I’m grooving on Frater Acher’s recent post on closing down his current temple work and releasing it into the earth (thanks, Simon, for linking to it). It reminds me of something quite important that I don’t often see discussed in the current lovefest around necromancy. While there has been a good bit of talk about cultivating your ancestors, it doesn’t seem to have blossomed into a full ancestral reverence. More often than not, that care for the ancestors is put in quite practical terms like “having your ancestors happy means you can call on them more readily for help” or “if your ancestors are unhappy, they can interfere with what you want.”
Much of this seems to ride on thinking of magic as power, magic as efficacy, magic as medicine, magic as prosperity. Practical goals, practical magic, right? But when I look back at the triadic diaspora that has been a very useful rubric for me, what is it that the goos do that the magi and goes don’t?
Well, first and foremost, they aren’t about getting things done, but about taking care of the dead. They aren’t harassing the dead for this or that, they are welcoming them back for dinner or mourning their absence so as to facilitate them taking their place in the next life. They are checking to see if they have unfinished business and helping them take care of it, right down to the social negotiations and compromises that demands on all sides.
When you put that at the heart of a magical practice, what do you have? It isn’t practical, it isn’t powerful, it’s care. A failure to respect care slides easily into a failure to respect those who give care or need to receive care. With the erasure of care, we find only barter, the market sweeping into the sacred and threatening to dissolve its substance.
The funny thing is that care is the strongest of communal bonds. It is flexible, it bears up under strain fairly well. Its flexibility and durability make it harder to conceptualize than practical demands. It operates by thresholds and tipping points in a way that more strictly goal-minded thinking does not. Ancestral work operating from an attitude of care weaves the ancestral forces more firmly into daily life and while it may slow the speed of ‘progress,’ that is often a good thing.
While this care is difficult to imagine and conceptualize, it is also less imaginary and more real. It is that which preserves the community’s integrity in the face of the bumps and strains that egocentric pragmatism introduces.
Okay, so what does this have to do with Frater Acher’s burying of his tools? When someone undertakes the lifelong care work of ancestral reverence, they move toward becoming an ancestral force whose life of caring for the ancestors becomes like that consecrated tool, one that will be buried in the invisible earth. They become the locus of ancestral forces for those who come after them, a well-disposed caring that will support their descendants and rally the ancestors to support and nourish them.
The body that dies with them is the tool that refreshes the ancestral earth. It may be one of the first places from which the ‘Western Tradition’ loses touch with the thread of sincere Kabbalism, too, because the Kabbalist becomes the righteous man offered as a sacrifice to God. The Kabbalist prepares themselves to be the gift that secures the presence of God among the people.