter talks about using his backyard as a “Mystery School” (that is, staging various dramatic rituals), and it concludes with the script of his “Rite of Earth” that he (and his coterie of fellow-magicians) has performed at the end of Crowley’s Rites of Eleusis series.
WHAT I ENJOY ABOUT THE BOOK
I enjoy in this book the same things that I enjoy in most other books by Lon Milo DuQuette: a clear writing style, punctuated by humor (often self-deprecating), which never comes close to the self-aggrandizement or pomposity of many writers on the same or similar subjects. I didn’t find any ideas in the book particularly novel, especially having read DuQuette’s other books where most ideas appear in various forms, although there were certainly a few lines of particular wittiness and eloquence (some of which are appended below). As always, DuQuette’s style lends itself to be very “personal”: one gets the feeling that Lon himself is reading to you, telling you about his own exploits, victories, and mishaps on his magical path, and it is always nice to see the author themselves come out in their writings.
In the end, what I enjoy most about this book is that it is a veteran magician telling new generations of up-and-coming (or soon-to-be magicians) the message “It’s okay!” It is okay to try things out for yourself and experiment, it is okay to use household items as your ritual paraphernalia, it is okay to not know exactly what you’re doing, and – perhaps most importantly of all – it is okay to laugh at yourself.
WHAT MIGHT IMPROVE?
I read the entire book in about 2 hours. This is both good and bad: it means it was a fairly easy read, and also that it didn’t feel particularly substantial. I appreciate DuQuette’s command of his own style of prose, and I also find myself wondering… with all these decades of experience in magick (and magical societies, so to speak), what wisdom and understanding has DuQuette not yet put to ink because of the publisher’s demand for easy sellers (or perhaps his own penchant to speak largely to the beginner)? Some of this has come out in the wonderful series he did with his wife Constance on the Gnostic Mass called “The Miracle of the Mass” – recently serialized on the Speech in the Silence podcast, available on YouTube. I only wish there was more like this in his publishing.
The organization is also a bit fuzzy. The first two sections of the book have chapters that directly correspond to their section’s title, but the third and final section seems to be much more of a conglomeration of loosely-related chapters, which sometimes are simply anecdotes about his life. Finally, as with some of DuQuette’s other books – I’m looking at you The Key to Solomon’s Key! – there are often what amounts to “filler” that doesn’t seem crucial to its inclusion in the book. I appreciate the inclusion of the full script of “The Rite of Earth,” although it doesn’t seem particularly demonstrative of the type of ceremonial magick described throughout the rest of the book (relying largely upon the Hermetic tradition passed down from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn through Aleister Crowley). Also, although it does not take up a lot of pages, he includes Eliphas Levi’s “Prayers to the Elementals” which seemed arbitrary and left me wondering if I had missed some reference while reading the main text of the book.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?
7 out of 10 stars: Homemade Magick is a great book for those who are starting out on the magical path – especially those within the tradition of Thelema in particular and the Hermetic Qabalah in general – and want to get a very down-to-earth explanation of magick, its implements, the temple, and how to think about these things in a non-pretentious yet pragmatic way. As per usual, DuQuette’s style is charismatic and infective, and his language is concise and clear, so it makes for an easy read.
- “Doing magick is not what magick is about. The goal is magick is to be a magician. The only thing the magician can actually change with magick is the magician.” (p.8)
- “Magick is a process – a step-by-step journey of self-directed, self-willed personal evolution. That process must take place within the context of whatever opportunities, liabilities, assets, obstacles, restrictions, and fortunes (good or ill) your life circumstances have given you and those that you make for yourself.” (p.8)
- “The sound of your own name wakes you up, and that’s precisely what a magical motto should do.” (p.16)
- “A magical initiation marks the beginning of a change – a mutation – an evolutionary step in life of the magician who, if all goes well, will exit the initiatory chamber a different person from the one who blindly entered.” (p.24)
- “All true initiations are self-initiations. No matter how simple or elaborate the ceremony, and no matter how skilled or competent the officers, the initiation itself takes place in the temple of your own soul. Your ‘application’ is your sincerity, and your “initiation fee” is your desire and ability to be open to the moment.” (p.26)
- “The magick of the cup comes not from its form or its beauty or the material from which it is composed. The magick of the cup simply comes from its ability to embody profound and perfect emptiness.” (p.65)
- “No matter how formal or informal your ceremony is, it will be worthless, ineffective, and a complete waste of time if it doesn’t actually mean something to you – unless it is uniquely your own – unless it is homemade.” (p.80)
- “The magick comes from you, not the material.” (p.84)
Love is the law, love under will.