… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Posts tagged “Hoodoo

When the shit hits the fan, what do you believe?

In times of stress and fear, we generally default to those beliefs and ideas that we feel in our heart of hearts are most protective and empowering – what you might call our “original” or fundamental beliefs. The agnostic in battle flings up a prayer to god; the lapsed Catholic makes the sign of the cross at a near-miss car crash; and the child seeks out mum or dad … presuming that those parental figures are safe and protective. Mine weren’t, so in times of stress as a child I fled inward and to the spirits.

I had an intense introduction to Roman Catholicism after my father left us. Before his departure there had been absolutely no religion in the family so I had had no boundaries around my psychic adventures, astral journeys and ghostly friends (nor did I have help when entities were not so friendly). I was able to unfold in as natural a way as was possible for me, up till the age of 9.

It was not at all a conventional Catholic upbringing as my mother immersed herself into Benedictine monasticism and so throughout my formative teenage years our family friends and visitors were ALL (no exception) priests, monks and nuns. My baptism in Germany, at the age of 9, was a beautiful affair: I was surrounded by a large circle of nuns between the ages of 25 and 90. I walked around and stopped in front of each woman to receive a cross drawn on my forehead with their fingers. It was magical. I had flowers in my hair. And frankly, it was all very pagan. My catechism was given either in the large gardens as we tended the flowers (all godly symbols explained through symbols in nature) or in a red boat as my sister instructor rowed us around the moat of this old German castle, which now served as the abbey home.

My devotion to Catholicism was intense (not least because I found safety amongst the nuns and everything about the castle and my lessons in nature appealed to the romantic in me), although (and this was a major problem) I had no place for Jesus in my pantheon, and I never understood the concept of original sin (helped by my confessional priest who refused to hear my “sins” as he said I was too young to sin and we should just pray together). However, my belief in Christianity crumbled in my teens for two reasons: one, I started to read about witchcraft and paganism and realised that this is who and what I was; and two, I began to study the gospels and Pauline letters in the original Greek. The latter was an issue because so much of the gospels has been redacted in English, changing female disciples’ names into male names, for example, because the established Church finds it too threatening to consider that women were equals in the early Church! If I had been lied to about something as fundamental as this, what else was poppycock?

But even though I abandoned Christianity (not acrimoniously because I respect Christian mysticism), and although I went on to explore and devote myself to witchcraft, I found myself still, in times of spiritual distress, calling on the Abrahamic image of deity as I had experienced him through those formative years. This puzzled me and frustrated me. But it need not have. Archetypes come in many forms, and the cipher with which our mind envisages the archetype is not always within our conscious control. Ultimately we have to explore and examine our beliefs and be totally honest about them. If I am cavorting with spirits and things go tits up, then it really matters what deity or entity I call upon because it may be cool to call on Sekhmet, but if your inner belief is still stuck on the Virgin Mary then you’re going to get an ‘up side the head’ because your inner spiritual integrity is split, which presents a weak face to the spirits you’re trying to work with. Some “beliefs” have deeper roots than others. Like gardening, our spiritual landscape needs constant tending. And this is also why so often in LHP literature, a lot of time is spent on deconstructing and challenging a person’s, generally, Christian faith. If you are going to choose instead to work with Lucifer, then you need to relinquish any guilt you might feel about that, because that guilt will bite you on the bum.

So, I’ve been thinking about all this recently because I am going through a really difficult and stressful time. Everything is in flux, including my accommodation. I am moving to a temporary place and my future is totally unclear right now. In fact, every area of my life is undergoing some kind of transitional phase. And guess what! I hate change. I loathe it. I am a fan of routine and predictability. I like a quiet life because my emotions are on my sleeve and I FEEL so intensely that it hurts. The only way to dull the pain is to maintain a staid and stable life. So I’m hurting right now. My body feels it. My mind feels it. And I’m noticing what I’m doing with all that stress … I am taking it to the spirits. I feel like I have come full circle to the little girl taking her astral journeys “back home” for granted and placing more confidence in the protection of spirits than the humans in her life.

My altar is like an eternal flame right now. As soon as one set of candles burns out, I light the next, muttering my prayers and invocations … ‘Let me feel the joy of your presence … come forth …’ Clouds of incense. Cups of coffee. Glass of water. And love, love, love and gratitude pouring out from my hands to the spirits.

Half my furniture and a large proportion of my stuff has been given to charity. A third of my remaining stuff is in storage, and the rest is predominantly in boxes. But my altar remains standing till the last minute and will only be packed on the morning of my move.

In times of stress, we default to what we believe in, to where our hearts lie and our foundation is strong … at least I do. I wonder if others can identify. Can you? And is your answer coherent with your projected identity? Or is there a split between your inner world and your outer persona?

©StarofSeshat 2016

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New “Who am I?” page

These are the contents of my new “Who am I?” page, reposted here for your convenience and as a heads-up.

As I stand on the threshold of 2016, after eight years of blogging here, I thought I would write a new “Who am I?” page as my last one had a touch of the “Feck off!” about it. The interweb can make one pre-empt conflict and overcompensate a little.
Having read other “About” pages, I chastised myself and thought I should create one that was a tad more warm and fuzzy. So here goes!

I would say that my formal journey into witchcraft began when I was 17 (I am now 41), although I had had copious experiences with spirits (nature, animal, human and other) for as long as I can remember before then. Witchcraft was both a home-coming and my birth emotionally and intellectually as a Woman. I was initially very much attracted to feminist and Dianic witchcraft which created a powerful, sideways drop-kick counterbalance to 9 years of Roman Catholicism (specifically Benedictine monasticism). I explored my soul crouched in the earth of wheat fields, gazing at the moon, or climbing through woods to a haunted Bronze Age fort that looked out over the valley where I lived on the Welsh Borders of Britain.

Between my early days and a significant ritual in my late twenties, I lived in Germany for a while communing with tree spirits, I travelled to New Mexico where I was adopted by a Navajo woman. Together we travelled the reservation, with me as her daughter and she as “shi’ma” (my mother). I fell in love with the spirit of the desert and the genius loci around my grandmother’s property. On my return to Britain I lived in Edinburgh (one of the most haunted cities in Europe, some people say) where I was often taken over by the spirit of Arthur’s Seat (an extinct volcano on the outskirts of the city) which led me at times to climb up the shear face of the mountain, in the dark, in storms, driven by spirit to reach the top and stand amongst a veritable swarm of entities. In my mid-twenties I travelled to Greece, Turkey, Israel and Egypt. My time in Egypt was brief but my visit to Philae marked my soul as if I was returning to a place I had been to before (the temple itself and the region bordering Sudan).

I realise that I am hot-footing it through the years, merely suggesting spiritual and spirit-based encounters, but there is just not the space here to retell it all. I guess the point of mentioning any of this is to convey the fact that I travelled a lot and wherever I went I engaged spiritually with that location.

Then came a time in my late twenties: I was living alone. My Navajo mother had died. It was Samhain. I turned my kitchen into a shrine to the dead, named and unnamed. I lost myself in ritual for about five hours, during which I danced with Death himself, shed many tears and was reborn spiritually. From that moment onwards I dedicated myself as “witch”, a term I would go on to explore in agonising scrutiny on this blog in its early days (many, many posts have been deleted, those included).

I went through my Satanic phase, my Luciferian phase … I searched and searched for a witchcraft that resonated with the darker shit that I had experienced. Wicca seemed too light, hedge and kitchen witchery too vapid. Now, I can admire what each of those things bring, in isolation, for others, but they just weren’t my paths, however neither were Satanism or Luciferianism. I touched on so-called “traditional witchcraft” but was put off by the bitchy, petty, superior attitude of the adherents I encountered. I began to explore Left-Hand Path traditions (this is a subject I write about a lot on this blog), and I gave myself over to this path for many years. During that time I crumbled psychologically and walked some very dark nights of the soul. I was taken apart and left in pieces. There was no immediate “and put back together again”. For a long time I floated in the blackness; I felt that my experiences of spirit were partially given a context and recognised by the systems I experimented with, but morally I was directionless. In my depression I went past and through duality to having no sense of right or wrong; in fact everything was pointless. I laid myself psychically bare and drifted. Every now and then I would see a light and swim towards it.

I learned about the system of Lucky Hoodoo by Bertiaux. I dedicated myself to the spirits, raised myself up towards the dark sun and became alive again magickally. This lasted about a year before my depression struck me low again. I recanted the spirits … and then followed a year of hell before I realised that I’d struck a contract I couldn’t go back on. So I rededicated myself and began to build things back up again. The Hoodoo spirits remain a part of my daily practice to this day.

Between then and now, I have been deeply involved with Pomba Gira while I worked as an erotic hypnotist. I learned how to siphon the sexual energy off of others to feed to my spirits. And I used this also to strengthen myself. Pomba Gira is known for raising women up from the gutter, especially sex workers, and I was so deeply face down in the gutter I had forgotten a world existed “up there”. She led me to encounters that were to change my life and the way I engaged with this dimension of existence.

It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that the last ten years have been a beautiful incline rising ever upwards and today it’s a “happy ever after”. The darkness still dwells within me. I struggle with it regularly. Being in the dark is a little like vertigo; it gives you a sense of standing on the edge of a cliff, tilting forwards, knowing what it’s like to fall, feeling like you could at any moment … but you don’t. Or sometimes you do. And that’s just the way it is.

These days I work with the Hoodoo spirits and Aakhu (the beautified dead), but also nature spirits (of land, plant and animal) and elements. I am a witch. I could be an Animist. I might have shamanic tendencies. I am open to any beliefs because I am now secure enough to observe them without feeling that I have to agree or engage with them. If you believe something different to me, hail and well met! Life is difficult enough without someone kicking your crutches out from under you. And we ALL have spiritual crutches to hobble through the dark times with. I don’t know The Truth, but I know truths and I keep seeking.

My path is not straight. As my blog’s tagline says, I am “a thought making crooked all that is straight”. This blog charts some of my thinking and explores ideas that occupy my mind and time. You are welcome to dwell here a while and share the journey with me.

Amour! Amour!

Seshat

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Who is my enemy?

Over the last few months I have discovered the joys and travesties of Facebook Groups (not an option I had explored before). I have encountered trolls (not directly at me, just generally wandering the cyberscape) as well as overly egotistical admins who ban posts, responses and people willy-nilly in an attempt to keep some kind of Aryan purity of group intent and clique integrity, instead of which they turn the group into a vocal platform for a bolshy few and a minefield of vitriolic filled eggshells for those on the outside of the elected minority.

In spite of these online shenanigans, which I’m sure you are all familiar with, the thing that has struck me recently amongst Hoodoo and Vodou groups is the prevalence of talk about enemies:

I need to bind my enemies…
Have you put up protections against your enemies?
Have you done an uncrossing spell?
You need an uncrossing spell …
How can I stop people from talking about me?
How do I bind someone’s tongue?
How do I find out who is working bad stuff against me?

… and on and on it goes. At first I was interested in the answers and the stories, before I stopped: Who are all these enemies? How does one get one? And for that matter, how does one get so many?!

Enemy: A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone. That’s the dictionary definition, but for me that is not enough. In my life, according to this definition, I will have made enemies; people opposed to me and what I do. But do I care? I believe this enemy relationship works two ways and if I refuse to “enemize” you by opposing you, well, then your opposition just kind of dribbles off into an ineffective, directionless waste of energy.

I have experienced bad things in life that have gone beyond gossip or people just disliking me; I have been raped, strangled, threatened verbally and physically abused. I have been in fear of my life. Once out of those situations, pagan friends have jumped on their boxes of judgement and out of a sense of outrage by proxy have insisted that I blast them with “my witchy thang”. But I have always had a sense of the precious nature of magick – it takes time, concentration, energy, and a little piece of me to work magick and frankly I don’t think the people who hurt me deserve any of those things which I could just as well put to good use (thereby actively benefiting me instead of just harming them) by spending time with friends, concentrating on my own wellness, turning energy to those who deserve it and save me for me and those who deserve to share the preciousness of my self.

So what I did was banish these people from my life. They no longer exist for me and I no longer encounter them. It is one thing to make someone suffer, but another to symbolically kill them and make their existence in your world cease. They are dead to me. Their physical death is irrelevant.

But if I met my so-called enemies with hate and spells to jinx and hex them, my focus on them would strengthen the connection between us. Hate pulls people as closely together on an energetic level as does love. If I really hate someone, then I don’t want them anywhere near me; and I don’t want to be joined with them etherically through my emotions which call them back again and again.

This is why in a banishing it is so important to rid yourself of anything associated with that person. If you do a banishing but keep a photo of them because it was “from the good times” and you are sentimental, then you don’t really want them to go; what you want is for them to change back to being lovely and that your relationship will continue. Banishment? Fail!

So I look at all these petitions and declarations about enemies and I wonder, “Why do you care? Why do you strengthen your attachment to that person, and therefore their influence over you by caring?” Protect yourself. Yes. Banish them. Yes. Freeze them out of your life. Yes. There are many ways to cut the astral cord that binds you, and that requires singleminded focus and belief that you really do want them out of your life. Or are you actually thriving on the drama? Do you like to play the victim as a sympathetic response can sometimes feel like being loved, and if you are lonely you will undergo many a masochistic thing to scavenge love-scraps from other people’s tables?

There may indeed be people who consider themselves my enemy. Cute. I consider them nothing … a breath on the wind. However, don’t think that I am forgiving, nor that I am a pushover. The fact is that I am a warrior, and I pick and choose my own battles; I have survived a lot and I will survive petty gossips and people whose tongues should rot in their heads. But if someone should turn against an innocent, against someone I love, then all bets are off. Once my anger is on, it is an anger with deep, deep roots and it comes in the form of Kali. I know how to be an enemy, but I choose not to be one. And those who would jump at my ankles and yap that they dislike me – shoo! You are nothing to me. You are dead to me.

I wonder if some of the Hoodoo and Vodou practitioners (especially the former) would learn to focus on more edifying things if they really considered the word “enemy” that they bandy around so freely.

Ultimately, as my aunt said to me once: If people keep treating you like shit, associate with a better class of person.

Sometimes spells, hexing and crossing work feels like putting a sticking plaster over a pus filled wound. You do it, it contains it momentarily, but the root cause is unaffected and you will keep having to cast your spells which will appeal to your ego on many levels: look at me, doing all this hexing! Look at me with all these enemies, I must be doing something right as even Jesus was rejected by those who knew him. And even Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” … But maybe you’re just a prick. Maybe your conduct encourages gossip. But do you really care what other people say? A confident person, content in their own skin, will walk the earth and be at peace with compliments and criticism because they say nothing (whether the good or the bad) about the essential essence – the divine spark within.

It seems to me that with all this talk of “my enemies”, hexin’ and flexin’ your mojo muscles, that perspective has been lost for the edification of your soul and spirit, for the purification and elevation of mind and heart. And none of this is so that you too can be the twinkliest fairy in the forest, it is so that you can begin to attune yourself in this life with the energies of truth and knowledge that will see you pass the crossroads without being challenged by Papa Legba himself; instead your heart will be weighed against the feather of Ma’at and it will be unencumbered by residual attachments to petty, human arguments and ego-fights.

So hate me if you like because I will cut you off at the knees and forget about you. Love me if your heart is big enough, because my love in return is more rewarding.

Enemies? What enemies? I choose not to acknowledge, and therefore empower, my enemies.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu

©StarofSeshat 2013


Hoodoo and the beautified dead (aakhu)

Tip No. 1: Don’t try to write a blog post on the Egyptian continuum whilst simultaneously listening to Eddie Izzard doing a gig in French and English. Zut alors, ma tête est fucked.

I have been working with the Spirits of Lucky Hoodoo. The basic system is surprisingly simple, although I would personally say it is demanding in that it requires daily input and is not something you drag out of the cupboard at full moons and high holidays. I am not an expert, so can only speak from my experience which is that the spirits require, and deserve, a continuous relationship.

My path has always pushed towards a life focus, not a cherry on top of the cake approach to spirituality. It is not something I want to put to the side or commercialise. I don’t want it to be a high days and holy days affair; I want a daily, hourly love affair.

I have read David Beth’s book Voudon Gnosis (the first edition twice, the second edition – which is an entirely different book – twice), and done (done? is that the right word? practised… followed… ) two of the rituals in the back of his second edition book.

Firstly I read the rituals through and as happens each time I have read a VG text by David, every fibre in me says, “Yes! That’s right!” Whereas, for example, when I read Ford, I think, “What a prat.”

But when it came to following (!) the rituals I hit against an internal wall.

I read somewhere about how occult groups, when working together, build up and acquaint themselves with a particular continuum.  They essentially learn (or create) a language which they use to communicate with, to command and bind themselves to that particular continuum.

I am not part of any group, but I have spent nearly the last ten years working with Egyptian deities. They are Home for me. They are the Dark and the Light. When I go off my path and start losing myself, I know because when I return to Them, I become whole and centred, at peace and focused – the feeling is physical and intense.

So I have spent a couple of weeks rewriting David’s rituals (still in progress); listening to the Neter/Neteru, incorporating my understanding of the Duat and the role of Osiris, Anubis, Maat, Apophis, Seth and aakhu. The fact is it fits! Nothing essential was changed, and it fits. It works perfectly.

Gnosis before Logos. The word must never be made from steel, but must bend to experience, and experience must bend again to further experience, ad infinitum.

One of the main issues regarding my interest in LHP has been that the fundamental objective of the Ancient Egyptian religion was/is to maintain Ma’at and avert chaos. There are complex rituals to empower Osiris in his battle so as to enable the rising of Ra again each morning – this was not a given, not predictable, but a battle on a knife’s edge each night. That dark realm of chaos and serpents which threatened Ra and life itself was something to be feared; even Osiris was not a sure bet to bring back the sun from the Duat, hence the rituals to aid him. So to attempt to work directly with those spirits that moved through the realms of “chaos” went contrary to everything I believed, and yet the compulsion would not cease.

But now I know the Duat slightly better and that there is a thin path there to be trod. The other day I walked up to town and saw everything resplendent around me in full summer glory – lush greens, blue skies, the light glancing off the river – and I saw death in it all, because without death life could not survive. Death is the base and the foundation from which life comes. There is indeed still a nightly battle to draw Ra up into the sky, but life is a battle and never comes without pain, screaming and crying; does that make pre-birth a bad thing, that to manifest birth there has to be pain? I know pain.

Today I wrote to a friend and said, “It may sound like a contradiction, but I have been considering suicide and also feel optimistic.” Although maybe my optimism is more concerned with the direction of my spiritual path than with Life per se. Synchronicities are like petals on a path leading me through it all.

I am aware that I, as a person with bipolar, am a liability and that most if not all magicians would run for the hills before working with me, which is fine. I have heard magicians and sorcerers say either in general or to me specifically: if you are ill it means you are a crap magician (I’m a witch anyway, so suck and swivel); and if you have mental health issues you must never deal with spirits (why? it just makes it harder not impossible, and in some ways I have the edge on someone who is sane and limited by the boundaries of their sanity).

It’s not about being gung-ho, as in my mind that is also a disrespectful attitude to the spirits and Neter you wish to work with, but I refuse absolutely and categorically to be told I should not work my Path as I do.

Who should I listen to? Magicians with a body-fascist tick? Or the spirits themselves who (so far) through answering and granting what I have asked for, give their blessing to the relationship I strive to establish with them?

Blessed are the Neter for their gifts of Heka and Akau. Blessed are the Aakhu. And blessed are the Spirits of Lucky Hoodoo.

p.s. Please refer to my Who am I? page if you have any questions regarding my personal affiliations, just so there are no misunderstandings.

©StarofSeshat 2011