Tuesday, March 6, 2012

E is for Energy

E is for Energy

Do any of the following phrases sound familiar?

“It has good energy”
“This place has some weird energy”
“I’m sending you energy”
“Can you feel the energy?”
“We raised a lot of energy last night”

I’m betting most people know what they mean, and have no idea how to describe what they think “energy” actually is.  Most people quoting the phrases above are referring to either psychic or magical energy, and yes they’re two different sorts of related things.

Psychic energy
Sometimes what we call “personal power” this is the life force of an individual, which is increased by physical health, positive mood, self confidence, etc.  A person with a strong energy field (yes, Aura) is usually a healthy, happy person who deals well with life’s little stressors.  It’s certainly possible for a negative person to have a strong aura also, for as long as they can maintain the emotion, but after they’re “spent” emotionally their aura is usually quite diminished and can take a while to recover.  Happier people have more energy all of the time.

Things that will lower someone’s energy levels – not handling stress well and internalizing it, poor diet, poor physical health, depression, anxiety, not enough sleep, etc.  People who are “running on low” are also usually more prone to catching diseases or having their energy further drained by those who intuitively know how to latch on to them.  While I won’t really get into psychic vampires here, they’re real but 99% of them don’t know what they are or what they’re doing, and telling them they’re doing it doesn’t generally help anyone.

Things you can do to maintain good personal energy
1.       Meditate – in addition to having a lot of good, proven health benefits, meditation will allow your mind to relax and gives you the space to listen to yourself and both hear what’s wrong and how to address it.  When I’m deficient on particular vitamins or minerals for my body’s current needs, meditation is when the food cravings hit, and that’s one important way you can help your system bounce back from whatever’s going on in your life.

2.       Cleanse – make a tea with some cleansing herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme, then pour it over yourself after you’re done showering.  The natural energetic properties of the herbs will help clean your energy field.  Smudging is also helpful, I just used it last night to detach someone else’s negative energy from me, and the effects were instant.
3.       Get enough rest – can’t stress this enough, go to bed earlier when you’re feeling low, watch a funny movie, curl up on the couch with a good book, etc.  These things help our psyche recover from stress, and sometimes you need something besides extra sleep.
4.       Pay attention to your nutrition – Forget about comfort food, most of the time it’s unhealthy.  Instead, focus on food that has a lot of vitamins in it.. make a spinach salad with orange slices, go to the farmer’s market and buy the freshest ripest fruit you can get that you love.  Feeding your body more vitamins will help it recover, and that’s good for your personal energy.
5.       Check your attitude – what is your initial reaction to things that happen in your life?  If you frown more than you smile, you need an attitude adjustment and spending 10-15 minutes a day figuring out why your life makes you happy will help.
6.       Language – what words do you choose?  The things you say have an impact on how you think.  If your brain hears you using negative words about yourself or others, it internalizes them and that negativity will pollute your aura.  Our brains don’t understand sarcasm, so saying “I’m a bitch” or “I’m stupid” will tell your brain that is the truth and make changes you don’t want to make about yourself.  If you need to engage in positive self-talk and feel stupid saying “I am magically delicious”, do it anyway.  Think of it as medicine.
7.       Get up and move – a moving body moves energy, it’s that simple.  I’m not saying you have to go run marathons, but something as simple as a Tai Chi or Yoga video that you follow to the best of your ability several days per week will increase your energetic health just as well as going on long hikes in the forest or spending a few hours a week at the gym.

Place Energy

The Earth we live on has an aura too, and like ours it fluctuates in flavor from one area to another.  A convergence of ley lines, which are like our bodily meridians running across the planet, will mean more life force is running through that area.  If it’s left to nature, it will probably be wild and pretty and feel amazing.  If there’s a power plant built on it, it might feel pretty unpleasant.  For places where the energy feels great – enjoy it!  Take only memories, leave only footprints, and give thanks that it’s there.  Places like this will help renew your own spiritual energy if you meditate and open yourself to it.

Group Energy
If you have a group of people who work magic together regularly, the group has its own energy that is like an amalgamation of everyone’s personal energies mixed with the residual energy of the magic they’ve worked together.  If one (or more) person in the group has not been maintaining their own energetic health it will have an impact on what the group does, as well as eventually depleting the energy of others in the group.  There are whole books written on group dynamics, but in a nutshell you have to help each other by checking on each other’s health and supporting one another.  Smudge, look for weak spots in the aura, look for psychic “riders” that are attachments from other people and may either pollute or drain someone’s energy, and get rid of them for each other.  I was feeling funky last night and thought it would be prudent to smudge myself, but something felt “off” about the back of my neck.  Since I have long hair, I wasn’t confident waving burning sage in that area blindly, so I got my roommate to do it for me.  The relief was instant and as dramatic as one of those loud thundering belches in a quiet cathedral.  Getting help from others is not weakness, it’s a strength to be able to trust them.

In summary, energy is all around us.  It is Life, and that invisible web that connects us to everything that lives, and to the Earth.  We have our own personal energy, and we are connected to the Earth’s energy all the time since we live on it.  When you’re doing magic to affect your environment, you are asserting your  own personal energy over the Earth’s – do so prudently and as your conscience dictates, if at all.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Redefining My Spiritual Practice

This post is a long time in coming.  To be frank, I’ve been hesitating about putting it in words for other people to see.  I’m going to refrain from projecting my fears about the reactions of others here, because sometimes people surprise you.

Wicca for me defines the overall structure of my religious and spiritual practice.  I was trained and initiated in a mixture of by-the-book British Traditional structure and “the traditional way wouldn’t work here so we adapt to the situation”.  My lineage (can we just say “pedigree”?) is mixed with Georgian and Majestic Wicca, but a lot of the training materials looked like straight copies from the Farrars “Witches Bible Compleat”, which is purportedly Alexandrian.  So some folks think I’m a Traditional, some folks think I’m an Eclectic.  I’ve joked about being “plaid trad” since no one really knows what to think.  I know people who have taken a more traditional route and re-trained with other groups to get “legitimate”, but I never really felt the need.

Why, you may ask?  Because my magic works.  I don’t feel “broken”, though there were times I allowed other people to make me feel like the bastard child of the Trad set.  Because I’m gay, I’ve even had one or two people in my distant past say I *couldn’t* be Wicca because I’m “outside the cycle of nature”.  You know, because I’m not making babies.  Thankfully, that argument has been put to rest.

But everything leading up to this blog post did push me to re-examine what I was taught to do, and why we do it.  I will always be thankful to the pioneers of Wicca in America – Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Alex Sanders, Ray Buckland, and bless his heart Scott Cunningham.  (His was my first book, so he gets extra attention.)   There are things about traditional wiccan teachings that I am just not comfortable with, and other things that I think are missing. 

Some examples of things to pitch:
  1. The scourge – I know, using the scourge to redirect blood flow is one of the 9 paths to power, but I just don’t like the symbolism of tying someone up and hitting them with a scourge, no matter how light the touch is.  I’m not into bondage, domination, or humiliation and I just don’t want to do it.  I will teach about the history of use, and I’m not throwing mine away, but it is officially retired.
  2. Rote invocations – memorization is fine, but I have found that with me (and students) a much stronger mystical experience takes place when we find the connection in our hearts and let the words flow to call whatever entity/spirit we’re asking to join us in circle.
  3. “Commanding” spirits – if one truly believes in magic and gods, and the primal power of the elements of nature (earth/air/fire/water), then being a pompous ass is just unwise.  Over 10 years ago I started eschewing the “summon stir and call ye up” style of invocation, because it was just flat, meaningless, and far too bossy.  At the very least, the gods and the forces of nature are (I hope!) my friends, and you treat your friends with courtesy and respect, as well as affection.  I also don’t “banish” them when I’m done with the ritual.  In keeping with the courtesy/respect approach, I thank them for showing up and tell them we’re done for the night.  I don’t kick my friends out of my house, unless I never want them to come back.
  4. Language no one understands – specifically “Eko Eko Azarak” etc.  No one seems to know what it means, though lots of folks have some suspicions about what it might mean.  I just can’t shake the feeling that folks using that particular chant (in its long form) just might be saying “I’m a silly goose and my nose looks like a banana” or something, and the gods are just laughing.  I think we have to use language we understand.  Using “Thee” and similar archaic language forms might be poetic, but it’s also not honestly how we speak these days.  90% of people who do try to use it don’t know how to use it properly anyway, so they just sound silly.
Some things I’m adding:
  1. Music – not just chanting for the sake of chanting, but chanting that is actually pertinent to what we’re doing in ritual.  And writing new songs that work in our modern times for storytelling, for teaching, and for raising power in ritual.
  2. Rhyme – I don’t care if someone thinks it sounds silly, but spells/chants that rhyme are easier to remember, and the rhythm makes it easier to keep a group focused on the same thought at the same time.  There’s something about rhyming repetitive chants that alters our state of consciousness in a way to make magic easier to work in a group setting.
  3. Shadow work – my personal definition of shadow work is to focus on the things about ourselves, our histories, and our lives that we don’t like, are afraid of, or hate – and just deal with it.  Face it, understand it, accept it.. otherwise it has power over you and can unbalance you.  I’m not a trained psychologist, but honestly I don’t think you need to be.  If you have some big huge issue that you can’t deal with via the symbolism of ritual then you DO need professional help, but for lots of things we CAN deal with them and make living our lives better.
Some things I’m thinking about:
  1. Wand, staff, athame, sword – is all that really necessary?  A lot of the symbolism in current-day Wicca has its roots in ceremonial magical practice, but does someone really need to plunk down over $100 on a knife for ritual use to wave around in the air?  We (in the community) say that the only really essential tool is the mind, that you can cast circle with your finger, so why not make the tools optional?  Or hand someone a straight stick to use as their “training wheels” tool until they decide to initiate?   I don’t know about most of you, but more than half of my tools wind up sitting around unused, and have for the past 10 years.   When blessing wine and cakes, if the chalice is supposed to represent the goddess then I do NOT like the idea of putting a knife in it, you know?  A nice waterproof wand would be preferable, it’s much less violent a symbol.  Let’s be real – knives cut things no matter what you tell yourself.
  2. Degrees – I’m a firm believer in the power of the initiatory process, for reasons I won’t go into here.  But are 3 degrees necessary?  Second degree seems to be the “weak” one of the bunch, it’s just sort of a midpoint.  Does it still have value, or is it just a milestone saying “keep going, you’re doing good”?  Does that alone give it enough value to keep it?  I’m still not sure how I feel about that one.   Heck, my teacher gave me a 4th degree without ever telling me anything about it other than the title that went with it, so I have no idea where it came from or what it’s supposed to be about.  I kind of ignore it for that reason.

There’s probably more stuff to include in this post I haven’t thought of, or am temporarily forgetting, but you get the general idea.  The old ways really do need re-examining, and we shouldn’t do things we’re personally uncomfortable doing.  I’m not saying that *everyone* needs to agree with me, or that there’s anything wrong with people keeping things I’m personally getting rid of, but I think we can all agree that we should all be thinking about our path instead of blindly and unthinkingly following rules someone set down over 60 years ago.

Brightest of Blessings and Dark Chocolate to All,