Friday, July 15, 2011

More on Spirit Pots

So in the spirit pot post, I forgot to mention that "spirit pots" are a tool that comes from the ATRs, living traditions that have a lot in common with the system I use. There's a harmonic between the grimoires of the Renaissance and the living ATRs today. Some ATRs use the same grimoires I use, in fact. Some use grimoires that I don't use, but were around when the grimoires I use were around, like the St. Cyprian text. I believe it could be argued that the ATRs incorporated the grimoire traditions of the Renaissance, at least in part, and I think there have been periods of time between now and the 15th century where the only place grimoire magic has been performed has been in the ATRs, and maybe some small Dutch communities scattered across the Appalachians.

So, you know, respect to the ATRs.

The Hermetic practices I use are the syncretic result of the beliefs of Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, and Israel bumping elbows in the first few centuries AD. My personal practices are the condensation of the Hermetic beliefs as they manifested in the 15th century. I draw from manuscripts and papyri that have as much or more missing as they have present. Getting the grimoires into a working tradition takes ingenuity, insight, and intuition. Fortunately, it's guided by the spirits we work with, and they show us how to breathe life into some things that are only mentioned in passing in different places.

Vessels used to house spirits are mentioned in a few places in my studies of grimoire practices and the Greek Magical Papyri. The story of Aladdin's Lamp comes from the Persian magical tradition, which has stories of spirits living in not only lamps, but the rings and amulets more familiar to grimoire readers today. The Lemegeton has the famous Brass Vessel to trap the spirits, which shows up in Shaharazad's tale of the man who found the demons Solomon bound in a brass vessel washed up on the shore. The demiotic texts make use of a vessel for divination that you draw the gods into with various suffumigations. Mystics and magicians of medieval times were said to have so many oracular brass heads that people didn't even think there was any magic related.

There's not a lot of info on how the vessels were used, but for rings and amulets of similar functionality, appropriate herbs and stones were gathered and consecrated at propitious times, and put together using the same methods I described in the "spirit pot" post. But there's something that should be noted about these vessels I'm talking about in my Hermetic practices:

They aren't Spirit Pots of any ATR. They are not nganga from the Palo tradition. They aren't ancestor spirit pots. They are vessels used to communicate with spirits that function as high end talismans. My instructions are an adaptation in harmony with the spirit conjure work I do in my Hermetic practices. They are not instructions for performing authentic ATR practices, and using them doesn't make you a hoodoun, voudoun, santero, or palero in any way, shape or form.

What I've done is taken bits and pieces of different aspects of my Work, Aaron Leitch's inspirational notion that the brass vessel of the Lemegeton and the Nganga of Palo were related, and I've put together something that works nicely in my practices. My Hermetic practices. And it works really well, for a reason.

Early on in my work with my Holy Guardian Angel, I had the good fortune of being guided to the Dehn translation of the Book of Abramelin. I read this book at a key point in my magical metamorphosis. I had been reading Pow Wow, or Long Lost Friend, and I'd gotten my hands on a receipt book from a hoodoo worker. I'd been doing Angel magic using the Trithemius method for a good minute too, and conjuring the spirits of the Lemegeton's Goetia. I was doing a whole lot of conjure work, and actually doing the things the spirits led me to do to work with them. I was talking to Paleros, Santeria initiates, folks who were at least claiming to be initiates into Hatian voodoo, Curanderismos, Jake Stratton-Kent with his translation of the GV and during the time he put together Geosophia, and a couple people into things I don't talk about, and we were comparing notes about what we learned and the kinds of things the spirits have us do.

Then I read the Dehn translation, which included things the Mathers' manuscript had lacked, and it read just like the receipt book and Pow Wow, and it was exactly the kind of thing I was doing under the tutelage of the spirits. I mean, exactly the same kind of techniques. It was like everything came together all at once. The key manuscript for gaining Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel was a receipt book used by a conjure magician who would have been right at home with my circle of practicing practical magicians.

This put ceremonial magic itself into a whole new light. I was able to read Agrippa and see it as a living, breathing system recorded by a savant who wandered Europe gathering hermetic lore. I saw the tables of correspondences of herbs and planets as the detailed ingredients list for putting together sunthemata, talismans that brought together the harmony of Sacred Geometry, the Intelligence of the Spirits by Name and Seal, and the things of the plant, animal, and mineral realms that all corresponded to the Idea that was manifesting as the Intelligence, the Spirit, the physical materials, and the situations I wished to influence.

I saw it all in a big harmonious flash, realizing that the folk magic of Russian Orthodox and Crowley's primary goal for magicians were different faces of the same magical practices. I saw a single magical tradition that spanned from thousands of years BC to the present day, a tradition that includes the ATRs practiced in South and Central America as much as it includes the Renaissance Karcists, the 1st century Hermeticists, and the Ancient Greek Goes. We do the same things, gathering flowers, lighting candles, chanting, meditating, praying, orating, exorcising, and making talismans of various types to act as physical manifestations for the spiritual powers we work with to create our world.

Our traditions have always enriched one another.

Some folks are sensitive about it. The way the different traditions have nourished each other has almost always been through the conquering and subjugation of one people-group and their culture by another people-group and their culture. The conquering culture comes in and redistributes the conquered culture's property in ways that are most beneficial to the conquering culture. The oppressed culture gets screwed. Over time, the cultures blend with varying degrees of homogeneity, and become something different than either culture was before one conquered the other. The conquered resent the conquerors. Some oppressed people feel like anyone from the conquering culture who expresses interest in their beliefs is pillaging the intellectual property the same way the conquerors pillaged the personal property.

Think about your magician friends though. I was talking to Jason Miller the other day, and he told me about a meditational technique he uses and showed me how to do it. I used it just last night in my Thursday rites. Aaron Leitch's wife is an initiate of an ATR, and it was through his exposure to her practices and discussions with her that he made the link between his Solomonic experiences and her ATR experiences. I talk to Fr. AIT about Hoodoo and Alchemy, and we exchange techniques and tools through our blogs and personal exchanges.

Magicians of the conquering and conquered cultures did the same throughout history. The Egyptians and the Greeks had a lot of conversations about philosophy and magic, and they worked well together. The politics didn't interfere, the magicians made use of their circumstances to exchange information and technology.

Usually it's done in a respectful way, sometimes not so much, and there's always a group of people from each culture who think the result of the syncretism is shit and only their original pure system was worthwhile, and never mind that their original pure system is the result of the last time they conquered someone or were conquered themselves.

I try to be respectful of the traditions of others, because everyone doesn't see it as a single system that spans all space and time, with different dialects in place in different times and places. But there are more practical reasons for being respectful too.

You can't always just drag and drop, copy-paste shit from different systems together and get a harmonious end result. I called the vessels "spirit pots" and probably shouldn't have, because that implies they "are the same thing" as the spirit pots used in ATRs, and they really aren't. The creation of spirit pots in ATRs is a specialized process, and there are rules that need to be followed, traditions that deserve to be treated respectfully. Taking my instructions and applying them to your Ancestor spirits in an ATR kind of way could be dangerous, I don't know. I doubt it's any more dangerous than Balthazar warned in his post, but I could be wrong. I've been wrong before, once or twice.

And look, seriously, listening to me and doing what I talk about can hurt you, because for all I've done and accomplished and experienced, I'm not perfect, omniscient, or omnipotent. Totally fallible here.You're getting information about doing magic that changes the world from a blog on the internet. From a guy who thinks he's right about everything, even though he's got years of failures, explosions, and all kinds of scars covering his hands from playing with fire and metals provign that sometimes he fucks up. And I'm sure I've got some raised toxic metal levels in my blood from all the talismans I make in my garage.

I don't tell you to do anything I don't do or haven't done, so you can at least rest assured that anything you suffer from my instructions, I'm suffering too. I'm sure that will help make you feel better when your world is falling apart.

Now Balthazar accused me of dumbing down the spirit pot thing for Western consumption. I was hurt by that, as it wasn't my intent, and I thought he knew me better than that. But I can see where he's coming from, I didn't say all this stuff in the original post, he doesn't understand how it all came together for me. And maybe even knowing how it all came together won't matter to him because he's worried that I'm going to screw someone's life up by giving them advice that doesn't work in his experience, or he thinks I'm ripping off the ATRs or something.

My whole approach to this process is to present the Great Work in an approachable way, taking it from the realm of the impossible dream/interesting theory to the living reality. Some folks would see that as "dumbing it down for mass consumption," and that's their right to see it that way.

A reminder though, my intent in writing this blog is to get you to personally do magic and interact with spirits because the results will be you personally taking strides along the path of the Great Work. The sooner we all get it done, the sooner we can stop incarnating and suffering, or so I hope. If getting you to do magic is dumbing it down for mass consumption, so be it. I'm guilty as sin.


  1. Thanks R.O. I appreciate your clarification of this. I think this discussion is important to see in the discourse. My main anxiety was around segueing from the muerto pot caution to your application of pots. I worry that people think that these two things are interchangeable or comparable and that they try and assemble one of the muerto pots I discuss in this way.

    Some harm might come of this. I have seen it happen, first hand. I know you don't encourage people to harm themselves (hence your stance the goetic work of late) and that you work the pots substantially differently to the what we see in the afro-caribbean spirit work - yet, because of your mention of ancestral spirits in the post I myself became unsure what precisely you meant.

    In any case, thanks for putting it in context and discussing further.

    I'll post a clarification on my side also.

    Good post.

  2. It is interesting that this is coming up, I'd say there was a synchronicity.

    Myself and Jake Stratton-Kent are currently in the joint endeavor of writing a text recreating the spirit pots of Goetia.

    Both of us are of the mind that spirit vessels were far more common than we believe and that the techniques for making them are alluded to in the grimoires and the Greek Magical Papyri.

    Under the guidance of the spirits of the Grimorium Verum we have recreated the process of making the spirit vessels of old.

    I think you'd find it most interesting.

  3. I've very, very little experience with ATR's and even less with their version (perhaps the original version) of the Sprit Pot or Nganga, but I do see how creating one wherein a spirit of the dead or the spirits of that tradition reside could be brutally dangerous. I dont see how that relates very much with your original post the other day as those aren't spirits you work with typically, but I guess its conceivable that someone who is lesser informed could try to apply your techniques to the dead. And yes, that would be dangerous for them, but hell if misused or used in ill-informed ways, what part of what we do WOULDNT be dangerous? That said, however, I have and do use spirit houses in my own Grimoiric work, and do so with very satisfying results, and I've found them very useful in building relationships with certain "classes" of spirits, to wit, a "Fallen" Angel, A Khemitian deity who has become one of my patrons, and, yes, a "demon." Perhaps my own experience is the exception rather than the rule, but in several years of maintaining these houses and cultivating relationships with these spirits, I've never experienced anything dangerous or malicious. I don't think I'd screw with bring a muerto or a Loa into one, simply because I dont know anything about them and tend not to fuck with that which is alien to me and it just CANT be a good idea to open a permanent door to your life to something you dont know.

  4. Actually, I personally believe that working with the dead is a great for this type of work, if you know what you are doing.

    Necromancy and the dead are a strong part of the goes tradition that has been sorely neglected. We have strong indication that spirits of the dead were used as familiars and intermediary spirits that would aid the magus in contacting other spirits.

    The key is of course knowing how to go about it ;-)

  5. This is an issue I've run into as well. I make references in my work to such things as "Solomonic Ngangas" and "Solomonic Omiero" - which has irked many people in the ATR communities. (At least until they learn I'm not just some geek trying to appropriate their culture for my own benefit.)

    The fact is that I learned to make spirit pots and herbal holy waters from my interactions with ATR practitioners. I've never been so foolish as to think I've learned all their secrets - but that doesn't mean I haven't learned some useful material. So when I created what ultimately turned out to be similar to Hoodoo washes, with a Solomonic flare, I called it by the only damn term I had for it: 'Omiero.' (I always use the quotes and stress that my version is NOT one and the same with real Omiero, but ATR folks seem incapabable of reading and understanding those kinds of disclaimers.)

    The same thing goes for my habit of calling spirit pots "ngangas." I was not ripping off another culture - I was merely using the term for "spirit pot" that I had before I ever heard the term "spirit pot." I once had an ATR practitioner assure me that there was no such thing as a "Solomonic Nganga" anywhere in the world - even after I pointed him to pictures and blogs about Frater R.O.'s! But merely because I had used the word "nganga" he got all pissy.

    Today, I am more likely to refer to these things as "Solomonic herbally-infused holy water" and as "spirit pots." Not because I'm so convinced that "Omiero" and "Nganga" are the wrong terms, but because I'm tired of explaining myself to those who won't take the time to read what I write.

    In the end my message here is much as it was in my last reply: The ATR folks need to come down off their high horses and cut the rest of us some slack. We have FINALLY stopped bashing you for what you do, have FINALLY turned toward your wisdom and experience. Now you can try to grow up enough to accept our contrition and stop telling us how ignorant you're sure we are. Dig?

  6. Aaron, we're on the same page entirely. I think we'll have to endure being thought of as ignorant for another generation or two until the tech we're prototyping and refining gets a little more robust and a lot more widely used.

    I'm ok with that, as long as it comes with useful advice. It doesn't have to be secrets and oath-bound stuff, it can be a "that's the spirit of Death you're dealing with" kind of thing that tells us, ok, we need to get more info from Saturn to flesh out this piece of tech.

  7. Aaron, Balthazar, Rufus - your work has been an intriguing and supportive find. Fact is I am (forever) an ATR initiate, but my practice in recent years has been in Magick. Through the guidance of my own spirits I was finding an integration of the practices, and over the winter when I discovered your work it was a real eye opener to see that others had also seen there was some wisdom to be shared between the practices.
    I do think the ATR community has a long history of being disparaged and a long history of necessary secrecy which makes it prone to understandable defensiveness. It would be nice to see a more cooperative attitude develop in the coming generations.
    On the other hand, I think there's probably nothing to be done about kids who want some Friday night fun calling down difficult entities to scare their friends, no matter how many wise cautions are written (see any forum on the occult for numerous examples). Having an oral tradition and challenging initiation system like the ATRs do acts as a little bit of an idiot filter.
    My own opinion may change in the future, but the funny fact is I am much more open about sharing Magickal knowledge with others than ATR knowledge. There are very few people outside of the tradition I've shared those things with, and in each case it was a very experienced magician who had a calling to the work and whose first efforts showed results that said to me the spirits were engaging with them and inviting them to the practices.
    The above discussion made me think about how differently I feel about openness in the two traditions I have trained in. It's food for more thought.


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.