The Muddy Affair

“In the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Ghost, and by the power of those potent, inestimable, Divine and Commanding names, of the Almighty & Everliving God Jehovah, El, Elohim, Sabaoth, Adonay, Tetragrammaton, Alpha & Omega…”

The words came smoothly out of my mouth. The names flowed softly over my tongue with a sincerity that surprised me. There was no fear to stutter me, no sense of unbelief to snarl me. This wasn’t the time for that.

This was the time for invocation.

Hi, my name is Keri, and I’m a Rune Soup Premium Member. I followed along with the Grimoire course originally from a position of curiosity. I had heard so many things about grimoires both in popular culture and barely populated groups and forums. Here was a chance to learn something more than how unequipped and ignorant I was to work with ritual magic.

It’s not like I was going to actually do anything with that information, after all.

But as Gordon White’s modules laid out the history and influences on, by, and from grimoires, I found myself facing a different kind of challenge. The course would end with a practicum, a group effort in invoking a “treasure spirit”. Based on what I was learning about ritual grimoire magic, and the history and evolution of the names and powers called upon in such workings, could I participate?

Could I call upon the very god I had been driven away from?

Just who is this Jehovah guy, anyway?

By the time the 10th module to the Grimoire course had finished, I had made up my mind. I learned a lot more than Gordon may have originally intended, and now engaging the practicum wasn’t about mere treasure to me anymore.

It was about facing my fears.

The instructions provided by Gordon for calling upon the spirit Birto from the Book of Oberon were intentionally sparse, thin, and suspect as hell. Part of the practicum after all was putting to use the information that had been laid out in the modules. It was up to the practitioner to determine what preparations were necessary, both before and after the invocation including prayers, tools, clothing, incense, etc.

In the forums I watched my betters banter back and forth about their preparations. Some were preparing to complete the short ritual with complete accoutrements, turning it into a multi-hour endeavor. Some were going with the mere minimum required, either for the hell of it, or because circumstances allowed for no other elaboration. I gathered as many thin threads of advice as I could and made my own preparations.

While for many the motive of the moment was the idea of whatever “treasure” meant to them, the motive for me was much simpler.

Could I do it without collapsing in fear?

I have learned a lot about the various modern flavors of Christianity and how the religion has taken on the forms it has today. I have learned a lot about the people and forces that broke me, and the god that refuses to take back what he gave me because “[I] am loved.”

It’s clear my magical path is going to require at least a technical understanding and knowledge of grimoire magic (for reasons not to be made public) so the practicum for this course gives me a safe space to take the pass/fail test that has been set at my feet.

I told myself that even if nothing happened, even if I stayed up late for no other reason than I could, the fact that I performed the ritual and said the names was victory enough.

The first window for the group working was from the peak of midnight as June 7th faded away into the morning of June 8th until the late afternoon of June 8th. I had already obtained a small “large” dragon statue to be dedicated to the working, and had worked out how I was going to place the circles and the wording that accompanied them. I had written out my invocations and license to depart on index cards to carry with me into the circle, but opted not to bring much else. Because of personal constraints, I was going to be one of those “minimalist” practitioners. Just enough to say I did it, nowhere near enough to expect a response.

And then…

I began shortly after 1am PDT (UTC-7). No prior banishing, just a sweep and check of the area for any spirit, embodied or not, that might interfere. I had the conjuration from the email instructions written down on index cards so I could be as low tech as possible in the circle. I made my usual “Serious Business” actions that precedes any magical undertaking and spoke the conjuration from the cards three times before waiting for a response.

As I spoke, I started to smell something like smoke, like the burning of something pleasant and fragrant. But I had nothing burning. Because it wasn’t the smell of anything plastic, electrical, or wood [house], I was not alarmed by it and continued. By the time I finished the third recitation, the smoke scent was clearly coming from Birto’s circle.

“Reveal yourself to me.”

A flash of light burst in the dark room accompanied by a pressure wave pushing the front of my body. I closed my eyes in reflex. With my eyes closed, I saw him. Birto appeared as a tall man of thick stature, wearing bright yellow academic dress but no cap upon his head. From his knees down, he dissolved into something like smoke, and I saw that smoke was coming from the dragon statue in the circle.

He asked me why had I called him.

I charged him to tell me the truth and spoke my three-part question.

“You will have your answers within the week. Remain alert and you will know that it is I who answers them.”

Welp. So far everything has been greater than expectations, so I’m not going to quibble with that! I thanked him and gave him license to depart with the verbal twist of charging him not to harm myself, anyone near myself, nor any physical thing as he left. (Prior experience with similar circumstances taught me on that.)

When he left, the pressure left with him. The smoke scent immediately stopped. And I stood in the dark room with my ears ringing and the front side of my body slightly warm as if I had been standing in front of a now cold heater.

It was ten minutes before I could stop giggling.

That happened.

I did not expect anything to happen. And certainly not that fast considering all folks have dug up on the matter and Gordon’s “Got Soap?” tale [a story recounted in the modules]. I was prepared to be up for hours. I thought maybe I had dreamt with my eyes open, but I still had the physical sensations of being very close to something large and dense, and the feeling of being near a heat source persisted.

I unmade the circle and cards in the reverse order as I had laid them down, wiped down “Birto’s Steed”, and put my toys away to get a couple hours of sleep before morning and work.

I was groggy as hell at work the next day, and it was worth every stifled yawn. Over the next seven days, both calendar and planetary, I took notes of what happened when and how. On the eighth day, I made my report:

The question had three related parts to them. To be concise and intentionally coy: “Who?”, “How?”, & “Why?”

“Who?” was answered on Sunday [June 11th] night in a manner that made it clear the answer came from Birto.

“How?” was answered on Tuesday [June 13th] morning, but I did not recognize the answer then. The answer came to me in multiple fashions and from different directions, being louder and more prominent each time until my tired and overworked head recognized the tells late Wednesday [June 14th] night. However, I was deeply suspicious of the answer which became a problem later as my disbelief kept prompting me to wonder, “Did he really say… or am I full of wishful thinking?”

“Why?” was answered on Thursday [June 15th] afternoon as clear and as sharp as if someone had spoken the words in my ear while I stood alone in the quiet room. I recognized the same timbre, tone, and force of presence as the apparition of Birto last week, but other tells were missing. I immediately had the sensation of having pissed someone or something off with my disbelief. I spoke quietly that this was my first Solomonic(ish) working, and that I have been burned enough before by other methods of spiritworking to know ain’t no fool like a naive fool. Also, the “Why” doesn’t match what was expected of the “Who” and for this reason alone, I was questioning the veracity of the answer.

Oh boy. That pissed off whatever was speaking in my ear.

The unseen apparition challenged me back by repeating something I had said in confidence to a close friend and ended its monologue with a challenge. “You have another day to combine your naive efforts with others. Test me, and I will prove myself.” I didn’t realize how much presence the unseen apparition had until it left and the room suddenly felt cold and bare.

The “other day” spoken of by the spirit was June 28th, 2017, which was listed by Gordon as an “alternative” day best suited for the Birto working if June 8th was not available.

One of the things I had failed to bring with me into the circles was a knife. As I had made the circles with dedicated cords, and none of the invocations for Birto used threatening language, I had felt a knife was not necessary for the low-key operation.

I was the worst kind of correct: Technically.

The knife, I later learned through further reading and personal experiences, was not needed for Birto, but for any other spirit that would crash the party.

And one such spirit did.

I first noticed the pull on my face the afternoon of June 8th. It caused me to speak with a slight drawl as if I was from the American Midwest. It is an accent I am very uncomfortable taking on. I attributed it to my penchant for matching the accent of people I am talking to and that nearly all of my clients at work were from that area and still spoke with a strong drawl.

But the pull was slight and the drawl quickly faded after the clients left, so I thought nothing of it.

June 9th was spent grinding my teeth to hold in all my words about how certain people at work had failed to make their deadlines, and as a result I was about to critically miss mine. I spoke to very few people that day and as such, did not pay attention to the persistent hint of drawl and the way my mouth twisted when saying certain sounds.

After all, the working on the early morning of June 8th was an intense one. Maybe this is just the after effects still fading.

I spoke to few people over the weekend, but once work began in earnest on the following Monday, the drawl and face twisting was to the point where I was concerned that I had suffered a neurological event. “Signs of stroke in women” was open in at least one browser tab all workday long. (A call to the nurse helpline resulted in “Not likely, but you should go to the emergency room if you feel this is urgent and make an appointment with your primary physician regardless.”)

I had examined every possibility except a spiritual source, because “everything went as planned” so “what could possibly go wrong”? Surely my usual wards and protections would cover and/or alert me, right?

Well…

If spiritual paths are like languages, I have been listening for a gentle alert in English, and missing the klaxons screaming in Spanish. It took two more days for me to realize I had made an error and engage in multiple divinations to determine where I had fucked up.

Upon fetching a glass of water for [an offering to Great Aunt Mabel™] and whatever else comes with her, I was careless and managed to wet my hand but was too tired to bother drying it for the short walk.

As I walked back to my bedroom in the dark, maybe because of the lack of light or maybe because I’m so tired my brain feels like it’s crawling, I noted the dampness on the hand holding the glass felt thick and warm.

Felt like blood.

Like something bloody was holding me. Holding my wet hand steady as it held the filled glass.

I set the glass where it belonged and turned on the light.

My hand was dry.

While I appreciated the assist, I was still livid. I have a firm “No Touching” rule with both the living and the dead unless certain circumstances apply, and this was not one of those times.

Cards were thrown. Oracles were consulted. Dreams were had. And now that I was paying attention, it was clear that something more than Birto had come through that night. And that something was attaching itself to me regardless of my consent or knowledge. As a result, I made the executive decision that something had to go.

I’m sure the grimoire and ritual magic purists would howl to the moon if I detailed what I did to isolate and remove the “rider” (read: unwanted spirit attachment), but as the rider was removed I really don’t care if it follows brand or not.

Removed, but not banished, because…

After it was removed, it appeared in the form of a man [in the space set aside for it]. Dressed in dark brown clothing and having dark brown shaggy straight hair to his shoulders and black skin and stoney eyes, he opened his mouth and said…

I had said this much to my associates and there ended the tale. At the time I was not sure if this “rider” was connected to Birto’s answers. I have since divined and confirmed that this extraneous spirit was drawn to me during the initial Birto working and was held at bay for the duration of the actual working, but my preparations left me unprotected after Birto’s departure.

Taking inspiration from Solomon’s “bronze vessel”, I had a container for the rider prepared in case I needed to leave the damn thing in the middle of the Mojave desert. I sealed the rider into the container, but before I did, I extracted a name, more of a label really, for me to use should I want to make a formal relationship with the sucker. (Pun well intended.)

It gave me a name that sounded “high formal” to my ears and I accepted that as the name to be kept between us. After the container was placed in security, I looked up the various spellings that the name could take to be pronounced the way I heard it. One spelling I was able to vet immediately. A play on words and meaning, the name the spirit gave me was a puzzle that implied all sorts of power and rank until I took a step back and looked at the overall meaning.

Mud.

It’s name is a kenning for mud.

Of all the possible spirits to gank my ignorant and naive ass, it’s the spiritual version of Wile E. Coyote.

I deserved it.

I would have dropped off “Mud” in the desert to dry out for a couple centuries, except the same divinations that opened my ears to the klaxons also alerted me to a quality about “Mud” that made him important to keep.

Of course, it means I’m going to have to step up my ritual magic game if I’m going to do this the right way and not have worse side effects than appearing to have had a mini-stroke.

The pull on my face and the thickening drawl stopped immediately. The next workday, the few coworkers who had noticed the change (and immediate reversion) did ask if I had a medical issue that was resolved.

“I took care of some business.” I said nothing further than that.

A small black-handled knife was bought immediately. It doesn’t have any “story” to it other than being available, discreet, and safe when in the stowed position. It will do. (I did not want to dedicate the iron spike blade to ritual magic use.)

My printed copy of the Book of Oberon came to my hands the following Saturday. I hunkered down in a coffeeshop corner with headphones, notepad, pens, and book for serious study. I had a challenge to meet with Birto daring me to summon him again on the second auspicious day for the group working, June 28th, so I needed to be better prepared for that day. However, I was also scouring the book for proof of Birto’s answer. Of the three-part question, he had named this book specifically as the answer to “How?”, and I wanted to prove or disprove his answer before the second summoning.

*scouring the index of the Book of Oberon forwards and backwards for a specific thing that was promised by some yellow clad motherfucker to be there in a manner that even I could access it where I am and thinking I just dropped too much money on bullshit* (Any money spent on bullshit is too much money.)

*laughs at “Rite using bread loaf to find a thief”*

*howls at “If thou wilt know if she is a maid”*

*recognizes “An experiment approved by Friar Bacon…”*

*deep breaths at “Prayers before you call or consecrate…”*

Well… I guess as the Front Matter says… “The contents of this book are historical references used for teaching purposes only.”

And then… just as I’m about to slam the book closed and call this a fail, the memory of that working is forced to my attention, causing me to ignore my physical sight for a bit. The memory ends and I pay attention to what my sight had fallen upon during the non sequitur.

Well, fuck me.

It’s the specific answer I was promised. I have never looked at the Book of Oberon before today, and certainly have not seen the index which is unique to this version, and yet, there is the very thing I was specifically told to get the book for two weeks ago.

Right. Game on.

Commentary on the Rune Soup Premium Members Forum shed light on a connection between the sight and scents experienced on the June 8th working with the planetary hour that working began; the hour of Mercury. So I planned to intentionally duplicate that framing. Of course, it meant staying up late once more, but this time I was better prepared.

The corded circles once more laid out with inscriptions being laid upon them using small cards. The black knife and personal notes in my circle. Birto’s dragon statue and a shot glass of rum in Birto’s circle. A prayer of protection, a prayer of consecration, recitation of Psalm 54 three times before speaking the invocation three times, and a declaration of the rum being my personal offering to Birto.

The scent came again as I spoke, but it was very much muted. When I finished speaking, I noted the ambiance of the room had become very still, as if all of creation was waiting for me to say something. I took a deep breath.

“Reveal yourself to me.”

No flash of light or visualization of any sort. Instead the air itself became very heavy upon my shoulders, as if the closed room was filled with several atmospheres of pressure. My ears popped.

I was surrounded by yellow, even though nothing visually changed. It was as if I had passed through a yellow door that had closed itself behind me. I could not see it, but the knowledge that it is yellow remained, and that sense of the color yellow was now surrounding me on all sides.

“Better.” The whisper came from Birto’s circle. The whisper came from behind my circle. The whisper came from unmoving air currents that inspected me from head to toe and made the knife feel exceptionally sharp even though I wasn’t touching the edge of the blade.

“Your face has healed. Good.” The words were not complementary in tone. I felt chastised and had a sudden glimpse of the yellow academic dress I originally saw Birto in. I now understood the significance of the mode.

“I challenged you to summon me again with your peers, and you have done so. Do you understand why you succeeded before and succeeded now, but are not likely to succeed again as you are?”

I wanted to snark about him questioning me, but he does have a point. “Aye, I do. There is much work I have to do to prepare for a solo run, and it is not likely I will be in a position to do so for some time.”

I felt a teacher’s satisfactory smile at a recalcitrant student who has finally done something right. “Did you inspect the answers I have given you?” Did I feel something like… pride from him?

“I did. And I am satisfied with the answers you have given me and will pursue the logical lead they have opened up. You have not lied to me, Birto.”

“Of course, I didn’t!” Definitely pride in that response. The temperature lowered suddenly as did the tone of his “voice”. “But I am being rude. You have summoned me to answer a question, and here I am, interrogating you instead. So… master… Have ye an inquiry for me?”

Ye? Right, lesson time is over, and here’s the test. “I do. What do I need to know to accomplish [desired task]?”

The light in my room failed the moment I finished speaking. (Candles were out of the question.) I had a flashlight in the circle with me, just in case but I did not reach for it. (Some readers may remember the tale of the séance. I have never forgotten it.) I remained standing in the sudden and complete darkness, regarding it as Birto’s answer.

In the darkness I could see something like waves of faint yellow light surrounding me as a column bounded by the cords of my circle. Within my circle, the column of air was unremarkable. Birto’s presence remained surrounding me, but once again with that teacher’s smirk that accompanies hard lessons.

Okay, I’m in the dark. I can’t do [desired task] in full darkness though, so what else am I in? The darkness seemed to isolate me from other house members, as though the room I was conducting the ritual in had been physically removed from the house. Oh, dedication and solitude. Exclusion from external matters and isolation from unnecessary inputs.

I know to most ritual magicians that understanding is probably the first thing they learn. But coming as I am from a very muddied and interconnected method of magic and spiritualism, this kind of isolation is new and jarring to me. I had made progress with my preparations for the second Birto invocation, but if I was going to make a proper go at this, I needed to follow through completely.

“I understand. Thank you for your answer.” The waves of yellow light dipped slightly as if Birto was nodding.

I spoke again of the offering of rum, and invited him to remain a while in silence to partake of it. After a time that felt neither too long nor too short, but just right, I spoke the license for him to depart. I then took up the black knife and recited Psalm 54 once more as I slowly turned about with the blade pointing away from me.

The subtle yellow waves had ceased the moment I gave Birto the license to depart, but the heavy atmosphere remained until I recited Psalm 54 with intention to repel anything that stayed after.

I waited until the room felt normal again before turning on the flashlight and breaking the boundary of the circle to begin cleaning up after myself.

And the failed room light? The LED bulbs can’t wiggle out of a socket they were soldered into. Instead, a check of the wall plug revealed even though it appeared to be fully inserted, it was sitting out just enough to break contact. Séance redux.

I have missed the Cancer I portion of the Decans course. After what I have been through this week, the gods will just have to forgive me. I’m not sweating it this time.

I won’t be able to capitalize on the fullness of Birto’s answer for some time. An answer that has been “muddied” by the appearance and capture of “Mud”. While my personal circumstances are leading to having the opportunity to perform ritual magic “right”, those same personal circumstances are informing me that things are going to get more complicated before they start sorting themselves out.

That’s okay.

As far as I’m concerned, the primary objective of the Birto working has been achieved. I was able to speak the divine names without flinching or weeping, without fear or terror. I was able to step into the role of Ritual Magician to do what needed to be done as if I had been groomed for it from the beginning.

My name is Keri, and I am not afraid.

[All quotes are from posts made elsewhere in social media, some public, some private.]