Monday, October 14, 2019

An excerpt from my recent book Orphic Hymns Grimoire, which you can buy in ebook, paperback, or hardback.

XII: Herakles

Strong-armed Herakles, mega-mighty brave Titan,
Competitive, adamantine, strong-minded, enlightened,
Shape-changing Time Father, eternal and kind,
Much entreated with prayers from all of mankind:
All know your story, yet your essence is ineffable;
Your wild spirit untamed and forever unquenchable.
All-dynastic ruler who reigns from the heart,
Archer and augur who never misses the mark,
All-devouring pangenitor, adored protector and lover,
Highest and strongest, bravest child and brother,
For the good of all people, you tame savage yearning[1],
Firstborn spear thrower, your heart’s ever burning,
With passion and energy, O daemon great-named,
You wear a crown of night’s blackness tipped in starflame[2],
You bested twelve trials, from the east to the west,
Much-tested hero, ever holy and blest.
Immortal and immovable, immaculate and immense,
Both blessing and healing are yours to dispense.
Come shaking your club to exorcise evil,
Banish even foul death with your weapons primeval.

Herakles is the archetypal superhero of ancient Greece.  Like all heroes, he began life as a mortal.  He was, in life, called Alcides or Alcaeus (λκαος), from the root λκή, which means “strength of body” or “physical force”.  In life, he accomplished great deeds, including his famous twelve labors.  He then ascended to the ranks of the Mighty Dead or “heroes” (ρως) after his death, acquiring the name ρακλης or ρακλς.  Many people interpret that name as “Hera’s glory”; it may be more simply “the hero’s glory”.   What is unquestionable, however, is that Herakles’s story is wrapped up in Hera’s, and that his glory is wrested from her.

As the paragon of heroes, Herakles ascended even further, and took his place among the gods.  In this way, he dwells in both the Underworld, among the Ancestors, and in the Upperworld, among the gods. While this appears to be problematic to many commentators, it is very much in keeping with modern folk practices surrounding the Mighty Dead all around the world.  Even in antiquity, some consternation surrounded him being in both places.  Odysseus, recounting a νέκυια (necromantic ritual), says “And next I caught a glimpse of powerful Heracles—His ghost I mean: the man himself delights in the grand feasts of the deathless gods on high[3]”  

No tomb-shrine has been found that can be identified as belonging to Herakles.  I believe this is intentional, and underscores that Herakles, unlike other, more localized cults, is a hero for all of Greece, and all of her cultural inheritors (like us!).  Similarly, it is hard to know when the veneration of Herakles began.  It is attested to as early as the 6th century BCE but was already widespread at that point.

In addition to being physically strong and brave, at his best Herakles is generous, clever, and playful.  However, he is frequently beset by a sort of madness that makes him violent and rapacious.  In many ways, Herakles is the mythic archetype of the classical Greek kingly patriarch.  This is highlighted by his “war” with Hera, and with every other woman in his life.  When Herakles is an infant, Hera is tricked into nursing him, but he bites her on the nipple.  The milk that sprays from her nipple creates the Milky Way[4].  Later, in a bout of madness which Homer attributes to Hera, he murders his children from his first marriage[5].  As penance, he engages in his famous twelve labors.  After that, you would think Herakles would have learned the error of his ways, but it was not so.

While questing with the Argonauts, Herakles meets the princess Iole, who has pledged to marry any man who could best her in archery.  When Herakles competes, even though he wins, Iole and her father refuse marriage to him.  “After all,” they say reasonably, “he murdered his previous family!”  

Enraged, Herakles murders the king and his sons, all except Iphitus, who has become Herakles’s lover (the consensuality of this relationship varies, depending who is telling the tale).  After murdering her family, he abducts Iole and takes her home as his sex-slave, against both her will and that of his then-current[6] wife, Deianira.  Iphitus accompanies them.  Time passes, and once again Herakles “goes mad” and murders his lover Iphitus. Seeking absolution, Herakles then spends three years as the slave of Omphale, queen of Lydia, the wielder of the famed axe of power.  

The consummate dominatrix, Omphale tames Herakles, and frees him from his madness.  After that, she releases him from his slavery, and they marry.  However, Deianira and Iole, yet unavenged, send him a poisoned shirt as a wedding gift, which melts the flesh from his bones, and causes such agony that he voluntarily lays down on his funeral pyre.  His mortal portion burns, but his immortal half flees, ascending to Olympus, where he marries Hebe, whose name means “innocence”.  

In later myth, Hebe is understood as a goddess of youth.  However, in the Peloponnese where she originates, she was worshipped as a goddess of forgiveness and absolution.  For example, freed prisoners, who had atoned for their crimes, hung their broken chains on her sacred trees.  I choose to understand this to mean that heavenly Herakles has finally overcome his madness, which we might today call “toxicity”, and has been truly absolved.  Thus, celestial Herakles is free from the stain of rape and murder, for which chthonic Herakles still atones in Hades.  In penance, Herakles is a strong protector of women and children, and can be called upon in any work that smashes Patriarchy.  

A Spell to Defend Women, Children, or
Others Vulnerable to Patriarchal Violence

This is a serious spell for a serious situation; it calls strong forces, has a high cost, and has life-altering results.  DO NOT cast this spell to defend from “abuse”.  This spell is for actually defending from actual abuse.  While it is not explicitly written to harm the abuser, that is likely to be a side effect in proportion to the abuse.  I recommend against casting it on behalf of others unless you are an experienced magician.  Expect significant magical back-lash if you go back to your abuser after casting this spell.  Work with care.

You Will Need
·      Paper.  A brown paper grocery bag is ideal.
·      pen or pencil
·      matches or a lighter
·      a toilet
·      about 8 minutes of fully suspended disbelief

Things It's Nice to Have
·      A printout of the Herakles ikon
·      a red pen
·      a picture of the abuser
·      a red candle, and a way to light it
·      a toilet
·      about 30 minutes of fully suspended disbelief on a Tuesday after dark

Things to Make it Fancy
·      A Herakles ikon you colored while focusing on the work
·      dragon's-blood ink and a steel-nibbed pen
·      the abuser's hair or other body part/fluid
·      a oil lamp burning chili oil
·      a swamp
·      fully suspended belief in the last hour of Saturn on the day of Mars

What to Do

Begin by calming your mental chatter and suspending your disbelief.

Write the victim’s name behind Herakles (either on the back of the ikon, or else just write the victim’s name, and then write Herakles’ name (in English and Greek) over the top.

Write the abuser’s name on the back of their photo (or just write it nine times on a piece of paper).  Think clearly and in detail about how they hurt you, and how you fear they might hurt you in the future.  Put your pain into the paper.  Put your fear into the paper.  Put all of your feelings into the paper.  Put all that you can of your abuser into the paper.

Read the Orphic hymn to Herakles, preferably out loud, and then address Herakles directly.  Speak from your heart in your own words, saying something like:

“Herakles, you were an abuser, but you labor to make that right.  As a condition of your labors, I call you to defend me!” 

Repeat “I call you to defend me!” over and over until either your voice or your ability to suspend disbelief fails.

Burn the piece of paper over the toilet, and flush away the ashes.

As soon as possible, and before you go to sleep, wash yourself carefully from head to toe.  Finish by pouring salt water over your head.

[1] As we discussed in the introduction, the hymn more literally says “for the good of civilized men, you put down the savages” but fuck that noise.
[2] This is an allusion to the zodiac, which is mythologically connected to the story of Herakles’s labors.
[3] Odyssey, 11:690-693.  Translated by Robert Fagles
[4] Herakles enjoys many stellar myths, including those of his twelve labors, traditionally associated with the zodiac.
[5] His wife at the time is Megara, whom you know from the Disney movie.
[6] The order of his marriages is sometimes different in different stories.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Introduction to Witchcraft: Thirteen Lessons in Practical Magic

As many of you have already heard, I'll be launching a new 13 month beginners' class in Witchcraft starting at Halloween. It is NOT a course in Wicca, nor in "Traditional Witchcraft", nor any other religion.  Rather, it is a course in the craft that witches practice, also called magic, sorcery, and wizardry.

The course is $13 per month for 12 months or $130 for the whole course.  You can also purchase each lesson a la carte for $15 each.  Lesson One is free.   Each lesson is about 20 pages long, and includes access to the facebook discussion group and video chat "office hours" when you can ask questions.  New lessons come out each month, beginning with Lesson One on Halloween 2019, and ending on Halloween 2020.

​The following topics may be amended as we move through the course, based on student feedback.

Lesson One: Candle, Color, and Petition Magic (FREE)
Lesson Two: Sympathetic Magic, Magical Materia, and Amulets
Lesson Three: Divination
Lesson Four: Talismans, Sigils, Symbols, and Seals
Lesson Five: Planetary and Celestial Magic
Lesson Six: Internal Energy Work
Lesson Seven: Centering, Grounding, and Circles
Lesson Eight: Protection, Banishing, and  Warding
Lesson Nine: Oneiromancy, Trance, and Journey
Lesson Ten: Malefica, Banework, and Curse Breaking
Lesson Eleven: Shape Changing
Lesson Twelve: Summoning  and Dark Mirror Conjuration
Lesson Thirteen: Channelling and Possession


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Spell to Protect Wayland's Smithy

As I've mentioned before, my brother and his partner live near a neolithic long barrow burial mound called Wayland's Smithy.  It's a powerful site, and one close to my heart.  Recently, the swastikas have been carved into the trees.  Un-fucking-acceptable.

I have written the following ritual, designed to both protect the site from fascists and to call upon the power of Wayland Smith and the Deep Ancestors within, to protect Britain and the world from fascism.  It is designed to be performed at the site by non-magicians or beginner magicians (such as my brother), but more experienced magicians can also perform it astrally from afar.

Image may contain: plant, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

Before You Get There, Gather the Following:

  • pourable white flour.  I recommend putting it in a clean, dry wine (or similar) bottle.  you'll need at least 200 g.
  • a way to draw blood
  • a small bowl
  • a spoon
  • a bottle of water
  • a bag for garbage

At The Site, Do the Following:

As you walk to the site, keep your eyes open.  If you see any trash, pick it up.  If you find anything beautiful (acorns, leaves, flowers, feathers, etc) gather them.  You will also need a big stick (walking staff sized) and a palm-sized rock.  

Begin by entering into magical space, time, and consciousness by any method.  If you do not know how to do that, simply do your best to take several long, slow, deep breaths and root yourself as fully as possible in to the exact moment in space and time you are currently in.  Clear your mind, and focus on where you are and what you are doing.  Remove your shoes and socks, and do the rest barefoot.

Put your stone in front of the "gate".  Decorate it with leaves, flowers, feathers, or whatever else you found.  Pour a little water over it.
Walk a clockwise circle around the barrow (starting outside the entrance "gate") doing your best to feel its power.  Tend to it and love it.  Talk to it.  Pick up any trash you find.  If there are fallen branches or stones, tend to them.  Take pride in this site, and its history.   

Walk along the top of the barrow, down to the trees and back.  Feel the passage of time, the ebb and flow of millenia beneath your feet.  This hill was built by human hands, 5500 years ago.  When we work together, humans can do incredible things.  This is the home of the Mighty Dead, the blessed Ancestors of Britain.

Return to the "gate" stone (pictured above).  Pour a little more water out at your "altar".

Say out loud: "I am ___name___, and I come in love and reverence for this Land."

With your stick, knock three times on the gate stone.

Call out loud:

"Wayland, Great Smith!  Ancient Ancestors!  Spirits of the Land!  I ___name___ call to you.
The Enemy has come and defiled you.  I repudiate them and their cause.
The Enemy has come and defiled your tomb.  Arise and take your vengeance.
The Enemy has come and defiled Britain.  Take up your hammer again."

Pass the gate stone.  (take the bowl and spoon with you) . Bow.  Pour out more water at the next gate.

Say out loud: "I enter now into your womb, great barrow.  I enter now into the tomb.  I enter now into the womb of the Earth, to seek alliance with your who dwell here."

Go back as deep as you can get, and sit, facing outwards. 


"Wayland Smith, Mighty Dead, come and aid me now.
Wayland Smith, Mighty Dead, come and aid me now.
Wayland Smith, Mighty Dead...."

Keep going, faster and faster, until you get lightheaded.

Dig up a little bit of dirt (with the spoon) and put it in the bowl.  Not much.  Just a little spoonful or two.

Come back out, pausing before the gate to pour more water.

Once outside the gate again, make the following sign on the ground with the flower, pointing outwards.  This is sword of Wayland.

Finally, spill a drop of your blood into the bowl with the dirt.  Add water to make a thin paint.  You can add more dirt from out here or flour, if needed.  Dip your left hand in the blood mud, and slap it on the gate stone to make a handprint.  If you do not have a left hand, use your right hand. If you do not have hands, kiss the stone instead.

Yell out "IT IS DONE!"

Return to normal space, time and consciousness.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Coal as a Spirit Ally

Someone recently asked me for some details about how I work with coal magically.  Here's a short answer.

Image result for coal


Coal is an extremely powerful spirit ally, especially if you, like me, live in coal country, and one I recommend getting to know. Coal is formed from the compaction of ancient forests. Where I live in Pittsburgh, there is a seam of coal about 100 feet thick, which was compressed from more than 1000 feet of dropped leaves, twigs, trees, and other biological material in the Carboniferous (Pennsylvania) era. As you might imagine, the word “coal” is very old, originally meaning “glowing ember” and only later taking on its more specific meaning as combustible rock.

Image result for coal

Burning coal is bad for our planet. That is about human greed and waste, and not a flaw in coal itself. I assure you, coal would prefer not to be used in that way. As a mineral, coal is an excellent grounding material, connecting us to the deep earth, but also to the deep past. As a spirit ally, the Coal totem is best understood as a sort of Ancestral ur-tree, the combined wisdom of millennia of trees. When worked with in talismans, it is very similar to jet (which is unsurprisingly since jet is a precursor of coal).

Image result for coal

When they appear anthropomorphically, coal spirits sometimes take the form of tommyknockers, a sort of mining spirit that most usually appears as a small grizzled old man dressed in green. They are closely associated with the spirits of fallen miners, especially those who died in mine collapses. They are excellent allies in all sorts of work to protect the environment, or to agitate for workers rights. Want to disrupt a strip mine, oil pipeline, coke cracking facility or fracking field? Ask the tommyknockers for their help. Feed them cream, buttered bread, and honey to propitiate them, or whiskey, blood, and spicy gingerbread cookies to rile them up.

Image result for carved coal

Coal is well paired with quartz crystal to make a sort of spiritual antennae. Attach a piece of anthracite (hard, black) coal to end end of a cord and a quartz crystal of similar weight to the other. Use the coal end as an anchor into the depths of the earth, and the quartz end as a receiver for the wisdom of the stars. Magically, coal can be used similarly to jet, although it partakes slightly more of fire, and less of water. Amber, pearl, and coal make an excellent combination for seership among the three worlds. Amber represents the crystallized power of the sun and the heavens, pearl that of the sea, and coal that of the land.