If I have a belief system, it is this:
There is a core reality, in human experience, of magic, sorcery, and interaction with/devotion to, the Spirit(s).
We live in a strange age, where materialist views- that this world is all chemistry & physics, with no animating spirit- is even taken seriously as a model. It’s highly unusual.
Now the specific models that exist that are ‘other’ than the materialist are of great variety. Most of the known religions, shamanic cosmologies, animism etc. hold some form of the belief in & experience of the interaction with a ‘living world of Spirit(s)’. Many of the myths and legends and practices share a large number of related concepts, names, story forms, and god forms. There is a fair amount of ‘interest’ in what might be the ‘original or true’ form or root of all these beliefs & practices. It is a fascinating thing to root around in. But what is most relevant to me is that our deep history as humans is intimately tied to magic, sorcery and the Spirits.
I have been working with St. Cyprian a bit, in the way I usually work with new entities. Asking questions, making offerings, dreaming, listening, reading. And the other night, talking with Bri Saussy, something came to me. I saw Cyprian as a cipher, a mystery, part of which is about the incredible flexibility of the magical/Spirit-ual worldview.
St. Cyprians’s influence or presencein Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Scandinavia, his status as a pagan sorcerer, a Catholic Bishop, a spirit in Quimbanda. His deep roots in the grimoire tradition. All these speak to me primarily of the inherent openness of the practice of magic. How else does one explain a Spirit/mage martyred in Turkey reaching out into Sweden before becoming part of South American magical tradition and then having himself a revival in the US, UK, and other parts of the English speaking world?
To me this speaks, as I said, to the openness of magic, sorcery, and the Spirit(s). While their human allies tend to organize into tight-knit (and often violently opposed) camps (religions, traditions, orders, schools of thought), the Spirits in some fashion seek out those whom they would work with. Which I read as ‘who have something to offer in return’. Which is usually seems to involve a) trustworthiness, and b) devotion. The Spirits, more than many (if not most) people, seem to have a solid sense of who can be trusted to do what they say they will do. The Spirits take no shit.
In the time before time (by which I mean before recorded history) I believe there was a continuum of magic and Spirit and material stuff. I personally believe, on no basis but my own experience, that the animals - the largely free ones, the wild ones - still live this. I think this is part of the natural perceptual order.
Part of the process of civilization, of gaining more control over our material circumstances in a predictable fashion, seems somehow to lead to the loss of these faculties. More in some than others, like all things.
If I live in a time where I am unable to perceive the presence of the ancestors, how impoverished am I? Because it’s unusual. It was not like that for much of human history. The same for the spirits in plants and animals. In most previous times, these things were understood to clearly exist. They just were, and observably so. And I think this is the human norm. Our modern world is the anomaly.
What this all means to me is this: as human animals, we share a natural potential (if not predisposition) to operate in the world on a magical-spiritual basis. We all have the potential to see signs, to speak to the spirits, and perhaps to hear and understand them. This does not mean that all will or even can (or desire to) have the same experience. Or even be open to it. Or should be. Or want to be. This is clearly not so, for the reasons I talked about in Snowflakes. But it does mean that while a person can hold a place in a lineage or tradition or group (be a Priestess, a Doctor, a scholar, a teacher), this does not exclude others from doing their own work. Which is an unpopular view in some circles.
But perhaps not so unusual. How many people see their neighbors ‘gardening wrong’ while still feeding their families? Wrong defined exactly how? Not organic enough? Too organic? This happens all the time (I’ve certainly thought this about gardening, and I'm not all that good at it!), and in all sorts of scenarios.
I think this elitist view (by which I specifically mean that “I am right and you are wrong, and the only thing missing from making this all perfectly clear is you becoming intelligent and educated enough to understand that I am right and you are wrong”) is inherently flawed in a magical, Spirit based world. I am not saying that the world of magical practice is a free for all, or should be. There IS bullshit out there. There ARE roads dangerous to walk. But to me, the proof is in the pudding. If your 'work' works, it works. If your offerings please the Spirits you work with, all is well.
There is a vast amount of experience that prayer works. Far beyond anything that could possibly be cataloged, let alone ‘proven’. And of every instance recorded, there exist literally uncountable instances unrecorded. Very few people leave lasting traces of even their most concrete deeds, let alone words or thoughts or prayers.
The same is true for magic, for charms and spells and asking the Ancestors for aid. Even our Facebook photos of our altars will all be gone someday. And will then all our work will be invalid, have never have existed? I am not at all against history & study, but in most cases what we are able to see or study are just signs and traces of practice. Not what it truly meant to the people who lived it, how it actually felt, and certainly not what it meant to those further out on the edges of what was recorded. Context and point of view being what they are.
In a related angle, for me it is important to keep in mind that someone, some group of people, somewhere-and-when created all the practices, stories, and myths we know of. Based on their experience of the world, their needs, desires, and aesthetic requirements. What they saw, what they lived, the whispers on the winds, or on the lips of the dead. Which means that at some point for any practice, myth, religion, there was a point of ‘no history’ - no tradition, no lineage. This creation based on experience happens all the time, it’s the nature of life, however easy to forget.
For those that really, really want everyone coming in to magic and spirit practice to ‘do it right’- I understand, really. The problem lies in ‘what is right’. For some this means hands on training, hands on initiation. And this is completely valid in systems and traditions that require it. But perhaps it is not always required by the Spirits.
I think of this like some of the regulation of health care modalities like herbalism. Yes, there are people that simple can’t heal and should not be practicing herbalists (or doctors, or contractors). But many of them are educated, and have the paper that legitimizes their practice. Then there is Grandma Julie who has only the her own names for all the plant spirits she uses and actually can heal. And there is the ‘proper version’ which is the highly skilled, well educated healer. Who is legitimate? What defines this state? For me it is the ability to heal, period.
I also see where (and I have been guilty of this lot) people don’t really like busting their ass for years for no apparent recognition of work done. So I do understand the position of the highly educated that those who won’t ‘do the work’ - who won’t become highly educated in a fashion and to a degree that is acceptable to the person in question - shouldn’t play the game.
But I don’t think the Spirits necessarily agree. I think they respect, as I said, trustworthiness (we could call it integrity as well) and devotion. So the person who prays to St. Cyprian and the mage who pacts with him, and the sorcerer who seeks to become his ally, and Grandma Julie who lights candle for him to bless her herbs are all valid expressions of ‘his’ work.
So Cyprian (for me, for now) is a cipher, a mystery of ‘working with all hands' - to be ableheal and harm, to work with angels and demons, to speak with, and listen to the living and the dead. With those who are credentialed, studied, self-taught, without system, and those who are new seekers in all ways. By spell or by prayer, if there is a difference. Perhaps he is a Saint of sorcery & Spirit itself, the actual ‘old ways’. Before we forgot (and only some of us-this is not a global condition) that we humans are surrounded by Spirits, ‘Spirit’, the ancestors, the hungry ghosts, those that dwell ‘above’ and ‘below’, the Angels who are messengers, who shelter us beneath their wings or who catch us when we ‘fall’. All of whom work with, and through, whose hearts & hands they will.
For more on St. Cyprian, I have been reading the following:
The Testament of Cyprian the Mage by Jake Stratton Kent (I am only about a third through this fabulous two volume set, it an amazing read)
St. Cyprian & the Sorcerous Transmutation by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
Saint Cyprian: Saint of Necromancers by Conjureman Ali
The Book of St. Cyprian, the Sorcerer's Treasure by José Leitão (this one is a translation of an old book, and so rough on the animals, so avoid if that kind of thing disturbs you, but it is historically fascinating in all sorts of ways)