A Witch That Cannot Hex Cannot Heal Pt 2

In the first part of this two-part series on hexing and healing, I wrote about my views on hexing. Now it’s time to look at the opposite end of that spectrum, and the ‘why’ behind the adage that a ‘witch that cannot hex cannot heal’.

One of the things that has always struck me about mainstream Pagan or Witch views is that while cursing is often disparaged, healing is not. Countless words have been written about the dangers of cursing from both spiritual and material perspectives, and yet little has been written about the dangers of healing.

If anything, we encourage people to participate in healing rites regardless of how well trained they are, and view them as being almost harmless. However, I would argue that healing can be a more dangerous activity to the healer – depending of course on how it’s done.

A Family Heritage Of Sorts

As I’ve mentioned about fifty billion times before, I come from a family of Spiritualists – mostly Spiritualist healers – and if there’s one thing I’ve seen from those who do a lot of healing, it’s that they often suffer from a lot of sickness themselves.  I can even name family members who I believe wound up in an early grave because of their involvement in healing practices.

My dad once explained that when it comes to healing, he takes on what they have. I’ve had more people than I can count approach me to tell me about how my dad was talking to them, began wincing, described something they hadn’t mentioned, and then healed them of that pain. These people were often people we didn’t really know too – one woman was a stall-holder at the local market who sold rugs!

Looking at my family’s Spiritualist background, it’s all too easy to turn around and say that that’s something that happens to Spiritualists, and that they’re obviously doing x, y, and z wrong. After all, what else could my father expect if he takes on what others have? And yet, I’ve never seen it be an intentional thing for my father – more like something that is triggered when he comes into contact with the sick.

I also have a friend who is a professional healer. Unlike my father, he’s trained in multiple healing traditions, has years of experience, and yet healing can make him sick if he’s not careful. Sometimes it’s the expenditure of energy, but sometimes, a healer cannot help but have to go and encounter that which is causing the sickness in the first place – especially when working within an animist paradigm.

The point of this though, is that both cursing and healing are potentially dangerous to those who do them. They’re also opposite ends of the same continuum.

Introducing ‘Hælu’

I think a lot of people have a sense of this continuum if not the words and historical evidence. However, there are words and there is evidence for both.

We find our first word in the Old English word ‘Hælu’. It’s a lovely word, the Old English word from which we get our modern word ‘hale’, as in ‘hale and hearty’. But unlike the modern version of the word, the meanings of hælu were much ‘wider’ in scope. To quote Stephen Pollington from p453 of Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plant Lore and Healing:

“The quality which keeps a person well is called in Old English, ‘hælu’, which can be translated as ‘health’ or ‘wholeness’, although this is slightly misleading. ‘hælu’ is a derivative of the adjective ‘hal’ which survives into modern times as the words ‘whole’ and ‘hale'; it implies good fortune, prosperity, good health, general benefit and well-being (and in Christian times, salvation). From it are derived also the verb ‘ hælan’ (make whole), our word ‘heal’ and another adjective ‘halig’ (holy) with the sense ‘blessed’, ‘fortunate’, ‘favoured by the gods’. The reverse of ‘ hælu’ is ‘unhælu’ which is a kind of ‘negative health'; to have ‘unhælu’ is both to lack the positive quality of health and to have the negative ‘unhealth’, disease, illness, misfortune.”[1]

As you can see from the above description, physical health was connected with what we would today consider completely unrelated matters, like ‘good fortune’, and ‘prosperity’. By extension it’s also connected with words that refer to a state of being ‘blessed’, or ‘favored by the gods’. The fact that those seemingly disparate concepts are all able to be expressed by one word suggests that at one point they were considered to be all part and parcel of the same thing – a quality inherent to a person.

To restore this quality (by whatever means) is to heal, to take this quality is to curse. This is why ill health often plagues those who are cursed and can even be one of the signs that a person has been cursed (if other signs are also observed concurrently). To manipulate this quality in any way without knowing what you’re doing is dangerous, and to manipulate this quality in any way while sick is eventually deadly.

Never So Simple A Story

But even then, the lines between healing and cursing were not so clear cut. Sometimes you had to curse an illness or growth in order to heal the person as in charm number 162 of the Lacnunga (a book of Old English magico-medical cures). In this charm, which is believed to cure cysts, we are given a story about the ‘nine sisters of noðþ’. Who this ‘noðþ’ is beyond an anthropomorphic representation of the medical complaint is not important (which is good, because we don’t know anyway). What is important is that the charm essentially counts them out of existence, in other words, this is a form of curse.

‘…then the nine became eight, and the eight to seven, and the seven to six, and the six to five, and the five to four, and the four to three, and the three to two and the two to one, and the one to none’

Bye Felicia.

Remember those pesky elves and their shot from the last post?

Well, we also see cures for all manner of ‘elf’ ailments in the Leechbooks too. Some of these can be traced to actual physical diseases, however others may refer to elfshot (curses) by witches, and other elf-related afflictions (which were, with the exception of some identifiable ailments, normally related to pains of the torso or mental ailments producing delusions). And elves weren’t just connected with cursing either – the right offering to the elves could hasten the healing of a loved one or friend as in Chapter 22 of The Saga of Cormac the Skald.

Again, my point here is that these things are not so clear cut, and that by viewing cursing and healing as some kind of ‘good vs evil’ dichotomy, we’re not only missing the point, but potentially endangering would-be healers by not acknowledging the danger inherent in being a healer, nor the necessity of training and aftercare. Because at the end of the day, healers work far more intimately and generally for far longer periods of time with their patients and the ailments they bring than most people ever do with curses.

So if anyone is going to get the metaphorical sticky turd on them, it’s the healers. It’s about time we respected that and stopped encouraging every one and their mother to have a go like it’s some harmless thing anyone can do without consequence.

[1]    Pollington, S. (2000). Appendix 3 Causes of Disease. In Leechcraft: Early English charms, plant lore, and healing (p. 453). Norfolk, England: Anglo-Saxon Books.

A Witch That Cannot Hex Cannot Heal Pt 1

The Perils of Hyperbole and Hex

It would seem that my last post confused a few people with regards to my position on hexing. Apparently satire is not so easy to spot in the age of fake news, regardless of how many hyperbolic statements are included, and I apologize for that. Judging by the comments, some people were so angry they didn’t even make it to the end of the post before exiting, and so didn’t see my final word on the matter.

But maybe that’s to be expected. This is one of those subjects that gets people’s backs up no matter what ‘side’ of the debate they fall on, and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

There are a lot of reasons for this depth of ire, and a lot of layers here to dissect. From what I’ve seen on the anti-hexing side of things, you have the influence of Wicca and the threefold law on the wider community, coupled with what I believe is a genuine desire to be ‘good’ in many people… and perhaps no small amount of identity politics. There are of course other reasons both philosophical and theological to take into account, but they all essentially boil down to this idea that if you hex, then you will have some kind of negative return on it as a kind of punishment.

As someone who is not so much pro-hexing as just views it as yet another tool in my magical toolbox, I have a disdain for others acting as though their ethics and their way of seeing things is the one true way™, and that anyone who doesn’t agree isn’t a ‘real witch’ ™.

Listen, if you are someone who believes it’s wrong to hex, then all power to you. That’s fine for you, but when you start trying to tell others ‘how things are’, well then you really have to ask yourself what the difference is between yourself and the Christians who are convinced that we all worship devils. Because if you’re really going to get into that one true way mindset, then eventually you’re also going to have to address the matter of who is ultimately right.

The Problem of Morality in Witchcraft

Witchcraft is a path of moral relativism, for there is no morality inherent in Witchcraft other than that of the Witch him/her/them self/selves. Even when people claim to take their morality from their interactions with the Other or the Earth, there is still relativism there because it’s one thing to have an interaction with the other, but we all perceive and process our interactions differently. Sure, we all usually get the basics down the same, such as “I was walking down the street and bumped into Gavin and Sue”, “we were stood outside the supermarket and chatted”, and “Gavin had to leave after a while”. But when we get into the finer details, that’s when we see the differences in interpretation. Sue may say that Gavin seemed like he was being a bit short with everyone but the narrator may think Gavin was just being his usual self.

These differences are further compounded when we move into the less tangible realms of trance and Otherworldly experience, and while a common ‘gist’ may come through to multiple people. Those multiple people may process and interpret that gist very differently.  And that’s even before we get into the matter of just what the Other you’re dealing with considers to be moral vs you as a human continuing to live lawfully in human society. It’s hyperbole, but taking morality tips from a bunch of redcaps (should you survive the experience) is likely to land you in jail for murder. See what I mean?

The Other Side of Hex

For me, it is in this consideration of the Other where the whole concept of a cosmic force that punishes baneful magics really falls down. After all, how often do you see stories of fae folk in which the ‘threefold law’ or karma, or whatever name you want to apply to that force fucks them up for cursing humans? I’m yet to find any.

And before anyone says “that’s different”, from a historical perspective it’s really not. In fact, the symptoms of a curse by human witch or fairy were so similar that in Irish culture the source had to be diagnosed by a kind of specialist (1). It is a theme in both Irish and Germanic cultures that witches derive their powers from the Other – including the power to curse (2). In the Germanic iteration of this theme, witches received the elfshot (curses) that they shoot or fire at other people from the elves (3).

So for me, I don’t see how a threefold law (or similar) can exist within any worldview that includes the Other Crowd in any kind of a meaningful way. Because if cosmic law be cosmic, then surely it applies to every being within the cosmos? This includes the Good Folk, and you can hardly separate the Gentry from the Witches.

Layers of Action, Layers of Magic

Another reason why this view of negative magics coming back to get you because of (insert term for force here), is because of how magic works within a Germanic context (which as my internet name suggests, is where I take most of my magical cues from). Because of the Germanic view of time, there are essentially two different kinds of magic within Germanic culture: temporary and permanent. To avoid getting into terminology, what we do in the now sets down layers in our past, and those layers accumulate over time into themes or patterns that keep repeating through our lives as we go along (4). What we put down now, affects what we’ll have to work with in the future. Makes sense, right?

This ‘mechanism’ is something you see at play in the descriptions of magic in the sources. Some forms of magic, like the spun magic that raises a storm or ensnares a mind, only last for as long as they’re being performed (5). As long as that action isn’t calling up a storm that sinks a ship and results in the deaths of people you hate, then these don’t have to be deadly. Sometimes, if you find the right place to ‘tweak’ with a single action, you can still cause some long-lasting woe for your enemy, but it’s usually not too difficult for them to fix should they discover that point of manipulation.

However, we also see the use implements such as the tablet weaving tablet (which I discuss more fully here) imbued with the intent of passing off the creator’s bad luck to a hated person. With every turn of that tablet, and every row woven, that would be a little layer being put down, a little more worked, a pattern created in the victim’s life (which would also potentially compound itself further as more and more bad things happen to the victim setting down their own layers). That would eventually grow and become something that lasts, and any attempts to change it would take a lot of effort and time. It may not even be possible for the victim to get out from under that.

The ‘Blowback’

With any of these magics though, you have to keep in mind that not only is the working of whatever you’re doing changing what is laid down for them, but also conceivably for you too – unless you find a way to set something up to work continuously in the background (also a popular option). But the woman with the tablet weaving tablet would have had as much time as she spent working that curse set down as layers for herself just as much as they were for her victim (albeit from the opposite side of things). What that could have meant for her is less clear than what it could have meant for her victim, but it didn’t have anything to do with a cosmic boogeyman.

It was the long-term accumulated consequences of her own actions, and in that way, baneful magics (or any other type of magics) are no different from anything else we do in life. No matter what we do, whatever action we take, we will always have to eventually face those long-term accumulated consequences. This can be as mundane as drinking too much alcohol or making bad financial decision after bad financial decision (especially if you’re not on the luckier end of the scale – but we’ll get to that another time).

Another theory that I see batted around about cursing is that in working with those more negative energies, you can’t help but get them on yourself like some kind of sticky turd. However, in my experience that isn’t nearly as much of an issue when you practice purification rites after doing your workings.

A Nuanced Tool

Ultimately though, this is just how I see things and the reasons for why I see them as I do. As I said earlier in this piece, cracking out the nasties is just one tool in my magical toolbox, and it’s a tool that is extremely nuanced in its use. Because of this nuance, you have to learn how to curse just as you have to learn how to heal – because if there is one thing that is truly dangerous about cursing to the practitioner, it’s screwing up your working. However healing is not without its risk either, but I’ll save that for the next blog.

Either way, none of us are ever going to change each other’s minds, but if there is one thing that we should all fight to preserve, it’s that there is no one true way in Witchcraft. Because even with the best of intentions, a person who believes they have the ultimate handle on the truth can do some truly evil things.

Sources
1. Morgan Daimler – The Witch, The Bean Feasa, And The Fairy Doctor In Irish Culture
2. Ibid
3. Alaric Hall – Elves in Anglo-Saxon England
4. Paul Bauschatz – The Well and the Tree
5. Eldar Heide – Spun Seidr

Witchcraft is Not Safe (Redux)

A Demon and a Palm Tree

There’s been a curious post going around on social media this morning. It’s a photograph that was purportedly taken in Arizona of what appears to be a demon dallying in a street. Over and over again, I’ve seen people assert that it’s a palm tree, despite the fact that it’s clearly not. Let’s face it, it looks nothing like a palm tree. Now I’m not saying it is a demon, we do live in the era of Photoshop, but what is curious is the vehemence that people are defending the palm tree explanation. This reminded me of something I heard while in a trance once. In the trance I was walking down the street, but it wasn’t just populated by the living and seen, but by everything from ghosts, to faeries, to creatures of a more mythological nature. Weaving in and around the living and seen, they went completely unnoticed, and I was baffled. How could these people just go about their shopping and *not* notice that dragon? Then came the voice. It was not a ‘head voice’ but external, coming with all the force of an air canon.

“They won’t see because they don’t want to see.”

That sounds like the kind of bullshit thing a shill sells to people in order to blur the lines of their reality and make them more invested in what the shill has to sell; but there is a truth to it.

Because that is how a whole bunch of people can look at a photo of a demon dallying down some Arizona street and argue vociferously that it’s a palm tree. They simply don’t want to see. Even in the age of Photoshop when you can create a demon and add it to a photo to freak people out on the internet, people will still argue for the tree. The bubble is being threatened, and any suggestion that things are not as they seem must be destroyed in the most mundane way possible.

The lines must be redrawn between the possible and impossible and the world reasserted, people must feel safe.

Because if we do live in a world in which there might be a demon that saunters down some street in the South West, then that means that there are a whole load of possibilities and dangers that people don’t know how to counter, and nobody likes that. Who among us doesn’t like feeling like we’re the one in charge?

In the same vein, it would seem that my post ‘Witchcraft is Not Safe (and Nor Should it Be!)’ has resurfaced after almost a year of floating in the depths of the web after the initial furor. Now, as then, I’m facing a whole bunch of criticism for having the audacity to actually go to a burial mound and call up the dead.

However, in an almost-year of reading and countering criticisms about something I did back in 2005/2006 by people who obviously know far better than I did in my twenties, I’ve learned a thing or two about that criticism.

First of all, this criticism is neatly avoiding the point of the post, but also proving it in some ways. It seems to come from certain groups more than others, but all essentially boils down to the same thing: if you place the blame on the practitioner, nothing is changed. Witchcraft remains that benign, misunderstood thing that is sold as part of the shitshow that is modern identity politics, and there’s nothing that could *really* harm you – except maybe breaking that ‘rule of three’ (and don’t get me started on that one).

Often it starts out with a ‘this wouldn’t have happened had you (not) done _______’. But the curious thing I’ve noticed about participating in these discussions and countering that criticism (because I do really want people to get what I was saying), is that when you counter with how you did do that, then you end up with a litany of similar pronouncements. The more you counter and detail the measures you took, the more the goalposts widen, and in the end it feels as though you’ve gone well into the territory of clutching at straws.

Challenging the Status Quo

People in Pagan magical communities, especially those who are considered authorities (or would like to be), hold up things going off without a hitch as being some kind of gold standard of their skill. But I don’t think that’s anything anyone should be proud of – no sword was ever considered strong or even usable without being tempered first. If anything, this adherence to making out like your magical shit doesn’t stink is contributing to the moribund state of magic in modern Paganism. Moreover, if you are actually out there, pushing boundaries, working at leveling up, and you don’t have at least some stories of when things went tits up. Well, you’re either lying your arse off because you don’t want to look unskilled, you’re not as experienced as you claim, nothing is happening for you, or you’re staying where it’s safe.

There’s a point to be made about this idea of safety too. We humans like to be safe. Ever since the beginning of humanity we’ve been running risk assessments and mitigating the dangers in our lives. For the most part, we’ve got the physical side of things down. Science tells us how things work, we have some measure of predictability, and we generally sleep at night without worrying about things like changelings, revenants, and goodness knows what else.

So when something comes along that challenges that sense of safety and predictability in a visceral (as opposed to the more typically cerebral) way, we fight back. We lash out at it in the hopes that it will go away. We try to find ways to explain the scientifically unexplainable in ways that are more acceptable to our worldviews. We scream that the denizen of hell in fuck knows where AZ is a palm tree.

We try to convince ourselves once again that we are safe and that anything vaguely threatening can be put down to some fucking amateur on the internet. In other words, we convince ourselves that nothing like that could ever happen to us. That kind of thing only ever happens to other people, and probably because they didn’t follow (insert piece of worldview that further reinforces a sense of safety here).

Redux

Witchcraft is not safe (and nor should it be!), because if it is, then we’re not pushing things forward. An element of risk is a part of this game, and if you look at that risk and ask yourself why anyone would do that, then maybe it’s not the game for you.

Witchcraft is not safe (and nor should it be!), because the unseen doesn’t come with D&D-style stat sheets that we can compare with our own and make the decision to keep away. They do come with a fuckton of agency though, you know, as you might expect for independent beings that aren’t just figments of the imagination. And sometimes, you don’t get to the ‘goodies’ until you’re a few hours into ritual.

Witchcraft is not safe (and nor should it be!), because now more than ever, we need to see the world for what it is and deal with it on that basis. We need to break down our mental barriers, hate fuck the Demon Palm Tree Bubble out of existence, and reclaim what we actually lost. People talk a lot about re-enchanting the world, but to me, that sounds like a goal-idea set further down the road that people can get behind as being interesting but without actually really changing anything in the now. It remains safe because it’s not so much in the now, and we are apparently the ones to be doing the re-enchanting. Well, have you ever considered that maybe the world never stopped being enchanted but we just learned to not see it anymore (lashing out whenever we’re given a hint of it)?

Witchcraft is not safe, for a whole host of reasons, but it should never be unsafe because the people you’re working with don’t appreciate the agency of what they’re working with, have an unrealistic view of what could potentially happen, or a lack of ability to roll with it when shit goes down. Because if we’re to break down that Demon Palm Tree Bubble and live in this ‘reenchanted’ world, it is far better to be the tempered blade than the good-looking, shiny one that was never tested.

Meme Magic

A Synchronicity And Meme Magic

Synchronicity is a strange old thing. Write a post mentioning meme magic one day, and get a podcast in your podcatcher the next about that very thing.

You may have already heard of the Pepe the Frog meme, a rather (in my opinion) uninspiring meme created in 2005 by a Matt Furie. Described by the ever-colorful Encyclopedia Dramatica, Pepe is a “retarded cartoon frog that has plagued the chan imageboards (and later the world)”, if you find him as uninspiring as I do, it’s hard to see why Pepe has become some popular. However, while the Encylopedia Dramatica attributes Pepe’s success to “the autistic basement-dwellers who won’t stop shitposting it”, A.T.L Carver attributes Pepe’s success to far more arcane reasons (see first link at the end for more). Reasons which I’m going to unpack here as well include my own additions, because it is all really quite uncanny.

In (Not So) Fair 4Chan Do We Set Our Scene

For those of you who avoid the dank 4chan (and similar) areas of the internet, the first thing you need to understand about 4chan is that anonymity is preferred. The second is that there are different boards on the site dedicated to a wide-range of topics, and that basically anything goes. Lastly, you need to know that Pepe somehow became the unofficial mascot of the /pol/ chan (‘politically incorrect’ board).

It’s hard to make any concrete statements about 4chan and the users who make up the site, there’s just far too much diversity of opinion on there to really label it one way or another. It is equally possible to see posts from alt-right and self-described Nazis as it is from communists, or indeed anything else. However, one thing they all seem to value is the right to say whatever the hell they want. In many ways, 4chan is the epitome of chaos.

However, as you will see, the association between Pepe and /pol/ would come to be a match made by Eris.

When Trump announced his candidacy Pepe became connected with Trump, but it wasn’t long before this link took a more bizarre and esoteric twist.

Meme Magic - Trump pepe

”Dubs” and “GETS”

The next thing that you need to understand about 4chan is that while the site is mostly anonymous, each post is assigned a 9 digit (it was 8 digit) ID number after posting. Because of the sheer volume of users on the site, this makes it impossible to know if you’re going to get what is known as “dubs”. “Dubs” are basically when you get the same two digits at the end of your post ID number. So for example, ‘#569823055’ would be a “dub”. The same principle applies with “trips” and “quads” (three and four of the same digits at the end of a post ID).

Because of the randomized nature of “dubs”, it became common to bet on “dubs”, in other words, to make a post essentially stating that it was going to be a “dub”, and when these bets were successful, they were “GETS”.

This may all seem pretty random right now, but bear with me, it will all start to become clear as I go on.

Now, 4chan is a heavy traffic site with around 900,000 – 1,000,000 posts per day. It’s a behemoth of a site, and it’s this traffic that needs to be kept in mind when considering the probability aspect of “dubs” and “GETS”. The chances are…well, people try to work it out all the time and invariably end up arguing about it, but it’s fairly high. It’s not something you can exactly plan, and so when “dubs” reoccur around a subject or personage, significance tends to be assigned.

Meme Magic - prophecy

‘The Prophecy of Kek’. Note the post ID #.

At some point during Trump’s campaign, users noticed a higher percentage of “dubs” and more frequent “GETS” on posts involving Trump. But the real breakthrough in this omen-via-4chan-ID-number came on 06/19/16 when post ID #77777777 made the declaration that “Trump will win”. This became known as ‘The Prophecy of Kek’.

Enter Kek

You’re probably wondering who this ‘Kek’ is.

Before going any further in this direction, it’s worth pointing out that the use of the word ‘Kek’ on 4chan and similar boards predates the election by about six years. Originating from Korean World of Warcraft players, ‘kek’ came to replace the ever-ubiquitous ‘lol” in these venues. Interestingly this happened either around the same time as, or shortly after the beginning of the Pepe trend on 4chan.

meme magic kek1However, it didn’t take long for some enterprising 4channer/s to discover that there was an Ancient Egyptian frog-headed god of primordial darkness. Counted among the Ogdoad, Kek was one of eight primordial Old Kingdom deities that were considered ancient even by the time of the composition of the Pyramid Texts (officially 2400-2300 BCE, although that is debated). Kek was the ‘bringer of light’, the chaotic darkness that heralded the new dawn – or at least that’s how the denizens of 4chan have taken him to be. For the users of 4chan, all of this added up to one thing: Trump was ‘god’s chosen candidate’.

Only it wasn’t the god that most people would think of when reading that statement.

For the ‘Kekists’ of 4chan, Pepe/Kek’s power was further reinforced around 9/11/2016 when Clinton fainted on camera. In a campaign that was marked by criticism of pandering by the press, a showing of any weakness from Clinton was welcomed by the opposition. A day later, the Clinton campaign site denounced Pepe as a symbol of white supremacy, and around the same time, some 4channer/s found what could be considered the anthem of Pepe.
meme magic - clinton

Produced by a band called SHADILAY and predating the campaign (and Pepe) by many meme magic - pepeyears, the CD for the song P.E.P.E (an acronym standing for ‘Point Emerging Probably Entering’) depicted a frog on its cover. Moreover, as one 4chan user pointed out, the clock on the album artwork looked a little familiar.
meme magic - album

meme magic - clock

Spot the “dubs”? What is the probability of that?

Speaking of probability, around two years ago, a new Pepe became far more common: smug Pepe. So named because…well, he looks smug, postings of smug Pepe were met with the response of “Why so smug, Pepe?” The first known meta discussion about smug Pepe took place in August 2014, and various theories have been put forth since then for the rise of smug Pepe.

Looking back, it’s almost like ‘Pepe’ knew something, right? Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

Another strange synchronicity (?) surrounding a frog god that is worth mentioning here is

the inclusion of the ‘frog god’ card in the 1994 collectable version of the Illuminati game.

meme magic - frog god

“The idols are both frightening and silly, and noone knows why the masters keep them around.”

There have been all kinds of conspiracy theories that have sprung up around this particular version of the Illuminati game that you can check out online on sites like this. Basically, the theory is that certain key events were predicted by the 90s version of the cards, and looking back, you can compare the images on the cards with photos of real events or personages. A word to the wise though, some ‘predictions’ are far better than others.

The Cult of Kek: Memeing With Intent

As time went on, Kek seemed to gain more of an intentional following, and a cult of sorts has formed around the personage of this frog-headed god/internet meme. One of the main stories in this cult was the production of Kek statues for sale in which the hieroglyphs at the base of the statue seem to show a figure seated before what appears to be a computer screen with what looks like a DNA strand behind it.

Although the hieroglyphs indicate that the statue is in fact depicting Heqet, a goddess of meme magic - kek related goods fertility that also has the form of a frog, that ultimately doesn’t matter to the Kekists who have purchased it. For them and everyone else who doesn’t read hieroglyphs, the symbolism is clear, and in a world of meme, that’s all that really matters. A cursory search of Pepe and Kek-related goods on Amazon also reveals an awareness by participants in the various 4chan-originated memes and meme wars. Among Kek/Pepe-related booty to be found on Amazon are books on Kek’s cult, and more significantly, books on Kek/Pepe internet meme magic.
Customer reviews also speak to this awareness.

Meme magic - kek reviews

It would seem that Kek/Pepe is not just a meme or a sigil, but a hypersigil and symbol of a deity.

New Fronts Opening Up

A common mistake for a lot of people is to assume that the majority of 4chan users just want to see the world burn. After all, why would they intentionally wage a magical meme-war on the behalf of a candidate like Trump otherwise? But what you have to understand here is that they simply don’t see it that way. They saw a far greater threat in Clinton because of her establishment connections and her polices that went against the general sentiment of anti-globalism to be found on the board. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they see themselves as having saved the world.

And so we have a movement of people adept in a very democratized magic, with anti-globalist sentiments who, aware of their own power, are looking to take the fightMeme magic - memorial elsewhere to continue their take-down of globalism. I don’t mean to make them out to sound noble here, any quick glance at the /pol/ board will show some truly shitty opinions. Because on a site like 4chan, literally anything goes. The reasons of individual users for participating in this take-down are undoubtedly numerous and varied, some terrible, and some noble. But that’s not important here, what’s important is that there is a common ground upon which many people from many walks of life and of many different political ideologies can unite and fight. Ironically, in their desire to tear down what they perceive as being the walls of PC globalist culture, they may well end up contributing to the erection of far more walls for us all.

As for the new battlefront for the Cult of Kek? Well, France has an election coming up, and Marine LePen fits the anti-globalist sentiment.

Where Liberals Went Wrong

Of course, it’s all too easy to point to the ‘bad’ and denounce the evil. That is not what I’m doing here, ‘denouncing’ people has proven to be particularly ineffective in all of this, and why denounce when you can learn, regroup, and plan?

In the run-up to the election, many liberal-leaning witches and pagans opted to try and work against the Trump movement. However, from what I saw of these attempts, they were typically carried out by exclusive groups defined by either connection to a network (i.e., who they know), a paywall (if they could pay to participate), or a combination of both.

By contrast, the meme magic of 4chan users was democratized in that everyone in that hub of emotion and chaos that is 4chan could participate, and most importantly, spread it far beyond those cyber borders. There is something admirable about this, and something that those who worked along the lines of creating a government that is more of and for the will of the people would do well to acknowledge and understand. You need to know what that will is before trying to work for it – outside of your own political bubble that is. Because if that was your magical intent, then who’s to say your efforts didn’t ultimately help the opposing side? And this is an important point about this election, there were enough people whose will was simply ‘not Clinton’, that in a two party system, any magical work based in the will of the people would have supported Trump by default.

Magic users tend to think of themselves as being something of an exclusive club, and as a community we privilege some lineages or types of practice over others. We also give regard to the attainment of position in the hierarchies of our groups and often don’t take those who haven’t been through those more traditional routes as seriously as practitioners.

On the other hand, for the 4chan users/Cult of Kek people, there were no entrance grades for participation. No old-school networks or paywalls required. You didn’t even have to be known to people by name, and in a schema like that, you will always have the benefit of sheer numbers.

Because remember, even though not all of those 900,000 – 1,000,000 daily posters to

meme magic - 4chanstats

Screenshot taken 12/29/16

4chan participate in the meme war stuff, even a small percentage of that is still significant and likely dwarfs the efforts of the opposing side.

As I said at the beginning of this section, there are some powerful lessons to be learned here.

The first and foremost is that we need to look at ways to democratize our own magical campaigns. We don’t need a small number of specialists, we need a lot of people – even if they only know the absolute basics. Remember, many hands tear down walls, not just a few. This also means that we need to reassess our ideas of hierarchy within magical traditions, because if we want to have any hope of competing, this is something we need to do

Secondly, as always we need to take the time to understand the opposition. How many of us even did that to even a rudimentary level? This kind of intelligence-gathering is essential if we’re going to get anywhere.

Lastly, we need to look at our attitudes towards more democratized forms of magic such as chaos magic. Because in the case of Pepe the Frog, it was chaos magic that quite frankly ruled over the far more complex ceremonial attempts of others. There’s a lot to be said for symbols/sigils employed in an environment of intense emotion (chaos) and posted ‘for the lolz’ (or ‘keks’). As I’ve said before on this blog, we need to do what is necessary as opposed to sticking to the methods of whatever tradition we adhere to. This is the kind of time we live in, and we’ll get nowhere if we do not adapt.

Because the Cult of Kek has realized its power, and we’re still struggling to get our fucking shoes on and get out the door.

For more information on the Cult of Kek by someone who is actively monitoring, see here, and here.

More here from Vice.

Unweaving A War of Walls

Recognizing the War

We live in a time of walls. We always have of course, but there are periods of history in which those walls become more restrictive and in which newer walls are far too easily built. In an attempt to disprove the existence of these walls, the skeptic would point to the promise of the Constitution. “See, it’s all right here. There’s nothing to worry about.” Except there is, because often the most effective walls are those that aren’t enshrined by law but in culture instead.

That is a war that the less conservative among us have been failing at badly. Let’s face it, most non-conservativesmorgenrot-1585566_960_720 outside of minority groups didn’t even realize there was a war until relatively recently, even though more socially conservative groups have been fighting it for years.

The election was the dawning of a new era, because not only was it the beginning of what is looking to be a drastic change in direction for the United States, but because a good many people finally woke up to the war and saw the strength of the opposition.

Walls That Protect, Walls That Imprison

So we now find ourselves in a time of walls, but more accurately, in a time of walls that are beginning to encroach on the meagre areas we’d previously kept while believing ourselves to be free – ironic when one considers that our president-elect included a promise to build a wall in his election campaign promises.

But this post isn’t about those physical walls that are built, immigration law, or the election. There are plenty of places that are discussing all of the above ad nauseum and only adding more noise to the cacophonous furor that is social media. Besides, what would be the point of that on a magic blog?

This post is about walls from a magical perspective, the kinds of walls, their origins, and what we can do to tear them down in our own lives and practices.

Most walls are erected against the unknown dangers that lurk beyond the safety of the hearth. Since the beginning of human history, mankind has created enclosures around his dwellings in order to delineate ‘inner’ as opposed to ‘outer’, and more importantly ‘safe’ from ‘potentially unsafe’. From this view, not all walls are bad. However, a wall can just as easily be employed for constraint as for protection, and that is the kind of wall I’m writing about here.

How A Foundation Was Built

'Lilith', by John Collier

‘Lilith’, by John Collier

In the beginning, after some clarting about, the Bible tells us that the Jewish god created a man by the name of ‘Adam’, and a woman by the name of ‘Eve’. The Alphabet of Ben Sira places Eve as Adam’s second wife, a kind of replacement for Lilith who, made of dirt as Adam was, refused to obey and become subservient to him. After all, why should she if they were made of the same materia magica? Lilith then left and refused all attempts to compel her to return to a life of drudgery with Adam.

To circumvent this with woman 2.0, Eve was created from a piece of Adam so that she would have no claim to equality. It would be her lot in life to obey. This would form the foundations of one of the first walls. However, that was not the only foundation found in the myth of utopian Eden. Eve, or indeed every woman she represents, would play a far more damaging role in the mythological history of humankind.

The Garden of Eden is described as a paradise in which its inhabitants neither wanted for anything, nor knew the kind of trouble that disturbs the mind. It is the perfect place created by a loving father god for his children, but with one significant catch: eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was forbidden.

When you pare down this myth, when you remove the language of paradise and lack of want, what you are left with is an enclosure of sorts that is inhabited by people who are kept naked, ignorant, and obedient. From this perspective, the Fall of Man looks more like a jailbreak from an unethical science experiment than the disastrous curse upon humanity that it is often presented as.

What of the serpent, though? It seems impossible to extricate the serpent from Eve adameveherself, the name ‘Eve’, or its Hebrew form ‘Hawwah’ being possibly related to the Hebrew word for ‘serpent’. Watch out for the snakes, it’s all about the snakes. Were it not for the serpent’s temptation, Eve would have never eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, nor would Adam, and mankind would still apparently be living it up in the garden of Eden.

Just ignorant and naked, with no right to one’s body or mind.

Since the Fall, women have been held to be the disobedient and destructive sex, our wombs and vaginas passageways to filth and depravity, and our only salvation to be found in obeying men. In other words, our salvation is to be found in becoming the property of and putting ourselves firmly under the control of men.

“In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. -Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, chapter 1

This is the foundation of one of the walls in our society, and a wall that for all of our advances in women’s rights, remains one of the strongest to this day. If anything, this wall is being rebuilt in the places where it was torn down, fortified, and new construction sites opened up. We see this in everything from the rise of MRAs, the increased attacks on reproductive freedoms, to the renewed popularity of the insult ‘cuck’ (a word deriving from ‘cuckold’ meaning ‘husband of an adulteress’, in other words, a man who was not able to control his woman – his property – well enough to prevent her from disobeying). On more subtle levels, we may even see the maintenance of and reinforcement of this wall in the censure of opinionated women in communities that might otherwise extol their own perceived egalitarian nature.

This is not the only wall either, I’m sure we could all think of more walls in our lives. Walls that affect how we see and deal with people of color, walls that affect how people of color must move in the world in order to do so with less harassment, walls that mandate that only one kind of sexual relationship is valid, walls that enforce gender binaries that harm people who simply just don’t fit in those boxes…well, you get the idea.

And all the while, we’re told that without those walls there would be chaos, anarchy, the destruction of order. The people of color will want revenge will come and get you without that thin blue line. Men won’t be able to control women and will end up in some 70s B-movie scenario in which men are enclosed in the same walls women are now. The gays will gay up your kids and people will invent new genders. People will marry outside their own cultures, no one will be able to say “Merry Christmas”, and it will probably also rain. We need the wall, the katechon, that which holds back all of those things they’ve taught you to fear.

Look at the media today, how much of it is focused on emphasizing the things that must be held back? How much of it justifies all those barrier construction projects? We need to do better than we are at recognizing it all, at taking a deep breath and deciding what to listen to and what to ignore. How many of our friends are complicit in this on social media? How many have swallowed the propaganda hook, line, and sinker? The first step for all of us is recognizing where the lines are drawn in our outer lives.

But this would not be a magic blog were I only to speak of the outer and political. Here is a place to discuss the inner too.

Or more specifically, once more the realm of dream.

The War on Dream

“Dream, I will argue, is made. The metaphor that first needs to be grasped is one that bears repeating, that of a war on dreaming. The decisive action here is the one embarked upon by John of Patmos, another exile bound to a far flung isle. His was a deliberate action which set out to not merely loose chimeras in the garden of the mind, but to bar the gates of dream itself. So this is where we decant our vitriol and dissolve the locks that John applied, which State and church imposed. This is by no means the end of the process, but the point at which we choose to begin.” – Apocalyptic Witchcraft, Peter Grey

Dream is a special state of being, one we tend to think of as a place of infinite possibilitiesberlin-840174_960_720 in which we may do or experience any number of things that we cannot during waking life. However, from the work of scholars like Lisa Bitel and Jacques LeGoff, we know that our inner dreamscapes are in all likelihood artificially limited. That there are walls there. These are not walls that we can necessarily see from within dream for ourselves – after all, how can we know about the walls if they were set there long before we ourselves even had a chance to dream? However, there is a paper trail that can be followed that shows how clerics attempted to control dreamers and restrict the dreams themselves.

If that very idea doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know that anything can be done for you.

It wasn’t enough to control the waking world, they had to try and find ways to control and restrict the dreaming world too. Dreams came to be labelled as ‘devilish illusion’, and true dreams the sole domain of an elite of saints and Christian kings. Oneiric diversity withered, and the dreams of the common man evaporated from record like the dream that flees upon waking. Nowadays, a medium through which one might have previously entered into the Otherworld of one’s cultural and physical landscape stands weakened by ridicule, pop-psychology, and petty dream dictionaries that tell you nothing.

But we need to be able to dream, and we need to be able to dream fully, because it is through dream that we have some of our most effective communications with the Other. Without that, we will never fully pull down the walls of Christian worldview in our minds, or have those better ideas for new ways of doing things that our world so desperately needs.

The Fight

When I first started to perform the Stele of Jeu ritual from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM), it was, like for many others who begin this work, initially for the purpose of attaining the knowledge and conversation of a ‘holy guardian angel’ (in my case, more a daimon in the Greek sense). However, the more I performed it, the more I noticed that it was far more important than that. The Stele of Jeu is a freeing ritual, a ritual of unbinding and empowerment. It’s a ritual that tears down walls.

“Holy Headless One, deliver me from all restraining daimons and misfortune”

In Chaos Protocols, Gordon White observes that “One thing I will say with every confidence is that your dreams will certainly get a lot more interesting” as a result of performing the ritual, and I’ve found this to absolutely be the case. My dreams are now far deeper and coherent. They feel far less random and more like I am dealing with other intelligences and indeed, another world.

Yet it does not seem to be an effect that lasts perpetually. There is a drop-off in dreaming quality if I do not perform the rite on a regular basis. My dreams become shallow once more, punctuated only by the rare shining gem of a dream that happens to break through the morass of whatever unseen effects are at work in dream. The wall is resurrected once more and must be torn down anew in order to continue.

A Hidden Front In Plain Sight

We are very mistaken if we think there isn’t some kind of metaphysical war aspect to all of this too. How many of you have ever heard of Christian ‘prayer warriors’? Have you ever read their prayers, or what should more accurately be called spells? Just because they are addressed to the Judeo-Christian god or Jesus does not mean that they aren’t spells; the Grimoires are full of spells with similar language. What of the pope’s decree that Catholics only now store the ashes of their dead in special church-approved places? The dead are mighty, and such a place might be viewed as a source of power for a church that historically hasn’t been exactly shy about using its own magic. And what of the power of meme? We don’t often think of meme as being a potentially magical thing, but when you think about the ways in which memes are similar to sigils in Chaos magic, then they take on another aspect.

“Does not matter, need not be.”

How many of us see a meme, invest emotion into it (usually anger or amusement), and then either scroll on or engage with the discussion around the meme before scrolling on? At least sigil magic is done with intent. See, it is really that nefarious.

There is much to be unwoven here, a lot of unnecessary things that need to be paredberlin-1250861_960_720 away, and walls to be torn down both in our outer and inner lives. Becoming aware of those walls, and how they are built is only the first step. The next step is working consciously to bring them down through deliberate action, but we can only do that if we first free ourselves, and most importantly our inner worlds. Lastly, we need to counter the magic that enslaves dream and mind, finding ways to appeal to the hearts and minds of others – the Berlin wall was not torn down by the hands of a few, but by many. If there is anything this past election should have taught us, it’s that haughty cold logic and the mere presentation of that which holds back all that is bad is not enough. We need symbols and messages that appeal to not only minds, but hearts and souls too.

There’s a war on, it’s about time we fought back.

Eight Sarcastic But Serious Tips For Necromancy

Bored with the same old candle spells and rhyming couplets? Why not dabble in a spot of necromancy for the kind of life change that only the dead can bring! Practiced for generations and common to pretty much every culture on earth, necromancy is the new way to find out shit you wouldn’t otherwise know.

The Dead > Siri

We all have things we want to know about: lost items we want to find, things we want to know about other people, what the winning lottery numbers are…. and well, as we all know Siri can be a right royal bitch! But who the fuck is she to be a bitch? Sure, the dead can be bitches too (see point #2 ), but they arguably have some sentience (depending on your worldview). It’s like the difference between getting attitude from a fucking Furby, and you know, an actual person. Yes, Siri, you’re just some flashy Furby pimped up with spy tech! You are NOT the boss of me.

Fuck you, Siri!

Fuck you, Siri!

(FYI, the Dead also beat Alexa. The gods don’t go to any old schmucks for information!)

But the point is, the dead can help with lots of questions. From modern iterations on the traditional treasure-hunting theme (“Where are my keys?”), to questions designed to find out hidden knowledge (“How many people has my aunt ____ banged? How many does it take before people start to call you a ‘bike’?”), the dead have you covered.

Your Dead Entourage

For the truly self-centered and destructive among you, necromancy also gives you the squadgoalsoption of compelling the dead to go and fuck up someone you hate! Yes, for the small cost of completely shitting on any chances of being a decent human being and the potential consequences of getting caught robbing graves, you too can have your own dead army. Marvelous!

Of course, there’s a lot of argument about whether it’s *really* bad to do that to the bones of traditional targets (like hanged criminals and shit), but I’m going with the moral absolutism here. It’s way easier to be sarcastic about absolutes than shades of grey.

The Underworld’s The Limit!

Did you know that there are a fuck load of dead people buried in the earth, and that lots of people have died since the beginning of humanity? This means that there are literally millions of dead people to choose from with your necromancy. The Underworld is the limit, people!

See? LOADS of dead people. (Thanks for the snapshot, Orpheus!)

See? LOADS of dead people. (Thanks for the snapshot, Orpheus!)

So, what key tips would I give to the would-be necromancer? I’m glad you asked that, because I have some right here!

1. Pick The Easy Ones

This isn't really Kratos, but this guy? Yeah, you're not aiming to raise guys like him.

This isn’t really Kratos, but this guy? Yeah, you’re not aiming to raise guys like him.

This is something of a no-brainer, but you generally want to go for either the somewhat debilitated or you know, people who actually liked you in life. The reason for this is that if you have a Code:Draugr situation, the weaker ones won’t be able to fight you as well, and people who liked you won’t automatically try to fuck you up when you drag them kicking and screaming from their miserable afterlife existences. Don’t go for the cool-sounding warrior or king, because that hardly ever goes well. The same goes for criminals or people who have died in really bad ways. That kind of anger sticks around (also: see point #2)

Generally the best advice is to go for your grandma who used to feed you cakes every time you went round to her house. Only this time, she’ll be feeding you information instead of diabetes.

2. An Asshole In Life Is Still An Asshole In Death
So, once upon a time there was a douchebag called ‘Hrapp’ who lived in Iceland way back when. Now everyone thought he was a grade A prick even in life, so it should have been a no-brainer to not bury him IN A FUCKING DOORWAY! Except they did, and it was terrible, because doorways are weird, liminal places, and Hrappy-boy stayed right where he was. Yes, they had a Code:Draugr situation, and it sucked. Because if they thought he was a prick in life, he didn’t exactly improve on death. No, he got worse, and even worse, he had draugr-powers.

To be fair, his wife probably just dealt with his demand to be buried in the doorway with the same level of give a shit or existential terror as she may have done to his demands for horse ass for dinner. Whatever, the moral of this story is clear: death doesn’t erase douchebaggery, so don’t raise douches. (That’s a moral for more than just necromancy, right there!)

3. Be Respectful
So, you’ve got your dead all nice and necromanced, how do you talk to them?
Well, if your answer was something along the lines of “Well, like Zak Bagans!”, do the world a favor and slap yourself. Actually, slap the shit out of yourself and put down the necromancy, no more necromancies for you!

No, the best way to deal with the dead in necromancy is to reign in all your inherent douchebaggery and pretend you’re a respectful fuck who isn’t just really trying to find out who his/her aunt banged for the lolz.

4. It’s OK To Be Scared
In fact, if you’re not scared, you probably have no internal capacity for risk assessment. If you cannot do that, then put down the necromancy. Fear isn’t a bad thing, it’s natural when raising the restless or rested. If anything, that preternatural cold kind of inspires it. It’s like a visceral warning that what you’re doing is not just a little bit against the natural order of things, and that’s the kind of instinct that keeps you from either joining them, or winding up in a straitjacket.

You just have to learn to handle the fear, not rid yourself of it.

5. Fuck-Ups Happen, So Have Backup Plans
Another thing you have to handle is the potential for fuck-ups. Or even ways in which you vastly underestimated the situation (same diff). This is incredibly common, and despite the new and improved character sheets the dead now come with which allow you to compare their stats with your own to see who has the most dots in whatever, fuck-ups are pretty much a part of the necromancer’s life.

Once upon a time, there was this dude called Benvenuto Cellini. Now Cellini got in with a necromancer back in the day and kinda let him know that he was up for learning about it. Kind of like a bucket list kind of deal really. So Cellini, his new necromancer buddy, and a couple of other mates he invited along, went off to the Coliseum to go and bother the dead. The first time they went, it was all a bit “oooh” and “ahhhh”, and “when will I see my dead girlfriend again?” (FYI, not a good question to ask.)

The second time though, there were more spirits than you could shake a stick at of various kinds. I mean, this was a situation seriously going downhill. But did the necromancer turn into Zak Bagans? Nope, he stayed respectful. His assistants were terrified, Cellini was terrified, the little virgin boy psychic they’d brought along was terrified. Seriously, they were so close to being completely up shit creek because the Coliseum was crawling with the dead and everything else.

Thankfully, the necromancer had a good plan to disperse the dead, and this is where we get into back-up plans.

6.Fart-o-cism
Yes, you read that right.
Cellini’s necromancer had a big pile of stinky ole asafetida. Because the dead apparently

"No more ghosts here, boss!"

“No more ghosts here, boss!”

don’t like stinky stuff. (Nor do the elves btw, a euphemism in Icelandic for ‘to take a shit’ allegedly literally translates as ‘drive out elves’). However, they didn’t really need to crack out that fetid weed, because….

Cellini’s bud Agnolo cut cheese like you wouldn’t believe. No really, from the description it sounds like that fart would have left a mark. But it worked, and the dead started to get the hell out as soon as they could.
So you know, if you’re really in trouble, try shitting yourself.

7. Put Them Back When You’re Done
Remember when you were a kid and you finished playing with some toys, left them out, and got bollocked by your mum for not tidying up after yourself? Well it’s the same principle here. If there’s one theme that keeps coming up again and again in the different accounts of necromancy, it’s that the dead mostly don’t like being raised, so the least you can do after finding out where your car keys are, is put them back. Necromancy that focuses on just calling them up is half a job done. Don’t be one of those guys.

8. Purification, motherfuckers!
Lastly, when you’re done with your necromancing for the day, don’t forego your purification rites in favor of climbing into bed and getting a few more minutes of sleep. You already messed up your night’s sleep with going out and fannying about at the local cemetery/burial mound/crossroads, you may as well just suck it up and make sure you end the night right.

The dead are kept from the living for reasons, mostly that they’re not too good for us. So, it’s a good idea to make sure that you leave the fun of the graveyard, in the graveyard. Popular options include a good old-fashioned scourging, suffumigation, and ritual bathing, so there’s bound to be a method to suit every necromancer!

If all of this sounds good to you, and you’re the kind of person who enjoys the kind of pant-staining terrifying fun with the dead that only necromancy can bring, why not actually give necromancy a go?

Necromancy: Because Siri Is Shit

Keeping It Real With Magical Self-Evaluation

The Question

If someone were to come to you today and ask why it is that you do this crazy magic thing, what would you say? How would you answer this deceptively difficult question?

Just think about that for a second, because aside from the undeniable pull that many of us feel drawing us to this stuff like the proverbial moth to a flame, there’s probably also another goal there too. Maybe it’s a drive to do what is known as ‘The Great Work’, or maybe it’s an interminable curiosity that drives you?  Whatever it is though, it’s irrelevant here.

Now imagine this self-same imaginary person were to ask you about that goal. “How do you think you’re doing with that?” they say, with their head cocked slightly to the side with interest. What would your answer be now?

The usefulness of asking ourselves how we’re doing with what we’re doing, or in other words, undergoing a periodic process of self-evaluation cannot be over-stated when it comes to magic. Because whatever our goal is, I’m betting that improvement is part and parcel of it, but you only really improve if you make a concerted effort to do so.

Recently a friend told me that she likes that I keep reminding people to do the work, but in truth, that is only half of the equation. It is not enough to simply do the work, you also have to evaluate the work you do and then decide how you’re going to either rectify issues or continue to improve. There is no end point when you are ‘fully trained’ and therefore do not need to continue improving. Not even the skies are limits to people like us, and nor should they be. But we’ll never figure out how far we’ve come if we do not occasionally take stock.
Now I want you to think about the past month and what you’ve been doing magically. Go ahead, take a piece of paper and write it down. If you keep a journal, take a look at the pages you’ve filled. How does it look? Have you had any discernible gains or have did you not really do a whole lot and coast along? Does what you have before you look like the efforts of someone who is taking this *seriously* and who may actually eventually get somewhere?

If your answer was something that resembled a regular practice that was sustained – even if you didn’t have any gains – give yourself a pat on the back. That’s a record of self-discipline and willpower right there, and even though it may not have paid off this month, the point is that eventually it will.

But if your answers were a bit sparse, well, only you can decide what you want to take from that.

What you just did with this exercise though was a simple self-evaluation, and if you’re being honest with yourself, it can be an uncompromising process. But herein lies its value. Self-evaluation is about knowing yourself better, holding yourself accountable, and making sure that you take your magic seriously so that you continue to level up. You simply cannot do those things if you are fooling yourself about the work you’re not doing or the efficacy of the work you are.

The Tools of Self-Evaluation

If you did the exercise above, was it easy to remember everything you’d done during the course of a month? Could you even remember what had happened? And even if you did find it easy, did you remember all the details of the rituals/spells/meditations/dreams you had during that month? Could you have given a full account of what went right, what went wrong, and what you’d decided to change for the better in the future? This is really where journal keeping comes in and why more old-school teachers will insist that you keep one. Their usefulness really cannot be overemphasized.
We live in an age of information, in which we’re bombarded by content pretty much constantly. Every time we go online, there are countless pieces of content vying for our attention. This blog post for example, is one of them.

The point though, is that it’s all too easy to forget what you had for dinner last week, let alone what happened during meditation three weeks ago! Finding a way to record for posterity is simply a wise choice, but this is not the only benefit of keeping a journal.

Magical Self-Evaluation - journal

BoS number three. Classy!

A couple of months ago, my parents sent me a box with stuff from when I was younger. In the box was an old, battered green A4 notebook with a garish fairy postcard glued on the front – my journal from when I was seventeen. Of course, back then I called it a ‘Book of Shadows’, because it was the nineties and that’s what the four or so library books I had access to called it. The pages are littered with rituals, ritual write-ups, spells, prayers, random snippets of information, and drawings of things I saw in my early trances. There are also random pictures of fairies and toadstools that I did with my complete lack of drawing ability scattered *everywhere* for ‘decoration’. (I really wanted one of those awesome-looking books that you see in movies back then, but didn’t we all?) So, it’s embarrassing looking back, but I also love it dearly for the snapshot it gives of who I was back then, the kind of witch I was, and the exercises that I built my craft around. (I did an awful lot of making candle flames leap.) Another book my mother sent me, the one I created after this, informed me that these were my third and fourth journals; sadly I have no idea where the other two are.

magical self-evaluation - wish

Wishing for a tidy jounal back in the days before I realized that magic =/= miracle

With enough time, self-evaluation also comes with nostalgia and glad memories.

I have a nice leather-bound journal now, unassuming, black. The kind of book you wouldn’t look twice at on someone’s desk. I liked the size of the pages and the way they lie flat when you’re writing in it, and that was all that went into the process of finding a new journal for me. I also have flashier journals, but they don’t get nearly as much use because they’re not as comfortable to write in. The act of writing by hand is becoming increasingly rare nowadays, so if you are going to do it, it’s good to do it on surfaces that are comfortable – and prepare yourself for the inevitable aching hands.

Some people prefer to go the tech route with their journal, some even plan their month like a magical campaign that they plot in Excel. The format doesn’t matter though. Because all that really matters is that you actually use it.

The Process of Self-Evaluation

To evaluate yourself is to look at yourself with the hard eyes of objectivity. It is to periodically look back at the hard data of your record and ask yourself how you think you’re doing and also if you think you’re actually doing enough. What seemed like a good reason for not doing something at a certain time is often revealed to be a petty excuse.

On the months when the answer to your evaluation questions veer into the negatives, it can be a bitter pill to swallow if you care about your practice. However, it can also be one of our best teachers and motivators, serving as a proverbial kick up the butt. The experience of looking back and recognizing the petty excuse masquerading as a ‘good reason’ can help us to avoid falling into that trap again, and improvements can start out small and be done incrementally.  There is always room for improvement if you commit to it. The act of self-evaluation, through revealing our failings, forces us to face up to not only our failings, but how dedicated we are.Magical self-evaluation - forward

Of ‘Gatekeeper’ Spirits and the Western Esotericism

Liminal Gatekeeper Spirits

I have a thing for liminal gods and spirits. Not in some weird ‘sexy times’ kind of way, but gatekeeper spirits - hermanubis statuethere’s definitely a draw there for me. The same goes for places too. I love those liminal in-between places in which the Other almost feels close enough to reach out and touch. The kind of places where you wouldn’t be all that surprised if it reached out and gave you a quick grope either.

So as you might imagine, the concept of ‘gatekeepers’ (or beings connected to boundaries in general) holds a high level of fascination; after all, you don’t get much more liminal than a gatekeeper.

But whenever we talk of gatekeepers, especially within the context of Indo-European Paganisms, there is this sense that they’re a borrowing from outside and don’t belong.

It all started with a book review…

Recently though, I came across a blog post that discusses the role of the gatekeeper spirit within the Western Occult Tradition and its possible uses and origins. Well ok, the post wasn’t *really* about that, it was a book review of Jake Stratton-Kent’s Encyclopedia Goetica. The post is a very concise and well-done review of a series of five books examining the origins of the magical tech and spirits of the Grimoires, and even though the combined cost of all the books together would be around $140, I have a mighty need to buy them like you wouldn’t believe.

I’m a big believer in figuring out the origins and meanings of things, in deconstructing things like old charms in order to figure out the underlying mechanisms. I’m not a fan of simply copying and taking the (arguably) easier route of having a tradition handed to me. I like to do the work, and then take that work and try it out ‘in the field’ so to speak. So it goes without saying that I find all of this work being done within the occult community to dig for the meanings and underlying mechanisms very, very exciting.

Of Pagan Origins and Christian Veneers

From what I understand from the review, Mr Stratton-Kent’s general argument is that the grimoires represent a survival of ancient Pagan religious and occult practices. But you know, with this covering of Christian and Qabalistic stuffs. The main of Stratton-Kent’s work in his Encyclopedia then, is in stripping away that covering, and revealing those ancient practices as much as possible. At the root of it all, Stratton-Kent argues, are the Greek goetes, those wandering magicians of the pre-classical period from whom we derive the word goetia. Which, if Stratton-Kent is right, has massive implications for not only Western esotericism, but for any magically inclined Pagans in general. (Again, I haven’t read these books yet so I’m being cautious with my language here. Like I said, I have a mighty need.)

Scrying and Survivals

Gatekeeper Spirits - Lady scrying with bowl of waterIn the first book of the Encyclopedia, The True Grimoire, Stratton-Kent examines the use of a gatekeeper spirit as intermediary between the other spirits and us. More specifically he focuses on the ‘Armadel’ method, a method of scrying in which spirits are called into the surface of the water. It is this method of scrying that Stratton-Kent argues (at least as I understand it from reading the review), is our tie back to the scrying methodology of the Greek Magical Papyri and the Pagan world. For Stratton-Kent, the ‘Armadel’ method reflected in the Greek Magical Papyri of calling a spirit into the surface of whatever you’re scrying with, is a piece of magical tech reflective of the decline of the Pagan period. It was a particularly clever work-around for the problem of how to interact with the old gods without all of the traditional Pagan religious apparatus. The magician or seer would call an intermediary spirit into the surface of the scrying medium. This intermediary spirit is then tasked with setting up a ritual scene in preparation for the arrival of the bigger spirits. The reviewer Kadmus, points out that often the request is focused on setting up the right number of chairs for a kind of banquet for the spirits. This is reminiscent of some of the earliest methods of religious ritual among the Indo-Europeans. After this feast, the magician or seer is then at liberty to ask for a boon; do ut des and all that. By shifting the celebration of a Pagan rite to the Other that lies beyond water, the practitioner can fulfill the exigencies of ritual in a far more discreet and less dangerous manner than if he or she were to set up such a ritual scene in the physical world.

Papyri and Lines

When dealing with the Greek Magical Papyri (or PGM), there is always the question of Gatekeeper spirits - PGMwhat comes from which tradition. The PGM date from between 200 B.C.E and 500 C.E, and are the product of intense cross-cultural interaction and blending in the Mediterranean. Kadmus sums this up best when he writes in his review that the PGM are “just as much Egyptian Magical Papyri as Greek ones”.

This is where things become complicated and where we must not only ask ourselves which part of that PGM heritage the use of a spirit intermediary or gatekeeper draws from, but also where we draw the line when it comes to consideration of which sources are ‘ours’.  If Stratton-Kent is correct in his assertion that the grimoire tradition has its roots in these origins and that there is a high degree of conservation when you scrape away that Judeo-Christian veneer, then the level of complication is compounded. Perhaps more so for groups who have an expressed IE focus like ADF, for then there is the added task of teasing out the IE influences from non IE – and as we have seen with the Armadel method, that is not always so clear (especially when it comes to magic, Greece, and Egypt).

Continuities and Threads

We all tend to gather in our respective boxes and behind our respective labels, we like to think of cultural traditions as being handed down relatively unchanged for millennia –  after all, the world is easier to think of that way. But even without the benefit of reading the Encylopedia, I think that if there’s one thing the grimoires teach us, it’s that the world was Gatekeeper Spirits - Norwegian Cyprianusnever so simple. Cultures interacted, people traveled, aspects of the ‘not us’ found their way in to the ‘us’, and the world marched ever on. Traditions grew, metamorphosed, and sometimes even died. The Armadel method was transmitted, spirit lists persisted (reportedly showing a high degree of conservation), and a newly controversial saint from Antioch found his way into Scandinavian grimoires where he was cited as the author of numerous black books of magic. Going back to those gatekeepers, maybe they *don’t* belong in the strictest sense of the word, but their usefulness can hardly be denied within these settings.

In many ways, magic is like those fleeting shadow figures that disappear when you focus upon them – those liminal figures that are often spied out of the corner of your eyes. This butterfly seems to defy attempts to systematize and classify it, but it makes little sense to ignore what we do have because some parts of it may look a little ‘moth-like’. Because as has been demonstrated time and time again, you can often learn a lot about the bits of something you do like, by looking at those you don’t.

Gatekeeper Spirits -Gynandromorph Butterfly

Love and Magic

As anyone who’s the parent of a young child knows, it’s hard to get some alone time.

Society pressures us to not see it that way or feel like that, our children are supposed to5bfb6ee784bc1ab3e7d1fd5eefdd7671 be the centers of our respective worlds, our little treasures who never tire us or make us angry; friends of mine refer to this as ‘the cult of the child’. However, regardless of how much we love our children, we all *need* time to replenish ourselves, to do things that recharge the batteries we draw so deeply upon when dealing with the fifteenth tantrum of the day, or the horror of heavy-handed black crayon on carpet. Like the analogy of the parent putting their oxygen mask on before that of the child, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of them to the fullest of our abilities.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to have some time to engage in some of that glorious, glorious self-care, and after a particularly rough week, I leaped at it.

And let me tell you, an afternoon stroll by the river with friends followed by a gathering in the evening was just what the apothecary ordered.

And of course, between the stroll and the gathering, there was the near-obligatory trip to the local pagan store. I usually enjoy trips to this store, like most stores of its kind, it’s interesting to just sort of hang out in there and people-watch a little. They also have a decent selection of herbs and the oils I use to scent my house, which is handy. Most trips to the store though, for all the people-watching potential, pass without incident; but sometimes, sometimes you get that one person who wants you to help them with something even though you’re not staff.

On Saturday, it was a young woman who was looking to ‘draw’ a man closer to her.

Now I don’t touch love stuff and so I let the woman know I wasn’t going to get involved and walked off. However, my friend remained and valiantly tried to explain her ethical reasons for not getting involved. Any time I came into this young woman’s line of vision, she glared at me. From my friend’s exchange with the woman, I later found out that this young woman had had previous relations with the man in question, that they’d apparently moved too fast, that he’d gotten cold feet, and she’d decided to get with the witchcraft although she’s a Christian.

Knowing all of that in hindsight, I’m glad I ducked out when I did.

Putting aside the ginormous issue of attempting to mess with love for a second, those don’t seem to be the actions of someone who is particularly stable – at least not at this time. After all, this is a woman who belongs to a religion that condemns witchcraft and yet she went looking for witches in a Pagan shop – complete strangers – to try and get a man back as opposed to cutting her losses and trying to move on. That to me is insane, and if previous experience is anything to go by, getting involved in that is potentially inviting trouble for the future.

You see, when I was in college, I had a housemate who was really going through the mill with her boyfriend. Things seemed to be unraveling, she wasn’t sleeping much, and when she did her dreams were less than good. At one point, she asked me if I would do something of a more magical nature to help her, and I agreed to do some work to help bolster her rather than try and manipulate her love life. However, when I went to go into trance to ‘find her’ and do what I was planning, I found myself getting sucked into one of her dreams because as ‘luck’ would have it, I was working on one of the nights when she was actually sleeping.

Her dreams were pretty grim, lots of imagery about churches and brides discarding bouquets, my housemate crying, and a burgeoning distance between her and her boyfriend. I pulled myself out as soon as I could and resolved to be up front with her about it the next day.

When the next day came though, although she’d been the one to come to me for help, my (as it turned out) accurate description of her nightmare was a little too much for her, and by the time afternoon came, she’d fled back to her parents’ house. She wasn’t gone permanently though, but the suspicious glare and Catholic blessed metals were permanent. Months down the line, she and her boyfriend – a man who had become her fiancé shortly after the dream incident – were through.

As with our young woman from the store, there were two issues at play here: The desperate grasping to prevent an ending, each woman even going so far as to engage with something they believed to be sinful, and an appeal to somehow fuck with love so that it would go down more in their favor.

Doing things, even when asked, for someone who holds your craft in contempt is a fool’s work. At best, you can be mocked, and at worst, blamed for anything that happens as a result of any meddling. From what I’ve found, many people that ask these favors don’t really believe that what they’re asking is even possible, and when things happen that suggest that it is real, tend to become very scared and fall back on their religious beliefs. Sometimes things happen as a consequence of the stuff they try because of your advice, and again, you get the blame. Witches and magicians are very aware of the truth of the saying ‘the devil is in the detail’ when it comes to magic, but this is not something a person who is not involved in magic really keeps in mind. We know that words are important, and more so in ritual space. Most people do not. Most people grow up being told that ‘god will know what they really mean in their heart’ and so do not ever really consider the possibility that words badly woven while working magic can mean magic not doing what you want in the way that you want.  Either way though, this blame can lead to some pretty nasty social situations, and any altruistic intentions on the behalf of the practitioner are meaningless in the court of public opinion.

Secondly and most importantly, can we have a moment of time to discuss love and how goddamn powerful love is?

"Bah, the fucker ate all the chocolates already and here's me standing here for this photo like some kind of mug!"

“This heart is nice, but it really doesn’t make up for the giving me herpes thing.”

We live in a society that minimizes love, we say we LOVE certain music, we LOVE a type of cake, or even LOVE a color. Once a year, we have a tacky-ass holiday dedicated to paying lip-service to a shallow love of Hallmark cards and shitty little pink heart decorations.

But none of that is love though. Love is the force in a mother’s heart keeping her going as she pushes out a child, desperate to meet them for the first time. Love is the force that drives parents to put themselves between danger and their offspring. Love is what soothes and nurtures a child as they grow, it’s that look in your child’s eyes that feels like a benediction when they look at you. Love is the force that makes children give up on their hopes and dreams to take care of elderly parents, it’s the force that causes people to uproot their entire lives and move across the world to be with that one person. It’s the force that drives people to take bullets for those they love, to recover from the most incredibly awful injuries to stay with those they love, and to keep on going even though sickness makes life a misery. Love can make a person cling on to life though they barely have anything left, and follow a loved one to the grave.

Love, real love, is far from being easy or cheap. A million Hallmark cards with verses proclaiming to epitomize feelings and love cannot be but the barest drop in the ocean compared with any love felt by a human being.

And that’s why I won’t mess with love, that’s my biggest reason why I won’t help with that kind of magic actually. For love is as terrible as she is beautiful. Love sinks ships, causes armies to march, and can even bring down empires. Love is one of the most powerful forces on this earth, and who am *I* to stand in the face of that?

"We've got ya love right here, bitches!"  - Odysseus

“We’ve got ya love right here, bitches!”
– Odysseus

The SATOR Square in Northern Europe

The SATOR Square in Northern Europe

I enjoy studying apotropaic magic – especially when that magic involves the use of shoes. I like trying to uncover the history and rationale behind it, and I especially like to ‘repurpose’ the old charms.

Recently, I’ve been looking at the use of the SATOR square in the Viking Age. For those of you that haven’t already come across this lovely piece of apotropaic (possibly) magic, the SATOR square is pre-Christian in origin, and is a 5×5 square made up of the word and anagram ‘SATOR’. Kinda like this:

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

As you can see, the square renders the words readable both left to right, horizontally and vertically, and in reverse. The words SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA, ROTAS are Latin, and are most easily translated as meaning ‘The sower Arepo holds the wheels at work”. Now that’s interesting in of itself, but it’s the charm’s popularity in Northern Europe that *really* interests me. Heck, there are even examples of it being rendered in runes (albeit with misspellings that potentially suggest errors from oral transmission). But misspellings not withstanding, I think there’s a good argument to be made that the operation of the SATOR square was considered to have had enough similarities with how Germanic magical traditions were considered to have worked for it to have been adopted as widely as it was. Now I’m not claiming that everyone was cracking out the odd SATOR square as the fancy came upon them, or that it was *common* by any stretch of the imagination. After all, the vast majority of archaeological finds are non-magical in nature, and we are talking about a subset of a subset here. But it’s also a subset of a subset that was found in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, and which continued to be used in Norwegian and Danish black magic as late as the 19th century.

sator runic

Example of runic SATOR from Gotland with spelling mistake. Instead of ‘Tenet’, here is written ‘Teneth’.

Typically, the SATOR square was used in blessings, for both general protection and more specific protective uses (e.g. protection against lightning, fire, sickness etc). Often, the SATOR charm was an addition to formula or other charm, but even when it was the only charm to be found, I believe it was likely used in conjunction with a spoken/sung/chanted formula or galdor expressing a clearer intent.

When we look at magic from the various Germanic cultures, there are threads of commonality that can be perceived. I believe that one of those threads is that there were temporary forms of magic and long-lasting forms of magic. Magic that would eventually permanently alter what a person had to work with in the future by laying down repeated layers over a period of time. I believe evidence of these long-lasting, more permanent forms of magic can be found in artifacts such as the antler tablet weaving tablet from Lund that wished the weaver’s weeping to ‘Sigvor’s Ingimar’, or the failed love charm of Egil’s saga that only succeeded in making the target sick until it was destroyed. These were magics that involved repeated action, or some form of charm that worked continuously in the background until destroyed.

sator - not really

Tablet-weaving tablet in antler with curse inscription: “Sigvor’s Ingvar may have my bad luck” – From Viking Answer Lady

This is where I think the SATOR square comes in.

Maybe ‘the sower Arepo’ not only ‘holds the wheels at work’, but also keeps the effects of a charm or formula going as well, thus enabling or ensuring that the charm would be continuous and therefore create long-lasting effects?

Furthermore, it’s hard to ignore the symbolism and cultural resonance the imagery of wheels would have had in cultures in which ‘happening’ and ‘being’ were strongly connected with this idea of ‘turning’. If ‘what is now’ is something that is being turned, and you require your intent to be continuously ‘turned’ in order to affect what a person has to work with in the future, then a charm that talks of a sower (one who sows seeds, which may here be viewed as ‘layers’) keeping ‘the wheels at work’ makes a lot of sense.

In terms of modern usage, I haven’t had cause yet to experiment with the SATOR square – I don’t do a whole lot of magic that’s intended to have long lasting consequences, I tend to lean more on the ‘temporary effects’ end of the spectrum. However, if I were to use it, I would use it in addition to another charm or working, as a way of ‘fixing’ the charm to ensure it remains working in perpetuity. Obviously lacking in practical experience here, I’m curious to read about the experiences of others who have used the SATOR square.

If anyone is interested in reading more about the SATOR square, and especially about its use in Northern Europe, I’d recommend checking out Runic Amulets and Magic Objects by Mindy MacLeod and Bernard Mees