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.


Conjure Codex Released

The Conjure Codex has been released by Hadean Press. I am pleased to say it includes an essay by yours truly and a whole lot more stuff. A brief synopsis of my piece:

Infernal Conjure Craft: a system of 'goetic' hoodoo

In this 9000 word piece for the Conjure Codex, I offer an approach to what some have called 'goetic hoodoo'; using for its basis the notorious Grimoirium Verum, and specifically, the subsystems of spell-craft encoded within the Natural and Supernatural Secrets of the True Grimoire. Drawing on hoodoo methods and more broadly from the magic of the african diaspora, I attempt to interpret and then expand the underlying spell systems held within the Secrets section of the grimoire, creating a fully operational, highly versatile system of 'goetic hoodoo'  - what I have playfully dubbed Infernal Conjure Craft.

More from the Hadeans:

The practice of spirit conjuration has thrived since humanity first experienced and sought to work with the natural forces of the seen and unseen worlds. It remains to this day as a living tradition among many modern cultures, while in others conjuration has been equated with ‘the devil’s work’ or sidelined into the realm of the incredulous, viewed with superstition and disdain. Misconceptions abound, in part because the reality of spirit conjuration is often as obscured as are the spirits themselves.

CONJURE CODEX breaks new ground in presenting inter-related material from a range of traditions, embracing ancient cultures, the grimoires, New World traditions and others; by publishing new translations and rare texts alongside accounts of work in these traditions, and elucidations of them. We invite contributions including new translations and analyses of operative systems of spirit magic from around the globe.

Old Wizard by Jake Stratton-Kent
The Paladins of Earth and Fire by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
The Tree of the Grimoires by Humberto Maggi
Modern Grimoiric Evocation by Michael Cecchetelli
The Comte de Gabalis by Abbé N. de Montfaucon de Villars, English trans. anon. with an introduction by Jake Stratton-Kent
The Great and True Natural Secret of the Queen of the Hairy Flies, trans. Brendan Hughes, with addenda by Jake Stratton-Kent
Language of the Birds by Humberto Maggi
Infernal Conjure Craft by Balthazar
Lessons from Ginen by Drac Uber
An Interview with England’s Most Notorious Necromancer: Jake Stratton-Kent talks about his practices and beliefs
Nefarious Occult Dealings: Necromancy, Ghosts and Spirit Expeditions in the Graeco-Roman, Hoodoo and Vodou Magical Traditions by Kim Huggens

Artwork by Johnny Jakobsson, Audrey Melo, S. Aldarnay & V. Midian.
Cover art by Johnny Jakobsson.


78 Unspeakable Gnostic Hymns to Cthulhu: Dark Grimoire Tarot review

I can explain.

This post is inspired by my enthusiasm for the Dark Grimoire Tarot which I, somewhat inexplicably, took a shine to recently. I mean, while I certainly appreciate Lovecraftian tentacle aesthetics I probably never will take too seriously any efforts to turn his fictional horror setting into a magical system, so my regard for such things is pretty low. I ordered this tarot deck because I found Michele Penco's art haunting but attractive and I thought it would be an interesting novelty to add to my tarot collection. However, when I actually tried reading with it I was, somewhat uncomfortably, blown away. So I am trying to make sense of just why this deck speaks with such a fresh and powerful voice, especially considering that when it was first slated for publication by Lo Scarabeo its working title was The Tarot of the Unspeakable (and it was a much better title too, in my opinion).

I can't deny that there is something intriguing about the underlying philosophical trajectory of Lovecraft's work and how it has spawned an enduring mythology so alien yet oddly familiar. And although I don't believe he channelled some sort of revelation about the Great Old Ones, I do think Lovecraft gave literary expression to a certain philosophical sensibility that truly is both great and old.

A sensibility not unlike the one that inspired Gnosticism, in my opinion. In his excellent work, Gnostic Philosophy, Tobias Churton makes the compelling assertion that Gnosticism is an impulse traceable throughout the ages, rather than a single historical religious movement; and that the impulse constitutes a kind of Gnostic Spirit emerging again and again in different times and places. In religious movements like the Christian and Sethian Gnostics, Sufis, Templars, certainly -  but also in literary and cinematic forms such as the writing of Jean Baudrillard, Phillip K. Dick and films like the The Matrix.

It's the intuitive perception that there is something wrong with the world, and the truth is hidden just ever so slightly beyond the periphery of our ordinary experience. That the universe is not an entirely benign place but can be quite cruel, implacable and often unspeakably (If I may be permitted to use Lovercraft's favourite adjective) strange. The insight that the Dark Grimoire Tarot sparked for me is that if we turn a Gnostic lens to Lovecraft - a spark of gnosis might be found throbbing latent in the tentacled chaos.

For instance, the gods of Lovecraft's world are hostile, and inconceivably 'other' - not unlike the Gnostic's sinister demiurge and his archons (or the Cathar's theologically cognate notion of Devil -  who they recognised as the creator of the material universe). Lovecraft's writing jettisons anthropocentric tendencies that long to place humans at the centre of the mythic stage. Instead, his fiction is permeated by an impersonal terror at our apparent insignificance: trapped in fleshy bodies that hurt, stuck on a fragile blue planet spinning in a cold black void where a lot of terrible, scary stuff happens at the whim of forces unimaginably vast.

Like most of Lovecraft's protagonists we too are not sure why or what exactly to do about our predicament.

Like the Gnostics, Lovecraft imagines a deeper order of reality, dreadful but hidden from plain view by our mundane preoccupations. And like the Gnostics, he imagines no reason why the deities of his universe should be any better than its merciless grinding. No, when Cthulhu returns everyone dies, and his crazed cultists long for the day when "all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom". I can't help but wonder if frothing-at-the-mouth evangelicals dream and hope for anything all that different? I am reminded of the bloodthirstiness of the God of the old testament and the fiery eschaton in the book of Revelations... and in this light it seems quite reasonable that the Christian Gnostics took Jehova to be their monstrous Yaldabaoth - the arrogant, cruel and ultimately insane demiurge.

Like the Gnostics, Lovecraft imagined his world as fundamentally evil and the veil of illusion that is our ordinary consensual reality is what protects the fragile mortal minds of men from the truth. The resulting madness of his protagonists upon revelation of this reality is therefore comparable, mythically speaking, to the madness of saints. I can't help but suspect the reason his work has been so enduring is because the horror of his fiction taps the same existential dread that spurred the Gnostics in their various forms, and is a dread felt by most people in one way or another. The impersonal, intangible anxiety at how we feel cut adrift in a world characterised by suffering. What Buddhism - that great Gnostic impulse of the east - refers to as samsara: the ceaseless ocean of suffering.

There are yet more pleasing symmetries just ripe for the plucking if you take into account that Gnosticism is traceable to the cosmic dualism of ancient Persia. Similarly, Lovecraft traces the original source of the cult of Elder Gods to "the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched". And just as the Gnostic Spirit wends its way through Hellenistic, Greco-Egyptian, Semitic cultures pretty much all the way through the Middle East, Europe and on to Asia - so too the fictional cult of Old Ones rears its scaly tentacled head in most of these places and cultures.

There seems to be a preponderance of stellar symbolism connected to the Great Old Ones who would return when "the stars are right" restrained until some sort of astrological conjunction occurs. Similarly, but somewhat conversely, the Archons - those cosmic prison wardens of the Christian Gnostics - are connected to the zodiac and as such they restrain mankind, binding us with the fetters of fate and matter by means of their stellar machinations.

What I am I getting at?

That perhaps approaching the Lovecraftian narratives in this deck as a kind of modern Gnostic allegory is potentially an interesting, spiritually productive angle to consider when working with the Dark Grimoire Tarot and perhaps even Lovecraft's legacy of writings as a whole.

To this end I find Dark Grimoire Tarot to be extraordinarily tractable and that's because it very successfully combines another celebrated Gnostic model, the tarot, with Lovecraftian mythic imagination. I began researching the deck's background a little and I was surpised at how carefully it had been designed to ensure that it would be genuinely workable as a tarot deck.

It's evident that a great deal of thought went it into its creation and in my opinion the result is something innovative. A rare contribution to tarot in the era of vacuous theme decks. You expect to find a cheesy catalogue of silly monsters but what you actually unearth after spending some time with the deck, like an ancient set of eldritch tablets, is that the underlying existential dread of Lovecraft's world is transformatively activated by the archetypes of the tarot and so doing becomes a vehicle for something far more profound than pulp fiction. A subtle interplay of meaning between the two symbol sets results in a dazzling and balanced gestalt that allows one to reach through the confinement of your personal existential anxiety to knowledge - gnosis - of something transcendent beyond it.

My own Gnostic reading of this is that by exposing the limiting demiurgic forces latent in our experience (represented by the cards as Lovecraftian narratives) - forces which are the fears, demons and shadows of our own projections - we can potentially become freed from them. And in this respect this deck delivers a real sense of beauty and hope with each use. It's no accident either because it seems this feature was consciously built into the deck.
I'll conclude by sharing an excellent comment I found given by an editor at Lo Scarabeo who was involved in the Dark Grimoire Tarot's development:

The basis of Lovecraftian Horror was the concept that the world itself was “evil”, and madness would have been the only fate of those who looked beyond the veil. So the veil of Maya, illusion separating from truth, is our savior.
It is a bad way to look at the world, also because the “seeker” is always the “victim”.
I think the “dark” of the Dark Grimoire Tarot is about touching darkness. (Well, it’s a Tarot deck and not a collection of Lovecraft based illustrations). When you are drawn into the darkness how do you stay yourself, how do you remember light?
How do you allow darkness to change and mold you (because if you go into the darkness you must accept it or sacrifice something precious: read Heart of Darkness by J. Conrad – I really would like to make a Tarot deck on that concept)
And again… what is the meaning of darkness? How can you accept and feel the evil in the world and not be destroyed?
So, when we touch darkness, we don’t do that through a glass window. And still, in a way, even if it doesn’t seem to change anything, darkness is also touched by us.
It was difficult to try to convey the main character of the deck (there are two actually: a man and a woman) as both a victim and a hero. As someone fighting darkness and someone embracing it and learning from it (darkness is both a devourer and a teacher?)
There was one last concept I wanted to address about darkness and that was quite important when thinking about this deck: the concept of “empowering”.
One of the ways to use Tarot we consider important revolves around the concept  of “empowering”. Future should not be fate, and a querient (if you read for others or if you read for yourself) should be encouraged by Tarot to find solution, think strategies, act… and ultimately accept responsibility for himself.
When considering a horror/dark deck, one should think that the horror concept really has no heroes but rather victims. The horror comes exactly when the point of view of the reader/spectator has no control over things. There is nothing but to run and hide, and even so, there is no escape. The feeling of dread we receive from true horror is definitely linked to “lack of control”. Doing a horror Tarot deck means asking the people who use it to sympathise with lack of control, and that’s not really good for empowering them.
[An attempt at] answering this contradiction, and trying to find a way to have these two concepts coexist has been an important part of the design work.
One final note. Most of the times creating a deck is not a way to give an answer to all possible considerations about a theme (like darkness, for instance). It’s just a way to ask the questions, or to open a door. We don’t know, ever, what’s behind the door.

PS: I meant to have this post up on the 31st of Oct, but it turned out to take little longer than I expected. Nonetheless - happy belated Halloween wishes to you dear readers.


Rollé I Ching Sticks

More I Ching stuff.

Ever the experimentalist, I wasn't entirely satisfied with the coin casting method - the most common method for generating the lines of the I Ching hexagrams. For those of us who worry about such things, I found it's a little time consuming, and the math is too symmetrical when compared to the more ancient yarrow stalk method. I would go for the yarrow stalk method but that's way more time consuming/complicated and I would probably end up avoiding divining with the oracle altogether if I had to do all that counting out of yarrow sticks every time I had a question. 

Yet, the math appeals to me because the changing yin lines are less frequent, which mirrors the workings of yin in the universe (it changes less frequently). So, I started using what is known as the marble method - which is mathematically closer to the more ancient yarrow stalk method but relatively easy by comparison: sixteen marbles of four different colours are used; representing stable yin, stable yang, changing yin, and changing yang (1 marble of the first colour, 3 of the second colour, 5 of the third colour, and 7 of the fourth). 

You just draw marble to generate each line. Not too bad at all...

Until I discovered these ingenious I Ching sticks invented by a Swiss man called Dominique Rollé and sold by Anthony Publishing Co. I'm not a mathematician but according to Carol Anthony  the sticks were designed so that the mathematical probabilities are close to the yarrow stalk method - but how cool is this - you generate the primary hexagram, changing lines AND the relating hexagram with a single cast! 

You just roll the sticks in your hands while framing your question mentally...
 Until you feel the moment is right...
Then you roll them onto the table surface....
And presto - the figures and changing lines are generated in a single, easy movement.
The hex on the left is the primary figure, the dot indicates the changing line (here changing from yang to yin) and then on the right we have our relating hexagram. Additionally, you can create small gap by shifting the sticks apart a bit to help identify the trigrams more easily - which of course helps one find the figure in the book but it also helps one to see how it is built up energetically.
I also find these sticks rather aesthetically pleasing. I like passing them through some incense smoke as I formulate my question and then I find the rolling motion in my hands is suitably meditative. In a certain way they kind of remind me of yarrow sticks in terms of their kinaesthetic quality - but with a very modern twist.

There you have it folks - a better mouse trap.


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 Richard for breakfast, and as we ate we discussed everything we still had to get together for the misa that evening. Richard interjects to ask padrino if he would allow him to bring a bowl of uncooked rice to the misa. Rice? Yes, Richard 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...

Recommendation: Brujo Luis' Sanse blog

I would like to recommend you check out Brujo Lius' new blog http://sansespiritismo.blogspot.com/

It's shaping up to be an awesome blog about Puerto Rican espiritismo, also known as Sanse. This is a rare find in English let me tell ya. Our house has very strong espiritismo basis, and a slight Sanse flavour runs through our padrino's teachings - perhaps not all that surprising considering he is Puerto Rican himself.

Go check out Luis' site, he's already got a bunch of great posts up and I hope he keeps them coming. For some reason I haven't been able to leave comments yet - there seems to be some sort of glitch. I dunno if that is my mac browser's problem or the site template (Luis?) - so if you can - leave him an appreciative comment. It's the comments and feedback that keep us writing folks!


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.


Spirit Pots

OK, so R.O. and I have been tussling. It happens every so often and usually these tussles are productive. I think it's good for people to see these perspectives negotiated in the discourse.

Which is fancy way of saying - sometimes it's good to argue so people get the opportunity to see that debate happen and think about that issue themselves too.

If you haven't been following, you might want to check out some of our previous posts. I posted a warning about putting together pots for muertos. Rufus responded to that with some instruction on how to put together spirit pots in a way he has seen work for well for him. I was a little shocked because even though I know he works these pots in a different way it seemed to me that the placement of his response could be taken as directions for creating a muerto pot of the nature I was explicitly warning against fooling around with. I didn't have enough time to respond with full a post, so I did a circular link-back thing using words from my original post to suggest he dumbing down this ATR technology.

It turns out he didn't intend for his post to be taken as instructions to replicate that ATR practice. He responded with an excellent, articulate clarification which I greatly appreciate. He hits the nail on the head about a great many things. Jason also stepped in and brought a much needed perspective in the discussion which greatly helps to reconcile the differences of these two approaches and brings up some excellent points I have not considered.

It's my turn to clarify also:

I didn't mean to hurt any feelings, of course. I admire the way R.O. makes the Western Tradition accessible and above all relevant to modern people. He is living it.

I don't believe R.O. is "ripping-off" the ATRs with his pots either. Spirit pots of various kinds are found in many cultures. Also, I think the exchange that's happening between the traditions is good. I've written and spoken about it myself. I think it has potential for enlivening the Western Tradition, just as the New World traditions have been enhanced by the grimoires and Christian influences.  Some ATR practitioners don't see it that way. They see those elements as vestiges of oppression. Or as masks. It's more subtle than that, I believe, which is why these elements persist to this day. In a way it's what motivated me to get even more deeply involved in some New World paths as an initiate - so that my part in that dialogue can be more informed.

However, I think if we start saying a western magical technique/spirit/ritual is the same as an ATR technique/spirit/ritual and begin thinking they are interchangeable we are headed for a whole lot of trouble. Both spiritual and cultural. Specifically, in this case my greatest concern was that someone inadvertently gets into hot water by going 'commando' with a muerto pot of the sort I was talking about. Jason does a very good job of emphasising the dangers.

These kinds of pots truly are not toys.

In my opinion anyone attempting to work with a new western magical adaptation of this idea needs to truly do their homework and prepare themselves. And someone interested in the ATR application of this spiritual technology should look for someone qualified who can guide them through it, because as Jason says, if you decide to free-style it, it's very likely that it can blow up in your face.


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}

A new dawn, a new day

In alignment with recent developments - both spiritual and mundane - you may have noticed I have revamped both the blog's design as well as the look on my commercial website. It's been long overdue, so I was very happy to get it done.

Along with pretty new graphics I have streamlined the site as a whole and simplified a few things that used to confuse clients. I now have a flat reading rate of $60 per hour for rootwork consultations and readings. My commercial site will temporarily direct to a weebly subdomain whilst my regular conjure.nl domain gets moved to point to the new hosting. This should happen in a few days.

Check it out, and look forward to your comments and suggestions!


The Vine and its Fruit.

It's great, I have been meeting a lot of new people lately. In workshop environments, talks, ceremonies and so forth; people from all walks of life, and various forms of occult practice - and the conversations we have had has been intriguing. What strikes me is a kind of mass confusion, as well as wonder. In a certain sense it is the wonder and confusion of variety. The near inexhaustible variety that sprung out of the process of globalisation, the internet and the resultant commodification of spirituality.

An explosion in the spiritual marketplace. The explosion of the spiritual dimension as a market place.

On the one hand this pretty cool, because suddenly we have access to so much so fast. On the other it is a disaster. A great poverty of superficiality where everything is glimpsed but nothing is ever actually seen. The glamour of fairy gold.

Put bluntly, if your spiritual journey is on track then the kind of practices, rituals and systems you work with should gradually but steadily be bringing you greater stability, well-being, prosperity and gratitude. You should be feeling happier and drawing people to you who are good for you and care for you; and eventually find that you are moving into a space where you have enough resources (spiritual and material) that you are able to start giving back to your community and world, in some small way.

These are fruits growing on the living spiritual vine.

If the work you are doing is plunging you in to ever deepening cycles of chaos. If you find yourself surrounded by toxic people, defending your territory. If you are overly occupied with costume, and status  - not because these are necessarily your values but because you find yourself enmeshed in a network of people that draw you into this kind of interpersonal theatre... then it's time to take a step back and take a careful look at the vine that you are eating from.

Whilst there are productive periods where we might find ourselves plunged into darkness; a gestating spiritual chaos that ultimately produces insight and rebirth - what St. John of the Cross refers to the Dark Night of the Soul. There is also the possibility of aimlessly wandering in its false, barren twin. This thirsty place is filled with strangers all flailing blindly, clawing at each other, each trying to establish himself as king of a wasteland.

Your magical work should be contributing to your life healthily. You need to look at its results in your life, not just its style - however exciting it may seem. It seems odd that this even needs to be said, but it really is the bottom line. If your work is exacerbating your addictions, neurosis and delusions - problems we all have - then it is well and truly black magic. It doesn't matter if you are working with demons, the highest angelic beings, or ancient deities... it's blacker than the minister's coat.

I leave you with Bobby McFerrin's exquisite rendering of the 23rd Psalm, addressed to a feminine deity.


Praise ye Dragons

I haven't been posting much this last while because I have been going through a major spiritual growth cycle - inner changes as well as outer shifts mediated by various rites. I have been learning some new things that have changed the way I work and think magically. I have been trying hard to find another way to talk about my spiritual work on the blog.

One of the things that has struck me about this shift is that my interest is flowing increasingly towards a new contemplation of Christianity and the bible. Naturally, this takes shape quite differently to the way most contemplative christians work with that tradition because I am religiously rooted in espiritismo and santeria - and practising hoodoo of course. As you probably know by now the bible and its symbols are imbedded to varying degrees in all these traditions and as they become changed by the globalisation process, many westerners will eviscerate them in a futile attempt to delete its presence.
St Joan
Their objection seems often based on an outdated, crude and cartoonish understanding of Christianity and its symbols.  My method has been to find ways of potentizing the christian elements meaningfully for myself - without necessarily buying into Christianity's exoteric salvific doctrines, or the orthodox theology based on eternal damnation and reward.

I have been listening to Father Thomas Keating, for instance, and considering the role of contemplative prayer within the context of my own ATR practice. I have been looking at the bible from new angles, taking the advice of the famous Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, and seeing if there is a way of reading this text called the bible radically free of the doctrinal interpretations prescribed to us. Though not christian per se, I have always resonated with Spinoza's rational pantheism, and as odd as it may seem to some I think it integrates perfectly with spiritism and androcentric traditions - perhaps because of his emphasis on God as Nature. Though, admittedly, his rejection of the miraculous is tough to shoehorn in there!  Of course that classic The Cloud of Unknowing has been a huge influence too. I have been reading Joan of Arc's story, and other visionary saints and just feeling the cool breeze of grace in all these beautiful stories.

I found this fascinating interview with Protestant theologian Walter Brueggemann:

What I love about this interview is his discussion of the bible as a poetic text. What a smart man. He ends with this incredible Psalm which sounds even better in the King James version:

Psalm 148:7

Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:
Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.
He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.

Praise ye Dragons indeed...


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 www.conjure.nl. Once space is confirmed you will receive a paypal invoice for the workshop fee, which will secure your space.

For Glastonbury bookings to www.theoccultconsultancy.com 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.


Love me or DIE

A friend tipped me off to this fabulous track by C.W. Stoneking - it kinda reminds me of old blues filtered through Tom Waits. I could never stand more than a few minutes of Tom Waits, personally! C.W. Stoneking is a lot easier on the ear. I went ahead and bought the album.

The song is about the, now famous, 'love me or die' spell. Although this is a work that miss cat teaches, it isn't a spell I personally would make use of. It basically places a curse on the target, which causes them to slowly sicken unless they return to the lover and love them (or die). If they leave again they begin to waste away once more. The spell needs to be maintained to ensure the person stays alive, for the rest of their days.  Probably not something you want to throw at someone you really love these days... so I won't describe how you do it.

Makes for a fabulous, atmospheric song though!

Now, certain idealistic people might say that such a spell should never have been conceived at all - but probably this has to do the social and economic vulnerability of women and their dependancy on men to provide for their family back in the day. To a woman with children, a man running away with another woman might well have meant much more hardship than a simple broken heart. So it's good to see this kind of spell in its right historical context before making sweeping judgements about its morality.

Naturally, these days some women (and men) get desperate enough in love that they might actually try this spell anyway. Let me just say - sometimes its easier to throw a spell than it is to undo it.

Sometimes you have to lie in the bed you've made.... or more precisely someone else might have to lie in the bed you make for them.

A hospital bed.


Workshop: Introduction to Hoodoo and magical candle-work

I've been invited to give a talk and workshop at Shamagika this coming Saturday. So if you're in town why not join us! It's going to a be a lot of fun.

Workshop: Introduction to Hoodoo and magical candle-work, with Balthazar

Famed for its ability to create potent results, hoodoo and rootwork have attracted an impressive reputation in practical magic. During this event we will be introduced to conjure with a brief 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. 

Saturday, May 7 · 6:30pm - 10:00pm

Cost 40 Euros ~ Limited to 12 people so please book in advance.

You can reserve a space by sending a message to Yanu at Shamagika there are a few seats left, so don't miss out!


Geomantic Dice. At last!!!!

How blisteringly awesome are these puppies!

I used to generate the four mothers used to calculate a geomantic chart using dried beans drawn randomly from a bag. Cattan mentions this method as being used by high-class prostitutes in Bologna to generate charts, which gave me a naughty giggle. I of course couldn't resist trying it myself.

This takes a long time however. I do so many charts every week that I caved and started using four colour coded six-sided dice, converting the odd and even numbers appropriately. I longed for special geomantic dice with dots and even considered making some but never got around to it.

The wait is over, it seems!

Some enterprising fellow from http://www.divinersdice.com posted about these on the Geomantic Campus forum and I am just gagging to give them a whirl. $25 gets you the set. $10 for a single.


divinersdice.com have got back to me and after a short delay, they have confirmed that they are open for business and taking orders. They temporarily have sold out of the sets of 4 colour coded dice, but still have the single dice available. Rest assured they will be manufacturing more of the sets and lucky for me they reserved one remaining set for me! Thanks divinersdice.com! :-)


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.


The Sorcerous Egg

This Easter I would like you to consider the egg in a different light.

Eggs are some of the most useful items at our disposal as spiritual workers, and there are just so many practical things you can do with them that any fledgling worker will be rewarded greatly by spending some time investigating the various spiritual uses of the egg. Because eggs are made of animal matter they have some very special resonant properties with us as human beings and short of using live animals there are few things that are both as accessible and spiritually absorbent as the ordinary egg. It can be used to cleanse; or as a sympathetic representation of a person, and as such it can also be used as a kind of spiritual 'decoy', among other things. Additionally, eggs can be read after they have been used to cleanse which makes for a useful divination method in that context. As a means of deploying spellwork an egg can be 'fixed' and then hidden near the target to bring into effect its intended purpose. Once emptied out carefully, an egg's shell can also be used as a container spell.

I am all about finding ways of working that are powerful but remain straightforward and accessible, which the the humble egg most certainly is.

Reversing spell and sending it back with a bang:

Here is a nice little trick that was shown to me recently for when someone has decided to burn black candles on your name, or has otherwise thrown bad juju at you in some fashion.

1 egg
Bottle of dark vinegar
Black marker
Heat source

I bet it's less messy if you do this outdoors on a barbecue or something but I did it indoors on the gas stove and it worked just fine. Granted, I had to clean up afterward. Totally worth it.

First take the egg and cleanse yourself with it, praying that the bad work be taken from you. In other words, wipe yourself down carefully so as to ensure you don't break the egg. It kind of feels like you are taking an eraser and erasing black charcoal off of your energy field. When you are done take the marker and write your enemy's name on the egg. If you don't know the name of the person you can write "the evil one", or "all enemies known and unknown". Baptise the egg for them.

Next, put it in the pot and fill the pot with vinegar untill the egg is mostly covered, praying that their plans turn against them and go sour. Tell your enemies that things are about to get hot for them. Psalm 70 is also a good accompaniment for the boiling. If you like you can season the egg with some reversing powder, though not strictly necessary. Set the pot to to boil on HIGH and then leave it to boil till the vinegar has boiled off and the egg is left baking on the dry surface. Then leave it like this and back away, making sure to remove children, pets and spouses.

After roughly 25-45 minutes the egg will go black and then explode with a tremendous, and somewhat startling blast!

Problem solved.


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.