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A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Geomancy and Khatt al Raml

Thanks to some wonderful modern books like that of John Michael Greer, geomancy has begun to rise in popularity. For a while it was eclipsed in Europe by astrology and the tarot, but it is definitely making a come back. Though it continues to be a relatively small practice, the interest is growing and every day I meet new people who have taken their first steps to becoming geomancers.

Geomancy is a practice that is very dear to me. Though over the years I have become known as a tarot reader here in the West, I practiced geomancy long before I ever picked up the tarot. Indeed, I didn't start working with the tarot until my teenage years where I was trained in geomancy from a very young age. My practice in geomancy is quite old and along with astrology and dream interpretation is the only form of divination that I am known for in the Middle East. It is an essential part of my practice as a djinn conjurer. When it comes down to it, my business and political clients in the Middle East are only interested in geomancy and astrology. None of them want tarot readings, but all of them want charts cast for business deals, financial decisions, personal matters, and political endeavors. Every single one of my retainer clients are either geomancy clients or astrology clients, or both.

So what is geomancy? Geomancy is a North African and Arabic form of divination that was originally done by making dots in the sand. A number of dots and lines were marked which gave birth to a set symbols and figures from which a chart was produced. It became associated with astrology and traveled via the Muslims into Europe where it became a highly popular form of divination. Geomancy comes from the Greek, geo mantia meaning "earth divination."

There are however some differences between European geomancy and its parent tradition, khatt al raml, also known as ilm al raml or simply ramal. Khatt al raml translates to "sand cutting." While over the years, I have become familiar with European geomancy especially through the good works of John Michael Greer and others, my foundation is traditional khatt al raml. I have been asked about the differences between khatt al raml and geomancy for a while and so this post has been a long time coming. I have identified some points which highlight some of the major differences between the two arts, they are in no particular order and I will likely do a part two or more as time permits.

Though I am highlighting some of the differences between the two arts and while khatt al raml is the parent of geomancy, I am not making claims of superiority or that one is better than the other. Both are wonderful methods of divination with much in common. The differences however are there and worth noting:

  1. Khatt al Raml is a living tradition. Geomancy mostly died out and was eclipsed in Europe. While I am sure some pockets of geomancy survived, much of the modern interest in geomancy reconstructs the tradition from old texts. Khatt al raml on the other hand has been continuously practiced and the traditional way of learning is mouth-to-ear from master to student. There are books on khatt al raml but the primary means of transmission is learning from master to student. It is a living tradition with living cultural bearers. 
  2. Khatt al Raml is practiced only by authorized practitioners.  In order to practice khatt al raml you must receive authorization to do so, which speaks to its nature as passed down from master to student. This involves being part of an established lineage, spending time in training, then receiving an ijaza which permits you to practice the art. In a way it is initiatory as there are rites and tests that have to be done. Now these do vary from lineage to lineage. For example, in most lineages you have to pass a specific set of tests in order to demonstrate your skill and knowledge of ilm al raml. In my lineage we have the test of 99 where we have to demonstrate our ability to accurately predict based on 99 traditional scenarios (locating a unknown thief, finding the root of a rumor, finding a missing object, testing if an object contains a spirit, ascertaining guilt or innocence, locating hidden treasure, predicting course of a battle or competition and so on for a total of 99 cases). This means that each traditional practitioner of khatt al raml, if they come from a traditional lineage, is an established and tested diviner. Practitioners demonstrate this by naming their lineage.
  3. Khatt al Raml is deeply connected to rouhinya and Middle Eastern spiritual practices. Like traditional astrology, khatt al raml is deeply connected to spiritual practice and it can be said that it is inherent to it. Modern forms of divination may relate their work to psychology, Jungian archetypes etc. Khatt al raml is considered a spiritual discipline. Traditional practitioners employ prayers before casting a chart, use purification rites and ablutions, and recognize that their abilities as diviners depend on their knowledge and skill AND their spiritual connection. Without that connection the divination is considered muddied. If the knowledge of casting a chart is the science of khatt al raml then the spiritual connection is the art. Both are needed for successful auguries.
  4. Khatt al Raml is part of three other traditional Middle Eastern and North African forms of divination; astrology, bibliomancy, and oneiromancy. These are the four traditional divination types of the region and are interrelated to one another. Khatt al raml is not a separate practice, but actually deeply connected to its three counterparts. In order to be properly skilled in khatt al raml you need knowledge and skill in the other three arts and often you train in them simultaneously. Modern geomancers are already aware of geomancy’s connection to astrology but may not have heard of the other two’s connection. One of the traditional uses of khatt al raml is to interpret dreams. Dreams are categorized as having a variety of sources and therefore meanings and khatt al raml is called upon to determine both the origins of a dream and its meaning. Many of the figures in khatt al raml also have dream symbols associated with it. Similarly, many of the figures in khatt al raml are associated with specific verses in the Qur’an, or a piece of Sufi poetry; both of which are used in bibliomantic divinations. Knowledge in all of these go hand-in-hand. 
  5. Khatt al Raml is predictive, diagnostic, and prescriptive. Modern geomancy still retains the former two, but the latter is lost. Khatt al raml not only predicts outcomes, or provides diagnosis, but also prescribes spiritual and medical treatment. Prescription is part of medical readings which are frowned upon by some modern geomancers. In traditional khatt al raml, medical readings are quite common, especially in areas where folk healers hold sway. I personally do medical readings, but always advise that my readings are not a substitute for professional medical attention and that clients have to seek out a doctor. That said, figures and patterns in geomancy prescribe certain things, both medically and spiritually. Medically these are related to Yunani which is based on Graeco-Arabic medical theories. Spiritually, the prescriptions follow traditional folk-healing techniques. For example, a client may be advised to avoid hot drinks, or to eat sugared dates, or to only wear white for a month, or to avoid gossip etc. Prescriptions are an essential part of khatt al raml and are a means by which to avoid calamity, address a spiritual affliction, or improve the client’s condition.
  6. Khatt al Raml is associated with people and stories. Certain figures as well as patterns in a chart come with stories and fables. The practitioner of Khatt al raml must memorize each of these stories and their meaning. Some of these stories are religious and others are folk tales. The figures also represent historical and religious figures (in addition to describing ordinary people). The skilled practitioner will recognize the pattern, recount the story, and relate it to the client’s situation. This is quite similar to Ifa in that way and puts khatt al raml into the wider family of African divinations like hakkata, Ifa, diloggun, bone reading, sikiddy ec. The various religious and historical figures in khatt al raml are used to ascertain spiritual patrons and a person's spiritual calling. 
  7. Khatt al Raml is not monolithic. While there are variations and some minor differences in the practices of European geomancers based on differences in the texts they draw from there is a lot of conformity. For khatt al raml on the other hand, it is more accurate to view it as an umbrella covering a wide range of practices. Historically, khatt al raml can be divided into three schools, African, Levantine/Arabic, and South Asian. For example the South Asian school as practiced in Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan employ the use of ramal dice and have some different meanings for the figures. In Africa, the prescriptive and story-telling aspect of khatt al raml is more emphasized. There are however similarities and commonalities like those covered in this post.
  8. Khatt al Raml listens to the Judge. Modern geomancers place a great deal of importance on the house chart and modes of perfection, almost to the point where the Judge takes on a secondary importance. The houses and modes of perfection also are in khatt al raml, but the Judge is the answer. I have seen many geomancers cast charts where the judge says one thing and the house another and they stick to the house’s interpretation and then wonder what went wrong. In traditional khatt al raml, the Judge gives you the yes or no and the houses with modes of perfection reveal how the thing will come about. If there is a conflict then the Result of the Result is generated which acts as the final seal, or khatam. The importance of the Judge cannot be overstated especially since some practitioners in parts of the world only cast the takht or what is known as the shield/tableau in European geomancy. The role of the Judge and its configuration to rest of the chart is reflective of Medieval Islamic social structure with the qazi and wakil.
  9. Khatt al Raml is the magic of angel and djinn. Just as khatt al raml is a spiritual discipline so too is it a magical practice. Khatt al raml is not a passive divination system, but is used in magical practice. First, it is associated with the magic of djinn and angels. Knowledge of khatt al raml is believed to have been taught to Prophet Idries (Enoch/Hermes) from an angel. Knowledge of khatt al raml, like knowledge of astrology, is having the knowledge of angels. It is also connected to the djinn. Especially in its African branch, practitioners cast chart through the agency of familiar spirits, calling upon their personal djinn. It is said that without the familiar djinn that one is blind to the true meaning of the chart. Khatt al raml itself is very magical. Each figure is a magical symbol, from them talismans are created, and prescriptions are made. Practitioners trace out figures in the sand then gather up the sand in their hand and blow the sand to winds with prayers to carry out spells. Figures are dissolved in water and drunk with prayers. The charts themselves are manipulated to create taskin. The figures are manipulated in such a way so as to rewrite destiny, or create a magical effect. Many of these talisman or taweez rely on numerological and symbolic meanings and again call on agency of God, angels, and djinn. This is one of the closest guarded practices of khatt al raml; the creation of talismans and its use in magic.
  10. Khatt al Raml is secret. Knowledge of khatt al raml grants one knowledge to the world of the hidden (ghayb) with its djinn and angels. But knowledge of khatt al raml itself is hidden. Much of its knowledge is not written down in books, but passed down from master to student in transmission that is unbroken. Khatt al raml’s ways are secret and there are layers of hidden knowledge that remain still unknown in the west and that have not made their way into geomancy. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: The Book of Saint Cyprian The Sorcerer's Treasure

Over the years interest in the mysterious Saint Cyprian of Antioch has grown in the English-speaking world, slowly simmering at the edges until being proclaimed as the Saint of Sorcerers and Necormancers. Many have taken him as a patron and accepted him into their lives. But while he may be growing in the English-speaking world, people forget that Saint Cyprian has been a long-time fixture and force in the magical world of Iberian Bruxaria and Latin American folk magic. In particular Saint Cyprian has been associated with a set of magical tomes often found in Spanish and Portuguese. Over the years there have been some attempt to translate bits and pieces, but it has always remained just out of reach for the English-speaking audience--until now. José Leitão has taken the famed Book of Saint Cyprian from the shadows and put it within our grasp, setting ablaze the magical world. 

The Book of Saint Cyprian: The Sorcerer's Treasure is indeed a treasure for anyone interested in the magic of Saint Cyprian. The book is more than a mere translation, but a significant intervention into the interest and study of Saint Cyprian. José Leitão has translated the book with an attention to scholarship and with a devotion only possible from someone who truly loves what is before him. His personal connection to Saint Cyprian and his intimate understanding of the Book of Saint Cyprian is evident throughout the text. He reminds us of the mystery surrounding the book, the dread it evokes, and the promises of its mysteries. With this in mind the reader dives into the sorcerous tome as you read various stories, legends, learn feitiçaria for love, destruction, finding treasure, discover Cyprianic cartomancy and much more. 


But in addition to being the most complete translation of the Book of Saint Cyprian, what sets José Leitão's book apart is his attention to scholarship. As a historian I appreciated his effort to provide cultural and historical background to the text. What you get is not merely a translation, but an introduction into the culture and history that gave birth to the Book of Saint Cyprian. This is a significant contribution for it ties the book directly to the culture(s) and history that gave birth to the text, but also provides us all with a glimpse into the long and beautiful magical traditions of the Iberian sorcerer. With his attention to history, José Leitão gives voice to stories and peoples that have been silenced by the passing of time. There is a particular section discussing the presence of Africans in Iberia which will shake most modern magicians interested in the connection between the European grimoires and the African Traditional Religions as it complicates and challenges the common Euro-centric view of the grimoires influencing the African Traditional Religions.


What the historical and cultural background reminds us is that unlike other so-called grimoires and tomes of magic, the Book of Saint Cyprian is a living book tied to a people with a living culture. People have continuously read and worked from the Book of Saint Cyprian and it has remained a fixture in their cultural practices. This is not a dusty, long-dead tome that is being reconstructed, but a living text of the sorcery of a people. For people just learning about Saint Cyprian it reminds them of his roots and where this saint and sorcerer's legend found its home. Remembering that history should be humbling and hopefully instill some respect for the cultural and historical roots of the saint.  


The translation and history are enough to set this book apart, but José Leitão goes above and beyond that. If you are like me and can read some Portuguese and Spanish, this book still has much to offer. In addition to providing an English translation and an outstanding history, there is even more to be found in the commentary. José Leitão follows up his stellar translation with commentary that puts each spell, rite, story, and Cyprianic work into context. He explains the meanings of certain words, clarifies instructions, and provides insight that truly unlocks the treasures of the work. For the practical sorcerer, this section takes the book from being an intellectual curiosity to a practical tome filled with a treasure trove of knowledge the sorcerer can add to his arsenal. I personally found myself absolutely absorbed in the discussion of the mouros and mouras, so much so that I was caught up as if in an enchantment. This speaks to the writing skill of the author whose humor and passion come through clearly. 


He concludes the book with couple annex that follow various Cyprianic strains and a personal conclusion that explores what the Book of Saint Cyprian has meant to people throughout time. For José Leitão the Book of Cyprian is the keys to the crossroads of life and I could not agree more. 


I could not recommend this book enough and can confidently say it is probably my favorite book of the year so far. Other than a few minor editing details this book is flawless. José Leitão has done a great service to anyone interested in Saint Cyprian and Iberian sorcery and all of its connections to the past and the cultures of Africa and the New World. Within the pages of this book you will find Saint Cyprian himself, a saint and sorcerer who stands at the margins as the Other in all its manifestation and who through his book gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven and hell, to Jesus and the Devil. 


For those interested seek out the wonderful publishers of this tome, Hadean Press. You can purchase the book here: 
http://www.shop.hadeanpress.com/the-book-of-st-cyprian/


Friday, May 16, 2014

Product Review: Oils from Wolf and Goat

Readers of my blog know that I frequently review books; as a bibliophile, I enjoy reading books and writing reviews on them. However, it isn't often that I write a review of products, because I am very careful about who I endorse and also because I rarely buy products from other people. But once in a while you come across something that you cannot help but rave about. That is exactly how I feel about the pair of oils I've received from Wolf and Goat.

Wolf and Goat is an online store producing high quality oils, powders, statuary, and various magica materia. Owned and operated by Jesse and Troy, skilled magicians and Quimbandeiros. Now in full disclosure, I should say that Jesse and Troy are my brothers in Quimbanda and while I am certainly biased, their work truly speaks for itself. 

During the Hoodoo Heritage Festival, they kindly gifted me with a pair of oils. One was a Venus oil made under an election by an astrologer I trust and the other was Clarity Oil. The first thing I noticed about both is the packaging. Beautifully packaged in individual little boxes and cushioned with a little nest. Each box is sealed with a small strip of leather and is labeled beautifully by hand. 


The oils themselves come in small glass bottles sealed professionally and labelled once more. With the oil is a small piece of fabric with details about the oil and some suggested uses. Visually, everything is beautiful. There is an attention to detail to each aspect of the packaging and appearance. It is the kind of next-level work you expect from a pair of artists. The entire appearance has an old-time-purveyor-of-sorcerous-items feel. 

While the aesthetic in me is pleased by the visuals of it all, I am a pragmatic person who is looking for magical products that actually work. To say I was not disappointed is an understatement. As I opened the bottle of Clarity Oil, I smell a perfect blend of oils and herbs that speak worlds to the perfumery skills of Wolf and Goat. But it is more than just the smell. Each oil is chock-full of real magica materia; herbs, roots, animal curios, and minerals are fused together into top notch oils. As anyone who makes oils can tell you, how you know if you've made a successful oil is when the smell, feel, and even look of the oil all capture the spirit of the oil's intent. Wolf and Goat's oils are exactly like that. One whiff of Clarity Oil and you are smelling Clarity. A dab of Venus oil on my hands and I could feel the luxuriant Venusian essence.

Suffice to say, I was ready to put them to use. This practical old earthy wizard was ready to get to work. I enjoyed the visuals, I sensed the high quality of the oil and the skill of the makers, but the final and ultimate test was whether the oils would work or not. 

I have currently been working at gaining the favor of a colleague in academia. I have been gaining allies ensuring that I remain in the center of a net of influential individuals so that I could extend my own influence beyond my department which I firmly have under control. In addition to traditional hoodoo work, I had been doing some astrological magic with Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus. Perfect opportunity to put my newly acquired Venus oil to the test. So I started including the oil in my offerings to Venus and dabbed a bit on my hands when I was meeting my colleague so I could touch him with the oil. After a week, success! Not only have I been able to extend my influence, but now I have the favor of several seniors colleagues in other departments who I am actively working with on new projects. 

The Venus oil is top-notch. It makes a great offering to the spirits of Venus, can be used on Venusian talismans, as scent to wear, or added to baths, for anointing candles, and much more. It perfectly captures powerful Venus from the Picatrix.  

Next up was the Clarity oil. The recipe is a unique blend that comes from direct spirit communing. It is true bottled sorcery. Now, one of my favorite ways of divining is scrying, especially with either water, smoke, or my mirror and crystal ball. In particular, I enjoy remote scrying where rather than seek divinatory signs, I using scrying to look in on specific people and situations. Magical spying if you will. So I added Clarity Oil to my work to see if I would notice a difference. 

Up first was water scrying. I got my scrying bowl and added a few drops of the oil into water. The effect was stellar. The image was clear and my focus was sharp. My scrying revealed a situation that needed my direct intervention so I reached for my sihr ink, a special type of magical ink we use in North African sorcery  to write out magical spells. We use it with a special stylus to write our will on the fabric of reality. I wrote out my spell on a special plate, added a few drops of Clarity oil, then washed the ink off the plate right into my scrying bowl, using it as a portal to carry the spell directly to my target. The result was instantaneous, the individual got the spiritual help they needed, none the wiser. 

Inspired by the results, I went on to smoke scrying. I lit my coal and added a drop of the oil which smoked beautifully. I called my spirit of divination to help send my sight far and the smoke responded. My spirit coiled around the smoke and within moments, I could see right into what I wanted with a clarity I had not been able to before. It was an amazing result. I added a few drops more oil to set it on fire with the coal and gave it as an offering to the spirits. 



I loved the results I got with the Clarity oil. I use it now to anoint my magic mirrors, my crystal ball, and in other scrying tools.

I am extremely pleased with my oils and would highly recommend Wolf and Goat. I have statues by them and have come to trust their work. Now with their oils, they've made a customer for life. If their other products are as good as their oils, they've got a powerhouse store. What sets Wolf and Goat apart is their ability to take their products to a whole new level of quality. From start to finish their products are works of art filled with spirit, life, and potency. 


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shop Closed from 5/1-5/5

ConjureMan's Spiritual Practice will be closed from May 1st - May 5th. We will be away from office attending the Hoodoo Heritage Festival. If you are attending the festival be sure to come up and introduce yourself. We will be back in office on May 6th. If you make an order please remain patient as we play catch up on May 6th.

We thank you for your patience. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Awesome Shop: Sacred Alchemy

Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, of Exu and Pomba Gira fame and the author of the excellent blog, Starry Cave has opened up an web store dedicated to spiritual products and services. Nicholaj is one of the most knowledgeable and skilled magicians of our day and age and my own Tata in the path of Quimbanda. His store comes highly recommended and you should definitely check it out.

He offers traditional items and services from the traditions of Astrology, Ifa`, and Quimbanda. I am very excited about many of his services and products and know that this store will be a resource for many seekers, including myself. Check it out today: http://sacredalchemystore.com/



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Holy Guardian Angel

Nephilim Press has released their new anthology called Holy Guardian Angel spearheaded by Michael Cecchetelli of Crossed Keys and Book of Abraxas fame. The early reviews of the book are fantastic and it is not to be missed. Included in the anthology are amazing pieces by some of the best modern day magicians around. The contents include 

A Solar Spark of Light And Fire - Darren Scriven 
Nine Pieces of Heart Advice For Those Seeking The HGA - Jason Miller 
The Descended Angel - Scott Michael Stenwick 
Never Again Alone - Rufus Opus 
After Abramelin: Working With Your Holy Guardian Angel - Aaron Leitch 
Passing Through The Void: Journey To Unite With Your HGA - Frater Ashen F.N.F. 
The Voice of Light: The HGA In The Ogdoadic Tradition - Derik Richards 
Knowledge and Conversation of The HGA: One Thelemites Perspective - Kevin Abblett 
Holy Guardian Angel(s)? - Conjureman Ali 
Holy Guardian Angels, Helpful Spirits and The Genius - MC 
2 Years Later - The HGA Revisited - MC 


Head over to to Nephilim Press and grab your copy of this gem

http://nephilimpress.com/store/product.php?productid=17701&cat=0&featured=Y

Friday, January 17, 2014

Remembering Dr. E

Dr. E holding a rustic lamp for his workshops at the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Heritage Festival. Photo taken by the brilliant Coastside Conjure
On Tuesday one of the hoodoo communities shinning stars passed from this world. Eddy, known professionally as Dr. E, was a pillar of the community and he touched many around the world. He worked tirelessly as a professional conjure doctor and reader for those who needed help, provided top notch spiritual products, was involved in the pagan community as an elder through the founding of the Unnamed Path, and was a teacher and advocate in the Lukumi community. He leaves behind a legacy of integrity that will be felt by all who met him.

Besides being a professional colleague, Eddy was a close and personal friend who I loved dearly. I first met Eddy professionally a few years back and because we lived relatively close to one another met in person and quickly became friends. We talked often and some of my favorite memories are the times we got together for a whole day of magic and fun. I remember having Khi and Eddy over at my place for what was suppose to be an afternoon of readings, hang out, and fun but we were having such a blast that a quick get together for lunch turned into dinner and talks into the dark of the night. It was a day filled with spirits, readings, laughter, and true magic. For me, Eddy was one of the handful of people I considered more than a friend, but a true spiritual brother and part of my family.

Anyone who truly knew Eddy knew his sense of humor. Eddy could crack up anyone. With a sharp wit and a biting sense of humor it wasn't long before your cheeks were hurting from smiling and laughing. For me the Spirit of the Seven Elephants will go down in history and infamy.

Though he was on this plane for only a short time and gone far too soon, his impact on the communities and people he touched will continue on. His loss will continue to be felt as the communities try to regather. My mind still reels that we were talking only hours before he passed. For his loved one's we will miss him sorely, but know that he makes way the path that one day we all will walk. Rest in peace with blessings, dear brother. Until we meet again.