Getting a familiar is a big job. Throughout this series I’ve referred to spirits “answering your call.” Summoning. Where do you start?
Summoning can be an overwrought affair. Special diagrams, custom incenses, don’t pronounce the name wrong or else—! This is because most magicians decide on a specific spirit and then demand that it show up.
Here at altmagic we’re not most magicians.
How do you meet a cute girl or boy? Go to a party.
How do you make great new business contacts? Go to a party.
So… how do you meet a familiar spirit?
Wait for it…
You go to a party.
The Feast of Spirits
Imagine you’re the epicenter of a vast circle of friendly spirits. They come and go as they wish, and your altar becomes a regular stop for the most knowledgeable and interesting of unseen beings. Among them are one or a few who become your constant companions.
This is the method at the heart of my ceremony: the Feast of Spirits. I’ll share a simplified version of the Feast with you today. This technique will work well for you. I know, because it works for me every time I use it.
The great strength of the Feast is not just the results it delivers, but the position it grants you. The Feast isn’t a business arrangement, it’s something much more powerful: a social event. The Feast is to spirit-calling as a party at the Hiltons’ house is to mouthbreather-calling.
The reason for the lack of protection charms should be clear now. The spirits on your guest list are not threats, they’re soon to be your peers.
To hold the Feast of Spirits you need just two things:
+ Something to attract spirits
+ Something to offer spirits
Offerings are easy. I do not believe in “spirit feeding.” The offerings you make to spirits aren’t necessary for their wellbeing; they’re symbolic. This means you can give a relatively small offering, and it’s worth making it high quality. It’s the opposite of mortal guests. When people come to visit you need enough hamburgers for everyone, even if it means buying the discount buns. With spirits it’s better to pour the top-shelf wine even if you use just a splash.
But I stand by the Africa proverb: If you have nothing to give, offer snails. If you have no snails, offer dirt. #occupygrimoires
Once you’ve chosen your offering, the remaining question is how you attract spirits. The easiest answer is to light a beacon and invite them.
So, like, get a candle or something.
At this point you can shoehorn whatever elaborate magical tradition you have in there. Maybe you need to raise a massive spike of energy to attract a pile of spirits, huh? You can add some vibrating syllables or greater pentagrams or energy cones or four directions or invoke the four elements, I mean five elements, I mean seven elements – if you like.
Honestly, do whatever you need to get the party started. But when the chanting and stick-shaking is done, just make sure there’s a lit candle that’s been dedicated as an offering to any and all friendly spirits, and something on hand to give to your guests. And leave a window open: sure this is minimalist magic, but points for style.
Here’s a play by play of how I do the Feast of the Spirits (basic version).
1:/ I get the space ready. I always hold this rite at night.
2:/ I open the window.
3:/ Mood lighting. I light the magic candle and kill the other lights.
4:/ Offerings to Lugh. I didn’t mention this part above because it’s not strictly necessary. Lugh is my patron deity. I make offerings to him and ask him to bless and watch over the feast.
5:/ Dedicate the candle. I lay my hands on the candle, channel magic into it and ask that it be a beacon letting all spirits know they have a refuge here. (I literally say all spirits because I will take in anyone. Say all good spirits if you prefer.) If you like the 1800s, you can think of this as creating an “astral” lantern out of the material candle.
6:/ I already have a familiar, so I make sure he’s on hand. He’s doorman and if needed he can act as bouncer. It’s never been needed.
7:/ Sitting beside the candle, I close my eyes and enter a light trance. Often it takes a while for the spirits to come, but in time they do come.
At this point if you’re an experienced magician you have some idea of how to fill in the blanks. You can probably whip up a version of this with no further instruction.
If you’re a beginner or you’re not so sure, what questions do you have? Ask and I’ll answer.
One note: A mirror can be helpful for interacting with the spirits who show up. I used to use my black mirror Danielle. Now I don’t use anything at all. How exactly to interact with these spirits – and how to form a bond with one as a familiar – is a topic for the next entry.
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