I’m the whirling storm The maelstrom The howling wind over shingled roofs Wild and unfettered I wend my way Wind-breath soul in flight Through the tiniest of cracks in heavy wooden doors Without disturbing the latches I move A breath A dream I take to the skies I breathe deep the scent of ozone And I shriek
A Maddening Herb
I shriek of madness Of Strife And of “fuck you very much” I exorcise myself of things too long left unsaid Words impaled by teeth on tongue The metallic tinge of blood swallowed back My mouth is aflame All righteous fury as I spit
Stimulated According to My Desires
I am that which cannot be controlled I am the bee in the bonnet that which is stuck in the craw Subversive, I transgress My nails are arrows And my hair, snakes I am that which has always existed And that which always will And I’m never alone
Until the herb releases When I sink once more The wind finally calmed Slipping back through the door My lic barely breathing I lie on myself Yawn deep And I’m home
Brother Petrus’s office was small -cramped almost – a cell-like space with books stacked against every conceivable support. It had been a cell when he’d first taken the space over for the task that his superiors at the Holy See had assigned to him, but he’d arrived – a stranger to this small and seemingly insignificant port town church, and he’d done as he was bid.
Not since the days of the Inquisition had his superiors been so concerned about the affairs of the common folk. People still spoke heretical charms over butter to stop the elves from souring, and practiced foul heathenisms at wells and trees, and yet the Holy Mother Church had done nothing. In some places they’d even encouraged it, perhaps in the spirit of Pope Gregory of old, the pope who’d encouraged the church to allow the people their…indulgences, and instead of destroying, simply redirecting them to the worship of the risen Christ.
But this, this was different, and where they had only previously spoken of the foolish ways of the country folk and ‘little P Paganism’, they’d instead put people into place and plans in motion. He was one of those people, those tiny cogs in the greater machine of the Vatican stratagem against whatever it was they were worried about. He didn’t know the whole story, of course, and nor would he question. Brother Petrus knew his place and the virtue of keeping to one’s place, but still sometimes, maybe when trying to ignore the barely suppressed wrath of one of his subordinates as they carried out yet another seemingly senseless edict, he couldn’t help but get a little curious.
The one good thing about his ‘office’ was the window. It was barred, like all the others – an echo of a time when religious buildings were as much prison as sanctuary depending on who you were. But the view was unspoiled by the skillfully wrought iron that covered the orifice so ornately. Outside was a flurry of activity as the assorted cast of sailors, passengers, and merchants played their parts in the production that was yet another day at the dock. He sipped his tea, savoring the warmth as it worked its way down his too-rough throat. Too much shouting, too many orders for people who didn’t understand and who no longer seemed to see obedience as a virtue.
There was a knock at the door.
Turning from the temporary escape of the window, Brother Petrus set the tea down on his desk and wearily took his seat.
“You may enter!”
The heavy wooden door swung open pendulously to reveal one of the younger Brothers and a middle aged woman.
The younger monk bowed deferentially as he spoke, but his voice barely hid his disdain, “Madame Blavatsky, Brother Petrus…as you requested.”
For a moment, he considered abrading the other monk in front of their guest, introducing consequences for such behavior. He knew how they all spoke of him as soon as his back was turned, maybe it was time to remind them of their vows? Locking eyes with the other man, he let his anger bleed into his eyes and watched as it registered on the other monk’s face. “You are dismissed, Brother Erasmus,” he all but growled. The woman – a Madame Blavatsky that his superiors had wished him to seek out watched the display with no small amount of amusement on her face. Brother Petrus bit back his anger, shifting his demeanor to that of congenial host.
“Madame Blavatsky, please,” he said in perfect English as he gestured in invitation at a seat on the opposite side of his desk.
“Thank you,” she replied and took her seat. Once settled, he watched her look around the room, taking in the various books and map.
“You seem to be a man of learning.”, she began. “But I do not suppose I was invited here to discuss books with you.”
“Indeed,” he allowed, smiling slightly at her cynicism as he unfolded and spread out a yellowed map on his desk. Spidery ink trails of Latin crawled across almost the whole of Europe, but it was the two large triangles that connected six different cities that really drew the eye. Madame Blavatsky’s eyes widened.
“I take it you know what this is, Madame Blavatsky?”, he hazarded. Maybe it was simply the age of the map that had surprised her?
“Yes”, she breathed, her voice barely more than a whisper. “I’d heard rumors of this, of these triangles, but I had never seen any credible proof of such a thing until today.”
Brother Petrus opened an envelope, his briefing from his superiors. This was how these things usually went. He would receive the information for each task by messenger, including what information he had to impart, and sometimes even what he had to say. Brother Petrus opened up his script and said a silent prayer of thanks that it was easily legible this time.
Taking a deep breath, he began to read.
“Dear Madame Blavatsky, It is with the deepest gratitude that we thank you for agreeing to come and meet with Brother Petrus. We are very much aware of the strangeness of our request, please rest assured that had we greater latitude in this matter, we would not have done things thus.
Please also forgive our use of Brother Petrus in this manner. While it would be easier for you to simply read the letter, we have come to realize that that is not always safe for us or for you. Brother Petrus is uniquely single-minded in whichever task he is given; it is a trait that serves us well.
You are probably wondering why we requested this meeting and why you are looking at the priceless map that accompanied this letter.
It is simple, we understand that it is your intention to travel to London and to settle there for at least some time. We would ask that you stay in Oostende for not only your sake, but the sake of many many lives. It is hard to explain this request while also adhering to the necessary amount of circumspection, but we shall try.
You have already probably noticed the two triangles on the map: The first triangle connects Turin, Lyon, and Prague, and is known as ‘The Triangle of White Magic’. The second triangle, which connects Turin, St Francisco, and London, is known as ‘The Triangle of Black Magic’. As unbelievable as it may be, dear Madame Blavatsky, this in of itself is not a matter for concern, and were things left unchanged and how they are, this meeting would not be taking place. However, something has changed in London, something that our agents report can only be described as the feeling that there is something dark and magical emanating from some occulted subterranean cove. Our prophets tell us that this will herald the end of the world as we know it, and already we see the fruits of this poison in the popularity of Hermeticism in the city.
It is for this reason that we are asking you to stay in Oostende, lest you further inflame the situation. In exchange for your compliance, we are prepared to negotiate a sizeable compensation with you. You need only inform Brother Petrus of your answer in terms of ‘Yes’, or ‘No’. All documents pertaining to this communication will be burned and our good Brother Petrus will keep his silence. Brother Petrus silentium ad infinitum.
May you choose wisely.
The letter did not remain in his hands for long, scant seconds passed before he was almost automatically clearing the map from the table and carrying it to the fire kept burning in the grate. Madame Blavatsky simply sat there, a look of shock on her face, though he could not think why. He had no memory of what he’d just read even though it was less than a minute from his lips, and the logic of tossing everything that had arrived by messenger not one day ago into the flames eluded him. The urge to watch carefully until the fire had consumed the documents wholly was also difficult to explain to himself, and yet he did it as though he was incapable to do otherwise.
For a moment, he sort of remembered doing this before, and feeling the same way then as he did now. From this perspective, his life seemed like a confusing mess of drudgery intermingled with blank spots and the briefest moments of clarity. Something told him that an hour from now his memories would fall from his mind as surely as the snow fell in December.
Turning from the grate and the ashes of secrets, he regarded the woman. She seemed afraid, why was that?
“And what if I say no?”, she asked carefully, edgily, her voice barely betraying only the slightest hint of a shake.
Brother Petrus didn’t understand, what would she say no to?
“I’m sorry Madame Blavatsky, but I don’t understand, may I get you some tea?”, he offered.
Her head snapped round to look at him dead on and for a moment he felt as though his heart were a box to be opened and that she had somehow found the key. A look of indescribable pity chased fear across her face before settling and becoming the dominant emotion. The air in the room thickened – that was the problem with these little cells though, they only ever had the one, small window. He shifted uncomfortably as Madame Blavatsky stood, moving towards him and taking his hands in her own. Ozone tinged the air as he felt small, barely-there traces of sensation against his skin, almost as though she was drawing something on the top of his hands with her fingers, but he didn’t look. Her piercing eyes met his and held them there, fixing his gaze on her own. He barely noticed the slight movement of her lips or heard the impossibly quiet whisper of words. Instead he felt something he hadn’t felt for a long time – not since Bishop Gervasio had taken him to that strange round chamber in the deepest parts of the Vatican where so few get to tread: He felt free.
Madame Blavatsky’s words took form and shape and remade themselves in his mind as comprehensible words, words that he could once more understand. A phrase, repeated over and over again, a phrase that felt imperative that he also repeat.
“Liberate. I am liberate, you are liberate, we are liberate, we are free.”
His voice joined her own, the tickle on his hands became a buzz, and suddenly *everything* shifted. For a moment, they were no longer in his small office cell, with its even smaller window promise of freedom, except that they were, but not. It was different in ways that Petrus knew he’d never manage to explain even if he were given twenty years to do so. It was all so much more…real, as though he was seeing the world properly for the first time. They both stopped chanting simultaneously, and Madame Blavatsky smiled.
“There will be no snow fall this December,” she said enigmatically, and Petrus knew that to be true, nodding his agreement.
Taking her hands back, Madame Blavatsky brushed herself down, businesslike, as though she hadn’t really just broken whatever magic had been holding him prisoner and tipped his world on its head. Looking around his cell he smiled, there was no way he was ever going to miss this place.
She was already at the door, pausing before the heavy wood with its old iron bands before she turned back.
“It looks like things have…”, she cocked her head to the side, as though trying to shake the right word loose, “changed.”
He nodded his assent, shocked by how much easier such a simple movement seemed now. She studied him for a moment before continuing, “You have much to learn, Petrus. I will teach you – in exchange for work – if you desire it.”
Brother Petrus swallowed, “What will I need to bring?”
There’s been a curious post going around on social media this morning. It’s a photograph that was purportedly taken in Arizona of what appears to be a demon dallying in a street. Over and over again, I’ve seen people assert that it’s a palm tree, despite the fact that it’s clearly not. Let’s face it, it looks nothing like a palm tree. Now I’m not saying it is a demon (we do live in the era of Photoshop), but what is curious is the vehemence that people are defending the palm tree explanation. This reminded me of something I heard while in a trance once. In the trance I was walking down the street, but it wasn’t just populated by the living and seen, but by everything from ghosts, to faeries, to creatures of a more mythological nature. Weaving in and around the living and seen, they went completely unnoticed, and I was baffled. How could these people just go about their shopping and *not* notice that dragon? Then came the voice. It was not a ‘head voice’ but external, coming with all the force of an air canon.
“They won’t see because they don’t want to see.”
That sounds like the kind of bullshit thing a shill sells to people in order to blur the lines of their reality and make them more invested in what the shill has to sell; but there is a truth to it.
Because that is how a whole bunch of people can look at a photo of a demon dallying down some Arizona street and argue vociferously that it’s a palm tree. They simply don’t want to see. Even in the age of Photoshop when you can create a demon and add it to a photo to freak people out on the internet, people will still argue for the tree. The bubble is being threatened, and any suggestion that things are not as they seem must be destroyed in the most mundane way possible.
The lines must be redrawn between the possible and impossible and the world reasserted, people must feel safe.
Because if we do live in a world in which there might be a demon that saunters down some street in the South West, then that means that there are a whole load of possibilities and dangers that people don’t know how to counter, and nobody likes that. Who among us doesn’t like feeling like we’re the one in charge?
In the same vein, it would seem that my post ‘Witchcraft is Not Safe (and Nor Should it Be!)’ has resurfaced after almost a year of floating in the depths of the web after the initial furor. Now, as then, I’m facing a whole bunch of criticism for having the audacity to actually go to a burial mound and call up the dead.
However, in an almost-year of reading and countering criticisms about something I did back in 2005/2006 by people who obviously know far better than I did in my twenties, I’ve learned a thing or two about that criticism.
First of all, this criticism is neatly avoiding the point of the post, but also proving it in some ways. It seems to come from certain groups more than others, but all essentially boils down to the same thing: if you place the blame on the practitioner, nothing is changed. Witchcraft remains that benign, misunderstood thing that is sold as part of the shitshow that is modern identity politics, and there’s nothing that could *really* harm you – except maybe breaking that ‘rule of three’ (and don’t get me started on that one).
Often it starts out with a ‘this wouldn’t have happened had you (not) done _______’. But the curious thing I’ve noticed about participating in these discussions and countering that criticism (because I do really want people to get what I was saying), is that when you counter with how you did do that, then you end up with a litany of similar pronouncements. The more you counter and detail the measures you took, the more the goalposts widen, and in the end it feels as though you’ve gone well into the territory of clutching at straws.
Challenging the Status Quo
People in Pagan magical communities, especially those who are considered authorities (or would like to be), hold up things going off without a hitch as being some kind of gold standard of their skill. But I don’t think that’s anything anyone should be proud of – no sword was ever considered strong or even usable without being tempered first. If anything, this adherence to making out like your magical shit doesn’t stink is contributing to the moribund state of magic in modern Paganism. Moreover, if you are actually out there, pushing boundaries, working at leveling up, and you don’t have at least some stories of when things went tits up. Well, you’re either lying your arse off because you don’t want to look unskilled, you’re not as experienced as you claim, nothing is happening for you, or you’re staying where it’s safe.
There’s a point to be made about this idea of safety too. We humans like to be safe. Ever since the beginning of humanity we’ve been running risk assessments and mitigating the dangers in our lives. For the most part, we’ve got the physical side of things down. Science tells us how things work, we have some measure of predictability, and we generally sleep at night without worrying about things like changelings, revenants, and goodness knows what else.
So when something comes along that challenges that sense of safety and predictability in a visceral (as opposed to the more typically cerebral) way, we fight back. We lash out at it in the hopes that it will go away. We try to find ways to explain the scientifically unexplainable in ways that are more acceptable to our worldviews. We scream that the denizen of hell in fuck knows where AZ is a palm tree.
We try to convince ourselves once again that we are safe and that anything vaguely threatening can be put down to some fucking amateur on the internet. In other words, we convince ourselves that nothing like that could ever happen to us. That kind of thing only ever happens to other people, and probably because they didn’t follow (insert piece of worldview that further reinforces a sense of safety here).
Witchcraft is not safe (and nor should it be!), because if it is, then we’re not pushing things forward. An element of risk is a part of this game, and if you look at that risk and ask yourself why anyone would do that, then maybe it’s not the game for you.
Witchcraft is not safe (and nor should it be!), because the unseen doesn’t come with D&D-style stat sheets that we can compare with our own and make the decision to keep away. They do come with a fuckton of agency though, you know, as you might expect for independent beings that aren’t just figments of the imagination. And sometimes, you don’t get to the ‘goodies’ until you’re a few hours into ritual.
Witchcraft is not safe (and nor should it be!), because now more than ever, we need to see the world for what it is and deal with it on that basis. We need to break down our mental barriers, hate fuck the Demon Palm Tree Bubble out of existence, and reclaim what we actually lost. People talk a lot about re-enchanting the world, but to me, that sounds like a goal-idea set further down the road that people can get behind as being interesting but without actually really changing anything in the now. It remains safe because it’s not so much in the now, and we are apparently the ones to be doing the re-enchanting. Well, have you ever considered that maybe the world never stopped being enchanted but we just learned to not see it anymore (lashing out whenever we’re given a hint of it)?
Witchcraft is not safe, for a whole host of reasons, but it should never be unsafe because the people you’re working with don’t appreciate the agency of what they’re working with, have an unrealistic view of what could potentially happen, or a lack of ability to roll with it when shit goes down. Because if we’re to break down that Demon Palm Tree Bubble and live in this ‘reenchanted’ world, it is far better to be the tempered blade than the good-looking, shiny one that was never tested.
We live in a time of walls. We always have of course, but there are periods of history in which those walls become more restrictive and in which newer walls are far too easily built. In an attempt to disprove the existence of these walls, the skeptic would point to the promise of the Constitution. “See, it’s all right here. There’s nothing to worry about.” Except there is, because often the most effective walls are those that aren’t enshrined by law but in culture instead.
That is a war that the less conservative among us have been failing at badly. Let’s face it, most non-conservatives outside of minority groups didn’t even realize there was a war until relatively recently, even though more socially conservative groups have been fighting it for years.
The election was the dawning of a new era, because not only was it the beginning of what is looking to be a drastic change in direction for the United States, but because a good many people finally woke up to the war and saw the strength of the opposition.
Walls That Protect, Walls That Imprison
So we now find ourselves in a time of walls, but more accurately, in a time of walls that are beginning to encroach on the meagre areas we’d previously kept while believing ourselves to be free – ironic when one considers that our president-elect included a promise to build a wall in his election campaign promises.
But this post isn’t about those physical walls that are built, immigration law, or the election. There are plenty of places that are discussing all of the above ad nauseum and only adding more noise to the cacophonous furor that is social media. Besides, what would be the point of that on a magic blog?
This post is about walls from a magical perspective, the kinds of walls, their origins, and what we can do to tear them down in our own lives and practices.
Most walls are erected against the unknown dangers that lurk beyond the safety of the hearth. Since the beginning of human history, mankind has created enclosures around his dwellings in order to delineate ‘inner’ as opposed to ‘outer’, and more importantly ‘safe’ from ‘potentially unsafe’. From this view, not all walls are bad. However, a wall can just as easily be employed for constraint as for protection, and that is the kind of wall I’m writing about here.
How A Foundation Was Built
In the beginning, after some clarting about, the Bible tells us that the Jewish god created a man by the name of ‘Adam’, and a woman by the name of ‘Eve’. The Alphabet of Ben Sira places Eve as Adam’s second wife, a kind of replacement for Lilith who, made of dirt as Adam was, refused to obey and become subservient to him. After all, why should she if they were made of the same materia magica? Lilith then left and refused all attempts to compel her to return to a life of drudgery with Adam.
To circumvent this with woman 2.0, Eve was created from a piece of Adam so that she would have no claim to equality. It would be her lot in life to obey. This would form the foundations of one of the first walls. However, that was not the only foundation found in the myth of utopian Eden. Eve, or indeed every woman she represents, would play a far more damaging role in the mythological history of humankind.
The Garden of Eden is described as a paradise in which its inhabitants neither wanted for anything, nor knew the kind of trouble that disturbs the mind. It is the perfect place created by a loving father god for his children, but with one significant catch: eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was forbidden.
When you pare down this myth, when you remove the language of paradise and lack of want, what you are left with is an enclosure of sorts that is inhabited by people who are kept naked, ignorant, and obedient. From this perspective, the Fall of Man looks more like a jailbreak from an unethical science experiment than the disastrous curse upon humanity that it is often presented as.
Just ignorant and naked, with no right to one’s body or mind.
Since the Fall, women have been held to be the disobedient and destructive sex, our wombs and vaginas passageways to filth and depravity, and our only salvation to be found in obeying men. In other words, our salvation is to be found in becoming the property of and putting ourselves firmly under the control of men.
“In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. -Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, chapter 1
This is the foundation of one of the walls in our society, and a wall that for all of our advances in women’s rights, remains one of the strongest to this day. If anything, this wall is being rebuilt in the places where it was torn down, fortified, and new construction sites opened up. We see this in everything from the rise of MRAs, the increased attacks on reproductive freedoms, to the renewed popularity of the insult ‘cuck’ (a word deriving from ‘cuckold’ meaning ‘husband of an adulteress’, in other words, a man who was not able to control his woman – his property – well enough to prevent her from disobeying). On more subtle levels, we may even see the maintenance of and reinforcement of this wall in the censure of opinionated women in communities that might otherwise extol their own perceived egalitarian nature.
This is not the only wall either, I’m sure we could all think of more walls in our lives. Walls that affect how we see and deal with people of color, walls that affect how people of color must move in the world in order to do so with less harassment, walls that mandate that only one kind of sexual relationship is valid, walls that enforce gender binaries that harm people who simply just don’t fit in those boxes…well, you get the idea.
And all the while, we’re told that without those walls there would be chaos, anarchy, the destruction of order. The people of color will want revenge will come and get you without that thin blue line. Men won’t be able to control women and will end up in some 70s B-movie scenario in which men are enclosed in the same walls women are now. The gays will gay up your kids and people will invent new genders. People will marry outside their own cultures, no one will be able to say “Merry Christmas”, and it will probably also rain. We need the wall, the katechon, that which holds back all of those things they’ve taught you to fear.
Look at the media today, how much of it is focused on emphasizing the things that must be held back? How much of it justifies all those barrier construction projects? We need to do better than we are at recognizing it all, at taking a deep breath and deciding what to listen to and what to ignore. How many of our friends are complicit in this on social media? How many have swallowed the propaganda hook, line, and sinker? The first step for all of us is recognizing where the lines are drawn in our outer lives.
But this would not be a magic blog were I only to speak of the outer and political. Here is a place to discuss the inner too.
Or more specifically, once more the realm of dream.
The War on Dream
“Dream, I will argue, is made. The metaphor that first needs to be grasped is one that bears repeating, that of a war on dreaming. The decisive action here is the one embarked upon by John of Patmos, another exile bound to a far flung isle. His was a deliberate action which set out to not merely loose chimeras in the garden of the mind, but to bar the gates of dream itself. So this is where we decant our vitriol and dissolve the locks that John applied, which State and church imposed. This is by no means the end of the process, but the point at which we choose to begin.” – Apocalyptic Witchcraft, Peter Grey
Dream is a special state of being, one we tend to think of as a place of infinite possibilities in which we may do or experience any number of things that we cannot during waking life. However, from the work of scholars like Lisa Bitel and Jacques LeGoff, we know that our inner dreamscapes are in all likelihood artificially limited. That there are walls there. These are not walls that we can necessarily see from within dream for ourselves – after all, how can we know about the walls if they were set there long before we ourselves even had a chance to dream? However, there is a paper trail that can be followed that shows how clerics attempted to control dreamers and restrict the dreams themselves.
If that very idea doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know that anything can be done for you.
It wasn’t enough to control the waking world, they had to try and find ways to control and restrict the dreaming world too. Dreams came to be labelled as ‘devilish illusion’, and true dreams the sole domain of an elite of saints and Christian kings. Oneiric diversity withered, and the dreams of the common man evaporated from record like the dream that flees upon waking. Nowadays, a medium through which one might have previously entered into the Otherworld of one’s cultural and physical landscape stands weakened by ridicule, pop-psychology, and petty dream dictionaries that tell you nothing.
But we need to be able to dream, and we need to be able to dream fully, because it is through dream that we have some of our most effective communications with the Other. Without that, we will never fully pull down the walls of Christian worldview in our minds, or have those better ideas for new ways of doing things that our world so desperately needs.
When I first started to perform the Stele of Jeu ritual from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM), it was, like for many others who begin this work, initially for the purpose of attaining the knowledge and conversation of a ‘holy guardian angel’ (in my case, more a daimon in the Greek sense). However, the more I performed it, the more I noticed that it was far more important than that. The Stele of Jeu is a freeing ritual, a ritual of unbinding and empowerment. It’s a ritual that tears down walls.
“Holy Headless One, deliver me from all restraining daimons and misfortune”
In Chaos Protocols, Gordon White observes that “One thing I will say with every confidence is that your dreams will certainly get a lot more interesting” as a result of performing the ritual, and I’ve found this to absolutely be the case. My dreams are now far deeper and coherent. They feel far less random and more like I am dealing with other intelligences and indeed, another world.
Yet it does not seem to be an effect that lasts perpetually. There is a drop-off in dreaming quality if I do not perform the rite on a regular basis. My dreams become shallow once more, punctuated only by the rare shining gem of a dream that happens to break through the morass of whatever unseen effects are at work in dream. The wall is resurrected once more and must be torn down anew in order to continue.
A Hidden Front In Plain Sight
We are very mistaken if we think there isn’t some kind of metaphysical war aspect to all of this too. How many of you have ever heard of Christian ‘prayer warriors’? Have you ever read their prayers, or what should more accurately be called spells? Just because they are addressed to the Judeo-Christian god or Jesus does not mean that they aren’t spells; the Grimoires are full of spells with similar language. What of the pope’s decree that Catholics only now store the ashes of their dead in special church-approved places? The dead are mighty, and such a place might be viewed as a source of power for a church that historically hasn’t been exactly shy about using its own magic. And what of the power of meme? We don’t often think of meme as being a potentially magical thing, but when you think about the ways in which memes are similar to sigils in Chaos magic, then they take on another aspect.
“Does not matter, need not be.”
How many of us see a meme, invest emotion into it (usually anger or amusement), and then either scroll on or engage with the discussion around the meme before scrolling on? At least sigil magic is done with intent. See, it is really that nefarious.
There is much to be unwoven here, a lot of unnecessary things that need to be pared away, and walls to be torn down both in our outer and inner lives. Becoming aware of those walls, and how they are built is only the first step. The next step is working consciously to bring them down through deliberate action, but we can only do that if we first free ourselves, and most importantly our inner worlds. Lastly, we need to counter the magic that enslaves dream and mind, finding ways to appeal to the hearts and minds of others – the Berlin wall was not torn down by the hands of a few, but by many. If there is anything this past election should have taught us, it’s that haughty cold logic and the mere presentation of that which holds back all that is bad is not enough. We need symbols and messages that appeal to not only minds, but hearts and souls too.
There’s a war on, and it’s about time we fought back.
Synchronicity is a strange old thing. Write a post mentioning meme magic one day, and get a podcast in your podcatcher the next about that very thing.
You may have already heard of the Pepe the Frog meme, a rather (in my opinion) uninspiring meme created in 2005 by a Matt Furie. Described by the ever-colorful Encyclopedia Dramatica, Pepe is a “retarded cartoon frog that has plagued the chan imageboards (and later the world)”, if you find him as uninspiring as I do, it’s hard to see why Pepe has become some popular. However, while the Encylopedia Dramatica attributes Pepe’s success to “the autistic basement-dwellers who won’t stop shitposting it”, A.T.L Carver attributes Pepe’s success to far more arcane reasons (see first link at the end for more). Reasons which I’m going to unpack here as well include my own additions, because it is all really quite uncanny.
In (Not So) Fair 4Chan Do We Set Our Scene
For those of you who avoid the dank 4chan (and similar) areas of the internet, the first thing you need to understand about 4chan is that anonymity is preferred. The second is that there are different boards on the site dedicated to a wide-range of topics, and that basically anything goes. Lastly, you need to know that Pepe somehow became the unofficial mascot of the /pol/ chan (‘politically incorrect’ board).
It’s hard to make any concrete statements about 4chan and the users who make up the site, there’s just far too much diversity of opinion on there to really label it one way or another. It is equally possible to see posts from alt-right and self-described Nazis as it is from communists, or indeed anything else. However, one thing they all seem to value is the right to say whatever the hell they want. In many ways, 4chan is the epitome of chaos.
However, as you will see, the association between Pepe and /pol/ would come to be a match made by Eris.
When Trump announced his candidacy Pepe became connected with Trump, but it wasn’t long before this link took a more bizarre and esoteric twist.
”Dubs” and “GETS”
The next thing that you need to understand about 4chan is that while the site is mostly anonymous, each post is assigned a 9 digit (it was 8 digit) ID number after posting. Because of the sheer volume of users on the site, this makes it impossible to know if you’re going to get what is known as “dubs”. “Dubs” are basically when you get the same two digits at the end of your post ID number. So for example, ‘#569823055’ would be a “dub”. The same principle applies with “trips” and “quads” (three and four of the same digits at the end of a post ID).
Because of the randomized nature of “dubs”, it became common to bet on “dubs”, in other words, to make a post essentially stating that it was going to be a “dub”, and when these bets were successful, they were “GETS”.
This may all seem pretty random right now, but bear with me, it will all start to become clear as I go on.
Now, 4chan is a heavy traffic site with around 900,000 – 1,000,000 posts per day. It’s a behemoth of a site, and it’s this traffic that needs to be kept in mind when considering the probability aspect of “dubs” and “GETS”. The chances are…well, people try to work it out all the time and invariably end up arguing about it, but it’s fairly high. It’s not something you can exactly plan, and so when “dubs” reoccur around a subject or personage, significance tends to be assigned.
At some point during Trump’s campaign, users noticed a higher percentage of “dubs” and more frequent “GETS” on posts involving Trump. But the real breakthrough in this omen-via-4chan-ID-number came on 06/19/16 when post ID #77777777 made the declaration that “Trump will win”. This became known as ‘The Prophecy of Kek’.
You’re probably wondering who this ‘Kek’ is.
Before going any further in this direction, it’s worth pointing out that the use of the word ‘Kek’ on 4chan and similar boards predates the election by about six years. Originating from Korean World of Warcraft players, ‘kek’ came to replace the ever-ubiquitous ‘lol” in these venues. Interestingly this happened either around the same time as, or shortly after the beginning of the Pepe trend on 4chan.
However, it didn’t take long for some enterprising 4channer/s to discover that there was an Ancient Egyptian frog-headed god of primordial darkness. Counted among the Ogdoad, Kek was one of eight primordial Old Kingdom deities that were considered ancient even by the time of the composition of the Pyramid Texts (officially 2400-2300 BCE, although that is debated). Kek was the ‘bringer of light’, the chaotic darkness that heralded the new dawn – or at least that’s how the denizens of 4chan have taken him to be. For the users of 4chan, all of this added up to one thing: Trump was ‘god’s chosen candidate’.
Only it wasn’t the god that most people would think of when reading that statement.
Produced by a band called SHADILAY and predating the campaign (and Pepe) by many years, the CD for the song P.E.P.E (an acronym standing for ‘Point Emerging Probably Entering’) depicted a frog on its cover. Moreover, as one 4chan user pointed out, the clock on the album artwork looked a little familiar.
Spot the “dubs”? What is the probability of that?
Speaking of probability, around two years ago, a new Pepe became far more common: smug Pepe. So named because…well, he looks smug, postings of smug Pepe were met with the response of “Why so smug, Pepe?” The first known meta discussion about smug Pepe took place in August 2014, and various theories have been put forth since then for the rise of smug Pepe.
Looking back, it’s almost like ‘Pepe’ knew something, right? Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
Another strange synchronicity (?) surrounding a frog god that is worth mentioning here is the inclusion of the ‘frog
god’ card in the 1994 collectable version of the Illuminati game. There have been all kinds of conspiracy theories that have sprung up around this particular version of the Illuminati game that you can check out online on sites like this. Basically, the theory is that certain key events were predicted by the 90s version of the cards, and looking back, you can compare the images on the cards with photos of real events or personages. A word to the wise though, some ‘predictions’ are far better than others.
The Cult of Kek: Memeing With Intent
As time went on, Kek seemed to gain more of an intentional following, and a cult of sorts has formed around the personage of this frog-headed god/internet meme. One of the main stories in this cult was the production of Kek statues for sale in which the hieroglyphs at the base of the statue seem to show a figure seated before what appears to be a computer screen with what looks like a DNA strand behind it.
Although the hieroglyphs indicate that the statue is in fact depicting Heqet, a goddess of fertility that also has the form of a frog, that ultimately doesn’t matter to the Kekists who have purchased it. For them and everyone else who doesn’t read hieroglyphs, the symbolism is clear, and in a world of meme, that’s all that really matters. A cursory search of Pepe and Kek-related goods on Amazon also reveals an awareness by participants in the various 4chan-originated memes and meme wars. Among Kek/Pepe-related booty to be found on Amazon are books on Kek’s cult, and more significantly, books on Kek/Pepe internet meme magic. Customer reviews also speak to this awareness.
It would seem that Kek/Pepe is not just a meme or a sigil, but a hypersigil and symbol of a deity.
New Fronts Opening Up
A common mistake for a lot of people is to assume that the majority of 4chan users just want to see the world burn. After all, why would they intentionally wage a magical meme-war on the behalf of a candidate like Trump otherwise? But what you have to understand here is that they simply don’t see it that way. They saw a far greater threat in Clinton because of her establishment connections and her polices that went against the general sentiment of anti-globalism to be found on the board. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they see themselves as having saved the world.
And so we have a movement of people adept in a very democratized magic, with anti-globalist sentiments who, aware of their own power, are looking to take the fight elsewhere to continue their take-down of globalism. I don’t mean to make them out to sound noble here, any quick glance at the /pol/ board will show some truly shitty opinions. Because on a site like 4chan, literally anything goes. The reasons of individual users for participating in this take-down are undoubtedly numerous and varied, some terrible, and some noble. But that’s not important here, what’s important is that there is a common ground upon which many people from many walks of life and of many different political ideologies can unite and fight. Ironically, in their desire to tear down what they perceive as being the walls of PC globalist culture, they may well end up contributing to the erection of far more walls for us all.
As for the new battlefront for the Cult of Kek? Well, France has an election coming up, and Marine LePen fits the anti-globalist sentiment.
Where Liberals Went Wrong
Of course, it’s all too easy to point to the ‘bad’ and denounce the evil. That is not what I’m doing here, ‘denouncing’ people has proven to be particularly ineffective in all of this, and why denounce when you can learn, regroup, and plan?
In the run-up to the election, many liberal-leaning witches and pagans opted to try and work against the Trump movement. However, from what I saw of these attempts, they were typically carried out by exclusive groups defined by either connection to a network (i.e., who they know), a paywall (if they could pay to participate), or a combination of both.
By contrast, the meme magic of 4chan users was democratized in that everyone in that hub of emotion and chaos that is 4chan could participate, and most importantly, spread it far beyond those cyber borders. There is something admirable about this, and something that those who worked along the lines of creating a government that is more of and for the will of the people would do well to acknowledge and understand. You need to know what that will is before trying to work for it – outside of your own political bubble that is. Because if that was your magical intent, then who’s to say your efforts didn’t ultimately help the opposing side? And this is an important point about this election, there were enough people whose will was simply ‘not Clinton’, that in a two party system, any magical work based in the will of the people would have supported Trump by default.
Magic users tend to think of themselves as being something of an exclusive club, and as a community we privilege some lineages or types of practice over others. We also give regard to the attainment of position in the hierarchies of our groups and often don’t take those who haven’t been through those more traditional routes as seriously as practitioners.
On the other hand, for the 4chan users/Cult of Kek people, there were no entrance grades for participation. No old-school networks or paywalls required. You didn’t even have to be known to people by name, and in a schema like that, you will always have the benefit of sheer numbers.
meme war stuff, even a small percentage of that is still significant and likely dwarfs the efforts of the opposing side.
As I said at the beginning of this section, there are some powerful lessons to be learned here.
The first and foremost is that we need to look at ways to democratize our own magical campaigns. We don’t need a small number of specialists, we need a lot of people – even if they only know the absolute basics. Remember, many hands tear down walls, not just a few. This also means that we need to reassess our ideas of hierarchy within magical traditions, because if we want to have any hope of competing, this is something we need to do
Secondly, as always we need to take the time to understand the opposition. How many of us even did that to even a rudimentary level? This kind of intelligence-gathering is essential if we’re going to get anywhere.
Lastly, we need to look at our attitudes towards more democratized forms of magic such as chaos magic. Because in the case of Pepe the Frog, it was chaos magic that quite frankly ruled over the far more complex ceremonial attempts of others. There’s a lot to be said for symbols/sigils employed in an environment of intense emotion (chaos) and posted ‘for the lolz’ (or ‘keks’). As I’ve said before on this blog, we need to do what is necessary as opposed to sticking to the methods of whatever tradition we adhere to. This is the kind of time we live in, and we’ll get nowhere if we do not adapt.
Because the Cult of Kek has realized its power, and we’re still struggling to get our fucking shoes on and get out the door.
For more information on the Cult of Kek by someone who is actively monitoring, see here, and here.
Back in 2008, an Icelandic lady by the name of Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir published her seminal (ha, see what I did there?) work ‘Please YousELF – Sex With The Icelandic Invisibles’. Now, Iceland isn’t a country in which elves making the news is all that uncommon, however this was particularly standout. Because for all the stories of road rerouting (like here), it’s really not that common for Icelanders to claim to be banging elves.
The internet naturally responded as you might imagine – with mockery. However, I for one am grateful for people like Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir for a couple of reasons:
1. The woman has balls of steel to put a book out about her elf-fucking experiences, under her own name, and go on camera talking about it too.
But on a more serious note, I was mostly happy to see Hallgerður’s stuff for another reason, and that’s because it got
people talking about elves and sex, and well…that’s not that weird of an association to make.
To examine this further though, we need to start with the ‘D’. You know, ‘demons’ (and the devil too to some degree).
Checking Out The D
There’s actually some pretty good evidence that at one point, elves were equated with the devil and demons. For example, the eighth century Royal Prayer Book contains the phrase ‘Satanae diabolus aelfae’, meaning ‘devil of the elf Satan’, and in Beowulf, elves are aligned with ‘misbegotten beings’ of the not very nice variety (Hall 69-71). Another example of this can be found in a Lacnunga charm against elves that borrows from the same liturgy as a Christian exorcism (North 54-56). When it comes to the word ‘Ælfs?den’, a word probably referring to a type of magic (‘s?den’ being cognate with the Old Icelandic word ‘seiðr’), Richard North tells us that ‘All temptations, but especially demonic possession, are indicated in Ælfs?den’(North 55).
Speaking of possession, it’s in the specifics of these particular associations with demons where things become really interesting, especially with regards to elf-sex.
In the Bosworth & Toller dictionary, a possible translation of the word ‘ælf’, is incubus (Bosworth & Toller 14), or in other words, a type of male demon known for its penchant for boning people in their sleep. This translation is likely taken from Chaucer, who equated elves with incubi in the ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale’ (Hall 162); and even though we’re out of the Heathen period by quite a long time by Chaucer’s time, there are some interesting points about elves in earlier sources that make this connection pretty reasonable.
The first thing is that the earliest elves were male. Yup, it was an elven sausage fest back in the day. No elven ladies to
be found anywhere – that came later (Hall 157-166 ). Secondly, the connection with sex, and more specifically sexual deviancy with elves (by the standards of culture back then), is not an uncommon theme. You just have to know what constituted sexual deviancy back then, because if you were hoping for something that looked like ball gags and whips, you’d be sorely disappointed.
Taking a quick trip over the Atlantic to medieval Iceland, we come across the terms hvatr and blauðr. Now, some of you are possibly going to absolutely hate these terms, but to cut a long story short, hvatr was ‘bold, independent, powerful, vigorous, and sharp’, and blauðr ‘weak, soft, powerless, yielding’. Scholars such as Carol J Clover have argued that initially these terms were separate from biological sex, having more to do with power and independence. However in spite of this initial lack of alignment with biological sex, hvatr was more the domain of aristocratic males, and blauðr, that of women (Clover).
Regardless of whether those dick Christians turned us all from whatever egalitarian pagan utopia though, some sources do suggest that elves didn’t really fit into the manly man hvatr category (hvategory?).
The first way in which elves totally blew that one out of the water is that they were reputedly beautiful, and in a way that doesn’t really suggest handsome either. The elf Volundr, for example, is described as having a white neck, which although doesn’t seem particularly significant to us, is significant in that that was the kind of description only applied to women back in the day (Hall 43-45). Hell, if you trace the etymology of ‘elf’ back, you get ‘white’. The only other male figure to be described as being hvitr or ‘white’ is Heimdall, and given the collocation of Álfar with Vanir, plus Heimdall’s ability to divine the future, it’s arguable that he might also be considered an elf (as well as a god) anyway. Significantly, the description of Heimdall’s whiteness (and ergo his girly beauty), appears in the same stanza as Heimdall suggesting that Thor participate in a spot of cross-dressing in order to win back Freyja’s necklace, Brisingamen.
This association with elves and beauty can also be found in the OE word ælfscyne – which is used within the context of a kind of bewitching, otherworldly, yet dangerous beauty (Hall 88-95).
So they were hawt, probably in a Prince or Bowie kind of way.
Secondly, they defied the usual expectations about manly roles. For example, in The Lay of Volund, we’re told that a maiden called ‘Svanhvit’ guarded Volund’s white neck. Remember that whole thing with hvatr and blauðr? Which category do you think Volundr would have fallen into? Unfortunately for Volundr, nine winters into shacking up with this swan lady, she leaves; and unlike his brothers (who are also in the story, and also have ladies of their own), he stays home and doesn’t go in search of Svanhvit. From this point forth, things go seriously downhill for Volundr, because a certain king by the name of Douchebag (just kidding, his name was Níðuðr) heard that Volundr was no longer protected and he wanted Volundr to make him a load of swag. Poor Volundr is then hamstrung, imprisoned on an island, and forced to make bling for king Douchebag (Hall 39-46).
Eventually Volundr has his revenge (part of which happens to be raping the king’s daughter) and flies off using his feet as propellers or wings (I shit you not).
Another possible example is that of the god, Freyr. Again, we have a potential ‘god and elf’ situation here. In Grimnismal 5, we’re told that Freyr was given Álfheim (elf-home) as a gift for cutting his first tooth, which aligns Freyr with the elves. Once again, we see the theme of a man undone by love – this time by giving up his sword as part of wooing the giantess Gerðr (in the Lay of Volund, his sword is taken from him by king Douchebag). Moreover, Freyr’s manservant, Skirnir, who is sent to ‘woo’ Gerðr has to resort to magical threats in order to coerce her into to ‘saying yes to the dress’ (North 52-54). As an aside, this kind of magical coercion is a disturbing feature of old school ‘love’ spells.
For Richard North, who spends over three hundred pages densely building his arguments in ‘Heathen Gods in Old English Literature’, Freyr is the god associated with hieros gamos rituals, and whose cultic passage through the land signaled a period of sexual license (270-271). He is the god who the church came to see as the devil, and like the devil, was known as ‘god of the world’ (76).
Then there is the matter of Freyr’s priests per the description in the Gesta Danorum (chapter 6):
“After Bemoni’s death Starkather, because of his valour, was summoned by the Biarmian champions and there performed many feats worthy of the tellings. Then he entered Swedish territory where he spent seven years in a leisurely stay with the sons of Frø (Freyr), after which he departed to join Haki, the lord of Denmark, for, living at Uppsala in the period of sacrifices, he had become disgusted with the womanish body movements, the clatter of actors on the stage and the soft tinkling of bells. It is obvious how far his heart was removed from frivolity if he could not even bear to watch these occasions. A manly individual is resistant to wantonness.”
See what I’m getting at here? Doesn’t exactly fit in the ‘hvategory’.
Elves and those associated with the worship of elves, though male, deviated from ideas about how males should act – at least within a sacred context (on the part of human worshippers).
Out of all the legions of demons, whicht type in particular do you think would fit the bill for elves? And that isn’t even taking into account all of the later stories about elven seduction and half-elf children, OR the associations with elves and nightmares that came throughout the intervening years. Hello, nocturnal-slumbering-person-boner demon! Hallgerður’s path is a very well-trodden one.
Sources Carol J Clover – Regardless of Sex Alaric Hall – Elves in Anglo-Saxon England Richard North – Heathen Gods in Old English Literature
Bored with the same old candle spells and rhyming couplets? Why not dabble in a spot of necromancy for the kind of life change that only the dead can bring! Practiced for generations and common to pretty much every culture on earth, necromancy is the new way to find out shit you wouldn’t otherwise know.
The Dead > Siri
We all have things we want to know about: lost items we want to find, things we want to know about other people, what the winning lottery numbers are…. and well, as we all know Siri can be a right royal bitch! But who the fuck is she to be a bitch? Sure, the dead can be bitches too (see point #2 ), but they arguably have some sentience (depending on your worldview). It’s like the difference between getting attitude from a fucking Furby, and you know, an actual person. Yes, Siri, you’re just some flashy Furby pimped up with spy tech! You are NOT the boss of me.
(FYI, the Dead also beat Alexa. The gods don’t go to any old schmucks for information!)
But the point is, the dead can help with lots of questions. From modern iterations on the traditional treasure-hunting theme (“Where are my keys?”), to questions designed to find out hidden knowledge (“How many people has my aunt ____ banged? How many does it take before people start to call you a ‘bike’?”), the dead have you covered.
Your Dead Entourage
For the truly self-centered and destructive among you, necromancy also gives you the option of compelling the dead
to go and fuck up someone you hate! Yes, for the small cost of completely shitting on any chances of being a decent human being and the potential consequences of getting caught robbing graves, you too can have your own dead army. Marvelous!
Of course, there’s a lot of argument about whether it’s *really* bad to do that to the bones of traditional targets (like hanged criminals and shit), but I’m going with the moral absolutism here. It’s way easier to be sarcastic about absolutes than shades of grey.
The Underworld’s The Limit!
Did you know that there are a fuck load of dead people buried in the earth, and that lots of people have died since the beginning of humanity? This means that there are literally millions of dead people to choose from with your necromancy. The Underworld is the limit, people!
So, what key tips would I give to the would-be necromancer? I’m glad you asked that, because I have some right here!
1. Pick The Easy Ones
This is something of a no-brainer, but you generally want to go for either the somewhat debilitated or you know, people who actually liked you in life. The reason for this is that if you have a Code:Draugr situation, the weaker ones won’t be able to fight you as well, and people who liked you won’t automatically try to fuck you up when you drag them kicking and screaming from their miserable afterlife existences. Don’t go for the cool-sounding warrior or king, because that hardly ever goes well. The same goes for criminals or people who have died in really bad ways. That kind of anger sticks around (also: see point #2)
Generally the best advice is to go for your grandma who used to feed you cakes every time you went round to her house. Only this time, she’ll be feeding you information instead of diabetes.
2. An Asshole In Life Is Still An Asshole In Death So, once upon a time there was a douchebag called ‘Hrapp’ who lived in Iceland way back when. Now everyone thought he was a grade A prick even in life, so it should have been a no-brainer to not bury him IN A FUCKING DOORWAY! Except they did, and it was terrible, because doorways are weird, liminal places, and Hrappy-boy stayed right where he was. Yes, they had a Code:Draugr situation, and it sucked. Because if they thought he was a prick in life, he didn’t exactly improve on death. No, he got worse, and even worse, he had draugr-powers.
To be fair, his wife probably just dealt with his demand to be buried in the doorway with the same level of give a shit or existential terror as she may have done to his demands for horse ass for dinner. Whatever, the moral of this story is clear: death doesn’t erase douchebaggery, so don’t raise douches. (That’s a moral for more than just necromancy, right there!)
3. Be Respectful So, you’ve got your dead all nice and necromanced, how do you talk to them? Well, if your answer was something along the lines of “Well, like Zak Bagans!”, do the world a favor and slap yourself. Actually, slap the shit out of yourself and put down the necromancy, no more necromancies for you!
No, the best way to deal with the dead in necromancy is to reign in all your inherent douchebaggery and pretend you’re a respectful fuck who isn’t just really trying to find out who his/her aunt banged for the lolz.
4. It’s OK To Be Scared In fact, if you’re not scared, you probably have no internal capacity for risk assessment. If you cannot do that, then put down the necromancy. Fear isn’t a bad thing, it’s natural when raising the restless or rested. If anything, that preternatural cold kind of inspires it. It’s like a visceral warning that what you’re doing is not just a little bit against the natural order of things, and that’s the kind of instinct that keeps you from either joining them, or winding up in a straitjacket.
You just have to learn to handle the fear, not rid yourself of it.
5. Fuck-Ups Happen, So Have Backup Plans Another thing you have to handle is the potential for fuck-ups. Or even ways in which you vastly underestimated the situation (same diff). This is incredibly common, and despite the new and improved character sheets the dead now come with which allow you to compare their stats with your own to see who has the most dots in whatever, fuck-ups are pretty much a part of the necromancer’s life.
Once upon a time, there was this dude called Benvenuto Cellini. Now Cellini got in with a necromancer back in the day and kinda let him know that he was up for learning about it. Kind of like a bucket list kind of deal really. So Cellini, his new necromancer buddy, and a couple of other mates he invited along, went off to the Coliseum to go and bother the dead. The first time they went, it was all a bit “oooh” and “ahhhh”, and “when will I see my dead girlfriend again?” (FYI, not a good question to ask.)
The second time though, there were more spirits than you could shake a stick at of various kinds. I mean, this was a situation seriously going downhill. But did the necromancer turn into Zak Bagans? Nope, he stayed respectful. His assistants were terrified, Cellini was terrified, the little virgin boy psychic they’d brought along was terrified. Seriously, they were so close to being completely up shit creek because the Coliseum was crawling with the dead and everything else.
Thankfully, the necromancer had a good plan to disperse the dead, and this is where we get into back-up plans.
6.Fart-o-cism Yes, you read that right.
Cellini’s necromancer had a big pile of stinky ole asafetida. Because the dead apparently don’t like stinky stuff. (Nor
do the elves btw, a euphemism in Icelandic for ‘to take a shit’ allegedly literally translates as ‘drive out elves’).
However, they didn’t really need to crack out that fetid weed, because….
Cellini’s bud Agnolo cut cheese like you wouldn’t believe. No really, from the description it sounds like that fart would have left a mark. But it worked, and the dead started to get the hell out as soon as they could. So you know, if you’re really in trouble, try shitting yourself.
7. Put Them Back When You’re Done Remember when you were a kid and you finished playing with some toys, left them out, and got bollocked by your mum for not tidying up after yourself? Well it’s the same principle here. If there’s one theme that keeps coming up again and again in the different accounts of necromancy, it’s that the dead mostly don’t like being raised, so the least you can do after finding out where your car keys are, is put them back. Necromancy that focuses on just calling them up is half a job done. Don’t be one of those guys.
8. Purification, motherfuckers! Lastly, when you’re done with your necromancing for the day, don’t forego your purification rites in favor of climbing into bed and getting a few more minutes of sleep. You already messed up your night’s sleep with going out and fannying about at the local cemetery/burial mound/crossroads, you may as well just suck it up and make sure you end the night right.
The dead are kept from the living for reasons, mostly that they’re not too good for us. So, it’s a good idea to make sure that you leave the fun of the graveyard, in the graveyard. Popular options include a good old-fashioned scourging, suffumigation, and ritual bathing, so there’s bound to be a method to suit every necromancer!
If all of this sounds good to you, and you’re the kind of person who enjoys the kind of pant-staining terrifying fun with the dead that only necromancy can bring, why not actually give necromancy a go?
Sometimes magic is fast and dirty; the kind of magic that’s worked on the fly with whatever is to hand, with words that tumble unbidden from lips and adrenaline pumping a wild fire through the blood.
But other times though. Or perhaps most of the time even, it’s a far more subtle and well-considered thing. The planned, the plotted, the consistently performed over time to bring about a specific goal.
And then there is dream.
To work with dreams is to blur the lines between waking and sleeping. It is the realization that sometimes, what is seen in dream is another kind of reality – a middle ground where human and the Other may also meet, create bonds, and learn. In some ways, dream makes it easier to do these things, to have these interactions and have these experiences. However, sleep also makes it harder, pulling on the mind like a recalcitrant toddler who just wants to go on the playground slide over and over again.
The first challenge is to actually get to dream, to take the right path at the fork in the road where dream and trancing-while-asleep part from each other. I’ve found the latter mostly only comes when doors must be beaten down and messages gotten across, and the day afterwards is always marked by the rough dragging of exhausted limbs. Whether you are awake or asleep, trance is work. Most people don’t see this fork or experience anything but dream. But for those of us that do this kind of work, it seems to be the case that the more you do the work, the more that fork in the road is revealed.
When the first challenge is passed, and the path of dream is under foot, the next challenge is to have a meaningful dream. We all dream, but not all dreams are created equal. Not all dreams are messages or interactions, and far too many are lost in a waters-of-Lethe-like forgetfulness. There are ways to increase the odds of dreaming meaningfully – especially if you wish to encounter the Other – but you’ll need to be skilled in other areas too lest you have that interaction but sleep binds your mind too tightly to react appropriately. Sigils or signs associated with those you wish to speak to under the mattress or pillow can help, as can offerings to the right beings. Entheogens can also push you further along that road and give you more profound experiences, but again, caution must be taken.
And what of the skills required for such things?
The Skills of Dream
The ability to move consciously in dream, to interact deliberately, and to choose – these are all necessary if you wish to work in this place. The good news is that most people can learn the skill of lucid dreaming. But like meditation, it’s a muscle to be developed over time.
The two mainstays of magical work are important here too: journaling and meditation. Both practices increase awareness of self and require discipline. This makes them both important components of developing the ability to dream lucidly. Through the journal you’ll identify wider themes, develop a record of what worked for you, the factors that improved or worsened your ability to dream, and most importantly, record any interactions you have. Especially the promises you make. (Please, always be sure to record the promises you make.) Through meditation and the myriad of exercises involved in developing your meditation practice (especially mindfulness), you will gain not only the self-knowledge to identify what state you are in, but the muscles to make the transition from automatically reacting to interacting. Through the discipline involved in both, you will build on your will power.
Sometimes though, no matter what you do, your dreams will be brain junk. Just like not all dreams are created equally, not all times or places are either. Factors in your life may also affect your ability to have these experiences. Just go with it, sometimes that’s just what you need.
Over time, your journal will become your friend and may come to hold rituals, secrets, symbols, and messages – all gotten from dream. Your dreams will increase in intensity and vividness, and you may find certain themes repeated in dream that signal the transition from regular dream to dream of a more magical sort. Sometimes these themes are mundane but out of place (e.g., taking a shower in a strange place, walking through a public place and passing the same three people looking at you), and other times they’re most definitely strange (e.g., a flip of time of day/season/weather that feels more like a huge shift rather than anything random). You will meet beings who are not of dream but using it as common ground. Some of them may even become allies, but have a care – this can be practice at the knife edge.
In 1919 John Brodie Innes, a clergyman friend of Charles Darwin recorded the story of two friends who fell out over a shared romantic interest. After the transgressor refused to apologize, the man who felt slighted challenged the other to a duel – a duel to the death. However, a week before the duel, the man who made the challenge, called Innes to his home. He’d had a dream about the duel and seen himself get wounded in the face before killing his opponent. To Innes’ amazement, there was a large red welt upon the man’s face which he claimed was dream-gotten. Shortly after that, the other man also called Innes to his home with a strange story of a dream. In it, he had seen himself killed and was subsequently more than happy to issue an apology.
And then of course, there is Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome (or SUNDS)to take into account. Although it is extremely rare among people who are not of Southeast Asian descent – especially those who live within far more traditional cultural contexts – it is significant that for many Southeast Asian cultures, the deaths are usually attributed to spirit attack. Many Europeans had a similar explanation in the past too – the word ‘nightmare’ for ‘bad dream’ once signified a terrifying nocturnal spirit that would kill the sleeping.
Fairytale Rules Apply
These are disjointed examples, but hopefully they serve to illustrate that this is no ‘safe’ alternative to going into the wilds and encountering the Other. The beings you encounter in dream, the ones who stand out from the normal
dream characters, who feel more real and significant and solid, and who guide you to places beyond your normal dreamscape, require no less caution than in any other setting. Don’t eat the food you are offered that looks all too perfect for where you are by the people who look out of place and yet so perfect. Especially if you find yourself in a venue that seems particularly ‘catered’ to you in an impossible ‘Santa-came-early’ kind of way. Don’t say yes to bargains you cannot keep in waking life no matter how logically they’re presented to you, and don’t ever think that everything will be ok when you wake up again or that what you did and said in dream will be automatically forgotten. Plot spoiler, but they’re not. Things from dream will follow you and will demand you pay your dues if you promised them. Over time, if you continue with this, a landscape will be revealed to you with places you will see again and again. Over time, you will see the same beings, and even sometimes the same objects. You may even carry objects through multiple dreams. Dream, when you work with it, loses much of its randomness and gains similar rules to those of the Otherworld. The folklore of times past can serve as a guidebook for us here too.
If this is a form of practice that intrigues and interests you, be sure to study and practice hard to develop those magical skills that you use in the waking world. Grounding, centering, banishing, shielding, licenses to depart, casting, creating space for magic, summoning – all of it, all the stuff I’ve missed out here. Study and practice because magic is a language that works far more overtly in dream than the waking world. In dream, your ability to protect yourself is far more pressing and the consequences far greater than in waking life. Lastly, learn how to make the quick exit for when you’re outnumbered or overwhelmed, because some day, it could save you a whole lot of trouble.
This past fortnight seems to have been a time for confronting and dealing with what may seem to each of us to be “alien views”. But I don’t want to get into the politics of that here, because that conversation is dominating the discourse pretty much everywhere else.
No, I want to go in a different direction with this post. Instead, I want to talk once more about agency, patterns, and if it is truly possible to understand that ‘alien’, non-human logic of the Unseen.
In “Fair” Facebook Do We Lay Our Scene
It all started with a conversation on Facebook (where else?) this morning, with a young man who thought there was nothing wrong with putting on a Native American war bonnet while in the ‘wilderness’ and invoking the energies of a Native American chief. (This is a young man who is from and still lives in the UK, I might add.)
I have to admit, the idea of that – all of it – is just so wrong to me for so many reasons. I can’t even understand the thought process behind it or what this man would hope to even gain from doing so, let alone the amount of false entitlement involved in the use of a war bonnet and expectation that the spirit of a Native American chief would just show up for a person in a completely foreign geographical area.
The conversation went on for a while, but along the way, we got back to the question of agency and spirits of land again. (Ah, that old chestnut!) So here I am, writing another post on the Unseen and agency, only with a little twist.
I’ve talked about the land being like an onion before: this idea that land from a more ‘spiritual’ perspective is made up of many layers comprised of the traditions, beliefs, actions, and magical practices of each people that has ever dwelled upon it. Of course, this onion also affects the kinds of Unseen that might be there: the types of Unseen, their attitudes towards humans, how they expect interactions to look, the pacts that were made between humans and Unseen in years past, and the kinds of offerings they like. Sometimes these layers are things that you might expect. After all, who doesn’t expect Native American layers, and other layers made up of mostly Christianity in America? But even in America, there are also often layers that are far less expected – like the layer of occultism derived from Francis Barrett’s ‘The Magus’ that permeated the life of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism (Horowitz, 23), or the Freemason connections that a good number of the founders held. And regarding that first American religion, I can’t help but feel it significant in some way that its founder and first American prophet not only participated in the occult for years and scryed a holy book from a shew stone, but met his death by mob while allegedly wearing an incorrectly engraved Jupiter talisman. (Quinn 1998). Let that sink in for a moment. America may have layers of Native American religions and crosses, but she also has layers of sigils and magic – even among the saints. (As an aside, there’s a book I really want to pick up at some point called Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People that apparently attempts to track the plurality of religious expression, magic, and sacralization of the land in pre-revolutionary America.)
But that’s not the end of it. Now imagine that onion has a pattern running through it. Something scored on each
layer that has built up into a larger and more coherent pattern over time.
For those of you that bought my book (thankyouthankyouthankyou), you may recall the essay called Sources of Power, Layers of Action and the explanation of how what we do now affects what we have to work with in the future. For those of you that didn’t, a Cliff Notes version of that would be to say that every action a person undertakes sets down a ‘layer’ for that person that goes into a kind of universal store of events and that the accumulation of those ‘layers’ over time, affects what you have to work with in life. In other words, it all builds a pattern, but more about that later.
Space As A Container For Action
In ‘The Well and the Tree’, Paul Bauschatz wrote that “For the Germanic peoples, space, as it is encountered and perceived in the created worlds of men and other beings, exists, to any significant degree only as a location or container for the occurrence of action.” (Bauschatz 86). This is a pretty significant concept in of itself. After all, I think most of us have been to places that have had a certain vibe or lived in homes we’ve felt were ‘luckier’ than others. However, we are also told that , “Every action calls to itself other actions to which it is significantly linked.” (Bauschatz 64), and that “They would bring factors from beyond the immediate to work and predicate events, returning them, as it were, to the great universal store of events from which all power came and in which all meaningful action returned.” (Bauschatz 113).
In other words, if space is a container for action, actions set down layers (which call other similar actions to themselves), and there is a force that ensures that those contexts are revisited, then it would stand to reason that spaces have ‘patterns’ or contexts that get revisited again and again. Not only that, but these patterns don’t just affect humans; as the first Bauschatz quote says, these spaces-as-containers-for-action also seem to apply other beings too. Or at least that’s the best guess of what Germanic Heathens thought about the matter during the Heathen period.
As a caveat, Bauschatz does limit these space-containers to spaces that are enclosed, but I think they can apply to outside spaces too. After all, if we believe in the existence and agency of Unseen beings, then why wouldn’t we believe them to be capable of creating and delineating their own spaces and enclosures that we just cannot see?
When you really think about these ideas, ideas about layers and patterns, even just as a thought experiment, it’s really no surprise that you have oddities like the freak accident that kills every seven years at a river that was once
Bauschatz’s work may be theoretical, but I do find a lot of practical application in his ideas, especially in light of my own experiences and UPG.
To Forget the Past is to Repeat the Future….
Does any of this give us the keys to these “alien views” of non-human persons though? No, but there’s a lot to be said for drawing closer to an understanding of some of the (even theoretical) “rules of play” so to speak. As always, the best way to understand as much of that non-human logic as much as possible, is to go back to the fairy and folk tales. These rules of play further reinforce the importance of knowing the old tales, and the warnings and rules of etiquette they contain. To know the past and the things yet unknown to you in the present, is to have the best guess of how to proceed in the present. The future will be made when we get there.
I’ve written about understanding the previous religious, magical, and folk traditions held in the layers of the land onion before now. However, I think these layers are also patterns, groupings of actions that call out to actions that are similar to themselves and which are more likely to reoccur. For many people, the great religious story of the US is that of Christianity, and yet for people like you and I, the far greater story is in the Joseph Smiths, the Fox sisters, the many homes in which a copy of Barrett’s ‘The Magus’ sat, and the myriad of other long-standing religious traditions that cluster in this land somewhat off the beaten path of the Nazarene.
Because it’s a story in which the Unseen were somewhat more seen, and that’s not something they’re likely to forget.
If someone were to come to you today and ask why it is that you do this crazy magic thing, what would you say? How would you answer this deceptively difficult question?
Just think about that for a second, because aside from the undeniable pull that many of us feel drawing us to this stuff like the proverbial moth to a flame, there’s probably also another goal there too. Maybe it’s a drive to do what is known as ‘The Great Work’, or maybe it’s an interminable curiosity that drives you? Whatever it is though, it’s irrelevant here.
Now imagine this self-same imaginary person were to ask you about that goal. “How do you think you’re doing with that?” they say, with their head cocked slightly to the side with interest. What would your answer be now?
The usefulness of asking ourselves how we’re doing with what we’re doing, or in other words, undergoing a periodic process of self-evaluation cannot be over-stated when it comes to magic. Because whatever our goal is, I’m betting that improvement is part and parcel of it, but you only really improve if you make a concerted effort to do so.
Recently a friend told me that she likes that I keep reminding people to do the work, but in truth, that is only half of the equation. It is not enough to simply do the work, you also have to evaluate the work you do and then decide how you’re going to either rectify issues or continue to improve. There is no end point when you are ‘fully trained’ and therefore do not need to continue improving. Not even the skies are limits to people like us, and nor should they be. But we’ll never figure out how far we’ve come if we do not occasionally take stock. Now I want you to think about the past month and what you’ve been doing magically. Go ahead, take a piece of paper and write it down. If you keep a journal, take a look at the pages you’ve filled. How does it look? Have you had any discernible gains or have did you not really do a whole lot and coast along? Does what you have before you look like the efforts of someone who is taking this *seriously* and who may actually eventually get somewhere?
If your answer was something that resembled a regular practice that was sustained – even if you didn’t have any gains – give yourself a pat on the back. That’s a record of self-discipline and willpower right there, and even though it may not have paid off this month, the point is that eventually it will.
But if your answers were a bit sparse, well, only you can decide what you want to take from that.
What you just did with this exercise though was a simple self-evaluation, and if you’re being honest with yourself, it can be an uncompromising process. But herein lies its value. Self-evaluation is about knowing yourself better, holding yourself accountable, and making sure that you take your magic seriously so that you continue to level up. You simply cannot do those things if you are fooling yourself about the work you’re not doing or the efficacy of the work you are.
The Tools of Self-Evaluation
If you did the exercise above, was it easy to remember everything you’d done during the course of a month? Could you even remember what had happened? And even if you did find it easy, did you remember all the details of the rituals/spells/meditations/dreams you had during that month? Could you have given a full account of what went right, what went wrong, and what you’d decided to change for the better in the future? This is really where journal keeping comes in and why more old-school teachers will insist that you keep one. Their usefulness really cannot be overemphasized. We live in an age of information, in which we’re bombarded by content pretty much constantly. Every time we go online, there are countless pieces of content vying for our attention. This blog post for example, is one of them.
The point though, is that it’s all too easy to forget what you had for dinner last week, let alone what happened during meditation three weeks ago! Finding a way to record for posterity is simply a wise choice, but this is not the only benefit of keeping a journal.
A couple of months ago, my parents sent me a box with stuff from when I was younger. In the box was an old, battered green A4 notebook with a garish fairy postcard glued on the front – my journal from when I was seventeen. Of course, back then I called it a ‘Book of Shadows’, because it was the nineties and that’s what the four or so library books I had access to called it. The pages are littered with rituals, ritual write-ups, spells, prayers, random snippets of information, and drawings of things I saw in my early trances. There are also random pictures of fairies and toadstools that I did with my complete lack of drawing ability scattered *everywhere* for ‘decoration’. (I really wanted one of those awesome-looking books that you see in movies back then, but didn’t we all?) So, it’s embarrassing looking back, but I also love it dearly for the snapshot it gives of who I was back then, the kind of witch I was, and the exercises that I built my craft around. (I did an awful lot of making candle flames leap.) Another book my mother sent me, the
one I created after this, informed me that these were my third and fourth journals; sadly I have no idea where the other two are.
With enough time, self-evaluation also comes with nostalgia and glad memories.
I have a nice leather-bound journal now, unassuming, black. The kind of book you wouldn’t look twice at on someone’s desk. I liked the size of the pages and the way they lie flat when you’re writing in it, and that was all that went into the process of finding a new journal for me. I also have flashier journals, but they don’t get nearly as much use because they’re not as comfortable to write in. The act of writing by hand is becoming increasingly rare nowadays, so if you are going to do it, it’s good to do it on surfaces that are comfortable – and prepare yourself for the inevitable aching hands.
Some people prefer to go the tech route with their journal, some even plan their month like a magical campaign that they plot in Excel. The format doesn’t matter though. Because all that really matters is that you actually use it.
The Process of Self-Evaluation
To evaluate yourself is to look at yourself with the hard eyes of objectivity. It is to periodically look back at the hard data of your record and ask yourself how you think you’re doing and also if you think you’re actually doing enough. What seemed like a good reason for not doing something at a certain time is often revealed to be a petty excuse.
On the months when the answer to your evaluation questions veer into the negatives, it can be a bitter pill to swallow if you care about your practice. However, it can also be one of our best teachers and motivators, serving as a proverbial kick up the butt. The experience of looking back and recognizing the petty excuse masquerading as a ‘good reason’ can help us to avoid falling into that trap again, and improvements can start out small and be done incrementally. There is always room for improvement if you commit to it. The act of self-evaluation, through revealing our failings, forces us to face up to not only our failings, but how dedicated we are.