From Blood Forge Iron

Amidst the rumors of war, remember this: The iron in your blood and the iron in the core of the earth were forged together in the first generation of stars. The currents in the molten iron beneath our feet and its motion with the turning of the earth create the earth’s magnetic field which shapes our heart’s magnetic field and helps to set its rhythm. We are connected with powers far older and stronger than those of the empire or its false god. And the guidance that they offer is as close as the beating of your heart.

Sean Donahue, Faery Priest and Witch

Yesterday several hundred torch-bearing people marched on the main quadrangle of the University of Virginia’s grounds, shouting, ‘You will not replace us,’ and ‘Jew will not replace us,’ and chanting rhetoric of ‘blood and soil’ in an eerie parallel to the rhetoric of ‘Blut und Ehre‘  which became one of the rallying positions of the National Socialist Party in Germany nearly a century past. This latter part, I think, is relevant as a witch and gentleman nigromancer – much of what I consider my art can be considered the work of blood and earth and the exchange between bridging the past and the present.

There is power in blood and there is power in soil. As Kardec writes in his Gospel:

Regenerating worlds serve as transition phases between those of probation and
happiness… [man] is still of flesh and blood, and because of this subject to vicissitudes fromwhich only the completely dematerialized beings are liberated. He still has to suffer tests, although without the pungent anguishes of atonement… But alas! Man is still fallible even in these worlds and the spirit of evil has not completely lost its empire. Not to advance is to fall back, and if Man is not firmly placed along the pathway to righteousness he may return again to a world of atonement where new and more terrible tests await.

Part of the work of the necromancer is to act in many ways as a spiritual midwife between the worlds both spiritual and physical and to dust off the detritus that often clings to the soul in the present world and the worlds beyond. Unfortunately, as we live in the evils of empire, many souls are not given the proper rites and, like the blood of Abel, cry up constantly from the earth seeking vengeance. This is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination, however I can’t help but to think that what we are seeing in our culture is the result of centuries of bloodshed with the dead, righteous and unrighteous, playing out a war in which the living are now unconscious participants.

Improperly cared for in death, souls can become every bit as feral as fierce alley cat and strike out at the living in their confused states. It is for this reason that many cultures preserve some form of placation for the ferocious dead, those who died in an unwashed state or those who in life experienced trauma. The blood soaked history of the United States with a long history of exploitation, slavery, war, and violence against the impoverished has created a mass grave where the wrathful dead walk side-by-side with the living and ‘suck the purest of your blood and open wounds which are almost always mortal‘ (Kardec). The psycho-spiritual wounds of the living become entry points for the dead to influence the living, often coercing them to play out the traumas they themselves experienced. It’s no surprise, then, that a century and a half after the Civil War the dead have come back to life to feed off the force of the living in an environment equally as conflicted as the world in which they lived.

Some have argued that the removal of monuments especial to the dead that honored their battles may be a source of their discontent. While not without merit, I have to politely disagree as these are monuments to memories of trauma that keep the spirits earthbound and frequently in a state of confusion in regard to their eventual liberation however earthly greatness, such as riches, titles, glory, nobleness of birth, etc., are impossible to take into death – the great equalizer. It is understood that the living may wish to commemorate their beloved dead, however not all experiences are desirable to remember and here it is important for us tending to the dead to continually wash them in the waters of wisdom, removing from them the blockages they have experienced in life and assisting the in integrating, re-calibrating, and healing disowned and under-realized aspects of themselves in life

Naturally, how this can be done may vary depending on one’s tradition. For myself, drawing upon the inspired teachings of the mystic Victor H. Anderson, I start by recognizing the sovereignty of the wrathful dead and invite them to participate in the processes I use in working what is commonly called the ‘iron pentacle’, a very useful tool worked for personal growth and understanding and for exploring strengths, weaknesses, and inconsistencies. In the practices shared by the spiritualism of Allan Kardec and spiritualist practices in Latinx and South America, prayers are frequently offered as well for the liberation of the dead.

The utility of liberating the dead may be the one of the best tools in the arsenal of the contemporary necromancer or witch and perhaps one that should be considered to help our collapsing society become reborn in a more holistic manner and avoid the errors of the past.

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Initiation

“There is something sacred to common apprehension in the repose of the dead. They seem placed beyond our power to disturb. “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave”… Their remains moulder in the earth. Neither form nor feature is long continued to them. We shrink from their touch, and their sight. To violate the sepulchre therefore for the purpose of unholy spells and operations, as we read of in the annals of witchcraft, cannot fail to be exceedingly shocking. To call up the spirits of the departed, after they have fulfilled the task of life, and are consigned to their final sleep, is sacrilegious.” – Godwin, Lives of the Necromancers.

Two years ago I stepped through the gates of Lakeview on a cold November morning, much like this one, to pay my respects to the departed and to share a cigar and some brandy with one of the founders of my city. Snow was on the ground and I carefully knocked on the grave thrice, sang his name, recited the Pater Noster, Ave and Gloria and lit a cigar and poured brandy on the frozen earth causing the snow to melt in a cruciform shape.

I didn’t know what to expect then, but on my way out of the cemetery I found a twenty dollar bill on the ground, a sign I suppose that the old man heard my request for riches but beyond that, nothing spectral or noticeable. This time would be different.

INITIATION:

One’s introduction to the Dead so as to receive insight and acquire their services.

Thus, may one become a sorcerer. [1]

At the time of this writing, I’ve been involved in the pursuit of wisdom through the medium of occultism for about fifteen years, give or take, and have been fortunate to know many talented adepts and fellow students through the years in many traditions and disciplines. My own practice to this point could be said to be highly syncretistic yet difficult to put into words. I suppose my allergy to titles is probably to blame for this and probably one of the reasons I’ve found it difficult to put into words exactly what it is that I do.

There are many reasons people step onto the path of magic and the lives of the magicians I know are varied and fantastic. I know, for me, it was largely my inexhaustible curiosity that got me started on my path but now that seems to have changed – at least somewhat. For now, my motivation is to live out a narrative that will leave a story for others to follow or, as the twentieth century mythologist Joseph Campbell would say, to “live out my myth.”

In Scandinavian lore, the Wise Ones lived on the edges of social acceptability. They participated equally in village life as well as in the open desolate places haunted by spirits. Things haven’t changed much. Even though I’m very much removed from my rural origins and live in a large metropolitan city, the division between city life and open desolation at the start of the 21st century is much more liminal than one would presuppose and being queer as well as a magician in an age of disenchantment definitely puts me at odds with any kind of social acceptability.

Similarly, in an age when casual agnosticism seems to be the status quo, I refuse to succumb to the banality of prescribed religion or irreligion. Like the Wise Ones, I acknowledge the ecclesiastical year as well as older pantheons which allow me to communicate with the demons of the infernal hierarchies, gods of religions long since abandoned, and the spirits of the land which came before me and will survive long after.

As I walk past the gates, I leave a penny for the keeper of the cemetery, the Kyrkogrim, who in other times would have been connected to the church of a particular graveyard but nowadays in the New World seems to find himself equally at home at the oldest grave in our modern cemeteries. I wait for a moment to receive some indication that I may pass and watch the crucifix of my rosary for any motion. I’m allowed through and make my way along the winding avenues to the grave I visited a year earlier.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I begin and kneel at the tombstone, crossing myself.

“Your sight shall be in my sight, in whose name you rest here… could you, O Holy Ghost give to me of your power, in the name of the Holy Crucified One. Amen.”[2]

Though my eyes were closed, I saw an intense blinding light perhaps like that that fell upon the apostles at Pentecost or maybe like that seen by the dying as they transition from this world to the next. The work done, I see the faint outlines of human forms above their graves, like mist rising from the streets after a summer’s rain. The matter of the rite followed by the confirmation through the form of the ritual complete, I now step into a new mythic world, that of de kloka or Wise Ones.

I hesitate in any real way to refer to myself as particularly “wise”, but for the time being this is the reality that I have embraced and will share with you my experiences as time allows.

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[1] Johnson, Tom. The Graveyard Wanderers. Society of Esoteric Endeavour, 2013

[2] Ibid.

The First Post

IT would be easy, I suppose, to narrate my story like Oliver Twist and treat you to the place where I was born, and of the circumstances attending my birth; my growth, education, board and how I came to be the person I am after all my adventures and misadventures, but that would be impossible and perhaps a little tedious.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know the circumstances of my birth nor how Fate seemed it kind to fortunately place me in the loving hands of a family of farmers in the Puyallup River Valley who themselves were the children and grandchildren of homesteaders from Northern Europe, primarily. What I can tell you is about the beauty of growing up in a community – perhaps one of the last of its kind in my part of the world – where everyone knew everyone and everyone’s story. I grew up raising cattle, playing in the barns and cabins built by my maternal grandparents, and attending to the acres of raspberries and other crops we raised alongside Native American and Latino day laborers.

I went to the same school as my parents and my brothers before me. Many of my teachers were either former classmates of my parents and also had the pleasure and dismay of teaching my older brothers – depending on who’s telling the story at the time and how many beers have passed since we gathered around the bonfire blazing high with the limbs of corn and bramble branches with a healthy dose of gasoline thrown on top for show. These circumstances and many others may be unremarkable to some, perhaps you’ve experienced them yourself. This is of no matter because to me it was magic and that’s where my story begins.

After the fires died and my parents and their friends adjourned to the kitchen to warm themselves from the crisp Autumn cold, I stayed by the dying firelight and watched the shadows play off the cracked windows of the barn as the coyotes emerged from the grasses in the lowlands where the river used to flow before it was levied in order to provide farmers more place to field their livestock. In the dying firelight I saw sparks dance like miniature people rising toward the stars and descend into a labyrinth of red and black and gray. As the stars came out, I saw bodies wrap themselves in mist and congregate row after row in the berries and share stories with one another in words that I couldn’t hear.

When it came time for me to go to bed, I’d smell roses in the room where my grandmother spent the last years of her life with us as her body faded away and remember the times we’d spend praying the rosary and watching television while she smoked her Malibu thins and drank beer. I’d also remember stories of my uncle John, whom I never met, but probably would have liked if I knew him when he was alive. I also remember rushing past my the room where my great grandfather lived when I had to go to the bathroom at night because he honestly hated kids – good thing he was dead and would politely just close the door.

“The improvements that have been effected in natural philosophy have by degrees convinced the enlightened part of mankind that the material universe is everywhere subject to laws, fixed in their weight, measure and duration, capable of the most exact calculation, and which in no case admit of variation and exception… in the infancy and less mature state of human knowledge. The chain of causes and consequences was yet unrecognized; and events perpetually occurred, for which no sagacity that was then in being was able to assign an original. Hence men felt themselves habitually disposed to refer many of the appearances with which they were conversant to the agency of invisible intelligences; sometimes under the influence of a benignant disposition, sometimes of malice, and sometimes perhaps from an inclination to make themselves sport of the wonder and astonishment of ignorant mortals.”[i]

I don’t pretend to know how I came to magic, but I knew what it was – it was in the change of seasons, the agricultural cycles we followed, raising cattle from calf to steer, chicken from egg to hen, and all the stories of how my mother divined the names of me and my siblings’ by birth order with the aid of a Ouija board and pendulum. It was also in the apocryphal stories of a young monk who fell to his death and haunted what would become my alma mater. It was being taught by a large Native American woman how her people greeted the day and made offerings to the day. It was also in books that I stole from Barnes & Nobles that promised ancient wisdom and symbols to effect change on the face of reality. It was also singing Christmas carols with family and friends year, after year, after year and trips to Pike Place Market or going to the Washington Coast and seeing the sun rise and fall over the Pacific.

When I started my studies in magic, I knew it all. Not that I was some Merlin-like prodigy by any stretch of the imagination – hardly that at all – what I mean to say is that I was an unusually bright child with a penchant for tall tales and insatiable curiosity and wouldn’t shy away from causing mischief if it would suit my mercurial impishness or attitude problems. I suppose that’s why I ended up making the school bully get hit by a car, breaking his legs and hips, with the use of my mother’s sewing needles, a chicken heart and a heavily redacted ritual to the Horned God and Lady compliments of Cunningham [ii]and Leland[iii].

As I grew up and my family got the internet, I would spend hours researching whatever I could find on magic, folklore, and mythology. There wasn’t much back then, but there was Hermetic.com, hours of porn and learning the hard way the importance of making browser history disappear at the stroke of midnight. But then I digress – I’m a sucker for storytelling and thank you for your indulgences. I’ll need those when I go to join the ranks of the dead (hopefully a very long time away from now).

SO, why should this blog interest you?

Well, if you’ve found this blog it’s highly likely that you’re probably a magician of some stripe or one of my friends who’ve been pestering me to get back to writing in a more focused manner.

If you’re the former, I hope that in sharing my observations and engaging in dialogue we might be able to inform our practices and respectfully critique our experiences in a courteous manner that is mutually beneficial to us as individuals as well as to the benefit of the level of discourse in the greater community.

If you’re a friend of mine whose been pestering me to get back to writing in a more focused manner, I apologize in advance for anything I write that might disappoint your estimation of my abilities, magical and mental prowess and penchant for shenanigans.

If it so happens you’re both, I think you’ll enjoy my writing and musings and occasional snarky comments on Ye Arte of Social Magic. In all seriousness, though, whether you’re a practicing magician or merely interested in it from an academic perspective (or secretly writing slash fic about me and need fodder to build a more believable character – in which case please share!) I imagine there will be something to delight and intrigue.

By and large, my esoteric interests lie in the history and phenomenology of magic from the Antique to Contemporary era. I’ll leave it for you to decide what this means, but in practice it largely means reading a lot of old texts like a 21st Century scholar and abusing them like a 12th Century renegade cleric. I’m primarily concerned with the intersections between necromancy and the grimoire genre as well as their influences and confluences into historical and contemporary spiritualism in both Old and New Worlds. On occasion I might veer off the beaten road and into other territories such as American folkloric witchcraft, pre-Christian Scandinavian religion, Chaos magic, lodge ceremonial, and indigenous or traditional practices of the New World, but for the most part what you’ll be reading are the musings of a very Cascadian, would-be Wise One following the paths of the magicians and graveyard wanderers who came before me and hopefully leading those who will come after down an interesting path.

 

[i] Godwin, William. Lives of the Necromancers: Or, An Account of the Most Eminent Persons in Successive Ages, Who Have Claimed for Themselves, or to Whom Has Been Imputed by Others, the Exercise of Magical Power. London: F.J. Mason, 1834.

[ii] (Sorry) Cunningham, Scott. Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1993.

[iii] Leland, Charles Godfrey. Aradia; Or, The Gospel of the Witches. London: D. Nutt, 1899.