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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Year of the Rootworker

In a recent radio show, Miss cat made mention of "the year of the rootworker." This was based on a conversation Miss cat and I had in which we made some observations about the sudden springing up of dozen and dozensof people either claiming to be rootworkers or trying to become professional rootworkers. It is a phenomenon that needs addressing and one that is certainly interesting. 

In the past two years there has been a surge of people attempting to get into the field of rootwork. These individuals generally are very new to the tradition, having taken a year or two of courses in it, and do some work here or there for friends and family. Generally, they do have some skill in the field and have success in what they do and from this success they feel confident enough to go on to being a professional rootworker. In my opinion this can be troublesome.

While these individuals have some skill, they are no where near to being an effective professional rootworker. Whether their intent is to make money (stupid reason, rootwork isn't that lucrative), or to help people they lack that essential element that makes a person a real professional rootworker: a calling from Spirit. I am not talking about feeling like you should get into this field or thinking that you'd be a great rootworker, I am talking about a powerful compulsion from Spirit itself, one that can be objectively confirmed by a neutral third party reader.

Usually these people make medicore rootworkers at best and even business-wise they'll find themselves starting out extremely sluggish. In my opinion this is a sign from Spirit. Rootworkers that are called to this work start right off the bat with secure practices, not necessarily a huge client base, but one that starts smoothly as an indication that they are anointed for this work with those they are suppose to help finding them. 

While the intentions of these individuals are relatively well-meaning as they simply want to be able to help people with rootwork and make a living at it, their presence is nothing short of irresponsible. Their grasp of rootwork is rarely hands on and usually limited to online learning here or there. They lack the indepth experience that an authentic rootworker has gained by studying with real professionals. As a result, they lack the experience and insight to really help clients. This is evidenced by the fact that they generally know work that they picked up from a book or online. They may for example find themselves using one or two conjures for a variety situations, lacking the true knowledge necessary to apply the right technique to the right situation.

This is further complicated because clients will leave without having their situation resolved, without feeling like they were truly helped, and worse they allow for an influx of scammers. With the rise of the wannabe rootworker there is a rise of the scammer. The sheer number of these individuals allows for scammers to take root amongst the community and prey on those in desperation.

In my humble opinion, the number of *real* rootworkers are far more limited than people think. The community of real practitioners who are truly anointed for this type of work don't get into this because it is the latest fad, or because it is "cool" to be a professional "spell-caster", but are deeply spiritual individuals who were raised in this tradition, called to it, and  fulfill a specific societal and communal function as spiritual counselor and link to the spirit world.

For those seeking true spiritual and magical aid, I suggest you seriously examine who you hire to be your rootworker and limit yourself to those individuals who are established rootworkers with a strong reputation, demonstrate deep knowledge and skill, and who connect to this community more than simply going to a botanica here or there or being online.

For the rootworker wannabes, I suggest you seriously consider whether you are gifted for this type of work, set your own desires and ego aside, for you are taking on the responsbility of another person's life. There is nothing wrong with practing for yourself and family, not everyone is a professional rootworker. Should you jump the gun and try your hand at professional work without having that spiritual calling, you'll find quickly that not only will your spiritual practice suffer, but that the spirits of rootworker's past may not be so gentle in their judgement of your skill.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: Crossed Keys

As a scholar I have a natural love of books; one might even call me a bibliophile. However, like most practicing magi who are also scholars there are a few books that I keep close to me at all times and refer back to regularly. These select and cherished few are what I consider the peak of occult scholarship and the most lucid and thorough exploration of magical practice. The works of Nicholaj Frisvold and Jake Stratton-Kent are among some of whom I have placed this category. Michael Cecchetelli’s Crossed Keys has quickly ascended to these ranks.

I have spent the past several days absorbing the book from cover to cover and am delighted to find that in an era of shoddy scholarship and a plethora of armchair occultists, Michael Cecchetelli has broken away from the dross to enter the sphere of occult gold.

Like the works of the authors above, Crossed Keys is a text written by someone with solid scholarly sensibilities, but written by and for the practicing magus.

Crossed Keys combines two rather disparate texts in a manner that is seamless, yet also spiritually impactful. The book begins with the notorious Black Dragon, reputed to hold the keys of the infernal realms. The rendition of the Black Dragon is amazing in its depth, yet remains highly accessible. Here, the aspiring magus can find a thorough account of undergoing spiritual initiation with the infernal powers and gaining mighty allies. The Black Dragon includes within its ranks familiar spirits from the Grimorium Verum and other grimoires of the same vein. Not only is the text written in a clear and articulate manner, but what allows it to stand apart is the inclusion of notes and experiments directly from the journal of a magician who has successfully undertaken the rites within: the author himself. While the inclusion of the author’s magical journal seems to be a logical choice, it is one that is entirely revolutionary in the world of evocation and grimoire magicks.

Crossed Keys does away with the typical impression of incomplete grimoires and near-impossible requirements to undertake the rewarding and dangerous endeavor of spirit evocations by presenting a grimoire that offers a straight-forward and highly practical system whose potential truly seems to hold the keys to the underworld.

Michael Cecchetelli takes the study of evocation through the girmoires and returns the Art back into the hands of the magus and out of the hands of the theorist.

After presenting a high quality rending of the Black Dragon and sections from its own working journal, the author goes on to include The Enchiridion of Pope Leo III, a text revolving around the folk magic of European Catholicism touching upon the mysteries of the Psalms. Channeling the spirit of Albertus Magnus and The Book of Gold, The Enchiridion of Pope Leo, seems at first to be in opposition to the infernal powers of the Black Dragon. Yet upon closer speculation the logic of including these two texts together is stunning in its insight.

I was pleasantly surprised to see in The Enchiridion not only a large compilation of highly pragmatic folk magic formulae, but also a spell referring back to that most obscure of saints—and my favorite—Saint Cyprian.

Crossed Keys is bound together beautifully in another flawless edition from Scarlet Imprint and as the name suggests is a powerful cross between precise scholarship and practical experience and a cross between the power of the infernal and the might of heaven. Truly, Crossed Keys offers to the magus the keys to the kingdom of power.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Goetic Hoodoo

With the increasing popularity of the African Diasporic Traditions there has been an impulse to discover points of synthesis between them and the European-derived Goetia. While many view such attempts as revolutionary and ground-breaking, the roots of such endeavors are actually quite grounded in historical reality as synthesis has both been attempted before and is the means by which great occult revival is possible.

Synthesis between the Goetia and Hoodoo has its roots in the late 19th and early 20th Century with the experimentation of the urban root doctors of Chicago and similar areas. With the rise of spiritual supply shops, these root doctors gained access to various European grimoires like the Keys of Solomon, the 6th and 7th Books of Moses, the Black Pullet, and many others. With the availability of these texts, root doctors found themselves experimenting with various methods of working with the spirits listed within, but in a different manner then had become common place amongst ceremonial magicians.

While many of these urban root doctors were also experienced and talented ceremonial magicians, their methods of working with the grimoires in a fashion more akin to the natural magic of hoodoo opened many doors, but also unwittingly revealed a mostly unknown aspect of the Goetia—its roots with folk magic and natural magic.

I was fortunate enough to learn and experience this type of working with the Goetia from various famous root doctors in the US and using the knowledge they taught me as a springboard have taken my experiments to new levels.

Using simple rites that did not call for large ceremonies or elaborate magical accruements, hoodoo workers were able to work with goetic spirits in an effective manner the produced staggering results. These results further demonstrated the mostly unknown, but inherent side of goetia that involved working with spirits on a less formal level than full evocation.

Evidence of this natural side (pardon the pun) of the Goetia is found in the Greek Magical Papyri where elaborate ceremonies are found side by side with simple instructions of folk magic, or in texts like the Grimorium Verum where the Natural and Supernatural Secrets details various magical spells that bear striking resemblance to the methodology of the African Diasporic Traditions.

While it is not necessary to practice any of the African Diasporic Traditions to explore the potency of the Goetia, the potential for synthesis between the two bears exploring and is something close to my heart and I find myself engrossed in many experiments regarding such an aim.