This post has been republished by Anthony Arcanum over at ArcanumTarotMagick.com
For many cultures the end of October heralds the holy days that celebrate the ancestors and the dead. In the northern hemisphere this is the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice when nights get noticeably colder and longer as we enter the darkest time of the year. It is a fitting time to turn our minds and hearts towards the unknown, the underworld, and the dead – and remember those who have come before us.
As discussed in Honoring the Ancestors and the Dead, I firmly believe it is our duty to respect, care, and honor those who have come before us at all times regardless of the season or holiday. So while this post is indeed appropriately themed for the season, it is not about celebrating any particular holiday. This post is something a little different, it is about my personal journey digging deeper into the ancestral mysteries, and is undoubtedly a work in progress.
If I were to pick a beginning to this work, it would be about ten or eleven months ago. For some time, I had been trying to better understand certain elements of my ancestry and given that I had been working frequently with Hekate and to a lesser degree, Hermes, it felt natural to reach out to them to help facilitate communication with those remote ancestors whom I did not yet know by name.
This was a simple and sincere prayer along with the use of the PHORBA voces magicae from PGM IV 1390-1495 while I made offerings to them as guardians, protectors and guides to the dead.
Guardians of the Gates, Light-bearers of the Crossroad, Guides and Leaders of the Dead, I burn this offering in your honor.
And ask that by your power the veil between the realm of the living and the kingdom of the dead be parted so that I may commune with the Ancestors.
<While burning offering> PHORBA PHORBÔBAR BARÔ PHÔRPHÔR PHÔRBAI
I invite those ancestors who I have known by name to this altar, come [names of deceased relatives], come together with those ancestors whose names I have yet to learn but whose blood runs in these veins. Come and partake of these offerings of food, fire and water laid here before you tonight.
Using the generic titles (“Guardians of the gate”, etc.) instead of the names Hermes and Hekate gave the practice a more universal feel while firmly establishing the psychopompic and liminal role of these spirits. This is also an invitation for those ancestors present to honor the spirits of these domains by whichever names they have known them.
Over the past months, I have enjoyed countless hours following the above openings in ritual, prayer, meditation, drumming, and even sleeping before the ancestral shrine. These sessions have also yielded some of the most vivid visions and authentic spirit flight experiences of my life.
As I explored the depths of our remote ancestry, I began to see a common thread woven together by the shamans, magicians, witches, and sorcerers of our past. Through them I have come to believe – with utmost conviction – in a lineage of magic practitioners dating back to our first prehistoric ancestors.
These ancestors are so far removed from modern human populations, that it is likely that we all share this ‘witch blood’ to one degree or another. For some of us this is a strong and almost inescapable calling to tap into this Promethean gift and to awaken this primordial tradition of witchcraft and magic. But for most, this mystery is a vestigial shadow of a long forgotten past.
I work magic, plain and simple. This is my primary interest and the practical application of all my esoteric studies. So naturally, these ancestral patrons of the magical arts are the mighty dead that I want to seek out and call into my workings. I soon learned; however, that while these spirits seemed willing to teach and work with me, they were definitely not easily accessible. It was only through my immediate ancestors – and in particular via a spirit I consider my primary ancestral helper – that I was able to gain access to these mighty dead.
Thus, I believe it is imperative that before seeking out the mighty dead we have a well established working relationship with our familial ancestors and specifically with a primary ancestor or guardian spirit. Beside the real danger of confronting these powerful spirits without the proper guidance and protection that trustworthy spiritual allies afford, we simply do not have the spiritual authority to call them forth. This authority is built up by the spiritual lineage of our ancestors. They are as rungs in a chain connecting us to these remote ancestral heroes, the more ancestors we connect with, the stronger the chain.
The ritual I present here was not a final goal or planned in any way as a “ritual”; it just grew organically in response to the path I was on and am very much still walking. In an attempt to make contact with these ancestral forebearers of the magical tradition, I have landed on a core set of tools, actions and phrases. Together, we may say that these elements compose a ritual in that they can be followed to produce a specific spiritual experience.
This practice is to be undertaken at night, the closest to midnight, the better as we can draw on the chthonic energies of the sun being underfoot near to the nadir point. The altar is dressed with a black cloth and set up in the north. Atop the altar we have the ancestral skull for directing the invocation, a bell, a glass of water, a brazier for burning incense and two small candles for additional light. A third candle – a white taper – should be at hand to be lit and placed atop the skull during the ceremony.
The skull can be any spirit-vessel that has been attuned to one’s ancestors. It functions as a focal point for directing the invocation and as a temporary physical home to help ground the spirits. I use a bronze skull that has been filled with soil from the graves and homelands of my relatives together with some of their personal items and various herbs, bones and other small items that have become significant in my ancestral practices.
Additionally, a glass of red wine and some honey bread (or other suitable food and drink) should be offered at the end of the rite.
We need two incenses for this rite. 1) A general offering of frankincense for the psychopomps and gatekeepers, and 2) A necromantic blend – containing the practitioner’s blood. I use a mix of aloes, dittany of Crete, wormwood, copal resin, honey, olive oil, and my own blood. Blood is an important element of this ritual as it the life-fluid that directly connects us to the ancestors. You just need a few drops mixed into the incense blend, so be responsible and use a sterilized needle or medical lancet.
Upon completion of the ritual we will be in the presence of those ancestors who come forth together with the ancestral mighty dead we have called. It is important to understand that we are inviting the ancestors in, not commanding or forcing them to come. At this point we may leverage their help for spell work or another magical operation, or – my favorite- ask them to teach and guide us, and to bring us into their realm. This will initiate an extremely rewarding journey into the underworld, one that is not to be taken lightly as the dangers of spirit travel to the land of the dead are very real and can have serious consequences. The journey can be facilitated using flying ointments, by maintaining the slow and deep breathing patterns, and by a repetitive action such as drumming, rattling or tapping bones together in rhythmic beats while swaying back and forth.
I have chosen to omit certain gestures and signs that I use, as I believe that each practitioner will be guided to their own proper ones. The rite should be led by a visceral feeling and not feel overly scripted. The words below are a rough guide and need not be followed to the letter, let inspiration and spontaneity guide you.
A final piece of advice is to not rush through this ceremony. Pause between the stages and let yourself become immersed in the experience.
¤ Calling Forth The Mighty Dead ¤
<While lighting the white candle and placing on the skull>
I light this candle in honor of the Ancestors, those of my blood and those of my spirits, may its light be their light and may their light illuminate me in the darkness.
<Ring bell or clap 3x>
Guardians of gates, Light-bearers of the Crossroad, Masters and guides into the mysteries of the dead, I burn this frankincense in your honor.
And ask that by your power the veil between the realm of the living and the kingdom of the dead be parted so that I may speak with the Ancestors.
<While burning frankincense, repeat as necessary> PHORBA PHORBÔBAR BARÔ PHÔRPHÔR PHÔRBAI
<Acknowledge the psychopomp(s)>
<Knock with left hand before skull> Spirits of the dead, I call to you!
<Knock> Souls of those who have met the challenges of their time, and who have lived and died well, I call to you!
<Knock> Ancestors past, present, and future, I call to you!
I [name] born of [mother’s/father’s name], call to you; I who came into this world by mortal womb, come to you now with immortal Spirit and call to you. Hear me my beloved and blessed dead. By the sacred mysteries of our blood, I call to you.
<Burn Necromantic Incense>
Come [name of primary ancestor], guardian, guide and protector. <repeat as necessary>
Join and empower me in this sacred work that together we may bring forth the ancestors.
<Acknowledge primary ancestor>
We call to you blessed and honorable ancestors. We invite you to come forth from your eternal realm and witness this rite. Come ancestors, father’s side and mother’s side, come and lend your strength and your grace to this work. Come, so that together we may call out to the forebearers of our sacred blood, those who made the first pacts and covenants with the spirits of the land.
<Acknowledge the ancestors, and state intent/purpose of rite>
Ancestors of the distant past and those yet to be, together we stand at this crossroad between the worlds, and together we call forth those whose blood runs in these veins; and, those who have walked upon this earth long before the bloodlines of kings and nations.
<Burn Necromantic Incense>
Come ancestors of the ancestors, lords and ladies of the earth! You, whose spirit ablaze with primordial Fire forged our path and story upon this sacred land. Come forth by the many names and titles by which you have been known, you who were the first to peer into the mysteries of the unseen and the unknown.
Come spirit-workers, shamans and sorcerers of a long-forgotten age; ancestral healers, hexers and wisdom keepers; come diviners, magicians and witches for I [name] am of your spirit and of your blood!
Come, O most ancient teachers and patrons of the magical arts, giants of our past, heroes and mighty dead. Come forth from your realms o lords and masters of our primordial craft…
<Continue with purpose of rite, make offerings & thank the spirits>