17 April 2015

Pop-Up Ritual

I love doing ritual magick but I don't always love the rigidity of the way it's often practiced.  I want my ritual practice to be adaptable enough to be done anywhere and anytime it's needed, with whomever wants to join me.  Don't get me wrong, a complicated and exactingly crafted ritual can be a beautiful thing - but I tend to save that for rare major workings.  Most of the time I do magick on the fly, including rituals.

Like so many things, I first started doing ritual back as an undergrad at Wellesley.  We had an amazing group that focused on learning new things and trying out new practices.   We were students just getting into magick, what else would we be doing?  We met every week and would often begin meetings by asking if anyone needed any magickal help.  Most of the time someone needed something (help studying for an exam, healing of an injury, dealing with a conflict, etc.); so, we would circle up, call the quarters, and do some magick.  We were a diverse group with Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Red Road, and a few other practitioners, so we didn't exactly have a set liturgy.  We'd improvise on a theme and just figure out what we were doing as we went along.  Every ritual was totally different, but they pretty much always met our needs.  It was an extremely open and flexible way of doing ritual and I loved it.

Ah my Alma Mater

I still love it.  I pretty much never do something the exact same way in multiple rituals.  Yes, over the years I've developed a pretty standard way of casting a circle and calling the quarters, but they always vary at least a little from ritual to ritual and they're the closest thing to standard liturgy that I've got. I like being able to feel the energies around me when I'm doing ritual and then adapt the ritual accordingly.  Shouldn't the way you call air into a circle be different if you're standing on a wind swept bluff as opposed to when you're indoors?  Should you summon, stir, and call forth a spirit that you can feel is already standing right beside you or just acknowledge it's presence and thank it for showing up early?  I've always felt that such adaptability is key for an effective practice.

Ritual is, in essence, a formal framework for worship, magickal practice, or a bit of both.  In my practice a ritual needs to have: a statement of intent/focus, an opening, calling of supportive powers (elements, spirits, deities, etc.), a working (devotional, magickal, or both), thanking of supporting powers, and a closing.  As long as those elements are present, preferably in that order, you've got yourself a ritual.  To me, it doesn't really matter whether your celebration of Artemis takes the form of a 15 minute recitation of an original poem in perfect iambic pentameter or is just a few moments of heartfelt meditation and lighting some incense.

Oh My Gods Archive
The exact execution of any step in a ritual is far less important than the focus and intent used in performing it.  I've been to large, carefully executed, highly formalized ritual that had less power and meaning than a five minute improvised ceremony to honor a pretty tree found in a park.  It's a lot like feeling the power and beauty of a heartfelt jazz improv as opposed to a coldly, if perfectly, played Mozart concerto; like music, magick has to have soul!

Of course, nothing is ever quite as simple as that.  Unless you're really comfortable with public speaking (something my inner attention whore loves with an unholy passion), improvising in front of strangers can be intimidating.  If you're inexperienced you might not know what to say; you may fear being judged or laughed at.  It's important that ritual space be safe space.  I like to begin my public rituals by stating that there is no right or wrong way to do something (within reason) and that judgements are strictly prohibited.  When I ask for participants I try to be fairly specific about what roles are needed and any constraints on how something can be done (usually time or adapting to the needs of the particular atendees).  If someone wants to participate that doesn't know what to do or feels comfortable doing something alone I ask for a more experienced practitioner to help the newbie plan what to do and how to do it (think magickal spotter). 

This brings us to the idea of pop-up ritual.  I have a dream of building a network of magickal folk who can come together, without prior preparation, and perform ritual whenever it's wanted.  Just like you see pop-up retail stores appearing temporarily where they find a need, I want to see pop-up ritual that can be set up in a flash anywhere, anytime, with whomever happens to show up.  I want to see open, inclusive ritual being practiced in my community. If you're in the Seattle area check out Illustris on Facebook and see where you can participate in my pop-up rituals.

Beltane Ritual 5/2 at Carkeek Park

If you are in the Seattle area come join me on May 2nd to celebrate Beltane!  We'll be doing a fun, informal ritual in the always lovely Carkeek Park.  We'll be meeting in the parking area next to the playground at 3pm.


This relaxed and informal ritual is open to all ages, traditions/practices, and levels of experience. Come as you are.  Just bring an open mind, a willingness to participate, and a small offering of flowers or birdseed if you can. 

I hope to see you there!

For full details check out our event listing on Witchvox:
http://www.witchvox.com/vn/vn_detail/dt_ev.html?a=uswa&id=94369

07 April 2015

Pop Culture Magick: Con Edition - Part II

In my last post, Pop Culture Magick: Con Edition - Part I, I talked a bit about that magick you can perform at a comic or pop-culture convention to take advantage of the unique energies and opportunities that cons present.  In this post I'll talk a bit about the magick you can perform in order to help yourself stay safe, sane, and healthy while at a con.

Conventions are amazing things and I adore them, however they can be rather overwhelming.  When you squeeze a convention center or hotel full of people the possibilities for discordant energy, exhaustion, and illness go up dramatically.

First, the mundane

Why am I talking about the mundane in a magickal blog? Because you can't do effective magick if you're physically exhausted or ill.  If your mundane foundations aren't strong your magick will suffer, so you need to take care of yourself.

As with any con, I always recommend that you keep the 6-2-1 rule in mind: get a minimum of six hours of sleep a night, eat at least two balanced meals a day, and take one shower a day (this is for you and everyone around you). Most cons have official activities going all day and both official and unofficial activities going most of the night.  It's shockingly easy to loose track of time when you're having fun, but all-nighters aren't good for you.  I don't know about you folks, but I am not a teenager anymore and turn into an unbearable harpy when I don't get my rest.  My getting sufficient sleep is in everyone's best interest.  It's also incredibly easy to miss meals at a con.  Often events are scheduled so that there's always something happening and it you're interested in it all there might not be much time for meals.  Do yourself a favor and find the nearest grocery store or deluxe mini-mart and stash some healthy food in your room and some nutritious and non-squishable food and a water bottle in your con bag.  Here in Seattle we have one of the best public market's in the world, Pike Place Market, so I took advantage and filled the room with tasty and mostly healthy snacks.  I trust I don't need to explain the need to bathe.  Seriously folks.


If you can, get a hotel room near the con.  If you're going to be at a con that is either multi-day or that goes far into the night do yourself a favor and get a room.  Having a room means that you've got safe, private space at an extremely public event.   As a magickal person the ability to, whenever you need to, retreat from the public energies into a quiet energetically controllable space is absolutely critical.  You never know when you're going to need to just crash and chill out for a while.  Cons can be overwhelming in both good and bad ways: you can be shaking from an inspiring panel from your favorite writer or shaking with rage from the dudebro bad mouthing your favorite character.  Either way, having safe space to relax is a godsend.  Some conventions (thank you ECCC) have quiet rooms in the con itself for just such occasions and they are truly helpful - mark them on your map!  But if you need to do a full LBRP to come down, having private space to do so would make your life a lot easier.

Take care of your feet.  I walked over 20,000 steps the first day of ECCC.  On an average work day I get in about 4,000.  By Sunday night my legs and feet were both very unhappy with me.  Bring multiple pairs of shoes to change your gait, change your socks 2-3 times a day (trust me), and bring epsom salts and soothing lotion for your legs and feet (tiger balm is your friend).  You will have a better time at the con if you're not in pain.

A word on con-crud.  80,000 of your closest friends does not a hygienic environment make.  Getting sick at a con blows donkey nuts.  Take vitamin c, take immune boosting herbs, do acupuncture before hand, use hand sanitizer, eat well, keep yourself hydrated, and get enough rest.  Take care of yourself or pay the consequences.

On to the magick!

Grounding

Possibly the most important magickal skill you can use to have a better con experience is grounding.  The near-tidal levels of chaotic energy that are experienced at a convention can wreak havoc on even the most shielded of practitioners.  Ground well and ground often to keep your equilibrium.

This is where you should plan on bringing out you big guns for grounding: use stones like jet or obsidian to help earth your energies, drink soothing herbal tea like chamomile or lemon balm (put some iced tea in a water bottle for on the go grounding needs), wear grounding jewelry, have particularly earthy friends on hand if possible, and be prepared to take a grounding shower at the end of the day (seriously, a nice herbal soap and a soothing shower do wonders for grounding at the end of the day).  At ECCC this year my con buddy, Rae du Soleil, brought a spritz of rosemary/cedar water that was wonderful for helping us ground.  I highly recommend something similar. If you forget to ground you will wake up with a spectacular magickal hangover - I speak from experience.

It's also nice to give yourself a magickal foot massage at the end of the day.  Even if you forgot to pack your homemade lotion packed with grounding herbs and per-charged with your intent, almost all hotels have little bottles of hand lotion.  Use the lotion to rub your feet with the intent of working out both the physical kinks and the energetic residue of the day.  As you work the knots in your muscles allows your energetic knots to come loose as well to allow the energy of the day to ground away.  Your feet and your aura will thank you.

Shielding

Shielding at a con is tricky.  On the one hand you don't want to miss out on the fun and excitement of the ambient energy, and on the other hand you don't want to get blown out by that same energy.  I recommend coming into the event with minimal shielding and then reading the ambient energy to see how much you need to add.  I'd rather get a little bit frazzled than miss out, but it's totally up to you.

I highly recommend using anchored shields (shields housed in a physical object) while at a con.
If the con is any good you will be fully engaged in the con itself, with very little brain power left over to deal with shielding.  Making sure that your shields take care of themselves will save you a lot of energy.

Altars

Travel altars are your friend.  Having a small altar of your own power objects can completely transform an energetically nondescript hotel room into your hotel room. If you're energetically sensitive you're probably noticed that generic hotel rooms can be a little bit soul crushing.  They're specifically designed to not have much character or energy beyond restful sleep.  Setting up a small altar infuses your energy into the room and makes it far more supportive to you.  Don't underestimate the importance of feeling like you belong in the space you wake up in. 

Rae du Soleil's ECCC 2015 altar
Daily Divination

It may seem like a small thing, but doing a bit of divination before you head out for the day and really affect how you experience things.  Anything from a simple one card pull to a full spread on what you need to focus on for the day can provide guidance and direct your focus.  It's also a great way to help yourself figure out if you really need to skip lunch to make that 12:20pm panel.


Cosplay 

First off, I am not a cosplayer.  I have tremendous respect for the art of cosplay and I love the incredible people watching it provides, but it's just not really my thing.  That being said, there is tremendous magickal potential in cosplay.  It's quite different to walk the floor as a nondescript attendee and another thing entirely to walk the floor as Lady Sif (and there were a few amazing Lady Sifs at ECCC).  If you're a cosplayer you can take advantage of the energies involved in playing a character in a place where that character is recognized and respected.  Just a thought ;)

For more info:
Conventions - Part I
Pop Culture Magick Index

Pop Culture Magick: Con Edition - Part I

The weekend before last I attended the ever glorious Emerald City Comicon (ECCC).  There is no better place for a pop culture magick (PCM) practitioner can go to fuel their practice than a convention.  In this post I'll talk a bit about how you can work a comic/pop-culture convention to better your PCM practices.  In my next post I'll talk a bit about what you can do magickally to improve your convention experience. 

So...many...toys!

One of the best things about doing PCM is the availability of magickal tools.  You can take toys, t-shirts, art, and swag of all kinds from your favorite fandom and turn them into magickal tools (see an earlier post for more info).

There is no greater concentration of potential magickal items than on a convention show floor.  There were hundreds of amazing vendors of every possible description at ECCC.  You could get everything from custom artwork, plushies, action figures, swords, clothing, armor, jewelry, and more.  I saw things that I didn't even know existed being sold on that show floor. Come prepared with a solid budget or you can get yourself into a lot of trouble.

I made two fun purchases this year.  I found the booth for one of my favorite comics, Kill Shakespeare, quite by accident while trying to escape the crush of the Friday afternoon crowd.  They had some incredibly fun t-shirts available, including one of Shakespearean villains.  If you're a fan of this blog you know that I love both Shakespeare and working with villains in my magick.  Next time I need to do a spell that requires the potency and scale of a Shakespearean villain I know what my ritual garb will be ;)

My most exciting (and priciest) find was a licensed replica of Harry Dresden's original shield bracelet.  If you haven't read any of the Dresden Files (oh for shame!), they are an urban fantasy series about a wizard-for-hire living in Chicago who battles baddies of all shapes and sizes.  One of his most important tools is a charm bracelet where each charm is fully imbued with a potent protection spell.  I plan to charge each of the charms on my bracelet to do exactly that.  Not only will it have the power of the intent that I put into it, but also the power of the belief of all the readers of this 15 year (and counting) series - talk about taking advantage of power that's already sitting there ripe for use.

Another incredibly useful PCM tool that you can often only get at conventions is custom artwork.  Many artists will take commissions for custom work at or before conventions.  If one of your favorite artists is available take advantage of that and have them make a piece whose components you can use in your magickal works.  Imagine the prosperity spell you could craft using a piece of custom art as a focus.  As a bonus, art purchased directly from the artist almost always has stronger energy than art that's gone through an intermediary - less energy dilution good!

The options are just about endless in for this sort of thing and it's a great way to both improve the potency of your magick and support your favorite artists.

Energy, energy everywhere! As far as the mind's eye can see!

The energy at a convention is utterly unlike anything else.  The closest thing to it would be a major concert or sporting event, but sustained over several days rather than just a few hours.  There are so many overwhelming emotions pouring everywhere: excitement for all that can be done, joy at seeing your favorite writers/artists/actors, frustration from waiting in lines, etc.  That nearly unlimited energy can be harnessed if you take care.

In most ritual magick you set up sacred space, call on helpful energies and entities, raise energy, and then direct that energy towards your goal.  At a convention you can kind of skip all that and just scoop up the copious energy around you and send it off to wherever it needs to go.

Of course, just because energy is strong and available doesn't necessarily mean it's in tune with your goals.  The energy of a bunch of squeevy dudes drooling over pinups probably won't help you ace your feminist theory class and the energy of a vendor arguing with convention staff won't help your prosperity spell.  Take your time to walk the floor to feel out the energies.  Find the energy that feels most sympathetic to your goals and take a bit from that area.  If you're doing a spell on the fly just be sure to walk through that area when you need to gather energy.  If you're setting up for a larger rite you can always charge a stone, sigil, or talisman while walking through that area.

You can also utilize the energy in panels in pretty much the same way.  Most actors and audiences put off a tremendous amount of energy during convention panels - the more exciting and dynamic the panel, the more energy gets thrown about the room.  You can either come in with a plan to use the type of energy you expect to be generated in the panel, or you can do something on the fly if particularly juicy energy starts flowing.  
I had the pleasure of seeing many panels featuring truly kick-ass women at ECCC.  If I had wanted to so a spell to enhance my self-confidence or assertiveness I would have been absolutely spoiled for choices with so much empowering energy around.  Of course I didn't think about it at the time because I was too busy fangirling.  I'm ok with that.

Sweet Tesla is that...?

Conventions are also filled to the brim with major and minor celebrities.  They're one of the few places where you actually have the chance to interact with your idols - be they artists, writers, actors, etc.  Getting to meet a beloved celebrity (however briefly) is thrilling and at a con you almost always have either an autograph or a photo to take away from that meeting.  That little token can be used (mindfully) as a focus for sympathetic magick. I had the great please of having photo's taken with John Barrowman and Clark Gregg this year.  If I ever need to do a spell for confidence or accepting who I am I've got the perfect focus.


There is on SUPER-HUGE caveat to any magick involving living human beings as symbols - don't mess with the people themselves!  Similes are your friends in this type of magick.  By all means do a spell to "have strength and poise like Haley Atwell when she played Agent Carter."  Do not do a spell to "have Haley Atwell's strength and poise."  Do not suck energy out of your idols; they have enough demands on them already and do not need you making things worse.  Also be careful not to project your expectations onto a celebrity.  Just because they created your favorite character does not mean they act like or have the values of that character.  Celebrities are just people, often charismatic and brilliant people, but still just people.

Part II - Con Survival

For similar info check out:
Pop Culture Magick Index
Magick at Concerts

20 March 2015

Seattle Event - Ostara Saturday 3/21

If you're in the area come and celebrate Ostara with me in Discovery Park! We'll be meeting in the north parking lot at 3:45pm tomorrow.

The ritual will be very informal and will largely improvised (so what happens will depend on who shows up). Bring a small offering of nuts, seeds, or flowers.

The park can be wet and muddy, so wear sturdy shoes that can stand a bit of muck. It's Seattle, so rain gear is always a good idea (and it's supposed to be damp tomorrow). We may take a small hike around the park depending on the weather, so bring a water bottle.


https://www.facebook.com/events/1561648907450444/

06 March 2015

Book Review: Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums by Jamie Davis

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I've got a thing for ghosts (it's the whole worshiping death and spending quality time in the underworld thing).  I consume pretty much any and all media I can get my hands on regarding ghosts - whether I expect it to be good or not. 

When I stumbled upon Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums: Inside Abandoned Institutions for the Crazy, Criminal & Quarantined by Jamie Davis I knew I had to read it.  You see, most ghosts are totally benign and absolutely nothing like the rampaging fright-makers you see on sensationalist paranormal television.  However, the ghosts of criminals, the insane, and the criminally insane are a different story.  I've dealt with an insane ghost and it was terrifying.  I came to this book in the hopes of finding new and interesting information on atypical hauntings, but was disappointed.

Reading the introduction to this book I was immediately put on guard by the author describing her view of ghost hunting as a thrill-seeking activity.  Don't get me wrong, I totally see the appeal of spooking yourself silly in "haunted" places, but lauding it doesn't exactly give me confidence in the veracity of ones stories.  Thankfully, the author is really good about identifying her experiences as only that and doesn't make mountains out of molehills.  No shifting tree branches that are obviously signs of demonic activity!!!! Just honest experiences of being creeped out in exceedingly creepy places.

This books is basically a paranormal tourism guide and it serves that function pretty well.  Each chapter is about a visit the author made to a different paranormal hotspot and contains some basic historical information, the author's experiences while there, and info on how you can visit (many location offer regular tours or Halloween attractions).  It's written in a very matter-of-fact, guidebook style (which is fine, but it's not exactly flowing prose).  I do like that author has a webpage with all of the video, audio, and photos taken at each location so you can look and see for yourself.

This book is fine when the author is talking about the history of the location, but I had some trouble enjoying her descriptions of her personal experiences.  The problem is that the author is clearly an amateur ghost hunter, so she doesn't exactly offer deep insights into the paranormal.  If I want to hear about someone being freaked out by shadows I'll watch it on tv where I can enjoy the jump cuts and the soundtrack can get me invested.  Reading about it just falls flat.  Nothing all that extraordinary happens.  There's really not much in this book that you can't get from surfing the web, though perhaps not quite so conveniently packaged.  This book feels like the writer watched a few seasons of Ghost Hunters and then spent some time cruising paranormal hot spots to see what all the fuss is about.  While there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not the book I wanted to read.

If you're a seasoned ghost hunter or serious paranormal enthusiast, don't bother with this book.  There's just not enough added knowledge or even entertainment value to make it worth the money.  If you're an armchair ghost lover or someone looking to plan a trip to a haunted place then you might enjoy it, but there are better sources out there.

21 February 2015

Pop Culture Magick: Working with Villains

First off, a huge thank you to all who attended my workshop at Pantheacon! You people are the absolute best.  I really mean that.  There is nothing more rewarding than being able to share what I do and actually see the look of understanding on peoples faces as they find concepts that work for them.  It gives me all kinds of warm fuzzies :)

I've been asked by several people to do a more in-depth write-up of the material for folks who weren't there and for those who didn't take notes and this is it.  If you're not already familiar with the basics of Pop Culture Magick (PCM) I suggest you go over to my PCM index and read through my earlier articles.

Why Work With Villains?

When choosing what pop culture character you want to work with for any particular magickal act; the choice ultimately it comes down to figuring out what character you feel most comfortable with that can help you achieve your goal in the manner you want it achieved.  For most people most of the time, that character is going to be a hero because they're generally helpful, hardworking, and kind.  However, there are circumstances where the moral forthrightness of your average hero can hinder your goals more than help them (and not just when you're being naughty).

It is critical that you feel comfortable with whatever character you choose to work with.  The sympathy and connection we feel with a character is what makes PCM so effective.  For those of us that do the occasional bit of ethically grey or unambiguously black magick it can be difficult to achieve that kind of connection with your standard hero.  (I'm pretty sure Captain America would give me his disappointed face if I tried to work with him.)  Villains, on the other hand, tend to be very non-judgmental.  It's not like they can take the moral high ground with you, unless you've been a very naughty monkey indeed.  Not being overly burdened with morality, villains tend to embrace whomever can make their existence more entertaining.

Even if your magickal goal is a pure as the driven snow, sometimes you just don't have the time or energy to get all your moral ducks in a row before acting.  As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Villains are generally unburdened by guilt and as a result will do whatever is necessary to achieve their goal.  Many of them tend to be ruthless, efficient, and thorough; though a goodly number are also insane, capricious, and flighty - choose your villain carefully.

For What Types of Workings are Villains Best Suited?

Surprisingly (or not), villains are good at a lot more than simply wreaking havoc upon the unsuspecting.  The following list contains some magickal goals you might consider working on with a villain.
  • Bringing hidden things into the light (often being dragged kicking and screaming)
    • Villains are exceptionally good at ferreting out hidden secrets and exposing them.  My favorite example of this is Sweet from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - a demon who reveals the truth of a situation by making the people involved sing.  (If you haven't seen the episode Once More With Feeling, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore.)
  • Shaking up stagnant energy (also known as "running amok")
    • There are many villains in pop culture whose goals involve "saving" society from itself, usually by tearing down the established order of things.  When things in your life have ground to a halt and you're willing to take more extreme measures to get energy moving again you can consider working with villains like Ra's Al Ghul from Batman or  Ozymandias from Watchmen.
  • Standing up for things frowned upon by society at large
    • As with the above, many villains are anti-establishment and are happy to work against prevailing societal mores.  A great example of this is Dracula - a character that in many of his incarnations represents an unleashing of forbidden desires and a threat to society (I'm particularly fond of the version from Carlos Fuentes's Vlad for this purpose). 
  • Persuasion (manipulation if we're being totally honest)
    • Many of the best villains are absolutely as slick as they come.  They could sell ice to an Eskimo, charm the pants off of your mother, and convince just about anyone to do just about anything.  Just a few of the many villains who can fit this bill are Hannibal Lector, Lex Luthor, Sher Kahn, Loki, etc.
  • Focus and single-minded pursuit of a goal (regardless of collateral damage or personal cost)
    • If you find yourself constantly being distracted from achieving your goals you can call on villains for help, as many of them are absolutely obsessed with achieving their own goals.  Just be careful, as you may end up just as obsessed as they are.  Some examples of this are: Voldemort, Amora (from the Thor comics), and Fiona Goode (from AHS: Coven).
  • Justice/Revenge
    • A lot of villains raison d'etre is to take revenge on those who they believed have wronged them and many would be only too happy to help you to do the same (as ruthlessly as possible).  A good example of this is the Penguin (particularly from Batman Returns).  It's also a good cause for a "villain for hire" like Moriarty from the BBC Sherlock.  Keop in mind that there are also a lot of totally ruthless anti-heros that would do just as good of a job such as The Punisher, Eric Draven (from The Crow), and the Bride (from the Kill Bill movies).
  • Hexing
    • There comes a time in every practitioner's life when they just need to hex the ever living fuck out of someone.  There are plenty of villains that would gleefully help you to do so.  Think Bellatrix Lestrange.  There are consequences to doing something like this.  Don't be stupid about it.

The Rules

Like any other kind of magick, there are rules (more like guidelines) for successfully working with villains.

Rule 1 - Version Control

I have a whole blog post from last year on versions control: Who's Your Doctor.  If you haven't read it yet I suggest you do so (that way I don't have to rehash everything). 

While version control is important in any kind of PCM, it's doubly so when working with villains.  One of the primary characteristics of many villains is that they are trixy bastards and generally enjoy making trouble. Being extremely careful and explicit about exactly which version of a character you want to work with can save you a lot of trouble.  Such specificity ensures that you get the version of the character that has exactly the attributes you want to work with and nothing extraneous or unexpected (but always expect the unexpected - we'll talk about that more in a little bit).

Rule 2 - Know Your Goal

Before working with a villain (or any other entity) it is important to know exactly what you want to accomplish - and what you do not want to accomplish as collateral damage.  Working with a villain is a lot like working with faeries or Goetic demons - they will do exactly what you say, rather than what you intend, and they will do whatever they want within the rules you set up for them.  You can't set up your rules if you don't know exactly what you want.

Rule 3 - Know Thyself

You've chosen to work with a villain. Why? Are you really OK with the methods your chosen villain is likely to employ in the pursuit of your goals? Are you willing to accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions? Are you confident you will be able to keep your villain in line or will it go rogue the second you let your guard down? Are you comfortable with the price the villain wants for doing your work? Unless you're comfortable with the answers to those questions then you need to rethink what you're doing.

Rule 4 - Healthy Limits

As mentioned above, it's important to give a villain very strict limits as to what they are allowed to do in your name. Most villains will walk all over you if given half the chance.  Be very, very careful to explicitly set down what they are and are not allowed to do, to whom, why, when, where, etc.  Write it down on physical paper.  Do not fuck around with this.   

Rule 5 - Expect the Unexpected

You are not perfect and most villains will mess with you if they can.  Even if you've set down perfect rules, even if your goals are in perfect alignment with the villain's character, even if you've given them everything they ask for, villains can usually find a way to do something you could not predict.  Think of your worst possible case scenario of working with a villain - it just might happen.  No matter how good you are it is always possible for something to go wrong.  If you're not OK with that, rethink what you're doing. 

Payment

Like working with any other spirit/metaphysical entity, villains should receive something from you in exchange for their help.  In fact, this is far more important when working with villains than when working with heroes.  You do not want to end up owing a villain a "favor" (think of it like owing a mob boss a favor - do not want!). 

What villains want in exchange for their help varies wildly from character to character.  For some being asked to cause a bit of trouble is a reward in and of itself, but most want a bit more.  Come prepared with what you're willing to pay them, you don't want to let them come up with something on their own.  Think of something that is very specific to the character you're working with.  You might offer Fiona Goode a nice dry martini and some cigarettes while you might offer Hannibal Lector a gourmet meal.  You might offer Dracula a bit of your own blood, while you might offer Sweet a painful truth of your own.  Be sure that you don't offer too much of yourself - if you give a villain an inch it might take rather more than you anticipated.

A Caveat

Villains are not nice.  Even if they like you, even if you've got a great working relationship with them, never forget that they are villains.  Trust cautiously.  Take the greatest of care in all your dealings with them and be prepared to accept the consequences.

Further, working with villains can affect who you are.  You are deliberately entangling your personal energies with theirs and that can have great impact on who you are.  It can change you.   If you decide to work with villains (particularly if you're being ethically...ambiguous), I highly recommend you do some unquestionably positive work to help balance things out.  Go out and do some volunteer work in your community, donate to charity, give blood, do something to make the world a better place.  You certainly don't have to, but it's a really good idea.  Think about the person you want to be and make sure that you're not moving away from that person.

Shameless Plug!

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press (Stafford, U.K./Portland, OR, U.S.A) is seeking submissions for The Pop Culture Grimoire 2.0.

This anthology explores pop culture magic and Paganism in the 21st Century. We invite you to share your pop culture magic practice, pop culture Pagan spirituality, and your experiments, spells, and other workings that have integrated pop culture into your spiritual practice.

If you have an interesting idea, we need you to submit a first draft (of the idea, not necessarily the whole article) by March 15th.

Click here for more information