Early Spirit Contact: “Daemon Wolf”

The first spirit contact I can recall was with a “totem” spirit I came to call Daemon Wolf.

As many of you may recall, animal totems (or, spirits, phenomena, and identifications we called animal totems) were a HUGE THING in the mid-to-late 1990s.  Ted Andrews was fucking everywhere.  People looked to their totems not just as spiritual guides and masters, but to explain and shape their very personalities.  For example, many “Cat totem” people I knew meowed and tried to purr and gleefully used their identification to invade (or avoid)ur personal space; people with “wolf totems” cast themselves in roles of leader or tragic outcast; “bear totem” people set themselves up as the “cuddly bouncer”.  But I digress.

In this atmostphere, as I began to transition from my earliest period of studying magic, the occult, and the paranormal, to actually practicing magic at aboout the age of sixteen, one of my first rituals was aimed at finding my totem animal and/or spirit guide.  (Other people may have been clear on the distinction between those things in 1997/8, I was not.)   I wish that I could reproduce or cite that first ritual for you here, but alas… Although I had access to a small collection of friends books at that time (I think my library still consisted entirely of the Simonomicon and maybe a Cunningham encyclopedia), I preffered the rituals I learned from people on IRC chat and in FTP archives.  Six computers later, unfortunately, those files are long gone.

The ritual as I recall it was simple.  I set myself up in a comfortable chair, with a candle and glass candle holder.  I put on some nice, quiet Celtic harp music.  I cast an elemental circle.  I carved my personal sigil, a bindrune I had designed, into the side of the candle, and imbued it with my desire to know my totem animal/spirit guide.  I dropped the candle in the holder, lit it, and tried to slip into the trance.  The candle holder, which I have to this day, was round and convex, with red dragon’s tears affixed to an inner layer by some sort of grey-green ceramic.  As I tried to enter and maintain the trance, I turned the candle holder around and around in my hands, gazing into the back-lit dragon tears and waiting for an image to appear in my mind.

This ritual would be my first firegazing, and possibly my most successful to date.  I saw the image of a snarling, black-furred wolf with flaming red eyes.  Even at that young and tender age, I could tell that this was not the spirit of all wolves.  There was a darkness about it, a savagery outside of the natural wild.  I called it Daemon Wolf.  (Yes, the penchant for high drama goes way back.)

I remained in contact with that spirit off and on for years, but I could not “hear” it.  I could tell that it was attempting to communicate, but, I couldn’t grok whatever signals the spirit was trying to send.  It began appearing to my friends in IRC chatrooms (some of whose animal spirits came to investigate me in return) and my more magically experienced local friends to relay messages and relieve its boredom.  The spirit in question also had a penchant for melodrama.

On a particularly notable evening, 31 October 1998 – one of my earliest surviving joural entries, in addition to one of my earliest clear spirit contacts – I was hanging out in the coffee shop with my friend Medea and one or two other friends.  I don’t remember what we were talking about, but as the conversation progressed the sese of someone sitting close to my right side grew stronger and stronger.  But I couldn’t see anything … not clearly, at any rate: just a vague silhoette crouched on the floor.

After a while, it was too much for me, and I interrupted my own train of thought to demand if  anyone else could see the thing sitting beside me.

“Wolfie,” Medea idetified the spirit for me, laughing and using the nickname she’d given Daemon Wolf in previous conversation.

Things changed trajectory after that.  My spirit-senses did improve, slowly.  It did become easier for Daemon Wolf to contact me.  It was clear, however, that there was a lot it wanted to convey to me that I just wasn’t picking up on.

As my practice escalated over the next few years, more spirits began appearing in my life.  I couldn’t hear them any better than I could hear Wolfie, but it … appeared to resent them.  It very clearly resented that I was not pursuing my relationship with it as dilligently as it desired.  Frankly: focus is not my strong point in the medium term.  Short term – jewelry repair, a single ritual, a lover – I am a laser ; long term – college, my novels – I am relentless; medium term … that’s where the distractions live.  And I had a lot of distractions, as I was rotating through whole circcles of freinds about every 12-18 months those first few years out of high school.  Contacts with Daemon Wolf grew increasingly sporadic.  When I did make contact – or, more accurately, when it made contact – it was increasingly cross with me.

Eventually, the spirit I called Daemon Wolf lost patience with me.   I wish I had the xact date, or could find the record  — I know I wrote about the event, somewhere, but … I’ve mentioned before that my journalling is not the best.  Some time before I departed Lawrence, KS, for what would become my failed life in St.Louis, it made final contacct and told me that it was giving up and moving on.

 

This is one of the few places where I wish I had done things differently back in the day.  I don’t think most people have spirits take that sort of proprietary interest that early.  It’s not unheard of, of course, but it’s an opportunity not everyone gets … and I blew it.  I also wish I’d kept better journals, so I would have more wheat from which to sift chaff.  Still, my relationship with Daemon Wolf taught me one essential lesson: relaitionships between mortals and spirits are opt-in, for both parties.  Either party can leave when their needs are not being met, or their goals are not being achieved.

 

Ouija: Spirit Contact and Controversy In The KU Cauldron

In 2001 and 2002, despite not being a student, I was heavily involved in the KU Cauldron — then the Wicca-Pagan Alliance.  Meetings were Tuesdays weekly, if I recall correctly — I seem to have too many memories from too short a time for it to have been only monthly, and I know that there many meetings I missed because I simply couldn’t bring myself to leave my apartment.  Sometimes we had topics, sometimes we didn’t.  Occasionally we had presenters.  Many nights we spent doing tarot readings, or sharing energetic and psychic techniques.  More often than I care to admit, we spent most of the night talking about anime.  Two things we managed to keep consistent, though: we opened nearly every meeting by casting a circle; and after the meetings, about half of us would stay for Ouija.

The weekly Ouija sessions were a source of a surprising ammount of contention.  There were, of course, the two or three rationalists — I’m still not sure why they were there — who believed that the whole thing was even more hinkey than everything else we were doing.  The rest, though, were deeply disturbed by the talking board.  Most wouldn’t talk about their misgivings.  Those who would — ironically, the vampire numbered among them — were concerned about the nameless evils that might come through.  No one out-and-out told us to stop, but … There was serious concern that our post-meeting sessions might begin before the non-participants had cleared whatever they believed to be minimum safe distance.

I had, prior to my time in the WPA, known a few people who had had their own experiences with talking boards.  Most had nothing remarkable to report.  A few had the usual stories of flying objects or lingering entities.  But I had never tried it, myself.  Given the lower-than average success rates my friends had reported, I was moderately skeptical.  But back then, though, before the migraines, I was much more open to wild experimentation than I often have been since.

Given all the concern and side-eyes we got over the whole thing, I was somewhat disappointed by the reality.  Most of our sessions were fairly tame.  We got positive contact more often than not.  Names and dates and details of lives and deaths that we could never verify.  All juicy enough to hold our attention, but never quite enough to convince the more skeptical participants … myself included.

Well, not never.  There were … incidents.  But I’ll get to that in a moment.

The Oija board was owned and brought by one of our members, by the name of Jason if I recall correctly, and he always took point on the planchette.  From the other side of the board, our sessions were mediated by by a spirit that called itself “Ouija”, apparently a familiar spirit to Jason.  We would open sessions on the board and the planchette would fly over those five letters: O … U … I … J … A … then, WELCOME.  We would ask this spirit Ouija to manage contacts for us, find the spirits to whom we would talk.

Some, myself included, believed that Ouija was Jason.  Not that he was deliberately guiding the planchette — though that was, occasionally, a subject of debate — but that he had some need for control, and manifested the Ouija “spirit” to exert that control over the talking board.  I was often tempted to test that theory by usurping the board from the other side, using the woven energetic techniques that were then my signature style, but ultimately never tried to pull such a dick move on someone who was ostensibly my friend.

Three particular evenings stand out in my memory, fifteen years later.

The first was the spirit of a girl who claimed to have committed suicide in the building where we held our meetings.  I don’t remember her name, or when she claimed to have lived.  I do remember that she hanged herself.  I remember the pall that came over us all as the spirit spoke.  Jason later claimed to have confirmed the story, but I never saw any newspaper articles.

The second was an attempt to make contact with a spirit that had approached me early in my carreer.  That first contact is a story in and of itself, a strange night from the days of guerilla magic in the Java Break, but the short version is that one Halloween, a spirit approached me and made … contact.  High voltage, visceral contact.  And it spooked the shit out of me.  And I rejected her.  One night on the Ouija board, some years later, I convinced the Cauldron crowd to let me reach out to her in return.  There was contact, but it was … unclear.  Staticky.  Only one thing came through to me inteilligibly: contact me again.  Spoiler alert: I never did.

The third and most dramatic session with the KU Cauldron and the Ouija board was the sort of thingthat tends to scare people off of not just spirit contact, but magical practice altogether.

We opened the board as per usual: O … U … I … J … A … WELCOME.  That was where any resemblance to our usual evening ended.  Ouija was frantic.  Insistant.  GO, it told us. GO!

“Go where?” we asked.

It gave us the name of a building on campus.  We went there, and brought the board with us.  We did not, immediately, find anything of partifular interest at that location.  We did, however, run into a member that had not been present at the meeting — we’ll call him Scott — who joined us for our mobile seance.

We attempted to re-establish contact with Ouija.  It was not a smooth transaction.  When we did make contact, the spirit was still agitated.  This time, while still identifying itself as “Ouija”, it gave us a name.  When asked to clarify, it repeated the anem.

Scott was somewhat perturbed.  “That’s my sister’s name.”

Everyone became very adgitated at that point.

Scott borrowed a cellular phone — something that not everyone had back then — and called his sister.  Her abusive ex was at her appartment, pounding on her door.  He’d been there for a few minutes.  Scott talked her down from raw panic.  Talked her into calling the police.  Called her back and waited on the line until they came.

It was some time before we broke out the board again.  I think that Jason may have left the groop not long after, though that may well be either the vagaries of memory or the natural course of the four-year graduation cycle.  The incident did leave a lasting impression on all those that were present.

I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately.  Listening to podcasts, so many guests telling stories of their magical youths.  Writing novels set in my own magical youth.  Things I had all but forgotten floating to the surface.  This story, in particular, has come to mind in the wake of several podcasts about the myth and practice and history of talking boards.

Makes me want to use one, again.

Makes me want to make one by hand.

But before I begin the neew experiments, I need to recall the old.

 

Ancestors for the Alienated: First Contact

At last Thursday’s Spirit Circle, Shauna Aura Knight’s Full Moon included an invocation of the Ancestors and the Descendants – either literal or figurative.

As I mentioned fairly recently, I’m SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE with the notion of ancestor work because, as a white person, there is no clear differentiation between my biological ancestors and White Supremecy.  The descendants part was more uncomfortable for reasons that ar much more personal as a child-free individual who may or may not ever take students or produce work whose influence might be equivilent.

But one of the things about rituals led by other peope is that they sometimes go places you weren’t 100% prepared for.

In this case, at least, I was about 50% prepared.  I didn’t expect it to come up in the moment, but I had names to call.  In that moment, two particular names came to mind.

I called out to Aleister Crowley and Pamela Coleman Smith as my occult progenetors.  My mental image was, in case it’s relevant, drawn from the most common pictures available of them.

Contact with Crowley was … ephemeral.  Neither positive nor negative.  Further experimentation needed.

Smith, on the other hand, responded warmly.  Positive contact.  It was a fleeting moment.  No terms were discussed.  But the mother of the modern tarot is open to further contact.

HPF 2016: Spirit Conjuration Workshop Notes

For the amusement and convenience of my readers and in the hopes of getting feedback from the more experienced conjurers in the community, I present my notes for the spirit conjuration workshop.  I would greatly appreciate feedback from anyone who attended, or who has an interest in the subject, in order to make a better workshop next year.

I)       Introduction

A)     Allow me to Introduce Myself ….

i)       20 years and counting of magical practice and experiments

(a)   Started with energy work and failed attempts at astral projection at 16 yrs

(b)   ~’00-06 swapping tricks and going on adventures with KU WPA

(c)   Independent experiments with shamanic visionary work since 2008

(d)   Intense exploration of ceremonial and chaos magicks 2011-2015

¨       Ceremonial Experiment

¨       Project Null

B)     Conjuration

i)       When I was but a wee faun of a mage …

(a)   1990s taboo against spirit conjuration

(b)   Jeremy and summoning elementals

ii)     Historical perspective

(a)   Extremely ancient tradition, dating to earliest preserved spells

(b)   Extensively attested across the whole of the Western magical tradition

¨       Archaeology

¨       PGM

¨       Picatrix

¨       Renaissance Grimoires (to say nothing of theater)

¨       Lodge traditions – GD, A .: A .: (Argentium Astrum), Thelema, &c.

¨       ATR &c. – Hoodoo, vodoun, voodoo, conjure, &c.

¨       Basically everywhere but mainstream modern neo-Pagan witchcraft

iii)   Sources for conjuration experiments

(a)   Christopher Penczak’s Temple of High Witchcraft

(b)   Electional astrology via Christopher Warnock’s Spiritus Mundi

(c)   PGM Stele of Jeu via Jack Faust

(d)   Rufus Opus’ Seven Spheres in Seven Days marathon

(e)   Peter Carol’s Liber Null

(f)    RO’s Seven Spheres

(g)   Wild assortment of personal accounts by other sorcerers gleaned across the internet and over beers

II)    Theory, Part One

A)     Theories of magic (Phil Hine, Condensed Chaos 1995)

i)       Cybernetic model – fractal reality, programmable magic: coded wards and servetors

ii)     Psychological model – 19th + 20th C,Jungian/archetypal understanding of the cosmos, “it’s all in your head”

iii)   Energetic model – also introduced to the West in the 19th C, “subtle energies”

iv)    Spirit model – oldest, probably best, and most relevant to our discussion

v)      All four must be at least partly true, because all four work

B)     Conjuring, obviously, works on the spirit theory

i)       magic is achieved through petitioning spirits to act on our behalf

(a)   ancestors & other dead

(b)   elementals/fairies/devas

(c)   planetary powers – spirits, archangels, gods, whatever

(d)   gods and demons

ii)     the magician makes contact with the spirit, persuades them by some means, and the spirit makes the magic happen

III) Ethics

A)     Concerning Free Will

i)       do spirits have it?

(a)   actually don’t according to many theories of the spirited world

ii)     does conjuration infringe upon it?

(a)   lots of authoritarian language in spirit conjuration

(b)   lots of it reads as theater

iii)   survey sez spirits do what the fuck they want, regardless of “contract”

(a)   why doesn’t anyone ever extend this line of reasoning to include the gods?

(b)   Quarter calls traditionally “bid” spirits rather than “asked” them

(c)   “calling” isn’t asking either

B)     Indirect Action and Unintended Consequences

i)       how responsible are we for the means that spirits employ in our name?

IV)  Mechanics

A)     Ritual Arc

i)      Preliminary Work

(a)   Clean the workspace

(b)   Physical construction of the altar

(c)   Mood lighting

(d)   Bathing

(e)   Banishing

(f)    Fumigation

ii)    Opening

(a)   Dedication of sacred space

¨       Blessing the altar

¨       Incense

¨       Circle casting

¨       Offerings to relevant familiar spirits

(b)   Invocation of authority

¨       Supreme deity/deities

¨       Identification with great mages of myth and history

à         Moses and Osiris in the PGM

à         Potentially Medea, Merlin, or Aradia for modern witches

à         Affiliation with established order or egregore

¨       Offerings to that authority

iii) Body

(a)   Evocation of the spirit by speaking its name and attributes

¨       This is the place for hardcore flattery

¨       Listing off multiple names and attributes of spirit to be called helps to specify

¨       Traditional hymns and/or devotional poetry go here

(b)   Depending on the ritual tradition, there may be cajoling, bribery, or threatening

¨       Hermetic tradition ~ “Don’t I remind you of Dad?”

¨       Grimoire tradition ~ “Dad made me the boss of you!”

¨       Egyptian style ~ “If you don’t do as I say, I’ll get a bigger god to clobber you!”

¨       Folk magic ~ “If you do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me!”

¨       First round of offerings go here – fumigation and/or libations

(c)   Asking something of the spirit

¨       “say ‘hi”,”

¨       “empower this talisman”

¨       Planetary spirits are great for initiations and general power-ups

¨       Second round of offerings to the conjured spirit may be appropriate, particularly libations or food offerings

¨       If I am asking for communion or initiation, this is where I will share a drink with the spirit

iv)  Closing

(a)   Thanking and/or Dismissal of the spirit

¨       May be personal or formal

¨       More offerings are not uncalled for, particularly libations

(b)   Thanking the authority

¨       More offerings, depending on the authority

(c)   Dismiss elements/quarters/whatever

(d)   Dismiss circle

(e)   Banish as necessary

V)     Theory, Part Two

A)     Style

i)       varies from one tradition to another

B)     Substance

i)       A conjurer (“exorcist”) must believe in their own authority

ii)     Psychodrama of ritual

C)     Planning

i)       What is your purpose?

(a)   Empower this talisman/sigil

(b)   Perform this action –

(c)   Shower me with the blessings of your domain (relevant for planetary spirts and their ilk)

ii)     Who or what are you conjuring?

iii)   What school of thought are you employing?

iv)    Have your script ready

VI)  The Triangle of Conjuration

A)     A reality map – Trimethian archetype

i)       Characters of the seven planets on the outer ring

ii)     Archangels of the four earthly quarters in the second ring

iii)   Sacred geometry make up the center

iv)    Crystal placed in the central geometry in which the spirit appears

v)      Represents the material and spiritual realms through which the spirits must descend to the “exorcist”

B)     Traditional tool helpful with some kinds of conjuration

C)     Adds to the psychodrama

VII)           Personal Experiences

A)     Relationships With Spirits

i)       Formal first contact is best

ii)     Research and experience alike indicate that personal is best

(a)   Some relationships may remain extremely formal

(b)   Depends on the magician as much as the spirit or rite

B)     Conjurations

i)       Natal genius and demon

ii)     Cannabis

iii)   Planetary spirits/archangels

VIII)   Sources for Research

A)     Books

i)       Rufus Opus’ Seven Spheres (Scarlet Imprint 2015)

ii)     Gordon White’s The Chaos Protocols (Llewellyn 2016)

iii)   Corpus Hermeticum (public domain)

iv)    Lesser Key of Solomon the King (Crowley’s Goetia, Weiser 1990)

B)     Blogs

i)       Rufus Opus @ Head for Red

ii)     Polyphanes @ Digital Ambler

triangle-of-art-with-characters_thumb.jpg

Orphic Hymns to the Sun: Translations in Action

A great deal of the current work being done with planetary magic right now relies heavily on the use of the Orphic Hymns, chiefly the 18th century translations by Thomas Taylor.  Long-time readers may recall that I am uncomfortable with those translations, and have argued that the more recent and more accurate translations of Apostolos Athanassakis be used instead.  It was not only inevitable, then, but entirely by design that my first week of conjurations put these two translations back-to-back to see what differences might be discerned in their efficacy.

For those magicians who are not also ancient language geeks (how have I not bored you to death?), the gist of it is that the Ancient Greek in which the Orphic Hymns were composed was written in meter rather than rhyme, and hammering the verses into a simple English rhyme-scheme takes some serious torture.  Also, archaeology is amazing, and we know more about the languages of Hellenistic Greece today than Taylor did, so some of his mistakes may be rooted in bad dictionaries.  Some magicians, equally if not more geeky and educated as I, believe that the Taylor translations work better magically for all sorts of reasons, but I ride this hobby horse to hell, regardless.

Taylor’s rhyming cant does, I must concede, a certain something for the brain of the English speaking magician.  We have this whole thing with magic and rhyme, and any good Chaos magician knows how valuable it is to tap into that sort of unconscious power source.  Moveover, between their ready (and free) availability, and the work of Rufus Opus (among others), the Taylor translations of the Hymns are explicitly tied to the planetary rites of the modern Western magical tradition.  All this goes to say that when I used the Thomas Taylor translation of the Hymn to the Sun, by itself, as a part of RO’s Seven Spheres rite, and as a part of conjurations of my own design, I already knew something of what to expect.

The warmth of the Sun responds readily to the hymn, and one may ride that way direct to the planetary current, and the Archangel Michael or the Titan god Helios respond equally readily to accept the offerings laid out before them.

The translations of Apostolos Athanassakis are aimed at the casual enthusiast as much as the professional Classicist, so they are not as sharp-edged as some might fear — the pages are unmarred by indications of broken text in the original, or annotation regarding the academic infighting of one translation versus another.  Moreover, in the particular case of the Hymn to Helios, the differences between the two translations are much less stark and more stylistical than other Orphic Hymns.

The Sun that responded to Aradia and I when we called by this hymn, both by itself and as a part of the Seven Spheres rite, was startlingly different from that which answered to the Taylor translation.  It was tarnished, or perhaps brazen rather than gold.  It was older, more aloof, more … Titanic.  Aradia described the experience as having used a back door to the sun.

It was the Athanassakis translation of the Orphic Hymn to Helios, substituted for Taylor in the Seven Spheres rite, which produced my most vivid experience of the experiment so far: the sensation of having ascended to an old, cooling, and abandoned region of the Sun, and of being observed by a vast red-gold eye, the size of a planet, staring widely at my from within an almost understandably vast head.

 

Playing the Vessel

Over the course of the last week, I have twice played meatsuit to familiar spirits.  Last Wednesday, as a part of my extended Samhain rites, I allowed my natal daemon, SKM, to ride me through the school day.  Saturday night, I followed this up by offering the same privilege to my natal genius, ZG.  Both experiences, while much less intense than I had anticipated, were equal parts surreal and informative.  I required only one thing of either of them:  that, in riding me, they not undermine any existing alliances and relationships, a restriction which neither found to be a burden that I can tell.

SKM, it turns out, is a huge fan of poetry (I am not): when I went to a performance with several friends Wednesday afternoon, he was moved to tears.  He is very formal in his language and purposeful in his movements.  When he first entered into me, it was a clear and visceral sensation—particularly odd, as I was driving at the time.  He seemed especially fascinated by the experience of having hands.

ZG, I should not have been surprised to learn, is very, very quiet.  She speaks only when there is something to be gained from it, and then in as few words as possible.  I barely noticed when she came into me, perhaps because our ways of thinking were so similar, possibly because the copious amounts of absinthe I had consumed that night (it was my birthday party) served as a sort of lubricant.

Where SKM was content to observe but willing to act, watching from a distance was ZG’s preference.  Both seem to approve of the people I surround myself with.

Tsu, my first familiar spirit, who had never expressed interest in possessing me before that I can recall, reacted jealously that ZG and SKM had had the opportunity before ze had.  So I’ll be reporting on that experience at some point in the future.

Orphic Hymns: Taylor vs. Athanassakis

English: Orpheus
English: Orpheus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Classicist Apostolos Athanassakis recently released a new edition of his English translations of the Orphic hymns—previously released in the 1970s and, to the best of my ability to determine, the first new translation since Thomas Taylor’s in 1792.  I’ve been going over the hymns and notes for the last month, and using the hymns in my rituals for the last two weeks.  I must admit, that I’ve been rather surprised by the results.

Firstly, the Athanassakis translation is every bit as different from the Taylor as I would have imagined: no anachronistic rhyming couplets, no 18th century euphemisms or evasions, no substitutions of Roman names for Greek.  Because Classical scholarship has come a long way in the last two hundred years, I do not hesitate to assert that the translations are more accurate for reasons other than the brutal mangling needed to turn Koine iambic hexameter into English rhyming couplets.  And, to my delight, my own translation of the Hymn to Phanes ends up looking pretty solid.

For worship of the Hellenic gods, the new translation is by far superior: epithets are better preserved, and Athanassakis pointedly maintained what he felt to be the religious feel of the texts.  Dionysus, Phanes/Eros, Hermes, and Aphrodite have all responded well in my private rites.

For in/evocation of the Planetary powers, however, and to my extreme surprise, I have found the Taylor translations to yield much better results.  This is partly because, however I may despise them aesthetically, rhyming couplets make great magic.  This may also be partly because the Taylor translations have been so thoroughly incorporated into the Hermetic tradition, and thus provide better access to that magical current.  Further, the actual textual differences between the texts(coincidentally or otherwise) align the Taylor translation more closely with the Planetary powers than with the divine mythology.

Thus, while I must strongly advocate that any Hellenic-flavored neo-Pagan invest in the Athanassakis translation, as well as anyone with a scholarly interest in the hymns, ceremonial magicians have no need to do so.

διγενὴς ἔκστασις : Queer Spirit Journeys

[This post was originally written ten months ago for a queer occult Zine that, to my great disappointment, seems to have gone defunct without publishing.  The tone is more … literary, and the content a bit more intimate than most of my posts. ]

The void opens before me and the crystalline spire of the World Tree rises into infinity where there ought to be a horizon. The ground beneath my feet is an illusion for my convenience: there is nothing but the void and the Tree.

In the physical realm, I am uncomfortably male. Although I reject all the social tropes of masculinity, excepting only a few which are synonymous with being a decent human being, I am generally read as so butch that I am routinely mistaken for straight. While wearing a skirt. In a gay bar.

In the Otherworld, however, things are more complicated.

My most familiar spirit approaches me before I even reach the Tree. She is eager, and there is mischief in her eyes. Until recently, she appeared as a gorgon; now, just a woman. I ask if she has any adventures planned for me, and although she is one of the few spirits whose voice I can hear reliably, tonight she answers only by taking my hand.

Together, we walk to the World Tree. She places her hand on the shimmering facets of the bark, and slides into the pillar of crystal. I follow.

It is quite telling, in retrospect, that I have been fixated on leaving my body since I first began my study of the occult at the age of sixteen. Although I have never mastered astral projection, my success with Michael Harner’s visionary techniques, to which I was introduced by a friend a decade later, has been markedly greater. Enough so, in fact, that I began having experiences that my source materials could not help me contextualize almost immediately. I began seriously exploring and experimenting with visionary techniques in the spring of 2009. At first, as I imagine it is for many people, it was all or nothing: the trance would either elude me, or I would find myself in a mindscape which I could barely comprehend. Those first visionary experiences were frightening—some of them are, still, as I have no cultural context in which to ground them.

We descend, spiraling into darkness, and emerge at the edge of a stone circle. There is a drummer hiding in the shadows on the far side. Beautiful dancers writhe in the inconstant light of a small fire. I cannot see their faces clearly, or hear their voices over the drum.

I leap into the circle, joining the dance with abandon. Our bodies collide to the rhythm of the drum. There is nothing but the drumbeat and the heat of the fire and flesh. My hips and breasts sway as I dance and spin, round and round the fire.

It probably goes without saying that, at first, my spirit-body appeared as an idealized version of my mortal flesh: a little more muscular, a little less soggy around the middle. For a while, before I realized that it was irrelevant, I tried to form an “astral body” that was more “realistic”. Then I just let it be what it was: trying to dismantle that small bit of vanity was a distraction from the real work of exploring the spirit world. So, the first time it was radically different, I almost didn’t notice.

I was at a Qaballistic workshop at the local New Age store. The instructor was leading us on a visionary journey to Malkuth, the Earthly Kingdom. The path led across a bridge over a river, where we were to abandon certain symbolic representations of our mortal lives. Seeing my reflection in the river, I was surprised to see that I was a woman. My tattoos and ritual garb were what I had formed as I entered the visionary trance, but my flesh was not. For much of the rest of the journey, which was clear and productive, I was viscerally and self-consciously aware of the differences between that body and my mortal one—and of the fact that I had been unaware of those differences until I saw my reflection.

The drummer has slipped outside the fire light, and moves around outside the circle of stones, deosil to our widdershins, so that he is always just out of sight. One by one, the other dancers disappear as I make my way around the circle again and again. One turn I am a woman: my center of gravity lower, my breasts swaying and bouncing with my gyrations. The next I am a man: my cock slapping against my thighs as my center of gravity rises. Though the movements themselves are not so different—I am a terrible, unoriginal dancer, either way—the relative proportions of hip to shoulder create the illusion that it is otherwise, both visual and tactile.

The goddess I met at the end of that journey was not the Queen of Malkuth, but the Titan goddess Rhea: vast beyond my imagining, reclining nude and crowned and flanked by lions. To this day I have always-but-once been a woman when summoned to her presence in my visionary work. Other spirits, too—such as the equally vast but yet-unnamed goddess of Elemental Water—prefer that I be female in their presence. I have always been male in the Elemental Realm of Fire. My gender in the Otherworld is increasingly uncertain and malleable: male, female, both, neither. I shift at random, or at will, or at the behest of the spirits with whom I entreat.

All that remain, now, are myself and the the fire and the drummer I still cannot see. But my body has solidified in the image of Hermaphroditus: full breasts and hips, bearded and phallic. My hair is thick and glorious, from my head to my feet. Horns crown my head. A satyr’s tail sways behind me, and a satyr’s Priapism sways in front.

I leap into the fire, and we consume one another. My flesh is incinerated, then reformed, as I swallow the flames. When I emerge, the drummer has reveled himself: my Natal Demon. My Genius is there, too, and my most familiar spirit.

We dance.

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* διγενὴς ἔκστασις – “Diges Ekstasis”, lit. two-kind displacement, alt. trance of doubtful sex. διγενὴς cf. LSJ.A, ἔκστασις Middle Liddel.A.II.4

Genius Locii: Overseer of the Standing Stones

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When our friend Sthenno learned that Aradia and I were going on a road trip to the Badlands, she asked us to bring her back some dirt to dad to her collection of Earth and Waters from various parts of the world.  She gave us a baggie to collect the dirt in, and a vial of water and a tea-light to serve as an offering for the exchange.

Although we were happy to oblige, there was the small concern of where and how to do such a thing.  After all, the removal of any rocks or plants from a national park is technically a crime (though we carried off enough mud on or shoes and gear to equal easily five times the volume that we collected for Sthenno).  Further (and, frankly, more importantly), this was not a region where white people have historically covered themselves in glory with regards to the First Nations peoples or the spirits of the land.  Although Aradia got a slightly different vibe off of everything, the overwhelming majority of the spirits that I could percieve in the Badlands were fundamentally disinterested in my existence one way or the other.

The one notable exception to that was a spirit near our camp site.  There was a hill to the West of us that called to me.  And not just me: a camp of hippies near us took it upon themselves to climb the small mountain in the dark.  Aradia and I watched their lights and listened to their yells; I very much wanted to follow them—as I put it then, “carrying our jug of wine and screaming like a maenad”—but Aradia disuaded me.

The spirit knew that we needed dirt, and it called to me.  The second day we did climb the hill, and found concentric circles of carefully stacked stones with a set of three piles that were clearly an altar of sorts, and two extra pairs set like gateways at the heads of two paths leading further away from the site.  The spirit—who we believe called others there to erect the “standing stones”—accepted Sthenno’s offer of water and fire in exchange for the dirt (though the wind made the latter … complicated), but wanted blood from Aradia and I without making itself particularly clear about what it was offering in return.  We politely declined, and—perhaps as a result–the spirit also made clear that we were not to take any pictures of the top of it’s hill, so the above picture from the road is the only image I can offer you; one can just barely see the stones rising up at the top of the hill.

Upon our return, the dirt maintained a clear and potent charge, and Sthenno was startled but intrigued to hear the story.  For myself, I look forward to hearing what comes of her workings with the dirt and the associated spirit.

The site, itself, remains clear in my mind, and it is my intention to return astrally to see what I can learn from that perspective.

Spirits of Earth and Air

Last Friday Aradia and I skidded into KC at the end of a nine day road trip to the South Dakota Badlands and Rocky Mountain National Park.  As tempting as it was, in theory, to turn the road trip into a spiritual retreat, the fact is that I desperately needed the vacation.  And what a vacation it was.   Even after all the travelling I’ve done with Aradia and my family, I had never seen landscapes like the ones I saw over that week-and-a-half: the Karst cartography of central and south Missouri gave way to the Loess hills of northern MO and eastern Iowa before we set off across the grasslands of South Dakota.  We came into the Badlands from the north, via I-90, and I don’t even know how to describe the feeling when the earth dropped off in front of us, only to rise back up in magnificent spires of white and red stone.

A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.
A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.

 

Tragically, as our visit coincided with the Perseid meteor shower, it rained on us briefly every day we were there, despite the arid climate, and every night was overcast.  That unseasonable water made it all the more shocking when I tried to get a sense of the spirits of the place and sensed nothing by Earth and Air: ancient, slow-moving things from whom I sensed not just a vast indifference to human life, but to mortal life in general.  My poetic nature wants to describe that indifference as “bordering on cruelty”, but I think that’s a little bit of projection and a great deal of anthropomorphization; I think the spirits that ancient stone, weathered by the wind and by water whose brief appearances is as destructive to the rock as it is necessary to the survival of plant and animal life, are simply the most alien things I have yet to come into contact with.

The Badlands were vast, alien, and austere.  So far from my lands in which I have invested my power, and from the Water which makes up so much of my nature, I felt empty—sucked dry.  Surprisingly, that feeling was healing and cathartic: my waters have been murky, almost poisoned for the last year, by the stresses of my personal and academic life, and by the rigid forces of the ceremonial I had been practicing.  By travelling outside my own personal bog, I was able to let some of those “contaminants” (to continue the metaphor) dry out and be carried off by the constant winds of the desert.

From there were traveled south and further west, cutting through the top-left corner of Nebraska into eastern Wyoming, where we skirted the foothills into north-eastern Colorado where, after gaining elevation slowly over hundreds of miles, we finally ascended into the mountains proper.  The thin air of the Rockies hit me hard, and I was nearly useless for the first twenty hours or so.  The green and grey vistas of the mountains hit me as hard as the desert had, and I found the magical climate much more to my liking, but even farther from “home” and equally alien.

A View from Alpine Ridge Road.
The Rocky Mountains, as viewed from Alpine Ridge Road.

I don’t know if the Rocky Mountains are actually younger, geologically, than the Badlands, but they felt that way to me.  More patient, and with an indifference to my passing that was somehow less hostile.  Earth and Air still dominated, but Water was more familiar, perhaps even more welcome.  When I finally had the opportunity to perform the Stele of Jeu on the last day—something that I had been trying to fit in for the whole trip—the local spirits wanted reassurance that I was not attempting to dominate them, but they took me at my word that I only sought to purify myself.

By the end of the trip, as we came down off the mountain to get coffee in Denver and struck off eastward for dinner and a hotel in Hays, I finally felt like a person again: scoured clean by spirits of Earth and Air.