31 January 2011

Dark vs. Light

On Saturday I sat with some magickal friends and we started talking about being affiliated with the dark verses the light.  One of the gals at the table was quite new to magick and asked, “So what does it mean to be ‘light’ or ‘dark’ magickally speaking?”  The rest of us just stopped and had a very difficult time coming up with an answer.  We’d been working with the ideas for so long that we had no idea how to define them.

Being affiliated with the light or the dark has little to with good or evil.  It’s not about morality; it’s about energy and approach.  For those who can see energies, the distinction between light and dark energies is often literal.  Light energies often appear bright, shiny, and weightless while dark energies will appear shadowy, dense, and heavy.

Everything in the world has its own energy signature.  Think of a piano with all of its strings; each string vibrates at a different frequency, creating the different notes – this is like things and their energy signatures with dark energies being low notes and light energies being high notes.  Just like everything else, people have their own individual energy signatures and they each vibrate at different “notes.”  Just as each note on a piano has certain other notes that harmonize with it or are dissident, so do energy signatures.  Those with low/dark energy signatures will usually harmonize with other low/dark energies as light energies usually harmonize with light.  This is what it means to have an affinity for dark or light energy; it’s whatever energy signatures harmonize with your own.

So what does it mean to be affiliated with dark energies?  First off, dark does not equal negative, though it might seem that way from the outside.  For example, if someone affiliated with the light were faced with a fear that person might turn their face to the sun, away from the fear, and overcome it, rather like a swat team facing a gang riot head on.  Someone affiliate with the dark might face that fear by running towards it, embracing it, and then coming out the other side, rather like an undercover cop who breaks up a gang by becoming one of them and taking them out from the inside.  The swat member will certainly be in a fight and could be injured or killed, but the enemy is clearly defined and the swat member would probably be safe feeling that they were doing the “right thing.”  The undercover cop could, potentially, completely destroy the gang without ever resorting to violence, but if he’s caught he could be killed and he could be forced to do immoral things and even risk losing himself to the undercover persona (think Donnie Brasko).  One way isn’t objectively any better than the other, but the dark approach is more effective for those affiliated with the dark as the light is more effective for the light.

For me, being affiliated with the dark means that I am at my best in darkness.  I feel energized in moonlight, dark forests, cemeteries, and storms.  I tend to find very dark music soothing and have been known to smudge my house with Nine Inch Nails.  Being at loud parties filled with life and laughter make me feel isolated and drained, so does being out in the sun for very long.  I prefer the quiet and the shadows, winter over summer, painful truth to happy ignorance, and I can never leave well enough alone.

In my magick this means that I tend to use different symbols than most.  For me, images of skeletons mean distillation from the superfluous down to what is really necessary, death means transition and leaving behind that which is no longer useful, and mirrors mean looking at ugly truths.  The “light” in my ritual is the dark light of a black sun that shows you everything you wished you could hide and forget.

It takes a certain masochism to be me, but this is where I’ve found my power.  I can look at things that other people won’t and use energies others wouldn’t touch and am stronger for it.  I’ve become a more empathetic, kinder, and generally better person through these studies of the dark.  Working with the dark is taking pain and vulnerability and turning it into strength.  It means looking at anger or fear, seeing the pain and vulnerability that caused it, accepting its causes, and moving on – not becoming hard or resentful, just accepting.  Do what you can do to make things better, everything that you can do and to its fullest extent, and stop bewailing what you cannot do.  Working with the dark means knowing full well that we bring most of our problems on ourselves, that sometimes bad things happen for no reason, and knowing that all things must die – that is not an evil, it’s just a fact.  Not everyone is cut out to be a hag.

28 January 2011

Defense Against the Dark

As I’ve mentioned briefly before, I’ve written a book called Defense Against the Dark that’s coming out in the middle of March.  Here’s my obligatory post telling you all about it and asking that you buy it and tell all your friends to buy it.  Pretty please with sugar on top?  Ok, here goes.

When I first entered the world of magick and metaphysics I was delighted to find the spiritual and philosophic satisfaction that I had never found in more mainstream systems of belief.  In my na├»ve eagerness I dove in head first, with little thought to the strange and dangerous creatures that might be lurking beneath the surface.  I learned the hard way that some old wives tales are true and that there are things that go bump in the night.  At the time I had a very hard time finding information on how to deal with and protect myself against such things.  Now, many experiences later, I’ve written the book I wish someone had handed to me all those years ago.

My book introduces the reader to the darker denizens of the magickal world and the dangers they present (yes, there are plenty of friendly creatures out there but you hardly need me to tell you how to deal with friendly creatures that want to help you – do you?). In Defense Against the Dark you learn the common lore surrounding malevolent creatures and malicious magick and how to deal with them should you encounter them.  For each entity or magickal occurrence detailed in the book you will find information on how common they are, how dangerous, what other names it might be called, the common symptoms that give evidence of their presence, and concrete, practical methods for alleviating the danger they present.  In other words, this book tells you all about things that go bump in the night and then tells you how to bump back.

Beyond stating what negative entities and magick do, this book also clarifies what they do not do.  Unfortunately, the magickal world is full of misconceptions and misinformation.  Common misconceptions, and how to avoid them, are included in the lore for many entries.  Learn how curses actually work, that faeries aren’t always nice (Red-Caps, need I say more?), and that modern vampires do exist but really aren’t all that dangerous.

One of the features of the book of which I am most proud is the Index of Symptoms.  There is an index in the back of the book that lists all of the common symptoms that malevolent magick and creatures create and list what might be responsible.  With this tool you can readily identify the most likely magickal culprit in any situation and then just flip to that entry for information on what to do about it.  However, use this with caution and don’t let yourself be carried away.  Just because you experience symptoms commonly caused by a goblin doesn’t mean that it isn’t just bad curry and lack of sleep.  Most of the time there is a rational mundane explanation for what you experience.  This book is for the times when the rational explanations fail.

Knowledge is power and with this book that is my gift to you.

25 January 2011

Oh no, that can’t be good

If you’ve read the previous posts to this blog you’ve probably figured out that I’m a wee bit paranoid.  There is a reason for this.  There’s also a reason that my favourite quote is “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”  (Said by Harry Dresden in the book Storm Front by Jim Butcher.)  I am one of those “lucky” few people to have experienced extreme metaphysical incidents.  Ghosts, dark fey, demons, portals – been there, done that.  Very little scares me at this point, probably because I pack the magickal equivalent of an Uzi wherever I go.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve seen things since I was very young.  At this point in my life being able to see energy and entities is handy, as a child is scared the pants off of me.  Like many people, I was raised to think that anything uncanny was the work of the devil and should be avoided at all costs.  As you might imagine, his approach to the metaphysical was profoundly unhelpful.  I was too scared to tell anyone about what I saw and felt, fearing they would think I was evil, so I had to learn to manage things on my own.  I developed what I now know to be primitive shields and was able to deal.  Those proto-shields held until I started to really practice magick.

There’s a sort of bell curve when it comes to being in danger from the metaphysical.  When you know nothing about them and don’t do anything metaphysical you’re unlikely to ever experience negative magick or entities.  (Note, those with latent abilities can do metaphysical things unintentionally that might get them noticed by unpleasant things – I call it being shiny.)  When you know a little bit about metaphysics and start doing things that touch the metaphysical world things on that plane take notice.  When things start noticing you and you don’t yet know what to do about it, that’s when things start getting dangerous.  When you know a fair bit and know the basics of protection the danger you’re likely to face is usually proportionate to your own power level (strong energy attracts strong entities that wouldn’t bother with less).  This is when you potentially face the greatest danger.  Once you’re solid in your knowledge and abilities the danger largely abates.  )Of course, this all goes out the window if you do something stupid like summoning something you can’t banish or walk into a place inhabited by a demon.)

When I was in the scary bit of my bell curve an awful lot happened and I routinely deprive people of sleep by telling them all about it, usually around a campfire.  Here is just one example of why I am freakishly paranoid.

It was the summer between my first and second years of college.  A friend and I had gone down to the waterfront to enjoy the day.  As we stood above the beach chatting, something odd happened.  Everyone around us turned to look west to the peninsula; we turned to look as well.  There were strange balls of light in the sky.  Slowly a ball of colored light would appear in the sky, expand, and then contract until it winked out.  This happened three or four times while we watched.  Before this there had been a light breeze blowing from the water onto shore, as the lights appeared the wind changed to blowing to the lights – as if the winds were being sucked into the place where the lights had been.  I thought to myself, “Oh no, that can’t be good.”  My friend and I left.

A few days later I was with a different friend, someone who was also just starting to dabble in magick.  We heard people talking loudly outside her apartment and went outside to see what the commotion.  People were out on their balconies and pointing at the sky.  What did they see? You guessed it, enormous balls of colored light expanding and contracting in the sky.  “Oh no, that can’t be good.”

We went back inside her apartment and I explained what I had seen a few days prior.  We freaked out a little bit.  There had been no reports of odd lights, ball lightning, St. Elmo’s fire, or anything else of note in the news so we had no idea what was going on.  Then my friend told me about a nightmare she had a few days prior – the same night I had previously seen the lights.  In her nightmare she had lain in bed and heard her patio door unlock and slide open.  Unmoving, she heard footsteps come from the patio door to her bed and then felt a tongue lick the side of her face.  Then the footsteps went back to the patio door, stepped out, closed and locked the door.  “Oh no, that can’t be good.”  I started to truly freak out and told her about the dream I had that night.  I dreamt that I heard my front door unlock, open, and footsteps come down the hall and stop at my bedroom door, hesitate, and then turn back down the hall, out the door, and the door close and lock.  I hadn’t told anyone about it, and yet my friend and I had almost identical dreams.  The difference?  I had learned to cast proper shields and had done so before going to bed. 

We cast the shoddiest circle in the world and did some divination to figure out what was going on.  We figured out that something had noticed us and wanted our energy.  Whatever it was had marked my unshielded friend, but hadn’t been able to mark me, and now it was hovering outside her door waiting for her to be unprotected. “Oh no, that can’t be good.”

We panicked.  We got in the car and drove, trying to get away from it.  We could feel like following us.  It felt like nothing I had ever felt before.  It was heavy and cold; it felt like having a heavy, wet cape trailing behind you, pulling you backwards.  We drove and drove and couldn’t escape it.  That’s when things got really scary.  It was quite late at this point, as we drove down a deserted street we saw headlights coming from the other direction.  We didn’t thinking anything of it.  Then, as the SUV passed us it screeched on its brakes, flipped around and began accelerating towards us.  Now, at this point in my life I would hightail it to the nearest police station and run inside; when I was 18 I really didn’t have that kind of presence of mind.  We freaked.  We drove as far as we could as fast as we could through the most traffic we could find at 2am.  Eventually we lost the SUV and made it back to my house. 

We cast a protective circle and had a nice cry.  We had no idea what to do.  I’d been a witch for less than a year and had no experience with that sort of madness.  All I could think of to do was a simple banishing.  I had my friend write down everything she was afraid of on a piece of paper, hoping that burning the paper would sever whatever link this malevolence had placed on her.  I folded the paper twice and held it over a candle flame, saying “As this paper burns so does any link between my friend and any negative entity.”  It wouldn’t burn.  It was a regular sheet of paper and I held the edge in the flame and it wouldn’t burn.  “Oh no, that can’t be good.”  My friend started crying again.  I placed every ounce of my will into the intention that whatever it was that wanted to hurt us would be banished and its ability to find us severed.  After what seemed like ages, sweating with concentration, if finally caught fire.  As the paper burned we could feel the weight of the entity going away.

That was my first experience in protective magick.  That was only the beginning of the weird.  Oh yes, it got worse over time until I mastered the magickal equivalent of napalm.  So yes, I’m paranoid and overcautious, but not without reason.

20 January 2011

Full Moon Divination

I celebrated this full moon by doing some divination.  My preferred method of divination is tarot; I like the pretty pictures.  I have about a dozen decks, some for particular kinds of questions, others for general and everyday use, and one or two that are just to pretty not to own.  For general questions I tend to use a favorite deck for six months to a year and then switch off either to a new one or an old favorite. One of my current favorites is the Shadowscapes Tarot and that is the deck I chose for my full moon reading.

A word about me and tarot readings.  When most people think of tarot readings they envision a long haired woman in a room draped with altar cloths, air thick with incense, laying cards in particular layout and the cards having specific fixed meanings.  There's nothing wrong with that approach to tarot; I don't happen to use it.  I take a more intuitive approach to tarot.  I let the cards tell me how many need to be read and what they want to mean in any given reading, using the traditional meanings as a jumping off point.  This means that the Two of Cups might mean the meeting of soul mates in one reading, emotional satisfaction in another, or being shut out of happiness in a third.  This kind of reading gives me a huge amount of flexibility, but it also means I really have to pay attention to what I'm doing.  You can't fake an intuitive reading - you either feel it or you don't.

For this reading I asked the question, "What do you want to tell me about the coming moon?"  I shuffled the cards and several cards jumped out of the deck, with one in particular separate and above the rest. 

The card the crowned all others was The Moon, and this card was to guide the meanings of all those below it.  When I look at this card I think of the line in Midsummer Night's Dream "Ill met by moonlight proud Titania."  In this reading, this card is all about dreams.  Dreams are odd things, they can be beautiful and horrifying, light and dark, real and unreal all at the same time.  This card was telling me that this reading was about my dreams, not the dreams my brain conjures at night, but dreams for myself and hopes for the future - particularly those concerning my magickal life.

The cards that I drew underneath The Moon were: Page of Wands, Four of Cups (rev), Ten of Swords, Queen of Wands, Knight of Swords (rev), Four of Swords, and King of Pentacles.

The reading really began with the Page of Wands.  This card shows a young woman playing a violin to an audience of foxes and trees.  It represents creativity and charisma.  It is the effective communication of a creative message.  I took this to represent my efforts in magickal communication, particularly my classes and my book (you'll hear all about it soon enough).  I have a lot of hopes and plans in this arena and it definitely occupies my mind more often than anything else, so it's not surprising that it came first in the reading. 

The next card is the Four of Cups reversed.  Right-side up this card represents a lack of grounding and narcissism.  Reversed, I take it to be a gentle warning not to get too wrapped up in my own marketing.  I may be experiencing a fair amount of success and recognition right now, but that doesn't mean I don't still have a lot to learn.  If I can keep myself grounded and humble I'll be better off.

Next is the Ten of Swords.  In most circumstances this card would mean calamity, death, or a major fall.  However, I have a rather quirky relationship with the nastier cards.  Instead of meaning something bad is going to happen, for me they're about release.  In this reading this card reminds me that sometimes I have to let go and let myself fall, to experience the darkness in order to come out the other side.  This also reminds me that I have chosen the more difficult path and that I shouldn't bitch too much when the going gets tough.

The Queen of Wands is similar to the Page of Wands, just turned up to eleven.  Where the Page is taking her first steps into leadership and mastery, the Queen is already sovereign.  The Queen takes mastery and leadership to a new level; her very presence invites respect.  In this reading she is telling me that I have the ability to do everything I hope to do, I just need the courage to own my mastery and step up - a scarier thought than it probably should be, which means I really needed to hear it.

The Knight of Swords reversed.  Were it right-side up it would represent impetuous arrogance and domineering force.  Reversed, this card encourages me to use delicacy and tact in my actions.  Sometimes strong like bull equals dumb like ox, and that just doesn't work for me.  It's ok to be the quiet one who waits for all the idiots to blow themselves hoarse and then step in and quietly, calmly point out their misconceptions and present the best solutions - Yes, I'm a trained mediator and I use those skills in everything I do.

The Four of Swords represents the eye of the storm.  The woman lies back, almost in an attitude of death, with lotus blossoms floating around her.  She's very calm and restful, but she'd still got a grip of her sword and can use it at a moment's notice.  This card tells me to enjoy the calm moments I have, to rest and recharge while I can, because it's about to get very, very busy.

The final card is the King of Pentacles.  This card represents strength, success, material wealth, and dominion coupled with generosity of both riches and spirit.  This card tells me that I am poised to have all the success I desire, I just need to be willing to put in the work necessary to manifest my dreams and bring them into reality.  Now is not the time to slip into pleasant day dreams and let time slip by.  The opportunities I want are right in front of me, but they'll come to nothing if I don't stand up and grab them.

The real message of this reading is that I can be everything I want to be and do everything I want to do, I just have to seize the opportunities as they present themselves and never for one moment say, "I'll do it later, it'll come around again." 

16 January 2011

Travel Spell

Here is a spell I wrote many years ago when I was traveling cross-country on a regular basis.  You say this spell before beginning your journey and it can be repeated at any time during the journey to give it a boost.

By the powers of the moon and sun,
I conjure.
I travel this night.
Great power of the west,
Guardian of those, who like the primal waters,
flow from place to place.
I will depart on time.
I will arrive on time.
My road will know no obstacles.
My journey will know no hardships.
Let my lessons from this journey be brief.
I will fly like the wind,
Where I want to go.
I meet those who care, safely.
I have all I intended to bring.
Thus do I conjure.
Never let this spell reverse
or upon me place a curse.
By nature’s will and harm to none
Let this my spell not be undone.

11 January 2011

Want vs. Need

A lot of people have some strange ideas about magick.  One of the most common ideas is that magick is a way of getting what you want.  In a way that’s true; casting a spell is an act of determining a goal, focusing your intent, and then throwing that intent out into the world to manifest itself.  Yes, you can use magick to help you get what you want, but in my experience “want” is only half the picture.

My path is a rough one and my Goddess is harsh – she frowns on wasting magick on the superfluous.  Does that mean I don’t do magick to help me find a parking spot downtown?  Hell no.  I do plenty of frivolous magick, but I’m not going to bother my Goddess with it.  When I do little spells to make my life easier I use my personal energy and the energy of the world around me.  Sometimes these spells work and sometimes they don’t; it depends on what other energies my will has to overcome, how focused my energies were, etc.  When I want something but don’t really need it I’m on my own for making it happen.

When I really need something – that’s a different story entirely.  When I have a genuine need I can ask my Goddess to give me a boost that almost always guarantees success.  The tricky part is knowing what you really need in order to ask for it.  For example, I was unemployed for over a year when I got out of law school and I desperately needed a job.  Unfortunately, I graduated a year into the recession and jobs were thin on the ground for even the best students (which I was not).  If ever there was a time that I needed every iota of energy on my side at was during that job hunt, so I did several spells to help me find employment.  At first I did spells to help me find “the perfect job,” the job that would pay my bills, make me feel good about myself, have a positive work environment, and have room to grow.  This was what I wanted, but who actually manages to find a job like that right out of school with no experience.  Unsurprisingly, those first spells didn’t work too well.  Then I started doing spells to help me find a “decent” associate position that would pay my bills and at least offer some challenges day to day.  If those jobs were out these, they didn’t find me.  Finally, I just did a spell to find any job that would keep me from defaulting on my student loans and credit card bills, whether it was an attorney job or not.  I got a job within a week.  What I “needed” was to learn to swallow my pride and take what was actually available.  Magick done to fill a need is the most potent magick anyone can do.

How do you know what you really need?  The best way I’ve ever found to identify what you really need is the mediator’s trick of asking why.  Think of something you want, now ask yourself why you want it, then ask yourself why you want that reason, do this over and over until you finally find the real reason for your desire – that’s the need, and if it’s not a need then you probably shouldn’t be doing magick for it.  For example, I want an iPhone, why? – they’re cool, why do I want something cool? – it’s fun and would make me feel less behind the times, why is that important? – it gives me self-esteem, why do I want that? – self-esteem feels good, so what I want is to feel good.  Do I need an iPhone to feel good, no – so no iPhone spell.  However, I can do a spell to help me to know what I need to do so that I can feel proud of myself and have better self-esteem and then do it.  Could that kind of spell lead to an iPhone, possibly, but it will likely lead to something much better than a nifty toy that will be obsolete in a year.

Doing magick for what you need, rather than just to do or get the things that you think might fill your needs is both more effective and can open you to possibilities that you’d never thought of.  There is one caveat to doing this sort of magick: occasionally, what you really need is a swift kick in the ass.  Is it what you want?  No.  Will you probably be better off for it?  Yes.  Be open to what you really need and your magick will help you more than you can imagine, just accept that what you need isn’t always what you want.

06 January 2011

Nightly Protection Spell

I am an insomniac.  I do not fall asleep unless I feel safe enough to turn off my brain – I’m paranoid enough that this is not easy.  I started experimenting with sleep safety spells and dream wards as soon as I learned of their existence.  Some of them worked for a while but eventually stopped, others were completely useless (as was the valerian tea I tried).  One night, about eight or years ago I was dead tired and couldn’t sleep and just got completely fed up with myself.  I decided that any job worth doing was worth overdoing and came up with the ultimate in sleep safety spells and I’m going to share it with you.

I’m quite adept at visualization and do this entirely by visualization.  If I say “cut a circle around the room” I mean visualize it in your head, and if I say “say ...” I mean say it in your head.  If you’re not the mental magick type, you can do everything physically and out loud – I only do that when I’m totally freaked out and need as much power as I can get.

Begin by selecting the area you wish to protect – your bed, bedroom, house, entire property, etc.  I typically include my entire house in these wards.

If you feel the need to do so before doing energy work, ground and center.  I’ve been doing this spell every night for the last eight years, so it requires no prep for me.

Build a ball of energy in the center of the space you’re warding.  Charge this ball with the power to drive out any negativity lingering in your space.  Visualize the ball expanding outwards until it encompasses your entire space and creates a sacred circle around it while saying “Safe within the circle round, thrice sealed, thrice bound.  Repeat two more times.

Starting in the north, cut a circle around your space while saying: “Power of earth, ground me and hide me from all that would do me harm.”  As you cut the circle, fill it with dark green earth energy.  Once the circle is cut, visualize it creating a sphere of glowing green earth energy surrounding you.  Envision tree roots growing around the sphere, creating a solid shield of earth.

Starting in the east, cut a circle around your space while saying: “Power of air, alert me to any incoming negativity and give me the wit to deal with it.”  Empower the circle with glowing yellow air energy and let it grow into a sphere.  Envision swirling winds creating a solid shield of air.

Starting in the south, cut a circle around your space while saying: “Power of fire, protect me mind, body, and soul.  Give me the strength and will to do what I must.”  Empower the circle with hot red energy and visualize it growing into a sphere.  Envision flames dancing around the sphere, creating a solid shield of fire.

Starting in the west, cut a circle around your space while saying: “Power of water, heal me mind, body, and soul and strengthen my correct intuition.”  Empower the circle deep blue energy that grows into a sphere.  Envision sheets of rain creating a solid sphere of water around you.

Starting back in the north, cut a vertical circle going up above your head.  When you get to the ceiling pause and say, “Goddess, watch over me and protect me.”  Envision a sphere of silver energy starting above your head and slowly pouring around your space, creating a solid shield of divine energy.  Continue the circle down the opposite wall and pause when you get to the floor.  Say: “God, watch over me and protect me.”  Envision a sphere of gold beginning beneath the floor and growing slowly upwards until it creates a solid shield of divine energy.  Complete the circle.

Starting in the upper northwest corner of the space, envision a bold Chinese dragon flying in a crosswise circle (northwest to southeast and back around the bottom) around the space.  Starting in the upper northeast corner of the space, envision a Phoenix bird flying in a crosswise circle (northeast to southwest and back around the bottom) around the space.  Say; “Dragon and Phoenix, encircle me.”

Starting in the west, cut a vertical circle above your head towards the east.  As you complete the circle say: “By my Lady’s will my circles are sealed.”  As you complete the circle envision the entire space being filled with divine energy.  Give it a few moments to sink in.

Say: “Circles protect me this night.  When I wake you will dissolve into the walls, continuing to lend your protection to me and mine.  Stay in this space as long as it’s mine.”  (After a while you won’t need to add this last bit, it will be firmly in your unspoken intent.)

That is the long version of what I do every night.  I started off doing the long version every night, but after a few years I adopted a shorter version for most nights.  In the short version simply envision all of the circles and empower them appropriately without stopping to say what they’re for.  On a sleepy night I can do this in two minutes flat and it has never failed me. 

If you decide to try this, keep in mind that these are pretty heavy duty shields and you will have to modify them depending on who’s coming and going in your space, what spirits/entities you want to have access to you, and what kind of dreams you want to have.  If you clamp down too tight you might not dream at all, and if the wards are too loose then they’re not worth the time of putting them up.  Experiment and see what works for you.

04 January 2011

New Moon

It is the new moon as I write this.  I love new moons.  It feels like a blank slate where everything is possible.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the power of a full moon but it just isn’t quite the same.  There’s something about the depth of the night when they’re no moon.  It’s like there’s a stillness that goes far beyond sleep, almost as if you could walk right into another world if you could find the path.

Back when I first started practicing magick I diligently celebrated every new and full moon esbat with a formal ritual.  Nowadays I celebrate the moon a little differently.  I still love doing big formal ritual, but I generally only bother if I have some specific magickal working that I want to give a boost.  If my working is only devotional I usually don’t pull out the props.  My gods don’t care whether my candles are pure beeswax or if my athame is damascus steel.  The gods can see into our hearts and minds and as long as your intent is pure and strong, everything else is just window dressing.

I like to celebrate the New Moon with some quiet contemplation.  I generally light a tea light or two (black if I have them – I stock up during Halloween), make a nice cup of tea, and have a seat on the couch in my office.  I’ll spend some time writing in my journal and generally decompressing.  I find that writing in my journal helps me to quiet all the crazed mish-mosh in my head.  It always seems that once my thoughts are on paper and outside my head I can look at them much more objectively.

If I feel the need I’ll break out one of my tarot or oracle decks and do some divination.  I have more than a dozen different decks, stones, runes, and pendulums, but I seem to always have one or two that stand out as the right ones to use for any given question.  I generally use beautifully illustrated cards, like the Brian Froud Hear of Faery Oracle, because the images speak to me in a way that stones or runes just don’t.  Although I do have a set of divination tiles that I created that I use for special occasions (I’ll blog about them in detail later).  The cards generally help me sort through all the things that confound me and I end up with a much clearer head.

I always close my esbats by communicating with deity.  Most of the time this involves having a chat with my spirit guide.  Yes, a chat.  I don’t conjure, summon, or make offerings to my spirit guide (not that he minds the occasional offering).  If I’m doing magick he just shows up and we chat.  It’s rather like having an imaginary friend who’s much wiser than you are.  I chat with him and get the answers I need.  Sometimes, when the situation is very complicated or I feel the need, I will go and communicate directly with the Crone - that is a bit more complicated.  The Hag is not a kind and gentle Goddess; she won’t speak to me directly unless I’ve earned the right.  When I speak to her I have to journey to her realm (the underworld), pass her guards, and usually make some kind of sacrifice.  This sacrifice is usually mental, though occasionally it’s physical (like sitting in an uncomfortable position for a long time or being really cold)*.  Most often my sacrifice is to look into what I call Dorian Grey’s Mirror.  Taking a good look at one’s weakest, nastiest, most base personal traits is a lot more difficult than you think, and when that look is powered by harsh winter it can be downright painful.  Once I’ve proven my worthiness the Crone will instruct me as she sees fit.

Simple as they are, my esbats are profoundly meaningful to me.  I always take the time to thank my Lady and my guide when they’ve helped me and will often burn some incense for them, but that’s really the most formal thing I do.  Just taking the time to reflect and be still, to really think about what my spirituality means to me is all I need to do.  My Lady knows my heart and it is hers.

All that matters it that which puts you in the sight of your God.

* Note – Sacrifice to my Goddess NEVER involves other living creatures.  I do not kill or injure others in my workings.  The blood of another is not mine to give.  If blood is ever involved in my workings it’s my own.

01 January 2011

New Year

Last night the transition from the old year to the new was celebrated around the globe.  Most people seem to usher in the New Year by indulging in all the vices they want to limit in the coming year and then wonder why they can't keep their resolutions.  Trying to usher in change by swimming in the same negative energy of the past isn't what I'd call wise.  But hey, to each his own.

As you may imagine, I did not celebrate New Year's Eve by getting drunk.  Instead I spent the day with a good friend indulging in much witchiness, punctuated by some incredibly good food.  We spent a fair amount of time browsing the fabulous witchy shops up on Capitol Hill including my favorite bookstore Edge of the Circle and The Vajra (the best place to get essential oils in the city - Gods I love the way this store smells!).   We got sushi for lunch and went over to Cupcake Royale for dessert where I got their fabulous but unfortunately seasonal eggnog cupcake.  Oh eggnog cupcake I will miss you. Please come back next year.

The highlight of the afternoon was definitely a trip to Lakeview Cemetery.  This cemetery and I are old friends.  Back in law school I would often walk the 2.5 miles from campus out to the cemetery to have quiet time and de-stress.  Sitting in the law school building was like sitting in the middle of a river at flood stage made out of anxiety.  I'd get out of there whenever I could and find energy as diametrically opposed to it as possible - the energy in the cemetery was about as different from the energy in Sullivan Hall as you could imagine.  For some odd reason exams just seem a lot less daunting when you're sitting in the middle of a necropolis.

Rae and I got to the cemetery at around 2:30pm and it was cold.  There was a thick layer of frost on the grass and any unprotected ears or fingertips felt it.  Once inside the cemetery gates we were awed by the sight of hundreds of crows.  Now, there are always a few crows hanging around the cemetery but this was just ridiculous.  Crows were thick on the ground, pecking at the frozen flowers people had left for their loved ones and every grave had a crow or two perched on top of it.  It quite took my breath away.  I must admit, I couldn't help but indulge in the childish desire to run through them and watch them all scatter in a huge mass.  When they all took flight it was eerily like a scene from the old Hitchcock movie The Birds.  Thankfully, these crows didn't seem particularly interested in pecking our eyes out and once we stopped running around they all settled back on the graves as if we hadn't bothered them at all.

One of the things I love about this old cemetery is that it's older and still has beautiful monuments.  The center of the cemetery is on a rise and this is where most of the oldest graves are located.  It's there that you'll find the grave of the city founders.  One of my favorite monuments is for Mrs. Wilson.  I have no idea who this woman was, but her monument fascinates me, and not just because it's a lovely sculpture.  One of the things I've noticed about this monument is that it's often surrounded by offerings: beads, candles, flowers, fruit, etc.  Who was she that people still remember her almost a hundred years after her death?  The only other time I've seen offerings like this at a grave was in New Orleans at the grave of Marie Leveau.  Could Mrs. Wilson have been an occult figure?  Leave a comment if you know.

Despite the cold, we were not the only people in the cemetery.  There are always people visiting the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee, and there are often people taking pictures of interesting graves.  On this trip we were treated to the sight of a gaggle of punk/goth teens wandering around.  They were very respectful of the feeling of the place and seemed as fascinated by the stones as we were.  After they had gone, Rae and I couldn't help but chuckle at our mutual desire to shout at them, "Hey, in 10-15 years you're going to be us!"  They probably wouldn't have appreciated it.

As we meandered through the graves it struck me that it was really quite fitting to spend New Year's Eve with the dead.  New Year's Eve is all about saying goodbye to the past and welcoming in the future and all its possibilities.  It's not uncommon to portray as the old year as a tired old man who is collected by the reaper at the stroke of midnight, and the new year as a babe in swaddling clouts.  New Year's Eve is really a celebration of the death and rebirth of the year, and all that goes with it.

Cemeteries are potent symbols of the past and of mortality.  Every stone represents a life and its history - a history that has ended.  It's easy to look at your own history and feel it slipping away while standing on the frozen earth in the shadow of a mausoleum.  It's so much easier to see the parts of ourselves that no longer serve while standing in that stillness.  We must learn from and respect the past, but we cannot live in it.  At the end of the old year it is fitting to pay our respects to those that have come before us and to our own histories.  As we welcome in the New Year we must release the past and let it slip away.  If our hands are full with grasping at what has been, how can we ever grab onto the future?  Let that which is dead fall away and go to its rest.  Let go and live.  Happy New Year.