December 8, 2010

On Where Not To Find Spirits

The past few weeks have been a flurry of caffeine- and fear-fueled activity for me. Normally I'd like to use that as an excuse for my recent spiritual inertia, but to be honest it's a recurring problem in my life and I'd be lying to myself if I did.

Seeing that the worst of my situation is over, though, I thought tonight would be a good time to celebrate with my invisible friends. Now, I wouldn't say I'm a particularly gifted psychic or scryer, but as I was watching threads of incense curl around the water glass and over the candle flame, a few thoughts on the subject occurred to me.

The first was an exercise I read years ago on a now-defunct website, whose content eventually became Kabbalah, Magic & the Great Work of Self Transformation. Basically, the exercise entailed spending a full week trying to perceive "hollow" objects (cups, doorways, etc) in terms of space rather than form. For example, you'd see the space in a room, the space in a doorway, and the space in the next room as one continuous medium, rather than see "the door" as a discrete object. How mind-bending (and/or fun) this was depended on how deeply you threw yourself into the exercise.

But as I recalled this seemingly random memory, I suddenly understood why so many people have trouble with scrying, especially in incense smoke or another 3-D medium. They're looking at the smoke, instead of at the space itself. Although I hadn't been trying to summon any spirits into physical appearance (I'm not in the habit of coercing my guests into performing party tricks), or even trying to scry anything, I started looking at the space between the threads of incense. And wouldn't you know, there were forms there, dragging small threads along their frames like wisps of... well, smoke.

Maybe you really do need the blood of a dove and a half-pound of incense to properly see a spirit. Or maybe we're just looking in the wrong place. I don't pretend to know, but I sure as hell plan to experiment with this more.

November 16, 2010

On Fearing the Self (and dealing with it)

's recent post on Divinatory Literacy has gotten my mind reeling for a number of reasons, not the least effect of which is pondering the enormously varied ways in which people purposefully delude themselves.

Most Magicians make no secret of the fact that we are often our own worst enemy. This is true tenfold where self-exploration (even when not sought after) is concerned, because we have to bypass the human tendency to reinforce our own mental map of the universe and take a blind leap into the uncertain... which is understandably terrifying. Hell, for all we know, we'll come out the other end insane (or worse, ridiculed).

What is weird to me is that people usually set out on a magical path for one or both of two reasons: power over their situation, and betterment of the self (discovering Truth, etc). Whichever your goal, you're obviously not currently in a position to be getting what you want, which is why you pick up magic to begin with. In any case, a sudden shift in viewpoint is exactly what you want and most likely need. You've been pining for that "So THAT'S why it didn't work!" moment when everything makes sense and the larger picture helps you understand what to do next.

And yet every day we see people clinging to a single (often inane) idea they've found in a book, or a broken "system" they've picked up on a message board, or their cosmology, or any number of other personal maps, and just as often it is blatantly clear that these things are not helping them in their above-stated goals. So why hold on to them?

For the same reason we hold on to every other piece of junk in our lives. Read Gordon's post. Do a ruthless physical purge of your possessions. Then turn the lens inward and go through your beliefs and practices, singling out each one and asking yourself what would happen if the possibility arose that your belief was completely and utterly false? What if that practice was quite clearly useless? What would you want to hold onto, justifying and rationalizing, instead of dropping it instantly? Why? Is the comfort you have in the sureness of your beliefs worth hamstringing your magic?

Just food for thought. If I could find the proper post to link to, I'd reference Frater R.O.'s wonderful "Oh Shit" moment where he let go of his long-held views on Goetic magic and adopted something that works much better for him. He could have just as easily (if not much more easily) stuck to his guns and have dealt with the fallout, but instead he adapted and came out better for it.

Perhaps it's the explorer instinct, or perhaps I'm just a little unhinged, but I'd much rather be jumping headlong into a world that doesn't make sense (yet) than be the skeptic in 's post, paying people and hoping that they're wrong so that I can prove I'm already (and have always been) right.

What are you holding on to?

November 3, 2010

On Free Stuff (which surprisingly doesn't suck)

I've spent more time this October posting comments on blog-based giveaways than I care to admit to. Some of the stuff was cool, some of it sucked; all of it was free marketing for people who really need more people to visit their shops.

Leave it to Gordon to create a giveaway so awesome that I actually break my rule of not posting about giveaways. But you all should be following his blog already anyway, so uh, sorry for filling your feed reader with crap? Not really. Word is there's some sweet schwag in it for me.

October 21, 2010

On Infuriating Astrological Timings

Wow, what a title; some background, perhaps.

On Monday morning I'll be making a call, half asking for payment on a past promise, and half asking for a favor. A good outcome will permanently solidify my career path and relieve months of anxiety on my part. A bad outcome leave a huge amount of uncertainty and hard work over the next 4 to 9 months, without the certainty of a silver lining. Magic is in order, naturally. To the charts!

Lets see, Levanah (the Moon) will be peaking it's fullness (an excellent time for bringing things to completion) on this Friday night, the day of Nogah (Venus, ruling over the magic of Favors). But furthermore, it's coming into exact fullness within minutes of the exact center of the planetary hour of Nogah, giving me an absolutely wonderful half-hour window in which to preform a ritual to garner the favors of the person of power that I'll be calling.

Great! Lets go prep the ritual gear. Except wait, what's that you say? Levanah's void-of-course runs right over the entirety of my "perfect window"? Everything I start during that period will fail spectacularly? Great. *Hastily stuffs the gear away* And Levanah's next Void may or may not run right over the time I'd scheduled for this call? *Sigh* Perhaps I should push it to around 2 p.m. on Monday, just in case. I can still appear professional without ringing someone at 10 in the morning, right? (The person I'm calling is not expecting the call, so I have a bit of leeway here).

But wait! There's always more. I'd forgotten that Nogah went retrograde on the 8th of this month. Sonofabitch. Is this such a bad thing? I'm not astrologically savvy enough to tell. It seems to be stirring up trouble in Akrab (Scorpio), causing fits of vindictive jealousy, but also a sense of intense loyalty. Since my original plan was to clearly but subtly show my loyalty to the organization in question in hopes of inspiring the same from them, and since the person I'm calling has no real reason to feel jealousy towards me, perhaps this is actually a good time to be making this particular call. But when to do the magic?

I do work late on Saturday (Shabbathai's day), but with the aid of a few beverages of choice and some patience, I do have a good Void-free shot at each planet's hour (two shots for most) in which to do some bindings. Perhaps as follows:

  • A binding of the career path that this institution can offer me to myself during the hour of Shabbathai (Saturn); perhaps also some reversal magic for the bad luck that got me into this situation to begin with.
  • A binding of the two main individuals of power involved (one of whom is the one I'll be calling) to show mercy unto me during the hour of Tzedek (Jupiter).
  • A binding of these same individuals' senses of enthusiasm and protection to the proposition I'll be making during the hour of Madim (Mars).
  • A binding to make my success and happiness a matter of pride to them during the hour of Shemesh (the Sun).
  • A binding for the fulfillment of the individual promises made to me by these two individuals made some months back during the hour of Nogah (Venus); perhaps also a binding of their emotions to make them emotionally sympathetic to my situation.
  • A binding upon their intellect, so that fulfilling their promises seems the only logical choice, during the hour of Kokab (Mercury).
  • And last but certainly not least, a binding upon them to enact the changes in situation that must be made during the hour of Levanah (the Moon).
Depending on how late I'm up doing this, I might collapse into a chair in the back yard to watch the sun rise and start my Sunday off right with a round of invocations and meditations. Or maybe just the collapsing bit.

If I weren't in a financially tough situation at the moment, I'd pay for some good Electionary Astrology in a heartbeat, to see when the best time to make this call would be. But as it is, given the short time span, slinging bindings left and right and trying my hardest not to swim upstream will have to do.

On a side note, I'm debating waiting to publish this article until after I make the call mentioned above, what with silence being so important to some people's magic. But fuck it, I've spent the past few hours being careful, and this way I can get a good slap on the head if someone notices a mistake in my stargazing (or rather, webpage-about-stargazing-gazing).

October 11, 2010

On Practicing During Illness

So, despite my early flu shot and my daily mountain of herbal immune boosters, I still managed to come down with the flu (or something equally nasty) last week. Hurray for working in the health industry.

Generally I handle discomfort pretty well. Bike gear through my leg? Meh. Giant gash that I have to stitch myself? Bring it on. Fever of 102? Cue me curled up and waiting to die. Thank god a few Motrin will put me back at 100% for a few hours.

But I surprised myself a bit during those NSAID-induced moments of wellness. I was totally up for adventure; parties, sex, going out to new places, you name it (as long as I carried my precious fever-reducers with me). But as soon as the thought of magic popped into my head? "Fuck that, can't you see I'm sick?"

Meditation? Oh no, I'd cough too much. Offerings? I should be conserving energy. Energy work? I'd burn myself out. Prayers? I can't concentrate.

Clearly, these are all terrible excuses, but for a good 5 or 6 days this is where my mind was firmly planted. It did serve to pique my interest, though, so as a general point of interest I'm asking the masses, what practices do you keep or give up when nature gives you a sucker punch? Inquiring minds want to know!

September 24, 2010

On Isolating Variables: Mugwort, Flu Season, and the 5 Tibetans

OK, so I'll admit that as a scientist, when I have what seems to be a good idea in my head, I'll go ahead and forge through a project, ignoring some of the smaller aspects of good practice, in the hope that everything will pan out nicely and I'll get an awesome result.

Doing the same thing with magic? Not such a good idea, as it turns out.

Sometime last week (what was that about keeping a notebook?) I decided to brew up some mugwort tea I'd gotten from my local botanica, as I rarely ever remember even the tiniest scrap of my dreams. A tablespoon of the stuff in two cups of water, boiled for about 20 minutes or so. Put the cup to my lips and... oh dear god, I almost retched. I had to throw a tablespoon of spearmint leaves and a truckload of sugar into the damned thing before I could even get it down. Details you don't read on websites. Bleh.

Deciding to wait for my ladyfriend to get home before hitting the sack, I spontaneously decided to run through the 5 Tibetans exercises, also for the first time ever. Twenty-one repetitions of each (except number 5, that shit's hard, and I'm out of shape since I quit fencing) later, and I was feeling good, although a little off-balance. Went to bed and passed out promptly.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from the mugwort; I definitely had 6 or 7 dreams, but they seemed fuzzy and far away upon waking. Given that I normally don't remember dreaming at all, I suppose this was a success that warrants further experimenting. Sitting in bed pondering this, I realized I was freezing. Not turn-up-the-air freezing, but soul-chilling freezing. And my my muscles ached (expected). And my... skin ached? Fuck, the ladyfriend's roommate had the flu last week, didn't she? Goddamnit. I expected to be huddled inside for the next three days, popping massive amounts of psuedoephedrine (God's gift to Man) and ibuprofen.

Except 24 hours later, I was fine. What the fuck? Having a medical background, I know that the idea of a "24 hour flu" is crap (most cases actually being food poisoning), so what had just happened? Was I experiencing the "Mugwort Hanover" that Harry talks about? Are my subtle bodies so out of shape that a few simple exercises "blew out" a meridian? Did I really get a flu that wasn't covered by my flu shot, and antibody cross-reaction just got rid of it quickly?

The world will never know, because I didn't separate my variables. Want to know how something effects you? Don't try it out on the same night as something else. Or if you do, don't be mad if you get your ass kicked.

But of course, like a good scientist, I'll be getting back to experimenting with both, along with some clary sage (if I can ever find the damn stuff). But separately this time. I'll keep you posted.

September 6, 2010

On Strategic Sorcery and Black Swans

So, as my hastily-written bio will tell you, I've recently joined the third cycle of Jason Miller's Strategic Sorcery course. Working through the first four back-lessons over the past week and trying to set up a daily practice schedule has been interesting, given that my "day" doesn't run on a 24-hour schedule and often ends with me passing out on the softest available surface.

Now, not having any sort of outline for the course, I found myself wondering this morning when I'd start seeing or feeling the work cause tangible changes in my day to day life. I put the thought out of my head and went ahead with my morning practices. Cue synchronicity.

After a 20-minute meditation at sunrise, and making offerings of water, patchouli, and candlelight to the local spirits I settled down to do the Pillar and the Spheres exercise and a cut-down version of the Microcosmic Orbit while the incense burned down. Soon after I dismissed the spirits and poured out the water as a libation (I do hope nobody ever stands under my balcony). All uneventful.

It wasn't until I got into the car to hit the supermarket that I noticed that I felt awesome. I'm not ashamed to say that when Take It Off came on the radio, I was jamming the fuck out. At 8:00 in the morning. But I let this pass with a smile and didn't take much notice. I went ahead with the day's plan of heading to the local teaching zoo with my girlfriend and her roommate. It wasn't until halfway through the guided tour that I noticed it looming in front of me: four feet tall, wings spread, and thoroughly ready to peck the shit out of me to defend its territory.

A motherfucking black swan. I didn't even bother trying to explain to the girls why I was laughing my ass off at a pissed-off bird. I get it, Universe; I'm doing something right.