Thursday, December 18, 2014

American Horror Story Coven...Some thoughts....


So I just finished binge watching American Horror Story Coven.  I don't pay for cable and so I had been waiting for it to come out on Netflix. Many of my Facebook friends wanted a response there but I think a paragraph or two would not be enough for me to convey my thoughts so I decided to write a blog to flesh out more of my opinion about it. My lens is not that of a movie critic or Hollywood person, it is of a person who is part of an initiatory tradition of Witchcraft and a student of the occult. For my more diligent and hardcore readers please feel free to skip this post because it really is an opinion piece and your millage may vary. Also if you have not seen this series there will be SPOILERS so turn back before it is too late!!

In a nutshell we see that the story revolves around a coven of witches descended from the witches of Salem and who are now living in New Orleans. They are lead by a narcissistic, vain and sociopathic head witch called the "Supreme" otherwise known as Fiona Goode. Fiona seems to only want to run around and preserve her beauty as well as kill off her would be successor as Supreme because ....there can be only one! There is a witches academy run by Cordelia Foxx who also happens to be Fiona's daughter. There is no surprise that the mother daughter relationship is a mess and so is the school. At this point there are only four student witches and a fifth independent, Zoe who is a regular suburban girl, Madison a druggy movie star, Queenie the only black witch, Nan who is a special needs girl with Down's Syndrome and later Misty who wanders in from the Louisiana Swamp.  Each of these girls has their own specific gifts and talents and each draws their own lines in the sand as they decide to clique up and show down to see who will be the next Supreme.
Fiona Goode artist unknown

If the bickering and backstabbing of the girls were not enough for conflict in this series we must throw in some true enemies for good measure and since we are in New Orleans let us say Marie Laveau and her Voodoo crew. You see Marie sold her soul to Papa Legba, who seems to resemble and behave more like Bawon Samdi but that is beside the point, in order to gain immortality and power.  The house of Witchcraft and the house of Voodoo have had a truce for a while now but as you can imagine Fiona goes and screws it up because she wants to be immortal and beautiful like Marie Laveau. And Fiona in her screwing up of things digs up Marie Laveau's old enemy that she made immortal, the chilling Delphine LaLaurie (who was a historical figure), in order to trade her for the beauty potion except that backfires because Laveau is not amused. I sort of got lost on the whole Madame LaLaurie bit because the character only seemed to be there to add lots of mean gore!

Anyway like a good ole' gang turf war folks get killed on both sides and just when things are starting to get really bad we see that there is another enemy that both houses will have to worry about. The witch hunters!!!! Descendants no doubt of Cotton Mather and Matthew Hopkins ready to burn and kill some modern witches yet again! I was kind of hoping that they would refer to and use the Malleus Maleficarum in their hunts but alas no. Alliances switch and the two houses come together to sort themselves out and survive the hunters. They easily dispatch the hunters in an anti-climatic bloodbath over whiskey. After some more backstabbing by Fiona and later her death wherein she declared no successor, the Coven prepares to test for the next Supreme but they all have to go through the test which is unprecedented in Witch history class. Then white witch Stevie Nicks (right she has to be a "white" witch cause she's nice or something) sings a cool witchy song and they start the trials. At this point we are suppose to root for our favorites, hopefully no one was rooting for Madison because she was way to cardboard cut out bitchy.  As they go through them it turns out that Cordelia, Fiona's daughter, is actually the next Supreme surprise, surprise!! And only two girls to survive are Zoe and Queenie who were the most fleshed out character wise. Cordelia ends by reaching out to girls all over the country who may be witches and invites them in the most McWiccan way possible to "come out" and live in harmony at the school where they will be safe and cherished hopefully not letting them in on the murderous and haunted past of the house. Amen and Blessed Be. Sigh.
17th century witch burning

First of all besides all the plot holes, I thought there were only the five to seven witches at the academy left but no there seem to be a bunch all over the country.It is odd that there seem to be no witches in Europe or Asia or Africa. Because I suppose only American white girls can be witches with the exception of Queenie who is black but a Voodoo but not, gah I am still confused. Also there is this council of Elders which all get killed but there seem to be others out there in the wilds they allude to, so not sure what that was all about. I was also not sure if there was only one coven with a Supreme or if each coven had a Supreme. And I felt bad for Marie Laveau even though she was a crazy bitch as well. See she was outgunned. She was the only one doing magic in her house and there were a bunch of witches gunning for her.

When I looked at the magic itself it was interesting because Marie seemed to have to go into a trance and call down spirits and her powers involving Necromany and Nigromancy were off the charts bad ass. She had sold her soul to the Devil (Legba) which will get Christian folks panties all in a bunch but is actually an important part of African folk magic traditions involving power and the Spirits. IF it scares you read about it and fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Anyway the witches on the other hand seemed to all be naturally gifted for magic and it just flowed through them and with training and control and exercise they were able to focus and build their power. They seemed to call on Spirits, I think I heard ....wait for it.....Hecate...mentioned once but I was unsure. So we are seeing a juxtaposition of different magical theory and how one may affect change in the world be it in natural abilities or in the use of pacts with Spirits. Seeing that these nuances were here did make me happy as did some of the herb lore such as the use of asofoetida for banishing the evil dead! Go American Horror Story Coven's research team!!

I was however, disappointed with the total lack of creativity on the part of the writers in that they TOTALLY ripped off other witch movies and horror movies. I can just hear the team discussing how to appease the banal plebeian masses by throwing in cliches like oh how about zombies. Yeah "The Walking Dead" show is kicking ass and taking names so throw in some zombies...hey Marie Laveau....Voodoo....Zombies....Fuck YEAH! And to make it even better we will have one of the girls kill them with a chainsaw because America loves sexy chicks who kick ass and no one will remember Bruce Campbell and the Army of Darkness! Boo, Hiss American Horror Story!!! Bad kitty BAD!! There were also clear rip offs of "Practical Magic" in the Herbarium of the house as well as the fact that the main set was an uber huge and witchy house. And it is a coven of bitchy girls with too much power, no real training and a token black girl...which we have all seen before because that was the plot of "The Craft"!! This movie was like a mishmosh of witchy and horror movies that we known and love with the violence and gore that American Horror Story is so well known for. I think though that this is their weakest season yet sorry to say. I was hoping for more but alas it was not to be.
Bruce Campbell "Army of Darkness"

So did I like it? Well yes as a fan of horror I did in a lukewarm way. It was entertaining and even though there were things I knew were going to happen like, oh yeah Queenie changing sides and going to the house of Voodoo, I was still entertained albeit with annoyances along for the ride. The end really got me too because it made no sense. They seemed to first say that there were barely any more witches left and then all of a sudden there are dozens of them! I suppose it is a silent juxtaposition of traditional initiatory witchcraft and Wicca. One is secret, hidden and has very few and the other (as a religion) is open and there for all the masses. And seriously so many people do not take into consideration the four powers of the Sphinx! If you would like to know WHY it is important to be silent about your witchcraft and keep hidden please read this article here.

However, entertainment and cringes aside it is interesting to see how popular culture views the witch. Both horrible and beautiful, deadly and alluring, the fascination is still there.  I wish that American Horror Story would have done more in depth research about witchcraft (remember this was about Witches not Wiccans) but then how could they? With so much that is hidden in traditional witchcraft and held as oral lore there really are few books to turn to and no real easy pointers to who is or is not a traditional witch. What this show was doing was trying to turn a profit and appeal to the American masses (whom are not witches) and that is fine. It really is not fair for me to bash them for not knowing what "true" or "traditional" witchcraft looks like because well it is hidden and esoteric and scary and not for the False. In terms of Wicca, well I am not  Wiccan, so I will let the Priestesses debate whether or not the story was accurate or fair in regards to them. So another story in the pop culture of witches. We have gone from nightmarish hag riders to bitchy girls fighting over guys and trying to defy Old Man Saturn himself it seems. I just wish the writers would have kept out so many cliches and rip offs of other movies but that means that what we (as witches) are really up to is still a big mystery...... hidden in plain sight and that is fine by me.









Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Peacock & Snake Tapestry

Peacock & Snake Tapestry....Copyright Peacock &Snake

A new piece by Maya Grey.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Of Mandrake...Revised...

Mandragora officinarum Linnaeus, mad apple, man root, Abu' l-ruh (old Arabec for, "master of the life breath"), Bayd al -jinn (modern Arabic for "testes of the devil"), love apple, little man of the gallows, witch root.


Mandrake
"Mandrake" by Maya Grey (copyright Peacock & Snake)


Could there be any other plant steeped in so much lore, fear, mystery and magic?  Any person interested in the occult arts and magic has heard of Mandrake. Most New Age or occult shops carry the chopped root calling it "Mandrake", however; since Mandragora officinarum is quite rare and hard to grow you are most likely purchasing a subspecies like the "Mandragora autumnalis" which is not the Mandrake of the witchcraft lore but belongs to the family.  The main way to tell the difference is that M. autumnalis blossoms in the fall, hence the name "autumnalis" and officianarum or "the official" Mandrake blossoms in the Spring around the equinox and is ruled under the auspices of the Moon. It really is no fault of the shop owners most of whom just simply do not know the difference or have been bamboozled themselves with something that is not even Mandrake, ginseng is a common substitute. Unfortunately many shop owners are not master herbalists or even practitioners and so providing official Mandrake is not high on the list. So buyer beware! It is up the the client to know what they are getting.  Many who came into my shop requested the root as they had read about it and indeed the witch lore surrounding this plant created quite the aura of mystery. One of my favorite customer stories was a young lad of around 13 or so who wished to purchase some Mandrake because he had seen it in a "Harry Potter" movie.  When I produced a packet of chopped root he looked disappointed. "Were you expecting it to speak and enchant and move about?" I asked. "Well yeah." he said. To which I replied, "to get the plants to speak you have to learn about them, you have to work with them, you have to become allies and then they might begin to whisper." He shrugged his shoulders and seemed dismayed but bought the packet anyway.

Students and customers often ask what Mandrake does and how they can use it in spells. Unfortunately, many books of "magic" often list Mandrake in their lists of ingredients yet do not give any more information other than it is "an herb of power."  I hope that this blog article will shed some light on the subject and give some of you a bit more of the history, lore and magic of this fascinating and powerful plant. So that when working certain rituals or rites you will be armed with knowledge and be able to have a more intense and powerful outcome.
Mandrake Root Chips from Ancient Road

Mandrake was known to the ancients as a plant of power, a shamanic plant steeped in lore, ritual and used both medicinally as well as magically. To the ancients both magic and medicine were often married; a cause and effect of both spirit and body.  The oldest records of Mandrake come to us in cuneiform writing from the Babylonians and of course the Bible.  In Genesis 30:14 Rachel barters with Leah for the Mandrake she found in order to cure her infertility. There is also mention of Mandrake in the "Song of Solomon." The "Song of Solomon" has long been known in Hoodoo and folk magic as a spell for summoning true love and desire and here the infamous "love apple" weaves its spell upon us in this gorgeous piece of liturgy.

"The mandrakes send out their fragrance,
and at our door is every delicacy,
both old and new,
that I have stored up for you, my beloved."
Song of Songs 7:12-13.

Interestingly it is mostly the fragrance of the Mandrake, as stated above, that is the true importance in Biblical lore. When the fruit was ripe it released an intoxicating yet dangerous smell that was perceived to be a true aphrodisiac. Alexander and Zhenia Fleisher in their search for wild Mandrakes as well as their chemical compounds describe the smell as follows: 

"The odor of mandrake is unique. It is not perceived as a smell of classic fragrant flowers like rose, lily or jasmine. There is a hint of subtle danger in it. Intoxicating and addictive, it makes a powerful impression on one's memory an evokes images of unspoiled wilderness, desert wind, excitement of danger and romantic exaltation." 

Interesingly, the "danger" may be the high concentration of sulfur in the plants chemical make up; actually Mandrake has the highest sulfur content in any fruit or berry.  While this may seem oddly scientific and strange it is important to note that sulfur is part of the holy alchemical triad of Mercury, Sulfur and Salt and as such it is linked to Saturn. Through various decay and malefica we can see that this "energy" or "current" is part of Mandrake. There is a play here even in its chemical nature between the sweet and the bitter, the passion and the poison. This truly is a plant that walks the knife's edge. A plant ally to the witch. 

The Biblical and ancient references are great sources of information for us and indeed the natural environment for Mandrake to flourish is the Mediterranean and it is most prolific in Palestine. It was traded vigorously and used ritually in many different cultures.   

But even far from the Mediterranean and Middle East we find the use of Mandrake in the Pagan lands of the North.  The Germanic Seidkonas, seeresses and oracles to their people, used Mandrake to enter into altered states. Their name for this witching root was "Alraun".  Now we enter into the territory of the entheogenic properties of this plant, that is the use of it as a mind altering substance.  I, of course, must add here that should you decide to ingest Mandrake you do so at your own risk as a high enough dose is lethal. Unless you are skilled and knowledgeable in ethno-pharmachology and chemistry I suggest not taking it internally. Later I will give some examples of how to work with Mandrake externally.  Some of its folk names reflect the danger inherent in ingestation such as "mad root" and "root of the demon". It has long been associated with witches due to its poisonus nature. The art of "Veneficum" or poisoning was known to be in the domain of witches. 

Early on it was believed that witches did indeed fly, however, in its attempt to be "scientific" as well as root out evil the "Malleus Maleficarum" states that witches cannot actually fly because then they would be able to escape punishment with ease. Later the belief morphed into the idea that perhaps witches did not actually fly but rather used hallucenogenic plants to alter their state of mind and perhaps they "rode the broom" internally. That is to say instead of slathering themselves with the ointment they slathered the brooms and used them in psychopharmical-sexual rites to attend the Sabbat. There is evidence that such sexual altered states of consciousness were gained by the use of sexual tools such as carved penis wands and staffs which can be found in the "Museum of Witchcraft" in Cornwall, England, but was a flying ointment used on such tools and did it included Mandrake? It is difficult to say really considering the secretive nature of witchcraft and the lack of written evidence. According to Sarah Penicka in her article "Caveat Anoynter!: A Study of Flying Ointments and their Plants" she states that in records of witch trials from the 16th and 17th centuries testimony can be found of actual flying ointment recipes. However, none of these include Mandrake, although they sometimes include deadly nightshade, hemlock and aconite. Reginald Scot in "The Discoverie Of Witchcraft" written in 1584 lists a recipe that has long been a traditional reference for such an unguent.

"[take]... the fat of yoong children, and seeth it with water in a
brasen vessell, reserving the thickest of that which remaineth boiled
in the bottome, which they laie up and keep, untill occasion serveth
to use it. They put hereunto eleoselinum, aconitum, frondes
populeas, and soote."

As we can see there is made no mention of Mandrake in this supposed "traditional" recipe. However, as we have seen before there is much in witchcraft that is un-known to outsiders and still remains secret.

  The Medieval alchemists and Cunning men wrote down recipes for making Mandrake Philtres as esteemed aphrodisiacs. "The root was prepared by rotting in water for two complete lunar cycles, until it transformed into a malodorous green pulp; it was then used in this form, or in a gruel, or added to a brew with sundry ingredients." Schulke, Ars Philtron pg. 189. Many of the recipes were passed orally as well and are still handed down within Traditional Witchcraft societies.

However, in terms of taking Mandrake internally the most common way was to steep it and make Mandrake wine or beer.  Dale Pendell writes about his friend Daniel's experience of drinking Mandrake wine, it was "very stimulating: (Daniel was). gregarious and talkative. That was the first phase, the first glass, where everything was safe. With the second glass the plant took more control. Daniel remembers loss of short-term-memory-not being able to remember what one had just said. And a glimpse at how the brew could be used as a love potion in a manipulative way, "All those good physical feelings and a person not really knowing what they were doing." There was a third phase, the third glass. Daniel said he saw a pit full of insane people who called to him and told him to come in. He declined the third glass." Pendell  pg. 260.
Skull & Pentacle talisman in private collection

Seething cult of the Witch Apple. Orgy. 
Lust of the deep. Love Apple. Forbidden Fruit. 
Serpent writhing on the wings of Kundalini deep from the core of Earth.
 Dangerous poison. Sex and Death.

Best perhaps to stay safe with that first glass. Perhaps we should stop? Leave it at that. Back to the comforts of book and bed and things we know. A glass of chardonnay instead and missionary sex? Or perhaps you are here because the dangerous poison path intrigues you? Yes? Very well.  Then we shall continue but let us walk carefully, with open ears and open hearts and with respect for power. Respect for sex and the power of sex and the things witches know that sends terror into the hearts of the unwise.
Whole Mandrake officinarum root in tincture at Ancient Road. A gift from a student who grew it herself!

It was said that semen from Adam's erotic thoughts of an absent Eve caused Mandrake to grow where it fell to the ground. Though this lore we have the link of semen to the plant and this lore was known in ancient antiquity as well. The lore of the "Gallows Root" or "Little Gallows Man", which was another of its names and which was known in Greek times, brings us face to face with a harrowing Goddess as well as a desirable one.  It is well documented in antiquity as well as in our modern times that when suffocating to death a man will become erect and ejaculate. This phenomena has a modern term, "auto-erotic asphyxiation", but in the case of an actual hanging the reaction is clearly not so "auto"! Both erections and the dripping of semen were observed from hanged men at crossroads through the centuries and this phenomena found its way into the lore. Mandrake found its way here too at the crossroads, ruled by dark Goddesses and the Spirits of the dead, in the frenzy of orgasmic death. Frazer writes of this in the "Golden Bough":

"The human shape of the mandrake root has probably helped to foster, if it did not originate, the weird notion that the plant springs from the drippings of a man hanged on a gallows. Hence in Germany the plant bears the popular name of the Little Gallows Man. It is, or used to be, believed in that country that when a hereditary thief, born of a family of thieves, or one whose mother stole while he was in her womb, is hanged on a gallows, and his seed or urine falls on the ground, the mandrake, or Little Gallows Man sprouts on the spot.  Others, however, say that the human progenitor of the plant must be, not a thief, but an innocent and chaste youth who has been forced by torture to falsely to declare himself a thief and has consequently ended his days on a gallows. Be that as it may, the one thing about which all are agreed is that the Little Gallows Man grows under the gallows tree from the bodily droppings of a hanged man."  Frazer, pg. 7.

So we are back at it, sex and death and death and sex. We have traversed into a realm known to witches and those who understand the pathways of the dead. We stand at the crossroads. Here Mandrake grows with the offering from the last sex of a dying man and potent with power under the light of the moon which/witch rules it. But its root is hidden and only its dark green leaves and tiny white flowers are visible and so let us begin with its heavenly abode and then traverse down its root into the chthonic realms.

Asherot, Astarte, Ishtar, Aphrodite. The pathway of a Goddess of sex and love and power and accompanying the Goddess on her journey through the desert to the seas of the Mediterranean was Mandrake and it is ruled by Aphrodite. One of her names was "Mandragoritis" or "She of the Mandragora" and it was offered to her and prayed over in her name in love rites. It only makes sense that the entheogenic properties of lust would be attributed to her and for the Ancient Greeks things had to make sense. Theophrastus writes in his "History of Plants" a ritual for harvesting Mandrake; "Make three circles around the Mandrake with a sword and cut it while facing West. The second cut shall be made while one is dancing around the plant and speaking as much as possible about the mysteries of love." 
Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Knidos, c. 330 B.C.

But with sex comes death and another Goddess steps forth to speak.   Hecate.  If the love apples and flowers and leaves were the realm of Aphrodite, then the potent and bitter hidden root reaching into the chthonic realms was Hecate's. This was also known to the Greeks and it was written in the saga of the Argonauts of Hecate's garden that "many Mandrakes grow within", Orph, Argonaut, 922f. ". "Hecate sends to humans the dampening sleep and heavy dreams and causes epilepsy and madness, in other words she is capable of inducing altered states of consciousness  It almost appears as though the dark goddess would reveal herself only thought the effects of the Mandrake juice. As Democritus the "laughing philosopher" described in his lost work Cheirokemta, one could invoke the goddess with mandrake." Ratsch, pg. 350.
 3rd century CE statue of Hecate (Antalya Museum, Turkey)

Witch Queen indeed. On one end Eros and on the other Thanatos and the mysteries in between where the witch stands. Mandrake above and below. Of leaf and root of sex and death and at the balance point between the leaf and root, between the light and dark...well, that is where you find the witch. 

And where would the witch be without her incense, her amulets, her potions? Mandrake is safer burned in incense. Its mind altering effects are lessened of course, and it still affects consciousness but has not been known to cause death.  When burned it rather smells like burnt bitter leaves so it must be used in a small quantity and with other sweet smelling herbs and resins to make it palatable.  Mandrake incense was burned during the Renaissance and was considered to be influenced by the moon and to only be harvested under a full moon. Since the harvesting of Mandrake was death to the plant itself, its harvest was ritualized and done in specific ways and many times an offering of milk, honey, wine and eggs were placed in the hole from where it came. Probably the most notable Mandrake ritual written down in the 1st century by Flavius Josephus, was that of the dog who was tied to the root and beckoned from a distance by it's master with a piece of food. The dog overcome with hunger and none the wiser bolts for the food, pulls out the root, and dies from the root's own death scream.  There are other sources for spring loaded traps to pull out the Root with the harvester out of range of the sight or sound of the Mandrake. But why? Why go to these lengths to remove the root in such a way?  The older sources speak of dancing under the moon and performing ritualized or actual sex acts while harvesting it.  But the dog too whispers to us of an older lore. A lore circling back to Hecate and her hell hounds. Perhaps the dog is the familiar of the witch? Magical knowledge "hidden" in plain sight for those with eyes to see. These participants certainly did not die from the Mandrake scream but the lore surrounding the gathering of the root is strong indeed.  The Mandrake traps seem to be a convention of a more Christian time when the root began to become more demonized.  It was long sought as an amulet or charm and herb dealers and apothecary owners went to great lengths to procure it or counterfeit it (ginseng root comes to mind).  What ever the reason for these elaborate traps it is clear that Mandrake must be harvested under a full moon, preferably in the Spring or near the Spring equinox to obtain it at full potency. It seems to like to feed upon the fluids of the sex act whether they be the drops of semen of the hanged man or the fluids of the young girls climaxing on top of the root in the Romanian Mandrake cults. 
Man and dog about to harvest Mandrake, 

This method (the sexual fluid method) has survived into modern times. Several years ago I attended a lecture at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, Washington.  There a well known author on Witchcraft and the Occult, Daniel Schulke, was giving a lecture on the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and some of the Mandrake fetishes housed there, that is carved mandrakes made to look like little men and women.  This has been well documented around the world and many museums and private collectors have the little Mandrake figures. Our word manikin, comes from Mandrake by the way. But what was interesting with the Mandrake figures from Boscastle was that each and every one of them had thick dried coatings (years and years worth) of some substance on them.  When tested in a lab it was revealed that these coatings were dried semen and blood (most likely menstrual blood). There is no telling how old they actually are but they are in the museum today.  They had been passed down in hereditary Witchcraft families and entered into the possession of the museum between the 1930's and 50's. Mandrake cults indeed! And we are back to the sacred fluids of sex and as we pick up tidbits from history here and there we are able to piece together a magical rite. One of a root steeped in lore and ritual, related to the moon, both touched above and below by Goddesses of sex and death and magic and of the mysteries of life and death. That covers it in a plant of power don't you think?

Witch lore from the Grimoire "Viridarium Umbris" weaves around the the Mandrake and its harvest with ritual sex and the use of bone knives or even the bone of a human arm to harvest the plant at midnight under favorable auspices and lacking ill omens.  The greatest power of the Mandrake resides in its manikins and it is said that those who possess a properly harvested and ritualized Mandrake manikin will never be without money, in fact fortune showers upon them. These witches of old knew the power of the manikin and even dug up the root and bound it with thread to have it grow in a desired shape and re-buried it only to come back and truly harvest the bound root. The manikins in the witchcraft museum would certainly seem to give credence to some of this lore. 
Mandrake image from Ancient Road
"Witching Herbs" Class

In general terms I see Mandrake as a gate between the worlds, a ladder that traverses up and down, dangerous to be sure but as one of my teachers used to say, "anything worthwhile is".  A gate to sex and death and those great mysteries and as an offering to both Aphrodite and Hecate.  The witch is able to walk in all of these worlds and to explore the mysteries therein. The power of understanding leads to power on the path of life. If you can grow or be gifted a whole fresh Mandrake root you can explore these avenues in your own magical operations. One of my Mandragora officinarum roots was grown for me by a student of mine while I lived in New Mexico.  It is a beautiful thing and I am lucky to have it. To preserve this particular root I tinctured it in alcohol and I use it as a meditation foci.  It is a powerful plant to be sure and is used by magicians and witches all over the world and in varying traditions. And while the workings of such magicians may differ in flavor the power of sex and death is seen in the basic elements. In fact Hoodoo Rootwork or Conjure has drawn lore from many traditions and European Witchcraft is no exception and neither is the Mandrake Root. 

In Hoodoo it is considered a love root and used in doll babies for love work, which is interesting because of the old European lore of the Mandrake manikin. However, in Hoodoo you would sew a doll baby and fill it with Mandrake chips or chunks of the root. The M. autumalis root would be more commonly used as it grows here in the US.  Here is a Hoodoo spell for love which is based off of the old European Mandrake lore.

Hoodoo Mandrake Love Spell
  • Sew a red doll baby (voodoo doll)
  • Fill with Mandrake root chips or sticks.
  • Add some hair or other personal concern of the person you wish to love you.
  • Add some properly "paid for" graveyard dirt into the doll baby.
  • Sew up doll baby.
  • Breathe life into the doll baby and "Name" it for the person you wish to love you.
  • Bring yourself to climax and "feed" the fluid to the doll baby while telling the doll baby what you desire.
  • Each Friday climax and "feed" the doll baby while speaking to it as if it were your lover to be.
  • Do this for 7 Fridays (7 weeks) in a row or until your beloved comes to you.


Knowing what you do about the lore and magic of the Mandrake you can now see where some of these elements come into this common little Hoodoo spell. It all has to make sense. It all has to come together. There is nothing whilly nilly in magic. It is not unverified personal gnosis. There is a reason for everything done in magic. It is old. It is in our bones and our memories. It is part of who we are. 

So gentle readers walk the path of power wisely and with conviction, with your will, with your desire and with belief. And of course walk in silence as the Spirits share secrets with only a select few.....

Miss Maya

References:

The Bible, King James Version

Frazer, J. (1993) The Golden Bough. Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

Pendell, D. (2005). Pharmako Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path. North Atlantic Books.

 Penicka, S. (2008)  "Caveat Anoynter!: A Study of Flying Ointments and their Plants". http://openjournals.library.usyd.edu.au/

Ratsch, C. (2005 US Edition) The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Park Street Press.

Schulke, D. (2001, 2008). Ars Philtron: Concerning the Aqueous Cunning of the Potion and its Praxis in the Green Art Magical. Xoanon Publishing.

Schulke, D. (2005). Viridarium Umbris: The Pleasure Garden of Shadow. Xoanon Publishing.

Schulke, D. Editor (2010). The Occult Reliquary. Three Hands Press.

Scot, R. (1584). "The Discoverie Of Witchcraft". Dover Occult.

Yronwode, C. (2002). Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic. Lucky Mojo Curio Company.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

To Honor the Dead and Thank You.....

"Holy Mother in you we live, move, and have our being. From you ALL things emerge and unto YOU all things return..."
 Tony Spurlock AKA Brian Dragon

On October 24th in the early morning hours I received a phone call informing me that one of my brothers in the Craft had passed. We knew it was coming and coming soon but the exact time eluded even those of us who see further through the mists than others.  My friend, Brian Dragon or Tony Spurlock, was an elder in my tradition of Witchcraft founder of the Draconian line of Feri and someone who was considered to be a phenomenal bard and poet. He was quite a character and someone who if you got to know him you would weave tales long into the night of old magics and forgotten Gods. His  passing left his widow with a large cremation bill and no money to pay it. So that very day I set up a GoFundMe account and I was astounded by what happened next.

You happened.
You rallied.
And together we raised the goal money in 4 hours.
Two thousand dollars in 4 HOURS!!!
In 24 hours we had raised almost two thousand five hundred.....

This is a phenomenal success. This is what it means to be in community and to help those in need. No matter who you are, how much you gave or what you personal feelings were towards my friend Dragon you came through and honored the dead. This truly is a Samhain gift. 

So I want to say THANK YOU on behalf of Dragon's wife Rhiannon and for the old man himself!!

Bless you all on this Samhain.
In light and in dark.


Maya Chalee Grey






Monday, September 22, 2014

Cave of the Numinous: Book Review and Interview with Author Craig Williams

"Oh Wisdom Goddess Kali! The mundane world calls me mad, let them think what they wish, carry me to Your secret Cave which the world believes is Hell." Craig Williams

Book Review of "Cave of the Numinous"


Cave of the Numinous Courtesy Craig Williams

I first met Craig Williams at the annual Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle several years ago where he was giving a presentation about art and different aspects of the Dark Goddesses in Hindu mythology. I was immediately impressed by, not only his occult knowledge, but with the depth and breath of his topic. My attention was grabbed as he spoke about how the seeker must work hard in their own learning and healing. He expanded further to say that if anyone claimed to heal your chakras they were full of it because that actually is the work of the Spiritual seeker themselves. At that point I exhaled a silent Hallelujah because I had grown weary of many teachers or people involved in the Occult, New Age or Pagan paths both on line and in person who touted themselves as Masters or High Priestesses but who seemed to have very little knowledge, experience or who just wanted to make a buck. Here was a man who was calling bunk on those practices and telling us to work through these dangerous paths ourselves; to be our own occult scientists and to experiment, learn, do and record. I listened intently the entire lecture and have followed his writings ever since.

  All too often those of us who are interested in such paths find ourselves in an almost unbelievable labyrinth of information, teachers, traditions and books.  The diligent student works hard to weed out the dross from the pearls and to ever seek understanding of self and the world around him or her. Many of the books, philosophies and teachings once considered taboo and heretical, and consequently carried a prison or death sentences along with them, can now be found with relative ease and with a lack of scrutiny from the powers that be. The information age is upon us and indeed much has been revealed. However, owning a violin does not a maestro make. The skill required for such a title is years in the making and while this connection is easily made in relation to being a violinist or baseball player or surgeon, it seems to escape many in relation to the occult, magic and spirituality. I sort of see it akin to the game you played when you were a kid where you had a secret message and you whispered into the ear of one kid and he whispered to the next and by the time you reached full circle it was watered down or completely wrong.

Craig Williams
I have often griped and grumbled about folks who take a few weekend workshops or read a few books and who claim to be enlightened, or be healers or be self initiated into "fill in the blank" tradition. Oh dear readers magical "practitioners" abound and they are ready to teach you and guide you to the truth. Things like "hierarchy", or "Master/Guru", or "decades of study" are scoffed at and ridiculed. No, they do not need a Master to teach them, in their mind that is just another word for dictator. And hierarchy, goodness, why that just leads to fundamentalist thinking and let us not forget that in our modern age we do not need to study for decades for we have Google!

And so I must tip my hat yet again and praise my friend Craig Williams for being brave enough to write "Cave of the Numinous".  Mr. Williams pierces through and challenges the modern mind set to say that the ancient Masters and Sages did indeed have a system of spiritual praxis that worked and still works today for those willing to set their feet upon the path.  As a reference point to students the book works in a system of esoteric Hinduism, Left Handed Tantra and utilizes holy texts such as the "Bhagavad Gita".  However, do not let that make you nervous if you are interested in other paths and traditions such as Traditional Witchcraft, African Diasporic Traditions or other Shamanic paths because Craig Williams writes "Cave of the Numinous" as a guide for all spiritual seekers and indeed lets us in on this secret.  One of the main points he makes is that of finding a Guru. The term Guru is now a pejorative in modern lexicon because of the many self-proclaimed Gurus out there haunting the streets of LA,Santa Fe, Sedona, San Francisco and Austin, and many of us are loathe to use it. However, Craig illustrates that "Guru" does not merely mean "teacher", it also means initiator and a person who radiates a spiritual light that helps to guide and cut through the ego of the student and to bring him to enlightenment.  As I read through this book not only did I learn more about esoteric Hinduism but I could also see these tools as being applicable to the student of the occult and of course closer to my own heart, witchcraft.  Craig writes:

 "Without the Deity and the Guru, the devotee runs round and round in a solipsistic samsaric Hall of Mirrors, always searching for something 'outside' which will provide access to the secret inner realms....In essence, one cannot be a visitor to penetrate into the realms of Indian esotericism; one must be come a devotee."

We see the same fevered "student/teacher" hopping and workshop collecting among many in other veins of occult traditions. We see the breaking down and infiltration of traditions by the banal masses as they demand entrance into the Halls of the Sacred and Hidden. We see the same entitlement and self worship of many Westerners applied to Eastern mysticism and other mystery traditions. But again Mr. Williams stands firm and tells us to really look and understand what is happening and why a Master/Guru is important. He writes:

"It is a modern conception that Numinous transmissions are easily accessible to all regardless of the experience or preparedness of the student.  In many cases, the teacher becomes an afterthought and the sacred transmission of Gnosis, if found to be valuable at all, is seen as a commodity which can be bought or sold by anyone regardless of preparation or valid qualifications. The student seeks a guide who will validate all of his thoughts/ideas and will quickly dispose of the teacher if any challenge is made to the chela's naive beliefs or consumerist ideals. Information is viewed as something which can be claimed or purchased, initiations much the same. Anyone who draws attention to this situation with a critical eye is labeled an 'elitist' or 'traditionalist' turning those once powerful words into pejorative terms."
Blue Lotus by Maya Grey

You see Craig touches on a very important fact that spiritual transmission and direct spirit contact in what ever tradition can ONLY be achieved via a one on one relationship via Guru/Master and student. This helps the student to avoid the common phenomenon of "UPG"(unverified, personal, gnosis). The Guru shapes the lesson for exactly what is needed in that space and time for that individual student. No on-line class, distance learning or group setting can achieve this level of devotion and depth to the student. The intimate relationship between Guru and student is stressed again and again because it is of the utmost importance. In mundane reality this type of transmission may be  seen as abhorrent because of our individualistic values, this relationship is actually radical because as Craig writes:

"At its roots, the Guru/student relationship represents the ultimate inversion of the modern mindset, standing firm as a beacon of "luciferian" light of truth, illuminating the passageway into the inner realms of the sacred where the (profane) individual is deconstructed by the solar light of the Atman/Soul."

After expressing the importance of the Guru and student relationship in depth we learn in the Chapter titled "The Sacred Mystery of Guru Yoga" just how in this particular tradition that information and gateways are revealed to the student. The Jnana Yoga is a path of wisdom in which the student is led deep into the realms of the body and mind. Various pathways and techniques are illustrated for us as we journey here. Next is the Karma Yoga wherein the Guru leads the student in exercises of self-transcending Action. Craig also makes sure to point out that Left Handed Tantra is not an excuse to self indulge in all the sex, drugs and rock and roll you were forbidden to engage in when you were sixteen. He illustrates beautifully that it is about transcending yourself and those blocks to your own spiritual gnosis! This may mean you need to get over it and have an orgy at an S & M club or simply that for you living a year of silence is exactly the medicine for your transcendence. Perhaps you have an aversion to giving to the homeless, if so time to open your wallet.  If you are engaging in outrageous acts in which you are getting satisfaction from others and calling it Left Handed Tantra then you probably are not really making much change or gaining gnosis. You are just enjoying a mental masturbation of sorts along with playing ego games. We also learn of the path of Bhakti Yoga which is the heart song of the Guru/Student relationship and in which many Westerners feel threatened by. Here again the Guru relationship is stressed and it is something to take note of and so is the subtlety that the teacher may not be what you expect. In other words he may not be the old man in the diaper in the cave on the mountain. Be open to the teacher and see with your heart.

After we learn of the different ways in which the Guru can lead us Craig Williams opens with a set of rituals to help us on this path. The first is the "Cave of the Hridaya Ritual", which is intended for the seeker to open and draw a Guru to him or her. In other words should you be in the place in which you have no teacher this ritual is here to open you to one. Again as I read it was obvious that the seeker could focus on any Master Teacher in what ever spiritual tradition that they felt called to or if clarity was the issue an open call could be made and the journey begun.

Now that we have a firm understanding of the Guru/Student relationship and the pitfalls of the Left Handed path of Tantra part two of the book, "Approaching the Nightside: Provisions for the Left Hand Path", helps us on the actual journey.
Kali (Artist Unknown)

Here we learn about the dangers of the Left Hand Path and the Dark Goddess and the damage if the Guru or student are unprepared. Craig gives us information and techniques to traverse this path and ways of dealing with the blocks, fears and issues that arise. However, the psychological dangers are not the only thing the student and Guru must traverse, there are the dangers inherent in working with Spirits and indeed the Dark Goddess herself. As each person interacts with others in different ways so too do the Spirits and the Gods. Without proper preparation and tools the journey is perilous indeed.

Craig asks you to ask, "Why do I desire contact with Nightside powers," What do I hope to accomplish by contact with the Nightside,"and "How will this Nightside contact be used and integrated into my spiritual praxis?" 

In essence are you practicing a Theurgy of the oppressed? Are you doing this magic out of ego, fear, hatred, greed, lust and ignorance? If so the blood due of the Dark Goddess will be fierce indeed. However, to walk in truth and power and desire to change self and to receive the Dark Kiss one may approach with respect and humility. You may be able to fool yourself but you cannot fool Her. In this chapter Craig goes into depth in the preparations of the body and mind. A holistic approach to a dramatic and searing spiritual journey. Here is the prep work, here we tune our violins, we strengthen our bodies, we practice with our minds.

Finally we arrive at two final rituals the first is the Pratyhara Ritual in which the student "withdraws" the senses in order to traverse deeply into the realm of the Dark Goddess. The second is the Saturn Ritual in which we travel to the darkest recesses of our souls. As above so below, the micro and the macro, alpha and omega and depths of course which cannot be illustrated by a writer with type on a page, because dear reader, one must walk the path alone and practice in earnest...and so I will say no more of these esoteric rituals which lead to the Cave of the Numinous, the Gate of the Soul. No my friends the first step is to purchase this book and digest the information for yourself. The second is whether you feel drawn to Left Hand Tantra and esoteric Hinduism or other roads. If you do then begin to call to yourself a Master teacher to help guide you as you step out in devotion, practice and faith. A good place to start is with Craig Williams book. Good luck my friends and perhaps we shall pass on the moon and star lit road as we journey into the Cave of the Numinous. If we do then I tip my hat to you because this definitely is the road less traveled.

Interview with author Craig Williams

Image courtesy of Craig Williams




Maya Grey:  Can you tell us what inspired you to write “Cave of the Numinous”?

Craig Williams: My main inspiration for writing the Tantric Physics series was based upon a discussion between David Beth and myself in which we were discussing and lamenting the endangered state of the “teacher-chela” or Guru-chela relationship in the modern world. I wanted to reveal my unique system of Tantric Physics and Esoteric Hinduism and its role within the larger system Esoteric Voudon and David Beth’s Kosmic Gnosis; however I did not want this to be a dry lifeless “academic” text so the idea of an entire Tantric Physics series came about. The first volume, “The Cave of the Numinous”, focuses upon the vital role of the teacher, the prime importance of physical initiation and the important preparatory tools which must be examined and used prior to any journey into the terra incognita of the mind, body and Soul. These are the foundations of all the systems which I guide and function within as both a Bishop and as a private Chela of David Beth. I wanted this series to offer anyone working within an initiatory system effective tools for transformation. The fact that this reveals a unique system of Tantric Physics and Esoteric Hinduism is almost secondary, as the material could be easily utilized by a Sufi practitioner, a Buddhist or a Gnostic of any system! I even included unique rituals to help open unique doorways for finding a valid teacher. I hope to inspire a revival of the important role of the Guru-chela system in modern gnostic / occult groups as well as provide some unique initiatic insights which are typically overlooked or disregarded in more dry academic tomes connected to Tantra. I also wanted to make a radical statement of how Left Hand Tantra functions within the larger framework of Kosmic Gnosis, which includes Esoteric Voudon. The use of the terms “Left Hand” has also become vitiated and I wanted to help clear the fog and shine some light into the shadowy world and reveal a systematic ontology within. Left Hand Tantra is NOT a “free-for-all”  hedonism, but rather a radical pathway of personal transformation, a “merciless path” which demands everything from the wayfarer and requires guidance, common sense and initiation to be effectively manifested.  I hope to reveal all of this in the coming years with further volumes in the Tantric Physics series by Theion Publishing.  

MG: We see a lot of reference to “Left Hand Tantra” and paths to “The Dark Goddess” on the internet as well as in books and it seems like there is a lot of misinformation as well as dodgy teachers out there. What advice can you give to seekers when approaching or researching a teacher?

  CW:  Yes, the terms “Left Hand Path” and “Dark Goddess” are becoming completely commodified in the modern world, with anyone and everyone claiming to be “left hand” and calling up the “Dark Goddess” as easily as shooting an email to a friend or texting with an iphone.  Therefore it becomes incumbent upon the student to use discrimination with seeking a pathway or teacher. However, this discrimination must first be turned upon themselves!  They must ask sobering questions: “why am I seeking a teacher? Why am I seeking to walk the Left Hand Path? What do I hope to gain? What am I willing to offer the teacher or system if and when I find them?  Have I worked to balance myself on the most basic levels before seeking deeper study?”  These are just a few questions which jump out to me and is far from an exhaustive list! The modern seeker seems to search for a teacher / system like they are shopping for a new car; they treat it as a product which can be easily obtained with little effort and which must conform to their every wish! I often hear students or seekers ask or complain about how hard it is to find a teacher yet when asked what they are willing to do to actually obtain this rare mythical artifact, the answer is a blank stare. The teacher is expected to “wow” or impress the student and convince the student that he or she is a worthy guide for them. So it’s a complicated and depressing situation, a true example of the Kali Yuga.
     A student must surely seek a teacher who is authentic, this goes without question. However, this must also be joined with an attitude which is ready to be a student! I also think the modern technological age has left a tamasic residue in the mind, in which the student expects everything to be “instant” and as easy as sending an email. Finding a valid teacher is hard but NOT impossible. But to find this we may have to travel, search, meet many people , change and grow! You can’t just Google enlightenment! Although I’m sure there are some people who say that you can.
     Another important idea for students to keep in mind is to look for the fruit of the teacher. Has the teacher produced other students which were able to manifest and grow? Is the teacher cultivating a personal approach for the student based upon his or her unique adhikara or state of being or are they handing out a homogenized standardized transmission?  The student should examine the background of the teacher and ask themselves if this background seems to connect to areas in which they too have journeyed or expressed curiosity, and approach the teacher with humility and respect, not treat the teacher as if they are a product which comes with a “satisfaction guaranteed” tag!  Spiritual systems can be quite complex and confusing, and the mind is even more mysterious. So for a student to assume that they can be their own guide is both naïve and dangerous. I’m always shocked to see people grasp the idea that one cannot learn martial arts or medicine “on your own” yet claim that any and every God is communicating all the inner secrets to them instantly without any guide!!  The bottom line is that there is no guarantee for anyone. But there are constant Cosmic doorways offered to the student, however one has to be watchful, patient and open to change / growth.

MG: So many people believe they do not need spiritual teachers and that they are receiving direct Spirit contact because of feelings they had or dreams they had. Can you speak to this and help clarify the difference between what goes on in our psyche versus work with a Guru or Master in relation to the Spirits?

 CW: This is an extremely important question! We live in a world filled with Spirits on an infinite level of Cosmic expression therefore there is no doubt that one can communicate with discarnate intelligences. In the system of Kosmic Gnosis in which I work and teach, the one in which David Beth guides, cultivates a level of awareness which I term “Sacramental Vision” in which we seek to communicate and “see” the Soul which resides in all levels of the world and in all levels of the physical mind-body. So I have no doubt that one can contact Spirits and discarnate intelligences. However, to assume that any and every emotional stimulation or dream is a valid Spirit communication is an extremely dangerous and flawed pathway.  This is one of the reasons why so many Sufi teachers tell Western seekers “you don’t need a Spiritual guide, you need a psychologist!” which more often than not angers the seeker who then labels the Sufi teacher as “arrogant” or flawed.  To communicate with Spirits, Loa, Gods, the Dead, Ancestors, or any type of discarnate intelligence is an extremely subtle experience in most cases, and one must learn to cultivate an entirely new system of “subtle organs” which function on a level which in most cases is in radical opposition to the modern conditioned mind / world.  Therefore most if not all traditional systems use physical initiatory methods to link the student to a sacred lineage or paramapara which can open doorways into the Numinous which are obscured or hidden to the modern sight. The teacher can provide access to these realms via words, texts, rituals and physical initiation and help the student cultivate the subtle inner organs which can function on the inner realms of Being. This allows for a balanced experience and also protection in mysterious realms as well. There is no doubt an infinite number of Spirits existing in our environment, in our bodies and in our mind-space; some of these Spirits can be helpful, some indifferent, some feral and some malevolent. It’s extremely naïve to believe that we can navigate these realms without guidance from people who have also journeyed into these realms! Therefore it’s important to have guides and teachers in the physical realm, a flesh and blood teacher. In the systems in which I function and serve, whether alchemical Apostolic Kosmic Gnosis , Left Hand Tantra , JuJu Rouge sorcery, or Esoteric Voudon, the teacher must be a physical person and the initiation must be in the physical as well. There is no “astral guide” or “astral initiation” which can come before overpower the physical transmission between the Teacher and Chela.  We may have occasional moments of “divine inspiration” no doubt! But to assume that we can call these up like we can order a coffee is not only absurd but insulting to the respective gnostic systems themselves.  Many people with severe psychological problems claim to talk to Spirits! Many serial killers claim that Spirits told them to kill!  Many religions start wars which Spirits claim to guide!  Talking to Spirits seems to be as easy as calling your best friend these days, which is quite misleading and misinformed. Our Spirit guides can be easily contacted however, this is often not in any way connected to how we perceive standard communication to function! So we must also use discrimination and cultivate systems which allow us to enter into inner states of awareness not contaminated with modern Archonic dross.  I often feel that it’s much like spending time in nature once one has lived in an urban environment for a long time. It takes time for the senses to readjust to a new environment, one without artificial stimulation and artificial nourishment. Once the mind and senses enter a new environment, new sights and sounds can start to manifest which we would be unable to discern initially; and we often need someone to teach us how to adjust and adapt to this new environment, how to build a fire in order to provide natural light. If one considers this scenario in a contemplative mood, many powerful metaphors can be revealed with are related to our spiritual lives.
     I have no doubt that people can contact Spirits. I just encourage people to have a sober attitude to this communication and not assume that every nuance of the nervous system is a message from the Gods. Discarnate intelligences communicate via our senses and our nervous systems, and these can be damaged and flawed. I discuss this in-depth in “Cave of the Numinous” and we often need the diagnostic mind of the teacher to show us where the flaws exist so we can clear / heal and resolve these flaws so that clear Spirit communication CAN occur.  The teacher can and should function as a doorway into the mysterious realms of the Numinous and teach us to travel into these realms in a safe and powerful manner.  
     I grew up immersed in study with a Spiritualist church and the main guides in this group were crucial for helping others to learn to “listen to the Spirits” as well as discerning what the “Spirits” were attempting to communicate! It was common sense knowledge that it took time, patience , initiation, systematic personal spiritual cultivation, and human guides in order to cultivate clairvoyance and clairaudience. It was not assumed or taught that anyone or everyone could “communicate with the Spirits”, it was a process of subtle listening as well as physical initiation and personal spiritual evolution it was not just “calling in the Spirits.”  Yet today the modern world demands instant results and communication modeled after our obsession with technology! Therefore I encourage people to find balanced human guides to help facilitate travels into the “ Borderland” and to couple this with methodical spiritual study to facilitate cultivation of the inner senses which function in the mysterious realms of the Spirits and in the subtle realms which surround us all.  There are of course always rogue exceptions to these ideas but these are much rarer than we would like to think, and to assume that each of us is an exception to the rule is a naïve and dangerous idea as well!

MG: Let’s talk about meditation and ritual and how that leads to spiritual praxis. So many people want to jump right to the “book of spells” or how to get what they want from the Spirits. Why are meditation and ritual important?

 CW: This is another excellent question which is directly related to the previous question.  The use of meditation is extremely important to de-condition the mind and clear the mindspace of pranic residue which we refer to in Yoga as vasanas and samskaras. If the mind is not calmed and cleared, if the waves of the mind are not calm, one cannot effectively enter into deeper states of consciousness or for that matter clearly communicate with discarnate intelligences.  The use of meditation is foundational for all other practices in any system of inner work. Therefore it is incumbent upon the student to learn to meditate and to cultivate a calm balanced state of mind before attempting to dive into mysterious realms much less walk the Left Hand path!!  And learning to meditate from a book can be difficult therefore, once again the role of the teacher and tradition comes into play.
     The use of ritual is also extremely important as it is the gateway into Sacred Time and Sacred Space; it takes us outside of mundane time and space and allows us to induce specific states of being which are conducive to deeper states of consciousness and communication with Spirits / Loa / Gods.  This is one of the most important roles of the Mass in Gnostic work.  I think in many ways, learning to meditate and to use ritual work is perhaps the most important work one can do to begin the process of deepening one’s spiritual praxis. This takes time, patience and guidance and is not as exciting as a “secret grimoire” or book of spells, however as Michael Bertiaux has said, the magician must “be able to translate himself literally into a grimoire.” The student must learn to find the secrets hidden within the mind- body before he or she seeks to find a secret book which instantly opens the gates to the infinite. Learning how to meditate and learning how to perform ritual work (which can vary from tradition to tradition) is extremely important in understanding the true “inner secrets” and should not be ignored.

MG: You work a lot in Ayurveda and are committed to health and well being. Can you speak to this as well as the concept of the body as alchemical alembic?

CW: The health and vitality of the human body is a crucial factor in spiritual growth. In Indian gnosis this was always a foundational factor with the medical system of Ayurveda always being used in conjunction with Yoga or in conjunction with Tantra; Ayurveda is particularly important in Left Hand Tantra as it has a unique sub-speciality concerned with sexual vitality termed Vajikarana chikitsa which is focused on the use of specific substances to cultivate health and vitality in relation to sexual activity as well as overall reproductive health. Tantra , Yoga , and Ayurveda are essentially alchemical sciences which allow the physical as well as the mental body to be transformed into an alembic, a womb nourished by the tapas of the practitioner’s sadhana. Therefore in Left Hand Tantra we seek to cultivate a deep core of physical and mental health and use unique methods of rejuvenation to cultivate specific types of magical Ojas which can be used in a wide range of practices. If one is always tired, anxious, depressed or suffers from poor quality sleep or digestion, then the ability to deepen one’s spiritual praxis is severely limited.  I have lengthy study of allopathic medicine as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine used in conjunction with Ayurveda in an attempt to envision and translate the unique metaphors of the corporeal body. In the Kosmic Gnosis of the EGA, guided by the Hierophancy of David Beth, we do not seek to transcend the physical or mental body, rather we seek to refine and utilize the corporeal in all its esoteric functions! This also applies to the systems of Esoteric Voudon and Esoteric Hinduism which function within the meta-current of the EGA’s Kosmic Gnosis.

MG: What advice can you give to folks who are new and seeking or who are going through a “dark night of the soul” and are in ways seeking for the second time but have lost faith in their spiritual journeys?

 CW:  I would always suggest that people seek out a teacher in the physical realms who can help guide and develop one’s practice as well as seek to connect with like-minded individuals who share common goals. Our social environment is very important as it can determine the state of our mind, creating a background or stage upon which we choose to act out the karma of our lives. Therefore I always suggest people seek spiritual fellowship and fraternity and the guidance of a teacher who can provide insights and advice. This is not always easy but it is far from impossible.  I also encourage people to use systems of cognitive therapy and to strive to make time for fun and laughter in their lives. Our lives are gone in a blink of an eye, and we must realize that each day is a rare opportunity to live, experience life and help one another. Often when people are experiencing a “dark night of the Soul” the best thing to facilitate a shift is to seek ways to help others who are less fortunate and are suffering more than we are suffering. We must seek to turn our entire lives into a sacred prayer to the Divine and not constantly seek “results” like we seek mundane goals.

MG: You let us know in your book that the tools therein are not just for Esoteric Hindu paths but can be used for other spiritual disciplines. Can you expand on the relationship or similarities between Gnostic, Vedic and Voudou systems?

CW:  Yes, the tools found within “Cave of the Numinous” are applicable for ALL systems of gnostic praxis, not just Esoteric Hinduism. The common thread which unites Vedic / Voudon / Gnostic systems is the Teacher –Chela relationship and the one-to-one transmission of gnosis via the physical relationship between the Teacher and Chela.  This cannot be over-emphasized! It is my hope that “Cave of the Numinous” will inspire any reader to reevaluate their spiritual praxis and seek out a valid guide to help them grow and deepen their respective praxis and break away from ersatz egoic based New Age practices which preach instant results or “magical secrets” which bypass dedicated methodical cultivation of Self-Realization.  “Cave of the Numinous” seeks to provide a unique window into initiatic systems however it also provides rituals and insights which can awaken inner gateways whereby the practitioner can contact living guides / teachers who can assist them on their unique journey into the Numinous.

MG: Many readers may not know that you also work as a Rootworker and hail from Louisiana. Can you talk to some of your experience in Hoodoo and how that ties into your work in esoteric Voudou?

CW:  I am eternally grateful to have the good karma to grow up in Louisiana!!  I was able to grow up in a magical world filled with Spiritualist churches, Catholic mysticism, and feral folk Hoodoo practices. I was always drawn to studying folk systems of medicine and at one time owned an herbal apothecary which served as a supplier to local Conjure practitioners and Root workers ; this allowed me to study and work with a wide array of Hoodoo systems.  When I eventually encountered Esoteric Voudon and the works of Michael Bertiaux, it was not strange to me in any way, it actually seemed to make sense. I consider meeting David Beth as perhaps the most important point in my spiritual life as it allowed me to integrate my lifetime of experiences in Louisiana Hoodoo, Catholic mysticism, and Vedic initiatic gnosis into a larger meta-current of Kosmic Gnosis. I still use a large amount of Hoodoo practices in my personal work, and see the system of Esoteric Voudon as a larger ontological framework into which I can feed my inner experiences of Conjure and Hoodoo.  This is also applicable to my initiatic work with David Beth within the system of JuJu Rouge Fetich sorcery as well as the larger system of Tantric Physics, in which Michael Bertiaux is also extremely supportive! It also important to note that even within my studies of Hoodoo and Conjure, it too was with one-to-one physical teachers and not from astral realms or books!

MG: Can you speak a bit more about “The Dark Goddess”, what do you mean when you say this and what advice can you give for people who are drawn to this type of “energy”?

CW:  When I speak of the Dark Goddess, I am referring to the various forms of MahaKali found within the system of the Dasha Mahavidyas or Ten Wisdom Goddesses of Indian Gnosis.  There are many realms in which the Dark Goddess seeks to express Herself, however, for the systems in which I function, the Dark Goddess MahaKali serves as the main Gateway.

MG: Thank you so much Craig for writing this phenomenal book! Where can readers find access to you and what plans do you have for future writings, teachings and events?

 CW: It’s my pleasure to have this conversation with you Maya! I have always admired your work! I look forward to seeing everyone at the upcoming “Voices of Modern Gnosticism” panel talk in November which will be moderated by the amazing Greg Kaminsky of the wonderful Occult of Personality! And I encourage everyone to sign up for updates from Theion Publishing for information on future volumes in the Tantric Physics series and also visit my website at www.AyurvedaAustin.com.


You can find more information about Craig Williams and the "Cave of the Numinous" as well as other esoteric titles at Theion Publishing. Happy Hunting!