Five speakers all with different approaches to necromancy and the black arts. First up was Stephen Grasso…
Stephen spoke about his necromantic experiments in the boneyards of London. Every tale was not only entertaining, but rife with useful tidbits for the adventurous Sorcerer. From the history of city features like Litchgates and the corpse-road, to lesser known spirits like St Oswin of Deira, to how to handle getting walked in on, to the different requests you might make of spirits based on how they lived their lives. The big thing I hope everyone took away from this talk is a lesson in specificity. Work changes depending on which place you are working, and which spirit you are walking – there is no boilerplate that works for all times and places.
Next up was Jesse Hathaway. Have you ever had someone share a family recipe with you? I have. A friends Italian Grandmother gave me a little glimpse at how she makes meatballs. My mother-in-law taught me how she makes cornbread. Hearing Jesse speak is like getting this kind of imtimate glimpse at deep, personal, family stuff. Jesse has deep family roots in Curandismo and Lukumi, and then built upon that by becoming a Tata Quimbanda. This was a talk that went deep into a lot of traditional knowledge about all of the above. One of the keys that he drove home is the idea that the dead are not just these individual quantifiable entities, there are multiple souls that grow, combine, flow, and separate. Oceans of everything that has died surrounding and flowing everything that can die. One of the big pieces of tech to take away is that you can program a spirit to respond to a symbol or name. Many people seem to think its a one way street, that the spirit just tells you how it is, but that is not it. If you have interest in working, not only with named spirits, but those less-well-known spirits of the place where you live, this is a huge bit of tech for people to walk away with.
Plus now Jesse has me frantically reading up on Kimpa Vita and the Kongolese St Anthony. Like I didnt have enough to do….:-)
Dr. Al Cummins took the stage next. His talk focused on ‘The Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magick’ and its attendant scrying record, ‘Visions’. This work, preceeding slightly the work of John Dee and Edward Kelley is focused on first calling Assasel (Azazel) as the intermediary for the work followed by the four demon kings Oriens. With their contact established the book focuses on summoning dead mages and saints: Solomon, Job, Adam, Agrippa, Luke, etc. The work presents a very interesting position on torture of spirits: first insisting that it must be done in order to get them to work, then finally St Luke telling them that it is not necessary and that it can be done through less wrathful means. More than anything though Dr Cummins had an important message about the “why” of Necromancy: we summon the dead because they like us more than other spirits. Their nature is in line with our, they understand our dilemas, they share or at least shared our concerns.
After dinner Troy Chambers took a seat on the comfy chair, leaned in on his Obi-Stick, and gave one of the most personal and passionate talks on the occult I have ever seen. After he gave some background on Obeah in Trinidad and the figures of Sassabonsam, Papa Bones, and Anima Sola. When he began to talk about his own initiation under the mango tree, things got very person. He stopped talking and started testifying. But this was not a testimony to draw you towards Obeah, it was a warning, and one that is much needed. There are far to many people in the comfy suburbs of America seeking the biggest baddest darkest shit they can find just because… Often they have no clue as to what they are really getting involved in. Troy gave a glimpse in to that, not just through his words, but the fervent emotions with which he spoke them. The big takeaway? This shit is real. People can die. Possessing certain types of power can be having one of Lewis Vendredi’s antiques. Power has a price.
Last up was Jake Stratton Kent. Jake has been turning the grimoire community upside down in recent years with his almost evangelical message of what Goetia really is and how it differs from angel magic. After some brief words on the important difference between interfacing and learning from living traditions and appropriating their stuff as your own, he launched into a talk on the Other Magicians. The other magicians are the ones that your books on high magic warned you about. The Cunning Men, Conjurers, Witches, Pellars and Sorcerers that work more often than through offerings and relationships with the demons and spirits than by harsh exorcisms and commandments in the name of God. Jakes work is epic and I am still reading my way through it. I took this opportunity grab a copy of the Testament of Cyprian from Catland so that Jake could sign it. Jake made the point that while much of the Grimoire community is focused on recreating the instructions in the books verbatim, it is also traditional to take those books and the seals therein and work with them through other means. Tradition does not mean lack of change. Traditions change or they die.
Apart from the speakers I have to mention Misha Newitt who put this even together. It took a fair amount of vision to the underlying thread of chthonic conjure that runs through these five speakers, and how their talks would interweave to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts. It took a fair amount of sacrifice on her part to put that vision into action and actually make this thing happen – flying speaker from London to NY is not cheap. Her energy as hostess was the thread that bound this event together and I will be paying close attention to whatever she organizes next.
In the meantime…
Stephen Grasso is working on a book and website and we will hopefully hear more about that soon.
Jesse Hathaway is Mr. Goat of Wolf & Goat as well as the author of the Serpent Shod Blog which is regularly updated whenever someone harasses the shit of him about it. There are rumors he is returning to Catland next month to speak on Santissima Muerte, so pay close attention.
Troy Chambers is Mr. Wolf of Wolf & Goat and the genius behind all those amazing statues you may have seen.
Jake Stratton Kent is the author of The True Grimoire, Geosophia, and The Testament of Cyprian the Mage. Further works published by JSK can be found in Diabolical and At the Crossroads and many other works.
Catland Books, Fashion, and Esoterica provided the space for the event. It is a great venue and shop and most importantly for a guy who drives into the city – amazingly easy to access and park. Plus Melissa will giftwrap your books!
POST SCRIPT: After the event was over, most everyone gone home, Melissa locked up as she ushered the last of us out the door. On a fire escape above the store a Hawk stood perched. A strange sight for a store on Flushing Ave for sure. A seal on the magic done? An omen of things to come? Who can say for sure.