Re-framing the Enemy

There’s no way to sugarcoat it; I can be pretty judgmental. It started as a defense mechanism. I mean, if I was vehemently vocal about not liking the popular kids in school, I couldn’t be upset when they didn’t like me. Since my inclination towards judgment has been with me for so long, it’s taking more time to overcome than I would like.

One of my current struggles is my tendency to label anyone who is hard of me as “the enemy.” Unless someone is a close friend, my knee-jerk reaction is to label any criticism as disrespect. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed that by labeling people who may have well-intentioned concerns as an adversary was, in turn, labeling myself as a victim. Having experienced and overcome a lot of adversity in my life, viewing myself as a victim is something that I cannot allow. To overcome this, I’ve begun consciously to reframe other people in my mind, despite my tendency to see the worst in them.

One area of my life that I get a lot of practice with this in with curling. I joined my local curling club last year with a friend, and it was a blast. Last year, we were assigned to a team with two experienced players. At first, I was afraid that they would hate having two newbies on their team, but they just wanted to have fun. Tim, the skip (captain) of the team was focused on making it fun for me as a new curler while teaching me the basics of the game. We lost, a lot. Tim didn’t care, as long as I was having fun and improving, he considered every game a win.

The season ended and I spent the next six months excited to register for the next session. My friend and I registered and were placed with another pair of experienced curlers. Through the grapevine, I heard that John, our new skip, had been curling since college. Now in his sixties, John has a lifetime of curling experience he could share with me. I also heard that John could be a bit aggressive. This made me nervous, but I was still excited to learn from him.

During our first game, I learned that aggressive was a bit of an understatement. I overthrew my first shot, and it went through the house and out of play. “You haven’t thrown a rock in six months. This is fine” I said to myself. Then I looked up and saw John throw his broom to the ground.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” John screamed. I looked at my friend, and he shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. John’s behavior during our games continued, but he was personable and offered corrections afterward. After the first few weeks, John’s outrageous behavior during the game was too much. Not only did I not care how I performed, but the thought of walking into the curling club gave me anxiety.

In my mind, John was a hothead who had nothing else in his life aside from curling. Why else would he be such a tyrant? Despite my desire to quit, I decided to stick it out since I committed to my team, but I decided that I did not want to speak to John anymore. Even during the traditional handshake before the game, I answered John’s “Good curling” with silence. As soon as the game was over, I would buy my counterpart on the other team a beer (as tradition dictates) and say my goodbyes.

During our last game, the other team placed a stone in the center of the house, right behind one of our guard stones. John called for me to curl behind the guard stone and take the other’s teams stone out of play. This is a difficult shot, and honestly, I don’t think John expected me to make it. I lined up, took my shot, and watched as it gracefully curved around the guard and hit the other stone with enough force to take it out of play.

“Wooooooooo” screamed John as he pumped a fist in the air. Confused I looked at my friend who was also celebrating my shot. My friend made me stay for drinks after the game.
While we were sitting there, John commented on my shot. He said, “You should curl like that all the time. You get so in your head, and you fuck up your shot. Just calm down and do it. It should be muscle memory.”

Was this a pep talk? From the asshole? I was confused. That’s when the lightbulb clicked. Just because someone wants and expects you to do better, even if they communicate it poorly, doesn’t make them a bad person.

Is John aggressive? Sure. Is he a hothead? Of course. Is winning important to him? Definitely. Does any of this make him evil? No way. He just works differently than I do. In fact, I would never have made that shot last year. John’s approach made me a better curler, in spite of my best efforts to ignore him.

This experience has made me reframe other people I’ve disregarded as “the enemy.” My coworker who thinks my training could improve with more role-playing, she just wants the best for our new hires. The guy at the gym who wants to give me unsolicited advice on how to improve my workout is just trying to help me get the most from my workout. My friend who tries to reason with me that the original Grease is better than Grease 2 is still an unrefined monster. I guess it’s a work in progress.

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Paranormal Activity

After a string of bad roommates, I ultimately decided that I wanted a place of my own. I found a three-bedroom house complete with a two-car garage, full basement, and big backyard. Sure, it was about twenty miles outside of the city, but that meant that friends couldn’t drop in without calling me first. Side note – guys, don’t do this. Call your friends before you show up! I moved in, and everything was great. Try as I might, I started noticing things that I couldn’t explain.

Like any good horror movie, it started with my dog. Sophie is a Lhasa Apso but thinks she’s a Doberman.  When she hears a noise, she goes to investigate. Early one morning, she woke with up growling and immediately headed out of the room. I got up to follow her and found her at the top of the basement steps. That’s when I heard the distinct sound of footsteps coming from the basement. Suspecting a burglar, I grabbed the poker from the fireplace and headed downstairs (like an idiot). I flipped on the lights, ready to attack (or more accurately, ready to scream and surrender) and found that the room was empty. I looked in the laundry room, bathroom, and the closet. Hell, I even looked behind furniture. There was no one else in my house. I repeated this ritual almost nightly until I explained it away as the house settling.

A few months passed with no developments. One Sunday afternoon, I was downstairs doing laundry. Tired of walking up and down the stairs, I decided to hang out on the couch outside the laundry room and watch some TV between loads. I was exhausted from being out too late the previous night and laid down on the couch. A few hours later, I woke up on the couch. I threw the blanket off of me and began to fold the laundry in the dryer. That’s when it hit me. I didn’t have a blanket when I went to sleep. I walked back out the couch and noticed that it was the blanket I keep in my upstairs guest room. I explained it as a sleepwalking episode, even though I’ve never sleepwalked before. Additionally, why would I go into my guest room when I only ever go in there to get it ready for a guest. I decided the rest of the laundry could wait until another time since it was beginning to get dark outside.

The basement continued to be the center of activity. I always leave the laundry room door open. The door is heavy and old, so it naturally stays wide open and is hard to latch. Plus, I’m usually carrying a laundry basket in my hand, so I don’t have a free hand to close it. I would go downstairs to do laundry and routinely find the door closed. I thought maybe I was being absent minded and closing it when I left without a basket in my hand, so I left a post-it reading “DON’T CLOSE THE DOOR” on the washer to remind me not to close the door. Despite this, I kept finding the door closed.

What finally convinced me was a friend having an experience in (you guessed it) my basement. The entrance from my garage opens into my basement. We walked in to pick up a bottle of wine to take to a party, and she came in to check out a painting I was working on. She took off her coat and threw it on the couch. While she was looking at the painting, she heard a voice behind her and turned to find her coat draped over the back of a chair, rather than crumpled on the couch where she left it. When I came back downstairs, she was sitting in my car.  When she recounted her story, I laughed and immediately exclaimed “I knew I wasn’t that crazy!”

When I tell these stories, I usually get asked two questions. The first is “why don’t you move?” The second is “what don’t you do something to get rid of the ghost?” My answer to either question is always the same. I don’t feel unsafe in my home. Based on my experiences, I think that the spirit is that of an older woman who has a motherly energy to her. She has never done anything harmful; she just wants her space to be clean and in order. I can live with that. Even so, I had to set some ground rules.

When I finally admitted that I might have a ghost, I had a conversation with it. I went to the basement with a few cups of tea and sat on the couch. I said “You are free to stay, but there’s a few things I need from you. Please don’t scare my animals or my guests. If any of us walk into a room, please keep your distance. With that being said, if someone else is here alone, do whatever you need to do to protect our home.”

I felt silly when I did this, but a few weeks ago I learned that she is keeping her word. I had to have a new washer installed after mine bit the dust. My work schedule is a bit hectic, so I asked my neighbor to let the delivery driver in and hang out while he installed the new washer. My neighbor texted that she had just let the driver in. A few minutes later she called me. I was in a meeting, so I ignored the call. She called back, so I ignored the call again. When she called a third time, I realized that the driver might have a question. I stepped out and answered her call. She was frantic and explained that door kept slamming when the worker was in the laundry room. When the driver stepped out, the door slammed again the lights turned off. With all this in mind, the driver was refusing to come back in the house and was waiting for his boss to show up. I left work a bit early to meet them back at my house. As luck would have it, my presence caused the activity to stop.

Having a spirit in my home and leaving semi-comfortably with her makes me feel incredibly witchy. I plan on moving in the next few years, and I hope my ghost will follow me. If not, I will do everything to make sure the future owners of my home will be as welcoming to her as I have grown to be.

My Favorite Non-Magical Items to Use in a Magical Way

I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has a few metaphysical shops to peruse. And, if these shops don’t have want I’m looking for, the owners are usually great about putting in a special order for me. However, there are a few things I have been using in a magical way that are seemingly non-magical items. My top 6 are below:

1. Dollar Shave Club’s Hydrating Sage and Black Pepper Shampoo and Conditioner

This shampoo smells amazing, and it has just enough menthol in it to make my scalp feel all tingly. It also gets my hair really clean without drying it out, which is a huge plus. In magical application, I use sage and black pepper in protection magic, and this is what I use these products for too. As part of my morning ritual, I visualize the energy from the sage and black pepper protecting my mind from anxiety, over-thinking, and unhelpful thoughts.

2. Dollar Shave Club’s Calming Body Bar

I have not used bar soap since I was a kid, but since I loved the brand’s shampoo and conditioner so much, I thought I’d give their bar soap a chance. These bars are scented with amber and lavender, both essences I use in spellwork for love. As part of my morning ritual, I empower the soap to cleanse my energetic body and work to draw loving influences to and from me.

3. Lush’s Sleepy Lotion

I love (LOVE) Lush. I mean, what’s not to love about a company that makes hand-made products, uses self-preserving materials, and recyclable packaging. Their Sleepy lotion is amazing. It’s made with lavender and tonka, and it goes on super smooth. Before bed, I usually put it on my hands, arms, and feet. It helps me to relax and fall asleep quickly. However, one night, I used a little on my hands and saw that the relaxing quality of the lotion put me in a light meditative state. So, when I want to do any work that relies on being in a meditative state, I’ll use a little of this to help me out.

4. My cellphone

I have a Google Pixel, and it’s the best smartphone I’ve owned. I won’t go into its specs, but it’s amazing and I, use it for magical purposes all the time. First, I’ll use it as a vision board of sorts. I’ll take a picture of an affirmation or a sigil and use it as my phone’s background. Whenever I see it, I reinforce the magic behind it. Also, regarding sigils, I’m able to charge the sigil by simply charging my phone.

I also use my phone to play music for meditation and ritual, create videos for my study group, and for overall management of my study group.

5. Expo Dry Erase Markers

As a corporate trainer, I find dry erase markers in my pockets whenever I do laundry. I use these a lot for sigil work. I’ll draw a sigil, usually on my bathroom mirror and stand before the sigil to empower and embody the sigil. Then, I wipe it away.

6. Art Supplies

I dabble in art here and there, and art has become a major component of my spiritual practice. When I am doing shadow work, I’ll typically make a sketch or painting of the aspects of my shadow I am working on. When I want to manifest something, I’ll create a vision board using my own art. I’ve even created pieces depicting aspects of Divinity to use on my altar. For me, the action of creating art mirrors the action of creating magic.

I’m sure if I sat here for long enough, I could fill this post with several, but these are the items that stuck out. I think that most people hold off on casting a spell until they have the *right* ingredients. Instead, I’d challenge them to look around and work with what they have on hand. What are some of your favorite non-magical items to use in magic?

 

The Séance

As a witch, I certainly believe in the existence of disembodied spirits or, for the lack of a better terms, ghosts. I’ve had my share of “paranormal” experiences. In fact, I fully believe that I have a few spirit roommates that reside in my home. Luckily, they seem harmless and tend to spend their time in my basement. The worst part of it is that they open and close doors and like to make banging sounds to let me know they are there. If this the worst they’ve got, I’m fine with them staying for as long as they’d like.

The other thing you should know about me is that that I am one of the biggest skeptics in the world. People are usually confused when they hear this because people usually equate pagan spirituality with superstition. I don’t tend to take offense to this since I’ve met my fair share of bat-shit crazy pagans. With that being said, I tend to take any paranormal experience I have with a grain of salt and look for other possibilities before jumping to the conclusion of ghosts.

A friend of mine who has had her personal share of ghost stories heard about a séance at a local art gallery hosted by a local medium and occult teacher. I immediately agreed to go with her, even though I couldn’t tell whether this was a real séance or simply a performance art piece. Nevertheless, we were there when the doors opened.

We were led to our seats at the main table with the medium and shortly thereafter the séance started. We were told about the spirit we were attempting to communicate with for the night. The story sounded a bit farfetched. To sum it up, the medium purchased a needlepoint from a thrift store and found a letter hidden in the lining. After her discovery, the medium experienced paranormal activity in her home. I rolled my eyes so hard I almost traveled back in time.

We started the séance by extinguishing all the candles except for the one on our table. Once the medium asked for the spirit to give us a sign, the candle went out and we were left in complete darkness. The séance continued as one would expect, a ball was thrown from our table, a book flew from the bookshelf, and a glass shattered. Then, as one would expect, a darker spirit made itself known. The walls shook, a door slammed, and I felt a firm touch on my shoulder despite the fact that both the people next to me were gripping my hands.

The séance ended and after the medium cleansed the room, we discussed our experiences. I was prepared for everyone to share my skepticism, but they all felt as though they had a genuine experience. In the effort to remain fair, below are my cases for and against this being a true connection with a spirit.

Evidence that this was a true experience with a spirit.

  1. Everyone, including the medium and the gallery owner, seemed shook by the experience. Unless these two, one of which was admittedly drunk, are amazing actors, their reaction was too genuine to overlook.
  2. Some shared an experience that others did not have. For example, my friend heard the sound of a lullaby being sang, and I didn’t hear it despite sitting next to her.
  3. No one else reported being touched. To add, when I was touched my psychic senses immediately registered this as something threatening.
  4. The room was completely dark, making it unlikely that someone could navigate it unaided.
  5. Both of our hosts are respected by their communities. It may be too big of a risk to be found out as a fraud.
  6. After the séance ended I scoured that place like I was a Hardy Boy. I found no evidence that anything was staged.

 

Evidence that it may have been an elaborate parlor trick

  1. There were several people there who had helped set up the séance. Even though they were dispersed between the other guests, they may have been able to help with a hoax.
  2. The host did not join a table, but say alone at the front of the room. This left her available to possibly create the experiences we had.
  3. For a moment, I saw a green light that looked similar to the light of an IR camera. However, after I noticed it, I couldn’t find its source.

Who’s to say whether this was a real experience. Overall, I had a blast. It was a good way to end the Halloween season. To be quite honest, even if it was a stage performance, I’ll happily pay the admission for next year’s séance.

Feri and the Art of Curling

Let’s start off with a disclaimer. I am not a Feri initiate or student, so I am in no way an expert. I am simply a seeker who is dipping his toe in Feri. My comments are not from any official teaching; they are just from my personal observations so far. So far, based on my reading, research, and practice, Feri has resonated deeply with me. This is because I can apply Feri ideas and techniques to several areas of my life. In fact, I’ve found myself applying or connecting Feri practice in an unlikely place, my local curling club.

To give a little background, I began curling (again, the ice sport, not the weight lifting) last winter with a friend who discovered the curling club. We signed up for an instructional league, then played for a season. Towards the end of the season, I felt confident in my game and looked forward to coming back to play this season. Unfortunately, not curling for six months has left me extremely rusty. Coupled with extremely competitive (and experienced) teammates, my shoddy gameplay is a little problematic. Fortunately, curling has given me an outlet to apply Feri practice and gauge its effectiveness in my life.

  1. Soul Alignment

In curling, alignment is arguably the most important concept of delivering a stone properly. The skip, the captain of the team who calls shots, will hold his broom out to give the thrower a target to throw at. The thrower lines the stone and foot up with the broom, and if they do so correctly, the stone should stop at the desired point. If not, the stone will arrive at a random location at the other end. So far this season, alignment has been my primary obstacle.

The Feri Tradition teaches of the triune nature of our souls. The Fetch collects and manages life energy and communicates in images, emotion, and intuition. The Talker is the face through which we communicate with the world. The Godsoul is our connection with the Divine. When our souls are aligned and in communication with one another, we are much more grounded, centered, and for me, more confident and capable.

Using curling as a metaphor for spirituality, the skip’s broom represents my Godsoul giving me direction and purpose, the stone represents my Fetch, and my body the Talker. If one of the components is out of alignment, my efforts are mostly in vain.

What I find interesting is that when I practice soul alignment before curling, my mind calms down and I am better able to focus on the task at hand. In fact, there have been a few times when I have practiced soul alignment mid-game and have instantly improved. If soul alignment can help me with a trivial game, how else might it improve my life?

 

  1. Iron Pentacle

 

The Iron Pentacle is an exercise used in Feri as a way to determine where we are imbalanced in our personal energy.  The points of the pentacle represent the energies of Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion. As you contemplate each point, any imbalances in your personal energy can often be easily deciphered. So, I tried to apply this practice to curling when stepping up to throw a stone. This is becoming second nature as the body correspondences of the Pentacle follow the flow of preparing to throw a stone.

Sex – The top point of the pentacle, the point of creation. This is the beginning and ending of everything. As I look at the skip’s broom to line up my shot, I focus on the outcome I want to achieve.

Pride – the lower right point of the pentacle and the right foot. This point challenges us to recognize our worth and cultivate the ability to live freely. This point reminds us not to compare ourselves to others, an important lesson when you are a newbie in a room full of experts. I remind myself of these points as I step into the hack (the foothold you deliver stones from in curling) and line up my shot.

Self – the upper left point of the pentacle and the left hand. In curling, the left hand holds either your broom or a stabilizer to give you balance as you deliver your stone.  Likewise, this point on the Iron Pentacle reminds me to embrace the balance of my strengths and limitations. Where these two concepts meet lies my personal potential to grow. Here, I embrace that I am still learning and that I can only improve if I allow myself the leeway to make mistakes.

Power – the upper right point of the pentacle and the right hand. In my right hand, I grip the stone and remind myself that through my will, I can achieve anything. It also reminds me that true power is power with others, rather than power over others. Curling teams are only successful if every team member is working towards the common goal. I remind myself that even if my team gets frustrated with my performance, it’s only because they see potential in me and want me to do better.

Passion – the lower left point of the pentacle and the left foot. For right-handed curlers (like me) our left foot is the sliding foot. The left foots has a Teflon pad that allows us to slide on the ice when delivering our stone. This is the foot that supports our weight during the delivery. Likewise, the point of passion supports me in my experiences. This point reminds me to feel it all, whether that be the elation of doing well or the frustration of performing poorly.

  1. Black Heart of Innocence

The Black Heat of Innocence is the considered to be the natural state of the soul. This state of being allows us to live fully, freely, and without fear. As I’ve talked about in this post, I’m not the best curler. It’s also important to know, that try as I might, I am self-conscious and very aware of how others might perceive me.  These attributes don’t serve me well in curling or in life.

In Feri mythology, the goddess Nimue is the embodiment of the Black Heart of Innocence. Nimue is a maiden goddess who is the first emanation of the Star Goddess. She encourages us to play, laugh, and be joyful. While I’m curling, She seems to whisper in the back of my head “Fuck these guys.  This is just a game. Get out there and have fun!” Ultimately, I’m not very good at listening to Her in these moments, but I’m trying.

For me, the most important part of any spiritual path is the ability to apply its practice to every part of my life. At this point, Feri seems universally applicable. I’m not sure I’m 100% ready to commit to formal training, but I’d say I’m at least 95% there. Only time and practice will tell.

The Dusty Altar

During one of her workshops on money magic, Dorothy Morrison discussed the idea that using magic to better your own life goes against ethical practice. Dorothy is plain-spoken, and I appreciate that. She said “Knowing how to work magick and not using it to better your own life is like standing at the sink dying of thirst because you are too lazy to turn on the fucking tap.”

This resonates with my current practice. Although my spiritual practice has been growing recently, my magical practice has stagnated. My attitude has been more of a “let the chips fall where they may” variety, rather than using magic to influence my world.

For example, I recently graduated with my Masters. My original plan was to immediately apply for other positions that paid more and were at a higher level than my current position. I’ve applied for several, but haven’t landed anything. One job was promising, but would require me moving or accepting an hour-long commute. Another application for a great job was immediately answered with a rejection email. In the past, I’ve been able to secure several interviews and land a new job within days of starting my search.

Another example is my love life. I’ve been single for several years by choice. I’ve had a few relationships that didn’t end well, and I wanted time to focus on myself. Now that I’ve accomplished several of my short-term goals, dating has become a priority. I’ve been on a few dates that fun and met a few cool guys, but none of them are exactly what I’m looking for.

When I was talking to a friend who has known me for years, she asked if I was specific enough in my spellwork. When I admitted that I hadn’t directed any magic to these areas of my life, she threw her hands in the air in frustration. “What’s the point of being a witch if you’re not going to apply your craft to your life?” she asked. I shrugged because I knew she was right.

Magic is like a muscle. If you don’t use it often, it becomes weaker. Magic is also a sacred tool. We’ve all been given the knowledge of magic to change our lives for the better. By ignoring this practice, I’m not showing gratitude for its place in my life.

Tonight, I’ve dusted off my altar and laid out some provisions; a red candle and rose incense for love and a yellow candle placed on top of my resume. I plan to use the waxing moon to plant some seeds for the coming months.

Self Patience and Trusting the Wobble

The fall was hard enough for everyone else to stop what they were doing. Even though the ice was wetter than usual, I thought that I would be fine. Then, the next thing I know, I was on my back staring at the ceiling. My pride was hurt, but physically, I was fine.

My friend convinced me to join a curling club last year. Although I was skeptical, I’ve enjoyed myself. I’m not exceptionally good at curling, but I’ve been getting better and have met some amazing people. Last week was the first week of league play. The first game went well, and I didn’t play half bad. When we went to our second game on Tuesday, I was little sore, but tried my best. That’s when the fall happened.

I finished the game, but was embarrassed that I took a spill in front of so many people. I was also angry that I had made such a blatant error in judgment. Our team’s skip (the captain) noticed that I was upset and told me “Don’t be too hard on yourself. This is what, the 16th time you’ve curled? It happens. There are two kinds of curlers, those that have fallen and those that will fall.”

My inclination towards impatience with myself is something that I’ve been struggling with lately. At work, I’ve been given a lot of projects that are well outside my comfort zone. Typically, I’m able to give an 80% effort and astound my coworkers with my results. Lately, I have to give 110% even to complete the tasks assigned to me. When I finally shared my feelings of inadequacy with my manager, he was in disbelief. He assured me that my work was great and that he didn’t expect me to be a rockstar with these new projects since it was the first time that I had attempted them.

My impatience has also impacted my spiritual life lately. I’ve practiced witchcraft in one form or another for more than a decade. My practice is pretty eclectic. I do what works for me and remove what doesn’t. Not long ago, I became interested in an established tradition. Before taking the leap of finding a teacher, I decided to study the information that was readily available and see if it truly resonated with me. While the tradition promotes freeform practice, there are practices that are recommended in the tradition. Some of the practices were easy to adopt, and I saw immediate results. Others were a stretch for me. Even when I practiced them, I didn’t see results, and subsequently, I gave up.

As luck would have it, the Universe gave me some encouragement. First, I listened to a podcast from Joanna Devoe on my way home from work on Friday. During the tail end of the podcast, she mentioned watching a newborn animal taking its first steps. She emphasized that we had to be patient with ourselves when trying something new and shared my new mantra: “Trust the wobble.”  Today, while mowing the lawn, I listened to Devin Hunter’s podcast Modern Witch from 2013. He had author T. Thorn Coyle as his guest. During the conversation, they commented on how doing things that you don’t necessarily want to do is sometimes the path of self-development.

With all this being said, my goal is to be more patient with myself as I learn new skills whether it be curling, career, or spiritual. I’m going to trust my wobble and learn how to be resilient when things don’t come to me easily. Here’s to the journey.