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.



3 comments:

808hack said...

Tried to comment on this the other day but the openID thingy crashed.

You are correct on all points of course. What I wanted to add is that the power of transgression is huge. Magic is an art form, and it has it's transgressive artists just as the rest of the art world does.

Transgressive artists, the taboo breakers, are some of the best ones -- think of writers like Palahniuck and Salinger, bands like the Sex Pistols and Marilyn Manson, and directors like Lynch, Peckinpah, and Polanski.

We may be revolted by transgressive, but we have to appreciate its power and its ability to transform.

Brother Ash said...

Great point. As a Manson fan I should have thought that example.

Anonymous said...

Fairly new to this but I am looking for the book necromantic sorcery by brujo negro and can't seem to find it I was wondering if you could help by the way today is my first day being on this blog and just about read every post keep em coming