So many dead people

I’ve been feeling extra lazy and lethargic as of late.  I think it’s my body finally saying “Fuck you, kiddo, Imma catch up on the sleep you’ve been denying me for a year”.  I think my body’s being a wuss, but I’ll play its little game.  For now.  In the meantime, less candy and takeout meals, more water and simple foods.  Gotta be strict somehow.

Well, I finally got off my ass last night and made a trip to the local graveyard.  As most of you may have noticed, Halloween was recently, as was All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.  The veil between the worlds is a little thinned right now (astrologically exact on 11/7, when the Sun is at 15° Scorpio), so I thought it appropriate to do what I’ve never done before and make an offering to the dead.  Despite my learnings and inclinations as to such, I’ve never actually done much work for or with the spirits of the dead, and left that to my naturally necromantic mother and other spirit workers.  I figured it was time to change that.

So I dressed all in black (both for the circumstance and because I didn’t want people to see someone walking into the town cemetery at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday), put a pomegranate, some beer and cookies, and a candle into my bag, and headed out for a pleasant evening walk.  I took my black-handled dagger just in case, but since it hasn’t been consecrated yet, it was more for self-confidence than anything else.  On the way, I asked my elemental familiars for some help (making sure nobody noticed me, opening my ears to hear and eyes to see the dead, that sorta thing), but also for some reassurance and comfort.  I’ve never actually been to this graveyard (or many others, for that matter), though I’ve driven by it a number of times since moving here.  Add to it, it’s nighttime, and there are no lights in the graveyard, and it’s All Souls’.  All told, I was plenty spooked when I got there, and being there didn’t do much to alleviate the fear upon me.

It felt…I dunno.  I’m still getting used to “feeling” places and sensing shit, and this place definitely felt unusual to me.  I suppose I don’t often hang out in places filled with the departed, but hey, new experiences!  In my mind’s eye I could sorta see these guys lining the areas, and a good number were curious about me.  It was mostly benign curiosity, though still kinda stark.  The graveyard had this circular mound with an obelisk in the center, which I circumambulated a few times out of respect for the dead of the place.  I then walked around the graveyard on the roads provided, taking in the sights in what little light the half-moon gave off, and just feeling around the place respectfully.

When I got back to the mound, I got out my offerings and placed them on the curb of the mound.  I lit the candle, and instantly the trees rustled from a noticeable wind (which, when the rest of the night was calm and windless, I was like “oh god oh god wtf”, but since I didn’t feel anything negative from it, I continued with my offering).  I offered one beer, the food, and the candle to the spirits, then shared the other beer with the spirits in a toast.  I made a small oration and dedication to the dead of the place, the dead I knew, the dead of my friends and family, and that sorta thing.  After I made the offerings, I noticed I could see my breath much clearer than before, which implies that the temperature dropped.  Yikes.

After I made my offerings, I got up and walked out.  I felt things around me sorta close in on me, not offensively, but…I dunno.  I “heard” a voice call out to wait, and so I turned around (making a point to not look back at the center mound, Orphically) and kinda saw the presence of a child walk up to me and, I guess, hug me.  I smiled and wished it well, and it thanked me and walked off.  I then promptly GTFO of the place before my welcome was up, since I still felt closed-in by things around me in an otherwise open space.  The walk home was uneventful and I sprinkled some water on myself later to wash off anything that might’ve clung to me, but otherwise the rest of the night went pleasingly and restfully.

Not gonna lie, I dunno if what I did was reckless or enthusiastically honoring the dead, but it was intense either way.  It was my first time, too, working with spirits of the dead as opposed to the elements or of a particular place.  They didn’t quite appear to be the listless shades of Hades, but they weren’t the most active conversationalists, either.  I’ve heard real ghost stories of some of my friends who’ve gone to real messed-up places before where the spirits there were all like “NOPE” and did what they could to get them off their turf, but this wasn’t like that either.  I suppose I might want to tread carefully whenever I work with the dead since I’ll likely not know what I’ll be brushing up against, but investigating how to work with them in the future is definitely going to be a line of research for me.

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About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

8 Responses to So many dead people

  1. Ocean Delano says:

    Nice post!

    I really get you about the cemetery feeling very strange and eerie. The only work I’ve done in a graveyard so far was to collect graveyard dirt, and even then it felt like I shouldn’t be there. But then in my interactions with the dead both in that instance and when I set up my ancestral shrine this Halloween…I got a different impression of them.

    When collecting the aforementioned graveyard dirt, although I only sensed one presence willing to help me, it was rather generous and amiable. And after setting up my ancestral shrine, I came away feeling good in the same way I often do after visiting with family.

    So far my working impressions of the dead put them in a less sinister light than normal. So far they just seem like people to me, with the whole spectrum that implies. In fact, I liken them somewhat to people stuck outside on a crisp evening during a light snow. They’d be grateful to anyone who noticed them enough to give them warm food/drink and some light. But nobody ever pays any attention to them (much less visits), so in those uncommon times when someone does, maybe they tend to perk up?

    To me all aspects of your working seem solid and respectful of the dead, so I’m not surprised at the presences surrounding you. That and the view of them I mentioned, I’m not surprised the spirit of that little kid came up and hugged you. ;)

    • polyphanes says:

      As for presences of the spirits and their amity or enmity towards visitors, I think it might be cemetery-dependent. I know one friend who went to a haunted graveyard on top of a hill at Harper’s Ferry at night; this one friend of mine is pretty clairvoyant when it comes to this stuff and definitely got the impression that the dead there were less-than-friendly in that “we’ll tolerate you here, but don’t you dare try anything”. Of course, their time out that night was ruined when their skeptic friend decided to take a piss on one of the gravestones. Said skeptic is no longer a skeptic, after developing weird scratches over his body and being pushed onto the ground from nothing in particular.

      Needless to say, respect for the dead ain’t no joke. I felt a few angry or spiteful presences in the crowd around me, but they were restrained either by others or their own curiosity. I didn’t feel much by the end of the offering, but I didn’t want to press my luck. Hopefully I can build some kind of rapport with my local dead and have them on my side; graveyard dirt would be an excellent addition to my supply rack, but I’m not just gonna take it from them, either. I like your metaphor about them being stuck outside in the cold; I can’t imagine being dead to be exceptionally pleasant, but the company might be excellent (depending on whom you’re hanging out with/buried near).

      • Ocean Delano says:

        I was just looking back over this post and wanted to add something.

        The method I used to obtain graveyard dirt was pretty simple and leaned more toward traditional to Hoodoo. I went there with some whiskey and a few pennies. Basically, I gave an offering, leaving the physical component in place of the dirt I took.

        However, I modified it. Before I gave an offering I vocally called out asking if there was anyone there willing to help me fuck someone up (I literally said it like that). Different purposes for obtaining graveyard dirt might require different wording, of course! ;) I stood there for a minute and a grave nearby caught my attention and I went over to it. In addition to the whiskey and pennies, I emanated a cloud of energy and willed it and the spiritual part of the whiskey and pennies to pervade all space and take on the things most desired by the recipient. So I dug about 2 tablespoons of dirt from under the grass, left the physical offering in its place, and left without looking back..

        • polyphanes says:

          I love how being blunt is always a good choice. It makes me wonder how many defixiones, curse tablets, or other chthonic offerings were written in slang or other blunt language, only translated more decently by classicists and archaeologists since their discovery.

    • “So far they just seem like people to me, with the whole spectrum that implies.”

      And when you walk into a strange neighborhood passing out goodies, people are going to take it differently depending on their temperament. Some are always going to be gracious and friendly… grandpa “get off my lawn” probably isn’t going to be any friendlier in death than he was in life. Those who are going to warm up to you, though, will with repeated visits; just as in life, it takes a while to build proper friendships :)

  2. Shannon Rae says:

    Fascinating! And I’d love to know what you meant by, ”so I turned around (making a point to not look back at the center mound, Orphically)”?

    • polyphanes says:

      Orpheus is from a Greek myth, a fantastic singer blessed by the Muses with a beautiful voice. Eventually, his wife Eurydice died, and he mourned endlessly, and resolved to travel to the underworld to retrieve her. He was able to get past Charon, Cerebus, and all the other wards and guards of the place, and eventually reached Hades and Persephone themselves. He tried to plead with them to have his wife back, but failed; he ended up singing, and so moved Persephone to tears that she herself demanded of Hades that he give Orpheus his wife. Hades did so, on the condition that Orpheus walk in front of her and not look back at Eurydice until they were both out of the underworld completely, else she would be lost forever. So, Orpheus led his wife without looking back, and as he exited the underworld himself, he in excitement checked to make sure his wife was still following him, forgetting that they both needed to be out of the underworld. All he saw was her falling away, saying “Farewell!”

      Basically, I didn’t want to check back on anything to ruin the offering or show the spirits any anxiety or anything. It’s like when you leave something as an offering or as part of a spell: you leave it and don’t look back. It’s similar to working a sigil where you try to repress or forget its intent in order to let it work.

  3. Michael Strojan says:

    Great read! Thank you for sharing. Graveyard work has become an important part of my personal praxis and it’s nice to hear about other practitioners starting to “resurrect” the practice. I make it a point to visit at least every New Moon cycle to build rapport with some of the local “celebrity” deceased in my city whom I tend to view in the classical sense as local heroes – in particular those who were pioneers or early city states people. Also, beer is a great choice ;) I would love to start brewing my own necromantic ale at some point.

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