It was the “supermoon” of 2017, or at least the visible supermoon of 2017 for where I lived the other night, and compared to many full moons of the last year, this one wound up being far more involved.
Sabbatic revelry was the first order of business, but as I chatted with the Devil, he was very focused on what to do with my “grimoire.” (I’ll put it in scare-quotes here the first time, mostly because “grimoire” is an easily abused term.)
You see, way back in 1994 or 1995, when I was a baby corvid, my friends and I at the time ran into the usual “astral baddies.” You know how it is. You’re looking into magic for the first time, and you’re first becoming aware of the spirit world, and some big Dark Lord or Super-Demon decides to get into your business.
We literally had a Dark Lord–well, two. The first one appeared in multiple dreams for multiple of us as a tall, gaunt, shadowy figure–his face obscured in the shadow of his cowl. As is my wont, I pulled a name forth for this fellow, and it seemed kinda dorky, but “right.” Melko.
Now, Tolkien nerds will know that Melko(r) is another name for Morgoth, the original Dark Lord in Tolkien’s legendarium–the Valar who had Sauron as a lieutenant for a long time.
Well, “Melko” wasn’t Melko. But in one of the dreams I saw him in, he offered me a book of magic: a black leather volume with black pages with silver ink writing. Much goth. Very metal. The cover had a silver stylized dragon triskel embossed on it.
Years passed. Haven’t seen Melko in ages. He ran afoul, last I knew, of a different “astral baddie.” Anyway, as I’m working on visionary and journeying work, I see myself in a study–a stuffy hot, candle-lit room with curtains keeping sunlight out, with me there with that same book.
After a while, pulling on that oneiric thread, I got a name for it. The Book of the Raven, The Book of the Wyrm. And I have no idea what’s precisely in it there in the spirit world, but I finally was pushed to start trying to earth it here. I found a faux-leather black paper sketchbook, and I found some silver pens to try writing it. I had started doing so, but I petered out.
After the Devil and getting a far better grounding in the history and nature of the grimoires in Europe and after developing an actual practical practice, I resumed with better silver pens. I copied the practices and rituals and prayers and charms and more that I’ve been using in there. I’ve included spirit seals for those I work with.
Now, here’s the thing. Strictly speaking, the book–with silver ink and black paper and my (surprisingly better than I expected) sketch of my familiar spirit and so on–none of it is strictly necessary. For a long while, I used a white 3-ring binder with some dividers and pages I printed out. I used that binder for most of 2017. At one point, I went to switch out my daily planetary prayers–basically those in the Hygromanteia with my addenda–and I felt strangely bad about tossing the older version out. Those pages had accrued something about them.
I paid attention to this development even as I went ahead and tossed out the old, outdated pages for a newer–ahem, more accurate–version of what I was doing or wanting to do.
I’ve done plenty of practical enchantment this last year with quite a few successes. Some cursing, some blessings for myself and others, some spirit work, some journeying, and some more, I’m sure. I did most of it, continue doing much of it with that same binder.
But I started transferring much of it into The Book. I started doing the version of the daily planetary prayers I do from The Book instead of the binder. I just did a bunch of stuff on the full moon using The Book, including spirit contact and more. I don’t need The Book, but there’s something about having and using The Book that matters. It’s as if I’m bringing that deeper, richer, more hyperthick part of myself, of the spirits, of my practice even, closer to this world–embedding it more into this world.
A while back, I had acquired Jose Leitao’s translation of The Book of St. Cyprian. When I first got the book, I could feel it. Now, I started working with St. Cyprian of Antioch, too, but The Book didn’t feel like it was just an extension of the good Saint. I remember looking at it and having a sense of a fractal vortex of the book leading off…elsewhere? What’s interesting is that when I started reading The Book, while it read densely, it was rather…”normal.” Leitao notes in his introduction how The Book has a diaoblic reputation in Iberian culture, an object of fear in many ways, and he felt something similar when he first encountered it. He remembers reading it and feeling unimpressed. It’s a book of folk catholic magic and charms and such. But there’s something else there. There’s a deeper The Book of St. Cyprian. I want to go back at some point and look at it again with better eyes and to squint at it sideways (and then I might move on to Leitao’s other Cyprianic and Iberian work).
And that’s what I started noticing with my binder and with my book. And the Devil and others have been telling me things to do with The Book that’s here.
My altar space is two 3×1 (three long, one high) heavy wooden shelving units stacked atop each other, so I have six total spaces with a top surface. The top has a bunch of candles, statues, tools, and more. I have some supplies on the bottom shelves. The middle section has a dedicated shrine, a shrine space I rotate out on a daily basis, and my ancestor shrine. All this is against the “eastern” (well, east-ish) wall, and the wall has framed icons/images of folks I work with.
My usual practice in the evenings for quite some time was to power down the PC, turn that powerstrip off, set the phone to airplane mode, light a bunch of candles, and sit before this altar and wall. I’d meditate, and I’d often slide into a state where–at least sometimes–I could see the images and statues moving.
Let me (try to) clarify what I mean. I’ve noted before how firelight can make cave images seem to animate. But there’s more to it than that. If I go into the right trance, if I let myself roll with it and slide into the right attention, then I can see my icons, images, and statues animate.
Now, I hadn’t tried to “enspirit” them. Animated statues are something that have a long provenance. The precise method for doing so is likely culture or cult specific. But animation doesn’t require a precise ritual: active ritual or devotional use can suffice. In Madonnas that Maim, Michael P. Carroll summarizes a series of stories of irate Madonnas acting against the impious that had been surveyed by Elisabetta Grigioni:
1. The Madonna del Popolo, Bologna: A soldier urinates against a wall on which had been painted an image of this madonna. He is struck blind and suffers strong pain “in the parts that offended the Madonna.” He repents and is healed.
2. The Madonna del Sasso, Lucca: Losing a game, a soldier throws a stone against an image of the madonna. The earth opens up and swallows him.
6. The Madonna di Baracano, Bologna: Two soldiers play at dice, and the loser strikes an image of the Virgin with a stone. The impious soldier is struck by lightning, and the surviving soldier is hanged, along with the corpse of his companion.
–Michael P. Carroll, Madonnas that Maim: Popular Catholicism in Italy since the Fifteenth Century (Baltimore: John Hopkins, 1992), 73.
All that said, I recently decided to begin enspiriting certain statues and images. (I basically tried the method Gordon White pointed to in talking about his praxis in response to questions during the Rune Soup Journeying course.) I have done several thus far, and I had sat down on a Thursday night before the altar with one statue foregrounded. And as I lightly meditated, I grew aware how animate she was being. How she called me closer.
Now, here’s the thing: the statue isn’t moving except that she is. And I am very much having a conversation with her. And I am fucking charmed and grinning and so forth by this comparatively tiny statue seeming to move. But I can also sense how the statue is just a protuberance into my immediate reality of someone far deeper and denser than this 12-inch tall statue.
And I imagine how this experience might work at a major temple where they had a painted statue at larger-than-human scales–say, a 10-foot tall statue of full-color Athena. I can also imagine it happening in a culture that embraced the reality of such things, so that the gods’ statues moving and speaking could happen–just like the weird and very physical shit that accompanies a lot of Fortean phenomena.
I am always quite giddy when this starts happening for me. Because this is the good stuff.
Having read several of the old saints lives–mostly Aelfric of Aynsham’s but some in The Golden Legend–there’s this recurring early Christian motif where the dead statues are just “tricks” and are not even animate “idols.” The commonplace argument is that, lol, those stupid Roman pagans were worshipping clay and mud and shit like that.
Of course, they weren’t. They were ritual, cult objects that could be enspirited and could, to either the initiated or to the ritually prepared, manifest the spirits’ or gods’ presences.
Just like all those images of the madonna, or icons of the saints.
There’s a reason that the Protestants went iconoclastic. It’s not so much that the saints were “demons” or a matter of “idolatry”–I’d argue it’s only idolatry if you mistake the statue or image for whoever is depicted–but that images will always lend themselves towards being enspirited and animated, towards magic and enchantment. The Protestants thought to bulwark themselves against that quality of images by going to the word. However, even the word animates and moves and makes weird shit start happening.
It turns out bodies and spirits are alive and move. The world is alive and enspirited. It moves.
(There’s a reason Protestants often view dancing as “sinful” and “dangerous.”)
I would argue that enspirited status for magical and cult objects–like statues and images–represents you have a live connection to the entity in question. (How you relate to the entity may be highly idiosyncratic, of course.)
As I was talking to the Devil and others about The Book of the Raven, The Book of the Wyrm, as I thought about The Book of St. Cyprian, I realized that books can be enspirited, too.
Actually, it occurred to me how we are enspirited, as well, and this wound up being emphasized to me during my “tiny statue” conversation the other day. Just as the candlelight and incense (the incense seems important) help her animate, I realize how my own light and my breath animates me, enspirits me.
So, the Devil and others have told me various things to do with The Book to not only enspirit it but also to bring it closer, to entangle it better into my local reality. And amongst other things, they told me to use The Book of St. Cyprian, to use my sense of its “hyperthickness” to help me bring out my book’s hyperthickness. And they even suggested treating it as an object to be enspirited.
More than Flat
I can usually tell when spirits are talking to me–well, I can usually tell when they’re unambiguously talking to me because it’s like they’re talking through me.
It’s the night of the full moon. Two of them told me to call them up tonight. So I do, and as the moment unpacks, I observe how it’s like they’re speaking into me even as they’re speaking through me. And they agree.
It’s a bit like Flatland, to borrow again from White.
From the perspective of my physical body, they’re extra-dimensional entities who can look into and speak into me. It feels like their voice echoes within me and makes me speak. There’s often a curiously aspirated quality to how I speak at these times. It’s also like I’m a balloon their breath goes into before it comes out as their words. It’s also like they fill me with their words.
I ask how I could fill myself.
Now, I’m going to point back to what I was writing about Malphas and the Sibyl’s Song. Malphas seems like he’s lurking about, close to the surface our experience, coming out in various references and his story and image. I observed how it was a bit like his shark fin or the tip of his iceberg was peeking out, and I imagined how he was right there, just past the surface of our usual “Flatland” awareness. In our 3 or 4-dimensional experience, his extradimensional protrusions include his name, his stories, his images erupting into our lives.
My friends noted that I already had my hyperthickness. I have my “astral temple”–it’s an estate and garden on the shore of a city that, well, resembles an old city out of Al Andalus–and I have my “astral self.” My spirit self, my Unconscious, Deeper Crowess Self.
They noted that the process that White pointed to for how he enspirited statues wasn’t complicated. My conception of it has a performative and physical component, and what I’ve done in enspiriting statues is mostly moving in particular ways and visualizing drawing what’s there in the spirit world over and into whatever I’m enspiriting.
Basically, they told me, “Do something like you’ve already been doing. But to yourself.”
And it occurred to me that all the “energy work” that’s out there entails, at their core, imagining yourself and doing your best to entangle that imagined, spiritual self with what’s physically here. It’s not about pumping yourself up like some kinda energon cube with chi or qi or ruach or whatever: it’s about entangling yourself with the you on the other side of the mirror.
As it is, I’ve been idly noting of late that my old “soul alignment” practice has shifted. Taniel or Fetch seems to be more my immediate hyperthickness of self, the me-in-Al Andalus. (I don’t know why I call it Al Andalus rather than something else, just that’s what it is.) Dariar or Talker seems to be far more my awareness and attention of the Nearby, the nearby hyperthick or spirit world. I have been working to have my hyperthickness actually act within and sense the local hyperthickness of the landscape about me.
But, well, that’s how I fill myself with myself. By doing so.
Featured Image: PTNorbert | Pixabay