Black Flame PDX: Lux ex Tenebris

‘Light in Darkness’

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

Photo courtesy of Fernando Cabrejos.


Photo courtesy of Fernando Cabrejos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catamara Rosarium. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

Catamara Rosarium. Photo by Fawn Hexe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on these presenters and performers:

Black Sun Occult Engineering

Daimonosophy 2.0 with Diabolus Rex

Assembly of Light Bearers


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

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

Liminal Book Review: The Hekataeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

“O Indominable Darkness that dwells

In the heart of Light;

O Formless Fire that informs

The womb of Night;

O woman astride an open grave

Giving birth to life;

O child with a dog’s face

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

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


Photo provided by Jack Grayle; Model is Andrea Hebamme.

Photo provided by Jack Grayle; Model is Andrea Hebamme.

Upgrades and Down Roots

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

Changes

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

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

Pagan, Enough?

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

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

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

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

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

The Silence of Snow

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

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

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

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Heart of the Black Flame: Flambeau Noir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Priestess pours the wine betwixt

Their horns;

Then cuts the curling hair; that first

oblations  burns,

Invoking Hecate hither to repair:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginner's Reading List about Hekate

Hekate's Library

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

Pantheacon Report: 2018 Edition

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

Magickal Safety 101

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

Fucking Mandrake

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

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

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

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

Good-Bye Green Fairy

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

Pop-up Gnostic Mass

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

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

Day 2: Prince of Wands

Deity Possession

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

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

The Rite of Mars

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

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

Day 3: 9 of Swords

Other Hybrid Moments

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

Day 4: Ace of Swords

Fear

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

In Conclusion…

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

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

The Pyramid of Magick

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

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

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

TO KNOW

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

TO WILL

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

TO DARE

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

TO KEEP SILENT

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

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

The PantheaCon Report: 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

On Ye Olde Traditional Crafte

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

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

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

'The Witches' - woodcut by Hans Baldung Grien, 1510

'The Witches' - woodcut by Hans Baldung Grien, 1510

It is contradictory and harmful to our spirituality, invoking beings we neither acknowledge nor believe to exist for the sake of blasphemous or heretical powers. It is understandable WHY our predecessors did this, for the same reasons other synchronized religions such as Vodou developed: to mask pagan Spirits in the cloaks of the colonizing religion for fear of persecution. For those witches who include ‘archetypes’ and other psychological tools in lieu of actually attending to Deities and Spirits, this poses no threat to their practice. All adversarial be-ings through the course of human history are the SAME thing, in this atheistic current of Left Hand Path , easily avoiding the cultural responsibilities associated with them. It’s safe, being only aspects of one Self instead of accepting the polytheistic and animistic tendency of experiencing Spirits outside one’s own imagination. But for those of us who accept these critters as another aspect of divine energy in an otherwise interconnected universe, these angels/demons and other creatures of El (this includes the Devil) are the flipside of the same Christian coin. By aligning myself with these creatures, I enter the domain of YHWH and that is just NOT going to happen. In my opinion, any witch doing this and claiming to be ‘pagan’ really needs to step back and sever those monotheist ties...or be more honest with themselves. Not to say you cannot practice witchcraft and be a Christian; the proof is in the pudding but who is providing the recipe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Depression

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

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

Familiar Loss

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

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.

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 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]