Losar: Karma, Clean, Exorcise, Eat

2016/02/08

So Losar is upon us again, Tuesday the 9th by most reckonings. (It’s confusing for some folks because Chinese New Years is today). For those just tuning into this blog, or who have forgotten. Losar is the Tibetan New Years. It’s probably one of the only Buddhist holidays I actually go out of my way to celebrate, with the possible exception of Labdab Duchen. Recently a friend shared an article with me about the traditions of Losar asking if it was a legit article, and in telling her that it was, I got thinking about how common certain ideas and practices are across the world regarding New Years. So I got thinking about the Losar traditions in and outside Tibetan Buddhist contexts.

The Julian calendar New Year of January 1st has really lost a lot of the traditions around the changing year, it’s just a day off work and a night to party. If that’s all you want from it, that’s fine, but I like making everything in life part of my practice. (And by like, I mean I’m oathbound to do so…) Personally though January 1st as New Years has struck me as too arbitrary. Really my favourite days to celebrate New Years would be my birthday (as I’ve mentioned here before) and an event like Tibetan New Years. I like Tibetan New Years because it’s a combination of the Solar and Lunar calendar. It’s based on the moon phase, in relation to where the sun is. (Even though I will admit deciding on which moon phase and what solar position is also arbitrary in many ways, why not the full moon, why not the winter solstice?)

The first thing I want to address around Losar is the period leading up to it known as tön. This is generally a difficult time of year, lots of chaos and obstacles can come up. It’s said to last ten days, seven days, or five days, depending on the tradition. The belief is that as the year comes to a close all of your “simple” karmic loose ends are trying to tie themselves up. This causes upheaval, all the things you didn’t dealt with and aren’t “serious” enough to carry over into the next year will come up. This generally manifests as increased accidents, minor illnesses, odd behaviour between people, and the like. This isn’t a uniquely Tibetan belief, I’ve seen it in south east Asian and south Asian beliefs, and even the Epagomenal days of the Egyptians . Of course since all these cultures have different New Years, it’s not the date itself that has any relevance, but it’s the fact we’re “plugged into” them. So because some Buddhist practices are tied into the solar and lunar cycle we’re attuned to a certain ebb and flow, which makes some days and times very powerful for certain practices, but also means we experience a chaotic tön period, when non-Buddhists have no issues with this period.

Tön is a great time to address what appears to be karmic issues. A way to identify a karmic issue is a reoccurring pattern in your life. So perhaps over the last year you’ve been sick off and on, when usually you’re pretty healthy, that might be a karmic issue. Maybe you’ve had to repair one thing after another at your house, or had to replace all your appliances as they died over a few month period, could be karmic. Maybe it’s been a year of fighting with and losing friends, karmic issue perhaps. So in tön you want to address these issues in the hopes that you’ll clear out the karma connected to them, and not have to deal with them next year. The simplest way is to do work that counters the general trend, but being a Buddhist system, generally you try to counter it for others. So if you’ve had a year of illness, don’t try to heal yourself during tön (or don’t focus only on yourself), but work to heal others. If you know people who are sick, work for them, if you don’t, take the Buddhist approach and scattershot it, work to heal all who are sick and suffering. Granted as an individual person when you try to help so many people at once you’ll probably accomplish nothing notable, but it helps get the ball rolling. Focus on helping others with the same or similar issue you’ve been going through, and remember when you are trying to help all beings, you’re one of them, so you can still help yourself.

There is also a more “active” way of dealing with it. I can’t explain the major details, but in my lineage we create a torma, a cake, of a scorpion which is a symbol of our karma. We say a ridiculous amount of mantras over it, to transfer our karma or at least our attachments to it into the scorpion. Then we light a bonfire, evoke a god into the fire, and burn the scorpion and the karma with it. I know other Buddhist lineages use a cake ram’s head.(Also similar to an Egyptian practice of making a snake representing Apep, and destroying it before the new year.)

Another part of the lead up to Losar is the house cleaning. Basically this is when you should do your big clean. Don’t just tidy up the house, make sure that you’ve vacuumed and washed what you can. If possible focus on the two extremes of your mess first, the daily clutter (all that junk on the sidetable beside your chair) and the more longterm clutter (remember when you thought you’d move that wall unit, and so you stacked everything on the floor and you still haven’t put it back up after three months? Do that now). You want to start the New Year clean and fresh. This is also a spiritual thing, not just physical. It’s common for people to do prayers in every room, purifying the space. So do your banishings, your cleansings. Here is a method I wrote about a few years ago I still use a variation of it.

It’s also traditional to paint the ashtamangala (the eight auspicious symbols) inside the house. Each one represents something else, but if you’re not Buddhist you probably won’t connect with them, but you can still paint your own symbols inside the house. Usually you’d paint it, and then paint over it, but that’s from a time when we didn’t have long lasting latex or acrylic paint and you’d have to repaint every year anyways. Now it’s more common to “paint” with holy water. Think of it as a way of reconsecrating your house and marking what blessings you want for the upcoming year.

It’s also when you do your protector practices, specifically the day before (which in this case should have been yesterday really), so after you banish you set up your wards, you call your protective spirits, give them offerings and reaffirm your connection and requests. In some cases you’re really recharging/refreshing them, or you might just be reconnecting. Even if you’re sure the wards are up and your guardians are there it doesn’t hurt to touch up wards, and it’s good to be nice to your protectors.

Leading up to the New Years you’ve dealt with minor karma, you’ve cleaned the house, exorcised it, blessed it, and warded it.

My Losar altar three years ago.

My Losar altar three years ago.

Then on the day you wear new clothing. In poorer regions of historical Tibet it wasn’t unheard of for people only to get a new set of clothing on Losar, but it was so important to them that if that’s all they got they wanted it for Losar. I think the symbolism is more than obvious about having fresh new clothing to start a new year. Another important part of the Losar celebration is the offerings, of course, Tibetan Buddhism is all about the food. Set up your altar, and pack it with food. Your Buddhas and Dharma texts should be hiding behind cookies and fruit and tea. The idea is to make a big offering to them, to everything, start the year off generous, and in return the year will be generous to you. Do your prayers and rituals over the altar. Leave it for a time. Then the next day, maybe after some more rituals and prayers, it’s time to give away the food. It’s not just food, it’s sacred offerings, the Buddhas and whatnot have taken what they need, now you’re sharing it, and those blessings with everyone else.

Even striped of the Buddhist context you can see the logic and value to preparing for the new year in this way.

If I might sound horribly Buddhist, may all beings be happy in the coming year.

Losar tashi delek.


Review: Sumerian Exorcism, by M. Belanger

2015/06/04

sembSumerian Exorcism: Magick, Demons, and the Lost Art of Marduk – M. Belanger
Dark Moon, 2013, 9781482521733, 180 pp.

Disclaimer: Michelle is my friend, so while I try to remain unbiased I acknowledge the potential for such is present.

Mesopotamian culture set the foundation for many elements of the modern Western world, and that includes the influence on magick. While the magick of the ancient Near East is often a feature in pop culture and obliquely referenced in paganism and magick generally in terms of Inanna it is rarely more than loosely based in actual beliefs and practices.

This book is a step towards helping shed some light on the actual practices of the time by sharing translations of the original source documents of various magickal tablets, most notably the Maklu Texts made famous by their reference in Simon’s Necronomicon.

The book is a collection of various texts, translated by academics, not by practitioners, and presented with some interpretation and explanation. The fact that the texts are academic translations is important to me, because while academics still have their own bias, when a text is translated by a practitioner they often translate to support their belief which may or may not be factually correct.

Michelle provides the necessary background material, when possible, to help the reader contextualize the spell. Whenever a god or demon or class of spirit is mentioned Michelle gives a brief introduction to them, knowing that the average reader, even of a text as focused as this, might not know whom they are discussing or praising. Sometimes there is a clear parallel between an ancient practice and a modern one, and when noted Michelle will often draw the link out for the reader. Also whenever something is suggested or implied in the text, but not stated probably due to being “common knowledge” to the priests at the time, Michelle fills in the gap or at least makes educated guesses. For instance a few spells reference the way a demon or influence might “melt away” and be burnt, so it’s suggested (and I’ll agree) that it probably referred to making a wax figurine or tablet to be destroyed.

The spells included cover what one would expect in general from a magick sampler text, there are curses, praises, exorcisms (imagine that), protection spells, blessings and more. This text is more for the academically inclined. If you’re looking for a how-to guide to ancient Mesopotamian magick and religion, this won’t be it, it might fill in the gaps and inspire, but won’t give you the foundation you need. The bibliography would also be a great starting point for a more involved study. For students of the western traditions of magick it will be interesting to see the origin (or at least oldest recorded description) of various ideas and both see where some practices came from, and perhaps rekindle part of them in your modern work.


Losar, House Cleaning, and Kicking Out Crud

2013/02/11

During secular New Years I was incapacitated due to a minor case of the plague, so I never got around to my New Years House Cleaning. While I may do a major House Cleaning throughout the year, whenever I feel that stuffs needs to be cleared out, I always do one at New Years, so I know it’s done. I didn’t, and it took me a while to recover, and by the time I did it had slipped my mind. When I started having uncharacteristically bad dreams near the end of January a friend asked about my Wards, and I realized that I had missed this year. I decided to wait until Losar (Tibetan New Years, today) to perform the rituals, it’s customary in Losar to house clean, do some banishing rituals, and celebrate. While I have issues about adopting Tibetan customs (over Vajrayana ones) I figured it would be an appropriate time to work.

Now I’ve spoken about the type of house clearing rituals I perform before and this one follows much the same pattern. Though the details change it is always the same four steps: Warning/Dismissal, Shakeup the Energy, Igne Interficiatur, and Blessings.

Now before I began I cleaned the house; not the complete house for various reasons, but the dining room, the kitchen, and my room were properly cleaned, and everything else tidied up. I reupholstered the chairs in my dining room, and cleaned off the table for the first time in ages. I was amazed at how much it improved the energetic flow of the room. All of this is more relevant for another post, but in general, clean up, and improve before you majorly clear a place.

Warning/Dismissal: I don’t banish right away. Spirits wander by, spirits get trapped, not everything unwanted is malicious, so to start off they get a warning, a push, and a way out. I start in the farthest darkest corner of my basement. I’ve meditated and assumed a Wrathful aspect, a terrifying astral form, right now it’s more about strength and intimidation. In Vajrayana (and Mahayana) figures have a Wrathful and a Peaceful aspect. I call to everything in the house that it is time to go, I’m giving them plenty of warning, but it’s time to leave my house. If they’re friend/family/Family/ally they can retreat to my altars, but if not it is time for them to GTFO. I then dropped several drops of Quadrivium’s Banishing Oil in my furnace’s humidifier. I find airducts and furnaces are somewhat like veins and hearts, so by placing some of the Banishing Oil (which smells wonderful to me) into the furnace as the water is spread through the house it is “breathing” out the oil and the effect. Then from that dark far corner I start burning my incense of sulphur, tobacco, and dragon’s blood. In my Wrathful aspect with a strong Voice I continue to proclaim a warning and to announce the upcoming eviction of the spirits. I walk from room to room, all the doors in the house are open, all the lights are on, and I spread this smoke and command through the house. I end up at the front door where I leave the rest of the incense to burn, and I return to the far dark corner.

Shakeup the Energy: I refocus myself and take on a Peaceful aspect, one that is more placid and friendly, but still filled with strength, if a different type. Using my singing bowl, in what I’m sure is a very untraditional manner, I begin making it sing. There is something about the hum of the bowl that I can connect to, it’s like the hum is an extension of my energy and responds to me in much the same way. I fill the room with the sonic energy and then I rattle it, I shake it, I make the bowl chatter, and the energy in the room flakes a bit, it comes loose. What is trapped in the dark stagnant areas is shaken free and pulled away from the hidden places. What is really loose I cast forward, using the sound as a force to move it ahead of me, until it’s been cast out the front door, and if anything can’t be pushed out it will be dealt with in the next step. Again, it’s room to room, every place, all the closets, no place is spared.

Igne Interficiatur: I have the bottle of Banishing Oil in my pocket, and I’m wearing my domta, a Tibetan ritual hat which among other things increases my energetic perception. Back in that dark far corner I resume the Wrathful aspect, and begin. Rainbow fire streams from the hands in this form, burning whatever it touches, or clawing forward the few most stubborn parts that can’t be burnt so easily. In every room, more than once in large rooms, or rooms with a noticeable division point, once the area has been burnt I cry out “Phat,” a complex and powerful syllable in Tibetan, with it appears a flash of fire which gets most of what remains, and I leave a glowing crystal Phat in the place where I cried it. I continue from room to room, leaving a collection of crystal Phats dangling in the air, reflecting rainbow light from clear light. When I’ve completed the entire house I sit down in the Heart of the Home, it is literally the centre of my house on the ground level, right beside a Grandfather clock (so it even has a heart beat) and with a slow and shallow Phat I connect myself to each of these centres. I call forth a Clear Wisdom Fire, a purifying energy, and I radiate it out from each of these points, scouring every room at once of whatever has left, stubborn or hidden. I put some Banishing oil on my finger, and go to the back door, I draw in oil and flame sigils of protection on the door frame, and do the same at the front door casting the charcoal and incense out into the snow.

Blessing: Taking the Peaceful aspect again I have a mix of incense that includes copal, red sanders, Green Tara incense, Abramelin incense, and mastic (and others, but that’s the bulk of it). From that dark far corner I start my rounds again, this time filling the air with pleasant evocative incense smoke (enough to suffocate a small child). In the Peaceful form I radiate out Clear Light and blue-crystal light, while I’m also calling to my spirits, coaxing them back out of the altars to walk my house freely, to take the smoke and energy and transform them into beneficial forms.

My Losar altar, cause I'm proud of it, and you read a lot to get here, so have a picture.

My Losar altar, cause I’m proud of it, and you read a lot to get here, so have a picture.

Because it is also Losar, once I completed this, I put the incense on my Losar altar, lit all the candles, filled the offering bowls, lit the incense, and began my rituals and my feast.

The house feels calm, still, quiet and beautiful. Like that still silence in a power out, when you realize that you’re surrounded by a dozen background noises (fridge, lights, fans, computers) and suddenly they’re gone. That’s what it feels like now. Still, silent, and beautiful. Clean and fresh for the New Year.


Creating and Consecrating Ritual Chalk

2012/08/17


Also titled

Magick Chalk: Beyond Mary Poppins

I was asked by some magickal associates of mine to share the ritual and recipe for my magickal chalk. Magick chalk? You read right, so before I begin, why in the hells would you need magick chalk?

The primary use I have for my consecrated chalk is creating magickal circles, specifically circles like the Heptameron style, used to invoke the Divine forces and establish stability and authority before a major magickal working. When I clear out a space, I generally like to draw a line and protective glyph at the door to keep things out. (I could do the same without anything, but I like grounding it into the physical) Writing petitions, drawing sigils, really anything you could write for in magick works well with the chalk. As a note, this type of chalk may scratch chalk boards, but works well on stone and pavement, and even dark or tough cloth. My portable summoning circle is a huge piece of denim and it works on it.

The ingredients are simple:

1 tablespoon eggshell dust. (Wash and dry eggshells from a few eggs, I was told six, but I just collect and use, and grind into a powder. I use my magick coffee grinder for that, use a strainer to get only the finest particles.)
1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon hot water (at least, I’ve had to use up to five in some cases)
½ teaspoon ash from a copy of the Headless Ritual written in dragon’s blood ink (One sheet of paper produces 1/2 tsp of ash, if you want to make more chalk at once use a small amount, but I don’t recommend using less than 1/8 tsp)
(A few drops of food colouring if you want, but the ash will muck up the colour)

Simple, stuff we all have lying around. Mix the water, flour, and ash into a paste, then mix in the eggshell. It’s a balance, but add a bit of water if too dry, and a bit more flour if too wet. It should be like a clay or dough. Mix it up. Roll it on a piece of wax paper to get it into the shape you want. It could make several pieces, or one depending on how thick you make it. I suggest thicker, as it is less likely to break that way. Roll a piece of paper towel around it, and let it set and dry for a few days.

Why do I use the Headless Ritual in making this? I’m sure most people know the basic history, it was originally used as an exorcism (which makes it highly appropriate for drawing warding and protective glyphs), but the structure is that of a powerful invocation. That’s why in the Golden Dawn and Thelemic traditions it got rephrased into calling to, and connecting with your Holy Guardian Angel. This part of the invocation I feel makes it ideal for all the other uses of the chalk.

Click for a larger version to print or transcribe

So how do you make the ash? Did you think I wasn’t going to touch on that? At dawn, noon, or an otherwise convenient solar moment I write out the ritual text in dragon’s blood ink, and to be honest, I cheat. I print it out in Greek, and then trace the letters. While I do this I either recite the ritual, or pray to my HGA to abide Within. When I’m done I light my candles of the three pillars, and burn incense in an attempt to represent the four elements. (I use Earth-Myrrh, Air-Mastic, Water-Sandalwood, Fire-Copal) Then I properly perform the ritual. I use the version given in the Mathers/Crowley Goetia. It contains the best segment on authority to me “Hear me, and make all Spirits subject unto me: so that every Spirit of the Firmament and of the Ether: upon the Earth and under the Earth: on dry Land and in the Water: of Whirling Air, and of rushing Fire: and every Spell and Scourge of God may be may be obedient unto Me.” This is why I use incense of four elements, rather than anything else, to tie it into that. After I’ve completed it, I command and pray that my force imbue the text. Then I burn it while repeating that prayer. A few times I feel like it didn’t “stick” and I perform the Headless Ritual again, I’ve done it up to four times to get it just right. Of course then I claimed I did it once for each element, not because I couldn’t get the forces flowing.

To consecrate the chalk, on Sunday in the hour of Mercury, or Wednesday in the hour of the Sun, or any good Solar/Mercurial moment, I place the chalk on my altar. Lighting the candles I perform the ritual, and again command the force to reside in the chalk, to bless it, enliven it, to make spirits obedient unto it, to make it the most badass piece of chalk.


Cleaning House: Exorcisms, Astral Tidying, and Blessing

2012/01/01

Due to the plague I ended up home alone for New Years. Wasn’t my first choice, but not bothered by it and I did what any normal person would do when home alone on New Years, exorcise the house. With the New Year, New You prompt I had cleaned up the house, but it was time to take care of the other side of things. I usually cleanse the house whenever I feel it needs it, but I always do a major run down near New Years.

No babe, you can stay, I like them flexible.

For me a major clearing out the house takes a couple of steps, and while how I do each step tends to change from year to year the overall process is the same: Warning/Dismissal, Shakeup the Energy, Igne Interficiatur (sometimes more literally than others), and finally Blessings.

Before anything starts I turn on a light in every room and closet, and open every door, internal and external. The idea is I want to expose everything, not forget anywhere, but I also want the paths to be clear for anything that wants to escape. For the Warning/Dismissal phase I fumigate the house with incense containing such things as sulphur, dragon’s blood, myrrh, and tobacco. I tell spirits to leave, I’m not banishing anything at this point, I’m polite with spirits, I’m letting them know I’ll be banishing soon and if they don’t want to get caught by it to get out. The incense makes them uncomfortable, but doesn’t force them out. I go room to room announcing it is time for them to leave, and what is coming next. I leave the incense burning in the front door frame until the final step.

Then I Shakeup the Energy. When energy flows get trapped -in mess, in unused area, in ignored spots- it solidifies a little, caked-on astral gunk. In this stage I basically get everything moving, some of it gets tossed out, but for the most part it’s just to loosen everything up, like the pre-soak before you scrub something. This step is pure Kalagni, something I’ve done for a decade, never been taught, never seen anything like it, probably horribly untraditional. Again I go room to room, this time with my singing bowl. Sound is a big thing in my paradigm and I find the hum of a singing bowl releases a type of energy I can manipulate, or it focuses me, or something. Anyways I use the energy-sound from the bowl to reach out into the corners, the crevices, and anywhere there is stuck energy, and I pull it loose and into the centre more. Some I toss before me, like sweeping out the heavy, some I just let sit, it will be taken care of in the next step.

The Primordial Party Girl

Igne Interficiatur, always my favourite. Spirits have been warned, energy has been loosened, time to actually clean house. Armed with my bell and my vajra (dorje) I become Singhamukha. While I’ve done this before, this is the first time I’ve done it since I’ve received proper training and as a figure connected to it (and let me say training and initiation make a difference). Ringing the bell constantly I say the 14 syllable mantra of exorcism (my lama would be upset I didn’t dance while saying it) and for each recitation I tap a wall, floor, or ceiling three times with the vajra, leaving a point of light behind. Once each surface has been marked while standing in the centre the mantra is said again and the points of light, which are really very small vajras, multiple and spread out across the surface. After the room is surrounded by vajras then lines of vajras appear between the initial marks, then between all the vajras in the lines and the marks, and all the vajras and the wall. Eventually the room is just a solid jumble of vajras, but wait, there is more, there are still gaps of space inside and between the vajras, so another mantra fills the space with a wind of fire that burns everything left behind. After this is done in every room then standing in the spiritual/psychological centre of the house (kitchen in this case) a vajra taller than the house is created, then one wider, then one longer, until the house has a triple vajra pointing in every direction sticking out of it. Like with the walls the spaces between the tips fill up with vajras, then space between vajras, until the entire house is contained in this vajra cube, and again the fiery wind. Glass of water as that step is tiring.

For the Blessings with incense including stuff like copal, frankincense, cedar, cloves, red sanders, and guar gum, I offer the smoke to the spirits. To friends, families, allies, spirits who work with me and walk with me, to angels, (obedient) demons, gods, goddesses, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dakinis, Dakas, constructs, elementals, shidak/shadak (local spirits), to disincarnate and disembodied of all types, as long as they are welcome. I move from room to room offering them the incense, inviting them back or to stay, and asking they help protect and bless the house. As I go through the house any door that doesn’t need to be open is closed, and light not needed is turned off. This incense is left to burn out at the front door too, there is serves as an invitation for those I called.

That’s pretty much it. I admit it’s far from the streamlined/minimalist approach, but it’s once a year I can spare the hour, hour and a half, it takes. I was disappointed; I only had one bizarre occurrence this year. When I closed the back door, as soon as I turned away from it something slammed against it from outside, hard. I reinforced the area so I could open the door and look out. It’s the door of the inside section of the porch, so I thought maybe I left the outside door open and the wind got it. No, the back porch was sealed and still, no breeze, but something slammed against the door. By far not the most interesting or creepy manifestation I’ve had while banishing my house. Maybe astral uglies don’t love me anymore.

What about you, what do you do to clear your house? Are yearly (or scheduled) cleansings worth it?


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