One of the difficulties faced by modern magicians and mystics is lack of time. Many practices require huge time commitments, commitments which often seem unrealistic in our fast-paced culture. The digital tools we use condition us to demand instant gratification. We rush frantically from one activity to another, and in between, we check social media, tweet, take selfies, and watch YouTube videos. True personal evolution is simply impossible under such conditions.
Like most people these days, I often find myself overwhelmed by the onslaught of digital media and the constant demands on my time. At one point, I became aware that digital technologies were highly addictive, and were creating unwanted negative consequences in my life. I was having difficulty achieving personal goals. My hypermodern lifestyle had become a sickness, and if I was to have any chance of taking control of my life, I needed to find strong medicine.
Donny: How come you don’t roll on Saturday, Walter?
Walter Sobchak: I’m Shomer Shabbos.
Donny: What’s that, Walter?
The Dude: Yeah, and in the meantime, what do I tell Lebowski?!
Walter Sobchak: Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t fucking ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t fucking roll!
Keeping the sabbath
The practice of keeping the sabbath turned out to be just what I needed. When I first came up with the idea, I was skeptical. Keeping the sabbath is not a popular practice these days. The word “sabbath” sounds hopelessly old-fashioned. It conjures up images of strict Puritans, the type of people who engaged in witch hunts. But I put aside my misgivings, and gave it a try.
For me, keeping the sabbath does not involve elaborate religious rules, nor is it explicitly tied to witchcraft, though I do use this time to practice the sorcerous arts. Rather, keeping the sabbath involves the simple commitment to refrain from working between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday. I set aside all notions of productivity, reduce my use of digital devices, and focus on contemplation, magick, and spiritual growth. As I have integrated the sabbath into my broader magical practice, it has become a cornerstone of my own approach to magick and spirituality.
The most basic value of keeping the sabbath is that it allows me to slow down. I put away the to-do lists, step away from the screens, and turn off my cell phones. I refrain from doing, and focus on just being. As I slow down, my awareness expands. Even in urban environments, I become more attuned to the natural world. I perceive birds singing in a nearby tree, the gentle wind that caresses the grass in the back yard, and the way the sun drifts lazily across a sky full of fantastical clouds. I strengthen my connection with the spirits of land, sea, and sky. I become aware of every word I speak, every step I take, every breath I draw.
The sabbath serves as a kind of mini-retreat, freeing time for magick and meditation. As someone who explores grimoire magick, I need extended periods of time to perform many rituals. Regular offerings are also crucial to my practice, and the sabbath allows me to perform full offerings to the many ancestors and spirits that I work with. It is also the time when I clean and maintain my altar and tools.
Besides the obvious advantages related to slowing down and gaining more time for magical practice, over time I am experiencing subtle benefits related to spiritual growth. My skills evolve at a quicker pace, my gnosis deepens, and I my awareness shifts. Each sabbath I emmerse myself in sacred time, numinous and charged with meaning, and this experience of sacred time gradually seeps into my day to day life. Glimpses of the divine and the mysterious occur more frequently in everyday life. The aura of primordial gnosis shines forth from within mundane reality. Synchronicities abound; life becomes more magical.
From an occult perspective, it is natural to link the practice of keeping the sabbath with the mysteries of the witches’ sabbat. Although the witches’ sabbat is typically linked with the full moon, I have found the weekly sabbath celebration to be an ideal time to explore practices related to shapeshifting, night flight, ecstatic dancing, sexual bliss, communication with familiars, pacts with spirits, and communion with the Devil. The sabbath also provides an excellent opportunity to host a faerie feast, and invite local spirits and faeries to share a meal together with you and your ancestors.
The occult meaning of the sabbath
The practice of keeping the sabbath leads naturally to contemplation of its occult meaning. It is natural to link the practice of keeping the sabbath with the mysteries of the witches’ sabbat. Although the witches’ sabbat is typically linked with the full moon, I have found the weekly sabbath celebration to be an ideal time to explore practices related to shapeshifting, night flight, ecstatic dancing, sexual bliss, communication with familiars, pacts with spirits, and communion with the Devil. The sabbath also provides an excellent opportunity to host a faerie feast, and invite local spirits and faeries to share a meal together with you and your ancestors.
The occult perspective on the Sabbath can be deepened by considering it from a kabbalistic point of view. In Judaism, the Sabbath is associated with the Genesis creation myth. According to Genesis 2:3, “Elohim blessed the seventh day and declared it to be Holy, for on it he abstained from all his work, which Elohim had created.”1 For Jewish kabbalists this verse has profound significance. According to David Chaim Smith, the day of rest is related to the ultimate nondual nature of reality:
The cessation of activity symbolizes the vast expanse of space at the heart of all motion… This day of “rest” is no more empty void in which motion is placed on hold. It portrays the open dynamism of space which is the secret life of the six days. This aspect comes to full bloom in the Garden of Eden, which allows pregnant space to reveal infinite beauty.2
Traditionally, the Jewish Sabbath was celebrated on Saturday, the day ruled by the planet Saturn. Saturn is associated with time, eternity, wisdom, death, and rebirth. Thus, to celebrate the Sabbath is to enter into the Mysteries of Saturn. Saturn invites us to contemplate the nature of time, as we observe the cycles of nature, and become aware that all of reality is in a state of flux and constant transformation. Through contemplation of our mortality, we learn to use our time wisely, as we reflect on the meaning and nature of our current existence.
The mystery of Saturn encompasses not only death, but also rebirth. As the Orphic Hymn to Saturn states: “You consume all that has reached its time to die, And replace it with the new growth you supply.”3 In alchemy, this process of death and rebirth was related to putrefaction; in spiritual terms, putrefaction is the process of dissolving egoistic attachments, so that the self can be reborn in a purified state. Thus, Saturn invites us to witness our own death, and like the phoenix, arise again from the ashes.
From Saturn man receiveth a sublime contemplation, profound understanding, solidity of Judgement, firm speculation, stability and an immovable Resolution.4
From an esoteric point of view, then, keeping the sabbath is not about following arbitrary sets of commandments. While the practice begins with the commitment to show self-discipline and follow a few simple rules, the heart of the sabbath experience is beyond rules, words, and concepts. As we enter into its mysteries, the sabbath unfolds like a flower opening to the sun, and reveals limitless layers of possibility and beauty. It brings us into contact with the ultimate nature of reality itself: at the crossroads of existence, we encounter primordial purity, vast creativity, and infinite potential.
d’Este,Sorita. Practical Planetary Magick: Working the Magick of the Classical Planets in the Western Esoteric Tradition.
Smith, David Chaim. The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis.
Image credit: distelfliege and Alan Taylor
- David Chaim Smith, The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis, p. 115-6. Also see our review here. [↩]
- Smith, Kabbalistic Mirror, p. 116 [↩]
- Sorita d’Este, Practical Planetary Magick: Working the Magick of the Classical Planets in the Western Esoteric Tradition, p. 789-796. [↩]
- Sorita d’Este, Practical Planetary Magick, p. 536-537. [↩]