Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Bit About Offerings

Recently I was speaking with a friend of mine, and she had something she wanted to ask me regarding magic. She's a Heathen and has a special relationship with Vali. She was concerned about her spiritual practice, felt stuck, frustrated, and even came close to dismantling her shrines!

So I gave her some advice I give to anyone wanting to deepen their spiritual lives: Daily practice!

Specifically, I outlined some central daily practices I do, including:
  1. Connecting to the spiritual cosmos around me.
  2. Giving offerings.
  3. Meditation.

Today, I want to talk about #2: Offerings. Previously I've stated that offerings are one of the cornerstones of my magical practice, and that still holds true. It's honestly one of the most beneficial practices that I think any magical practitioner can do.

Before I began the practice of offerings as taught by Jason Miller, I didn't get the point or even see why it was needed. If deities are already all-powerful, why do you need to give offering to them? But through Jason's teachings in Strategic Sorcery, I discovered a little secret about it: It's not always about the offering itself, it's about the relationships you develop!

See, there are all kinds of things you can give offering to. Anywhere from the whole of existence, to those gross, awful spirits that sneak around like villains in an old monochrome movie looking for someone to fuck over. The effect offerings have on each of these is different depending on what they are. As I learned it from Jason, I consider there to be four “Classes” of spirits in regard to giving offerings:
  1. The Transcendent Divine - The Pleroma (Fullness Of Existence); Transcendent deities; ascended beings (like Buddha, Jesus, and others); etc: This category doesn't benefit from offerings, per se, but it's kind of like a child giving a horrible-looking drawing to their parent. The parent still pins it up on the refrigerator and goes on about how great it is. Again, it's about the relationship!
  2. Personal Gods & Famuli - Deities one works directly with; One's ancestors; spiritual familiars of the witch or sorcerer; guardians of the spiritual path one is on. This class doesn't require offerings, per se, but they get something from it.
  3. All Regular Spirits - The Average Joes; elementals, nature spirits, the Fey, land spirits/wights, the wandering shades of the dead and those trapped in the in-between spaces: This class gets a lot of benefit from offerings and can become fast allies through this practice.
  4. Dire & Wrathful Spirits - These are the boogeymen waiting in the shadows of the spirit world, waiting to inflict harm and curses on anyone unlucky enough to cross them, but it also includes spirits you've offended or hurt just by living your life the way you do. In this case, offerings help make reparation for offenses, like the proverbial olive branch, and also calm the wrathful nature of these beings toward you.

As you can see, many spirits gain benefit from giving offerings, but there is also the relationship you develop from it. Think of it: If you were constantly prolific in contributing to your community and worked to improve it...wouldn't you be remembered across that community with fondness?

The only caution Jason advises in Strategic Sorcery about these classes is that if you are going to give an offering to #4, also call classes #1 and #2 first.

But, some may do you give an offering? Just set some stuff out and verbally say it's theirs? Sure, you could do that, but that doesn't necessarily make the most of it, in my opinion. So here is what I do, based on what I learned in Jason Miller's Strategic Sorcery course.

The Gesture Of Offering

It's really simple: You hold both hands next to each other in front of you, palms up and more or less flat. If confused, imagine that you are using your hands to hold a large plate in front of you.

Ocean Delano's General Offering

This is given as an example, and is based on liturgy in Strategic Sorcery. This is what I use when giving my routine offerings.

Rub your hands together for a moment to sensitize them and pull energy into them. Now imagine rays of light with hooks on the ends shining out from your heart. Imagine that they draw the denizens of the spirit world to you as you speak the following call:

Whisper, “Arise.”
Speak, in normal tone, “Arise.”
Call out, “Arise!”
“Arise, you spirits both near and far!
Spirits of the Empyrean Heights and the Infernal Depths;
Of the silent, still earth and of the vast, flowing waters;
Of the whirling, blowing air and of the hot, burning fire;
Guardians of the work and you famuli bound to me;
You Fey who dwell unseen;
You dead who haunt the In-Between;
Those spirits whom I have offended,
And those wrathful beings waiting to harm and obstruct;
Especially those spirits of this very place in which I dwell!”

Make the Gesture of Offering. As you do so, release a cloud of energy, willing it to multiply infinitely and transform into what is most wanted by its recipients, as you speak it below:

“I praise your names and I give forth offerings!
May they multiply and fill the ten directions!
May they take on the forms that fulfill your hearts' desires!
Come, partake of this offering and let us be at peace.
Come, take your fill, and be thus fulfilled.

And that's it! Trust me, this does work, and it is appreciated by the ones receiving it. This is a general offering that covers a broad range of beings. It can easily be adapted to even individual spirits, following this general method:

  1. Sensitize your hands by rubbing them together.
  2. Call out to the spirit you wish to offer to.
  3. Through the Gesture of Offering, emanate a cloud of energy, will it to multiply infinitely, and to take on the form of that which the recipient wants most.

Using This With Physical Offerings

But what if you want to offer something physical, like incense or wine? No problem!

In the above example, we willed the emanated energy to multiply and transform. You can also do that to the spiritual aspect of physical offerings. You can even use the four elements plus spirit to purify and prepare the offerings. What I will usually do is hold my hand over the physical offerings, and then with my imagination...

...see the offering engulfed in fire...
...see air blowing out the fire and blowing away the ashes...
...see water washing the offering clean...
...see the offering multiplying and filling all known space...
...see the multiplied offering becoming mutable, reflecting what is most wanted by the guests I will call.

I normally have some liturgy I use with that, but it's really simple and mostly consists of verbally affirming what I visualize.

So how do you put this into practice? What I normally do after purifying and preparing the physical offering, is simply set it in front of me. If it's a candle or incense, I'll light it. Then, I'll perform the call and the gesture. Alternatively, I sometimes hold the physical offering in my hands during the gesture, and then set it down.

Before I move on, I'd like to address why someone would even want to use a physical offering. Some spirits actually derive pleasure from physical offerings. There are spirits known to “eat” scent, for example. Also, it seems to me that including a physical offering gives more substance to the overall offering, and so it's a good idea.

In short, offerings of energy and mind are fine in a pinch, while physical supports can carry even more weight in many cases.

What To Offer

So, knowing the “why” and “how” about the “what”? There are tons of different things you can offer to spirits. Some prefer some things, others prefer other things. Here are some common ones:
  • Incense
  • Wine or other alcohol
  • Food
  • Flowers
  • Symbolic objects

This can be an important point to consider, because some spirits and deities could be offended by some types of offerings. In Strategic Sorcery, if I remember correctly, Jason gives an example that one would not want to offer meat to nagas. Likewise, with spirits of the dead, cool water and light is a good offering, but unless you want them to get rowdy and wrathful (and there are applications for that kind of thing) alcohol might not be the best idea. Especially if you're offering to spirits of the deceased who were alcoholics in life.

Ocean Delano's Short Guide To Choosing Appropriate Offerings

Ask the spirit or deity, themselves! They'd be the best information source for what they like. :-) But if you don't have that opportunity, here is what I advise:

  • Try to choose something that is appropriate to what you know of their nature, but don't give something they are known to produce. That would be like someone handing you a cup of your own urine. For example, offering honey from local bees to the spirit of the land they live on? Nah, maybe give something else.
  • On that note: Research! There are plenty of online resources with tons of good info on what different deities like or don't like. For instance, with Hekate, it's easy to find that she likes eggs, honey, bread, cheese, etc. For Dionysos, wine! (because D'UH!)
  • In my experience, some types of physical offerings are appropriate to a large range of spirits and deities: Frankincense & myrrh combined; water; wine; bread; light (eg candles). Also, Brother Moloch swears by a candle dressed with spearmint oil as a generally good offering no matter the spirit or deity. Personally, I often give some of my favorite nag champa incense as offering, tying it to the symbolism of giving something I personally cherish and value. That symbolism comes across and can be appreciated by spirits and deities, but you should still consider their preferences as well.

In Closing

That's about all I have to say about offerings. They can be as complex or simple as needed, whether it is silently given or a big, elaborate ritual; it can include physical offerings or just energy and will.

Almost all of what I've written is what I learned from Jason Miller's course “Strategic Sorcery”, and there is a lot more there than I have included here. So if you're interested in learning more, consider signing up. It's some of the best money I've ever spent. I also want to give a big thanks to the man himself! Since this post contains things that are in the course, thus restricted normally, I'm very grateful he gave me the go-ahead to post this content. Thank you, sir.

And for final mention, I especially wrote this for my Heathen friend whom I mentioned at the start of this post. So, Anne, I hope that if you do use some of this information: may it multiply and fill your life with blessings of what you most need. :-)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tips For Young Occultists, part II

In my last post, I addressed a recent controversy that, as usual online, brought out the absolute worst in the people involved in the conversations.

Mr. Farrell's post addressed a lot of the attitudinal and interpersonal aspects of being a young occultist. But at the end of his own post, Mr. Hillier at BLOGOS made a more practical list that addresses the “how” of starting out. I have my own, similar list that I unapologetically janked from Mr. Hillier's a few times.


#1 - Meditate. Seriously, everyday, at least 10-20 minutes, meditate. You're welcome.
#2 - Develop your relationship with the spiritual world around you through the giving of offerings and, if you feel called to do so, through devotional practices.
#3 - Keep a diary. Magical practices, dreams, divinations, daily life stuff...all of these, if you can. You will be able to look back and see your progress, and it is valuable!
#4 - Establish a daily practice. Just as physical muscles need regular use to stay strong, so do your magical ones. My own daily practice consists of meditation, invocation of my higher being, general offering, and some basic energy work.
#5 - Don't neglect your body. All the spiritual power and occult expertise in the world won't help you if you end up, at 65, bed-ridden and unable to walk due to obesity, diabetes, and coronary artery disease that could have been prevented to some extent by practicing healthful living.
#6 - Study source texts first, and THEN commentaries and works based off the source.
#7 - Stay grounded in the world. Study old texts, conjure old spirits, but pay attention to the warnings in the old grimoires when doing so. Also, keep relationships with your non-magical friends strong. Go out, see concerts, see movies, have good food and good laughs.
#8 - Engage with the spiritual worlds. Explore them with astral projection, skrying, etc and see how this benefits your daily life.
#9 - Connect with other people respectfully, regardless of their age, seniority, or fame.
#10 - Remember that you are still a student, even if you also end up becoming a teacher.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tips For Young Occultists, part I

Controversy broke out recently in the magical blog-o-sphere, leading to a lot of vitriol and a resurgence on the topic of spiritual abuse within paganism and occultism. It started when Nick Farrell made a post containing 10 tips for young occultists.

In response, Michael Seblux made a counter post arguing that the tips Mr. Farrell posted can easily foster a culture of abuse, which frankly has been seen too much in the occult and pagan communities. Additionally, fellow Gentleman for Jupiter Logan Hillier at BLOGOS posted his own rebuttal.

Aside from that, the controversy has mostly happened on Facebook, including one Mitzy Gaynor showering Mr. Seblux with threats and vitriol on Nick's behalf. Upon notifying Mr. Farrell of this, he shrugged it off and justified her actions, which to me is wrong, but I'm generally “unimportant” enough to not merit the...loving attention of such people.

Honestly, the whole thing is, in my opinion, a cock-up, to use an English turn of phrase. While on one hand, Mr. Farrell has some good points about modern students of the occult (and, indeed, many students in general), on the other hand the danger of fostering abuse culture is very, very real. It is not something I have often encountered, as I have always kept to the fringe and maintained my distance from Pagan and occult groups. But with that said, I have indeed personally felt the sting of it. But the conversation broke down, as it normally does in online occulture, into name-calling (as per Mitzy especially) and a plethora of rudeness and attacks.

So all of this got me thinking about advice to younger or new occultists. I see things of value in Mr. Farrell's tips, as well as Mr. Hillier's and others who were in the conversation. With all of that in mind, I decided to draft my own tips for young/new occultists in response to Mr. Farrell's.


#1 - Understand that you already have some knowledge and experience, but that there is more to learn, and that you will probably always be learning more. The world of the occult and the magical is vast and has a deep well of history behind it. I would wager that one cannot learn ALL of it in one lifetime. Read avidly, study the material, both old and new. Hell, study things that technically fall outside of occultism because it will only add to your depth of knowledge and help you make new connections to things you never thought you would.

#2 - Process what you learn and be willing to talk about it in open, respectful dialog. Mr. Farrell phrased this as “Stop Talking”, which I disagree with. Yes, know when to stop talking and let those more experienced and knowledgeable take the floor, but also engage with them. Have a discussion with them if you can, and LEARN from them.

#3 - Listen and take in what is being said by others with more knowledge and experience than you. I actually like Mr. Farrell's point here and his reasoning. Take in what you are hearing, even if you don't understand it yet. Because “yet” is the operative word here. You WILL comprehend it eventually, trust that.

#4 - Engage with your teachers. Mr. Farrell cautioned to “not use questions to assert your own ignorance”, and I agree with that, but it should go beyond that. Lately, I have been getting more and more into respectful dialog, and that is what you should practice with your teachers. And a good, worthwhile teacher will welcome that. Ask them questions about their teachings, bring up points and conclusions this leads you to, accept insightful feedback from them. Through this, both you and your teachers gain more in-depth knowledge.

#5 - You are one of many; take advantage of that with humility to help you learn! In his post, Mr. Farrell phrased this as “Realize that you are unimportant”, which myself and others had a massive problem with. Yes, your role in an organization or under a specific teacher may be small initially, but that can be a good thing. This is where you learn and grow. Network with your peers, form student-led study groups (as per Mr. Hillier), and embrace being part of a larger whole. If you ever get called to teach, it will happen probably whether you like it or not. But until you have the knowledge and experience for that, do your work in this setting and see where it leads you.

#6 - Your teacher, no matter how enlightened or ascended, is still human. Your spiritual teacher is a human being with their own struggles, problems, and failings. Some students forget this, or they shrug it off claiming a higher standard. Some of them are crotchety as hell, some act like out-and-out cunts as Mr. Farrell said. There have been times I've taken issue or disagreement with things my own teachers have said or done. I recognize that they are people too, though. With that said, if their behavior is abusive, that must not be tolerated.

#7 - Your teacher will take notice of both what you say and what you do. They generally have an idea of which of their students are doing the work they teach, and doing it well. It comes through in your approach to things and how you express yourself. A lot of people today tend to place more emphasis on actions than words...and rightly so to a degree...but I think it needs to be balanced between the two.

#8 - Be mindful of what you project onto the teacher. Again, they're human, just like you. There are cases where a student projects a kind of parental figure onto the teacher, and they should avoid doing this. It's not fair to the student or the teacher because it takes away from simply being who they are and places things on that relationship that should not be there. If there is a problem you have with your teacher, check to see if it's something that you do as well, or if you have an expectation of them based on something missing in your own life. This can give insight to help you grow.

#9 - Don't hesitate to help out where you can. My teacher, Jason Miller, has somehow formed a really cool group in Strategic Sorcery. All the time, I see other students contribute things that are absolutely great! On Jason's recent Arcane Audio talks, another student took the recorded audio and polished it up for Jason to send out after the call. When a mishap occurred with the latest talk, resulting in the call not being recorded, another student had Jason covered all participants still got the polished-up version. Assisting the course and teachings like this can help boost one's experience and in turn helps everyone, including you.

#10 - If you have concerns, raise them with the teacher one-on-one as a first resort. Mr. Farrell expressed this as “never challenge the leader” and has been a major sticking point of his post. In my opinion, as Mr. Farrell expressed it, this was one of the absolute worst points in his post. For further explanation here is the subtext of his point:

“If a group is bad, having you mouth off about it is not going to help.  If you are unable to quietly take your concerns to the leader then you have to leave.  Even if you take your concerns to the leader, be aware that you might be announcing your own exit. The problem is that when you are young you are going to get hurt and diced by magical group politics by people who are a hell of a lot more clued up than you.  Remember that in games like that, you are just there to make up the numbers or be cannon fodder of more mature and politically clever people – it always ends badly.”

First, if you cannot take your complaint to the leader without getting ripped apart, then that is a group or teacher you should not be involved with. Run, run as fast as you can and divorce yourself from that abusive group. Second, those “people who are a hell of a lot more clued up than you” are scum and you should do the same thing: Cut them out of your life. I find disgust in Mr. Farrell's assertions, and if nothing else, his point #10 is one of the strongest cases Mr. Seblux used in the accusations of fostering spiritual abuse. What Mr. Farrell described in point #10 is a cesspool of terrible people who any sane student should NEVER involve themselves with. That is simply needless politics for its own sake, and as Mr. Farrell said, it never ends well.

That said, if it's not all THAT bad, take your concerns to the teacher first. If they are not willing to listen to you, then it is time to consider whether or not this teacher is one you should be studying under.


Overall, he has some good points, and it must be kept in mind where he is coming from about it. In modern day, all fields are seeing an influx of students who are impatient, lazy, and who want a magic wand waved to suddenly make them “get there” without doing the subsequent work.

But where I have a problem with Farrell's post is in placing most of the responsibility for dealing with abusive teachers or organizations on the student. That, along with the message his post puts forth of "You're a puny little nothing and you don't matter", is really what I think raised the red flag for folks like Seblux and Hillier.

In all of this, I can distill one really crucial message: The teacher is there to effectively teach, and the student is there to do his or her work and make the effort to learn. There is responsibility on both ends that should not be ignored by either.