Dernery is an embodiment of my personal paradigm that I endeavor to build into a coherent spiritual current. My overall spiritual framework uses simple and accessible terminology – with rituals that focuses on directly communing with deities. This manual incorporates elements of polytheistic, devotional mysticism, but is also done with the freedom of experimental spirituality. Spiritual practitioners are free to engage in devotional rituals with whichever deities they please – whether they are historical, fantastical or derived from direct personal experience.
Through Dernery, I would like to emphasize the modest, pragmatic, passionate and devotional rituals that are possible when cultivating effective spiritual practices. Dernery – when implimented effectively, is culturally neutral and can incorporate whatever spiritual elements a spiritual practitioner wants or needs in their practice. Dernery is not bound to rigid distinctions between exoteric and esoteric practice. Ritual is universal. Dernery is not an ideology, so it shouldn’t have dogmas. It is a spiritual technique to be adapted to the personal beliefs of each person.
The teachings or philosophy of Dernery is most strongly defined by a rejection of public religion as a necessary means to achieve spiritual wisdom or to cultivate virtue in the world. The most important focus of spirituality is cultivating strong relationships with the gods and spirits – otherwise known as the hallowed ones. These strong relationships – when properly explored, should encourage every person to do good in the world. Virtue or goodness can be as public as volunteering or as personal as friends and family.
Dernery is defined by simple, direct rituals that are focused on devotional mysticism. One of the most essential teachings in dernery is that of the nature of offerings or sacrifice. The purest offering one can give is that of will – otherwise known as spiritual intent or desire. Will is what connects dernery to all spiritual practices – transcending the distinction between exoteric and esoteric practice. Votive offerings are considered a direct extension of will. Food offerings and libations are considered unnecessary, but ritual meals are a valuable tool for their spiritually restorative properties – both to individuals and groups.
Dernery – as defined in this manual, is holistic in orientation. Effective Dernery honors real and living gods and goddesses – including those that are hidden or nascent. Despite what some religionists may say, there is no meaningful distinction between the devotional and the mystical. Truly meaningful ritual is arcane and the most powerful magic respects the awesome power of all divinities that emerge from primordial chaos. How Dernery emerges in the rituals of a particular practitioner is dependent on their unique experiences and shouldn’t be confused to the orthodoxy of ceremonial magick just as much as the orthodoxy of pagan traditions. Dernery should freely incorporate not only what works in the short term, but encourages deeper connections with the divine in the long term.
Virtue – also known as morality or ethics, are the ways we achieve spiritual harmony in the world that comport with our unique experiences and honor the people we care about. personal virtue ethics – not as moral absolutes, are ethical abstractions that are expressed differently in each situation and are determined by the individual above all else. An important exercise of virtue, therefore, is to determine which virtues are most valuable to you. You should also be open to changing those virtues as you grow and change as a person.
Derner theology is highly eclectic and adaptable to the experiences and beliefs of both individuals and small groups of practitioners who choose fellowship with one another. That said, there are a few theological teachings that define the derner approach.
Dernery is a path with many gods, but the way they are understood often reflects a very integral and unified system of belief. The most important gods in dernery – hallowed ones known simply as keepers, are best understood as patron deities for any individual or group, but can be understood more deeply within derner theology. Keepers can be understood as independent deities, but also as a part of a unified, collective whole – a legion of deities that can manifest in countless different ways depending on the person and situation.
It is for this reason that practitioners are quite likely to not only see different deities as intrinsically connected to those in a similar domain, but also to explore both historical and personal syncretism as they develop their own derner practice over time.
In addition to keepers, hidden gods called others are also honored collectively. Roamers, dwellers and elders – spirits of nature, the home and the dead are also honored. Though roamers, dwellers and elders are not considered gods in the strictest sense, they all retain the spark of the divine that the keepers and the others provide. So in this sense, they are best understood as manifestations of the gods and goddesses worshipped in dernery.
It is worth mentioning that, from my perspective, the concept of servitors or egregores are entirely unnecessary in a magical context. The others, as I have called them, have limitless divine manifestations. Any person can easily discover brand new deities among the others; they can honor and work with them alongside any keeper deities they already worship and even develop cults around them with small groups of trusted mages. Chaos freely offers spiritual diversity. If you are meant to find a new deity, one will reveal itself.
Nu is the primordial, divine multitude. It exists as a single, ineffable force embodied through unquantifiable sacred manifestations that emerge from the watery abyss. Nu contains all the sacred kinds of gods and spirits known within the cosmos. The mystery of the others in particular is best at capturing the incomprehensible nature of the watery chaos of Nu. In addition, Nu exists as a deity worthy of praise. He can best be understood as a keeper of of the great unknown waters. With respect to other gods and goddesses, the keepers are those patron gods and goddesses that are most familiar, the others represent the countless deities that are hitherto unfamiliar to those of us who engage in spiritual practice. The eternal diversity inherent to chaos is also evident in the myriad of interpretations of any given deity, the various historical and modern syncretisms and the new spiritual beings that are discovered within nun.
Keepers are great gods of the cosmos. They are best understood as patron or tutelary deities. Keepers can manifest in a variety of ways – including historical and personal syncretisms or forms derived from personal gnosis.
Others are great gods of the unknown. They are best understood as all deities which are unknown or hidden from view. This can include deities that are lost to history, but can also include deities that have yet to reveal themselves as well.
Roamers are wild gods of the elements. They are best understood as nature spirits or elementals. Roamers include the various cultural and personal interpretations of spirits found in nature – but they can also be found in cities just as much.
Dwellers are kindly gods of the household. They are best understood as house spirits or house gods. Dwellers include the various cultural and personal interpretations of spirits that protect the home. Like in folklore, they can be angered with the wrong behavior.
Elders are departed spirits of the underworld. They are best understood as ancestral spirits or ancestors more simply. Elders include shades that currently reside in the underworld but also include roaming or dwelling ghosts of various types – whether they are benevolent, neutral or malevolent in nature. All departed spirits – in all of the places they hail from, are regarded as elders as a means to show respect to them. Much of the reason why spirits are restless in the first place is because of a lack of respect in the first place.
In my practice, rituals are simple and direct – with a devotional, mystical focus but can include whatever elements a person chooses. Rituals should be adaptable to the various spiritual needs of individuals – including the specific keepers or patron deities that form their domestic cult. In my practice, twice daily rituals – during the day and at night, are the norm. Though certain astrological observances or historical festivals can be honored for the purposes of ritual, they are ultimately personal and not a requirement for effective ritual. The following is an adaptable ritual primer. It is worth mentioning that during the working section of the ritual primer is where personal connections to keeper gods can be more deeply explored and any relevant mystical, magical or divinatory practices can be performed.
Vision or inner sight is favored over divinatory tools – even scrying devices. During the working – the core of ritual, one connects directly to hallowed divinities and receives inner sight as a form of direct spiritual gnosis. This direct spiritual gnosis is done regardless of the inclusion of any particular mysteries or magical operations. This sacred vision helps to discern any and all relevant knowledge for a particular working, an individual practitioner or the divine will of any hallowed divinities that may be involved. It is cultivated through patient, regular ritual practice and meaningful divine relationships. It supersedes any religious doctrine and is the purest form of spiritual connection.
Hail to the keepers – great gods of the cosmos.
Hail to the others – great gods of mystery.
Hail to the roamers – wild spirits of nature.
Hail to the dwellers – kindly spirits of the home.
Hail to the elders – departed souls of the underworld.
As I commune with you, I offer you my praise.
May you grant me your favor.
O hallowed divinities; I thank you for your sacred presence. May you depart in peace.
Sigilcraft or sigilwork is a classic and effective way of focusing rituals when more magical power is deemed necessary to manifest one’s will in a working. Though there are lots of different approaches, I most favor the use of mantric sigils. These are sigils that are designed to be intoned repeatedly during a working. They don’t require physical components and are designed to be intelligible – even if they are essentially gibberish. Despite what some chaos mages might say, you do not have to adhere to a “fire and forget” dogma when it comes to sigils. You can use them as many or as few times as you want. That is all up to you.
For the purposes of this manual, I will give you an example of how a mantric sigil works. First, you start off with a statement of intent. The simpler the better. I prefer to keep the language as direct as possible. Once you have a statement of intent you like, you reduce it down to all non-repeating letters. You then rearrange those letters until you have something that sounds and feels good to you – ideally something that blends together when recited repeatedly. I’ll give you an example below.
I am powerful and fearless
This last one is the version I settled for this example, but it’s all a matter of taste. Choose what works best for you and don’t be afraid to tweak things – even the words you use for the statement of intent. It is all a part of the process of building more magical powerful for the working you will perform.
Each person has an immortal soul. It has been interpreted and conceptualized in many different ways, but a consistent factor in the history of spirituality has been its diversity of form. In contrast to the modern, western concept of the soul, ancient traditions have had sophisticated soul cosmologies that describe the various aspects of the human soul – in the unique, philosophical and often esoteric ways they have conceived of it.
A consistent aspect of the human soul in ancient traditions is the idea of an animalistic or magical form – one that exists as a part of as well as separately from the totality of one’s spiritual body. This has often been called a familiar or fetch, but has also been associated with animal spirits, totems, tulpas, sprites, sidhe, fylgias, akhu, personal genii or daimones. These numinous beings are often considered to be at once an enduring companion of the human soul and a broad class of nature spirits that exist out in the world.
This primal form of one’s soul is called a soulshape. Soulshaping – much like the term shapeshifting, refers to the spiritual technique of changing one’s spiritual form into that of an animal or magical beast. This is done for the purposes of meditation, scrying, dreamwork and all sorts of other spiritual practices. For most people, their soulshape is well-defined, and most often takes the form of an anthropic beast – though it can also take the form of a feral, common animal as well as a dire, monstrous creature.
The animalistic or magical forms of soulshapes are, unsurprisingly, connected to the animal messengers of particular gods or goddesses, so the often historical, personal and idiosyncratic ways we understand our devotional relationships to the gods strongly influence our soulshapes. For many soulshapers, their soulshape is granted to them by a particular deity or deities – whether or not the origin is fully understood.
These ideas are echoed in certain indigenous traditions – where animal spirits or totems are sometimes granted by spirit guides or living teachers. A witches familiar can also be associated with initiation in some coven traditions. For these reasons and more, it can therefore be a long process to understand one’s soulshape, and how one understands its form can change a lot along one’s journey.
For those who have a strong relationship to their soulshape, it can be expressed creatively in the form of a fursona. This is not required, however, and it’s more the case that fursonas are related to soulshapes than the other way around. Much of the fantastical ideas in furry culture are clear echoes of ancient fables and folk traditions – in the west and in many other places around the world. Plenty of soulshapers interact with other spiritual furries, at it were, but aren’t active in the broader part of the furry community as a whole.
It is important to mention that cultivating one’s soulshape is not the same as the philosophy of otherkin. Soulshapers always maintain a healthy relationship to their humanity, and they maintain a flexible attitude about the nature of their soulshape. There is always the possibility of one’s soulshape to change over time, and many people can take on additional soulshapes in different situations or periods of their lives. However persistent one’s soulshape is, unlike otherkin, soulshapers do not treat their spiritual practice as a unique form of identity, because they recognize that soulshapes are available to anyone with the inclination and drive to explore their own natures.
Soulshaping is a way to philosophically, spiritually and creatively balance many of the things that are valuable about both spiritual shapeshifting, paganism and furry culture without becoming trapped in the unhealthy attitudes of otherkin philosophy. It connects to lots of similar ideas throughout the cultures and histories of the world – in a manner that is modest, neutral and straightforward.