Friday, June 28, 2013

Hermes Cakes

This recipe is a greek spice cake I learned to make from my mother who learned from my great aunt Lilly.  I have changed the recipe somewhat.  My mother wasn't much of a baker, but my Aunt Lilly (whom I only sort of remember, she was actually my great Aunt who died when I was little) was an amazing cook.  I use this to make offering cupcakes for Hermes.  Also, they are delicious.  They're quite heavily spiced; feel free to cut back on the spices if you want.

1 cup pistachios, chopped up (almonds or walnuts are also ok, or you can just leave the nuts out entirely)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mace (if you have it, otherwise, just double the nutmeg)
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground (seriously, it's good)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground mastic (if you have it.  if not, just skip it.  Greek and Turkish grocers carry it. It tastes kind of like pinesol flavored chewing gum, but in a good way.)
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup yoghurt (real greek yoghurt; if not, strain it overnight)
1 orange worth of zest (optional)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter or oil

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix dry ingredients except sugar.
Mix sugar and eggs.
Mix wet ingredients into sugar and eggs. Whisk well.
Mix wet into dry.  Mix well.
Pour into cupcake liners in cupcake tray.  You can also make it in a pan, but I like cupcakes.  
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until done.

A traditional Greek thing to do is bake a dime inside a cake for New Years.  Such a cake is called Vasilopita (King's cake).  Whoever gets the dime in their slice gets extra luck and sometimes a prize (or breaks a tooth)   Mercury dimes are fun for this.  Don't choke on the dime.  I think there's some kind of Christian folk-story about St. Basel and dime cakes, but I don't really know.  If you make it that way, it should really be round to be traditional.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's in a name?

A friend asks: "As I understand it, I'm talking more to an idea than to a person. Is it the name that matters, or is it more about what the name represents?"

Good question!  There's a lot of debate around this issue.  Most views fall along a sort of spectrum:
  • It's all in your head.  When you talk to a spirit, you're really just talking to a piece of your subconscious self.
  • Spirits are egregores; that is to say, they begin inside of people's heads, but attain a sort of independent existence based on human beliefs about them.
  • Spirits are real and independent of you, exactly the same way that monkeys and rocks and coca cola are real.  They do not rely on humans for their existence.  They're still there when you close your eyes.
The weird thing is, at least when you're just beginning with magic, it doesn't really matter.  In my experience, it's easiest to work magic if you behave as if spirits have at least some existence of their own, outside of you.

What do I think?  Hard to say.  For most of my time as a magician, I would have said that spirits were egregores.  These days, I'm coming around to a more complicated position.  You see, I do sort of think that spirits have their genesis in belief/thought/Mind, but I'm starting to think that trees and monkeys and coca cola do too.  The thing of it is, those things are all figments of imagination too.  God breathes creation into being moment by moment, that's why he's called Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.  That's a thing that humans can do to.  Only we (and God) can create ex nihlo, bring forth something where once there was nothing, think things into being (make stuff up).  Here's what I can say from experience; intent is very important, but it's not everything.  If someone calls Lilith to help them get pregnant, it will not work.  If someone calls Lilith to empower herself as a feminist, it may or may not work.  If you call Lilith to curse an enemy to miscarry (you monster!  seriously!  don't do this), it may or may not work.  But, if you call Lilith in front of an abortion clinic to curse pro-life picketers, it takes about 15 minutes for them to get arrested (for assaulting you; be ready to get hit).  (I picked Lilith as an example because beliefs about her have moved so rapidly and vary so widely between communities that she makes a good example of problems in the "egregore" model.)

Now, on to your actual question, about names.  I'm a big believer in the magical efficacy and power of names.  Partly because I'm Jewish, and we're big on that.  Mostly, though, it's because the book that most shaped my ideas of magic when I was first learning was fiction in which that was a main theme.  (Don't you judge me!  I was 13.)  It's also just an aesthetic preference of mine; I like names and words and symbols and that sort of thing.  I'm not much a of a drawer, and I'm the worst musician ever, but I'm actually an ok writer, so it's to my benefit to believe very powerfully in the power of names.

Here's my take on it.  Different gods are different, but they're not as discreet as people are.  (Actually, people aren't really as discreet as they seem to be either, but that's a different lesson.)  Treating Hermes and Thoth and Mercury as interchangeable isn't so far from the truth.  They're all closely related, and they've been syncretized for millennia.  When you start to throw Ganesh and Anansi and Legba into the mix, then you're not really dealing with a god at all anymore, you're really just dealing with an idea, and a vague and confusing one at best.  (And these guys are far more similar than many other gods who get lumped together.  Pretty much the only thing Aphrodite, Ishtar, and Freya have in common is their lack of a penis, but lots of people try to equate them.)

Some people will try to sell you a line like "All gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess."  I think that's total bullshit for a couple of reasons.  It's certainly true that, at the end (beginning) of things, there's only one God, but all gods are God only in the same sense that all demons are God, and all people are God, and all trees are God, and all electrons are God.  Honestly, though, that truth isn't terribly useful (or maybe I'm just not enlightened enough to use it?).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ask a Witch

Puck asks: I kinda want to have a long talk about life with Hermes/Thoth/something that represents communication or writing. Would writing about him(her? It?) Be a good way to do that? 

NOTE: These instructions were originally written for a Jewish 16 year old, so they're framed with more Jewish and more protection than I usually would.  You can frame it anyway you want.  Automatic writing is not a religious activity, it's one available to all humans at all times.


My go-to method for speaking with beneficent spirits is automatic writing; it's not a good method for dealing with less-friendly or less well-known spirits, because it doesn't offer a lot in the way of protection.  Basically, it's just writing while you're in trance.  Here's how I do it, but there are lots of other methods.  I developed this method when I was a freshman in college, after I read Austin Osmond Spare's essay on "Automatic Drawing", but I've refined it since then.

I find it much easier to write long hand than to try to type automatically.  My computer goes a little crazy when I try to use it for magic.  However, many other people get excellent results with "cyber magic", so try it both ways.  This guy: for example, is the techno-magician in my circle, but he rarely updates his blog, because he's a loser.  (Love you, Jason!) 

I find it easiest to use a "magic" marker and unlined paper.  I like felt tip markers ("flair" pens by papermate are very perfect) because they come in lots of colors and they require the minimum of manual dexterity.  My writing becomes quite indecipherable when in trance, even more so if the ink is skipping and smudging).  I transcribe the writing into a more readable format (usually typed) after I'm done.  That helps me process it, and also collect it.  Make sure to have LOTS of paper on hand.  I write very big, with lots of white space when I do this, and there's nothing more frustrating than running out of paper.

Start by "setting the mood".  Pick some incense or oil that's associated with the spirit you want to make contact with.  Listen to some thematically appropriate music.  Print out a picture of the spirit and stare at it.  Whatever.  

Get into your magic headspace somehow.  Lately, I've been partial to the "Deep Meditation" tone from here: with very deep slow breathing and circulating the microcosmic orbit, which I only recently figured out how to do.  I don't really know how to teach it to you.  Many people, however, seem to find that sort of thing much easier than I do, so give it a shot.  I suspect you will be good at it.  Like with all things, don't force it.  If it feels injurious or sickening, stop, banish, and rest.

Once I'm feeling relaxed and "in the zone", I begin writing out an oration.  An oration is a kind of a preliminary prayer evocation that lists the names and qualities of the spirit you're looking for.  I always call Hashem first. (That's a total lie...I occasionally call Hashem first, but not often, unless I'm doing "big mojo" kind of work.  However, you can do it all the time until you know what you're doing if you want.  You don't have to.)  I write them spontaneously, but they follow a general format, that goes something like this.  

El Elyon, Adonai HaOlam, Immediate and Eternal, Instantaneous and Timeless, Emptiness beyond Darkness, Light Without Limit, Father of Heaven and Earth, Mother of the Ten Thousand Things, Mystery of Mysteries, Door to All Wonders, make open the way.  Open my eyes that I might see, open my ears that I might hear,  open my mouth that I might proclaim your Glory.  Send NAME to me, that we might freely converse.  

I call you NAME, LONG LIST OF TITLES AND ATTRIBUTES.  Come to me, attend to me, speak with me, move my pen and answer my questions.  NAME, TITLES, ATTRIBUTES, I am Sarai, inheritor of the line of Abraham, daughter of the house of Jacob, with the voice of my ancestors, I call out to you, with the hands of the patriarchs and matriarchs of my tribe, I reach out to you, with the magic of Solomon, the Sorcerer King, whose blood is my blood, I call you forth, blah, blah, blah...  (This part can vary widely depending on the spirit and my mood)

After a little while of this (about a page worth, usually), I start to feel inspired to write things.  Often, it's just a list of words to start with, like Freudian free association   For me, I find that, they tend to phonetically circle around a "key word" (often a "magic name" or "mantra" type phrase), and once I find that, the words just start to flow.  When I was new to it, the first part of what the spirit (in those days, it was almost always Arbatel, the Revealer, Angel of the East) had to say was usually an effusive outpouring of love for me, and happiness that I'm finally listening.  Depends on the spirit though.  I try to write both end of the conversation, both whatever they spirit has to say and also any questions I have to ask.  Sometimes the spirit breaks into drawings or math or not-English or sometimes nonsense words.  If it's nonsense for more than a line or two, I just remind it that it has to speak in clear and intelligible English.  If I get stuck in the middle, or loose the connection, I go back to free associating words.  After a while, we run out of things to say, and I say thank you and good bye.  Then, I banish.  In particular, I wash my hands and put some water on the top of my head.  Then I transcribe and ponder.

Good luck!

Your Fairy Godmother

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cold Water

I went to the beach again today, this time at West Haven.  It was hazy and much cooler than yesterday, but not at all windy.  Not ideal beach weather, but still nice.  The weather, along with the weekday, made it almost completely deserted.  I sat and meditated for some time, but I had a lot of trouble focusing.  After much mind wandering, I finally settled in.  I'm not sure how long I was not thinking about things.  I circulated the microcosmic orbit, like I've been doing.  I did not notice being warm today, probably because the sun was overcast.  I went into the water, which was quite cold.  I didn't call Kuvoah, because I don't have an answer for him yet about the thing he wants me to do.  I'm pretty sure he was there, though.  But he didn't "make contact" either.  Instead, I just soaked in the elemental water.  Invoking cold water is very different than invoking refreshingly cool water.  It felt very still, not dead exactly, but just very unmoving.  I decided to go with it.  I stilled myself as much as I could, just floating, trying not to be, imagining the deepest void.  I toyed with the idea of just giving up everything, just letting go of my whole life, and drifting in the currents, going wherever I'm taken.  This idea was not entirely without appeal.  I didn't feel like I could act; not as if I was constrained.... I just didn't feel like a creature that had volition.  I don't know how long I floated there.  After a long time, I had a vision.  An honest to god, seeing things vision, which I almost never have.  It was a giant golden bird of prey who glowed like the sun, who changed into an angel, and told me that was enough of the water, that I should get out and go home.  I suddenly realized how cold I was.  I got out of the water, gathered up my stuff, and got in the car with the heat on.  I shivered for a long time before I was ready to drive home.  I passed a large park on my way home.  While I sat at the red light, a big hawk flew by.

I took a very hot shower when I got home, and ate some soup.  The end.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sun and Sky and Sea

I went to the beach again today, this time in Norwalk with my friend M.  I got a little bit too much sun; my shoulders are quite pink. The magic went very well.

At first, she and I were just hanging out and gossiping and playing in the water.  After a while, I swam out deeper my own to do my Work while she wrote.  As before, I circulated the microcosmic orbit until I was full of sunshine, and so, so hot. (temperature hot, not sexy hot)  Do other people find that the microcosmic orbit makes them hot?  I think I might doing it wrong.  It was weird to do that while already in the cold water; a very fun interplay.

Again, I called Kuvoah.  It was much harder than before.  Perhaps because I was too far south, but probably just because I was less "in the zone". After a bit, he showed up.  It was much less physical this time, and there was no shape-shifting or sensation of being penetrated.  Kuvoah "asked" me to give something up; something I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of.  We "spoke" about it for a little while.  I said I'd keep thinking about it, which seemed to satisfy him, and then he left.  I've lost so much already this year, I feel I can be forgiven for a clinging to security a little longer.

I did a bit more water invocation, which was a little melancholy.  I came out of the water sort of sad, but we had to leave right after that.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kuvoah at the Beach

The Stratford Sea Wall During "Super Storm" Sandy

As promised, here's a field report on my Work this morning.  As some of you know, I've been doing some work lately with a spirit named Kuvoah, whom I believe to be of Pequot (Algonquin) origin.  He's a spirit of the Long Island Sound.  I'm not sure if he's the whole Sound, or just the part near me.  I can verify that he's easily contactable at the locations mapped here:  I'll update the map as I try different places this summer.  I'm not very visual, but I understand him to be long and undine, with deep blue-green scales.  I experience his presence as cold, but not in a creepy way; like stepping into the ocean on a hot day.  I first me him at the pier near my house.  He helped me travel during the Asulzaz working; I gave him some sushi, which he seemed to like.  He asked me to promise that I would immerse myself in the Sound to mark the beginning of summer, which (since I love the beach) I readily agreed to.

Since the Asulzaz working, I've been much more sensitive than I used to be to non-corporeal things.  For example, every time I look over the sound now, day or night, I see these little floating pinpricks of light.  The first time, I figured it was just reflected sunlight, but they're there in the dark as well.

The last day of school was thursday (as most of you know, I teach math at a progressive Jewish HS...kabbalistic dream job!).  Yesterday was all meetings, so today was my first day of summer; fitting, since it's the first day of summer. :)  Shortly after I woke up, I did my morning meditation, and some chakra work.  I've really been trying to get better at energy does not come naturally to me; I'm not very "in touch" with my body.  I ate an apple, and headed off to Lordship Beach, in Stratford, CT.

When I was a teenager, and first getting into magic, I used to dream of a stone wall, holding back the sea.  There were stone steps cut into the wall, leading down, disappearing into the waves.  There's a staircase like that at the beach I go to In Stratford...I sit on the steps and meditate sometimes, even when it's quite chilly.  I'll take a picture for you next time I'm there.

I sat and baked in the sun for a little while, feeling its heat and light penetrate into me, clarifying me.  The first time I did Liber MMM, when I was 17 or 18, I wrote a banishing ritual where the stuff being banished was rainclouds that got burned away by the sun.  I did that.  In my mid-twenties, I briefly lived with a Tantric monk.  (It's a long story.)  He once told me that, when people compare God to the Sun, they're not saying that God is big, or powerful, or light.  Like the Sun, God's radiance bathes all things equally, making no distinctions between "good" and "evil", "dark" and "light".  I've had a complicated relationship, magically, with the sun, over the years, but ever since the dark, cold, hard winter I had, I've really felt the need to soak it up.  (While slathered in sunscreen and old-lady hats, of course.)  I "circulated the microcosmic orbit" while I sunbathed.  I really like combining the two things.

I did a little more meditating.  I had much trouble quieting my mind in such a boisterous place.  Not only were there lots of kids and dogs, but the beach is quite close to the airport, so there's often jet noise.  I had a lot of fleeting visions I don't remember; I tried to pay them little mind.  After about twenty minutes of meditating, I walked to the water.  At first, I just put my feet in, feeling the cold, connecting to the water.  I continued the orbit.  As I walked in, I tried to feel the energy/spirit/being of the water flow up my body as well. I entered the water very slowly, a few inches at a time.  It was quite cold, but I also wanted to really FEEL my entry into it.  When I was in up to my hips, I felt a shudder as the cold, wet energy got pulled into the orbit.

That was when I reached out for Kuvoah.  I felt him, slippery and cool, slinking into my mind.  It wasn't sinister at all, though perhaps I made it sound as if it was.  It was refreshing and very sensual, but not at all erotic.  I walked in up to my neck.  Because I am so fat, I'm very buoyant  so I float completely in salt water.  One of the reasons I love to swim so much is the feeling of weightlessness.  I've always been fat, as long as I can remember, but underwater, my body is lithe and supple, and obeys my every command.  I'm a very strong swimmer, even against the currents of the Atlantic; swimming in the Sound is one of the few things (along with my job) that I really love about Connecticut.

I "sat" in lotus positon for a while, floating, with the water swelling around my shoulders.  I cannot do this in normal "gravity".  I did a little kundalini rising, which I've just learned to do in the last few months.  Kuvoah very much liked this, and asked if he could "come along".  I had never before understood what people meant when they described kundalini energy as a serpent, but I sure do now!

Kuvoah entered me.  As before, it was pleasurable and very physical, but not particularly erotic.  He coiled up and then swam/flew up my spine.  When he reached my neck, he jumped up out of the water, and dove back down my front, like a breaching whale.  It was so exciting!

I felt myself become more and more Kuvoah-like.  So large and cool, ancient and quiet, somehow implacable and tempestuous at the same time.  I pore-breathed in water (a technique I learned from Bardon, but really "got" when I learned it from Jason Miller), and then I pore breathed in the Sound.  I dove and swam, summersaulting and kicking both feet together, like a mermaid.

When I was young, we went to the beach every summer.  Like me, my father loved to swim, although my mother hated it.  On the mid-Atlantic coast where we went, the waves were very large and hard for a little girl.  My father would hold me while he jumped the waves, half throwing me up in the air.  When I was older, he taught me to jump them myself, putting my arms out like superman.  We would go way, way out, past the breakers, and float on our backs (my father was also quite fat).  Later, I would go out on my own, diving beneath the waves, swimming for hours.  Sometimes I would secretly pretend I was a mermaid, even when I was way too old for that to be cute.  I still do it sometimes.  That's what swimming with Kuvoah was like, like being a mermaid, like my father throwing me in the air.  Exciting, but completely safe.

I'm not sure how long I was in the water.  Probably about an hour.  After a while, I got out, drank an entire bottle of luke warm water, and went home.  After I took a shower, I fell asleep almost immediately, and slept deep and dreamlessly for an hour or two.  After I woke, I did some dancing, did some writing, made some dinner, and got interviewed for Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole.  All in all, a lovely day.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Magical Goals

     I've never really thought of myself as a mystic.  When I do magic, its FOR something.  My "long term" magical strategy for the next few months is as follows:

  • I'm worried about the health of someone I care for very much.  I'm hoping to be able to lend strength where needed.  I've never been very good at healing, but that's my new thing: doing things I'm bad at until I get better at them.
  • I'd like to work on my own health some.  As of right now, I'm perfectly healthy (even the doctor says so), but sooner or later a lifetime a morbid obesity is going to catch up with me, so I ought to probably head it off before it gets here.
  • I'd like to get more in touch with the local magical "eco-system".  I've had a lot of trouble "settling in" to CT, but I'm feeling a little adrift since my parents' death.  I think I'd like to set down some roots, build relationships with the local spirits, find a local magical community, etc.
  • After my parents' death, I was very angry with G-d.  I know that sounds so cliche; I hate to hear myself say it, but it's true.  It's not a good place to work magic from.  Nature has always been my path back to the Divine, so there's that.  

     Finally, though, I just want to get back in touch with Water as a primordial Force.  When I was young, I was very much a child of the water.  After I went mad, I swore it off, and I've been working with spirits of the air for many years.  I love the intellect, don't get me wrong.  I've found great joy in the life of the mind, and I've no intention of leaving the service of Thoth-Hermes, thrice great.  He's been very good to me.  He's never once demanded anything from me that I'm not happy to give.  I've been consistently happy and successful in his employ.  I do work I love, initiating shining young geniuses into the his mysteries, opening the gates of the infinite to them, and hopefully opening them to the same joy in learning I've found.  He pays reasonably well for it, and he's never turned me down when I asked for something I needed.  I still take petitions to him every Wednesday, and I expect to keep doing so for the foreseeable future.
     Oh how I miss the Water though; the cool embrace of the river, the soft kiss of the rain, the cutting bite of the hurricane, the pounding surf, and the roiling waves, the wine and the blood and the sex.
     I went through the worst thing I could have imagined, and I came back out the other side sane, functional, with my wits and my spirit intact.  I think I'm ready to dive back into the maelstrom, this time setting my own course through her currents.  I'm sure that's what all the crazies say, though, so I suppose we'll just have to see.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Invocation of Solomon

This is the invocation of Solomon I mentioned earlier. It's specifically intended for those of us descended from the House of David, but with some modification, you can probably make it work. I answered a couple of questions about it at the end.

I am [NAME], inheritor of the line of Abraham, blood-kin to Solomon the King.
My blood is his blood, and his kingdom is mine.
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple-Builder.
I invoke Solomon, Magician and the King.

I am [NAME], inheritor of the line of Isaac, blood-kin to Solomon the King.
My vision is his vision, and his foundation is mine.
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple-Builder.
I invoke Solomon, Magician and the King.

I am [NAME], daughter of the house of Jacob, blood-kin to Solomon the King.
My word is his word, and his brilliance is mine.
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple-Builder.
I invoke Solomon, Magician and the King.

I am [NAME], inheritor of the line of Leah, blood-kin to Solomon the King.
My heart is her heart, and her victory is mine.
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple-Builder.
I invoke Solomon, Magician and the King.

I am [NAME], inheritor of the line of Rachel, blood-kin to Solomon the King.
My self is her self, and her beauty is mine.
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple-Builder.
I invoke Solomon, Magician and the King.

I am [NAME], inheritor of the line of Rivkah, blood-kin to Solomon the King.
My will is her will, and her power is mine.
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple-Builder.
I invoke Solomon, the Magician and the King.

I am [NAME], daughter of the house of Sarah, blood-kin to Solomon the King.
My power is her power, and her glory is mine.
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple- Builder.
I invoke Solomon, the Magician and the King.

(Repeat as needed)
I invoke Solomon, Djinn-Master, Temple- Builder.
I invoke Solomon, the Magician and the King.


  • Should I use my Hebrew name, my “magical name” or my “regular” name? 
    • You should use your true name. If you’re not sure what name that is, start praying by saying: “Hi, God. It’s me, _________.” Whatever name you filled in the blank with is the one you should use. 
  • Can I do this in Hebrew instead? 
    • If your Hebrew is good enough, go for it, but make sure your translation preserves the meter.  It would be better to do this invocation in glossolalia with the meter, than in unmetered Hebrew.
  • Do I have to do this out loud? Can I just “think” the words? 
    • Personally, I think it’s really important to invoke aloud, but try it both ways if you want and see what works for you. There's an underlying meter you should be able to feel. You might want to beat a drum (or table or thing) or rattle or such to it. 
  • Where did you learn this invocation? 
    • From Solomon, obviously.  Or, you could say, with equal accuracy, that I made it up in my giant brain.
  • Why did you order the invocation the way you did? Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the matriarchs at the bottom and the patriarchs at the top of the tree? 
    • That’s a question I only ever get from male magicians! ☺ I ordered them this way because my name is Sara, so I want to end with her. Feel free to reorder it however you like best. If you’re named after one of the matriarchs or patriarchs, I’d try to either start or end with that one. If you’re named Solomon, you win!