Posted tagged ‘bible’

Blog Post 185 – New World Witchery Cartulary No. 5

January 13, 2014

Happy New Year to you!

Today I thought I might share a few of the things from my holiday stocking, as well as other treats and delights I’ve been enjoying lately. I got a very lovely and eclectic selection of books & music, some of which might be of interest to folks here, so if you find something among the pile that you like, I’d love to know!

The first thing I want to mention is a beautiful copy of Crossway’s Four Holy Gospels. It’s the English Standard Version (ESV) of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John illuminated using contemporary art by Makoto Fujimura. It’s a big, gorgeous clothbound edition and conveys a great deal of the mystical nature of these texts. I know it’s a bit odd to recommend a Bible of sorts on a site with so much magic and all, but if you’ve been around us for a while you know that we’re equal opportunity when it comes to mysticism and magic. So if you’re looking for a good heirloom version of the gospels with a little artistic magic, this is a good one to have.

In addition to the gospels, I got a copy of an excellent book called Kanaval: Vodou, Politics, & Revolution on the Streets of Haiti. It’s a photojournalistic look at the Haitian carnival costumes, parades, and traditions, and it will be of extreme interest to anyone captivated by the rituals of Vodou(n) or other African Traditional Religions. A number of lesser-known loa show up in the text, and there are oral histories from participants in the celebrations that are simply unmatched in recent history. In addition to the book and its magnificent photos, there are two accompanying CDs (one of which I received along with the gospels from my in-laws—I have an amazing family). One is called Spirits of Life, which has a number of ritual songs, and the other is Rara in Haiti and plays some of the more celebratory carnival jazz-style music.  I also bought myself a simply wonderful new magical psalter from Troy Books:  The Charmer’s Psalter, by Cornish witch Gemma Gary. It has fast become one of my favorite magical books and travels with me everywhere now.

Shifting from the authentic to the entertaining, I’ve been very much enjoying this year’s run of American Horror Story, subtitled Coven and set in a world of New Orleans Voodoo and witchcraft. I actually introduced Laine to the show, and she’s taken off running with it, consuming the first two seasons as well (subtitled Murder House and Asylum). I’m sure we’ll wind up discussing it more elsewhere, and it’s generating some controversy around the Pagan blogosphere, but if you’ve not checked it out and enjoy good, immersive horror, it’s fun to watch, in my opinion.

In that same vein, I’ve also been enjoying the kitschy-but-witchy antics of Witches of East End on Lifetime. I can’t say it’s a must-see, but the episodes I’ve seen have been enjoyable and if you’re a fan of things like Charmed, this might be fun, too. Might.

A lot has been going on in the podcasting universe lately, too. I’ve been tuning in to a couple of new shows, including The Kindle Witch with Faelyn, Pagan Life Radio with Brent/Raven, and one called Disney Story Origins. The first two offer some nice new elements to the Pagan podcasting world. Faelyn uses her show to explore books in a sort of book-club format, while also sharing a lot of neat moments from her own practice. Brent/Raven uses his show to create a really neat community space for talking to Pagans working on specific goals, or just get into good discussions about the role of Paganism in contemporary society. The Disney origins podcast is a gem, where the host compares and contrasts the stories that inspired Disney movies to the films and explores how that translation happens. The most recent episode gets into the excellent recent film Frozen and its inspiration, “The Snow Queen,” by Hans Christian Andersen (a section of which was included in our Yule show this year).

I’m also sad to say we’re losing at least one of our podkin for a while. Gillian at Iron Powaqa recently announced she’s taking an open-ended break from recording to focus on other projects. I completely understand her reasons, but she will definitely be missed. I fear this will be a trend, as several podcasters have disappeared this year.  On a happier podkin note, Fire Lyte has published his first book of poetry, The Playground, which is available in several formats now. If you’re a fan of his poetry, this is definitely a book to get (plus it supports Pagan podcasting, which is always a noble cause).  Finally, if you’ve not been listening to Peter Paddon’s revitalized podcast, do so! It’s the reason New World Witchery even exists, and he’s an absolutely charming fellow (all puns intended).

That’s all the news that’s fit to print for me this week! What was under your tree this year?

Don’t forget to enter our contests! We’ve got a NOLA Swag Bag contest finishing this Friday, and a Three Questions contest which will finish up next week. Give ‘em a go, and maybe win something fun!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 136 – Papisticall Charmes (More Catholic-flavored Magic)

September 12, 2011

Howdy-do!

Today I’m going to be following along the course of my previous entries on brujeria/curanderismo and Catholic folk magic in general by looking at some specific elements, tools, charms, and spells from within those traditions. I should go ahead and note that while Psalm magic is found within all of these streams, I’m not covering it here because it is a huge topic in and of itself, and one which I’ve already explored a bit in posts 115 and 116. I’ll also only briefly touch on any Saint-specific magic, because that could be its own topic, too (and hopefully will be at some point).

That being said, I would like to point out the presence of a number of folk saints in pseudo-Catholic magical practices. These are not officially recognized saints (even Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II have not been fully canonized yet), but rather people reputed to be intensely holy and capable of performing miraculous feats. They can also be spirits with special powers and areas of influence who do not have a human counterpart, but rather seem to be almost archetypical entities. Some of the most widely petitioned and patronized of these folk saints include:

  • Don Pedrito Jaramillo – healing
  • Teresa Urrea (“Teresita”) – healing
  • El Nino Fidencio – healing & spiritual purification
  • Santa Muerte (“La Santisima,” “La Huesada”) – protection, prosperity, family life, love, and a number of other powers
  • Saint Michael (Archangel) – protection & spiritual warfare
  • Saint Raphael (Archangel) – safe travels, spiritual medicine, & exorcism of evil spirits

(for more information on these folk saints, see Curandero by Cheo Torres and Magical Powers of the Saints by Ray T. Malbrough)

Many people simply burn candles with images of these saints emblazoned on the glass or with picture prayer cards placed nearby. Small votive offerings might be left out for them, including small amounts of liquor, coffee, or tobacco, or specific items might be given to specific saints. For example, Saint Michael’s altar would be decorated by war memorabilia, such as medals, maps, or pictures of soldiers. More explicitly spell-like operations can also be performed, such as this method for creating a powerful “fortune magnet”:

Get a candle or statue of Santa Muerte and put her on an altar by herself (she does not like to share altar space, though she has been known to tolerate St. Michael at times). Place a lodestone beside her, and a glass of water on the other side of her. Put a basket of brightly colored fruit (lemons and oranges, for example) in front of her, and place yellow flowers upon her altar. Light a charcoal in a brazier and burn a holy incense (such as Gloria Incense or even just some frankincense). Add a pinch of soil from your homeland (or even hometown) to the burning coal, and say:

Towards you I inclilne, Holy Lady
I bring you water and yellow flowers,
Incense and the dust from which I am made.
Please make the world to twist and turn,
Allowing luck and fortune to cross my path,
Cutting the bitter ties that bind me.
In your honor I shall please you with scented offerings,
I shall plant trees in forests,
I shall give you fruits
In return for your goodwill towards me.

Allow the candle to burn for at least an hour. If possible, allow the candle to burn out on its own. Let the stone sit overnight, rising before dawn and wrapping it in a dark cloth. Keep this with you at all times, and do not unwrap it in direct sunlight. [Adapted from a spell in an anonymously authored chapbook called The Magical Powers of the Holy Death picked up in a botanica]

How’s that for not dwelling on Saint magic? Moving on, then, let’s look at some other spells from other sources. This one, which I’m transcribing from The Red Church and which comes from John G. Hohman’s Long Lost Friend, is not explicitly Catholic, but the presence of latinate words and Christian symbols certainly allows it to fit right in with the whole “magical Catholic” idea:

A Written Charm of Exorcism

Below is a charm paper entitled ‘Against Evil Spirits and Witchcrafts.’ This charm was given to me by ‘Daisy.’ With the exception of a few minor details it is exactly like the one that appears in Hohman’s The Long Lost Friend

I.
N. I. R.
I.
Sanctus.   Spiritus.
I.
N. I. R.
I.

All this be guarded, here in time, and there in eternity. Amen. +++ (TRC, p. 273-4)

Chris Bilardi goes on to describe several ways in which you might deploy this charm, including folding it into a tight triangle and slipping it into the frames and jambs of doors and windows in your home (but you must use no metal to affix it). He also mentions putting it into a wallet or binding it with a red string if it is intended to be carried.

Another home protection and blessing charm comes out of ancient Jewish practice, too. Joshua Trachtenberg’s quintessential text on the topic, Jewish Magic & Superstition, describes an excellent blessing charm which consists very simply of bread and salt either ingested to defeat evil spirits or brought into a new home “as a symbolic of the hope that food may never be lacking there” (JM&S p.161). In my own family, we called this the ‘Polish House Blessing’ and included a penny as well (we were Polish through my grandfather’s family). It’s something I still use when someone mooves into a new house in order to bless their new home. I simply put the salt (kosher, please), a piece of bread, and a penny in a small jar (like a baby food jar) and wrap the lid in pretty paper, often with a Psalm written on the underside of it to provide protection and domestic bliss (Psalms 46 and 61 are both good for this).

One of my personal favorite books of the Bible is Jonah, which is also one of the shortest books in the whole book. It’s read every year on Yom Kippur in synagogues, and it has a bizarre blend of folklore, humor, and philosophy in it that I just find delightful. For a magical practitioner, it can also be a very good source of magical phrases. One very simple spell which Draja Mickaharic lists in his Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets is for abating someone’s anger:

To Turn Away Another Person’s Anger

Required: Only the verse

Spell: In the presence of an angry person, say the verse to yourself three times.

Verse: Jonah 4:4 (“Then said the lord, Does thou well to be angry?”)

NOTE: This verse should be memorized and used for this purpose whenever desired (MSMP, p. 52-3)

There are a number of great non-Psalm verses that can be used for various magical purposes. Most of these are simply spoken, though sometimes they can be written down and carried in pockets, purses, etc. for magical aid. A list (hardly exhaustive) of such verses:

  • Amos 2:13 – Against an Opressor
  • Obadiah 1:6 – To Find that Which Has Been Lost
  • Habakkuk 2:2-3 – For Aid in Automatic Writing
  • Zechariah 4:13-14 – To Learn Who Your Teacher or Guide Is
  • Ezekiel 16:6 – The Blood Verse (for stopping small wounds)
  • Genesis 49:18 – For Protection at Night
  • Deuteronomy 18:13 – Against Wild Beasts
  • Deuteronomy 33:3-4 – For Intelligence

(The above primarily from Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets and Jewish Magic & Supersition)

I’m sure with enough effort, nearly any book of the Bible will yield some magical content, though I’ve not tested that theory.

Finally, I couldn’t reisist including some of the “popish and magicall cures” found in Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft. The following are cures “For direct cure to such as are bewitched in the privie members” (i.e. to deal with impotence, especially impotence caused by witchcraft):

For direct cure to such as are bewitched in the privie members, the first and speciall is confession: then follow in a row, holie water, and those ceremoniall trumperies, Ave Maries, and all maner of crossings; which are all said to be wholesome, except the witchcraft be perpetuall, and in that case the wife maie have a divorse of course.

  • Item, the eating of a haggister or pie helpeth one bewitched in that member.
  • Item, the smoke of the tooth of a dead man.
  • Item, to annoint a mans bodie over with the gall of a crow.
  • Item, to fill a quill with quicke silver, and laie the same under the cushine, where such a one sitteth, or else to put it under the threshold of the doore of the house or chamber where he dwelleth.
  • Item, to spet into your owne bosome, if you be so bewitched, is verie good.
  • Item, to pisse through a wedding ring. If you would know who is hurt in his privities by witchcraft; and who otherwise is therein diseased,Hostiensis answereth: but so, as I am ashamed to english it: and therefore have here set down his experiment in Latine; Quando virga nullatenùs movetur, & nunquam potuit cognoscere; hoc est signum frigiditatis: sed quando movetur & erigitur, perficere autem non potest, est signum maleficii. [Dialect from original text preserved here]

I hope this post has been entertaining and interesting for you. Please also check out the recent posts on curanderismo and Catholic folk magic, as well as our most recent episode on biblical sorcery.

I don’t know if I’ll get another post up before the Salem trip, so if I don’t, I will hope to see some of you there. And the rest of you I’ll look forward to speaking to when I get back!
Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 34 – Biblical Magic

September 6, 2011

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 34-

Summary
This episode is the long-awaited episode on “great spells from the good book.” We’re talking about magic both in the Bible and from the Bible.

Play:
Download: New World Witchery – Episode 34

 

-Sources-

NWW Posts on Biblical Magic:

1)   Blog Post 135 – The Magical Catholic
2)   Blog Post 122 – Bibliomancy
3)   Blog Post 116 – Cursing Psalms part II
4)   Blog Post 115 – Cursing Psalms part I

Check out Arrow Claire’s blog post on bibliomancy, as well.

Books:
Secrets of the Psalms, by Godfrey Selig
Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, by Draja Mickaharic
Jewish Magic  & Superstition, by Joshua Trachtenberg
Power of the Psalms, by Anna Riva

And, of course, the Bible (available pretty much anywhere near you)

Don’t forget about the Second Annual Pagan Podkin Supermoot in Salem, MA, on the weekend of Sept. 17th, 2011.  Find out more details about the event and opportunities to come meet us in person at the PPSM2 Website. [Laine respectfully asks that she not be in any photographs, due to privacy concerns—Cory will be happy to wear a wig and pretend to be Laine, however].

During the Supermoot, NWW favorite Peter Paddon will be teaching a class on ritual trance and possession. Sign up here.

I’ll also be at the West KY Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival teaching a course on “Biblical Magic & Sorcery.”

Also, you can now follow New World Witchery on Twitter! Our handle is @NWWitchery, and we’ll be posting about new episodes, blog posts, and contests to those who follow us.

Promos & Music

 
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
 

Incidental Music: “The Peaceful Death of the Righteous,” by Troy Demps, James Robinson, & Frank Spaulding; “Wasn’t That a Mystery,” by Madison County Senior Center; “Babylon Is Falling Down,” by Deacon Dan Smith w/Nick Hallman & the Georgia Sea Island Singers [All from the Florida Folklife Project]

Promo 1 – Pagan in Portland
Promo 2 – Magick and Mundane
Promo 3 – Conjure Doctor Products
Promo 4 – Media Astra ac Terra

Blog Post 133 – Summer Reading List

August 17, 2011

Hi there!

Today I thought I’d share some of the various books and other texts I’ve been reading over the summer, both for school and for pleasure. Most everything I’ve read has had something I could take from it and apply to magical or folkloric study, though in many cases the connection might be a bit tenuous.  What I hope to illustrate is that reading across broad categories (and, by extension, having broad experiences), can provide you with a lot of good material and insight. At the very least, I hope to wow you with my lexical engrossment. Women dig guys with big libraries, right?

All kidding aside, I hope you find this useful or interesting, and that I am able to show the relevance to New World Witchery. So here we go!

African American Literature

Knowing the culture from which a tradition or practice develops is important, and a large portion of my summer involved becoming deeply familiar with African-American literary culture, which in turn helped me better understand things like hoodoo.

Slave narratives: I read a number of these for my African American Literature course, and then even found myself reading additional titles in this genre as well. Nearly every one I read mentioned at least some magical practice, varying from the presence of a fortune-teller in William Wells Brown’s story to Frederick Douglass’ use of a magical root to keep from being beaten (according to Douglass, who was dubious of its powers, it did seem to work). The attitude in these texts varies pretty widely when it comes to magical practice. Some condone it, some treat it with ambivalence, and some are hostile towards it. Some of the works I read included:

Folklore: We read several authors renowned for their folkloric contributions, and several writers deeply influenced by folk tales. In nearly every case, some element of conjure or rootwork is present, though often only incidentally or tangentially (as in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon). Through studying these works I found new sources of magical lore which function as old fairy tales often do—preserving the folklife information in fictional form. A selection of suggested texts:

I’m sure there were dozens of references to conjure culture I missed in these as well as the other works I read for this class, but in each of them I found something of value related to my magical, spiritual, ancestral, or simply scholarly practice.

Bible as Literature

I’m planning on exploring the magical connections in the Bible elsewhere (it actually wound up being a major component of my final paper for the class, a 20-page monster that essentially argued “no magic=no Bible”). But I thought it might be good to list a few of the major sources I used on that paper, as they revealed a tremendous amount about historical magical practices related to this keystone cultural text.

There were plenty of scholarly articles on the topic, too, and a number of entries in reference books like The Cambridge Companion to the Bible and the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Trying to list all of those, however, would probably be tedious, so I’ll leave them be for the moment.

While I’m not one to say all North American folk magic is biblically based (in fact much of it is completely unrelated to the Bible), the Bible has had an impact on multiple magical systems here, and so I find learning more about it useful. I especially find learning more about it in a magical context useful!

Creative Non-Fiction

This was supposed to be my “fun” course, a writing class in a workshop-style setting. It was actually fairly reading-intensive, too, though. I wound up writing a piece on a somewhat famous conjure personality as part of the course, and got an excellent response to it. I can only think of one book, though, that falls into the New World Witchery camp of texts: Salvation on Sand Mountain, by Dennis Covington. This book is about snake handling churches in southern Appalachia, and the portions of it we read for class were eerily magical at times. The author of the book starts off as a non-believer, and even engages in the handling as a non-believer, but finds that a mystical power overtakes him when he’s ‘in the moment,’ so to speak. I definitely recommend it based just on the limited amount we read.

In addition to my school work, I was also spending time reading a number of books for fun, which I’ll hopefully get around to reviewing soon. I’ve already put up a review of Charles De Lint’s Promises to Keep over at the Pagan Bookworm site, and I’m working on reviews for about 3-4 other titles as well. I’m also planning to restart Moby Dick when the fall weather hits, and possibly re-read some Hawthorne, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

At any rate, I hope you’ve been having a fun and useful summer, too! What’s been on your reading list the past few months?

All the best, and thanks for reading,

-Cory

Blog Post 122 – Bibliomancy

March 10, 2011

I thought today we would take a look at one of the many divinatory systems found in the New World, and one which has remained popular through the centuries:  bibliomancy.  We discussed this topic during our most recent episode, but I have wanted to expand upon it a bit.  The practice of bibliomancy as a form of divination is common enough in the New World that many folks who wouldn’t touch any other type of magical practice might be persuaded to do at least one of the methods below.

Probably the most commonly used book for bibliomancy is the Christian (or in some cases, Hebrew) Bible.  Other texts can be used, however, and it would not be out of place to turn to a favorite book of poetry, a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or any other piece of writing.  The overarching control factor seems to be that the inquiring party must feel the book has some kind of power.  Whether that power is religious/spiritual or simply the force of knowledge or even a fondness born of favoritism does not seem to matter much; just the reverence offered the text is enough to imbue it with oracular power.

The methods for bibliomancy break down into roughly three categories:  scanning the text (either at random or specifically), using interpretive devices such as dice, and a very particular technique involving a key.

Scanning

This is probably the most familiar method, and the one which is least likely to raise eyebrows among laity.  People frequently look for signs from God or at least from somewhere else to help point them towards good decisions in times of doubt (or they like to have signs that affirm their choices, depending on your perspective).  I’ve known even the most skeptical and non-magically inclined folks to flop open a Bible and point at the page without looking in order to find what will hopefully be a relevant quote.  For those who want a little more magic in the process, however, it might help to get into a ritual mindset before posing questions to the Divine.  In Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, he notes:

“When selecting a verse that is pertinent to the situation the person finds themselves in, it is generally necessary that the person looking for the verse compose themselves and place a bible before them, either on their lap or on a table.  They then are to concentrate upon the matter that troubles them.  Once the true question is firmly in the mind of the person seeking an answer, the bible is opened randomly, and without looking at the pages, a finger is set upon some part of the page.  The verse so indicated by the person’s finger would then reveal some advice, or lead to a solution to the question that has been poised, or even reveal a solution to the problem at hand” (p.125)

There are other ways to consult a holy book for heavenly guidance, too.  Jewish folklore and magical practice interprets scriptural passages incidentally, rather than just directly, for instance.  From Jewish Magic & Superstition by Joshua Trachtenberg:

“The familiar use of Scripture in divining (Bibliomancy) was not unknown to Jews. The Romans had thus employed Vergil [sic]; the Bible was already put to this use by Christians before the eight century; in medieval Germany hymn- and prayer-books served the same purpose. But Jews did not have to borrow this device from their neighbors.  In Talmudic times it was common practice to ask children what verses they had studied that day in school, and to accept them as good or bad omens, an expedient that persisted throughout the Middle Ages.  The more usual procedure of opening the Bible at random and taking the first word or sentence that strikes the eye as a portent, was also followed.  Similarly, ‘if, upon awakening, one recalls a Biblical verses, this passage is to be regarded as a”minor prophecy,” and if it is an ominous passage, one should fast.’” [footnoted to   Pa’aneah Raza on Leviticus and Perles’ Beitrege] (p. 216)

Trachtenberg goes on to say that no special skills were required for bibliomancy and anyone can do it, and that it is also connected to the act of sortilege/casting lots (much like the Dice Method).

One of the more peculiar and interesting methods of scanning a text for magical guidance comes from New World Witchery standby Vance Randolph:

“Many hillfolk tell fortunes and predict marriages by means of certain quotations from the Bible.  For example, the twenty-first and thirty-first chapters of Proverbs have thirty-one verses each.  Chapter 21 is the man’s birthday chapter; chapter 31 is the woman’s birthday chapter.  A boy looks up his proper verse in the man’s chapter, according to the date of his birth.  A man born on the twenty-third of any month, for example, reads Proverbs 21:23—the content of this verse is supposed to be equally significant to him” (OM&F, p. 184)

In my case, the Proverb says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, /But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.”  Patience has been a long-standing goal of mine, even from when I was very young, so I do think this method may hold some merit.  Or it may be a strange coincidence.  Either way, I really like it for its unique spin on a traditional method.

Dice

I mentioned this method in Podcast 25, too, but I thought it would be good to write it out here for those who are interested.  Connected to one of the few methods of divination not condemned by the New Testement—casting lots—the use of dice in conjunction with the Bible might raise eyebrows now, but it actually makes a great deal of sense.  And when you consider that dice were (and are) often made of bone, the vaguely necromantic side of this method begins to surface.  The method cited here comes from Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells:

Lord Thoth’s Trio

Thoth, Egyptian lunar god, is given credit for inventing books, magic, and dice.  All are combined in the following method.

  1. Formulate your question, while holding dice.
  2. Close your eyes and flip open the book.
  3. Gently, with eyes remaining closed, toss the dice onto the open book.

Read the passage indicated by the location of the fallen dice.  An alternative is to read the passage indicated by the numbers shown on the dice—thus you might begin on the sixth line, third word or similar.  If using numeral coordination, it’s not necessary for the dice to actually land on the page, although both methods can be integrated.

There’s no reason other interpretive items could not be used similarly, though the precedent doesn’t exist to my knowledge.  I can imagine, however, that a deck of cards could be likewise consulted in conjunction with the holy book of choice, and the number or value of the card taken as a guidepost in determining which verse to read.

Keys

Arrow over at the Wandering Arrow blog actually mentioned this a while ago, and it’s her post (and an email she sent me) which really sparked my entire research bender into the subject.  The overall method seems to derive from a folk Catholic practice which was outlined in Reginald Scot’s 1584 treatise on magic, The Discoverie of Witchcraft.  In this book, Scot lampoons the “popish” superstitions of the Catholics, and cites an example of their folk magic involving a scriptural text (a psalter) and a skeleton key:

“Popish preests (saith he) as the Chaldceans used the divination by sive & sheeres for the detection of theft, doo practise with a psalter and a keie fastned upon the 49. psalme, to discover a theefe. And  when the names of the suspected persons are orderlie put into the  pipe of the keie, at the reading of these words of the psalme (If thou  sawest a theefe thou diddest consent unto him) the booke will wagge, and fall out of the fingers of them that hold it, and he whose name remaineth in the keie must be the theefe.” (Ch. 5)

The Psalm cited, the 49th, is full of memento mori imagery, reminding the singer that death comes to all, and none escapes God’s eye.  The connection between this method and the sieve and shears method—both of which involve tenuously suspending something and asking questions until it begins to move—is also interesting, as the sieve and shears appear in witch folklore, too (see “The Horned Women” tale from Ireland).  Scot’s mention of this form of bibliomancy is brief, though, and a a more thorough description of the method can be found in Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets:

“In the second method of divining using the bible, a key, one of those old fashioned ‘skeleton keys,’ is used in addition to the bible.  The key is placed somewhere in the bible, keyed end first, so that the turning end protrudes, sticking out of the wide end of the bible.  To keep the key in the bible in this manner, the bible must be tied closed.  This may be done with rubber bands or with string, however the person desiring to read in this manner chooses.  Irregardless of how the bible is held closed, it is important that it be tied or held tightly, as the bible will be suspended from the key when this work of divination is being done.  Once the key when this work of divination is being done.  Once the key is fixed in the bible in this manner, the bible is suspended from the fingers of both hands, usually one finger under each of the keys turning end.  In that precarious position, a question is asked, either having a yes or no answer, or several questions.” (p. 125)

In this method, the person reading must determine what yes and no are before asking the question, whether it turns or wobbles one way or the other.  Mickaharic says this is very effective, and that “the first time I did this, the bible actually jumped from my fingers when the question was answered with a no.”

This method is also backed up by practices within the hexenmeister community.  In Chris Bilardi’s Red Church, he provides an almost identical system for inserting a key into the Bible, binding it, and suspending it while asking questions.  He is more specific about which books to use, however:  “Take the key and place it into the Bible.  Some traditional places to put it are the Book of Ruth (Chapter 1), the Gospel of John (any of the Four Gospels, really), and the Epistle of James” (Red Church, p. 303).  It’s very interesting to me that the Book of Ruth shows up repeatedly in magical bible study.  That might be a topic for another day, though.

So that’s it for basic bibliomancy!  I hope this has been informative and useful to you.  If you have any other examples of this method, or stories to share about using this or similar techniques, we’d love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 116 – Cursing Psalms (part II)

January 20, 2011

Staying on the dark side of things today, I’m going to continue the theme I started in my previous blog post on the biblical Psalms which have been used to curse.  In this post, I’ll be looking at several of the most commonly used Psalms, as well as some of the spells which are built around them.

To begin, let’s look at the spell that prompted this whole topic.  From Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells:

The Cursing Psalm

The power to heal can be the power to harm.  Even something as intrinsically good and sacred as a psalm may be used malevolently.  Psalm 109 has been called ‘the cursing psalm.’  It may be chanted to harm an enemy.

The psalm itself is inherently benevolent.  It’s your emotion and intention that transforms it.  Therefore the fist step is to be in the right mood.  Then start chanting and visualizing.” (p. 575)

This is certainly the most intensive of the cursing Psalms, including the admonitions:

9Let his [one’s enemy] children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

10Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

13Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

Not pleasant stuff, certainly.  This one is powerful enough that merely chanting it while focusing on an enemy should cause him or her some distress.  However, before simply writing this particular Psalm off as evil, I should point out that it also gets interpreted in more positive ways.  Ray T. Marlbrough says it is used “To protect from an enemy, persisting in bothering you” (Magic Power of the Saints).  In this light, it is not so much of a curse as a barrier against harm.  Braucher Chris Bilardi recognizes its power to be used “against a tenacious enemy,” but also says it is useful “for acquiring friends” (The Red Church).  So even the “cursing Psalm” has its upside.

Next, let’s lok at Psalm 70 in a spell from  Hyatt’s books, via the HyattSpells Yahoo! Group:

CUT LIMB FROM A TREE THAT IS WITHERING
WHILE MENTIONING WHICH LIMB OF YOUR ENEMY YOU WISH TO BE AFFECTED, OR WHILE MENTIONING OVERALL WITHERING AS YOUR INTENT;
READ THE 70TH PSALM ON YOUR ENEMY;
BURY WITHERED LIMB WITH YOUR ENEMY’S UNDERWEAR –
– TO HURT BY DRYING THEM UP

When ah want someone tuh dry up, or tuh hurt them, yo’ go to a tree an’ git a tree that’s withered all up, dryin’ up.  Yo’ don’t know the cause of the tree dryin’ up but chure not supposed tuh know how come the tree is witherin’ up yo’self tuh do this.  Yo’ jes’ git the witherin’ tree that’s dyin’, an’ yo’ cut a branch offa that tree, see.  An’ yo’ want that person – whatevah limb yo’ want that person tuh lose when yo’ cut this branch offa this tree, yo’ mention de limb that chew want ’em tuh lose, if it’s the right laig or the right arm.  It won’t work on they haid; it’ll work on a limb, yore arm or yore laig.  An’ then yo’ bury this withered tree wit some of this person’s underwear.  Until it’s found, why they’ll wither away or lose dere laig or lose they arm, whichevah yo’ say, an’ they’ll be lingerin’ from it.  Co’se if yo’ don’t want ’em tuh die like that or lose their laig or arm, yo’ would say, “Let ’em wither as dis tree withers.”  But chew would have tuh read de 70th Psalms tuh do that work.  De 70th Psalms will dry that person up, jes’ wither him up.  De 70th Psalms will dry yo’ up jes’ like a herrin’ – yo’ see, a dry herrin’.  Yo’ read de 70th Psalms on anyone an’ it will dry ’em up.

[Memphis, TN.  Informant #926 and #1538 (this is one informant, two different interview dates); B45:19-B51:1 = 1503-1509 and D96:1-D110:2 = 2779-2793.]

This is definitely a severe curse, in that it aims to cause at least semi-permanent damage to a person’s body.  Both Bilardi and the Curious Curandera also list this Psalm as one to be used for overcoming evil, particularly bad habits—the withering of a limb in this case being the withering of the wicked part of oneself that must be removed.

Some of the other Psalms that may be used in a cursing capacity include:

Psalm 7 – Used to overcome enemies, especially those who plot against one secretly

Psalm 48 – To undo envious enemies; according to Malbrough, it can also be used to “strike fear into your enemies”

Psalm 52 – Used to punish one’s enemies, especially those who use magic against one

Psalm 53 – Which can be used to curse someone who is being stubborn, or to inflict blindness (mental or physical)

Psalm 59 – Henri Gamache has a ritual “to overcome an enemy” using this Psalm and several candles (see Master Book of Candle Burning)

Psalm 93 – Used in legal cases where one has been unjustly accused in order to cross the one who brought the charges

Psalm 100 – According to Bilardi, this Psalm is for “overcoming enemies and obstacles” (TRC)

Psalm 109 – The Curious Curandera recommends this one “to overcome a strong enemy, for the ungrateful people who turn against their benefactors”

Psalm 120 – To stop gossip against one or to cross one’s enemies in court cases

Psalm 140 – Against anyone “evil,” though I think that is a fairly subjective idea.  It is also used like Psalm 52 against anyone who has worked harmful magic against one

In all of these cases, the Psalms themselves are sometimes all you need, though the more one wants to add to the process, the more potent the curse will be.   Muttering the curse over a candle with an enemy’s name carved into it would be a simple and not-terribly-visceral way to do it.  Sewing up one of these Psalms into a doll-baby containing an enemy’s hair or foot track and tossing it into a fire, burying it in the earth, or dropping it into a jar full of baneful herbs and oils would be a pretty big curse.  The mechanics of the curse really would depend upon the practitioner.

Before I finish up today, I thought I’d also look at a few of the other curse verses employed from the Bible.  Just as non-Psalmic verses (like the Blood Verse in Ezekiel 16) and extra-biblical prayers can be employed to do good works, there are a few passages which have some crossing power in them.  These are taken from a very fine book on Old Testament magic called Jewish Magic & Supersition, by Joshua Trachtenberg:

“Against an enemy: Ex. 15:5; 15:6; 15:9; 15:19; Deut. 22:6; Is. 10:14 and Prov. 1:17

To cause an enemy to die: Nu. 14:37

To cause an enemy to drown: Ex. 15:10

Against slander: Ex. 15:7

To cause a man who has sworn falsely to die within a year:  Ex. 15:12

To cause a curse to take effect: Lev. 27:29” (p. 110)

Pretty rough stuff!  All of these curses make me want to up my protection factor quite a bit.  You can’t be too careful out there, where magic is concerned.

I hope this has been useful to someone.  If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me.  For now, blessings upon you for reading this (after all these curses, you might need them!).
And, of course, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 115 – Cursing Psalms (part I)

January 18, 2011

Several months ago, I received an email from a reader/listener asking about the use of certain biblical texts in the context of cursing.  It said:

“I have been reading Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells and came across Psalms 109 being used as a hex. I did not know that you could use Bible verses as a hex. Can you give me more info of this Psalms 109 hex?”

So I thought that today I might start to look at some of the “cursing Psalms,” with an eye to their historical precedents, their place in American folk magic, and some ideas of what to do with them.  Before I get too far into the topic, however, please let me emphasize that using any curse is tricky, and biblical ones can be especially so.  Many of them are based on specific theological ideas about the Old Testament G-d and His will regarding the administration of justice.  If a curse isn’t justified, not only might it not work, it might backfire as according to the theology involved, the curse would go against G-d’s will, and thus invite destruction on the curser.   Basically, as always, be careful with curses.

To look at biblical curses historically, the first hurdle most folks have to leap is the hurdle of modern thinking.  Many who study the Bible are incredibly uncomfortable with the idea that it contains admonitions to do harm to others, yet it clearly does.  Repeatedly G-d tells his chosen people to exterminate tribes, towns, and even civilizations down to the last man, woman, and child (see Deuteronomy and I Samuel).  He inflicts suffering on even his most loyal subjects (see Job).  Some view this all as an historical account, or a gloss for political struggles in a religious context, or as something undone by New Testament theology.  Cursing in the Bible, though, is not limited to cataclysmic events on a national level or a cosmic wager between G-d and Satan—it’s often deeply personal.  There are several accounts in the Bible of G-d’s representatives dishing out curses:

2 Kings 2 – The prophet Elisha curses a group of children for calling him “bald,” and the children are eaten by a pair of bears.

Numbers 5 – A magical ritual is prescribed for determining if a woman has abeen unfaithful.  If she has and she is pregnant from her adultery, the ritual causes spontaneous abortion.

Acts 5 – Peter curses a man and woman who lied to him, and they die.

Acts 13 – Paul curses a man pretending to be an Apostle/sorcerer, and the man goes blind.

(You can read more about magic in the bible here, by the way)

It should be apparent, then, that the Bible doesn’t contain only sweetness and light and the works of a “good” G-d the way many modern people might prefer it.  Rather, it contains a mix of history, folklore, philosophy, and even some occult information straddling the line of morality on all accounts.  Rather than viewing it through the lens of today, when we might not understand why anyone would resort to cursing in the name of a higher power, it is helpful to have a little more perspective.  Theologian Tomas O Curraoin writes about curses in an article for the Irish Catholic digest The Furrow:

“The stand taken by the Old Testament was certainly uncompromising; whereas the contemporary world which influences us all is, to say the least, more accommodating. The maledictions found in the psalms are merely an expression of that fundamental attitude of the Old Testament to evil and to evil-doers. They take their origin in certain human situations, and express an attitude to God, to Life, to the cosmic struggle between good and evil, which is certainly not characteristic of the world-attitude today. In fact there is no question of justifying, in the sense of excusing, the use of curses in the psalms. The psalms are inspired, and do not need to be justified…” (from “The Malediction in the Psalms”).

(Please note here that O Curraoin makes the point that the Psalms themselves, as divine passages, do not need to be justified—I still stand by my point that the use of thes Psalms for cursing must be justified, however).  He goes on to point out that in many cases, the maledictive Psalms are really about justice for those who have no other recourse.  In a tribal system where many legal cases come down to one man’s word against another and where death is on the line for what we might consider minor transgressions, it’s not senseless to call upon G-d to smite one’s enemies before one is destroyed by them.  From a nationalist point of view, the enemy of a faithful follower is an enemy of the people, and thus of G-d, so again, a curse is a-okay.  And in the case of a curse against one who is simply acting immorally to wards his neighbors, well, that is still in line with the whole “G-d’s will” idea because the laws about morality supposedly come from G-d. Or as priest John J. Greehy puts it:

“We must be fair to the Psalmists. They had a keen sense of justice. They realized that there could be no real peace (shalom—the fullness of God’s promise in every sphere of life) unless justice, truth, freedom, even some loving were present in the land. So they invoked the divine justice against unrepentant sinners” (from “The Cursing Psalms” in The Furrow, Mar. 1978).

So, what we have is a system of last resort for someone without other recourse, backed by the most powerful forces he or she can muster.

In that vein, it shouldn’t be surprising that the poor and enslaved are the ones we find using cursing Psalms in history.  Harry M. Hyatt recorded a number of spells involving the Psalms among his Black informants, including some curses.  One particularly interesting example follows:

HOODOO PSALM SCRATCHED ON NEW TINPAN WITH NEW PIN OR NEEDLE OR NAIL TO
CONTROL

9783. Yo’ kin take a tinpan an’ control a person. Yo’ kin take a
brand-new tinpan an’ yo’ kin write – lemme see. Ah got it right heah, de
psalms yo’ find where it says “Vau – v-a-u.” Yo’ kin take that an’ write
that on a brand-new tinplate. (This psalm in which the word “Vau” is
used?) Yes Sir. It’s in psalms [the psalm of a hoodoo book] an’ yo’ kin
write that. But now yo’ don’t write it with a pencil or nuthin like
that. Yo’ take a needle or pin or new nail that’s sharp – anyting that’s
sharp except a pencil – an’ yo’ write that psalm on that tinplate. Then
yo’ kin take that tinplate an’ put it away where it won’t be disturbed
or be handled by anybody else. An’ you kin control that person if yo’
write that psalm fo’ them.

[Waycross, Ga., (1166), 1959:8.]

The Psalm in question is the acrostic Psalm 119, focusing specifically on the Hebrew letter “vau”in verses 41-48 and its portion of the overall Psalm.  From the King James Version:

41Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.

42So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word.

43And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.

44So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.

45And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

46I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

47And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.

48My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.

While this isn’t a particularly virulent bit of cursing, it is certainly not a pleasant spell, as it puts someone under the spellcaster’s control. Hyatt also records Psalms 20 and 93 being used to bind one’s enemies in a court situation, Psalms 35 and 102 being used to get rid of a troublesome enemy, and Psalm 70 to make them wither up and suffer.  I should go ahead and say that, of course, the use of cursing Psalms even in hoodoo is fairly limited compared to using Psalms for things like success, luck, love, and protection.  I generally interpret the large percentage of non-cursing spells in most folk magic practices probably indicates that curses should make up a minority of any witch’s magical work, but that’s just my perspective.

I think we’ll stop there today, as this is already a rather lengthy entry.  In my next post, I’ll be including a list of cursing Psalms and their intended effects, as well as any techniques you might use to bring them to fruition.  Until then, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…

Thanks for reading!

-Cory


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