Skimpy attendance at a Northeast Minneapolis magic ritual lodge allows for personalized workshop
The beckoning allure behind the Leaping Laughter Lodge is quickly cooled as one steps through the door, into a room with couches, snacks, and booze. The space resembles a high school hangout more so than a meeting place for those interested in the realm of magic ritual. In contrast to the unusual art spanning the walls, which included bare-chested bestial figures and vibrant depictions of astrological insignia, sat two portly, plainly dressed, ritually seasoned gentlemen engaged in casual conversation.
They were undoubtedly surprised to see two fresh faced college-aged kids in their midst, yet their expressions and attitudes reflected this only momentarily. As in most new situations, curiosity is an attractive force that allowed conversation to flicker from the origins of Freemasonry, to the ritual components of the Gnostic Mass, and to Thelema, a system of syncretic beliefs and practices fathered by the Englishman Aleister Crowley.
Following a half an hour or so of chatting, the four of us moved behind a red curtain into the Lodge proper. A wand and dagger rested upon a podium facing a chessboard-tiled altar. One of the men, Randall, was the first to more or less perform a ritual—though the elaborations were for himself and the constituent forces, rather than those of us observing. He outlined what is known as the Qabalistic Cross, a gesture like the Christian Sign of the Cross, except that the left shoulder is the first to be touched, and the southward point of contact is ominously near one’s private parts. Next came a series of turns accompanied by a vibrating mixture of Hebrew words, and other seemingly occult utterances, capped off by the grandiose tracing of a pentagram in each of the four cardinal directions.
As guests of the Lodge, we were required to participate in one of the rituals, which for us involved mispronouncing the chants and fumbling through the steps. It’s hard to say if we were at all changed, though a hint of satisfaction was gleaned from carrying out the novel task. Both the process and the devotees themselves were neutral and easy-going. All said and done, was it really so different from miming through the Catholic Masses of my childhood, sitting, standing, kneeling, another Sunday of going through the motions?