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Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Not (Just) a Beginner Book

           Before posting announcements about my new book, Familiar Unto Me: Witches Sorcerers and Their Spirit Companions, my last blog post was about intermediate and advanced books and training.

          People often bemoan the lack of advanced books on magic and NeoPaganism. It's easier to write beginner books, and with a beginner book, you don't have to wonder if people will have the background to understand or use what you're writing. It's still important to have books that move out of that beginner comfort zone.

          In my post on intermediate and advanced materials, two of the options for advanced work and advanced material were either perfection of basic elements or in depth focused exploration of a specific subject.

          Familiar Unto Me falls into the latter category. The text covers just about everything you could cover on familiars and treats ideas often related to familiars. We look at practical elements, the nature of the idea and the nature of the relationship. We explore the history of ideas and beliefs that build a worldview in which familiar spirits can exist. We look at several options for acquiring them across several different approaches to magic. We look in depth at a particular case of a group working with a familiar, and we look at how familiar spirits can tie into efforts to create new living traditions of spirit work.

          It is a deep dive that covers a broad range of elements of a specific topic.

          So the book is well suited to intermediate and advanced audiences because of its thorough treatment of a singular topic. It can also be useful for beginners, not necessarily people reading their first book or two, but people who are starting off and figuring things out. Exploring specific topics in depth can still be useful and interesting in that phase. This will also introduce a lot of more intermediate concepts, ideas, and practices, which will give readers who are still in the beginning phases of their explorations some direction around where to explore. Since it covers a range of traditions, it will still serve the beginner who wants to add work with a familiar to their spiritual experience.

          It does not introduce beginner techniques. There is no grounding or shielding, there is no work on energy, or scrying, or clairvoyance. We don't introduce what conjuration is, or what spirits are, or how to communicate with them. Readers intending to work the material in this book will need some skills and knowledge in those areas. This post will include some suggestions at the end for books which will help establish those elements for people who need them.

          The book does cover all the elements needed to acquire a familiar in several systems of magic, and so anyone with basic magic skills will find a method which is workable for them.

          It also breaks down benefits and difficulties of different types of spirit work. While this is an underexplored discussion, it's important, and well suited to intermediate practitioners trying to decide what directions to focus on. This will also be useful in guiding beginners who are starting to explore spirit work.

          The wide range of perspectives addressed and the far reaching depth of exploring every corner of the idea of familiars means the book has a wide range of audiences it can serve, but will also have material that just isn't for some of its readers. Hopefully, people will appreciate the thoroughness and enjoy the parts that are relevant to them, and find interest in looking at approaches outside of their practice. With this wide range, while the book serves advanced and intermediate practitioners, it has a lot to offer for those starting their journey as well.

          If you find yourself looking for an introduction to some of the elements and skills that underlie this book and the practices contained, here are some options. You don't need all of these. Most readers will be ready to pick up Familiar Unto Me and just run with it, but if you're feeling like you need some more background, any one or two of these will probably close the gaps.


The Sorcerer's Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magic by Jason Miller - a general introduction to the skills and practices of modern sorcerers


Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits by BJ Swain - includes introductions to scrying and spirit conjuration and explains a wide range of spirits and how to work spirits into practical magic


Seven Spheres by Rufus Opus - an immersive, potentially initiatic, approach building relationships through spirit conjuration designed to be simple and user friendly. Introduces new students to conjuration and spirit work


Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration by BJ Swain - avoids a lot of theory and ideas and focuses on laying out simple skill building practices to make you more capable at spirit conjuration. Provides a simple system of spirit conjuration. Designed to be able to take a complete beginner through introducing the idea, using preparatory practices, and gathering tools into readiness for their first conjuration in as little time as possible.


Folk Witchcraft: A Guide to Lore Land and the Familiar Spirit by Roger J Horne - a collection of witchcraft folklore and introduction to witchcraft ideas which can be used for building witchcraft practices drawing on historical content and ideas


Consorting with Spirits: Your Guide to Working with Invisible Allies by Jason Miller - This book covers many elements of spirit work and several useful ideas to consider while exploring spirit work. It presents a couple approaches to working with spirits. Many of the ideas and practices here can be pair with approaches to working with a familiar. 

Sex Sorcery and Spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic by Jason Miller - will introduce elements of sexual magic which may help the magician with spirit work and provide more background for those looking to use the sex magic practices described in Familiar Unto Me

Image: High King Margo. From SYFY's The Magicians. Went with this photo because Margo is in grad school for magic, so it fits the theme of intermediate and advanced work...also...Margo is the ultimate bad ass and I'd be honored to have her reading my work on Familiars. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Cover: Arise Witch Queen!


The original draft of Familiar Unto Me looked at basic ideas and practices, but didn't explore the history, cultures, mythologies, and folklore related to those practices. When I decided to explore those things it led to a lot of opportunities for interesting research and presenting interesting information and conclusions.


The book is kind of like three, almost four, books in one. The first part discusses familiars more generally. It presents some options from a traditional witchcraft and grimoire perspectives for acquiring familiars and how to work with them.


Part two dives into folklore, history, and mythology in depth. It works to look at ideas that existed in Northern European myth and folklore that present a worldview in which the idea of a familiar spirit could exist. Then it looks at how these ideas relate to practical work.


Part three discusses how a magical lodge obtained and worked with a familiar spirit. This becomes the back drop for looking at how familiar spirits and spirit possession fit into building living traditions of spirit work. It also lets us look at the place of these kinds of traditional spirit work in Victorian revival magical systems, and presents practical methods drawn from those systems for traditional spirit work.


The text covers a very complete range of material and addresses working from various approaches to magical work.


The original draft mentioned figures like Isobel Gowdie and Andro Mann. When I was editing, I was surprised how little I talked about them. This contributed to my decision to explore more folklore and history; I wanted to lean into their stories a bit. There were a lot of other figures and ideas to talk about as far as evidence of early modern beliefs surrounding the witch's familiar goes, some of them were more germane. But, Gowdie is one of the main figures people think of regarding historical accounts of familiars.


When I was considering possible cover motifs, Gowdie again sprang to mind. As the cover came together, it became suggestive of an idea that I really liked.


The lowest layer of the cover is an image from Edmund Spenser's 16th century text, The Faerie Queene. It depicts a beautiful woman with a spear, in a strong and commanding stance amid the trees and long grasses. A man, who appear nervous, looks on as he hides behind a tree.


A middle layer is formed from the text of Gowdie's confession as recorded in Pitcairn. The text describes the familiar imps and the nicknames the witches in the Aulderne coven had received.


Arising from Gowdie's words about witches and faery imps is the image of a strong commanding magical woman.


This seemed like an interesting and powerful composition.


Gowdie's confessions are popular because they have so much detail. They are elaborate confessions, spanning four instances, in which she describes not only what the witches accomplished but the details of their spirit interactions and magical techniques.


Some people look at Gowdie as a hero for witches. Her coven stole from the wealthy, killed nobles who abused the people, and provided a means of power for people who were otherwise poor and downtrodden. She has become a Scottish Folk-version of Aradia in the minds of many modern witches.


For others, she is a tragic example: a young woman we know nearly nothing about, except that she was taken into custody on the accusation of witchcraft. She may have been tortured, she may have been killed; the details of her experience aren't clear and so those elements are uncertain. What stands out most to those who don't like the idea of Gowdie being treated as a powerful witch figure, is that we don't know what motivated her confession. Was she a clever person spinning up magistrates who she knew would convict her regardless of what she said? Was she a delusional person who, driven by suggestibility, imagined vivid hallucinations that fit the desires of her accusers and led her to confess to things which damned her?


We don't, and can't, really know. Critics seem at odds with taking Gowdie's account as being a partially accurate description of her experience, but that is also a possibility.


I think it's important to consider the struggle Gowdie, and others like her, probably encountered. It's valuable to consider that their confessions may have been fabrications caused by a variety of motivations. There is value in considering the possibility of delusions, although a surprising number of people would have been subject to the same delusions, in that case. There is also a value in considering the possibility that these people were witches or magicians and that their confessions reflect their reality as seen through the blurred and dirty lens of a court stenographer's biases.


The cover art reflects that.


Our powerful magical woman both arises from and is obscured by the words which are present. The words reflect the plight of being caught by witch finders because they are sourced from a trial transcript, but the words, themselves, describe the wondrous visionary experience of these witches. The words are obscured, illustrating the fact that trial evidence simultaneously reveals and obfuscates elements of early modern popular magic and witchcraft. Taken together, there is a struggle between the words, the image, and the presentation itself, as each strive to become the central element defining the visual composition. That struggle is like our inability to determine the actual nature of these experiences, even as they draw us in and cause us to look deeply at them to ascertain what they can reveal. Ultimately, through the various pieces, regardless of what the reality was, we are able to see hints that cause us to imagine a woman of power and resistance, birthed from faery magic. We imagine Gowdie as someone who is fit to stand in the presence of the Faery Queen, and whose soul might have descended into the sidhe and barrows to become a magical equal with their powerful residents.


When I think about the cover art, this is what I think about...and I find it exciting. Between those covers, stories, folklore, myths, and history describe a world of exciting magic and spirit experiences sandwiched between descriptions of how we can be part of those same experiences. Hopefully, for those who desire it, this book will help them descend into the world of faeries, imps, and demon companions, and arise as someone able to work magic with their aid, and learn from their knowledge, until they too are competent to dine with the Faery Queen and the Witches Devil as welcome guests, empowered with the tools to navigate such spaces.


Follow on Facebook for more announcements, and info on the release of Familiar Unto Me: Witches Sorcerers and Their Spirit Companions, as well as blog posts and other items of interest! The book will be out sometime around the middle of this month, possibly a little earlier. The paperback may be as early as February 12th on Amazon with a hardback edition about a week later, and on Barnes and Noble the paperback and hardback are scheduled for approximately February 20th. 



Thursday, February 2, 2023

Announcement: Familiar Unto Me: Witches Sorcerers and Their Spirit Companions - Soon To Be Released


Well, it was about a year ago that I thought I would be releasing this book and my book on Witchblood, but, the extra time has turned Familiar Unto Me into a much more substantial book that has been more thoroughly researched and presents copious additional material and many added avenues of practice. 

I released the finalized table of contents this morning for Familiar Unto Me. Here are the table of contents, the potential back cover description and the description that will be used on Amazon. 

I hope these get you excited for the book. I'm excited for it. Watch this space, and the Glory of the Stars Facebook page for announcements. My anticipation is that it will become available in the next couple of weeks. (The Witchblood book will be the next project I'll be finishing, so follow along for updates on that too.)

Back Cover Text

"Spirits abound. Through most of human existence, humans have recognized that we share a living breathing world with a multitude of embodied and disembodied life. Magic teaches us to go to the places of spirits and entreat them, and to call them to us and bargain with them. But what about the spirits that remain close with us?

 Familiar Unto Me seeks to fill the gap in modern magical literature surrounding the ubiquitous but underexplored phenomenon commonly referred to as the familiar spirit.

 Join us as we explore the basic ideas surrounding what a familiar is, how to acquire and care for one, and how to work with one in magic. Then we will journey through mythology, folklore, and history to explore ideas about familiar spirits. We will look at novel contemporary ideas that have linked to the concept of the familiar spirit and by unpacking how they differ from the folklore which inspired them, consider how they can give us new and additive ways to explore magic. This will lead to a detailed exploration of a magical group's work with their familiar spirit and look at the place of familiars in modern magic.

 Ultimately, our journey will provide you with the tools needed to acquire a familiar and develop a deep and powerful relationship. It will also set you on the road, should you so choose, to exploring how spirit work, and positive possession can contribute to birthing a new living spirit tradition of magical work from the surviving strands of European magic.

 The text presumes you have the essential skills of spirit work. It provides the myths, folklore, and history it discusses in detail for those who may not have as thorough exposure to it. It presents nine rituals and describes a tenth. The rituals are presented with detailed analysis. The text provides options for grimoire magicians, traditional witches, NeoPagan witches, Pagans, and ceremonial magicians."


"The familiar has been a staple element of the image of the witch for centuries. Despite its ubiquity in folklore, art, books, movies, and television depicting witches and magicians, familiar spirits are an under explored element of modern magical literature. Familiar Unto Me changes that by presenting a comprehensive look at familiar spirits.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One introduces and discusses the concept of the familiar spirit. The basics of acquiring, maintaining, and working with a familiar are presented. Considerations for planning your own rituals for obtaining a familiar spirit are discussed, and example rituals are presented. The focus in part one is familiars for witches and sorcerers; the defining elements of each approach to magic and how it impacts acquiring a familiar are discussed.

Part two explores the concept of familiar spirits in Pagan and NeoPagan contexts with a focus on mythology, faerylore, and the history of the familiar in trial evidence and folklore. Copious descriptions of myths, folktales, and faery stories are presented along with detailed exploration of historical figures, literature, and folk beliefs to paint a picture of the worldview and history of ideas surrounding the familiar spirit. Contemporary approaches to working familiars, fetches, and fylgjur are discussed and analyzed along with traditional lore to explore new and innovative magical concepts adjacent to the familiar spirit. Methods for acquiring a faery familiar are discussed along with the presentation of an early modern ritual for encountering a faery queen.

Part three explores the adventure of a group of magicians acquiring a familiar spirit for their lodge. It presents the rituals, details of planning and execution, and a discussion of the experience. This exploration becomes the basis of exploring the role of familiars, and positive spirit possession in contemporary revivals of magic as a path towards creating living spirit traditions rooted in historical European magical practice, informed by the wisdom and experience of living spirit traditions in the Americas. Part three also explores often overlooked role of spirit magic in the Victorian magical revival and the evidence of sex magical practices related to familiar spirits. Rituals for an elemental lover round out the collection of rituals.

The text provides nine rituals. Two of the rituals are presented with variants for the elements so that the magician can work directly and conveniently from the book. An additional traditional ritual is described and analyzed in detail along with comparison to a description of the ritual in a folktale. Each ritual has either some analysis of the ritual, explanations of why it is designed the way it is, or discussion of experience executing the ritual.

The book discusses spirit assistants from antiquity through today. Modes of working for grimoire magic, traditional witchcraft, NeoPagan witchcraft, Paganism and modern ceremonial magic are all presented or discussed."

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Where are all the Intermediate and Advanced Books? What even is intermediate and advanced...?


          Sometimes, my friend likes to look at reviews of my books. Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 on Amazon, I feel pretty good about that. There are a lot of reviews I'm pretty proud of. I watched closely when the book first came out because it was new and I really wanted to see what people thought. I try to check still sometimes, I appreciate the reviews and would love if more people who liked my books reviewed them. A lot of the time now it's my friend who brings them up. He's been popping over to scope them out off and on for the last two years. He's not a magician, but he finds the reviews interesting and will comment on ones that seem odd. Last night, he brought up one that I don't think I'd noticed before.


" I haven't finished the book yet. I am only on chapter 7 but already feel like some of the information is a tad bit hard to retain because it's so detailed. This is definitely not a book you can just pick up and read straight through. I do think the author has alot of knowledge on the subject and I like that there are rituals listed"


          He felt like the review, which gave the book 4 stars, basically downgraded it for not being a beginner book. 4 stars isn't bad. In a world of actual ratings, 4 out of 5 isn't bad, in a world of algorithms and statistics, yeah, everyone wants as many fives as possible. I like the content of the review though. Having rituals is good, author has lots of knowledge, and it's very detailed. The draw back, it's not really an easy read for someone beginning to explore this and you have to take your time reading it. That, can still a good thing depending upon the goal of the book.

          I kind of like the idea of Living Spirits as a semi-intermediate book. It grew from a series of posts introducing concepts and approaches to spirit work. It formed into a book as I expanded, reassembled and added to them in order to create an explanation of a worldview, and approach to that worldview, and serve as a kind of magical field guide to several types of spirits and spirit-work. It kind of presumes some magical practice and is intended to build a deeper layer for that practice even if it could be approached without that background.

          Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration was written with kind of the opposite intention. Someone who has no magical experience, or who has magical experience but no experience with conjuration or spirit magic could take Luminarium and hit the ground running within a week or so. If someone reading it has magical experience or conjuration experience it tweaks and arranges some stuff in new ways, and short-cuts some things which should hopefully present new ideas to experiment with. It's written more for a beginner with the intention of being used as a handbook or working manual rather than an instructive text, but with the goal of also being useful for an experienced magician.

          I think a lot of magic books feel like they need to be written with the intention of being an accessible how to book that can be picked up by anyone. It makes sense, the market for magic books isn't large, so it's easier to have an audience if every book works for every reader. It's still probably good to have an idea of an experience level in mind, and it's probably good to sometimes have the intention of writing with the expectation that the reader should have some experience. Jason Miller's new book Consorting With Spirits, openly talks about expecting the reader to have experience. I would still feel very comfortable handing it to a beginner and it is a book I'd happily recommend if a friend asked me for books to start with. It's very accessible and it presents ideas that make a good foundation for thinking about spirit interactions.

          My friend's comments that the review sounded like the only issue was that my book isn't a beginner book lead to me talking with him a bit about how "so what do we recommend as intermediate or advanced material?" is a question that gets asked every few months on the magical internet.

          More and more these days people seem to shy away from actual answers. Learning from spirits, or all books are beginner books have become more popular answers. In reality, learning from spirits can also be a beginner activity, and all books don't have to be beginner books.

          I think part of the issue is, as I mentioned, that it's easier to write something accessible for beginners. Partially, because of the audience, partially because we can feel more confident that we're writing something meaningful to that audience. We also don't have to strain our depths as knowledge holders or researchers if we're writing for beginners. Keeping language simple, direct, readable and clear could be something that some people find easier with beginner material, or it could be something some people struggle with regardless of the level of the material. It should probably be a goal even in intermediate and advanced material though.

          I think another element of the issue is "what constitutes beginner, intermediate, or advanced?" There isn't a set firm answer for that. We don't have set curricula for all of magic. As we progress, things that seem advanced to others seem like simple beginner info to us. I was once part of a group where we were doing series of 101 and 201 classes in a local store. We frequently got feedback that the 101 material was much more advanced than people expected in a 101. We thought we were keeping things super basic. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced can be very subjective things. I think this is true in lots of disciplines, not just magic. People want to know what material is really advanced, when often the answer is there is no advanced material, there are advanced approaches to material.

          When I was first getting serious as a fencing coach, or really, a little before I got serious, I put together a curriculum which I thought was basic foil. I told some foilists I could work with them but I could only teach basics in foil since my background was sabre. Later, those experienced foilists pointed out that I was explaining stuff they thought was intermediate or advanced. The curriculum I put together really constituted the bulk of anything anyone would learn while training as a foilist and was sufficient for taking people from beginner to what would be considered an "elite" athlete by some measures.

          I would still say my foil curriculum covers beginner and intermediate material, not advanced material, because there isn't advanced material. Advanced is instruction modifies approach and perspective. Either way, it kind of illustrates how beginner, intermediate and advanced are based on your own self-assessment. I assumed my background in foil was less extensive than it was so I limited my self-assessment to being capable of work with beginners.

          Breaking down my current assessment of beginner, intermediate, and advanced in fencing is pretty simple. Beginners learn to move, they learn basic footwork, they learn the essential concepts and rules of the sport, and they learn simple fundamentals that give them a few basic actions. They have enough to move around and try the sport and fence some bouts.

          Intermediate training is a much bigger range and can have intermediate-beginner, intermediate, and advanced intermediate as subheadings if that's helpful to you.  Intermediate students start learning how to more or less correctly execute and use those fundamentals. They learn some contextual ideas that form basic tactics. They learn a wider range of techniques and that wider range of techniques is what lets you break down those subheadings. Eventually, your wider range of techniques starts to become more about details and variations and more tactical elements of application.

          An advanced student has learned essentially all the techniques. So lessons for an advanced student will often just be very demanding very detailed execution of fundamentals. Advanced students perfect the things they will rely on. They work on determining what techniques to lean into and begin to specialize those and learn to create opportunities to make those specializations more useful. They deepen their tactical and ideological understanding and how to apply that understanding. They might work on filling specific gaps or wholes, but usually with new ways of applying or correcting existing knowledge. Advanced isn't about new techniques or secret moves, it's about going deeper and becoming more perfect with what you already know.

          Magic can be the same in a lot of ways, but it also has some differences in how we might look at concepts of beginner, intermediate and advanced.

          The A.'.A.'. curriculum, and those curricula which led to it and which stem from it are based on this kind of structure. The magician initially learns some basic rituals and meditations, and a lot of basic ideas as a beginner. The intermediate magician puts those techniques and ideas together and contextualizes them in more involved systems of techniques that involve more powerful and effective approaches. The advanced student has learned all the techniques of the system and pulls it all together into a complete understanding of the system and the magical universe which contextualizes it. They express this understanding and let that lead them to a space in which they more deeply engage that magical universe as a context for understanding their work and their existence.

          We don't have to look at the A.'.A.'. or other ceremonial magic systems for that approach to make sense. A beginner in witchcraft or sorcery learns some basic ideas and basic skills. Frequently they learn a few spells or rituals to try out. They get enough of a sense of things to try it out, see that it works, and realize that they want to explore more. They might not even really know what direction they want to take that exploration.

          The intermediate beginner starts exploring different systems and experimenting with them. They try different techniques and ideas and experiment with what suits them. An actual intermediate student might pick a system or two to really study and explore and experiment with and start really diving into or identifying with it. An advanced intermediate student gains real traction and success with that system, and maybe has some fair understanding of a few other systems.

          An advanced student might dive in deep with specific aspects of a system they're working with. They might explore more deeply the development of ideas and practices and what that reveals about how we engage and use them, what they mean, and how to expand them or get more out of work with them. They might be proficient in a few disciplines and begin looking at how those disciplines inform an understanding of each other and how one can innovate and develop better approaches without compromising, harming or misappropriating the systems they're being drawn from. They gain a level of mastery over their system which lets them explore, compare, innovate and create ways in which to engage, use, and teach their system of working.

          When we approach concepts of beginner, intermediate and advanced this way, it remains that there are materials and teachings out there which are good for beginners and good for intermediate students of all levels. Spirits can teach at all of those levels, but so can books and teachers. Throughout the course of beginner through the range of intermediacies there are new techniques, knowledge, interpretations and approaches to learn. As we move into being legitimately advanced, there are still materials which will help, but I would argue that the materials might not be advanced so much as our relationship to how we explore and use them. I suppose some materials might be legitimately advanced on their own though, but would be more inclined to assume certain experiences, lessons from spirits, and maybe lessons from embodied teachers would approach the space of advanced material.

          We can all recognize the types of books that are beginner books. Intermediate beginner books might still kind of look and feel like beginner books to people with more experience. They still go deeper in their knowledge. They present more complex ideas or methods or a more thorough explanation. They might give a firmer basis on which to build ideas and practices. As we get to more legitimately intermediate work then we might start to see more specialization on particular aspects of traditions. There might be more particular information that gets missed elsewhere, more attention to correcting errors and assumptions, or techniques that have more impact or require more experience or attention to explore.

          As we move to advanced intermediate and advanced material we start to move outside of texts that are written for magicians. Academic books, history, anthropology, philosophy, botany, biology, medicine, and more might be things that inform a deeper exploration of more refined technique and refined thinking about the systems and approaches we're using. Some of these sorts of materials might also be useful for an intermediate student. There might also be some practical texts that are useful at these stages because of how specialized they are, or because of how much depth of experience the author communicates within the particular fine tuned area of the subject or system.

          Where particular materials fit in isn't necessarily a hard and fast delineated thing because there aren't set curricula and the way we engage these systems and this information will vary from person to person as well. We might also find books that seem really specialized but are still kind of intermediate-beginner because the author's depth of knowledge or skill just doesn't let it go beyond that point. Thinking about materials from this kind of perspective can also help us evaluate materials. Does something seem like it should be focused and taking a deeper approach and should therefore be more of an intermediate or advanced intermediate work, but the material it provides is still basic stuff you'd find in beginner books, riddled with errors, or just ungrounded speculations? Is it just material that isn't useful because it's the author expressing an aesthetic or an enjoyment of the feelings that something provides rather than practical lived experience with ideas or methods which can have practical impact? Then maybe those books really are beginner books even if they seem more specialized, or maybe they're just not good. Looking at where work fits can help us evaluate it.

          Because there are so many different approaches to magic this model of how we engage information isn't the only way to consider when classifying something as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. One system might be viewed as more advanced than another. Sometimes that is warranted and sometimes it is a misapprehension. Since I came up through the A.'.A.'. system I had an impression that Abramelin and grimoire work were more intermediate or advanced material that needed to be approached once you did the grade work. Now I realize there are more spirit driven approaches which could place this work much earlier in someone's magical development. Some people might say devotional work with spirits is for beginners, where conjuration is more intermediate and things like trance possession are more advanced, whereas other people might have different views because of how their systems approach those things. Differences in point of view and in systems of training can make these classifications harder.

          We might also need to consider the aptitude of the student. Some people are well suited to the most basic and mild systems of magic. Everything they ever explore and encounter might seem like beginner material to other people. This doesn't mean that there isn't some gradation for them as far as the material is concerned. Some of this gradation is a false structuring. For example, it has become popular in the eclectic Wicca community to treat working with deities as an advanced idea that beginners should avoid and should be cautious in approaching. There isn't a good reason for this if you have good material explaining that kind of work. It should probably be one of the first things being explored. It's viewed as advanced because people are told it is, not because they need to work to understand it. In that context, learning a system of divination might be more intermediate because the student needs to expand their grasp of beginner material to understand how divination works, and then they need to learn all the features of the divination system. The need to explore and increase understanding and assimilate a broader range of material might make that a more intermediate study for some people. Many of us might dismiss that as still being a beginner element of work. Maybe for those people who approach it as intermediate, things will click, they'll expand further and their frame of reference will change. It might still be good for us to be patient with other levels of ability and understanding and recognize that there are many framings for these hierarchies of complexity, or more appropriately phases of development.

          All in all, I think modeling beginner, intermediate, and advanced with the type of nuance referenced above where works might fall into different categories dependent on how they're approached or what purpose they're serving is going to give us the most mileage. Acknowledging that particular systems, tasks, or techniques might be contextualized as beginner, intermediate or advanced depending on the student is important too. There is also simple space for saying something like _Wicca: A Guide for a Solitary Practitioner_ is a beginner book, but maybe _Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary_ is an intermediate book (although a beginner book for that particular system), and the entire Brill catalogue could be taken as advanced books. Ultimately, the answer isn't that there is no intermediate or advanced material because no one writes it. The answer isn't that all material is really beginner material - some material would be ridiculous for a beginner, some material could be used by a beginner but applied more reasonably by an advanced or intermediate practitioner. The answer isn't, books are for beginners and spirits will teach intermediate and advanced material. The answer comes down to framing those terms and understanding what they mean. From there we can understand what to look for as we move ourselves, or help move others through those phases of development.

          As authors and teachers we can think about what it looks like when we create beginner material, intermediate, or advanced material. If we have a clear framing we can get closer to effectively building those materials. If we just say "this subject is more intermediate" then, we'll have people who find the subject to still be a beginner subject and others who think its advanced. If we can say "how do I handle this material and who is my audience and what should they get out of it? how should they be able to approach it? who will be able to approach it?" Armed with questions like that we can approach building material that more effectively addresses those developmental phases.


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If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration


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Saturday, July 9, 2022

A Map Without A Territory - Spirits, Time, and Space


          I was talking with a non-magic friend the other day and he asked me about spirits connected to places. The idea of a place having a certain character or spiritual presence is a pretty common one even outside of the magical world. The idea that ghosts attach to particular places is also a common one even for people who have no real experience of the spirit world. Sometimes, we might wonder about spirits which might have broader ranges of activity, or types of spirits associated with a place or a culture. Do those show up elsewhere?

          When we talk about Gods or Angels or Devils there is generally an assumption that they can go wherever. They can hear a call from someone wherever that person is. That doesn't mean there aren't spatial associations with those beings. Angels and Devils have associations with particular directions, particular times, and particular astrological moments. We might expect them to arrive from a given direction. We might expect communicating with them, or getting them to do things in the world, to be easier at certain times. We tend to think of gods as less limited, but in many cultures gods still have homes that are physical places we can go to. Many goddesses are identified with rivers or natural formations. Some gods live in particular monuments or particular land formations associated with their myths. In certain periods of Greek culture, and in early Christianity, this was explained as spirits in service to those gods residing in temples or in physical places and being approached and interacted with as the god, rather than the god itself living there.

          When we look at "small gods" or various other-spirits that we might consider fair-folk or something similar to the fair-folk, the spatial quality becomes more pronounced. Some types of spirits are known to live in houses, some live in the woods, some live in rivers, some live in deserted or unclean places. It depends on the type of spirit but based on the type of spirit they have places they live. While we might recognize similarities between spirits in one culture or another we can also see that the particular "species" or type of spirit differs. Different cultures have different spirits which have their own appearances, ways of interacting with people and their own tastes and preferences. Since those spirits we known by people residing in different places, and those spirits often have particular types of residences in those places we might consider that they have a tie to a particular physical location.

          People who work with the fair folk in diaspora tend to have the opinion that "the other crowd" tends to follow along with their people as their people migrate. If a significant portion of a people travel and explore new places, some of their household spirits might go with them. Other folk spirits who reside near and interact with the people might go along for the adventure, or flee whatever the people are fleeing, and end up in the new place as well. The fair folk are often seen as being closer to people than some other spirits, so the idea that they might travel the world as people do is reasonable.

          Some cultures have spirits who are well established as being tied to particular places. Sometimes it might be a land formation and sometimes it might be a ritual space like a temple. Whether people of the culture believe that the spirit resides more strongly there or exclusively there will vary based on the culture, and possibly the spirit. In some such cases, people will carry direct, or stones, or bricks from the place belonging to the spirit to new places where new temples or shrines will be built. This way the new space has a link to the original place of power and that connection becomes a conduit to make it easier to connect with that spirit. My own work uses this method at times as well, and when we do things in magic with stuff like grave dirt, or water from specific rivers to various churches we're tying to this same idea.

          With these two interpretations we see ideas where spirits might be tied to a place, but have the ability to move, or the ability to extend what constitutes that place. We might also view it as the spirits being tied in part to place, but also in part to the people and the elements of the place and the culture. We'll go a little more into some implications around this in a moment.

          For a lot of magical practice, ideas around the dead seem to be those which could more easily be attached to concepts of time or space. You see some magicians who insist that you can't connect with dead people of even a few decades ago because they have long since moved on. Others claim to read archaic ancestors and paleolithic humans when they do ancestor readings for people. Some say the dead can remain as long as they are remembered, others day the dead are only available briefly, and some say they're available indefinitely. It's possible that one view is right and others or wrong, but it's possible that all of them are right simultaneously despite appearing mutually exclusive. We have to consider the relationship between time and spirit-realities in order to consider how any of these could possibly be true.

          Another area that connects the dead with time is the idea that the dead behave in a manner related to human time, in the sense that they are more or less active at particular times of the day. One system to considering timing of the dead considers death as part of a life cycle. We're born, we reach adulthood, we die, we become an ancestor, we are born. The cycle of life and death moves in a circle like the sun rising, peaking, setting, vanishing and rising again. As our cycle of death and life moves like the sun moves through the day, the world of the dead moves through a daily cycle like the world of the living. We rise, we're active, we rest, we sleep, we rise again. The dead do the same, but when the sun is at its height in our world, it is at midnight in theirs, when it is at midnight in our world then it is at its peak in ours. Thus, the time between noon, and the heat of the day, and dusk, when one rests, becomes the peak of celebration and activity in both worlds. By noon we're well roused, and between about 3pm and 7pm we are free to be active and do things finished with the bulk of our work and not quite ready to settle in for the day. Contacting the dead is easiest in the corresponding timeframe. By midnight they are up and moving, and by 3am they are lively and partying and ready to talk and celebrate with us.

          That view is not the only one that ties increased activity with the dead to particular times of the night. Midnight to 1am and 3am to 4am are commonly thought of as "witching hours" or times when spooky things, particularly activity involving the dead is heightened. Folklore around particularly haunted graves often has the dead of the cemetery gathering at the chief grave site at midnight.

          These times are relatively artificial though. We don't look at them as the dead being more active when so much time has passed between sunset and sunrise, but at particular times of the clock. Around the world, these times of the clock will vary. Do we assume the dead live in parts of the world that have a physical correspondence to our own and so they experience that time of their day when we experience it for our region, and the dead of other regions experience time matched to the people of those regions? I think that would be a little silly and would also require that the dead are spatially tied to the living with whom they interact, that doesn't seem to be the case.

          Even if the dead are not spatially attached to communities or families - since ancestors are able to be called upon remote from where they lived and by their descendants around the world - we can still recognize concepts related to space and location tied to the dead. In many ancient, medieval and early modern forms of necromancy, the grave of the dead person is significant. In contemporary magic, dirt from a grave can connect us with the power of the inhabitant of that grave. The spot where a person died, or the space where they lived the bulk of their life, or a place with an important emotional connection to them, can all be powerful places for calling or connecting with the dead. Remains of the dead, or possessions associated with them also have a usefulness in contacting the dead.

          Spirits don't seem completely bound by time or space or physical concerns, they can be contact throughout the world and more than one person can be in contact with them at once. Time and space still matter though. If time made no difference we could contact ancestors who haven't been born yet. We've addressed several examples where space and time seem to come into play. But for those who exist in a manner which seems to not be limited by our physical experience of space and time, how do we map out the impacts of physical points of reference?

          If we consider all the elements we have discussed, they seem to be about relationship and experience rather than the spirit world having a shape that relates it to space and time in the way our physical reality does. If we consider the spirit world to be shaped by the experiences of spirits and their relationship to other spirits, including embodied spirits, and their relationship to their own histories, then all of this starts falling together. Their relationship to time connects to the spirits who rule particular hours and days, it connects to the experience of time that the spirits they are connecting with - both embodied and disembodied - are engaging. Connections to particular physical sites, or items, or remains, then connect to history, experience, relationship and sentiment rather than to purely where a physical location sits on the map. Spirits move with people not just by getting on the boat as people journey to a new land, but by traveling along pathways of cultural connection and the portability of community bonds.

          It's more abstract than thinking of time and place as being about the physical picture we draw on a map or the physical ticking of the clock. Rather time relates to how experiences play together and feed into each other. Time relates to our awareness of the juxtaposition of activities. Place relates to things we've touched, people we're bonded to, spots where we've walked, objects which share the nature of those people and places. What have we left our marks on, what's left its mark on us, who have we entangled with? We can think of these not just as building a mental picture of connections but as shaping a fluid sort of fabric of being. Like vast objects moving through space warping and re-warping the gravitational field, the shape of non-physical existence can be a multi-phased ever shifting series of interactions and connections allowing multiple moments, spaces, and relationships to overlap because they're parsed based upon experience rather than based on a linear synchronous limit.

          In such a world, spirits can move on quickly, be accessed indefinitely, and strengthened by memory and interaction. Spirits can powerfully reside in a given space and appear in other places which share connections to that space or the people of that space. Spirits can operate when they choose but may have more powerful times for operation, and those times might be accessed based on the experience of the person approaching the spirit rather than the spirit and the person experiencing those times in synchronous correspondence. Direction can be important, because direction is relational, and since we see spirits tied to directions without some ultimate residence that becomes the cardinal defining limit of that direction, the concept of direction only ever exists as a relational origin rather than a localized origin. In other words, you will never be so far west that the king of the west stops being west of you.

          Off the cuff, these concepts can kind of seem like "well, yeah, I guess that's obvious," and to a degree they might be. They're still very different from how we tend to approach the ideas of space, time, contact, and interconnectivity. They imply that connection causes shared space, shared time, and conditions of being in contact that remain in a fashion such that they can be engaged or not engaged without having to redefine physical space but adjust the nature and shape of spiritual space.

          This shouldn't be confused with the kind of modern "time outside of time, space outside of space" approach to magic. Time and space are sacred realities which have gods and spirits which that impact and oversee them. These spirit elements are part of this relational quality and the interconnective element being described. There is a relevance to things like where you are, when you're doing things, what you're holding or touching or doing or saying. The apparent physical relevance might not be the same for you as the nature of how that relevance shapes the spirit experience of space, time and connection. Space and time need specific limiting natures on a macro-physical level. Maybe they get more squiggly on extreme micro-physical levels, but it's not really my place to speak on that. On a broader level incorporating the spirit world time and space clearly don't have the same kind of fixed linearity that defines our experience. Meaning becomes part of the defining character we consider in understanding this broader reality. What is the meaning of the space, what does its reality and nature convey, what are the spirits attached to it. This plays into time, it plays into object, their associations, their form, their powers and their spirits characterize their ability to be active in forming moments and interactions, and this is the shape of the existence that unfolds as things come together to form the meaning that is some particular moment.  

Thanks for reading, please show support by following and sharing. You can also visit our Support page for ideas if you want to help out with keeping our various projects going. Or follow any of the links below.

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If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration


 If you want some help exploring the vast world of spirits check out my first book – Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits

NEW CLASS AVAILABLE: The Why and What of Abramelin 

Class Available: An Audio Class and collection of texts on the Paracelsian Elementals


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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Holy Guardian Angel Resources - 10 Pieces of Free Content on the Sacred Magic

I recently released a class on the Abramelin. You can find that here:

The Why and What of Abramelin

I also did a blog post which explains the class and why it is so affordable and that can be found here:

Accessibility! Or Why Did I Publish Such an Inexpensive Abramelin Class?


But those aren't the only Abramelin/HGA/Sacred Magic resources I've released. I have a lot more free material on the subject available out there too.


I've decided to aggregate some of those things into a post so I can share that and not JUST share the class when people have HGA/Guardian Angel/Abramelin questions.


Here are some options.


Videos and Podcasts


HGA Panel with BJ Swain, Jason Miller, and Rufus Opus

In The Company of Stars Special #1: A Season with the HolyGuardian Angel featuring Sarah Clark


In The Company of Stars Episode #1: Exploring Abramelin and the HGA With Sarah Clark


Blog Posts


Thoughts on the Stele of Jeu - Not specifically Abramelin/Sacred Magic but many people use Stele of Jeu or Samekh in that process and this addresses that

 Touched By an Angel

The Raccolta and the Holy Guardian Angel


Lent, The Holy Guardian Angel, and the Calcination of Failure

 Sex, Your Angel, and Starting the Ritual

Ain't No Holla Back Mystic

A Ritual for the Holy Guardian Angel: The Lamp Upon the Throne

 Hopefully you find this material useful and enjoyable. Please feel free to share this collection. Hopefully if you've enjoyed this you'll also purchase the Abramelin class and direct others who would enjoy it to check it out! You can also check out my Support Page for other ways to show your support for my work. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Accessibility! Or - Why did I publish such an inexpensive Abramelin class?

A few friends have pointed out that I have a tendency to under-price things. This is something that comes up in all areas of my life. It often takes me awhile to feel like knowledge and skills are things I should routinely be charging a fair price for rather than simply offering as a free service. I can understand that I'm very good at something, or very knowledgeable or experienced, and still hesitate about recognizing the monetary value of my work. I think a lot of people run into this, and there are also a lot of people who are the opposite of this.


For magic and religion in particular, my background was influenced by Wiccan and NeoPagan thinking early on, and A.'.A.'. development in my early adulthood. Both of these positions really stress the idea that teaching is free, and people have pointed out that that has to do with keeping these activities amongst leisure classes.


Regardless of all that, that's not why I released an inexpensive Abramelin class. It has nothing to do with any failings I have around monetizing my own value.


1. I want Abramelin to be accessible and have spent several years encouraging people, promoting exploring the Sacred Magic, and getting people to realize it isn't insurmountable. So I like the idea of making guidance on that subject available in an affordable way.


2. I'm recommending that people give money to charity. I hope people who can afford it recognize that the class should have been released at a higher price. Part of the tradition around Abramelin involves charitable giving and charity is important to me. So I'm hoping people will give a few dollars to a charity of their choice since they're not spending the $25 to $50 that classes like this often cost. I won't be doing this with all the classes I offer as I begin offering more classes, but I think I'll continue it with Abramelin classes.


3. A lot of folks try to make Abramelin and grimoire systems seem exclusive and impossible to do correctly and promise to show you how for a bunch of money. I hate that. I think we can make these systems accessible. We can still value our own work and the media we produce to help people, but we don't need to create messages telling people they're failing and our work will save them. If we do that and charge really high prices then that seems even sketchier.


That's the crux of it. A few friends got to listen to the class early because of various reasons. Feedback I got from that was really exceptional. When I posted it, I got the feedback that it was too inexpensive and that people might skip it as a result.


That is obviously a risk.


I hope people take time to check it out and don't assume I'm making it "cheap" because it's "not worth it." I think the class really provides some things to think about that are SUPER important but that are almost never discussed.


If you'd like to check out the class, you can get it here:
The Why and What of Abramelin

If you want to support my work in other ways you can do that here:


If you're looking for a charity to support:

Toys for Tots

GiveWell's Top Charity Choices

But definitely, if you haven't checked out the class, give a quick read to it's description and then consider purchasing it. I think you will like it.



"This class isn't a step by step guide on doing the Abramelin, although, it will hopefully make you a lot more ready to engage the ritual. We talk a bit about why people might avoid doing Abramelin and what the reality is surrounding the various reasons people might think it's too difficult. We run through the Abramelin's value statement and explore what the ritual gives you, what our experience has been and what people have claimed it does to people. We look at how to consider and evaluate these claims. Ultimately, we focus on what it means to do the Abramelin. You're avoiding things and you're praying, but what are you even doing? What is the point of it all? What is the experience you're developing? These are questions people rarely explore, but they're very important for assessing if you should do the ritual and what it is you're actually doing when you do the ritual. How does what you're doing create the experience of the Angel? This question can play heavily into how you approach the ritual and how you finish the ritual. If you're considering doing the Abramelin, or are in the process of beginning it, this class explores things which will be useful for you to consider. Even if you're not exploring the Abramelin, this class will present a lot of things that are useful to think about while exploring on going rituals, mystical and developmental work, and work with your Guardian Angel even outside of the context of Abramelin. We hope you enjoy it.

The class is approx 2hrs long.

We are charging a reduced price for this class because we are committed to expanding access to Abramelin. The Abramelin recommends donating to charity when taking money for the Sacred Magic, in this case, since we're charging a much lower price than is typical for a class, we hope those who buy it will consider donating a few dollars to a charity of their choice if they enjoyed the class."

If you bought the class and enjoyed it, or if you like the approach we've taken here, please share this post on your favorite social media!