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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tis the Season for Ancestor Work

As All Hallow's Eve, All Saint's Day, and All Soul's Day (also commonly known as the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos) approaches the timing is just right for work with ancestors; those who have passed on, but have left their mark upon our lives and destiny.

Some traditions talk about a thinning of the veil that separates the world of the dead from the world of the living. Perhaps for this reason many cultures around the world remember and honor their dead and celebrate their lives during this time. Or maybe it is for entirely different reasons. In either case it is a great time to focus on the significance of the great equilizer we know as death and remember those who have passed for if they are remembered they are not truly gone.

Ancestor veneration is a central aspect of various tradition-based cultures and the practices blur the lines between the religious and the magical, reminding us of how arbitary that boundary is anyway.

In African-American Conjure and the various African Traditional Religions, the role of the ancestor is of extreme importance for it is the ancestors who act as the ultimate guide, protector, and provider of their descendents. In fact, the ancestors are seen as the first line of defense in many of these magical and religous tradition. For example, for conjurers of old it was more common for them to appeal to their ancestors than to call upon the spirit of a random dead. It was believed that the blood link not only allowed the petition to be conveyed easier, but because of that link the ancestor still had power in this world.

It is intersting to note that in many religions some of the ancestral dead became elevated to great heights becoming powerful forces not only in the lives of their blood descenents, but a spiritual force for all those who may have some resonance with them. Here we find the Heroic Dead of the Hellenic world, some of the gods of Africa who once were mortal men, but rose to heights of deification, as well as Saints who are the ancestral dead of the Church. My own ancestors from the Middle East and North Africa fit into this category. Many of them were sages and magi who went on to become folk saints and legendary figures and joined the greater dead.

In either case, I believe that ancestor work is of great significance for those walking spiritual paths. They can become guides, teachers, protectors, and providers. They remind us that we are but a drop in an endless sea of souls and that for now we may have a corporeal shell, but that we too will soon join them in the ancestral waters.

To that, the simple offering of a candle, some water, or cooking the favorite meal of a beloved ancestor while remembering them can go a long way to keep us connected to that great line of beings who made our lives possible in the first place, who have had our back since time immemorial and to whose embrace we return.

For anyone interested in more regular work with them, which I highly recommend and it is the first thing I teach my conjure students, I suggest setting up a space for them. It can be a mantle piece or on top of a small drawer, but let it be their space. Put up photos of your ancestors, any mementos of them you may have for they are charged relics, and once a week offer them prayers, candles, and fresh water. Simple work, but it goes a long way. Remember them and they will remember you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: The Book of Abrasax

Michael Cecchetelli of Crossed Keys fame has released his new book, The Book of Abrasax: A Grimoire of the Hidden Gods. This book promises to be a complete grimoire developed using manuscripts from a magical tradition that has been neglected by all except academia and let me say, it delivers.

This book is of interest to me for several reasons, first and foremost because I am a modern magician working within the magical current of North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Sabians, and this book revolves around a very similar tradition. Secondly, because I am an academic whose speciality happens to be this part of the world and their magical and religious traditions. So from both perspectives, I was very interested in the release of this book and I was not let down. Even its timing is auspicious as I have begun an academic study of the Coptic manuscripts by comparing them to the Greek Magical Papyri.

Like his previous works, Michael Ceccetelli demonstrates a high level of scholarship that ranks him among the quality writers of our time, but more importantly this book is down-right practical. While the source of the text is something familiar to academia, what the author has done is take those sources and make them accessible to the modern magician by presenting a complete system of magic that carries on the Graeco-Egyptian Gnostic and Coptic culture. Here we have a grimoire about ancient magic, but for the modern magus. Grimoires of the past were notorious for being incomplete or often having obscure instructions, but not The Book of Abrasax.

The book delivers on all fronts and presents for the reader not only a glimpse into this ancient magical current, but revives it and makes it accessible for the modern practitioner. The words of ancient Coptic Magi could be heard within the pages teaching you how to cast spells to capture love, to crush an enemy, or even to bring down the hidden gods and luminaries whose power could shake your very world.

The book is divided into several sections that begins by setting the stage and introducing the topic then dives right into the practical magic of it all. Here are found spells whose flavor will be quite familiar to those acquainted with Hoodoo or the Greek Magical Papyri--the book captures the powers of the ancients and it can be felt. I have already tried the methods for securing space and creating boundaries and the power is tangible; calling the Sevenths and vibrating the voces magicae have a palable result that you can feel in the air. Further to my excitement, The Book of Abrasax also reveals detailed instructions on the creation of difixiones or Hellenic curse-tablets along with instructions for the making of a magical statue--literally the secrets of god-making. Here are ancient powers that academics have marveled over, but now available for the first time in ages to the mage.

But the book does not stop there, it goes on to present rites of evocation, invocation, and most imporantly of all the author reveals an initiatory rite called the "Triune Baptism" which reveals this text as not just an ordinary grimoire, but the remergence of a Gnostic mystery--here in the Transcendental magic of the Book of Abrasax is found the keys to the hidden realities guarded by the magi of the Graeco-Eyptian world. The path to hidden gods and forgotten powers is laid out clearly and open to all with the courage to walk it.

We live in interesting times. Mages have turned to history to find the roots our spiritual ancestry and returned with the keys to ancient magic unlocking the future. I could not recommend this book more and forsee it having a deep and lasting impact on the magical current. I strongly suspect that in the years to come we will see people making difixiones once more along with practicing other long-forgotten secrets and that makes me happy.