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A Team At The Getty Museum Cracked Out The SORTES SANCTORUM And Worked With It

A team of five-people—one male- and four female-presenting people—at the Getty Museum have taken a crack at using a medieval divinatory method to get some answers about their day-to-day lives.  They followed every step of the process, including fasting and ritual purification, and the answers they got in relation to both their near and long-term questions seemed to surprise them. Take a look:

The strictest definition of fasting implies refusing all nutrients; however, art historian and food scholar Christina Normore has argued that medieval fasting simply omitted animal products. Considering that about half of the days on the medieval calendar were “fast” days, it’s very likely that medieval Christians relied on a plant-based diet on these days, while animal products were reserved for feast days. With this in mind, our fast consisted of a vegan diet for the three days leading up to our divination.[…]

We all gathered in the manuscripts study room, a beautiful, naturally lit space with ample dice-rolling room. The book awaited our arrival, propped gently on foam. Each of us took a turn, first stating our question aloud, and then rolling the three dice. The dice were arranged in descending order. Then our fortunes were read aloud from a translation by Dr. Faith Wallis. The book was touched only by Rheagan, who is trained in safe handling of parchment.[…]

The whole process, here, is super interesting, from the decision to attempt this at all, to the historical and anthropological interpretations of what it would have meant to “fast,” in this era, to the necessary reinterpretations of the symbolic language used by the theologians and diviners who put this book together. Though the claim that it “worked” for them is sketchier in some cases than others, the physical, mental, and ritual processes of the Getty team are well worth a read, and I highly recommend reading through it.

The full article can be found at the Getty Blog, here: “We Tried Medieval Divination—And It Worked.” Thanks to Mediapathic for the heads-up.

Songs played while writing this included: Weezer’s “Only In Dreams,” and The Electric Hellfire Club’s “Wired In Blood.”

And if you like divination, keep watch for another Tarot interview, here, soon, and take a look at this week’s edition of the Technoccult News.

Shall Do What Thou Wilt Be the Whole of the Tech?

Image Copyright The Independent UK

There is nothing that is not magick, if apprehended correctly, and there is nothing that is not technology for the same reasons. We’ve mentioned, before, that the roots for both technology and magick are in “craft.” The Greek root for this is “Techne,” and you can look to Athena and Hekate and Hermes and Hephaestus and see deities of both Art and Artifice. They are goddesses and gods of skill and cunning and language and creation and weaving—stories and textiles—and theft and all of these things are bound together.

This is part of why we talk, here, about magic and technology, and what “artificial intelligence” really means when we break it down.

But the Western world’s Greek ancestors aren’t the only ones who bound their technology and their magic together. Egypt saw Thoth creating language and magic, being a god of technology and the repository of all memory and knowledge. Odin is the Master Speller and the great artificer (and thief and Cunning Man). Legba and Ellegua are spiritually tied to crossroads, thresholds, beginnings, endings, and communications, making the Lwa the obvious choice for Gibson to map onto the Internet.

And in all of this we have the root technology of language. The manipulation of words and memories and “spelling” and, again, “craft.” Kim Boekbinder reminded us, some weeks ago, that, “Songs are spells, incantations. Careful what you sing for. Songs are spells. Be mindful of what you listen to.” And we’re back around to phonomancy, again. But these are the more poetic uses of language, and their intent, as stated, is to hit you in the heart, in the viscera, in the instinct. Less prosaic (but no less powerful) uses of language than these are laws.

The law is a spell that works on you, at every moment, whether you will it or not. Laws are the codification and concretization of moral codes and systems of justice, all of which are derivations of a society’s values. They are the concentrated beliefs and essences of what people think and feel and believe are best, and their particular parsing and deployment can have long lasting, permanent effects on your life, even at great distance from you, and without your conscious knowledge. But, just like other forms of magick, the law can be learned, can be understood, and in most cultures, one can even become fully initiated into its mysteries. And when you know the law, you can use it to your own advantage.

The law is alive, and somewhat adaptable, but it’s also rigid, the pace of its change is often glacial, and its outcomes are not always Justice. The knowledge and recognition of that last fact allows for those who see antiquated and even repressive expressions of the law to do things like erecting a 9-foot-tall Baphomet Statue, and carrying it around the country to places where one religion’s views seem to be given state-sanctioned preference. Or Wiccans and Pagans working out how best to use various “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” against the people who only ever seem to mean Christian religious freedom.

If we understand the law as a technology of social control, we can see the cruxes of influence and words of power that allow us to utilize it, and to leverage its often purposefully-occult nature. We can, as with many ritual forms, use it to transgress against itself, to subvert its grasp long enough to craft a more permanent solution.

A New Era for Technoccult

As technology embeds itself ever deeper into our lives, the strange relationship between magic and technology is finally gaining widespread attention.

There was the Magick Codes conference late last year, then the Haunted Machines event in Manchester earlier this year, and most recently a panel dedicated to magic and tech at Theorizing the Web in New York last April. Warren Ellis just published a book of talks, and they’re shot through with thinking about magic and myth and their role in technology.

We’re only at the beginning of a series of new conversations about all of this, and Technoccult should be at the forefront of these discussions. I mean, it’s right there in the name. It’s as if finally, after all these years, the site’s moment has finally come. But I’m not the right person to lead the site into these conversations.

That’s why Damien Williams, known to many of you as Wolven, is taking over Technoccult, effective immediately. This will be my last post as editor of the site.

Damien has been writing and speaking about the intersection of magic and technology for years. There are other big names in the current conversation, but few people — if any — have Damien’s track record for covering this topic. And what’s more, he’s a good friend. I can’t wait to see what he does with the site.

Why the change?

Short explanation: As I’ve gotten busier with other work and lost interest in the occult, I’ve been thinking for a while about either shuttering Technoccult or going on some sort of extended hiatus. But after our Mindful Cyborgs interview, I realized it would make more sense to hand it off to Damien. We talked it over at Theorizing the Web in April and agreed that it makes sense for both of us, and for readers. I think of this as a continuation of the spirit of Technoccult rather than an end or shift in direction.

Long version:

I started Technoccult over 15 years ago with the idea of doing a site in the same vein as Disinfo, but with more of a focus on arts and culture than politics and conspiracy theory. Obviously I’ve drifted considerably from those original intentions.

To be honest, I wasn’t even all that interested in the occult when I started the site. It seemed like a cool “cybergoth” sounding name. I had’t read The Invisibles. It was, in fact, learning that the name turned up in The Invisibles that made me read the comic, and start exploring the materials linked in Disinfo’s chaos magic dossier.

Discovering chaos magic and the works of Grant Morrison set me on a course that shaped my life for years to come. Key 23. PDX Occulture. EsoZone. It was through these channels that I met my wife. It was blogging on Technoccult that gave me the clips and confidence to land my first journalism job.

But it’s not my passion anymore. Partially that’s because my journalism career has left me with less time and energy to write here. And partially it’s because my interest in the occult and the constellation of other themes around it has waned. When I do write, it’s often about largely unrelated topics, like the environmental impact of almonds, the state of journalism, or why like to call my neighborhood “Columbia Ridge.” It’s as if Sports Illustrated stopped covering sports and decided to basically cover every other conceivable topic instead. Of course I’ll always maintain some interest in the occult and fringe topics, and I might even feel a calling to write about magic again in the near future. But it’s just not my main focus.

Yet I didn’t want to just let Technoccult die either. It’s outlived dozens of similarly themed sites over the years. Strangers have told me it’s their favorite site. I’ve tried to “rebrand” the site before and it hasn’t really worked out. It feels like it has a life of its own now.

So when I interviewed Damien a few months ago, something clicked. He writes about the intersection magic and technology, transhumanism, and the evolution of human consciousness. All the things that Technoccult readers keep telling me they want to read more about. I thought “why isn’t HE writing the site?” Then I realized: I should just let him take it over. It would give him a broader reach for his writing, give Technoccult readers more of what they’re looking for, and let me resign knowing the site is in good hands. Win-win-win.

Plus, his interest in pop culture analysis brings things full-circle back to the original idea behind Technoccult. Oh, and the first time I met Damien, he was wearing a Luxt shirt. I had Luxt on heavy rotation while I was cobbling together the original Technoccult site all those years ago.

I’m aware that although I’ve brought in other writers in the past, my voice has been the one consistent thing on the site, and that some of you might be happy to have me keep writing here, regardless of what I write about. Some of you might even prefer it. But overall I think Damien’s voice will be more of a continuation of the spirit of the site than mine at this point. And while he’ll surely bring a different perspective on a wide range of topics, I think we have compatible world views.

Yes, I could have just asked him to join the site as an additional contributor. But frankly my attempts at managing other writers have not gone well (and that’s completely my fault). Plus I can’t pay him, and it felt wrong to ask him to work for free on something that has sort of become my personal brand. The only thing that really made sense was to hand it off entirely.

I don’t know where exactly he’ll be taking the site. That’s up to him. I’ll be around in the background for the next few months trying to clean up the technical mess I’ve left. But editorially, it’s in his hands now.

What’s Next for Me

For now my focus will be my journalism work, co-hosting the Mindful Cyborgs podcast and researching the code literacy book I’ve thinking about writing, depending on how the research goes.

I’ve got tons of other ideas as well. Someday I’d like to do a print magazine, or maybe a zine hand printed by mimeograph. I’d love to start an old school dial-up BBS. I’ve still got a good start on a FATE-based pen-and-paper role playing game to finish, and that mutant history book I started researching ages ago. I have fiction ideas running out of my ears. I’ve been learning to draw and want to make a comic, and I’ve been learning to program and would love to make a video game. I have more Psychetect albums in me as well.

If you want to receive sporadic updates on what I’m up to, I’ve started a new newsletter that you can sign-up for here.

So long and thanks for all the Fnords!

Any Technoccult Readers In Barcelona? I’ll Be There Next Week

I’m speaking about “Big Data in the Age of Knowledge Work” at the BDigital Global Congress next week in Barcelona. I’ll be pretty busy, but I’ll be there all week. If there are any readers in the area who want to get together, let me know.

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