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Monday, November 27, 2017

Advent: World Wide Anticipatory Participatory Sorcery



Sunday December 3rd marks the first Sunday of Advent this year, which means that today, Monday 11/27 is the first day of the advent season. I like Advent, not as much as I like Lent, but Advent is still pretty cool, because anticipation is a big part of why exciting things are exciting. When we know we have a cool event coming up, thinking about that cool event helps build up to making it amazing. Thinking all day about the awesome dinner you have planned, waiting for the moment when you and someone you like share your first kiss, foreplay leading up to climax, all of those things serve to create the powerful experience of the moment which we anticipate.

Ritual magic can work that way as well. We do a series of actions and we put together various forces, call upon various spirits prepare ourselves, our space, and our tools, and all of it works to create a moment in which we're able to communicate either through a singular action or statement what we want or need. Maybe we perform a Mass and prepare the species of communication, and draw together the forces of transubstantiation and in a singular moment the material is changed and is brought into us to change us. Maybe we're engaging in some Kabbalistic magic and we build a path for the forces of creation by juxtaposing symbols and finally we ground the divine light in a talisman by writing a divine name. Maybe we conjure a spirit, and we bathe, cast our circle, call our intermediaries and gatekeepers, talk to our ancestors and call upon a spirit to accomplish the work we need with the support of these various allies, and we still reach a moment where we explain what we want, offer what we'll give for it, and ask the spirit to go do the work. Everything involves preparation, and with it anticipation of the moment where we make things happen.

With magic we further have the anticipation that occurs between doing the magic and waiting for the result. We recognize the importance of not dwelling upon or obsessing about what we've done and the magic working to make it happen. But we also can recognize the utility of doing things to support our magic. Other related magic, mundane activities related to our goal. Whatever we need to support it getting done. Just like anticipation helps make getting what we want more exciting, the supporting work we do along the way to meeting our goal helps make our goal happen. Either way, while we're waiting, the excitement builds.

Another element of magic is knowing the landscape. We have to look at the various forces at play in the world that affect what we're doing. What are the positions of the stars and planets and how does that impact occult forces? What in my life would make it easy for this to manifest? What would make it hard for this to manifest? Am I willing to accept into my life what I'm trying to create in my life? Are other people competing to get the same thing and can we all get it? Are other people working to support me? Are other people working to stop me? Are their cultural powers at play that make a particular time more powerfully aligned to my goal?

This is where Advent comes into play.

I'm sure a lot of people who read my blog utilize Christian elements in their magic, some might be Christians, some might just use Christian elements of magic. I'm sure a lot of other people who read my blog don't connect to Christianity at all. Regardless of which group you fit into the idea here isn't about engaging in Christianity it's about utilizing a current of force in which countless people around the world are engaging, a current of force which creates a time focused on creation, focused on bringing something into the world. Advent is about anticipation, and maybe most people engaging in it ritually are focused on anticipating Christ, but an unimaginable number of children across the world are anticipating Santa Claus and receiving gifts, obtaining material objects. There's room for anticipating whatever you want.

The season is also set up in a kind of magical structure. You have four weeks, so a week for each element and a day for each planet. So as you work on building your creation you can progress through manifesting the various forces as they pertain to your goal and reflect them cascading into creation as they progress through the elemental worlds.

The first week of is Hope, the second is Love, the third is Joy, and then Peace, finally Christmas is the arrival of Christ.

Hope is the initial stirring towards creation, the beginning of anticipating what we desire. The initial spark of fire that brings forth a concept and begins energizing it into being.

Love draws things together just as a cup begins to coalesce all the attributes and associations of a concept that give it color and sensibility before it is defined into a form.

Joy is the moment of realization that you're coming close to the thing coming into being. It's close enough that you can see it, you can express it, you can name it, you can define it, it's not a stirring anymore, it's not a feeling anymore, it's an idea that you can call by name and hold clearly in your mind.

Peace is the acceptance of a thing, the realization that the thing is coming into being, that moment of settling because you know it's about to be real and you'll actually get to experience it. You've prepared the tray on which everything will be set and it waits for the thing itself which is about to be real.

So you have fire, water, air, and earth. The days of the week are pretty obvious for the planets.

So from there it's just a matter of identifying what you want and understanding the pieces of its processes towards coming into existence. Then you just need a few minutes for daily work to bring it into being and ride the current of millions of people anticipating a moment of creation.


The elemental prayers from Levi, and the Orphic hymns, or Liber Cordis and Liber Lapidus Lazuli are options for evoking the elemental reality and the planetary force and then a simple statement of what you want to bring into being. Possibly lighting a candle and incense. Basically building a current of force towards your goal. Then finally at Christmas perform the actual ritual, in the style of your approach to magic to finalize those preparations and channel that anticipation into creating your goal.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Accuser, The Chariot, and The Magician

Back in April I had a bit of an unnerving day, which involved a bit of magic, and that magic first induced a good bit of panic, and well, frankly, abject terror, eventually more magic made things run smoothly in seemingly miraculous ways. Because obviously, when magic is the thing that made things worse, it's obvious that more magic will make things better? Right? Well...in a lot of cases yes. So I'm going to tell my story, because so far most people who've heard it have thought it was cool, but hopefully it will also illustrate how to simply use magic in situations that arise as well as looking at how more magic can fix magic that isn't necessarily going how you'd hoped.

I, like most Americans, have a car. But, unlike a lot of people, I tend to not think about doing things I need to do for myself or my stuff, or my well being. For example, when I had pneumonia earlier in the year, it took two months of being sick before I went to the doctor because I figured, “I'll get better, and I don't have time to go sit at a doctors office or rest.” I spend a lot of time at work, and then I spend almost full time hours coaching, add to that blogging, other writing projects, the occasional bit of magic, and involvement in the local OTO body and I really don't have much time for me or things related to me. I'm usually pretty focused on the needs of others, or things I perceive as a duty to others and so I often deal with my own life when stuff explodes and forces me to look at it. Hopefully...I'll become more self aware and fix this at some point...anyway, for now, it provides the back drop for this story of magic, nearly crying in bed, more magic, and then success.

So yeah...the car. Well, my car is a 2014. I got it as a birthday present to myself in 2014. It's pretty nice, has navigation, rear cameras, a sun roof the full length of the vehicle, leather interiors...you know, car stuff. But it's a little European car, and it's a slightly larger model of this typically tiny car, but the engine still seems to be made for the tiny version and so it doesn't have a lot of pick up. But apparently it's got a turbo charger...which I didn't know, and those are fragile, and require, well the basic maintenance that normal people usually consider minimal and required.

My oil light was on, and I told myself I'd get to it. Some time passed, and I still told myself I'd get to it, and well the car started telling me to get to it. The pick up felt worse. It felt rough. It was idling poorly. I started to get nervous, and then one Saturday the engine light came on my car which has about 30K miles on it. I was pulling into the lot at work as it came on and thought “crap, I have stuff I have to do this weekend.”

So, I grabbed a bit of paper at my desk and cut it into a square. I drew a hexagram on it and in the hexagram drew the seal of Mars from the Heptameron and then like the seals from the Archidoxes of magic drew the planetary symbols in the points, but ordered such that Mars was crowning the hexagram. I added little crosses to the points like in the Lamen from the Heptameron and then drew a circle around it. I added the God name for Mars as given in the Golden Dawn's correspondences for Gevurah, and wrote the names of Samael, the angel of Mars, Samax who is the king of the aerial spirits ruled by Mars, and Carmax who is one of his ministers amongst the aerial spirits, and amusingly enough is also the name of the place from which I'd purchased my car.

I traced a cross and the sign of Mars above the paper talisman, I prayed the Orphic hymn of Mars and then said a prayer of invocation:

Holy and Merciful God, Lord of Hosts, hear my prayer and send me a good angel to be my aid in all that I ask. Adonai Tzvot I call upon you to send your angel Samael to assist me, and I ask that Samael bring forth King Samax and his minister Carmax that they may grant my requests.”

I felt the presence of the angel and I explained that my car was having difficulties and asked that he direct the aerial spirits to correct any problem so that I could at least get through the various things I had to do that day and make sure the car remained ok until I took it to the shop, and that I would do so the next day.

After work I went out to my car, drove it, and it drove fine. The warning lights were still on, but all the problems seemed to cease. Still, I was worried, and later in the day thought “perhaps if I put the seal closer to the mechanism that would help. So I parked, put the seal in the glove box instead of on the seat, and went into a store. When I came back out and turned on the car, the engine light was no longer on. I thanked Samael and the spirits, and I felt pretty good. I thought to myself how I should work with Samael more often. Normally in the past when I had need of something Martial I would call on Bartzabel, I guess because of my Thelemic background. It crossed my mind that a week or so earlier I had listened to an episode of Charm the Water where Aaron interviewed Diablito from Ordo Al Ghul and they talked about a warning in Ashen Chassen's Gateways of Light and Shadow against conjuring Samael, because, as the accuser he will come and lay out all of your wrong doing and your failures and he will break you down as you will be defenseless against his accusations because you'll see the truth in them. He essentially holds up a mirror of your flaws and forces you to face them. As this crossed my mind I thought “Well that's clearly not true, Samael is awesome.”

I went home, I posted a big thank you to Samael on my Facebook wall. I went to bed.

So, let's pause for the cause and look at what we'd done so far. First, it was a Saturday, but I called the angel of Mars (Tuesday) for magical help in a pinch. Mars rules over chariots, chariots in the ancient world largely being associated with war and battle. So the modern equivalent of a chariot would be a car, and thus Mars is the planetary ruler that oversees cars and other machines of transportation, but does not directly rule travel.

I didn't want Samael to fix my problem...I wanted Samael, to make Samax, make Carmax fix it. I needed Samael involved because he is essentially the governing agent set over that quadrant of creation, but asking the guy who manages the dealership to come fix my car probably won't do much, instead he'll tell the guy who runs the maintenance division (Samax), to tell the mechanic (Carmax) to do it. Another way to look at it is that Samael is an angel, and they are great at giving advice, telling you how to fix things in your life, initiating various powers into your sphere, and generally motivating big picture movements towards manifestation, but, while they can get hands on stuff done, they're not always focused on hands on manifest stuff, and sub-lunar spirits are better at that because they exist in conjunction with the manifest world. King Samax and Carmax being aerial spirits are spirits who are sub-lunar as in they exist within the earthly sphere instead of existing in the celestial sphere, there are references to aerial, and terrestrial spirits, and occasionally aqueous ones, as “demons” or spirits who exist beneath the celestial realm without being themselves infernal. The Theurgia-Goetia refers to aerial spirits as mixed nature, partaking both of good and evil, seemingly with the intention of saying they are partially of an angelic nature and partially demonic...this sort of blending is great for a comic book, but doesn't really fit into the worldview of the late medieval and early renaissance grimoires that predate the Lemegeton. At that point spirits were spirits and where they resided had to do with how they might be called and how they might serve you when they show up, maybe who they answer to, but not all demons who resided beneath the celestial realm were devils. So, consider the aerial spirits as being easy to access since they reside in the earthly sphere, useful for material needs, again because they reside in the earthly sphere, and somewhat morally ambivalent. They also generally arrive on the winds and should be called directionally and preferably in a space with access to air flow, although in my example, I'm at a desk in an office and it worked fine.

The way I called them was simple and unplanned. I didn't fast, I didn't do any special bathing, or put on special clothes. Those things are nice, especially for an introduction. There are various reasons why those things make it easier for you to experience a spirit. But in this case, I didn't have prior work with Samael and was still able to call on him without a bunch of ritual or special prep. Part of this is that I did not need him to manifest in a way where I could see or hear him, and I did not need to be able to have some visionary experience of him. I just needed his spiritual presence to hear a request and aid with it. So in cases like that you don't need nearly as much to accomplish it. Having worked with spirits in his sphere before, having worked the Abramelin, and having spent a lot of time working with angels in general probably helps. But even if that's not the case for you, angels generally are interested in contact if you're earnestly trying.

The prayer was pretty short and wasn't overtly magical. Part of that is influence from the Olympic spirits who all kind of suggest very simple methods of approaching them in my experience, and that of many other magicians I know. But part of it is also drawn from old medieval Catholic ways of working with angels. In Catholic magic a simple prayer to God to send an angel for assistance is normal and doesn't need circles and signs and stuff. In Forbidden Rites it's even noted that sometimes the method of a simple prayer to send an angel was considered acceptable whereas adding in seals and circles would be what crossed the line into “necromancy” and illicit magic. So the simple prayer method is also well attested. In my example you'll note that “Lord of Hosts” or “Adonai Tzvot” is the only “name of God” that I use (unless you count “Holy and Merciful God”). Lord of Hosts is my preferred go-to God Name because, well, it describes God as I understand God, but also it's the most appropriate name from a Merkavah perspective, which definitely influences me. Interestingly enough it's also one of the small handful of names of God which Abraham the Jew says is permitted to use after one received their Holy Guardian Angel and begins to work The Sacred Magic.

I asked for something pretty direct, and I said what I would do if I got it. A lot of times when working with a spirit you'll do this in terms of “if you get the girl I like to talk to me, I'll pour rose petals on your seal and then burn them for you as an incense.” You present an if/then in terms of an offering. That can be a good way to go. Sometimes, angels want to see you fixing what's going on with you. They want you to be your best self. So sometimes with an angel your if/then can be “hey, give me the assist to get through this and I'll do my part to make it better.” In addition to that I went online and publicly praised the angel's work. This is something we see in ancient graffiti, people would publicly thank gods and spirits who helped them achieve their desires. Spirits seem to like good publicity. Maybe it means more people will talk to them, maybe it strengthens their anchor in the world. I don't know. But lots of magicians find it's part of what their spirits want, the ancients understood it's what spirits want, and in my experience it goes over well with them.

So, now that we've analyzed the magic to this point, lets continue the story...

The next day was Sunday. I was supposed to take the car to the shop, since Saturday, everything ran smoothly. Instead, I slept til like 4pm. Now in my defense, normally I sleep like 3 to 5 hours a night, and usually once a week, maybe once every other week, I get a night where I can actually sleep. This had been my first opportunity at any extended amount of sleep for some time. And maybe I got overzealous about sleeping. In any case, I did not fulfill my end of the bargain. When I woke up I tried to. I drove around to a bunch of mechanics shops but they were all closed. Apparently most of them had no Sunday hours, so doing my part would have been tough even if I'd woken up, I did eventually find one that was open though, but they weren't taking anymore work for the day, so ultimately I still missed the mark.

So I figured “Well, when I get some time off I'll take care of this, the seal seems to be working.”

The next morning I got up, got ready for work, hopped in my car, got on the belt way...and found that I couldn't accelerate above about 20 miles per hour. My car was shooting huge amounts of smoke out the back, and it felt like it was going to fall apart when I tried to accelerate. I saw cars driving up behind me and thought “oh crap, I'm going to die if I don't get off the beltway” so I quickly exited, called my boss, and told her I wouldn't be in, and headed for the nearest mechanic.

I pulled into a repair shop up the street from my house, I asked the guy for an oil change and a tune up. He said it didn't make sense that I'd need a tune up. I explained my problem, and admitted I'd missed an oil change, and he said I should take it to the dealer, because if there's a problem, and he touches it the warranty will be voided. I was like “No, I can't make it to the dealer, I have to bring it to you, I understand I'll have to pay.” So he said he'd do the oil change, and he'd fix a light I'd had out for awhile, and he'd see if that took care of it. He also explained that I was wrong about how frequently I needed oil changes, and that the frequency was twice as often as I'd thought, so I was more negligent than I'd thought.

He seemed like a good guy though, I felt like I was in good hands. So I walked home and left him to it. I came back later, and he was done. He told me how hard changing the light was and showed me cell phone pictures. He was cordial and it seemed like everything was going to be ok. Then he was like “So, you'd f-ed.” He walked me over to my car and explained that I'd burned out the turbo charger because I hadn't taken care of the oil. But...he explained it in vivid detail, with lots of curse words. He explained repeatedly how it was entirely my fault, and no one could help me, and that I'd destroyed my car, and at a minimum it would cost me $8K to fix it, each line pretty much included a refrain of how it was all my fault because I'd “f'ed up”. It was the most surreal customer service experience ever. And that was when I realized I was standing in front of a very real manifestation of the accuser.

He suggested I try the dealership. I drove to the next town, went to where I'd bought the car, the trip was terrifying. It drove better than it did before the oil change, I could force it to about 40mph now, but each acceleration gave a puff of black smoke, and if I pushed passed forty is was constant smoke and rattling. The dealership told me they couldn't see me for two weeks, but maybe another dealership that took their extended warranty could see me sooner. I drove home, the car riding horribly. I went up to my room, and laid down for an hour trying to relax to get rid of some of the stress, but the mechanic's explanation of my fault and the problems it would cause me just kept vividly replaying in my head so I couldn't sleep, and I could feel my heart racing as I edged just outside of panic.

I went back downstairs, and I went to my ancestor altar and made offerings and prayed for help. Then I made essentially the same prayer as before, but this time called on Raphael and Tzadkiel.

Making offerings to my ancestors tends to center me, calm me down, and give me strength. When things are bothering me, and I can smell the incense from their altar I start to calm down. Generally knowing they are there looking out for me and helping me is something that helps make me feel good and feel like I'll get through stuff. This is one of the reasons I heavily advocate that people establish an ancestor relationship. Your ancestors can help you with stuff in your life, and they can also help you navigate the spirit world. They can work directly with the spirits you're calling on and make sure they way they are manifesting things is a way which will help you, and having been human, they'll understand in ways other spirits might not. So they can add strength to what you're doing and also clarity to the work that spirits are doing on your behalf.

A lot of the time it will make sense to do spirit work at your ancestor altar, having already made offerings to your ancestors and having invited their presence. But you can also do ritual with your ancestors and then go to your altar where you do magic or conjurations and work their having asked already for their aid, maybe taking some token with you, or you can do your magic, like I did, and then go to your ancestors afterwards for help, like I did. In my case I just made offerings and then asked for help, but you might also bring some talisman or physical element of the magic you're working and leave it on the altar for them to work on. There are a lot of ways they can be incorporated into your work. We often talk about needing them as spirits involved in our magic, but we rarely talk about how to do that in a practical sense. In my case, these methods I've described are how I actively work with them in working magic.

So in addition to my ancestors, I called on Raphael, for the Sun, and Tzadkiel, for Jupiter. Unlike Samael these are spirits with whom I have a long history of work and familiarity. So it's definitely easier to call them with a more present effect using the simple prayer method. In this case I called them at the same time, which I don't usually do, and I didn't use Orphic hymns or seals. Just a prayer to the Lord of Hosts, and this time especially highlighting his Merciful and Loving nature, and also not just asking for good angels...I asked specifically “send your good AND MERCIFUL” angels. Mercy of course being the opposite of the Judgment inherent in Gevurah.

So, why the Sun? The Sun has kind of a magical reset button effect in some ways, it sets things to order. The Sun and Solar Spirits have a lot of cool interesting effects of their own, but in conjunction with other planetary forces the Sun has the ability to set and direct their motion. This is why the Sun is a general force of healing, it creates balance and draws the forces of the body or soul which are misaligned back into alignment. An important part of work in magical development involves engaging this solar principle and learning to use it to give order to the planetary forces as they manifest in your life. This element is also reflected in the relationship between the Abramelin working and the spirit magic which follows it. So in this case I called upon Raphael to create order and direction so that the Martial force would manifest primarily around getting my car fixed rather than around punishing or judging me for any misdeed. I conjured Tzadkiel to add to this balancing effect, since Tzadkiel in addition to the various Jupiterian powers and the fatherly providence and the kingly fecundity which he brings, he also brings Mercy and therefore could stay Samael's hand and cool the fires of judgment. Tzadkiel could also cause those looking at my situation to look upon me mercifully and lean more in my favor than against it.

So having conjured the spirits I explained what I needed and then continued with the day. I decided I would go get lunch and then make the trip to the other dealership, with the thought that the lunch trip could help me gauge my ability to drive more. When I got back from lunch I got the urge to check the mail. I'd just checked it over the weekend, and usually I don't check it too often unless I'm expecting something because usually it's just junk. But I thought “hey, maybe something in there will help things seem more alright.” So I opened the mail box and the only thing in it was a recall notice for my vehicle. Now it wasn't for the turbo charger, it was for the computer, but the glitch caused the car to be unable to accelerate above certain speeds similar to what mine was doing and it talked about the high level of danger this could potentially cause. I took this as a good sign and brought the recall notice with me.

I went to the dealer, explained my problem, and how I'd taken it to get an oil change today, but I'd misunderstood the frequency and I was late on the oil change, enough so that the new oil already looked bad, and that the oil had burned up the turbo charger so it wouldn't accelerate. Then I showed them the recall notice, and said, while it was a different part, it was the same symptom, and I asked if they could be related. The service station clerk said he'd call to see what the warranty could do, and he led me to the waiting room. About forty minutes later he came out with some paperwork and the keys to a loaner car. Three days later, they'd finished taking apart and reassembling my cars front end, and repairing the problems, and I went and picked it up.

The invoice pleasantly had zeros on the bottom. There was no cost. The first mechanic had suggested that maybe the extended warranty combined with the warranty would help reduce the cost but he insisted that the dealer would probably make me pay part of it. Again his estimate was $8K or higher for the work, and since they had to take apart everything, and it took days of work, a high cost seems likely. But in the end it didn't cost anything.

The car was definitely new enough, and with few enough miles that the warranty should have covered this, but I've seen situations where routine maintenance was done and the owner just couldn't document it and so claims were denied, let alone cases like mine. So I think this is a win for magic. But I think the story is especially helpful because it illustrates how various spirits and magical forces can work together to shape a manifestation. I think it also shows how when we're not careful a manifestation might have parts that we aren't expecting, or might not want to deal with.

I've seen people say that people should only conjure Camael because Samael is essentially the devil, he is poison, the Prince of Rome who God cast into fire for his desire to punish God's favored people. I've seen others say Camael is just a corruption of the name Samael and there is only Samael as the angel of Mars. But Camael seems to be a different name with a different meaning, and people seem to conjure Camael and get successful results from a different sort of presence than the one they get when they conjure Samael. If you look at the history of Jewish angel magic a lot of angel names are basically a random word with God tacked onto it. This isn't even a reductionist statement, it was essentially the concept behind the earliest Jewish forms of angel magic. So Camael also being an angel is pretty reasonable. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't still conjure Samael. Sometimes we need that poison. Sometimes we need to have a mirror held up to show us our flaws and break us down, but we need to know how to then put ourselves back together and what forces we need to draw in to move forward from that experience. Samael may be poison, but he's the poison which is an expression of the divine.

Don't let Samael accuse you of missing out by not following us on Facebook!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Gifts of Dionysos: Reflecting on 6 months of Mid-Atlantic Dionysianism

Over the weekend I got to attend a really awesome camp out hosted by Azul Nox Encampment of the OTO along with significant participation and contribution from St. Eve's Parish of the AJC. In the past the camp out was a sort of Gnostic Solar adoration themed camp, as far as I understand it. I was never able to make it in the past, there were always schedule conflicts. But this year, the theme was Bacchanalia and my schedule was miraculously open. Clearly I needed to be there.

Dionysos has been a major part of my personal spiritual and magical work for the last several years. The relationship is pretty different from what I've been used to with gods. It's more intimate and pervasive and touches on various areas of interest. It's more directly informative and shaping than others have been, but also more detached in a way and less formal. For years the main visible expression of this, well, aside from several general areas of my life and behavior, has been a Dionysian ritual we celebrate at William Blake Lodge, OTO in Baltimore.

The ritual, which is the first of a three part series I call the Thelemic Rite of Dionysos, started out as a a celebration of the vital force understood as Hadit in Thelema. I was asked to put together a ritual for the second day of the Three Days of the Book of the Law, and decided I wanted to work with Dionysos. A few years earlier some friends and I had done a small impromptu invocation of Dionysos as part of a series of study group sessions we called “Crowley, You So Crazy.” We would spend part of the night discussing a Crowley text and part of the night engaging in some sort of practice related to magic or Thelema. So that night wrapped up with a pretty simple ritual to invoke Dionysos. Our host often complained that he had never in any magical work felt any energy or divine or spiritual presences but after we were done this ritual he excitedly expressed how much he felt Dionysos and his influence. A couple years before that ritual was when Dionysos began as a consistent presence on the periphery of my spiritual awareness, one that was consistently edging deeper in, and by the time I had to start planning our Hadit ritual, I was being drawn pretty deeply into his mysteries – which were touching all areas of my magical exploration; and I wanted the people who were going to be there to feel the truly visceral power of Dionysian ecstasy.

So I tried to write a ritual and pretty much got no where. Then one night, when I wasn't even working on it, I basically felt like I was being told by Dionysos what should happen in the ritual. So the next day I wrote it, and we did it that year at WBL. It went over really well. That was around April 2011. People asked to do it again, and we expanded it a little and did it again, and people liked it even better. So over the last six years it's been done several times and I've written a second ritual for the series and outlined a third. The more I've done it the more I've found Dionysos inspiring my understanding of various areas of magic and religion.

Last December we celebrated the ritual again at Blake as our Winter Solstice Celebration. It was epic. So many people were there. We had a ton of new visitors who hadn't been to anything at WBL before, members brought friends from other groups, old members we don't see often showed up. The previous summer Azul Nox's summer camp had a significantly more Dionysian presence than prior years, and many people involved in Dionysianism through that event made it to ours. Better than the great turn out, people had a great time. With an event like a Bacchanalia it's easy for their to be drama, for people to cross boundaries that they shouldn't cross, or to have people who show up and just didn't realize what they were getting into. We had pretty minimal negatives. We had one of the best post ritual parties I recall us having at a Bacchanal. At one point in the night I said to someone, “If I could create a world, this is what it would be like.” I was pretty satisfied.

One very obvious element was that we had the right people, and I was truly grateful to Pankakke, our Pan, and the organizer of things Dionysian at Azul Nox, who arranged so many of the wonderful participants who helped make that night great.

It was an important time for us to have something like that at WBL. We had just finished getting through an issue involving an officer and another member which had left some people hurt and upset, and resulted in a couple people leaving. Several people felt that the ritual was working right away to help clear out the negativity and welcome in new life and vitality, which, is very much in line with the intended effect. People have often talked about how Crowley's Rites of Eleusis seem to activate energies which help draw the right people to an OTO body. Several of our officers seemed to feel this was the case with this ritual, as we made new friends, some of whom had unrealized connections with several members. We saw a huge uptick in the community building and networking efforts our Body Master had been working on grow directly in conjunction with this event. We saw some members become more open and present, some of them opening up for the first time at this event. In general there wasn't just a feeling of positivity but an actual visible social fecundity.

The God Who Comes is also a god who gives to those willing to receive him into themselves. While my normal impulse would have been to celebrate the revelries and freedoms in which people were engaged by joining in, I ended up in a quiet corner getting to know someone special, who prior to then I hadn't had the opportunity to sit with. Normally that wouldn't be my thing, but I felt driven to do that beyond my innate desire to explore the various other enticements. (Admittedly, I engaged in some more classically Dionysian fun before retreating to said quiet corner...)

I also met a new friend, one who I'd previously only known on the internet, and discovered that not only is she pretty awesome, but we have several magical experiences and interests in common. Since the ritual we've gotten to continue discussing and exploring those, which has helped me with several ideas and given me someone who can relate to some of the less commonly discussed things one encounters in magic.

That new friend made introductions for William Blake Lodge with several groups, which included connecting us with a trance-possession group I've wanted us to work with for years, and who I think will help introduce us to a sort of spirit work which is not just useful, but is wholly necessary in engaging the mysteries of Dionysos...but also lacking in many with an interest in Dionysianism.

This new friend also made a new friend whom she seems to be very happy with, and it sounds like they're bringing good things into each others lives.

Our Lodge Master continued this burgeoning Dionysian force and its positive effects with a Lupercalia a few months later which was also well attended and was a great time. Plus, it fulfilled my dream of being one of the Luperci, which I've desired since high school. We had some amazing and joyous things happen at that event, including a proposal. The recipient of the proposal, a man brilliantly aflame with Dionysian fire, also announced that this year's Azul Nox Camp Out would be fully devoted to Dionysos and present another approach to a Bacchanalia.

Throughout the months since our last Dionysian rite at WBL several people have told me not just that they enjoyed it, or that they want to do it again, but about how much they feel it has benefited them. We've continued talk about next year's celebration on an ongoing basis, and I think joyously awaiting the summer Bacchanalia at Azul Nox has helped inspire that focus.

Several of us from Blake's Bacchic Crew were set to attend and I know I for one couldn't wait to see what was in store. Pankakke is the literal embodiment of everything which is Pan when he takes on the role at the WBL Dionysian ritual, so I was certain his fervor and mad fury would bring about something unquestionably amazing for the summer Bacchic festival, and he did not disappoint, it was amazing. His Dionysos had been crowned as Dionysos ritually the last year, and was in a year long obligation to the Office of the God Who Comes serving to embody Dionysos for the community. He was offered up to us as our alchemical sacrifice for the Winter Bacchanalia, creating a powerful link between what we were doing and what the Dionysians of Azul Nox were doing. Several of their drummers drummed for us in the Winter, and one of their main Maenads was also one of ours. We were ritually blending in a way which I believe helped cement Dionysos's influence and presence into our experiences, we were extending the rite from being a single ritual we performed occasionally to being a current, an agent of the Mysteries, which wasn't just a ritual but was rather a Dionysian community of which that ritual was now a part, and of which other rituals would also be a part. This was the question I was never able to answer before. “How do you have a mystery tradition that isn't just a couple rituals?” Pankakke showed me the answer this year, you have a community of devoted individuals, coming together and networking to create various expressions of the divine mystery; you create a culture.

I spent part of my time in anticipation of the Bacchic camp out anticipating new inspirations from engaging Dionysos in a new way. The third ritual for my mystery system is not yet written, and celebrating rituals one and two seemed the best way to stir the Dionysian presence to inspire me, but as I realized this camp out would occur, I realized it would also be able to inspire and teach me. And it did. I had so many amazing experiences of Dionysos during this camp out, in both ritual time and in more relaxed playful times. Since then I've seen more connections and had more inspiration for ways to continue this development. Not only have I had that benefit of being inspired by seeing what others were doing, and seeing what a large group of Dionysians Pankakke was able to call together, but I learned that our works have been somewhat symbiotic in that our Winter Celebration helped inspire and stir communication with Dionysos that impacted the development of the Summer Celebration, just as working with the previous years summer celebrants and anticipating this summer celebration has impacted the current at Blake.

Aside from mystical inspiration I gained some personal clarity this weekend, having spent a fair amount of it away from revelry and focused more quietly on that same person I was drawn to in the Winter, and in a wine soaked night finally gained the clarity we'd previously been missing. And, while I almost didn't post this post because that same clarity went away just after I wrote it, the time during the weekend is still something I'm thankful to Dionysos for, and I trust that in the end, things will be right, and if Dionysos wishes to give live to this he will continue to stir us with his presence, and if not, then we'll find music that guides our dances elsewhere.

And more importantly, I know it was a transformative weekend for others who were there, some finding happiness after struggles, some gaining needed breaks from difficulty and reconnecting to themselves and past happinesses, some reaping rewards for previous hard work, and some just being moved by mystical experiences they weren't otherwise expecting. I have seen so many Facebook posts praising the weekend.

So, Evohe!

I applaud and appreciate the work Pankakke has done, and I am super happy I got to attend this year's camp out and hope to attend future ones. I fully encourage any readers who are able to be in Baltimore when we engage in our Dionysian rites, or in PA for the summer camp out to make every effort to attend these if you're at all called to the transformative and vivifying power of Dionysos. I look forward to future work with the other Dionysians of our growing community.

If your experience of spirit work is in a primarily European context, and you maybe get a little Orphic with the Hymns, but not so rhapsodic as to fully get down with the Orphic mysteries inherent in Dionysos, then maybe exploring this as an entry to more visceral and intimate spirit work might be for you. But maybe not. There's definite power there.

Dionysos comes, and he brings with him force, motion, life itself. He draws us to the dance which is existence and inspires us to touch divinity unbridled as it courses its way through us, moving us, questioning us, and teaching us. He is a God of many gifts, and they manifest on many levels. Changes in the world around us, in our social connections, in our perceptions of ourselves and others, in our ability to bring mystery to the world, in our ability to experience ourselves and the divine. We can drink deeply of him, and intimately know him, but he is essentially the force behind the live wire. Be ready to move with that force, be ready to maybe get burned a bit by that force, but dance with it, and find what it offers you through the madness and freedom it brings.

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Also...I hear rumors about live leopards and NPH in the future of the Dionysian mysteries...?

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 living...here 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.


Bealtain

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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