On Blessings

Lately, I’ve been thinking of things going on in my life, or that have happened in my life, and started to call the good ones (like, the really good ones) “blessings”.  It’s something that I’ve heard some of my older or elder friends say, too, about some of the nicer things in life, and…it’s weird.  Before initiation into Santeria, I would never really have used the word “blessing” to describe a good thing that happens.  Awesome, fantastic, or great, perhaps, but “blessing” was weird for me to think of it that way. Now, it seems a lot more natural; perhaps it’s just a shift in the crowd I run with and adopting the terminology, but seeing how I was already running with them before, something must have clicked into place for this sense of the word “blessing” to click for me.

Let’s recap, I suppose. From my Western religious or magical viewpoint that I’d assume is more-or-less common (but I could be wrong!), a blessing is a ritual act where something or someone is blessed.  For instance, a Catholic priest can bless a saint medallion (or any number of other things), and oftentimes perform a light or simple exorcism of a person which can also count as a blessing.  Other priests in other traditions and religions generally follow suit, with the overall goal to instill a force or presence of holiness or divinity in a material vessel, animate or not.  For many of the same reasons, many of the enchanting or consecrating acts magicians do can also be considered blessings; heck, the language we use is often identical to those used in the Church, if not taken directly from their liturgies and rituals, with much the same effect (though issues of apostolic succession and the lack thereof can subtly change or weaken the end result).

We can look at the word “blessing” in two etymological ways: the first, using the Germanic word family of bless, blood, and blót, and the second using the Latin word family of benedicere.  In the former, we have an original word coming from Germanic paganism of “marking with blood”, leading to the term blót, a sacrifice, and blót-hus, “house of worship” or “temple”.  By using the blood of sacrificed animals, the divine figures of worship, the place of worship, and the worshipers themselves would be instilled with the special powers contained within; there are conceptual parallels between this and the Old Testament use of sacrificed oxen and bulls in the Temple, as well as the literal bloodbath Moses gave to the Hebrews as he came down from the Mount.

In the second sense, we have the far more bland Latin term benedicere, literally meaning “to speak well” or “to say good things”.  However, in the Christian sense, consider that Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the Logos; to speak good things upon someone is to literally cast the power of God upon them for good ends and with good means.  This builds upon the more fundamental Abrahamic understanding of a blessing (all of which ultimately come from God) to the effect that to be blessed is to be favored and approved by God.  This ties into the otherwise unusual statement “Blessed are you, Lord our God” (how almost all Jewish blessings, or berakhot, begin); after all, how could God be blessed, if God gives all blessings?  It’s because being the source of blessings is indistinguishable from the quality of being blessed; both the blessing and the blessor are identical.

So much for etymologies and definitions.  When it comes to using the word, I’ve pretty much limited myself to using it in a ritual or prayerful context.  I would suppose that, as a technical matter, only priests (who have a valid and legitimate connection to their deity and who are licensed and authorized to do so by such a connection) can actually bless an object, person, event, or space.  Laity and other non-priestly clergy who lack that connection can pray for the blessing of something, while magicians can…well, I don’t want to say “consecrate” (literally “to make sacred”, which overlaps heavily with “blessing”), but perhaps “enchant” or (one of my more favorites, thanks Kalagni and Deb et al.) “enwoogify” or “bespooken”.  As a matter of technical correctness, only priests can bless; even if what magicians do is effectively the same thing in result, the mechanics and source of the result is sufficiently different to warrant another term.

But…well, consider what the laity do in this context: they pray for blessings upon someone else.  It’s what I never really put much consideration into before now, but when someone prays for your well-being, your happiness, your prosperity, your safety, your success…those are the blessings they pray for, which are their blessings to you.  Absent any other ritual, divine connection, or other woogity, that act is the lay equivalent of blessing someone, by appealing to the source of blessings to bestow its blessings.  That is their magic, their means of plying their connection, their gift to you.  Again, while them “blessing” you isn’t necessarily a proper use of the term, just as with a magician enchanting for some effect, the effect is ultimately equivalent.

That sort of realization is, in some sense (and in addition to being with people who use that term just as a thing), what led me to start widening my use of the term “blessing”, and why it finally made sense to call good things that happen “blessings”.  When we, as magicians, carry out a ritual for some end, do we not consider ourselves successful when that very thing comes to pass?  Of course we do; we might find ways to improve upon our results for future workings, but we consider the success a validation of our work, our connections to spirits, and ourselves.  Similarly, when we pray for something, do we not consider ourselves having been heard by God or the gods when what we pray for comes to pass?  Heck, we even say that they “answer our prayers”, just as they would a phone call or question.  Thus, if we pray for a blessing, and our prayers are answered, then we would then, logically, say that we have been blessed.

I’ve long held that magicians should pray just as much as anyone else, if not more so; in the types of magic I work, prayer is part and parcel of the whole shebang.  In my own prayers, besides those of adoration of divinity, I pray for guidance, enlightenment, fortitude, progress, compassion, companionship, wisdom, intelligence, understanding, protection, purpose, purity, and so much else.  For myself and for many other people, the most common things we pray for are good health, long life, prosperity, happiness, and peace.  There are hundreds of classifications and categories of blessings out there (just look up the endless kinds of berakhot that Jews are supposed to recite upon basically anything happening), but the big ones are things we all want in our lives, which are fundamental to a universal human notion of “a life well-lived”.

So, when something good happens that furthers me along in a way I’ve prayed for, or that someone else has prayed for me, or that just happen because *gestures vaguely upwards*  I should celebrate it and be grateful for it, just as I’d celebrate myself when something I’ve been magicking for comes to fruition.  Good things that happen (and I mean with a capital G, not just the little g good things) are blessings, whether or not I or anyone else has asked for them.  It’s such a simple concept, really; I’m kind of embarrassed that I never understood it before, but I get it now.  Maybe it’s preconceived notions that Good Things just happen coincidentally (which is otherwise a notion I’ve long since abandoned), or that Good Things happen so rarely (when so much that happens is actually Good, even if it’s not good on a microcosmic level), or something else that kept me from seeing…I dunno, a more profound awe in things.

Of course, recognizing that something is a blessing is only one part of the equation; being grateful for it and not taking it for granted are others to follow through with.  After all, when we get something we ask for from someone as a gift, we graciously and gratefully thank them, if not exchange a new gift for them; when we work with people or spirits whom we commission to do work for us, we pay them for their services.  To simply take without giving is selfish and greedy, and degrades the entity doing something for us into a slave, while taking without appreciation treats them as a machine.  For the Good Things that happen to us, we must be grateful that divinity either heard our prayers and saw fit to grant them, or that divinity for the sake of divinity favored us with the Good Things, but more than that, we must never take such blessings of Good Things for granted.  But then, how do you pay back a god?  In the ways that gods want, of course.  I would fain speak for divinities without them chiming in, but the general ways that I see acceptable across the board would be to make the most of the blessings given to you to further your own development, to help others with their own development, adoration of divinity for its own sake by means of your blessing, and to simply live a good/Good life for the sake of divinity, for the sake of the world, and for your own sake.

A blessing isn’t just a one-time good thing, like a slice of cake.  It’s more than a simple result of spiritual labor or material gift.  It’s a foundation, a building material to continue constructing and instructing our lives in the best ways we’re able to, and with which we can help others build theirs.  We just need the humility to ask for these materials, the knowledge of how to implement them, and the wisdom of when to use them, but even these we can inculcate in ourselves, both as practice we cultivate and blessing we seek.

Cleansing, Defending, and Blessing a House

A group of friends living together near me were going through some tough times recently, and I offered to help cleanse and bless their house, just to get rid of any lingering bad stuff and keep it out while inviting more and more good things in.  It’s a small thing I can do, and I offered since it was the least I could do for them.  I’ve only ever done this piecemeal on my own place, touching up the apartment as needed, so getting to work on someone else’s place was a new experience for me.

Being the engineer that I am, I decided to come up with a plan of attack, dividing up this working into four different stages: preparation, cleansing, defense, and blessing.  Preparation covers getting the supplies, making sure both myself, my friends, and their house are ready for the project, etc.  Cleansing involves getting rid of anything stuck in the house, any negative entity or force that’s causing any kind of harm to the tenants or property.  Defense involves setting up protections, shields, and wards to keep out any further negativity, letting in only positive or neutral things that help instead of harm.  Blessing helps make the house a home, and involves benedictions upon the place, using luck-, peace-, or prosperity-bringing oils and incenses, and the like.  I let my friends know in advance what I was going to do and got their permission for doing so, because being ethical rocks and so does having informed clients.

The supplies I needed were:

  • Holy water
  • Cleansing water (Uncrossing oil, Banish and Cleanse oil, Van Van oil, 7-11 Holy oil, lemon ammonia, Florida water, holy water)
  • Blessing water (peace water, holy water, rose water, Florida water, and champagne)
  • Fiery Wall of Protection oil
  • Abramelin Oil, or another suitable anointing oil
  • Cotton swabs
  • Banishing incense (dragon’s blood, star anise, crushed red pepper, and black peppercorns)
  • Blessing incense (frankincense, copal, cinnamon, and Power powder)
  • Blessed candles, one for each room of the house (I used white tealights anointed with 7-11 Holy oil and consecrated according to the Key of Solomon, book II, chapter 12), plus a few extra for thanksgiving and prosperity work
  • Large steel nails, one per corner of the property (iron railroad spikes are perfect for this)
  • Instrument of Will (wand, staff, sword, dagger, athame, &c.)
  • Instrument of Protection (amulet, Solomonic ring, &c.)
  • Offerings (large candles, sweet incenses, flowers, simple cakes, &c.)

Once I gathered all the supplies, I prepared myself by cleansing myself and doing a thorough banishing and cleansing including a hyssop bath and meditation, making sure I wasn’t going to track in any more filth into their place.  I also conjured the angel Kammael to charge up my instrument of Will and nails to act as defensive wards.  Before I arrived, I asked my friends to clean the house with the usual things: sweep, vacuum, dust, etc.  I went over to their house on a Sunday in an hour of the Sun during a waxing moon; the first words out of my mouth upon entering were “pax huic domui”, or “peace upon this house” (Luke 10:5).  I offered each of the tenants a bit of holy water to sprinkle themselves with and cleanse themselves as they saw best; since the household was largely Catholic, I suggested the usual Asperges Me that I use myself.  With everyone clean, I donned my Solomonic ring, said a few prayers for guidance and protection, and started my work.

I had a brief chat with the genius of the house (I didn’t do a formal conjuration for this, just reached out and had a quick discussion), letting him know what was up and what I was about to do.  I asked for permission for performing my work, and he gave me his permission to continue.  I also asked the genius for an image of what the house looked like to him, to compare with my own feelings of the place as well as what it’d result in once I did my working, and also asked about any problem areas that needed special attention.  With this information, the first thing was to demarcate the area of working, so I took my instrument of Will (my new ritual sword) and walked around the boundaries of the property clockwise, sealing off the area for the working.  Until I finished, I asked nobody to leave the boundaries of the property or to let anyone in.

To cleanse the house, I opened up every window and door in the house (good thing the weather was good for this, neither too hot nor too cold, not a terrible amount of pollen or dust or noise).  Although not necessary, I find it helpful to have a fresh breeze blow through the house, getting rid of some of the more natural pests naturally and literally as well as symbollically “airing out” the place.  I lit a candle in every room of the house and consecrated the flames, so that the light could shine throughout the entire place; these candles were left to burn completely, and the remaining tins were disposed of respectfully.  The light from the candles was to illuminate the place and bring the light of the Ain Soph Aur down into the house, as well as to watch over and empower all the rest of the working.

I went to the entrance of the house facing inside and gave a general license to depart for all the spirits that had taken residence up in the place (the genius was specifically excepted).  I went through each room and waved around a thurible of banishing incense in each room, repeating the Greek phrase “ΑΠΩ ΑΠΩ ΠΑΝΤΟΣ ΚΑΚΟΔΑΙΜΟΝΕΣ” as I did so.  I did the bottom level first, the top level second, and the ground level last, going from the back of the house to the front.  After reciting Psalm 6, I went over the house again by spraying the cleansing water, repeating the Latin phrase “ABI ABI OMNI PROFANI”.   The incense was used to smoke out any blatantly negative or harmful spirits, and the cleansing water was sprayed around to wipe up and out any harmful residue, malice, and other astrally icky junk that had built up around the place.  I then went around the house clockwise flinging holy water around the place (not the cleansing solution), repeating “BEGONE, BEGONE ALL EVIL SPIRITS”.  With this done, the house was cleansed to my satisfaction, and all the windows and doors were shut to begin building up the fortifications.

To defend the house, I returned to the front of the house and recited the Prayer to St. Michael, which I use before anointing things with Fiery Wall of Protection oil.  Again, bottom to top and back to front, I went through and dabbed the oil on every window and door in the house. I wanted to do a five-spot pattern (one on each corner, one on the center/handle) on every window and door, but the house was bigger than I anticipated and had a lot of windows; I used a single spot on every window, and a five-spot on the front and back doors as well as all the bedroom doors.  The anointing of every entry-point into the house with this oil forms a tight shield through which nothing harmful can even approach, much less break through.  Although I used my own fingers for my own house, I used cotton swabs this time for the oil so as to keep it from dripping or making a mess; besides, some people are sensitive to the oil, and it may burn their skin.  I then dabbed Abramelin oil on the front and back doors, charging them to let in only that which helps and keep out that which harms.  After this, I went to the four corners of the property clockwise and drove a large steel nail into each corner, calling on the angel Kammael of Mars for defense against all evil, harmful, malicious, wicked, or negative spirits, entities, bodies, or forms.  These serve as wards, and I dabbed each with Fiery Wall of Protection oil after I drove them into the ground and charged them to defend the property.

With the cleansing and defending done, the only thing left was to bless the house and make it livable again.  I returned to the front of the house and gave a benediction of the place, then went through the house and fumigated it with blessing incense while repeating the Trisagion, along with spritzing the blessing water through the house while repeating “blessed be, clean be, safe be, happy be, prosperous be”.  I also used a quick prosperity spell used from the Bible (light three candles and repeat Zechariah 8:12 three times over the candles) as an extra step.  I went to the “hearth” of the house (the kitchen) and made offerings to the goddess Hestia (to watch over and nurture the home), the god Zeus Ktesios (to defend the boundaries and walls of the home), and the genius of the house (to manage and coordinate the homeliness of the house), thanking them and asking for their help in protecting the home and keeping it hale, whole, and happy.  I returned to the front of the house, released the spirits back to their places if they were helpful and not harmful in any way, and offered a few prayers of thanksgiving and exaltation at the end.  I then went outside and untraced the circle I made with my instrument of Will, going counterclockwise this time, and let the house stand on its own again.  I finished the whole thing by making a few thanksgiving prayers to the Almighty, then enjoyed the rest of my day.  The only tenant of the household who was out during all this came back just as I untraced the circle, which was extremely fortuitous timing.

Not including the preparation, the working took about an hour and a half to walk through every room of the place multiple times (candle, banish, cleanse, anoint, bless), circumambulate the house four times (once to circle it, once to asperge it, once to nail in the spikes, and once to uncircle it), and perform offerings and prayers.   Not only is everything negative removed from the place, it’s kept entirely shut out.  The incenses, offerings, oils, and waters I used helped to brighten the house and make it inviting for peace, luck, prosperity, safety, and fortune.  Just like a place needs to be cleaned every so often, it’ll eventually need to be cleansed again; however, with all this work done at once and so powerfully, minor touchups will be all that’s needed anytime soon, and that I can take care of covertly or teach them how to do really easily.  So long as they don’t go deliberately trying to fuck shit up in their own place, the house will take care of itself and they’ll be fine.

Why am I sharing this?  Besides the fact that my blog is essentially a more fun version of my increasingly-neglected magical journal, I figured I’d share my methodology and experiences.  This is also a good chance to get feedback and opinions from other practitioners to see how they would do something like this.  This was a pretty heavy-duty working for a normal household; in all fairness and honesty, most people do not and never will need these levels of protection and blessing.  Most people are content with getting by on their own with no special help from higher or lower worlds, and most people don’t do anything to piss off spirits, magicians, or other powerful entities.  I’m not saying that most people don’t have hardships or fall on hard times, or don’t attract the attention of demons or nagas or the like, or couldn’t use a bit of magic to help out.  That, in fact, was the point: having the ability, means, and skill to do magic, I damn near feel obligated to use it for the benefit of those who need it, and in the process help make my friends’ lives and the world a little bit better and brighter.