25 September 2012

Book Review - Restless in Peace

I've just finished a fun little book called Restless in Peace: A Psychic Mortician's Encounters with Those who Refuse to Rest.  It's essentially a book of ghost stories, but it's unlike any other I've encountered.

The book is about the ghostly encounters of the author Mariah de la Croix during her time working in funeral homes.  The author tells stories of ghosts who stop by as their bodies are visited by their families, spirits who decide to linger after their bodies are buried, ghost of folks who worked or died on the properties, etc.  She even has a chapter on shadow people.  They're great stories: some a bit creepy, others heartwarming, others downright scary.

What I like most about this book is the matter of fact tone of the author.  These are all things that she experienced, from the slightly odd to the truly bizzare.  She doesn't sensationalize the stories or play up the creep factor.  She simply tells how she felt about things when they were happening and then reflects on them a little.  She shows tremendous respect for the spirits; which anyone who has really worked with them can appreciate.

Oftentimes personal accounts of ghost encounters can be overly dramatized.  The littlest thing is "an evil spirit" or a "demon."  That's not the case with this book.  I believe the author because most of the spirits the she encountered acted just like normal people would.  Sure, she ran in to a few dark entities, by they were few and far between - just like they actually are.  She doesn't over dramatize her own actions either.  She doesn't talk about gibbering in fear or blodly facing a demon with nothing but a stick.  Here's her reaction to a shadowy mass approaching her:

I backed up and banged into the door, which abruptly slammed, barring my way out of the room. At that point, I could scream loudly, slip to the floor and whimper, or I could stand there and behave as if I’d done this a hundred times before; in other words, fake it. Brilliant me decided to stand my ground and bluff it away. I had no idea what I was doing.
Oh yeah, I sooooo know how that feels.  This is a woman I can seriously relate to.

If you want to read about what ghosts are actually like read this book.  This is how they actually behave.  If you want a good read with a little spookiness and a lot of reality pick this one up.  I highly enjoyed it.

21 September 2012

Mabon and the Spooky Symposium

Tomorrow is Mabon! It's finally here! I cannot tell you how happy I am to greet the Autumn.  Summer's great for hiking and camping, but there's nothing like October country to stir my blood.  I love the way the air turns crisp and the trees shake in the wind.  I love watching swirling orange and red leaves float through the air.  I love seeing fresh apple cider in the grocery store and even love the pumpkin spice candles that start popping up everywhere.  I truly love Autumn.

It also doesn't hurt that Mabon heralds my very favorite time of year - Halloween season!  Yes, I know that Halloween is really Samhain - I am a Pagan you know.  I love Samhain, it's my favorite of all the wheel of the year holidays, but I also love Halloween - silly, creepy, over-commercialized, sugar glorifying, horror movie marathon inducing Halloween.  I'm a dark person by nature (a shock to all my regular readers I know), so few things thrill me as much as seeing normal everyday people enjoying the things that I like everyday.  I love the abundance of spookiness, from ghost tours to haunted houses, that's available this time of year.  I love a good safe scare. 

Mabon itself isn't all that creepy on the surface.  It's a time of balance and harvest - think Pagan Thanksgiving.  But below the surface we see the waning of the year, the turn towards darkness.  From Mabon until the following Ostara the night holds sway and daylight hours are short (particularly here in the PNW).  On Mabon itself the veil thins; the liminality of the day allowing for easy access to other realms.  That means that if you're looking to communicate with "other" beings, Mabon is a very good day to do so.

And that brings us to the Spooky Symposium.  You see, last weekend a friend of mine asked me to provide her with a genuinely scary experience.  She's wanted to see ghosts forever, but hasn't quite gotten the knack of energy sensing, so she can't under normal circumstances.  I rather cockily said I could make scary circumstances.  I figured I'd take her someplace haunted and just pump energy into the room until things could manifest more solidly.  Then I started thinking about where to go.  My thought process was along the lines of: "Oh, I could take her to...no, that would be trespassing.  Hmm, maybe I could go to...no, that place is rather dangerous at night.  Well, maybe I could...no, those ghosts aren't there all that often."  I think you get the picture.  There are plenty of haunted places in Seattle but they either private property or the potential for mugging is too high for a small group of women after dark.  So I came up with a better idea.

Instead of going somewhere dangerously haunted, we'll spend the evening talking about paranormal experiences, different spooky entities, and end the evening with a seance - a Spooky Symposium if you will.  Yes, we shall pretend that we're proper Edwardian ladies and discuss spooks over tea and cakes and then invite the spooks to join us.  Normally I do not recommend seances.  They tend to open doors and not shut them - this leads to people having to call me to rescue them.  Of course, being the witch I am I will do it right (*knock on wood*).  I know enough to ward us from malicious entities and have the ability to banish anything pesky that comes through.   If all goes well we'll get some spooky fun, maybe help a spirit or two, and then go back to the mundane.  If all goes poorly, well, then my friend will get a little bigger scare than she bargained for.  It should be very interesting none the less.  I'll let you know how it goes ;)

17 September 2012

A Great Weekend Past and a Look Towards Mabon

Last weekend was the Seattle Esoteric Book Conference which I visited with some good friends from the Grey School.  The conference itself was a bit expensive for my wallet so I decided to save my hard-earned for the vendor room, rather than going to the workshops.  I have never seen so many small press occult publishers in one room before.  It was really neat to see so many wonderful rare and antique editions, some of familiar works (1st edition Drawing Down the Moon!) and some bizarre things that I've never heard of.

A fun bit of public art down at the Seattle Center, next to the Experience Music Project.

 There were a lot of amazing books there, but I must admit it wasn't really my crowd.  I'm a witch and the majority of what I do is intuitive.  Old grimoires and esoteric theory are wonderful bits of color and enrichment, but they don't really inform my practice.  Historical research into how particular magicians did things a hundred years ago is interesting in an anthropological way, but I'll stick to listening to my Gods for figuring out how I'm supposed to best honor them.  Now, my alchemist friend just about lost her biscuit  with all the amazing hard to find alchemical titles they had and I imagine any ceremonial magician would have felt like they'd entered candyland.  I think this conference is a wonderful thing and I'll definitely be back, but probably just for a turn about the room.

After the conference my friends and I went on a ghost tour with the always lovely Jake of Private Eye Tours.  We did the Spirits of Seattle tour, which I've been on before and enjoyed immensely.  Our group was most of the van and pretty much commandeered things.  We were joined by two lovely ladies who didn't seem to mind our outspoken and matter of fact magickal talk and may even pop by the Grey School some time - which would be fab :)

Jake telling us about the spirit of a minister haunting his former church.

All in all it was a wonderful and witchy weekend.  I came home with some interesting grimoires and will eventually have some interesting book reviews for y'all.

Now, Mabon is coming up this week; Sept 22nd at 7:49am pst to be precise. Here in Seattle we're enjoying an odd Indian Summer, with temps in the high 70s to low 80s all week.  I've never welcomed autumn in shorts before and I can only imagine it will be a weird experience.  However, you can tell the seasons are shifting because I'm arriving at work when the stars are still out and I need a coat in the morning.  I think perhaps I'll welcome autumn by making a special batch of applesauce or maybe some nice beeswax candles on Thursday.  I'll have to think about it. 

13 September 2012

Setbacks in Shadow Work

I've spent a lot of the past few months consumed by my shadow.  For me the shadow tends to  manifest as procrastination, over-indulgence, and self-recrimination.  This means I haven't gotten a whole lot done of late and pretty much feel like crap about it.  I've let way too many things that are important to me slide by the wayside and I mean to remedy that.  So today I'm going to talk a little about setbacks in shadow work - appropriate no?

The thing about shadow work is - it's hard.  If it's not hard you're not doing it right.  Shadow work is soul searing, gut churning, bone shakingly difficult.  Reaching into your own abyss, pulling things out, and turning them into strengths is a lot like re-breaking an improperly set bone so that it can grow straight and healthy again - absolutely necessary and worthwhile but hurts like hell.  The more it scares you and the more you try to avoid it the more important it is to face it.  Remember the movie Labyrinth?  There's a scene in the movie when the main character is trying to navigate underground tunnels and huge rock faces start shouting at her to turn around and that she's on the path to her own doom.  Then her companion tells her that the stone faces are actually "false alarms" and that the more of them there are and the louder they get the more likely they are to actually be going the right way.  Shadow work is a lot like that, the harder it is the closer you're probably getting to something important.

Setbacks in shadow work are inevitable.  Anything as difficult as proper shadow work is going to be mentally, emotionally, and magickally exhausting.  It's absolutely necessary to take a rest every once in a while or you'll burn out and probably experience some major mental backlash (I know I do when I take things too far too fast).  Every few weeks take a rest from shadow work.  Go do something that doesn't take a lot of mental prowess and that is emotionally and spiritually fulfilling.  Go for a hike, paint a picture, play some games, throw a party.  Do a ritual of thanksgiving to celebrate the bits of you that aren't covered in psychic muck of your own making.  It's easy to go myopic doing shadow work and forget that your shadow is just a small part of who you are.  You are not your shadow. 

The whole point of shadow work is to make you stronger and more whole so that your shadow becomes your ally instead of your enemy.  The shadow is not bad; it's just unacknowledged and unfulfilled and occasionally acts out like a bored child.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like it's making you stronger, but just the opposite.  As you sit in meditation, shaking with stress and fighting back tears that make no sense to your logical brain you feel anything but strong.  But here's the thing, would you rather breakdown in the safety and privacy of your circle or wait until something in the world triggers your shadow in public where who knows where the fallout will land?  And, once you've faced a particular aspect of your shadow, once you've had your shootout at high noon moment, it's never quite as bad again.  The next time it will be a little less fierce, and even less fierce the time after that, until eventually you'll wonder what the big deal was.  Of course, you'll probably have exposed more deeply buried scary bits in the mean time and have other things to worry about. 

Shadow work really does make things better.  The more you integrate your shadow the more whole you become and the strong your center becomes.  As we all know, our center is the seat of our magickal power and the stronger it is the better able we are to do just about anything and the less vulnerable we are to any kind of outside attack.  If you specialize in defensive magicks like me, strengthening the center is absolutely critical.  Shadow work seals the cracks and fissures in the aura and makes shielding little more than childsplay.  Yeah, shadow work is hard and can really suck ass some times but it's worth it.

03 September 2012

Dragon's Blood

I’ve been doing a fair amount of herb work lately - making balms, oils, herbal waters, etc.  Most of what I make is protective because, well, I’m rather paranoid and I like the vibration of a good homemade protective concoction.  I use a lot of different herbs, oils, resins, and spices in my various protective recipes but if I had to choose just one as my favorite it would definitely be dragon’s blood.

No, dragon’s blood isn’t real blood nor is it colored ink.  Real dragon’s blood is a resin that comes from particular trees that grow in Southeast Asia. The resin can come from several different species of rattan, though it most commonly comes from Daemomorops Draco.  You can find dragon’s blood resin in any occult/metaphysical shop sold as incense and can find its essential oil in the better shops and online.  Some shops will sell the vastly inferior perfume oil, which I used before I knew any better, but it’s so unlike the real thing as to be laughable.  Real dragon’s blood smells like the sap it is - smelling rather like a slightly spicy pine.  It should be a dark, rusty red color in resinous form and the pure oil is often red-brownish.  

Dragon’s blood is highly protective and aids in the potency of any protective or banishing spell.  I like to add chunks of the resin to mojo bags and often use the oil to anoint/bless objects.  I’ve also been known to wear the essential oil as a perfume when I’ve needed a little extra shielding.  I most commonly combine dragon’s blood with frankincense, myrrh, and a little sea salt to make fiery wall of protection powder or oil (depending on if I’m working with the resins or the oils).  Though the high quality oils can be a bit spendy their potency is more than worth it, particularly because you only need use a drop or two at a time.  The powdered version of fiery wall of protection is handy because you can always keep a vial or two on hand and sprinkle it around you when you need a little extra protection.  It’s also great when working with clients requesting protection because it’s both incredibly potent and “looks suitable magickal” for a muggle to think you’re actually doing as much as you say you’re doing (I’ll go into working with non-magick folks another time).

I like to get my dragon’s blood at The Vajra, a wonderful shop here in Seattle that has some of the highest qualities oils I’ve found.  You can also find good quality dragon’s blood online if  you go to reputable sources.  One of my favorites is Mountain Rose Herbs.

Scott Cunningham. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.
Paul Beyerl. The Master Book of Herbs.
“Dragon’s Blood.” A Modern Herbal.  http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dragon20.html
“Dragon’s Blood.” http://dherbs.com/articles/dragons-blood-394.html