On Light in the Darkness of the Home

Winter is rough.  Sure, some people like it, but even for those who do, it’s not the easiest season to survive.  Full of short days and long nights and temperatures lower than high school students’ ages, it gets pretty bleak at the best of times, and downright deadly when it gets really bad.  I know of several people whose houses don’t have heat due to shoddy contractor work or slummy sleazy landlords, not to mention other friends who’ve gotten into accidents from driving on icy roads.  Historically, winter is the whole point of having a giant harvest season, because if you didn’t put in the work earlier in the year, you were setting yourself up for starvation and death.  Hell, even in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the phrase “winter is coming” is famous and ominous at the same time, and for good reason.  All told, winter isn’t exactly the gentlest of times.

This isn’t just a mere weather-based inconvenience thing, either.  In the winter, the Sun is so weak so as to be close to death or is only freshly reborn, far from being king over all during his summer solstice height.  Plants in general die or go into stasis and animals hibernate, depriving the world of motion and activity to keep things flowing properly.  The cold itself saps life away, and buries everything in a locked-down sense of malaise.  Even sound loses its echo after a snowfall, leaving words themselves drained of any power you put into them.  The long nights induce depression in those who are seasonally affected, and can even bring down the brightest of moods in those normally manic.  The unseelie court wields power, for those who’re into faerie lore; the strict Holly King rules.  We’re having to build ourselves up from scratch while living on so little.

It’s during this season that having Light in the home is most important, moreso than any other time of the year.  I’m not just talking about the usual Solar work, either, but I mean real, actual fire that you burn.  Whether it’s a fire in the hearth or a simple candle by your bedside, I’d urge you to follow through.  Keep the Light going, and it’ll make your life easier.

When I do a thorough house cleansing, like if someone’s having issues in their home due to spiritual malignancy or moving into a new place, one of the first things I do is I set up Light throughout the house.  I take a large white candle, either a pillar candle or a novena candle, and a number of white tealights, as many as there are rooms in the house.  After gathering them all together in the center of the home (central hearth, stove of the kitchen, whatever), with the large candle in the middle and the tealights around it, I inscribe or write on the symbols from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12):

Characters for Consecrating Candles from the Key of Solomon

After this, I anoint each candle with holy oil, starting first with the large candle and going clockwise with all the other tealights.  I then light the large candle, and use my normal candle benediction, a slight variation on that of the Trithemius conjuration:

I conjure thee, oh thou creature of fire! by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that forthwith thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that it may burn for your honor and glory; so neither the enemy, nor any false imagination, may enter into them; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

From this central candle, I light each of the other candles in turn.  Once all the candles have been lit, I energetically link the primary candle to the smaller ones, so that the same blessing is set upon all of them at once.  Then, with all the tealights lit, I move them and set them in all of the rooms in the house, such that no matter where you are, you’re always within eyesight of one of these little flames.  This includes bathrooms, walk-in closets, sheds, and the like, so that literally every part of the property has light burning inside.  I leave the primary pillar candle at the center of the house, and return to it after moving all the tealights everywhere; there, I pray over it, and from it radiate Light and warmth and blessing throughout the entire place.  Whether it’s my own prayer of lightbringing or another prayer more focused on a particular problem at hand, by means of this central focus candle, I fill the entire house with the same prayer and the same oomph.  After this, I go through the house doing my thing, and leave all the candles to burn out on their own.  The remains are then collected together and disposed of respectfully.

This is a little ritual I developed on my own as part of a thorough house-cleansing and -blessing, as one of the first things I do.  Think about it: if a house is filled with gunk and filth, or if you have crusty crap stuck on your stove or sinks, you want to get rid of it.  However, some of the tougher gunk tends to be harder to remove, so what do you do?  You soak it in cleaning agent for a few minutes before actually scrubbing it off.  The candles set up above do a similar thing; the Light weakens any darkness and any filth that may have accumulated, so that when I go through and actually banish the place by suffumigations or prayer, the groundwork has already been established to weaken the filth and to further empower me as I go about my work.  In addition, the candles in each room act as a kind of warning-canary; if the flame of a particular candle gets weak, flickers a lot, or goes out on its own, then it’s a signal that there’s something especially rough in the vicinity of that particular candle.  If such a candle goes out, I relight it and pray over it specifically before re-linking it back to the focus candle in the home’s center; I focus on that room specifically before continuing on elsewhere, making sure it’s sufficiently emptied of gunk and filth before going on to another room.

That said, I’m also in the habit of just having a candle burning in the center of the house anyway all the time.  For me, it’s partially related to the small work I do with Hestia as overseer and mistress of the home, and the goddess of the hearth herself; with a fire burning under this goddess, it helps ensure my house and home and family that we always have fire to warm ourselves, power to strengthen ourselves, purity to cleanse ourselves, and protection to keep ourselves safe under her watch over the most sacred of all places, the οικος-domus-home.  In point of fact, for myself and my housemates, I’ve noticed our mental health levels decrease and malaise increase over time the longer we don’t have at least one fire going in the house; we tend to slack off, leave more messes behind us, and generally feel crappy.  This is essentially us starting to lose our own inner heat without an external heat to empower us; if we get too cool or go cold, we start on a slippery slope to nowhere good.  When spiritually-inclined friends come over, if we don’t have a candle burning, they tend to sleep rougher and with more active or disturbing dreams; sure, myself as houseowner may be used to it and shrug it off, but for people who’re used to their own levels of protection in their own environments of familiarity, it can be a jarring experience.

Keeping at least one fire burning, whether under the watchful eyes of Hestia or the Virgin Mary or God himself, in the home for the sake of the home is always something I’d recommend to everyone.  Heck, this would go for people traveling, too.  Whenever I’m in a new room I’m unaccustomed to sleeping in, especially hotels, I always bring a candle with me and keep it lit when I’m asleep.  Sure, the hotel may not exactly approve, but it’s something I prefer to do to bring some of that extra protection with me (in addition to the normal wards and protections I set up).  Some people insist on having a candle burning by their bedside no matter where they sleep; if I’m doing a particular working that demands light at all times, I’ll do this, too, but normally that’s just overkill for me when I keep my own stuff up and running.

Of course, never forget the usual warnings about keeping fires burning, especially unattended.  Make sure pets or children don’t reach them, make sure they’re stable enough to resist being knocked over, keep them enclosed, &c.  Don’t burn down your house for want of warmth, even if you do have a generous insurance plan.

Current Status

So, I haven’t made a post in a while.  I apologize, guys, even though I’m not usually one to do so; this is my blog, after all, and I post when and how I feel like it.

No, I haven’t abandoned you, or my Work, or my spirits.  However, I’ve got a lot going on in my life and certain threads are being weaved in unexpected directions; I had my own designs for the warp and weft of this year, but clearly it’s not turning out the way I expected it to.  It’ll still be beautiful and awesome, though, trust me.  However, in the meantime, my plate is rather full and I’m having to shift my efforts away from the usual and expected to other things.  I may be able to make a post here and there, but don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed.  Taking on crafting commissions for the foreseeable future is right out; regrettably, I’m unable to take on crafting commissions (including designing) from anyone at least through this summer.  I’m still available for divination readings and consultation sessions, either through Skype or through Etsy, although I’m declining to perform ritual work for others like I am for crafting.

Here’s hoping it’ll be a great 2016 for all of us, both according to our plans and those of the gods who look upon us!

Days of the Cyprians 2015

Holy Saint Cyprian of Antioch!  Mage, martyr and mystic; theurge, thaumaturge, and theophoros; saint, sorcerer, and sage!  Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen. + + + + + + + + +

Icon of Saint Cyprian of Antioch

Yes, it’s that time again!  Yesterday, September 16, was the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, one of the great writers of Western Christianity and patron saint of all those in northern Africa, who lived between c. 200 and 258 AD.  This means that, in only a few days, the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, the great saint of sorcerers, magicians, necromancers, and occultists, will be here, and today begins the nine-day period of the Days of the Cyprians.  I may not have spoken about him lately as much as I did last year, but don’t worry, Saint Cyprian of Antioch is still my patron saint and one of the closest and most powerful teachers I have in my magical studies.  From preservation against evil to fortification in the occult, Saint Cyprian of Antioch is one of the great magicians of our lineage, and the Days of the Cyprians is an awesome time to honor him.

Saint Cyprian of Antioch’s feast day is September 26.  The feast day of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, however, is September 16 (yesterday).  These two feast days are spaced nine days apart, and nine is a number sacred to Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  These nine days are called the Days of the Cyprians, starting today.  Some devotees and followers of Saint Cyprian of Antioch use these days for special devotions, charitable actions, and powerful works in honor of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, and I plan on doing the same starting tonight.  My household and I are doing novenas to Saint Cyprian of Antioch, seeing how we all work with occult powers in distinct ways that often focus on the dead and on our ancestors, as well as to ask for his blessings in the coming year.  Besides, we could probably use his help more and more as we continue to grow!  The closer I work with Saint Cyprian, the more things I can do are revealed to me, especially with me falling fairly solidly under his patronage.

I also want to use this period to do something special for Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  Many saints have their preferred offerings, this type of flower or that type of drink, but in general saints love acts of charity: giving to the poor, helping the disenfranchised, and generally doing good works for others.  With that in mind, I had an idea for a bit of a contribution of sorts, and I need your help with this.  Long story short, pitch in some cash to donate to people who are badly off, and you’ll get entered into a raffle for something in return.  I hope you consider pitching in, since this is a way we can all help out and earn the blessings of the good saint together.  I’m going to handle this a bit differently from how I did this last year, but the overall idea is the same:

  1. Donate money, no less than US$3.00, directly to the charity Doctors Without Borders.  I suggest $9 or amounts in multiples of 9 (27, 81, 90…), since this is a number sacred to Saint Cyprian of Antioch.
  2. After you have donated to the cause, send me an email to “polyphanes at gmail dot com” with the header “Saint Cyprian of Antioch, pray for us” and with proof of your donation such as an email or PDF receipt, remembering to remove any information you feel uncomfortable sending.  With this email, please send me any special petitions you would like to be made to Saint Cyprian of Antioch, and whether you wish to remain anonymous in the final fundraiser thank-you.
  3. Every person who donates money will have prayers made in their name and their petition presented to Saint Cyprian on their behalf when I make devotions to him that night.
  4. Every person who donates will be eligible for a prize (see below), with the winners chosen randomly at noon US Eastern time on Saturday, September 26.
  5. You can donate however many times you want or however much you want, each donation getting a different petition put to Saint Cyprian, but you’ll only be entered into the raffle once.
  6. These rules are valid starting with this post and ending at 9 p.m. US Eastern time on Friday, September 25.  Notifications of donations made after that point will not be considered for this contest.

Doctors Without Borders was founded in 1990 in New York City to raise funds, create awareness, recruit field staff, and advocate with the United Nations and US government on humanitarian concerns.  Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters.  Charitable humanitarian work, especially in war-torn or disaster-afflicted areas, can be hard to do, and these doctors are doing all they can to help make the lives of the least of us at least a little better, free as much as possible from injury and illness.  If anyone is doing the work of God and the gods and saints, it’s these good people, and I think they’re definitely worth donating to in the honor of Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  After all, a good portion of magic involves healing, and the world could use as much of it as possible right about now.  You need to know how to make curses in order to break them, and you need to know how poisons work in order to make medicine work.  Saint Cyprian knows this well, and this is a good effort to spread healing and medicine and wellness into the world in his name and honor.

On Saturday, September 26, the Feast of Saint Cyprian, I’ll announce the winners of the raffle, and will ask them for their addresses. If fewer than nine people donate, I’ll only be giving out free geomancy readings as prizes, but assuming at least nine people donate to the cause, the winners will receive a particular Cyprian-themed craft I’ll be consecrating under Saint Cyprian of Antioch for you to wear or use in your Work, both with the saint and in your magical activities generally.  The prizes are:

  • One of three seed bead necklaces
  • A bone, amethyst, obsidian, and evil eye bracelet
  • A bone, garnet, jet, and evil eye bracelet
  • A bone, wood, tiger’s eye, and evil eye bracelet
  • A niner chaplet made from amethyst and evil eye beads with black tourmaline pendulum
  • A niner chaplet made from bone and quartz beads with black tourmaline pendulum
  • A niner chaplet made from obsidian, amethyst, and bone beads with black tourmaline pendulum

I’ll send these out ASAP on Monday, September 28.  Given the results from last year, I doubt that I’ll just be giving out free geomancy readings, and I hope we can top the $1000 we donated together to the Malala Fund.  I’ll be pitching in, too!  If you can, please spread and share this post to your friends, colleagues, coven mates, lodge, and others so we can spread the power and influence of Saint Cyprian across the world with good works and prayers to make the world better, and to put ourselves in a better position of power in the world.

If you don’t want to enter into the fundraiser (or even if you plan to), please take these upcoming nine days to build up a relationship to Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  Pray his chaplet, recite his litany, donate to local charities in his name, pray his novena, or just light a candle for him.  At the risk of shamelessly plugging my own stuff, if you need resources for prayer or ritual, you could always check out my Etsy page and buy my translation of the Book of Saint Cyprian or my collection of prayers to the good saint, including four separate novena prayers.  There are lots you can do to honor this saint, all culminating with his feast day on Saturday, September 26, including giving free readings, charitable magical work, donating to food banks, and so much else to help support those who need it.  If you have nothing else to do, join me in reciting a personal prayer of mine nightly during the Days of the Cyprians to Saint Cyprian of Antioch:

Hail, holy Saint Cyprian of Antioch!  Theurge and thaumaturge, sorcerer and saint, mage and martyr and mystic, pray for us, now and at the hour of our deaths.  May we come to honor and help the least among us, those deprived of good and those oppressed by the depraved, and lift them up to aid and shelter them as we look after ourselves.  May we come to love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of appearance, origin, faith, or habit, and thereby come to honor and love all mankind as children and brethren of Almighty God.  In Christ Jesus, please intercede for us, Saint Cyprian of Antioch, and help us help each other.  Keep us safe from all harm, those who live comfortably in houses and those who walk homeless in streets, those who have plenty to eat and those who haven’t eaten in days, those who pray assiduously and those who lack all faith, those who make curses and those who break curses, those who heal and those who need healing, those who invade and those who defend.  We are all human and subject to the afflictions of humanity; help us, Saint Cyprian of Antioch, that we may tend to each other in a spirit of brotherhood and love that you show for us who cry out to you.  By lifting our eyes up in praise of God, help us rise to holiness we desire that we may honor the Lord; by casting our eyes down in humility to God, help us acknowledge the crimes we commit that we may rectify them.  Open our minds and hearts to the light of truth shining in eternal darkness, and show to our souls and spirits the darkness of wisdom hiding in blinding light.  As you worked with both hands to attain the will of God, help us to work with both our hands may we strive ever towards the salvation of ourselves, all mankind, the world, the universe, and the cosmos.  Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, redeemer of humanity, amen. +

In addition, I’d like to add a twist to the novena this year.  If you noticed, at the beginning of this post, I began with an invocation to the saint, one which I say often, especially when donning a necklace, ring, or other effect to the saint, and whenever I begin work with him.  In it, there are nine “aspects” or “offices” I ascribe to Saint Cyprian of Antioch:

  1. Mage
  2. Martyr
  3. Mystic
  4. Theurge
  5. Thaumaturge
  6. Theophoros
  7. Saint
  8. Sorcerer
  9. Sage

Each of these nine days, I’d like you to meditate, contemplate, and focus on how Saint Cyprian of Antioch fulfills each of these offices.  What, exactly, is a mage to you, and how is Saint Cyprian a mage?  What were the conditions of his martyrdom, how was he blessed to become a martyr in the grace of Christ, and how might you give up your own sacrifices to attain grace?  How did Saint Cyprian wander as a mystic, how was he trained in the mysteries, and into what mysteries would or should you be led?  How did he accomplish the work of God (theurgy) as both priest and magician, and how can you come to know your own labors of theurgy?  How did he use his powers in the world to accomplish works of wonder (thaumaturgy), and what would you like to accomplish through acts of goetic, planetary, elemental, or other types of thaumaturgy?  How does he carry God (theophoros) around in his heart and on his shoulders, and how can you do the same in your daily and sacred life?  What does he stand for as a saint, and as a patron saint of magicians and necromancers and all those who interact with and live through the occult?  How did he become a sorcerer, determining the lots of life for himself and others?  What was the wisdom he accumulated to become a sage, and what kind of wisdom do you seek from him as a sage?

Go now with the blessing of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, and may you always enjoy the grace of God wherever you go.  May Saint Cyprian, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus watch over you and empower you in this world, the worlds above, and the worlds below in all your works and words.

Occult Desert Bookshelf

Not that long ago, I was asked a simple question: if I were stranded on a desert island and could only have three occult books to keep with me, which ones would that be?  Hoo boy.  Asking this to most Western magicians, bookhoarders that we are, is a tough question.  Asking this to one who wants to build up his own library?  You’re just being cruel.

So, just to get it out of the way, there are two books I think every magician should have: a handbook and a recordbook.  The former keeps all their notes, sigils, symbol information, rituals, prayers, and the like that they find useful in their practice.  The latter acts as their journal, reading log, dream record, ritual notebook, liber spirituum, and so forth.  While the two can be combined, I prefer to keep them separate (and I keep a separate divination book from my ritual book, but that’s just me).  These two things are as vital as one can get for a magician, since it keeps a written, permanent record of their work and activities over time.  That said, with enough practice, much of these things can be committed to memory; of the nearly-full moleskine journal I have for my ritual handbook, I need to look at it for only a handful of prayers at this point since I’ve done so much of it over time that I’ve gotten all my daily practice and regular ritual stuff memorized.

That said, those don’t count for this question; I can always write and keep records on many surfaces, and memorize enough aplenty, but those are for things I come across and invent and perform.  If I had to pick three books, grimoires, reference books, or the like to take with me on a stranded, perhaps life-long exiled island, what would those three books be?

One of the easiest ways I like to think of things, given my earthy Virgoan tendencies, is to decide on negative criteria, or “what qualities am I not looking for?”.  It’s a fascinating way to learn more about something or another person, and it’s a good way to get a conversation started on a first date.  In terms of books I’d not want to bring, I know that I wouldn’t want anything on geomancy (at this point I’m left to innovating or starting over in another tradition), astrology (I can plot and figure out the stars on my own with a bit of trial and error), or…honestly, most magical topics.  Books of prayers, spirits, saints, rituals, and the like are good things to have on hand and familiarize oneself with, and I’ll be the first to claim that I could always do this more, but even at the risk of reinventing the wheel, what I need to do I can learn to do on my own.  After all, necessity is the best teacher, and on a stranded desert island, necessity would be the order of the day.

For me?  I’d pick these three books:

  1. A good book of herbs and plants.  Besides the obvious guide to what’s safe/medicinal/psychotropic and what’s not, the other benefit to this would help expand my knowledge and help me understand how to work with these things on both a material level as well as a spiritual one.
  2. A good book of stones, crystals, and soils.  See #1.  Add to it, knowing what minerals are present in an area can also suggest the safety of planting, water drinking, and building.
  3. A good book of animals, fauna, and insects.  See #1.  Add to it, knowing how an animal acts and where it lives can also help learn how to work with, tame, hunt, or avoid them, as well as what plants are likely in an area.

Why these?  Because, honestly, I’m simply ignorant of these things.  Angels, astrology, divination, mathematics, programming, designing, prayers, religion, these are all nice things to learn about, and I daresay I’ve learned a small smattering of each.  That said, for my own self, I’d pick books on the natural world that can guide me and help me survive and, based on how I react to certain things, help me grow spiritually.  In working with the things around me, I can work with the spirits around me and help them, and help myself be helped by them.  Perhaps, if I weren’t so ignorant and underlearned on these things, I’d pick different books.  For myself, these things as a survival guide would be paramount.  I’d gladly go with pragmatism over spirituality; after all, I can’t be a very good magician if I’m dead (post-death magic excepted).

So, what about you?  If you had to pick three books to keep with you on a deserted island, what would they be?  Also, if you know of good examples of the above I chose that aren’t written by Scott Cunningham, what would you suggest?