“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE! NO RACIST POLICE!” the protestors shouted as the cops tried desperately to push them back. The situation had gotten steadily worse in New York over the last few days. Susan arrived in the midst of the chaos.
The jury had handed down the sentence the previous day from their courthouse, far from the affected community, where justice would not be tainted with sentimentality. The girl was “no angel” as the lawyers had put it, though it was hard to see how possession of a joint had warranted 15 shots to the head. They feared for their life, even though she was unarmed. The officers involved were acquitted of all charges as usual, granted impunity once again by an all white jury who spoke of maintaining law and order even as they turned a blind eye to murder. The mother of the little girl they shot was devastated. The community was not only up in arms, they were ready to open fire.
Susan had seen the rioting in her dreams on the plane. She knew when she had landed that they would not have much time to act. If her vision was true, this would be the worst riot in New York since the Civil War. Hundreds, maybe even thousands would die, and they would not be celebrated like the victims of 9/11. No, the president and his administration would see to that. It was ironic that an Irish lass should be here now trying to stop such a vision of violence from coming to fruition. But try she had to, successful or not.
Susan would have preferred to have gone straight to San Jose, to meet up with Ken and finally get a chance to explore beautiful California for herself: the land of alchemy and lattes. But she sensed HIM here; read him right out of the cards. She had to face that demon once again.
She could not hear the phone ring over the madness of course, but felt it vibrate. It was Marshall.
“Susan? Are you there?”he asked, barely audible over the noise.
“Yes, I’m here!” she answered.
“Send me your GPS location! We don’t have time to get mixed up with those crowds!”
He was matter of fact, and whatever their past relationship, it wouldn’t get in the way of their mission.
Marshall met Susan at a subway entrance, and she was relieved to see him. She could sense he wanted to hug her, and she wanted to be embraced. They didn’t let old bitterness interfere, and it did feel good to hold him, though neither of them were really sure where they stood now. He was the only captain in the NYPD who also happened to be a master in the Ordo Templi Orientis, an ancient German brotherhood of magi that claimed to go back to at least the Crusades, if not to Egypt. Everyone claimed Egypt at some point, which was more feasible than Atlantis, but didn’t say much, given that Egyptian civilization and spirituality had affected the whole known world back then. But nobody ever claimed to get kinky sex magic secrets from German monks, except the Spanish of course. The really depraved sex is always going on in the neighbor’s Black Forest, you know.
“So, where do we do this, and who will support?” she asked him, as they made their way underneath the city.
“The Warlock’s Asylum, in Greenwich Village,” he replied. “I have a good circle of folk we can trust.”
“We need the best Marshall. This isn’t the time for teenagers to be pissing their pants while Faustian electors materialize from out of the aether.”
Marshall, screwed up his face for a moment, imitating a punk rock sorcerer.
“I’m so bad ass man! I got a copy of the Necronomicon I’ve been masturbating on for 2 straight weeks! That’s bound to make SOMETHING happen, right?”
She laughed. He could still make her laugh. That was a good sign. The humor, used well, could help them maintain their cool. Even the Nec spoke of Shamesh’s radiant power as the only effective banishment for many of its demons. They would need it.
Susan would not face that evil creature alone. Only fools go it alone. Lone wolves are such a myth; the wolf without a pack is the wolf that starves. And people can do things wolves can’t or won’t.
No, one should not harrow Hell without friends and family. Brethren; that was the old secret to success. Spoiled European aristocracy, or horny teenagers condemned to the cloister. Only mutual respect, from one group of rascals to another, stood a chance against the Devil’s sorcerous seductions.
Religion was an old game, passed from one family to another, through faith in each other. It was the manifestation of God in human relationships.
Susan recognized one or two in the circle from past gatherings. One guy she knew had actually made the trip across the Pond to Glastonbury in person; no small feat, considering how many folks satisfied themselves with a copy of The Mists of Avalon instead of feeling the history for themselves. Commitment was a good sign she could work with. There were of course several new folk in the circle Susan did not know personally, but their credentials and handshakes checked out. There was a young woman present whose age made her a bit of a risk factor, but Marshall vouched for her and Susan didn’t have time to challenge her presence. This was her work group, and Providence would have to take care of the rest.
The ceremonial space was simple but good, which was a nice relief. She didn’t want to mess around with some Golden Dawn Thelemic whackadoodle’s whimsical and nonsensical combination of runes and goetia sigils. Winter had asked Marshall if they required any particular setup the day before, and his instructions were sparse but strict: Salt, blessed chalk, holy water, the censer, sage, and galbanum. Swords, pentacles, cups, and wands of course. Reliable self-igniting charcoal; not that god damned cheapskate company that skimped on saltpeter and left you with a useless product when you were staring down the devil’s throat. And one piece of furniture Susan had personally insisted on: the Septagram Seal of God’s Truth – The Sigillum Dei Æmeth:
“The Septagram: clever to use that with the Police,” Winter noted.
“Is there any truth to the rumors about the coppers deliberately using it as an occult symbol?”
“Most cops don’t know shit about the shape, much less the weirded out version,” Marshall explained. “The heptagram was used in Christianity to symbolize the seven days of creation and became a traditional symbol for warding off evil. It is a symbol of perfection in many Christian sects.It’s use by sheriffs is incidental, but useful to our purpose.”
Marshall had also arranged for circles and triangles to be drawn as needed in the performance space, as well as for the phones, social media, and foot traffic to be disconnected for the duration of the ritual. They could not afford to be interrupted at a crucial moment, or Barbas would seize them in the midst of their folly and that would be the end of their lives. Or their souls. Or the soul of New York, or some combination thereof. This was not the time to screw around: everything needed to go as well as humanly possible. Of course, the astrology had been absolutely terrible for the occasion, but that couldn’t be helped, and true Children of Israel are beyond the domain of the Zodiac anyway.
Winter had begun contacting the Hour angels a day in advance so at least they would have some measure of friendly support from the aether. Rod, Serafina, the kid Angelica, and Juan the curandero would open the ceremony with the elements and the archangels, and Susan, Marshall and Winter would perform the rite-specific prayers in the meantime.
The liturgy was traditional but well chosen: the 51st and 91st psalms, as well as the Beatitudes. Latin was selected for the ritual language: there weren’t enough Jews around to justify Hebrew, but English still lacked luster, King James or otherwise.
As the staff of the Warlock Asylum shut down their above ground operation and retreated to the sanctuary, Susan caught the last of the evening news.
The fires and looting had already begun.
Time was up.
Marshall remembered when Susan had taught him about spirit years back, when they had first met. She was so beautiful and smart to hear when you saw her back then, sitting there at the Black Cat, lecturing away on the particulars of Jewish Qabalah and Norse Asatru as well as any ordained PhD. The woman was so vibrant and energetic, passionate and focused. He loved sharp, witty women; he was not given to understand men who wasted their time on bimbos.
He told Winter about it one night over a series of bitter lagers.
“She made the material come alive with her expertise and knowledge. And she honest to God had the gift of Wisdom, which every real book on magic I ever read emphasized as the core of the whole supernatural matter. There’s no true, sacred magic if it isn’t done in a wise spirit. She taught me that. She made that gnosis come alive in my soul!”
“And I was so in love with her! She made me look in the mirror and ask myself if I was man enough to be the kind of guy she needed and wanted. I wasn’t always secure in my answers to those questions. Maybe that’s why things got so rocky after awhile.”
Susan had taught Marshall to believe in himself and his humanity. He was a misanthrope who saw the worst in people, but she had emphasized to him the powers of forgiveness, love, and justice. It amazed him how strongly she conveyed those virtues in her own life. He was touched by her faith, even though sometimes it intimidated him.
Marshall had spent years in an armchair, calling himself a sorcerer because he had memorized a little Qabala and cut himself a magic wand out of a tree branch at dawn. She pushed him to go past all the silliness of rites to get to the heart of their purpose: to elicit action of the proper spirit for humanity.
“We serve God through serving each other. God is the One on the Throne, but He is also the One who kneels and bows. The Divine is in both positions. Unless those two meld into one, we can’t enter the consciousness of God, which the ancients called ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’.”
“We are all slaves to God’s Will, because the Soul cannot be silenced, and will have its say come Hell or high water. The Soul and Spirit of Humanity – the Spirit of Kindness, Love, and Gentleness – is irrepressible. But the birth of a new way of life does not come without pain.”
“This is the meaning of the Weeping, Dolorous Mother. Mary was pierced with pain so that she could know all of humanity’s secrets and truths in her own heart and soul. God inspired her to continue her son’s crusade for justice and peace after he himself left the scene. It’s said she went to Rome and became an exemplary leader of the local community, explaining the teachings of God, Moses, and Jesus. She was beloved and revered for her piety, purity, chastity, and sanctity. She was called holy, divine, and blessed.”
“Statues don’t do her justice, Marshall. You have to share Mary’s spirit to be a true Catholic. You need to know and experience the same grace she did. You need to feel the wings of your heart and soul unfold.”
“When are you going to fly, my love? Don’t put it off, because we all will die and pass away. And she can come to you as Holy Death, but she will put you off if you’re not prepared to meet her. Make Death your ally and know Life as your essence!”
He made a talisman that night, so that he would always have a tangible reminder of their encounter. The silver was not cheap, but neither was Susan’s precious wisdom. She was the Shechina to him – the very Presence of God.
Marshall learned so much. The grimoires emptied themselves of all their secrets, superstitions, stinky piety, and sarcasm. Only a few books really moved him anymore on the subject, with the little gremlins and goblins of lesser medieval literature falling away. He was inspired by the old Neviim prophets, the Qabalistic rabbis and healers, the circle drawers and rain bringers. He came to feel God as Life itself, and understood the meaning of the phrase “The Living God”. The eternity of the spirit began to unfold itself to him, but he was afraid, intimidated, and hiding things from himself. Gabriel blew the horn of awakening, and Marshall was crucified. He was a thief, and he got caught.
The drugs were always a strong temptation. They pulled in so many pounds of chemical contraband week after week. When the department made a real successful bust, they’d all snap a photo together to celebrate their big win. The drugs they’d confiscated were displayed prominently in the foreground, like the big catch of a good fishing trip.
The photos were put up on social media to celebrate, where they became unwittingly an open invitation to more connected and established gangsters then the ones who had lost the original stash.
Gio Caramocci, an up and coming mobster who needed a win himself, took a gamble that paid off. He used his connection in the department to introduce the victorious cops to well dressed gentlemen who wanted to share their good fortune from a recent stock sale with the honorable men of local law enforcement. Out they went for a night of shrimp, lobster, drinks, and hilarious stories. The gangsters did not have to deceive the police entirely, since they too were hard working, family-oriented Catholics with good senses of humor and a love of the mysteries of women. Cops and criminals have more in common than most people realize, and the masters in their respective games are aware of this fact.
Deep into the evening, as the devil’s hour approached and more and more of America’s lauded liquid was consumed, the subject of experimentation arose. The mobsters asked the cops if they themselves had ever done drugs beyond drinking, and slowly the truth came out. Some of the men, teased as “Boy Scouts”, had never even smoked weed. Others admitted that they had snorted cocaine once or twice.
One cop even admitted he had really enjoyed it: Marshall. The discussion was interesting for some of the men but disturbing for others. Not all of the police could stay impartial, and they expressed their distaste for the topic, looked at the clock, and decided to be on their way. It was fine: the gangsters knew who to target.
It had gone downhill from there. Gio found time to continue drinking with Marshall just often enough to really befriend him. Marshall confessed he was frustrated at work: the pay wasn’t good, civilians hated him on principle, and he was having trouble in his relationship with Susan. Bad memories of his father haunted him, as well as insecurities about the future and his finances.
“Well buddy, today is your lucky day!”
Gio made him a deal, and he took it. It worked out to their mutual advantage for two years, while Marshall and Susan fought about sex, health problems, and their attitudes toward marriage. A lot of the original love went out of the relationship, and eventually Susan decided she wanted some time away for awhile to focus on her art, while Marshall searched for his angel and himself. Marshall was hurt that she’d want to spend so much time away from him, and he indulged in his fears of impotence and inadequacy.
He lost his badge when he got caught. It was doubtful if he’d ever be able to work as a policeman again. He spent time at church, praying, calling out to Saint Michael for help. But the angel wouldn’t come to him until he had purified his heart and soul.
“Michael means, ‘Like unto God’” Susan had told him. “He is the Lord’s Servant of Mercy: the Holy Warrior. He can overcome any enemy or demon by the power of God’s Great Mercy.”
“Do you have that mercy Marshall? That’s what makes or breaks a cop, isn’t it?”
Her words revolved through his mind like old Chaldean oracles.
It wasn’t enough to call Michael as if he was someone else. He had to BE Michael.
He had to BE Mercy.
Now in the sanctuary, Marshall held on to the talisman in one hand, and the holy sword of reason in the other.
“Blessed are the Merciful, for they will be shown Mercy!”
Susan knew the demon personally. It had called to her when she was young; tempted her with the illusions of luck. So much about luck is interlaced with attitude that a man or woman who is determined as to the nature of their luck will inevitably confirm their own prophecy. Susan ignored the luck she had and craved the luck she did not need. She wanted to be a master of the Earth and its treasures, and she had not realized that she was the treasure and had all the jewels inside her.
Men were pigs. They couldn’t be trusted. They were cruel, savage, sickening, and evil. She couldn’t see the good in them for the longest time. But Michael had come, and brought Gabriel with him. She had developed and refined her faith into a practical wisdom that served her whatever she did, in any situation. She had come to equanimity, and her hatred of men had faded away.
She was honest about her struggles when she talked, wrote, and broadcasted. She had an easy and soothing voice that lent focus and attention to her words. She had ceased to use words to harm people and had given her speech to God for whatever use would please. Barbas had no real power over her anymore. She was confident when Winter brought the butterfly blood to her for construction of the demonic seal.
How does one go about collecting the blood of butterflies? Angelica had wanted to substitute dragon’s blood in the recipe, which was not real blood but actually a tree resin. It got Susan thinking that maybe butterfly blood wasn’t actual blood either, but some kind of herb or plant product. They hadn’t had time for an extensive foray into botany, but with what time they had they had concluded that the extract of a certain hallucinogenic vine would at least do the trick, even if it was not the original European recipe. The Hawaiians and South Americans had analogues, and with a few inquiries with the local botanica and Santeria scene, a suitable ink with vermillion and saffron extracts was concocted for the rite.
Susan laid the seal down in the triangle after fumigating it with incense and reciting the psalm of protection and peace. The Faustian seals boggled her when she had first beheld them, but now she understood the seals as representations of various astrological positions, cycles, alchemy, and numerological values. Seals have an intuition involved in their creation that is difficult to understand in any rational context. They are outshoots of the unconscious; relics brought back from psychonaut shaman explorers of the inner realms of the spirit: the heavens and hells of human nature.
Sorcerers are always power hungry people who look outside themselves for fulfillment. They lack the patience and discipline for piety and religion and try to shortcut nature with destructive spirits who will satiate their desires and cravings. They draw each other deeper into their games by trying to isolate the perfect demons for their attachments. When successful, they record their findings and symbols in black books full of shocking and sexual creatures that fulfill the hopes and dreams of humans, especially poor ones.
Not that any human being is really that poor, in as much as they don’t know how to use the riches they do have to provide for themselves. One of the divine names that Susan had come across in her studies was Al Qayyum, an Arabic title which signified the Self-Fulfilled and Self-Sufficient spirit. It centered her when she invoked with it, and her ego was exposed in all its horror and ugliness. She saw her fears and doubts and how exactly they held her back. She would not be weighed down with superficiality and stupidity of soul as so many old priests and false prophets had been in the past. She had the Earth and the Waters in her being, and she was free of need.
She held up the holy grail of empathy and compassion, filled with the waters of life, with just enough salt and sea to remember a love both ancient and reassuring.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God!” she cried.
Winter was being drawn into a visionary state. As the room filled with the strong smell of incense and the droning chant of barbarous names in the air, she sensed amusement and interest. The grimoire, known as the Black Raven, had said he would appear with alacrity, and already the walls were beginning to shake. Angelica could swear she heard the rioters right outside the circle -- shouting, yelling, clamoring for blood and destruction.
This is what demons do: they distort perception. One of the old words for magic was maya, which also meant illusion. Barbas was playing with them.
“Come now, and appear to us in beautiful and humane form, without deformity or horror!”
Winter raised her wand of intuition, calling out the command, as the others sung out the divine names in Greek, Coptic Egyptian, Assyrian, Aramaic and German.
Barbas was a very old archdemon. He had been around at the beginning, in Magan, as one of the original 7 Anunaki. Legions of angels had followed him back then. A child of Heaven and Earth, he had traded his grace for power, control, and lust before even Sumer was established. He had been doomed since that disaster to elect every other mad man or woman to infernal power ever since.
Winter saw the Middle Ages. She projected her consciousness out and back in time, to medieval Germany. She saw the old madman himself: Dr. Faust. Clothed all in black, he handed a red book to his student.
“It’s too late for me. But you can overcome them! You have the Holy Spirit, and you can defeat them through God and his messengers!”
The student looked torn. He had wanted the power to change his life and state for years; craved some measure of control over his body and his health. And now a master Qabalist was about to hand off the Knowledge of God to him, before the devils came for his own body and soul. He had envied the professor in the beginning, but now he only pitied him. And he had grave doubts about his own abilities to resist temptation and corruption at their hands.
“How do I make them serve me?” he asked.
“That’s the wrong question.” Faust replied. “The question is: who are they going to serve under your trust? God or the Devil, we all have to serve somebody my son. You are their master, but God is their Lord.”
“This is a book of alchemy, and the medicine of metals. You must transmute your own nature! Then they will be allies to you instead of enemies, because you will know yourself and Your Lord.”
The student couldn’t or wouldn’t believe it. “I don’t know sir! I’m a poor peasant! Who am I to hold the keys of Hell and the Bottomless Pit in my hands?”
Winter echoed Faust’s ancient sentiment into the present:
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven!”
“You are all pigs! PIGS!” the woman on the television shouted.
Angelica was babysitting with Willow on in the background. The girls were asleep, and the boy would sleep soon too once he finished reading. There were a couple extra orange dreamsicles in the freezer, and she had a good mind to steal one before her clients returned from their date night.
That was the way the night should have ended: with $30 and orange cream.
Instead it ended in horror and shame.
He came home early, drunk and on something she couldn’t identify, no wife in sight. He was mad, not just at her, but at all women: mothers, grandmothers, backstabbing friends, and daughters who failed their classes two years in a row. He was consumed by hate, and Barbas rode him like a horse.
The blame came at her, assaulted her, grabbed her and dragged her into a bedroom. His children must have known; must surely have heard her screams from upstairs. Were they too frightened to do anything? Perhaps they were scarred themselves from other times. They couldn’t help her.
He took out all his pain on her: humiliated her, shamed her, made her hate herself for being powerless to resist his simply greater size, mass and strength. The mechanics of the beast ground her to nothing, until she was a horrible mess of tears and blood.
How had she survived? How did she make it out? The threats, the gun, her family in danger.
The blame. Hating God and religion and government and men and the horrible depravity that humans are all capable of, but in which the brutal sex specializes.
The mess. The sick joke of failing advanced physics, because she kept seeing him in the equations.
Fights at work. Suspicion. Paranoia. Wandering the streets of South San Francisco on methamphetamine at 3 am, because it made her forget the pain.
A suicide attempt. An unexpected friend. Someone who brought her down from the ledge with respect, calming words, sincere love, and a dark sense of humor that made her laugh just long enough to give her soul a window of opportunity.
A relationship with him, and acid, and art, and San Francisco. The respect between them, and the space he gave her to heal. She’d never be the same, and could never undo what had been done.
But she found her spirit again despite all of that.
It came to her quietly, unexpectedly one night, under a full moon on top of Bernal Heights.
There were no more nights of screaming now; the nightmares were fading.
She had the help, confidence, and power of a goddess.
She was Creativity itself, and this story would NOT end in tragedy.
Angelica held onto the metal pentacle with all her strength.
“Blessed are those who HUNGER and THIRST for Justice, for THEY WILL BE SATED!
Juan would not be beaten this time. He knew him from the old days of Brownsville Brujeria and Tex-Mex sorcery: shamans, and naguals, and healers, and men who turned into owls as far as the eyes could see.
Not really, but it was a decent trick of the senses. They all knew how to alter the perception of reality in humans. That was what made the allies so fascinating. Demons weren’t stupid, they were evil.
Most of them were well educated and acquainted with science, technology, the arts and engineering. They were not distant from the postmodern world: they were its authors. They had lengthy and obtuse opinions on art, politics and history that were really not worth listening to at length, except to understand the perspective of attachment, romanticism, sexual nostalgia, and simple ugly pride.
Barbas had enchanted Juan for years. Juan had picked him out of the Raven, longing for more useless luck and false mastery to satisfy his self- image. He needed the strong, independent young man image to survive, because he was Brown and people bore all sorts of superstitions and prejudices about the Latino and Hispanic subset of humanity: mostly that they were less human.
He worked hard to learn his craft and master the disciplines passed down to him. He knew the hidden virtues of stones, gems, crystals and herbs. He could seduce men and women with a bit of oil, an intelligent spirit, and a quiet non-verbal direction. He was pleased with himself for the first time in his long, painful life.
Barbas snuck up on Juan over the years. The demon prince had to hand it to the mage: it had been a century or two since he had faced such an interesting challenge from the Solomonic camp. Juan said his prayers, purified his space and mind, and sought God’s Help. Juan was very virtuous in many regards, but with his uncanny sense for fault and blame opportunities, Barbas centered in on his unknown, unconscious sense of spiritual pride.
On some level, Juan knew he was a priest, a prophet; a healer, a curer. Barbas used this to his advantage during the brief windows of temptation he was given to address his summoner. He introduced him to a friend that specialized in medical hubris, and off they flew on the waxen wings of artifice.
Amaymon was an old and patient demon. He had destroyed Germany over the machinations of 300 years. Every prince and prelate was the same: human, vulnerable, given to fits of failure and mistake. Their instincts were too strong and they lacked the restraint to resist abuse. He didn’t like having to wait for his opportunity, but he and Barbas did wait, quite patiently.
Juan enjoyed unnatural luck for 7 years. Everything he did seemed somehow gilded with a supernatural success, which only made his colleagues more jealous and envious than ever of his abilities. They would slaughter animals, harvest their blood, isolate their organs for ritual and ceremonial use, but Juan didn’t need any of that: things just arranged themselves for him in a charmed manner.
He could fly in his mind on wings of the spirit. In his dreams he would become a raven, and fly over the earth to survey it, with the augmentation of the great, powerful Earth demon he had defeated and bound by sacred magic to his aid, by the grace of no less than Almighty God Himself!
He was blessed, and certain of his great grace. He thereby lost it.
Years later here he was in New York, cracking a divine whip at the devil, punishing the evil spirit for its disobedience, cruelty, and seduction. Of course Juan felt a certain futility in this act, since it was really himself that he was castigating for weakness, humanity, and error. He stopped cracking the whip after a few cries and screams erupted from within the triangle, begging him to stop, telling him to be reasonable and compromise.
Not this time. This evil thing had nothing to offer him, and it was going back to the pit. It’s spirits would serve to build his body into a temple for the Lord instead of a crypt for the devil’s madness.
This was medicine. This was power: to know yourself and your limitations.
Limitations always ensure success.
Juan would not punish himself anymore. Blame is just as futile directed at one’s self as it is at another. We cannot escape our humanity, but it’s also the source of our strength and power.
We are our own worst enemies, but we don’t have to be.
Juan took Barbas into his circle, and transmuted his pain.
There was no Other anymore: no race, no religion, no sick reason or responsibility to the abstract.
There was only the Presence of Divinity.
Everything was artful and beautiful. There was beauty even in the cracks and fault lines.
Juan knew himself and His Lord.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the Earth!”
Barbas materialized within the circle. This was the crux of the rite: the true test of their faith and dedication. Would they really put everything into God’s hands, or would they be unable to avoid interfering?
Rod held up the incense censor. It still smoked with the heavy herbs and resins of the custom recipe. Marshall commanded Barbas into the censor with his sword. The demon moaned, but it was the pitiful complaint of a defeated and frustrated old man. He asked them to leave his beloved wizards, hippies, New Age charlatans and dumbass psychics in peace. Rod refused: their superstition was leaving town with him.
Too many divine names had overwhelmed him: too much of the fire of the spirit burning his soul with memories of the beautiful and bountiful heights he had fallen from. It was humiliating and painful. It was Hell, which he had made his home and refused to leave behind, a victim of his own stupid stubbornness. His clever intrigues had not absolved him of any of his guilt and shame, so he had resolved to put all of God’s people to shame. He knew humanity was weak, inferior, stupid, and vile. He would prove it to God himself by exposing all of their darkness and ugliness to plain sight. And when they saw just how much they erred and sinned on a daily basis, would lose all hope in themselves and each other. They would all forget God and the Light, and dismiss Heaven as the idiotic myth of love, which didn’t really exist. Heaven was just the upper layer of Hell as far as Barbas was concerned.
Rod hadn’t been raised with any formal religion, and he had studied all of them out of interest, curiosity, and boredom. He liked ceremonial magic because it gave him a way to understand the Bible’s teachings in a more visceral and direct way. He knew it was dangerous and taboo but he had wanted so badly to believe in magic and miracles and wonderful things that exploded in your face like fireworks.
Too bad most of the great things in Life are subtle.
It was Hollywood and special effects. It was artistic creativity and vanity. It was Photography and videography and making a living in Los Angeles that was exhausting and barely covered rent. Dipping into savings until they were gone. A need to find some treasure within himself that other people would pay for.
Rod found the “amulet” in an old used book store. The shopkeeper didn’t know much about it but said it went with some kind of kit that had since been lost by the previous owner. It had German writing on it and what looked like a very weird version of Hebrew.
He wore it all the time to punk rock shows. It made him feel strong and secure and had a good reputation. It came with a little spell to call up the prince’s spirits to bring you things and clean your dirty laundry.
A little blood got on the jewel during a particularly brutal mosh pit one night. He felt dazed with a sense of unknown power and strength. Pagan chants echoed in his head from ancient rituals of selfish need and desire. Ridiculities of the ages passed through his veins. He was high on blood and sex and magic. He didn’t need any other drugs but the drinking certainly furled the fire.
The hallucinations were intense and amazing, full of neural illusions and sub-cutaneous stimulations. He tore his clothes and transformed into a giant, fat, hairy, muscular boar. Revulsion and disgust were unexpectedly and suddenly replaced with ecstatic pleasure and unbelievable power. He didn’t care how he looked: he FELT like a god: a wild beast of some great old Greek drama. He rode the skies and the winds and synchronicity and the sea like a bat out of Hell.
No other human had EVER felt this good! “NONE!” he shouted to himself. He was the master of all hedonism and indulgence. He knew how to stimulate, affect, and maximize every nerve in his body. He could feel the millions of years of evolution, pain, and pleasure bulge within his muscles!
No one would EVER question his masculinity and divinity again, he had sworn. NO ONE!
“YA KHABIRU!” Rod shouted, dispelling Barbas’ final illusions of flesh and fantasy, bringing himself back from the haunting memories of pleasures not meant for the enjoyment of mortals.
“Serve God, not Satan!” he cried. “These pleasures are too great for the minds of men!”
“Oh who are YOU to lecture ME, unbeliever?!” Barbas retorted.
“You are a filthy heathen! A retarded, backwards pagan HICK! A f!?#%^* polytheist with visual fixations and worthless toys for companions!”
“God has forgiven me everything!” Rod asserted. “Silence your baseless accusations, fellow sinner, and be quiet within this vessel!” he commanded.
“Idiotic INFIDEL!! Come to me and find your WORTHY FATE!!!” Barbas raged.
The room shook, the auditory hallucinations increased in volume and duration. All of New York was bleeding into the circle. Angelica cried out in fear but didn’t let go of her pentacle.
“NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE! NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!” the rioters cried.
“Serafina, the LID!” Rod called over the din.
He would not let this creature violate his mind and spirit anymore! Those days of madness and unholy might were OVER! He would NEVER trade his sanctity for power and pleasure again, God Willing!
“Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS! For they will be called ‘Children of God’!” he asserted.
She put a lid on it, starting with her tongue. Serafina had been an extensive gossip as a child, but by the time she had got to college, she had burned herself with her own slander one too many times. When evocation – that is to say, Calling Out – became a new popularity, she fell pray to blame and condemnation again. It was in vogue, but it was not appreciated.
Having lost a good number of friends, she learned to enjoy silence and solitude instead of fearing it. She learned the white arts of old Catholic popes and European magistrates. She learned to exercise her intellect and creativity into evoking the spirits of the old world for her personal study and alliance.
Now she put a lid on the censor. It was a special lid, with a special name on it: the Shem HaMephorash of Moses. It was a Holy Name of 72 letters, coded into the Book of Exodus, and invoked by the great prophet at the parting of the sea.
It was a master name within natural domains, and Moses knew his own nature.
He knew he was a devil, and accepted himself despite this.
Moses didn’t talk about it much with the elders, but he knew he was God’s own devil. Here he was, enacting and founding holy rites, restrictions, and rituals while his own energy, his nefesh, wriggled its reptilian head inside. The priests of Egypt had revealed their greatest truths to him: he knew how to manufacture a live wire battery box, how to tame the Red Dragon of Blood, and how to manifest the Snake that swallowed all others.
He couldn’t help but be proud of his accomplishments. He had the rod of Reverend Reuel of Midian, and had given ten years of his life in a dungeon in order to obtain it, alongside the good master’s daughter. It was no surprise when he lost his patience and struck the rock for water with that rod, as if it was owed to him personally.
He was God’s Instrument, but he was also fully human. His horns were horns of light, and the unholy spirit surrendered to him the ring of humane virtues, and the dove of humane heartedness.
He bound the kings of Egypt and Canaan ritually, with the aid of God. Their false idols he defeated in shamanic battles, flying in his soul to overcome the horrible abominations with the purity and strength of His Lord. Once the demons and sorcerers had been torn down by divine miracle within a Qabalistic rite, the armies would follow suit afterwards. As long as Israel obeyed their divine prerogatives, they were invincible, and would remain so. But the miracles only worked when people had faith in God and each other. The whole system fell apart without the cultivation of holiness: of wholeness. Without faith and wisdom, it would all turn to an empty shell of exotericism and rote memorization.
Moses’ spirit was strong and his drive was intense. He would live and instruct the people in holiness, and leave to them imperfect devices to minimize if not drive out the demons of their young species.
He would take the inescapable serpent spirit of human rascality, and uplift it to be a force for healing in the desert of human cruelty.
Everyone would look upon Israel and bless them for their strength, wisdom, and ferocity in battle.
Centuries, even millennia later, Solomon the king of Judea and Israel would fashion a brazier of brass to bind the demonic kings of the Middle East in similar fashion. He would use the same 72 lettered Name of God that Moses had used before him, along with a magic ring called “Wonder”, and a prayer carpet that could allow its users to fly on the wings of the soul.
To Solomon was ascribed a psalm numbered 72, and with his prayers and supplication he succeeded in binding 72 evil temptations that had been worshipped by ignorant and cruel nations as gods and masters. It was temporary, as not long after the 72 demons had been trapped and sunk into the Abyssal Lake in Babylon, the Babylonians popped open the vessel and freed all the demons once more.
Now heir to Solomon’s legacy herself through Christ’s teaching, Serafina sealed Barbas away with her own copy of the Shem, and with it put away all her own deeds of darkness. The need for revenge, control, manipulation, and winning would go with the demon back to Hell. Her efforts to be a warrior for social justice would be put in check by reality, gentility, and patience. The riot inside would end, and no matter how much pain she and the victims had known, it would not stain her soul.
She hadn’t been able to admit to herself how much losing her mother to the police had hurt her. Her mental disease had been a burden, but she didn’t want to be selfish. When they shot her she was a crazy woman with a kitchen knife coming straight at them. It was excessive force, but she had felt a secret and shameful relief to be freed from the care taking.
It was her own demon to own.
“Blessed are those who mourn,” she spoke. “For they will be comforted.”
The riots abated before the national guard stepped in. A series of fortuitous events had occurred in a chain that night in a most peculiar fashion. A cop who refused to fire on the crowd and stepped in the way of the guns. Offerings of merchandise that sated some of the rioters while families escaped in the back. An adroit city clerk who knew how to use the city’s geography to good advantage. The mother’s heartfelt plea for justice without rioting; her speech was profound and unexpectedly stirring given her recent bereavement.
The D.A. refused to use sound cannons or tanks. The governor personally promised to overhaul the case, removing the insensitive and foolish from jurisdiction and resisting the temptation to crack down on the populace with more force and violence.
An isolated news crew had feared for their lives after they were cut off from escape and blocked into a narrow strait by the mobs. But then, a curious sight had appeared; one that made them roll their cameras. It was a large group of neighborhood children singing, holding up photos of the friend they had lost to the violence. The spiritual seemed to calm the passions of the mob for a bit, and the families gathered around their children like a shield.
They sang there in the night for hours, holding to reverence and the honor of the deceased. The grandmothers in particular were a sight to behold, standing with tired but honest dignity alongside their families.
The weather shifted, and rainclouds opened up over the neighborhoods. The fires and the hotheads were significantly reduced in number. The police fell back to fortified positions, and left the community to themselves for the remainder of the day. The mess could be cleaned up later.
The miracle was not evident to everyone. The activists, the peacemakers, and the warriors were vilified on national television, accused of every sort of bias, moral failing, and inferiority. Every effort was made to paint them with the designation of animals, but it would not stick except to the already hateful.
The movement had reached a critical juncture, and the families would not be silenced.
From the pulpit of the AME church, a preacher addressed his community, knowing just as Solomon did that it wasn’t really about preaching, it was about practice.
He shared his love, his enthusiasm, his vision, and his faith that they would overcome the demons of racism and brutality as prophets before them had done with their own demons.
“You may not feel it brothers and sisters, in a time and a place like this! Gehenna on Earth, and hellfire at every turn! But in the midst of this madness and devilry, you are BLESSED!”
“So to Hell with the haters and the violent men! Our enemies may be legion, but God will humble them! Let them who are determined to go to the devil find out for themselves that they need only look into the mirror!
“Our faith is true! Our hearts are clean! Our Lord is the Author of all Justice and Forgiveness! And in the midst of this valley of death, the seeds Jesus planted here are coming to fruition!”
“AMEN!” parishioners cried. “SAY IT REVEREND!”
“With every hardship comes ease!” he echoed. “And in these dark days brothers and sisters, you are the Light of the world!”
“God freed the 3 youth from the fiery furnace in Babylon! He freed our ancestors from slavery!
And the Almighty will free us of all tyranny, as he has done from the beginning!
What can the world do to us?!
We are the Church of Jesus!”
“AMEN!” the gatherers cried. “Preach brother, preach!”
“Blessed are you when they will hurt you and persecute you and slander you with every kind of filthy lie! Rejoice for the rewards of Divinity, you Children of God, you heirs of Holy Heaven!
For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you!”
The exhausted but victorious magi made their way upstairs and outside. It was a disaster area, and it looked as such. But the heirs of the 3 Kings of the East had won their battle.
They took Barbas upstate, and buried him in the last place anyone would look: Woodstock.
He would inevitably get out again; his kind always do.
Until then, there was a measure of hope and decency.