04 September 2014

The Shadow of Music

Last Friday I had the pleasure of performing my absolute favorite shadow magick ritual.  I went to a Nine Inch Nails concert.  Oh yes, when approached with the proper mindset the right concert can absolutely be used to facilitate a deeply transformative magickal experience.

Unlike any other art, music has the ability to penetrate your entire being, particularly live music.  Music touches us not only emotionally and mentally, but physically as well.  There is nothing like the physical feeling of that first bass note thrumming through an arena; feeling your sternum vibrate and resonate with every single person both on stage and in the crowd.  When the musicians hit the stage the outpouring of energy back and forth between the band and the audience is visceral and intense.  Live music creates an energetic resonance between everyone who hears it, creating a circuit of movement and life.  A good concert raises is the finest ritual magick.

In order for a concert to facilitate shadow magick it needs a few things.  First, the music must speak to your shadow.  Second, you must feel safe enough in the venue to be open to your magick taking you somewhere unexpected.  Third, you need to be good enough (or have someone with you who is good enough) to shield what you're doing so it doesn't interfere with the people around you.  Fourth, you need to have a safe space afterwards for decompression and grounding.

The first thing you have to consider is the music itself.  The purpose of shadow magick is to open ourselves to our shadows, get to know them, and to play nice with them.  Happy, shiny, bubble gum pop is not going to help you work with your shadow.  You're going to need to go into the darker stuff: music that expresses pain, anger, sorrow, grief, helplessness, etc. - the emotions of the shadow.  Music is a wonderful way to safely integrate these shadows because it can be an intense emotional and energetic release that doesn't hurt anyone, regardless of how dark those shadows are.  (Yes, you can argue that some music fuels the shadow in a negative way - encouraging bad behavior like violence and misogyny.  It comes down to personal responsibility.  If you don't think you can loose yourself in the music without acting on its suggestions then you are probably not ready for shadow work.)  For me, Nine Inch Nails expresses my shadow just about perfectly; it's dark and intense and resonates with all the scary bits that live inside my head.

You'll need to take the concert venue into account before deciding to use the concert magickally.  Shadow magick, when done correctly, is very intense.  We're talking uncontrollably shaking or sobbing levels of intensity.  It's amazing, but intense.  The venue needs to be such that you're actually comfortable letting things potentially go that far.  If you know that freaking out it going to get you pummeled, perhaps you should just enjoy the show rather than trying to work it.  I only do shadow magick at concerts where I'm comfortable with the venue (and its security staff) and only when I've got a magickally skilled friend to act as a spotter.  I'm quite capable of shielding myself in a way that I can have a magickal meltdown and not get it on other people's shoes, and I can hold myself together through any level of shadow work that I would do in public.  However, I'm not so foolish as to think it impossible that something might happen that would be too much for me.  If you don't have a friend to spot you and you really want to work the concert then you'd better have some energetic backup plans in case something goes wonky.

If your concert's got all that going on, then you just have to make sure you have a place to decompress in afterwards.  This could be sitting in the venue for a little longer as you make your way out, it could be curled up in the back seat of the car on the drive home, a closed room at home, etc.  What you'll need will depend entirely on how intense an experience you let yourself have and how well you've grounded.  Don't leave the venue without grounding.  Concerts in general tend to energize the hell out of people, let alone to those doing magick during them.  If you're the designated driver then ground twice.  I mean it.  Ground, drink a glass of water, ground again, go to the bathroom, ground again, then get in the car.  Crashing your car helps no one.  Then get yourself to safe space and either talk out your experiences with a really understanding friend or write it out in your journal.  Shadow work is intense and you will need a record of what happened in order to look back at it objectively while you stew for the next week or so.  Trust me.

And now for the fun part: shadow magick in public. 

A good ritual warms you up, raises energy, does its work, and then brings you back down again.  A well thought-out concert does exactly the same thing.  The opening bands raise general energy levels and open you to the potential of the headliner.  A good set opens by raising energy, moves through different emotions and energy levels, peaks with songs you can get truly lost in, and then ends with tapering energy and satisfaction.  Really polished bands that work with dark energy (intentionally or not) tend to open with energetic songs, move to darker ones, and then end with cathartic songs - this is absolutely perfect for shadow magick.

The first thing I do when I get to my seat at a concert where I intend to do magick is to cast some very specific filters and shields.  First I put up an inside-out grounding shield: this is a shield designed to keep the energy I put out from getting all over the people around me.  I cast it at skin level and have it ground about 80% of what I output.  Then I put up a filter to dampen any negativity from the people around me - I'll have plenty of my own to deal with.  I also put up an aversion shield to keep drunk people away from me - basically it makes people not want to touch me and is designed to get stronger when I'm approached by folks who aren't sober.  Shadow work takes a lot of concentration and being slobbered on is not conducive to any working.  Once those shields and filters are up I'm ready to go.  I will actually lower a lot of my normal shields during a concert because I do want to allow the music to influence me more heavily than I usually allow any external energy to do.  I also want to benefit from the collective resonance of the crowd; there is nothing like the energy of a crowd of 10,000 people all singing the same song with the same emotions. 

Once the music starts it's just a matter of letting go.  For me that's the hardest part.  Let down your walls, let down your regular shields, stop trying to be cool, stop trying to bury your shadow, remove the stick from your ass and just let go.  Close your eyes and feel.  Feel the resonance of the music shaking your sternum.  Feel the energy of the music penetrating your normal barriers and let yourself resonate with it.  Allow the music to guide your energies.  Let your shadow sing and dance and release. 

Let the music guide your experience.  If you don't want to follow the energy of a certain song, just pull back a little and just listen.  When you're ready to dive back in just do so.  You are the only judge of your experience.  Some songs will resonate more than others.  You might find yourself crying during some songs, raging during others.  That's ok.  Let the energy out by singing or dancing.  You might have visions during your experience (no hallucinogens necessary or desired), that's normal.  You can learn startling things about yourself when you let your shadow out to play.  It may show you things about yourself you never knew or wanted to know, but that knowledge is important.  Just because it's a little dark and misshapen doesn't mean that your shadow isn't an important part of who you are.  Accept what your shadow has to show you, remember it, and then let the emotions attached to it release with the music.  Let your shadow take hold of your voice and let it sing out and let go for you. 

When the concert's over don't be surprised if you're a little shaky, especially if it's your first time doing this.  The combination of excitement and catharsis is a heady mix and it can leave you vibrating with energy or utterly drained.  It all depends on both the intensity of your experience and how well the last song brought down the energy of the crowd.  If you need to, just sit down and put your head between your knees and breathe.  Ground like you've never grounded before.  Eat something. (I like to keep a package of almonds or a granola bar in my bag for just such occasions.)
I tend to be a bit twitchy even after grounding after doing any intense working, so I like to take a walk or do something physical just to calm down and clear my head.  I will often do readings after a working like this to help wrap my head around the things that come up. 

All in all, workings like this are designed to help integrate the shadow by bringing it to the surface and letting it release.  It's amazing how good it feels to let that kind of energy go in a way that is safe and socially acceptable.  We all face huge amounts of pressure to conform in our daily lives, so indulging in the shadow is incredibly cathartic.  It's sort of like having a huge holiday meal after months of dieting: you can't really do it all the time, but damn it's awesome.

If you liked this post you should check out my previous post: Magick of Music

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