In 2010, Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo published his eerie findings in the journal Perception. He called it the “Strange-Face-In-The-Mirror Illusion,” where his setup could guarantee that people observe startling, supernatural imagery. All he needed was a dimly lit room and a mirror.
Within minutes, people looking into the mirror would watch their own faces distort, into deceased love ones, archetypal creatures, or disturbing disfigurements. You can read an article about the study here.
Why does this happen? According to Caputo, our brains are hardwired to perceive faces. It’s the same reason we see shapes in clouds or trees. Because the mind can’t register dark spaces, it fills in the space with information. That causes people to see shapes and figures in the shadows.
This is also why creepy pasta rituals such as The Three Kings have yielded “results.” What people believe to be spirits are actually the brain’s misrepresentation of the darkness.
This begs the question, How can I tell if what I’m seeing is a spirit or a trick of the mind?
That’s what I’m going to talk about here.
Note: I will not discuss sleep paralysis in this post. That’s a different topic altogether.
There seems to be a common misconception about spirit work that sightings are a one-chance deal: you see a spirit once, and it’ll never appear again. That isn’t true in most cases. Sightings and experiences can be repeated, under different circumstances, at different times of the day. Sure, spirits are harder to perceive because they aren’t often tangible. But they can be perceived if you know what to look for.
First, let’s review what needs to occur for the shadow you see to be a trick of the mind. If you’re in a space with dim lighting, your mind will likely trick you. If you’re tired, or just woken up, your mind will likely trick you. If you add a candle to the darkness, you’re at an even higher disadvantage because the movement will alert your mind into fight or flight. Which leads me to the final point: If you’re afraid, your mind will likely trick you.
Spirits don’t only appear under these conditions. If you observe a spirit, you’ll still perceive it if:
There are many more examples, but those should give you an idea.
Let’s say, for instance, that you perceive a spirit in the middle of the night, in dim lighting, while feeling afraid and/or tired. This fits all the criteria for a common psychological phenomenon. In that case, doubt your experience. Never be afraid to doubt spirit work or a magical technique.
Let’s say that your experience meets the above criteria, but your gut is telling you that it was more than a trick of the mind. In that case, test it. Try to contact the spirit again other different circumstances. Use divination. Ask others for their opinion. Analyze the situation, and try to encounter the spirit again.
I hope this gives you a better insight into spirit work and determining whether or not that spirit is real. Feel free to comment or ask any questions!
My Death Witch Travel Altar
his is what I bring to cemeteries when I want to conduct spirit work there. The box is small enough to fit in my purse. Also, I didn’t paint this beautiful box; the lovely @la-la-laurels painted it. I just added the stickers and bows.
Here’s what is contained in all the little bottles and packages:
Sorry for the delay in posting this. Hope it was worth the wait, and you can get some more ideas for your own death witch travel altar!
As a Wiccan and Hades devotee, I often get asked how Hades fits into my Wiccan worship. This bleeds into a larger question, which is how deities from other pantheons fit into the Wiccan “duotheism” (a term I’m using loosely, and you’ll see why in a bit). Wiccans are not only allowed, but encouraged to adopt other deities into their pantheons. How can this work?
In order to understand, you first need to learn Wicca’s central theology. The Wicca believe that Divinity exists, but it is so large, so far beyond our mere human understanding, that we cannot comprehend. It is not gendered, not named, neither one force nor many.
When facing this Divinity, people broke down the great force into smaller forces: the moon, death, life, earth, ocean, mother, father. All deities, then, are parts of the larger Divinity. We worship Divinity’s aspects in order to grow closer to the whole. This is also why, in Wiccan view, no religions are wrong. All deities can be worshipped, as each one allows us to understand a little more of Divinity.
In an attempt to worship as much of Divinity as possible, the Wicca created their own deities made up of ancient archetypes. This is why the Wiccan Gods are both old and new at the same time. The names are new, but the archetypes associated with each deity are old, repeated elements we see throughout all of Paganism. However, even the God and the Goddess can’t encapsulate all of Divinity. This is why other deities are often honored by the Wicca.
I understand that this probably sounds off to a lot of you. In explaining this, I’m not asking you to believe it. I’m not even asking you to accept it. I’m just asking you to understand it. This is how Wicca operates as opposed to other Pagan religions.
This being said, how other deities exactly fit into Wicca varies by practitioner and tradition. There’s much debate on how to approach different deities in the Wiccan sphere. I’m going to expand upon some of the more common ways Wiccans adopt other deities in respect to the God and Goddess. Of course, there are some theories I’m missing, but these few should expand your understanding of what exactly Wiccans are doing.
I hope you’ve gained a broader understanding of Wicca. I will politely ask to withhold angry comments from this post. While I am always happy to discuss others’ views, this is an informational post, not an “attack Wicca” post. Feel free to message me if you have any questions, or make your own post.
Magical Rituals without Tools
I’ve been too strict with myself throughout my witching career. I convinced myself that rituals are most effective with a ton of preparation and picking just the right tools. While magic certainly works this way, it can also work if I perform them spontaneously. This year, I’m focusing more on spontaneous, simple rituals performed with little or no tools, that are still effective in their own right.
To clarify, when I say “no tools”, I’m talking about a situation where you wish to perform a ritual but have none of your witchy supplies on you (divination sets, magical herbs, candles, instructions etc.). In most cases, you may be outside or traveling. Say you went to the beach, or a park, or cemetery, and wish to honor the spirits or cast a spell. How would you do so?
Recently I’ve been brainstorming these methods using outdoor rituals I’ve performed in the past as reference. As a disclaimer, these correspondences (for lack of a better term) are highly personal to me. Since these rituals are usually spontaneous, you’ll have permission to alter the significance of these as you see fit.
Music / Sounds
Handling the Ground (Such as Dirt or Sand)
~ Concerning Objects Available to You ~
If you’re performing a ritual outside, chances are you have some natural items available to handle, such as stones, grass, leaves and perhaps water. What you do with these objects depends on the purpose of your ritual. Rituals without tools tend to be spontaneous, meaning that you’ll have to determine the use of each object on the spot.
If you’re conducting a ritual with no tools, that most likely means that you won’t have a grimoire or correspondence list with you. You’ll have to use what you know about that object, and what you feel is best by speaking to it. In fact, I almost didn’t include this section because unprepared rituals are so uniquely you that I cannot instruct them.
I’ll list some things I’ve done in the past as examples. But remember that your intuition will guide you the most. When it’s your turn, you won’t have this post to guide your actions.
I won’t include anymore, because these kinds of rituals rely on your good judgement. But hopefully this gave you some ideas on what you can do if you’re ever out somewhere without your tools.
Trees in Cemeteries, Part 2
Last time, we talked about trees’ associations with funerals and symbolism for being planted in graveyards. Now, I want to get more complicated and talk about how the tree’s spirits can relate to death work.
Most of us know that ‘tree spirits’ exist in several cultures. Here are just a few:
This said, most cultures are not as simple as ‘trees = specific spirit’ in this manner. Many cultures had different spirits inhabiting different kinds of trees. Some folklore describes other spirits inhabiting trees, even spirits of the dead. With all these varying accounts, how do we approach trees in cemeteries?
Based on my research, I have found that tree spirits can relate to the dead or afterlife in one of four specific ways:
Looking through this information, it’s clear that trees in cemeteries should not be overlooked in spirit work. The spirit within the tree can guard the dead, contain the dead, or link the dead to the afterlife, depending on the tree and its role in the cemetery.
This also broadens the use for tree bark and leaves as tools in death work. An amulet made of elm, for example, can help the magician cross over into the afterlife. Asphodel can be given as an offering to the dead, or an aid to communicate with them.
To work with a tree spirit inside a cemetery, you may approach it similarly to how one approaches a grave: give offerings, connect to its energy, and listen. The tree may give you information about the cemetery, or aid you in your magic. I had one tree guard my tools when I accidentally left them near there, and there were still there when I returned. That actually sparked my interest in working with trees in cemeteries.
~ Offerings for Trees in Cemeteries ~
You may use similar offerings as those for the dead, or ones catered towards tree spirits.
To Work with the Tree:
Although working with tree spirits inside a cemetery isn’t necessary to death witchcraft, it can certainly enhance your relationship to the dead and to that specific cemetery. I hope you got some great ideas from this.
Trees in Cemeteries, Part 1
Much has been written on trees in magical folklore and Paganism. This post will concern these trees in relation to cemeteries, souls of the dead, and their uses in death witchcraft and necromancy.
Many of these trees are used for wands and talismans in death magic. A branch can be picked up from the ground of a cemetery and polished into a powerful tool. If you understand the associations, you may grind their bark for protection powders, give their dried leaves as offerings, and include them in talismans.
These particular trees are common in North America where I live, though you can find many more online. Along with their mythological symbolism, many of these trees are planted in cemeteries because they require little upkeep to survive. However, this only highlights their association with endurance, hardiness, immortality and rebirth.
Note that these trees have many more associations and folklore attached to them. I am focusing on what I can find that connects to death, resurrection, and the afterlife.
In the best case scenario, a magician will learn to recognize these trees on sight. Otherwise, they may recognize some of these trees in a cemetery, and gain a better understanding of the conditions of the souls beneath the canopy. They can also use these trees for their own magical purposes.
For more information on plants and trees common in North American cemeteries, you can visit this document from the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, April 2016.
I’m listening to Atomic Habits by James Clear right now (as an audiobook), and his theory on how identity impacts habit-creation intrigued me. He claims that if you identify as a person who performs a healthy habit–such as saying “I’m a healthy eater” rather than “I’m trying to eat healthy”–you are more likely to fulfill that habit. Our self-identity motivates our actions, which in turn gives us evidence to reinforce our identity. When we write, we’re writers. We are writers because we have written works. The action and identity must support each other. I’m thinking that this can apply to magical paths, especially for those just starting out.
One of the most common questions I receive is where an aspiring magician can start. Many have a vague goal in mind, such as “I want to work with the ocean”. That’s a start. But what if you narrow it to what kind of person you want to become? Or more specifically, what kind of magician you want to become? A good way to determine this is to fill in this sentence: “I want to be a ______ who ______________.”
I’ll use the ‘working with the ocean’ example. “I want to be a sea witch.” A sea witch who what? “I want to be a sea witch who heals using water magic.” This narrows down what kind of person you’re aiming to become: an ocean magician, and a healer. It also gives you a starting point in your studies. To achieve this goal, you’ll want to focus on healing folklore that involves the sea or water.
In order for this to really work, you’ll need to keep the subordinate clause action-based. In other words, stay away from the phrase “who is”. “I want to be a ceremonial magician who is knowledgeable and powerful” doesn’t give you a good starting point. It’s too vague. Instead, make it action-based: “I want to be a ceremonial magician who gains prosperity through planetory magic.” That gives you a direction.
Some more useful examples of this:
The more specific you can get, the better idea you’ll have of your current goal. These goals can also change over time as well, so it may benefit you to fill out this sentence every couple of months.
I feel the need to clarify that this exercise is only a starting point. I know tumblr is big on the whole “call yourself a witch and you are one” thing, but I think it’s common sense that just saying you’re effective cursemage doesn’t automatically make you good at cursing.
You do have to put in the study and effort consistently. This exercise is designed to give you the motivation and direction required to begin your work.
This is just a brainstorming idea. Feel free to discard or use as you will. Hope this helps, and see you lovelies soon!
Skulls in Death Witchcraft
I want to correct a statement I made on my blog earlier. I don’t remember when I made it, but I’m positive that I did. I said that skulls work simply as other bones and connecting to death energy in death witchcraft and necromancy, which is blatantly not true. I’m sorry about that. Please allow me to correct this by sharing what I’ve learned about some uses of skulls in death magic:
Thanks for coming to my TED talk
On this Samhain, I want to talk about one of the more taboo, yet prominent aspects of necromancy which is animal sacrifice. You might expect an “is it right or wrong” discussion, but I won’t be debating morality here. Your moral decisions on the subject are entirely your own. I also will not be talking about a religious standpoint, as in, animal sacrifice as an offering. Instead, I’ll talk about it from a secular, modern standpoint: how to navigate animal sacrifice as an ingredient in spells, to still produce successful results
This’ll be a long post, so tuck yourselves in.
So you come across a necromancy spell that seems feasible, but requires animal sacrifice. What do you do? Well for one, this isn’t exactly exceptional. Ritual sacrifice is pretty common in necromancy, and most magical traditions from ancient folklore to classical ceremonialism. Most animals were farm animals who would be eaten and resources afterwards, but that wasn’t always the case. Although it used to be more common back in the BC days, it is still practiced today.
Legal-wise, animal sacrifice varies by country and state. To hammer in the point, this may not be legal where you live. Always check your local laws before acting. Obviously, this subject is highly debated in the moral and legal realm, but we won’t talk about that in this post.
Understandably, a lot of people don’t want to perform animal sacrifice, but still want to perform successful necromancy. Most people who approach me for help on the subject are looking for a way to navigate this. Can we perform this spell without the ritual sacrifice? Can we substitute it? Did people actually do this? (Yes, they did.) Can we be successful necromancers while avoiding this?
Let’s start by discussing the most common question I receive on the subject. Can animal sacrifice be substituted in spells? Sacrificing a life is an impressive feat, which produces impressive, almost reality-bending results. I know someone who once redirected a hurricane from its predicted route with a sacrifice spell. That’s why people do it–for the results. But because the spell has a high results, it also has a higher risk factor if things go wrong. Because there’s a high danger factor, you don’t want to make the stakes even higher by implementing a wrong substitute, or (worse) ignoring the sacrifice entirely. If you’re going to substitute, you want to substitute something of equal value.
This is where the complications of substitution come in. At the risk of sounding like Fullmetal Alchemist, what equals the value of an animal soul? We can’t really equate that to anything else. I have seen people categorize blood magic and ritual sacrifice in the same vein, but to me there is no equivalence between the two. Using blood in a spell is a small sacrifice compared to giving a life. I’ve also seen some recommend killing plants instead; I do not believe plant life and animal life are equal on this scale. We use dead plants everyday in our tea, after all. How is that an equivalent sacrifice? In my opinion, an animal sacrifice can only effectively be substituted with a different animal.
To make things even more complicated, the animal chosen for sacrifice does have a symbolic significance in this spell. A black lamb is chosen for its symbolic connection to the Underworld–will the spell work the same with a fish? Theoretically, it might have a different effect, or it might not, depending on the spell and entity involved. Options listed in the spell may not be available to us, depending on where we live. This is a practical issue that must always be taken into account in spell work.
Most people I know who have performed these spells are either living or have lived on a farm / rural area, where animals are available and scheduled to be slaughtered anyway. If you live in an apartment in the city, you’ll have more obstacles in terms of accessibility and law enforcement. Morality aside, ritual sacrifice might not be possible for many aspiring necromancers.
To answer the initial question: What do I do if I cannot perform this ritual sacrifice, either for moral or legal reasons? My biggest recommendation is to search for another spell that doesn’t include the sacrifice. Don’t edit out the sacrifice or turn a blind eye to it; the spell is too powerful for you to afford that risk. There are other spells and other methods to achieve similar results, but you will have to look for them. You might need dig deeper into a different tradition, or test out more modern methods. I promise plenty of effective spells are out there.
I get it. I just spent forever making the simple point of “look for something else”. But I want to explain to people why substitution and erasure wouldn’t work. In the past, I’ve seen some necromancers respond a little harshly to people wanting to avoid animal sacrifice. “Do something else” is technically right, but can also be taken the wrong way. I do not believe that people “can’t be a necromancer” if they’re unwilling to do it. You can. Respecting life does not make you any less of a successful magician. At the same time, I don’t believe in shunning the practice or the practitioners for including ritual sacrifice. This is a reality of necromancy and witchcraft, so why ignore the subject?
I do encourage discussion on this post because I think the topic is often swept under the rug. But please be respectful of everyone’s views. We’re here to learn, not criticize.
If you’ve made it this far, here’s a big hug (っ´▽｀)っ
Water in Necromancy
Those who dive into death magic know how strongly death is connected with the earth. Bodies are buried and decomposed within the earth. Ancient Sumerians believed that the soul could not travel to the Netherworld until the body was buried underground. The ancient Greeks recorded passages to the Underworld which included deep caves. Earth is the most prominent element in death magic; but another element that is equally prominent is water.
Just as earth connects to the Underworld in ancient mythology, so does water. You’ve probably heard of the river Styx carrying souls into the Greek Underworld, along with the five other rivers that make up its geology. Entrance into the ancient Egyptian afterlife was granted upon a passage downriver on Ra’s boat. In Mesopotamian mythos, we see a contradiction where some sources depict a soul traveling to the afterlife by road, whereas others travel by river. There are more examples, but to keep the post short I’ll paraphrase: Where there was a land of the afterlife, there was water.
Because of this, one of the most well-documented methods of Roman necromancy is scrying with water. The water was placed into a brass (or sometimes black) bowl, usually with a drop of oil. Green olive oil was most common, although some magicians may have included alcohol or blood instead. The source of the water, too, was very specific. Some sources claim that spring water is most effective to contact the dead, while others claimed river water worked best.
Some records of Underworld travel and hedgecrossing require the magician to either float down a river, or cross a river to enter the afterlife. Cleansing before rituals usually involved spring water for both full body cleaning and fasting. Some forms of spiritual travel require the magician to be submerged as well.
If this topic interests you, I highly recommend researching mythos of the underworld, necromancy and funeral processions from the craft you pull inspiration from.