Tag: spirits

The Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude Lecouteux

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The Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude LecouteuxThe Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude LecouteauxThe Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices, by Claude Lecouteux, translated by Jon E. Graham
Inner Traditions, 1620551055, 227 pp. (incl. index and eight pages of colour plates), 2013

Ever since his first book, Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages in 1992, I’ve quite enjoyed Claude Lecouteux’s work.

Claude Lecouteux is a French historian specialising in the Middle Ages and its understanding of the spiritual world, the chair of German civilization and Literature of the Middle Ages, and a professor emeritus, at the Paris-Sorbonne University.

The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices was initially published in French in 2000 as La Maison et ses Génies: Croyances d’Hier et d’Aujourd’hui. Personally, I find the French title more apt, since it more clearly describes the content, but that’s a fairly minor quibble on my part. In the original French, this was Lecouteux’s fifth book published. However the English translation are being published in a different order, and this is the seventh book released in English.

The first part of the book begins with the actual house, while the second part of the book turns to the spirits themselves. This is followed by a brief exploration of the notion of haunted houses, and a few appendixes about proverbs associated with household spirits and a few other odds and ends. Continue reading

The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses, by Claude Lecouteux

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Claude LecouteuxThe Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses, by Claude LecouteuxThe Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses: From Pagan Folklore to Modern Manifestations, by Claude Lecouteux
Editions Imago, Inner Traditions, 9781594774652, 246 pp., 2007, 2012

Claude Lecouteux offers an exhaustively researched history of poltergeist activity and hauntings from the middle ages to today. Packed full of case histories and general information, The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses is an essential addition to the library of any serious ghost hunter or paranormal enthusiast. Lecouteux maintains an evidential viewpoint, balancing skepticism with the inevitable conclusion that, like it or not, poltergeist phenomenon is real.

One particular gem is a chart that compares the views of different eras regarding “Poltergeists due to the presence of living beings.” In the Pagan Middle Ages, this activity was mostly attributed to the dead, genies, and spirits. During the Christian Middle Ages, attribution was given to the devil, demons, and the dead. In post-Medieval times (16th-17th centuries), witchcraft and hoaxes were usually to blame, and of late, paranormal researchers attribute the phenomena to the dead or people with psychic abilities. With regard to the difference between spirits and the ghosts, Lecouteux writes: Continue reading

Uncle Ramsey’s Little Book of Demons, by Ramsey Dukes

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Uncle Ramsey’s Little Book of Demons: The Positive Advantages of the Personification of Life’s Problems, by Ramsey Dukes
Aeon Books, 1904658091, 256 pp. (including notes), 2005

It is odd to review a book that tells me “If you enjoyed this book, keep it secret and deny any knowledge of it.” In this book Uncle Ramsey sets forth to help the reader cope with problems in everyday life, by understanding and interacting with the demons that lurk beneath and inside all forms of reality. Demons are living in our cars and photocopiers, friends and lovers, and perhaps most importantly inside of our self. The most frustrating or brilliant move (or both) that Uncle Ramsey made in this book was not dealing with the nature of the demon, are they real in some animistic sense, are they external projections from a troubled mind, are they purely mental constructs never extending past the confines of our skull, are they collective energies built by a hundred united thoughts, or all they all of these, or something else? Continue reading

The Nature of Spirits

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Whenever we read the great tales of ghosts and goblins, of gods and their helpers, of priests, lore, and magic, we are always struck with the idea that these spirits have emotions, that they are suffering from human frailties, and that they have a will power. The origin of the idea of the soul, of the spirits and the gods, all comes from the most human desire: immortality, freedom from fear of death. As it so happens to be natural, humans desire to avoid pain, suffering, misery, and death. The idea that death or the end of life is not really the end of life, and that a misery-less future awaits those who die, this idea is a relatively attractive one. With an afterlife, there is no death, so it is easy to see why one might enjoy such a theory, regardless of the lack of any evidence whatsoever. Since this idea in an afterlife flourishes considerably, there is are other popular ideas about spirits, souls, and other items that exist in this afterlife theory.

Our memories, our experiences, our thoughts, ideas, notions, character, attitude, and feelings are all stored within the mind. Science, or at least all honest investigative studies, would tell us that our mind is located within the physical brain of the body. So far, no other theory has come up with any verifiable evidence to the contrary. Another theory, with much less evidence, does exist. It is the idea that the mind is a part of the soul — that when the body dies, the mind leaves the body with the soul. Some individuals have offered evidence on behalf of such a trite idea. They have argued that since it is a part of the spiritual realm, one which tools and devices and technology cannot reach nor see, that it is out of their jurisdiction of judgment. An interesting idea, I admit. One might as well claim that they have invented, discovered, or uncovered something that is wonderful and beautiful, but that is completely unsensible by human senses. (i.e. we might have a tourist trap with the holy grail, only to find a plaque “If you have sinned, you cannot see or feel it, but you must believe it is there.”)

One might be so educated and thoughtful enough to feel that the theory of a soul is so discredited, that it needs no further examination; it becomes a moot point. However, there are some things in this field that might want to be considered, just in a hypothetical point of view at most. So it indeed happens that every folk story and every old religion regards spirits as vibrant and powerful beings. In Greek mythology, the gods often came down from their clouds, to mate with earthlings, or kill them, or have dealings with them. In the stories of these gods, they all seem to have the exact same characteristics of any human being. They have desires, wants, fears, hopes, beliefs. They react to their environment. When they are informed that their plans have failed, they react with disappointment, and maybe rage or violence. When they are informed that their plans have succeeded, they react with happiness, and maybe feasting or gloating. The gods are essentially the most human of any theoretical being, and this is no surprise when we think of their creator.

I cannot, for the life of me, suppose any idea or theory as to why any of the gods are endowed with desires or wants anyway. When I think of the origin of such psychological phenomena in humans, or any other organism, my question is immediately answered. Humans are endowed with a complex brain because it is necessary towards survival. The same can be argued for any other living creature. Desire motivates, it creates movement. When a predator, either a crocodile or a lion or any other for that matter, is hungry, it hunts to satisfy its desire. In this situation, the component of the brain that creates desire and want, especially for satisfying hunger, this component is essential. Those predators that were born without this capability could not hunt or eat as effectively, and could not fight for breeding rights very well either, since they could not want them. And, so, it would die, leaving no offspring, leaving no other organisms on this planet with their DNA — DNA which contains a lack of desire. We can apply this to other organisms, too. Prey that is born without a desire to flee its natural predator, for example, will not live long enough to reproduce. The same can be said of prey that does not want to eat to satisfy its hunger, either. It will waste away to weakness and then be taken by its predator.

Desire definitely plays a strong and important role in the psyche of all consciousness-endowed organisms. However, it is not the only important part of consciousness. For example, there is also pain, the physical affliction, or misery, the mental affliction. An animal can suffer, and it is this suffering that they will forever be afraid of. Their fear and their suffering gives them something to desire: happiness and security. Without pain, an organism will not react negatively to another trying to kill it — at least, if instincts were gone as well. Without happiness, an animal would not know whether it was doing something right or wrong. The social instinct, to be in a collective of like organisms, is natural to almost every mammal. When wolves hunt in packs, they are more effective killers. When humans band together to form societies and civilizations, the fruit of their labor increases. When zebras feed and mate in packs, all of their stripes form a natural defense, by disallowing predators from knowing where one zebra starts and another ends. The social instinct has given each organism a strong advantage in survival. And, when organisms survive, they can reproduce, and more organisms like themselves, with the same emotions and mental faculties, will be produced.

Let us not forget the importance of the mating instinct. The sexual arrousal caused by flirting or foreplay plays a significant role in the mating act. The orgasm itself and the sexual drive to achieve are important to every creature. It seems that in every group of thoughtful organisms, there is not competition for the right to reproduce, some how or some way. Often, it is the male competing for the female, but this is not the only case. In some cases, there is polygamy, and in others, there is polyandry. Every rule of behavior that we can think of for other organisms will always have exceptions to it. The underlying fact that sex plays an important role in the mental faculties of conscious organisms is important to my thesis. The mind is full of complexities and faculties that make it conscious. All of these emotions, these feelings, play a strong sense in the conscious organism.

Now that I have covered a great deal on the complexities of conscious organisms, one might be curious as to why I brought up this subject in the discussion of spirits. First of all, all of the components of the mind that I mentioned above — desire, fear, social instinct, sex — all of these components have a reason for existence. By this, I mean that they all exist because of the natural and perpetual struggle that goes on in the natural world. Without desire or fear or sexual impulses, an organism would not reproduce, and therefore, no other organisms with that mentality would be created, except by chance of reversion, which is very unlikely. My question is this: why is it that spirits and souls are endowed with these psychological aspects?

In all of the stories I have read of the gods, I have uncovered all of these impulses. I have encountered the sexual urge of the gods of Greece and Rome. I have discovered the ability to desire and feel accomplishment or disappointment in the gods and spirits of Animist cultures. It seems that there is no god, excepting the god of Deism, that has no interest in being involved with the people who believe in him. The Christians believe their god will save them. The Hindus believe their god will reincarnate them. The Jews believe that their god has smashed societies and cultures for the tiniest of reasons. Every religion remains identical in this fact.

Okay, so, we have spirits, souls, and gods, many of them endowed with human mentality. I am quite curious, though. Why is it that no playwright in ancient Greece ever described one of the gods as rubbing his belly and hungry? Why have I seen no spirits that get hungry? Some cultures feed their spirits, but that’s even more absurd. They leave only enough food for a few days or a weeks. And why leave any food at all? Will the spirits decompose and go to the state of the after-afterlife? The sexual urge that seems so prevalent in so many religions, from the god of Christianity violating a virgin meant to be married to the Greek gods that committed such fornication on a regular basis — just why does the sexual urge prevail? Of what use is it? Are the gods going to mate and then produce spiritual offspring?

What seems a thousand times more odd is that the gods are lacking those parts that make sexual activity useful, for procreation or recreation. The penis and the vagina, these two parts that are responsible for producing the pleasure of sex, are non-existent on ghosts. If a human loses such a part, it is impossible to engage in sexual activity. And, it seems that these ghosts have lost all their bodies. Yet, the urge to have sex is prevalent, while their sex organs are not prevalent. One may argue with me, “But the gods and ghosts have physical bodies that they can use!” If this is true, then it shouldn’t be even slightly difficult to get evidence of god. Whenever pressed for evidence, the religionist usually claims, “But they are noncorporal entities — they are not physical, they are spiritual.” No thoughtful spiritualist will claim their god is actually physical, because in doing so, they have opened the doors to dispelling their beliefs in a heartbeat.

The need to eat is as absurd as the desire to have sex for the gods. Other things, such as the social instinct and any desire at all, seem to also be quite absurd. Why animals and other conscious organisms are equipped with desires and the social instinct is easy to understand. With regard to the social instinct, it has helped organisms to survive against the natural elements, or predators, or aided in obtaining their prey. When organisms had a social instinct, they were more effective at survival, and that means they were more effective at reproducing. When organisms had no social instinct, they died rather quickly — not able to reproduce something like themselves, leaving the world destitute of such types of species. (And while there may be exceptions to this rule of the social instinct, the previous description is how Evolution works: those unfit, do not survive.) Why would the gods ever be needing of the social instinct? Why ever should the gods band together with other gods? In all honesty, I m bankrupt of any answer. The gods cannot die, they cannot suffer afflictions caused by natural disasters, they cannot be wounded. Everything that makes the social instinct desirable and useful is nonexistent with the gods. Banding together does nothing for them. One might argue “It cures loneliness,” but loneliness may in fact just be that instinct to band together unsatisfied.

Then there is the idea of desire. In all my studying of literature, I must say that the mythology of Greece, Egypt, and the entire Fertile Crescent is full of gods with more desires and wants than any sane man. Since it seems very easy to believe that the gods are simply an image of mankind, exaggerrated in many aspects, so it seems that these gods are endowed with many supernatural wants, needs, impulses, desires. Sometimes the drowning of an entire civilization in blood is not enough to quell the heart of the least dominant deity. I am also curious here… Why is it that the gods have been endowed with this ability of desiring? To what use is it really, when one is a god? It has no use. For, if god, or the gods, are capable of doing anything, then they would not desire, but simply have. I can see the use of the desire ability in organisms and animals on our own planet. When there is hunger, or sexual lust, or gaining security in society, all of these desires push and motivate the organism to do what is necessary to live and to reproduce. And, once reproduction has occured, the cycle can happen all over again. When an animal is not fit enough to reproduce, or cannot live to that stage, then the genes that cursed it to a sexless life will not be found again, exception in the rare instances of reversion perhaps.

Many of the Freethinkers and philosophes of earlier years, and even our own day, have attacked the idea of religion. God created man in his own image was a questioned idea, and we reversed it: man created god in his own image. This would seem to be the more credulous case of the matter. We find gods in each civilization, taking the race and species of its people. This has varied in some cases, where gods take on the forms of reptiles, mammals, and birds. However, there is one thing in the nature of gods, spirits, and souls that seems to be consistent in every religion we investigate: they have wants, desires, lust, hunger, and needs. Where every human being — no, where every living creature is the same, in having a consciousness, we find that same consciousness in a rather inplausible place: in a god, or a soul, or a spirit. It is clearly understood, then, that these gods and spirits are based on human ideas, that they come from the minds of men, that they spread by our mouths. And, it must also be clearly understood, that the gods are nothing more than an imperfect creation by the hands of man.


Summoning Spirits, by Konstantinos

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Summoning Spirits: The Art of Magical Evocation, by Konstantinos
Llewellyn Worldwide, 212 pp.

I found this book to be very well written. The author is knowledgeable on the subject and as plus mentions Franz Bardon, giving readers a chance to look at the work of an earlier occult author. Konstantinos provides readers a thorough examination of summoning spirits, including several different ways of evocation and exercises that can be used by the beginner or adept to ground him- or herself and get a working knowledge of how to evoke before the actual evocations begin. He also provides a list of spirits the magician might wish to work with. Continue reading

Review: Aleister Crowley’s Illustrated Goetia, by Lon Milo DuQuette and Christopher S. Hyatt

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Aleister Crowley’s Illustrated Goetia: Sexual Evocation, by Lon Milo DuQuette and Christopher S. Hyatt, illustrated by David P. Wilson
New Falcon Publications, 1561840483, 236 pp., 1992, 2000

‘What Goetia is – is the releasing of yourself from your won fears and illusions by direct confrontation.’

According to tradition, the Goetia is the first book in the Lemegaton attributed to Solomon the King, though likely compiled by a host of authors. Goetic evocation deals with the summoning of the seventy-two lesser spirits and demons. In this edition, based on Crowley’s Goetia, DuQuette and Hyatt strip away all unnecessary trappings and cut through most of the ‘fooltraps’ designed to dissuade less astute practitioners.

Traditionally, Goetic evocation calls for strict observance of many details, such as the correct ritual hours, lengthy calls, and an inordinate amount of ceremonial trappings. The authors tell the reader what one can safely do away with, and what can be altered as preference dictates. However, there are some items that the authors do believe are required for the successful (and safer) evocation of the Goetic spirits, including a list of ‘must haves’ with detailed explanations and personal anecdotes as to why they are necessary. Noting ‘that there is absolutely no necessity (nor particular advantage) to blindly conforming with the Conjuration scripts of the ancient texts. The Spirits are no more impressed of you say “thee” and “thine” than they are if you say “you” and “yours”.’

Goetic spirits ‘will work for anyone who knows how to use them. This is one of the horrors people attribute to Goetic workings. You “don’t have to be respectable” for Goetia to work for you. Unlike other magical workings there is no implication that the operator has to be “good” and “holy” to achieve results. This idea in itself violates our model of “right” and “wrong”, “just” and “unjust”. In the Goetic world like in the real world the “bad” can and do prosper. Thus our belief in the moral orders of the Universe appears violated by the simple existence of Spirits who will do the bidding of anyone.’

Though they will work for anyone, the authors caution that one ‘must be completely convinced that your demands are absolutely justified. (And don’t think we are invoking the great demon “morality” here. An unnecessary motive is an unworthy motive – pure and simple). When you are truly justified in your demands then you have the momentum of the entire universe behind you.’

Further cautioning and confirming that ‘yes, they are dangerous,’ DuQuette and Hyatt explain that ‘while they remain unmastered they can surface unbidden and wreak all havoc modern psychology blames on “things hidden in the subconscious mind”.’ As well as a few delightfully thrilling personal anecdotes.

There are a few changes, namely the elimination of lengthy calls in preference for Thelemic invocations from Liber Samech by Crowley, Enochian calls, etc. As well, ‘for the convenience of the modern reader’ the authors have translated information regarding each of the seventy-two Goetic spirits into modern understanding and Crowleyan associations, and ‘where obvious, returned certain Spirits to their original gender.’

Sketches accompany each of the seventy-two spirits, illustrated by artist-clairvoyant David P. Wilson, a practicing Goetic magickian. ‘Over a period of 15 years, he has evoked each of the Spirits at least once…But it is very important for you to remember that, because no two people have the same visual-emotional “vocabulary”, the images of the Goetic universe will be unique to each of us.’ The authors caution the reader not to ‘think that these sketches are what you must see when evoking any particular Spirit,’ instead explaining that ‘they are intended to serve only as springboards to your imagination.’

Though with such a short section on sex magick, I don’t know that it really deserves the ‘Sexual Evocation’ subtitle as there are really only a few pages on it at the rear of the text.

Aimed at those actually interested in actually practicing magick rather than simply reading about it, it gives unambiguous description of what tools are required and the methods of evocation and, briefly, of sexual invocation, cutting through the superfluous and get right to what is necessary. An excellent introduction to Goetic magick as Crowley practiced it.

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