Psychopompery

As part of my work with Hermes, and as an exploration into a field of magic that I want to get into but am suggested to not delve into too deeply, I’m going to try my hand at being a psychopomp, or leader of souls.  It’s one of Hermes’ classic jobs, leading the souls of the departed to the afterlife (whichever it might be, depending on the soul in question), and it’s traditionally a skill belonging to necromancy.  However, priests and religious officials of all kinds usually involve themselves in some ways with the dead, and proper funerals have the effect of laying the dead to rest and sending their souls on their (maybe not quite) merry ways.   As a magician, I’ve got the nice benefit of working with the dead in some way, even if it’s just as another source of spiritual allies; however, not all spirits of the dead are suitable for forming allies or helpful in my own works, and it’s often just as good to send them onto the next part of their paths.

That’s where being a psychopomp comes in.  It’s something I want to learn, and despite having a good psychopomp friend, it’s hard to learn exactly how to do it.  My friend says that it’s as simple as pointing to a part of the astral realm and telling some wandering spirit “go that way”, but I have my doubts, at least for how I might accomplish it.  Hermes has suggested something probably a little more comfortable in a Hellenic standpoint: make a small feast to the dead (wine, red meat, honey, grains, sweets, incense, and the like) with some coins, and direct any spirits ready to cross over to the next place they should be.  To help with this, I made a simple cane out of a long walnut dowel and rubbed it with spirit oil and a Mercury balm I made (olive oil, beeswax, and eight herbs associated with the sphere of Mercury) to use as my own kind of caduceus-type wand; this will help me direct and guide spirits much as Hermes’ own caduceus leads others.  To act as a focus for directing the dead, Hermes gave me a sigil that he says can act as a portal-key to the afterlife, or at least a halfway-house where spirits can better get to their next destination.

Also, this was something I had been waiting for for a while to do, but Hermes wanted something special from me, first.  I had been planning to work with Hermes in a very close vein for a while, and decided on getting a caduceus tattoo on my left arm (the same hand Hermes carries his caduceus in).  A week and a half ago, I went to a fantastic little parlor (specifically by Tim at Wild Style, up in Glen Burnie near Baltimore, MD) and got my very first tattoo.  Hermes was buzzing for hours around me (though that could also have been me on my endorphin high), and with this gave his approval to work as a psychopomp.  This is why I originally made that balm of Mercury I mentioned above, to assist in the healing; using this with A&D ointment for a week with prayers to Raphael and Hermes is turning out fantastically for my tattoo.

So, with last night being Halloween, I got my gear out, got some offerings, and made the rounds to the local graveyards with a friend to act as a second pair of eyes.  I made offerings to the dead at each graveyard consisting of uncooked steak, fresh cheese, barley and oats, myrrh incense, dark wine, various sweets, old coins, a candle, and the like.  I praised their good natures, offered my laments and sympathies for their passing, and honored them for having the courage to have gone before.  Depending on the graveyard, this would also involve ritual walking, like circumambulation, around some focus or central monument.  After this, I called out to the spirits at each graveyard and asked if any were prepared to move on and out to the next world.

For those that came to the call, I constructed a portal in the astral using the sigil Hermes gave me, and guided the spirits to it.  Before guiding them through it, I made sure they had no business left that needed taking care of; if they were happy and ready to move on, I sent them through and shut the portal once all the spirits who wanted to leave did.  For those that didn’t come to the call but seemed pretty chill, I poured them a little extra wine, since they were obviously cool enough to deserve it and didn’t care to pass on and out.  As for the spirits that definitely weren’t at peace, I attempted my hand at some cautious placation with some rosewater and prayers.  I’ll try to make a trip to the local graveyards for a similar psychopomp trip monthly or bimonthly to catch up with the spirits and see if any more need guiding on, probably coinciding with my monthly Hermes adoration.

I didn’t use any specific prayer or words for this besides supplications to Hermes for help in working this, but having something ready would be helpful in the future.  For those working in an angelic or Christian current, you might find a little supplication I made useful (both in Latin and in English).  It relies on three angels associated with death in different ways: Azrael who delivers death’s touch itself, Raphael as the guide and leader (much as Hermes guides souls), and Auriel as guardian of the Gates of Paradise.

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti
Azrael tibi pacem perpetuum donet
Raphael te ad terminum tute ducat
Auriel te in Paradisum complectat
Ad gloriam piisimi Dei qui vivit et regnat per saecula saeculorum
Amen.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
may Azrael give you everlasting peace,
may Raphael lead you safely to the end,
may Auriel welcome you into Paradise,
for the glory of the holiest God who lives and reigns, forever and ever,
amen.

So many dead people

I’ve been feeling extra lazy and lethargic as of late.  I think it’s my body finally saying “Fuck you, kiddo, Imma catch up on the sleep you’ve been denying me for a year”.  I think my body’s being a wuss, but I’ll play its little game.  For now.  In the meantime, less candy and takeout meals, more water and simple foods.  Gotta be strict somehow.

Well, I finally got off my ass last night and made a trip to the local graveyard.  As most of you may have noticed, Halloween was recently, as was All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.  The veil between the worlds is a little thinned right now (astrologically exact on 11/7, when the Sun is at 15° Scorpio), so I thought it appropriate to do what I’ve never done before and make an offering to the dead.  Despite my learnings and inclinations as to such, I’ve never actually done much work for or with the spirits of the dead, and left that to my naturally necromantic mother and other spirit workers.  I figured it was time to change that.

So I dressed all in black (both for the circumstance and because I didn’t want people to see someone walking into the town cemetery at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday), put a pomegranate, some beer and cookies, and a candle into my bag, and headed out for a pleasant evening walk.  I took my black-handled dagger just in case, but since it hasn’t been consecrated yet, it was more for self-confidence than anything else.  On the way, I asked my elemental familiars for some help (making sure nobody noticed me, opening my ears to hear and eyes to see the dead, that sorta thing), but also for some reassurance and comfort.  I’ve never actually been to this graveyard (or many others, for that matter), though I’ve driven by it a number of times since moving here.  Add to it, it’s nighttime, and there are no lights in the graveyard, and it’s All Souls’.  All told, I was plenty spooked when I got there, and being there didn’t do much to alleviate the fear upon me.

It felt…I dunno.  I’m still getting used to “feeling” places and sensing shit, and this place definitely felt unusual to me.  I suppose I don’t often hang out in places filled with the departed, but hey, new experiences!  In my mind’s eye I could sorta see these guys lining the areas, and a good number were curious about me.  It was mostly benign curiosity, though still kinda stark.  The graveyard had this circular mound with an obelisk in the center, which I circumambulated a few times out of respect for the dead of the place.  I then walked around the graveyard on the roads provided, taking in the sights in what little light the half-moon gave off, and just feeling around the place respectfully.

When I got back to the mound, I got out my offerings and placed them on the curb of the mound.  I lit the candle, and instantly the trees rustled from a noticeable wind (which, when the rest of the night was calm and windless, I was like “oh god oh god wtf”, but since I didn’t feel anything negative from it, I continued with my offering).  I offered one beer, the food, and the candle to the spirits, then shared the other beer with the spirits in a toast.  I made a small oration and dedication to the dead of the place, the dead I knew, the dead of my friends and family, and that sorta thing.  After I made the offerings, I noticed I could see my breath much clearer than before, which implies that the temperature dropped.  Yikes.

After I made my offerings, I got up and walked out.  I felt things around me sorta close in on me, not offensively, but…I dunno.  I “heard” a voice call out to wait, and so I turned around (making a point to not look back at the center mound, Orphically) and kinda saw the presence of a child walk up to me and, I guess, hug me.  I smiled and wished it well, and it thanked me and walked off.  I then promptly GTFO of the place before my welcome was up, since I still felt closed-in by things around me in an otherwise open space.  The walk home was uneventful and I sprinkled some water on myself later to wash off anything that might’ve clung to me, but otherwise the rest of the night went pleasingly and restfully.

Not gonna lie, I dunno if what I did was reckless or enthusiastically honoring the dead, but it was intense either way.  It was my first time, too, working with spirits of the dead as opposed to the elements or of a particular place.  They didn’t quite appear to be the listless shades of Hades, but they weren’t the most active conversationalists, either.  I’ve heard real ghost stories of some of my friends who’ve gone to real messed-up places before where the spirits there were all like “NOPE” and did what they could to get them off their turf, but this wasn’t like that either.  I suppose I might want to tread carefully whenever I work with the dead since I’ll likely not know what I’ll be brushing up against, but investigating how to work with them in the future is definitely going to be a line of research for me.