This could be a long one but in truth it’s brutally short.
I did next to nothing in 2016, magically that is.
I maintained my altars. I blogged a bit. I did some tarot readings. I thought about doing magic a lot… and that’s it. I didn’t even remember to post most my blogging on the Australian blogging group I moderate.
I did read a lot in 2016. Gemma Gary, Peter Grey (again), and lots of blog posts and essays on magic. It was uninspiring for the most part. Not to say it wasn’t interesting, but it wasn’t inspiring. I’ve felt a bit like I’m doing nothing but going through the motions for a long time.
A few weeks ago I picked up the wonderful Chaos Protocols by Gordon White. I believe my exact comment was that ‘If Peter Grey was poetry for my soul then Gordon White was the good swift motivating kick up the ass’. I can not recommend this book enough. There was nothing there, skill wise, that was overly new – a few technical things I can incorporate on top of well honed skills though – but the book as a whole was inspiring and motivating. It’s what I’ve been needing to get my magical brain buzzing again.
So we’re leaving 2016, which was one hell of a year in both the good and the bad sense, and moving into 2017…
I can’t think of a much better time to rediscover my motivation and inspiration that right on the cusp of a new year really. Can you?
I have so much going on right now that it’s hard to stay on top of it all.
I often advise newcomers that their absolute first port of call should be the dead of their family lines. These Beloved Ancestors are the spirits that have the most interest in your well being and continuation because without you there is no more of their bloodline in the end. Which isn’t to say they can’t be complete twats, because they can – especially those who are recently dead. Which is to say that if you’re dad was an asshole in life, or your uncle a racist shit, then they probably still will be in death. Probably. Nothing is 100% set in stone.
Now, I don’t interact with any of my recently dead. I prefer working with the older family spirits to date. In part because none of my actual bloodline had passed until very recently and in part because of that bloodline I didn’t know the one who is gone. I do still honour my Grandfather’s second wife and my Grandmother’s second husband as family, but they’re not Ancestors, they’re Beloved Dead or ‘Ancestor’s of the Heart’ so my feelings of them is a bit different.
Anyhow, this is about getting started working with them. There are a lot of different ways to go about and different paths have different rules. This is just where I started, what I know and what I have experienced. It is not the absolute, one true, and only way. Quite the opposite, this is MY way and one of many. A lot of my practice is mashed together from UPG, reading up on Hellenic Chthonic practices, folklore and traditional witchcraft.
When I started off on this part of my path I did so from a point of necessity. There was a major family drama going down and I was at the point of hot-footing a family member. Before taking what I knew to be very drastic measures I touched base with some peers and asked if anyone had better suggestions to get the issue resolved quickly. One of them, a vodou practitioner, suggested I speak with my Ancestors. At this point I had no dead in my family line and I had no clue. This wonderful person gave me the starting point from a vodou perspective and it’s the one I recommend for everyone as it’s pretty neutral. Do note that in Vodou you do not keep the Ancestral altar in your bedroom unless you can cover it or have it somewhere you can close the door on it (Think of it this way – effectively your relatives can watch you fuck).
Start simple, clean white cloth, a white candle and a glass of fresh water that you change regularly. Sit down, light the candle, say hello and talk to them. You can tell them about your day, your problems, your victories and they seem to like knowing about any family things, good and bad, that are happening. That’s the basis of the whole shebang. Simple and sweet, nothing complex and easy to do even if you’re not ‘out’. You can also add white flowers and photos of your family.
You can literally stop reading here if you wanted to.
Moving forward to what I have now. I draw on a lot of traditions and I’m going to lay out some odds and ends of praxis that you can take or leave.
The skull is a spirit house for the Ancestors. For me it is where their candle rests and is elevated on my Ancestral Altar at the hearth of my home (in this case a bookshelf in the lounge room as we spend most our time there). George (naming is optional) looks a little like the plaster of paris one by etsy use ViciousNoodle. You can use a real skull if you want, but ceramic ones tend to be as good, and you can also get stunning theatre prop ones.
Offerings to the ancestors and various props and objects live on the altar which are ‘owned’ by my Ancestors or part of their worship.
Candles are important, as we all know. If you can not have an open flame for any reason then don’t, they’ll live. The main aim of the candles is to create light for your spirits to see your working and be warmed. In the case of the Dead they can also act as a guiding light to the spirits.
For my family we have two options for candles. I used to use beeswax candles. The downside is they’re expensive, the up is bees and honey have long held associations with the dead, and they smell amazing. Unfortunately my local supplier for beeswax pillars got in a bunch that literally burnt for 30 minutes and then dissolved into an absolute mess, so we’ve been using tea lights. The advantage of tea lights, as much as they are cheap, is that you can leave them to burn as they have limited burning time and are inexpensive. You can also get them in many colours and scents if you’re so inclined. One of my Dead loves vanilla scented ones.
Speaking of, these are a big deal, for me fresh water
is a must and my Dead insist on alcohol. Whenever asking for anything big from them I put out the good scotch, and wine and port are regular additions. Food isn’t good for us, the cat gets into it, but rice, bread, honey, and olive oil are all traditional offerings, as are foods that your dead liked in their lifetimes. Likewise tobacco is often a fantastic and traditional offering, as is incense. A LOT of spirits like smoke offerings. The reason I have been given is that it make their spirit bodies feel ‘full’ or tangible if you will.
In my praxis anything given to the dead is no longer fit for human consumption. Liquids are poured into the garden, food discarded away from the home (usually given to the ravens) and other offerings either burnt, buried or carefully discarded in the main bins after being wrapped separately. Burying objects for the dead is a great idea as the lands of the Dead are literally beneath the ground in most lore.
Feeding any spirit regularly is a good idea. Food is love as the phrase goes, and regular attention and feeding strengthens your bond with your spirits. For the Dead water, olive oil, honey etc is also soothing. Alleviating restlessness and potential anger and resentment directed towards the living.
So next big thing is working with them!
At the end of the day this is as easy as sitting down and talking and then listening. Working with your Ancestors can be a good way to start developing your ability to hear spirits and interpreting their messages. They can communicate with you directly, through divination, dreams and various waking symbols.
For odds and ends tell them what’s happening and what you need/want from them, give them a little extra love for their attention and then again if they do the work (and they won’t if they think it’s bad for you).
For house protections place items that are related to the home and family (hair or symbols of living family members) on the altar permanently. Feed them regularly and let them know you’re trusting the home and household members to them.
Categories of identity are pretty cool in a way. They allow us to find people like us or who think like us, to delineate between us and them (admittedly not always a good thing) and to organise to protect vulnerable groups (Transgender people, homosexual people etc). Those are good things. But there’s also a downside to it.
As teenagers, when we’re still figuring things out, it’s considered normal to change your mind about your identity. You are growing up, you’re changing rapidly, and so are your tastes, sexual attractions and internal identity. As adults those categories can become incredibly restraining. They can become boxes you can’t step out of for fear of ridicule, ostracisation or upsetting loved ones.
And that’s kind of where I’m at right now. Things have changed massively for me over the past few years and I’ve been very quietly reassessing many things. Among those things are questions around my sexual identity, my gender identity and, somewhat more relevant to this blog, my religious and magical identity.
As far as magic goes I dropped Pagan years ago. I’m not comfortable with it, nor with a lot of people who identify as Pagan. I remain part of the community anyway, because it’s where I find many like minded people and have many old friendships I won’t be giving up any time soon. I simply refer to myself as a witch, which is still fine and dandy in and of itself. It’s a pretty broad category covering a lot of people of all kinds of different paths.
Where I’ve been really hung up in recent months is religion.
My last post opened with “There’s a crucifix buried in the garden. Roses grow from it.” What it didn’t touch on is the urge to go find it or the confusion that it is causing. I grew up in a very loving Christian household, and when I chose to walk away from Christianity that household, my family, remained very loving and supported me in my explorations. My parents have never turned their back on me and have actively supported my choices. I was very lucky in that (even if it did mean I ended up with some truly woeful dragon statues over the years), but what I was never able to reconcile that household, and even many of my childhood churches, with was the larger institution of the Church and Christianity and the truly horrific things that have and continue to come out of it. Honestly that’s why I left – The horrific hypocrisy of the Church.
And yet I never really stopped believing in God. So now I’m grappling with where I sit, witch will never leave me but am I still Christian? I’m have the vague feeling the answer may be yes.
God is the divinity in all things. To me They are so far removed as to be unknowable. They are the divinity behind and in everything, and we are so tiny as to be flickers on the edge of Their perception. They do not answer prayers or inflict children with diseases. They certainly do not condone the actions of humans, anymore than They necessarily condemn them. They are too far removed to notice it all in my mind.
Which is where the spirits come in, they are the intermediaries. I believe this of all gods and entities including angels, demons, and even the one I refer to as the Wild God from time to time. He’s a big, very powerful, very old, spirit. The spirits and entities give us a knowable face, something we can comprehend and communicate with. Which ones we are drawn to tends to be dependant on where we’re at in ourselves and where we need to go.
And behind them all sits God, Divinity, The Creator. Whatever it is you wish to call Them.
I don’t really have anywhere to go with this. I just wanted to get it down.
As silly as it sounds I’ve been sitting on this for a long while. In part because of my natural loathing of a church that sees me and mine as deviant, corrupt and wrong and in part because there’s a low key fear that it will make those I love look at me like I’ve grown a second head. It’s out now.
Pulling apart the pieces of my craft and exploring new areas. It’s a never ending search for what’s missing, what isn’t sitting in the right spot or in the right way, what’s absent and what needs to be discarded.
There’s much to chew through.
There’s a crucifix buried in the garden. Roses grow from it.
My earliest paths in paganism are grown over from lack of use, and I have no urge to explore them further. Pieces were already thrown into the bonfire willingly, but almost everything is gone now. I hold onto the hands of my lover for he alone still walks with me.
Chaos magic served it’s time and there a practices, tiny bits and bobs, that I continue with. The mind set it allowed me is more important than the ritual or paraphernalia that went along with it. It goes, almost in it’s entirety, into the fires and the path grows over. It can not be un-walked. The mindset – the do what works attitude – remains, and the skills I developed in this time will never be idle.
Both this city and The CITY are home, and nothing can seperate my blood from them, but they are no longer under my feet each day. Their paths grows over, but welcome my step with perfumed roses and jasmine when I walk their ground. Rarely as witch, always as beloved and lover.
The Ancestors, well one does not discard ones blood, but it is time to find a better way to work this path. It is grown over and full of tripping hazards. I need to tend this path, burn away the debris and weeds. Tend it so it meanders less and less. There is work to be done on this path, always.
And the paths I’ve walked recently…
Witchcraft, eclectic, somewhat traditional but not quite… I walk the same ground over and over, collect and discard, collect and then burn. It grows over as fast as I tend it. No roses grow here. No belladonna. No lily. No ivy. Just weeds. There’s nothing to be burnt or tended anymore. There were skills learnt whilst trying to navigate this jagged path that will serve me, and interests piqued that will continue for many years no doubt. This path is closed to me.
This land continues to breath beneath my feet. That path needs neither tending nor discarding. It is old and implacable. It cares not if I walk upon it, but welcomes me, and any other, who does. Provided we walk with care and tend it as needed.
The path of stardust and compass is not mine. I walked it for a while, and loved it dearly. I can wish nothing but the best for the Coterie. May they breath, may they live, my the excel and may they explore ever onwards. Here is not my home, but I hope here I will always find friendship.
The Fox is waiting ahead in the garden, together we will continue to explore.
After midnight, by quite a bit, candles are lit and offerings are set out. He passed on commenting on the fact that I give them the expensive single malt I love so much. He doesn’t quite get that bit. He helped me carry the honey and milk, and water, to the bedroom for the second altar.
My New Year witching is simple.
Offerings for the Dead (alcohol, water, honeyed milk)
Food for the spirits (Water and honeyed milk)
Candles for both.
There would be hearts, but I think The Wolf would object in our bedroom.
Candles and well wishes for friends, family and loved ones.
The candles on the Hearth altar are left to burn out over night
The night was spent with the same, my family of the heart and our friends. It was, as always, a warm and laughter filled night. Quiet, but wonderful. We eschew larger, more energetic gatherings for this little one, and have for several years now. Although I found myself wishing for the comfort of bodies pressed together in motion by the end of the evening. I think a festival would be nice for the next New Year.
The new year brings a need, I think, to teach The Wolf about what I do and why. He tends to avoid involvement. Perhaps to explain why being referred to as his goddess tends to make me twitchy too. There’s some heavy work to be done.
My hopes for the year are that it’s a year of happiness, of building strong foundations, of love, of joy, of creativity and the satisfaction of work done. My hopes are that you too have a year full of these things.
This is a fantastic article on a part of magic that seems often overlooked, especially in public ritual. Offerings are a large part of my practice – Incense smoke, water, large amounts of alcohol and good quality beeswax candles. I couldn’t really imagine not doing them at this point and my practice went from vague and frustrating to very full on and fulfilling quickly after I got my head around the offerings and how they should work.
I think it’s a little easy to forget that these relationships are meant to be reciprocal, not just us demanding. It’s not that you can’t demand and get results, but to date I’ve found that working with someone/thing tends to get everything done that much faster, easier and better.
The magic isn’t in the paraphernalia. The candles can go unreplaced, herbs uncut. Sigils need not be wrought and ropes may be left unwoven. To hell with the belts and jewels, the robes and paints.
The magic is not there.
The beat slapped into chest, the beat thumped into earth by feet. The rhythm held by hips and hands. Melody by lips. Screams to the sky, whispers to the earth. Conversation held with those between in poets tongue.
Lost better waking and sleep, in trance and dream, there lies the magic.