Giving Blessings

I really need to learn to keep more cash on me.  I’m normally a card-type of guy, but in the right circumstances (and in increasingly more ones every day), cash goes a lot farther a lot faster than credit.

One of the main reasons for me to keep more cash on me, or at least staying in the habit of having a few bills on me at all times, is religion.  In La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (aka Santería—I wonder when I’ll stop feeling obliged to give the alternate, perhaps more common name), cash is customary for donations for any number of reasons, not least because it’s legal tender and proof of payment in itself.  When we establish the celebratory throne for an orisha, when we set up the drummers’ seats for a dance, even when we visit a priest’s house for their anniversary of initiation, it’s quite acceptable to leave a few dollars as a respectful donation (often in conjunction with an offering of fruit, flowers, candles, and so forth).  My checklist for going to an event now consists of making sure my whites are clean, I’ve got my offerings ready to go, and stopping by the ATM for a few extra bills.

One of the unusual things, however, is that there is a process for giving cash in the religion (always processes for everything, after all).  This one isn’t difficult; simply cross yourself with the money before dropping it into the basket/basin/jícara/etc.  Making the Sign of the Cross is a natural motion for many people in the religion, and it helps in sanctifying the donation with a holy reverence and respect.

Well, I didn’t realize how ingrained in me that habit had become until I went to a winery this past weekend.  The husband and I went to see one of his good friends play a gig there, and we got a bottle of fruit wine while we were at it.  It was a lovely, cloudy, pleasantly mild Saturday in early May, and we enjoyed ourselves (even through all the pollen).  Our friend, a guitarist and singer, had his guitar case opened up before his station, and a few people had already dropped some cash in there.  I followed suit to support our friend, so I reached into my wallet and—well, my first instinct was to cross myself with the money.  I laughed about it with my husband, and had to remind myself that this wasn’t a religious function and there’s no need to do that here, so I didn’t, and just dropped the cash in his case anyway.  I made a joke about it on Twitter, too (along with a few others).

But…well, I realized after the fact that maybe that wasn’t a habit I should suppress, and a few replies on Twitter had really brought that conversation to the forefront of my mind.  After all, we cross ourselves with the donation in a religious setting to sanctify the donation and show our respect to the ashé of the orisha or drummer or priest or whoever-else.  As an initiated priest in this religion, not only do I show my respect with this act, but I’m also blessing that offering on-the-fly with my action and intent for the sake of whoever-it-is.  It’s not just a show of support or well-wishing at that point, but a spiritual act to lend my grace, support, succor, and help to whoever-it-is, as well as a physical prayer made to express my hope for their grace, support, succor, and help in my own life, as well.  Such is the nature of blessings.

Could I have donated money as a spiritual act before initiation?  Absolutely!  That wasn’t something that was held off for me, especially given all my other practices going on.  But here’s the thing that’s slowly dawning on me in truly profound ways: I can never stop being a priest.  Yeah, intellectually I understood that; orisha live on my head now, and they see what I see and hear what I hear, not to mention seeing and hearing me at all times.  That’s one of the reasons why good conduct is paramount for initiates.  Yet, even in the little things, I don’t stop being a priest.  Why, then, should I not bless something when it’s already a habit for me to do so in an innocuous way?  Why would I not do what is essentially my job at a perfect opportunity just because the context is different from what I’d expect for my job?  I don’t have to be in the Ocha Room in order to work Ocha; Ocha is in me, Ocha is around me, Ocha is part of me wherever I go, whenever I go.  I do not stop being a priest, so why not act accordingly?

This isn’t, of course, about proselytizing or trying to force initiations onto others or try to sell orisha out on discount.  Priesthood is still something I’m coming to terms with and figuring out in all its emanations, but there are a few things I do know, and one of them is that I want to make the world better.  For myself, to be sure, but also for my loved ones, my family, my godfamily, my colleagues, my friends, my coworkers, my teachers, my students…everyone.  In a very real sense of Buddhist emptiness, we’re all in this together, because I can’t exist without you nor can you exist without me, so if I’m to truly do well, I need to make sure that you’re also doing well, as well, because, at its core, I can’t really cease suffering myself until all suffering is ceased.  Sure, there are ways I can prosper at others’ dire expense, but even an ounce of shame would keep me from really enjoying such wealth because it’s not justly earned; only if that wealth is justly earned, the exchange is fair, and everyone has at minimum what they need without worry is it a state I can enjoy.  Extend that notion, then, to everything, everywhere, and everywhen.  It is not true that everyone needs to be a priest to make the world a better place, but it damn well sure helps me in that undertaking.  I have the tools and, slowly, the techniques and the knowledge to work what I can for myself and for those in my world to make the world a better place, and I don’t have a reason to not do that, so there’s only one real choice: do it.  In a sense, it’s a kind of theurgy, no matter how small the individual acts are.  The Great Work isn’t done in a day, after all.

For anyone involved in spiritual practices, there is no reason to separate out the mundane from the spiritual.  Context and consent matters, absolutely, but if you have the chance to infuse a mundane act with a spiritual force in it, why not do it?  If nothing else, it’s practice, and can ensure your own success later down the line.  Ideally, doing so would make things better for the entire world with a simple act that sets of a chain reaction, even if it’s just a minor set of coincidences.  But for those who can give their blessing—and you don’t, strictly speaking, need to be a priest for that—why not give it freely at every opportunity?  If you can call upon the power of the dead, the gods, the elements, the angels, or whatever else it is you work with, why not back up your hopes and well-wishes for the well-being of others with the power that you can direct and work with, especially if it’s in the moment of a trivial action you were going to do anyway?

I have to admit, now I wish I had crossed myself with that money before I dropped it in our friend’s guitar case.  Lesson learned, then.  There are some habits that really should be kept up.

The Candle Blitzkrieg House Blessing

I try to keep my home a stable place of safety; after all, the home is the foundation of all that it is we do. It’s where we rest, recover, and rejoice, where we sleep, study, and settle, where we live, love, and laugh. The home is the most sacred place we have, our own personal temples where we are established in our sanctuaries. Without someplace to call our own, our little niche in the world, we really don’t have much. As part of my own spiritual maintenance, I try to keep my home in as good a condition as I try to make myself, complete with its own cleansings and blessings and purifications and wardings so that it can be a place of safety and sanctuary where I feel safe and sacred in.

In addition to keeping the house clean and cleansed and everything else, one of the more effective things I find myself doing is a particular type of blessing upon the house that doesn’t take a lot of labor but does give quite the return on its work. The central idea behind this is that, after the house is more-or-less emptied of unwanted influences and filth, you want to fill the house with greatly-desired influences and Light. For this, what better way than to literally give light to each room, and better, a consecrated light? Because this process uses a lot of candles throughout the house all at once (small ones, not the large novena candles), I call this the Candle Blitzkrieg technique, and I’ve put it to good use both in my home and in others’. After all, one of my favorite tools is fire, and lots of it. May as well turn it to a beneficial use once in a while, eh?

While I tend to use it for a general purpose for just bringing divine Light into the home, I’ve also used it for more specific needs, such as a whole-house prosperity or peace blessing. You’ll note that this ritual takes on a distinctly Abrahamic/Christian tone at times, because that’s just the general mode I work in for this type of work. For many of my conjure-based or Western magician friends, this is fine; however, this ritual format doesn’t need to be held to that religion; using similar prayers to open, consecrate, and bless, you can adapt it to any spiritual tradition you find appropriate to use. The ritual presented below is my general-use form, but adapt it to however you need to.

This ritual may be done at any time as needed, but avoid using it too often, both to avoid an overuse of candles and an overfilling of a home with too many influences all at once, say at most once a month. Especially good times would be during the dark of the Moon, winter solstice, or any other times when Light is needed in the home, as well as after any thorough cleansing or banishing that needs to be sealed up with good influences. Doing this before moving into a new house is also a good practice. I prefer to do this after sunset and before midnight so that the light of the candles really stands out, but any time of day will do. Planetary hours and days may be observed if the blessing is geared towards a specific goal, but this is not strictly necessary.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • One large white candle (a tall taper or glass-encased candle work perfectly)
  • A bunch of small candles, one for each room in the house (tealights are most preferred, especially in their metal tins). These candles must all be the same color; white is always a good option, but they may be colored appropriately for a specific end of your choosing.
  • Three small white candles
  • Two small white dishes
  • Holy oil
  • A blessing oil of your choosing
  • A long match or igniting stick
  • Optionally, a crucifix or other symbol of Divinity
  • Optionally, a wand

First, as I mentioned before, it’s best to have already cleaned and cleansed the home before doing this work. Sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, take out the trash, do the dishes, do the laundry, beat the rugs, wipe the windows, and so forth, whatever you need to do to get the house physically clean; banish, light cleansing incense, use spiritual floor washes, sweep with a consecrated broom, and so forth, whatever you need to get the house spiritual cleansed. The usual protocol is to do these cleansings in a direction from top-to-bottom, back-to-front of the house, all out the front door. Doing so will allow the rest of this work to go much smoother and take effect more strongly and quickly in the home. Similarly, be sure you’re clean and cleansed yourself before taking on this work.

On a large, clean working space, preferably in the kitchen or living room or other “center” of your house, arrange all your supplies. Anoint the large white candle with holy oil on one of the white dishes, and the other candles (less the three white ones) around it with the blessing oil of your choosing; this can also be the same holy oil as you used on the large candle and is best for general blessings, but it can also be something more directed for a specific purpose (money-drawing, peace, reconciliation, joy, love, etc.). Set the three extra white candles on the other white dish, and set it aside for the time being. If so desired, take your chosen symbol of Divinity and set it up on the table or behind it where it can be seen during this work.

Once all the candles (except those last three) are anointed, light the large candle, and consecrate it:

I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire +, and sanctify it that it may be blessed +, and that it may burn for your honor and glory +, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All. Amen.

Recite a preliminary prayer that allows you to set your mind to the work. For this and other general works, I use the following, which is based off the Preliminary Invocation from the Arbatel (aphorism II.14) and with an invocation from the Heptameron:

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored throughout endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!
O God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, maker and creator of all that is visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, call upon you and invoke you, through your only begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that you give your Holy Spirit to me, which may direct me in your truth, for the good of all. Amen.

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should fulfill and perfectly realize my petition, my work, my labor today. Grant to me your grace, that I may use these great gifts of yours only with humility, fear, and tremblings, through our Lord Jesus Christ with your Holy Spirit, You who live and reign, world without end. Amen.

Pray:

Grant, o Lord, that as I light this candle in your honor and glory, that your divine Light may fill up this home as light fills up the dawn to cast away the darkness of night. Bless this home with your grace, bless this home with your protection, bless this home with your presence that all darkness, all defilement, and all death may flee this place and that only joy, life, and light remain. May the seal of your holiness descend upon this house, and may all those who abide within it rest easy under your guidance. Amen.

After this, recite the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be over the candle.

From the large candle, light all of the smaller candles for each of the rooms of the house. If the large candle is a taper, use that candle to light all of the others; if you can’t do that, use a long match or other wooden stick that can hold a flame to transfer the flame from the large candle to the smaller ones. , As you do this, say a quick blessing upon the smaller candle as you light it that quickly and succinctly captures the intent for the blessing. Examples of something like this might be, depending on your intent:

  • “May the light of God fill this home.”
  • “Fill this home with peace.”
  • “Grant prosperity upon this home.”
  • “Heal those who abide in this home.”
  • “Protect the body and soul of all those who live here.”
  • &c.

This next step is optional, but I prefer doing it. Once all these candles are lit, using your dominant hand’s index finger (or a wand, if you have it, or whatever’s left of the long match/igniting stick you may have used), energetically link the flame of the large candle to each of the smaller candles. The process I use is tapping into the flame of the large candle, forging an energetic channel to the flame of the smaller candle, then back to the large candle; I then do this process again, starting from the flame of the small candle to that of the large candle and back. Then, I push a bit of energy of the Divine (avoid using your own, even if you’re already in a state of cleanliness and purity, which you should be in anyway) through something like the Hymns of Silence or other quick one-word intoned “amen” into the large candle to fix the connection. Do this for each of the smaller candles that have been lit. Even though a strong connection was already formed between the large candle and the smaller candles by spreading the flame out, I prefer to reinforce that connection energetically as well; those who use crystal grids will be familiar with this or similar techniques.

At this point, pray over all the lit candles for your intent. This part is really up to you, so long as you pray from the heart about it. You can use any number of psalms, invocations, litanies, or other prayers for this purpose, so long as it supports what you’re trying to do. For instance, you might use Psalm 122 if you’re blessing the house for prosperity, or Psalm 29 to purify the home generally, and so forth. Take as long or as short as you need; use whatever resources you feel moved to use. Essentially, pray that as each of these candles shines their light into each room of the house, that God may shine Light throughout the entire home, that all those who abide, live, reside, visit, or are invited in may dwell in his Light, and that you may obtain the blessing of his grace for what you seek in the home.

Take all the candles one by one and set them in each room of the house. The most essential places are where you spend most of your time, but it really is best to put one in every room: bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, garage, basement, hallways, crawlspaces, attic, everywhere. The idea is that, no matter where you are in the home, you can see at least one candle burning; if you need to use more than one candle in a room to achieve this effect, do so. Any shelves, wall sconces, or hanging candleholders or candelabras can be put to good use for this purpose. Just take care that the candleflame doesn’t go out in the process of moving and establishing that candle from the large candle to wherever it needs to go, and be careful of where you put each candle that it doesn’t cause a fire hazard. If their spirits, saints, angels, or gods agree to it, set candles in already-existing shrines around the house where you may have them to further empower the work at hand (just check with them before you do so). Try to go from the inside outward from where you started, so that the Light “spreads” throughout the home.

Once the candles have been set throughout the entire house, return to the large candle. If, in the course of setting lights throughout the house, you noticed that there’s a particularly strong “heart center” of the house, take this large candle and your chosen symbol of Divinity (if you have/want one) and establish it there. Otherwise, leave the large candle and the symbol of Divinity where it was where it can burn out completely, such as on the kitchen table, empty counter, fireplace mantel, or living room coffee table. While the large candle is burning, throughout the house generally but especially in the light of this candle, avoid engaging in any arguments, heated words, violence, blasphemy, or other actions that run counter to the presence and blessing of God.

At this point, take the plate with the three white candles on it. For the final part of this ritual as an act of thanksgiving, leave these candles unanointed, but set them up in a triangle pointing upwards on the dish in front of or just beside the large candle already lit. Light the candles one by one, and recite Jonah 2:9 once for each candle:

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.

(That part comes from Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, which is one of my favorite go-to sources of pretty dang effective magic. Short as it may be, it is a true treasure of that old-school Bible magic. I cannot recommend it enough. This particular working is simple and sweet, but is immensely powerful as an act of gratitude at the close of a working.)

Follow this up with any other silent prayers of thanksgiving, gratitude, respect, and honor to God. Once done, go about your business. Let all the smaller candles (including the thanksgiving ones) burn out on their own before collecting any tins or residue from around the house. The larger candle should be left to burn out on its own as well; if this is a multi-day candle, such as a novena candle, pray over it at sunrise and sunset for as long as it burns to continue the blessing of God into the home. Once this candle is burnt out, dispose of it as well. Enjoy your happily blessed home.

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.

Fire and Water: A Tool for Steam-Powered Enchantment

Admittedly, it’s weird to see the WordPress write-post screen so frequently lately after so long without writing anything.  Quoth Alan Moore’s “Promethea” issue #19: “Man, this is like city transport.  You gonna wait forever for a beautiful woman, then three gonna show up at once.”  Then again, I suppose that’s the nature of inspiration: having the time, being at the right time, and having the resources available to present themselves.

Like everyone else on Facebook, my news feed (I remember back in the days when we just called them “walls”) is filled with videos, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, sometimes educational.  One such video demonstrated a series of eight physics tricks, often involving magnets and batteries, but there was one in particular that caught my eye because it relied on water and fire.  While I couldn’t find the original video in a way to show here, I did find another video from Grand Illusions (whose channel is full of wonderful toys, tricks, gimmicks, and projects demonstrated by an amazing wizened Brit) that shows the exact same thing with a better description and demonstration:

The presenter isn’t sure what to call the thing, but it is similar to the kind of toys known as “pop-pop boats”, which use a tiny boiler to propel a tiny boat in water, making a continuous pop-pop sound.  This, however, isn’t quite the same.  Rather, it’s better described as a steam-powered top, constructed out of a bit of copper tubing extended through some corkboard, with its ends projecting out underneath and facing opposite directions.  The copper tubing is filled with water, then the “boat” is set on top of a bowl or container of water, and a candle is set on top of the platform under the coil.  The candle, once lit, heats the water inside the coil, turning it to steam and pushing it out, and then as the vapor cools in the coil not directly heated by the flame, sucks water back in, producing a top with sudden bursts of movement followed by slow periods of inertial spinning.  In a way, it’s a neat demonstration of the same principle underlying an aeolipile, but with a different setup and arrangement.

A neat little gimmick on its own, sure, but when it comes to matters combining fire and water, my mind starts thinking about possible occult applications.  And, for this, I think the occult applications are shockingly wonderful for how simple this would be as an extra tool in my kit.  Consider: it is not uncommon for us to bless, enchant, or otherwise bespooken liquids in our work, yes?  We normally achieve this by praying over the water, adding certain ingredients, setting it out in sunlight or moonlight, or extinguishing candles in them (either by setting a candle in the water and letting it burn out into it, or lighting a candle and quenching it in the water).  Separately, we often use candles in our work, which forms the entire field of candle magic unto itself in addition to being used as integral parts of other ceremonies.  We anoint, engrave, or dress candles, set them atop petitions, or use them as a means to empower other workings.  However, it’s not common to see an explicit merging of candle magic and water magic given the intrinsic opposition between fire and water, but the steam-powered top has a way of doing precisely just that using an almost-alchemical apparatus.

My idea for combining the two is, essentially, another technique to empower or enchant an amount of water by using the candle (dressed appropriately) to transfer its power directly into the water, but in a more prolonged and directed means than simply by extinguishing a candle in the water itself.  Assuming the copper tubing is clean and the corkboard itself doesn’t disintegrate (and it might be worth it to replace the corkboard with something more stable and hardy at some point), the water isn’t contaminated by any pollutants or additions, making it perfect for an innocuous substance that only the magician would be inclined to recognize as empowered.  Plus, instead of another method where one might heat a container of water directly using enchanted fuel (such as a cauldron heated by sacred woods and incenses), this can be done on a much smaller scale with a lot less overhead.  Additionally, the steam-powered top does its own job at keeping the water mixed through its constant spinning, though different videos show it spinning in different directions; the YouTube above shows a clockwise-spinning top, but other videos show it spinning in counterclockwise motion.  Either way, the tool seems to be useful in transferring the energy and intent of a candle directly to water, in a clean and full way that doesn’t leave residue or candle remnants.

Let’s give some examples of use, shall we?  Say that a friend has contracted a prolonged sickness, and some investigation shows a possible spiritual influence.  Dress a candle with the intent for health and shaking off spiritual gunk and set it atop a small name paper of your friend on the corkboard, then use the top in a bowl of clean water.  Administer the water to your friend in the form of baths and drinks to cleanse them internally and externally.  Being “nothing more” than clean water, perhaps with a faint metallic aftertaste, such a water could be used innocuously and without notice, or for those with sensitivities to particular herbs or oils.  Instead of giving it to them to drink or bathe with, you could also use the water in a humidifier, or set it in a pot to boil, so as to fill an entire area with the water, or use it in the washing machine for a load of laundry to do the same.  Alternatively, for a more malefic use, say you want to get rid of a troublesome coworker in the workplace, but the usual methods of doing so would draw too much undue attention, such as the laying of powders, dressing with oils, or other charms or tricks.  Dress a candle with hot-foot or get-fired oil and pray over the water to do the same, then once empowered, bring the water with you to work in an otherwise-normal water bottle (that you may not want to ever drink out of again).  “Accidentally” spill the water on your coworker’s uniform, shoes, or desk; it being water, most people would think no-harm no-foul, but you know better, don’t you?  Or, if they have a habit of leaving their desk or supplies unattended, put a few drops in their coffee mug on their desk or on their chair when they’re not looking.

If you’re comfortable with doing so, of course, there’s nothing saying you have to use plain old water for this sort of tool; most herbal infusions would likely work fine, though you’d do well to make sure they don’t corrode copper or corkboard too quickly, and that you thoroughly clean the tubing before and after each use to prevent both spiritual and material contamination.  Alternatively, the water could be used as an ingredient in other recipes, with the steam-powered top enchantment providing a kind of “pre-blessing” to prime the recipe as a whole.  I’d refrain from using this tool with anything with a high alcohol content, of course, given the obvious dangers of open flame around flammable liquids, though with a different construction of such a top in a fire-safe chamber, perhaps this wouldn’t be so much an issue.  The YouTube video above links to the Grand Illusions website where you can get your own pre-made steam-powered top for a not-unreasonable price, which I’ve already done and I’m excited to put to work when such an opportunity presents itself.  However, it wouldn’t be hard to make one of these yourself, though getting the copper tubing (or some other non-corroding heat-conducting metal) fixed in just the right direction may be a challenge for some.

Blessing of the Vessel

(Update 1/9/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

In addition to Betz’s version of the Greek Magical Papyri, which is as indispensable to me as a good copy of Agrippa’s books, there’s another text I often reference when trying to find good source material from about the same time period of the early first millennium CE from the southeast Mediterranean.  Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power (1994) by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith is an excellent text that uses more Coptic spells than Greek or Demotic, and although there’s some minor overlap between Meyer and Betz, there’s a hefty amount that’s only in this text.  I find that Fr. Michael Cecchetelli has also pulled or incorporated stuff into his Book of Abrasax from the same texts as are present in Meyer, so it’s a good text to read through.  It’s not formatted as nicely as Betz has done his version of the PGM, but it’s workable all the same.

One ritual from this text caught my eye recently as I was going through and rewriting my enchiridion, just to see if there was anything in it that I could use that I hadn’t already seen or glossed over.  Labeled as “Cairo, Egyptian Museum 49547”, it’s an ostracon (inscribed potsherd) described in Meyer as a “spell invoking Bathuriel and other heavenly powers”.  It’s got a distinct liturgical tone to it, and though it’s a manifestly Christian text, it also draws on Egyptian, Jewish, and Gnostic traditions.  It’s not particularly long and doesn’t seem to have any specific application, nor is there a ritual framework in which to apply it (because of course not), but it’s a good thing I’ve been experimenting with as of late.

I found another copy of the same text in an online publication, which you can find here; it’s far more academic and, accordingly, has far more footnotes and commentary to incorporate, and its author, the Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley, concludes that it’s far more than just a blessing of a cup.  Rather, he describes it as a Christian variant of the Egyptian Books of Breathing, funerary texts used to enable people to survive in the afterlife, similar to the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Granted that Nibley translated and understood these texts with a Mormon agenda and interpreted this as an early Christian variant of the Mormon “prayer circle”, but he might be onto something interesting with that idea.

With that, here’s my interpretation and ritualization of the text.  Instead of going with Nibley’s rather stretched idea of the ritual as a thing of ennoblement or ascension of the dead in a prayer circle, I use the ritual as a more direct and obvious choice of blessing a vessel (like the Chalice) for holding the blessings of God and partaking of them in liquid form.  If you’re not doing anything else at sunrise, this is a good ritual to use first thing in the morning to prepare yourself for the day, or when preparing for some other holy act to confer blessing or initiation.

At sunrise, prepare a clean glass, chalice, or other vessel you can drink from.  Prepare an amount of either pure, clean water or holy water mixed with wine.  Use an amount that you can drink entirely in three, four, or five reasonably-sized gulps (three for the Trinity, four for the four directions, five for the five wounds of Christ), plus another dallop of water.  Set it in the middle of an altar or other clean surface, oriented towards the sunrise.  If desired, set on the altar a single white candle oriented to the East or four white candles, one for each of the four directions, as well as incense (preferably frankincense and/or myrrh) burning.

Begin by making the Sign of the Cross at each of the first six invocations:

+ Hail, El Bathuriel, who gives strength, who gives voice to the angels!
+ Hail, Adonai!
+ Hail, Eloi!
+ Hail, Abrasax!
+ Hail, Iothael!
+ Hail, Mizrael, who has looked upon the face of the Father in the power of ΙΑΩ!

Place both hands over the vessel.

I adjure you by the first seal, placed upon the body of Adam.
I adjure you by the second seal, placed upon the members of Adam.
I adjure you by the third seal, which marked the vitals and the breast of Adam when he was cast down to become dust, until Jesus Christ takes him by the hand in the embrace of his Father.

Raise both hands up to heaven.

The Father has raised him up!
He has breathed in his face, He has filled him with the breath of life!
Send to me your breath of life, unto this true and faithful vessel!
Amen, amen, amen!

Sousa, sousa, sousa!
I covenant with you by the three cries which the Son uttered on the cross: Eloi Eloi Sabaktani, “God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Holy, holy, holy!
Hail, David, the forefather of Christ, he who sings praises in the Church of the First-born of Heaven!
Hail, David, the forefather of the Lord, of the joyful ten-stringed lyre, the joyful one who sings within the the sanctuary!

Hail, Harmosiel, who sings within the veil of the Father!  They repeat after him, those who are at the entrances and those who are upon the towers.
When the Tribes of the Twelve Worlds hear what he says, they joyfully repeat after him:
Holy, holy, holy!  One holy Father!
Amen, amen, amen!

At this point, face inward and recite the Lord’s Prayer or some other exaltation of God in silence. Place the dominant hand above the cup, and raise the left one in adoration of heaven.

Hail Arebrais in Heaven and Earth!
Hail, o Sun!
Hail, you twelve little children who cover the body of the Sun!
Hail, you twelve vessels filled with water!  They have filled their hands; they have scattered abroad the rays of the Sun, that they may not burn up the fruits of the field.
Fill your hands, pronounce your blessing upon this vessel!

Pick up the cup.  In a clockwise motion, face the four directions and present the cup to the four directions with the cup up high in front of you.

Hail, you four winds of Heaven!

Again, face the four directions and present the cup to the four directions with the cup at chest level in front of you.

Hail, you four corners of the Earth!

Face the altar, holding the cup above your head in front of you.

Hail, you hosts of Heaven!

Hold the cup at chest level in front of you.

Hail, you Earth of the inheritance!

Raise the cup high above your head.

Hail, o Garden of the Saints of the Father!

Pour out just a small amount of water before you.  Drink the water from the cup in slow, measured gulps.  Holding the cup at your chest, take as many deep breaths as you had gulps of water, letting the water inside you fill your entire presence, turning into light that fills your spirit, becoming brighter with each breath.  Place the cup down on the altar.

One Holy Father +
One Holy Son +
One Holy Spirit +
Amen.

The ritual is complete.  If desired, follow up by singing hymns or psalms of praise, practice the Hymns of Silence, or perform some other empowerment ritual to build upon this.

Now, the ritual is designed above with one person in mind drinking from a single vessel.  If more people are present, a large bowl may be used, with all participants taking a cupful for themselves and practicing the ritual motions starting at “Hail Arebrais…”, drinking the liquid in unison at the end; I envision the ritual leader performing the initial few parts on their own, with everyone reciting the ritual once everyone has their own cup.

Alternatively, the use of the word “vessel” here is ambiguous; sure, it can refer to a drinking vessel like a cup or bowl, but it could also refer to a human being; instead of blessings from heaven filling a liquid, it could refer to the Holy Spirit filling a human.  This is, after all, the fundamental idea underlying both the idea of saints as well as of prophets, the word for which in Hebrew indicates hollowness or being hollowed out to hold the voice of God.  It bears experimentation to use this ritual without an actual cup, using oneself as the vessel to be reborn and filled with heavenly power and presence.

A few notes on the text itself:

  • The text begins with a Tau-Rho sign (not the usual Chi-Rho), similar to an ankh.  Meyer presents this as a cross, although Nibley says that this is supposed to be closer to an ankh than a cross.
  • The use of the name “Bathuriel” is odd; I wasn’t able to find particularly much online besides that it’s the moniker used for several gamers.  What I was able to find was that this is a name used in a few Gnostic texts to refer to God the Father, so when the text begins “Hail, El Bathuriel…”, it might be considered an epithet of God.  Nibley’s derivation of the name comes from Hebrew Bait-suri-el, or “the house of my strength is God”.  In other texts, this name is described as the “Great Power” or “Great True Name” of God.
  • Adonai and Eloi aren’t surprising appellations of God to find here, being Hebrew/Aramaic for “my Lord” and “my God”, respectively.  Abrasax, however, seems to be an appellation of God as well, not his own entity; this use of the name gives a distinct solar power to the God of this ritual, but also as divine mystagogue.
  • Mizrael (or Mistrael) may be considered an angel here, but as the embodiment of the divine authority of God, enabling him to see the true face of God behind the veil.
  • Sousa, sousa, sousa” isn’t translated from the original text, but given the context, it could be an ejaculatory cry for help, recalling the Greek σωζε or σωσαι, meaning “rescue”.
  • The use of Jesus’ cry “Eloi, eloi, elema sabaktani” (more canonically written “Eloi eloi lema sabachthani“) is a hugely popular phrase to use in many of the Coptic spells I’ve seen, including the translation of it into the language of the source text.  The original text had it in a very corrupt form on its own: “Eloi, eloi, ahlebaks atōnē“.
  • Harmosiel is another angelic entity, the one who sounds the trumpet of the presence of God and shares with Mizrael the privilege of beholding the face of God behind the veil.
  • In my view, the “Tribes of the Twelve Worlds” as well as the “twelve little children” and describe the twelve Zodiac signs and their embodiments as the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • The name “Arebrais” is lacking in full in Meyer (present as “Ab[…]ais”), but present in Nibley.  I instinctively filled the name as “Ablanais”, under the influence of the word ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, but to each his own, I suppose.
  •  The description of the “twelve vessels” with water that scatter the rays of the Sun to preserve vegetation is noted by Nibley has having a more mundane task than representing the high angels of the Zodiac; he describes them like the atmosphere and its moisture scattering the harmful rays of the Sun that would cause harm to living creatures.  This is a distinctly modern understanding, perhaps, but not a terrible way to see it.
  • “Garden of the Saints of the Father” could also be interpreted as “Authority of the Saints of the Father”, as the same word works for both.  Nibley notes that the garden is the sanctified inheritance of the saints, and the authority as that with which the saints have been invested.

Empowerment Candle Ritual with Psalm 119

(Update 1/8/2018: Got here by Googling around or followed a link from another site?  Interested in more about this ritual, especially since this post is old and I’ve learned quite a bit more since then?  Want to know how to do this ritual better?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Recently, I got back in touch with a good magical colleague of mine whom I hadn’t spoken to in a bit.  Not that anything was wrong, it was just that life got in the way of us having a good time.  Happily, our mutual absence from each other’s lives is now over, and we’re getting down to brainstorming some good ol’ fashioned powerworking, because we’re fancy like that.  My friend and I don’t exactly match much in what we do; I’m the fancy Hermetic quasi-Hellenic part-classical-part-Renaissance ritual magician, and my friend is basically a dirty, fabulous, conjuring, rootworking, Vodou-doing swamp witch.  We happily complement each other’s works, and although we’re kinda like night and day, there are a good number of places we overlap.

One night, we were discussing some traditional protection magic involving mirror boxes and representations made of ourselves to act as decoys in attracting maleficia. My friend brought up the idea of circling the representation in ash composed from burning copies of Psalm 23 and Psalm 91, both of which serve extremely well in spiritual protection and defense.  The notion of circling an image of oneself in ash struck me as peculiar, but also extraordinarily powerful.  The image of Tarot Trump XXII, the World, stuck in my head, and my mind made the leap to using Psalm 119 as the basis for such an ash as well.

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After all, Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible, and itself is longer than a good number of books from both the Old and New Testament.  It’s an example of an acrostic hymn, where each section begins with a different letter of the alphabet (in this case, the Hebrew script).  Thus, there are 22 sections of 8 verses each, each verse extolling a different virtue or blessing ascribed to the Law.  Because of it’s all-encompassing nature, it’s one of the most powerful psalms used in psalmic magic, like in conjurework and American folk magic.  Sometimes just a small section of the Psalm is used, and sometimes the entire psalm.

Add to it, the connection of the different sections of Psalm 119 with the Hebrew letters struck me as powerful.  I think my readers are already familiar with my affinity for alphabet magic, especially when it comes to Greek, but that’s not to say I discount the use of Hebrew.  After all, qabbalah is still a thing.  With each Hebrew letter represented in Psalm 119, the psalm truly does have a universal power that can affect, well, everything.  Every force in the Hebrew tradition (12 signs of the Zodiac, 7 planets, and 3 elements because Earth and Spirit aren’t a thing rabbinically speaking) is represented here, and is heavily involved in the modern understanding of the paths of the Tree of Life.  If we combine the powers of the building blocks of the cosmos with the already notable power of Psalm 119 as used in traditional magic, we can get a truly powerful result upon ourselves.

Thus, this ritual makes an ash with Psalm 119 and circles a representation of ourselves with it; we effectively encircle, fortify, and bless ourselves with all of creation and all of the blessings and promises of the Lord, while also orienting ourselves to the Law of God and our duties within it.  My swamp witch friend heard me out on this and we promptly queened out over the prospects of using this in a separate ritual.  After some discussion, we decided to draw out a recitation of the entire Psalm 119 over the course of a lunar month for a general, but profound, empowerment ritual to strengthen, bless, and help us in all our needs in life.  A tentative working name for this ritual might be “Anointing of the World’s Blessing”, given a structural similarity with the World card and what it actually does.

The ritual takes place over a full lunar month (30 consecutive days), broken down into several stages.  The way we’ve planned it, the ritual requires about 15 minutes per day, but it can be augmented as necessary according to your own preferences.

  • Day 0 (New Moon, one day): preparation of supplies and altar
  • Days 1 through 3 (three days): initial prayers
  • Days 4 through 25 (22 days): Psalm prayers
  • Days 26 through 28 (three days): final prayers
  • Day 29 (Dark Moon, one day): thanksgiving and cleanup

The materia for this ritual are fairly simple and easily obtained:

  • Four white candles (tealights work fine)
  • Four seven-day candles (those 7-color glass-encased candles are perfect)
  • A recent picture of yourself
  • A printout of Psalm 119
  • A Bible (any decent translation in your native language is good, but you can’t go wrong with the King James Version)
  • A small glass jar or vial with airtight lid
  • Olive oil

On the day of the New Moon, prepare your representation of yourself.  If you’re just using a picture of yourself, write out your full birth name, followed by “son/daughter/child of” the name of your mother, and your birthday and birthtime (if you have it), perhaps writing your name on it seven times to make a proper name paper out of it.  Once this is done, take the printout of Psalm 119 and burn it to ash.  On an altar or surface that you’ve already ritually cleaned off for the working, set the representation of yourself down and make a complete circle around it in the Psalm ash, and set the four 7-day candles around the circle aligned to the four cardinal directions.

psalm119altar

Set one white candle on top of your representation (with at least some sort of protection between the candle base and your representation) and light it, letting it burn down completely, praying that the ritual to be used with them be purified and blessed with the grace and power of God.  Once the white candle has burned out later that day, dispose of it.

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On the sunrise after the New Moon (the start of the Noumenia), begin the first three days of the ritual.  Light the candle aligned towards the East and face the East as well if you can (not required).  On sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times.  Recite an adaption of the prayer from the Heptameron (normally to be used instead of invocations of the angels of the airs when working above the fifth heaven):

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored through endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should complete and completely realize my work, labor, and petition, You who live and reign, world without end.  Bless me in all times, in all days, in all places, in all ways.  Let boundless bounty and blessing come to me from the four corners of the world.  Help me, o Lord, in my life that I may come to be girded by the strength and aid of the world, subject only to You.  Amen.

On the sunrise of the fourth day, go to the altar and face East if you can (not required).  Recite the following prayer over the altar:

O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
O God, make speed to save me.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

On this day, pray the first section of verses (Psalm 119:1-8) corresponding to the Hebrew letter Aleph.  As is traditional, it’s important to actually read this from a hardcopy Bible, but that’s only if you care about being traditional.  After praying this section of Psalm 119, meditate briefly on the meaning and content of the section just recited, closing with a silent prayer for the blessing of the world to infuse your life, empower you, strengthen you, illumine you, and assist you in all undertakings.

Repeat this process for the next 21 days, reciting each of the sections of Psalm 119 in turn.  Thus, on the fifth day, recite the second section of Psalm 119 (Bet); on the sixth, the third section (Gimel); on the seventh, the fourth section (Dalet); and so on until the 25th day, reciting the 22nd section (Tav).  Eventually, the 7-day candle you lit earlier will burn out; on the next sunrise, light the next candle going in a clockwise direction (so East, South, West, then North).  The first three candles should have burned out by the 25th day, with more than half of the fourth and final candle having been consumed.  If they burn longer than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day using the flame from the old candle; if they burn shorter than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day rather than immediately.

On the 26th day, begin the process of closing the ritual for the final three days.  The process is the similar to the first three days: on sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times. Finally, recite Matthew 7:7-8 from the Bible:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Ideally, the candle-verse breakdown should go like this:

  1. Three days of preliminary prayer, Aleph, Bet, Gimel, Dalet
  2. Heh, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yod, Kaph
  3. Lamed, Mem, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Peh, Tzaddi
  4. Qoph, Resh, Shin, Tav, three days of final prayer

On the 29th day, the day before the New Moon (maybe two days depending on the specific month we’re in), all the candles should have burnt out entirely.  This is the final day of the ritual when all the other work has been done.  First, take your picture and burn it to an ash, then collect the rest of the ash from the Psalm 119 printout and mix it together.  If there’s any wax or soot residue from the four seven-day candles, take a small scraping from each candle and mix it with the ash.  Get a small vial of good olive oil and mix the ash in fully and well.  Dispose of the rest of the remains from the ritual, then set the vial of ash where your picture used to sit, and set three white candles close around the vial.  Light them and make an offering of praise in thanksgiving to God for his help and blessing in your life; I recommend the thanksgiving prayers I use, based on Draja Mickaharic’s prayer from the Old Testament.  Pray over the oil mixed with the ash that it may assist you henceforth in all your undertakings, both those you desire and those you ought to desire, in the things you do and the things you ought to do, that you may always receive the blessing and strength and courage of the Lord in all your life.  Let the candles burn down completely.  Once they’ve burned out, the ritual is complete and finished.

The oil mixed with the ash is to be kept safe as a special and private anointing oil for yourself.  It’s intrinsically tied to you and your life, and not to be used by others or on the tools of others, only on you and your tools in your workings.  Anoint yourself with this oil (perhaps using Psalm 23, perhaps using my own prayer of anointing that you might find useful) before any working or operation, even if it’s a mundane thing like going to an interview; heck, anoint yourself with it upon rising every day.  This oil is a blessing for you in addition to having received the blessings from praying Psalm 119 itself.

Some suggestions for alternatives or enhancements to the ritual:

  • Instead of using the preface prayer (O Lord, open thou my lips…) to the sections of Psalm 119, you might use Psalm 23 instead, which is also appropriate here.
  • A la my daily mathetic letter meditations, you may find it helpful to do a similar meditation ritual for the letter of the section of Psalm 119 being meditated upon, complete with a visualization of the Hebrew letter itself and projecting it and the sounds of the letter into the ash.
  • If you’d like to focus the entire ritual to a particular end rather than a general empowerment, dress the candles and your representation with an appropriate oil, as well as the Psalm printout before you burn it.  You could also write out the intention of the ritual on the back of your photo as well, writing it in a circle around your name and birth information.
  • Consider dedicating the four candles to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel in their appropriate directions (using whatever associations you prefer for this), and invoke them on each day their specific candles are burning.  Going with the Tarot theme, you might place the Kings of the Tarot under each candle (King of Wands for Michael, King of Swords for Raphael, etc.) and place the World card under yourself.  In the picture of my working setup above, you can see that I did just this, with the World card hidden under the silver platter with my picture and the ashes.
  • I only clean off a ritual surface with a light wash of Florida water and holy water (obtained from a church is always a good choice, but you can make it on your own, too), but you might enhance the ritual area by drawing an empowerment sigil under your representation, lining the surface with crossroads dirt, writing sacred verses from the Bible around your representation to be covered with the Psalm ash, or the like.
  • The ritual above says only one section of Psalm 119 per day during the main part of the ritual month.  You might also consider saying the entire psalm each day, or building up to saying the entire psalm over the course of the month (saying the Aleph section on the first day of this part of the month, Aleph and Beta on the second, Aleph through Gimel on the third, until the final day when you say the entire Psalm 119).
  • I know that there are angels for each of the letters of the Greek alphabet, and I’m sure that a similar set of angels exist for the letters of the Hebrew script, though I don’t know (yet) of one.  You might consider doing an invocation of the letter-angel on each day corresponding to the particular section of Psalm 119 being said.  Alternatively, you might consider invoking the angel associated with the force that is associated with each Hebrew letter (e.g. Heh is associated with Aries, so invoke the angel of Aries, Malkhidael; Aleph is associated with Air, so invoke the angel of Air, Raphael).  You can find these names courtesy of Agrippa (book II, chapter 7 for the elements, chapter 10 for the planets, chapter 14 for the signs).
  • If you want to be more Jewish about this, instead of reciting the prayers at sunrise, try doing them at sunset when the Jews consider their days to start.
  • To be honest, I hadn’t originally considered saving the ash from the Psalm and mixing it with the photo to turn it into an anointing oil, but hey, “waste not, want not”.  Instead of doing that, you could save the ash with the picture (not burning it) and turning it into a mojo bag or other similar charm to keep with you.
  • You might consider using a lodestone or magnet lightly dusted with the Psalm 119 ash and placing it on top of your image so that it attracts all the blessings of the world to you.  This magnet would be placed into the vial of oil to continue drawing the blessings to it and to you over time.  I don’t prefer doing this, only because with the ritual, there’s no need to attract anything from the world that you’re already the center of; all of the cosmos revolves around you in this ritual layout.  There are arguments for and against this, and I can see benefits for doing both.  Experiment!
  • If you want to speed up the process, you might be able to condense the whole working into seven days.  The first day would be for setup and opening prayers (days 0 through 3) and the last day for closing prayers and thanksgiving (days 26 through 29).  The intermediate five days would go more-or-less as usual, except that you’d recite four sections of Psalm 119 a day: open with section Aleph, two of the sections of the psalm (Beth and Gimel, Dalet and Heh, Vav and Zayin, Cheth and Teth, etc.), then close with section Tav.  This maintains a coherency along the entire week, but in a faster manner.  Still, why rush it?  Why use the microwave when you can have a slow-cooked, higher-quality meal instead?
  • As with any prolonged ritual working, this may have some unintended side-effects.  Read through the entire psalm first before deciding whether you want to use this ritual.  I honestly didn’t expect this ritual to have as many effects as it did, not all of which were entirely pleasant to go through, but I’m glad it did.

(Again, this post is old, so please check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Suitable Jewelry for Magic, Spirits, and Forces

As many of my readers and followers on Twitter and Facebook are aware, one of the most important things I craft for my personal practice are pieces of jewelry I wear in honor of the spirits or as talismans of particular forces.  This goes far beyond the lamens used in conjuration or Solomonic rings, but include what I’ve come to call carcanets, beaded necklaces and bracelets with colors, stones, and metals that resonate well with a particular spirit.  I started making them to have simple wearable talismans of planetary and elemental forces that wouldn’t attract too much attention or be too bulky to carry around, but I ended up making more for some of my gods and spirits, and then more for other people based on custom needs.  On Facebook, The Professor from the blog Traif Banquet noted that she’s seen me make many different types of carcanets and was interested in how I pick the colors and patterns for each, and how I consecrate them and use them in ritual work.  Of course, I was headed to a theme park that day to support the local LGBT community, so it wasn’t quite the time for such a discussion then and there, but I decided to oblige anyway and write a fuller explanation of what exactly I do.

So, what is a carcanet?  Physically speaking, a carcanet is ritual talismanic jewelry made from beads that sometimes incorporate precious and semi-precious stone or metal or wood or bone, sometimes religious items like saint medallions or crosses, and sometimes other items that is worn to derive the blessing, presence, and aid of a particular spiritual force or entity.  I make mine from artificial twine and seed beads and make them into necklaces and bracelets, though there’s nothing saying you have to use the same materials I do.  I use artificial twine because it’s sturdy and resistant to breaking, though elastic cord or leather can be useful too on occasion.  Each carcanet is attuned and consecrated to a particular force or spirit, and the colors, materials, and patterns on the carcanet indicate exactly what that attunement is and to whom or to what it’s consecrated by or under.

For instance, consider my Sash of Powers, something I made a while back for use in standard Western ceremonial work, which contains representations of all the forces used in Western ceremonial magic based on the Golden Dawn and Agrippan materia.  This is worn across one shoulder and drapes down to the opposite hip, since it’s far too long to wear as a necklace or bracelet.  Among other forces, the Sash of Powers contains the 24 forces that we use in mathesis and, for that matter, most of the Western mystery tradition, and the colors I use for this tend are those I tend to use in most of my work:

Sash of Powers

  • Four elements: I use the system of flashing colors that the Golden Dawn instituted.  Thus, I use red (primary) and green (secondary) for Fire, yellow and purple for Air, and blue and orange for Water.  They didn’t really have flashing colors for Earth that I can find, instead using the “muddled” colors associated with the sephirah Malkuth (black, citrine, olive, russet), so instead I use black (primary) and white (secondary).
  • Spirit: I’ve never really considered this an element proper (as my mathesis stuff shows), though it can be considered an element or a planet or any other force based on the need.  Because of this, it’s hard to give a color for pure Spirit; I tend to use pure white, clear, pearlescent, or rainbow for Spirit.  If we consider Spirit to be the realm of the fixed stars (i.e. Chokmah), then some combination of silver, clear grey, or light blue might work; if we consider it pure divinity (i.e. Kether), then white and clear would work.
  • Seven planets: I use the system of Queen and King scales of the Golden Dawn, so black and crimson for Saturn, blue and purple for Jupiter, red and orange for Mars, and so forth.
  • Twelve signs of the Zodiac: I never liked the scales of the Four Worlds the Golden Dawn uses for the paths of the Tree of Life, from which we can get  colors for the twelve Zodiac signs.  Instead, I use a combination of the Queen scale of the Golden Dawn for the ruling planet of the sign as well as the colors that Agrippa gives for the sign (book I, chapter 49).  Thus, as an example, consider Aries and Libra.  Agrippa gives white as the color for both these signs, while the corresponding Queen scale of the ruling planets are red for Aries ruled by Mars and green for Libra ruled by Venus.  Thus, Aries has red and white, and Libra has green and white as its colors.  I tend to differentiate the Agrippan zodiacal colors from the Queen scale planetary colors by using a slightly brighter, more reflective, or metallic variant (so a reflective clear red instead of a flat red), but it’s not necessary.

Of course, the Sash also has a few other things marked on it, including the 12 Banners of the Names of God and the 16 geomantic figures, but those aren’t forces, per se.  These are less colors to be used with forces and more representations of more complex things that can vary.  Geomantic figures, being ultimately related to the Earth, use white and black as the colors of the element of Earth (with a white bead noting an active line and a black bead a passive line in a geomantic figure); I used white, yellow-gold, black, and brown to represent the four letters of the Tetragrammaton put in their different permutations, but I’m not sure that it matters for this how or which colors to use.

Of course, I don’t make carcanets and the like for just pure forces.  The major focus of what I make nowadays is for individual spirits, gods, saints, and the like, and that’s where creativity and research really come into play.  Unfortunately, most of the Western tradition (especially books like the Lemegeton) focus on the use of certain kinds of metals or woods and less on colors than I’d like, so I have to branch out and be a little more innovative to figure out what colors go with what spirit.  However, the way I tend to settle on colors follows a pattern:

  1. Traditions of the spirits takes precedence; if there’s a body of lore or worship built up around something, I’ll likely start with those colors, if not just use those colors.  For instance, it’s tradition that Saint Cyprian of Antioch’s colors are generally perceived to be black, purple, white, and red, so nearly all my Saint Cyprian gear has black, purple, and white on it (red I tend to reserve for specific workings or subsume it into purple, perhaps settling on a compromise of wine or dark red).  The archangels of Christianity often have their own color symbolism, especially in icons from the Orthodox tradition, so I might use the colors most commonly seen on their robes or in their icons, like light blue and pink for Sealtiel.
  2. Association with the forces described above can play a role in deciding colors.  For instance, I work with Hephaistos, the blacksmith god of the Greeks, except there’s so little known about Hephaistos’ cult back in the day that I have no tradition to go on.  However, Agrippa in his scale of 12 (book II, chapter 15) helpfully gives an association between the 12 Olympian gods (including Hestia and excluding Dionysus) and the 12 signs of the Zodiac.  There, Hephaistos is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and my colors for Libra are white and green, so good colors to use for Hephaistos can include white and green, as well.
  3. Asking the spirit themselves for colors they like can also work well.  This generally requires being in tune and in good standing with the spirit to get that kind of information about, and it might require divination or light trancework to get a good set of colors that works well, but overall asking the spirit themselves for what colors they like can be hugely helpful.  However, no two people may arrive at the same colors for the same spirit, based on their relationship with them.  For instance, my Hermes altar uses orange as the primary color (since I started off conflating the god Hermes with the planet Mercury, which isn’t too hard a leap to make), but my ritual necklace I have for him uses bone-white, brown, light blue, and gold beads based on a color scheme he gave me.
  4. Syncretism of different traditions can be informative as well.  If it’s alright with the spirit, looking at other traditions not native to them can help me pick what colors to use.  Going back to Hephaistos, I asked if it was alright if I looked at another tradition with a huge repertoire of color symbolism: Santeria.  The elekes and collares of Santeria are color-coded necklaces that indicate which orisha one has received, and although the ATR I’m in (yes, I’m an initiate in one) doesn’t have colors of its own, our spirits in that ATR are happy with using the same colors as Santeria (since they’re basically cousins of each other, much as how Roman and Greek gods are mythological cousins).  In Santeria, the blacksmith god Ogun has the colors black and green, so with the permission of Hephaistos, I also use black and green for some of my works in conjunction with white and green derived from Hephaistos’ association with the zodiac sign of Libra.  This can be tricky, however, and you need people on both sides to agree that the use of another traditions’ colors is alright, especially if you happen to live in an area with a large number of that other tradition who might confuse you for one of them.

As a rule, I like to have at least two colors on the carcanet.  To be honest, this keeps the thing from being visually boring; I dislike having a single solid color unless it’s required for a spiritual purpose, kind of like the Santerian orisha Obatala having his eleke being pure white.  That said, most spirits tend to have a multitude of powers, fields, strengths, and things they rule over; the different colors I use reflect those different responsibilities and dominions.  Too many colors can be confusing, however; I usually stick between two and four colors per carcanet, but sometimes more if there’s a specific need for it or if the spirit itself is associated with having many colors.

Beyond the colors of beads themselves, most of my carcanets and the like often make use of precious and semi-precious stone and metal beads, and those are much better attested in the Western traditions generally.  Of course, color symbolism is important in picking these, too, as well as the specific resonances of the stones or metals or whatnot.  For instance, red stones tend to be ruled by Mars in general, though carnelian, ruby, and fire agate all have slightly different feels that may make them better for some forces or spirits instead of others.  The minerals and chemicals within the stones themselves, too, can be important, which can link them together with metals.  For instance, one of my favorite green stones is malachite, which contains a high amount of copper that gives it its bright green color.  Copper and green are both associated with Venus, which makes this an excellent Cytherean/Venereal stone suitable for the planetary force as well as the goddess Aphrodite.

Once I have the colors figured out, then it’s time to figure out the patterns.  The most straightforward and simple pattern, assuming two colors, is to alternate the colors of beads one by one (so red, black, red, black, red, black…).  Personally, I hate this system, and I try to stay away from it as much as I can.  I generally figure out patterns based on numbers sacred to the spirit.  For instance, Saint Cyprian’s sacred number is 9, so the patterns I use tend to involve 9 in some way; one such carcanet I made for him has nine black beads, three wine beads, one white bead, one clear bead, one white bead, and three more wine beads for a “set” of 18, or 2 × 9, and I’ll repeat this as many times as necessary to get a carcanet of suitable length.  My mathesis carcanet (yes, I even made one for that) has ten white beads followed by one gold bead, since 10 and 1 are sacred numbers in mathesis and Pythagoreanism.  My Venus carcanet has two sets of seven green beads separated by a tiger’s eye bead, two sets of seven gold beads separated by a green aventurine bead, and a set of 14 (2 × 7) beads that alternate green and gold.  Making the patterns can be tricky, but usually I have a good idea in my head before I launch into stringing the beads.  On occasion, I’ll decide a few sets into the carcanet that the pattern isn’t good and I’ll start over, but they’re generally close to what I had in mind.

Of course, crafting the carcanets and the like is only half the process; the other half is consecration.  Just like how the colors and patterns may change based on the purpose, the means of consecrating the carcanet will also change.  Generally speaking, however, consecration falls into two different methods.  Both methods first start off with ritually washing the carcanet off in holy water to cleanse and prepare it for future blessing, and both tend to involve anointing with oil and suffumigation in incense, but beyond that, they’re different:

  • Force carcanet consecration: A carcanet that’s a talisman of a force (e.g. Water, Mercury, or Taurus) is consecrated by conjuring the angel associated with the force (e.g. Gabriel, Raphael or Asmodel, respectively) at an appropriate time, generally during an appropriate planetary day and hour or when the zodiac sign in question is rising or culminating during the waxing moon.  I’ll charge the angel in the appropriate godname and office to consecrate, sanctify, dedicate, bless, and empower the carcanet to serve for me a powerful talisman and connection and link to the force in question, that it may radiate the same force into my sphere that I may call upon and direct it at will and in my need.  I’ll suffumigate it in the incense burning for the conjuration and anoint it with an appropriate oil if desired and if I have one.  You know, the usual.  After the conjuration, I’ll set the carcanet on top of the lamen of the angel wrapped around a candle to continue and complete the charge of the carcanet.  Once the candle burns out, I’ll often (but not always) conjure the angel again and thank them for helping me consecrate the carcanet, charging them to seal the power into the carcanet and make it a powerful tool and instrument for my work.  This completes (and, usually, overdoes) the consecration.
  • Spirit carcanet consecration: A carcanet that’s dedicated in the honor and blessing of a spirit, on the other hand, takes a slightly different route.  Instead of turning the carcanet into a simple talisman, it becomes more of a devotional offering to be worn in the honor and service of a particular spirit.  Yes, it still accomplishes the result of bringing the blessings of a particular force into my life, but this way it’s less that it’s being filled with a particular power or motion and more that it’s bringing the attention and blessings of a particular spirit.  In this way, I’ll go up to the spirit, make offerings to them at a time good or convenient for them, and formally dedicate the carcanet as an offering to them to be worn in their honor and devotion.  I’ll often anoint the carcanet in oil or their offering drink (wine or water, usually), drape the carcanet on the image or statue of the spirit or wrap it around a prepared candle, and I’ll ask that they consecrate, sanctify, dedicate, yada yada the carcanet to their own blessings and purpose.  After leaving the carcanet on their altar or shrine for a week, I’ll make another offering to them thanking them for the carcanet’s blessings and wear it during certain times to obtain their blessing and in their honor as a kind of votive action.

Now that I think about it, the methods for consecrating them for a force via an angelic conjuration and for a spirit by dedication aren’t that different; it’s just two variations of the same idea, really.  Plus, depending on the carcanet and spirit/force it’s consecrated under, I may maintain its power in different ways, sometimes by anointing it with oil or “feeding” it with other sundry liquids, sometimes by praying over it, sometimes by letting it sit out in sunlight or moonlight.  It all depends.  The carcanet is a general ritual tool that, even though the material basis looks the same being made out of twine and glass, its spiritual essence and use may vary wildly.

Speaking of, how are these things used?  It’s pretty simple: you wear them.  That’s it.  I’ll often say a short blessing or invocation of the spirit or force to which a carcanet is dedicated or consecrated under when I don one, and I’ll say a prayer of thanks and blessing when I remove one, but that’s about it.  Seed beads are often too small for my big fingers to manipulate, so I don’t bother with using them as prayer tools but rather as part of spiritual regalia, armor, and connection when I need it.  On occasion, I’ll make a chaplet or set of prayer beads large enough to be worn, and in those cases the carcanet doubles as a prayer instrument, but this is the exception and not the norm for me; such prayer carcanets tend to use stone and metal beads more than seed beads, so the way I make them tends to differ a little bit since my options are usually more limited.

And yes, if you’re interested, I do take custom commissions for carcanets and can make them to your specifications or based on my own interactions with the gods and spirits.  If you like, contact me or send me a message through my Etsy shop and we can hash something out.