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.

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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.

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Living Necromancy: Prayer

While I spent some time mulling over which place this post would best fit, ultimately in discussing necromantic matters, prayer is not so much a “useful necromantic tool” rather the foundation and basis of the praxis itself and as such I figured it would be appropriate to inaugurate  its my introduction into a lived necromantic practice. While I can’t presume to cover the centuries of ink and spoken wisdom about prayer across time, culture, and place, what I can talk about is my approach to prayer and why it is so integral to my lived experience as a gentleman necromancer. As a caveat, while I do aim to be as broad as possible in my analysis, ultimately much of my practice owes to my catholic background and as such will be reflective of that continuum of religious expression and belief. I acknowledge that prayer isn’t exclusive in its domain and has been practiced since the dawn of human religious expression, so I encourage those who have been harmed by institutional religions to be patient with me here.

At its most basic, prayer is a form of communication, an application of the mind, body, and spirit to that of the divine however one may choose to perceive it. It is a universal expression of the human drive to seek connection, to communicate, and to have our beings likewise known by others apart from or in proximity to ourselves. This, I think, is fundamental as all prayer aims to establish some rapport or relationality with forces that are perceived as external to the self. For me specifically, it is the elevation of my mind, spirit, and soul with other divine beings either in supplication or dialogue as a way to elevate my spirits and the spirits of those around me. By engaging in conscious, and continual processes of prayer I ensure that I have an established relationship with God and the powers whom I serve and whom are under my employ.

When discussing prayer, one frequently may be intimidated by the many techniques that may be available to them – I’ve found this especially true in individuals who convert from one religious tradition to another or take up a magical practice while coming from a previously non-religious background. In many occult communities, many are impressed by the technical terms of “invocation” or “evocation” and even “exorcism” while forgetting – or possibly avoiding – the reality that all these themselves are forms of prayer. In chapter twenty of the Rule of Benedict, however, I find the advice of the famed founder of Western monasticism best reflects the attitude required for prayer:  “If we want to ask a favor of any person of power, we presume not to approach but with humility and respect.  How much more ought we to address ourselves to the Lord and God of all things with a humble and entire devotion?  We are not to imagine that our prayers shall be heard because we use many words, but because the heart is pure and the spirit penitent.” This will become increasingly important to consider as a foundation of spiritual relationality and establishing relationships with the spirits as well as a personally therapeutic practice of self-knowledge or gnosis.

In Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians, the early Christian community is advised to “pray unceasingly” (I Thess. 5: 16-18), a sentiment so important that it is found in various different forms across religious traditions, and so transformative that it couldn’t even escape an iteration by the mystic and occultist Aleister Crowley who admonishes us to, “inflame thyself in prayer.” While the object of this type of prayer may vary, this type of prayer is what is frequently called by the technical term latria meaning adoration, naturally in the Christian traditions being directed toward God alone or the Trinity. It is a form of prayer that is meant to connect the faithful into closer relationship with Godhead, though is not limited to that tradition conceptually as it may also find cognates with the Vedic concept of bhakti, meaning variously “attachment”, “participation”, “fondness for”, “homage”, “faith”, “love”, or “devotion” toward one’s vision of the ultimate expression of the divine.

For my personal practice, the constant practice in which I engage to “pray unceasingly” with the divine is one that owes its prominence to my childhood proximity of the Benedictine Order called the divine office. The Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours was first formulated in one form or another by the early monastic communities in northern Africa – likely the Scetes desert of Egypt – which was then brought into Europe through the influential rise of monasticism by Saint Benedict. With the divine office certain prayers to be recited at fixed hours of the day or night by priests, religious, or clerics, and, in general, by all those obliged by their vocation to fulfill this duty. Much of the language and even formulation of prayers used in the grimoire practices owe their expression to familiarity with the divine office. In the formulation I practice, prayer in the form of contemplative reading of Psalms and other prayers at fixed times helps to keep my mind in constant devotion to God as well as establishes a contemplative element which fortifies my mind by reflection on the prayers and themes of the day.

Personal prayer, outside of rigid formulaic approaches, is also vital and becomes a form of communication with the powers with whom one interfaces. Those who may be inspired to work with a particular saint or holy figure, even one’s ancestors, engage in this form of prayer technically termed dulia and is a theological term signifying the honor paid to the saints, inclusive in my estimation the Communion of Saints understood to be any of the baptized dead, but can be extended to one’s non-Christian and pre-Christian dead. In his Geosophia, Jake Stratton-Kent borrows a Spanish term from Latin American practices that also fit this description, mis labores, meaning “my labors” and which he uses broadly to be inclusive of his goetic and necromantic work in discussing the cycle or prayers, offerings, devotion, and maintenance of his sacred spaces. At its most basic it’s simple verbal communication, material offerings such as food and drink, lighting candles, and so forth; at its most intricate it can include the making and maintenance of pacts.

The beautiful aspect for me of the divine office is that frequently aspects of dulia find their way into the regular office in the form of prayers to specific saints such as my patron Saint Cyprian of Antioch on a daily basis or on days commemorating other saints, including the Virgin Mary; the dead, and specifically in my case the spirits and divine figures with whom I interface. In Scot’s Discoverie we also see an element of this type of practice in his spell to obtain a familiar spirit from a dying person for utilizing the deceased’s spirit as a psychopomp in exchange for praying for the repose of the dead’s soul. In Kardecian Spiritism there are whole litanies that are also prayed during séance that are offered to God, the guardian spirits of individuals and the community, as well as specific spirits – incarnate and discarnate – that have found their way into numerous New World African diasporic traditions which is better left to discourse by members of those respective traditions.

Apart from the functional elements of prayer as a means of obtaining one’s desires directly or through the intercession of various divine powers, it also has a fundamental therapeutic value as mentioned in my series on miasma in that it helps to raise our consciousness toward the divine, purifying our complexes, and acts as a vanguard against inimical energies and powers. This is nowhere evidenced as clearly in Western practice as in the writings of the Desert Fathers who developed over the centuries a complex theological and psychological analysis of devotion which has a direct relationship to late antique neoplatonic philosophy and thus the pre-Christian religious precursors to our contemporary practitioners of western esotericism and can provide a language for contemporary occultists in “rediscovering” or “reconstructing” an archaic model of embodied religious and magical praxis.

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A Michaelmas Miscellany

A celebration of one of the principal angels revered within Christianity, Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, marks the fixed date for the feast otherwise associated with Autumn Equinox or the harvest in the northern hemisphere. In scripture, the archangel Michael is described as protector of Israel and leader of the armies of God, having four offices: battle against Satan and the forces of evil; redemption of the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death; to champion the people of God; and bring souls to judgement. In addition to being my name-day celebration, the Saint Michael and his feast are important in the history of esotericism.

Michael is mentioned three times by name in the Hebrew Scriptures, all in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 10:13-21 and Daniel 12:1), and two times in the New Testament (Book of Revelation 12:7-9,  Epistle of Jude 1:9) with mention of an “archangel” in Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians (4:16) often being taken as a reference to the mighty prince of the heavenly host heralding the second coming of the Christ. In Islam, Michael (Mikhail) is mentioned alongside Gabriel (Jibrail) in the Quran and is believed to be among the angelic visitors who visited the patriarch Abraham. Owing to his popularity in the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the intercession of the archangel is attested at a very early date in religio-magical writings and image magic.

In the Greek magical papyri (PGM II.229-30) found in the Wessely collection, a fourth century spell invokes Michael along with other angels for the purposes of bringing success and good fortune:

“I invoke you, O god almighty, who is above every ruler and authority and lordship and every name that is named, who is enthroned above the cherubim before you, through our lord Jesus Christ, the beloved child. Send [out] to me, O master, your holy archangels, who stand opposite your holy altar and are appointed for your holy services, Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Saruel, Raguel, Nuriel, Anael. And let them accompany me today, during the hours of day and night, and grant me victories, favor, good luck with N., success with all people, small and great…”

Additionally, he is called upon in another spell for the purposes of revelatory magic (PGM VII. 255-59) where he appears alongside Osiris, and in another spell for the purposes of erotic magic and obtaining a lover (PGM VII. 593-619).

The  cult of Saint Michael among the early Christians is curious for many reasons, the primary reason being that he was not, like all other saints, a dead human  being who had gone to heaven, but an angel, created before the human race had  come into existence. Although revered for his role in aiding the Christian community, unlike other military martyrs such as St. George, St. Theodore, and St. Demetrius, Michael’s role was primarily at this period for healing the sick with his first major cult centers being in Phrygia in the west central part of Anatolia where he quickly took on many of the aspects associated with the indigenous deities of that area, in particular Sabazios, frequently depicted wearing the robes of an imperial official or armor and sometimes carrying a sword or riding upon horseback.

By the fifth century, Michael’s position in the celestial hierarchy begins to materialize within Christianity, with pseduo-Dionysius the Areopagite writing, “Michael is called Lord of the people of Judah, and other Angels are assigned to other peoples. For the Most High established the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the Angels of God.” (Celestial Hierarchy. IX) By the fifteenth century, Aquinas lays out the demarcation of the celestial world in his Summa Theologica, writing of Saint Michael, “Thus the guardianship of the human race belongs to the order of “Principalities,” or perhaps to the “Archangels,” whom we call the angel princes. Hence, Michael, whom we call an archangel, is also styled “one of the princes” (Daniel 10:13). Moreover all corporeal creatures are guarded by the “Virtues”; and likewise the demons by the “Powers,” and the good spirits by the “Principalities,” according to Gregory’s opinion (Hom. xxxiv in Ev.).” (ST. I.113)

During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael, was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation well through the nineteenth century with many minor feasts and mentions owing to his intercession. In Western Christianity, many traditions emerged between Michaelmas and the first harvest festivals. In the British Isles processions were not uncommonly held in connection with the saint, in Scotland horse races were held owing to the saint’s patronage over the animal, various foods such as goose, honey, and breads were also offered and consumed. In related folklore, it is also on Michaelmas that the last blackberries may be consumed as it was popularly believed that when St. Michael expelled Lucifer, the devil, from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush causing him to curse the plant and urinate upon it.

In the grimoires, Michael finds himself occupying a range of responsibilities, much like in his popular worship. In pseudo-D’Abano’s Heptameron, or, Magical Elements Michael appears as the “Angel of the Lords day, [with] his Sigil, Planet, the Signe of the Planet, and the name of the fourth heaven.” He naturally also finds his name occupying many important ritual objects such as the magical ring of Solomon associated with the Lesser Key of Solomon and related texts; the triangle of art, also described; and many other places. He is also the purported angel who inspired or dictated numerous texts apocryphally related to the biblical patriarch Solomon, establishing his role as integral to the mythological corpus of many of the grimoires, but also in the popular consciousness of ceremonial magic over time.

For our own purposes, devotion to the archangel Michael is fortunately fairly well established so working with him shouldn’t pose much in the way of difficulties. Personally, owing to my religion of origin, I’ve found working with him using the sacramental associations and prayers found in Catholicism to be most direct. Naturally, this may require some modifications if one isn’t Christian or adherent of one of the Abrahamic faiths. When calling upon Saint Michael, I typically burn a red candle or candle bearing his image frequently called a novena candle and reciting the chaplet associated with him:

Saint Michael the Archangel – Act of Consecration

Saint Michael the Archangel, invincible prince of the angelic hosts and glorious protector of the universal Church, I greet you and praise you for that splendor with which God has adorned you so richly. I thank God for the great graces he has bestowed upon you, especially to remain faithful when Lucifer and his followers rebelled, and to battle victoriously for the honor of God and the divinity of the Son of Man.

Saint Michael, I consecrate to you my soul and body. I choose you as my patron and protector and entrust the salvation of my soul to your care. Be the guardian of my obligation as a child of God and of the Catholic Church as again I renounce Satan, his works and pomps. Assist me by your powerful intercession in the fulfillment of these sacred promises, so that imitating your courage and loyalty to God, and trusting in your kind help and protection, I may be victorious over the enemies of my soul and be united with God in heaven forever. Amen.

The Chaplet of St. Michael

A sincere Act of Contrition

  1. O God, come to my assistance
  2. O Lord, make haste to help me. 

Glory be to the Father, etc. 

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim, may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity. Amen.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s 

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim, may the Lord vouchsafe to grant us grace to leave the ways of wickedness to run in the paths of Christian perfection. Amen.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary ‘s 

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones, may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility. Amen.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s 

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominions, may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and subdue our unruly passions. Amen

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers, may the Lord

vouchchsafe to protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil. Amen.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s 

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues, may the Lord preserve us from evil and suffer us not to fall into temptation. Amen.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities, may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s 

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels, may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works, in order that we gain the glory of Paradise. Amen.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s 

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels, may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted hereafter to eternal glory. Amen.

1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s 

1 Our Father In honor of St. Michael.

1 Our Father In honor of St. Gabriel.

1 Our Father In honor of St. Raphael.

1 Our Father In honor of our Guardian Angel.

O glorious Prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King, and our admirable conductor, thou who dost shine with excellence and superhuman virtue, vouchsafe to deliver us from all evil, who turn to thee with confidence, and enable us by thy gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

  1. Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ
  2. That we may be made worthy of His promises. 

Almighty and Everlasting God, who by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, hast appointed the most glorious Archangel, St. Michael, Prince of Thy Church, make us worthy, we beseech Thee, to be delivered from all our enemies that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into the august presence of Thy Divine Majesty. This we beg through the merits of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

PRAYER TO SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL 

O glorious Prince of the heavenly host, Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the fearful warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come thou to the assistance of men, whom Almighty God created immortal, making them in His own image and likeness and redeeming them at a great price from the tyranny of Satan. Fight this day the battle of the Lord with the legions of holy Angels, even as of old thou didst fight against Lucifer, the leader of the proud spirits and all his rebel angels, who were powerless to stand against thee, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that apostate angel, transformed into an angel of darkness who still creeps about the earth to encompass our ruin, was cast headlong into the abyss together with his followers. But behold, that first enemy of mankind, and a murderer from the beginning, has regained his confidence. Changing himself into an angel of light, he goes about with the whole multitude of the wicked spirits to invade the earth and blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, to plunder, to slay and to consign to eternal damnation the souls that have been destined for a crown of everlasting life. This wicked serpent, like an unclean torrent, pours into men of depraved minds and corrupt hearts the poison of his malice, the spirit of lying, impiety and blasphemy, and the deadly breath of impurity and every form of vice and iniquity. These crafty enemies of mankind have filled to overflowing with gall and wormwood the Church, which is the Bride of the Lamb without spot; they have laid profane hands upon her most sacred treasures. Make haste, therefore, O invincible Prince, to help the people of God against the inroads of the lost spirits and grant us the victory. Amen.

If one is so inspired, in place of the act of consecration, one may use the following invocation which I use during the morning prayer of the divine office:

“We conjure and confirm upon you, ye strong and holy angels of God, in the name Adonai, Eye, Eya, which is he who was, and is, and is to come, Eye, Eye, Abray; And in the name Shaddai, Qodesh, Qodesh, sitting on high upon the cherubim; and by the great name of God himself, strong and powerful, who is exalted above all the heavens; Eye, Saraye, who created the world, the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that in them is, in the first day, and sealed them with his holy name Phaa; And by the name of the angels who rule in the fourth heaven, and serve before the most mighty Salamia, an angel great and honorable; And by the name of his star, which is Sol, and by his sign, and by the immense name of the living God, and by all the names aforesaid, we conjure thee, Michael, O great angel! who art chief ruler of this day; And by the name Adonai, the God of Israel, we conjure thee, O Michael! That thou labor for us, and fulfill all our petitions according to our will and desire in our cause and activities.”

While there is much more that could be said surrounding Saint Michael, it is my hope that this miscellany of devotions inspire an increase in devotion to one of the most helpful and protective beings in Western esotericism. Through his powerful intercession, I’ve seen miraculous protection against very real and spiritual dangers as well as the renewal of health against insurmountable odds. He is also among the most readily approached angels in my experience, having the best interest of people of conscience in mind and willing to come whenever called upon with faithful devotion regardless of religion.

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Product Review of Sphere & Sundry: Asclepius

Born to a human mother and son of the god Apollo, Asclepius was a hero and patron of the arts of medicine among the Ancient Greeks. While not as well known as other members of the Hellenic pantheon, Asclepius was vital in the traditional healing practices of the Ancient Greek world which combined ritual purification, mantic arts, and careful application of medical skill to heal those who would be healed. Using the same care of ritual, astrological calculation, and carefully selected materia magica, Sphere & Sundry brings us a series of powerful products which recently I had the opportunity to explore and would highly recommend to anyone.

Recently while gallivanting about town I had the unfortunate opportunity to fall down and injure myself causing severe hematoma as well as excruciating bruising to my ribs which made it difficult for me to sleep with any degree of comfort. As I had recently acquired a care package from Sphere & Sundry which included the line of Asclepius products, I decided to use the opportunity to give them a test drive and was not only astounded by the clear instructions for working the products as given in the package, but also by the remarkable efficacy of the products themselves.

I began with a cleansing bath using the Ritual Salt of Asclepius combined with my own mixture of natron, a mineral salt found in dried lake beds, consisting of hydrated sodium carbonate which was believed by the ancient Egyptians to have healing and protective properties as well as being the medium used in desiccating the embalmed dead as part of the process of mummification. This can easily be made at home by combining one part sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) with one part sodium chloride (kosher or table salt) and heating it in a deep sauce pan until boiling and then heating it until it becomes a thick paste which can then be spread on a baking tin and baked in the oven at 300-325°F (149-163°C) until dry.  By adding the essence of the salt of Asclepius to the cup of natron, I was able to have enough of the salt to take a soothing bath.

Following my bath, I robed myself in white and made offerings of candles, water, a cooked chicken, and burned incense to Asclepius in the form Sphere & Sundry’s Asclepius Incense blend. The blend has a beautiful aroma which isn’t overpowering at all, but is very pleasing owing to the combination of high quality herbal ingredients. I anointed myself with the equally well-crafted Asclepius Oil on the afflicted area as well as temples, palms, and feet. While praying the Orphic Hymn to Asclepius, I could feel the energy in at the shrine become significantly ”brighter’ while m’ while my body began to feel comfortably heavier signifying to me that it was time to enter into a dream incubation.

Before laying down, I sprayed my pillow and sheets with the accompanying Sphere & Sundry Water of Asclepius and bound a petition to the god with my black of Isis to my right hand. As I slept, I experienced a profound series of dreams which led me down a deep cavern where I found a well and was greeted, not by the god, but by my own patron saint Cyprian of Antioch where we discussed matters of magical healing and the creation of a magical ring which can be used for healing others by touching the engraved gemstone under the tongue of the afflicted. More will be written on this in a separate piece, but suffice to say it was miraculous.

When I woke up, I returned to the shrine I had erected and offered more incense to Asclepius and noticed that the bruise I had sustained had turned from deep purple-blue to a pale yellow and that the pain in my ribs which had prevented me from sleeping and, well, doing much of anything was so significantly diminished to the point that it was almost unnoticeable and had completely vanished the following day. As fate and synchronicity would also have it, the next day while I was at my tarot slinging gig where I work on Saturdays I ran into a friend who does healing work and asked if I would help her at a Pagan event later this Autumn where she plans on hosting her Asclepius healing shrine.

As you can tell, I’m definitely impressed with Sphere & Sundry’s Asclepius series. The quality in terms of ingredients, calculation, and magical efficacy cannot be overstated. While definitely on the pricier end, the products are definitely affordable and the care and high quality definitely outweighs the cost. On a scale of five skulls, I definitely give Sphere & Sundry’s Asclepius five out of five skulls from the gentleman necromancer.

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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. Weekly readings are now at $15.00, monthly readings can be purchased for $30.00, and general readings start at $25.00. You will receive a photo of the spread along with an e-mail evaluation.

Nine Holy Nights, the First

Tomorrow we start the first of nine nights leading up to the feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch which takes the form of a novena honoring and praising the saint. The term novena comes from the Latin “novem,” meaning “nine,” a novena is nine days’ private or public devotion in the Catholic Church for thanksgiving or the request for particular graces. Owing to the saint’s popularity in Iberian piety as well as sorcery, it should be unsurprising that his devotion would take on a particularly catholic flavor or flavor familiar with adherents of the Roman Catholic Church. While no longer officially recognized in the calendar of saints according to the Roman use, there exist many possible novenas one may use for honoring the sorcerer-saint.

While traditionally a novena is accompanied by lighting a candle, typically a tall glass-encased candle bearing the image of the particular saint, this isn’t as strictly necessary as the mindfulness of prayer and devotion. Since this doesn’t necessarily appeal to the aesthetic and magical sensibilities of the majority of practitioners, at the bare minimum one should prepare a clean surface with a white, red, or purple cloth; have a purple or red seven-day candle – in absence of this, a tall taper divided into nine sections can work; an image of the saint such as a statue or prayer card, and a glass of water. If one is able to burn incense, all purpose ecclesiastical incense is acceptable such as pontifical blends or simply frankincense and myrrh.

After the shrine is arranged, take a moment to sit and meditate on what you hope to obtain through the intercession of the saint. In the biblical account from Acts of the Apostles, Mary and the Apostles prayed from the period of Jesus’ Ascension to the Pentecost, a period of nine days, awaiting his coming in glory. If you’re not acquainted with Saint Cyprian, one can use this as a model of connecting with the saint connecting it with a simple petition for a spiritual grace such as the fruits of the Holy Spirit as found in the account form Galations (5:22 – 23), “[The] fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Once you feel centered and focused, the following prayer adapted from multiple sources online and offline may then be said after you light the candle and place some incense in a safe burner:

Prayer to Saint Cyprian

St. Cyprian, patron of Sorcerers and Magicians, I beseech you that you preserve me from all evil intents, arts, and perfidies. May they be full of confusion, those who attempt against my life. May my enemies be confused and scattered to the winds.

Guard my vision and my thoughts that I may understand the secret doctrines without error. Assist me to grow in power and wisdom that I may serve the good of mankind.

Grant me the power to intervene on behalf of those that come to me for help. Assist me in serving those who are bound by hexes, bewitching, and possessed of evil, so that the rabid wolf shall have dominion over them no longer.

After this, offer three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys, and one Glory Be:

Our Father (x3)

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary (x3)

Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

After you’ve said the prayers, you may meditate on the connection you wish to form with the saint, speaking to him as one would pray to one’s ancestors or the powers one already serves. If one is using the possible model of structuring a focus on the saint in accordance to scriptural narrative as I mentioned above, maybe reading the account of Saint Cyprian’s life and meditating on how he exemplified the fruit of love throughout his narrative and how that may apply to your own pursuit of desiring to love and be loved, the next day focusing on his joy and your own desires for joy, the third day focusing on peace, and so forth.

When you are done meditating on these mysteries and communing with the saint, you may blow out the candle or let it burn through the first notch and offer your thanksgiving for the opportunity to have spent time absorbed in his mysteries. Leave the glass of water on the shrine overnight if possible and in the morning pour it out onto the ground or into a potted plant. If this isn’t possible, respectfully pour it into the sink and clean it so it may be filled again in the evening where you repeat the same battery of prayers, asking him to fulfill your requests or simply meditate on his life.

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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. Weekly readings are now at $15.00, monthly readings can be purchased for $30.00, and general readings start at $25.00. You will receive a photo of the spread along with an e-mail evaluation.

Nine Holy Nights of Saint Cyprian

“Thou wast converted from the art of sorcery, O divinely wise one,
to the knowledge of God, and wast manifested to the world as a
most wise physician, granting healing to those who honor thee, O
Cyprian together with Justina. With her, then, entreat
the Master, the Lover of mankind, that He may save our souls.”

-Kontakion, Tone 1: Saint Cyprian and Justina, martyrs

According to pious legend, during the reign of Trajan Decius there lived in Antioch, near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey a renowned sorcerer by the name of Cyprian. While there are some disagreements about where he was born, the golden legend tells of his childhood where he was dedicated to the service of Apollo, at the age of seven given over to the magi to study sorcery, learned to control storms at the base of Mount Olympus, mastered necromancy among the graves of Sparta, and incantations in Memphis before settling in Antioch to begin his career.

By now the name of Saint Cyprian has become well-known among occultists and his devotion as a renegade intercessor and study of the texts and traditions related to him are experiencing something of a renaissance. I was first exposed to Cyprian through a set of curious circumstances around 2005 when I was doing research on the grimoires for a series of classes I taught at a local occult store. While it was only in passing, the idea of a sorcerer-saint was something that fascinated me and sent me down a rabbit hole researching his legends and making a number of notes for future personal study which unfortunately went unfulfilled due to my already busy academic schedule.

At the same time as Cyprian had begun his work in Antioch, there lived a young woman by the name of Justina, born of pagan parents, accepted the gospel after hearing the words of a deacon who was preaching in the marketplace and converted to Christianity eventually preaching to her parents as well who also converted. She persevered in her newfound faith and became very active in the Christian community in Antioch dedicating herself to fervent prayer, swearing virginity and chastity, and engaging in frequent fasting and great abstinence. In spite of her great physical beauty, Justina labored hard to exemplify the virtues of faith, hope, and charity which caused her to be viewed with admiration and lust by a wealthy man in Antioch by the name of Aglaias.

By the time I had completed my college career at my family’s alma mater, I had already made advances in my own magical studies: I was a dedicated student of the grimoire tradition, had undertaken initiations in the local O.T.O. encampments, and was on the track toward taking holy orders in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. Through a series of successful workings both angelic and diabolical, I was able to quickly find employment in Seattle and moved into my first studio within weeks of temporarily moving back in with my parents following college. I was excited, and once again Cyprian appeared in my life, encouraging me to go forth and satiate my lust for hidden wisdom.

Making careful note of where Justina would travel, Aglaias resolved to seduce her. At every turn however, Justina spurned his advances and continued on her way. Unaccustomed to being spurned, Aglaias sought out the aid of Cyprian, promising to fulfill his desire and set to work with the aid of the many devils under his control to cause Justina to fall in love with his friend and patron. Calling upon the aid of the demons of lust and fornication, Cyprian’s demons entered the house of Justina only to be turned away by the pious prayers of Justina over which they had now power and were sent away.

Growing up in a Catholic family, the lives of the saints have always been inspirational to me. Although I left the church at a very young age, disappointed in the many inconsistencies in theology and also realizing that my personal views on human sexuality put me at odds with the doctrines of the church, I came into occultism as a way of trying to “prove” to myself that there really was something out there. In many ways, it was precisely because of the occult that I overcame my own pessimism and unwarranted skepticism, instead coming to see beauty in a world that has become seemingly disenchanted. I fell in love with the writings of Aleister Crowley and his libertine philosophy of Thelema and I continued to expand my studies under the supervision of a few local occultists. I had it good and still do, but there was something that wasn’t quite right.

Disappointed, Cyprian took all his books of magic and went to the local bishop in Antioch. Falling to the feet of the holy man, he entreated him to have mercy on him and to give him holy baptism. At first, Cyprian was refused as the bishop knew him to be a skillful sorcerer and feared that Cyprian had devised some trick to assault the church and faithful. Remorseful and even more humiliated than before, the sorcerer confessed his sins to the bishop who, seeing the pain and contrition within his heart, absolved him and began instructing Cyprian in the faith of the apostles and teachings of Christ.

While I had made many advancements in my studies, I also suffered immensely from the a feeling of insufficiency in my heart and soul. While outwardly everything in my life was what I could have wanted in terms of having a comfortable life, I was overcome by a growing cynicism through my own hubris. Everything began feeling like a lie because I was unable to allow myself to let others know me beyond the persona I had built, which made me feel unrelatable even to the spirits I conjured whom I had started to believe were merely projections of my unconscious mind. By chance one evening I found myself in a church crying and was embraced by someone I had met at a bar a few weeks earlier. We became friends and I began attending services and that spring was received into a Christian communion that taught me how to open up to God.

Following his absolution, Cyprian spent the next many weeks in prayer, fasting, and acts of repentance. One Sunday he heard the liturgy of the word of God with great joy standing among the believers whom he once mocked. When the deacon commanded the catechumens to depart, Cyprian refused recalling the grace he felt when he first repented and the power of faith as exemplified by Justina when she overcame his wiles and the wiles of the Devil. The deacon related this faith to the bishop who baptized Cyprian that day in the name of the holy trinity.

It’s difficult to relate, really, what it was like to grow in faith. Despite being well informed in comparative religion as well as a diverse range of occult practices, There hadn’t been a moment in my life that I could say I ever “believed” in anything, much less myself. Slowly, I began picking up the missing pieces I never really learned through my own unwarranted pride and relative privileges. I saw the teachings of the Christ not as some historical archetype reaching through the centuries, but saw it in the lives of the living body of the man-god as exemplified by the faithful. Like most people, I like to consider myself a rational being but seeing the power of faith, hope, and love even in the least of experiences I re-remembered a power that I had only read about in the grimoires and one that lives to this day among adherents of living traditions, unbounded by the rigid formalism of the enlightenment cult of reason.

Hearing of Cyprian’s conversion, Justina was overwhelmed and performed many acts of piety which, in turn, inspired many more people into the faith. Cyprian himself, at first reproached by his former client, also won Aglaias to the faith. Within a short period of time Cyprian himself was accepted into the ranks of the church: first as a reader, then some weeks later a subdeacon, then a deacon, and within a year he was ordained into the holy priesthood. Although he had changed his life and rejoiced in his service to Christ, his struggles began to increase as a result of the seeds of the sins he had committed prior to his conversion. Many, like Aglaias, began murmuring about Cyprian’s betrayal of his pagan past and how he and Justina were threats to the community in Antioch.

My time in the community where I had my “amazing grace” experience began to grow short. Though I met many there whom I still love to this day, some individuals heard of my own history as an occultist and remained cautious of me due to my continued insistence on identifying as a gnostic, at least in terms of how I had come to know the nature of salvation for myself. I was maligned and set off myself into a period of reflection. I ceased involvement with esoteric organizations, turning inward to analyze what had happened to myself. I “believed”, I still went to church, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice what I had learned secretly and give up my own dedication to the occult. I reached out to a local mission community of Christian gnostics and eventually sought out to pursue their seminary program toward the priesthood. I was conditionally consecrated a deacon and given my own mission community, and to this day am in formation.

Brought before the magistrates, Cyprian and Justina were tortured for subversion against the state and the idolatries of the people. The governor condemned them to death by beheading, unable to shake them into renouncing their faith. As they were brought to the place of the execution, Cyprian requested time to pray as he was fearful of the thought of seeing his companion Justina beheaded first. Seeing this fear, the magistrate ordered her to die first which she did joyfully in submission to her heavenly bridegroom followed next by Cyprian. Seeing the peaceful but innocent deaths of this formidable pair, a soldier by the name of Theoctistus was inspired to convert to the faith and declared himself Christian, for which he was immediately beheaded, joining them in heaven and throughout history.

The story of Cyprian in many ways has become my own history, my own inspiration, and my own desire to emulate. While I’m naturally a little hesitant of the possibility of martyrdom (who wouldn’t be?!), I see in the dynamic narrative and the multiple narratives and texts attributed to the sorcerer saint the all too human magic of the ordinary. By this I mean, I have come to appreciate that miracles do happen and, when done for the benefit of others, we all benefit. Naturally, I haven’t renounced my own sorcerous past and only hope to go further, but to what end? Unlike the mythical Faust, Cyprian wasn’t consumed by his powers and research into the secret arts, rather his mistakes taught him to see the hidden doctrines clearly, with new eyes, and apply them to heal the sick, raise the dead, and comfort the afflicted.

Tomorrow starts what have come to be known as the Nine Holy Nights of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, a novena that has become popular among many occultists from many diverse backgrounds. Some of them Christian, some of them Pagan, some a combination of both. For the next nine days, I hope to share a portion of my observations and reflections of my experience as a “disciple” of the sorcerer saint and how  I feel his devotion influences my life as well as how I feel he is the model par excellence for anyone who genuinely is interested in pursuit of knowledge, supernatural protection, and the arts of interfacing with the world of all that is seen and unseen.

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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. Weekly readings are now at $15.00, monthly readings can be purchased for $30.00, and general readings start at $25.00. You will receive a photo of the spread along with an e-mail evaluation.