Mishkan ha-Echad

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Air Dagger, Fire Wand, & Their Reversals

One of my personal magical "pet peeves" is the reversal of the old G.'.D.'. attributions of Air to the Dagger (cutting through the illusions of the mind, etc.) and Fire to the Wand (indicative of the fiery Will, etc.) to Fire for the Dagger and Air for the Wand. This latter approach has been taken up by many Wiccan groups and has been the cause of quite some muddying of attributions, and a lot of confusion therefrom.

In a discussion on this topic a while back, Morgan Drake Eckstein mentioned that Francis King and Stephen Skinner, in their Techniques of High Magic, proposed the notion that the traditional attributions, as per Regardie and other earlier sources, were "blinds", and that they should be reversed. He gave the following quote from Skinner's Complete Magician's Tables:

"The only notable exception to Golden Dawn practice is the reversal of the ascription of two magical weapons back to the traditional grimoire ascription of the Sword to Fire and the Wand to Air. In addition, several well known and acknowledged 'blinds' have been silently removed, as we no longer live in the prudish atmosphere of Victorian England."

The problem here is, I feel, self-explanatory. Skinner goes back to the "traditional grimoire ascription", which has the Sword as Fire. But the Sword is not the Dagger, at least not in the Golden Dawn tradition. The Sword is red, without a doubt, but that's a reference to Geburah and Mars, not Fire. It's a planetary and Sephirothic attribution, not an elemental one, and to mix them is to muddy the waters completely, and, I believe, to fail to understand some of the grimoire tradition on the Sword in the first place. But regardless of grimoire tradition, it is fairly obvious that the Swords of the Imperator and the Hiereus, for example, are not related to Fire, but to Geburah and Mars.

I am not sure where the original reversal came from, although Morgan suggested it may have been Gardner. Any thoughts and insights on this matter would be greatly appreciated, as it's one of the most common topics to crop up in esoteric circles, especially when Wiccans join a Golden Dawn group and find the attributions "at odds". Sufficed to say, I have found absolutely no evidence to support the notion that the Golden Dawn papers on the matter contained such blinds, and that a reversal of attributions is warranted. It takes quite a leap, in my opinion, to come to that conclusion.


Anonymous said...

Ave Brother,
As you know I did a number of years with Traditional Wicca before making the leap to Ceremonial Magic. From my own experience the fire dagger, air wand came from,at least in part, Alex Sanders.

I think the problem came up when the founders of Wicca had both a sword and a dagger and somewhere mixed up the idea that they were used for the same thing. The sword and dagger, or athame as Wiccans call it, were pretty much used interchangably in the groups I was involved with.

Infact, during my younger, less experienced days I brought up the question of *why* these tools were related to those elements. This lady, who claimed to have been practicing for many years, just said that the wand is air because a wooden wand would be destroyed by fire and fire is used to heat and forge metal, the blade of the sword/dagger.

Now as true as this is it completely misses the point of the symbolism. Of course, when I was a beginner I didnt know any better so at the time it made sense to me. I have to wonder though, Alex Sanders, the founder of the Alexandrian Tradition, was a ceremonial magician before founding his Wicca tradition and maybe in part the switching of the tools was a blind to the uninitiated and perhaps that blind just spread when more and more Wicca books were published. You made the comment about Gardner, who was an OTO initiate, but I would guess it had to do more with Sanders because he was so much more in the public and free with information, as true or false as that info may have been.

Fr. VP

Unknown said...

Just a brief non historical comment... In tarot readings, it is vividly obvious that air/dagger, fire/wand, function from a symbolic, intellectual and intuitive point of view.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and I do not believe in blinds and as you say a dagger is not a sword and that your sword is red has nothing to with fire.

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