Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Underworld/Our World, the Dead, and the Good.

Stolen from Here.

What we need is MORE LIGHT.”
- VITRIOL

“It is not evil to work with the underworld, the ancestors, the night, the moon, death, and bones. It is dark, but there is goodness in it. We fear the unknown and the unseen. Modern witches call the above and the gods, but they often ignore the underworld and the spirits of the dead in their circle castings and magics. The chthonic deities and ancestors are great allies with their vast store of ancient wisdom and knowledge of the other worlds… but if neglected and ignored they become as the uninvited fairy from Sleeping Beauty and we all know how well that worked out. Ignore the darkness within yourself and expect the same results.”
I agree, almost completely. But I have to add a few caveats.

It's wrong to characterize Cthonic spirits, or the dead, as Evil. In the same respect, it's also wrong to characterize someone who performs an act of evil as Evil. It is not wrong, however, to say that some, if not many, are dangerous.

If you own a copy of Betz's tome, take a gander through the rituals that call upon the dead. Betz describes this treatment as “unscrupulous” and he is quite right. The individual practitioner may never need, or even desire, to perform any of these rituals. Denying that they exist, and were probably used exactly as they state their purpose is, would be wrong.

In the case of the dead there remain two tricky categories, neither good nor bad: the Restless Dead, and the Heroic Dead. It is tempting for me to treat the Restless Dead as “evil” because of some of the rather humorous events that happened to me surrounding my attempts to use CLM 849 long before I had any idea what I was doing. I did, indeed, gain complete astral sight for the duration of one particular ritual. It was hardly a blessing. I did something to piss something off, and it brought a dozen or more friends to hammer on my circle. I was completely and utterly terrified. I had to resort to exorcisms and hoping that I wasn't completely fucked. I consider myself to have lucked out, as eventually just about all of the angry dead departed. I left the Grimoire, with all it's glorious Latin scripts, prayers, and scrying instructions alone after that. I now have a few copies of it, and still reflect on it every now and again. But I refuse to pick up the book and try to use it again until I know precisely what is happening, and why.

Heroic spirits aren't specifically good in the human sense of the word, either. Piss one off – ancestral or otherwise – and expect to get feedback unlike anything you've ever felt before. Burnt earth and lime pits and maybe a few Restless Friends again screaming at you. And, despite what you might think, it's not so hard to piss them off. Especially if you have obligations to one of them.

In both cases you may end up in a good relationship, but you could also have trouble.

The same could be said of any magical attempts, really. The issue is that the dead appear to be playing – as some Necromancer's have insisted – by very different rules than the average elemental, Angelic, and otherwise spirits. They seem to have very different functions, and very different roles. And all manner of unspeakable, no-good can be gotten up to with them – especially if you're ecstatic and not thinking (I have made that mistake many times) about the ramifications of your actions. And some of them will helpfully suggest it.

Additionally there are those that don't want you prying, and don't want you bothering them. The ghost of a murdered woman does not necessarily want you leading her into the light. She might very well just want revenge. And, unbeknownst to you, she may be entitled to it. Are you going to help her lay waste to her murderer? Are you going to be able to understand what her request is, or be balanced enough to consider helping it out?

These are tricky, individual questions. While there is plenty of fear to be had from not knowing the subject, it seems to me that there's plenty of room for error and miscalculation if you really aren't prepared to act as such a functionary.

While there is plenty of good to be found – especially in some of the Heroic spirits – there is also plenty of room to get fucked up by them.

Finally, on that last issue, when I wrote on Persephone, Mnemosyne, and Orphica, some folks seem to have decided I was talking about the Qliphot.

Let me assert this once, clearly, and without slipping up now that Mercury is not retrograde (well, just about to stop being retrograde): I have some serious qualms about this theoretical structure.

Yes, comparisons could be made. And some insight into the subject could be gleaned from such considerations... However, Persephone is the “Pure, Pure Queen of Down Below.” This does not match, in any form or function, that of a shell. She is further treated by some of the Orphic cults as Praxidike: the Exacter of Justice. And elementally... water. Which I did not realize (Jack = n00b) until Melitta recently mentioned it on a blog post. I probably should have recognized that before. I was too lovestruck in “gazing” at Mnemosyne, I think. Not, uh, very shell-like. Seriously.

I keep focusing on the balance between the elements of water and earth (not to mention fire) in the Orphic scripts. There's something pestering me about it. But I can't put my finger on it.

Regardless, I would be very careful about even considering such spirits or gods as “purified” shells. I don't think that's what they are, at all. I'm also not sure it's smart to try and extend categories of spirits from Judaic mysticism, which only a few people actually understand beyond the basics, to the Graeco-Roman-Egyptian mythos. While similarities and parallels can certainly be found, there is a tendency to create a black and white picture of “good and evil” that doesn't exist. There's also a certain ambiguity about the category of spirit, and Ogden in Greek and Roman Necromancy has a number of stories in which Heroic spirits become enraged at insults cast at them and then blight the populace they were hanging out with, with lice and such.

Even if you walk with a balanced mind, remember that you aren't the only factor involved in witchery that takes place After Dark.

5 comments:

Rose Weaver said...

"... there is a tendency to create a black and white picture of “good and evil” that doesn't exist."

Nothing is "blank and white". Absolutely nothing. And "evil", like "beauty", is in the eye of the beholder, in my opinion.

Rose Weaver said...

That should be "black and white". Merc retro hangover... :P

Scylla said...

One thing I beat my head against with great frequency (and that has been popping up over and over in everything I read lately) is Occultists SAYING the occult is real and then treating it like a game of D&D or Magic The Gathering.

Truth is: You are damned the moment your enter the circle, shake your cock-symbol and proclaim yourself a Magus. Your only hope of redemption is understanding just how real shit just got, and acting with absolute, unflinching, humble, respect from there on out. If you just keep treading onward, flashing your steel and commanding everything to wipe your ass? Righto, I'll be making sure to get the hell outta the range of the nuclear devastation the Otherworld's cooking up to dump on your ass. That's why I stopped reading a rather lot of witch blogs - they're reaping a harvest I don't want to witness.

Me? I help the murdered woman get vicious, bloody, diseased, vengeance. And I count her among my brothers and sisters. I kiss her feet, because her rage is glorious and holy. I am privileged to serve her, because her knowledge is that death is no end to anything we love (or hate). Send her to the light? Fuck that noise. I give her what she asks - she's earned that. And then I ask her to let me know when and if she wants a hand toward the star-arrayed heavens.

Lance Foster said...

To a rabbit, a wolf is evil. The wolf hunts it, eats it, kills and eats bunny babies. But the wolf is just being a wolf. It doesn't eat grass. And to the wolf cub, mommy wolf is absolutely good.

Dams supply electricity and irrigation. Dams help farmers and their families grow food for a growing nation. They also destroy farmland and salmon runs, and the forests and tribes that depend on the salmon runs. To the farmer, a dam is good. To the salmon, because it can no longer reproduce and goes extinct, the dam is evil.

It is what it is. You choose and one door closes and another opens. Sometimes you end up where you want, and often you end up in a place you don't want to be.The trouble with seeing this stuff is that it is able to see you too.

Curiosity killed the cat,
But satisfaction brought him back.

Rose Weaver said...

Two thumbs up to Scylla.