Inscribed, dressed, and invoked over for a family member in need.
Inscribed, dressed, and invoked over for a family member in need.
Well, my six-month hiatus away from conjure is coming to an end. I’m feeling the itch, feeling called by my spirits to get back in the game. As my dear friend Brother Moloch said not too long ago: it’s good to take breaks but don’t let too much time go by. He’s right, as usual.
Sometimes, you need to clear your head. This kind of work is so serious and intensive that after every 15-20 client cases, I tend to need a decompression period if I want to stay on top of my game. So it’s been a good one. I’ve moved twice in this last period—to southern France and then back to the USA for a while. Now I’m in Europe again, my workshop is reestablished, and I’ve been doing tarot readings locally to get warmed up.
You can find me moderating on Studio Arcanis most days or contact me here via my secure email: friendlyoccultist (at) protonmail (dot) com.
While I’ve been away, I’ve gotten a plethora of requests for spiritual work. To those who emailed me during that time, I can only say that sometimes the world of Spirit calls you to do this kind of work. Other times, you are explicitly called not to work but to be introspective and care for yourself. Since I have a full-time mundane income, I can afford to listen carefully to those messages.
Live the magical life for any length of time and you will eventually run afoul of someone who would prefer to see you six feet underground. It’s inevitable; though, the frequency and type of magical throw-downs will vary according to the sort of work you do (and, by extension, the magical groups you frequent).
For example, spend a lot of time with ceremonial magicians and mystics in the “linear” post-Masonic traditions (Golden Dawn, OTO, Martinists, SRIA, Theosophy, Argenteum Astrum, Aurum Solis, AMORC, etc.) and you’re probably not going to meet many people who have developed magical attack skills. Those groups are far more interested in mystical states, pathworking, controlling the elements, and developing the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.”
Sometimes, the grimoire traditions are studied in those groups (at high levels and only with a great amount of preparation and care). But mostly such magical systems emphasize self-development and attaining “harmonium.” Ceremonial magicians typically know a lot of magical history and theory and are often more comfortable in a study or a library than in the ritual chamber. There is nothing wrong with that. It is just one way to lead the magical life.
Contrast this with practitioners of the African Traditional Religions (“ATRs” like Kimbanda, Santeria, Vodun, Louisania Voodoo, Curandismo, Umbanda, 21 Divisiones, Palo, and many other traditions and styles), who come from cultures where being a working sorcerer is often a serious full-time profession. In those communities, your reputation as someone who can do effective work and who is not to be messed with is also your professional standing.
You have clients who trust you and who often put their lives in your hands. You can’t afford to lose face and there is a lot of pride involved in these lineages and the magical transmissions they provide to their magicians. In those groups, magical warfare is an inescapable part of one’s practice. The stakes are always high. And rivals can seriously harm you with their malefica. But such groups aren’t necessarily any more powerful or better than the European ceremonialists (power depending, as always, on the individual in question and not on the system). They’re just different, coming out of a different cultural background, and serving different cultural needs.
Eclectic witches, magic-doing Wiccans, folk magicians, neo-pagan shamans, hedge witches, and traditionalist-craft witches fall somewhere between these extremes. The state of the craft is always changing, has trends and popular practices that come and go, and reacts positively or negatively to whichever b-list magical celebrity authors are currently being promoted by a small group of niche publishers.
Certain deities emerge along with these things (consider that magical energy and magical energy beings primarily follow human attention). And the amount of depth and scholarship also changes with the times. Goofy new age pop-magic witch books from the 1970s may seem laughable on the surface but may also really work. The most gravely serious Scarlet Imprint trad-craft grimoire put out yesterday in black leather, full of spooky neo-Latin invocations, might look cool and be utterly useless (cf. “dark fluff”).
Facing this extremely confusing array of styles, traditions, and practices, the beginning witch can feel really turned around. Where should one begin? If you’re on your own, I usually recommend beginning with a simple eclectic Wicca book because that will at least give you a foundation and a way to start leading the magical life. A great one is Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. DJ Conway’s Wicca: the Complete Craft isn’t bad (but could be much better) and has a lot of information. Skye Alexander’s Modern Guide to Witchcraft is solid. And Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft is probably better than all of the above, but is harder than them, too. If you want a graduated course in the craft, you could do worse than Timothy Roderick’s Wicca: a Year and a Day in the Path of the Wise. I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that come to mind as I write this.
I say read everything and develop a practice that feels right to you. But no matter which craft book you read, you will encounter a few things which are repeated almost dogmatically. One of them is: you must banish, ground, and center. Banishing means dispersing negative and obsession-inducing energies (and energy beings) from your body and immediate surroundings. Grounding means taking the excess energy in your body and sending it into the earth where it can disperse. And centering means gaining an inner balance such that you feel in harmony inside and with what is around you.
These are all very good fundamental practices for a witch to know, because someday someone or something will want to harm you magically. But here I want to talk about an obsession with protections themselves. It’s like constantly washing your hands. You do it once. Then you feel like you got some bacteria on your hand an hour later. So you wash your hands again, just to be sure they’re clean. Then you start noticing that your hands are getting dirty a lot (compared to how they feel when you just wash them). So you start washing your hands every hour, then every 30 minutes. Then you begin to feel nervous about situations where you could get contaminated, and so on. If this sounds crazy to you, it isn’t. It’s just a habit of mind that people get into when they become hyper-aware of the shifting line between “clean” and “dirty.”
As with hand-washing, so with magical protections. If you are engaging in constant banishings, you will resonate (your inner self will “vibrate”) at a very high level. Your presence will feel very “clean” to people who can sense such things. And certain classes of spirits, especially those who are aggressive or bound closely to the earth, will not enjoy hanging around. That is all very good. Unfortunately, it has a down side: miss a day and you will definitely notice. You won’t be as lucky. You will feel energetically unhealthy and grumpy. You may even feel a strong need to isolate yourself and perform some cleansings because you have become so hyper-aware of the difference between walking in fully banished space and not. Moreover, there will be some magic you just can’t do because your shields and personal wards will be so powerful that they will block everything.
If all you’re ever going to do is spiritually cleanse yourself (which is a completely legitimate way of leading the magical life), that’s fine. Stick to your rigid cleansing routine and go about your business. But if you want to work operative magic, if you want to be a well-rounded practitioner of the craft, you need to get a little dirty from time to time. You need to let spirits in and take risks. Witches are, almost by definition, risk takers.
So back to that person who wants to do you in. Someday, you will encounter him or her and you may not realize s/he “threw on you” until things start going very wrong in your life. You don’t want to put off learning how to protect yourself until this day comes, but you also don’t want to live in fear of it. So here is a simple set of texts and practices to enable you to recognize and respond without having to do a hundred Lesser Banishing Rituals of the Pentagram every day.
First, get a magical wash. I like concentrated “Chinese Wash” but you can get creoline or ammonia (I like Lucky Mojo’s “Buffalo Ammonia” for this). You can also just use lemon-scented Pinesol and add lemongrass, chamomile, and bay leaves to it. In any case, get that wash, mix some into water, and wipe down the walls, the floors, and the windows.
Second, make a simple “protection hand.” Get a black flannel bag or a black bandana. In it put 3 bay leaves, some lemongrass, and some dragon’s blood resin. Light a paper match and throw it, lit, into the bag. Shake it up. Then say, “Creature of air, earth, fire, and water, I give you life that you will protect me and these premises from all threats. Be ruled by me in this.” Feed it with a sprinkle of whiskey once a week on Saturday.
Third, actually learn a banishing ritual. If the LBRP is too churchy for you, you can cast a simple shield (Google it) or use the simple banishing rituals given in the aforesaid texts. Do this about every other or every three days unless you notice something nasty coming at you. Then do it every day until safe.
Lastly, put a dream catcher up in your bedroom and, when you go to sleep at night (somewhere that kids and animals can’t reach), set out a glass of water close to your bed. For extra zip, you can add a capful of Hoyt’s or Jockey cologne to the water or a splash of Florida water to it. That will protect you all night long from being ridden when your defenses are down.
Hammer nails into the corners of your property to stake your spiritual claim. And if you are attracted to the idea of setting wards and tasking guardian spirits, you can research those things on the internet for some basic practices.
Get and study the following four basic protection manuals: Have You Been Hexed: Recognizing and Breaking Curses by Alexandra Chauran; Protection and Reversal Magick: A Witch’s Defense Manual by Jason Miller; Magickal Protection by Damon Brand; and Angelic Protection Magick by Ben Woodcroft. Optional: Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune and The Witch’s Shield by Christopher Penczak. By the time you finish these books, you will know a lot about how to detect magical attack and how to respond to it. You will also know the difference between being an obsessive banisher and someone who uses protection in harmony with other forms of magical work.
A few years ago, I began an intense period of work with Brujo Negro’s Voodoo Sorcery Grimoire (VSG), aware of how controversial it was in terms of authenticity and provenance and yet caring less about those things than how the practices made me feel and what they seemed to produce.
Over time, I’d given myself permission to get romantic about magic, which is to say I’d come to emphasize what Wordsworth called in his Lyrical Ballads, the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” I’d reached a point at which the way something felt was far more important to me than its historical or cultural authenticity. And I am still travelling along that highly permissive magical path.
From the perspective of my practical work, a grimoire or a magical technique either is or is not effective, regardless of where it comes from, who wrote it, or when. Its effectiveness usually depends on the sense of wonder it conveys, on the depth of feeling I can explore through it. That is where I go to find true power, but I know it is not that way for every practitioner.
This verges on something like a classical chaos magic paradigm (if one can refer to an aspect of chaos magic as “classical” and keep a straight face), seeing belief as a means of attaining a numinous state. Belief in the efficacy of a particular grimoire seems to be a tool that has just as much in common with the leap of faith a convert puts in his newly acquired religion. Some subjective verities and insights have already emerged or at least resonated in the individual, but many have yet to be discovered. And it’s up to the magician or new adherent to feel his way forward through the material.
For the convert, faith that her religion’s teachings are a valid and useful truth-finding process is a “means to an end” as if she were engaging in a chaos working—a practical way to experience a sought-after, highly personal, transcendent, magical moment. Like a chaote seeking “gnosis,” one uses the spiritual techniques, symbols, and ideas to bring forth the “magical feeling,” which is where the “power and the glory” always reside. It’s where demons and angels come calling, where the gates of the underworld swing wide, where the shades of the dead move and appear, and where deity speaks.
Having had more than a few experiences like this with Papa Legba through the work of the VSG, including an invitation to travel a long distance and begin formal study in one of his more traditional systems (an invitation for which I was appropriately grateful but chose not to take up), I felt deeply fascinated with the grimoire and knew it would take me to ever more powerful places if I kept using it. It remains a treasured part of my work, integral to my magical life.
I should and do intend to write more posts about my VSG explorations. But although this post involves the VSG, it is about a different and perhaps more general magical experience: the time in every magician’s work when a powerful spirit who has not been called arrives on the altar and introduces itself.
This will happen more than once, especially if you do a lot of necromancy and spirit evocation. Things will sometimes follow you home from the graveyard or appear in your scrying apparatus, whether or not you’ve sealed the premises and taken other precautions to guard against close encounters. Often these spirits will be messengers or simply just curious beings drawn to your inner light—something they enjoy and can see clearly. Your wards and protections may not affect them because they mean you no harm and are therefore outside the scope and intention woven into those barriers.
There are spirits everywhere. Just because you banish the area and set up metaphysical countermeasures doesn’t mean you are then operating in a metaphysical “clean room,” as some beginners assume when they get to the point where they can feel the force of their pentagram rituals and circle castings. Banishing and cleansing are a lot more complicated and subtle than that, especially if you’re working in a spirit-based paradigm. So, although my personal protections come in many different layers and styles, I am never surprised when a spirit taps me on the shoulder; though, this is not something that regularly happens. If you are right with your ancestors, your guardian spirits, and your gods, you have nothing to fear from such visitations.
Some systems and practices leave you more open to this than others. And it would be worthwhile for me to someday compare the various magical approaches I’ve studied in terms of the breadth of the perceptual fields they establish in the practitioner. For now, it’s enough to say that long use of the VSG techniques has enhanced my ritual necromancy and hoodoo graveyard work to the point at which I have become extremely open to spirit communications.
I might be as open as a spirit medium, an openness that can prove to be far more dangerous and far less selective than necessary for most operative grimoire magic. That said, I’m experienced and confident enough that I can handle hostile, destructive, or otherwise unwelcome intruders. But I never expected a spirit from the “182 Current” to pay a visit.
Part of the beginning VSG work involves obtaining a human skull (like a less dedicated and permanent oboth or yiddeonim) as a doorway to the world of the dead. Over time, one uses it similar to an advanced crystal ball—less as a window and more as an open spirit house, a magical construct, existing simultaneously on physical and non-physical planes, into which any spirit can be called, be communicated with, and be fed.
The story of how I obtained my skull for this work must remain private. But I can state that it has served me well and has always functioned exactly as intended. It has become one of my most useful magical tools. Still, I’ve come to suspect that it is precisely because of its versatility and power that a strong spirit was able to step right into it unbidden.
This happened a few days ago when Amiahzatan, a tobacco and smoke daemon identified in Templum Falcis Cruentis’ Liber Falxifer, made himself known during my daily before-dawn magical work. I felt him before I heard him, a heavy, almost leaden, gaze coming through the skull’s eye sockets. I could feel its stare pushing into me.
Not recognizing the unique “signature” of this feeling, I asked it to identify itself and a voice came into my head: “Amiahzatan.” The intense power behind that name was palpable, even through the medium of voiceless spirit communication. We observed the proper courtesies and he offered to help me with certain creative aspects of my work in exchange for (very reasonable) specific offerings. Intrigued, I assented and a pact was made.
Though I owned the Falxifer trilogy of grimoires, I had not ever seriously worked with them or even opened them in years. And I should admit that I have been skeptical of the 182 / 218 Current, which originated in the anti-cosmic Satanism of the Misanthropic Luciferian Order and became the Temple of the Black Light. To me, their inverted 2nd-century gnosticism and overheated dark-fluff kabbalah-Kenneth Grant mashup seemed more relevant to fans of the black metal band, Dissection, than serious occultists. But I have to reconsider my previous judgements. I can’t deny the powerful interaction I had with Amiahzatan, a spirit associated with Liber Falxifer’s folk magical component and the cult of Sigñor la Muerte, Lord of the Dead.
Perhaps my years of hoodoo and my work with the VSG (among other things) made it possible for me to form this connection without any sort of initiation into the 182 Current (or its complementary “chaosophic” anti-cosmic Current 218). To be honest, I have not yet discovered an explanation and can only speculate at this point. But I can say that I was not actively aware of the name, “Amiahzatan,” having read it, at most, once or twice in the book many years ago. I have since done some online research as well as getting out the trilogy of Falxifer grimoires and starting to study them again.
In another magical twist, an old friend recently (and unexpectedly) gave me a copy of The Book of Sitra Achra, which he said he was instructed to do by Thoth, his patron deity. I have known him long enough not to question that. And, in my experience, one does not overlook such synchronicities. The reader may also be amused to learn that the reeds outside my window have been visibly and unnaturally bending into an unmistakable “X,” which is a key symbol in the “Ablution Ritual” for the altar statue to Sigñor la Muerte (as the Master Qayin). The symbol also carries a tremendous amount of meaning in my hoodoo work as the liminal crossroads where one meets the Black Man (or, in the VSG work, Papa Legba), who opens the roads. Make of this what you will. The point is that, contrary to my skeptical assumptions and expectations, an area of spirit magic has now opened to me in a way I haven’t expected and would not have otherwise pursued. This is rare and I take it seriously.
That said, I do not know where this path will lead but, like a chaote or a novice believer, I am making that “leap of faith,” keeping an open mind and focusing on the subjective insights that have already emerged in my work. I write this post not only to document the experience but also to recommend a similar approach in the reader’s magical studies. Follow your sense of wonder and see what happens. Anything is possible.
Denise Alvarado is an expert on folk magic traditions found in New Orleans and across the US South. She’s written some very interesting books on hoodoo and vooodoo and puts out a magazine dedicated to the conjure tradition. She definitely qualifies as a prominent and long-time figure in the US occult scene who can teach us a lot. And I should note that my online interactions with her over the years have shown her to be a very kind and gracious person.
To learn more about her many impressive accomplishments, check out her about.me page: https://about.me/denisealvarado
Also take a look at her blog:
I’m featuring a series of posts dedicated to women who are witches, grimoire magicians, healers, savants, and all-around badasses. I’m doing this for one specific reason (aside from the fact that it’s good to give credit where credit is long overdue): young women, especially young witches, need positive role models in the world of the occult. Like anything else, it’s historically been a male-dominated field (on the surface). But to say that only men have been great occultists and have changed the world thereby would be false. Here, I’m going to point out contemporary and historical women who qualify as “badass women occultists.”
I’ve written before about the revised Rosicrucian Code of Life and how appealing those ideals can be, especially this passage: “Never cause anyone to believe that members of the Order are sages who are in full possession of the Truth. To those who may ask, present yourself as a philosophical person who is seeking Wisdom. Never pretend you are a Rose-Croix, but say you are a perfecting Rosicrucian.”
I’ve also noted Paul Foster Case’s idea that to be a “Rosicrucian” is to accept a way of relating ethically to the world; it is not primarily an outer affiliation with a mystical order. It is an inner state of being and consciousness. This makes it tantamount to a philosophical, initiatory decision on a personal level, which is where all magic begins and ultimately ends. There are many esoteric groups in the world, several of which currently bear the label, “rosicrucian,” but there is only one Self. There is only one workshop in which the individual can dedicate and rededicate him- or herself to the Great Work.
With this in mind, I believe that if we are seeking magical initiation (i.e. “a way to begin”), our first and most reliable teacher is our “holy daimon” or “holy guardian angel”—the part of us that exists beyond the vagaries of form and time. Attaining the “knowledge and conversation” of this teacher can become a spiritual quest in itself or it can amount to a surprisingly quiet revelation: that we are not “in full possession of the Truth,” but that we are always “perfecting” towards a more complete realization of it. And part of us, the part that is god, is already there, unfolding its mystery for us as we progress.
In The Secrets of High Magick, Francis Melville notes that “One of the most significant experiences on this path is known as the ‘Attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.’ This is a transformational encounter with your inner master, higher self, or guardian angel—the Inner Divinity within all things.” As far as concise definitions for the K & C of the HGA are concerned, this one is good because it ends on the idea that divinity cannot be partitioned or objectified. It is “within all things,” including you and me.
Perhaps this is the what Trithemius refers to when he asks, “Is it not true that all things flow from one thing, from the goodness of the One, and that whatever is joined to Unity cannot be diverse, but rather fructifies by means of the simplicity and adaptability of the One?” According to this, magic, both low and high, would be just as much an articulation of the one thing as anything else under the sun. As most translations of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes put it, “What is above is like what is below, and what is below is like that which is above. To make the miracle of the one thing.” Realizing this “miracle” on the deepest level is why were are here.
It is also the reason we cannot offer our initiation for another. In other words, if we are magical teachers (as we most surely are), all we can do is open a space for the student to experience initiation. In the neophyte ritual of the Golden Dawn, the Hierophant accepts the individual into the Order by saying, “Child of Earth, long hast thou dwelt in darkness. Quit the night and seek the day.” Note the emphasis on personal volition in this language. This is not a Marvel Comics Dr. Strange initiation where the master knocks you upside the head and grants you cosmic perception (as fun as that would be). It’s an act of accepting accountability for one’s own development.
In this sense, teachers are wonderful but they are primarily facilitators. We don’t have to wait for someone’s permission to accept this magical burden or this personal quest. We can do it right where we are, right now. It is completely up to us. The thing we’re all looking for waits at the top of the mountain. Many paths go up and they all terminate at the same point, the same existential realization, the same knowledge and conversation of and with the Self. This is true no matter whether we are saying a simple child’s prayer, working a bit of hoodoo, performing a lodge ritual to attain a deeper level of gnosis, or rising on the planes. The mountain remains. And if we keep at it, we ascend.
I’d like to feature this blog post from Ray “Dr. Hawk” Hess. I’ve enjoyed his book, Backwoods Shamanism, quite a bit and think he makes a lot of sense here when he’s talking about the idea of paying for spiritual services. Obviously, I agree with his conclusions, but sometimes it’s good to present a perspective that comes from a different voice with different experiences. To that end, I suggest you click on this link and see what he has to say: https://doctorhawk.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/on-monetary-compensation-for-spiritual.html
I also highly recommend his book, which can be purchased here: http://a.co/9gb6JU3
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