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Saturday, July 2, 2011

MIPC: Spirit-Vessels

The Coffer of Shadow

The coffer-of-shadow is an ornate lead box which resembles a horned-animal with four legs.  It appears  in the 1984 motion picture Supergirl. At the beginning of the movie it is in the possession of an evil sorceress named Selena, who keeps it in a hidden compartment in the floor near her bed. 

When Supergirl accidentally causes the loss of the omegahedron, "a powersource vital to Argo City", she escapes the confines of her home, against her parents wishes, in order to retrieve it. It is explained by Supergirl's mentor, Zaltar, that in addition to providing life-sustaining power for Argo City, the omegahedron has the ability to create the semblance of life, or "a fancy shadow of the real thing."

Through a series of events, the omegahedron lands on Earth where it is found by Selena who believes it to be a powerful talisman capable of allowing her to achieve world-domination. Selena places the omegahedron inside the coffer-of-shadow and quickly learns that it allows her to perform magical feats far beyond that which she is normally capable of.

While on the surface the omegahedron seems to create life, human science cannot explain how the omegahedron works, in fact compared to our present technology it is indistinguishable from magic. However, based on close observation, the abilities listed below can be attributed to the device, though it may have additional powers we have yet to define. They are:
  • to generate unlimited energy.
  • to power devices on Earth such as cars, telephones, lights etc…
  • to convert energy to matter, and matter to energy.
  • convert one form of energy into another (potential energy into kinetic, etc.)
  • to re-arrange matter on a subatomic level.
  • to manipulate and control human biology.
  • to enable travel between dimensions.
  • to manipulate all forms of energy such electricity, magnetism, light, gravity, etc….

With these abilities Selena was able to create fire from her fingertip, teleport another person from place to place, summon an invisible construct of her will, animate and control a bulldozer, force a man to love her, banish Supergirl to the Phantom Zone, remotely view people and activities in her mirror from a faraway distance, and conjure material things out of thin air to name a few. As Selena's ambition and power grows the coffer-of-shadow mutates becoming "bigger and uglier" until it resembles the traditional image of Baphomet

Selena operates the coffer-of-shadow in a few ways. In one instance, she simply places her hands on the coffer, closes her eyes, and focuses on her goal. In another instance she holds the coffer so that it faces an image of her desire (in this case, a man) and calls upon the power inside to "bring him to me." At another point Selena removes the lid from the coffer and directly addresses the omegahedron inside by reciting an incantation to destroy Supergirl. Towards the end of the film, Selena learns to channel energy from the omegahedron into her wand and more directly wield its power.

Ultimately, ofcourse, Supergirl is able to successfully retrieve the omegahedron and return it to Argo City in time to redeem herself and save everyone.

Commentary:  Throughout the film, it seems that Selena's flavor of magic is Ceremonial Magic and in that respect I would compare the coffer-of-shadow to the Brass-Vessel associated with Solomonic rites. However, in and of itself, the brass-vessel is not entirely unique among magical practitioners in that it could be compared to the European Spirit-Box; the Govi of Vodoun; the Prenda/Nganga of Palo; the Geni Lamp in Arabic tales; a mojo bag; or even a spirit-doll.

It would be difficult to compare and contrast each of these types of spirit-vessels, therefore I will focus on those things which they have in common. Each object consist of some type of receptacle inside which an additional object, or objects, are contained. In some instances a few of these contained objects are not only traditional but also required.  For example, a properly prepared and consecrated Nganga will should always contain 21 sticks from various trees, among other things.

In other cases, that which goes inside a spirit-vessel will depend on the purpose that it is to accomplish. For example, a European Spirit-Box calls for quartz crystal and read thread in addition to anything associated with one's ancestors such as their belongings, grave-dirt, cremation ashes, photos, etc..... On the other hand a Solomonic brass-vessel will often require the sigil of the spirit and a drawing of the spirit,  as well as herbs and offerings associated with the spirit. Mojo bags, doll-babies, and spirit-bottles fall into this category as well.

The manners of operation for each of these types of spirit vessels varies from tradition to tradition. However, they each follow a basic order.

  1. An appropriate vessel is obtained and a home is prepared for the spirit inside.
  2. Certain objects are placed inside the vessel that is believed to a) attract the spirit b) ground it on the physical plane and c) provide it with tools it will need to accomplish your goals. 
  3. The spirit is ritually petitioned to work with the magician in exchange for specific offerings and/or the ability to evolve on a spiritual level. 

The process of creating a spirit-vessel and obtaining a working spirit is arduous and can take a very long time to successfully accomplish. There are dangers present in the process such as incurring a spirit's wrath by making the incorrect offerings, unreasonable demands, or simply disrespecting the spirit. In addition, one must be careful to avoid dealing with trickster-spirits who are not interested in assisting you in your magical work.

Again, offerings will vary from tradition to tradition and from spirit to spirit. Ancestors are often given a portion of the family's meal, while other spirits require only a simple candle be burned nearby its vessel. Mojo bags, and doll-babies, are often offered a few drops of condition oil or whiskey.

That being said I believe that the coffer-of-shadow is a fairly decent depiction of a spirit pot. However, it must be remember that it is a fictional depiction of real magical concepts and operations and that should you attempt to create your own, do not expect to perform the same magical feats as show in this movie.

Carolina Dean


Note: Less anyone think I am a plagiarist, I should point out that The Witches Guide to Heaven and Hell is another blog I maintain under a pseudonym. Some content from that blog was borrowed for this entry.


AmethJera said...

Excellent post, as usual...You write a quality blog and provide a wealth of interesting information.

This depiction of the Coffers of Shadows is truly a movieland stereotype of Satanic-type evil which plays on the public's subconscious perception. It's predictable, and I think they were trying too hard to get across the 'evilness' of the thing...What better item to use than the goat skull image and it's association with Baphomet?

I always find things not normally associated with evil more effective when they are portrayed as such, but then, I didn't write the script.

Thanks for the great read!

Carolina Dean said...

This really is a great movie. Unlike other magickal/occult movies, the writer (David Odell) did his homework and used actual occult texts for referred to in Supergirl.

I really wish the movie would have been more successful so we could have seen more of these characters.