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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Holy Guardian Angel(s)?

One of the central aspects of western occultism is the idea of the Holy Guardian Angel. This concept is alternately referred to as one's higher self, or as a spirit guide of sorts with whom conversation and communion is considered of great importance. For the longest time people mistook attaining conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel (from here on referred to as HGA) as the epitome and even end-result of magical practice. This stance has been shifted to where conversation with the HGA is but one rung on the ladder of spiritual progress and magical practice. Yet, the nature of this being remains highly controversal.

There are a variety of opinions on what the HGA is in nature; from being one's higher self to being an Angel of the Lord assigned to guide the aspiring magus. In my opinion, Frater RO said it best, "it's complicated" (in fact I am of the opinion that Frater RO is one of the few people online who truly exhibits having acheived conversation and communion with the HGA and his discussion of his Supernal Assistant/HGA accurately portrays the relationship).

I propose to present a perspective on the HGA that is not commonly heard online, but one that is in line with Near Eastern spiritual practices and what may have been the source from which later magi drew inspiriation for their concepts of the HGA.

In Near Eastern magical practice (which includes the Semetic religions and cultures) each individual is assigned a group of spirits which act as the guiding influences in their life. Depending on the sources, the number vary from 2 to 4 to much more. However what is consistent is the varying natures of the spirits attached to the individual and how relationship between the spirits and the person contributes to magical work.

The first spirit is what has come to be commonly called the Holy Guardian Angel. This entity is viewed as separate from the magician and not their "higher self." However the Holy Guardian Angel acts as a recepticle for the divine power that is man's birthright. As man descended through the spheres he forgot his link with the divine and so the Holy Guardian Angel holds in trust the true powers of man until he once more is ready to take them up. In this paradgim the conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel is but the first step. The HGA acts as a guide and comforter for the mage helping him or her once more rise up through the spheres and finally absorb their birthright from the HGA. In this way this spirit is intimately connected to the individual, yet also remains "other."

Because the HGA, which has also been alternatively called the Genius Spirit in this tradition, holds in trust the true power of man, it is through the HGA that authority to work with the angels and the divine sphere is acheived. The HGA can act as a guide, a comforter, and an emissary to the divine realm. 

The balance to the HGA is the second genius spirit which comes from the ranks of the chthonic. Just as each individual is assigned a Holy Guardian Angel so too do they have a djinn. This is the spirit that is used as an emissary to the sublunar and chthonic realms. We find evidence of this type of working in the Greek Magical Papyri, the familiar spirit of the Witch of Endor, and it is carried on in works like The Grimorium Verum where Scirilin acts as the primary intermediary spirit.

In the spiritual practices of the Near East, the mage is recognized as having the ability to cultivate both of these relationships: one with the Holy Guardian Angel and the other with their djinn spirit. Each represents a side of the coin that contributes to all around wholeness. However, what is lacking in this system is the idea that one power needs to restrain the other. While the Holy Guardian Angel provides the mage with authority until he or she is able to reclaim their own innate authority, the Holy Guardian Angel, or any angel for that matter, is not used to restrain the powers of the chthonic. Instead if one were to work with the dead, or djinn, then the mage would turn to their personal djinn or genius to act as intermediary--a practice that is illuminated in the manuscript of Charles Wycliff Goodwin called Fragment of a Graceo-Egyptian Work upon Magic where the Egyptian mage uses his two genius spirits, or djinn to help him contact other spirits in an armadel operation. In this working the authority to work with such spirits comes directly from the intermediary spirit who is able to traverse the underworld and call other spirits forth.

While the concept of the personal deity of the Near East, more commonly known to today's mages as the Holy Guardian Angel has become one of the more distinguishable aspects of western occultism, the familiar spirit, on the other hand has not received the same attention. It is my opinion that a more hollistic approach to magical practices would be to get back to this older and more complete paradigm where both spiritual guides are cultivated, one to restore man's innate connection with the divine, and the other to restore man's innate connection to the underworld--it is the connection to both that distinguishes the mage from the mystic and priest.

This concept of multiple guiding spirits is one that also makes an apperances in the African Diasporic Traditions with the ATR's often alluding to each person having a "head" which can be equated to the Holy Guardian Angel and each also having a series of other guiding spirits often in the form of spirits of the dead. Similarly in ancient Rome, each person was guided by a holy ancestor while having the personal lares who carried out the function of a familiar spirit. 

My experiences with both my Holy Guardian Angel and my person djinn have led me to believe that the incomplete approach that has been become popularized by Abramelin may indeed actually contribute to the disparity in results acheived by those traditions still connected to their folk roots versus those that have lost that connection. This can be seen in the results acheived by Arabian mages and people in the ATRs versus the less than spectacular results acheived by western occultism. It comes down to the approach.

If our focus is entirely on the Holy Guardian Angel then our magic by very nature will take a more mystical aspect. The Holy Guarian Angel is beyond a doubt a powerful force in our lives, but the results often alluded to in the grimoires are a result not of Angels who focus on more cosmic matters, but the sublunar or chthonic spirits who hold a strong connection to our natural world. For the magus to acheive the level of success that is often fantasized he or she must also cultivate the power of the chthonic and this is done through the intermediary spirit of old.

In my opinion it is time for this old familiar spirit to once more be recognized as a valid source for the power for the mage and take its place in the western world along with its counterparts in the ATRs.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Questions You've Asked Me

Clients and readers often send me the most interesting questions. Due to the volume of emails I get daily, I don't always get a chance to respond back, after all questions from clients pertaining to actual work is my first priority. Yet, know that such questions are not ignored. What I've done is taken the questions that are the most popular along with some of the more interesting ones and compiled them here. This may be a one-time thing, or I may get a chance to have more of these posts. Many of these questions are about me, my practice, or seeking advice.

1. Where did you learn hoodoo from?

I was raised by a conjure worman in this hoodoo tradition named Mama Jay. This was not an appellation, as many people seem to take the names of "Miss" "Mama" etc these days, but rather a commonplace cultural thing. In Southern African American culture, everyone is called "Miss, Mama, Papa, Uncle, Mr." etc. Mama Jay was simply the mother of Jay and so we all called her Mama Jay. Secretly people called her "Tree" cause she was tall as heck and would wear a hair band with a giant flower on it.

Our meeting was rather interesting. I was very young at the time and lived in an apartment complex with an astrologer, a conjure woman, a tarot reader, and other interesting people. After coming home from school I was sitting outside with a book on magical symbols and was tracing these symbols in chalk on the sidewalk when a giant shadow was cast over my work. I looked up a pair of neverending legs to see a tall African American woman looking down at me. She said, "You're a strange boy. How'd you like me to show you some more of this stuff" and she pointed at the book. From there the rest is history.

What was your first spell you cast?

The first spiritual work I did was a foot washing under the supervision of Mama Jay. It was a deeply moving experience. My first active conjure was a hot foot with handmade hot foot powder that was used against a neighborhood villain. It worked within so fast I was stunned; one day he was there, the next he abandoned all his things and his apartment and ran. 

Before this I had done some work with the runes, weather, and Arabian theurgy. 

Is it true you work with djinn? How do I learn how to work with them? 

Yes. I work extensively with them and have a them as allies. 

Learning this work is not easy. Unlike other magical traditions, texts on this subject have been slow in coming to the "western" world. Even those treatise written in Arabic and Farsi aren't always clear. Seeking out books is a great way to start, but the best method is to learn from actual Middle Eastern mages. 

For those that are interested in this type of work, I will be releasing an email course on the topic which will act as both an introduction to the work and help people start the practice. As far as I know, I am the only traditionally trained djinn conjurer who is offering this information.

Your AIRR page says you come from a line of spiritual people? Were your ancestors mages too?

I come from one of the oldest family lines in the Middle East and North Africa who have always been associated with the royal court by either being rulers themselves, or the sages to the rulers. My ancestors have been religious scholars who have been mystics, sages, and mages. My direct ancestors are folk saints who are petitioned to this day in the Middle East for favors with several shrines dedicated to them. I have worked deeply with my ancestors who act as my guides and are a source of great wisdom and power for me. 

I was named the heir of my family's spiritual tradition by its patriarch, my great grandfather who was a blind hafiz (a person who had memorized the Quran from beginning to end). His fame as an exorcist and mystic was legendary. 

One of the most famous stories involve helping a man get his kidnapped wife back. A man came to my great grandfather imploring his help. His wife had been kidnapped by brigands and the local authorities were of no help. My great grandfather took his hand, told him the exact location of where he could find his wife. He then took a piece of paper, scribbled something on there, folded it up and placed it into a locket to give to the man. He said it would keep the distraught man safe by tying up the brigands.

The man found his wife exactly where my great grandfather said she'd be and found that all the brigands had fallen into a deep stupor from which they could not wake; he saved his wife with no trouble, hog-tied the brigands and dragged them into town for the authorities to deal with.

There are many other stories like that regarding him with things like being at two places at once, psychokinesis etc.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to learn hoodoo and doesn't have a teacher nearby?

Get off your butt. While I was fortunate to have been raised in the tradition, I never stopped learning even after my teacher passed and I took over her practice. I met other workers, I traveled, I went to shops and more importantly I talked to *people*. 

Secondly, the internet is a great resource. I think it is amazing the information that is available at the tip of our fignertips. However, don't let the internet make you lazy. While the internet is a great resource, you shouldn't depend solely on it. Magical traditions that are still living are so because there are people who still live it; find those people. It isn't that hard.
Third, I do believe Miss cat's correspondence course is a great resource. While some have felt some controversy regarding the idea of "certified hoodoo" people are not grasping the point of the course. It is a survey of hoodoo, not a standard of "orthodoxy." The certification only says you completed her course, not that you know some hoodoo Truth. That said it is a great course. I also recommend checking my blog on getting started on this work (here and here).  

I heard that you were hired to exorcise and be a spiritual advisor for officials in the Middle East. Can you tell me more about this.

I have worked as a professional exorcist and hired magician designing and working the magical defense of a certain Middle Eastern nation's defenses and have worked for various prominant officials as their magical advisor and protector.

I have been working on a reconciliation case for months but I haven't gotten the results I want. What am I doing wrong?

You will hear many say that reconciliation cases are some of the hardest cases to work on. This isn't because of the nature of the work itself, but rather due to the emotional investment of the people involved. More than any other situation, people are deeply invested in their reconciliation case. As such they rarely have the ability to examine things objectively, nor work from a calm position of power. Instead, I find that desperation and anxiety characterizes the work.

For people having such difficulty I always suggest taking a break away from the work and focusing specifically on *you.* Not only will this help calm you down, but by taking a break you get a fresh perspective to the situation and are able to put yourself in a position where you can work from confidence and focus.

Remember desperation is not attractive.

What's the story behind your name? Are you Dr. Raven and ConjureMan Ali?

Dr. Raven is a name that people started calling me. It was very unofficial and was due to the fact that I had a strong affinity for graveyard work and a gift for working with the dead. I fufilled the role of a psychopomp for my community; I helped restless spirits settle, I communed with the departed, and as such people started calling me that. My teacher was the first to call me raven.

I actually haven't had a professional name, until recently. I went by Ali though unofficially people called me Dr. Raven, Raven, or Uncle Ali.

I took the name ConjureMan Ali when I joined AIRR as a means of unifying my identity as a rootworker. While my old clients still call me Dr. Raven, I go by ConjureMan Ali.

Do you only do root doctoring for a profession or do you have a day job?

I am one of the fortunate few who makes a good living as a root docot and does not need to have a day job. That said, I am post-graduate student working on his Ph.D in History and am paid to be a university lecturer, researcher, and author.

I specialize in history of the ancient world with special attention to the intellectual, religious, and social trends of the ancient near east and Mediterranean.

How was it you were able to start magical work so early?

A few reasons. The first is simply fate. I was fortunate enough to have the teachers I did at the exact moments that I did. Our meetings were very fortuitous and helped me greatly.

Secondly, my great grandfather named me his heir so it was accepted that my interests would swing to the spiritual.

Third, I was a precocious child. I was very bright and advanced for my age; I had finished the complete works of Shakespear in the 4th grade, read through most of the scriptures of the major religions by 5th grade and had writtten commentaries on them and so my family gave me free reign. They recognized my potential for success and wanted to encourage my intellectual pursuits so gave me the freedom to do so.

Your profile says you are familiar with hermeticism, to what degree?

To a great degreee. I am a practicing hermetic mage. I tend to follow a slightly older mode of thinking than that which developed in the Renaissance by turning to the Greco-Egyptian purview.

I am also a student of Franz Bardon. I have followed and actively practiced his system since I was in high school and though, like many, came across difficulties following his regiment--even setting it down at times--I eventually was able to make steady progress through the steps. To this day Bardon's regiments are part of my daily spiritual exercices.

Do you consider Goetia dangerous? Is it worth looking into?

I consider goetia to be the hoodoo of the Mediterranean and European world. I trace it back to the Greek Magical Papyri and older necromantic practices of the ancient world and have found that recent attempts at revitalizing the tradition by looking at pre-Medieval roots to be both fruitful and highly successful.

I approach the goetia from a near eastern perspective, viewing most of the entities as types of djinn and have successful evoked and worked with several of them. I am also a big proponent of the methodology outlined by the likes of Jake Stratton Kent.

That said working with spirits of a chthonic nature is always dangerous and not for the faint of heart. However if approached with respect and skill, it is a powerful tradition.

What are your favorite Goetic texts or girmoires?

While the Lesser Key of Solomon is very popular, my work has drawn me to the Heptammeron, the Grimorium Verum, the Arabatel, and the Grimoire of Armadel.

I am very fond of Jake Stratton Kent's True Grimoire, Cecchetelli's Crossed Keys, the Black Pullet, the 6th and 7th Books of Moses, and though not technically grimoires I work with Ghayat Al Hakim, The Secrets of Albertus Magnus, The Books of Saint Cyprian, Shams Al-Maarif al Kubra, The Long Lost Friend, and the Greek Magical Paypri.

In fact one can say that my practices are heavily informed by these texts.

Do you take on students?

I do take on students, but rarely. I have taken on apprentices in the past and prefer face-to-face students, though a few have been long-distance. As of late I find myself simply too busy. I am remedying this by developing and will soon be releasing a serires of email courses that will cover topics that I am versed in and that cannot be found elsewhere.

Any advice for an aspiring magus?

Caution and respect is one of the best things you can cultivate for this line of work. Respect for those more knowledgable than you and respect for the spirits you wish to evoke.

That said, get off your butt and actually do something. You'll never become a magus if you sit around thinking about it. Magic has an active practice to it, get going.

Are you religious? If so what religion to ascribe to?

Hermetic, Sufi, Sabian, Follower of Christ (in the historical sense)

Have you been involved in witch wars?

A few, though never of my own making. One of my specialities is dealing with other spiritual workers.

Any advice for people who want to become professional practitioners?

Make sure you are ready. Not only will you save yourself a great deal of trouble, but it is the responsible thing to do. You are about to shoulder the burden of others and you owe it to yourself and them to ensure that you've got what it takes for this work.

Thats all for now, folks.