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!)
While reading W. E. Butler, I came across a chapter called The Kings of Edom in which he tries to describe evil. The premise for this chapter is that the magician must work on his [sic] character by rooting out the evil within. In order to root out the evil, one must know what evil is. It is a slim volume (entitled Magic, Its Ritual, Power and Purpose) so I wouldn’t expect the author to go into huge amounts of detail, but … yes, you’ve guess it … I don’t agree with a lot of what he says.
Firstly he states that: “The first type of evil is the innate resistance of form to force.” By this he means the concept of inertia or the restriction of free-flowing force, and here at least he admits that some kinds of evil are not evil at all. So, for example, Evil No. 1 expresses the restriction of force in the form of steam (force) in a steam engine (tool of restriction) producing positive results, which means it is not evil. Butler calls the results “useful work” … so any force I can harness that makes useful work is an evil which isn’t evil? This is therefore good? Oh, the grey fields of semantics that stretch before me…
Then, for Evil No. 2, he makes a rather extreme leap from the mundane example of a steam engine to the superlative metaphysical concept of “The Abortion of Space”, that space where “evolving life, finding no resistance, no fulcrum for its lever, may be absorbed and rendered impotent… ” (sounds like the town centre on a Saturday night to me). So I am at a loss to find a mundane example that would fit his idea of inertia that is evil… either it is a steam engine (useful and good) or an archetypal emptiness outside the bounds of description (bad).
Evil No. 3 he calls “unbalanced force”. He doesn’t seem to mean neutral forces that need a tool (magician) to be applied in one direction or the other; here, he speaks of a “perfectly good and useful force or energy [which] is displaced in space or time and the resulting out-of-balance is definitely evil.” Thinking that we might be getting the nitty-gritty of it, I read on to his next example… “The water in the bath is good, but the same water escaping from the bath and cascading down the stairway, is evil.” Now, call me pedantic, but I would call an overflowing bath an inconvenience or an annoyance but not evil. I understand the idea that he is trying to convey, but really … a bath. What about genocide, rape, child abuse, the petty emotional abuses between parents and children, between lovers and friends? Nope. A bath. How very English.
Under the banner of Evil No. 3 he also speaks of displacement of energy in time. He talks of modern civilised man regressing to a “lower and primitive level of human culture” (regression to the past), and of people trying to materialise in the present a state of civilisation only possible in the future (anticipation of the future). On a macrocosmic level I think that this could put a severe cap on progress, as how would any civilisation develop without those people who strive to manifest “higher concepts” now. He rags on pacifists (bearing in mind this was written shortly after WWII), saying that they are trying to manifest a future state of humankind in the present; i.e. we are not ready for pacifism so we should not attempt it. But this also presupposes that mankind would be capable of it in the future. Who is to say what state of civilisation is unattainable to us in the here and now, let alone in the future? This philosophy, in my mind, leaves no room for idealists, scientists, artists, inventors or even mystics.
Confusingly (to me) he states that these two shades of evil under Evil No. 3 are “positive evils” … but wait! There is also something called a “positive positive evil” which is manifest in “the existence of organised evil”. Here we touch on the “calculated beastliness revealed during the second World War”. Now the language may be anachronistic, but we know what he means. From here he moves on to say that, “All the old religions have taught of organised spiritual evil, and the Christian Faith has personified it as Satan.” After this he goes a bit “Atlantis”, a bit “Lemuria” on me, and starts talking about the psychic atmosphere around the earth becoming over-clouded with evil and that every two thousand years the Logos and Lord of Light transmutes the “evil conditions of the planet … into higher conditions and influences – a World Alchemy!” Naturally he is talking about Jesus, but I can’t actually remember any period of peace or goodwill following the supposed life of Jesus … war followed war followed persecution followed occupation followed crusade etc. etc. THIS is the world alchemy? THIS is the righting of balance? And since we are at that two thousand point of transmutation yet again … tell me, where are the signs for another such alchemical experiment?
Okay, so on a macrocosmic level, I think his examination of evil stinks. However, on a microcosmic level I can see some value.
Evil No. 1 (the evil that isn’t evil, remember?): The productive and creative harnessing of internal forces and energies to achieve some type of gain (financial stability, health, creative expression, happy relationships, etc.)
Evil No. 2: The uncontrollable abyss of anger turned inwards (an internalised abortion of space), the dark shades of depression, the feeling of futility in the face of a meaningless world.
Evil No. 3: In social anthropology taboo is defined as “matter out of place”, hence having sex in a Christian church is taboo but having sex in your own bed is not – in the former it is in “the wrong place”, in the latter it is in the “right” place (right and wrong as judged by the respective society you live within). So could Evil No. 3 apply to us when we are in the wrong place in life – the job we know is wrong but never have the courage to leave; the relationship we know is harmful but never have the strength to finish. And then we can also be in the wrong headspace: angry (which can be a misdirected expression of hurt or love or fear), afraid (sometimes an expression of the need for change against the overwhelming feeling of helplessness). So Evil No. 3 could be “matter out of place” mundanely, emotionally and spiritually and pushes us to question “Am I in the right place?”.
I also like the idea of regression to the past and anticipation of the future applied as evils to the microcosmic self. Briefly (because it is a simple idea), how often do we get bogged down in dwelling on the past or dreaming about the future without realising that the sands of time are slipping through our numb fingers all the while and we are not living NOW?
And as for positive positive organised evil … this is where I come unstuck on a microcosmic level. Maybe this is the meeting point between the evil within me as an individual and the evil within us as a social community. This is where evil steps across the boundaries of internal expression and becomes manifest in the larger community of mankind. Maybe this is where we decide whether to stay silent as so many did in Nazi Germany, to lock our doors against the screams, to turn off the television when the reports of war get too unpleasant. This kind of evil doesn’t need us to become card-carrying members of the Nazi party or to search websites on how to become a suicide bomber, all it takes is silence; the quiet consent. Here we encounter Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”; a choice we encounter daily.
So, this is what I have squeezed out of Mr Butler, and since his premise was one of microcosmic application, perhaps it was more successful than I at first supposed. However, it is still a very unsatisfactory treatise on evil, but an interesting exercise nonetheless.
Now, excuse me while I go and check my bath, one can’t have beastly unrestrained evil flowing all over the floor, now can one??
© starofseshat 2008