Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Those of a certain age, when they think of the state of Georgia, may hear an old Charlie Daniels Band tune playing in their head. For those of you not familiar with the song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is a classic Southern Rock tune that tells the story of the devil getting into a fiddling contest with a young man named Johnny. Johnny cleans the devil’s clock and wins a golden fiddle from Old Nick but it is made clear that he does this at risk of his immortal soul.

The devil seems to pop up a lot in Southern lore. There were persistent rumors that the blues man, Robert Johnson, sold his soul to the devil in order to become one of the best blues guitar players of his time. Like the Scottish pipers and fiddlers who were said to have gained their skill from the faery, any musician who showed a sudden, marked increase in talent could be the subject of whispers that he or she had gone down to the crossroads and made a deal with that ole devil. The question that we have to ask ourselves though is, who is this devil that everyone seemed to be making a deal with?

No, Virginia, we are not talking about a whole herd of Satanists selling themselves to the Christian Adversary. While Satan and his minions certainly do exist, I would maintain that they are, for the most part, creatures who the people of the Abrahamic religions have given great power through their fear and loathing (and sometimes secret desire to just give in and sin a little bit). I am the first to say that there are predators in the Otherworld and that there may even be beings who are the unbalanced versions of the angelic host but I do not see a demon under every rock and I certainly do not feel that Satan, the Prince of this alleged group of fallen angels, spends a lot of time hanging around crossroads trying to collect souls one at a time.

Rather, I suspect that the “devil” that is encountered at the crossroads is an altogether different sort of being. In the Afro-Carribean religions such as Vodou, crossroads are the specific haunts of the lwa known as Papa Legba, the opener of the way between the world of men and the world of the lwa. The Greeks had Hekate, the Lady of the Three Fold Way, as their crossroads deity and so popular was she that her statues adorned many crossroads in Greece and offerings were laid at her feet to ensure safe travel. We can even see traces of the crossroads idea in the Norse Odhinn to whom crossroads were sacred (although, I would not ask the Old One for safe travel, crossroads were the site of hangings and the hanged were sacred to Him).

So, crossroads deities seem to have a strong tie in with the idea of opening the way. Sometimes, the way is a physical one and the appeal is for safe travel in this world. At other times, those who walk the inner planes will work with a Way Opener in order to facilitate and ease their own travels.

There is another way in which the Opener of the Way can assist someone. In those circumstances where an individual feels blocked or obstructed in some way, they can ask the assistance of one of the Way Openers to help clear that obstruction or even to help them learn a skill that will assist them in walking their road through life. This is where deals with the “devil” come in.

Orion Foxwood recently published a book on conjure called The Candle and the Crossroads and one of the very interesting chapters in that book deals with just this phenomenon. Mr. Foxwood refers to the being with which one deals at the crossroads as the Dark Rider and this is what he has to say about that being:

. . .I was told that he was not evil but rather very old and powerful and that he came from either Africa or Europe. I think he came from both places.

There is a lot of information in the name the Dark Rider. First, he is dark, or at least made out of the power of the night. This suggests that he is an in-between spirit who can only be encountered when light and night dance under the shadow of true moon. Second, he is a rider, or in movement, which indicates that his power and spirit nature is change . . .

Foxwood also states, “But I warn you that though he does not require you to sell your immortal soul to him, he does require integrity and a promise from you in exchange for the road openings he provides . . . “. I think it goes without saying that this is a being that one would not want to trifle with and that, if you give your word, you had better be very sure you can keep it. If approached with respect (and Foxwood presents a fairly simple rite for doing this) the Dark Rider can and will open the way for the petitioner in practically any aspect of life.

As I mentioned before, it is not unknown for someone who wishes to learn an instrument, for example, to petition the Dark Rider for “lessons”. There are even stories of this “man” appearing to the fledgling musician, taking the instrument, tuning it and handing it back after playing a little riff. After that meeting, the musician was quickly able to learn his chosen instrument.

Since all things are supposed to come from God in the Abrahamic religions, it is no wonder that this powerful spirit has been demonized and turned into yet another version of the “devil”. While I do not encourage people to go out and seek the Dark Rider unless and until they have had some good training in conjure, my own work with crossroads spirits tells me that, while this fellow could scare the bejabbers out of you, he is not innately evil or seeking to “get over” on you.

If you are at all interested in conjure, I recommend Foxwood’s work as a good way to get grounded into and started with that practice.

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Stormeye’s Real Life Adventures: The Elf Child

The late Dion Fortune (Violet Firth) wrote a number of books in her life time, some of them nonfiction tomes about various aspects of ceremonial magic and quite a few fictional works with magical themes. Amongst the latter works is Fortune’s novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Taverner, a work that many in the magical community feel is a fictionalized account of some of the cases that Fortune worked with her mentor, Theodore Moriarty. One of my favorite chapters in that book is titled “A Daughter of Pan” and deals with a human child who seems to have been born with the soul of an elemental, one of the Faerie, if you will.

I thought that such a thing was not really possible until, that is, I happened to meet the young boy that I still think of as the Elf Child.

As I have mentioned in previous installments of this “series”, once upon a time, I used to be a very open Wiccan and spent time in New Age shops doing Tarot readings. It happened that one Saturday, I was doing readings and a young woman stopped by with her son for a consultation. The reading itself was fairly ordinary; the young mother had been in a bad relationship and wanted to know what her future love prospects looked like. The cards were rife with messages about this being time that she should use for becoming better acquainted with her self, working on her spiritual life and telexing her hold on the idea that she had to be with someone. She was interested in Wicca so we spent a little time after the reading talking books and local events and groups she might explore.

Now, I make this sound like a fairly routine event. It was not. The young mother’s son was playing quietly in the corner, occupying himself with something I could not see, and, as I worked with the mother, I noted the youngling watching me with intense interest. Though I was focussed on the young woman, I could not help but notice this intense regard nor the remarkable features of this child.

The boy was only about 4 or 5 years old, very slight but with that sort of build that minds you that not all strong people have bulging muscles. His eyes were slightly slanted and the clearest green I have ever seen, his ears actually came to delicate points and his whole facial structure was all angles and high cheekbones. As I mentioned, he watched me with an intensity that was almost disconcerting, the type of regard that an animal in the wild might give to something that I thought might be a threat. I smiled at him when I had a chance but his eyes and his face remained serious.

Once his mother and I had concluded our business and I had determined that I had no one else waiting, I walked over to where he sat in the little play area at the back of the store. Mindful of my own excessive height, I knelt down some distance away from him and greeted him. No response – just that same cautious look. His mother hastened to explain that he did not warm up to new people quickly. I accepted her word but there was something about this child . . .

Of course, I could not go into full trance right there in the store but I did my best to have a “look” at the young one and what I “saw” startled me. While each seer has a different way of interpreting what they see, the human energy field has a certain look and feel to it and it is something that seers become very familiar with. This boy’s energy did not look like anything I had ever seen before; instead of a sort of ellipse of colored energy, I was seeing visions of the woodland and feeling an intense “green” energy around the boy.

With some trepidation, I extended my hand and pictured a small spark of energy floating there. The child smiled with delight and came closer. He could “see” and, in fact, he clambered up me like a tree once he understood that I was alright. As he clung to my shoulders, I pointed out, as delicately as I could, that the boy had very interesting energy. This got the mother going. I do not remember the details of the boy’s birth but it seems that the father appeared in this woman’s life and then disappeared shortly after the boy was conceived. She had gotten into the bad relationship we had discussed as a rebound.

Her son had always been quiet, from the moment of his birth, only sounding off as an infant if he were really in need of something. It took him a while to talk but, once he got the hang of it, he could communicate as well as a child twice his age . . . when he chose to speak at all. The mother had trouble keeping the boy in shoes, even in the blistering heat of summer, and she had trouble keeping him indoors at all. She was amazed that he had stayed put as long as he had; normally, after an hour of so of being inside, he was trying to get out the door. This despite his pale coloring and the heat of the AZ sun.

It was very plain to me, both from my psychic senses and simply from looking at the boy, that he was not entirely human. I wondered how to broach the subject to his mother so I asked her if she had read the Taverner book. She had and then went on to say that she sometimes suspected her son was like the girl in that book. I did not want to come out and tell her that he was, indeed, just like the girl in the book but I did suggest that his unique energy was going to create challenges for him as he got older.

If I had known then what I know now, I might have had some suggestions for her but I am afraid that I could only offer general advice. Honestly, I do not remember all that we discussed that afternoon but, by the time, the young lady left the store, she had developed a plan for keeping her youngster in touch with the thing that gave him life: Nature.


Book Review: Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone

As I write this, I am sitting in the midst of a hell of boxes and bubble wrap but all is not lost. The movers come soon and, by the time you read this, I will be back in Georgia, visiting with the in-laws and waiting for my household goods to arrive from New York. The New Year has brought great change into my life but I am hopeful that this change will be for the better.

Despite the chaos of the move, I’ve still managed to take a little down time and just finished reading a book titled

Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic

by the neo-pagan author who designates herself Lupa. I found the book interesting since I sometimes work in Harner style neo-shamanism but I found this author to be a little frustrating. While I have quite a lot of experience in the magical realms and could follow Lupa’s writing, I am afraid that a beginner in the Ars Magica would find this book difficult.

Part of the issue derives from something Lupa freely admits; she is very much a chaos magician. In other words, she practices a style of magic that is very much tied into the process of experimentation and is quite willing to practice in what she calls the buffet style – in other words, chaos mages have no problem with exploring magical styles and picking what they like from them. For some people this freedom works well and they find practices which really do lead to a relationship with their “Higher Selves” (or whatever they choose to call them) and an ability to hack their reality but others, like myself, like a little more structure. I found, reading this book, that the chaos side of Lupa shone through since she was quite willing to introduce a topic, make some pithy statements about it, drop a few ideas about how it could be worked with magically and then move on to another area.

For example, in her discussion of familiars (which she defines as an animal that partners with you in doing magic), Lupa makes starts off strong and then seems to tail off at the end of the discussion. She tells us something of how to locate a familiar and makes a strong case for not adopting an animal unless you are sure you can care for it (kudos to her there!) but then tells us that she spoke with her familiar to learn how it might assist her in magic and recommends this procedure for others. She does give some ideas about how to accomplish this but really does not give us any good examples of how her familiar assisted her in a magical working or workings. I, for one, would have been quite interested to see how she worked a lizard into her magic and less experienced practitioners would have benefitted greatly from such illustrative stories.

Another issue that gave me pause was her continued assumption that people reading the book were familiar with divination. She often recommends using either the pendulum, the Tarot or some other style of divination to get or check answers from totems, familiars or other animal spirits. While these methods might certainly work for a person with some experience, even flipping a coin for a yes or no answer to a question requires some basic knowledge of how to set one’s mind in the proper frame, how to phrase a question and how to establish some basic protection from outside influences. None of this is covered; the assumption seems to be, again, that the reader has some level of experience in the magical arts.

Again, with the process of invocation, actually calling an animal spirit into your body, Lupa describes why one might do an invocation and some effective ways to bring this magical act to pass (I found her description of dancing in a wolf skin to be practically invocatory all by itself) but skimps on the necessary details. This is most likely a personal bias on my part but I have always been of the opinion that you do not call what you are not sure you can banish and Lupa leaves the reader to figure out the best way to get rid of a spirit that does not want to leave. Even a very simple example of a banishing would have been better than nothing here. Additionally, given that Lupa seems to be shooting for a full on possessory trance in the invocation process, a warning that this work should not be attempted alone might have been in order. It’s all well and good to be possessed by the spirit of a wolf but quite another thing to turn such a person loose in a an urban area, for example. Someone grounded into consensual reality needs to be present to assist the person doing the invocation and help them find their way back to normal consciousness. Lupa describes doing invocation in a group setting and seems to assume that the reader will follow suit.

Lest you think that I did not like this book, let me state unequivocally that I found many new and interesting ideas and concepts in the book and plan to experiment with some of them and to another of Lupa’s books,

    DIY Totemism

If the reader is someone with a firm foundation in magic or neo-shamanic practice, then this book will provide a wealth of information on animal magics outside of the usual encyclopedia of totems construct. If, however, the reader is a beginner in the magical or shamanic arts, then I strongly recommend that this book be read as an intermediate level text with information to be filed away for later experimentation or for practice in the company of a more experienced mage.


Resolutions

I hope that everyone had a good and safe New Year celebration and that you are looking forward to the New Year with excitement. As some regular readers may know, I relocated to the Capital Region of New York this past summer. As sometimes happens, things did not work out as expected and my wife and I will be returning to Georgia this month. I hope to be able to maintain my weekly blog schedule but apologize in advance for any interruptions that may occur in the next few weeks.

I’ve thought hard about what to post in this first blog of the New Year (and for the first anniversary of this blog) and I thought that I might take a moment to talk about resolutions.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions and many people break those resolutions within a few weeks or months. Ask anyone who has ever worked in a fitness center and they will tell you that New Year’s is their busiest time of year and that by February, things have calmed down considerably. Change is difficult so I would propose that, in order to make an effective change, we have to work with ourselves and with those spiritual forces with whom we are aligned.

One of the things that I learned in doing the 30 Day Magical Challenges last year, is the force of feeling responsible to someone besides yourself for making a change. When I undertook these challenges, I was making a commitment to myself and to the others doing the challenge that I would perform a certain magical act for 30 consecutive days and record the results in the Challenge blog. So, some of the reason that I succeeded with these challenges was that bane of teenagers everywhere: peer pressure. Unless you are one of those rare people who truly does not care what people think, if you commit to something in front of witnesses, you are that much more likely to follow through.

In addition, I learned from doing these Challenges that it takes a while to make a habit. I have heard ‘experts’ in this area state everything from 28 straight days on to several months but, in my experience, if you do something for a full 30 days, you will have made a habit of it and will be a lot less likely to slough it off. For all of you out there that have committed to getting fit in 2014, sorry but this means that you have to do something every day for the next 30 days in order to make working out a habit. Please note that I am not advocating a full on workout everyday (even elite athletes do not do this) but that you do some physical activity even on recovery days to keep up the habit.

Finally, I have always been of the opinion that, if you are trying to bring lasting change into your life, you should determine what it is you want to change and then take that change to the spiritual forces at work in your life. This year, I have two resolutions that I wish to bring to reality, and so I have taken those resolutions to my patroness and the coterie of spirits who follow Her in ritual. I requested Her presence, laid out what I wanted to accomplish and asked for Her help in making it so. Simple but effective. I will also be doing journey work in the near future to ask the aid of my animal allies and ancestors in my endeavor. As I pursue the goals I have outlined, I will continue to work with these Powers and others that make themselves known to bring about the best possible result.

Obviously, the above is my way of doing things and your mileage may vary but everyone who follows a spiritual path has some way of interfacing with the Powers that Be. Use that interface to request the assistance that you need in making your resolutions reality. Whether you are evoking archangels, invoking the lwa or lighting a candle at your local church, you know what works best for you.

You will probably read a any number of articles on how to make your New Year’s resolution stick. I encourage you to read those words with an open mind and apply any teaching that you think will help you. For myself, I like to keep things pretty simple thus the recommendations above to use peer pressure to your advantage, make a habit of your new behavior and get the spirits involved to assist you. I think you will find that you stand a much better chance of making real change in your life if you consider these steps.


Happy New Year

Again, just a quick note during my little vacation . . . I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy New Year.

I hope that you all find yourselves surrounded by loving friends and family at this time and that you have goals to bring into manifestation in 2014.

May your lives be filled with the things for which you have a passion and may that which is no longer needed drop away painlessly to be recycled into new and more productive energy.

As the Dineh (Navajo) say, may you each walk in Beauty in the coming year and may the year be filled with wondrous surprises and moment that truly bring you awe.

I look forward to continued discourse with you in the coming year.