Reviewing and Renewing my Offering to All Spirits

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I could share with him one of my old documents, a digitization of my vademecum that I keep with me as my own personal prayer book and handbook for ritual and ceremony.  I had designs to digitize it and maintain a cleaner, more organized version of it, but I never really got that off the ground.  Still, it did serve as an excellent resource for all the stuff I didn’t want to copy by hand into my vademecum, and I’m glad I kept it up for as long as I did, because I apparently forgot about it sometime in, like, 2014.  It had honestly and completely skipped my mind entirely until my friend reminded me of it, so I dug through my Documents folder and, would you believe it, look at all this awesome stuff I was amassing.  (Including a bunch of recipes that I’m personally thrilled to remember again, thank God and the gods.)

One of the entries in my vademecum is an old prayer I was using at the time for a general offering to the spirits.  Not just for a specific spirit, not for a fill-in-the-blank template, but as an honest offering to all spirits of incense and water.  I wrote about it on my blog back in 2012, and gave my general framework for it then and the prayer as I had it then.  According to what I wrote (you’d be surprised what you forget over six years), at the time I was in the habit of generally making “this offering as the first offering I do after my prayers to the Almighty, so that any other spirit I call upon afterwards can also partake of the offering as they come into the area of the altar”.  I apparently stopped this practice at some point, and six years later, I can certainly recall why and why I might not recommend this practice as commonly or frequent as I once would have.

To start with, this prayer and offering practice was influenced by my friends taking Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery class, who shared some of their tech with me.  (If you noticed similarities between my phrasing of things and the phrasing of Strategic Sorcery offering prayers, well, now you know where it came from.)  Jason Miller talks about why we would make such offerings in a recent post of his on generating sorcerer’s luck, when he specifically talks about making daily and widespread offerings:

Not just to specific spirits, but widespread offerings. We use four classes in Strategic Sorcery, but it is good enough to just make an offering to the spirits of the air, land, and underworld where you live. Pour some libarion, light some incense. Do it every day.  Do. It. Every. Day. Not feeling receptive” today? Not feeling “into it”? Not “in the right headspace”? Do it anyway. It’s not about you.  Take care of the spirits and the spirits will take care of you. Shit will start to work out almost as if the universe is conspiring with you. 1000 unnamed helpers from the land in which you live often outweigh the influence of the Archdemon that you spent 3 hours conjuring.

In a general sense, I agree with Jason, because making offerings is a way to build a relationship with the spirits.  It’s like a quote I shared on my Facebook recently, attributed to the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry: “We offer sacrifices to the gods for three reasons: that we may venerate, that we may give thanks, and that we may implore from them things necessary and avert from ourselves things evil”.  By making offerings to the spirits—light, incense, libation, food, blood, song, art, prayer, energy, what have you—we build a relationship with the spirits we engage with, nourish them, strengthen them, and fortify our connection to them.  It’s a wonderful thing to do, whether you think of yourself as a mage or a priest or just as a spiritually thoughtful and considerate person, no matter where you live or what you do.  By showing respect and offering tribute to the higher entities of the cosmos and nourishment to the lower ones, we build up our spiritual networks that we can call upon for any number of ends.

And yet…well, I can’t help but feel anymore that such general offerings, without some limitation or focus or modification to one’s environments, can just as easily be deleterious to one’s safety and stability, or cause other problems that need to be resolved.  Case in point, in fact the very case that got me to scale back these sorts of offerings to begin with: one time I was making my normal prayers in my old apartment, and…something just felt off.  Not wrong, but like there was something there that shouldn’t be, something there that was stuck awkwardly.  It took me a bit to catch on, but there was a spirit stuck in my window.  Like, not trapped in the windowpane, but a spirit that was stuck half-in half-out through my window, like a big dog that tried to get through too small a pet door.  I was caught off-guard when I turned my gaze towards the poor spirit that got stuck there, and the conversation we had basically clarified what happened: it heard my offering prayer and wanted to partake, but something about the protections I had set up on my property had prevented its access inside, while at the same time it was drawn to partake in the offerings within that same property.  This ended up causing an inadvertent trap for the spirit, and it could neither fully enter nor leave as it had gotten so stuck within the property’s spiritual boundaries.  I ended up punching a hole in the protections to the place, gave it offerings of its own, and sent it on its way, but it got me thinking: in my generosity, I was making a banquet for all sorts of spirits, not all of which would normally be permitted entry to my property given my protections, and yet I wasn’t making the right allowances for them.  On top of that, I was also reminded that for those same spirits who were able to partake, how would I be able to keep my property clean and cleansed, and how could I get those spirits to mosey on out if they got too used to enjoying regular offerings to me, without providing any other benefit?

Consider: our resources, supplies, time, and energy are inherently limited.  We might have access to infinity through whatever choice and selection of divinity we work with and call upon, but our capacity to accept and disperse them is limited.  We only have so many hours in the day, we only have so many cups for offerings, we only have so many sticks of incense we can spare, we only have so much attention we can devote to our necessities and chores and obligations.  There’s also the classical notion that we should always give enough, but not too much, so that we might always have something to give, and indeed, my own practices have long since shifted to making offerings only when necessary, and even then, only making the necessary offerings.  This helps prevent certain spirits from getting spoiled and taking us for granted, and it also helps keep me in check so that I don’t get worn out or resentful from always giving so much for the mere sake of giving.  And even then, not all spirits are worth making offerings to; while all spirits are worthy of existence and respect, just like people are, not every spiritual person needs to truck with every spirit.  Some spirits are harmful for us to work with, and some spirits are just those that offerings shouldn’t be received by our hands; I know that, even despite my own good intentions, some spirits find my mere presence harmful, while they might find the presence of my friend more acceptable and so could more easily accept offerings from them.

I understand Jason’s point of view; after all, he’s very much a tantric sorcerer and Buddhist, and in that system, offerings should be widespread, general, and for all sentient beings in all levels of the world.  Really, the systems of offerings he teaches are a kind of very lite chöd, which is wonderful and easy enough for people to pick up and practice without too much danger, so long as they’re diligent about it (and isn’t that really the whole problem right there?).  But in my worldview and practice, that’s not the case; there are some spirits that we simply don’t have any business dealing with or making offerings to, there are some spirits that take us for granted, and there are some spirits that we’re simply not the best ones to make offerings from them even if they want/need them and even if we want to give it to them.  Rather, it’s generally better to at least have an idea of who it is you’re making offerings to, enter into some sort of relationship with them, and gradually build up to making offerings through completion and fulfillment of vows, making offerings for special occasions, and then if the relationship proves itself to be beneficial for the both of you, then making regular offerings.  But even then, there’s also the risk of attracting spirits that we don’t necessarily want around us after the fact; making general offerings can pick up nasty, unwelcome, or harmful spirits who see the offering as a good free meal and then might help themselves to more without you wanting them to, but hey, you’re the one who invited them to begin with.

By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t making offerings for the benefit of all sentient spirits, or for spirits generally, but what I am saying is that you need to be smart about it.  The way I was doing it was wrong, because it ended up being harmful for some spirits that wanted to partake but couldn’t break through the protections I had on my house properly for such a meal, and I know that others who make such offerings often also pick up unwanted spirits that linger around them and cause them more problems down the line that need to be taken care of through banishing and exorcisms that necessarily are harsher than they otherwise would have been.  You need to be careful when making offerings in such a general, widespread format: you need to make sure the door is open enough for them to enter, you need to make sure you keep yourself clean and your place cleansed, and you need to make sure your guests don’t overstay their welcome.  If you can manage all that, you’re set, but figuring out how to do that is part of the problem, isn’t it?  Truth be told, I can easily pick out what went wrong in my earlier practices, and my own mistakes and missteps.

To that end, I took another look at that old offering prayer of mine.  I like the idea, sentiment, and underlying purpose of it, but now that I’m a little older and a little more experienced and wary, there are some changes I’d make to the thing, including the wording of the prayer itself (my writing skills, I like to think, have improved with time).  So, I made the changes, and I’d like to present my updated prayer and methodology here.  One of the most important changes I made to the prayer was that I stopped beckoning the spirits to come to me, so no more “come, all you spirits” again and again; this prevented a need for spirits to try to come to me or enter into my property, because part of the prayer dedicates the offerings to specifically flow out from their place of offering into the rest of the cosmos, so that really, the offerings would come to them rather than the spirits having to come to the offerings.

For this ritual, you will need a simple cup of clean, fresh water and either one stick or three sticks of some generally-pleasing incense.  The water should be left unmixed with anything, though may be sweetened with a drop of honey or rosewater if truly desired; the cup itself is best one dedicated to spiritual work, and better dedicated solely for this specific kind of general offering, but this is not necessary so long as it’s been cleaned and cleansed after each use.  For incense, frankincense is always a good option, but scents like sandalwood, benzoin, sweet or mild musk, jasmine, rose, amber, and the like are also plenty fine; avoid anything too strong, potent, sharp, bitter, or sour.  Blended incenses are perfect, so long as they’re pleasantly fragrant enough without being overpowering.  You don’t need to use sticks, although I find them convenient; if you prefer to go with loose incense, feel free.  Although I like having a candle burning during all my prayers and spiritual work, with an exorcism and/or blessing said over it, it’s not necessary for this offering, as it’s not something being offered to the spirits themselves, although you may find it helpful just in case.  Other offerings, such as food, flowers, candles, and the like may also be set out, but those are entirely extra and unnecessary.  In this case, it’s better to keep the offering simple, short, and clean.

Ideally, this offering would take place in a neutral area, such as an outdoors place not on your own property, or in a place that is not otherwise bounded by spiritual protections belonging to some specific person or ruling entity.  Ideal places for this would be a park, field, crossroads, beach, or some other place that cannot be said to belong to anyone.  It is inadvisable to perform this offering in a place that is controlled by someone else, such as a sacred precinct, church, a place known to be claimed by a particular divinity or spirit, or someone else’s property.  Otherwise, it may be performed in your own home or on your own property, though you may need to ward and protect yourself accordingly to permit the offering to pass from the property without allowing anything baneful to enter in by the same way.  Depending on how you feel afterwards, you may want to follow up this offering with banishing to make sure nothing sticks around that shouldn’t.

When ready, wash your hands, set the cup of water and the incense out on a clean surface, whether on the ground or on a low table or other elevated surface.  Light the incense and let it begin rising through the air.  Hold your arms out, palms upward and out as in the orans gesture and recite the prayer aloud to the spirits:

Hear me, all you spirits, by whatever name you take, by whatever form you take!
Hear me, all you spirits, before, behind, beside, below, or above me who call you!
Hear me, all you spirits, of the north and the south, of the east and the west!
Hear me, all you spirits, within or above the Heavens, upon or under the Earth!
Hear me, all you spirits, with whom I hold favor or disfavor!
Hear me, all you spirits, who owe me debt or to whom I owe debt!
Here do I call to you, wherever you may be: partake of this my offering!
I dedicate to you now this water and this incense as offerings to you;
I give you these offerings freely and joyfully, and ask that you accept them in the same,
as symbols of my thanks, love, goodwill, honor, respect, trust, and joy for you
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.

Dip your fingers of your dominant hand (or the hand you prefer to use to give offerings with) into the water and scatter it around you to your front, back, and either side.  Visualize the water to rise up and flow out from the cup outwards as a constant fountain, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this water, fresh, clean, and sweet,
that it may refresh you, cleanse you, and cheer you.
Let this water nourish you how it you need it best,
whether as golden rivers of nectar or as boiling seas of blood.
Let this water swell and surround you and the common ground we share,
that we may understand and console each other, comfort and soothe each other.
Let this water overflow this vessel and wash over all that exists,
reaching the uttermost shores of the cosmos in all directions,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

With the same hand as before, place it palm-down in the incense smoke, then lift your hand in one swift motion to draw the smoke upwards, then fan it away from you with the same hand seven times.  Visualize the incense to rise up and fill the entire cosmos with its plumes of pure fragrant smoke, especially through and beyond the spiritual boundaries of your own property if it is done there.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

Accept now this incense, sacred, whole, and pure,
that it may satisfy you, strengthen you, and fortify you.
Receive this incense as you how you need it best,
whether as abundant forests of fruits or as burning mountains of flesh.
Let this incense rise up and fill your beings, your hearts, and your minds,
that we may understand and know each other, hear and see each other.
Let this incense be compounded upon itself a myriad myriad times,
rising up and filling the entire cosmos with its sweet smoke,
that all spirits may partake of this my offering.

Maintain the orans gesture and conclude the prayer:

If I hold favor with you, then let this offering strengthen us and be a mark of alliance and friendship.
If I hold disfavor with you, then let this offering reconcile us and be an expression of apology to you.
If you owe me debt, then let this offering be a symbol of my faith and trust in you.
If I owe you debt, then let this offering be repayment towards its ultimate fulfillment.
Come and take your fill of these offerings, of this water and of this incense!
As you take your fill of these offerings, remember me who gives them to you!
Let this offering aid you in your work; let this offering sate you and please you!
Let this offering of goodwill be taken in goodwill, of peace in peace, of love in love
for your own benefit and peace, that I too might have benefit and peace.
If you came here to me in peace, so now return to your home in peace;
if you reside peacefully with me, so too abide peacefully with me.
Take your fill of this offering and continue in your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

Let the incense burn out completely; you can enter into a period of contemplation or chanting other prayers, if you want to be present for the rest of the offering, or you may take a brief leave and return later.  Once the incense burns out, the offering may be formally drawn to a close. If possible, scatter the incense ash into the wind and pour out the water onto the ground; if done indoors, these may be disposed of in a trash bin and a sink respectfully.  Resume the orans gesture, then recite the next part of the prayer:

The water I poured for you is drained, the incense I burned for you is spent.
The offering I made for you is given, the offering I made for you is complete.
May this offering be pleasing and fit for all spirits where they are,
that they may be at peace, and be at peace with me.
May no ill-will remain, may no malice remain,
but only peace and peace and peace and peace.
All you spirits who have come to me to partake in this offering,
as you have come in peace, so now go in peace.
Go now with my peace, go now with my blessing, and go now to your work,
in the Holy Light of the Creator of us all.

The offering is complete.

Everyone’s Got Troublesome Ancestors

This post is a little late in the making, but it’s something I definitely wanted to bring up after my earlier post on ancestor veneration 101.  If you missed out on that post or forgotten about the basics of working with your ancestors, take a look at that old post before reading this one.  Who knows, you might have some new insights along the way, even if you did read it before!

So, when you get right down to it, everyone’s got ancestors, and ancestor veneration practices are available to everyone in pretty much any way.  Every culture has some way to recognize ancestors, whether it’s nothing more than praying for the dead or culminating in a week of offering full burnt sacrifices at their tombs.  For magicians, priests, and other spiritual practitioners, working with our ancestor is a powerful practice that we can adapt to our own cultures and traditions that can yield huge blessings, often without much of the fuss or hassle that other rituals might demand of us.  After all, the dead live on through us, and we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us; working with our ancestors can often be mutually beneficial.  Before any god or goddess, our ancestors should be and often are our first go-to spirit allies for defense, prosperity, and succor, and their insights can help guide us throughout our lives in so many ways, including teaching us new methods of working or simply easing things in difficult times.

But…well, there’s always gonna be some hitch or difficulty inherent in a practice, innit?  Of course there is.  When it comes to ancestor veneration, sure, there’s always the issue of doing rituals inappropriately or offering them things taboo to them within the culture, or desecrating their memories, or any other obvious-as-hell mistake you can make, but there’s one issue that we’re all (quite literally) familiar with: that one damn relative we just don’t get along with.  Or two.  Or a dozen.  Or quite a bit more.  While we can often ignore these troublesome relatives when they’re alive, putting up with them politely once or twice a year when we have to endure their presence for holiday dinners, it’s a little more tricky when they’re dead and hanging out at your ancestor shrine.

So, what can happen when a particular ancestor is acting up and causing problems?  What sorts of problems can they make?  Honestly, the effects can be as varied as the number of ways they can make your life better; they can interfere with your personal relationships among the living, cause health issues, stymie progress in the things you’re working forwards, or other things all the way to causing actual mayhem and chaos which can result in your injury or death.  They might not do anything, of course, depending on how patient they might be with you or based on the type of relationship you have with them, but they might also just ignore your pleas for help when you actually need them to do something, or they can turn your other ancestors against you as well.  It depends on the specific ancestor’s temperament, how badly they’re offended, and how badly they want to bring your attention to the offense, but in general, when the dead are upset, it can cause any number of issues in your life.  Untended and ignored, the ancestors can become overwhelmed by wrath and anger and turn into truly fearsome beasts of spirits, potentially even becoming enemies of their own family that can cause untold trouble across multiple generations; it’s not uncommon for familial curses to be rooted in an upset ancestor that, essentially, curses their own bloodline.  It’s unfortunate, but it does happen; in such cases, the way to break the curse is to appease that ancestor or remove them entirely from the situation.  Essentially, upset ancestors can be a pain, and it really is best to deal with that pain as soon as you can so you can avoid more pain down the line.

There are lots of reasons why we might find a particular member of our ancestors to be a pain in the ass.  To rule out the most obvious case, there’s always a chance we could have done something to offend one of them.  For instance, if we promise a particular ancestor something, such as giving them a cooked meal or refraining from doing a particular thing, it’s not uncommon or unlikely that they’ll take offense to our having neglected or broken our promise, and we’d need to work it off and mend the relationship we have with them.  This goes for any kind of spirit you have a relationship, of course, which is why we can bring this up and set it aside first; as I’ve said before, try to refrain from making vows unless you absolutely need to, but even if you make a small promise of payment, a promise is a promise, and you’d best keep your word.

One of the most common issues for beginners that can result from ancestral work is the fact that, once they start to realize that you’re reaching out to them, they often flock to you like moths to a flame, especially if you have the ability to see, hear, and speak with spirits as opposed to simply making offerings and prayers in their name.  Not only can this happen with our own ancestors, but it can also happen with any passing spirit of the dead, whether or not we’re related to them by blood, tradition, or culture.  In short, some ancestors want attention, sometimes for an actual reason and other times because they miss being tended to or cared for.  This isn’t as much a problem in cultures where ancestor veneration is common, but in modern Western societies where we hardly ever tend to our family graves or make offerings to our dead, it’s increasingly a problem that we tend to forget our dead, and when they have problems, they can cause problems for us.  The simple approach here is to simply work with them as much as you’re able, not overextending yourself or draining yourself dry, but working with them as you can to make sure their needs are met.  In the process, you often learn more about your heritage and ancestry, you learn specific ways and workings from and with your ancestors that can make things easier for you and them, and you find newer ways to make your ancestor work more efficient and effective.  This can take any number of forms, but one major caution I’d recommend is that you set boundaries with your spirits; they may not be able to get everything they ask for, even if it’s just attention (especially if it’s just attention), and many of us can’t tend to our ancestry all day every day.  After all, we living have needs, too, and if the ancestors make big demands, then they need to give big assistance.  If all they want is attention, tell them (kindly, politely, yet firmly) to back off and enjoy what they have, and if they have a specific need, make sure you understand why they need it or if they just want it.  This sort of problem can develop or undevelop depending on the spirit, and sometimes it can be useful in situations where you need to pass along messages to the living in order to keep the living from coming to future harm.  Just take it easy, so long as you take your relationships seriously and take your work further as best suits you.

There can often be a problem where it’s not so much with our relationships with our ancestors as with the fact that we simply don’t know who we are.  Unless you’re big into genealogy or have good connections in your family with genealogists, we simply may not know who it is we descend from, especially in our modern age when keeping up ties with the extended family is becoming more and more difficult, as well as more and more uncommon in Western culture.  While I won’t say that everything’s fine, this won’t necessarily cause you problems; if you know even one name of your ancestors, such as a grandparent you vaguely knew who passed away, that can be your key to learning more about the rest of them.  That particular ancestor can act as a gopher and go-between that can bring you in touch with the rest of your ancestral family.  Working with this single ancestor can open up the door to working with all the rest of them and bring you into a closer relationship with those whom you might have forgotten or never knew about.  Genealogical research is only a boon in this case, and I highly recommend everyone be able to trace their ancestry back at least a few generations if not further; this may not always be the case due to records that were lost, destroyed, or suppressed, but information is information, whether you get it through historical research or spiritual investigation.

A special case of this is were someone is adopted and has no ties with or knowledge of their blood family.  In this case, hope is not lost; for all practical purposes, the ancestors of your adoptive family become your own ancestors.  Although kin is primarily determined by blood, it is also determined by name; being adopted means being made part of the family into which you were adopted, and being accepted into a family means that they accept you from now all the way back into time.  It can often be a painful shame for those who are adopted and truly have no means of connecting with their blood family, but again, just as with the other case of not knowing who your ancestors might be, you’re not bereft of ancestors just because you may not know who they are.  Family is family, either way; ancestors of the adoptive family can just as easily bridge the gap between you and your blood family just as a known blood ancestor can connect you with your unknown blood ancestors.  As above, information is information, whether you get it through historical research or spiritual investigation.

One particular issue with our ancestors that often arises is that we simply might not like them or agree with them on important philosophical, spiritual, or political views.  For instance, it’s a common issue where many outcasts in our day and age are cast out by their own family for any number of reasons, such as converting to another religion, being queer of some sort, differences in views on human decency and bigotry, or other relationship-breaking things that can cause us suffering in life when dealing with them personally as well as in death when we have to deal with them spiritually.  I can attest to some of these things myself; coming from a European American family with roots going back to the founding of the country, I have proud slaveowners and slavedrivers in my lineage, and not all my ancestors from those lines care for the fact that I’m initiated into an African diasporic religion and affiliate myself so closely to the faith of those that they subjugated and thought subhuman; other of my ancestors find the fact that I’m gay to be confusing and problematic for them, if not disrespectful to their notions of tradition and righteousness.  It’s unfortunate that they think this way, but in general, once people die and get used to being an ancestral spirit, I have noticed that their viewpoints tend to soften somewhat; they might hold on to particular strongly-held views, but they do tend to be more accepting in death than they were in life.  At points, however, these issues can be difficult to overcome; in those cases, I work with other of my ancestors who do like and accept me to either facilitate relationships and communications with them, or simply pay my respects to the ancestors who dislike me and move on.

That’s one of the core methods of working with troublesome ancestors, by the way; even if you don’t like them or if they don’t like you, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re still their kin and descendant.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as supportive as anyone else about the whole “blood doesn’t determine family, your love determines your family” notion that’s common among the youth of today, but there’s still something to be said for blood ties that really does matter spiritually and physically that Platonic or romantic bonds alone cannot approach or approximate.  All ties to your ancestry are indelible and unalienable, and no matter what you might think of your ancestry or heritage, whether you’re proud or ashamed of it, you cannot change the fact that they lived and did whatever they did.  No human alive or dead was wholly good or wholly evil, and all of humanity of the past, present, and future has a particular dignity that we need to recognize and appreciate.  For the mere fact that their works contributed to the world we live in today, for good or for ill, and that their lives contributed to the possibility of your own, I claim that your ancestors should be honored across the board and unconditionally.  I consider it to be an obligatory form of filial piety that crosses the boundaries of life and death.  In my case, of course I despise the fact that my ancestry played a direct role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and supported the inhumane institutions of slavery, and I am ashamed of it and for their propagation of racism that still blights my country today; however, I cannot help but honor the fact that I am related to them, and without them I would not and could not live, and that even amongst their works that I consider evil and baneful to the happiness and health of humanity, there are also good works that encouraged those same things.  In seeing the good in them, I can help bridge what might otherwise be an unsurpassable chasm that would only cause problems, and perhaps swing their viewpoints to see how their actions caused both harm and help in their time and in my own, maybe even remediate them to help correct what I see as negative.  If not, oh well; I pay my respects to them all the same for what can be respected, and ignore the rest of what can’t, and move on to the spirits that don’t cause me such conflict.

It can be exceptionally difficult for some people who tend to their ancestors, however, who were abused by them in life or were close to those who were abused by them.  Consider the case where a young child was abused by their grandmother they lived with, or where someone was raped by their uncle; having grown up and with the abusive relative now dead, how might the person approach this situation?  It’s difficult, I admit, and I feel somewhat at a loss to discuss this particular topic because I haven’t been the victim of family or domestic abuse; in lieu of or in addition to my own thoughts which I offer here, I bow to the guidance and advice of those who can better speak to such a situation.  The pain from being emotionally, physically, sexually, or spiritually abused can often never be forgiven nor forgotten, and I don’t suggest that the abused should simply move on with their lives and pretend that everything is hunky-dory A-OK now that their relative is dead and hopefully enlightened; I know some people who would sooner condemn their parents to the bottom pits of hell with bell, book, and candle before uttering a single good thing to their name for all the abuse they put them through.  There are different approaches you could take in this case, depending on where you are emotionally and spiritually.  If you’re at a point where you can offer forgiveness or are looking for closure, then you could do exactly that; you might not work with that ancestor as an ally or treat them as you might your trusted, close-knit dead, but you could offer them forgiveness and acceptance for who they were and what they did, and work with them so as to bring to them the pain they brought you so you both can work towards bringing it to an end so that you don’t have to carry it anymore as a burden in your life.  Alternatively, if you’re not at that stage yet, simply don’t work with them, don’t call on them, and don’t try to give them attention if doing so brings you more pain than peace.  If such an abusive ancestor starts acting up and demanding attention, have your other ancestors cut them off and protect you or to help you figure out how you might placate them at arm’s distance so that, if nothing else, you aren’t pained by them any more with their wants when they didn’t do a damn to help you.  In other words, if you find that you can’t work with them in a good mutually-beneficial way, don’t work with them at all.  Even if all humanity has good and bad in them, if all you can see is the bad, then not only should you refrain from attempting to work with them for good, but you’re rendered unable to do so because of the hurt that you’re still healing from.  Take your time; you’re not responsible for the abuse they gave you in life, and you’re not responsible for their amelioration in death, either.  Work with abusive ancestors only as much as you’re capable of doing so, and work with your other ancestors instead to help you with your own healing as well as working on your behalf to isolate, remediate, elevate, or otherwise correct the patterns of abuse that might be present in your ancestry.

If you’re in a relationship like a marriage or otherwise long-term arrangement, especially where you’re living with a partner, there’s a particular issue that can crop up that might not otherwise be expected.  It can sometimes be the case where you and your ancestors get along great, as do your partner with their ancestors, but your two ancestral courts have a feud or other issue between them.  Think like what would happen if the descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys of American fame got together, or if Shakespeare’s Juliet of the House of Capulet and Romeo of the House of Montague got married instead of killing themselves overdramatically; even if the living descendants of these families made up and ended their feuds, the dead ancestors of these families might still have beef between them.  Such problematic ancestors might cause issues for the living couple in ways that might threaten to break up the relationship, if not start the feud anew or prolong it in dangerous ways for the couple or their respective families.  Breaching such a problem can often take the involvement of both you and them, as sometimes trying to convince the ancestors in question to make up and play nice can be trying at the best of times, especially if the beef is one-sided and you happen to be on the opposite side (and therefore considered an enemy).  Protection works can help, as can getting your ancestors who do play nice with the other side set a good example for facilitating peace between your different courts of ancestors; other magical works similar to happy marriage or peaceful home workings can be done on your ancestries much as you might get two quarrelsome people to play nice in life.  If the feud was caused over a particular event or item, it might be good to repair that breach in familial relationships by giving in to the demands made of the offended party, whether symbolically or in actuality; for instance, if the feud was started over a stolen horse, giving a representation of a horse to the offended spirit or dedicating a horse’s growth and training in that ancestor’s name can often repair the feud and break any further hostilities.

You might start to see see something of a trend with all these solutions to these problems, dear reader.  All the problem-solving, diplomatic, political, and interpersonal tactics and strategies we might use in life among the living to solve problems are often the most realistic, approachable, and effective ways to deal with sorting out problems with the dead.  Our ancestors, after all, were human just like us, and just because they’re dead doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve forgotten how to act like humans, because in almost all cases, they still are.  That said, we’d still need to approach them how they might expect to be approached; I wouldn’t approach my ultra-Orthodox Jewish Ukrainian ancestors from way back who died well before my parents were born the same way I might approach my more recently-deceased bacon-eating gentile cousins whom I knew personally and familiarly, and those who come from radically different cultures will often find that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  Still, once you understand the rules and nuance of culture, the problems often present solutions of their own accord.  Treat your ancestors as human with human wants and human needs, and you’ll often figure out that the best way to deal with problems is an extrapolation of how you’d deal with the living, just in the realm of spirit.

This can’t always be done, however; there are times when problems get too big to handle for simple solutions, such as when the spirit of an ancestor degrades or transforms into something much more wrathful and dangerous than a powerful human spirit, when an honest-to-God generational curse is involved, when whole branches of the family declare you an enemy to your own kin, or in other particular situations.  There are ways to deal with these, but these go well beyond what might be expected for simple solutions, and often require investigation, divination, and multi-pronged approaches that bring in other entities of your spiritual courts for direction, protection, elevation, or isolation unique to the particular situation you’re in.  Every problem has a solution, of course, and it’s rare that an issue caused by an ancestor is a predicament and not a problem.  Just as your ancestors should be your first line of defense and line of aid because of their once-human status, it’s often the case that the best way to approach and work with them is as humans, both in times of peace and in times of conflict.

Do you have any particular stories of working with troublesome ancestors?  Are there any techniques, tips, or tricks you’d like to share when figuring out or fixing up problems with them?  Is there any advice you might like to offer to know when a problem might occur and how best to deal with it?  Let us know in the comments!

Problem, Predicament, Crisis

One of my favorite blogs to read is that of the Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, John Michael Greer (also known as JMG), who writes over at the Archdruid Report.  He writes about the slow end of technocratic, industrial civilization, peak oil, and so forth, and though his ideas can be tough to jive with, he’s deeply insightful and a powerful writer.  He’s also an accomplished occultist (and that’s putting it very mildly), and some of my own readers are familiar with his books on geomancy.  He’s a cool dude, basically, and I highly recommend you read his blog.  I can only look forward to a day when I get to meet him and chat with him in person over a few beers!

His blog has been on my mind a lot as of late.  As some of you guys are aware, I am gainfully employed as a federal employee of the United States government.  And, as I’m sure some of you have heard, the United States Congress is facing a bit of an issue at the moment with getting their heads out of their asses and passing a budget.  If there’s no budget (appropriations bill, continuing resolution, something that authorizes and directs how governmental activities are to be funded), then there’s no means to spend money for the government; if the government can’t spend money, I can’t get paid; if I can’t get paid, I’m legally prohibited to do my work, but I’m not fired, either.  This awkward position I’d be put in is called a furlough, and it happened two years ago in 2013 when Congress, in all their infinite asshattery, shut down the government for 16 days in October.  Should the government shut down again this year, and the chances of that are increasing by the day, I’d be again put into a furlough for as long as the brazen right-wing political insurgents in Congress decide to keep us out of work, which means I may not be getting a solid income for gods-only-know-when.  To say that I’m finding more of JMG’s ideas being realized in a very intimate way (I do like getting my paycheck, after all) certainly isn’t wrong, and it’s probably more than just right.

Is this a problem?  For Congress, absolutely.  For me, not at all.  How do I mean this?  I mean, sure, we could say that everything will likely be hunky-dory for me and I’ll be fine through the furlough, but I don’t necessarily mean this.  I like to use a profound and important distinction that JMG himself pointed out a ways back on his blog about problems, because not everything is a problem if it’s an issue.  There are two kinds of issues that we face as human beings: problems and predicaments.

  • Problems are issues that can be fixed, that have solutions, that can be worked out.  The word “problem” comes from Greek, meaning a task to be done or a question to be answered.
  • Predicaments are issues that cannot be fixed and cannot be escaped, but must be lived with and worked with.  The word “predicament” literally means “something that has been asserted or stated before”, something that is essentially fated, an essential fact or situation.

For instance, it is a problem that I do not currently have a glass of wine when I want one.  I can change this situation just fine, either by waiting until I get home and getting a glass of wine then, bringing a bottle of wine with me to the office, or going out to the bar on the way home or before I catch the train.  Problems can be fixed, one way or another.  Now, to use something of a graver example, take the issue of death.  Death is a predicament, not a problem.  After all, we cannot change or “fix” dying; we cannot prevent it, nor can we avoid it.  Death is a fact of life, a necessary part of the human condition that we must learn to live with and deal with as best as we are able.  A predicament must be lived with, not fixed.

If we want to use a metaphor, consider that you’re walking east along a particular road, and you encounter a river that crosses the road.  This is a problem, because you want to continue along the road and the river is blocking your progress.  You can still, eventually, go east; you can find a ferry or a bridge to cross the river, or you can change direction temporarily until you can find a safe crossing around the river without necessarily crossing over it.  This is a problem that you can fix; you can still head east, though you may need to take a somewhat different approach than you were doing.  Now, eventually, this road leads right to the shores of the ocean; the road ends, and you can no longer go east.  Can you build a bridge to cross the ocean?  Can you ferry yourself across it on a raft?  Can you just walk around it?  No, because the ocean is the end of the road.  You simply cannot go further east on the road because there is nothing across the ocean, nor is there any more road to walk.  You’re done.  That’s it.  This is a predicament; you’re done, and need to accept this and move on with your life in a way that doesn’t paralyze you, while accepting the facts of the issues at hand.

So, really, the matter in Congress poses a predicament for me.  The matter of the government closing and putting me into furlough is a predicament, not a problem.  It’s a fact I accept, gladly so (perhaps a little too gladly, as I’ve got parties to plan for in the case of a shutdown).  I’m not able at this point to just up and pick another job, nor would I be able to escape the effects of a shutdown in my industry considering the government’s widespread influence in my field of software development and engineering.  No matter how I cut it, the government shutdown will impact me.  Although this on its own is a predicament, it causes a whole slew of other problems for me.  The big thing for me to do, really, is to decide how to work with this predicament and how to work out these problems.

It’s at this point that I’d like to introduce a third word to that classification above: crisis.  Most people use this word to refer to some hectic, chaotic, or dangerous situation that one is unable to think through, but I prefer the old Greek sense of it being a turning point in a disease, a judgment, a selection, a separation.  Crisis is the notion of a juncture, a fork in the road, where things can radically change direction from really good into really bad or from really bad into really good.  Crisis is the moment when we realize whether we have a problem or a solution on our hands; it is the moment when we realize our course of action for an issue ahead of us.  Crisis is the judgment we make when presented with either a problem or a predicament, and it is crucially important that we judge our options well so that we can manage a situation as best we can lest we bungle it and blow ourselves up.

Problems and predicaments should be handled at the appropriate time, whenever that might be: whenever you get to them, whenever your face is shoved into it by fate, whenever they’re scheduled to be handled regardless of your own state of preparation, and so forth.  Crises, however, should probably be handled as early as possible so as to make everything that follows as smooth and painless as possible; as JMG is fond of saying with regards to the slow decline of industrial civilization, “collapse now and avoid the rush”.  In my case, even though the end of the fiscal year and the first opportunity for shutdown is still half a month off and much can happen in the meantime, I’m trying to get my affairs in order ASAP so as to make any possibility that happens as quick and painless for me as I can, and to make the prospect of recovery as orderly and straightforward as it can be when things get back to “normal” (whatever that word means nowadays).  This is still well in advance of my own agency’s notice, since we haven’t been formally directed or advised yet on what to do in the case of a shutdown, and even against the expectations of many people I work with and higher-up officials and politicians who steadfastly swear against the possibility of a shutdown.  Yes, I may be putting myself through undue work now by calling my creditors and landlord and putting everyone on alert, and if no shutdown happens, I’ll have to reverse my work and tell everyone to stand down.  Still, I’d rather give everyone involved advance warning in case the worst happens instead of rushing to tell them the day of an emergency.  It only makes sense.

So, take my example as a federal employee facing a federal furlough.  Part of my work is to identify the issues I’ll be facing and to decide whether they’re problems or predicaments.  After that, I’ll need to know who else is affected because of my problems or predicaments, and let them know how they might be impacted and come to an appropriate collaboration or compromise that helps us both deal appropriately.

  • Government shutdowns are serious matters that have huge financial and economic impacts on my local area as well as the country at large.  Since a huge number of people in my area are employed by the government, if none of us are getting paid, then shopping/dining out/consuming is going to tank, which impacts businesses across the region.  Plus, all federal “nonessential” services (everything except the bare minimum required to keep my area from turning into a Mad Max zone and to get business back to normal, like federal police and congressional staffers) will be furloughed, so there’s plenty of things that people won’t be able to achieve or obtain since the services that provide them will be unavailable. Everyone is going to hurt, so the earlier we’re prepared, the better.
  • Financially speaking, I won’t be able to go to work.  While this is kinda awesome, since I get more time at home and with friends, it also means I won’t be getting paid.  The money I have going into the shutdown is pretty much the money I’ll have throughout it, so I need to spend it wisely and when needed, since there’s no telling when the shutdown would end.  However, I am eligible for unemployment, which I’d just have to pay back if I get backpay for the time I missed at work.  Additionally, I have other means of making income: ebook sales, crafting and woodworking, divination and ritual consultations, ritual work, and odd jobs with the skills I have.  Plus, I can get support from my partner as well as my other friends if needed.  There are several people who owe me money, besides, and I plan on asking them to help out if they have the means to pay me back.  All told, I have several ways to keep myself financially afloat
  • Because I won’t be getting paid, I won’t be able to pay my bills.  This impacts my credit card company, my loan agencies, my service providers, and my landlord.  I’m in the process of contacting each of them and cancelling automatic payments, deferring payments as long as possible, cutting down on extraneous services I don’t need, making partial payments to be paid fully later on, and so forth.  Some things, like cell phone or internet bills, can’t be decreased much or deferred, so I’ll have to accept those bills and pay for them as I need to.  Other things, like car loans or rent, can be put off with the agreement of the other party until I’m back on financial ground.  Yet other things, like my credit card, can be significantly lessened so that the impact is minor.
  • Know what your other resources are, since money isn’t the only thing that makes the world go round.  There are other things, like food, that are just as important.  I recall from the last shutdown that plenty of businesses and restaurants and bars offered furloughed employees free meals or drinks and other types of non-financial aid to help the sting of furlough less harsh.  I’m going through some of the old tweets and news articles from 2013 to gauge where and what those places might be, just in case I need a pick-me-up somewhere.  Essentially, this is a form of thrift and reliance on social aid, which I’m not devastated to rely on should I need to.  Besides, places that help me out are places I’ll be sure to head back to, building stronger social bonds, anyway.  It’s a healthy cycle.
  • Ask for help, and be aware that it’s a matter of generosity and not something you’re owed.  Unemployment, calling in favors, collecting on debts, and getting hand-outs from awesome bars is one thing, but there’s no shame in asking others for a favor when you’re down on your luck.  For some people, one’s parents can and probably should be the first resort; understanding friends, especially those who are close or extraordinarily trustworthy, are another group of people you should call on.  I’m not suggesting one should outright go begging, but see who can help you out.  If you prefer, barter or trade one’s stockpile of supplies or skill sets to keep yourself busy as well as satisfied, so that everything is an even deal and nobody owes anyone at the end of the day.

That’s just a very brief overview of some of the things I’ve been thinking about and acting on when it comes to this crisis.  You can see how some of these things are just facts of life that have to be lived with, like service bills that can’t be interrupted (predicaments), and how other things have workarounds or solutions or contingencies inherent to the situation (problems).  Plus, by making the most out of the situation, unexpected or serendipitous opportunities can arise that make everything else better, at least a little bit.

Now, bear in mind that all this advice is good for pretty much anyone.  But, dear reader, you’re likely not just anyone.  You’re a fucking magician.  You have the power and knowledge and skill to change shit where others can’t.  It’s times like these (and those that are far worse than these) that people turn to magic, and for those who are already familiar with it, we’re far better off than those who are new or those who are fearful of it.  While mundane acts matter most in this mundane world of ours, magic buffs it up and changes the odds in our favor behind the scenes in a way that makes things work…well, like magic.  For us, a crisis is a time when we have many more things to decide on than just who to talk to, but Who to Talk to.

Again, using my situation as an example:

  • The first thing people lose in any kind of crisis is a cool head and a clear mind, and this often leads to a real disaster instead of a mitigated vexation.  If we don’t think about things properly and thoroughly, we can make a grievous misstep in our haste and confusion.  Banish, cleanse, meditate, bathe, and purify yourself in a way that gives you the spiritual fortitude and stillness to proceed.
  • Gods or spirits of communication and persuasion can be invaluable to call on, since they can make people and stakeholders (credit companies, loan agencies, landlords, banks, etc.) far more amenable to your situation and can help work on your behalf to get what you want done instead of having you be constrained more than you already are.  Honey jars, silver-tongue charms, spells of assertiveness, and the like can be applied for similar ends.
  • This is a financial issue, so financial magic is a must.  Making offerings and requests, as one is able, to spirits of wealth and fortune is one way to go about this; Jupiter and Mercury magic for increase and circulation is another obvious choice.  Money-drawing, however, works only as well as one has a means and a medium to draw money in, so similar things such as “help me get a new side-job” or “inspire me to come up with a new craft/writing topic that I can monetize” or even “small gains through the lotto” are things to consider and apply in equal measure.  Heck, you might even want to enchant the dollar bills and coins you use in consuming things to come back to you with more money.
  • As opposed to simply asking for more money and trying to conjure a good financial situation, it’s also worthy to consider stability and restraint magic on oneself to keep one from being too affected by what’s going on.  Rituals to intentionally take away what doesn’t need to be kept can be dangerous but helpful; increased awareness of one’s budget can help you stick to it better; tweaking the forces in your life with a touch of Saturn to keep expenses away is a good method to use.
  • Pray.  Prayer helps, not just to ask for stuff, but also on its own to keep your head above the murky waters of this world.  Joy, calmness, and satisfaction are things that can be easily delivered through prayer should it be done right, and can help refocus you on things of real importance so you can let the small things slide off easier.
  • Large-scale magical operations to affect the cause of the predicament should be planned in advance, ideally with other people in concert if possible.  While the spiritual forces surrounding Congress are…less than organized, and representative of the people inside Congress, inducing a change for the better should be considered and employed.  For instance, a work to encourage Congress to act justly and give furloughed employees (especially contractors, who are worse off than those directly employed by the federal government) backpay for the time missed, would be especially good.  Works to lessen the overall economic impact of the shutdown, to speed up the resolution of a budget, to kick out the political insurgents in Congress causing this mess, and so forth are all good things to pursue, but as Dr. Frankenfurter says, this will only remove the cause, not the symptoms.
  • Divination.  Holy shit, I cannot tell you how valuable divination can be in this instance.  As Jason Miller and Gordon White agree, however, divination is only one means to learn things, and should be corroborated with other sources of information to collectively form solid intel.  Keep an ear open for gossip, rumors, and legitimate news coming down the pipeline, and use information-gathering spirits to deliver to you whatever they can find out so you can plan ahead and get an edge on whatever happens or whoever is competing against you.  If you’re in a cutthroat environment, use the reverse of that on your enemies and competition: use spells of confusion, murkiness, buzzing, and gossip to disable them while you empower yourself to get ahead.
  • Mars and the Sun, as forces of Fire, are as crucial as maintaining a clear head.  If you make one misstep due to confusion, you can screw yourself over; if you lack the energy or bravery to take up an opportunity, you can miss it entirely and regret it later.  Do not be afraid of what will happen.  You’re going to need to be brave in a sticky situation, and you’re going to need drive and judgment and fortitude and urgency in order to make the most of your problems and predicaments.  Be bold.  Empower yourself accordingly, lest you get sapped, dragged under, and depressed by everything, letting the world act on you instead of acting upon it or with it in unison.

The possibilities I can take here are as endless as the number of stars in the sky, but this should give you a good idea of what can be done with magic in a crisis.  Essentially, this is the kind of approach Jason Miller talks about in his Strategic Sorcery stuff: be strategic, damnit, and back your mundane actions up with magic, and your magic with mundane actions.  Remember, kids: a crisis can turn for the bad, but it can also turn for the good.  It’s up to you how you react to it, and it’s also up to you how to act upon it.  Do your best, because that’s the only way you can get the best.

Now, if you’ve read closely, dear reader, you’ll notice something peculiar.  While most common self-help guides and 101-level entries on strategic magic might say that you need to take control of the situation you find yourself in, I’ve never said that, and have tried to avoid implying that, either.  The whole point of a problem versus a predicament is to point out that, quite often, there are things that are simply not in our control.  We cannot control the laws of physics or thermodynamics; we cannot break the rules of mathematical possibility; we cannot puppeteer multiple people in a complicated situation according to our own personal vision of things down to the minute.  We have our limits of power, and that quite often translates into the cosmos outright telling us “no”.  Trying to take control of the cosmos when the cosmos isn’t something to be controlled amounts to one thing and one thing only: failure.  It’s a fool’s errand to try and do that, and you’ll only make things worse if you do, with a broken sense of pride and capability being the least of your worries.  No, dear reader, trying to take control of the whole thing is not something that is for us.  It may not be easy for some of us to accept that the world is not our bitch, especially with our modern notions of progress and the infallibility of mankind, but it’s necessary to realize it all the same.

Rather than trying to take control of what you can, you manage what you should.  That’s where planning, organizing, and strategizing comes into play.  Rather than trying to constrain the cosmos to follow your whim like a slave, you work with the cosmos as a co-creator and contributor.  Anyone in an office environment is aware of the difference in management styles; a group can get far more done if people’s own inhibitions and limitations are taken into account rather than a leader saying “fuck it and fuck you, get it done”.  Limitations come in the form of predicaments, and obstacles arise in the form of problems; obstacles can be removed or worked around, but limitations must be obeyed and understood.  That’s part of our job in a crisis, too, and how we react to a crisis is as important as how we act upon it.  We need to temper our will and expectations with a hefty dose of realism so we know what is feasible for us to attain given the circumstances.  Once we can see that, or at least approximate it to a good working model, then we can really get to work (and Work).

On Rulership and Life’s Bullshit

For some reason, Fr. Rufus Opus (who, I might add, is still not me) claims that I’m his best student.  I don’t really agree with him, since I think I just write more than the rest of his students, but he claims that I’m one of the minority of his students who took his courses and ran with it, not only developing my own style of magic but also implementing them in the way he envisioned his students to do so: to rule your life like a King.  No, I’m not going to wax poetically and jovially about how awesome it is to do conjurations of the planetary angels, rise through the seven spheres, or scarlet women.  He does that enough on his own.

I’m going to make explicit something he doesn’t always say: rulership sucks ass.

It’s not that being king (or queen, or gender-unspecific ruler) of your life is a bad thing.  Far from it, really!  It’s one of the best things you can do, and I’d argue something that every capable human being should attempt at all points in their lives.  He makes it clear, especially in his most recent book, that it really is up to you to make your life how you best can make it.  He’s not rehashing The Secret or new age tripe like that, either.  He’s not saying that if you put out positive vibes you’ll get positive returns; he’s not saying that you should be pious and chaste and virtuous like a meek and mild lamb.  He tells you to get off your ass, find your problems, and deal with them as a ruler does their kingdom.  In the process, you understand more about yourself; you understand more about what makes you, your environment, your enemies, your allies, and your world tick; you understand more about God and the gods and the heavens and the hells; you understand how to work with spirits and powers and forces beyond imagination.  With this knowledge, you get power; with this power, you get results.  That’s it in a nutshell, but it encapsulates everything.

The problem is, however, that not everything is going to agree with you or accept you.  Not everything is easy.  Not everything is kind.  Kingdoms have problems.  The world has problems.  Human life has problems.  You have problems, dear reader, and trying to lie about that fact is shameful.  The first step to overcoming your problems is to admit you have them.

That’s one of the most painful parts about this whole magic and theurgy business.  You have to not only confront your problems, but work with them in a way that resolves them.  You are forced to shove your nose into your own shit time and time again, perhaps realizing that, yes, this is indeed some shit, and that you really should try better or fix things so that there’s less shit next time around (and yes, there will be a next time).  You have to conjure up your own demons, not just the elemental demonic princes or the kings of Hell, but the ones lodged inside your own psyche, and debate with them, wrestle with them, sometimes get pinned down by them in the hopes of kicking them out of the conjuration circle once and for all.  You have to contend with the fact that, sometimes, life is not going to give you what you think you need in order to succeed, and you have to make do with your own lack of preparedness and readiness in order to progress.  You have to deal with your problems any way you can, and often enough, your problems aren’t easy to deal with.

Rulership is about choices.  Every (and I do mean every) choice you make, even avoidance of making choices, changes everything.  Sometimes you make a choice without thinking, either due to instinctive habit or conditioning from birth.  Sometimes you make a choice with incomplete knowledge.  Sometimes you make a choice with all the best knowledge and hopes in the world and everything still turns to shit.  Every choice you make results in a benefit you obtain, a cost you pay for, and accountability that you must be responsible for.  While all of us like the benefits, and a few of us are okay with paying the costs, it’s rare for people to willingly take responsibility for their actions, reactions, emotions, thoughts, and words.

That, however, is the crux of rulership: taking responsibility for yourself, both in the choices you’ve made and those you are going to make.  It truly is the cross that the ruler bears, because when you’re a ruler of your kingdom, everything that happens is going to be traced back to you in some way, shape, or form.

A king (or queen, ruler, tigron, whatever) manages their kingdom.  They manage the defenses and the boundaries, the laws and the public welfare, the discipline and strength, the identity and the pride, the harvest and the wealth, the communication and the transport, the security and the love of the whole kingdom.  Yes, they often don’t do it alone, and have guards, patrols, magistrates, legislature, generals, captains, overseers, messengers, and community leaders help take that burden off their shoulders somewhat, but all authority is derived from the king, and so all decisions made in the name of the king are made, effectively, by the king.  Thus, all choices are traced back to the king, and if there’s a problem anywhere in this chain of manifestation from king to pleb, it’s the king’s fault for not managing things properly.  If there’s a problem with the land, water, air, travelers, traders, or invaders, then it’s not necessarily the king’s fault for those, but however the king reacts to them and manages them as they pop up in his kingdom will be.

In the system of Hermetic magic that Fr. RO teaches, he gives you all the tools, education, and experiences you need to know what the chains of manifestation are, who to contact for help, who manages what, where things come from, and how to put your own plans into action.  He prepares you, effectively, for becoming king of your own life.  He does not take responsibility for you, however, and he can only help so much if you have problems of your own.  His real help lies in teaching you how to solve your own problems, as well as solving those that crop up in your life without your agreement, because this shit happens and it’s up to us to learn how to deal with them the best way we can with the best means we have available to us.  It is this education that surpasses any ritual, any tool construction, any talisman consecration; it is this that is the real meat and bones of Hermeticism.  Everything else is garnish or flatware.

Fr. RO may call it kingship.  I call it true humanity.  Same diff, really, I just don’t like to sugarcoat (whiskeysoak?) things as much as he does.

Life has shitty problems of many kinds.  We may be born into shitty circumstances.  We may have shitty bodies.  We may have shitty emotional imbalances.  We may have shitty job opportunities.  We may live during a time of shitty politics and shittier warfare.  We may have shitty plagues infesting and killing off our already shitty cities.  We make shitty choices.  We make (not have) shitty reactions.  We make shitty comments.  We make shitty alliances.  We make shitty food and drink selections.  Some of this shit that happens to us is not our fault.  Some of it is.  Regardless, we are not the first generation to have to deal with all this shit.  We’re the most recent, which means that every generation before us has had to deal with this same shit over and over and over again.  And you know what’s awesome?  Humanity has lived through it all, and now it’s our turn.  What makes us magicians and kings and true humans different, however, is that we can make the best of it instead of just enduring it all.  That’s the big thing that few people recognize: a magician’s job isn’t just to live through all this shit, but to adjust to it, fix it, and make this shit less shitty for ourselves and, if you’re up to it, those who come after us

One of the upshots to all this is that you don’t have to go it alone.  You know that one new age greeting, “the light in me recognizes the light in you”? That’s actually a thing, people.  Kings recognize each other.  We see other rulers, and other potential rulers, in the people around us.  We understand what they’re going through, because we’ve already done the work that they’re doing or are about to do.  We know what they go through.  They know what we go through.  We help each other out.  Just as any smart-minded kings, we make alliances, coalitions, treaties, and agreements with other kings.  We build networks of support, even just as friends who do their own things individually but who come together in a time of need.  When problems get too big for any one king, other kings step in to shoulder the burden.  It’s part of that whole chain of manifestation thing, but on a broader level.  It’s okay to ask for help.  If you need it, ask.  It’s better to be humble and ask for help than proud and dead when it comes to rulership, because people can’t depend on a dead king.  Your life can’t be excellent when you’re dead, because you by definition have no life.

Every tool, every ritual, every seal, every tincture, every spirit you make use of should always be used to help you rule your own kingdom.  Every magical implementation and technique should be geared for your own use to solve your own problems.  It’s rarely easy, of course, but that’s why we do this.  If it were easy, we wouldn’t be talking about this, RO wouldn’t have put a book out on it, and we’d all be already in Heaven.

Life sucks.  Rulership sucks.  But rulership, done rightly, can make life suck a lot less, and that’s what makes rulership worth it.  It’s what makes theurgy worth it.  It’s what makes magic worth it.  It’s what makes life worth it.  Nobody promised you an easy life; nobody promised Obama an easy nation; nobody promised Octavian an easy empire.  It may be hard to be a ruler over your own life, but it sure beats the hell out of being subject to your own life.