The Feast of Adam and Eve

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Happy Feast of Adam and Eve, friends.

Yes, the First Man and First Woman get a feast-day too by medieval European calendricals. With so many winter festivals having a theme of family, or at least of huddling together against the dark, this notion of celebrating our mythic first ancestors seems somewhat apt. There is even some suggestion that the Christmas Tree tradition begins with the Paradise Tree of medieval mystery plays.

The subject of many, many apocryphal texts as well as their (occasionally conflicting) treatment/s in Genesis, Eve and Adam, and the appeal to Eden and prelapsarian conditions have been used to fuel utopian projects of a variety of sorts throughout "Western" history - from conservative patriarchy to a whole host of radical communitarian dreams, and from colonialist expansion into the "New Eden" of the so-called New World, to appeals to the common fraternity and sorority of all humans.

Likewise, many apocraphya detail the harshness and suffering endured by our First Mother and Father once exiled from the Garden, championing the resilience of the human spirit. Grimoiric traditions describe how the angel Raziel (whose name is often translated as "the Secrets of God"), pitying these poor First Humans sent out into the cold of a now-deathly earth, gave them a book of magic to help them as they journeyed through that cold: the Sefer Raziel, a text of various (often astrological) magics.

Being a blog about magic, it should perhaps not surprise readers that we should consider that the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise is a powerful mythic act drawn on in a particular technique of conjuration: the malediction of disobedient spirits. One incantation commands that ‘as [God] deprived Adam from the joys of paradise, and cast him out into the vale of misery from joy to sorrow, from ease to pain, from imperial rule and dignity to bondage and servitude, from life to death and everlasting damnation, so do I deprive thee of all thy offices, rule, powers, and dignities, and I do cast thee for thy disobedience into the dark dungeon of hell under the depth of all waters, into the damnable pit of everlasting sorrow and pain, into darkness without light, into sorrow without comfort, into bondage perpetual, into prison without liberty, where there is nothing but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, where the wrath and curse of God be, and remain upon thee forever’. Crucially, the wider cosmological and eschatological impact of the Fall upon Nature itself, now degraded and disempowered by "Woe-Man" and the sin of disobedience, is similarly employed: ‘As God almighty cursed the earth at the fall of Adam that it lost its former force and strength, so do I in the name of God almighty, by the power that he hath given me, I do curse thee N., that thou also hereby lose thy former power and strength.’ [Book of Oberon, 129]

But the loss of innocence and humanity's ability to destroy A Good Thing Going On are not the only mysteries to be considered on this Feast. One discipline cultivated in honour of Adam and Eve was that of gardening. Speaking of what Charlotte F. Otten calls 'the mystical-spiritual Adamic State’, William Coles held forth that:

‘To make thee truly sensible of that happinesse which Mankind lost by the Fall of Adam, is to render thee an exact Botanick, by the knowledge of so incomparable a Science as the Art of Simpling, to re-instate thee into another Eden, or, A Garden of Paradise: For if we rightly consider the Addresses of this Divine Contemplation of Herbs and Plants, with what alluring Steps and Paces the Study of them directs Us to an admiration of the Supream Wisdome, we cannot but even from these inferiour things arrive somewhat near unto a heavenly Contentment…’ [William Coles, Adam in Eden (London, 1657), ‘To the Reader’. Emphasis added.]

As Philip Almond summarises, ‘to garden was to place oneself, metaphorically at least, in that state of grace which Adam enjoyed before the Fall.’ The theological context was almost unavoidable, as ‘for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the vegetable creation was the meeting ground of Nature and Grace. Plants and poems witnessed to the presence of God in the Garden of Eden, of the Risen Lord in the Garden of Resurrection, and of the redeemed creation in the Garden of Eternity.’ [Otten, Environ’d with Eternity, xvii]. From Gethsemane to Golgotha (and beyond), our First Ancestors' holy duties were best observed in communion and husbandry with the natural world; in its naming, pruning, harvesting, and attending. Adam’s primary tools are – in hundreds of examples throughout his historical depiction and mythical invocation– the secateurs and the spade.

As a serpentine temptation, I would like to note briefly that the figure of Adam at least is also not entirely simply a distant symbol to early modern magicians: for the First Magician appears as a tutelary spirit to Humphrey Gilbert and John Davis in their experiments detailed in the scrying records of their Excellent Booke of Magic. In these Visions, Adam appears and gives the operator and seer concrete advice on how to conjure spirits most effectively. I look forward to being able to talk more about these operations and their significances in the New Year...

To conclude this brief examination of their wider Mysteries, I would like to end by considering love. Adam and Eve are potent ancestors honoured in countless love spells. Representing both the divinely-ordained coupling of two partners in Paradise, and the fiery lust of temptation, seduction and forbidden fruit, the First Lovers have been appealed to in a variety of woks of love: whether for perfect holy matrimony, or diabolically primal fucking. And the term 'diabolical' is not used hyperbolically. In one love spell contained in a seventeenth-century cunning-man's workingbook, a very particular patron is invoked in a working utilising a familiar fruit:

'Write in an Apple before it fall from the tree these 3 words with the blood Lucifer Sathanus Rusal And say Conjuro to porno per omnes damones qui tentaverint Adam et Evam in Paradisa ut quecunque mulier dete gustanerit in amore meo andeat.' (I conjure thee furthermore by all the demons who tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise so that whichever way through you the woman will taste love for me and desire me.) [Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, 307]

Make no mistake, the apple was the fruit of lust and love. As the alchemist Jean-Baptiste van Helmont remarked in his Oriatrike, ‘there was in the Apple, the Concupiscence of the Flesh, an incentive of Lust, a be-drunkening of Luxury for a Beast-like Generation in the Flesh of Sin’. The workingbook of Arthur Gauntlet quoted from above contains at least eighteen subtly different love spells involving apples alone.

In more modern magics, the First Lovers are no longer merely patrons of these kind of erotic dominance works of forcing love or of engendering lusty terrible decisions. In African-American Conjure, Adam and Eve formulae are used for a variety of what might be termed 'couple's love magic'. They emphasise fidelity, faith, partnership and renewed passion. They can also be used in hopes of securing a relationship. These workings are often accompanied by reciting Genesis 2:18: 'And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him', before adding 'bring me one who is destined to be flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.'

The historical considerations and practices surrounding First Ancestors are not above reproach, and have frequently been twisted to support toxic ideologies of misogyny, imperialism, homophobia, and any number of other dogmatic oppressions. To deny this is to be willfully blind. If history is written by the victors, myth is certainly employed by the powerful to maintain their dominance. Yet it is also the preserve of the oppressed, a deep wellspring of ancestry and meaning to draw upon as both a healing elixir and a burning sword. And so, on this Feast of Adam and Eve, I sincerely hope you may find some connection to the First Humans, the First Magicians, the First Gardeners, and the First Lovers that burns away the dross of these impurities - of sorrow, of shame, and of disconnection - and celebrates the fruit of honest passion and egalitarian partnership.