Timeo Danaos et Dona Ferentes
There are evil spirits that move so subtly we can barely sense their influence until it’s too late. Things and places hold the resonance of tragedy and pain that occurred in their orbit. Hungry ghosts – sad, miserable jealous people who have never accepted healing from their ancestors, occasionally refuse to let go of what was once their property or wish the living ill. Any and all of these can cause problems for those of us who like antiquing, flea-marketing, or even who might receive unexpected gifts from friends, frenemies, and/or colleagues. I was warned about this first by a Lukumi elder who has since passed (may you ever be hailed, Stuart), but it was something I had already experienced and figured out on my own. Cursed/haunted objects are a thing. None of this needs to stop one from enjoying antiquing or from accepting a gift out of the blue, but care has to be taken. Nine times out of ten, these things, if they come with something polluted, can be cleansed away. The tenth time might involve salt, exorcism, and a bonfire, but that is not usually the norm.
I was thinking about this recently because a friend sent me an unexpected gift for my shrine. It was fine, but I have a protocol that I follow with any incoming package that isn’t purchased new, so I was explaining this to my current assistant, and I realized that I’d never written about it here. I don’t like writing about magical practice on my blog. I prefer to focus on religious things, but I’m finding that young magicians coming up now aren’t getting proper training. One of my former students says that the biggest complaint she gets about her own work is that she’s old fashioned – because she teaches grounding, centering, shielding, cleansing, and training the will as matters of course. I was blown away but what I’ve seen with the last couple of rounds of students confirms what a lot of us have suspected: basic training and common sense is seriously lacking in far too many of today’s magical circles, lodges, etc. Hence, these posts.
Now, I love antiquing. I also have quite a few people who would happily try to harm me given half a chance. That might be the case even were I not an active theologian. In esoteric circles we tend to be a contentious bunch, and while I firmly believe that study of any esoteric art should require intelligence, temperance, psychological stability, and emotional maturity, that’s all too often seldom the case in reality. You’re going to get bitter or crazy people trying to throw shit at you at some point in your career. Usually, they don’t have the capacity to magic themselves out of a paper bag, but sometimes bottom feeding evil spirits can take what they throw, ride it, and enhance it to something more damaging. It pays to be prepared.
Here’s what I do when I buy something at an antique store or flea market (and firstly, I take a good *look* with the psi senses at the item, and possibly even reach out to my ancestors to make sure it’s ok to bring home. I’ve been known to divine right in a shop). It then sits on the porch surrounded by salt until I have a chance to divine on it, exorcise it with salt/aspersing, and bless and cleanse it. Sometimes, if it’s just energetically dusty, I can blow an ansuz into it and cleanse it that way. None of this takes long but sometimes I don’t have the time to do it right when I get home, hence it sits outside until I do. Additionally, I’ll often wear gloves when I shop at such places. Silk insulates from negative or polluted energies, and I always carry a set in my bag. I also carry a small vial of salt, and often a small bottle of FL water in case I need to cleanse myself while out and about. Recently I was gifted with a pair of wool gloves from this site. The gloves have “Thor Bless” on them in runes and damned if they don’t work just as well as any silk that I’ve ever used. They’re also really comfortable so I highly recommend.
I will note that if you have regular protections on your home and ongoing wards, and your devotional practice is consistent, you’ll have some protection if something slips through. So, awhile back, someone sent me a heavily embroidered shrine cloth and a little statue. It was lovely and, having known this person for awhile – though not considering him a close friend—I broke my rules and just opened the package. Immediately I was repulsed. I am gift oriented partly by nature and partly by religion. Gifting has a particular valence in Heathenry, and gifting is my love language – both giving and receiving—so for me to have a negative reaction to a present is almost unheard of (even if I don’t like the item, I usually appreciate the thought). This was different. I was actively repulsed and shoved the box into a corner of my living room to deal with later. I foolishly gave it no further thought that day.
The next day the problems started. A piece of scar tissue snapped in my ankle (kept me on a cane for days, extremely painful), a knife flew at me from my knife rack. I hadn’t touched it. Three or four cups and bowls flew from my hands or one time at my head and broke. I divined to see if I’d been hit by malocchio. Divination consistently said no. Everyone had pain and inflammation in the house out of the blue so much so there was one visit to the doctor to rule out medical issues. We divined when the doc said everything was fine and divination said it was partly physical – likely due to old injuries and damp weather–but partly something else. Ok. I do most of my main house div. on Sunday, so I had planned to ask about this at the end of the week. About the same time, our water heater, dryer, and a few smaller appliances all broke at the same time. Then the aggravation in relationships started. It was like something was whispering and twisting every interaction out of true, ensuring that we would misunderstand each other. It is difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced this kind of oppression but it’s a primary technique of a certain class of evil spirits and theologians have written about it since ancient times. We were experiencing the effect of the presence of an evil spirit of disruption. I realized what it was because I saw it ever so slightly. I had a discussion with my husband about it and he concurred—I always check and double check because it’s easy to get paranoid.
That night, I skipped my protections and spent the night attacked in dreams. The next day, I fought it all day, sick and in pain. Eventually, my then-assistant asked a question –unrelated on the surface to this mess but perfectly timed—and divination opened up exactly what it was. The friend who sent me the altar items had received them from someone unclean, someone who dabbled in things not aligned with the Gods, someone who sought and seeks out people (especially women, I might add) who are devout and growing in spiritual power so he can derail and crush them, someone who had a deep jealousy and hatred for anyone solid in the Work. I’ve had my run-ins with this person more than once. I used to consider him a friend, until I learned how he butchers tradition, makes things up to cause harm and inflate his own ego, attacks and poisons the devout, and is ridden by addiction. He’s been known to plant really nasty shit in people’s homes, and to attack magically both men and women whom he perceives as rivals.
When I was getting up to get rid of the box, I heard the whisper, “Give it to X.” My guess is that my friend had the same thing happen and so was moved to send it to me. If one isn’t used to the whispers, it’s painfully easy to be influenced by spirits. They take on the sound of our own inner voices and if one doesn’t know the texture of one’s own mind, how can one tell the difference? I immediately took everything outside, my assistant doused it with blessed salt, we prayed and warded the space, the threshold, the door, cleansed the house, called on the Holy Powers and restored order. *Immediately* we all felt better. Later I burned the items. It was a huge lesson in maintaining protocols even when I think I don’t need to (perhaps especially then), and knowing my inner landscape so that I know precisely what is my own thought versus that of something malignant trying to influence me. Evil spirits try this all the time. It’s why cleansing, warding, meditation, and prayer is so important. It keeps one balanced and properly ordered.
Afterwards, it turned out my assistant had been having the thing whisper to her for days, and it had been trying to damage her relationship to one of her Gods. ALL of us had an aversion to the package, and none of us had wanted to touch it where it lay shoved into a corner. But because it came from a friend (who was appalled when I told him about what had happened, and who immediately got rid of everything the third party involved had given him) I’d neglected this. Have your cleansing protocols (and yes, I apply them to etsy and ebay packages too), and never, ever break them.
So, cleanse the things you receive or buy. Don’t take gifts from frenemies. If you find out someone is gross, get rid of everything they’ve given you and by which they might work nasty magic on you. Know the origin of secondhand gifts. Cleanse, cleanse, and cleanse. Also, keep up prayer and devotion because in the end these are more important than any of this and also our best guard and protection.
Here’s your PSA for the day.
Burn this. Clean it with fire. lol.
The Third Week of SunWait – Sunna in Thurisaz
Sunwait came hard this week. We’ve been shuttling between home, work, and physical therapy rehabilitation center where my husband is recovering from surgery (a place only a little less polluted spiritually than the hospital itself, and in some cases worse) and it’s a difficult thing to go daily into such a polluted place and then to return home without bringing pollution or worse along for the ride. Every time I leave, I hate leaving my husband in such a place, though he is strong and more than capable of handling the situations that arise – malignant bottom feeding spirits feed on pain ,confusion, and loss and they abound in this hellscape. I’m convinced that there are at least two demoniacs on the floor (got cornered by one of them the other day—I was rushing and not properly centered in my Gods and Their power. When I walk with the latter, such foulness cannot come near me. A blessing sufficed to drive it back but what must that be like for the poor soul at their mercy? I pray constantly as I walk through the ward, not for myself but for those who must live there, for those vulnerable to spiritual infestation and harm. I actually don’t know why there aren’t chaplains visiting frequently – It would help).
The upshot of this is that we’ve all been doing many more spiritual cleansings. I usually cleanse myself daily in some way, both with prayer and meditation, but also perhaps with sacred smoke, or khernips, a cleansing bath, etc. We’ve tripled that. One of the things that I have found particularly helpful, that leaves me feeling absolutely spiritually clean and refreshed, is a salt scrub. Now, the one that I do is specifically dedicated to Odin but I’ll give a generic here that y’all can adapt.
Nightly, I fill a tub of bathwater (and put Epsom salts, vinegar, sometimes Kolonia 1800, Florida water or some other scent used to cleanse people, places, and things; sometimes I make the bath khernips – the whole thing lol. Sometimes I add beer and/or milk. I pray to various Gods to bless it. Salt for instance, is sacred to the Roman Goddess Salis, Whose name means salt and who was honored along with Hygeia and Asklepius as a major healing Deity. I ask Freyr to bless the beer. I may ask Idunna to bless the whole thing. It varies based on my mood of the day). As the bath fills, I pray to Odin and read a set prayer to Him and usually make an offering. Once the bath fills, I stand in it and rub the salt all over, including top of my head (crown chakra) and all the way down. Then I sink into the bath and wash it off and get on with having a nice, relaxing bath as per the norm.
I will share my basic Odin – oriented recipe below. Feel free to use different oils. If there are specific scents you associate with your main Deity, go ahead and substitute those oils and focus it on that Deity. Use this as a guide and just adapt it for your own Gods. I don’t worry about exact drop amounts. I just add and mix until I like the smell.
Odin Salt Scrub
One pound of sea salt.
One cup baking soda
¼ cup vanilla powder (found in the baking aisle of your local supermarket)
Liberally sprinkle (at least two tablespoons, more if you want) sweet almond oil and mix it throughout the salt mixture (this helps moisturize the skin because salt, for all its cleansing properties can be very abrasive).
Ok. That’s your base.
To that add the following oils (remember, it’s easier to add than to remove. So, start by adding maybe twenty drops and mix. Then check the scent. You can always add more). Use food grade oils.
Rose otto, galangal, ylang-ylang, violet, anise (go lightly with this one), chamomile (a queen of flowers amongst the nine herbs), and Solomon seal oil (I like to buy it from Luckymojo shop. It’s the best I’ve found).
After adding each one, mix thoroughly with your hands. When you’ve added them all, adjust for your preference in smell. Put it in a jar and set it on your shrine for a night. Then for nine nights do the salt scrub, bracketing the whole thing with prayer.
I’ve been doing it every night after coming home from the rehabilitation center and it is one of the most cleansing practices I’ve found.
That is all for today. We are half way through Sunwait which means half way to Yule and that is a lovely thing.
Protection and Prayer
Each month I send out a newsletter to my subscribers. In that newsletter, I usually give sneak peaks at new prayer cards, updates on my work, recipes, reviews, and occasionally special prayers. (Y’all can subscribe at the link provided here).
In last week’s newsletter, I included the following prayer and I decided to share it here for everyone, because I think prayer is important, and this particular type of prayer incredibly helpful.
We are living in some very troubled times, and above all else, we’re living in spiritually troubled times. Evil exists and as people devoted to our Gods, we are called upon to stand against it. What that means is that we co-create. We stand with our Gods in maintaining right order and alignment in our world, in the cosmic architecture the Gods have created. How we do that may vary – some of you are parents committed to raising devout children, some have intense prayer practices, some love the Gods and carry that into everything you do – and everything we do can be infused with that consciousness whether you’re a mechanic or artist, homemaker, teacher or doctor, or anything else.
Each of us has the power to transform our world for the better and whatever we may be doing day to day, a key component of that is prayer. It has the potential to change the world. It also nourishes us and keeps us from being beaten down and crushed by the vitriol and hate, by the pollution and poison, by the misery and sheer wickedness that all too often seems to shape the modern world. I want to share a prayer that we use in my House and home to maintain balance, to restore harmony, to help (along with other prayers and cleansings) banish pollution. This prayer was written by H. Jeremiah Lewis (Sannion).
We have an entire panoply of prayers that we do to consciously align ourselves with that sacred architectural order. This is the first in that assembly and one that anyone, layperson or specialist, may do. I share it with you now because Heimdallr is a God of purification and consecration, a God Whose presence drives back pollution and evil in a very special way. He will restore harmony to a person, place, or thing that has experienced spiritual attack or disorder. I urge you to use this prayer as needed (though please don’t share it without attribution) and call upon Heimdallr and our other Gods regularly for blessings, for care, and for protection.
If you are feeling shaky and uncertain and scared, you’re not alone. Don’t give in though, because I firmly believe that there is evil that will feed on these things, amp them up, in an attempt to drive a wedge between us and all that’s holy. The thing is, whatever evil is out there can only do this if we give it the opening. Prayer helps us prevent that. Prayer is our guard, our armor, the weapon in our hand, and our guide. So I urge you all to pray regularly and know that our Gods are there and They are bigger and more powerful than anything that might attempt to stand against Them. There is no need to ever fear.
To Heimdallr Heimdallr who hears all, hear my prayer from the turrets of Himinbjörg where shimmering Bifröst meets the sky and leads to numerous other realms like a second mighty World Tree. You see all that transpires in these far-off places, scanning the horizon for signs of Ragnarök’s arrival when you will sound Gjallarhorn and rouse the Gods to battle against that which would threaten the divine order established by the three brothers from the remnants of their Giant ancestor long, long ago. You hold in your mind an image of how things should be, and act to bring things into alignment with their ideal pattern, creating order and harmony, hale and concord where there was chaos, violent disagreement, defect and disease. I beseech you, Heimdallr, drive out these negative influences and anything else that might cause me to stray from my destined path of devotion to the Holy Powers, and restore what is missing or damaged within me so that I might better fulfill the will of my Gods and Spirits. This I ask, Heimdallr, you who traveled about in secret, propagating the lines of humanity, and all their distinct crafts and customs, and so know what it is for us to strive and through great focus and direction of will attain our particular glory. Hail to you, most radiant God, strong and stubborn as a ram on his mountain, whether it pleases you to be called Heimdallr, Rig, Hallinskiði, Gullintanni, Vindhlér or any of the many other names you have adopted during your travels with Loki, Þórr and the Alföðr; may your praises always be upon my lips and your shrine piled with plentiful offerings. (prayer by H. Jeremiah Lewis)
What I Keep in My Kit
As a result of this conversation here, several people have made suggestions or emailed me asking what I keep for aftercare in my spiritwork “kit.” Everything, people. Everything Lol. I’m a friggin’ spiritworking boy scout. Seriously, I’m only half joking.
I keep a full first aid kit, with bandaids, bandages, antiseptic cream, etc. I keep burn cream (I do fire work so it makes sense to have prescription Silvadene cream. There’s nothing better and while I am very competent at my work, accidents can always happen).
I keep protein bars and chocolate, Excedrin, and rehydration salts. I also tend to carry a caffeine drink of some sort, and also charged water (you’ll need water of some sort for the rehydration salts). I carry bug spray because sometimes I’m working outside. Sometimes I throw in (chewable) pepto bismal, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Airborne chewables, a good multi-vitamin, and chewable Magnesium. I tend to take these as a matter of course, so I don’t always carry the vitamins with me, but rather keep them on my kitchen counter (except for the Airborne. That I carry in my kit always and take regularly). I also make sure that there is a dosage of all my prescription meds in my kit, just in case I need them. I’ve known some spirit-workers who like to carry Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic medicine, but, I myself do not use it.
Finally, I will carry a spray bottle of holy water or khernips. I buy the biggest spray bottle I can and fill it up before any job.
I carry more than this in my kit, but this is specifically what I carry for aftercare. As far as rehydration salts go, there is a very good brand called Liquid IV, that was recommended to me last year and I’ve had very good results with it.
Finally, I want to note that spirit-work and spiritual work are two different things. Spiritual work is what we do in our lives to cultivate devotion, to deal with our own BS, to heal ourselves, to make ourselves useful in our lives and to our gods. Spirit-work is what we do professionally. It’s a specialty, and it’s usually done on behalf of our Gods and spirits, our traditions, our community, and/or individual clients.
A Really Good Question from a Reader
Owlet asks: “How do you make right after participating in a ritual or group that is disrespectful?”
This is a really good question and I’m glad you asked it here. It’s something that I’ve had to learn through a lot of trial and error, especially when I was much more open to participating in rituals outside my House, and when I was working in the interfaith world. My answer is two- fold.
Firstly, what you describe (which I quote further below) is the real danger of community involvement and I am so very sorry to learn that this happened to you. It hurts my heart to know that your own devotion was impacted by this. It can be very, very hard to come back from such a thing but I will say this: as we learn better, we do better. You’ve had a valuable experience about what is NOT proper community. That will serve as an incredibly useful lens through which to evaluate every other group with which you consider becoming involved in the future. That can be a great blessing. Hopefully, also, others can learn from your story as well.
Now, you ask what one can do. Firstly, ideally, don’t participate in those groups. It is far, far better to remain solitary than to pollute yourself. I think that the desperation to communicate and share with like-minded individuals sometimes pushes us into these situations and it’s so important, early on, to commit to not compromising where piety and respect for the Gods, ancestors, and land are concerned. In this, compromise is nota virtue. Evaluate their theology, their politics, their values, their lifestyles, the choices they make large and small. Separate your personal feelings from these things, because a person can be nice and friendly but in the end, poison ideology leads to poisoning of the tradition and our lives. Do the choices they’re making serve the Gods and the tradition or do they seek to elevate the people and ego-stroking, etc. etc. Is it all about the human condition?
It is absolutely lovely to find like-minded polytheists, and to build communities – and in truth, I don’t think our restoration can endure intergenerationally without lived community. The thing is, it’s important that those communities prioritize the Gods qua Gods and if they don’t, shun them like poison. I would add that we’re never really alone. We have our Gods, we have our ancestors and we can learn from Them and hopefully when we’re ready, They will guide us to working, solid traditions that will augment our relationships with the Gods, not shit on them.
So first and foremost, I would say, avoid these senseless or impious groups. That means making conscious devotional choices about what to prioritize, and about your religious life, and with whom you share that. It means doing some research, asking uncomfortable questions before participating. It means being willing to walk away from groups and people that do not nourish one’s piety. That means weighing everything and most of all being absolutely unwilling to compromise on the key fundamentals of polytheistic practice. I think with the influence of pseudo-progressivism in our communities, we’ve been indoctrinated to think of ‘compromise’ as a virtue across the board. It’s not. If I’m in a ship and the hull is compromised, that’s not a good thing. That is in fact, life threatening. It’s the same with the type of pollution that we can all too often find in certain places.
Owlet’s post continued: “I spent many years as a solitary pagan and polytheist, because I lived in an area where the culture was unusually hostile to such things. When I moved to a large urban center and university town, I immediately got involved in pagan events and groups. I was desperate to be a part of a community. To one group , in particular, I donated hundreds (or more) volunteer hours, a great deal of money, handcrafted ritual items…everything I could give. As I learned over the years, the people running and organizing these events and rituals often did not believe in the gods as anything more than thoughtforms or maybe archetypes, or were at the core monotheists or Christians with a thin overlay of pagan dress. Their disrespect spread from their relationship with the gods, to their relationship with the land, to the ancestors, and to other people, and I played along and became complicit. Now that I’ve left and can stand back, I feel heartsick at the compromises I made to please these groups. The service I gave to these communities distracted from and damaged my relationships with the holy powers instead of strengthening them.”
Again, it hurts to read this and my heart goes out to you, but look at it as a learning experience. It’s often difficult, especially when we’re all hungry for community and companionship, to recognize when something or someone is problematic. We learn, often from harsh experience. I would encourage you to not carry guilt over this. Go before your Gods and ask Their forgiveness if you feel the need, and do a ritual cleansing and then commit to doing better. Sometimes, it’s really, really important to have these bad experiences so we have a baseline from which to clearly and accurately evaluate practices. The most important thing in what you’ve sadly experienced is that now you can look on these things clearly and make better, informed choices. There’s no need for shame about any of that. You contributed to a community that you thought shared your piety. That’s a good thing to do. It’s not your fault that the community was not what you thought. Please don’t carry the guilt from this. Sometimes we appreciate devotion and piety and right relationship all the more when we’ve had an experience of its opposite and the effects of that.
What I would suggest is prayer – we cannot pray too much—and regular cleansings. Whenever I find that I’ve been exposed or have inadvertently exposed myself (and sometimes my spiritual Work requires this) to pollution, I will pray and cleanse myself, sometimes using divination to figure out what type of cleansing is needed. I always suggest going to the Gods, going to the ancestors, going to the land and reconnecting. Ask Them for help and cleansing, ask Them for guidance and don’t be afraid to set boundaries with would-be communities.
So within NT shamanism we have a specific divination system to determine what type of purification will work best, in the event that we or our clients require purification. (Of course this isn’t the only thing we use but if all other types of div and discernment have failed, there is a specific system for this). That is more or less lineaged material but I happened to show it to my husband. His eyes gleamed and he got all excited and asked if he could use it as the basis for one of his own systems. Since while it technically is part of the lineaged material, it’s part that can be shared with non-initiates, I explained the extremely simple system to him. He nodded and disappeared into his office and emailed me the following about a half hour later.
It is an awesome system based on the Greek theory of the four humours. He gave me permission to share it here. This in turn has inspired a friend and colleague to do yet another riff on the system and I love the interconnectedness and mutually inspiring nature of this work. A Heathen makes up a system and it’s down, dirty, and simple. A Bacchic, southern Italian, Hellenic inspired Orpheotelest tries it and he gets all fancy. ^_^.
Here it is.
This is the method of prescribing cleansings.
You will need four stones, a die, and a pouch to keep them in.
The four stones represent the rizomata panton, the “roots of all things” or primordial elements which Empedokles described as follows:
Now hear the fourfold roots of everything:
shining Zeus, enlivening Hera, Aidoneus,
and Nestis, moistening mortal springs with her tears.
The stones should either have their Greek name inscribed on them or be of an appropriate color, as derived from the Galenic humours.
Fire = (πῦρ pur) = hot and dry = yellow
Air = (ἀήρ aer) = hot and wet = red
Earth = (γῆ ge) = cold and dry = black
Water = (ὕδωρ hudor) = cold and wet = white
Draw the stone out to determine where the root cause of the problem lies and then roll the die to determine the nature of the cleansing that needs to be prescribed.
1. Pass fire over the body.
2. Walk on coals.
3. Write your afflictions down on scraps of paper and then give them to the fire.
4. Burn an effigy of your enemy.
5. Keep a flame burning for a month.
6. Wear red clothing for a week and work on cultivating the fire within.
1. Fumigate with bay or other purifying herbs.
2. Cleanse using music.
3. Cleanse through prayer, singing or intoning words of power.
4. Burn incense every day for a month.
5. Devote yourself to intellectual study and practice mindfulness and meditation.
6. Cover your head, especially when you’re outside the home.
1. Apply sacred ash.
2. Cover with mud and sit upon the bare earth for three hours.
3. Make offerings to the ancestors.
4. Make offerings to the land-spirits.
5. Ground and center.
6. Thoroughly clean and put your home in order.
2. Cleanse with chernips.
3. Take a cleansing bath, with milk and appropriate herbs.
4. Bathe in a river.
5. Cleanse through tears.
6. Wear all white for a week.