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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The First Spirit

One thing that comes up in traditional systems of witchcraft and magic is the idea of introduction. Either a spirit or another magician, perhaps even some event, that introduces the magician to the spirits with whom he will work. Spirits are often approached in some sort of “spirit court” or a group of spirits with which the magician and his family or his fellow magicians work. Even magicians who don't work in that context will often talk about “my spirits” or the spirits with whom they have a working relationship. Even looking at the grimoires, particularly the personal miscellanies which survive, we find descriptions of handfuls of spirits with whom the magician worked for various purposes. More sweeping systematic grimoires often have larger lists collected together as if to be comprehensive, and of course some miscellanies have large collected lists, and some systematic texts only have a few. But most magicians will have a core group of spirits they work with, even in the large lists we see a lot of spirits that do the same or similar things. We see spirits which have structural elements for ruling and summoning other spirits or facilitating other spirit magic. While there are an array of spirits which need to be part of our world, we don't necessarily need to be in contact with all of them all the time, and we don't need to necessarily conjure every spirit under the moon.

So how do we know who to talk to? How do we approach our group of spirits initially? How do we transition from one to several?

Jake Stratton-Kent has done a lot with advocating for the return of the intermediary spirit to modern ceremonial magic and spirit conjuration. He has pointed to this being an element of the Grimorium Verum which is lacking in other grimoires but likely points back to older magic not necessarily recorded in the grimoires themselves. He has also presented a way of working this into modern ceremonial work by preserving Scirlin's function in his Goetic Liturgy system. As to intermediaries or introducing spirits being a part of traditional magic, we can see signs of this in the Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyrii, so it is a fair assumption that this occurs in older magical systems. We also see it in living sorcery traditions in the Caribbean. To some degree the Abramelin operates in this way, the angel granting authority to call the Kings and the kings then introducing the rest of the spirits...but arguably this is working through a hierarchy rather than an intermediary.

The Testament of Solomon is probably the easiest clear example of such a thing existing in a source that directly feeds into the Solomonic literary tradition. In the Testament of Solomon we see the presence of thwarting angels, or angels who can be called upon to subdue unruly demons. This can be cited as existing in earlier magical systems and we see it echoed if not outright present in some later grimoire traditions. We also see the archangel Michael present Solomon with a ring and with the divine authority to command spirits. These two features are the ones which are arguably familiar with grimoire magic in a ritual sense, and otherwise the book is largely like a spirit catalogue presented in a mythological form.

A significant component is the introduction to the spirits. Michael doesn't bring Solomon a demon, or introduce him to a spirit. Michael gives him tools and authority. Solomon encounters the spirit Ornias because Ornias is harassing a boy whom Solomon cares for. He naturally experiences a supernatural event which creates a spirit encounter and he then uses his position to compel that spirit to introduce him to other spirits and learn how to command them.

This is the clearest example of an intermediary. The spirit introduces Solomon to the ruler of the infernal spirits and is used by Solomon to call upon the spirits. Ornias is sometimes associated with Oriens; there may or may not be a relationship. In the Clavis Inferni Oriens is given as Urieus, and in the Testament Ornias says that Uriel is his father. Ornias is given as a spirit of the East in the Hygromanteia and in the Testament he falls under the sign of Aquarius linking him to the East and the element of Air. In Livre Des Esperitz Oriens is given as the first spirit of the group of spirits following the chief spirits. Part of his office is to bring the other spirits to the magician. This is of course the function Ornias serves in the Testament.

Whether Ornias or Oriens are related or not it still illustrates for us that the spirits may be encountered by way of introduction. Clearly magicians also just conjure spirits. But developing a relationship based on the existence of a pervasive and developed spirit world which surrounds us and is part of our lives allows magic to be interwoven into everything. In a world where spirits maintain their existence and work regardless of our psyches, while they might work with us when we randomly call them up, it's an easy assumption to think things with personalities might not just jump all in for any stranger that beckons. So a spirit who can be like “Hey, here's my bro, get to know him, he might need your help sometimes” can be a useful ally.

I posted about this concept previously in my spirit conjuration guide. But there I talked mostly about picking a spirit based on that function, like for example crossroads spirits. Here I want to talk about your “first spirit.” You first spirit is a spirit you're able to encounter and naturally develop a relationship with, not necessarily one whose job is introductions by way of his ordained function. For me when I was a very small child, about three, the spirit of one of my grandfathers came to me. I didn't understand who it was at the time, just that he was a spirit who cared about me and would help me when I needed it. When there were other more problematic spirits he helped me navigate them and avoid them. When I got a little older he helped me with meeting nature spirits and starting to learn magic.

When people ask me about how to learn witchcraft my first thought is to tell them to go meet some spirits and ask the spirits to teach them magic. That's really at the core of witchcraft. We have some of our access to magic because of our connection to our ancestors and the spirit world connections they can broker for us. Certain ancestors will connect with us because they cared about us in life. Others maybe because of some circumstance. Either way, they make for the easiest spirits to build a natural relationship with. The initial one you connect to can help connect you with the other ancestral spirits, and the overall group of ancestors can back you up in your work with the spirit world and help you negotiate relationships with spirits.

But maybe you haven't encountered an ancestor. Maybe you have to reach out and work to make contact with them. You can pick a person you knew, or maybe someone you've heard stories about. Or maybe your first spirit doesn't have to be an ancestor. Emma Wilby in Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits begins the book by recounting the story of Bessie Dunlop, a 16th Century Scottish Witch. She worked her magic by way of a familiar spirit, not one of her ancestors but the spirit of a dead man she encountered one day. The story implies that the spirit needed help with issues with his family and used his relationship with Bessie to resolve those issues. The relationship was formed because of a mutual need for aid. Your first spirit can be a spirit you encounter where it needs to encounter you just as you need to encounter it. The world has an abundance of spirits, so it's a matter of being able to make contact and be aware of them, but it's also important to be cautious to ascertain the nature of the spirit and the relationship being formed.

Aside from spirits of the dead, faeries are a traditional familiar spirit for witches. Exploring encounters with the fair folk can also be a way to obtain a first spirit, and traditionally faeries have connections with the dead and with those spirits more commonly conjured in the grimoire systems, so they are positioned traditionally to broker those connections and aid in teaching magic. The familiar spirits given to witches in the trial accounts often seem to be fairies rather than the demons inquisitors wanted them to be. Even the Black Man who gave witches their familiars had a relationship with the Elf Queen. The overlap between the fairies and other spirits shows up in Reginald Scots's compendium of spells. He explains that magicians might make pacts with condemned criminals and then raise their spirits, creating a rather natural first spirit encounter since the encounter is prearranged while the person is living. The spirit of the dead can then go find one of the primary sisters amongst the seven fairy sisters, Sibilya, and retrieve her so the magician can make contact.

So maybe you don't know any condemned criminals, or dead people, or ways to find fairies. Nature spirits may be the easiest to approach in this case. The first spirits my First Spirit introduced me to were nature spirits, and nature spirits were the first spirits to teach me any magic. They mostly just concern themselves with their natural functioning and so what they want in the relationship is less of an issue. They will mostly also just teach you about magic of interacting with them and related nature spirits. Depending upon their function they may or may not be particularly helpful in navigating other spirit conjuration, but they can be helpful as companions and in dealing with basic areas of life and house holding. To clarify these nature spirits are not necessarily fairies.

With them being the easiest to connect with, they're the easiest ones to give examples of how to approach them, and familiarity with working with them could at least build the skills needed to bridge into openness to encountering other types of spirits. Sarah Ann Lawless has recommended that a witch should go into their environment and just introduce themselves to the local spirits. I think this suggestion is a great way to start. Maybe add to it making some small offerings, milk, corn or some sort of meal, honey, flowers, or a little shrine. None of those things will necessarily introduce you to a spirit but they might start building a relationship where the introduction could be a little easier.

A next step might be putting yourself in a place for the encounter. When I was entering adulthood I wanted to further explore hereditary witchcraft and began working with a woman I had met who married into a family that had their own magical practice. The beginning of witchcraft for her was “becoming a good animal,” which involved becoming in touch with your surroundings, the natural currents, and the spirits that were there. The first step to doing this was to just go sit outside and be open. Look, listen, breathe, and observe; feel. If you don't have a natural propensity to seeing or observing spirits, and no spirit has naturally approached you, and you have no dead folk to reach out to, but you want to dip your toe in rather than go the conjuration route right away, this may be your entry point. Introduce yourself to the spirits of your back yard. Make some offerings, go out and say hello periodically, and then, like a good animal, get to know your surroundings. Sit and be open to what's there.

So yeah, traditionally, a witch would be able to connect with spirits, a sorcerer would be introduced by the sorcerer initiating him...but, maybe you don't have either of those as an option. Maybe no spirit has naturally approached you and so you've got to take it upon yourself. If you've been sitting on the sidelines waiting to figure out this whole spirit magic thing, start with your dead, and if you have no dead, start with your back yard. Build a relationship that can help build your confidence in spirit communication, and can also help create a position in which you're more ready to meet more spirits.

If you've already jumped in and work with spirits, maybe revisit who the first spirit you worked with was. Was your first encounter a natural one, maybe even one not connected to your magical practice now? If so maybe it's time to look at why you had that encounter and whether or not that spirit should have a place in your work. If your first encounter was a spirit you conjured, why did you start with that one? Was there a good relationship, and do you still maintain it? If you don't still work with that spirit should you touch base and maybe see how they fit into the rest of your model?

In the end it kind of depends upon you and your situation. Maybe the encounter that introduced you to spirits just served to show you spirits are real and you should learn magic, but it did so because the encounter was awful. Maybe that's not a spirit to go pursue looking up. Kind of like people in our lives. Sometimes those foundational people stick with us, sometimes they drift out and reconnecting would be good. Sometimes they're gone and it's good they're gone, but reflecting on their impact can still tell us something about where we are now and maybe help us plan for where we're going. 

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Bealtain - Thoughts and a Ritual

A lot of people on Facebook have been posting about their “Beltane” activities, and much of it has to do with debauchery, outdoor sex, dressing up in costumes, may poles, and various European folk customs, many of which are maybe medieval, probably Renaissance, quite possibly not Pagan. This is fine, I guess. This is what Neo-Pagan Beltane involves. That and sacred sex festivals, and adult themed Neo-Pagan gatherings. Being a traditional guy, I like something more traditional, and would assume other traditionalists would too. 

Fortunately this year I'm seeing a lot more people also posting about Walpurgisnacht. That I can get on with a little more. But I'm curious about what people are doing to that end and how they're connecting with traditional European witchery.

I was asked tonight what I'm doing. And what I'm doing is nursing an injured hand, and resting after a long day of coaching my college kids in their local conference championship, which involved another first place victory for one of our women, a third place finish for one of our men, and me becoming a Vice Commissioner and taking on organizing a new division of the conference. So...yeah, long day, witchery and such will have to wait til later, as it's 11pm and I'm just settled and home after leaving at 5:30am.

That said...I probably won't engage in much witchery. I grew up connected with Paganism (was not raised, but began exploring around age 11), not as much Neo-Paganism, but more traditional and reconstructionist varieties. I guess what people would be calling polytheism these days...though I'm not sure I'm ready to join in with that as a movement. So, Bealtain is still one of the holidays I enjoy.

It's kind of like second Samhain. Samhain marks the beginning of one of two seasons, the Winter, and Bealtain the beginning of the second, the Summer. Both involve the extinguishing and rekindling of the hearth, and both involve the division between this world and the next becoming thinner. So it is a holiday that lends itself to witchery, but can also have more communal components, and components that connect to house-holding in a way which is a bit different in my view than witchcraft.

For me I suppose it kind of serves as a maintenance point, which being part of my religious apprehension, isn't necessarily part of my witchcraft or my magic, but underlies it because in reality, religion isn't separate from anything else in life, and if you're a witch you simply are that so it is interwoven into everything, and magicians should also integrate their magic into the rest of their lives. So the division I guess is one of how I approach what I'm doing and what I'm focused on rather than a division in how it affects me and my life.

It isn't so much about magic as it is about relationships and stopping and resetting.

I connect with the parts of the world, I acknowledge the gatekeeper, I connect with my gods, and my ancestors, and the land spirits – both accepting the aid of the beneficial ones and paying off the not so good ones. I make offerings, and I chill with my ancestors and relax and reconnect. As I mentioned in my last post on the dead, this part of the relationship with the dead, while magical, isn't magic, I'm not trying to accomplish something, I'm visiting my relatives, being comforted by their company and letting them be comforted by mine. They just happen to be relatives who don't have bodies at the moment.

In my particular case Bealtain is about a week before my father's birthday, and Samhain is a little over a week before his Greater Feast, so these holidays also mark the times of year for me to connect with his spirit especially.

But yeah, a point to touch base with your spirits, help them feel good and connected to you, and you feel connected to them, and highlighting your relationship with more global and local spirits is work witches and magicians need to do. The easy access to the dead and the land spirits during this time of year makes it natural for this to be a significant witching holiday. It's basically a time of year where nature makes witchcraft more easily accessible even to those who wouldn't normally be witches. No wonder it is a traditional night for spirit contact and meeting the Black Man or the Queen of Elphaim.

Anyway...not particularly witchy, but simple household Paganism...or just simple household is my Bealtain ritual, the words anyway, you can figure out where to maneuver offerings, and when to walk perimeters and such pretty easily from the words. This will be part of my observation this week, along with some work with land spirits and some visits with my ancestors.


I stand upon the land, beneath the sky, before the sea.

By this good fire, may the gods be present and may I know their presence always.

Praise first I give to Manannan who opens the ways between worlds. Though the gates are open this night, your aid and guidance deserve praise.

I offer this fat and blood of the mighty cow that its smoke may rise and please the gods.

I offer this oil to the gods below that they might enjoy it and it may please them.

I offer this drink to my ancestors that they may be pleased with it and be pleased with me. Especially...may I receive their guidance and their aid with an open heart.

I offer this bread to the spirits of the land that they may be friendly to me and keep away all destruction and befoulment from me, my family, and my property.

Let fall away the dark and cold of winter, let the good fire bring the light of summer and all the good therein.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Do You Have Any Dead People?

I have a friend who occasionally asks me questions about magic. While talking the other night when we got to the subject of conjuration he noted that he didn't really feel he had the position or connections to get heavy into spirit work yet, and so I of course asked “do you have any dead people?” I think a big hurdle for people with ancestor work is needing to have someone die. If you're not brought up in a culture of acknowledging your ancestors, it might be a little foreign to think of if you don't have your own dead people. In any case, he responded with a few questions about necromancy and the religious affiliations of the dead. Now the great thing about him asking questions, is I'm rather fond of him and enjoy talking with him, and so I tend to answer his questions by rambling out short extemporaneous essays...which...sometimes become blog posts. So what follows is me being pretty candid about different elements of different modes of work with the dead, with some of it expanded or clarified. I hope you enjoy it and it's useful to you.

I run a bit beyond the questions, but what kicked if off was essentially this:

Concerning necromancy, what's your opinion when it comes to dealing with ancestors who in life would be completely opposed to the idea of magic and especially necromancy? Do you think those feelings would continue after death? Or do you think the rite of passing itself would distance them from their worldly dispositions and opinions? Or even simpler they'd have no care for religious matters?”

So there is a bit to unpack there...first...necromancy...and ancestors...and the rights of spirits to have opinions...

If you're working necromancy, it can often be more coercive, but doesn't have to be. So it depends a bit on the spirit and the relationship. If it's a random dead person then their views don't matter so much. If it's an ancestor that you're contacting through more necromantic means then you might use a method familiar to their religious view out of respect and to help maintain the relationship.

To really answer these questions we have to look at the particular sort of relationship we're dealing with. I would distinguish between necromancy -- ancestor work -- ancestor worship

Necromancy is ritual magic where you conjure and empower the dead with life and magical force and request that they perform tasks or provide information you need. Alternatively you can descend to the underworld to speak with them. But necromancy is largely associated with raising the dead because its mode of spirit magic involves bringing them into this world and feeding them with elements to enliven them to bolster their ability to interact with you or perform tasks for you.

A lot of time you'll use gods or spirits to exert authority, such as requesting access from Hades and then commanding that spirit in Hades name, or in a Christian context perhaps using Azazel. Similarly you might make a pact with the dead. You could gain access, feed them, and then ask them to do something with the offer that you might do something else for them or continue feeding them. Reginald Scot gives examples of procuring a pact with a dead person and then sending that now bound dead spirit to fetch and command other spirits for you. All of this falls under necromancy.

Ancestor worship is performing rights to honor the dead, or having meals with them to maintain a relationship so they look out for you and don't fuck shit up for you. A lot of traditional religion and magic recognizes that restless dead can be problematic and so you recognize and make offerings to them to help keep them from messing with you, or maybe to purge out missteps you've engaged in which might bring their ire. This is a sort of pagan version of “cooling the dead,” not so much removing the suffering or torment of purgatory, but soothing the difficulty an impact of being dead and displaced. There is a similar component with ancestors who have gone on to where they need to be. Ancestors want to be part of the family, they don't want to be forgotten, and they want to help their family continue well. But they also don't want you to do stupid shit, or mistreat what they've left behind. Ancestor worship maintains and strengthens the bond between living and dead members of the family so the dead ones stay happy, retain power and influence, and focus on having your back.

In my view ancestor working or ancestral magic is somewhere between ancestor worship and necromancy and has elements of both, but it also drops features from each. For example it isn't coercive like necromancy but it isn't passive like ancestor worship either. It kind of looks like ancestor worship but with a more direct expectation that they will help with specific things you ask for, introduce you to spirits or help keep good relations with you and spirits, assist in your magical work and maybe help guide spirits to outcomes you need. So you build a relationship like in ancestor worship and empower them like in Necromancy and they look out for you like in ancestor worship but they also do specific stuff for you like in Necromancy.

But the interaction differs, at least in my view. Both in terms of methods and the way each one feels as far as the interaction with the spirits.

Like when I work with my dead, I make offerings, set lights, ask Charon to bring them, and thank them for stuff and ask for any help I need. If I want their help in magic I tell them what spirits I'm working with and ask them to help and maybe explain how. Alternatively I might call on them before beginning a conjuration or magical rite and ask for them to assist. Or I might leave a tool or object on their altar and ask for their blessing or empowerment before I use it for magic.

When I do necromancy it's got a more intense flavor. There's libations poured out on the ground, coins thrown into cross roads, chthonic gods called with Orphic hymns, maybe stuff involving blood and meat, or food abandoned in the night. Going to places where people died or where the dead are resting, or other liminal places at liminal times.

If I'm honoring an ancestor for like a birthday or holiday it's kind of like having dinner with them and is pretty laid back, and can also be pretty personal and emotional. There's some prayers and then we eat and I tell them what's new in my life or other family members. We maintain a familial relationship and connection the same way you would with living relatives, you basically visit with them, and keep them feeling like they're part of the living family.

Ancestral magic is kind of the daily traditional household magic, necromancy is intense goetic sorcery, and ancestor worship is visiting the dead for thanksgiving style catching up.

As to the religion thing...if they're Christian none of this will be familiar to them. Except in some traditional folk Catholic contexts, but anyone who is a product of a few generations of life in America as a Christian probably wouldn't die with the expectation that their relatives do this stuff. But once they're on the other side...maybe.

So I don't think it matters because for MOST people I don't think their expectations impact their afterlife. They get their and they find out what's what. At least the part of them that remains as that person continuing on.

If they weren't magical you probably want to talk with them about magic first and make sure they agree to help you with magic before you call on them to help with magic. You could still call on them to look out for you, and help you fix problems in your life. That's a little more of a hit the ground running kind of thing than being like “Hey, Aunt Judy, I know you didn't do magic...but I'm going to make this sweetening jar and I need you to help empower it, and maybe introduce me to a spirit who can help accomplish it's work.” I feel like it's like talking to a living person. You don't want to catch them off guard with a request. But just because it might catch them off guard if it wasn't discussed before that requests like that might happen, doesn't mean that they won't be cool with the request if they know it's coming. Make some offerings, have a conversation with them about the relationship you want, and what kind of help with magic you will want, listen for what they're cool with too, they should be talking back, it should be a conversation. Let them know you'll be working magic and you want them to be a part of it. I think most will be ok with that. Since you talking to them is kind of magic already.

But that said, they keep their opinions and ideas, at least on some level.

Like not 100% but if they were about helping people they still are, if they were about what's yours is yours they still are. Like basic core elements of how they saw things. But family is also important to them and contact and interaction and offerings and physical stuff, because that's what attaches them to our world, so it helps them maintain a piece of that existence. Even if it wasn't stuff that they'd be into when they were alive, the elements of this connection should become important to them now. But their thoughts and feelings and personality should also be similar to what it was in life.

These offerings, and this relationship isn't just important to them though, it should be important to you. It strengthens them to help us. So if you want the relationship to be useful to you this stuff needs to be there.

But yeah, as far as whether or not you need to call them within the context of their religion. Call them under the power of the gods who rule the world of the dead. They live in their kingdom now, whoever where their gods when they were living, the gods of the land of the dead are their gods while they're dead.

Unless it's like a Saint or a Blessed. If you're asking one of them to be in your ancestor court they're specifically empowered by Christian ritual and belief already. So it's like working with a god or mighty dead spirit from a religion, you contact them within that religious context. Part of what you're drawing on is the power associated with their religious role, so call on that within the context of that power. They're built into a different spiritual structure, and you're not working on the personal identity of that individual so much as that identity empowered with a religious iconography and spiritual power fed by a tradition of religious veneration. You're approaching a legend as much as a person.

So Azazel, Azrael, St. Peter, probably St. Christopher, St. Cyprian, St. Benedict, maybe St. Nicholas or some Saint associated with the dead or funeral customs would be the authority or the gate keeper, or assisting spirit to call upon when trying to access the spirit of a Saint or Blessed canon figure to work with in the context of your ancestors.

Otherwise, regular dead people, call them how you'd call them and talk with them about what you'd want and see if they're good with it.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Magic is the Bee's Knees, and Mysticism is All the Buzz

Before the days of well, actually, well after blogger existed, but before I used it since I'm technologically like a decade behind...I would occasionally do a Facebook note. This one popped up from a memory today. It was kind of a neat moment which has been referenced a bunch of times in recounting my experience working the Abramelin. My recollection was that the incident with the bee happened early on, but I guess it was towards the end based on this date. 

April 13, 2010 at 12:49am
I was in my oratory this morning and had just finished doing my new morning ritual set (the closing from The Ship, a six-fold intonation of the Tifaret Hierarchy, Resh + Adoration, The Headless Invocation, A Solar Salutation, and the Prayer of St. Francis.)

During the headless invocation I heard a whirring and thought I saw a darting but figured it was my imagination as it was early.

Then during a modified solo-version of the Mass a bee began to crawl across my altar down the center of the cross pattern on the middle to the apex of a triangle on which sat my new gold ring, which had arrived Friday as I was heading to Minervals and which I had just consecrated last night.

The bee crawled to one side of the ring, then the other then the front and then curled up inside and rested there throughout the rest of the Mass.

Bees themselves having a certain solar symbolism, I took it at first as a reason for trepidation but then as a sign that the solar presence was made manifest and was further consecrating the ring. I noted, to the bee, upon leaving the oratory that when I returned I would need to take the ring so as to have it engraved and upon my return the bee had vacated to another part of the altar. It reminded me a little of an odd experience I had with a bee about ten years earlier shortly after beginning work with my mentor.

I am thinking I might keep the corpse of the bee (as it of course died during the course of the day, having been unable to escape) and place it on the center piece of the cross on the altar as a talisman of the dying god, whose death gives way to the elevation of the soul of the mystic in his union. Any thoughts? 

Monday, March 27, 2017


Christopher Nolan's amazing film Inception presented an interesting idea. A world where we could use science to probe into the minds of others and explore their dreams in order to find information we want. The “heroes” of the film are contracted to engage in an act of inception, a theoretical technique of implanting an idea in someone's dreams so that they believe it is their own idea rather than an idea with foreign origin. Most people working in their field, and most people in general assume this is impossible, but the main character, essentially a psychonaut, has explored the deepest depths of the unconscious mind and its dreamscapes and understands inception not simply as a theoretical reality but as a possible act which he has previously achieved.

This film presents some ideas of interest for us as magicians. Is it possible to take information from the mind of another? To explore their dreams? To implant an idea into their minds? What are the implications of these various possibilities, which very much seem at the center of sci-fi and fantasy fiction regarding magic and psychic powers?

As a boy, the first witchcraft my father taught me, and the act which I think is central to witchcraft, was that of bewitchment, or enchanting a person or animal by gaze in order to affect them. One of the first books I read on witchcraft as an adolescent talked about this idea and called it “mind bending” and described methods for inserting small ideas into people's minds. For the most part most books on witchcraft and magic don't really address this idea though. I am, perhaps sadly, not going to focus directly on the simple method of doing this today, but rather some ideas around magic intended to impact others.

Visiting dreams comes up in some traditional sources. It can go hand in hand with both pulling information or putting thoughts into someone's mind, in a fairly intimate way. Some elements of dream travel connect to some of the ideas we're going to discuss about influence. We're also not going to get too much into the mechanism of entering dreams though, at least not today. We're also not going to talk much about taking info from someone's mind, as in my experience, it's the hardest of these three things...and it's not really part of today's topic, which is about sensibly constructing an approach to affect others by moving past their resistance to the goal presented.

My mentor once wrote about becoming the historian and its usefulness for a magician. What he meant by this was that by attending to details and remembering the specifics of all manner of events with a high level of consistency people will rely on your ability to recount events. People will trust your memory of what happened, perhaps more than their own. There are several sources of power in this. One is growing an understanding of the movements and currents which shape events by seeing details and learning patterns. This can then be used to shape events by making decisions about what to do, or what to manipulate as events unfold. It also creates a position of influence in which you can shape the way people remember events as they begin to accept your knowledge of them more than their own. You can usually only subtly shape their view of what's happening, and your shaping has to prove out in a way that matches to the way events continue to unfold. With this can also come a level of trust in your ability to interpret situations. Creating this sense of being an authority and what has happened and what will happen trains people to accept your thoughts and ideas with less resistance.

Now this isn't simply a matter of creating a position where you can lie to people, although some people may use it as such. It can be a position where you can inspire and direct even if you focus on using true things that people may see or not see on their own. The essential component is overcoming the initial instinctual response to resist those things another person suggests.

While this might sound like social engineering...and on a level it is, there is a magical component to this as well. Your voice, your presence, even on a magical level, have a certain feeling to them. Even non-magicians will have a sense of that. If that voice or presence is one they accept then creating some sort of inspiration is easier because they are willing to accept that influence.

Willingness is another component. Not just being a force they recognize and accept, but allowing the opportunity to consent to influence. Draja Mickaharic in his works on magical and mental influence provides the advice that you should ask the mind to permit you to enter it. If you're trying to connect to someone through dreams, or trying to sense some information from them or impress some thought upon them, it becomes much easier if their mind gives you permission. Your mind simply has to take a moment and ask.

Not to get all chaos magic...but the parts of the mind being approached in this kind of work are not the conscious persona of the individual so much as unconscious and pre-conscious elements and therefore there is not the individualistic decision to retain a pure mental space. A gentle “hey can I come in?” makes it a lot easier to interact with someone than trying to force your way in and fight any resistance they have to thoughts and ideas that feel foreign.

Not feeling foreign can help too. Think about how that person feels when you interact with them. Think about their voice, not just its sound but its feeling, how they speak, what they say, and what it reveals about how they think, feel, and perceive themselves and the world. The more you can make the communication of your idea feel natural to them, the more it will feel like their own, or at least like an acceptable part of their complex of ideas and actions.

A lot of magicians aren't much for exploring ideas of psychic contact and interaction. There's a bit of a line there where some people engaged in work with psychism don't cross over to more obvious magic, and some magicians dismiss the idea of psychic phenomena or direct mental influence. I'm not advocating that anyone believe in the ability to read minds or implant thoughts through any sort of direct mental connection. Nor am I advocating that anyone engage in such work.

But some spell work we do, some ritual magic we do, does involve influencing or impacting people in ways which would be easier if we addressed how thoughts and ideas and goals work for them. You want a promotion so you do a working for your boss to think of you as the best candidate, but what does that mean to your boss? Does your boss even want the best candidate? What does your boss want or need in the situation? Say you call on an angel to inspire your boss to promote you but the area in which the angel works doesn't fit the job, or doesn't jive with your boss's humors? Say you dress your resume in a magical oil to attract your boss to it, and he reads it a bunch, but he doesn't like it? Understanding the situation and its components will allow you to understand how to shape your work and your goal to be well received by the situation.

Maybe your boss has someone in mind for the position, and your work does a great job making your boss think you'd be great for it...but his mind was already made up before you did anything. Maybe the decision isn't your boss's and you don't know that, so you make him think you're a great candidate...but it would've been better to do a working to fill his mouth with sweet words about you so that he makes others think you're a great candidate.

Analyzing our goal and doing a working we're comfortable with isn't always enough. Sometimes we have to work in a way which fits a situation, doesn't create new resistance, and avoids existing resistance.

Certain political magic that recently made the news was a good example of doing all of that entirely incorrectly, specifically from the angle of creating resistance both from the target and the target's supporters by highlighting the magical act. I don't think the target chosen there was even the best target.

In my view, a rather obvious example of working within the situation, feeling familiar instead of foreign, and avoiding resistance would look like this. Say a person of influence was about to make a decision, and part of that person's influence came from the appearance of being a good Christian, and the person's supporters were largely also good Christians. But people fear a choice that person might make. Say that choice, ironically, seems obviously at odds with Christian values and the teachings of Christ. The easy allies to call upon to lead the influential individual to our desired choice are Christ, the Saints, and various holy powers of Christianity...which...have been used in magic since they arrived on the scene. Rather than fighting the idea, or fighting the person, or seeking to curb their power...let Jesus talk them into being a better Christian. What I mean here is, rather than try and force them out of power, or force them to do something they don't believe...make them live the beliefs they claim to hold, because they're already open to that influence.

Spirit magic could be used to send inspiration, or simply use a petition paper with a Sacred Heart candle and an intention that Jesus warm their heart towards a more loving and Christ-like decision. This would be a way of working that speaks to the target and bypasses any attempts by prayer warriors to resist.

But again, that's just one example of this sort of thinking. In Inception their target had mental constructs built to defend from foreign mental influence and the psychonauts had to finds ways to evade them to achieve their goal. This is something we encounter throughout all areas of life, not just magic. We want something, someone else wants something else, we have to come to a place of compromise, or a place where they decide what we want is what they want, or at least is something comfortable and familiar to them.

So take a few steps in your work to bypass roadblocks. Open your work by calling upon the soul or mind of your target and asking them to be open to what you're working or sending them. Or give them some talisman whereby accepting it accepts such influence. Then work in a way which communicates a goal in a manner that they can accept, and that will feel natural to them. Where possible work with spirits and spiritual forces well suited to them, either by character/humor or familiarity.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

The First Lesson

I was doing some work with Hekate recently, asking her to teach me more about herself, and about magic and witchcraft in general. It was interesting that she did not present to me anything I expected in response to me asking. She, instead, told me that I already understood enough about her, for the moment, but I needed to understand why I wanted to learn magic and what I wanted to use it for.

I've written before about knowing yourself, figuring out what you're doing and why. I've been in groups where I've been encountered by questions about myself and my goals as tools of initiation. I've been doing magic since I was a small child, studying it since I was about 11 years old, so here, 24 years in, it felt really weird to be asked by a Titan to examine myself and answer what was the point in doing magic. Because of course when a god asks you a question like that, it's not so much being asked a question as much as it is being forced into an immersive mental space where you're confronted with the ideas, and concepts of the questions and your own perceptions.

This kind of mental juxtaposition can be useful for opening a student, or ourselves, to truly exploring things beyond our current conceptions. When I get a new student in fencing who has fenced elsewhere this is similar to how I start their first lesson. I'll ask what their favorite fencing move is, and what technique they are best at, and what they're worst at. A lot of time our favorite thing and our best thing are different, even if we assume they're the same, and sometimes our worst thing is not as bad as we expect. Frequently once we start the lesson we start to unravel their perception about their relationship with these actions. We find the good things in what they thought they were bad at, the bad things in what they thought they were good at, and what about the thing they like best makes it their favorite and how we can make it better. This helps a student gain confidence as they begin with a new teacher because it shows them value in the teacher's ability to probe and develop. It also shows us that we have things we need to learn even in the areas where we thought we were solid.

This can be important for magic too. Sometimes we kind of coast through, reading books because they seem like they're cool topics. Doing rote rituals because we were told do them. Pray prayers because the words should reach out to things we think we'll want to connect with. Purpose helps make all of this more meaningful. And when we explore our purpose sometimes we have to realize the purpose we thought we had isn't real, or at least, isn't the ultimate purpose.

We might say we want to do magic to learn to talk with spiritual forces, but why do we want to talk with them? We want to learn things from them, but what do we want to do with that knowledge? Maybe we want to understand the hidden workings of the universe, but beyond reflecting on its beauty what do we intend to do with that? We might say we want it to make change in the world, but what changes do we want to make? Why do we want to make them? What do we want to do after we've made them? We might want to develop ourselves, make ourselves better, more complete? But do we do it to become more powerful? What do we do with that power? Do we do it to heal ourselves, and make ourselves more complete humans? What do we do with our more complete selves? Do we want to ascend and become saints in the heavens? What will we do from that vantage?

That paragraph was bad writing...but it illustrates a point which is much more easily explored through active immersion in the question. Any end we consider may be taken further, because our experience is not so finite as the end we think we are seeking. Why are we seeking that end, what is its more ultimate expression? We have to deeply know ourselves, and deeply know our work in order to explore further and truly understand.

Once we understand, it can open us up to a different sort of power and a different sort of development. One where through understanding ourselves and our relationship to magic more deeply we can hone in on how we're using it, and why, and what we're learning. One where we stop hampering ourselves through the falsity, or at least incomplete nature, of our assumptions.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

A Faery Story

Today is, as you probably already know, St. Patrick's Day, so, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona. I'm not a fan of wearing green plastic, or hanging out with cups of green beer, and Padraig doesn't fit into the Saints with whom I work in my ancestral work. So I didn't have any thought towards posting for St. Patrick's day. But yesterday I saw Rune Soup had posted a link to some resources on faeries, and today a Tata I know posted another faery article, and they caught my eye as faery work is something I've been researching a good bit lately. So far I've collected multiple grimoire sources spanning about 800 years and representing about four or five countries, not counting some of the folk and grimoire examples which may or may not be about faeries (like in in Cyprian). Then there are the witchcraft examples which seem to bridge between the traditional faery lore and the ceremonial magic forms. When I'm through some other projects I'll be putting out some material on faeries in traditional ceremonial and grimoire magic, and eventually I intend to look at the transition and relationship between the traditional cultural sources and the later magical ones. For now though...posts about other stuff...hopefully slowed down by writing some non-blog stuff too.

But since there was some other faery stuff that popped up, I figured I'd share one of the faery myths I've enjoyed since I was a kid. Here is a translation of it by Kuno Meyer. Another source that I find useful for myths of interaction with faeries, which gives some discussion of how people initiated interaction if The Tales of the Elders of Ireland. Pretty different than the witchcraft and the magical sources, still a good read. Anyway I hope you enjoy your St. Patrick's Day and the story of Nera.

The Adventures of Nera
translated by Kuno Meyer

One Halloween Ailill and Medb were in Rath Cruachan with their whole household. They set about cooking food. Two captives had been banged by them the day before that. Then Ailill said: ‘He who would now put a withe round the foot of either of the two captives that are on the gallows, shall have a prize for it from me, as he may choose.’

Great was the darkness of that night and its horror, and demons would appear on that night always. Each man of them went out in turn to try that night, and quickly would he come back into the house. ‘I will have the prize from thee’, said Nera, ‘and I shall go out. Truly thou shalt have this my gold-hilted sword here’, said Ailill.

Then this Nera went out towards the captives, and put good armour on him. He put a withe round the foot of one of the two captives. Thrice it sprang off again. Then the captive said to him, unless he put a proper peg on it, though he be at it till the morrow, he would not fix his own peg on it. Then Nera put a proper peg on it.

Said the captive from the gallows to Nera: ‘That is manly, O Nera!’ ‘Manly indeed!’ said Nera. ‘By the truth of thy valour, take me on thy neck, that I may get a drink with thee. I was very thirsty when I was hanged.’ ‘Come on my neck then!’ said Nera. So he went on his neck. ‘Whither shall I carry thee?’ said Nera. ‘To the house which is near­est to us , said the captive.

So they went to that house. Then they saw something. A lake of fire round that house. ‘There is no drink for us in this house’, said the captive. ‘There is no fire without sparing in it ever. Let us therefore go to the other house, which is nearest to us’, said the captive. They went to it then and saw a lake of water around it. ‘Do not go to that house!’ said the captive. There is never a washing- nor a bathing-tub, nor a slop-pail in it at night after sleeping. ‘Let us still go to the other house’, said the captive. ‘Now there is my drink in this house’, said the captive. He let him down on the floor. He went into the house. There were tubs for washing and bathing in it, and a drink in either of them. Also a slop-pail on the floor of the house. He then drinks a draught of either of them and scatters the last sip from his lips at the faces of the people that were in the house, so that they all died. Henceforth it is not good [to havel either a tub for washing or bathing, or a fire without sparing, or a slop-pail in a house after sleeping.

Thereupon he carried him back to his torture, and Nera returned to Cruachan. Then be saw something. The dun was burnt before him, and he beheld a heap of heads of their people [cut off] by the warriors from the dun. He went after the host then into the cave of Cruachan. ‘A man on the track here!’ said the last man to Nera. ‘The heavier is the track’, said his comrade to him, and each man said that word to his mate from the last man to the first man. Thereupon they reached the sid of Cruachan and went into it. Then the heads were displayed to the king in the sid. ‘What shall be done to the man that came with you?’ said one of them. ‘Let him come hither, that I may speak with him’, said the king. Then Nera came to them and the king said to him: ‘What brought thee with the warriors into the sid?’ said the king to him. ‘I came in the company of thy host’, said Nera. ‘Go now to yon­der house’, said the king. ‘There is a single woman there, who will make thee welcome. Tell her it is from me thou art sent to her, and come every day to this house with a burden of firewood’.

Then he did as he was told. The woman bade him welcome and said: ‘Welcome to thee, if it is the king that sent thee hither’. ‘It is he, truly’, said Nera. Every day Nera used to go with a burden of fire­wood to the dun. He saw every day a blind man and a lame man on his neck coming out of the dun before him. They would go until they were at the brink of a well before the dun. ‘Is it there?’ said the blind man. ‘It is indeed’, said the lame one. ‘Let us go away’, said the lame man.

Nera then asked the woman about this. ‘Why do the blind and the lame man visit the well?’ ‘They visit the crown, which is in the well’, said the woman, ‘viz, a diadem of gold, which the king wears on his head, It is there it is kept’. ‘Why do those two go?’ said Nera. ‘Not hard to tell’, said she, ‘because it is they that are trusted by the king to visit the crown.’ ‘One of them was blinded, the other lamed’. ‘Come hither a little’, said Nera to his wife, ‘that thou mayst tell me of my adventures now’. ‘What has appeared to thee?’ said the woman. ‘Not hard to tell’, said Nera. ‘When I was going into the sid, methought the rath of Cruachan was destroyed and Ailill and Medb with their whole household had fallen in it’. ‘That is not true indeed’, said the woman, ‘but an elfin host came to thee. That will come true’, said she, unless he would reveal it to his friends. ‘How shall I give warning to my people?’ said Nera. ‘Rise and go to them’, said she. ‘They are still round the same cauldron and the charge has not yet been removed from the fire.’ Yet it had seemed to him three days and three nights since he had been in the sid. ‘Tell them to be on their guard at Halloween coming, unless they come to destroy the sid. For I will promise them this: the sid to be destroyed by Ailill and Medb, and the crown of Briun to be carried off by them’.

[These are the three things, which were found in it, viz: the mantle of Loegaire in Armagh, and the crown of Briun in Connaught, and the shirt of Dunlaing in Leinster in Kildare.]

‘How will it be believed of me, that I have gone into the sid?’ said Nera. ‘Take fruits of summer with thee’, said the woman. ‘Then he took wild garlic with him and primrose and golden fern. And I shall be pregnant by thee’, said she ‘and shall bear thee a son. And send a message from thee to the sid, when thy people will come to destroy the sid, that thou mayest take thy family and thy cattle from the sid’.

Thereupon Nera went to his people, and found them around the same caldron; and he related his adventures to them. And then his sword was given to him, and he staid with his people to the end of a year. That was the very year, in which Fergus mac Roich came as an exile from the land of Ulster to Ailill and Medb to Cruachan. ‘Thy appointment has come, oh Nera’, said Ailill to Nera. ‘Arise and bring thy people and thy cattle from the sid, that we may go to destroy the sid’.

Then Nera went to his wife in the sid, and she bade him welcome. ‘Arise out to the dun now’, said the woman to Nera, ‘and take a bur­den of firewood with thee. I have gone to it for a whole year with a burden of firewood on my neck every day in thy stead, and I said thou wert in sickness. And there is also thy son yonder’. Then he went out to the dun and carried a burden of firewood with him on his neck. ‘Welcome alive from the sickness in which thou wast!’ said the king. ‘I am displeased that the woman should sleep with thee without ask­ing’. ‘Thy will shall be done about this’, said Nera. ‘It will not be hard for thee’, said the king. He went back to his house. ‘Now tend thy kine today!’ said the woman. ‘I gave a cow of them to thy son at once after his birth’. So Nera went with his cattle that day.

Then while he was asleep the Morrigan took the cow of his son, and the Donn of Cualgne bulled her in the east in Cualgne. She [the Morrigan] then went again westward with her cow. Cuchulaind over­took them in the plain of Murthemne as they passed across it. For it was one of Cuchulaind’s gessa that even a woman should leave his land without his knowledge. [It was one of his gessa that birds should feed on his land, unless they left something with him. It was one of his gessa that fish should be in the bays, unless they fell by him. It was one of his gessa that warriors of another tribe should be in his land without his challenging them, before morning, if they came at night, or before night, if they came in the day. Every maiden and every single woman that was in Ulster, they were in his ward till they were ordained for husbands. These are the gessa of Cuchulaindl. Cuchulaind overtook the Morrigan with her cow, and he said: ‘This cow must not be taken’.

Nera went back then to his house with his kine in the evening. ‘The cow of my son is missing’, said he. ‘I did not deserve that thou shouldst go and tend kine in that way’, said his wife to him, On that came the cow. ‘A wonder now! Whence does this cow come?’ ‘Truly, she comes from Cualgne, after being bulled by the Donn of Cualgne’, said the woman. ‘Rise out now, lest thy warriors come’, she said. ‘This host cannot go for a year till Halloween next. They will come on Halloween next: for the fairy-mounds of Erinn are always opened about Halloween’.

Nera went to his people. ‘Whence comest thou?’ said Ailill and Medb to Nera, ‘and where hast thou been since thou didst go from us?’ ‘I was in fair lands’, said Nera, ‘with great treasures and precious things, with plenty of garments and food, and of wonderful treasures.’ ‘They will come to slay you on Halloween coming, unless it had been revealed to you’. ‘We shall certainly go against them’, said Ailill. So they remain there till the end of the year. ‘Now if thou hast anything in the sid’, said Ailill to Nera, ‘bring it away’. So Nera went on the third day before Halloween and brought her drove out of the sid. Now as the bull calf went out of the sid, viz, the calf of the cow of Aingene (Aingene was the name of his son), it bellowed thrice. At that same hour Ailill and Fergus were playing drafts, when they heard something, the bellowing of the bull calf in the plain. Then said Fergus:

I like not the calf
bellowing in the plain of Cruachan,
the son of the black bull of Cualgne, which approaches,
the young son of the bull from Loch Laig.

There will be calves without cows
on Bairche in Cualgne,
the king will go a . . . march
through this calf of Aingene.

[Aingene was the name of the man and Be Aingeni the name of the woman, and the appearance which this Nera saw on them was the same as that which Cuchulaind saw in the Tain Bo Regamna.]

Then the bull calf and the Whitehorn meet in the plain of Cruachan. A night and a day they were there fighting, until at last the bull calf was beaten. Then the bull calf bellowed when it was beaten. ‘What did the calf bellow?’ Medb asked of her neat-herd, whose name was Buaigle. ‘I know that, my good father Fergus’, said Bricriu, ‘it is the strain which thou sangest in the morning’. On that Fergus glanced aside and struck with his fist at Bricriu’s head, so that the five men of the draft-board that were in his hand, went into Bricriu’s head, and it was a lasting hurt to him. ‘Tell me, O Buaigle, what did the bull say?’ said Medb. ‘Truly, it said’, answered Buaigle, ‘if its father came to tight with it, viz, the Donn of Cualgne, it would not be seen in Ai, and it would be beaten throughout the whole plain of Ai on every side’. Then said Medb in the manner of an oath: ‘I swear by the gods that my people swear by, that I shall not lie down, nor sleep on down or flockbed, nor shall I drink butter-milk nor nurse my side, nor drink red ale nor white, nor shall I taste food, until I see those two kine fighting before my face.

Thereafter the men of Connaught and the black host of exile went into the sid, and destroyed the sid, and took out what there was in it. And then they brought away the crown of Briun. That is the third wonderful gift in Erinn, and the mantle of Loegaire in Armagh, and the shirt of Dunlaing in Leinster in Kildare. Nera was left with his people in the sid, and has not come out until now, nor will he come till Doom