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Friday, December 29, 2017

Blessings of the Magi

Dr. Al Cummins recently posted a very interesting post about ways to work with the Magi as a magician touching on various folk Catholic elements, and he and Jesse Hathaway Diaz spoke about such things in an amazing episode of Radio Free Golgotha last year. I highly recommend checking those out.

With Epiphany coming up, I wanted to note some elements of institutional Catholicism which may be useful for the magician, particularly magicians working with grimoires, especially pre-Reformation grimoires which reflect a particularly Catholic approach, and largely an assumption of some level of clerical capacity.

The Feast of The Epiphany gives us the opportunity to reflect on The Magi and the role of astrology in the biblical story, the connections to Zoroastrianism, the symbolism of Gold Frankincense and Myrrh, and the ability to receive direct divine and spiritual revelation at times of importance and at times in which we are questioning what to do. It its a time in which we ca reflect on the guidance of the one star whose light directs us surely through the darkness. It is a time where we can reflect on the roles of the Magi individually or on the universal brotherhood implied by priest kings representing different parts of the world coming together on a spiritual quest. There is a lot there.

What interests us from a practical grimoire perspective though is less about reflection and more about an auspicious day for consecrating implements. I think plenty of people will address folk Catholic elements, and modern magical parallels and readings of symbols, and they will engage these topics more than I would at the moment. I think the obvious easy bit to touch is the part we'll see fewer people looking at.

Holy water, incense, chalk, and your space.

A little more pedestrian sounding...but oh so exciting.

You see, The Roman Ritual has long been a go to for magicians wanting to say “Oh yeah, I've studied the Catholic rituals of exorcism.” But the Roman Ritual is filled with magic. The rite of Baptism is a rite of is the formula for making holy water, and also for blessing gold frankincense and myrrh...and...well...a lot of other bits of it are too. Out side of the preponderance of exorcisms there are rituals to bring rain, rituals to protect cars and ships and animals, rituals to cure sore throats.

Priests were once magicians, and while that has gone away in practice, it is something more slow to die in the written rituals themselves. A grimoire magician working with Liber Juratus, The Cambridge Book, TheHeptameron, The Book of Oberon, any pre-reformation influenced book of magic, is a magician who is expected to have some training in these clerical rituals that we sometimes forget are also magic.

And so on the Feast given to the Magi we have rituals which would be useful to the magician. We bless water, we bless gold frankincense and myrrh, we bless chalk, and we bless the home. All of these items are those which we might use in working magic and so this is a most appropriate time to bless our supply of such items.

The Epiphany water is a formula much more involved than the simple formula for exorcising salt and water and then blessing their combination as holy water (a formula which appears in the grimoires). The Roman Ritual says it was adopted in 1890 but is based on an old tradition in the Eastern Church.

This blessing comes from the Orient, where the Church has long emphasized in her celebration of Epiphany the mystery of our Lord's baptism, and by analogy our baptism. This aspect is not neglected in western Christendom, although in practice we have concentrated on the visit of the Magi. Many years before the Latin Rite officially adopted the blessing of Epiphany water, diocesan rituals, notably in lower Italy, had contained such a blessing.”

The Roman Ritual 1964

The magician could easily opt for the simply Holy Water form but this more complex blessing draws on auspicious timing and in particular if you are engaging in other work related to the Magi would tie into that work. At the least, since Holy Water is used in a somewhat baptismal manner at times in magic, this water is specifically connected to that element of the story as well.

The ritual for the Epiphany water is done the night before the Feast, and is a bit long so I won't be including it here. It occurs as the fifth item of the first volume of the 1964 edition of the Roman Ritual.

The sixth item given is a blessing of Gold, Incense, and Myrrh. I would assume in this case Frankincense would be the incense in question however I suppose other church appropriate incenses may be substituted. The blessing itself confers protection to those who possess these items. You could run it as is and have a powerful traditional blessing attached to your incenses and gold or make some tweaks to focus more specifically on conferring magical efficacy. The ritual includes an exorcism of demons which might be present in the material, the infusion of divine grace, and the direction of that grace towards the protection and intercession on behalf of the one who possesses these items.

This one is short enough to present here.


on Epiphany

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Accept, holy Father, from me, your unworthy servant, these gifts which I humbly offer to the honor of your holy name and in recognition of your peerless majesty, as you once accepted the sacrifice of the just Abel and the same kind of gifts from the three Magi.

God's creatures, gold, incense, and myrrh, I cast out the demon from you by the Father + almighty, by Jesus + Christ, His only-begotten Son, and by the Holy + Spirit, the Advocate, so that you may be freed from all deceit, evil, and cunning of the devil, and become a saving remedy to mankind against the snares of the enemy. May those who use you, with confidence in the divine power, in their lodgings, homes, or on their persons, be delivered from all perils to body and soul, and enjoy all good things. We ask this through the power and merits of our Lord and Savior, the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and of all the saints, in particular the godly men who on this day venerated Christ the Lord with the very same gifts.

All: Amen.

God, the invisible and endless One, in the holy and awesome name of your Son, be pleased to endow with your blessing + and power these creatures of gold, incense, and myrrh. Protect those who will have them in their possession from every kind of illness, injury, and danger, anything that would interfere with the well-being of body and soul, and so be enabled to serve you joyously and confidently in your Church; you who live and reign in perfect Trinity, God, forever and ever.

All: Amen.

And may the blessing of almighty God, Father, + Son, and Holy + Spirit, come upon these creatures of gold, incense, and myrrh, and remain always.

All: Amen.

They are sprinkled with holy water.”

The next item presented is the blessing of the chalk. This one people reference a little more often, probably because chalk is sometimes given as an option for making circles and appears in various magical traditions, but chalk isn't given instructions for blessing in as many texts. Chalk may not be given in most grimoires but it has a long standing association with magic and religion. Chalk deposits are found in many British religious sites. Chalk develops from sediment caused from fossilized organic material, therefore chalk was once alive and is now material made from the dead. Chalk, while a stone, has a relationship with water, providing reservoirs to hold ground water to release in dry seasons, and growing to form cliffs and islands against the sea. These elements linking it to earth and water, and to the dead give it a liminal quality. In Ebeneezer Sibly's work, which we find later quoted by Waite, quick lime, which is derived from chalk, is used in the “burial” or burning of the body used in necromantic rites once the magician is finished questioning the ghost.

With these liminal qualities around death and the underworld qualities implied by stone and sea, the quality of celebrating life, and of divine revelation related to the Epiphany make for the perfect juxtaposition for completing and balancing the power of the chalk and reflecting the overlapping qualities of things chthonic and things celestial.

The Blessing of the Chalk is pretty short and simple. There is no exorcism, just a blessing, but the blessing is one which essentially empower the chalk for use in folk magic. The faithful are instructed to use the blessed chalk to scribe the sainted names of the Magi upon their doors in order to bring about their intercession and blessings.

The ritual, performed on the day of the Feast is as follows:


on Epiphany

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Bless, + O Lord God, this creature, chalk, and let it be a help to mankind. Grant that those who will use it with faith in your most holy name, and with it inscribe on the doors of their homes the names of your saints, Casper, Melchior, and Baltassar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health in body and protection of soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.”

The eighth item of volume one, and the final Epiphany item is a blessing of the home.

Now a blessing of the Home might seem less obviously in line with the grimoires. You don't bless your home in the grimoires, in fact in some instructions it would sound like you might even do magic away from your home. In some spirit traditions we find advice to keep certain workings out doors, or in places designated for spirit work rather than in the living areas of the home, or in altars which can be closed away. For most magicians though, magic is done in the home. So blessing the home would be part of routine maintenance. Even if you're not doing magical work in your home or your living space, you are aware of spiritual forces which might impact your life. Routine apotropaic work is something many magicians overlook, but which could help prevent situations which they might later need to turn to magic to help resolve. The Roman Ritual provides a few options for blessing the home, in fact, the chalk blessing implies a home blessing. The blessing of the water can be used to make water to sprinkle the home and bless it, or the blessing of the gold incense and myrrh and provide a protective possession to keep in the home.

The home blessing interestingly doesn't contain an exorcism. In fact it does not seem to be about purifying or wiping away any negativity on the home, but, like the season of Christmastide it is a ritual of joy and light. The magnificence of God and of his revelation through Christ is recalled in the ritual and that shining light sanctifies the whom and all who enter therein.

The ritual is as follows:


on Epiphany

As the priest comes into the home he says:

P: God's peace be in this home.

All: And in all who live here.

P. Ant.: Magi from the East came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasure chests they presented Him with precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia.

Canticle of the Magnificat

Luke 1.46-55

P: "My soul * extols the Lord;

All: And my spirit leaps for joy in God my Savior.

P: How graciously He looked upon His lowly maid! * Oh, see, from this hour onward age after age will call me blessed!

All: How sublime is what He has done for me, * the Mighty One, whose name is 'Holy'!

P: From age to age He visits those * who worship Him in reverence.

All: His arm achieves the mastery: * He routs the haughty and proud of heart.

P: He puts down princes from their thrones, * and exalts the lowly;

All: He fills the hungry with blessings, * and sends away the rich with empty hands.

P: He has taken by the hand His servant Israel, * and mercifully kept His faith,

All: As He had promised our fathers * with Abraham and his posterity forever and evermore."

P: Glory be to the Father.

All: As it was in the beginning.

Meanwhile the home is sprinkled with holy water and incensed. At the end of the Magnificat the antiphon is repeated. Then the priest says Our Father (the rest inaudibly until:)

P: And lead us not into temptation.

All: But deliver us from evil.

P: Many shall come from Saba.

All: Bearing gold and incense.

P: Lord, heed my prayer.

All: And let my cry be heard by you.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: May he also be with you.

Let us pray.
God, who on this day revealed your only-begotten Son to all nations by the guidance of a star, grant that we who now know you by faith may finally behold you in your heavenly majesty; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Responsory: Be enlightened and shine forth, O Jerusalem, for your light is come; and upon you is risen the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

P: Nations shall walk in your light, and kings in the splendor of- your birth.

All: And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

Let us pray.

Lord God almighty, bless + this home, and under its shelter let there be health, chastity, self-conquest, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to your commandments, and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May your blessing remain always in this home and on those who live here; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.”

Now this last ritual as it is written would need at least two people, the Priest, and the People. It could reasonably be modified for personal use with the individual simply doing both the call and the response. Some of the things desired for the home might not be the goals of all contemporary magicians. I could easily say “well go through the ritual as is, the words are just symbolic” but they're not. You're praying for those things. It's not an idea of bringing sanctity by reflecting back the words a God wants to hear, you're asking spiritual powers to bring conditions into your home and the people in your home. So consider what it is you truly wish to ask for. Maybe the actual blessing of the house in which chastity and humility are asked for is a prayer which you might have to explore tweaking a bit to suit your own needs, or maybe it does describe what you want in your home. If in essence you want magnificence and light to bring a presence of uplifting joy, that's the end game here, the shape it takes will need to fit the spiritual powers you're calling upon, but they can also fit the way you wish to engage those powers. Explore your relationship with the Lord of Hosts and determine what virtues he might bring into your home, and ask for those.

Speaking of relationships, and the vast army of hosts, there is a vast host of people on Facebook, so pop over there, and share our page, and if you haven't yet, like our page, for more interesting stuff from us. Thanks! And enjoy the rest of the Christmas season and have a Happy New Year. Hopefully I'll have some stuff to say about making friends with dead folks next week!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Touched By an Angel

There seem to be more people working towards achieving Knowledge and Conversation of their Holy Guardian Angels these days, and that's great. There also seem to be more people who want to look like they've checked that box on the spiritual authority check list, and that's not so great.

A friend recently noted that we see a lot of people who describe their experience as if it was one super cool moment, and then it was done. Nothing changes after, there is no relationship after, they did it, they have it in their back pocket that they did it, and they don't have much of anything useful to add to the discourse that reflects their experience. They generalize the angel, or reduce its nature to something relatively meaningless, or treat attaining the angel like a badge they get for leveling up and then moving on. The experience is doing the thing, and saying they did the thing, and that's all it is; it's another experiment with another grimoire or another technique and they met the spirit and it was cool and that's it, right?


It's a pretty immense fantastic experience when it happens. And to some degree that initial experience is momentary. That momentary experience exists to create a powerful on going relationship. Think of it sort of like a friend. You can call up a friend, hang out, have a good time, and then go your own way, getting together as needed. But say you and that friend have some sort of life changing experience which shapes the both of you, that creates a bond which ties you together and lets you share an intimacy you don't have with others, so there is a connection which is always there. The moment in the oratory where you complete the retreat is like that. It is a moment so full of force and fire that it forges a bond between you and the angel which is unlike that of other spirits with whom you interact.

Now, based on many approaches to understanding the angel, there is already a bond between you and your angel before the retreat. I would question whether or not all of these other descriptions of Guardian Angels and Holy Guardian Angels are necessarily talking about the same thing as what is described in The Sacred Magic, in fact, I would assert that in many cases they aren't. That said, in my experience, yes, your angel is there from the beginning, and you can and should make contact before doing the retreat. The retreat changes the nature of the bond and the contact, probably mostly on our end, but still, there is a perceptible change, which changes us and how the angel interacts with us.

I very rarely reference things Aaron Leitch says, and initially when I saw him compare Knowledge and Conversation to being Crowned by a spirit I mistook his meaning, and I avoided the comparison. But really, it is pretty apt. Knowledge and Conversation is a form of possession.

People tend to think of possession as it appears in The Exorcist, or The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or other cinematic depictions. Both of those examples are based on true stories, to some degree, but they both take cinematic license and make things visually shocking for horror movie audiences. Still, there is a reality to that kind of possession. Possession can refer to a point where a spirit takes over a person, and torments them. Possession can look like madness.

But that's not the only kind of possession, and even in the case of a spiritual assault there are stages to possession. In magic, where we find possession occurring as choice in which the magician has a relationship with the spirit these stages are more clearly understood. Unfortunately most European Magic (as Western is an inaccurate description) no longer contains spirit possession work, so for most people exploring Holy Guardian Angels, spirit possession means spinning heads and pea soup.

So first you should understand that possession occurs in different stages. In Catholicism there is Courting, Obsession, and Possession. When a spirit is courting someone it is exploring weaknesses which would open that person to possession and tempting them into situations to exploit and exacerbate those weaknesses. The spirit might directly influence and inspire the person and attempt to draw them in. When a spirit is obsessing someone the spirit has made contact and presents the person with things they desire and draws them towards desiring a relationship with the spirit or opening up to that spirit's influence. The obsessed person is oppressed by the spirit as the spirit begins to exert some control., often by impacting their well being and weakening the person's resistance to their influence. Possession occurs when the person succumbs to the obsessing spirit and control is relinquished. Finally an integration would occur if the person willingly gives themselves over to the possessing entity.

These stages all take a pretty negative view on the subject because in Catholicism possession is almost always an involuntary and negative act. Catholicism does however provide a lot of the framework for European spirit magic and so an awareness of it can be useful as a way for setting up our thinking.

Another way of looking at it based in Afro-Caribbean traditions would be that in stage one the spirit sits on you or next to you, you can feel the presence of the spirit, it touches you, you can communicate with it, but aside from a more intimate awareness of it, you're still in the driver's seat, and you can break off from the contact. A second stage involves the spirit more intimately connecting with you such that it can influence and take partial control. You're aware of what's happening, mostly, and you can exert some control, but you and the spirit are kind of sharing control of the steering wheel. The third phase is when the spirit is in full control, and you act as the spirit, you may or may not have awareness and it may or may not communicate with you so much as through you in this process. ( To be clear, I am not an initiate of any African Diaspora, or African Traditional Religions. My comments here are based on understandings of Kimbanda from classes, books and discussions with Kimbandieros. I will happily accept correction if I have mischaracterized this comparison.)

Knowledge and Conversation is somewhere between stage one and stage two, which would fit somewhere close to the obsession stage in a Catholic context. But in the case of Knowledge and Conversation it is voluntary on our parts, and so that gives it an integrated element, which makes it like he reception of a Head Spirit, or being Crowned, in which the spirit with whom you work, by whom you are possessed “resides” with you and so there is an on going relationship in which the “stage” or the clarity of contact, moves on a scale as per the context of the particular moment.

That said, unless you've experienced these types of spiritual interaction, this probably doesn't explain the experience too much.

To go back to Hollywood as a means of illustrating...Death Note is a good example. The relationship between Light and his God of Death is a good example. Ryuk is always there, even if he's just sort of in the back of Light's awareness. They communicate, Light gets answers and suggestions from Ryuk. Ryuk isn't in control but his presence impacts how Light is able to approach things and Ryuk is at times able to facilitate things for him. On some level it looks kind of like a relationship with a familiar spirit, except that Ryuk exerts influence just by virtue of his connection to Light as well as directly by what he communicates, rather than a familiar, who generally performs tasks and provides information but without that same influence. The recent Fox TV series version of The Exorcist has also depicted this phase of possession, albeit in a negative context, in season two of the series. Andy, the possessed individual, initially experiences the possessing spirit as a girl who he believes to be one of his foster children. She suggests things to him, influences what he does and how he makes decisions, she isn't always with him but she's always watching and can make suggestions to or influence Andy pretty much whenever she chooses, but still she's not ultimately in control of him.

Recently when talking with the same friend who pointed out that some people treat the Holy Guardian Angel like a One and Done kind of thing I described it like this:

By possession I mean like first/second stage The spirit is touching you so it knows and understands you and is able to freely talk to you, but it's there like generally. Like not every waking moment but at any given moment it can interact. It's intimately in the space of your being; still identifiably separate though, but it doesn't feel dissociative. It is like a partner who sits in your sphere and kind of comes into your ear when he needs to speak.”

I could go into what talking to it is like, or how this relationship impacts magic and divination and other spirit work...but if I did all that in one blog post it's seriously limit what I'd have to talk about later.

In any case, finishing the Abramelin, or Liber 8, or Samekh, or whatever ritual you intend to use to achieve Knowledge and Conversation is great, and it's important, but it isn't really the goal or the prize. That all comes later, and is the unfolding relationship which completing the ritual catalyzes. It's not just that single moment, but rather the way in which it affects all the later moments.

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