Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Wheel of The Year

Some kids and I were talking about holidays at school today, and how every person, and every family, and every community picks out those holidays that really resonate for them as sort of "way stations" in the wheel of the year.  This is how my year rolls out...
  • Autumn
    • I've really spent my entire life on an academic calendar.  Except for the "lost years" in my early twenties, I've spent almost my entire life in school, first as a student, then as a teacher.  For me, the year begins when I go back to work, which is usually the last week in August.
    • High Holy Days (Mid Sept - Early October)
      • The Jewish High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashannah (New Year), to Yom Kippur (the day of atonement, which doesn't really resonate much for me, but is the last day I saw my parents alive).  It then runs through Sukkot (the harvest festival) and ends with Simchat Torah (the reception at Sinai).  I have off work for a great number of these holidays (because I teach in a Jewish school).
    • Ancestors' Week (late October)
      • Late October has always been a very unstable time of year for me.  Since my parents' death (Oct 21, 2012), late October is a pretty dark time for me.  It starts with the anniversary on the 21st, and runs through Halloween.  It's all about the ancestors, and coming to terms with past karma, and etc.
  • Early Winter
    • For me, the wheel of the year tips at Halloween;  the Unseelie court rules until Purim.  Halloween is the great "inaugural ball" of the Winter Court.  From here on, the Winter King is slowly gathering power, eating daylight, coming to its zenith at Christmas.  The Summer King dies at Halloween and rises up again at Spring.  It's also when we close the cottage.
    • All Saints Day (Nov 1)
      • Where I live, it's often quite cold by November 1st (sometimes its even snowing already) and daylight savings ensures that it gets dark quite early.  
    • SunReturn
      • When I can, I like to stay up al the way through the Longest Night of year, holding vigil for the Sun.  This is a very solitary, meditative thing for me that (in the last few years) often involves a lot of shamanic journeying and vision questing.
    • The War on Christmas (Late December)
      • The War on Christmas culminates with the Final Battle between The Winter King and the King of the Wild.  This is usually held the Friday after Christmas.  We collect old Christmas trees, and then wrap logs in festive paper.  Which we periodically throw onto a bonfire.  A ritual fight takes place between two martial artists, one dressed as Santa and one as the Horned God.  (spoilers: Santa looses).  To celebrate the victory of the Horned One, we throw whole christmas trees on the bonfire.  
  • Deep Winter
    • January is deeply, bitterly cold in the American North East where I live.  This is a month of no gods and no holidays.  If I had to assign a patron to this time, it would be Sedna.
    • Tu B'Shevat (early Feb)
      • The New Year of the Trees; when the world begins to wake up.    It's the first sign that the long, cold, dark winter might eventually end.  This is the festival of the first blossoms in Israel, but we're still under deep snow here.  Over the last 600 years or so, it's become a deeply kabbalistic holiday.  I encourage you to read more about it; it's pretty cool.
    • My Birthday (February 21)
      • I don't really have to explain why this is important, right?  If I have to pick sides, I'm left-hand-path (whatever the fuck that even means...I feel like the whole right hand path  / left hand path thing is ridiculous.  If you only use one hand, you're a cripple.)  Although, as many of my friends have noticed, I'm actually only UnSeelie in the winter. ;)  Note: because I help plan the calendar at school, our February break almost always contains my birthday, which means I have a week off work for my birthday.
  • Spring
    • For me, the wheel tips back at Purim.  From this point on, the Seelie Court reigns again until Halloween, led by the fabulous May Queen, who comes in as Ishtar, and then slowly descends in the fall, going out as Ereshkigal.
    • Purim (mid March)
      • Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrating the events of the Book of Esther.  It's VERY OBVIOUSLY a thinly (very thinly!) veiled festival of Ishtar.  Seriously, the protagonists are named Marduk (oops, sorry, I mean Mordechai) and Ishtar (oops, I mean Esther).  There are jam-filled cookies shaped like vulvae.  Religious Jews are required to get so drunk they can't tell the difference between good and evil.  (for real, look it up).  In my circle, we celebrate with drunken debauchery, the ritual marriage of Solomon & Sheba, and belly dancing.  And also cookies shaped like vulvae.   I haven't been able to celebrate this holiday in a real way in several years, because I am so far from everyone.  Instead, there is a "carnival" at school, which is like a horrible, empty, soulless satire of my holiday.  #fuckCT  UPDATE:  Now I go to Sacred Space for Purim, which isn't Purim, but it's still awesome.
    • Passover (April)
      • The celebration of Liberation, when I am brought out of the House of Bondage.  Liberation is probably the central feature of my spiritual practice; my liberation and everyone else's.  How can we possibly be free when others are still enslaved.  Our Spring Break at school coincides with Passover, because Jew school.
  • Early Summer
    • This is when we open the cottage.
    • Walpurgis Nacht and May Day (May 1)
      • May Day is the beginning of summer for me.  By this time, it's reliably nice out.  May Day, for me, is all about the Fair Folk.  When we were younger, my bff and I used to always gather wild flowers for our (grand)mothers on May Day, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do it since my mother (and her grandmother, shortly thereafter) died.  I like to spend this day in the woods and fields.  When I have a partner, this is a day for heiros gamos.
    • Graduation (Mid June)
      • This day is all about a year's worth of work paying off.  It's a very liminal day, all about sending my Work out into the world.  It also happens to coincide (more or less) with my younger brother's birthday (the 11th) and my late parents' wedding anniversary (the 12th).  They don't always realize it, but it's also the day I bless and seal graduating students' initiations (the ones who take to my current).  A surprising number of them do notice.
  • High Summer
    • I'm a teacher, so I usually still have "school" (grading, meetings, etc) for about a week after graduation.  As soon as I finish, I set off for the woods.
    • Midsummer (late June)
      • Solstices aren't that big of a deal to me, but this is the day I kick off my summer magics (usually).
    • Lazy Days (early July)
      • Early July is a time for chilling, reconnecting with my body and spirit.  I spend a significant portion of this time at the beach.  A time for hedonism.
    • Lammas (early August)
      • Peak summer.  This is when summer magical work usually manifests.  The grain moves from growing to ripening; the tomatoes are red on the vine.  It's all denoument from here.
And then I'm back to the start of the year again.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Dream

I am driving through whiteness, bright light.
I am a dragon flying.
I am an angel, rising.
rising.  up thought the clouds
up out of the atmosphere (a brief thought:  can I breathe?  should I turn back?  No.  That's stupid.  angels don't ned to breathe.  Or, possible, angels breathe starlight.)
up up up. bigger and bigger.  (how big? planet sized)
the Earth (but perhaps a metaphor for all creation?)
hangs in the center of space
a circle of shining beings (of whom I am one?), but one in particular.
they're are doing things to the earth; pouring a moat around it?  I think I do that.
fidgeting with in in subtle ways.
a circle of stars, a college of Elohim.  glowing beings made out of light?  but one in particular.
he's been waiting a long time.
I kiss him.  not a sexy kiss, but a loving kiss.
the sky fills with ravens
he dies.  falls?  incarnates?  I think I took his angelic nature.  he gave it to me.  he was done with it.  he wanted to be a person instead (which I get.  It's awesome.  sweet dreams!)
he fell.
i could have stayed, but it was enough for now.
I will go again, now that I know the way.
next time (soon, anway) I will learn to descend without falling.

also, maybe something about an elephant ring?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Babylonian-Style Demon-Traps

An ancient charm to protect a home, in two versions.  You can learn more about them at this exhibit at the University of Michigan, or this excellent academic conference website.   This book is also good, but requires some background in near eastern history.

Version One: Emergency
You will need:
2 paper or styrofoam bowls. 
an egg
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 G-d (or whoever you turn to) trap all evil spirits within the bowl. Take an 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, 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)

Version Two: Permanent

You will need:
A wooden salad bowl
sandpaper, various grits (80, 150, 240, 600)
Holy anointing oil (or Abramelin oil "watered down" with olive oil.)
a clean tin can
a mid-size pot
a rock
A "sharpie pro" marker
A woodburner (optional)

Before beginning, wash the bowl well with soap and water, and then scrub it out with salt, and give it a final rinse.  Allow it to dry (ideally in direct sunlight).

Once it's dry, over the course of several days sand the bowl until it is the smoothest thing you have ever touched.  While sanding, always sand in towards the center (ie, up the outsides and down the insides).  Imagine the bowl to be animate, to have a personality.  It loves you, and you love it.  It will protect you, be a strong guardian over you and your home.  I'm not playing.  Love the bowl.  Talk to it, or, even better, sing to it.  Don't sand for longer than you can keep the feeling up, it's ok to do it in several sessions.

Design a demon trapping design to go inside your bowl.  Good choices are pentagrams, labyrinths, circles of holy names, or illustrations of demons bound in chains.  You can also write an incantation in a spiral around the inside.  Check out the link above for lots of inspirational pictures.

After you are done sanding, wash the bowl in water, and allow it to dry.

Put some beeswax in the tin can, and set a pot of water to boil.  Put the tin can in the boiling water, until the wax is melted.  Take it off the heat and slowly mix in oil.  You want to mix in 2-3 times as much oil as wax.  Let it cool, and you should have a thick cream.

Carefully pencil your design onto the bowl; spend some time to get it just the way you like it.  When you are happy with it, ink it in with the sharpie marker or burn it in with the wood burner.  Having done both, I like the ink better, because it makes a much clearer line.   Talk to your bowl, explain what you're doing.  Express your gratitude for its work protecting you.

Light two white candles, and ask G-d (or whoever/whatever) to empower the bowl as a creature of earth, a strong protective, and divine shield over you, your home, and your family.

Slowly rub your cream into the bowl, thanking it profusely and proclaiming your love.  The ink will bleed a little.  That's ok.

Place the bowl, open side down, in the corner of whatever room has the front door in it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Extremely Easy Arroz con Pollo recipe

By request, this is my super easy weeknight arroz con pollo recipe.

This is my favorite pan.  My dad welded the handle back on for me when it broke.
I am appropriately embarrassed about the super dirty stove.

You will need:

  • 1 large pan that can go in the oven.  This is MUCH better in cast iron.  The rice crisps up along the edges and turns brown.  Yum!
  • 1 "family size" bag yellow rice.  I like Vigo brand.   OR about 2 cups dry rice + seasoning
  • some pieces of chicken, thighs or leg quarters are best
  • 1 bag frozen peas (I like a lot of peas, you can use less if you want) Whatever other veggies you have on hand.  I like onions, carrots, zuchini, and tomatoes in mine.
  • Goya "Sazon" spice mix or a mix of salt, pepper, garlic, dried onion, coriander, cumin, oregano, and paprika.  However much you think you need, ue twice that amount.
  • about 1/2 cup green "salad" olives.  chopped up.  with or without pimentoes is fine.  (you can leave out the olives, if you are Philistine)
  • about 1/2 cup raisins (or dates or dried cranberries.  dried or fresh apples are good. or you can leave the fruit out)
  • about 3-4 cups water
This reheats really well, so I always make a whole pan full, even when I'm by myself.  

  • Set oven to about 330 degrees.
  • Pour the rice into the pan.  Push it around into smooth layer.  Be sure to break up the seasoning clumps.
  • Add olives, raisins, and non-frozen vegetables. 
  • Pour the frozen vegetables on top of the rice.  Try to cover it completely.
  • Place the chicken pieces on top of the peas.  Try to cover as much surface area as possible.
  • Pour in water until the rice is barely covered.  The more area not covered by chicken, the more water you will need.
  • Put seasoning on top of chicken.  Use more than you think you need.
  • Put everything in the oven.
  • Check after 40 minutes.  Is skin crispy?  Is chicken done?  Add more water if rice is dried out.
  • Wait until the chicken and rice are done (about an hour total depending on the size of the chicken pieces, the mass of the pan, the heat of the oven, how much water, etc...  It's very forgiving.
  • Take out of oven (turn off oven).  Remove chicken and put on a plate.
  • Stir to distribute everything evenly.  The rice on top will be sick and pale with grief.  The rice on the bottom will be reddish gold and delicious.  Mix that shit up.
  • Replace the chicken and take a photo to show it off!  (optional) So pretty!
  • Devour.

Monday, November 10, 2014


This post just collects up a bunch of links to my Ereskigal work, because someone asked about it.  If you're not familiar with the work, you should read

  • First appearance
  • Notes from Jason Miller
  • Audio to induce a journey to Ereshkigal's Throne  WARNING:  This is NOT a "guided meditation".  Experienced trance workers only.
  • transcript of Ereshkigal work
  • a recipe for Ereshkigal incense She taught me:  mullein, fennugreek, copal (update: for extra oomph, add a few drops of blood, and a tiny bit of dittany of crete)
  • a dream
  • another travel log:  
  • "The seventh gate, the river beneath the earth, where souls are purified before birth, where souls are purified after death. The seventh gate is the throne of Ereshkigal, The Valley Spirit, Never Dying, Mystery. Woman. The Root of Heaven and Earth. Forever Endring. The Infinite Well of Souls. We cross through this seventh gate, cross the sacred river below, many times, life upon life, an eternal cycle of being, the infinite ocean of from which we came and which we return. To cross it and remember, to cross it while yet living, makes one a wizard. And yet, the way back is barred. The iron door is closed. There is no way out but through. The cold dark depths, underwater life, the river of souls.  I think now that Ereshkigal, the Black Goddess, is the great Womb through which all pass between lives. That Ereshkigal’s Womb is where you are between lives. I don’t quite know how to explain it better than that yet, but I will soon. If not before, I think I will grok it at Solstice, when Ereshkigal births the new year’s Sun.
    • Side note: Last week, when I first started with Ereshkigal, she told me that this was my first human life, but I wasn’t sure what she meant (and I’m still not. Can that be literally true? I guess one of them has to come first, but it seems weird that it be this one. I mean, it feels a little bit like being told “Well aren’t you a precious special snowflake!”)"
  • a dream (much of which has now come to pass, but I can't really explain how/why yet)
  • the wheel turns

The Nistarim

A Jewish legend for you:

It is said, that, among the people, there are thirty six in each generation who are called to greet the Shekhinah, to look on the light of the Holy ONE, hand to hand, face to face, eye to eye.  It is said the whole world was created for them, is being created, moment by moment maintained, for them.  Thirty six, in all the world, see him as though in a bright mirror, another 18,000 have clouded vision. The messiah, they say, will arise from these ranks, when one day they are called.  

They say that, if ever there are less than 36, the world will cease to be.  That if one of these 36 people turn down the mantle; if one of these 36 dies without passing on his legacy, then the world will come to an end.  

And maybe that's the way it should be. Because what kind of a horrible world rests on 36 shoulders? What kind of a horrible G-d hides his face from billions, lets them starve and freeze and rot and die alone and afraid, but makes chit-chat with thirty six of his bros. What the actual fuck, World? Maybe the world ought to come to an end. Maybe it's been enough. Maybe it's time for a student strike at the Invisible College. Better to rule in Hell, right?

and yet...

What kind of Satanist am I if I turn down power, right? When offered a weapon I can wield for my people, is the right thing to do to cast it into the mountain because I don't like the guy who made it? The first thing I teach to kabbalah students is that "כֶּתֶר" doesn't mean King, it means Crown; am I really going to let the crown lie in the gutter? Paris vaut bien une messe, am I right?  Maybe what the Invisible College needs isn't a strike, it's a couple of MOOCs?  If even tantra is going to get jailbroke these days, maybe it's time to jailbreak some real kabbalah, for us all to admit that Shekhina is a Red Goddess, and not a white one.  But in order to jailbreak, you've got to go to jail first, right?

I recently had a dream of Kurukulla, a Tibetan witch-goddess about whom I know almost nothing, but was introduced to by Jason Miller in early October.  In the dream, she told me that she works with two hands; one to empower and one to liberate.  "Work with both hands" is a phrase I know from ATR magical practice, where it means, essentially, someone who works both "white" and "black" magic, to be interested in the elevation of the soul AND in "getting laid and getting paid".  Someone who is in the world, of the world, and also works to transcend the world.  Here's the thing tho, Kurukulla has more that two hands.  I think, perhaps, that's the secret.  Finding the work of the other two hands.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Remember the one-eyed mammoth I was working with last year?  This post is just a place to put all the pictures and links, etc that have to do with him, in case anyone else wants to try working with him.  One thing I'm noticing reading back over these posts is HOW MUCH BETTER I am than I was when I started this work.  Better at sinking into trance, better at accurate mediumship, especially better at energy work, just a better all-around magician.  Sometimes it's hard to see progress when you're in the middle of it; its so gradual you just don't notice.

I havn't posted everything here; just the "most interesting" bits.  If you want EVERYTHING, go troll through the archives at Magical30.com

My first sketch (sorry it's sideways):

Brian's first sketch

Second Sketch

Final Sketch

Hypnotic Induction
Guided Journey
Me on Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole, talking about this work.  I start talking around minute 25, but I think you should listen to the whole thing.

The 30 Day Posts:
Alien Ganesh Research, Part 1
More Research
Travel Log #1
Dream Log #1
A name?  Aziz al Aziz
Dream Log #2
Uh oh!  my head almost exploded.
How Am I Doing This?
Dream Log #3  Includes the phrase "oh well, if magic were safe and easy, everyone would do it".  WTF, me?
A Secret, A Secret!
Oh, Simon!  Why are you so awesome?!?  Here's my friend Simon's blog.
ChaChing!  (the book it fell out of was Jason Miller's Financial Sorcery)
Quick Cash petition how to
Journey #2 transcript  This is the invocation of Solomon that's mentioned.
The PLAN for the Work
The Beginning Invocation script
Day 1, Audio Induction, Guided Journey
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 9
Day 12  A god who is afraid he will be forgotten!  D'aw!
Odin?  Is that you, you old dog?
Wait?  I thought kundalini was supposed to feel good?!?
A hut made out of bones
Journey Log
Sigh.  Grief.  It's weird.
What's a wheat maze?
Crystal Cave
The End?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: Alchemy Works incenses

I just got a shipment of incense from Alchemy Works, and now I'm stuck in front of my computer waiting to hear from someone, so I figured I might as well tell you guys all about it.  The first thing I have to mention; it took a long time to ship my order.  When it hadn't shipped after two weeks, I had to email them to ask about it.  I was informed that they'd run out of a certain supply, and ordered more.  All in all, it took about a month to get my order.  They were very nice about it, and offered me a refund if I didn't want to wait, so no harm done.  Once the package arrived, I was very pleased to discover how lovely the packaging is.  The loose incenses came packed in very nice stacking metal tins that I will definitely be saving to reuse.  The ambergris wax comes in a small glass jar.  The amber resin is in wax paper envelopes, which is fine, but I would have preferred something resealable.  They also sent me three free sample vials of oils with my order.

The site has very good descriptions; check out the links.

I ordered:
2 oz of amber resin
1 oz Edfu Kyphi
1 oz faux Ambergris
1 oz vegetal Musk incense
1 oz solid waxy ambergris

I also got free samples of three oils
Hecate the Saffron Cloaked (I wish this had come Friday!)
Flame: the Elemental Fire
Sacred Madjet

Of everything I got, the kyphi is the winner.  It's lovely and rich, sticky and stanky and delicious.  It's a very electric, airy, sort of a scent; powerfully mercurial without being spicy.  It's the sweetest smelling kyphi I've ever had.  I think the best word for its smell is languid.  I am looking forward to scrying with it.  It pops and hisses a lot as it burns, which I like, and makes big clouds of smoke (because it's so sticky and wet)  I will certainly be ordering more of this.  I want to roll around in it.  I'm seriously considering trying to compound a perfume oil out of it so I can just smell like this all the time.

The waxy ambergris is also very nice.  It's slightly more feminine and a little sweeter than I was expecting, but it's very, very pleasant smelling.  In fact, it rated a: "Miss Mastros, I know this is kind of a weird thing to say, but you smell really nice today" from a student.  It's much harder than I was expecting also; it's not a pomade, it's the texture of straight beeswax.  I'm going to warm it and blend it with some oil later to make it more of a cream.  (but, this is a good thing; because it's so much more concentrated than I was expecting, it's really quite cheap for the amount/quality)

The ambergris incense smells very similar to the waxy solid, but slightly less floral.  I haven't burned it yet, so I don't know how it smells smoking.  I got it for Babalon working, and I think it's going to be great for that.

The vegetarian musk is lovely, deep and smooth and sexy.  I bought it to use in Baphomet work, and it's perfect; earthy and cthonic with a touch of intense sex-anger-fear.  I might add some mugwort to it for Baphomet, to give it a touch of a moldering forest vibe.

The amber resin is not of especially good quality (although neither is it particularly bad), but it was very cheap for the quantity.  It will be good for incense, but I don't think I will use it for compounding oils or potions.  However, at $4.50 an ounce, it's very good.

Sacred Madjet is not a thing I've ever worked with (or heard of) before.  I don't especially care for the scent; it's very piney-smelling.  Based solely on the scent, I think it would be good for healing or clarifying magic.  The website compares its scent to Abramelin, but I don't really get that at all.  It's a much younger/fresher/greener scent.  I imagine a spirit who likes this smell is a very competent healer, but perhaps not the best bedside manner.

The Flame: Elemental Fire oil is very pleasant smelling, like mulling spices and orange liquor.  If this were a cocktail, I would definitely drink it.  It smells like a very high quality, all natural version of the "Christmas Home" potpourri Michael's Craft Stores reek of.  It's quite nice, but the fire it evokes is more "cozy crackling fireplace" and less "raging bonfire of passion" than I would expect from the name.

The Hecate oil is weird; not at all what I imagined it would smell like.  I'm honestly conflicted about whether I like it or not.  Certainly, I wouldn't wear it as a perfume, but it's not at all unpleasant smelling.  Hekate seems to like it quite a lot, and I suppose that's what matters.  I've put it on her altar.

The oils seems very high quality and well-made; I will probably be ordering oils from them in the future.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What I DID for Halloween

As promised, here's what I actually did (as opposed to what I said I'd do).

Friday evening, we set a dumb supper, which went very well.  The ancestors were in attendance.

After that, I retreated to my bedroom and did some journeying.  It went very well, and included teachings from Eagle, Owl, Rabbit, Bear, and the Great Lion of Chauvet.

Saturday I made the Inanna Descent and worked with Hekate and Ereshkigal in the Underworld, renewing my bonds with them.  That was exhausting, but great.  I got some cool gifts, but I'm not allowed to talk about them yet.

Saturday night, I had a dream of Kurukulla, the Tibetan Witch Goddess, wherein she told me that she too "works with both hands", one hand to Empower and one to Liberate.  Then she danced on my head, which was awesome.

Today, I worked with some other people in the Strategic Sorcery group to make this mantra recording.  Then I opened the Pylons of the Hallows of Hekate (which I learned from Jason Miller, but it's a secret).
 Here's pictures of the altar from that, including the sketch I made of the vision of three-faced Hekate I had with the Pylons open. (sorry I'm not a great drawer).

I consecrated 7 skeleton keys on red silk ribbons.  If you want one, email me.

And now I'm off to bed.


Friday, October 31, 2014


In addition to ancestors, I like to call on my ancestral names.  I call Sara:

Sara (me),

Nan Sara (my great grandmother),

Sarah, the daughter of Abraham, the student of Abramelin (a fictional Jewish sorceress from 15th century Germany I'm slowly receiving a novel about).

This image is from the cover of a book called The Witch of Cologne, by Tobsha Learner, which I strongly recommend.  Although there is some similarity between the set-up of this book and mine (they're both about witchy Jewish medics from the 15th century), they're actually quite different.

Sarah of St. Giles, a 14th century Jewish French physician (whom I suspect both Ms. Learner and I were inspired by)

Black Sara, the patron saint of the Romani (Gypsy), and a companion of the Mary Theotokos and Mary Magdalene.

Sarah, the mother of Isaac, the First Mother of Judaism,

Who is also Sarah, the priestess of Mamre,

I think this painting is by Patty Van Dyke.

Sarai, the high priestess of Shaddai

artwork by Brian Charles

Astarte, the great Lion, the the Sphinx, the Circle of Stars

Ashera, the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of Trees

Asasara, the Minoan Snake Goddess

and the Venus of Chauvet, the Great Lioness

My maternal ancestors

I have two very strong, very distinct ancestral lines that I work with.  Today I'm going to talk to you about my mother's line. On that side, I trace (mostly, but not exclusively though women):
my mother, Ellen Halbert Mastros (1949-2012)
early 2012
her father, Michael Halbert, (1926-2012)
circa 2011

his mother, Sarah Bricklin Halbert (1898-1991) 
Feb of 1978.  I'm the baby in this photo.
her mother, Sophie Brohnstein Bricklin.
provenance unknown

I know very little about Sophie Bricklin.  All I know for certain is that, in 1906, she fled Ukraine for Philadephia, accompanied by her husband, Baruch, and their 5 children, including my then eight-year-old Nan Sara.  However, here is what Sophie's spirit "told" me of her ancestry, which I choose to believe.  

Sophie's mother's name was Sarah, but she died giving birth to Sophie.  Sophie's father was drunk and distant; he beat her sometimes, and may have also abused her sexually.  He never remarried, and Sophie had no siblings.  Sophie's father had a brother, David, with whom he was close.  David's wife, Anna, had just given birth when Sophie was born, and so Sophie sometimes drank from Anna's breast as a child with her cousin, Lev.  Lev and Sophie remained close until Sophie married Baruch, and they moved away.   I think that there was bad blood between Baruch and Lev.  Soon after the marriage, Lev moved to the big city (Kiev?) to study mathematics.  That was the last Sophie heard from him. However, I know what happened to him.  At university, he quickly became disenchanted with math and became a political activist.   He later changed his name to Leon Trotsky.  You might have heard of him.  He was an important figure in the Russian revolution.From Sophie, I continue to trace my ancestry back through Eastern European Jewery, through Sarah, the protagonist of my novel, and her daughter Sarah:
through the Jews of the classic Mediterranean
through a whole assortment of tribal ancestors, Mary Theotokos


and Sarah & Abraham.  
From Sarai, I trace through Ishtar-Shaddai, through the rise of civilization,
From there, I trace to First Woman, 

and from there through our evolutionary ancestors, whom I work with as I would other animal spirits; 



First Animal, 

and thence back, back, back to First Life, 

and from there through Primium Mobile.

What Am I Doing for Halloween?

Kids at school have been asking what (magic) I do for Halloween.  So, I thought I'd write about that.

There are four sorts of magic that Halloween is especially good for:

  1. Contact and communion with the ancestors and "mighty dead".  I'm relative new to ancestral work (I've been doing it for about 2 years now), but I've been getting a lot of value from it.  Fro me, there really several sorts of ancestral work.  
    1. Work with my immediate/named ancestors, like my parents and grandparents.
    2. Work with tribal ancestors, like Sarah, Abraham, Solomon, or Jesus,  and "deep" ancestors, like First Human.
    3. Work with evolutionary ancestors, like Great Ape, and Primate, and Mammal, and Vertebrate, down, down, down to First Life.
    4. Work with non-related mighty dead:  the saints, the bodhisatvas, any dead human who is willing to help out.
  2. Necromancy (compelling/binding the spirits of the dead).  I don't do this, and I don't really think you should either.  Not so much because it's dangerous and because it seems just as wrong to enslave dead people as it would be to enslave living people.  That being said, it's not up to me what you do, and there's certainly a lot of grey area between categories 1 & 2.
  3. Work with Cthonic spirits and gods.  Of these, Hekate and, occasionally, Ereshkigal, and Baphomet are what I mostly do.  Baphomet I primarily work with as a sort of overseer of evolution, and so working with him/her is, for me, very closely related with deep and evolutionary ancestral work.  I also work with the unnamed "Old Powers of the Earth", but I was introduced to that work by Ereshkigal.  (Well, I suppose I was introduced to that work by Ursula LeGuin, but I was initiated into it by Ereshkigal.)
  4. Final harvest magic.  This can be literal, bringing in the last of the crop, slaughtering this years' livestock, etc.  It can also be figurative, closing out long-term work and settling in for winter.  Because I live my life on an academic schedule, I mostly do this sort of work during the Jewish High Holy Days, about a month before, which more closely coincide with the beginning of my school year.  That being said, Halloween is a great time for beginning quiet, contemplative, hermit-style work, or for renewing commitments to things like meditation and prayer.
It's also a really good time for death-related charity.  One of the charitable causes very important to my family has always been helping to provide funerals and burial/cremation for people who could not otherwise afford it.  While there are not that many organized charities that do this, I sometimes donate to the Hebrew Free Burial Association, but if anyone knows a non-religious charity that does this work, I'd prefer to donate there.  When I know of individual families in need following a loss, I also like to donate directly to the family of funeral home.   Other options are simply to go clean up a graveyard, especially if there is one within walking distance of your home.  "Adopting" a graveyard (or even just an untended grave) is an easy way to make powerful pseudo-ancestral allies.  Pick up the trash, perhaps rake some leaves, and then leave an offering of an egg and some honey within the graveyard, ideally either at a crossroads, or under a centrally-located tree.

So....Astute readers will have noticed that I've carefully skirted the issue of what I do.  There are two reasons for that.  First, I don't really like to write about magic I'm doing until after it's done.  However, this year (for the second time), I'm also participating in a globally networked "Hallows of Hekate" ritual organized by Jason Miller, and the details of it are secret.  However, below, I'll give some brief sketches of what I plan to do, and I can also make some recommendations for things beginners can try.  next week, I'll write about what I actually did.

Friday afternoon, I'll clean and re-consecrate my ancestors altar.  (some pics below from last week)  I'll also build a Hekate/Ereshkigal altar across for it, for the Hallows rite.    I'll put up some pics when that's done.  (To be clear, I'm not saying that Hekate and Ereshkigal have any classical connection.  I'm saying that I work with both of them, and they seem to get along just fine, and I only have so much space in my tiny apartment.  That being said, the PGM sets a solid precedent that they have long been syncretized.)

After that, I'll call in shabbat with my ancestors, and sit for a while with them in quiet contemplation. I've realized that I have a tendency to work with my Jewish (ie, maternal) ancestors a lot more than my Greek (ie, paternal) ancestors.  That's partly because I find Judaism more appealing than Greek religion, but it's mostly because, growing up, we were always closer to my mother's side of the family.  I'm trying to change that, so I'll also be calling Mary Theotokus ("Mother of God") to help me connect with my Greek ancestors as well.  We'll see how that goes.  

If you want to try out some ancestral work, you might try this free guided ritual from Andrieh Vitimus.  It's voodoo-style, hypnotic, and VERY easy.

I've got a pretty nasty cold, so that's probably all I'll do tonight.

Saturday, I've got the Hallows of Hekate.  While I'm not permitted to give you all the details, I can explain the basic structure.  Hekate is the Greek goddess of the underworld, and also of sorcery.  Like almost every spirit I relate to, Hekate is also a crossroads guardian.  Like most moon and underworld goddesses, she also has a special fondness for nursing children.  In later writings (like the Chaldean Oracles) she starts to expand into a broader Binah-based role.

In the Hallows rite, we basically call Hekate using classical Greek methods (similar to those in the PGM).  As I did during last year's Hallows, I'll be blessing some iron skeleton keys.  This year, I'm also going to bless some red silk ribbons.  If you'd like a Hekate key on a red ribbon, please let me know.  Last year, almost half of them got lost in the mail; several people received empty, torn envelopes.  I don't know what the story is with that.  This year, I'll package them up more carefully in sturdy boxes.  However, that dramatically ups the postage cost for me.  So, if you can, I'd really like it if you could make a donation honoring the dead in exchange for one.

Immediately after the Hallows, I'll be calling Ereshkigal.  You might remember I did a lot of work with her last winter.  For me, Ereshkigal's primary role is as an initiatix; she the scourge that blasts away all limitations.  (in fact, you'll see when I post pics that her altar contains a black leather flogger.)  I'll be descending to her as Inanna-Ishtar, humbling myself before my elder sister, Death.  This is an exhausting and difficult ordeal I cannot, in good conscience, recommend to anyone.  However, for me, it's worth it.  If you'd like to do something like this, I'd recommend a prayer to Sante Muerte, the Mexican Death Saint.  I like this one.  

Later Saturday, or possibly Sunday, depending on how tired I am after the Hallows, I'm going to do some Baphomet ancestral work.  I find this work very inspiring and "good for what ails you".  It's "easy access".  While not exactly what I'm going to do, there's a video of the Baphomet rite I worked with Andrieh at Crucible, but it's kind of garbled and hard to follow.  Here's another version of something similar.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How I Read Tarot

I spent some time with other magicians this weekend.  This has become a rare treat in my life (although, hopefully, that will change soon.  I've been putting A LOT of effort into this aspect of my life.)  Among other things, we did a few tarot readings for each other.  That reminded me that the way I read tarot is a little differently than the way other people do.  So, I thought I'd try to write about that.  The most important part, is that I think of a reading as a conversation between the questioner and the cards, mediated through the me and the cards.  Except for at the very beginning, I don't often use a traditional "lay" where each position signifies something.  Instead, I converse with the cards, asking questions, and then pulling cards to form a narrative response.  My interpretation of each card is based partly on the kabbalistic symbolism and traditional meaning of each one, but also on the narrative contained in the picture.  I usually read with the Rohrig tarot, which has very detailed, symbol-dense, emotionally evocative pictures.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  After more than a decade out of print, you can now buy decks directly from the artist.  However, this method will work with any deck (although it's harder when the pips don't have pictures); use your favorite.

The system described below is for an issue that the questioner would describe as "complicated"; one that touches on many aspects of their life.  For a straight-forward question/problem, I wouldn't do all this.

1) Shuffle the cards, while asking the Divine to speak through me to provide clear, insightful, inspiring, useful advice.
2) Part way through shuffling, ask the questioner to carefully formulate a question in their mind, and then blow it into the cards, the way you'd ask a pretty girl to blow luck into your dice before rolling.  I explain it to them just like that.  (Hermes taught me this trick.  It works very well.)
3) Shuffle the cards one more time, then ask the questioner to cut.
4) Deal one card.  Briefly describe the card's general meanings, and any special symbols that jump out at me.  Ask the questioner if that seems like a fair significator of their question. Remind them that it might not summarize the whole issue, but rather indicate a key "point of attack".   If they do not consent to the significator, ask them to tell me their question out loud, or as much of it as they feel comfortable.  Reshuffle the cards, then have them blow and cut.  Try again.  If it fails three times is a row, then I just apologize and quit.
5) Deal cards to the left, top, right, and bottom of the significator to represent the Earthy, Airy, Firey, and Watery aspects of the issue.
6) The Earth card generally represents home, family, and money, but sometimes also physical health.
7) The Air card is often career (especially for students, teachers, engineers, writers, and other mental types).  It can also be an indicator of what the person thinks about the situation.
8) The Fire card talks to a person's Will.  It's sometimes about sex.  For magicians, it's often about their magical practice.  For artists, this is almost always about their art.  If a person has a "calling", this is where you'll hear it.  
9) The Water card is about emotions.  In my experience, it's nearly always about a person's love life, but sometimes about their relationships with other people, or about other feelings.  I often get cards related to loneliness here.  Whether this is just me projecting my life onto other people or a deep problem in our society, I don't know, but it seems to me that a disturbing number of people ache with loneliness and purposelessness a lot of the time. (in my experience, which is overwhelmingly reading for people at a similar "stage of life" as I am.  Namely, 20s and 30s, single or with young families, usually early career or still "finding themselves").

The reason I do this broad elemental "overview" of what's going on with the person is that it helps me get the "lay of the land" of all the things going on related to the question, and can help bring to light the ACTUAL issue at play, which isn't always the one the person thought it was.

The questioner often wants to jump in to provide more details while reading these four cards.  I usually ask them to wait until I finish all four.  Otherwise, it's VERY hard to not try to cold read them, which screws it all up.  then you end up telling them what they want.expect to hear, which is almost never what they need to hear.  I also remind them that, so far, we're just investigating the issue as it stands, not looking for any advice on what to do about it or predictions about how things will play out.  Sometimes, it will be clear that they want to focus on one of the elements; often not the one that I would have suspected.  Sometimes the reading needs to touch more than one or all the corners.

If the reading is going to focus on one of the elements, then I move the 5-spot to somewhere that allows me to "build" out of that corner (sometimes that means spinning the whole 5-spot around).  I lay down cards one at a time, and build a narrative that explain what can be done about the issue in question.  If a card doesn't make sense to me, I ask for clarification (or confirmation, if it's surprising), and then pull another.  I keep going until I'm satisfied all is done.

I'd like more practice reading "from afar".  If you'd like a free reading, please comment below AND message me on facebook.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pan & Ishtar, Baphomet & Babalon

As I think most of you know, I've done some work in the past with Ishtar & Pan as paired gods, both in heiros gamos, and in other ways as well.  Pan's role, to my way of thinking, is primarily as a god of wild places; rugged mountains, deep forest glades, hidden pastures.  A god of unknown places and unchecked wilds.  Like Hermes, Pan's cult arose  in Arcadia.  Hermes, in fact, is usually understood to be Pan's father.  This fact is rather odd, as Pan is also considered to be older than all the Olympians.  I understand it thus:  Hermes is not literally Pan's father.  Rather, Hermes is the one who introduced Pan to the world, who coaxed him from his wild, enticing him with to the sweetness of human offerings (and human women), teaching him the excitement of human-watching.  Likewise, Hermes taught us of Pan, his shaggy wild-eyed, storm-hearted friend.  Like Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Hermes and Pan as a pair represent the partnership of man's creation and nature's.  Like with Gilgamesh and Enkidu, it doesn't end well for nature.

There is an amazing fact about Pan that so many modern pagans do not know.  Pan, perhaps alone among the Greek pantheon, is dead.  His death was announced during the reign of Tiberius (10-40ish CE), and much lamented.  What occasioned this is not entirely understood, but may have been sparked by native Greek's misunderstanding of the cult of Tammuz(*), the great Grain god of the near east, who yearly dis and arises.  However, there is another sense in which Pan is dead.  There are now so few places in the world that are not controlled by humans, Pan no longer has much of a "natural habitat".  And so he retreated, but, like every dying god, he rises.  Pan, like all things he controls, and grown and moved and shifted, to become a god of creativity and sexuality, of creation and generation.  Nature always conquers, in the end.  The Wild cannot always be tamed.

In a new age, he is called Baphomet, the sabbatic goat.  The throbbing, humming power of the Old Powers of the Earth.  Baphomet, the double helix king.  Baphomet, the blind yearning, the lifeblood of the world that unites every living thing. Baphomet, the Evolver.

Similarly, Ishtar, the Light of the World, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the patron of Babylon, is a goddess all about conquering.  She, the Queen of the Earth, expands her control to the Heavens, and, in her most famous myth, descends into the underworld to attempt to conquer that as well. (This conquest is thwarted by her sister, Ereshkigal.  Even the greatest of creative power cannot overcome Death.)  Ishtar's cult, centered in Babylon, the Holy and Eternal City, the navel of the world, the City That Never Sleeps.  Just as Pan is a god of natural growth, Ishtar is the goddess of man-made growth of progress and innovation.  And yet, Babylon too fell, and Ishtar receded into history, but not before she too grew and changed.  Ishtar has become a goddess of luxury and decadence, of female-power and voluptuousness.  When people rail against this, when they lament the power of the City, and the decadent and sinful ways, they call her by her new name,  "Babalon", they say, "the queen of inequity, the temptress, the Whore!"

And so the old gods arise anew,  Baphomet and Babalon, the old gods made new.  Wild Growth and Human Growth, Evolution and Innovation.

(*) This connection is particular interesting in light of the connection between Pan and Ishtar I'm making.  Tammuz was the great love of Ishtar's life, and it is she that causes his death.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Fifth Book of Abramelin: A Novel

This is a bit of the first draft of the book I'm working on. What do you think?

June 12, 1443

Lamech could not sleep.  He slipped out of bed, tied his robe about him, and snuck outside into the courtyard.  The rush of air was cool on his face, a sweet caress after the oppressive heat of his bedroom.  He leaned his back against the ancient oak.  When they were young, his sister and he had played at being Sarah and Abraham under that tree, imagining it to be the Terebinth of Mamre.  They had played Moshe and Miriam at the banks of the sea, he pounding the ground with a magic staff, she singing and dancing around him and the tree both.  He felt its bark against his back, scratchy and familiar.  And then he remembered the other game, the one they learned from their mother, the game of being the tree.
He slowed his breath and felt the world fall away, imagining his roots sinking into the ground, winding around the rocks, deeper and deeper into the black earth.  He imagined he grew taller and taller, his branches spreading.  The moonlight felt strange and warm on his shivering leaves.  The feelings grew more and more real, until then he shook his head and laughed.  Imagine!  A grown man of 23 playing at being a tree!  
He opened his eyes, and looked up at the sky.  The moon hung low and full over the western horizon, but it was as red as blood.  The rabbis taught that lunar eclipses were poor omens, a time for prayer and atonement.  And yet...and yet... Lamech could not help but think the moon, however inauspicious, really was very beautiful this way.  He closed his eyes, and began, slowly and quietly, to chant the psalm which sanctifies the moon.  He gave praise to G-d and all his angels, to the sun and the moon, to the glittering stars high above and the roiling sea monsters deep below.  Just as he began to praise the fire and the hail, he caught most delicious smell on the air, and the words of the psalm evaporated from his mind, leaving only the smell.  
At first, it was sweet milk, thick with honey and spice, but the scent slipped and shifted in his mind, darting in wide circles like a glittering fish.  He smelled the rich green of the forest, he smelled mist rising and rain falling, he smelled lightning.  He smelled bitter beer and roasting nuts, sweet blackberry wine and the herbal smell that clung to his sister’s hair and clothes when she came home from the apothecary.  Beneath all those smells, however, was something else, pulsing and squirming, dancing and laughing, playing through his mind like a lover.  The smell pulled at Lamech, embracing and caressing him, and he forgot the beautiful bad-luck moon entirely.  
Slowly, the smell seemed to descend and solidify.  Lamech opened his eyes, expecting...what exactly?  He laughed at himself,  playing at trees, expecting to see smells? "What," he wondered, "could a smell possibly look like?"  And then he saw the way the moon illuminated the oak tree, and he caught his breath.  The leaves rustled, although the air was quite still.  The moonlight, still beautiful and eerie, fell in a perfect circle at the tree’s base, and Lamech imagined there must be a magical treasure buried there, and inheritance of angels.  The idea was absurd, a child’s story, and yet he couldn’t shake it.  He went inside, and found a spade.
An hour later, dawn cresting over the roof, sweaty and dirty from digging, Lamech held the box his hands.   He lifted the lid with some difficulty.  Its time in the earth had made the wood swell and warp a little.  And yet, the box had served its function, the book inside was clean and dry, wrapped in several layers of old linen.  The book had no title; the cover an unbroken expanse of deep red, the color of cherries and fresh blood.
Lamech was not a reader; he simply had no head for it.  Whenever he tried, the letters swam and danced, mocking him.  He knew he was not stupid, he was the quick enough to learn things when they were explained to him.  He was not illiterate, he could do well enough to pray and even learn a little Torah, but he knew that he would never be a scholar.  Still, though, that his magical treasure turned out to be a book seemed something of a perverse joke.
As he opened it, the pages crackled like crispy chicken skin.  Sarah was a good cook; her knowledge of herbs extended to the flavorful as well as the medicinal.  Her sabbath chicken were moist and delicious, but their skin was never crispy the way mother’s had been.  Lamech stared at the first page and slowly began to read.

The Book of the
Holy Magic
written by
Abraham, the son of Simon
for my infant son, Lamech

Lamech had never known his father.  His mother’s pregnancy had greatly scandalized the town.  Had she not been a midwife, she never would have been permitted to bear a child still unwed, but she refused to marry and had never revealed the identity of the twins’ father, not even to Lamech and Sarah, though they had begged and begged.  As a child, Sarah invented all sorts of fantastical tales about their father.  She imagined that he was rich and famous, a scholar, perhaps a great magician.  On one occasion, she had insisted that their father was none other than the Holy Rabbi, Yaakov Levi!  Their mother, who was never angry or abrupt, had slapped Sarah full across the face for that one.   
He turned the page and began, with great difficulty, to puzzle out the dense small script.  “This is the book of the true practice of Magical Wisdom.  It has been passed to me -- Abraham, the son of Simon, son of Judah, son of Simon -- by oral tradition.  Some parts of this book were given to me by my father and other wise, studied, practicing people.  The other parts of this book contain things that I have learned, discovered, and tested by making great events occur.  I have written this manuscript and placed it in a chest son that my youngest son, Lamech, will have a special treasure as his inheritance.  My firstborn son Joseph received from me the holy Kabbalah.  From this book, my natural son, Lamech, will be able to see, recognize, and use the wonders of God.