Thursday, March 22, 2018

Incantation Bowls

This past weekend, I was at the Sacred Space convention in Hunt Valley, MD.  It's my favorite witching conference, and I came home all abuzz with new ideas.  Among the many wonderful classes I saw, I also taught a class on Babylonian-style incantation bowls, a type of home protection charm which appear to have originated, likely among Jewish communities, in the Near East in late antiquity. Approximately two thousand such bowls have been discovered, primarily in Iran and Iraq, dating from the 2nd to 8th centuries CE.  Most often, from the outside, the vessels appear to be plain clay bowls. Inside, the bowls contain an incantation (usually in Aramaic), usually written so it spirals in from the rim to the center of the bowl.  In addition to the words, there are often illustrations of demons in chains. Some bowls, instead of writing, have squiggles and waves, thought to be used by illiterate magicians to imitate writing. Almost every bowl has a purpose-specific incantation; they were likely individually composed by the magician making the bowl for the particular circumstances it was to be used in.  However, many bowls contain familiar symbols (like the snake who swallows his own tail, called ouroboros) or magical names, such as those found in the famed Greek Magical Papyri.

There was a large Jewish community in Nippur (in modern day Iraq) in the 3rd century. This community was especially fond of these demon bowls. Nearly every house excavated has contained at least one.  They are all very similar, likely made by the same magician, and often contain passages from the Torah, usually Psalm 104:20; Exodus 15:3; Psalm 24:8; Psalm 10:16; and Exodus 15:18.

some demon illustrations from various bowls

The bowls are usually found buried upside down, most often in the corners of rooms, thought to be a place where demons could sneak into a home through the crack between wall and floor. Occasionally, two bowls are found glued together to make a hollow ball. In these cases, there are often items inside; eggs are particularly common in this case. There are, broadly, four types of incantation bowls:

  1. The most common type are house protection and general anti-curse talismans.
  2. Another common type are intended to protect specific people from particular curses.
  3. Sometimes, they are intended to cure people of specific afflictions, such as migraines.
  4. The final kind have “pseudo-script” and were likely created by illiterate people for their own use.  
    1. One imagines these have the same spread of uses as the literate ones

The text on the bowls is pretty formulaic.  Most include some, but not all of the following:

  1. An introductory formula giving them name of the magician and their magical titles or pedigree, etc.
  2. Brief quotes from Torah.
  3. A description of the function of the bowl.
  4. A “divorce decree” of exorcism formula, casting out  / divorcing demons and Lilith(s).
  5. A restraining order against demons and etc.
  6. Voces Magicae and “Barbarous” Names
  7. A concluding formula. (such as “amen, amen, selah” or etc)
  8. An illustration of a demon in chains. (or occasionally other things, shapes, etc)

Bowls such as these can be easily made from wooden salad bowls, which I frequently find at thrift stores for less than $2 each.  They can also be made with ceramic bowls, or even papier m√Ęche bowls. Personally, I like wooden bowls best, because the porous nature of the wood allows you to incorporate magical oils into the enchantment.  No matter what sort of bowl you use, a Sharpie-style permanent magic marker is the best choice for adding the inscription. If you’re using a wooden bowl, you’ll also need a variety of grades of sandpaper. You’ll also want some paper and a pen, for planning your inscription.  The first step is to decide what your bowl should say. You’ll most likely want to include your own name, the name of your home, and then to call on your personal gods and spirit allies to protect you. You may also choose to include an illustration of a demon in the middle of the bowl, and any magical symbols you like.  Practice writing out the inscription several times to make sure it will fit properly inside the bowl. When you’ve settled on an incantation, it’s time to prepare the bowl itself. You need to awaken the bowl as a magical object. Speak to it, pet it, treat it with love, as a living thing. If you are using a wooden bowl, sand it to a super smooth finish, loving and speaking to it the whole time.  Rinse off any sawdust, and prepare yourself to write the incantation. Speak the incantation aloud as you write it. If you choose to write in a spiral, it should spiral in from the rim. When you're done writing, let the ink dry for a bit, and then wax the outside of the bowl with the wood blessing wax below. Let it sit for a day or two, and then wipe off any excess wax.

Wood Blessing Wax
melted beeswax (4 oz)
lemon oil furniture polish (I use this brand)
Magical oils appropriate to the task (for this, I use dragonfire protection oil)

Slowly mix the oil into the wax until a thick paste is formed.  Mix in the magical oil. Apply with fingers or paper towel. Let sit for a few days, then wipe off excess.   Emergency/Temporary Bowls

These are especially good for hotel rooms, which I find to often by psychically/spiritually "crudded up".

You will need:
2 paper or styrofoam plates.  Paper is better.
an egg (optional)
a sharpie marker
a sterilized needle
a stapler

Take two paper bowls, and draw a demon trap of some kind.  This can be a pentagram or a labyrinth to "trap" the spirit.  Even better, write an incantation spiraling in towards a picture of a demon in chains) on the bottom of each bowl.)

Pray over the bowl, asking that your gods (or G-d, or whatever) trap all evil spirits within the bowl. Take a whole egg, prick your finger and drip one drop of your own blood on the shell (as bait) and put it in one bowl. 

Put the other bowl upside down on top and staple them together. 
Hide the whole thing under your bed or in the closet or something (because that's where monsters live, obviously!).  If the trouble is localized, put it near the epicenter of the disturbances, but somewhere a little out of sight.

After three days (or when you are leaving), take the whole thing outside (DO NOT OPEN IT) and burn, bury, or otherwise dispose of it. If you have been tending a sacred spot, bury it there, and ask the land to neutralize it.

If you can't burn or bury it, put it in a plastic ziplock bag, pour a whole canister of salt in after it, seal the bag closed, and go put it in metal dumpster (ideally one far away from your house)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Symposium

It all began with a discussion among some friends about Plato.  We were talking about our favorite books, and it turned out that we all really loved the Symposium.  (Yes, my friends and I are all dorks.  You know you're jealous!)  And so, by the end of the evening, the invitations went out:

"In the 4th century BC, Plato wrote one of the most influential works of all time: the Symposium. A series of speeches to Eros, god of Erotic Love, this work has shaped, if not directly influences, almost all of what we westerners think about love and romance.
But times are a-changin', and we're no longer in the world of ancient Athenian (oligarchical, patriarchal) aristocrats. Since love is a fixture of the human experience, why not update this work? Moreover, why not update this work *by actually holding a symposium of our own*?
So let's dedicate a night to Modern-day Eros, get boozed up, and hold a symposium of our own? On February 9th, we'll gather at Witch House with good food, the intoxicants of your choice, and a prepared speech, poem, or other presentation on the nature of love as an offering to Eros.  Wear red."

The evening went better (and worse) than I think any of us expected.  It turned out to be an exceptionally powerful, healing, contentious, fun ritual.  I strongly recommend you to try it with your own circle.  Not everyone at the table has to be a magician, but I'd recommend at least 2 solid magician who can maintain the energy and flow.  We had several spontaneous possessions (mostly by Eros himself, but Alcibiades, the drunken student of Socrates and military genius also showed up).

We began with pasta primavera, wine, liquor, brownies, and music while we waited for some late people, who arrived just in time for the hour of Venus.  We made opening invocations and offerings, which you can find below.  The three hymns to the gods are my own adaptations of the Orphic hymns to Protogonos (#5), Aphrodite (#54), and Eros (#57). You may substitute other offerings.

Open Space/Time in your usual fashion

Player One: Light Eros incense (buy that here or make your own)
(myrrh, roses, erontas, cinnamon, honey, and amanita mushrooms)

Player One: Offer Mushroom Honey & Light Gold Candle

O Eros Protogonos , we ask you heed our prayer!  
Twofold, Egg-born, and Wandering through the air;
The roarer who glories is fine golden wings,
from whom the race of mortals springs.
Erikapaios, you celebrated power,
ineffable, occult, all-shining flower.
From your darksome swirling mists to the purest sight
All-spreading splendour, pure and holy light,
Hence, Phanes, called the glory of the Sky,
On wavering pinions through the world you fly.
Priapus, dark-eyed splendour, to you we sing,
Genial, all-prudent, ever blessed king:
Look with joyful aspect upon these rites divine,
And give your holy consecration and your all-propitious shine!
Player Two: Offer Weed Brownie and Light Green Candle
Ourania, beloved, laughter-loving Aphrodite,
Sea-born, birth giver, night festival queen,
Crafty mother of needs, you make mortals to mate,
Fruitful mother of the world, you cause the Kosmos to procreate.
You are the sovereign of the three worlds and the origin of everything,
The Heavens, the Earth, the Ocean: from you they spring.
Holy companion of beloved Bacchus,
You delight in festivity, mother of Erontes,
Seductive Beauty, who loves to make love
Joy-giver, Secret Aristocrat and Hidden Dove,
Romantic companion at the table of the gods,
You are love’s true sire, bearing reel and rods,
You give us our children, our loves, and all loving actions,
Desirable one, life-giver, you couple up mortals in unbridled passion.
Every wild beast is frenzied in your arms,
Heavenly daughter of Cypress, lend us your charms,
We behold you, royal Goddess, splendid of countenance,
On your Syrian throne, redolent of frankincense,
Or riding the plains in your iridescent chariot,
Flanked by your priests in the bathtubs of Egypt
Riding swan-driven carriage upon the waves of the Sea,
Delighting sea-creatures as they dance in your breeze.
You bring joy to the Nymphs of the Earth and the Forest,
And those who leap lightly to the song of your sea-foamy chorus.
When seated in Cyprus, oh Queen Most Divine,
where your blessings are spoken by maidens most fine.
They sing for you, blessed one, and immortal Adonis,
He the grain god, and you the Green Goddess.
We summon you now with fine words and pure souls,
Hear our words, drink our wine, and smoke of our bowls!

Player Three: Offer Wine and Light Red Candle
I Call now great Cupid, source of sweetest delight,
Holy and pure, and most lovely to our sight;
Darting, and winged, impetuous fearsome desire,
You play with both gods and us mortals like wand'ring fire:
Cautious, and dual-natured, you’re the keeper of keys
Of heaven and earth, of the air, and the seas;
Of all that Demeters fertile realms can contains,
whence the Great Mother Goddess all life sustains,
And all whom dismal Tartarus is doomed to keep,
The chthonic expanse of the wide-sounding, deep;
Your commands, all Nature's various realms must obey,
You alone rule the heart, with universal sway.
Come, blessed power, regard our magical fires,
And help keep away the most maddening desires.

Player Four: Offer Water and Light white candle
We call the great philosopher heros to us, to join us in our Symposium:
Plato, Great Teacher, be with us now! May your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Phaedrus, Beloved of Jupiter, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Pausanias, Beloved of Mercury, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Eryximachus,  Beloved of the Sun, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Aristophanes, Beloved of Venus, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Agathon, beloved of the Moon, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Socrates, Great Teacher of Teachers, Beloved of Saturn, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Alcibiades, Beloved of Mars, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!

Diotima, Great Teacher of Teachers, Beloved of Jupiter, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Hypatia, Blessed of Mercury, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Medea, Beloved of Sun, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Helen, Beloved of Venus, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Sappho, Beloved of Saturn, may your Wisdom be a Blessing!
Hypolita, Beloved of Mars, may your Wisdom be a Blessing! Next, we each made our presentations/speeches. Our circle happens to be composed primarily of writers, so there was a lot of poetry, but you could also give speeches, sing songs, preform dances, or whatever feels right. The important thing is for each person to try to evoke their own personal Eros. Mine, an original hymn to Eros Protogonos (Firstborn Eros, or Primordial Eros) is below:
Hymn for Eros Protogonos

Hesiod tells us, as only he can
That long before begetting began,
Long before the birth of the Earth,
In the beginning, “Xaos came first”.

In a sinuous spasm of shuddering, shivering,
Shimmering, jiggling, quickening, quivering,
As a voluptuous void of thick viscous mist,
Howling and moaning, Xaos came to exist.

Xir ragged breath shaking in gasps and in grunts,
Xe ejaculates seed from Xir infinite cunts,
Crystalline crumbs of uncut actuality,
Coalescing, condensing, into our reality.
Great Mother Matter whom Hesiod called,
“wide-bosomed Gaia, firm foundation of all.”

Next, we are told, by our Muse-tutored rhapsode,
“Eros shone forth”, from his cosmic abode,
“The fairest of all of the immortal gods,
Who unnerves the limbs and sets minds all at odds,
Eros shuns reason, refusing wise counsel”,
He makes sinners behave, turns saints into scoundrels.

Eros, Sex-Love, third-born from the Dark,
the gravitational force that draws quark close to quark,
His shuddering orgasm was that very Big Bang,
Mathematical symphony the first angels sang,
He gave passionate atoms their nuclear fire.
Eros, the Lucifer, god of Naked Desire,
Lit the spark of the stars and warmed the cold Night,
Giving heat to the universe, he let there be light.

Then Eros awakened the womb of the Earth,
And out flowed the Sky, the very first birth.
Gaia and Ouranos, united in love,
The Earth’s firm foundation, the Heavens above,
Their waters were joined, the primordial soup,
their commingled essence, that amino-laced goop,
The  roiling ocean from which all life springs,
Eros instigator of the Ten Thousand Things.

Evolution went slowly, in those early days,
Until Eros taught Life His creative ways,
Igniting the yearning for recombination,
Eros taught us the arts of sex and flirtation,
Dividing the genders, as woman and man,
beginning begetting from whence you began.

Now, there are some things you have to be prepared for: First, we made a conscious choice to not invite couples, because we were afraid that their energy would create little mini-circles, and break the cohesiveness of the circle. Second, this perhaps should have been more obvious to us going in, but it turns out almost everyone has a lot of conflicted feelings, and a sizeable amount of anger, at Eros. Everyone is intoxicated, there's a lot of magic going down, and you're working with powerful, passionate, complicated forces that everyone yearns for, but whom everyone has been done wrong by at least once. Some of the speeches/poems were very personal, and some very political. Things got heated. There was yelling and crying and laughing. Someone stomped out. This isn't work to do with strangers. This is work to do with people you can fight with and still love the morning after. This is work for a real circle, done in perfect love and perfect trust.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Spell to Acquire Books

I was going through some old files, and ran across this, which I thought might be of interest.  It's from a long time ago, before Amazon was really a thing.  Lancaster County, where I grew up, has HUGE libaray books sales; far bigger than any I've seen elsewhere.  The roller rink in FILLED with books, which sell for $1 per day on the last day of the sale.  The year we preformed this spell, I got a copy of a book on angelic magic by Peter Lamborn Wilson (which is a great book, even if the author is...of questionable ethics, let's say) and a copy of Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (a VERY useful text which is very expensive) and maybe some other stuff I don't remember.  Good luck with it!  It's written for a group, but it should be easy to adapt for independent use.  Please excuse the writing and pretension.  I mean...who wasn't a jerk when they were 23, right?

A Ritual to Acquire Excellent Books at a Library Sale


Each participant will require a square of paper, a copy of these instructions, and a pen.  This ritual should be preformed the night preceding the sale.

Each magician should develop a sigil or magical formula which represents, for them, the working at hand.

After lighting several candles, each magician should write a list of any particular types of books they seek.  These should be placed in a bowl and burned.

While the lists burn, the group should repeat the evocation below several times, until a meter is established and the group agrees that the “vibe” has been established.  It may be easiest if the lead magician reads it aloud first to help to establish the meter.  

Each magician should copy the following magic square onto a square of paper.  On the reverse side, each magician should draw their sigil, small.  The papers should be passed around the circle, with each magician adding their sigil to each talisman.  When every talisman has been inscribed with every sigil, each magician should anoint their talisman with ashes of the lists, while saying the evocation again.

The talismans should be carried in the left hand pocket while book searching.

Extra talismans may be made for magicians not present at the working.  

Procol oh procol este profani. Barlasti ompala.

In the name of the Mighty and Terrible One, we evoke Tahuti, the Lord of Wisdom and of Utterance; Master Scribe, Inventor of Language.

Oh thou, majesty of the godhead, wisdom-crowned Tahuti, Lord of the gates of the universe. Thee, thee we evoke.

Oh thou of the ibis head. Thee, thee we evoke.

Thou who wieldest the wand of double power. Thee, thee we evoke.

Thou whose skin is a flaming orange as though it burned in a furnace. Thee, thee we evoke.
Thoth. Hermes. Mercury. Elegba.
By whatever name we call thee, thou art still nameless to eternity. Come thou forth we say, and aid us in this work of art.
Thou star of the east that didst conduct the magi. Come thou forth we say, come thou forth and make every spirit of the air aid us in our quest for Knowledge.
Thou Scribe Eternal, Thou Lord of Books.  Bring forth books of magic, books to inspire and to enflame.  Direct our eyes to those books we most desire; those books of rare value that we never dreamed to find.

The Magic Square:


The Evocation is heavily modeled on the classic Golden Dawn Invocation of Thoth, widely believed to have been written, at least in part, by William Butler Yeats.  The first lines are something of a mystery.  ‘Procul, O procul este profani’ is taken from The Aeneid. It means literally, “keep distant, distant, unbelievers!” Virgil puts these words into the mouth of the Sybil of Cumae who is preparing to utter some hard-core prophecy and who with this speech shoos off the vulgar outsiders by saying, “Keep away, away, you trashy rabble.”  I have no idea what “barlasti ompala” means.

The Square above is taken from the Book of Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, Book Three, Chapter 11, Part  B.  Mathers notes “Many ancient Books of Magic, etc., have been lost or destroyed, in some cases by the wish of the Good Spirits, in others by the machinations of the Evil Spirits. By these Symbols you can have many supposed extinct works brought to you, Abraham states; but adds that he could never copy them, because the writing disappeared as fast as he wrote it; notwithstanding this he was permitted to read some of them.