Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wet Egg Instructions

I made a little how to video of how I make the wet egg offerings.  If you haven't already, you should read this intro post first.

Sorry for the link, instead of embedding it.  YouTube seems to hate me.

A couple of notes:

  • Sorry I've been decapitated in this video; I couldn't' arrange it so you could see both me and the counter on screen at the same time.
  • When I say "Herkimer diamond" in the video, I actually mean "Cape May diamond".  My brain wasn't working, apparently.
  • I didn't realize this until I listened to myself talk about it, but almost everything on my offering dish is a thing that was gifted/offered to me, and not a thing I bought.  I will ponder that.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spirit Ecosystems

Many of you know that a specialty of mine is "intentionalizing" space.  What Jason Miller calls "zone ritual".  As far as I recall, every magician who's been in my home (many of them, over the years) has commented on the "vibe".  Some of them are astonished to learn that I almost never banish.  I think, excluding the initial banishing when we moved in (it was unpleasantly mucked up), I've banished here twice.  In an upcoming post, I'm going to tell you about the most recent one, but before I do that, I want to talk a little bit about why I don't banish.

I firmly believe that cultivating a healthy, harmonious, flourishing spirit "ecosystem" is more or less the same as cultivating a biological one.  It requires certain things in order to thrive.  Energy and "elements", predators, prey, and decomposers are all important parts of the whole system.  In a small, semi-closed, newish ecosystem (like an apartment), the magician has to supply most of those things, at least in the beginning.

In a biological ecosystem, energy enters primarily in the form of sunlight, and that's one way it enters a spiritual ecosystem too.  However, most of the "spiritual" energy in an apartment is generated by the people (biologically).  Music/sound is another GREAT way to add energy, as are fire, light and etc.  While I don't really understand the exact way it works, there's clearly some relationship between the "energy" that spirits need and actual "physics class" energy.  Anyone who's noticed how fast batteries drain or tea goes cold in the presence of active evocation knows that.

The "materia" that a spiritual ecosystem needs are by far the most confusing for me.  I don't really understand why spirits want physical food, but it's clear they do.  In my experience, it's the "caloric" aspect of food offerings spirits really crave.  Fat, sugar, alcohol...maybe spirits are just really into the citric acid cycle?  (It's been a LONG time since biochem, so sorry if that wasn't right)  In my experience, while different spirits have their favorites, you can't really go wrong with an offering of grain covered in oil and honey.  No wonder IHOPs are always haunted! ;)

There are lots of kinds of spirits, and I think a "good" spirit ecology has all of them:

  • "Shining Ones", radiating energy in from the cosmos.  I think other people would mostly call these Big-G Gods, angels, saints, and celestials.  
  • "Wandering Ones", who circulate the energy, stirring it, creating currents and eddies, "cross pollinating" things.  These are the (non-solar, non-saturnine) planetary spirits, egregores, little-g gods, fairies, elementals, djinn that kind of stuff.  
  • "Rooted Spirits" like ancestors and land spirits help to hold everything together the way the ground-cover plants prevent erosion.  People (both human and other personality/ego-having spirits) are a kind of rooted spirit, and we play an important role, tending, creating, curating and moving things around.  
  • "Hungry Spirits", like ghosts and shadows and demons.  These guys have a bad rep, but they keep things circulating, and keep egregoric spirits (including people!) from getting too "puffed up".  Like anything else, it's not ok to let them get out of balance.  
  • Death Spirits, cool and cold and clear and sharp, cut strings.  I mostly work with Ereshkigal, who tells me that, before she was the Queen of the Dead, she was Flint, the first knife.   
  • Finally, the Cthonic spirits, who make their home within the earth, in the moist dark places, are the decomposers.  Baphomet is GREAT for this.  I get the feeling that's really his whole schtick; he completes the cycle of life.  I also work with a giant black crocodile named Marathustra.  PM me, and I'll tell you a bunch of stuff about him that I don't want to share with strangers.  These recycle all the "goo" and spiritual waste.  I'm not sure what other people call it.  Mushroom spirits are also good at this.
Now, there are also specific roles you need in an artificial spirit ecosystem (artificial systems can eventually "naturalize", but it takes a years and years.  Possibly generations.)  The most important ones I can think of right now are:
  • The Producer.   This is probably you.  Because artificial spirt ecologies are VERY spirit dense compared to "normal" places, the system isn't anywhere near being energy self-sufficient.  Someone/something has to consistently add energy.  The easiest way to do that is with regular offerings of light, sound, food, and attention.
  •  The Distributor.  You probably aren't going to make offerings to each spirit by name.  If you can do that, there aren't enough spirits!  :)  (Disclaimer: Many people, including most of my teachers, strongly disagree with this sentence.  Lots of people like their home to be clean and zen-like in its spiritual simplicity.   YMMV)  You need to charge a spirit to take your offerings and distribute them to each individual spirit, giving to each what it needs/wants/likes.  I use "The Wet Egg" for this.  Other great choices are any god whose mythology includes the phrase "knows the name of every god" like Hermes, Isis, or Old One-Eye (whose name I will not speak.  He knows what he did.)
  • "The Doorman".  This is a spirit to keep regulate who comes in and out.  Not a "Guardian", but just a spirit who knows who is coming and who is going.  Threshold gods.  Master Doorkeep.
  • "The Bouncer".   Someone who can run off anyone who needs to get gone.  Dragons and warriors.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Working with the Unknown Dead

My roommate/bff and I just got back from a drive out in the lovely (but cold/windy) weather. At one point, I drove thru through a lovely cemetery down by the water.  (Which my roommate questioned) . In the old section, several grave stones were toppled over, including almost every small one with a cross. It did not seem accidental. I'm pretty sure someone took a baseball bat (or a pipe or something) to them. There was definitely the vibe that someone did something unpleasant in that graveyard. (and I'm not very sensitive to that kind of thing)

The ones we could get to stand up, we righted, and the others we propped up so they could be read, and placed the broken crosses on top. (one was too heavy for us to lift, so it remains face-down). Rummaging through the car, I found a bottle of water and some loose change. I put a couple of coins on each broken grave, said their name if I could read it, and poured a little water out. At my request, my roommate lit a cigarette and blew some smoke on each one. In the center of this section of graves was a very old stone slab, all covered in moss. I poured the rest of water out, and said it was for everyone. The wind picked up, whistling and howling, and that's when my roommate's "just too creepy" meter kicked in and he requested we leave.

I took a stone from beside the moss-stone and put it on my ancestor altar at home, where I poured a little brandy out on it.

I think I might pack a bag with a rattle, some whiskey, milk, eggs and cornmeal and go back. Those spirits are restless. Someone did them wrong, and it seems like spending an afternoon singing in the sunshine is a very good trade for making some new allies on the other side.

UPDATE: I just got back from my second trip. I spent some time trying to connect with the Queen of the Graveyard, with some limited success. When I first got to the graveyard, I initially turned left to head toward the area in question. That was CLEARLY wrong. I u-turned, and drove three full clockwise circuits of the graveyard before parking near the section I was working with. (section "M" if you want to go visit). I got out, poured some more water, and sat under a central-ish yew tree for a while. I got the impression that the "bad work" had happened quite some time ago, before the winter, but that the snow had "covered" it. Now that the snow was melting, the "badness" was released. I was instructed to circle the section counter-clockwise, shaking the rattle and "unweaving" what had been done. (which felt like maybe some kind of binding? I don't really know)

On the moss-covered stone, which felt like the epicenter of the "bad juju", I drew an equal-armed cross of cornmeal and laid the egg in the middle. I rattled over it for a long time, entreated the earth to take the uncleanness and swallow it, allowing it to decay into purity under the ground. I would have left a votive candle, but it was too windy. It felt like it worked, I think? I poured some Metaxa out, and then poured a big circle of clean water around the stone.

After that, I walked the circuit clockwise, pouring water at "corners" and at the base of every tree. I walked the graveyard, pouring out water and Metaxa on the graves that asked for it. I picked up some trash I found (there was very little, actually.  This is perhaps the cleanest graveyard I've ever been in). I walked around some more, singing a wordless song. After a while, it felt like I was requested to sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" which at first seemed like a weird choice because it's a Christmas song, but the lyrics make sense in the context of what I was doing; setting some folks to rest. I only know the chorus, and not even really all of that. I kind of faked it. Here is what I sang "God rest ye, merry Gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, for Christ your loving savior was born on Christmas day. ba da da da da da da da da da da da da da, God rest you in comfort and joy, comfort and joy! God rest you in comfort and joy." (which, it turns out, are sort of like the actual lyrics...)

Then I sang Shalom Aleichem, whose lyrics I do know, a couple of times. I sang it in Hebrew, but in English, it says more or less:
"Peace be upon you, angels who teach, angels of the Most High, angels of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He.
Come in peace, angels of peace, angels of the Most High....
Bless me with peace, angels of peace, angels of the Most High..."

There is a fourth verse, that bids the angles to depart in peace. I didn't sing that one.

Finally, I sang (the chorus of) Let It Be, which is, genuinely, the best shamanic song I know for settling restless spirits (and also restless children).  If you don't know this song (which I don't even know how that could be) you're in for a treat. Go listen to it. Fun fact: "Mother Mary" in this song ISN'T Jesus's mom, it's Paul McCartney's mother, who died when he was a kid. Ereshkigal loves this song (as did my mother).

I need to learn better songs for this kind of thing. SMH. If the spirits had wanted an encore, I can't even imagine what I would have sung.

When I was leaving, I loosely tied some blue silk ribbons I found in my car to the branches of a low tree; I think a Japanese maple, but my tree identification skills are not great in the winter with no leaves. Why? I'm not sure. It seemed like the thing to do. They whip around in the wind very satisfyingly. When I was a kid, every spring, as soon as the snow thawed, we would hang ribbon from the trees. Then, in the fall, we would sometimes find birds' nests with the ribbons woven into them.

If you'd like to learn more, I teach a seven lesson course on Working With the Dead, the first lesson of which is free, here:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Unless I'm Mythtaken: Hekate is telling me this story right now....

The Descent of Asteria

This is the story of how my mother came to Delos, to the holy isle at the centre of the world.  I was then still a girl, and living at that time with my father.   There are those who believe Perses, the Ravisher, to be my father, but that is not the case.  My namesake married his, the daughter of Hydeas wed the rider of the Pegasus, but that was long millenia later.  So much has been forgotten.  So much has been confused, but now, my mother is awakening.  Prophecy comes back into the land.  And so I will set the record straight.  My father, as I tell it to you now, was Okeanos, the green-black deeps, the river that encircles the world, the velvet dark of outer space.  And I so I was in Atlantis, at the ends of the earth, in my father's home, and I was yet a girl.

My mother,  Asteria of the Night... Oh, oh, oh! You cannot believe how beautiful she was!  Father and I would look up at the starry vault, and there was mother, in her snake form; pink and blue and white, a necklace of crystal pouring across the sky like milk.  At times like those, my father, sometimes taciturn, could be convinced to tell stories.  My father had no parents, although he was, as we all are, a child of the Heights and the Depths  He was the brother of my mother's parents, and it was from him I learned about my mother's mother, Phoebe, the Shining One.  I had never met her; long before I was born, she had gone into the ground at Delphi, there to inspire Pythia.  Grandmother Light, said my father the Deep One, was the font of wisdom, the Enlightening One, the still small voice of the soul.

Morning Star, Mucha

Father told me also of the Ancient One, my grandmother's mother, the Mother of Mountains.  She too lived in the ground, her face emerging in the mountain peaks.  She was the Great Goddess, the Holy Mother of All Things.  Deep within her sacred caves, her priestesses slathered themselves in the fat of bears mixed with red ochre.  Father told me that Mother's sister, Leto, like their mother before them, was an initiate of the Great Lady Underground.  At the cave called White Womb of the Earth, Leto had descended into the Earth, and there entered into trace and dedicated herself to the ancient ways.  Mother, however, like her father Croesus, was the initiate of their grandfather, Ouranos, the Sky, and she loathed and feared the dark ways underground.  Even the watery depths, my father's homeland, she could not abide, though I loved to dive deep and sing with the whales, feeling the cold sea drift around me.

As I said, I was with my father at his home in Atlantis when my mother descended.  I was then just coming into my fertile years.  My mother, I suspect, was ending hers.  Mother had little time for things of the Earth, including me.  I, who was the daughter of Sea and Sky, and an only child, inherited from both, and I could hear the call of Grandmother Earth in my bones. But mother spent all her time in the sky.  She was hanging, beautiful and shining, when Zeus, the usurper, appeared, stomping like a bull, his hoofbeats shaking the sky like thunder, and carried off her sister.

Leto, the great White Swan, forswore her vow, ran off with Zeus, and was soon great with twins.  Grandmother Below was furious, and forbid all the land to give them shelter.  Mother interceded, begged The Mother of Mountains to take pity on Leto, but she knew the price.  And so, finally, my mother too went under the earth, shooting to earth as a fallen star, plunging into the Sea, there to become the island Delos, the rocky center of the world, where Leto gave birth to the Holy Twins.