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.