Humans have always been fascinated with the promise of the stars; their alluring lights traveling unthinkable distances to shine upon our uplifted gazes here on this relatively tiny blue ball. But, at the same time, there is much to wonder at here on Earth; Nature’s fertile womb producing more life in a teaspoon of ocean water than on all the rest of the planets in our solar system.
In magical / mythical terms, the cosmos is typically thought to be derived from a static resting state of potential, often described as an egg which cracks open. This state is alternatively described as a sea, as “dark waters”, etc. which are divided into heaven and earth (and under-earth; the underworld).
This division of heaven and earth is fundamental to how we (in the “West”) conceive of reality, divinity, and the relationship between the two. “As above, so below”, we say; meaning that the stories of the stars play out again and again down on Earth. The vast majority of the western esoteric system is based on this hierarchical, emanatory cosmology –and it works; celestial magic is extremely potent.
But, what about earth magic? What about the magic of the elements, the nature spirits, the Fae, and the daemons? If we spend too much time looking up, will we miss the magic that’s right in front of us? And, what makes it different? How’s it work? What can we do with it?
These are the questions I hope to answer, at least in part, by comparing sky magic and earth magic (dirt sorcery) and attempting to find a balance between the two.
How Are Sky Magic And Dirt Sorcery Different?
By “sky magic”, I mean when we invoke the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars in various rituals to petition them for the outcomes which we desire, such as prosperity, love, fame, power, and so on.
Conversely, by “dirt sorcery”, I’m referring to the magic of the natural world: finding or growing things, healing and renewal, weather wizardy, communication with nature, and other matters in the wheelhouse of Mother Nature.
When we petition celestials there is typically a theurgic ritual, which must be timed to certain days, hours, and astrological elections. It is customary to be clean and have the environment filled with certain things related to the nature of the planetary spirit, and smelling of particular incenses, to attune the space to the spirit.
Venerating the Earth, and engaging with Nature’s immanently present spirits requires much less pomp. Rituals can be simpler. They are typically shamanic in nature and do not require complex astrological timing. To attune to the spirit of the Earth you need only stick your hands in the dirt and feel the breeze on your face. A rainstorm is a manifestation of the divine Earth, as are blooming flowers, fruiting trees, and the busy, busy bees.
We cast our eyes skyward in awe to behold the gods and their myths play out in the heavens. For the wonders of the Earth, you need only look around you with attentive eyes and a quiet mind.
When To Use Sky Magic?
The Olympians are very human in their preoccupations: power, sex, wealth, beauty, war, ambition, and the rest. We go to them for “civilized” matters -meaning matters important to “civilization”.
The magic which occupied Graeco-Egpytian wizards was nearly all concerned with Olympians and their Titan predecessors. Talismans made with the names of gods, or under favorable astrology, were carried, worn, and buried at the homes of enemies, among other uses. Curse tablets, protection amulets, prosperity talismans, and more; the art of “making images” has always been connected to the worship and supplication of sky gods, in one form or another.
Due to the fairly recent translation of astrological magical texts, namely the Picatrix, and various other sky-god-centric grimoires, astro-magic is on the rise again in the western tradition. Celestial magic is so effective at producing the desirable effects that the only question is when not to use it.
When To Use Dirt Sorcery?
To the spirits of nature we bring concerns of growing, nurturing, healing, revealing hidden things, dying well, and so on. There is plenty of reason -and opportunity- to engage in both schools of magic.
When growing and tending to living things; when securing land, or acquiring it; when healing from illness or injury (rather than causing it); in any situations where you want a naturally-occurring outcome, but in your favor.
Work with heavenly spirits when you need people to do something that they might not otherwise do. Work with earthly spirits when you need Nature to do what she does best, in a particular way that suits your needs. Call upon her kindness, upon her regenerative powers, to bring you into relationship with your environment, to keep you grounded, to heal you, and provide for you.
As we call upon the planetary spirits for access to their angels and demons, or the Moon to conjure her mansion spirits, we call upon Mother Nature for access to the spirits of this plane: the elementals, the genus loci, the “good people”, and others. This is magic of place, of relationality, and of creating and maintaining balance.
Essential Sky Magic
Weekly theurgic rituals at the day and hour of any planetary intelligence whose favor you seek builds the necessary foundation for later magical workings. Regular devotional rituals, acts, and offerings, and lots of prayer, are the keys to the heavenly kingdom, so to speak.
Awareness of the Moon’s condition, phase, and placement at any given time is necessary for most practical astrological magic and, even in the planetary day/hour modality, one should always be concerned with the waxing and waning of the Moon.
Find a professional astrologer to help you understand your birth chart, if you don’t already (ask me for recommendations). Learn your strongest and weakest planets and how to remediate your vulnerabilities. Buy or create talismans to boost your fortune in your weak areas and to enhance your natural talents to supernatural levels.
Procure talismanic oils to dress your magical tools and yourself with during rituals, or when you need a touch of fortune on-the-go. Cast astrologically-timed spells to improve your luck in love, in business, or in the public eye. Cast them to protect your interests, to fulfill ambitions, to rise in fame, to find glory –to weave fate in your favor.
Essential Dirt Sorcery
Call upon the healing energies of Pachamama (Mother Earth) to bring yourself back into right-relation, and therefore into “flow” as well. The ritual needn’t be fancy; a candle, local incense, a glass of milk and/or water, is all you need. Blow into the four directions (in recognition of the four winds) and whisper a prayer of gratitude, humility, and love. And, nurturing mother that she is, she always gives generously of herself.
Buy dirt (ask permission, bury three silver coins) from places of personal importance; such as your home, work, your garden if you have one, and any places to which you feel deeply connected. In our search for our future jungle sanctuary in the Riviera Maya we collected dirt from the area we wanted to buy in -and later the lot we’ve since contracted to purchase.
Use the dirt as a conduit to make contact with the nature spirit, house spirit, etc – the genus loci- to whom you’re trying to do “business” with. Set up an altar for this purpose and leave regular offerings to build a relationship with the spirit (watch my video “Reciprocity And Spirit Dynamics” for more on this).
Mark your home’s boundaries well, circumambulate them while smudging (suffumigating apotropaically) with local incense, and repeating something to the effect of “any negative energies or entities that wish me harm can fuck right off and never return”, and then mark the bounds with salt.
There is, of course, much more that can be accomplished by an adventurous sorcerer, willing to stick their hands in the dirt, dance in the rain, and leave gifts for the good neighbors.
Balancing Sky And Earth
Sky magic is incredibly powerful and quite easy to wield, almost frighteningly so. For a very reasonable amount of magical effort (time spent in veneration), our heavenly host can be convinced to shine favor upon you. However, as they do, they will simultaneously drag you through all kinds of intrigues and dramas; like a pawn on the cosmic chessboard. Mother Earth could care less for human drama and asks very little of you in return: to love one another, to exist in harmony and balance, and to assist in the flourishing of all life.
However, I wouldn’t recommend calling on Pachamama for a promotion at work. She won’t be very helpful; this is the domain of the sky gods. By the same token, why call upon Venus or Saturn for assistance in the garden, when you can appeal to Mother Nature directly?
The sky gods have their place in our practices, clearly. They are too powerful to ignore and we’re subject to their whims regardless, so it’s best to stay in their good graces. Having said that, I do think one can become too focused on what’s happening in the stars and lose sight of the wonders right in front of them.
Astrological magic is all the rage, for good reason, but, during these violent and unpredictable times, I crave the balance of right-relation as a counterweight against the exhaustingly heroic narratives of the Olympians.
We are all tired, mind, body, and soul, after the last few years. Ambition turns us into the heroes of our personal stories but, in reality, we are simply adrift in the tidal movements of time and place -and the gods do as they will. It is necessary and desirable to work magic to achieve one’s goals but we should take care that these lofty ideals don’t have us doing the work of the archons. There are essentially no downsides to working with our eternally-regenerative Mother Earth; to heal ourselves, to bring stability and peace into the world, to grow, nurture, and flourish.
There are many reasons to balance one’s practice between Earth and Sky but, most compellingly, there is evidence that traditions venerating the spirts of both realms stretch from prehistory, through Egypt and Greece, all the way to latest expressions of paganism throughout the world. We are creatures of earth and also spirits from the stars and the magic of both is real and powerful. Only through their combined practice do we achieve our greatest potential.
Featured Image: Little Gifts by Castaguer93