A Hamatsa shaman in trance.

A Hamatsa shaman in trance.

I opened my inbox a few weeks ago to find an invitation to a ritual from friends to celebrate the Apotheosis of Ariadne – the transformation of the mythical Greek princess into a deity, as per the stories told about her.

As I perused the invitation and the suggested guidelines for those who might wish to celebrate at home on their own time, my heart jumped into my throat upon reading the second of the three stages that mapped the goddess’s journey from the Mistress of the Labyrinth to her discovery and awakening by the god Dionysos.

Around midnight, in the darkest hour, “The theme is Ariadne abandoned on Naxos.

It was just over a year ago that a Skype session with a friend jumpstarted my shaman sickness with her in California and me in my hostel in Athens, Greece. “Have you been out to the islands yet?” she asked. “I feel like there’s something you’re supposed to be doing there. Something about a goddess and a temple and after you get there, everything will be different for you. Everything will change.”

Fast-forward one week. Fast-forward to the all-too-haunted island of Amorgos and my being unsure if the unrelenting queasiness and unease I was feeling was due to the unresolved massacre I intuited (and found confirmed) or fears about life, love, and the future in general. At night I dreamt of walking up to immense, roughly hewn marble structures cloaked in darkness while waves crashed against the shore around me. I awoke to find all confidence and fearlessness expelled from me like a deflated balloon – quite the opposite of the previous tone of my trip.

My traveling companion was growing concerned, seeing my sanity veer from its course seemingly without reason, but one morning, as we arrived at a little cafe for breakfast, a little girl’s fondness for the eatery’s resident kittens made me pause before ascending the stairs. “Ariadne!” her father called to her. Fading sanity or not, I knew I was hot on the trail of my friend’s prophecy.

Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur of the Labyrinth

Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur of the Labyrinth

I’ve seen it three times now – in my own life, the life of a friend, and in a reading I gave a woman while on her lunchbreak in Manhattan.

Humans falling into a deity’s mythline.

Sometimes it’s a whole life that smells far too much like something you’ve read or heard before and all of a sudden the man on the other side of the screen who you’ve booked a reading with is naming the name of the legendary individual whose story has more than inspired you – it’s the reason for all of the tattoos on your body. You just never made the connection that you, in some way, are literally her.

And sometimes it’s like a web that ensnares you – the first of many doors you will walk through on your journey, ignoring the prickliness of the spider’s arm that’s been beckoning you because, frankly, you’re blind and wandering aimlessly, hoping for something to catch you and give meaning to the moment.

And like any web worth its stickiness, it does.

In short, within 48 hours, I was abandoned on the island of Naxos. Sure, I’m the one who followed the signs and omens and, sure, I’m the one who decided to go on my own. But all of the feelings of joy, sovereignty, and connection I had felt throughout the previous weeks had certainly abandoned me. I was alone for the first time on my journey and left my room only to search for cheap food. I was heartbroken over a boy and, for the first time, felt that I stood out like a sore thumb under the glare of Greek natives.

I have a reputation for committing radical acts of whimsy and going to fairly extreme lengths on an intuitive hunch, so the fact that I’d come to Naxos just to get to the ruins of the temple of Dionysos on a time crunch wasn’t what was out of the norm for me.

The issue was that I could hardly move and madness had, by now, fully set in. I had barely enough energy to search the island for a way to the temple site, let alone endure the psycho-spiritual-emotional trauma that had set in, leaving me physically convulsing on my bed for hours on end.

Then there were the voices, visions, and hallucinations, all intermingled with my unresolved insecurities.

Meditate on the sorrowful mysteries of Ariadne. Open yourself up to fear and pain. Contemplate your failures and insecurities, all the times you’ve suffered defeat or betrayal, had the rug pulled out from under you. Accept the inevitability of your death.

I felt like I was dying.

Ariadne and the Sea

I’ve been hesitant to write about my shaman sickness for a few reasons. The first is that I only began coming out of it a few months ago and recovery was nearly as arduous as the actual time of sickness was. The second is that accounts of shaman sickness, both anthropological and contemporary, sound like torture porn. Among contemporary Western shamans and spiritworkers, it is said that there’s the Death Road and the Madness Road, the former fraught with physical illness and debilitation and the latter with spirit-induced afflictions of the mind for as long a time as the spirit initiating you sees fit to have you endure it.

There are many reasons for why the sickness occurs, and has occurred since around the time the first shaman (or shaman-roled person) appeared among humans.

The first is that it is an initiation. The gates that lead to “growing up” and “upgrading” are immensely painful and death of the ego is necessary. In the West, we have this idea that enlightenment happens when we meditate so long that we simply start glowing and fly away. In the words of Cynthia Occe, “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” The ego death(s) that I would endure for the ensuing year would have me question everything about myself, including what it meant to be human, and force me to dismantle false narratives about myself that I’d been carrying for far too long. Things that should not happen to human bodies and human consciousness would happen to mine, sometimes in public, bringing to ruin my concepts of both. Gratefully, I had the accounts of other shamans who had been “seized, changed and set to a lifetime of work – irrevocably, without their consent and often against their will – by real, living, powerful entities with a unique perspective and agenda.

Another reason is the vast re-wiring. The shaman (a very controversial word, but more on that in a later post) needs to be able to move serious amounts energy through their bodies. Within the devotional polytheist community, even folks who aren’t shamans remark on the period when they “had their head cracked open” – that is, when the spirits they work with further opened up their psychic senses to enable deeper communication with them, heighten their divinatory and mediumship abilities, or even cast them in the role of being a trance or possessory oracle for one or more deities in the fashion of Pythia in ancient Delphi. A certain level of purity might seek to be maintained following the painful ordeal as heightened sensitivity can indeed have its drawbacks. Many wear head coverings and engage in regular acts of cleansing and protection.

There are other reasons for the sickness – some of which I don’t fully know. I guess one is being tested. Shaman sickness really is every bit as harrowing as the indigenous folks and the contemporary Westerners who’ve survived it say that it is. Shaman sickness is not a rough day, week, month, or year. Shaman sickness is not a dark night of the soul. It’s a pretty specific long-term hellish experience, actually, and there’s a reason there’s a low survival rate. Indeed, there is no guarantee of making it through.

Temple of Dionysos, Naxos

Temple of Dionysos, Naxos

But I couldn’t have known I was beginning a nearly year-long classic shaman’s death as I stumbled the mile-long path from the bus to the ruins of Dionysos’ temple. Blurry hot haze enveloped my senses as I saw familiar friends along the way: Fennel. Catnip. A butterfly nearly leaping from the brush and dancing around me in a circle before returning to its duties. When I got there, I did my best to connect with the land, experiencing flashes of memory from times when it was an active space. I felt his direct presence less than I did the immensity of love that his devotees had for him. Perhaps these are closer to one and the same than I know.

Fast-forward one year. I eagerly RSVP to the gathering of shamans, spiritworkers, oracles, and conjurers (some of whom midwived me through my sickness) who’d be gathering for the feast of the woman whose ingenuity helped Theseus, her lover, slay her brother, the Minotaur, monster of the labyrinth. The woman whose name I followed to my death.

“What did she teach you?” my partner asks. I don’t know. So many questions are still unanswered.

And then, I admit that I learned, very painfully, that there are some things no amount of Calamus and Licorice Root can dominate and some webs / fates / wyrds that no amount of Uncrossing can unravel — and we would be wise to be grateful for that, lest we miss out on why we are here.

But it would not be Dionysos or Ariadne initiating me. My guess is that they were simply holding the door open (like me, the former loves theatrics). It would be a few more months before I’d meet her – a woman reeking of salt and molasses, reminding me of a childhood spent on the beaches of Queens, New York, on a journey I’d take far beneath the sea.

blue fire heartI’ve got many more blog posts to catch-up on for the Pagan Blog Project, but there’s so much more to be said about stepping into intimacy in our spiritual practices – far beyond what I can muster in a few words.

I think fear of intimacy is at the crux of a lot of our concerns in the Western world. Racism, sexism, homo / transphobia (and all the others) all shine an eery light on ways in which we’re afraid of engaging not only with others, but with parts of ourselves that we’ve exiled, our ancestors exiled, and that we’re so used to exiling that we’ve long forgotten how vital they are to our personal and collective well-being.

We don’t live in a culture that encourages intimacy with ourselves or anyone else. Intimacy gets in the way of productivity, we’re told. It stifles our constant yang-yang-yang expression and, of course, were we to really stop and be present with our wounds, our deeper desires, and the real longing in our hearts, well – we may get hurt. We may be rejected. We may find ourselves abandoned.

Of course, so sayeth our false selves in an effort to keep us from going deeper, being with what’s coming up, and healing old stories that hold us back from experiencing something new.

Choosing intimacy is like building a muscle – it’s a practice that we cultivate by returning to it again and again in our daily lives. For me, its the glue between my spiritual life and my mundane life, helping me rid myself of even that false dichotomy that sets them apart from one another. That being said, here are a few more ideas that may help deepen the connection between you and your spirits:

  • Be spontaneous. Conversations with my spirits happen at their altars – but also while I’m on the subway. Impromptu libations may be poured outside of a bar and pennies may be left at a crossroads during my commute. When we weave our spirits into our everyday lives and are candid about our everyday lives with our spirits, we’re that much more supported, connected, in-tune, and clear about what is needed for transformation.
  • Ask the deeper questions. Many of us study how to ask helping spirits to help us achieve a task or bring something into our lives – but what is our capacity to listen and enter into deep relationship with them beyond give-and-take? How do our spirits view us and our responsibilities in our process – not just in terms of mundane efforts (e.g. – making sure you’re job searching while doing magick to find a job) but in terms of personal narratives that might be standing in the way of our success. In addition to petitioning your spirits for help, ask them to show you how to get out of your own way and ask them what questions they really think you should be asking them.
  • Say what you’re afraid to say. Growing up in a monotheistic culture, we’ve been taught to relate with the spiritworld in a way that is small and fearful. No matter how long we’ve been practicing animists, this is something embedded in our culture – how TV, entertainment, and advertisements show us as humans relating to “God” / the Divine – and it’s something to keep mindful of as we tread old waters into a new story. This is not to say that devotion isn’t a healthy part of any relationship, but that you here for a reason. You’re a big part of the Big Scheme of Things. So say what you’re afraid to say. Empty your heart out. “Show me why I never get an answer from you. Show me a clear sign in the next three days.” Real intimacy involves push-and-pull, tensions between receiving, not receiving, doubt, frustration, and bliss. If we’re willing to be in the thick of all of these stages with our helping spirits, we’ll find our intimacy deepened – just like a relationship with a lover that might sometimes be on the rocks or feel more questionable than gratifying. Sometimes healthy devotion is paired with a healthy amount of profanity. Throw yourself at them. Tell them you’re doing all you can. When you’re in the thick of it and it seems like your helping spirits aren’t doing their share of supporting you, demand answers. Demand clarity. Give them some offerings and then rail at them. And then, maybe listen, do what they say, and see what happens.
  • Give offerings often. When I give offerings to spirits, I generally tend to imagine them as multiplied a billion times over (something I learned from Jason Miller) and I do find that it makes a difference – there’s something more “full” about it. A practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, Miller is well-versed in the art of giving offerings as, in his tradition, offerings are made constantly to a pretty serious retinue of spirits – both those friendly and familial and those considered hostile to keep them pleased. “If you make regular offerings, sometimes you will not need directed magic at all. The world just returns the favor. Thanks world.” Let’s take a cue from this great sorcerer and give. And keep giving. Don’t have much? That’s ok. A pinch of that sandwich you’re eating is a beautiful sacrifice. Giving doesn’t have to be about money. It’s about willingness to offer. It’s about forging bonds, empowering your helpers to help you, and inviting the help you need in.
  • Get out of your own head. This is a big one, especially in a culture obsessed with empirical evidence, “reason,” and head-based logic. Anyone who’s ever done any type of dream interpretation knows that the spiritworld often speaks to us in a sort of crazy logic that bypasses our logical, reasoning mind and goes right to the heart of things using symbolic language. One of my mentors often comments that the False Self – that part of ourselves so easily fortified in our culture that we see glimpses of in our self-sabotaging habits, inner criticisms, self-limiting thoughts and behaviors, etc. – is as smart as we are and has access to all of the tools that we do. This is one reason why spontaneous acts from the heart are so powerful – they throw the fear and limit-based False Self off its guard so we can really engage beyond the borders it so neatly has us regularly operating within. Hence, sing. Dance. Drum. Do. Something. Different. So often its our false dichotomies and over-analyzing that leave us standing in our own way, unable to hear what our spirits are really saying to us about our next best steps forward.

More on intimacy from our good friend, the musician Robert Een:

St. Cyprian Amparo

St. Cyprian Amparo

Ok, it’s confession time: some of my spirit relationships began from a place of ego.

It’s true. At one point, I thought “If I want people to take me seriously as a spiritworker, I’ve GOT be working with this guy” and “If I want to be a badass, an altar to this spirit is necessary.”

Perhaps it’s not so much a shock. In the internet-age where photos of altars work as social currency amongst spiritual practitioners and there’s greater access to knowledge about various world spiritual practices and the lauded entities associated with them than ever before, it’s quite easy to let our consumerist habits rule the way we see, well, everything. As the main point of entry in my recent webinar on spiritual allies and magical power, the idea of “relationship” (and being in “good relationship” I might add) is the primary focus of my practice – not only with anthropomorphized spirits, but that of botanicals and minerals – though it took some time to get there.

First, there was paring back the “stuff” – from the many botanicals and curios I thought for sure I needed in order to do effective work to the statues of saints I was excited about working with due to their being known especially for helping in certain situations but whom I really didn’t need to work with to be an effective practitioner.

Then there was specificity – making more room for the spirits in my life that building relationships with would be most helpful due to their resonance with my own medicine and their ability to help me bring that medicine into the world more fully.

And then, there was a lull – a pregnant silence that eventually gave birth to a sense of connection that, had I made room for it earlier on in my practice, may have helped me avoid some pitfalls.

The most obvious turning point came during a nine-day vegetarian fast I took under the tutelage of Saint Cyprian during which, each evening, I’d spend some devotional time with him, reading aloud scriptures he’d pointed me to – scriptures I was shocked to find speaking so clearly to my life. I’d made room for his presence to be stronger than ever and I found myself asking “Whoa — when did we become friends? When did things get so deep between us?” The rote practices that were stepping stones toward this moment fell away and I found myself moved in ways I didn’t know were possible with this particular spirit.

And, honestly, I found myself crying. A lot. Not only at his altar, but at the altars of the few other spirits I’ve invited into my court as a spiritworker. Sure, it was an especially vulnerable time in my life for various other reasons, but having made room for my strongest allies, I was able to receive their love and support that much more fully.

And I didn’t know that I could feel them so concretely.

And I found myself moved to sing.

My partner sings to his helping spirits in his shamanic practice all the time. I know beautiful chants from my Neo-Pagan path, a few songs from other traditions I work in, and am even aware of some of the role that icaros, or plant-spirit songs, play in the Amazonian shamanic traditions. But I’d never thought to apply the same technology toward the saints and spirits associated with modern American folk magick, with whom I’d been interacting solely through prayer, candles, offerings, and conjurations.

In so many traditions around the world, song calls the spirits down. Rattles are shaken, drums are beaten, and voices are sent like winged messengers to their ears, letting them know their allies and devotees seek to speak and work with them. It’s so simple. It’s so obvious. It’s all around us. But I guess the Western bubble gets in the way.

When I took a cue from my clear-hearted significant other and began to sing to my spirits every time I opened a session with them, or even during the day as a simple act of connecting – words really can’t express the shift that occurred. Stepping into that space of vulnerable full expression with them opened up so much that it was a wonder that I’d ever held back; that I hadn’t even realized I was doing so.

The truth is that I began to have some questions about my plugging everything into a safe, altar-object-focused context when, during a Spiritual Court Mediumship Reading for a client, a southwestern American Indian spirit that walks with her left me feeling a bit confused when he said he didn’t want a statue, candles, or any other altar-ware for her to connect with him.

I listened closer, pulled a few more cards, and the obvious dawned on me – he wanted her to dance.

To make a special garb, sit by a fire, and dance with him. That the places he wanted to take her would not be a journey through the mind, but through the uncomfortable spaces she was avoiding in her body. That this would lead to the medicine she needed to cultivate for herself and her family. One of the helping spirits who’d chosen to accompany her in this lifetime was waiting for her to show up more fully than she had imagined and altar tools she could purchase weren’t going to cut it.

Maybe the term “armchair occultist” doesn’t only apply to non-practitioners who simply know a lot of stuff. Maybe it’s applicable to those of us spending most of our practices sitting and kneeling, saying only the cool old traditional things and not the clear open-hearted things – some of which can’t be spoken, but only sung, danced, laughed, and howled.

Maybe we need to do more getting off of our asses and out of our heads, even with the spirits we’ve imagined to be as stagnant, still, and pious as their statuary may lead us to believe they are.

I don’t know any devotional songs to the popular spirits worked with in American folk magick today (aside from one for San Simon), but singing this simple song has been perfect for getting me to a deeper place with my spirits, both those chosen and those innately walking with me:

I’ve also found it to be very powerful to write your own tunes, even parodying popular songs on behalf of the spirits you work with. I actually really encourage it. Treating our spirits like lovers in nearly every sense I now feel is what sweetens the pot and makes our relationships with them that much more potent.

In short, if your spiritual practice is looking pretty object-focused or altar-bound – Sing. Dance. Drum. Choose spontaneity. Choose intimacy. You might be surprised by the spirits who love this form of devotion, even if all the high and might manuals about them say they only accept physical offerings on certain dates, at certain times, etc.

Let’s be in our bodies. Let’s give fully. The returns are tremendous.

Spiritual Allies & Magical Power

Symbolism, metaphor, and tradition are all popular ways of accessing the power of herbs, roots, minerals, and zoological curios for magic and rootwork. In the Internet age, it’s never been easier to search for a spell or working that worked for someone else, however– this doesnt mean it will work for us.

How can we develop even deeper intimacy with materia magica (herbs, roots, etc.) to empower us in our spiritual work and in our daily lives? How can we *really* access and harness the medicine around us moving out of spiritual consumerism and into deep relationship?

In this webinar, perfect for beginners and advanced spiritual practitioners alike, we’ll explore:

  • what makes spiritual work actually *work*
  • how to develop our mediumship and trance skills to engage in intimate conversation with our plant, mineral and animal allies
  • how to engage our allies to achieve immediate, concrete results in our everyday lives
  • how to engage with the physical world as a teacher and follow the path of our own healing

Join us as we stretch our sense-perception, intuition, and instincts to craft more potent medicine, using a shamanic perspective to unlock the full potential of traditional conjure.

The webinar session will be followed by a short Q&A.

Wednesday, July 2nd @ 8pm EST

Registration: $25. Limited spots available!

Register here!

It’s been a rather unique Spring thus far and I’ve got a lot of blog posts I’m excited to catch up on, but over at the Pagan Blog Project, it’s time for the letter “H”. I’ll start here and work backwards as time permits.

Letter H

———————

The spiritual work of tending the home is found in every culture around the world because the home is an extension of the body. One can be spiritually cleansed in their personhood but be living in a space that isn’t at all conducive to wellness. There are all kinds of factors at play when it comes to a dwelling’s ability to support us in our endeavors – building layouts, history, spirits attached to the space, other entities (both benign and not-so-much), land spirits, local influences, and those sharing the space with us. Unfortunately, almost all of the protocols inherent in the building and care of homes and buildings as found in world traditions have been entirely abandoned by those of us living in the West, leaving yet another door wide open to us experiencing dis-ease and disharmony.

Chinese Feng Shui is a popular (and highly effective, I might add) form of architectural and design orientation and remediation.

Some Northern European towns still adamantly plan city projects and construction away from known local hotspots and dwellings of little folk, or non-human and rarely seen races of people that live under the earth.

Some African cultures, like that of the Dagara, build their homes on a foundation of ash made from the dirt and remains of their ancestors, forming the basis of their home’s protection.

Besides the multitude of ritual acts that went into traditional European house building and barn raising, innumerable charms and fetishes have been remembered from this and other regions for warding off evil, inviting prosperity, and maintaining peace, all directly tied to the power of the home as an extension of the bodies of those living there.

I'm unfortunately a bit too busy to be a receptionist for every dead person that shows up on my doorstep.

I’m unfortunately a bit too busy to be a receptionist for every dead person that shows up on my doorstep.

After moving into my current abode, I found myself battling a number of energetic issues that I’d never faced before. Between a passive-aggressive house spirit (a conscious entity comprised of a former roommate’s own familial traumas), a building layout that seemed to direct lost souls directly to my bedroom, and all-around difficult energy to push, cut, and wade through on a daily basis, I was getting convinced that I’d have to leave. After turning the house spirit into an ally through almost a full day’s work of journeying to help resolve the family history entangled in it and crafting unique wards prescribed by my helping spirits for keeping hungry lost dead at bay, there was still something inherently “off” about the space that my usual house cleansing techniques couldn’t remedy.

While journeying to speak with my spirits on a separate topic, one of my helping spirits dropped a corn kernel into my hand. The symbol repeated itself the next day with ears of corn catching my eye at the local grocery store. Upon divining, my spirits indicated that offerings made to the land spirits on my block would bring a big improvement. Being a healthy shaman and spiritworker for me has meant regular grounding exercises, intense dancing in ritual space, and other actions that directly draw on the energetic resources of the land for support. $1.29 later, I was walking around my Brooklyn block sprinkling corn kernels at spots that seemed “hungry,” all the while apologizing to the spirits of the land for the actions of my species and expressing my desire to be in good relationship with them.

I returned home and sat down to answer some e-mails but quickly found myself completely overwhelmed by what I can only describe as an energetic “whoosh” from beneath me to high above and the feeling of being far beneath the ground for a period of at least 20 minutes. The land spirits here are hungry and even a cursory look into the industrial history of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (home of NYC’s only chemical and nuclear storage facility) can give us a clue as to why.

Gratefully, my home / land issues were brought to an end and things feel entirely different her. Now the house spirit gets a mug of tea every Sunday (he’s fancy). The land spirits — albeit an ongoing project of resolution far beyond one person’s ability to handle — get red wine and corn monthly. And my maintenance rites of smudging and cleansing are far more effective.

But what would it look like if the relationship between humans, land, and the spirits that dwell between us were tended again on a grand scale?

I’ve found that the most effective housing and building remedies are uncovered through divination and / or shamanic journeying, but most folks have beloved go-to rites that they employ at regular intervals in the spaces that they inhabit. In the hoodoo tradition, the most beloved rite is a floorwash — a literal washing of floors and other surfaces with a infusion of botanicals and minerals of choice. It works equally well for homes as well as businesses and other spaces, though there are many popular variations based on the purpose of the space.

How to Perform a Spiritual Cleansing of Your Space

Chinese Wash is the most popular preparation for cleansing spaces among practitioners in the hoodoo tradition.

Chinese Wash is the most popular preparation for cleansing spaces among practitioners of hoodoo.

Pour a teaspoon, tablespoon, or more of Chinese Wash into a bucket of hot water, depending on the size of the premises. (In a pinch, a strong tea of Lemongrass might do the trick.)

As led by Spirit, you may desire to add an additional infusion of herbs or curios with cleansing properties to this floorwash as well – Hyssop, Florida Water, and Sea Salt are all great options in accordance with their correspondences in hoodoo lore. A capful of Ammonia can be added, but bear in mind that it’s known to really strip away everything in the space, so only do this in the case of serious spiritual grime (and be prepared to do some spiritual rebuilding of conjurations particular to your home). If an Uncrossing bath has been performed, a bit of the run-off captured from the bath can be added to the floorwash as well.

Pray over this infusion, intending that any and all harmful energies in the space will be removed. You can add a commercial detergent as well, depending upon the needs of your space. With a mop, squeegee, or sponge, cleanse the space from the back room to the front or main room. If multi-floored, start by cleansing the top floor and work your way down, ending with the groundfloor and always working from the back of the space to the front / entrance, including with each room. As you cleanse, pray and intend that your space is made clean and new. Some find reciting Psalm 23 to be very appropriate for this rite.

If the space is carpeted, lightly wetting a broom and sweeping it over the carpet in the same fashion works just as well. Make sure to give the entryways of the home and of each room extra attention.

When finished, pour the leftover scrub water into your front yard or dispose of it at a crossroads. I like to throw it toward the West, in the direction of the sun’s setting (bringing an end to any crossed conditions), but many prefer the East as per tradition.

Now make a new floorwash, but this time using conjure and condition oils and / or an infusion of botanicals, minerals, and curios that speak to the things you’d like to attract into your space. Some ideas include Basil for protection, Mint for money, Rose for love, Lavender for peace and harmony, or other favorite allies as you are led by Spirit. Mop or scrub from the sidewalk, outer hallway, or up the steps into the entryway of your home, again paying special attention to the home’s threshold. Pray and intend that those things you desire are present in your life and visualize with confidence that you have them already. Pour this floorwash in your backyard (if living in an apartment, down your toilet will probably suffice).

Now take a conjure or condition oil that is intended to aid with protection and anoint all doors and windows leading to the outside world in a five-spot pattern – one dab in each corner and one in the center. Intend that your space is protected from any and all harm and that all blessings that you receive are kept.

Some folks follow this up with the sprinkling of such preparations as Peace Water for harmony at home and the inviting of peaceful spirits or Four Thieves Vinegar for protecting the space.

Performing this rite at regular intervals can make a huge impact on your space’s harmony and ability to support productivity.

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