28 April 2011

The Gods Have an Unfortunate Sense of Humor

So, after all my grandiose plans for Walpurgistnacht and Beltane the gods have decided to say, "Hahahah...no."  I have the cold to end all colds.  I've spent the last three days about as sick as I can remember being for a very long time.  It's the kind of cold where you blow your nose until the skin comes off and you get dizzy every time you have to talk more than a few feet.  Do no want.

Today I'm back at work and doing ok, but if I don't get significantly better right quick I'll be spending my Beltane in bed with a cup of tea rather than doing a 12k.  I hate being sick.  I really, really hate being sick and it doesn't help that I'm the magickal equivalent of an anti-healer.  I pretty much make illness worse if I try to do any kind of healing magick so I have to just let this do what it's got to do.  I've got lots of soup, tea, and vitamins and now I just have to take it easy until it goes away.  Is this the gods way of making me stay home and rest? Who knows.

(And no, this is not me trolling for sympathy or offers for healing energy.  I happen to have the kvetch gene and just occassionally need to complain for complaining's sake - it makes me feel oddly better.  So thanks, but no thanks.)

25 April 2011


It’s that time of year again folks – Beltane’s coming this weekend.  Beltane - that enduring celebration of light, sex, and life.  There are some parts of Beltane that I love, such as giving May Baskets and getting up to watch the sun rise.  There are other parts that I love a little less – the whole light and life thing.  Maybe I’m just a sullen bastard, but this year I am sooo not feeling the love and the light (not that I ever really do).  This year my focus is going to be on Walpurgistnach (also called May Eve), the darker celebration that occurs on the night before May 1st.

If you’ve ever seen the original Fantasia, think about the scene of Night on Bald Mountain.  Remember all those crazed and frightening creatures dancing around a bonefire on top of a mountain?  Yeah, that scene depicts an old folktale of Walpurgistnacht in which the devil calls forth all of his servants for only last unholy good time before the light and warmth put the dark to bed for the year.  I don’t take Walpurgistnacht that far, but I do like celebrating the dark side of things.

While I would love to spend the evening of the 30th in my temple – doing shadow work, tarot readings, and generally steeping myself in the smoke of dragon’s blood incense – I will instead by spending the evening in Spokane, staying with a family friend and getting ready to walk Bloomsday (a big 12k).  This puts a definite crimp in my shadowy style, but can’t really be helped.  I’ll just have to do my working on Friday night instead of Saturday (the gods really don’t quibble over a day or two).

I plan to spend Friday evening doing a lot of meditation.  I’ve been spending a lot of my time of late worrying about what other people think and about what messages I’m sending out into the world.  This has been quite necessary, but it means that I haven’t spent as much time communing with my gods as I really should.  My gods are dark and scary, but in an oddly compassionate way.  Working with dark (but not insane or evil) deities is a little like worshipping a drill instructor – they will put you through absolute hell in the safest way they can to make sure that when it happens out in the world (and rest assured it will) you’ll be able to survive and even thrive.  In terms of Beltane and Walpurgistnacht it means that you celebrate the warmth of the growing sun while remembering that spring time also means torrential rains, allergies, and the occasional hailstorm.  Celebrate the good, but prepare for the bad – but not so much that you can’t enjoy the good while it happens.  I’ll be meditating on how to improve my balance between my paranoid preparedness and stopping to smell the flowers when I can.  It’s not something I’m very good at.

I’ll also spend a goodly chunk of time doing tarot readings to figure out what I need to focus on in the coming months between Beltane and Litha.  I like to use tarot to give me insight into where I need to put my focus.  My virgo brain can get really bogged down in the minutia of the tasks I give myself, to the point where I completely lose sight of the reason I started doing them in the first place.  Tarot is great at lifting me above the details and letting me see the big picture – how everything connects, the ultimate goals I hope to achieve, and the reasons why.

For me Walpurgistnacht is about seeing the Beltane season in its totality – the good and the bad forming a complete whole.  Beltane is a celebration of all the good things that spring growth has to offer.  Walpurgistnacht reminds us that all of those good things come with both a price and an expiration date – so enjoy them while you can and hold them in an open hand.

18 April 2011

Shadow Work and Heroism

I had the good fortune of spending this last weekend with a group of some of the most amazing magickal practitioners I know.  On the three hour drive down to Portland I had a really interesting discussion with a gal I was giving a ride down to the moot.  We got onto the topic of our personal paths and that naturally took us to shadow work.  I explained that a huge part of my personal path was hard self-examination and then taking the bits of myself that weren’t working and smashing them with a hammer.  She was rather horrified.  Her knee-jerk reaction was to say that such work is just way too hard and ask how I could possible do it voluntarily and on a regular basis.  Her reaction got me thinking.

For me, shadow work gives me a chance to be heroic.  In the modern world we don’t really face the kind of trials that give us a chance to make big leaps forward with our spirit.  In ages past people had occasional large scale trials and rites of passage (first hunts, surviving in the wilderness, ordeals and rituals), giving people a way to test themselves and prove their worth.  In our world we just don’t have heroic trials; we have the grind of daily trials (work, family, finances, etc.) that, when taken all together, are just as difficult but dealing with them just doesn’t give us the sense of satisfaction and self-worth that we get from single rigorous trials that we can actually defeat.  Getting up every morning and going to work in order to pay the bills, giving up selfish desires for the good of the family, and playing nice with a co-worker we’d rather throttle all take courage and fortitude, but we rarely acknowledge them.  Does facing down a wild boar take more courage than dealing with a relative that tears you to shreds every time you see them?  I don’t think so, but it just doesn’t get our adrenaline going in the same way; it doesn’t engage our fight or flight response.  Shadow work gives us back those heroic trials.

Sitting down to do serious shadow work is akin to the spiritual retreats of past days – we sit alone with our deepest most frightening truths and either overcome them or die.  Once you’ve seen the sharpest cracks of your own soul you either do everything in your power to heal them or you give up and become a broken shell.  When I say that shadow work is do or die I mean it.  If you look too deep and you’re not ready to face those truths, to do something about what you see, serious depression and suicide are a real risk.  If you are ready to do something, then you can vanquish the beast of your own heart and come out a true warrior of the soul.  It’s not a quick and easy process, it takes time and hard, unpleasant work – that’s the point really, go through the fire and come out clean, with all the garbage burned away.  You may have to walk through the fire a thousand times to reach the level you want to get to, but each pass brings you one step closer.  A shadow worker is a hero that faces their darkest demons and comes out whole.  (It gives you a whole different perspective on a stack of obnoxious paperwork, let me tell ya.)

Succeeding at shadow work will change how you see yourself and the world.  If you can look at yourself with real honesty you’ll being to see everything else just as honestly – this is a great tool for becoming a better person, for understanding and compassion, but it isn’t always pretty.  You’ll see all the beauty of compassion and love, but just the same you will see the anguish of relinquished hopes and broken dreams.  It might not make you happy, but it will make you strong.  It will make you a hero.

11 April 2011

Do you think they know?

A while ago I was discussing my book with a co-worker and she asked me, “Do you think the demons know what you’re doing?”  “Umm, yes,” I replied.  Then she got an odd look on her face and asked, “Do you think it pisses them off?”  I stopped and didn’t quite know how to answer but went with, “Well yeah.”

As I’ve said before, I have a much higher than normal probability of running into really scary metaphysical stuff.  There is a reason for this...several actually.  First off, I’m naturally shiny.  When I say someone is “shiny” I mean that person has very strong personal energy.  Strong energy has a way of shining like fog light cutting through both the mass of people around them and the boundaries between the mundane and astral planes.  Both people and places can be shiny, and the energy can be positive, negative, and anything in-between as long as it’s strong.  Such strong energy is very attractive to certain creatures.  On one hand this means that helpful and friendly astral creatures might come to check you out, on the other it means that not so nice things might come to turn you into a snack.  A lot of negative entities feed on energy, particularly dark energy.  Not only am I shiny, I’m very, very dark.  If most witches were like a big scoop of chocolate ice cream to a dark creature, I might be a chocolate sundae topped with hot fudge and oreos – extra tasty.  When I first started practicing magick I would shine like a beacon and had very little in the way of defences; this made me a very tempting target.  This is a big part of why I had so many crazy encounters early on in my study of magick.

The reason I’ve continued to have lots of experiences with magickal nasties is because I piss them off.  A lot.  I’ve pretty much dedicated my life to helping people learn how to deal with negative entities and have now been doing it long enough and to significant effect to the point where things have taken notice.  I’ve dealt with ghosts, goblins, imps, vampires, and infernals over the years and have managed to come out on top every time.  They do not like this and word seems to get around.

When I was in the process of writing the book I had quite a few unwanted visitors hanging around my property that tried their damndest to get me to stop.  For the most part it was just a pack of pixies worried about getting kicked out of the few places where they’re still allowed to live (a solemn promise that what I was writing was only for helping people who were being hurt got them to stop rearranging my book shelves and freaking out my cat).  However, there were a few slightly nastier creatures hanging about as well.  I got a series of some of the worst nightmares in my life while writing about hungry ghosts and I won’t even go into the process of writing about demons.  Apparently even writing about what I do can send ripples through the astral.

So yeah, the monsters know what I’m doing and they don’t like it.  I take the resistance I have to deal with as a sign that what I’m doing is important and can actually make a difference.  I know how to take care of myself so I say bring it.

04 April 2011

Haunted Seattle – Pike Place Market

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I love spooky stories.  One of my favorite things to do when I’m travelling and have the time is take ghost and haunted history tours.  (If you ever get the chance to take the New Orleans Vampire Tour, do it!)  However, I’ve never taken any of the haunted tours here in Seattle.  I mean to remedy that, so on Saturday I went with some friends and did a ghost tour of Pike Place Market.

Over the years I’ve been to the market hundreds of times and it’s always packed to the gills with people.  One of the coolest things about taking the ghost tour was that it ran after the market closed for the day.  It was really neat to be able to see the bones of the market without the usual crush of bodies.  The market is beautiful even when it’s empty, but I’m rather partial.

The tour began at the gum wall.  For those of you who haven’t been, there’s a wall in Post Alley where people stick used gum.  It’s disgusting.  Really, really disgusting.  For some reason, that is incomprehensible to me, people think it’s really cool and it’s become a tourist attraction.

At the gum wall the guide told us some interesting stories about the Market Theater and The Alibi Room (supposedly haunted by the market’s founder).  From there we went up to the market proper and heard stories about the ghosts of Princess Angeline, old sailors murdered by “seamstresses,” an eccentric dubbed “Mae West,” and a murderess named Linda Hazard.  We also heard stories about the Post Alley former home of E.R. Butterworths, the city’s first mortuary.  To read these stories in detail I highly recommend reading the book put out by the founder of this tour, Seattle' Market Ghost Stories.

It was a fun and informative tour, not terribly spooky, but fun.  I’d recommend it to anyone coming into town that didn’t already know a lot about the city’s history.  If you’ve got limited time here in town, skip this one and take the Underground Tour, the energy is a lot darker and you’re much more likely to see or experience the paranormal.

I enjoyed this tour because I’ve actually seen ghosts in the market and its surrounding areas.  When I was a teen going down to the market was one of my favorite things to do, and when I was about 14 I saw the ghost of Princess Angeline (daughter of Chief Seattle).  I was down in the bowels of the market, near the magic shop, and saw an old native woman wearing an Indian blanket with piercing blue eyes.  She creeped me out, but I didn’t think much of it until I passed her and turned around only to find she’d disappeared.  My other encounter happened in Kells (an Irish pub/restaurant in the basement of the old mortuary).  I was having lunch with a friend late in the afternoon and we were the only patrons there.  My friend had gotten up and I was alone in a dark corner when I saw a little girl, maybe five or six years old, in an old fashioned dress skip down the center of the room and disappear into a wall.  I’ve eaten there many times since and have never seen her again, though I hope to again someday.