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.

IMG_0903

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.

jazz_kitteh

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

 

Oneiromancy

  “Dreams are imperfections of sleep; even so is consciousness the imperfection of waking. Dreams are impurities in the circulation of the blood; even so it's consciousness a disorder of life. Dreams are without proportion, without good sense, without truth; so also is consciousness. Awake from dream, the truth is known: awake from waking. The truth is: The Unknown”― Aleister CrowleyThe Book of Lies

One of the earliest recollections in my life was a dream - I was a man dressed in tuxedo tails, waiting for my wife as I finished a cigarette. I was around 4 years old when I started remembering dreams. I would recall them in the morning and tell my family about them, sometimes with sideways glances or eye rolls in response. They seemed so real sometimes: I would wake up with fearful tears, mimicked injuries, found to be wandering around the house or yelling myself awake.  It was around 8 or 9 years old I started having prophetic dreams though. The first one happened the night our pet hamster died: I dreamed my parents divorced and my mother married a cowboy (3 years later, she did). My dreams became increasingly more vivid, controlled and serious. As a curious teen, I started researching dreams to understand this naturally occurring phenomenon; only to find it was something not everybody was able to do. In retrospect, I can see what was really happening... I was engaged in lucid dreaming, soul flight and oneiric prophecy in the patterns of these dreams.

History is riddled with omens revealed through dreams. Some of the most famous examples include the biblical Joseph, son of Jacob, both who dreamed prophecies and interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh of Egypt; King Solomon also spoke with his God through dreams (it seems dreams are the only method of divination approved by YHWH). The deaths of Julius Ceasar and Abraham Lincoln were forewarned by prophetic dreams as well. Dreams, we are told, are a series of images projected by our subconscious mind while our “waking” brain is asleep. These images flash quickly, randomly and with no real sense made until we awake, when our consciousness takes this imagery and pieces them together like a puzzle to create a chronological narrative. Often it makes no sense; all logic and reason is thrown out the door as our conscious minds try to comprehend these strange and sometimes terrible images, projected by our very minds.

"The Dream of Reason Brings forth Monsters" by Francisco de Goya

Readying one's self for dream 'incubation' is a method in which to prepare for intentional dreaming. In ancient Dendera, Egyptian priests and devotees of Hathor slept in incubation areas in the temple, which often revealed answers to seekers' questions or offer healing. Germanic Volvas, oracular women, would eat the food and sleep under the roof of a clients' home in order to divine answers. Where one sleeps has a huge effect on dreams. As a way of incubating, sleeping in an unfamiliar place such as a friends' house or on the floor of my living room, gives my mind the signal 'this is not going to be an ordinary rest'. Abstaining from alcohol, drugs and sex works sometimes; it changes from season to season, from one lunar phase to another.

Seeking out answers is a bit trickier, especially if we want specifics. Just as with any other form of divination, such as tarot, there is a level of synchronistic subtleties which requires extra attention. For example: before sleeping if there is a question I want answered, I will repeat to myself over and over a simple statement or question so it is the very last thing I think of before drifting into dreamland. Once I am there, I do a 'self check' to make sure it is a dream I will be able to participate in lucidly (meaning some control), or something my subconscious is forcing me to work through (in which I enjoy the ride). A test of my natural ability: if I could put my hand in front of my face and look at it in a dream, this was a decision my conscious mind was making in a dream, something I thought I had no control over whatsoever. Everything changed! The nightmares of demons chasing me no longer had the power and control to frighten, as I found I could fly away or banish them with fire. Sure there were some strong inclinations which I had to fight and struggle with, but eventually these types of dreams came to have little meaning except as a way of dealing with stress.

Another trick to inducing prophetic or divinatory dreams is making sure to have plenty of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults between the ages of 24-65 require on average of 6-8 hours of sleep nightly. Unfortunately most people rarely get this much actual sleep; between television and traffic sounds, a snoring spouse or a bad back, there are so many things that keep people tossing and turning at night.  Relaxing meditation before sleep, being mindful of its purpose and goals is also a way of getting prepared and present. Keeping the bedroom only for sleep and other nocturnal activities maintains the environment as free for exploring otherworldly realms safely and more effectively.

It takes some skill to interpret the images of dreams, but as a witch I find taking the back seat in what is happening, and allowing it to properly unfold, gives greater clarity later on. Writing a dream down really is the best practice, especially since sometimes a dream will not make sense until later reflection reveals the connection. I also find that sharing very significant dreams in a document with friends on social media or dream interpretation groups gives me an opportunity for an unbiased perspective on the imagery. Unlike other forms of induction or divination, oneiromancy cannot be learned in a book. Although it can be practiced through interaction with a patron Deity or spirit which can assist you, this is a natural gift one is either born with or develops over time. Either way, it can be effective when taken with a healthy dose of scientific analysis, another of psychoanalysis and an open honesty of your Self. Patience and serious introspection pays off.

For further reading:

Sacred Sleep: Dreams & the Divine” by Scott Cunningham

Oneirocritica: The Interpretation of Dreams” by Artemidorus

Dreams” by C.G. Jung

Liminal Book Review: The Witches' Ointment

The Witches' Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic. Thomas Hatsis; Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont. 286 pages.

As the waning moon appears on a darkened horizon, I remove my clothes and light a candle with intentions of oneiromanic prophecies. From a hidden cupboard in an old 19th century secretary, I remove several tins with arcane symbols...magickal salves of soporific splendours made by a witch in Canada. Choosing the right one for my purpose, I dip deeply with Saturn's finger, marking my body with the opaque ointment. Stars in my armpits, inner thighs, palms and footbottoms and a final one to my third eye, I am careful to wash my fingertips in case I rub my eyes in the night. Climbing between cool white sheets, my breathing takes it's natural shallow waves to the belly. I say a prayer to Hekate, Domina who guides and keeps safe my spirit during these nocturnal journeys, and close my eyes. I can feel the herbs taking effect, creeping through my teeth and stomach like low-grade LSD. After an hour or two, I begin to dream...

My interest in flying ointments is what initially got me into exploring the study of witchcraft. As discussed on my last podcast, the night flight stories of witches seemed fantastical and entirely possible; even from a psychological perspective, the idea of acting out lewd and illegal fantasies while in the dreamscape of my mind sounded like a healthy expression. Reading the old recipes for true “witches' potions” were something out of a fairytale: bat's blood, opium, henbane, hemlock, belladonna and, of course, the fat from a unbaptised baby.

I first heard the interview with Thomas Hatsis on The Black Chair, a podcast I tune into from time to time, discussing The Witches' Ointment. Then there were lecture dates in the Bay Area, which I was sadly unable to attend. But, I was able to order the book and just finished as the new horror movie, The VVitch, was playing at theatres...(SPOILER ALERT) the opening scene includes a classical sequence of using baby fat as a base, churning with herbs, then smearing it all over her old body for the sabbatic flight. Hatsis deconstructs the myths from realities in a very concise and narrative manner; with folktales and historical account retold at the beginning of each chapter. Although oozing with solid academic research, the author's approach makes the data very digestible for those of us who do NOT like reading history books. Hatsis presents these 'confessions' and concludes that different experiences fall under the categories of either ointment induced experiences (used as an entheogenic tool for performing journey or magick), or blasphemy motivated nocturnal journies...but rarely were the two happening at the same time.

Whilst absurd to the modern practitioner, some of these recounted testimonies were given by actual folks who used these ointments, even if their chemical effects were unknown, and had intense experiences. Hatsis pinpoints when the stereotype of a satanic/diabolical witch's' use of Ye Olde Broomstik, including the fabrication of it as a masturbatory tool, is explored and debunked (we go from Heretic to Witch in less than two hundred years' span).

The dusk flowers adorned the altar, their scent lifted by my heightened senses. I did not plant these, but this ally appeared in my new garden as an old friend. The intense summer heat had made the liminal times sweeter for their delicate white petals, releasing their strange smell. In dreams I sense their proximity, my soul flew through layers of spiritual projection to a wild, overgrown and ancient garden. A dry fountain overgrown with periwinkle, ferns of every shape and conifer trees help to hide the rabbit-faced beings which surround and spy on me. Their silvery glamour does not shade their true intentions...

In particular I enjoyed the fourth chapter titled “Roots of Bewitchment”, which focuses on commonly known materials used in traditional ointments, for either 'soporferis medicamentis' (sleeping medicines) or 'pocula amatoria' (love potions) (p.76). Plants, animal secretions, minerals and other pharmacopeia are examined; a background including etymology of the names, historical uses, medicinal uses and folkloric connections. I had a particular interest in the Solanaceae family: the henbane, mandrake, nightshade and, especially, datura. As a young woman interested in the herbal arts, these plants called to my curious side of gardening. However cautious as I am, it was better to try ointments from more skilled herbalists than bumbling through another experiment which could potentially make me ill, or worse.

It was last summer that Datura stramonium made a home in my new garden bed. Although I had grown this plant a few times in containers (always with great success), the seeds sowed themselves and I soon had huge datura plants. Drought tolerant and sun lovers, these beauties opened every morning at dawn and nightly at dusk, making it a wonderful setting for nocturnal devotionals to Hekate. Sitting amongst them, the plants cooling from the days' heat, I would put my face close to them and inhale deeply of the trumpets. Sometimes called “mad apple”, I can see how this strange plant could be intoxicating to the point of fatality...but what a sweet way to go. The ointment from this plant was used extensively in the ancient world to help with insomnia; the effects of doziness I experienced to be rather rapid and the sleep deep but restful without feeling 'hung over' the next day. If I DO manage to stay awake after using the ointment, there is a euphoric but tense feeling... I actually have to fight off sleep but like a happy toddler.

The Awen comes straight into my mind...visions from my own imagination take on an absurd realism otherwise not experienced in regular lucid dreams. Poetry flows like colors, messages come to me in strange tongues and anticipation flows as wine in cups made of amethyst. I drink, deeply and awaken to write.

I was surprised to read Datura wasn't just used in shamanic journeying or to poison/bewitch unsuspecting muggles, but some users found the imagination whipped to the point of exquisite inspiration...something I experienced as well.

Writing in 1784 Prussian toxicologist J.S. Halle became on of the first writers to praise the drug for stirring the artistic mind: 'Mixing the ground seeds of datura with wine will produce an artificial, magic and fantastic tincture; if a poet would drink (this blend), it would provide him with his most exalted flight in odes.' This datura-wine elixir will 'fire the pictures of imagination in the most vivid manner, swirling the natural impulse of the muse beyond all enthusiasm of wine'” (p.100).

For further information on the safe uses of these herbs, and to purchase some excellent ointments, follow these links down the rabbit hole.

Evolution of witches' ointment

Article by author, Thomas Hatsis

Wise words of caution and use, Sarah Anne Lawless

More flying ointment history

Flying ointment feedback

Ointments for purchase

 

Datura from my garden.

PantheaCon Report ~ 2016 Edition

A lot can be said by an attendee's first and last presentations during the long weekend of PantheaCon; mine were “Willful Bane: the History, Techniques and Ethics of Hexing” and “Rite of Needful Unbinding”. Although the schedule was rather bland, the few exceptional rituals and lectures I attended  really rejuvenated some witchy feelz. I wrote haikus to pass the time, but some were post-Con also. Orange sunburst, leaf

A funk has arisen here.

A room of Pagans.

Appalachian

Wit and humour empower.

Magick of true grit.

Urine in bottle,

Spit over the left shoulder,

Eating of power.

 

Horse-faced one sat close,

You are forever the fucked.

Exorcism, lost.

Crumbling castles,

False One of the Happy Camp,

Surround and keep you.

Brown bird in her nest,

Piety does not protect

Justice in the wind.

Cover your babies,

prepare for the coming storm.

Excrement flies far.

Enemy thine mine,

Look to your mountain and weep,

Rabbit on the run.

Disco, Baba witch

The dark mask of a Mother.

And you shall have none.

Over-rated suites,

Danger is so near

And much cheap liquor.

Man who stands too close,

Violate and desecrate

Holy woman, FIGHT!

No one noticed this?

Masters of Destiny here

Ignore the victim.

Is it Boy or Girl?

Spirit does not care witch one.

Practice magick, now.

Give of your Self child

And know the universe Is.

We are all learning.

Selene, honour.

Chthonic Ones, forgotten.

Hekate, old key.

Absinthe and battle,

Discordian candy flies!

Warrior standing.

Running with scissors,

Mead with the Librarians,

Sweet Asian kisses.

Priestess binding me,

Chains made of my own doing.

Rattle shake, drum bass.

Domina, we cry!

Vulnerable space, bless-ed!

Foot in mouth, pale, raw.

The bullshit, no more!

Release what does not propel!

A blade deconstructs!

While the weather was sunny and warm outside the Doubletree, indoor climates ranged from freezing cold to stifling rainforest in many rooms; most wondered if we really WERE having hot flashes. Surges of power, others might say... and they were. Witch Giants were everywhere, filling the halls and rooms with their subtle energies. Real practitioners of magick came together in corners of the Con, discussed and invoked, banished and destroyed. Several times I was surrounded by a group of powerhouses in the Craft and felt slightly woozy...this concentration of power is overwhelming but also reassuring as I was among them, an equal finally. I also dropped some baggage for more capable hands, for annihilation. Leaving behind those things and people who no longer serve me, who are nothing but asuras... banishing bellicosity and distractions from my Work.

On a disappointing note, it was really too bad all these warriors and holy people did not notice the women being assaulted over the course of the weekend... several violated for simply being intoxicated, and not by just 'men'. Over and over I heard the words “consent”, “safe space”, “proper pronouns” being spoken by presenters, but their words were lost on many. These people are lucky I didn't see it myself...because I am not one to be polite or soft about others hurt and pain. And there was plenty to go around. The overtly sexual environment was sickening sweet: beautiful rituals such as the honeyed-Pomba Gira were replaced with artificial saccharine imitations that didn't come close to satisfying, except for those with vampiric appetites. It's scary to me that we “police ourselves”, I imagine to save public face; abusive leaders are kicked out of organizations without charges being filed, predators escorted out of festivals but not into police custody ...it happens in plain sight and so many choose to ignore. It is my eternal wish that we take off our blinders, use our true witch vision (if you have any at all) and finally learn some compassion, develop empathy and generate loving kindness with equanimity.

It was an added bit of bummer to NOT see the "PantyCon" schedule distributed throughout the hotel; I guess the party-poopers had that removed too. And yes, the community seriously lacks a sense of humour. Between the leather clothes, crystal pyramids, special snowflakes and over priced books there are those less pretentious ones who play Fool to the World. Those easily offended are missing out on the worship of Eris, inviting discord into one's practice is liberation with entertainment.

But honestly, we really are so very lucky to have access to highly qualified and experienced ritualists. I realize after attending some bad rituals, my spiritual path has been really blessed. Groups like the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn and the Discordians were a breath of fresh air. The genius of sacred space was kept sentinel again in the Coru Cathubodua's Temple of the Morrigan, even though I did not need to visit. Every year I go and make offerings...but I also end up taking folks there who are broken or needing reprieve. As one of the only purely sacred spaces available in the Con, I am glad to see it offered for those who need to experience it.

It was also really awesome to meet and give a sniff to some oils from Rosarium Blends, Catamara is a witch who knows her stuff. Decanting from the mother bottles, the oils were oozing with herbal essences of magickal concentration...it was lovely. I, of course, had been eyeballing some of their Hekate oil online, so was glad to get the chance of smell before purchasing. Together with her partner, they are organizers for the Viridis Genii Symposium held in Oregon... I am already making plans to attend.

Episode 7: Sex, and Drugs, and Rock n' Roll

Yes, I have awakened from my post-holidays slumber and recorded a podcast. In this episode, I discuss my experiences, opinions and tips on the three topics...and even go into how they are all connected to magick. Hail! Hail! Rock n' roll! Enjoy music by Swiss folk metal band, Eluveitie. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Ep7_SexDrugsRock.mp3"][/audio]

 

Also, here are some other favourite rock n' roll occult songs/bands I mentioned in the podcast, for further exploration and enjoyment.

Modern Bard: My Evolving Storytelling Philosophy

Introduction

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls” - Joseph Campbell

My bliss led me to a Bachelor's in Religious Studies and Humanities because I love a good story. Anything is possible and everything is permitted in the imagination, but experiences are something completely different. It is in the art of Storytelling the two can intersect safely.

Conceptualization

And there are among them composers of verses whom they call Bards; these singing to instruments similar to a lyre, applaud some, while they vituperate others” - Diodorus Siculus Histories (8BCE)

There is a spiritual connection with telling stories, especially when it is a recited sacred script. It is said the ancient Celtic Bards studied for a minimum of twelve years, memorizing the unwritten stories of their Ancestors and land. They were a kind of walking library; knowing songs, poems, sagas, history and general gossip was their vocation. As part of the Celtic hierarchy, Bards held a place of wisdom and respect in society.

The Bards were singers and poets, the Vates were seers and scientists, and the Druids were both scientists and moral philosophers, the judges and arbitrators of both private and public disputes” (Jones & Pennick, p.84).

Today's 'bards' exist to the masses as pop singers, celebrities and internet phenomenon. Not to say there aren't storytellers, but television and computers have replaced the limited access this ancient role once held. There is hope in the long-standing bardic traditions still held in Wales, England and other parts of the British Isles; language & music festivals (eisteddfod) are held in conjunction with bardic events, or Gorsedd.

Value in Librarianship

There is a resurgence of storytelling performing in bars, open mic nights in coffee shops and while usually involving adults only, this trend can easily spill over into the library environment. Storytellers in the library are an invaluable asset for many reasons. Go to a library anywhere in America during a story hour and the proof of audience numbers are there. It is one of the best services which can be offered to the public.

Storytelling is a stealth activity that often moves into professional arenas unrecognized. Most people have a very limited idea of what storytelling actually is, and how it can be effectively utilized not only in programming, but also in management and advocacy. Recent research in neuroscience supports what librarian storytellers have known for decades: human beings are hard-wired for story, and respond to it at a visceral level. Listening to oral stories has been closely connected to the acquisition of literacy skills, the expansion of vocabulary, and the development of active listening skills, but storytelling has also been identified as the single most effective means of persuasion” (2015, p.6).

As I experienced with other student performances in this class, giving a dramatic recitation or telling of modern literature, such as science fiction, not only draws in a curious audience but can also attract new readers to the title. Having storytelling events for families instead of just offering toddler times would be great publicity, not to mention literacy ad-vocation.

Changes

I have been involved in Druidry and the Occult communities for close to 20 years now, having served in different capacities. This dedication to mythology is an integral part of my religious experience; memorizing hymns and incantations are required for certain successful effects. I have a regular blog which includes written narratives, informational pieces and book/product reviews but just this year I decided to include a podcast so I could play music. Never scripted, I stick to a theme and use just some bare-bones notes to keep myself on task.

Since taking this class I have included more personal anecdotes in this audio recording. I have also started thinking about performing within my community, traveling to different conventions or festivals to tell stories of the Gods or recite Orphic Hymns in devotional settings. It is in my immediate plans to reach out to a local storytelling guild, attend some meetings and watch others who are more seasoned while working on my own repertoire. Learning more myths, exploring the uses of props and costumes are plans for my near future.

Conclusion

The tips, experiences and feedback I have received in this class has shaped my confidence in storytelling. I hope to take the skills acquired in this course, along with my new interest in performance storytelling, into a library position or other service oriented opportunity.

 

References

Jones, P., & Pennick, N. (1997). A history of pagan Europe (3rd ed., p. 262). London: Routledge.

Negro, J. (2015, April 1). The whole story, the whole library: Storytelling as a driving force. ILA Reporter.

 

Episode 6: The Death Current

In this episode I explore the practice of Ancestor worship and share some personal anecdotes as well. Music in this episode features songs by Faun, from the albums Totem and Licht.  

[audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Ep6_The-Death-Current.mp3"][/audio]

Resources mentioned in the podcast:

Martin Coleman's "Communing With the Spirits"

Sarah Iles Johnston's "Restless Dead: Encounters Between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece"

"Liber Falxifer: The Book of the Left Handed Reaper" Vol. 1 by N.A-A.218 

Hekate's Wheel

“Shine brightly, Moon; I will softly chant to you, Goddess, and to Hekate in the Underworld – the dogs shiver before Her when She comes over the graves of the dead and the dark blood. Hail, grim Hekate, and stay with me to the end; make these drugs as powerful as those of Circe and Medea and golden-haired Perimede. Draw to my house my lover, magic wheel” - Theocritus, Idylls 2

Hekate is associated with many different symbols; dogs, torches, the moon and crossroads are all common projections which modern devotees recognize. One symbol in particular is mysterious to outsiders and practitioners of Hekatean worship: the Strophalus. Wavy lines continuously connected to form three wells, encapsulating a six pointed star in the center. What is it? Where does it come from? And what does it have to do with Hekate?

Hecate's_Wheel

Hecate's_Wheel

It may seem like an arcane symbol, but closer examination upon various historical references illuminates some uses of it as a tool. The three different 'spokes' could represent the three realms which Hekate holds dominion over: Land, Sky and Sea. The outer continual lines are whindy, a serpentine labyrinth design which suggests the path through Her realms...a mandala, a map.

In the first place, the priest, who governs the works of fire, Must sprinkle with the cold water of the loud-sounding sea. Energize about the Hecatic Strophalus. When you shall see a terrestrial demon approaching Exclaim, and sacrifice the stone Mnizurin. If you often invoke me you shall see all things darkening, For neither does the convex bulk of heaven then appear, Nor do the stars shine, the light of the moon is hidden, The earth stands not still, but all things appear in thunders” --verses 192-196, The Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster

There is some theories of the strophalus being connected with the iynx; pronounced “jinx”, a Neoplatonic device used as a tool of invocation. Round as a disc or spherical, the iynx was described as being covered in magickal symbols and containing a lapis lazuli stone in the center, embuing it with power. The iynx was spun with a leather thong, twisted up tight which when released created a kind of whirring sound. Some temples had giant ones that suspended from the ceiling, with priests coming in to turn the wheels, whirring sounds filling the halls and carrying the spells along on sound vibrations to the realms. A kind of angelic telephone.

Chaldean iynges are transmitters, assimilative links between the divine and human worlds. Interestingly, their activities often are described in terms of whirling or rushing movement. This language reminds us that in chaldean teachings...a “iynx” also is a magical device turned rapidly by the theurgist in order to invoke a god or daemon” (Johnston, p. 93).

The celestial song is created as the device cuts through air, producing a different sound which changes according to size or number of 'teeth' along the edges. These messages of prayer and pleading were carried out by angelic spirits of wind, or iynges which also refers to the actual spherical device.

Now, as enchantment's midnight powers I hail, Now, farced Moon, in all thy glory fail O'er the dire rites! The mysteries of my song To thee and hell-born HECATE belong! - Pale Hecate, who stalks o'er many a tomb, and adds fresh horror to sepulchral gloom; Whilst reeking goar distains the paths of death, And blood-hounds fly the blasting of her breath! Hail HECATE! And give my rising spell Ev'n PERIMEDA's sorceries to excell: Bid the strong witchery match ev'n CIRCE's skill; And with MEDEA's venom'd fury fill! IYNX, O force him, by thy mystic charms! Force him, tho' faithless, to these longing arms!”- The Idyllia and Epigrams of Theocritus

Although primarily used for magickal intentions involving outcomes of the heart, the iynx wheel was also employed for calling the wind or summoning rain. It is generally used as a tool of empowering spellwork, and since Hekate is a Goddess of magick (not to mention the grand psychopomp of theurgic operations), it seems only natural to petition Her for aid.

For being Hekate's instrument the iynxlstrophalos vivifies and empowers ritual just as Hekate vivifies and empowers the universe; a connection which is emphasised by Hekate's 'life-generating whir' or hum” (Ronan, p.12).

Meditating on this, the idea came about of superimposing a strophalus onto one of these wheels...the symbol in a spinning motion as a visual focal point and the whirring sound to accompany it. I realized a few practical things after making it: 1) I suck at crafts and 2) having a leather thong attached to the thread would make it easier to handle. But the effect was what I expected: the imagery combined with whirring made for a trance inducing focus. I chanted Her name, whispered like a child playing in front of an electric fan. The blades distorted my voice, giving it a different resonance. Metaphysically it seemed much more subtle, but then again I was not trying to invoke Hekate for some spellwork...I simply was figuring out how to use the tool. I instinctively see how this could be used in the application of weather magick, stirring and spinning up a storm seems natural.

References

Johnston, S. (1990). Hekate soteira: A study of Hekate's roles in the Chaldean oracles and related literature. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press.

Moore, S. (n.d.). The Magick of Jinxing. Retrieved November 4, 2015. http://www.philhine.org.uk/writings/rit_jinx.html

Ronan, S. (1992). The goddess Hekate. Hastings, U.K.: Chthonios.

Episode 5: The Hekatean Special

[audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Ep5_Hekatean-Special.mp3"][/audio] As promised, here is the long-awaited episode in which I spill the beans about Hekate. I hope this will become an annual event, growing and maturing with the show.There's music, anecdotes, information, recommended materials...slight rants. I kept this episode all about Our Lady of the Crossroads. Below you will find links to websites and online sources, shops and artists of which I am a proud patron. Please enjoy.

Jeff Cullen Artistry and The Vodou Store are both resources I have been dedicated to over the years. Graveyard dirt, blood sacrifice oil, bath formulas, my Hekate statues and art...so many of my supplies are purchased by this dynamic duo.

Conjure Oils have created the perfect Hekate oil....it is sweet and dusky, something beautiful to wear. I am very, very picky about fragrances due to a very sensitive nose, but being able to order from a localish company (Oregon) and loving the little pips (samplers) allowed me to try different scents without investing too much.

Wendy Rule is a modern songstress, bard, witch of words and sound. Seeing her in concert was like witnessing a spellworking, as everyone became entranced. Please support pagan artists, especially  exceptional ones like Rule.

Jade Sol Luna books are available on Amazon and I highly recommend them.

Sarah Iles Johnston has many other titles all in classical Hellenic studies.

Avalonia produces many kinds of books, even though I do not care for the woman who runs the company I think they put out some quality resources.

'Hecate', Natascha Root Photogrpahy.
'Hecate', by Natasha Root Photography

 

Liminal Book Review: Ritual Offerings

Ritual Offerings: Feeding Your Spirits – Empowering Your Magick. Edited by Aaron Leitch; 2014. Nephilim Press. 274 pages. Copy 629/1000.

My magick really went into overdrive when I started making offerings. Always a theist of some kind, I was trained early in the techniques of Buddhist meditation and mantra. Part of that practice included giving to the Buddhas water, flowers, fruit and devotional time. At first I thought it was just an external expression of focus, a kind of eye candy trigger to get myself present. It wasn't until later, when I started doing Druidry, that it became much clearer in the subtlety of what was happening: relationships were being formed and alliances made with Deity. The Indo-European concept of 'ghost-i', a reciprocity of “I give so that you may give”, just never sat right with my compassionate sensibilities. I give because I am generous or wish to alleviate suffering, not so I can build up a karmic reserve....a cosmic bank account from which to draw upon when needed. But I have also seen the results in the form of phenomenal spiritual experiences, blessings and small miracles.

 

The anthology Ritual Offerings  covers the many complexities involved in the conversation of devotion between polytheist, occult and Deity-centered magickal traditions ranging from Wicca to hoodoo, Golden Dawn to Tibetan Buddhism. A very practical collection of essays, this anthology includes many well-known and respected authors from the occult world: Sam Webster, Brother Moloch, Frater Ashen Chassen, Jason Miller, Nick Farrell to name the ones I recognized and why it was initially purchased. The book itself is an incredible work of art. This hardbound cover is half oxblood and half leathery black, with an embossed sigil covering most of the front and part of the back, wrapping around the spine. The turn in page has a most beautiful image of an illustrated altar with offerings and other arcane symbolism, in the front and back of the book. It also includes a satiny page marker sewn into the endband, which is very convenient and user friendly.

By far my favourite essay included in this anthology was Brother Moloch's “Ancestors & Offerings”. The practice of ancestor worship in the West has been a long forgotten , Brother Moloch gets right into the nit and grit. Details and suggestions for beginning a ritual practice involving ones' Dead, the essay breaks it down describing what and why to offer, how much/often, where to make offerings and working for results. This very frank and practical piece gave me some ideas on how to persuade them to work with me. As someone with a lot of Christianity in their family, I have found they are not always cooperative with what I want to accomplish...Brother Moloch draws upon his various spiritual lineages to explain ways in to maneuver around these kinds of obstacles. For example there are certain things nearly all Ancestors seem to like such as coffee, clean water and a simple white candle. He mentions a few things I had not thought to try before such as the naming of all my family lineage as a way to connect the dots with them all, or listing off all my blessings so they know how thankful I am for it all.

In “Offerings in Iamblichan Theurgy” Sam Webster breaks down the levels of offerings made and how they perpetuate our magick. One of the most compelling parts of the essay goes into the age old argument of “The Gods need our offerings because....”. According to Iamblichus, the Gods, in fact, do NOT need our affectionate attentions in order to survive. The Gods are deathless, unchanging and slightly self absorbed. If it makes no impression on the Gods, WHY do we make offerings then? Sacrifice is not made with expectations of reciprocity, but given out of love for Deity. In the making of offerings, the materials used are charged with the 'Word' or names of Deity, which are their essence. “Each thing in the world instantiates a complex union of the Words of a number of the Gods...we offer back to a God that which has a part of its constitution the Word of the God. As Iamblichus notes, Creators most love their creations” (p.215). For example, I often offer to Hekate graveyard dirt as this is a place She especially enjoys, it resonates with the chthonic aspect of Her as a guide of the Dead.

A few pieces in the anthology were shorter than I would have liked; less than 10 pages which really would be more of an article than an essay. Although packed with information, Jason Miller's essay “Severed Head Cakes and Clouds of Dancing Girls: Offerings in Tibetan Buddhism” felt as if only the very surface of this subject was scratched at. My training in chod gave me an insight many Western practitioners may be missing in this piece, but Miller still does a great job of explaining without going too deeply into the practical applications. One example he gave as an offering are the making of tormas, clay-like cakes which can be molded into various shapes and used in place of a blood sacrifice; “mar-chod, the 'red offering' of sacrificed animals and humans that Buddhists do not practice” (p.184). He also mentions a practice I find to be missing in Western traditions, the feeding of Demons and other 'lesser' beings. This is a difficult thing for Western practitioners to understand, as they generally see the feeding of demons as a way of encouraging their presence to be near. In Buddhism it is believed all beings, everywhere, suffer. These demons and other harmful spirits are intensely miserable which is why the act of offering tormas or other objects which are pleasing is a way of easing that suffering; it is an act of complete compassion.

This is a book any serious magician should have on their bookshelf, if not for the wealth of information contained within, but for the beauty without. Not often will I pay over $50 for a book that is not a textbook, but this was an especially wonderful exception I do not regret. I think it will also increase in value over time, as the authors are all five-star practitioners and the limited prints will ensure it's rarity.

Episode 4: Dirty Witchcraft

Been a while, but I had the time to spare for recording another podcast episode! In it I discuss my dirty traditions, gardening, books and some snarkiness at the end. Music by Inkubus Sukkubus. For feedback, questions or just to send me hate mail: wytchfawn@gmail.com . Keep an eye on this page for upcoming book reviews, a contest, and the next podcast... Episode 5: The Hekatean Special. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ep4_Dirty-Witchcraft.mp3"][/audio]

Some links to products mentioned in podcast:

The magicks of Sarah Anne Lawless at her shoppe, the Black Arts Foundry

Seeds and herbs from the Unfettered Wood, purchased through the Etsy Store.

Books from Nephilim Press, Troy Books, Scarlet Imprint, and authors Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold & Nigel Pearson.

More information about the Esoteric Book Conference can be found here.

7 Tips for Witches

We all started somewhere on this path. Whether it was a strange thing that happened as a kid, an inspirational person willing to reach out or just intellectual curiosity, everyone has a different motivation for practicing magick. Some people never reach out to community, are completely satisfied with solitary practice, with some it is more fulfilling to work in a coven or lodge. The thing we all have in common though, no matter the tradition or methodology... if done correctly, magick happens. Witches around the cauldron.

In my 20 year magickal career I have faced personal conflict, doubt, spiritual laziness, poverty, parenthood... a whole scope of life experience wherein I kept my Will focused on perfecting and mastering certain occult skills. And whilst I am still working on them, by no means a Master in the broadest sense of the word, my commitment to this way of life has inspired others, brought questions or others seeking advice. I can only offer my reflections thus far, certain rules for which still works for me.

  1. Meditation is essential to propel practice further. My entire experience in magickal work began with meditation. Learning tantric techniques and tools early on such as breathe, visualization and focus have all been solid skills. even years later.
  2. Grow a plant. Being responsible for a living thing, other than your Self, helps to foster empathy and compassion. Nurturing, developing relationship and protecting something completely dependent is only a fraction of what being a parent is like, but close enough for practitioners without children. The innocent, eternally giving nature of a vulnerable thing in this universe, and the appreciation of it, will sow into our own spirit.
  3. Performance of daily ritual is imperative, after all practice makes perfect. Whether it is something as simple as lighting a candle or saying a quick affirmation in the shower... ritual means to actually perform over and over... repetition. It is the continual renewing of the spell/enchantment which keeps the magick in momentum.
  4. What happens in circle, stays in circle! It has been my experience that to treat a coven as a 'social clique' is one of the most dangerous things a young witch can do. Aside from the very immature results of an “us versus them” attitude which comes from being together all the time, group work can also stifle real spiritual and technical growth in one's Arte. Movie nights and bowling trips are for fraternal organizations or corporate team building activities... not a powerful group of witches.
  5. APO PANTOS KAKODAIMONOS. Learn to banish, properly. Yes the LBRP and other Olde Rites of Ye Past seem silly or stuffy, but they work! Belief or experience of lineage are not needed, there are no prerequisites required. From the Adept to the Novice, banishing is the strongest charm in a witches arsenal. Learn one really good method and master it.
  6. Keep as many friends and family who are not into magick, close. Surrounding oneself with only witches and occult practitioners is like being around a bunch of “yes men”; they are more likely to confirm or be sympathetic to your experiences. Whilst having a positive support group is very nurturing for one's confidence and ego, it is also not working magick in a well controlled environment. Our magickal peers create a biased space which can disallow mundane comparison or healthy skepticism to be explored, sometimes. Having a shared paranormal experience with a non-believer, at least in my own experience, is one of the most rewarding validations and feedback received.
  7. Be a Master of One, a Slave to None. One skill, one form of divination, one God... all my knives are sharp, but certain ones will have a handle which fits like a glove. This is the knife to perfect using, and so it is with my Arte. Working with the same tarot deck for 15 years, Developing relationship with one spirit/Deity at a time, perfecting and expanding the breadth of experiential dreaming... I have not summoned any demons of the Goetia, but I also don't need them.

Episode 3: Adversarial Advocate

Hey folks, happy Spring Equinox, or Autumn to those in the southern hemisphere. It is a new super, eclipse, equinox moon no matter WHERE we are on this planet right now...let it be a time for renewal, shedding that which no longer serves us, or  stepping into a new direction. May our paths be blessed and our souls fed. This latest podcast is going to be a doozey... In "Adversarial Advocate"  it is not my intention to be disrespectful, insensitive or otherwise un-supportive of our diverse brothers and sisters in the Craft/Alternative Religions/Occult. I only wish to open minds and inner dialogue that might not always be considered. I offer only love and peace to all sentient beings, everywhere. There... my dark fluff is showing.

 

[audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Ep3.mp3"][/audio]

Pantheacon Report: 2015 Edition

With the podcast being such a great success, and personal things occupying most of my time lately, it has been rather difficult to keep up with regular blog writing. So to my regular readers, I apologize for making you wait so long for the next posting! But here it is, my annual PantheaCon Report. Every year I choose a different format in which to write it: rhyming prose, snarky gossip columns, etc. This time, in the fashion of non-creative writers everywhere, I give a “top five” of my experiences and moments at the Con. There is some snark, some love, but all is genuine and personal to how I observed.

#5 Hermes playing tricks.

Several times events were printed in the convention booklet, double checked in the Daily Oracle, AND on the billboard near registration... only to find upon arrival the thing was posted at a wrong time or was completely canceled. Do people ever proofread their shit these days? How can an organization NOT notice all weekend their misprints? Being in the shadow of Mercury's retrograde transit resonated well after it returned to the direct fashion of His orbit.

#4 Attending all lectures and none of the “woo-woo”.

This was not entirely planned, and maybe it is something which just happens when you get enough woo in home/community practice already, but I found it much more satisfying for my soul to not engage on such a deep, spiritual level with the other 3000 pagans converging on the Con. And to be quite honest, I am better for it! I was in bed at decent times, avoided the “Con crud” and didn't get anyone's psychic shrapnel all over me.

#3 Heavy Metal

I NEEDED the presentation from Jason Mankey on “Heavy Metal and the Occult”. Whilst I already knew most of what he was sharing, like the band “Coven” being the FIRST to record a black mass on vinyl, it was a much needed antidote to the fluffy, loving New Agey vibes the Con generally has. Not that I don't enjoy that TOO, but hearing some Mercyful Fate after sleepy harp sounds was a much needed boost to my Saturday afternoon. Bands like Coven, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, King Diamond, Iron Maiden, Venom... all were mentioned with a call from the audience with applaud, yells, and the occasional “yeah!”. It was really refreshing to be with other metal-heads in a Pagan environment.

One thing Mankey really should have included though: Dave Mustaine. In the early days of Megadeth, it was rather well known that Dave used magick and accompanying themes in several tracks from the first few albums: “Five Magicks”, “Bad Omen”, and one in particular, “The Conjuring” from the album Peace Sells But Who's Buying?, is actually a SPELL. In many interviews, even more current tellings by Mr. Mustaine himself, “The Conjuring” is spoken of in hushed tones due to the effects of this very potent magick on the listener. Now that Dave has converted to Christianity, and already received the career benefits from occultist experimentation of the early years, he refuses to play it in concert:

“Behold the flames rise, From the compass' cardinal points, Burn the sacred oil, And, with the ashes you'll anoint,

Arrange the symbols, Of the wizard, and, magician, Light the candles, Place the parchment paper in position, Between its leaves place, The lash from a black cat's eye, A straw of a broom, Fold, and, burn, and, centralize,

Don't summon the devil, Don't call the priests, If you need the strength, The conjuring,

I am the devil's advocate, A salesman, if you will, You know my name. [You know my name],

I met your father years ago, Gave him what he'd please, He called my name, you'll do the same,

I'm claiming what is mine by right, It's time to close the deal, You're bought and sold, bought and sold,

Come join me in my infernal depths, Mephisto's hall of fame I've got your soul, I've got your soul, The conjuring. Obey!!!”

And one more thing, on a personal note: Mr. Mankey if you are reading this, THANK YOU for not talking about Led Zeppelin. I bow to the masters, Jimmy Page and the Boys, but I got overkill as a kid (my Dad is a HUGE fan). Besides, I am more a Deep Purple kinda witch...

#2 Broken Priests

At first I thought it was a fashion statement, all the people walking around with canes and staffs. Then I looked closer and saw the limping, the wounded walking with walkers or with a slight shuffle. Physical manifestations of some battles, many with a tinge too much of madness in their eyes... the kind which comes with psychic wars fought within. Aging elders of many traditions hovered as future ghosts, whilst a changing of the guard is occurring. And who is the “new sexy”, the up-and-coming, or trending teachers? The hyperbole chamber of “Panelists” I just couldn't stomach to hear? The “Goddess of the Month Club” serving communion on behalf of the Virgin Mary to unsuspecting 'playgans'? The “cool kids” wearing sunglasses indoors? I cannot understand how anyone with magick in their veins cannot see or sense this? Perhaps they are too overwhelmed by what another broken priest described as “the witchflame/witchblood" and how it enflames and is drawn to each other. Maybe this is true for Pagans, but I find witches and other “shiny” folks rather repel me. Look at magnets, for example... what happens when you put the two same poles toward each other? They do not seek out the other but rather push against. That can really scramble up some folks if they aren't properly prepared, as we know spiritual work can effect physical matter. This is why it is important to have healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy speech...and healthy relationship with spirit if we are to practice magick effectively. When one part comes out of balance, it effects the rest like fallen dominoes.

As a witch, magician, druid and overall magick worker... let's just say I can 'sense' things. There is a reason I am not quick to jump on the newest bandwagon. I am not the pique of perfect health either, being 38 with the innards of an 83 year old woman essentially does not say much about my physical well-being. However, I have seen the pagan community, and the wider world as a whole, in the midst of a spiritual battle. And my friends, it's not looking good. Yes, the pessimistic, party-pooper of PantheaCon title is proudly worn on my lapel. I cannot help it, having a Cassandra effect on my prophecies. There is an intense lack of awareness going on, a kind of narcissistic apathy in which these individuals bring others into their bubble of fluff (even dark fluff, with it's ooey gooey bloody kisses). Pats on the back for online statements, rivals in book sales and products competing with 'boring' genuine practice, edgey styles trumping hidden gems...these were the faces which walked the pathways of the Doubletree all weekend. And the whole thing kinda made me sick.

I did not attend panels filled with people considered to be well-meaning yet highly personal in their politics. Because, frankly... I don't care. I don't care if someone is a racist. I don't care if someone mish-mashes gods together or is even an atheistic-otherkin witch who dresses up as a furry. None of it matters at ALL. What does matter is how you live, not what you say. And those who 'walk the walk”, walked strong. When your nose is to the grind, you don't notice what others are doing.

#1 The Grown-Up Table

I hear, “I WANT to be one of the cool kids!”; to that I say, “Keep your cool kids, I want to sit at the grown-ups table”. What that means is this: there is something exciting, something fulfilling in being part of a public group or priesthood which everyone wants to join or participate in. I know something “new” to the community is exhilarating, especially when wrapped in leathers and the politically correct du'jour of the day. I guess there is a certain amount of power one can get from another person's fear of you, the popularity of your Gods, or being a Pagan that gets along with everyone. That being said, I am in it for the long haul not to be a rock star.

So, this year I hung out with the elders. I talked to people who have been at it for 30 years or more, seen all the trends and done all the things. I asked questions about their practice, how they stay involved without getting others' poo on them, and what it was like for their children to see it all. I shook hands with and smiled at people who KNEW they had done me wrong, had insulted my intelligence or otherwise wasted my time and energy. After completing a year's worth of very disciplined spiritual work, I was able to walk up to elders that otherwise would have made my knees shake, told them about my own process, and sometimes made them laugh. I can reminisce about times I fucked up, or times I succeeded, without getting theoretical.

A wide-eyed girl came up to me, asking how to become a witch and what the difference between a magician and witch were and who do I suggest she study with.... it was just exhausting. But then I remembered how I was that girl, but she had more guts than me in the asking. So I told her my story (briefly) and gave her some advice: talk to everyone she could, ask after them in the community and to actually DO the Work. She looked at me like “Gee, thanks lady” and walked off. Guess I wasn't sexy enough for her short-attention span, but the seed was planted. I have a confidence and maturity now which does not make me indifferent or apathetic, only more discerning with a high ethical standard seen as being 'conservative'. But yes, this is what being a grown up means! It means we hold our tongues, we recognize and call-out injustice or hypocrisy, we have boundaries and provide protection, but most importantly, we don't have TIME for the bullshit. I have offerings to make, spirits to invoke, children to bathe, the Dead to service and spiritual battles to fight for. Keep your cliques and social clubs... I am too occupied tasting the marrow of magick.

 

*Further Note (2/20/2015): I want to add, for the sake of clarification... I DO care very, very much about the oppression of other people, regardless of culture or skin color. The inherent racism and bigotry in our society these days is very much a sickness of spirit. I have been, and always will be, a supporter of those who stand up for the rights and liberties of others. However, I realize I am also NOT the person to do it either. When I say "I don't care about racism" I only mean this within the context of my spiritual practice...activism is not part of it. Until I am told HOW to be an ally by the very people being oppressed, I will stand sentry for those needing support, shelter and spiritual healing.

Episode 2 of Podcast is UP!

Thanks to everyone for listening to the show! I have uploaded the newest episode on the static page of The Podcast , but I will upload to a post too to see if it's easier for everyone. Leave some feedback, let me know which you prefer, and see some of you at Pantheacon. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Episode2_Praxis.mp3"][/audio]

 

 

The Yuletide Crèche

Christmas was my favourite time of year as a young Catholic girl. It was really the only part of the year I actually liked attending mass. Our church would be decorated with swags of evergreens, filling the air with a smell of frankincense and forests. I sang in the church choir one year too, accompanied by a grand piano and violin for midnight mass. The intimate ritual of family Advent, with the candle lighting and quiet prayers, was always accompanied by some kind of dessert or treat made by my mother. The best part, in my secret pagan heart, was stories of the Nativity. All these wonderful and magickal characters captured my imagination: the Virgin, the miraculous Baby, an Angel, the Star, the traveling Magi... all waiting in anticipation. It was also very confusing as a naturally inquisitive person: where does Santa come in? How did Joseph feel about his new betrothed already being pregnant with child? And by an ANGEL, no less? Pretty heavy stuff, even for a 9 year old. I would sit under the glowing Christmas tree, we always had a real one, and look deeply at this little crèche my mother had purchased before I was born. The little stable held within some animals and all the participants of the winter mystery, including a cute little baby Jesus in a manger; sometimes us girls would use our finger to 'rock' the infant God, soothe and console Him. It was rustic looking and realistic, not at all like some of these garish things made in China these days. There was a wind-up music box in the back which played “Silent Night”. Of all the Christmas things, all three of us girls loved this Nativity scene the most.

Over the years the holidays changed, as it always does when we grow older. The hardest part wasn't letting Santa go (I was actually told VERY early on the truth of this devil), it was the complete discovery that my parents were fallible humans. They split up on Christmas Day, my youngest sister's birthday too. Right there at the dinner table, my mother told my Dad she was done. Now, I knew this was coming...she had said something a few days earlier whilst folding laundry together. But she promised to wait until after the holidays. I wasn't sad, in fact I fully supported my mother's decision. Even at the ripe old age of 12 I knew my parents weren't good for each other. Mom got drunk (they both rarely drink, still) and fell asleep in my bed. Which meant I shared a bed with Dad, who cried all night. It was the first and last time I ever saw my Dad cry, all 6'4” of him. When he finally was quietly snoring, I lay there and prayed to God. I was thinking about how my parents told me divorce was a sin, and the church did not allow it. Would I still be allowed to go to church? My Confirmation was coming up too, did I even believe in God? Then all those questions and doubts I had hidden away in my heart, that I dared not consider, came rushing up. I questioned all religion afterwards and my spiritual search officially began.

But every Christmas, even as an adult, I got out that crèche to ponder these mysterious questions. I remember the early joys of Christmas and try to recapture the spirit of the season. Unfortunately, a slacker ex-boyfriend allowed a storage unit's fees to lapse whilst I was abroad, and the crèche was lost. A lot of my childhood collections of books and toys were lost too, but nothing hurt so much as that old, breaking Christmas scene my mother had trusted to my care. Then 10 years ago I moved in with my boyfriend; his mom loaded me down with all his Christmas stuff from childhood too... low and behold, he had the exact same crèche! Yes, one of the animals was missing, but I didn't care. When I wound up the music and heard those familiar metal notes, tears came streaming down my cheeks. It is only now, when our daughter enjoys looking at and playing with it every year, does my husband understand why I wept that day.

Our family creche. Princess Merida is our daughter's addition to the nativity scene.
Our family creche: Princess Merida is our daughter's addition to the nativity scene.

 

Fire and Water, Then Earth Begins

The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity...which makes sense after 30 days of Air invocations. It ended in the culminating passion of Fire, the Will, the pentagram drawn from the heavens, that starlight straight to the belly:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Fire,
May the Powers of Passion,
Be present within Me.”

And with it came the nausea and vomiting for weeks. At one point it was reminiscent of morning sickness. But as the passion rose, so did the flames...burning much including karmic debts and bad luck. Where Air expressed itself through my libido, Fire was heart-centered. Compassion and feelings in general bubbled up very easily to the surface. Tensions were high in my household among all family members. Unfortunately it also meant my husband was laid off from his job. This came as a shocking effect...but he had several interviews a day within the week (and employment after we 'moved' into water, later on that). Fire brought warmth of belly and center; the hearth flames were re-ignited with the furnace of my Will. During these Fire invocations was the first time I practice Dark of Moon Devotionals without the company of my beloved Hermetikoi and Hekatoi. I was not feeling well so did the entire service from my mind; every act including the listening of others singing the chants. But I fell into a sleep and dreamed of being in Her torches, seeing my Will in Her hands. I became enflamed in Her and remembered what it was like, just when it was Her and I. No Priests. No traveling to another location. Now I am different; before it was just my Lady and I. Hermes and Hekate stood behind me and placed hands on my shoulders, armoured and broad enough to handle their tasks.

"The Four Elements" By Jacob Matham (Holland, Haarlem, 1571-1631) [Public domain]
"The Four Elements" By Jacob Matham (Holland, Haarlem, 1571-1631) 

The day I began invoking water, it rained. California has been in a horrible drought and much of my prayer work has been centered around this delicate matter. But the storm, She came in from the Pacific... cold and fierce rain. It made me smile. It snowed like 5-7 feet in Buffalo, New York that day as well...but I figured the wrong coast to lay any claim.

I moved from the Bay Area to my hometown, in the foothills of Northern California. Only 2 hours from ocean, desert, mountain or swamp. The spirits called me home...so I agreed. Funny how when you decide to let Deity and other allies take the lead, things easily happen. My husband got a fantastic job working from home, I had some job opportunities come up as well, so we made the decision to move. Action was put into play: packing and collecting materials, finding a house, school, doctors, having utilities turned on. Although we ate really crappy, somehow my husband had managed to lose twenty pounds, and I ten over the course of relocation.

Aligning my Self with the energies of Water, I thought about how it moves around obstacles...strong enough to carve mountains with meandering patience. Time is relative as water is solid, liquid and gaseous in forms. In the waters of mind is the heart of intuition:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Water
May the Powers of Intuition,
Be present within Me.”

In listening to those inner voices, that rain kept coming. It washed over the aches and soothed my spirit. Where Fire blistered or rubbed raw, Water was a salve.

With only two weeks settled in, I erected the altars to my Chthonic Lord and Lady... attuning to the Dark Moon Devotionals from afar... but this time I saw my fellow Dedicants. I saw them each going up before the Herm, sprinkling incense and offering wine...and I chanted along as if there, lifting my voice for them as witness to the Shining Ones. In the moment, there was no physical distance or time. I hovered about, sensed someone was missing even (I later confirmed it)...it wasn't a cliche after all. Just as all water IS one water, never ending in it's cycle on Earth, so are we connected to spirit. No distance too great, no depth untouchable. I saw the streams of rain wash down the sides of those Sierra Nevada mountains, into the dry and cracked creek beds. The wells, aquifers, underground lakes all need to be filled before any run off is truly visible, but they ARE being fed...and that is all that matters.

Today I began the invocation of Earth... the Mother, where roots gather and clutch to hold ahigh the trunk of me. From the dark, moist loam I reached down and gathered it to propel my pentagram:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Earth
May the Powers of Stability,
Be present within Me.”

This promise of mountains is not far behind, as I see the snow covered caps of Mount Shasta to the North, and Mount Lassen to the East. A glacier resides inside the Northern Mother, with the fiery sulphur and boiling water which spews from the volcanic Eastern Sister. The spirits of these majestic and dangerous pillars are axis mundi, conduits of power and portals between worlds. The local natives believe Shasta to be a place of the Dead, where Ancestors travel to. On the other side of the valley is Lassen, who birthed all of creation. And I am at the Crossroads, as Hekate and Hermes would have it.

The Air

“Every man and every woman is a star.”
― Aleister CrowleyThe Book of the Law

Astrology confuses me, only in that I understand Astronomy. Some schools of astrology say my Sun is in Gemini, others that I am a Taurus: both I identify with whole-heartedly. However, I am still very much an Elemental creature. All living things are, as Crowley's quote suggests, made from starstuff. In the beginning maybe some God put it together, or we crawled from water, or crashed here from another planet...the Earth, the Water and the Fire still needed that key ingredient which set us apart from our floating-rock neighbors: Air. And I have been spending the last 30 days breathing, shouting, invoking this all-encompassing Element...tool of intellect and mindfulness. Sharp as a tack and willful as wind, I very much identify with this element. Since I can remember, my mind has been involved with two modes of action: reading or writing (this is why I love being in school so much I suppose). During this time period of daily invocation and manipulation of Air, there was a different effect than I expected. Mercurial, feathered and flights in dream I experienced academic revelry in my undergraduate studies...this was the last time I did an Elemental discipline. One week of each Element as a young witchlet, was a way of experiencing them purely, getting to know the 'critter' (as my teacher would say). And as I greeted the Eastern Sun every morning, chanting the seed mantra to Wind, my mind became sharpened, grinding quicksilver, hardened on steel.

Alchemical symbol for the element of Air.
Alchemical symbol for the element of Air.

But I am a different person these days, and my relationship with the Elements has changed as well; environmentally rather than spiritually. Whilst I lived in the rural areas of Northern California, it was much easier to interact with the Be-ings of primordial magicks. I mean, they are EVERYWHERE! The rivers are full of water sprites, mountains alive with flowing lava and sulfur springs, the trees sentinels and stewards of all who walk beneath their sappy arms. But I am in the suburbs now, as they call it...too urban still for this country witch. The property I live on has six sad baby palm trees and a few bushes; no trees to speak of. All my plants are in containers, keeping them somewhat protected from any soil pollutants. The nearby freeway fills the atmosphere with sounds of busyness, not to mention exhaust. The Fae and other unseen folk are hidden in the landscape, hardened by the asphalt and cement which line their land. They do not come so easily with offerings of sweets and shelter, but draw near to the light which only gets brighter with magick.

For the first week of invoking Vāta, I used the traditional invoking pentagram as provided in the GD system. After performing my Star Ruby, I take refuge in the tradition of our Hermetikoi...and begin the invocation. At first I used one written by my brother Devotee, only in that I loved the way it sounded coming from him. I soon found this was not necessarily true for my Self. Coming from my voice, the invocation left me feeling weepy the whole rest of the day. I was confused as the wording was quite practical and reminiscent of my academic years...a focus on the sharpness of mind, quick of wit, eloquent speech and seeing through deceit. I asked my Priest why he thought this was happening...he told me to ask the spirits of Air and invoke through improvisation. The problem with this, I didn't want to use my old style of “off the cuff” magick as had always worked so well in the past. I have been on a strict diet of Thelemic ritual with tried and true words. I was doing this as a spiritual challenge. Focusing on the one Element after a month of all four...well, let's just say the unbalancing effected my practice. It shifted and I needed to INSPIRE my Self.

My invocation is short and sweet:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Air,
Powers of the Mind, Be present within Me.”

I say this aloud, commanding and firm, with the appropriate invoking pentagram in time with the words. Drawing from my right shoulder, my dominant hand...the only wand I'll ever really need. No athame can withstand the magick a living, human bone does. I draw this energy into each of my chakras...illuminating and spinning the wheels with winds of spirit.

Throughout the day, I think about the air I breathe and the other creatures who share it with me; animals outside, bugs, birds...but people most of all. I see light polluting atmosphere, stars are so dim and washed out. I see smoke from fires to the north, sacred lands burning as part of a natural cycle. To the south, a hurricane with torrential rains. Why could not wind blow this storm north to help with these wildfires? If there was a witch among us in California who could, why did it not happen? Because there are some natural cycles, such as wind and weather, stronger magicks than all; Mother Nature is the last wildness of our planet some days. I also became immersed in a fantasy novel...and enjoyed it a little too much.

My friends, the spirits of Air are fast, flighty but also fierce in the focus; like fanning fires of fastidious fashions. Forever fawning over the facts, leaves fantasy in a final funk. Fussing and fighting is fucked. Face forward, find flowers and frolic in the forest.

The Star Ruby

Facing East, where beginnings come and illuminate from, I start the ritual. APO PANTOS KAKODAIMONOS Striking out from the sign of Harpocrates, I am rested and still until, with these words, I drive all energies misaligned with my work. Flee all spirits and mischievous divinities with intent to harm or distract. Be gone all thoughts of mundane events or feelings, for magickal transformations are about to take place. Crossing the traverse of my body, I bless and commit from head to phalle, sealed in my heart and gathered before forming the first banishing pentagram in my mind's eye, the energy propels the star as I bellow THERION. After the call, I receive the response. Returning as a powerful wave rushing onto my toes in sand...facing the land, the beast ebbs and flows. Activating this primal power, the essence of our human beginnings. With horns at my temples, I snarl and rut.

I resonate NUIT to the Northern quadrant, a Star as the central gem in the crown of the heavenly queen. The light of a midnight sun brightens the pentagram. With a motherly embrace, cool as the night sky and black as space, She returns unto me. My heart and womb are filled with Her expansive grace, stardust covering. Nothing happens without Her witness.

With all courage I muster to approach the Western realm of BABALON, mother of abominations and liberation. In a whisper I send the sticky sweet pentagram, throwing open my arms to widely embrace Her wide hips. With yoni in my nostrils, Her scent is musky, salty and wine drenched. She is the modern Mother, Goddess of the New Aeon.

Facing the Southern fires, I turn to call forth HADIT, in a quick mercurial thrust the pentagram travels. The promising future is delivered on scales of a serpent, as He wraps around my womb, like a fiery Orphic egg. I draw it up to my arm, releasing spent passion shed from coils.

Armed with the blessings of the Gods, the consorts surround my temple, blasting away all shreds of UN-necessaries. Turned round again widdershins, I sing: IO PAN, the gestures seal the deal. Hail and praises to the PHALLE, phallus and axis from which all revolves! Hail and praises to the PAMPHAGE, devourer and destroyer. Hail and praises to the PANGENETOR, forever creator. I greet and give honor to all that is, was and ever shall be.

With the TELETARCHAI of completion in front of me, whirling JUNGES behind me, to my right the SYNOCHES have joined with the DAIMONES on my left...I am whole and humbled. The enormity of the pentagrams, the gem between my hands as I raise them above my head....in a quick hand-clap it becomes fixed as the six-rayed star, drawing it down into my Self. My body is the husk of this genuine and authentic piece of my Soul. It is precious, as each living thing is precious. Knowing it is in there, I am it's guardian to defend from those who would try to harm or steal the magick contained. The seed of enlightenment, my True Will is the secret contained within.

I reaffirm as at the opening of this ritual. Bringing together all of the elements, all of the Gods' empowerment which have filled my mortal shell. My Being is no longer the smallest in this nesting of spiritual layers. Inside, the deepest part of my Self illuminates as a rainbow, a hologram which changes and moves slightly within the light. All shadows gone, with castings sloppy like watercolors, dragged across my body to form the Crossroads over again.

Something is different, transposed and morphed. There is a surety, a confidence which was not there before. I am centered like bamboo, flexible with incredibly deep roots. A raw existence is left behind. Whereas the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram left me feeling empty and angry, the Star Ruby fills and empowers me. Like an occult superhero, ready for battle and on note with the greater potential of humans it does not give me immense pride as expected. Oh no... whilst this could feel like the swelling of ego, it is more of a letting GO of it. That part of me which is attached to this world, which is not of the Gods is ego; it is extra baggage I am banishing, with help from some spirits of the New Aeon. How can one be expected to travel across the desert dragging luggage full of rocks?

Here is the version I used.

"Whore of Babylon" by William Blake.
"Whore of Babylon" by William Blake.

The Liminality of Bardo

"The time hath now come for thee to seek the Path [in reality]. Thy breathing is about to cease. Thy guru hath set thee face to face before with the Clear Light; and now thou art about to experience it in its Reality in the Bardo state, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum without circumference or centre. At this moment, know thou thyself; and abide in that state. I, too, at this time, am setting thee face to face." - Tibetan Book of the Dead

As I read the newsfeeds, headlines and reports these days, all I see are religious groups struggling for power...either over themselves or each other. Nothing new to humans... we've been doing this since the beginning. Ebola, Israel/Gaza, ISIS, Religious Freedom/Persecution used as a shield for questionable ethics and ignorance...it is enough to make one long for a better world. And there are, but like many other ideologies and mythologies we know it is beyond this mundane realm and, for some, only accessible through the process of Death. This is no argument in favor of suicide, although I believe in each individual's right to live or die (more on that later). As a matter of fact, in order to properly navigate the Otherworld(s) we need to stay alive and accumulate the necessary tools. At least, this is what the Tibetan Buddhists believe. Similar to the Egyptian Book of the Dead (“The Book of Coming Forth By Day” or rw nw prt m hrw), the 'Bardo Thodol' is a guide through the afterlife, translated as “The Great Liberation through Hearing of the Bardo". The “book” is actually a series of sutras and texts compiled over a long period of time, but is believed to have first been initially composed by legendary master magician Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche ). The process of dying and death is taken very seriously in Tibetan culture, and in some ways it's a welcome transition in general Buddhism. Unlike the Christian belief of resurrection, the laws of reincarnation and karma play a much more significant role in the recently departed. There is no waiting around for some Bodhisattva to come and liberate them; the work of the Buddhist consists of preparing for this final “test” so an individual can free themselves. Customarily, if one can afford it, holy men come to the deathbed and chant these sutras, giving directions and encouragement for the soul to reach it's final destination, whether through an incarnating physical body or settling into one of the many other realms of existence. The instructions are read over a 49-day period, the time it generally takes a soul to reach it's destination; depending on spiritual pursuits and meditation they did in life, some souls will take less time than others to move through the bardos. It is much more complicated than this simple explanation, but is essentially how I have come to understand it.

The term Bardo is essentially the combining of 'bar' (in between) and 'do' (island or mark)...it is a “place” between the various realms of existence, a crossroads of the soul. Whilst there is only three Bardos described in the Book of the Dead, there are multiple layers within each. Each is a threshold and opportunity for the departed to reconcile their karmic debt, and can be quite frightening to the unprepared. The first bardo is entered upon right before the MOMENT physical death occurs. Hovering between life and death, the individual realizes they are about to disappear into the next world. In the Shambhala Dragon Edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, there is a great passage in the commentary section which describes this process as an elementary releasing:

“Physically, you feel heavy when the earth element dissolves into water; and when water dissolves into fire you find that the circulation begins to cease functioning. When fire dissolves into air, any feeling of warmth or growth begins to dissolve; and when air dissolves into space you last the last feeling of contact with the physical world. Finally, when space or consciousness dissolves into the central nadi, there is a sense of internal luminousity, an inner glow, when everything has become completely introverted” (p.4).

Once death hastens the process and allows the 'self' to release the body, so does the biggest journey begin. The series of bardos that follow are opportunities for the soul to receive enlightenment, to get final chances at realizations the individual may not have practiced or pursued in life. This happens through a series of visions and travels through the different realms. If there had been a true connection made with deities or Buddhas, this is the time when they appear as guides for us to move forward. If this does not occur, the soul moves on into the next phase.

The Six Realms of Existence are states of Samsara (cycles of rebirth) which become available in the second bardo. The realms resonate a bright guiding light and unless focused on the task at hand, the soul is like a moth blindly following illusion. Now, pay attention because this part is kinda important: Our mundane human existence is located somewhere in the middle of this hierarchy, our karma was pretty good if we are now humans. And really, this is a very advantageous place to be because we can go either way: ascending into the realms of the demigods and Gods, or descending into the hellish realms of hungry ghosts and animals.

The Six Realms of Existence.
The Six Realms of Existence.

At the very lowest realm of hell, all intensity is expressed. Anger and loneliness are the dominating tortures in this world, which very much resembles Dante's Inferno: areas of complete freezing cold, rivers of magma, and the skies a fiery blaze. For those who escape or serve out time, the next realm is not much more pleasant as it is inhabited by the pretas, or Hungry Ghosts: beings who experience over and over the desires they attached themselves to in previous lifetimes. “Want” is the big theme here, feelings of greed are prevalent. In classical art they are portrayed as beings with very large bellies, but tiny necks and mouths, sitting before large plates of food they cannot manage to get at. This is an illusion, as they cannot see the food is spoiled and filled with the ravenous poisons they cultivated.

The next realm is that of Animals and whilst we, as humans, tend to like the idea of coming back as a housecat, this is just another illusion. Animals are sentient beings in their innocence...but really, that is just a nice way of describing their “dumbness”. Animals lack a sense of humor, are in a constant state of survival and have no time or intelligence to comprehend the dharma. They act solely on instinct, violence and death are not contemplations but ways of living. Some people are on the borderlands of this realm,I think, succumbing to bodily cravings and destruction for their own 'survival'. Humans are just above this realm, as we have evolved from this primal state of action and turn to the research of potentiality.

As we progress through the realms, just above the humans are the Jealous Gods, or Asuras; envy and suspicion reign supreme here. The beings here are demi-gods... not really good enough to become a fully realized being because they have these attachments of intrigue to work through. They are so busy looking at the shiny pretty details they are missing the bigger picture. It is the distractions of mind, spirituality wrapped up in theories so the soul does not progress but rather becomes “stuck”.

The next realm is that of the Gods: those who have built whole worlds, within their physical bodies, working towards apotheosis as an elevated being of the cosmos. Really, it doesn't sound so bad; a playground of the Devas in which pleasure is maintained and “rewarded” for all their hard work in previous lives. It is still illusion though, as Ego drives the motivation in this realm. The attainment of prideful worship and eternal pats on the back does not help to escape from the cycles of rebirth; which really is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. Even here, the impermanence of the Universe is Law and the heavenly realms are subject to the evolutionary progression of the soul.

Now, depending on how one acts and reacts through the second bardo will determine where they end up. Rejection, fear or attachment to other realms can become the cementing force slowing down the soul's progress....which is why it is important to develop these skills now whilst we still have time, being that it's relative. We can also pray for those who are still trapped in these realms. Making offerings and requests for karmic debt to be eliminated on their behalf, whilst also accepting that karma for ourselves, is a win-win. If all else has failed and the soul does not accept any of the options placed in front of them, the final bardo is crossed into and a “judgment” takes place. This is not unlike the “final boss” experienced in the afterlife of many other religions; the Egyptians face Ma'at where their heart is weighed against the feather of Truth. Facing this Truth is the most important part of the entire journey, facing what we truly ARE and not hiding behind all the falsities of our previous existences. If liberation is not achieved, rebirth is necessary. It is at this point potential parents or lifetimes are presented, with bright lights drawing the soul towards the most favorable womb. So, in essence, we chose this lifetime we are in now. We DID select our parents in this realm and gave ourselves another opportunity to achieve liberation.

All we can really do to avoid such suffering in the afterlife, is to try living a good life, be compassionate and kind-hearted. It seems, according to the Book of the Dead, even this is not enough as we should strive to become virtuous in spiritual pursuits. Our aim is to take advantage of opportunities and privileges for learning meditation, mantra and visualization; all skills we take with us after this lifetime.

"There being several turning-points, liberation should be obtained at one or other of them through recognizing. But those of very weak karmic connexions, whose mass of obscuration is great [because of] evil actions, have to wander downwards and downwards to the Sidpa Bardo. Yet since there are, like the rungs of a ladder, many kinds of settings-face-to-face [or remindings], liberation should have been obtained at one or at another by recognizing. But those of the weakest karmic connexions, by not recognizing, fall under the influence of awe and terror. [For them] there are various graded teachings for closing the womb-door and for selecting the womb-door; and, at one or other of these, they should have apprehended the method of visualization and [applied] the illimitable virtues [thereof] for exalting one's own condition. Even the lowest of them, resembling the brute order, will have been able -- in virtue of the application of the Refuge -- to turn from entering into misery; and, [obtaining] the great [boon] of a perfectly endowed and freed human body, will, in the next birth, meeting with a guru who is a virtuous friend, obtain the [saving] vows."