Letters to a Young Sorcerer #1: I am not special. Neither are you.

Fludd's Great Chain of Being

As I resume my spiritual practice with 4 new clients in the last 24 hours, the truth of this work, the “essential spirit” of it, comes back to me.  So my first “letter” to those just starting out in this field has to do with what the work really is and what it really isn’t.  In order to understand what I’m about to tell you, you need to accept one hard-cut truth: I am not special, even though I practice sorcery.  You are not special, either.

I’ve written about some of the hard lessons being a spiritual worker has taught me.  And I’ve pointed out more than once that conjure, divination, and sorcery are like learning to play the piano.  Most people can learn it to a competent degree if they work hard at it, but only a few will be brilliant.  If you are sure that you aren’t one of those brilliant few (and can you really be sure?), who cares

Who says that unflattering self-perception must stop you from doing what you love?  That is true for physics, coaching basketball, flying planes, teaching yoga, playing Texas Hold’em, investing, or seducing the innocent.  Being a mediocre practitioner of an art is still practicing it.  The only harm comes when you overstate your skill level.

Some plumbers are just more talented than others and do more impressive work.  Some poets write more resonant lines than others.  Some historians have more penetrating insights into the past.  But if you wanted to, you could start studying physics, coaching, flying, yoga, poker, investing, seduction, plumbing, poetry, or history and learn those disciplines well enough to identify as a practitioner.  Doing that will not set you apart from your fellow man or reveal you as some kind of messiah, genius, chosen one, or superhero.  It will mean you applied yourself, did the reading, learned, grew as a person, and became competent.

The same goes for magic.  Like anything else, it takes practice and dedication, no matter how much talent you may or may not have.  Some will be born with a gift for that particular sort of work.  But sorcery, like anything we decide to do, is part of what it is to be human.  As a human, you can learn it if you really want to.  We forget that sometimes.  If, as the chaos magician and farmer, Gordon White, puts it, “the universe runs on magic,” then I also suggest: you are magic.  In fact, we all are. 

Like the new age saying goes, you are a spiritual being having a human experience.  Sometimes the most challenging hurdle for a beginning sorcerer is accepting this.  Lingering Victorian materialism has taught us that magic is part of the SUPER-natural—that which is above and beyond the natural (or, for many scientists, that which is merely fantasy and does not actually work or exist in any meaningful way).  But other eras never saw a disconnect between the body and the soul, the magical and the mundane. 

It was all part of a continuum, a Great Chain of Being.  Most often, when we study the magical arts, we are learning the principles founded in those other eras, not in our current technocratic scientistic age.  Even the famous Victorian magical societies turned to classical antiquity and the Renaissance for inspiration and guidance, mining the great libraries and museums of Europe for grimoires and philosophical texts. 

So it is in our current magical schools as well.  But far too many would-be sorcerers and half-baked magicians turn to the occult because they want to escape reality instead of understand and engage with it.  They want magic to be SUPER-natural because the natural world of their mundane lives is boring and painful and they feel small.

They want to be special, chosen, sought after.  They want money.  They want sex.  They want to be the guru.  And when they advertise their services as sorcerers, they act like magic is a rare jewel that only the chosen few possess.  Maybe they even believe this.  But whether they know they’re lying or they’re just doing it out of ignorance, the fact remains that they are misleading others, obscuring the truth that sorcery can be taught to just about anyone.  It can even be self-taught.

This attitude comes as much from their damaged egos and need for admiration as it does from pop-culture.  Harry Potter is very special, you know?  But this sense of magic being somehow “out there” is false.  And it leads to deceptive marketing and puffery on the part of these lost souls who quickly go from wanting to be the guru to lying to clients about the occult and their own exaggerated abilities.  My first letter to you, young sorcerer, is therefore a warning: don’t be like this.

If you want to do this kind of work, you have to get over yourself and remember: you are not special; you are neither worse nor better than anyone else.  You have a certain skill set.  If you’re good enough at it (as with anything) people will pay you for it. 

If you want to work as a public sorcerer, if you want to get good enough that you can shift probability, call spirits to appearance, influence minds at a distance, draw money and love, cast and remove curses, perform blessings and cleansings, know the innermost recesses of the self, communicate with the dead, and understand the spiritual quintessence that underlies all nature, hard work and dedication is the only way.  Period.

Practice, study, mindful experimentation, and finding a magical community of peers with whom you can discuss these things is how you do it.  You have to develop the wisdom to know who is awake and who is still struggling in the chains of reductive materialism.  You also have to learn how to care for yourself because this road is long and unforgiving.

All of the above abilities and more are attainable, in whole or in part, by all but the most magically tone-deaf people (who are likely unnaturally gifted at some other things—the world tends to balance itself like that and I’d rather have a talented plumber fix my water heater than a spirit conjured from the Verum, wouldn’t you?).  And I don’t mean to seem inordinately harsh when I tell you that you need to stay humble and avoid developing a messiah complex.  But I also don’t write this letter to make you feel good.  

I write this because I care about the magical art and want it to thrive.  The only way that’s going to happen is if there is new blood, if the new generation of spiritual workers, grimoire magicians, witches, and psychics are real and not fake.  Those of us who have been walking the path for decades will eventually have to move over and let others lead.  It is the way of things.  And it is our job to make sure that when that happens, the young people who step up will do so with power, sincerity, wisdom, and truth.

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Starting up work once again . . .

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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. 

If you need some work done or you need a reading, check out How to Hire Me, my Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and What I Won’t Do for Money on this site.

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.

Do Your Best

I have a neighbor who looks like the separated-at-birth twin of Slavoj Žižek.  Rain or shine, Monday morning or Friday evening, he looks utterly dismayed at the stupidity of existence.  Perhaps there is some value in that perspective.  But, to me, he just seems consistently miserable.  I passed him this morning on my way to the market and would have said hello if he’d looked up.  He didn’t.  There were dark and gloomy things to entertain on this bright Saturday morning in Southern England.


Ah, I thought, maybe next time.  Maybe, at some vague juncture in the future when things are somehow better than they are right now (and it is possible for him to accurately determine this), he will smile. 

He’s a pretty good neighbor because I never see him.  But, when I do, I’m reminded of that (overused) line from Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”  He’s a university professor, lives in a very nice house, has a vivacious young French wife and two bright and healthy daughters.  And still: mordred in the black pit of despair every time I see him.  Well, maybe that’s just his style.

Sometimes, I wonder if his face is merely fixed that way, not unlike Grumpy, everyone’s favorite obsolete meme-cat.

This is actually Grumpy Cat smiling.  And I think we all know people like this.  They’re never happy unless they’re miserable, at least on the outside.  Many such people have a melancholy disposition even in the best of times.  These are the most difficult people to help.  They turn to magic as a solution when everything else has failed because they don’t really believe, deep down, that anything can make them satisfied or happy.   So why not something totally unreal and fake like magic?  It makes no sense when you think about it.  Of course, extremely depressed people are not expected to make sense.

As I walked to the market, my encounter with Clone Žižek got me thinking about conjure and about how aggrieved certain clients are when they contact me, how convinced they are that nothing will be able to fix their complex and insurmountable problems.  They want to believe in a spiritual solution.  But, really, they think they’re doomed.

Therefore, the first step when they contact me is to explore the possibility that other outcomes exist.  I do a short tarot reading, write up my insights and recommendations, then we talk about it.  Usually, that gets to the heart of the problem (which may be entirely different than what the client thinks he or she needs at first).  And if the cards show that work is indicated, I’ll lay out a range of possible solutions, send the client an invoice, set up a timeline and, as soon as payment is received, we’ll get moving in the right direction.

Meanwhile, I usually give out a lot of free folk magic advice on things the client can do to help him- or herself in little ways.  Folk magic can be immensely useful psychologically (decreasing lust of result, attaining necessary inner calm) and practically (putting yourself, your magical intentions, and the natural world in dynamic harmony). 

But there’s an even deeper piece of advice that I can give you right here.  It comes from one of my 7 Practices, common sense ideas I like on how to lead a tranquil satisfied life: “Acceptance.  I take everything life offers and use it to become smarter, stronger, and more joyful.  This may at times be difficult but, when it is possible, it is the best course of action.”

Ah-so,  you may be thinking, wisdom of the ancients!  A Hare Krishna gave me a free pamphlet on the street corner last week that said the same thing.  And I will agree with you that this principle is neither surprising nor original.  But it’s perhaps more immediately useful than 100 spell books on how to get paid and laid.  If used properly, it is a more powerful formula than any work of operative magic because it constitutes life-changing initiatory magic—as in, you are initiating (beginning) yourself in a new way.  You’re experiencing a new beginning.  And there is no separation between that magical intention and the target (you).  All it takes is desire and mindfulness.  

People think acceptance means making the best of things as they are.  Wrong.  How do you feel when someone says, “Just make the best of it.”  Do you feel good?  I’m willing to bet that you feel worse and probably a bit angry.  Being put in a position where you have to make the best of a bad situation or a problem feels like being trapped, admitting there is nothing to be done, and the problem is never going to change.  It is inherently defeatist and puts you back in Clone Žižek Land where the sky is always falling and everything is always horrible.

Instead, you initiate a new course of action-experience-being by “doing your best.”  Do you see the subtle difference?  “Making the best of what is” is not the same thing as “doing your best”—which has less to do with “what is” and more to do with “what you want it to be.”  “Doing your best” says that maybe you won’t be able to fix the whole thing.  Then again, maybe you will.  You have agency in the situation.  You are not being controlled by all-powerful forces taking away your options.

It goes without saying that you want to do your best in every problematic situation because every situation is problematic, at least in some small way.  Nothing is perfect and if we look hard enough through our grumpy glasses, we’ll see the inevitable defects.  Conversely, even in the worst situations, there are positive transformative elements.  I’m reminded of Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, where he describes his school of psychotherapy (logotherapy) as a method that “focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning.  According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.”

With this in mind, the “acceptance” I’m talking about here is dynamic rather than static.  It’s doing rather than making the best of it.  It’s an active search for something that means more.  And if practiced sincerely and mindfully in daily life, it is a profound form of Greater Initiatory Magic—magic that leads to powerful self-realization and happiness.

The best way I know to practice “doing your best” comes from the modern Stoic philosopher, Dr. William B. Irvine, in his book, A Guide to the Good Life: the Ancient Art of Stoic Joywhere he talks about setting internal rather than external goals:

I think that when a Stoic concerns himself with things over which he has some but not complete control, such as winning a tennis match, he will be very careful about the goals he sets for himself.  In particular, he will be careful to set internal rather than external goals.  Thus, his goal in playing tennis will not be to win a match (something external, over which he has only partial control) but to play to the best of his ability in the match (something internal, over which he has complete control).  By choosing this goal, he will spare himself frustration or disappointment should he lose the match: Since it was not his goal to win the match, he will not have failed to attain his goal, as long as he played his best.  His tranquility will not be disrupted

. . . . . 

Although they value tranquility, [Stoics] feel duty-bound to be active participants in the society in which they live.  But such participation clearly puts their tranquility in jeopardy.  One suspects, for example, that Cato would have enjoyed a far more tranquil life if he did not feel compelled to fight the rise to power of Julius Caesar— if he instead had spent his days, say, in a library, reading the Stoics.  I would like to suggest, though, that Cato and the other Stoics found a way to retain their tranquility despite their involvement with the world around them: They internalized their goals.  Their goal was not to change the world, but to do their best to bring about certain changes.  Even if their efforts proved to be ineffectual, they could nevertheless rest easy knowing that they had accomplished their goal: They had done what they could do.

In other words, by looking inwards and focusing on internal goals, which is to say, personally meaningful things, one does one’s best.  This is the way to initiate a new way of life.  It’s a reset button for bad situations.  And it works.  It’s not simply trying to use a New Age affirmation to convince oneself of something that isn’t the case in reality.  It’s not just “the power of positive thinking.”  It’s more like creating a new reality for yourself, in yourself, through an active search for meaning.

Just remember: don’t make the best of it.  Do your best.  And you will avoid the fate of Grumpy Cat.

[Courtesy SOL]

Some people are born to paint, to sculpt, to create engines, to sing, to farm the land, others are born to think, wonder, invent, hope and strive for the unknown. Why should everyone be the same? There have always been those born to “see beyond” and who can bring back echoes of what they see. Not everyone has the ability to draw, paint, fix an engine write, a novel. We need each other’s skills.

There have always been priests and priestesses. There always will be. If you are not one of them in this life, be the best you can be at what you do and, maybe next time round, who knows. If it is within you, it will show up sooner or later; no one can predict such a thing. If you are a novice, then wait. If your talent is true, someone will turn up and guide you. Put out a wish for a guide and they will come. But if you want it for the wrong reasons, be prepared to pay a price. It’s not a cake walk. You will be expected to work hard and train your memory.

Read anything and everything. Learn night and day. Don’t do it for titles; do it for the love of the work. Advice? I still consider myself a student. There is always something to learn. So how can I advise? Someone came to me and showed me the way. If it is in you, someone will come.

—  Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

When it Looks Like a Curse, Don’t Go to a “Lightworker”

The only thing more pathetic than the term, “spiritual entrepreneur,” is the individual who describes him- or herself that way. It may seem a bit ironic that I’m saying this, given that I practice public sorcery and charge for such services. But there is definitely a difference between a “spiritual entrepreneur” and a “spiritual worker” as the terms are commonly understood and used.

A spiritual worker is a magical individual (rootdoctor, sorcerer, Reiki master, herbalist, card reader, etc.) who provides a set of spiritual services to a community. These days, that includes an online community. This person may work through various established spiritual traditions and usually tries to educate and counsel his or her clientele. For example, my Black Snake Conjure is not only dedicated to conjure, evocation, and Reiki. It’s also committed to fostering multiculturalism, tolerance, and sharing across ethnic and spiritual boundaries. I do this work not just for my own monetary benefit but also to teach the art of magic and, in the process, to make the world a better place.

Conversely, a spiritual entrepreneur may or may not be a magical individual but will try hard to seem like one (using the most trendy suburban Wiccan* or new age styles, keywords, and assumptions). This person promotes a spiritual technique, product, or service, relying heavily on e-marketing, focused spam via “newsletters,” usually a content-lite YouTube channel, and niche customer targeting to generate as much passive income as possible. A spiritual entrepreneur’s focus is on his or her multi-platform business first, then content, then the clients. For this person, it’s all about the “brand.” If you go to YouTube and type in one of the key words associated with spiritual entrepreneurialism, “witchy,” you will get a veritable phone book of unimaginative cliché examples. After watching one or two of those videos and looking at the linked websites, you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder whether we need another post entitled “Six Signs You Might Be a Witch” or “Crystals Dealing with Toxic Family Energy Over the Holidays” or “Working with Angels and Spirit Guides.”

In the 1990s, more serious (or at least more style conscious) magical people coined the term “fluffy bunny” to describe Wiccans who pretend that they only work with love and light (with an equally pretentious subsequent reaction, “dark fluff”). And many spiritual entrepreneurs still believe that a generous helping of fluff will more easily part a certain type of customer from his or her money. But spiritual entrepreneurialism isn’t about love or “ascension” or, actually, anything at all beyond branding. It’s the most cynical commodification of spirituality available in the West and we see it everywhere. It’s the reason why occult publishers like Llewellyn and Weiser have taken so much criticism from real practitioners over the last 20-30 years, even though they’ve published quality work along with poorly researched, padded, repetitive trash.

Most of what I’m saying here is obvious and anyone who spends time looking through social media and reading Tumblr will quickly come to these conclusions.  As in all things Theodore Sturgeon’s “garbage theory” applies: 90% of a given set of things is crap to support the 10% that isn’t. All well and good. However, it’s not so good when we need spiritual services that actually work.

Uh-oh. Maybe you’ve been cursed. What then? If you think only members of certain ethnic communities worry about curses, you’re dead wrong. Every culture has them. And I can tell you confidently that if you haven’t been the target of a curse or some other form of psychic attack at least once, you will be someday. It’s part of life.

Now imagine you find yourself in a situation where a highly suspicious chain of nasty events is taking place in your life. Maybe you’ve also come down with a case of heavy depression and insomnia. You’re having reversals and problems at work and at home. And all of this happens to coincide with a falling-out you’ve recently had with someone or with some envy-inducing advancement, like a raise or a new relationship or a financial windfall. You say to yourself, why would anyone want to curse me? I haven’t done anything wrong! But curses don’t just work for justice. You can get crossed up by any individual who resents your happiness enough to do something about it.

Most of us, if we’re leading adult lives and not living in a cave, have a sprinkling of enemies who want to see us suffer. Often, a few of those people will either have some metaphysical aptitude or will be willing to go to a sorcerer-for-hire. And many times those people will be very close to us—ex-lovers, family, or coworkers. If you’re a decent person, like most people are, you won’t want to believe it. Jane from accounting?! She’s still bitter about me turning her down but, really, is that enough for her to pay a hoodoo worker to fuck up my life? Sure. Why not? You have no idea what’s going on in her head. She may just frown at you and avoid eye-contact when you pass her in the hallway, but maybe she’s lurking on your Facebook page, spending a lot of time fixating on why you turned her down, etc. With that in mind, do you think it’s so far-fetched that if she has a few books on magic, she might try something? Maybe she starts searching for “love spells” and comes across a professional’s website. And the rest is, as they say, academic.

In a situation like this, do you want to go to a spiritual entrepreneur who charges you $300 to change your vibration with a $10 quartz crystal and some essential oil? Do you want to go to a cute-as-a-button Wiccan girl on YouTube who says she can sage the bad juju away? Really? How about getting a reading from a teenager on Tumblr who snaps it out in just 20 minutes? Because I’ve been contacted by people who’ve taken that route at first. They nearly always write the following: I’ve gotten burned by workers before. Paid a lot of money and nothing happened. Or got a tarot reading and it made no sense / was totally vague. Or so-and-so cursed me and now my life is in tatters and Jenny the Lightworker told me my chakras were just out of balance. And then I have to clean up both the mess that their lives are in and whatever half-baked work the spiritual entrepreneur did (if anything).

All the new-age stuff, all the Wiccan stuff, all the watered-down pop-occult techniques and Law of Attraction and “abundance manifesting” can work. I don’t want to give the impression that “my way is the only way.” The problem is not actually with the techniques. It’s with the branding and the people who think they can make a living off of others by doing very little beyond curating their feeds and smiling into the camera. Most of the clients I get are desperate and sometimes locked in life-or-death circumstances. Many of them have been victims of baneful magic or a deep run of crossed-up luck or some force, whether human or otherwise, holding them down. They have been unjustly harmed and they feel like their options have become very limited. Understandably, they have no sense of humor about this stuff. They’re not playing. They need help and they need it yesterday.

My recommendation is that if you are one of those people in need, do not waste your time on someone surrounded by a lot of slick e-commerce because that’s where all the energy is going. Instead, look for three qualities in a worker: (1) reasonable rates; (2) professionalism (i.e. scheduling, doing a small diagnostic reading in the beginning, providing updates, not seeming money hungry, ethical); and (3) doing more than just protecting and curating their brand / internet presence. It’s important to keep these things in mind if you want to avoid throwing your time, money, and emotion away on someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

 

 

* I actually love Wicca. I’m not putting it down. I’m putting down those who cynically use it to hook customers in support of a superficial brand.

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

 

Source: On Monetary Compensation for Spiritual Services…

Recommended Spiritual Worker: Madame Pamita

I’m been enjoying Madame Pamita’s insights and comments for a long time.  She’s great.

I like to recommend magical colleagues who I think are particularly talented, smart, and / or skilled.  I am approached by more clients than I can take.  And so, rather than being competitive (a negative characteristic of many public occultists, especially conjure workers), I try to serve the Art by bringing people together.