17 July 2014

Shadow Work: Expectations

In shadow work psychology and magick mix in fascinating ways.  One of the most interesting phenomena I've observed in shadow work, and in a lot of other types of magick really, is the power of expectations.  This can be our own expectations of people or events or the expectations of others that are projected on to us.

Expectations really are magickal when you think about it.  Magick is a deliberate attempt to use our energies to shape reality.  We focus on a particular goal, visualize the changes to reality we want to make in order to achieve it, and then project that energy out into the world to manifest itself.  In essence, we're creating an expectation of what the results of our magick will be and letting ourselves embrace and believe in that expectation. The more sure we are that reality will me our expectations, the more energy those expectations contain, the more magickal those expectations become giving them an ability to actually make it more likely for reality to conform to them.

This is all well and good when our expectations are positive; less good when they're negative.  Oh yes, negative expectations can be a self-fulfilling prophecy on soooo many levels.  Our own negative expectations, when believed in strongly enough, are essentially self-hexing.  When you've trained yourself to focus your thoughts and will enough to perform magick it does tend to trickle down into unconscious thought.  As we all know, like attracts like, and our negative expectation of reality will shape that reality - self-hexing.  Of course, from a purely psychological point of view, negative expectations make us interpret our situations in a way that conforms to how we expect it to be.  Thus even if you haven't managed to hex yourself, you'll still see things as being worse than they probably are.  This is our shadow at work.

Shadow work is all about embracing our darker thoughts and feelings, but that does not mean we need to roll around in them all day; an hour or so a day sure, but not all day every day.  When you find yourself having negative expectations about yourself or a situation it's important to take a step back and really assess things.  Realistic expectations when a situation truly is overwhelmingly negative is healthy; overwhelmingly negative expectations when things really aren't so bad is harmful.  Take some time out to meditate and clear your head.  Take some time to do some divination if you need to (this is the kind of situation where getting someone else to do divination for you can be extremely helpful, that way your negative feelings won't affect the divination as badly).  If you need to, consider doing some spellwork to help clear your head of prejudices and let you see things as they really are.  I would never, ever, ask someone to put on a happy face and think positive - because it makes me want to vomit - but I do ask for realism rather than moping. 

This brings us to the expectations most difficult to deal with: the expectations others have of us.  As much as some of us might like to, we do not live in a vacuum.  We live in a world populated by other people and, unless you're a hermit, we have to deal with other people and their expectations of us on a daily basis.  People that truly know and understand us tend to expect us to be who and what we really are, unfortunately people that truly know and understand who we really are tend to be pretty thin on the ground.  Instead, we are surrounded by people that know only bits and pieces of us. 

This limited knowledge means that people generally expect us to be something different than our authentic selves.  As you might imagine this can create all manner of problems for us.  On a mundane level, having to wear masks and live up (or down) to other people's expectations can be emotionally exhausting.  It can be equally exhausting on a magickal level.  Our shields do a lot of work keeping outside energies from unduly influencing us - that's their job - this includes the energy of other people's expectations.  If you spend the majority of your day surrounded by people who expect you to be something you're not it's going to take a toll on your shields. 

For most people it isn't too bad - who they portray themselves to be to the outside world isn't usually too far off from who they really are.  Of course we shadow workers tend to be...well...what other people consider to be "weirdos."  This can cause trouble even if you're letting your freak flag fly.  If you're spending most of your time pretending to be someone you're not, the combination of cognitive dissonance and energetic drain is eventually going to bite you in the ass.  If you're open about your weirdness a lot of shortsighted people probably have really negative expectations of you based on their own fears and hangups - causing pretty much the same toll on your shields as hiding would have, but hey less cognitive dissonance is good.  In the long term the best situation is to be yourself and educate others so that they understand what that means.  However, that takes time, energy, and won't fix everybody.  In the mean time creating an anchored shield specifically for dealing with other people's projected expectations can help a lot.  This is pretty much the only shield that I would actually recommend anchoring in rose quartz as it is naturally good at soothing emotions and aiding healing. 

Expectations are powerful things and as magickal practitioners we need to be aware of how they affect us whether they be from within or without.  The next time you approach a negative situation or feel the need to follow someone else's expectations of you take a step back and examine the reality of things and what you really want to see happen.  Just being aware of the influence of expectations can help you take control of the situation make it better.

06 May 2014

Negative Energy

At the moment I'm in the process of writing up the first of my courses on Magickal Defense and I've been thinking a lot about negative energy: what it is, why it's a problem, and what we can do about it.

It can be difficult to understand just what negative energy actually is.  I often find it easiest to think of negative energy as the residue of negative actions.  It is energy that holds the feelings of sadness, anger, pain, depression, destruction, etc.  You can think of it as being like the smell of burnt popcorn that lingers in your kitchen for hours, subtly making everything just a little bit gross, or the smoke of a forest fire that dims and besmirches everything it touches.  Negative thoughts and actions create negative energy.  In essence negative energy is the distilled power of unpleasantness, like a battery filled with ill feeling.

Magickal practitioners, particularly shadow workers or anyone that works with the dead, also tend to encounter magickal entities like ghosts, faeries, elementals, and the like.  These entities have very strong energetic fields that can be either positive or negative, depending on the entity.  Psychically, being in the presence of a negative entity, like a boggart or imp, feels a lot like being run over by a psychotic two year old on a bicycle - you’ll live, but you sure will be unhappy about it.  Of course, the stronger the negative entity the worse the effects.

One of the fundamental laws of magick is the principle of “like attracts like.”  That means that positive energy attracts more positive energy and conversely negative energy attracts more negative energy.  Think about the last time you had to take a bus or plane and you could tell the person sitting next to you was having a really bad day; how that person’s anger and stress vibrated off of them.  How did it make you feel?  Could you feel yourself getting stressed?  Your patience wearing thin?  That’s magick at work.

While generally uncomfortable to be around, negative energy wouldn’t be such a problem if it didn’t have so many ill effects.  We come into contact with negative energy every day and in limited amounts it’s not really a problem.  However, when we come into to contact with too much negative energy at once or a little bit for far too long it can have negative consequences.  Psychically, contact with negative energy can cause stress, the feeling of being watched, cause you to feel more anger and less patience than usual, make you snap at friends, or even encourage you towards dangerous behavior.  Physically, negative energy can cause muscle tension, headaches, a feeling of heaviness or lethargy, a prickling sensation in the spine or the palms of your hands, etc.  Negative energy is potentially very nasty stuff.

Of course, we also have to deal with our own negative energy.  I don't know about you folks, but on a bad day I can generate negative energy like it's going out of style.  Anyone who's ever suffered from depression knows exactly what I'm talking about.  All the shielding in the world won't help you if the negative energy that's bringing you down is being manufactured by your own brain. 

Coming in contact with negative energy, internal or external, is a lot like being hit by a wave while standing on the beach.  Depending on how prepared you are, it can either splash your feet and then harmlessly flow back out to sea or it can knock you on your ass and try to drag you back out with it.  External negative energy can be shielded against, filter out, transmuted, or grounded.  Internal negative energy can only be transmuted or grounded.

Going in depth on how to deal with negative energy would require a whole book, so for now here's are some links to other entries on shields and protection down below.
Previous entries on Shielding:
Nightly Protection Spell
Daily Protection

Anchored Shields

29 April 2014

Beltane 2014 - Tesla's Ghost

Wow, it's almost Beltane!  When did that happen?  I've kinda been mentally buried for the last few months, but as my herbs are springing forth so am I.

My big plans for Beltane are to do a little pop culture magick at work.  I do one of those weird hybrid jobs that's impossible to quantify on a resume.  I'm an attorney, but I'm party of our firm's IT group and I implement and manage our case management software.  It has its good days and bad days.  IT is never really given the priority it should be at my firm, so our servers are old, badly patched, and all around terrifying.  On any given day it's a toss up as to whether everything will be functioning when I get in.  I already have a host of action figures and plushies at my desk for my personal protection, but I don't have anything to actually protect the technology that I work with.  I've decided to change that.

I've decided to spend my Beltane creating a server guardian.  To that end I've purchased a Tesla bobble head.  For those of you not in the know, Nikola Tesla is one of the great innovators of the modern era.  He came up with breathtaking inventions and concepts that are still being explored a hundred years later.  The man came up with the concept of cell phones in 1900 - truly remarkable.  Nikola Tesla was essentially the Tony Stark of his era, though not nearly as rich. If anyone can help me keep our servers up and running, it's the spirit of Tesla. 

I intend to do a fairly elaborate ritual to charge my bobble head, as I'm basically going to conjure forth Tesla's spirit and ask him to hang out with me on a regular basis.  I work with the dead rather often, so it's not that big a leap for me.  I intend to spend some time reading a biography of Tesla, and then make some offerings of incense and vodka on my altar.  I'll have a chat with Tesla's spirit and ask if he's willing to help me out.  If he is, then I'll help him take residence in my figurine and give him regular offerings as time passes.  If he's not willing, then I 'll just have to make a servitor to the same purpose.  Either way, it should be some good solid magick.

Oh, and for those of you that are in the Puget Sound region, this Saturday May 2nd I will be over at Avebury Mystikals over in Bermerton for their 2nd Anniversary Celebration.  I'll be signing copies of my book, Defense Against the Dark, and possibly doing a few tarot readings :)  Come by and say hello!

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.