Lights Out and Spirits Wild

He has allies on the other side of the fence; I know he does, even despite his oaths (or perhaps they are the ones who helped him to make those pacts), but the darkness still creeps in as he speaks, drawn to the cold flame of his voice just as it seemed to loom that night in our bright room when he asked me to perform a reading for him. “I’m not supposed to be doing this,” not supposed to be working around the agreement by having a witch perform the magic for him that he is not meant to practice himself. I don’t inquire, silently watching him pour himself into my cards, but as he hands me back my deck after infusing them with his energy and will, I accept them with reluctance; they seem more sinister now, as if crying out against the burden that has just been placed upon them. The deck has never felt this heavy before; I might as well have been shuffling a bag of rocks. I could see how the two professional fortune tellers could have been shaken enough by what the cards had to say about him that they told him to leave their venue. But I have heard the quake of Death on his voice before and little about him could startle me now.

But although I had already known that he had used magic in a powerfully negative way, the details of the story still surprised me then. “I abused magic at an early age and lost the privilege of using it” is how he summarizes the situation. Later, as we lay next to one another in bed with a third of the story now told, thinking and winding down before sleep, I laughed. “Wow. Using that which binds all things only to destroy; that’s pretty bad.” I laughed all the way until the lights went out.

Conjuration (from unknown grimoire)

This morning, when he returned from his night shift smelling of good things made and bad things thought, the lights were out to begin with. “We should really not discuss this at night,” he insisted several times. A sardonic pseudo-banishment ensued as I looked on with mouth agape like a mouse in a hole, hiding from his hubris beneath a pillow: spinning counter-clockwise flipping off and spewing profanities at whatever was watching, at everyone from the Phantom extending his skeletal claws towards the bed quilt to the “gods” and spirits who would ever dare to recruit me. “It’s all black and white, good and bad–bullshit and manipulation. It’s not a give and take relationship with those ankle-biters. They don’t need anything from you; and the idea that you’re gaining anything from them is just mental masturbation. Fuck greedy spirits.” I emerged from my hidey-hole with a sarcastic apology to the sky when I realized that he had cleared the darkness away.

*ghos-ti or “a gift for a gift” is the molten gravitational core of my spiritual and daily life; but his experiences with the spirits and other non-corporeal beings have led him to believe that any being who would ever make a request or have any interest in being “worshipped” isn’t worthy of that sort of attention; beyond that, he also posited that not only do we have nothing to give these beings, but neither do we have anything more concrete than allyship to receive from them.

That isn’t to say that he doesn’t have positive relationships with certain beings and spirits; more importantly, however, he thinks that any benefit received from prayer or magic is from something much more primal than what most consider their gods and spirits to be, something that would never even postulate an opinion on human worship, such as “magic” itself as an underlying connective current. The gods and spirits have been around far longer than we have been roasting them meat and dumping out wine bottles in their honor. Even in the dark, when we long for their comfort and protection, let’s not forget that our strength comes from within, that the true offering is the devotion of every action we take in this life to them, and that we will never be abandoned. As Rogue Priest Drew Jacob writes in his recent post “Are Your Gods So Easily Offended?”:

It’s bad religion. A question: why would you worship selfish pricks?

The gods I worship are ancient, calm, wise in their years. They are sages. They will speak to you if you approach, but if you do not? It isn’t their concern.

But some imagine the gods hungry, needy, jealous, impetuous, lost without humanity. They want bribes and they will make threats to get them. Their finger is on the button.

That is an abusive relationship. That is titans and devils.


  1. I find that it’s a misnomer to discuss anything about spirits at night, because they, just like our primal Gods, are not limited to night or day, and exist out of time, too. They aren’t ankle-biters. That’s just the limits of human belief. I’m happy you follow your own hunches and listen to your smarts. I really laughed about the fortune tellers refusing to give your friend a reading! I usually come across that with folks who are the charlatans and panhandlers, or the readers who only want to read for people who aren’t magicians and witches. Um, because we don’t bullshit them (excuse my French)!

    I am a very positive person who love to make new friends, yet I’ve been accused of being a very negative person just based on the fact I’m a Witch and medium. One of my best friends, Mr. Jacob, that you mentioned, and am happy to have read still agrees with me (I had my doubts/worries after he announced he was no longer pagan) that the Gods aren’t selfish pricks. The path of Witchcraft is all about doing — acting out — we have the Gods inside us, they walk with us, live with us, we have access to them — they empower us and we don’t have to give them anything, we just have to live up to their example.

    As it is said: “All acts of pleasure are Her rituals” and I even see that as an offering in itself, especially when we treat ourselves after magic, be it with cake or a feast. Indulgence, within reason, of course! Even if they don’t require us to “give a gift for a gift”, I still do what my tribe does, I provide some tobacco or sweet grass as tribute, because it’s the act that counts. It makes me feel good as a human being. But I also make sure that any offering is biodegradable and is a thing that won’t harm the area animals and plant life.

    (sorry for the long reply, next time I’ll hold back)

    1. Don’t hold back! I wouldn’t write on the Internet if I weren’t interested in discussion. (: And you are about to learn that you are hardly as long-winded as I am, haha.

      These spiritual opinions of my significant other were very new and shocking to me, and I can’t at all say my experiences have brought me to similar conclusions, though I do agree with him that not everything out there is benevolent or interested in a mutually beneficial relationship (which is okay with me, because I’m not interested in having a relationship with everything out there, either), and that anything from that category is not a god and not worthy of worship. I was very happy to find Mr. Jacob’s post this morning while I was still processing what my friend had said.

      What my boyfriend did is entirely improper in my tradition and something I would never do in my own personal practice (and I was so worried about him damaging my own standing with my Allies that I had to cover my eyes and ears), but I think I needed to be shocked out of my shell a bit, just as Mr. Jacob wrote in his post that his curiosity about the nature of the deity-human relationship outweighed his anxieties over hubris, and in the end his investigation was worth it.

      As far as the spirits being more active at night, I can’t say I sense them any more in the dark than with some illumination. Admittedly my most powerful magical and spiritual experiences have happened in broad daylight; but I sometimes feel that some things (or, one thing in particular) has taken advantage of my mild fear of the dark, and it takes the flick of a light or a power-play to send them away, or to instill enough confidence in me to be able to handle the situation. One spiritual opinion that he and I both have in common is the concept of conjuration by naming things–even if you’re only conjuring the negativity associated with an event by discussing it–and we’ve both always been a little afraid of and a little weaker in the dark, which is I think the reason behind those words.

      I haven’t yet decided how I feel about his very negative opinions on “recruitment” by the gods–I’m a polytheist, and the idea that the gods that I honor didn’t choose me just as much I chose them is difficult for me to wrap my brain around, especially when I often feel “approached” by them during my rites of offering. I know that he feels that certain beings walks alongside him–unfortunately his positive relationships in the Otherworlds are the only things he wouldn’t rant about!–but his spiritual practice differs greatly from mine, which involves physical offerings to represent my greater spiritual offering of devoting all my acts to them and “living up to their example” (a great way to put it, thank you!). It makes me feel better than I would if I didn’t practice this way, too; but I still have to remember that (in my own opinion) I would never be abandoned for no longer devoting myself to them. A couple lines from one of Jacob’s comments really resonated with me: “The gods, if real beings, have been around millions of years before the first human beings. They did just fine. The wind does not die because there’s no incense to carry.” I have to remember that we would still be a part of one another, even if I no longer poured the wine, lit the candles, and said the words, and that I shouldn’t worry that the gods might suffer from such petty human flaws as jealousy, greed, and manipulative natures (like those card-readers probably do!). (But I do still think that there some spirits and dead who do; fortunately I have the right to ignore them just as they do me 99% of the time.)

      I could probably find thousands more words on this topic just gazing at my own navel; I’m just a bit excited by the idea that the Kindreds aren’t so much interested in how we feel about them than they are in how we learn by their example and interact with Everything. But I haven’t forgotten my relationships with them and how much I benefit from and just love honoring them the ways I already do; I just have to keep in mind that I have the constant opportunity to honor them with everything that I do.

      1. So beautifully put, and very well quoted! I love Mr. Jacob and miss him very much. He’s a very great friend!

        I, too, could go on, and on, and on about the Gods and spirits like I would a favorite friend or lover — I could write book-fulls of replies and comments and blog posts, you know it.

        I’m holding back just a little because I’m on the verge of writing a new post soon, letting my inspiration build up before my energy poops out. Cheers!

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