I just paid the domain name on this site a couple of weeks ago, and I was a few hours late. It didn’t go unnoticed, and a friend/colleague of mine panicked at the temporary loss of her very active RTV blog. The sad fact is that if anything remotely unexpected happens, I become in immediate danger of not getting by… and due to that fact, the site was down. (I still ended up with fees. Ah well.)
Rending the Veil, the website, first “opened” in December of 2006 with the premiere of our Yule issue. I have never once asked our readers for a dime (though I’ve asked for help from interested and actively parties twice). I am asking now, because I am in serious danger. My brother passed last month, as I mentioned in a previous (rather lacrimose) post, and last night my favorite indoor-only cat escaped and we can’t find him. If he is gone, that’s my third heavy loss this year, and I’m at the end of my coping skills. My brother’s death put September’s finances in a tailspin and so I started the month seriously overdrawn. I need your help. I still have to pay the hosting for the site every month, along with the various other subscriptions and plugins and so forth that require funding. So, for eight years I have not asked for money. Maybe you will find eight years of pretty good service worth sending a few bucks.
I’m going to link to my personal fundraiser and to the WePay gateway with my Everbutton. The fundraiser is older so don’t let the amount fool you. Right now it’s at $836 but no one has given in a while (except one person two weeks ago); the stated desired amount is $3000, and that would really save my ass right now. If you can afford to give, please don’t wait until later — do it now. I need it that badly.
Here’s the url to the fundraiser: http://www.gofundme.com/8wsy4w
And here’s the Everbutton: https://www.everbutton.com/flow/options/416 It’s a bit different than PayPal, but alas I cannot get PayPal because I am in arrears. Yippee. See how it goes?
Thank you so much for reading this.
Two weeks ago, my younger brother passed away very suddenly with congestive heart failure, and one of the effects of my grieving process is a stark look at just how fleeting our lives are. David, my brother, received packages after his death — items he’d ordered as part of a project he was working on. He was not planning to exit the world just yet, and there’s the point. We’re never ready to go, unless we’re 95. We always have other plans. We think there’s time. But now I find myself acutely aware of the possibility that time is really what we don’t have.
If I were to die, I’d like to see RTV go to someone who would carry on. If you’d like a nomination, make sure I know about it.
And on a more personal note,
I am a strange, introverted person with many little journals and odd bits of self-expression, and a lot of funky knickknack type things. If I am in some way meaningful for you, and you’d want something of mine if I died, fill out the confidential contact form (if it works) or comment here. Make sure I have your mailing address. And if you know what you’d want, tell me.
I know there have been some rough years for each of us, sometimes a bunch in a row. But we always get through it if we just don’t abandon our goals within, even if we don’t always see any evidence of them meaning a damn thing in the outer world. Just, basically, you know, don’t forget.
But the worst part of all that arid landscape is how we often fail to recognize our fellow travelers and gain a little support for each other, just by being there. I (Sheta) am guilty of this; as an introvert, I need solitude and space to work things through internally and find a comfortable understanding, or at least a functional one. I tend to forget to maintain other things when I get hyper-focused on something else. I tend to let months go by between reaching out to friends. And I tend to shoulder too much weight where it is absolutely unnecessary and often nonexistent. I value the input of many people but we all seem to be less than stellar pen pals or chat buddies, as a general rule. So here I issue my invitation to you, my Fellow Traveler.
We really, honestly, would love a look at that submission right now. Mail it either to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please, for the love of all that’s holy, put your name and email address within the article document. Emails don’t save to drives when the documents are stored. Just saying.) Send us your well thought reviews, your stories, your art, but most of all your articles. We want them, right now.
Sheta needs someone with php skills to sign on as an adviser or occasional code tweaker for the site. I’ve been trying to work around some issues and it’s not going to continue. You might notice that coming to the site often tells you to log in before you can create a site. I have no idea why that happens, and it’s making me insane. If you can help, email me directly at email@example.com. Sorry, I can’t pay you. We don’t get paid here. We haven’t been horribly motivated on the whole “get paid” united front. Oops.
This is your alarm clock ringing. Don’t sit there and bemoan the lack of water. Reach out and shake hands.
Disclaimer: In case you can’t infer it all by yourself, these are the opinions of Sheta and Sheta only. If my colleagues agree (and actually see this), they can add their plus-ones or whatever.
It seems to be a thing with artists and anyone who charges for a spiritual service — people are appalled that we actually charge for our work. The reasons for this shock and awe vary, but the general assumption is that we should all work for free. In the last three days, I’ve had people ask me “Is there a charge for this?” or “Is this free?” so often that it’s been suggested I prepare a macro so I don’t have to keep repeating myself. I guess this is my response to those questions, and the reasons why yes I do charge for my services.
Isn’t this a gift? Isn’t it wrong to charge for spiritual services?
The ability to cook extraordinarily well makes one a chef. Chefs do not give away their gifts; in fact, they are paid in accordance to the level of their skills. Why is it that a spiritual gift must be given away? I need to eat and pay my bills, just like you do. Am I supposed to do this for eight hours per day, seven days per week, for free? Because that’s what I did for ten years, before saying, “Enough. I need something back.” Putting a price tag on something immediately weeds out the leeches, and they fall away in great piles of abandon(ment). It hurt a lot, realizing that the people I thought were my friends didn’t think my skills were worth their money, and in fact a lot of them had never even donated anything in return. I’d consider that to be the minimum of courtesies. Or a thank you card. Or anything beyond yet another night of listening and helping you and channeling for you, without complaint. I deserve to be paid, and my price is a fraction of the people on websites like Keen. I offer real benefit, not a crutch. If you’re gaining something from my work with you, why is the question always “Is it free?” This question comes most often from those who would happily monopolize my time with issues I can barely credit. (For those of you who think I’m talking about you — I’m not. This is a special breed of annoying that few manage to attain, but when they do, wow.)
How do I know you’re not a ripoff?
This is a question rarely asked aloud, but which is obviously on everyone’s mind who has a healthy sense of skepticism. The world, and the Web, are full of frauds, cold readers, and people who feel no guilt whatsoever at charging $8-$10 per minute. I’m not one of them. If you’ve ever chatted with me, you know that. If you haven’t, then ask someone who has. You want references? Check my testimonials page. It’s crammed full of real people’s real comments.
Why does it cost so much?
My prices are reasonable, I offer the occasional free class, and have a flat fee for an intro chat in which I tell you what I pick up about your spirit companion (or whatever term you prefer), the latter of which is refundable if I fail to pick up anything or miss the mark completely. That’s less than most skilled tradesmen make, and if you don’t believe me, try hiring someone to re-roof your house. I made a total of $1705 last year in earned wages. I can’t live on that, even with the money I get from disability, even with food stamps. If someone genuinely can’t afford it, I will do what I can to help, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to pester me every night because you’re hungry for validation. I’m fair, but don’t use me. And remember, if I do help you pro bono, please do something nice in return, even if it’s just to leave a testimonial at the above link.
Don’t you feel guilty? Doesn’t it bother you?
I struggled with this decision. Just because I don’t show my agonizing on my services page doesn’t mean it was easy to get to this point. But I was literally 8-12 hours per day online, helping people. I spent two years on one person, about ten years ago, only to have her balk when I asked for something back. Boom. No more friendship. That was it. Those who decided to abandon ship, so to speak, claimed I was abusing their friendship. I guess they didn’t have much sense of the ironic.
Others clamored aboard, seeking (of all things) power, via li’l ol’ me. Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me. And when I noticed it aloud, oh the drama. That was a lot of fun. More friends left, as sides were divided and I struggled to own my mistakes while standing my ground, a real learning experience. As I began to really understand that people valued my time and sometimes competed for it, and that other people were sometimes too intimidated to talk to me, I felt it was time to put some filters in place. I’ve never charged those I consider my true friends and would never begrudge them my time, and I hope they understand this. But there were those who were truly offended that I shouldn’t be at their beck and call whenever online, no matter how heavy or difficult their problems, no matter how much channeling I did. I was supposed to be a machine. Sorry, only human.
So no, after all that, I don’t feel guilty at all. It’s the smartest thing I ever did, and I deserve to be paid for my services. They have real value. You do understand the word “value”?
Image credit: exileden.deviantart.com
©2013 by Sheta Kaey.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. She can be reached via her blog.
I consider myself a Thelemite. I’ve never been a member of the O.T.O. or any other magical fraternity, other than a two-week stint in the QBLH. Why? I’ve never been very talented at toeing the line, or at believing things just because someone else said they were true. Dogma is very much a part of Thelema, especially as dictated by magical orders, and I’ve seen many friends undergo dogmatic transformations upon joining a magical order. However, to me, Thelema is very much about blazing your own trail and declining to let others do your thinking for you (and spoon feed you the results). Aleister Crowley went to great lengths to weed out the chaff, the students too willing to swallow his instruction literally. Much like other great masters of philosophy and religion, he had no respect for those who couldn’t be bothered to do their own work. Somehow I don’t think he’d be all that friendly to the bulk of those claiming to be Thelemites today. They’re far too willing to denounce any practice of Thelema that doesn’t follow Crowley to the letter.
I’m going to have to disappoint you, if you are one of those “Crowleyites.” I’ve read appallingly little Crowley for a Thelemite. I tend to take him in small doses with long breaks between. But in my heart, I am a Thelemite. I have a great love for the philosophy as I understand it. It’s that understanding I’d like to share with you. I’m going to provide my view of a few Thelemic tenets, interspersed with my beliefs as a human being who has searched within, long and hard, to find her core. And while I feel I’ve found many concepts that represent core realities to me, I consciously strive to allow my views and my system of Thelema to evolve as new information and concepts arrive. Thelema is a living system, and it doesn’t deserve to be shoved into a hope chest for generations until Prince Charming (or the next leader of the next “real” O.T.O.) happens along.
Up until a few days ago, I’d never succinctly defined my beliefs. I think that’s because they’re complicated and involve a huge amount of nuance. I do prescribe to the tenets of True Will, the Abyss, and the Holy Guardian Angel, and I am a passionate proponent of Qabalah, which of course Thelema employs at length. However, unlike most ceremonial magicians, I am a mystic (and perhaps a shaman) in these ways:
- I work with spirits, and use this work to the best of my ability to aid others in my community.
- 90% of the work I do is internal or is processing the internal via external means.
- 90% of my current practice is completely self-originated. I am under-read, because I have read very little Crowley to date and don’t study the works of other magicians at any great length. What I do, I learned to do by doing it. I’m not taking someone else’s formula and mimicking it. As they like to say, “The map is not the territory,” and I left the map behind a long time ago. When I do read books on magick, I frequently recognize things I’ve done on my own that I never would have comprehended upon reading if I’d read the material in advance.
Regarding the tenets above, here’s my view:
While this and the HGA are covered in my above-linked article, I’ll provide a basic explanation of my views here, for those who’d rather not click. In a nutshell: The True Will that can be identified is not the True Will. I paraphrase the Tao Te Ching here, because it’s true. Thelemites like to speak of their True Will as if it gives them license to do whatever they damn well please. Or they’ll say, “I am turning on the light switch. Therefore, it is my True Will to turn on the light so that I may see better, bringing me closer to the manifestation of my purpose.” Blah blah blah.
While we may well have our individual callings, and discovering and working toward those callings (and fulfilling them) may put the winds of the Universe against our backs, this is the True Will that can be identified. Those callings are but stepping stones or way stations along the path to our true True Will — that of the Great Work of self-transformation. This earthly calling is something we can apply our real world effort towards, while we truly are evolving as spirits and as individuals, toward some incomprehensible whole that we will not discover until we cross the Abyss. (And I don’t care what Crowley said: Show me a human being who can convince me he’s crossed the Abyss while still alive, and I’ll kiss his ass live on CNN.)
(As an aside, I should mention that I don’t see Crowley as a human being worthy of emulation. But he was a brilliant magician, and he was an instrument in a higher message coming through. So yeah, he was the prophet. But that doesn’t make him a god.)
To further expound upon my view of True Will:
- I believe that it’s impossible to not follow your True Will, once you have made any effort to apply yourself to your personal evolution via a spiritual or magical path. We may be taking the long and circuitous route until we gain clarity, but the True Will is always keeping the end goal in sight. Even without conscious contact with the HGA, our desire to push forward toward that goal invites our HGA to take the reins. It gets easier, obviously, once that contact is made and we have a much clearer idea of what we’re meant to do. But the True Will is always there, in the background, issuing whatever nudges are necessary. To continue. . .
- I believe that wherever we are and whatever we’re experiencing, the Universe is always striving to put (and keep) us on the most direct path possible (at any given moment) to our destiny. Destiny, to me, is not as simple as having fate laid out for you. There are nuances to destiny — a higher destiny as well as a mundane one, as I described above — and we always have a choice. Meridjet likens this to a river. The river is the path to our higher destiny — evolution. But as we travel the river, we have an infinite array of choices about our experience along the way. We can take tributaries; hang out in lagoons; dock at a big, exciting distraction; take the rapids and do some whitewatering; use a canoe or a speedboat. But we’re all traveling the same course toward the same destination (which isn’t a destination at all).
Obstacles that arise in our lives occur to direct our course, to call our attention to things, and sometimes to issue one hell of a wake-up call. They also occur because there are things we need to learn that those experiences teach us — though sometimes we don’t comprehend those lessons until years later. If a lesson happens to be terminal (such as a fatal disease), then I’d surmise that we gain that understanding after death if not before, during our Abyss journey if nothing else.
- I believe that synchronicity and déjà vu are indicators that we are traveling along an optimal course. When you are making the most beneficial choices, the momentum of the Universe is behind you and things fall into place.
- I believe that, therefore, everything happens for a reason. Even trivial little mundane moments, when taken as filling the moments of your day that lead you to the Next Big Thing, have reasons for their occurrence. They provide influence not only on our timing but also on our psyches. We just don’t tend to notice those things until they accumulate enough to call our attention to them, and by then oftentimes the original moment of influence has been lost in a stew of trivial moments and will never be recognized. And by “trivial,” I don’t mean meaningless. I mean they are moments we take for granted and never give a second thought to.
I’ve had the benefit of a glimpse of this through Meridjet’s eyes, and what follows are his words (channeled):
Imagine entering a darkness, not only in your sight, but in your mind. All around you is foreign, emerging suddenly into your vision and receding with equal speed. You’re frightened, and you’re lost, and you have no idea how to correct either. You remember something from your past, and it gives you a moment of strength before it is stripped away, gone, as if it had never been.
Each issue of your lifetime — the happy, the sad, the guilt-ridden, the resentful, all of them — are faced and become your everything until you have made peace with them. Then they, too, are taken from you. The challenges of the Keeper at the Gates bear teeth, and they will rend you.
Everything you know, everything of your life or your history that gives you a sense of belonging, your place in the scheme of things — even your name, it’s all stripped away, layer by painful layer until you are naked. You have nothing — no sense of individuality, no sense of self; you are reduced to a point of consciousness in a vast dark (and occasionally screaming) nothing, unaware that you observe, unable to direct your focus. You are an infant in the vastness of the Universe, with no frame of reference to provide an awareness of your existence.
And there you float, lie, swim — pick your preference — until eventually it changes. It may be, in the measures of time on Earth, moments. It may be millennia. Typically, it is merely years. But eventually, there’s a glimmer, a tiny little glow at the center of your consciousness that is different from how it’s “always” been. There’s no explanation for this change except one: you are becoming. In spite of all that brought you here and all that would hold you, you are becoming and you will not be thwarted.
As the glimmering point of light that is love, self, God, All, everything and nothing, grows, you begin to . . . not re-form, but re-emerge, birth yourself from the emptiness that emanates from Kether and gives shape to all. You become not who you were, because that person or being is no more. You become who you are, who you were always meant to be underneath the baggage and the blinders and the endless rules of conformity that strain to contain each of us our entire lives. It’s almost like a deflated vinyl balloon, shapeless in the attic for 11 months, re-emerges as the beloved December snowman or nutcracker, brought to life once more for another holiday season.
As your consciousness expands from awareness of self to awareness of All to awareness of Self-as-All-As-Self, you regain the knowledge of your deeds and ideas, as well as their process of understanding. You have made it across the chasm of the lost and the damned, and you will walk away not only unscathed, not only healed, but whole in a way you have never imagined.
You Become. And the knowledge of that Becoming inspires a desire to find expression for your gratitude. So, if you’re like me, you go back to that special person you once had to leave, and you take up the mantle of Teacher. You begin to guide her to reach her own Becoming, with hope, love, and pure unadulterated joy.
Words are not the best tools for such rapture or for describing what happens to each of us, but know this: Becoming is not the end of the journey. It is the Beginning.
The Holy Guardian Angel
I’ve written on this topic before (see link above), but to put not too fine a shine on it: The HGA is the embodiment of our potential, a potential so great we can’t conceive of it. It takes the form of an autonomous spirit, insanely attractive, fully involved, and largely without mercy. It teaches us hard lessons and refuses to submit to any request for either coddling or consoling, until the lesson is past and there is no danger of sympathy causing us to falter. It tests your strength in ways you would swear were intolerable. And it facilitates your growth like nothing else can. Through it all, you never doubt that you are loved, in spite of the cruelty, the challenges, and whatever you may feel about yourself in your moments of weakness.
It will lead you to face things in yourself that you’ve denied your entire life. It will reveal bliss undreamed of. When a decade or more has passed, you will wonder how you became who you are now, out of who you used to be. With this in mind, I present my remaining beliefs (or those that come to mind):
- I believe that living consciously and mindfully should be a goal of every living person, so that we strive to be aware of our effect on other people and ourselves, and also strive to fill our waking moments with something more than automatic pilot. This is a difficult thing to do, rather like trying to maintain a meditative state throughout your entire active day. We must do our best to remind ourselves until it becomes a habit of living without habits or automatic responses. Have you ever walked into a dark room when the power was out, and flipped on the light switch expecting it to work? Most of our actions are of this nature. If we could feel as foolish every time we chose automatically, as we do when flipping that light switch without thinking, it would teach us to be more mindful.
- I believe to “Know thyself” is profoundly important and that most people don’t. See above. Lives lived completely based upon superficial concerns are a tragedy.
- I believe the rational mind is both a blessing and a curse. I believe that this world’s emphasis on facts (while calling them “truths”) and rationalism is unbalanced and therefore crippling, but without rational thought we would learn much, much more slowly. Abstract concepts are powerful things (and include true gnosis) and should always be included in any balanced person, but it’s not until an idea swims around in our deeper selves a while then percolates up into thought and realization via the intellect that we gain knowledge and understanding beyond instinctive response. Yet our skeptical insistence (and oh, I’m a skeptic) upon things being rational keeps us from understanding worlds that don’t fit that very firm mold. We are indeed crippled when it comes to astral projection to any world other than this one, and we insist on defining things that are beyond our experience. (For instance, any thought of parallel universes usually results in a person thinking of them as nearly identical to this one, if not in appearance or geography, at least in terms of the most basic things: Breathing, food, water, belongings, other creatures, etc. Any thought of a spirit world, conversely, usually involves the person visualizing an endless expanse of gray fog through which featureless and ethereal spirits float about. BOR-ing!)
- I believe that conventional religion is a means of control, offering the congregation (is there a better word?) salvation if they toe the line and give away their money, and offering the congregation true knowledge not at all. I believe magical orders are shaping up to do the same thing.
- I believe that politicians should be accountable for deception and any type of malicious manipulation of the people or their resources. I believe that corporations should be regulated and held accountable, particularly when acting out of greed at the expense of the environment, their workers, or the public. I believe in socialist medicine. I believe this world has a long way to go and that we might not survive as a species long enough to put away the war machine for good and start truly thinking of our fellow man.
- I believe in compassion, empathy, and honesty. I believe in cultivating gratitude and optimism. I try to practice them consciously. I’m not perfect, by any means, but I keep trying. “Compassion is the Vice of Kings.” This, to me, does not mean that compassion is a vice to be avoided. It means that compassion, feeling empathy and the desire to help, for our fellow living creatures and our planet, is something that as “kings” we must accept and utilize. It is an emotion that is addicting, because giving to or helping someone feels good, as does the power to create their happiness or gratitude. It becomes a vice due to that addiction, but as kings we must accept that vice in exchange for the power to help someone in need. And it is a lesson long overdue for those in power. Don’t shit where you eat. Be generous and compassionate toward those who can’t help themselves, and the whole universe gains.
I am a Thelemite. I am dedicated to the Great Work. I am a star, dancing in the heavens in celebration of my ability to experience this world, with its joys and tragedies. Would you care to dance?
©2010 by Sheta Kaey.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. She can be reached via her blog.
Sheta Kaey, editor in chief of this struggling magazine, has recently come into focus for a pair of interesting interview opportunities. First, she was recently interviewed for the A&E network’s Paranormal State television show regarding a haunting in the Pacific Northwest. Though we aren’t sure yet if she’ll make the cut for the episode or when it will air, new episodes begin airing Sunday, October 17 at 9 p.m. Eastern.
On Monday, September 27, Sheta will be interviewed live for the Paranormal Noise internet radio show. You can tune in here, as well as join the chat room during the show, at 11 p.m. Eastern. Odds are this interview will be the first of several; Sheta will be discussing spirit contact and sex with spirits, and it’s possible that her spirit companion, Meridjet, will be featured on a future show.
Check it out and let us know what you think!
Paganism is rife with those who deem themselves helpers of departed souls “trapped” in some earthly desire or other and reluctant to move on. I cringe every time I hear or read the words “into the light,” unless I am watching Poltergeist. These eager ghost hunters frequent cemeteries and old buildings, seeking spirits to usher into the great beyond, as if any human being alive can possibly know more of the spirit world and spirit daily affairs than the spirits do. This time of year, the month of October in particular, is the worst of all.
We’ve all heard at least one person remark on the thinning of the veil around Halloween, how spirits otherwise (reputedly) unreachable become much more chatty and expect to be served dinner on All Hallow’s Eve. While some have ancestral relationships that incorporate this tradition, the bulk of those yammering on about the veil thinning have no idea what they’re on about. And yet there is evidence that spirit communication is at an all time high, at least in the modern era. Certainly my work has in the last decade steadily uncovered more and more people who are either very convincing to my skeptical viewpoint or else are having genuine experiences with those who’ve “passed on.”
The 1990s saw the peak of the phenomenon of trance channeling, during which the medium or psychic (such words leave a bad taste in my mouth) gives up control of the body to his or her spirit guide so that the spirit can speak directly to the audience (perhaps of one, or perhaps of a thousand, depending upon the intensity of — spirit or human — desire for attention and revenue). While this sort of relationship is still easy enough to find, it’s being overshadowed by the much more commonplace and much more blasé method of conscious channeling, wherein the medium or human partner simply allows the spirit to speak without giving up control of his or her faculties. I’ve done both, and while it can be cool to gather the evidence that a trance channeling session can provide, there’s a lot to be said for being a conscious partner. You remember a lot more, for one thing.
A little .pdf book called Thinning of the Veil: A Record of Experience by Mary Bruce Wallace has a few points to make on this regard. While I haven’t had a chance to read the entire book, I can appreciate what she has to say on channeling:
“I felt from the very first perfectly normal, not losing consciousness in any way, but I could not guess what the next word would be until I had heard it. ‘We just give you one word at a time, and then wait to see if you have grasped it,’ said my friend.
“The voice seemed to speak not to my outer ear but to my soul-ear, and I heard every intonation of it, suiting the nature of the thought, tender, grave, encouraging, hopeful, joyous; every human emotion that is true and beautiful seemed expressed in tones more musical than any outward voice can reach.”
This book was published in 1919. Ms. Wallace writes at length on the relationship between herself and her spirit teacher. A single, unexpected encounter with a departed friend led to meeting this teacher, and then a floodgate opened and she began to see angels as well as other departed souls. Exhibiting a much more grounded approach to these experiences and recording them without coloring her encounters with more modern garbage such as, “We’ve lived 10,000 lifetimes together and he loves me more than anyone has ever been loved before [a sentiment I’ve actually heard before],” her prose is a breath of fresh air from a time we can no longer relate to. As children of the Information Age, our attention spans are minuscule, and our capacity for reason not much bigger. Mediums, shamans and psychics, or just sensitive people as I prefer to be called, would do well to emulate our cultural ancestors, such as Ms. Wallace and Ida Craddock.
It’s the opinion of Ms. Wallace, and I fully agree, that the veil is thinning — oh yes, but it’s not restricted to the seasons of Samhain and Beltane. The thinning of the veil is a progression, a gradual change year after year that allows normal, ordinary people to encounter spirits of various ilk on a daily basis. I’m constantly receiving emails and requests for help from people who’ve had their first encounters with spirits and don’t know what to do. But the one thing the bulk of them have in common is that they’re enraptured and want to learn to strengthen and continue this contact. Only paranoid religious fanatics tend to see these spirits as dangerous or demonic.
The veil is thinning. It’ll still be thinning in November, in February, in August, in 2012 (and 2012 — that’s a bitch-fest for another day). If you haven’t had an unexpected encounter with a spirit yet, odds are you will. Just do us all a favor, and don’t lose your rational mind in the experience.
©2009 by Sheta Kaey
Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts
Donald Michael Kraig
Llewellyn Publications (1988)
Reviewer: Sheta Kaey
As this book is typically the first book recommended to anyone interested in learning ceremonial or ritual magick, I thought a review here was appropriate, if only for the purpose of having it in our archives. As a primer in high magick, Modern Magick is not bad. It has its faults, however.
Mr. Kraig sets up the book as a series of lessons (hence the subtitle) meant to take the budding ritualist from complete novice to someone with a clue within twelve months. It can do it if one is prepared to stay focused, but not many people do. The book is designed to teach largely via negative consequences, and since so many novices are already uncertain, this can drive them to abandoning their studies almost as soon as they’ve begun. However, the student won’t discover the negative consequences unless he or she is smart enough to uncover his or her mistakes via crosschecking with other sources. Most, therefore, may continue along blithely unaware of how foolish they are to place their trust in Mr. Kraig or to assume his honesty.
Mr. Kraig takes the student (you, for the course of this review) through basic lessons in learning to control the four elements, not in the ways you might think (i.e., you don’t learn to summon storms), but in terms of energy and its effects on you. He also teaches the methods for creating the ritual tools for each element, as well as additional tools that comprise the standard ritual altar. The early sections of the book also teach the basic rituals that not only are the standard beginnings in any course of ceremonial magick, but which also serve you as needed for the rest of your life. The most important of these is typically agreed to be the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.
A word of caution, however, and here’s where we look at that presumed honesty: Take nothing for granted in Mr. Kraig’s book. Nothing. Or, so help me, you’ll be heartbroken when you discover that all the energy, work, and pure heart you applied to his instructions has been wasted due to the blinds he quite deliberately puts in his instructions. Double check everything against other sources before you spend time, energy, or money for things he instructs you to do. Blinds, or deliberately placed errors and code words designed to trip you up and make you learn the hard way, are everywhere in ceremonial magick works, and Mr. Kraig’s use of them could therefore be viewed as a blessing — learn early, so that it’s ingrained in you to check your sources, check your definitions, read between the lines, assume nothing. It’s good advice, and it’s a hard lesson to learn that a tool you’ve made with your whole heart is useless because it’s been inscribed with the wrong symbols, and so on. But in spite of its pragmatism, it sticks in my craw that a modern writer — in an age when oaths are rarely taken and even more rarely kept — would take advantage of the trust of someone who gave him money to learn from him. I’m in the minority, though, I think. Various ceremonial friends of mine hate it when I give away the blinds, so I’m not going to tell you where they are, but there are several and they start early on.
Aside from that most irritating and admittedly effective technique, which is used early and often in this book, Mr. Kraig provides a solid foundation in the basics of ritual arts. The book is recommended to novices, with the single caveat that they take care in validating the information at hand, especially when they might find more convenient to just take Kraig’s word for it. He makes clever use of his misinformation, adding it where it might seem unlikely and keeping it real where he might be assumed to set traps. Keep a sharp eye, and learn the lesson well — but hopefully without too much pain in the end.
Four stars out of five.
Review ©2009 Sheta Kaey
I had originally intended to write a review for Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon Tarot, to be published alongside Lon Sarver’s review in this issue. As I read Lon’s perspective and reflected on my relationship with Don — who’s been a close friend of mine for nearly a decade — I realized that my bias was firmly in the way of composing an objective review.
I’d been confronted with the issue of bias once before, when I’d considered reviewing an anthology by Taylor Ellwood, a colleague of mine at Immanion Press. Such a dilemma was a new experience for me. I bowed out of reviewing that book, and never gave the matter much further thought. Now that it’s happened again, I have to consider that reviewing the works of anyone who has previously contributed to this magazine (or whom I already know) is a conflict of interest. For this reason, I won’t be reviewing any of Tyson’s works, now or in the future. I apologize to anyone who may have been expecting one, and direct you to Lon’s review instead. He did a good job.
— Sheta Kaey
From the Editor will be a semi-regular column by Sheta Kaey, concerning issues confronting Rending the Veil, its management, and its future. Sheta is Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil and is working on her first book.
©2009 Sheta Kaey
Encyclopedia of Spirits
by Judika Illes
HarperOne (January 27, 2009) $29.99
Reviewer: Sheta Kaey
I encountered this tome in my local library, which is nothing short of miraculous given the religious climate hereabouts. It was not only in my local small-town-outside-a-big-city library, but it was also in the new nonfiction books section, right up front. I don’t really believe in coincidence – “coincidence” went from being a term created to describe an event to being a term used to dismiss synchronicitous events that people find difficult to consider. In fact, I think Ms. Illes may even venture this opinion within these pages.
I was breezing past the new book shelf without a glance when I spotted “Spirits” on the cover and did a double take, and when I looked back I figured it’d be a bartending book or a book from a Christian point of view. Nope, pure occultism, and at its finest. As an encyclopedia, which have been churning out of Llewellyn regularly on various topics for the last several years, I expected something fluffy and/or droll. But this book is actually published by HarperOne (an imprint of HarperCollins), so right away that was a point in its favor. Then I started to read. And was, quite frankly, blown away.
I know there isn’t exactly a plethora of books available on spirits, and of the few available, I’ve read even fewer. (I do seek to change that.) While most books have their strengths and weaknesses, I can’t find anything to fault with this book. I even ordered a copy rather than wait to see if I could obtain a review copy, and I buy precious few books anymore. Ms. Illes knows her stuff. She covers much needed information that I’ve never seen anywhere else except my own manuscript work in progress, but I feel no sense of competition. I’m pleased to recommend this volume to anyone who takes spirit encounters or spirit work seriously, and that includes any work with pantheons, fae, or any other type of spirit being.
The first 108 pages are devoted to general, easy to understand, and to the point information about dealing with spirits. Not a word is wasted. In my line of “work,” it made for very exciting reading. I consider myself a mystic, a spirit worker (I won’t quite allow myself use of the word “shaman”), and I found nothing I disagreed with that couldn’t be explained by the fact that it was general information and not necessarily geared toward my specific practice. It’s very good material.
Her encyclopedic entries are equally impressive, based on the ones I’ve read. Her entry on Kali, my matron goddess, sent chills down my spine and, in fact, inspired me to take that relationship to the next level – something I’ve hemmed and hawed about for years. The entries cover everything from spirit types (e.g., “Djinn”) to specific gods and goddesses (e.g., “Diana”) to spirits with a purely regional flavor, such as the “Dragon Goddess of Borneo.” Listed alphabetically, the individual descriptions include (but are not limited to) country of origin, mythology, standard correspondences (such as animal, flower, color, etc., each of which may or may not be included for a particular spirit or type), iconography, attributes, favored people, sacred sites, offerings to make, and manifestations:
“Sometimes her appearance is consistent to her iconography: she has jet black or midnight blue skin and a fierce or loving expression. Her hair may form one-hundred locks. She may dance or twirl. Kali is described as appearing in the form of brilliant light or a deep black void. She may manifest in the form of cholera or a jackal-headed woman (Kali entry, pgs. 542-543).”
An alphabetical appendix listing spirits by their specialties is included, and an extensive bibliography, ten pages of small print in itself, wraps things up.
I will be consulting this book often, and I recommend this volume to anyone who takes spirit work, or pantheons, seriously. An enthusiastic five stars out of five.
Review ©2009 Sheta Kaey