Considering Online Magick Classes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heart of the Black Flame: Flambeau Noir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pantheacon Report: 2018 Edition

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

Magickal Safety 101

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

Fucking Mandrake

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

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

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

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

Good-Bye Green Fairy

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

Pop-up Gnostic Mass

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

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

Day 2: Prince of Wands

Deity Possession

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

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

The Rite of Mars

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

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

Day 3: 9 of Swords

Other Hybrid Moments

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

Day 4: Ace of Swords

Fear

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

In Conclusion…

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

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

Favourite Things of 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pyramid of Magick

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

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

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

TO KNOW

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

TO WILL

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

TO DARE

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

TO KEEP SILENT

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

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

Familiar Loss

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

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

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

 

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

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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

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.

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.