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.
It’s often not deliberate. I throw on some music or or pop my headphones in and start daydreaming vaguely as I move around, next thing I know I’m walking between worlds. One foot in the here in the city and one on the otherworld.
I’m sure there are those reading that with horror due to the lack of active intent behind the act, but it’s actually incredibly useful a skill. It also requires a lot of trust in the spirits I walk alongside, but these are times when I am most open to hearing. Out of my head and into the heart the voices are clear, the visions are solid as to be touched and the only drawback is the slight disorientation when someone starts talking to me midway through. Traffic I can deal with but not human interaction.
It’s not a skill I ever worked to develop, nor refine. I am currently side-eying myself over the later, I mean really you have a skill and you neglect it to try and learn another one that achieves the same thing but it what you’re ‘meant to do’. I’m now well past the ‘do because you’re meant to stage’ but there’s all these weird hangovers that I run into. Insidious shit is what it is, but I digress. Not that there was much to digress from.
Point of this stupid ramble is that I had a moment today where I dropped in line with Her. Standing between worlds, feeling the difference between my bod on one side, Her’s on the other, and for no other reason than Uptown Funk was on I/She danced. It was a brief moment, I went back on my meds yesterday so sinking deep isn’t something I will be doing in the next fortnight or so, but it left me giggling like a fucking idiot. Sometimes you just need to let go and let it be fun…
There is no purpose to this post other than to document that it’s hilariously funny to dance as I/She and leaves me feeling quite grounded mentally and physically.
And it can serve as a reminder that I need to get out and start actively working on developing this skill and refining it till I can step between at will as well.
The Fox leads me true, to the heart of the great dark forest where He waits. We run through a forest that gradually becomes darker, closer, more claustrophobic until we reach the heart. It’s dark here, the light only trickles in. It’s a place of death and dying. You walk over old bones. You can smell the wet decay of fur anId flesh.
You can smell loam so rich that it feeds an entire forest. What returns here, brings life out there.
Cross legged on the ground, hidden in the shadows of the tree’s massive roots, he’s waiting for me. He always knows I’m coming, but he’d normally be on the throne in the tree. Forcing me to climb for his attention… or just shout. I’ve done that before.
He told me once, long ago, that his name was of no concern until such time as I figured it out for myself. I take a breath and hesitate. This has been a long time and a lot of research in the making. He waits until I’m ready. Patiently, he knows. Finally I find it in me to speak.
The God of the Wild Places.
The King on the Bramble Throne. Lord of the Black Heart.
He smiles and speaks, and I am given a new name.
(Despite best efforts I could find no artist to attribute this image too, if you know of them let me know please.)