Astrophotography is one of my favorite pastimes when I am able to do it. Where I live, the weather is very fickle, and the sky is not always accommodating. But when I am out in the field I have the opportunity to spend quality time in solitude, contemplation, and deep focus. Usually my failures, often brought on by careless mistakes, outnumber my successes. I’m currently experimenting in new astrophotography techniques. This is a hobby that can take away all your money and time when you let it. I have put thousands of dollars into hardware and software trying to push my skills to the limit. Over time, my skills have grown and my knowledge of sky photography has deepened. Despite my recent improvements, I still take on a beginner’s mindset when learning new techniques. Below is the result of my most recent imaging session, right from my front yard, followed by a display of how my skills have continued over the years.
I don’t live in a place where clear skies happen often–such a shame because one of my favorite hobbies is astrophotography. This year though, I made an arrangement (with a church, of all groups!) to make use of a private field near my house for astronomy purposes. Astronomy is, after all, hugely important to magic!
On the night after Christmas, the sky finally cooperated and so I went out to this field for the first time to take pictures with some new equipment. As expected, the cops showed up in the middle of my work with their obnoxious bright lights, ruining whatever shot my camera was working on. Know-nothing neighbors had reported suspicious activity where a strange man was allegedly taking pictures of their houses in the middle of the night. So I showed the cops my equipment, and my proof of permission to be there.
That still didn’t stop the interruptions since other nosy neighbors simply plowed through the pristine field in their 4-wheeler to stop right in front of my camera to see what I was doing. “I’m taking pictures of space. You just drove right through my shot man”. They were nice enough to apologize and we talked a bit about space before I shoo-ed them off. It was a night of hassle and obstruction, but I at least managed to get two decent pictures using a barn-door tracker which I had built the week prior.
This imaging session represents a big milestone for me, as it was the first time I have ever successfully imaged another galaxy. It just boggles my mind that the precious light from those stars had been traveling across the vast ocean of space for 2.5 MILLION years before it made its final destination in the sensor of my camera. In my city, the night pollution is a nightmare. I don’t get to practice much but I am always studying to improve my techniques. This is proof to me that study and sound theory make good results!
I’ve been using this Fall and Winter to spend more time under the night sky, not only making astronomical observations, but in spiritual contemplation. My coven recently had our annual High Sabbat of the Woods where there was much time to lay under the stars in a visionary state. We spent most of our trip watching the sky from dusk till dawn. As the trip started kicking in, the sun was setting in a gorgeous gradient of orange red and yellow against the black horizon of trees, as Venus and Jupiter glided downwards to follow the sun. I could see how the planets are revolving around the sun in a 3D universe, not just the dome of the sky. It was a moment of cosmic revelation which just made me feel so incredible small against the unfathomably huge and ancient universe.
For a time, our group had been scattered about in the woods exploring. When we all suddenly met each other in a cypress swamp, we looked through the dense trees at what seemed like an industrial light nearby. It was the moon, shining so brightly and hanging low and large above the horizon. The rest of our trip was lit entirely by moonlight. It was a beautiful night of enchantment and delight.
This weekend in the northern hemisphere we were all treated to an auspicious occurrence of a full moon in Pisces. This placement to me indicates a great magnification of spiritual movement, intellectual flow and inward creativity. Retrograde Neptune which governs this lunation may cause it to seem like the spiritual seeker is trying to swim upstream–there is struggle but determination in his efforts.
The day of the 13th, Sage, the priestess of our coven, invited me to join her in a full moon ritual. Despite being tired from all the crazy shit going on in my professional life right now, I decided that a full moon on Friday the 13th just cannot be overlooked. So we gathered!
Here in the south it is still hot at night but a passing tropical storm across the state thankfully provided some breeze and ambiance to the surroundings. This night was full of life as all the trees swayed, the crickets sang and a large and invisible family of frogs were calling out to each other as the moon passed silently overhead. To prepare we set up a working table outside. We took a lot of time before starting anything to ground ourselves and discern what need there was for working under this moon. It would be a night for divination and spirit travel! Not having a proper crossroads to work in, we decided instead to get cross-faded with an inebriating combination of alcohol, cannabis, kinnikkinnik, and the last dregs of my vision potion (the jury is finally out on this BTW. It is very inspiring).
We purified ourselves to start, cast the circle with the LBRP and called the elements together. We opened our ritual by drawing down the power of the moon into our space. Then we took out the Black Mirror. This mirror was built by me, consecrated to the moon, and since then has never touched the light of day. Sage took her dive into the depths of the mirror as I stood watch. By now all the potions and fumes from earlier were keeping me relaxed but deeply focused. I couldn’t tell you what Sage saw in the Mirror. That is for her to tell. But when I went in next, I had a profound, almost psychedelic experience.
My intention when starting this divination was to discern whether there was any hope in the future for the human species. As I opened the veil and entered into the Mirror’s fathomless depths, my mind’s eye briefly caught a glimpse of the anthropological story of homo sapiens from the last major Ice Age, to perhaps a not-too-distant future of human space exploration. But before gleaning too much about my intended question, a cosmic voice interjected…
“You’re asking the most boring question ever”, it said. And suddenly my vision transformed into an ever-expanding, multi-dimensional, fractalizing space. It was a universe beyond our own. It was the world of forms and it was the world of the formless at the same time. This multiverse of possibilities, endless endless combinations, opened up to me like a book in an alien script. “Is this the Askashic record?!!”, I thought to myself. No answer. Only the fast whizzing of ineffable words, images and feelings which were beyond my understanding. It was too much to contain. My mind was spinning and then somehow I spiraled back into my normal time and place, outside the Mirror, and outside still under the light of the moon. The lesson from my seemingly idiotic question? The human condition is an illusion of permanence. My human consciousness is a mere drop of water temporarily separated from an immense ocean of Mind. In some ways this is disturbing. In other ways it is comforting.
After this we had to stand up, move around, stretch and breathe. We then sat down for a mutual astral voyage up to the sphere of the moon, to explore its powers, denizens and structures. But that is a highly detailed story for another time. Finally we set up a small telescope which we used to focus moonlight into a singular point. We took turns charging our ritual objects with this favorable lunar energy, and blessing ourselves with its light. We also prepared a lovely urn of moon water, which we will use in the coming days.
The fullness of this moon also serves to remind me how full my life is. It is a blessing to have the means to explore the path of the spiritual seeker. And it is truly a blessing to have companions to explore the path together.
The Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch (1552 ?) was a compendium of famous meteorological and astronomical phenomena as well as selected illustrations from the Bible. The more interesting part here is that the writer associates the various comet appearances with specific disasters (disaster literally meaning an ill-starred event) in world history. In this work, the author does not make the distinction between comets and meteors which we do today. The segment on miraculous signs appears between the Old and New Testament portions and depicts several freak weather incidents and celestial apparitions from antiquity up to the year 1552.
Last Sunday, the coven I belong to, who you may remember from A Vision of Satan, A Night of Magic, hosted a fantastic Lunar Eclipse party for friends and the public. It was a blustery, cold and cloudy day and we were afraid the moon would be hidden all night. However as the time came to perform our Eclipse ritual, the sky quickly opened up to reveal the moon shining brightly on a perfectly clear night. It is very difficult to write a ritual for the general public, most of whom are non-magical thinkers but I think we did well.
We presented a nondenominational symbolic Drawing Down of the Moon, whose persona our lovely coven member Diana was gracious enough to take on. This included a dance of the planets who aligned into a Lunar Eclipse formation. The attendees blessed themselves with eclipse water, and cast their intentions into the cauldron to be burned. We had an attendance of about 40 people.
In the middle of the ritual, we looked up to see the shadow of the Earth cast sharply onto the now crescent Moon. At that moment, I had a sense I was standing on the top of the whole world, and the great scope of local cosmic space was revealed to me. The Moon before me, the Sun behind me, and the whole sphere of the Earth below me. We were all aligned.
The rest of the night was spent partying, watching the eclipse unfold with telescopes and cameras, and getting real fucked up in the smoking tent. After the group dwindled down, and the eclipse was still in motion, a smaller group of us performed the ritual binding of Donald Trump, with great effect.
If you’re feeling nosy, you can enjoy these timelapses of the ritual and a birds eye view of the party, which was in my own back yard. These are 360 videos that are best viewed in the YouTube app.
They moved my ephemeris content to a new channel without the sexy narrator! Also this video does not mention the momentous occasion of a total Lunar eclipse coming to North America on January 21st, 2019. Prepare your works!
I’ve been trying so hard to take pictures of Mars as it approaches opposition. Literally every night has been cloud covered and/or rainy. I’ve waited two years for this alignment and I really hope I can get a chance. Meanwhile here’s whats happening in August.