Friday, March 30, 2012

The Wired World of Ghana's “Sakawa Boys.”

Popular Ghanaian Saying. Via Alice Armstrong. Used without permission.
Warning: I am presently quite intoxicated. Because otherwise I'd freeze up at the prospect of saying something so ignorant that I pissed off a whole slew of people. But enough whiskey-bourbon and those worries seem to just... fade away. So what the fuck. If you're a Sakawa Boy and I'm misrepresenting you, feel free to drop me a line and tell me what a bleeding white moron I am. It's cool, man. I'd rather be informed.

When I wrote “The Digital Link,” the subject of deployment of occult prowess with the idea of fraud or other vaguely unsettling potential probably came across to some as the prototypical insanity that issues forth from the mouth of a Chaos Magician.

So let me up the ante and introduce you to a new fraudulent subculture; one complete occult trappings.

But before we jump there let's start off with some basics. As of 2011, Ghana had a 30% ratio (7.8 million) of people “living” on $1.25 a day. There is a 25% youth unemployment rate. But it wasn't always the case. In the mid-1960s, Ghana was flush with money; it was one of the “Jewels of Africa.” That changed between the 1980s and now.

The country's strange mirror, Nigeria, is where the roots of the particular occult subculture now in Ghana originated. In the 1970s, Ghanaians traveled to Nigeria for work, where they learned the famous “pen pal” scam that was the precursor to the Nigerian Email scams (see: 419 Boys) that everyone knows of and loves today.

According to Alice Armstrong, in 2007 rumors began circulating in the Ghanaian press about a new form of internet fraud with a rather interesting inclusion: witchcraft. The practitioners of this form of internet fraud (and it has many branches, some of which are highly entertaining) are called “Sakawa Boys.”

Looking to heighten their ability to bilk the gullible out of their cash – and I don't mean that in a demeaning way, the conartist is a rather archaic and long-lived human occupation dating back to... Whenever people first began figuring out that people would give you things if you lied to them enough. Anyway, looking to enhance the art of the con-job, the Sakawa Boys have turned to age-old West African remedies: juju, and Juju-men.

But how is such a thing possible? If you might allow me to quote Armstrong:
“Many ethnographies have described witches’ abilities to travel large distances in mysteriously little time. Rosalind Shaw’s Sierra Leonean ethnography recounts rumours of witches flying to London and back within an hour [...]. Similarly, the internet allows Sakawa boys to manipulate its compression of time and space, transcending national boundaries and engaging in worldwide spiritual travel. Shaw also describes how the Temne of Sierra Leone believe in an invisible, global space full of illicit wealth known as the ‘Place of Witches’: “Although its presence may be recognised everywhere, its incompatibility with moral personhood and community is registered both in its intangibility and in its tropes of perverted and predatory consumption: the agency of the witch is necessary for the pursuit of one’s desires within it” [...]. Similarly, Ghanaians discuss the moral sacrifice entailed when a Sakawa boy makes an occult entrance into the intangible global space of the internet and extracts wealth by preying on foreign victims.”
“Sakawa boy’s power as described by Akosua and many others is a particular form of occult agency which is distributed via the internet. Anthropologists have commented on the often ‘dividual’ nature of witchcraft personhood with witches having the power to be in multiple places at once; dispersing their agency via bodily transcendence whilst appearing physically present. Similarly, Sakawa boys are rumoured to appear as normal, sat in front of a monitor whilst their spirit possesses multiple foreign fraud targets.”
“West African witches are also commonly believed to have extra organs such as eyes and stomachs which are used to entrap or consume their victims [...]. Sakawa boys are similarly able to extend their bodies and consumptive powers via the internet, not via extraordinary physical traits but with numerous internet identities. Sakawa boys often have fake profiles on popular websites such as Facebook and Hotmail as well as on Western online dating communities. These profiles feature fake photos and thus allow the Sakawa boy to have multiple cyber bodies. Many Sakawa boys even switch gender using attractive female profile pictures to entrap fraud victims via online friendships or romance. It is therefore not surprising that many Ghanaians are wary of the potential predatory powers that the internet offers.”

It would appear that in some cases this ability is marked by a physical talisman: a ring, hankerchief (placed atop the monitor whilst scamming), or an enchanted laptop (how sweet is that idea?). In other cases the power may have been gained by undergoing a ritual, or paying an appropriate god (see the video on Motherboard's article). Rumors abound of young, smart Sakawa Boys sleeping in coffins for a duration to help gain the power to move across the internet in form of witch-flight and then possess or preternaturally influence their targets.

And now, even as a subculture has emerged (involving music and even Ghanaian films such as “Sakawa Boys” volumes one through eight!) and attempts to stop the spread of these high-tech, occult-powered mischief-makers go down, they've adopted even more tactics.

So the next time that cute, scantily clad Asian girl from Singapore messages you, telling you about how if she'd just find a way to get the money, she'd visit you and... Well. You can imagine, can't you? The next time that happens: ask yourself, “am I even talking to a girl?”

The actual answer may be far stranger, and in terms of magical potential, far more interesting than you previously imagined...

Be seeing you,

Ps. A special shout-out to Singhilarity for bringing the initial Motherboard article to my attention.
PPS. Drunken prediction for 2012: A potentially legitimate function for this sort've magic may emerge as legal pressures clamp down on the fraudulent aspects of the culture. And it is this: operators skilled at astral flight and assisted by the internet may become skilled enough operators to offer oracular or other work, from the relative anonymity of the internet cafe. This would, of course, put every crap western practitioner unable to cope out of business...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The "What If" Factor.

Imagine for a moment that the occult luminaries now long-past had access to the internet, to occult forums, and Yahoo! Groups.

Imagine that Yeats, Crowley, Waite, the Marvelous Mathers, Fortune, and Blavatsky had the following:
- Twitter feeds.
- Blogs.
- Social networks (G+, Facebook).

This is in addition to their periodicals, Orders, lectures, and students. This is moment-by-moment connectivity.

Now, remembering that Mercury is Retrograde (stations next tuesday, see Austin's blog - I'm writing this on my phone), and keeping in mind troll pieces like Crowley's "Dead Weight," ask yourself... What would the flame wars look like?

Would they look... Exactly like they do now?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Eye-See-Yew, Noobz.*

You Wish, Guys.
 “Spook: as spectre, ghost, revenant, remnant of death, the madness lingering after the corpse is sloughed off. Slang for intelligence agent; agent of uncertainty, agent of fear, agent of fright.”
- Via Jack Warmack, as quoted on William Gibson's Blog.

“The FBI and CIA hate each other, and they both hate the telephone company. The telephone company, in turn, seems to hate everybody.”
- John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies.
Believe me when I say that I'm a child of the 21st century. You might not believe it, reading this blog, but it's true. I'm not really much of a misanthrope; I wasn't supposed to grow up in some other time and place. I still wouldn't have worked right in any other time.

And I love my technology. I don't think it's going to save the world, but that's a discussion for another day. Well, actually, let me say this briefly: when I was watching Kurzweil in The Transcendental Man there came a point where the digital file (I was using a USB-flash drive to watch the digital file on someone else's xBox, of course) had a momentary glitch. Right about the time one fellow was saying, “I think technology will save us...”

The recording paused itself. And then we got a call from DeusExMachina, and he said: “turn on the t.v.”

The Tsunami had just hit Japan, and one of the first explosions at the reactor had occurred. I'm pretty sure reality straight up told me, “FUCK technology as a savior.”

So. Y'know. I'm just sayin'. Don't count overmuch on the Singularity. As exponential growth occurs with technology, the risk of monumental disaster also increases drastically. We tend to blow one another up with our toys long before we, say, try and cure cancer.

Anyway. I notice when something weird redirects to my blog. And I take some interest when that something is cellular phone spy software.

Now, maybe someone out there has a boss who thinks he's James Bond, or something. Fair enough. You probably signed a piece of paper that generally said, “everything I say, do, and use this phone for will be monitored.” It's a legitimate purpose, and this software caters to that sort of thing.

How it works is this: someone installs the software on your phone, with or without you knowing, and then registers the phone number with the website selling the software. A short text message for confirmation is sent to the handset, and once confirmation is made just about 90% of what you do thereafter is redirected to a website owned by the company selling the software, where the person who registered the phone with them can check up on it. This includes things like browser use (hence how I know they crossed this blog by using a shitty redirect URL; we'll get to that), text messages, maybe keylogged strokes (including possibly notes you make, etc, depending on the software), and they may even be able to record your goddamn phone calls. I'm not sure. I've seen that advertised, but who knows how well it actually works? Oh, and GPS triangulation. Who could forget that?

If you signed an agreement for a company phone, you already knew this was going to happen. If you have a slightly tech-savvy ex who wants to stalk you more effectively, then this is a huge problem.

Most of the companies selling these software packages use taglines like: “STOP CORPORATE ESPIONAGE! TRACK YOUR CHILDREN! KNOW WHAT YOUR EMPLOYEES ARE DOING!”

So, after the CEO of some podunk local company reads or sees Casino Royale, he can go and play James Bond or pretend he's Archer. (Meanwhile, without a legal disclaimer, this is oh-so-illegal. The only real legitimate use is for employers to monitor traffic – with the right documents signed and agreed to – and parents to creep on their kids in weird ways.)

Meanwhile, he's still not as clever as he thinks. And neither is that creepy ex possibility.

mSpy, the company making the software I'm discussing is not very clever at all. They redirect the traffic from their server-sinkholes from the same website that sells the software. Apparently these guys don't know what the word “PROXY” means. I'd tell them how to run a more efficient company, but fuck that. At present they might as well be redirecting traffic off “”.

I hope they get out of the business, because they suck as amateur spooks. Given the level of ineptitude, I won't suggest they bother writing anonymizing software and helping make the world a better place, either. Instead I hope they just plain go under.

How can you know? Well, your bandwidth usage is going to shoot way, way up on your cell bills. Because of so much redirecting, the usage to the service provider is going to be about double. Meaning that your boss really isn't James Bond, either. He's just racking up a way higher bill as he tries to micromanage bullshit. It also means that sexting your partner is not smart on the company phone, noob.

In the event you have a shit ex, and there isn't anyone who is working for 00Wanker, I recommend a poppet to blind his/her eyes and ears in the most brutal fashion possible. S/He deserves it in such an event... Oh, yeah. And get the handset wiped by your provider. Seriously.
Edit: Now with moar wankery... Also getting blog redirects (2 hits in 24 hours) from another cell survaillance company with software catering to Cheater catching. Well, that solves that mystery. Wipe yo' handset, yo.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A few, brief, comments on Wicca.

I've been asked why I seem to avoid the subject of Wicca in this blog quite often, so I just wanted to clarify a couple things.

Most importantly, I have absolutely no issues with Wicca in general. I enjoy hanging out with some of the Eclectic Wiccans I've met, and I consider a few of them to be inspiring. I like most of the B.T.W. folks I've met, too. I may not always agree with either party, but neither makes me tremble with dread or annoys me very much. However, discussions on the subject are complicated by a few factors such as:
1. General assertions that may be true of one group, may not be true of another.
2. It is easy to mislead or confuse individuals, such as by addressing a general concern of one type of group and assuming it exists for others.
3. A good deal of people identify as Wiccan and have very specific ideas about what that means, and become deeply upset if someone begs to differ in opinion. I have seen more than a few intelligent discussions degrade into insults due to such differences.
4. I do not want some of my ideas to be misconstrued as being part and parcel of a subject that they may not belong to, nor place anyone in the rather dubious position of trying to defend some of my asshole moments by representing something I say as Wiccan when it very well not be the basis for such thoughts.
5. Tons of "Traditional Witches" have never actually been exposed to British Traditional Wicca and feel the need differentiate themselves from it due to that lack of exposure. Some of those folk have extreme degrees of confusion that arises when they can't tell the difference between where certain thoughts stem from, and the defensiveness gets in the way of meaningful and intelligent discourse.
6. The general occult population is not much better. I've had more than a few headache inspiring discussions about Wicca with Thelemites over the years. (Actually, this only really happened with some of the Thelemites from L.A. I've come across on the 'net. So maybe it's an L.A.-Thelemite issue.) This was rather funny, as I was expected to discuss Crowley's thoughts accurately, but such courtesy was rarely extended to Valiente or Gardner. Talk about a bummer.
7. Chaos Magicians are hilarious about everything. Trust me on this. We hate everything, and I'm still working through my walled-off-in-ignorance phase, if you can't tell. For many years I also dismissed Eclectic and B.T.W. as worthless due to the bad discussions. It was only when I realized how little I knew that I decided to S.T.F.U. If I'm afraid I will misrepresent something, I'll just stay silent. It works better.
7. There are other types of even less well known types of witchery out there, and I think they rock, too. At least what I know of them.

So there you have it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lux e Tenebris: Redux

(My People and I determined recently to abandon Crazy Town in search of the Promised Land.
Go forth, tribes of madmen by the lunar light!)
I find myself wondering about the need to simultaneously perceived as a rebel and hardcore, dawg, and also be the Epitome of Light in the Universe.

So you're a hoary monstrosity that comes out to run with the Wild Things by the Light of the Moon. Who cares? History has always known our kind. But why on earth must you insist on the Neo-Platonic Good? What good, seriously speaking, has that aspect of Neo-Platonism ever done for us besides get fingers burned? Since when did pretending everything was beautiful and moral get us anywhere, except into a puddle of more deception?

But I'm a good witch!

Look, Glenda. I'm not saying you have to be bad. But what you are is sitting dead center at the moral scale. You're playing both sides. Giving with both hands. Don't build yourself up into the most potent Light-Worker that ever lived. By all means: steal whatever works. But let's not make pretenses. Because when we do, we end up with weird discussions like the cagey morals of working with the dead and dead things, and someone just has to come along and beg the question of whether you have higher stands or different standards?

When I asked for visions of my ancestors and dreams of them, I saw a generation of horse thieves that abandoned proper society and went off to be wild men. I don't have to agree with everything they did, but I know where my roots are. And I'm not going to pretend that there weren't assholes in the bunch. But filial piety, at least according to this crafty Samurai that's long past and whom I admire, is about embodying the good in your relatives.

Not making shit up about Crystal Healers. Not pretending you come from a long stock of ancient magicians. Actually seeing how what came before influences what you are now, and how you choose to live now.

It also means not claiming boisterous, wondrous titles that make it sounds like we're all good folk here (with a hilariously common American religious meaning hiding behind it).

Now, if you are as white-light as it gets? Feel free to grokk the sing-song titles and get all up in those fertility spells. But if you're sitting at the center? Drop the moralizing. You make us all look bad. And if you're way off to the other side? Compassion is a blessing, friend. And so is love.

There's no such thing as a higher standard. There's just a different standard, and each individual much choose for themselves. We cannot impress our choices on them, we can only hope they choose for the better.

(Go forth, tribes of madman and madwomen! Crazy Town has been taken over by Ceremonialists. We need to find a new homeland. Apart from the Black Brother finger-pointing, and where we can peaceably rediscover our roots.

Before it's too goddamn late.)

Nothing is ever lost. It just changes shape, context, the idea mutates. Where did your beliefs and attitudes originate, and what does that tell you about yourself? Do you know, or are you just playing silly games for the sake of the thoughts of those who don't have to actually live your life?

Edit: Don't mind me. Just being an ass. Maybe someone will enjoy it regardless.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Black Mirrors Past: Venus + Jupiter Conjunct

“But seen from out here everything seems different. Time bends. Space is boundless. It squashes a man's ego. I feel lonely. That's about it. Tell me, though. Does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother? Keep his neighbor's children starving?”
- Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes.
- Pascal Beverly Randolph
The space has been cleared; consecrations performed, mirror affixed above or just behind us. Petitions made and act well under way.

I can feel my partner against me, her breath and voice soft and sonorous as she leans in closer. Eyes peering upwards, into the mirror. Physiological sensation has gone through the roof; everything touched feels extremely hot or cool, but all intensely pleasurable. “What's happening?”

I am starting to hear the voice from afar as the walls drop away; the desire to dominate, control, or even shape the experience fading distantly into the background as the body relaxes. The stirring starts at the loins and pelvis; red-white-hot, coiling and slowing rising not unlike a serpent. It drifts up along the solar plexus and there's an intense sensation of glowing gold emanating from that point. It rises to the boundless field of the heart.

Something is stirring in the mirror, just behind view.

Geometric shapes and configurations are flashing from the mirror to mind's eye. Trying to focus, speak, and also experience simultaneously. She refuses to look into the mirror on this occasion; we've agreed to just focus on one of us first, with the other reinforcing. Mental and emotional insecurities are fading away, ecstatic joy surging forward as the heat and force rise. Throat now; it seems like the patterns are getting brighter, coalescing together.

A sensation like being weighted down; experiencing the moment as completely as possible. No worries left now – no more internal chatter. Am I loved, doesn't even cross the mind as there is the joy of knowing love for one's self, for another, and the recipricated ecstasy.

There is a face in the mirror, now, but it is not mine. Rather it's a mask, glassy eyes and form hidden from behind. The spirits have no back. It opens it's mouth as vines are wrapping around it; blooming flowers and honey dripping from beneath. “Ecstasy is only the beginning!”

Which was saying which? Was it saying the words to me, or were my lips forming the words in union? The sensation has crossed from betwixt the eyes and is surging towards the crown.

The movement of forms, ours together, is coalescing now. The mask has descended, and suddenly I'm out of body and almost into the mirror. I know I haven't moved much beyond the usual, but I've shot through the plane of glass and somewhere else.

Hillsides of grass. Purple flowers blooming. Ruins adjunct and off to the left. Other forms, other souls, other – fellow – travelers. Someone I knew before, in some other place or time, approaching slowly.

But it's suddenly backwards. Her voice breaching the sudden immersion. “It's... close...”

Snapping back forward, hard. Hillsides, rivers, lakes, oceans passing beneath and rapidly. Towards the end goal, the moment, the reason all has come together.

The sensation like a thousand doors are battering open and shut, all around, at once. A sound like the wind, and then, the cacophonous caws of gulls or ravens above.


Back now, mask and feeling of intense presence receding now as quickly as they had come together. Just the stirring, ecstatic, joyous love for one's partner left. Eyes peering into one another – were her's always so dark brown and beautiful?

Lips together, last words as she slides down tiredly. There will be closing to do, but it can wait. Something has to be said first.

I love you, you know. I think I've always loved you, and even after this comes to an end, I still will love you.”

The goal of course could have been anything: healing, spiritual communion, or the grossest application of thaumaturgy possible. But the end result is always the same. Love, will, desire, momentum and expression to be combined as fit.

Tell me, O' Magus, would you incarnate a new wish? And if living in that wish was only possible by change, would you simply enjoy the experience and make the change?

Love and growth can often combine, coincide, work together. Why stick to the same stale, sad, poisonous patterns when you can look askance and elsewhere, seeking what is needed and beloved by yourself and others?

However great your reach, whatever you touch, shall touch flesh!
- Austin Osman Spare, The Logomachy of Zos.

“Hear me, illustrious father, dæmon fam'd. Great Saturn's [Kronos'] offspring, and Sabasius [Zabazios] nam'd; Inserting Bacchus, bearer of the vine, and founding God, within thy thigh divine, That when mature, the Dionysian God might burst the bands of his conceal'd abode, And come to sacred Tmolus, his delight, where Ippa dwells, all beautiful and bright. Come blessed Phrygian God, the king of all, and aid thy mystics, when on thee they call.”
- Orphic Hymn to Sabazius.

“Heav'nly [Ourania], illustrious, laughter-loving queen, sea-born, night-loving, of an awful mien;
Crafty, from whom necessity [Ananke] first came, producing, nightly, all-connecting dame:
'Tis thine the world with harmony to join, for all things spring from thee, O pow'r divine.
The triple Fates [Moirai] are rul'd by thy decree, and all productions yield alike to thee:
Whate'er the heav'ns, encircling all contain, earth fruit-producing, and the stormy main,
Thy sway confesses, and obeys thy nod, awful attendant of the brumal God [Bakkhos]:
Goddess of marriage, charming to the sight, mother of Loves [Eortes], whom banquetings delight;
Source of persuasion [Peitho], secret, fav'ring queen, illustrious born, apparent and unseen:
Spousal, lupercal, and to men inclin'd, prolific, most-desir'd, life-giving., kind:
Great sceptre-bearer of the Gods, 'tis thine, mortals in necessary bands to join;
And ev'ry tribe of savage monsters dire in magic chains to bind, thro' mad desire.
Come, Cyprus-born, and to my pray'r incline, whether exalted in the heav'ns you shine,
Or pleas'd in Syria's temple to preside, or o'er th' Egyptian plains thy car to guide,
Fashion'd of gold; and near its sacred flood, fertile and fam'd to fix thy blest abode;
Or if rejoicing in the azure shores, near where the sea with foaming billows roars,
The circling choirs of mortals, thy delight, or beauteous nymphs, with eyes cerulean bright,
Pleas'd by the dusty banks renown'd of old, to drive thy rapid, two-yok'd car of gold;
Or if in Cyprus with thy mother fair, where married females praise thee ev'ry year,
And beauteous virgins in the chorus join, Adonis pure to sing and thee divine;
Come, all-attractive to my pray'r inclin'd, for thee, I call, with holy, reverent mind.”
- Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stories, Myths, and As If.

Man, I love everything VI writes.

But the two pieces linked together in the last Modern Mythology post he made really get to me. I want to just highlight one vital portion from the first entry, and then you can follow the links and read what he has to say if you feel like it. But I encourage you to consider it.
'To understand and remember stories, readers integrate their knowledge of the world with information in the text. Here we present functional neuroimaging evidence that neural systems track changes in the situation described by a story. Different brain regions track different aspects of a story, such as a character's physical location or current goals. Some of these regions mirror those involved when people perform, imagine, or observe similar real-world activities. These results support the view that readers understand a story by simulating the events in the story world and updating their simulation when features of that world change. ' - Psychological Science August 1, 2009 vol. 20 no. 8 989-999

'Verbal communication is a joint activity; however, speech production and comprehension have primarily been analyzed as independent processes within the boundaries of individual brains. Here, we applied fMRI to record brain activity from both speakers and listeners during natural verbal communication. We used the speaker's spatiotemporal brain activity to model listeners’ brain activity and found that the speaker's activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener's activity. This coupling vanishes when participants fail to communicate. Moreover, though on average the listener's brain activity mirrors the speaker's activity with a delay, we also find areas that exhibit predictive anticipatory responses. We connected the extent of neural coupling to a quantitative measure of story comprehension and find that the greater the anticipatory speaker–listener coupling, the greater the understanding. We argue that the observed alignment of production- and comprehension-based processes serves as a mechanism by which brains convey information.' -PNAS August 10, 2010 vol. 107 no. 32 14425-14430

Before there was written text or visual media such as film, stories were the primary method of cultural transmission:

'The speaker's activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener's activity'
Let these two statements combine in your head for a moment; see what they point to – scientific evidence that a story can draw you in, change your perception and have an affect on you.”
That, right there, in a nutshell, is the essence of 'As If'.

Now, if your interest is piqued, start with:

Re: The Brotherhood of Blackness (As Mythology)

In response to my recent entry on PBR and the Black Brotherhood, Harold commented:
I've been reading Crowley's novel "Moonchild," and his villains are part of the Black Lodge, but they are all white people--Mathers is the head and Waite is in it.”

I'll respond here, because, I want to clarify my comments a bit. There is a long and varied history of treating “evil magicians” or a “black brotherhood” as antagonists in a novel. Victorian occult literature – like Ghost Land or Dr. Traverner – included stories by occultists wherein they hid the work they did. Fellows like Machen, as well, have societies or cabals of evil or dark magicians that get together for unspeakable ends. In terms of a fantasy motif, I think the “dark brotherhood of pure wrong” makes a great deal of sense and for a good story.

In the context of real, occult practice, however the issue is a bit murky for me. I have to acknowledge the way that Crowley worked the Black Brotherhood into the Vision and the Voice and Magick Without Tears. In both contexts, he uses the term to clarify what he considers “evil” magick, and in MWT he even contextualizes an example where one may be a crap magician doing it wrong, or one could become his ideal abomination. Neither use appears overtly racist.

We could set this as an example, though, against Fortune's Psychic Self Defense where “Black” or “Dark” Brothers are: sodomite, drug-dealing-drug-taking magicians or “swarthy” individuals who use magical powers, abilities, or Siddhis (or whatever) to get sex, drugs, money, power, or abuse children. I'm really condensing a lot of her whacky tales in this generalization, though.

Unfortunately, fewer magicians follow Crowley's example – in which he made mistakes, such as calling Austin Spare a “Black Brother” for his extensive use of autoerotic sex magic – and more lean towards the abusive examples of Fortune or Blavatsky. I won't point fingers. Plenty of groups of asshats do it, and I'd earnestly like them to shut the fuck up.

Similarly, I don't want to suggest tolerating extremely abusive or extremely criminal behavior. My antinomian leanings aside, there's plenty of potential for sexual or mental or emotional (in which case: get out of the group) or physical abuse from any given group of criminal folks or charlatans. The police, however, exist to arrest such individuals.
Anyway, I feel like Crowley 'updated' the mythology of his “Black Brotherhood” to fit with his internal visions and experiences and system, in a way that's generally less obnoxious than the use by post-Theosophical madmen or madwomen. These days, we could probably update the category again with enough vision work. Between the 1980s and 1990s, numbers of Chaos Magicians practiced things like the “Mass of Chaos B” and the “Mass of Choronzon” and called up Choronzon in an effort to discover if the Demon of Dispersion was as bad as Crowley made him out to be. I saw three folks actually help themselves towards insanity with materials like those, but simultaneously plenty of semi-balanced folks who returned to say: “Nah, he aint so bad.”

Whether or not you wish to trust them is, of course, up to you. I don't really worry about it, because I don't really worry about the Abyss much, frankly. That sounds like some other, dead, Faust's problem. Magical vision states tend to reinforce the symbolic and narrative patterns that we reinforce them with, at least in some contexts (there is always the universe pwning you in the face, for example, and forcing you to alter your “beliefs”). At different periods, the spirit world and what exists in it was contextualized differently. Since I tend to use a lot of Ptolemaic Astrological Magic (which doesn't mean I remotely understand it), I am less concerned with the Abyss, Choronzon, and the horrible mess of the Qliphot than I used to be... Some day, I may do work with Dee's Enochian magic the right way and see what the Aethyrs hold to see, but there's plenty of shit around me right now to pay attention to, not to mention the entire history of magical practices prior to Blavatsky, Fortune, and Crowley to look at and try to figure out.

Still, some tales are pretty good, if told well. I may some day come across another great “occult” oriented epic with Black Brothers taking center stage to mess with crap that oughtn't be messed with, and enjoy it very much.

Hell, if you're reading this blog and want to write a story about that, be sure to let me know you wrote it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

From Ghost Land (1879)

Yesterday, I came across Emma Britten's Ghost Land, originally publicated in 1876, apparently in partial response to the Great Boston Fire (of 187-?). I came across it looking into the “Orphic Circle,” which appears to have been kind of magician's social network in the 1800s. The book is pre-Theosophical, and reads like Dracula would if all the characters in it were Victorian magicians from either England or Germany.

About page 35, one encounters a fascinatingly weird scene where one of the main characters is sent to astrally recover the astral “double” or “flying soul” of a lunatic magician so his order, the Berlin Brotherhood, can discuss his activities. I'm going to transcribe it, because it's so freaking odd, and maybe even awesome.

Be prepared for the crazy.
Note: there are racist comments about the Roma and other cultures at different points in the text. They are less overbearing than in some works of this time period, though.


It was by the command of my associates that I one night visited, in the magnetic sleep, the cell of the lunatic; and being charged by the power of the Brothers with their combined magnetic force, I threw it on the maniac and by this means, whilst his suffering body suffered tranquilly, I returned to our “sanctuary” with his spirit; and from the records of that man's proceedings, I extract the following minutes of what transpired. He whose office I am not permitted by my honor to name, I shall call “Grand Master,” and he thus questioned what was always called on these occasions the “flying soul” of the maniac:
Grand Master: Did you kill the body of A.M. Answer truly.
Flying Soul: I did.
G.M.: For what purpose, and how?
F.S.: To ascertain if the atmospheric spirit, being full of life, could remain with me. I killed her by a sudden blow, so as to let all the life out at once, and I drew out the spirit from the dead form by Mesmeric passes.
G.M.: Did you see that spirit pass?
F.S.: I did.
G.M.: How did it look?
F.S.: Exactly like the body, only it wore an aspect of horror and appeal terrible to behold.
G.M.: Did the spirit stay with you, and how long? Did it obey you, and act intelligently or did it act a merely automatic part?
F.S.: Mortals, know that there is no death! I did not kill A.M. I only broke up the temple in which her soul dwelt! That soul is immortal, and cannot die. I found this out the moment after it had left the body, for it looked upon me, spoke to me, reproached me. O, God of Heaven, saints and angels, pity me! It spoke to me as intelligently, but far, far more potentially than ever it had done in earthly being. It was not dead. It could not die; it never will die, and so it told me at once; but, ah, me, miserable! When I sank down aghast and truck with ineffable horror, as the spirit approached me, into a deep swoon, I entered the land of immortal souls. There I saw many people whom I had thought dead, but who were all still living. There, too, I saw the still living and radiantly glorious soul of my old pastor, Michael H---. Sternly but sorrowfully he told me I had committed a great and irreparable crime; that all crime was unpardonable, and could only be wiped out by personal, and not be vicarious atonement, as he had falsely taught whilst on earth; that my only means of atonement was suffering, and that in kind, or in connection with my dreadful crime; that, as the poor victim would be engaged during the term of her earth life (broken short by my act) in working it out in an earthly sphere, so her magnetism, actually attracted, as I had deemed, to the spot where her life had been taken, would continue to haunt me and repeat in vision the last dread act of murder until her life essence should melt away and her spirit become free to quit the earth, and progress, as she would do, to higher spheres. Sometimes, this stern teacher informed me, I should see the real living soul of my vicim, and then it would be as a pitying angel striving to help me; but still oftener I should see only the “spectre,” and this would always appear as in the death-moment, an avenging form, partly conjured up from my own memory, partly from the magnetic aura of my victim, and always taking the shape and circumstances of my dreadful crime. Mortals, there is much more to tell you of the awful realms beyond the grave, and the solemn connection between life and death, but more I dare not speak...
EDIT: Original publication date altered due to new information coming my way.
X2: I was wrong at the time of this writing. It seems the Theosophical society was established around 1875 - 1876 according to Rene Guenon...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

And Now I Must Pause.

There are obligations to be filled, and while I've worked on them off and on recently, I have been more taken in with conveying the information in the Dead Man's Hand series of pieces. Obviously, part of it deals with “magical potions.”

I need to pause and write about another type of magical potions (or just concoctions in many cases) – Fluid Condensers – for the upcoming Gentlemen for Jupiter anthology. You can expect to see something similar to the Dead Man's Hand pieces, except strictly concerning Fluid Condensers, their history/origin, sample recipes that I came up with for specific planetary work (as, you can easily get the original recipes from Bardon or Randolph), and if there's space I'll even detail my experiences with them (such as spontaneously possessing the materia of one), and using them to increase the efficiency of Incubatio for communication with different spirits.

But, and I say this seriously, I have something like 59 pages of notes, suggestions for myself or others, comments and experiences, and then straight history. It's a lot of material. In the event my essay for the Gents gets too lengthy, I'll give the addition bits in this blog for free. Because I'm a nice guy like that.

Oh, yeah. And almost none of it will be diabolic or involve necromancy! ... Except for my dedication of those materials to the spirit of Paschal Beverly Randolph, of course. That guy needs so much more love.

Be seeing you,

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dead Man's Hand: Part Three*

In the event that you missed previous Dead Man's Hand entries and wish to catch up:

“On the lone bleak moor,
At the midnight hour,
Beneath the Gallows Tree,
Hand in hand
The Murderers stand
By one, by two, by three!
And the Moon that night
With a grey, cold light
Each baleful object tips;
One half of her form
Is seen through the storm,
The other half ’s hid in Eclipse!”
- Tom Ingoldsby, The Hand of Glory.

“After a short time the Isle of Dreams came in sight close by, faint and uncertain to the eye. It had itself some likeness to a dream, for as we approached it receded and retired and retreated to a greater distance. Overtaking it at length and sailing into the harbour called Sleep, we landed near the ivory gates, where the sanctuary of the Cock is, about dusk, and on entering the city, we saw many dreams of all sorts. But first I desire to speak of the city itself, since no one else has written about it, and Homer, the only one to mention it at all, was not quite accurate in what he said. On all sides of it is a wood, in which the trees are tall poppies and mandragoras, and they have a great number of bats in them; for there is no other winged thing in the island. A river flows near which they call Sleepwalker, and there are two springs by the gates, named Soundly and Eight-hours. The wall of the city is high and parti-coloured, very like a rainbow in tint. The gates in it are not two, as Homer says, but four. Two face Slowcoach Plain, one of which is of iron and the other of earthenware; through these, it is said, the fearful, murderous, revolting dreams go out. The other two face the harbour and the sea, one of which is of horn and the other, through which we came in, of ivory. As one enters the city, on the right is the temple of Night, for the gods they worship most are Night and the Cock, whose sanctuary is built near the harbour. On the left is the palace of Sleep, who rules among them and has appointed two satraps or lieutenants, Nightmare, son of Causeless, and Rich, son of Fancy. In the centre of the square is a spring which they call Drowsimere, and close to it are two temples, that of Falsehood and that of Truth. There too is their holy of holies and their oracle, which Antiphon, the interpreter of dreams, presided over as prophet, having had this office from Sleep.”

The Enchanter, Armed with Potions, in Antiquity.

By no means is the concoction of herbs of a magical, or poisonous nature, into a drink an unknown item in antiquity. In Homer's Odyssy, as mentioned before, Circe uses a magical brew to reduce men to pigs. And as you will have noticed at the end of the second part of my meandering discourses on this topic, Mandrake is used to induce catalepsy or “evil sleep.” In addition to recipes (“spells”) for such effects, another common ingredient is that very illegal byproduct of the Poppy (Papaver Somniferum): opium. Unlike Mandrake, the poppy is not associated with Hecate. Rather, it is associated with Demeter and Persephone. In “Like What that Springeth Green”: Death and Return in the Myth of Demeter and Persephone by Kathie Carlson, she writes:
“A variant in which the flower Kore picks is a poppy rather than a narcissus suggests another symbolic meaning. Graves comments: 'An image of a goddess with a poppy–headdress was found in Crete, another goddess... holds poppies in her hand; and on the gold ring from the Acropolis treasures at Mycenae, a seated Demeter gives three poppy–heads to a standing (K)ore. Poppy–seeds were used as a condiment on bread and poppies are naturally associated with Demeter since they grow in cornfields but (K)ore picks or accepts poppies because of the soporific qualties and because of their scarlet colour which promises resurrection after death.' Red was also the color that was sacred to the dead. Here we already have some hint of both the connections and differences between Demeter and Kore–Persephone; the poppy connects to the upperworld of Demeter where it grows in her cornfields but has consciousness–altering capacities which link it to the underworld and to Persephone as ruler of a world beyond life.”
Here, again, we have mythic associations with a plant and a Goddess, which is also made use of in spells associated with either rendering one “magically to sleep” or perhaps even causing them to hallucinate while under the power of the brew. But who, in antiquity, would have employed such potions? And have no doubt that, despite the mythic quality of the above, there were concrete and real individuals making such concoctions: Plato discusses them. Morton Smith, when discussing the lower class Goetes of the late Plato's day, samples his comments on the matter:
As to poisoning, he recognized that the Greek term had two meanings, one, the damage done by a physical substance, the other, that done by 'tricks and spells and enchantments' which persuade men that they are harmed by others who thus practice goetia. He ruled that the latter type of 'poisoning' should by punished by death if the offender were a prophet or interpreter of portents; but by a penalty proportunate to the damage if an amateur. (Laws, 932ff.).”
- Jesus the Magician (p. 70)

This sort've magical activity was by no means unknown. What is interesting is that most of the concoctions often contain plants associated with deities of the dead, or the dead themselves. Mandragora Officinarum is by no means unique in this. It might be interesting to look at what the Goetes do, in trying to understand why the same word could refer to two distinct sets of activities (with, as we will see, both legitimate and illegitimate uses):
“The common Greek word for 'magician' in Jesus' time was goes (plural goetes). It was usually, but not necessarily, abusive. Plato, in writing praise of the demon Eros as the intermediary between men and the gods, had said in the Symposium (202e), 'Through him all divination is made possible, and the science of the priests and the specialists in sacrifices and initiations and spells, and all prophesy and goetia.' Here goetia (what goetes do) is one special technique like others named, a recognized and legitimate function. It seems to have been a sort of Greek shamanism, a form of mourning for the dead in which the goetes became ecstatic and were thought to accompany the dead on their journey to the underworld. Such goetes were evidently popular – their ability to charm their hearers (perhaps with songs of mourning, perhaps with descriptions of what they 'saw') was such that decietful but persuasive speakers were both called 'sophists' and goetes. (This may account for the use of both terms to describe Jesus.) Goetia could also refer to physical magic. According to Herodotus, men thought to turn themselves into wolves may be goetes (IV. 105). The followers of Euripides and Socrates, who detested sophistry no less than superstition, came to use goetia as a general term for 'deceit', and to equate goes with 'beggar,' 'deceiver,' and 'impertinent scoundrel'. A passing reference in the Meno (80b) indicates that by Plato's time, in some cities goetes were liable to arrest. Plato as an old man (when his feeling for Eros, song, and ecstasy was no longer what it had been when he wrote the Symposium) put into his Laws a penalty for men who 'are so bestial as to... say that they can lead about the souls of the dead and... persuade the gods, pretending they can charm them by sacrifices and prayers and spells' – these were to be imprisoned for life... These passages indicate the scope of goetia in classical times: accounts of the underworld, practice as mediums, necromancy, charms, curses, and therefore by extension, any deceitful persuasion.” (p. 70)
Lest we think that the Greek treatment of the goetes in antiquity (who could clearly get up to no good when they felt like it, much like later “witches”), the Magi fared no better. Smith writes: 
“Herodotus sarcasm was typical of the developing rationalism of his time. In the drama of the later fifth century magos can mean 'quack;' the 'arts of the Magi' can be equated with 'the use of drugs' and 'the deceits of the gods.'” (p. 71)
Jake Stratton-Kent briefly mentions, in the first volume of the Goesophia (p. 123) the Pharmakos, which he defines as “an enchanter with drugs.” This is clearly the iteration of the lower-class magician that Plato is talking about, and identifies along alongside the Goetes. For the record, I would like to know more about the Pharmakos in general. What you've been seeing, and the recipes in the Betz's book are unfortunately about as much as I know, beyond some meaningless trivia.

For lack of a better term, let's refer to this type of magical utility and identity as “Sorcery,” and suggest that this is one of the reasons that it was later identified – when it appeared – as “witchcraft.” Given the necromantic associations, which became increasingly treated as dangerous after the end of the classical era, it's easy to understand that while “natural magic” or “high magic” both came to be accepted, this aspect of practice was more and more marginalized. That does not mean it disappeared, as I will make clear.

Witches that Fly!

The earliest church document that discusses witches and their questionable nature is the Canon Episcopi (314/906* CE). It is remarkably interesting, for within it we find:

“Bishops and their officials must labor with all their strength to uproot thoroughly from their parishes the pernicious art of sorcery and malefice invented by the devil, and if they find a man or woman follower of this wickedness to eject them foully disgraced from the parishes... It is also not to be omitted that some unconstrained women, perverted by Satan, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and openly profess that, in the dead of night, they ride upon certain beasts with the pagan goddess Diana, with a countless horde of women, and in the silence of the dead of the night to fly over vast tracts of country, and to obey her commands as their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on other nights. But it were well if they alone perished in their infidelity and did not draw so many others into the pit of their faithlessness. For an innumberable multitude, deceived by this false opinion, believe this to be true and, so believing, wander from the right faith and relapse into pagan errors when they think that there is any divinity or power except the one God. Wherefore the priests throughout their churches should preach with all insistence to the people that they may know this to be in every way false, and that such phantasms are sent by the devil who deludes them in dreams... Whoever therefore believes that anything can be made, or that any creature can be changed to better or worse, or transformed into another species or likeness, except by God Himself who made everything and through whom all things were made, is beyond a doubt an infidel.”

This is interesting. Here we see a clear association between those who 'go forth in flight', 'sorcery', and 'dreams.' Can we find something in the historical record that clearly places something happening – even at the height of the witch trials – that involved aspects of all that we have discussed above?

We do. We find it in Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft, which also retains rituals involving necromancy, the dead, fairies (and sibyls that are fairies) and all other manner of weirdness. In his chapter on Flying Ointments, Scot gives two recipes and one account of successful use.


Quoting John Baptista Neapolitanus, who had found a witch and beaten her until she revealed her secret, he writes that the recipe includes:
“The fat of yoong children, and seeth it with water in a brasen vessell, reserving the thickest of that which remaineth boiled in the bottome, which they laie up and keepe, untill occasion serveth to use it. They put hereunto Eleose­linum, Aconitum, Frondes populeas, and Soote.”

Aconitum is aconite, or Monkshood. Sarah Penicka-Smith, in Caveat Anoynter, suggests Eleoselinm is either Parsley or Hemlock. Both Aconitum and Hemlock are absolutely deadly. Hemlock can also be known as Conium maculatum, coming from the Greek konas meaning “to whirl.” In fact, I recall seeing somewhere that one of the Greek names for it means “to whirl around and die.” An altogether unsightly issue, assuredly.

Monkshood contains a potent neurotoxin. It is also known as Wolfsbane, and if that name immediately recalls the old rhyme heard in The Wolfman (1941): “Even a man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a Wolf when the Wolfsbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright!”

It is a paralytic, amongst other things. I believe an encounter with Wolfsbane, and its paralytic qualities, may account for it being associated with both being able to create and destroy “werewolves” in legend. In this case, the paralytic aspect renders the person unable to move, and certain individuals begin astral projecting as an internal response to the trauma of such a physical reduction. Obviously, this is just a circumstantial theory.

Finally, the use of baby fat will know doubt freak some people out. Obviously, any fat could be used. However, individuals possessing the herbal skills to know about the “magical” or “poisonous” qualities of herbs and employ them as well, would likely have been considered as midwives by some women. In the event that there is a miscarriage – which was much more common prior to the 20th century – that meant easy access to baby fat. This does not mean they only used baby fat, we should suspect that practitioners using ointments used all manner of fats. The use of the fat of an unbaptized child, however, meant that it had necromantic associations.

On this matter, Lady Scylla comments:
The Witchcraft Reader, Second Edition, edited by Oldridge also contains some really interesting references to the use of 'lifters' - Nearly all of them involving baby fat, feces of some animal or another, and potent-deadly herbs.”

She adds:
“T'would stand to reason, in my thinking, that they would use human fat – the absorption would be stellar. However, I think the tenacity of the “Baby fat and bat shit” recipe has more to do with it's affront to “sensible people” than it's inherent usefulness.”
Actually, we are in both cases describing necromantic materia used both in antiquity and in later stages of witchcraft and necromancy. You will recall that in my second post on this matter, I described some of the souls who Hecate rules and who are 'restless' and have 'died before their time.' This would have included babies, children, women who are unmarried, suicides, and individuals who cannot cross the Styx, either because they lacked payment for the Ferryman or because they were placed in such a way as to be confused and not be able to “return to society.”

Hanged Men, hanged at crossroads, are often of the criminal sort to whom all recourse has been denied. Their placement at the crossroads – because it was a mix of places – was to confuse them so they couldn't return. In Ronan's The Goddess Hecate, he explains that an unclean spirit can be exorcised quite simply in the Goddesses' name. First, one aspurges or incenses a room. Following that, one finds all “polluted” materials that could be feeding the ghost, and place them together in a broken pot-shard. This is then carried to the trivium, and dedicated to the Goddess with a meal to attract her notice, with the spirit being dedicated to the care of the Goddess. The individual thereafter immediately leaves, without looking back – for the Goddess, in her most true form, is coming to claim the soul thus placed.

In other cases, magicians would have driven restless ghosts of the above mentions, to the crossroads with exorcisms. While there, these spirits can be impelled to use with a variety of curse tablets, including “love-madness” cruses. These tablets were deposited at places where restless spirits dwelled: deep chasms, crossroads, or places where the rivers of death surfaced on the earth. Equally, curse tablets meant to compel such ghosts have been found in Greek bath drainage areas, as they were underground. Some memory of ideas like this were preserved even into Reginald Scot's day, with the belief that the unbaptized cannot get to Heaven. This would leave those unbaptized here, and capable of being called on for similar reasons. Suicide is another common way to become stranded between “where we want to go” and “where we live.”

The materia itself is employed by itself, and without the use of Ghosts, as well. In PGM I. 247-62, we find a spell for invisibility, most likely astral. It calls for, amongst the materia, “eye of an ape, or of a corpse that has died a violent death...”

Pliny, in The Natural History, lists that the rope of a hanged man was a “cure” peddled by magicians for headaches. Pliny is referenced in both Agrippa, and in (I need to doublecheck later) 15th century German “Leechbooks,” discussed by Richard Kieckhefer in Magic in the Middle Ages.

Bats, similarly, would be part of the same class of materia. Bat shit, bat blood, bat wings. It comes as almost no surprise to see that inclusion. Many of these materials reflect sympathetic connections with the mythical worlds of sleep, or death. One again recalls that in the fragments of Aeschylus' The Evocators, when Odysseus performs the necromancy the souls that will be responding are described as a “swarm of night-wanderers,” which I take to be most likely bats. I could be wrong, though.

On to the second recipe (WARNING: HIGHLY DANGEROUS. SERIOUSLY CONSIDER NOT MAKING IT, BUT... Well, to each their own. Some folks seem to use it):
“Sium, acarum vulgare, pentaphyllon, the bloud of a flitter-mouse [=bat], solanum som­niferum, & oleum. They stampe all these togither, and then they rubbe all parts of their bodies exceedinglie, till they looke red, and be verie hot, so as the pores may be opened, and their flesh soluble and loose. They joine herewithall either fat, or oile in steed thereof, that the force of the ointment maie the rather pearse inwardly, and so be more effectuall.”

He tells us that “by this a moone light night they seeme to be carried in the aire, to feasting, singing, dansing, kissing, culling, and other acts of venerie, with such you thes as they love and desire most...”

Solanum Som­niferum is Deadly/Enchanter's Nightshade, or Atropa Belladonna. It is psychoactive and highly toxic. I believe this is the plant that Roy Bowers (Robert Cochrane) used to end his life, unfortunately. It has been suggested, and I have no idea if this is true or not, but that the toxicity of the plant can be controlled effectively with Opium; Scot makes no mention of this. I am not sure at all of it's true; but if it is, it may be a clue as to how the plant might have been used in an ointment to “cause flying” without killing the individual using the ointment. Regardless, given opium's status as a highly illegal substance, there is no way for me to even find out unless I talk to criminals who are also witches.

It should be remembered that Scot's source, John Baptista Neapolitanus was out to find a witch. Upon witnessing her demonstrate the use of the ointment, fall asleep, and return with her tales of her travel he concluded that witches' as believed in his day, who literally flew and worshiped the devil, were not real.

In From Sorcery to Witchcraft, Michael D. Bailey explains that Inquisitors began hunting down necromancers in the Catholic church. They were presumably looking for fellows who wielded Grimoires like CLM 849, also known as as the Necromancer's Handbook. As they moved farther and farther afield, they began to encounter folk practitioners and others whose practices were similar enough to be recontextualized as “witchcraft,” and this helped fuel the belief that the Devil was acting as a Field Marshall to witches – his troops. Looking at the materia relating to necromancy in the flying ointment, and some of the necromancy rituals in Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft clear shows a relationship between the two, albeit often misunderstood.

I have questions, though. Why is it that in antiquity we most often see “teas of doom,” whereas by Scot's (1584+ CE) day we see ointments? Is this due to easier access to fats that can be used to make the ointments? Is it for reasons of guile, such as an easier ability to hide the ointment? I have no idea. I have theories, but nothing more substantial to that.

I have yet to discuss incensed and mind-altering candles, and of the potential veracity (beyond as recorded in history). I'll break here to do that next.

Hope you enjoyed this update,

* See comments.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Flying Ointments & Witch of Forest Grove, a Brief Detour

I have been reading the Witch of Forest Grove's entry on Flying Ointments. But, I'm having some issues here. There's two really bad comments that... Bother me immensely.

I need to say this as clearly as possible: YOU SHOULD NOT EXPERIENCE HALLUCINATIONS.

This is followed by:

You will experience the mundane world differently and you may feel awe, amazement, and wonder at what you see and feel. You may have profound thoughts and realizations you normally would not. You may hear whispers or see glimpses of things you would not in ordinary consciousness. And, when used ritually by those with the gift, you will be able to achieve things you’d never imagined when your spirit is separated from flesh; shapeshifting into animals and elemental forces, long distance travel, dreamwalking, interacting with wights and shades…

This is my problem... The word hallucination is defined as: An experience involving the perception of something not present. In the broadest sense, this is when you hear a voice that is not attached to a person or have another perception during waking hours with the absence of external stimulus.

The flying ointment opens you up to this capability, insofar as the literature and what she's written above. But it is hallucinatory. Your body is not physically flying when it occurred, therefore the perception is hallucinatory.

I suspect she means you should not have a bad trip, but she seems to be conflating the word hallucination with an allergic reaction or a bad trip. This is incorrect and worded as such, is misinforming to people who don't realize that the alkaloids involved are in some - if not many - cases hallucinogenic. E.G. They open you up that altered perception.

Otherwise, so far I've loved the entry. I'm just perplexed by those statements.

A Series of Disclaimers Prior to the Next Entry

What I am about to say, regarding flying ointments and the Nightshade family and their especial relevance to that category of archaic astral flight accessories does not mean that they are all safe, friendly, like you, or will not kill you. Some of them will. Two of the recipies I want to cite, from Reginald Scot, are interesting for the purpose of discussion. If used they will KILL YOU DEAD. Both use some of the most toxic, dangerous, and POISONOUS possible. THAT MAKES THEM ABSOLUTELY UNWISE TO USE.

If you take them, thinking, “Jack Faust said this will work” (one of which will; one will just straight kill your ass) THEN YOU WILL FUCKING DIE.


Now, here are some things you need to know about “tropane alkaloids,” which are the active alkaloids in the Nightshade family:
  1. They are stored in the fat cells of the body. This means even the most non-toxic of them can potentially cause “flashbacks” if you ingest, afterwards, a chili, or a tomato, or anything else related to the Solanacaeae family, and then go and exorcise. This can be incredibly disconcerting, especially if the hallucinogenic or other effects kick on while you are, say, flying towards work on your skateboard. Thirty seconds in the Land of the Dead is not cool, if you're not expecting it.
  2. Even some of the less toxic plants, like Mandragora Officinarum, are absolutely dangerous. Once the individual who has ingested Mandragora Officinarum's tropane alkaloids is nearing Tropane Toxicity, the emetic effects kick in. The plant is listed, in one of its first instances, in the Ebers Papyrus. It's use in that text is as a cure for intestinal worms, due to it's emetic effects. In layman's terms, what does this mean? It means that “it (everything you've ingested in the last 48 hours or so) will be coming out of both ends.” Add to this the potential for soporific effects and you have the potential for a terrible experience. A very, very terrible experience. While the plant is typically less toxic than Atropa Belladonna, it can still make you very, very sick.
  3. Flying ointments constitute a type of Entheogen. Understand this immediately, or the plant spirits may seek to take revenge on you. I am not joking. Those spirits can, of their own accord, curse your ass. If you have ingested their alkaloids? You are in sympathy with them. They can be accessed as tutelary allies, or even employed (if they consent and you have the right range of capability) as familiars. That does not mean they will simply just love on you. That takes building a real relationship, and really trying to learn about them. I'm still just scraping the surface of what I know is a deep chasm on this factor.


Let us not have another repeat of the death of Roy Bowers, shall we? And expect to see some of this all-caps, italic, underlined, bolded warnings again. I cannot warn you enough.