Sunday, November 15, 2020

A Quick History of Astral Projection

A while back on an occult books group, someone was looking for books in Latin about Astral Projection. Immediately I knew I'd not seen that term in any book old enough to be from the era of Latin writing. This led me to investigate when the first use of the term "astral projection" appeared in English.

Using Google Books, I saw little use of the phrase before the 1890s; though Atkinson's account of "Dream Psychomancy" bears some semblance to the phenomenon :

One morning in December, 1836, he had the following dream, or, he would
prefer to call it, revelation. He found himself suddenly at the gate of
Major N. M.'s avenue, many miles from his home. Close to him was a group
of persons, one of whom was a woman with a basket on her arm, the rest
men, four of whom were tenants of his own, while the others were unknown
to him. Some of the strangers seemed to be murderously assaulting H. W.,
one of his tenants, and he interfered. "I struck violently at the man on
my left, and then with greater violence at the man's face on my right.
Finding, to my surprise, that I had not knocked down either, I struck
again and again with all the violence of a man frenzied at the sight of
my poor friend's murder. To my great amazement I saw my arms, although
visible to my eye, were without substance, and the bodies of the men I
struck at and my own came close together after each blow through the
shadowy arms I struck with. My blows were delivered with more extreme
violence than I ever think I exerted, but I became painfully convinced
of my incompetency. I have no consciousness of what happened after this
feeling of unsubstantiality came upon me." Next morning he experienced
the stiffness and soreness of violent bodily exercise, and was informed
by his wife that in the course of the night he had much alarmed her by
striking out again and again with his arms in a terrific manner, 'as if
fighting for his life.' He, in turn, informed her of his dream, and
begged her to remember the names of those actors in it who were known to
him. On the morning of the following day (Wednesday) he received a
letter from his agent, who resided in the town close to the scene of the
dream, informing him that his tenant had been found on Tuesday morning
at Major N. M.'s gate, speechless and apparently dying from a fracture
of the skull, and that there was no trace of the murderers. That night
he started for the town, and arrived there on Thursday morning. On his
way to a meeting of magistrates he met the senior magistrate of that
part of the country, and requested him to give orders for the arrest of
the three men whom, besides H. W., he had recognised in his dream, and
to have them examined separately. This was at once done. The three men
gave identical accounts of the occurrence, and all named the woman who
was with them. She was then arrested, and gave precisely similar
testimony. They said that between eleven and twelve on the Monday night
they had been walking homewards along the road, when they were overtaken
by three strangers, two of whom savagely assaulted H. W., while the
other prevented his friends from interfering. H. W. did not die, but was
never the same man afterwards; he subsequently emigrated. (Vol. I. p.
In the past it's probable that these kinds of events would have been attributed to visions through dreams rather than through astral projection. The old time hoodoo concept  of "witches" who "ride" you when you sleep also seems to be considered as a practice achieved through something like astral projection. 

In fact, the oldest reference to astral projection I can find by that name is 1887, in a fictional book titled Mohammed Benani, where the concept is considered as "theosophy" -- an old word, but in this era usually associated with the Theosophical Society.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Pirate Graves and the Jolly Roger


I'm not a fan of pirates -- but I am a fan of old graveyards. In the last decade or so, I've noticed an increasingly prevalent belief that graves which include a skull and crossbones design are the graves of pirates. Below is a screencap demonstrating the issue.

The too common mistake seems to come from a popular association of the skull and crossbones design with the pirate flag or "Jolly Roger." Yet, historical records of pirates suggest this exact flag might have never even been used. A 1724 account of a pirate attack states:

About Eleven of the Clock one Night, after the whole Crew had been Some Time assembled in the great Cabbin, I heard three Huzza's, and then they all came upon Deck, and hoisted Jolly Roger, (for so they call their black Ensign, in the Middle of which is a large white Skeleton, with a Dart in one Hand, striking a bleeding Heart, and in the other an Hour Glass.) [...] When they fight under Jolly Roger, they give Quarter, which they do not when they fight under the Red or Bloody Flag.

(The image described actually resembles this 17th century seal found at Jamestown.)

Even if we suppose that some pirate did eventually streamline the design into a skull and crossbones, seeing such an image on a grave does not denote a pirate anymore than the skull and crossbones on old poison bottles denotes that it was meant for pirates. It is simply a generic symbol for death. In a time when people contemplated and confronted death in ways that are perceived as "morbid" or "unhealthy" now, to put skulls and other symbols of death on gravestones seemed entirely logical. An increase in prudery starting somewhere around the late 18th century saw the disuse of skulls and skeletons as tombstone decoration, replaced with more indirect symbols such as angels, obelisks and Grecian urns. 

It's of note that, in old time writings contemporary to what people think of as pirates, the pirate graves are usually suggested to be very rough and plain -- not the kind of monuments that would include carved designs; and it can be reasoned that, as piracy was not legal, if you had made a fortune through piracy you probably wouldn't want to advertise that fact, lest the authorities come to seize your property (or, if you'd already died, that of your heirs.) 

As to the name Jolly Roger, its etymology is uncertain. It could relate to a popular song of the early 18th century called Jolly Roger Twangdillo, in the same way that polka dots have nothing really to do with polka dancing except that it was a popular fad at the time of the naming. It's also been speculated as a corruption of some other phrase, joli rouge (pretty red) being sometimes suggested, though not likely since the Jolly Roger flag was black. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Spiritual Use of Turpentine in Hoodoo and Witchcraft


I have posted in the past about the use of giving one's bedding a spiritual cleansing from time to time. I recently was laundering my pillows in the same load of laundry as some turpentine-soaked rags, with the result that the pillows emerged from the wash reeking of turpentine. 

From a magical perspective, this may not be a bad thing. Turpentine is used in old-time hoodoo rituals for purposes such as uncrossing, protection and sometimes as a feed for mojo bags. Its solvent powers and strong odor do indeed suggest a powerful spiritual cleansing agent, and it is still used in some modern day cleaning products on a purely practical level for these same reasons. 

Old time medicines sometimes included turpentine as a thing to drink, in small doses. A book from the 1850s, The Domestic Medicine Chest, recommends giving it to children in a dose of one teaspoon for killing tapeworm. Relatedly, in old time hoodoo cures for "live things" turpentine might be made into a tea along with other herbs and drunk down by the victim. There were also old time hoodoo "pills" made to cure conjure, such as one recipe of powdered silver and dragon's blood resin, moistened with turpentine and formed into pills which the conjured person swallowed in order to cure their ailment. 

If one suspected that cursed items had been placed or buried on their property by enemies, sprinkling the grounds with a mixture of turpentine and black oak bark infusion was said to draw up the items so that they could be found. To kill the power of any conjured items, turpentine and salt mixed together could be sprinkled over them. 

Turpentine is also said to chase away the power of conjure from inflicting one's body or home in the first place. Pouring a bit of turpentine into dishes in the four corners of a room (or, if one doesn't have to worry about damage to paint or carpets, poured directly onto the ground in each corner) is said to protect against conjure. One of Hyatt's informants advised rubbing turpentine directly onto one's body as a form of protection -- allegedly one's enemies "couldn’t do you nothin’ -- dey couldn’t stand you, dey wouldn’t have nothing to do with you." One supposes the strong odor alone might drive people away, but some people actually enjoy the scent of it -- Demeter Fragrances offers perfume, soap and room fragrances that smell like turpentine.

Another interesting use of turpentine is in this breakup formula, doubtless chosen because of its power to dissolve oils, varnishes, etc.: to break up a couple, one could sprinkle on their porch a mixture of grave dirt, turpentine, salt and sulfur. Many older breakup formulas contain ingredients found in uncrossing formulas, and there may be a supposition that the relationship is held together by witchcraft to begin with.