Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rite of the Three Kings- Part Two

In yesterday's blog, I gave you the basic spell we do here at Sosyete du Marche to help fuel the New Year with Fire, Food and Money.

Today I want to give you a few refinements you can do, to make the work even brighter. I love the story of the Three Kings who follow a star to find the baby in Bethlehem.  Maybe its the Persian element  - having discovered I carry some of that myself, I am feeling very connected these days to my usual peccadilloes. Persia, India and the Western Caucasus leaves me ... mmm ... stimulated, let's say.
So before I reveal too much of my inner milieu, here's how to refine this working a bit for yourself. I said I go to the bank on the day before, and get big denomination bills. I usually get them in threes - three one hundred dollar bills, three fifty dollar bills or three of twenties, tens, fives and singles. If you don't have this much, then any amount will do, but try to get three different bills. I also get at least three gold dollars, three quarters, three nickels, three dimes, three pennies.

On the front of each bill, I write the following sigil:
That is a dollar sign, a yen, cent, cent, euro, dollar, dollar. Looks like the word "success", huh?
 Now, on the back of each bill I write this sigil:


This sigil is a combination of the year 2014 and the first letter of each of the Three Kings' names" Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior. In true hoodoo fashion, it is said to bring wealth into the home for the coming year.

I keep three gold dollars from this stash. I add it to my wealth altar, and if there's extra on the altar, then I take some of it and deposit those as well.  Like I said, Mammon needs to move around.  When I return the remainder of the money on January 2 to our bank account, these bills go into the system and circulate, helping Mammon get his giddy-up on. These bills will now move through the system, and give me success in all my ventures for the year. And, like the Three Kings of the Christmas story, they will come seeking me, to bring treasures to me all year.

Now, to add this to the working, when the individual with the tray and the money walks into the house, they should also have a piece of chalk in their pocket. As they hand the tray of offerings to you, they should reach up, and write the "2+B+0+C+1+M+4" on the lintel of your front door. Chalk is the traditional method - it's meant to fade out slowly over the year.  Goes along with the old axiom of not looking back at your work; putting your magic out into the universe and trusting the universe to handle it. I feel its a good trust exercise to do this kind of thing. Keeps one humble.

Both of these sigils are not Vodou, but there is plenty of belief in them to go around. What I like to call an Egregore of the New Year. I hope you perform the Rite of the Kings, so you can have a wonderful New Year. Nowrūz!

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Eve Magic: Rite of the Three Kings

New Year's Eve is this Tuesday night and it is a really big deal around these parts. Plenty of alcohol, partying and stupidity to go around for everyone here. In this part of Philadelphia, they shoot off guns beginning at 11:45pm and go till either 12:15am or until the police arrival. Whichever is easier, I suppose.

The idea of a January 1st is relatively new.  The early Roman calendar marked March 1st as the new year. It only had ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for "seven," octo is "eight," novem is "nine," and decem is "ten." There's a great article here on the inclusion of January and Feb as calendar months.

In any event, here at the houmfort, we mark the new year is a subtle but nice way. We do the Rite of the Three Kings to bring in the new year.  So gather in close kiddies, and listen up. If you really narrow down what you need in life, it's pretty simple. We need Fire, Food and Money.

Fire can be thought of as both physical, meaning heat and illumination.  And metaphysical as in inspiration and enlightenment.

Food is just that - sustenance for the body, mind and soul. It's our daily "bread", our hourly prayer and our internal voice speaking to us about the world around us. Food for thought (pun intended.)

Money is the fuel that makes the first two items go round. Money can be thought of as Energy. In his lovely book, Financial Sorcery, Jason Miller calls money "Mammon" from the bible source of the same name. Miller says Mammon likes to move, likes to be in motion. Ever look at the Stock Market in action? Mammon is not just a mover and shaker, but a dancing fool.  The saying goes money can buy anything and its pretty much true. But for New Year's Eve night, it's one of the Three Kings coming in the front door.

In the Old English trad I carry, we always placed Fire, Food and Money on our Yule tree to symbolize all of the above.  I have a special ball ornament that is hollow. Into this ball, we place a coin, a candy and a candle to herald all three on the holy night. But on New Year's Eve, we do it in a bigger way.

A bit before midnight, have the major breadwinner go stand outside the front door or whatever passes for your front door.  The idea is the person who makes the big dollars is coming into the house on the stroke of midnight, bringing their "largesse" with them.  Stuff this person's pockets with all the cash and coins you can. I always go to the bank and take out a couple new big denomination bills just for this occasion. I put them back in on the next banking day.

This person should be carrying a large tray on which you have placed the following - Meat, Grains, Beans, Salt and Sugar, dried fruits and nuts. In the center, place a large white candle, lit.

Let this individual stand outside the front door, until the clock strikes Midnight. At that moment, fling open the door and yell "Happy New Year! Come In, Come In!" As this person enters, they should hand you the tray and then fling coins and money around, saying "Wealth! Health! Happiness! All in the New Year!"

The second part of this working I'll place in tomorrow's blog. Start assembling your fire, food and money. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bain Noel

'Tis the season for schmutz, coal and other nasty business. All this merriment and ho-ho-horror is just a cover up for what's really happening in the world. Christmas is a secular holiday. The advertisers of 1881 hired Thomas Nast to draw them something to help get the word out on their new drink they named Coco-cola.  Nast drew a Northern European elf he called Santa Claus. It's been all downhill ever since.

In the Vodou tradition, this time of year from the end of the Ghede season to the Three Kings ceremony in January is for Petro work. Hot, fast and busy, these rites celebrate the island born spirits of Haiti.  We honor them by doing the most notorious of all rituals at this time of year - the bath.

You read it right, we make a special bath this time of year, to cleanse, clear, fire up and get ready for a new round of Vodou work. Look at it this way - we've just spent the entire month of November Anba Dlo, meaning under water. The Ghedes are rude, crude -- and dead. They are cold literally and figuratively. As we rise up from our watery grave, we need heat, warmth and fire to get our internal engines back on line. What better way to do this, than with a fiery bath.

Bain Noel or Christmas Bath is probably a misnomer of the highest caliber. It's not really a Christmas bath, it is simply done at this time of year. Here at the houmfort, we work this ritual by making a fiery bath of herbs, alcohol and perfumes. We light it on fire and dance over it, bathe in and then wash down the temples, our ritual gear and our materia magica.  We bottle it up for the family to take home and wash down their houses for safety, security, fertility.  You can use it sparingly all year long, or go all out in a blaze of glory and bathe in it for that super special thing you've been waiting to do.

So to participate in the season of giving, let me give you all one recipe Sosyete du Marche uses that you can replicate on your own. Gather the following materials:

A metal bowl - must be metal, as the alcohol and perfume will leach chemicals from plastic (not to mention melt).
A pair of bricks to protect the surface you are working on.
One teaspoon each, of 3 minerals - ex. dirt, salt, sugar
A handful of 3 plants - for example,  basil, peppermint, rue
One cup each, of 3 liquids - for example, water, alcohol, coffee
One cup comprised of three different scented liquids - perfume, essential oil, toilet water
Long metal spoon

Red candles
Florida Water
Long neck lighter
Your Magical Instruments (tarot cards, wands, rings, crystals, whatever you wish to cleanse and empower for the new year).

Work safely and smartly. Lock up the animals and put the kids in front of the TV watching something. Set the metal bowl on the bricks. Place the minerals, the plants and the liquids in the bowl. Mix it with your hands and as you do, think about what you want for the new year. Stir the bowl's contents vigorously, to 'heat' up the material. Carefully add 1/4 cup of Florida Water to mixture and mix in with the metal spoon. Thoroughly wipe off your hands for the next step -- or you will wish you had.

Now, light the red candles, and place one on each side of the bowl.  Say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the Apostles Creed.  Ask God to make next year fulfilling, and that you be blessed to extent that you can receive.  Then, using the long handle lighter, light the mixture. Florida Water is EXTREMELY volatile, so be careful not to spill it (that's why you wipe off your hands - if you don't it will ignite on your skin). CAREFULLY stir the material with the metal spoon as it burns. The Florida water is heating up the mix, and should not necessarily burn the herbs though it might, and that's ok. While the fire is going, pass your Magical instruments (wands, decks of cards, crystals) through the flames, cleansing and heating them up. Even after the flame has gone down, the heat coming off the mix is enough to cleanse anything passed over the bowl. Once the flame has gone down, you can do any of the following:

1.) Soak a rag in the liquid and wipe down your window sills, door frames, floors and entry ways, to protect, seal and defend your home. Place the now used rag beneath your welcome mat or in the basement. Live in an apartment? Get a flower pot, put the rag in it and then plant something on top - real is better, but artificial works. Place your protective plant by the front door.

2.) Pour off the Liquid and take a physical Bain Noel bath.  Shower or bath, so you are clean. Take the liquid and red candles into the bathroom. Place the candles on the floor outside of the tub, and light them. Step backwards into the tub, between the candles. Pour the Bain Noel liquid over yourself. Be sure to get some on your chest and on your back.  Wipe DOWN from head to feet, shoulders to fingertips, hips to toes. Step forward out of the tub and allow to air dry. Dress in clean clothing, tie your head in red and sleep ALONE for the night. In the morning, go about your business.

3.) Take the solid material of the bath and a bottle of fresh Florida water. Place the material in a glass bowl and then pour the Florida Water over it.  Let it soak for a day, then strain off the liquid and rebottle in glass. You now have a weaker yet still potent version of the bath you can use again.

4.) Take the material (the solids) and wrap them tightly into a ball/packet and place it on your altar where it will continue to pulse it's power for the year.

The Bain Noel is a reminder of the fragility of our lives. Its herbal mixture is a to help us remember to put the spicey in with the sweet, for balance. And that with a little effort on our part, we can have a wonderful life filled with blessings. Ayibobo.

Now pass the eggnog, will you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do or Do Not.

"The truth is: Vodou is *not* a nice little religion. It’s not some charming variant of Folk Catholicism, nor some New Age Afro-Wiccan hootenanny. It is the spiritual [religious] expression of seven million Afro-Creole people who assemble remnants from an excruciating past and bewildering present into intensely corporeal ritual constellations. No one should expect to ‘understand’ such a religious culture by simply going through an exhibition. Vodou is too complex and too contingent to be wrapped up and walked off with so neatly.” - Dr. Don Costentino, Sacred Arts of Haiti Exhibition Catalog.

Thanks Don, I'll take it from here.  I think some people of my acquaintance need to read this more than once and then get busy with their own stuff. Lately, there has been a mixing of traditions that I don't approve of. There, I said it. Vodou is African in derivation, Creole by practice and Haiti by sovereignty. If you do Vodou, then you follow the Reglemen of Vodou: the liturgical rules for practicing this faith, set down by the Ancestors and kept alive by the people of Haiti who live this faith each day. You don't add to it, take from it or mix it with other things. To do so, is to besmirch the memory and lives of those people who fought and won the right to do Vodou in a free, sovereign nation. I have WAY too much respect for those people to ever step outside the lines of the faith.

Want to practice eclectic spirituality? Lord knows, there is plenty of that out there right now. As of this writing, I googled "New Age Spirituality". The result was 219M hits. Read that number again - that's 219,000,000.  Really? There's only 313M people living in the USA.  With that number of New Age hits, we should expect a cloud of patchouli to be settling over us at any moment.

I am looking down the barrel of 60 years of age. Fully one half of my life, I have been a consecrated priest.  I am a member of a long practiced and well respect Western Mystery Tradition (Servants of the Light) and now I can add Haitian Vodou to my esoteric CV. I don't do SOL Vodou, nor do I do Haitian Western Mystery. Sadly, I haven't stood in a SOL Circle in ages. I've just been too busy, happy and fulfilled being a Mambo Asogwe. As it should be.

Lately, I hear people of my ilk decrying the youngsters coming up behind us. That they aren't as dedicated. They don't take time to learn. They want instant answers. Got a news flash for ya - that's not true either. I have plenty of youngins' in my house and they are dedicated, eager, fast learners. They love the Internet; can research a 300 page paper in a day and don't take any answer at face value. I had to up my game with them. There is no "I speak and you obey" going on at Sosyete du Marche. Hell no. My kids ask questions, demand answers, query my research and go off to seek out another answer, another method and another way. They get in my face about everything - words, songs, dress codes, everything.

I love them for it. They challenge my leadership, my sanity and my bathrooms. We all learn together. But one place I will not compromise, back down or offer any kind of change to is the Reglemen of Haitian Vodou. And the best part is -- they get it. They love the rules, the eritaj of the practice. They've been to Haiti with me and fell in love like I did. They eagerly look forward to their Haitian family members attending fets. They understand the beauty, the power and the magic that is Vodou. There is no need to change things - Vodou is amazing just by following the rules. No need to add, to mix, to blend to make something else -- it's perfect just as it was given to us by the Ancestors.

I suggest that those people out there who are looking to change or modernize or make Vodou something else, take a big step back. Because Vodou did something you cannot do. It birthed a nation of free people. It gave people answers, a way out of their bondage. It lifted them up and created a world they could comprehend, live in and thrive in.  It is astounding, amazing and beautiful all by itself, without anything added.

Do or do not. Perhaps, Yoda was a Vodousiant after all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ten Most Influential Occult Books

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51FUS17RrWL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis list is making the rounds on Facebook this week. It began last year as a top 100 literature list, then was edited down to top 25 books from your childhood. Now, in true sound bite form, it's 10 most influential books. Are we dumbing down or just getting forgetful?

Anyway, I thought I'd add mine to the mix -- my students are always asking about me for book titles, so these are the ones I find myself turning back to over and over again.

1.) The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. I am old enough and blessed enough to have met the man in 1968. He totally changed my life around with his talk about the Inner God and the path of the Hero. Joe is my hero and I give thanks every day for his continuing guidance via any of his books. 

 2.) Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson. Still the ideal for me of what a witch is supposed to be.  Huson's idea of witchcraft doesn't sit well with the current crop of Wiccans. So be it - it matches the style I was initiated into ages ago by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki.

3.) Mastering Herbalism by Paul Huson - a compendium of recipes, gardening and of course, witchcraft. It also helps that Paul was part of the Society of Inner Light, the group that gave birth to Servants of the Light. Kinda all flows together.

4.) Ritual Magic Workbook by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. I met 'Lores in early '91 and sat her knee listening and absorbing for 15 years. Someone told me she'd change my life and she most certainly did. 'Lores gave me my Gardnerian Third, my Ceremonial 1, 2 and 3 as well as a world of private teaching never published. I will say this - if you find a real teacher, you won't ever need to go looking for anyone or anything else.

5.) The Shining Paths by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. The Kabala in an understandable and accessible mode.  Dolores wrote the book on pathworking, and she never looked better than she does here with her dramatic style and evocative voice.  Again, a bible for those of us in the Servants of the Light

6.) Initiates Book of Pathworkings by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. See 4 and 5 above.

7.) Divine Horsemen by Maya Deren. As fresh today as when it was written. The definitive book for any aspiring Vodouisant.

8.) Sacred Arts of Haiti by Donald Constentino. The bible of Vodou for many of us.

9.)  Vodou Visions by Sallie Ann Glassman. This was the first book I had that gave me meat instead of broth in Vodou. I give thanks to Mambo Sallie for writing it.

10.) The New Orleans Tarot by Louis Martinie and Sallie Ann Glassman.  Sallie did the artwork, and Louis wrote the book. It was the guiding light in 1995 that I need.  I used it as a guide book to Nola, calling everyone in the bibliography. They were kind enough to open doors and answer questions. I still use it to this day and its my deck of choice for readings.

As I write this, I can see the patterns of study and association emerge. These books lent me information to keep myself emerged in the Great Work, at a time before the Internet and the ease of obtaining books was taken for granted.  To find a great book took time, effort and a little bit of luck. What books influenced you in the occult world?

Monday, December 16, 2013

One Head Spirit Only

I read for a client last week. This person has had more services and ceremonies than is healthy, in my opinion. Two Lave Tets and one Maraj Lwa in Haitian Vodou; Warriors and a Rogancio in Santeria; dabbled in Palo (I shudder to think of what that meant) and is now pursuing Quimbanda with someone. Really dude? Put down the tcha-tcha and back away from the altar.

I don't do/agree with multiple initiations in various traditions, particularly in the ATR.  African Traditional Religions may seem alike, but they are not. Ogoun in Santeria is not Ogoun in Haitian Vodou nor is he Zarabanda in Quimbanda or any other configuration. These spirits may share a root in Africa, but that's as far as it goes.  And generally, the person bleating at me about this is someone who won't commit to a path, but rather is willing to "sample" and then do his or her own thing. I don't do "things". As a Mambo Asogwe, I took an oath to practice Haitian Vodou. Period. I hold one other initiation in Western Ceremonial Magic. That's it. I am a Vodouisant and it works for me. My life is stable, healthy and firmly grounded. I give thanks. I have worked very hard for it to be good. And that included not straying off the path that Spirit pointed out to me. Mesi anpil.

I am beginning to see the wisdom in not doing divination, especially for those who treat it like a parlor game. People such as my client are not interested in hearing the truth. They want to hear their own version, just from my mouth. I had another client spend a month emailing me the same question regarding multiple initiations in multiple traditions, just rephrasing it over and over. I finally stopped anwering this person. How many times can you say something and the person not hear it?

I am weary of this nonsense.

Your head is a very special, and very unique place. You are not supposed to fill it up with things that don't belong in there. You are born into this life with a specific set of Spirits. It's your job to figure out who they are and then work with them. Some of us manage this early on, while others spend time looking. And then there are those who fill their heads with whatever they find or think they need or want to try. They keep adding to the mix, until one day, their head blows up - with addictions, with anger, with frustration, with depression. That's where multiple initiations in multiple traditions can lead. I know there are people who seem to handle this quite well. But I would point out that those people often have a single practice they go back to over and over again. That single practice is their mainstay.  So those multiple initiations don't really stick in my honest opinion.

I and mine believe that keeping to one practice is how you grow in Konesans. You can't learn a dozen languages and do them all well. Two maybe, three if you are gifted. And not just swear words, okay? I mean, read, write and speak proficiently in three languages. If you can't do that, then you can't do three magical/religious traditions either.

If you can, then you have my admiration -- and my pity.  Admiration for the talent, and pity for the practice. I can barely keep my one set fed, fetted and happy. I mean really? When do you find time to do laundry? Inquiring minds want to know.

Alchemy of the Church Ladies

So I spent the weekend doing one of the most mundane, yet prevalent actions known to magicians - I was re-enacting the part of a Church Lady.  I cleaned our main altar, freshened up the smaller ones. I did laundry, washing and ironing altar cloths and muschoirs (head scarfs worn for Vodou ceremonies). And in doing so, I touched on an old practice that has a familiar form, but reaches back more centuries than you'd think.

You remember (or maybe not...depends on the faith of your parents, I suppose) Church ladies (never mind the Saturday Night skit by the same name). They were also part of what was called Altar Guilds. These were the older ladies of the parish whose job was to clean the church.  They'd spend all day rubbing down the pews and communion railings with Tung oil and Pledge, laying out immaculate white linens so starched, they stood by itself in crisp pleats and folds. Church ladies were the only other folk, beside the priests, who could touch the chalices and pentacles used in the mass.  They replenished the wine and the communion hosts, an almost sacrilegious act, when you think of it.  I mean, this was the 60s I'm talking about. Women were still covering their heads with veils and girls wore gloves, least some part of their anatomy distract the faithful from prayer! But the Church Ladies reigned supreme.

I loved going in when the Church Ladies were working - the place smelled divine and they were always humming old hymn or prayers. The church was less imposing when they were there. Kind of like being in your grandma's house while she cleaned. Their presence lent a certain sense of family to the place. Of course, the old Monseigneur would bustle in, all self important and shoo them away when he felt they were encroaching on his territory - or getting the kids too interested in things deemed not worthy of a church, like singing songs from "Godspell", (heaven forbid a little Broadway on the altar!). Little did he know the church ladies were what actually drew us in there in the first place. Grey haired, smocking wearing, smelling like powder and lavender, they were less threatening or imposing than the black-clad priests. We felt more at home with "ma'am" than with Father What's-His-Name. My guess is, Father will figure that out when the last of the Church Ladies turns off the lights and locks the door on an empty vault.

The Church Ladies had their beginnings in many practices, some long forgotten. The old alchemists used to work toward that state of perfection in their laboratory work. But then, they also had to work in tandem with women, for only women were deemed worthy of purifying the bottles that ultimately held the elixir of Life and cleaning the athanor (the oven). The most famous alchemist we know of was a Jewish woman named Marie who supposed worked sometime in the early 1400s. A Church Lady, just with another twist.

In British Craft and Ceremonial Magical, it was the old Bitties who worked their magic in circles - Marjorie Mistlethwaite and her Dancer, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and her Opener, Madeline Montalban and her archangels. All the magic in ancient times was often through the auspices of the Church Ladies. They haven't disappeared altogether,  just transformed themselves into newer forms.

So the next time you're cleaning your altar space or just re-arranging your special objects, remember that you are partaking of an old and time worthy practice - namely, working as a Church Lady. Now hand me the Pledge will you?