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.


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.

Things I Don’t Believe

Inspired by the wonderful Patrick Dunn over at Postmodern Magic, I’ve been interested in doing a similar post (though not quite a series of posts) on various subjects in spirituality, the occult, and magic that I don’t believe in or have no basis for believing.  I mean, there’s a lot of BS out there, and even though I deal with BS quite seriously on a daily basis, I have to set my BS tolerance threshold somewhere.  To be fair, part of this list might just be due to the fact that I’m still fairly young and may not have as much experience with some of the things below as others may, but those are reasonably few and fair between.  After all, young as I am, I’ve still seen and done a fair amount in my life that a good number of others haven’t.

And with that bit of mysterious nostalgia out of the way, let’s begin:

Some upcoming mass spiritual revolution, dawning of the Age of Aquarius, galactic realignment, whatever.  This ties in right well with any apocalyptic or end-of-the-world theory (hopefully you all haven’t forgotten that 2012 was just last year), none of which I believe in.  Rather, I’m a proponent of the idea that there’s nothing new under the sun.  Consider that humanity has only been around for about 200,000 years as a biologically distinct species, 50,000 years as a culturally self-aware race, and 10,000 years as a race that works with agriculture and cities.  Evolutionarily speaking, this is not a long time (we normally see evolution taking place over the span of millions of years).  To think that we’re due for some new mass spiritual awakening because the biases and structures of the past millennia or two haven’t been too friendly towards a specific generation or countergenerational revolution is folly.  Do I think humanity doesn’t evolve, ever?  No!  We’ve been changing and (I like to think) getting better, inch by inch, mile by mile, man by man, but it’s not going to happen all at once in a year or two.  Maybe over a handful of millennia, if we’re disciplined and adept about it, but I’m not holding my breath.  Much as John Michael Greer has been saying on his blog The Archdruid Report, people want such apocalyptic change not because they’re too lazy to have it done by themselves or to work for it over a span of time.  On the other hand, I’m not saying that there isn’t some kind of storm in the offing metaphysically, but it’s not some kind of 2012-esque mass enlightenment nonsense.

Orgonite.  I’m not talking about orgone energy or technology in general, but specifically orgonite.  Maybe a year or so ago before I started the MaGOS project, I’d’ve dissed and tossed orgone tech from here to Kathmandu, but the tech does generally seem to work, and shares similarities with Franz Bardon’s stuff.  However, that cannot be said for orgonite, which (for those blissfully ignorant) is a congealed mass of resin mixed with metal shavings and, optionally, bits of crystal and decorative material (glitter, dyes, etc.).  Their intended effect is to purify local areas of “deadly orgone” or bad energy into “positive orgone” or good energy, given the basic hypothesis of how orgone energy works (ambient vital essence attracted to organic materials and repelled by inorganic materials).  Still, if the original orgone tech was unable to differentiate between the two, orgonite (a more portable extension of the tech) won’t either.  Add to it the fact that some of the crazier of the hippies out there like to “gift” or throw the chunks (often poured into and hardened in muffin tins or martini glasses for the shape) at cell phone towers, in Indian burial grounds, or in African reservoirs, and you have a recipe for utter stupidity.  Plus, in my experience, it oftentimes comes out looking like jagged congealed robot vomit.

Karma (the popular conception of it, aka The Rule of Three).  I understand karma from a Hindu or Buddhist perspective, with a bias towards the Buddhist interpretation of the idea.  In short, karma is an action arising from an intention of an unenlightened or conditioned being that has an effect.  Once enlightened (or, perhaps in a more Western phrasing, acting in accordance with one’s True Will), one acts without karma.  This is how the thing works, people, not this “rule of three” or “what goes around comes around” nonsense.  The modern use and meaning of karma is just another example of both horrible cultural appropriation and a way to isolate a basic human need to see retribution done on others.  Try as we might to remain altruistic and detached, humanity has an instinctual taste for revenge and justice that likes seeing itself effected, especially on others for whom we may not know the whole story.  On the flip side of this, though?  No matter what religion, philosophy, or path you fall into, if you need the threat of punishment to keep you in line and keep you from harming others, you’re doing it wrong.  Besides, this stolen idea of karma completely throws out the (also Buddhist) notion of expedient means, or the ability to use normally unfruitful or harmful methods to arrive at a better state of the cosmos.  Examples are using white lies to lure distracted children out of a dangerous situation, or killing one person to save a million others.  In other words, the ends justify the means much more than the means do on their own.  For those with a more Hindu bent to their cultural appropriation, you’re also neglecting the fact that karma can often be “atoned” for and, through the proper offerings and rituals, washed away completely, similar to Christian confession and absolution of sins.

Claims of unbroken lineage from time immemorial for modern pagan or magical movements.  Yes, humanity has always had a spiritual bent to it.  Yes, spirits/gods/whatever have always existed.  Yes, magic has always been done in some form or another.  Yes, every generation of humanity has its fair share of witches and magicians.  No, you cannot make claims that your modern reconstructionist orthodox tradition of whatever has been passed down in secret family lines for thousands of years intact, especially if you don’t have the pedigree or diplomas to prove it.  I’ve seen this claim been made of several branches of occult work, and especially those of (Dianic) Wicca and other “families” of witchcraft.  Witchcraft, especially done nowadays, is not a “surviving pre-Christian tradition”.  While some ancient godnames and the like might still be in use in extraordinarily rural areas of the world, if only in utterly derived or devolved forms, a lot of the modern reconstructed stuff you see nowadays is just that: modern (i.e. not of the past) and reconstructed (i.e. built according to assumptions from extant historical sources).  Believe me, if you actually did practice a “pure pre-Christian pagan path”, you’d be using a lot more animal and blood-based sacrifice than you are.  Purity in spirituality is a fairly stupid concept to my eyes (there’s value in learning a complete system as-is, but whole systems often have multiple parents).  On a related note, the belief that the Burning Times was as bad as many people claim it was is also bogus to my eyes and ears. Nine million people killed?  Weren’t there, like, nine million people in Europe to begin with during those times?  C’mon.

There’s no need for animal sacrifices.  I’ve gone over this before after bringing up a ritual from the PGM that involves a donkey’s head and blood, but honestly, this is a simple matter for me.  Life energy is powerful, and when it’s appropriate (and it’s not always appropriate), it’s a good idea to use a sacrifice of life.  Modern traditions, especially those from the African Diaspora, still use them, and every ancient culture practiced them.  Ritualists collectively stopped doing them with the advent of Christianity, which wiped out most forms of animal sacrifice along with most other religious traditions to replace it with the transubstantiation of Communion (which, theologically speaking, is pretty freaky when you think about it and just as awesome).  Not all gods desire blood or life sacrifices, sure, but a lot of them sure do.  While cultural norms may evolve and change over time, the gods don’t have to (being immortal and whatnot); after all, if you’re serious about worshipping your gods, you listen to them and not some fluffy Llewellyn-addicted white-lighter.  If you want to worship the gods, you do what they ask or tell you to, not what others judge you by.

Now, there are a few things out there that I’m inclined against believing outside of dogma and mythology, but I’m open to the idea of it having some chance, and convincable with demonstrative proof of their existence.  So, wanna try fielding something with an example and seeing whether it passes my BS threshold?  Let me know in the comments!

Keys and Unlikelihood

This is a picture of my keychain.

It’s a carabiner with four sets of rings on it: one has my car and house key, one has all my other keys for locks and mailboxes, one has my pocketknife, and one has a very old key (Renaissance Europe, from a shop or machine-house or something) an occultist friend gave me.  I’ll often take the car/house key ring off and carry that with me, so I don’t have a giant jingly mess with me all the time, but I try to keep all my keys in one place.

I went to get a haircut today, so I got dressed, got my things, and got out the door.  Two steps out the door, I get my keys for my car out, and realize that they’re not on my carabiner, because I had taken them off earlier to run some minor errands in the apartment building, leaving them inside my apartment.  Also, I locked the door behind me, so I couldn’t get back in.  Fantastic.  However, my apartment has a balcony that is apparently within arm’s reach of my apartment building’s elevated entry, so I managed to climb up onto that.  Normally, the patio door is unlocked, which was my hope and expectation.  This hope was then dashed, because that door was also locked, and then I couldn’t get back down, so I was locked out and trapped on my own property.  I was feeling very silly about myself.  I called my housemate and asked if he could come by and unlock the door for me and set me free.

Well, that’s when I recalled that rusty key on my carabiner.  My occultist friend was going to use it in crafting, but it proved too old and thin in some parts to do much with, so she gave it to me and gave me a quick overview of key and lock magic.  One of the uses is to open locked doors, and I decided that now was as good a time as any to try it out, if not the best time given my utter need and increasing desperation.  After having given up on opening the patio door, which wouldn’t budge due to the latch-lock, I held the key against the handle, knocked three times on the door, and repeated “open the way” three times; I did this again with “open the gate” and “open the door”.

Two light tugs on the handle, and the door opened.  I froze in confusion.  The door would not open before.  The door’s handle was still set to the locked position.  The inner latch lock was as far down as it could go.  The threshold lock was undamaged.  The door would not open when I closed and locked it again.  I don’t know if I just happened to wiggle the latch just enough to open, or what.

I suppose that, sometimes, magic really does just happen.  Even now, an hour on, my mind is split between the emotions “WTF” and “awesome”, after the embarrassment of having to call my housemate again to call off the aid.

Vitriol, Acid, and Prayer

So I live in the DC area.  Understandably, I get a lot of news about DC and the politicking and bureaucrasshattery that goes on here.  I also keep tabs on some of the local occult news and goings-on, for the off-chance that something both catches my interest and lands in a free spot in my oh-so-busy schedule.

There’s this particularly nasty event coming up called DC40.  It’s a gathering of New Apostolic Reformation Christians (“Dominionists”) who are praying around the country and in DC to rid the nation of its pagan, occult, and in-any-way-not-their-narrow-view-of-Christianist-dogma-dogshit influences.  It’s pretty damn horrifying, really, and it only gets more vitriolic and angry day by day.  I refuse to link to it since I don’t want to give them the traffic, but it’s horrifying.

Their general plan is this: for each of fifty-one days, they’ll be praying in different state, gathering together these sorts of Christian extremists to “pray out the demons” from the nation and getting God to elect people just as hardcore, extreme, fundamentalist, and uncompromising as themseles.  From 10/2 until 11/11, they’ll be praying to turn DC into the “District of Christ” within DC, and another 11 days after that in Philadephia.  They’re keeping this around the pagan festivals of Halloween/All Hallows Eve/Feast of the Dead/Samhain, in case you didn’t notice, for added douchebaggery.

Pagans, occultists, and non-Abrahamic practitioners haven’t let this slip, and have made an uproar about this among themselves and to the DC40 folks.  The DC40 folks replied with this almost revolting “prayer”, of which I will only post an excerpt (the whole thing is available over at the Wild Hunt, see links below):

We release perfect Blood-covered love into the core of your being!
May eternal light flood your hearts this day with the revelation of who you really are, and, more importantly, who God really is! We also pray that this revelation will dismantle and refute all arguments, theories, reasonings, and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God. Your ladder has been placed on the wrong wall. We call you to your right mind through the finished work of the cross.

The sheer number of issues I take with this alone is daunting.  “Blood-covered love” makes it sound like they’ve been reading too many trashy vampire books, and who exactly is being cursed, here?  Fuck if I know, but it sure ain’t the people who feel entitled to having a whole nation suited to their every whim whipped up by frenzy and fanaticism.  Also, keep in mind that this “prayer” is really a legit spell: invoking names of God, casting of blood and divine essences onto their targets, entering into a sort of legal deal of “he started it, thus he must be punished”, and that they’ve already done significant work beforehand to this end and this is just the implementation of something already done.  There’s a lot to this that makes it far more like something a maniacal and disturbed ceremonial magician would do rather than some Christ-like good shepherds and sheep gathering for some spontaneous heartfelt prayer.

Now, I’m not gonna lie.  This gets me worked up in no good way.  I’m rather glad to live in the US where I can expect, as guaranteed me constitutionally, that I’m free to practice whatever the fuck I want for my religion, including not practicing at all; that I’m free to live my life as I choose without harm and harming none in the process.  That, to me, is the essence of America, and moreover, of America’s deity, patroness, and deification Columbia, Goddess of Freedom.  I’m going to help out as I can by making prayers to Columbia, if at least to counter the imprecatory bullshit espoused by the Dominionists, for one.  For another, I’ll see what I can do about getting together an effort to nonintrusively affect the Dominionists’ sphere of influence to limit, chain down, banish, and maybe even nullify their prayers (daunting, yes, impossible, maybe not).  While they may not call it such, what they’re doing is exersizing a fuckton of magical will and power here.  They may not call it magic, they may not have much experience with different planes, and they may not realize that divinities and powers listen to humankind of all streaks and creeds, but they’re doing magic and harmful magic at that.

Have some links to help you out, if you’re interested in more info to help against this bullshittery:

  • Over at Into the Mound, the splendid IanC has written a prayer and charm to help act as a counterspell.  I’ll be using it daily in my devotions and works for anything related to this or future Columbian works.  (UPDATE!) IanC gave permission to repost it, so to keep it in my index, I’ve reposted it in full below.  Go give him site traffic anyway.

    This is a voice of the people, the people of the United States of America.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    Let this be the voice of the Wise, for wisdom is my prayer.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    Let the wisdom of the founders bring freedom.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    Let the freedom in our spirits be the foundation of the law.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    Let our law proclaim that we have no ‘lords’.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    May our Ancestors witness our commitment to freedom and justice.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    May the Other Kins of North America know our commitment to their well-being.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    May the Gods and Goddesses of all peoples know welcome in our nation.
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    By Sky and by Grain, by Mountain and by Plain, by Liberty and by Justice
    In the United States, let no god be master, and let all be free.
    From sea to sea, so be it!

  • Jason Pitzl-Walters keeps tabs on the event and other associated topics at his blog The Wild Hunt over on Patheos.
  • If you’re interested in getting a statue of Columbia for an altar or focus, the United States Capitol Historical Society sells them made from the same marble as the Capitol Building itself.  I’m considering getting one myself.
  • (UPDATE!) The Hail Columbia project is a group of Pagans and like-minded people to protect and guard the religious freedom that America was built on.  They’re getting together an effort to fight back against the DC40 campaign and other projects, and you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Also, if you’re interested, talk to your local pagan groups, meetups, covens, whatever.  Get involved, send an email, get some coffee with them.  Anything within an hour’s drive is fair game.  Strength here lies in numbers, and the Dominionists get more day by day; there aren’t that many of them, but they’re being loud about it, and that can be even worse.