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.

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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.

Bless and Release Pt 2 or When They Come Back

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about releasing those who introduce negative influences into their lives. I was planning a follow-up post on tips to try if someone you released attempts to reinsert themselves in your life when the Universe decided to let me beta test my tips.

Jon, one of the people I wrote about in the original blog post, spent some time with one of my best friends. Afterwards, Jon decided to reach out to me. In his text message, he said that he wanted to “extend the olive branch.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

Step 1 – Ground yourself

I wasn’t sure what to do. On the one hand, I was certain that I’d be fine with completely forgetting Jon existed. On the other hand, I feel like everyone deserves a second chance. I needed to make this decision with a clear mind.

I opted to use the Feri Tradition’s soul alignment practice, but any practice that connects you with your higher self will work. After completing the ritual, I felt more confident in making a decision that was for everyone’s highest good.

The first word that came to mind was “regret.” What decision can I make that would avoid the most chance of regret for me? By meeting with Jon, I would never experience the uncertainty of what-if. As an added bonus, I would be showing my friend that I could be cordial with Jon, even if I didn’t want to rekindle the friendship.

Step 2 – Meet on your terms

At this point, the boundaries you set are being questioned by someone else. You are meeting with them at their request. This means that you have earned the right of home court advantage. Not only will creating the terms of the meeting make you feel empowered, but it will allow you to create a comfortable atmosphere for the conversation.

When I told Jon I would meet him, I explained that I have plans on Thursday at six, but could meet him before I met up with friends. He suggested that he come along with me at six. This presented me with the opportunity to exercise my new favorite magickal word. I simply said “No.” I told him that I could meet him at five or that I would let him know when I was available again. Reluctantly, Jon agreed to my terms.

Step 3 – Listen with discernment, not judgment

Jon and I met a bar and made small talk for a few minutes. When we stepped outside to smoke, he offered me his side of the story.

Jon explained that he had not been in contact with me because I treated him poorly. He said that he did not feel that I valued him as a friend. He concluded by saying that his evening with our mutual friend made him want to reach out to me to see if we could make amends.

I listened without interruption. Instead of making a mental list of responses, I just let him talk and tried to understand his point of view. I let any hints of inner defensiveness roll right off my back. When he was done, I took a deep breath before I moved to the next step

4 – Politely, but clearly and honestly advocate for yourself

In her video on setting healthy boundaries, Kelly Ann Maddox says that you have to be an ally for yourself. I agree. No one else can fight your battles or face your troubles better than you can. So, after my cleansing breath, I relayed my feelings to Jon.

“I see things differently” I started. “We’ve known each other for a decade, but in the few months, before we stopped talking, I saw a different side of you. When you needed friends, I included you in my friend group. Instead of being grateful, I feel like you systematically tried to separate me from my friends. When I needed my friends, you did things to actively exclude me. When I brought these feelings up, you told me that you had no intention to change your behavior. At that time, you’re right; I stopped valuing your friendship because you no longer valued mine. In fact, I feel like you are only trying to fix things because someone else asked you to.”

Jon was visibly hurt by this last sentence. I apologized for the directness of my statement, but not for its content. We sat in silence for a few moments before Jon finally spoke.

“I understand where you’re coming from and I want to fix things. I’ve been very lonely, and I miss my friends, including you. You don’t owe me anything, but I’d like the opportunity to prove that I can be a better friend.”

The sincerity of his words unexpectedly struck me. Jon is very charismatic, but since I’ve known him for so long, I can usually detect his bullshit from a mile away. This was different; my gut told me that I could trust what he was saying.

Step 5 – Reinforce boundaries, even if they’ve changed

Once you have listened and in turn and said your piece, it comes time to lay out your boundaries. In some instances, it is just restating the boundaries you have already stated. In others, such as in my case, you may set new boundaries. It’s important that your boundaries are clear and precise.

“Jon, it’s important for you to know that I am skeptical of everything you’ve said. I’m also a bit hopeful. Things aren’t going to change overnight, but I’m not adverse to spending some time with you. However, it will be on my terms. If a friend of ours invites us both out to something, I hope you’ll understand if I decline the invitation sometimes. I also hope you won’t hold it against my friends if they keep you at a distance for a while. They are only doing that to protect me.”

I took another breath and continued. “It’s also important for you to understand that I’m going to be ultra-sensitive to anything I consider as a slight from you. If, no when, it happens, remind me that I mentioned this and I promise I’ll try to judge your perspective without bias. And, if I do anything that you feel harmed by, bring it my attention and we’ll discuss that too.”

Jon nodded, and I ended the conversation by saying “I promise that if I decide to remove myself from the friendship, I will do so in a way that allows us to coexist among our friends. I hope you do the same.”

Jon agreed, and we shook hands. We reverted to catching up on the past year of each other’s lives and even joined my friends afterward. Overall, it was a good night. It’s still unclear whether we’ll continue on this path or if we’ll decide that we’re no longer suited to be friends, but only time will tell.

 

Push Vs. Pull

Magick primarily works in two forms. You can perform magick to attract a certain influence towards you (invoking), or you can work magick to repel an influence away from you (banishing). I consider both forms of magick two sides of the same coin, but recently I’ve discovered something about my personal brand of magick.

If you’ve read previous entries of this blog, it should come as no surprise that I am not averse to banishing work. In fact, I might be more proficient at banishing work. However, when I try to banish something with magick, I meet the same resistance I would if I tried to constrict something in my mundane life. Try it yourself. Find someone you know and tell them not to do something. I’ll wait…

Are you back with me? Great. Let me guess, as soon as you told them not to something, the person probably had a nagging urge to do exactly what you told them not to do. If you didn’t get that response, that person is a saint!

Another obstacle to banishing magick is that it limits potential. When I banish something from my life, all I am really  saying  is “You can’t sit with us” in my best Mean Girls voice. I don’t tell them where they can sit, just that they aren’t welcome in my presence.

Before this analogy gets belabored, let me give you an example. My manager at work recently put in his two-week notice. This, of course, introduced a lot of ambiguity to our work environment. Personally, I was scared shitless because the shoe-in candidate to replace him is a coworker that I’ve never really connected with. The tension between my coworker and I is rooted in the fact that we’re both control freaks who are passionate about our work. Even with that realization, I’m still not sure that I could work for her.

My first instinct was to work magick to separate her from the possibility of getting the position, but that didn’t feel right. Even with my flexible ethics (flexiths?), I didn’t feel comfortable working magick to prevent someone from reaching their personal career goals. I also didn’t feel comfortable that the magick would get me the desired results I wanted. What if my coworker was the lesser of two evils? I’m sure I could use magick to successfully prevent her from getting the position, but what if the person they hired was even worse? So, I took another route.

I set my altar with components that would traditionally be used for a love spell; a red candle, rose and lavender incense, red ribbon, a piece of parchment, and a red pen. On the paper I wrote down all of the qualities I wanted in a boss; they need to be flexible, they need to be a strong leader, they had to be open to me keeping my autonomy at work, they had to be compassionate, etc. I rolled the parchment and tied it with the ribbon. I lit the candle and asked the Universe to bring me the right boss.

Not only does this increase my odds of getting the best boss possible, but it also creates possibility. Maybe a tyrant will get hired, but that means that a new opportunity will be made available to me. Maybe a tyrant will get hired, but there’s a lesson for me to learn in that situation. Whatever happens, good or bad, will provide me with what I need without limiting the Universe from answering my request.

So, next time you reach for a black candle to push something away, take a moment to see what you can pull towards you instead. I’m sure you’ll be surprised.

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Earth My Body

“Oh, it’s obviously broken,” I say as I look at the number that’s much too high. I step off the scale, let it clear, take off my shirt (because it must weigh 10 pounds, and step back on the scale. The same number taunts me from the digital screen. “Definitely broken,” I say to myself and shove another cookie in my mouth (probably).

I’ve made these excuses to myself for a while not. “Oh, these pants must have shrunk in the wash” or  “Or, I did have a big lunch, maybe I’m just a little bloated.” I’ve said to myself/ I’ve always been a “big guy.” It’s never really bothered me, though. I’ve always preferred art and literature more than sports and fitness.

Last year, I joined a curling club (the winter sport, not the weight lifting) and had a great time. However, I quickly noticed that I was the only one who would be out of breath and covered in sweat even though the room was freezing. The next day, it took everything in me to get out of bed because my legs burned from the exertion. After the season ended, I lost any desire to get into shape.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was meditating on the earth element. I focused on the strength of my body, but struggled. I held the thought that my body held the strength of the mountains, but it didn’t work. I didn’t feel the normal “click” that I always do. After some soul searching, I found that I didn’t connect with the strength concept of the earth element because I didn’t feel that way about my body.

Why should I care about being strong? That has nothing do with spirituality! I thought to myself. Again, all I needed was some soul searching to understand. My body is my ultimate connection to the world. By being mindful of what goes in my body and the level of activity that my body receives is in itself a practice of gratitude. By keeping my body strong, I’m also reaping the benefits that go with it. I’ll have more energy, a better ability to focus, and arguably, being better able to move energy.

With that being said, I joined a gym the next day. It’s been a little over a week, and I’ve been committed to working out every other day. To my surprise, I’ve found that my body is capable of more than I have ever given myself credit for. This morning, I did a few miles on the treadmill, did some strength training, and headed to the locker room. I glanced at the clock and saw that I still had 20 minutes before I had to shower and head to work. Rather than leave early, I decided to spend another 20 minutes on the treadmill. I feel that as my body gets stronger, so will my will.

Raising a green smoothie in the air, I drink to my continued journey.