I’ve fully read the electronic version of this book and am briefly going through the paperback version. I recommend the physical book, if you’re like me and want to notch pages to return to and flip back and forth.
There’s a lot I liked about this book. I liked that there were exercises in it that can be worked through in bite-sized chunks. I like that the tone is conversational, rather than the overly dark and edgy wording that is common in this subject type. I like that he approaches all of this from a position of respect and not as someone trying to be Conan of the Graveyard.
He does practice on the lighter side of magic, but the book doesn’t try to lock you into that, which I appreciate.
Since the revised edition has two new chapters in it and extensive revisions to some of them, I’m going to re-read and work my way through the book.
I’m not likely to do the oils and similar, because I don’t really lean towards that. I’m an energetic worker that uses a little here and there (mostly candles and incense). Many of these recipes require 7+ ingredients. While I could try to find these in the wild, I don’t have that kind of time or knowledge of what they look like in various forms.
With all that said, I’ll be working through this book as I read through it and offer thoughts and experiences along the way.
Before the first chapter, there are a few areas where he decides to elaborate on the word Witch and the whole topic isn’t really useful. I think some of the explanations of why he doesn’t like the term as an umbrella are valid, but it also is apparent that the all-or-none approach on things in other avenues of Life is making an appearance here. It’s like he has to apologize for a term other people are associating (who aren’t practitioners) witches as.
Who cares what they think? I don’t let the toxic practices of the Love and Lighters or the angsty uber dark Black Lords define my practice, so why would I care about regular people’s opinions? To be fair, I’m not out in the open, but anyone that comes in from the garage or backyard sees my bookshelf altar. Say, like neighbors cat sitting and the front door code isn’t working again.
The next chapter talks about the history of Witchraft, which largely isn’t know, outside of those rare finds like the PGM. Too much of this history is focused on the word Witch and it’s origins. I don’t think the chapter really matters, but if it’s your first time reading something like that, then you’ve likely not read any beginner books.
All right, those speedbumps aside, we’re about to dig in a little deeper.
The first chapter is setting the stage for what’s to come and is trying to allay people’s natural fear of Death and the Dead. I don’t really have that and it affects my point of view enough that I should elaborate.
According to the story (some of which was confirmed by one of the nurses), I was born to and a half months early, without my lungs being fully formed. This was in 1977, so the equipment was a lot less advanced that it is now. I supposedly died a dozen times when I would just quit breathing. I’ve died a few more times since, the last time due to a morphine overdose at the hospital after surgery.
So, I’ve always felt a connection to Death and don’t remember not feeling it. Since that is kinda important thing, I may not feel some of what I would consider nervousness effects from attuning towards this energy or current. Others likely will, but this will depend on the person and their previous practices. All right, back to Chapter One.
On page 16, he gives a pretty good explanation for what to expect when working with entities in general, “Each time you summon the spirits, they take a bit of your life force; thus, a well-maintained body becomes a battery for them to draw on”. There is truth to this, but it’s not like calling them is going to land you in the hospital or anything.
You should have a regular practice that includes some form of energizing yourself and this should be more than enough to offset the small amount that is needed. This doesn’t mean you should jump right into inviting the whole graveyard home to hang out, as that will have effects similar to what is being said above. There are ways around this, so if you start in on this book and are finding yourself drained (you do have a regular banishing and ground rituals in place, right?), hit me up. Since I work mostly energetically, that’s the type of advice I will likely be giving.
I do think the “Letting Your Inner Witch Out” part isn’t needed. It’s more about him wanting to look the part than any need of the practitioner. You’d be hard-pressed to say I’m a lesser practitioner for not going gaudy with the visible markings and adornment of my practice. Some of us work in reserved, professional spaces and don’t want the negative attention. I’ll stick to my shadows.
I think most of this chapter is more about trying to define what he believes Witchcraft should be, so just skim the rest. He’s a practitioner that prefers the emotional and theatrical aspects of things, while recognizing that they’re largely up to the practitioner. Just to be noted.
Finally, we get to the Visionary State, the base state that he recommends for working with spirits, via accessing the Death Current, which he views as the opposite of the Life current, but the two mix like the Tao.
Is this the one with the reverse baptism initiation?
No. I’ve never done a reverse-baptism, as I don’t believe my baptism was valid. I’ve not worked through this one before.
Doesn’t it have some sort of “signing the book of the devil” initation? Maybe I’m mixing it up with another text.
Nope, definitely a different book.
The book cover is so …corny.
I went to bed after reading the exercise for the Visionary State on page 24-25. I recognized that this exercise does two things - it’s a meditation method to get you into a conducive state (basic breathing meditation) and then becomes more or an attunement towards the desired current.
I’m a fan of attunements, actually. It helps one start to recognize and get a feel for the base current energy (or the entity/deity you’re going to work with) and conditions you to not freak out when you come across that energy elsewhere, in the waking world, whether that is a place or being hit with that type of energy in a working. Death energy has many flavors and experiencing the differences between entities of these types give you a better understanding of them and a fuller picture of the current as a whole.
When I woke up, I was really trying to go back to sleep, but it wasn’t happening. So, I did the exercise.
There are three parts. The first gets you in the state. The second helps you tap into the current a little better. The third is where you start attuning more towards the general current and interact (over time).
The part I was most interested in was the second. You breathe in the current and your exhalation is converted to “food” for the dead. I realized that this is one of those “fake it until you make it” things for newer, less confident practitioners. And I set that intent for me breath and felt it was happening. So, I called a friend.
There was an unfortunate victim of teenage grooming that committed suicide, whose story I found out about and could tell she was still here. I helped her cross over with Hel, having assured her she could come back to look after family members. She’s a frequent visitor here and I called out to her to see if this worked. It did. I can appreciate using the breath in such a way, especially when I frequently have them in my yard.
I’ll likely be doing the “pact” tonight (second exercise) and will type it up when I do.
Yeah, he looks a little cringe on the cover and has appeared like that on shows before…he likes his theater. But the material makes up for it.
The way it should be. Yes, I don’t judge („the book by it‘s cover“), but it did amuse me a bit for sure.
Have you considered that You can have the archetype of the plant suggest a substitution from your spice counter, or ask them to imbue the oil with their essence without ever having the herb, same as spirits
Yes and I can use a trick from Hi’iaka to capture the essence without using the actual item. I don’t want more stuff to have to keep track of that I don’t feel like I really need.
Oh I get it. For the longest time I couldn’t afford all the herbs I needed then I had a space issue…
It’s nice to be able to bring home an entire cart of tea or spices now, and not have to explain what each one is for, I just can have them because I want to…
Well, I went to do the “pact” on page 27, but…it’s for beginners.
If you know much about my practice, you know that I believe in Blood. If you’re going to watch it, watch the Pong Queen. Just right click and Loop it…
The “Ritual : Making of the Pact” on page 26 is good if you’re newer to the field. If I’m going to work my ass off for something, I’m willing to bleed for it. I know some are squeemish, but sweat and injury, you know, ACTUAL effort, means you’re shedding DNA. Spit, Sweat, Sexual fluids…doesn’t matter.
Are you willing to work for it or not? Then put some DNA on it as a pact to do so.
Here, we’re “pacting” to ourselves, which seems like an emo way to make a commitment. You aren’t pledging to anyone but yourself.
This whole thing is out of place. You’re pledging to yourself. All right, all good, but calling it a “pact” with no self-bindings is a little silly. I’ve already said that working with the dead should NOT be your first foray into spirit work (or meant to).
The only thing that really sets this apart is that he asks for blood. I give credit to this. Some people get all bent out of shape because dusty people from dusty books give veiled religious warnings that you suspect they didn’t follow. Is it still a news flash that they had to up the NON-JESUS-BAD mark in those times and places?
If you’re worried, then add the intent that it doesn’t bind you to spirit X or them to you and is an offering to show sincerity. Oh wait…Intent can do everything else BUT that. Nonsense.
Tell the fear mongers to bite one. They likely have little or no actual experience.
We stopped at Chapter 3, The Altar of the Dead. Here, he describes the nature of a dedicated altar to the dead, but that it doesn’t have to be your typical altar. It could be low key, like a small table with photos of relatives and maybe some remembrances relevant to them. No argument there.
That said, I don’t have a dedicated place just for the dead. I use a wooden bookshelf as an altar and bring things to the center shelf for workings. Works just fine for me. I have a deer skull for Hel, a statue of Hecate, a candle with a rosary of Santa Muerte, a metal stake for Nergal, a magpie skull for a specific current, etc… You get the idea. (tip -With something so large (and if it’s safe), use an incense disk and tears of incense to mass cleanse before use)
I have se aside a part of my property as a “graveyard”, filled with Death Essence, and dedicated to the dead. I can use it to, say, bury an enemy or charge an item over a period of time.
The skull is the centerpiece of his altar and he suggests The Bone Room for a respectful way to obtain a skull. If a real skull isn’t your thing or not a good idea, then some other representation would suffice. I would agree with this and have used the magpie skull as a gateway just fine. I don’t own a real human skull. I prefer real bone, but wouldn’t hesitate to use a crystal or stone version that called to me.
On page 41, he presents the ritual for blessing this skull (or alternative) and one of the key points is connecting to it when dedicating it. It’s a no nonsense ritual and I can appreciate that. I’m not one for flowery prose, several pages long. It becomes a chore to me at that point.
Anyone looking for a real skull, especially in the USA, please keep in mind that many of the skulls for sale come from highly unethical collections of enslaved and indigenous people that were traded as commodities and curiosities by rich white men.
University collections are notorious for this. Harvard for example has a huge collection of the human remains of people denied personhood during life and after death.
Consider whether or not you want to be part of that cycle and keep it going. Just because a source claims their remains are ethical, does not at all mean that they are.
Chapter 4 goes over tools and I don’t have an opinion on most of it. On page 46, he explains, “Tools for sending energy include the wand, the ritual dagger, and and other points of focus, while tools for drawing energy include the chalice, the pentacle, and other objects of a more receptive nature”. Makes sense.
Out of the 11 tools he lists, I have 4 and often only use 1.
He suggests a bronze dagger and while I don’t have an athame, I keep a multitool and a smaller, 2 bladed knife, on my altar that is only used for these purposes. Got it from Goodwill as part of a batch.
My wand for Death energy isn’t the Yew, but from a 200 year old Banyan tree seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, on Oahu. I do plan on harvesting an offshoot from the tree in my local “graveyard” for wands. They’ll be made from a female American Holly.
My chalice is from a Harry Potter exhibit.
I don’t have any pentacles or similar symbols on my altar.
I don’t have an offering cauldron. When I burn things, I use either an old aluminum baking pan or the stainless steel mixing bowls my wife was going to get rid of for space reasons.
I use the Starry Night incense burner for my disc incense.
I don’t use a bell, rattle, drum, or any other sound making device in my space. Others seem to like to. I consider it more of a self-trigger for “ritual time”, personally. Others will disagree with that.
I don’t have any skeleton keys. I used to hand carve them for Hecate using only unpowered hand tools. I don’t want to buy any online, because I would want authentic ones and would want to feel their energy before purchasing. Guess that leaves antique stores, which I rarely go to.
He has candles listed and I thought it was odd at first. He’s not talking about 4" chime candles, though, but longer lasting ones. The closest thing I have here are specific 10" tapered candles dedicated to certain spirits. I typically give a drop of blood when I light them.
I don’t plan on using his spirit powder, because it’s about protection from spirits. I have other means of protection, but, as a rule, I don’t like barrier between me and those I’m working with.
He advocates for honey on your altar as a tool. I don’t disagree with it as an offering, but I don’t plan on keeping a jar of it on my altar. I know myself and at some point, it will get knocked over and that’ll be the time the lid wasn’t screwed on properly…
No squeeze bottles of honey for you huh?
As to bells, it’s up to the individual (as per tradition or preference) I noticed EA uses a singing bowl instead of a bell. You could probably click champagne glasses if sound was important to you for your ritual experience I suppose.
I don’t use one unless I’m trying out a ritual from a book that calls for it. I have however read some believe it clears the space of unwanted energies or spirits or such. Dunno why they think that. Not like ringing a bell is the same as plying heavy metal or Merzbow to drive off those who don’t like the sound. Far as I know most peeps don’t mind bells generally speaking so why it would clear a space doesn’t compute fir me.
Btw do not listen to Merzbow although I have one of their cd things I only kept it in case I ever wanted to clear a room or make people leave when the party’s over (it IS that bad). I remember your sound sensitive so ya that is 1 that would be like a bad trip or something to a sound sensitive person. I’m not joking when I say I only kept it in case I ever want to clear a room of people who don’t wanna leave. Literally. It is that bad. Comparable to fingernails in chalkboard but with more dissonance.