31 December 2012

Why I'm a Witch

The holidays are interesting.  Being with my family is always a double-edged sword.  I love them dearly, but it makes me sad that I can't be open with them about my religion.  My parents and sister know (though they're not terribly comfortable with it), and my in-laws know (they're super cool that way), but my extended family do not because I'm afraid they'd either disown me or try to convert me all day.  No fun.  All the bother reminds me of just why I do this in the first place.

Way back in my very first post to this blog I told the story of how I came to Witchcraft.  When I reach one of those rough points where it's hard to blend my magickal and mundane lives I like to think back to that first real experience of owning my spirituality.  However, that was an awfully long time ago.  I've had some profound spiritual experiences since then (particularly back when I was an undergrad), but only a few points really stand out as moments when everything fit so perfectly.

Oddly enough, all of my most profound spiritual experiences have been either when I was alone or when I've been in a group and buggered off to do my own thing.  Perhaps that's just the nature of personal gnosis - it's yours and yours alone; or maybe it's just because my deity doesn't play very well with others ;) 

I'm reminded of my first trip to Pantheacon in 2010.  I went to a lot of amazing workshops and attended several rituals.  Most of the rituals were...well..fine.  There was a lot of pomp and circumstance and very little actual energy being moved.  It's hard to do a public ritual where everyone is really involved (I know because I've tried - even succeeded a few times), but a lot of them could have been better. 

Then I had the great fortune of actually making it in the door to T. Thorn Coyle's big Morrighan ritual.  Now that was a ritual!  I've been to plenty of rituals where someone "drew down" a deity and approximately zilch actually happened.  But in this ritual, when that gal called down the Morrighan she was there with us, palpably so.  You could actually feel the room swell in an effort to contain her.  It was an ecstatic experience that I would be hard pressed to describe.  Of course, for me the most profound moment was when I stepped back from the circle and the Morrighan actually spoke to me directly.  At that moment I was both part of the ritual and outside it.  I was physically there participating, but my spirit was totally engaged in this amazing one on one experience just adjacent the ritual.  I know that the ritual facilitated the experience; it got the Morrighan's attention and opened me to where I could listen to her properly.  I've had that kind of experience several times as a solitary, but only rarely before in a group and never in something public.

It's moments like that one than remind me of why I do this.  Being a witch is hard, particularly a shadow practitioner - anyone who says otherwise is doing it wrong, but the rewards are great.  Being able to have profound personal experiences with deity is a reward without peer.  If you've never stood in the full sight of your god then you cannot understand just how powerful it is.  That is why I do this.  It's something anyone can do.  You don't need fancy robes or tools, you don't need a big coven or a renowned teacher.  All you need is the willingness to open yourself to deity and to do your best to align yourself to it, to make yourself beautiful in it's sight - however that works for your deity.  It's not an easy path, but it's worth it. 

17 December 2012

Spell for Guiding Change

In times like these change is in the air. We're not always sure if change is for good or bad, or idea what things are going to look like when the dust settles. Here's a little spell for guiding the changes in your life to be as positive as possible.

"Change is in the air,
Things are shifting, moving, evolving,
Change is here,
Things are growing, stretching, shedding old skins,
May I grow easily,
May I learn my lessons swiftly,
May I shed that which no longer serves painlessly,
May I evolve smoothly,
Into something more,
Something higher,
Something greater,
Change serves me,
Change is my ally,
I stretch, I learn, I grow,
I am change and change is me,
I am ready,
So more it be."

Headed to Pantheacon Again

A few days ago Pantheacon announced the official schedule and I'm pleased to announce that I'll be presenting again this year.  It will be a little different for me this year because I'm not presenting on magickal defense (one of my favorite topics).  Instead, I'm presenting a workshop on conflict resolution.

If you've been to Pantheacon over the last few years you've probably picked up on the increased tension.  The issues of gender, exclusion, and incorrect assumptions have been fairly divisive of late.  I figured it was time for me to put on my attorney-mediator hat and lend my expertise to the community.  I hope to see some of you there!

Conflict Resolution for Magickal Communities
Friday 1:30pm
Silicon Valley Room 

Incredible diversity is one of the greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses of magickal communities.  Our myriad strong opinions inevitably leads to conflict.  In this workshop we will learn the basics of successfully mediating conflict in magickal communities.  This workshop is appropriate for anyone who wants to have more productive conversations with others.
  The room is fairly small, so be sure to be on time to get a seat.

10 December 2012

Yule Shadow Magick

It's that time of year again, Yule is fast approaching.  This year the moment of the Winter Solstice will be at 3:12am pst on Friday December 21st.  If I were a slightly more fastidious (or anal) Pagan I'd do my darndest to stay up and do ritual right at the moment of the Solstice.  However, I'm not, and I have to work on Friday.  So, instead I will do a bit of ritual at Sunset on the 20th (4:20pm) and a bit at Sunrise on the 21st (7:55am).

Yule is about rebirth.  It's about surviving and thriving during the darkest night and rekindling the fires of life and ushering in new light.  Given that shadow magick as whole deals with those themes, it is an ideal time to do a major working.  Yule is an excellent time to set major goals for the next year and imbue them with energy and intention.  Of course, to fully embrace the natural shadow of winter it's best to set your goal for a major change of habit or something that will force you to deal with things you've been avoiding.  If you want to succeed at shadow magick you can't be afraid to face unpleasantness.

My big goal for the coming year is to achieve more balance in my life.  I tend to do everything in the extreme.  I'll study a subject 12 hours a day for a month and then drop it forever; I'll go from sitting on my couch to trying to run an hour a day and injure myself; I'll do ritual three times a day for a few weeks and then barely light a candle for months.  I tend to be very "all or nothing" in the things I do, which isn't the healthiest of mindsets.  It just leads me to overdo things, overextend myself, and then end up physically and mentally burned out. 

I used to think this meant I was just a hard worker, but really it's a weird kind of obsession.  It's almost as if I'm hoping that each new obsession will be the magic bullet for my general malaise - that one thing that will make everything else fall into place and give me a lasting sense of purpose and fulfillment.  It's not actually a terribly healthy way to go about things and it's very difficult for me to admit that.  Shadow work is all about giving up false ego and embracing the truth.  It's very, very hard.  If it's not hard you're either doing it wrong or you're a bodhisattva.

At sunset on the 20th I'm going call on the Crone for help and light a black candle for banishment.  I'm going to write down a thorough description of my utter lack of balance and all the harm it does me.  I'm also going to write down the things that I used to think it brought me that it really doesn't.  Then I shall burn the paper and say, "My obsessive tendencies and lack of balance have failed me.  I have failed to be the person I want to be because of them.  As the light dies on this darkest night I release my grip on them.  I let go of attachments that do not serve me and let them fade with the dying sun.  I release my false ideas and open myself to something better.  May I find a better way of coping."

Then, at sunrise the next day I'll take a little "coffee break" at work.  I'll take a small cookie or candy and hold it in my hands and mentally say, "As  the light returns to the world I shall find my balance.  I shall find the path of moderation that will allow me to be whom I want to be and do what I want to do.  As the days lengthen I shall walk this new path of balance.  I shall be my best self, whole and complete, accepting and accepted, shadow and light entwined."  Then I'll eat my little, moderate treat and go about my day.

07 December 2012

Not my week for technology

In the last seven days I have both had a tire blowout on the freeway and dropped my iphone in a sink full of water.  Technology and I are usually such good friends, but not this week.  Perhaps the universe is telling me I need to stay in and do something manual this weekend.  Maybe read a *gasp* physical book - one made of paper!

Look for a ritual to protect your car and a spell to protect electronics coming fairly soon ;)

03 December 2012

Book Review: The Little Book of Curses and Maledictions

I was browsing through amazon.com a few days ago and came across   The Little Book of Curses and Maledictions for Everyday Use by Dawn Rae Downton.  The kindle version was only a dollar so I figured I'd check it out. 

Although I rarely work curses, I do find them fascinating.  It's always interesting to see what actions other people think are curse worthy and how they try to go about laying them.  The tricky thing with curses, particularly those you haven't written yourself, is that they have a tendency to rebound back on the caster.  They usually end up just creating a really strong link between the caster and the target, often making both parties truly miserable.

I would never cast a curse because someone was gossiping about me, cut in line for the bus, or generally annoyed me.  I just don't think that sort of behavior rises to the level of curse-worthy.  If I'm going to forge a semi-permanent link between me and someone I detest they would need to have done something really, really bad.  I'm talking physically harming someone I care about, emotionally eviscerating a friend, that sort of thing.  But that's just me.  There are lots of practitioners out there that have no problem hexing someone for whatever reason.  It's up to you to determine your own curse ethics.

In this book there are three kinds of curses: the revenge curse, the warning curse, and the binding curse.

The revenge curses are probably what we all think of when we think of hexes, and curses.  This is the "make my ex miserable," "get my boss fired," "punish that thief," kind of curses that get popular media all hot and bothered.  Most of these are variations on traditional hexes and curses with a few twists to make them appropriate for contemporary casters.  They're all pretty easy to cast and if you know how to focus your energy and put it into a spell they they should work.  Of course, if you don't actually know what you're doing these spells probably won't do more than give you a small sense of satisfaction.

The warning curses are spells designed to prevent or end bad situations.  I wouldn't actually call these curses, since they don't actually visit harm on another.  I think these spells are only called curses in this book because they use the same types of techniques and ingredients as the more traditional revenge curses.  However, this section does have my favorite spell from the book, "The Eastwood."  It's basically a ward against douchbaggery.  You create a special pouch that you can wear when you want to prevent rudeness.  I would think that this sort of spell would loose it's potency rather quickly, so it would have to be done repeatedly.

The binding curses, unsurprisingly, bind the target to do, or refrain from doing, a particular thing.  Honestly, these are the kinds of curses I am least comfortable with.  The idea of infringing on someone else's free will does not sit well with me, but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures.

Overall, this book is decent for what it is.  It gives the curious an interesting overview of what kinds of things curses and maledictions can do and gives inspiration to those actually wanting to cast a curse.  Would I do any of the spells in here as written? No, because a spell is always best when personalized and for something that requires as much commitment as a true curse you should be willing to make it your own.  That being said, if you did the spells as written in the proper frame of mind they'd probably work.  I just wouldn't recommend anyone trying it if they're not already accustomed to magick.

Overall I'd give this a 3 1/2 out of five for content, but for $1 that's just fine.