Tools of the Trade

So how does one go about this Urban Magic business, exactly? Like man modern practices, ekistomancy asks its practitioners to craft certain tools for ritual and magical use.

The living-in-your-parents-house response is usually "but what if I don't have access to these kinds of things? What if my parents find my stash of magical rail spikes? Why can't I use astral tools, so that no one has to know?"

Well, sure, you can use astral tools instead of physical ones. I've done magic with both, and let me tell you, actually holding something magical that you've found, fashioned, and/or built in your hand, feeling the weight and temperature of it, is orders of magnitude easier to use as a tool than building some kind of astral dagger or what-have-you. As much as the city one wishes to interact with may exist in other, stranger realms, it is in large part a physical place, and appreciates physical tools.

That said, in another sense, it is only in those further, stranger realms that this tool actually holds any kind of might or power, and so it is just as good to hold in your mind the thought that superimposed onto whatever physical tool you craft is an astral/etheric/urbanomantic double, the importance of which should not be done away with.


When I first started practicing ekistomancy, it was while also attending the Golden Triangle Temple, run by my good friend S. Knight. Temple 31, as it is also called, descends from a long line of western mysticism that traces itself through the six-kinds-of-awesome occultist Tau Allen Greenfield, through the organization he schismed from, the Ordo Templi Orientis, back through the Order of the Golden Dawn and back to the early Christian Gnostics.

But since the closer end of this line of mystical succession is actually a series of heretics and demi-heretics who have acquired legitimacy from their once-sects, but moved on to start newer, more interesting ones, Temple 31 draws from more recent and strange circles (Chaos Magic, Pop Magic, Post-Modern Magic) as well as more Crowley-ish trappings.

As part of Temple 31's weekly Magic Roundtables, some of the more Chaos Magic inclined of Temple 31's members began down the path of magical tool creation and subsequent use laid out in the ill-named LIBER KAOS KERAUNOS KYBERNETOS, or Liber KKK (The author, Peter J. Carroll, is British, and as such has no associations with that particular three letter acronym).

The rather short book lays out the general framework for a long term magical practice, a framework that can really be applied to almost any system.

Imagine, if you will, a 5x5 grid.

The columns are the classical magical acts: Evocation, Divination, Enchantment, Invocation and Illumination.

The rows, from Top (hardest) to Bottom (easiest) are:

High Magic
Astral Magic
Ritual Magic
Shamanic Magic

What Carroll suggests is that the beginning magician work his way up from the bottom, perfecting all five acts for each level before moving on to the next one.

He goes on to specifically define the first fifteen operations (Sorcery 1-5, Shamanic Magic 6-10, Ritual Magic 11-15). Astral Magic is a revamping of the first three, but entirely within the mind, and as such is sketchily defined.

Carroll finishes by pointing out that by the time one reaches High Magic, "The magician must rely on the momentum of his work in sorcery, shamanism, ritual and astral magics to carry him into the domain of high magic where he evolves his own tricks and empty handed techniques for spontaneously liberating the chaotic creativity within."

For Temple 31, those of us participating endeavored to complete the first rung- Sorcery. Further rungs were planned, but interest moved around and along, and at least in that context we never got to them as a group, though we continue on our own paths.

In any case, from this Liber KKK workshop through Temple 31, I began crafting some of the tools I now consider essential and basic to any practicing Urban Mage. As tools they no longer quite match the exact specifics laid out in Carroll's work, but so it goes. The studious among my readers should feel free to analyze where my tools differ.

The Goods

This, my gentle readers, is the Key to Pittsburgh. It was constructed from, if I recall, a speaker knob, some kind of drawer handle, and, most importantly and awesomely, a beetle encased in a clear plastic marble. There are other Keys to Pittsburgh that other local occultists hold, but this one is mine. It is held in the hand, either knifelike or keylike, and used in those ways in ritual- cutting the air, opening hidden locks, turning spigots and spouts of magical energy across the city's ley lines. It is also kept in the pocket, a constant reminder of my intention and will as a magician.

In practice, the Key is used in almost every ritual I perform, as an opener-of-the-way, as a spiritual sword or instrument, as a way to turn energies on and off, or direct them in certain manners.

Before creating the Key during Temple 31, I tended to use rail spikes as my mode-of-cutting-and-opening-and-pinning. They are excellent for their weight and for their association both with movement (as part of rail systems) and their stillness (they are, after all, solid steel or iron). They are especially potent for use in Pittsburgh, as Steel and Iron were its founding industries, and rail one of its chief exports.

I still use rail spikes in my practice, channel and anchor ley lines, to construct guardians, to demark local sites of magical interest, etc. Anything that needs to be marked out or held down in a permanent (but reversible) way is treated to a healthy dose of spike.

This device-creature is a companion to the Key, a mostly passive drawer-down-of-information, a Library-Fetish, a little servant that aids me in finding and collating data on various subjects, that pulls secrets towards itself.

In practice, this Library-fetish is used quite passively. It sits on my desk and is willed at every once in a while to aid in a task. More than anything, it serves as a sort of research-time battery, lending back the help and strength I push onto it in less hectic times.

Mapping is a super-important piece of my practice, and as a 21st century mage, I tend to most of it on the computer. The image above is actually a cut from a PDF map put out by the Pennsylvania Mine Subsidence Insurance Board showing which parts of the city are at risk of, I am not kidding, abruptly being eaten by the earth.

I tend to use derives or drifts as my method of divination, rather than some specific tarot deck or rune set, relying on the whole city to show me the signs I need to see.

Some mundane materials play parts as well: a leather messenger bag, a notebook for recording signs/grafiti, a digital camera, and, sometimes, a stick of chalk, for putting up temporary sigils.

These tools are all part of a longer process, and in time I may move on to different ones. For now, though, these are what I use.

There are some more complicated magical constructions I have made, but I'll save those for another post.

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Urbanomancy, megalopolisomancy, megapolisomancy, city magic, urban magic, urban occultism, neopagan, neo-pagan, urbomancy, Pittsburgh magic.