Performing the “Headless Rite” with the Members of Studio Arcanis


This is an invitation I’ve made to the advanced practitioners on Studio Arcanis, which is a magical forum I help moderate.  I include the information here in case my friends, clients, and the readers who follow this blog wish to also participate.  I will not be including the “sigil of binding” on my website here.  For that, you’re going to have to become a member of the Studio Arcanis community (which is easy—you can just register and post an introduction—and it would be fun if you let me know or mentioned in your intro that you were directed to SA from my website). 

But there is nothing to prevent you from also performing this very powerful, sometimes dangerous, ritual on your own.  Keep in mind that  SA is a group of advanced magical practitioners.  This means I do not provide these prefatory comments in my invitation there.  But if you’re interested in doing this working, please note the following.

The Headless (or “Bornless”) Rite Can Be Dangerous

By way of warning, I will excerpt a passage from White’s Chaos Protocols where he talks about the implications of this ritual:

In conversation with the author Jake Stratton-Kent, the world’s foremost authority on Goetia, he suggested that the rite is designed to associate its performer with a very large and powerful spirit that has the requisite authority over lesser spirits. It orients the magician in a higher position relative to an ambivalent spirit world. There is much to recommend this interpretation, especially when one reads of Osiris as king of the spirits of the Land of the Dead in the Pyramid texts. Also, Moses is the typological “law giver.” His word— and thus the magician’s word— is the word of God.

If any of this sounds too much like bullying spirits, I recommend taking the ayahuasca/ shamanism route mentioned at the top of this chapter instead. It may serve to re-frame your opinion away from cartoon fairies at the bottom of an Edwardian garden more toward the intense and occasionally unpleasant realities of extradimensional contact. The spirit world is certainly holy, but that does not mean it is nice. Shamanism, for instance, is better described as “wrangling and trading” with the spirit world than anything we might consider worship. Besides, these bombastic phrases are more for the magician’s benefit than the spirit’s. We announce ourselves loudly and then we make friends.

The secondary reason for suggesting this rite as a means to triggering initiation is that it is largely interoperable with whatever your resting belief system happens to be. All too often when reading a magic book, the author seems hell-bent on converting you to his or her belief system. I have no such inclination. The Headless Rite deals with spirits and the spirit world. These concepts are for all intents and purposes universal. You do not need to swap out any of your gods or festivals to work it. You could take yourself off to mass or a sabbat or Diwali immediately afterwards.

Perform once and then see what happens over the ensuing couple of days. Then perform several more times, randomly and/ or as needed. The rite may trigger initiation, but it is not an initiation rite. Like an old friend, you can return to it whenever you feel like it. . . . The sensation is difficult to describe; it is almost as if you have dropped a depth charge into the ocean of the spirit world. Some things get cleared away, some things get shaken loose and some things come swimming.

(White, Gordon. The Chaos Protocols: Magical Techniques for Navigating the New Economic Reality

My own experience with this work has been difficult, to say the least.  However, as I note below, one of the long-term effects has been that the outcomes of my workings have become more successful more often.  That is priceless and worth the bumpy ride, in my opinion.  Still, if you want to participate in this, please do so with a modicum of sanity and deliberation.  Read about the ritual (which you should always do in any case) and take the performance of it very seriously. 

With respect to research before the work, I recommend you get a good copy of the PGM.  Betz’ 1992 translation is just fine.  For context (and to broaden your sense of how this magic can be construed by working practitioners), I would also recommend Dr. Flowers’ Hermetic Magic (which I reference below), Gordon White’s text, and that you find some scholarly resources for context. 

Key searches should center on terms like Greek magic, Hermetic magic, Western Esotericism, Western Mystery Tradition, classical magic, and “Hermes” as a magical symbol.  A solid invocation to Thoth (or, really, Hermes) before entering a university research library would be ideal.  Don’t rely only on the internet.  Get your hands on physical books and do some old-fashioned university-level research.  There is an immense amount of magic in that process as well.

Below, I include the complete text of my invitation post.  Clearly, if you are not a member of Studio Arcanis, I am not asking for your results.  But I want you to have a good overview of what this group project entails nonetheless.  I hope you will benefit in some way from this information.

Re: the Headless Rite, first some perspective.

The last time I performed it was on 23 October 2017 in Paris. I adapted Gordon White’s version given in his Chaos Protocols, rewriting his invocation of the four demonic kings to correspond with information on them in Poke Runyon’s Book of Solomon’s Magick, including their sigils. The immediate outcome was interesting but not altogether pleasant.

Now over 9 months have passed. In that time, I’ve performed 121 magical workings for myself and for others. Of these, there was one direct failure and four outcomes that could not be verified. My results timeline, in most cases, runs to 3 months at the longest, which is admittedly an arbitrary limit, but imposing a timeline for your workings is a great way to stay sane and avoid lust of result. I mention these numbers not to toot my own horn but to point out that, because I keep track, I can say that the success rate of my operative work increased noticeably after performing the Headless Rite.

So I’m thinking about another performance of this. This time, I’m going to use the version given in Dr. Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic on page 182, “The Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist or the Rite of the Headless One” (PGM V.96-172, 350 C.E.). It’s simpler and I will not be invoking the four demon kings. However, I will be using the “General Magical Invocation” (PGM V.459-189, 350 C.E.), given on page 196 as a frame ritual.

The Invitation

The members of Studio Arcanis are also invited to perform a version of The Headless Rite, whether they prefer Liber Samekh, Gordon’s version, Dr. Flowers’ version, or some other. The performance does not have to be synchronous. I will include a sigil in this thread at some point, maybe this evening, that will bind all workings of this together to accomplish three things: (1) amplified power in the outcomes for all participating magi; (2) benefits accruing to Studio Arcanis itself as a magical entity (if you know what I’m talking about here, you need not ask / if you don’t know, don’t ask); and (3) a greater sense of community here. I firmly believe (along with a few of the old timers from EM), that this forum has potential not only as a knowledge resource, but also a powerful magical engine. So I’d like to see a bit more collaboration. Instead of complaining about it, I’ve decided to step up. 

There are only three working rules I ask the participants to observe:

1. No whining. If “shit jumps off” in your life as a result of performing this ritual, don’t blame me or SA. Blame your unresolved baggage, daddy, or karma. Suburban housewitch phobias about “threefold return” and “blowback” have no place in an advanced forum. If stupidity were painful, mentioning this would be largely unnecessary. Unfortunately, it needs to be said.

2. Report your results. Look at how I have written this post. First, I give background on what I did, where, and why I performed the rite. Then I talk about the praxis I intend to use. Then I speculate about the outcomes / theories. If you use that model, you will be offering at least something to others here from your hard work.

3. Try to keep the UPG to a minimum. Obviously, you’re going to have to report your subjective impressions as well as the objective steps you took to do this work. But if Ronald Reagan shows up in a gold Cadillac to take you to Aleister Crowley’s Enochian rumpus room in the fifth level of Baator or whatever, maybe ask whether that is going to be of any use to your colleagues here. Similarly, if you scare yourself silly in the process of doing this, try not to foam at the mouth too much on these forums. The bottom line is providing value to the community.

I want this to be a useful experience, but any kind of “initiatory magic” takes an investment of time, focus, and consideration. If you want to be part of this, please feel welcome. 


I discuss my earlier experience of the Headless Rite in these threads:
↑ I’m pretty hard on the ritual in these comments, but I do believe the benefits outweigh (and, at least for me, have outweighed) the costs.

Download an excellent template from the original rite in the PGM from The Scribbler here:


Perspiration vs. Inspiration in Learning Magic

These ideas arose as part of a discussion on Studio Arcanis regarding the question, “What is more important—the result or the ritual itself?”  As in many of our discussions, the conversation brought up the problem of whether magical technique or raw magical ability are more important and how to tell.  Today’s magical comment is taken from one of my responses to that.

We can’t know in any reliable way where the line between technique and talent lies in anyone. You can train people in a technique, but you can’t train people to be gifted. Some people are better technicians. Others are immensely gifted. Some people who are immensely gifted work on technique to become truly amazing well-rounded practitioners. Others, not having been born with much, do the “90% perspiration / 10% inspiration” rule of success and develop what they can—another way to be great.

I’ve taught magic to people and sometimes I get an idea of how an individual is balanced between technique / gift just by seeing what they do with my suggestions. The gifted person just has to hear you suggest a thing and her mind is already working on it. Sometimes I don’t even need to suggest it! I just say, “What are we working on now?” and that person will lay out an intense range of experience and progress for me. 

For example, I might suggest that she start to develop her knowledge of a spirit through lucid dreaming (“aka “Dreaming True”). When she talks to me next, she’ll have successfully done it and surpassed that lesson. She’ll be on to something new, challenging me to catch up to her. By contrast, the good technical student may have to work hard at developing the lucid dreaming capacity because she’s not a natural, but she’ll “lock on” to the assignment and scrupulously document all of her efforts, giving me a kind of journal / timeline at the end that shows all the adjustments she made in order to complete the work. Both ways are legitimate and powerful.

These are stereotypes, but my point is simple: it’s not just grimoires; it’s not any particular way forward; it’s how people do the best with what they’ve got that makes them competent magical workers. It’s hard for us (and impossible for non-magical teachers) to see someone’s true potential. But you can get an idea of their strengths and weaknesses over time. 

Codex Whatever: Dark Fluff Occult Books and Personal Insignificance

The fact that there is a “dark fluff” genre of occult writing doesn’t surprise me.  Anyone who starts to look for meaning outside established channels of consensus culture encounters poorly written, poorly sourced occultnik marketing before long (sometimes immediately).  And it has forced most of us to carry on a lifelong search for better materials, more authoritative texts, and generally better sources—which does not automatically mean they must be more scholarly or academic. 

Rather, we tend to prize books that are responsibly and sincerely written according to the tradition in question.  This often means the author has done research to the best of his or her ability and access, but it could simply mean that the anecdotal parts of an occult text are framed as such and the speculation is carefully identified.

The quest for quality occult writing is particularly important to educated ceremonial magicians who care about the provenance and history of their grimoires and of the magical discourse still very much alive and well all over the world.  Like most of my articulate, reasonably sane, magically active associates, I am constantly seeking out new books.  It’s a side of the magical life I particularly enjoy—the research side, which has a magic all its own.

Two great examples of non-scholarly yet well-written and responsible occult texts might be THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy.  These two come immediately to mind because they are very explicit about what is unverified gnosis (UPG) and technique.  They set up a teaching dichotomy between anecdote and praxis to empower the reader in her own pursuits—not simply to aggrandize the experiences of the authors.

Unfortunately, for every Joseph Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent, Jose Leitao, Peter Carroll, Ramsey Dukes, Daniel Harms, and Peter Mark Adams, there are a hundred pretenders, who seem to be writing occult literature simply because it amuses them or makes them feel special.  No one ever got rich off occult publishing.  So the question I’ve asked for years is: why pedal worthless or pirated or wholly fantastical occult books?  Why would someone take the time and effort to claim that they have an insight or that they are the inheritor of a tradition that either does not exist or that they have never encountered outside their own imaginations?

I still don’t have a good answer to this.  The best I can do is come to the sad conclusion that some people need to feel special and wise.  In terms of cynical e-commerce, I can understand groups or individuals trying to interest potential followers by self-publishing low-cost occult books that promote their spiritual systems.  That’s just another form of easily identifiable marketing.  But just as there was a massive surge in poorly written mass-market Wiccan / neopagan texts in the 1980s and early 1990s, there now seems to be a horrendous glut of “dark fluff” grimoires, especially self-published through Createspace and Lulu. 

Last year’s dark grimoires of ultimate power.

So what is “dark fluff”? 

As a sorcerer for hire and a long-time member of the Studio Arcanis community of advanced practitioners, I often get public and private questions that go like this: I just bought Codex Diabolicus Maximus by Mordred Darktoe and I want to use it to destroy my ex’s life.  Does it work?  There is so much wrong with such a question (even in more subtle incarnations like: I’m wondering what your experiences with Darktoe’s works have been . . . ).  It’s one step removed from “spell begging” (where a person who has not done his or her homework asks a more experienced practitioner for a freebie) and it doesn’t reflect well on the questioner regardless of whether or not destroying someone’s life happens to be right or wrong.

As a conjure worker, I’m no stranger to people revealing that their innermost desire is to seek small-minded revenge on someone for some perceived wrong.  Usually, the preferred punishment is far out of proportion to the crime, having to do with a breakup, an undeserved promotion, an insult, or even someone not paying enough attention.  People (maybe most people) feel powerless and insignificant in their lives.  And if they have some kind of latent magical sensitivity but not a lot of confidence, they will seek out a conjure worker to help them get emotional satisfaction on a cruel world.

I understand and I listen to such requests without passing moral judgment.  Part of my job is to bring the client’s motivations and feelings into the light of truth where we can intelligently face them together.  Only then can we fix the situation.  This is the unpublicized part of being a spiritual worker in one’s community (even if that community is online). 

But sometimes the person has so much resentment, feels so belittled by the world, that she wants the power to subjugate everyone and everything: more money, more sex, more power, more revenge, more dominance.  This person has such a wounded ego, feels so wronged by life that she’ll never get enough.  When this happens, she doesn’t come to a sorcerer for work.  She wants to be the sorcerer.  And she falls prey to “dark fluff” occult marketing that seems to speak directly to her overblown desires.

In her lust for power, she’s blinded to the reality that 90% of the information in such texts is bullshit that comes from previously published, often lesser known, bullshit.  And therein lies the problem.  She’s receiving a cascade of dark-themed occultnik bullshit; she really wants it to be real; and she’s soon frustrated that she isn’t seeing results.  That’s usually when she comes slinking around to ask me or someone like me what I think of it because she’s worried that she missed a crucial step (or, gasp, that it is, in fact, utter BS).

Sure, everyone worries that all occult things are fake.  But this is not the sort of anxiety and doubt I’m writing about here.  I’m writing about predatory marketing that magnetizes and preys on the desperate emotions of people who have come to equate power with the ability to harm—because they feel powerless and harmed.  Certainly, I believe that paying back is a virtue and I am in no way against doing dark magic for justice and remediation.  There is a time to bless and a time to curse.  Knowing which is which is part of being a practitioner.  However, having a good BS detector is also essential. 

So how do you spot “dark fluff”?

The first thing I’m going to suggest is that you know yourself.  Self-honesty is very difficult.  Realizing that you feel small and injured and that you want revenge on a cruel world is a strong first step.  You don’t need to go to a spiritual advisor to have this degree of honesty but sometimes it helps.  An insightful stranger can often tell you hard truths that you can’t bare to admit to yourself.

The second thing would be to read widely.  This may mean that sometimes you will purchase occult books that turn out to be part of the BS cascade I mention above.  We all waste our money and time on a well-presented stinker now and then.  And the painful experience of realizing an author is offering you nothing of value is something we’ve all felt.  It’s an important feeling because it sharpens up your sense of what is and is not useful.

The third thing would be to look at the marketing around the book.  Does it talk about a secret tradition that you’ve never heard of, even in online forums?  Does it promise grandiose things, like becoming a living god, torturing your enemies to death, enslaving others, or calling up demons from fancifully named planes or dimensions that have no basis in historical occult literature?  Does it sound like (or even use language directly from) roleplaying games?  Does is present an overdone gothic aesthetic?  Does it seem like it was written in the tradition of “acausal Satanism” (i.e. The Order of the Nine Angles, a group whose vague Gnosticism has made room for many ill-conceived darkly fluffy occult groups and marketing schemes)?  Does it source the works or mythos of HP Lovecraft as if they were real without at least framing them as egregoric or chaos-magical constructions?  Does the author have a pen name out of bad fantasy fiction like “Severus Blackthorne” or something pseudo-Semitic like “Hassan ben Azazel”?  Does the work rely heavily (and usually indirectly, without documentation) on the works of Kenneth Grant, especially The Nightside of Eden, tossing around well-known names like Set, Belial, Samael, Lilith, Lucifer, and  Hekate?  Or, at the other extreme, completely made up “demons” that no one has ever heard of?  Not everything here will indicate “dark fluff” but as soon as you see it, your detector should start beeping.

                                           Not you.

The bottom line.

It’s good to seek power.  It’s good to take revenge when justice is due.  It’s good to pay back in like degree.  It’s also good to do magic, to seek out mysterious realities, states of mind, and uncover secrets.  Consensus culture (especially in the west) would have us believe that the only medium for having breakthroughs is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  But we know this isn’t the case.

When we truly realize that there is far more occult power in a Delta blues song about going down to the crossroads than in Baltar Venomblade’s Book of the Eternal Abyss, we know we’re making progress.  When we understand that marketing itself is a kind of mental magic that snares all of us from time to time, we can forgive our uninformed purchases of shit occult books and learn to find the good ones that will actually inspire, inform, and guide us further down the path of wisdom and capacity.