Thursday, November 29, 2012

You have a Black Cat Bone?

I don't get to rant on this blog often enough, but this one has been on my mind for a while. I see a lot of people online in conjure groups  talking about using black cat bones. They either recommend painting chicken bones, or obtaining ethically harvested bones from a black cat for the work. I think that at least the bones of a black cat are acceptable to work with the spirit of the animal  for luck workings and the like. Brujo Negro has some good information about just that on his website . Of course a chicken bone as a proxy is just plain ridiculous. What most conjure folks are trying to do is create a replacement for the infamous Black Cat Bone charm and avoid the admittedly gruesome ritual involved in obtaining the charm. By all accounts this charm entered Hoodoo practice via the popular grimoire of Saint Cyprian. The ritual is as follows:

"Cook the body of a black cat in boiling water with white seeds and wood from the willow until the meat is loosened from the bones. Strain the bones in a linen cloth and, in front of the mirror, place the bones, one by one in your mouth, until you find that you have the magic to make you become invisible.  Keep the bone with the magic property and, if you want to go somewhere without being seen, place the bone in your mouth."  
I can understand completely not wanting to perform this ritual, and do not personally recommend that anyone do so. That being said, I feel that the rite is an essential part of unlocking the power associated with the charm, and that without carrying out the task one does not have a true black cat bone in the grimoire sense. I draw similarities between this ritual and the equally well known Toad bone rite of Witchcraft tradition. In fact  some hoodooist believed that one method of finding the bone within the ca that contained power was by throwing the bones in a stream and taking the one that floated upstream. This is the method used in the Toad Bone rite. With the Toad Bone, the process of finding the animal, the method of killing it, the harvesting of the bones, the forces called up during the rite, and the obtaining of the bone are essential. In some ways it is a rite of passage and initiatory in some aspects, I would say that the same holds true for the black cat bone spell in a way as well.

This is not just a simple spell, or mindless killing, It is a rite. One can gleam clues of how some workers viewed this process in  the book "Of Mules and Men" where Zora Neale Hurston recounts her own black cat bone ritual, that included a period of fasting before the spiritual undertaking. Periods of fasting usually precede rituals that aim to transform the spirit(s) of those involved in some way. That in my view is part of the aim of the ritual. Lets be honest, this ritual is ghastly and inhumane, which is intended. Mind you it is not as extreme as one of it's predecessors the Taigheirm but I feel it is meant to test the performer on a psychological and thus a spiritual level. Most decent folks would never pointlessly torture an innocent animal, and that is why it tests you. There is a clear line of decency that must be crossed here. Not just one of social convention, or personal moral judgement, but one that you can just recognize on an intuitive level as being "wrong". So then the question that gets asked is, how far are you willing to go for the power that you seek? The process should be hard for you to stomach and get through. If you are a psychopath I just don't think that the rite will have the same deep emotional effect on you.

I am not saying in any way that people should go out and kill a cat if they want an authentic black cat bone charm. I am just saying that we in the conjure community should acknowledge that the ritual served a purpose in empowering the charm, that can't be replaced by any acceptable proxy. One can work black cat magic any way that they see fit, but be honest and know that what you are wielding in no way resembles the legendary charm in my opinion.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ask Brother Ash

I am going to try out a new segment here for the blog. I love answering questions about sorcery, and in some cases about myself. So every Monday I will answer a question submitted by one of my blog followers. If you have a question  feel free to contact me or shoot me a message on Facebook or Twitter.

My First question comes from SilverShadow of the Pagan Rapport (@CriticalFault)

"I wondered about geometric placements of candles, incenses, etc. Often you
see people post images of their ritual workings and their materials are
setup in circles, triangles, squares etc. I wondered if you had some insight
on how to use these shapes within a ritual context and what those shapes
meant when they are applied!"
 Like many things with workings I believe that this is a matter of personal preference and based on your own accepted symbolism. I personally tend to use equal arm crosses or "crossroads" quite often, and triangles both in candle configurations, and when laying out certain materials. I use the cross because it symbolizes a metaphysical space and point where all possibilities can be achieved. I use he triangle as a space where spirit can manifest. So my two main go to configurations are a mix of  hoodoo lore, and ceremonial magic thought. Occasionally I will use circles of candles to represent protection as well. If you have a fondness for ceremonial magic or Kabbalistic thought, that can certainly be incorporated into candle workings especially if you are utilizing planetary energies. I would recommend the "Golden Dawn Lecture on Polygrams and Polygons" for reference. In regards to Hoodoo a lot of the candle configurations that you will see are influenced by or come directly from books such as the "Master Book of Candle Burning" by Henry Gamache. In my opinion there are no set rules on this. If it feels right, then do it. If it gets results, do it again. If not, then back to the drawing board.

"Act of Faith" by Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins

Via Lex Records by way of Dangerous Minds

"It’s raining in Northampton and Faith Harrington has Friday evening ahead of her, her favourite outfit and her favourite face, her top tunes shimmering on the CD player: “When the lamp burns low on the bureau, even though I’m far from you…”
In a curtain-raiser prelude to their forthcoming short film Jimmy’s End, Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins, with Siobhan Hewlett, introduce us to a world of unfamiliar atmospheres, precarious entertainments, and insidious detail.
Act of Faith unveils an isolated corner of the modern night, where carrion crows become the only comforters and it’s a quarter to eternity…"
(c) Alan Moore 2012