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quinta-feira, 23 de setembro de 2010

Back From Ireland



So, I'm back from Ireland and already missing it. So many things left unseen, so much to still experience.

Here's some pictures:


Two days were spent roaming around Dublin. Really, no time at all to get even the feel of it. We did manage to find the allmighty Epicurean Food Hall (really...only the Irish...) and of course, Temple Bar, the tourist Trap.


The other days were spent around the Wicklow Mountains and visiting some Megalithic sites. The first picture is the lovely view of Dublin from the montains, and the second is the view of the Boyne valley from the top of Cnobha.

This is Cnobha entrance and the back stone (which we were introduced to as a calendar) of Newgrange. I wont post the "70's bathroom wall" they built over the site because...it makes my eyes bleed. On a positive note, on the musealization of Cnobhá they left the stones of the outer shell untouched, which is good news for researchers (apparently, Kelly didnt even photograph the "outer shell" (have no idea what the term is in english) for later record (Go go!)


'Twas lovely, the Irish are great, Ireland is beautiful, but I was homesick at the end of it and needing proper food. The cherry on top of the cake was the lovely surprised i got when i finnaly arrived home. Birthday presents from Finland! A friend sent me a lovely card of witchy zodiac and it reads:

Virgo:

Belongs to the family of Healers
Special: Flies rarely because she is busy doing scientific witchcraft research.
When other witches play around bonfires, this one goes through encyclopedies about Witchcraft in other countries vigorously. Her nickelpots shine cleanly and her broom its always straight in its racle.
All kinds of wisecracking and picking on details are her preferred hobbies and nobody will be saved from her malicious mocking.
Pet: Hedgehog
Favourite food: Cactus pancakes and foreign exotic delicacies.
Wand: Rowan with jaspe.
Most important thing in the shelves: Herbal guides
Favourite hobbies: Wisecracking, mocking and nagging. 

Overall, quite accurateNext I had the "Sex Tips for Husbands and Wives", from the lovely Mrs. Smythers but don't think for a second this was some kinky vintage sex advice, oh no, this was advice on how to avoid the horrible practice of coitus between man and woman. Mrs. Smythers lovingly tells us that:
 " While sex is at best revolting and at worse rather painful. it has to be endured...One cardinal rule of marriagge sould never  be forgotten: give little, give seldom, and above all, give grudgingly"

And for this she sagely points out that
" One heartening factor for which the wife can be gratefuul is the fact the husband's home, school, church, and social environment have been working together all through his life to instill in him a deep sense of guilt in regards to his sexual feelings so that he comes to the marriage couch apologetically and filled with shame, already half cowed and subdued. 

The final outcome being:

The wise wife seizes upon this advantage and relentlessly pursues her goal first to limit, later to annihilate completly her husband's desire for sexual expression.

Lovely isnt it?

sexta-feira, 17 de setembro de 2010

What is this witch doing now?

Packing and preparing for my trip to Ireland!


Har Har! See you in a few days.

domingo, 12 de setembro de 2010

Do not buy a book by it’s cover


I follow a lot of blogs and lately I've come across a few blog posts on Piracy. Plutonica nicely sums up the bloggers discussion on the matter with further links to different posters and their opinions. I'm still waiting on Jack's history of piracy and its relation to a capitalist society but has already put out some sources for further reading.



I really don't have much to contribute to the knowledgeable discussion. I have only a pirate honest story.

  
Yesterday it was my 26th birthday. This means that there's more than 10 years on my back as a pirate, even more if I consider the times when I was too young to have a say on what to purchase and instead followed mean cousins around to listen to the music everyone complained about (and that was copied already).


 
It all started with underground music and the bands that had maybe 25 to 100 copies of their demo tapes. In these days for you to listen to their music you had to know so and so who in turn knew so and so that had a pen pal from Norway or Sweden or England who also happened to be the original copier of the material. Then you had the catalogues. You ordered tapes from these catalogues and the people who compiled them were often the pen pal dudes. No more than a week would pass before the original tape would miraculously multiply and a previously unknown band would grow a fan base out of pirated material, zines and pamphlets would appear and so on. This fan base eventually grew up and with technology and information moved on to CD's and DVD's, credit cards and low budget travelling. Many of us became anonymous but loyal fans - the ones who buy the merchandise directly from the bands website, who travel many kilometers through a fair deal of countries to see those bands play live, who buy their CD's and other media. I say buy instead of respect, love or inspiration because, when piracy is concerned, it's money that worries people and not the awe that an unsuspecting passerby felt when he decided to check out what was that sound all about and pressed a REC button or, nowadays, a Download one. In music, I went from pirate to law abiding consumer, for the most part… and only if the band proves worthy. It's the same thing with books, but inversed. I never pirated before,

  
I started reading on the occult and witchcraft when I was pretty young and started buying all the books I could. This meant about 2 books a month, with prices ranging from 10 to 25 euros and from the most random subjects available. At this rate of book purchasing what do think that I, at 26, have to show as a personal library? Perhaps 40 titles where there should be, at the very least, 100. You see, sometime ago I went to clear space for new stuff and holy Jesus. I threw into the recycling bin so much stuff I hurt inside. There was really no other option because I'm not a bibliophile and I underline and write on the margins of every book I own so I couldn't sell them and the vast majority of my collection was…crap. So there I was, with bags and bags of useless printed garbage and a load of money wasted. Do you think I, or any other consumer, want to repeat the mistake of buying blindly? We do not.


 

Let's fast forward to now. I'm no longer 12 or 15, I have a stable job. Although I'm not rich I'm almost where I want to be financially. Still, I have a digital library of hundreds of books. Is it because I think I'm entitled? Is it because I have no respect for the authors work? Perhaps. It's a combination of several factors. Buying crap I didn't knew was crap because I didn't knew any better and later buying crap because I had no other choice than to take that risk taught me that reviews are priceless (and for a long long time I didn't had access to occult related reviews) and also that much too often reviews are also crap. So what do you do? You check things out before.


 

Nowadays i buy mostly online so i cant really take the book to the bookstore's cofee parlour and give it a good diagonal reading, so, if can get my hands on a free digital copy I will, in fact that's the very first thing I look for when considering a new purchase. I take my money very seriously and I will not give it to bad authors. Do I feel I am stealing from them? No. My intention is never to have the book and use it without showing proper respect to the author. My intention is to know and to try the product before making the decision, only I have been deceived too many times by raving reviews, enticing indexes, and well made advertisements. When I did that major reorganization of my book collection, the vast majority of "in the crap bin" materials were from occult/pagan authors. It was funny, even, to see the small pile of keepers consisting almost entirely of academic/recently purchased books and the sum of my years ready to be off to recycle. Lesson learned? Yes.


 

There's also the "getting to know new stuff" factor. Just like what happened with tape trading, unless pirated I wouldn't even know it existed, I would never read those books much less buy them. When I was younger, the important factor was quantity. We wanted a lot of music and we wanted to know. We did. Most of those bands we pirated fell apart or were simply too crappy to endure but there's quite a few others that thrived and have a solid musical career or that achieved a "cult" status. These bands were/are innovative, they were talented, and they consistently and systematically put up excellent sound. Nowadays the same standard of quality applies, even more so because now we can see what authors do beforehand. Is the author good? Is the research solid? Is the work properly cited? Is the writing style clear and to the point? Is the bibliography comprehensive? What does the author include there? Can the book withstand multiple readings? In essence, is the book a keeper? If the answer is yes I'll buy, if not, I won't, but I won't keep it in my hard drive either. It will be deleted and forgot. As with bands, if as an author/publishing house you have my respect as a consumer I'll buy from you without a moment's thought. It's new, it's shiny and I want it. I want it because I trust you and what you can put out, even if that particular work isn't precisely to my tastes I won't consider it a waste or an act of deceit. If not, if I can I will screen you beforehand.

quinta-feira, 9 de setembro de 2010

The witches’ night-flight – Musings on the soul flight

 “…It is also not to be omitted that some wicked women, turned away after Satan and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess that, in the hours of the night, they ride upon certain beasts with Diana, goddess of the pagans, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of night traverse great spaces of earth, and obey her commands as of their mistress, and are summoned to her service on certain nights.”
Cannon Episcopi, X century

In the last quarter of the XIV century the stereotype of the witch was already well established drawing from a number of sources and one of the most relevant powers of the witch was her ability to fly at night to attend the diabolical meeting that came to be principally known as the Sabbath, but, unlike what is described in the passage of the Cannon Episcopi transcribed above, from the XIV century onwards the flight was no longer considered an illusion caused by demons or a remnant of superstitious thought but a real phenomena caused by ointments the witches concocted at their nightly reunions. Despite academic brawls and polemics, there is a strand of commonness regarding the supernatural flight of the soul. It is present in mankind’s oldest structured religious forms, it finds its way along the classical age, continues onwards through the medieval and modern period and nestles itself in contemporary mystical experiences. It is not, then, surprising that in many of traditional witchcraft pathways the flight and consequently the Sabbat became one of the cornerstones of the officium.

Looking at historical sources we know for certain that this night travel forms a core part of European Witchcraft as described in the middle ages and modern period. Supported by the work of Tomas Aquinas and his contemporaries on the nature of Evil and the activities of the Fallen with their followers, it became one of the most sought after descriptions by later medieval and renaissance inquisitors, however, before the systematization of an otherwise reactive and eclectic Christian cosmology, several elements regarding the flight were already in place and being commonly attributed to witches. The Strigae, winged demons who vampiricaly preyed on humans and the Bonnae Mulieres, a Latin term used to refer to the company of women that escorted the goddess Diana and that needed to be placated with offerings of food and drink are two of the most prominent examples of this with both terms being commonly used to describe witches. In Apuleius novel Metamorphosis, Lucian sees Pamphile speaking incantations to a lamp and rubbing her body with an ointment that causes her to develop characteristics that make her resemble a strix: she grows wings, feathers, a beak and talons and, although not related and in a much later period of time, the motifs of flight, animal shape and the use of incantations come to us narrated by Emma Wilby on her work “The visions of Isobel Gowdie”.  Especially relevant due to its insular nature is also the case of the Benandanti, a group of men and women from the northern part of Italy who claimed to fly in spirit to wage a war against witches and secure crops or participate in a procession of dead souls and who also told of travelling on or in the shape of animals at times.

Nowadays, the iconic Witch is young, naked, and when preparing to depart to the Sabbath she is often accompanied by a broom. Although consistent with the crystallization of the witch stereotype timeframe, the broom is a later addition, dating from XV century and owing its existence to a marginal illustration of witches in the poem Le champion des Dames by Martin Le Frank. In this poem, the witches fly on several household items and also on farming instruments, something that maybe or may not be relevant symbolically and whose significance will rest on the eyes of the interpreter but before instruments were used, the witch required only herself, an incantation which is  used due to the metric/rhythmic properties to induce trance and occasionally her ointment,  to be on her way to cause mischief.

The examples related above are just a small drop in the ocean of sources that the movement of Modern Traditional Witchcraft drinks from. Understandably, there is high value on the experience of the flight. If you are interested in reading more about the nature of flight and how to achieve it I recommend reading The Witch of Forest Grove article on it. There she discusses the parallels between the flight and out of body experiences being an excellent initiatory reading. In addition she also provides several goods in her botanica that, although I haven’t tried myself, seem to be done with utmost care and devotion.

quarta-feira, 11 de agosto de 2010

The Witch in Literature




In classical literature the witch either helps or endangers the hero’s fate, playing the role of everything that is untamed in the hero’s nature, or, if conquered, the role of revealed mystery and insight. On children’s books she is meant to personify fear, fear of everything that may escape their dominion – all the powers beyond the children’s conscious self are, therefore, not lost but living on the witch, and this is what’s most important for the attentive esoteric. Romanticism did turn the witch into a martyr. The hero becomes the poet, the romantic poet no longer meets the occult with a fight or a quest, but with an act of sacrifice and love-making, the quest becomes introverted and almost unnamable, the love of the burned witch for her sinister craft was a comfortable banner. The barrier between good and evil blurs. Thus, modernism, concerned with sales and the new morality of the sales-men, turns it into business, the witch is now one of the many anti-heroes (but really, there can’t be such thing as an anti-hero), the good, cool and brave woman with power and lovely spells. All that was hated shall now be loved and all that was loved shall be loved still, as progress tries to sell as much as possible for the advancement of science and technology. All shall be worshiped. Wasn’t that the motto of Babalon? There is no evil, only sickness, but sickness can be cured or taken care of with worth devotion and profit can be made, new ideas can be inserted into the major societies as subcultures and then profit can be made out of it. But as we open, I hear the world closing. What shall be of the true witch when all doors have vanished?

Babalith

quarta-feira, 23 de junho de 2010

Nightflight




It is sometimes ignored how what we may call by the name of “cerimonial magick” (tho inspired on renaissance) is but a romantic viewpoint of the Tradition, brought about by romantic orders such as the Golden Dawn, and many others of its likeness, thus, being initiation within them based on logic, moral values and certain routines, a virtual initiation, which is not, in truth, so different from witchcraft, except that witchcraft requires of the practiocioner, usually, that she be acquainted with the irrational and the immoral and also that she may be able to improvise.

Witchcraft has European roots, while magick draws its imaginaries from the oriental mastery over the self and the world therein and there-out, it being practical (as should be expected from Europe) as well as contemplative (oriental) but rational (greek) is but applied-philosophy, as somewhat in relation with the applied-sciences of today’s world. It is meant to separate, both by the expression of love or by the commandments of will, the pshyche from the conditional realms of the physical body, and from this state creating new realities to conduct the physical motions. On another hand, witchcraft, being of a most pagan nature, works the other way (if we are to understand it in respect to methods of divination, spells, and conjurations). It draws the spirit into the body (and all the emotions it keeps and contains) and from the body to the world of form, flesh, pleasure, agony and passion as to give perspective and power from within it, the mind staying as an echo chamber to whatever may come from this relationship and this metamorphosis. Modern witchcraft, tho, is also a spring of romanticism; and the average man cannot understand it any further than that, because the average man, in any case, did not understand romanticism in its fullness yet (it is still, apparently, in development).

Two things are to be said about high (ceremonial – dealing with celestials and symbolism) and low (sorcery or witchcraft – dealing with nature and demons) magick (if we are to admit into our vocabulary the stupidity of this division), that either one or the other must be understood in its primordial and less pragmatic aspects. And virtual initiation is to be, at some point, cleansed: for the only way left for real initiation (all traditional initiates being no more) is by actual contact, fleshly contact (in lack of a better cocept) with the gods or, if so be, the angels: the dissolving of the falsehood that seems to keep us away from the primordial self and the primordial self away from the soul of the world as well from its thousand shapes.

We seek to understand how, by practice and training, we can, somehow, invite this vampire into our bed at night and ask of him supernatural power and knowledge of the immortal self. We have all heard of the witches flight, as seen in the tenth century canon episcopi, where the witches ride upon certain beasts with Diana, and that Diana would then act as their mistress. Should this mean, as doctor Carl Jung would put it, that the consciousness of the witch is projected as a beast, and Diana signifying the impulses of one’s own nature? It means exactly what it says, and there is no other way to understand this at its core, for interpretation holds no other power than the one to interpret, and for this we do not need to meddle in occult affairs, tho esotericism is generally rich in intellectual foreplay and illusion. The same goes for the Bonae Mulieres, a latin term used to discuss the women or female creatures who flew at night and needed to be placated with offerings of food or drinks. These bonae mulieres are reflected in the women that flew to attend the gatherings of the goddess Diana but also encompassed demons such as the strix and the lamia, night flying demon (later a host of demons) that vampiricly preyed on children, both terms used commonly in medieval ages to call witches. Then, what is this nightflight? And do the witches really turn into cats, toads and hares, as well as knowing the goddess Diana face to face? Or is it but a term for oniric traveling experience? Should we think as anthropologists or as true believers? If you want to be a believer just join a religion, and if you want to think as an anthropologist, don’t lose your time with questions of such kind. The one who has not yet been able to tell, free of mistake, dreams from reality, and then utterly crush all the existing barriers between one and the other, so that reality and dream die a permanent death but a new awareness survives, is playing vulgar games.

segunda-feira, 14 de junho de 2010




quinta-feira, 3 de junho de 2010

And because I’m angry, and these last few weeks have been a living hell

My way or the highway is one of the stupidest and most indicative statements of impotency that I have ever read, heard or had the pleasure of seeing in some person's physiognomy. Being heirs to some spiritual tradition is fine, being custodians or waving fancy titles is fine to, but it is just as fine to disregard them altogether and go for the juicy stuff. Paradigm folks, paradigm. In the end, its all about paradigm. Some people require order, a system of training and attainment that is clearly cut. If you are able to do this and that then you can progress to grade X where you will learn to do Y and Z. Others don't. The sphere of human action and conscience doesn't always require a clearly cut shared dogma and modus operandi. And the dogmatic folks out there can be raging as a rabid dog, barking to the moon their outrage and vexation but know this: nobody outside your circle gives a damn. Really, it doesn't matter one bit. You wanna know what matters? Getting the job done. Now, you can pass your lifetime licking someone's ass and bowing to some overinflated ego and call that "perfect love and trust" (or whatever you choose to call it) or you can go the "me" way and follow your bliss. When people eye you strangely and start moving uncomfortably in their chairs you know you just hit the nerve, and hitting the nerve is good. Now, for some words of love: Fuck you, I'm fabulous. J

In dark corners my tunnel vision saw the light and it was perfect. It had no folks complaining that you didn't indulged their fantasies, it had no asses to lick and no thoughts to shut down just to be able to comply and gain that extra bit of knowledge. Humans are the real demons with whom you have to strike bargains constantly. "There is no peace, there is only passion". I'd repeat this mantra over and over again in my head to be kept sane as the post modern relativity clashes with the dogmatic view of those who just can't stand a bit of chaos. Give me a reason to be alive, that's all I saw in their expressions; please tell me that all this isn't in vain. A little girl holds her favourite doll close in her arms and to test herself, she lights the oven and slowly burns her till there's no more doll, only a mass of plastic, now she's free from attachment. The girl grows up and finds herself in a room filled with magical people. "believe in what I tell you" they all say as they try to pierce her flesh with needles and sew in her the trappings of their experience, " your opposition is offensive to us, your questioning is out of the order". Amorphous, they are all screaming with the same voice. So many people, screaming with the same voice, I wonder, how is that possible? Prosaic minds, prosaic people. The new priests emerge with words of fear and subjugation. Fear the lords of life, the gods, bow your head and recognize their superiority. I've got that speech before in my life, in my first year of college. Tend to your promethean fire and gods will be molded by your human hands as clay. No god bears a face that is not human, not even the most transcendent of doctrines bears any other face than that of a human and as such no gods stand before me as anything other than what I allow him to be, and that suits me and in that they are just what they are.

sexta-feira, 21 de maio de 2010

Maleficium


We're all mad in here


A few years ago a friend of mine got involved in some serious witch warfare. With his group scattered and destroyed, he naturally wanted his revenge. Long story short, the antagonist group got away yet again with their actions unpunished and with an even firmer standing and the others receded and licked their wounds, one of them even changing country. Whilst I wasn't personally involved in such an event, it served as a lesson. In the magical community, especially when you come out of your room and start interacting with others and putting forth actions and words, there are going to be those who want you in their game or dead. Territorial law and magical supremacy, one rooster to fuck all the chickens and so on. Sometimes it seems you are powerplaying influence more than learning magic, or maybe the both just walk hand in hand. Also, if you are in working in group, your group is as strong as the weakest person. Always foresee that, when the shit hits the fan, your mates will gather their belongings and make a run for it leaving you alone to contend with the raging maniacs after your carefully built egregore. In the end, what counts is your ability to stand on your own two legs and protect your castle. 


Take a highway to the end of the night


A LOT of people seem to think that what I told just now are fantasies. Magical attacks don't exist and people don't use magic to hurt one another. You cannot believe my amazement when, having the internet freshly installed and thus access to the world, I read such things. You see, here in this little corner of land, sewing the toad's mouth to cause someone to wither and die is common. It is also common to go to the local knowledgeable person and get powders to mess your neighbor's life, bind a lover to you and witches do dance at night and tempt the unwary. To each cursing method there is a counter-curse and the Portuguese equivalent of cunning folk are still very much in business offering remedies to cure the evil eye and other enemy tricks. These people are still in business because what they do works. So yes, when I read in forums and in imported books that "if you don't believe, it doesn't affect you" my reaction was of surprise, mostly because this statement –however logical and even legitimate- was so against previous magical tradition and praxis. The surprise got even bigger at seeing the success that recent magical literature on cursing is having however mediocre and watered down those books are. I guess more and more modern witches are done with the "harm none" policy and are starting to warm up and even desire a closer connection with the hag that rides the night and who is a much more ambivalent moral character. 


Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live

Despite the poor translation work of Exodus 22:18, the sentiment displayed here is seen throughout European cultural history from the Greek Circe to long after the witch-craze of the Renaissance. Echoed by both African and Asian counterparts, the witch, more than the sorcerer, is an object of fear and persecution for she is like an arbitrary force of nature who, antagonistically, fulfils her tasks not with the greater good of the society in which she is inserted, even if on the fringes of it, in mind but with her own and in some stances, that of her master(s). Whether by worshipping perceived evil spirits or simply exploiting them to do her bidding it's the conjunction of the manipulation of natura and self serving motives that links the Witch across the globe. Of course, this is the perspective of those that, rightly so, fear her. I can assure you that, for good or for evil, witches know better than to go about flailing curse after curse simply because they can.


domingo, 9 de maio de 2010

A tool rant


From the existing documents, the seeds for post modernism were planted some 26 centuries ago, when the Greeks decided to innovate by rational inquiry and research and thus Philosophy was born. It may not have been called by that name back then, when man was still trying his best to break from the conservative order and one may even argue that the status quo has always played the same controlling factor then and now but it still remains that the individual and rational search for truth, despite what that truth may be, as well as its discussion, critique and rebuttal, have seen their beginning in Greece. From then till now, many schools of thought emerged, revolutions happened and changed the social constraints but one thing remains constant: Humankind's search for truth, for meaning, for whys and hows. In that act of freedom many traditions got sacrificed as humankind replaced paradigm with paradigm, refined theories and developed laws and axioms. But, as with everything, that honest desire to understand, rethink and adapt, got severely misused by the pagan and occult community at large who used it to further a personal agenda based on disregard for hard work. To react against tradition, one needs to be a part of tradition first. There needs to be a living problematic requiring solution. Often times, in our enlarged community, what happens is exactly the opposite. And so we come face to face with 101 book readers, who read that "anything goes" and propagate that virus because, after all things considered, magic is psychological and there isn't really anything bad out there. It's all in your head, and following your relative belly button will wield better results than reading a bunch of books and talking to a bunch of people who might force you recognize that maybe you just don't know it all. Tradition gets a door slammed on its face without even being understood, or studied. In this depredation, tools got the sharp end of the stick and are now treated as minor mind helpers and glamour lenders to theatrical rites where one gets to play a witch or a magician.

The fashion accessory

If you have a similar experience to mine, you have seen this once too many times: random noobie read 2 or 3 wiccan books and got introduced to the notion of liturgical tools. He/She browsed the web for some shops and found some really cool Egyptian Athames and some sparkly wands. But it just so happens that, adding on, getting a full set of pretty ritual items (ahem, items that resonate with you!) is going to be quite expensive. And then he/she wonders if they are truly necessary.

  • You don't need any tools to work magic/ You only need yourself to work magic
It's true. You don't. But typically, the people that say this are people that have very little experience in magic and even less with the tools themselves. Whilst not necessarily required to work all aspects of magic, and there are quite a few magical "practices" that dispose of them (the Evil Eye and several other actions of fascination for instance), tools always have had their place and their function, some of them accompanying you from the beginning of your magical lifetime to your grave. Tools marked the appearance of the genus Homo and the first hominid to bear it was a handy man. The importance of tools in our evolution and survival is directly translated into their importance in our mythic mind, thus we see gods and other archetypal images being equated with them and often times they are as formidable as the objects they wield, their very character being defined by the array of magical items they possess. Cauldrons and cornucopias of abundance, spears that never miss their targets, girdles that arouse desire have both powers by themselves and are an extension of the spirit they belong to. It is also not an uncommon action in mythology for gods to seal their tutelage of the hero offering or borrowing him their very own prized possessions, thus marking the continuous relationship between humankind and the sacred and initiatic, tools being that vehicle. Likewise, the hero often quests to the otherworld for a magical object that will enable him to complete his objective and without it he would be powerless to do so; in turn, the object lies awaiting the one soul capable of using its abilities. Looking at the iconographic tools of the Witch, one finds her accompanied by the broom and the cauldron just as the magician is often seen with a staff. Many others mark that elusive quality of witchdom. From the witch's ladder to the familiar, they all share a commonality: they are living, breathing entities with a life and a will of their own. In these subtleties of life and unlife, the witches tools have three main purposes that are revealed as she crosses the boundaries between worlds and as helpers and tutelary spirits reveal themselves: their ontological and practical purpose, their symbolic purpose and their transformative purpose. Each of these purposes are a testimony to the witches ability and progression along the liminary paths. The f<ct that many of them are common household items displays their ability to act as connectors between the seen and unseen world, thus a weaving tool is both a weaver of cord and also a weaver and manipulator of fatum . Blessed are the hands of the witch that craft a web of protection and success on the embroidery that embellishes a student's cape* and cursed are the hands that write wrongdoers doom on the parchment that fire will set free. The relationship of a witch with her tools is one of power. Power attained, power regained and power bestowed, multilaterally. These actions are not to be marked by sparkle or shine but blood, bone and soil. To obtain these items one does not go to ebay, one goes down the lonely road to prepare the gallows and hang. It's by dying that we birth our tools. We woo, we bargain, we take oaths that constrain and free us, we forge relationships and we are owned just as much as we own. By accepting these tools, and they come with a price, we are willingly taking a compromise with the path itself.

Likewise, if you use your tools to keep your focus, you need to put down the tools you own. 70%, if not more, of neophyte magical training is based on building mental discipline. This means hours of thought control, developing concentration and awareness, keeping the mind empty, creating and maintaining complex sceneries with sound, image, smell and taste, doing the previous whilst moving and so on and so forth. Adding to this, prior to ritual, there are ritual baths to soothe the mind, preparation of the ritual space, meditation, introspection, contemplation, communion, prayer, grounding and centering. All these actions enforce and maintain focus. If you need your tool kit to keep your mind from wandering about what's on TV or what your boss told you earlier on, you don't need tools. You need to allot yourself one hour per day to develop your focus. When you stop relying on sticks and stones to work that's when you will be able to actually use those sticks and stones to do what they are supposed to.


"…they forget that the ceremonies they perform have function, have purpose simply beyond tradition pr habit of worship. When ceremonies and rules become all important"**..then magic is forgotten.



This leads me to one last point. When magic is not magic but a theatre. I have emphasized this before, but will do it again. When our actions are empty, when they are devoid of actual necessity and real action, we are not doing magic. We are staging magic. Magic comes from the interconnection between operator and the world. When we need to rationalize and think that a certain something symbolizes fire and is basically a portable phallus, then we aren't operating the thing but the idea of the thing. Of course that, in itself, there's nothing wrong with operating ideas. Ideas are what drives the world, but what drives ideas are emotions and needs and I take after the axiom that what better represents a cutting knife is a cutting knife, born out of the need to cut. None of my tools represent anything other than themselves and what they do or did at any point in my life. For me there are no goblets representing water and the feminine principle or non-cutting letter knives representing air or fire or anything that anyone had in mind. Tools are to be operational and truly representative of what they are. In this, I hope to achieve both a nod to tradition and a rejection of the past aristotelic based ideas that plague and cloud coming into being and our awareness of being. But my motives aside, and pardon me for the drunkenness, what I mean to say is that only that which is rich and full of the "sound and fury" of itself will accomplish its bliss. Bliss folks, it's all about bliss and effectiveness. Nailing the nail, kicking the universe's ass.


*In Portugal college students use a traditional garb that usually has embroideries about what school they belong to, about their gf's and bf's and all sorts of stuffs from charms to ladies boobies and beer brands.

** From some random horror story I read.



quinta-feira, 29 de abril de 2010

As Maias

On this night of the 29th of April, the protective powers of the maia (Cytisus Striatus) are used on every entrance. We find these bright yellow flowers adorning windows and doors to keep out the maio, or donkey or carrapato: malignant forces often equated with the Devil. It's a small reminiscence of a feast where, depending on location, boys or girls were adorned with these flowers and whorshiped all day with song and feasting; or of the garland of flowers placed at the door of the girlfriend one wished to be married to, or of the procession of animals and boats to recieve blessings of abundance and comemorate the vibrant life all around.

The cold and wet winter is over, the Earth is green and the breeze carries the scent of jasmine and wisteria. Tonight we dance because we are alive and our blood burns and our feet are fast. The house is prepared with all the flowers but the Devil, however, is welcome.

domingo, 25 de abril de 2010

The (a)morality of the Gods


A few months ago I recommended "The folk-lore of plants" as a very good read. What I didn't mention was that the book required a very nice dose of goodwill and a certain detachment to be able to stomach without putting it away with a feeling of disgust. Indeed, Mr. Thieselton-Dyer made some rather crude and uncanny remarks regarding the people he considered to be of a "lower race" and "primitive" as opposed to the Aryan "cultured races" of Europe, however, what he did was nothing more than a presentation of the time's worldview. Fortunately for academia, perspectives evolve and the academic world considers that making students realize that we cannot pass judgment on the past using our current moral and ethical standards an important enough subject to spend a whole semester debating and dissecting it using an historical perspective. When Kenaz Filan wrote a blog post on the (a)morality of the Gods I wondered if that wasn't what was happening, if the discussion wasn't already heading on the wrong direction simply because something like this might be overlooked.

Myths and legends and all of the materia fantastica of humankind have some underlying lesson to them and some of those aren't pleasant. That lesson might be a Mystery: the abduction of Persephone or Eros and Psyche; might be a legendary account of past struggles with another nation: Athena and Arachne; might be an anthropomorphization of natural events: Iris; or it might just be a nursery story. Whatever they are, and wherever they fit, what they will provide, above all, is a testimony to its people's worldview and a window to their attempts to reconcile the human with the world through observation and rationalization. If we truly are to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors, the first thing to do is not to mask them but to understand, to any possible extent, their world. Expecting to find an all-loving and, by our standards, ethical and moral and godly god or even considering myths with this frame of mind is to take a great painting, scrap the paint off and then re-do it to our liking. The world is amoral, the gods are the world and also amoral. Their purpose is not one of comfort but one of attrition and, at times, reward for right action. But the myths aren't for the Gods neither are they facsimiles of the Gods. The myths are for the humans, who get to know that the path to glory lies in choosing the crooked path instead of the straight one; that get to know that Zeus raping sprees involved a third young God, one that shoots arrows and whose vitality runs the world and brews new life that is bound together by the gifts of his mother, that get to know that the gods are forces beyond their control. This is a game of shadow and light and peering into the mythic mind requires care because the symbolic and the ontological intertwine, sometimes in an indistinguishable way. The voice of morality is the chorus of the Greek Drama. An outside observer that revels in the right action, mourns in grief at our hubris, cries in sympathy and constantly reminds us that we are fated. This voice is so intrinsically human that always leads the audience to understanding of the forces outside our grasp that, godly such as they are, pain and torment us so.



terça-feira, 13 de abril de 2010

Deipna Hekates




"Infernal and earthly and heavenly Bombo, come. Goddess of waysides, of cross-roads, lightbearer, nightwalker, Hater of the light, lover and companhion of the night, Who rejoicest in the baying of hounds and in purple blood; Who dost stalk among corpses and the tombs of the dead thristy for blood, who bringest fear to mortals Gorgo and Mormo and Mene and many formed one. Come thou propitious to our libations."
Hippolytus

Tradition requires that when the moon is dark, the house must be cleansed in the name of the daughter of Asteria. The garden was dully cleansed and consecrated to the arts of rhizotomoi and pharmakeia; a small apotropaic figure of Her placed at a corner. One needs Rue to fashion such figure and enshrine it in Laurel gathered in the wild. The fumes of incense made with 3 small crushed lizards mixed with myrhh, frankincense and storax purify and vivify it on our, most holy, circle of exile.


"You see Hecate's faces turned in three directions, to guard the crossroads branching several ways"
Ovid

For the supper, a plate of food was placed at the meeting of the three roads. Chopped leaks, garlic, goat's cheese as well as the remnants of spells covered in olive oil ended this month's offerings. Tomorrow she's rising in the sky, and I have tasks to complete.

Trioditis, Triformis, Enodia.

quinta-feira, 8 de abril de 2010

Not much to start with....


 With a full blown-spring, great weather and carte blanche to extend the "garden", i went to one of my favourite places in the hopes of bringing home some cuttings to plant. I hadn't been at that particular spot for a few months now and went there to find  an empty and grassy area with only a few Salvia officinalis "purpurascens", the ever existant Spearmint and few dry Lemon Verbenas. What a shame. But not all is lost! I was told that next saturday is the 3rd weekend of the "Spring Faire", an event for the locals to buy cheaper organic food, produce, folk crafts and, of course, plants!



The place i got alloted to do as i please aint that great. I get a bit of walkable roof and a small balcony turned to the east that has been completly neglected during the winter months. I'm still not sure what to do with the plants that already have a residence there. Some are still alive, altough in terrible shape and the others only seem to be a hotel for weeds. The remainder of this week (a full day yay!) will be used to plan where to put the newcomers and work something out with the green residents of the luxurious balcony. All will be temporary because i plan on building some large wooden containers, so for now the "hotels" will have to do.




The best part of the day was finding a local beeswax provider. In it's golden glory, the smell of the wax filled the kitchen whilst i fought it relentlessly in an effort to break it into chunks, and the chunks into pieces, and the pieces into little pieces.



Yes, today was a really good day.

domingo, 4 de abril de 2010

A witch in the city





 It is all too frequent to hear and read about the great virtues of the wild land and the untamed places, where the green genii dwell unrestricted by human hand. Exalted such as they are, these places would no longer be "wild" or "untamed" if a host of well-meaning hippies and other "nature-inspired" folk would make such areas their favorite and frequent dwelling place. Bearing this in mind, and even if we are conscious in our trips to the wild, it isn't always affordable or possible to do, especially if you live in a city that occupies a large area. What to do then? For years, on and off, as i tip toed from magical system to magical system i wondered about this. A few questions lingered on my mind, fueled by a romantic understanding of the wild grove. Are those trees we commonly find on the street cognoscente? Or have they gone dormant, their dryad leaving them for greener grass? In my mind, those questions were perfectly logical. As logical as any mystical reasoning, that is. After all, those great and proud trees were no longer in their element, grown out of nature and by nature's own devises of ecosystem practicality and homeostasis. Instead, they were used for beautification purposes or to wage a silent war against pollution and noise. I saw those trees being cut down when their branches stretched too far or sawed down when their roots threatened the evenness of the sidewalk. Not alive, they couldn't be. It was in the midst of this belief that I had my first communion with a tree. It was a huge maple growing in a near a gas station, right in the intersection of several highways. I was walking home from work, worried sick about something that didn't really matter when a certain buzzing was felt in the air, gently pushing itself into my awareness. It is a hard task to explain, but as you feel that certain tension that tells you that someone is looking at you and you turn only to find a person staring, so did I turn, but only to find a few houses, grass, cars driving by and the night to keep me company. The buzzing, however, didn't lose its strength because I couldn't identify its source. It merely became stronger and different as I moved forward until at last I discovered its source. Shining like a beacon was a tree and when I approached it something happened and the novelty of it left me in awe. Like a stream, another consciousness poured into my own, ordaining my own thoughts, giving the answers I was seeking, reassuring me and comforting me in an absolute kindness. During that congress, my spirit dissolved and responded to that foreign, so complete and infinite emotion for goodness knows how I long. For a moment, brief or not I cannot say, there was no clear line between me and the tree, just reciprocation. Eventually I came to my own senses and realizing that it just wasn't wise to stand at that particular crossroads at night I went away. Today I really wish I hadn't for no more than a week later there was only a stump left. I guess when I look back, that the tree knew it was marked to die. That would surely account for the melancholy I sensed within her, or maybe wisdom and age is tempered a bit by it. I don't know. It aids my sadness, however, when I think on it, that Maple saw fit to, before departing, to open my eyes to the wonders that are hidden in plain sight.



How is that story relevant though? To me, it showed that a city is much alive. It's different, certainly, than the life that fills a wild place, but a witch is formed by the land where she lives, not by the land that she visits and where she will always be, at best, a guest no matter how welcomed she might be. This reciprocation is what marks witchcraft. To know and follow the flow of the web and tide of place, chasing it and learning it in the midst of centuries old stones and bones. So know your city, city witches. Woo the trees that know you well for they have seen you and the ones that came before you, make allies within the graveyards that hold your ancestors bones and will one day hold your own, greet the river and the ocean that saw much misery and brought much fortune to the ones courageous enough to brave them. Parks, gardens, fountains, churches, financial buildings and courthouses, markets and other places of trade, theaters and brothels, all of this plays its part in our very own human life. A city and its surrounding places are worlds unto themselves. They have their own threshold guardians, their own taboos, and their own requests to make and gifts to give. There aren't guide books to its mysteries, only direct instruction from its guardians, if it so pleases them. 

domingo, 28 de março de 2010

Ink Woes


"1 teaspoon Dragon's Blood Resin (powdered)
15 teaspoons alcohol or vodka
1 teaspoon gum arabic (ground)


Soak the powdered resin in the alcohol until dissolved, then add the ground gum arabic. Filter through a cloth and store in a dark bottle."
 
This is one of the many examples of the magical ink recipes that proliferate through the internet and chances are you will find it repeated in numerous websites. If you follow this recipe with no knowledge of what you are doing, you will achieve nothing. There are no words to describe the contempt I felt when earlier this week I received a much expected formulary on the mail regurgitating the same misinformation one can find on any website. People that have successfully crafted inks understand that the folks who copy-paste said recipes have never attempted to do them themselves by the sheer mistakes in the instructions given or the ingredients used but those that are freshly arrived at the fine art of ink making and that in their naivety trust these sources (and yes, I was one of them), will find that their efforts will only be met with frustration at the failed attempts, the time spent and wasted ingredients. There is also a difference between creating an ink and creating a magical ink. The first is devoid of spirit and flame, made according to the commercial principle of monetary profit and only a vehicle for writing; the second, however, is an entity in itself and a celebration of the witch's skill with fruit, plant and resin as well as her knowledge of the light and shadow world. Being one of the chief tool in the scriptorium, done well, its purpose will be crystallized for several years and all the while it will absorb and augment power of its own, however, like with all living tools, it's crafting requires art and care so that all the spirits and menstruums involved in its fabrication are propitiate to its birth.

The simplest of inks requires only the soot of burnt wood, water and a bit of Gum Arabic to stabilize the ink and allow fluidity of pigment. Because one can use virtually any kind of wood to make inks and shrubs and trees are amongst mankind's oldest allies and companions, this simple process makes very interesting inks. Graveyard Cypresswood ink for rites of Necromancy, Midsummer 7 Wood Bonfire ink for glorious tales of success, perhaps even ink from an old household item whose importance is now continued in this new form to which you can add ash from relevant items. Since this type of ink is water based and thickened with a water soluble agent, there is virtually no end to the combinations you can do so long you pay attention to what you harvest, where, how and if those things are actually water soluble.

Despite the simplicity of the method detailed above, three inks gained popularity amongst magicians. They are the Dove's blood ink, to be used in the affairs of the heart; Bat's Blood Ink for acts of malecifium and Dragon's Blood ink, a general empowering ink. Because these inks require two types of menstruums, alcohol and water, they are trickier to make, unless, of course, you decide to go with the animal's blood on the first two and discard the botanicals and oils that compose the modern recipes. As wrongly detailed on the first recipe given, you can't mix gum Arabic to alcohol and get a workable result. These three famous inks rely on essential oils, resins, ashes of botanical allies; each of these dissolves in different menstruums. As a rule of thumb, oils and resins dissolve in alcohol (in my experience, Ethanol is the best alcohol to keep the oils in solution without having to add oil emulsifiers to the mix and complicate it a bit more), whilst gum is water soluble. Since alcohol mixes with water, after the initial (di)solution of the oils and resins in the water, the dissolved gum Arabic is later added. This stage is tricky and the best teacher to overcome it is experimentation. One tip that was given to me was to add liquid gum Arabic – sold in art stores – to the solution. When all is mixed and workable, all is left to do is to strain and store in a well corked bottle.

As you can guess, there are many more ink crafting methods. From the pre-historic ochre based to the XIX century sepia ones. Some involve only soot of botanicals, others also include soot of burnt animals; some use only water and a gum thickener, others include different greases and oils; ink making is a rich enough craft that allows for years for experimentation.

sexta-feira, 5 de março de 2010

Hekate Chthonia

http://www.hermeticfellowship.org/Graphics/Images/HekateStele.gif

Hekate, the mistress of the hidden faces, whose power extends over the three realms of Earth, Sea, and Sky, bears her countenance in veiled grace. Both a chthonic goddess and a sky divinity, She is the axis that binds the cosmos and her titles and functions unravel Her as the hidden initiatrix and witch queen, guide to the underworld and ruling power of crossroads and liminal places. It is to her that we turn our infantile faces, in the game of shadow and twilight.

We call you now, Mistress, by the holy names of Dog, Bull and Lioness, to guide the hand that reaches through thy Many Guises.
Hear now,
“You, o Hekate,
Who know untold desires that work our will
And art the mistress of our secret spells.”
                                                                  Metamorphosis, Ovid.


Chthonia – Earthly one, I call thee

In book 6 of Aeneid, the work by roman poet Virgil that details the events that followed Aeneas escape from the fallen Troy until his arrival to Italy, the hero encounters the Sibyl of Cumae who helps him travel to the underworld. The Sibyl was Hekate’s appointed keeper of the Avernus Wood, the entrance to the underworld, and she was by the Goddess shown all the punishments of Tartarus and how to control and tend to the holy entrance. 

“Hear now, o Infernal Teacher, thou who appointest the keeper to the earth’s bowels”


As Chthonia, this goddess bears a terrifying nature as a ruler of daimones and a night wanderer amongst the graves surrounded by a host of specters. Her power over the dead made her a figure commonly invoked on the defixiones. One such example invokes her nature as the dread queen in a homoerotic piece of Alexandrian provenance:

 “I call upon you, mistress ruler of all mankind, all dreadful one, bursting out of the earth, who also gathers up the limbs of Meliouchos and Meliouchos…”

This bursting out of the earth, or breaking the earth open as it is referred to in some sources also granted her the name of Nexichthon, closely related to her function has the key bearer of the underworld.
Dogs are sacred to Hekate, being both her offering, companions and announcers:

“And to Hekate Chthonia, before who even the dogs tremble as she moves among the graves and the dark blood of the dead” – Idylls, Theocritus.”
“Then the earth began to bellow, trees to dance and howling dogs in glimmering light advance. Ere Hecate came” - Aeneid, Book VL, Virgil


Of relevance to this title is what is described in the Orphic Argonautica as Hekate’s Garden, a collection of plants that were associated with the goddess, some of which include aconite, ebony, garlic, mandrake and oak.


Open the thrice folding Ebony gates and lead us into your pleasure garden, where we can taste of thy poisoned fruit and partake in thy forbidden arts.

quarta-feira, 3 de março de 2010

Lexicon Pharmaceuticum

I've been kinda busy with work and other pursuits so i'm just stopping by to give readers a text that I re-discovered whilst investigating for 3 new tinctures i'm about to make as a by-product of my work with Daniel Schulke's Viridarium Umbris and Ars Philtron. I'll post about them later when they are actually sitting and waiting for the Spirits to work their magic, in the meantime, let me tell you about the book

It's complete title is "Lexicon Pharmaceuticum, or a pharmaceutical Dictionary, comprehending the pharmcopeias of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, with a variety of other useful information relative to medicine and pharmacy." by Thomas Castle. We have acess to 1828 2nd edition and you can easily find it in google books, available for download in PDF format (obviously legal since the work is now public domain).

It is not a substitute for modern (good or excelent) herbals and some of its "advice" brings about a hearty chuckle, but nonetheless, it is packed with a wealth of advice on procedures, dosages and common terms to help a herbalist find its way and cross reference modern and more ancient sources. I haven't yet had the time to fully grasp its potencial (or flaws), but its worth is already shining through.

domingo, 21 de fevereiro de 2010

Jason Miller's "The Sorcerer's Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick"

Last Friday the mailman brought this little book and whilst not the one i was oh so needy to get my hands on, it actually dragged me into a reading frenzy. I liked it, i liked it a lot, here's why:

For some years I've noticed two trends in the occult publishing community. In one side of the spectrum, it seems to become more and more common the raging voices of malcontents that either don't understand or simply dont like the "lust for results" that a lot of (if not all) students have, specially in "high magic" circles. As a consequence, "low magic" gets the shaft. Its particular nature that is in accordance to those very results, is often sneered at as if, somehow, a sorcerer can't achieve some abstract and deeply individual "great work" in his sorcery or if the worry for physical comfort was a blasphemy (oh i do recall the string of magicians praising poverty as if it was, by itself, some privileged means to attain enlightenment). On the other hand, pop books that dwell on half arsed spells, tidbits of magical techniques poorly explained and that regurgitate the same correspondence tables abound. Often i asked myself: "Well, where's the  new material that is neither in denial of human basic needs and that doesn't treat the subject as if it was all a matter of praying to the goddess whilst adding color X with stone Y?". And this small gap in literature is what Jason Miller filled with his slim volume. It's not revolutionary book by any means, nor does it present exactly something new, but his honesty and the very workable sorcery system presented in the book was a breath of fresh air in my shelf. Traditionalists that cringe at the thought of eclecticism should stay away, i guess, so should people that worry a bit too much about that elusive karma and the even more elusive ethical behaviour for this book both mix'n'matches and has no qualms with influencing and manipulating people regardless of their willingness to comply. There is no real cosmology presented, there are no great appeals to tradition or to established mythos. There is only the overall feeling of doing what works in order to get what you desire. And it delivers what it promises whilst still not forgetting personal development, practice, and directing the student to further study with a personalized recommendation list. And this is what makes it awesome.
There are problems with the book, though. For one, the book is riddled with typos. Even I, not a native speaker of English, saw this and found it detrimental to the reading. Its notes are also far and in-between and are not nearly sufficient for the book he is presenting; only one ritual (that I've noticed) presented a pronunciation description (something very important if you are going to vibrate something), still, he does have a forum on his webpage where you can discuss his work and he does interact with people that hang around there...this transparency is a plus for me.

All in all, recommended to anyone that wants to read something a bit out of the ordinary, clearly written and focused on pragmatic side of magic.
'

terça-feira, 16 de fevereiro de 2010

The Birth of a Shaman: An outlook on Death and Rebirth


1968 marked the Western world with the publishing of an M.D thesis that became well accepted in both academic and popular circles. "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" was the first of a series of volumes pertaining to Carlos Castaneda supposed apprenticeship under the guidance of Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Shaman. Despite being later debunked by Richard deMille and riddled with controversy, Castaneda's work still retains a mystique and allure that inspires and awakens people to the hidden and profound realities of the human psyche which makes these books recommended time again and again. This massification and popularization of Shamanism was sealed with the works of Michael Harner whose contribution, alongside with other anthropologists such as Barbara Tedlock and Larry Peters, marked a new milestone in Anthropology for they not only registered what they saw, but also became a part of the communities they studied. For the first time, the scholar was not only the observer but also the participant. 

As a nontraditional Shaman, Michael Harner and his Foundation for Shamanic Studies is usually credited the popularization of shamanic techniques and the birth of Neo-Shamanism that, in his Foundation, is called Core Shamanism, a syncretic approach that gathers the similarities between the different types of shamanic experiences and produces a whole that's workable to the western frame of mind and experience. Whilst not the aim of this short exposition to analyze and opinionate on the validity, or lack of, of Neo-shamanism, it is crucial to be aware of its development in conjunction and contrast with its counterpart, Traditional Shamanism, for much of our own practices as witches and magicians are rooted in this ancient spiritual tradition.

Shamanism, as with everything, has the beginning of its problematic with its very definition. To define it I will use the one I consider most appropriate, being " Shamanism can be defined as a family of traditions whose practitioners focus on voluntarily enter altered states of consciousness in which they experience themselves or their spirit(s) communing and encountering several entities, often by travelling to other realms, in order to serve their community" *.I find this definition to be very accurate since it touches on the controlled and ecstatic ways that enable the shaman to be of service, their perception and contact with spirits, and also relates this figure to its validating source: the tribe in which they are inserted. This magico-religious system is one, if not the, oldest religious tradition of Mankind. Whilst not possible to ascertain when it began, it has been popularly linked with Palaeolithic parietal art being a common favourite the display of Le Trois Frères human figure covered with a bison skin as if it was a shaman, however, as said previously, the engravings of Trois Fréres and other caves are simply not enough to infer precisely on what type of religious tradition the Palaeolithic people had and much less if it was Shamanism or not.

The word Shamanism entered our vocabulary through Russian and stems from the Tunguric word saman – a male practitioner -. Shamans are responsible for several roles within the community they serve. They are the priests, the healers, the lore-keepers, the magicians and the mediators between the seen and the useen reality. This formula of spiritual guidance is found throughout the world and it appears to be prevalent in nomadic hunter-gatherer societies that have little to no hierarchical stratified roles. The selection of a shaman happens in three ways: He can be predestined to be so because of hereditary factors; because of a series of events that sets them apart from the community, or, finally, a person can choose to become a shaman, however, the latter ones are perceived to be much less powerful and effective then the former ones. This selection is done either by their community or by the spirits, whose choice is later confirmed by the tribe or the already existent shaman. It is rather obvious the dependence and crucial role that the tribe has on the life of the shaman. As a symbiotic relationship, one serves the other being the community that ratifies a person in his role.In the hereditary end of the spectrum, this selection is filled with superstition and taboo. Even before the would-be shaman is born there are harsh measures placed upon the parents and those taboos follow the him throughout his life. Knud Rasmussen gives an account of one such shaman, Aua, whose mother, amongst other things, was put on strict diet and had to eat from special pots and not able to be visited by any other woman, nor even Aua's father during the first year of his life; his father, on the other hand, was never allowed to sharpen his own knives. The taboo's followed Aua to his adult life being directly concerned with the tribe's sustenance means such as hunting.

Those who were called to shamanism by the spirits had different, but equally harsh experiences. Mircea Eliade notes that "sickness, attacks, and hallucination" were often pre-stages of an emergent shaman. He said that " among the Chuckchee Indians the process is a painful and long journey", this same tribe also believes that a future shaman can be recognized by the look in the eyes are not directed towards the speaker/listener but towards the infinity. The selection, however, is only the first stage for, although in the western world a lot of the shaman's behaviour would be regarded as a psychopathology, there is a distinct mark that sets them apart from the man who was lost to the spirits, and that is control. Indeed the very foundations of shamanism lie in the controlled ability to, ecstatically and at will, walk between the spirit and normative world. This ability, as well as some of the conditions that precognize a shaman and some of the features that accompany their rituals, have, due to the lack of understanding and biases of past scholars, often equated this figure with mental illnesses, something that is not, at all, correct. When Michael Harner was studying with the South American Jívaro tribe, he noticed a man who was always in the jungle talking with spirits. He asked one of his contacts if said man was a shaman. "No" – he replied – "he is crazy". This view is is further supported by psychological data now available due to the increased interest in the subject, something that I will explore later when time is more willing to comply with my wishes. This "control" necessary to allow a shaman to work for the benefit of both himself and his tribe is acquired through a two sided training. Firstly, there is a time of apprenticeship with a master where the theory and practices are presented according to lore, cosmology, ritual and taboo in the ever pervading formative context of culture and myth. It is the mythos that frames and guides the shaman through their cognitive worlds and that sustain him in his altered consciousness states where he will discover and persuade spirits to befriend and help him and the tribe he serves. To this end, the apprentice shaman undergoes a series of ascetic practices such as prolonged fasting, solitude, exposure to cold and other inclement weather, sleep deprivation, pain. An Eskimo Shaman tells us that:

"The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and it can be reached only by suffering. Privation and suffering alone open the mind of man to all that is hidden to others".

Personally, I find this statement beautiful, echoed by the words of Andrew Chumbley:

"Solitude is a Muse to Those whom it loves. "

For a shaman, the suffering and solitude are the means par excellence for the sublimation of the mind and it is during this time that he will learn to recognize, encounter and obtain his first familiar spirits/animals as well as spirit journeying in what is the second part of his training: The direct experience of the "unseen" reality.

The culmination of this stage of learning is initiation. Initiation in a shamanic context is not a stage of beginning but of achievement. An awakening and recognition of attainment. The Eskimo Aua speaks of such attainment thus :

"And then, in the midst of such mysterious and overwhelming delight I became a shaman, not knowing myself how it came about. But I was a shaman. I could see and hear in a totally different way. I had my quamenEq, my enlightment, shaman light of brain and body, and this in such a manner that it was not only I who could see through the darkness of life, but the same…"

This quamenEq refers to a light that the shaman feels in his body, within his brain and that illuminates the dark allowing him to see both literally and metaphorically for it also grants the shaman the ability to see far ahead into the future, the spirit world and within one's soul. This, in conjunction with his ability to journey to other worlds, is what allows him to act as psychopomp.

Despite being actively described as a "Initiation", this event significant and ontological – for the one experiencing it – process is a "death and rebirth" stage. Shamans, yet again, are unable to provide the "whys" to this death and rebirth that has the shaman's body being destroyed and then reconstituted. Rasmussen offers the explanation that, for the shaman to withstand shamanic work and please the spirits, a shaman must be able to see himself as a skeleton. The only part that will remain are the bones for that is the part of himself that will endure long after death. Thus, the blood, flesh and other bodily fluids are taken from him in a dismemberment done by demons or ancestors in a transformative and healing way. Eliade echoes this theme with a discription of a neophyte of the Avam Samoyed of Siberia. This neophyte traveled to the underworld escorted by animal guides provided by the Lord of the Underworld where he encountered evil shamans, Lords of Epidemics, which taught him in the nature of diseases. After this lesson, his heart was ritually torn out, thrown into a pot and then he traveled to the land of female shamans where he was gifted with a stronger voice as well as to the Tree of the Lord of Earth where he received several powers, such as healing power. He continued onwards encountering several entities and again ritually slain and boiled over the cauldron for three years till the blacksmith forged the neophyte's head on one of three anvils which gave him his superhuman sight. Only after becoming a master did the neophyte awoke, revivified as a Shaman.

This dismemberment theme is not only found in Siberia but also amongst the Australian aborigines and others. Whilst not possible to retell every single account of death/rebirth process, it is important to retain that for a shaman to become so he must die for become worthy of the spirits and of the gift the spirits give to him. Shamans start their process being sick, they peak at death, and when they come back they gain mastery, power, and effectively become weller, that is, better then they ever were. To us, in this post-modernist age where the individual is praised above all else and where shamanism is being sold in a few hours workshop it is crucial to ask ourselves, what are we truly doing?

*Definition provided in Roger Walsh in "The world of Shamanism – New views of an ancient tradition"


Resources used in this piece:

Eliade, Mircea. Rites and Symbols of Initiation : The Mysteries of Birth and Rebirth


Eliade, Mircea: Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy

Harner, Michael – The Way of the Shaman

Harner, Michael – The Jivaro: People of the sacred Waterfalls

Rasmussen, Knud – Across arctic America

Walsh, Roger - The world of Shamanism – New views of an ancient tradition

 

  "The greatest peril of life lies in the fact that human food consists entirely of souls. All the creatures that we have to kill and eat, all those that we have to strike down and destroy to make clothes for ourselves, have souls, souls that do not perish with the body and which must therefore be pacified lest they should revenge themselves on us for taking away their bodies"
(I just felt like adding this up because its beautiful and im experimenting with the quote thingy)

quinta-feira, 11 de fevereiro de 2010

Surrealistically Grotesque

As I lay there I knew if that if the man dressed in a suit with his back to me would turn I wouldn't see a face, there would only be the innards of a skull, as if he was made by nature to coexist in the world after a shotgun discharge, despite all laws and reason. I tried to shrug it off, it didn't matter, I wasn't participating in it, it was just another image, but the mongoloid child staring adoringly into the guys bloody mess wouldn't go away and neither would he and I didn't wanted her to notice me, the unwilling observer. She was pale and red haired, the down-syndrome characteristics making her look even more pitiful as she smiled, toothless. I tried again, and again the zoom on her face. I broke it off, the fear overwhelming me.


 

Sometimes I think the bizarre will always keep me from myself. Sometimes I think I deserve being kept from myself for being a coward.

terça-feira, 9 de fevereiro de 2010

Easy Database for the technologically impared.

Was talking with a friend the other day about how some new technological device that incorporates a multimedia board just came out and was still in a phase where its not so useful. To my wild imagination, such a device would be awesome, especially if it allowed you to read documents and , regardless of the document format, take notes and create links based on tags, much how it already happens in a blog, where you could easily cross reference through several books with the plus of being portable and usable anywhere. This would help immensely in an investigation setting for you no longer had to solely rely on your memory or note-books and easily go through literally gigabytes of information in seconds looking only for that particular "tag" that's relevant to your research at the time, all this completely customizable by you and based on the notes you created in the documents present in said err notepad. I'm sure something akin to this already must exist in some form - I either dont know about it and probably can't even afford it - but this little wish had me thinking on how i could improve my acess to all the data that i'm either working on or have already worked on without having necessarily to go dig through countless diaries and notebooks, filled with scribbles, ink blotches and a tremendous amount of space occupied. Would this negate the very mystique of operating your own diary of experience and testing? Certainly not, on the other hand, it would help to keep things easily organized, virtually space free, and easily accessible, something that a clumsy, forgetful person like me would very much appreciate.

In the beginning i thought about creating a database in Microsoft Access, but my knowledge of it would prompt me to precisely state what the parameters of search would be, and that, in the long run, would make it counter what initially designed it for: Simplicity in accessing information. It was with this in mind that yesterday I created an Microsoft Excell workbook related only to my herbalism exploits. Now, Excell is really awesome. Its a very vast application that allows you to crunch numbers, data, and text; it allows the input of data and the consequent treatment. So, i created already a bunch of pages in said workbook regarding the plant species I have in store, which ones i actually grow, which ones i want to plant, which part of the plant i have/use, and what plans I have for future acquisition, when are the best seasons for planting and harvesting plus little tidbits of folklore. But this is not all, with the application of filters and data validations linked to mutable and fixed anchors I can cross reference those plants with existent recipes where they play part, and, of course, have a page for the recipes themselves where i decided to give it the most "scientific" treatment possible.
This recipe page is my crown and glory. Since I am developing my own recipes as well as working with a bunch of different texts on the subject, its so easy to follow the progress of the recipes, where i failed and what i think can be improved on, if they need or not further testing...its amazing. I am so proud of myself that I'm filled like a balloon :)

This is an example, not complete, of the recipe database. The cathegories included are: The recipe name, if it was tested on what, how you prepared it and the supposed effects as well if they worked or not. There are also cathegories for its effectiveness (on a 1 to 5 scale), where did the recipe come from, the conditions of preparation (poor, average, good, excellent and perfect) as well as a description of said conditions and also a space for notes and if the recipe requires further testing and perfection or if its good the way it is. Excel's filters will allow me to navigate easily through the recipes using any of the categories as a search parameter. All in all, works great for what its intended for.

quinta-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2010

Pathworking

We stood together and clasped hands, fearful that all out efforts would be in vain. “Nothing will take us from here” we said, as the wind nudged slowly forward.  Turned to stone we waited, as the gate grew to immense heights, so humble and small it seemed to us, that our fear subsided and we dared to come in. Inside, the halls were of wood made of stone, nothing  as was supposed to be.

 The chambers circled themselves in a maze and the wind nudged us forward, it nudged us forward and so we went. Feline like, covered in fur, she weaved her arms commanding and they came. Howling winds and a darkness alive, a darkness that spoke of stone and moss and screeching voices in the wind. We turned into ice and flame, we rode the winds. We screeched and brought the world’s end. Animals, we were, no more than animals-Engulfed, she bade them farewell. Obediently they conceded and she, now a bird, took us to a woman, languidly stretching into the ocean. The more we gazed into her orange eyes the more we forgot who we were, lost in a slumber of ages. Spots of light floated as we swayed in her and to her rhythm. Not we, for we were no longer we. We were the sway and the spots, just not the woman. Briskly, the bird that was a woman that was a cat waved her arms again and took us south. There lay great deserts entombed in silence. In an arid void we layed, despairing that we were forgotten, dead.  We lay there and the sands dried our bodies, we were now our shadows and nothing but shadows we were, to haunt the desert. She came again, waving the mastery that were her hands and arms and with her waving came the birds and the breezes full of life, and in the end it was all a great joy and we burst into dance as the breezes sang with us. We could stay there forever, we wanted to stay there forever but the screeching winds and the desert and the orange-eyed woman called us and so we left, this time, of our own accord.

The thing woman was no longer to be seen, only the gate was there and the initial wind that pushed us away, and away we went.

sábado, 23 de janeiro de 2010

The Mörksugga Guardian



The Mörksugga - whose name translates as "Sow" - is a Swedish folklore figure from Dalarna. Dalarna is a highly forested area dominated by mountains, foothills and the lake Siljan as well as a number of smaller lakes.

In this county of dark forests and swamps it's not hard to imagine that a figure of terror would emerge to scare children into safety, after all, we all had at some point in our infancies heard similar stories told to discourage us from unnecessary danger.
                                                                                                   The picture was taken from this website.

Dwelling in the darkness and on old cabins, the Mörksugga would act as a kind of "Boggey Man", a creature of darkness and danger to those that ventured in the night. A friend of mine reports that:

"I remember seeing a mörksugga at my grandparents when i was a kid, sitting up on an old cabinet in their living room. I remember the mesmerizing effect it had on me back then and I still think it has a nice, almost sinister feel to to it which makes it a interesting decoration in any house".

Eventually, in the 50's, an artist by the name of Birger Eriksson created what would become most famous Mörskugga - and the one my friend saw at his grandparents - and with this representation the Mörksugga no longer dwelled in the night to harm but in the home to protect and eat every and any dark powers that threaten the peace.

To keep up with the changing lore, the item I recieved was vivified as a foci point for a guardian, with the shape of a huge eggaloid sow, that stands proudly atop my dresser facing the windows ready to gnaw the unsuspecting trespassers.