Global Mercury Rite

 As those of you who have read this blog for any amount of time know, I’m a big fan of Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery materials.  One of the nice things is that once you’ve signed up for the course, you will get invitations to participate in world-wide rituals, usually focused on some sort of planetary energy.  A few days ago, I received a PDF with instructions for a global Mercury rite to be performed between July 29th and August 1st.  So after getting Hufflespawn  to bed, I read through the ritual and decided to stretch the ol’ magical muscles.

One of the things I really dig about Miller’s rituals are that they’re pretty flexible and can easily be combined with other paths and traditions–or perhaps that’s also a function of OBOD rituals and the two just complement each other nicely.  I tend to set up an OBOD grove initially, then move into Miller’s script for the main event–and of course add herbs and spices as desired!  (‘Cause magic really is like cooking–it’s not your recipe until you fiddle it to your tastes.)

I waited until 9:44 PM, the beginning of the hour of Mercury, on the Day of Mercury, to start the rite.  The Moon was in Capricorn, and waxing/almost full, which should lend a more mature and stabilizing influence to all that Mercury energy flying around.  For offerings I used cinnamon incense, dried Nicotiana sylvestris from last year’s garden, and apple cider.  I set up the circle with eight beeswax candles and my own personal Mercury sigil, in addition the to usual ritual paraphernalia.

A couple of immediate takeaways:

  • Even the most eloquent orators have practiced their art.  I botched reading one section of the rite pretty badly.  I took a deep breath and delivered it again, and woah, there a punch there that I lacked before!  The story about William Jennings Bryan practicing speaking in the woods comes to mind.
  • Sometimes clouded vision produces rainbow or other sights of beauty–but to see clearly you still have to wipe them away and stare into the hard edges of the fire.
  • Steady breeze from the West during the entire ritual.
  • The following phrase floated out of the ether into my brain as I closed down the grove: “Three again, and three times three, As I will so must it be.” Now curious about repetition of 12 in magical practice.  Must go research!
  • Very much inspired to make a set of 100 beads for longer ritual chants.  Most of my rosaries tend to be in sets of 3, 4, 7, or 9.  I’ve consciously avoided multiples of ten since that’s what the Catholics do, but they tend to use repeats of five decands, so I think I’m good.
  • I can still pronounce Latin really easily aloud.  Thank you, Dad.

Definitely another ritual for the every-growing grimoire. I’m looking forward to whatever Mr. Miller chooses to tackle next.

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Thoughts on Spirit Bottles and Reliquaries

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Spirit jar for A., the Strategist.

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery course.  He has some great techniques and a sensible, straightforward syllabus that is an effective crash-course in magick and conjuration.  The lesson on spirit bottles is one of the most respectful approaches that I’ve seen, considering that many traditions have long and tangled histories around the practice.

One of the best things Miller does is get into the differences between local and non-local spirits, i.e., beings like the archangel Uriel vs. the nymph of a particular pine tree.  When making a spirit bottle or house for someone like Uriel, he’s so big there is absolutely no way that you’re actually going to cram all of him into that little bottle–no matter how good a mage you think you are.  What you can do is make a connection and give that non-local entity a foothold in your space so that you can develop a much deeper relationship.

Unfortunately, there is a very strong association with the term “spirit bottle” or “spirit house” and the practice of binding a spirit against its will to work for the sorceress. However, as Miller wisely points out, you really don’t want to trap a spirit in a bottle. If you’re good enough to actually pull that off, you’d have one extremely pissed off spirit on your hands. You’d be far better off performing a solid banishing ritual and pushing it out of your life completely. Why keep an enraged entity (who will eventually more than likely escape and wreak havoc on its jailor) in your space where it has a direct line to carry out its vengeance?

Not really smart when you think about it.

Then, there’s the simple matter of manners.  Speaking from my own limited experience, spirits do in fact have agency; they don’t necessarily want to sit around on your altar all day waiting for your requests. Treating a bottle or house as a place for an honored guest to visit is a much more hospitable approach; to say that the beings with whom I work are big on hospitality would be an understatement. When I use a spirit bottle, I’m seeking a contemplative relationship with the entity, rather than a power-over relationship.

Unsurprisingly, the baggage surrounding spirit bottle terminology has left me searching for another term. Dipping back into my early exposure to European Catholicism, I began to think of reliquaries. As a kid, I loved looking at the pretty boxes with the bones that were supposed to perform miracles. Looking at this practice now, from a polytheistic/animistic perspective, it’s a clear instance of ancestor veneration. (I’ve spoken with a couple of American Catholics who were frankly weirded out by the reliquary collections they’d seen in Europe, but I’d always found them rather comforting.  In fact, I still far prefer seeing a saint’s bones in a box to having to walk over their tomb markers on a cathedral floor. The latter has always felt disrespectful to me, and led to much hopping about trying to avoid stepping on various medieval cardinals interred beneath the pavers.)

Reliquaries do, in fact, serve a very similar function to spirit bottles, but with a very different set of expectations.  Often elaborate and opulent, reliquaries are at their simplest boxes with an object (relic) closely associated to a particular saint or miracle worker. That object is often a bone, but can also be a piece of clothing or hair. In short, it’s very similar magickal tech to a spirit house, which often includes items closely associated with the spirit’s nature, as well as tools for the spirit to carry out its work. Now, there is a difference in that certain types of spirits do not leave physical traces to include in a reliquary, but when working with plant and animal spirits, physical material is readily available.

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Materia magicka.

Thus far I have created one spirit bottle/reliquary (pictured above) for a non-Midgard being, A., from Miller’s personal grimoire.  There are tools and symbols inside the jar, as well as a map of where to extend his influence. On the outside of the container is a necklace with still more symbols of this being, which I wear when working with him in ritual.  The jar sits on my altar and once a week or so (more often if there’s other work to be done), I pour him out a libation.  He is fairly low-maintenance, and we both find the current arrangement satisfactory.

For spirits grounded in this world, I have materia for Turkey, Crow, Frog, Rabbit, Mugwort, and Datura.  I have not as yet designed the spirit boxes, but this may be a good Yuletide project–to reaffirm my connections with the genius locii of our land. (The other questions, of course, are of storage and display, and offering frequency. Making sure everyone is fed and happy can turn into a full time job if expectations are not made explicit at the outset of the relationship.  It’s also an argument in favor of not acquiring more allies than one can properly honor.)  Making the reliquaries is a slow process, both in terms of physical assembly and putting the whammie on the final product. Still, it’s one of the most worth-while magickal processes I’ve engaged in.

To conclude, one the the main reasons I consider myself a Druid is because of the emphasis on being in right relationship–with our ancestors, our landwights, our gods, our bodies, and our communities. Druid magick, in my opinion, needs to reflect this fundamental principle. Wyrd runs thickly throughout our lives, connecting us in ways that may remain hidden for years or even lifetimes.  Reliquaries offer a way to emphasize major nexuses in the web where our threads cross those of other beings, points that we can reinforce through right action and ritual. Eventually, with enough time and work, each nexus brightens until it illuminates other surrounding threads in our wyrd–ones which would otherwise be beyond our sight.

 

Pay Attention!

Time to get to work!

Wayland has been hammering at my door again, not surprising since this is the time of year when he’s gaining in strength. Cleaning out the attic on Thursday, I rediscovered the rosary I had made for him when I first moved to Massachusetts in 2007. Then, I ran across a wonderful post over on Patheos by another of Wayland’s crafters. And today, the rosary broke in the dryer (I had previously mended it in the same spot, so this isn’t entirely a surprise). Hint, hint?

From Boston with love.

Therefore, I think it’s time to get back into some beading. I haven’t done anything since the mediation beads I made for a friend of mine who was going through a tough period in his life back in 2013. And I’ve wanted to rework the Wayland piece for a while now—plus my mum’s been nagging me to restring a couple of her necklaces. This is the perfect opportunity.

In addition to the rosary, I found all my beading supplies while cleaning out the attic—eight boxes of spacers, clasps, pendants, silk string, tweezers, pliers, and a bead board. I’ve accumulated enough of a “palette” over the years that I shouldn’t have to buy anything for quite a while.  As a goal for myself, I’m not going to purchase any new items until I’ve reduced my supply volume by half. Nothing like some arbitrary restraints to inspire creativity!

Beadwork is one of the crafts of which I’m most proud. Ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to be trained by a jeweler friend in how to do pearl knotting so that even if my pieces wore though with age (which is likely since I use silk rather than beading wire or fishing line), only a bead or two would slip off. Yes, is can be a pain to cut everything apart when it comes time to repair, but it’s much better than the alternative of searching on hands and knees for seed beads escaping into the grass or under the couch. She also taught me how to use French wire for a more finished look. My pieces would still look a lot rougher if it weren’t for her guidance.

Bzzzzzz.

There are a couple of series for which I would like to do rosaries: the Planetary powers; the Welsh gods who inhabit my wheel of the year; Hekate and Helios, the patrons of my sorcery system; the spirits of my sorcery system, of which there are 13; and last but certainly not least, my ancestral tribes (of which I’ve done one for Bee). I’m definitely not lacking for options at this point in time.

So. Time for some more adventures in beading, beginning with the Master Smith himself.

 

Strategic Sorcery Homework #4

Consecration Through Use

Creation (March 24–30, April 13 & 14, 2013):

I repeated the steps for Day 1 for each sigil, which meant that I ended up getting a lot of practice with this part of the ritual!  I combined the creation of the sigil with the cleansing, meditation, and first-use components.  I unwrapped the canvases, purified them with water and fire, and left the stack of ten sitting on my altar until I needed them.

Each day, beginning on Sunday with the Sun, in the Hour of the Sun, I would draft the design during the morning planetary hour, then paint it during the afternoon hour, and finish/use the sigil for the first time during the evening hour (the exception to this was the outer planets, which I had drafted all at once in a fit of inspiration and then just painted during the planetary zeniths). I felt like this gave me a really solid grounding in how these energies felt at different times of day.

As I painted, I entered a light trance state, which allowed me to fully experience the sigil as it flowed onto the canvas. This combined steps 3 & 4, letting me meditate upon the tool and experience it with all my senses—the texture of the canvas under the brush and pens, the smell of the paint, the scratch of the Sharpies and gasp of the paint tubes as I squeezed them. There came a point with each sigil where the pattern seemed to almost float off the canvas, arching up to receive the final strokes of gold or silver paint that finished each piece.

When the sigil was done, I placed it on the altar and breathed in the energies from it, letting them gather and swirl around me. After attuning myself to the planet, I set the sigil on the altar to await its brothers and sisters.

There was a two-week gap between the creation of Uranus and Neptune. It was strange, but I just couldn’t attune myself to either Neptune or Pluto during that time. Then I looked at the calendar and realized that for some reason I needed to wait for the Dark Moon to feel those particular energies. It makes sense in retrospect, but was frustrating at the time. So I just continued aligning my energies with the completed sigils on a daily basis until the creative block passed.

Familiarization (March 30–April 24, 2013):

I kept the stack of sigils in my handbag, on my kitchen altar, or next to my desk with the daily “dominant” planet on top. (My 3 year-old son was particularly enamored with Venus—which I find hilarious since he’s a Taurus—and I had to keep stealing it back from him.) Each morning, I lit a candle in front of the stack and aligned myself with the topmost sigil. Then I would trace the pattern over the piece to reinforce the work.

 

Sigil Ceremony Chart

 

Ceremony (April 25, 2013):

On the Full Moon, Day of Jupiter, Hour of the Sun, I performed the following Ceremony.  I’ve been studying astrology for a while now, and I wanted to be able to incorporate that into my magical practice, but on a physical, visceral level. So the purpose of the rite was to anchor the sigils to each other in time and space, making them no longer just a stack of symbols, but living representations of the planetary energies.

After I established a working zone using the OBOD Ovate Grove Ceremony, I used the Cardinal astrological signs to stand in the Quarters: Aries in the East (Spring), Cancer in the South (Summer), Libra in the West (Autumn), Capricorn in the North (Winter) (I made the decision to align them with seasons rather than elements for various reasons). Then I asked first the Fixed signs, and finally the Mutable signs to stand in the circle, until all twelve were present.

Next, I lay out the planetary sigils around the circumference of the zone in accordance with the chart above, starting with the Sun and proceeding through the MV(E)MJSUNP sequence, to give grounding in the physical universe.

Then came the heavy magical lifting part of the rite, which was to take the tendrils of energy from each sigil and connect them to all the others. When that was done (and boy was the place humming when I finished!), I pulled each sigil to the center of the circle. When they were all stacked, Sun on top, Pluto on bottom, I pushed/collapsed the energy of the web down into the stack, binding them together.

I sat and meditated with my multi-part tool, just letting us get acquainted with each other. At last I thanked the spirits of the Zodiac and unwound the circle. The sigils are now arranged above my working altar, surrounding a painting I did to represent my work from the Bardic Grade of OBOD. Each day I pull one down and attune myself either with the daily energies (Moon on Monday, etc.), or with energies I might particularly need for that day (Mercury for good communication on a Monday morning debrief with my boss). These have become some of my most-used and best-loved tools.

Strategic Sorcery Homework #5

I’ve been able to astral project/journey since I was 10 or 11. It’s sort of a combination of “get-up-and-go” and “elevating,” and it was very interesting to read about other techniques. It was really great to hear that you should never lose a vague awareness of the physical body—in fact, this was the reason that for years I thought I was “doing it wrong”! So thank you, Mr. Miller, for your detailed explanation and “myth-busting” sections in this lesson.

I tried the tactile repetition method, which I found most useful when I was working in my permanent sacred space. Handling my tools created a nice pull for my focus. I did a simple trip to my outdoor grove in the conservation land behind my house. I played with floating a bit, something I don’t usually indulge in, which was enjoyable. One thing I’ve noticed is that colors (in this world at least) are always somewhat muted. This doesn’t necessarily hold true for visiting other planes, however.

Strategic Sorcery Homework #3

Druid Bugout Bag and Mobile Working Altar

The planetary power exercise took a cleansing ritual of our old property to a whole new level. The following took place on the 5th of April 2012, Day of Jupiter, Hour of Mercury.

Tools: smudge bundle (white sage, common sage, and lavender, the last two being grown on the property), dagger, hurricane water, salt, talisman (upright pentacle, seal of Mars in the center, Jupiter to the left, Mercury to the right–on a post-it note).

The working altar was set up in the kitchen, as it was the center of the house.

Divination as to the outcome: Four of Pentacles, Ace of Pentacles, High Priestess.

Process: First, cleansed the hose/drove out the critters, working from basement to attic (counter-clockwise on each room and level), by Fire and Air with smudge bundle, saying:

I cast you out by Fire and Air,
I cast you out by the steel of my blade,
I cast you out by the force of my will.
You cannot hide from me,
You are not welcome here.
Flee before me!
The grasping tendrils of smoke drag you away, far from this place.
By the storm of my heart, the flames of my will and the strength of my arm, I cast you out!

Then, purify and bless with Water and Earth, using hurricane water (from Sandy) and salt, again working up from basement to attic, but moving clockwise.

I bless and purify this place, by Water and Earth, of any stain of sorrow or pain.
May this home be blessed by the love of Water.
May this home be blessed by the gifts of Earth.
Pain turns to strength and sorrow becomes wisdom.
Shine, that the light of this place may join the greater Light.

The results were immediate. Both my (ex-)husband and I have been able to work in the house without anxiety. We also had a rash of new interest in the listing; this does coincide with the usual spring real estate boom, but it was waaaay more than we had last year.

Strategic Sorcery Homework #2

Kitchen altar circa 2012

1) The biggest challenge has been getting back into a daily offering practice for my house wights. I lapsed for nearly a year due to a new baby and PPD. It feels so good just to anchor to them each day, and know that they have my back and will give me that extra push as needed. (UPDATE: This has stayed pretty consistent over the past two years, even when I moved into my own place. I have added offerings to Brigid as patron of the Ovate Grade, as well.)

2) Meditation! I’ve actually started doing The Sorcerer’s Secrets (TSS) breath work while nursing my son. It calms him, and centers me, so everybody wins. (UPDATE: Yep, still meditating—though not still nursing, thank gods!)

3) Cleansing/establishing space. Especially since my husband, a chiropractor, sees local patients in out living room two mornings a week, I’ve found giving peace and light to the quarters as well as smudging widdershins help reestablish the room as family space, rather than healing/business space. (UPDATE: Now divorced, but since I rent a room, it’s even more important than ever to make clear psychological breaks between various activities, since many of them happen in the same space.)