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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Welcoming the Stranger

I had dinner with my mother and my family Sunday night. While there my mother's church came up. As a boy my mother instilled a sense of the importance of formal religion and religious community for me which I value, and which has been of great benefit to me through life, even though my preference for religious communities and formal religion differs greatly from hers. In fact it differs so much so at this point that I prefer not to go to her current church, less because of the style and more because of the community. It's very small. So when they share a sign of peace, literally everyone in the church greets everyone else. Many of them coming up and hugging each other. They're very excited about guests, and therefore have few boundaries in terms of asking about where you go to church and if you'll be back with them and such things. Not to comfortable for someone looking to stop in casually.

But for people looking for the support of a caring community, they can be a pretty good place.

While at dinner my mom told me about a man, I don't recall his name, who she and her fellow church members believe to be homeless. He stopped into the church about a week ago, and stayed to share in after church refreshments with them. He humbly asked for food, and they provided it, almost surprised that he felt the need to ask. While talking with him, he talked about how much he liked it there with them and how he wanted to study with them but he didn't have a Bible. So one of the church members offered him a Bible and asked what kind he wanted, and agreed to go get it for him. The following week as they were preparing for service the woman who was supposed to get the Bible was quite upset that, while helping someone else in the community, she had not had the opportunity to go get the Bible. They looked through what bibles the church had but they were all used, and they felt a used Bible wasn't an appropriate gift for the new friend they were welcoming. Eventually when they found a moment, one of them went out to a store to pick up a Bible of the type the man had requested. The man was overjoyed, and was clearly surprised that someone would say they would do something for him and actually follow through.

The story was simple, but was nice. Although it was a little sad that a small act of kindness was a surprise for him. We, unfortunately, live in a world where goodness and caring for others can often be a surprise.

My preference is not to get particularly political in this blog. I'm not sure neutrality is still possible, but I'm going to still shoot for it. That said, the idea of helping others and questions of who should be doing it, what limits there are on our call to help others, and how it should be done are major issues at the moment.

I can't answer for us as a society what we should or shouldn't do. But these questions are such that they often bring us back to questions of religion and spirituality. The Pope has expressed the view that Christians must welcome the stranger. 550 Catholics organized a Mass in front of the White House to support this idea. We find other religions also reaching out to help others in places where our society has not been able to provide food, water, shelter, or safety. In a lot of mainstream religious structures it's easy to say what we're called to do or not do because they expressly state what to do or not do.

But for magicians we don't have that. We have a whole host of spiritual and religious ideologies we might ascribe to, or might draw pieces from. By in large though we approach them in very individualistic ways, directly relating to the powers, forces, intelligences, and divinities that inspire us. For many of us, that inspiration is often very tied to our own personal development or to our particular magical work, and less towards a social concept.

With that in mind, maybe we each should turn to whatever spirits, or whatever source we draw from, and find inspiration as to what our answers are for ourselves. But if we do that we need to commit to working with that inspiration to make manifest in the world whatever it is we're called towards.

Short of that, here are some thoughts I have on the matter. They're my thoughts, and so of course no one is obligated to share or agree with them. But I hope they might give you a jumping off point to explore your own thoughts.

First, magic isn't simply about ourselves. I have previously tried to get a magical group to do more charity work. New leadership in that group is fortunately excited about the idea of how we as a community can help the broader community. But in the past some leaders were not as fond of the idea of helping others, because, magicians, particularly Thelemic magicians, work in a system focused on the self, and not the community. It may be true that many magicians work in a manner focused on themselves, but Thelema is not just about the self. The Aeon of Isis was one focused on a communal ideal. The Aeon of Osiris was focused on the individual. You have the circle which encompasses the whole, and the point which resides solely as itself; you have the cosmos and the singular star. The Aeon of Horus is the Aeon of War, in the sense that the polarized qualities of Isis and Osiris must come together to destroy their separateness and unify into a new synthesis. The Age of the Child partakes of the individual and the community. Thus the Hermit shines light into the world to inspire others. The Master gathers a temple, the Magus ensnares souls with his word. On the way to this unity, the Man of Earth explores the forces of the cosmos, the Lover understands his angel and therefore himself, and the Hermit combines the self and the cosmos into a singular work. Knowing our Wills involves working our Wills within the world, which is where Love comes in, we bring the world together by individually contributing to a collective environment that allows and inspires people towards their Wills. It is ultimately communal.

So...that's a lot of words, but what does it mean? Magic is about action in the world, and that action impacts others. Ideally our actions should help us and those we care about, but in a way in which we also repair the world and foster “magic” in the sense of moving the world into a more initiated state. Even when we work for ourselves there is a social element, an element of service, in magic.

So, my first thought is again, that magic is not simply about ourselves, magic is about impact on the world, and therefore the community around us.

My second thought is that the strong are called to help those weaker than themselves. When I was a boy I was taller and stronger than most of my peers. Now as a man I'm pretty average height. But I was almost my full grown height in elementary school. My parents instilled in me the idea that if you were bigger and stronger than others you couldn't use that to take advantage of weaker people, and you were obligated to protect those who couldn't protect themselves from people who are stronger than them.

Maybe I don't have a good magical justification for accepting this ideal, but is seems like one which to me is sensible. Maybe we don't have to be superheroes, although this seems in line with Jonathan Kent's morality or Ben Parker's with power comes responsibility. There are things we can't do. We aren't invulnerable or all powerful. But we do have access to knowledge and power that others do not. Sometimes it can allow us to provide them the help that they need. We might not be obligated to help, but in cases where we can, we have to recognize that we make the decision not to.

So my second thought is that if magicians have power that others do not, and we can within reason use that power to alleviate suffering, we make an active choice either to do so or not to do so, and we are responsible for that choice.

My third and final thought for today on this matter is “Compassion is the vice of kings.” When I was starting out in Thelema and the Thelemic community this line was often quoted as a call to be an edgy bad ass. “Stamp down the wretched and the weak,” clearly, we're not called to be compassionate, it's a vice. We should be focused on our OWN wills as individuals. This was the kind of sentiment I saw a lot. Maybe it wasn't the prevailing sentiment at the time, maybe it was. I liked to interpret it differently, and I'm finding now a lot more people have also come to this conclusion and have become more comfortable vocalizing it...the line is a call towards compassion.

“Vice of kings” can be re-rendered as “kingly vice”. While the word vice is of primarily negative meaning, Liber AL seems to creatively flip language on it's head at times. Love is clearly something necessary in the context of Liber AL. Compassion is a form of Love, and it is a form of love which is dangerous when given over to it too easily, too often, and too completely. In fact the Fraternity of Saturn attempted to clarify Love in the context of the Law of Thelema by adding “compassionless love” as a descriptor. But stars move in a coalescence of the gravity of the various stars, planets, and bodies of space. The universe sings in a harmony. The cosmos is in and of itself a form of compassion, or a coming together of things which share in influence and impact. Perhaps then compassion is not the vice of kings in the sense that true kings reject compassion, but rather that a true king masters compassion, experiencing it and drawing on it as is suited to his will, but like any other dangerous influence, no further than those bounds which are suited to his will. Compassion is his burden, because it allows for his magical interaction with the world, but taken too far could also topple it.

A successful king understands his kingdom and the people in it. He recognizes that his success, his growth, the longevity of his kingship is tied to the way in which he cultivates his kingdom and the experiences of those therein. Jupiter and Sol are the icons of kingship in western magic. Jupiter is the source of beneficence and providence. Kings provide mercy and fecundity for their children, those within their kingdom who are dependent upon their reign. Sol provides justice, balance, and through those healing, but also illumination and inspiration. Sol is the beauty of ordered virtue made radiant upon those around it. The relationship of a virtuous reign to fecundity and growth is seen in the physical counterpart of the force of Sol, our Sun and its ability to support life.

True kingship is not about looking down upon the wretched and despising them. Kingship is about balance, about ordering the forces within a kingdom, and fostering the flow of growth and prosperity.

So my third and final thought is that a magician, in order to be kingly, and take part in the power of a king must shoulder the burden of compassion.

So maybe as magicians, we aren't called to welcome the stranger, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and heal the sick...although...some of that sounds like it's precisely in line with what Rosicrucians are required to do...we are, in any case, in a position to consider what is right for us, and what our roles in society and the world are. Ultimately we can't individually decide for our neighbor or our country what the one true course of action is. But we can decide for ourselves what is and what isn't right for us to do, and from there we can decide whether or not we're going to do that thing which is right or not. In the end we are left with our feelings to answer to as to whether or not we've lived up to our inspiration.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 8: The Fair Folk

Presenting part 8 of 8 of our series on Conjuration and Spirit magic for beginners. The final post in the series Today we'll talk about what is perhaps the least discussed traditional component of conjure magic: Fairies. We started the series with a list of book recommendations and then moved to information on setting up a devotional practice to develop support in the spirit world. Then we discussed scrying, followed by conjuring the elementals, we talked about intermediary and crossroads spirits. Then we discussed angels and demons. We dove into Necromancy, and now we're on our final post for this series. Other cool things will come, some of it will continue stuff we talked above over these posts, so please like us on Facebook, and share the post with your friends so that can enjoy it as well.  

Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 8: The Fair Folk

We're wrapping up our series on conjuration by looking at fairies. Modern Ceremonial Magic has largely ignored any spiritual creatures outside of angels or demons from the post-Golden Dawn period up through now. I have often wondered why. Originally, when I was younger I assumed that most of reason for this was that fairies and dragons and nature spirits showed up primarily in folklore and pagan stories and magic and not in grimoires. Over time, exploring more and more grimoires and old books it became clear that this wasn't the reason, there is actually a lot of evidence that magic involving fairies and similar creatures was intertwined somewhat seamlessly into other magical systems of the middle ages.

Richard Kieckhefer talks about this somewhat in Forbidden Rites. Work with fairies could be considered either natural or demoniac magic during the middle ages. Fairies could be viewed as spirits who work within nature under the direction of the divine plan. Fairies could also be viewed as spirits who taught humans magical powers outside of the will of god similarly to demons and devils. We see this latter feature in other sources dealing with witches. Witches were sometimes believed to have fairy familiars, either given to them by the Devil, like in the case of Isobel Gowdie, or simply spirits which approached the witch on their own. In both cases the fairy would teach the with magic.

In more ceremonial sources we see fairies conjured for an array of reasons. Oberon or Oberyon is conjured as a treasure finding spirit. He also is conjured to teach the magician a wide array of things. Sibylia and her sisters provide a ring of invisibility. Fairies do a lot of the things we conjure demons for. Fairies have a reputation for causing trouble because they don't think like humans, and some have an antagonistic view of humans. But fairies are still more like humans than demons are. Fairies are also part of the elemental world in which humans reside, even if they're part of a separate phase of it. With these elements in mind fairies are likely a very useful group of spirits to approach for many practical everyday sorts of purposes.

Personally I've never been much for fairy magic. Growing up with fairy stories and traditional magic the NeoPagan approaches to fairies did not seem safe or sensible. The idea of treating fairies like gods or guides neither fit with what we saw of fairies in folk tales, nor what happened with them in mythology, and it certainly didn't address the fact that pagan folk traditions and their Christian counterparts seemed focused on keeping fairies away because they were dangerous. So my fairy experience growing up is somewhat limited. I'm still putting together thoughts on fairies for ceremonial magic, and so this post today is largely focused on ideas and sources and thoughts to consider. We're wrapping up our exploration of conjure magic with thoughts, and hopefully inspiration towards moving further to add an additional element to conjure magic rather than instructions for something else we've all done before.

Like I said above, I was not a fan of the NeoPagan approach. But I think there is a problem looking purely at the approaches we see in ceremonial magic. October 6th 2016 I posted this to Facebook after reading selections from Joseph Peterson's The Book of Oberon:

If conjuring a king or queen of a sovereign race of spirits why would you do it by divine names to which they hold no allegiance? I'm not of the mind of demonalators who would suggest that demons are gods and should be approached without constraints of divine names. They exist within a cosmological structure which explains why to use those names. I can see the approach which I believe JSK uses of using chiefs and Kings as names of authority more amenable to the spirits in the case of demons. The Abramelin method is kind of like that. I can understand why the grimoire structure works though. If dealing with Djinn I can understand using the names of Allah and Islamic holy verse since Djinn legends acknowledge that Djinn have religion and some are Islamic. But usually legends of the fair folk don't suggest that they are Christians or acknowledge Christianity. So when reading the lengthy conjurations of Oberyon I kind of felt like “wouldn't Oberon just give me the finger and not show up?” Even from a grimoirist perspective they were kind of unwieldy feeling but they also don't seem consonant with their purpose. I get the worldview which would say all spirits must respond to these names, I guess not being a hundred percent that worldview though it seems like calling Oberyon to come of his own volition would be more fitting.”

I had started looking at the Book of Oberon because my curiosity about conjuring fairies had increased. For about a year or two at that point I had been wondering about work with fairies in a ceremonial context. Reading some Isobel Gowdie transcripts made me more curious about it. I started looking more earnestly instead of considering it just a future project.

But as you can see I didn't really like what I found in the Book of Oberon. The conjuration takes about five pages. It reads like a more cumbersome version of what we find to conjure demons. A lot of asking the spirit to show up and not be frightening and to not delay, and to show up in the appearance of a pleasant looking child, and it references, but without using them, holy names, and then it escalates as such things do and begins to reference angels and saints and names of god and curses and commands. To me the names don't make sense because Oberon as a king of fairies would be a power to call upon to command other fairies. He exists in a whole other world of gods and spirits outside of Christianity and Judaism. I very much feel comfortable working within a Christian context, and believing in the powers of that context, when it is appropriate to what I'm doing. But it doesn't mean I don't believe in anything else. I believe in the gods and spirits who are subordinate to them as well. If I wanted to call upon Athena, I'd probably just call out to Athena directly, but if I needed some higher authority it would be Zeus not HaShem.

Aside from that the conjuration is just too long and not smoothly put together. It's just not aesthetically pleasing.

So, aside from the Folger Manuscript/Book of Oberon, where can we look for ways to conjure the fair folk? There are a lot of sources, and I'll be doing posts based on information we can get from various places in the future. There is way too much to do all in one post here. Reginald Scot's collection of materials has information which is useful, including a couple methods for contacting fairies. Doctor Rudd's material doesn't, as I recall, give much in the way of instruction but it gives several types of fairy and fairy like spirits and information about them. We noted the Folger Manuscript as a resource in terms of it's long conjuration, it also holds several seals and the names of several fairies, and presents some under the rulership of Oberyon and some under Mycob. The Book of St. Cyprian has been suggested by Jake Stratton-Kent as a possible source, as has On Magical Ceremonies by Agrippa. The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet and the Book of Treasure spirits contain some material as well, but they both are drawing from Folger. There are a ton of sources which we would call “ceremonial magic” or grimoire magic books that include work with the fairies.

Some magicians would incorporate aerial spirits, and the elementals as described by Paracelsus as examples of fairies, which would expand the ceremonial sources and methods we have available to us. I'm not sure I would consider these as fairies necessarily.

There are also non-ceremonial magic sources we can use. Robert Kirk's Secret Commonwealth is a valuable resource for exploring work with fairies in a folklorist context but from a practical perspective based on someone who encountered the fair folk prior to NeoPagan views on the subject. The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries is another resource for folklore related to the fairies. Exploring folklore more directly by looking at fairy tales and folk customs can provide insight as well. The mythological and religious systems of the Greeks and Romans, the Celts, and the Norse and Germanic peoples will all provide further insight into who rules fairies, what things they want, and how they can be approached in traditional systems. What we lose in exploring these sources is the practical magical component. But we get a feel for how to approach, which is what is missing in a lot of the more magical texts. Combining the info we can take from each type of source can help us put together a full picture.

Identifying what types of spirits we think of as fairies would also help. I think a starting point is to consider spirits that aren't gods, or angels or demons. That gives us a pretty wide range. From there we can look at descriptions of fairies in various folklore. We can look in magical texts at how fairies overlap with other spirits. As we begin to come up with a series of features, behaviors, responsibilities, we can start to catalogue and build structures for understanding these spirits and how to work with them.

If you feel curious about working with fairies in a context more like standard conjure magic but with an eye towards a conjure system appropriate to these spirits, I'd love to hear about your work. There seems to be a sudden growing interest in this. In addition to my post and the ensuing discussion about it back in October, about two months later there was a pretty thorough discussion with more people involved in the Solomonic group on FB, and in another group Dr. Al Cummins started posting some blogs on the subject beginning around Noveber 5th.

Before we leave off, and again we'll be returning to this subject a fair amount, these are my thoughts on a direction towards a method.

1. Just like we discussed work with an intermediary, there are spirits who serve this function in the various cultures we might explore for fairy work. If we're looking at elves or dwarves or wights we might look at Heimdal, if we're going with Irish or other Celtic fairies we might look at Manannan or another nation's variant of him. So we might call upon the gate keeper who the fairies would fall under and ask him to open the way for the fairies to get to us.

2. The fairies often live near the dead. So, the work we have suggested with ancestors and the necromantic work may come into play for seeking the aid of the dead, or those who might rule the lands adjacent to fairy. Reginald Scot specifically suggests using the dead to go find the fairies one desires and bring them forth.

3. Some prayer of conjuration should be used. We see this in the ceremonial examples. But those conjurations work with the authority of God names foreign to the fairy. So we can identify gods to whom the fairy might respond. For Irish Fairies the Dagda has been associated with the places where the fairies reside, for Norse and Germanic Fairies Weyland may be an option or Othin, for British Fairies Oberon could be an option, for Nyads and Dryads and other spirits from Greece Zeus, or Pan, or gods and heroes with whom those spirits had a relationship. While not all fairies are nature spirits, they do often seem to have a connection to either nature of the underworld, and so the authority of the land itself could also be used as a means for calling them, as the land itself and the natural features of the land would be filled with gods and spirits and would in some cases form boundaries and sources related to the power of the fairy.

4. Some gift or offering should be made. In the Colloquy of the Sages the fairies are often drawn out by giving apple branches. So for Irish fairies apples seem an obvious gift. Certain mythological features would make apples sensible for British fairies as well. Milk and butter, bread, those are also common gifts, and so likewise looking at fairy stories, mythology, and folk customs would provide information on gifts.

5. Water and glass/mirrors may make sense as scrying devices, or candle flame. Crystals are of course the standard for spirits and so could be used as a scrying device as well.

So again, we'll come back to this subject over time. I'd love to see what others are doing with it as well.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 7: The Dead

Presenting part 7 of 8 of our series on Conjuration and Spirit magic for beginners. Today we'll talk about what one of the less discussed and yet traditional components of conjure magic: Necromancy. Last week we posted a series of book recommendations and information on setting up a devotional practice to develop support in the spirit world. Monday we introduced scrying, Tuesday conjuring the elementals, Wednesday we talked about intermediary and crossroads spirits. Yesterday we discussed angels and demons. We've got one more in this series next week, and more interesting stuff in the future, so please like us on Facebook, and share the post with your friends so that can enjoy it as well.  

Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 7: The Dead

In my early work with necromancy, as in magic of the dead not as in illicit spirit magic, I spent a lot of time working with Hades. There are a lot of deep mysteries to Hades and the continuum of gods who share in a series of functions with him. These mysteries go well beyond necromancy, but, Hades as ruler of the underworld has a lot to teach about necromancy. Incubation work with Hades is one of the first things you should be doing if you want to engage in necromantic work. He will be a better teacher than most you can find. One of the first things Hades communicated to me in my work with him was don't be a necromancer, and be careful of people who are. The idea here isn't that necromancy is bad or that people who engage in necromancy are bad, but necromantic work needs to be balanced out with other work. With the approach to conjuration we're presenting, the dead are one of the options we have for allies, for information, and for spirits to powerfully accomplish things for us, but they're not the only option. We have gods, the dead as our ancestors, saints, angels, demons, elementals, and faeries. We have the full axis of the world along which to operate. If we truly want to expand ourselves and gain knowledge and wisdom, to gain power, to work magic successfully, we need to move along that axis and use our full tool belt with all the parts working to accomplish their own particular piece of the overall function of the machine.

As alluded to when we discussed devotional work, honoring our ancestors, setting lights, holding dumb suppers, stuff like that, it isn't necromancy. Occasionally I've seen people trying to assert anything that involved the dead was necromancy and so all Pagans and sorcerers who keep communion with their ancestors are necromancers. Not so. In the ancient world your average everyday person kept communion with the dead, ancestors were enshrined as part of household worship. Necromancers held a separate function in society, and even that function had some variation. You had oracular workers who consulted the dead but were otherwise socially acceptable, you had corpse-scented sorcerers who spent more time associating with the dead than the living within even the fringes of society, and of course witches who reanimated corpses and used body parts for their criminal magics so terrifying that they were outcasts known mainly in legends and stories. Necromancy was a particular sort of magic with the dead.

Necromancers feed the dead to empower them and connect them to the world. In ancestor worship we might eat with the dead but it's largely out of remembrance, we offer them food so they can draw from it but only so much to draw their presence close enough to sit with them and renew our connections with them. When we necromantically feed the dead we feed them to empower their presence with a substantive power. We feed them with libations set for particular purposes. The classic image is that of Odysseus cutting a trench and pouring in blood and holding back the dead who sought to feed at it so that only his chosen dead could do so. Blood has a mystical quality of binding spiritual life to the physical body. It is through blood that magical connections to ancestors are passed in certain families because blood has this strange occult faculty of giving life. Blood is powerful in its ability to convey magical and spiritual energy and that is why so many magical operations involve blood, and why many types of spirits seek blood as food.

We don't always feed them blood. Sometimes we give other libations. Generally, in my experience, honey, wine, olive oil, and milk. These each relate to different elements of life and the spirit and not only connect the dead to the world by making an offering they stir the dead towards a stronger more lively and engaged connection with the world providing a base for them to recall and partake of some sense of what it was like to be alive.

Once the dead are empowered and vivified they, like other spirits, can be questioned for information or they can be conscripted for service through contract or through binding them. Like familiar spirits they can be bound to service, but most people today are not particularly fond of this idea, as it might appear disrespectful. Binding them for service can however include feeding and caring for them, or it can involve some benefit to the spirit once service is done. When one has a deceased person in their service they are generally tied to some object and that object is placed in a location which has objects that help to empower the spirit and where offerings can be placed.

But if we're not looking for something as drawn out as that we can also call upon the dead, pour out libations to them, and then ask them to answer questions for us or to go perform acts in service for us just like we would other spirits. In my practice I typically promise, and then provide, further libations as an offering of thanks once the service is rendered.

So, how do we go about actually doing this?

To some degree that depends upon our religious beliefs and what we think happens after death. If you don't believe in life after death, if you don't believe in spiritual powers that govern other worlds, you can't do this kind of magic.  

I go with a Greek approach, but there are others. Egyptian traditions involve a lot of information related to the dead, but I will admit, I'm not as versed in that. There are multiple Christian approaches one can engage. I would imagine just about any religious view either has a structure for communicating with the dead, or enough information about what happens with them, and who oversees them, how their world is closed and how it is accessed, that a system or method can be put together for either going to them, or for having permission granted for them to exit so that you can call them to you.

See that is an important component. The dead generally have an overseer. Someone who keeps the halls in which they are held. Before you can approach the dead you have to approach their overseer. You have to demonstrate that you have the right to enter into audience with him and to ask for the dead to be released to speak with you or to render service to you. You need some understanding of the mysteries of the underworld and how they impact the dead and your access to them. You need to know how to approach the overseer, is it through going to them through trance-work or through conjuration? It depends on the tradition you're working. You need to know what offering the overseer takes. Is it lamb? Is it wine? Is it incense? Once you've worked with the one who oversees the dead you call upon the dead individual. Once you have the permission to call upon that individual generally you can continue to do so. Use your invocation to conjure the spirit under the authority of the overseer and make the offerings to strengthen the spirit. Then question the spirit or ask the spirit to provide the services you need.

If you want to go the Greek route read Daniel Ogden's books Greek and Roman Necromancy, and his compilation of primary sources on magic in the Greek and Roman world. Check out the Aeneid and the Odyssey. Spend a lot of time studying the Orphic Hymns. Pray with the Orphic Hymns. The Homeric Hymns can provide some insight too, but the way the Gods appear in the mystery traditions will provide greater insight.

Here is an outline of my approach.

1. Cleanse and consecrate the space
2. Make prayers to Styx and bless water in her name and anoint yourself and the space
3. Use the Orphic Hymns to call on Hades and Persephone
4. Make offerings of bread, wine, lamb, and lambs blood to Hades and Persephone
5. Anoint your forehead with the blood and consume some of the bread and blood
6. Ask permission of Hades and Persephone that the spirit be released to you
7. Make offerings to Charon and Iris and ask that they bring you the spirit
8. Call upon the spirit and make your offerings. In this case since you have the blood offer the blood. But also the four libations, in the future when calling the same spirit you can simply call them and offer the four libations without the rest of the ritual. You can also consecrate a candle or some other instrument to use as a focus when calling the spirit in the future.
9. When finished thank the spirit and release it. Give thanks to the chthonic powers that gave license or aid in the operation, and close the ritual space.

This all sounds pretty simple. I had a friend who engaged in such a ritual with me once, it was his first private magical ritual, and only about his second or third magical ritual at all. He didn't even know magic existed prior to meeting me. He was pretty put off from it after this though. It was a bit intense, a little frightening. Giving lamb as a burnt offering involves some pretty intense fire. You come into the ritual having stripped naked and bathed in spring water like you would for other conjurations, but now, you're not just robed, you wear a shroud in recognition of howling for the dead as a mourner, and in the tradition of approaching the gods with a covered head. You're putting on blood and eating it. In many cases you'll want articles of the deceased. Hair, or some other thing drawn from them if you have it, or a favored item, or dirt from their grave. It's the sort of magic that pushes buttons because it forces you into an exotically liminal space, one which we're naturally aware of and of which most humans have some fear of approaching. This same method can be amended for descending into the world of the dead, which has equal room for intensity. But, it's powerful, visceral magic. It's magic that has a serious impact on the magician. It's magic that shouldn't be your only magic.

You can use other methods though.

Looking at more Christian methods they seem a little tamer, but not by much. You conjure in a grave yard at night. You have to select a criminal or a suicide so that it's someone who won't receive a good Christian burial, and therefore their soul will not be saved or carried to heaven. You might even request the soul from one who is about to be killed for his crimes before he is put to death. But, you're not eating blood, so that's a plus.

Reginald Scott presents this method:

FIRST fast and pray three day, and abstain from all filthiness; go to one that is newly buried, such as one who has killed himself or destroyed himself willfully: or else get the promise of one that shall be hanged, and let him swear an oath to you, that after his body is dead, that his spirit shall come to you, and do true service to you, at you command, in all days, hours, and minutes. And let no persons see your doings, but your fellow. And about eleven of the clock in the night, go to the place where he was buried, and say with a bold faith & hearty desire, to have the spirit come that you do call for. Your fellow having a candle in his left hand, and in his right hand a crystal stone, and say these words following, the master having a hazel wand in his right hand, and these names of God written thereupon, Tetragrammaton + Adonay + Agla + Craton + Then strike three strokes on the ground, and say:

'Arise N. Arise N. Arise N. I conjure you N. by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you do obey to my words, and come unto me this night verily and truly, as you believe to be saved at the day of judgment. And I will swear to you an oath, by the peril of my soul, that if you will come to me, and appear to me this night, and show me true visions in this crystal stone, and fetch me the fairy Sibylia, that I may talk with her visibly, and she may come before me, as the conjuration leads: and in so doing, I will give you an alms deed, and pray for you N. to my Lord God, whereby you may be restored to your salvation at the resurrection day, to be received as one of the elect of God, to the everlasting glory, Amen.'

The master standing at the head of the grave, his fellow having in his hands the candle and the stone, must begin the conjuration as follows, and the spirit will appear to you in the crystal stone, in a fair form of a child of twelve years of age. And when he is in, feel the stone, and it will be hot; and fear nothing, for he or she will show many delusions, to drive you from your work. Fear God, but fear him not. This is to constrain him, as follows.

'I conjure you spirit N. by the living God, the true God, and by the holy God, and by their virtues and powers which have created both you and me, and all the world. I conjure you N. by these holy names of God, Tetragrammaton + Adonay + Algramay + Saday + Sabaoth + Planaboth + Panthon + Craton + Neupmaton + Deus + Homo + Omnipotens + Sempiturnus + Ysus + Terra + Unigenitus + Salvator + Via + Vita + Manus + Fons + Origo + Filius + And by their virtues and powers, and by all their names, by which God gave power to man, both to speak or think; so by their virtues and powers I conjure you spirit N. that now immediately you do appear in this crystal stone, visibly to me and to my fellow, without any tarrying or deceit. I conjure you N. by the excellent name of Jesus Christ Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. For this holy name of Jesus is above all names: for in this name of Jesus every knee does bow and obey, both of heavenly things, earthly things, and infernal. And every tongue does confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of the father: neither is there any other name given to man, whereby he must be saved. Therefore in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and by his nativity, resurrection, and ascension, and by all that appertains unto his passion, and by their virtues and powers I conjure you spirit N. that you do appear visibly in this crystal stone to me, and to my fellow, without any dissimulation. I conjure you N. by the blood of the innocent lamb Jesus Christ, which was shed for us upon the cross: for all those that do believe in the virtue of his blood, shall be saved. I conjure you N. by the virtues and powers of all the royal names and words of the living God which I have pronounced, that you be obedient unto me and to my words rehearsed. If you refuse to do this, I by the holy trinity, and their virtues and powers do condemn you you spirit N. into the place where there is no hope of remedy or rest, but everlasting horror and pain there dwelling, and a place where there is pain upon pain, daily, horribly, and lamentably, your pain to be there augmented as the stars in the heaven, as the gravel or sand in the sea: unless you spirit N. do appear to me and to my fellow visibly, immediately in this crystal'”

In Scott's method we presume the magician has some clerical background and therefore has received sacraments, and probably some form of ordination which accomplishes the task of demonstrating the right to do this work. With that assumption the “overseer” is Jesus since he has conquered death and holds the keys to the gates of death, therefore participation in Mass is the interaction with the overseer of the dead, and the Mass is the offering made unto him. This might seem like a jump, except the soul of the dead here is specifically that of a condemned soul, and the magician is basically offering to remove that condemnation in exchange for service. So either the magician is a fraud (as Scott likely hoped to illustrate), or he is a priest and has the ability to grant a pardon for the sins of the condemned. This is interestingly parallel to some elements of medieval demonic conjuration which seem to imply that the demons may be redeemed at the final judgment by way of working with the magician.

Scott's method is also interesting because it ties the dead to fairies. The deceased here could be conjured for any purpose with this method given a small change of verbiage. Scott here specifies that the deceased is called for the purpose of conjuring a fairy. We won't be exploring connections between the fairies and the dead in this post. But it is a good segue towards Monday's post, in which we will discuss some thoughts on conjuration and fairies. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 6: Angels and Demons

Presenting part 6 of 8 of our series on Conjuration and Spirit magic for beginners. Today we'll talk about what most people think of when we think conjuration, the act of conjuring angels and demons. Last week we posted a series of book recommendations and information on setting up a devotional practice to develop support in the spirit world. Monday we introduced scrying, Tuesday conjuring the elementals, yesterday we talked about intermediary and crossroads spirits. So please like us on Facebook, and share the post with your friends so that can enjoy it as well.  

Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 6: Angels and Demons

We've discussed in the last few posts working with devotional relationships with spirits, intermediary and crossroads spirits, and elemental spirits. Most people when they think about conjuring spirits are expecting to conjure demons, maybe angels. The most famous text for summoning spirits in modern magic is probably the Goetia of Solomon which is largely a collection of demon descriptions and seals. If we look at medieval and renaissance books of magic however we find that that is a pretty incomplete picture. The Goetia of Solomon is part of the Lemegeton which through its various books treats subjects including demons, angels of the zodiac, angels of the hours of the day, and aerial spirits who are of a mixed nature...or...spirits who exist in the elemental world being neither angels nor demons. Dr. Rudd presents a variety of different types of spirits beyond angels and demons in his work, the Folger Manuscript, and Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft address conjuring faeries, Scott also discusses conjuring the dead. Various grimoires deal with an array of spirits, but we're going to start with angels and demons in this post and then look to the dead and then to faeries in the next two.

In the middle ages conjuration of angels was not always a form of necromancy or illicit magic. To be clear necromancy in medieval magic did not necessarily refer to conjuring the dead but to nigromancy or black magic. Any magic outside of the bounds of of legal activities for good church folks was interchangeably referred to as such. Natural magic was not necessarily against the rules because it dealt with features which were viewed as being within God's control, or his structuring of nature. Applying the magical faculties which God wrote into the plants, stones, and natural phenomena of the world, and the powers he gave to the creatures he made to tend to them, which possibly included faeries or angels depending upon the thoughts of the time. We often think of angels as expressly celestial but Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchy divided the hierarchy of angels into two prior to dividing out the hierarchy of Seraphim, Cherubim, and the rest. There are angels who are purely celestial and serve at the throne of God exclusively, and angels which act in the world to perform the divine will.

So to work with angels whom God has set to act in the world could at times be viewed as a natural act, working within rather than subverting the natural order of the world as God has set it forth. With this in mind angels could be called through simple prayers without the need of seals and signs, protective circles and magical hours and the tools and trappings of the ceremonial magician. According to Kieckhefer in Forbidden Rites allowing magical trappings to creep into work with angels when otherwise simple prayers would do might lead to suspicion of necromancy.

We don't see a lot of magical books which treat angels in this fashion though. The Arbatel is probably the closest as it is essentially just a prayer that calls the Olympic spirits, but seals are still given and the angels are explained in a magical context. The Abramelin dispenses with a lot of the trappings of ceremonial magic and criticizes them thoroughly, instead insisting that prayer, reflection, and purifications are all that are needed to call an angel. Once you've called the angel you can use the angel to call demons and those demons can then be commanded by a series of magical squares. This is reminiscent of some early Jewish magical descriptions, but they're not quite in the realm of licit angel magic. The closest example that a modern person might see would be something like the prayers referencing the Guardian Angel, or St. Michael in things like the Roman Ritual or the Raccolta. We see something more practical and personal in prayer candles dealing with these same angels in the Catholic prayer candles.

These can be used with other various magical practices that we might associate with sorcery or hoodoo to draw the influence or added benefit of working with angels. But say we want something that is a little more directly in line with conjuration and ceremonial magic, or perhaps we want something that creates a more direct contact with the angels or spirits with whom we wish to work. The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals which was presented by Francis Barrett in The Magus and credited to John of Trittenheim – the Abbot of Sponheim who possessed at one point one of the greatest libraries amongst the clerics of Europe and who wrote other works related to magic and is credited as an influence on Agrippa and Paracelsus (John Von T was pretty awesome if you can't tell); is an excellent and simple means of conjuring spirits which is basically a method of working with angels by way of prayer combined with a few simple tools, essentially a table and a scrying device.

The magician sets up his table, places upon it his scrying device, and during the appropriate planetary hour makes a few prayers. Once the angel arrives, he questions the angel to confirm its identity and learn whatever he needs to learn, and then perhaps asks for the angel to accomplish his task. The description in Trithemius gets more detailed around the specifics, but you could keep it pretty simple and still make the method work. Reginald Scott for instance gives instructions for drawing a spirit into a crystal with very minimal instruction. In fact in Scott's version there are two prayers and a crystal and nothing else. Otherwise in the text he notes some seals which must be used for all conjurations and one may assume they are involved. Ebeneezer Sibley notes the use of the same seals in his work which also involves crystallomancy. But that's not really a big coincidence, he would have likely been influenced by Scott and other texts of the same literary current. Further, texts referencing crystallomancy having overlap isn't a big deal because most spirit work involves crystallomancy traditionally. Even the Lemegeton treats it as if one should assume the use of a crystal or other scrying device. The ubiquity of this would, to me, suggest some special efficacy that crystals and glass and other similar scrying devices have which makes it easier for spirits to manifest. So the scrying tool is an important part of this system, but successes of contemporary practitioners demonstrates that while a crystal is recommended and a glass vessel is common, a bowl of water can work as well.

The magician's table is another significant part of Trithemius's system. The table has three concentric circles, with a triangle in the center. The outer ring is planetary and the inner ring is elemental. In the outer ring are the seven planetary angels and their seals in the inner ring are the four terrestrial kings we mentioned in yesterday's post. I tend to think of the table as being an array designed to focus the forces of manifestation which allows for the formation of the nexus space needed to interact with spirits. Circles are symbols of infinity, and triangles are symbols of manifestation and interaction. The seven angels rule the forces which orchestrate creation, the four kings rule the elements which form the world of creation and its substance. The kings specifically allow the influence of spiritual forces into the world.

The sphere itself sits in a holder which has the name of the four archangels who rule the directions. This again connects to manifesting forces into the world. Years ago Rufus Opus used to call his table of practice a “manifestation engine.” This nick-name wasn't inaccurate. The overall structure of the tools given in Trithemius are thoroughly arranged for the purpose of manifesting spiritual forces. Some magicians have noted that the use of the four kings on the table allows the table to be used for manifesting both angelic and demonic forces. This is a reasonable assertion since the four kings represent a central point in an axis of forces.

Again, even though Trithemius's system has tools designed to make the system work, I've worked with angels without the table using similar crystallomancy techniques and have had success. But I've also found that Trithemius's tools keep the visionary experience focused and centered spatially. I've known other magician's who've done it with an unmarked table and a bowl of water. Tools have power, tools create certain effect, but there are lots of ways to work. You can use different approaches and the results will differ, but that doesn't mean you won't get results just because you aren't using precisely the system.

I find the results I get when working with the Greater Key, or the results I get from the Heptameron, or when working with the Merkavah are different from those I get when working with Trithemius. Not that one type of result is better or worse for practical work, but rather that the way spirits interact differs based on the way they are called or the way we attempt to interact with them.

You could work with both angels and demons, and perhaps other kinds of spirits, using the method given in Trithemius's Arte of DrawingSpirits into Crystals. There are several spirits which illustrate that some elements of our categorizing spirits on one side of a line or another is a bit nebulous and not necessarily an absolute divide. Some methods in grimoires look like they're clearly designed for demons but people use them for angels, or for aerial spirits, and they still get results. So as a means for getting started I recommend working with Trithemius. You can use it regardless of the type of spirit. The books listed in part 1 of this series will provide you with detailed and more robust rituals structures for conjuring spirits. These books will also give you catalogues of spirits and their seals.

So, for conjuring angels and demons, while we don't need to get too thorough with dividing methods we should keep in mind which spirits we're dealing with and what roles their characteristics and personalities play in determining how we interact with them. For some spirits you might want a more controlled method with a little more space between you and the spirit. Working with a spirit through crystallomancy can be pretty intimate. Cordoning off the spirit in a triangle can make for an interaction which retains some more distinction and space between the conjurer and the spirit. Angels might not need to be bound and constricted by divine names, demons might need to be managed with the help of an angel. Your apprehension of these spirits and their natures will determine to some degree what measures you think are necessary or not necessary. Several skilled magicians who work with spirits, and recognize the spirits as real, have different perspectives on how we should treat and how we should understand the spirits.

In my experience, the difficulty people have with angels is that they want you to fix things in your life. They will help you but they want to position their aid in a way which propels you forward or they want you to take some of their advice along with their help. They are also good for conveying power, conveying information, and teaching things, and they can accomplish manifesting stuff in the world, but it's not necessarily always their main focus. Demons can get stuff done. They can create powerful manifest changes in the world, and they don't care much about fixing you. Sometimes they might want you to focus on enjoying yourself or what you want. When left unchecked though they can be chaotic and destructive, and will continue pushing at whatever task they're working on even if it pushes it too an extreme, particularly if that extreme breaks things down or serves other things the demon does. Some of this is also dependent upon the demon. Several spirit catalogues suggests that not all “infernal” demons come about in the same way, not all of them behave in the same way either. So you'll want to consider the individual spirit somewhat as well, where they call in the hierarchy, what their description tells you about them.

Angels can be a good place to start to get comfortable. The Olympic Spirits as described in the Arbatel in particular are a good place to start. Sometime in the next few months we'll be running a series in this blog focused on them in addition to releasing a pretty thorough examination of them in William Blake Lodge's publication Heaven and Hell. For now you can get the Arte of Drawing Spirits into Crystals and further descriptions of how to use the text at my site on grimoiric magic.

For comparison, here are the instructions for crystallomancy from Reginald Scott:

No instructions are given aside from the conjurations. But one can assume that a table is set with a scrying device. The device should be consecrated to its purpose. Preliminary prayers made to align you with the powers by which you will conjure the spirit. Your temple or altar should be set based on whatever structure is suited to your style of work. Personally I would set a candle for each element and one for the divine presence, perhaps also one for the spirit summoned, and I would set incense as well.
Scott gives these two prayers as his full description of how to summon a spirit into a crystal.
I do conjure you N. by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy-Ghost, who is the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, and by the latter day of judgment, that you N. do appear, in this crystal stone, or any other instrument, at my pleasure, to me and to my fellow, gently and beautifully, in fair form of a boy of twelve years of age, without hurt or damage of any of our bodies or souls; and certainly to inform and to shew me, without any guile or craft, all that we do desire or demand of you to know, by the virtue of him, who shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and the world by fire, Amen.”

“Also I conjure and exorcise you N. by the sacrament of the altar, and by the substance thereof, by the wisdom of Christ, by the sea, and by his virtue, by the earth, & by all things that are above the earth, and by their virtues, by the and the by by and and by their virtues, by the apostles, martyrs, confessors, and the virgins and widows, and the chaste, and by all saints of men or of women, and innocents, and by their virtues, by all the angels and archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, virtues, cherubim, and seraphim, and by their virtues, & by the holy names of God, Tetragrammaton, El, Ousion, Agla, and by all the other holy names of God, and by their virtues, by the circumcision, passion, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the heavens of our lady the virgin, and by the joy which she had when she saw her son rise from death to life, that thou N. do appear in this crystal stone, or in any other instrument, at my pleasure, to me and to my fellow, gently, and beautifully, and visibly, in fair form of a child of twelve years of age, without hurt or damage of any of our bodies or souls, and truly to inform and show unto me & to my fellows, without fraud or guile, all things according to your oath and promise to me, whatsoever I shall demand or desire of you, without any hindrance or tarrying, and this conjuration be read of me three times, upon pain of eternal condemnation, to the last day of judgment: Fiat, fiat, fiat, Amen.”