Thursday, October 16, 2014

Treasures of the Earth (Part One.)

If we're to make heads or tails of the practice of Treasure Magic (and the many intersections it has with other topics, which range from pacts with fairies to Katabasis practices) then we ought to begin by establishing that it involves three topics (in order of utility):

1. Initiatic descents “Into the Earth” to deal with the Powers therein.
2. The discovery of the occulted nature of the sympathetic links between material components and magical practices, and the discovery of those materials.*
3. Discovering literal, buried treasures such as treasure troves of gold.

Between the Late Medieval and the Early Modern Period, these practices existed at all levels of social class. They appear in the Grimoires; they were occasionally practiced by lower class magicians, and they were used as tropes by charlatans to deceive the easily gullible. This last type of action comes into view with the memoirs of Cassanova:

In chapters XXI and XXII of his memoirs, he recounts how he initially planned to rip off and seduce members of a family during one of his adventures, and creates a story about how he will get rid of spirits guarding treasure under their home. The entire episode goes awry when a fearsome storm strikes as he's performing his “magical” rituals, and he becomes convinced that the Wrath of God is upon him for his plan to seduce one of the daughters of the family. He ends up deciding not to seduce her, and that the entire episode was a bad idea.

But outside the rogues – of which there were many – there were individuals who we might conclude were sincere in their practices, whether it was for the discovery of literal troves of treasure or an attempt to make a pact with a fairy or spirit who would help them discover such things.

The Initiatic Descent / The Initiatic Ascent of the Spirit

At the tale end of the chapter wherein Reginald Scot discusses creating hazel wands for the act of money digging – a problem he claims has beguiled many a man – he briefly notes that there are “sundry receipts” for what we now call flying ointments that may be used when treasure is discovered. Flying ointments infact belong to a category of spellcraft we might call “catalepsy spells” or “soporific spells.” They date back to antiquity: when Circe drugs Odysseus's companions with wine in
The Odyssey we are certainly seeing a mythical version of catalepsy spells. They appear in the Papyri Demoticus Magicae (PDM hereafter):

Another, if you wish to make a man sleep for two days: mandrake root, 1 ounce, water and honey, 1 ounce, henbane, 1 ounce, Ivy, 1 ounce. Yo should grind them with a lok-measure of wine. If you wish to do it cleverly, you should put four portions to each one of them with a glass of wine; you should miosten them from morning to evening, you should clarify them; and you should make them drink it. [It is] very good.”
- PDM xiv. 716-24, (Another) “To Cause Evil Sleep.”

Sometime between late antiquity and the medieval period, these forms of spells began to be used on oneself rather than one's enemies. How precisely this occurred is something I have yet to work out. But flying ointments, soporific (“sleep inducing”) candles, and the like became both a part of folklore and magical practices. In the context of Treasure Magic rites, they are used to procure the powers of Spirit Flight and enter the Otherworld. Outside this context, they were still used on others, however. In Germany there was a tradition of creating “Thieves' Lights.” These were candles made from the fingers of unbaptized children, which allowed the user to “see in the dark,” “open all locked doors,” and even reduce those that saw them to sleep. Perhaps the best known form of this is one of the variants of the Hand of Glory, which Ingoldsby discusses in The Nurse's Tale:

“Open, lock,
To the Dead Man's knock!
Fly, bolt, and bar, and band!
Nor move, nor swerve,
Joint, muscle, or nerve,
At the spell of the Dead Man's hand!
Sleep, all who sleep! -- Wake, all who wake!
But be as the dead for the Dead Man's sake!

Now lock, nor bolt, nor bar avails,
Nor stout oak panel thick-studded with nails.
Heavy and harsh the hinges creak,
Though they had been oil'd in the course of the week.
The door opens wide as wide may be,
And there they stand,
That murderous band,
Lit by the light of the Glorious Hand,
By one! – by two! – by three! ”
- Tom Ingoldsby, The Hand of Glory.

While these talismans could certainly be put to criminal use – and indeed were associated specifically with criminal forms of magic, not to mention the outright criminality of witchcraft – they were also Treasure Magic talismans. This comes into view when we look at the other variant of the Hand of Glory, which is a shaped form of the Mandragora Officinarum that was treated as a familiar spirit, given a house, and fed regularly. (For more information, see this entry.) If it received money, it would double it and effectively keep one from being poverty stricken.

Used in the context of the
initiatic descent, they would render one unconscious and allow one to interact with the spirits that guarded the Treasures of the Earth. Here again the idea that they could “unlock any door” points to the power of Spirit Flight, as one could pass through physical doors and the like “as if one was a ghost” without anyone being the wiser (except the spirits, that is, unless measures were taken)!

But this only accounts for some of the “ritual technology.” We also need to deal with the myths that fed into the practice, and the way they influenced it. During the Medieval period, there arrived in Germany, France, Spain and Italy groups of individuals who had been trained by the Church in clerical knowledge, but lacking a realistic use for these skills instead took to traveling widely. They were called the Clerici Vagantes, or “Wandering Scholars,” or “Traveling Scholars,” or simply as “vagrants.”

By the 16
th and 17th centuries, they began claiming something quite odd. They claimed that they had been “to the Venusberg,” or to the (hollow) Mountain of Venus, seen fantastic sights therein, and returned with abilities that could both baffle and delight. In part, they are probably a huge part of the reason for the dispersion of myths and stories surrounding the Mountain of Venus. They wore yellow nets in place of cloaks, and for a small bit of coin would promise to influence the price of crops, to perform exorcisms against storms and hail, and even raise the specters of the “Furious Horde” (see also “Wild Hunt”) an extremely ancient Indo-European form of spirit procession that often involved a deity (Venus, Hekate, the Queen of the Fairies, Odin, Wodan, and many, many others) and the souls of dead warriors.

They would not be noteworthy were it not for the fact that other references to the Mountain of Venus arise out of Germany. There is at least one witch trial in which it occurs: the trial of Diel Bruell in the 17
th century. Poor Diel – and he is indeed poor – had suffered the loss of his family, and fallen asleep on a New Years Eve. He dreamed that he had traveled to the Mountain of Venus, where he saw – just as the Clerici Vagantes had claimed to have seen – the Goddess of the Mountain, swarms of the dead in procession, a priest (probably a Necromancer), and many other things. He was executed for the practice of witchcraft in 1632 CE, and buried outside the church yard.

The tales of the Mountain of Venus entered Germany from Italy. They typically involved a fellow named Tannhauser, a fallen “minstrel Knight” or Minnesinger, who fell from Christianity and entered the Mountain of Venus voluntarily, where he became her companion. After a falling out with the Goddess, Tannhauser was believed to have left the Venus Mount and sought to be absolved of his sin by the Pope. This – highlighting the antagonism between Germanic Christianity and Catholicism – he was denied by the Pope and he eventually returned to stay with Venus forever in her Hollow Mountain Paradise.

Now during this era tales of entering hollow mountains, or hollow hills, and finding a paradise were not unknown. As an example, Jakob Grimm felt that the attribution of Venus in the story was a false one. He believed that the story was a simple alteration of a story wherein an lady Elf seduced a knight to come and live with her within the hollow hills of paradise. He was both right and wrong.

The tales trace back to Norcea where the Mountain of the Sibyl (which had long been associated with the practice of necromancy) was believed to exist. Arnold von Harff (1471 CE – 1505 CE) visited it during his travels:
Here at Noxea [Norcea] we heard tell of Dame Venus' Mount,” he begins, and ingenuously adds: “Since in our country so many wonderful things are told about it I prevailed upon my companions that they do me the favor to go a few miles out of the way to see this mountain out from Noxea and came to a little place called Arieet... Thence we went to a village called Norde. Close by lies Dame Venus' Mount, at one end of which is a castle. I quickly got acquainted with him and told him in Latin how we were minded to see the Mount of Dame Venus since in our country so many wonders were told about it. The castellan began to laugh at me and entertained us well that evening. In the morning early he rode with us to the mountain. In it were hewn holes as in the Vackleberch or at Triecht; from these the town and castle had been built. I accompanied him into these holes. I could see nothing there except that some of them were fallen in and some were still open. With the castellan we then left the mount and he took us to the castle as his guests, where he entertained us during noontime. After noon he rode with us up to the top of this mountain. Here was a small quiet lake. By it stood a little chapel, like a place of worship, and inside was a small altar and there, as he related to us, in earlier times when the art of necromancy was still abroad in the world, its devotees came and conjured up the devil and practiced the black art. So soon as this happened there always arose from the waters of the little lake a cloud which descended in a thunderstorm, drenching the whole land thereabouts for six leagues so that there was no grain there that year. Now the people would no longer suffer this and made complaint to the owner of the castle. He immediately had erected an upright gallows between the chapel and the lake and forbade that any one should ever practice necromancy any more upon the altar. Whoever did so was hanged on the gallows. The castellan gave us this account and then said he know of nothing else concerning the place, whereupon we took our leave of him and went to Fossata to our rightful road. This castle lies nine leagues from Noxea.”
- Philip Stephen Barto, Tannhäuser and the Venusberg. (1913 CE. P. 25)

Furthermore a fellow named Antoine de la Sale had attempted to enter the Venusberg, as well. He drew a picture of the mountain, which I've posted many times, but is worth showing here:
The most alarming part of all of this is that we can also connect the descent into the Sibyllenberg (“Mountain of the Sibyl”) to the Fairy Sibylia rite found in Reginald Scot's
Discoverie of Witchcraft. In fact, some of the ritual actions taken during the rite are done to avoid the more unpleasant aspects of the myths of the Mountain of Venus and the Mountain of the Sibyl: one first acquires the aid of one of the Restless Dead, and then employs that spirit to bring the “virgin Fairy Sibylia” to the magician. This is done precisely to avoid becoming trapped in the fairy's world: the very fate that happened to Tannhauser himself. In this case, the ritual is one of “Ascent:” the Fairy is brought forth out of the Underworld, or the Otherworld of the Fairies, rather than one venturing inside that world.

This isn't anything new. In the Catabasis myths and rites of antiquity, the spirits that existed in the Underworld were thought to be capable of holding one there. In fact, with nothing more than a gesture, a ghost was believed to be able to trap one within the Underworld
while their body was still ostensibly alive. Venturing into the Underworld was a capacity that only those who “knew how to make their way” could perform:
Parallels in the Greek catabasis literature, however, show that the phrase points to a situation in the netherworld, where visitors must expect sudden attacks by underworld demons in charge of the punishments. Protection against such attacks is advisable for those who dare enter the land of Hades, whether as visitors or on that last journey of the soul. […]
Such situations in which a frightful demon “comes close” are known from the catabasis myths. Plutarch's myth of Thespesius, De sera num. 567 A, provides a good example. At the crucial moment of his trip to the nether-world, Thespesius's friendly guide has suddenly disappeared, and approaching are "certain others of frightful aspect, who thrust him forward, giving him to understand that he was under compulsion to pass that way" (that is, to the place of punishment).”
- Hans Deiter Betz, Fragments of a Catabasis Ritual in a Greek Magical Papyrus.

The ritual that Betz refers to is
PGM LXX. 4 – 25, which contains apotropaic spells against ghosts when they approach. In them, the magician identifies as Hekate and proceeds to declare a series of symbols most likely first shown to him or her during initiatic rituals (“Ereschigal, virgin, bitch, serpent, wreath, key, herald's wand, golden sandal of the Lady of Tartarus”) followed by proceeding to speak Voces Magicae (“magical words”) to the spirit to ward it off and keep it from carrying one away to be judged in the Land of the Dead while still alive. Adding to this, one also had to be able to navigate in that place. Normal sense of direction was muddled, and normal associations of colors were tricky. (For example, see the White Cypress referenced in certain Orphic tablets.)

The desire to ward off the wrath of the dead during such descents also appears in the
Grimorium Verum, in a Treasure Magic rite in which Cerberus (who helps the magician navigate the terrain of the Otherworld, thereby making movement easier) – as ordered by Lucifer – leads one to treasure. There one encounters the guardian spirit of the treasure:

Your steps on his, you will arrive near the treasure, where the shade of a dead person will be waiting, namely, the person who hid the treasure, and he will want to fling himself on you. It will quickly be necessary to trace a circle with the wand and throw a coin, and shout to the shade:

Hitherto you shall come, and shall go no further! I will it, I command it, Amen!

Later, the author of the ritual warns:
“You must beware not to turn, and especially not to face any noise behind you, or beneath your feet, or to your sides, because flashing the air with lightning, and making the earth tremble, are all part of the trickery of the shade of the dead one, to make you lose your chance to obtain the treasure.
It is necessary, therefore, that you arm yourselves with courage, and not let yourselves be caught up with their fears, for the spirit will take you back to the place where you first invoked it, to convene for a second pact.
(Grimorium Verum, Peterson translation. “For the Discovery of a Treasure.” P. 67 – 69.)
Here we see an explicit reference to the capacity of the magician to achieve this act, not through his or her “will,” but rather through their alliance with Superior Spirits of the Otherworld. Without the initiatic aspcts of the Pact, one is sure to fall prey to the power of ghosts, or to the powers of the Rulers of the Otherworld. Only with them at one's side, can one successfully hope to enter their world and move about with freedom. And even then, one cannot look back and be caught up in fear (like Orpheus was when he failed to free his beloved wife). This shows a clear line of practice from deep antiquity (the Myths of Orpheus, and the sorcerous act of not looking back) and the Early Modern and Late Medieval Periods, where these ideas extended to the domain of fairies and the dead.

* The
defense of those materials, such as when the Benandanti made Otherworld descents and then “fought witches” to defend the fertility of the crops is something which ties in to the overall subject, but is not an explicit aspect of most Treasure Magic rites.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making a Dionysos altar as a poor-ass motherfucker.*

From the earliest times man has experienced in the face with the penetrating eyes the truest manifestation of anthropomorphic or theriomorphic beings. This manifestation is sustained by the mask, which is that much more effective because it is nothing but surface. Because of this, it acts as the strongest symbol of presence. Its eyes, which stare straight ahead, cannot be avoided; its face, with its inexorable immobility, is quite different from other images which seem ready to move, to turn, to step back. Here there is nothing but encounter, from which there is no withdrawal – and immovable, spell-binding antipode. This must be our point of departure for understanding that the mask, which was always a sacred object, could be also put over a human face to depict the god or spirit who appears.

And yet this explains the significance of only half the phenomenon of the mask. The mask is pure confrontation – an antipode, and nothing else. It has no reverse side - “Spirits have no back,” the people say. It has nothing which might transcend this mighty moment of confrontation. It has, in other words, no complete existence either. It is the symbol and the manifestation of that which is simultaneously there and not there: that which is excruciating near, that which is completely absent – both in one reality...”
- Walter F. Otto, Dionysus: Myth and Cult.

1. Either purchase - or if that falls outside your monetary capacity, make - a mask. Understand: the mask is now The God. (So inscribing “Dionysos” on it isn’t a bad idea, add titles if you want.)

2. Place mask on flat surface (a table if possible; but a bookshelf, or any other surface will work). If you can find, or grow grapes, place graveleaves and ivy beneath it.

3. Add a bowl, into which you can pour libations. If getting wine is too hard, cool water will work. Additionally, honey makes a fantastic offering. It is easy and cheap to obtain.

4. Fumigate if possible - frankincense, myrrh, storax and a number of other incenses will work.

5. Pray. Alternatively: “Dance as prayer” works here, if you are able. Hold the hymn in your mind as you perform the dance, or recite it beforehand or afterward. If you are unable, poetry is an acceptable offering of devotion. So is writing stories, etc, etc, etc. Like, you aren’t precisely LIMITED in your means of devotion and devotional work.

6. Profit. (Prophet?)

- Since the mask is the primary altar piece and not heavy, it can be transported beyond the home. This means that if you can't do anything at home, you can take it elsewhere and do your devotional work in that great beyond known as the outside world.
- In fact, the altar can be completely innocuous when maintained in the house. It's really just a mask, and a bowl put aside for libations. I grow plants behind mine, to keep my altarspace "alive." For some reasons, spiders really love setting up shop around it.
- This isn't really an in and out for devotional work at altars, but just the most basic setup I've come up with - and the cheapest - in my own spiritual work.

* Keep in mind that I've lived in varying degrees of poverty (bastards aren't exactly going to end up with trust funds when they grow up), and "poor-ass motherfucker" is used more in the spirit of brotherly love from someone who has been there... Rather than as an insult directed at those with less than myself.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Feast For Dead Kings

And Those Who Might Have Been...

While Sannion was discussing the Feast of Dionysian Kings, and how to proceed with it, he brought up medieval fairies and the notion that (some of) the Good Neighbors might also show up. It occurred to me that I could adapt instructions for meeting with said neighbors via a feast from the Book of Treasure Spirits, which contains a partial transcription of Sloane manuscripts 3824, dated 1649, and parts of Sloane MS 3825.

The section in question is as follows:
"These spirits may be also called upon as the other, in such places where Either they haunt or foremost frequent in, and the place which is appointed or set apart for action must be suffumigated with good Aromatic Odours, and a Clean Cloth spread on the Ground or a table nine foot Distant from the Circle, upon which there must be Either a Chicken or any Kind of small joint, or piece of meat handsomely Roasted, and a white mantle, a Basin or little Dish like a Coffee Dish of fair Running water, half a pint of Salt in a bottle, a bottle of Ale Containing a Quart, Some food and a pint of Cream in a Dish provided Ceremonies they are much pleased & delighted with; and doth allure them to friendly familiarity willingly & Readily fulfilling your desires &c: without much Difficulty, and some have used no Circle at all, to the Calling of these spirits, but only being Clean was heard and apparelled, sit at another table or place only Covered with Clean Linen Cloth, nine foot Distant & so invocate."
- The Book of Treasure Spirits, edited by David Rankine. P. 108-110.

I spent chunks of the day either gathering materials, or resting because I'd been running around in 107*F heat. During the resting periods I read some of
God Abandons Antony by Constantine P. Cavafy as Sannion recommended and Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets by Fritz Graf and Sarah Iles Johnston.

Then came the final gathering of food stuff for the Feast, and returning home... At which point I returned home to see my “fuzzy buddy,” also known as my house cat, covered in blood. I promptly proceeded to freak out, which didn't seem to amuse him terribly much. In retrospect, I should've noticed that he wasn't acting wounded right away, but couldn't tell how much he'd been bitten in the obvious battle he'd had. A bit of cleaning, and monitoring and checking him out for a bit has revealed that he only got bit a few times on his back legs (and they've been cleaned, and are being monitored for infection), and the blood probably belonged to some other poor creature.

I shouldn't be surprised. One of the many things I love about Dionysos is his love of large cats, and their beauty in movement and bloodthirsty frenzy. None the less, it took like what felt like an hour to make sure he didn't need to be brought to the veterinarian. When all of that was sorted, it was time to begin cooking (and already being sleep deprived I was feeling mighty drained).

We ended up serving:
- An alteration of chicken cordon bleu. Instead of binding the breadcrumbs with eggs, honey was used. Ham was ditched for thick slices of applewood bacon, and provolone and swiss cheese rounded it out. I then baked it until the chicken was finished.
- Shrimp salad, with Monterey and Colby Jack cheese, and blue cheese salad dressing.
- Black and rich coffee.
- A vessel of cream.
- White Rum and Irish Whiskey (libations of which, after toasts and cheers, were also made though not called for).*
- White rum with pomegranate juice (and some other mixers, like sweet and sour mix).
- Hawaiian rolls (because they're sweet, and cooking was already a bit of a stressful situation, without also baking a bunch of things)

- Red Velvet cupcakes.

Alas because there wasn't any scallops and worthy pancetta, I didn't make wrapped scallops. (I'll do it next year, and invite more folks to join in the Feast!) It was on the menu, but didn't work out. I tried to spend key moments of the cooking stage praying to the retinue or meditating on some of the Dionysian Kings that Sannion mentioned. I'd hoped to be able to read Orphic Hymns while cooking, but the entire buildup to the feast involved so much chaos that I completely forgot until the end, which was unfortunate and is something I need to work on, even if I need to get outside the chaos of preparing a meal for a large group of people, spirits, and deities, and use that brief respite more productively.

We then sat down outside, as the heat died down, and laughed and talked while enjoying the food. Everyone liked my honeyed, cheese alloyed, and bacon infused chicken, and divination performed before bed indicated that the offerings were well received. Perhaps next time I'll have the time to roast a whole, honeyed chicken. But it seems like baking it worked out just fine.

My battle cat is fine, although he didn't seem to stop being “battle ready” for half the night. And earlier today I was given extra intoxicating substances for free, so I think everything worked out pretty well. I admittedly forgot to set out the salt, which I'll remember for the next time I adapt the technique, which I plan to do in a Feast for Oberon in October. I'll also make sure to offer ale rather than just liquor at the place(s) set for the spirits. No circle was set down, but there weren't any issues, either. All in all, by the end of the night everyone was talking and joking, and it was pretty beautiful and blissful considering the stress and chaos of the buildup.

I had fun. I'd like to thank the
Thiasos of the Starry Bull for another reason to experiment, have fun, and give devotion to the retinue of Dionysos and Ariadne, not to mention the vibrant Heroes and Kings who are swept into the wake of the deities. I'm also really thankful that despite coming home to a bloody cat, he was fine. If things hadn't been the way they were, I don't know what I'd have done... Except maybe that I'd have been cooking the meal at midnight or 2 AM, and no one would've shared it with me. All things told, there was chaos, stress, fear, and then bliss and the ability to finally relax.


* “Why not wine?” I'm not a big wine fan, and divination indicated it was unnecessary if I used hard liquor instead while I made plans. I sometimes use mead as a substitute, but I'd already bought a lot of alcohol across the course of the day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Half-mad field report, from 2013 - 2014.

"I had been randomly wandering around, and found myself thinking on Crowley (in particular, John St. John) and looked down… To see what you see here. It was so shocking I stopped, took a photo, and then came back home.
I just happened to have some stones carved to look like scarabs, and with hieroglyphs on them, over which some Golden Dawn practitioners had performed a modern version of The Opening of the Mouth. So I left one there with three cigarettes. It had been pretty delightful.”
- April 18th, 2013.

"They’re everywhere now. Almost every street corner has them in the immediate vicinity. You can find one on the edge of Hooker Hollow, along chunks of S St. On W. St.
Welcome to California. In addition to Mexican folk saints, we have this… I love this place.”
- July 8th, 2014.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

These dialogues are riddled with hostility, and generally divisive overall. [EDITED]

"What happens if Dionysus’ ecstasy is not balanced by the tempering influence of Apollo’s cool rationality?"
- John Halstead.

What happens when we ignore the purificatory functions of ecstasy? What happens when we forget that Dionysos is not merely a god of ecstasy, but also of liberation - both temporally during life* - and after death? What happens when we pre-suppose a God associated with the arts, the Muses, and an ecstatic oracular center (the Delphic Oracle) is composed of 'cool rationality'? What happens when we forget that Apollo had ecstatic cults associated with him, such as the Hirpi Sorani? What happens when you ask inapt questions rather than read, say, the Orphic Hymns or translations of Orphic tablets and gold-leaf inscriptions and try to formulate an idea about the over-arching cosmology in which the cultists themselves felt they lived, and the literary bricollage which inherently aided them in their spiritual tasks?

What happens is that we end up with an easily reductive, simplistic view of the devotees to those Gods, and forget that even when one was devoted to a particular deity, that deity still existed within a rich tapestry that does, indeed, balance out quite nicely. It demonstrates the very Pantheon that Mr. Halstead reveres, but never bothered to look into. He need only have visited the Thiasos of the Starry Bull blog and hovered his mouse over "prayers" to have seen prayers to both Dionysos and Apollon, thereby invalidating his comparisons entirely.**

Even in the Orphic tablets and gold-leaf instructions for the Netherworld, we are presented with a vast array of Principalities and Powers, of which Bacchus plays a special role... But he is hardly alone:
You have just died and have just been born, thrice happy, on this day.
Tell Persephone that Bacchus himself has liberated you.
A bull, you leapt into the milk.
Swift, you leapt into the milk.
A ram, you fell into the milk.
You have wine, a happy privilege
and you will go under the earth, once you have accomplished the same
rites as the other happy ones.

—  L 7a-b Two tablets from Pelinna, 4th cent. B.C., 1st edition Tsantsanoglou and Parassoglou (1987) 3 ff. (From Bernabe & Christophe, Instructions for the Netherworld. P. 62)
 Or we could look here:
This is the work of Mnemosyne. When he is on the point of dying
Toward the well-build abode of Hades, on the Right there is a Fountain,
And near it, erect, a white cypress tree.
There the souls, when they go down, refresh themselves.
Don't come near this fountain!
But further on you will find, from the lake of Mnemosyne,
Water freshly flowing. On its banks there are guardians.
The will ask you, with sagacious discernment,
Why you are investigating the darkness of gloomy Hades.
Say: “I am a son of Earth and Starry Heaven;
I am dry with thirst and dying. Give me, then, right away,
Fresh water to drink from the lake of Mnemosyne.”
And to be sure, they will consult the Subterranean Queen,
And they will give you water to drink from the lake of Mnemosyne,
So that once you have drunk, you too will go along the Sacred Way,
By which the other mystai and bacchoi advance, glorious.”
- Tablet from Hipponion (c. 400 BCE). Museo Archeologico Statale di Vibo. First edition, Pugliese Carratelli (1974) 108 f. (ibid, P.8)
Halstead writes:
"Fortunately, not all Pagan priests identify so completely with the object of their devotion, and not all deities are as destructive as Dionysus.  But, as a Jungian Neo-Pagan*, I think the danger is always there in focusing exclusively on one god or goddess."
And yet he remains in the dark, apparently incapable of using either Google, or academic texts, to see if any of his assumptions are even remotely correct. Which, ultimately, is why these dialogues are riddled with hostility, and generally divisive overall. But even then, I can forgive Mr. Halstead for the flaws inherent in his comments, because he is neither involved with Bacchic Orphism, nor has he probably been exposed to the idea that we worship more than one god. The problem remains that he could have bothered to make sure he was on the mark before he wrote his column, rather than instead cherry-picking troublesome elements from a dispersion of blog entries that he imagined sufficed for his task.

I, for one, invite Mr. Halstead to become a Child of Earth and Starry Heaven, or at least take the time to contemplate the ramifications of such a statement. For within that statement of being is something I think a Jungian Neo-Pagan could agree with.

* Dionysos is the cause of release, whence the god is also called Lusios. And Orpheus says: “Men performing rituals will send hekatombs in every season throughout the year and celebrate festivals, seeking release from lawless ancestors. You, having power over them, whomever you wish you will release from harsh toil and the unending goad.”
- Damascius, Commentary on the Phaedo 1.11 
** I was incorrect in assuming a prayer to Apollo Soranus had already been written, and made the same mistake that I criticize Mr. Halstead for. This was a major failboat on my part. So I suggest anyone who balks at my tone - which could have been better (I was intensely irritated to see Dionysos characterized as a 'destructive god' in an overly simplistic fashion) - take my hyperbolic annoyance with a grain of salt. We all make mistakes, and I should just let Mr. Halstead be. Which, henceforth, I shall. But seriously, we do venerate Apollo.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Orpheus, I Choose You!

“Moreover, so much of music as is adapted to the sound of the voice and to the sense of hearing is granted to us for the sake of harmony; and harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of our souls, is not regarded by the intelligent votary of the Muses as given by them with a view to irrational pleasure, which is deemed to be the purpose of it in our day, but as meant to correct any discord which may have arisen in the courses of the soul, and to be our ally in bringing her into harmony and agreement with herself; and rhythm too was given by them for the same reason, on account of the irregular and graceless ways which prevail among mankind generally, and to help us against them.”
- Plato, Timaeus.
Nothing is Lost.
Robert Cochrane once posited that “nothing is ever lost,” and that ideas return again, wearing new guises. At the heart of the Enlightenment project, while the Renaissance was getting underway, this is precisely what occurred amongst some of the philosophers, magicians and mystics that made up part of the motley crew who would inspire the later magical revival of the Victorian period.
And at the heart of it all, at the moment between the pulse of that brilliant heart-beat, sits the ghost of Orpheus, wearing a new outfit and continuing to inspire those individuals long after the collapse of the Greek and Roman empires of antiquity.

Many thanks to Sannion for letting me write whatever the hell I wanted (within reason). I'll do my best to restrict my desire to write 'Gonzo Orphism' as best I possibly can.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Light in the Underworld

Venus and Tannhauser by Laurence Koe.
Opening Remarks
I began working on this entry a while ago and paused. But I just witnessed a discussion on the entire “Right Hand Path” versus “Left Hand Path” dynamic that beguiles discussions between magicians. Frankly, I've abandoned the entire dynamic conceptually, as it is alien to the work I find myself doing. There is no reason to take outlooks from the Victorian period and apply them retroactively to the sum total of magical work that I do; therefore, I refuse to do it or to place any future stock within such outlooks.

This ties in to the topic of this blog entry, which is working planetary magick with Chthonic divinities. A few months ago, a member of an email list that I at least read regularly (although my interactions remain distant to a certain degree, because I can be an ass and do not wish to inflict that upon members) brought up the topic of plugging Chthonic deities into the planetary spheres and treating them along the traditional lines of rulership.

I want to make this clear right away: I have not taken the set I've put together from an archaic text, but rather attempted to find syncretizations or proper Chthonic deities that fit well enough with the spheres to be worked with. In other words: what you'll eventually see is completely the byproduct of my own research and ideas and I made it all up. It is not a bonafide source of ancient magic, and it is quite possible that working with my setup may cause individuals problems. If such is the case, I recommend research and coming up with your own lineup. You are, of course, free to use my own. Finally, at least one reference is largely a medieval concept, and may not jive with those predisposed to seeing the deities within an explicit timeframe limited to antiquity. On this matter, I apologize. I happen to enjoy representations of deities from multiple points in time – including after the rise of Christianity in the West – and don't feel the need to limit myself. This is in part due to being a magician: individuals such as myself have existed across the span of time, in different places and times. Being a practitioner of witchcraft also extends to this view, as many aspects of witchcraft do not exist prior to a certain period of time (around 1200 C.E., and thereafter, there is a conceptual shift that occurred in Europe that had long-term ramifications; but that would take far, far too long to discuss and elements existed before that point, too).

My work in this regard has been slightly hampered, because shortly after I came up with my set for daily work, Sannion went and released the daily lineup for the Thiasos of the Starry Bull's devotions*. As such I've found myself in the strange place of trying to work with Sannion's devotional lineup during the day, while also working with the Chthonic planetary work at night (and often at midnight)! Sometimes, I feel “off” after combining both sets of work – possibly because going from trying to dance alongside Satyrs on a Saturday and then switching to revering the fearsome form of Brimo-Hekate and her horde of terrifying specters at midnight doesn't always conceptually mesh together. Sometimes, it seems as if both practices counter-balance each other, one providing a purely underworld framework, and the other an all-encompassing Orphic framework. Long-time blog readers will probably realize that I'm very, very keen on the different cults involved in the subject of “Orphism,” and that I'm also open to entirely modern takes on the matter.

But before we get to my lineup, I want to address something: Chthonic work does not imply unending darkness, depravity, or worshiping a deity who plans to destroy the earth – although, Dionysos as a symbol of rebellion and liberation may well be keen on smashing oppressive social orders. That's part of what he does, and part of why I revere the deity so much.

The concepts of the underworld being a place of nothing but evil are anathema to my outlook. It is true that there are plenty of problematic daimons, dangerous daimons, and things you just plain shouldn't trust. The act of traveling to the crossroads at midnight to perform your devotions can be terrifying; particularly if you emulate my stance and do so on foot. You will be leaving behind many of your magical tools, your fancy altar, and instead learning an approach based on simplicity and necessity. But you certainly don't have to do that, particularly if you have a life that doesn't allow for acting in this capacity. If you do so I recommend brushing up on charms and talismans that ward off hostile visitants and dangerous daimons; learning invisibility spells, and considering using a lot of cleansing techniques involve plant materia.

Problems and Devotions.

In the long run, these things can help eliminate issues triggered by encountering hostile spirits. In some cases, hostile spirits can be won to your side with offerings of libations of sweet wine, meals (such as the Deipna Hekatates), honey, sweet fruits, and flowers. In other cases, you will have to either ensure that they cannot notice you (invisibility spells), or utter a command in the name of an appropriate deity who is willing to aid you, and perhaps even perform an exorcism. That said: nine times out of ten, I get by just fine by offering the fruits of the earth and cool water to said spirits; it is perfectly traditional (see Burkert's The Orientalizing Revolution, part two “A Seer or Healer” Magic and Medicine from East to West, specifically the lengthy discussion on Spirits of the Dead and Black Magic. Also see Ogden's Greek and Roman Necromancy, which has recurrent discussions on the matter).

The idea that even the most fearsome specters of the dead can become less-than-hostile with such simple offerings is probably baffling to some; however, both my experience is very much of that sort, and the consulting historical sources seems to bear it out, too.

The deities themselves are not problematic. They are deities; even if they are fearsome in and of themselves, they are still open to worship and devotion, and benevolent in their own ways. Some I would go so far as to call “the light in the underworld,” and surrounding them are vast swathes of other spirits that they send to and fro to do their work, some of whom radiate the same presence that is not unlike torchlight on a very dark night.

Perhaps the most stunning thing to note is that there is significant overlap between what may be given as offerings to deities of the underworld, the spirits therein (particularly the dead), and even in a few cases what might be given to the gods. Again we see a lot of offering sweet fruits, honey (which was given to the heroic dead, the restless dead, and the gods!), flowers and so forth. In some cases, offerings can also be made that were traditional to the deity in their own right, considerations of the underworld and Chthonic magic and devotion aside. It is also a very good idea to consider keeping frankincense and myrrh on hand to fumigate as part of the ritual, and make offerings thereof. Both are recurrent across the Orphic Hymns along with storax, and easily obtained today.

The Lineup**:

Sol = Apollo Soranus (potentially displaced with Asklepios; more on this another time)

The Hirpi Sorani (“wolves of Soranus”) are referenced in Virgil's Aeneid, where Arrun is considered a member of the cult, a fact particularly evident when he executes an ambush and cries the following prayer:
Apollo, most high of gods, guardian of holy Soracte, whose chief worshippers are we, for whom is fed the blaze of the pine-wood heap, while we, thy votaries, passing in strength of faith amid the fire, plant our steps on the deep embers – grant that this shame be effaced by our arms, O Father Almighty! I seek no plunder, no trophy of the maid's defeat, nor any spoils; other feats shall bring me fame; so but this dread scourge fall stricken beneath my blow, inglorious I will return to the city of my sires.”
It was also mentioned by Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Silius Italicus, Solinus, and Servius.

Once a year the cult gathered for what we would rightly call Chthonic rituals: a pile of wood would be heaped together, and lit until its embers gleamed. The Priests then walked or danced – most likely
three times – across the burning embers while barefoot. Solinus describes the priests movements as “leaping,” which is suggestive of fire-dancing, and the word used (exultant) includes a connotation of rejoicing according to Mika Rissanen. The author adds: 
The atmosphere of the ritual seems to have in fact to have been joyful rather than frightening. Silius Italicus describes Apollo being happy about the blazing piles of wood and their offerings.
All these authors point out that the priests were able to perform the ritual without burning their feet. The explanation gien by Varro, transmitted by Servius, is that the priests used medicated ointment to moisturize their soles,while Silius Italicus refers to some kind of trance that protected the priests.”
The cult seems to have centered around the region of Mt. Soracte, already appearing in the prayer delivered by Arruns in the Aeneid. Rissanen the primary inscription found at the mountain are to Apollo Soranus.

Rissanen also notes:
Ultimately, the name of the god (and thus the name of the mountain) is probably connectioned with Śuri, the Etruscan god of purification and prophecies, as suggested by G. Colonna.”
 We are also provided with a fascinating potential account in the paper linking the practices there to Dis Pater, the Roman lord of the underworld and potentially expressing an explanation for the fire dances via Servius:
It was on this mountain that a sacrifice to Dis Pater was once performed – because it is devoted to the chthonic deities – as wolves suddenly appeared and plundered entrails from the fire. The shepherds chased the wolves for a long time, until they arrived at a cave emanating pestilential gases that killed people standing near by. The reason for the emergence of this plague was that they had chased the wolves. They received a message that they could calm it down by imitating the wolves...”***
Servius goes on to suggest that imitation of wolves meant plunder, but Rissanen seems to be against this outlook; and it hardly makes sense when considering the fire-walking or fire-dancing celebration performed by members of the cult. In Greece wolves were strongly associated with Apollo (versus Rome's Mars and his association with wolves), which probably let to the two deities (Apollo and Soranus) becoming syncretized, and the inscriptions found to the divinity at Mt. Soracte.
It is recommended that burning wood is offered during work with Apollo Soranus; possibly pine, given that Virgil explicitly connects the wood burned at the celebrations of the Hirpi Sorani to it. Additionally, given the solar aspects of white frankincense, it makes a fine offering, as well as fumigation for purification, during the work.

Luna = Persephone/Proserpina/Kore:

“The Pure Queen of Down Below,” as some of the Orphic lamellae describe her. I would hope that folks are fairly well aware of the Goddess of the Underworld, who shares her power with Hades and therefore will only recommend fumigation potentials: mugwort (being lunar), poppies (I must pause here to note that opium is linked to both Persephone and Demeter; however, that is probably out of the question and I would recommend using poppies that are not an issue to use in terms of legality). Asphodel, a plant I have never encountered outside the references to the divinity, has also been mentioned as sacred. I should probably look into the potential of growing it...

Note: in some discussions on Orphic cosmology, Persephone is treated as the mother of Dionysos (as Zagreus), due to being raped by Zeus. But... a lot of what I've seen has been based on older scholarship, which is all kinds of problematic and I'm not sure how often the two deities are linked together as mother and son, and such. I intend to find out, though.

Mars = Dionysos as Render of Men (ὰνθρωπορραίστης):

While not typically viewed as a deity involved with matters of war, Dionysos was seen as a warrior, and given several titles – like “Render of Men” – which apply to the above quite well. Granted, Dionysian War is probably quite different that the open combat of Ares. In Nonnus' Dionysiaca, it is complained that he cannot be overcome because the God of Many Forms is constantly shape-shifting – taking the form of fire, a lion, a dragon. (And who wants to fight a dragon? I mean, really?) At least one of his titles is translated as “he who delights in the sword and bloodshed” by Otto in Dionysus: Myth and Cult. This idea also appears in Taylor's translation of the Orphic Hymn to Dionysus Bassareus Triennalis (“Bassarian God, of universal might, whom swords, and blood, and sacred rage delight”). The Dionysian 'frenzy,' and capability of the Maenads to rip apart those who have angered the god – or them, in the case of Orpheus! – also ties in to my placement of Dionysos to the sphere of war, rather than to redemption. This is not to say that he is not a redeemer – the Orphic lamellae certainly make that clear (“Bacchus has released you”) – or a mediator. He is. But he is also the liberator, and patron of several slave revolts. To my mind, it is massively important to emphasize both aspects – of the mediator of Orphic redemption – and as the literal liberator of slaves, and the oppressed.

Recommended fumigations: Storax, Frankincense, Myrrh. He's the son of Zeus after all and is as worthy of being offered that which one offers a king. Additionally, grape leaves are also excellent to add to one's altar, to to slather with honey at the crossroads.

Mercurius = Hermes Chthonios

At some point, I'll talk about Hermes Chthonios with a bit more length than here. But – he's the guide of the dead. And he's fucking awesome. He's totally got an Orphic Hymn to his name. Use it.

Fumigation: Storax.

Jupiter = Zeus-Typhon/Hades.

The King of the Underworld. Do I need to expand on this? Well, maybe on the unusual looking Zeus-Typhon: Ogden links it to Hades fairly explicitly in Greek and Roman Necromancy. Unfortunately, I am completely unaware of whether cults existed that utilized the name or not. Should I ever become aware of such matters, you can rest assured that I will expand on it in a blog – or somewhere, at least.

Fumigation: Storax, Frankincense, Myrrh.

Venus = Chthonic Venus. (i.e. Venus of the medieval Venusberg)

Between late antiquity and the late medieval period, Goddesses and spirits (and even fairies) tend to start overlapping heavily. Venus as an Underworld figure becomes prominently expressed in stories such as those involving Tannhauser. The Venusberg was a mountain within which she was believed to live, in a paradise of all delights hidden beneath the surface where she was served by nymphs, and even the occasional ghost (at least in the testimony of Diel Bruell, who was executed for witchcraft). These tales go back to the Sibyllenberg, a mountain in Italy not far from Narn, Italy today. The Sibyl's mount was apparently a place where necromancers traveled to learn their arts, watched over the Sibyl (similar to one of the Sibyls training Aeneas in the Aeneid in necromancy). Far from simply being stories, we can find these overlapping ideas in Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft (in relation to the “Fairy Sibyllia”), in accounts given by shady sorcerers that may or may not have been charlatans, and at least one aforementioned witch trial. I've honestly blogged about the subject more than a bit, and shall leave it alone except to mention that the figure is very similar – if not the same – as one of the major spirits discussed in Jake Stratton-Kent's True Grimoire. Should this figure not work for you, I recommend defaulting to Venus Libitina who is heavily associated with death.

Fumigation: Myrrh. (Rose petals if you're feeling experimental, although they may smell badly. Thanks VVF!)

Saturn = Hekate-Brimo, or Demeter-Brimo.

I talk about Hekate-Brimo, the “vengeful” aspect of Hekate, more than a bit, so I'll limit myself to complete this entry. She is suggested to have been called upon when one was in immense danger, or under attack by a spirit – as her mere name may have been sufficient to frighten them off. I make offerings to her regularly, and even consecrate some of the tropane-bearing plants I grow (nightshades, particularly Mandrake) to that name, as she is even more terrifying than their potential poisons. Furthermore, Jason calls upon her in the Argonautica, after performing Chthonic rites (immolation of an animal in a ritual pit) and prior to take the potion Medea has furnished for him to provide for his task.

Fumigation: Storax.

Be seeing you,

* Note: there are two links in that sentence; one to the Thiasos masterlist and one to the hymns for use with it. I looooooove the Dionysos hymn for so, so many reasons and really enjoy the others.

** You will notice links at the names of the deities, to provide helpful information on them above and beyond anything I have to say.

*** I can't help but think of Ogden's discussion on necromancy performed at “birdless caves” (mephitic caves) in
Greek and Roman Necromancy. Such places were considered especially linked to the underworld, hence triggering their becoming major locations for the practice.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Divine Intoxication, Inspiration, and Offerings. [EDITED]

Come, blessed Dionysius [Dionysos], various nam'd, bull-fac'd,
begot from Thunder, Bacchus [Bakkhos] fam'd.
Bassarian God, of universal might, whom swords, and blood, and sacred rage delight:
In heav'n rejoicing, mad, loud-sounding God, furious inspirer, bearer of the rod:
By Gods rever'd, who dwell'st with human kind, propitious come, with much-rejoicing mind.
- Orphic Hymn to
Dionysus Bassareus Triennalis. (Taylor translation.)
I should be working on something else, but I'm still blissed out from doing work earlier. Being that it was Memorial Day, I wanted to offer some alcohol to the dead. Not just to the soldiers that have fallen in foreign lands, far from their place of birth, but to the heroes and protectors of my city, and of myself as well.

I spend a lot of time talking about the potential dangers of the restless dead. And I don't spend nearly enough time talking about the bliss of existing beside them after an orgiastic ritual, where I have partaken of the divine sacraments (read: alcohol, and other intoxicants, perhaps), danced beside them, and offered them 'the good stuff.'

Flowers. Cool water. Sweet fruits. Honey. Chocolates. Alcohol (of various assortments, no less!). Tobacco. Cannabis. Coffee.

I sing praises to them, and thank them for their blessings. I enter into trance and sometimes catch the glimmers of light, and radiance of the Other World that shines around them.

And, as a Dionysian, every time I drink, I salute them. I understand that I am actively in their presence. That the intoxication that floods through my life, my brain, my body, stretches back into my thundering blood and to my ancestors which came before me.

The friends that passed before me, and the initiates of my tradition of witchcraft which are now amongst the Mighty Dead are saluted.

The very essence of the alcohol can, at times, be a trigger for this. Whenever I have mead, I can feel my ancestors and even divinities above them shifting a bit closer, subtly. I am in the presence of the divine, and amongst it are even the former human beings that are a part of the great chains binding together the universe.

And when it hits, I am exposed to the experience of those who came before. To little subtle bits of he universe that I've failed to notice. To the little beautiful elements that I've somehow missed. It might be a smell, or a feeling, or it might be information (historical, magical, or just plain in and of itself) that I've somehow missed.

It is true: the songs I sing may well be foreign; the things I offer may be different. The steps in my dances, and circular movements, and my dedications may be strange to the spirits around me. If it is a problem, they'll make it clear to me. If it isn't, then they don't give a shit and I haven't messed up. This is an on-going learning process for me. Each subtle essence, each thing encountered, is different from others. You can't approach work with individual or groups of spirits – whatever the kind – as a type of monolithic practice from which there is only one acceptable way, and any deviation from that is a terrible abomination.

So more and more, I find myself breaking out the divination techniques. Trying to trust my intuition, but also not over-think it. Thankfully, eventually the intoxication – ranging from purely mental to physical – will intervene and it won't matter anymore, anyway.

Then there's just the work, the presence, and the joy.

Even if I were to appear to be alone, I am amongst a vast and great company. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Beans & the Dead: Part II

“Whether the souls of men after death are or are not in the world below, is a question which may be argued in this manner: The ancient doctrine of which I have been speaking affirms that they go from this into the other world, and return hither, and are born from the dead. Now if this be true, and the living come from the dead, then our souls must be in the other world, for if not, how could they be born again?”
- Plato, Phaedo.

“Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands from beans!”
- Empedocles.
While I just wrapped up the last entry on beans and the dead, it seemed insufficient compared to the rather extensive list of associations found with the beans. As such, I felt that a second entry should be prepared with a range of sources – from academic to magical – involving the item.

One of these is the – though dated – excellent article by Alfred C. Andrews entitled The Bean in Indo-European Totemism (1949). The article itself is too long to quote in its entirety, but can be found for download by way of the provided link. There is no reason not to quote chunks of the article, however:
“The sacrifices made to the old Italic deity Carna on the first of June consisted of bean-meal and lard, and this day was known as the Kalendae fabariae. Beans were also used to lay ghosts at the Lemuria and figured in the sacrifices performed at the Parentalia. Beans also played a role in magic rites conducted in connection with Tacita or Muta, a goddess of the dead, and must have been used at a festival of the dead in honor of the bean goddess Fabola or Fabula. The Priest of Jupiter was forbidden to touch a bean or even to mention its name. The name of Fufetia, an early Vestal, as well as that of Mettius Fufetius, is derived from faba by Pfund, who also identifies with it that of Modius Fabidius, reputed founder of the Cures, and even ventures to conclude that a period once existed among the early Romans when agriculture was devoted almost exclusively to beans. His argument entails ingenious analysis of Roman and Sabine land measures and is plausible in so far as it applies to beans; but there is no question that the cultivation of spelt in Italy is at least as old as that of the bean, and that puls made from spelt was probably the first staple food derived from field crops. This much at least is certain, that beans were under cultivation in Italy as early as the Neolithic age and were an important food crop for the early Romans. It is indeed by no means improbable that the bean was their first cultivated vegetable.”


“One significant and provocative factor, with respect to this abstention, is that the ancients felt toward beans a mingled respect and dread, a complex of emotions suggested by the Greek term ίερός, which apparently was generally applied to an object believed to be charged with some supernatural force, contact with which might be either beneficial or harmful. Today we generally call this mysterious power mana in its helpful aspect and taboo in its harmful aspect, Beans belonged in the category of objects possessing both mana and taboo.

The ancients advanced most divergent explanations for the taboo on beans some religious or spiritual, some dietetic or hygienic. Aristotle (or his source) proposes no fewer than five different explanations, without settling on any one of them. The heart of the problem is to determine whether this ambivalent attitude toward beans is an echo of earlier totemism or whether it is of different origin.

With the concept of totemism in mind, one sees a glimmer of sense in Horace’s allusion to the faba Pythagorae cognata and in the perplexing Pythagorean maxim, “It is an equal crime to eat beans and the heads of one’s parents.” It now seems clearer, too, why Pythagoras forbade his followers to eat beans as being human flesh, on the ground that beans were occupied by the souls of the dead and thereby took on the qualities of human flesh. As Pliny says, “The souls of the dead are in them.”

If we accept this notion of beans being the residence of the souls of the dead as the original, primitive concept, diverse and apparently conflicting beliefs and practices current in the historic period take on sense and consistency. The simplest and most direct development was the notion that beans assumed the character of human flesh, as the result of the presence of souls in them. By this presence beans were rendered dynamic receptacles of generative power, and we accordingly find peeled green beans compared to human testicles and even said to be the generative principle itself, the abstinence of the Pythagoreans explained as due to the resemblance of beans to testicles, the beans of Empedocles interpreted as an esoteric or symbolic allusion to testicles, and beans alleged to resemble eggs in embodying the generative principle...”


“The basic concept of beans as the abode of the souls of the dead created an intimate association of beans with death and gave rise to strict rules for priests concerned with the life principle. Thus the Priest of Jupiter, whose functions required scrupulous avoidance of contact with the dead and everything associated with them, was forbidden, as we have seen, to touch a bean or even to speak its name. It is therefore puzzling to read that beans were regularly eaten at funerary banquets, funerary sacrifices, and invocations to the deceased, for few things are more intimately associated with death than such ceremonies as these.”


“Beans were conceived to be the abodes of the souls of the dead, but we must be careful not to think of these souls in terms of Christian theology as eternal entities possessing the attributes of the physical beings in which they once lodged. We must rather visualize them as modicums of the life principle, vague and intangible, released from the body at the moment of death. This packet of force, if we may so term it, was both beneficent and maleficent. If it entered an alien organism, it could produce malign effects; but it could be absorbed with benefit by a related organism.

At the moment of death the soul or life principle of a Roman escaped from his body by way of his mouth, and the next of kin caught and inhaled this last exhalation, absorbing the life principle. This could be done not only without danger, but with actual benefit, for the two organisms were closely related. But death is dangerous, inimical to life, and a person needed all the extra vitality he could obtain from any source, not only on occasions directly associated with death, such as mortuary banquets, but even when making funerary sacrifices and conducting invocations to the deceased. Therefore he ate beans, as containing the life principle. In this connection, we may well stress again the statement of Pliny that the animae mortuorum, i.e., the breath-souls of the dead, were in beans. And since beans contained a life force, it was natural for them to be eaten on Carna’s day to insure good digestion and health for the coming year.”
And so forth. Honestly, despite objections might have to the recurrent themes of Indo-European totemism in the article, it still remains one of the more fascinating places to look for information on beans and their associations with the dead.

Given wide-spread associations with beans as being both a generative force and a container for the soul, it is rather surprising that beans don't factor in any of the PGM spells and rituals involving the dead. Rather one finds them in the PGM spells for contraception:

PGM LXIII. 24-25:
A contraceptive: Pick up a bean that has a small bug in it, and attach it as an amulet.

PGM LXIII. 26-28
A contraceptive: Take a pierced bean and attach it as an amulet after tying it up in a piece of mule hide.
(Betz, P. 295).
Dioscorides, meanwhile, merely notes that beans may cause “bad dreams.”

Be that as it may, the bean does feature in spells and rituals in later magical literature, such as the Grimorium Verum:

To make yourself invisible:
Begin this operation on a Wednesday before sunrise, then take seven black beans and a human skull. Put one bean in the mouth of the skull, two in the nostrils, two in the eyes, and two in the ears. Next make on the head the characters show. (Note: characters omitted. See text for reference.) Then bury the skull so it faces the sky.

For nine days before sunrise, sprinkle it with excellent brandy. On the eighth day, you will find there the spirit of the deceased who will awake, and will ask you: “What are you doing here?” You will answer: “I am watering my plant,” and it will take the bottle, saying, “Given me this bottle so I may water it.” You should refuse this demand, and it will ask you again, but you must continue to refuse until he stretches out his hand, and there you will see figures similar to the ones you made on the head hanging from the tips of his fingers. In this case, you may be assured that this is the true spirit of the head.

This is done because some other spirit could surprise you, causing you harm and causing the operation to be in vain.

When you give him the bottle of liquor, he will water it himself, and you can retire. On the following day, which is the ninth day, return and you will find that the bean crop has matured. Harvest them and put them in your mouth, watching yourself in a mirror, and when you find one that makes you not see yourself, this bean will be a good one to save. You can also try them in the mouth of a child. A note that all those which don't work should be buried with the head.”
(Joseph H. Peterson translation, p. 49. Also see Jake Stratton-Kent's discussion on altering the spell for other purposes in the True Grimoire.)
A certain Mr. Smith notes:
Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, Appendix, states that beans should not be eaten during the weihnachten (12 nights of Yule).”

This particularly stood out to me due to something in the earlier cited text by Alfred C. Andrews:
“It is interesting to note in this connection that the custom of electing by lot a King and often also a Queen of the Bean on Twelfth Night or the eve thereof used to prevail in France, Belgium, Germany, and England. It can be traced back to the first half of the sixteenth century and probably dates from much more remote antiquity.”
Later he adds:
“Their use in Athenian elections by lots is probably of too recent origin to be attributed to any such notion and was probably motivated merely by convenience; but the use of beans in taking the auspices among the Romans is a relic of earlier times and may embody some such belief. One may note also the custom of ancient diviners of placing salt and beans before their clients. This practice has persisted into modern times, so that we find beans used for divination on Midsummer Eve in the Azores and for the same purpose on Twelfth Night in many other places.”

Meanwhile, for a bit of syncretism with magical practices in the Americas, Mr. Stratton-Kent notes:
“In comparative approaches its interesting that beans are also employed in offerings to Omolu, a god of the cemetery in Kimbanda. Pretty sure that's only one New World example, just happens to be the most immediate for me.

Roles for a single type of black beans and of diverse beans varying in colour might be differentiated; black beans are often used directly in magic, while multi-coloured beans appear as offerings.”

While I cannot claim this entry answers questions about all the different associations between beans, generative forces, and the dead, it will hopefully give others a few places to look. It is also worth noting that Macrobius's Saturnalia details a number of Roman festivals and rites involving beans, which may also be worth looking into.


Beans & The Dead.

A recent discussion with the Thiasos of the Starry Bull briefly involved prohibitions regarding beans by certain cults (some Orphic sects, and more importantly, the Pythagoreans). I seemed to recall that the bean was discussed by Jake Stratton-Kent in the Geosophia, but couldn't find the relevant section.

EDIT: I found the relevant section. Geosophia, volume 2, p. 204:
 “Ovid tells us in his Fasti that at midnight the head of the family rose and made a sign with the thumb inside closed fingers (the Sign of the Fig) to be free of fear of meeting a ghost and after washing his hands in spring water he took nine black beans and either threw them over his shoulder or more likely held them in his mouth and spat them out, being careful not to look behind him,  as is usual with many chthonic rituals. After this he spoke the incantation nine times: haec ego emitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis (with these beans I redeem me and mine). Washing his hands again he and probably others of the holsehold beat metal pots together like cymbals, walking through the house saying nine times: Manes exite paterni! (Family ghosts, depart!)

The same type of beans were also cast onto graves of the deceased or burned as an incense of exoricsm, the smell being disagreeable to the spirits; incantations were muttered and drums and metal pots beaten.”

Over the weekend, however, I recalled that Pliny the Elder had discussed the bean (albeit in brief) in The Natural History (Book XVIII, chapter 30):
“In our ancient ceremonials, too, bean pottage occupies its place in the religious services of the gods. Beans are mostly eaten together with other food, but it is generally thought that they dull the senses, and cause sleepless nights attended with dreams. Hence it is that the bean has been condemned by Pythagoras; though, according to some, the reason for this denunciation was the belief which he entertained that the souls of the dead are enclosed in the bean: it is for this reason, too, that beans are used in the funereal banquets of the Parentalia. According to Varro, it is for a similar cause that the Flamen abstains from eating beans: in addition to which, on the blossom of the bean, there are certain letters of ill omen to be found.”
 Simoons, in Plants of Life, Plants of Death has this to say of the bean:
“The association of beans and other legumes with death and the dead has survived in modern times in Europe. A prime example of this is their use as funeral foods in various places. In the past in certain parts of Berry as well as in the neighboring Marche in central France, for example, people always included a dish of beans or dried peas among the items served at a funeral dinner. In the Marches of central Italy, a family coming back from the burial joined in eating a large plate of kidney beans. Beans were also a major element of funeral dishes in Sardinia. In parts of the Friuli in northeastern Italy, it was customary for people to eat bean soup on the day the dead are commemorated. Elsewhere a special bread or cake that includes rye and vetch (likely Vicia sativa, a relative of the fava beans) has been served to persons who come to pray for the dead person. After a funeral in the Fimini region of northern Italy, the mourners returned to the home of the deceased for a funerary dinner which consisted of chick-pea soup. The serving provided for the deceased was later consumed by a member of the family. As for eastern Europe, I have uncovered a fragmentary report of beans having had ties with the dead among the Slavic people, too. I refer to an account of the former Polish-Russian province of Pintschov, where beans and honey were considered foods of the dead, and at memorial dinners, food consisted of beans and peas boiled in honey-water.

Beans and other legumes have also been used in Europe on All Souls' Day...” (P. 251 – 252.)
He goes on at length, eventually discussing funerary honey-cakes and the like. I have a few other sources to dig up, which if found, will require a second entry. But that's no bother. I'll add more later if/when I come across it.