Posted in Necromancy with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2011 by Susana Romatz

(A magician raising a ghost. Illustration from Robert Cross Smith’s The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century (1825)
I just watched a movie-based-on-a-book by the greatest all time story teller in the world, Sara Waters. The movie was called Affinity, and, while it wasn’t my most favoritest (see Fingersmith), it was pretty freakin’ great. No spoilers here, but it was about a necromancer, a woman who speaks with the dead.

Now, I’ve always been into a little necromancy–I dabbled in the ouija, did a little seance action, had some light-as-a-feather moments–but it was all before I turned 18. I think that the spirits are kinder to wee folk. While I still think that necromancy is really cool, I have to admit, I’m a little afraid to try it due to all the warnings about opening the gateways. I suppose it would be easy enough to just contact dead relatives, surely they would not be malignant…but, according to a Saturday Afternoon Special I saw once, nobody truly knows who they’ll get…some crafty spirits will even pretend to be your relatives just to get in the door…spooky.

Of course, there are also those who believe that necromancy is just a lie. Maybe it’s you lying to yourself. Maybe it’s someone else lying to you. But, when it all boils out in the end, it’s just a lie. Leonardo da Vinci says:

The belief in necromancy is reputed to be the most foolish of all human opinions. It is the sister of alchemy which gives birth to simple and natural things; but it is all the more reprehensible than alchemy, inasmuch as it brings forth nothing but what is like itself, that is, lies. This is not the case with alchemy, which is confined to the simple products of nature, and whose function cannot be performed by nature herself, because in it there are no organic instruments with which it can work, such as the hands are to man and which have enabled him to make glass, &c. But necromancy, the flag and flying banner, blown hither and thither by the winds, is the guide of the silly multitude, which constantly bears witness with gaping wonder to the countless effects of this art; and whole books are written which declare that incantations and spirits are efficacious and speak without tongues and without vocal organs, without which it is impossible to speak, and carry the heaviest weights, raising tempests and rain and [182] transforming men into cats, wolves and other beasts, although they who affirm such things are the first to be transformed into beasts. And certainly if such necromancy existed, as is believed by lower intellects, there is nothing on the earth which would be so effectual both as regards the service and detriment of man; because if it is true that this art has the power to disturb the calm serenity of the atmosphere, changing it into night and producing sparks and winds, with fearful thunder and lightnings that fly through the darkness, and overthrowing high buildings with violent winds and uprooting forests and striking armies and shattering and overwhelming them, and producing, in addition to this, devastating storms which rob the peasants of the fruits of their toil, what kind of warfare is there so deadly to the enemy?

And that’s just part of it! (find the rest here) That’s a lot of disagreeing. “The guide of the silly multitude…” Leonardo da Vinci was no dummy. But perhaps he’s being just the tiniest bit pragmatic?

Anyway, here I begin my foray into the study of necromancy. Please feel free to comment.


snapshots of elementals

Posted in Elementals, Photos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by Susana Romatz

I’ve been toodling around a bit here lately, snapping some shots with the magic of the natural world in mind. Of course, I can’t KNOW that these are elementals, but I do KNOW that when I arrived at these places and at these specific times, I was overcome with strong feelings, whether they be of awe, amusement, happiness, or peace. These are the feelings that (these and many others, and not always positive) I feel when I’m in the presence of the elementals. Too often we humankinders hurry past these encounters without saying hello…

Salamanders/Fire fairies

My dog made me take her outside right in the middle of the last episode of Lie to Me (we all have our vices) and I caught a glimpse of this beauty burning just above the tree line in the Northwest. By the time I got my camera this shot was all I could get through the scrappy scrub oak across the gravel. This evening moon invoked the sun fairies, who ride the rays that impact that great cold boulder and light it up, reminding us that there is so much more going on in the world than can fit in our tight schedules…

In the book Enchantment of the Fairy Realm, Ted Andrews describes fire fairies as “beings of the fire realm…tiny salamanders who are found wherever there is flame or heat.”  They live in lightening and in the lava that bubbles at the center of the earth. They dance fiercely when our passions are ignited. They warm the earth and make the seeds and bulbs come to life…here in the doldrums of winter in Pacific Northwest I try to light a candle every day to chase away the greys. Paracelsus said that “salamanders have been seen in the shape of fiery balls, or tongues of fire, running over the fields or peering into houses.” (read the rest here). I can see them dancing, just as quickly as I can light a match.

Earth Beings/Gnomes

Philip Ball explains the way Paracelsus viewed the gnomes in The Devil’s Doctor: “Each [elemental] inhabits its element just as we breathe and pass through the air. To the gnomes, earth is like a gas through which they can move with ease…Gnomes are small, (‘about two spans’)…and they dwell in mines.” In the book Nature Spirits, Rudolph Steiner says that the gnomes are the beings that bring the minerals from deep within the earth up to the plants and help the shoots to overcome the ever present downward and inward force of gravity. Whether or not you choose to believe that there are little man-like beings living in the soil, able to pass through it as easily as we pass through the air, helping to nourish and push the plants up, you must, at least, admit that there is some natural force that permits such growth (gravitropism? diffusion?)…why not call it gnomes? It’s so much more fun.

(gnomes can pass through concrete as well)

Water beings/Undines/Nymphs

Ted Andrews says that “tiny water faeries can be seen flowing in the sprays of waterfalls. Water sprites can be seen riding the crests of waves in the oceans or on the back of sea creatures. They can be seen dancing on the surface of bay and shore waters. Mermaids can occasionally be seen bobbing on the surface of the ocean.”

All the pagan texts that I’ve read say that elementals like to congregate where two different things come together: a river and the ocean, a fork in the road, moon and sun in the sky at the same time…etc. These are liminal times and places, when both sides of a threshold are occupied at once. The pictures above are like a metaphor of liminality…the reflection of the trees in the water, the stones and the soil supporting, it’s no wonder the nymphs are dancing in the rain!

Air Spirits/Sylphs

Whenever I go to a hot spring to soak I often find myself thinking about all of the elementals that came together to make such an experience exist. Then I invariably start trying to recognize them by sight, a skill I haven’t quite mastered yet. One of the things I do is to try to differentiate between campfire smoke (fire) and the steam (water) from the hotsprings. It’s harder than one might think. Paracelsus said that the difference in appearance between the nymphs and the sylphs is pronounced. The nymph bears a very close resemblance to humans, so close that they have supposedly intermarried with us. The sylphs are “cruder, coarser, longer and stronger” than human counterparts (qt. taken from The Devil’s Doctor). I can’t tell once it gets to smoke and fog though. Perhaps with more practice…


Posted in Black Magick with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by Susana Romatz

(Portrait of Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer (1708-1781) by William Hogarth (1697-€“1764) from the late 1750s)

It’s been awhile since my last posting on Urban Mysterium, so I thought I’d jazz things up a bit by doing a little posting on Satanism. It’s a titillating subject, no doubt, and one that mayhap be such that not many dare to read about, lest they fall prey to the Horned Demon himself. Well. I’ve read a bit about it, and I’m still here. It’s pretty interesting stuff too. Here is an excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Magic Witchcraft by Susan Greenwood:

For Satanists, Satan or the Devil is symbolic of a hidden force in nature responsible for the workings of earthly affairs and representing the spirit of inspiration and human progress. Revolting against organized religion-which is only suitable for “the herd”-Satanists allegedly seek to harness what have been called dark forces to liberate the will in the advancement of evolution. Claims that Satanists conduct rituals to abuse children are reminiscent of early modern witchcraft accusations, and are vigorously denied. Satanism concerns the self-affirmation and freedom of the individual. (pg. 238)

Here is a listing of the Nine Satanic Principles from the same source (emphasis not added by me):

1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!

2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!

3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!

4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!

5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!

6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!

7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!

8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!

9. Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!

Whenever I used to think about Satanism, I always thought about animal sacrifices and weird rituals and evil intentions. I thought about Aleister Crowley and “Do What Thou Wilt” and Charles Manson, and the Devil, etc.

Reading this got me thinking about Puritanism. I know, I know, it seems like an interesting leap at first, but, when I say black, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? 88% of people say white. (I made that statistic up). So, when Greenwood says Satanism, I think Puritanism.

Satanism says that the earth is a place for us to experiment, try sex, drugs, rock n’ roll…hell, throw caution to the wind! Try all three at the same time! Find your passion and go all out to chase that passion until you find the source of it and then suck all the juice out of that source until it is totally exhausted and juiced beyond recognition. Don’t worry about whatever, do what thou wilt, ok?

Puritanism says that if you even just think a tiny little thought about sex, or drugs, or rock n’ roll, God will smite you something fierce, you lowly flea bite on the ass of a boil (It wasn’t bad to say ass in the days of Puritanism because it just meant donkey.) Really, even if you think a thought about thinking about somebody else thinking about sex, you really should consider washing out your mouth and eyes with Ajax.

Thinking about Puritanism and Satanism together makes me think of the middle path. Puritanism sounds horrid. I don’t know any Satanists, so I can’t ask, but I heard that Aleister Crowley’s last words were “Sometimes I hate myself.” Not exactly a winning endorsement for being Satan’s main guy here on earth. Although, to be fair, I don’t believe Crowley considered himself to be a Satanist per se. I include him here because of the sentiment expressed in this quote:

I was not content to believe in a personal devil and serve him, in the ordinary sense of the word. I wanted to get hold of him personally and become his chief of staff.–Aleister Crowley in The Confessions of Aleister Crowely, Chapter 5, 1929 (I found this quote here, website of Nick Zymaris)

Anyway, my point is to show that perhaps Buddha was right to direct folks down the middle road. We're not totally going crazy on the world, because then we burn out. And we're not holding back to the point where we are not able to feel the joys and wonder of having a human body, which is a fabulous gift. 
This all reminds me of a great ole' Buddhist story I heard once that really stuck with me:

There are two middle aged men in town who are both depressed. One of the men is an alcoholic who regularly visits the local brothel. The other is a virgin who eats only rice and drinks green tea every night. Both men decide to visit the local Zen master. First one goes in and tells his story and receives his advice from the old man. 
"You need to quit drinking whiskey and going to the brothel," is what the first man hears. "Only then will you find true happiness."
Then the second man enters, tells his story and receives his advice.
"You need go and drink a whiskey and visit the brothel," the old man tells him. "Only then will you find true happiness."
I am open to discussion.

ghost stories.

Posted in Ghosts with tags , , , , on November 26, 2010 by Susana Romatz

(can you see the ghost between the cars?)

Everybody knows a ghost story. The best ones happened to you (first person), but most people will settle for a story with one or two degrees of separation, i.e. your babysitter’s haunted basement or your aunt’s housekeeper’s ghastly prank calls.

My dad told me a story once: He was up very late. He was reading a scary book and he finally got up to go to bed. He was walking down the dark hallway to the bedroom when he saw a swirling mass of darkness up near the ceiling. His heart began to pound and his mouth got dry. Then he said he shook his head and told himself to “stop being silly.” The mass disappeared and he went on to bed.

Also, when I was a kid, my cousin’s and I would tell a story about my great grandpa who was in the field plowing (because that’s what great grandpas do) when a huge red thumb came up out of the ground and thumbed in the direction of his shack (because that’s what great grandpas live in). He tried to ignore it (really?) but it continued to thumb at him. Finally he went back home to check things out and he found my great grandma burning up in the fireplace. I’m pretty sure my cousin Jamie made that one up. But still it used to send shivers up and down my spine…

I was never really sure whether or not I should believe in ghosts. Obviously I’m fairly susceptible to far fetched scary stories, which always made me second guess myself. However, now that I have matured a bit and really put my head to the question, I now know that I do believe in ghosts, I just needed to figure out my picture of them. I met a man named Andrew in a college religion class. He was the first “real pagan” that I’d ever met. He told me that he believed that whenever a person walks on the earth, that person’s soul leaves behind something like a fingerprint (I suppose it would be called a “soul print” though) of energy that sometimes shows its face to the people who are still here. That made sense to me. It feels like that’s right, because sometimes I can feel the energy of people I’ve known who’ve died, even though I know they aren’t here anymore.

I also recently read here (a super cool blog) that praying and meditating and speaking to your ancestors is another form of necromancy. I’d never thought of it like that. I always just picture Edward Kelly lying on the ground in a burning pentacle at midnight with his eyes rolled back in his head. Necromancy seems so dramatic, but it’s really just talking to dead people, whether you have a burning pentacle or not.

Ghosts are no different. You can get all Aleister Crowley/burning red thumb with it, or you can stick to knowing that people are made out of energy and that when they leave, they might leave some here, and you might see it. It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, it’s just something that happens. At the very least, you get a good story out of it. At the most, you get to experience first hand the mysteries of the other worlds…

ps. If you have a good ghost story tell it to me! I love them, red thumbs and all.

fly agaric.

Posted in Elementals with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by Susana Romatz

This is a set of lovely fly agaric growing at a neighbor’s house up the road. I love, love, love this mushroom because it calls up the world of the unknown, just by looking at it! I’ve heard it can be hallucinogenic (as long as you are able to live through the poison part) although they are very unpredicatble.

David Arora told a story about visiting Japan and walking up a hill to visit some mushroom hunters. He noticed that there were king boletes (Boletus edulis–a highly prized edible mushroom in the States) growing all over the hillside. He picked many of them and made his way to the Japanese mushroom hunter’s house. They scoffed at his boletes, saying that they squish them into the ground because they are so disgusting. Then they pulled out two huge bags of Amanita muscaria, the fly agaric, which is apparently a highly prized edible there. David Arora laughed and told them that in the States we squish the fly agaric into the ground because we don’t eat them.

I don’t squish Amanita mushrooms. I don’t eat them either, because, frankly, I’m a little scared of them. According to David Arora, you can eat them after you boil them and dump off the water (as they do in Japan). Some folks like to drink the water and experience the trippage…but I’m afraid of experiencing the extreme gastrointestinal distress end of that spectrum. Or the seizure aspect. Or the coma aspect. Or, even more undesirable, the dead aspect (although Wikipedia tells me that the fatal dose is 15 caps, which is a ridiculously huge amount of mushrooms to eat, even in a soup).

I do believe that fly agarics are related to elementals, mostly because of the feel of them. Whenever anyone sees a fly agaric, they are overcome with that sense of magick that only fairies bring. Lots and lots of people put them in their fairy pictures or when they want to impart a feeling of the mystery of nature:

(Moritz von Schwind)

(Elsa Beskow)

Anyway, I love the fly agaric. Maybe someday I will parboil one. Until that time, I will content myself to view them as gnome meeting grounds and treat them with respect.

(I think I caught a little brown fairy taking a rest on this one!)


Posted in Photos, Poetry with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2010 by Susana Romatz

November Train


Blue moon, winter air

Starlight passenger whistle

cross town, low down drone


What is it about trains that elicits such a melancholy mood on a windy November night? Especially on a full moon…

I was walking toward the tracks when I heard the whistle from pretty far off. It was rainy and windy and slick and muddy, but I wanted to try and take a few shots of the train graffiti. The moon was making a show coming in and out from behind the old sibyl’s hair and before I knew it, the train was upon us. I snapped a quick blind shot in the dark and the night sprite’s helped out:


Thanks night sprites!

Also got this shot, first thing when I walked up. You can’t really tell exactly that it is a train right away, but I like it.

Beautiful night!


Posted in Elementals with tags , , , , , , on November 12, 2010 by Susana Romatz

I didn’t always believe in elves and fairies. I’d read about them here and there in fairy tales or the odd woo-woo spirit crystal healing book I chanced to pick up from a library shelf. I saw them flying around in movies like Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. It wasn’t until I started reading Ted Andrew’s books that I really actually got an idea of what a fairy might be, and that they actually might exist.

I first read Animal Speak. It was a fine book that directed me to look more closely at my encounters with animals. What was the animal world trying to tell me about myself? Was I seeing lots of squirrels? Perhaps I should start saving up for a cold or rainy day…hard times might be coming. That red tailed hawk I’ve seen four times in two days? Maybe I need to start honing my vision, looking toward my goal with more intensity.

Then I happened to see another book by Ted Andrews entitled Enchantment of the Fairie Realm. I bought the book from a store that sold singing bowls, John Waterhouse posters and tiny pewter dragons guarding real crystal balls. I was killing time, waiting for my partner to exit the store across the street, when this little tan book jumped out at me. I flipped through the pages and decided to buy it, although I didn’t really even start to skim the book until a year later.

Andrews believes that we “see” fairies more subconsciously, at least at first, than consciously. The blur you see out of the corner of your eye, the face you glimpse in the wood grain or the bark of a tree, the mini dust twister that swirls across the playground as you walk home–any of these could be fairies showing their face to you. Andrews even says that when you smell a particularly delicious waft of flowers or sap, the fairies have said hello to you. The more conscious and grateful of these gifts you become, the more often you will be graced by them and the more fairy enriched your life will become.

I imagine it’s different for everyone, but my experience of the elementals (gnomes-earth beings, salamanders-fire beings, sylphs-air beings and undines-water beings) has been more of a subliminal experience. I don’t usually “see” them, I just have a feeling that they are there. I can sense when there are a lot, and I can sense that there are not a lot. I can sometimes feel the qualities of the elementals that live in a certain area. They might be light and playful or grumpy and warty. They might wish that I would leave them alone to do their work in peace, or they might invite me to join in with their play.

Andrews says that the first step toward interacting with an elemental is to acknowledge that they are here with us. That might mean saying thank you when you pass a delicious smelling daphne or saying hello when you see a flicker of movement from the corner of your eye or even singing a song while you’re weeding a garden bed. It doesn’t have to be big or loud, but it will definitely awaken your super senses to fairy activity…

(John Waterhouse-Undine)