The astral sabbat
from the Archives of the Nyarlathotep Coven
There follows a description of the first collective working undertaken by the members of the Nyarlathotep Coven. The aim of this working was to create an initial dreaming-space - a gestalt shared by members of the group that could serve as a pool of imagery and other sensory modalities - in order the group's magical work, both collectively and individually, could resonate on a psychic or liminal level.
The astral or dream sabbat is a primal archetype of the familiar occult concept of the meeting with inner-plane contacts or masters. The key Lovecraftian tale that deals with this theme is "The Dreams in the Witch-House" in which protagonist Walter Gilman is gradually drawn, through his fevered dreams, to an astral sabbat:
"He must meet the Black Man and go with them all to the throne of Azathoth at the center of ultimate chaos. That was what she said. He must sign the book of Azathoth in his own blood and take a new, secret name now that his independent delvings had gone so far."
We all felt that gaining access to the astral sabbat would be a useful way to begin the work of the Coven. The first stage of this working was that all members should (if they were not already doing so) keep a regular dream-diary. Each night, members would strive, by their own ingenium, to attend the sabbat. Drawing on a variety of occult sources, the following methods were suggested:
- a)Creating collages of descriptions of sabbats - including those of Lovecraft, medieval descriptions of the witches' sabbat, sources of horror fiction, - films such as "The Devil Rides Out" and even appropriate music such as "Night on a Bare Mountain" or Black Widow's "Come to the Sabbath". Visual images appropriate also included the art of Austin Osman Spare, H.R. Gieger, etc.
b)Using sigils in the form of designs, mantras or chants with the intent of "experiencing the astral sabbat".
c)Using the artwork of Spare, et al, as gateways to the sabbat.
d)Visiting physical locations that seemed to be suitable locations for the sabbat and using the memories, associations and, where appropriate, physical objects to return there when a sabbat is in progress.
For this first stage of the working, we all recorded our dreams and waking astral journeys. Particular emphasis was placed on descriptions of the sabbat site, any repeated sounds, smells, and recurring visual images which could form the basis of a collectively-generated 'sabbat experience' which could be used for further dream exploration or later, ritual work.
Here is an example of one such 'sabbat dream' from Fra. Hali:
"I am visiting a large, decaying mansion in the wilds of Yorkshire. Beneath the house, and the surrounding hills there is a network of tunnels and underground rooms. The house is badly haunted with a great deal of poltergeist disturbances - lights cutting out and moving walls. Soror V. is there with another woman who says she is the Priestess of the Tunnels and that is where we must go to meet the others who are gathering at this place. I am afraid of the creatures who live in the tunnels but Soror V. calms me and says I have nothing to worry about."
Hali's dream is redolent of occult themes such as the Tunnels of Set, and tunnels haunted by strange creatures is a theme which also recurs in the writings of Lovecraft. Other members also recounted tunnel-imagery in their attempts to access the Sabbat, and we took it as a good sign of the group's developing gestalt (or egregore) that members not only began to report dreams of attending the sabbat relatively quickly, but also began to encounter each other in these dreams - sometimes in the form of animals such as ravens or owls, which would then transform into Coven members.
In order to heighten this increasing fusion of member's dream-experiences, Fra. Telesis suggested that we spend an evening together devoted to sharing the descriptions and imagery that each of us had been collecting in regard to the sabbat, and discussing the progress of our dream and astral work, to be concluded by us bedding down and sleeping in the same room. This became a lengthy story-telling and brainstorming session - some of the descriptions of sabbats and gatherings of wizards and warlocks acting as inspirational meditations and 'journeys'. This meeting was also helpful in increasing the sociability between group members - allowing us a space to find out more about each other and our magical histories. Telesis' idea was that communal sleeping might increase the likelyhood of Coven members dreaming about each other. And, when we compared notes the next morning, we found that the majority of the Coven had experienced strange dreams of one kind or another, and that both Fra. G. and Soror V. had had 'sabbat dreams' where they felt themselves to be accompanied by other members of the Coven, although they could not make out individual faces.
As this working progressed, we began to note recurrent images in Coven member's experiences, such as a network of tunnels; of flying to the sabbat; that not all the participants were human - many attendants were elementals, lamia or incubuses. The sabbats took place outdoors, with stone circles or 'black altars' as a central focus, or were held in underground rooms lit by guttering torches. Fra. Vorgis reported a recurrent dream in which he attended a sabbat in the midst of an arid desert landscape that he 'knew' was on another planet.
For the next stage of this working we created:
- A group sigil
- A set of audio tapes which were assembled in the form of cut-ups of Coven members reading suitable magical fragments - such as quotations from the Necronomicon taken from Lovecraft stories, and other 'inspirational' sources.
- Computer image collages of Coven members standing, masked and robed, in suitable locations and superimposed onto 'sabbat images'.
These were used as aids by members in their astral and dream experiments.
It was also suggested that we create a 'script' which would act as a group entry to the sabbat space. After some discussion, this idea was dropped for the moment, as we did not wish to place artificial limitations on the dream-imagery. What we did do however, was agree that members should strive to 'see' the group sigil devised by the Coven in their dreams, particularly as an aid to lucid dreaming - the idea being that if someone found themselves at the sabbat, they could try and use the sigil to summon other members there. This was never one hundred percent successful, but did lead to one or two instances where members reported encountering the sigil in their dreams, and, once focusing their attention on it, felt the 'mind-presence' of the Coven to be with them.
A variant of the dreamscape script was attempted by Fratres Hali & Vorgis, together with Soror Zirel, who created a script out of elements of their most successful dream experiences, and tried is as a waking 'guided journey' with the hope that it might allow some further confluence between their future dreams - with little success, apparently.
As this working progressived over time. we came to the collective conclusion that striving for 100 per cent confluence in terms of dream-imagery and individual experiences was not realistic - but that what we were doing was generating a good deal of imagery and associations which might be more valuable at a later date. What we also found interesting was the 'overspill' of dream/astral imagery into waking consciousness.
We began with the idea of the Sabbat as a formal ritual event, but after a few months or so of exploring the themes associated with the Sabbat, we began to move towards the notion that it could be a spontaneous occurrence - an intersection between zones/modalities of experience or entities/states of consciousness. In other words, the Sabbat is an archetypal liminal space - indeed, Fra. Vorgis put forth the view that the Sabbat could be viewed as an 'entity' of sorts - a sentient dream. The Sabbat is something we are drawn, or lured to. Perhaps it is a mistake to believe that that particular experience can be consciously controlled.