A Dark Song is without a doubt the best occult themed film of the last ten or so years. Detailing an attempt to complete the Abramelin Operation by two flawed and self destructive characters, the visuals are the exquisitely realised icing on top of a strong and genuinely unnerving script. While I only stumbled upon the movie a while back it has already made it to the top of my list of similarly themed films, easily beating The Devil Rides Out or Night of the Demon. Nor does anything by Kenneth Anger get a look in, though his body of work remains an important touchstone for those who like to see ritual on the big screen.
As a result of watching and re-watching the film numerous times recently I decided to put together a brief article to help those who lack experience when facing down the far from subtle energies that can be released whilst performing rituals in unfamiliar or even derelict surroundings. The end result of this thought experiment were a brief set of notes outlining the creation of a viable magickal panic room, an area designed to provide a stable and predesignated place to shelter until either the forces released dissipate or outside help can be sought to aid in the groups escape.
While I my following description is far from in depth, that is deliberate. The panic room works best as an extension of your everyday occult practice, as opposed to a methodology in its own right. The only real considerations remain that it is both simple to set up and can be placed in unfamiliar locations as easily as the spare bedroom of your own home. If group members already carry portable or pocket altars when travelling in the liminal space between the real and imaginary worlds then you will most likely have many of the items required anyway, and the extra effort beforehand is definitely worth it when the ectoplasm hits the fan.
Of course, the choice of room is the first consideration. Ideally it should be of small to medium size, comfortably furnished and able to accommodate everyone involved. It also requires easy, obstacle free access from the place of ritual, meaning no stairs, no locked doors and very little intervening furniture either. The ability to receive a strong mobile phone signal once inside with all the access doors closed is desirable, though not mandatory. Letting at least one other person who will not be in attendance know where you will be that evening is equally viable, even if you prefer not to tell them your reasons for visiting the location once there.
This is doubly important should you decide to perform rituals in unfamiliar or derelict surroundings, the kind of place where bodies tend to go undiscovered for months at a time. All windows and curtains should be closed prior to setting up of the panic room, and any mirrors should be covered or removed to another part of the building as well. Either salt or chalk should be used to draw out an unbroken line along the floor as close to the walls as possible, and then across the open space between the door frame and the door. A small gap should of course be left to allow people entry and exit without disrupting the protective bubble you are creating.
Incense should then be lit on a sturdy table in the centre of the room, away from the door, and candles placed in stable holders around them. Neither of these need be magickally consecrated though it could not hurt to do so. At this point the panic room scenario is open for personal interpretation depending upon the spiritual beliefs of the group who will be taking part. Statues of patron deities, grimoires, herbs, runes or anything else holding a positive spiritual association for those assembled can be placed within easy reach. The requirement to abandon them in the location should a quick escape prove necessary means that nothing irreplaceable should be used, however.
Once the room is created it is left unoccupied until needed, whereupon the gap in the line running across the doorway is closed after the actual door has been shut over it first. This seals the room from outside forces. Again, any prayers or rituals that the group wishes to say at this point will prove useful, but are far from essential. Though it remains unlikely that you will get much sleep after the abyss stares back at you in such a way that using a panic room becomes necessary, you will be safe enough to do so as long as someone keeps watch at all times. And of course as with any magickal operation, it is only proper to tidy up after yourself when you leave.