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 ;)

27 November 2013

Pantheacon 2014

Pantheacon has just released it's 2014 programming guide! 


This is my favorite event of the year and once again I will be presenting a workshop.  On Monday Feb 17th I will be presenting Pop Culture Magick for Geeks at 9am.

Do you love Doctor Who, Star Wars, World of Warcraft, Superheroes, and Dungeons and Dragons? Want to learn how to harness that geekery into effective magick? In this workshop we will explore how to use the characters and iconography we love from sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming to perform magick that takes advantage of the pathways already seared into our brains by geeking out. This workshop is appropriate for people of all paths and ages, at any level of nerdiness.

This is the only event that I'm willing to get on a plane to attend, so if you haven't been to Pcon before I suggest you give it a try.  It's an amazing event and the workshops and rituals this year look fantastic :)

26 November 2013

Urban Offerings

Here in the States it's almost Thanksgiving; that wonderful time of family "togetherness" and gorging yourself until you pass out.  I'm not always as grateful for my family as I feel like I should be, so I like to look at Thanksgiving more as a time for making offerings - particularly to the spirits of the place where I live.  It's fairly easy to remember to make offerings to the beings that we ask for help, but it can be quite difficult to remember to also make offerings to the spirits that just happen to be where we spend our time.  The spirits inherent to the places where we live and work can make our lives easy or difficult, almost without being noticed. 

I live in the suburbs and work downtown, so I like to make three special offerings around Thanksgiving: to the spirits of the area where I live, the spirits of downtown Seattle, and the spirits of I-5 (on which I travel every day). 

The easiest offering for me to do is always the one to the area where I live (a slightly betwixt and between bit of Snohomish County). The spirits of the place where I live are used to me and I don't really have to go out of my way to get their attention (doing magick in any place for a prolonged period of time draws spirits like moths to a flame).  It's also easy because I can give the same kind of offerings that I usually do, since I have an altar on which I can burn incense, place sacred objects, etc.  I also have the good fortune to have a yard so if I want to make offerings of food or flowers outside I can very easily. 

However, I do like to make a little extra effort when giving special offerings by trying to make them more relevant to the spirits I'm making the offerings to.  I try to think about what spirits are in the area and what they'd like.  The area where I live used to be quite rural (it was chicken farms when it was first settled and forest before that).  There aren't a lot of ghosts that live near me (fields and forest don't exactly hold on to human energy), but there are some nature spirits and the spirit of the land itself is fairly strong.  One of the things I've done as a sort of permanent offering to the land is to promise not to use chemical pesticides or fertilizer in my yard, making it more hospitable to nature spirits, as well as slowly replacing the plantings with native species. 

For Thanksgiving I like to put out a small offering of organic, local fertilizer in the part of my yard where I do workings.  It's a large clear space under some big cedar trees and I put the fertilizer right in-between them.  I'm always careful not to put it right on the trees as some fertilizers can actually burn plants in high concentrations.  I also try never to user too much, since I don't want to encourage weed growth - they do that well enough on their own thank-you.  Although it would make sense to make an offering of food (like home baked bread) I have to be careful not to put out too many offerings of food because my area has a bit of a rodent problem that I don't want to encourage.  I also tend not to make offerings of bird seed because I have an outdoor cat that is a ferocious hunter - the birds do not need to be brought to her.

Making an offering to my city is always a bit more challenging.  I do a fair bit of work with the spirits of my city's founders, so I like to go up to Lakeview where most of them are buried and give them some attention.  Most of them are fond of offerings of whiskey and the rest enjoy a good cup of coffee, so they're easy to appease.  I also like to make an offering to the spirit of the city itself, which is a little more complicated.  Sure, I could do a symbolic offering of incense or flowers on my altar but that doesn't really do much to help the city itself (it's spirit is well fed and doesn't really need it).  I prefer a more direct approach for offerings to my city.  If I were less lazy going out and doing charity work in the city would be an ideal offering, alas I am not less lazy.  So I like to give donations to the local food banks.  Many food banks get the majority of their donations during the holiday season, so I make sure whatever I give has a really long shelf life (I tend to go with canned fruit and big bags of rice - lots of nutritional value and very shelf stable).

Offerings to the spirits of I-5 is also a little funtastic.  The interstate is an interesting beast because it's energy is so fluid, influenced by the people constantly moving on it - never staying in one place for more than an instant (unless there's gridlock).  There's also a fair amount of negativity on I-5 from road rage and accidents.  Although I take the bus for my commute, I do drive on I-5 several times a week.  The best offering I've been able to come up with is to make a drive where I'm particularly attentive to being a polite driver and where I have a good time on the drive.  Putting out a little positive energy on the road is really the best thing I can do, so that's what I go with. 

22 November 2013

Shadow Magick for New Beginnings

It's official, after nine years I will be leaving the Grey School.  I've been everything from a student to a Board member at the school and it's time for me to do something different.  I've loved being a part of such an interesting organization, but it's time for me to spend more time on my personal work.  It's a huge change and it's also the perfect time for a bit of shadow work. 

Whenever we make big changes in our lives we create the opportunity for altering our own energy patterns.  Any change in our regular activities creates a bit of momentary chaos in our energy flows before things settle into new patterns.  We can take advantage of that confusion and chaos to deliberately forge new and better patterns, rather than letting the chips fall as they may.  Here is a little spell designed to help shift your energies into more advantageous flows when you make a big change.

Shadow Magick for New Beginnings
To be done at the time of any large changes in your life (e.g. moving, getting a new job, at the end or beginning of a new relationship, etc.), if it can be done during the new moon - all the better

  • 1 white tea light
  • 1 black tea light (I tend to stock up on these during Samhain season)
  • prosperity incense (try something with cinnamon or bergamot)

Set the stage for the working in your usual manner.  For me this means casting a circle, calling the quarters, and calling on my Deities.

*light the black tea light to honor the past* 
I come this day to end one chapter of my life and begin a new one.
I have spent countless hours and untold amounts of energy forging my path through this world.  Today I change directions.
I honor the work I have done and the energy I have spent.  I honor the lessons I have learns and the gifts I have received.  I honor the challenges I have been offered and overcame.  

 My past has created the person I am today and I am thankful for it, but now it is time for change.

*light the white candle in honor of the future*
Today I begin anew.  I start new endeavors; I choose a new path, a new direction.  
I have learned from my past and have moved on.  
I welcome new lessons and new challenges, fitting for the new person I have become. 

*light the prosperity incense*

Today I usher in new prosperity for myself.
Today I start afresh.
I have grown from who I was and deserve new and better things.
I know I will make new mistakes and face new obstacles and I embrace the challenges they will bring.
I honor my past, as it has shaped me.  I honor my present as it is who I am.  I honor my future, for it is who I shall be - let it be better.

As I do will so mote it be.

13 November 2013

Change Is Good

One of the key aspects of Shadow Work is letting go of the things that no longer serve you.  Of course, that is usually easier said than done.  I never said Shadow Work was easy now did I?  In fact I think it's more worthwhile because it is difficult - but I'm a bit of a masochist.

As you may have noticed, I haven't been particularly active of late.  I haven't written anything substantial in a while.  I've been suffering from ennui of the most emo kind, to the point where I'm a little bit disgusted with myself.  This state of things cannot stand, therefore it's time for me to suck it up and look at the things that are creating all this damnable inertia and act like the shadow worker I am.

I had to take a good long look at how I've been spending my time and determine which of those things are actually feeding my soul and which ones aren't.  I came to the realization that some of the things I've dedicate a good portion of my adult life to just aren't serving me anymore and it's time to move on.  It's kind of like when you've been watching a television series for years and one day you realize that it's actually sucked for a while now and it's time to stop watching (if you're a completist like me that's actually really, really hard).  You still kind of love it, but it's just not where your energies need to go.

Death in the Shadowscapes Tarot
What were my big clues that it was time for a drastic shift?  First off, I stopped looking forward to spending my time on things.  Then I started avoiding them.  Then I just sort of stopped doing the things I was supposed to do and didn't even want to talk about them.  Then one day I realized that I don't actually care about fixing the problems I was presented with.  That was the kicker for me.  I'm a puzzle person.  There is nothing I like better than being presented with a challenge and then twisting my brain until I can come up with a solution.  I love problem solving.  It makes me all tingly.  When I don't want to solve a puzzle, then I am well and truly gone.
The Tower in the Shadowscapes Tarot

And so I now have to face the rather frightening prospect of saying goodbye to something that has become part of my identity.  There's a reason that big changes in life are indicated by the Death and Tower cards in tarot.  On the one hand this is going to create a void in my life - which is very scary, and on the other this is going to create a void in my life which can be filled with something significantly more awesome - which is very exciting.  I'm going to do my best to be a glass half full person just this once so I don't start hyperventilating into a paper bag.  I'm going to choose to be excited by the prospect of doing something better for myself and allow myself to be proud of making a hard decision.

Now that the decision is made I actually have a lot more energy for interesting things, like shadow magick (all magick actually), so expect to see more of me again.

**Update 11-19-2013 It's official now, so I can say what the change is.  As of December 1st I am leaving the Grey School after nine years.  It's incredibly liberating :) **

31 October 2013

Pagan Pride 2013 Opening Ritual

At the beginning of October I had the privilege of leading the opening ritual for our local Pagan Pride Day celebration.  Despite being rather frantically stressed at the time I think we managed to pull off a pretty decent ritual for building the local community.  Though the actual words we spoke on the day were a little different than what I originally wrote, you'll get the gist from the transcription below.

Feel free to use this ritual however you please, but if you're going to use it wholesale in public please do give me credit.

Pagan Pride Day 2013 - Opening Ritual

Opening remarks:  
We’ve come together today to celebrate Pagan Pride Day.  In this ritual we celebrate coming together and supporting one another and we will pledge to continue to create and strengthen our local community.  We will not be casting a circle because our work today needs none.  Our working is about the magickal and the mundane coming together without barriers.

Have everyone stand in a rough circle.

Call elements (earth, air, fire, water, spirit)

Invite deity:  
We stand together as people of many individual faiths.  We are witches, druids, magicians, seekers, curious onlookers, supportive family and friends, and many other variations.  I invite you all to silently call on your deity to stand witness to this rite.  If you know your deity doesn’t play well with others use your judgment on whether to call them or not.  If you don’t work with deity call on whatever it is you cherish.  This ritual is for all of us.  

(take a moment for everyone to do so)

Statement of Purpose:  
Today we celebrate coming together.  This morning we all took the heroic action of actually getting out the front door and coming to a public gathering.  In this age of twitter and tumblr it’s actually a big deal.  We’ve all taken the risk of leaving the safety and comfort of our homes to interact with people we don’t know.  People we hope we have something in common with.  And we do.  Just by being here we’ve made a statement.  We are proud of who we are and we support each other.  

With all of our differences and all our variety we have come together.  We are not alone.  There are many of us, across the county and across the world.  We believe that there is still magick and mystery in this world and we want to know it.  We may each come to that mystery in a different way, but we all want to know it, to delve into the depths and find our joy.  That we can see past our differences to the heart of the matter shows great spirit.  

We all have our own reasons for coming here today.  Perhaps some of us will share our hopes for this day.

(popcorn people saying something the want to get out of the event)

(Thank everyone that said something)

We are all stronger for having this amazing community available to us.  We are all better off when we know there are people near us that we can go to for advice and aid in times of need.  Let us all pledge to build and strengthen this community.  A little effort can go a long way.  It can be coming to local workshops and rituals, supporting our local merchants, or even as little as trying to be a little kinder to those who take a different approach than you do.  

What will you do to support our community?

(popcorn and have people say what they individually will do - make it clear that no one has to say anything if they don’t want to)

And so we are pledged before that which we each hold dear.  We will be brave.  We will be patient and we will be kind to each other.  We will do our best to create the community we want to have and we shall.  So mote it be.

Dismiss deity:
Let us each take a moment to thank what we cherish for witnessing our pledge.

(take a moment)

Dismiss elements

Take the energy we have raised with you throughout this day and make it a little brighter.  Blessed be.

Samhain 2013 - Stuck in a Rut

Yes folks, I'm still alive.  Between work and GSW politics I've pretty much had zero energy to do my usual witchy Samhain madness.  Yes, I am stuck in a rut; a rut made of apathy, exhaustion, and frustration.  It's all I can do to just light a little incense and give thanks every day, let alone plan an execute an elaborate sabbat ritual. 

During better times I usually feel a tremendous pull towards doing magick and celebrating the season of spookiness - the one time of the year where people don't look at you like a mad person for running around a cemetery with a big grin on your face.  This year I've got nothing.  No pull.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  I am a big pile of mushy ennui.  I think my mundane stress is deadening my ability to feel anything else, let alone perform a major working.  So this year I'm not going to.

Among other things, Samhain is about renewal.  It's the Celtic new year, what better time to get rid of horrible crap that makes you nuts and reach towards something better.  Yeah, in a perfect world I'd do the whole ritual bath, major working, oaths, and whatnot for accomplishing my goals.  But it isn't a perfect world.  My shadow is currently eating my brain and a combination of pessimism and apathy (hooray precursors of horrible depression) and I just don't have the will for it.  So instead I'll just take a nice bath, light my Santisima Muerte candle and burn a little dragon's blood while reading a good book and trying to actually take care of myself tonight.  It might not be a Samhain of legend, but it's what I actually need right now.  I'm no good to the gods if I go insane.

02 October 2013

Pagan Pride Day is almost here!

This Saturday, October 5th, is the Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride Day celebration!

This year the Grey School (represented by me and Rae du Soleil) will be running the opening ritual at 11:30am. Come on down and join us in celebrating all things magickal!

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 - From 11am - 6pm
Freighthouse Square 2501 E. D St. Tacoma, WA 98406


11:00 – 11:30 - Bellydance By April Dickenson
11:30 - 12:00 - Opening Ritual- Grey School
12:00 – 1:00 - Workshop: Elemental Meditation
1:00 – 2:00 - Workshop: History of Herb Use
1:30 – 2:00 - Bellydance by Jewel
2:00 - 2:30 - Midday Ritual - COBM Church
2:30 – 3:00 - Workshop: Pagans in the Military
3:00 - 3:30 - Workshop: Elements
3:30 – 4:00 - Workshop: Primal Paganism
4:00 – 5:00 - Drum Circle - BT Rhythm- bring your drum & join in the fun!
4:30 – 5:00 - Workshop: Shadow Magic
5:00 - 5:30 - Closing Ritual - Hawk's Hearth Kindred

23 September 2013


Sometimes life is a grand panoply of joy and all the world is your friend.  Sometimes life kicks you in the face.  Ah well.  Into every life a little rain must fall and into the lives of witches so must the need to bind. 

Binding, of course, is the magickal act of restraining someone or something against a particular kind of behavior.  It can be used to good effect to bind oneself against bad habits.  However, most of the time binding is used to restrain someone (an enemy) or something (usually a harmful spirit) from messing with you or your loved ones. 

Binding is one of those ethical grey areas that people often fight about.  Some say it's unethical to bind anything against exercising its own free will in any way.  Others blithely cast bindings any time someone annoys them.  I take the middle course.  My guideline is to never bind someone or something in a way in which I would not be willing to be bound.  For example, I have no problem binding someone against maliciously telling lies because I wouldn't mind having that ability taken from me.  Once I've cast a binding I always try to act as if I am also bound, because it gives me a good idea what I've done to the other person.  If it's awful I can remove the binding and my own pain/discomfort would be the price I paid for my error in judgment.  It's not a perfect system, but it's worked for me so far.

When I do a binding I like to physically bind a poppet that represents whatever I'm binding.  If it's a person I like to put a picture of that person in the poppet if I have one, or just load it with representations of that person if I don't have a picture.  Then I'll put in herbs appropriate to the sentiment of the spell.  I typically make the poppet out of felt squares (they're easy to come by in any craft store and are inexpensive). 

I'll usually bind the poppet with yarn, but recently I've discovered marine rope.  Yarn is relatively weak and has a fair amount of give in it, making for a rather flexible binding.  It's great for restraining yourself from bad habits or for when you want the binding to sit lightly.  However, sometimes the situation you're dealing with is particularly heinous and you need a stronger, less flexible binding.  Enter marine rope.  Marine rope (available in any boating/fishing supply store) is incredibly strong and has varying amounts of stretch to it.  I recently found Dyneema STS 12 Single Braid Line
This is now my super-binding cord of choice.  It's stronger than steel, thin as para-cord, and has absolutely no give whatsoever.  When you need to binding something and give it no chance of wriggling out of that binding, this is the way to go.  Overkill? For most things yes, but sometimes you just need to go whole hog. 

18 September 2013

A Reading for the Weekend

Tomorrow afternoon I leave for my annual pilgrimage to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It's a joy that I look forward to all year and I am delighted to have found the best possible conspirator for my cultural adventures, Rae du Soleil. 

This year we're going to see Cymbeline and an adaptation of Robin Hood.  I've not seen either, so it's very exciting.  I figured it's a big enough undertaking to warrant a reading.  I pulled out my favorite deck and this is what I got:
It wasn't quite what I was expecting.  There’s the ace of wands and the six of wands, anchored by the ten of cups reversed.  The ace of wands generally represents the spark of creativity and new intellectual adventures.  The six of wands generally means triumph and success after conflict.  The ten of wands reversed is fundamental unhappiness.  So I’m going to start something important, triumph, and be a sad bastard about it.  Lovely.  

09 September 2013

Conflict Resolution for Magickal Community - The Important Bits

A few weeks ago I posted my introduction to Conflict Resolution for Magickal Community video.  Thanks to everyone who took a look :)

Without further ado, here are the three substantive videos I've made:

Positions vs. Interests

 Checking Your Understanding

Validating Emotions Without Buyin

Sometime in the next month or so I'll make a few follow up videos on dealing with some common conflicts the magickal community tends to face.  If you have any scenarios you'd like me to look into just let me know in the comments and I'll add them to my list.

21 August 2013

Conflict Resolution for Magickal Communities - Introduction

Back in February I presented a workshop on Conflict Resolution for Magickal Communities at Pantheacon.  (You can check out my entry on that here.)  At the time I promised to create a series of videos delving a bit further into the subject and I've finally gotten started.  Each video is a bite-sized (3-5 minutes long) look at a particular aspect of conflict resolution, specifically as it applies to magickal community. 

Here is the introduction:

29 July 2013

Adventures of a Stress Monkey

I promise I've got some super-nifty content coming soon.  I've actually made some videos to share with you all, I just need to take a few and actually edit them a bit.  I'm going to try my best to get them up this week, but no promises.  I've got a two-year project coming to a head at work and I may just explode in a spectacular cloud of profanity and brain particles at any time.  Have I mentioned that I hate doing overtime with a fiery passion?

23 July 2013

Prosperity Ritual

Last week I found out that my boss is moving on to another job at the end of the month.  This woman is quite possibly the best boss I have ever had.  She's been my partner in crime on a massive implementation project, a shield against the insanity of other managers, and a sympathetic ear when I've needed it most.  I'm kinda devastated that she's leaving. To add insult to injury, she's leaving the week before we roll out the implementation we've been working on for the last year and a half - so I get to do it by myself.  But wait, it gets worse.  She let me in on some confidential info that the firm is going to be shifting things somewhat in the very near future.  My job is secure, but it's likely that I'm going to get a lot more responsibility dumped on me with no extra recompense.  Lovely.  Just fricken lovely.  So I decided it was apropos to do a prosperity ritual as soon as possible.

The day after I found all this out I trucked on over to Edge of the Circle to stock up on some gold chime candles and some money drawing incense.  I figured that I needed to do something fast because my boss was trying to fast-track a raise for me before she left and I wanted to give that as much energy as I could as soon as humanly possible.  I also wandered into a cute little art shop in Ballard (whose name escape's me) and got some canvas artist trading cards to make a talisman for myself.  I have a pretty decent herb and oil stash at home, so I wasn't too worried about those ingredients.

I had planned on doing my ritual in the hour of Jupiter on Thursday, but life interfeared and it just didn't work out.  I didn't want to wait a week for another Jupiter-Jupiter hour, so I ended up doing it during the hour of Jupiter on Friday.  Not perfect timing, but at least the moon is waxing.  I set out all my ritual components on my altar and got down to business.

I normally cast my circles using a sword, but this time I felt compelled to use a pair of arnis sticks as giant dual wands.  Apparently prosperity magick calls for super phallic circle casting - figures.  I then called the elements and deities, citing the powers associated with them I most wanted to bring to the ritual (abundance, clarity of thought, force of will, happiness, etc.).  I gave special attention to calling Jupiter, as that was the power I was banking on.  Then I explained to all the lovely forces I'd drawn up just what I wanted and why (to be paid what I'm worth in a job that doesn't make me want to jump off a bridge - not so much to ask I feel).  I lit my prosperity incense as an offering.

Next I assembled a mojo bag using a cotton tea bag (yes, I know it should really have been a hand sewn red flannel bag but I didn't have time to hit the fabric store).  I used a good tablespoon or so of calamus root, one enormous high john root, and a tonka bean, and then dressed it with some bergamot and vetivert oil.  I tied the bag shut using three tripe knots.

Then, I dressed my gold candle with the bergamot and vetivert oils and charged it.  I raised the energy by stirring up all the elemental powers in the room with my wands (they're weapons; they want to be swung around aggressively - I saw no reason not to indulge them).

I lit the candle and used the first three drops of wax to seal the knots of the mojo bag.  No wealth spilling out for me thanks!

While my candle burned I took out one of my blank artist trading cards and my colored pencils.  I took some time to meditate and decided to draw a talisman based on the sigil of Jupiter in Jason Miller's Advanced Planetary Magick.  I drew the sigil in blue, filled in with gold.  I sat it on a bed of green, sinking into brown earth, sinking into rock and magma.  Prosperity is always a seed rooted in the earth, to the imagery seemed to work.  I then filled in the sky with fiery orange for action and movement, to symbolize the prosperity energy firing off into the world to do its work.
I then made an offering of my favorite elderberry mead.  I took three sips and pledged the rest to Jupiter.  After that I was pretty keyed up and took a little time to ground.  

I thanked and dismissed the deities and elements, and dispelled my circle.  Once everything was open I took my mead outside and poured it into the garden to finish the offering.  Then I went back into my temple to hang out while the gold candle burned all the way down (never leave candles unattended folks, especially if you have cats!).  I put my talisman in my wallet (in the clear plastic pocket where your ID goes), that way it will both be next to the symbols of my wealth and will always be on me. 
The mojo will go into a special pocket in my work bag or be carried in my pocket.

19 July 2013

Legal Considerations in Ghost Hunting

Last Saturday I did a presentation for the Olympia Paranormal Research Group on the legalities of ghost hunting.  I was tempted to subtitle the presentation "How Not to Get Sued - Probably."  You see, there aren't really any laws that are specifically directed at ghost hunting.  I don't think lawmakers ever really think about it.  As a result, most of the legal considerations of ghost hunting revolve around civil liability (tort law) and protecting yourself from that liability.  It's all about how not to get sued. 

*First a disclaimer.  The following is just food for thought, it is not intended to be legal advice.  If you need legal advice I recommend you consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.  While I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer.  What you do with this information is up to you.

Further, the following information in not comprehensive.  It is intended to make you aware of the most common legal issues that can come up in paranormal investigating.  Unfortunately, the potential for legal snags in a litigious world is almost infinite while my desire to dwell on it is not.*

Don’t do it.  Seriously. Trespassing is a criminal offense - you can be arrested and/or fined.
It is imperative that you get permission from a property owner before you do an investigation.  I recommend always getting permission in writing (make this part of your general paperwork). 
Always make sure that all of your investigators and the property owner sign a liability waiver.  Liability waivers basically say that if anyone gets hurt or anything gets damaged, the person injured promises not to sue you for damages.  You need this so that if you accidental break the homeowner's ming vase, you wont get sued for millions of dollars.  The homeowner needs it so that if one of your investigators trips over the coffee table and breaks a leg, the homeowner wont get sued.  Everybody wins. 

Of course, just because you've got signed waivers doesn't mean folks can't sue you - it just changes how likely they are to win.  You see, most waivers protect you against negligence, but not recklessness.  That means if you're startled by a noise and accidentally put a camera through someone's plasma screen you're probably ok.  However, if you're juggling family heirlooms and accidentally drop one, you're toast.  I look at it as negligence waivers protecting you from unhappy accidents outside of your control, but not deliberate idiocy or douchbaggery [yes, that's a technical term ;)].

Referrals are rather sticky when it comes to ghost hunting.  If someone spends money on something because “you told them they had to” and they don’t like the results, they can sue you.  If you tell someone they need to hire a plumber or electrician and the person the client hires is bad, they can potentially sue you (though not for much - probably).  If you really think they need a service (like having their wiring checked) make sure you just say something like “consult a licensed and bonded electrician” rather than giving a personal referral (e.g., call my friend Bob, he’ll fix you up) - that can be construed as slightly extortionate if it turns out the referral was unwarranted because you had the client at a disadvantage when you gave the referral (they were scared, confused, etc.).  

Equally sticky, though less likely to end in a law suit, are referrals for cleansings.  At lot of times you'll come across haunted locations that a good energetic cleansing can pretty much fix.  Some folks who do energetic cleansings charge fees, some only charge for their expenses, and others will come out of good will alone.  If you refer a client to someone who charges for the cleansing and the client ends up feeling taken advantage of, you could be in legal hot water.  More likely though, is to have the person doing the cleansing offend the client in some way.  Most cleansings have religious overtones (or are straight out religious rites) and many involve practices that can make some people nervous.  Be aware of what kinds of things cleansers do and refer accordingly.  E.g. Don't refer the evangelical Christian client to a Voudou priestess - the priestess can certainly get the job done, but will almost certainly bring the client to hysterics.  I recommend getting a list of several people of different backgrounds so you can refer people more selectively.  And, of course, if a client is of a particular faith (and you know it at the time) refer them to their own religious leaders first, if appropriate.

Lawsuits are almost always the result of a relationship gone bad.  The easiest way to avoid getting sued (even if you do something wrong) is to cultivate a positive relationship with the client.  Be honest with them and make them feel that you're on their side.  Communicate clearly what you will do during an investigation before you do it.  Make sure the client understands - really understands - what you will do.  I like to check someone's understanding by having them sum up what they think I'm going to do - you'd be amazed the misunderstandings you can catch this way.  Make sure the client understands what kind of evidence you expect, and what DOES NOT constitute evidence.  If you can tell a client is misunderstanding you, you have a duty to make sure they get it before you investigate.

As an aside, I also recommend asking if the client watches any ghost hunting reality shows.  You can get a pretty clear snapshot of what they think you're going to do if you know where their ideas are coming from.

Clients with strong religious beliefs present their own special challenges. Be aware (if you can) of your client’s religion as early in the process as possible.  Some religions have very firm stances on the paranormal and can be very easily offended.  This goes back to making sure the client understands what you intend to do, so if they have objections they can say so before you start investigating.  A little respect goes a long way, even if you think your client's religion is wackdoodle (another technical term).

Sadly, you almost certainly will run into crazy people if you make a habit of chasing the paranormal.  Some clients are very lonely and will call you in just to get attention; some clients are certifiable.  Do you best to figure of if the client is buggers before you investigate.  Be EXTREMELY cautious with crazy people.  You never really know what they're going to do.  NEVER, ever, tell them they need to get professional help.  You can ask if they’ve considered it or mention "that one person you know who in a similar situation found psychiatric assistance valuable," but do not do anything that could be construed as telling the client they’re nuts - apart from almost certainly pissing them off, it’s potentially libelous.

The other really tricky thing with crazy people is that they're often haunted.  Oh yes, you can be both cracked and haunted.  When someone has mental difficulties it can actually make them more vulnerable to negative entities, so you will often find them hanging around.  Situations like that, however, are beyond the scope of a ghost hunting group.  Honestly, this is the point where you should really start backing away slowly, making no sudden moves.  There are spiritual healers and psychotherapists who are trained to deal with this kind of weirdness.  Unless you're one of them, changes are you'll be way out of your depth with someone like this.
Remember, this is all just food for thought.  Consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction if you need legal advice.

12 July 2013

Unintended Consequences

Earlier this week was the Grey School’s Pacific Northwest Urban Conclave.  This was a three day event held here in Seattle, which my friend Rae and I organized.  (It was totally awesome by the way.)  During Conclave we went out on the town, took in some local sights, did a lot of magickal work, a few exercises involving magickal perception, had a ghost tour and a ghost hunt, and one rather kick-ass community building ritual (hooray collaborative ritual development!).  Since a lot of our activities were actually done at my house, I spent a goodly chunk of the week holding magickal space for the group (holding protections, grounding flares, keeping energy levels even, etc.).  As you might imagine, this was rather tiring.  When the event was over I crashed pretty hard.  I expected that.  What I did not expect was that the whole thing seems to have sensitized all of my magickal perceptions.
Sapphire Soleil sensing energies at the Phoenix Theater

Normally I shield pretty hard, so the everyday energy bumps and dips of those around me don't affect me much.  However, after spending a very intense three days paying much more attention to my magickal senses, I'm finding that the energies around me are affecting me much more strongly than normal.  For example, a rather depressive co-worker just walked into my cube and it felt like someone let all the air out of one tire on a car (everything went wonky).  In order to hold space during Conclave I had to open myself enough to constantly feel the energy of the group and respond when it needed tweaking.  It seems that the openness I cultivated is still active.

While not exactly comfortable, I don’t really see this as a bad thing.  As a rather paranoid person, I tend to over shield – not to the point where I don’t feel anything, but to the point where I just don’t pay much attention unless something trips one of my alarms (which is rare).  It’s a lot like having energetic tunnel vision.  While there’s nothing inherently bad about it, as a witch I feel that I really should pay more attention to what’s going on around me so I can be more proactive about how I interact with it. 

This renewed awareness is going to be interesting to deal with.  Now I just have to make sure I don’t accidentally turn it off again when I have an off day or get too lazy to deal with things.  It’s so much easier to just let things slide, but that’s not the shadow magick way.  *sigh*

03 July 2013

Shadow Magick for Composure

If you're like most of the people I know you probably face a dozen or more situations every day that just annoy the pants off of you.  Maybe you have a horrible commute, a co-worker you want to immolate, or just have so much stress you want to scream. Sadly, vibrating with tension has become a fairly common condition in our lives and it's just not good for us.  People often combat this stress by doing deep breathing exercises, taking a walk, eating obscene amounts of fat and sugar (my vice of choice), or occasionally going a bit postal on the people they love.  Some of these coping mechanisms are obviously more productive than others.  While doing something that boosts my serotonin levels can temporarily make me feel better, it doesn't really do anything to make my situation better, and when the mundane fails to fix things I turn to magick.

Fortunately for me, shadow magick is spectacular at dealing with the crappiest aspects of my life.  It's raison d'être is to deal with things that make us uncomfortable, and literally twitching with stress and rage is pretty damned uncomfortable.  Here's a quick shadow magick exercise for when life makes you want to throw something out a window.

Exercise for Composure
This exercise can be done anytime, anywhere, as long as you can safely zone out a bit (so you shouldn't don't do it while driving, but if you're stopped in endless gridlock you're good to go). 

To begin, feel your shadow, that dark bit of who you really are, deep inside yourself.  Your shadow is an ally.  It is the part of you that basks in darkness.  Let that shadow come to the forefront of your mind. 

Allow your shadow to expand out of your body, so that you're surrounded by numinous shadow.  All of the negative energy around and within you feeds that shadow.  Let your shadow absorb the frustration, the annoyance, the rage that's flying around and inside you.  Feel your shadow growing stronger as it feeds on the negative energy, like Kali consuming the energy of demons.  Let it continue until it's full and sated.

Allow yourself to merge with your shadow.  Feel its contentment.  Let the energy it as gained strengthen you.  Your shadow digests all that negative energy, leaving a clean slate behind.  Allow your shadow to return to a comfortable place in your core.  You are your shadow; your shadow is you.  You are strengthened and calmed.