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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2 Dimensional Spirits

If you've ever glanced through any list of spirits you'll find that they often have rather contradictory capabilities and functions. Just a glimpse through the Lesser Key, the Grimoire Verum, or any other grimoire reveals that a single spirit is able to do a whole host of various things that are often completely unrelated to one another. For example, in the Lesser Key of Solomon, the Spirit Barbas is capable of revealing to you all hidden things, changes men to other shapes, heals illnesses, and teaches the mechanical arts. Natural spirits (herbs, roots, curios, minerals) seem to have this same complexity.

For example Salt can be used as a protective and cleansing agent, but it can also be used to drive away enemies, find theives, and even can bring your spouse home safely.* What about Grains of Paradise? These little guys can help you find a job, help protect your home, or cause massive fights.** So how is this possible? How could spirits--whether chthonic or herbal have such contradictory uses? I would argue that this type of limited thinking where spirits can't have "contradictory purposes" is where the "issue" comes from in the first place.

You see, the problem is that we are seeing these spirits as two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs rather than complex, living, breathing, spiritual personalities. We have a tendency to see these spirits as something that has to fit the little compartments that we create for them. In the limtited understanding a spirit should be able to be categorized as "protective," or an herb should just be lucky but not lucky and love-drawing. This mentality limits our understanding of the spirits that we are dealing with and hold us back from tapping into the inner nature of the spirits and developing a powerful symbiotic relationship with them. I am not talking about some fluffy, hippy concept, I am talking about having a meaningful relationship with Spirit and spirits. Can we ourselves so easily be categorized? Are we defined by our occupation? Our gender? Our religious view? No. We are immensely complex individuals who are beyond labeling. Could we ever develop a meaningful relationship with our friend, our neighbor, or co-worker if we could never see past the label--their function-- to the person that resides within them? So, let's extend that same view to the spirits we work with. Are you just a husband, or wife? Are you just a son or daughter? Are you just an employee, or boss? Or are you something more? It is the same with the spirits we call upon.

If we accept the premise that we are working with spirits--things that are part of the fabric of life; if we accept the premise that there is more to these entities than merely a label, or set of characteristics, then we move to a new level of understanding. At this level we don't see "contradictory" characteristics; we see complex living beings who are involved in life in a myriad of ways--just like us.

When we learn to abandon our myopic and arrogant view that everything has to fit our little schema, when we learn to let go and actually accept that the spirits are as complex as we are, as deep as we are, then we really break through all the limits. When we reach this point we are able to call upon the full power of the spirits, herbs, curios, and roots and shape the very course of destiny because those spirits have our backs. It is when we abandon this view that the two-dimensional spirits disappear and the real powers start to awake.

* Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by catherine yronworde under entry "Salt
**Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by catherine yronwode under entry "Grains of Paradise" & herb-magic.com under entry "Grains of Paradise"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Real Time Magick: Old-school timing trick

Over at the Rune Soup, Gordon wrote a wonderful piece about doing magick in "real time." Along with some wonderful products from Balthazar's Gnostic Conjure Shop, he works a bit of magick while his partner is in an interview to help nudge things along favorably. The end result was that he bolstered the chances of his partner to get the job. The entire rite from set up to timing is well-done and his success speaks for itself. His post brings up an interesting point that I think is overlooked by some magicians and rootworkers: doing magick in real time.

Working in the manner that Gordon wrote about is very traditional in old-style conjure work. In fact looking at the different traditions of timing in conjure you find two categories: symbolic timing and timing according to the target. The first groups revolves around using symbolic times to bring the work into the natural rhythm of life. This is where you do spells according to astrological hours, days of the week, hands of the clock, position of the sun, and other symbolic times. There are many theories behind why we do this, but generally it is to help tie your spell to the ebb and flow of the spiritual current of the planet and the universe.

The second category of timing revolves not around the natural rhythm of life, but rather to influence a specific person you time it around that person. As conjurer's we learn to time things according to two instances in the target's life: sleep and decision time. We are taught that when a person is sleeping then their defenses are down and you can influence them. The general principle being that you nudge them along in their sleep and when they wake up the thoughts and emotions they experienced while sleeping will shape their actions towards what we desire. The ultimate manifestation of this type of working would be hag-riding, which will be a topic for a later post.

Besides working on a target while they are sleeping one of the most traditional ways of working is to time it according to when your target is in decision-making mode. What does this mean? This means that if you want to help a buddy get a job you work on that interviewer right when he or she sits down to do the interview, if you want to get a reconciliation underway then you light your candles when the couple are sitting down to talk about it over dinner. This form of working is extremely powerful and really gets amazing results. Its efficacy is drawn from the fact that you only need a little nudge to move someone in one direction when they are in that moment balancing between choices. I was taught that when people are about to make decision they are in the "crossroads" between decisions and because of this we can move them towards one or the other. This type of working is often seen in traditional conjure work for court cases. While the jury is deliberating, or the lawyers are presenting their cases the client may have a rootworker doing work from their altar to sway the decision of things in their favor.

But what's so special about working like this? Well as Gordon indicated in his post, it ties the work into the real, into that very moment. Rather than working for a future event, or future outcome, you are working for an outcome right then and there. The results speak for themselves: you have a way of working that deals in practical considerations with effective magick.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


In a forum that I am part of the topic of jackballs came up and that inspired me to write a bit about them because I find that I use them in my work frequently and that they are an effective and potent tool/technique of working. First, however, a bit of background.

Jackballs refer to small balls of rolled up twine that were crafted by conjurers and rootworkers for themselves and their clients. A mojo hand was often considered someone's prized possesion, but a conjure ball or jackball was considered the most prized of all. This is logical if one considers that a poor person would have to pay from what precious little they had in order to get one of these objects of power. The jackball draws its influence from two of the roots of hoodoo: the African magical practices and European magical practices.

African magical practices have many traditions of tying things down, knotting them, nailing them etc. These types of magical actions can be seen in practices like nailing someone's footprint down, or tying down spirits. In European magical practices we see things like tying knots to bind your lover to you, or tying knots on rope in order to bind the winds and storms. These type of traditions inform the workings of a jackball.

So what are jackballs? A Jackball is a derivative of a container spell; it has herbs, roots, curios, minerals, and personal concerns that are contained in a little ball of twine, string, yarn. They can be used to influence people and events, they can be used as talismanic objects, they can be apotropaic and ward off, they can be used as objects of personal power and insight, and for much much more.

Each rootworker has slightly varying methods of making jackballs which probably stem from differing family traditions and regional differences. The following is a recipe for crafting a power jackball that can be used to bolster your magical abilities, heighten your psychic awareness, and help you gain spiritual mastery.

What you'll need:
Ball of red twine/yarn
Purple candle
Power Oil (or if you make your own oils a similar product)
Psychic Vision oil (or if you make your own oils a similar product)
Mastery Key Oil (or if you make your own oils a similar product)
Master Root
Sampson Snake Root
Tobacco (aimed at helping one contact spirits, but I also know a derivation of this recipe that replaces Tobacco with Acacia).
Star Anise
Small John the Conqueror (This is very male root, but can be used by females. Some women I know prefer to replace John the Conqueror with Queen Elizabeth root which has similar qualities of John the Conqueror, but is more female-oriented).
Personal concern of either yourself or your client

Dress your purple candle with each oil while you stroke it towards you to draw the power to you. Hold the candle in your hand and pray that you be granted spiritual mastery, psychic insight, and personal power to accomplish what you seek. Light the candle and work by its flame. Set out each of your herbs and roots and lightly dress them with the oils.

Take the beeswax and melt it so that it becomes soft and malleable. Take your John the Conqueror root and wrap your personal concern into it. Slowly roll the John the Conqueror into the softened beeswax forming a small ball. As you do this pray for your intent, which in this case would be increased personal power, spiritual mastery, and psychic insight. Speak to the John the Conqueror root and ask that it lend you its strength and power. Take your Master Root and add it to the ball of wax that you've got forming while continuing to pray and focus on what you want. Again speak directly to the root. Repeat this process with each of your roots and herbs making sure to pray over each as they go into the wax ball. Keep adding beeswax to ensure that all the roots are covered in wax and that you have a solid, unbroken ball. You'll want to use smaller roots and herbs and temper your amount of wax so the resulting ball is the exact right size you want--you don't want the wax ball too big because you are going to be wrapping it up in twine. It takes a bit of practice, but eventually you'll find a size that is just right for you.

Once you've got yourself a ball of wax with all your herbs and roots inside dress the ball in each of the oils as you again pray for your intent. Just use a little oil to dress the conjure ball. Then take this ball of wax in your cupped hands and breathe into as you pray for what you desire. Keep doing this for a few minutes until you feel that you've really got the power going. The idea is to first dress it with oil to help tune its purpose, then to combine your breath and prayer to begin to wake up the spirit.

Now take up your yard/twine and begin to wrap the jackball. I was taught to do this in a specific fashion so I'll share that method with you, but bear in mind that there are many ways of doing this so don't feel that you have to dogmatically cling to one. I was taught to first wrap the ball in an "X" fashion crisscrossing the thread while wrapping it towards me. This is symbolic of the crossroads and helps to draw the power of the herbs out while tying them down into the jackball. For those familiar with it, it's like fixing a trick inside a quincunx. Once you've got some crisscrosses going then begin to wrap it all over while continuing to wrap towards yourself. Make sure to cover the entire thing so you have no wax showing and make it as even as possible so you have a round ball of twine. Leave a long piece of tail unwrapped which shall be used shortly. Keep your focus and prayers up the entire time that you are wrapping the ball, calling for the herbs to give you power, insight, and master, asking that Spirit fill you with its power.

Once the entire thing is evenly wrapped and the wax is no longer visible then it is time to tie of the jackball and set its power. Thread the tail you have left into a needle and using this needle run the thread under one of the firm threads wrapping the ball, pull the string through and repeat to create a knot that will keep the ball from unraveling. Create a total of three knots like that. Then knot the end of the string, knotting it twice to complete the jackball.

Finally take a little bit of your oils and dress the jackball as you do this say, "As I feed you, so you feed me." Then take the jackball in your cupped hands and breathe your prayers unto the ball. Pray fervently and let your breath waken the spirit now inside the jackball. Finally hold it by its tail and carefully wave back and forth over the flame of the candle while you call out your goal. Let the candle burn down and keep that jackball close to you.

The jackball is now alive and part of you. You can work the jackball by holding it by its string and use it as pendelum to divine answers, you can feed it a bit of oil from time to time, you can place it under you pillow to dream true, you can keep it safely away in a flannel bag that you keep on you and it will augument your spiritual powers, you can place it on your altar to help develop a connection with spirit, or you can keep the jackball on you as you conjure to help hone your abilities. One way that I've loved using it in the past is by holding it by its tail and circling it towards me while praying for what I desire.

Jackballs are powerful allies in conjure and following the general principles above I'm sure people can come up with dozens of recipes and uses for them. Happy conjuring!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saint Cyprian: Calling upon the Patron of Conjurers to Uncross

Saint Cyprian is the patron of conjure-doctors, rootworkers, magicians, occultists and spiritual practitioners, not to be confused with Cyprian of Carthage. According to legend, St. Cyprian was a powerful magician whose power over dark and mighty spirits was reknown. Either he himself or one of his clients fancied Justina, a young and virtuous Christian woman so he conjured up one of his demon servants and sent the spirit over to abduct her, but she repelled the demon by signing the cross. Saint Cyprian was so moved by the act that he converted. Given his pagan background Saint Cyprian is also one of the few saints who seems to have a soft spot for pagans and non-Christians.

St. Cyprian and St. Justina continued their lives together working side-by-side until they were persecuted, tortured, and killed under the reign of Diocletian.

St. Cyprian represents that meeting point between the world of faith and spirituality and the realm of magic and is a reminder of the complexity of the spiritual practitioner who is a man or woman of faith as well as an occultist. There are a few books attributed to this saint and are filled with powerful prayers and conjurations. These books are found in various parts of the world and have heavily influenced various grimoires and some traditions like Quimbanda.

He is a wonderful saint who can be called upon to aid you in works of uncrossing, reversal, protection from spiritual and magical attacks and is a powerful ally for those of us who work with hotter, primal, and more chaotic spirits. I always work with him before any of my goetic workings and can feel his cool, but charged power have my back as I stand in conjuration.

He seems to prefer purple candles be lit to him along with leaving him a cool glass of water. The burning of incense like Frankincense and Myrrh are also offerings that he accepts. From time to time I leave him a book on the occult or magick on the altar to keep him at home with trappings he is familiar with. Most of my scrying materials are also left on his altar when I am not working with them in order to gain his blessing.

His feast day is different according to different sources. His feast day is attributed to September 14th, October 9th and a few other dates. His day of the week is Saturday and the color purple and the number 9 are all associated with this saint. Statues of him seem to be rather difficult to get a hold of, but his image is readily available from various spiritual supply shops and botanicals.

Unlike other saints like Saint Martha who sometimes prefer their offerings of "payment" to be given before they complete a work on your behalf, Saint Cyprian doesn't mind either. As a Saint he'll accept the offerings you leave him and still continue to work on your behalf, and as a magician he understands that sometimes payment comes after the work is done.

One great way of working with this saint is in uncrossing work. If you feel like you've been crossed by a rival rootworker or spiritual practitioner you can call upon the power of this glorious saint to help break the hold this person has over your life. Here's what you need:

A statue or framed picture of Saint Cyprian
1 purple candle
2 small white candles
A cup of water
Dried Mint
A picture of yourself with a piece of your hair
Brazier or something to burn your resins

First set up an altar to Saint Cyprian. Lay out a purple cloth, place his image in the center of this area with the cup of water to his right, the purple candle to the left, and a brazier or similar container to burn your resins in the front of the saint's image. Once you've got this set up take a moment and enter a prayerful state where you've focused all your attention on calling out to Saint Cyprian.

First light the purple candle while offering him the light and flame of the candle. Dedicate the candle to the saint's glory. Then pick up the glass of water and make a gesture of offering it to the saint while telling him that you are leaving out the water for him that he may find pleasure in it. Then light your charcoal and set it on the brazier. Add your Frankincense and Myrrh to this and as the smoke rises, waft some of this towards the image of Saint Cyprian while telling him that you offer up this incense for him.

Next take up the mix of Agrimony, Mint, and Hyssop and hold it up while you pray fervently to Saint Cyprian to bless and empower the herbal mix. Tell Saint Cyprian that you are being oppressed by one who works magick against you, that your life has been turned upside down unjustly and that you ask Saint Cyprian to intervene on your behalf. After praying sincerely, leave the herbal mix in a bowl before the image of the saint over night.

Before dawn wake up and brew a tea out of the herbal mix. Let the water come to a boil, strain the herbs, and let the water cool for a bit. Take this tea-mixture back to the altar of Saint Cyprian and again ask for his intervention. Take the cup of water that you left out for the saint and pour a small amount of it into your tea. Don't pour all of the water, just a small symbolic amount. Go to your bath and set up two white candle on either side of your bathtub. Light these candles, strip, and step into the bath. Pour the tea over your head and wipe down your body by making an "x" with your arms with hands on opposite shoulders that uncross as you move your arms down. Make this gesture 9 times as you call for Saint Cyprian to wash you clean off all evil influences.

Make sure that either you've set a small container to collect some of the water that is poured over your, or that you've plugged your bathtub so it collects the bath. Step out of the tub in between the white candles to get your fresh start and gather some of the used bath water. Let yourself air dry. Once that is done take the used bath water to the nearest crossroads and toss it over your left shoulder and walk back without so much as a glance back.

You should start feeling things turn around nearly instantly. Saint Cyprian works quickly to help set your life back on track if it has been meddled with.

Saint Cyprian is a powerful saint and ally and one that I feel truly blessed to have in my life. Glory to you Saint Cyprian, Master of the Hidden, Guide of those who walk the realms of Spirit. I sing your praises and call blessings upon your name!