Unblocking Tarot Reversals

Reversals are an interesting if somewhat misunderstood aspect of the tarot, and even though reversals are commonly interpreted negatively in a divinatory sense - I believe they also open up some cool magical possibilities. How can this be, I hear you ask? It's my belief reversals always offer a querent some latent opportunities. This is especially true when a positive card is found reversed in a key position in the spread. To me, this often says that the energy of that card is available in the situation but it is just being experienced as blocked, delayed or otherwise obstructed energetically in some way. 
For instance, when we find the Two of Cups reversed in the outcome of a love reading that might not bode all that well - this might normally be read as quarrel, disharmony or an otherwise problematic situation for relationships. However, in my experience this also means that the energy of the upright Two of Cups is still available to be tapped into, it's just not manifesting in the way we would like it. I find the energy model useful when discussing the cards in this way. One might say that the energy that a card represents is flowing through the querent's life on a causal level but somehow when it manifests it comes out a bit distorted. There is nothing wrong with the basic energy, it's just the expression that is problematic. Tweak the expression with some magic and bingo we have wired up the situation to have access to that energy in a healthy way again.

So how to work magically with that notion? Well, this certainly would depend on the message of the reading as a whole and the needs of the querent, but there is a little trick I have been experimenting with that I would like to share today:

If you find a reversed card in a key position of a spread that would otherwise promise a desired outcome if it were upright - take the card out of the spread, place it on your altar on top of the querent's name paper. Take a candle of the appropriate colour, then butt and reverse the candle. Dress it with uncrossing oil, along with another appropriate condition oil for love, money or whatever positive aspect the card would normally express upright. Place the butted and reversed candle on top of the card in a small saucer so you don't drip on your card. Around this sprinkle uncrossing powder along with crab-shell powder in a counter clockwise circle. You might want to powder the card lightly too. Pray over this all and burn it in sections daily for seven days, turning the card back a little bit each day. Keep working it daily so that the energy becomes unblocked and the cards upright quality is expressed positively once again in the situation as you gradually turn it upright. 

Of course you want to combine this with additional appropriate conjure work, tailored to the situation. If you try this - let me know how it works for you!


Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves

This is an impossibly exquisite medieval masterwork that just knocked my breath away. The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is an ornately illuminated manuscript produced by an anonymous medieval dutch artist in a Gothic style. The fantastic mythic power of these images just floors me. It's all digitally captured and you can zoom in and inspect the work up close. What a marvel that you can see this online! The Christian mythos rendered through medieval imagination is something that truly fascinates and inspires me: stirring subterranean parts of consciousness like no other images in my opinion. 


Practical Grimoirium Verum Sorcery

I have been talking a lot about my work with the saints this last while so I thought it time to do some blogging with the other hand.

One of the many very interesting things about the Grimoirium Verum is the numerous ways in which one can approach the grimoire. Sure, you can go by way of the formal evocation procedure, creating all the tools and going the full ceremonial conjuration route - yet the Verum offers several fertile avenues for engaging with it's system or crafting practical spellwork that calls on its spirits - especially if you are coming to the Verum from a hoodoo perspective, as I am. This is where Natural and Supernatural Secrets in the second part of the grimoire really shines. This section describes spells that operate outside the text's primary ceremonial evocation context, while still drawing on the grimoire's system; offering several very interesting formulas -  or self-contained systems, really - that can be adapted successfully to produce new Verum based spells and workings.

As mentioned, these smaller systems call on the Verum hierarchy of spirits, sigils and orations and apply them in rather practical and familiar folk-magical patterns that dovetail seamlessly with hoodoo, in my opinion. I mean, one exemplar piece of GV malefica uses spirit seals in conjunction with footrack magic and coffin nails for crying out loud! It doesn't get more old fashioned conjure than that. Don't even get me started talking about the implications of the lodestone and graveyard dirt in the book. The author of the True Grimoire gives some excellent hints for furthering Natural and Supernatural Secrets adaptations for practical spellwork. And when one investigates Secrets more closely in that light one soon begins to see the possibilities this presents to hoodoos with a goetic streak. Or goetes with a hoodoo streak, for that matter.

As mentioned, one of the reasons some might find the Natural and Supernatural Secrets chapter a useful entry point to start with the grimoire is that it offers stand alone spells which don't necessarily require a full ceremonial evocation. This might be attractive to those who feel a little wary of the blood pact mechanism of the core system.  Jake offers a very versatile adaptation from Secrets which is a parchment based talismanic spell system and derives from what he describes as the Verum talisman form. It's awesome, and it's very elegant but I wont say much more about it you should check out in the True Grimoire, the author will be able to describe it better than I.

However, many other possibilities remain, especially when one approaches Natural and Supernatual Secrets with a working knowledge of hoodoo repertoire. Much of what seems like straight-up malifica - which is to say: capricious spells that hurt or kill - are in fact clever conjure systems that can be used in variety of ways, to help or harm, especially as one begins to examine the versatility of the underlying principles of the spells. It then becomes as straightforward as intelligently substituting spirit names, sigils, orations and gestures in alignment with the new intention to have entirely different effect. Needless to say these spells use the Verum's spirits to expedite their working, as the grimoire notes: "In the second part are expressed the secret, both natural and supernatural which operate by power of the Demons"; which provides me with what experience has  proven to be the most efficacious means to practical magic: spirit-driven spellwork.

I am in process of conducting multiple Secrets adaptations that are extrapolated from these sub-systems contained in this (I believe neglected) part of the grimoire in an effort to develop this very interesting area further and I have to say I have been very pleased, both by versatility of the practical applications as well as the accessibility. I have been a little torn about posting more regarding all this because even though the spell permutations are reasonably straightforward in their overall conception and execution a lot needs to be said about relating these correctly, and safely, to the grimoires magical current and spirit hierarchy. Framing it thus is complex and I have written quite bit on my work with this so far, yet I am not quite satisfied to share it until more experience has been gained with it and the Verum as a whole.

Will keep you posted as things develop.


Some Lamp Examples

Someone asked about pictures. Here are some lamps created in plain old ceramic bowls. I will try to post a photo tutorial on putting one together. Its pretty easy, although one needs to experiment a bit to see what works with your materials before conjuring with one to avoid the disappointment of a lamp going out unexpectedly.

The Mighty  St Joseph Job-Getting Lamp.

A secret money lamp formula which I will never divulge.

A St Martha Domination Lamp. 


The Road Opening Lamp

As part of my ongoing celebration of the ancient art of lamp magic, I bring you a Road Opening Lamp. I love lamp magic as you can probably tell by now. The magic lamp is like the vigil light's older, bigger brother combined with the extra power of a container spell. They work fast, and they keep up a formidable magical pressure until results manifest. 

This lamp sweeps blocks and hindrances from a person's path that may be barring progress or success: to open the road. I prefer hand-making magical lamps using a fireproof bowl or dish, vegetable oil and cotton bandage. Working like this I can empower every part of the lamp; praying over the wicking, oil and ingredients as it is put together ritually. The building of the lamp itself becomes a sacred act. Additionally, because these sorts of lamps burn using vegetable oil as fuel they are not smelly like kerosene. You could conceivably adapt this working to a kerosene lamp but I would not recommend it. Traditional, vegetable oil burning lamps are truly ancient magical devices evoking both biblical and classical Hellenistic tradition, as well as seeing wide spread use throughout the New World traditions today. 

Road Opening Lamp
Ceramic Bowl or Dish
Cotton bandage and tinfoil
Vegetable oil
Crossroads dirt
Two keys
Lemon grass
Angelica root chips
Petition paper with petition
St. Peter Holy card or statue
Florida water

Set up an altar space for St. Peter with his holy card or statue. Offer glasses of water with a few drops of Florida Water added. Place the dish or bowl that you will be using as your lamp-well on the altar in front of these. Place your petition underneath the bowl, dressed with road opening oil in a five-spot pattern. Be sure to add some personal concerns folded into the petition so that a strong magical link is created between the lamp and the client. If necessary tape these to the bowl.

The Dirt
The crossroads dirt you will want to collect from a crossroads that feels, well, open. Trust your instincts. You don't want to get dirt from a congested intersection where there are many accidents. An intersection with a church is excellent. I sometimes get my dirt from from a peaceful crossroads in the forest. Leave a small offering for the spirits of the crossroads when you take the dirt, specifically asking that roads for the client in question be opened. One Hyatt informant recommended an offering of whiskey and salt*. I found whiskey and a few coins will do nicely too. How do you collect dirt from an intersection with asphalt? A dustpan and hand broom that's how! You wont get a bucket-load but you will get enough to use in a spell.

The Keys
For the keys: find two keys that speak to you, that whisper the promise of opened doors. They need to be roughly the same size and not too large - so they can rest easily on the bottom of the bowl. I have a jar full of old keys of different sizes that I have collected and whenever I use any in my conjure I spend some time with a pendulum and my intuition selecting the perfect key for that job. Keys are powerful conjure objects, each with its own magic and personality. Some keys look like they are meant to open doors, others look like they are supposed to lock doors. Make sure to pick two that feel like they will open doors in this case. The keys of course represent St. Peters keys with which he was given the power to open and close all doors; to lock or unlock the gates of heaven itself, as the bible says:
"I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."– Matthew 16:18-20 (NIV)

Firing Up the Work
Take a block of camphor and crush it mixing it with your crossroads dirt*. Deposit a large pinch of the dirt/camphor mixture on the bottom or the bowl or dish. Next place the keys flat (pointing upward to represent opened doors) on top of the dirt. Position them so they form an X, like this:

We are going to empower those keys with fire and prayer, to burn away the blockages and lay the foundation for the spellwork. Pour a decent splash of Florida Water over the key and dirt/camphor (but not too much!). Next, take a match and carefully light the Florida Water. As fragrant blue flames flare up over key and dirt you can extemporise a prayer spontaneously as the Spirit moves you, or alternatively, pray :

By these holy flames that burn away impurities, by these flames that bless, by these flames that blaze bright and burn away all blockages; blessed St. Peter, I ask that roads be opened and doors be unlocked because Christ our Lord spoke and said unto you "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Amen

The effect of the keys blazing with blue fire is dramatic and releases a lot of energy which you need to direct into the work with your intention and prayer. Keep praying like this till the flames have burned down and the keys cool enough to touch without burning your fingers yet still good and hot

Adding the Roots and Herbs
After having empowered the keys, and while they are still hot you should add the herbs: lemongrass, rue, hyssop, angelica root chips. Sprinkle these around the keys and dirt in a counter-clockwise circle. Be generous; the beauty of an oil lamp is that you can add so much more herbal material, all of which brings power. Not too much though, you still want to be able to see the keys. Add the bandage-wicking and tape over the tinfoil 'platform' which will hold the burning end up and out of the oil. Make suitable slit in the foil and thread through about an inch of bandage so that enough peeks out above the foil to act as wick. Then fill the bowl with the vegetable oil. Add some Road Opener and other appropriate condition oils such as Van Van to the vegetable oil that you are using as fuel.

Lighting the Lamp
Finally, petition St. Peter in full as you light the wick. There are many good catholic prayers one can use. Here is the prayer I use, it is comprised of several traditional prayers for his intercession as well including some words adapted for this spiritual lamp:

O God, Who by delivering to Thy blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, didst confer upon him the power of binding and of loosing, grant that, by the help of his intercession, we may be delivered from the bonds that bind us. 
St. Peter I offer thee this bright lamp. [light wick] let it illuminate N's way.
St. Peter, delivered from prison by an Angel, deliver N. from all bondage.
St. Peter, who rejoiced to suffer for Christ, free N. from all suffering.
St. Peter, whose very shadow healed the sick, heal N. of all troubles.
St. Peter, whose voice even the dead obeyed, command all hindrance to vanish from N's path.
Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, the Prince of the Apostles, unto thee were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church." Raise us up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the apostolic assistance of blessed Peter, Thine Apostle; so that the weaker we are, the more mightily we may be helped by the power of his intercession; and that being perpetually defended by the same holy apostle, we may niether yield to any iniquity, nor be overcome by any adversity. Amen.

*Repeat 3 or 7 times 

Try to get into a place with the prayer so that you can feel St. Peter's presence strongly. Speak to him directly, tell him your problems and ask for help. Leave the lamp to burn continually, refilling it daily; repeating the prayer, adding fuel and a few drops of condition oil each time. Keep it going like this until you begin to see clear signs that the road is opening. You might want to accompany the lamp work with a series of spiritual baths and other appropriate work such as house cleansing etc.

When the lamp's burning cycle concludes allow it to burn out and then take out the keys, wipe them off and tie them together the way they were using red and yellow ribbon. Set them at the front door pointing up*, along with St.Peter's holy card. Alternatively, if the keys you chose are small enough you could include them in a mojo bag. They have been empowered to keep the way open and will keep working as talisman to that end. 

Bury the wick, herbal material and dirt from the lamp near your front door and if possible in the pathway, to keep the effect with you and your roads open.

The method of burning crossroads dirt with a cleansing agent to exorcise an unwanted influence, is drawn from  the material of Harry M. Hyatt.
Similarly, the method of buying the aid of spirits at crossroads is drawn from the Hyatt material.
The method  of placing the St Peter's keys at the front door pointing up is the teaching of Miss Starr
The unabridged catholic prayers for intercession of  St. Peter.


The Saints are Talking

I was reading Devi's great post about her successful work with St. Expedite today. I particularly liked the deft conjure work using a "heated" commanding jar! She also gives fantastic, detailed advice for how to petition this mercurial saint. But something else struck me, (and this is something that happens with me too) - she was dialoguing with St. Expedite about what he wanted in return. I have found that when conjuring with the assistance of the saints they can and do make themselves understood quite clearly. In fact before I even considered working with St. Joseph I received a startling visitation as I lay drifting off in bed one evening.

And I mean a genuine, almost biblical vision - where I saw him standing before me smiling kindly enfolded in a gentle blue light. I sat bolt upright and then the image that was clear as day before me a moment before was gone. I have had these sorts of visions only a handful of times and I have never been able to figure out what triggers them or how to induce them. The first time was with an enigmatic being I came to think of as the Mysterious Lion-Headed Angel. But in the case of St. Joseph his visit was most surprising because even though I had been working with St. Martha and few other saints that are commonly petitioned in contemporary catholic influenced hoodoo; St. Joseph was not a saint I had ever considered petitioning.

After the vision I set up an altar for him and boy does he work miracles. Seriously, he is one of most incredible spiritual beings I have had the good fortune of knowing. I have no idea why he decided to knock on my door but I do know that by communing and working with the saints I have felt a tremendous grace and blessing. I come from catholic background and there was much pain around that issue for me until I started working with the saints magically. It opened up a new magical perspective - unmediated by theology or dogma.

Like Devi, I have found that when petitioned they sometimes talk back and say what they want. They have their likes and dislikes and they can get a little tricky too, it seems. Remember to pay them what you promise. Obviously that's the polite thing to do but in some cases they can be unpredictable - dont let the "saint" thing fool you, they really are the mighty dead with their own personalities and quirks. It also seems to me that some saints choose some people and work closely with them for whatever reason, others they ignore.

When composing impromptu petitions I highly recommend citing happenings in the saint's life story and transposing these events onto your petition. For instance with St. Joseph I might say something like; "Blessed St Joseph - as you protected and provided for Christ our Lord and the Virgin Mother of God, bless N. so he may swiftly find a good job that he too may able to protect and provide for his family... "

Similarly, stories from the bible can be incorporated and transposed onto a petition, making symbolic analogies between the narrative of the story and the goal of the spell. This is potent way to empower the work using strong mythic currents from the bible; currents that can powerfully propel your work, bringing it forth from the Divine unmanifest Potential into the manifest world by the grace of God.


Setting lights for Haiti

I would like to ask folks to join me in setting lights and petitioning St Peter (who was given the power to bind or loose by the Saviour) so that the avenues for aid and relief may opened for Haiti. As everyone must know by now, there is much suffering there after the quake and we should offer our magical as well material support to make sure that help can get through to them.


Review: Kiumbanda - A Complete Grammar of the Art of Exu

I have been absorbing this book for some time now and I am surprised there has not been more attention given to it online, and at a time when all the New World traditions seem  to be enjoying so much attention in popular occulture. Its a print-on-demand publication that I discovered and bought through lulu.com. I could find little discussion about the content or the credentials of the author so I just took a chance and bought it, based on the fact that Nigel Jackson did the cover art. 

I was surprised and then thrilled by the quality of this text. Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is articulate and writes with the insight and enthusiasm of someone who has not only been steeped in the subject but has a tremendous love and respect for it. This devotion is plainly evident in his writing. It contains some of the glitches that these sorts of self-published works tend to have; typos, grammatical issues and or other editing mishaps, but with this text I barely even noticed or cared. This is unusual for me because bad editing is something that irritates me thoroughly and in truly dismal cases such as Jason Miller's The Sorcerers Secrets, can be a deal breaker for what otherwise would have been a good book. Not so with Kiumbanda: A Complete Grammar of the Art of Exu. Despite these textual glitches, the author's voice remains clear and his exposition of the subject is lucid and fascinating.

Frisvold begins by saying that he does not speak for the tradition as a whole but instead offers his take of this Afro-Brazilian tradition known as Quimbanda, or as Frisvold prefers to call his presentation, Kiumbanda. Quimbanda is often understood as the left hand path to Umbanda and has a deservedly fierce reputation as a blistering fast and dangerous form of spiritist magic. This reputation has led some to think it is a vulgar sort of afro-brazilian satanism or simply a pernicious black magical technology. Frisvold takes great pains to elevate his tradition beyond this perception, and really, to instate it as an elegant and even beautiful spiritual path. Having said that, the author's warnings proliferate throughout the text, portentously noting: 

"The powers of kimbanda and kiumbanda are real powers. It is the union of earth and fire and the spirits themselves possess a force and strength so massive that they can make the soul bleed and the astral anatomy be shaken into shreds and pieces in order to accomplish the solidification of man's true essence". 

Starting out with that dire statement and several exhortations that the would-be Kiumbandista seek out  proper initiation, the author does something peculiar but perhaps appropriate for the nature of this text: he offers a complete and exhaustive manual, a grammar, for contacting and working with almost all the major spirits of the system. Pontos riscados (the mystical sigils that one draws to call the spirits), ponto cantados (the songs used to invoke) as well as offerings; other correspondences, and for the majority of spirits, a working of some sort is given. 

It is no exaggeration to say that a wealth of material has been offered in this text and certainly more than enough for curious and hapless dabblers to "fuck their shit right up", as the turn of phrase goes. I mean it. If you are a self styled "evil-sorceror" enthralled by the ooky spooky 'voodoo' aesthetics of New World magics then here, my friend, is a quick and deadly way for you to destroy yourself! Step right up.

And this is what I like about the boldness of this text. Frisvold does not hold back and he does not baby-sit his readership; because these fierce spirits take care of their own system and those who stray onto their crossroads better be ready to do so or they will be turned into soft fleshy playthings for the Exus. To give you an example of just how feral these spirits are: Frisvold discusses the syncretism between the demons of the Grimoirium Verum and the Legion of Exus remarking that the GV sigils are used to bring forth a gentler, more wholesome aspect of Exus. That's right, spirit-seals from one of the most notorious black grimoires ever written is used to calm down the temperament of these entities.

It is perhaps this syncretism that is one of the most interesting aspects of the Quimbanda/Kiumbanda tradition, because as the saints were syncretized with the spirits if Umbanda and other New World traditions, Quimbanda took for its spirits the mask of the devil. A reasonable evolution considering that missionaries kept calling their system intermediary, Exu, the devil! But as Frisvold is quick to point out we must not be fooled by this syncretism into thinking the Exus and Pomba Giras are demonic. The role the Grimoirium Verum plays in the system is nuanced and complex and Frisvold makes his disdain for oversimplification as well as the satanizing of the system abundantly clear. Similarly, the author pays short shrift for Thelemites appropriating Pomba Gira for their Babalon or any other short sighted thelemic mash-up.

What this book does beautifully, in my opinion, is to offer one of the most elegant and articulate philosophical frameworks for so-called left hand path type of magic and spirituality I have yet encountered. This clever and considered evolution could only come out of this New World synthesis between African, Brazilian and Western magics. The reason? It is exactly because of the New World traditions' inherent ambiguities - ambiguities that naturally transcend the distinct moral and philosophical dualisms western occultism is inevitably drawn into - that such a coherent path has developed. If you are truly looking for a 'left hand path' of gnosis then here it is, as a living breathing tradition that quite validly traces back for thousands of years. And as Jake Stratton-Kent once suggested on his Grimoirium Verum yahoo group; that is because the greatest magical synthesis since Alexandria is really taking place in these New World traditions and not in the bourgeois occult boys-clubs of the west - as so many occultists have vainly fantasized.

This is not an easy book to own because it is so enticing - seductive even - like Pomba Gira, and like her, dangerous as a switch blade. I find myself coming back to it again and again mining it for insights and for examples of sophisticated ways to work with dangerous spirits in a folk-magical oeuvre. If you are interested in Afro-Diaspora religion and magic and especially the synthesis between western grimoire magic and african forms you should get this book. If you are interested in left hand path gnosis and you are sane and have sense of self preservation you should also get this book. If you are an angst filled instant-occultist in black tights looking for a cook book to help live out your dark fantasies of using 'voodoo' powers to crush your enemies, then, I recommend you take up yoga and leave this book be - it will  be your undoing. 

But then again, you probably wont be missed anyway.


Peacekeeper Commanding Oil

Sometimes you need to bring a conflict to a grinding halt. You need to stop the fight in its tracks long enough so that people can get some perspective and get a grip. Last year I helped someone who was embroiled in an ugly conflict and the pettiness just seemed to be escalating day by day as these seemingly reasonable adults behaved like children. I needed a condition oil that would help bring peace and do it swiftly with commanding force! In other words it needed it to have the power of commanding and compelling combined with the quality of peace. I used my pendulum to dowse this formula which I now call Peacekeeper Commanding Oil. We successfully used it in the work and there was total ceasefire within 24 hours. I have since had great success using it to put my foot down magically and bring a halt to conflicts.

Peacekeeper Commanding Oil:
High John the conqueror
Sampson Snake root
In a base of Sweet Almond

After preparing the oil your usual way, burn a blue candle down over the jar with the command "PEACE and RESPECT NOW!" inscribed on the candle.  You may want to petition a saint as you pray over the candle and oil, as I like to do. I find burning a candle down over newly made oil, along with prayer, gives it more punch.

If you try this condition oil  - may it bring swift peace and respect where it is needed most.


Massive Spreads

I have been posting a lot about the tarot of late. I guess because I have been working a lot more in depth with the cards this last while. I seem to go through cycles where I begin wrestling with the 78 mysteries, and in fact wrestling with myself, more seriously. The tarot seems to be this force that is always tugging at my consciousness - teasing me to go deeper, unravelling me further. And always in directions contrary to those I imagined. I don't care much for the Victorian qabalistic associations projected onto the cards. I think tarot is deeper than that. Yes, deeper.

The numinous mechanism that not only makes the tarot work but helped it emerge into popular occulture as such an enduring form of divination is far more sophisticated and profound than these later accretions. Don't get me wrong I find the qabalah stuff interesting and at times I have found value there too but there is so much more going on in tarot than that. Paul Huson's Mystical Origins of Tarot has been blowing my mind after I picked it up in a while ago. Do yourself a favour; if you love the tarot get this book it will take you deeper than any of the watered down qabalah-for-the-masses that gets thrown at the art usually.

Anyway, I have been playing around with massive spreads. Which is to say, spreads that are contain twenty one cards or more (all the way to 58!) and rely less on positional meanings and more on patterned insights. I remember seeing a reader working a massive spread like this years ago and being astounded at the complex and subtle story she was able to draw from the massive fan of cards that covered the entire table. It was like she was plucking at the threads of fate following the threads through the entire tapestry of this persons life. I watched as she followed certain patterns and cycles and began piecing together an increasingly refined narrative for her sitter. This is an art form that should not be lost and relies on looking at the cards in an entirely different way. It requires skill and a marrow-deep sense of the 78 mysteries and their interconnectedness. A spread like this can be overwhelming - you are no longer sure what is nonsense and what is truth as you are flooded with possibilities -but I am slowly getting a sense of how to go about it.

First I just stare at the spread in a very relaxed way; I don't try to make any rational sense of it at all - I just let the thing hit me like a massive wave of symbols as I try and find my way into it and, hopefully, surf it. A pattern begins to emerge: a cluster of cards there, or a line here and I begin interpreting. Next I begin to find interconnections between this and other areas in the spread and I let it unfold from there.

Sometimes nothing comes at all - its just white noise. So, I let the spread sit. I get up and I walk away and I come back to it later. Usually, after being away something will strike me upon returning to it and I will begin finding my way into it. If I still cannot find my way in, then, I cheat. I get out another deck and I lay out a small layout on the same question, using a more contained, and decipherable, spread. With the information from that spread I can usually clearly see the same pattern emerge in the massive spread. This nifty trick and has really helped me great deal with getting into massive spreads.

Suffice to say I am not going be whipping out a massive spread for one of my regular sitters just yet! It can take several hours right now so I am not ready to use it in that way just yet. I am having a tremendous amount of fun practising though.


The Importance of Divination

Rufus Opus recently made a remark in passing about regret he felt at neglecting divination as an ongoing practice. He mentioned this in light of a personal calamity. I couldn't agree more with this sentiment. Regular divination as a diagnostic tool for ones own magical life and as a vital spiritual skill, in my opinion, is the cornerstone of any wise conjurer's practice. It is that open dialogue with the numinous which extends beyond ones own visions and visualisations. Using tools such as the cards and horary astrology gives us a measure of objectivity that allows for crucial warnings, rebukes and interventions from the spirits to be made available when we might not otherwise be willing to hear them. A visionary interaction with the Beyond is vital, yes - but relying on that alone is dangerous: ego, delusion and wishful thinking can creep into the mix when this is the only spiritual technology being used. We need checks and balances to keep us sane; to wake us up to our own bullshit; to show us our blind spots. Skilled divination, using tried and tested traditional tools, does just that.

Similarly, any practical magician worth his/her salt working for self or others needs to be able to read and read accurately. Its a core skill and to neglect it is to flirt with disaster. Often my instinct tells me to take certain course of action, but when I read the cards or cast a chart to verify I sometimes am shocked to find how wrong my urges were. Just yesterday I was approached by someone who has been suffering under the influence of destructive co-worker. After listening to the malice with which this person sabotaged everyone around him it seemed clear as day that he should be hot-footed and moved right out of the picture post-haste. Yet, when I checked the cards the outcome of that course of action, surprisingly, indicated a worsening of conditions for my client - disaster in fact. No, we were to pursue a reconciliation; find a way to have the problem person feel more supported and then and only then would things turn around. Had I gone with what felt righteous and just in that moment instead of reading dispassionately I could well have caused more damage than good. In the past I have ignored these sorts of counter intuitive readings at great cost and this is exactly why I have come to rely on divination as the starting point for any magical action.

If we read for ourselves every day, we begin seeing patterns emerge we might not otherwise notice. We expose a deeper mythic current driving our world; one which frequently evades our best intuitive or spiritual senses because of its depth. It becomes a path on which this deeper current is constantly being drawn to our conscious attention again and again. It takes courage because much of the time the news is not so good - but if we are fearless and face the current and swim with it no matter what it exposes we become more awake, bold and powerful.


Restless Dead in Amsterdam

Happy new year to all! I have just got back from an excellent vacation in Europe of which our last stop was Amsterdam, Netherlands.

My partner and I checked into a self catering apartment  - the same place we stayed in on our previous vacation in the city. We asked for it once more because we were so comfortable the last time. Upon arrival we noticed that the bedroom had been repainted and redone with nice new furniture, which we barely took note of. However, after the first night we realised something was very wrong with it. At first the atmosphere was oppressive and we found ourselves extremely irritable and prone to arguing about silly stuff and when we got to bed it really began - horrible gut-wrenching, violent nightmares.

OK, I thought, it was a bad night - it happens - maybe too much cheese. However, the following afternoon after sightseeing all day, I decided to take a nap. Sure enough I had another nasty dream and in this one I am confronted by an old friend who invites me to come with him to his place. After walking with him for a while I somehow sense its not really him and I confront him, at which point he becomes this truly evil thing. I woke up with a cloying sense of dread and despair. I checked the cards - the cards verified that there was something in the room and that we should leave before something even worse happens; I should not meddle with it. The only problem: its peak season and we have booked the holiday apartment for the week - no chance to move on such short notice. That night my partner dreams that blood is being smeared all over the walls; I too have more nightmares of being pursued by something and other grizzly stuff. Our conclusion: the reason the room had been repainted and refurnished is that someone recently died there. In addition a truly vile odour begins to permeate the apartment. Think excrement + cadaver.

What to do? I had none of my conjure tools at hand other than my cards; we couldn't move out and it began to put a truly sinister twist on what should have been a lovely time in one of our favourite cities. I popped into a grocery store and headed for the spice shelves and found some cayenne pepper, salt and powdered ginger - as well as some tea lights and and olive oil. I have no hands-on experience working with the angry dead or hauntings, and I have been warned by elders that those can be some of the most dangerous spirits to piss-off; so combined with cards' warning not to interfere I decided our best strategy would be to sleep in the living room area and set up as strong protection as I can using what I have got rather than to try to tangle head-on with what is obviously a very unhappy spirit.

I petitioned my spirits, cleansed the space we were sleeping in and set up a magical perimeter using the hot stuff and salt.

For the first time we slept through the night reasonably peacefully. I could sense something around but it wasn't coming at us anymore. We stayed another two nights like that and eventually we found a hotel with an available room (at an exorbitant rate) - we took it and high tailed it out there.

When it comes to spiritual battles, I always try to pick the ones I am most likely to win.