Showing posts with label espiritismo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label espiritismo. Show all posts


Just shut up and take that bath!

Spiritual baths are a practice. One can be tempted to come to them in a perfunctory or impatient way. It's the thing you do because your spiritual worker or godparent insisted and, well, you have to get it out of the way. A chore. But, really, they are a practice. In santeria (and by extension espiritismo cruzado) all important rituals are accompanied by the ritual washing of something, be they objects or people. These washes are lustral herbal waters that cleanse and prepare but also infuse the object or person with power and blessings. Similarly, in hoodoo spiritual baths figure as an important part of the spiritual workers repertoire of prescriptions for many of the same reasons.

To wash oneself spiritually is a sacred act.

It develops one spiritually. It cleanses and it feeds your spirit. If you want to get into african-derived traditions and you groan and moan implacably about taking a spiritual bath then I have news for you!

You know what? The people who complain the most - the ones that resist and rationalise their way out of baths incessantly - need them more than anyone. There is something about that state of spiritual grubbiness that wants to defend itself. Sometimes it's a spirit that has attached itself to the person and it's whispering in their ear.

Similarly, people sometimes ask how they can develop their mediumship or other spiritual abilities. The best recommendation? Prayer and a routine of spiritual baths. After this particular recommendation one will often get a blank stare, or there will be an awkward pause, and then they ask: but is there a visualisation or an amulet or something?

No, just prayer and spiritual baths.

If the power and efficacy of these are not apparent to you yet, then you should try them as a practice and see what it does for your spiritual development. See what it does for your emotional well-being. Discover for yourself how it enhances your spiritual protection, and your clout as a magician. It is the african magical practice par excellence. There is a good reason for that.


madamas, gypsies, indians and other spiritual guides in espiritismo cruzado

There seems to be some confusion on the internet about the nature of certain spiritual guides that populate the afro-Caribbean varieties of spiritism. For the record: when I talk about espiritismo on this blog I am always talking about my experience in espiritismo cruzado, because that is what I have worked in over the last few years.

It is important to note that there are quite a few different forms of espiritismo in the Caribbean. Just in Cuba alone there are a variety of forms. We find for instance purer kardecian scientific spiritism; then there is espiritismo de cordon; and then also espiritismo cruzado which functions more closely alongside the African-derived traditions such as palo and santeria. Puerto Rico has its own unique forms of espiritismo, where espiritismo and brujeria are very popular and widespread. That's without even going into spiritism in the Dutch Antilles or Brazil! There has been a lot of exchange in those regions too which makes the topic even more complex.

It's good to be specific and mention which stream of practice I am talking about because when we say 'espiritismo' we could be talking about a variety of creolized Kardecian-derived practices - and while they are part of continuum it certainly cannot be claimed that they are a single thing. There is a great deal of variance in practice even though they tend to follow a similar pattern with similar Kardec-inspired themes.

So to get back to the issue I was mentioning; there seems to be confusion about the role and nature of the madama, gypsie, arab, congo, indian etc spirits. It seems worthwhile to present the explanation as I have been taught it in our line of practice with regard to the nature and role of these spirits in espiritismo cruzado.

Firstly, these spirits are considered to be a class of egun, which is to say, the spirit of someone who used to be alive at one time but now works in the spiritual world as guide for the living by bringing their own unique stream of wisdom to the white table. Elevated dead people. So, when an espiritista is talking about 'their' madama spirit they usually mean that they have a muerto that has certain characteristics that allow it to be categorised in that grouping of spirits. They aren't necessarily talking about a single entity called The Madama.

Similarly, you might have a spirit that was a gypsy in life and therefore an espiritista will talk about 'their' gypsy (or their indian spirit, or their arab spirit and so forth). They are usually referring to individual spirits of the dead that fit into that stereotype with whom they are working. These spirits work in their charge's spiritual framework in order to develop themselves spiritually. It's symbiotic. Each person is understood to have network of spiritual entities that have been chosen to guide and protect the medium. And one can and should develop, elevate and expand that network by working with it in a skilled and dedicated way.

As I have been taught you definitely cannot pick and choose these guides. They choose you. What's more; there is a degree of protocol for identifying which spirits reside in your spiritual framework. This usually takes the form of an  'investigation' which is a special misa focussed around a single medium. The other mediums will then spiritually 'investigate' the medium for whom the service is being held to inform him or her about the constitution of their spiritual framework, thereby identifying which spirits they have and what they need to do for them in terms of spirit dolls, offerings, implements, pots and so forth.

This is to avoid self-delusion and the medium getting tricked by evil spirits that want a free ride. Just because you have strong draw to a certain kind of spirit doesn't mean you have that kind of spirit with you. Just because you find a pretty doll doesn't mean you should stick it on your altar and feed it! This is a distinctly inadvisable course of action.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that espiritistas will say that this is dangerous when considering that espiritismo traces almost all illness, variances of fortune or well-being to the influence of good or bad spirits.

That's why it is called spiritism after all.


Snuff out your enemy's tricks

One of the most helpful things about strengthening and building your spiritual framework is that your muertos - the blessed dead who guide and protect the spiritist - begin imparting some very useful information. Of course they bring spiritual power to any work the espiritista performs by empowering it as it is done but they also transmit altogether new workings to the medium. What's important to note here is that the workings that are received in this way are unusually potent because they are fresh - a direct expression of your very own spiritual framework's magical 'language' and tailored to your particular needs.

How that manifests in practice depends on the muerto in question. A gypsy spirit has a certain style of working, while a madama spirit has a somewhat different approach and temperament - just as a chinese or arabic spirit might have their own unique specialities. Each will step in as needed, guiding, nudging and correcting things as you work, based on their specialities. Often these works are surprisingly simple, or even strangely cryptic  - using everyday objects, gestures and ingredients that you might never have considered using in a spell before. Sometimes an irrepressible tune or song bursts out of your throat causing the air to vibrate with spiritual electricity. Yet, no matter how simple the gesture or mundane the object employed it's like a rocket has been lit under the work because it comes straight from the source.

Here is a deceptively simple little work I was given in this manner. It snuffs out pernicious negativity or spells flung at you. Although it's quick and requires a bare minimum of ingredients I've found it to be exceedingly effective.


Holy water
Candle (a short stub of candle is all that is needed)
Clear glass bowl, preferably with a flat bottom.

Open the Bible at the book of Psalms (randomly choosing a page in Psalms). Place the empty glass bowl atop the bible as pictured. Take the candle that you will be using for this work and proceed to spiritually 'clean' yourself with it by passing it all over your body from head to toe, praying as you do that any witchcraft, molochia or any other negativity be removed and transferred into the candle. Let that candle take it all up like a sponge.

Next, drip some hot wax (from another lit candle or tea-light) on the bottom of the bowl and while the wax is still soft, position the spiritually 'dirty' candle so that it will stand securely in the bowl, ready to be lit. Pour holy water into the bowl so that it's roughly an inch deep in water and the base of the candle is suitably submerged beneath the holy water.

Call on God, your ancestral spirits and spiritual guides to snuff out the tricks of your enemies like a flame snuffed out by water. Call them into the holy water. Light the candle and leave it to burn. The flame will eventually meet its demise in the water - dousing any nasty tricks and negativity along with it. 

Finally, peer through the clear glass bottom of the bowl to find a passage that jumps out at you. By means of bibliomancy you will now be able to divine more about this matter. 

Dispose of remains appropriately and then finish off with a spiritual bath to seal in the effect.


Sleeping with water: my first line of defence

Every night I sleep with two glasses of water. The first glass is my drinking water, the second glass is my first line of defence. My drinking water has a lightweight lid on it, to 'close' it off from receiving anything spiritually. Naturally, I don't want to drink any of that junk during the night! 

The second glass of water is the glass which I set to absorb anything coming at me. Every night when I prepare for bed, as part of my night time ritual, just before I jump into bed I will spiritually 'clean' myself over the second glass by brushing my hands over my body and away - finally tapping the accumulated 'stuff' into the glass. This sets the intention that this glass is meant to absorb anything sent against me during the night. 

What's most amazing is I pour both these glasses of water in the same type glass, at the same time, from the same faucet. If you imbiggen the pic above you will notice the lidless glass on the right is filled with bubbles and my drinking glass is completely clear - and as every spiritualist knows: when the glass gets bubbly it has taken on icky spiritual gunk. 

At night when we are sleeping we are often at our most vulnerable spiritually - especially if you are a mediumistic type of person you will find that your sleep time is potentially the first point of contact for all kinds of stuff; both good and bad. This simple glass of water is my first line of night-time defence and a very effective early warning system.

Usually I wake up and both glasses are clear. However, every so often the second glass presents filled with bubbles and then I know something is up. Someone is throwing at me, or there is some other spiritual intrusion that I need to take care of. I take up that 'dirty' glass with my left hand and I pour it down the toilet and flush that stuff away. A single incident of this shouldn't get you all freaked out and paranoid - it's probably just general astral noise and grime getting picked up by the water. If the glass presents like this for several nights in a row however, then I will do a divination to find the source of intrusion and take appropriate action.

I highly recommend this practice to people who move in magical circles where there is potential for spiritual attacks, or to people who are readers or otherwise active in a spiritual scene of some sort. This deceptively simple thing is not only a fascinating demonstration of the mechanics of the watery spiritualist technology that pervades espiritismo, but also highly effective at keeping you spiritually clean and secure.

It's easy, it works and it will save you a lot of problems in the long run, let me tell you!


'Paying' the saints for their help

A recent e-mail conversation with Rose Weaver regarding saint work got me thinking and I would like to post something about the various ways of 'paying' saints for any work they do when you petition them. There is so much information about this on the various social networks and websites and a lot of it can be quite unreliable, frankly.

So firstly before we go into what to pay - it's important that you know you shouldn't 'overfeed' spirits by giving them too much too often (foodstuff and other things). Don't overfeed any spirit. That's one of the first things I was taught as an espiritista. It's counter intuitive because you think that if you ply a spirit with goodies they will favour you more. But for some reason it doesn't work that way. This well-meaning approach seems to make them 'lazy', which is to say, slow to get moving. Why bother if you get loaded with a ton of free stuff anyway, right? It's especially easy to get carried away when you first start with spirit work. I know I did.

You need to find a balance.

Keep it simple but always keep your word. If you promise X, give them X. And it doesn't need to be that extravagant. There will be times that you want to promise something big but that should be for those truly important things. And sure, you might want to make a general show of appreciation by doing or giving them something special once in a while and that's perfectly acceptable - but generally speaking it's better to keep it moderate.

With that side-point about overfeeding out of the way, lets look at the saints specifically:

Some saints certainly do have particular things that they like to receive as offerings (cake, money etc.) It's always good to research the saint you are working with and find out what their traditional associations/likes are and give them those things as payment. It sounds like common sense but a lot of people don't bother. What I see a lot of these days, and find quite irksome, is people simply posting "Thank you St. X!!" as a status update on facebook.

Seriously? You think the saints are on facebook reading status updates?

But I am "spreading their name and fame", I hear you say. Well, actually, only a few of saints are known to find that pleasing. How do we know? It's included in the catholic liturgies and prayers associated with them. I know that St. Expedite likes that, and probably St. Jude because he got a bad reputation due to his association with Judas the betrayer. Unless I am mistaken - there are at best one or two other saints who like publicity as thanks. As for the hundreds or thousands of other saints out there it just doesn't fit.

Also, it's kinda lazy. Traditionally you would publish a notice in a newspaper - but come on - a lousy facebook status update? (That reminds me - you should totally friend me on Facebook. Gordon says the age of blog is almost over and social media is where it's all going. I don't want to miss out). Your petition is fulfilled and all you can bring yourself to do is shuffle over to the computer in your pajamas and post a status update?!

I know I am going to get heat for saying this from all the facebook hoodoos who have popularised this practice but it has to be said: you can do better!

If you are entirely unsure what to offer the saint you are working with, rest assured all saints happily accept flowers. A nice bunch of flowers not only beautifies the altar it also raises the spiritual vibration of an area with its scent and freshness. You really can't go wrong there. Next, considering that these are saints - holy people canonised for their goodness and service - you could consider making a donation to a charity working in the area of their patronage.

This approach is definitely ratified by folk-catholic tradition too. Saint Anthony's Bread is an excellent example. This is a donation collected by churches in the name of St. Anthony and the money is then given to feed the poor. It is said that the practice started in 1263 after a child drowned near the Basilica while it was being built. Desperate, but strong in faith, the child's mother prayed to St. Anthony and promised that she would give to the poor an amount of corn equal to the child's weight if he returned the child to her. After hearing this promise St. Anthony restored the child to life and soon the practice of St. Anthony's Bread began.

Similarly, as thanks for granting your petition you could donate some time or money to a local addiction recovery program in the name of St. Jude, for instance. Or you could donate to a child protection program in the name of St. Michael. There are so many of these worthy charities that I can't think of a more wonderful, and magical, thing than to combine your saint work with kindness and service. Everyone wins!


Let the spirits do the work

I sometimes get asked by curious people - how, exactly, I 'work' magic (as apposed to what methods/systems I employ).

In other words they want to know which inner methods I like to use. Do I visualise the outcome? Do I move 'energy' into the spell-work etc.

The truth is most of my work is done before I ever sew a bag or light a figural candle. I certainly don't visualise things or move energy or use any of those kinds of tricks anymore. I just put the working together using the right materials and techniques (candles, tying, cutting, nailing or whatever), whilst respectfully calling down my muertos - and they do all the work. I'm more like a 'magical event co-ordinator', you could say.

I certainly don't internally 'effort' with it at all because it doesn't make much of difference anymore. I just set up a material basis for a magical working, the so-called 'spell', and they take care of the rest. 

My real job is to take care of them.

I feed them. I give them masses. I follow their instructions by creating dolls, pots and other vehicles that express their presence in my life. I activate them and materialise them in this world with dedicated, attentive and consistent service and in return they help me with my spiritual work. They do all the heavy lifting in that department, honestly.

This was the very first thing I noticed when I watched good espiritistas and other spiritual workers whom I admire, working: there was a matter-of-fact effortlessness about the process. The work was put together in a straightforward and often shockingly simple way and stuff was expected to happen. And did!

There was no big drama. A true elegance and economy of effort was plainly evident in the way they did things. And confidence. The relaxed confidence that comes from knowing that the spirits will take care of things because the spirits have been correctly cared for.


Happy New Year

A bit early, but I thought this is a great contemplation for the end, and beginning, of the year. Thanks to all the sweet people who read this blog as well as those who come to me as clients and friends. May your spirit be blessed, refreshed and renewed in this coming cycle.


The curious chinese map-book and diversity in your spiritual framework

It started with an impulse to take my dusty I Ching to Glastonbury. I had not touched the ancient oracular text in years. Like many I have had the very occasional insight with the book, but for the most part I found it terse, cryptic and too foreign to apply my own experience usually. I tried a different translation, but in the end all those changing lines made my head hurt. Better to open the telephone directory at random, phone up a stranger and ask them a question and interpret their ravings, I told myself. At least there would be no mysterious, impenetrably obtuse 'mountains over lakes' or any of those 'wet foxes crossing a river in the southwest'. Or whatever.

I obeyed the impulse anyway. Especially since it came with that, now familiar, vibratory ping that flashes down from the top of my scalp down to to my heels when I am being prodded by a muerto.

The morning of the workshop and misa I found myself up at an impossibly early hour in my hotel room. Pure agony for a late sleeper such as I. What to do? Out came the yellowed pages of my I Ching, and I attempted my first reading in years with it. It made an uncomfortable amount of sense too. As if a missing circuit in my mind suddenly had been hooked up and the lights of meaning all came on. I spent the next two hours before breakfast studying the reading's hexagrams - puzzled by the unexpected, yet helpful advice of the 3000 year old Sage.

Enthralled, I discovered ancient ancestors being pleased by great offerings. Large dynastic cauldrons filled with animal sacrifices. Angry ghosts troubling people (gui) and spirits of light (shen) descending from Heaven to Earth to inspire. Who knew the ancient Chinese were espiritistas too?

Later I joined Don Azito and Yanu for breakfast, and as we ate we discussed everything we still had to get together for the misa that evening. Yanu interjects to ask padrino if he would allow him to bring a bowl of uncooked rice to the misa. Rice? Yes, Yanu explains - he has the urge to use the rice to cleanse people.

Some oriental flavoured coincidence begins to emerge. I mention my I-Ching discoveries, and we chortle about it as padrino nods along patiently.

Later that day Don Azito and I are hiking down from the Tor after having spent some time listening to neo-pagans drum as we looked out over the glorious vista. On our way back he notices a book discarded on the pavement. We pick it up only to discover that it's a map-book. In Chinese.

A map-book in Chinese?

Don Azito raises and eyebrow and smiles broadly. I scratch my head; partly amused, partly baffled by the sign. Joking about the Chinese spirits in Glastonbury, we toddle down the main street  to St. Martha's botanica to chat with Jamie and Jack about the evenings doings. We enquire after some ribbons and other stuff that we forgot to bring for the misa and Jamie, very helpfully, begins looking around the shop for things that could fill in some of the gaps. He turns around holding up a pack of nine lucky Chinese bells with red ribbons attached - perhaps, he asks, these could be used in some way?

At this piont Don Azito and I couldn't help but to burst out with laughter.

And so the emergence of the Chino spirit in my quadro began. Bizarrely, it seems I had to travel to Avalon of all places to meet her. And along with her came my most recent obsession with the I-Ching, which is this 'new' muerto's tutelary sphere of influence, I feel.

This all sounds frighteningly eclectic, I know, but from the perspective of an espiritista this kind of development makes perfect sense. The quadro espiritual, you see, is built out of many different commisiones. These, roughly speaking, are 'nations' of spirits that all fall into some kind of ethnic and cultural grouping (usually stereotyped); Congos, Indians, Hindus, Gypsies, Oriental, Arab and so forth. In afro-cuban spiritist thought these are all a kind of egun - a variety of ancestral spirit which isn't strictly speaking ancestral, even though they they are part of the Dead. Rather, these are spirits with whom you share a pre-natal connection. An espiritista will usually have variety of them, each bringing with them their own wisdom, specialities, likes and dislikes. As Brujo Luis astutely points out - sometimes they don't all 'get along' either and battle for centrality in the framework. This can play out in the medium's life as a kind of metaphysical struggle as the espiritista is pulled in different directions; manifesting, at times, in a somewhat comedic dissonance as the impulses to chant mantras, do Hatha Yoga and read Patanjali at the invisible prompting of a Hindu muerto potentially overwhelms your other previous spiritual commitments - such as say feeding and serving your African spirits. It's the job of the espiritista to gently balance out these energies and integrate everything usefully in the quadro.

In a peculiar way this aspect strikes me as a somewhat post-modern innovation in the Caribean spiritist traditions. An elegant solution to the issue of globalisation in the spiritual sphere using the container of mesa blanca. You see this reflected in the constitution of the boveda too. As I have been taught - the large goblet in the centre represents your primary tutelary muerto and the smaller glasses that satellite around it are for these different 'nations', or commisiones. How many glasses exactly are put around the main goblet varies - but in our house we are taught that this number is to be given to you in a misa, so it's tailored to your spiritual framework. Some will have three, others seven or nine - all the way up to thirteen glasses could potentially be stationed around the central foci. Each holds the current of an individual commisione which, ideally, functions in harmony with the greater whole.

In practice this becomes a very handy way of integrating different wisdom streams into your spiritual life, all rationally 'contained' within the overarching system. This isn't necessarily based on choice. It happens organically and quite often at the guidance of the spirits themselves in the context of misa or otherwise through dreams and omens. At times you are shoved headfirst into contact with a certain spirit's current of wisdom energy. Even perhaps one you never gave much serious consideration before, such as say - a cosmic map-book from ancient China...


Spirit Tremors

Cancer diagnosis.

A misa has been assembled to help a house member who is gravely ill. Only a handful of espiritistas are gathered to keep the work focussed and the fuss to a minimum. More stress is the last thing she needs now.

The usual cheer and anticipation is muted. Although friendly smiles are exchanged and some small talk takes place, a sombreness pervades the preparations. The table is set up with austerity. The washes are prepared with minimum deliberation. Everyone intuitively understands that padrino wants us to stick to the letter of the form. This is important.

Opening songs and prayers are said.

Even though the opening songs seem more perfunctory than usual, the moment he declares the table open I am hurtled, backwards, it feels, through a swirling storm of light. As disorienting as it is surprising - I am plunged into it that deeply in a single moment. The expected, gradual increase of spiritual energy that is usually felt during the mass is replaced instead by an instantaneous catapulting of consciousness into spirit-space. I am dumbstruck. 

The personal urgency of this situation obviously is matched by spiritual gravity because the usual cacophony of discarnate voices that attend to us - whilst still speaking - seem also unusually hushed and respectful here. Wherever here is. This place is different. 

Tremors begin to grip my body. Although not an entirely unusual phenomenon during a misa, this time the tremors feel like titanic subterranean rumblings rolling up from the Beyond only to awkwardly bang against the limitations of my human form. Too small. I suddenly feel a little frightened. Just as soon, a deep, cool, calm feeling wells up from bellow and washes over me, as if to meet my fear and diffuse it. I am being cooed, consoled and guided deeper across the strange geography of trance... to a terrain where the conscious fears and limitations of the human can be momentarily suspended in order to make way for the oblivion of possession...

I open my eyes quickly and flex and clench my fists to stay in charge and bring myself back. An uncontrolled possession would certainly be bad form now. Or so I tell myself. This is the internal battle I seem to find myself locked in whenever these tremors come on.

She begins to sob softly.

An espiritista gets up to stand in support behind her and another gently touches her hand; part healing rite, part spiritual transmission, part communal catharsis. Mediums begin giving messages but I struggle to follow what is being said as the tremors start up again.

Without warning the ceiling of the living room collapses upward. An incredible celestial architecture is revealed spiralling upward into luminous infinity. The geometry of its design simultaneously impossible and familiar. More incredible, a dazzling network of beings seem to be woven into its structure, and disturbingly, moving in a continuous rotating cycle whilst also paradoxically remaining stationary for its support. 

The unusual, almost hallucinatory, quality of this trance is shocking to me, to say the least. Each medium experiences it differently I am told. For me it's mostly physical; energetic flows, tremors and vibratory undulations combined with fleeting images and whispered voices. This is how the messages are assembled in my consciousness for delivery. As I translate this and the abstraction of what I receive is correctly encoded in ordinary language I will also get additional 'hits' to confirm I am saying the right thing - jolts of pleasant vibration that ping into my body - somatic confirmations from my quadro that I am saying the right thing.

Not this time. Instead, I am plunged into an immersive visionary experience. I can't help but stare upwards into the infinite architecture unfurling above me. A medium across from me looks over with a puzzled expression. We all try to watch out for each other like this in case someone passes a spirit. I must be peering up at the ceiling like a loon, I realise. No matter, because the strange network of beings above us is nearing, their long telescopic fingers reaching down into... everything...with faces; alien, angelic and skeletal. Their movements gently swaying, graceful yet precise a surgeons.

These are not the dead.

Hidden functionaries. Working carefully at the boundaries of embodiment; tweaking, adjusting, guiding beings from form to formlessness and back, I muse to myself, as I watch them operate the machinery of heaven. I would be frightened by the implication but the gentle bone-white symmetry of their bodies is just too beautiful. Their skeletal glances - ancient, curious, caring even.

The other participants are now all staring at me expectantly. They noticed something has just come through and I realise I have to try and say something. We are here to work.

"Jacob's Ladder", I begin.

As these first words are said the rest of the message coalesces in a rapid internal collage of whispers, memories and images forming context and clarification. A bible verse rolled up beneath a pillow. A constellation of stars. A bitter taste spat out. These all rotate around the central image of the angelic fractal escalator above us, forming the message I need to give tonight: a kind of strategy, and hopefully, a path to walk in this dire situation.

There is understanding in her eyes as the symbol shown to me above is given to her. I can sense it working in her. It relates in a way that means something. She recognises it, perhaps on a deeper intuitive level only, but it somehow explains something that before was at the edges of awareness only. That's a good start.

My godbrother begins to cough. At first it seems normal but then the urgency of his coughing increases and he curls over convulsively - as if to expel something invisible. He is passing a spirit, we realise. People begin assisting. It asks for an egg. The egg slips into his mouth in one gulp and he moves in a serpentine movement across her body only to vomit it out again broken. It seems rotten now. The spirit leaves having done it's work. 

Padrino asks me to open the prayer book. During the course of the misa a Kardec prayer book will be opened to a random page at the prompting of a spirit, for guidance. I make the sign of the cross over the book and open it to page 73, letting my eyes settle on the first paragraph on the page:

Living voluntarily: the spirit in space and it's profound boundaries: the world... 

It is not solely Jacob that enraptured the divine Elohim, who sees the legions that from earth to heaven fly bringing blessings down. It is no longer Socrates the genius familiar for his lessons; It is no longer Mohammed who describes when the Archangel Gabriel received the Koran.

It is with Jesus prolific living prophet from Thabor, from whose lap along with Moses and Elias birth the apostolic church with its luminous wings, fervent aura of truth and spirit asking God celestial, in his tenderness,  to come down from heavens in tongues of fire.

Acting like a Kardecian I-Ching the book of prayers produces this startling passage echoing and confirming the vision of Jacob's Ladder. What the Spanish speaking mediums in our house call an "evidencia". Another wave of tremors catches me off guard, this time sweeping from the left side of my body to the right where the book is held in my hand and I almost drop it - as if to punctuate the written words in my hand with a spiritual exclamation. A certain look of understanding passes around the circle - and padrino elaborates on the passage further, explaining its significance to her in Dutch.

She looks hopeful, strengthened and consoled. She thanks everyone for coming. Everyone is genuinely happy and touched - the helpless awkwardness one feels when another person is struck by an incomprehsible calamity replaced, instead, by the experience of having communed with them at the very epicentre of its strike. 

Ultimately, I am humbled, having glimpsed a mystery that I might never have seen unless I was forced to walk through that terrifying gate myself.


Panic at the Boveda

A reader whom I'll call M wrote to me yesterday, somewhat alarmed after she read a warning in my last post about the possibility of things going wrong when working with the dead. She writes:

I live in Kansas and am Internet taught. I was really interested in the ATR's, but I think to truly join the religion I would have to relocate. It isn't my native culture. I'm not working off advice from my mother. It's just I was told that working with your ancestors is something you can never go wrong with. I may never wear collares or have a proper Eshu, but this, I thought, I could do. And I love my ancestors. I enjoy serving them and spending time with them.

Don't panic too much, my warning was mainly directed to those wishing to create spirit pots, spirit dolls, bundles and so forth for the dead. This is a somewhat more nuanced form of muerto work, during which things can in fact go wrong. Trickster spirits love containers. I mean they LOVE, containers. This does not make ancestor work absolutely dangerous, nor does it make it risk free. No spirit work is ever completely risk free. Ancestor work remains a beautiful and wonderful thing. You just need to work it simply at first if you are flying solo, and not get too wild and whacky with what you offer them or use to work with them.

You also need to take your own fledgling mediumistic impulses with a pinch of salt. You may think you 'know' that the spirits told you this or that but unless their presence has truly been established and settled you could just as easily be tuning into your own unconscious babble as you could be listening to some wandering trickster that wants you to feed it - and will then gladly take everything you give it, demand more and use the foothold to turn your life upside down. Unless you have access to another spiritist more senior in experience to yourself to verify these sorts of messages and guide you, its wise err on the side of caution.

This isn't fashionable to say in the DIY post-modern spiritual marketplace. It doesn't sell books and it doesn't stroke the ego of an audience convinced of its own proficiency at all things spiritual when in fact most modern westerners are basically handicapped in this area when compared to the least educated people in the third world, who live with this stuff as the fabric of their culture. 

One of my ideals, always, with this blog - small as it influence may be - is to avoid talking about these traditions in a way that dumbs them down so westerners can more easily consume them. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't. One of the recent trends it seems is the notion that "you can't go wrong with the ancestors". Well you can go wrong with them. These are the spirits of the dead not potplants.

It doesn't mean we should be terrified by them. A healthy respect, informed practice and some education about how to do it right goes a long way, however. It may also save you some tears in the long run. In the mean time keep it very simple and go slowly. If you work sincerely with them in this way, I can guarantee you they will put your feet on the path and guide you to the right people who can support you in your spiritual development.

It's their job.


The Craft of the Dead

Everyone is entitled to work with their dead. If you have ancestors, you have a network of potentially powerful spirits who care about you and are willing to get involved with you spiritually, in one capacity or another. However, don't be too easily fooled. Even though these are our relatives, ancestral spirits can get pernicious, moody and mischievous. In our daily lives our relatives often cause us the most stress and anxiety, and this can also be mirrored in the spirit world - just as the support and unconditional love we receive from them is. They can test us with trials. Occultists have a tendency to believe you can dial up spirits the way you dial up pizza delivery, expecting that they will arrive in a friendly, efficient and service oriented fashion. Not so with the ancestral forces.

The reason that the muerto (dead) can be so powerful is because people who work them well - with wisdom and skill - take the time to establish them and strengthen their influence gradually. Most of an espiritista's work is in the cultivation of this foundation by; feeding them; listening to them and then following their instructions carefully; elevating them in services; assembling spirit containers; creating spirit dolls; crafting bundles and other items through which they express their power in structured ways. In this manner the dead begin to take on a tangible and respectful presence in our world. We help give them form once more just as they help give us luck, prosperity and protection. We continually fine tune that process with increasing subtlety and precision. This is the true craft of a muertero - one who passes the spirits.

It's a highly individualised and creative process too, and this is because each muerto is has their own peculiarities. As such we need to be ready to get your hands dirty - to make things; to sew, bead, paint and carve. Yet, this is more than an eccentric craft project because it holds some true spiritual peril too. A wrong move, one cavalier blunder in the early stages of this kind of work and unwanted or outright malign forces could find a foothold in our lives, bringing a destabilising knock - derailing the entire process. And this will cause major havoc in our lives, to say the least.

Above all it is a timely, organic process. A true craft in every sense of the word.

Many assume once you have made contact, that's it, an ancestral spirit is 'here' and ready to work. But really, getting in touch is only the first step. They need time and disciplined cultivation to really start coming through manageably. Their range of influence needs be brought into the world gently at first and then rooted artfully.

As Don Azito likes to say, "we need to clean them up".

Whenever he says this to someone I can't help but picture a ragtag bunch of folks out in the astral. People dressed in old clothes, dusty, rendered in sepia tones like an old photo - all a little confused as if they have wandered forgetful in a strange dream for too long. Then once we start working them, they gradually begin to brighten up, colour returns to their forms, cheer to their faces and a sparkle to their eyes as they begin to remember...

Otherwise it can get a little crazy. A spiritual cacophony as some try to push and shove to the front, and begin 'helping' in ways that really isn't all that helpful at all. Or demand to be heard when they don't have much to say just yet. It's seems odd to say but we need to 'train' the dead.

The good news is, it can be done.

This is why we work consciously at first by elevating them and calming them, before we make demands. The water we offer on the boveda is a medium through which they express, a kind of conductor fluid, sure. But also, and very importantly, it is there too cool them and refresh them. We pray for them, we enlighten them, we soothe them, and by illuminating them in this way their relationship to us and each other becomes harmonised and increasingly structured and workable. The more reliable spirits in our quadro espiritual (spiritual framework) start taking charge of the others and acting as a conduit for the totality of the ancestral forces. The more 'civilised' spirits then start 'bringing in' the wilder, and more tangibly powerful ones, once things are stable enough to do so. These 'leader' spirits - whom we systematically identify and propitiate - begin acting as intermediaries who are able to integrate the 'hotter' ancestral forces in a good, and useful way.

In a very real sense we are weaving a living spiritual architecture, a constellation of discarnate intelligence  whom are all interacting with each other in precise ways to, ideally, bring forth a unified and balanced necromantic ecosystem. On another more subjective metaphysical level it can be argued that we are aligning our own personal energetic framework, that interior dimension; finely calibrating and optimising the very core of our own psycho-cosmic identity using its most primal building blocks - our spiritual genetics.

Once a sane vehicle is built for that journey, the wilder forces in the ancestral matrix can begin finding constructive expression in our work, and can be fed those 'hot' substances that get the dead moving...

In this way we pave a road for them to pass into our world. A road that is both secure and reliable. And so the true miracles can happen...

we are the stars which sing
we sing with our light;
we are the birds of fire,
we fly over the sky.
our light is a voice;
we make a road for the spirit to pass over

{algonquian indian song}


Upcoming Workshops in the UK

I am happy to announce my padrino, Don Azito; godbrother, Yanu Zsigo; and I are taking our show on the road to the UK, so to speak. We will be offering a two day workshop both at the beautiful and mystical Glastonbury Grail Centre and at Treadwells in London. So if you are close to either of those locations I highly recommend you join us - it's going to be something special!

Hoodoo and Afro-Caribean Spiritism : a two day workshop

Day 1: Introduction to Espiritismo Cruzado and the misa espiritual with Don Azito
Day 2: Introduction to Hoodoo Conjure Craft with a hands-on candle magic workshop, with Balthazar

Date: Wednesday to Thursday, July 27 - 28 · 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: Grail Centre, 24 Chilkwell Street, Glastonbury, Somerset.

Date: Saturday to Sunday, July 30 - 31 · 6:30pm - 10:30pm
Location: Treadwells, 33 Store street, Bloomsbury, London WC1, E7BS

Each workshop is limited to 20 seats. Day 1 & 2 together £125. Individually; £ 75 p/Day

For London bookings and information please get in touch with by clicking on the “contact me” link at Once space is confirmed you will receive a paypal invoice for the workshop fee, which will secure your space.

For Glastonbury bookings to or call Jamie ; 0044 01458830999

Day 1: Espiritismo workshop and Misa Espiritual

Don Azito will introduce participants to the practice of mesa blanca (white table mediumship) in the context of the afro-caribean spiritist tradition. Espiritismo and the misa espiritual (spiritual mass) offers a subtle and potent technology for communing with our ancestral forces. By developing our spiritual framework - the unique network of ancestral entities that support and guide each person - we are able to move into greater wholeness, personal power and spiritual effectiveness. By stabilising the influence and power of the dead in this way we not only develop spiritually, we also illuminate and elevate the spirits - aiding their evolution in return. Through this reciprocal relationship a blessed guiding force permeates our life, bringing increased stability, prosperity and wisdom to the espiritista. Ultimately, the espiritista is given the opportunity to serve and empower their community - sharing their own spiritual gifts and blessings with others.

During the course of the workshop Don Azito will give teachings on:

  • A brief history of espiritismo in Cuba and Puerto Rico and its interrelatedness with Santeria
  • How to correctly construct and maintain a personal boveda
  • The core mechanics of conducting the misa espiritual
  • How to prepare banjos (spiritual washes) for the misa
  • The correct use of perfumes in the afro-caribean spiritist tradition
  • How to make use of Kardecist prayers and invocations

Don Azito will lead everyone in learning some of his favourite songs used during a misa to invite contact with our ancestral guides. He will also give advice for the development of each participant's mediumship as well as some important precautions to take into account to ensure healthy and sane evolution in the tradition.

The workshop will culminate in a full spiritual service (misa) during which participants will receive messages, cleansings and learn more about their own quadro espiritual (spiritual framework) via the conduit of experienced espiritistas led by Don Azito.

The workshop includes a CD with all the songs covered during the workshop to take home and use later. Don Azito will be available after for individual spiritual readings and coaching.

Please note: All participants are kindly requested to wear light coloured clothing, preferably white, and a white headscarf or cap. White is associated with funerary practices and therefore the dead in Yoruba tradition (which flows into espiritismo cruzado) as well as imparting a subtle sense of lightness and purity necessary for the propitiation of the dead. Strictly no black clothing is allowed during the misa.

More about Don Azito:

Don Azito was crowned as a priest of Yemaya in Cuba in 1998 and is the proprietor of La Botanica. The padrino (godfather) of an active ile (santeria house) in Amsterdam Netherlands, born in New York and of hispanic decent, Don Azito was immersed in espiritismo from an early age. His mother and aunts were skilled espiritistas recognised for their healing abilities and powerful prayer. Azito himself began falling into trance and spiritually cleaning neighbours and family as a young child. He opened his Botanica in 1990 and is deeply committed serving the community and transmitting afro-carribean spirituality in Europe. He is especially inspired by the transformative power of espiritismo and communicates its potential with great clarity and enthusiasm. He is admired for his gentle character, integrity and compassion by all his godchildren, clients and extended spiritual family in Amsterdam, Cuba and New York.

Don Azito's mother Gladys

Day 2: Introduction to hoodoo and practical candle conjure workshop

Famed for its results, hoodoo and rootwork have attracted an impressive reputation in practical magic. In this workshop we will be introduced to conjure with a historical and metaphysical overview of this vibrant system of African American folk-magic. The talk will be followed by hands-on workshop covering the basics of hoodoo candle work and the practice of setting lights. Spiritual candle work is one of hoodoo's most useful and basic tools; and when done correctly is highly effective in facilitating almost any magical outcome. We will learn how to cleanse and prepare our vigil light,  baptise it and then breathe life into it - thereby empowering it for the spell. We will then dress and 'fix' the candle correctly, using magical oils and powders.  We will also learn more about the subtle art of writing petition papers. Each participant will complete the workshop with a properly prepared and empowered vigil candle to take home to burn and thereby expedite the magical goal of their choice.


During the workshop Chad will discuss:

  • The three essential components that any conjure work needs to bring lasting results
  • How to empower yourself and your spell-work with the unique african perspective behind the religious symbolism at the heart of hoodoo
  • How to blast your magical work into the stratosphere with extemporised prayer
  • How to incorporate ancestral forces into your work safely and sanely
  • How to 'think' folk-magically
  • A few personal hard-won tips and secrets for developing your spell-craft

More about Chad (De heer Balthazar)

Balthazar is a professional folk magician, card reader and espiritista. A proud Lucky Mojo certified practitioner (1479G), born and raised in Africa, he descends from a line of mediums, dreamers and madmen. In addition to his studies with miss Cat Yronwode he is a student of a respected southern "old-style" conjure worker. He is also a santeria initiate and practitioner of espiritismo cruzado - a form of afro-caribbean spiritism. He informs these practices with the traditional Xhosa and Zulu perspectives on ancestor work and a little ‘muti’ (medicine) learnt back home in South Africa. An avid blogger and writer he regularly contributes to the Hoodoo & Conjure Quarterly, as well as the forthcoming Conjure Codex: Red published by Hadean Press. He currently lives in Amsterdam with his spouse where he reads cards, writes and conjures irrepressibly.


The Art of Difficult Messages

There comes a time as a reader or as a medium when you need to give a difficult message. The way I read cards is rather point-blank in the sense that the systems I use tend to be pretty fixed interpretatively. In other words it isn't all that easy to embroider or obfuscate when something is being shown that is challenging. The same goes when receiving something from a spirit mediumstically - some spirits don't give up until it has been said, and said right.

So there comes a time that one has no choice but to give a hard message. As messengers throughout history have demonstrated this isn't all that easy. There is the inclination to try to please the client and certainly nothing quite as enjoyable as hearing a client wax-lyrical about your reading when it hit the spot for them. However, with certain difficult messages, especially messages that might dent the ego of the sitter, you can be pretty darn sure that the warm fuzzy glow won't be there at the end of the reading. In fact some people might get entirely huffy, or even outright argumentative. The ego does not like being exposed, mine included!

Then there is another variant to this problem; delivering what I like to call the "coded message". These often enough come directly from spirits through a medium but they can show up in a card reading too. The coded message is a message that seems to have a riddle-like quality, or the quality of being somewhat cryptic. The coded message acts like a spiritual time bomb. When the time is right it blooms in the consciousness of the client and with that comes that most potent outcome of any spiritual reading: personal revelation. A unique and profound insight transforms the client as the message aligns itself perfectly with a series of events that allow it to become decrypted in a luminous flash. A higher order of meaning comes out of this phenomenon - one quite impossible to deliver from mouth to ear.

Nonetheless, the coded message can leave the client a little confused and irritable. Everyone likes clarity after all. Delivering a coded message takes even more skill and confidence than giving a hard message because frequently the message is coded in such a way that it does not even make sense to the reader. Yet, the reader or medium knows it must be said. This can leave the reader feeling foolish as the client rolls their eyes and sighs in a critical puff. A way must be found to offer the coded message up in such a manner that it enters the mind of the client gently but firmly enough that when the time is ripe it can trigger revelation.

Therefore, when the client's back is up because what you said hit a nerve; or because you have given a seemingly cryptic message; or the reading has not proven to fit with their cozy expectations in some way, one comes to a critical juncture in the reading. Do you assert your point (and yourself), or do you back down? Either route can have troubling results if chosen poorly. If you press on tactlessly because your own ego is getting drawn into the fray you risk the danger of projecting something the client is unready for and therefore  potentially harmful. Readers do make mistakes, even if they don't like to admit it. Conversely, if you cede in an effort to pacify them you run the risk of not impressing upon the client the true and very vital message they were supposed to receive. The very reason they were brought before you.

Sometimes you have to take that leap of faith. You need to be firm and run the risk of pissing off the client if your experience and ability confirms that a message indeed should be heard. This isn't easy. The client will often enough get ornery and the session might end with some tension in the air, or worse with an unhappy customer.

But the fact is that a happy customer is not necessarily a well served one.

Eventually you have to stand your ground, with as much sensitivity and compassion as you can muster. There comes a time to blunt. If you choose that time well, what will happen is that in due course the client will return having seen the outcome of your message, and thereby been softened up by the fates so to speak. They will be more willing to listen with an open mind next time; and they will respect and appreciate your firmness as coming out of deeper sense of concern for them.

Our responsibility as readers then is to refine our communication skills as much as we can, and to listen to our clients and deliver that difficult but crucial message with as much tact and intelligence as possible.

It might just be the message that changes their life.


Androcentric Spirit Yoga

Spirit-work, to my way of thinking, could be described as a mystical world-view based, in part, in the spiritist perspective as the doctrine relates to discarnate forms of intelligence and their influence on the living; but more importantly, it can also be looked at as a kind of dynamic animism. Which is to say; the notion that our physical world, our universe and its contents are animated; alive, intelligent and willing - heck eager - to relate to us.

That this world of ours isn't a cold lump of dead stuff or some kind of entropic chemical stew. Rather, that there is a vital spiritual intelligence behind the things around us and that these intelligences can be contacted; relationships formed and thereby we are able to move into profound relationship with our world itself.

This very world. The trees, mountains, rocks and rivers, sure - but also seemingly pedestrian things such as a door, a road, a candle, some dirt. Similarly, discarnate forms of human life, instead of being seen as having gone elsewhere (if anywhere at all), are embraced as having a continued and vital role to play in our story. This point of view is androcentric rather than transcendent in that it is intimately intertwined with the condition of our present life, community and of the world. Its a healthy eschatology that expects a vibrant participation in fabric of life by the forces of death - rather than death being the dualistic cancellation thereof.

At first spirit work seems to relate itself to a practical magical agenda. Oriented to improving our life in some pragmatic material way, or alternatively, as a means of extracting an iota of meaning from our lives as society seems increasingly mechanistic; lost in the the stupor of entertainment, production and consumerism. But with amazement we discover as we move deeper into the dance with the spirits, that while at first it seems we work the spirits, later, it becomes quite clear that in fact it is the spirits who are working us.

We try so very hard to do the work. Great effort might go into changing our state of consciousness in order to hear the spirits; or we strain to learn the methods and devices to call them successfully; we effort to make sense of what they mean when they speak - only to discover that they change our consciousness before we can, that they come before we even call them, that they teach us without us ever even knowing.

We are the ones getting evoked. Inexorably sucked into the slipstream of the numinous.

We find ourselves changing without knowing why, without daring to guess how we could have changed, and in ways we could never have accomplished had we tried to do so ourselves. We discover that we are held, guided and then shaken - at times utterly destroyed - and then remade anew.

This wasn't the project of self-perfection by design. We were never tormenting ourselves with stick-and-carrot game of enlightenment. Yet things became increasingly perfect, even when messy. We noticed ourselves filled with more light every day.

Finally, we begin to recognise we are are in fact deeply, deeply blessed and that we can share that blessedness with others; and that we can be whole and well again in the simplest, yet most profound way.



Divinatory Literacy

I have had the good fortune of being able to read for people from all over the world lately. What I have discovered is that people that hail from countries which have a culture of divination (even if it was just something that the older folks did) tend to get far more out of a reading than those that don't (very broadly speaking of course). I think I have come up with a term for this: divinatory literacy.

Allow me to me elaborate. On Thurday evening I attended a regular bi-weekly misa and this was an unusually small misa because of a furious storm raging in Amsterdam on Thursday. Not one easily put off by storms and in need of a good cleansing I jump on my bicycle, (almost getting blown into a canal) and I made my way to the centre, to find a small group of damp but determined espiritistas.

When a misa is smaller the format changes somewhat. In the larger 20-plus people misas there is an 'audience' that sits in rows and the white table gets 'worked' by a group of espiritistas in the front. They step into the audience and give messages or pull people out to cleanse etc. However, in the smaller misa everyone sits in a circle and as such everyone becomes a medium and is allowed to give messages from the spirits who come to attendance. The idea being that there is no hierarchy in espiritismo and that a junior medium can possibly give a message to an elder in need of it. Or even more interesting - sometimes one medium will get one fragment of a message and another medium another piece and together they make sense.

Anyway, in this smaller group setting an elder explains the rules in the beginning so that the whole thing does not devolve into chaos with people talking at the same time or worse. The first rule being don't cut a medium off, apart from being rude it cuts off the contact to that spirit which is disrespectful to the spirit. Secondly, when you are given a message from a medium that makes no sense whatsoever (and some messages do sound strange indeed) - don't argue with the medium. It isn't a discussion circle. Once you try and enter into a whole discussion with the medium the spirit contact weakens, and really, what you have is two egos bumping together which is a waste of time. Worse, our elder informs us, is that this then sabotages the energetic dynamics at a misa and the whole thing devolves into a less healing experience and more irritating/confusing one.

If you get a message that is confusing you are supposed to just hold onto it and if in time it still makes no sense then you let go of it as mere gibberish. Sometimes the message comes out wrong or gets given to the wrong person altogether. However, what happens usually is a few days later something happens and BAM it makes sense. The spirits experience time differently - so they might be talking about a future context and that message only falls in place when a certain set of circumstances are in place. They don't care if you don't understand it now. You will.

So the idea is to be relaxed and open - at least for the duration of the misa. Later you can be critical. In your daily life experience the whole thing plays out and you get to see what the validity of it all was. And let me tell you; I have received some truly bizarre messages that fall into place with such incredible clarity that I felt like I might faint with shock.

I have noticed at misas and during my own client readings; those who get the least out of the experience are the ones who are going, yeah but, yeah but, yeah but. It's not making any rational sense yet, you see. Westerners are addicted to reason. I had someone come to see me the other day who upon plonking themselves down on the chair across from me informed me, arms folded, that they are in fact a 'critic'.

Oh joy.

What this really means is that I am supposed to play the psychic mystery revelation game with them. This is where you pull something out of your hat that so unlikely, so spot-on, that only someone familiar with the most intimate details of their life could have possibly known it. And you know what? Even if you do that, even then, they will tighten up their body language turn their head ever so slightly - one supposes to cut of those invasive psychic rays - and inform you that this was due to some marvellous guess work.

My job isn't to make believers. I have no interest in converting anyone to the wonder and joy of interacting with the numinous directly or the satisfaction of living the magical life. I do have an interest in getting people their money's worth, or getting something out of the reading at least. Even if it was just talking to someone about your personal experience in a supportive context. Coming to it with a closed attitude is a total waste of time. Further, it places the reader in the awkward position being tested in some way. Now, a reader is being tested for ability during every single reading they give anyway - this is a given. Just as a pilot is being tested during every flight. This is different to having a nosey passenger sit up front in the cockpit scrutinising all the dials. "I don't believe in flying anyway" they might interject during take-off.

Why then, dear sir, did you buy the ticket?

This I put down to divinatory literacy. Which is having a certain understanding and attitude towards divination and the diviner. Which, mind you, isn't the same thing as blind faith. No, divinatory literacy is about cultivating an open attitude and being willing to make contact with the sacred. One in which the most critical part of the self is put on hold for the time being while the more playful, receptive part of the self is allowed to come out. It's not unlike the attitude that you might have when going to see a film, or listen to a new piece of music. You don't hype it too much for yourself or you might be disappointed and you don't arrive with your clip-board and qualitative evaluation checklist either. You just relax and let it happen.

In addition, a good reading really proves its value over time. Sure you might have a few things lock into place for you there and then, or get some details about the past you might only have known about (which can be affirming too), but what you want is something that helps you navigate ahead. The reader interprets the cards, shells, chart or whatever the tool being used is but the sitter then has the job to carry that seed given during the reading and to interpret it further for themselves as their own life unfolds. There will be parts that make no rational sense but if you stay open things begin shifting inside (and outside), lining up just right, and then there might be a sudden insight that can be profoundly transformative.

People that come from countries, communities or families where there is a culture of divination, it seems, have an instinctual relationship with diviners that comes passed down to them. Part of it respect and faith, sure - but from what I can tell it mostly is the willingness to make some space and time for that which is not altogether rational and possibly therefore, wondrous.



In the light of what Jason recently posted about his altar reconfigurations, and the general altar talk around the blogs - thought to share some altar pics.

My Boveda Espiritual. This has a very, very cool energy and is where I do my daily praying and interaction with all helpful the spirits in my tableau; ancestors, guides, saints etc. My favourite place in the house.

This is the home of Holy Mother Death. 

St Cyprian of Antioch and St. Michael share the protection shelf which watches the door to the conjure room. 

There are a couple more, but they have client work in progress on them and I don't really like it all that much when people look at that. I am having a space crises at the moment, I just don't have enough place for everything I do lately - major motivation to find a new house.

Another of Santa Muerte in a different outfit, she likes to wear different things for different occasions. 


All you really need are water and candles

I love collecting spell ingredients, especially hard-to-find stuff or items that require a journey of some sort. Labouring to get something for a spell brings something extra to the work - your mission reflects your seriousness and determination, which in a very real sense also becomes fuel for the spell. It disappoints me when people get  lazy and want to substitute things that are not even that hard to get. It reflects a convenience store mentality which I think antipathetic to folk magic - and to magic in general. Magical work after all is, well, work.

Having said that, one can also get into a materialistic mind set where you become so dependent on certain ingredients that you are unable to do spell work when you don't have access to them. Along with this comes the restless pursuit of buying every herb, root and oil that you can find in the catalogue of your favourite botanica or conjure shop. You become a collector more than a practitioner, and spiritual merchants will try to foster this mentality in you given half the chance. It's good for business!

One of my espiritismo elders recently inspired me not to get too wrapped up in complexity. All you really need, you see, are water and candles. You would be amazed what you can pull off when you have a good relationship with your spirits, a glass of water and some candles.

Water plays an important role in espiritismo as in many of the New World traditions influenced by Alan Kardec. Seen as the life-stuff of the universe, the cosmic plasma, and the universal spiritual conductor. Taking this into consideration it soon becomes clear how vital and useful it is for spirit work and magic. We place water on our altars to refresh the spirits but also to give them a medium to egress through in to our world. It expresses a primordial clarity, wellbeing and coolness. It perfectly holds a prayer or intention making it an exceedingly useful manifesting tool. It draws in negativity and ill intent, purifying the environment.

Candles in turn, in the simplest sense, are symbolic of the animating spark of spirit. The symbolism of light and heat of fire in contrast to the coolness of water needs no further elaboration. As devotional devices candles naturally evoke  catholic tradition's offertory methods but the process of flame consuming fuel undoubtedly releases something numinous - heat and energy - both spiritual and mundane.

Taking a little water in the palm of your hand and breathing a prayer or petition into that, and then very lightly dressing a candle is enough to set the work in motion. Similarly, a candle offered to a saint or spirit along with a glass of water allows that spirit to work through the water - that water might then be used to dress oneself, a talisman or medal, or an area. You might drink a few sips to imbibe the effect.

You can write your petition or prayer on paper, fold it and place it beneath the glass of water which then subtlety 'transmits' that message in the spiritual. Conversely, negativity can be called out of something and into a glass of water and this then can be disposed of suitably. Similarly candle wax holds a 'charge' - positive or negative. A candle can be taken and swept over the body calling any negative influences into it and then lit - burning up that mess. Looked at in this way you might discover that these most basic of tools hold many more mysteries.

So, consider the humble glass of water and the modest candle - they might be all you need.