Blade of the Art : Magical Daggers and Spirit Blades

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Hello fine reader, recently on the interwebs I was having a discussion about a previous post I made on the use of Blood in Conjuration of spirits. A delightful young lady brought up the subject of blades used in such rites, and how often times they will pick up or self generate a spirit of their own. I’ve found this to be the case over time of use, and the lack of study of this property in the western occult community sorely lacking. So, where do we start our quest for the spirit blade? How about in our own backyard, in the most unlike of places, the Mormon church.

The Smith family dagger was listed in the inventory of Hyrum Smith’s “relics.” An authorized biography of Hyrum Smith described the artifact as “Dagger, Masonic [—] ten inch, stainless steel—wooden handle—Masonic symbols on blade” (Pearson Corbett, Hyrum Smith, Patriarch, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1963, p. 453). Slides of the dagger were screened at the Sunstone Theological Symposium, August 24, 1985, Salt Lake City, Utah. Symbols on the blade are not “Masonic,” but they are used in ceremonial magic. One side of the blade has the seal of Mars. The other side of the blade has a symbol for the “Intelligence of Mars,” the zodiac sign for Scorpio and the Hebrew letters for “Adonai.” Occult books recommend the inscription of “Adonai” for those seeking a treasure-trove (Agrippa, Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, 1655, p. 81; Ebenezer Sibly, New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences, illustration opposite p. 1103; Francis Barrett, Magus, 1801, II:110). These magical signs were inscribed according to instructions for inscribing occult symbols (Henry Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, London: Gregory Moule, 1651, p. 245; Barrett, Magus, I: illustrations opposite pp. 143, 174; Melton, Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, vol. 2, p. 1179). Mars is the governing planet of Smith Sr.’s birth year (1771).

The dagger is claimed by historian D. Michael Quinn to be associated with the practice of magic:
The big problem for Quinn is that a dagger is usually just a dagger. Everyone in the nineteenth-century frontier had at least one, and most people had many. Some daggers were inscribed; others were not. Daggers were bought and sold just like any other tool and could easily pass from one owner to another. Given the data presented above, we do not know when, where, or how Hyrum obtained his dagger, or even if he really did. Since there is no documentation on the dagger until 1963, it could have been obtained by one of his descendants after his death and later accidentally confused with Hy rum’s heirlooms. We do not know what it meant to Hyrum (assuming he owned it).

Was it simply a dagger with some strange marks? Was it a gift to him from a Masonic friend? All of this is speculation—but it is no more speculative than Quinn’s theories. Whatever the origin and purpose of the dagger, though, it is quite clear that, based on the evidence Quinn himself has presented, it does not match the magic daggers designed for making magic circles nor does it match the astrology of any of the Smiths.
Hamblin concludes that,
[D. Michael] Quinn, and those who have followed him, have completely misunderstood or misrepresented the purpose of the dagger. The inclusion of the astrological sigil for Scorpio means the dagger was designed for someone born under the sign of Scorpio. None of the Smiths was. Therefore, it was not made for the Smiths. Quinn demonstrates no understanding of talismanic magic. The inclusion of the talismanic sigils for Mars means it was designed to grant victory in battle or litigation. It was not designed for ceremonial magic or treasure hunting, as Quinn claims. Quinn cites sources from after 1870 as evidence for what the Smiths supposedly believed, while completely misrepresenting those sources. The only possible conclusion to draw from all this is that the dagger was made for an unknown person, and, if it somehow came into the possession of Hyrum Smith, it was obtained secondhand with the engravings already made. This conforms with the late Smith family tradition that remembers the signs on the blade as “Masonic” rather than magical.

Was this just a tool of the Art by a practitioner of the time? It is said of the blade the often it shines in dark places and at times seems to move on it’s own accord in the vault where it is kept, but this is just rumor, and the Mormons are quite sensitive when it comes to talk of magic in their history, so we must move on to a more well known spirit blade, at least in the East.

One of the oldest types of ‘medicine tools’from the shamanic traditions in the Himalayas is the phurba (phurbu or phurpa).Known variously as a demon dagger, magical knife, thunder nail, or diamond
spike, this three-sided blade is a powerful ritual implement used by shamans, magicians, tantrikas (tantric practitioners), and lamas of different ethnic backgrounds and spiritual orientations.Considered the ‘centre of the
shamanic universe’ for practitioners in Nepal’s Katmandu Valley, phurbas are widely used among peoples such as the Tamang, Gurung, and Newari TibetoBurmese tribes. They are also used by Sherpas, and Tibetans living in exile in Nepal (Bhotyas) or elsewhere in the world. Hence, these implements are a product of thousands of years’ influence by Hinduism, Buddhism, Bon, and the earliest shamanic traditions. The roots of spiritual practices using
phurbas are very ancient. To a Himalayan shaman, everything approximating a phallic form can be thought of as
symbolising a phurba, including the actual shaman. In turn, all phurbas can be traced back to the creator-god Shiva’s sacred phallus or lingam, which represents the primal energy of the universe.

 

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The deity most commonly associated with and invoked by the ‘thunder nail’ is Dorje Phurba, whose name means ‘Adamantine Dagger’ and who represents primordial awareness. In the older Tibetan traditions, he is a wrathful manifestation of the water element and an important protector who pierces the ignorance that lies at the heart of all anger, hatred, aggression, fear, and pride. Later Buddhist traditions absorbed Dorje Phurba’s attributes and represented him as a wrathful form of Padmasambava, the Tantric Buddha who first brought the teachings to Nepal and Tibet. In this form, the phurba’s spirit is seen as helping all beings remove the deep-seated blocks that hindered their path to Enlightenment. Hence the phurba came to represent a wrathful form of the compassionate activities that are fundamental to all Buddhas, and to play a central role in meditative practices. In Nepal Dorje Phurba is seen as an important helper spirit for shamans. In fact it is said the every Dorje Phurba has a spirit come to reside within it at it’s moment of creation, and only by using it to destroy ignorance can you keep that spirit happy and well fed.

The last type of Spirit Blade I’d like to talk about today are the most compelling artifacts when it comes to the discussion at hand. I am talking of the Kris, a distinctive, asymmetrical dagger indigenous to Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the southern Philippines. Both a weapon and spiritual object, krisses are often considered to have an essence or presence, with some blades possessing good luck and others possessing bad.
The kris spread from the island of Java to many parts of the archipelago of Indonesia, such as Sumatra, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, South Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and to the Southeast Asian areas now known as Malaysia, Brunei, southern Philippines, southern Thailand, and Singapore.

 

 

kris-knife-with-wooden-sheath

 

 

Keris blades are usually narrow and have a wide, asymmetrical base. Blade length is highly variable. The blade is made from different iron ores and often contains nickel. A bladesmith, or empu, makes the blade in layers of different metal. Some blades can be made in a relatively short time, while more legendary weapons can take years or even a lifetime to complete. In high quality the metal of the blade has been folded dozens or even hundreds of times and handled with the utmost precision. There are keris blades that purportedly carry the imprints of the smith’s thumbs, or even lips, which were impressed upon the blade during the forging process. The different metals used to forge the blade gives the keris its distinctive ‘watered’ appearance.

This is called pamor and is similar in concept to Damascus patterning on Indo-Persian blades and “hada” on Japanese blades. Blades are acid-etched after forging to bring out the contrasting patterns formed by the various metals used in the keris. Iron ore sources are rare in some areas of the Malay world, especially in Java. The keris-smiths, called Empu (for those highly skilled smiths in the employ of Kratons, who can pass down their title of Empu to their sons) or pandai keris (for smiths of varying skill levels, working outside of kratons), often use myriad types of metal ores that they can find to make the blade. There are tales of blades made from meteorite iron (rare and highly prized due to its spiritual significance and higher nickel content) to scrap metals from vehicles, tools, railway tracks, captured Dutch cannons and blades, and in recent times, bicycle chains. Keris blades can be straight or sinuous. With sinuous blades, the bends are called luks. Most keris have fewer than 13 luks and the number of luks should be odd, or the keris would be considered unlucky. The sinuous blade has become synonymous with the keris, especially today as it has become a popular tourist souvenir. In reality more than half of the old keris have straight blades. The luks maximize the width of wound while maintaining its weight.
A keris and its sheath have many parts. The names for these parts vary by region. The following terms apply mainly to the Javanese keris. ukiran – handle/hilt; patra – handle carvings (especially on Javanese ukiran); selut – metallic cap on the ukiran (not on all krisses); mendak – metal cup on the tang between the ukiran and the blade guard; wilah – blade; pocok – blade point; peksi – tang; ganja – guard/parrying structure; wrangka – the wide, top portion of the sheath; gandar – the narrow portion of the sheath; pendok – a metal sleeve for the gandar; buntut- end of the pendok.
The ukiran and the sheath are often made from wood, though examples made from ivory or covered in gold sheets could be found. Different regions in Southeast Asian produce different styles of wilah, ukiran, and sheaths. One beautiful material used for some ukiran and wrangka was fossilized mammoth molar, called “graham”.

 

Discussing the essence of the kris is a complicated topic. For the most part, blades were considered to almost be alive in some cases, or at the very least vessels of special powers. Often they are named and considered a member of the household. Krisses could be tested two ways. A series of cuts on a leaf, based on blade width and other factors, could determine if a blade was good or bad. Also, if the owner slept with the blade under their pillow and had a bad dream, the blade was unlucky and had to be discarded. However, just because a blade was bad for one person didn’t mean it would be bad for another. Harmony between the owner and the kris was critical.
It was said that some krisses helped prevent fires, death, agricultural failure, and myriads of other problems. Likewise, they could also bring fortune, such as bountiful harvests and the like. Krisses could also have tremendous killing power. Some are rumored to be able to stand on its tip when its real name was being called by its master. I’ve personally seen a Kris move across a table at the sound of it’s name, and have been fascinated by them ever since. Legends tell of krisses moving on their own volition, and killing individuals at will. When making a blade, the empu could infuse into the blade any special spiritual qualities and powers the owner desires. It is a goal of mine to have one made, or to learn to make one, but perhaps I overreach.
Because some krisses are considered sacred, and they contain magical powers, specific rites needed to be completed to avoid calling down evil fates. For example, pointing a kris at someone is thought to mean that they will die soon, so in ceremonies or demonstrations where ritualized battles are fought with real krisses, the fighters will perform a ritual which includes touching the point of the blade to the ground to neutralize this effect.

 

Lastly, I leave you with a Javanese folk story of Arya Penangsang, the mighty viceroy (adipati) of Jipang who was killed by his own kris called Setan Kober (“devil of the grave”). It was forged by Empu Bayu Aji in the kingdom of Pajajaran, and had 13 luk on its blade. Near its completion when the empu tried to infuse the weapon with spiritual power, he was disturbed by a crying demon (djinn) from the graveyard. As a result, although powerful, the kris had a temperamental evil nature that caused the wielder to be overly ambitious and impatient.

The story took place in the 16th century, during the fall of Demak Sultanate that had replaced Majapahit as the ruler of Java. Setan Kober was safely kept by Sunan Kudus, one of the nine Islamic saints of Java. However Sunan Prawoto, son of Prince Trenggana and grandson of Raden Patah, stole it and used it to assassinate his uncle Raden Kikin by the river. Since then, Raden Kikin is also referred to as Sekar Seda Lepen (flower that fell by the river). Raden Trenggana rose as a sultan and later after his death, was replaced by Sunan Prawoto. Kikin’s son, Arya Penangsang of Jipang with the help of his teacher, Sunan Kudus, took revenge by sending an assassin to kill Prawoto using the Setan Kober kris. Prawoto younger sister Ratu Kalinyamat seeks revenge on Penangsang, since Penangsang also murdered her husband. She urged her brother in-law, Hadiwijaya (Joko Tingkir) the ruler of Pajang, to kill Arya Penangsang. Hadiwijaya sent his adopted son and also his son in-law Sutawijaya, who would later become the first ruler of the Mataram dynasty.

During a battle, Sutawijaya stabbed Penangsang with Kyai Plered spear right in his gut. Arya Penangsang is bathing in his own blood, and his intestines were hanging from his open wounded stomach. However, because Arya Penangsang is a mighty fighter that possess aji or kesaktian (spiritual power), he keep fighting with an open wounded stomach. He encircled his hanging intestines on his kris hilt, and continue to fight. When trying to attack his opponent, the reckless, fierce and impatience Panangsang pulled his Setan Kober off its sheath, foolishly cut his own intestines, and finally died.

The Javanese tradition of putting jasmine garlands around the kris hilt, especially on groom’s kris during the wedding ceremony, is said to originate from this tale. It is to symbolyze that the groom should not be reckless, easily get angry, impatient and abusive like Arya Panangsang. To replace the intestine, the kris is coiled with a floral garland of jasmine chain that resemble intestine. The jasmine is to symbolize sacredeness, patience, grace, humility, kindness and benevolence, the qualities lack in Panangsang. However another source mentioned that actually Sutawijaya admired Penangsang’s fighting spirits, still fighting although his intestine encircled around his kris. Impressed by Penangsang’s deed, later he command his male descendants to follow his step, adorned the kris with “intestine” made from the chain of jasmine, as a symbol of bravery.

I hope you have enjoyed this study, look for more to come on this subject in upcoming posts! Stay Gold everyone…

Sources : http://en.fairmormon.org/Question:_Was_a_%22magic_dagger%22_once_owned_by_Hyrum_Smith%3F, http://www.3worlds.co.uk/Articles/Phurbas.pdf, http://www.baliblog.com/travel-tips/bali-travel/balinese-culture/the-sacred-kris-indonesian-traditional-knife.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kris

Blade of the Art : Magical Daggers and Spirit Blades was originally published on The Hidden Left Hand

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