Special Offer: Octave of the Assumption

In honor of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, I’ve decided to expand my offering $5.00 three card Tarot or Lenormand readings throughout the octave of her feast.

An octave is the eight-day period during which a feast is celebrated, and includes the actual feast reminding us of the grace of God and holy women and holy men. I dedicate my cards to the care of the Blessed Mother of whose many early titles included “She Who Shows the Way”.

Inquiries can be sent to me at

thegentleman.necromancer@gmail.com

and payments via PayPal to

https://www.paypal.me/gentlenecromancer

or

Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/michaellux

Advertisements

Useful Necromantic Tools: Four Thieves Vinegar

One of the most evocatively named historical concoctions, Four Thieves Vinegar (also called Marseilles vinegar or the Marseilles remedy) has proven itself time and time again to be one of the most useful allies in my magical and necromantic practices. A mixture of wine vinegar and herbs, Four Thieves Vinegar is one of the most powerful cleansing mediums to neutralize energies I’ve found – a vital consideration as whenever one interfaces with the dead as any contact necessarily results in some degree of contamination.

Apocryphally, this vinegar composition comes to us from the early modern period during the height of the Black Death and was used to prevent infection of the illness. The usual narrative concerning the original vinegar is said to come from Marseilles where four thieves were apprehended for breaking into the homes of those dying from plague and succumbing not to the illness, but to the hands of authorities. When brought to trial they were offered leniency in exchange for the recipe they used to prevent becoming ill, which they provided to the local magistrate.

In the Museum of Paris, the following recipe, believed to be the oldest, reads:

Take three pints of strong white wine vinegar, add a handful of each of wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram and sage, fifty cloves, two ounces of campanula roots, two ounces of angelic, rosemary and horehound and three large measures of champhor. Place the mixture in a container for fifteen days, strain and express then bottle. Use by rubbing it on the hands, ears and temples from time to time when approaching a plague victim.

This recipe is indeed very strong and is the one I favor, especially for external applications however multiple other recipes have been created over time, including ones which can be used internally as well as externally.

The ingredients in the older recipe all have very well-attested uses in protective and cleansing magic doubtlessly adding to its efficacy. Wormwood (Artemisia vulgaris) is well known for protecting against ghosts and the hidden ones, meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) historically was believed to help find thieves as well as break curses, marjoram (Origanum majorana) was counted among martial herbs by Agrippa and was used to relieve grief, sage (Salvia officinalis) has a long history in exorcising spirits, and of course garlic (Allium sativam) is well known for protection from evil.

In my personal practice, following heavy interactions with the dead, I draw a bath and add multiple capfuls of Four Thieves Vinegar to the waters while reciting the psalms appointed for the traditional Solomonic bath or, at minimum, Psalm 91. I also make a rinse whenever buying new or used objects to be used ritually. It can also be used to neutralize negative persons by writing their names on butcher paper, placing the slips in a bottle of vinegar, and shaking the bottle thus dissolving them. The versatility is only limited by your imagination.

If you liked this post and would like to support my writing, please consider making a donation to my KoFi pagehttps://ko-fi.com/michaellux

If you are interested in booking an individual reading, please e-mail me at: thegentleman.necromancer@gmail.com.

The Secrets of Joseph of Arimathea

Today the Church commemorates, Joseph of Arimathea, the righteous and secret follower of Christ.

According to all four Gospel accounts, Joseph of Arimathea was a pious Jew and member of the Sanhedrin who was charged with the responsibility of the burial of Jesus following the crucifixion. In Matthew (Matt. 27:57) he is described as a wealthy man, which in later medieval legends would be attributed to his involvement in the tin trade in Roman Europe. According to Mark (Mark 15:43) and Luke (Luke 23:50-56) he was a respected member of the high council who recused himself from participation in Jesus’ trial prior to his crucifixion, and in John (John 19:38) becomes the caretaker of Jesus’ body following the passion, burying him in his own tomb.

Venerated since the early Church, Joseph remains a mysterious but popular figure and is honored in many denominations to this day. Among the Orthodox especially, his act of preparing the body of Christ is commemorated in the Eucharistic liturgy:

The noble Joseph, taking down thy most pure Body from the Tree,wrapped it in clean linen and sweet spices and laid it in a new tomb.But on the third day thou didst rise, O Lord, granting the world great mercy.”

It is perhaps here in this refrain that we may begin to better understand the relevance of his legend and his Central importance as a model of faith for the pious and inspiration for those whose interests may be more esoterically inclined.

By the fourth century, legends surrounding Joseph of Arimathea were expanding, most notably in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate. In Acts, which also includes the first extra-canonical narrative of the Harrowing of Hell, Joseph emerges along with Nicodemus as one of the primary figures of the Jesus movement debating with the Roman and Jewish leadership in Jerusalem and performing miracles.

Characteristic of early Christian narratives, these miracles contained several Eucharistic themes connecting the body of Christ, its entombment, and resurrection in the themes of bread, “Rise up and stand upon your feet, and taste bread, and strengthen your souls, because to-morrow is the Sabbath of the Lord.”

Among contemporary adherents of Wicca and many neopagan religions, today’s feast coincides with the festival of Lughnasadh, also called in Old English “Lammas” or “Loaf Mass”. This festival, commemorating the Gaelic first harvest and the mythic themes from Middle Irish lore surrounding the competitions between the hero Lugh against Crom, contains a kernel of relevant lore connecting Joseph to Britain.

By the Middle Ages, during the height of pilgrimage mania, legends emerged that after the crucifixion Joseph of Arimathea along with a small community traveled to Britain carrying with them the vessel used at the Last Supper and believed to have contained the water and blood which rushed from Jesus’ side when pierced by the centurion’s lance – the Holy Grail.

Though many places purport to be the final location where the Grail had been occulted – among the most notable being Glastonbury – the esoteric themes of death, rebirth, and vivification within the cup of wisdom and the bread of life through secret wisdom and devotion emerge bridging old customs and the new.

On this day, may we commemorate noble Joseph of Arimathea as a model of dedication both to those things which we hold dear on earth as well as within the well of rebirth through knowledge.

Let us pray,

Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathaea with reverence and godly fear did prepare the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and did lay it in his own tomb: Grant, we beseech thee, to us thy faithful people grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

_____________________________________________

If you liked this post and would like to support my writing, please consider making a donation to my KoFi page https://ko-fi.com/michaellux

If you are interested in booking an individual reading, please e-mail me at: thegentleman.necromancer@gmail.com.

An announcement

For those in the Seattle area, I’m now giving readings three days a week at Edge of the Circle Books, Seattle’s resource for paganism and the occult.

I’m now giving Tarot, Lenormand, and traditional Cartomancy readings Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 2PM-8PM.

My rates are as follows:

$20 for a 10 minute reading

$30 for a 15 minute reading

$40 for a 20 minute reading

$50 for a 30 minute reading

I’m also still accepting in person readings at the same rate and for an e-mail based consultation equivalent to a 20 minute reading with write up, I’m charging $35.

If requesting an online reading, please e-mail me at:

thegentleman.necromancer@gmail.com

When I confirm receipt of your inquiry, I can receive PayPal payment at the same address and will process your reading within 72 hours (three days).

I’m also offering New Orleans style Gris-Gris for protection, healing, and love for $20 and Conjure Hands (mojo bags) for $50. Please allow 10 days for receipt of these items for US shipping.

A Balsam for St. Mary, first of the apostles

Today the Church commemorates Mary of Magdala, more commonly known as Mary Magdalene.

While often overlooked in comparison to her other male cohorts, Mary is significant, in part, because she is so prominent in the canonical Christian texts, appearing numerous times in the New Testament and in all four gospels: Mt 27.55-56, 61; 28.1; Mk 15.40-41, 47; 16:1, 9; Lk  8.2; 24.10; Jn 19.25; 20.1, 11, 16, 18. According to the New Testament accounts she was a very close companion, so much so that early Christians and some modern scholars suggest more than a subtextual intimacy between her and Jesus.

Mary’s complexity is bound up in multiple contradictions owing both to biblical exegesis, confusion of identities, popular lore, and esoteric traditions. To some she was a woman possessed by wicked spirits, to others a repentant prostitute, for most a model of repentance, yet for all an ideal of the transforming power of God’s grace.

While most contemporary scholarship has long dispensed with the identification of Mary as the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and have discounted her identification as the reformed sinner which became official by the time of Pope Gregory the Great (540-604), in popular consciousness these images are so intertwined with her devotion so as to seem inseparable.

From the very beginning, Mary’s presence has been an indictment against the short-sightedness of the patriarchal gaze. In the gnostic Gospel of Thomas this results in such a deep tension between her and the Apostle Peter that Jesus is forced to acknowledge in an obliquely misogynistic way that she is just as worthy as the male disciples to enter the kingdom of heaven. This stands equally as true in contemporary Christianity where she has been seen by some as a saint for women’s empowerment.

In medieval Europe, owing to the glosses of Apostolic teachings about Mary, emerge an erotic and mystical tradition of narratives about her wealth, prestige, raw sexuality, and mystical union with Jesus which intertwine pious legend with heretical belief creating a vast tapestry of devotion intersecting all walks of life.

Istam peccatricem feminam nulli dubium est Mariam fuisse Magdalenam,quae prius quidem exstitit famosa peccatrix,sed postea facta est gloriosa praedicatrix” begins Abbot Geoffrey of Vendome’s sermon,”This woman sinner was certainly none other than Mary Magdalene, who had before been a famous sinner, but afterwards was made a glorious preacher.” By the 12th Century the narrative of Mary’s flight from Jerusalem to France had taken root along with the legend of the Holy Grail.

While it cannot be substantively proven that Mary and Jesus were wed or sexually intimate, it’s in this milieu along with the rise of devotion to the Holy Grail and first oral narratives which would later become Arthurian legend that Mary becomes a figure rivaling the Virgin Mother as “New Eve”. Mary’s arrival in southern France, escorted by the pious Knight Adelelme into a cave in Vézelay mirroring in some respects the enthronement of Venus in Abiegnus in Eschenbach’s Parzival.

Although frequently accompanied by a male companion or guard in the narratives of this time, either Maximin or Adelelme, they aren’t mentioned in any of the contemporary literature or legends of engaging in active ministry and are almost afterthoughts to the focus on Mary’s preaching. What makes this curious brings us back into the realms of heresy and hearsay in medieval France in opposition to the Pauline injunction prohibiting women from preaching.

Between 1209 and 1229 in southern France, tensions growing between king and church had erupted into a war against a pietistic movement who called themselves les Bons Chrétiens (“the Good Christians”) but whom history would remember as the Cathars. The Cathars were a surviving Western sect of gnosticism which had taken root in the fertile valleys of southern France whose religious beliefs stood in stark contrast to the Roman Catholic Church and much of the social structure of the medieval world. Many espoused a form of dualism, rejected the sacraments save baptism and end of life confession, but most importantly believed in radical equality between the sexes.

In this atmosphere, the cult of Mary was weaponized by the Church and state in opposition to the Cathars among whom existed many highly effective women religious leaders called the Parfait or “Perfected Ones.” Though the Cathars were eventually suppressed or eliminated in the genocide which would become known as the First Crusade, the establishment of Mary as doctoris officium had become established – a vindication of Mary’s exceptionality in spite of the Pauline injunction against women preaching.

Stepping into speculation, it is not hard to imagine where Mary Magdalene became a model of devotion in Western Esotericism, albeit in a roundabout way. The pious and contemplative image of the penitent Mary in the cave becomes a unitive ground of eternal wisdom analogous to Plato’s cave analogy and demonstrated in her popularity among monastics. The light of her wisdom and devotion drawing us out of the cave as sophia perennis – eternal wisdom uniting the sacred and profane.

Writing in his Confessions, pansophist and mystic Jacob Boehme would invoke the johannine account of the resurrection as the foundation of our own:

Christ says to Mary Magdalen in Joseph’s garden at the Sepulchre, after his resurrection, ‘Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my God and to your God’, as if he would say, I have not now the animal body any more, although I show myself to thee in my form or shape whichI had, because otherwise thou in thy animal body couldst not see me.

Later expounding on this mystery, he continues:

Behold the mystery of the earth : asthat brings forth so must thou bring forth.The earth is not that body which is broughtforth, but is the mother of that body ; as also thy flesh is not the spirit but is themother of the spirit.”

Mary being the first witness to the light of the resurrected Christ, yet still earthly, then sets the stage for the alchemical process of transformation of divine union and alchemical transformation intimated previously in the gnostic Gospel of Thomas. It is also in this careful alembic that we learn an inner mystery of the injunction of “touch me not”, namely observing in prayerful diligence the inner transformation of ourselves within the Grail of Wisdom.

In the 20th Century much has been written both scholarly and in esoteric literature about Mary both contextualizing her role in history and scripture and hyperbolizing her beyond even her presentations in apocryphal literature. Which Mary is Mary, then, becomes just as important as it does in scriptural analysis and, paradoxically, irrelevant as we can walk with her in our own transformations.

Let us pray,

Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

If you liked this post and would like to support my writing, please consider making a donation to my KoFi page https://ko-fi.com/michaellux

If you are interested in booking an individual reading, please e-mail me at: thegentleman.necromancer@gmail.com.

A Discoverie, part two: The Old Religion

In embracing and reconstructing traditional forms of early modern and historical magical practices, invoking “tradition” is fraught with many difficulties.

When examining grimoire literature, many try to adopt the exoticism of a medieval Roman Catholicism which was anything but universal. While this isn’t objectively a bad thing, liturgical history going hand in hand with the grimoires and popular ideas of witchcraft, it is superficial.

Another approach is to attempt to overlay post-Enlightenment lodge style magical practices onto the frameworks of the grimoires and systematize them. Sadly, this often creates a whole new set of problems akin to fitting a square peg into a round hole.

The third most common approach, fraught with more difficulty than the first example is attempting to hybridize existing, closed, initiatory traditions with early modern practices – needless to say, highly problematic if one is an outsider.

A possible fourth way would be to look at the characterization of magic and witchcraft as presented in The Discoverie. At the time of its first publication, Roman Catholicism had already been supplanted by the Church of England as the church of state for some fifty years. Unlike other more dramatic shifts of the continent, the liturgical practices of English Catholics remained little unchanged during the English reformation save for a shift in ecclesiastical polity and political relationships and allegiances.

Clearly more of a forward thinking advocate of the reformation than his peers, Scot’s anti-Catholic bias is less ecclesiastical in its concerns than it was anti-clerical as few faithful were provided access to religious education than what the reformation hoped to establish. This is important as the examples of “popish incredulity” described popularly held folk beliefs by lay individuals:

“I Conjure thee O creature of salt by God, by the God + that liveth, by the true + God, by the holie + God, which by Elizæus the prophet commanded, that thou shouldest be throwne into the water that it thereby might be made whole and sound, that thou salt [here let the preest looke upon the salt]maist be conjured for the health of all beleevers, and that thou be to all that take thee, health both of bodie and soule ;and let all phantasies and wickednesse, or diabolical craft or deceipt, depart from the place whereon it is sprinkled; as also everie uncleane spirit,being conjured by him that judgeth both the quicke and the dead by fier.” (Scot. The Discoverie. Book 15. 27.)

By the time of the writing of The Discoverie, certain elements of church services had been changed, as noted in The First and Second Prayer-Books of Edward VI which would have been in use by Scot’s writing:

[The] most weightye cause of the abolishement of certayne Ceremonies was, that they were so farre abused, partely by the supersticious blyndenes of the rude and unlearned, and partelye by the unsaciable avarice of suche as soughte more theyr owne lucre than the glorye of God… Furthermore, suche shall have no juste cause wyth the Ceremonies reserved, to bee offended: for as those bee taken awaye whiche were moste abused, and dydde burden mennes consciences wythoute any cause: So the other that remaine are retained for a discipline and ordre, which (upon just causes) may be altered and chaunged, and therfore are not to be estemed equal with goddes lawe. And moreover they be neyther darke nor dumme ceremonies, but are so set forth that every man may understande what they dooe meane, and to what use they do serve.”

While these changes may seem to indicate a demystification, the prayer book and polity of the Church of England retained that if one was informed and pious, they could retain some of the practices of the olde religion, which brings us to the “fourth way” of traditional craft.

Strictly speaking from the perspective of an American born and raised Roman Catholic, I can appreciate the exoticism, smell, bells, and ritual of traditional services however, I’m no longer Roman Catholic. Chances are that many who have come to occultism in its various forms are likewise neither Roman Catholic and were born in one of the more plentifully present Protestant traditions which make us the US landscape or, equally likely, grew up in a secular household as is increasingly common.

Taking a cue from the example given the Prayer Book, the first step is to establish one’s connection with the Divine in a way that is understandable. If one grew up in one particular denomination, take some time to examine the devotional practices which were used in those as a way of grounding your practice in lived experience.

This will understandably be difficult for those who experienced trauma at the hands of institutional religion, but can also be healing. It also establishes distance enough to start formulating one’s own universalist, reconstructionist approach. For those who grew up secularly and or have adopted a non-Christian religion, it will also help in historical analyses of cognate practices which brings us to bricolage.

According to French social anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, the artist “shapes the beautiful and useful out of the dump heap of human life.” Lévi-Strauss compared this artistic process to the work of a handyman who solves technical or mechanical problems with whatever materials are available. Some practices and customs have been functionally lost during the Reformation and over time. Some are also no longer relevant. However these practices can reconstructed by many people utilizing what is available from the historical records and supplemented with technology from lived expressions today.

This syncretism does also demand a degree of open-mindedness and dispensing of ideological purity. The cosmology of the grimoires are decidedly Christian and require enough flexibility to interact with the hierarchies in those relative cosmological frameworks. This doesn’t require a conversion experience, but isn’t in itself an impediment. For polytheists or pagans, it can be as simple as approaching another god for assistance as was common historically, or relying on the inherent power of “the words” and actions to make interaction efficacious.

Working from what one knows and what one has to research is valuable. While the grimoires seemingly require often elaborate ritual tools, calculations, and constructions of specifically sized temple spaces, the reality is that there have never been set in stone. We know this from the countless related textual variations of similar rituals as well as material evidence as is retained in adjacent practices such as witchcraft.

If you liked this post and would like to support my writing, please consider making a donation to my KoFi page https://ko-fi.com/michaellux

If you are interested in booking an individual reading, please e-mail me at: thegentleman.necromancer@gmail.com.

A Discoverie, part one: New Tradition.

In the past decade and some change, the revival of interest in historic reconstruction of early modern magical practices has experienced a major growth in critical analysis of the cultures and religious expressions of our occult heritage.

On one level, this has been very positive in encouraging scholastic methodology to supplement contemporary praxis, yet on another level has been met with difficulties owing to a post-enlightenment secularism which separates magic from religion and the difficulties of ideological purism characteristic of a post-reformation, largely Anglophonic, “occulture“.

This is nothing particularly new and more of a feature than a bug in the pedagogy of where we have tended delineate the boundaries of magic from religion which evidence gives us a much more complex analysis. Where do religion and magical practices agree? Where are they separate? And, finally, where do we find witchcraft?

These are important questions which require definitions beyond the scope of this post, but have been asked before, most notably in Reginal Scot’ famous polemical treatise, The Discoverie of Witchcraft published first 1584 and intended as an exposé of early modern witchcraft and criticisms against the perceived excesses of Roman Catholicism in a recently reformed England.

The importance of Scot’s text in this analysis is fourfold: first, the polemic and conclusions reached by Scot affirm the existence of early modern magical practices and struggles with their reality or continuity as many contemporary scholars and practitioners do today; secondly, as a fairly liberal critique presents the same struggles with definitions we share today in a rapidly changing religious environment; third, preserves first and second hand accounts of existing magical practices which fill in the lacunae that exist in the study of lived grimoire magic and witchcraft; and fourthly, might help us move forward in developing new traditional expressions.

In exploring the grimoire genre of magical practice and contemporary witchcraft, The Discoverie is as important as a historical text as it is a useful parallel account to the complexities of our own contexts. Further, it may also help contemporary magic practitioners develop a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between religion and magic without having to resort to spiritual tourism, rather augment their practices through bricolage thereby forging forward without having to resort to spiritual tourism.

If you liked this post and would like to support my writing, please consider making a donation to my KoFi page https://ko-fi.com/michaellux

If you are interested in booking an individual reading, please e-mail me at: thegentleman.necromancer@gmail.com