Monday, August 13, 2012

The Dead

[Caveat: Please note that I am not an initiated member of a living tradition that works with the dead on a regular basis. I've experimented and found good results, and I base this post on those experiments and good results. There may be a ton of shit I don't know that will fuck you up if you try this, I'm a guy with a blog on the internet. If you're a member of a living tradition with more experience and insight into the dead than I've got, please feel free to correct me, I'm open to it.]

Ok, it's on my mind, and you're my reader, so suffer.

I just saw someone post something about a young guy dying. It was in a hoodoo-themed group, so maybe my brain can be forgiven, but the first thing I thought was,
Someone should capture that soul while its fresh.
[Edit: Please note that I am referring to the animal soul here, the Nephesh, the emotional-survival part of the human entity that continues to exist for about 6 weeks after the flesh dies. I personally believe that the immortal part of the soul, the part that was mingled in the chalices of the Stars by the Workman in Timaeus, goes on to the higher heavens and what you "capture" is only a part of the person, not their entire spiritual self.]

It's been happening for years now. Ever since I started making spirit traps. My first impulse was to post a spirit-capturing rite involving the Hermetic stuff and ancestor lore and demon trap and spirit pot stuff I've picked up in my studies and necromantic training.

Then my social instincts/indoctrination kicked in, and I was like, WTF, Brain!?

But if we really believe all the shit we do is based on what we say we think it's based on (yeah, I wrote that sentence), why the fuck are we so upset when people die? Oh, we'll miss 'em, boo-hoo. Guess the end of an immortal spark of god's most recent incarnation is all about us, eh? How it affects us and shit.


And shit, it's not like we can't talk to them whenever we want to. Or trap a bit of their remains in a spirit pot, and continue the relationship in a new form. We co-created the universe while they were in the flesh, why stop at the moment of death?

Death is to be celebrated, not mourned. I mean yeah, five stages of grief and all that human shit, but that's just like addiction withdrawals. Existence isn't all about you and your pain.

I demand a fucking feast and booze and weed and shrooms when I die. Whatever floats your boat. And I'll be there, laughing at your drunk stoned tripping asses, and the lucky ones will see me, and think to trap a bit of that to help 'em out with making their lives better. And I'll tell my son to sell my ashes on my website by the ounce. $1,500, or more depending on how shit works out.

And he'd better keep one himself.

[Edit: Note that what I'm talking about creating for yourself out of my ashes is like a super RO talisman, like a Relic of a Saint, and through it we'll be able to continue to interact, assuming my efforts to become a Power after death continue to the planned destination.]

[Further edit: I'm taking out the practical bits because I don't want to pass on bad advice that I haven't thoroughly tested myself.]


  1. Good Morning.

    First let me say that for the most part I consider this to be a good post.

    It may rub a lot of people the wrong way is that you use the sentence "capture the soul", instead of work with the soul.

    Don't get me wrong. I, like most of your readers have worked with spirits bottles, pots and houses, and I consider that most people (dead and alive) would benefit from it.
    But when you say capture most people (me included) think about imprisoning/enslaving a soul, and that is something that I.M.O. should be used just in extreme cases.

  2. Think of it in terms of capturing a tiger with a chronic disease that will pass away if left untreated. The part of the soul I'm talking about working with is the Nephesh, the mortal part of the soul that fades away after 6 weeks if it doesn't get a new food source.

  3. OK, I understand.
    And that way your idea of selling your ashes to others makes much more sense to me.

    On a side note, if you knew that someone was dead set on catpuring your soul, all of your soul, and torturing you for years without end, what would you do? What would be your post mortem defenses ?

  4. OK... Well I suppose you know I think this is a bad idea. There are many reasons that an operation such is problematic but I am not going to go into all of it again - we have debated it once before. I will add something practical however. If you were to try this I would not use a relative or a loved one - partly for moral reasons but also because it would be impractical, necromatically speaking. You would probably do better to find a criminal, or insane person, or otherwise morally corrupt individual. These are more easily enslaved, bribed and controlled since they have already fallen from grace. Far more leverage. They will also will do pretty much anything that you ask of them... Just a thought. Oh, and did I mention that it is bad idea? :-)

  5. I don't think that's possible, honestly. I don't have any proof or anything, but I believe, based on the Hermetic post-death process of transformation to a Power, that it would not be possible to capture the eternal part of me and torture me.

    I know there are instructions for capturing and torturing spirits of the Lemegeton's Goetia. I don't know anyone who that's worked for though. I also believe the whole heating of the seal in the black box as a way of getting the spirit to appear is a perversion of the Fire offering. When you heat up a seal of a spirit, you aren't burning them, you're giving them energy, literally heating up their seals and raising the vibration of the atoms. The spirits would be better able to manifest with the increased vibration of their seal in the material realm, I think. And we know that if one magicians binds and seals or chains a spirit of that pantheon for all eternity, it doesn't keep any other magician from conjuring them up. So... either they aren't really bound, or they're only bound from the sphere of the magician who bound them.

    I think anyone who tried to capture all of my soul and torture it for years without end would really just be living out their own personal fantasy.

  6. I didn't say anything about torture. I said enslaved, bribed/baught and controlled. And it's not only possible - it is a rather widely accepted strategy in the diaspora. As for the metaphysics of the soul and whatnot I don't think it really figures into the efficacy of such a pot either way (and if you don't believe it why did you suggest it in your post?). The main thing is to have complete control over a biddable spirit who will do whatever you say, the moment you say it. For that one of character I mentioned before tends to be deemed most suitable. I would never attempt this outside the confines of said living tradition however. People are of course free to make their own mistakes.

  7. @Balthazar, in the East they keep shrines to their ancestors, and over time the spirits become like the house gods of the Romans. In fact, some of the "house gods" of the Romans were their ancestors.

    I'm thinking of a relationship that's ongoing, a continuation of the co-creatorship you shared in life. In an honorable, respectful way. Something beautiful, not evil. Something transformative, not confining. You use words like enslave, control, and bribe. That's not the vibe I have at all.

    I don't like working with crazy people or criminals when they are alive. I wouldn't want to work with them when they're dead, either.

    I don't know if there's something I'm missing here or not though. It's been a while since we argued this, I'll have to go back and reread the comments on the last one.

  8. I didn't say anything about torture. I said enslaved, bribed/baught and controlled. And it's not only possible - it is a rather widely accepted strategy in the diaspora. As for the metaphysics of the soul and whatnot I don't think it really figures into the efficacy of such a pot either way (and if you don't believe it why did you suggest it in your post?). The main thing from a pragmatic standpoint is to have complete control over a biddable spirit who will do whatever you say, the moment you say it. For that one of character I mentioned before tends to be deemed most suitable. I would never attempt this outside the confines of said living tradition however. People are of course free to make their own mistakes.

  9. I didn't say you said anything about torture, and if it came through that way I apologize. I'm not fighting with you, I like you a lot.

    Also, I didn't say you could capture the whole of a person's spirit, but I didn't specify that I was only talking about the nephesh until the comments section, my bad, I'll make an edit. I assumed that was a given, making an ass out of me, not you.

    I've never been in a position where I had "complete control over a biddable spirit who will do whatever you say, the moment you say it." All my interactions with spirits have been more respectful, maybe naive, but very effective. Even with Bune, I tended to make sure things were possible before sending him on missions. the times I just told him to do something and didn't ask if it was possible, he agreed and tried and failed and explained later what I should have asked up front.

    In my work with my own ancestors, which is still in the fetal stages, I have found the basic relationship to be the same. I approach from a coworker perspective, and things seem to work out. Maybe I'm an anomaly, or maybe I'm doing it wrong.

  10. Oh sure, not fighting either R.O. As you know this is kinda my hobby horse.

    Actually, the notion of the nephesh has a parallel in Kongo cosmology and the spirit that is bought at the graveyard for these kind of pots is something akin to your nephesh as far as I can tell. Very broadly speaking of course.

    The thing is when you put a muerto in a pot like this you are enmeshing it in matter, materializing it - and as such you want complete control or it is going to get out of hand very quickly. Binding a human spirit like this to a pot is definitely not childs-play; hence the language and symbolism of enslavement (chains, metal pot etc). Even the pot in the Lemegeton follows this logic of incarceration.

    Fortunately this is not the only way to work with the dead. You can for instance place a cool clear goblet of water and do incredible work with the dead using that as the conductive foci. Unlike a metal pot a glass of water cools and refreshes them (and taking into account that our bodies are 70 percent water it makes sense that this would work as a vehicle). The clear glass allows free movement and light. All this is pleasing and appropriate for spirits of our loved ones. We offer lights and create a pleasing memorializing atmosphere which elevates and stabilizes their presence in a gentle, gradual way.

    With this sudden resurgence of interest in the dead I am surprised that more western magicians are not looking to their own great living tradition of working with the dead: spiritualism. It's 100% western - and is the tap root of western magical revival in victorian era, and the resulting traditions today, in my opinion.

    Sticking the dead in a pot is is an entirely different kettle of, er, fish.

  11. Thanks, B. I cut the practical bits, pending further research.

  12. Loved it.

    Getting the 'soul' of a deceased individual into a useful fetish (caveat here being 'useful') is almost entirely contingent on that spirit wanting to play a role in the exchange.

    There are a few spirit pots that don't work like that (Lukankazi comes to mind) but for the most part that's the gist.

    Really, its just sensible sorcery, few will be as sympathetic to your travails as a human being than another human being (living or dead).

  13. @B: I've been looking into spiritualism; very quietly. Lol. Still reading through the works of Allan Kardec. The influence of Spiritualism on P.B. Randolph has me very intrigued.

    @R.O.: Hrm. Do you want me to source my response, or just babble?

  14. Jack, I feel nervous. But I trust you, babble-on. :D

  15. I am looking into spiritualism, as I have always found it fascinating. However, finding practical workable information on it, or something that isn't steeped in psychological babble I find to be difficult.

    I do like espiritismo though, but most good information on that is in spanish.

    R.O. - I have totally been there. I keep asking some friends of mine that when they have captured spirits who are vexing clients of theirs to give me the bottle, cause I could think of all sorts of handy dandy things to do with it.

  16. First you are summoning demons. Now your capturing fresh souls. I know some serious shite is going down, but that's no reason to turn into Lord Voldemort :-)

    But seriously, I do a short comment.

    Different traditions say different things as to what happens when you die and the parts of the soul and such, and that really isn't worth arguing over. I am just going to approach this from a human perspective.

    Whatever you, or Balthazar, or I and our respective traditions believe about the afterlife process, none of us KNOW for sure.

    As such I get very antsy when people start messing around with other peoples dead loved ones in ways that go beyond gathering some dirt and asking for a hand, or simple summoning and dismissals.

    You may think that its ok to capture the nephesh because the immortal soul has passed on but ask yourself:
    1. Are you REALLY sure?
    2. Even if the immortal soul has passed on, does that mean the nephesh has no intelligence, emotion, or feeling? Certainly not my experience of Ghosts in general...
    3. How would you would feel if it was your child's soul that was being captured?

    See the whole Dr Kioni mess for how that last one plays out.

    Capturing or otherwise permanently housing a shade is not the same as an ancestor shrine. A shrine is a place that is a gateway to the dimension that the soul resides in naturally and thru which you can travel and communicate. This kind of portal is similar to the kind of portal that is opened by a Boveda, just on a more permanent basis.

    As to the permanent emeshing of shades in matter, it is indeed more or less the standard to use criminals, or insane people because they are easier to manipulate. Sadly, it the philosophy also extends to children, aborted foetus's, and so on. In the case of a Nganga there is a lot more than just emeshing in matter that goes on. It is almost like surgical enhancement...

    All that said, when I hear about graves being robbed or hospitals being raded, than traced to spirit pots, it kind of pisses me off. Religious freedom is one thing, but shouldnt the sanctity of remains also be protected?

    Lest people think I am picking on ATRs for this, I would point out two things: 1. This is fringe practice in ATR's and I am sure not the norm and 2. The exact same problems exist in some Buddhist countries that sell foetus amulets, and cheap "Tantric" tools for tourists.

    You can say that within their own culture these are accepted practices, but in fact practitioners often go to GREAT lengths to hide their remains from other Sorcerers that would want to use their shade in this manner.

    Anyway, just some thoughts on the subject to consider.

  17. All right; Babblin' starts now.

    The rituals in the PGM for overt fetish creation and Necromancy are mostly contingent on the willingness of a higher, Cthonic power, aiding and abetting the magician. Most (minus PGM IV. 1928-2005) seem to revolve around Hecate or a similar Death Goddess. The views of the Cthonic gods at this point is very late, and they tend to become a mish-mash. It's not strange, for example, to see Hecate and Persephone treated as different aspects of the same deity, in the same ritual. Additionally, Hecate and her formulas are used to control the Restless Dead in a number of love-spells. So, it has fuck-all, in my opinion, to do with the Will and Authority of the Magician himself and more to do with the willingness of a Cthonic deity to confer that ability. The aforementioned spell of Attraction for skullcaps revolves around Helios. "I beg you, Lord Helios, hear me (NN) and grant me power over the spirit of this man who has died a violent death..." Etc.

    These rituals revolve around the same class of dead folks as the necromancy rituals that show up in Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, like the Fairy Sybilia ritual which requires that you find the ghost of a suicide and arrange an agreement with it first. (Scot has a couple other rituals that require a suicide.)

    All of those spirits are the Biaiothanatoi. Being brutally honest, this is the difference between capturing someone's Nepheshim and having a whole, completely stuck, soul to work with. We're not talking about a cast off husk - we're talking about someone who is here, be it haunting someone or just haunting the crossroads or their place of death.

    Jason's concerns are good - but they miss the point. Most folks loved ones are supposed to move on, not sit around befouling the atmosphere. In the case of someone who moves on, you probably can't capture it and trying to use a piece of their soul sounds terrible to me. In the case of someone who is here, the PGM rituals refer to the same class of spirits Balthazar recommends: the insane, the criminal, and the corrupt. Those that got stuck, and kept at what they are after this. In such a case, binding them and coercing them in the name of a Cthonic power (if they are willing to, anyway) is way different from capturing just some random guy's spirit. Additionally, these ghosts stuck around in some of the grimoires and materials in the Grimoires for use, such as in the Hand of Glory creation (which requires either cleansing Mandragora or the Dead Hand in running water or Vervaine before it's used, much like B.'s suggestion). So, actually, we do have them about. I can probably point to a dozen places where they show up now that I know where to look. But then, it's always tenuous and I could be mistaken in some cases.

    Now, anyone who's ATR and actually does this work rather than read up on it can feel free to correct me. LOL. I'm using older sources, and I don't have a skull cup to empower on hand. Thus, this is some theoretical bullshit I've tossed out.

  18. Capturing a dead soul, be it criminal, or a love one comes with some serious risk.

    Spirits of the dead don't like being enslaved and will spend their time finding ways to undermind a magician or get back at them.

    This has happened to many a mage who thought they could go around trapping spirits and making them do what they want.

    There is even a shift in some Palo circles on this stance. Some of the older Cuban houses used to view the spirit of the nganga as a "dog" and to be treated as such. It was a spirit chained and forced into servitude. Overtime however as the spirit was fed and grew there were instances of it getting back at its master for its enslavement.

    Note, that the above is not a reflection of all Palo houses, but a faction that existed in Palo.

    This stance is changing because these spirits have a vengeful streak when it comes to being bound.

    You'll find that seeking out a willing spirit of the dead may be a better approach and may result in a more fruitful alliance, especially in the context of having safeguards, establishing a relationship with a power that can get you back etc.

    Just my opinion.

  19. I completely agree Conjureman Ali.

    Just because there is precedent for something in tradition doesnt mean it is a good idea.

  20. @Jack: I dont see how my concerns miss the point at all.

    The fact that there is precedent for something in the annals of magick doesnt make it ok. Most people in the age those texts were written in would not have been ok with it, much less people of today. There are Kilaya retreat manuals that instruct you to make an umbrella out of the skins of recently deceased children- the precent doesnt make it ok.

    As to the criminals and insane and such, Balthazar mentioned that it woild be better from a technical standpoint, bug also mentioned tgat its a bad idea.

    Besides, Why should someone who suffered insanity and confusionin life find themselves chained up in a vessel? It kind of morally repugnant. Shifting the blame on the judgement of Chthonic gods is a cop out.

    Its also just SO uneccessary. There are better ways of achieving your goals.

  21. Actually, Ali, I think unless you are initiated into Palo or are receiving a caldero espiritual from someone who knows what they are doing that putting any human spirit in a casually invented, made-up pot is dangerous. Even if you think that spirit is volunteering and is benign. There is something about the process of enmeshing a human spirit back into matter and into a container that seems to carry unique risk. I suspect even a close loved one in a pot (and perhaps more so) will in all liklehood get vengeful. Perhaps it is because human beings have a a special relationship to embodiment, the after-life and death that set them apart from other types of spirits, I don't know, but there is something about the process that requires tremendous skill and care.

  22. I got no shame so I'll just say it .. I have kept every wandering spirit I have come across in my work whether benign or malefic, lesser daemon or seeming ghost. (I mean what am I supposed to do leave them to wander? While I suppose that would be good for business it has always seemed to me the greater cruelty.)

    And I think its a bit disingenuous to dismiss RO's reference to the Greek/Roman ancestor shrines as 'gate-ways' to a world of the dead. The practice of the death-mask is most assuredly a physical base to which the individuals spirit will be inexorably drawn and grounded.

    And while I am the first to admit that there are dark mages doing dark things with dark spirits it is also inaccurate to portray this practice in a wholly negative light.

    To the Vodoun for instance, to leave the spirit of a loved one to languish after death in the unfeeling miasma without a speaking-pot makes you a terrible person and family member. Whether you trust the houngan/mambo enough to leave that pot in their care is another thing altogether but the pot itself is perceived as a profound kindness to the deceased.

    Even the Catholics do it with their shining ones. Every great Cathedral has the bones/heart of at least one Saint bound to their foundations. This practice is not a cruelty, it is the karcist who is cruel (or not as the case may be).

    Even the chain to bind the spirit to the pot need not be perceived as a tool of bondage any more than your DNA is seen as such. Causation is a chain, manifestion is a chain, Jacobs Ladder is a chain.

  23. Actually, Jason, I regret that sentence. You're right, and I've been thinking about your comments since I wrote it. Even a criminal is someone's loved one, and we don't know what happens. So, I apologize.

    As for shifting the blame to a Cthonic god, that's not what I'm saying. I want to point out that I've never indicated that there isn't an agreement in play in some cases. I'll just leave it at that. You're right. Blatant compulsion because you think you know better is... Uh... I didn't think it through when I wrote that. Sorry.

    Ryan: I didn't dismiss R.O.'s notions of the shrine being a gateway. I dismissed the notion that having a piece of a soul was worth-while. This is not to be confused with a piece of a body, which is very useful.

    As for the mask? I think that requires a pact.

  24. Balthazar, I was not referring to making a spirit pot. While there is precedent for their existence outside the ATRs and cause to explore similar techniques in the Mediterranean magical traditions, what I was referring to was avoiding the attempt to bind *any* spirit.

    Perhaps I was not explicit enough, but I am recommending working with the dead via graveyard dirt, not binding them into vessels. I believe I said, "Capturing a dead soul, be it criminal, or a love one comes with some serious risk."

  25. @Ryan: Wouldn't it be simpler to transport a client's problematic spirits to the crossroads, entrust them to Hecate, and leave? Binding is generally much more taxing. The earlier just requires fumigation, removal of polluted materials, and a meal for Hecate. Then you leave without looking back. I dunno. Less benefits, for sure, but far less chances for problems, too.

  26. @Jack

    In some senses I suppose it may be but I feel there is a sort of kismet to the whole thing and that the worlds are not so clearly demarcated as all that. As you said, even the criminal spirit is the remains of someone's loved one. A truth dear to my own heart.

    One man's devil may be another's ally, to me each spirit has its purpose or it simply would not be. As I implied earlier, a good work is accomplished by hands guided by sympathy, necessity. While I would not deny Hekate her due I also would not deliver to her that over which she has no dominion. She can come take what is hers, I have no magic that can stop that.

    I do have the magic to give the dispossessed a voice, a material base, a mandala containing worlds even. A kindness is a kindness, even among crooks.

  27. @Ali: Ah, I see what you mean brother. That makes perfect sense, of course.

  28. I got up too Jasons first post, before I got too lazy to read onwards, so don't (Or do) critisize me for it.

    But, I'd consider the idea that when you try to capture that part of the spirit, that certain ancestors of that persona would take offense or insult (And also worth consideration is if that person belongs to a specific Lineage, for example a Daoist Order... I know I sure as hell wouldn't like to piss off some of the Immortals by capturing one of their followers after he's done work to strengthen his bodies to make it more... long lasting? )... Of course, this entire argument is difficult as its based on the views of the afterlife...

  29. Not wishing to muddy the waters so to speak by talking about hefesh catpure and blood magic... are you facotoring in: 'The blood is the nefesh' (Deut. 12:23)? Will your capture of a nefesh fragment involve blood?


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