14 February 2014

Ready For Pantheacon

I'm sitting in my room at the Doubletree about to head downstairs for the first slot of Pantheacon presentations. I'm looking forward to another great con :)  I hope to see some of you at 9am on Monday for my workshop on Pop Culture Magick for Geeks!

05 February 2014

Pop Culture Magick for Geeks - A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villany

Some of my favorite characters in the geek universe aren't the clean cut heroes.  Everyone loves a good anti-hero and nobody tops are really compelling villain, but do you really want to work with them magickally?  Absolutely!  The energy stores available to a really amazing villain are incredible.  However, you need to be extremely careful about how you do it.

The whole point of working with pop culture characters in magick is to utilize the rapport you've already established with a character and to tap into the energy that you and every other fan has pumped into it.  The rapport you have with a character is the same whether it's a hero, villain, or something in between.  The energy surrounding a character, however, is extremely different when we're talking good guys and bad guys. 

Let's take a look at the energy of an anti-hero as opposed to a straight up good guy.  A black and white hero, Superman for example, embodies purely "positive" traits such as honesty, loyalty, compassion, etc. (Yes, yes, I know every hero has a dark side and that those are the best stories - just go with me on this.)  Such upstanding and forthright heroes tend to gather very strong positive energy and you can absolutely count on that energy to want to "do the right thing," making it pretty darn safe to work with.  A good anti-hero is a lot more complicated; they tend to have fairly obvious flaws (think Wolverine's anger management issues or Deadpool's insanity - seriously, I love the character but work with him at your own risk) and don't always stand on the moral high ground.  The energy surrounding an anti-hero is a lot less predictable than the energy of a more clear cut hero; sometimes it's extremely positive and other times it's quite negative, and that energy can change rapidly - particularly if the character is still evolving in the public consciousness.  That means you have to be even more careful than normal to be precise about which version of a character you want to work with (see my previous post for more info).  If the energy you want is from a character during a particular comic issue, television episode, or movie you need to explicitly say so and be totally sure of your intent before you start your working.
Deadpool and Loki - I have no idea who made this image but I love that person

And then there's the true villains - The Joker, Darth Vader, Loki, Malificent.  I adore villains and I tend to work with them a lot.  Yes, I like to play with fire, but you should know that about me by now.  Working with villains is just like working with anti-heroes, but much much hairier.  Villains have baggage, lots and lots of baggage, and that carries over into the energy that's available surrounding them.  Their energy is strong, often stronger than that of the heroes that fight them, but it's often tainted.  It's the nature of a villain (in everything but horror movies) to ultimately lose the battle and that inevitable failure can, potentially, affect your working if you're not extremely careful.  When I work with villains I tend to utilize just one or two qualities that the villain embodies.  For example, utilizing Loki's ability to talk anyone into just about anything or the Joker's ability to disrupt established patterns (no matter what the cost or consequences).  Villains also tend to have more of a mind of their own, so you must be extremely precise when outlining your intent in using them.  Give the mind of a villain an inch and it will take ever so much more than a mile.  I mean it, be careful!

*Steps down from moral high ground* And sometimes you just need to do a working that requires more moral ambiguity than Captain America can provide.  We're all our own people and can do whatever we want as long as we're willing to accept the consequences of our actions.  If what you really want is to cause a little chaos, then working with a villain will do that.  There will be a price (there's always a price), but the work will get done.  I'll leave it at that.

Other Posts on Pop Culture Magick for Geeks
The Things With The Stuff - A basic introduction to using pop culture characters in magick
Who's Your Doctor? - Thoughts on determining version of a character you want to work with
Bag of Holding -  Tools, props, and altar swag

04 February 2014

Pop Culture Magick for Geeks - Bag of Holding

One of my absolute favorite ways to use pop culture in my magick is in my choice of altar swag, tools, and props for spells.

Traditional tools and altar pieces, while lovely to look at and nice to own, can be both pricey and impractical.  As much as I would love to have the $600 hunk of labradorite as a part of my altar, it's just not in my budget (and really, the piece would needs its own custom liturgy just to keep it charged).  So instead I have action figures and toys on my altar.  They have the benefits of being inexpensive (unless you're talking serious collectibles, jeebuz!), easy to get a hold of, and are relatively innocuous when people come over.

Here's a little altar I set up for doing a prosperity spell during the Superbowl (with all that energy running rampant, why not take advantage of it?  It helps that my city was overflowing with successful and joyous energy).  I specifically used the figure of Loki to represent the silver-tongued skills I need to improve in order to wrestle a raise out of my firm's rather reluctant partners.  I used the figure of Boba Fett to represent the ability to find a better position if my firm won't pony up appropriately.  Nothing quite like using strong and tenacious characters with a big ol' free energy source to fuel a potent working.

I also enjoy using pop culture characters in protective workings.  At work I keep a small stuffed Chtulu as an anchor for a ward to keep my more annoying co-workers from hanging out near my cube. Lovecraft's Cthulu is one of the most terrifying characters in 20th century literature, that has somehow morphed into the poster child for weird creepy people everywhere - I love him.  A stuffed Cthulu embodies everything I want to evoke in my work area - cute an innocuous if you don't look too closely, but foreboding and uncomfortable if you dig where you're not welcome.

Pop culture geekery is also treasury of potential tools.  Need an athame, why not get a replica of a dagger wielded by a DnD barbarian?  Need a coven sword for your den of nerds, why not a Klingon bat'leth?  Personally, I use three different wands (pictured above) - depending on what I'm doing at any given time. The top wand is one of a pair of arnis sticks that I use in defensive/offensive work; the middle wand is an ebony wand in the Harry Potter style that I use for more finessed workings; and the bottom wand is the 10th Doctor's sonic screwdriver that is marvelous for workings involving heavy intellect or air energies and any kind of creative problem solving.

Harness the power of your nerdness and make thinkgeek.com and Toys R Us your primary shopping places for spell components (and don't forget second-hand toy stores, they can be amazing!).  Who says a line of little green army men in your garden can't work as an amazing ward?  Use the images of characters you already love and obsess over to make your magickal workings more natural for you.  An object is no less sacred for being mass produced and loved by children everywhere, as long as it holds special meaning for you.  Magick is all about harnessing natural energies and nudging them where we want to go, if it makes more sense for you to do that with action figures than herbs and crystals (or all three!), then go forth my nerdy brethren :)

Other Posts on Pop Culture Magick for Geeks
The Things With The Stuff - A basic introduction to using pop culture characters in magick
Who's Your Doctor? - Thoughts on determining version of a character you want to work with

30 January 2014

Pop Culture Magick for Geeks - Who's Your Doctor?

In my last post I talked about some of the general ideas involved in working with pop culture characters as part of your magickal practice.  Any level of thought can create a link between yourself and the astral version of a character, but it really helps to dig a little deeper.  Before you begin working with a character it's important to decide which version of the character you want to work with.

Say you want to work with The Doctor (like I do).  The first thing you have to ask yourself is which Doctor?  Not only are there thirteen different regenerations to choose from, you've also got to look at the different versions of the Doctor that you find in things like comics, novels, and video games.  No, fanfiction versions do not count - unless you're crazy - and it's totally cool if you are. The older and more popular the character the more versions you're likely to come across; how many versions of Batman can you think of off the top of your head? 
You also need to decide if you want to work with a living character or a static one.  When I say a living character I mean a character whose canon is still evolving - particularly characters in active series where new material is constantly being put out into the world.  Living characters are still evolving and changing, so you have to keep potential changes to their natures in mind when you work with them.  It's slightly easier to work with a static character, like one from a completed series or a standalone film or book.  The character of Gandalf isn't going to be changing much, if at all, (even with new movies being produced) because the canon of his character is firmly etched in the works of Tolkien.  You know exactly what you're getting with a static character, thus making it easier to know who they might behave magickally.  Either way, know the version of the character you want to work with as thoroughly as possible so you know what you're getting yourself into.

What about characters you've created yourself?  We're working with popular characters because of the enormous amounts of energy that have been poured into them over the years by thousands of fellow geeks.  However, working with a character that we've created ourselves is essentially working with a thought form we've created and endowed with extra personality.  Oh yes my friends, chances are your half-orc barbarian in a five year Dungeons & Dragons campaign has had more thought and energy put into it than your average servitor.  Gaming characters (particularly pen and paper RPGs) also have the added bonus of available, customizable, figurines that make great simulacrums.

Many of us have put more energy into our gaming personae's thoughts, abilities, and actions than the average person would strictly consider healthy. Like when World of Warcraft has to remind us to log off and talk to our families - you know what I'm talking about *gives you a good stare*.  Gaming characters have the advantage of being malleable; we can turn them into just about anything we want them to be.  This means that we can purposely create characters with the aim of eventually using them in magickal workings.  Need a familiar to help with healing magicks - create a healer character; need help with protection - how about building a paladin?  But, of course, working with gaming characters has a unique problem: they occasionally die.  This can put a damper on things.  It's not so bad with MMORPG characters, they're designed to be resurrected ad nauseum, but sometimes when a pen and paper RPG character dies they're pretty much gone forever.  There's no rule saying you can't still work with the astral energy of a "dead" character, but the energy is different.  Just something to think about.

Basically, know what you're getting yourself into before working with a character. It's the same rule as with working with any power outside yourself - if it's got the ability to think it's got the ability to do something unexpected, so do your homework and be prepared.

22 January 2014

Pop Culture Magick for Geeks - The Things With The Stuff

This year at Pantheacon I'll be presenting a workshop on Pop Culture Magick for Geeks. Over the next few weeks I'll be doing a series of posts on that topic both for folks who won't be able to make it to the live presentation and to provide a little more info than I can reasonably give in a 90 minute presentation. 

There's something wonderful about being a magickal geek.  You see geeks, by their very nature, don't do things by halves.  Geeks don't "like" the things they do, they "obsess."  If a geek doesn't obsess over what they're doing with an all consuming passion (e.g. working on the same bit of code for five straight hours with nothing but a gallon of Code Red for fuel), they usually won't bother.  We see this in our fandoms (Doctor Who obsession anyone?), our gaming (World of Warcraft nearly destroyed my life and don't even get me started on DnD), and, of course, our magick (we can take daily practice to a whole new level).  The beauty of being a magickal geek is that we can actually harness the hundreds of hours of obsession with stories, the years of intense energy fixation into characters, into our magick.  

The Things With the Stuff!

One of my favorite ways to incorporate my geekery with my magick is to work with characters.  Like many inveterate nerds, I often find myself involved in deeper relationships with the characters of my favorite stories (books, tvs, movies, comics, etc.) and games than with other people; and certainly deeper than my relationships with many spirits or unapproachable deities.  I cannot count the number of hours or the amount of energy I've put into my favorite characters.  I can honestly say that I know more about The Doctor and Buffy as "people" than my own sister.  So, I've learned how to harness my obsessions and make them useful to my magick. There are two main ways of using a beloved character in magick: as a familiar or guide, or as a representation of a natural force or deity.

My favorite way to work with a character I obsess over is as a familiar or guide.  Popular characters, think Batman or Aragorn, have a life of their own.  They have tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people pouring energy into them over many years; shaping them and bringing them into our collective unconscious.  Many of these characters are more universally beloved than a lot of deities these days (just look at the crowds at the premier of any Marvel movie).  All of the love and devotion poured into these characters creates a thoughtform of them in the astral plane.  As we individually strengthen our relationships with these characters (by engaging with their stories, talking about them, getting their merchandise, and generally making them a part of our lives) we connect to the energy of that character in the astral.  It's just like strengthening the potential power of a ritual through repetition - the more energy we engage in with a character the more energy we can get back out of them when we need it.  

Once you've got a relationship with a character you can work with that character in the same ways you would with just about any other sentient entity.  I once had a rather difficult encounter with some vampiric spirits and called on the character of Van Helsing to assist my divination in finding a way to deal with the problem.  The character of Van Helsing has more than a century's worth of energy of people believing him to be the absolute authority on vampires - his expertise did not disappoint me.  I've also called on the occasional superhero to escort me home when taking the bus late at night or walking through sketchy parts of town.
And, of course, The Doctor is my spirit guide.  He's a character that embodies pretty much every quality I want in my spirit guide - intelligent, cunning, empathetic, wise, and kind.  He gives fantastic advice and is an excellent intermediary between myself and otherwise less understandable forces.  

I basically work with familiar characters from my favorite geeky obsessions the way other folks work with fae, spirits, daemons, or minor deities.  

Some people also use pop culture characters as representations of deity.  It can be difficult for the modern mind to feel strong connections with antique deities.  Ancient mythology is filled with references to what was once everyday life, but really how much empathetic connection can an office worker have with tales of hunting wild boar afoot or the growing of barley?  It can be easier to look at modern characters as intermediaries or embodiments of the deities of our ancestors.  It can be easier to use a Wonder Woman action figure on your altar to represent Diana than a museum replica (not to mention astronomically less expensive).  I'm rather partial to using Captain Jack Harkness as a representation of Eros (just think about it, it totally fits).  If your brain as an easier time connecting to a modern character that can symbolize a deity you want to work with, go for it.

I have also heard of folks actually worshiping pop culture characters as deities in their own right.  Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about that.  It's not something I would do, but I can understand the inclination.  I'm very comfortable with ancient mythology and have no problem forming relationships with antique deities, but I can understand how that might be difficult for some.  Why wouldn't an avid comic book reader make an offering to Superman?  I vastly prefer to think of modern characters as spirits or advanced thoughtforms because I'm not sure they've been around long enough to have the power I feel like a deity should have, but that's just me.  If it works for you, more power to ya. 

Next up in Pop Culture Magick for Geeks - Who's Your Doctor? 
 Pop Culture Magick for Geeks - Bag of Holding

09 January 2014

Correspondence Courses - Magickal Defense

As much as I have enjoyed having a full month off of teaching, I'm starting to get that itch again folks.  Some of you probably had suspicions that this might happen when I left the Grey School, but yes I am going to start offering correspondence courses in a few subjects in the coming year, beginning with a full course series on Magickal Defense.  My plan with these courses is to offer in-depth information with a goodly dose of personal attention.  The lessons themselves will be downloadable pdfs with a goodly number of images and videos as is appropriate to the subject.  All of the courses will include a certain number of either google hangout or skype sessions so all students will have some real one-on-one time with me.  Of course, this is all a work in progress so things are still very fluid.

For those of you who have read my book or saw my Grey School course offerings, you know that magickal defense is one of my specialties.  It was the first magickal practice that I obsessed over and I've created A LOT of materials in it over the years.  I'm planning to create a three course series in practical magickal defense running from pure beginner into the quite advanced. 

I'm hoping to have the beginner course ready for its first students by Ostara at the latest and Pantheacon at the earliest.  The beginner course will cover shielding and filters, energetic awareness, magickal camouflage, the materia magica of defense and protection, creating simple protective charms, and clearing space.  Are there any topics you'd like to see me cover in this first course that I didn't mention?  Leave me a comment or shoot me an email - I'd love to hear from you!

The intermediate and advanced courses are in the pipeline and should follow a few months after the basic course is up. Further down the road I will be creating a course series on shadow magick, and possibly one on magickal pests, to go with my book.

So what do you folks this of this idea?  This is your chance to have some input on how these courses form so speak up!  Leave a comment or shoot me an email emily (at) e-carlin.com.

12 December 2013

Shadow Offerings

As I have said many times, the essence of shadow work is the act of accepting and integrating your own shadow.  Doing so makes you a stronger, more whole person with fewer chinks in your armor and more control over your self.  One mechanism for helping make such integration possible is to make regular offerings to your shadow.

The purpose of making an offering to your shadow is not to strengthen it, but to acknowledge it and to recognize its importance.  It's mostly about keeping your self-awareness sharp.  Taking a little extra time to think about and recognize your shadow will make you more comfortable with it, help you to recognize it in action in your life, and ease your working with it both spiritually and magickally. 

Oftentimes offerings are made in gratitude, but that can be a rather difficult emotion when it comes to the shadow.  Our shadows are often difficult to deal with and can cause us to do things that make our lives more difficult than they need to be.  Our shadows are often the catalyst for learning unpleasant life lessons, and it can be really difficult to be grateful for that.  However, those hard lessons are what shape us and help us grow, so we should be grateful for them - however uncomfortable they may be.  It's your choice on any given day whether you want to add the emotion of gratitude in your shadow offering.

My favorite thing to offer for this purpose is incense.  I like to get the highest quality resin sticks that I can find (like Mountain Natural's Palo Santo Resin Sticks) and use them.  Yes, I know actual resins on charcoal would be better but I find working with the charcoals to burn them to be a huge pain (you try keeping them fresh in the incredible dampness of the Pacific Northwest!) and if something is a pain I'm less likely to actually do it.  An offering of energy would certainly work too, but it would have to be very clearly tuned for shadow work.  I generally only do energy offerings when either a) I'm in a place where burning things isn't appropriate/allowed, or b) I have a very specific purpose I want to accomplish with my offering, like recognizing a particular thing that happened or an important lesson I've learned.  In the end, what you offer isn't nearly as important as the fact that you're offering something on a regular basis.

I like to do my shadow offerings once a week on a Saturday in the hour of Saturn.  As I am both a tech and lazy, I use an app on my phone (Planetary Hours) to determine when the hour of Saturn happens. If something particularly shadowy comes up during the week I might add in an extra offering here and there as necessary.

To perform the offering I light a black candle (sometimes it's a tea light or taper, sometimes it's a big fat pillar that I use over and over again - doesn't really matter) and light the incense from the candle, rather than from a match.  As the incense lights I like to say a short incantation that varies depending on the day.  It's usually something along the lines of:

This day I make an offering to the shadow;
May I always see the truth of the shadow in my life;
May I always absorb its teachings;
May I learn to integrate my shadow and be whole;
As I do will so mote it be.

 I find making these regular offerings to be strangely grounding.  The act of preemptively accepting whatever weirdness life may throw at me is oddly calming.  Maybe it's just appeasing my Virgo nature to always be prepared for anything ;)