I finally received my copy of Azoetia by Andrew Chumbley a few days ago. For those not familiar with it, its subtitle is “A Grimoire of the Sabbatic Craft,” and its produced by the Cultus Sabbati, a group of practitioners of magic. I was first drawn to them because of the deep knowledge of plants that Daniel Schulke showed in his work. I learned about them and what struck me especially was their emphasis on the importance of dream and its connection to the Sabbat and their acknowledgement that magic changes with time (“The authenticity of our work does not rest in antiquity, it is active through present and on-going vision”).
I’d been wanting to get my hands on Azoetia for a long time so I could try out the practice for myself. But the prices for used copies were way out of my reach. When they came out with a new edition, I signed up for it right away. (By the way, if you want to be notified when they publish new books, the only way that I know to get reasonably priced editions, you have to send them a snail mail to this address).
The first day I got it, I paged through it. And I felt daunted. Seriously. I could barely understand most of what was written. I knew that it involved the naming of an alphabet to be used in magic and that this was the book’s organizing principle. But wow. The alphabet was in a weird order, it was connected to “cells,” and there was tons and tons of ritual that I did not understand. This is not just because of the use of an enriched vocabulary, which is kind of CS’s hallmark. I don’t have a problem with that. It was instead the use of many, many names and nouns that I had never seen before and knew I would not find in a dictionary.
I felt a little let down. I did not see where was the gate to enter this thing.
Then I happened across a bit about moths: “An Enchantment of Sah for the Totemic Spirit of the Moth, to be used as an Hieroglyphic Spell for Lunar In-Creative Congress, for the Raising of Storms, to induce drowsiness, and to charm.” Sah is one of the letters of the alphabet and is connected with spells of transformation/shapeshifting.
This hit me because I’d been having repeated dreams involving moths and a butterfly. I’d dream that I woke up in my bed and across the dark room could see something flying towards me. The first few dreams, it was a glowing white moth of such a construction that I knew it could not be a real moth. It flew towards my face. I felt perplexed. I couldn’t understand what it was doing there or what it wanted. Each dream had the same plot. But after a few versions with the white moth, it became a Monarch butterfly, which instead of glowing, was somehow lit by the sun, and in subsequent dreams, it became a satiny black moth. I always woke up before the moth/butterfly got to me. As happens occasionally in dreams, I realized while I was dreaming that I had had the same dreams before. Somehow my memory in dreamtime can stretch way back.
I actually wrote a post about it on February 8, but I did not finish it and so didn’t publish it, and I got busy. In that post, I wondered what it could mean, and the first possibility I came up with was shapeshifting. I’d read of witches in history who took on the shapes of animals in order to travel to the Sabbat or just get about at night. Instead of being something scary, like a wolf, they would change into various ordinary animals. The ones that stuck in my mind were a mouse or a butterly. This also resonated for me in a connection to my childhood, when I’d read a story about The Devil and Daniel Webster. When the devil opens his black pocketbook, something black flies out–“It was something that looked like a moth, but it wasn’t a moth.” I remember nothing about that story except for that image. To me the black moth symbolized a soul or a spirit, and now, all these years later, looking over that story, it feels weird to see that the description of the moth thing is very much like that of familiars described by witches of the past (for example, as “something like a rabbit” in Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits).
It did occur to me that the colors of these critters are the same as the colors associated with my Spirit Teacher (black and silver/gray/white) and my Guide (rust). The monarch butterfly even combines all three, black, white, and rust. But since these spirits in the past have appeared to me in various forms, human and otherwise, in my dreams and have been relatively straightforward in their communication there, I could not understand why they would take the forms of moths and butterflies and say nothing and do nothing that I could understand as meaningful.
You can see how all these things combine and are connected, I think. That’s why when I ran across this section in Azoetia, I felt a shiver. I am still not sure of the meaning of the dreams but I wonder now if there might not be a connection or identification between the witch and the witch’s familiars in terms of color, so that the colors of one’s familiars are the witch’s own colors as well, colors that identify the witch. I have already for some years now deliberately worn the colors of my familiars as way of showing them honor and thanking them for their help. I wonder now if these dream forms were there to indicate to me that I could and should take such a form with their help and through my own work and use that form to travel about and reach the Sabbat. Or if they were in fact myself coming back to my body, and my perplexity came from the fact that I could see my own spirit returning to my dreaming body. You can imagine I will be working on this Sah letter (or its equivalent) as well as I can.
Since going through the book again, oddly enough, it now seems much more straightforward and doable than it did that first pass through. It is like the moth thing was the key to the gate. It is still difficult, and I can readily see why for all the fuss about it and all the speculating on its resale value, I have found almost no one who has said they actually worked with the book. I do think it is a powerful book, but one of the most powerful things about it for me is that he repeats at the beginning and at the end and many places in between that the practitioner has to create their own work, to write their own grimoire, basically. That the letters he gives, for instance, might not be at all the letters that the reader works with or creates. This is fundamental aspect of the CS that most appeals to me: there is no monologic word that we all have to bow down to. Instead, the task of magic is on each of us individually.
Nothing could be more magical.