I got my ass to an amazing weekend workshop by the lovely Fio Santika last week. Advertised as below:
The Viel, Vessel & Web: Two Days of Possession, Oracular Trance & Spellcraft
This two-day intensive explores the Witch as the Seer, the Vessel and the Caster of Spells. Together we will delve deeply beyond the Veil to acquire the Gift of Sacred Sight and ignite the Seer within. We will cleanse, clear and align Self with All-Self and become the Holy Vessel to the Hidden, Mysterious and Mighty Potencies – to draw down/in the Gods and Spirits and to allow for direct interface and intimacy with the human community. We will also reclaim the sorcery inherent in our Craft and learn tried and true techniques for successful and ecstatic spellcraft – to wilfully and willingly weave with the strands of the Web and work with the Will of God Herself to attain to Desire, fulfil Necessity and affect Change.
In order to attend this intensive you must have a foundational magical practice that is alive to you and a conscious and tended relationship with your Spirits.
Look, I’ve not got a lot to share other than this is brilliant and if you get a chance to attend one of these weekends you should. Fio teaches all over the globe.
We don’t do a lot of possessory work in modern witchcraft. It’s certainly highly frowned on by many, especially in the Pagan community. Packed into the weekend were techniques I’d never otherwise have had the chance to try, possessory experiences I’d never had the chance to experience and some serious eye opening along my own path…
I can’t thank Fio enough for giving me the opportunity to attend. I will be revisiting these techniques for many years to come, no doubt.
He waits for me at the Seventh Gate, guised in his ram skull form. I don’t see this form often and I know to take it deadly serious. He is a God, not a spirit, and what he takes he can choose to keep if it serves me no purpose.
This one hurts, it turns out. I had figured it would be asked of me, but I hadn’t expected how much it would hurt when the time came. With my wedding band he takes from me my relationships – my friends, my family, my kids… My Partner.
There is no idle chatter, that will be left for the return. It is done, and I am devastated by the impact.
He sends me on…
There’s a break in the working here. I return to it a day later after having written everything down and started processing what had been and how I felt.
I return to where I left
off. Standing on the far side of the 7th gate. I continue down the path, black rabbit in arm, until I reach a river. The ferryman advises I bathe before crossing. I do, and I pay him the usual fare for taking me across.
I walk on, the landscape is different here. Rocky and blasted. It is here that I come face to face with the Lady of the Ways, Hekate. We speak, briefly, of altars and growth. She reassures me about what I have been doing so far for her and sends me on with the simple warning ‘It will be hard’.
And I find myself at the end, or is it the centre?
A stranger waits at the Fourth Gate. I can’t pin down his features, only that it is definitely a male. He informs me that I shall be getting to know him, but it’s not a concern for right now. We banter a little, but for some reason I can remember very little of it when I come back. He takes my labels in the form of a wide belt that reminds me of a wrestlers belt. He takes the ‘fat’, ‘strong’, ‘weak’, ‘broken’ words from me.
I don’t think I need to explain the significance of that.
I see the gate clearly this time, whereas before I’d just passed through them. It’s the oval walkway you can see in the back of this photo from William Rickett’s Sanctuary. A place I love very dearly.
I feel lighter, cleansed, after stepping through.
The Fifth gate guardian is just that, a Gate Guardian. Unknown to me, immense, elaborately masked and robed in black. He takes from my a thin belt that is, in a sense, my womanhood . My sex, sensuality and pleasure. Something I have such a complex relationship with when all the elements of my gender and sexuality combine with mental health, personal hangups and physicality of sex itself. To let it go, at this point, is a relief.
I pass through that gate with barely a word spoken, and again feel cleansed*
*The lack of this sensation in the first three gates, I think, is more to do with how odd it felt to be without those elements of myself. Where with these I am almost relieved to hand them over for the time that I can.
The path is exactly the same on this side of the first gate as it was on the other; Winding and overgrown with brambles and other unfamiliar plants. We come to the second gate rather quickly, I’m not sure if that’s a trick of my trance state or it is just a short walk, but regardless, it was quick.
If the guardian of the first gate was entertainingly familiar, then the guardian of this one is achingly so. The smile gentler than usual, the grey eyes soft, and the leather jacket as worn and battered as it ever was. He makes no pretence of authority and formality as he wraps me up in a hug.
“It’s about time, Bones. You need this, but you’re not going to like what I am to ask of you.”
And he talks, of witchcraft and spirits, of dependencies and paths lost, and of over complication for sometime… and he’s right. It’s hard. It’s hard to hear and harder to swallow when he hold out his hands, palms to the sky, and asks that I give him my witchcraft, my connections to the spirits, the Ancestors, and my ability to influence.
It is impossibly hard to submit, to comply with this request, but I consent. If I am to trust anyone with this part of my being then it is he. He gently removes a silver torque I didn’t realise I was wearing from my throat and takes with it anything that is not directly part of this working, this descent and return is no longer mine. I recognise it much later as the torc I wore on my wedding day.
Well, not literally, oddly enough. It would be fitting for an underworld journey to start with a rabbit hole, but in my case it starts with a Fox, the Tree and… well a fucking Rabbit.
I’m going to break this up into multiple posts for my own sanity. Also so I take the time to explore it all a bit more.
So, some background, very briefly. I read the wonderful Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith quite a while ago. A couple of year ago in fact, and while i thought about following it through it just felt slightly off to me, so I left it alone. Until along came the beautiful Dumb Supper held this Samhain where my spirits kicked me very firmly up the ass, and gave me some instructions on what to do…
They also demanded I make bread, repot the tomatoes next season and buy several new plants in their honour. Anyhow…
I unfurl as the Fox, unfolding, stretching, yawning, before I/we are running through the Forest towards it’s heart. It’s a journey that goes buy in a flash, one made a thousand times before, and intimately familiar. The shadows grow longer and darker as we reach the centre, and we burst into the clearing in our usual inelegant way. It’s home, really.
He’s not there. He wasn’t there at the Supper either. I drape Fox over my shoulders and run my hands gently over the knotted roots of the huge tree at the centre of it all as we walk towards it. Many are taller than I am, and I long ago stopped craning my neck in an attempt to see the top most branches. It is, simply put, vast.
I climb with the Fox remaining calmly in place until we reach the hollow where the brambles intrude then interlace to make His throne. Then she’s slithering from my shoulders and jumping to the almost vacant throne to sniff at the small, lop eared, black rabbit that occupies it. I watch them from a perch on the edge of the hollow until she curls up to sleep and the rabbit leaps into my lap.
I carry the small, warm, bundle of fur with me as I descend the stairs leading down into the darkness in the trees trunk. And I admit a certain level of shock when I slipped off the ledge onto something solid instead of just falling like usual.
Special occasions I guess…
He waits for me at the bottom and, rabbit in arms, the first trial begins. “Will you surrender…” he asks, over and over again. Sometimes the request is physical, sometimes it’s of my mental or physical self, sometimes it’s relationships, or parts of my self…
Will you surrender to me everything, everything you are, everything you believe, everything you love, everything you care about….
There is only one acceptable answer. As I kneel at his feet I give it over and over.
A fortnight or so back I did the Headless Rite, as laid out in Gordon White’s The Chaos Protocols. I already work with spirits so it was mostly out of curiosity with a nice dollop of ‘I need to stir shit up in my practice’.
My dreams are insane. Long, incredibly detailed and weird as fuck. A lot of the time their also kind of pointless, but the vividness of them and my ability to recall them is stronger than it’s been for years.
There was also that incident where I swam into some semblance of consciousness to find a spirit kind of… looming over the bed? There was another running back and forth across the window above the bed throwing shadows on the wall. Of course I’m not great when I first get woken up, so my increeeeeedibly appropriate response was to tell them both to fuck off because I was trying to sleep.
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.
I can not for the life of me think of a title for this post. I blame the wonder of a hot bath full of beautiful scents.
Firstly, if you’re a fellow Australian please do follow the link and check out the wares of the lovely Belladonna and Bones. She specialises in magical herbal tinctures, oils, balms and flying ointments.
So, I did a fantastic guided meditation with the very delightful Belladonna and Bones after a wonderful chat about her garden and some of what grows in it today. There were a few moments of note, and for obvious reasons I am not going into much detail here, but it’s been ages since I posted so…
Clary Sage is a delightful entity.
She was there and we got a brief chat in. This was nice as Himself of the Dark Heart has dominated in the past few years.
V is an ass, but it was nice of him to show when I first arrived.
Fox was pinned to my side the entire time. I actually can’t remember the last time I did any magic without Fox being there, and for some reason this only hit me today.
I came through stark fucking naked. This is actually the bit that got me. It has never, ever, happened before. At least not so that I’ve noticed, but that self was naked. I am pondering the why’s of that and I think I have an answer which is for another day.
I picked up some of the Clary Sage ointment to use and plan to continue getting to know the spirit as I grow the seeds we were all so kindly gifted with today.