Michele Burke November, 2009
Stellar Magic: A Practical Guide to Rites of the Moon, Planets, Stars and Constellations
Payam Nabarz has once again provided reader and practitioner alike with an invaluable tome that will aid its readers for generations to come.
~Michele Burke PaganPages.org
A Little about the Man:
Payam Nabarz is author of ‘The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World’ (Inner Traditions, 2005), ‘The Persian Mar Nameh: The Zoroastrian Book of the Snake Omens & Calendar’ (Twin Serpents, 2006), and Divine Comedy of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan (Web of Wyrd, 2008). He is also editor of Mithras Reader: An academic and religious journal of Greek, Roman, and Persian Studies. Volume 1(2006), Volume 2 (2008)
His latest book is Stellar Magic: a Practical Guide to Rites of the Moon, Planets, Stars and Constellations (Avalonia, 2009). For further info visit: www.stellarmagic.co.uk and http://www.myspace.com/nabarz
Interview with Payam Nabarz
Pagan Pages: What were the driving forces that led you to write Stellar Magic: A Practical Guide to Rites of the Moon, Planets, Stars and Constellations?
Payam Nabarz: When walking on a clear night and staring at the stars, something does capture one’s imagination. It may be the simple beauty of the stars and the planets, or perhaps a religious meme that compels one to head out night after night in the footsteps of the modern and ancient stargazers. It is not only the full moon that turns people into lunatics and poets; there are another subtle forces there too that inspire us; the constellations. To use a metaphor, if the sun is the ocean and the moon a sea, the planets the rivers, then the constellations are the streams. There has been much written about the magic of the sun, moon and the planets, yet the gentler streams of the constellations largely remain unspoken of. The constellations that are popular are the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which are seen as part of the celestial powers that influence us from birth. However, in modern astrology the interaction with the constellations is a reactive rather proactive relationship viewed as a unidirectional flow of energy from the heavens to us; this is referred to as ‘divinatory astrology’ by the Swiss mystical writer Titus Burckhardt in his book Mystical Astrology according to Ibn Arabi. The field of divinatory astrology is well covered by thousands of books on the subject and it is part of popular culture, with many newspapers printing daily horoscopes. The divinatory astrology is practice which goes back centuries, the focus of the work in this book is on divinatory astrology’s less popular cousin, which Titus Burckhardt refers to as ‘spiritual astrology’. The aims of following stellar workings in Stellar Magic is to make such relationships a bidirectional flow of energy and to honour the constellations in a same many modern Pagans honour earth, moon, sun and the planets. To draw down powers of the constellations as some modern Pagans draw down the moon or the sun, or as some magicians work with planetary hours and days of the week for the ideal time in which to achieve their aims or create talisman as we see in works like the ‘Picatrix’ or ‘The Lesser Key of Solomon’. In following the approach of using star lore for spiritual astrology and not just divinatory purposes, we are in good company as this is in line with ‘The Chaldæan Oracles’.
PP: From which mystery school do you draw your knowledge?
PN: Many systems, Persian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Celtic, Theurgy, Mithraic Mysteries. I am a Sufi and a practicing Dervish. A Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and a co-founder of its ‘Nemeton of the Stars’ Grove. I am a revivalist of the Temple of Mithras, and a Hierophant in the Fellowship of Isis. In addition to this I have also been working for number of years in the Golden Dawn system, Thelema, Nath Tantra, Wicca, and the Craft. I am a third degree in three separate systems, this allows me to blend different material and currents and create syncretic systems.
PP: How has your background in Druidism brought you to where you are today?
PN: It is one of the strands of I work with. A key aspect of being a Druid or Duir (Oak) is Duir is also root word for ‘door’, that is a druid stands at doorway between the worlds, acting as a conduit, manifesting spiritual currents. One example of how as a Druid I operate is the workings I have carried out with the Celtic Goddess Morrigan. Some of these experiences inspired me to write the ‘Divine Comedy of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan’(Web of Wyrd, 2008). It follows the initiatory journey of Corax and his learning’s from Goddess Morrigan. It also covers lots of Druid and Wiccan material.
PP: Did it take you a long time to write the Stellar Magic: A Practical Guide to Rites of the Moon, Planets, Stars and Constellations?
PN: It took four years to research and write the book. I began after my publication of ‘The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World’ (2005, Inner Traditions). It took some time to work with all the constellations in the book. My approach was first I did a meditation and an astral quest on the constellation of interest, and wrote my experiences as notes. I then researched the constellation and compared my own experience to historical references and other writer’s experiences. The areas where my experience matched historical sources provided the raw material for the creation of the solo and group ceremonies in the book. The match areas can be seen as historically/externally validated insights; hence the book is both modern and historical.
PP: What are the main principles of Stellar Magic, and what would be a prime example of a these principles?
PN: My own interest in Theurgy and Stellar Magic is rooted in the Mithraic Mysteries. In this stellar religion, the individual’s soul is seen to have descended from the starry heavens to earth and at death the soul makes its journey upwards again into the firmament, a vision similar to vision of Jacob’s ladder. The initiatory system allowed the neophyte to become familiar with the cosmos, and learn the star ‘signposts’ which would have allowed his return journey to be smoother and reach a state of henosis (union with the divine, Source).
The place of stellar magic in modern occultism is best seen in works of Rudolf Steiner and Aleister Crowley. For example Aleister Crowley’s saying of ‘Every Man and Woman is a Star’, and to aim for our One Star in Sight. A view that we have inherited from the Ancient Greeks, as we see in Plato’s Timaeus, and according to the classical writers it is not only the human souls that originate in the stars and strive to return to them. The gods too have their origins among the stars, in the Hermetica (the Greek Corpus Hermeticum) we read about the birth of the universe and life and a creation story which is centered on the stars.
This magical and religious approach to the constellations is not a new idea; indeed it can viewed as the root of many ancient religions. The field of archaeoastronomy has shown us numerous religious structures since the megalithic had cosmological roles and were aligned to the stars, moon or the sun. For example from the period Callanish in Scotland, Stonehenge in England, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, and Newgrange in Ireland.
PP: Can you give the readers a little insight into the Cygnus?
PN: The legend of Cygnus is a tale of camaraderie and brotherly love. In Greek Mythology, the great bird constellation was called Cygnus. According to one legend: Cycnus, the King of Liguria, was friends with Phaethon, the son of Helios (Apollo). Phaethon drove the sun’s chariot for a day, which was a disaster, as he could not control the fiery horses of the sun’s chariot and nearly set the whole world on fire. Phaethon’s drive was brought to an end when he saw the constellation Scorpio, and Jupiter struck him with a lightning bolt. Phaeton fell from the heavens to the earth burning like a meteorite, and plunged into river Eridanus. Aratus in the Phaenomena describes the river Eridanus as the river of many tears, as the tears are referring to those shed by Phaethon’s sisters, the Heliades. The river Eridanus is the modern day river Po in Italy. Cycnus was heartbroken from the death of Phaethon, and left his kingdom to wander the land and bury Phaethon’s remains; for his devotion, Jupiter transformed him into a swan (Cygnus).
The star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation is part of the summer triangle, the other two points of the triangle are the star Vega in Lyra and the star Altair in Aquila (Eagle). The triangle can act as marker for identifying neighboring constellations in the night sky. The Swan acting as Eagle’s wingman as the fly in the night sky! Aratus in Phaenomena refers to the Eagle as the ‘Storm Bird’, when the night is waning and its rises, storms occur. The Eagle is the messenger of Zeus and it is partnered with Lyra or the Vulture constellation. Lyra is shown as Orpheus’ harp, and sometimes a Vulture carries the harp. The winter triangle is essentially connects three birds around the Milky Way together. The Persian Phoenix the Simurgh or the Arabic Roc are also constellation Cygnus.
The swan is also a part of alchemical symbolism, a marriage of opposites like fire and water a sign of bermaphroditism. In case of stellar fire-water the connecting point appeared to be the Cygnus (Swan) constellation; what appeared to be two separate currents and metaphors meet in Cygnus. The watery majestic Swan (swimming in the Milky Way) and the fiery ever changing Phoenix shared a common symbol, the Cygnus constellation. From the Persian Phoenix the Simurgh or the Arabic Roc and Greek we see a thread that links the constellation Cygnus to both water and fire birds.
PP: Who was your teacher and how did their teachings stand apart from those of others?
PN: There have been several, as I have worked with several systems. I don’t think all of them would want to be mentioned in a public forum! The one who are public figures and can be mentioned are Dr. Nurbaksh, Mogg Morgan, John and Caitlin Matthews.
PP: What is the ‘The Book of Omens from the Moon’?
PN: An interesting lunar omen system was developed by Persian Zoroastrians called: Persian Burj Nameh: the book of omens from the moon. Burj Nameh can also translate as ‘book of the constellations’. This is a Persian poem of 26 couplets in Persian lyrical rhyme and are part of the ‘Parsee Revayats’ prose and poem collection, whose official title is ‘Revayet-i Darab Hormazdyar- Autograph of the compiler written 1679AD’. It is uncertain how old Burj Nameh actually is; while it was written down in 1679AD it is probably several centuries older. However, while this text is an important part of the Zoroastrian body of work, it is not seen as the words of Prophet Zoroaster himself as stated in the Gathas texts. The couplets are saying what the appearance of the new moon portends in each of the Zodiac signs. In Stellar Magic I have included a combination of my translation and that of Louis H. Gray paper. Also included is a new calligraphy of the Persian text. A similar approach was taken in my book ‘The Persian ‘Mar Nameh’: The Zoroastrian ‘Book of the Snake’ Omens and Calendar.’ Both Burj Nameh and Mar Nameh are closely linked.
PP: Can you tell the readers a little more about the ‘Astral Tour of Oxon’?
PN: I live in Oxford so my poem ‘Astral Tour of Oxon’ in the Cygnus chapter takes the reader through a magical tour of the city of Oxford and county of Oxfordshire. I felt it is important to expand on the spiritual aspect of Oxford and its connections, or rather, the magical side of Oxford. The magical Well in Oxford is one that many writers have drawn from, Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Phillip Pullman to name some. According to the Welsh epic The Mabinogion, Oxford is at centre of England, as this is where the two dragons meet (see the Draco constellation chapter in Stellar Magic for more details) and the place acts as an Omphalos. For this I wrote the poem to celebrate this magical Well. As a druid working with the land you are based on is important, Oxon has local stone circles and a rich ancient sacred landscape.
PP: Do you believe that regardless of our heritage we all connected as one, if so how?
PN: The Web of Wyrd connects all, there many currents that connect us. For example the World Axis. The sight of the World Axis (Axis Mundi) is a sight that many Magi, Shamans, Pagans, Mystics, and Magical practitioners from different cultures have seen through the ages. We see the Christian, Golden Dawn and Kabbalistic views of the Throne of Heaven, the Nordic Yggdrasil the world Ash tree, the Greek Omphalos, the Tower of Babel, the Vooduan poteau-mitan, and the Spindle of Necessity, the Shiva lingam etc… all are linked and are human interpretations of the same ‘thing’ (World Axis) that exists in many worlds, in the astral and stellar realms. This is a thread of infinity that pierces each world at the pole star- the keystone, and Sufi’s Qutub.
One can climb the World Tree (World Axis) to other worlds, or hang like Odin from the Ash Tree, or become part of the Throne of Heaven by sitting in a chair which is the Throne, or, like Heracles and Perseus take the Golden Apples from Garden of Hesperides ( located at the Little Bear/Pole Star guarded by constellation Draco), fly around the Stambha, the Shiva Lingam, dance circling the poteau-mitan, stand at top of a Ziggurat, receive feathers from the bird Simurgh who sits on the top of mount Qaf (axis mundi): all are reflections of the same ‘thing’. This where the Shamans, Pagans, Mystics and Magicians interaction differs to Orthodox religion’s clergy; for example, in book of Revelation the Throne of Heaven is to be worshiped and Apostle Paul’s interaction is one of observation and worship only. In another Christian observation, it is Lucifer who wanted the Throne of Heaven and this caused his fall. Jacob, Paul and many others who have ascended to this point are simply worshiping the Throne, or want to take it; both approaches fail. In the Myth of Er we again see a description of the Throne this time as Spindle of Necessity. In Dream of Scipio another vision of the Throne is described. The Mystic’s and Magician’s interaction with Throne or Axis Mundi as we see in the Stellar Magic is quite different.
PP: What is ‘The Stellar World Cave’?
PN: The cave-like temple, (called a Mithraeum) was a representation of the universe; here the initiate ascended through various planetary degrees and learned about the constellations and their meanings. The Mithraeum is an authentic microcosm, literally a model of the heavens. The Planetary initiates were:
• Mercury (Corax/Raven)
• Venus (Nymphus/ bee chrysalis or male bride)
• Mars (Miles/ soldier)
• Jupiter (Leo/ lion)
• Moon (Perses /Persian)
• Sun (Heliosdromus)
• Saturn (Pater)
According to the Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs : ‘Thus also the Persians, mystically signifying the descent of the soul into the sublunary regions, and its regression from it, initiate the mystic (or him who is admitted to the arcane sacred rites) in a place which they denominate a cavern. For, as Eubulus says, Zoroaster was the first who consecrated in the neighboring mountains of Persia, a spontaneously produced cave, florid, and having fountains, in honour of Mithra, the maker and father of all things; a cave, according to Zoroaster, bearing a resemblance of the world, which was fabricated by Mithra. But the things contained in the cavern being arranged according to commensurate intervals, were symbols of the mundane elements and climates.’
We have seen the stellar relationships within the cube of space. All these come together in forming the World Cave as described in Porphyry; a cube of space as a sphere, which fits well with the view of the universe as a space that has been ever expanding since the big bang. The Cave is the microcosm, and the Magi inside it aim to connect to the World Soul, which is surrounded by the four Persian Royal Stars or Stellar Guardians (Eagle, Bull, Man, Lion).
From a Neo-Platonic view the initiate’s aim is to ascend and return to the Source, the constellation Cancer is the gate through which souls descend (genesis) and Capricorn the gate through which they ascend (apogenesis). The journey is made along the Milky Way; the river of souls or stars. The seven planets are the first stepping stones in this process and being liberated from their influence, the initiate passes through the eight gates into the realms and of the fixed stars and continues their Ascension until they reach their Star in the company of heaven. In the world view of apogenesis; this is what happens to everyone after they die, however, the initiates begin the process while still alive and ‘die before they die’, they learn the signs and actively make their journey to their Star.
As always Bountiful Blessings go out to Payam Nabarz, thank you so very much for granting the readers and myself such a fortuitous chance to get a firsthand look into the world of Stellar Magic. It has truly been awe inspiring. Again thank you.
Other books by Payam Nabarz
- The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World by Payam Nabarz. Inner Traditions, 2005.
- The Persian ‘Mar Nameh’: The Zoroastrian ‘Book of the Snake’ Omens and Calendar & The Old Persian Calendar by Payam Nabarz and S, H Taqizadeh. Twin Serpents Ltd, 2006.
- Mithras Reader – An academic and religious journal of Greek, Roman, and Persian Studies. Editor Payam Nabarz. Volume 1 (Twin Serpents Ltd. 2006), Volume 2 (Web of Wyrd Press 2008).
- Divine Comedy of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan. Web of Wyrd Press, 2008.