Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Someone at work today asked how I pray.  Here's my bedtime prayer.  I'll write my morning prayer in the morning.  This isn't word-for-word what I say, but pretty close.  It's really more or less a pretty normative Jewish bedtime prayer.

Master of the universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me - whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought, or notion; whether in this incarnation or another incarnation- I forgive every sentient creature. May no one's failures be punished because of me, because I have failed over and over. May it be Your will, HASHEM, my God and the God of my forefathers, that I may fail no more, that I not repeat my mistakes, that I daily grow and improve, and that I attain more blessedness each day.  Whatever I have failed in, blot it out in Your abundant mercies, but not through suffering or harmful illnesses.   May the expressions of my mouth, the thoughts of my heart, and the work of my body bring me daily closer to Truth and Life, let me not be caught up in illusion, let me not be exhausted by struggle.  Empower me against laziness, and complacency, and cowardice. Bless me and protect me, empower and enlighten me.

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָ:שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד 
Listen up, Israel!  God is our god, and God is G-d.

Blessed are You, G-d, our god, King of the Forever, who closes my eyes in sleep, my eyelids in slumber. May it be Your will, G-d, my god and the god of my ancestors, to lie me down in peace and then to raise me up in peace. Let no disturbing thoughts upset me, no evil dreams nor troubling fantasies. May my rest be complete and whole in Your sight. Grant me a spark so that I do not sleep the sleep of death, for it is You who illumines and enlightens. Blessed are You, HaShem, whose majesty gives light to the universe.

In the name of HaShem, the god of my tribe, I call:
On my right, Michael,
On my left,Gabriel,
Before me, Auriel,
Behind me Raphael,
and above my head, Shekhinat El.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hakim al Hakhan

In a dream last night, a new (to me) magical name was taught to me; "Hakim al Hakhan".  As near as I can tell, it translates to something like "The Wise King."  Hakim is a common Arabic first name.  It also means (says Wikipedia; it's not like I speak Arabic) "wise man", "traditional physician", "judge", "ruler".  It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to understand it to mean "magician" in the classic sense.  "Al Hakim" is one of the 99 Names of God, and usually translated as "The All Wise".  "Hakhan" seems to be of Turkish origin, and is a fusion of two words that both basically mean "ruler", "Han" (tribal chief / earl) and "Khagan" (regional lord / king).  A "Hakhan" is higher than both of them (maybe like "emperor")

In the dream, there was also a sort of hiroglyph/ideogram for the name, which looked something like this, but maybe with a circle on top instead of a square, and maybe more slanty and calligraphic?  I don't really remember. I'm usually pretty ok with sounds, but very bad at pictures, so this might be entirely wrong. There was also more to the dream that I can't remember.  I'll try scrying for it tonight if I have time.  I'm so swamped at work right now with administrative stuff that's important, but not very fun.  I sometimes miss last year when I just taught smart kids, and wasn't in charge of anything.  But then, I remember that the reasons everything is broken is because the people who used to be in charge were incompetent, so I think if we want it done right, Merlin (my boss/work-bff and I have to do it.
Since it's almost the equinox, the evening Mercury hour is actually at 9 tonight, and almost exactly an hour, so if it works, I should have details up here by 10:30 at the latest.  (BTW, it's Wednesday, and that means Hermes petitions.  Email me if you want me to talk to Hermes for you.)

In the dream, I had the sense that this wasn't a Holy Name of G0d, but rather a name for some higher being of the Mercurial current, like Hermes or Ophiel.  Maybe even a djinn.  I might try scrying it again during Sunday's hour of Mercury if tonight doesn't work.  Sun+Mercury seems like the right mix of "currents", but the Sun hours tonight are at 7pm (I'll barely be home in work) and 2am (WAY past my bedtime), so I don't think I can do either one.

Tuesday, March 11, 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.

Version One: Emergency

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 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.  Don't sand for longer than you can keep the feeling up, do it in several sessions.

Design a demon trapping design to go inside your bowl.  Good choices are pentagrams, 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 pan, 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 God (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.

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

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hermes Petition, commentary

As promised, this is the "director's commentary" on Hermes petitions.  This post is intended for people with at least a little experience in magic, but I'll try to explain any jargon as it comes up.  The way I do it, making petitions is basically a "lite" version of a dark mirror conjuration.  I know that my method is a little atypical (I learned it from Puck (the faerie; not my student)), but you could opt for any kind of evocation+scrying.  The way I wrote it is so streamlined because I do it all the time; if you wanted to do it with a spirit with whom you had a less solid relationship, you'd probably want a little more of all the ceremonial hoopla, like a summoner's circle and maybe even a conjuration triangle.  I'll break it down to its constituent parts and talk about all of them.

Step One: Soliciting Petitions.
So, why do I ask other people if they want me to make petitions for them?  There are basically two reasons.  The first is that Hermes seems to like it.  But, the second reason is that, as I started to become a little more experiences as a magician, my magic started to pay off.  For the most part, I'm quite happy in my life.  I have a nice place to live, I genuinely enjoy my job, I'm in good health, etc, etc.  I honestly didn't have much need for the small "cantrip" kind of magic I cut my teeth on.  But, as I started to do more "big mojo" internal Work, I found that I missed the little stuff.  I enjoyed the validation that came from watching highly observable things happen as a result of my magic.  (It's much harder to evaluate the success of a request like "help me gain that state of Blessedness which arises from perfect knowledge of Self" than it is to tell whether a request for "an A+ inorganic chemistry" worked)  I also liked having small, discrete daily things to do.  So, working for other people lets me keep my witchy feet wet, and gives me the groundwork of daily practice I need for more "sophisticated" Work.  (Sorry!  I've tried rewriting this paragraph several times, but there's no way to get the pretentious out of it.  Turns out being a douchebag is kind of an essential quality of mine.)

While I'm happy to give it a go on almost any petition, I generally try to solicit requests that are in Hermes' traditional bailiwick.  That means things surrounding intellect, "book learning", writing, math, school, travel, commerce, exchange, translation, theft, magic, divination, and similar things.  Because of the nature of my friends, I usually end up with a list that's about half academic requests, with the rest being a mixture of commerce and magic, with the occasional travel-related request.  I've never declined a petition, but I can imagine that I might.  People tend to be very vague and namby-pamby in their requests, especially people who aren't themselves, magicians.  I try to help them firm up their requests; the more specific and "actionable" the request, the better and quicker the results tend to be.  Every once in a while, I get a request that's too big; in those cases, I tell the person I'll put in a good word for them, but that they need to make their own petition.  In those cases, I usually try to get a sense of what they should do, but I'm not much of a seer (I know, I know, what's even the point of letting girls do magic if they're not seers?  Because fuck you, that's why.)  So, sometimes I can come back with very specific instructions ("Offer ghee, rice, fruit every Friday, and say Om Ganepateya 26 times"), but often it's more vague ("Try some microcosmic orbits?").

Step Two: Setting Space, Centering, etc.
Before doing any conjuration, you should be sure the place/time you're doing it in is clean, safe, and "well dignified" for the work at hand.  Physically clean is important; nothing attracts spiritual filth like physical filth (by nature, I'm a frat-boy level slob; I know whereof I speak).  Straighten up the room and take a shower, you dirty hippy!  :)  If you don't have a space set aside permanently for magic (and I understand that's a lot to ask; I only recently started having an altar room; I used to work at the kitchen table in my 1 bedroom apartment), you'll need to "banish".  This isn't, as most people seem to think, so much about getting rid of eeeeevil as it is about creating harmony.  You can banish however you want; I'm partial to the LBRP, but I know lots of people don't like it.  Essentially, you need to connect with your "higher power", connect with the "center of the earth", and declare ownership of the space/time around you.  Any way you want to do that is fine.

Step Three: Evocation of El Elyon
Before I do any kind of magic, I like to call "the ONE" (what my grandma would have called "big G God"). If you're not a monotheist, I think you'd better either completely rewrite or just leave out this part.  In this section, really we're just stringing some godnames into a pretty litany and dedicating the space/time as a temple.  I know a lot of people only dedicate space, but I think the time element is even more important.  I think it's just my Judaism showing. In addition to the english epithets I gave, I used three Hebrew godnames; "El Elyon", "Melech ha'Olam" and "Ha Makom".  I'll talk about them each for a little bit here, but keep an eye on my blog for more detailed analysis (I've been trying to do a name a week; ARARITA was the last one.)  I chose those three because they highlight dominion over gods, time, and place.

El Elyon (על עליון) is among my favorite godnames.  It's usually translated as "God Most High", but it has a sense of "God of Gods" to it as well.  Literally, it's sort of "God the Godlike".  It's used only infrequently in Torah, notably in psalm 78, where it appears with both "El" and "Elohim": "They turned from their sins and eagerly looked for El.  They remembered that Elohim was their rock, that El Elyon was their go’el (redeemer)."

Melekh ha Olam (מלך העולם) is usually translated as "Master of the Universe", but it's literally more like "King of the Forever", which I think is much nicer. It's not usually understood as a godname per se, but rather a title. All the traditional blessings (over candles, over wine, over bread, etc...) begin:
"...ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם", "Baruch ata HaShem, Eloheinu Melekh ha'Olam...", "Blessed are you, HaShem, our God, King of the Forever..."  I really love the word "olam" (עולם); its a great word. While it's usually translated as "forever", it can also mean something more like "universe" or "world". It means, really, something more like "far away" in either space or time. The last card in a tarot deck named in Hebrew would surely be XXI=Olam.

HaMakom (המקום) is another cool name. It means, literally "The Place", but it's usually translated as "The Omnipresent".  It's a relatively obscure name; I wrote about it last week.

Step Four: Calling Hermes
This is just a normal "friendly/respectful" conjuration, where you string descriptors together however sounds nice.  Announce the sorts of offerings you've made.  I almost always offer liquor (I use Μεταξά, a kind of Greek brandy made with rose petals and herbs. My late father drank it, on the rare occasions when he drank.), along with oats or wheat, honey and olive oil.  I have never found any spirit that's unhappy with grain+fat+honey. In addition, I sometimes offer eggs, figs, olives, and/or pine nuts.  Whatever I have on hand that seems right at the time.  I also offer some coins, which go into the charity box the following week when they're replaced.  As I mentioned before, I also light candles and incense.  I think you can use any sort you like.  As I said, I arrange the candles in front of a mirror, because that's how I scry.  However you do it, have that ready.  A pendulum or tarot cards or whatever would be fine if you're not accustomed to spirit conjuration.  You just need something in which the communication can manifest.

Step Five:  Ask and Ye Shall Receive
Read the list of requests.  Be sure to give each your full attention.  I find that I sometimes have trouble reading some of them.  I make sure to read it over and over until I get a "clean" recitation.  I think the ones that are hard to get out are the ones that need the most work.  If there's one I trip over a lot, I sometimes pour a little more liquor or light an extra candle to "lubricate" the work.

Step Six: Chill with your bro, Hermes
Just sit and be "in communion" for while.  Talk, and listen (scry).  Whenever you feel like you're done, just respectfully say "thank you" and "good bye".

The End.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hermes Petition How To

As I think I've told you before, I offer petitions to Hermes (almost) every Wednesday.  What do I mean by "make petitions"?  Basically, I solicit prayer requests from anyone who'd like to work with Hermes throughout the week.  Recently, I get about 5-10 each week.   I was asked to write up some brief ritual instructions so that other people could try it out.  While you're welcome to preform this ritual as-is, my intention in writing it is simply to inspire other people to write their own.  To that end, after I finish writing the how-to, I'll deconstruct it and explain why I do it the way I do.  A sort of "director's commentary".

How I Do It:

What you'll need:

  • a Hermes altar (temporary is ok)
  • a bell
  • a 7day candle.  orange is great.  white or yellow is fine
  • a mirror
  • a lit candle on a different altar
  • incense.  Ideally, tears of frankincense and whole cloves.
  • some loose change
  • a list of requests. I like to write them on orange paper, but it doesn't matter
  • a shot of liquor.  I use Metaxa, (a Greek brandy) or Fireball (a cinnamon whiskey)
  • food offerings: oats, wheat, honey, eggs, olive oil, figs, dates, olives, pine nuts
  • spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, mastika (a sort of piney resin; you can get it at greek or middle eastern grocers), mace, cloves, dittany of crete, tobacco, cardamom, frankincense
  • a chanukia (a menorah with 8+1 places)
  •  nine chanukah candles
  • the hour of Mercury on a Wednesday.  Because I work days, I always use the evening one, but any of them are fine.

If you don't have permanent wards around the place you're working, you might cast a circle first, but I don't think that's necessary.  I'm not much one for circles.  Mostly, I think people banish and ward too much.

Arrange your altar however seems best to you.  I like to have the candles in the middle with a mirror behind, because that's how I scry.

If there are offerings from last week, take them outside and leave them in a crossroads or at the base of a tree.  Lay out the new offerings and pour the liquor.

Set up, but do not light, the candles in the menorah.  Wiggle the shamash (the center/higher candle.  Why is it named after the Babylonian Sun god?  No one knows.) in to make sure it will stand up, and then take it back out.  Light the shamash from an already lit candle.  I usually use my ancestor altar, but do what seems right to you.

Use the shamash to light the incense and the jar candle, and then blow out the shamash.  Set it down (not in the menorah yet)  Make sure your list is illuminated by that candle, and then turn off any lights; only "magic" candles should be lit. Make any last minute preparations.

Play some white noise or soft music if you want. Turn off your phone and such.  Once the bell is rung, you're in ritual.

The Ritual:

Ring the bell three times.  If you don't have a bell, use some other kind of sharp sound.  Clapping would be fine.  Wait for the sound to die down before you do anything else.

Recite something like (I'll explain the names and such in the commentary.)

"Holy, Eternal, and Ineffable ONE, Mystery Beyond Mystery, Primordial Creative Fire, Still, Sweet Calm Past the End of Time, Endless Ocean Whereof my Soul was Born, and To Which my Soul Returns, I call to You. El Elyon, Melech Ha'Olam, Ha Makom: sanctify this Time among all times and this Place among all places, that all things done here are for the Good."

Take some deep breaths and wait for the Presence to settle down through your spine.  Do not move on until you feel it. For this to work, your spine (your "central channel") needs to be an open communication line connecting the outer reaches of the universe to the center of the earth.  If you're having trouble feeling it, here are some tips that help me when I have trouble getting in the zone.  I don't know if they'll work for you.  I'll talk about them more in the commentary.
  • Remember; the Presence is always there. It's not really about Shekhina descending into you, it's about you being open enough to feel it.
  • Sing. 
  • Breathe.
  • Cover your head with a shawl or cloak (or towel), so that all you can see is the altar.
  • Hold your right nostril closed and take several deep breaths.  Let go and hold your left nostril closed, and take several breaths.  Let go and take several short, sharp,deep breaths through both nostrils.  Breathe out through your mouth.
  • Make sure your tongue is touching the roof of your mouth.
  • Make an L with your index finger and thumb on both hands.  Hold your hands together with L's touching and other finger interlaced.  (Like you're making a ray gun with your hands.  pew-pew-pew).  Rotate your wrists out so that your thumb-tips are touching.  This makes a kite shaped hole.  Stare at the candle flame through it.
  • Last resort: If you used natural frankincense and whole cloves, huff the smoke. DO NOT huff artificial incense.
Once the Presence is settled, light the shamash from the jar candle, and slowly light the menorah candles. While you're lighting, recite:

"Beloved Hermes, Teacher, Master, Friend, I call to you now, on this, your day, in this your hour.  Come to me now, attend to me now, hear my cry, bless me with your presence.  Hermes, thrice great, inventor of the alphabet, mathematician king, first teacher, faithful friend to man, oneiropomp, psychogogue, magician and traveler, I adore you and beseech you, come to me now, attend to me now, hear my cry, bless me with your presence.  I set before you offerings, oil and oats, honey and eggs, light and fire, precious spices and shining coins.  I bring petitions to you from your people, they call out to you for help, they call out to you for guidance.  Help them Hermes!  Bless them, Hermes!  Guide them to their Good, and guide all good things to them."

Wait until you can feel Hermes to continue. For me, that's about scrying in the flames reflected in the mirror and/or hearing a voice take shape in the white noise, but however you do it is fine. All the same tips as before apply.

Once Hermes is around, bask for a little while, and then read the list.  I use full given name AND any magical name the person wants.  I ask them to provide a single sentence request.  I'm "forbidden" from asking for things for people who didn't ask; it's only requests for me and from people who specifically asked for intercession. Some examples of requests from last week (because of my circle of acquaintances, mine tend to skew heavily academic)
  • help writing a dissertation in neuroscience
  • help writing a dissertation in philosophy
  • help with a computer business
  • help getting a new car
  • help with school
  • help with the SATs
  • help learning the runes
  • help contacting the ancestors
  • help with Wisdom
  • help communicating in a difficult situation
After you've made requests for everyone else, you can make your own requests.  Here's basically what I always ask for (more or less): 

"I am Sara Mastros, Sarai bas Eliora bas Michael, bar Sarah v’Baruch, b’nai Israel.  Sara, the daughter of Michael, the son of James, the son of Michael, the son of Dimitri, sons of Greece.  As for me, I ask, as always, that you help me to grow in your service, as a teacher and writer, as a mathematician and a magician, as a learner and a thinker and a maker.  Make me charming and clever, quick-witted and silver-tongued.  Bless me at work and at home.  Bless my comings and my goings, my travels in the this world and in the Other Places.  Open my eyes that I might see and my ears that I might hear.  Bless my dreams, that they be pleasant, powerful, meaningful and motivational.  Care for all my ancestors, and help them find their way in the land of the dead, and ease their passage, wherever they might be going.  When I too die, guide me and care for me, and help me to live again."

If I have a special, specific request, I'd make it here. If it's something big, I offer a special offering when it's achieved (usually a bottle of rum, poured out at the crossroads or an animal-offering from Heifer International. I'm partial to geese, sheep, and beehives for Hermes.

After that, I ask to sit with Hermes for a while and be together. Sometimes we talk, but sometimes we just sit.

Whenever I feel like I'm done, I say thank you, say goodbye, blow out the menorah candles (if they're still lit; they last about an hour), and ring the bell three more times to close the ritual.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Paradigm Shifts! (Old School Academy 23)

When I was in college, I edited (and did most of the writing for) the Academy 23 newsletter, a zine called Paradigm Shift.  While going through some old files, I found pdfs of a number of back issues (weirdly, they all seem dated March 2007, but I recall writing them over at least a year).  Enjoy!  (and please don't judge.  We were all very young.)  Each issue revolves around a specific "paradigm" or "current".  I only found the first 4 issues, but I remember many more; a kabbalah issue, a goetic issue, I think a fairie issue, there was definitely a Hermes issue.  If anyone else has copies, please send them to me!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ask a Witch: Ancestors and pets

A colleague asked me about talking to a dead pet.  As you know, I'm not much for pets or necromancy, so I was somewhat at a loss.  Her love for the dog really was palpable; I'm sure a dog so well-loved must have a spirit.   I recommended she ask her ancestors to look after it for her. I asked her if she'd ever done any ancestor work, and she explained her family's tradition to me. She's Coorgi.

"We actually have a sacrifice..usually a goat. we also have a special type of lamp that is only light after dark with ghee..and we leave out food and alcohol for our departed. the sacrifice is once a year... We have a house a sort of crypt.. for our dead. we keep it fully furnished.. and stocked...we do it every year.. it is 100s of goats..and the priest is usually soaking in blood after the sacrifice...and the whole area ..is gushing with blood..and everyone is in a trace..."

Her family tradition, however, doesn't have (or, at least, she didn't know) any tradition of working with ancestors anywhere but at their crypt, and so she asked me to write instructions. Her ancestors are very strong; even I can feel them, and I'm not usually much of a medium.  So, really, these instructions are partly from them.  These instructions were particular for her.  I'm writing about them to give you an idea what mediumship looks like; it's mostly feels like really lucky guessing sometimes.

First, designate a place in your house for your ancestors.  A small shelf is fine.  It's best for it not to be in your bedroom.  Wash the shelf down, and then wipe it down with perfume.  I use "Florida Water", but any kind of pleasant, citrusy perfume is fine. Lemongrass is particularly good. Cover the shelf with a white cloth, or maybe red if that seems better.

You will need a candle or lamp (a butter lamp from home would be great!), an incense holder, and a glass or bowl for water. I'm not sure what sort of incense; spicy and a little pine-y. Maybe mastic? It might be frankincense, actually. Probably any incense is fine.  Update:  Her ancestors specifically wanted frankincense, cardamom, mastic; it took me a while to figure it out.

Set out some rice and fruit and ghee.  Also flowers would be nice.  You might also want pictures of your ancestors or a stone from their crypt. You can also put cremation ashes or stones from graves or etc. Arrange these things on the shelf so they are beautiful.

At this point, I tranced out a little bit, and came back with the word "Karna" or "Karena", which I understood to be the name of an ancestor.  However, she told me it is actually the name of the prayer for the dead; the ancestral sacrifice she talked about before.  (Go me, pulling obscure prayer names out of thin air! I love outside confirmation.) Then, I got a little trancier.  When I said she could put ancestor's belonging on the altar, she told me about a gold bracelet she wears with snakes on it.  It's been in her family for 200 years.  I've seen her wear that bracelet many times, and I see it again now.  And then, whoosh!  Super trance.  I say: "Some kind of Kali?  With snakes?  Her head is on fire.  Or, made out of fire?  A crown of flames.  It might be Parvati?"  She tells me that it's Vaishnavi, who I've never heard of.  She's the wife of Shiva, says my friend.  So, that's cool!

Then I got a short communication that was just for her, and I don't feel right publicizing it (even though she said it would be ok)

I told her to light the fire and incense, and to set out water and rice and fruit a ghee.  To pray a Vaishnavi mantra.  To sit with her ancestors and talk with them.  Ask them to watch over her dog for her.  Ask them to guide her and protect her.  Ask for a visit in a dream.

She's gone off to do that, and promises to report back.  This has been a very successful week as a priestess!