At the Crossroads
At the Crossroads
Dimech A., Grey P., Statton-Kent, J. (Eds.)
Limited to 64 copies; bound in full ivory goatskin charged with a stang swarmed by a quartet of blind debossed devils, oxblood and iron custom marbled ends
– Sold out
Standard hardback edition
Limited to 800 copies; bound in a rough black on white cloth, blood red blocking to front and rear, embossed red end papers
4to (230 × 210 mm)
Illustrated in colour, and black and white, original art works, vévés etc.
At the crossroads the paths of magicians and worlds meet: grimoire and root workers, Hoodoo and Vodoun, Quimbanda and Ifa collide. A potent fusion is occuring, a second diaspora. At the Crossroadstells the stories of what happens when the Western magical tradition encounters the African Diaspora and Traditional religions, and vice versa. It is a mixing and a magic that speaks of a truly new world emerging. In this gathering of kindred spirits, experiences are shared between initiates of very different cultures whose magic proves to be underpinned by the same principles, though clothed in different garb. We find the grimoires of Old Europe flourishing in the New World, Juju spreading through the United States, the Cunning men of Essex rendering service to the Lwa of Haitian Voudon, Alchemists who are Paleros, the techniques of the Greek Magical Papyri applied to Conjure counter-hexing.
This is fertile ground for the imagination, and practice. In depth essays by leading practitioners of the occult community from New York to Bristol, and from London to Brazil, and illuminated by art and illustrations in black & white and full colour.
An important contribution made at the point where all roads meet, where we encounter the most traditional approaches and the wildest fringes of the avant garde, At the Crossroads gathers those practitioners whose work places them at the forefront of the new direction magic is taking.
Preamble: Standing Still – Peter Grey
Folk Traditions and the Solomonic Revival – Aaron Leitch
Necromancy: the Role of the Dead in a Living Tradition – Jake Stratton-Kent
The Invisible City in the Realm of Mystery – Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
A Brief History of the Juju – Ryan Valentine
Queen of Fire and Flesh: Invocations of Pomba Gira – Angela Edwards
Goetic Initiation – ConjureMan Ali
A Garden Amidst the Flames – Chad Balthazar
The Syncretic Soul at the Cross of Cosmic Union – Kyle Fite
In the Shadow of the Cross – Richard Ward
Eleggua – Eric K. Lerner
Soul Dream – Hagen Von Tulien
Nigromantic Putrefaction – Christopher D. Bradford
Crossing Worlds – Humberto Maggi
Open up the Gate – Stephen Grasso
Countermeasures – Michael Cecchetelli
Libations for the Lwa – Drac Uber and Ivy Kerrigan
Magic at the Crossroads – Jake Stratton-Kent
Preamble: Standing still
There are particular places of power, and particular moments of appointed magical potency which we recognise. One conjunction beckons us all, the crossroads, and one moment, the stroke of midnight.
As magicians it is impossible for us to avoid converging at that point where the roads meet and then surge once more into the garden of forking paths. Whether our lines are drawn in flour, salt, gunpowder, brick dust or spider silk they all draw us to the point. It is a nexus, an appointment, a confrontation with the Devil himself that cannot be bucked. This is a labyrinth of four directions. A trap of our own making.
Hold your nerve, your concentration, your momentum. You know that the time and place are waiting for your hurried footfall. The eternal midnight of hour and minute and second hand eclipsed, stands still. Tell no-one that you are making the journey. You travel here alone.
It is not enough to simply bring your body and soul to this place and expect deliverance, there is work to be done. We must pour out our libations in the dust. This is the art of magic which seems haphazard to the untrained eye that darts after chicken feathers, unbound cats and shadows loosed from their moorings. It requires our mercury slithered into the moon silver rivulets to draw the powers up from the earth. We must entreat the Devil to show himself. We knock, we tap we canter the heart drum beat with heels. A hush; the ground answers us back.
What language is this that we all speak beneath the skin? Beneath bare foot, beneath black robe, beneath mask? It is the language of the Devil. At this place there is no distinction made. The tokens and words and dance steps and display all simply lead to the moment that the ground answers us back.
So, we draw out our crossroads and through the performance of rite, the spirits come, though we all approach on different ways. It is a net sewn with pearls, a constellation of point chaud and passing places that converges and diverges to an underlying rhythm rising from deep beneath. The crossroads is a shared, yet disparate place, a palimpsest of spectres. It cannot be owned by man or cult or state. It is the hazard that artists seek that diviners read that magicians manipulate and are manipulated by. It is a mysterious pole which simultaneously exists and cannot. We cross and re-cross and counter-cross this sacred space.
However uprooted and lost we seem, the crossroads draws us back home. However splintered and conflicted and bereft, it is in the earth of the crossroads that our treasure is buried and warded. Here we have disposed of our criminals, our culture’s ritual debris of whores and conspirators and murderers. In this convergence is our abandoned centre, an omphallos choked with the unneeded and refugee, scavenged by black dogs. The masks hang empty. Yet it is still sacred: to us as outcasts from the self-same culture. We withstand the passage of time, the degradation, the despair.
So let us regard this particular crossroads at which we stand, as all are differently aspected – it is only the truly lost who cannot appreciate this. Those who have sought out the physical crossroads in their vicinity know what this means. They are a vital part of the genus loci that must form our magical landscape if we are to be engaged in real Work which is grounded forever in the world of dirt. But the crossroads I am speaking of here is a global one, a grand one, born out of an imperial colonial architecture where we have been traded into an alien new world of dispossessed slavery. This is as brutal as the first diaspora and again the victims are disproportionately in what is politely called the developing world. The commodities are not simply coffee, sugar or cotton, but the very life blood of the earth. The corporate heirs of the slavers have an agenda to take our identities and fracture us into competing isolated drones that they may plunder unopposed. We no longer remember who we were, but are wandering in a waste where signs point everywhere but lead to no destination.
We are at a moment of history when the number of connections is multiplying exponentially. Not simply roads, but nodes. Nowhere is this seen more so than in the archonic digital world. It is such a systemic overload that meanings are becoming entirely lost. Culture is rendered empty in a potlatch of bland exchange. The esoteric too is portioned up into indiscreet snapshots to be traded for kudos like so much anime porn. This is not a conjunction but rather the displaced devouring themselves and disempowering their spirits and symbols in the process. Our signalling is loss. This loss is celebrated as progress by those who wish us to simply all consume the same mass-produced platitudes. As resources crash, the process accelerates. These are the rubbish heaps that choke our thoughts and devour our precious time. It needs more than a William Morris movement of soft furnishing socialism to oppose this kind of production in which we find ourselves complicit. As the digital is chained to the physical, our slavery becomes our manifest destiny. When we cannot tell the difference between advertising hoardings and the real texture of human skin, between cgi and dreaming true we have fallen between worlds. The lie has become the truth ghosted over our retinas.
Magic in such a world is not a superstitious attempt to deal with a hydra, but the only sane reaction to the phenomena. We are used to dealing with worlds composed of such shifting possibilities and in it retaining both our single pointed consciousness and our peripheral vision. We are used to being excluded. From such an imposed architecture, a road map of exploitation, we can still dig down to the black soil of the crossroads buried beneath. We can draw strength from the example of the Haitian revolution and the Petro Loa. Our traditions will sustain us and our people. We can overwrite Empire with our imagination and grind it to powder for our gris gris bags. We can keep singing the songs, and exchanging them with those we meet on the path. Our deities put on the Red Dress, pare back to skull face, reveal the horns. They call us to the crossroads without our digital trinkets. They congregate us at the point of attention. They destroy the carefully fostered illusion.
But magic in the West is an antikythera mechanism corroded into a dull lump. It has been apportioned to the four (or worse, eight) directions. So do we engage in more cultural imperialism? Hijack living traditions and destroy them too? This is the bind of multiculturalism when it is used as a tool to rend identity and pap it into a fast-food gunk where every bite contains a thousand cows and none of them are individuals. Westerners are characterised as faddish new-agers, and when our magic is not based in our culture or community then the criticism stands. It is a sign of our complete degeneration. We cast about in all directions unaware of the strength we could draw from the ground supporting our feet.
We need to get back to the root. That begins with our journey to the crossroads which already smoke with offerings. Others have maintained their practice, and they are right to view us with suspicion. Do we simply want more serpent and skull icons to trick out our hipster kit? Do we characterise the spirits of the African traditional religions as unremittingly primal and dark in the exact language of the Christian Imperialists? Or perhaps they are sexually potent cannibals? Are we roughing it with the noble savages of Leni Riefenstahl’s lens to get a primitivist edge to our ritual pantomime? Do we think we are already masters of their arts whilst conveniently standing divorced from their cultures? However well intentioned, we are not always going to get it right.
Serious magicians act differently, we can carefully add to our cauldron and savour each new spice. As Jake Stratton-Kent repeatedly stresses, we are not a magical revival yet, we are trying to become a living tradition. For this we must make a careful study of what ingredients are missing from the pot and in understanding where they have come from, treat them with respect. Such a cauldron as life giving grail has been the long term quest of Scarlet Imprint, and in publishing writers such as those in this collection we intend to attain it, not to jealously hold for ourselves, but for the entire magical tradition to sup from.
Maya Deren remains a treasured example as she did not go to Haiti empty handed, but brought with her artistry and dance and open heart. She is still spoken of warmly there. It is entirely possible for us to learn from other traditions and even choose to undergo full initiation, as many of the writers collected here have done. Of particular note in this respect is Dr. Frisvold, who is not only an initiate of Palo Mayombe and Quimbanda but is a tradition holder in Ifa. It is a matter of culture, not skin colour. Neither are we suggesting that initiation into the diaspora religions is necessary for all, though some will be deeply called.
But wait, have we not been here before? The veve bear suspicious resemblance to the characters of the grimoire magic of Europe, to masonry and ritual magic. The spells of the many books of magical secrets are those of hoodoo. The diaspora religions have engaged in the same expedient process of borrowing, building and adapting to their changed circumstances. There is much that we can find in them which is familiar. The methods that these living traditions have applied are those which we must also engage in. They have both taken and crucially added to what they found, they have been attentive to the voices of the spirits, ancestors and gods.
This book bears no small debt to the rediscovery of the grimoires by this very generation of magicians in the West. Paradoxically this has been one of the results of the digital age and the availability of the information that was once reserved in the academy stacks or simply melted away with the pamphlets of the Bibliothèque Bleue. We should all be familiar with the Black Dragon, Enchiridion, Verum and the Keys. Suddenly, shockingly we are shown to have a tradition that is more than the folklore scraps of psalms and psalters that mean next to nothing in our post-christian age. We have a history that stretches not only to the grimoires, but beyond them to the Greeks, goes and shamanic past. Our ghosts are returning and with urgent messages for us.
Aaron Leitch must be commended as first to press, with his Secrets of the Magical Grimoires, where he decodes these derided texts with the aid of his experience of the diaspora religions and the ideas of shamanism. But as he acknowledges in his essay here, there have been others. It seems that we are all learning to read the green language again. We have as a generation begun to draw the invisible lines, and this has required the knowledge of those who never stopped doing so. Our oral tradition died, so we are by necessity lovers of books. This should not reflect badly upon us, that is, if our precious books are well thumbed and if we have the humility – an under-used word in Western magic – to learn from those wiser than us, whether they have taken bodies or are in aerial form.
We approach other traditions looking for more than a low magic, as Frisvold’s masterful study of Palo Mayombe, and in this collection Ifá, shows the sophistication of African philosophy and cosmology. There are many worlds to explore, and it is a process which flows in all four directions. Pomba Gira luxuriates in her Portuguese and Gypsy blood. The Exus correspond with the spirits of the Grimorium Verum. Espiritismo cruzado responds to need and circumstance. Narco saints are fledged from the fresh bodies of the fallen. Magic has always been a crossroads art. From Alexandria to Toledo practitioners have met and discussed and shared their approaches. There is no pure blood myth at play here. Nobody owns this.
What happens now is what this book presents. A fresh mixing, which is not manifesto, but manifest: from Brazil to Bristol to Brixton to Brooklyn, from the traditional to the artistic avant-garde. The crossroads is, beyond all else, a transmission station, and the cosmos is listening to us through myriad crackling stars. The ways are open.