Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Shrine for the Landspirits

 At Tredara, our 17-acre stead in NE Ohio, we have been working to build a sacred complex of shrines and worship areas for our polytheist and animist ways. Last year we arranged the construction of a Mound-Shrine for the Ancestors. To balance that we are building/gardening a glade for the many Spirits of the Land. In Our Druidry we use a conventional division of the many spirits into a triad of Gods, Dead and landspirits. BY completing this shrine we will honor the gods at our primary Nemeton fire, and have special places for the other two Kindreds.
The image in storage

A photoshop mockup of the basic layout
in last winter's picture.
To create the anchoring monument I sought out a local chainsaw Carver, Bob Anderson of Rock Creek Ohio. My original notion was a green-man tricephalus, but that was vetoed as 'too boring'. We decided on a tricephalus of green man, owl and bear, those being important guardian spirits around here Bob did a fine job on the piece.

A few years ago we were fortunate to be able to enlarge our property, allowing us the space for this build. The fact is that we have since had occasion to kill many plants, disturb habitat and otherwise generate for ourselves a need for frequent special offerings. The glade chosen for the shrine was an abject wreck when we arrived, filled with tires, holes and unmanaged brush. While we have been somewhat severe in our pruning and prepping, I hope that our offering of beautification and the reverence that comes with it will be well received.

I think the best thing is to show you some photos, with captions, of our work over the last couple of weekends. With the coming Beltaine season we will be doing a special rite of consecration for the shrine - I'll try to show you that as well.
...Built a pedestal another 2' or so tall.
I wanted the main monument to be big.
The carving is 6.5', and we ...
Machine assist got the rather large
idol up the hill safe

And discussion ensued about getting it
upon the pedestal

But, up it went, safe and sound.

Cleverly disguising the brick pedestal...
Finished with a ring of brick to prevent mud around the image.

With the monument complete we are working on a small path down to the small, pretty pond. Gardening with local perennial plants will follow. 

We plan a consecration ritual for the Saturday of our Beltaine weekend. Human relations with the non-human world is always full of irony... we hope to get all our pruning and killing done in the glade before the big sacred apology ceremony...

On we go - let us raise up shrines and idols to the Gods and Spirits, that the land may once more be known as their home.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Meditation, Trance, and Vision

 An Introduction
(By Holy Wisdom's comfort, I hope I don't have to write one of these again...)
In the wisdom traditions of world Paganism and polytheism the work of ritual worship and devotion is almost always accompanied by the practice of mental training and meditation. Practices of ritual invocation and devotion are perhaps more common in the religious life of regular people. The work of training the mind, and using it in a focused way to support spiritual practice is more often the work of priests, monks and those with a formal dedication to their path. In modern practice it is my advice that all those who seek the blessings of the Old Ways will practice at least a measure of these traditional mental and spiritual skills.

There are many benefits to be gained from meditation and mental training practices. Leaving aside the mythic and ritual considerations that are the focus of this work, we can mention the psychological and emotional benefits that modern science clearly says can be gained from meditation. Relaxation, stress reduction and relief, and improved cognitive function are all results well-supported by research. In the whole realm of religion, magic and spiritual practice if you do nothing than to learn and practice meditation regularly and skillfully you will have done yourself a great service.

In the practice of ritual worship and the building of relationship with the Powers the ability to calm the emotions, focus attention and clearly visualize is vital to the generation of personal spiritual experience. It is common in modern thinking to dismiss religious ritual as ‘empty gesture’. This, I think, is largely due to the loss of these mental skills in western religious training. Literalist thinking is no more valuable to ritual than it is to scripture, and the expectation that spiritual ritual will simply “work like magic” can only result in disillusionment. Powerful, well-spoken words and meaningful, well-performed actions must be accompanied by focused, well-structured mental work for a ritual to be whole.

To be more metaphysical, it is the internal mental structures of ritual – the visualized energies and presences that form the bridge between the material symbols of the spiritual world that we use in ritual, and the Inner realities of spiritual persons and powers.  Through our well-structured mental participation the gods and spirits can step through, closer to our common lives. In the same way with our Inner Vision we can perceive and direct the ‘energies’ of Land and Sky, both in ourselves and in the outer world. Here we approach what might be called the ‘magical’ or ‘occult’ (i.e. hidden) aspect of spiritual practice. Even without such considerations the value of trance and meditative work is undeniable, and vital to ritual practice.

Spiritual teaching is full of discussion of the ‘real’ meaning of meditation and the place of ‘altered states’ or ‘trance’ in spiritual work. Sects have divided and many a scholastic duel been fought over the angels-on-pinhead minutia of these topics. I will present simple descriptions or definitions of several core terms, before we move on to practical method.

• Trance (or ‘altered states of awareness’) is the most general term. It refers to any deliberate effort to focus the mind away from the common stream of perception and mental chatter. It is characterized by the withdrawal of attention from immediate sensory environment, relaxation of the body, a strongly focused attention, and a sense of full and immediate involvement that quiets self-criticism. That is, basic trance is relaxation + concentration + non-judgement. It is possible to practice this state as a goal in itself, but basic trance is almost always the set-up for some further deliberate act of will.
• Meditation is the deliberate and maintained withdrawal of attention from the stream of chatter-thought. Meditation often employs basic trance by making that calm, mentally-motionless state the focus of concentration. Meditation of this type teaches us that our self-talk is separate from our essential self-awareness, and contributes to discernment and perspective. It helps us learn to step back from our immediate ‘programmed’ mental and emotional responses, a skill which can be valuable in dealing with the Powers. Many mystical systems have made variations of this kind of meditation one of their central practices or sacraments. To me it is one useful technique among many, but an important basis for further spiritual skills.
• Vision Pagan religion, mysticism and magic has almost always employed deliberately-constructed visualizations – the use of ‘imagination’  - to give access to deeper spiritual realities. This often involves a deeper or tighter level of focus – a ‘deeper trance’ in which envisioned scenes, images and forces mingle with sense perception. In full visionary ‘journeying’ the body may be still while the mind travels in vision. Such deeper trances are seldom part of ritual worship. However the use of conscious vision to enhance invocation, energy-work and ritual is an important part of effective practice.
• Energy-Work Modern Paganism has developed the “energy model” of magic to a fairly high degree. To a degree this is a special adaptation of Vision work, in that one is generating the sensory experiences of flowing energies, including visual models. In this notion the spiritual Powers are understood as impersonal ‘forces’ or ‘energies’ that can be manipulated by will and imagination. Many modern Pagans might describe their whole practice as about the ‘magical energies’ of the cosmos, even describing the gods as energies. While these ideas were never part of traditional ways there are several basic techniques that fit well with traditional symbols and forms. Especially ‘Grounding and Centering’, in which ‘spiritual energies’ are contacted and organized in the self, has value both as a follow-up to basic trance and as a self-healing technique.

It is sometimes argued that, in old times, community and home ritual did not include the deliberate induction of altered states of awareness. This true, and the use of scripted trance-induction in modern ritual is certainly an innovation. I argue that it is an extremely valuable one, which replaces a vital element that would otherwise be missing.

In a traditional society the rites, customs, sacred places and symbols are a part of the cultural fabric of life. With an implicit acceptance of the reality of spirit forces and human ritual the sacred things become invested with an automatic ability to produce changes in consciousness. Simply to come into the Ring of Stones, or before the Ancient Fire, or, later, into the Grand Cathedral would have been to enter a new mental space, where gods and spirits might find entry.

Moderns have no such mechanism available for our efforts to make religion in our back-yards and living-rooms. We must, I think, replace that cultural entrancement with deliberate efforts to alter awareness. The addition of deliberate entrancement and mental focus exercises to ritual works can only provide a deeper and more complete spiritual experience.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Book of Spells

In the many modern efforts to revive polytheistic religion and reconstruct support and structure the topic of the place of ‘magic’ comes up often. I have written about the relationship between magic and Pagan religion quite a bit, here and here and throughout the blog in various ways.

Some branches and thinkers in the effort to restore traditional-style ethnic or post-ethnic Pagan work have chosen to side with certain ancient Greek philosophers in denouncing practical magic as ‘impious’ – that is as disrespectful to the gods and improper for a true worshiper. This late-classical attitude was also present in Roman culture, and was inherited by Roman institutional Christianity despite the strong element of ritual magic, healing and exorcism in early Christianity.

However my own observation of both historical and living polytheisms is that the skills and methods that have come to be identified as ‘magical’ or ‘occult’ are usually an integral part of traditional spiritual practice. Ritual invocation or ‘summoning’ of both deities and of non-deity spirits for practical goals; making of talismans and consecrated blessing and power objects; divination and astrology; mystery initiation; all these things are present in the polytheism of modern Asia and Africa. It was equally present in the spiritual practices of what we know of pre-Christian Europe. It was precisely this category of esoteric (i.e. likely to be used by the few, comparatively) spirit-based, ritual and occult practice that became forbidden to lay people by the ruling Church, designated as ‘Magic’ or ‘sorcery’, and especially associated with the heresy that became thought of as “devil worship”. In many cases the earthy, elemental, and Underworld spirits often called on for practical magic became ‘demons’ in the Christian re-arrangement of traditional magic.

These practices inside traditional Pagan religions can fairly be called “occult”. They are ‘hidden’, often enough, from public sight by the requirements of specialized spiritual work. They also can be said to deal with ‘hidden’ forces and powers of nature and spirit, from herbs and stones to the conjuring of spirits. It is also true to say that these practices are ‘esoteric’. They are ‘for the few’ – usually those who conceive a hobbyist’s level of enthusiasm for them, though the occasions of life might lead any Pagan person to seek help in these ‘magical’ techniques. Even then they might consult a more skilled practitioner – one whose enthusiasm has made them familiar with what amount to ‘spells’ and arcane works. Simply put, traditions of occult and esoteric spiritual practice (i.e. ‘magic’) are integral to a fully-expressed polytheism.

I have always made spellcraft and practical applications a part of my own spiritual practice and of my teaching. To me one of the blessings of modern Paganism is that it grants the individual spiritual agency, and gives us specific technical tools by which we can use spiritual methods to influence and improve our common lives. At the most ‘religious’ end the methods of traditional theurgy allow us to bring the power of the divine into our temples and lives in and as a god or goddess. Those who enjoy surrender mysticism can simply accept the Blessing of the Powers and proceed in hope of good fortune.

Those more inclined to tinker can employ divination and foresight to decide what they want, and then employ the Powers and Spirits to shape fate. This is not as easy to do as to say – like managing the flow of water down a hill, or the course of a wildfire. Clear observation, clever planning and skilled application of tools are the rules whether in land-shaping or planning a spell-working. Nevertheless our custom and tradition provides a wealth of traditional spellcraft forms that can be adapted to modern use.

And so TA-DA! - my little book of spells. This item came to mind after those posts on spirit-arte last month, and the back portion of the book is about spirit-summoning in a Pagan fashion. The other major themes are ‘enchantment’ – the consecration and empowerment of objects and places; ‘invocation’ – with a limited list of deity images and invocations; and some mixed charms and spells. A little of the content is reprint, but most is new or heavily rewritten content for this small edition.

Those who have read my previous work will find this short, streamlined, and utterly focused on practical outcomes. There is attention payed to the work of building power and authority for the magician, but it is always directed to practical goals.

I feel confident in claiming that this work has been made almost entirely distinct from post-Wiccan ritual and the Hermetic cosmos. It is constructed in a ‘Triadic’ cosmos that should be comfortable for many Euro-style reconstructionists. Ritual forms are based around Ritual Fire and Water, and around Offering to the Spirits, both gods and non-deities. I have attempted to render the ritual texts in a simple, ‘folkloric’ style, often using rhyme, that allows rites to be set-up and established quickly and with little ‘high-temple’ furniture or complication. Nevertheless the more developed end of the rites – the formal summonings – use a solid and more detailed outline of technique. The whole style would be most at home in a well-developed home-shrine.

For Druids, ADFers and newer Pagans looking for a practical magical craft that fits with their practice, I hope this book will push the button. For those looking for a modern, polytheist-and-animist approach to both spellcraft and building relationship with the spirits this book may be a key. For those looking for practical magic they can apply to their lives right now, I hope this book can be a blessing.

Here’s the sales-text from the catalog page:

A Book of Pagan Magic; which is to say works and means of Occult Spiritual Practice employing the Hidden Powers and Ancient Spirits of the Worlds Arranged especially for the use of modern polytheists and animists who might be otherwise untrained in the work of Magic Art. A modern spellbook, based on Pagan roots without reference to Wiccan or Hermetic models; it should be useful to anyone working an ethnic Pagan system.

• Basics and Simple Charms
• Enchantment of Talismans and objects
• Five Gods of Magic & their Invocations
• Summoning Daemons in a Pagan context
Concise, meaty and thoroughly practical, The Book of Pagan Spells is an open door to powerful magic. 

P.S. I have also re-issued my old monograph called Beginning Practical Magic at a lower price. That text has a lot of the theory that isn’t in the spellbook – developing intent, targeting, the magical link, materia and correspondences, and is still speaking to the Wiccan and Hermetic cosmos.

Friday, February 3, 2017

No One Way


I’ll make a deal with you, dear reader; I’ll only directly mention present political events when they have a direct bearing on the themes of el bloggo – Druid Magic and Pagan Occultism. Folks can see more of my political thoughts on Facebook, should they have that taste.

The single scariest thing I've heard our new president say (yet) is the assertion that American patriotic unity should derive from the belief in a Creator God, and that religion could unify the nation. In his inaugural address he painted a picture of unity based on “The same Creator God” across the continent. The president, never before a man of any noticeable spiritual inclination, seems willing to allow his office to become the platform for the theocratic visions of the worst elements of modern Christianity – Dominionists and Christian Reconstructionists. 

I object to this on both political and philosophical levels. Politically, giving churches and the modern interpreters of ancient scriptures political and social power has been a reliable formula for oppression. In the US we seek a society based on liberty, and limiting liberty according to the imagined ‘laws’ of one sect or another is not the path to growth and prosperity. Rather, I think that the goals of American liberty are served when every neighbor is free to worship the gods or God or whatever as they see fit. When we make unity around the common welfare, not around a common mythology; I value feeding my neighbor far more highly than I value worshipping with my neighbor. I would make it the government’s business (not the church’s, incidentally) to see that all our people are fed, and not it’s business to see that all our people worship together, or worship the same thing, or being, or whatever.

Philosophically I am highly suspicious that monotheism itself is a toxic idea. To take this to first principles, I think that because I think that monotheism is simply false. There is no one creator being, no being that rules the spiritual cosmos and decides the fate of souls. The gods and spirits live in the same Great Dance as we do, and existence proceeds from all of our actions. That is to say, I am a polytheist and animist on a mythic level – divinity is best expressed as multiple persons.

So, in order to make monotheism even vaguely rational one must compose a vast web of new rules, imposed boundaries and leaps of faith. Here, read this little jest, about the blind men and the beasts. As various locations and peoples try to express this One God, they inevitably create their own local version of it (that’s how religion actually works). Since monotheism usually comes with a strong “us-v-them” component, the differences between my One God and yours must be reconciled, often based on which faction holds political authority at the time.

Warfare based on religion was not unheard-of among polytheist peoples, but almost so. Polytheists expected their neighbors to have different but recognizable religions, and often left one another’s ways alone, even in victory. Gods of other peoples were not ‘false’, and nobody wanted a strange god’s ill-will. But the monotheists redefined all the spirits of the polytheistic world as ‘devils’, and almost immediately took up crusade against them. When competing monotheist ideas arose, those were treated as equally ‘Satanic’.

Perhaps I ramble. My assertion is that any attempt to unite a diverse group of people under one religion must amount to dire oppression. There is no Great Truth that will just make all the Jews and Bahais and Voodooists and witches and Baptists and Johannites and all to just say “Oh… yeah, that seems right”. The inevitable historic path to monotheistic unity has been the burning of temples and books.

So, if the government, or the society, comes to me and demands that I take up the new state cult… we’ll see. I’m a polytheist – as long as I can keep my gods, I always have room for another, I suppose. That hasn’t been how such things have usually gone.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Magic for the Resistance

Practical Strategies for the Time and Season.

Many of my friends are concerned and dismayed by the political turn in the US this year. After some years of slow progress toward a more progressive country we seem to have taken a sharp turn. The current conservative movement would like to advance their agenda through the coming administration, an agenda which I perceive as involving a reduction in personal liberty, an increased dependency of people on their “employers” and decreased regulation and management of dangerous industrial systems. I expect all that to lead to reduced prosperity, declining health, increased oppression, and the empowerment of the police.

Of course my personal concern is the development and establishment of polytheistic religion and magic in modern culture. This makes me particularly concerned about the political connection between conservative monotheisms and the US government. I hope my readers will be with me when I skip a long historical bullet-list of reasons for the assertion that granting political authority to conservative monotheism has not, historically, led to liberty and prosperity. If right-wing Christianity gains in authority I would expect to see examples of the direct persecution and disempowerment of non-Christian institutions. Whether this would extend to the usual neopagan back-yard circles and public-park gatherings is a matter of anxiety, but not yet of record. Certainly it can’t be good news for those of us working to build lasting Pagan institutions.

Pagan and occult practitioners have a specialized body of occult skills that can be drawn upon to support us in these times. I hope that Pagan organizers and leaders will choose to boldly and publicly continue our religious work, regardless of the social climate, or the nattering of Dominionists or Christian reconstructionists. Our communities have made a good start at producing engines of blessing and growth for our society, and that work must continue. I hope, too, that we can hold to the founding principles of the USA – that no religion (or religious or spiritual principle-set) has a special place guiding our government. Our government is guided by the votes and voices of the public, and members of the public may be guided by religion or spirituality, whether Christian, Hindu, Neopagan, Humanist or whatever. Together they make the currents on which our ship of state must sail.

In context of that multiple web of influences I believe in pursuing one’s political goals actively. ‘Tis the season, my kin, to begin organizing locally. Join the Democrats if you can stand it, or get working on that new party. We need some real practical progressives running for congress in 2018.

But witches and magicians have that little extra angle. In our study of the occult forces and influences of nature and spirit, we have learned how to apply just that little bit of extra pressure, that perfect poke in that unseen pressure point, that could turn a head at the right moment or change the emotional condition of a community, or even Cripple the Whole Fucking Deathstar… er… ya know… That is, we can use magic consciously and directly. 

So let me ruminate a bit on how to apply the basics of sorcery on a social and political level. I am indebted to Jason Miller for helping to remind all practitioners of how to use traditional practical magic systematically, how to make the magical link effectively, and how to plan and execute a campaign of spellcraft.

I: Protection.

If we’re to engage an opponent it is best to be armored. I might suggest a three-layer approach.

1: Personal Talismanic Protection: If you’re an urban activist, or plan to be demonstrating and standing at the barricade, it is wise to have portable and personal magical protection, traditionally anchored in one or more amulets and talismans. There are many variation of how to prepare and consecrate such a talisman, including my own

My own experience has relied on a single personal protective talisman, an object that is never apart from my person for more than minutes at a time. It would certainly be possible to create multiple items with more specific intentions – a Saturn protection for physical harm, a Solar charm to increase one’s charisma and boldness, etc.

2: House and Boundary Wards: For those using their home or property for Pagan worship, or who have other reason to be concerned about visits from armed agents of the government, boundary customs are useful. This can be arranged in several layers as well.

One can begin with the edges of one’s property. The obvious entrances can serve as symbolic of any approach, and so drawing a line across the driveway or walkways with Stay-away Powder or red brick dust, or other materia. Here’s something:


Draw water from the primary water-source of your home or land (for most people that will be the faucet). Take 1/3 of it and put it to heat, (usually on your cooking stove) saying:

Let the Fire be kindled,
Let there be light in the darkness
Let the Fire come into the Water,
I set this spell to boil
Take a good pinch each of vervain, hawthorn and rue, and add them to the water as it comes to a boil, saying, for each:
Into this pot I place my will
That it may be boiled in the Water & the Fire
Let this be a warding; let this be a turning; let this be as a wall against all ill.
 Take a second third of the water and set it in a place where the light of the sun and waxing moon can shine on it, and leave it there for one full turning of day and night.
In the last third of the water, add a good pinch of crystalline salt, saying:

Let Earth and Water be joined

The powers of making, of gounding, of cleansing.

That which needs burning, let it be burned

That which needs turning, let it be turned
That which needs keeping, let it be well-kept. 

Bring all three parts brought together but not yet mixed, under a waxing moon, perhaps in the first quarter. Make all ready, and hallow the space and the work as you know how. Mingle the three parts together, as you conjure with something like this charm: 
Green leaf, salt, and moon and sun

Join these portions into one
Turn aside invaders all
Like a mighty castle wall

Stand you firm in spirit-curtain
Keep this (place) from evil, certain
Turn aside approaching ill
In the place where you are spilled.

Moonlight, sunlight, sky and land
Joined here by my will and hand

Turn aside opponents all
Water of my magic wall.

Jug the water tightly, and finish the work as is proper. Such a potion can be poured at entrances and walkways, as a first line of defense.

3: Sweetening the Police: If social authority is really going to show up at your door it will probably take one of two forms – either the uniformed police, or a band of self-authorized neighbors. The latter is difficult to enchant against in advance, unless you feel pretty sure about which of your neighbors is a jerk. If you have the latter problem, then all this can be applied to individual neighbors as well. Trying to sweeten the ‘mood’ of a community is a more difficult endeavor. (Here’s one very good account of such an experiment)

Police departments are composed of a limited number of specific individuals, and led by an even smaller number. Most of the leadership will have pictures posted on an internet ‘facebook’ (in the original sense), which allows for an easy basic object-link, perhaps along with the distinctive badge or logo of the local cadre. Consider stopping in to your local police headquarters to pick up a brochure. Pages of such stuff can be printed, folded up and either inserted in a Honey Jar (here’s a Druid-y version of the traditional hoodoo spell) vessel or placed beneath it as candles are burned on the lid. 

The text of my Honey Jar spell is arranged as a love spell of the usual sort, and assumes that you want a ‘result’ in the near future. That approach could be used before a demonstration or direct action, in hopes of improving the mood and behavior of the police that become involved, and their bosses. When using the same tech for a long-term effort such as being and staying welcome in a community, for instance, the whole spell can be continued at need.

II: Alliances
Organizing and resistance requires numbers. Especially if one doesn’t have money. We work to gather like-minded people together, to work our political will by the democratic traditions of petition, protest and direct action. There’s no reason to leave out the ghosts and daemons.

As in much spirit-work, I suggest beginning with the Ancestors and the Dead. The front end of this work can be built into public political rhetoric. Let the newly-activated hear the names and stories of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth, of John Brown. Let them know who Saul Alinsky was, and bring to mind the countless unknown leaders of the Labor movement. Protest and resistance stand as proud memories for our nation, and, as we say, that which is remembered lives. Even the tales of our colonial founders have a place in the narrative of people’s resistance.

Rhetoric can be empowered by direct spiritual work with those beings. My friends at the Niagra Voodoo Shrine have been working to good effect to establish Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman as an ally, and plenty of experimental conjure could be done to find a cadre of spirits willing to act with one’s local organizing. If we must stand, let us stand with heroes at our back. If we must march, let spirits march with us.

And not just the Dead. If one is working on and with a specific piece of land then work with the Genius Locus of that place seems mandatory. This applies whether the land is one’s home, or a specific target patch in environmental or housing/development work. The web of symbols, laws and prayers that every government uses produce a de facto level of magical “claiming” in many such cases. It is valuable to stake one’s own claim and introduce oneself to ‘the Locals’ through simple rites such as those at this link. With such an introduction accomplished the magician can conjure specific ally spirits for defense and for support in direct action.

In my opinion the details of religion are best kept separate from the work of organizing. I don’t appreciate it when a Christian ally tries to open a prayer-session, and I don’t think we should try to get our fellow organizers to join us in offerings to the gods. That said, there are several deities in the well-known pantheons that seem proper for the work of resistance and restoration.

Shiva comes to mind first. He is the Lord of Yoga (yoga is best translated as ‘magic’). He is commonly called the god of ‘destruction’, because he will, when time is right, open his big Third Eye and burn away the manifest cosmos to make room for the next one. On the personal level he is thus understood as the lord of enlightenment, who burns away the veil of illusion to reveal spiritual truth. In turn that seems to make him the very patron of the work that needs doing now – the burning away of the rickety structure of late fossil-fuel civilization and post-Christian society, to make room for the New World.

Shiva’s counterpart in Euro myth is Dionysos, the mysterious son of Zeus who becomes the god of wine, sexual pleasure, social inversion and mystery-religion enlightenment. Dionysian practice was stifled in the West by the rise of Christianity, while Shiva’s cult and philosophy continued into modern times. We don’t have as much Lore about Dionysos, but he’s much more directly connected than Shiva to our usual cultural heritage.

As a bit of practical fun, both Shiva and Dionysos are depicted as the leaders of huge marches of ghosts, witches, daemons, etc. I love the idea of inviting them to attend a march, bringing their retinue. Look out folks, here comes not only a few thousand angry citizens, but a countless parade of spirits!

III: Persuasion
In working for specific goals it is often a specific public official that stands between the organizer and the outcome. The work of enchantment and persuasion-at a distance is central to a lot of practical magic, and it can be applied here as well. As always, this does not amount to cursing or hexing. Attempts to persuade one another are standard parts of human interaction – adding the occult component is as ethical as dressing well for an interview.

The single most important factor in such work is the establishment of the magical link between the magician and the target. While public servants are likely to have pictures easily available, such links are rather third-tier. Consider corresponding with the elected or law-enforcement official in an effort to get a specimen of their signature. (even a digital version is probably better than a public photo) Once you have such a link you can use sweetening spells if your mood is still good, or consider something a little more hot and rough if the urgency is greater.

Devising the message of such influence work is important. This provides an opportunity to narrow and clarify your targeting. Magical work intended to “save the Earth” amounts, usually, to nothing. Choose a legislator or officer, decide what you need them to do in order to gain a specific benefit, and express that in a simple, concise statement (preferably a single sentence or declaration). Incidentally that can be a valuable public prop as well – consider using it in press releases, protest-signs, etc – especially if you were to sigilize it.

Correspondence is also an opportunity to get your own spellwork into the hands, or at least the offices, of your target. Make a nice letterhead with your sigils embedded in the art. Send your spell-intentions along by treating the edges of the letter or envelope in some nice bend-over oil or the like. Consider stopping in to their offices to deliver a little of the same to the doorknobs and walkways. (I suggest avoiding white powders, these days ;) )

Allies can also be brought into play. Consider building a “whispering campaign” of spirits around the target to keep pressure on toward your goal. Have you made alliance with former Mayors of your town, Governors, etc? Is there a related category of the Dead (veterans, grandmothers, etc) that can be set to it? What spirits can be set to ‘haunt’ the situation?

Most of this advice is rather long-term, based on the drip-and-wear principle. Moments of urgency may require a more direct spell, or a specific conjuring of a spirit to do the work of persuasion. When that happens any preliminary work to establish the magical link can only be helpful.

Behind all of this detail, I think that we must face the coming years with our hearts turned toward those ancient spirits called Liberty, Wisdom, and Justice. I totally support the use of the Lady Liberty figure as a focus, and keep her torch and shining crown in my heart even as I seek a foxier cleverness to support more specific goals.

May the Gods and Spirits bless us, with Liberty and Justice for all.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Conjure & Creation 2

So I've taken a little heat for my firm stand behind the 'spirit model' of magic in my previous post. As I said, my approach is a thought-experiment, a deliberate effort to think my way back into an animist mindset. As such I tend to speak affirmatively, even categorically. That's a rhetorical pose, and doesn't really reflect an opinion on my part that my ideas are 'more true' or 'better' than some other model.

Honestly I think myself mildly clever for devising a rationale that merges the modern notion of constructed entities with the notion of pre-existent spirits 'conjured' by a sorcerer. Like so many techniques the form of the work doesn't need to vary much per model. What we 'believe' about what is happening may be one of the least important parts of the business. Nevertheless I like to decorate the inside of my head with the ideas and mental postures of ancient magicians, and I'll take my best guess and apply it.

My intent in bringing up this topic was practical. I consider the 'servitor' technique one of the more valuable modern inventions, and it should/need not be abandoned by those attempting to work in the models of the ancient world. Jake Stratton-Kent is heard to say "Magic is practical eschatology". The merging of the spirits of the un-individuated Dead into that great continuum of shades, called "the Dead", roiling with the mixed passions of human memory becomes a kind of 'magical energy', able to respond to the will and word of magicians in much the same way as Levi's Astral Light might do, though perhaps with more volition.  It might even be, as some spirit-sects maintain, that the magical work of granting individual form and name to elements of this daemonic continuum is a service that living magicians do for the spirits - a fair exchange for their aid in our works.

Nevertheless, my intent here is practical, to provide this little set of suggestions as to what forms and symbols might be proper for what sort of spirits. I have ventured some ideas about classifying spirits according to an older set of 'elements'  and this list fits directly with those ideas. All questions of models aside there are so many creative and exciting ways to apply this sort of practical conjuring.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Construct or Conjure?

So, I wanna go over the whole modern doctrine that human ‘belief’ and focused ideation can shape the ‘spiritual’ or ‘astral’ or ‘magical’ world. Especially, by extension mortals can create at least the simulacra of living spiritual beings, and possibly create spiritual individuals in fact. This doctrine has become almost an assumption in modern magic. While it is convenient, and solves a variety of theological problems, it also verges on what seems, to me, to be an unfortunate mechanicalism. We’ll get to this point, but let me say that I would prefer my spiritual universe not to be arranged as a machine. 

As I have moved away from the ‘energy model’ of magic and toward deliberate work with the spirits I have tried to reframe some of these classic magical techniques, perhaps restore them to a meaning prior to modern mechanization. This particular trope – the creation of an image and the ‘animation’ of it by magic – turns out to be easy to trace and recover.

To look for the origins of the idea, I think we must look to the facts of human spirit-vision experience. In spontaneous dreams, shamanic trance or initiatory vision-journey the mind generates an ‘imaginal-body’ with which to navigate the unconsciously-generated-or-perceived lands of vision. In dreams we note that powerful forces may be ‘dressed’ in the appearance of things and people drawn from our memory of life, and in spirit-vision such things happen as well.

The human power to shape matter – wood, stone, or clay – into representative shapes has surely been a core of magic since unremembered times. Humans made images of the spirits, and those material images must have arisen from imaginal forms, preserved verbally by transmission until they were expressed in more solid art. Those imaginal forms are not lost, but become a part of the work of formal and magical invocation. The Theurgists emphasize the importance of visualized ‘eidola’ (idols) of the gods, and the Tibetan ritual magicians have made a science of symbolic visualization of spirits. These practices fed into the line of occult revival and reconstruction that generated the Golden Dawn and the theurgic work of Mathers.

Following the Middle Ages, during which the spirit-model of magic was the standard, I think that we must look to Eliphas Levi’s concept of the ‘Astral Light’ for the root of our meme. Levi taught that the spiritual world closest to our own was made of indeterminate stuff that was and could be shaped by human passion and imagination. He called this the Astral Light, and taught that it was a level of causation immediately prior to our world, so that things shaped in the Light were likely to come into material existence. He proposed that control of the Light was the core of practical magic, and that has influenced magic ever since, all the way to the “power raising” of Neopagan group ritual spellcraft.

However that seems to me a significant departure from tradition, moving from working with spirits as living beings to working with an impersonal magical ‘stuff’. Historical magic most commonly works through the making of pacts with spirits, and the gaining of the personal authority that allows one to deal with them. How does this fit with the notion of the construction and animation of images?

In classical magic the use of “telesmatic images” involved the construction of forms based on the ‘sewing together’ of specific symbols based on the intent of the work. Thus if one wished to marry the forces of Venus and the Moon on might compose an image of a beautiful Green woman with the wings of a white butterfly, or the like. Such an image was described as able to ‘transmit the virtue’ of the planets involved. This notion of the ‘virtue’ of a planet or deity – it’s impersonal influence or ‘vibration’ is as close as I can see us coming to the idea of ‘magical energy’ in traditional magic. In other cases the harmonious nature of the symbols would be assumed to summon a spirit – a daemon – that conforms to the mixed nature of that formula, and is willing to appear in that shape.

Centuries later, the magicians of the Hermetic Order of the Golden dawn composed synthetic figures for their Kabalistic spirits, based on the Hebrew letters of their names. In this way a characteristic figure was created prior to the actual summoning of a spirit. That figure was understood to attract an already-extant spirit of the correct nature to answer the magician’s need.

A moment of theory: This notion of inventing composite inner or visualized idols for specific intentions is a direct parallel to doing the same thing in matter. To carve a spirit-idol in clay or wood makes an image into matter, the visualized image creates a middle-ground for the power. This is the basis of ‘hierarchical’ evocation – that a spirit is brought from its abstract origin-place through the middle-ground of vision and ritual, to abide like a flame in the material world. Thus the attention and power of the spirit itself is brought into material action for practical magic.

Back to the history of the idea, I believe that my own understanding of the idea of ‘construct elementals’ or ‘servitors’ began with 70s ‘ESP’ research. The 1972 ‘Phillip Experiment’ was big news to geeks like me tracking the still-credible science of ‘parapsychology’. Our puff-text asks “did the group accidentally summon a demonic or spiritual entity or did they create a real ghost?” I’d like to ask that too.

Occults texts of the early 70s including Paul Huson, Al Manning and Sybil Leek provided simple, ritualized methods for creating (or conjuring) a ‘construct familiar’, based on some physical token. The merging of the ‘construct entity’ idea with that of the witch’s familiar was instantaneous, and the ‘magical servitor’ became usual. Franz Bardon, and his classic “Initiation Into Hermetics” worked his detailed instruction in the use of magical energies into the idea of magical clockwork gnomes who could carry messages or spells. I feel it is important to mention the 1971 publication of Bonewits’ “Real Magic” in which a synthesis of parapsychology and traditional magic was presented that quite closely reflects modern opinion. He describes deities and spirits as living on the ‘energy’ given them by worshippers, and giving ‘energy’ back. It is, itself, all rather mechanistic and Isaac became more devotional as years went by, but I suspect his book of being an important influence at the opening of the 1970s. (Young folks should look up what a “switchboard” was ;).)

The idea passes directly into the minds of the founders of the Chaos Magick schools and related authors. It becomes central to their model of non-theistic occultism. It is now very popular among the self-constructed belief systems of internet magicians (bless us). The energy model is so unquestioned in the matter of ‘construct entities’; the magician creates a form in imagination, perhaps linking it to a material object, and then ‘ensouling it’… whatever that might mean. Many people seem to treat this approach as ‘proven science’ (i.e. obvious beliefs), though I think it falls well short of that standard.

This proposes, for me, a principle that might feel heretical to devotionalists and literalists, as well as to those who would make all magic about ‘energies’. It seems to me that, to a degree, pre-existing spirits will choose to inhabit an image and act in the theme of that image when it is in harmony with their own nature. In my metaphysical moments I think that, perhaps, spirits – despite having history and agency of their own - only assume names and forms when they come into relationship with mortals. Such names and forms may persist through human effort or through the preference of the spirit, and the world is full of spirits who do ‘go by’ a set of symbols, verbal or visual. We can conjure those, but the ancient magic shows us ways to conjure new spirits as well, learn new names, and even create new forms.

There is no such thing as ‘God’, in my opinion. No being ‘made’ us and thus no being has ownership of or sovereignty over us. Thus I am not inspired to imitate that notion by imagining that I can create a quasi-living spirit through imagination and will - a being which I can ‘command’ like a computer program or a machine, exploit at will, and destroy at the end of its utility.

This rejection of a modernist idea does not strip the magician of any useful power. Tradition provides several methods by which we can devise and specify what sort of small spirit, servant or emissary we desire. We can decide our intent, design a symbolic complex, and attract spirits that already exist to indwell our image and present us with a name and form. I think that when we call for a willing servant we often get one, though all the stories remind us that any spirit can turn contrary – even allegedly constructed ones.

As always for me the change from an energy paradigm of magic to a spirit-based paradigm is a change from the impersonal to the relational. I prefer a spiritual practice in which the love and honor between living beings is the core of the emotional work. This is not really possible when one approaches gods and spirits as ‘energies’ (especially if one thinks they are ‘just energies’). When we approach even a ‘hired’ ally such as an image-spirit as a living being, due it’s proper offering and thus proper respect, we choose a very different position of the heart. For those who care about such things, I might suggest that it helps put the ‘love’ into “Wisdom, Love & Power”.