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Debt, Shamanism, & Issues in Reciprocity

22 Feb

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

Khi Armand is an NYC-based psychic intuitive, shamanic healer, and folk magician. He is the proprietor of Conjure in the City and author of Deliverance! Hoodoo Spells of Uncrossing, Healing, & Protection.

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