Finding Cyprian

                                                                   Cyprian of Antioch

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to my need for more elemental balance in my magical (self-) work.  I did some simple hoodoo, using dirt from the backyard, and felt the groundedness, the hoodoo Earth power I love so much.  It had been a long time since I’d felt that.  So much moving and upheaval, so many changes of residence over the last few years and small unaccommodating living spaces, have made Air-dominant, spiritual magic far more usable.  And, in truth, I needed to polish those areas of Work for a while.  So I have no regrets.  

I’ve been working (almost) exclusively with spiritual beings and words of power for about three years.  It has been rewarding to develop my abilities in Air and Fire.  But lately, I have begun to sense an imbalance.  It is manifesting in my physical body, my emotions, my worldview, and my assumptions about life.  I’ve felt like “returning to Earth” in order to even these things out.  This means working more with dirt, washes, powders, oils and other physical materia.  Unfortunately, it’s still hard to do that, given my current living arrangement.  But I will find a way.

Yesterday (11 June 19), on a trip to London, I felt compelled to purchase The Book of St. Cyprian: the Sorcerer’s Treasure, translated and with commentary by Jose Leitao, which I found in the basement of Watkins Books.  I have wanted the book for some time.  It was more money than I intended to spend, but the book had a lot of energy (what I sometimes jokingly refer to as “fairy dust”) on it and I couldn’t deny that it was calling to me.

Walking out of the bookshop, not needing to be anywhere for a bit, I decided to stop in a cafe and do some reading.  As soon as I had that thought, I noticed the St. Martin-in-the-Fields crypt cafe and remembered that Cyprian is the patron of necromancers, among other things.  I went down the stairs, got some breakfast and a coffee, and settled in to read Leitao’s introduction, where I noticed the following, as if it, too, had fairy dust on it:  “[K]now that if you are reading this book then you are supposed to be reading it, that with it you invite the Saint and a legion of other spirits I cannot even begin to name into your life.  What his plans might be for you are not mine to know” (xxxv).  And “This is a book of the ground, of the dirt, it is not of the mind, it is not of the spirit, it is not of the heart, it is of the viscera” (xxxvii).  As I read that, a cold wave passed through me, which I have learned to recognize as the presence of magic in action.

A few hours later, walking on a London street with a friend, trying to describe this experience, I noticed some decorative ironwork over a grating in the shape of an “X.”  It was the third “fairy dust moment” I had that day.  This not only signifies liminality (the crossroads) for me and therefore is a powerful sign of hoodoo.  But it also communicates to me in the language of the Elder Futhark.  “X” is Gifu / Gebo, the Gift rune.  Blum writes that the rune is “an indication that union, uniting, or partnership in some form is at hand. . . . Thus Gebo, the Rune of Partnership, has no reverse for it signifies the gift of freedom from which flow all other gifts” (Book of the Runes, 71).

Every morning, I draw a Rune as an oracle for the day.  This morning, I drew Gifu again.  I believe there is an impending partnership being offered to me from this Saint of necromancers.  And I gladly accept.

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The Necromancy of the Heart

Many spiritual traditions advocate working with your ancestors before all else.  But this can be difficult.  First, you might not know who they are.  Second, you might not have liked them when they were alive (or you might not like the story of how they lived).  Third, you might not have the spiritual freedom to build an ancestor altar or the photos and curios you might want to put on it.  If any of these things are true, I suggest a simple alternative.  Nearly every complex magical working can be accomplished by simplifying it in a spirit of perseverance and humility.

In this case, like so.  Every night before bed, take a moment to quiet your mind.  Then say (or think): “I pray for [name your relations who have passed on] and for all those down my family lines who I have not named.  I send forgiveness to those who have hurt me in the past and ask for forgiveness in return.”  If you feel inclined, you can add, “And I hope for the ascendance of the souls in Purgatory.  So be it.”

Do this nightly without exception.  It will take you less than a minute.  Over time, your ancestors will “wake up” and start appearing in your dreams.  Eventually, you will be guided to further workings and magical secrets having to do with them and with your incarnation now.  This is a very simple form of necromancy (spirit talk) that only requires you to take a minute out before you go to sleep.

Working in the Graveyard, Part 1

Graveyard work is not for the faint of heart—more because people worry about getting caught than about dealing with the dead.  In this, I think they have it backwards.  You will not likely get arrested (though you may get thrown out and / or banned) for digging up a fistful or two of grave dirt.  But you might seriously piss off the shade of the person whose grave it is, the spiritual leader of the graveyard, and / or any number of death entities (gods, spirits, daemons, you name it).  So it’s important to follow a consistent respectful entry protocol and only work on certain days.  In this post, I will give my basic approach to graveyard work.  In a following post, I will talk about more advanced issues.

The first thing to do is determine why you want to work there in the first place.  It shouldn’t be because graveyard work feels “edgy” and you therefore hope it will be more powerful than comparable non-graveyard work.  That is plain stupid and reflects magical immaturity.  Whenever something in magic seems dark and spooky, take a step back and think critically about it.  Usually, you’re either suffering from clever marketing or your mind and your heart are out of balance.  A good magician knows how to be rational and irrational, how to think critically and intuitively at the same time.

Good reasons to do graveyard work might include feeling spiritually called to practice necromancy; feeling guided to such practices by patron deities, ancestors, or entities; practicing a form of magic in which graveyard work figures prominently as an aspect of the system (hoodoo, ATR magical-religions, some grimoires, styles of magic dedicated to particular entities); or needing to do a particular sort of magic that involves death, graveyard materials, or the act of burial / exhumation.

Assuming you have a good reason to undertake such work, the next step is determining what you need to do in the graveyard.  Are you creating a mirror box or a coffin spell?  Are you paying for some dirt?  Are you performing devotional service?  An old-school necromantic operation?  All of these will have different preparatory requirements.  Here, I’ll keep it simple and talk about paying for dirt because that is what I mostly do when I go.

In hoodoo, you buy graveyard dirt from particular spirits.  You can also buy it from the graveyard in general.  You would use this dirt as a magical ingredient to make things like goofer dust, mojo hands, sachet powders, as a way to draw sigils or veves (note that “veve” is a Voudu term that I use here only for convenience—hoodoo and Voudu are related in many ways but still distinctly different), or even make types of incense or magical condition oils.

When you get to the graveyard, you can just walk in but, in my tradition, this is rude.  Instead, you make an offering to your death entity (the highest you know) at the gate.  Mine usually consists of 9 pennies (or pence, if you’re in England) soaked in red wine.  If I’m spirit led to toss these inside while saying a small invocation of thanks, I will.  Otherwise, I’ll respectfully leave them in a stack by the gate.  Follow this practice long enough and you will notice a serious difference in the feeling you have when you walk in.

Once you’re inside, you need to find the right grave.  If you’re sensitive enough, you can be spirit led to it.  Otherwise, you will look for the grave of a spirit who would want to do the kind of work you need.  Soldiers, cops, statesmen, thieves, murderers, artists are all useful.  Even the spirits of innocent children who died young can be very powerful.  This means you will have to learn about the history of the region, who lived and died there over time.  That is another form of offering to the dead, who notice and appreciate that you have done your homework when you arrive asking for help.

When you find the right grave, you talk to the spirit and ask for its help.  Hopefully, the spirit is around.  Not all shades of the dead are connected to the place of their burial.  If you can “hear” them, you only have to listen and talk.  If you aren’t that sensitive (yet—this work tends to develop such capacities in a magical practitioner), you can use a pendulum for yes-no answers.  The point is to talk with the spirit, bargain for some of its dirt, and offer something in return.  Again, I like to offer 9 or 13 pennies.  Spirits can use the energy of real money in ways we don’t anticipate.  Pennies are far more valuable to them than to us.  Sometimes, it’s good to pour out some whiskey or rum as an offering, too.

Once you strike a bargain, you can take some dirt.  There are a lot of hoodoo / folktales about the part of the grave from where you should take the dirt but, in my experience, you should go with what feels right and with what’s convenient.  Dig up a few spoonfuls at most and put them in a container.  Then pay the spirit and respectfully go.  When you walk out of the graveyard, thank the controlling spirit / death entity for letting you safely do this work.

You’ll find that when you do this often at the same graveyard, the spirits will get to know you and will sometimes follow you home.  This is very good.  It’s the beginning of a strong necromantic practice.  You’ll also eventually have the experience of being rejected by a spirit (for whatever reason).  And you’ll come to realize that it’s not all just in your head.  But I leave those experiences to you to have.  The important thing here is to realize that this is strong serious work.  Graveyards are no joke, but they can be very helpful to us when we need them.

A Simple Way to Call a Spirit

25 Best and Healthiest Foods in the World To Consumed ...This is a folk magical way, strongly influenced by hoodoo traditions. It lacks the fireworks that a traditional ceremonial evocation (done correctly) can provide. Still, it’s a good way to do it if you don’t want to expend a lot of energy and only need information / conversation.

Draw the sigil of the spirit on a small piece of paper. This is important. It makes a much stronger connection than printing it out or just looking at it in a book / online. If there is no sigil available, you need to be able to address the entity. So title it, “The Spirit in My House” or “The Spirit Disturbing My Cousin” or whatever describes how you are aware of it. Then write its name / title, cross out repeated letters, and make a sigil with the remains.

Put the sigil beneath a full glass or bowl of water. Make sure these are transparent and made of glass or crystal. No plastic or opaque materials.

Burn incense. For air-oriented spirits, pure frankincense is very good. For spirits of the dead, try wormwood and / or pure myrrh. For all others, a balanced blend of frankincense and myrrh is excellent. I have found Champa is also generally useful for all spiritual operations. Avoid dragon’s blood and dogwood. These disperse spirits in this tradition. With the exception of these two, any incense is usually good incense to burn. Far better to burn some than not.

Make your chamber dark and chant / vibrate the spirit’s name over the water until you feel its presence. This shouldn’t take long if you’ve done the work up to this point. If you used a title instead of its name, look back at the scratch paper where you crossed out the repeating letters. The remaining letters you used to make its sigil might look something like this (if you were using “The Spirit in My House”): “Sprnmyou.” Say that a few times until it sounds like a word of evocation. When I do it, it sounds like “Spare-nim-you.” I would then take that as a mantra of calling to chant if I didn’t have the spirit’s name.

When the spirit arrives, ask it what you need to ask. It might appear before your eyes over or in the water (like in a scrying crystal or black mirror). It might appear somewhere in the chamber or in your mind’s eye. You might hear it or just get mental images or a stream of unique ideas that respond to your questions.

When you’re finished and everything has been said, bid it politely to depart: “Go in peace, harming none, and let there always be good relations between us.” It will nearly always go. If it doesn’t and you realize you have a particularly ornrey spirit on your hands, have a piece of solid camphor (you can buy it in blocks) or camphor oil ready. Tell it to go three times and then put the camphor in the water, ventilate the chamber (making sure the incense is no longer smoking), and toss some blessed salt in the corners of the rooms. That should take care of any lingering.

Necromancy and Creating Spirit Abodes

Creating an abode for a spirit can become an extremely complex undertaking.  It’s also one of the most rewarding ways to work with spirits.  There are many ways to do it.  And I suspect that most practitioners get around to it eventually, directly or indirectly.

By this, I mean that if you have ever created an ancestor altar or consecrated a statue to a divinity, you may have been creating a spirit dwelling place indirectly, without consciously intending to do it.  When we work with our ancestors, often our attention is focused on the dynamic between us and them–not on the altar, which may or may not have overt communicative significance in the work.  Similarly, making or purchasing a statue of a deity–whether it’s a small figurine of Saint Expedite or a (very cool, admit it) bust of Loki or your favorite Maneki Neko–provides the opportunity for a spirit to slip in and live there.  If you’re a highly psychic and / or creative person (all the photos in my house are possessed!), this may happen effortlessly.  If you consecrate or otherwise dedicate a statue, image, or glyph to a particular entity, it’s extremely likely to happen.

So with this in mind, creating a house for a spirit doesn’t have to be incredibly complicated.  For those interested in more involved methods, Jason Miller’s writing is a good resource.  Brujo Negro has a very potent working for this in his Voodoo Sorcery Grimoire (highly recommended).  And there are many other resources around in books and on the internet.  Perhaps the best resource is careful experience, starting with simple things like an ancestor altar and then perhaps asking your ancestors to guide you in this work.

The ultimate (and, in my opinion, the most potentially dangerous) ritual for this is the ritual of the “Opening of the Mouth.”  The Budge translation of this works just fine.  Incidentally, it can give life to the dead (I am not kidding) if you can prepare a suitable “body” for the spirit.  However, the best vessel for a departed soul is the original body.  Unless you work in a morgue or understand mummification, I suggest you avoid this.  I would like to especially caution the would-be necromancer against performing this in a graveyard “just to see what happens.”  I can tell you what will happen: the most suitable vessel will be your own body.  Think about it.

One of the names of Marduk found in the Necronomicon Spellbook or in Michael Cecchetelli’s Mardukite Magick can be used as a lesser (and safer) form of this.

Dealing with the Dead

Part of my recent magical retirement has focused on getting back in touch with the spirits of my ancestors and with necromancy in general.  When I think back on the magical work I’ve been doing over these past few months, it seems amazing how palpable the presence of spirits has become in my chamber.

Instead of banishing, suffumigating, and washing down my entire area, as I have done for years, I built necromantic altars in the corners of my chamber, encircling each one with stones warded and dressed with Fiery Wall of Protection.  These boundaries were normally left open and were not meant to protect me from the spirits who have come to live with me.  Rather, they were there to protect the spirits from my banishing and clearing.

How often do we consider protecting our spirits?  Courtesy is no less important to discarnate invitees than it is to other human guests.  Yet, we often expect spirits to be ready and willing when we call them and to get busy right away—without ever taking into account that the line between their world and ours is extremely thin and that they have likely been with us all along.  In fact, even making a distinction between “worlds” is problematic.  We live in the spirit world as spiritual entities live in ours—the principal distinction being where the seat of consciousness rests.

In any case, when you do a lot of different magical work in the same chamber, knowing how to apportion space becomes very important.  Needless to say, it is a very bad idea to invite spirits—even sympathetic ancestral spirits—to live with you and then subject them to ill-considered banishing and clearing rituals.  This would be analogous to filling a room with expensive incense smoke and then turning on an industrial fan.  It doesn’t make sense.  And, as mundane as it may seem, the world of the spirits does function along certain predictable guidelines.  If it did not, dependable spiritual work would be impossible.

So I suppose the first consideration is how does one begin to investigate necromancy?  My first recommendation is that the individual study with a competent sorcerer who knows how to deal with the dead.  I’ve said it before, but you can’t go wrong with Cat Yronwode and Jason Miller.  They both have excellent magical training programs that deal with necromantic magic in a number of ways.  Early on in her hoodoo program, Cat talks about creating multi-purpose altars.  And, although I arrange my space along evocational lines (being both a student of rootwork and grimoire magic), I  have given a lot of thought to her wise suggestions on how to put a working altar together.  Alternately, Jason Miller, in The Sorcerer’s Secrets and in his course, makes a very interesting study of offerings and “zone rites” as ways to energetically manipulate space and the spirits who might come to dwell there.

All of this is invaluable knowledge even if you have no intention of overtly practicing necromancy.  I say this because any magical practice will draw spirits to you.  For example, if you perform the (much maligned yet incredibly useful) Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram on a daily basis, you will eventually start communing with spirits because it raises your personal vibration (for lack of a simpler term) appreciably.  Daily reiki self-healing will result in the same experiences.  Even the basic conjurations from The Satanic Bible, if practiced often enough, will introduce you to some interesting entities—perhaps not the ones you would elect to spend large amounts of time with, but that is a different issue.  Even prayer can do this.

So knowing about the dead is incredibly important for a working sorcerer.  Having firsthand experience with spirits that inhabit the lower and higher astral worlds, the various after-death realms created by religious belief, pure elemental planes, and the homelands of the gods can make you incredibly powerful and can open your eyes to many secrets.  If I’m starting to sound a bit Dungeons & Dragons, that is because I believe that all of the non-physical places ever envisioned by humanity exist in the “astral light,” the Olam Yetsirah, more commonly known as the “World of Formation.”  This includes the works of the human artistic imagination and figures from myth and legend.  Work with the spirits of the dead can be an excellent introduction to these worlds and the denizens in them.

Along with apprenticing oneself to a capable teacher, one should look into legal forms of solitary work.  Find a local graveyard and spend some time there, preferably around sunset.  Learn to use a spirit board—not as a half-believing immature dabbler but as a magician with power able to control exactly what comes through.  Develop a practice of honoring your ancestral dead, both known and unknown, and make amends with the shades of those deceased relatives you never liked.  Lastly, integrate the practice of necromancy into your other magical work, recognizing that it simply becomes essential if you are going to progress beyond a certain point in your studies.

Recommended necromantic texts: Communing with the Spirits by Martin Coleman; Honoring Death: The Arte of Daemonolatry Necromancy by S. Connolly; Walking the Twilight Path by Michelle Belanger (useful but take with several grains of salt); The Mentalist’s Handbook: An Explorer’s Guide to Astral, Spirit, and Psychic Worlds by Clint Marsh; and Saint Cyprian: Saint of Necromancers by ConjureMan Ali.