Liminal Magic: The Hermetic Arts

An Interview with Hermeticist Maria Miles

Maria Miles

In a new series of interfaith articles for Sacred Well Ministries we will be exploring spiritual traditions around the world and interviewing the people who are part of them today.  Our second article in the series is an interview with Hermeticist Maria Miles.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 Blaise Pascal, 17th-century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher, 

 The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word, limen, which means threshold. Liminal space is a doorway, a threshold, where you leave one state of being and are in transition to another one.  A place of absolute pure potential, where anything is possible.

Liminality is the state that exists at the edges of boundaries, at dawn and dusk, in the moments before falling asleep and resurfacing from dreamtime into waking. It is a time that is often more vulnerable, but also more alchemically charged. The liminal state is not as fully formed as what is on either side of it, it partakes of both sides, and therefore it is an ideal state for creating new forms. 

 It is a place between energy and matter.  It is a  place of transition where normal limits are suspended – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.  Those who can tap into the realms that exist beyond our ordinary perception have been honored and reviled, considered sacred and profane throughout human history.  

There are many kinds of beings who exist in a liminal state.. Transgender persons, two-spirit persons, and others of ambiguous or fluid orientation, those who exist in a metamorphic state of shifting identities.

The artist, shaman, oracle, prophet, mystic, seer, or visionary is one who is able to enter liminal space and emerge from it with some insight to share.  Maria Miles is one such being, who has danced along the edges of liminal space since childhood.

Maria, please share with us a bit about the beginnings of your magical path: 

It began during my childhood with books of folklore and the zodiac for kids. I was fascinated by faeries and giants and all the mythical things most children are told about in stories but I was always adamant that they were real. I could see spirits, especially out in nature. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest you get to spend a lot of time in the woods for fun.

 By the age of 13 I began getting interested in divination. Tarot cards, runes and ogham were all things I read about but the cards were my first tool I picked up and began to use as a diviner. At 16 I began to study I Ching, thanks to an obsession with the author Philip K Dick who used this oracle to help write some of his novels which I thought was really cool.

 Astrology really entered my world around that age too. I found myself looking at my birth chart and the birth charts of all my friends, girlfriends and family members. At the time I only really had exposure to modern psychological astrology and sun sign astrology but I knew there was something there under the surface that I couldn’t grok yet. So I kept looking.

This was also the age I picked up my first grimoires: the Keys of Solomon, the Lemegeton and the Grimorium Verum, in the form of A.E. Waite’s “Ceremonial Magic” that I found at a local bookstore. That one absolutely fascinated me, the way demons and spirits were talked about so matter of factly. At the time it largely served as an inspiration for lyrics for the bands I played in as a teenager, but by my late teens/early twenties it became more of a formal study with an interest in practice.

Can you give us an overview of your study of the Hermetic arts?

Hermeticism entered my life in my early 20s, though it took me a while to realize It was my worldview/religion. The Hermetic arts of Alchemy, Astrology and Magic have been a core part of my studies and praxis for the last 7 years now. Alchemy is the one I have moved the most slowly in and only began to practice lab alchemy this past year. These three arts form one key, each unlocking the other. 

Alchemical apparatus

Astrology tells us when to perform certain rites or to begin certain alchemical operations which are produced by the work of the mage, be it the production of a talisman or of a spagyric. They are the same thing only in a different fashion. The medieval grimoire Picatrix tells us that alchemy is the work of body upon body, and magic of spirit upon spirit. Both serve to elevate the one who partakes in it. One without the other is lost in my opinion. 

Mercury and Sulfur personified

Part of how I see magic in my practice is through theurgy, or god working. The goal is to exalt the mage and elevate them to the same status as the Gods by participating actively in the process of creation. Alchemy prepares our body for this, magic fortifies our spirit for this, and astrology gives us an understanding of our fate so that we can actively take part in it. Hermeticism provides the path, and the arts provide the keys to the many doors you will find along it.

There are several schools of Astrology including Western, Vedic, Traditional, and others – which of these do you practice?

I practice what is called Traditional Astrology. It is essentially the astrology practiced by the medieval Persio-Arabic sages who preserved the art as an inheritance from the Hellenistic world. All so-called “Western” astrology has its roots in ancient Greece. They got it from the Egyptians and Sumerians, but the Greeks were the ones who codified it. 

We owe a great debt to people like Vetius Valens and Ptolemy, but an even greater debt is owed to astrologers like Abu Mashr, Mash’allah, Al-Kindi and countless others who transmitted this knowledge through time. My primary sources are texts a thousand years old at least, and stemming from other sources that are at least 1000 or 2000 years old. 

Persian astrological text

Why do I use sources that are so old? Because the techniques work better than anything modern astrology has to offer. Traditional astrology entails a coherent worldview as to why things are as they are. Why the signs are ordered the way they are, why the planets are assigned certain virtues and principles, all of these are things traditional astrology explains when you learn the basics, because without them you are lost. Personality analysis really isn’t that useful compared to being able to predict when things will happen in your life. Forewarned is forearmed.

How do you prepare yourself to do a reading for someone?

I usually do at least a half hour of prep work, about a  day in advance of the reading so I have time to let things stew. The natal chart is a tremendous source of contemplation. Natal astrology really is a form of meditation on ourselves and our fate and how we fit into the world. Whether I am doing it for myself or others, it takes me a bit of time sitting with the chart. 

When it comes to the day of the reading I have a bit more to do beforehand. While astrology is not a psychic art, it is a form of divination anyone, with or without mediumistic talent can practice by learning the techniques.  I do include a bit of ritual beforehand. Every divinatory consult is a crossroads where two fates meet, that of the querent and that of the diviner. 

Prior to beginning the call with my client I start off by offering a glass of cool water and candle to my spirits along with a battery of prayers. I’m  a little ol Catholic grandma when it comes to prayers and pray the Pater Noster, Ave Maria and Gloria Patrii along with a more general prayer from the heart asking for guidance in helping my client. 

One of the traditions I come from is Spiritism, which is part of why I do these prayers and offering of water and fire. Usually within moments of beginning the prayers and the reading the glass of water will become full of bubbles as if it were a carbonated drink. This sort of thing is a sign of the presence and activity of spirits. It’s a way of seeing that they’re at work. 

And when I do a reading they really do put in the work. It shows too. Often I will see things in the chart I hadn’t before or make connections I hadn’t thought of because I have them guiding me. That’s where a highly technical art like astrology meets my mediumistic practice.

What other types of magic and divination do you practice?

 I’ve been reading cards, both tarot and playing cards since I was 13 and that was how I discovered my talent for prediction. It used to surprise people, myself included, with how accurate I could get with cards. I don’t use them as much now since moving my professional practice to exclusively astrology but I have a fond place in my heart for cartomancy. 

Aside from talismans and theurgy my other favorite has long been the controversial art of Goetia, (Ars Goetia, The lesser Key of Solomon). I’ve grown far more cautious when I do this, because it can certainly be like using a shotgun to kill a squirrel, but I must certainly mention it because it was what truly taught me we are not alone. I’ve burned my fingers more than once when playing with hellfire.

Goetic Circle and Triangle

 A lot of people are scared by the idea of Goetia, others proclaim it to be harmless, or relish the darkness in it, making it an aesthetic life choice. I would say after the experiences I’ve had from the mistakes I’ve made it is not something to do lightly or without preparation. The knowledge of how to keep these energies within certain boundaries is essential.  This is actually how I began my work with the Saints and Archangels.

I wear many masks when it comes to religion, afterall the Divine One wears many masks, so why not their servants? I have a devout practice of Marian devotion especially, which I will attest to saving my life more than once. She is the fastest to intercede and I am very happy to share her name. 

My primary practice now is with the Dead, both my ancestors and friends who have passed. Maintaining my boveda is at the heart of all I do on a regular basis. I have discovered that most things I need to do can be accomplished with a prayer, a candle and a glass of water at my ancestor altar. A measure of most magicians’ salt: can you manifest your work with those three essentials? If not, there may be a reason why. 

Photo by Nickola Mirkovic on Unsplash

Never take for granted that we have our Dead watching over us. They can see clearly what is needed and what is not. Too many consider magic the cheat codes for life. It isn’t. It is a source of active participation in fate. But it cannot negate fate. And why should it? We are inseparable from our fate. We would not be who we are without it. So why fight it? I’ve read enough Greek tragedy to know that is not the way. God is good, and has ordained our fate. Working alongside God in the fulfilment of our fate is the highest good one can do.

Maria, thank you so much for sharing your spiritual story with us.  There is a lot of information to unpack here, in all of its colorful and vibrant complexity.  If our readers have questions about the information shared here or would like to book a reading with you, how shall they contact you?

Instagram – @rootedstarsastrology

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