One of my colleagues and dear friends is teaching an 8-week online class in Ancestor Work 101, starting this Saturday, March 1st. Last I heard, there are just a few spots left!

Galina is a Northern Tradition shaman, polytheist, conjure woman, and one of the best Ancestor workers I know with a thriving personal practice infusing her daily life as well as the work she does with her community.

More info below:

Ancestor Work 101: Getting Started

Galina Krasskova

Instructor: Galina Krasskova, krasskova@gmail.com
Recommended Texts: “Spiritual Protection” by Sophie Reicher
Length of Course: 8 weeks: March 1  through April 26.
Cost of Course: $125.00

I am going to be starting another eight week course in the basics of ancestor veneration: what it is, why we do it, how to get started and what problems might arise. This course is non-denominational (anyone may take it, you don’t have to be Heathen) and open to everyone. Lessons will be sent around once a week via a private yahoogroup email. Each lesson will contain a “lecture”, reading assignment, and homework. There will be a discussion group on yahoogroups for the duration of the class. There are ten spots available so if you’re interested, please contact me at krasskova at gmail.com as soon as possible to reserve your spot.

Six of PentaclesI recently had a dear client ask me if I knew of any rituals that would help him to sell his soul to (insert various possible entities) for fame and fortune. Such requests pop up in the boxes of professional conjurers all the time, but I saw it as an opportunity to explain some of the work I do in my practice, why I do it, and some of the larger ramifications in this type of work.

This particular client found me when he was pretty down and out, unknowingly having been tricked and subdued by a sneakily practicing partner into being super-submissive with everything from his own life plans to his wallet. Old-time hoodoos would say he was a bit “confused in his mind” in his displaying a lack of ambition and a blindness to his circumstances. The condition of being “confused in one’s mind” is often, though not always, an outcome of having strong love and domination work performed on you, if not due to an outright jinx with effects on one’s mental health. Gratefully, this client was in his right mind and sense of will enough to seek help and my reading was clear in exposing the spell he’d been under and the type of work that would be most efficacious in releasing him from it, as well as helping him regain a sense of sovereignty about the goals and ambitions he had put aside.

Within a few weeks after performing a spiritual cleansing routine, he moved out-of-state, started a new enterprise, and sent me a great testimonial about the 180 degree change in his life. Still, a bit unsure of his ability to get what he wanted through hard work and a good magical strategy and having heard from dubious sources about the efficacy of attaining instant life success through means of spirit trafficking (well, slavery, really), he wanted my take on things as an honest and ethical practitioner.

You can surmise my response to him (a definite “do not go forth in to that terrible night”), but I accompanied it with why:

  1. There’s an unfortunate amount of hell playing out in our world right now resulting from unpaid debts to spirits.
  2. Most folk magicians know the importance of paying what is promised to a spirit as not doing so can often lead to misfortune not too far down the road. A discerning practitioner should be able to realize what’s going on and right the wrong before things get worse. (Keeping a log / journal of notes in one’s practice is essential.)
  3. Serious spirit debts, if left unpaid, can even carry over into someone’s next lifetime, causing varying amounts of pain and misfortune, even as far as addiction, obsession, infertility, and mental illness, without someone having an inkling why.
  4. Debts to spirits can sometimes have ancestral components to them. In other words, an ancestor’s unpaid debt to a spirit (whether through irresponsible or forgetful spirit trafficking, or circumstances specific to a traditional and otherwise sustainable spiritual / tribal lineage) can be passed on to a descendant.
  5. Regarding the former possibility in #3, it’s important to consider that in many traditional cosmologies, souls are reborn again and again within the same ancestral line, meaning that we are literally our own ancestors and ancestors-yet-to-come.
  6. The latter of #3 can happen especially if a descendant is gifted for the work (spiritually gifted) and the recently broken familial / tribal spiritual pact with a spirit has been forgotten due to issues of migration and Christianization, or simply forgetting to pass on the tradition in a globalizing world. Despite the Western world’s colonization machine telling us otherwise, we’ve been quite silly in thinking that animism is just a toy that our ancestors played with that can be put aside for more serious and modern adult games (like corporate ladders, Candy Crush, and cultural amnesia).
  7. There’s no amount of spiritual cleansing, uncrossing, or protection work that can fix a spiritual debt. Ward it off a little? Maybe. But definitely not fix it. Some spirit traps might, which is the route I’m sure many very good non-traditional contemporary practitioners might take (making them very good solely by virtue of their being able to see such a condition being played out, especially if past life or ancestral contexts are at play). But it probably won’t solve the problem as a debt being left unpaid might just leave a void within which something else, possibly even a related entity, can come in and stake claim. Spirit traps as worked within folk magic also might not be big enough to trap something playing out in the latter category of #3 as such a spirit probably not only has the backing of god-knows-how-many-millenia of being honored behind it, but natural laws of reciprocity as well. The game really is in their court.

And that’s the thing – there are natural laws of reciprocity and we live in a closed energetic system in a beautiful cycle of give-and-take. As a folk magick, hoodoo doesn’t give much attention to the larger ramifications within the whole cycle-of-reciprocity-thing as its focus is on fixing things and getting results, but the laws of reciprocity are evident in the care a worker takes to ensure that a spirit is paid for their efforts.

A prime example is the popular offering of poundcake and a public display of affection given to the magnificent St. Expedite when he’s come through on someone’s behalf, or a glass of wine and a milagro (a recent payment in my own practice) given to St. Cyprian for aiding a person in their pursuit of justice. When you take from the pot, you have to put something back in, and some of the most effective spiritual practitioners I know spend a decent amount of time ensuring that their spirits are well cared for with regular offerings given out of love for their presence in their lives.

Offerings given to St. Expedite in thanks for his aiding a client.

Offerings given to St. Expedite in thanks for his help on a client’s case.

Of course, I’m not saying that working with spirits is bad, though it certainly isn’t as safe as some might make it seem.

What I am saying that choosing your words and actions carefully is of tremendous importance. Try keeping your promises to a minimum.

I’m also suggesting meticulous record-keeping because “Oops, I forgot” doesn’t fix things after the shit hits the fan (though “I’m sorry, please forgive me” can go a long way toward righting wrongs and mending relationships).

I’m suggesting that you discern your helping spirits from the spirits you simply have an affinity for and work well with from the spirits you’re just working with for the time being or toward a specific goal. These differences matter and may keep you from asking for help from spirits who have less loyalty toward you and might be less likely (or even able) to help while you have spirits close by who are just waiting for you to call upon their aid (and will probably be more forgiving if you mess up, which happens from time to time – we’re human).

I’m also suggesting that you give offerings. Give offerings plentifully to your helping spirits and those spirits that you have an affinity for and work well with. Give bountiful offerings and simple offerings. Regular offerings mean so much more than once-in-a-blue-moon offerings, much like how that friend that you call weekly will be closer to you than the one you send a big present to once a year. And consider giving offerings to the spirit of your home, to the spirits of the land, and the spirits of natural forces in your environment. Or just do it, really, because this is the necessary work.

Gratefully, the work of resolving a serious spirit debt in a good way is often entirely possible – the scales want to be balanced in our world. The greatest hindrance lies in the lack of diagnosis, or our culture simply not seeing this as an issue or possible condition. If a situation is really out of hand, energetic static or even spiritual influence may get in the way of divination and diagnosis, so ensuring that one has guardians or sorcery specifically focused on their work of divination and seership can help one see through thicker patches of an issue and get to the underlying reason behind an unfortunate condition.

My own initiatory helping spirit caused me a few headaches until a wise colleague and mentor pointed out that this very issue was probably what I was facing. Not only was I able to resolve it so that our relationship could move forward in a good way, but in the work of resolution I was shown many of the pitfalls that others before me had gotten lost in when hearing Her call, ultimately missing out on what are arguably the most beneficial parts of Her medicine in the grander scope of things.

And speaking of the grander scope of things, the imperative toward ayni (a term roughly translated as “right relationship” from the Quechua language) is a constant; it always has been and always will be. This is the reason that so many of our ancestors had songs for the elements and forces of nature – we are supported by so many allies, both seen and unseen. As a society, we need to get back into the flow and remember, because -

We are profoundly out of balance with land and nature spirits.

We are profoundly out of balance with the helping spirits that aided our ancestors through famine and storm.

We are profoundly out of balance as a society in our denial and denigration of the medicine brought by certain communities and demographics toward gender, sex, ability, and collective ancestral human wholeness.

And, in our denial of our own gifts and in our confusion around our individual life purposes, we are profoundly out of balance within ourselves.

But ayni? Ayni is beautiful. Ayni is glorious. Maintaining right relationship is what makes my work so successful, especially the stickiest, most knotted parts that simply cannot be undone without the aid of the spirits that walk with me. We can accomplish so much more as individuals and as a community when we are in right relationship with the world around us than when we are not. As humans, it is up to us to re-member and tilt the scales back to a state of balance.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” – Psalm 133:1-3, KJV

A big thank you to everyone for your patience with e-mails and with my participation in the Pagan Blog Project after the recent passing away of my dear friend and mentor, Dr. E. / Hyperion / Eddy Gutierrez, whose encouragement was the inspiration for the founding of Conjure in the City almost 3.5 years ago. He is missed by many.

Dr. E.

Tomorrow (Monday) night at 8pm EST, I’ll be a guest on the deservedly popular Candelo’s Corner podcast with host Candelo Kimbisa talking about Dr. E. and, I’m sure, a number of other topics pertaining to conjure, shamanism, and Earth-based wisdom traditions.

I look forward to you joining us!

Blessings,
Khi Armand

Pagan Blog Project 2014

I’ve decided to join a host of other bloggers doing the Pagan Blog Project for 2014.

“What’s Paganism?” you ask? “Pagan” is an umbrella term used in the Western world (the United States, especially) for those whose spiritual practices are Earth-based – especially those practitioners who are practicing a neo- or revivalist form of European spiritual practice. From the Latin root paganus (meaning “person who lives in a rural area”), it is a contested term that takes into consideration various notions of ethnic origin, geography, and continuity of practice relating both to the type of Earth-based spiritual technology being utilized and the practitioner themselves. Generally speaking, the term Pagan would not be used to denote the practices of an indigenous or African-diasporic Traditional Religion (i.e. – Vodou, Santeria, Quimbanda) though the spiritual technologies used (i.e. – Earth-based magick, ritual, ceremony, etc.) may be similar to those traditions who more accurately fall under the Pagan umbrella (i.e. – Wicca, Asatru, Heathenry, Eclectic Witchcraft, etc.). It is most often used by those who consider themselves to be reclaiming an Earth-based spiritual practice or identity in the sociopolitical sense of the word (rather than those from cultures or societies that never abandoned magical practices in the first place). One may consider themselves to be Pagan while indeed incorporating practices from indigenous or diasporic traditions wholeheartedly or in part – personal preference matters a great deal here, too.

So – is Hoodoo Pagan? Technically, no, though it is gaining a great deal of popularity in the Pagan community due to it being a practical and direct form of Earth-based magical technology with a quite broad yet succinct sense of correspondence in the use of materia magica. Congolese (indigenous African) traditions form the basis of Hoodoo and the form of Protestant Christianity practiced by Blacks in the Southern United States have guided both its survival and evolution over the past 400 years on Western soil. During this time, American Indian, Dutch-Germanic, Jewish Kabbalistic, and East Asian technologies have entered Hoodoo as diverse populations interacted throughout the nation, but its primary practitioners – who may call it “rootwork,” “workin’ roots,” “conjure,” “work,” “that stuff,” or even “goodness” – have always been Black American Protestant Christians.

Hoodoo is an Earth-based magical tradition grounded in the Black Protestant tradition of the Southern United States.

Hoodoo is an Earth-based magical tradition grounded in the Black Protestant tradition of the Southern United States.

But more and more Pagans are practicing Hoodoo as its emphasis on practical magic (rather than spiritual devotion, relationship with a particular pantheon, or general spiritual enlightenment) is sorely needed in a world that is, well, practical. People need money, love, luck, success, and want to make their desires manifest. They also need concrete techniques for unraveling nasty curses, increasing their own psychic and intuitive skills, and working with the dead. Though many Pagan traditions espouse spellwork toward these goals, attaining them is not their focus, and the farther a Neo-Pagan tradition is from its original source material, the less likely it is to have an intact materia magica to draw on and, frankly, people just start making up plant correspondences or start drawing from (and virulently defending) dubious sources. Hoodoo’s embedded history of cross-cultural influences also lends it a malleability not found in Pagan traditions grounded in a specific religious cosmology – because Hoodoo isn’t a religion. It’s magick. Workin’ roots. Clean and simple.

Unfortunately, as Hoodoo becomes more popular outside of its culture-bearing demographic, it is quickly having its story rewritten in favor of a long-held insidiously subconscious political agenda that affects us all in the United States toward shunning the non-White origins of things that are considered to be of value. Teachers are writing whole books about Hoodoo that leave out the fact that it is a living magical tradition grounded in the experience of Black U.S. Americans and rootwork business proprietors’ “About” pages conveniently leave this fact out even though it in no way disenfranchises them from practicing or being successful at this craft. It’s simply about giving credit where credit is due – to the resilience of a people who arrived in this country in chains and whose descendants survived centuries of oppression, partly due to their ability to hold a pluralistic worldview combining the fervor and faith of their ancestors with the theology of their oppressors. That’s no easy task and we should be grateful to these folks for ensuring that the wisdom of this powerful tradition survived into the 21st century. Let’s not take more away from them than has already been taken.

As for me, I didn’t grow up practicing Hoodoo. Raised in urban New York City, my family is of the kind that had pretty much given up folk practices at least a few generations back. My introduction to magick and the world of the spirits was through Neo-Pagan traditions like Wicca and the Reclaiming Tradition which gave me a window through which I could understand my burgeoning spiritual gifts during my adolescence and a cosmology through which I could participate in the Earth’s cycles and perform faith-based actions at the intersection of ecology, social justice, and cultural myth utilizing my newfound understanding of the aliveness of the Earth and the reality of the Unseen World.

Books like Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon were integral to my growth as a spiritual adult and ignited a fire within me to replace that which I had lost in my decision to walk away from more mainstream religious traditions. I went on to lead numerous Sabbat rituals and to teach Neo-Pagan tenets in college. My participation in the broader American Pagan community continues to this day because I’m passionate about counterculture, I love being engaged with people who are living bold and creative lives, I believe in the reclamation of that which has been forgotten, and because the gods and spirits are real and it is time for us all to re-member the web. Though we come from lineages broken, intact, rewoven, and newly invented, we are all headed in the same direction and are writing the New Story together.

I look forward to posting weekly this year starting this Friday and to your comments and questions posted directly to this blog or e-mailed to me at khi@conjureinthecity.com. I’ll be staying engaged with the other participants and look forward to having a productive dialogue on magical techniques, spiritual growth, and the beauty of Earth-based traditions as we’ve come to understand, craft, and further them.

Happy New Year!

Blessings,
Khi Armand

regret

It’s the New Year – and you’re ready for it.

Wikipedia says 2014 will be a common year, but I think we can prove them wrong. ;-)

In all seriousness, the New Year really is a mere few days away and, in the lives of most around me, the tumultuous winds brought to us by the December, 2012 shift have died down into a reflective lull signifying either full integration of the year’s transformative lessons or a more “eye of the storm” pause for recuperation, recharging, and re-weaponizing for what’s ahead.

With the holidays behind us and both family and social dynamics fully on-display for our consideration, we’re left with the task of considering what has served us these past 12 months, what serves us moving forward, and, at the core of it all, the question “Am I truly being who I came here to be?”

Circumstances help mould and shape us based on the decisions we make in response to them and the decision to change whatever isn’t working in ourselves and in the world around us is the first step toward transformation. Gratefully, there’s so much help available to us in the form of signs from our guiding spirits, perspectives from plant and animal medicines, and our innate ability to simply tune-in to our heart’s yearnings and begin to move in that direction – even if the goings are slow at first.

In the style of many New Year’s encouraging to-do lists, I offer my own seven below:

  • Readings at Conjure in the City are discounted thru Friday, January 3rd.

    Readings at Conjure in the City are discounted thru Friday, January 3rd.

    Get a Spiritual Reading & Consultation. Spiritual Readings at Conjure in the City are discounted through Friday, Jan. 3rd, so it’s a great time to check-in about what awaits you in the New Year, how rootwork and shamanic healing can help you reach your goals, and receive guidance on how to integrate the lessons this year brought you so you can close the book and start a fresh chapter. If you run a business, are a creative, or are simply starting a new project or endeavor, you can also hire me on retainer to receive guidance and conjure work bi-weekly or monthly to aid in your success!

  • Cleanse yourself. Cleansing baths are one of my favorite ways to start fresh and ensure that my energy body is unaffected by the outside world and that I’m in alignment with the most positive forces of luck and blessing in the Universe. Hyssop, Rue, Rosemary, Lemongrass, and Salt are all very popular botanical and mineral medicines in the Hoodoo tradition for spiritual cleansing. Really, though – take one. Three. Seven. Nine. Or thirteen in a row. You’ll know when you’re good.
  • Cleanse your home. Many people perform a New Year’s rite of renewal in their homes and businesses which may be as simple as sweeping the floor from the back of the space to the front – and right out the door. You can up the ante with a preparation of Chinese Wash, a staple in the Hoodoo tradition for space cleansing. Simply prepare a floorwash and mop (or sweep if your space is carpeted) from the back to the front of your space, paying extra attention to thresholds and windowsills. Then, prepare a floorwash using an infusion of oils and / or herbs known for attracting the kinds of ideals you seek and wash the walkway leading up to the front door of your abode in an inward-fashion. Bayberry is known for helping with cashflow while Thyme is known for helping to keep that which comes in. Rose, of course, can be a wonderful aid for nourishing love (including self-love) while Cinnamon is known for being helpful in all types of attraction work. (And in lieu of Chinese Wash, a simple tea of Lemongrass would do quite nicely.)
  • Keep up-to-date. Astrology has long been an important aid for me to not only schedule my rootwork, but for understanding myself and the world around me. Compared to most other celestial bodies, our home planet is actually rather small and our even smaller Moon’s orbit affects the tides of oceans and rivers. Humans are, on average, made up of about 70% water, so it’s easy to see how the pull of celestial bodies affects us and our interactions as well. Stay on top of astrological happenings with the monthly forecasts of Susan Miller over at Astrology Zone and the poetic weekly horoscopes of Rob Brezsny at Free Will Astrology. Both are helpful guides for monitoring your own cycles and for planning ahead.
  • Change your ringtone. It’s funny how some songs elicit a sarcastic response from people due to their optimism. Put the snark aside for a month or two and brave the possible laugh with a ringtone change to one of your favorite uplifting songs that’ll remind you that it’s a new day and you have the power to change whatever circumstance is muting your heart’s true song. Your iTunes too emo? Consider Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Vitamin C’s sunshine-y Put a Smile On Your Face or, one of my personal favorites, Jamiroquai’s Use the Force. Remember: perception is everything.

    Lake

    A game of perception. How are you viewing possibility in your life?

  • Get involved. A lack of passion marks our age of consumerism and without a sense of where the fire is that we are called to tend and be warmed by, it’s easy to mistake the ease / status / practicality / security of mundanity and being in societal flow for purpose when, indeed, we may be being called to engage in something that puts our hearts (or even our lives) at risk. Start engaging somewhere: the community theatre or choir, the suicide hotline, the local pantry, or the shut-in service in your county. Find something that tugs at your heartstrings and go be a part of it. In the words of the author and theologian Howard Thurman, “‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
  • Be human. One of my favorite podcasts as of late is Why Shamanism Now? by the esteemed shaman Christina Pratt of Last Mask Center. Though developing shamanic skills is the topic of some of her shows, her real aim is toward helping us become more human in an age of false ideas of progress where-in we are encouraged to imagine ourselves as post-human before remembering what the glorious call to be human even means. I strongly recommend her podcast to anyone interested in living life with more heart, more connection, and less fear and isolation.

May Abundance and Joy accompany you in 2014!

Blessings,
Khi Armand

Hoodoo-Magic-Ancestor-Altar-Spirit-Guides-BovedaAfter receiving such a great response from this past week’s “Hoodoo + Conjure 101: American Folk Magick Series” lecture at Catland Books in Brooklyn, NY, I’m even more excited to launch:

Hoodoo – Conjure – Rootwork
A Hands-On Apprenticeship in African-American Folk Medicine & Magic

(9) Sundays, January 12 – March 30, 2014 @ Catland Books,Brooklyn, NY
Registration fee is $400. Class size is limited.

Some payment arrangements are available.

  • weekly readings & discussions
  • hands-on crafting of folk medicinal + magical objects including oils, baths, washes, powders, and talismans
  • home & field assignments
  • emphasis on discovering your own specialties in conjure and spiritual service
  • shamanic approach to building spiritual alliances
  • geared towards building your personal apothecary and formulary

In this 9-week immersion, you’ll learn the practical application of herbs, roots, stones, and bones along with techniques and tools for dreaming, divination, and mediumship. Class requires  (2) texts – other reading materials and most supplies provided.

Apprenticeship will be taught by Khi Armand, a neo-traditional shaman, macumbeiro, and professional hoodoo rootdoctor. He has studied and apprenticed with North American shamans, medicine people, and ethnomagicologists for nearly a decade and holds an MA in Performance Studies from Tisch @ NYU.

Apply today!

This is going to be an incredible experience for everyone involved as we investigate the history and politics of folk magic and folk doctoring in the U.S. from the 17th century to the current day, broader indigenous philosophies and epistemologies of well-being, magical ethics and the ethics of spiritual service, and our own unique spiritual gifts and how to make the best use of them alongside practical crafting of folk medicinal and magical tools and objects for our own use and to aid those in our communities.

For more information, e-mail khi@conjureinthecity.com.

hoodoo

Starting Dec. 11th @ 7pm, I’ll be be teaching a series of lectures and workshops on hoodoo, rootwork, and Southern African-American Conjure at Catland Books in Brooklyn, NY!

The description reads: “Hoodoo – also known as “rootwork” and “conjure” – is a tradition of practical magic grounded in the African-American experience of the Southern USA and magical techniques of the Congo.

With a comprehensive materia magica and syncretic practices borrowed from American Indian herbal medicine, Jewish mysticism, Pennsylvania Dutch pow-wow, and East Asian lore, Hoodoo remains the only magical tradition unique to the USA.

So, how does one get their mojo workin’? Did Tommy Johnson really sell his soul to the Devil at the crossroads…and can you? Is your nature tied? Are you sanctified…or did somebody lay tricks in your tracks?

Lecture Fee: $10

This lecture is part one in a series of practical magick lecture-workshops meant to equip the participant with:

:: a history of hoodoo, rootwork, and the tradition of Southern African-American Conjure

:: an understanding of neighboring “New World” traditions and their influence on the folk magick practices of the USA throughout the 20th century

:: a working knowledge of the materia magica of hoodoo – herbs, roots, bones, dirts, colognes, and perfumes – and their application toward crafting effective magical workings, baths, floor washes, incenses, doll-babies, sachet powders, and condition oils

Upcoming Workshops include:
- Protection & Reversing Work
- Hoodoo Your Love: Sex, Romance, & Reconciliation
- Graveyard Work: Conjure with the Dead

…and more!”

You can find details about the event here!

Blessings,
Khi Armand