I have never called myself a necromancer. My doings with the dead as an adult I have taken in my stride as a witch, although my dealings with the dead stretch back into childhood. I have had no initiation and no training and so often my encounters with spirits have been cackhanded and unsatisfactory. Over the past 15 years I have developed a devotion to the dead and relationships with Egyptian deities who guide, protect and smooth the path of calling on the Aakhu, the blessed and beautified dead. I have listened, learned and experimented on my own. So it has been fascinating, instructive and gratifying to read Underworld from Theion Publishing and to find that what I do and what I have experienced so far is confirmed by the author, who is very obviously not only exceptionally knowledgeable in this field but is an adept in the doing. I wish I had encountered this book 30 odd years ago, but hey, things come to us when we are ready.
The author depicts the Underworld and death deities from different cultural models/mythologies, drawing a thread through them all without falling foul of New Age hodgepodgery. I have attended rituals where mythologies, deities and sacred symbols are thrown together like fusion cookery that ends up tasting vile and setting my teeth on edge. Not so this book which instructs through mythologies, shrine building, offerings and rituals how best to approach the particular deity and which deities require extra care and forethought. The author leans heavily on tradition without being anachronistic, and he/she also allows for sensitive developments and responses to the present-day world.
I have read before of soul-travelling to the Underworld, and how important it is to 1. seek protection of the relevant ruling deity and 2. to know the way (maps, passwords, monsters, traps, symbols, etc.). The latter in itself is daunting and also antithetical to my own experiences. For as long as I can remember, the worlds of Here, There, The Liminal etc. have been fluid; The Other slips through to Here, in Dream I am carried to There, in my mind’s eye I can turn to The Liminal … and the Shadows do not always remain shadows. There is nothing linear in my world for me to follow a path down from Here to The Underworld as dictated by some magickal traditions. However, Underworld (the book) suggests a much more accessible and practicable method for entering the Underworld through meditation and/or dream – read the book if you wish to know what and how … As a side note, the book may give solid instructions on necromantic practice and tradition, yet it is not dictatorial, instead it allows for people’s personal proclivities to guide them … if you want to leap in and learn that way, go ahead, but the author gives his/her experience-based recommendations that are absolutely worth bearing in mind.
A word on protection: you will need it. Underworld gives practical instructions on how to protect your space (think poltergeists, for example) and where to set up your space for best effect. Great emphasis is placed on gaining the protection of the underworld ruler you choose to work with and I would heartily agree with this. It’s something that should be undertaken for a lengthy period of time, in my eyes, so that you utterly integrate the underworld ruler and its essence into your psyche and thus instinctively call upon it even in your dream world. Sleep is a vulnerable time for anyone open to spirits; throughout my life, since I was very little, I have had times of being “attacked” by amorphous, roaming spirits that barely have any sense of consciousness except for a will to enter a living body. As any magickal person knows, the boundaries between dream and “real” are tenuous and permeable. But I would also say that some encounters with spirits are horrendous and terrifying and that’s okay… I read a comment in a forum recently where a woman was struggling to abandon the good/bad, angels/demons of her Christian upbringing. She essentially didn’t want to carry across the idea of evil to her new pagan beliefs. She asked if instead she could just approach “all spirit beings and deities” as neutral. She’s allowed to approach them however she wishes, but the responses she gets may not fit into such a beige remit! Some of the most glorious encounters I have had have been terrifying, and yet I was left afterwards with a longing for that entity/entities to return – ecstasy can be found in dread! I have received visitations from two different entities to whom I gave a lot of attention over a long period of time (in one case years). They began to manifest more and more tangibly until I could hear the one with my physical ears and touch the other with my hands, like holding onto hard air. And then on each occasion I freaked, I gave in to fear, and banished them because I didn’t know what to do or how to control things, even though in those two cases each entity seemed well-disposed towards me. And how I have regretted those banishments. Protection is vital, but don’t expect “perfect protection” to circumvent a natural sense of fear. Only the reckless and foolish feel nothing and rush in with a sense of entitlement. The rational mind is good at quelling fear, but it is also excellent at banishing, at erecting walls between Here and There. And this is why I would encourage readers of Underworld not to stop at reading the words but to dwell on them awake and as you fall asleep to encourage and open up a dialogue between you and the dead/deity as to how you should proceed further. The more you align yourself through the practices in the book, the more you will know how to hone that practice. I have certainly felt nudges to apply more effort, beginning with thoroughly cleaning and re-laying one of my altars that I had let go to dust and being more generous in my offerings …
But what are the dead for? Honestly, I struggle with this. The question itself implies that they are a means to an end, which feels reductive to me. Underworld speaks of the wealth of knowledge that the dead have and naturally points to divination as a way to access this information. As a teenager I engaged with a male spirit through bibliomancy. He gave me very accurate predictions and advice to all my teenage angsts and petty concerns. If only I had taken account of his advice in my actions, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. But hey, I was a teenager, who DID I listen to at that age?!
Underworld gives examples of rituals that ask for certain things from the death deities, certain very tangible, this-world things. I have done the same, petitioning the Neteru and the Aakhu. Some death deities, as the book says, are naturally inclined to help with particular things, others really couldn’t give a toss and you’d be hard pushed to make them take an interest (the same could be said of all deities – pick your allies carefully). Some say the dead themselves understand better the needs of a human living this life and if you treat them well, they will lend their bony hand. But it would be a waste to get stuck on merely what materialistic things can be attained, although to everything there is a time. The majority of my dead-time is spent in devotional work to the Neteru and the dead. Through that devotion (prayer, meditation, offerings, contemplation, art) they guide, they teach, they open my eyes to the possibilities of More.
“Through me shall you live, through you shall I live.”
Underworld is a fantastic book for anyone walking the path of the dead. It’s not a self-contained book, by which I mean that the copious information contained therein will spur you on, hungry to know more in both the cerebral and experiential sense of gnowing. If you read the words and feel the call of the dead, you will not be able to help yourself but to reach out and answer that call.
Underworld is available for purchase from Theion Publishing at THIS LINK! (This is not a sponsored post, I just really recommend the book!)
Thrilled today to find that Scarlet Imprint had posted a new blog entry with a field recording of Peter (one of my favourite magickians in “the public eye”) giving a talk on Armageddon, Babalon and the challenge facing us as individuals and as humanity.
Here is the blog post:
… do take the time to listen to the entire talk, unlike many speakers, Peter is very easy to listen to and the time flies by. I know that we are all attuned to 5 minute focus these days, but push yourself a bit!
The talk was interesting for me on a personal level for several reasons. Babalon entered my life in 2008; during that time she stripped me bare, turned my life upside down and threw me into a period of extreme turmoil and terror. After my last (and hopefully last) suicide attempt, I awoke initially peeved at the world, that it was still there and I still had to engage with it. A month later, Pomba Gira came down on me and I became her devotee. In turn, she has also stormed through my life, but in a gentle-raucous way, the way that extreme laughter can make you hurt but feel so good. So much has changed both in my head and heart since she came to me (and by coincidence Scarlet Imprint have recently released a book on Pomba Gira: Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold – I will be reading that after my current study book, Holy Harlots, Femininity, Sexuality, & Black Magic in Brazil by Kelly E. Hayes).
In the talk, Peter spoke about Armageddon and the need for magickians to respond (I won’t detail his talk here, because I really think you should listen to it yourself). All of what he said reflected my own thoughts over the last couple of years, and my own personal revelations – yes, on a macrocosmic level, but more specifically on a microcosmic level. And just as I have struggled with the concept of my own life being something I wished to preserve, so part of me listened and thought, “Is humanity worth saving?” Through my own studies in paleontology I have seen a distinct pattern in the life of the earth and its animals, and our own destruction, in which ever form, seems inevitable and justified. In my own mind, I do not see that Armageddon is coming, but that it has come, it is too late for mankind [sic], but not for individuals – as contradictory as that may sound.
I agree that there is huge benefit in learning a martial art, connecting with like-minded communities (specifically within the magickal subculture), learning how to glean our needs directly from nature rather than relying on oil-driven industries: yes, all of that is right and rather along the lines of “good advice will never harm you, even if it won’t directly cure the situation” (not that Peter was suggesting a “cure”).
But I am drawn once again to reiterating things I have been saying for years and experiencing for years. There is a need for us to drastically dispense with the trappings of our “social selves”, to realise that the persona we project is usually not who we truly are. Mental health is a case in point: where else do you see such a dramatic and often violent stripping of the social niceties to reveal the true bones of a psyche, often damaged by the demands and experiences of a sick world. We become the earth, walking examples of excessive stress, tired hypocampi, exhausted adrenal systems. We are ravaged and pile-driven, raped in the head, raped in the body – literally and figuratively. And like some inverse homeopathy we continue to feed the disease with more disease: as pagans filling our heads with fluff and saleable shit, buying our spirituality with the “must-have wand”, the matching cloak … all the while we are layering more and more plastic turf over polluted ground, allowing the pollution to sink deeper and deeper into our souls.
There is something in experiencing the head-smack of mental health WHILE practising consciousness and awareness, because you can bypass years of deconstruction and experience the polluted soul much more quickly than, say, someone who is stuck at the material level of life consumption and believes themselves to be “well”.
My last suicide attempt shook something within me and my health in very many ways has started to climb since then. It felt like a final purge of soul pollution, and even though I experience the dregs occasionally, I am in a place of construction and re-formation, aided by by the spirits of Lucky Hoodoo and my devotion to Pomba Gira.
I doubt I am expressing myself half as eloquently as Peter, but the point I want to make is that we, as magickians and witches, should not get stuck at stock-piling cans of peaches because I personally believe that nothing will save our world, and this is a natural cycle on this particular planet. But there is a microcosmic Armageddon playing itself out within each of us, and it is up to us individually as to whether we respond to it or die face down in the poisoned earth. There is more than this planet, and the transmutation of our Selves has to go hand-in-hand, or even take priority, over what we can change in the visible, mundane world. What we see is merely an echo of a greater reality; our microcosmic experience broadcasts a macrocosmic echo.
One night I was walking and saw a tree. Then I saw through the tree and experienced the essence that was expressing itself as a tree in this world. There is a dire need for us to find our own essence, the point of being that is represented as us on this plane of existence: because who we think we are, is not who we truly are. And if we continue not-knowing, that will be our own personal, inevitable Armageddon.
A little ritual work this evening, a medium dose of reading and a lot of ritual writing. Good to be back on track after a break of a couple of weeks – too long; I felt the spirits nudging me kindly, but enough’s enough and I don’t want to drag my heels and get a sledgehammer hint over my head that I have been neglecting Them.
A beautiful reunion this evening.
Ritual writing exhilarating as always. Because I find it easier to speak my rituals than to write them, especially if I am adapting from several books, I use a voice recognition software which can be a tad unreliable as I am very soft on my consonants (my German heritage is sadly lacking there).
This evening I was also adapting a meditation written by Ariock Van De Voorde in ATUA (probably the most vibrant and inspiring collection of occult essays in a very long time – more on the book at a later date – if you don’t have it and are interested in LHP or the Voudon Gnostic current, then you MUST buy this book – you snooze, you lose – and there is so much to explore!). The meditation is a method for approaching those hard-to-manage, obtuse passages we all hit against, here specifically in the Voudon Gnostic Workbook, although it could be applied to any occult reading. His advice however was interpreted thus by my voice recognition software as I read from the book:
Once you have either finished a chapter, or encountered a section that you find particularly obtuse, immediately stop breathing [sic].
… a little harsh even by my standards. However, Mr Van De Voorde had in fact merely suggested “stop reading”. Phew. Inhale. Exhale. Phew. I shudder to think how often I would have to cease breathing otherwise!
So a productive evening. I mastered bullion knots this afternoon and am a quarter of the way through finishing a necklace. Candles still lit that will accompany me into the Land of Dreams, incense still permeating the room … I felt the floor tremble when the spirits came. Beautiful Aakhu. Beautiful Spirits of Hoodoo.
I am currently reading Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry by Armando R. Favazza, M.D. It is the first comprehensive attempt at dealing with the subject of self-mutilation from a cultural psychiatric perspective. I am only about 20 pages in, but I already feel that this man has understood the concept of self-mutilation not only from a cultural and ritual perspective but from the perspective of a mentally ill person.
Many people, knowing either vaguely or intimately my personal belief systems and practices as a witch, question and frown upon my use of a crucifix in my practices, and the fact that I often wear one when I am in a particularly bad “demonic” phase. The fact is I take great comfort in aligning myself with the voluntary self-mutilation that the mythic image of Christ allowed to be imposed upon himself. The crux of Christian myth is based around this voluntary sacrifice, but the issue for me is not sacrifice for another but identification with excruciating internal and external pain.
The images of Christ on the cross have been graced over the centuries with a virtual delight in the gore and excruciating agonies of this man-God. As such he can become the epitome and symbol of a self-harmer’s attempt to make peace with the forces inside and to say yes to life; because self-harming is not a suicide attempt but an attempt to avert suicide.
Quoting a discussion about Fakir Mustafa by Graver, Favazza says:
[Fakir] feels [the pain] not as a foreign invasion of the body but as a sensation of the body that separates the body from the mind.
And this is certainly one of the prime motivations for my own self-harming urges – to demarcate boundaries between mind, body, and I would add, soul, to separate out the mix and to ease the pain of their co-existence.
Suppression is a beautiful tool which can facilitate the survival of someone who has lived through the unspeakable; but it can too easily become a means of self-destruction, where the emotions that should be focused on “enemies” is turned inwards, thus indeed creating a form of social self-sacrifice. Favazza elucidates this point:
Blood has awesome symbolic and physiologic powers, as evidenced by its role in religious sacrifice, healing, the formation of brotherhoods, and blood feuds. When harvested properly, it can alter the course of personal and communal history. It is my contention that some mentally ill persons mutilate themselves as a primitive method of drawing upon their blood’s ability to foster bonds of loyalty and union among members of their social network, to demonstrate their hatred of and conquest over real and imaginary enemies, to heal their afflictions, and … to set right their relationship with God.
Favazza discusses the subject of self-mutilation within Christianity extensively, identifying possible schizophrenics, anorectics and self-harmers amongst the martyr crew. He writes:
It is clear that the individual human body mirrors the collective social body, and each continually creates and sustains the other. Misperceptions of reality, feelings of guilt, negative self images, antisocial acts, and all the other symptoms we associate with personal mental illness defy understanding without reference to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical integrity of the communal “body.”
Which leads me on to the disgust, bewilderment and rejection that self-harmers continually face from the “communal body”. Favazza’s statements support my own experience of the anger, disgust and fear that self-harmers illicit not only amongst passers-by but even amongst their so-called “caretakers”. Nobody truly understands the self-harmer from a psychiatric perspective and instead dismisses the person saying, e.g. it must be a chemical imbalance, or part of borderline syndrome, or a way of getting attention. Favazza summarises self-mutilation amongst the mentally ill as a morbid form of self-help, but warns that it is nothing to trifle with and that for those individuals who cannot control the behaviour it may end in unsightly scars or even “the loss of an eye”.
Personally, I wear my scars as a warrior would those won in battle. When your insides resemble the direst of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, and your outside is that of an amicable, sweet and smiling Englishwoman, there is a sense of relief when your external appearance begins to resemble the internal reality. Naturally this comes with extreme forms of social and familial rejection. Nobody likes to see pain, nobody likes to be forced to imagine what’s inside the person wearing the scars. There are very few who would reach out and kiss the scars, saying, “There is beauty in such life-affirming pain.”