29 August 2011

Anchored Shields

Shielding is one of the first techniques new practitioners learn when they study defensive magick.  The basic shield that almost every “magick 101” book teaches is the standard bubble shield (the white glowing egg that blocks negative energy).  It’s a great beginner shield because it’s easy to visualize and doesn’t take a lot of energy to maintain.  Unfortunately, it also has a lot of draw backs.  If done correctly, the basic bubble shield will really dampen your magickal senses – to the point where you might be under psychic attack and you wouldn’t even notice it.  And no, that isn’t a good thing.  If you don’t know you’re under attack you never do anything to stop the attack and as soon as your shield goes down you get hit.  Eventually, all bubble shields have to come down.  Although they don’t take much energy to maintain, they do take some and you will eventually get tired.

I deal with this by using a series special purpose of filters rather than a single large shield for my daily defense.  Now, the more complicated your shields the more energy they take to maintain.  If I had to run all my protections of my own energy I’d be comatose by 9am, so I don’t.  Instead, I anchor my shields.  An anchored shield is centered in an object (crystals, semi-precious stones, jewellery, tattoos, etc.) that you carry on your person and runs of the energy you’ve put into that object.  This allows you to run massive shields without draining yourself dry.  Of course, those anchors need to be recharged regularly (usually 1-2x a month) to maintain potency.

To create an anchored shield I just hold the anchor in my hands and describe the shields I want it to put up.  Now, you have to be very, very specific in your description.  You need to say exactly what you want each part of the shield to do, what you want it to do with the energy it lets pass, the energy it doesn’t let pass, whether it lets you feel what it’s doing, what it does when it runs out of power, etc.  You also need to describe exactly how you want the shields to activate and deactivate - are they automatic whenever you carry the anchor, do you have to will them up or down, do they go up automatically when you run out of energy, etc.  It’s like creating a computer program – it will do exactly what you tell it to and not one iota more or less.  If you want your shields to think then you need an egregore (and that’s a whole different thing). 

Once you’ve created your anchor you need to charge it.  I like to charge my anchors by singing, dancing, or meditating – usually singing.  How you charge your anchor will affect the character of your shields.  If you charge it by burning a candle then you’ll have very firey shields, if you charge it with intense visualization and a drop of your own blood you will get very intense shields that will probably make other people uncomfortable, if you charge it by going dancing you’ll get shields with playful energy.  Be mindful of what kind of energy you use and what its effects might be.

Then all you have to do is carry your anchor and let it work.

24 August 2011

Quote of the Day

Umegat rubbed his neck and pulled gently on his queue. “Do you understand what it means to be a saint?”

Cazaril cleared his throat uncomfortably. “You must be very virtuous, I suppose.”
“No, in fact. One need not be good. Or even nice.” Umegat looked wry of a sudden. “Grant you, once one experiences . . . what one experiences, one’s tastes change. Material ambition seems immaterial. Greed, pride, vanity, wrath, just grow too dull to bother with...personally, I think it is not so much the growth of virtue, as simply the replacement of prior vices with an addiction to one’s god.” Umegat emptied his cup. “The gods love their great-souled men and women as an artist loves fine marble, but the issue isn’t virtue. It is will. Which is chisel and hammer.

-Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion

And from the same book:

“The gods do not grant miracles for our purposes, but for theirs. If you are become their tool, it is for a greater reason, an urgent reason. But you are the tool. You are not the work. Expect to be valued accordingly.”

22 August 2011

New and Improved Daily Protections

It seems that my old standby daily protections are a tad insufficient these days.  I don’t know whether it’s a shift in my own energies or the energies coming at me, but I seem to be affected more by the negativity coming my way than I used to be.  My old protections consisted largely of reciting a protective incantation on my way to work and doing my nightly protection ritual before bed.  I’d occasionally augment these with a little incense or a candle spell if I felt I needed a boost.  These days I’m having to augment them pretty much every day, so out with the old plan and in with the new.

To start off, I’m going to re-work my morning protections – they’re the least robust and have the most room for improvement.  I want my morning protections to block negative energy coming from the outside (but not so much that I don’t learn the lessons that I need to take from them and deal with the causes), ground out negativity from within (but not so efficiently that I’m not aware of them and thus never address the cause), keep me alert and aware of what’s going on around me, bolster my creativity and intuition (so that I can come up with optimal solutions for dealing with problems), and help me deal with stress.  And, this all has to be quick and easy enough that it doesn’t slow me down on my way out of the house.  A simple task, no?

I think that what I’ll do is this:
1. I’ll start by putting a little Firey Wall of Protection oil (a blend of frankincense, myrrh, dragon’s blood, and salt) on my heart chakra and envision it seeping into it to strengthen and purify it.  Then I’ll press my hand out from my heart and create an inner shield to ground negativity from within or without.  I’ll probably take an extra moment here to connect to my deity and let that connection strengthen and comfort me.

2. Then I’ll touch my fingers to my lips (probably just above or below because Firey Wall of Protection oil isn’t particularly tasty) and envision the energy of the oil seeping into me to strengthen and purify my voice – to keep me true to myself and make sure that what I send out into the world is strong and well guided.  Then I’ll press my hand outward to form the next shield out – a shield of air the swirls around me and alerts me to changes in the energy so that I can be aware when something untoward comes at me from without and when I’m generating something harmful.

3. Then I’ll touch my fingers to my third eye, envisioning the energy seeping into that chakra to strength and purify it; to keep my mind and extra senses sharp, to keep me adaptable and light on my feet, and to give me the magickal strength to deal with whatever energy comes my way appropriately.  Then I’ll press my hand out to form the outermost shield which will be a filter to ground any negative energy coming to me that will not do me any good (anything that I won’t learn something important from, anything that would tip me over the edge, anything I was completely unprepared to deal with at that time) and to keep me from unintentionally sending my stress and negativity into the world.  I would probably want to anchor this shield in a piece of jewellery that I’d put on at this time (probably an onxy or snowflake obsidian).

I think that should do it.  It should block energy that wouldn’t do me any good (but let in energy that I really need to deal with/be aware of), it will ground excess negativity, it will keep me alert, and strengthen my abilities to deal with all the crap life dishes out.  Yes, I think this will do nicely for now.  If this isn't enough, then I'll try boosting my nightly protections or maybe adding a midday boost.

15 August 2011

Dark Arts from the Outside

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of representing the Grey School, along with the ever brilliant Rae du Soleil, at the Vancouver B.C. Pagan Pride Day.  It was held outdoors in a park just outside the city (in the suburb of Surrey).  We lucked out and had decent weather, though the wind got a bit feisty at times.  There were a decent number of attendees and we had some really great discussions.

One of the things that really struck me about this event (I hadn’t attended it before) was the diversity of immediate reactions to my saying that I was the Grey School’s Dean of Dark Arts.  The reactions ranged from “Oh cool” to abject horror.  Now, that in itself isn’t all that surprising (pagans do run the gamut on opinions on DA) but what was really surprising was just how different the bases were for those reactions.

The people who thought being involved in DA was nifty ranged from the ever present Potter fans to people who were obviously fond of the Dark Arts themselves.  By far the most common reaction to my title was to be relatively positive and then ask what the term meant at the school.  These folks took one look at my book (Defense Against the Dark) and generally assumed I was a good person and that DA at the Grey School was probably positive – as, of course, it is.  The ubiquitous Potter fans thought the similarity between my title and the defense against the dark arts title at Hogwarts was just the coolest.  These folks might not look to deeply into what I do, but at least they don’t think I’m evil.  Then, naturally, there were the shadow practitioners that performed the expected “does she actually practice what she preaches” verbal sparring that I quite enjoy. 

Then there were the detractors.  I do expect a fair number of people to hear that I practice the Dark Arts and immediately misinterpret what I do.  The ambiguity of the term makes this unavoidable.  I’ve come to expect that a certain number of the more lily-white/fluffy members of the pagan community to shriek in horror at the mention of “black magick” before they ever bother to find out how the term is being used.  I was pleasantly surprised that just about all of these folks were open minded enough to let me explain how we use the terms “dark arts” and “black magick” (which we use to mean the study of defensive magick, creatures of the night, and low magick).  Once they understood what we actually meant they accepted it as a good thing. 

What actually surprised me were the one or two people who heard what I did and assumed that I was on the far side of the light and went around indiscriminately destroying dark creatures.  That was a new one.  I practice shadow magick.  My practices are about as dark and disquieting as you get while still maintaining ethical standards.  I teach defense because there are bad things out there that would like nothing better than to tear your face off.  There is a huge chasm between blasting everything that scares you and learning how to protect yourself when necessary.  One can respect and even embrace the shadow while still keeping a wary eye. 

In reality, the Dark Arts is a practice that requires practitioners to balance personal ethics and protection with a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.  A practitioner that actually understands dark creatures can determine when they should be respected and allowed to go about their business and when they need to be acted against.  A practitioner that is an expert in defense can apply the minimum amount of force necessary to correct a problem without going overboard or disrespecting others.  A practitioner that truly understands low magick can apply their magick at the critical fulcrum point that will slide things their way without disrupting the waft of the universe.  Yes, rash and ignorant practitioners can wreak havoc – but that is true regardless of the flavour of magick they practice.  Any expert worthy of the title can balance keeping themselves safe, sane, and healthy, with working magick in the world.

08 August 2011

Magick of Music

Here is the handout from another workshop I taught last week: The Magick of Music

The principle upon which the magic of music rests is resonance.  Sound is created by waves of denser and lighter air moving at a particular frequency and those waves hitting the body and being interpreted by the ear as the sounds we know.  Resonance defines the ability of a sound wave's vibrations to set off  similar vibrations in another body.  It is through resonance that sounds are able to physically affect objects and energies.  Essentially, sound waves can change the energies of the things it interacts with to be more like the energy embodied by the sound – the magickal principle of like attracts like becomes like creates like.

On of the easiest ways to think about how music interacts with the human body and its energies is to use the chakra system.  A chakra is an energy vortex in the body that is believed to rule over a particular kind of energy.  Each chakra resonates with a particular pitch (the note that is sounded), timbre (the quality given to a sound be the instrument that created it), and vowel sound.

Middle C
Bass and Percussion
Brass and woodwinds
Solar Plexus
Flute, woodwinds, strings, piano
Harp, organ, flutes, wind chimes, strings
Harp, organ, piano, high strings
Third Eye
Harp, organ, piano, wind chimes, high strings
Harp, organ, piano, wind chimes, high strings

One of the easiest and most effective ways to use sound and music is through toning.  Toning is not quite singing a particular vowel, word, or phrase at a particular pitch.  In ceremonial magic toning is often referred to as vibrating a word of power.  It's rather impossible to describe in words.  Here is a charts of basic sounds and their correspondances.

Basic Sound
Energetic Effects
Ay (hay)
Love, healing, balance, akashic memory
Ah (cat)
Creative expression, clairaudience
Aw (saw)
Solar Plexus
Inspiration, clairsentience, psychicism
I (eye)
Mind over emotions, heart intelligence
Ih (bit)
Creative expression, clairaudience
Ee (see)
Third Eye, Crown
Clairvoyance, spiritual vision, higher consciousness
Creative expression, clairaudience
Oh (note)
Creativity, reserve energy, higher emotions
Aw (cot)
Solar Plexus
Inspiration, power, psychic sensitivity
Oo (boot)
Vitality, life force, kundalini
Uh (but)
Creative expression, clairaudience

A Brief Description of the Chakras.  http://oneyogalife.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/a-brief-description-of-the-chakras/.  Accessed 6/14/11.
Andrews, Ted.  Sacred Sounds: Magic & Healing Through Words and Music.  Llewellen Publications.  Woodbury, MN: 2007.
Cottrell, Amrita. “What is Healing Music? A Closer Look.” http://www.healingmusic.org/Main/What_Is_Healing.htm. Accessed 6/14/11.
The Physics of Resonance. http://www.intuitor.com/resonance/index.php.  Accessed 6/14/11.
The Physics of Sound.  http://library.thinkquest.org/19537/Physics2.html.  Accessed 6/14/11.

Magickal Intent

Last week I spent five and a half glorious days at the Grey School's Pacific Northwest Conclave in Central Oregon.  We spent our time in workshops, ritual, deep discussion, and relaxing.  It was a wonderful "time out of time" sort of experience.  It was wonderful to spend time with so many good friends and to deepen my relationships with my peers.  One of the workshop's I taught was on the nature of magickal intent.  As both a Witch and a professional mediator, I have a rather particular view of intent.  I believe that no magickal can truly come to fruition if you don't really understand what it is you're trying to do, so here's my handout from conclave to help.

Magickal Intent - presented at the 2011 PNW Conclave

Practitioners do magick when they want to change something.  That change could be getting something they don't have, achieving something difficult, a subtle internal change...almost anything.  However, for that change to really take effect, the wizard has to really know what it is that they want – inside and out.    Saying something like “I will that my life be better” is a wish, not a spell.  Now, do it long enough and it can turn into one, but in and of itself that wish is just far too general to be effective magick.  To do really effective magick you need to know what you really need to accomplish your goals, not just what you think you want.

To clarify your magickal intent, to really know what you want, you need to identify your underlying interests in the situation.

By understanding your underlying interests you can tailor your magick to help you get exactly what you really need.  All the magickal know-how and power in the world won't help you if you're asking for the wrong things.  Nowhere is that more obvious than in the stereotypical use of a love spell.  We all know the basic story, a young person is desperately crushing on a particular person and does a love spell to make that person fall in love; this inevitably fails utterly or backfires in spectacular fashion.  In such a scenario the young person thinks what they want is that other person, but why?  The young person sees the other as the person that will give him or her the affection and companionship that is lacking.  Why does the young person want that?  The young person is lonely and needs a self-esteem boost.  What the young person should have done was a spell to boost self-confidence and to attract the kind of person that would assuage his or her loneliness in a positive way. 

An underlying interest is root level interest that is impinged upon by the conflict.  It's what's left when you ask yourself why you want the change, and then ask why, and then ask why.  If you ask yourself “why do I want that” and there's more than one possible answer, then you haven't found your underlying interest yet.  Underlying interests tend to be straightforward things like safety, pride, comfort, love, health, etc.  For example:
Joe is  annoyed by his co-worker Dave.  Why?  Dave gets paid more than Joe for doing the same job.  Why is this a problem?  This makes Joe feel undervalued and unappreciated.  Why is that important?  It hurts Joe's pride and self-esteem.  Joe's underlying interests in this conflict are pride and self-esteem.
Once we understand our underlying interests we can apply our magick to create the change that will actually resolve the conflict.  In the example above, had Joe not identified his underlying interests he might have decided that the best way to resolve the situation was to do a spell to help him convince his boss to give him a raise.  This would have equalized the pay disparity and resolved the surface issue, but may or may not have really satisfied his underlying interests.  Instead, knowing his underlying interests, Joe might do a spell to help him achieve the recognition and value that he feels he deserved.  Now, that might manifest similarly (in a raise) but it will probably get to that end in a very different way.

Knowing your underlying interests tells you where to stick your magickal fulcrum so that you can move the most weight with the least amount of effort.  The problem with addressing only surface concerns is that the conflict never really resolves and you'll have to keep fixing more surface concerns as they manifest from your unsettled interest.  For example, if Erin doesn't get along with her co-workers and does a spell to get a new job, and then finds she doesn't like her co-workers at her new job she's going to keep doing spells to find new jobs until she finally finds people she can work with.  If she had just addressed the source of the conflict in the first place she could have done one spell to fix things rather than ten.  Know what you really want and do magick to get it and suddenly all of those surface issues will resolve themselves.  Clarify your magickal intent by understanding your underlying interests and see what happens.

Based on concepts used in professional mediation.

Branscomb, Melinda. Mediation, Mediation Advocacy, and Collaborative Law Workbook. Spring 2009.
Frenkel, Douglas, and James Stark. The Practice of Mediation. Aspen.  New York: 2008.