The Black Flame article - Ritual Alchemy: The Magic of Brewing by Reverend Campbell

Ritual Alchemy: The Magic of Brewing

an article for The Black Flame—January, LI A.S.

al·che·my   /ˈalkəmē/
A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

Brewing Is Magic

From our ancient history, we humans have sought power over those around us. To create and destroy is inherent in our DNA. On the rare occasion, there are those of us who step outside of the herd and demand more. We demand authority over those around us and respect from those who claim to know us. Of those rare few are an even smaller few who rather than just wanting authority, take it. This is done most often through the use of Lesser Magic; non-ritual or manipulative magic as explained in The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor Lavey.

Lesser Magic is the cornerstone of any Satanist worth his salt. It is the practical application of our will, unseen throughout the world. The Satanic Witch, formerly The Compleat Witch, by Anton Szandor LaVey goes into great detail about this topic, and should be studied by every Satanist. Lesser Magic has many forms. It can be subtle body language, an encouraging word, reinforcing physical support or the more tangible—a mysterious potion. Potions by definition can heal, alter one’s perception of reality, lighten one’s mood and even kill. Herein we will be talking about the alchemical art, the transformation of fruits and grains into fermented elixirs that can be used to further one’s own Lesser Magic ends.

When I decide to step into my brewing alcove, much like stepping into my ritual chamber, I enter with intention. I know what I will be concocting, and for what purpose. I infuse my tonic with my focus and intention, and what comes out of it is pure magic. In this way my act of brewing is Greater Magic; “The change in situations or events in accordance with one’s will…” as written by Anton Szandor LaVey in The Satanic Bible. The process itself is ritual from the precise steps followed, implements used, notes taken and energy generated & directed. We Satanic Warlocks have a proud tradition in the mastery of Lesser and Greater Magic through study and exercise. Allow me to introduce you to Ritual Alchemy.

Why Brew Potions (Lesser Magic)

I often find myself in my brewing alcove to celebrate a harvest, manipulate a man or woman or to educate others. There are many individual reasons to step into the chamber; what is most important is that there IS a reason. Anyone can cook. Anyone can follow a recipe and create a product. The difference between a neophyte and a master is practice, study and intention.

When a Satanic Warlock brews there is technique and passion involved. Respect for the sourced ingredients and a sense of self. This is not just for the process itself but for the outcome. If I offer you a glass of my wine or a pint of my beer it means something. It’s not giving you a drink of water, I am giving a piece of myself to you. The particular aspect of myself I am giving—wrath, lust or compassion—may not be discerned until you have tasted it.

The Alchemy of fermentation naturally occurs without our input, but the human exercise of brewing beer and winemaking as a means to an end began in the Neolithic age. It’s been documented going back 7000 BCE. It’s not a stretch to say before the written word our ancestors were creating and consuming as well. This is to say, this ancient knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation from the beginning. Only those willing to study the process, and be willing to fail and give themselves to the experiment, will inherit this knowledge. Is it any wonder why alcohol has always been involved in religion?

Originally, the act of fermenting fruit and grains may have been for local pleasure, but it quickly spread into an economy of its own. In fact, depending on the ingredients used, fermented beverages have been used as a source of dietary nutrients. In ancient Egypt beer was a form of medicine. Their recipes actually created a natural antibiotic in the beer itself. Modern science wouldn’t catch up for over 3000 years.

Some of our earliest written literature centered around beer. The ancient Sumerians had “The Hymn to Ninkasi” which doubles as a prayer to a goddess and a recipe for creating beer. Even Christianity in the modern era claims their god transforms wine into blood as they consume it. It is said ancient Egyptians paid their slaves in beer rations while they built the pyramids. These structures stand to this day, a lasting legacy of a truly magical elixir.

The Brewing Ritual (Greater Magic)

In its simplest form, the alchemy behind fermentation is a metabolic process of yeast consuming sugar, the byproduct being carbon and alcohol. The process begins with cleaning your equipment, adding malt to boiling water, adding hops to bitter, flavor and add aroma to the wort, then cool the wort and pitch the yeast. But rather than dumbing down and stripping the magic away, let’s focus on the ritual behind it. My kitchen is my brewing alcove, my ritual chamber. Within is a cauldron where I call upon the fires of Satan to create an inferno that purifies the liquid to be used, removing impurities and leaving behind the blessed waters of Leviathan. I then call out to Belial, asking for the grains that grew in his earth to sacrifice themselves, providing a base of sugars for the alchemy to begin. Being the infernal master of the earth, he also provides hops to bitter and flavor the sweet potion before the yeast is pitched and the true alchemy begins.

The brewing process takes attention and care. You can’t just try it on a whim, hoping for a superb outcome. As with anything in life, it takes study and preparation. In the same way you are never promoted in your job the first day, your ultimate success in alchemy will come through repetition, improvement and love of the process and ingredients used. The idiom cleanliness is next to godliness is true in brewing. Every piece of equipment that will touch your beer or wine needs to be sanitized. There are many products that are able to help you in this process, but the process of cleaning your equipment is a ritual beyond the scope of this essay.

Once you have purified your ritual implements, you must begin the base of your potion, heat up your water in the cauldron. It is important to note that your water must be filtered and free of impurities prior to use. Depending on the recipe, you may have grains to add before you reach a roiling boil. If you do, maintain the water at 145-155 degrees fahrenheit for an hour with the grains steeping. This will provide a base of color and flavor to your potion and it is at this point you may infuse your liquid with your compassion if that is your intention. The liquid is open to your suggestion in this vulnerable state.

When you are finished steeping your grains, bring the liquid up to a boil and remove from heat. You must pay close attention from now through the end of the process. When you are actively stirring and adding your malt to your liquid, you are creating wort. Wort is a demon that is unforgiving and will boil over if left unattended. It needs your focus as you put the pot back on the heat and bring it to a boil. If you are wrathful, now is the time to unleash it. It will tame the wort and your aggression will be received well. Depending on the recipe, you will have one to three sets of hops to add: one for bittering, one for flavoring and one for aroma.

Adding hops to your wort is the time to show lust. This tames your sweet wort with your bitter and flavorful hops. If lust is your intention, let it flow now. The bittering hops should be left in the boiling wort for an hour. Add your flavoring hops in the last 30 minutes, and for the aroma hops, add for five minutes. When the hour is up, shut down the boil and cool down the wort with a coil or exterior ice. Do not allow any contaminants into your potion.

Once cooled to 75 degrees, siphon the potion into the primary fermenting container and then pitch your yeast. This is the ‘so it is done’ moment, and when you seal the container, attaching your airlock, the air should be clear and the ritual is complete. There will be a secondary filtering before you bottle, and the potion should sit in the bottle for a month prior to consumption.

The Magical Tradition

Brewing potions is not a process for the weak of mind and requires focus and a spirit of experimentation. It is a legacy of our human species that has endured to this day. Those of us who celebrate its alchemical magic champion its process and carry on the traditions of the magicians from our past. If you choose to walk this dark path, perhaps one day we will share a cauldron or exchange secrets we have discovered. This is a process for the student, there are no masters, only passionate magicians feverishly brewing into the future.