Saturday, September 14, 2013

Regarding the Dead


It is, however, difficult to account for the whole fairy-creed by any single theory, for like the spirits with which it was concerned, it was always shifting, nebulous, and many-coloured. It seems to ave evolved from a medley of ancient beliefs in nature-spirits, ghosts, and half-forgotten heathen deities, and confused traditions of vanished Neolithic peoples and their ways of life.
[…]

Many stories show that fairies were often confused with ghosts, some of whose characteristics they shared. They haunted barrows and other ancient burial places. In their underground kingdom time ran strangely, as it did in the land of the dead, so that those who stayed there a day or two, as they thought, sometimes found on their return home that many years had elapsed in the upper world. Some who strayed into that enchanted country returned with their vitality mysteriously drained from them, became silent, morose, and melancholy, and did not live long after. The known dead were occasionally seen in the fairy host. Bessie Dunlop saw the Laird of Achinskeith riding with them, though he had died nine years before, and her own friend among them told her he had been killed at the Battle of Pinkie. Robert Kirk himself, after writing so learnedly about them, was said to have passed in the end to the fairy hill at Aberfoyle, and not to the grave...”
- Christina Hole, A Mirror of Witchcraft (Chapter Four, “The Fairies and the Dead.” P. 75 – 76.)
***

Over a decade ago, I took one of my initial trips into my former home town of Fresno, California with Hermes. I've written about my experiences during the first trip before. But as far as I know, I've never talked about the second experience that occurred that year. It was the winter solstice, and I invoked the deity before exiting my house and then did as I had been instructed on the first occasion.

The fog had rolled in; there was no sky to be seen. A gray length of impenetrable clouds stretched across the sky, even as the white mist rose up across the streets. I still recall how startling the sensations of trance were on that day. I was clearly
out of it, and I knew it.

As I ventured down the street with my unseen companion, I began to notice something strange. Around me figures were emerging from the mist. They didn't seem to move “normally,” which is to say that as they walked their bodies seemed to stretch or elongate. They were dressed normally, and seemed to take no notice of me. They just “walked sideways,” which is the closest I can come to describing what I saw. It wasn't so much they they weren't moving along the sidewalks or through the street as the average citizen of the city might. It was more that the visual image of their bodies elongating or stretching as they did made them
appear as if they were walking sideways.

“Why are those people moving so strangely?” I asked my unseen companion – although I'm not sure whether or not I spoke the words aloud.

The response was almost instantaneous. “They are the dead.”

“They don't seem to notice me,” I noted.

“They won't notice you while you are with me,” the deity seemed to reply. It is rather amusing to note that this comment was lost on me for many, many years.

Above the moving figures hung street lights, which seemed to create incandescent globes of white and yellow above the forms.

“Come along,” I was told, “I want to show you something...”

And that was the occasion that I was taken to me first 'crossroads,' of sort. An underground tunnel that stretched out beneath a street running above it. It was there that I got all kinds of crazy with predictable results, and conducted some of my first thaumaturgical rituals. And it was a
great place to practice.

But I've never forgotten the strange forms shifting in and out of the mist. How they walked, and how, above all else... They didn't seem to be aware that they were ghosts. The first time sticks with you, even years later. The slight terror of realizing that you're not completely alone – ever – in a city.


***


“I call Einodian Hecate, lovely dame,
Of earthly, wat'ry, and celestial frame,
Sepulchral, in a saffron veil array'd,
Leas'd with dark ghosts that wander thro' the shade;**
Persian, unconquerable huntress hail!
The world's key-bearer never doom'd to fail;
On the rough rock to wander thee delights,
Leader and nurse be present to our rites
Propitious grant our just desires success,
Accept our homage, and the incense bless.”
- Orphic Hymn to Hekate. (Taylor translation.*)

***

There is this long-running joke that the West forgot its dead, and furthermore, completely forgot how to interact with them. This is counter-acted in a number of ways; first, we have rituals in Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft (1665 CE) that detail how to interact with the Restless Dead. Specifically, the Fairy Sibylla or Experiment of the Dead ritual relies upon a spirit of that category:
“First, go to one that is new buried, such a one as killed himselfe or destroied himselfe wilfullie: or else get thee promise of one that shalbe hanged, and let him sweare an oth to thee, after his bodie is dead, that his spirit shall come to thee, and doo thee true service, at thy commandements, in all dales, houres, and minuts.”

The second ritual is entitled
How to Raise up the Ghost of one that hath hanged himself. It is as interesting as the first; the magician or witch even references Hekate during the process, which is explicitly Goetic in the original sense of the word. This process is done so that one will have revealed “why it strangled it self; where its dwelling is; what its food and life is; how long it will be ere it enter into rest, and by what means the Magitian may assist it to come to rest: Also, of the treasures of this world, where they are hid: Moreover, it can answer very punctually of the places where Ghosts reside, and how to communicate with them; teaching the nature of Astral Spirits and hellish beings, so far as its capacity reacheth.”

Finally, on seeks to discover “the cause of thy Calamity, why thou didst offer violence to thy own liege life, where thou art now in beeing, and where thou wilt hereafter be.” At the conclusion of the ritual, the magician or witch is to “out of commiseration and reverence to the deceased, to use what means can possibly be used for the procuring rest unto the spirit.”

Both of these rituals have a specifically Goetic pretext; they involve working with a spirit – possibly even an inimical one – in a context of mutual alliance, followed by the magician seeking to put the spirit at rest. (The ghost sought out at the beginning of the Fairy Sibylla ritual is to be aided in much the same way as the Hanged Ghost in the second ritual.)

***

The issue of whether or not necromancy survived in the West becomes trickier as we come forward in time, too. In 1848 two sisters in New York caused quite a sensation; in fact, it progressed to the status of an international phenomenon in due time. It was the same year that Paschal Beverly Randolph – who would for a time count himself as a member of the Spiritualist movement and whose work includes quite a few references to working with the dead – arrived in New York. I am, of course, referring to the Fox sisters (Kate and Margaret) of New York. They claimed that they were communicating to spirits through the medium of 'rapping' (knocking) with the spirits. One of the sisters later admitted to trickery, but as news of their ability to convince the spirits to knock in answer to them spread, it gained momentum.

A number of different schools of Spiritualism began to make headway, almost all of which claimed to work with the dead. Today we regard Spiritualism with contempt, and occultists generally do their best to avoid referencing it. However French Spiritualism – which rephrased itself as Spiritism – continues without the blatant charlatanry that European Spiritualism degraded into in South America and the Caribbean to this day. Alan Kardec has a stamp, for example, in Brazil bearing his visage.

Kardec's work follows a fairly typical outlook with regards to how the Spiritists viewed spirits themselves. In fact, many of their outlooks were directly inspired by working with the spirits and asking – much like the magician or witch in Reginald Scot's texts – them questions about their world. In fact, in several places the
Medium's Book has sections where Kardec notes that deceptive spirits are a problem. He also, however, comments on mannerisms and differences between types of spirits. In the Medium's Book all spirits are regarded as spirits of the dead.****

“Pure Spirits” are ghosts who have achieved awareness of God and the Higher Realms, and lived their lives as befits a good being and with the outlook to get to a “better place”. They are analogous, in Kardec's Spiritism to Angels.

“Lesser Spirits” or “Lower Spirits” are those who are still entrapped by the habits of the flesh. They still want to lie, cheat, and steal – God and his purity be damned! They are very close to the idea of the “Crew That Never Rests,” or the cavalcade of riotous and problematic spirits who seek to drag man closer to their state of affairs. That is if they have any agenda at all, which is assuming something that may not exist.

When asked about whether or not “demons exist,” the spirits being consulted in Kardec's
Spirit's Book respond in a way that would make any Goes happy:
It is only in its modern acceptation that the word demon implies the idea of evil spirits, for the Greek word daimôn from which it is derived, signifies genius, intelligence, and is applied indiscriminately to all incorporeal beings, whether good or bad.

The spirit answering the medium in the book goes on to note that since God is good, the idea of demons is antithetical to the awesomeness of God – who does not create evil, nor demons or devils. This does not mean that there aren't “bad spirits” from the view of the Spiritists and the spirits they worked with, but that they have made a conscious decision to act as such.

Nonetheless, this is spirit work in a very classical sense despite the Christian accretions that have occurred. The mediums – when they weren't pursuing fraudulent practices for personal gain – are working directly with spirits, and Kardec himself notes that calling up spirits requires the use of evocation. This aspect is especially tantalizing, given that it is coming out of French spiritist circles and the way that French occultism informs the system developed by Paschal Beverly Randolph.

As an aside, Randolph uses a categorization similar to those still used today in Afro-Caribbean and hoodoo circles. In The Unveiling: Or My Thoughts on Spiritualism (the copy I have was scanned from an 1860 edition) Randolph writes that:
“Approach mediums, and in two minutes you can tell whether they be under the influence of good or evil spirits. Sit by them and touch the hand: if you feel an unusual coolness, a blandness of sphere, gentle, wakeful sensation, the indications are good. If on the contrary, you feel a positive glow, an unusual warmth, a soft, seductive, somnolent influence, a tendency to sadness, to love, to endearment, then look out – and run out, for the evil is at work; you must fly, else the morbid gas or effluvium will pervade and taint you, you will carry the poison to others, and so the pestilence will spread.” (P. 49)
Here he is distinguishing between the “cool” or “cold” and “hot” or “warm” spirits! And despite the melodrama – which is quite missing in his later and more calm works – his treatment of these two types is very telling. “Cool spirits” tend to be less potentially hostile, take longer to work with, and are less likely to do something crazy. “Hot spirits” – which is to say fiery spirits – sit on the other end of the pole entirely, and may well burn your fingers. Because where there is warmth, there is a fire of sorts. And as we all know, fire can get out of hand.

These warnings do not recur in
Sexual Magic (Magia Sexualis, written in France and not published in the US), although there are hints of them in Seership! (1870). It appears that Randolph had switched from making warnings about the spirits themselves, and begun simply teaching methods for dealing with them. Volantia, Descretism, and his Tirauclairism all must be practiced before the magic mirror is created and anything is conjured. Volantia establishes the link between the will and the “force of the thunderbolt,” Descretism allows for one to give unavoidable commands to spirits (it is preferable that the individual also have the backing of an Authority, however), and Tirauclairism is his term for evocation. Taken together, they constitute a means for dealing with potential problems and gaining spiritual allies without the sheer danger that certain schools of Spiritualism failed to account for in Europe.

Tirauclairism also is a means, he explicitly states, for one to interact with the dead:
Tirauclairism, or the power of evocation, which allows communication with those absent, the dead, and invisible entities, is a very difficult practice...” (Sexual Magic, p. 27.)
***

I had hoped to get into the spirits themselves, and different views of them beyond what is discussed above. However, if I continue to write about the subject then this blog entry will end up being like 15 pages long. So, if I have time tomorrow I will continue.

In the meantime: I should like to remind blog readers that I will be appearing on Galina Krasskova's
Wyrd Ways podcast on September 18th (four days from now), to chat Ms. Krasskova and Sannion up regarding this very subject. Hopefully, I'll be able to have one more entry on the subject out before then, regarding the Restless or Unquiet Dead. I've been attempting to write that entry for a couple weeks now and failing, however, as there is so much to cover that I get distracted... As happened with this entry.

Ah, well.

Be seeing you,
Faustilocks the Damned.



* Taylor actually combined the Hymn to Hekate and the Hymn to Musaeus together in his translations, for reasons unknown to anyone presently living. This actually threw me for a long time, until I came across a note about it.
** Italix mine.
*** Between 1200 CE and 1600 CE or so, Elite authorities attempted to link any spirit dealt with to “demons.” To a certain degree, this attempt succeeded. And yet, at the same time, it seems to have utterly failed. Thus when magical practitioners were caught dealing with the dead, they were treated the same as those who make pacts with the devil.
**** This is a view I toe the line on. I think plenty of what we encounter are, in fact, spirits of the dead. Or perhaps another way to put this is that some are spirits that were once ghosts as we imagine them typically. They moved on to become “something else” later. But I am certainly a Cretan when it comes to this, and we certainly always lie.

11 comments:

Br Christopher said...

so it isn't just me that thought it was odd that the Hymn to the Muses and seemed to contained the Hymn to Hecate as well, and thus separating it out and using it makes sense.

Jack Faust said...

Bro. Chris: Musaeus, not the Muses! Although, he was said to have a rather special relationship with them:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musaeus_of_Athens

Think of him as a less great, less fucked over Orpheus. He was a key figure in Orphism.

Christopher Bradford said...

Brother Jack,

Great post--interesting to see that the necromantic fire never truly was lost, although it has become an ember. Let's hope that between you and JSK's work it becomes a flame!
Just ONE issue though--the Carribean spiritualism (Espiritisimo) never descended into the charlatanism that the continental States did; it is rooted in Kardec, and survives and thrives to this day. It's techniques have served as a kind of primary school of mediumship, and a huge percentage of Palero and Santeros first learned to work the dead through this tradition. I may be mis-reading your post, correct me if I'm wrong!

Jack Faust said...

Bro. Bradford:

Re: Kardec: That's actually what I meant to say! LOL. Uh, did I fuck up the sentence? I know it was a bit convoluted...

Rose Weaver said...

To clarify something... did I read correctly? To work with spirits, one must always evoke? If so, I'm not so sure that is true.

Jack Faust said...

Rose: No, that is not what I mean. Kardec says that conjuring spirits requires evocation. Spirits in the general vicinity, or directly attached to a person (i.e. like a familiar) need not be evoked. There are probably plenty of other points where that point diverges, and plenty of spirit work that doesn't involve evocation, obviously.

Rose Weaver said...

Ah, okay. This makes MUCH more sense to me, at least in my experience. Must have misread. Thanks for the clarification.

Jack Faust said...

Rose: LOL. No worries. There are some convoluted sentences in this entry. So, it's probably my fault for being unclear.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jack,

Can you please tell me exactly where (what book) Randolph teaches Volantia, Descretism, and Tirauclairism?

Also, what do you think about Seership, the magnetic mirror? Recommended?

Thanks,

Josephus

Jack Faust said...

Josephus: 'Sexual Magic'. My copy is the translation by Robert North:
http://archive.org/details/SexualMagic

(Huh. Haven't seen that pop up before...)

There has been a more recent translation by Donald Traxler, but I've yet to buy a copy.

Mindy Dozhier said...

this is the first time i have seen something addressing the different hot/cold feel of spirits. i have felt it but could not figure out why some feel very cool, almost like water running over your skin and others feel hot and set off my creative/root centers. they start revving up/putting off heat is very noticeable and intense when it happens. so avoid/try not to interact with the hot ones?