One week ago I took part in the second Samhain Celebration, hosted by the House of Inkantation, at The Londoner in Gotha. I attended bleary-eyed yet exited. I had worked until the very last minute on the artworks and merch, which included ink drawings of my sigilla magica, samples and glass jars with my self-made incense blends, the last Teufelskunst rosaries, postcards and the original art I had done for German doom band Werian.
The House of Inkantation folks prepared again a unique stage design, which was crowned by a horse skull, into which G. Bergfex of Kvlt&Knochen had carved and imbued with blood the official Samhain Harvest Seal. On the stage performed Rim Runa, Werian, Forndom, Sun of the Sleepless and Malokarpathan. Another special treat were the dedicated wooden boxes pyrographed by C. & M. Falkenstein.
My company, the photographer Anne Ida Helmer, has set herself the goal to document me for a photo series – by all means not an easy task. But I was glad to have her around. We spend the whole weekend in Gotha, touching base and forging future plans. It was nice to finally meet some of the people in person, whom I had done artwork for, and to get to know new faces. I was overwhelmed by the support and interest in my work. This made me forget the sacrifices of the past weeks. It was also refreshing to get to witness new music, bands I had and had not heard of before. I come out of this gathering with new art commissions, possible participation in new events and more.
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
As I am typing this, the candle has already extinguished and there are nearly as many tiny air bubbles in the glass of water as dots on the ink drawing in the background.
My little fall equinox altar is made of tokens gathered during the past days. It also features a small glass of self-made hawthorn liqueur. The hawthorn goddess was addressed for empowerment at a time when I am down with flu and need to recharge both physically as well as spiritually.
The drawing is one of three drawings I did last week. It is the second in the small series and titled “Pathfinder”, since the shape reminded me of a creature equipped with plenty of sensors, which seems to be pushing forward against an icy storm. The third drawing is now in the possession of The Witching Veil, together with the autumn mandrake root depicted on it.
The incense burnt was the Black sacra from Luban Frankincense Supplier. It has a deeper, somewhat richer aroma than the green and white frankincense from Oman, and fits just perfectly for the season.
With the passing of the Fall Equinox, Samhain is just around the corner. I will hence begin preparing my presentation for this year’s Samhain Celebration in Gotha, which I am attending for the second time in a row.
The latest addition to the shop will be new autumn mandrake roots, which will go up for sale in the evening. Please also take a look at the new listings in the Sigilla Magica category.
Last but not least I thank all of you, who ordered my Dog Days incense. I have but one jar each left. The coming days I will work on new batches of Samhain incense, as well as restocking incense for Qayin and Lilith.
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.
What are “dark” dead and why would one want to work with them in ritual?
Dark dead can refer to anything from the soul of a person that died an untimely or unfortunate death, the wicked soul of someone that has been a criminal in life or hurt other people, or the soul of an insane. These souls may cling to the world of the living, haunt places or thrive on the life energy of people once close to them. They are alternatively also referred to as evil, wicked or restless dead. Various sub-classifications exist (e.g. by cause and mode of death) and it will not be possible to elaborate on all examples for these dark dead, which in past centuries would also include individuals with an “unclean” occupation (e.g. whores or executioners). But this should give an idea, what one would be dealing with.
Most of the time people are subjected to such malign souls involuntarily. Addressing them in ritual, the goal would be to banish the soul and make sure it doesn’t return. Sometimes however, the goal may also be to make the spirit of an unhallowed dead follow one’s command. And some sorcerers (or black magicians) collect such souls to gain power. In the long run this leads to the demise of the sorcerer, who is eventually eaten up by the malign souls, when he or she is no longer able to control and feed them properly. The sorcerer is then likely to become a dark dead themselves, unless intense cleansing and exorcism rituals are performed to save the human.
The incense I offer in this context does not carry any concrete links. It is more meant as a substitute, for those that want to explore this dark field of magic, but without actually having to deal with one of these malign souls. Though it cannot be excluded that its use may open certain roads. But then it’s best to be prepared, for such is the nature of the work. If you want to do dark magic and play with fire, you will have to learn to handle it.
Contains: black copal resin, powdered cinnabar, firethorn, ghost chili powder, guggul resin, ironwood, long pepper, mandrake root, mullein, tobacco, yew needles
As Teufelskunst keeps growing it has long been my wish to offer my customers an easier way to order my hand-made artworks and incense blends. This wish is finally becoming reality. The new webshop is on the way!
The next weeks will hence mark a transition period, as we are working on setting everything up. On May 20th/21st, the following changes will take place:
In follow to the wonderful feedback and many emails received after the last boxes had been sold, I spent the past weeks crafting and researching what would become the content of the next row of wooden seed boxes, these being numbers 31-36.
This time my focus was drawn towards magical herbs, which can be found on a blooming summer meadow and are traditionally used on the summer solstice. Many of these herbs are sown in April and May, hence the timing. Some annuals, such as poppies, you may be able to harvest already this summer, if sown now.
Besides this I wanted to include some new venific herbs, to accompany the well-known nightshades and popular poison plants. In my search my attention was drawn to the spurge, more precisely the caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris). Earlier I had been asked for spurge to use in a martial incense recipe and had trouble finding the right type. By chance I came across references pointing to the caper spurge with its poisonous milky sap, prominent size and auspicious shape. The plant seems to have been well known in Germany. It would be planted near one’s home as a protection against curses and it was used to break the spells of other witches. It was also thought to ward of moles and is hence also known as mole plant in English language.
Besides this I included the wild relative of the candle larkspur, named field or rocket larkspur (Consolida regalis), with its lovely deep blue flowers. The flowers are used in protection spells and the herb is planted to protect the home, similar to the closely related delphinium. The rocket larkspur is unfortunately in decline due to intensified agriculture. Another reason, to include it here.
A threatened herb with strong healing attributes is the lovely centaury (Centaurium erythraea). It has been attributed a plethora of benific properties and is rare to find in the wild these days. I am thus happy to have found a supplier of seeds for this rare healing herb. Another old and perhaps forgotten about healing herb of antiquity, which is now experiencing a renaissance is the wood betony (Stachys officinalis). Likewise the motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) was a popular healing herb in medieval times until interest in the plant declined. It makes for a nice background plant with other purple and pink flowering herbs and interesting addition to the ‘witch’s garden’.
In selecting the herbs I also paid attention to the 13 plants described in Harold Roth’s book “The Witching Herbs” (signed copies available here) and thus included seeds for each.
Altogether there are now seeds for over 50 different sorcerous benific and venific herbs contained in one box. The box itself is pyrographed stained and varnished by hand. The sigil on the box is the “Sigillum Major” or “Greater Sowing Seal”. It includes references to the work with plants, crossroad symbolism etc. and is also used as the official logo for Teufelskunst. The sigil inside the box is called “Sigillum Minor” or “Lesser Sowing Seal” and is an abbreviated form of the former, traceable in one stroke of a line. Each box is numbered on the bottom.
Printed sowing instructions in tabular form are included with each box. For detailed information on each herb please visit my plant blog.
Update: The boxes are sold. You can still e-mail me for the complete list of seeds contained in this series at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will work on 4 more boxes this spring to round up the number before the summer solstice. Than that’s it for a while.