This is one the hardest posts that I have ever had to write. My heart is breaking, my soul aches and my emotions are just about drained. My eyes are read and puffy from the hours of crying. I know the spirit world well, but the physical loss of someone important to you still makes your heart bleed.
It was the early 2000’s and I was 19. Having never fit it in with people, I was striving to find my spiritual place in the world. I finished High School where I was made fun of a lot for being “the weird girl with weird books” and “weird jewelry”---you know the usual: pentagram rings, bat necklaces, Scott Cunningham’s “WICCA For the Solitary Practitioner”—those “weird things. I was free from the conforms of High School hell and was searching for a place where I could find “like minded” people. More importantly, wanted to LEARN. I wanted someone to teach me. I needed a teacher or mentor. It seemed every group I met with was “its our way or the highway” or were strict about who they let in (in other words, established cliques!).
With the feeling of lost hope of ever finding a teacher, I discovered Our Lady of Enchantment. It was a “church” based in New Hampshire run by Lady Sabrina. The best part-- Lady Sabrina offered mail order classes (yes boys and girls---MAIL ORDER CLASSES—before the time of online classes you had to stamp and mail away your course work!!). I signed up for my Herbology and Metaphysics and passed, happily hanging my certificates on the wall in my tiny apartment I rented from my grandmother.
However, you know when they say that a teacher will find you when you are ready. Well, it’s true. One day while I was on AOL Instant Messenger (you 90’s adults get the feels), I got a message from a guy with the screen name Balaam. Turned out that he knew and studied and was initiated by Lady Sabrina herself! He said that he ran an eclectic group/coven (I use coven here only to mean a group of magickal folk that practice alternative religions). His group was in West Roxbury (like 5 minutes from my house!) and wanted to know if I wanted to meet and discuss the group to see if I would fit in.
(Ok……reflectively looking back on that as an adult—I am thinking “Wow Z, what a great way to get yourself murdered. Meeting a strange guy on the internet who has a “group” in his “home” …. But hey, I was like 19 so fuck caution!)
Well, Balaam and Tinuviel (my screen name at the time) decided to meet at Deno’s sub shop in West Roxbury (pretty much the place I would be eating after ritual for the next 10 years!). Its only a short 5-minute drive from my house, so I figured it was safe. I mean, who is going to kill someone in a sub shop?? Besides my intuition was not giving off alarm bells, so I figured I was safe. It was February 1st, 2003. I remember it well because it was the date that the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded. As I walked into the sub shop, shaking off the snow from my boots, I began to look for a guy matching the description that Balaam had given me. And there waiting in a booth at the front was a curmudgeonesque motorcycle gang kind of looking man with a grey Fu-Manchu moustache. Yep. Balaam.
We chatted a long time. Let him know what I was seeking, and his group sounded just like what I was looking for: eclectic, met regularly, hierarchy, the chance to be initiated. It was perfect. He then offered to take me to his home to show me the Temple.
(Ok ok…. yes, I know. “For fucks sake Z---you could have been killed! Going to a strange house with a strange man” --- again I was like 19 remember?? You do dumb shit at 19!).
During this entire meeting, my intuition never gave me a single that something was wrong. I felt comfortable and of course said yes. Balaam and I walked to his house and he brought me up the attic steps to an amazing Temple space. Candelabras, candles for the Quarters, giant altar, statues, a circle taped out on the floor, the most amazing smell of frankincense resin still hovering in the air. It was surreal. Like walking onto some old movie set with Vincent Price playing a sorcerer. The candles flickering on the altar from the night before. It was perfect.
I officially started attending ritual and it forever changed me. The Temple of the Seekers was partially a study group and partially a ritual group. While we did honor the Wheel and the moon phases, we also did rituals for various Gods/Goddesses. When I say eclectic—I mean it was eclectic! It was also where I learned about Ceremonial Magick. I had heard of it, but never really understood it. But over the years that I attended ritual and worked with Balaam, everything clicked. I could draw sigils and put up the LBRP in no time.
The Temple of the Seekers was made up of the best people you could find from all backgrounds. It was just how a coven/group should be. Black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight. It didn’t matter. And people came and went. But the group was open minded and non-judgmental. It was what I wished the world would be like. Everyone getting a long and not having to worry about being judged. We were like an extended family. The Temple of the Seekers became my home. I finally found a place to fit in.
One night after ritual, Balaam approached me and asked if I wanted to work with him privately for study. How could I say no! We would meet on off Temple weeks and have topics to discuss. I learned a lot from him. He taught me about the different types of pentagrams, how to draw them. How to do invocations and evocations. How to read the tarot cards correctly. I was an apprentice, and it was amazing.
After a year in the group, I decide to be dedicated. After my dedication ceremony I felt even stronger roots. I was growing not just magically, but spiritually. Being apart of the Temple of the Seekers helped to broaden my mind and I began studying other non-traditional religions and beliefs. It was like a door had been open for me to places I never thought I would go.
Balaam was more than just a High Priest; he was a good friend. I could talk to him about anything. When I said that I wanted to get a tattoo (my first mind you), Balaam told me he would take me to get my first “tramp stamp”- (he was not very subtle with words- but that is why he was great!). On a cold rainy fall day, we drove to Alston, MA and I got my first tat at Sting Ray. Balaam of course peaked in on my session many times, mostly because I think he just wanted to see if I could handle the pain.
Balaam was the kind of person who emanated wisdom and knowledge, and yet a had a big personality, swearing profusely and making dirty jokes. A real-life version of Baron Samedi! I remember I was his secret Santa one Yule. I found him a shirt that said, “All I Want for Christmas is Santa’s Naughty List.” It was an appropriate gift. Balaam introduced me to sushi and shumai and Israel Regardie and Aleister Crowley, Egyptian ushabtis and most importantly the Goddess Lilith.
In 2005, when my friend Melissa died, Balaam made sure that the Temple did a death ritual to honor her spirit. It was a surprise for me. I had no idea that we were doing that until after our regular ritual, Balaam handed out the death ritual to all us. It was those little things that made him even more special. How I wish I had a copy of that so I could perform it now for him.
In 2004, I decided I wanted to be Initiated. It’s a big deal in the magickal community to be initiated. Its like a rebirth. I will never forget that night! It was in November. November 21st, I believe. I had been on a strict diet for a month in preparation for initiation. And on the day of my initiation I was fasting. As a duty prior to the ritual, I had to clean the Temple. I love cleaning; but not when I have been fasting all day! The amount of dirt and dust from the candles and incense was like cleaning tar off a road. It took me six long hours and very dirty feet to get that room sparkling! Eventually, the High Priestess of the Temple called me down for a ritual bath. During the bath, the electricity went out. The whole block, it seemed, had gone into darkness (I’d like to think it was just for me!). With that said, my initiation was quite amazing. There wasn’t the soft music of Gerald Jay Markoes “Meditations Music of Ancient Egypt” playing the background as it did at all rituals. There was just me, bare ass necked, blind folded and bound. And trust me, if there was anyone who could bind your hands and feet so you were completely vulnerable--it was Balaam! Being spun around by Balaam and Zephyr. I remember the words, the oaths I took at the tip of a sword aimed at my heart, the ritual. And most of all, I remember Balaams booming voice saying, “From now forth, she will be known as Zehara.”
I was reborn. Zehara.
There was an awakening after my initiation. I felt like a stronger minded individual. There was something that ignited me. And once Zehara entered the world—there was nothing I could not dream or do. It was shortly after I was initiated that I started officially taking belly dance classes. And then…I started performing…. Then I started performing with snakes…so I added the Hebrew word “Nachash” to the end of my name. I was now the Bright Serpent. Everyone knew me only by Zehara. And even after years of performing and teaching, I will never be known to others under any other name but Zehara.
Balaam had given me a binder with all the rituals, rules and information I needed to continue my journey. I added to it often, when he would give me spells and rituals from his own collection. Since then I have added to it throughout the years with various information that I have received from my other studies. The small binder Balaam gave me, is now a huge binder going into its second edition. Its my Book of Shadows.
Balaam always told me how happy he was that I went on to teach magick. It was what he wanted me to do. Teach others. I thought about starting my own Temple many times, but I still have never met the right people nor the right place to teach everything Balaam taught me. For now, it’s just workshop snippets here and there. Someday, maybe, I can do what he really wanted me to.
Balaam was a friend and spiritual father to me. When the Temple no longer existed, I felt a loss. I lost my family and my friends. I lost my home. Yet, somehow, I knew that Balaam was always around, and I could just send him a quick message and get an answer. When he opened SEEK BOOKS, I donated a bunch of my personal collection to the store. It was his dream to open a book shop. He taught me to follow my dreams. He was important to me. He was single handedly the most influential person in my life. I still have the robe from Temple and the red cord that Balaam handed me after initiation, which means even more to me now than it did years ago. Balaam taught me that we are all seekers in this world. Seeking to find out who we are and what our place is in this world. “Gnothi Se Auton,” --Know Thyself. He would say that when he placed the oil on our foreheads and entered the Temple for ritual. We are always seeking to know who we are.
While I understand death more than anyone ever needs to, and while I hold strong to the belief that there is life after death, the physical loss of my teacher and my friend hurts. In a strange way, I feel orphaned. I know I have all the knowledge and wisdom he parted on me, but knowing he is no longer here physically hurts me. It is the human part of me that is pained. My spirit knows he has only transitioned to another place.
Before ritual, myself and another initiate would have to go and set up Temple. One of the things we did was to honor the ancestors by lighting candles and reciting: “I light the light that they have made, may darkness flee this temple. I light the path that they have set, may I follow it in their wisdom.” Since the time I first uttered those words until today, I never stopped to doing that. Even now, as a Voodoo practitioner, I light my altar candles and repeat the exact same words. It was hard today to do that, as a I mumbled through tears, my voice cracking as I lit the candles. Balaam lit the path, and I only hope that I can follow it in his wisdom.
My spirituality changed and shifted since I was a seeker in the Temple. I found Voodoo, a religious practice that feels right to me, and still allows me to integrate everything I learned from Balaam into it. I understand death more. I understand the spirit world more.
I knew his time was getting close, and I needed him to know how much he meant to me. Last month, I sent him a card telling him how important he is to me. How much of an impact that he has had on me. He sent me a sweet and short message back: “You're a big part of my life too. Stay well.” I feel lucky that I was able to let him know that before he passed away.
In Voodoo, there is no concept of Heaven or Hell. There is only the land of the Ancestors. And the Ancestors, they never leave us. As difficult and hard as it is losing my mentor, I know in my heart and spirit that he is with the Ancestors, willing to continue to be a source of wisdom for me on the other side.
We all strive to leave our mark. We all want to be remembered for something. Balaam left an indelible mark on me that I will cherish until I too, enter the world of the Ancestors.
To my friend and teacher, Balaam: I love you. I miss you. Thank you.
May you seek no more.
P.S. I named my new python Psyche :) I remember all the stories you told me about your boa Psyche. The name felt right.
There is a little strip of road near our current apartment in Tucson, AZ. However, this little strip of land carries some dark and strange energy. There have been multiple car accidents on this little patch of road, and multiple deaths. Just Google "ACCIDENTS ON SPEEDWAY AND GREASEWOOD".....and you will see a lot pop up.
I am not sure if there has ever been any true paranormal research done on that area, but they many times that I have driven on that road, the indication that the spirits are restless and need to reach out is evident.
Truth is, over that little strip of road, there is a dark mist that hovers over it. Its dark and its there and it feeds of the weak. I am not saying that the victims were weak, but, they were in vunerable states of mind; alcohol, drugs and youth.
I have seen these mists before, mostly on empty patches of land, near haunted and abandoned homes and on roads. Its not like the energy that Shadow People send out. Shadow People most often focus on inviduals and attach themselves to the person. The mists on the otherhand, feed off the energy of the land and revive themeselves by finding those who are in weak states of mind -- and driving. They cause accidents, they cause distorted vision, they cause the driver to be in the state of almost a dream state.
So what are these black mists? I do not believe that they are spirits, I believe that they are creatures of the Earth. While the energies of the planet are often peaceful and calm, there are entities that are negative - after all, you cannot have positive energy without negative!
How do you keep yourself safe? For starters, do not drink, do drugs and drive! It sounds obvious, but if you are in a vunerable state- its easy for you to be a victim. Another tip! Make yourself a little gris gris bag for protection! It can also function as a air freshner! Find yourself some cloth or material that you like. Add a little bit of cotton inside, this will help absorb the oils. Fill the bag with protection herbs, such as agrimony, patchouli and basil. Add a few drops of protection oil, tie or sew the bag and decorate it if you wish. My bag has a little key and a little skull- as these are parts of my spiritual practice. Sew it up and hang it over your rear view mirror! Not only will it protect you from the negative energies, but will also serve as a great air freshner!
I will admit, when I heard that Netflix was going to have Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a series---I was a wee bit excited. I remember watching the old series with Melissa Joan Hart and loving it. I was 15 years old when the original TV show came out and was 3 years into my Wiccan journey. Of course I adored it!
And I knew.....when I saw the previews for the Netflix reboot- it wasnt going to be the cute fluffy joy that it was when I first watched it in '96. I was actually excited about that! I have grown into the occult- I moved away from Wicca -Since my early teens- I have since studied Ceremonial Magick, Necromancy, Daemonolgy, Hermeticsm, Thelema. My spirituality grew and changed until I found the right path for me which was Vodou. So when I saw the previews for the Netflix show--I was like "fuck yeah! Sabrina's grown to!"
And its easy to see the stereotypes of what a "witch" is just pop up all over the place. The Satan worship, the pseudo orgies, the dark magick--I get why modern witches were upset. At first it was hard to swallow myself. The imagery that witches, pagans and occultists have had to deal with for centuries was tossed all over the show. But then, the more I watched it-- the more I loved it. Why?? Every single non-traditional religion had a stereotype represented in the show! Not just Wicca (although the after school girls group W.I.C.C.A?? REALLY?).
For example: SATAN. Yes, I understand why witches want to be free of the horned demon. But......There really is no such thing as actual Satan worship. Anton Levay, the founder of Levayan Satanism, created the "religion" which is more a philosphy than anything else and is a practice of individalism. Satanists reject the idea of suerpnatural beings and follow the philosphical dualities of body and soul and life after death. Satanists do not even believe that Satan exists and they do not even worship him! They see him as an archtype that represents pride, enlightmentment, carnality. Satanists dont do black magick because they dont believe in magick at all!
And as for the lovely Goat Headed Baphoment---he was originally a deity of the Knights Templar-- and when Eliphas Levi got a hold of him, he became the symbol of Hermetiscm, mysticism and the occult. Baphomet needs some love to!
Evil spells? Black Magick? Ok. I know this is a touchy subject. Yes, Wiccans do not perform these--- so of course this was stereotyped in the show. But, there are many other practices that do perform darker aspects of magick. Hoodoo for example contains workings for crossing, cursing, jinxing and hexing enemies. Is Hoodoo evil? No. Its a form of folk magick.
Ahh yes....and the Vodou dolls. Sticking pins into dollies to hurt someone. Firstly, Vodou dolls have no place in either Hatian or New Orleans Vodou. In fact, the doll doesnt even come from Africa at all-- but rather Europe! The cunning folk in Britain were jabbing dolls way before there were Africans in Haiti! Vodou only got thrown in the picture when the white folks needed to demonize and demoralize the religious ideology of Afro-Carribeans.
Look, I could go on about all the stereotypes in the show. They are boundless. But, regardless of how many interviews modern day witches do, or how many Mambos need to go on the record about Vodou --- the stereotypes arent going away. Does it suck? Fuck yea! But its all apart from being part of a non-traditional religion. Even if you worship a rock-- traditional religion will find someway of making you out to be evil and wrong. Its just how it is. And I dont see any of the Abrahamic religions fading anytime soon.
The one thing we can all do, instead of moaning about "whythefuckdotheyalwaysdothis!"- just do your thing! Its a TV show. Its meant to be entertaining. If you cant laugh at yourself, then you are going to be pissy everytime a pentagram is shown. Just do you. Whenever I see a show where Vodou is supposed to be represented-- and its obviously not represented clearly- I laugh. Its because I realize the "normies" have no clue. And you can argue till your blue- aint gonna change a damn thing.
When it comes to us non traditional religious folk- you gotta stop getting upset over things people do that are out of your control. Unfortunately, dark - evil- sexy shit sells way better than wholesome. It is what is is. Educate people on your own. If you have a tat of a pentagram or a veve- and someone sees it-- or gives you a weird look-- explain to them what it is. You have to remember that most of the people in the world have zero idea what Wicca, Satanism, Hermetiscm, Vodou, Santeria etc. even is. Just dont get all upset when a new TV program comes on and you feel insulted. Just watch it, laugh at how badly and silly they represent your religion and keep doing you....
And just for fun...here is a cute baby Baphomet!
I watch A TON of horror movies...it’s just a known fact that when you get invited over for a movie night—a horror movie is on the menu! Of course, my favorites are the ones where people get possessed by demons- I always love how the characters over act to make themselves look like unnatural beings. And I always love how Satan is always the possessor- or of course one of minions.
Then I am most always asked--- "do you believe in demonic possession?"
Before I tell you my take on it, let me just say that demons and possession play differently in everyone's religious or spiritual beliefs. And in almost all religious practices, there is always some type of possession.
Now... for my answer.
No. I do not think you can be possessed by demons. Now don’t get me wrong, I 100% believe in possession; I do after all practice Vodou. I know that spirits can take over your body, but do I believe demonic energy can- no. To me a "demon" is something that can attach itself to you and drain your energy. But, this something can only attach itself to you if you are already possessed by something else that is not good for you: a bad relationship, drugs, alcohol. Those things that feed whatever it is that you cannot release yourself from. That is when negative energy can "possess" you.
I always think of negative energy possession as a virus. You are already sick with an illness (and yes drug abuse and alcohol abuse are an illness). Since you already sick, your susceptible to other viruses- negative energy. The negative energy already sees you like a wounded animal- and it goes at you like carrion. Then you start to feel more burnt out, more darkness and more out of control. This to me is a negative possession.
So, what is negative energy and what does it look like? As someone who works closely with the land of spirit, whenever I see negative energy around a person or even in a place, it forms itself into a dark dense floating mass. Its an energy being as I like to call them. It just floats around until it finds something or someone to feed off.
Sometimes people have these floating masses of energy around them and when they see another person to feed off, a part of it attaches it to that person. Have you ever been in a toxic relationship? A toxic friendship? When you couldn’t figure out why you were feeling so shitty even though these relationships made you feel “good” … It’s that dark mass of energy interlinking you to those people. It is often why you can’t break away. Why you stay in a relationship that you know is not good for you.
The next question is-how do you get rid of it? For starters you need to look at the root of the virus. What is making you feel physically ill? Once you break from that you can start to get rid of the possession.
I highly recommend Cut and Clear oil and bath crystals (from a reputably root worker of course!). Make yourself a nice bath, add the crystals and soak. As you are soaking imagine whatever your holding on to is washing away. Pull the drain and visualize yourself breaking free of whatever was holding you down.
Get a figure candle and anoint with the cut and clear oil. As you do this, say: “all negative energies holding me down is now gone. As this candle burns, so you diminish,” and light the candle.
When the candle is finally burned down, take the wax and bury it in a place where most people do not walk. This is you burying the negative energy. Walk away and do not look back.
You may need to do this several times until you feel yourself free from the energy!
There is saying about Voodoo—it finds you. There is also another saying about Voodoo: you take what you know and make it grow.