December 26, 2011

On the "New Year, New You" Experiment

Alright, so in the midst of my reader backlog (620 unread posts? Ye gods I need to go on a blog-diet) I somehow missed out on the awesomeness that is Deb's New Year, New You experiment. I have to admit, when I first read the title I was sort of expecting some kind of fuzzy post about new-year's resolutions, which, by the way, I'm absolutely allergic to. But instead, I found something that really spoke to me in an unexpected way.

You see, I have a problem with inertia. Not like "it's hard to get started" inertia, but "the harder you try, the deeper you sink" inertia, and I've only very recently started unraveling the mechanics behind it. I end up starting things with the best of intentions (like Jason's Strategic Sorcery course, which this blog was supposed to be about), diving in head-first, setting up a daily practice and generally getting along wickedly... until I don't. Maybe I need to leave town for a few days, or I get sick, or one of a million other things happens, and it screws up a very minor aspect of my practice. Like missing a note while playing the piano, the flow of things is interrupted, and one minor incident ripples outward until everything is an absolute mess.

Now, instead of just trying to power through and make the best of my "mistakes", the perfectionist in me racks up an emotional backlog of guilt for the things I was supposed to have done, but didn't get to. Eventually, after a few minor mistakes (or straight-up life circumstances), the emotional weight of feeling like you're somehow "failing" builds up to the point where every aspect of the Work feels like... well, work. It becomes an obligation, something I feel like I should be doing, rather than want to be doing, and this is where the perfectionist teams up with the procrastinator and starts saying things like "Oh, well you can't do X until you do Y, and you can't do Y for whatever bullshit reason, so you might as well just wait on this." Which, of course, starts the guilt-cycle again.

And you know what? Fuck that. I'm sick and tired of living every day of my life feeling like some cosmic mommy-figure is going to jump out and chastise me for all the work I've been putting off. It's like knowing you have a test that you haven't studied for, every goddamn day. And I'm done.

For 2012? Every time I think "I could/should/want-to do that", I'm doing it, no mater what it is, and I'm doing it now rather than later. The perfectionist in me is going to throw an absolute fit, but honestly? I don't care if half of everything I do ends in disaster, because I'll actually be doing something instead of agonizing about what I'm not doing, and that's the real victory. Everything else comes second, but here are some secondary victories that might crop up as side effects:
  • Finishing Jason's Strategic Sorcery course
  • Getting my tutoring business off the ground
  • Keeping up with my pharmacy studies and going into "panic mode" far less often
  • Finally getting involved with the local magical community
  • Losing the weight I've gained over the past two years
  • Reading for fun more often
  • Maintaining a sane sleep schedule
  • etc, etc, etc.
Light up your incense, boys; it's time to make 2012 your bitch.

December 7, 2011

On Free Tarot Readings (Limited time only!)

I used tonight's very short Lunar talismanic window to perform a brief blessing on my beautiful Centennial Edition Smith-Waite deck. Now, I've never been much of a card reader, and I'm definitely in need of practice if I'm going to pick up this new skill, so without further ado, I offer the readers of my humble blog a free reading, with a few caveats:

1) I believe in confidentiality, so please don't post your question here. Email me at pallasrenatus at gmail dot com.
2) I have no idea how many requests I'm going to get, so please be patient, I'll answer them all as fast as I can.
3) Remember that general questions get general answers, so if you're expecting a specific answer, please ask a specific question.
4) My choice of spread, since I'm the one who needs practice.

With that said, email away! I'll edit this post and close the offer if I get overwhelmed, but I will answer any question received to the best of my ability.

(Edit: This offer is now closed, and thank you to everyone who participated! I may offer free or very cheap readings again in the future, but I'll have to figure out some sort of system so I don't get bombarded and keep people waiting. You'll see this offered in the sidebar if it ever becomes a reality.)

December 6, 2011

On Continuing Lunar Awesomeness

As promised, here are my continued notes concerning the effects of the Lunar talisman.

Now, some of you know that I don't often ascribe supernatural causes to mundane events, except when shit gets really crazy and/or obvious. Sometimes, though, things just line up too well to be considered coincidence.

Just after the events of the previous post, I left to visit my family in Florida for a week, and promptly forgot the talisman in my car. While I slept well and had a few vague dreams during that week, nothing out of the ordinary happened. When I returned, however, and moved the talisman back into my bedroom (really the only place I have at the moment to store much of anything), things started to get a little... weird, for lack of a better term.

First and foremost, the vivid dreams re-started almost immediately. Rather than filling themselves with Lunar imagery like my first experience, however, each dream tended to focus on a single person in my life, and the emotional issues I have (or had forgotten about) with them. Imagine a nightly outpouring of "everything I need to say but can't/haven't/didn't"; sometimes this is pleasant (and, ahem, graphic), sometimes painful, but always stark. And, I eventually realized, I always felt better waking up than I did going to sleep, as if some weight had been lifted from me during the night.

During my waking hours, I've noticed I've developed a tendency to indulge in my emotions more fully, to mixed effect. While this allows me to more fully enjoy situations which are already pleasant, I've noticed that unpleasant situations tend to be harder to "brush off", and can taint my mood for much longer than usual... if I don't meditate that day.

I know, I know, I've had the virtues of daily meditation drilled into my mind for years, but for the first time its benefits have become glaringly obvious in my day-to-day life. Not to mention, my free time has been limited because of the naps.

Now if only I had a talisman for waking up with perfect hair...
Oh yeah, the naps. Those of you who know me in real life know that I have never been able to nap before in my life. I wake up feeling absolutely awful... until recently. Since the creation of the talisman, I've been taking naps nearly every day (except for the week I was on vacation), even when I've had a full night of sleep beforehand. I'm not sure if this is the "health" portion of the talisman kicking in (as I wake up feeling wonderful, which is odd in itself), or it simply searching for another opportunity to bombard me with dreams (I'm not complaining).

Now, let me remind you that I'm not working with this talisman at all; it's simply sitting on my dresser in my room. That said, there is another window for Lunar work opening up this Wednesday (mark your calendars) during which I intend to invoke a few select powers and discuss what particular applications it might have in my work. Given that I'm not particularly good at the receptive portion of communication (you know, the part that makes it actual communication and not grandstanding), this will be an interesting experiment in itself, regardless of what I receive.

And on that note, one of the larger lessons I've gotten out of all this is how often my procrastination feeds on my perfectionism... I just don't want to start anything until I can do it "perfectly". Which is bullshit, of course, and this entire ordeal has been an example of the things that can happen if I actually decide to pick up the wand more often. Not to mention, it's reminded me how fun magic can be, and that's a success all on its own.

December 2, 2011

On Obligatory Dubstep Interludes

Due to an unexpected amount of continued awesomeness, I have a second post about my Lunar talisman in the works, but I probably won't get it done until sometime this weekend.

In other news, since it's rare (in my experience) to come across magic-related Dubstep, I present to you "this is exactly how I'm going to raise my daughter to defend herself":

2:32 may possibly be the most awesome depiction of the evocation of a familiar spirit I've seen in awhile. Not to mention the sheer creepiness of the implication of the last 3 or 4 seconds.

At any rate, enjoy your Friday!

(P.S. Picking the tags for this post was hella amusing, mostly because I had the perfect assortment already lined up from previous posts.)

November 22, 2011

On Moments of Lucidity: Levannah

What was that about solar egos? Oh, right.
One of the downfalls of having a vivid imagination and a Solar-heavy nature is that you can fall into the trap of believing that you can know what every experience will be like before you have it. Now, this can come in handy when you're trying to pick up a new skill ("Are you sure you've never done this before?") or when you haven't studied for a test ("What do you mean you 'just made it up' and got an A?" Yeah... I'm that asshole), but it also tends to lead to an extraordinarily severe form of spiritual arrogance. Case in point: my recent work constructing a very basic Lunar talisman.

Modern Alchemy.
My decision to construct a Lunar talisman (and I use "construct" in the loosest of terms) came about while I was slammed with schoolwork had lost any semblance of a regular practice, which gave me a bad case of the Magic Itch (there should really be a shampoo for that). Christopher Warnock's wonderful Planetary Magic Program had forecast a wonderfully opportune (and relatively rare) window for Lunar work, so I told the perfectionist in me to fuck off and went ahead with a simple ink-on-paper model. It's a far cry from the nanoparticles-of-planetary-metal-chemically-precipitated-inside-a-sheet-of-vellum models I eventually hope to make (I finally get to put my chemistry degree to use, and I use it for... medieval magic? My professors would be so proud), but perfectionism has prevented me from starting so many projects I count that as a plus.

Now the fun part: expected effects versus observed effects (or: isn't science fun when it doesn't kick your ass?). Honestly, I would have thought that I'd see an increase in the rate and quality of manifestation for my other spells, sort of "locking in" the "mirror" and "foundation" aspects of Levannah while they were favorable. Perhaps it might impart that "empty clarity" feeling I get while staring at the stars, rather than the "stuffy headiness" I generally find myself in. I had forgotten about dreams completely (really? I mean, really? How do you forget about dreams? It's the freakin' Moon!), but if I had remembered, I would have expected an increase in dream recall, but that's about it. I have yet to see if these things will play out in the long run, but what I got the two nights following construction was shocking in the most incredible of ways.

In the days leading up to the consecration, I had become increasingly bitter and ill-tempered for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which included sleeping about two hours a night and spending every waking moment studying for a massive exam, tutoring others for the same exam, or interning at my rotation site (read: "slave labor"). The bitterness lent itself well to a creeping depression, which in turn was automatically combated with even more bitterness and indiscriminately-flung malice (note that I'm talking about internal states here. If nothing else, I was at least was holding together well enough to smile pleasantly at people while plotting to stab their eyeballs out if I had to explain a simple-fucking-concept(TM) over again). Those reading this blog may not know me well enough to know that this is entirely uncharacteristic of me, and that it's pointed to some long-term issues that need clearing up, but I digress.

The first night, about 12 hours after consecrating the talisman, I involuntarily passed out ("Just five minutes...") in an awkward position on my bed, and immediately found myself in what I first thought was an apartment, but upon exploration turned out to be one small room in a large mansion (!). It is hard now, in retrospect, to say what struck me most about the place, because in truth, everything sort of stuck me all at once. I was distinctly disoriented at first, recognizing only one of the tenants personally, while two or more of the others had very distorted and/or disfigured faces (imagine two heavily bearded Irish guys who lost a wicked bar-fight), and I had a fuzzy notion that I was there to scope out the place as a potential new home. As I explored the mansion (the size of which escapes words, but purple marble was a definite theme (!)), several things happened at once. With each room I explored, the other tenants (or potential tenants) grew more feminine, paler, and more ethereal; at the same time, I realized that these people (mostly women) were the epitome of what I look for in both friends and lovers; they had a quality I can only describe as "drawing". The more I talked to each of them, the more I felt as if I was remembering an old friend; a best friend, a soul-mate that I couldn't believe I had forgotten. The rooms themselves seemed to be imbued with the feeling of getting something you didn't even know you wanted (glassed-in conservatory filled with rocking chairs, where all the tenants sit in a circle and read novels together? Not my usual style, but I couldn't have wanted anything more as soon as I sat in "my" chair. Forest in the front yard? Need. It. Now. And so on.), and the more rooms I explored, the more I got to interact with the tenants (I realize now there were 8 of them. Adding myself would have made 9 (!)).

The overall effect was overwhelming. I was home, for the first time ever. The love and peace that immediately flowed between all of the tenants, myself now included, was overwhelming. The sense of belonging was overwhelming. The sense of needing this place was overwhelming. At one point, while all of this was crashing down over me, I ran into the figure of my dad, who approved of my choice, but informed me of the high (monetary) cost of living there. I didn't care; any price was worth it, because nothing could be wrong in this place. That was the last objection that was raised to me, and the rest of the dream dissolved into an overwhelming sense of belonging.

When I first woke up (four hours later), the first thing I noticed was that any negativity had been completely obliterated from my mind. What had taken months to build up into a days-long rage was simply gone, and what's more, it stayed gone. The emotions of the dream lingered for days without any effort on my part to recall them. The second night, I had a (now mostly-forgotten) dream in which I used those emotions in an almost physical manner (imagine "lightworking" fluff) to deal with some long-term personal issues. Despite the week becoming progressively more hellish, I only felt better as it wore on.

In retrospect, I asked for health, safety, the driving off of enemies, and the pouring down of Levannah's blessings, and I got exactly all those things in the most unexpected emotional Roto-Rooter I could have asked for.

Isn't magic great when it's not kicking your ass?

October 3, 2011

On the Magic of Exhaustion

(Or, Sleep Cycles and the Land)
(Or, why my sleep schedule really sucks)

As some of you may know, up until very recently I had spent my whole life living in Florida. What you probably don't know is that during that time, I had never even visited a place where the climate was all that different from my home state. Many trips to the Caribbean, sure; once to southern California; a few excursions to the desert, but never anywhere with any real sense of seasonality to it. This never bothered me in any particular sense, but given my lack of perspective, I never had any idea what effect the Land had on my magic.

Once you get past the picturesque beaches (and then, past the beaches filled with drunken college students), Florida feels... leathery. Even the water feels tough and dry; where it's not salty, it's tannic; where it doesn't immediately run down through sand, it has all nutrients quickly sucked out of it, supporting only the toughest of life. And the life is tough. Plant-life is waxy, hard, bladed, and grasping for footholds. Some suck moisture right out of the air to avoid the astringent waters. Wildlife is either leathery, of the swarming, bloodsucking variety, or hidden in the trees.

I once read (and damned if I can find it again now that I want to link it) a quote from a magician visiting an American desert from England, about how she was amazed any magic at all could  be worked there, because the Land seemed so lifeless. There was nothing to draw on, she said, nothing to work with. The magician to whom she was speaking then told her of the magic of Endurance, and how it required a remarkably different approach than what she was used to.

I learned early on that the key to good magic was endurance and exhaustion. My best spells (such as they were) were cast while using a single focus to rail against my mind and body trying to sleep, and just after my body did fall asleep, and just after my conscious mind shut down, if all went right (and it frequently didn't), an Awareness would remain. If my focus was good and my intent was simple enough, it was the work of this Awareness that would preform the spell, ideally before my conscious mind "snapped to" (with my body quickly to follow, sort of the mental equivalent of your leg jerking you awake at night) or I fell asleep entirely. At 12 years old, my first brush with "beyond consciousness" was had in this manner, trying to stay awake all night simply because I could. Not much changed over the years, though oddly enough, rather than finding myself constantly exhausted all the time from these stints, I found that I needed less sleep after a good bout of magic.

Until recently, that is. And dear Christ what a shock to the system that was. My first few days here were great; I was full of a "lush" energy I had rarely felt before, tapping into the elements of the place seemed remarkably easy, I was incredibly excited about the feel of the place, and eager to use it in my magic. So I stay up late, push myself to the point of involuntarily passing out, try to form my idea in the "beyond" and... nothing. There was no Endurance here, I was just... tired. And staying up late completely wrecked me the next day. So being a good magician, I... tried it again. And again.

Some of you may have an idea of how terrifying it is to have all of your magic suddenly dry up on you; I hope the rest of you never experience it. But of course, instead of being a good self-reflective little mage and asking myself what could have been wrong, I panicked. And oh my what a panic it was. But eventually, a bout of crippling exhaustion coincided with a weekend, and when I woke up, I felt... fine. Which you have to understand, is new to me. Normally if I get a "good night's sleep", I feel awful the next morning. I've always needed a schedule that kept me relatively "exhausted" in order to feel alive the next day. Endurance was necessary. Until it wasn't.

It must be hilarious on the outside looking in, such revelations like "eight hours sleep make you functional" and "meditation works better when you're not fighting to stay awake". But then, I'm fighting 23 years of conditioning, and habits like "I write better papers at 4 in the morning" die hard.

But they're dieing. Learning to work with the energy of this place is my next big project; for now I'm just letting myself acclimate, making offerings and asking that any unhelpful Land-related habits I have be pointed out to me. And they are. Who knows? Maybe soon I'll finally be able to call a circle where more than the Fire quarter lights up for me.

...crap. It's three in the morning, isn't it?

September 6, 2011

On moving out, moving up, and moving on

Short version: I am now living in NC, a Doctor of Pharmacy candidate, on the tail end of getting over hella emotional issues, and should be posting more soon.

Long version (I did warn you): 
[Edited to add pictures because it makes my OCD happy]

A few years ago, while discussing the merits of outside perspective with a psych student, I was given an ugly truth that every solo magician knows in his bones: Just because you can see your dysfunction doesn't necessarially mean you can do anything about it. Usually this is cited as a warning to remember that shrinks need shrinks too, as you can watch yourself fall into a textbook disorder, yet find that your self-awareness and knowledge of that disorder don't leave you any better equipped to pull yourself out of it. Left without any outside council, one can wallow in their dysfunction, fully aware of it, for quite some time; usually until some major event or tragedy "snaps" them out of it and allows for a chance to re-focus. This was the position I found myself in over the past several months, thankfully without the tragic ending.

This summer was highlighted with cross-country flights and drives to interviews at pharmacy schools, emergency magic to influence said interviews, and emergency magic to correct some academic problems that have been plaguing me for the last several years (which should have been dealt with years ago), all against a background of being completely out-of-whack emotionally due to still being in love with (and pining for) my (now ex) ladyfriend, who had since moved on in her life. So there was some additional magic to influence that situation. It was pathetic, honestly.

My inane mental image of myself.
Only, you know, with less tits.
Over the course of the summer, emotions associated with my ex slowly started bleeding into every aspect of my life. I stopped thinking about what would happen after my lease ran out and I would have to move away from Gainesville; it was literally a dark, unplanned blank in my mind. I started getting ideas of some sort of "last hurrah"-type relationship, which is fine in itself I suppose, except that as time went on I found it wasn't so much the relationship I wanted (though I certainly did want it) as the ability to play the role of "angsty doomed lover". Long story short, I wanted to be a martyr and I was turning myself into one.

Sounds like your gothy middle-school years, no? Well interestingly enough, I found myself fully aware (rationally) that I was acting like a childish prat, but never experienced the embarrassment or defensiveness that one generally encounters (emotionally) when coming to that realization. So I found myself starting out a lot of sentences with some variation of "I know this is immature, but..." (as they say, there's always a but). Rationally, I knew that I'd get over this fit of asinine martyrdom soon enough and feel worlds better; and yet these thoughts carried no weight of emotion behind them, and every day that ticked by felt as if I were approaching my own funeral. I'm not exaggerating here, the physical sense of dread that hovered over me was inordinately dark and inescapable-feeling.

 Eventually, it occurred to me that my (lack of a) relationship wasn't the source of this angsty cloud; at least, not anymore. In true angsty-teen form, I realized that emotionally, I felt as if the entire world was set against me, and I was some sort of dying-light warrior on a doomed but noble mission. My rational side found this absolutely hilarious. (On that note, it should be said that I have sort of a dark sense of humor).

This folks, is what you call a Solar Crisis. Symptoms include radical idealism, unwavering conviction, extraordinarily inflated sense of self-importance, and the uncontrollable urge to be a complete asshat. Some people call these events a "mini Dark Night of the Soul", a term which makes sense emotionally, even if it has nothing to do with a "true Dark Night".

And then, rather uneventfully, the day came for me to move, and with more suddenness than I could have expected it was over. In the blink of an eye, I felt better than I had in years; and yet I felt that the experience had shaken something loose. I've never been a terribly emotional person; I tend to settle into a "mode" or "role" and sit there fairly unshakably. Once or twice this has led me to wonder if I had some sort of emotional deficiency, as things that would elicit strong responses from many people rarely seemed to affect me at all (I chose to think of this as "stability" rather than sociopathy). Now, it seemed, I was suddenly experiencing a whole range of emotions with far more immersion than I ever had before, yet this immersion never seemed to upset my inner sense of calm. Physically it felt as if a "butterfly" of emotion was set loose inside me, lovely to experience, but about as likely to overpower me as a butterfly is to break out of a bird cage.

The Blue Ridge Mountains.
Quite literally a breath of fresh air.
I have no idea what brought any of this about, but I found this little emotional crisis to be extraordinarily well-timed with other events in my life. Just after the "breaking point", I found that my top-choice school "just happened" to accept me, and that they "just happened" to be willing to make certain substitutions in their requirements to accommodate me. I "just happened" to be emailed out of the blue by my now-landlord, offering me a fantastic price on a place where I "just happened" to find that I clicked well with the land spirits. My tiny satellite campus also "just happens" to be full of people that I was able to immediately mesh with, and local job opportunities "just happen" to be geared towards people of my skill set at the moment.

If nothing else, it was all a wonderful convergence, even if looking back over it makes me shake my head in shame and vow never to speak of it again. There's really no moral to this story other than "shit happens". Shit which you won't always be able to puzzle through and find nice causes and reasons for. But hey, I'm in a state with real seasons, I'm starting a great career, I have great new friends, and emotional bullshit seems on a low ebb at the moment. Carpe fuckin' diem, eh?

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

July 4, 2011

On Forgetting Our Notes-to-Self: The tragedy of forgotten ideas

I have a tendency that I'm sure a lot of magicians (and computer programmers, oddly) can identify with: Often, seemingly out of nowhere, an idea will flash into my mind, unrelated to anything I'm doing or thinking at the time. I'll latch on to this idea, spend a good while thinking about it and fleshing out all the details, congratulate myself on my awesomeness, go back to whatever else needs more immediate doing... and promptly forget about my great idea entirely.

You'd think that after a while I'd either learn to write stuff down (god knows I have as many digital devices as I do pens to store notes on), or conclude that my ideas weren't impressive enough or important enough to warrant remembering. But the scale on which this happens can be staggering; I've fleshed out rough drafts for entire term papers in my head while on the road, and sat staring at a blank word processor for hours when I got home; I've had wonderful, inspired-feeling ideas for blog posts that are gone by the time I drag my lazy ass to a computer. I'm sure everyone's been through this.

AKA the ubiquitous childhood experience.
But the absolute worst part of it is knowing that a single word could bring that entire idea back in a flash, fully-formed, if only I could remember what the word was. Every once in a while I'll get lucky and an offhand phrase from a friend or relative will bring it all flooding back, but the vast majority of the time whatever I've come up with is given up for lost. It's a bit like being a kid and building something very intricate out of a bin full of Legos, and searching desperately for that one goddamn piece that you've had plans for for ages, and seen every time you didn't need it.

What a douche.
Ironically, it was scraping my mind to remember a previous, now-long-forgotten blog post that made me remember something Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki said years ago about occult students needing to carry a small tape recorder or pocket notebook to record these sudden ideas (or flashes of insight, as the case may be). I always assumed that constantly stopping to flesh out and record your ideas in public would not only be hugely inconvenient, but would make you look like an absolute prat. It wasn't until today that I realized that writing down less than a sentence (e.g. "Blog post, spirit offerings, annoying neighbor") would be enough for me to remember pages of text I couldn't pull out of my ass now if I tried. Honestly, why haven't I tried this before now?

Pretty much.
I think it's a matter of ego. In my undergrad years, a good memory meant I could simply listen to lectures without ever taking notes, read the book once (and only once, often near exam-time) without taking notes, and make awesome grades. Yes, I was that asshole. I'm not sure why the same recall doesn't apply to internal dialogue the way it does to external, but I suppose the idea of needing memory aids seems somewhat... vulgar to my most conceited side.

But you know what? Fuck it. This blog is suposed to be about "practical magic and self-transformation", and the most practical thing I can do today kill two birds with one stone, swallow my pride, and start taking notes. I'm sure it seems like a tiny step to some, but I'm working through 20-odd years of being conditioned otherwise. I feel accomplished today.

Now where's that damn notebook?

June 7, 2011

On PR's "Potion Of Get-The-Fuck-Out"

(This was amusing enough that I thought I'd share. Sorry for my long-windedness.)

Normally, I'm never one to assign mystical causes to mundane events; in my teenage years I saw one too many fluffy-bunny (is that term not PC anymore? I can't keep up) running around blaming curses, evil spirits, "bad energy" and the like for their marital troubles, failing occult shop, general clumsiness, seasonal allergies (seriously), and whole hosts of other problems. I learned young that most of the shit that happens in your life is simply a product of you not having your shit together. Perhaps this is one of the reason's I'm so attracted to Jason's Strategic Sorcery approach.

The side-effect of growing up in this frame of mind is that for a long time I completely overlooked the benefits of cleansing and blessing my living spaces on a regular basis, particularly those practices that required my lazy ass to actually get on my hands and knees and scrub down the floor/baseboards (Here I'd normally link to a host of bloggers who would berate me for this, but fuck if I can find the links I want when I need them). This was all well and good for me until recently, when I found myself in an emotionally compromised state, when, as they say, it all came crashing down around my ears.

First, I fell ill with the worst viral infection I've ever had in my life. Now, I'm very good with pain, I have a relatively strong immune system, and I can usually self-medicate rough illnesses into submission (I would hope so, being in a pharmacy Ph.D. program). So to say that for two weeks I was repeatedly brought down to crying in bed like a little girl and literally crawling my way to the kitchen to feed myself honestly hurts my pride a bit. I had enough blood-tests done to make my arms look like those of an addict, with no definitive results.

When I finally crawled my way back into the light of the outside world, I found myself in the odd position of what I can only describe as carrying a bubble of irrationality with me. Perfectly happy, chatty, rational, long-time friends would turn into testy, illogical minefields when I'd stay in a room with them for any length of time. Trying to get school paperwork done, in an office of what are usually very helpful and understanding people, became a nightmare of red tape and being brushed off outright. Professors only accommodated my makeup work because I pushed them up against university rules. Etc, etc.

While I was still trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, spiders. I'm not shitting you. Tiny newborn spiders invaded my apartment by the hundreds.

Which made falling ill for a second time, only a week or so after recovering from the first, awkward. You try spraying your ceiling and sleeping on the couch while running a fever. So, in the grandest of student traditions, I retreated to good 'ol mom's house (the feverish hundred-mile interstate drive was... interesting). And wouldn't you know, not 24 hours later, I felt better. Better, I realized, than I had in months. The kind of better I sometimes felt in small doses when I left my place to...

Fucking lightbulb.

Maybe, just maybe, I let myself think, there was something more than a string of coincidences at work here. I had to clean my infested apartment out anyway, I figured, so why not come back guns-blazing with an all-out magical cleansing as well? Couldn't hurt, at any rate.

So I concocted what I've dubbed "Pallas Renatus' Potion Of Get-The-Fuck-Out". In hindsight, it's clearly overkill, as I think it also removed some of whatever it was that made the place feel "homey". It's like I've just moved into the apartment again. Better than the alternative, though. So with that in mind, here's what I made, in case anyone else finds themselves in need of the materia-magic equivalent of a nuclear warhead:

Yes, that says "For research purposes". Story for a later date.

Find yourself a tin of chewing tobacco. I suggest some sort of mint flavor, to offset the ungodly smell of what you're about to do next, but it doesn't really matter.

Smells as bad as it looks, trust me

Throw the whole tin of it in a pot with about two cups of water and bring it to a boil, then turn down and let simmer for half an hour or so. Opening windows is suggested. Spiders hate this shit; besides poisoning the ones that are directly exposed to it, even a tiny amount of residue will keep them from coming back.

Thrifty magicians have no shame about reusing old sauce jars.

Strain into something reusable. I didn't realize it at the time, but so little of this stuff is needed that one concoction will last you for years... or divide nicely into tiny bottles to sell :-)

I prefer lemon. Just don't use anything labeled "soapy".

Add a splash of ammonia. A tablespoon or so is all that's necessary for spiritual purposes, but if I had been smart, I would have done a room-temperature extraction of the tobacco overnight in a cup or so of straight household ammonia, then diluted it by half with water, if only to avoid the smell. Lesson learned.

I found this lovely cubed form in the "ethnic hair products"
section of my local pharmacy. Go figure.

While the solution is still hot, add some powdered camphor. Save a bit of it to burn later. The camphor won't dissolve completely, but give it a good stir to get it dispersed evenly. I advise against closing the bottle of hot liquid and shaking. Try it and find out why.

Open all your windows, light up a bit of the camphor you saved, invoke whatever kick-ass guardian/warrior spirit you like (I used Michael), belt out a general license to depart, and get to work scrubbing down every floorboard, door-frame, and window-frame in the house, as well as where the ceiling meets the walls. A few drops on a wet sponge is all you will need if you don't want to stain your woodwork green or have to go over everything a second time with a clean sponge.

Take some time when you're done to invoke a few choice higher beings and generally bless the living space. I'd wait a good day or so before re-inviting any familiars, land-spirits, or other spirits on the more visceral end of the scale in, as the camphor will be unpleasant at best for them.

As I mentioned before, all this was probably a bit overkill. The "familiar" feeling of my home of two years was suddenly gone, and took several weeks to reestablish itself. But on the other hand, everything I mentioned above disappeared or resolved almost overnight. Even a lot of the paperwork I mentioned above got pushed through the next day without my intervention.

Moral of the story? Banish your shit.

Edit: If anyone wants a little 1/2 oz. vial of this stuff, you know, for those "just in case" moments that crop up a little too often, shoot me an email (link in my profile) and I'll mail some out to you for free. Lord knows I have more than I'll ever need or use.

March 9, 2011

On Addictive Personalities

Oh my, it's been awhile. Which is sort of the inspiration for this post, I suppose.

As magicians, we often spend an inordinate amount of time pondering cause-and-effect relationships. How will the stars effect my work? How did my work effect my life? Why didn't my work, well, work? It's sort of comes with the territory.

One of the things I rarely see, however, is people questioning why they're attracted to certain areas or types of work. If one takes a sudden interest in Voodoo, for instance, odds are you'll be so wrapped up in studying the subject that you won't stop to think about why you're suddenly energized and nearly completely focused on this one subject, perhaps only to lose interest a few days/weeks/months later. Or perhaps we find a new terribly interesting subject, and simply bound off to study it, without considering what we're leaving behind.

I could easily say that the reason I haven't posted for so long (in the meantime completely neglecting my occult studies and practices) is because my long-term relationship recently ended, or because I've been busy preparing for graduation, or because I've spent a lot of time (re)applying to pharmacy schools. But to be perfectly honest with you, and with myself, the real answer is that a lot of new shiny objects (in the way of friends, booze, video games, a new job, and school opportunities) got dangled in front of me all at once, and for all my boundless interest, the things I considered important got left behind.

So why did this happen? The fuck if I know, but at least I'm thinking about it. And if it's on my mind, there's hope that when it happens again (and it will, I'm sure), I'll recognize it, and perhaps handle things with a bit more balance and grace the second time around.

For now, though, the champagne's popped (literally), and it's time to leave a few hundred blog comments. Let's do this.

January 8, 2011

On Omens and Wishful Thinking

[Please excuse my long absence. I meant to post this around Christmas and never got the chance.]

I thought Christmas might be an appropriate time to post these particular musings.

A few weeks ago after reading one of Gordon's excellent posts, I fired off some sigils to St. Nicholas on his feast day. The day after, I mailed the cards they were written on to the North Pole (seriously, read the address and tell me it's not perfect) and dropped the remains of the candles that had burnt down over them into a storm grate at a three-way crossroads. I felt it was a unique, but mostly silly endeavor.

The next day, I happened to be in a mall with my ladyfriend. Being rather tired, I was completely oblivious to everything except for whichever clothing rack happened to be directly in front of me at the moment. It was loud enough that my ladyfriend, only feet away, was struggling to hear me over the general din of the customers around us (and I'm not exactly a quiet dude). Very suddenly, though, my ears pricked up, and the hubbub seemed to die away very suddenly as I heard a blip of the music that the store had been playing. "Santa Claus is coming..." and the noise jumped up just as suddenly, drowning out the rest of the song.

Now, I thought this was funny and ironic, but not particularly revelatory. Still, it did make me pause for a moment with a stupid grin on my face (note to dudes: standing with a stupid grin on your face while holding a lady's scarf and skirt may earn you some odd looks). We moved along to the next store.

And wouldn't you know, it happened again. Same song, different store, exact same four words seeming to jump out of nowhere before disappearing. Bigger, stupider smile (at least this time I was holding something with an appropriately witty statement on it). Of course, this set me to thinking.

I've never been one for Omens; I rarely have moments where I know something Significant has happened, and it's even less often that I know what that moment means. Part of me would love to pass this off as Priming and wishful thinking; to say that my attention pricked up so readily simply because I'd gone to sleep thinking about my experiment. And yet somehow the suddenness of that shift of attention makes the moment seem almost external, as if it were a message being purposefully conveyed.

A lot of occultists will mention in passing having a particular "zing" that separates an omen from a funny or ironic coincidence (and since my life is pretty much an exercise in irony, I've got plenty of the latter). I'm not sure if a sudden shift in the acuity of my hearing counts, but it's gotten my interested in what exactly people mean when they talk about their "omen zing". Try to qualify it for me; what does it feel/sound/look/taste like? Leave a comment, for science!