Amsterdam Tarot Show

Past, present, future ALL REVEALED later today at the Amsterdam Tarot Show. I will be doing readings!! So come and see what promises to be an incredible art exhibition, and also get some cards flipped! Cafe de Cantine (Rietlandpark 373, 1019 EM Amsterdam)


Pendulum says "NO!"

I didn't always used to be a crappy dowser.

When I decided to take my vocation as reader seriously and found myself a mentor, I soon became seduced by the promising swing of the pendulum. Shirley, the septuagenerian card reader who had adopted me as her student, was a fierce dowser. She also was an annoying dowser. Aside from the excellent use she put the tool to in readings to refine time frames and other handy specifics - that bloody pendulum would get whipped out for everything; to choose new decks of cards; buy books; and even make dinner decisions. If there was any doubt about what should happen next, out the amethyst bauble would come from the mysterious depths of her handbag. Any protestations as to the pendulum's choice of, say, location for our sunday walk on the beach would produce a sharp look from Shirley.

"But Noordhoek beach is so lovely and quiet this time of day, Shirlz" I'd say.
"The pendulum says no" Shirley would state as a matter-of-fact.

I would restrain the urge to grab the amethyst dangling in front of my face and fling it out the car window. The pendulum had the final word, and that was that. Perhaps that's why Shirley's pendulum was so accurate in readings. For Shirley that pendulum was more than a crystal dangling from a chain. It was a natural law. Resultantly, I got my own pendulum and started practicing based on my mentor's instruction. The results were lackluster at best. I couldn't trust the damn thing. You see, in order to get accurate dowsing responses you need to trust. And, perversely, in order to trust you need accurate answers. A veritable divinatory chicken and egg scenario for a doubting Thomas such as I.

After a few weeks of frustration I had an idea. I asked Shirley to ritually bestow upon me the ability to dowse. With a raised eyebrow, my cranky mentor agreed. We created a small ceremony and I went upon one knee as a knight might before his queen. Shirley took her pendulum in hand, as did I. She then lay the other hand on my shoulder and as we swung our pendulums together in unison she declared that from this day forth I would be a dowser.

To our surprise it actually worked. I started getting accurate, consistent dowsing responses. I wasn't prospecting for minerals yet, mind you, but I was well on my way to a good solid level of dowsing proficiency. Thrilled to have another arrow in my quiver I enthusiastically set about working with the pendulum in a variety of settings. Time moved on and I eventually moved to Europe. Intercontinental phone-calls are expensive, Shirley was clueless with the internet and eventually Shirley and I lost touch. I suspect that her kids moved her to a different retirement home. The pendulum took a back seat to my study of geomancy for a while and when I decided to take it up again two years later the ability was gone. It was as if losing touch with Shirley had broken the spell and whatever she had bestowed on me that day had slipped away. I was a crappy, doubting dowser again.

In fact, I was worse than crappy. In one test, I performed far better with random guesses than with dowsing! Deeply discouraged I packed up my pendulum with the grim acceptance that the pendulum would never work for me again.

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago I receive a particularly vivid dream in which I am taken to some kind of secret lodge where I am introduced to a smartly dressed gentleman with a continental accent who describes himself as a "master diviner" and proceeds to show me a variety strange dowsing implements. Most of these devices I have never seen before. I woke from that dream with the knowledge that a new guide had been incorporated into my cuadro. Not an uncommon event for a spiritist medium - but a dowsing guide? For the worlds worst dowser?

I let the dream marinate for a couple of days before digging out the troubling cherrywood pendulum.

I asked my principle guide to 'bring in' the new guide as I fired up my pendulum. What followed could only be described as the worst dowsing test the world has ever seen. Every single dowsing response wrong. Dead wrong. Wrong, wrong, WRONG! Unimpressed by my new guide's influence I stuffed the pendulum back in its pouch, swearing under my breath. The situation had created an intense cognitive dissonance. On the one hand I was certain that this guide's arrival was important, on the other, the sheer earth-shaterring badness of my dowsing was undeniable.

I do not like being bad at anything.

As is the way of spiritual guides I started getting whispers in my ear along with this nagging urge to take up the pendulum and swing it. Flashes of it would come accompanied by a satisfied joyful feeling at the prospect of its wooden contours in my hand. What was the point, I'd ask myself? More whispers. No, I don't want to. Go on. But why? In my minds eye flashed the my most recent disaster of a dowsing test. Why was he showing me that? Again the session flashed before my eyes. Listen, I say to the new guide. I don't know what you are playing at but I got almost every single answer in that test WRONG. I would have been better off had I chosen the OPPOSITE of what the pendulum had indicated!

And then it dawned on me. The pendulum would have been correct if I had chosen the opposite answers. Could it be that my dowsing responses had in fact reversed direction as I crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere? At this thought I received what could only be described as a telepathic 'duh' from the new guide.

I gingerly took out the cherrywood pendulum and set up a new test attempting to locate a randomly concealed card amongst several stacks of cards, reversing the answers to my dowsing response: this time anti-clockwise = yes and clockwise = no.

Would you like to guess what happened next? The majority of tests were a success. And by a far greater margin than I have ever scored before, even at my best. More than enough to ensure me that I am back in the dowsing saddle again. What's most interesting is that results in frivolous tests - even for master dowsers - can be notoriously variable. Thats because the very nature of a test implies doubt; the outcome is unimportant; and there usually is some skepticism involved. Nonetheless, one needs to do some legitimate 'frivolous' testing in order to know you are getting a solid amount of valid dowsing responses. This then establishes confidence which in turn allows you to apply the skill to more serious pursuits.

A few quick pendulum dowsing tips:

  1. Attempt to contact a spiritual guide that can assist, if you are thick skulled like me.
  2. One of the beautiful things about dowsing is that it provides direct answers to questions through the ideomotor effect in arm and hand of the dowser. When the dowsing response is correctly calibrated your body is bypassing your conscious mind and receiving information from the unconscious mind which in turn is receiving information from the superconscious mind (if you choose to use that model). I personally choose to believe that tiny fairies are twerking in the tendons of my arm. Whatever you believe, when the dowsing response is well calibrated you will notice answers that surprise you in their spontaneity. Which means you should cultivate an expectant attitude of not knowing the answer. Preconceptions will pollute the response, just as they do with clairvoyance and card reading.
  3. Focus on the question as you ask it. Don't just say it. Feel it. The dowsing response is a yay or a nay based on that felt question. When I get an incorrect answer now it's usually because I spaced out when posing the question.
  4. Enjoy the motion of the swinging pendulum. Sounds odd, but first play with it - when your "yes" response brings pleasure and your "no" response brings coolness or indifference then the wires are connecting.
  5. Don't give up. It isn't as easy as it is made out to be. Getting a response is one thing, getting and accurate response to a real query is another. 
  6. Devise tests. Find lost objects etc. Part of being a good reader is providing proof - not just to yourself but to others. It's all good and well to check if your chakras are open or if you are standing over a lay-line but these kinds of things can't be corroborated. 
  7. Don't be too hard on yourself with tests. You should aim for a result beyond the probability of random guessing, but 100% accuracy rare even for master dowsers. As I said, tests are diagnostic - and by their nature discourage accuracy.  

(This post is dedicated to my friend and mentor Shirley Addlington - wherever she may be in this world or the next)


The Geomantic Tarot Layout

Here is a dynamic layout system for the tarot that combines geomancy and tarot into a single form. I got the idea after I noticed a layout online that resembled a geomantic figure. It didn't take long for me to connect the dots, so to speak, and come up with this.

The method is elegant in its simplicity and has a very satisfying amount of depth and detail. It works well in both a 'hard' predicative and more open-ended spiritual guidance readings. It does require some knowledge of geomancy and its figures (although you don't need to be capable of reading a full geomantic chart). Working with the method has helped me grasp the elemental structure of geomantic figures in a much more intimate way, so it may be of interest to hardcore geomancers for that reason. Similarly, it is useful in combination with a full geomantic chart - allowing one to zoom in on any figure in the chart (usually the querent or the quesited) - using the tarot as a kind of divinatory microscope!

The Method

The method makes fluid use of all the traditional geomantic figures to form and interpret a tarot spread by dynamically generating a new spread for each question. Start by framing your question. This could be an open ended question or a yes/no question as is traditional in geomancy. Next, generate a geomantic figure using your preferred method*. I like using my geomantic dice. If you don't know what a geomantic figure is or how to generate one you might want to read up on it here.

Example question: Will John get the promotion at work?

The figure generated is amissio. This gives us a basic answer but more importantly it gives the  context for our reading below and the card layout itself. Anyone that reads cards seriously knows that it's context that allows us to tease out accurate meanings from the hundreds if not thousands of potential meanings latent in any one card. Usually, tarotists do this through the use of positional meanings - here we rely on the figure and its elemental lines instead.

Using only the major arcana (you can use the entire pack, theoretically, but I'd advise you try it my way first) shuffle and lay out cards in the shape of the figure cast. Now we can interpret the cards using the inner structure of the geomantic figure. This is where it gets very interesting.

Assuming that you have familiarity with the structure of a geomantic figure you will know that each of the four lines is ruled by an element; fire in the first; air in the second; water in the third and earth in the fourth position (from top to bottom). This allows us to interpret the cards in these positions in relation to these elements and their associated areas of influence in the querent's life also taking into account the question and the figure.

Here is my preferred elemental scheme:

Fire: Energy, effort, motivation, the spiritual
Air: Intellect, thoughts, logic, communications
Water: Emotions, intuition, relationships
Earth: Body, money, time, the physical environment

At first glance it looks like an ordinary elemental spread but there is FAR more to it when you take into account that in any geomantic figure a single dot indicates an active element and a double dot a passive, or latent, element. In fact, it's the particular way in which these active elements combine in each figure that produces its unique energy. In practical terms this means that you start by interpreting the single cards in the spread as the active forces in the situation. Start by taking note which elements are active and what that means in relationship to your question. The active cards are the dynamic forces in the situation interacting to produce an outcome. Naturally this suggests that you should read the active cards together from top to bottom, as a tarot sentence. This means you will have 1 to 4 cards giving you the active 'sentence', depending on the figure generated. Once you have interpreted the active cards you can then begin combining the latent pairs to see what the passive influences are that are contributing to the outcome. These can give valuable insights about latent influences in a scenario. Often enough, because they are passive, the querent will be unaware of these factors.


Example question: Will John get the promotion at work?

First we examine the active (single dot) elements in the layout: fire and water. Naturally, fire and water have an antagonistic interaction and this is noted and applied to our card interpretation. In our example John has The Chariot VII  reversed in the fire line of the spread and The Hermit VIIII reversed in the water line. From this we can already note that energy/exertion and emotions/relationships are the primary forces in the outcome of this question - and, most importantly, that they are at odds...

Making sure to rely on the figure to give us further  context for interpreting the 'active' cards we can begin our interpretation of John's question. Amissio is traditionally associated with loss. Similarly, the Chariot VII reversed traditionally is associated with defeat and loss. Further, taking its position in the fire line into account we could interpret this as an overly aggressive impulse - perhaps John has been pushing too hard to get this promotion. The Hermit VIIII reversed in the water line (which rules emotions and relationships) isn't a particularly good card in the context of teamwork and suggests someone who is a lone wolf. Perhaps John has alienated himself from his colleagues as a result of his blindly ambitious drive (Chariot + Hermit). There is no I in team, after all. These two active cards suggest someone who is forging ahead on their own at the expense of their colleagues.

We can now uncover more salient information in the latent element pairs. In the air line we find VIII Justice + XX Judgement reversed: whomever is adjudicating these applications has decided against John based on very fairly balanced criteria or data. Since these cards are in the air line (which rules rational thinking), John may find that there was some kind of standard performance audit used to make this decision by top management.

Finally, we find XVI  The Tower + XII The Hanged Man in the earth line. This could indicate financial upheaval that results in things coming to a temporary standstill. From this we might interpret that John's company, like so many businesses in this recession, has suffered some serious financial setbacks, leading to delays and a halt on spending. The financial atmosphere is tense, to say the least. They won't be taking any risks.

We can inform John that it's unlikely he will be promoted at this time and that it may want to change his style to a more team-oriented approach in future if he hopes to move up in the organization. We can offer him some comfort by letting him know that the decision was made fairly but that recent financial setbacks in his company compounded with circumstances causing a much more conservative promotion policy to be implemented. It's just not the right corporate climate for a maverick such as John.

Tips for deepening interpretation

One of the pleasing things about this method, is, that each geomantic figure has a ton of traditional correspondences which can be used to confirm and tease out deeper card interpretations. Pay particular attention to any semiotic 'rhyming' between the figure and the cards. Ammisio, for instance, is traditionally imagined has a purse that is being emptied out. In the example reading we can find this concept 'rhyming' with the hanged man who like ammissio's purse is turned upside down. In many early decks the Hanged Man is depicted with coins falling from his pocket! This teases out a specific meaning from that card: one that emphasizes halt caused by financial loss. Amissio's inner element is fire, but is ruled outwardly by earth. The core reason for John not getting the job is his maverick streak (Chariot reversed in the inner element's line) while the circumstantial contributing factor is the bad economy (Tower + Hanged Man in the outer element's line). Similarly, salient astrological symbolism from the cards and figure can be used to tease out more info since all the cards have accrued astrological and alchemical associations. Finally, we can resort to the mobility of the figure to see if a situation is stable or volatile, and the attending associations of mobility.

I hope you enjoyed this idea and find it useful. And please remember to credit me if you use it or refer to it elsewhere. I love sharing my work but I also love getting credit.

Stay tuned for the advanced geomantic relationship spread!

*You could of course opt to use the tarot itself to provide a geomantic figure. The Golden Dawn assigned a geomantic figure to each of the sixteen court cards. The symmetry of this arrangement is very pleasing until you take a closer look at their assignments and realize that they have assigned the distinctly male-gendered Puer to a female court card! The GD geomantic correspondences are not to my taste at all. I've opted to correspond them by matching the court's common meanings to each figure (rather than trying to shoe horn based on the GD's convoluted elemental associations for each court). Then you just separate out the courts from the pack and draw a card when you frame you question, instead.


Review: Donald Tyson's 1-2-3 Tarot: Answers In An Instant

The biggest failing of Donald Tyson's 1-2-3 tarot: answers in an instant is the silly, misleading title that makes this book look like it's tarot for dummies. For years I have passed this book over with that unmistakable air of superiority that I get whenever I pass through the new age section of the bookstore.  The publisher's decision to make this look like a dubious "instant tarot" type of product could only have backfired because when you read the book what you discover inside is a relatively complex system of divination that is highly original but a little technical, even fiddly. If you were hoping to come away with something that would teach you how to flop down some cards and read tarot intuitively in ten minutes you may well be disappointed. While this book ostensibly uses the tarot to divine, Tyson has in fact devised something else quite marvelous and deep.

It may well be a truly western I - Ching. To get the most value from this book you need to let go of your dearly held tarot beliefs and focus instead on language. This is because his system privileges the word over the image, and as such you spend most of your time flipping through the book constructing sentences and paragraphs from his brilliant linguistic deconstruction of the tarot. You then interpret these sentences in relation to your question. Once you accept the fact that 1-2-3 tarot: answers in an instant is neither instant nor "tarot", strictly speaking, your mind is blown open by the potential that this oracle holds.

It has deep structure. He has mined the Golden Dawn meanings of the cards and created an elegant, sometimes bafflingly accurate oracle system. As mentioned, I am reminded of linguistic oracles such the I-Ching, or the Diloggun and its 'parent' system Ifa. And like these oracles it doesn't only provide auspices for your questions, it uncannily produces useful philosophical and moral strategies for relating skillfully to your world and your question. Perhaps it is the Tao of tarot?

"But I already find useful philosophical and moral strategies when I read the cards", I hear you say. Yes, but those tips you pull out of your ass. These, on the other hand, have been distilled from industrial-strength victorian cabala.

Again, this is about the magic of words. This is not to say the pictures and visual cues in the cards don't add to it, they most certainly do, and this is part of the genius. But they do so within the structure of the system. One of the reasons that geomancy and horary astrology, for instance, are such accurate tools of divination is because they have a deep interpretive structure. With this text Tyson uncovers a similar sort of deep structure in the tarot.

The system is really best used when reading for yourself in a quiet contemplative way. Unless of course you were to memorize all the tarot sentences and their subsidiary positional sentences, which, though not impossible, would be quite a feat. Mortals will need to flip through the book to use the system, which makes it less conducive to reading for others. This is not to say that it won't bring value to your regular readings. In my opinion his exposition of the cards in combination with his remarkably poetic and profound tarot sentences is one of the most coherent, pithy and systematic collations of the underlying wisdom of tarot I've seen. Your understanding of the cards is only going to get richer and more subtle as you use his system by yourself, which in turn will make you a better reader for others.

If you are willing to shake up your tarot routine you may well be pleasantly surprised by what you find in this text. I know I was...


Teflon results and the art of getting your magic to stick

The internet is flooded with spell advice. Now more than ever you can get easy access to information on almost any kind of magic imaginable. I suspect that one of the reasons that professional rootworkers stay in business despite all this free information is that people try to do the work and it doesn't, well, work. Or more commonly, they see all kinds of tantalizing signs: coincidences, synchronicities, even the beginnings of a tangible result but it slips away like sand through their fingers. For instance, you may cast a job spell and it seems to be working, hooray! You were getting no responses to your job applications and suddenly after the spell there is a flood of interview prospects. You go for a ton of interviews and they all go perfectly but nobody hires you.

Or, you are besotted with Jim and are working that love juju day and night. Three times a day you meet someone new called Jim. Every time you switch on the telly there is mention of someone called Jim. You are driving along the highway and you notice there is an aircraft high up doing skywriting and it's spelling out, can you believe it, J-I-M. Yet, your Jim takes you on one date, kisses you passionately on the doorstep and never calls back.

You could call this phenomenon teflon magic. The spell doesn't stick. Something happened, sure, but it wasn't a lasting result. I prefer to call these events magical effects, personally, rather than results. People can get caught up in magical effects very easily, since they can be strange and interesting but ultimately they fizzle. Magical effects are not without use, however. They show us that something, indeed, is happening. They are inspiring. Often they are cool. But in order for us to mature as practitioners we need to move beyond magical effects or we will end up frustrated and disillusioned with magic.

The real craft of magic is not creating a change - that's the easy part. It's doing magic that sticks.

Here are some ways in which you can start doing more magic that sticks:

Treat both the cause AND the symptom

If you are doing spellwork to get more money and nothing sticks - it could be you are only treating the symptom of the problem and not the cause. Maybe money isn't your actual problem, maybe it's your crappy job or your spouse's spending. Or, if you are a business owner it could be your employees or your marketing. Think carefully about the issue. Are you treating only the symptom? If you are in fact only treating the symptom magically you are going to have an endless stream of teflon results. Always identify the cause and do spell work to resolve both the cause and the symptom of your problem.

Remember: if the cause is resolved the symptom will disappear.

Sometimes all this requires is facing up to the facts, and applying old fashioned common sense. Sometimes, however, the underlying cause won't be as obvious as we might like. It could be that we are blind to it due to our own psychological hang-ups, or simply, that we just don't know. What then? This brings us to my next point…

Great magic is 99% divination and 1% conjuration

Before you cast a spell, or light a single candle - carefully divine. Take your time with it. Sharp divination should not only give you a new perspective on the situation it should also direct you to the root of the issue (as apposed to the symptom). Which either means the reading will confirm what common sense has dictated all along, or more likely, it will point you to something that you were totally blind to. Along with that, a good reading should, ideally, suggest a map for moving ahead. Sometimes, when a reading is excellent, the shift in perspective alone can create a positive outcome! Like magic. If you don't read for yourself and you want to do magic that sticks, then you had better learn how, and soon. That or you need to find a reader whom you trust, someone who is at least familiar with magical work, and see if you can work with them. An accurate reading allows you to strike like an aikido master; in exactly the right place, using the least amount of force to create the greatest result.

Work on the need AND the want

Technically this is part of my first tip but it deserves its own treatment for clarity. Sometimes what we think we want when we devise a magical strategy does not address what the underlying need is, which is to say, what we really want. If we do magic to bring the thing we think we want, and its not well and truly what we need (or really want), then teflon results are what we get. This may be because it's completely misaligned. Also, your heart isn't in it, now is it?

I get this a lot with female clients who want to do spell-work to bring a man back but they hate him. And I mean a fiery loathsome hatred. All the water in the pacific ocean could not wash him clean of his sins. They will spend an entire hour telling me all his faults, what a no-good, low-life, pathetic waste of space he is. But they want him back! How could they want him back and hate his guts so much? The conclusion I have come to is this: it's not this man that they want back. Sometimes, what they really want back is that time when things were exciting and romantic (need: romance), or, when they had someone to talk to about their day (need: companionship), or, that steamy love-making (need: good sex). That's what they really want back, but it has got tangled up with the idea of this man who they now, in fact, hate. As all professional workers know all to well - this goes nowhere fast.

Similarly, you may find for instance, that you think you want a bigger salary but if you dig a little deeper you discover that what you really want is more free time to write your novel. You have the belief (not necessarily true) that more money will give you the opportunity to write. It may be true that more money will allow you to write - but can you be sure? Do spiritual work to manifest both the need (more free time to write) and the want (more money).  This can involve two separate workings focusing on each area or a cleverly crafted working that incorporates both into a single spell. My preference is for two workings, since it allows one to disentangle those two aspects and bring a result that is not only something that you will be happy with but is nice and crisp and will stick. Sometimes you may discover multiple needs, one layered beneath the other. Work on each need progressively, or simultaneously along with your want.

Remember: if the need is met the want will take care of itself.

Combine your spell with practical work on yourself

For each objective issue in our lives that we want to change with magic there is an accompanying personal issue that needs work. If that personal issue isn't addressed in some way, then magic simply won't stick. This could be something relatively small like a misguided attitude, or a bad habit, or something much bigger like some sort of life-long phobia. For instance, I suffer from a fear of public speaking. The thought of speaking to a relatively small group of people keeps me awake all night. Yet, as I moved along in my career I realized that I wanted to work full-time as a rootworker and reader, and for that I needed more exposure. I did spells to bring that result. As that work bore fruit, I eventually had to face the fact that it would mean talking to groups of people, speaking at conferences, giving workshops, appearing on radio-shows or podcasts etc. Not easy for someone who has that particular phobia.

For my magic to truly bring a result that would stick, I knew I had to work on the public speaking issue. So, for every spell I cast for success I listened to an audio book on public speaking. I practiced delivering speeches to my empty sofa. I prepared outlines and talking points. I had to get comfortable with the sound of my own speaking voice (which is harder than it sounds). If I didnt combine my spells with some personal work on this issue then all the opportunities for exposure in the world are worthless. Additionally, a block of that sort would seriously sabotage the likelihood of a magical result even manifesting. The reason is that while I was outwardly conjuring for my own 'success and exposure' I was also implicitly manifesting a terrifying scenario that would necessarily be part of it: speaking in public. Without facing up to it, the dissonance would never have resolved and no amount of magic would have stuck.

There is no need to be paralyzed by the prospect of having to deal with all your psychological drama in order to get practical magic to stick. You will find that a simple willingness to address some personal issue  related to your outcome with tangible action can act as a powerful catalyst for lasting results. For instance, a client was having trouble with intimate relationships. His spells wouldn't stick and his sex life was at best awkward for him. He knew that this had to do, in part, with self-confidence and how self-conscious he felt about his body. We agreed that as an adjunct to all new spell-work he would commit to swimming and working out at least twice a week. He did so (at first) to humor me, and to show that he was willing to combine working on himself with magic. Well, before long his love work started to stick. The strange thing is the result came before he had been at the gym long enough to see any noticeable change in his body!

Use a different technique 

If you keep casting sigils and are getting teflon results - for the love of all that is good try another kind of spell! Seriously. Similarly, if you are burning a zillion candles and nothing is sticking maybe it's time to conjure up a spirit, or make a talisman or try a spiritual bath.  This one is simple enough to explain, but hard to grasp, especially if you are attached to working in one way and one way only. People can be stubborn (myself included). Different techniques work in different ways, some more optimum than others. The thing that works today may not stick tomorrow. Better yet: combine different techniques in parallel to get better coverage. Just don't keep doing the same thing expecting a different result.

Go to church

This one is going to be a hard sell. I'll start by saying that this is a conjure blog and conjure is a form of Christian folk magic. However, the idea has much wider application. So far I'm not entirely able to fully articulate why. Nonetheless, I have consistently noticed that clients who attend church get results that stick. I'm talking about attending the occasional service and spending some time on consecrated ground, nothing more than that. It seems to work in different religious contexts too. I have a jewish client and initially results for his case wouldn't stick too well. He hadn't been to a synagogue since he was boy and his family were not particularly observant. I suggested he try attending a few services to see how it would work for him. He was reluctant but decided to try it. Lo and behold his work began to stick. As a bonus he reconnected with something that he found, to his surprise, meaningful. Maybe it's because it shows a little faith and respect, or maybe it is because of the holy ground, or maybe it pleases your ancestral spirits - heck maybe it just makes God happy! I can't say for sure but from I can see it well and truly helps makes the magic stick. Try it and see for yourself.


Balthazar's Conjure closed May 25 - June 10

Please note: Balthazar's Conjure will be closed for vacation from May 25 to June 10, 2013. All orders including rootwork consultations, short e-mail readings and any other pending orders will be completed once I reopen on June 10, 2013. Thanks!


Urim and Thumhim Dice: Theurgic Divination

If there is one thing that I have come to appreciate as an initiate in Afro-cuban religion it's the importance of 'analogue' yes/no style divination when dealing with spirits. Especially when dealing with questions that have some emotional charge associated with them. I find it essential to have an additional communication tool that cannot be influenced (either consciously or unconsciously) by the desires and expectations of the operator (me) to use in tandem with mediumistic and visionary communication. This kind of divination also gives very satisfying 'closure' on various questions that would otherwise remain troublingly ambiguous, thus providing clarity in confirmation. I find that this brings a certain tangibility that's very important for satisfying the rational mind when doing spirit work. This has led me to experimenting with various tools in theurgic work because although scrying is great for receiving chunks of information, there are times when you need some solid, accessible yes/no divination when dealing with angels and spirits during a conjuration - even if it is just to confirm what you have seen in the crystal as been understood correctly.

I toyed with the idea of adapting my obi shells to the task but since I use those on a daily basis to communicate with a very particular order of spirits in my ATR practice, I wasn't comfortable appropriating that tool. For one thing I didn't want to get the 'wires crossed' when attempting to divine with planetary angels and spirits during a conjuration and inadvertently get a muerto on the line. I've tried various systems of astragals in my goetic conjurations with some success but to be honest compared to the obi they just do not work all that well, spitting out too many nonsensical answers when all I want is a yay or a nay. Pendulum is out since I just don't trust its 'objectivity', and coin flipping lacks the nuance that I like so much in the obi. And believe me with yes/no queries nuance is the name of the game. You would be surprised at the detail one can receive if you are skilled at using the obi.

I finally was inspired to create my own method by combining astragals (in this case six sided dice), and the functionality of the obi with an idea out of the old testament. And so were born the Urim and Thumhim dice! There are various theories about what the Urim and Thumhim were, exactly, but most seem to agree the it was a priestly yes/no oracle consisting of two objects; probably two stones, two images, or even sacred dice - manipulated in some way by the priest to talk to God. Each object providing either a "yes" or "no" answer respectively based on the outcome of the procedure; hence Urim and Thumhim. I find the whole subject quite fascinating. And biblical symbolism is always very pleasing to me. The Urhim and Thumhim dice method below is specifically designed to operate with the Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, since this is the grimoire that I am using for angelic work.  The Urim and Thumhim dice system could conceivably be used with any system of crystalomancy or scrying, however. I have never tried, though.

The Table of Practice

All that is needed is a pair of black and white six sided dice. It would be wise to consecrate these using the appropriate prayers and fumigations. If you wanted to get astrological you could buy them at your local game shop on the day and hour of mercury. I also exorcise my dice at the beginning of each conjuration using an adapted version of the prayer out of The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, by sprinkling some holy water and then laying my hand on them, saying:

Heavenly Father, just as You proclaimed “put the Urim and the Thumhim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord"*; so too, let these inanimate creatures of God, now be sanctified and consecrated as the Urim and Thumhim were; and blessed to this purpose, of revealing only true answers of the celestial intelligences and spirits descending here in this crystal. May this always be faithfully revealed, so that I may know "yes" from "no" just as surely as God divided light from darkness and night from day. In the name of the blessed and Holy Trinity be hereby duly consecrated that no evil phantasy may answer in thee; or, if they do gain ingress into this oracle, they may be constrained to answer intelligibly, and truly, and without the least ambiguity, for Christ's sake. Amen. 

*It may be appropriate to hold the dice over ones heart during the recitation of the verse to further align this biblical resonance in ritual.

Using the Urim and Thumhim dice:

The system is simplicity itself. Frame a question for the spirit whom you have conjured into the crystal making sure that it can answered with a "yes" or "no".  Shake and throw the dice on the table of practice. The die with the highest number gives you the answer. The higher the roll the stronger the answer. At a glance: if the black die's number is the highest then the answer will be a  "NO". If the white die is higher, then "YES". However, there is more nuance available by interpreting the the number of the highest roll.

White Die:

  1. "Unsure" - think about the question carefully, reformulate it for clarity and ask again to confirm.
  2. Provisional "yes", contingent on certain factors: scry in the crystal to receive a vision as to what these factors may be, and then ask more questions to confirm. (In other words "Yes, IF…")
  3. Yes, but caution is needed there is some risks/challenges involved.
  4. Yes
  5. Definitely, yes (you know this already)!
  6. Yes, with blessings from God. All will be well, you are guided in this.

Black Die:

  1. "Unsure" - think about the question carefully, reformulate it for clarity and ask again to confirm.
  2. Circumstantial "no" - based on prevailing factors. Ask more questions to find out what these circumstances are (practical, astrological, psychological etc).
  3. No, this question is of little concern or relevance.
  4. No
  5. Definitely NOT (you know this already)! 
  6. Danger, NO! Warning, Warning, Warning. (drip a little bit of holy water on the dice to 'cool' them when you receive a six)

When the values on both dice are the same (a tie), I take this to mean that the spirit is "unsure" - think about the question carefully, reformulate it for clarity and roll again to confirm.

Rolling a two on either die provides the spirit with an important opportunity to guide you in the right direction. On the white die a two tells you that the answer is a yes, provided you follow the spirits advice carefully. It's now up to you to further scry or divine said advice. On the black die a two tells us that the answer is "no" because of some salient matter influencing things as they stand (usually hindering); further scrying and divination then should offer a solution as to how to turn a "no" into a "yes", since there is the implication that it's just circumstantial. Rolling lower than one isn't possible, naturally. Resultantly, the meaning of a one is the same as that of a tie (since the only time you would read it is during a tie). As with a tie if you take a moment to think about the question, you will usually realise that you asked something that could not be answered with a "yes" or "no"; or, that the question itself was somehow confusing and needs further clarification. Keep it specific and to the point - just as you would with say a horary or geomantic chart.


Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour

I had the pleasure of being the guest on Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork once again. The panel discussion topic was spiritual hygiene and we had a great time sharing tips and reading for callers. You can listen to Sunday's show below...

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Tradition, appropriation and spiritual legitimacy

Dr. E recently posted an article on his church website addressing cultural appropriation, which has caused much discussion on Facebook. As can be expected those who are sympathetic to incorporating disparate elements from living religions such as Lucumi and Haitian Vodou into an otherwise non-traditional practice are unhappy about Eddy's tone in that article. Initiates on the other hand are praising him for speaking out against the mercantilist appropriations of Lucumi and the other diasporic traditions that we find spreading all over Etsy and elsewhere online.

Let's put aside for the moment the potential harm that cultural appropriation can do to a living tradition.

Those who are working outside of the initiatic tradition but still decide to make use of said tradition's symbols and spirits (either for their own practice or for financial gain) face a conflict - both spiritually and culturally. On the one hand there is the idea that their practice has value and power for them, personally. That they can and should be able to do as they please in their own spiritual life - especially if it feels like it is working for them. Who are they harming, after all?

On the other hand they are faced with the question of validity. Is what they are doing then valid even though it isn't traditional? And here is where it becomes slippery. Once they deem their work valid based on the criteria that what they do has meaning and efficacy (subjectively), they might feel entitled to be acknowledged as legitimate by others. If they feel their work is spiritually legitimate should they then start offering rituals, products and services of a similar sort, using the same signifiers along with cultural currency that those signifiers carry? As can be expected, this kind of validation and approval from initiates is quite unlikely to happen and it generates conflict. Outrage even.

Complicating matters further, we usually see the same strategies that neo-pagans and occultists use to reconstruct or simulate extinct ancient religions applied to simulating religions that are still very much alive - since this is the toolbox at hand for those who would attempt such a thing.

More often that not these strategies entirely miss the mark - both in terms of form and metaphysics. The main reason is that they are constructing their practice largely from the perspective of an outsider looking in. As such what they create for themselves can only be contrived based on what they see, and therefore necessarily must latch on to what constitutes an aesthetic veneer, because the real meat and marrow of the tradition is completely opaque to a non-initiate - since it defined by a continuity of experiences, gestures, materials and relationships that act upon the initiate; and not merely by outer symbols and paraphernalia.

The reason for this is that Lucumi and Haitian Vodou are religions of secrets. Even for initiates there are ever deepening layers of obfuscation and misdirection that only become clarified by ones elders over time through direct ritual experiences and work. And this process never ends since there will always be elders who are more senior and therefor hold more knowledge to reveal. Even those who are legitimately initiated are not entitled to propitiate all the spirits in the pantheon - only those that they have been given access to in various ways, ritualistically.

Additionally, these spirits - much like their worshippers - tend to exhibit insular relationship patterns. They usually demand introduction through an intermediary figure who already has a trusted relationship with them.

Like most humans do, I might add.

This stands in stark contrast to the popular conception that all deities are kind of hanging out in the astral hoping that someone will pray to them, and are pleased at any and all attention they receive. They may not even be willing to acknowledge (much less shower blessings) on anyone who approaches them out of the blue!

Some complain of a lack of access to the traditions, even though they want to get initiated, they say they can't find godparents or a reputable house. Resultantly, they feel therefore  they are serving the spirits and doing the work in their personal way out of love and dedication. In principle this is admirable of course. however, lately I'm starting to worry that this isn't a little disingenuous. Here is why:

With Lucumi for instance, I think there is a lot more potential access to the religion (even in UK and Europe) than many realize. If anything what is lacking is the correct approach from applicants. In the UK there are quite a few reputable houses of various blends of nationalities. Here in Amsterdam there are three, perhaps four houses that I'm aware of. There are more in Spain and France. In the US, there are many, many options indeed. So there certainly are routes of legitimate access. The question is: do the various types of people whom find the religion's aesthetic appealing actually WANT legitimate access to the tradition? Are they willing to to submit the process? From what I have seen with those who approach our house (usually the occultists) is they come with a certain attitude. They come with their cups full, as they might say in zen. They want their own trip validated. And let me tell you, that rarely happens in this tradition. Its not easy on the ego. So, then if you are brittle I think it's more comfortable to sit in the liminal zone making your own stuff up because none will be the wiser for it. Certainly you can sell products on etsy and ebay that way.

This is not to say that some people just don't have trouble finding the right house, and not all houses are reputable, welcoming, or even a good fit - but I think if you really want it you can find a house, and most certainly so in the U.S.

And for those who are doing their own freeform thing with an eye on some day getting initiated I see another major obstacle, especially if they are setting themselves up as figures already in some way. Once they do get initiated into reputable house they will find all their dearly held beliefs and personally formed opinions about their practices will almost certainly be broken down completely by their elders, or at best turned upside down in a very disturbing way.

If you have been doing your own thing for some time it's probably going to be a serious blow to the ego. From what I've seen - people who have built up elaborate personal castles of this sort tend to be very reluctant to let their own trip go in favor of the genuine article.


The Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour!

I was a guest on the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour! You can listen to last night's episode below. We had interesting panel discussion on magical lamps and gave free readings and rootwork advice LIVE. What a blast!

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