25 July 2011

Personal Protection Routine

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I teach protection magick at the Grey School.  One of the things that I get questions about is what sorts of protection routines my students should practice.  The answer is: it depends.

I believe that anyone who practices magick needs some kind of personal protective routine.  People who practice magick tend to attract more metaphysical attention than non-magick users.  Using magick lights up your aura like a lighthouse in the fog – that light pierces the astral and draws the curiosity of the things that live there (friendly and unfriendly).  This increased attention makes a magick user a lot more likely to be plagued by unfriendly entities than non-magick users.  People that practice magick also tend to be more sensitive to ambient energy and the energies given off by other people.  Practicing magick teaches helps to develop people’s energetic senses.  On the plus side, being more sensitive to energy makes working with it easier, on the negative it makes unpleasant energy feel a lot worse than it did when the senses were less sharp.  These increased sensitivities can make dealing with negative energy (most often from other people) quite difficult.  A regular cleansing and protective routine can make dealing with these things much easier.

Here is the routine I recommend:

Monthly (or at least once every three months): A full house cleansing and warding
Weekly: A cleansing ritual bath (can be done more often)
Daily: A protective spell in the morning and another at night
As needed: smudging

I recommend doing a fully house cleansing and warding, like the strong house cleansing ritual in my book, roughly once a month.  This will clear out stagnant or negative energies in your surroundings and help keep you from getting bogged down in old energy or the negative energies of your neighbours and keep your protections fresh and strong.

A ritual bath is far and away my favourite way to do personal cleansing.  It can be as elaborate as a full bath with steeped herbs, essential oils, and salts, or as simple as taking a moment during your morning shower to envision negative energy and attachments flowing away from you with the water and going down the drain.

I have a very quick and simple blessing that I say every morning to protect and guide me through my day.  I feel a little lost if I don’t say it (yes, I know that’s totally OCD but it works for me).  I also have a fairly extensive nightly protection ritual that I’ve talked about before.  If such ceremony feels like too much, something as simple as pausing for a moment before you head out for the day and envisioning yourself protected by the energy of your own aura would be better than nothing – the mindfulness of protection is the real goal.

And last but not least, I smudge whenever I feel that my energy is a bit gunky.  I personally like the heavy, earthy feeling of white sage or dragon’s blood, but any smouldering herb or incense can be used as long as it feels cleansing and healthy to you.

18 July 2011

Magickal Triage

One of the top questions I get from people is: How do I know if there’s something paranormal going on or if I’m blowing things out of proportion?  I wish there were an easy answer to this, but there really isn’t.  Truthfully, even after many years of practice I still sometimes have trouble figuring it out, although I’m more likely to get a false negative than a false positive (it’s the skeptic in me, I can’t help it.).  Here’s what I tend to do when someone comes to me with a potential problem.

First, I tell them not to panic.  Paranormal phenomena, or something mistaken for paranormal phenomena, can be very frightening and people don’t usually come to me unless they are well and truly freaked out.  After the person has calmed down a bit I like to get the whole story from their point of view.  Being in a paranormal situation, if you’re not used to it, can feel very alienating – chances are good the person has tried to get help from someone else and was told it was all imagined or otherwise undermined.  Even if the situation isn’t really paranormal it’s imperative to respect the person’s experiences.

Once you’ve heard the person’s experiences, then you can start to assess the situation.  The trick to assessing any situation is to find out not only what people think is going on, but also exactly what they’ve been experiencing.  Ask questions like, “What exactly have you been experiencing?” “What makes you think that you’ve got a problem with X?”  Ask questions that will give you the specifics of the situation.  If someone tells you that objects have been moving, you want to find out what they really mean by that.  Does it mean that trinkets are falling off shelves, books are flying across the room, objects on tables being in different positions than they were left in, or something else entirely.

It’s important to find out as much as possible about the situation before you even consider walking into it.  The more you know about the situation, the more accurate an assessment of it you can make, the safer you will be.

Here is a checklist of things you need to find out before you can properly assess the situation:
·         What kind of phenomena have been experienced?
·         How long have the phenomena been occurring, including whether any particular things trigger the phenomena?
·         What intensity of phenomena have occurred?
·         Has anyone been injured?
·         Are there children involved?
·         Has anything been attempted to end the phenomena? If yes, what were the results – for better or for worse?

Once you have that information you can try to figure out what’s really going on.  Look at the actual symptoms people are experiencing – do they match what you know of a particular creature or phenomenon; can they be explained without the presence of the paranormal?  Also look at the person wanting your help – does the person’s energy feel right, is he genuinely worried about the situation, is he trustworthy?  If the symptoms as I understand them seem to match known paranormal phenomena and the person seems genuine, then I will usually err on the side of caution and suggest performing whatever remedy would be appropriate if the explanation were paranormal.  The beauty of cleansings and purifications is that they will get rid of harmful paranormal activity if it’s there and won’t do any harm if it isn’t.  If there’s an obvious mundane explanation, then I’ll say so.  If there isn’t, or I’m not certain that there isn’t, a mundane explanation, then go ahead with the appropriate cleansings.

11 July 2011

Shadow Magick - Shadow Everyday

People who have been practicing magick for more than a little while will often say that the practice of magick is a lifestyle.  Sure, there are folks out there for whom magick is just a hobby of sorts – we tend to equate them to Sunday Christians (those who only practice when it’s convenient for them rather than every day).  The best practitioners live and breathe magick at every moment of every day, or at least try to.  Every action you perform can be imbued with intent and mindfulness that makes it magick.  This is as true for Shadow practitioner as it is for anyone else, and is perhaps even more important.

Shadow Magick is serious work.  It requires the practitioner to be absolutely honest with themselves: to pay attention to what they do and why, to examine their own motivations and feelings, and to own up to the consequences of their actions.  Shadow Magick doesn’t work if you do a ritual with absolute honesty and intent and then bugger off and start lying to yourself and others.  Shadow Magick is designed to change the way you look at and interact with the world.  You have to integrate it in your everyday life for it to work properly.  Shadow practice is always going to be more effective when integrated into your life than otherwise.  The bulk of Shadow Magick’s formal practice is made of rituals and exercises to recognize our shadow selves, to see ourselves and our world more clearly, to integrate our shadows, and to transform ourselves.  These practices need to be supported by our everyday actions, but it isn’t easy. 

Living shadow every day means being very, very self aware.  Self-destructive habits, meaningless routines, and self-deception can all kill shadow work.  You need to be able to step back out of the every day and look at what you’re doing and why, and whether or not your actions are really supporting you.  Too many of us are trapped in routines and habits that just take up time for no real benefit or, even worse, that actually send us backwards.  Living shadow means looking critically at every action you take and asking yourself if it gives you a benefit.  Your actions can help you earn a living, gratify your senses, make you feel good, help you improve yourself, help someone else, etc.  Are there things that you do that don’t actually benefit you?  Why do you do them?  (“Because you always have” is not a sufficient answer.)  If you can’t answer that, then it’s time to stop doing it.  Living shadow means acting mindfully.

Even more difficult than being aware of what you do is being aware of what you think and feel.  Yes, living shadow means looking at your feelings under a microscope.  It’s not exactly a comfy process, but it’s necessary.  Are your thoughts and feelings based on truth, or are you twisting the facts to fit the way you want them to?  Are you angry at your friend because she actually wronged you or just because she did something totally benign that made you feel threatened or did you just misinterpret what she did?  Look at the facts of a situation objectively before you make decisions.  Get an outside objective opinion if you need one (someone who has their own experience of the situation, not just your [probably biased] description).  This examination is most important when you find yourself thinking negative thoughts or experiencing negative emotions because they have such tremendous power to color your entire experience.  What a waste to spend all day angry because of a simple misunderstanding.  Even worse, how are you supposed to do magick to see yourself more clearly when you’ve spend eight hours in self-delusion – that’s energetic moment that will ruin the most carefully planned working.  Being mindful of our thoughts and actions helps us to sustain the magickal momentum we begin in our workings and makes it more effective.

Of course, being mindful of our emotions does not mean we don’t feel them.  We all have moments when we feel things that we’d rather not or that seem counterproductive to our plans.  There’s nothing wrong with that – we’re just regular human beings not bodhisattvas.  The trick is to experience our emotions and then let them go, rather than hanging on to them and stewing in our own juices.  For example, when I get cut off in traffic I get furious and that anger will stay with me for a while, depending on just how close the bastard got to hitting me.  When I step back from the situation I realize that I get angry because someone has endangered me for no good reason and forced me to modify my behaviour unexpectedly.  What I’m really feeling is a flash of fear and panic, and being forced to feel those negative emotions makes me angry.  Knowing that my anger is really caused by fear will allow that anger to dissipate once I’m secure in my physical safety.  My anger is a defense mechanism that fills me with adrenaline so that I can deal with danger.  It’s a useful emotion that serves a purpose, but it can be destructive if I don’t truly understand it.  I’m not actually angry with the other driver, I’m afraid for myself – that’s a big distinction.  Shouting at the other driver or getting road rage, while oddly satisfying, does nothing to satisfy my need for safety and thus won’t actually help deflate my anger.  I can feel the fear and anger, recognize them for what they are, and then let them go.  Unfortunately , it’s hard to step back when we’re in the midst of strong emotions and if you can’t do it at first that’s ok.  When you’ve calmed down a little take some time to examine what you were feeling and try to identify the root causes.  Once you learn to do this after having strong feelings it will become easier to do so while you’re feeling them.  Much of the practice of meditation is designed to help people do just this, and for many people it can take a lifetime.

Living shadow means being mindful in your everyday life and making choices that continue the energetic momentum of your workings.  Having the courage to be truly honest with yourself during your everyday life and not just in circle is difficult.  In circle we know we’re in a safe space and we usually have the time to take care of ourselves if we have disturbing realizations, in our workaday lives we rarely have this luxury.  Make this level of awareness a goal and work towards it slowly.  Allow yourself to progress at whatever pace you need and just see what happens.

A few resources that I found helpful:

04 July 2011

Seattle Zombie Walk 2011

On Saturday the 2nd I participated in the Red, White and Dead - the 2011 Seattle Zombie Walk.  My friend Rae and I got all gorey and joined a few thousand other shambling undead down in Fremont.  It was a beautiful day to be undead.  Here are some picture for you to enjoy.

Here's me with a nasty arm wound.

Here's Rae and I together.  She did our fabulous make-up.
Undead falafels were unexpected, but rather nifty.

This gal definetly had the creepiest make-up I saw all day.

This poor corpse got munched on all day by the horde.

And of course, the massive Thriller dance :)

It was so much fun to enjoy tasty brains with a bunch of crazed undead.  I'm already planning my outfit for next year ;)