Daemonolatry in Film and Practice - Action!
William Briar is an occultist, author, and artist. We spoke about his Daemonolatry practice and perspective on some recent occult-related movies.
Will bought his first Tarot deck at the age of thirteen, which sparked a passion for the occult. Since then, he has avidly explored everything from chaos to ceremonial magick. Today, as a practising Daemonolater, he specialises in shamanic journey-work and divination. As an author, he writes occult non-fiction, horror, and also pens erotic romance under the name Delilah Black.
Will, tell me a little about yourself. What does it mean to you, to be a ‘practicing Daemonolater’?
For me, 'practicing' implies that my pursuit for knowledge is ongoing and never over. My relationship with the Daemonic Divine teaches me something new every day, as do the materials I read and my interactions with other practitioners. I believe we should always be students of magick. We should work towards constantly improving ourselves and learning new things. I would say that is my main goal as a Daemonolater—other than worshipping the Daemonic Divine, of course!
That said, what I define as a daemon may differ radically from the definition of another magician. To me, a demon is a 'divine intelligence replete with wisdom,' and that leaves a wide variety of spirits with which I can commune happily.
What does that mean in today's materialistic society? Can you describe some practical examples how you involve or engage the Daemonic in your everyday material reality?
For example, I've definitely worked with modern technology spirits. I'm particular about naming the devices I use daily, just like I would any other magickal tool, and believe that they build up their own energy or personalities over time. That doesn't mean I don't encourage regular computer maintenance—only that I've had some of my more temperamental machines demanded regular praise as well as all the usual bells and whistles to keep running contentedly. Each of them are unique, just like the spirits of different apartments I've lived in, and I've found myself leaving small gifts for these computer fairies in the same way I would house sprites.
When you use the word ‘magick’, what do you mean by that?
Crowley's definition is fantastic, but I worry many magicians tend to associate that statement solely with attaining what they want in the mundane world.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with that kind of magick! It's a fine thing to improve your lot in life. On the other hand, focusing on that aspect of magick alone leaves spiritual advancement and theurgy out of it. If the magician forgets he's part of a spiritual ecosystem, I feel that they are missing a huge part of the point.
I really like your phrase ‘spiritual ecosystem’. It reminds me we live in a rich numen-ecology swirling about us daily.
When I first became interested in the occult, it was because I was certain there were beings other than us out there and I was interested in what they had to say. It's still a large part of what fuels my interest in magick, and I think communication with the spirit world purely for its own sake shouldn't be neglected.
Let's talk about your first forays into Spirit-space. What would you say are some of the early markers in your occult journey to the present?
I've spoken about one of them already, in a roundabout way.
My short story from Into the Abyss in "What You Wish For" was very loosely based on an encounter some friends and I had with a malevolent spirit on Halloween night in my early twenties. That evening taught me two things rather quickly. One, spirits are not just in our heads. Two, witches that go looking for trouble will eventually find it! Truthfully, I'm lucky I've had such great partners for my adventures!
During my twenties and thirties, I was also fortunate enough to be part of a couple of great groups: one a shamanic teaching circle that met face-to-face in my city, and the other cyber-coven with members scattered across my province. Both were incredibly experimental and supportive. It was during this time that I learned about soul extractions and retrievals, and also began to do my first psychopomp work.
One of the biggest moments, though, was simply finding the books of S. Connolly I'd felt called to work with what many magicians termed ‘Daemons’, but my shamanic training told me that commanding spirits would get me absolutely nowhere. It wasn't until I read her writings that I realised other practitioners wanted to deal with them respectfully too. Committing two years to studying nothing but the Daemonic cinched the deal for me. The path of a Daemonolater was for me. I was a Daemonolater.
That must have been a very intense process for you. Can you describe a little more about that experience?
I spent a week working with each of the seventy-two spirits of the Ars Goetia, within a two years' time frame. My methodology varied from week to week and from spirit to spirit, as they moved me. Sometimes I encountered them primarily through art, other times through prayer and offerings, even with scrying and divination.
I did this as part of a group with S. Connolly, who led a monthly discussion with others who were also going through the same process. We shared our experiences, trading tips back and forth, and then she took us through a new ritual or meditation technique. It was an intense workload! I believe I handed her something like 90,000 words of notes. I stopped counting after that.
I’m impressed! This sounds like a really dedicated supportive space, right? I imagine there are folks who are exploring Daemonolatry for themselves, and who aren't 'joiners' and don't want to be part of a group. If they had the self-discipline, do you think this kind of process would be useful to them?
Definitely! Systematically working your way through a pantheon or group of spirits can help you see connection between them in a way that working with them randomly simply cannot.
Beyond that, when you work with spirits week after week, it begins to seep into your life beyond ritual, allowing you to see them at as active forces in a world most many think of as mundane. It can make their presence that much more… tangible, if that makes sense.
Yes, it does! That's a strong tip that can provide a focus for newbies who are beginning to explore this space. So true.
Will, shall we chat about some of the recent films portraying the occult and demonic themes? For example, A Dark Song and Hereditary? What are your thoughts about these?
I loved A Dark Song. To me, that is what an occult movie should be. Yes, magicians will quibble over the details, but you could tell that research had been done. Yay! Respect for the subject matter!
Not so with Hereditary, where the director Ari Aster admits he picked Paimon just because he "needed a name in mythology" and didn't want to go with one that had already been overdone. That angers me, both as an occultist and as a rabid horror movie fan. We deserve better from a film with such talent and high production values.
Yes, we briefly discussed Hereditary on Facebook and you mentioned you disliked it as a Daemonolator? Can you elaborate on that a little more?
Spoilers ahead, but Paimon specifically seeks a male victim in this film, with statements that the female body he previously had was unacceptable. This seems completely at odds with a daemon typically described either as an effeminate man or a crowned woman.
Yes! I noticed that as well! I remember thinking, are we talking Paimon?? It was glaring to me as a Daemonolater to see these elements dismissed or perhaps ignored?
Whether Aster did that little research or ignored the facts he knew, didn't matter to me; there was no hint of Paimon in this movie other than his sigil, and that was a huge letdown.
Honestly, I would rather the supernatural have been left entirely out of it, with the mother never manifesting any sort of preternatural ability. Let us wonder if the whole thing was in her head and leave her an unreliable narrator.
I agree with you there. Hereditary just didn’t stack up for me. There were too many unanswered lapses in the storyline, the rationale and the execution.
Personally, I wasn't thrilled with A Dark Song either. Sure, kudos to the research, but I found the character of the Occultist weirdly immature. For a supposedly experienced Occultist, his behaviour was odd and predatory.
While gender and/or sexuality is often an integral energy in occult practice, I felt like both films did this badly.
You've got me there. While Dark Song revolved around a female magician, she was a novice that required a more knowledgeable male's experience—not that he seemed very emotionally mature, either!
Even so, women are too rarely given places of power in occult movies. Too frequently they are portrayed as damsels needing rescued, or their feminine power is given a dark, evil edge.
Or like in Dark Song, when her dependency on his skill and/or knowledge resulted in her being physically vulnerabile as an exchange.
I’ll check those out! Will, I notice many of us on the Daemonolatry path are solitary or solo practitioners. Do you think that's an inherent element of the practice or is it more about a numbers thing?
A bit of both, perhaps? While tiny groups thrive under the radar, I also believe the risk for small groups, is that the possibility for drama increases as the numbers rise, and that drama scares some potential seekers away.
Sure, it seems that as a group grows, the capacity for drama certainly increases.
When groups become larger, I find that they constantly have to cater to beginners. There is nothing wrong with this. All people need to start somewhere. However, more seasoned magicians may think the grass is greener elsewhere.
I understand your thoughts on this. It's possible to grow a community gradually and build in beginner spaces and perhaps with levels with 'buy-in' from community.
Exactly. That being said, communities also develop spirits, just like anything else. These have to be tended too, and that's part of the 'buy-in' you mentioned.
Once people stop being beginners, they have not only want to support the community by sharing their individual gifts with it, but feel confident enough to do so. A group of loners afraid to speak up means anyone else doesn't have much chance of survival.
I often wonder about the need or legitimacy of groups? Do really need groups? I mean, I'm not a big 'joiner' and I wonder how many others exploring the Occult or even Daemonolatry avoid being part of a group.
Groups have the ability to bring like-minded individuals together. That can be a very powerful thing, and I have formed life-long friendships thanks to being a member of occult groups. I wouldn't trade them for the world.
On the other hand, I believe most magicians should put in more private magical hours than they do working with a group. That's because most groups do more talking than anything else. While being an armchair magician can be fun, untested theories don't produce results.
Yes,that's true. While I'm not a fan of 'joining a group', even as a solo practitioner, I side strongly with practice. Regular real-world, material-space practice offers the most evidence and content to progress.
Will, given this path being so individualistic, do you notice a common outlook or personality style?
Tenacity, perhaps? Daemonolaters come from all walks of life, from all over the globe, from all age groups, minorities, and genders. The particulars of the daemons they are interested in even varies widely! When it comes to those who stick around, they simply seem determined to do the work, even when it gets hard or boring. They want to see what the end result is and get better.
If I’m a beginner reading this, or someone new to the idea of working with the Daemonic, what do you suggest I do as I consider whether the path of Demonolatry is for me?
Test it out, just as you would any other occult path. Reach out to these spirits as you would any other. Just try to leave any prejudices or preconceptions you might have behind!
Our reality can be limited by our biases, so try being open to new ideas and experiences. You never know what—or who—may be waiting for you!
Thanks for your time Will. It’s been really good talking with you.