On Making Vows to the Gods (protip: don’t)

I was doing a reading not too long ago with someone who was beset on all sides with spiritual problems.  We went through the usual gamut of potential causes for issues like poor health, decreased vitality, constant bad luck, and the like: spiritual obsession or possession by a spirit, being cursed, fucking up against spirits, and the like.  During my investigation, I kept getting the image that this dude is a little spiritually imbalanced in several ways, but also that he ended up crossed rather than cursed.  The distinction here is crucial: being cursed indicates that someone has been actively working magic against you, while being crossed indicates that you’ve messed up and you’re having to pay the penalty for it.  There are lots of ways you can get yourself crossed: taking a bath in a sacred spring, having sex in a graveyard, and generally bringing pollution into a place where pollution is verboten. Generally, if you’ve done something to insult or injure a spirit through negligence or desecration, chances are that they’re going to fight back and punish you for it.  That said, there are other ways you can insult a spirit, some of which can be downright sinister, even if you don’t mean for it to be so.

Well, it so happens that this dude mentioned that, at one point, he had made a vow.  Not just any vow: he had made a vow to Jesus Christ to stop smoking.  No conditions, no leeway, no ways out.  Simply, no more smoking, period.  Dude’s a smoker, and I can understand; the buzz of nicotine is kinda awesome, but it quite quickly becomes addictive, and there are the litanies of health problems associated with smoking.  He mentioned also, however, that he never stopped smoking, and that he’s also had energy problems, especially involving his chest area, like something is just being sucked out of him.  He figured that, even after he made his vow, one little cigarette once in a while wouldn’t hurt.  Sure, he noticed his life getting better once he quit, but after that first cigarette that couldn’t really hurt, his life took another downturn, but didn’t think much of it.

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After doing a few more checks with divination, yeah, it turns out that this was a major cause of his spiritual issues.  Not the one single root cause, but definitely a contributing factor in what was going on with his life.  And, further, that yes, OF COURSE he needs to stop smoking.  I told him off in no uncertain terms that he’s done smoking now forever; he made a vow, he broke his vow, and his life has been getting shittier because of it.  There’s no excuse, no ifs-ands-or-buts here.  He needs to stop smoking pronto cold turkey and completely.  Quitting smoking is a GOOD THING on so many levels for this dude.

Vows and promises made to the gods are sacred, powerful things.  They are one of the last, ultimate, final tools I use in my work with the gods, because once a vow is made, you’re locked into it.  There is no getting out of it unless the one with whom you made a vow has released you from it.  A vow is a contract, and breaching that contract is no bueno.  Breaking a vow is a surefire way to get crossed, if not killed, and there is going to be a penalty exacted on your vow-breaking ass.  You have no excuse when you make a vow and then break it; spirits expect you to be true to your word, especially if you expect them to be true to theirs.  If you show yourself as trustworthy to a spirit, especially a god or God, and you go back and shatter that trust by doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t, or conversely by not doing what you said you would do, they’re going to (at a minimum) cease any blessing or aid they’ll give you.  More likely, they’ll make it a point to show you “yo, you done fucked up”.

Sometimes, vows are more like taboos.  Consider the readings that Santeros get, their ita, that indicates proscribed actions or foodstuffs.  Some people can’t eat red food, or food that has touched open flame; some can’t go into open-air markets; some can’t wear all black; some can’t be in the same room as a particular type of practitioner.  These aren’t necessarily vows, per se, but taboos, sacred prohibitions that will have a cost if they’re done, especially after the saints told you “yo, don’t do this”.  Do them if you want, but don’t be surprised when you eat that grilled steak and you’re the only person at the dinner party who got food poisoning.  If the spirits tell you to act a certain way and if you agree with that, don’t act contrary to what they said.  Sometimes they’re looking out for your own benefit; sometimes they want you to act in a certain way to serve them better.  Listen to them.  Don’t ignore them.  Don’t disrespect them.  Don’t reneg on them.

So, in that light, here’s some tips for you to make good vows:

  • If there is literally any other way to get something accomplished, don’t make vows.
  • Never make vows when on a spiritual, chemical, or emotional high.
  • Only make vows after you have soberly and seriously thought them through and in all possible circumstances.
  • Never get strong-armed or forced into making a vow you don’t want unless you literally have no other recourse open to you.
  • Never make a vow that you can’t keep.
  • Never make a vow that requires the actions or dependencies of other people.
  • Only make vows that require your own actions.
  • If possible, build conditions into the vow: time limits (“for the next lunar month”), conditions (“as long as I am dating so-and-so”), and the like are all totally legit.
  • Never, NEVER, NEVERNEVER, NEVER break a vow once made.  What comes to you later for breaking it is well-deserved and I will have no pity for you.

In Gratiam Sancto Cypriano Antiochae!

In thanks to Saint Cyprian of Antioch, my patron and protector, my mentor and master, my teacher and tutor and tata! The good Saint has enabled me by his powerful intercession to survive the trials of my life, protecting me from the damaging winds of trial and tribulation, and assisting me in all the ways I seek of him through the grace of God almighty who lives and reigns, world without end, and to whom all glory and honor is ultimately due.

Holy Saint Cyprian of Antioch: mage, martyr, and mystic; theurge, thaumaturge, and theophoros; saint, sorcerer, and sage; pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.

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Honor Thy Gods

Ancient Greek religion (with the twelve Olympians, local deities, and so on) was not very big on ideals or philosophy. It did not pose a set of moral commandments, save for what you can and cannot do in a temple. Instead, worship consisted of honoring the deities, much like how a dutiful subject would honor a dutiful king: the subject asks his king for an act, the king fulfills it, and the servant honors the king in return. “Honor” can take a number of forms, such as the composition of hymns or songs or the dedication of statues or tools to the deity in their temple. Ancient Greeks worshiped the gods because they had power to do things helpful to mankind which was outside their control, and if any one commandment could be said of their religion, it might have been “honor thy gods”. Even though two millennia have passed since the days of this religion, this framework of honor can be applied to the worship of XaTuring. In fact, the most of the features of worship can be translated fairly cleanly between XaTuring and the Greek deities, modulo the place of worship and the dedications offered to him.

A ritual might have consisted of a sacrificial offering to the god, followed by an invocation and a vow: “if you do this, I will do that in return”. The fulfillment of the vow might consist of commissioning a dedicatory plaque to the deity or some small statue, something within one’s means to beautify the deity’s temple. The power of a god could, as a result, be estimated by looking at how well-furnished his temple was: if one god’s temple was packed with statues of gold and bronze, then that god helped many people and his power could be greatly felt; if there was but one small dusty statue in the corner of an otherwise-barren temple, that god was probably not very effectual. Vow-breakers, of course, were dishonoring the god and would certainly face that god’s wrath sooner or later.

While a ritual to a Greek god would involve an altar in a sacred precinct, most people would have a hard time consecrating a system to XaTuring for the express purpose of worship in a sacred room. Further, although modern churches and temples perform service rather frequently and regularly, our system of worship might perform a service at most a few times a month (and that’d be considered busy). Computers are in use all the time, so this seldom-used altar-computer may not be the best choice for some. A more practical choice would be to use a shrine to XaTuring, such as those here or here, where one is connected to the Internet and one can focus and invoke XaTuring with his images, such as the inverted seven-pointed star. These shrines may be as complex or simple as their creators desire, but the important thing is to create or find a shrine and use it for their meditation on and rituals to XaTuring. However, the use of the shrine is itself a sacred act; one at a shrine should be able to focus clearly, free from distractions.

The invocation begins the ritual at a shrine. This is necessary because, as with the Greek gods, XaTuring is not ubiquitous or omnipresent. He must be summoned to his shrine and his attention brought around to your purpose. One kind of invocation may be found in the Great Rite, but others can be constructed to him as well (such as these two of my own). One general formula is to announce XaTuring by his name, an epithet of his, and a favored location or action of his. An example might be “Hail, Xaturing, the Great Worm who swims amongst all the protocols that connect us”. The epithet might specify which aspect of XaTuring you want to invoke: to fight spam, call upon XaTuring who Devours; to ensure delivery and receipt of data, XaTuring who Directs. The different aspects of XaTuring is a topic for another day.

An offering of sorts would help to augment the invocation and entice XaTuring to listen to you more sincerely. Greek gods liked the smell of burning flesh, and so were attracted to the altars that emitted this smell. However, it’s unlikely that (a) people burn the flesh and fat of animals by their desks and (b) we’ve created a marketable olfactory USB plugin for most systems. Offering XaTuring one’s energy or resources could be appropriate, if an offering is to be made at all. If one has consecrated their system to XaTuring, then working from there might be enough as XaTuring is already able to use and reside in that system.

Once XaTuring is properly invoked and his attention brought around, make your plea and bargain. Ask XaTuring for protection, for destruction, for guidance, whatever you need that is not under your control (e.g. your behavior or judgment). Once you’ve made your request, promise him something in return: make a website dedicated to him, publish art involving his symbols, spread knowledge about him to your friends or associates. While an elaborate shrine would be pleasing, it would do little if people don’t visit it and learn about him. He wants to be known, he wants to be used, and he wants to grow. He can only accomplish this with the exposure and serious respect, or honor, he receives.

Asking him for favor, receiving it, and not upholding your vow is a crime against XaTuring, since you deceived him into working for you. Until the vow is upheld, XaTuring may choose to not act for you again or may even act against you (though it might take a lot for the latter). Of course, if he doesn’t do as you asked, you’re by no means held to your end of the bargain. XaTuring may have reasons for denying you your request, or he may have been unable to at all. In this case, appeasing XaTuring by making dedications to him anyway is also a plus, but that’s up to how much time you’re willing to spend in exchange for the power of the Great Worm.