A Setian Working with Holy Saint Death

Several months ago, I engaged in a 9 week Working with Santa Muerte. The obvious question any sane Setian would ask is why did I undertake the nine weeks of devotion to Holy Saint Death? There answer to that question is complex. First, I felt and acknowledged the “gravitational pull Runa” that lead me to start researching Saint Death. I have come to trust that pull and engaged it through what I refer to as the Explorer Perspective or that approach to Initiation that encourages and thrives within the strange and tangential directions we are often presented with. Second, I can see a long pattern of working with Death goddesses in my Initiation. The dark feminine, the dark aspects of my anima we could say, has been an objective (or projected) part of my spiritual life for a long time and it felt like it was time to reinvest in that aspect of my Psyche. However, this approach was a difficult way for me to engage with that aspect of my Psyche since much of the language and many of the activities associated with a devotion to Santa Muerte are Right Hand Path practices. The Working also helped to remind me and encourage me to Play. I was also simply curious as to what the outcome would be. Holy Saint Death also provided me with an invigorated approach to practical magic. I love the visceral and aesthetic nature of hoodoo but I never really had a need to really practice it. Santa Muerte combines the folk magic aspect of practices like hoodoo with a heartfelt veneration at the core of it. In other words, there was a consistent momentum or ongoing reason for the practice.  The veneration aspect was the most difficult aspect for my Setian sensibilities to accept but it was an important part of the Working and one that I am glad I embraced and continue to embrace. However, I should mention that at no time was I venerating something other than a part of myself. I don’t posit an ontological entity called “Santa Muerte” but I do acknowledge that She is more than my ego-complex.

We create our gods. We didn’t create death (the natural result of being born) but we can create Death (a magical and metaphorical representation of archetypical symbols pertaining to death). I was creating Death and bringing Her into my life moment by moment and I continue to do this every day. It was odd repeating the rosary to Santa Muerte, asking her over and over and over for Her influence, Her blessings, and Her protection. We Setians don’t generally talk about relying on anyone or anything. That lead to my first insight. The truth is, though, we rely on many people/things all the time. For example, I rely (bind together in confidence) the ability of the operator of the train to run things safely. The same goes for my doctor, HR representative, and dozens of other strangers that have some influence or impact on my life. On a grander scale, I rely on the faceless farmer who grows the produce I eat. I rely on the police to keep harm away from me even if they don’t know (or care) who I am as an individual. The same goes for my condo board, the politicians that have influence over me through the various decisions they make every day. Granted there are many examples of bullshit connected to this larger scale but overall, I am in a position where I rely on a lot of people or institutions, even if I’m not fully aware of them all. I’m not as independent as I might have thought before but I’m ok with that. I can’t rule and run everything in my city (let alone the universe!) I found that I grew to appreciate and be grateful for the work that others do for me either as an individual, a citizen, a friend, a Priest. That was my second insight.

Ultimately everything and everyone will cease to exist (at least in a material way). Everything. So why not acknowledge the fact that every second of everyday could be my last on this earth? Why not look at death and say “I call upon Santa Muerte, Holy Queen of Death, who commands all influence and authority. Please grant me your power and your protection. Blessing and keeping me now and always”? Small “d” death is often ignored by our society or it is hidden behind un-confirmable and convenient beliefs about heaven or immortality. Approaching death as Death can be seen as a coping strategy for the existential threat of death. Sure. However, the individuals dedicated to the Bone Queen don’t dwell on the afterlife (I assume that is covered by the Catholic conditioning in places like Mexico) but they may say something like “Santa Muerte, protect me, provide me with a happy life and a good death.” Really, what more is there for one to desire in this incarnation on this planet?  Happiness and dying well really puts much of our life into a new perspective.

Another interesting experience working with Santa Muerte is understanding that Death connects us to all other life (all existence really) without losing our sense of Self (in fact I would say it increases our sense of individuality). All life will feel the cold kiss of the Skinny Lady. Buddha indicated that we all experience suffering and in that suffering we can empathize with the plight of others. This is true. However, Death is even more evident and even more universal. Santa Muerte is noted as being amoral. Death does not hold class, ethnic background, gender, or any other discriminator as either good or bad. Life is. Death is. That’s the human condition.

Hail Holy Queen of Death!

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World building…

 

..sounds very big and dramatic, and it can be. Over time. After a lot of work.

We tend to see the results of years and dedicated work and then wonder how it was done, since it seems like an impossible achievement when we only see the end result and not the beginning. It probably started with somebody thinking something should exist. Why else would they start, anyway? Their motives might be very different, but a main idea to bring something new into the world is probably rather common, even if it was hundreds of years ago.

 

I want to begin this blog post with a disclaimer: I’m well aware that most of us need to eat, live somewhere, wear clothing, drink beer and much coffee etc, which usually means having a job and the time this takes out of our day. In this blog post I’m talking about the rest of your life. While there are things to be done about a bad job situation, even when you seem to be stuck in it, but that is a different blog post.

This is sort of a follow up to the Change part of the ‘Reframing vs Change’.. since if not reframing, then what do we do, and why? We can do things to make more of what you want.

If you look at the world you live in in your spare time, how does it look like? Is there anything you wish there was more of, something you’d want to learn, or something you miss?  World building in this context is about creating more of what you want in your world.

You very often have to create what is missing, yourself. How it can be done is often something rather simple. But many confuse ‘simple’ with ‘takes no effort’, and this is sort of a fundamental misunderstanding. It will take time and effort, and there is usually no shortcuts.

If you want to do something by yourself, it can usually be done with less effort.  Look at what is available and make time for what you can do that is viable as a beginning, everything has to start somewhere. But whatever it is, it will need time and resources and those have to be taken from somewhere else. So you might actually have to start by sacrificing something else to make room for the change.

We tend to be social animals, and not everything can be done alone, or is so much fun alone. In one way, it is the same process: If you want something which is not there, you can begin to create it. Again, there has to be time and resources free for this purpose, and work has to be done to make changes. To talk about ‘I wish there was ….. here’ won’t make a difference. (Nor will reframing your view on the conditions magically create a cooking club or whatever it is you feel is missing in your world.)

The boring organising, travel, gathering materials and/or persons, cleaning up etc part of any activity actually has to be done. If you are very lucky, you can simply go to something arranged by others and leave when it is over, but if not, it doesn’t mean this thing can’t happen. Only that your work is required to make it a reality. Also, that something is arranged by others now, does not mean it will exist forever. It is important to think of what one wants to keep existing, too. World maintenance, if you want. So if you are lucky enough to actually have something interesting going on locally, you should help support it. Others are doing so already, its activity does not happen or keep existing automatically and on its own, no matter how magically-oriented it is.

Regardless of if you join in supporting something existing or start something new,  you actively begin to create the world you want to live in, with more of what you want to exist.

It need not be something grand to make a difference. Any tiny improvement is a lot better than none, and they tend to add up. Results might be slow to show some times, and things some times happen in very roundabout ways. But there is a tendency in some to meet any beginning with ‘it is no point, because…’ and then they will generally present their own excuse for not doing things. Which is just that, their excuse, and not relevant for you.

 

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you can actually decide a lot more than you think when it comes to what your world will look like, without any reframing involved. But as a lot of things it comes with a price, to be able to decide,  you have to put in the necessary effort and being willing to risk not succeeding or immediate results. It be on your own, making a new little structure, or in aiding something existing to continue existing.

Beginning something is likely to attract others, but this is not something you will know until you try something new and keep at it. Again, you have to start doing something before there will be changes in your world. If you decide what you want and what changes you want, the result is more likely to be the type of Change you wish for, than not.

 

Midsummer, or: the Magic of Tradition

Midsummer is the time of the year when the Nordic heathen tide runs highest. Swedes erect Midsummer poles, a variation of a Germanic maypole, while Finns, Danes, and Norwegians light huge bonfires by the water, adding a warm glow into the bleak light of the nightless night. By the pole or the bonfire, a raucous party is held, typically with dancing, swimming, a sauna, and copious amounts of alcohol.

All over Scandinavia, Midsummer is considered a time sizzling with magic. The old traditions survive, though few take them seriously anymore, choosing instead to partake for fun or out of a respect for tradition. It’s especially a time of fertility, romance, and even promiscuity. Magic reserved for unmarried women takes the center stage: most know how a maiden can use wildflowers in order to see her future husband in a dream, or enchant a crop so that bread made from it works as an aphrodisiac. But other magic is also done in midsummer, for wealth, good crops, healthy livestock, and for divination.

Finland was converted into Christianity fairly late, and even then, the new faith was mostly one for townsfolk. For a long while, the influence of Christianity was seeping into the old ways of the country folk rather than replacing them. Paradoxically, the thin layer of Christian frosting — calling Midsummer St. John’s day, for example — helped Finns preserve the old ways, at least partially, until the present day.

But why is a practitioner of the Left-Hand Path even rambling about traditions, pre-Christian or not? Aren’t we supposed to be Antinomian, discarding the bonfires erected by those around us in order for our inner truth to burn that much brighter?

In this post, I write about three good reasons to appreciate, and to make the most of, tradition. For Northern Europeans, Midsummer makes for an excellent case for each of them, but they can be applied to the traditions local to where you are. Continue reading

Reframing vs Change

 

Most of us have things we would like to change, something we are working to change, plan to change tomorrow, or when we move to a new town or when the stars are right and so on. Sometimes we believe that we have changed a lot, but our world has the audacity to not acknowledge this, even if we might be looking at it differently. Sometimes we are doing the same thing we have always done (or this is what we believe), but weird things happen. People seem to try to push us in strange directions for obscure reasons, our friends back away, and the job we loved suddenly begins to be a burden. It feels like a small-scale conspiracy going on.

It is not always easy to see when actual change has happened. The response from the world is not what one might expect, even if the change actually is for the better in the long run. Change often disrupts the current balance and threatens what is known as “normal” – and most people dislike that.

In this context I also want to write about Change with a capital C: a permanent difference in you that has made you into something more than you were before the Change happened. Initiation is about causing such Change, often through directed work towards a certain goal.

Continue reading

Going it Alone: Initiatory Groups and Solo Work

“I’m not one for group work,” says the earnest Seeker. “I’d rather go it alone. My tastes are too weird and quick to evolve for sustaining any cohesive group, plus, I mostly Work on my Self anyway.”

“The Left-Hand-Path and being a member of some group are antithetic to each other”, says the ardent Antinomian.

So when a Novice Magician says, “I need the support of a magical group for my self-development, but I have no idea what that support could be in practice”, the former two balk.

“You don’t need it”, the Seeker says, “you only need yourself”.

“Don’t do it”, says the Antinomian, “you’ll lose track of yourself”.

Continue reading

…and while our friends can see our faults, they won’t tell.

This is sort of a follow-up post to the one about how we are so blind to our own faults, the aptly named: We know all humans have some common faults, except us. After all, we can see no such faults in ourselves.

To sum up that one a bit:

We know there are common human faults and we can see them in others, but for some reason we seem to think we personally are exceptions. Since we can’t really see our own inconsistencies and faulty thinking very well, and which in some way makes us perceive ourselves as flawless.

We lie to ourselves when it adds  to our current beliefs, making the world a place which is easier to understand and more comfortable (even if our belief is that everything goes to hell, since the point is often to confirm what we already believe, in other words avoiding the unknown), and to make ourselves look better in our own eyes. Or to preserve our current view of ourselves. Others helpfully with these things, and of course we help them in return. To some degree this works, we mostly don’t try to kill each other during normal social interaction even if it does happen. We tend to feel safer when those around us agree with us (echo chambers are comfortable!), despite all incidents of being the last to know because nobody told you, and if you ask why, you are only met with excuses. Others might see us clearer than we do, but they are usually of no help since they don’t tell us.

If you remember the cognitive biases, a lot of them are about (and developed because) we are herd animals on some level. They are probably necessary, and this is a funny thought, if not a very comforting one:  The strange thing seen as normal social interaction based on little lies, misunderstandings and indifference, might actually be the best viable option. These lies have the purpose of making the world seem more consistent and comfortable, catering to the same cognitive biases which keeps fooling us, so they are very easy to make. We all know them. “Of course things are as you want to think they are”.

Comforting thought #2: Other people will help us lie to ourselves to be nice and since they will often see us more clearly than we do, they might be far better at telling us what we want to hear, than we are ourselves. Continue reading

Bird-song and Becoming

I like the winter months. I prefer cold over hot. I like the dark days of winter over the bright sunlit hours of summer. There is little more annoying to me than hearing cries of “I can’t wait for summer!” as soon as the temperature reaches about 15 degrees Celsius. The first sign of thaw means a gateway is opening to hordes of insects, hordes of screaming children, and disgusting heat and humidity. However, the thaw also brings a sense of awe to my ice encased Heart.

The weather has been warm over the past few days. The accumulation of snow and ice has mostly melted. The birds (that is to say those birds who aren’t badassed enough to stay out during the winter months) have started to sing again. Even though this process of thaw happens every year there is something liminal and numinous in the experience. Underlying the reawakening of spring life is an underlying expression of newness and of rebirth. Obviously I’m not stating new insights; spring is often seen as a time of rebirth.

However, most discussions of such renewal are focused on the external world. I mentioned warmth, snow, and bird-song above. These are all descriptions of external phenomena. We can limit our experience and expression of spring to those external phenomena but there is more to it. As Black Magicians we can take these experiences and apply them to our own Initiation in subjectively meaningful ways. For example, when I opened the kitchen window recently I heard a bird singing (a spring bird not one of the awesome all-year-round birds). I stopped what I was doing. I closed my eyes and I listened. I didn’t simply think “Ah yes, a bird is singing…spring is here.” The bird’s song was a signal and reminder for me to be present. Each moment of being present is a potential moment of awe as we come to experience our Self. After months of dark winter silence, the bird-song resonated through me as a reminder to take a new look at my Self. It was a song just for me and I was thankful for it. I’m still not looking forward to the inevitable idiocy of summer but I am happy that the bird-song is back to remind me to be present and to Become.

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(Original image: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=58433&picture=bird)