Monday, July 18, 2011

Discussions on Y so Srs

Ok, so comments on Y so Srs? have provided good feedback that I think should get more traffic than they'll see if they stay in the comments section. I've pulled together the highlights to give the audience members who only read the posts a chance to see that there's more going on than just what gets posted. And to give advice from others in case my ignorance is more dangerous than I think.

First, I might be totally wrong in all this. One indicator is that someone said I was "in line with Bertiaux's ideas."


But besides that, I've been thinking about my approach to danger, too. I've been through some traumatic stuff as part of my explorations and experimentations, and I'm a bit jaded. Maybe, just maybe, the shit I had to deal with would have been avoided if I'd received proper instruction. Maybe the danger I see as a normal risk of magic isn't really normal.

But I have kind of a mad scientist aesthetic to my Work. Sometimes the whole lab blows up when Igor flips the switch. It's sort of where we're at in this process of revitalizing the Western traditions. As Aaron Letich says in the comments:
Western occultism is currently undergoing a new kind of renaissance. We've come down off our "my mysticism is holier than thine" attitude and are finally saying "Ok, we've wasted centuries, so let's start doing this right!"

Are we going to make mistakes? You bet! Some of us will burn our houses down. Some of us will have our heads eaten by the spirits we try to keep. And you know what? That's just how you ATR folks learned to do it thousands of years ago (and still do today!) - trial and error. Eventually you got it right and developed a sophisticated tradition with full community support.
And there's a lot that I don't know, too. Conjureman Ali points out the following fascinating stuff that I really wish I understood better:
I must disagree with your speculation on the nfumbe of the Palero. The spirit that is placed within the Prenda goes through a nigromantic process that produces a powerful spirit that is akin to a non-blood ancestor, imbued with the power of the Rada and becomes a powerful force of magic and guidance. It is more similar to a HGA then the resltess dead.
So with that useful feedback, I'm going to go back and do some more research. Based on what I know about the HGA and the Supernatural Assistant of the grimoires and the Greek Magical Papyri, I have a better understanding, but I'm sure there's more to it that I'm missing.

And getting back to the subject of danger, Jason's comments about how there's danger, and then there's danger helped me understand what he was getting at:
Dispelling the dead who have been sent in a curse IS a fairly easy task. Dispelling the dead who have been sent in a curse where graveyard dirt has been planted on the victims person and home, and items from that victims person and home have been planted in said grave is more complicated. (BTW definitely don't do that. Unless you really don't like someone.)

Dispelling the dead who have been bound and chained into a pot and a persons life, in a mini universe overseen by a Nzambi, and given a full on superhero like transformation, not to mention their own familiar spirits (there is for instance almost always a dogs bones in the Nganga for hunting down targets) is a REALLY BIG DEAL.

Furthermore in some ways the victim of such a spirit would be LUCKY to have their house burn down. That is a huge wake up call. Most of the time it is slow and insidious and takes the health and persona in a long and twisted fasion that is obvious to everyone BUT the person they are doing it to.
So playing with the dead can be more dangerous than your average magic, and you should be careful.

And finally, there's Dhr. Balthazar's comment from this morning:

Well, it's not that all the dead themselves are necessarily outright dangerous by their very nature, R.O. Nonetheless, the way in which you work with them can get very dangerous. Our discussion was about putting together muerto pots, and as I have been saying, this is something that requires for special care to be taken.

Generally speaking, the dead are a specialised area.

Which is why in the diaspora and in Africa you often tend to find a class of specialists who work with them alone, or in separated sub-system, even though there are other spirits or deities whom are the focus of the religion, such as the Orisa.

In Cuba you might say these are the paleros and more broadly the muerteros/espiritistas. Whilst the Santeros take care of the Orisa. Although, most santeros are also muerteros out of necessity because of what happened in the Diaspora during slavery. However, in addition there are other entirely separate priesthoods for the Egungun (ancestral dead) and the deified force of death, Iku, specifically. One of my godparents is an initiate in this kind of priesthood, for instance.

Similarly, in South Africa you have Nyanga and Sangoma - the Sangoma specialises in the ancestor spirits, while the Nyanga on the other hand is a general magical worker with a focus on herbal magic and medicine.

What I am saying is that in many of these traditions the dead are their own kettle of fish entirely. They are worked separately and in an entirely different way. They tend to have their own set of rules and taboos even though they are almost always considered the corner stone or foundation of the ATR systems. In certain sense you are basically working with the principal of death which, you know, is kinda a big deal if you think about it a bit.
And he's right. I don't specialize in the dead. To me, necromancy is a part of the overall Hermetic Great Work, but not the entirety of the thing. In my practice, knowing how to commune with the dead is enough for my creative work with them, and knowing how to help them out the door when they've overstayed their welcome is the rest of it.

If you want to work the Dead through a spirit pot, you can experiment and take the risks involved, or hold off until you have someone you know and trust who can teach you and be there to clean up any messes you might make of things.


  1. I've appreciated the discussion thus far - especially because it's really made me think and examine (even quietly fill in a few holes in my daily practice). That's what healthy debate provides and it's sadly lacking in many occult forums. Thanks folks...from the new weird guy.

  2. Balthazar brings up a good point, working with the dead or the necormantic aspects of the ATRs often are highly specialized. To greater or lesser degrees various initiates will specialize in working with the dead.

    These individuals often appear as mediums and such. However, I am compelled to point out that the lines are not always as clear as he makes them out to be.

    For example the comparision of the Palero as dealing with the dead and the Santero dealing with Orisa (with many also dealing with the dead) does not exactly align as the two traditions aren't always comparable. In fact it is more accurate to compare Paleros to Paleros and Santeros to Santeros as this will be in alignment with the traditions that inspire and inform these practices.

    The Palero in addition to being a necromancer, for example, also deals with the elemental and primal deities of their religion through the kimpungulu, they are as much a priest as the Santero. Conversely as he pointed out many Santeros also are workers of the dead.

    And that's the point. Both of these traditions have a healthy respect for the dead and their power. They are only approached through proper instruction, guidance, and only after or alongside working with the tempering and cooling force of the deities (like the Orisa) and the ancestors.

    In my opinion a similar initiation exists in Western Occult Tradition as found via the HGA and similar concepts. If the dead is to be worked with in western occultism it should only be done through the instruction of once's guiding daimon and a teacher of necromancy.

    I must say though, Frater, you certainly know how to spark discourse.

  3. Ali, is right. Palo is an entire system with it's own deific powers working through the prenda. Although it has a distinct necromantic thrust. It's extremely complicated.

    What complicates it EVEN further is that in our line , for instance, Santeros are instructed to receive initiation as Paleros based on who their crowned Orisha is! Usually, if a warrior Orisa is crowned to their head.

    So in some sense these systems also get intertwined...

    Yet, they are always worked totally separately and with different means.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this discussion. As one of the Baron's illegitimate children, it's a topic near and dear to my heart.

    If I might add to the points made thus far-

    As a friend once pointed out to me, 21st century N. Americans, as a whole, have the least connection to the dead of virtually any people in history. If you're new to working with the dead, start by honoring them rather than trying to cram them into pots.

    Reserve an altar for your genetic ancestors as well as those who have come before you in the path you tread. Your lineage, in whatever sense you understand it. Leave some goodies there and meditate at appropriate times. Day/Hour of Saturn is a good start, astrological election involving Saturn and Pluto = better. Lunar eclipses on the Tail are also sweet for working with the dead.

    As far as whats dangerous and what ain't- so much seems to be matter of your natural trajectory as a magician. If the dead are a rank/type of spirits that call out to you, great. Work with them. If you like angels, super. Devils your cup of tea? Sweet. And so on.

    As we develop, we find we have affinities for certain families and classes of spirits. I wouldn't recommend half of what I do with planetary spirits to other people, but I'm an astrologer, I live and breathe planetary action. But there's plenty of shit people I know do "safely" that I won't touch with a 12ft pole. Affinity and experience are important.

    Finally, I'm a little surprised no one's brought up the hungry ghost/preta angle on the dead, or Chinese opinions and practices. I know the african-diaspora stuff is cool, but they're not the only culture(s) that's been working steady with the dead. Read up on Chinese funereal rites. Or better yet, go to Chinatown and get yourself some Hell money!

    PS Rufus, did you time your post to coincide with the Full Moon in (Saturn-ruled) Capricorn, or were you just the planet's unwitting slave?

  5. Here's a somewhat off-topic question, or idea.
    For a long time, I've suspected that groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses (I was born as one) serve as, basically, a means for parasitic spirits to have a large number of people from whom they can leach vitality. I say this because, in that religion, at least, the members are ALWAYS nervous, depressed, mentally and physically broken-down. The prevalence of chronic mental and physical disorders (but primarily mental ones - EVERYONE Is on antidepressants or tranquilizers or lots and lots of booze) is sky-high.
    Anyone else think there's any credence to this?

  6. A couple of thoughts I'd enjoy hearing feedback on. Just things I'm pondering considering the current discussion.

    One is balance. In my training in Palo and Santeria the idea of balance (of hot and cool energies, of earthy and ethereal energies, etc.) was really important. The amount of time and energy a good santero puts into cooling, grounding, and balancing hot work is enormous. Enormous amounts of ritual time are about purification, cooling and cleansing. I trained with people who worked cleanly and carefully (and they didn't attend rituals at the houses of those they considered to be sloppy). You would never just start working with a hot Kongo spirit or heavy/hot orisha out of the blue. I think when people dabble or mess around, they often don't know about or skip over the preparations that ground the hot work in coolness.

    I tend to apply this idea to work with entities in other pantheons, such as planetary angels or miscellaneous spirits that show up uninvited now and again. It is a way of protecting myself and keeping things orderly and working productively.

    Second, I rarely hear people discussing the use of entities to intermediate or control each other. When one has a core of solid spiritual guides, worked over time, they have your back. When one has an initiation to the orishas, they have your back.

    This really became clear to me with the HGA. If you a solid post-K&C relationship with your HGA - he has your back like nobody's business.

    A santero I know recently recounted a woman he met who had ocha made, who was scratched in Palo, who had three prendas in her basement, who was forever complaining that people were out to get her and ruining her life. He just shook his head - she has a fricking army in her house, and she doesn't work it, he said.
    So you can have all the tools and - this comes back to working clean and balanced - not apply them, and then you might as well not have them.

    Interestingly, because my training in Magick has been a little more trial-and-error and do-it-yourself, I have gotten my ass kicked a few times in that context when I've made stupid mistakes in evocations. Fortunately always good for a laugh afterwards, no permanent injury done. It made me appreciate the more the good guidance I got when I started working with the dead and other entities in the ATRs.

    Thoughts on this?


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.