20 June 2017

Changing Values

While there’s always some in-fighting in any community, it seems like the last few years have been particularly rough on the greater Pagan, Polytheist, and magickal communities.  It feels like our past conflicts have been more about how and what to practice - the whole “my tradition is better/more authentic/more powerful/etc. than yours.”  These days our conflicts seem to run quite a bit deeper, to our core values - issues of right conduct, inclusion, personal sovereignty, and leadership. How do we, as a community, move forward when our core is fracturing?

Over the last few years I have seen a palpable shift from an embrace of larger communities to smaller, more insular units.  I believe this is due in large part to a shifts and schisms in core values.  At age 35 I am firmly in the middle of a generational shift in thought and values.  I can see and appreciate the values of our community founders, many of which are now aging into eldership or retirement.  They tend to value connection to the earth, freedom of expression (within a certain definition), and community togetherness.  I can also see the values of up and coming practitioners whose values tend towards individual expression, acceptance, and transparency.  While on their face these values don’t seem to conflict, but in practice they tend to express themselves with radical differences.   Whereas coming together in homogeneous celebration or join purposes has been standard for large scale ritual for years, these days a lot of practitioners are looking more to have an individual experience while in community rather than having the same experience as the person next to them.  Similarly, students these days are often looking for guidance on making a practice their own rather than simply wanting to be told the “correct” way of doing something.  While alternative communities are always more individualistic than the mainstream, we’ve taken things to a whole new level of late.

Another way this value shift has expressed itself is in the denouncement of poor conduct by community members, especially leadership.  Certain behaviors that were once quietly ignored or accepted are no longer tolerated.  Things like sexual misconduct, casual racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and various microaggressions are far more likely to be called out by the larger community than they have been in the past (we’ve still got a loooooooong way to go, but we are slowly improving).  Get any group of folks who have been in the community for more than five years (and a goodly number of newer folks) and they will be able to tell stories of “that once leader who creeps on all the girls” or “that one person who’s super nice as long as you’re straight” or, my personal favorite, “that one leader who loves everyone unless they disagree even slightly.”  In this era of ever present information it’s a lot harder to hide questionable behavior and people are getting better at calling it out.

While this is an absolutely necessary part of healthy growth, it does create friction and some people are pretty unreasonable about it.  It should be a no-brainer to kick out community members that prey on the community and yet, for some unfathomable reason, it isn’t.  Some communities have spent so long teaching tolerance and “positive thinking” that they become immobilized in the face of conflict, no wanting “confrontation” to “lower their vibrations.”  A little harsh?  Maybe, but people like that drive me up the wall - honestly what good is a community that refuses to protect its most vulnerable members?  It gets trickier when it’s a leader that’s made positive contributions to the community, while simultaneously preying on it or undermining the values they preached.  There have been far too many people in positions of power that have overtly made positive contributions while at the same time covertly engaging in sexual misconduct, abusive behaviors, racism, etc.  Does this mean they should be removed from those positions of power - of course it does!  Does this mean we should throw out all the structures they created and teachings they gave?  That’s much more difficult to say.  Chances are good that any power structure created by someone who abused their power will have some fundamental problems that will need correcting, and that their teachings will likely need close examination and amendment, but it doesn’t mean that they are without value.  Of course, determining how much should be kept and what should be tossed is likely to cause as much of an uproar as the initial exposure of wrongdoing.  There will always be those who value familiar structures over change, even when it’s necessary.  There will also be those so outraged by misconduct that they’ll want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Finding a balance between the two may be difficult unto impossible.

Change is good; growth is good.  However, people grow and change at different rates and in different ways and sometimes that means they can’t work with one another any more.  We are living in an uncomfortable time in which so many things are changing at once that it can be hard to keep up, let alone adapt and thrive.  As the values of the Pagan, Polytheist, and magickal communities evolve our existing community structures will also need to evolve.  We are incredibly diverse communities that are growing more so by the minute and our needs are changing.  I don’t have any answers for what we need to evolve into, but we’d better start figuring it out.  

03 June 2017

Cemetery Work 101

There is much magick to be had in cemeteries.  The guardians and spirits of burial grounds have tremendous abilities to aid the living in magick and divination.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of fear and many misconceptions around such workings. In this post I’ll introduce you to the guardians and gatekeepers of cemeteries, show you how to legally and ethically do your workings, and teach you the basic etiquette of working with the dead.


Know Your Cemetery

The first step in cemetery work is, of course, to choose a cemetery.  If you live in an area with a reasonably dense population then you’ve probably got a multitude of cemeteries from which to choose.  When choosing a cemetery for magickal work there are several factors to consider: how active it is, its overall energy, who’s buried there, and how it’s run. 

Not all cemeteries are created equal.  Some are awake and brimming with spirits, some are sleepy and quiet.  Some have fierce, active guardians, while some barely have a guardian at all.  For most cemetery work you’re going to want a more active cemetery, rather than a quiet one.  It’s just easier to talk to spirits that are already hanging around rather than having to summon them from elsewhere.  A strong guardian is indicative of a metaphysically healthy graveyard, and is thus is also desirable for those doing ethical workings.  (Yes, there are a whole host of things you can do where a strong guardian would be a problem, but they generally involve disrespecting the dead and I don’t work that way and won’t be discussing it here.) 

The overall energy of a cemetery is a huge factor is deciding to work in it.  Some cemeteries are full of beautiful monuments, some are heavily wooded, some have neat rows of white military headstones, while others are grassy parkland.  Each cemetery has its own unique energies depending on who’s buried there, who often it’s visited, where the site is located, how it’s maintained, and a host of other factors.  Some graveyards will feel compatible and others will likely not.  I generally prefer active secular cemeteries with lots of trees and plants, that get a moderate amount of visitation simply because that’s what feels best to me.  There are some cemeteries I enter where I immediately know that I’m not welcome to anything beyond paying respects and I abide by those feelings.  Know what works energetically and what doesn’t is extremely personal and will likely take some trial and error.  I tend to not work in specifically religious cemeteries simply because it feels disrespectful to do so - you may feel differently.

Beyond the general feel of a cemetery one should also look at who’s buried there.  A lot of cemetery work involves working directly with the spirits of those that are buried there.  Take some time to research the people buried in a particular cemetery.  Are they city founders, religious leaders, criminals, victims of epidemics or crime, war heroes?  Different types of people are more or less willing and able to help with different magickal workings.  The spirit of a nurse or doctor can help with a healing; the spirit of a judge or lawyer can help with justice spells, the spirit of a police officer or soldier can help with protection magicks; etc.  If you know you want to do a specific type of working, look for a cemetery containing the spirits of those most able and apt to help you.  Remember, the dead are not so very different from the living and they don’t suddenly sprout vast new skill sets simply because they’re on the other side.

Another important consideration is how a cemetery is run.  Different corporations, towns, and churches have very different ways of running graveyards.  How a cemetery is maintained can have a huge impact on its metaphysics.  A well maintained cemetery is likely to house contented spirits, whereas a neglected one may have unsettled residents and is much more likely to have wild entities roaming (fae, elementals, etc.).  Which you prefer will depend on the type of working you wish to perform.  If you’re new to cemetery work I recommend sticking to well maintained ones until you’re more comfortable.  Further, different cemeteries have different rules: public hours, what can be left at graves, what can be taken, etc.  In general, I find that cemeteries with permissive rules but strong security (guaranteeing respect towards graves) are the easiest to work within. 

Before You Go

Once you’ve chosen a cemetery there are a few practical preparations to be made.  As part of choosing a cemetery you should have taken a look at it’s rules and regulations - know them before you go.  Know the public hours and what you’re allowed to leave at a grave.  Abide by the cemetery rules and posted signs.  Not only can breaking the rules get you banned from a cemetery, but it disrespects the spirits (which never ends well for anyone). 

Further, check the weather before you go.  Here in soggy Seattle chances are good you’re going to be dealing with either active precipitation or mud when doing cemetery work.  Sturdy shoes and appropriate outerwear are a must.  Conversely, if it’s going to be hot and dry be sure to bring a hat and a water bottle.  Intense magickal workings tend to consume your attention and make you forget about your body, so you need to things about these things beforehand.

The last thing to do before you go is gather any supplies you may need.  Be sure you have an offering for the cemetery guardian and offerings for any spirits you might want to work with.  I tend to give an offering of coins for cemetery guardians and offerings of water, tea, or tobacco at graves (though this can vary quite a bit depending on the spirit - more on that later).  Bring small containers for gathering grave dust, dirt, feathers, or plant materials.  These can be small jars, film canisters, plastic bags, anything really.  A pen and paper can be useful if you need to leave a petition.  I also always bring a spoon for discretely gathering grave dirt or making small holes for burying petitions.  Make sure your equipment is discreet.  If you come in looking like you’re going to an archeological dig chances are good that someone is going to notice and do something unfortunate about it. 

Cemetery Guardians and Entering the Cemetery

In addition to those interred within, every cemetery has its own guardians and spirits.  Different traditions believe in various entities and deities that have dominion over the dead and their resting places, such as Baron Cimitière or Anubis.  (Please note that not all death deities are associated with burial grounds.)  If you belong to one of those traditions you should greet the appropriate entity in the way specified by your tradition.  When I enter a cemetery I always greet Baron Samedi first, as that is part of my tradition.  After greeting any deities or patrons, you should greet the guardian of the cemetery. 

Every cemetery I have ever visited has had a “head” spirit in residence.  This can be the spirit of one of those interred within or a cthuonic entity who resides within the graveyard.  This guardian spirit acts as a metaphysical gatekeeper for the entire cemetery.  You can think of it like a combination of a bouncer and an elder.  The guardian will prevent the disrespectful from pestering innocent spirits and can offer insight when asked correctly.  When you see teenagers on “true haunting” shows talk about being chased out of cemeteries they weren’t supposed to be in by dark entities, chances are good they’re talking about the guardians.  When approached respectfully guardians are generally quite friendly.

Before doing magick in a cemetery it is important to greet its guardian and ask permission.  This is done either at the cemetery gates or a prominent grave (usually near the entrance).  Begin by introducing yourself and making a small offering.  I usually give an offering of 10 coins (either pennies or dimes), although offerings of tobacco, corn meal, water, fruit, or flowers are also appropriate.  Some guardians will tell you what specific offerings they expect on return visits, and as long as the requests are reasonable I try to abide by them (as with the living, just because a spirit wants you to do something doesn’t mean you have to although there may be consequences for not doing so).  After giving your offering you should feel whether it’s been accepted or rejected.  How that manifests is different for everyone.  You may feel as if the volume has been turned up on the energies around you, a pleasant breeze on your face, a sensation of warmth, or any number of signs.  It will take practice to know what acceptance feels like for you.  Once your offering has been accepted take a moment to explain your intentions: any graves you specifically intend to visit, spirits to work with, spells to perform, ingredients to gather.  Once again, wait for a response from the guardian before proceeding.  I have had guardians tell me not to work in specific cemeteries or not to do particular workings.  I always abide by that because, not only is it disrespectful, having a guardian actively working against you while you try to do magick is almost never worth it.  It takes way too much energy to work effectively while under assault - better to find another place to work.
 If the guardian likes you then you can ask it for advice, such as which spirits are likely to work with you or the best times to perform workings.  If you forge a particularly good relationship with the guardian and it's strong enough you may be able to ask it to aid your magicks directly.  Once you have the permission you seek you can move forward.

If it’s your first time in a particular cemetery I recommend walking the cemetery before doing magick.  Take some time to walk through each part of the cemetery.  Allow yourself to get a read on the various energies, which graves seem more active, what attracts you, what repels you.  You’ll probably find that there are some areas of the cemetery that feel particularly comfortable and welcoming, while other parts may feel downright hostile.  You’ll likely find the same thing with certain spirits.  If you find particular areas or spirits calling to you, note them and do some research to determine if you want to work with them.  Depending on the cemetery you may find unexpected metaphysical entities, such as fae, elementals, imps, etc., or even portals.  This can be good or bad depending on what you find what what magicks you wish to perform.  If nothing else, non-human entities and portals can be unpredictable and potentially disruptive, so exercise caution when doing magick around them.  Take note of hotspots and potential trouble zones and act accordingly.

Working a Grave

When most people talk about cemetery work they mean working with a grave and its inhabitant.  Working with the dead is a lot like working with fae or other spirits; they each have their own specific personalities, wants, needs, and skill sets.  The most important thing in working with the dead is an amiable relationship.  Always ask permission.  Find a spirit that wants to work with you; never force a relationship.  It’s better to have the willing help of an average person than the coerced help of someone with the exact skills you’re looking for.  This is true across pretty much all spirit work, not just working with the dead.  If you plan on doing a lot of cemetery work, take the time to find a spirit that really wants to work with you and cultivate a long-term relationship: ie, give regular offerings, visit just for visiting’s sake, ask if there’s anything you can do for the spirit.  If you have a strong relationship you’re more likely to get the help you need when you need it - just like asking a good friend to help you move verses asking an acquaintance.  That being said, there’s nothing wrong with one-time workings, just be prepared to spend a little more time negotiating and/or give a larger or more meaningful offering. 

Approaching a grave for a working is a lot like approaching a cemetery guardian for the first time.  Take a moment to ground and center yourself, then approach the grave and greet its inhabitant.  If you haven’t worked with the spirit before take a moment to introduce yourself.  The give the spirit a small offering.  This is rather like giving a host gift when visiting someone at their home for the first time.  It’s a “Hey, I’m on your home turf and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”  Offerings can be almost anything, but the more personalized to the recipient the better.  Traditional offerings include: flowers, incense, tobacco, corn meal, or cleaning/maintaining the grave.  At this point you should receive some indication whether the spirit is awake and has accepted your offering.  How this will be communicated to you can vary wildly.  If you don’t sense energies well then I highly recommend a divination tool such as a pendulum or tarot to help you communicate.

Some graves are more active than others.  An active grave is one where the spirit is either immediately present or nearby.  These spirits are the easiest to contact and work with because you don’t need to call them up from other places.  Graves that are well tended and receive regular visitors are more likely to be active.  The exception to this is the graves of famous people - then it depends on the individual as some get overwhelmed by the constant visitors and choose to stay away.  In many cases simply giving a small offering will “wake” an inactive grave, rather like paging someone.  However, if a grave is long neglected or the spirit is actively elsewhere (most ghosts don’t actually haunt their grave sites) you may need to either visit multiple times to get a response or do a little more work - such as give larger or more personalized offerings or go so far as doing an actual summoning ritual (that’s a bit beyond the scope of this post so I won’t go into details here).  If a spirit doesn’t respond or seems unwilling to work with you, then you should use your best judgment to determine whether you want to try again or simply move on to a more friendly spirit - but please be respectful in your choices. 

Once you’ve established positive communication with the grave’s inhabitant you can do workings.  Workings at the grave site may include collecting grave dirt or dust for use in future spells or onsite spellwork.  It’s at this point that discretion becomes paramount.  Very few people will disturb you if it looks like you’re meditating.  Disturbance becomes far more likely if you’re doing full ritual magick in broad daylight.  There is a reason I collect gravedirt discreetly with a kitchen spoon rather than a more obvious spade or trowel and it’s because I don't’ want to be yelled at, or worse, for disrespecting the dead.  You know what is and isn’t considered appropriate behavior in your local area; blend in and you can do your work and no one else needs to be the wiser.  As a side note, I always do my cemetery workings during regular open hours (ie. broad daylight).  You may choose to do your workings at other times but please don’t trespass.  When practitioners get caught breaking the law we all look bad.  Don’t be that guy.

When you’ve finished your work always thank the spirit and tidy up after yourself if necessary.

Other Workings

There are lot of magicks you can do in cemeteries because of their liminality.  Cemeteries are between places: they are neither fully places of the living nor fully places of the dead.  They have an inherent crossroads quality, therefore almost any magick that can be worked at a crossroads can also be worked in a cemetery.  Magicks involving changes or transitions can be worked very effectively in a cemetery, although the chthonic energies do tend to darken them so use caution.  Cemeteries can be excellent places to do trance or astral journeying, particularly to the underworld.  Just remember that you are out in public, so I recommend having a spotter if you’re going to any work that will take your awareness away from your body.  Safety first!

Of course, cemeteries are spectacular places to do bane magick.  There is a time and place for all workings and sometimes love and light doesn’t cut it.  Be a grown up and make your own ethical decisions and be prepared to live with the consequences.  I won’t go into the details of bane magick here, but I will be talking about it very soon.  Just know that cemeteries are great places to do it.





 Leaving the Cemetery

If you’ve paid proper respects to the cemetery guardian you shouldn’t have to do more than wave goodbye as you leave.  However, sometimes a little extra energy or a wild spirit will decide they want to follow you home.  Take the time to ground and center once you’ve left the cemetery and then go and do something joyous and lively.  If you have any trouble shaking off the graveyard energies then go home and do a cleansing.  I’m partial to sacred baths and fumigation for formal cleansings.  Choose whatever cleansing method works best for you.

Working in cemeteries is potent, rewarding, and not nearly as fraught as some make it out to be.  A little bit of forethought, caution, and a healthy dose of respect and you’re pretty much good to go.  When in doubt be nice.  The dead are just people and desire to be treated with the same mindfulness and respect you’d pay to anyone else you were asking for help.  Finally, trust your instincts.  If a particular grave or location feels great, sit down and do your working.  If you don’t feel welcome or something feels “off,” just move on. 

I welcome any questions you may have so feel free to comment or email me at: emily @ e-carlin.com.



24 March 2017

So You Want to be a Death Witch

Over the last few months the number one question people have been asking me is: how do I get started working with Death and the dead?  How do I become a death witch?  In the preceding decade not one person ever asked me that question.  Given the general state of the world it’s not exactly surprising that more and more people are being drawn to the darker side of witchcraft.  However, death work is not something to be entered into casually.  Here are a few things you need to know before starting down the path of a death witch.


What does it mean to be a death witch?

As with any occult identity, if you ask a dozen different death witches what it means to be one, you will get a dozen different answers.  In short, it is a witch who works primarily with the forces of death and/or the dead.  What that looks like can take many forms and depends greatly on the traditions and culture of the individual.  Most magickal traditions have some branch dealing with death and the dead, but someone who occasionally contacts an ancestor or officiates a funeral is not a death witch. 

To be a death witch there must be a resonance in your soul with the forces of death and the dead that compels you to work with them.  For me that manifests as an intense sense of belonging and kinship with the forces of death and comfort with being around the dead.  When I am in the presence of the forces of death it feels like being surrounded by family in the best of ways.  I find cemeteries and haunted places to be incredibly welcoming and try to spend time in them as often as possible - paying all due respects to those reside there.  Very early in my explorations of Paganism and Polytheism it became clear that my focus was to be with Death.  That may not be the case for you.  There are many ways the pull towards death work can manifest; if you feel it, then you should pursue it.

How do I get started?

The most important thing about working with Death and the dead is respect.  Every chthonic deity is different; every spirit is different.  Some death deities are very casual, some are very strict - know the stories and basic personality of the deity before you approach them.  An offering for Hades is very different than an offering to Santa Muerte, as are the behaviors they expect from those approaching them.  The same holds true for the dead.  The dead are just people who have passed on to the other side of the veil and they all have particular wants, needs, and personalities.  Treat them with the respect you would have treated them with in life.  A little time and effort goes a very long way towards forging positive relationships with the forces of death and the dead.

The easiest place to start in death work is your own ancestors, be they of blood or spirit.  Ancestors of blood are your actual deceased relatives.  Ancestors of spirit are those that paved the way for your spiritual being, including teachers, artists, writers, etc., whose words and works helped shape the person you are today.  Begin by creating an ancestor altar.  If you have the space this can be a shelf or the top of a dresser where you place pictures or representations of your ancestors.  Keep this space clean and add things like fresh flowers, a glass of water, or incense offerings as a sign of respect.  If you don’t have the space for a physical altar you can create a photo album or digital representation of what you’d like on an altar.  The purpose of an ancestor altar is to be a focal point for your work and to be a place for the energies of your ancestors to reside.  What that looks like is far less important than the simple fact that you’ve taken the time and trouble to build it.  Your investment of energy and attention to your ancestors will begin building a relationship with them.  Creating a relationship with the dead means that when you need advice or a helping hand on the spiritual plane you will have willing aides when you need them.

***Note - not all of everyone’s ancestors of blood are necessarily folks you want to invite into your life.  You get to choose who goes on your altar and you are allowed to say no if someone uninvited shows up.***

Once you’ve begun cultivating a relationship with your dead you can look into working with death deities or anthropomorphic forces of death.  Of course you can do this work before or instead of working with your ancestors, I just find it easier in this order.  Begin by reading myths regarding death and see what stories resonate with you and why.  If you’re lucky you might find other practitioners that work with that deity to compare notes with, but your own feelings and impressions are your best guide for your relationship with any deity.  Sometimes these deities will reach out to you rather than the other way around, it will be fairly obvious if it’s happening.  Once you’ve found a deity that resonates with you then you approach them just as you would any other deity.  That may mean building an altar to that deity, making offerings, doing magickal works, simple devotions, or something else entirely.  I’ve not found working with death deities any more onerous or risky than working with any other deity.  In fact, many death deities are a lot more relaxed than their above ground cousins, but it all depends on the particular deity. 

Once you’ve begin building relationships with the dead and the forces of death you can begin the deeper spiritual and magickal works of a death witch.  That’s a whole series of posts in and of themselves so I won’t go further just yet. 

If you think you want to be a death witch start by talking to the dead: get to know them, build relationships with them.  Then get to know the different death deities and see if any of them call to you.  Explore with respect and you shouldn’t have any problems. 

If people are interested, I will be on a necromancy panel on 4/2/2017 in Seattle:
Life Among The Dead:A Panel On Necromancy
Sunday, April 2 at 5 PM - 6 PM
Spooked In Seattle Ghost Tours
102 Cherry St, Seattle, Washington 98104
https://www.facebook.com/events/155695498274683/

31 January 2017

How to Hex

Lately I’ve had several people come to me expressing a desire to curse...particular people.  Traditionally, curses come into favor when people feel that more direct/public/legal means of seeking justice fail them and they feel disempowered.  It is no surprise that they are coming back into fashion in times like these.  I’ll teach you a few methods for slinging a hex, but what you do with them is up to you.

What

Hexing/cursing is the final recourse for the marginalized, disenfranchised, and dispossessed.  It is what you do when the last straw has finally broken the camel’s back, or at least it should be.  Before casting a curse you should, if you are safe to do so, follow every legitimate path for finding a solution to your problem.  Attempting to curse someone/something before trying more traditional problem solving methods, when they’re available to you, rarely ends well for anyone.  Cursing is not what most people would call a “good” thing to do.  Cursing/hexing causes harm and there are consequences for sending harm out into the world.  You need to be prepared to deal with those consequences when they come - and they will come.  As Dorothy Morrison says, you need to be “wicked pissed” before casting a curse.  You have to mean it with every fiber of your being, consequences be damned.

Why

Once you’ve determined that you are “wicked pissed” and willing to accept the consequences, you need to determine just what you want to accomplish.  There are generally two reasons to cast a curse: 1) to stop bad things from happening/continuing, and 2) to punish someone for causing harm. 

I generally discourage people from cursing for the second reason because it rarely helps.  Most people do bad things when they’re in pain.  Hurting someone who is in pain does not tend to encourage them to behave better; it mostly makes things worse.  Further, miserable people rarely need help from me to destroy their lives; they do a fine job of it on their own.  Someone needs to have done something really bad (e.g. hurt a child, incited terrorism, massively subverted justice, etc.) for me to encourage hexing them for punitive reasons.  There are, of course, many ethical/moral reasons not to do this.  I leave you to make your own decisions there.

Cursing in order to stop “bad things” from happening is a much less morally ambiguous thing to do.  When things get bad enough and you really care about the situation then you need to get proactive.  In its best incarnation, a curse should be the magickal equivalent of punching a nazi in the face.  Of course, you must keep in mind what I said earlier - making miserable people more miserable rarely stops them from behaving badly.  Be very mindful of the potential consequences of your magick and only do things that will actually help the overall situation - not just feel cathartic.  For example, you might want to stop a serial rapist by making him impotent.  This might just make him angry and more prone to violence, thus making the situation worse rather than better.  A more effective curse might be one aiming to get the perpetrator caught and convicted.  If your goal is to stop a bad situation then you MUST calm your anger and really think things through in order to get the best results.  Take the long view of things.  Take the time to do some divination to determine the best course of action; consult your elders and ancestors; get advice from people you trust.  Make sure you feel that you truly need to do what you plan. 

How

There are nearly infinite ways to cast a curse.  Here are just a few ranging from “morally dubious” to “you’re going to do what?!”  You can google any of these types of spells and find dozens of examples of various execution methods, so I won’t belabor the details here.  Further, you can add extra power to these spells by calling on various deities, ancestors, allies, etc. according to your own personal practice. 

Passive-Aggressive Hex
Rather than doing something directly to the target or your ire, you bless their opposition.  For example, instead of cursing the person who robbed you, you bless the police and prosecutors to get the person caught and convicted.  This is positive magick to send blessings to the people doing good work rather than sending negative energy to the people causing harm.  This type of working is great when you have one specific bad situation you want to remedy, though it won’t stop the perpetrators from doing something different later.

Binding
The classic way to stop someone from doing bad things is to bind them.  (See my previous post on binding)  You make a representation of the person or organization/corporation causing the problem, then you literally bind it with cord to energetically immobilize it.  I like to make a poppet representing the person/thing to be bound and then bind it with marine cord (it has no stretch/give whatsoever).  You can also use toys, action figures, etc., to represent your target.  Once you’ve tied your representation I recommend wrapping the whole thing in aluminum foil (shiny side in) and then putting it in the back of the freezer until the situation is resolved.

Mirror Spell
Your traditional mirror spell is one in which you use a mirror to literally reflect someone’s negative actions back on themselves.  This is a straightforward retribution spell - your target gets harmed precisely as much as they harm others, no more no less.  This spell tends to escalate the situation.  Remember, when people who tend to take out their anger on others are harmed they will probably take it out on others.  If the house is already on fire then throwing gas on it won’t really make much of a difference, but if it’s not on fire yet it certainly will be afterwards.  Choose your actions accordingly. 

Destruction Spell
This is the “as seen on tv” curse.  This is where you do you damndest to rain hellfire down on your enemies.  There is no moral ambiguity here.  If you’re going to do it, own it.  Your intent is everything in this spell and you’d better be freaking livid.  If you are even the tiniest bit unsure of what you want to happen then this is not the spell for you.  Make a poppet/doll out of black fabric (the little craft squares of felt you get at the craft store for a dollar are great for this).   Fill the poppet with straw/grass/something itchy put a picture of the target inside the doll and sew it up.  Write on the doll with a sharpie all the terrible things the person has done (the silver ones are great for writing on black).  Alternatively, you can write everything out on paper and sew it inside the doll or even embroider it on the fabric.  Then destroy the doll as violently as possible, allowing all your rage and pain to flow into it and then burn the pieces.  Yes, there is often energetic backlash for doing this sort of thing depending on the exact nature of your intent and what energies you normally work with.  The further this type of energy is from your normal practice the more difficult it will likely be for you.  Moreover, this type of working can create an energetic link between you and your target - be sure you really, really want to do this.

These are just a few examples of common curses.  If you’re really, really angry and committed to doing this type of work I encourage you to get creative and execute them in a way that feels right to you.  Magick is an art, so do something beautiful - even when it’s hideous. 

If you have any questions about specific things you want to do feel free to email me emily @ e-carlin.com or send me a message via Tumblr (where you can be anonymous).  Keep in mind that I will not advise people to do things that are illegal and all discussions are purely theoretical.


Here are a few resources:
Poppet resource
How to tie a monkey’s fist/rope ball
Cursebook



02 January 2017

The Mundane in Magick

So, it was pointed out to me that I haven't actually posted to this blog in...quite some time.  Sorry about that.  In all honesty 2016 was not a great year for writing inspiration.  I kept up my monthly post obligation over on my pop culture magick blog and that's about it.  Apart from the overall trash fire that was 2016 in the wider world, it was a year where most of my magick somehow fell into the mundane.  I've decided (code for my gods yelled at me via my friends' divination methods) that I need to reclaim my magickal self this year.

On paper 2016 looks like a fairly good year for me magickally, at least insofar as my position in the local Pagan community.  I spent a lot of the last year working in community events: Pantheacon, Many Gods West, Pagan Pride, etc.  I gave a lot of presentations and, I feel, acquitted myself rather well.  I met a lot of amazing people from across the region and made some important connections and a few really good friends.  2016 saw the one year mark of doing public sabbats as Illustris - our collaborative ritual group.  We're quickly approaching the two year mark (Ostara I believe) and are going strong.  We're even expanding the project to include monthly salons to provide safe and supportive space for asking questions, discussing Pagan/magickal issues, and practicing magickal techniques.  My hopes are pretty high for them.  Last year we even saw the first of what I hope will be many inter-group Pagan/magickal leadership meetings.  Helping to create a cohesive and supportive local Pagan community is incredibly important to me and I'm really happy to be a part of it.  Sounds great right?

The downside to vast amounts of community work and activity is less time and energy for my personal practice - the heart and soul of who and what I am.  You see the thing about community work is that it's at least 90% about communication and managing logistics.  Giving a lecture is all about effectively communicating your audience, whether you're talking about database structure or how to giving offerings to Santa Muerte.  Putting on a ritual is about getting your supplies from point A to point B, marketing in a way that the people who would enjoy it find out about it and actually show up, then facilitating other people's experiences, and finally cleaning up after yourself and everybody else.  No matter how magickal what you're ultimately trying to do is, you need to do a lot of extremely mundane work to get there.  So while I spent a goodly chunk of 2016 engaged in highly magickal activities, most of my work in them was either quite mundane or focused on supporting the magickal experiences of others.

My goals for 2017 are to 1) spend more of my limited energies on my personal practice and writing, and 2) to figure out how to balance my community and personal work.  For the former I think actually putting down at least an hour or two a week explicitly dedicated to my personal work and writing should help tremendously.  I'm a virgo, if I've written something on a to do list or schedule then I have to do it.  I expect the latter to be much more difficult for me.  I've never been good at balance; ask anyone who knows me.  If I bother to do something at all I tend to do it too much.  As a good friend said to me on new year's eve, I don't take breaks I just break.  I think I may need to put that on a bracelet or something and just wear it all the time, perhaps with another that says "hubris."  I think the first step on balancing out my community work is going to be expanding the Illustris leadership.  Right now it's just me and Raye and that's a lot of weight for just two people to bear.  If I could find people to facilitate maybe one out of every three rituals, that would be a huge help and is fairly realistic (some awesome friends have actually volunteered and I love them for it).  So hey, if you're in the Seattle area and want to learn how to lead collaborative ritual shoot me an email.  Beyond that I think I'm just going to have to pace myself and check in with friends to keep a better perspective on my activity and energy levels.  If any of y'all have suggestions on better maintaining this balance I am all ears.  Rising to a community leadership position is hard.  Thank the gods I have the support of trusted friends.

We all need to do mundane things in order to live magickal lives.  The trick is figuring out how to balance everything so that planning, logistics, and interpersonal issues don't drain you of so much energy that it pops your magick balloon.  I am very, very bad at this and thus need to woman up and ask for help from the people I trust on a regular basis.  One-time grand gestures do not create change, only consistent progress - no matter how small - can actually break the habits of a lifetime.  Gods keep me mindful. 



21 March 2016

Safe Space

Over the last few weeks I’ve had several issues of safe space and hospitality come up in my participation in the Pagan and Polytheist communities.  As both a community organizer and participant, this is an issue near and dear to my heart.  I’ve got some things to say about it and in the end it’s all about respect.



True safe space does not just tolerate the “other” but actually makes space for them where they can be comfortable.  True safe space actively protects those that might otherwise be ostracized or victimized.  In some Pagan communities this has been confused with “space where everyone thinks like me and we happen to all be part of the same minority that gets oppressed elsewhere.”  This most often manifests in as anti-christian or anti-conservative talk in otherwise non-political groups (if you say you’re a liberal/progressive/social justice/activist group right out front then politic away).  Just because you know the majority of a group of people feels a particular way about an issue doesn’t mean that everyone feels that way, and boy howdy there is no better way to make that lone dissenter feel isolated and unwelcome than to loudly condemn anyone who could possible be so foul as to think that way.  This is not what we’re here for people.  There are whole organized groups that live to ostracize us, let’s not do their jobs for them. 

We need to actively work on creating real safe space.  We have all screwed up at some point and said or done something that has made someone else unwelcome and we need to put on our big kid pants and do something about it.  Enough of this “boys will be boys,” “but I said I was sorry” bullshit.  Take responsibility for your actions people.  Just because you didn’t mean to hurt/trigger/threaten/offend someone doesn’t take away from the fact that you did so.  Harm is not something a perpetrator gets to decide on.  Harm is a subjective experience determined by the person experiencing it.  Sometimes that harm is obvious and understandable, sometimes you have to squint and twist yourself like the Gordian Knot to figure out what the hell happened.  Regardless, if someone says you violated their safe space then you did so and need to accept the consequences.  That means genuinely admitting wrongdoing (or genuinely working to understand why your victim felt harmed and then sincerely apologizing for that harm) and working on making sure it doesn’t happen again.  Safe space has to be maintained with sincerity by everyone in it or it falls apart. 

In any community a balance needs to be struck between the needs of the many and the needs of the few.  Creating true safe space doesn’t mean letting everyone in and treating them equally.  Safe space means we agree on who gets to be in that space, how people need to behave in that space towards each other, and then taking the necessary steps to ensure that people hold to that.  Making space for a victim and then making equal space for their abuser is not safe space.  Certain folks need to be actively protected in order for the space to be safe for them.  Certain behaviours are not compatible with the existence of safe space. Sometimes that means gently reminding folks one how they agreed to behave when they entered safe space.  Sometimes that means kicking people out who don’t respect the space and what it stands for.  Safe space doesn’t come to be just because you declare it so; safe space is an active working that requires effort and attention in order to truly manifest. 

That also means not bending and twisting everything you do for over sensitive individuals.  In the legal world we identify certain folks as having an “eggshell skull.”  These are folks that come to a situation with certain preexisting conditions that make them especially vulnerable to harm.  We want our communities to be safe space for people that come to us with their own personal demons, but we can only go so far to accommodate them while still accommodating everyone else.  We cannot create the perfect environment for everyone - it’s just not possible.  To go too far to satisfy any one individual is disrespectful to the others present whose needs end up pushed to the wayside or worse.  We need to do our best to create safe and hospitable environments, but we also need to accept that we’re not perfect and we just can’t account for every possible need that might come up.

Respect.  This is what it comes down to in the end.  You can believe in whatever you want to believe in, but when it comes to your actions in community you need to respect yourself and those around you.  Community requires mindful action that fulfills your own needs while not infringing upon the needs and experiences of others while they do the same for you.  This is not a quick and easy issue to resolve.  It will take each and every one of us working hard and being mindful of our actions in order to create real safe space in our communities, but it is work worth doing.  Respect yourself, respect others, respect the community. 

21 October 2015

On Offerings and Sacrifice

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationships with the deities and spirits that I work with on a regular basis.  I’m always looking for ways to strengthen and be more authentic in my relationships with my allies.  During this time of the year the walls between the mundane and metaphysical parts of reality are thin and I feel a lot closer to my non-corporeal allies, making it easier than usual to do workings with them.  That makes this time of year a great one for doing a working specifically designed to strengthen those relationships.  One of the easiest traditional way to improve a relationship with a metaphysical being of any kind (deity, spirit, ancestor, fae, etc.) is to give them some kind of offering or sacrifice.

An intricate handmade candle makes for a decent offering.

Let’s take a moment to think about what exactly offerings and sacrifices really are.  Some sources might use the terms offering and sacrifice interchangeably – as they are both something that you give to a being as a gesture of appreciation, supplication, or appeasement.  However, I find a crucial distinction between them – what they mean to you as the person giving them.  The way I look at it, an offering is something you give a being that you know they want.  One traditionally offers things like incense, favorite foods, flowers, energy, attention, etc.; things that tradition or gnosis tells us that the being we’re making offerings to wants from us.  An offering doesn’t really have to mean anything to you personally, it just has to be pleasing to the one you’re offering it to.  A sacrifice is something that is meaningful to the one doing the sacrifice that is being given up in a way that it takes away from the sacrificer in favor of the one being sacrificed to.  You do this as a sign or devotion or respect; essentially putting the needs ot the recipient above your own.  For example, if I, as a non-smoker, make an offering of tobacco to Baron Samedi (something that he is known to enjoy) I am offering him the tobacco and sacrificing the money used to purchase it.  However, if I were a smoker and was giving the Baron some of my favorite tobacco I would be both offering and sacrificing the tobacco itself – as the Baron wants it and I am giving up my own use of it.  Basically, an offering is something you give because the receiver wants it and a sacrifice is something that you’re giving up in order to show how important the one being sacrificed is to you.

Different beings and different types of beings often have preferences for the offerings and sacrifices they receive.  Some entities want offerings and don’t seem to have much of an opinion on whether they involve a sacrifice.  In my experience, ancestors and many fae appreciate offerings but don’t really care whether a sacrifice is involved in procuring them.  Other entities place great importance on sacrifice, sometimes to the point where the amount of sacrifice is more important than the suitability of what’s being sacrificed.  For example, some deities or spirits enjoy when a supplicant makes a vow of austerity (e.g. I will forgo consuming alcohol for a month) because of the devotion this shows, even though it doesn’t really give anything concrete to them.  This is most common with deities that demand explicit showings of devotion and spirits that want you to abstain from something for your own good.

In the past I’ve given a lot of offerings but haven’t really made many sacrifices.  Sure, I buy high quality incense to offer and go out of my way to get the good rum for the Baron, but I honestly don’t see that as much of a sacrifice.  The only time I really feel like I’m giving something up is when I offer really good food.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the many allies that have helped and continue to help me and I feel like they deserve more from me than a bit of incense and burned beeswax.  Most traditional offerings are things that everyday people had around the house, that they used on a regular basis, and that those without excess income would miss: food, alcohol, herbs and spices, etc.  In my comfortable suburban existence giving up a bite of food or a pinch of dried herbs doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice.  I don’t really drink, so I could pour out a whole bottle of liquor without much pause (unless it was super expensive).  I have a fair number of little luxuries in my life: fine food, high quality tea and treats, electronics, toys, etc., that might make a more authentic sacrifice than more traditional offerings.  I particularly enjoy having a cup of fine tea and a sweet in the afternoon, so sharing that would be much more of a sacrifice to me than a shot of tequila.  Another good sacrifice would be putting my phone and iPad on my altar for an hour or two and not touching them or my computer (I have a media addiction.  This should shock no one.).  Of course, if I were to ask for a big favor the sacrifice would have to be larger and more meaningful.  For everyday offerings, something small should suffice.

Some of the finest chocolate you can get 'round these parts

I feel like one should find a balance with offerings and sacrifice.  It’s important to offer spirits/deities/etc. things that they want.  It’s also important to make a show of effort/sacrifice in the making of those offerings.  If the offerings your allies want are things that you want as well then they can easily be both offerings and sacrifices, but if they aren’t then you should go the extra mile to also offer something that is a sacrifice to you.  For me that means I’ll give the Baron his weekly shot of rum and pinch of tobacco while also sacrificing some dragonwell tea and a bit of organic fair trade dark chocolate or a macaron.  It also means that when I make offerings to the ancestors I’ll be sure to give them things I like or things that required my own effort to make, not just purchase (think baking cookies vs. buying them).  It doesn’t have to be a lot, and it doesn’t have to be every day, but adding a bit of real sacrifice to regular offerings makes them more meaningful and a lot less routine.