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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Saint Cyprian of Antioch

Ever since the publication of my book Saint Cyprian: Saint of Necromancers by Hadean Press there has been a resurgence of new interest in this wonderful saint. As his name spreads, more and more people are showing an interest in Saint Cyprian and he's quickly reaching a wider audience. Many will find it quite beneficial to develop a relationship with him. That said, he's not a saint for everyone. He tends to draw those people who straddle the boundaries between the infernal arts and and the celestial and his devotees tend to work a blend of spirit-centered folk magic. But while there are many articles and pieces that talk about Saint Cyprian as the unofficial patron saint of sorcerers, magicians, root doctors etc and there are plenty written about how to work all sorts of magic with him, there is a side of him that is rarely talked about and that is his spiritual function as the repository of ancestral wisdom and potency, or the bridge to the ancestral seas.

In the legend of Saint Cyprian, he is reputed to have converted to Christianity after his failure to procure the love of Justina via magical means and he goes on to become the bishop of Antioch. Now, some maintain that he did not convert, but made a pragmatic decision which would allow him to continue working his sorcery under the very nose of the Church. Regardless of the reasons, what is important is that he becomes the figure of the sorcerer who finds his home in the Church and who wields powers drawn from both worlds. As the unofficial saint of sorcerers, he straddles the boundaries between the diabolical and the holy, the sorcerous and the religious, and in this we find something quite unique about Saint Cyprian. He is the force that carries forward the ancestral powers through transformation. Following his legend, Saint Cyprian is a Hellenic sorcerer versed in the arts of the sorcery of his age, but he's also a Catholic saint. In this we see his ability of transforming from sorcerous ancestry into the ancestors of the Roman Catholic Church itself. He is then the retention of the ancestral teachings even as it is transformed under its new robe, that of Christianity.

Turning our eyes away from legend and into the annals of history we can trace how he fulfills the same function throughout the passing of time. After his death and the spread of various books attributed to him, Saint Cyprian becomes the ultimate black magician in the Iberian world. Here he retains his older Hellenic roots as once more he moves forward and transforms into the figure of witchcraft and sorcery found in the Iberian world. With the colonization of Latin America, he rises to prominence as the preeminent Saint of curanderas and brujas alike. Here he represents the witchcraft of Spain as it finds its new home in its colonies in Latin America. He becomes a Latin American saint, but still retains his roots to Spain.

In Brazil he does the same thing, as he rises to prominence as a Brazilian saint, but he brings with him the memory of Portuguese witchcraft, especially through the various books attributed to him. However, in addition to his role as the preserver and retainer of ancestral memory from Europe, he also becomes the stand in for African ancestral memory in the workings of Macumba. São Cipriano features prominently in the development of Umbanda and Quimbanda from the older Macumba. We find that he is delegated to the head of the African, or what was later the Line of Souls (Linha das Almas). Through this and his later association with the Preto Velhos (African ancestral spirits), São Cipriano goes from being a saint, to the preserver of African ancestry in the new land of Brazil. Indeed, this can still be seen through his connection to various Exu like Exu Meia Noite, who is either his teacher or is his Exu form. Exu Meia Noite in turn has a deep connection to other Exu who represent the ancestral African wisdom as it is retained and transformed in the new world like Exu Gerere, Exu Capa Preta, Exu Kaminaloa, Exu Ganga, Exu Curador, and others. Further exploration of the development and transformation can be found in Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's Saint Cyprian and the Sorcerous Transmutation.

It is in this unique ability of Saint Cyprian to transform while still retaining his roots that one of his misterios or secretos is revealed. For in being the Saint of Necromancers he is holds a unique position as psychopomp and intermediary to our own ancestors. There are a variety of secret workings of Saint Cyprian specifically for the raising of the dead, or the communing of the dead through specially prepared skulls, bones, etc. However, one thing that everyone has access too, is calling upon him to reconnect you to your ancestors.

In today's modern society, many ancestral lines are broken and much of the ancestral wisdom of the past has sunk into the depths of the ancestral sea. This is not surprising given that just a brief examination of history reveals conversions, colonization, imperialism, and so much more that shattered the ties of whole nations and cultures. However, through Saint Cyprian a unique connection to the ancestors can be formed and through that connection any ancestral spiritual practice that may have been lost can be recovered. This is particularly useful if you suspect that your ancestors may have had folk practices or spiritual beliefs that have faded away with the passage of time.

What you'll need to accomplish this is, the name of the ancestor if you know it, if not work with a general descriptor and the following:

Cup of water
Glass of red wine
Siete Machos perfume
9 white candles
Charcoal and brazier
3 chords (white, red, black)
Saint Cyprian Oil (recipe can be found in my book, or you can purchase via Lucky Mojo or Wolf and Goat)

Set up your Saint Cyprian altar with your statue or image of Saint Cyprian in the back and center, the candle to the front and left and the glass of wine to the front and right. This should form a triangle with the image at the top angle.

To the left of this set up your incense brazier or censor and in the center of the triangle place the cup of water. Underneath you may place the name of your ancestor who you are calling or simple a descriptor like "My ancestors." Light your candle and charcoal for the incense and sprinkle Frankincense and Myrrh as an offering. Spend a few moments letting the smoke build and then pray:
"San Cipriano, San Ciprano, San Cipriano,
You whose cloak retains all shades,
To whom demons, devils, and death is obedient;
I call you, I beseech you, come and bring your light.
With your light you break curses and witchcraft,
With your light you illuminate the dark,
Tonight I ask you to illuminate the depths of the seas,
Tonight I ask that you bring from the dark my ancestors.
They have slumbered and been forgotten, but I remember them.
My family must be made whole, our prayers must be made whole. 
San Cipriano, San Ciprano, San Cipriano
Tonight I need your light. Come quickly. 
Amen. "
Recite 3 "Our Fathers"

Tell him from your heart that you offer the candle, incense, and wine to him. Now, take up the three chords one by one and say:

"This white chord represents my unbroken ancestral line. This red chord represents their living blood, me. This black chord represents Saint Cyprian, Saint of the Dark." 

Knot them together at one end and with intense focus and praying from your heart starting to braid them. Once you are done, put three drops of Siete Machos perfume into the water and offer it to your ancestors. Take a pinch of Rosemary and Acacia and put on the charcoal with the resins and hold the chords over the smoke. Let the candle burn down. 

Repeat over the next nights until the ninth night. Each day offer a candle, incense,  fresh water, fresh wine and say the prayers as you make another knot in the chords and then hold it over the incense which you've added Rosemary and Acacia too. By the time you are done you should have nine knots in the chord. 

On the last day and with the last knot you should tie a sprig of Rosemary and Acacia into the chords. Hold this over the smoke, then anoint it with wine, water, and Saint Cyprian Oil and wrap it around the image of the saint. Then anoint your head with wine, water, and oil. Take a sip of the water (before you add the Siete Machos) and say, "The line is made whole once more, their blood flows through mine, their ancestral wisdom flows through me like water, we are whole once more." 

Leave the water by your bedside, light another candle and ask your ancestors to come to you and reveal the ways of your ancestry, the powers, the mysteries, and magics that is your birthright. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Syria, Prophecy, and the Downfall of Mages

Anyone who has been following the news knows that we currently are in another state of tense relations with a Middle Eastern nation. While the civil war in Syria has actually been going on for some time now and the relationship between Syria and the United States has been deteriorating for a while, in the past month or so things have escalated and quickly. A variety of intelligence sources have indicated the use of chemical weapons by Assad's elite forces against the Al Qaeda and US backed Syrian rebels. The use of chemical weapons against the rebels and his own people by Assad was a red line for the United States which promptly began planning and considering military retaliation as punitive action against the regime. The process has been stalled as the Obama administration has sought out the approval of Congress with supporters and detractors on both side engaged in debate.

While the United States has been deliberating, it has increased its visible military presence in the region and prepared its military for a strike. France has backed the United States. Opposing the United States has been Russia who has remained an ally of Syria, for its own political reasons. Backing any military action, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has gone from outright denouncing any military action, to appealing directly to the American people, to working through diplomatic means to forge an agreement between all parties. Tentatively an agreement has been reached in which Syria will hand over all of its chemical weapons to be destroyed and therefore avoid strikes from the United States.

To some this came with a sigh of relief, for while tensions are still there and the conflict is ongoing, at least some move has been made to avoid further military engagements in the Middle East after the United State's previous disastrous experience.

Now, while politics is all fascinating, the question is what does this have to do with magical and spiritual pursuits. First, as a member of the Order of Saint Cyprian, I firmly believe that magicians and their gifts are not only meant for personal development, but are best suited when properly guided, aligned, and focused to become a force of transformation in their communities and can steer destiny with a benevolent hand. Indeed, this is the goal of the Order of Saint Cyprian, to act as a spiritual force that guides and checks the mundane forces of politics and society.

But more interestingly, the conflict in Syria poses as an opportunity to examine an interesting phenomenon or series of related phenomenon within the occult and magical community which can only be labelled as apocalyptic and prophetic. Nearly every time there is some world-event, the occult and spiritual community explodes into prophetic and apocalyptic discussions. People prophesy all sorts of things, from the end of the world, to some great spiritual event. Some rely on more subtle and harder proven claims like "shifts in consciousness" and yet others make such outlandish claims that one must wonder whether any degree of critical thinking is present in the online occult and spiritual communities. In the current crisis, I have heard everything from the conflict being a secret magical war, to claims that the goddess was on her way to save Syria. These prophecies prove to be as accurate as the prophecies by certain millenial Christians who have made predictions about the Day of Judgement being on specific days. When these days come to pass, the prediction is simply revised and adjusted. Unfortunately, those in the occult and spiritual community suffer from the same sort of stubborn blindness; when their predictions and prophesies do not come true, they rely on comforting aphorisms like "you can be right and wrong at the same time" or claims that the prophecy came true, "but on a spiritual level."

And this highlights two of the greatest pitfalls of any magus, sorcerer, or witch: hubris and self-delusion. Wielding any sort of power is intoxicating. The very idea that from the comfort of your home you can effect events far away, or that your will can be made into reality is a powerful and heady brew. Any form of power, magical or not, has this effect on our minds, but for us who practice the arcane arts it is doubly so. The very nature of magic makes it a power that springs from the shadows of society and therefore there are no social power checks against it. The magician can become the ultimate thief, spy, assassin, or anything he wants. The truly skilled magician tends to look like your average person, he walks comfortably into his corner office, smiling politely to his colleagues, who have no clue that the very events of the office are shaped by the unassuming man next to them. It is therefore natural that magical power has an even more intoxicating effect on us. Unfortunately, this quickly leads to hubris. Power, in all its forms has limitations and there are checks and balances even if we do not recognize them.

A magician who thinks himself entitled to do whatever he wants because he has in the past wielded power, or a magician who loses sight of his own development, is a magician who has fallen to hubris. Unfortunately for such a magician, the fall from the top is usually long and hard. Such people will usually find that there are bigger fish in the sea and will realize that for all their power, there is always someone more powerful and always consequences for our actions.

But while the nature of power can lead to hubris, the subtle nature of magic can lead to self-delusion. Some of the magical arts border on the subjective, especially divination, and if not checked by a critical and sharp objective eye, will lead to delusions of the worst kind. It is easy to think that because you once did a candle spell and that girl or guy you liked fell in love with you that you are a magician, all subsequent failures however are easily explained by your coping defense mechanisms that keep your precious ego intact. This is the most slippery of slopes because, unfortunately many do not realize how easily it is delude the self. For such people it is easy to jump from having a few magical successes to thinking that you now can shape the course of nations, or that because you are good at reading cards for people that now you can prophesy the fate of nations.

What makes self-delusion so insidious is that even if hubris can be broken by a good fall and hit to the ego, self-delusion is a wormy defensive mechanism that tries to explain away any truth that contradicts the illusions and delusions that are clung to. So if presented with the truth that no, the goddess is not saving Syria or no the events of Syria do not mark the end of the world, such people will find a way to explain away the evidence to the contrary.

These two pitfalls go hand-in-hand. The only way to prepare for them is honesty with one's self. Admit your shortcomings, measure your power and abilities as objectively as possible, and know where your strengths lie. It isn't always about looking at the shortcomings, but also acknowledge what you are good at. Some people are brilliant readers when it comes to reading for a person, but that same ability may not translate to the seership required to see global events. Some people are great at both. Some are extremely talented magicians when it comes to themselves, and others known how to pluck the strings of power that they do shape the course of nations, and some can do both. By admitting where you truly stand, by taking true measure of your ability, and recognizing the true extent of your power and understanding, you walk out of a fog that keeps you wandering aimlessly and instead will find yourself on a path to achieving the very power you conceive of without need for hubris or self-delusion.

For truly, a magician who has an understanding of his own mind and powers is a force to be reckoned with. It is at that moment he goes from being a mageling to a true magus who strides the halls of power shaping the destiny of man.

This is something applicable to all of us in the magical community. I, myself, do readings for clients but as a member of the Order of Saint Cyprian make prophesies about political and world events, but always with meticulous record and always checked critically by what comes to pass to see whether they came true or not. The same with magic done on a global scale, it is always meticulously recorded and observed critically to gauge success or failure. By understanding what we did wrong and right, we improve. I can honestly say that I can attribute my success as a magician and seer to one part talent, one part practice, and one part meticulous record-keeping with a critical and objective analysis of records.

All that said, what can we expect from the Middle East? There are many predictions I've made about the Middle East and Syria, some of which are only for my students and friends, but there are a few I can give publicly. I see the toppling of various leaders in power and the time of Assad is limited. It shall come about through proxy wars and shadowy dealings disguised as popular movements. Look to see outward revolutions, but know that behind them stand puppet-masters. These revolutions will lead to executions and death. There shall be a radicalization of the Muslim Brotherhood; they shall become disillusioned with democracy and go underground. There shall emerge a radical and militarized branch in Egypt strongly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Economic and trade embargoes and sanctions will be the tool of the trade for the international community. Aid will be cut to several nations, governments, and sanctions placed, however behind the scenes will be armament. Old alliances will crumble as brother turns on brother and the older guard of dictators will fall before youthful revolution. The clash for the soul of the Middle East will explode into outright civil wars and revolutions between the radicalized and fundamentalist sects with more progressive and youthful movements. This is different from the revolutions that have taken place in the Arab Spring, for it shall be a revolution against fundamentalism. Relations with Iran will improve for a time, but will deteriorate as Hezbollah's actions in Lebanon move from the shadows to open strikes. Fundamentalist groups will become more radical and will spread through cells as the war shifts into Africa until the Middle East and Africa are drawn into larger proxy wars. We can expect 2 major interventions in the Middle East in the next 10 years at least. Eye's should be turned to North Africa as it is drawn into the larger Middle Eastern conflicts. Pakistan will struggle between its democratic, dictatorial, and religious sects until it too enters into a period of civil war, and Turkey will emerge as a military leader.

The rest of the prophecies I keep for those with ears to hear and eyes to see.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review- Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary

Of all the African-derived cults and sorceries, Obeah is one of the least-known and least-understood. Often confused as a chaos magic of the Caribbean, or confused with the religion of Vodou, it is a shadowy practice that while is not entirely understood is respected for its great power. After shedding light on the similarly misunderstood cults of Palo and Quimbanda, Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold has brought his balance of impeccable scholarship and astute spiritual insight to illuminate Obeah. This thought-provoking and powerful monograph aptly titled, Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary, reveals an inside perspective into this powerful spiritual art.

Like all his other books, Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold speaks from the perspective of anthropological scholarship as well as that of a practitioner. This unique blend of scholarly standard combined with an inside perspective makes his writings unique as they become accessible and useful to both practitioners and academics alike. Through his writings, he has tackled the difficult task of shining a light on practices that are either unheard of or barely understood in the English-speaking world. Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary, is no exception. While acknowledging that the shadowy and highly pragmatic nature of Obeah combined with its variation from island to island makes defining Obeah difficult, the book manages to illuminate by tracing the root practice, detailing the major spirits and deities, and highlighting several practices of Obeah. In this way, glimpses of this practice are shown.

One of the things that I admire about Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is his respect of tradition. He is not an author who enters into a cult and acts in a appropriative or disrespectful manner. He honors his lineage and teachers by writing down the cult as he has learned it while recording practices as they practiced today. In Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary he emphasizes that this practice is initiatory and tied directly to a hereditary lineage. Yet, because of the unique nature of this sorcerous way, there is something familiar to the reader, especially those who practice Hoodoo, Palo, or Quimbanda. To the root doctor, the imminently pragmatic nature of Obeah along with the drawing of power from the green world is something that is all too familiar. And the dynamic fire at the center of Obeah along with its ability to work with powerful spirits of nature and night strike a chord with a Palero and Quimbandiero alike. As a conjure doctor and Tata Quimbanda, there was much that resonated with me.

After discussing the historical roots, cosmology, and major spirits and deities of Obeah, the book focuses in on what Obeah actually is--a spiritual potency and power that is used to fuel healing and malefica through the powers and world of Sasabonsam, Papa Bones, and Anima Sola. In these parts, the prophet and poet in Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold steps forth as he manages to capture something that is nearly beyond words and it becomes evident to the reader that not only is he an author, but he writes under direct guidance and inspiration from the spirits themselves. In this way, his writing goes from being books about magic to books of magic. You can almost feel the fire emanating from the words on the pages and the crackle of power with each turn of the page.

The book concludes with several practices that reveal the unique and pragmatic nature of Obeah that combines the fiery power passed down to the Obeahman with the ability to call upon spiritual agencies to carry out works of sorcerous might. The manifestation is a special blend of magic that draws upon African, Christian, and Grimoiric sorceries. The Kabalistic Banquette of the Lemegeton demonstrates this amazingly well as the spirits of the grimoires are drawn down in a European-style banquet combined with African perspective on possession. Truly a marvelous illustration of Obeah's practices. Of particular interest to me was the oracular dice used in Obeah, which I found fascinating.

Not only is Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary the first book of its kind, but it does what few other authors can, combine an astute scholarly approach with that of an actual practitioner. This approach cannot be praised enough for too long books on magic and the occult were one-sided in their approach and left much to be desired. The result of this blend is that this book becomes deeply illuminating, but also has the effect of stirring the readers own embers as the potency of Obeah comes alive through the masterful hand of Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold.

Whether you are a practitioner of the African-derived arts or simply curious, this book has something for you. Do yourself a service and purchase it from Hadean Press now. Approach this tradition with respect and honor the heeding within the book and you'll find something powerful opening up by reading.