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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.