The Quick and Dirty Guide to New Occult and Folk Horror

Another Satyrday Night…

Another Satyrday Night…

As a kid I really LOVED being scared, and my Dad loved to scare me;  so there is a very nostalgic background to my love of scary and spooky things. Once, he crept around to my bedroom window at night, when I was having a slumber party...in a wolf mask. It scared the crap out of us all. The funny thing? The whole gaggle of  girls screamed and RAN outside after the Wolfman! He always took us (that wanted to go) to the community haunted house; I remember a time when he organized one for my school carnival. So I really love the Horror genre...but I also have very specific tastes.

From my literacy preferences to my decor aesthetic, I won’t enjoy just any damn thing that’s supposed to be frightened or creepy. Especially with films: there is an invested interest and time that comes with it. So if I am going to spend 90-120 minutes becoming absorbed in a plot it better be worth it. I know there are so many endearing qualities to really bad and kitschy film making and viewing, but the story plots are so unrealistic it makes it almost unbearable to watch. I love movies with some kind of plausibility, even if it’s involving the supernatural and occult (my two most favorite kinds). Being home for a month with a serious illness, I had loads of time on my hands to rest up and catch some fun viewing...resulting in a fabulous list of suggestions for a sorcerer's night in.


  1. Jug Face: Appalachian folk magic with a sinister twist. I was worried it would be silly like “Pumpkinhead”, although that also had some deserved creepiness. It turned out to be a well-written storyline with descent actors.

  2. Hereditary: surprisingly good with accurate rules of engagement with the occult, must see to experience. It’s hard to talk about this film without giving away any spoilers, but suffice it to include a cult following of King Paimon of the Goetia.

  3. The Alchemist’s Cookbook: raw, believable ceremonial magic sprinkled with some chaos; a very modern feel while capturing the madness of deep magickal practice.

  4. A Dark Song: haunting story of a woman’s Will to contact her Holy Guardian Angel with the Abramelin working. This one stayed with me a long time, as a Mother and one who has knowledge of...

  5. Pyewacket: typical angsty teen magick story; kid is Gothy and dabbling in ‘dark magick’, pissed off at her own Mother so sicks a demon on her. Backfires, of course...but it was creepy as hell at the end. I was initially interested due to the title; Pyewacket being the name of an Imp from some witch trial records, not to mention the name of a cute kitty from my favorite film, “Bell, Book and Candle”.

  6. The Ritual: dumbasses in the woods, scary fucking runes and bloody Pagans. Oh and a cool ass monster.

  7. Jordskott: Swedish murder mystery series (2 seasons so far) on Shudder… a channel serious horror fans should have) with deep ecological. The land fights back against environmental exploitation, showing who the real monsters are.

  8. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: okay, so it’s campy and funny and times, but I love it when they portray Satanism as a ‘normal’ way of life...making the mundane world of every else seem all the stranger. The color schemes, storylines and PG-13 rating makes it one that tantalizes the senses. I will say this one thing though: the soundtrack in Season 1 was way better than Season 2.

  9. American Horror Story, Apocalypse: not only do the witches of Season 3 come back, in a very stylish way, but we finally get some answers to burning questions! The Devil’s child is fun, as we all love Our Dark Lord. Many twists and turns that were just plain Satanic fun.

  10. Butter on the Latch: emotionally and sexually unstable woman goes to a folk music conference, and is suffering some kind of psychological breakdown...making it confusing to understand who’s perspective the story is told from. Everything becomes clear in a shocking crescendo.

  11. November: visually captivating in the Estonian landscape of the 1800’s. Blending some surrealism and folk legends, the land and Devil reign over the lives of the players in this classic story of Girl in love with Boy who loves another.

  12. Apostle: another tale of kidnapping by a controlling religious group. I liked it because, although it at first seemed cliche, the Pagan secret seemed very plausible and related to pacts with the Land spirits.

  13. Always A Witch: a Netflix exclusive, like many of the titles on the list, from Colombia about a witch who is a slave in colonial Cartagana that falls in love with her master’s son. When about to be burned alive, she transports herself to modern times. With a mystery to solve, the story is sweet and fun to follow along...but I have a ‘thing’ for time-travelling women in cinema.

Black Flame PDX: Lux ex Tenebris

‘Light in Darkness’

The Winter was long, cold and dark as the Devil’s cock. Quiet muffles of thought and icy reflections filled my days as wave after wind hit my little house in the woods. The light held in my heart was tended carefully, faint but true...only to be fanned into a consuming rage of black fire. Such was my experience over the weekend of the left hand path conference Black Flame PDX: Lux ex Tenebris. The shared experience in ‘occult philosophy, literature, performance and art’ spoke to the heretical heart and curious mind, challenging thoughts for evolving ideologies for all in attendance.

Photo courtesy of Fernando Cabrejos.


Photo courtesy of Fernando Cabrejos.

The opening ceremony was facilitated by a brilliant ritualist, merging chaos and animism into a hybrid of performance art and deep subconscious tapping. Arùn Joseph Ragan lead a procession through the secret building, located under a bridge...a liminal space of industrial coldness strong enough to contain the spiritual fires ignited. Handmade masks resembling hellish animals, yew and Ethiopian cumin strewn around the floor, a widdershins circumambulation  of an obsidian circle .

Horse Cult performing at the High Water Mark. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

Horse Cult performing at the High Water Mark. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

Kindling the blaze within, our energy was carried over into another separate event at a bar across town; Wicker Man IV, included several performances by artists of dark folk music and enchanting revelry. The finale was an album release party for “One Curious Night” by locals Horse Cult...which was really fantastic, haunting and transcendent.  The introduction to their set included a welcoming of Spring in invocational prose by Arùn and the lighting of a wicker man by Horse Cult member and co-organizer of Black Flame PDX, Amie Beckwith. Arùn as the Pooka, a creature of mischief and mirth from Irish fairy tradition, really embodied the spirit of the evening as a hilarious High Priest. The twisted and formed wicker man contained written petitions of destruction, sending away the things which no longer served participants.

On Saturn’s morning, bright and early, folk herbalist Corrine Boyer gave an incredibly rich and fascinating lecture, “The Graveyard as Sanctuary: The Witches’ Keep”. Sharing traditional taboos of historical and practical herbal cautions also brought to light the motivations of several approaches for both beneficial and baneful workings. Emphasizing on the lives of ancestors, both known and unknown, in burial grounds hints at the uses of acquired dirts or herbs; never to take flowers or fruits from the grounds. Also something many don’t probably think about, Boyer made mention of the desired effects being in alignment with the lives and deaths of cemetery spirits… the young are especially helpful as they bring the vibrancy of young life to an otherwise heavy necromantic current. I also appreciated how Boyer addressed issues I often see with those trying to work with the Dead: spending too much time with them can be detrimental for one’s health, both physically and emotionally. Making time for a question and answer session was especially helpful to me, as I am about to necromantically explore an especially old cemetary where once criminals were hanged...the tree is still standing.

The presentation given by Jack Grayle was surprising...although I cannot comment much on it being that I partially assisted him in a dramatic reading from The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus. Grayle shared ancient workings with the Dead, referencing many from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM). Especially gratifying was not only his adaption for modern ceremonial uses, but Grayle showed us. By including the attendees to evoke Hekate, the operation he shared included the graveyard dust from a young woman who was killed too early… drunk driving. Grayle transferred some dust into a reliquary  locket and offered it to whomever agreed to care for the young spirit in a specific manner. While some participants left the room, or watched in earnest for a spectre glimpse, I kept my eyes shut and used other senses during the process. With the Dead I tend to smell and feel them in my gut; a queasy feeling comes over my whole body only to recess rather quickly, unless there is a horrible smell to accompany. This time I smelled flowers, sweet and sad; I saw the shadow rise up and halo around Grayle’s head only to dip into his waiting trinket. I sensed a love, for all the grief. Grayle is a wonderful, approachable and engaging speaker; in person as well as online.

Luciferian Witch and co-founder of the online store Luciferian Apotheca, Hopemarie Ford gave an outstanding lecture on defining Luciferianism and the history of it’s philosophy. It’s refreshing not only to see a woman presenting on Left Hand Path topics, but it was nice to define the parameters many could agree on. When it comes to spiritual practice there are so many genres and ways of description, it is helpful to get a discourse based in understood terms.  Ford is a great speaker, seasoned with an especially pleasing voice. Her brief exploration of Luciferian leaning philosophy was stimulating and reminded me how much this particular path connects with my own political viewpoints; Libertarianism. The emphasis on self reliance, intellect over carnality, and a perspective of self-first in all motivations. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a young man at the Black Flame regarding just that: is doing charity work a selfish act? We do it because it makes us ‘feel good’ to do the thing, help someone else. It isn’t really out of compassion completely… and this was something I am still mulling over as I look at my own occupation, as Librarian.

The most intense and fascinating part of the entire weekend was listening to metaphysical engineer and master occultist Diabolus Rex. Rarely does one hear something so profound and bizarre...I hardly could process it all at once. A ‘viable source of exploitation’, Rex is building the Ragnarok Engine: a ship that houses an occult energy generator. A psychic satellite to harness and distribute occult power. You must forgive me, dear reader...I am very much NOT mechanically inclined. I admit it is a weakness in my intellect, and one which may fail in accurately reporting this fabulous presentation. I was transfixed, hanging on his every word as Rex explained the process and inspiration for building Ragnarok. His industrial style mirrored Rex’s love of welding, like an occult-inspired H.R. Giger. Whether his machine will blow a hole into another dimension (which would be totally awesome) or destroy this world (it’s inevitable), is hard to say. However, I must admit to a connection with Rex concerning the occult experiments conducted by the S.S, as I always thought Die Glocke, or ‘the Bell’, was a brilliant and terrifying experiment. But really how far fetched is it, especially considering advances in technology like the hadron collider?

Saturn’s Day finished with 2 separate and deep storytelling sessions. The first was Koyote the Blind, a returning philosopher I experienced at last year’s Flambeau Noir. Where last year Koyote’s telling was darker, this one was a message from the Earth, it seemed. The guided trance took us on a journey into the heart of our planet, to feel the hurts and see the future as it unfolded before, and will again.  

The second tale told was at another location with a ritual performance by artist and Hekatean Sorcerer Orryelle Defenestrate. With strings and hir voice, Defenestrate related a telling of hir revelatory Book of the Spider; from Hekate Herself to the intimate attendees. There was a tension to the stillness… it built  up with the story, the intensity of the music; I waited to finally feel the releasing ‘snap’ of Defenstrate’s web. But the ending was not a destructive break apart, only a hushed promise of connection...soft as a loose web spinning in the wind.

Sunday’s lineup was pleasantly Thelemic in its current, beginning with one of my favorite topics: Scarlet Women… and one in particular, who was little known to me: Leah Hersig. A thoroughly researched presentation, Michael Kolson of Night of Pan Books shared intimate letters, diary entries, commentaries and so much primary source material about this brilliant, and somewhat sad, occultist. One thing I always appreciate is what kind of women these were….who adored Mr. Crowley this much. Transgressive behavior and blasphemic rites are indeed catalysts of progression on the Left Hand Path. However, the feminist in me wonders what Hersig, and others like her, could have accomplished had they not been his tool of transformation. Even in Eastern traditions there are stories of consorts who became powerful in their own right. But on the other hand (left), Hersig held the true power of Babalon in her role as Muse. I can identify with that, as a woman who has been used over and over for inspiration. Always the one behind the success, not in the spotlight…it allows for true ego release in the serving, accompanied by openness for an accelerated transcendence, in my experience.

Michael W. Ford gave an inspiring, dark talk about his evolving tradition of Luciferian Magick; tying in apotheosis (Luciferian), ordeals (Thelemic) and illuminating the black flame (witchcraft). With the tools of Theurgy, ‘embracing chaos and primal instincts’, the witch gains access to underworld knowledge. Drawing upon Mesopotamian, Hellenistic and other Near Eastern examples from his own research, Ford always leaves listeners with more to explore when all is said and done.

The Temple of Set was a heavy presence this year as well, with well reception. Toby Chappell gave a thorough and intensive crash course on runes and how they relate according to the semiotic theory of magick and operative communication. This primal approach transcends culture, making it nominally antinomian and highly compatible with Left Hand Path philosophy. There was also a screening for Jessica Hall’s documentary film “Left Hand Path”, following Temple of Set priest and jewelry artist James C. Kirby through his processes.

Catamara Rosarium. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

Catamara Rosarium. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

The entire weekend of presentations built up, for me, to the  ritual operation given to attendees by Catamara Rosarium, proprietor of long time favorite Rosarium Blends. Fellow devotee and initiate of Hekate, I was anxious to share in the experience of Rosarium’s “Hekate’s Crossroads”; an oracular ritual developed and practiced annually for 12 years by Rosarium. Attendees enjoyed a delicious pomegranate cordial and drew an epithet of Hekate, to be used as a mantra for a year. I was excited to receive ‘HEKATETAKEH’...a palindrome. The sonic power of invocation, aloud, is something many new practitioners tend to avoid but I have embraced since day one. Names of power, barbarous words, esoteric syllables strung together, only incoherent to the untrained ear, Rosarium didn’t disappoint. The epithets of Hekate we chanted, and in the presence of so many adepts, really added juice in Her presence. I look forward to any books or other materials Rosarium presents in the future, as her devotion and care in cultivating relationship with Hekate is painfully obvious and exhilarating in it’s freshness.

The closing ritual was a rather quick and intense releasing. Arùn came out masked again, in a farewell of fire and gifts of obsidian for all attendees. Later on at a small venue called The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, we were treated to ritual musical performances by Brujentropy, organizers for Black Flame PDX who are incredibly talented at giving an unnerving experience in a sonic delivery of fear and trepidation...for me, anyway. Season Cole is a tiny woman with the voice of a screaming banshee! Her power comes out as wings at her back, making Cole look ethereal, a spawned imp that could devour your soul. Her performance was not as angsty as last year’s which was indeed heavy. In fact, I rather enjoyed the journey of "Da'ath Becomes Her", with Gary Michael Parks, who also DJed with Michael Ford performing as Ahktya at the event. I was not familiar with Ford’s music;, except only what I had heard in snippets during lectures or videos. Let me say I was pleasantly surprised. More of a rock n’ roller than electronic music fan, I appreciated the occult overtone to their performance. It seemed a series of invocations, spirit conjurings accompanying sigils projected on a screen and true magickal transformation felt throughout the room, not just the circle Ford cast.

Turvan throat singer, Soriah. Photo Courtesy of Fernando Cabrejos.

Turvan throat singer, Soriah. Photo Courtesy of Fernando Cabrejos.

I was really tired and ready to go back to my hotel when I was talked into staying for one more round of Absinthe (a delicious cocktail called ‘Haint’) and witnessing the genius of L.V.X.N.O.X. next performer: Soriah. A Tuvan throat singer, I had heard this type of vocalizing before but have never heard it done live, in person. The power of Soriah’s voice permeated through the bodies of those all around me… I watched as we were all caught up in his spell. I couldn’t look away, except to watch the lights filter through stage smoke giving my chemically enhanced eyes a better view of the magick. I swayed, gulped in the multiple chords Soriah simultaneously gathered together, forming a perfect pitch to make my heart chakra explode. Truly, I was standing there afraid of dying and then suddenly not. I felt a rapture of self worth and a true identification with everything around me, as also being me. When Soriah’s performance was finished, I felt as malleable, soft clay...potentiality and newness surging through my pores. I needed someone to come along and scoop me up, take me to a bath and give me tea. But instead I stayed for the final act, Inade...a Dark Ambient sound manipulation which had interesting instruments added to the otherwise electronic beats. Not really my style of music, but I enjoyed the groove of it as a nice way to end the weekend of intensity.

The cool darkness of the Black Flame closed with a cold shoulder...the reality of the mundane no longer satisfying to my Spirit. This close-knit conclave of practitioners is inspiring, a model for the occult community in general, if people could be open to differences instead of opposed to it.

For more information on these presenters and performers:

Black Sun Occult Engineering

Daimonosophy 2.0 with Diabolus Rex

Assembly of Light Bearers


Yours truly with  Brujentropy , Season Cole and Gary Michael Parks. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

Yours truly with Brujentropy, Season Cole and Gary Michael Parks. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

Liminal Book Review: The Hekataeon

“O daughter of Helios (the Sun), Mene (Moon) of many turnings, nurse of all! O Selene (Moon), driver of the silver car! If thou art Hekate of many names, if in the night thou doest shake thy mystic torch in brandcarrying hand, come nightwanderer, nurse of puppies because the nightly sound of the hurrying dogs is thy delight with their mournful whimpering”                                - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44. 198 ff

Not since The Temple of Hekate by Tara Sanchez has there been such a complete grimoire published within the Hekatean current. There were so many connections between my own personal gnosis and the research-informed praxis presented throughout the text of The Hekataeon , I kept having déjà vu . I slowly savored the recollections of revelatory sorceries Hekate showed me all those years ago (i.e. witches ladder, bloodmagick, creating a iynx, specific mudras and sigils).  I could not just read this thing. I was compelled to take my time, roll it around my mouth a little… savor and try all the things before moving on. Jack Grayle is brilliant in his delivery, as few books of practice do this to me; motivated by excitement only to be stopped in my tracks. A gasp, a hot breath and I enveloped expectations with a sensuality not usually experienced with books. This is the book I wish I had read years ago, instead of struggling to absorb the Hekate current alone…cobbling together bits and pieces of random visions.

The text is organized in three books. The first is ‘Book One: The Call’; as a beginning it guides the reader through collecting and consecration of tools, learning prerequisite invocations culminating with the transition from Reader to Devotee. In ‘Book Two: White Flame‘  of The Hekataeon presents to the witch a devotional practice taking place over the course of 28 days transforming the Devotee into a Adapt. ‘Book 3: Red Blade’ is where the meat and action of the grimoire really starts to take off with an introduction to Hekate’s beasts and workings of a sorcerous nature; the transition from Adapt to Initiate becomes more intensified. It is only as the Initiate approaches ‘Book 4: Black Moon’ where the question of Hierophant, or Priesthood, becomes somewhat convoluted. I am always skeptical of books which claim to train Priests as this is not the traditional way of becoming appointed…as becoming a Priest includes an in-person ritual of ordination. If anything the last rites involved in this book sets one upon the path to receive the blessings of Hekate to pursue that particular path of devotion, but to truly be sanctified in Her service, as any other Priesthood, it takes a Priest to make another Priest.

That being said, I love how The Hekataeon is so practical and consistent. For example, there is not some new way to purify for every single fucking ritual...the instructions are clear. I was honestly hesitant to move forward in my reading without having tried the rituals and spells firsthand. The book itself asks to be ‘activated’ with the Reader’s own blood, creating a bond of physical and spiritual connection so few will actually do. Grayle speaks directly to the reader, giving the book a life of it’s own… a companion and guide. Also the assumption of the Witch being a She was lovely to experience in a serious magickal grimoire; the overly masculine assumptions or even gender neutral language is weary.

Usually I prefer the bhakti path of devotional work accompanied with theurgic principles, in comparison to traditional grimoire magick…but this was a text combining both. Making connections with not just Hekate but other compatible Deities and Spirits; including Pasiphae, Medea, Dionysus, Helios and, of course, Hermes. My personal work with Hermes and Hekate came to a standstill once I left the urban landscape for the woods. Combining the 2 deities as Grayle presents in the very last book of The Hekataeon is both clever and understandable. Hermes and Hekate are incredibly similar in their relationships with humans; friend, guide, lover. Without giving too much away, let’s just say it ends in a sabbatic orgy of Gods and Goats.

The invocations truly speak to my own praxis, as inspirited rhymes come easily to the tongue creating mystical melodies of heartsong. Grayle captures the raw liminal passion of informed hymns which only comes from years of devotion. Juxtaposed imagery and dark sensuality drip with the blood of stones, bones and savage poetry.

“O Indominable Darkness that dwells

In the heart of Light;

O Formless Fire that informs

The womb of Night;

O woman astride an open grave

Giving birth to life;

O child with a dog’s face

Whose left hand is a knife” (Grayle, p. 32)

This is a living, working tool of manifestation I wish to disappear into the woods with, pitch a tent and surround myself with the skulls of dogs and goat…welcoming to my fire the lovers and spirits of Darkness which await my call. It has been a long time coming and I accept the challenge of inhibited fears.


Photo provided by Jack Grayle; Model is Andrea Hebamme.

Photo provided by Jack Grayle; Model is Andrea Hebamme.

Upgrades and Down Roots

“...This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go --.”
-Emily Dickinson

Changes

It has been a long time coming, but I needed to change the website. I moved it to a new platform and there are new features coming to the podcast which will allow for easy subscriptions. So I hope this new, simplified version of the site is manageable and easy to navigate. It is a true reflection of my spiritual life as well: the many altars reduced to the few, a singular pattern of focus and intention without the bullshit of others’ influenced experiences.

In the solitude of mountains, I have gathered about me tools of inspiration: The trees whisper their secret warnings, eyes open to watch the unmaking of our world as wolves return to hunt. My domesticated and feral natures work in harmony now. There is a delicate madness to this balance.

Pagan, Enough?

I am not terribly interesting. I am a heterosexual woman born and raised female. I am married with one husband, one child and 3 cats all living together. I am highly educated, middle-class taxpayer with high speed internet and a retirement plan. I drive a 12 year old paid off car. I have a huge amount of student loan debt, which I work a government job to pay for. I recently bought a house in a small woods and brand new living room furniture for the first time in my adult life. I am a librarian. I don’t make and sell witchy wares nor do I belong to any esoteric groups; as a matter of fact, every group I have ever joined either disbanded or kicked me out.

As a Pagan I am drawn to community worship… as a Witch I long for the deep experiences found only in solitude; why public rituals and conferences are a double-edged sword. I have found there to be two kinds of folks: ones who practice magick and are Pagan, then the ones who just want to socialize and worship together without any magickal practice. Both are valid paths of transformation and religious experience, but can be mutually exclusive of their opposites. I can see the confusion during public workings, when witches attempt to be inclusive of all regardless of magickal training… it taints the current with amateur energy and a chaotic focus. There was a reason our ancestors left these kinds of things to the religious specialists, Priests and magick workers.

After attending Pantheacon for nearly 5 years straight, it seems I have outgrown it spiritually. It no longer feeds my spirit, inspires me to try new things nor encourages me to meet new friends. Every time it is the same people covering the same topics for newbies, teaching technologies I have discovered on my own, and new innovations in activism or intended for the niche collectives. The anger and hurt permeating our communities, the fear which feeds it.. all poisons and contagions.  

The winds of fortitude are stripping all bare, leaving us exposed. Sexual abuses in many religious communities both internationally and in our microcosmic Pagan circles...bones picked clean over time and rot. The fervor of persecution justified by regrets and frustration spread the suspicions… a witch hunt amongst witches. What must our ancestors think, to see the once powerful and feared Arte reduced to Instagram memes and pettiness amongst practitioners? Those of our Crafte history would not crumble at the thought of a feminist historian presenting on Women’s History at a Pagan Conference. Women who are born with the genitalia of women, raised female yet find the courage to practice witchcraft are looking to connect with others in a safe way. Instead they are experiencing gender apartheid by the majority.

We shall gather together under the guise of night, hidden mysteries for those who seek in private places. The integrity and innovation is out there, not presenting but in the doing. Grinding the herbs, slathering the salve and meeting at the wild places in witches’ hearts; journeys that cannot be sold nor bought, only earned through practice and patience. The knowledge is passed down in the sweat of effort and blood of dedication; no weekend hotel party. So for those who search, may you find Truth and be fearless in it’s embrace.

The Silence of Snow

Under a cold blanket, the sun begins to shine through. Filtered as light does, the jagged edges of ice refract and call into memory something primal. Codes of survival written into skin, hair and instinct. The call of blood to hide away, allow the storm to pass over is strong. Gusts of frigid air fill my nostrils, the muscles of my chest tense up and the sobering reality of Winter’s death grip comes into focus. Having enough in the house becomes a real focus; a simple drive to the store has become a journey of fortitude...planning and patience are virtuous to sit out the drifts. The taste of a wild kill is something modern Pagans rarely know. The bloodshed for another to live, sacrifice of the land is not lightly taken. Feeding the land is the price; offerings of milk and honey, felling diseased trees and composting the shed leaves.

These are more than poetic words, pretty as they seem. The romanticized rural life is one many don’t understand in our modern context; trying to reconnect to a past that never existed for some. Since moving back into the countryside, I have sunk deep into the roots of my spirit. The moments of uncertainty, arousal and serenity were unfamiliar but I have learned to sit in the middle of it. Like a rock, half buried in dirt and ice, exposed to sleeping earth below: I am witness and ally.

And so I burrow deeper into the land beneath my feet, finding stability in hidden root systems. Trees are a community never taking more than they need, providing support to each other and allowing the weak to die off for the good of healthier forest. The mentoring nature is one Pagans should look to for examples of equanimity and compassion. Only those who find nourishment in dark places will weather this storm, of social and climate change.

Ice-Sun.gif

Carrying the Temple of Hekate

The keys clank against a chain, rattling on my hip as feet kick up dust from the desert floor. High pitched melodies ring from razor wire, accompanied by the gentle humming of electric fences. Scheming eyes of lost souls penetrate my every move as I cross the yard...the cold wind blowing debris in my path. Black wings flapping, shaking off the morning moisture, and my attention is drawn to the left. A raven swoops down, flying toward my right, with a large banana in it’s mouth. This is a strange omen as I begin my day.

My library stands between two yards, each in the direction of a different mountain range. I offer service according to the time and day of week; each ruled over by planetary spheres accordingly. I unlock the gate, or cage as it is sometimes referred to...swallows and pigeons make their nests above the concrete floor, their babies often fall out and crack open their delicate heads. I unlock the door, leaving it wide open to air out the early morning smell of burnt bread offerings. As I walk past the collection I look for signs of searching, seeing skewed and misplaced books...the violation from custody. Facing and straightening, I make my way to the other door and cage, to unseal the biblio temple and create a breezeway; the invited wind blows fluffy cottonwood seedlings like feathers dancing across the floor.

Pentagrams are thrown toward every direction, salt has been placed in each corner, with sigils of angels tucked into some crevices; purifying and protecting the only neutral place in the prison. For inmates it is a reprieve from gang politics, noisy dorms and short return to something normalized...even if they have never set foot in a library outside the tall brick walls. Research materials line walls of the Law collection, computers waiting for desperate fingers with pre-loaded databases of case law and empowering information are available within this sanctuary. Sympathy is never offered by the Priest services, but empathy certainly is. As they walk through the doorway, the past of these patrons is forgotten...only their deeds and words in the sacred space are accountable.

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I am a librarian, a Priest of Access. Training for Hekate's Priesthood, it has been only in the last few years I land somewhere I never imagined. Between chod practice, monthly offerings to the Dark Moon, workings at peak full lunar periods and bloody sex magicks did I see the true fruits of these labours. It is hard to describe, process and present the changes among it all, but the current Work is one of true mystery as I share this journey.

In the final stage of this training, a journey I began 4 years ago, my life has completely changed. I know people always SAY that, but it’s because there is truth in it. When spiritual work is dedicated, executed properly and not compromised the Universe shifts things around to make the necessary adjustments for your Will to be carried out. It was my Will to become a Priest of Hekate, to serve Her and Her people. When I proved myself She plucked me from my mountain home, removed me from the bamboo groves and running streams only to drop me in a metropolis with my family. Jobless and raising a small child I followed a series of dreams that lead me to the man who would train and eventually, hopefully, ordain me. I took on the challenges and completed the requirements: grounding and centering, manipulation of bodily energies, mastery of the elements, daily invocation of planetary spheres, monthly dark moon devotionals and weekly deity veneration. There are also oaths I have kept concerning the realms for which Hekate rules. This kind of dedication is not taken lightly and prepares one for the eventual end result of unification with Deity.

While the last part of my training has been to have a daily practice (which I do), I am also supposed to be providing a monthly dark moon devotional for the community; serving Deity and the Laity. The thing is, I live in a very isolated place with not a single pagan or witch within a 60 mile radius...or at least, not to my knowledge. An online service does not meet this requirement either. However...my job, the service I provide to the hundreds of incarcerated men who come through my library are ‘lead’ by the light of knowledge. Many ask for legal research, religious information, college guidance, and some are seeking just a few minutes to feel human again.

With my keys, I open doors to personal empowerment, safety, transformational and servant leadership to the clerks who work for me. The Dead who wander the prison grounds, either as empty human shells or the literal ghosts who haunt the buildings, find the light which Hekate surrounds me with. Her symbols surround me, empower me and provide for me a means of serving in Her name; giving me the economic independence and freedom to pursue goals long placed on hold. I take nothing for granted, nor regret a single step.

Considering Online Magick Classes

In all my years practicing, learning and writing about the occult arts I have never paid for more than a book. For decades, teachers were willing to take me on without payment as I did the work they assigned me. I might have to consider myself lucky as it is only now, after 25 years, I am beginning to pay for classes, training and conferences in which to participate, in turn expanding my magickal skills. But what IS the cost of knowledge? Nothing in this world is free, even magick. When we cast a spell there is time, energy, knowledge, supplies and all the accouterments which have some sort of payment to be made. There are some who believe because lessons or lectures are given of a spiritual nature, there should be no price tag attached… somehow it taints what is being given. This is simply not true. If it is of real value, why should it be free? In some ways charging for services is a way of weeding out time wasters and dabblers… those not willing to do the necessary work who will often not pay as it means not just time wasted, but money as well for not being a participant. Either that or they drop out, giving up on the training altogether for lack of trying, being so far behind they can never truly keep up, or they go running out the gate so hard in an effort to impress they burn out fast.

My tour of online training began in realizing how far removed I am from anyone else who practices the Arte of Magick. I live in a very remote location, surrounded by wild and untamed desert, a desolate place beauty perfect for accessing Hekate. However, I had also become somewhat stagnant in my practice; no matter how much I kept it up there was not the same quality as before. My mind needs a challenge, as well my spirit; my progress often moves forward when faced with adversarial or fresh perspectives. Of course, I chose to only take courses offered by teachers I found to be with a reputed high quality history, relatively well known and a background similar to my own. It was only by coincidence that these teachers were all men...I have a history with that anyway, which I plan to explore at a later date.

I took the first step last fall by enrolling in the Golden Dawn Academy, sponsored and structured around the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn’s system of initiation. I was already familiar with much of the material, having studied with the class instructor Sam Webster for several years. Zoom allowed for everyone to have a live video stream, giving the feeling of a true interactive classroom without problems and complaints of bandwidth or echoed voice streams. Whilst we had access to an email forum, my only real interaction with classmates (around 20-30 of them) was on class dates, live-streaming. All sessions were recorded, with 2 dates a month; priced $40/month for 6 months with a break for the holidays...it was well worth the cost. I got a lot more insight into Qabbalah, a topic I have much averted and avoided over my magickal career. I do not feel it necessary to my practice, but as I delve into more grimoire traditional workings it will become a useful general subject for me to understand the background of. Learning about the rituals and meanings behind them was interesting, but not really necessary as I am solitary these days. And really, lodges are all about group work. Having experienced some of the rituals put forth by the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn I understand the potency of it, but not the practicality. This is just my personal opinion and how I am adjusting it for solitary magcik by circumstance.

Jack Grayle’s course with the Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary, “Hekatean Devotion and Magic in the Hellenic World” consisted of 7 weekly meetings, readings and assignments which heavily explored Hekate in Her most ancient and traditional forms. Having been only a guest for these classes, I did not have to fully participate…but found I had already done the majority of these during my personal Hekate praxis over the past 8 years; which in a way was very confirming. Creating a iynx wheel, or “whirly gig” as he called them, was one such project…I even wrote about the experience. Another was in the creation of focal points of worship, some call them altars or shrines. Much of the reading included excerpts from classical texts, well-known and beloved modern books about Hekate, and a sneak peek at the author’s upcoming title: “The Hekataeon” to be published by IXAXAAR this winter. While most of the subjects covered were well known to me already, including works from the Greek Magical Papyri and the Chaldean Oracles, it was refreshing to hear such support of modern practices based in ancient ones. So many people in the Hekatean community have cobbled together what little information there actually is available, with the lines between archaeology and UPG getting blurred. Grayle was very careful to give credit in a proper historical context and also modern adaptations. He even tackled the post-modern imagery of Hekate the Crone, a topic most books and teachers tend to steer clear of. If I had paid for the class, I would have felt the assignments were a great way of getting feedback on my progress, with a gentle approach to adjustments Grayle is a very laid back teacher who puts forward the data and allows the students to glean what is useful. The best part was the section on Yahweh and Hekate, from a Sethian Gnostic current. I was very unfamiliar with this, even having a degree in Religious Studies has kept me from further study of Christian thought in Pagan practices. I tend to stay far away from anything of this vein, but was highly interested in understanding the ‘doing’ just to intellectually satisfy this curious part of me. The only real complaint I have was the format from which it was offered. Not being a student of the Seminary school I had to go through many hurdles to get added to the class roster, install software that made it compatible with their custom forums (including some from Microsoft which might make it more difficult for Apple users), and using the antiquated Skype for Business application which made it so only the instructor could have a live video feed.

Feeling motivated I finally took the plunge and enrolled in Jason MIller’s “Sorcery of Hekate” class, at $100/month for 7 months. That is a hefty price given there are 2 lessons a month with a Q & A given between each. While I am sworn to secrecy regarding the non-public materials, I would like to comment on a few things thus far. I am only 3 weeks into the mantra work and am finding it very good; I enjoy the simplicity and the one Miller has assigned is VERY similar to one I received from Hekate Herself years ago. The imagery in his version of Hekate, because everyone seems to have a different one, is similar to what we visualize in my Priesthood; Hekate with six arms, each having a different item in hand with the exception of two torches. However, Miller’s Hekate has 6 legs, which I had never considered before. The work is clear, slowly being assigned in chunks for easy and slow digestion; which is essential for doing such an intense, long period of devotional work. That being said, I did have to leave the official Facebook group...mainly because I get irritated with other people filling up my newsfeed with repetitive statements/questions and bragging about the results they are receiving rather quickly. With 120 students participating this cycle, I anticipate half of them to either drop or burn out at this pace. Focused devotional work such as this is a marathon, not a race...sprinting and exerting so much energy in the very first weeks is not wise. Yes, I understand some people are excited because they have never really committed to something so intensely, never really connected with Hekate; although if you look at some Hekate FB groups it seems She is involved in every aspect of devotees’ lives, everything from doing their dishes to the dog barking during devotionals. My personal experience and devotion to Her has uprooted my family a few times to new locations, destroyed and remade me over and over, brought death and renewal in dramatic ways I never could have anticipated….nor bragged about. Spiritual progress is a very personal, vulnerable thing. It can be periods of sheer boredom and then suddenly paranormal activity and synchronicity at every turn so that even atheistic family members are like “WTF?”

Healthy skepticism is needed at every step on our paths through magick. Researching instructors, talking to past students and being sure the money is right for the value you expect of a class’ support/information given should all be examined carefully. I have been given the chance for making enough money to which I can easily afford to spend on classes, travel to conferences from time to time, and buying supplies I cannot source myself. This is the culmination of years spent in devotional practice and witching blessings into my life. The opportunity has presented itself, and so I take it.

Heart of the Black Flame: Flambeau Noir

I arise in the ethereal body from sleep, called by something wild and silent. Nude, covered only by my hair and the scents of baneful herbs; slathered over thighs, armpits, the soles of my feet and anointed third eye. I step outside into the soft night. My breath is so relaxed, the only sound to accompany a beating heart. In the darkness is cloaked spirits, beckoning and protecting my nocturnal journey. I stretch out my arms finding wings; my ears become long and sensitive as I fly past trees, homes. Towards the mountain peak I fly, with scattered giants of limestone among the sagebrush and pines aglow from fire. Caressing air warms my body, screaming with speed. As my feet land on soft, sandy soil I can see a dark figure outlined by the soft moonlight. The flames have turned black, no longer the warm rage of heat but a tempered one fed of Iron and Blood. The Man, once facing this fire, turns toward me...away from the temporary hearth, after waiting, and extends a hand. His words worm into my brain, a spell sung as mantra: Reclaim the Flame.

Over the Beltane weekend I attended a small, high quality conference in Portland, Oregon at an undisclosed location and kept very secret until only days beforehand...the esoteric gathering Flambeau Noir: International Left Hand Path Conference. Around 100 practitioners of Satanism, Luciferianism, Thelema, Tantra and various forms of witchcraft came together to celebrate the theme, ‘Darkness Indivisible’; and never have I enjoyed the company of magicians more than with this crowd. Many in attendance were also presenting, performing or otherwise participating in conversations which baffled the mind and struck a chord deep within my heavily Pagan heart. A week later, and I am still reeling from the experience...so I will do my best to relay the event with the best intentions.

The meet and greet was held in a small, dark bar called Lovecraft in the middle of downtown Portland. A spooky theme with creepy necronomicon and luciferian sigils scattered amongst beastly creatures from the horror stylings of H.P. Lovecraft, and others inspired by the works of the Master, it was all blacklight reflective adding to the ambiance to the gathering of magicians. There was a craft distributed for a group working, one involving iron nails wrapped and tied together with red & black strings to form a kind of portable crossroads… of course, mine completely fell apart. But then the spirits of LHP were invoked;  Azazeal, Belial, Lucifer...an entire retinue to bring forth the presence of a familiar spirit I have yet to really work with: the Man in Black. The chanting was intense and the energy raised was a surprise. Usually public workings are the mumblings of unknown origins amongst half ass witches; but this group was full of adepts and I realized no matter WHAT we did, there would be an effect. We lit the Black Flame, carried within us throughout the weekend…

The morning of Saturn’s Day commenced a full schedule of speakers and presenters, starting with an opening ritual by Jeremy Crow...sanctifying the event hall to cloak and shroud participants. He also spoke later about the Alchemy of Death and mentioned how the tarot’s Death card is a type of ‘Memento Mori’; a mental reminder to live more fully and without regret.

In the morning was Griffin Ced, the same person who led the previous night’s working, who spoke about his own understanding of Heretical Witchcraft. Ced spoke at length about the language of magick within our community, how many of us are doing the exact same things but calling it by different names...how this diversity is informed by each other. This spoke volumes about my own experiences in having conversations with Traditional Witchcraft practitioners; who talk about the Compass working, hedgeriding and travelling to the Sabbath in lucid dreaming...all things we do in Tantra but without any necessary tools or extra steps outside the realm of our minds. I found Ced’s insistence of LHP witchcraft not needing a ‘priesthood’, yet also noting that self initiation was not possible, to be somewhat contradictory. I understand where Ced was trying to go with breaking of traditions in attempts of heresy, but simply looking at the commonalities found in many global traditions cannot just be swept aside for the sake of edginess.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was listening to Michael W. Ford, Luciferian extraordinaire. Also vending at the event with his wife, Ford presented an interesting lecture on Infernal Symbolism and facilitated an exercise in applied Luciferian magicks. Whilst the exercise was something very simple, it reminded me of the power inante with imagery. A sheet of paper was passed out with 6 different images, contained within were Lucifer, Lilith, Leviathan, and wouldn’t you know it good ol’ Hekate. We were to look at whichever image we felt ‘drawn to’ and then visualized that particular one travelling over our bodies… guess which one I chose?

Before lunch, when our bellies were growling and the infernal beings of the Luciferian current were swarming the hall, Steven Johnson Leyba came out to do a reading from one of several of his accursed books… his magick being one of ARTWAR, a mage battle tool through books made of canvas, collage, bodily fluids and paint which oozed with the energy of toxic resonance to infect and reflect the rage of Leyba’s intent. He retold his workings against Monsanto, San Francisco football team the 49ers and the movement Leyba is working in to ‘destroy stillborn art’ manufactured and commodified to the masses. He sat there with this huge tome of work; accompanied by the dark electronic sounds of Merzbow mashed together with his screaming energy, all I could think was Leyba as the LHP occult version of Charles Bukowski.

Magister from the Temple of Set, Paul Frederic gave a wonderful presentation on ‘Secrets of the Holy Fire’. I loved his definitions and explanation of differences between Left Hand Path and Right Hand Path practices and philosophies: essentially, I understood Federic to say RHP represents an idealized order of mankind, whereas LHP gives credit to ‘man as He is found’ with a natural free Will and consciousness. Frederic also explained the Black Flame and how it relates within the philosophy of LHP occult work; a threefold pathway of illumination. First, the practitioner must Receive the Flame; which in itself is also 3 fold as (1) ordinary influences, (2) origination influences such as art/literature/philosophy, and (3) conscious impressions from finding the right people at the right time...this last bit happens when the flame recognizes those who also hold it, akin to what I have also heard as the ‘witchblood’ or ‘witchflame’. The second part of this journey is in the Holding of the Black Flame; similar to the holding of breath, it is intentionally an uncomfortable struggle. Some suggestions Frederic gave for strengthening this hold included physical practices as found in yoga, and with holding the expression of negative energy. The third and final step in working with the Black Flame is found through the Releasing of it… ‘expelling and excreting’ into the world as it catches those who will also receive it.

'The Witches' Sabbath' was a storytelling experience given by Koyote the Blind, in which the origins story of the Black Flame was experienced. Never have I seen such mastery of the spoken word as this Toltec shaman performed as One who witnessed the birthing of this world and all worlds. The story was one to be experienced and really could not be conveyed in any other medium except through the participatory journey involving carefully timed words and accompanying by the live mixed music of Coil.

Early the Sunday morning Marcus McCoy, of Troll Cunning Forge,  gave a wonderful presentation on the history of his personal journey through magickal blacksmithing; metallurgy, the alchemy of metalwork. The strongest message for me came through in his speaking about Iron, a common theme throughout the past few months for me as I work through the planetary spheres and their metallic elements. “Iron is fixed. Iron has rules. Iron is martial”, McCoy repeated several times, like a mantra.

Poet and ritualist Sean Donahue performed a guided meditation and offered a prayer, accompanied by a brief lecture, about Sovereignty/Kingship and its’ connection with the Land. He spoke of a ‘wild etiquette’ long forgotten, how ancient sacred Kings were tied to the land not as a tyrannical ruler, but as oracle and mouthpiece for those spirits...communicating the safety and health of the land which we stand and live upon.

The overtly masculine line-up continued with a presentation by Thomas LeRoy from Sect of the Horned God, an organization dedicated to the LHP philosophy of self illumination through magick and dedicated improvement in rational application. It was really great to hear LeRoy speak about his devotion to Siva and the Tantric LHP of the Aghoris, an extreme practice which leads to apotheosis. I was actually shocked to hear so many practitioners in attendance who were unfamiliar with this tradition.

The later afternoon had 3 presenters/performers I was most looking forward to, and the main reason I purchased tickets to the Flambeau Noir.Venus Satanas talked about her personal journey towards Satanism and the reasons for writing her new book, the “Spiritual Satanist Prayer Book”. She spoke about her online presence via her YouTubechannel and website as a resource for others seeking out Spiritual Satanism. She also spoke about being a voice for theistic satanists, especially women.

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Peter Grey was the highlight of the weekend for many of us. A huge fan of the publishing company, Scarlet Imprint, Grey’s lecture started with the ritual act of tearing up a book. And not just any book, but a New King James’ Version of the Bible. Although this is a transgressive and shocking act to many people in the U.S., for the crowd gathered to hear Mr. Grey speak it was a confirmation of their own spiritual paths, one of ‘otherness’. Personally I was shocked because no matter WHAT book he used, as a librarian and bibliophile it is always sad to see literature destroyed.  

I am ever so grateful that his lecture, "Black Mass, Bright Angel”, can be read in full online because I really couldn’t convey the message tangibly in my words. My own impressions are still being processed and contemplated, never to be fully realized until another illumination is given, surely. He spoke of Angels, and their role in witchcraft...which is something I have struggled with since beginning this path over 20 years ago. Grey pointed out the lack of biblical study in the occult by those working with Demons and Angels, pointing out the traditions already long established which are overlooked because they are too Yahweh-ish. For example, Grey’s commentary included looking at the role of fallen angels; how they are not selfish, individualistic creatures but chose instead to share arcane knowledge with humanity. And not just ANY humanity, but women SPECIFICALLY. How does that speak to the current state of the world, and the misogynist view most cultures take toward the spiritual feminine? It proves why the patriarchy rose up: out of jealousy and envy of the skills given to women and passed on to the people, not just knowledge for an elite clergy.  

Grey also spoke about something I am very familiar with, working in the information profession: we are experiencing a second flood, the first was biblical but this is informational. We are so inundated with data and research it is often hard to discern...and is reason why, Grey believes, we should cease having heated online conversations about the occult but favoring in-person dialog instead. And he is completely right. Between misunderstandings due to a lack of tone or voice fluctuation, and sharing esoteric knowledge without even a physical handshake...the impressions we receive and misinterpret are easily taken out of context. A good example was when I posted to my Facebook wall one of the many profound quotes provided by Grey, it brought out people who NEVER comment on anything I ever say and only wanted to vehemently disagree….without even knowing the context from which it came: “Traditional Witchcraft is a lie”. This resonates with me, as my own path of Tantricism has followed along many of the same practices of this flavor of witchcraft; refer to my post about Traditional Witchcraft for more details on my thoughts concerning this.

Grey’s presentation was followed by sound ritual performances by Pleasure the Priestess, Brujentropy and then a disquieting “Sabbatic Dance” by Alkistis Dimech...which no words can fully describe, so I won’t even try. My body was in such an altered state, listening to favorite neofolk band Horse Cult and drinking the Finnish mead-type drink sima was the sweet ending for my long Walpurgisnacht weekend.

There were very few let-down moments at this event, for me personally. One being the cancellation of Mona Magick and her live streaming presentation; on what topic, I have no idea. Also on Saturday evening it was the ending of a long day...both sleep and food deprived, which meant I missed a talk by Shannon Williams, Head of the U.S. Chapter for the Church of Rational Satanism. There was a real shortage of female speakers in general, and while there were huge attempts by organizers to have feminine representation, an impossible task surely, the LHP and the occult community tends to be a ‘boys club’...as was reflected by the lineup and topics of presentation. With that being said, I also want to point out how it is an exciting time to be a woman involved in this subculture and genre of witchcraft, as the tide is turning. Many strong, intelligent women are writing books, attending conferences, performing and presenting at engagements of significance such as Flambeau Noir...giving a fresh voice and different perspective to this otherwise predominantly man-centered narrative of dark magicks. May my sisters rise from the ashes of those ‘burning times’ which continued to follow us, even into the 20th century as metaphor for patriarchal influences of our spiritual lives. May we reclaim that flame which attempted to destroy us; let it burn the bindings, the blindfolds and the gags holding us back from being in the forefront of this path. I am proud to be counted among their ranks and find inspiration from them all.

Liminal Book Review: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Hekate Books

“The Priestess pours the wine betwixt

Their horns;

Then cuts the curling hair; that first

oblations  burns,

Invoking Hecate hither to repair:

A powerful name in hell and upper air” - Aenid by Virgil

For being so little known or preserved about Her cult practice, there sure is a lot of books out there about Hekate. The very basics we all pretty much can agree on: She was an imported Goddess/Titan from the Near East into the Mediterranean, most often depicted as a Maiden or young woman (when in an anthropomorphic portrayal), carries an assortment of tools (keys, torches, daggers, snakes, apples, whips…), associated with the Dead and Crossroads, etc. But what is always in the forefront of Devotees from every part of the world and of every flavor of Panganism, is the HOW of giving Her devotion. This is why there are so many different ideologies and approaches. Unlike other Gods of the ancient Hellenic world, there are fragments of Her mythology littered and slapped together in other large frameworks that to single them out would feel 'broken', leaving modern devotees to piece together scraps as a collage, each unique.

But which ones to read? What are the best titles to pour over, jot notes from and feed that longing to fill in the gaps? SO many suggested reading lists are out there, and I’d rather not reinvent the wheel… but I would like to share some gleaned insights, and annoyances, I have found in recently published materials. For more information on these other titles, check for links at the end of this post.

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Let me start with the best…Evoking Hekate: The Goddess of Magickby Anousen Leonte. I found this on a basic search among Kindle books and was curious. The cover art was an abstract, spooky looking sigil/Roschardt inkblot image of white with a black background. What can I say...I like simplicity. Also the price made it very accessible, at $2.99 I could take a chance of it being pure rot. But it wasn’t. This short book ended up surprising me with it’s very practical approach, with a touch of ceremonial magick to keep all levels of practitioners interested. This was not an academic piece but full of personal gnosis; which very much are in alignment with my own personal experiences, and a multitude of colleagues in our working with Hekate. One tip I found extremely resonant is in the use of imagery surrounding Her altar and idolatry. I prefer the use of custom statues or little used imagery in personal practice because it keeps me from having any preconceived visions to appear; my friend using a Maxine Miller piece as a seat for Our Lady may be a different experience of Hekate than my custom Jeff Cullen statue. However these pieces influence my perceptions of Her, the author makes a good point when exploring the idea of using sigils and symbols instead of a human face for Hekate.

“When an image of a Spirit is used, the conscious mind is engaged, whereas when a symbol is used it is the unconscious which is engaged” (Leonte, pg. 142).

The  author goes on to share some wonderful planetary sigils associated with Hekate...as She comes down through the celestial spheres to visit/merge with Her beloved children. My daily encounters during planetary workings (according to day of the week), I found Hekate sneaking in to approvingly observe ‘from afar’ my actions: anointing with corresponding oils, adorning my body with colors and medals of those spheres. Deep symbols speak to the buried, sleeping parts of my mind to carry forward strengths of these Celestial Lords, with Hekate being the conductor for what is orchestrated in this harmony. Hekate is so varied, so adaptable, and this author shares insights into Her different aspects. Limiting our practice to only dark of night and moon phase is not necessary, as She addresses different needs through the hours of the day (another level to the planetary vibes).

“To evoke a day-side aspect of Hecate is to evoke her aid in areas of life commonly associated with reason, prosperity, creation, health and ambition. To evoke the night-side is to delve into other, less appreciated territories: mystical perception, dissolution, destruction, personal metamorphosis ad occult knowledge” (Leonte, p.232).

On the same reading theme of ‘inexpensive personal gnosis books about Hekate’, I also purchased Pagan Portals’ Hekate: A Devotionalby Vivienne Moss. I really WANTED to like this. I have seen this person’s posts online and had always thought of Moss as a genuine devotee which made me give credit to this publishing project. Her integrity and passion comes through in this book, which is essentially a journal with devotional poetry placed throughout … unfortunately I found it all confusing and chaotic. It seems like a journey at times, with descriptions of landscapes followed by annotations and ideologies; but then there is prayers added here and there. I really felt like I had stumbled into someone’s bedside notebook, where random thoughts and ideas get jotted down for memory’s sake. Needless to say I only got through to Chapter 3 before putting it aside.

“The writing of this book is an offering to Hekate. The sacrifice is knowing that not everyone will agree with or like what I have to say within these pages. Some, I’m sure, will not understand the way I see and feel Hekate. I may get negative feedbacks, or worse, none at all. Maybe some will laugh or be offended with what I have written” (Moss, p. 18).

My issue was never with WHAT she was saying, but how. The writing is bad; making statements like this ¼ into a book says an author is not strong in their confidence of voice. Writers don’t make excuses for our art, ever. We speak the Truth and of what we Know. It wasn’t my kind of book, but many friends enjoyed it’s rawness more than I.

And finally, a more mainstream title. The newest edition to the catalog of books published by Avalonia’s owner Sorita d’Este, Circle for Hekate -Volume I, History & Mythology: Dedicated to the light-bearing Goddess of the crossroads in all her many faces, manifestations, and names. I was able to borrow it from the Kindle library for free. Aside from having an incredibly long title, the book is marketed as being the first in a series called “The Circle for Hekate Project”. The build-up for this title was a long-time coming. Devotees in so many Hekate groups and circles were awaiting the release, anticipating some new insights from these sacred spaces and the tight research d’Este is best known for. Unfortunately much of the data is already well-known (and often repeated) with citations used in d’Este’s other Hekate titles as well. The biggest disappointment was the number of typos and grammatical errors found throughout the text. The other two titles already mentioned in this review, actually had better copy-editing than this mainstream book. However, there were still some golden moments to be sure.

One interesting thing I had never seen, nor bothered to read about, before was concerning any oracles of Hekate known in the ancient world. While Devotees are often going on and on about being Her oracle, I haven't seen much written on the subject. It appears the ancient philosopher Porphyry gives an account of one such Oracle answering a question regarding Jesus Christ and early Christianity; it shows how the two cultures were overlapping in his time, while also giving the new rising Christian faith a Pagan voice of opinion.

“And to those who ask why he (Jesus) was condemned to die, the oracle of the goddess (Hekate) replied,

‘The body, indeed, is always exposed to torments, but the souls of the pious abide in heaven.

And the soul you inquire about has been the fatal cause of error to other souls which were not fated to receive the gifts of the gods, and to have the knowledge of immortal Jove.

Such souls are therefore hated by the gods; for they who were fated not to receive the gifts of the gods, and not to know God, were fated to be involved in error by means of him you speak of.

He himself, however, was good, and heaven has been opened to him as to other good men.

You are not, then, to speak evil of him, but to pity the folly of men: and through him men’s danger is imminent’” (from “Oracles’ by Porphyry, 3rd century CE).

Other topics covered in the sphere of Hekatean scholarship included gathering together specific details for the making of statues, offerings, and the most heated topic of the modern era: the triplicity of Hekate. Thankfully  d’Este puts forth several facts regarding the birth and meaning of Her triple form; one being there was no such depiction of Her in this way until after the 4th century, BC. Her looking in three different directions is “a natural apotropaic symbolism and emphasizes the goddess’ role as a protectress” (p.2830, d’Este). She also makes the claim of Aleister Crowley being the first to portray Hekate as a Crone, specifically in his 1907 poem Orpheus, alluding to his use of the description ‘frail’ to indicate an elderly matron. It’s a weak connection, but then she points to a passage in his book Moonchild:

“...thirdly, she is Hekate, a thing altogether of Hell, barren, hideous and malicious, the queen of death and evil witchcraft...Hekate is the crone, the woman past all hope of motherhood, her soul black with envy and hatred of happier mortals”.

I was glad to see d’Este putting to rest this argument of Hekate historically being a ‘crone Goddess’ in the triple Goddess archetype. It does not negate any modern worship or how devotees experience Her, but it should be acknowledged as not being an ancient concept of Hekate.

There are so many books out there for research into one’s own approach to relationship with Hekate, and depending on the readers level of literacy it is best to explore them with sharp critical thinking (as we should with anything we read these days). Sarah Illes Johnston’s Hekate Soteira and (if you can every get your hands on a copy) Stephen Ronan’s The Goddess Hekate are both modern academic classics which are highly recommended throughout the Hekatean community. For personal anecdotes and narrative, I really enjoyed the devotional anthology Bearing Torches, while d’Este’s Hekate: Her Sacred Fires is a more popular collection I have several friends published in. Queen of Hell by Mark Alan Smith (the first in a series) is a rare tome of the Luciferian persuasion with Hekate and Hecate’s Fountain by Kenneth Grant is an exploration in Her Typhonian current...both rare and expensive books of the Left Hand Path. For a persepctive of Hekate involving Her and witchcraft I highly recommend The Rotting Goddess by Jacob Rabinowitz and a traditional craft treatise from Shani Oates titled A Paean for Hekate.

Please be sure to check out the links below for extensive lists of Hekate reading recommendations:

Beginner's Reading List about Hekate

Hekate's Library

A Hekate Reading List (at the end of the blogpost)

Pantheacon Report: 2018 Edition

Every year all kinds of people come to San Jose for the 3 day Pagan conference, Pantheacon; which I have attended for 6 years now. And true to my nature, I write about my various experiences over the President's Day weekend. The following is a summation of my thoughts and shenangians as they occurred to me, with every day's divination drawn from Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck. Day 1: The Devil

Magickal Safety 101

Every person who practices magick, especially in a group, should take a class like this. Covering both self care and the well-being of others, Magickal Safety was scheduled at the very beginning of the weekend, organized and presented by Hannah Storyteller and John Medellin. Even us seasoned practitioners can learn new things.  For example this class, while certainly for newbies, covered a wide range of techniques someone at some point might have overlooked. I learned how to ground another person...which I never realized was a new experience for me. I have helped groups ground, and I certainly am able to do it quite quickly. But helping one individual was something different, with several approaches including the laying on of hands, guided breathing and even simply talking with the person (what is your name? where do you live?). Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment of ritual, especially an entire weekend full of it, it can become more difficult to 'turn off' or even calm down long enough for repose and rest. 

Fucking Mandrake

My experience with baneful and witching herbs was just beginning when I became pregnant and set aside those growing things for the safety of my new daughter. I had never seen nor held the flowers or leaves of the Mandrake, in particular. My experience with Mandrake has only included flying ointments, purchased in the past by Sarah Anne Lawless, never as an isolated simple. I have a mandrake root given by another witch, and seeds stored away for planting one day, but had not considered it’s uses for any other purpose than to aid in magickal flight as a traditional plant ally. So when I saw a workshop at PCon on the Magick of the Mandrake being presented by Christopher Penczak, I got curious.

When we arrived each person received a small cup of water in which a few drops of a mandrake flower essence were placed; some folks got 3 and others received 5 drops. After being seated and listening to a short background of the plant, including Mr. Penczak’s own experiences, we invoked the plant’s spirit and quickly drank our potion. We then were taken on a guided meditation to meet the Mandrake and be properly introduced. Like most of these kinds of things, I was two steps ahead: when everyone was still back at the meadow, I was at the hedgerow on edge of a dark woods. When the Mandrake DID appear, He came straight up out of the ground and walked over to me, on woodsy root legs with a crown of pretty flowers on His head. It seemed a curious creature walking upright, kind of like a clown wearing big shoes...it was a bit goofy looking. Then He sat down, as if on an invisible chair. I then heard in my mind the Mandrake Man speak to me beckoning me to come have a seat. He wrapped His root arms around me, hugging and caressing. Then He spun me around, to face His featureless face and wrapped my legs around Him. He then grew a long penis, which I sat upon and began to rock with, slowly back and forth.

I felt His root penis grow inside me, reaching out the roots to spread throughout inside my womb, hips, stomach, up through my breasts and arms. It was black, feathery and delicate, these roots. When it finally enveloped my heart Mr. Penczak told us about a green light shining from our hearts… and that is when my light began to ‘infect’ the Mandrake Man’s roots; it spread throughout turning the black roots into green. This exchange was pleasant, not at all intense but enough to where I was concerned an orgasm was sure to follow… and right here, in the Con, surrounded by all these strangers. I expressed this concern to the Mandrake Man and He gently respected my wishes, withdrawing Himself from my body. When we were again standing, face to face, I asked if there was anything He wished to tell me. I acknowledged the connection we had made together, and thanked Him for initiating such a strange and profound congress… but had the feeling there was something more to this experience.

It was at this point Mr. Penczak reminded us of the mythological origins of the Mandrake; how at the gallows the sperm of a dead man ejaculated from his penis onto the ground, which the Mandrake plant first appeared. This was when the Mandrake Man suggested to help me with something I had been considering: dark moon devotionals at a hangman’s tree less than a few miles from my home. The Mandrake Man said if I made a flower essence to ingest, He would protect me from any and all spirits of that place which might wish harm or follow me home. I was not expecting this, a protective quality of the Mandrake; I always understood it to be a witch’s herb for trance work or poisoning. But this plant is so much more...and I very much look forward to future lessons it wishes to teach me as I grow from seed.

Good-Bye Green Fairy

This was the final year of the Green Fairy Party. Whilst I am not a drinker, I have enjoyed having one small drink with good friends who have hosted this Bohemian and wyrd service at Pantheacon since 2008. As a backer of the fundraising I received a beautiful commemorative goblet and keepsake ribbon...when I went to collect I received so much more. From the depths of the bar, the man in the op hat poured for me a tiny, wee little glass of a special brew not given to just anyone. A concoction infused with damiana, wormwood, rose water and all manner of psychotropic herbs I carefully sipped this absinthe, which evaporated on my tongue leaving a sweet breathe of spiritual inspiration. I walked on clouds the rest of the night.

Pop-up Gnostic Mass

It was refreshing to see a heavy Thelemic presence this year. The free-range Thelemites of Healiopolis and the OTO chapter of 418 Lodge co-sponsored a true Gnostic Mass presentation at the 11pm hour. As a non-member, but rogue Thelemite, I find the Mass to be a reaffirming drama of the cosmology in which I have submerged my spirituality. The altar was brilliantly executed: being a printed backdrop with electric lights for candles (per Doubletree regulations) and the tomb being a camping style shower/toilet stall.

I could tell who only came to be lookie-loos and see the nude Priestess, when the time came for the communion they actually left. It is a GOOD thing for these people to have witnessed, even if they did not participate...because these McWiccan folks need to know where their OWN rituals came from. Gardner went through the first initiation rites of Thelema before creating his own tradition of a religion-based witchcraft. It is my fervent prayer that more and more Thelemites keep attending , presenting, and educating at Pantheacon in the coming years.

Day 2: Prince of Wands

Deity Possession

Over the past 2 years I have noticed a shift at PCon: most of the really juicy events are starting to only happen in the hospitality suites. The general activist trainings and magickal 101 things are taking up the slots in the packed schedule, with scatterings of good bits at weird times (and often canceled). One of the presentations this year was a topic that very few are giving workshops on, but very much is needed in the community: healthy Deity Possession. Facilitated by Sam Webster, the topic is one with loads of source material, both ancient and modern, which lays out the full process, levels of possessor work and the self care required to make it fully worth doing. Webster's source material included works such as Iamblichus' De Mysteriis and Divine Horsemen: Living Gods of Haiti by Maya Deren.

Essentially there are 2 kinds of people involved in true possession: the Controller (who ‘draws down’ the Deity) and the Channeller (who ‘catches’ the Deity). When this occurs there are varying levels of possession which is a bit like a spectrum, with one end being the faintest ‘inspiration’ (a ‘whispered’ motivation to do something guided by Deity influence), with ‘mantling’ somewhere in the middle (carry Deity but being fully conscience and in control of one’s own body to perform services such as oracle work), and finally the most extreme being full possession. Fully engaged possession is actually much rarer in the pagan community, with the exception of several of the African diaspora traditions such as Vodou and Ifa. When this occurs the Channeller isn’t even the backseat driver… they are in the trunk; people can perform amazing feats of strength, undergo extreme bodily harm, etc. The worst case scenario of this kind, if not done correctly, can result in the Channellor being completely merged with Deity; in other words the carrier is no longer present. Most modern pagans really don’t go beyond the middle layer of this spectrum, and even then aren’t doing it according to ancient traditions: the Channeller is secluded in preparation the days before an event, only coming out to give service as a vehicle of Deity, and then go back into seclusion AFTER for regaining control of the body and spirit. This is hard to do at events like Pantheacon, where the night before an event oracles can be seen partying in suites and the next day offering themselves up as priests of Deity in an unpurified body. Most of this is really just ego feeding, venerated as Deity or as being someone strong enough to hold and control Deity.

The Rite of Mars

The political scene invaded PCon, as it has progressively been doing over the past few years. While there is panels, workshops and other empowering activities there really wasn’t much I was particularly interested in, except the very intense ritual coordinated by the ritualists of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn. I have been lucky enough to be studying with their founder, but to also be a participant of several planetary workings; Helios/Sun, Selene/Moon, and now Aries/Mars. It was ‘safe’ in that there wasn’t a particular political agenda given as their motivation, except to invoke the retinue of Martial Spirits and activate a magickal ‘war machine’...a huge iynx wheel that, when spun, sent these spirits out into the world to right wrongs, empower the just and defend the weak. I found it especially refreshing they asked for blessings on the civil servants; a group of workers who are often looked down upon by many Pagan-activist groups who see us (because I am now one of them) as being part of the PROBLEM and not the SOLUTION. I met many of them over the weekend, those of us quietly working within the machine of corrupted government to make a difference; it’s easy to be angry in the streets demanding change, it’s harder to work within the parameters of the system. It was part of my personal prayer to include an unbiased vision for everyone: to see the truth of what is happening in our world, so we can set aside personal opinions and DO what is right in ally-ship.

I also found out my natal chart included Mars in Aries, which explains my motivation to speak up when I see wrongs, especially in our niche community, and being compelled to protect those who are weak. There was an underlying theme of planetary magicks throughout the entire weekend: lectures on Theurgy, the Lunar Mansions of Astrology, all of which are causing me to look more closely at where the other celestial spheres play out in my chart. This only makes sense as I have been doing daily planetary workings for the past 2 years, as part of my priest training.

Day 3: 9 of Swords

Other Hybrid Moments

Between a rudimentary lecture about Crossroads and Graveyards that I left early, drinks with sushi, then initiating as a Chicken Qabbalist, there was a lot to process. Since things were again canceled, I spent the day shopping and eventually went back to my room early. I received a ton of compliments on my fishnet tights… as if these people had never seen them before.

Day 4: Ace of Swords

Fear

While there might have been pertinent information for others in the lecture by Tommie Starchild, I personally didn’t really get much out of it. After performing such workings as Chod and being an initiate of Hekate, I have plenty of experience with Fear. Mr. Starchild was very informative and spoke from a Western perspective, explaining in terms Pagans could understand; mindful presence, viewing fearful thoughts and emotions as a non-participatory spectator...all I kept thinking is “Man, these people really need Bodhicitta and Buddhism”. And it’s true! This is why their magick never works, why their communications with Deity is sometimes only internal psycho-babble. They are not so sure about what they are doing nor do they have a full comprehension of themselves; they are not coming to the Work from a place of compassion, loving kindness, equanimity and joy in the joy of others… what we call the Four Immeasurables. In my tradition these are pretty much the ONLY place from which my magick is performed; why I am able to do hex work without getting splattered with karmic shrapnel. I hope to see more empowering lectures given in the future, Mr. Starchild perhaps do a weekend intensive on these skills as most of these magick workers tend to be damaged or dragging around their toxicity.

In Conclusion…

Unless I am presenting next year (I DO have a proposal I think many would benefit from),  this may have been my last Pantheacon for a few years. Less and less is there anything I am interested in learning about, or that will feed my soul and renew my practice. I think the final straw was canceling of the Red Tent; the last vestige of feminine empowerment this community truly had at PCon. With threats of protest, the suite was shut down to keep participants safe; even though the EXACT same scheduling occurred quietly last year in the Red Tent for men, trans-women, women without wombs and all manner of exclusive programming to empower all, not just those of us who bleed. It saddens me there is no longer a welcoming space for women’s mysteries to be safely explored at this weekend-long event, especially in the highly patriarchal and oppressive climate of our world. We are forced to hide in shame of our bodies, our nature, our sisterhood...not something I would ever have thought to come out of the Pagan community.

More and more Pantheacon is for who I call ‘tourists’: attendees there to cosplay, hook-up for sex or feed off the magickal ammunition of others. I don’t need magick to give my life meaning… it is a byproduct of living my True Will. Magick just happens, naturally and unforced.  It does not gift us with ethics or morals, we come to magick with those already; magickal work only intensifies what is already inherent.

Favourite Things of 2017

“To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

This year I had more disposable income than ever before in my life. I finally started my career (more on that with another post), have excellent retirement benefits, and funds in the family savings account. Therefore, I was able to buy ALL THE THINGS. Whilst my witchcraft and spiritual life has never needed materia magica in order to be effective, having these aesthetics has given me a different level of contentment never experienced before either. There is a grace and peace which comes from the ‘having’ without attachment. Albeit, materialism has never been part of my philosophy… but good books, quality enhancements and access to resources gives me a certain thrill.

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As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I admit to my addiction. Even living in a temporary housing situation, with all 35 boxes of my books in a storage facility, I have managed to accumulate quite the collection of materials. Although I mainly read fiction this year (see my Goodreads profile), quite a few books were purchased to fulfill obligations in the new book club I am trying to bring to life; The Devil’s Black Book Club. One of the best finds this year were these wonderful little booklets from Hadean Press; at only £3 each it was quite reasonable. By such respected authors such as Jake Stratton-Kent, S. Aldarnay, Conjureman Ali, and Nicholaj De MAttos Frisvold with titles ranging from“The Headless One: A Guide to the Underworld”, “Saint Cyprian and the Sorcerous Transmutation”, and “Fumigations of the 7 Planets”, there is something for everyone's tastes and needs.

After spending the last 2 years wearing only planetary oils for the final leg of my Hekatoi Priest training, I decided that this would be the year I delved into a journey of scent. Having a sensitive nose, olfactory is one of my occult super powers...and another reason I am super picky about perfumes. I have always been a wearer of oils, having a strong aversion to the overwhelming alcohol smell most mass produced colognes contain. To ease myself into this adventure I purchased small samples from the House of Orpheus, a perfumery which utilizes alchemical ingredients in the magickal formulae produced. To start I tried ‘Enodia’, being an epithet of Hekate; it had a beautiful note of styrax and several wood smells crisscrossing to form a crossroads in my senses.

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The next was ‘Verum’, a small vial with potent Saturnine energies which filled my aura with a richness which reminded me of the treasures hoarded by Naga Kings; thick amber and smooth musks resonated a serpent vibe everywhere I went. But by far the most intense experience so far has been with their newest perfume, The Black Goat. They weren’t kidding when it was described as having a ‘feral’ accent...wearing it reminds me of sleeping in a stable with fresh cut grasses, musk oils released by recently groomed furs and clean loamy soil. I am trying to get my Capricorn husband to wear it as the scent would be preferable on a masculine body, but I have decided to use it in workings conjuring my egregore spirit, Black Philip.

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I also purchased a most beautiful pendant this year, promised to my dear Mother Hekate in dedication for placing me in the job which allows me to do my Great Work. The custom work of Aidan Watcher is something I have admired for years and it was my ultimate goal to obtain the Hekate Talisman with Key & Torches. It even came with a potent Hekate incense created by the very talented Rosarium Blends (love the Hekate oil too). Funny thing, it wasn’t until it was received I realized the tattoo design which was put on me this year also, was almost a mirror image of the talisman! Artwork was designed and inked by Sunstone Tattoos, run by a Loki Priest and amazing crafter of magick. 

There are so many fantastic artisans in our community which we should all be patronizing. Even if it is one or two special books, services or things in which to enhance our magickal lives, sharing the blessings of wealth or financial ability is something I believe we should pass on. To support the creators of fine goods is to perpetuate our own good fortune. Quality gifts to our spirits and Gods only creates more solidified relationships, when deep thought and purpose goes into our resources. Sure the dollar store items I have used ‘on the fly’ still had potency, but nothing like the few selected items I set money and time aside for acquiring.

On that note: may your New Year be filled with deliciousness, good health and wealth for passing along.

Living Deliciously

“As she making her beede in her Chamber, there appeared in the shape of a man in blacke cloaths and blackish cloaths about five weeks past, and bid her good-morrow. And shee asked what his name was, and he said his name was Blackeman, and asked her if she were poore, and she said I; and then he told her he would send one Grissell and Greedigut to her, that shall do anything for her...and after Blackeman was departed from her, within three or 4 days, Grissell and Greedigut came to her, in the shapes of dogges with great brisles of hogges haire upon their backs, and said to her they were come from Blackeman to do what she would command them, and did aske her if shee did want anything, and they would fetch her any thing”  - from “The Witches of Huntingdon” by John Davenport, 1646.

 

Modern witches make things so complicated; go to a graveyard at midnight, burn some hard to find herbs and make offerings of goat’s blood to summon the Man in Black for pacts of riches and fancies. Apparently in the old days it was easy as making your bed to summon such spirits! All joking aside, this is a common theme in traditional craft these days, making contact with this Witch Father...but is there a modern significance of these beast-spirits which appear to be familiars of Him?

Stories of Black Dogs, Hares,Cats and Birds abound in witch trial confessions as both familiars and fetches of the accused. The Devil appears to witches in various animal forms such as serpents, dragons and ‘night birds’, which inhabit ‘desolate places’...the real form of Him being too terrible to behold:

“He is some ugly terrible Creature to look upon, some black man with with a pair of Horns on his head, and a cloven foot, and a long Tayl, or some monstrous Beast that inhabiteth in the Woods, and walketh about in the night to scare people” (A Candle in the Dark)

Animals could also be ‘hag ridden’ by suspected witches to get around during their nocturnal journey; bewitched and innocent creatures were believed to be kidnapped for their infernal bidding. Or the animal would be the Devil Himself, becoming a horse or goat for the same purposes of transportation. Animals were used as tools of magick, more likely their parts being ingredients for particular spells and workings. The most famous, at least among modern witches, is the Toad-bone; gathered in a particular manner and used to give the witch power over any animal but particularly horses.

“There was one charm she told me of wich was practiced wen any one wanted to get comand over there fellow creaturs. Those that wished to cast the spell must serch until they found a walking toad. It was a toad with a yellow ring round its neck, I have never seen one of them but I have been told they can be found in some parts of the Cuntry. Wen they found the toad they must put it in a perforated box, and bury it in a Black Ant’s nest. Wen the Ants have eaten all the flesh away from the bones it must be taken up, and the person casting the spell must carry the bones to the edge of a running stream the midnight of Saint Marks Night, and throw them in the water. All will sink but one single bone and that will swim up stream. When they have taken out the bone the Devell would give them the power of Witch craft, and they could use that power over both Man and Animales” (Haggard, ed., 1935, pp. 13-14).

Supernatural animals also appear in folklore traditions as guides, such as the appearance of the phantasmal Black Dog who is a harbinger of death, much the same as an Irish Banshee (bean-sidhe). One of the earliest in recorded history occurred during the Italian Ver Sacram (“sacred spring”) when lost tribal warriors were each led by a different animal totem, various species sent by the patron God Mars.

Francisco de Goya Lucientes, "Witches' Sabbath (The Great He-Goat)"

The Goat, in particular, has one of the oldest connections with witchcraft and the historical Witch Father than of any other animal. From the deity Ra in ancient Egypt, to the Greek cult of Pan and later the famous Mendes Goat worshiped by modern Satanists, the twisted horns and side-protruding eyes of these cloven-footed creatures have been involved with the mysteries of witchcraft for thousands of years. One of the first animals to become domesticated, it has lived within close proximity to humans a long time; and like Cats, easily revert back to their once wilder behaviors. Able to eat practically anything and live in almost any environment, the Goat is present in nearly every culture of the world.

It was only in recent years the Goat made a huge comeback as a familiar spirit, a most charismatic and frightening beast named Black Phillip in the 2005 film “The Witch”. Making small appearance throughout the story, which takes place in 1630’s New England, it is not until the very end when He transforms into the very Devil we expect...to entice a young soul with promises of dresses, butter and ‘to live deliciously’ in exchange for her signature in a pact. Of COURSE the puritan girl signs, then follows Black Phillip into the woods and joins the wicked sorority who have already gathered there. The promise of “Living Deliciously” is not a new concept, after all. In some witchcraft trial records there are similar promises made, by Witchfathers and Faeries alike:

“Thow art a poor woman and a beggar among a cumpanie of harlots, goe with me and I’ll make the a Lady and put in a brave castall quhair thou shalt want nothing and I will free the of all the poverties and troubles thou art in” (Stuart, 1843 "Extracts from the Presbytery Book of Strathbogie").

The imagery, the words, the goat...all enchanted many movie-goers, especially this witch. It was this egregore of a Devil, the Witch Father, which inspired me to seek out His hand. Lucifer is a similar being, but with too many ties to the Judeo-Christian current. Black Phillip has stepped forward from these shadows of blasphemy to become something meaningful.

But how was I to even begin working with this egregore? After all, he is only a fictional character from a movie, right? Well...not really. The spirit which Black Phillip was based on wears a devilish mask; it is still the same Man in Black. For such pop cultural magicks, I looked to the Chaotes for inspiration with a sigil by using a great website that makes them, and prayed for guidance through my Matron, Hekate. The following is an operation which I created, included friends with and who saw amazing results. I then gave it to others, who also received blessings both great and small. It is now time to test it on a broader spectrum...to anyone else who feels their life does not have enough deliciousness in it, who needs a good ‘road-opener’ and who would like to make contact with Black Phillip in all His blackened glory.Think on the meaning of what is IS to 'live deliciously'? Is it to have enough money for travel? More friends? A better job so you don't have to worry about bills so much? Maybe more time for bubble baths and massages? The sky is the limit in this operation...just be sure to have a very clear picture before beginning.

 

The “Living Deliciously” Spell

Items needed:

    1 Seven Day Candle, in white/purple/or red, blessed and consecrated

    Essential oil each for Jupiter and Venus (or a blended planetary oil for each)

    2 bowls for offerings

    Fresh flowers, fruit or incense of your choice

    Clarified butter (ghee)

    A bottle of red wine

    An application or table of the planetary hours

    A piece of paper

    A green inked pen, preferably sharpie or other permanent marker

 

  • Begin thy spell upon a New or Waxing Moon, within the hour and day of Jupiter (Thursday) or Venus (Friday).

  • Upon a sheet of paper, blessed and consecrated in hours of Jupiter or Venus, write names of thy witches of Black Phillip. Whilst inscribing these names, visualize how they will be 'Living Deliciously': imagine what it is like for thou to have all desires met, comforts and beauties associated with those blessings. Set the charged paper aside.

  • Write upon the glass of thy wicked candle this following sigil:

  • Thou mayest include other symbols or images which doth conjure living deliciously; mine own contained Venus and Jupiter symbols.

  • Place into thy vessels for receiving offerings of rich butter and blood wine, arrange thy fragrant flowers.

  • When ready place thy paper upon the altar, place thy candle atop it. Light thy flame, burn thy incense and begin thy evocation, in whatever way thoust sees fit. Sayeth these words aloud:

Black Phillip, I conjure thee!

Bless this spell, and empower me

The means to live deliciously!

  • Hold within thy witches' mind the Vision of Living Deliciously whilst gazing at thy sigil.

  • Allow thy candle to burn, adding to it thy corresponding oils (Jupiter during the hour of Jupiter and Venus during the hour of Venus) into the melted wax, evoking Black Phillip throughout the rest of this first day as often as possible.

  • Repeat every day in thy hours of Venus and Jupiter, or every Thursday and Friday throughout this moon phase until the Full Moon, in which thou shalt rest until it is anew. Dispose of thy offerings as thy see fit.

  • Repeat the entire process every month, with ghee and wine being primary offerings but adding a third different offering each time, of thy choice.

  • When thy candle has completely burned down...thank Black Phillip wholeheartedly and receive your blessings in full! Dispose of thy candle glass safely in thy recylcing bin.

Suggested further reading:

The Witch’s Familiar

Animal Familiars

Black Phillip: The Real Story

An Historical Study of the Toad-bone Amulet

Episode 10: Witch Wars

In this LONG overdue episode, I tell war stories from the witchcraft front, give advice on how to avoid them and play music from the band OMNIA. Sorry about the sound quality... new headset and due to the length of this episode I had to compress it down, which means less quality. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Episode10_compressed.mp3"][/audio]

Here are some supportive links from things I mentioned in this episode. Happy Samhain to all in the Northern Hemisphere and a Blessed Beltane to to listeners  in the Southern Hemisphere.

Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame

Sisterhood of the Moon

The Pyramid of Magick

To attain the SANCTUM REGNUM, in other words, the knowledge and power of the Magi, there are four indispensable conditions–an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which cannot be broken, and a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate. TO KNOW, TO DARE, TO WILL, TO KEEP SILENCE–such are the four words of the Magus, inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx.” - Eliphas Levi

Early on this path I came across the above passage and didn’t fully understand what it meant until I actually started to practice magick. I only revisited it recently when my 8 year old daughter decided that she, too, was a witch and demanded that I teach her the Arte. Well, I have no background whatsoever with children’s magick; except to say my past experiences with kids have produced their own natural kind of effects. So I thought the best thing to do was begin like I would with any student who came to me for training...just dumbed down a little.

We started with meditation, as it is the foundation of all spirit work. Learning how to clear her mind, imagine a blank movie screen from which she could project simple images at first then hold more detailed pictures progressively was quite easy for her. It was a few months later she came asking for MORE training and I was at a loss where to begin. She really was passionate about jumping in to make potions, burn stuff and couldn’t wait to tell her friends at school about what we were doing. It was then I reminded myself about the foundational ‘rules’ of magick, and thought perhaps to explore them with my little witchlet.

TO KNOW

It is said ‘knowledge is power’, when concerning magick it is only half true. Studying, accumulating data, learning about various tools of the trade are all part of this ‘knowing’. But just like any other skill, having the books and correspondence lists really only takes you so far. Developing relationship with herbs, stones, properties of colors and omens can be considered with discernment when making choices for spellwork and magickal operations. As I put it to my daughter, the ABC’s are only understandable when you see how they relate to an object; A is for ‘Apple’, and adoration; B is for ‘Belladonna’ and it’s baneful beauty, etc. We learn by seeing, hearing, touching and smelling...exposing her since of walking age to the plants, stones and anima of our garden taught her what they look like, how they help or hex. Eventually the knowledge of these spirit allies have their own secret lessons to pass on for her.

TO WILL

Being compassionate of the ones around us, having empathy for other creatures and persons, reaching out with our own ‘spidey senses’ often drives our motives for magick. Enthusiasm spurs forward our personal drive to do things others only have fantasies, or nightmares, about. Doing magick is not something we do out of pure boredom or to appear powerful to others...although glamour has it’s own effectiveness, it’s not reason enough for bending the universe. Her will gives inspiration to do what needs to be done. Having a clear vision of the end results, an idea of what she wants to accomplish, can help determine the goals of magick. I tell her, we don’t make the time to find a good cake recipe and assemble ingredients to just make a batter… we follow through to have a beautiful, yummy cake in the end. This action is taken to deliberately DO something, not to satisfy an impulse; so it is with magick. Otherwise it is the same as a sloppy, half baked cake no one wants to eat.

TO DARE

Witches do not fear, I tell my daughter. In the lonely woods, on a dark crossroads, at a haunted house the magick worker should be brave and honest of their uneasy feelings. Since a toddler, I have explained that should she ever be afraid the spirits of our Ancestors, the allies of the Land and our Gods are there to surround and protect her. She need only call on them. Sometimes these anxieties are more than our imaginings, our intuitions are telling us there is something stronger than ourselves lurking out there and meaning real harm. This is when we need to call out the ‘big guns’. To challenge ourselves is part of growth, how we become stronger by overcoming this trepidation, but armed with the knowledge of our own limitations. But the main point of this ‘daring’ is to not put ourselves in harm’s way, I tell my little one...it is to jump into that deep end of the pool after our years of swimming lessons are over.

TO KEEP SILENT

This, I told my daughter, is by far the most important lesson a witch should heed. After all is said and done...the Gods and spirits invoked, the things burned, and the spell has been sung we are to sit in the stillness of our mind and wait. The patience of watching for our intended results is exciting, so much that often we wish to share the wonder and miracle of our magick with the whole world. And many do. A quick tour through Pinterest, Instagram and other social media clearly shows there are many self-proclaimed magick workers who are either bragging or not really manifesting. That is, unless the intentional working includes the general public to VIEW this working. Magick, I tell her, is a mystery which must only be shared by others who understand it; and only after the results have been seen. It’s like planning and making decorations a surprise party for someone we really care about, and showing them before the event; it ruins the wonderment and satisfaction of seeing the delight on their face. In the case of witchcraft, she sadly had to hear, it is also a practicality: long ago witches were killed for their Arte, and still are in some parts of the world. It is still a dangerous practice others do not understand and are fearful of… and that ignorance is dangerous.

We are still digesting and learning how to apply these guidelines to our Arte. We have yet to actually perform a ritual spell together, but the time will come soon enough. The seeds of magick have been planted, tended and her little garden weeded of bullshit the outside world has planted to usurp the imagination she naturally possesses. As the magic of children begins wearing off with age, it is my hope these lessons will stick to her heart as the craft develops and blossoms there.

The PantheaCon Report: 2017 edition

Gather round stardust children for a tale of journeys with Egyptian Gods, magickal plants, Pokemon battles and a prophecy of Pie. Annually, over the course of 4 days hundreds of practicing Pagans, Occultists, Witches and ‘tourists’ descend upon the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose to share, present and sell at Pantheacon. There is a story within each person’s experience, and this was mine. Day One, Jupiter: The sun was shining, hundreds of crows surrounded my crappy motel, cawing and squawking to the beat of my heart. The evening was lulled by their chattering: breakfast for dinner, “The Color of Money” on television and polishing my ass-kicking boots. Nervous energies supplanted and the ground of being invoked...not all have enemies, but it’s better to be prepared when arriving at a place full of other magick workers. Expansive in Her wings, Mother Hekate placed the Cowl about my shoulders, making me invisible to some but accessible to others. I walked, I wandered.

Day Two, Venus: Rain and wind molested festival goers, making an otherwise difficult unpacking moreso. I was set to install and erect the Hekate altar, but was fresh out of graveyard dirt...a very specific part of my devotional shrine. Since the boys from The Vodou Store were not vending this year, I searched all through the commerce areas but only managed to find black salt as a substitute. With that on one side, and rain water the other, a large black cauldron sat before Her with a bottle of mead for pouring libations. As I set Her in place, both Her torches managed to come off the statue…I super glued them back on and did not realize the personal significance until the very end of the conference, when I was packing Her back up.

First up for me was an intriguing lecture, "Deconstructing Crowley: Don’t Fear the Beast" by James Stone. Upon walking into the room, a dark ambiance captured the tone of  chants, the focus being on a Thelemic altar with a lotus-seated man wearing the head of a goat... as Baphomet. I was giddy and about to get ‘fangirl’ when the music changed to “Mr. Crowley” by Ozzy Osborne and a woman supplied a black ‘curtain’ over the transforming Deity...and a devil puppet appeared to be singing the lyrics. The emotions completely shifted in the room, immediately becoming much more light-hearted and one of entertainment, versus the heaviness I first encountered. The rest of the lecture was of the same entertaining vibe, presenting the many interesting trials and facts of The Beast...much I already knew due to my reading “Perdurabo” by Richard Kaczynski. I was very much PLEASED to see a good, accurate and thoughtful presentation given to break up the otherwise generic and often misunderstood stories surrounding this groundbreaking innovator of magick; most McWiccans run the other way for fear of pollination. I was hoping to see some of these newbs in the class, but unfortunately it was the older crowd who were probably more fans of the subject and lecturer than folks actually NEEDING to get educated. Still, a worthwhile effort on the part of Mr. Stone. Side Note: I got to speak with him VERY briefly on the very LAST night of PCon and wished to have more time together...so will engage through his Facebook page Deconstructing Crowley .

The next was really more of a discussion than presentation, “Witchcraft Herbs and Plants” with the renowned author and editor from Llewelyn Worldwide, Judika Iles. Now, I DO have one book from her that was gifted to me, an Encyclopedia of Magical Beasts. I never really bought her “5000 Spells” or other reference books for a few reasons, but mainly because I lack the shelving space. I have become a bit of a witchcraft book snob, staying away from mainstream publishers and detouring around reference books by single authors because I always figured, WHO is gonna know ALL this information except to copy it DOWN? Illes is a highly knowledgeable, intelligently spoken and one of the more well-read witches whom I’ve had the pleasure of changing my opinion of in recent years. Her discussion of witchcraft plants was indeed slimmed down to the scheduled time slot, as we easily could have all shared for HOURS our stories, experiences and expertise on various botanicals useful in magick. Suffice it to say, she really emphasized the importance of growing/developing a relationship with any herbs we use, even for people who have a blackthumb. Some favourites mentioned were mugwort, wormwood, and datura...all dangerous if misused and all highly effective to varying degrees for the Arts. She gave props and mention to two well-known and skilled cultivators, Marcus R. McCoy  and Harold A. Roth ...two I admire in the botanical world.

Later that evening, the worlds of activism and Pokemon collided in the Discordian ritual, “Fifty Shades of Greyface Go!” Occultists gathered outside the doors holding signs in protest, “Down with the Trainers” and “Free the Pokemon”...which I found personally hilarious; referencing a conversation I had with my own kid regarding these creatures: they are essentially slaves to the trainers, who make them fight and hurt Pokemon for their own glory. In the ritual, attendees were given soft Pokeballs and pens to draw sigils or symbols or simply to replicate the cartoon balls. These were then used as projectile weapons at actors in Pagan scenarios with inappropriate behaviors. Some examples included “Surprise Animal Sacrifice”, “Vegetarians, it’s okay to eat meat this time”, “Don’t worry about your allergies, it’s Magick!”. Laughter, smiling faces and flying balls made for good fun with purpose.

Day Three: Saturn Bright and early, a small hidden room with a large, round table was hard to find. “Advancing Devotional Practice” was just that, a round table. I was looking forward to what I thought was a presentation or ritual regarding devotional-centered paganism, but mostly it was author and teacher Silence Maestas facilitating discussion amongst attendees. It was interesting to hear from so many, and to be counted among the few who actually have a fully engaged altar. Whilst both are valid in the eyes of the Gods, there was a split in how people felt about the opposite. One daily devotional practitioner mentioned how others have expressed disappointment in her for not “getting past altar work”, that somehow this was only a beginner’s level of working with Deity. For some people simply doing their jobs, cleaning their homes or acknowledging Deity all day long were sufficient enough… but then they mentioned their dusty altar tools and unkept waters. It is a personal thing, sacred space. For those of us who fully engage with Deity, it is near impossible to be in Union with Them and still be functional. We start with prayer at our altars, but we carry Them with us in the secret shrines of our hearts. That is the effect from devotional work... not the cause.

The HIGHLIGHT of the weekend, and I didn’t even know it, was “Enochian Magick as a Consciousness-Altering Ceremonial Drug” by none other than Lon Milo DuQuette. Now, I have absolutely NO experience whatsoever with anything remotely angelic, with the exception of the LBRP . I don’t fuck around with angels because I don’t care for their Deity. However, as my late work has me ascending out of the Underworld and into the Heavens, I realize there are critters above and below for which I must acknowledge. Who better to introduce their magickal language than Mr. DuQuette, a magician I respect very highly and a kindred spirit in humour. But please don’t ask WTF we did, because I couldn't even tell you (obviously plan to buy the book).

 

All I CAN tell you is what we DID: First we attuned to the Angels and were instructed to pay special attention to whatever image we saw, then to draw that very thing as a symbol, one which we could focus on later. Then with paper laman and Solomonic ring, we activated the exterior circumference of DuQuette’s beautiful holy table, painted and inscribed with Enochian invocations and squares, whilst he activated the interior. The words were strange on my tongue, but I fervently tried to keep up. Our voices going faster and faster to keep up with the master. Until we were finally finished and stopped...sitting in meditation and observing whatever imagery came to us. It wasn’t until after this ritual was finished did I even understand it’s effects...I first saw wings (obviously I was projecting the imagery of angels). But then I saw a snake...then a rod. I knew already there was a Caduceus appearing in my mind’s eye; this was my symbol. Then the second image it was a bowl of water. When I checked with others throughout the evening who had also been ‘zapped’ by Mr. DuQuette, I saw a pattern emerge: the first image always something phallic like a rod (a staff, a wand, a tree), and the next image was something solid combined with something fluid (a crocodile on water, a boat, a chalice). This REALLY blew my mind and I am STILL processing this. DuQuette will always make me turn fangirl in his presence, but now it’s even worse.

 

Once I put my Self back together, I participated and assisted the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn’s world premiere presentation of “Aum Duat: The Night Journey of Ra”. It was a multimedia event including sacred costuming, theatrical props, musical processions and a dramatic reading from ancient texts, describing where the Sun God Ra goes when He dies each night. Recognition and honoring the path of the Undead prepares our Ba/Ka for the one we all walk someday, through the Underworld.

Day Four: The Sun ‘Twas an early day, with heavy academic lectures through most of the morning and into the afternoon; at least, this was the plan. “Akhenaten and Moses: Origin and Consequences of Monotheism” fascinated me...I had some inkling of this before this most quality presentation by Jehon Grist . I had to cut it short for the other fabulous lecture, Practical Neoplatonic Theurgy; there is a book by presenter Bruce MacLennan which explores the science of this methodology through the philospher Hypatia and her contemporaries. I put in service to the Red Tent  where serpents slept and yonis ruled. At dinner I ate beef stew, medicated with several hash joints and later went to “Hekate at the Crossroads: A Meeting of Mind & Movement” with veiled Priestess Tempest and the Nathaniel Johnstone Band. I watched as She danced to solitary violin, heard soft calling from a vocalist, and with each layer She removed another aspect of Hekate was revealed. Hekate Chthonia, Trivia, Brimo...She lead everyone in a beautiful spiral dance. I saw what She was doing, dancing them into Her spiral, Her Strophalus , the Labyrinth of Her mystery. I sat next to my sister-Priest...we held that space for their work to be protected. They were linking Her energy, allowing everyone who wished a connection to Her. I already have a connection so didn’t feel the call to participate in THAT capacity. The music was ethereal and I found myself simply swaying and enjoying the company of fellow Hekateans. It was joyful and inspiring. Sitting in meditation I awaited a message to come through to me and the clearest image was a pie...a large pie I could share with everyone else. When the dancing Priestess sat down to some oracle work, a message of strength and unifying for common goals came through. This was confirmation of Her message from my personal practice, which is always exciting. I come from a place of agency with compassion, liberation and the freedom of finding common ground where I can. Everyone likes pie...if not, then let them eat cake. Either way, we can come together at the table.

Day Five: The Moon This year everyone played nice. There were solid sacred spaces and gentleness as a storm raged outside the Doubletree Hotel. Freeways were closed that weekend for flooding, people were evacuated, and power was lost in some neighborhoods of San Jose. Yet everyone took care of each other, not because we HAVE to but we WANT to. Walking around were folks volunteering as “Emergency Magical Help” first responders: any suite or attendee bearing a red, cup like symbol can be be asked for assistance in grounding, cleansing, de-possession, etc. This has been a much needed service as some people get swept up in the carnival aspect of the Conference, forgetting that we do very heavy work there too. For some it is difficult to reconnect with the ‘reality’ of the really, real world.

It’s hard to walk any magickal path over a significant amount of time and NOT notice the hurting hardships of others. The trick is not to let it overwhelm you. It was my role to offer a place of reprieve all weekend at the Hekate altar. Way up, in the corner of the 10th floor amongst Kemetic Gods with Her friend the Herm, Hekate received mead and barley and salts and rainwater...enjoyed the people who came in and sat with Her. Some cried, some smiled, some just looked at the statue and wondered who made it. When I dismantled Her altar on Monday,again Her torches came off; I was able to super glue one back on all the way but the other will not stay. I am not sad as I slowly step into Her priesthood, as She hands me a torch. Perhaps next year I shall present, too.

On Ye Olde Traditional Crafte

“It is a simple fact that not all people are Initiates. Magick is not for all. Admittedly, in a theoretical sense, Magick could be used by everyone and some might argue that all people use it if only in an unconscious manner. This is no more than theoretical speculation aimed at a rosy picture of the world in which everyone is equal. The plain truth is that Magick is practised only by the few, even amongst occultists” - Andrew Chumbley, from “Opuscula Magica Vol. 2”

 

Because I haven't read much 'witchcraft' books in the past, my Work has always been pretty eclectic. It is only now becoming more refined and broadened in it's sources of inspiration; he internet has made things more accessible. Because I had to discover all this stuff for myself, none of this would ever had made sense until I succumbed to 20 years of Tantric meditation and magick. I always assumed these were initiatory systems...and figured if I was to know it, someone will present themselves to me, and I left it at that. There are many traditions becoming more accessible, growing in numbers, and sharing. I never thought I would see books about Tubal Cain, non-Wiccan books...authors treating it like the Arte it IS instead of religio-play.The books revealing hidden workings and inner sanctuaries are being published by smaller presses; with high quality paper, inks, and handcrafted binding making some titles almost completely inaccessible except to the elite magick workers who can afford it. One book, written less than 20 years ago, had such a limited number of printings is now worth almost $10,000! Luckily some brave soul scanned it’s entirety and I was able to read the pretty poetic grimoire.

So what exactly makes this new wave of witchcraft “traditional”, especially when Wiccan derivatives have been around only since Gerald Gardner’s inception in the 1940’s? Well, we can start to look at this timeline a little further back, at what was referred to as ‘cunning’ work dating back to probably the 16th century. It differs from the modern traditions in two ways, that I can tell: 1) traditional witchcraft is based on folk remedies and spells that were fully accessible to average people, sometimes referred to as ‘low magick’, and 2) modern witchcraft is very much based on the Golden Dawn and Theosophical ideologies of ‘high magick’. Author and witch Sarah Anne Lawless does an excellent job of defining and explaining the history of this practice, which she explains as combining the remains of pagan folklore with converted Christian prayers of the conquering religion. Most of these kinds of spells include the use of Psalms, invoking angelic spirits and sometimes even conjuring the Devil in pact-making rituals. This poses some problems for modern day witches, who often tend to be practicing Pagans or Animists in their religious persuasion.

It is contradictory and harmful to our spirituality, invoking beings we either do not acknowledge or believe to exist for the sake of blasphemous or heretical powers. It is understandable WHY our predecessors did this...for the same reasons other synchronized religions such as Vodou developed: to mask pagan Spirits in the cloaks of the colonizing religion for fear of persecution. For those witches who include ‘archetypes’ and other psychological tools in lieu of actually attending to Deities and Spirits, this poses no threat to their practice… all the adversarial be-ings through the course of human history are the SAME thing, in the current of Left Hand Path without accepting the cultural responsibilities associated with them. It’s safe, being only aspects of oneself instead of accepting the polytheistic and animistic tendency of experiencing them outside one’s own imagination. But for those of us who accept the understanding these critters are another aspect of divine energy in an otherwise interconnected universe, these angels/demons and other creatures of El (this includes the Devil) are the flipside of the same Christian coin. By aligning myself with these creatures, I enter the domain of YHWH and that is just NOT going to happen. In my opinion, any witch doing this and claiming to be ‘pagan’ really needs to step back and sever those monotheist ties...or be more honest with themselves. Not to say you cannot practice witchcraft and be a Christian; the proof is in the pudding but who is providing the recipe?

In an attempt to understand this path of witchery, I’ve dedicated the past few years to reading whatever materials I could get my hands on. I’ve asked friends for recommendations, found books on Scribd that I could not afford or purchase, and was given materials from authors themselves. This is no different than what I did in my early days of magickal study. Hell, I read and researched for two years before ever casting a circle because I like to be well informed; no diving head first into unchartered spiritual territories. Below are the authors I have read and what I have taken away from their materials. No, I have NOT performed any of the rituals or spells because even as a well seasoned witch, I am still trying to work out HOW to do them within a Pagan context. I am also discerning of an author's sources, as the success of a path shows in the fruit it bears.

Nigel Jackson was the first author to expose me to this path of witchcraft, the result of researching the Man in Black. His titles “The Call of the Horned Piper” and “Masks of Misrule” were great academic introductory materials for a historical background, making it easier to trace these connections with the modern Traditional Witchcraft practices. Mummering, stag hunting and stang riding...these all have festivals roots that are still part of British culture and heritage. The thing is though, these deep cultural connotations pose another problem: they are essentially  spirits of place, genii loci, and local Gods. The ancestral hunts of horned spirit-men vary by location, but is presented primarily from it’s European perspective. There is not much mythology of North America involving such a spirit, except in Native American stories of horned serpents and some chthonic kachinas.

Andrew Chumbley is an author I have found to be both practical and direct with his writing. I like his methodology and thanks to my background in tantra,  I am 'getting' it. He uses academic and religious terms I understand, which is a huge bonus when being an ‘outsider’ to this topic. I particularly enjoyed his book “Mysticism, Initiation, and Dream”, obviously because of my experiential interest in dreams. He goes into a multi-cultural exploration of oneiric initiations, which is similar to the spirit travels of Traditional Craft. This was also very reaffirming of my nocturnal adventures I had been doing without prompting from some coven. Whilst I enjoy the flowery language of Chumbley’s other materials, and appreciate the hidden meanings, it will require much more concentration (not to mention a fuckton more money) before I can sink my teeth into it.

A few books were not academic in approach, which was slightly refreshing but sometimes more confusing. One book that was badly recommended to me, only because it was VERY much a beginner’s book (which kind of insulted me) was “Treading the Mill”. Much of the praxis was just simple eclectic Wicca stuff that was really reminiscent of old Scott Cunningham books...whom I LOVED and read cover to cover in my early years of witchcraft. Not to say I did any of the Wicca stuff, but his reference books and specialty grimoires providing a great starting point for early mastery of what we used to call kitchen witchery. Explaining simple grounding techniques, glamour magicks, basic trance and circle casting,  the elements and other critters out there was super redundant for me, but would be excellent for any beginner. What did catch my attention was how it’s introduction to the “Treading the Mill” as a new term for me. I have never been one of those witches who “raises the cone of power” with singing and dancing in circles...I can do it seated, doing things astrally; tantrism really focuses more on the internal visualization versus strictly outside ‘doing’. The imagery of some peasants walking in circles, pushing a mill to grind grains is not really something I find empowering. The act of actually doing that and baking magick bread might be something to consider, but engineering a shaft from which to blast a portal for Deity to come through is not necessary for my praxis... they simply come through mantra and invocation.

Another author I wholly enjoyed was Gemma Gary, who writes primarily from the Cornish perspective. She includes a lot of folkloric craft, local remedies spiced with local legends and Christian masks. Tutelary spirits from the Western lands of the British Isle, the artwork and rituals presented in Gary’s books “The Black Toad” and “The Devil’s Dozen” are evocative, connecting with the reader on a very deep level. Simples, curses, and charms are all delightfully dark...but the rituals working with the “Old One” lead me to be more puzzled than interested. Living in suburban America it’s a little difficult for me to run around graveyards at night (normally locked up and patrolled by security), or circumambulating churches (someone would call the police). Searching out solitary wild places, building small fires and communing with the night might be possible for a woman like me if I was sure to carry a pistol for protection against sexual assault. That being said, it will have to be reserved for special trips to the mountains or back to my hometown….for here in the western U.S. there are still lonely places, desolate and deserted with creatures very much like the ones shared with our overseas cousins.

The term 'witch' as it is claimed today is a fairly new phenomenon and has a very different meaning than it's original intention for the past three millennia. Magick does not need religion to work. That is where modern 'witches' get confused...and also why it can easily mesh with any religion in the world. Every culture has witches because there are evildoers in every culture. There are also the healers too, who rarely ever self-identified as 'witches'. Only in the modern Western world have some 'reclaimed' this title...and for shock, only. Midwives and and herbalists were just that, healers and today we STILL have some that would never say they are 'witches'. But there are some who can call ourselves by no other word...for our work is an Arte. A gifted talent, we either blossom or ignore. It is also a learned craft, one that can be developed with guidance from another who has already mastered the Arte. Either way of the crooked path takes real practice, modern flexibility and an unquenchable curiosity.

Chöd and Hekate

“That which is called 'devil' is not some actual great big black thing that scares and petrifies whomever sees it. A devil is anything that obstructs the achievement of freedom. . . . Most of all, there is no greater devil than this fixation to a self. So until this ego-fixation is cut off, all the devils wait with open mouths. For that reason, you need to exert yourself at a skillful method to sever the devil of ego-fixation”

- Machig Lobdron (quoted from Harding)

I don’t recall exactly when it happened… after a night of 3 am fires in my little temple, creating green flames with absinthe in an offering cauldron. The clean smell of purely burnt offerings brought the familiar feeling of snakeskin against mine, the Fear creeping up my spine as Her darkness gathered about me. My nostrils filled with the subtle manure smell; organically processed grasses mixed with toxins dispelled. This is how I know it is Her and not another, my Titaness cannot be replicated by other mocking spirits. One word came through...a word I was not familiar with and one that would take me on an amazing journey over the next 5 years: Chöd.

In thoughts She speaks to my inner mind, the place which one can barely grasp once it is seen. From afar, Her message comes in one or two words sometimes, or reflective images as surface water. In the very first vision She showed how to cover my head, although I never felt “right” doing it...so it became one of those negotiated requests Gods sometimes offer us. Instead, I always include a special ring. But this theme of “heads” is recurring in my life and is very important to the rest of this story.

  1. My body has never suffered injury, except to only my head (rock thrown at me, concussion from car accident).

  2. When I took an undergraduate class in Ancient Philosophy, I decided the ideal state of being was for me to be a floating head...no body to drag around, but the intellectual and imaginative mind was free to be. Maybe it was the report I wrote on Hedonism, or maybe it was from watching “The Adventures of Baron von Muncheusen”, but I became convinced it is the seat of the Soul.

  3. I used to sculpt Goddesses, and nearly all of them had trouble with their heads staying on. I also had a tendency to rip the heads off my Barbies as a girl, which you should know makes it SUPER hard to put back on.

  4. Once I went to a ritual for Yeshe Tsogyal...the central statue was one which I also had bought on clearance at Target (of all places). A tall wooden dakini, this generic ‘world’ art became the seat for a Bodhisattva in my own home, who unfortunately became beheaded during a move by my husband. I mentioned this after the ritual, for which was told how in one story of Yeshe Tsogyal she is beheaded and walks around holding her own head.

As if these weren’t enough connections (I am hard headed), it was the recurring dreams that lead me to my teacher, and the topic of Chöd came up. After a year of attending Dark Moon devotionals to Hermes and Hekate, our Priest offered an afternoon workshop transmitting a Pagan Chöd with Hekate as the guide. My head nearly exploded. I realized after all this time, when I was trying to find a Buddhist group to learn from or a corpse garden to go sit and meditate in (yes, I was willing to go there), this was what She had meant.

The build up to the workshop was fervent. My gut was completely inflamed with anxiety, spent by my IBS. I placed my cushion as close to the bathroom as I could...in case I vomited or shit myself. He handed out the papers and we spent the next 30 minutes receiving instruction...but the ACTUAL practice only took 6 minutes or so. I was kinda disappointed. I went through so much, got myself worked up and excited for some big elaborate ritual that was going to catapult my spiritual life onto some new level...or something like this, in my mind. But we did the practice, I became Hekate and severed my head from my body, chopped up my body to put in the flipped over skull like a cauldron, then used my femur to stir the pot. I called to demons, ghosts, animals, to any and all sentient or wandering and suffering beings who were hungry, to come and partake. And they came in swarms, swiftly and without notice to each other. I maintained the visualization, trying not to be distracted by the other demons, my own, which pulled at my hair and toes trying to keep me from feeding the hungry spirits. PHAT!

Afterwards I returned to my Self, but before I could begin reflecting on the experience we performed it again, and a third time. Afterwards, I ate a little food to remind my head and body they were united, feeling almost speechless for the first time in my life. It was subtle, this profoundness...I sat with it for a week when finally I saw the effects. Two people in our group had their partners leave them. I was sad for them, but glad for being spared whatever effects were rippling in the aftermath of Chöd. A few weeks later I decided to try performing the ritual myself, maybe even starting a daily practice. Shortly after, the two people whose partners left them had a huge falling out with enormous repercussions; this also included the majority of our budding Priesthood to abandon their oaths and group. I was absolutely shocked and swore not to do the Chöd practice again, just in case.

Months passed when I decided my spirit was strong enough to really break through my Fear and do the practice. On New Year’s Eve, I made the commitment to myself and my Queen, to begin a daily practice of the Chöd for 40 days. I got 4 days into the practice when my husband started fighting with me. I pushed through until day 8 when he lost his job. I stopped immediately...the Fear had won. My life, at that point, had been exactly what I always wanted: working in a library, husband working from home and doing his thing, living in the country and having enough money to live comfortably. We were even shopping around for our first home to buy. This sudden change had a domino effect: my husband had to move back to the city for work, our marriage took a huge strain and we’ve since relocated back to the Bay Area.

What happened? Where is all the merit I accumulated from this practice? Do I continue the practice? Well, I gave it away...emptied my Self of all karma. My actual Fear was manifested before me… causing unhappiness for so many, including my Self. This is not a safe practice and something I will return to again over time. These demons and spirits, even if viewed through the psychological lens of one’s own personal demons, manifested from our subconscious… they still have to be dealt with, regardless.

I obviously have some connection to it on a soul level, but as I researched this practice the relevancy became much more apparent. This practice is one of the only ones to develop in Tibet and migrate to India...usually Buddhist practice is the opposite. Also, Chöd was first taught by a woman ; Machig Lobdron was consort to a holy man, had children and STILL pursued spiritual advancement successfully. She had been the tantrika Yeshe Tsongel in a former life with guru Padmasambhava; both incarnated together. Many others who had shared lives with Yeshe Tsongel and Padmasambhava followed them into the next lifetime, where they were married and householders. Machig (pronounced, ironically, like ‘magic’) was an unusual woman who in her younger years had learned to read and worked as a liturgy or holy scripture reader for an otherwise illiterate community. Machig was well known for her very quick readings; fitting several stops a day before going home to Her own chores and meditations. Families who heard the readings were blessed for being within earshot and also accumulated merit, or what we might call ‘good karma’, for sponsoring the recitation of the Prajnaparamita (Heart Sutra)... the more times it is read, the greater the benefit.  Her multitasking confounds me, as can be demonstrated by the complete ritual; a double-sided drum in one hand, bell in the other whilst singing the chants and songs...at one point a bone flute is also played to lure hungry ghosts to the spiritual feast. The traditional Chöd practitioners are akin to the Aghori of India; wearing cast off clothing, eating/drinking from skulls and living in graveyards.

For me, Machig is a reminder that some Buddhas and Bodhisattvas came from humble, ordinary places in life. Enlightened beings find their way back to each other, to continue the work they could not complete in one lifetime. Perhaps this is my time, now… to go and sit in a place of Fear, to call demons and to dance with them. Confronting the four demons which arise from this practice: one which blocks the senses, another that distracts the mind,the third lures away one from discipline with promises of pleasure, and the final demon of ego. I see how they have manifested in my life, and how I have had to battle them… and badly at that. But I am managing to hang on to my head, even if it is hanging from the neck.

“Without hope, Chöd practitioners are freed from the limits of hope and fear; having cut the ropes of grasping, definitely enlightened, where does one go?” - Machig Lobdron (quoted from Sorensen)

Sarah Harding, Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd. Snow Lion Publications. 2003.

Michelle Janet Sorensen. Making the Old New Again and Again: Legitimation and Innovation in the Tibetan Buddhist Chöd Tradition. Columbia University Academic Commons. 2013.

Machig Labdron

Machig Labdron

Spiritual Depression

Sometimes, I don't want to meditate. I don't want to look at my altars or shrines. I don't want to fast or cleanse. I don't want to sing adorations or compose hymns. I don't want to serve some unseen things for which I faithfully lift my heart up in offering. I don't want to read the books or ask the questions. I don't want to burn the things, pour the waters or anoint the body. I don't want to listen and argue and understand others. I don't want to travel or work in otherworlds. I don't want to gather flowers, herbs or sweet smelling oils. I don't want to sit on that cushion. I don't want to acknowledge the difficulty and ordeals of my Will. I don't want to be naked and bathed. I don't want to wear silks and soft cottons against my skin. I don't want to hug you. I don't want to become intoxicated or numbed. I don't want to walk in the woods. I don't want to eat the good foods rich in sunshine and dark loam. I don't want to fly with birds. I don't want to wash the dishes or sweep the floor or vacuum the rugs. I don't want to communicate with ancestors or deities or spirits of this land. I don't want blue skies. I don't want hard cement with cracks of rebelling lawn beneath my feet. I don't want to draw cards or divine the future. I don't want central heat in lieu of a fireplace. I don't want to snap out of it. I don't want to hear advice. Sometimes, I want to Love and be enveloped by Love. I want to not hurt. I want equanimity for every being. I want the impossible and unattainable, manifested. I want to face Hekate without Fear. I want poetry written on falling autumn leaves. I want to walk in beauty. I want to give and receive compassion. I want to be the messenger of Gods. I want to shower every day without making huge efforts. I want to wash the dishes, do the laundry, go shopping and pay the bills with a dharmic attitude. I want to take my loved ones with me to the next level. I want to gather and worship under a full moon with other witches of integrity. I want to get off this couch, walk in the sunbeams with rainbow energy rays shooting out my butt. I want to bury myself in His arms, feel His fur on my face and His tears to wash away all sorrow. I want my readers to know how much they mean to me. I want to write truth into the akashic records of internet for future generations to see I didn't know WTF I was talking about, but still dared to do ALL the things. I want clean water, air, books and food accessible for everyone. I want to stop grasping at this world and be liberated from it. Mostly, I want lactose-free pudding that tastes delicious.

Always, this is OKAY: our spiritual lives are not defined by what we do during active seasons, but how we handle our own limitations. A constant routine is a good habit to make but sometimes it needs a break. Allowing ourselves to step back and let the magick HAPPEN is what a true practitioner needs from time to time. It does not mean we are lazy, or unproductive, or any less devoted to our Gods and Spirits. We need time to rest, refresh, reorganize, re-strategize and revisit our own spirit every now and again. To come back from the depths with strength and a renewed vigor is not always a necessity either; always slow and methodical is a safer, more productive means of rejoining the ranks of powerful magicians and witches. It is not weakness, nor does it prove any superhuman strength, to wallow in the Underworld for so long that we cannot see the stairs of ascension. In our own way and patience, we will not rise like a phoenix in glory as so many books and teachers promise, but softly like a grub beneath the compost of garbage we allowed to be piled on top of us. We are part of that heap,  fertilizing the garden of transcendence. The scars thicken our skin and allows for whipped welts to unburden our spirits. Have that good cry in the shower, eat what your body craves, bathe in the piss and shit and vomit with our broken souls...because it all washes off eventually.

Familiar Loss

Raven was my best friend for almost 18 years. Until she met my husband, I was the only human she loved. Raven was my familiar in the truest sense of the word: she was there during every major spiritual crisis and bed-ridden hurt, guardian as I traveled and battled throughout the astral, a bringer of messages, co-conspirator of hexes, and annoying onlooker during deep meditations. We had a passive-aggressive relationship, but it was a long one full of sharp corners and close encounters. As all familiars, she appeared in the night. I had recently tried connecting with my other cat, binding my witchhood through feeding food mixed with some of my blood but she just wasn’t up to the task. Apparently performing this ritual did indeed invoke a hellish being: one with pretty yellow eyes and the blackest, softest fur I’d ever felt. My boyfriend brought her home, named her Raven and placed her in my bed whilst I slept… I awoke to the sound of a tiny meowing. After cuddles and play, she pooped in my bed and continued to do so for a few more days. So I lit the candle, spoke the words, and Raven licked the blood from my pricked finger I offered...this cat was a menace, but she was the shadow instantly bonded.

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My Scorpio kitty, born the day before Halloween in 1998, loved water. In the shower, she jumped on the ledge to observe my soapy chores and catch a steam for her fur; later she insisted on being petted down with hot, wet hands as a daily bath. She drank out of potted plants, forgotten water cups, fresh puddles outside. Raven could fly; she fell from a third floor balcony as a kitten and showed up, unharmed, on my threshold the next day. She left bats in front of my altar, sometimes still alive. She sat in protective circles as sentinel, her spirit traveled with me to other realms, and she aided my sight for divinatory operations. She didn’t like other animals, or people...preferring the solitude of hunting or napping. Raven sat in my lap as I completed three degrees, purring in comfort as she swished a tail across my face, attacking pens and highlighters in fervent use, laying casually across textbooks and laptops. Cats are complete narcissists which we are only too lucky to worship. She loved to roll in fresh catnip (or any herbs for that matter), often kissed the feet of my BABALON statue, and inhaled deeply marijuana smoke.

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She changed and mellowed out as she got older, as all living things do. She slept a lot, wasn’t such an active participant in magickal operations, but enjoyed reaping the benefits energetically. A few weeks ago she had a stroke, and was a completely different animal. She often attacked me for no reason, lost her appetite and only wanted to be near her water bowl. I knew it was time to say good bye. I have never held something in my arms as it passed...especially a kindred spirit. I whispered the heart sutra in her ear as I watched the light go out in her eyes. And before I knew what was happening, she was gone. She is still slinking around corners, walking across my head as I sleep, and traversing the bardos as I intended. Her remains have been installed on the ancestor altar in my home, her ashes contained with some claws, fur and whiskers I kept over the years.

 

I think it is easier to explain my understanding of what a familiar is, by showing what it is NOT. Familiars are not a common “tool”; although listening to modern, self-proclaimed witches one would think we are each deeded one by the Devil Himself. I dare say, it is more resembling the animal helpers found in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world or Phillip Pullman’s dark materials. A complicated and often misunderstood topic, familiars are not your average house-pet, no matter how much you love that furbaby; like our children, house-pets are often not magickally inclined. Historically, familiars were associated with a physical animal connected to the lifeforce of a witch; kill the familiar and the witch dies. Usually believed to take on the form of a cat or dog, sometimes a familiar could also be a hare, toad, bird, or goat. Now, there are animal/plant allies, which are really more like totemic spirits and are akin to spirit guides...but this is not a familiar. There are also spiritual projections of our witch-selves in the astral, an etheric body which shapeshifts into whatever form we perceive it to be….sometimes this is called a “fetch” and varies with traditions. This, also, is not a familiar. Familiars are not domesticated, but are still somewhat wild. What can be expected of a creature that thinks for themselves?

familiar

The guidelines and ideology practiced by witch hunters included diabolical fabrications as justification for murder; feeding the familiar from a witches’ teat or other supernumerary growth on the body is not a necessity. While the familiar may not be able to shapeshift and walk around as a person, they can be a companion in the physical realm which elevates and assists the witch in magickal or spiritual work. Sent by Deity, Ancestors or a spell of conjuration, a familiar may not even choose cohabitation with a witch, only showing up when called. In my case, no matter how many times Raven disappeared she always returned; sentient Be-ings have Free Will also. There is an unspoken communication, a shared mind sometimes with a protective instinct; once, an unknown and frightening spirit circled the bed, which Raven followed  and chased out of our bedroom (as told to me by my atheist husband).

As more witches work solitary these days, a familiar magickal partner can be just as rewarding and effective as a coven….if not moreso. A familiar can be a reminder of our distance with the natural kingdom and rhythms, reconnecting witches with our primal selves. They can offer the loyalty and lessons often betrayed by human teachers. And in return we can elevate their spirit as well, participating in their karmic cycle and reciprocating their spiritual service with compassion through feeding and caring. But just as a pet or child, the spiritual entities we bond to are also our responsibility...so a magick practitioner who takes on animals they cannot fully commit to are doing themselves, and that animal, a great disservice. Whether in physical or spiritual manifestations, a familiar is a lifelong commitment not taken lightly, a choice that needs heavy consideration and research... but with invaluable rewards if proceeded correctly.

For more reading:

The Fetch and Flight

The Fetch, the Witch and the Gods

The Role of the "Familiar"in English Witch Trials

Introduction to Animal Familiars