This week we had again another “hottest day of the year”. Since June, most of Europe experiences a near ceaseless heat and drought period. These hot days of summer are also referred to as “Dog Days” (Hundstage) and this year they live up to their name.
The Greek called them kynádes hēmérai, Romans adopted it, calling them dies caniculares. Historically the period began with the heliacal rising of the dog star Sirius in the Northern Hemisphere, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck, while to the Polynesians in the Southern Hemisphere the star marked winter and was an important reference for their navigation around the Pacific Ocean.
For my “Dog Days” incense I took inspiration from the paralyzing and deadly weather phenomenon.
The formula has been updated, with field eryngo (Eryngium campestre) being added to the baneful blend. In German language this type of thistle is also referred to as “Unruh” and “Elend” and the occurrence of clusters of broken off stems, similar to spiky tumbleweed carried forth by the wind, are named “Steppenhexen”. This stingy plant is almost impossible to touch or harvest without hurting yourself. Yet, and despite the heat and drought, it is frequented by dozens of bumblebees and other pollinators.
Beside obvious herbal references to the the dog/wolf totem, such as wolfsbane and mandrake, the incense contains also black and white henbane, which have been used in prophecy, baneful spells but also for rain magic. I burnt a good amount of it on this day, both to cleanse and bless a dog skull I found at the flea market, as well as to call for rain and cooling. It may have been simply good timing, but rain came the following morning.
I am often asked about side effects and dangers of burning venific incense blends – I can only speak for myself, I did not notice anything, apart from feeling more focused and empowered. I also sensed a relaxing effect on myself. A slight dizziness I attest to the burning sun and heat, not to the herbs.
Luckily, the worst heat seems to be over now and I look forward to enjoying the end of summer and working on art. In other news, new batches of “Qayin” and “Naamah” incense are now back in stock!
Thanks to everyone that ordered the incense and especially to those, that made use of the opportunity to get their hands on the pyrographed “Sabbath Seal”. The offer was sold out within 24 hours, which makes me proud and encourages me to proceed on this wicked journey. Special thanks to Antinomian Antipodean and Hanged Man’s Seed Apothecary for extra supplies.
I am now working on the next offer, which will be 6 regular wooden seed boxes, 4 black flower themed wooden seed boxes and 5 mandrake drawings + live plants. Reservations may be placed via email.
Thank you for your patience and continued support!
On a personal note, my move went well. The new work place is nearly set up and I have started discovering Düsseldorf and making new friendships. It is still a big change and I have to get used to living without a garden here and adopting to a new rhythm. I still have a few plants in pots and sown simple kitchen herbs last weekend. Meanwhile the green in the garden in Dresden are exploding. Likewise does the nature around me.
So continue the hunt and the attempts at trying to capture fleeting moments of enticement. The grey heron watches and leaves, only to return in unexpected moments. The shower of cherry blossoms in the light of the rising sun is long gone again. The impressions live on in the mind and heart and art of the magician, who keeps collecting and processing, surrounded by the current bloom of fragrant lilac and carnation…
Teufelskunst is slowly returning from the darkness of its winter cave, where most time was dedicated to the creation of new artwork and crafting of baneful incense, blackthorn crowns (sold out) and cursing sigil discs (available again in autumn). Thanks to everyone that made use of the opportunity to purchase and leave feedback for these items!
The first months of the year were also spent processing herbal harvest as well as sorting seeds and filling the next seed boxes. There will be 6 larges boxes again, as well as 4 black flower themed boxes. Accepting e-mail reservations now.
Further work in the making: new sigil talismans and incense blends for Walpurgisnacht and Beltane celebration. Expect updates on these in April. A few new mandrake plants and art are also planned to be available again in spring.
Lastly, a special item is in the making: a commissioned black alder goddess pentacle – the design for which has been keeping me busy for the past days. I look forward to sharing more about this work with you soon.
With the arrival of autumn and in view of the last warm weekend for this year, I am delighted to share some seasonal musings and the most recent shop news with you.
As I am typing, my hands smell of fragrant cempasuchil flower… the day before though they were still sticky from the self gathered pine resin. Both are ingredients in incense blends individually dedicated to the season’s various feast days.
“End of Summer”
Samhain means “end of summer”. The Gaelic festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Today it is celebrated on the night between October 31st – November 1st. It is also associated with St. Martin’s day, November 11th. Some also connect it with the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice (or the nearest full moon), when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 225 degrees.
Samain is also the name of the Celtic god of death, who from this point on ruled over the land, while the goddess of vegetation was forced to decent into darkness until the coming spring. Her parting is accompanied by the honk of the geese leaving for the South. Any herb harvested after this point would be considered harmful, save for the grey mugwort. During Samhain the doors to the spirit-/ underworld opened, and the spirits that would enter, were not always friendly. In some tales, spirits of darkness and chaos (such as the Irish Fomorians and the Crom Cruach) would be given human sacrifices.
Rural people’s survival depended on the harvest. The fear of loosing the harvest, fierce autumn storms, the long nights etc. was real. It was essential to secure the harvest and protect the home, barn and family. It was custom to cleanse and protect the home by burning herbs. Herbs associated with protection and healing, as well as the opening of the gates to the spirit world, are hence part of my Samhain incense.
From the need to protect oneself may also have sprung the latter-day custom of placing candles in hollowed out objects. Readily available were turnips or pumpkins, then turned into figurative lanterns sporting demonic grimaces. Similar to the scarecrow, the lantern was to ward of the ‘evil’ and at the same time its flame lit up the long nights. This “light in the dark” is embodied by the amber, fossilized tree resin. Amber is called Bernstein in German, from Low German börnen, meaning “to burn”. The Greeks knew it as ḗlektron, from ēléktōr, meaning “shining sun”.
Samhain also marks the time when deciduous trees have shed most of their leaves. The leaves fall to the ground, decay and nurture the cycle of life. The wood keeps men warm, the bark heals. The evergreen conifers deliver in addition aromatic resins with cleansing and healing properties. An important part in this incense is thus the rosy red resin gathered from pine trees in my area, as well as fragrant juniper wood and needles from my own garden.
When burnt, the blend develops a strong white smoke and is best used outdoors or in a well ventilated area. If used indoors, air the room and then enjoy the scent, which will last for days.
Contains: amber, juniper needles and bark, mugwort, oak bark, pine and fir resin, rosemary, sage, thyme, vervain
Use: Use this incense blend for cleansing, healing, protection and communication with the spirits. Its fragrant ingredients evoke in particular the spirits of the wild/ sylvan realm and may aid in re-connecting with the spiritual world of the forests and wilderness. It can also be used on the “Totensonntag“, for contacting one’s ancestors and for protection from “Wiedergänger” (revenants).
“Day of the Dead”
The pagan festivities surrounding Samhain have been substituted by Christian feast days throughout a large part of the Western world. Folkloric customs are a part of marketing schemes. From the pagan Samhain to the Christian All Saints day, the modern world celebrates “Halloween” with plastic skulls, led pumpkins and dressing up as corpses. Everyone can be a zombie for one day and night and feel more alive than the rest of the year. Halloween gives a good example for cultural appropriation gone wild, every year a little more. But I blame none. Because it is part of human nature, both to adopt other traditions as well as to defend one’s own culture and rituals.
One of these traditions that have been sinking into the Western world and heavily influence our aesthetics, is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. As the festival in Mexico grows bigger and becomes more impressive every year, so grows the fascination with it outside of Mexico. Just like the cult of Santissima Muerte grows in numbers both in and outside Mexico. Death worship is real and prospering. It is nothing extraordinary.
All over the world people venerate their ancestors and spirits of death, with altars at home, at their graves or in temples or chapels dedicated to them. And often there are special festivals dedicated to the veneration of the dead. In some countries these celebrations fall in the months of July and August, such as the Japanese Obon or the Argentinian feast for San la Muerte. In other countries they center around the days and nights spanning from All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) to All Saints (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
A funny exception is Germany, where it is custom to visit and adorn the graves of family members on the Totensonntag (the “Sunday of the Dead”). It falls on the last Sunday before the first Advent (usually at end of November) and, though of Protestant origin, is a protected holiday in all of Germany. And death is no funny affair in Germany, as the day is meant to be spent in silence, e.g. it is forbidden to dance or play loud music in public.
So, for me “Halloween” is not the time to commemorate my ancestors. But it is still a special time of the year, during which I am free to explore and find light in other traditions.
In Mexico the celebration starts on All Hallow’s Eve, when children make altars for the angelitos (the souls of dead children). November 1st is referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”), which is when the souls of dead children are honored. On November 2nd, the actual Dia de los Muertos, the graves of dead family members are visited. The graves are adorned with cempasuchil flowers, the flowers of the dead. Between the orange sea of flowers, candles are lit and Muertos (the bread of the dead) and sugar skulls are placed as offerings, along with favorite food, beverages, photos etc. The dead are greeted and welcomed back to the world of the living for one day and night. Dancing and intoxication are welcome and encouraged.
This way of approaching the dead is very different from the official German custom. Since a few years I have joined in the tradition of baking bread of the dead and incorporating some of the Mexican elements in my own worship practice. I can tell it kept me busy! This year I am forced to cut down a bit. I hence created this incense blend for the day of the dead, with favorite ingredients and my own Calavera design.
This incense blend is foremost dedicated to the Mexican tradition of venerating the ancestors, but may also work in the contexts of European ancestor veneration, as it simply pleases and honors the beloved dead. Alternative incense blends for these occasions can be found in my shop.
Contains: cempasuchil (marigold) flower petals, dark copal, myrrh, palo santo wood, patchouli, red rose, rosemary, tobacco, yauthli, yerba santa
Use: celebrating the day(s) of the dead and honoring the beloved dead
This special incense blend has been nearly as long in the making as the work on this new website and web shop. Me and a dear friend, spent the past 3 months on building and bringing this baby to you. We have been testing, we have been despairing, we have been trying again and working hard to make everything work. All the invisible background work, that is noticed only when it is not done…
And yet it all serves one purpose: making available to you in a more convenient way my occult art, which you have been knowing me for since the past 9 years and which thus far could only be ordered via e-mail. It is thus with great relief and joy that this new website launches.
I invite you thus to visit the blog and shop. You will find all the old blog posts are there. And you will find new, easily accessible shop categories. By registering an account you can add items of your choice to your personal shopping cart. Or add all your favorite creations to the wishlist and then select those you wish to purchase. Checkout is easy and fast with PayPal.
Some of the categories are still empty or have only one single item listed. This will change during the coming weeks. For now the focus has been on incense creations, the mandrake project and a new category entitled “Sigilla Magica”. In the next post I will say more about this. For now lets focus on my most recent creation: the ‘Dog Days’ incense.
As the name suggests, the incense is inspired by the “dog days” – the long hot days of summer. It is made mainly from baneful herbs gathered from my own garden and surroundings. The black sacra frankincense from Oman lends the blend a deep resinous, almost medicinal aroma. This incense blend is in a way, a true “fuck off” blend and an answer to other people’s negativity. It does not smell nice or pleasant, rather bitter – like a bitter medicine. Yet it has something addictive about it; think of the smell of on a fresh oil painting or the scent in an artist’s atelier.
Btw. the incense blend can be used during any time of the year, not only during the actual dog days. The rare herbs contained therein carry baneful as well as empowering properties, and can be applied in various contexts, e.g. also for referencing the first dead in ritual. It is thus an incense for Abel and the able.
Available now – I made ca. 1,5 liter. When it’s sold out it will not be available again until the coming year.
I am delighted to share with you pictures of the second batch of the Thagirion incense, which is now back in store. The formula has been updated, containing passion flower in addition to the ingredients discussed earlier. This is the perfect blend to use on the upcoming annular solar eclipse of February 26th, 2017. Too late to order? Don’t worry, you will get a second chance on August 21st, 2017 with a total solar eclipse occurring over the Western hemisphere, which will be partly visible also in Western Europe.
I have shared this with a few customers, so I make it available here as well. This is a short research into the plants that compose my incense blend for contemplative work with the qlipha Thagirion.
Aspects that tie in here are the sun of the underworld and afterlife, the sun’s burning and eruptive aspects, fire of inspiration etc. Here are also references to the ecstasy of the lotophagi. What may need further investigation is the concept of the sin eater, which is addressed in the title illustration, but not discussed in this text.
Keywords: cleansing, renewal, leaving behind the shadow of death, ecstasy, fire of inspiration, arts, collective efforts, destruction/ change of ego-patterns
Scent: deep, warm, sweet
1. Blue Egyptian Water Lily (Nymphaea caerulea) has been used ritually for millennia. The lotus is a symbol of divinity and beauty. In Egypt it rose and faded with the sun and was sacred to the sun gods. An entire cosmogony (rule by the ogdoad) was based on the lotus. The flower features prominently in religious art all over the world and bears associations both with creation myths as well as the afterlife. Both the blue and white water lily contain alkaloids, which act euphoric, narcotic and anti-spasmodic. Extracts of water lily have been used as a substitute for opium during WWI. The lotophagi in Homer’s account of the Odyssey may have consumed this plant. It is said to induce a state of bliss and indolence. In Egyptian art it is depicted in connection with dancing or in key rites such as the rite of passage into the afterlife. Whereas the white lotus would appear on the drinking vessels of the living the blue lotus was reserved for sacred ceremonial ritual vessels. Because of its links to the sun of the underworld, sleep and intoxication I found the blue lotus useful in ritual work with the qlipha Thagirion.
2. Calamus root (Acorus Calamus), or sweet flag as it is often called, is associated with the sun and the male. The root oil is aromatic and part of perfumes, liquors and also cola. The root extract has stimulant, warming (sun) and aphrodisiacal properties. It is a traditional ingredient in ketoret temple incense and may aid in establishing contact with one’s guardian ‘angel’. Calamus can act as a mood elevator and cause mild hallucinations. So here we have another plant that grows in or close to water. The name calamus comes from Greek κάλαμος (kálamos), meaning “reed”, “straw” or “pipe”. The shaft has been used for making writing instruments as well as pipes. Calamari are named after the plant. The Latin name acorus in turn may be derived from Greek άχόρου (áchórou) and κόρη (kóri), referring to the pupil of the eye. The root extract was apparently also a remedy for eye diseases, which cause a ‘darkening of the pupil’. The bittersweet and slightly nauseating scent of calamus root has grown on me. When adding it to any herbal blend I feel it gives it a boost (strengthening) and also adds protective qualities. In addition I found it potent in dream work. I also added it to self-made herbal liquors and it left me with a bit of a headache. Use with care.
3. Wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) is also known by the name lion’s tail. It was brought to my attention by a good friend. The orange flowers and its name are of course evocative of the sun. The herb is endemic to the Southern Africans and used in traditional African medicine. Its energizing effects have been compared to energy drinks, whilst others say it acts similar to Cannabis when smoked. It is said to induce euphoria and mild hallucinations. In smoking recipes it is combined with water lily to enhance these effects. The species Leonorus nepetifolia is said to act significantly stronger than its relative. Leonorus is used in traditional medicine to cure fevers, snake bites, scorpion stings and other inflammations. So this sunny herb counteracts many physical ailments that deal with too much heat – Mars influences, but also the effects of venturing too close to the sun (burns). Leonotis means “lion’s ear” and is a reference to the shape of the flower crown. I found it a nice signature reference to Sorath, the black lion prince of Thagirion.
4. Hibiscus (Hibiscus spcc.) is another plant associated with the sun. But the red hibiscus flower is also sacred to the Hindu goddess Kali, who is sometimes depicted merging with the flower in form. Hibiscus tea is rich in Vitamine C and minerals, strengthens the immune system and is as such used as a mild medicine during the winter time. It is also pleasant to drink cold during hot summer days. Hibiscus lowers blood pressure. Interestingly, extracts from the flowers of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have shown to function as an anti-solar agent by absorbing ultraviolet radiation. So here is another ‘sun’ herb that counteracts characteristics of its planetary influence. Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia, also called Bunga Raya, “grand flower”, representing life and courage. In China it is also called zhū jǐn, “vermilion hibiscus” and is identified with wealth and fame. Otherwise it stands also for the attractiveness of a young female virgin. In South-Korea hibiscus symbolizes immortality. In the Victorian language of flowers Hibiscus translates as “delicate beauty”. The hibiscus flower tea that is sold in Europe is mostly composed of the calyxes from the species Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Roselle and the tea is called Karkadeh. I keep searching for the red Chinese hibiscus, though I feel in shape and essence the flowers of H. sabdariffa are also suitable. I find particularly interesting the association with Kali, as an embodiment of adversarial beauty, black, fierce and destructive, destroyer of illusions, demanding bloody sacrifice, yet also bestowing boons to the faithful – favoring the beautiful hisbiscus flower amongst her offerings.
Now we have three different flowers, all powerful and representative of the sun, and we have also looked at inherent adverse or inverse aspects of that planetary influence. In color we range from blue to green to orange to a deep red. To complete the visible spectrum we are yet missing a yellow herb. One that immediately comes to mind is the sunflower, perhaps the boldest representative amongst all ‘sun’ herbs. (Could have started with this one, right?)
5. The indigenous peoples of America viewed the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) as a symbol of their solar deities, which represented life and sustenance. Early Spanish explorers imported the sunflower to Europe. Consequently sunflower became one of the most important agricultural commodities. Sunflower, particularly seed, is rich in nutrients and has a wide range of medicinal properties. It is also a flower chosen by some spiritual movements as a motto and symbol for ‘turning to the light of truth’, based on the sunflower’s alleged heliotropism. True is, the flower buds and leaves turn indeed towards the light and then usually point towards the noon sun, and act thus as a compass. But the stem of a mature flower freezes and remains in its position, usually pointing East. The size of a sunflower does btw. depend directly on the amount of light it receives, meaning the sunnier the bigger.
The second misconception refers to the “flower” of the sunflower, which is actually a “flower head” or pseudanthium of numerous small individual five-petaled flowers, so-called “florets”. The florets can be of varying color, from yellow to green to a dark brown. Ever fascinating is the spiral arrangement of the florets. Each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the golden angle, 137.5°, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals, where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. Typically, there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other; however, in a very large sunflower head there could be 89 in one direction and 144 in the other. This pattern produces the most efficient packing of seeds mathematically possible within the flower head. Natural growth patterns are an aspect I have also come to relate with this qlipha and may have subconsciously inspired the title graphic, which builds upon my old sun symbol, employed here in a repetitive pattern to form a more complex structure.
The way, in which the sunflower florets are packed close together does remind me of honeycombs, as if the flower was a mirror to the structures built by bees. Also how bees live in a swarm collective and function together as a single organism, is similar to how the flower head of the sunflower is comprised of myriads of little, neatly organized florets. The florets are surrounded by so-called “ray flowers”, which resemble petals. They help attract pollinators such as bees. We see how the single flowers are organized, each serving its purpose. The individual or the small piece is part of a higher order or collective, which achieves more than the individual alone.
A not so friendly feature are the sunflower’s allelopathic properties: sunflowers emit substances that hinder other plants from growing in their proximity. The sunflower has means to defend itself. This feature would translate also spiritually as a way of self-defense. But more along the line: I grow and prosper here, you may not. Or: for the sun to shine on me, others have to remain in my shadow. This is of course putting it a bit drastic. The sunflower’s biochemical self-defense mechanism reaches only so far, just enough to ensure it can grow and unfold. In my view, this pierces deeply though into that Thagirion complex, where we are confronted with the excesses of ego-worship. It is essentially about balancing ego extremes and finding a way, away from the superficial compensation of inferiority complexes to profound and long lasting changes.
Now on to a herb that is actually more considered a Saturn herb, but which also has some interesting indirect links to the sun. The herb experienced a revival during the hippy era and was consumed together with blue water lily and wild dagga:
6. The wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) sports golden-yellow flowers and spinose green foliage. It goes also by the names bitter lettuce and opium lettuce. Ingesting the plant is said to bring about psychotropic, calming and anodyne effects similar to opium and it is sometimes combined with Nymphea caerulea for that purpose. In herbal medicine it is mainly used as a mild painkiller and for treating nervousness. Whilst heroine and other opiates may initially cause nausea and vomiting, wild lettuce is said to not have such side effects. Either the dried herb or latex extracted from the stem are smoked or added to tea or soaked in alcohol. The dried latex (a milky white sap) is also called Lactucarium and has also been consumed directly. Beside lactucine, the plant is also said to contain the tropane alkaloid hyoscyamine, which is found in most nightshades, such as henbane (Hyoscyamus niger).
The plant is a wild forebear of the garden lettuce, which is widely used in salads. Hildegard von Bingen noted about the herb:
“The lettuces, which can be eaten, are very cold, and when eaten without spice they make the brain of man empty with their useless juice. …But the wild lettuces have almost the same nature. For anyone who would eat lettuces, which are useless and are called weeds, either raw or cooked, would become mad, that is insane, and he will become empty in the core”
Obviously a rather negative review of the herb and its qualities, however the mind altering and emptying attributes fit for the work with this qlipha. In the 16th century, Gerard said of wild lettuce:
“it procures sleep, assuages paine, moves the courses in women, and is drunke against the stingings of scorpions and bitings of spiders. The seed taken in drinke, like as the garden lettuce, hindreth generation of seed and venereous imaginations.”
In other words it kills (or at least decreases) sexual drive. Victorians feared the herb would induce childlessness.
Ironically wild lettuce was sacred to the Egyptian god Min, a fertility deity, god of male sexual potency, crops and also of magical plants. Min was believed to ensure the annual flow of the river Nile and fertility of the land people of Egypt. His depictions are ithyphallic, showing the deity with a large erect penis and lettuce beside him. He was also envisioned to lay on a bed made entirely of lettuce. Wild lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in ancient Egypt. The milky latex exuded from the stems may have been thought of as resembling semen and the plant’s vertical growth was considered phallic. Oddly, depictions of Min show him as missing one arm and strangely two-dimensional. When still human Min was put in charge to guard and care for the women left behind when the other men went to war, possibly facing defeat and death. But they returned successful. Only to find all their women pregnant. Enraged, they cut Min in two halves. Min was also a god of the desert, lightning and sandstorms. Again we are confronted with ambiguous properties, aphrodisiac and anaphrodisiac at the same time, evocative of male potency, abundance, fertility and prosperity, but also opposite visions of castration, childlessness, destruction and sacrifice (ego death). In ancient Greek manuscripts the plant is btw. referred to as ‘Titan’s Blood’, relating it to the giant gods that battled the Olympians, which links the herb with the adversary of gods and men alike.
Adding wild lettuce means breaking with typical sun herb patterns and euphemistic sun attributes and instead shifting focus further towards other aspects. Wild lettuce also enhances the mind altering qualities of some of the herbs contained herein.
7./8. As for the resins to round up this blend I used storax-soaked charcoal, which adds a sweet warm scent, and Olibanum from Aden, which has a fresh, citrus-like aroma and is overall stimulant. Keeping it simple here.
The above herbs and flowers come from different cultures and regions. When burnt, all of these ingredients will turn black and be reduced to ashes whilst releasing their essence. The ashes may be collected and used in further rituals, e.g. for protection and cleansing.
Update: The first batch is sold out. The second batch will be available February 17th, 2017.
This blend is overall solar, but more the kind that burns hot and makes you feel dizzy and drowsy, as when staring at the sun for too long… It contains herbs with psycho-active properties such as blue egyptian waterlily, calamus root, wild dagga and wild lettuce.
Characteristics: herbs and flowers that represent the sun in shape and color, display the spectrum of visible light and bring out both the fire and light aspect, but at same time are cooling and possess the power of opening the mind and showing gates to other dimensions
Keywords: cleansing, renewal, leaving behind the shadow of death, fire of inspiration